"It's so hard being a man sometimes."
"It can't be that... hard"
"Don't go there!"
X plopped his head on the table while the monitor continued the canned laughter.
"I hate my life."
"We'll be back to Mr. Meteor just after these messages," the monitor responded.
X accessed the menu and shut off the broadstream. He stood up from the desk and crossed his arms. "I have to do something," X said to himself.
The blue clad reploid stormed off to his room's entryway. The doors buzzed in error.
-This doorway is not permitted to grant exit privileges to Mega Man X- the central computer declared.
"Oh, for cryin'..." X grumbled to himself. He could easily blast his way out of the doors, but that would also bring the security down hard on him. "Hey, hey, guys! Out there!"
The two guards on the opposite side of the door heard X's muffled pleadings. They looked to each other silently, wondering what they should do.
"Hey, hey, come on, guys, open the door. Guys? Come on, guys. I'm not gonna-"
The door shifted open. The reploid on the left with his plasma gun pointed leaned out from his position. He had on a red helmet and black and copper armor. "Yeeeeeees?"
X nervously said, "Er, hey, listen, could you guys do a favor for me?"
"Favors? Can we do favors?"
The reploid situated on the right, an exact replica, just shrugged.
"Should we look it up in the handbook?"
He shrugged again.
"Where is our handbook?"
The talkative reploid started scouring the floor for where he might've left it. X poked his head out of the doorway to see what was going on.
"Just a second, there," the reploid snapped back to attention and held the barrel of his pistol under X's chin. "Where do you think you're going?"
"Whoa. Nowhere," X held up his hands defensively. "I just want to know if you guys can get Zero."
"'Get' Zero?" the copper reploid pulled back his gun and tapped his temple with it thoughtfully. "I don't think anyone could really 'get' Zero. Right?"
His partner shrugged.
He continued. "I mean, he's such a mystery. His origins, his past..."
"No, no, I don't mean understand him, I mean 'get him, like 'obtain' him."
"Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh... well, wait a minute, isn't kidnapping against the law?"
His partner shrugged.
"No, no," X said. "You don't need to kidnap him, just bring him here." X started making very pronounced hand motions to illustrate his message.
"Oh, I see, you want us to go and 'get' Zero so we can 'bring him here'."
"Why? Is he under arrest too?"
His partner shrugged.
"No, no, just to... do you have memory problems or something."
"No, sir," he said proudly, "Why I remember clear as day each of the thirty-two times I've had to be reassembled."
"Thirty... two..." X blinked. "Er, never mind, just ge- find Zero and bring him back here to me."
"Will do, sir," the guard saluted hazardously with his pistol still in hand. X stepped slowly back into the room. The door shut in front of him.
X turned around, exasperated from his conversation, wondering how soldiers like that could stay in his army, and if he was going to succeed in his mission.
He went over to his room's lounge chair and picked up a holophoto on the end table. In the snapshot, Zero, X, Dr. Cain, and others of their hunter squadron stood behind the rubble foundation of a building. The office building had been taken over by a group of renegade Mavericks who had failed to take notice of the condemned signs posted all around the outside. The negotiator challenged the Maverick leader to blow the building up saying 'he hadn't the guts'. This Maverick called his bluff and blew himself and the building to kingdom come. The explosion saved the city the trouble of having to destroy it themselves. Later, after the laughter had died down, the group had posed in front of the foundation. Zero was giving the victory sign, with a massive grin on his face, while X opted for the more subtle thumbs up and sly smirk. The photo caption read August 10, 21XX – Best Victory Ever.
X grinned as he looked at the photo, remembering all the laughter at the Mavericks' poor attempts to convince them that he actually had humans in the building. That was one of his favorite times as a Maverick Hunter. Not only was it a bloodless victory, but it was also great fun. X tilted the picture around so he could see the 3D effects.
Suddenly, X's door opened. Before X had even looked up, Zero was standing in the doorway, a grim look on his face. The guard squeezed in the little space Zero had left between the door. "I've brought Zero, sir." He raised the red android's hand like he had just won a boxing match.
"Get your hands off me." Zero jerked his arm back.
The reploid was taken aback and showed a hurt expression. He slunk back outside and the door closed behind him.
Zero turned back to X. "I thought people under house arrest weren't supposed to have visitors?" he said, standing stiff as a stick.
X threw his head back, resting on the back of the lounge chair. "Ah, Zero, you have no idea how bored I am."
X took a moment to gauge Zero. His glare burned like fire and his shoulders slumped like he had an enormous weight on him. X could almost visibly see the tonnage boring into his back. He arched his eyebrows in surprise. He had no idea what had happened to him, but maybe it was something he did.
"Look, I just wanted to apologize for what I did. You have to know it was an accident, right?"
Zero stayed still, slowly looking about the room, keeping his eyes averted from X's gaze. His broad shoulders made him seem taller than real life. "Your room is still as neat as ever," Zero muttered. "I suppose you've even had time to level out the pictures."
"Uh, the pictures were always level," X said cautiously, not knowing why Zero was copping such an attitude.
"Oh, yes, of course, pardon me. Not a damn thing out of place, is there? It's a good room. Good quarters. A place for everything and everything in its place."
"Er, yes," X said, almost as a question.
"I suppose somewhere amidst all this organization is the beam saber I gave to you. Right?"
"Of course," X said, getting a little more perturbed.
"Let me see it."
"Why? You have one of your own. On your belt."
"Let me see yours," he demanded firmly.
"Fine." It was no big deal to X. Whatever would get Zero out of this attitude
problem, he would gladly do. Whatever
would get him closer to forgiveness. X
got up off the couch and went to a nightstand-like drawer. He bent to one knee and opened it, rifling
through the folders and boxes inside.
Zero followed, standing over him like a totem pole. "Uhhh..." X uttered as he found the
object not to be found. He closed the
bottom drawer, opened the top, and dug through its contents.
"Well?" Zero asked.
"It's usually right here. In a box. I moved some stuff around. I must've lost track of it."
X stood up and looked around his room. Of course, there were file cabinets and drawers and cubbyholes everywhere. X checked the nearest one. It was filled with an assortment of files way too thick to have a saber in it. The next was full of old knick-knacks, souvenirs, and pictures he didn't have up anymore. Everything in his room was either practical or sentimental. And the saber was one of the most sentimental of all. There's no way he could have easily misplaced it, but that's what it was looking like happened.
"I must've moved it. Maybe someone accidentally took it or I lent it to someone."
"X, do you remember when I gave you that saber?" Zero said in a mockingly parental voice. "We were in Doppler's fortress. The giant Mosquitus bot had just sucked all the juice out of my power generator. I gave you my saber and said 'Crush them all, X. You're our last hope.'."
"Yes, I remember. I just can't find it."
"Well, I thought that might mean enough to you not to lose it."
"It did mean something to me. The first time I had it, I had it displayed on the wall, but I thought that it was too violent."
"Oh, isn't that just like you. The most violent pacifist around."
"Is this some sort of trick? Did you take it from me when I didn't know it?"
"Now you're accusing me of taking it? That's rich." Zero crossed his arms defiantly.
"It's not lost. I'm sure of that."
"I want the saber, X."
"I don't know where it is."
"I don't know-"
"The saber!" he clenched his fist in front of him angrily and stepped forward.
"Zero! Stop it!"
Zero pointed vehemently at X. "If you can't produce that saber, I'll have you dismantled, I guarantee it!"
Zero spun on his heel and staunchly walked out of the room, the hard metal of his boots sounding on the floor.
X had an angry glower on his face as Zero walked off. Once the door shut his eyes opened back up, sad and surprised. "Zero..."
He collapsed on his chair, stunned into silence. Nothing could have prepared him for that. Zero never flew off the handle so hard. X had seen in him battle, but that level of aggression was controlled. This was like the volcano had exploded. The same questions repeated in X's mind like an infinite loop. Why did Zero want to hurt him so much? Why was he so angry for not being able to find the saber? What had he done? He could find no answers to these questions here.
After a short time, the door suddenly prompted for entrance. "Come in," X answered, thinking it would be Zero, coming to apologize or explain himself.
Instead, Dr. Cain walked in. "X, I've come to check you out. We've had the meet-"
"Did you see Zero?"
"Did you see Zero as you were walking by?"
"He... he came in here and just... went off on me."
"Come in? X, you're not supposed to have visitors when under-"
"I know, I know, but I just couldn't take the monotony anymore. I wanted to apologize to him. By the way, I'd look into what's up with those guards out there."
"X, you're making it all the more difficult to entreat your innocence by breaking protocol."
"I know, but I can only take so much of this idleness. I'm going insane here. Please, tell me you can get me out of here. I just invited him here for a little while just to talk. I didn't know he was going to fly off the handle at me and... and..."
"Zero is not the issue here. You are. You risk being pegged as a loose cannon if you're not on your best behavior for a while. They're watching you like a hawk. They're ready for the slightest wrongdoing. You're lucky you have such a proven track record otherwise..."
"You mean I'm free to go?" X asked with a childlike face.
"Yes, X. You're absolved, you're released from house arrest."
"Woo-hoo!" X thrust his fist in the air.
"But, this is totally probationary. You understand that, X? You can't make another mistake."
"I won't, doctor," X said as he headed for the door.
"Be careful," Cain shouted as X's door shut behind him. "Youth..." Cain said to himself.
The door opened again and a guard popped in his head. "Does this mean we're supposed to be guarding you now?"
Cory Sanders looked up at the sky and saw two full moons. He shook his head to clear his vision but it wasn't getting any better. Barely conscious of the fact he was walking, he hit his knee on a fireplug. "Ah, fuggin' shite fug, erggh." He lifted up his leg and staggered back into the side of the building.
"You okay there, Cory?" one of the patrons shouted from outside the bar door.
"Yeah, yeah," he shouted from outside the bar door. "Just hit my damn leg."
"That fire plug attack ya, Cory?" another younger man shouted from behind the door, holding a half-filled lowball.
"Ge' back inside, ya jackass!"
The small group laughed and went back inside. "See ya, Cory."
"Yeah, yeah," Cory again waved his hand dismissively to his friends. The city was half-lit by the bright neon of signs and windows in the dark blue haze of the sky, making his walk back home a little easier to his already impaired senses. The area was barren of human life, which was not surprising considering the cruddy locale of the dive bar he had just patronized. Bad neighborhood, good booze.
"Oh, gawd, it's gonna be h'ngover city tom'rr'w," he said as he put a hand up to the wall next to an alley to steady himself. He bent his head down to give the wave of nausea a chance to diffuse itself and spit sticky phlegm out. He sucked in his breath and let it out several times.
"Hey," a female voice uttered from inside the alley.
"Hello?" Cory perked up his head a little too fast.
"Hey, there. You look cute. Wanna come down here?" the voice said.
Cory stepped in front of the alley's mouth. "Who's there?"
"Why don't you come down here and see?"
Cory put a hand up to shade his eyes despite the fact there was no light to shade. "Izzat Jill?"
"Jill?" the voice muttered. "Well, why don't you come here and find out, big boy."
"If that's Jill..." he muttered to himself with a smile on his face.
Cory walked down halfway through the alleyway, passing cardboard boxes and garbage receptacles. "Hey, where're you?" He stopped in the middle of a step, staggering forward to recover himself. "Are you here?"
Cory suddenly felt a pair of heavy cold hands grab his shoulders from behind.
"Aah!" he shrieked. He tried to turn around to see who it was, but the hands held him fast, pinched in a metallic vice grip. He realized it was a robot holding him.
A figure stepped out from behind a large abandoned box. It was another slim reploid with a star-like helmet. "Who the hell are you?" Cory slurred frightened.
"Just your friendly neighborhood Maverick," he said as he looked down at his hands, at some device he was holding. A large green beam suddenly extended out from it to about four feet. It's ethereal humming noise and sickly green glow colored the alley in lime.
The reploid glowered and said, "Now be a good little human and bleed." He switched his grip on the saber and plunged it upward into Cory's chest.
Cory spasmed and spurted up blood like a fountain, his head thrown back like a hooked piece of livestock.
"Jeez, Janus, watch out, you almost got me," the reploid holding him exclaimed.
"Quiet," Janus slid the saber out of the human's body, smooth as butter.
"Aw, jeez, man, how much blood do humans have?" Duplex moved his head to the side to avoid being spattered.
Janus held the saber back up behind him and quickly thrust it forward and upward, skewering it through the head of Cory Sanders. His head split apart like a gruesome Picasso painting as blood gushed down onto every object within a foot radius. Janus removed the saber like a toothpick from bread. One side of the human's head, now barely distinguishable, fell forward, sliding off the shoulder. Duplex dropped him fast.
"God, Janus, was that really necessary?" Duplex grumbled, shaking his hands of thick slimy blood.
"Gruesome and bloody. We need these, my friend." Janus clicked off the blade and held the metal rod up to the light to examine it. "Good enough."