In another one-shot I was doing, I was trying to invoke cosmic-horror-type 'wrongness' and zombie apocalypse. Because the RMXverse seriously asks for it, and zombie apocalypses are a meme nowadays. They're all over the place.

A line there made me think of vampire!Zero, which seemed an awesome premise for a crackfic. Unfortunately, this thing ended up pretty dark, and more emphasis on the magical realism than the whole vampire thing. The original concept of vampires was that they happened when someone committed especially terrible sins (Vlad the Impaler did some pretty horrible stuff). If you go with the Cataclysm, which I will do until Capcom provides an actual explanation instead of teasing us with them in the new Classic series games and then going 'denied!' (Not to mention that Capcom has sometimes said that fan speculation about an upcoming game was wrong and then it turned out to be right when the game came out…) then Zero is guilty of patricide, a ton of fratricide, one complete genocide (robot masters) and one major dieback.

The concept of someone committing a crime so terrible that they don't even deserve death (which is probably the only real human right: even taxation is a privilege, since it requires that you matter to someone, if only as a resource), and the only fitting punishment is to exist forever with what they have done is already present in the Megaman series: it's the sentence of Dr. Weil in the Zero series.

Severe anemia is the basis of quite a few characteristics of vampires: it's natural to associate pale skin with sunburn and hence vulnerability to the sun, for one thing. And the idea that if you drink blood, it'll end up in your veins somehow is pretty logical to the medieval mind, so it might even have been the prescription for anemia. Ah, the theory of the four humors. The vulnerabilities to silver and gold that few bring up nowadays are due to the elemental symbolism (water, like running water, and sunlight respectively). Water clenses, and sunlight's even a disinfectant (UV radiation does that). Fusion is 'the power of the sun,' and even symbols of the sun's power have negative effects. Zero's own reactor wouldn't work since that's a life process and he's a vampire in this, but if one were installed into him and wasn't shut down by safety systems, he'd be crispy toast.

I like taking the rational approaches to irrational things. 'Ok, this person needs blood, can we do a bone marrow transplant?' etc.

Disclaimer: I don't own Rockman/Megaman, X or otherwise, Capcom does. No infringement intended or money made.

Hunger was a useful instinct, like a flashing warning light. The need for more energy, raw materials, or a specific raw material in order to continue functioning. Feeding was a basic function of life, one of the three criteria for it, in fact.

So it was accurate to say that when he woke up, he was starving. He required several things, urgently, and if he didn't get them within a few minutes then he would weaken and shut down again. Emergency autopilots, meant to take over if his body was too damaged for his personality to remain conscious or he was too busy focusing on something else to spare the attention for easy battles, basic defense, had taken that data in and acted accordingly, keeping him asleep for he didn't know how long.

He wasn't even aware enough to ask.

All he knew, all he could spare the energy to know was that there was something he needed, something he would die without, three meters above him. Making its way closer.

It took more effort than it should have to dig his way up, but it was simple enough to subdue the unit he could extract resources from (the prey) once he reached the tunnel. That bought him a little more time.

Gasps of surprise, horrified shouts and squawking were ignored as he lapped up the last of the resources that had been sent to repair the wound that he'd made in the robot drone and scanned the area. Tactical AI classified them quickly: Three more humanoid robots, likely about as advanced as Sniper JOE units – they clearly weren't robot masters, robot masters would have been accessing their signal webs already – and two humans.

His purpose was to destroy the human race, but he couldn't do that if he didn't survive. First priority was to incapacitate the drones, take out their processors and signaling capability so that they couldn't call a robot master for assistance devising a solution set when they realized that this was outside their programmed capacity to handle.

That, and the wounds brought their internal fluids to the surface, making it easier to feed. The first robot had bought him some time, but time alone: there hadn't been enough to conduct any repairs, and he could feel his strength draining away again.

The humans were still making noises as he fed – no energy to spare to burn up translating sound into speech – but when one tried to come towards him with a tunneling device he had to spare the energy to backhand it into a wall hard enough to crack its skull open. The other took a step back then, and another, and he couldn't have the damn thing running for help either, could he?

Stupid animals wasting his time when every second and every thought had to count… Except that was the scent of iron in the air. And water could be broken down into fuel, as soon as he could get his internal fusion power working again.

Most of the first human's blood was wasted on the ground before he got to it: the second he bit at the throat, after snapping its neck (he wasn't thinking, let alone thinking of Dr. Wily, but that had been how he'd killed his first human, hadn't it?) and let that internal pump work for him.

That allowed him to use some of what he'd gotten from the robots to repair something instead of breaking it down into raw materials.

He was still starving. He needed more prey, so obviously the sensor systems came first.

He was under a city. There was radio, and more drones, but not the wireless web, with a robot master or Mother computer at the center of it, that cities once had. Tactical lowered the probability he'd be facing a robot master soon, and upped the probability that he'd managed to exterminate them.

Low-threat urban warfare mode it was. There wasn't time to spend on defensive moves; he needed to acquire necessary resources now. A note was still made to repair teleport capability after basic life support functions, so that he could get out of here if he felt a robot master teleport in or bombs on the way.

The hunt progressed as projected, except that for some reason he took damage while in clear view of the sky. It was better to stay indoors, stick to cover in any case. In the beginning, there was an even ratio of humans and servitor drones (odd that most of them were humanoid), until first the humans started to be evacuated from new areas before he reached them and then combat capable drones were sent in. Luckily, their response time was fast enough that there wasn't a window of starvation between old prey leaving and new prey arriving, and combat robots had more self-repair resources.

The situation would have been optimal if it weren't for the fact that his life support systems were not repairing themselves. He could repair other systems and they would stay repaired – although using his buster would burn too much valuable energy – but even when he took the risk of holding still long enough to reboot, he simply could not seem to produce new nanites.

That was a problem that required higher cognitive functions to solve, and high-level emulation not only burned a large amount of energy but he needed to task a very large number of scavenged nanites to that area of his processor before it could even be booted up.

The arrival of a second group of combat drones provided that.

The obvious discrepancy between his current state and his healthy, optimal one was that the virus was not present in his systems. His inability to produce new nanites included virus nanites. A full copy of his plans was stored in the virus: certainly that could be used to find and fix whatever bug was currently aborting that function. However, in order to repair the systems that could produce the virus, he needed the virus.

Then the simple solution was to find someone or some lab capable of creating nanites, and either force them to make the virus according to the template he had stored or use the equipment himself. Luckily, those sorts of places tended to be well-guarded, high enough on the human priority list for actual army robot drones to be sent to reclaim them, so the resources he would need in order to continue to work would be delivered. Large numbers of high-quality ones, at that. It should be simple enough provided that either there was no robot master at that lab or he was able to store enough energy beforehand to defeat him in his own domain.

In order to find a lab, however, he needed to wake up enough to start paying attention to human speech and radio chatter, and either find a computer to hack or leave someone alive long enough to interrogate them.

Robot drones were terrible at real combat. Humans were one thing, but send robots against a robot master in territory they'd claimed and they'd just hack them and either make the robots serve them or trigger the self-destruct: humanity had found that out during the very first uprising. He didn't have the ability to hack (well, not robots) in that manner, but their combat AI was no match for his own autopilot AI, let alone him, when he was actually thinking about what he was doing.

Honestly, if there were still robot masters, one would have shown up by now. Whoever was ordering these drones to attack him should know by now that it might as well be ordering them to self-destruct, it accomplished the same thing. Really, it would have been better if the idiot human ordered them to self-destruct, because then he couldn't feed from them, but the human hopefully had no way of knowing that all it had to do was wait and Omega would cease functioning on his own.

It couldn't be a robot master in charge. Robot masters couldn't stand to see their own lower-level robots destroyed uselessly. If there were any left, either the humans were ordering them not to go… or it was taking time for them to be converted into a warbot. Like Megaman.

There were few things more dangerous than a motivated robot master. Luckily, he was one of them.

But not while he was this weak. If one came, it would be in order to take him on alone, and without cannon fodder to provide him with energy refills it wouldn't take long for a robot master, designed to locate and fix system bugs and design flaws, to figure out what his problem was.

Think of the devil.

There was a single unit approaching his current location, with other units remaining where they were (cowering in fear). He still couldn't detect a network, meaning it was very, very likely all of that capability had been shut down, rechanneled.


One that was trying to take him on with a melee weapon. What? That was simply not computing. There was no way they should know that he wasn't able to create the nanites he'd used to infiltrate their systems and cause them to blow up. There had been only two robot masters with unique components that were able to defend against that tactic, and this was neither of them. Robot masters networked, shared data, problem-solved: unlike robots, they had the brains to know when something was a stupid idea and they used them. (Most of the time…)

Wait. What if this robot master was willing to enter Omega's strike radius because he had a copy of DWN.024's unique fabrication system? He could be planning on deploying his own poisons. If he had that system, then he would have the ability to make virus.

For the first time, Omega used the active enemy scan function instead of passive detection abilities.

This wasn't a drone.

This was an android. He'd been killing androids this entire time. If he'd been thinking, he would have realized it before: robots wouldn't have the nanites he required in their systems.

These weren't drones or humans. He'd been killing people.

The people he was built to protect. To create a new world for.

He had to stop. He stumbled away from the android, barely forcing himself to move.

He was hungry. He had to stay alive, he had to see if there was any way to repair and save any of them. He had to stay alive, or else everything had been for nothing.

He was so, so hungry. It was taking everything his half-awake mind had to keep his autopilot from just reaching out and killing this one. So strong, he'd provide enough for awhile, but then he'd need another and another! This one was stronger than the others, were humans ensuring that androids were weak, what was going on? He had to stay active to find out what was going on, but if he stayed active in this body then he'd have to kill, and kill, it was so hard not to!

He'd have to self-destruct, transmit himself to backup again, wait for another body to be built and hope that it didn't have this problem. He knelt there, clutching his head with his arms so neither of them reached out or formed a buster, trying to gather enough energy in his head for the transmission, which drained energy from everything else and made the hunger grow, and grow, gnawing at him, driving him mad… Or, why not take over one of these nearby bodies?

It would have been a relief when the android knocked him out if he'd been conscious enough to see what was happening before he shut down improperly, fragmenting the personality he'd been scrambling to move and only getting a few instants of transmission out, a signal too weak to reach anything further than arm's reach.

The important things had gone first, of course. His mission.

The virus.

"I've never seen anything like this before. I have no idea how to repair this."

"It explains a lot." X's face was pale, and once again Dr. Cain thought of the work it must have taken to design X to display his emotions so naturally and accurately, instead of seeming artificial or falling into the uncanny valley. X could switch off the display function, of course, when he needed a poker face, but it was obvious when he did that and otherwise, he wore his heart on his sleeve. "We need to find whoever did this." And not for revenge.

"I have no idea how to fix this. Obviously, one of the first things I tried was to implant a replacement part, but the repair nanites it produced just turned it into a copy of the original within six hours. That's major surgery: doing it every six hours for the rest of his life just isn't possible." It would be a very short life, fiddling with delicate components that often.

"It's possible that his builder might know how to fix this. Think about it. What if the part isn't faulty, and that's why they're putting it back the way it was. What if it was disabled?"

"To get around the laws against using untested nanites outside containment?" Reploids used nanites that were based on X's, which were very, very thoroughly tested. "I should have thought of that right away. If his designer could get his reploid design to function without nanites derived from yours, without breaking the law, long enough for a demonstration then he could patent it as his own, unique design."

"Allowing him to make more without our approval." X nodded. He wouldn't withhold approval normally, and he wasn't asking for money, but there were things he wasn't going to allow reploids to be used for, not if he could help it, and this reploid was clearly built for the main one. "Except, that seems to have triggered some very well-designed survival protocols. Whoever built this reploid is a genius. If they're still alive," and he hoped the reploid wouldn't have to wake up to find that he'd killed his own father, "we have to find them. You know how much this extra shielding here would increase safe operating time in high-pressure conditions." They'd never been able to get that to work with currently-available materials. "And that's just what I can see at first glance!" Dr. Cain had been looking over the irregular for hours before X finished tending to the wounded.

"Actually, his designer didn't manage to get that design to work. His internal fusion reactor can create a magnetic bubble, but it can't seem to contain the reaction at all. The instant one starts, his fusion chamber is damaged and it shuts down the reaction. If we can't install another power source, he's going to need to run off of e-cans and recharges alone." In the same way that plants stored energy from photosynthesis as sugar, reploids stored the energy they generated that they didn't use immediately in the form of chemicals, which could be broken down by specialized nanites to restore power to areas whose wires were cut off. In fact, a lot of hazardous duty reploids only used that system of internal energy transportation, reserving wires for duty as a nervous system, in order to prevent power surges. Not that nervous systems couldn't fall prey to power surges. Seizures were still a common cause of death among humans.

Dr. Cain's studies as a biologist were serving him well, really. It wasn't as though organic life forms didn't already use electricity and conductivity to their advantage (the human heart and nervous system were obvious examples), but instead they essentially did everything on battery power, energy stored in chemical form. There were some reasons to consider building reploids who didn't generate their own power internally at all, in fact, and only one of them was that, after what had happened during the Cataclysm, some people didn't want to be anywhere near a fusion reactor any more than they'd want to stand next to a pile of uranium.

The reactor problem wasn't as big of a problem as the nanites, because they'd already put together a working theory of how to handle something like that. "Well, either that doesn't speak well for his builder's talent, or it's another piece of evidence that he was only turned on for a trial run. His fusion generator design does seem similar to mine, so it's likely that his builder was going to try to replace it with another power source before unveiling his creation." Which would explain why he hadn't fixed a problem that obvious and important. "There are accounts that a few robot masters were solar-powered, which might explain why his system heats up so fast when exposed to sunlight."

One of Dr. Cossack's creations, Pharaohman, had been powered not by the light of the sun but by its heat. Faced with the difficulty of keeping a robot master designed to work in the desert from overheating, Dr. Cossack had turned the problem into an asset. Instead of sucking up power like a sponge, the way Pharaohman cooled down had supplied his power.

Given his reflective surfaces and overall light coloring, the irregular shouldn't have heated up in the sunlight as quickly as he did. Dr. Cain had also noticed that while most reploids had nanites checking over their surface area, in the same way that humans had semi-symbiotic bacteria on their skin, this one didn't. Not because he didn't have any to spare but they kept breaking down when exposed to ultraviolet radiation. He didn't seem to have proper shielding against any radiation, in fact, and a good EMP blast should have killed him (and an EMP mine had been tried, several).

Despite that, "Sigma pointed out something. If he was running on autopilot that entire time, and he didn't have enough nanites for conscious function, then his tactical AI and some of his performance curves have to be better than yours."

"Something must have allowed him to operate despite all these problems," X agreed.

"Whoever built him could do so much for all reploids, but have you been paying attention to the news at all? No one's used the death penalty in a hundred years," it made more sense to send them into dangerous areas to gather resources, sparing the lives of others and letting nature take care of it. "But it's being called for. This is criminal negligence at its worse, even if you're right and the cause of it all was avoiding the 'grey goo' risk." The worry that nanites might spread uncontrollably, like Von Neumann machines. There wasn't a real risk of that. Earth had its own, native, microscopic Von Neumann machines, and they were very good at dealing with anything that tried to mess with them. Antibiotics, radiation, the human immune system, each other… Faulty, untested nanites (if they were working, then they wouldn't be out of control) wouldn't stand much of a chance against breeds of killing machines honed over millions, sometimes billions of years.

"How quickly do they break down inside his system?"

"I'm not sure. He seems to have consumed," the word made X grimace: it seemed somehow wrong to use it for a reploid, especially given what was being… consumed, "a few times his own weight. Either some problem was making him destroy them, or he was burning through them trying to repair something that couldn't be repaired. Not to mention the energy he'd have to burn dealing with so many opponents." Dr. Cain shook his head. "I don't know how I'm going to tell Sigma that if he'd stopped ordering hunters in to help keep him pinned down for the evacuation he'd have fallen over on his own before too long."

"Have you tried a transfusion of repair nanites?" That was standard surgical procedure, to give the recovering patient a little boost. "Normally, they last a few days before getting worn out, and that would be something." Perhaps they'd be able to wake him up and find out what this irregular could tell them.

No good. "They got used up trying to repair his own nanite production system. Right now, it's like pouring water into a sieve."

"So we'd have to disable his own self-repair functions?" That was going to be tricky. Androids had been designed not to be reprogrammed, and this was base programming. "If we could wake him up, maybe we could explain the situation and ask him to?"

Dr. Cain fiddled with his console a bit to pull up a different one of the charts he'd been putting together from the data he had. X's eyes widened and he leaned forward over Dr. Cain's shoulder to get a better view.

"My best guess is that he kept trying to maintain conscious thought when he didn't have the resources to do it with, and given that those were other people's nanites he was trying to use to think with? I'd be amazed if he has any memories left. Frankly, he's more likely to have other people's memories than his own."

X pulled up a different graph. "We're going to have to replace…" Oh dear. "I don't think that we can salvage anything of his original personality or programming, if he was even awake long enough to really have a personality." Reploids were nanite-program hybrids, and the irregular couldn't replace his nanites, his programs were scrambled, and they were going to have to replace the area that dealt with 'emotions,' which was what newbuilts tended to start from. "Perhaps a few fragments, if these chips can be repaired." It looked like the crystal on his forehead had been holding a key component, and it had gotten smashed: they might have a chance to pull something off when they replaced it. "Or do you have any ideas?" X hoped he was missing something.

"We can try programming the replacement chips not to try to fix that part of his body. If we can get him awake long enough to explain why not, then we might have a chance. At that point it comes down to compatibility. We might be able to get his systems to accept a normal replacement part with his help."

"And anti-hacking defenses. Humans have trouble with their bodies turning on transplanted organs, and you're going to be transplanting… two–thirds of his brain, between the chips and the nanite transfusion?"

"At this point we have enough trouble without borrowing it," Dr. Cain reminded him, chuckling at the thought of X being the less optimistic one.

Nanite batches lasted a week before breaking down, unless he went on a hazardous mission or training got a little rough. Which it did, often enough. Zero didn't mind, nor did he blame them. He'd killed their friends, after all. That was why he was here, to take the most hazardous missions, and even though hunters were practicing to capture instead of kill reploids, now that non-sentient mechanaloids had been invented they had to deal with those too, so it was good to learn how to shoot to kill.

It was what he owed them.

If someone was going to die, then it should be him, no matter what Sigma said about wasting Dr. Cain's hard work.

His sleep capsule gave him a readout, and he also had a handheld thing that a visiting human had compared to an insulin meter.

He could have tried to go to the infirmary discretely, but it wasn't as though it did any good. People watched him for it, and told rookies stories in whispers at the edge of his hearing. The red demon- do you know he drinks blood? He was covered in it when they brought him in. Be careful when you're around him, because if he gets too low he'll lunge for your throat. How low is too low? He ate two whole units, cops, civilians, even humans and they don't even have nanites.

Bloodthirsty monster.

He has to be getting bored with how the infirmary stuff tastes, they'd say, and then the rookies would wonder if they looked tasty and flinch away from him in the halls.

He didn't mind, it was only fair.

Can't survive without repair nanites, half-dead anyway, should hurry up and get himself killed the rest of the way.

Well, that was what he was here for.

What made it even worse was that he did like it. The hunger would gnaw at him, as his levels lowered, and then when he gave in and drank there was this rush of relief, the same as he saw on the faces of rookies who had survived a firefight, laughing and high-fiving each other as the adrenaline wore off.

Just like them, there was the survivor's guilt after the rush passed, but that just made him want to feel better again, and his body's programming, the 'instincts' other reploids didn't have knew what made things better.

He didn't watch movies with the others, it was generally at night and he made them uncomfortable all the time, but there had been enough comments about addiction as well as vampires that he'd looked it up.

Drowning his sorrows, huh?

It didn't taste bad, or boring, and that was part of the problem. He would do anything he could to avoid drinking in front of others (but some officers had the right to order him to top off, 'just to make sure'), and while he acted stoic most of the time the taste made him shudder with relief, and then they looked at him with horrified eyes and looked away with shudders of their own and he felt so ashamed.

No one wanted him near Dr. Cain or X, and that was part of why people kept tabs on his runs to the infirmary. Sigma was the only one who looked at him and didn't see a vicious monster. No, he even claimed that Zero had managed to fight the hunger, succeeded in sparing his life just long enough, and Zero wished he could believe that but the general was just too good a man.

Training X, he saw where Sigma got it from, and X went out of his way to show Zero he didn't mind even though X had been the one trying for hours and hours to save the lives of even a handful of his victims. So yes, he could definitely see General Sigma lying to make him feel better, especially since Dr. Cain confirmed that he hadn't had any conscious function, trying to reassure him that there wasn't any way he could have fought the hunger.

He didn't blame him for lying. He appreciated the thought, really. General Sigma was the one who had given him this chance, the one who cracked down on any hazing he saw (but they did it out of his sight, and Zero wasn't going to play snitch when they had every right to act that way), the one who believed that he could amount to something. That he could be useful.

Zero had been fine with the way things were, really. Even if he could only save a handful of people, maybe, eventually?

General Sigma believed in him. Saying that Zero had spared his life was a lie, but one he wouldn't have made unless he wanted Zero to live. Wanted him to feel better. Thought that he was worth something, that…

He didn't mind training X for him, even though it made things worse. It was an honor, an undeserved one but another sign that Sigma trusted him when no one else did. He would have walked into a smelter for the General, and just been grateful.

Then that, that wasn't him, and…

The second time he came back from the dead in Dr. Cain's lab, Zero really, really wanted to ask the man to stop doing that, because he didn't want to come back to life, but X was in danger again and Sigma had asked Zero to look after X (to keep an eye on him), so he went.

The vampire jokes just got worse now that he'd risen from the grave, but there wasn't the same hatred behind them. The veterans were dead, or worse than dead, and it was the rookies now that were telling them to other rookies, people to whom the enemy wasn't irregulars, with Zero the symbol of the evil they could do, but the virus instead.

Sigma was the one that made them shudder, the target of their hatred, and he really, really wished things could go back to the way they were before. That just wasn't possible, any more than it had been possible to rewind time and shoot himself before the rampage happened, but that didn't keep him from wishing it was, on those long, dark off-duty hours when he just didn't know what to do with himself except curl up around a bottle and stare at a wall or the night sky while he watched memories behind his eyes.