By the Legacy of Metal Co-Authors

(Erico, Magus523, Revokov, RoyFokker99, and Maelgrim)

Prologue: Paradigm Shift

New Amsterdam, GDC H.Q.

February 21st, 2128 C.E.

10:03 A.M.

"Today marks a momentous occasion in the history of this international organization." The currently elected head of the GDC, or Global Defense Council, was in high spirits as he stood behind his podium.

At GDC Headquarters, Secretary General Massoud Chevalier was the supreme authority. He was also worldly enough that his native Moroccan accent only reared its head when he grew angry. Anger was the farthest emotion from his mind today.

Beside him, standing at attention in front of the entire assembly, a gargantuan reploid in golden armor stood as Chevalier's centerpiece. Being the size of two and a half stories of skyscraper had that effect on people, and the stoic General knew full well why he had been designed to that stature.

Secretary General Chevalier gestured to the golden goliath. "In our world, we face many troubles. Not only do nations still bicker and quarrel with one another over the same tired arguments of blood, land, and resources, but Mavericks constantly rear their heads. We live in a new age of warfare, where nations hurl men of metal skin and silicon minds at one another. The Maverick Hunters are a storied and skilled group of specialized troopers, but recent events have made it clear that we cannot rely on them alone to protect us. It was with this sad fact in mind that the GDC Security Council created a new branch of our military…the reploid forces, or "Repliforce."

"The reploid before you is called General. He is the commanding officer of Repliforce, and the pride of our research and development teams. He has been working, behind the scenes, to get Repliforce prepared for their mission. And as I have said, today will be memorable."

General came out of parade rest, his large padded boots thumping heavily at the front of the GDC's hall. "As of this morning, Repliforce is fully online and operational. While we will not replace existing forces, it is my intention to prove that we can be as effective as the GDC's troops…and in the case of Maverick suppression, a more reliable deterrent than existing organizations. Reploidkind has long been seen as a subclass in the world. This is why Repliforce will succeed. Just as humans of minority, differing religions, and sexual orientation have done before, we will earn the acceptance of the world by our service."

General raised his gargantuan arm up, and saluted the congregation. "The Repliforce hereby reports for duty."

The cheers and applause were slow at first, but soon gained speed and volume. General took it as a sign.

In time…they would be equals.

Maverick Hunter Headquarters

New Tokyo, Japan

Dr. James T. Cain clicked the monitor off and turned to look at his two guests. Without the glare of the television, the soft blue lighting in his office was almost relaxing. Most days.

This wasn't one of them.

"Okay boys. So what do you think?" He addressed the question to a hunter in blue and a hunter in red: Mega Man X and Zero Omega, the two best Maverick Hunters. If anything, they were the ones that ran the place. What they didn't do was mostly paperwork and PR, and Cain was used to fielding those responsibilities.

The straight-laced Hunter in blue armor looked at his more wild-seeming, blond-haired counterpart. Zero arched an eyebrow, indicating X should make the first remark.

"I think that those two did a terrific job in slamming our reputation while they were praising us." X diplomatically remarked.

"Add more swear words, and that's what I'd say." Zero grunted.

Cain, an old man who clung to life with a vice grip in his waning years, snorted and smiled. "When you two are on the same page, I listen a little better. All right. Long story short, the GDC's never been happy with the autonomy I've carefully preserved over our ten years of operations. The official word is that Repliforce isn't replacing the Maverick Hunters, but you can't be sure it's not in their game plan somewhere down the line. They've got a better grip on this Repliforce than they ever had on us."

"At least Cristoph kept his face out of this press conference." X reasoned.

"After the stink he made four years ago, he oughta." Zero sniped.

"And now for the part you're going to hate." Cain went on. "I had a very exhausting shouting match with our GDC liaison about not reducing our budget. Some apparently feel that the Hunters should be receiving less money, with Repliforce taking on some of the responsibility."

"Wait, they pay us?" Zero was surprised. "I thought your reploid patent royalties covered all of this."

Cain snorted. "Part of it. Our annual stipend from the GDC also includes first look at their new technologies and a discount. Without it, we could run the Hunters only in a limited capacity. I kept our budget safe, but I had to make a concession."

"Here it comes." X shook his head.

"In exchange for their "continued benevolent assistance", I've allowed the GDC to field a greater presence in our institution."

"In English. Or Japanese, even." Zero drummed his fingers on the side of his arm.

"I think Cain's saying that the GDC is going to put their people in the MHHQ." X explained. The Blue Bomber of 21XX folded his arms. "In what capacity, I wonder?"

"Relax, nobody's being replaced." Cain groused. "I made sure of that. And nobody's going to have to field a GDC flunkie in their unit. But they will be Maverick Hunting."

"How's that going to work?" Zero puzzled it out. "You giving them their own unit or something?" He laughed at the sad joke, but the noise died out when Cain looked at him with a straight face. "Oh, you're kidding me!"

"I'm afraid not, Zero. That was the compromise. Currently, we field seventeen Maverick Hunting units out of the MHHQ; Units 2 through 17, and your Special Forces Unit 0. I'm authorizing the creation of the 18th Maverick Hunting unit. Their designation will be Zephyr Team."

"How many people are they sending us?" X asked.

Cain held up his hand, fingers outstretched. He added one more finger from his other hand. "Six."

"I was expecting more than six." X blinked. "Did you talk them down?"

"I convinced them that additional support personnel were unnecessary, seeing as we keep our own staff on site. As it is, they intend to send a squad commander, four reploid troopers from various divisions, and something they call, uh…a Navigator."

"What the fu...what's a Navigator?" Zero asked incredulously. "They gonna be flying planes a lot?"

"Hell's bells, Zero, you think I know?" Cain got up out of his chair and straightened out his blue and red robe. The old man reached for his walking stick and plodded over to the corner of his office, where an odd-shaped fishbowl resided. "All that Gervais said was this "Navigator" was an information systems analyst. You can read into that what you want to."

Zero rolled his eyes. "Whatever."

"All right. It sounds like you've got this all worked out then, Dr. Cain." X jumped in. "So why bother to tell us all this?"

"So you could be my sounding board, boys. Like always." Cain opened up a small bottle of fish food and shook some out for the fishbowl's singular resident, a goldfish in a series of goldfish that all shared the name Sigma II. "How do you think the others here are going to take this?"

"The same way they always take bad news." Zero groused. "They'll rant, they'll rave, they'll get drunk, and Hazil will get to spend a few days patching them up after they're done fighting each other."

"When will they get here?" X ignored Zero's derisive response.

"A few days." Cain sighed. "Can you two put the word out for me?"

"Yeah. You having headaches again?"

"It's nothing, X. Just part of the job." Cain waved off his concern. "You and Zero get going. There's a dust-up in Cairo, and my guess is that the 14th Unit is going to need some backup soon."

X and Zero stood up and headed out of Cain's office, leaving the old man to tend his goldfish. "Why do I get the feeling that the GDC blames us for the Third Uprising?" Zero asked, once the door to Cain's office had hissed shut and they were out of earshot. "Is this their way of hanging a crap sandwich around our neck?"

"I don't think you can blame anyone for the Third Uprising." X soothed his friend's overworked aggression. "We all bought into Doppler's lie. It's gonna take years before the fallout from that settles. I'm more worried about this Repliforce than I am this new Zephyr unit."

"It's more like a team." Zero argued. "Hell, a whole unit is twenty guys and their CO. How does the GDC think that four guys, a commander, and a Navigator are going to make a dent at all?"

X gave his longtime friend and ally a long look with his upraised eyebrow before speaking again. "I took down two Uprisings almost completely on my own, Zero."

"I helped your ass with the first one."

"That's why I said almost. Look, a lot of people are going to be expecting them to fail. I can't say I much like the notion of the GDC having a team here, but seeing as I can't change it, I can at least watch with an open mind."

Zero shook his head and walked faster. "You do that, X. You're the better optimist. I'll put the word out. Anything to get away from that office quicker."

"You don't like Cain's office?"

"It's that fishbowl of his. Why in God's name did he make it out of Armored Armadillo's shell?"

"Why did he name his goldfish after the reploid we used to call Supreme Commander?" X shrugged his shoulders. "Cain's human. And humans do crazy things."

"Like shove Zephyr unit down our throats." Zero concluded, triggering his dash boots. He tore down the hall, forcing the MHHQ staff to jump out of his way.

X came to a halt and coughed out the dust storm Zero had kicked up in his wake. He waved the air away from his face and made a face. "Showoff."

One of the technicians who'd been walking behind them came up and prodded his shoulder. "Is something wrong, Commander X?"

"Just life." X said, offering a weak smile. "It's always changing on you."

And things were certainly about to change at the MHHQ.