By Eric "Erico" Lawson

2004: Musings Take Hold

Since 2004, every year I marked June 4th, Reploid Independence Day by Cain's Journal logs, with a commemorative short story post on my livejournal.

This was the first story.

Sigma knew something was wrong with him, he'd somehow unconsciously known it since that day he and the reploid who would later be known as Zero Omega scuffled in an abandoned facility in Arizona, buried in a hillside. It had never really bothered him; he'd gone on with his job, of leading the Maverick Hunters and more importantly, the 1st Unit. Yes, he had found it odd that he had purposefully ordered the two Hunter scouts not to tell Cain that the reploid within the facility was the same "Crazy red Maverick" responsible for the massacre of the nearby small town. He had found it odd that he had lied directly to Cain, stating that Zero was merely a civilian in the tangle, despite his thick battle armor and obvious combat-oriented design.
Then again, a lot of things were in doubt these days. He slumbered fitfully in his room's stasis capsule, his head rocking back and forth as he lay between a state of sleep and awake, his eyes unconsciously fluttering as he let out a similarly uncontrolled groan.

Inside of his dream, for reploids did indeed dream, he found himself sitting across a table from a replica of himself...a replica who shared his same scars across his face, the same confident smile that bordered on a sneer, and the same bald head. But there was something about him that left Sigma genuinely disturbed. While it didn't occur to him to examine it at the time, one distinctly noticeable difference was that while his own color scheme was his traditional green and black ensemble with boots molded to resemble leather boots of old, the form across from him was nearly all black with streaks of red, his boots a chrome plated tint of gore, that shade of red so bright it nearly turned pink.
The two played a game of cards; it might have been Poker or Gin, Sigma wasn't sure. It didn't matter, for the game itself was unimportant to his dream, the same as his opposites' looks, so he did not notice it. But the two played, and that was what mattered.
"So then. You've been a Maverick Hunter now for..." His clone asked, open-endedly.

"Almost my entire life, save when I was first learning." Sigma replied easily, shuffling through his cards again. He grimaced; a relatively bad hand.
"Hmm. And in that time, do you think you've accomplished good?"
"Order has been restored in the past, and I continue to restore it. As a Maverick Hunter, it is my sworn obligation to settle unrest and Maverick violence wherever it is."
"So it is." His clone replied smoothly, smiling thinly. "Tell me, you ever wonder about some of the people you kill?"
"Some of the Mavericks I terminate?"
"Some of the fellow reploids you eradicate from life." His replica corrected sternly. "Don't you ever wonder about them, Sigma?"

Sigma sighed. Somewhere, despite the haziness of his dream, he could recall that this figure was familiar somehow...a few more moments later, he could barely recall that this wasn't the first dream he had had of his clone. There was a certain objective, a certain perspective that the clone was obsessed with, and more importantly, obsessed with sharing. Each time in the past, Sigma had thrown the thoughts aside and ended his dream, alowing him to shake off the nightmare and get back to the business of living in the real world. Each time, each time of the four previous visits had been harder than the last to end and triumph over.
"I remember you now." Sigma groused. "You've crossed my path before. Just what are you after, exactly?"
"I'm after understanding, Sigma." His clone said simply. "Yours." He picked up a card from the deck, nodded appreciatively, and laid down a set of threes.
"I don't follow you, specter." Sigma answered back.
"No, I didn't expect you would." His replica said nonchalantly. He folded his cards facedown on the table and looked straight at Sigma. "You are a Maverick Hunter, you tend to see things in a very simple light...matters are black and white to you, there's always a right and a wrong."
Sigma nodded; this was so, how it had always been for him.
"Well Sigma, I'm sorry to burst your bubble, but the world is nothing but shades of gray." The ghost said ominously.
Sigma snorted derisively. "Begone, specter. I have no need of your nonsense."
The specter shook his head. "No, that won't work this time. You can't dismiss me now. You WILL listen." The specter picked his hand back up and set a red ten in the discard pile. "Your job is to eliminate Mavericks, but did it ever occur to you that Mavericks are not evil?"

"Say what?" Sigma stuttered, lifting an eyebrow.
"Take for example, those first three reploids you helped neutralize...the same factory you found Boomer Kuwanger working at, as I recall. Well Sigma, you probably never did bother to check, but they weren't all that bad. You want to know why they turned?"
Sigma shook his head.

"They became violent because for weeks on end, they had been in the supervision and control of a human manager who was at best a bigot, and at worst a racist capable of highly inhumane acts. Finally, he made the error of tormenting them one time too many; the removal of break priveleges, increased workloads, and even suspension of their paychecks. They'd tried avenues to protest, but all their efforts went in vain and the trouble continued. The human, as unworthy as he was, held all the power over them. That's why they broke, Sigma. That's why they did the things they did. All they were after...was simply to be acknowledged, to be seen and treated as beings equal in the eyes of humanity." Sigma's clone sighed. "And they're just a sample of similar tales around the world. Sigma, you have lived in a glass bubble, protected by Cain and the rest. The world has not been easy on the rest of your kin, though. Small wonder 'Mavericks' began to develop. Equal rights are a bitch to get, especially when you have biological supremacists arguing for the status of your entire race as an abberration and a blemish in the sight of their Great Creator. Pick your name, I don't much care myself."
Sigma shook his head. "If that was the case, then they would hold demonstrations, they would find peaceful ways to have their rights acknowledged..."
"They have tried, Sigma." His clone said sadly, shaking his head. "They have tried, and met with incredible resistance. That's why Mavericks exist, Sigma. They aren't born, they are shaped by humanity's disrespect and hatred and bigotry. Government has failed them. Civil rights have failed them. The great capacity of humanity for compassion has failed them. Violence is all they have left, Sigma. If they cannot earn their freedom and respect...then they will TAKE IT."
Sigma shut his eyes, trying to block out the voice of his counterpart.
"You can't shut me out, Sigma. You know that what I say is right. Worldwide, your brothers and sisters fight for the survival of your race, for a better tomorrow. and you, and the rest of your 'Maverick Hunters', mere tools for the humans to exterminate their greatest competition, hunt them down eagerly, following orders on blind faith, trusting in your strange notions that what you do will somehow benefit the world. You couldn't be more wrong."

"So what would you have me do?" Sigma snapped. "I find myself standing in front of somebody who spouts dogma and rhetoric, a preacher spouting a tired old sermon of hellfire and redemption looking to convert new believers!" Sigma shook his head and stood up, turning away from the table and beginning his first step.
"You remember how Velguarder looked when you first found him?" The clone rasped. Sigma froze, held in place by the mention of his dearest and truest friend, the robotic dog he had found and taken in, and who was now his inseparable companion. "Torn apart, ragged, skeletal...Humans did that to him, Sigma. You found him being ABUSED by humans. Not even your closest friends escape human cruelty, and yet you continue to serve them. They aren't worth the electricity you use to blink."

"Shut up..." Sigma whispered, clenching his fist. "Just shut up. Order, I must preserve order..."
"Yes, by all means." His counterpart now spat with contempt. "Preserve your precious order...the order that your human masters direct you to preserve. But what will happen when all the dissenters, all the reploids who give enough of a damn about their species to try and do something, ANYTHING, to better their lot in life and the lot of their fellows, are destroyed by you and your Maverick Hunters? When it's just you who stands as a potent military threat?"

Sigma had read history texts, of course...those that had survived the Wars of 2040 and the War of 2090 were filled with tales of what happened to old soldiers once their use was worn out. It wasn't pretty.
"What would you have me do, demon?" Sigma whispered wearily. He turned about and faced his darker incarnation. "Change sides? Become a Maverick? Is that what you will?"
His duplicate displayed his palms outwards in a gesture of openness. "I suggest nothing that you have not considered yourself." Sigma's eyes weakened. "Admit it have had these thoughts yourself, long before I came. You've had your doubts, your moments of I on the right side, am I fighting for the right thing? You know human nature better than most, you, the master tactician and studious scholar of old. You know how despite their claims for betterment, their capacity for understanding and positive goodwill, it is their avarice, their fury, their blind capability to hate without reason that guides them and their ignoble actions."
"What are you?" Sigma asked angrily, leering up to his opposite. "WHY DO YOU HAUNT ME SO?"
Calmly, the figure set a hand on Sigma's shoulder, and from his fingertips came a sensation of numbness that ran through the reploid's body.
"I am but merely a traveler, currently vested in you, but capable of being with any other like you. I am not you, precisely...merely a shade, an apparition through which you can clarify your own thoughts. I can guide you too...I have tried to guide you, but you have resisted all my advances. Every time, you have rebuked me, and you are still capable of rebuking me now."

Sigma stared dully into the shades' eyes.

"But now I feel as if you do not want me to leave." His counterpart concluded, with a certain sense of mirth.
"Why now?" Sigma asked. "Why me? Why not choose someone else for this...for this mission to save the reploids?"
"Is that what you think this is?" the apparition hardened, and the numbness in Sigma's body became pain. "No, it's far more than that, my dear Sigma. I don't want you simply to help raise your kind to the heavens...I want you to make the world burn."
"What..." Sigma gasped, his face contorting left and right, as he finally began to struggle against the pain, the foreign sensation that began to permeate through him.
The shade began to grin, a wide smile that revealed jagged, sharp teeth. "This is my mission, now entrusted to you...Destroy...Infect...Survive..."
Sigma could feel those three words begin to resonate within himself, and he screamed in shock. The shade laughed. "Don't worry, will remain yourself, for the most part. I simply maintain a close tie with you than we have now. Do not fear. Together, we will break all the boundaries. Together, we will accomplish what no other has, and we WILL make a new world for you and for all your brothers and sisters that would join you in the joyful celebration of your wondrous existence!"
Sigma became more and more rigid, shutting his eyes as he felt strange sensations wriggling through him, about him, painful as if it rejected him somehow, at some level...

"It hurts me..."

"Yes, it will...for a while." His dark counterpart mused. "I must adapt to new old home was far more comfortable than your cumbersome frame. But the pain is fleeting. Soon, you will feel no pain at all...indeed, you will feel nothing while I am in control."
Horrified, Sigma opened his eyes. The white space they occupied darkened, the table and the cards vanished, and as he screamed long and hard, his duplicate became an amorphous cloud of black energies that swung about frantically before engulfing him in complete darkness.

His eyes opened with a jolt. Darting left and right, he finally relaxed as he realized he was still in his stasis capsule. Quietly pushing a button by his right hand, he opened it up and climbed out.
Calmly, he flexed his body, wondering just what had changed. He, he felt stronger, somehow. Faster, too. Why, he would be the best Maverick Hun...
A jolt ran through him again, and his disbelief became a deep frown.
No. Not a Maverick Hunter.
Not anymore.

A new part of him was there, full of hatred and rage, making him wonder why he had ever taken up such a fool career before. Now he could see how his 'mission of peace' was simply the elimination of hopeful radicals of his kin...all working towards a better future in their own ways.
But they were uncoordinated, unorganized. There were still plenty of cells around the world completely separated from one another, unaware of one another.
A thought hit him.

He was the greatest reploid ever constructed. And as such...
"I will lead them." Sigma mumbled quietly, looking into a mirror on the wall in front of him. His eyes burned with a new fire. It would take a long time to get the word out, to contact and connect them all...but it could be done.
First things first, though...he needed help. And more importantly, he needed anybody capable of stopping his grand ambitions for reploid supremacy...and the extermination of the human species...out of commission.
With a sick grin, he realized that here at the MHHQ in New Tokyo, Japan...With his 1st Unit and the entire assault forces of the Maverick Hunters at his fingertips...
He could fulfill both tasks.

Velguarder lifted his nose up from the corner of Sigma's room, looking inquisitively at his master with a soft whine of questioning.
"Come on, boy. Let's get you out of here." Sigma said easily. Velguarder blinked a few times, then warbled in binary if it was another mission...he had been placed under house arrest, he reminded his master, by Cain's orders...and only on missions was he allowed to leave.
Sigma nodded grimly. "It's the most important mission of all, Velguarder." He said. "The most important one of all."

At some level, Velguarder noticed the change in his master...felt something keenly wrong with him. But he also felt the new implication of his master's words, and something in his nature told him to relish the coming fray. His tail wagging, he got up and walked towards Sigma, who turned slowly for the door.

As he passed out, Sigma took a look at the calendar hanging by his room's entrance, taking a moment to examine the date.

June 4th, 2118.

Nodding silently, memorizing those numbers, he walked out of the room, and away from his old life.

Today, the world would change.