Tip-tap-tip-tap-tip tap

The rhythmic drumming of two fingers was all that could be heard in the cold steel room. The constant perturbation was extremely aggravating to one of the four reploids siting down at the gray table... in that it failed to get a rise out of the other three, their feature were all set and unmoving, apparently locked in deep thought. How dull could the situation get?

Tip-tap-tip-tap-tip tap

Thankfully the bored reploid noticed a change, one of his green-clad brother's eyes was subtly twitching in rhythm. Taking it in stride he went back to tapping his fingers against the flat surface with a new vigor.

Tip-tap-tip-tap-tip tap

Even adding some variation didn't alter the synchronization a bit. Repressing a grin at the idea he just had the reploid searched his database for a song that would suit his need for amusement. Hopefully something with a fast beat...

Tip-tap-tip-tap-tip tap

Sadly the door burst open before he could decide "Sorry, the repair team wouldn't let me go until they could reset my leg three time in a row, had to fight to get out of their hands..." The newcomer explanation was interrupted as she took notice of the sound "Quit it Fafnir, you're getting annoying."

"Not my fault Levi. Had to find a way to pass time..." Fafnir replied, satisfied he finally got under someone skin.

"Can we please move along." Fafnir's red eyes turned toward the one who killed his sister's reply in the egg, the ever so boring Harpuia "Do I need to remind you that the enemy can now stand up to us Guardians?" The green wonder's gaze flickered to Master X, Fafnir held up a groan at how obvious the guy could get.

Master X for his part quickly put an end to the nascent argument. "I believe you managed to gather some information about our current opposition, Leviathan?"

The girl was startled out of her glaring at her two brothers by the inquiry "Yes. First I apologize for my negligence, if not for my oversight this whole fiasco would already be over. Now in regard to the subject capacities... The guy is strong, freakishly strong, good enough to take on any one of us guardians if we're not prepared... I'll start with the good news: I'd say his armor can be compared to that of Phantom and me so it's nothing special, now there's the fact that he tends to ignore things like getting limbs getting blow off but what matter is that he can get hurt, just don't expect him to slow down until you get him beaten... Everything else is a nightmare, it's like if someone mounted Fafnir's arms on Phantom, heavy firepower and an even greater mobility. I think the better way to deal with him is to outmaneuver him, keep your distance and try to back him into a corner before he does... That or a missile barrage of course."

"Is that all?" Asked Phantom, the ninja clearly not impressed with her analysis "A bunch of commonplace won't help us much. True, it's better to know now rather than then but..."

"I find your lack of faith unsettling Phantom." Said reploid inclined his head signaling her to continue "While not as relevant battle-wise I made some discoveries. As I know I did beat Zero, dismembered him even! That got me a glimpse of his inner working, and he's no blocky android of old. High-density nano-carbon polymers attached to a metalic skeleton, a titanium alloy most likely but that's a given, emulating muscular tissue the whole think covered by a supple carbon exoskeleton, technologies whose military application dates..."

"...back to over 60 years ago..." completed Master X "...hence this 'Zero' cannot be who he claims to be."

"Exactly. Of course considering that Master X was the first reploid to subject himself to such a redesign 5 year before it became standard issue over military personnel we can assume that this Zero is some kind of super prototype based on these researches, not that it matters much of course. Opportune use of this information may facilitate this fight, but that is better left to our Chief of Intelligence or our esteemed leader." Concluded Leviathan.

"We've got nothing to lose from revealing it... It's all a question of timing then." Said Phantom.

"That's still doesn't tell us how to remove Zero's threat..." Drawled Harpuia. "If he can take on us one by one then a team effort should do it. All four of us at once?"

"Too dangerous. He's FAST, remember the last time we tried to pile up on Phantom?" Countered the blue guardian. "We got humiliated, I don't want to see what happens when the one guy is actually out to do you in...

"She's right. It's a ninjutsu thing."

"Shall I intervene?" Asked their leader.

"No need, an adequate plan is more than enough to deal with this situation. We cannot simply abandon our duty and burden you with our faillures." Assured Harpuia.

"Just storm their base, should have done it from the start. Some Pantheons ought to distract them, arrest the girl and then blow the whole thing up..." Began Fafnir.

"Negative." Said Master X "This operation would get out of control the instant the drone enter the place. We must differentiate ourselves from mavericks by our regard for Justice and working toward avoiding unnecessary bloodshed."

"So what then? No plan survive first contact with the enemy and we can't draw him out for either a gang up or a one on one." Observed the red reploid.

"We lay a trap of course. I only got because of his previous injuries. We'll only have to launch multiple operations to make him run around to each of us in turn. The primary objective of each will still be to retire him but we'll also soften him for the next. We just have to determine the order and locations." Exposed the ice general.

"Phantom first then. There isn't much that work against speed except for speed. Plus making the first move count is his specialty."

"A sound plan Harpuia. I think an ambush at the facility that was captured a while ago would be perfect, their group needs the energen badly..."

"Yes, the key is to constitute a threat they can't ignore..."

"Full scale assault!"

"Hacking!"

"Good enough, doesn't let me anything to do though..."

"If I may, it came to our attention that a group of these maverick scheduled an encounter with a known arm dealer. Ambushing them should be enough of an incentive."

"Good enough. I'll have to get them to the ruined highway, the terrain there suits me better."

"Great so Phantom ambushing at the facility, I hack from our secret desert base, Harpuia get the old highway and Fafnir lead the front from..."

"The desert, open space is our friend against this guy, right?"

"Order?"

"Phantom is first of course, and Leviathan has the most experience against him so she goes last, as for the two of us I'd say the factory-desert-highway-desert pattern is sound, that'll keep him on his toes."

"That can work... anyone has anything to add?"

"As a matter of fact, yes. Shall Zero manage to top all four of us, I think sending one of my own to infiltrate the maverick base and manually activate their trans server. From then on sending in an appropriate task force should do the trick in securing the human, gaining us leverage to obtain a peaceful surrender."

"A rather foolproof plan. You may proceed with it, I will of course be ready to step in shall the situation require it. If that is all this meeting is adjourned." Concluded Master X. With that the guardians bowed and left the meeting room , except for one. "Yes Leviathan?"

Fafnir, having decided to hang back couldn't help to eavesdrop "Nothing, nothing. Just should have realized the docs had a good for wanting me to stay. My leg nearly gave out..." Fafnir rolled his eyes, the girl's ability to put herself in awkward situations was near legendary among the guardians "Um... Gee, it sure is boring out here..."

"Perhaps the preparation of the upcoming operation will prove itself a sufficient distraction..."

"Yes, of course! I'll be going then..." The girl limped away, visibly flustered, bumping into Fafnir along the way "It's already hard enough passing by you when you're not trying to get in the way, you know that?"

"I thought that the ability to get anywhere was the only perk to being a midget. So, you got a little boo-boo and can't help but make a fool of yourself? Maybe you want me to give you a ride?"

"You manners are improving. Maybe there's is something we can do about you..." Teased Leviathan as she hoped onto his back "Come on big guy. You know the way."

"I know that mythology isn't accurate by nature but I doubt Fafnir was meant to be a pack mule." Commented a dark figure as they rounded a corner.

"What can I say Phantom? The girl like to get off on bullying a dragon. Plus, who better than me to carry a wha- Not the face! Not the face!"

"That's what happens to pigs like you. So what do you want with us Phantom?" leviathan casually asked as she kept on pinching and pulling at her ride's face.

"I just came to thank you. He tried not to show it but Master X was pretty distressed over this whole Zero affair. Your conclusions took a heavy weigh off his shoulder."

"Ah, it's nothing really. Glad I could help. By the way, where's Harpy? Sulking off in a corner surely."

"I cannot deny that last sentence, don't call me Shirley though..."

"Hey, how about you talk some sense into him and get him to hang out. It's been years since we did anything all four of us together." Shouted Fafnir.

"Neo-Avalon siege... Four years already." Mused Phantom "By the way, congratulation for your progresses on that front Fafnir."

"Only doing my part bro. I know it sounds awesome to wimps like you two, but hey! There's only enough place for one savior!" Fafnir shot his best cocky grin at his slibings. He was milking it for all it was worth but his pride was genuine and , in his humble opinion, justified. Securing the area around the first Neo-Arcadian colony has been deemed of the highest priority by Master X himself!

"Hmph! Say Phantom, do you know how the combat nerd manage to go that fast?"

"I'll refer to your expertise O fountain of knowledge."

"He just strut around with his big ego and the mavericks' hiding holes fall on top of their heads..."

"Hey you!"

"Shut up and keep moving, you dumb brute!"

"Spoiled diva!"

"I expected you to at least try to prevent them of making fools of themselves, not to spur them on Phantom..." Drawled the green clad figure of their last brother. Harpuia was waiting for them leaning against the wall of the hall leading to the Guardians' respective private quarters.

"See, he was sulking in a corner!"


Getting to catch up with the boys had really been great. Except for the busybody Harpuia, as if she didn't have enough of his overly stiff attitude already... Him being the only contact she had during weeks on end as they coordinated their efforts into opposing the effects of the post-apocalyptic global warming didn't help her develop a resistance to his attitude, quite the contrary actually. That she had to keep immobile and plugged to heavy machinery probably played a part too...

"Then again, looks like it may end sooner that I'd have wanted..." Leviathan tried not to focus too much on the fact she just expressed regret at the prospect of not acting as a giant battery/super-processor to Antarctica's cooling system for a few more years.

"Watcha doin'?

"Coding hacking protocols. Why are you sneaking on me for Faf?"

"These looks like prisoner files."

"I'm building a buffer, in case they manage to turn back the tables on me. The trick is finding useless crap that doesn't look like it so they lose their time. Outdated prison data seemed like the perfect bait."

"I don't know who's the more devious. You or Phantom?"

"Harpy." Fafnir boisterous laugh was good to hear, it didn't change a bit since they were newbuilts. Out of the four of them he was the one that had it the easiest in her opinion. "So, why are you here?"

"I wanted to see how you felt now that your perfect record is broken."

"Ts... Merely a setback. I'll be the one to beat Zero. Just wait and see."

"Not if I beat you to him..."

Leviathan glared at the red dragon "He's mine. Go find your own."

Fafnir draped one of his big arms around her shoulders and shook her as he laughed "You're getting hotblooded on me? Little Levi is finally growing up!"

"For once it's not trash I have to pick up so I won't let you steal my prey."

"Yup, you got it bad." At her quizzical gaze he elaborated "That thrill. The moment your systems slow down and the world is a million time more intense." His grin became feral looking "When it's only you and the other guy, skill against skill, metal clashing against metal. One gentleman warrior to another, in respectful combat! Then you-"

"-break his spine. We watched that movie together, dumbass."

"Of course!" Roared Fafnir. Leviathan sighed, she had brought it upon herself this time. "But seriously, it's something else, fighting a worthy oponent. Always gets my fire pumping! A great rivalry is a man's heart!"

"I'm a woman, you know?"

"More like a little g-" The fire general clamped his mouth shut at the near fatal mistake. He could only hope that Levi had a temporary lapse in attention.

"Don't push your luck..." Going by the gleam of murder in her eye and the lack of either the usual annoyance or amusement in her voice he decided that running away as fast as he could and lock the door to his room was the best course of action.

"How can I be of use Master X?"

Master X expression was grim ad his posture tenser than he ever saw before. This worried him greatly. As if his voice snapped the robed figure out of his meditative state Master X relaxed slightly and gave a slight smile. "Are you channeling Harpuia again Phantom? With how often I tell you to relax I can't decide whether you're acting overly obedient or openly defying me..."

"Of course, I am a ninja after all."

"And again I found myself unable to read you. How low the mighty has fallen..." Maxter X lifted his eyes to the roof of his throne room, apparently loosing himself to his thoughts again "I want you to keep an eye on Leviathan. Something struck me as wrong at our meeting today. I fear she isn't handling this situation as well as she should... Out of the four of you she always was the most sheltered. We mustn't let this war get the better of her."

"I see. That will be done." Deep within himself Phantom steeled his resolve for what he may have to do.

AN: I'd like to thank nina for her (your not a cross-dresser *err cross-namer?* are you?) review. I'll try to pace my fight scenes better in the future. They're the ones I'm the most unusued too but I'm working on them. As for the puns there's also two ice related ones when Leviathan hang up on Ciel, and I'll admmit the Zero's one was pretty lame but it was there!

And of course there will be other chapters! The quote is a mid fic spoiler, I'd say, and is only in the summary to serve as a shock value. A pretty risky one as people love Zero's badass boast and I just trampled it. It's just that it doesn't take much to guess the main divergence from the games storyline that will occur by chapter four and I wanted to reassure readers that I intend to use it to make the story more character driven.

Please review. For each review allows me to satisfy you better! I know this story will have a rather limited public (what was I thinking when I put Leviathan and not Harpuia as a main character? And then the former unrelentely bashed the latter al thourough this chapter... I must be mad!) so each and every one of your reviews will be cherished.