Alright, so, this is a cooperative effort between myself and Midnyght Saber (midnyght saber dot weebly dot com), and we'd like to begin by apologizing. Because this fic? Is long. It is very, very long and while I'm sure no one here will complain, well, don't say we didn't warn you. There is a huge gap between Classic and X series, as I am certain you've observed: everyone in Classic, even the long-lived Robot Masters, somehow managed to die off in the century between the two. I never liked this. But this does create a lot of fun crossover potential. So here, while Neo Arcadia slowly slides down the slippery slope to complete hell on Earth, they make an unexpected discovery on the other side of the planet. Considering the major loss of technology overall between Classic and X, and the limited improvement in Zero due to constant warfare, and considering what the Robot Masters could do? Well, read and you'll see.
Disclaimer: Rockman and all related characters and the like are property of Capcom, we are making no profit.
The energy reading was tremendous. It was a focused reading, not broad and spotty like what they were used to seeing. But the power level was like nothing they'd seen before this. It pumped out energy and flooded their sensors like a floodlight in the dead of night.
Naturally, a crew was immediately dispatched. What that kind of energy could do for Neo Arcadia, especially if they could replicate it and sustain it? Unprecedented.
They pinpointed the location fairly easily: with a beacon like that, the real question was, how had they missed that before?
That wasn't the only surprise: upon closer examination, they discovered that the source was relatively near the surface, in a hollow.
The hollow was the remnants of an ancient lab, and in that lab, they found two deactivated Reploids. The energy reading was coming from one of them. But to find such ancient models…
Both were packed up and shipped back to Neo Arcadia for immediate examination.
"Okay, be careful with those bodies, we don't need them to fall apart on us after all the trouble we went through to get them here," the foreman ordered.
"Right, right, keep your hat on!" the grunt mumbled, hauling the body of the still-active machine onto an exam table and holding up a battered-looking shield. "So what do I do with this? Looks like it goes to the red one, but…"
"For now?" The foreman scratched his head, unsure about the workmanship of the item. "Keep it with the rest of him. We'll analyze it and if it's still any good, he can have it back, I guess."
The door to the archaeology lab slid open with a quiet hiss, Harpuia and Phantom quickly stepping into the room, the aerial Guardian's jade eyes flitting over the two forms on the tables. "I heard word from transport that your crew had docked. I take it you found something of interest if you're back a week ahead of schedule?"
The foreman snapped a quick salute at the two Guardians. "Yes, sir, we have a pair of old model…Reploids…and I use the term loosely. One of them appears to still be active."
Harpuia looked over the taller of the two models, noting the energy readings that were showing up on the nearby screen. "Any idea how something as theoretically old as these two would still be operating?" Eyes flicked to the smaller of the two, eyeing the remains of the light blue armor with a mixture of recognition and confusion. "Phantom, I believe Master X would be most interested in this discovery, even with all of our current evidence regarding their age being purely hypothetical. Please inform him that I am making a formal request for his presence and that I apologize for interrupting whatever is on his schedule at present."
"At once." And as silently as he had arrived, Phantom disappeared into the halls beyond.
The foreman cleared his throat. "So, should we wait before beginning the analysis, or should we have some preliminary results in for when Master X gets here?"
Emotionless green eyes locked on the foreman of the archaeology crew for a moment. "Start the analysis now so that we have less of a reason for Master X to be irate at being pulled from his duties. Where were these units found?"
The foreman signaled for the analysis team to begin their task as he responded, "We found them in an abandoned lab in a cave system in a Canadian mountain range. Considering the signal we got from the red one, it's a wonder we didn't find these two sooner."
"I take that to mean that the signal was…" Harpuia stopped, the foreman's words finally registering, and he practically glared daggers at the poor Reploid. "You weren't even assigned near Canadian territory. You're honestly telling me that this robot was sending off an energy reading strong enough to get your attention and we've never noticed this before?" With an agitated sigh, Harpuia opened a peripheral message window and sent the team's findings and information to Fefnir with an addendum to have a 'talk' with the tech crew that managed the city's energy supplies for missing something that could prove immensely vital to the city's survival.
"I want you and the rest of your crew to compile a report on these findings, including all of your AV logs from the dig site. The analysts can take it from here, so get moving." Harpuia's glare turned from the foreman to the screen near the red unit, watching the minute fluctuations in the energy readings.
"We will have the full report to you within the hour." The foreman turned to address his dig crew. "Debrief in five! It's for Harpuia, so move your dusty asses!" He then gave the Wind Guardian a quick bow before rushing out of the room.
Copy X was probably one of only a handful of individuals that could actually tell when Phantom entered a room, waving a hand to dismiss the Judges before turning to face the shadow Guardian. "There had better be a good reason for walking in on a Council session unannounced, Phantom."
Phantom knelt in reverence and spoke, "There was a find. Possibly progenitor, definitely old. And powerful."
Copy X stiffened at this. While a copy of the X everyone, the Guardians included, thought him to be, there was nothing he knew, no memories saved or backed up, of these progenitor models save for the discussions that occasionally bounced around in the tech and research divisions of Neo Arcadia's staff. He straightened a bit more, crimson eyes locking on the Reploid. "Powerful how? Was the crew harmed?" Copy X began walking, knowing that Phantom would fall in step behind him. "Where are they keeping them now?"
"No one was harmed, but there is great potential in the active one. They are both in the lab in the archaeologist's wing of the tower, possibly under analysis." Phantom's silent steps fell in line with Copy X's and he frowned slightly. "Correction - the core is active in one of them, but as far as I saw, there was no sign of life in either of them."
Copy X quickened his pace, trying to hide the fact that he had no idea what he was supposed to do when they finally arrived at the lab. An active core meant that the Reploid was powered by something far more potent than the electricity and Energen Crystals that sustained them, the question being, of course, what? What could possibly be that powerful? "Has any mention been made of where they were found?"
Perhaps stumbling upon these units would lead to new Energen Crystal mines. The Judges had already found themselves forced to increase the number of Maverick charges levied against the Reploid populace just to keep the city's energy reserves from being depleted faster than they already were. Copy X could only hope for the best in this case.
Phantom shook his head. "Perhaps, but I was not there to hear it if they said where. I came to summon you immediately."
The two continued to walk in silence, the soft thud of Copy X's bootfalls completely masking what little sound Phantom made while he moved. As they finally reached the lab, Harpuia's voice echoed out of the room as the door slid open, and Copy X frowned at the question.
"Is he awake?" Harpuia asked one of the scientists. "His core reading keeps fluctuating."
The lead analyst never looked up from the screen, completely absorbed in the data streaming across it. "Even with the ridiculous amount of energy in the core, it seems he will be stuck in sleep mode for the time being. His body is too badly damaged. Also, I should mention that the other one seems to run on solar energy, but that body is even worse off. We've got the body under some UV lamps now to see if we can get a reaction, but…"
The Guardian's face screwed into a mask of derisive confusion. If either of these units had two kilobytes of sense somewhere in their processors, the smaller unit should not have been in a cave for any extent of time. "If that unit runs on a photovoltaic conversion core, why were they in a cave? Wouldn't the restricted access to sunlight have been a death sentence?" Footsteps behind him alerted Harpuia to the new presence in the room, the Guardian turning and quickly bowing to Copy X. "Master X," he intoned respectfully, "my humblest apologies once more for disturbing you for this matter, but I felt it important for you to see these units yourself."
Copy X let his eyes flit over the units, looking at the taller for a moment. "You say his core is providing such high energy readings. Has anyone bothered to link him into the network and see what exactly it is that's powering him?" A vicious glare passed over all the Reploids in the room, all but the Guardians shirking from Copy X's malicious gaze.
The lead analyst bowed quickly, signaling to the analytical crew as he answered, "Many apologies, Master X, we have been running a system check all this time to make sure the Reploid would be compatible with our network, not to mention making sure that there were no viruses or such within the system. Progress has been slow because of—"
Phantom raised a hand and shot the researcher a withering glare. "Enough. Proceed."
Copy X nodded slightly towards the Guardian before returning his attention to the tech crew. "I did not come all the way down here for a group of self-righteous piles of scrap metal to give me empty excuses about why they are not doing the jobs they are assigned to, especially with this unit sitting there with a power core that could run this city for months, if not longer." Looking at the robot once more, Copy X stopped for a moment, moving past Harpuia and the analyst to approach the smaller of the two robots. Something about this unit seemed familiar, seemed as if he should have known him. Moving closer and pushing the UV lamps aside to get a better look at the unit's face, Copy X had to restrain a startled gasp. Though not a perfect copy, this model looked far too similar to the face that reflected from the mirror in his chambers. "What are the plans for these units?"
The lead analyst scratched the side of his face, having been caught off-guard by the question. "We're finally starting to get a reaction from the blue one, but it's still minor. We've considered taking the body out into direct sunlight to see if we can get something useful, especially since we could definitely use the photovoltaic system if it proves viable." The tech crew was busy hooking wires from various ports on the red unit's neck to a wide range of devices arranged around the table as the lead spoke to Copy X, all the while trying to avoid the gazes of the Guardians and Master in the room with them. "We would need quite a few resources to rebuild them both, however."
Copy X had to struggle to keep his features neutral as he looked down at the blue unit. "Are the materials compatible between the two units?"
Harpuia turned to look at Copy X, shock evident on his face. "Master X, are you suggesting…?"
Phantom kept silent, his face a mask of impassiveness, but even he was shocked at Master X's idea. Surely he could see the resemblance…?
The lead analyst began to fidget more nervously now, unsure how to answer. "Well, I suppose that they could have some interchangeable parts, but with the vastly different power systems, I have no clue as to whether or not the pieces will really work with one another. Not to mention the historic value! I mean, this is likely your—"
"Still you shove excuses at me," Copy X said, his tone low and menacing as he cut the analyst off. "You have already said that it will take a great deal of resources to rebuild these units. This one," he said, motioning to the blue unit, "requires far more work and is showing little to no improvement, even with the UV exposure. The other likely needs just as much work, but for now, we need his body repaired and maintained to ensure that his core remains in optimal condition." Glaring at the blue unit, Copy X's voice seemed to drip with venom, "Scrap this unit. Gut him for parts to repair the other. Send his solar core down to the research division and let them go over it, see if it can be applied as a short-term solution for the city." He stopped for a moment, ensuring that the lead analyst kept his head down, eyes averted. "Now, either you get to work repairing the unit as I have instructed or I will have the Judges mark you as Maverick for placing the 'historic' value of a robot over the health and continued well-being of Neo Arcadia's human populace. Have I made myself clear?"
The lead analyst merely nodded, too terrified to dare utter another word. He waved the tech crew over to the blue unit and motioned for them to begin their grim work before leaving the lab, sick at heart over choosing his life over someone else's, especially when the unit was worth so much more than just spare parts.
Awareness, for the first time in centuries. Except that it was—ah, his body. Disrepair didn't even begin to cover it. What—what was this?
Within milliseconds of being plugged in, he was on the network. The security was a joke: were they trying to keep humans out and no one else? There were firewalls: he swatted them aside, slipped through them, and placed them back before an alarm could even be processed. No, he was supposed to be here. As far as the network was concerned, an administrator had just logged in, so there was nothing strange about security settings being changed, being updated.
The computers in the room his body were being kept in had microphones and there were cameras, so he was able to watch and listen via a different route. Aha, that's better.
He spread out over the network, looking things over—what the hell were they doing with their power grid? Wasteful; Elec Man would be ashamed to see this. Didn't they have the data that had been left behind, at least?
At the same time, he looked around the room his body was in, and stopped.
There were…androids in the room. No humans whatsoever. And on two tables were he and Rock.
And one that looked like X was asking whether their parts were cross-compatible.
He actually froze his analyses of the city's network at that question.
Because between the two of them, Rock was in a more advanced state of disrepair.
He tightened his grip on the power grid but allowed everything to run as it had been, simply slipped into the system, reaching outward, getting what data he could.
He needed to get Rock out of there. With his body disabled, he'd have to…
If he'd been able to move, his eyes would have narrowed.
He watched: there was nothing else to be done at the moment. He watched as they opened Rock up and evaluated his condition. He watched as they opened his own body up and began removing the parts that were causing all of his red indicator lights. They hadn't even realized he was online. Of course, altering what the screen was showing them to make him appear inactive was simple. It was unbelievable that the entire city was connected to one network, including this computer network. Didn't they realize that everything would come toppling down with the right kind of tug?
Or were their programmers that incompetent? It was true that men like Light and Wily come once in a millennium, but security systems more sophisticated than this one were a dime a dozen in the 21st century.
No, he should give them credit where it was due: it would be a halfway decent system if not for this one massively fatal flaw. Hadn't they heard not to place all of their eggs into one basket?
All the better for him, and for Rock.
So long as they didn't do something irreversible. So long as they only took the replaceable parts from him.
For their own sake, they better. He wouldn't be held responsible for this city otherwise.
As they worked, he pulled up information about the identities of the androids—Reploids—in the room. Reploids—ah, replicas of X. Or rather, derived from X's technology. There was no information on Robot Masters in the database. None whatsoever.
X was the ruler of this city, and it appeared to be the only city left, or at least, the only large one with any semblance of law. The two in the room were…Sage Harpuia and Hidden Phantom. Derived more directly from X. His progeny, then?
And they were all standing here, watching as Rock was dissected?
It was fortunate that Blues' capability to give a damn about them was made nonexistent. It would be a pity if he had any inner turmoil about 'family' doing this to one another.
He'd seen what 'family' could do when they wanted control. This shouldn't surprise him, even if they were robots, androids, even if their reasoning shouldn't be so glitchy.
The hours crept along: he needed to be completely restored to look even remotely respectable and, he noticed, the ones left to the task of restoring him were treating his body a bit like a religious relic. It reminded him of watching human religious rituals, how they associated certain relics with events or traits and then honored the items.
They'd stripped the armor off of both Rock and himself—they were both in their bodysuits now—and they were pulling workable parts out of Rock and replacing various things in his own body. They were even using portions of Rock's buster to repair his own.
They were fools for arming him.
He needed new skin and hair and by what they were saying, his armor would have to be remade elsewhere. There was talk of bringing him online and how they didn't want him to be upset for being half-inoperational when he woke. They clearly would have liked the opportunity to work on Rock, but apparently X's word is law in this place, even when the android was completely out of line.
These 'Reploids' were behaving just like humans, meekly obeying orders when it was clear that X was an incompetent master. The android clearly needed some serious debugging. He needed to be thrown back into his capsule until it drove some sense into his processor.
So, he supposed, they'd wake him up and expect him to be, what, grateful that they'd killed his scion so he could sit up? Grateful that they'd cannibalized Rock so that he wouldn't have to feel self-conscious upon waking?
It was certainly a good thing that they'd been kind enough to restore his buster.
Once the tech crew had started moving at a pace that didn't upset Copy X, he had turned and left the lab, heading for his chambers. The Council would not reconvene until the next morning, courtesy of Phantom's impromptu disruption. No matter, though. The Judges had been discussing the energy crisis and how a few of them were uncomfortable labeling Reploids as Mavericks simply for having higher energy consumption rates. It targeted a number of the larger models in the defense force, something that could be seen as showing bias if it was realized that individuals like Fefnir and Judge Kelverian were exempt from the legislation.
At present, however, Copy X could see no other course of action.
As much as it bothered him that he was basically committing an act of focused genocide against his own race, wasn't it part of his programming that the humans were more essential, more important to protect? What were a few Reploid lives against the shattered remnants of the human population, even if Copy X had no record in his memory files of why the population levels were so insanely low.
Despite the Reploid's otherwise stoic expression, Copy X could tell that Phantom had been exceedingly upset with the decision to use the parts from one of the robots to repair the other. As strained as their resources were, even though neither seemed to require Neo Arcadia's energy to remain operational, couldn't Phantom understand that it was done because of the situation the city found itself in? Or had Phantom seen deeper, understood the core reason why the model that looked so eerily like him had to be destroyed?
As he walked silently behind Copy X, Phantom kept his face as neutral as possible while he addressed his leader, lest Copy X be able to somehow sense his feelings without even having to face him. "Master X, if I may be so bold, what do you truly intend to do with the blue unit's solar core? Might it still prove useful if a way to awaken it can be discerned?" Although he told himself he was prepared for the answer, he could not help but feel a wave of disgust threatening to wash over him should he be correct in his assumption.
Copy X stopped for a moment, looking back at the Guardian. "Don't tell me that you are as caught up in this foolishness regarding our history as the rest of the laboratory crew? I thought you of all would have more sense than to get caught up in ridiculous fancies such as theirs. History is history. We cannot change what has happened, and relics of the past are not as important as those alive now. All we can do is utilize that which we have here and now to try and make something of what's left of this burned-out husk of a world." Facing forward again, Copy X continued toward the far end of the hallway and the lift that would take him to his chambers and the charging pod waiting there for him.
"As far as that blue robot is concerned, it serves us as nothing more than parts for the other model and as a possible stop-gap, if not solution, to the energy crisis. Considering it has a solar core, we may yet find use for the system, but several modifications will likely be needed. However old it is, the environment it is from is not the environment of our world as it is." A wireless signal to the lift started one of the cars down the shaft. "Is there anywhere you must be getting to, General, or could I have a moment more of your time?"
Phantom considered returning to his duties, but decided that this was a much more pressing matter. He had stood by while the Judges decided the fates of countless Reploids across Neo Arcadia, remained silent while life after life was taken in order to preserve the city; desperate measures that only slowed the progress of the energy crisis with no solution in sight, nor one in development. Now, here weretwo solutions in front of them, seemingly gift wrapped for them to use as they saw fit, and Master X was willing to simply throw one away in favor of the other. Had so many years of being forced to take the heart of one and give it to another left him so blind? And worse…the other concern had to be voice, needed to be said, if nothing else.
The lift toned softly as it arrived, Copy X stepping on and waiting for Phantom to join him. The Zan'ei General hesitated for only a short moment before joining him, his resolve to voice his concerns conflicting with his sworn allegiance to his master. Copy X signaled for the lift to take them to his chambers, and for a moment that seemed to stretch on to eternity, neither of them spoke. Finally, Phantom made his choice. "While I have no care for history, I will say only this: you have chosen to spare one life over another without the Judges' approval, as is your right. But…the solar core may prove to be more easily replicated than the materials powering his red counterpart, and what then? Do we kill them both? Then we will have been little better off than we are now. You have made your choice, Master X, but I beg you to consider…what if you were wrong?"