Bellow the implacable desert , under the layers of sand, rock and reinforced steel, resonated Blizzack Staggroff's cries of frustation . For over fifteen minutes now he had been trying to bring that crimson menace down without success, even worse he was actually loosing. There was little doubt in the Acardian soldier's mind that it was indeed Zero, the legendary reploid, that was battling him… The sheer resilience of the android facing him was astounding, sustaining damage that would retire any lesser machine on the spot without flinching, the rate at which he repaired said damage was without a doubt helping him in that matter. Staggroff for his part was in a much worse state, his armor was barely standing together, he was clearly overheating and,as if it wasn't enough yet, missing one of his antler to boot, thus taking most of his tracking system away from him on his left side, a fact that Zero did not fail to notice and exploit. Forgoing his attempts at cooling down the Mutos reploid pushed his core to its limits and unleashed a last gust of icy winds, this one much more powerful than the ones that preceded it, the frost gathering into deadly spikes that flew toward Zero. His last ditch effort seemed successful as the intruder was pushed back by the strong wind and getting skewered by the ice construct despite his attempts at closing in on the hidden base guardian… The world stilled as Staggroff 's system went into overload, it only took two second for him to reboot and by that time there was nothing he could do to avoid the flaming saber that cut him down the middle. The two halves of the ice wielding stag separated in a torrent of sparks as Zero brought his hand to his helmet.

"This is Zero. I'm returning to base with the prisoners!"

"Ah… The last… laug-gh… will be m-" Blizzack Staggroff last come back was cut short as the two halves of his body exploded with his instable core. Zero only let out a grunt as he dropped down next to the remains of his foe, retriving a small data chip after a quick foray.

Five minutes later, a short figure watched as the small party of green-clad reploids fussed around a shuttle under the red one's supervision, presumably intending to use it as a mean to escape the Arcadian facility. Stepping through the docking bay's blasted doorway the figure announced itself. "So you managed to make it this far. Now that's impressive…" The escapees turned around at the newcomer's voice, taking in the 'intruder's' blue and female glory "…too bad someone finally used their head and called for me, uh?"

"Crap." The blue reploid's eyes shone as she saw the recognition, and subsequent fear, in the mavericks' demanor "She's one of the guardians, Fairy Leviathan…"

"Hmph. Good to see they still know about me around these parts..." The guardian commented nonchalantly as she made her spear appear in her hands "So, how about you all go back to your cells peacefully? That way it'll be much easier on everyone, don't you think?" She watched as the reploids began to fidget nervously, all but one... The red one calmly made his way to the front of the group, not taking his eyes off her for a single moment. "Oh. It seems..."

"Get out of here now. I'll take care of her." Spoke the blond. Leviathan had to concede the guy had guts, while he was certainly no pushover, offing Staggroff and all that, he was evidently worse for wear and she was on a whole over level compared to the Mhythos reploid.

"Uh? Take care of me or take care of me? Sorry, but sweet-talking your way out wo..." The guardian's taunting was cut short as the opposing reploid lit up his saber and dashed at her. Not missing a beat Levithan brought her own weapon up to parry the upcoming attack. The block was successful, yet she did not expect the force behind the charge and the following shoulder ram that send them both sprawling out of the hangar and into the prison's alleys. Bringing his leg behind her one of her own her opponent attempted to tip her over while she did the same, both fell to the ground in a heap instinctively pinning the other's weapon away from their bodies with their off-hand as they struggled for dominance. Unfortunately for her Leviathan soon found herself pinned down by the the physically stronger reploid, reenforcing her grip on his wrist she searched for a way to get out of this standstill and... messages of pain surged through her brain at the powerful headbutt she received, she wondered briefly if it loosened some crews, considering she found it appropriate to make such a bad pun at a time like this it was definitely a possibility. Quickly getting her wits around her she let go of the saber-wielding arm and sent a mean right hook at the face hovering above her, forcing him further away for her she brought her legs in between them and pushed as the green blade descended upon her head , its aim threw off the blade struck just above her helmet, cutting one of its fin off, rolling backyard she kicked his chin as she brought herself to a temporary handstand before creating a thick wall of ice separating them. Getting to her feet she assumed a defensive posture as she savored her short reprieve.

The frozen divider stood for all of two seconds before it was torn down by a now flaming sword. The crimson menace was again standing before Leviathan as the sound of a transport taking of could be heard in the distance "Gee, your guys sure know how to make a run for it... Zero, right?" No answer, not that any were expected but she didn't take him for the type to just stand there without a good reason so she decided to milk it for all it was worth, the guy was strong so assessing the situation before charging in would help things get along... Her right hand grip could be better and a quick check revealed that her palm was coated in a slimy mix of fluids, taking in the form of Zero confirmed that his left shoulder's shell was punctured and leaking reddish coolant at a steady rate, other than this major major wound his body adorned many gashes that were slowly closing, Leviathan deduced that Zero needed this recuperation time much more than her and it was the reason he didn't proceed his assault further beyond establishing visual contact "Looks like the old reindeer managed to land a solid hit on you, eh?" Not that it brought her any comfort, he was clearly the worse for wear and yet sill overpowered her this easily. "Well, you don't talk much..."

"You do a good enough job of it by yourself though..." was the non-committal reply.

Leviathan grinned wildly at this "Hmm, finally... I was beginning to get bored!"

"Oh? I'll have to stop holding back then..." As soon as the words left his lips Zero ducked under a torrent of icicles and shot three fire pellets at the guardian who jumped over them. Leviathan fell down her lance aimed straight at him, he swatted her away with a swing of his saber and she rolled along the corridor's length before sticking her weapon in the metallic floor, immediately the whole space was covered with a thin layer of ice. Smirking Leviathan began to glide toward Zero at high speed. Zero found himself stuck on the defensive as he had to dodge and block both the blue guardian and her numerous ice constructs and deal with the ever changing ground, constantly alternating between sleek and ragged at the worst possible moments. Not seeing any to work around the trap Zero flared his saber at its hottest melting away the disadvantageous terrain in his near proximity before bringing it up to stop the now airborne Leviathan coming at him. The impact took an heavy tool on his weakened arm, the arm bulked slightly giving the guardian the opening she counted on. Spinning into Zero's defenses she brought her back against him and delivered an headbutt of her own as she touched the tip of her lance to his wrist, realizing her intention Zero could only utter a "Rats!" before small ice dragons bit down on his limbs restricting his movements as Leviathan brought his overheated arm to sub-zero temperatures before swinging her weapon's shaft against the heavily stressed materials of his limb effectively severing it.

Taking hold of the severed hand Leviathan shot an innocent sounding "Oops!" and shot Zero one of her more feral grins before proceeding to lay some hurt on the severely impaired reploid... At least that was her idea but it seemed that the injury only strengthened Zero's fighting spirit and she found herself held up by the neck before she could even react, the metal of her spine groaning under the pressure, unwilling to test how long she would last against his death grip the guardian attempted to stab Zero with his own weapon but the ancient machine saw it coming and sens her hurling away from him toward the deserted hangar. Impacting against an aircraft Leviathan slid to the ground, giving Zero ample time to charge at her gun ablaze, the fist few shot's sting were enough of a wake up call for the blue unit who rolled out the way, reducing the length of her halberd's shaft to one more suited to duel-wielding, the saber was encumbering enough as it was with it being still attached to a hand larger than her own... Taking a leaf from her book Zero began to run circle around her while subjecting to constant fire, the more open space did wonder to him as she was hard pressed to dodge the pellets that came at her from nearly everywhere at once. Letting out a grunt of frustration at the complete reversal of the situation Leviathan created a protective ice dome around her, the small energy bullets bounced off harmlessly of the crystalline barrier giving her some time to think of a way out of this turn of events. Once again her ice was no match for her opponent as a leg crashed into her through her defense and into herself, the force behind the blow was enough to send her through the other side of the dome. Glancing upward from her position from the ground expecting to see Zero moving in for the kill Leviathan was surprised to find she managed to nail him to the dome by his leg, a thick ice spike running through the leg that smashed her temporary shield. Not counting her blessings, the ice pylon holding him in place was already crackling after all, she slammed her dagger to the ground a thin layer of ice instantly connecting it to the dome which exploded outward, successfully impaling Zero . The air stood still as the crimson maverick stood unmoving, tentatively Leviathan retracted the spikes and Zero slumped to the ground face first. Still disbelieving she brought herself to a sitting position, not finding any strength to get further up, and began to kick at the unconscious reploid's head. No reaction... after some time she decided he was not faking it and burst into laughs. This fight was the most intense she ever experienced and the guy nearly got her more that she was comfortable with despite entering already considerably weakened, Staggroff definitely deserved a medal once he was rebuilt for she doubted any of the guardians could defeat this Zero on their own if he was at full strength.

A continuous noise coming from the downed bot's pulled her from her near hysteria, apparently someone was becoming particularly vocal in trying to contact him... Taking some time to rest Leviathan distracted herself by examining the severed hand and weapon in her possession. A quick survey of the hand picked her interest "My, my, aren't you full of surprise Mr Zero?" Dragging herself closer to him she rolled him onto his back and began to inspect him more closely, letting go of her dagger she felt under his armor, so similar to the guardian's ones in design "Still alive? Talk about resilient... Now it's becoming annoying!" The unending muffled cries finally got to her nerves an she yanked Zero's helmet off and brought it awkwardly near her own face "Yes?"

"ZER- Who are you and what have you done to Zero?" The high pitched voice was indicative of a female speaker, Leviathan hazarded a guess.

"Dr... Dr Ciel I presume..." Of all the time to forget a surname... She would have to get her head checked soon, until she had to settle for familiarity. "The pretty boy is alive and will be brought before a Neo-Arcadian court for trial. Now, despite the futility of the endeavor, I must ask you to cease your criminal activities and surrender yourself to Justice" Please be reasonable... Please be reasonable...

"Wha- The resistance will not give up!" So much for that...

"What resistance? Your bunch of mavericks? You're charged with forceful reprogramming of peaceful reploids, constitution of a maverick force and dissidence, calling yourself a fancy title doesn't change the facts. Surrender now and you will all be granted a fair trial."

"I fail to see the fairness of it all when the verdict is invariably guilty..."

"Master X himself is seeing to the proper execution of justice. The trials can't be nothing but fair, Dr." It seemed to shut her up, perhaps it was enough to kick some reason into the child's head? Giving her some time to answer Leviathan turned her attention to the silver cylinder that was Zero's saber, it seemed to react well enough to her energy output and a quick test revealed it was able to produce ice as easily as it did fire, now to discover if it handled elemental manipulation of its own or synced with the wielder one's. Changing the frequency of her energy signature acted like a switch bringing forth sparks and lightning coursing the blade's length, so the special effects were the weapon's work, a little more meddling unveiled more secrets "How sweet! I think we could be great friends, my beauty." Not only could it change elemental alignement but it could also switch in between forms as it was now a spear, so much potential... Dr Ciel's voice brought her out of her scientific venture. "Could you repeat that? I didn't quite caught it..."

"I said you cannot expect impartiality from an impersonator. X would never condemn this slaughter."

Using the transformed saber as a crutch Leviathan got to her feet "Now you listen Missy . You know nothing of master X. What do you think? That he would just hug any maverick and all would be forgotten, everyone give a good cry and then it's all rainbows and ponies and stuff? You know nothing of his plight.. how much it affects him..."

"How he goes sullen when he has to make a choice he doesn't like?" The scientist cut in "Isolating himself, drowning into his work, pushing everyone away because he doesn't want anyone to share his burden. X is so different from himself during a crisis, that's why it would that difficult to make the difference, that's- that's why I did it, ther-"

The guardian let out something that was between a laugh and snarl as she interrupted Ciel "And you want me to believe you built a copy of master X that could even fool us? Let me guess his early return was in fact your copy taking his place? 6 years ago, what were you then, 5 or something? What's next? Your evil twin sister is actually ruling the city from the shadows?You better find another story soon or I'll come and get you myself."

"I wasn't alone and I don't have anything to gain by lying to you." Oh really? "X was nowhere to be found, maverick activity was scaling up, the energy crisis stuck at the same time... Unrest was growing, we needed a reassuring figure to buy us some time until a new energy source could be created. I didn't expect him to turn maveick! By the time I tried to confront him about it it was too late! I barely managed to escape before being put under arrest, the others didn't get that chance..."

"Cut on the sob story girl, it's not working..." The guardian made to stop the communication when a slight movement caught her eye "I don't think so Rapunzel!" Too late, Zero had woken up somewhere during their exchange and here they were each holding the other's weapon at their neck. At least she had the high ground... "Great, how stupid can I get? Should have seen it coming..."

"Who knows? I'm in no position to complain though..."

What's happening? Zero, is that you? ZEROOO!"

"Calm down, girl. We're having a stand-off here. Want me to pass on a message maybe? So I guess there's two way out of this mess, uh Zero?"

"More or less... Don't try and push your luck, who knows what may happen?"

"So we both go our merry way then? Do you want to trade back? I'm kinda attached to this thing in your hand, a gift from my dear old dad you see, and I guess you were pretty attached to this one until recently." Both tilted their spear so their adversary could take hold of it "On three?"

"Zero is enough..." Leviathan smirked as they both pulled on their end. "My helmet?"

"You look better without it..."


"Yeah, yeah... Just give me a moment to say goodbye." Zero didn't bother to respond to that so she took it as a yes "Well girl, congrats on making me loose my cool, I won't let it slide next time so no more lies..."

"Don't trust me... See for yourself. Just try to see if he remember something only you and X know, you'll see..."

"No promise." She tossed the helmet back to its owner "Gee, kids these days... Speaking of kids!" Leviathan brought two finger to her mouth and whislted, at her call a cyber-elf floated up to her "Disable the transponder jamming, you know the codes, right?" The little being bobbed up and down in its version of a nod and flew off "Shouldn't take much time, think you can keep the pose long enough?" Zero was back to his silent glaring self and kept his weapon at her neck until disappearing in digital code, so much for pleasantries...

"Well, I don't know what to think of it but it was different... HQ, respond. Leviathan in. Fission mailed. Gah, prepare a repair pod, I think I dislodged something important."

AN: Too much pun? Or not enough? You decide.