It had been only but a few days since the subway tunnel adventure. There hadn't been any major events besides some smaller mechaniloids going rogue or maverick, so what relaxing time everyone had, they took advantage of. Between catching up on paperwork and getting used to a robotic dinosaur running around, everything was as it usually was around headquarters. Echo was still avoidant of any research personnel and refused to be examined by them, often dodging through smaller crowds of employees only to vanish a few moments later. X had allowed Echo to stay with him, seeing as the raptor was comfortable around him the most, often sitting in the additional chair in his office or poking around under his desk. Whenever Axl found it convenient to avoid work, he took her around and caused minor mischief, but nothing that had given Signas any reason to grant them any demerit. Zero seemed to avoid or ignore Echo all together, still unsure of what to think of her, and one could say the tiniest bit paranoid of what she did to X before. Even if the medical bay did find what went on before, he was still skeptical. Zero wasn't one to trust easily and until the enigma that was Echo had full light shed on it, he wasn't going to think very much otherwise of her. The blonde hunter was even wondering about the fast found fondness X had for her, but he decided it was just his nature and didn't think of it much. To Signas, he had no idea what to think about it; there was a dinosaur running around his work place.

Today, everyone stood once again in quiet in the briefing room. An old metal factory that was often a spot for somewhat intelligence bearing mavericks to go to in order to have access to forges for armor and to create other weapons. The system itself had been shut down due to viral infections in the systems; things such as bolting guns firing metal bolts in anything but sheet metal, smelters exceeding their heat limit to force a purge of molten material everywhere but a cooling vat, the entire place had been a mess. The three maverick hunters of renown remembered only two weeks ago they were sent in to inspect the place because of reports of unusual activity. A small group of mavericks had tried reactivating the machines for their own benefit, but were unable to do so thanks to their intervention.

"We had reports sent in that there were unusual sounds coming from the factory. We sent in a small scouting team to investigate, but they went silent about half an hour ago. We've tried restabilising the communication line but there has been no response."

Zero, as usual, stood there with his arms crossed paying attention to the given information. "So you just want us to go in, find the scouting party, shut the place back down if it's on?"

"Yes that is the objective."

The three of them turned, seeing Signas walk into the room just at the end of the briefing. Looking up at their commander, Zero was the first to question his presence.

"Is there something else we need to know about this mission sir?"

"No there's nothing special that you three need to be aware of." Signas answered, looking at the disappointed Axl from the corner of his eye, seemingly defeated by his answer. "However there is one request I have."

Now X was even curious about this request. "Yes sir?"

"Take Echo with you this time."

Zero was surprised by this request in truth, though kept it to himself as far as expressions went. X shared his feeling though, wondering why they were being asked to specifically bring Echo this time when they were only revisiting a location they had been previously. Axl on the other hand, seemed very happy about it, and quietly cheered to himself in the background.

"I'm a bit confused sir." X stated. "Does this have something to do with more possible information being found there?"

"No, Alia is still working on cracking into that odd message that was blasted through your communications a few days ago. I want her being taken for safety measures."

Zero was now a bit disgruntled by Signas's statement, taking a step forward to make his thoughts known.

"With all due respect sir, this is an area we're quite familiar with, I don't think it's necessary to bring her along as a safety measure."

"As true as that is, there are other areas that have had to be revisited due to repeatedly being targeted by mavericks, and you are one to still come back with some degree of damage to yourself." Signas flatly replied to the somewhat annoyed hunter. "Aside from that, she is intended to be a safety measure more so for the factory than you three. In the one report that was the most completed, X you said that she somehow repaired a system to the subway, and when you initially found her, she was trying to fix an older computer, however shut it down on your command."

It was slowly becoming apparent to X as to why Echo was being brought along, and it showed in the tone of his voice when he answered, "Yes sir. She did manage that all herself."

"Then there's the other fact that…Echo refuses to let any of our research team so much as get close to her. Giving her some field work might narrow down what she was actually designed for. The two systems and repairing bugged… bugs, only give us a broad speculation that goes into the impossible." The commander finished, beginning to turn and leave the room. "Those are your orders for today."

As Signas had gone, X could hear Zero muttering to himself while Axl was still being obliviously gleeful in the background. The blue hunter didn't like the idea of field testing Echo, but he didn't like it as much as others would have guessed. At least the odd raptor reploid would be out there where he could keep track of her, and something like a factory was difficult for that larger rogue mechaniloid that seemed to be following them, to get in to. Once everyone had left the room, they knew there was only a small amount of time to find Echo and fill her in.

"Well we better go find her, instructions are instructions."

"A bit ridiculous for instructions if you ask me." Zero complained bitterly.

Axl threw his arms behind his head, looking up in the ceiling in thought. "I wonder if he just doesn't want to be responsible for having her run around by herself…"

"I wouldn't be surprised…" the blonde hunter grumbled to himself. "Rebriefing a tag along is a waste of time, and we're going to have to rephrase it for her-"

"No need she's been hiding under the desk back here."

X and Zero turned around, seeing Axl kneeling down, uncovering what was Echo's hiding spot. She poked her head out, stretching as she stood up straight. The dinoloid took a few steps forward, as if she were wary of someone spotting her. The blue and red reploids only looked at her, X shaking his head in slight amusement while Zero only muttered other complaints out of audible comprehension. As Echo walked up to X, she looked at Zero with a confused look, tilting her head at him cutely. She then looked at X with a curious stare.

"Zero okay?"

Before X could answer, Zero sighed loudly. "I'm fine, can we get this done and over with?"

X was a bit happy that Echo had snuck herself into the room earlier, hiding herself from everyone else until they were all gone. He followed Zero out the door and to the transfer room, Axl restraining himself from skipping down the hall as they went. "Zero you've got nothing to complain about now, get over it."

"Says the reploid who's still keeping a bit of distance."

Axl frowned at him, remembering Zero still hadn't gotten him back for this make up comment days before. The navy hunter knew he would be safe from the blonde's wrath on a mission, since Zero wanted to get it done as fast as possible, especially now that Echo was forced on them. Calling her a safety precaution of any kind seemed to poke at Zero's pride too, but there wasn't anything he could do about that. Orders were orders.

The three of then entered the transfer room, operators preparing the proper coordinates of which to teleport them too. As usual they nodded to the three of them, a female reploid giving each of them a nod. When Echo walked by, she jumped a bit out of surprise, watching the small raptor walk just behind X.

"Uh…I thought it was just the three of you on this mission?" She inquired, slowly turning back to her controls.

Zero almost growled at the question. "So did I."

X and Axl just rolled their eyes at him as they waited for teleportation.

The three, now four of them were transported just before the old metal work and weapons factory. Smoldering ash vented out of long pipes reaching out to the sky and was clearly beginning to block out some of the sun, thanks to the density of the gases. The entire building was black and grey thanks to previous battles, leaving no colour whatsoever on the repeatedly abandoned facility. Upon a first look, there was no sign of any recent struggle, or really, much of a force of entry. The doors to the factory were unlocked, letting the three maverick hunters and their new reptilian side kick in with ease. Once the door was shut behind them, it was plain to see, or rather, feel that there was definitely smelting going on.

The level of heat within the building was tremendous, easily distorting their view by just a tiny bit as the heat emanated off of metal, concrete, just about everything else in the building. Echo even backed up a few steps, taken off guard by the unexpected temperature. Large vats of liquid metal followed a rail in small groups of three or five, hanging by a powerful magnetic current and pouring their contents into much larger containers. Furnaces blazed at them from the inside and out, forcing impurities out if not burning them to gaseous oblivion. Long steel catwalks stretched from one end of the room to the other, some with stairs ascending and descending into the other levels of the factory. The outside didn't show how large the place in question truly was, as the underground levels stretched farther than the structure was high. The walkways continued to crisscross themselves over what seemed to be an open pit of manufacturing; steam and smoke, fumes and gases rose in varying intensities here and there as they were sucked up towards the ceiling. Above their heads a large and complex ventilation system filtered out anything harmful that it could, however there seemed to be a problem; the filter system wasn't working and parts of it had such a buildup of ash that it was melting parts of the machines shut.

"If I didn't know any better I'd say this place has been in overdrive."

X examined the ceiling. "That's not a good sign. Someone who has this place in operation doesn't seem to know how to run it."

"Or they don't want it run again afterwards."

"That seems a bit of an odd objective Zero…"

"Echo fix?"

"No Echo, that's not what we're here for." X explained to her. "We're looking for other Maverick Hunters. If we need to find something to fix, we'll let you know."

"Maybe she could start with Zero's mood?"

Axl ducked underneath Zero's swing, aiming for his head as he groaned and walked forward on the catwalk. X rolled his eyes at the both of them while he figured the best way for them to begin looking for the missing personnel was to split up. He instructed Axl and Echo to go check the floors above them, while he and Zero went to check the ones below. The raptor seemed a bit disappointed she couldn't go with X and Zero, but Axl's optimism distracted her for the time being. The four of them looked slowly and with care. Their navigators would inform them the second there was an influx of maverick activity, and so far, everything was quiet. The factory breathed heavy pressured sighs as cranes shifted vats of molten metal from station to station. Molds stamped shapes into amber slabs as a conveyor belt carried them farther away into processing. Zero and X walked over the large open pit that seemed to be a maze of catwalks, wondering how long it was going to take them to get down to the lowest floor where it would be safe to search the other rooms. Normally they would have just jumped down, but the multiple open smelters and uncertainty of the structural integrity of the building made them have second thoughts about it.

"I'm beginning to wonder if this place had ever heard of a lift or an elevator." Zero complained to himself. "This heat is starting to bother me."

"You decided to go down this way." X countered. "That's no one's fault but you. Besides, that doesn't seem to be the only thing bothering you."

Zero only grunted and didn't answer. He turned down towards one of the stairs, quickly descending them as his partner followed him. The clinking of their armor on the metal constructs was becoming less and less audible as the rumbling of flames and the distortion of heat waves was becoming ever thicker. X knew Zero wanted to avoid the question, but he wasn't' going to allow him to this time; not while things were quiet.

"You obviously have a problem with Echo." X stated, quickly moving on before Zero could even let words come out of his now open mouth. "You couldn't make it any less obvious than you getting a haircut."

Zero groaned, bordering a growl once again. "I still don't trust what that thing does, nor do I trust it."

"The 'it' saved us once, and repaired me when she didn't have to." Protested the blue Maverick Hunter. "You can't trust her, fine, but can you trust me with my judgement? Is that too hard for you to do?"

The question stopped Zero in his hurried walk. He was quiet for a moment, letting a slow sigh out as he let his arms drop down to his side. The blonde turned around, looking at X with a serious glance. The few seconds it took for him to begin to say something seemed to draw on for minutes.


CSHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH… "Processing complete. Finalization required in Branch Omega, Tango, 4."

The overhead speakers caught the two of them off guard, both looking around for any sign of movement, hoping there was something for the two of them to go on. What they heard next, was entirely surprising.

"Finalization Confirmed. Resuming processing."

There was someone in here, operating the factory. The two of them weren't sure if it was who they were looking for, or someone they didn't want to find. Hopefully, it was going to be the sooner, and not the later, or even worse; both. X moved his hand to start a communications link with Axl, only to hear his voice inside his helmet before he could get to it.

"You guys heard that too right?"

"Yes we did." X replied. "I don't suppose you found anything up there to find out where this branch is?"

"Actually Echo and I found some sort of control room up here. Seems to have a map of the facility and I had no idea this place was so huge-"

"Can you tell us where said area is?" Zero snapped at him, getting slightly impatient.

"Sheesh someone is grumpy." Axl scoffed at him. "Yeah the processing finishes off in the lowest floor out on the west side… wait aren't your navigators supposed to be telling you where to go and not me?"

"You already beat them too it."

"Thanks Axl, see if you can shut things down from up there." X commanded. "Maybe see if Echo can make it shut down."

"We'll see what we can do."

X and Zero ran down the walkway as fast as they could, soon able to find signs that gave them direction to the processing branch they were looking for. The heat from the machines working, to the molten metal was incredibly stifling, making it hard for the two of them to see straight. Each of them took to a side of a hallway they had found, throwing open doors and calling out for the missing scouting team. There was still no one, or even anything of them to be found. X was starting to worry as each passing second went by, while Zero grew all the more frustrated. It wasn't long before their rush was stopped by a large metal door that had the characters 'OT-4' engraved into the front of it. On either side was a button panel that had a green light glaring both of them in the face. Zero pressed the largest key on the pad, figuring that it would open the door. Both of them cautiously took to either side, letting the door come completely open before looking inside.

Inside, there appeared to be nothing but fully operational machines. Upon further inspection, there appeared slow movement from the right side. Zero instinctively put his hand on his saber while X had a hand on his buster. Neither of them moved as what moved slowly came around the corner. To their surprise, it was not a Maverick Hunter, but instead, a serpentine reploid. On a spherical mount was a pair of arms in black armor and crimson trim, complete with a set of four triangular claws to operate as simple fingers. The head was a large triangular shape, curving downwards with a white plate of armor separating another larger black one that separated to two directions behind the head. Under these was a large tub that curled off to the left or right side, ending just above the reploids shoulders in a pale red colour, with black spot lining the back of it. It seemed to imitate the appearance of some kind of cobra. His entire lower half comprised of rounded, rectangular sections with curved metal plates on the front with metal beads in it, and circular dark grey plating with exhaust pipes coming out of either side. Each section was held together by dark red pieces, and the end of the 'tail' was a black triangular metal piece.

Neither of them moved quickly, as it seemed this strange reploid wasn't hostile, but instead, examining X and Zero with his red glassy eyes. "Maverick… hunters?"

Zero didn't respond immediately. "Yeah."

After the last time, Zero expected an attack. To both of their surprise, the reploid only stood there, looking from X to Zero. The blue hunter was beginning to lower his buster, and even withdrew it completely.

"I sent for you." He said, in a voice that was heavy and low, and absent of a lisp commonly stereotyped with those that were snakelike. "There were strange sounds coming from above, but there are absent now. I discovered the problem and sent them away. Did they send for additional assistance of another issue they discovered?"

"Whoever came here before us, we don't have contact with anymore." X explained, slightly unnerved by the appearance of this reploid.

"I don't suppose you know where they are?" Zero asked sternly, not giving this strange mechanical oddity an inch.

"I know where they went." He responded calmly, either ignorant or purposely ignoring Zero's accusing tone. "The heat can cause many problems. Communication included. You might have heard static if you have used your communications inside the facility."

Now that X thought about it, he did remember hearing some static as he spoke to Axl about the announcement, and where to go. Zero had to admit he remembered hearing the same thing too. Also, what Axl said earlier was starting to make him wonder; why hadn't their navigators informed them of where to go as soon as that announcement had finished? Usually they were incredibly well timed with that kind of thing.

"Follow me." The reploid instructed, motioning his hand towards himself.

Zero and X cautiously followed behind the serpent as he moved his tail left and right to slowly move himself forward. He had both of his arms behind his back, claws folded together as neatly as the simplistic design would allow him to. Zero kept watching for any sign of a trap, making sure X was right at his back the entire time they were lead up one of the lowest catwalks that loomed just over one of the largest cauldrons of smoldering liquid ore. The pace at which the armed snake was moving was both unsettling, and draining, as being exposed to such heat was starting to wear on Zero's patience. Even X was starting to feel uncomfortable in the increased temperature. As he continued to walk, something about this entire situation just seemed off. He just knew it, and he had to find out what it was.

"What exactly… are you doing here?"

The stranger did not pause in his slithering, remaining facing forward the entire time. "I create; recycle from the old to create new. I work here, as I was instructed to."

"This place was abandoned… how long have you been here?"

"I do not recall. Time can be trivial, even meaningless when you pursue something."

Zero was off put by the answer. "What exactly are you pursuing?"

"Answers, solutions, resolution, resolve. It has many names." He answered again. "I have completed my pursuit here, and I will vacate this factory in favor of neglect. However, nothing is ever left as it was found, as this place will be."

Zero stopped, forcing X to stop behind him. "Care to explain that?"

"So many questions, but it would be rude of me not to answer them." The serpent turned around, stopping in the centre of the catwalk to face the two of them. "But first, we are where you requested to be."

Zero and X looked around, noticing they weren't anywhere different from where they had already been. Zero replaced his hand on the handle of his saber, knowing something was up. "What exactly are you trying to pull, this isn't anywhere!"

"And I thought you Maverick Hunters were ever so observant." He exclaimed, turning his body right around and posing himself up straight.

X only took a moment to think of what he was getting at, realizing there was only one place the scouting party could have gone. The realization was clear on his face as he readied his buster in an instant, pointing it at the reploid in front of him and Zero.

"You liar, you never sent for our help, you only killed the ones who came here and used it as a cover up!"

"Lie? How dare you. I, Burnout Naga, do not lie." The now named reploid hissed at the two of them. "I did send for the Maverick Hunters, and I did send them away when I discovered the issue to my dilemma. I had not enough material to create what I was sent for. My pursuit would not be complete without your contribution. I took you to where they were sent."

Zero drew his saber, ready for a fight. "Typical maverick. Why don't you tell us what Sigma is up to this time so we can get on with our lives?"

"Sigma?" Burnout questioned. "I don't recall working for a letter of the Greek alphabet. Maverick? Are you aware of the definition of the word? One who speaks out of the norm, a free will, an individualist who pursues other ideas, ideals and or politics. The irony as those of yourselves can be seen as mavericks, yet you hunt them."

"We don't have time for your mind games." Zero retorted. "And don't tell me you aren't with Sigma and play dumb."

"I told you, I do not lie." The naga told him firmly. "What I speak is no lie either, for the truth is all but subjection. By your standards, and your 'truth' then a maverick is what I am. No amount of trivial, philosophical arguing will change your mind it appears. I will not entertain the idea of conversing any longer, and nor do I wish to enact in violent action. It will just waste energy when the end result will be the same."

Burnout Naga turned to leave, his body slowly turning around with his back to Zero and X. Zero had finally reached the end of his patience, dashing forward towards their clear enemy. "You aren't leaving the way you came in!"

Before X even had time to blink, he heard a snapping of metal, and such a fast shift on the walkway he flinched for just a second. Zero was even stunned, as he found himself not with a saber in the back of the snake, but instead, his wrist being nearly crushed in the grip of his foe. Not only that, but he was being lifted a foot or so off of the ground. X raised his buster quickly to fire, but found his line of sight blocked by Zero's body being suspended between himself and Burnout.

"You don't listen very well. I said I was going to leave. I do not lie."

Zero knew X couldn't hit him, and probably wasn't going to fire his buster because he was in the way no matter how much he may have protested. He still had his one free arm, and was so close to his target, he might have been able to pull this off if done just right. Zero raised his other arm, using his incredibly unused buster. A charge began to form quickly where a hand used to be, and just as he was about to release a shot, something much heavier threw off his aim, leaving the shot to fire offside of his target, and at another piece of machinery that was in use. Zero looked at his buster arm, finding it completely wrapped in the coils of Burnout with the exhausts facing his plating.

"I can't allow you a second chance at that now can I?" The exhausts came to life with flames; blasting Zero's arm with such heat it began to melt the very armor itself.

Zero tried to fight back the searing pain, but the agonizing sound being muffled by will power was still audible. X frustratingly tried to find a good shot, as there was nowhere else to go on the walkway. Burnout kept moving Zero in the way of any possible shot, and it tore the blue hunter up inside to have such a thing happening again. X desperately aimed his buster in every angle, the humming from the charge starting to drown out his own angry thoughts. Then, he saw it. The tailpiece that held Zero was exposed to his shot.

Burnout knew he saw it as well. As X released his charge, the maverick ceased smoldering Zero's limb, spinning around to avoid the powerful blast that was being aimed while still holding Zero with one arm. Upon coming full circle, he released the red hunter to X's surprise, unable to avoid having Zero's body collide with his own. The pair of them hit the metal railing, almost falling through it while they regained their footing. Burnout wasn't going to give them any time to check up on each other, as he took his massive tail and struck the catwalk so hard, it ripped the metal in half. Each end landed in the vat of glowing liquid below, hissing as it began to melt the walkway. Blaring sirens could be heard as warnings about the systems having anomalies, failures and evacuation protocols started to fill their ears. The pair of them slid down a ways until Zero felt hot liquid metal splash against the side of his foot, causing him to yell out in pain. X tried pulling Zero up with him while aiming at Burnout at the same time so they weren't attacked in the process of trying to recover. The serpentine maverick laughed, while backing up away from X and Zero. Then, to X's surprise, he managed to vault his heavy body upwards with a flash of yellow and white flames, and onto the next catwalk. X continued to blast at where he thought he was without the aim of his other arm, but they were off centre. It was clear Burnout wasn't coming for them, but instead heading for the top of the facility. X took the opportunity to concentrate on just pulling himself, and Zero onto a much more stable platform.

Upstairs, Axl was trying everything he could to try to get the computers to shut down their processes while Echo dug around in the wiring and hardware of the computer, as if she was looking for something specific. The blaring sirens were putting more pressure on them and Echo often commented about the heat making her feel "sick" or "unwell". The younger hunter was getting more and more agitated, especially now that there seemed to be an evacuation notice going through the speakers.

"Come on, there has to be something we're missing." Axl grumbled to himself. "Everything has a shut of switch… or a self-destruct button for some odd reason. Echo, don't push any large suspicious buttons until you run them by me."

"Echo will tell Axl of any big buttons that look susp..susspisshhh…ussss." The raptor reploid repeated. "Echo need to find plug in, but Echo no find it. Echo can't fix if Echo can't find it."

"What kind of plug in?" Axl asked her. "How exactly do you fix it?"

"You does not fix it, Echo fixes it."

"Yeah, how do you fix it?"

"Who is You? Echo is not You. Echo is Echo."

The pair of them stared at each other for a moment while Axl knew this was going to go around in circles. "… kay so how does Echo fix it?"

Echo seemed unsure of how to respond other than the only explanation she seemed to give for everything regarding what she actually did. "Echo fix and make better. Echo was told that is how Echo works. Echo didn't get big long ex..plaaannashuun of how Echo worke-"

An explosion stopped the both of them as well as the whining of bending metal, followed by more crashing. Axl stormed out onto another catwalk while Echo remained inside the doorway, wondering what was going on. Axl looked down and saw a red and blue blur down below and something in black with red, moving up the catwalks as the blue blur fired shots at the black one.

"Well that doesn't look good. Echo, you're really going to have to find a way to shut this place off." Axl said, pulling out one of his pistols while trying to radio in X and Zero. "Are you two okay?"

X had Zero's half melted arm over his shoulder while he tried to carry him along the slowly melting walkways, and stop Burnout from escaping at the same time. The heat was causing static in the radio waves and he had only barely heard Axl's voice inside his helmet before stopping to respond.

"Axl we have a maverick heading up to the top floors to escape. He's already caused Zero severe heat damage and he can't walk without assistance. I can't get a clear shot of him because I can't aim properly." X explained. "Can you try to slow him down from up top?"

"Wow already? Sounds like a new record for out blonde punching bag-"


"Yes yes I'm already on it."

"He can move fast for a giant, metal tank snake humanoid thing… so be careful." Zero told him. "And I could walk if you'd let me try X."

"Your foot is partially melted, and so is your arm. I'm not letting you try so you can make it worse." The hunter sternly told him. "I'm carrying you up there to safety."

"You're carrying me toward a damn maverick, you're going slowly and would be going much faster if you just left me! Never mind you could have probably hit him by now and we could all go back home!"

"I am not sitting you down to go out in a blaze of sacrificial glory! …AGAIN!"

"You can just set me down for a bit and come back! I never said about dying for the sake of our lives!"

X continued to argue with him as he was not half dragging his partner along the metal walkway. "We've worked together for how long and you've said that how many times and it's still happened how many times?"

"That's clear proof that I have a hidden personal agenda that's just in the back of my head telling me 'oh right, I was scheduled for martyrdom today for the sake of human and reploid kind!' We talked about this a few days ago, why are you bringing it up again?"

"I didn't bring it up!"

"Yes you did!"

"No I-"

"Hey, before you guys fight over what colours are going to clash at your ceremony in the future so you can legitimately argue like the old married couple you're portraying, here's a really crazy suggestion: Zero, why don't you just help X aim his buster with your remaining good arm while X, can carry Zero at the same time, and everyone can be happy and we can all hopefully not die?"



"Yeah you guys kind of forgot to turn communications off."

"Echo heard too."

There was another quiet pause.

"Right… good idea Axl." X told him."

X and Zero ceased their bickering and took a moment to catch more ground before attempting to assist Axl with slowing Burnout down.

Axl was trying to aim from the edge of the catwalk, keeping to the element of surprise as Burnout didn't seem to know he was their yet. Aiming both pistols carefully, he was waiting for just the right moment to aim a piercing shot through one of the catwalks to send Burnout a one way trip to liquid metal therapy. Echo was inside the control room, only how having pulled the covering panes off of the entire computer by ripping them open with her large reptilian armored claws. Her left arm became the unusual tool once again and started scanning for the plug in of which she spoke of earlier. She was starting to grow more worried the longer she took to find it.

Axl was watching Burnout carefully as he rose between the walkways, being more careful now that X's aim suddenly improved all of a sudden and Axl couldn't have imagined what could have possibly happened to have such a thing change so quickly. The seconds felt like minutes, as Axl had to make sure that he wasn't going to cut X and Zero off either. He calculated that the maverick could jump well enough, but if you couldn't jump without anything underneath you, then you were stuck. The navy reploid had the shot lined up, he only needed to wait for the target to get between point A and point B.

Two more catwalks to go.

One more left as the last one was torn to pieces in his trail…

Two more feet…


Axl pulled both triggers of his pistols, almost simultaneously. One shot tore just ahead of the path Burnout wanted to take while the second one followed closely after, tearing through the metal behind him. Burnout Naga's weight did the rest, causing the support to fall beneath him, and crash into the worn ones below. He had nothing to reach for to stop his fall, only the pit of liquid metal below where his body and the remains of his walkway splashed into with a bright, golden wave. Part of the walkway took a bit to melt into the rest of the vat, while the mavericks body was completely gone as soon as he made impact. X and Zero watched as they confirmed that Burnout was not coming back out. X sighed some relief as he continued to take Zero up the rest of the way.

"Thanks for that Axl."

"It's what I'm here for." He replied smugly. "Now you two get up here, that is unless Zero wants to try out the new sauna."

"You aren't funny."

"Uh huh." Axl ignored him for the time being. "Echo can't fix the place until she finds some plug in thing, so eight eyes are better than four."

The pair of them were slightly confused, though part of this mission was to see what Echo actually did. It took X a few minutes to get about halfway up with Zero, who decided to try and hobble to save what dignity he had left from being turned into a metal popsicle. They were both silent for the entire walk up, not even making much eye contact with each other. Echo continued to look, now tearing up the walls, frantic and determined to find what she was looking for to fix the factory's systems. The screaming sirens were starting to get on her nerves as well, and she wanted to get out of there as soon as possible.

"Echo found it!"

Axl came running in, almost tripping on all the metal strewn about the floor. "Awesome Echo, can you turn it off?"

"Echo fix, or try to fix. Echo not used to fixing old, not moving broken things."

"Okay… like before?"

"Before? Axl mean Echo train car?"

"Yeah that."

"Echo fix easy because Echo fix easy fix." She said, almost slightly disappointed by it being something simple to fix. "Echo fix this now."

Echo stuck her tool into a data port and her tool lit up. The screen turned on and numerous windows open and closed, cascaded down the screen and closed themselves after numerous alphanumeric characters spelled out gibberish. It looked as if it were code, code that was being scanned for something in particular. Echo didn't remove her tool until at least three parts of the code were removed from the system, and replaced with other coding. From there she removed her arm, having it turn back into a set of claws, and let the computers shut down.

X and Zero paused when they heard everything quiet down, enjoying the silence for a change. They were near the top when lights began to dim, believing Echo had shut the place down.

Then, red lights started flashing in circles. A siren came back on again.

X turned on his communications again. "Axl…"

Axl turned to the dinosaur. "Echo…"

"Echo fix it!" She proclaimed in her defense. "Echo fix, but Echo think computer says something wrong somewhere! Echo did fix!"

Axl looked at the computer, and indeed it was saying there was something wrong. There was a high amount of pressure in one of the smelters and Axl couldn't figure out where that one was. X and Zero down below weren't getting an answer from Axl right away, so figured the faster they got up there, the better. As they were just about to get up to the last few sets of stairs, they heard an eruption of metal being torn apart, and fluid fire being set ablaze in all directions. Looking down, something had cracked one of the vats, causing its insides to spill out everywhere, and create a string of explosions that domino effected into a slowly rising tide of disaster. X, Zero and not Axl turned to watch down below, as a flaming sphere shaped object ricocheted off of objects, spinning molten metal in all directions. Orange shone off the object as it turned from its sphere shape, to a long serpentine one, shoving metal claws into the wall to stop it from falling.


"How can something survive being immersed in molten metal?"

"That's not cool." Axl said, not realizing he had just made a pun and received a glare from X and Zero as a result. "That one wasn't on purpose I swear."

Echo even peaked out from the doorway of the control room to see what was going on, but didn't make herself be known. All of them could hear Burnout Naga's laughing as he slid down to a long platform that ran against the wall, but not within reach of any other catwalk that he could use to escape the increasing level of molten spillage he had caused down below.

"So he's basically stuck there." Axl observed, pulling out his pistols again. "All I need to do is make one long range shot and-"

Before Axl could respond, Burnout took a good sprint, or slither considering his lower half was serpentine, and launched himself at the nearby wall, leaning backwards so that the end of his tail reach the top of his head, and turning his arms inwards towards his body. They couldn't see it from the distance they were at, but the circular beads in Burnout's armor that allowed him to move so quickly, were molded into spikes under intense heat. The exhausts on both sides completely circled the newly formed Burnout Naga, as he took on the form of a spiked wheel, and with flaming exhausts, started to roll up the side of the factory itself.

Everyone stared for a moment, Axl in the most disbelief. "Okay no, that's just cheating."

Axl and X didn't hesitate to open fire on Burnout, who was able to avoid the majority of the shots, and glance off the others. Zero angrily watched, unable to do anything since his aim was terrible from not using his buster for so many years, never mind his other arm to help steady it was overheated from being melted partially, as well as the rest of his systems. Burnout got closer and closer to the top, nearing the ceiling as he aimed himself towards the air exhausts that were smoldered from the heat and gases. By now all of them could hear him laughing and with one quick turn, he was right on top of them. The three of them moved to avoid being run over by a flaming reptilian wheel, only to find he used that momentum to bounce up into the giant fan's above their heads. He tore through the fan blades and bounced through the vent, ripping open the top and escaping with a triumphant cackle. Shrapnel and metal shot out of the vent like bullets, ripping whatever they ran into apart as well as the adjacent vent next to it. The air pressure rapidly changed and there was a large updraft from underneath the four of them. They had to hold onto what remained of the railing or run the risk of being sucked into a self-made shredder thanks to Burnout. Everyone checked each other over before even attempting to move. X checked on Zero a second time over, giving him a look as a result of what he saw.

Zero was entirely confused as to why X was giving him an unamused stare. "What?"

X cleared his throat, and gave him a moment before speaking. "Really?"

Zero had to think for a moment, before he realized his good hand was on the back of his helmet, around his ponytail. Zero moved his hand away from it and grabbed onto and held onto the railing. "I've had a long day don't even start."

"Echo can't move or Echo get stuck in the broken vent." Echo told them, clinging to the metal railing for dear life.

Axl reached out with his hand to her, and grabbed onto her arm. "Come on, you won't blow away if I'm holding onto you."

"The air pressure in here must be far different from outside, we need to get out of here before that ceiling collapses on us."

"We should be able to get to the door from here." X pointed towards the way they came in. "If we can just get over there before the rest of this rips away under our feet…"

Everyone moved slowly enough to avoid being pulled away by the fans, but fast enough to move towards the door at a decent pace. X would have shot the fans out, but the fact the ceiling was becoming less and less sturdy. Alia nor any of the other navigators were responding to their communication links, meaning Burnout probably had something to do with jamming those as well. It was only a minute later that the four of them reached the door. X began to try to open the heavy gate doors, but they weren't responding.

"I can't get it open!"

"I think Burnout doesn't want us leaving."

Upon further examination of the door, there was obvious proof the entire thing had been melted shut by an outside source. Getting angry, Zero drew his saber with his one good arm, and started hacking away at the door, knowing there was a good three feet of blast resistant armor to cut through. Doing heavy attacks with one arm wasn't working, and even Axl's piercing shots were only going so far in. X joined in with his buster, but the smoldering mess was being rather difficult to contend with. All the while, everyone's systems were starting to overheat terribly, or in Zero's case, reaching higher levels than what they already were. X thought a charged shot would break it down, and instructed everyone to take a step back to avoid splash damage.

"That should be far enough." X said as he had Zero sit farther away with Axl and Echo in front of him.

"X have you been charging your buster already?"

"No, I haven't yet, I had to move you first."

"Then…" Axl thought out loud. "Why do I hear humming…?"

X stopped to listen, and there was humming coming from somewhere. The location of it was soon answered when the door they were trying to break down all of a sudden lurched forward, as if someone had just ran into it from the other side. X ducked down, wondering what it was, and covered himself when the second hit sent the doors flying to his right side, giving them a clear way out of the building. Everyone ran for the door, with Axl holding onto Echo and X dragging Zero with him. The small lobby area they had come through was completely torn open by a foreign blast of energy, leaving them a large enough hole to slide down the side of the building, and back into the much safer outside. Once they hit the ground, they saw an all too familiar sight ahead of them, watching them as it turned to leave in the opposite direction.

"That's that mechaniloid that tried to take Echo before!"

"Grr… I'd go after it right now-"

X cut him off sharply. "The only thing you're going after is repairs."

"…zzttcsssh… X… cation….there…are…you there?"

"Alia?" X questioned. "Alia is that you?"

"Yes! Thank god I've been trying to contact you since you went in but everything we tried wasn't working! Are you alright? Can anyone else hear their navigators?"

"Yeah I can hear Layer just fine." Zero anwered.

Axl almost cringed when he heard freaking out on the other side of his communications. "Yeah I can, but at this rate I won't be able to hear anything."

"Alia, we had a run in with Avery strange maverick, are you able to track him down?" X asked her. "We also made visual contact with the viral mechaniloid from before and need a race on that."

"I can try to track down the one maverick signal… but that's the only signal I have." The navigator informed him. "I don't have that same signal from that mechaniloid on my radar anywhere you are right now."

"What? That can't be right, I just saw it disappear into more of the abandoned parts of this sector!"

"I'm not sure what to tell you, but if you're sure it's that same one, I'm not getting any signals from it that matches our earlier analysis at all."

They all stood there, a bit in disbelief. Suddenly a maverick mechaniloid didn't have the signal that said it was a maverick anymore? That just wasn't possible to them, and they had already identified that model as a model of its own kind. There were no other copies of it in any known databases they had. First a cryptic maverick that wasn't intent on finishing X and Zero off when he had the chance, and now a mechaniloid suddenly was just a normal mechaniloid that suddenly helped them escape?

Just what was going on?

Author Note:


No, this fan fic is NOT DEAD and I will not allow it to DIE. It's almost 4am at the time of this upload and yeah. Life kind of sucked awhile for me and then when I got around to writing this one, my brain gets writers block and artists block at the same time. It would not allow me to write about Burnout Naga until he had a design, then a proper one, then, it had to make sense regarding some form of MMX physics. THEN finding time to finish off the chapter and augh IhateBurnoutsomuuuuuch.

I made this chapter the longest one yet for such a long wait. I won't make it a whole year next time I update.