Well, it certainly has been a while. I would like to open this Authors' Notes with an apology for the lack of updates. We know many of you have been disappointed with Redemption's impromptu and prolonged hiatus. A lot's happened in the past months. Most importantly, Midnyght gave birth to a healthy baby girl earlier this month, and that alone should explain the extended silence on our end. Hormonal shifts do an amazing job of interrupting the muses, but we should be back in the swing of things. Motherhood, even the second time around, is an exhausting and time-consuming endeavor, but we do hope to continue updates on a more regular schedule, though we will not be able to promise the same weekly updates we initially had. We really hope you're still up for the ride, because this roller coaster? Is just getting good.
"We had a small group of Robot Masters come in after Commander Blues went offline," Zero said, walking through the residential district with Colbor and Hirondelle, several Resistance members moving through the streets as they carted boxes of supplies from the Resistance base, "which is why the order for the perimeter guard never got issued."
"More units?" Hirondelle asked, looking over his shoulder at the unit that was moving just a couple steps behind Zero.
Zero nodded. "Things got a bit tossed around at the end there, but your team did a great job in getting the citizenry off the streets, so at least the major part of your assignment went off as planned. Besides, all's well that—" and Zero cut himself off as a local communication request came through. "Leviathan, half block down that way. Seems we have a rogue batch of Pantheon on the streets. See if you can't get them settled down."
Leviathan's salute was still filled with decorum even if the Neo Arcadian General was darting down the street in short order, surprisingly agile on land despite being a marine combat unit. She was already demanding answers from the unit that was in charge of the Pantheon squads in this sector: none of them should have been ordered back onto patrol. The dead air that responded made her grit her teeth, and she had to pull up the patrol schedule to see why the Lieutenant wasn't responding.
Ourobockle wouldn't be conscious for a few hours yet, and no one had picked up his slack.
Enker watched her dart off, his gaze scrutinizing despite the relatively neutral expression he was carrying. He'd listened to the idle chatter between Leviathan and Harpuia, more gathering information to gain some sort of perspective on this place than anything else. While yes, they'd been briefed, it'd been just that: brief. Data was useful no matter where it was from, and all the better if it could be interpreted into something more than a clutter of offhand information. Overall, it really was a beautiful city and it was readily apparent that a great deal of care was taken in its upkeep, so that was a plus.
Then again, didn't pretty much every human city he'd ever been to have both beautiful sectors and slums?
Heather and the other PZ units had already moved to different points in the residential district with orders from Phantom to rendezvous with the Resistance members there and provide help wherever they could. When Phantom caught sight of a few patrolling Pantheons some distance away from where he was, though, he'd been quick to divert from his intended destination—and he hoped his commander wouldn't be upset with him for it—to see what he could do to settle these units before they started an unnecessary firefight in this area.
He'd been moving along the roofs and balconies of the buildings to try and close in on them, thankful they were managing to avoid the Resistance members so far, and had been closing in when he saw his sister intercept the Pantheons, urging himself to move just a little bit faster as they raised their arms against her.
While she wasn't specialized in ground combat, Fairy Leviathan was hardly a slouch, and when the Pantheons raised their weapons to her, she immediately sent the lead unit a wireless request, the request automatically flagged as priority due to her rank.
The Pantheon nearest her stopped, the optic flickering and dilating some, before he authorized the link. 'General Leviathan, you are flagged as hostile by our system and marked with a Custodial Directive on suspicion of Maverick affiliation. Please stand down or we will be forced to take measures to ensure your compliance.'
This wasn't the first time Phantom had piggybacked on a local link, and he was quite relieved that he'd done so, dropping down behind the Pantheons and ordering a link request with the same unit Leviathan was talking to. 'Pantheon unit, stand down. Master X has redacted those orders.' A bit of a crock, considering he didn't even know if X had come across the orders yet, but still the quickest way to get the units to stand down and return to base. 'Who is your commanding officer?'
'Lieutenant Ourobockle, sir,' the unit responded. 'Without access to the security network mainframe, General Phantom, we cannot acknowledge such rescinding, doubly so with you marked for retirement.'
Phantom nodded, quickly linking up with his father and providing the Pantheon's contact code, as well as a request to have the orders found and pulled from the city network. On the heels of that, he sent another command to Rikar, another of the PZ Resistance members, to ensure that all of Hyleg's Pantheon squads were made aware of the current situation and ordered back to the Tower.
They'd only respond to Zan'ei directions, operating as they currently were.
The Pantheon shifted suddenly, a third link coming through, and he acknowledged X's link, as well as the amended orders, in a matter of moments. Turning, he nodded to Leviathan, a single motion directing the rest of the units to lower their arms. 'My apologies, General. Master X has provided new orders. We are to return to the Tower and await further instructions once we arrive.'
'Ensure that all units with similar orders are given the amended instructions to review,' Leviathan ordered the Pantheon, unable to hear what Phantom was saying to his own units. She did lower her ranseur, however, a signal to the Pantheon that she was permitting it to continue on its business. She looked to Phantom then, more mild curiosity in her gaze than anything else.
"You alright? Cut it kind of close there, though that Custodial Directive was unexpected."
"Thank you," and Leviathan held her hands out, palms open. "Not a scratch on me," so yes, she was alright. "I'm worried there are more like that on the streets, though."
"Rikar's taking a few more Zan'ei to clear them if they are," and he ticked his head to the side. "Let's get back to Commander Zero, see where he needs us next."
Zero hefted one of the smaller boxes from where it had fallen, handing it to Colbor. "Let's make sure we get everything shipped from base as soon as possible. I'll send new orders if anything comes up."
"What about me, Lieutenant Commander?" Harpuia asked suddenly, having remained quiet for most of the trip.
"You're with me until I get in touch with Shadow," Zero explained. "I have a rather important task set aside for you."
Hirondelle watched Colbor as he moved to catch up with the other two Resistance members before returning to the matters he and Zero had been discussing. "The major points of concern now are getting the military back to order after this, getting what of the citizenry that weren't working for us up-to-date, and directing our efforts on finding and retrieving Dark Elf."
Zero frowned a bit at that, though he stopped and turned when he saw a light blue beam of light, smiling at Ice once the unit teleported in. "Coming from the tower or the base?" he asked, saluting the unit.
"The base," Ice replied, looking around for a moment before tilting his head, focusing for a moment. "Stand still, I've got incoming," he quickly added, waiting to confirm that yes, they were going to be holding still before three dozen units teleported in formation to Ice's side, taking obstacles like buildings or trees into account. They were a mixture of Crazy Razy and Peng units, and each was carrying something. Some of them had boxes, others bundles, but they shifted and marched back into a more coherent formation on the street behind Ice before stopping and awaiting orders. "We thought it'd be quicker to move this way," the little Lightbot said cheerfully.
"It probably is," Zero said, looking over the units. "We're moving pretty much everything from the base over to that block," and he hesitated before asking in a softer voice, "Has anyone started moving the boxes from the…from personnel storage on the sixth level?"
Ice's gaze softened. "No, not yet. When we realized what was there, we asked Ciel what she wanted done with it. I think she wants the Resistance members to carry it out, so we concentrated on the supply rooms and labs instead."
"X is probably going to ask that we move those to the tower, but I'll check in later to make sure," Zero said with a nod. "Let me not hold you up, though," and he pointed down the street he'd been walking along for the past few minutes. "Like I said, we're gathering everything back that way."
"I can show Ice where if you'll not be needing me for the time being," Hirondelle offered, the senior intelligence officer careful to drop the 'Master' appellation.
"Thank you," Ice said, ever polite, and as he began walking, his units fell into line behind him, looking more like a well-trained unit than mechaniloids.
Zero's gaze moved to the tower as the Robot Master and his subordinates continued down the avenue, and the only thing that stopped him from sending a message along to X regarding those containers on the sixth level was Phantom and Leviathan running up to him. "Everything okay?" That there hadn't been buster fire was a sign, but he still preferred at least something resembling a report from the two of them, especially considering Phantom hadn't been tasked with seeing to the Pantheons.
"The Pantheons have been given new order sets," Leviathan reported, saluting as she spoke. "And we shouldn't be having any more issues with them."
Like a flicker against his wireless signal, Shadow finally reached out to Zero, the Wilybot's voice reserved once Zero validated the connection. 'Is everything alright?'
Zero raised a hand to cut Phantom off before the general could add to Leviathan's comment, his attention focused on the link with his brother. 'For the most part. I was trying to get in touch with you to see if you had the specifications for Commander Break's clothing. Considering the condition it was all in when we got to the Tower, it'd be easier to just replace everything.'
There was a soft hum over the link, part amusement, part agreement. While Shadow didn't have Break's clothing specs specifically, he knew what the unit was wearing (and always wondered why the hell he dressed like he had somewhere to be), and was familiar enough with human clothing styles to know where to look in the city's database to find the data that Break had deposited when he had his clothing generated those weeks prior. Shadow did have the older unit's measurements if only because the Robot Masters scanned nearly everything they came across almost without considering it, and he put the numbers up to the patterns and devised the specs before forwarding them to the android. 'That should do it,' Shadow said as Zero accepted the transfer, waiting to make sure it was successful before disengaging the link.
Zero nodded, mostly to himself, and turned to Phantom as he queried Harpuia for a link. "Continue."
"My unit is scouring the streets for the remainder of Lieutenant General Ourobockle's patrol teams and will be issuing the same orders that Father gave the team we intercepted."
"Alright," and the blond looked to Harpuia when he realized the link still hadn't been accepted. "You were curious as to your assignment, weren't you?"
Harpuia blinked, immediately accepting the link and the file transfer that was waiting for him. "Sorry, Lieutenant Commander."
"As soon as that upload is finished, I want you to head to the manufacturing district and place the order, priority ship to the Tower. We need to be heading back there shortly as it stands, as X does want us present for the meeting with what's left of the lieutenants. Make sure you the first thing on the list is marked top priority; I want you delivering it to your uncle before the meeting starts, so don't take longer than necessary."
"Understood, Lieutenant Commander," and the moment the transfer finished, Harpuia shut down the link and took to the skies.
Phantom tilted his head to the side, a look of confusion on his face before he looked to his sister. "Harpy's acting like someone kicked him."
"We came across Lieutenant Falcon while on our way out," lying in a puddle, unconscious, "And he lost his fight quite spectacularly," and Leviathan's voice dropped slightly as she continued. "The Lieutenant Commander wasn't pleased with how Falcon approached the battle and he's received a demotion until such a time that he can prove his merit."
The Zan'ei commander hesitated a moment before asking, "How far down?"
"Senior Cadet," Leviathan said, her gaze flickering over first Zero, then his brother that had beaten Aztec so soundly. "The Lieutenant Commander was not pleased."
"I would imagine not," and Phantom was just barely able to keep himself from flinching at exactly what that kind of knock down the rankings meant for Aztec.
"Don't think your units are above reproach simply because I haven't seen them in action," Zero said, cutting into their conversation. "Should I find any of them to be lacking, they'll be removed from field duty same as Aztec."
Leviathan's gaze met Zero's, and her voice was steady as she said, "If any of mine are found to be so inept, Lieutenant Commander, I will remove them from field duty."
Phantom was careful to hide the rising tide of worry knotting in his abdomen when he realized that two of his lieutenants had ended up in the medical wing in the wake of their attack on the city. A small part of him hoped that Zero would at least give them some leeway, seeing as it was Blues they'd ended up fighting.
Rock was poking around X's 'den' with round eyes, inspecting everything the way a newbuilt would. When X called it a den, Rock expected, well, a den. But this?
This room was huge, expansive, lavish, extravagant. Rock seriously doubted that a lot of this was X's choice in style, suspected that a large part of this was putting on appearances and meeting expectations, but still.
The only thing that kept him from flopping onto one of the (very squishy) couches was the fact that he was still very damp.
"We still have another floor to go down, Rock," X said. "You and I both got coolant on us, and I'd like to change outfits before I have company."
Rock blinked and looked up to X. The child considered him for a moment, then trotted over, looking a little bit worried. "I didn't touch anything." Or get it dirty. Really.
X ruffled Rock's hair. "I'm not worried about that," he said reassuringly. "And you'll have more than enough time to hang out up here once we get everything back into some semblance of order," and X frowned as he moved across the network. For them to have consolidated everything like this was…
"Let's get downstairs so we can get cleaned up. If things go smoothly, we'll all be able to settle in the den tonight and spend some quality family time together. I'll even have the kids up if you'd like," especially since Rock hadn't really gotten to meet Fefnir yet.
Rock slid his hand back into X's, smiling softly as he looked up to the taller unit. "How many people are going to be there?"
At that moment, Blues came down the stairs, pausing a moment to look around the room as he took in why X may not want him lounging around down here right now. As it was, he stepped carefully and made his way over to X, even as Forte and Metal trailed behind.
Quick and Air had remained up on the desk for the time being.
"Counting the Robot Masters," X said, moving for the stairs leading down to his main quarters, "and the military units that should be here, somewhere around thirty or so." Turning his head as they continued on, X smiled a bit at Forte. "I don't think we've had a chance for a formal introduction," X said.
"Fuck off," Forte said, Gospel staying close to his side.
X blinked a bit at the unit's curt reply, but shook his head. In a way, he was relieved to know that this unit was one of Zero's siblings.
It wouldn't stop X from trying to be nice to him, but it certainly made the attitude a little easier to deal with.
"I see your vocabulary hasn't expanded any," Blues sighed as he leaned down to check Rock. Over the link, the child sent a happy greeting even though it'd been barely two minutes since they'd last seen one another. "Where is the bathroom?" Blues asked then, tilting his head to look to X. Now that he had the opportunity, he decided that yes, he'd rather get cleaned up and changed.
"Piss off," Forte snapped back.
"I'll show you once we're in the room," X replied, almost hopping off the bottom step as he moved down the hall and to the door. The portal swung open on command, and X let out a relieved sigh. Letting go of Rock's hand, he quickly moved over to a blank space of wall, pressing against it to trigger the pressure sensor in this door. "The bedroom's back here, and the bathroom is over there," X said, pointing somewhere to the left of the doorway. "You should fit decently well into what clothes I have, providing Copy X didn't trash my belongings, so do you want me to pick out something until you can get your outfit…" X stopped, reassessing the damage, and smiled, although a bit timidly. "Until you get your outfit replaced?"
Forte moved ahead of Blues, pushing his way past Rock and X as he moved into the bedroom, walking over to the window that took up a large portion of the main wall, and dropped to the floor.
Gospel hung back a bit, though only for a moment, and then moved next to his Master, laying down near the unit's feet.
"If it's not too much trouble," Blues said after a moment's consideration. He'd really ruined his current clothing set. "And this is Forte," Blues added as almost an afterthought, gesturing toward the Wilybot. "He's one of the Seventh Numbers, so he's on the younger end of the scale. Mid-adolescent." Though honestly, some of the Seventh Numbers from the main batch were mentally much older than Forte now. At first, Blues suspected that Forte had an age cap as well, though it was incongruous with Wily. Once he got a decent scan on the unit, he verified that there was no cap, just an incredibly stubborn unit.
"Well, whether or not you appreciate the gesture, it's nice to meet you, Forte," X said, then nodded to Blues. "I don't mind, really. As long as Copy X didn't have a field day with my belongings—and by the state of my office, he didn't—I should have something." He looked to Rock. "If you'd like to, I might have something that would fit as long as you can salvage the belt from your outfit."
Forte just leaned against the window in reply, letting himself take in the view of the city and hoping that some time in a different room would make the Eldest at least a little less angry with him.
Blues moved over to where X indicated where the bathroom was, and after a moment of considering the panel, he brought up the hand that hadn't seen the shoulder joint of Lieutenant Ourobockle and touched it, lightly, his head turning as the door slid open. At least the coolant on that hand was dry: he hadn't wanted to leave an imprint on the wall.
And the bathroom wasn't trashed. It wouldn't make sense for the Copy to thrash the apartment, though, not when he had to live here during his short few years.
Part of him was bothered. Not that X killed the Copy, but because the unit needed to die to begin with. The copy of Rock honestly hadn't known he wasn't Rock, not until he saw Wily's logo, saw the evil chip, in his neck armor like a cancer. Even then, the little one had turned to him, had looked to him with trembling eyes, and asked if it were true, his aura on the network all but begging him to say it wasn't so.
That entire incident…he'd disliked Wily before that, thought the man was insane before that, but at that point? That point, Blues thought, was when he truly began to despise the human.
The copy of X had none of X's memories, that much was evident without confirmation. He'd known he wasn't the real thing. It made Blues wonder if he ever even realized that the city had long since spiraled from his grasp, that he was too young to handle this, that it wasn't something he knew how to bear. There was something to say about bravado, about how those in their youth felt invincible, but there had to have been a point where the Copy realized that he needed more support than he was getting. Why not tell the Guardians, or the Judges? Was he afraid of retirement? Well, by the time it became late, retirements were being handed out like candies on Halloween. Blues wouldn't have put it past the Judges to pass an order like that while blinded in their rage.
At the same time, if it'd gone well, and it'd have gone better if the Copy told the Guardians first, the social climate around the young unit would have instantly shifted, and much of the reins of the city would have been removed from his uncertain hands.
That brought up the issue of whatever individual removed the Copy from his cradle, from Ciel's lab, and finished him, finished his logic programming. The unit was undoubtedly fed lies to the brim, told to keep quiet about it, told that the city would just crumble without a 'Master X' at the helm. Continuous bad direction from an individual that sought to harm the city, to kill it slowly, and no available direction from those that would have been able to help him.
He was set up to die, the same as Copy Rock. His inability to admit he wasn't who he claimed to be, his inability to admit he'd been wrong, and his inability to step down was what killed him in the end. Had he been the least bit reasonable, Blues was certain, X would have laid a much softer hand on him.
The android was just like that.
Moving further into the room, X disengaged his bracers, pressing his hand against another panel and stepping into the lab there. Setting the armor down on one of the tables, he hit the releases for his vest, removing that as well, and then grabbing a cloth to wipe his hands off on, pulling as much moisture and coolant from the gloves as he could. Tossing the cloth onto his armor, he moved back for the bedroom, rifling through the clothes stored in the closet.
Rock followed X over to the closet, but rather than rifle through the clothes as well, he picked up one of X's discarded bracers, then blinked down to the vest. It'd looked like a normal cloth vest, but the way it'd disengaged…
Rock reached down, felt it, tested it with his hand, his eyes widening slightly. This was armor. He initiated a scan on it, now immensely curious. And oh wow, it was effective despite appearances. It was lighter than the armor the Robot Masters wore, lighter than the armor X was originally built with, but it also wasn't built for things like explosions.
Unlikely as an explosion was. Rock turned to look back to X then, "Did he leave your things okay?" There might be some new items in there, and in the back of his mind, Rock wondered whether the Copy cleared out X's old wardrobe and ordered entirely new clothing for himself.
"Part of me is honestly wondering if he even knew about the rooms. The lab's almost pristine," and that was only in part because of the little mechaniloids that X had built to keep the room in order for him, "and my clothes look relatively untouched." And, thankfully, the clothing was made of a material that didn't age or degrade unless it was worn into something more explosive than a Council session. Grabbing a new undersuit and a long sleeveless coat, X moved back for the lab.
Blues touched the door panel from the inside of the bathroom and the door slid shut with a soft swishing sound. He ran the bath after considering the controls for a moment, then located the linen closet. At least the towels were close at hand.
He hadn't taken many baths before. He'd taken a few, certainly, when he was still with Doctor Light, but with Wily, he woke up on that lab table already cleaned up. After the fourth war, the only times he really bathed was when he was in a fight that was messy, like the one today, or when he visited the Cossacks and they insisted they wash his clothes. It went unsaid that he'd wash up, too.
The first thing off was his scarf and he folded it neatly. He hesitated a moment, his gaze moving around the bathroom, before deciding to just pile the ruined clothes on the floor and let X deal with it.
The tiles should clean up easily, anyway.
His boots and socks were next. Trench coat, vest, shirt, pants, they were all folded and neatly piled together. The undersuit was the last thing to go. The first few that Doctor Light made had zippers in the back, but then he came up with a way for the fabric to be form-fitting, but still stretchy enough to pull off relatively easily. He folded that off and piled it on top of the others, then turned back to the tub.
There was a large mirror on the wall beside it, from the rim of the tub almost to the ceiling. He understood was that it made the room look larger due to the reflection. He considered this own reflection for a moment. The gashes on his head were more prominent than he'd thought and without his sunglasses, the dark circles under his eyes were very, very visible. He'd always had them in some form, but after Wily, it just got worse.
Perhaps if there was a way for him to have a working power system without sacrificing much of who he was, he wouldn't have to look this way. Or feel this sick all the time. He'd looked his own coding over time and again over the years. Even though he knew that he himself couldn't overwrite it, he scoured it for any way to bring him back to some semblance of healthy.
The only viable option he could come up with was a complete systems wipe. His death.
He stepped into the tub, turning so his back was to the mirror, and turned his attention to his body, to the coolant that was already tingeing the bath water a slight pink. It really didn't take long to wash it off, the synthetic skin didn't stain as easily as clothing. It was surprisingly durable. Normally, he'd have washed his hair, too, but with the gashes on his head, the waterproof seal was broken and while being submerged probably wouldn't kill him, it'd lead to a lot of complications, not to mention that he'd need to have his skin and the shock-absorbent padding beneath it completely removed and replaced.
Instead, he read the contents of the shampoo, cataloguing the ingredients and mentally determining if it was even advisable to use with synthetic parts. He'd knew, even as he read the ingredients for the body wash, that honestly, if they were here, in a Reploid's bathroom, they'd be safe.
The Third Law disagreed and while it wasn't an imperative he couldn't ignore, it was easier to just get that programming satisfied so it'd be quiet for a while.
Even with him moving so slowly, the bath didn't take as long as Zero's did in the Resistance Base and he was up and wrapped in a towel in under ten minutes.
While Blues was in the bathroom, X had asked Rock to wait outside the lab, at least long enough for X to switch out his current undersuit for the new one he'd grabbed, and had quickly changed. Pulling on one of the long white lab coats, just to cover himself up a little better, X exited the lab and went right back into his closet. It didn't take long for him to pull out a few articles of clothing, folding them and setting them aside until he'd gathered an entire outfit, sans shoes.
He'd considered giving the clothes to Rock to take to their brother, but with the little unit still wearing his wet (and somewhat coolant-stained) clothes, X figured it would be better for him to drop the items off.
"You might not want to go in there looking like that," Forte said, though his gaze hadn't turned from the window. "Blues doesn't take kindly to lab techs."
"I'll be fine," X said, "but thanks for your concern."
"It's not concern," Forte responded, his tone a bit harsher. "I couldn't give less of a damn about you."
Shaking his head, X knocked against the door. "Blues, I have your clothes together."
Blues hadn't been out of the tub long at all, his gaze trailing over the door for a moment, having to take a moment to remember that X was knocking because humans considered it an invasion of privacy to be walked in on in the bath. He pressed his hand to the door panel again, the other holding the towel in place where it was around his waist, even though he'd tucked it securely. When the door slid open, Blues focused in on the lab coat X was wearing for a moment, and though his facial expression didn't shift at all, he was taken aback by it. It took him a moment to even remember to say, "Thank you." For the clothing. And the bath.
"It's not a problem," X replied. "Let me know if…" and X's voice dropped off, his eyes taking in a large scar that ran around Blues' waist. "What happened?"
Blues' brows knitted in slight confusion, not at all following the line of X's gaze. "What?"
"The scar," X asked. "What happened?"
Blues looked down then, his hand teasing the uneven, discolored skin there for a moment, frowning slightly. "I don't know why they kept it there when they reskinned me," though honestly, if it survived with him this long, he may as well keep it. "I sustained this injury during one of the uprisings," and not a Wily War proper. "One of Doctor Wily's units went rogue and stood against him, against humanity, and against any mechanical unit that didn't stand with him."
X leaned to the side, following the line of the scar, and there was a soft shudder in his eyes when he realized that it reached almost completely around Blues' midsection. X opened his mouth, as if ready to ask for more details, then closed it again, forcing his gaze elsewhere in the room and finding the pile of clothes, a bit surprised that Blues had bothered to fold the items, messy and ruined as they were."If you'd like, I can see what I can do about cleaning your boots," he said after a moment, looking back up to his brother. A frown came to his face at the scratches still so prominent on the side of Blues' head, and X sent a request down to the medical staff to bring a swatch of synth-skin up for a patch, providing the measurements and coloration details.
X hoped Blues and Rock wouldn't chide him for making the request without informing them, though part of him was sure that Blues had caught the transmission anyway. Since he was back on the city net and all; Blues' song was the strongest of the ten.
"I don't know whether the stains will come out of them, but they're not completely ruined." Blues was silent for a moment before continuing, "Forte and Rock dispatched King in the end," though he'd barely gotten up in time to help, and it'd been sorely needed. "It's not painful, if that's what you're worried about. He…was thorough with the repairs." Blues reached out and took the fresh clothes from X then, his intense gaze still centered on the android.
"Forte and…?" and X turned to look at the Wilybot sitting by the window, opting to let the conversation drop. "I was just surprised is all. It's…not a common occurrence to have scars, so it threw me a bit," and brought old memories to the fore. "Let me know if you need anything else."
"This will be fine for now, thank you," Blues said before stepping back into the bathroom. He waited for X to turn to move away before closing the door and dropping the towel. He was somewhat relieved to see that X chose normal clothing, clothing in line with what he'd been wearing before and not the…odd style that seemed to be in fashion in the city. The vests honestly made him think of childrens' clothing from 20XX, not that he was going to vocalize that.
He also noted, with a prickle of amusement and mild confusion, that X even included underwear in the outfit. With a bit of a shrug, he pulled the clothes on. Waste not, want not.
"Rock," X said as he moved back into his closet, one door sliding shut as another opened, "is the belt on your outfit in any condition to be worn?" Seeing as the material wasn't really absorbent, a quick run over it with a towel should remove whatever water was clinging to it, but it was still a good idea to check before he gave Rock new clothes.
"It's fine," Rock answered, quickly undoing the buckle and pulling the belt from his waist. "It was treated with something," he'd noticed it was waterproofed when he first pulled it on, all those days ago.
X nodded as he got back to his feet. "I don't have much in your size, but I think these will do okay for now." Once X had a chance to look at Blues and Rock's boots, he'd be able to send someone on a run for new clothes for Rock and shoes for the both of them. "If you'd like to take a quick shower or a bath, that's fine. We still have time before people are going to show up."
"I think I should," Rock said with a slightly sheepish smile. He hadn't been in armor and honestly, he needed to get cleaned up. Rock accepted the clothes, looking through them quickly. It was a pair of khaki shorts, though they wouldn't be short on Rock at all, and a collared shirt. Not button-down, but still nicer than a tee.
"Alright. If anyone needs me, I'm going to be in the lab. Hopefully, I make myself presentable without taking too long." X looked down to Rock's feet for a moment. "Actually, before you hop in the bath, could you bring me yours and Blues' boots so I can see what can be done with them before the meeting?"
"Sure, X," Rock replied. He went to the bathroom, but rather than knocking first, he let himself right in, smiling up at Blues as he retrieved his boots. The older unit was nearly done getting dressed, just pulling his socks on, but Rock didn't need to ask to take them. Blues already knew: their link was as active as ever.
X took the boots, careful to keep from getting any of the various fluids marring either pair onto his hands, and headed back into the lab as Rock entered the bathroom. Setting the two pairs of footwear on a different table, he quickly scanned them, pulling up the records of his scan of Rock from back when he'd first been supplied with clothing at the Resistance base once the data from the boots had been collected, and forwarded the information to another unit in the Tower.
Once the unit had confirmed the data transfer had finished and that he was headed out for the manufacturing district, X turned to his own outfit. Grabbing a pair of maintenance gloves, he started cleaning the vest he'd been wearing, he grabbed a few bottles from one of the cabinets, dabbing the various liquids onto the spots where his hugging Blues and Rock had transferred coolant onto the fabric. Once that was sufficiently treated, he set two of the maintenance units in the room to finish the cleaning process, his attention moving to the six pieces of armor he still had to wipe down. The boots and pelvic armor had taken next to no time, each of the pieces warped off to storage as X finished with each of them. The bracers had taken a bit longer if only because X needed to wear them—unlike Rock and Blues, X couldn't arm his busters unless he was properly equipped—and he slipped the metal bands into place once they'd been dried, having removed his lab coat to avoid catching the sleeves as the armor readjusted and secured to his forearms.
Moving to another section of the room, the wall panel slid back to reveal the more formal of his outfits, usually reserved for meetings such as the one he'd be attending in just a few hours. Like much of their gear, the soft material that made up his pants hid the fact that there was titanium mesh reinforcing it, making it a light-grade armor instead of simple clothing, and he pulled on the pants, a nano-scale anchoring system securing the clothing to his undersuit. The next piece of clothing was the vest, styled much like the one he normally wore, though it covered his entire torso instead of just the area where his power core was centralized. Pulling the armor on, he took the coat from the chair he'd tossed it on, pulling it on over the vest and working to secure the small latches that connected the two pieces. The boots he warped on beneath his pants legs then were less bulky than his normal combat gear but no less combat ready.
A small part of X wondered why no one had ever bothered questioning why Copy X had taken to the habit of attending whatever he was doing in his combat gear instead of his Council regalia.
As Blues left the bathroom, Rock went in. Rock's movements in the bathroom nearly mirrored Blues'. He grabbed the towel first, then pulled his clothes off and folded them up neatly. He put them beside Blues'. It may have seemed odd for the two of them to fold the clothing, but it was easier to carry that way rather than a random bundle. And besides, if something had to be out, it should look presentable, not left tossed about on the floor.
Rock took a little bit longer in the bath than Blues did, partly because he was dunking his head under and playing a bit, and partly because he washed his hair. It'd been a while and really, it was soothing. He was glad Doctor Light built them to be able to do this.
The young unit toweled off quickly, taking care to get his hair as dry as he could before getting dressed. He tried hiking the shorts up, but it really wasn't working, so he let them rest at their normal length and cinched his belt up, double-checking that they wouldn't fall down. He waited until the end to pull the socks on and carefully avoided the wet places on the floor as he made his way to the door and slipped back into X's room.
X stepped out of the lab at almost the same time, helmet in one hand as he cleaned off the last piece of armor, looking to Rock and smiling. "You look adorable," he admitted, the child looking almost comically out of place in the clothes he was wearing.
"You look like Roll roped your ass into playing dress-up," Forte quipped from the window.
Rock looked down to himself. He wasn't the type to prescribe to vanity, so he really didn't mind it, especially given the situation. He was just glad to be in some dry clothes. "If she had, there'd be a lot more red," Rock finally said. He managed to keep the melancholy out of his voice, though there was a flash of it in his eyes.
X had to resist the urge to glare at Forte, somehow sure that the motion would only spur the Wilybot to additional comments about the Light family and the situation that the Robot Masters had found themselves in, both in Neo Arcadia and in 22XX. Kneeling, X wrapped his arms around Rock, pulling him close.
Rock smiled softly and reached his arms around X's shoulders, leaning into the hug. He didn't comment further on his sister, though; he really didn't want to talk about it, not right now. He'd noticed that X changed armors in the lab, into a more formal chest piece and an overcoat. He thought it looked nice, unfamiliar as the style was, and he sent a warm feeling of approval for it over their link.
Smiling at Rock, X pressed a soft kiss to the unit's forehead before standing, running the small rag he had over the crystal on his helmet quickly before pulling the armor on, adjusting it a bit. "If you like the outfit, I can see what can be done about having one designed for you."
"If it's okay," Rock said, all smiles. X's helmet had changed some from when Doctor Light designed him back in 20XX, but the basic design remained the same. Part of why X was so keen on getting him new clothes, Rock realized, may be because the Resistance uniform was now outdated: they'd triumphed, so the function of their organization would be changing. Looking around, Rock realized that Blues wasn't in the room, but a quick query via link revealed that he'd just gone upstairs, to the den.
"It won't be a problem," X said. "Right now, I want to get everyone settled. Come tomorrow morning, we'll start in on fixing everything that's wrong with this city, maybe send a couple of teams out to the farming colonies, see how their systems are faring and get updated coding." X frowned a bit. "I should probably sit down with someone and come up with a new city seal for the Robot Masters."
Querying Blues for his location, X looked up to the ceiling of the room, rolling his eyes even as he smiled. 'You plan on staying up there until the meeting starts?'
The smirk was nearly audible in the link as Blues replied, 'Do you intend to stay down there?'
"City seal?" Rock asked, blinking.
X nodded, searching through his own memory files for the seven designs and forwarding them to Rock. "The first three are the city's government, manufacturing, and research seals," blue, red, and green, respectively. "The other four are the seals for each of the kids' military divisions. By having one of those seven seals on your person in some way," though some units didn't wear theirs, "you are noted as being in a position of authority in the city." X pointed to the blue emblem on the left side of his overcoat. "As you saw with the files I forwarded, this is the government's seal."
Rock nodded slowly, his head tilted slightly as he considered, one of his hands slipping up and taking X's. "You want to give us official clearance?" Rock was touched. "What district would we be, though?"
"I'll probably leave that up to Blues, seeing where he stands in the hierarchy. It's not fair for me to make a decision without his input." Straightening his coat again, X fidgeted a bit, then looked to Forte. "You're welcome to join us at the meeting," he said.
"Already figured that," Forte said.
"Is there any particular reason you're moping about in my room?" X asked.
"I'm not moping," Forte replied. "I'm sitting on my ass waiting for whatever the hell I'm waiting for."
"Would you like to head up to the den until the meeting?" X offered. "There's more room for you to sit up there, and actual couches instead of the floor. That can't be comfortable."
"Fuck off, Lightbot," the unit snapped. "I'll go where I damn well please, I'll sit where I damn well please, and stop trying to fucking patronize me."
X sighed, rubbing at bridge of his nose. "I'm not trying to come off like that, Forte. I'm simply offering the invitation and treating you as I would treat I would my family and friends."
Forte's eyes darted from the window for a moment, looking at the android, then back out to the city below. Despite the plethora of insults he could have made, he remained silent, one hand running along Gospel's back.
"Well, we'll be upstairs," Rock said, tugging slightly on X's hand to coax the android toward the stairs.
Upstairs, Blues was lounging on one of the couches, linked in equally to the Neo Arcadian network, and the individual networks for the Lightbots and Wilybots. Metal was leaning against the wall, opting to pass on the couches because, well, the blades on his armor weren't just decorative. The two of them had been quietly talking via link, though not in an open format, and by the feeling from Air over the link, some of his units had come by to check in with him.
X had been halfway up the stairs when a priority link request came through, and X stared at the peripheral display for only a moment before verifying the link. 'Harpuia, what's wrong?'
'I…Lieutenant Commander Zero sent me on a special assignment, but I'm having a bit of trouble completing it. Could you do me a favor and ask one of the Robot Masters to rescind whatever order is keeping the mechaniloids in hiding?'
'Why didn't you just send a request to Blues and—'
'No! Not Uncle Blues! The assignment is in relation to him,' and Harpuia fell silent for a moment. 'Sorry, Father.'
'Don't worry about it. And I'll talk to Metal in a moment,' X sent. 'Was that all?'
'Yes, and thank you.'
X smirked. 'You're welcome, Harpy,' he replied, then cut the connection as he pinged Metal for a private communications connection.
Metal blinked, though his momentary surprise didn't cause a resonance in his links to Blues and his brothers, and accepted X's request for a private line. He, like Shadow before him, wasn't as demanding of data from X as the Lightbots were, didn't inundate the unit with half a dozen requests for status reports. He only did a surface-level status check, and then, 'Is something the matter?' Because honestly, Metal would expect X to ask Rock or Blues if he had a question, not him.
'Harpuia requested that someone redact the order keeping the city mechaniloids in hiding,' X said. 'He didn't give specific details as to why, though.'
Metal blinked, his furrowed brow hidden behind his helmet, his frown hidden by his mask. He reached out over the network, to the mechaniloids in the city, and each unit willingly displayed its orders, almost bowing as the Robot Master examined each order set and redacted all those that'd been issued the order to keep their heads low. It was alright now, they could return to work. About fifteen seconds after X finished speaking, Metal responded with, 'The order's been redacted and all mechaniloid units have been instructed to resume their previous duties.'
Blues noted the change in orders, but didn't pay much heed: the siege was over, so it made sense for the units to return to work.
Moving to one of the couches near where Blues was sitting, X took a seat on the plush furniture, relaxing into the soft material before beckoning Rock over to him. "We've got about an hour before the meeting is set to start," and X rested his head against the back of the couch, pulling up the deployment logs and seeing what units had made it back to base and who was still out in the field.
Rock crawled up, onto the couch beside X, the little unit sinking down into the cushions beside the android and cuddling into his side, curling into the warmth.
Blues had been laying with his head lolled a bit back, but he picked his head up when Rock and X came upstairs, his gaze flickering to the stairwell behind them for a moment: it appeared that Forte was content with holing up downstairs.
Well, so long as he didn't make a mess and still attended the meeting, Blues didn't care either way.
Stepping onto the lift, X took a deep, steadying breath, closing his eyes for a moment as he set the command for the lift to take him down to the floor the military was gathering on. He'd been in contact with Phantom and Leviathan for a time, ensuring that they brought along the three Resistance members that needed to attend the meeting, and had cleared it with Fefnir and Air that the Judges would be present as well, though Air's subordinate units had been relieved of guard duty.
Even Flizard had settled down after they'd been escorted from the Council room.
Just a few minutes before, he'd told Blues that he wanted the Robot Masters to hang back, to wait for his signal. There was a lot he had to get the senior officers caught up on, and X smiled as he opened his eyes again, resting a hand on Rock's shoulders. "I'm nervous," he admitted with a soft smile.
Rock blinked and looked up to X. He was somewhat more presentable now: when he'd gone to the den and once Blues actually got a good look at him, the older unit had gone back downstairs and retrieved a comb for Rock's hair. His shirt was a pale blue and on the left side, in place of a pocket, was the insignia for the Neo Arcadian government, though it was outlined in gold. Rock was glad that X had gotten him some clothes that fit to wear. The khaki shorts he'd worn in the interim were comfy, but they were ill-fitted and not ideal if he was going to anything remotely formal. "Because it's been so long since you've done this?" Rock asked, tilting his head slightly.
"In a setting like this, yes," X said. "As it stands, I only headed the Resistance for a little more than a year, so I feel horribly…well, not out of practice, but a bit out of place, I guess." He smiled again towards his brother as the lift came to a stop, and his posture straightened, his presence all military formality, as he moved for the door to the main area of the briefing level. He stopped just before the door, standing at attention, and he reached to Rock, rested a hand on his shoulder, to stop him.
Rock stopped immediately and blinked up to X again, the expression on his face and feeling over their link effectively summed up by the innocent tilt to his head and the curiosity in his eyes. "What's wrong?" Rock asked, though he kept his voice low, so as not to be heard beyond the door.
"Nothing," X answered. "I'm simply waiting. I said thirteen-hundred hours," and all the units that he ordered to meet him were at least logged as having returned to the tower, though Magnion, Falcon, and Ourobockle were all going to be absent. As the final ten seconds began to count down, X moved forward, the door swinging open on command, and he strode into the room, Rock on his heels.
Rock's gaze wandered over the occupants of the room for a moment, but a Hoppider clinging to the ceiling near one of the corners caught his gaze for just a bit longer, even if he didn't automatically slow the way a human would have with their head turned.
Leviathan turned her head to the door when it swung open, her father walking in, carrying himself as though he hadn't been absent for the past four years. Rock was following rather closely behind him and really, it was kind of cute the way the child was keeping tucked close to her father. When she caught sight of Rock's clothing, or rather, the insignia on it, her eyes widened.
That kind of gold border, the kind she had on her own crest, was reserved for only the highest ranking officials within the walls of Neo Arcadia.
Hanumachine straightened some the moment the doors went open, his gaze moving to the city's senior commanding officer and the unit at his side. He blinked as he got a better look at Rock, astounded by the similarities between the two, by the purpose in the shorter unit's stride, so confident despite his apparent age. Just who was this child unit that looked like a younger version of X? More interestingly, he saw the way a few of the Judges shifted in place as they saw the pair move, obvious unease in their body language, though the Zan'ei Lieutenant General could not place exactly what had them on edge.
And for a unit so young in appearance to be wearing the government's gold-edged seal?
One hand tightened around his staff as he waited for the meeting to begin, letting his mind settle for the moment. If Master X did not address who this little one was—or where they'd found Master Zero, for that matter—he'd ask himself once X opened the floor to them.
Fefnir watched the miniaturized version of his father walking in stride with X, and he had to admit to himself that seeing them side-by-side like this made the resemblance all the more uncanny compared to when he had first been informed about the similarity by Harpuia. When his gaze caught the insignia that he hoped everyone else noticed—a pointed look was thrown in Anubis' general direction at that thought—he couldn't help but let loose a quiet "Well, what do you know?" under his breath.
X nodded to the three Resistance members standing on the far side of the room, a silent acknowledgment of their presence, and his gaze shifted up to the three enormous viewscreens covering the back wall of the room for a moment. He wondered just how long it had been since there'd been a proper military briefing of any sort in this room. He resisted the urge to trail his hand over the controls for the screens, leaving them off for the time being, and as he turned to face the assembled units, he sent a request to Rock to grab one of the chairs from a nearby terminal.
Rock responded over the link with a contented affirmation and he trotted over to the terminal to wheel the chair over, blinking as he considered its position, and then moved back to X's side. He reached up to take one of X's hands in his own then, his gaze wandering back over the occupants of the room, though he didn't look the least bit shy or intimidated. Just curious.
"Master X," Blizzack Staggroff began, falling silent as X cut him off with a wave of his hand.
"In due time, Lieutenant General," X said. "As I am certain that a number of you are confused by my earlier announcement over the network, I wanted to address the events that transpired this morning and the actions taken by the Resistance to reclaim this city." A few quiet murmurs passed between the assembly, though X was certain far more conversations were going on over local wireless. "The first point of concern I'd like to address is my statement regarding my body serving as the final seal over Dark Elf's prison. In the months following her capture, I worked with a team of engineers to create the system that would keep her contained without harming her. She is, after all, still Mother Elf beneath the warped coding attached to her systems by Weil before the Elf Wars," and X stopped for a second at the way Judge Inarabitta seemed to perk up at his words. "During the final stages of the sealing, we used my security programming to add in an unfamiliar element to the system keeping her bound. Unfortunately, she tried to use the direct connection to my processor to escape and, in the process, left my body offline. For the years since, I have been present only as a Cyber Elf."
"It appears you've had quite a few trials of your own in these past few years," Anubis interjected. "Although I have to wonder just how you got your body back."
X and Fefnir both cast disapproving looks at the unit, though X's glare was weakened by the tired sigh that escaped him before he admitted, "I did not." A wave of discomfort and guilt washed over him then, and he hoped he'd had enough presence of mind to keep that from transmitting across his links with the Robot Masters. "Without a means to purge Dark Elf, I could not, in good conscience, attempt to reclaim that body."
A mixture of confusion and surprise appeared on Fefnir's face as he began counting off the prisoners that were assembled within the meeting room, a horrific realization dawning upon him as he made note that Copy X—the main culprit behind the four years of devastation the city was recently freed from—was nowhere to be seen. Even in the Council chamber, the replicate unit had been absent by the time Fefnir arrived. He looked to his father and put the final few pieces together. 'No…you didn't. He was terrible, but…' Fefnir found himself unable to finish that thought and simply kept his eyes on the ground, trying to keep the sickened expression on his face from being seen.
Kuwagust was the next to speak, shifting a bit in place before asking, "If you have headed the Resistance and stood against the unit that had been ruling in your stead, why wait so long to topple him and reclaim the city?"
Another tired sigh slipped from X at that, and he shook his head. He'd had a speech of sorts figured out for this, but it seemed as if they individuals here were all content to interrupt and ask for details in their own time.
The frown on Zero's face made it all the more evident to X that neither of them had expected this brash kind of disrespect for the commanding officer of the Neo Arcadian military.
Even as his elders, they'd never spoken out of turn like this to Commander Signas, not during the briefings and strategy meetings and other similar official events.
"I would have assumed that the senior military officers of Neo Arcadia would have more respect for their CO than what I'm witnessing here," Zero snapped, his voice curt and sharp without being overly loud, his eyes narrowed slightly as he looked over those present. "Even the junior cadets, fresh into the system, were never so ill-mannered and disrespectful of their commanding officers, and I'd think all of you old enough to not act like bratty children clamoring for their parent's attention."
Even the Judges were taken aback by Zero's words, a tense silence falling over the assembled before Zero turned and bowed to X. "Commander, the floor is yours," and it was clear—even without him saying as much—that further interruptions would not be handled in the same manner.
A soft nod from the elder android, and X gave Rock's hand a gentle squeeze before pulling his hand from the elder Lightbot's grip. "There are several points of concern, several faults within my city that have been present since my disappearance and the replicate taking command, and I intend to address them as swiftly as possible. Four years I've been absent from this city, and in those four years, the lot of you have managed to send how many thousands of otherwise innocent Reploids to the scrapyards as if their lives weren't worth the energy they were requiring for charge. All of you," and a pointed look was thrown at the Judges then, "knew of my feelings regarding so much of what you just allowed to happen, and you simply bowed down to this replicate simply because he looked like me? I have half a mind to send all of you in for full scans to make sure your processors haven't shorted out since the last time I stood before you."
"Master X, with all due respect—"
"I don't want your petty excuses!" X roared, his last thread of patience wearing terribly thin by this point. "And don't think that I'm solely targeting the lot of you serving under my children, because even they and the Arcadian Council managed to do things that are so counter to the way I was running things before that I'm curious to know how many of you decided to turn off your logic programs alongside your emotional ones!" His gaze was sharp as it passed over the assembled crowd, anger barely kept in check by the way Rock was reaching out to him over the link, tenuous as that connection was.
"I assigned several tasks to various branches of my military for the sole reason that I knew they would be able to follow through with these details, yet both the Zan'ei and Jin'en dropped the ball with the Eden Dome patrols. I'd have to discuss with my co-commander just how many infiltration missions we ran that went wholly undetected by the city over our four years of operation," and his accusing gaze shifted to the two sons that headed the military divisions he was currently discussing. "And while we're on the topic, let's touch on how the Zan'ei are supposed to monitor any questionable extranet communications traffic and someone still managed to order the replicate unit built not just with my full blueprints, which are supposed to be saved to a secure internal server here in the Tower, but ordered under the direction of a Neo Arcadian government division that doesn't exist.
"What of the energy crisis? Yes, we were dealing with it before the shift in power, but how could any of you authorize the rationing of energy to the civilian populace with over-draws punishable by retirement? You've taken the whole of our race and reduced us to second-class citizens that are barely fit to walk the same streets as the humans even though we've sacrificed just as much as they have. Rather than addressing the source of the problem or working to develop alternate ways to address the core problem, you instead try to control usage by lowering the population of those who need that resource? Genocide has never been an acceptable practice, whether under my command or the Federation's!"
A harsh look to his eldest then. "And when, may I ask, did you receive an order to stop sending Rekku patrols out to the terraforming colonies? I told you, years ago, that there was nothing more important than trying to get people living somewhere other than the Eden Dome simply because a cage was still a cage, no matter how gilded its bars. Instead, I hear from the agents we have within the Zan'ei that all the terraforming projects have been halted and the teams returned to the Dome?" He did stop, then, a slight wave of his hand indicating that, yes, he did, in fact, want an answer from Harpuia.
The crests of the AXRs helmet pulled down and tight against the sides of his head—he'd already been dealt a major blow to his pride through Zero's response to Aztec's less-than-impressive combat tactics—and his voice was just a bit soft as he admitted, "Three months after the replicate took command of the city."
"And the reasoning?"
X shook his head at that, holding back from snapping that he'd taught the Rekku General better than that. "The same 'strained resources' that made it seem like a good idea to combine the entire city's digital interface onto one network? I know more than a few of you are versed enough with the tech to know just how bad of an idea that was, and yet, here we are, with our military and civilian communications running on the same network as our teleportation grid, our security network, and a hundred other things that should have been left on their own, isolated networks. Trust me, there are far worse ways to burn energy than simply keeping the network servers separate and operational."
Silence fell over the room for a moment as X tried to gather his thoughts, going over what he'd already addressed while making sure that he hadn't missed anything yet. "Would anyone like to tell me when and how the decision was made to turn my Council into a tribunal of death where the accused weren't even allowed the right to defend themselves against the charges of emotional matrix operational allowances?" and even without looking, X could tell all three of the Resistance members standing behind him were shifting nervously in place.
All three of them, after all, still had active Orders of Retirement out against them for the exact 'crime' X had just asked about.
"Biblio," the android said sternly, turning to face the Judge. Aside from being the oldest of the eight, Volteel had often been the first to speak up as the voice of reason in the sessions prior to X's disappearance.
"Just shy of seven months into the copy's rule, Master X," the Judge admitted. "He claimed it would further expedite our proceedings to forgo the accused providing evidentiary testimony unless special considerations warranted full judiciary process. The lockdown on our emotional responses came a few weeks later."
"You had an accused break down during testimonial?"
Biblio blinked at that a few times before nodding. "Yes, sir."
"And the reason you thought the copy's judgment was sound in instating a lockdown that runs against one of the core reasons the Reploid secondary designation is 'human analogue'?"
This time, it was Inarabitta that answered, the Judge's voice nearly as small as he felt in that moment. "The accused in the case had initially responded to the evidence presented by crying, Master X, but when it became clear that judgment was not looking to fall in their favor," though, to be fair, some of the testimony had swayed the Council to slightly mitigate the sentence, "they made an attempt on the copy's life. The Zan'ei stationed in the chamber…saw to the unit's retirement, and all of us were shocked to find the replicate visibly shaken by the attempt. Seeing as we believed him to be you, it…we passed it off as shock, seeing as even then, you'd become something of an icon to the city."
"'An idol set upon an ivory pedestal, pretty to look at but never to be touched', I believe I once said," and Inarabitta nodded at X, earning a quiet groan from the android. "I am going to see to it that this city's people stop treating me as such if it allowed the copy to so easily slip into my place," and he'd be going through the replicate unit's memories to try and see just who it was that had been pulling the strings.
The unit had been little more than a child; he couldn't have been working alone.
It was a moment longer before X spoke again, and it was clear in his tone that while he was still upset, most of his anger had dissipated, and his eyes were a touch softer as he nodded to the assembled units. "As many of you have likely noticed, Generals Phantom, Harpuia, and Leviathan have returned to the city, healthy and sound in both body and mind. The original Order of Retirement levied against Phantom was a ruse that was used as a means of escaping the city to join the Resistance. Harpuia and Leviathan's disappearances were also his work, and at no point since his original defection have Phantom or either of his siblings been exposed to anything even remotely close to the Maverick Virus," and he wasn't going to trouble those present any further by discussing the incident with the Omega Protocol. "With that said, I'm exerting my executive authority and officially rescinding all active Orders of Retirement related to the emotional matrix lockdown. Any unit so marked is cleared of all charges and suspicion against them, and any attempts to carry out an Order will have the unit or units involved brought up on charges of attempted murder." He didn't put it past his military to have a few loose cannons in their midst, especially considering the loose cannon he'd known during his service with the Hunters.
"Now, the…" and X halted then, noticing the way Hanumachine was almost worriedly gripping his staff. "Lieutenant General, something the matter?"
The unit was quiet for a moment, considering his words and the things that X had said thus far, before looking to the city's commander. "You said earlier that you could not reclaim your body without first having a means of purging Dark Elf," and he waited for X's nod before continuing. "Among those gathered here are the ones highest up in the government and military sectors, the ones held most responsible for the state of this city and her decay over the last few years, yet your replicate is not among us," and the Zan'ei Lieutenant saw more than a few eyes go wide with the revelation. "Forgive my presumption if I am wrong, but has justice already been meted out against the copy?"
X offered a silent nod in response, waiting for the resulting shock at his admission to die down some. "He would not return the city to me despite the fact that he no longer had control, despite all he has done to risk her safety and that of her people, human and Reploid alike," and while he knew it would be wise to address the loss of Dark Elf, there was one final point of concern before he started sending the military out to try and reclaim the missing Cyber Elf.
Even though his gaze didn't shift, X reached out to Rock. 'Did you forward coordinates to everyone?'
'I did,' Rock responded immediately, and he had to force himself to not look to X, to not look like the two of them were chatting via link, saying things the others couldn't hear. He didn't want to spoil it. 'Each unit confirmed and is waiting on standby.'
"Now, before we continue onto your new assignments, I would like to say that the Resistance only played a small part in the success of this siege of the city. It was an important part, yes," and X turned to nod at the three Resistance officers standing near Phantom, "as it was essential that we remove all civilians from the streets before we began our assault. However, the ones to whom I, and all of you by extension, owe thanks to for the overturning of the regime destroying Neo Arcadia, are the ones that brought down the network, that allowed the infiltration to occur as cleanly and efficiently as it did in the first place. A little over a month ago, an archaeology team found two old model units and brought them back to Neo Arcadia for study, only to lose them shortly thereafter. One of them," and X rested his hand on Rock's shoulder, "is not only my older brother, but also is my direct design progenitor." Looks of comprehension dawned on several faces at this, finally making the connection between the two units. "The other, also my brother," and X paused, eyes flicking up to the Hoppider in the corner of the room.
There was a soft, high-pitched tone, inundating in its fleeting existence, and six beams of colored light shot down into the room, behind and around the chair that Rock placed. The lights solidified near the bottom, and as the last, hot-bright vestiges of energy sparked and dissipated, six units took shape, formed and solidified.
Forte and Metal stood at either side of the chair, with Air and Quick behind it. Ice and Elec teleported down to the side nearer X, each unit carrying himself with the utmost confidence. They certainly weren't nervous about this, not in the slightest.
Several moments after, barely enough time to register what'd just happened, a seventh beam of light shot down directly onto the chair Rock placed only minutes before, and when it dissipated, Blues was seated in it, leaning back almost casually, one leg crossed over the other, looking more like these units were amassed in his room rather than him being a guest here.
"Stand down," Zero ordered the moment he saw a few of the lieutenants backing up, recognizing the positions they were taking, hearing the whispers of 'Maverick' dance across the room. "I would think that X's indication that they originate from a line before his own would make it easy for you to understand that the RVISIA does not apply to them. They are not Maverick," not by the current definition of the word, anyway.
"I don't understand—" Panter Flauclaws began, only to be cut off by X's gaze.
"As I said, both units recovered are my brothers, though they are older than even I am," even if Rock didn't look it. "There is a great deal that they and their fellows can provide for our city, many things that they can help with that we have had trouble with in the past decade." X turned then, bowing deeply to Blues, and over the link, 'The floor is yours.'
"Thank you, X," Blues said, folding his hands in his lap as he turned his gaze over the units in the room, taking them in at length before speaking. "From what I'm told, a great deal of your historical records have been lost during the continuous wars that have ravaged the planet for the last three centuries, so it comes with little shock that everyone is so ill-informed when it comes to the…more distant past." Even if 300 years hardly constituted ancient history. "As X stated, none of the units here with red eyes are 'Maverick', as you call it, and we will not take kindly to any unwarranted aggression." And that was the only warning they'd be getting. "When I first left the city, I noted several issues with its facilities, namely the power and networking systems, while I had direct control of them. Since then, I've had an expert examine the power plant's coding after I determined that there'd been heavy tampering with it, and after we've gotten an opportunity to make a house call, a permanent fix to what's plaguing the city's power will be implemented. I will require a look at all other relevant facilities in the city, including the biodomes, to determine what changes need to be implemented to streamline, if any." And Blues highly doubted there'd be nothing to do. "There is a great deal that can be done, that will be done, and we will begin to implement these changes and improvements immediately."
"And you're okay with this, Master X?" Herculious asked, not having missed that this unit had failed to use Master X's title when he addressed him. "For people we've never known, the unit that took down the city that night, that led to—"
"That led to what?" Fefnir interrupted, sarcasm dripping from his voice as he leveled a dull stare at Herculious. "The city being rescued? Yeah, sure, I can see why you wouldn't trust them," and he let his words hang in the air for a moment before adding, "Just shut up and let Dad finish."
It took X a moment to gather his thoughts up in the wake of his son's rather unexpected snark, and he shook his head lightly, looking to all of the assembled before speaking. "Part of what my brother is offering to this city are fixes to not just the systems, but the programming of those same systems. Rock and Blues," and X's hand tightened a bit on Rock's shoulder, "both excel at working with coding. Elec, although not formerly tasked with work in a geothermal plant, will be providing his expertise to getting the power plant back to normal operational specs. Each of the units here is a benefit and a blessing to our city, and while they may not be known to you, I have spent time with them, know them, trust them. To see what's been done for the Resistance in only just a month?" and that said nothing of Rocinolle's education and his own defense system.
"But the night of the attack," Kuwagust continued, knowing what his brother was asking about.
Blues was quick to cut off Kuwagust and Herculious' train of thought. "Disabling the city so was the safest way for me to gain exit with the fewest casualties. I did not order the city's defense force to fire upon anyone, much less the non-military population. I was shown the coding for some of the Pantheon units responsible: it, too, was littered with altered code and addendums that, I suspect, was implemented by the same individual who issued the power plant with the improper coding that is running it into the ground."
"How much of our city has been tampered with and damaged as such?" Judge Foxtar asked, daring to look up, to look at the unit that had, only a few hours ago, been facing a retirement order by a ruler that had no true authority.
"Without further examination, I cannot properly assess the extent of the damage. I can say, however, that everything that I have been handed from the city has been altered or adjusted, and never in ways that increase output or efficiency," Blues replied, not even turning his head to look at the Judge as he leaned back in his chair.
"And what of Telesphoros' work?" Cubit asked.
X looked to him at that, one eyebrow rising. "Inarabitta mentioned that name in the Council Chamber during the siege."
Cubit nodded. "He's a coder that offered to look at the plant's coding and not only offered to correct any issues therein, but also said that he'd be able to…" and the Judge's voice drifted suddenly, connecting the dots between X's outburst at the copy about the loss of Dark Elf and the work that Telesphoros had been discussing.
X gaze was pure confusion the moment Foxtar sent him a link request. "Cubit, what's the matter?" he asked, even as he verified the data transfer.
"This unit," he said, sending over a collection of image files, "claimed that he knew how to purify the Dark Elf, provided us with data on how it would be done, with the idea presented that her power could be used as an amplification mechanism for the power plant to correct what couldn't be fixed in the coding alone. He also provided updated coding for the plant itself."
X verified the link, downloading the image files, and there was a feel of abject terror that fired across his links with the Robot Masters once he got a good look at the unit. Even with the visor covering his eyes, X knew who that was. "How did he even get clearance for such a project?" let alone get into the city?
"Through Master…through the copy," Foxtar replied. "Master X, what's wrong?"
It was only moments before every other Lightbot in the room was inundating X with demands of a status update and what could possibly have upset him so. That kind of terrified knee-jerk reaction never originated from a little bit of bad news.
That was like finding out there was a serial killer in your closet and you can't move.
When seven seconds passed and X still hadn't responded, Rock caught the android's hand, giving him a light tug before repeating Foxtar's question, "What's wrong?"
The android looked rather unsteady on his feet by that point, his eyes slightly unfocused as he tried to find his voice. "The main reason I called this session," and all the bluster from earlier had dissipated under the weight of his concern now that he knew who had attacked Sanctum Yggdrasil, "was to alert the senior members of the city staff to an imminent threat to our city. Yesterday afternoon, this 'Telesphoros' was able to infiltrate Sanctum Yggdrasil, where the Dark Elf was kept, and kidnapped her." The dawning horror he saw overtake some of the units was to be expected; almost everyone knew of the devastation of the Elf Wars, even if only a scant few were alive who remembered it.
Rock was looking down to the ground now, already knowing where this was going even if he had no idea what'd transpired during the Elf Wars, what kind of hell on Earth the survivors saw, heard, felt, lived. That it was bad probably didn't begin to cover it, especially not with the dawning horror in the eyes of those in the room. The Dark Elf seemed to be something of a demon in the past, once they still feared, and deeply. They feared Dark Elf the way ancient Romans feared that the Emperor Caligula may come back to life and continue his reign of terror, even when his death had been decades prior.
"You speak of Telesphoros as if the name wasn't his own," Judge Mantisk noted.
And X's expression and signal dropped right back into a constant hum of concern and worry. "The…the unit Judge Foxtar called Telesphoros…" and X sighed, looking to Zero. "It's only an alias."
Zero considered the name for a moment before querying X for t he files, his expression quickly shifting to barely-contained anger, his hands balling into tight fights.
"Master X, if it's an alias," Childre asked, "then how do you know the unit?"
X sighed. "It's…hard not to remember some faces, some people. Telesphoros' real name…"
"Is Omega," Zero finished. "That…that…" and he was very obviously furious about this turn of events, evidenced by the way he'd slipped straight into German. "That son of a bitch has my daughter."
The Robot Masters may not have been appropriately horrified by the revelation, but they had very little contextual data for what Omega was and is capable of. Blues had leaned back into his chair, considering. "We are on a very tight timeline, then," especially if someone so volatile, such an abomination, had something with the kind of power Dark Elf was described as having.
Leviathan felt like someone just punched her in the gut. That that macabre, maddened puppet was back, was back and pretending to be someone people could trust, someone people could depend on, and doing it just to trick them further, to drag them down further into its twisted version of hell…
And as if Omega returning wasn't bad enough, they took the Dark Elf. Leviathan inhaled slowly, readjusting her center of balance as she suddenly felt very weak in the legs. There wasn't much that she could imagine making this situation even worse.
X took a steadying breath, letting the full weight of the situation hit him, well aware that everyone else in the room (with the exclusion of the Robot Masters) would be reeling at the news. "I expected far more commotion," he said, looking around the room. "You are all incredibly quiet."
"It's a lot to take in," Tech Kraken said, gaze moving to Phantom for a moment, "especially in wake of being told that our generals were not retired as we were led to believe, being told that we've been serving under someone who, in hindsight, we should have known wasn't you. Then, this…this discovery of your brothers, of Reploids…"
Panter looked to Kraken as the unit fell silent, picking up on a different train of thought. "And that says nothing of the sudden reappearance of Master Zero. Here we have been for so long, fighting against the Maverick scourge, trying to survive when everything falls apart, and now members of our race's past suddenly appear from nowhere? It's incredibly overwhelming to say the least, so to expect us to speak when we can think of so little to say?"
"The proper designation," Hirondelle piped up suddenly, "is Robot Master. Commander Blues and his forces are from the design line prior to the androids."
Phantom nodded. He'd caught that Kraken had used the wrong term, though he thought one of the Robot Masters would have corrected the usage. "My father said as much about Rock, but that point of discussion is deviating from the true concern."
X nodded. "Lieutenant Commander Zero, with your permission, I'd like to reassign the members of the Zeroth." It was time he started taking control of this city. He had people to protect.
"I have no argument against this, Commander," Zero answered, posture straight as he turned to face X and snapped to attention.
X nodded, though part of him knew that he was going to have to ask Zero at some point why he'd suddenly gotten a promotion. "We have a lead on who it is that's responsible for the disappearance of Dark Elf. Guardian Phantom, the Zan'ei will start their investigation as soon as possible. I want your troops to scour as much of this city as possible, find out if and where in this city Omega is hiding."
"Understood, Master X," Phantom said, bowing deeply. "All Zan'ei, outbound!"
Tech Kraken, Burble Hekelot, and Hanumachine all turned for the door, following Phantom out.
"Guardian Harpuia, I want the Rekku fleets mobilized for aerial reconnaissance. We have some time before sunset, so get the teams in the air. I want a fifty-mile radius around the Eden Dome scouted out. Anything out of the ordinary: energy readings, ambient heat signatures, if it's out of place, you search the location. As per Neo Arcadian military protocol Tango-Seven-Kilo-Three-Eight, I want no less than six units on each team. Guardian Fefnir, have eight of your troops escort the Judges to their quarters and stand on guard. The rest of the Jin'en will be backing up Rekku patrols." He nodded to his sons.
"Understood, Master X," they replied, bowing and turning, their own troops falling in step behind them, the Judges trailing behind Fefnir.
"Guardian Leviathan, link up with the Meikai. Their current orders still stand, but any order to return to the city is prioritized."
"Understood, Master X," Leviathan said with a graceful bow, refusing to let the shell shock behind the idea that Omega was crawling in some dark corner even as they were speaking ruffle her outwardly. Inwardly, she took a moment to still her frantic mind, to make sure her mental voice was as calm as the water's surface, that it wouldn't belie the turmoil beneath. Only then did she link to her lieutenants, to her troops, to update them and to be certain they were still carrying out their orders, their patrols.
Now that units were beginning to leave the meeting room, some of the Robot Masters relaxed, shifted from their apparent stance at attention. They'd remained quiet the entire time, but that was only because they didn't need their mouths to speak. Their links had remained plenty active, and each unit had already accessed the archives to look up data on 'Omega'.
Blues remained relaxed in his seat, hands folded over his lap once again, his expression neutral as he stared ahead of him, not focusing so much on what was going on around him as he was this new information about Omega and the Dark Elf.
"General Leviathan, with your permission, I would like to return to my post," Poler Kamrous said. She turned her head to look at the Robot Masters, as if considering them.
Leviathan nodded to Poler. "Dismissed, Lieutenant Kamrous. I will be expecting your report."
"Of course, General," and Poler looked to X. "With your permission, Master X, and the permissions of your siblings, I would like to forward the coding set from my facility for review. Though I have no reason to believe the city defense grid has been compromised, I would rather know now than be taken by surprise." As it was, Kamrous was constantly wired in to the defense system, provided a steady stream of updates from the teams of engineers and technicians when official business called her away from the facility. Save for the time frames of the two attacks on the city that severed her connection to the network, she would have known if someone had tried directly accessing the facility.
Unlike Reploids, however, a remote hack could have been attempted. If so much of their city had been affected, no part of the system was excluded from examination.
"Your openness to our offer is appreciated," Blues said, oddly diplomatic even as he set up a mock Reploid account on the network to prompt the file transfer. The officials in the city were already far more accepting of this shift in the status quo than many of the Resistance members were, and if they were willing to dance, Blues would be happy to guide them through the steps.
He always took lead, though.
Poler nodded her head. "Thank you, Master Blues," she said, initiating the transfer from the facility and queuing the load to Blues to start as soon as she completed the upload of the current facility coding.
Blues didn't quite startle, but there was a hiccup in his motions, barely an instant, as though he'd begun a pre-programmed process and it took his processors a moment to locate and veto it. There was very little emotion on his face to convey the sudden spark of annoyance that lit up his song on the Harmony, that echoed in the links he had open with the other Robot Masters and X. It took Blues a moment or two to find his voice, or more accurately, to ensure that the compulsion was properly quashed before he spoke again, "I will send the updated versions to you as soon as I complete my review and adjustment."
Poler bowed her head. "Thank you," she said before turning and leaving.
X looked to Blues as soon as the unit had cleared the room, an apologetic look on his face. 'I'm fairly certain the military units are going to be using that designation unless something is said otherwise,' and he'd heard the way Blues' song had shifted. 'Is there a title you would prefer over…that one?'
'I'd assumed that since they heard the Zero unit call me 'Commander', that they'd follow suit,' but of course he wasn't that lucky, 'if they must use a title, then Commander, I suppose, or nothing at all.'
'Considering the fact that you'll all likely be wearing a modified city seal somewhere on your person, they'll require that they use a title when addressing you,' X said. He looked to the Resistance members, as if figuring out where they could be of use. "I need the three of you to head back to the residential district. Inform Lady Ciel that she is to join us in the Tower as soon as possible. Ensure that the boxes from personnel storage are brought up to my quarters by the end of the day as well. Beyond that, I want you to gather as many as you can with any technical application skills. We need to start removing the weapon upgrades on the Pantheons," since the units were never meant for more than observational patrols.
Wordlessly, Zero grabbed two of the chairs in the room, moving them over to where X and Rock were standing.
"Thank you," X said, taking a seat and leaning back into the chair a little.
Rock dropped nearly immediately into his chair, and he considered it a bit before moving it beside X's, the chair's wheels rolling easily. He made no effort to keep from bumping into X, though it was more the smaller unit's weight in motion than the chair he was sitting on that forced the android to plant his feet to keep from rolling away himself. Rock smiled up to X, completely unheeding of the distinct frowns that came to Ice and Elec's faces at that.
"What now?" Zero asked, at attention at X's side despite having had to shift a half-step to the side to avoid getting bumped when X's chair had moved.
"At this point…" and X drifted a bit. "Actually, while the whole 'commander' thing with Blues makes sense, why have you started using that to address me? You've pulled rank every chance you had while we were still with the Resistance."
"During our time with the Resistance, I felt it necessary to pull rank, and even then you went against a direct order. Here? Now? I made a promise that I would help you, would be at your side as we cared for this city and her people, but this is your city before it is ours." Zero smiled at X, though the expression was not as bright as it could have been. "I felt the title change was necessitated once we'd reclaimed the city."
X nodded, understanding Zero even if the unit's reasoning was a bit…quirky. "As for what now, we need reviews of all the city system coding sets, a chance for Elec to take a look at the plant, someone to get the network back out onto the disconnected servers," and X was almost infuriated by how unnecessarily complex the structure was when it was all operating as a single, interconnected network. "The Golems need to be moved out onto border patrol, keep a defensive perimeter up around the city," and X quickly sent that order along.
"That went more…smoothly than I anticipated," Elec said, remembering his own introduction to the Resistance and how some of the units were less than happy to have them there.
"Blues didn't give them an opportunity to dissent," Ice pointed out, slight amusement evident in his voice. Blues didn't ask to help: he told them they were getting help whether or not they wanted it.
"There's the additional fact of dealing with military units," X said. "There's not a lot of allowance for dissent in the ranks, especially when the unit outranks you, despite the way they were acting toward me during the meeting." It was part of the reason why he'd set up Rock's new clothes to bear the gold-edged government seal. "Levi, baby girl, you can sit down unless you've somewhere to be?"
Forte fidgeted a bit, though he remained standing at Blues' side, the occasional glare thrown at Zero.
"No, Father," Leviathan said as she stepped forward then, grabbing one of the terminal chairs and wheeling it over.
Ice was just about to just sit on the ground and make himself comfortable, but Forte's fidgeting caught the smaller unit's attention. "Forte, what's the matter?"
"This is a load of fucking bullshit," Forte said, pointing a thumb in Blues' direction. "I'm over here playing bodyguard to a 'bot who's older than dirt, and the pansy-ass blonde whatever-the-fuck that Wily built is playing second fiddle to a Lightbot that, by all rights, took over the goddamned world. Something got seriously screwed in the past few centuries, and I don't know how I'm dealing with this shit."
"Forte," Zero said, his tone a bit chiding.
"Don't fucking 'Forte' me," the unit snapped. "First off, I'm older than you, so you can bite whatever bullshit argument you might have for me even thinking about listening to your girly ass. Secondly, what's this shit about you having a daughter? You're a damned Wilybot, but you're softer than half the damn Cossackbots."
"Just because I happen to care about the people in my family doesn't mean that I'm soft, Forte," Zero said, actually turning to face the unit now. "And you can bet your sorry ass that I'm proud you compared me to Mikhail's sons."
"Well, Forte," Enker said as he dropped down to a crouch, then a sitting position, retracting his staff. "The fact that your ability to contend with change is still nonexistent provides a stable anchor for the rest of us. I can rest assured that the world is still right knowing that you, at least, have not changed." The elder Wilybot tilted his head to look up to Forte, his expression not amused despite the teasing lilt to his voice. 'Perhaps, rather than shutting down when the world hasn't developed the way we were told to expect it to, we should assess the situation and redetermine our roles in this time, hm?'
Answering Enker with a silent glare, Forte let loose a long string of insults over the link.
Enker only shrugged: Forte almost never took advice as it was dispensed.
"So, with all that's gone on and the situation at hand," X finally said, "where do you want to start?"
"It seems like we should be asking you that," Blues said slowly: X was the one who just wrested his home from an interloper. "But as it is, I'll review this coding set I received. Elec will go to the power plant and proceed with his preliminary examination. I would just like to be certain that his subordinate units would be able to assist without being…harassed by the staff there." And the ghost of a smirk crossed Blues' lips, "And it seems Rock would prefer to stay with you for the time being." The child was beyond relieved that X had a body now, and that he was stable and wasn't going to wink out of existence for the smallest of exertions.
X leaned over slightly at Blues' comment, one arm curling around Rock's shoulders and holding the unit close, even if he was giving his brother a rather lopsided hug in the process. "Elec's subordinate units shouldn't cause any issue as long as Elec is wearing or carrying something indicating that he has the authority to be in the area, which is why I asked for an edit to the city seal earlier, something to represent the Robot Masters while also providing access clearance for restricted areas."
"Commander X," Zero interrupted suddenly, his voice bearing no indication of his inner turmoil, "is there a simulation deck in the tower?"
X looked to Zero for a moment, mildly surprised by the question, then forwarded the access codes and floor information to Zero. "You'll be able to look over the testing simulation list once you log in."
Turning crisply on one heel, Zero headed out of the room.
X sighed heavily, leaning back into his chair again.
Multiple sets of eyes watched Zero leave the room, though no one queried as to why he was so upset. It was quiet for nearly a full minute before Blues spoke again, his posture straightening somewhat as he evidently came to some kind of decision.
"Ice, I want you to examine their water treatment facilities," make sure that was running smoothly even if it'd never been brought up in talks in the Resistance base. He left it unspoken that Air continue his examination of the weather control systems. He hadn't asked the Second Number to do it, but if he was feeling industrious in that regard, Blues certainly wouldn't complain.
X gave a curt nod in response to Ice's assignment, knowing that even that aspect of the city operations was at risk, and it was a moment before he pulled up a detailed map of Neo Arcadia Tower, looking over the multitude of floors. While almost three times more massive than the Maverick Hunter base, there weren't as many occupied floors, and X found two that weren't currently slated for use by any branch of the city. Looking over a more detailed map, X made a quick copy of the layout for the levels and forwarded the smaller file to Blues.
Blues was confused once he accepted the file transfer and opened them up. He quickly realized they were floor plans, and the realization they were two levels in the Tower followed soon after. It actually took him a few moments longer to realize why X would be forwarding this to him, and his confusion actually deepened for a few moments before bleeding out to a touched feeling, though the echo of confusion still remained there, in the back of his mind. X was giving them their own levels?
'What's wrong?' X sent, his eyes widening just a touch as he turned to look at Blues, feeling the hint of conflict in Blues' link, hearing it in the Harmony. Had he done wrong by offering the levels to them without saying something beforehand?
Blues was silent for a few moments, inwardly staring at the maps, though his 'gaze' was a bit blank, like he wasn't even comprehending what he'd just been handed, what he'd just been offered. The touched feeling added a warm undertone to his feeling, even as the confusion and conflict remained steady. 'Nothing's wrong…' Blues trailed off for a moment, collecting himself (or trying to) and reaching out for what, exactly to say. Finally, 'Thank you, this is…I appreciate it.'
X smiled then. 'You're as much a part of this city as the rest of us. I can't not give you all a place to stay,' and part of him hoped that Blues understood that the offer extended out to the Robot Masters they'd still not been introduced to.
As an afterthought, he checked the floor beneath the two levels he'd given to the Robot Masters and, finding it equally unused, submitted an administrative lock on the trio of levels. He recalled that Rock had mentioned before, when they were discussing X's serial (or the lack thereof), that the main numbers had ended at eighty. Hopefully, the ninety rooms available between the three floors would be enough.
Blues sent something of an affectionate feeling over their link, though it was muted as all of his other emotions, as though he kept a static barrier up for privacy's sake. Rock was looking to Blues now, querying him for data, and Blues forwarded the floor plans to the other Robot Masters. Perhaps they should go there next and get situated, then begin with improvements to the city. Oh, that reminded him, 'You asked that I come up with an…edit…to the city's seal to represent us.' And he sent a file over to X, a slight smirk evident over the link and on his face.
The minute X opened the file, he couldn't help the laugh, even if he was able to restrict the outburst to little more than a halting snort of amusement. "I'm going to have to make sure the gold border can actually show up against that," he said, a soft lilt to his voice.
Ice was grinning widely as Rock actually giggled a little bit, the image file open on his end as well.
Blues' smirk widened, though it didn't graduate to being a full-on smile, "I thought it appropriate." The seal had been recolored a deep gold, the same color as his scarf.
"It is," and X considered the design a moment longer. "How would each of you prefer your badge? The sooner they're made or added to your clothes or armor, the sooner you'll be able to get into the city areas without clearance issues."
"We can probably just weld it in place," Metal said, gesturing toward his chest armor. All of the Wilybots had hardened metal chestplates, whereas Elec and Ice's armor was more of a deceptively durable cloth, able to block blows and projectiles, though it didn't afford the same kind of protection as outright armor did.
"I think the rest of us should use badges or pins, then," Blues said thoughtfully, considering Rock. Even in full armor, neither he nor Rock had a chestplate to weld it to and honestly, Blues was not getting anything added to his helmet, boots, or gauntlets, thank you very much.
"I'm not wearing anything that isn't already part of my damn armor," Forte snapped, partially at Metal, mostly at Blues.
"If you do that, then you'll need an escort in the city," Blues said as Metal shook his head and crossed his arms. "I don't mind bringing you along everywhere I go, Forte," and while Blues' voice sounded earnest, his feeling over the Harmony wasn't quite so innocent.
"I thought the damn thing was for me to be going places and fixing the human's shit," Forte said. "I'm not fixing shit, so why the fuck do I need the thing anyway? 'Sides, why the hell would I put up wearing something that basically says I'm your gofer?"
A slightly agitated feeling resonated across the link between X and Blues, and the android looked to his eldest brother. 'Is he always in such a foul mood?'
"Because you are my gofer, Forte." Blues leaned back in his chair again, "Times change, and so do people. This is the way things are." Whether they liked it or not. 'He's agitated, but his programming is an attempt by Wily to circumvent a unit's desire to be Mastered, so Forte is constantly in an internal tug-of-war with himself. Reassurances only make him bristle and spit, especially if he thinks he knows what he's doing. And he thinks he always knows what he's doing. If he becomes a problem, I will correct his behavior.'
"Like hell I am!" Forte said, heading for the door. "I don't have to deal with this degrading shit."
X frowned at the unit, but chose to ignore the Wilybot in favor of getting the ten emblems ordered.
The Robot Masters watched Forte storm from the room and several moments after the unit disappeared, Metal sighed and started after him. The last thing they needed was Forte taking his frustration out on the building itself or worse, the next unit he came across.
"He'll settle," Quick said, tilting his head, his gaze still on the door. What he left unsaid was that Forte would either settle down on his own terms or be made to.
"It's not as though he's required for maintenance on the city; if anything, he'd be assisting another unit," Blues remarked, his head tilted to look back to the assembled Wilybots. Enker and Forte both were young, but Forte was by far more rebellious. Either of them would be good to assist, but he wouldn't land a whole project in their laps, not yet.
"It's still surprising," X said, "to see him act the way he does. Although not as…vocally demonstrative, Zero seems to have much the same temperament when he's angry," though, as he had done earlier, Zero tended to find a reasonable way of venting. Zero's frustrations, at least, were taking out in training simulations. "That being said, we should probably head back to my quarters for the time being. It'll be an hour or so before the badges arrive and I'd rather not idle about here."