This was originally posted as part of the main story, but I'm doing a little housekeeping and moving it over here. Carry on.
In any case, think of this as a 'behind the scenes' type-thing, taking place after Ch. 37 of Definition of a Reploid. I do like how they're all immediately trying to use this to their advantage.
"You broke your ID card. You broke your… We can't replace those! Only Father has the codes!" Harpuia threw his hands up in the air, pacing angrily with his wings fully extended.
It might have been more intimidating to Leviathan if she wasn't used to Harpuia's 'angry budgie look.' She just shrugged."Yes, but we should have realized that and started keeping them somewhere safe instead of taking them on combat missions years ago. At least this way we still have three, and destroying one to keep it out of Weil's hands is better than getting them destroyed accidently because our armor was damaged."
Harpuia had to admit that, sadly. Taking a deep breath and retracting his wing panels, he said, "At least we still have three."
Fefnir chuckled. "Yeah, about that?" He'd been fighting Omega.
Harpuia's face met his palm. "And mine is…" Hooked into Harpuia's systems, which were currently channeling the power of the upper atmosphere. Well, if there was a surge protection systems failure severe enough to burn out the card, Harpuia himself was unlikely to survive it. At least Phantom's was back in Neo Arcadia with his empty body. "We'll have to give one of them to him as soon as he gets back, so that he can use it to control any systems that aren't fooled by his imitation of Fathe…What happened?"
"He's been like this when he's not on stage for the last what, ten chapters?" Leviathan folded her arms at Harpuia: he was only noticing this now?
"What happened?" Was it Weil?
"Spoilers," Leviathan said succinctly. "The first thing made him all worried, the second blue screen'd his processor."
Copy-X winced and whimpered again at the reminder. Leviathan patted him on the back. "Don't worry; it's just a cyber elf and a surgery." And they could recycle cyber elves now.
"But no one knows that it needs fixing!" He wouldn't remember when this was over.
"Well, that's a good sign, right?"
"What?" Harpuia asked.
"Apparently we're raising him right." Leviathan shrugged. "Don't worry about it. I mean, look at him." She waved in Zero's direction.
"Leviathan!" Harpuia glared at her for a moment. "Don't worry," he told Copy-X. "I know that you're responsible, and… I know you won't abandon your responsibilities and all the people that are counting on you like a certain someone." He'd assumed Leviathan was indicating a certain deadbeat dad that was leaning against Zero's shoulder.
Copy-X shook his head and said in a small voice, "That's not what I'm worried about. But… I should leave, if I can't be…"
"Oh, right." Fefnir snapped his fingers. "Hey, Dad, can I get the security codes…"
"You won't remember them in the main story anyway, remember?" Ciel said, after her mother let her go. The real reason was that she didn't want anyone to disturb the two of them.
Harpuia was torn between giving X a piece of his mind and comforting Copy-X. So what if X was worried he'd grown too willing to kill? He could have told them. He had family that was more than willing to keep an eye on him: finding out that he'd abandoned them because he didn't trust them to do that? Finding out that X had expected Neo Arcadia to start to fall apart despite their best efforts?
Wily growled under his breath and started towards the two of them, only to be halted abruptly by a kunai at his neck. "Don't even think about it."
Wily just smiled. "You don't really think you can stop me, do you? You and what army?"
Harpuia, Leviathan, Fefnir and Copy-X turned to stare at them. "General Phantom," was the reply. "So… mine?" Actually, Phantom could call on all four armies if he needed to.
Wily laughed: he'd been hoping for just that response. "Yes, why don't you order them outside the city's walls so it'll be easier to slaughter them all at once instead of having to hunt them down." It would save time.
They heard the familiar hum of a charged shot. Wily blocked it, but shock kept Phantom from dodging in time to save the end of his red scarf. "I'm sorry," X said, and yawned, "but could you please keep it down? This is the first real sleep I've had in twenty years: I couldn't risk internalizing…" That callousness, that knowledge that all efforts failed, all love was lost, that had poisoned him, any more than he already had let it before he realized what was happening to him. "When this is over I'm going to have to go back to trying not to kill people who really don't deserve it, so I really need to rest, and I'm sorry, but the next person to wake me up will get vaporized."
He was very, very tired, and they were keeping him awake. That wasn't worth killing over, he knew that, even if it wouldn't stick, but what was worth killing over? Had everything he'd done to stop the virus been useless in the end? All killing was wrong, so would it really be any more wrong to be able to have a little peace, just a little? He sighed, leaning against Zero, resting his head on that that familiar sloped chest and humming a bit in thanks when that hair wrapped around him, like a blanket.
Zero opened his eyes and put a finger to his lips. He wasn't glaring per se, but they would keep it down, or Zero would handle it. X had been forced to fight alone for long enough.
"What about them?" Lark whispered, worried, glancing at the other side of the space they were currently in.
"Don't worry about it," Leviathan assured her. "I know Weil screaming is music to my ears."
Phantom looked very tempted to head over there, but he had a lot of failing as a bodyguard to make up for. Mourning his scarf, he walked back to stand next over X and Zero again. Very quietly.
"Think they'll let us have a turn with the piñata?" Fefnir wondered. "I'm surprised, though. Didn't think Aunt Cinny had it in her." Not that he disapproved. He totally approved of the combination of Weil, regeneration, and that claw weapon of hers. Marino was doing a few practice swings with an antique baseball bat, waiting for her turn.
Leviathan snorted. "She was dead." When Fefnir didn't get it, she elaborated. "She watched." And couldn't do anything while her loved ones suffered, because she was dead. "No, don't you watch," she told Copy-X, turning his head firmly the other way. "Someone in this family needs to think that torturing prisoners is wrong no matter how much they deserve it and all that kind of… decency." Innocence, idealism.
Wily might have muttered, "Damn Lightbots," under his breath. Oh, right. He looked around. "Where's that knockoff?" This time, instead of a kunai, it was a spear and Harpuia's two beam sabers. "I mean the Zero knockoff." Aurora, not Copy-X.
"With her…" Fefnir paused. "Mom or Aunt?"
"Both?" Leviathan asked.
Harpuia facepalmed again. "Why are you doing this? We all know that applying human genetic relationships to prototypes is ridiculous, otherwise we'd have millions of siblings." And three were more than annoying enough.
"Exactly. I'm annoying him." Fefnir pointed at Wily.
"Oh." Harpuia sighed. He supposed Fefnir could carry on, then. "If you want to be that sort of technical, he's our grandfather," through Zero, "and Aurora's twice over, by the way."
"Here, you take the kid. I'm going to go find my own blonde and play whack-a-bastard," Leviathan said, holding Copy-X out to Harpuia.
"Your blonde? One, she's in my army, two, she's…"
"Cleaned up very nicely," Leviathan interrupted. "And like you can talk." Harpuia would have responded that he was not going to do anything inappropriate, but Leviathan forestalled his objection with a pish. "Come on, if we dated in an acceptable age range by human standards there'd be what, the Judges and a few more like Andrew?"
"What's wrong with Andrew?" Neige looked up from her notepad to ask.
"You know you won't be able to keep your notes either, right?" Ciel reminded her.
That might have been a good thing, because Neige's response would have been unprintable. "He used to read us stories, remember? That was how I learned that words could have two meanings."
Ciel giggled. "The booty story! Was that you?"
"You heard about that?"
"The staff always talked about it when we were reading Treasure Island." Warning the new ones that they should watch for children trying to escape and go on treasure hunts.
More so than usual: sneaking out of the crèche was the best game. It wasn't something they got in trouble for, either, provided they didn't make too much trouble for anyone. It was better than other forms of rebellion, and the Zan'ei made sure to look after their future ninja. Shadowing them was a common training exercise for new recruits, since the children would be trying to avoid the crèche staff.
Craft laughed, because it was one of those things you looked back on and did that. "I went to Judge Childre because I didn't know how to remove the small human from my leg." He'd been half-panicked at the time, because that was the first time he'd seen a small human and Neige had looked really fragile. Everyone had been staring at him and no one had actually helped when he was trying to walk with it attached to his leg. Well, in all fairness, it had been really damn funny.
"That was back when 'No,' was my favorite word," Neige reminisced. "And booty." Because how cool was it that a word could have two meanings like that? She patted her husband's proprietarily. Best treasure hunt ever. "Seriously, you should give Cerveau a tryout. Reploids… Oh, right. Underage." And she'd been out in the wastes since she was seriously underage, not around her peers to overhear conversations about stamina and such things.
"He's my partner, and… Not that kind of partner!" Ciel said when Neige grinned.
"Riiiight." Did anything more need to be said? Neige looked away in order to end the conversation after having gotten the last word. Her eyes fell on the side of the room where Leviathan was taking her turn with the orange piñata. "There's a scoring panel now? Well, I guess they are judges."
Maybe it was some sense of masculine identity that made Craft wince at the ice and the teeth, even though anyone who attacked that area on him would just end up with a broken kneecap. Then he remembered what Weil would have done to Neige if he won and mentally awarded the Guardian a six. Not because it wasn't vicious and painful, but because hopefully that'd encourage her to try harder. Not that he actually dared say that score out loud.
Cinnamon tapped Phantom on the shoulder. "Aren't you going to come join us? And you shouldn't leave your daughter standing over there by herself."
Wait wait wait. "Daughter?" Harpuia exclaimed, because the other two were over there and hadn't heard their aunt.
On the one hand, sleep. On the other, grandchildren. X compromised by firing a warning shot right over Harpuia's head. The guardian still hit the deck, covering Copy-X protectively. "Why didn't you tell us?" Harpuia whispered harshly, raising his head.
Phantom pointed at his facemask and smirked. Ninja, come on. "I wanted her to be able to make friends. You know how the troops would have reacted." Complaining about favoritism, being worshipful or envious of the child one of the Guardians themselves had chosen to adopt, all that kind of thing. There were some crazy people out there, even if not as many as even twenty years ago. The Second Elf War was almost out of human living memory.
"But I'd never even met her before this!" Copy-X looked hurt, green eyes looking out from under Harpuia's lighter armor.
"You are a state secret," Phantom reminded him. "And she's only seven and a half months." And in Harpuia's army, not his own. They didn't put quite as much emphasis on how loose lips exploded bases.
"I'm adopted," Lark said, looking down at her feet as she fiddled with one nervously. "It's… really an honor," and Guardian Phantom shouldn't have, even though she wouldn't say that now because they'd already had that conversation.
Phantom walked over to her (carefully, since he'd been standing so close to X), and nudged her at her grandmother. "You should get to know her. I have to…" He looked at Wily to make sure he hadn't tried anything.
Cinnamon was looking up at Wily. "We're not going to get any other time with our son, so please?"
Wily looked deeply disturbed. "That power source… Just tell me you're not the unholy spawn of That Idiot and Roll."
Cinnamon blinked and shook her head. "I was built by Doctor…"
Wily raised his hand. "Don't care." As though there were any scientists in 21XX other than Arciel and maybe Weil worth mentioning. "And don't think I won't kill you just because you're my daughter-in-law."
Cinnamon smiled brightly and raised her hands. She was still wearing those cute kitty gloves. With the really sharp claws. "That's not the reason I don't think you'll kill me." Silly.
Zero opened his eyes. "If you are going to keep talking, go somewhere else."
"You uninstalled the buster I gave you in case it generated virus, and you gave your beam saber to that human. In order to attack me, you'll have to dump him on the ground," Wily pointed out, half contemptuous and half hoping he would. Actually, all contemptuous. "Enjoy your last moments of peace before I destroy Neo Arcadia and he drowns in desp-"
That shot wasn't charged. "Don't care. Just go away." He could go to Neo Arcadia and do just that for all X cared. He knew he should, but his give a damn was busted.
Literally. His suffering circuit had broken years ago and he hadn't noticed. He'd broken it himself and not known it, because he'd had to keep going, keep fighting, past the edge of despair and he could no longer carry the burden of anyone else's pain, not when it was battle enough to ignore his own.
Marino settled Phantom's dilemma by picking her son up and carrying him off without giving him a chance to object. Her experience as a thief had taught her that was generally the best way to acquire things, and cuties. "When did you get so short?" He was like Cinnamon's size now. Cute and convenient. They should have had X build him like this to begin with. She tucked Lark under her other arm.
"I know," Cinnamon agreed, keeping her voice down for X's sake. "We have to show Axl."
Harpuia was helping Copy-X stand up, apologizing for getting them shot at and knocking him down with a grimace. Copy-X shook his head to show that he didn't mind.
Since most of the loud people had gone away, Zero met Wily's eyes and pointed up. He had a kill sat and here and now, he remembered how to use it.
X, unseeing, clutched at Zero's armor and let out a soft little sigh. He wasn't alone. There was proof that sometimes, faith and hope were rewarded. He couldn't trust anyone else to protect anything, even themselves: they all died or fell but Zero, Zero came back to him. His partner was here: he was safe and the world was safe.
"Aha!" Marino exclaimed on the other side of the room. "I knew I had it somewhere." She handed it to Fefnir.
"What's this?" he asked, turning the glass and metal contraption over in his hands.
"It's an authentic oil lamp. It doesn't look quite like the one in the movie, but Aurora should fit in it."
"You'd better not steal Aurora! And she's not a genie," dammit.
"Tempting, but I like them a little more… solid." She pushed Fefnir in Arciel's direction. "Do you want to keep carrying her around in your body? …You do, don't you?" She laughed, Fefnir blushed angrily. But he went. Why did Aunt Marino always make him feel like he was two?
"You aren't going to have a turn?" Leviathan asked Harpuia, waving at the piñata.
"No." He looked at her disapprovingly. "Someone needs to set a good example." If you were going to kill someone, then you should kill them. The only reason he hadn't gone over to try to do just that was that Weil still had more scenes, apparently, and killing someone when they'd just come back to life was pointless. If you had to kill the enemy to defend people, then the point was to kill the enemy, not torture them, gloat or otherwise fuck around and give them a chance to escape and attack your people again.
Leviathan put her hands on her hips. "If you cared that much about good examples, then you should have stayed a female model."
Oh please. "Because a gender I don't have is so much more important than the rule of law, sentient rights and not lowering ourselves to the level of our enemies," Harpuia said dryly. "We're heads of state, Leviathan. The people of Neo Arcadia look up to us. We cannot think that this kind of thing is acceptable."
"This is Weil." And it wasn't like they'd even remember his later.
"It's not about Weil!" The air around Harpuia started to crackle. "Letting him dictate our actions? Letting him define what's acceptable, what justice is?" Leviathan needed to think before she said stuff like that, dammit! "If he's making you do anything, then he's won! It has to be about principle, not about a bastard like…" Harpuia was stopped by a hand on his arm.
"Could you please not fight?" Copy-X asked Leviathan. "Harpuia's right, though," he said apologetically.
Leviathan sighed, but had to admit that, "You have a point. I'll make sure Fefnir doesn't take another turn, although he's busy now." The others were dead, so it wasn't their views that would determine the future. They didn't have a duty to Neo Arcadia to ruin their fun.
"And don't corrupt my troops," Harpuia told her, despite the certainty it would be ignored.
Oh, and another reason I wrote this is that I kind of had a Blue Screen Of Deathed Copy-Xmuse, and I wanted to give him a chance to be BSOD'd so he could get over it and I could write him properly, instead of him becoming as impossible to write properly in his spazzing as Harpuia was in his anger with himself leading up to the Area Zero discovery chapter. Can't have both of the listed main characters getting demoted to extras, even if Harpuia totally deserved it for being difficult.
Someone should write a fic of whatever degree of crack where Cinnamon is related to Roll and Forte. She's closer to Roll in design, but she's got Forte's power source. Her personality isn't really like either of them, though: she's a sweet and fairly passive (unlike Queen of the Household Roll) young reploid with the power to heal but OMFGclaws. 'That idiot' is what Forte gets called in Gigamix, and he certainly earned it. Also, why do my attempts to write crack end up this serious, and vice versa?