Red alarms circled Zero's head like halos, bathing him in infra-red light matching his own exterior. Alarms resounded around him, but his ear had them tuned out. He knew they were there, he acknowledged them, and threw them away. It didn't matter if it was a Maverick attack, reactor explosion, or nuclear war. None of that mattered, not until he finished what had to be done. Because if he stopped now, it might never be.
Zero opened the door. Red lights spun over the dark room, painting everything the color of blood except for green LEDs on the capsule monitor. The long silhouette of his form cast onto the floor, framed by the doorway. The two spires on the top of his head pointed to the blue android in the pod.
Zero traipsed up to him, but did nothing at first, only looked at his capsule. X did not look peaceful or passive, nor did he look restless. He simply looked like X. The form of X, an advanced robot-android, colored in blue, given the face of a young adult. A shell encapsulating a soul, a heart, a heart turned to darkness.
"X, I will not fight you on the battlefield. We have done that before. I will not give you the warrior's death, because you aren't a warrior. You were X, the first of your kind." Zero's eyes slowly shifted to the monitoring console next to the capsule, beeping with status indications. "So I'll let you die the way you could never live in peace."
Zero used the computer to increase X's vigor, a step needed in what he would do next. The result was X fluttering his eyes open.
Something immediately hit X wrong with the glare of crimson beating his eyes. He knew he was discontinued prematurely and glanced Zero at the corner of his eye.
"Zero? Is that you?" he said groggily.
"Zero, what are you doing?" X was held prisoner inside the capsule as long as his CPU was still attached. "Why are you messing with my capsule?"
"Because you're Maverick."
X began to panic. "Zero, I'm not Maverick, I told you."
"It's in the very nature of Mavericks to lie."
"Well, what kind of chance does that give me? Analyze me! Test me! I'm not a Maverick!"
"It would do no good. Once you're Maverick, you stay Maverick. There's no other choice." Zero took a disk out of his uniform and inserted it in the system.
"Why, Zero? Why do you think I'm Maverick. What did I ever do against the humans? And please don't tell me that I'm supposed to know."
Zero stepped back to face X as the disk's program loaded. "Do you remember the saber that you couldn't find?"
"I found it."
Zero waited for X to make a response. X stared dumbly at Zero, waiting for him to continue with something relevant.
"It was caked in human blood!" Zero shouted, raising it up in the air from his belt.
"There was a human killed with a beam saber on Wednesday night. The blood matched his, you murderer!"
"That's not true! I didn't do it." X pressed his hands on the glass.
"Then where were you that night?"
"I went..." X hastily tried to remember. "I- I went to the antarctic to visit the Dr. Light hologram." X realized what he was saying had the weight of a feather no alibi, easily alterable transport records, no witnesses, and an already suspicious past.
"I'm sorry, X, but I can't believe you."
"God, Zero, don't give up on me. Analyze me for the virus!"
"The time for analyzing has passed." Zero stepped back to the console, which now displayed a prompt to execute the program.
"You said that if you ever would become Maverick that I had to take care of you. Farewell, X."
Zero's finger hit 'enter'.
A knock came at the door. "Zero? Are you in there?" X looked up to the door, face aghast with dark hope. He looked back to Zero, who was glowering at the screen below, his eyes transfixed, and yet no longer looking. His mind was now longer attached to this reality.
"Zero! The door! The dddddooooor..." X heard his own speech betray what was happening to his body. Inside, he felt like his very essence was fading away.
"Zero!" the voice behind the door again pleaded. "Are you in there?"
"Who's there?" Zero snapped to the door.
"It's Dr. Cain. Please open up."
Zero looked up to X. His form was still, his eyes ethereally opened. Zero re-executed the program to make sure the job was done.
Cain yelled out desperately, "Computer. Manual security override door one zero one zero zero."
The computer lifted the lock on the door and Cain rushed in.
"Zero, there was a hacker caught just now. One of our ranks, Duplex," he spoke between breaths.
"Duplex, a Maverick?"
"Yes, he was just caught trying to hack into one of the servers downstairs. That's why the alarms went off. Weren't you paying attention?"
Zero was only half in this world now. Some of Dr. Cain's speech only sounded like real words.
"Where is he now?"
"Killed. By Janus. Janus caught him and destroyed him."
"Janus? How interesting. It seemed to me they were friends at some point."
"Really?" Cain jerked his head back in surprise.
"Duplex was a Maverick too..." Zero said to himself.
"What do you mean 'too'?"
"C-c-c-c-c-c-c-c-c-c-ain..." X's body vibrated horrifically, lifting up his hand to the glass.
"Dear god! X!" Cain hobbled over to the glass. "My god!"
X shook like a broken down animatronic robot. "Zzzzzzzzzerrrrrrooooo. Saaaaavvvveeeee meeeee. I..."
Cain looked to the status monitor. "What is this program? X is completely gone. Who did this?" he asked semi-rhetorically. He looked up at X.
"Iiiiiiiiii... Iiiiiiiiiiiiii..." X stopped moving. Frozen in time, but the light had gone out from his eyes, showing he was truly dead now.
Cain frantically operated the computer, trying to get X back online. "This... this program. X is... this is a murder!" Cain turned to Zero. "Zero, what happened? Who did this?"
"X knew who killed him, but he did not say when you asked." Zero smirked to himself. "Even in death he did not wish to cause conflict."
"What? Zero, do you know who did it?"
"It was me."
Cain stopped his fluttering hands and turned around slowly. "What!" he backed up against the console, fear running cold in his veins, his heart pumping faster than his old age would permit.
"He was Maverick. It's my duty to destroy Mavericks, no matter who or where."
"X was not Maverick. He was never Maverick. He could not even be Maverick."
"He was. I have the evidence. He killed a human." Zero held up the handle of the saber covered in coagulated brown blood.
"No, that's not true."
"Ask Janus. He's the one that found out firsthand."
"Janus. Janus said X was Maverick. He brought me the saber himself. He forced a confession out of him."
"Yes, Janus! Why do you keep repeating me?" Zero was losing his temper.
"Janus and Duplex were friends, but Janus was there in the computer room..." Cain mumbled to himself. "The saber... the murder..." Cain pointed squarely at Zero. "You were deceived."
"How dare you..." Zero angrily glared at Cain, though not in a murderous tone. Cain was not afraid, for the human doctor had his fear vindicated by the truth.
"You fool. You were deceived. You were blindfolded and led around like a puppy."
"What are you babbling about?"
Zero caught motion behind him and spun around, his battle instinct taking control. A set of officers, accompanied by Janus, entered the room.
"Sir, we've done a perimeter security check. No signs of enemy activity."
"Janus, get in here!" Cain yelled like a disciplining parent.
Janus, confused, stepped in front of the security guards.
"Are you the one who gave Zero X's saber?"
Janus shifted eyes to the left, then back to eye contact with Cain. "Aye."
"And you told him that X had become Maverick and killed a human."
"Aye. The evidence was there-"
"There was no evidence. It was all you. Everything came from you. All the evidence was through your bottleneck. Not one thing was through Zero's own intuition."
Zero glanced back and forth between Janus and Cain. His brain was processing a thousand things at once and none of them could he comprehend.
"If anyone's the Maverick here, it's you!" Cain screamed resolutely.
"You would be wise to hold your tongue. Do not defame my character," Janus replied through gritted teeth.
"Oh god. I'm glad Dr. Light is dead. He would kill himself at the sight of what his progeny has done. He must be rolling in his grave as we speak."
"No, No!" Zero held his hands to his head. "No, X was Maverick. I saw it. This is his saber." Zero held it up for everyone to see, firmly gripped in his hand. "I gave it to him. It was his to do with and he violated it with human blood."
"Did you ever ask how Janus got the saber in the first place?"
Zero's head whipped to the gray reploid. Janus stammered, "I- I it- I found it. It was in-"
Zero frowned but Cain continued unhindered.
"And this confession? What exactly did X say?"
Janus slowly withdrew his light sword out of his belt scabbard by his fingers, unseen by any around him.
Zero turned back to Cain, "Well, the audio wasn't working well, I could only hear X. But I distinctly heard him denounce General Brandle and the military. And he said 'they should all be eradicated'.
"Zero, no one likes General Brandle, and everyone who's not in the military thinks they should be removed. You just used those same words. What if they were heard out of context?"
Zero was only allowed the briefest seconds to think it over before Janus yelled "LIAR!"
Zero turned to Janus with hate in his eyes. "BETRAYER!" He pulled out his own Z-saber and leapt forward on Janus ferociously. Janus was ready and ignited his violet beam saber and parried Zero's blow. Zero fell to the side, knocked off his balance by the blow, as Janus spun around his form. The security guards went into action. They seized Zero's arms and took his sword out of his hands. Janus whipped forward and slashed horizontally across Dr. Cain's chest.
"Accurrk," the doctor made a guttural sound as blood soaked through his shirt, burnt along the edges where the blade made contact.
"Good human, play dead," Janus said.
Cain fell to his knees in front of the capsule, clutching his wound.
Janus burst through the group of security officers like a football linebacker before any of them had a chance to react.
"Get after him," said one. "Seize him!"
Another of the guards spoke into his comm link. "Attention all personnel, APB for Maverick Hunter Janus. Gray, lean, with star model helmet. Currently in pursuit in east wing 4F..." he trailed off as he and the others made pursuit.
Zero was left all alone on his hands and knees, staring at the floor, weak as a kitten. He was trembling like a scared boy, his eyes wide as dinner plates, his pupils thin as a pinhead. The moment he had for reflection of the information had come and it hit him like a falling wall.
"Zero," Cain coughed. Zero snapped out of his reverie and turned to him. A pool of blood was starting to seep out from under his torso. "Zero, come here." Zero stumbled upright and quickly ran to Cain's side. The doctor had not even the strength to lift his head. "Zero... X... would never betray you. He always said... you were like a brother to him..."
Cain fell silent. He uttered a slight cough and breath rushed out of his mouth. He was dead.
Zero stood up and looked away from his body. He spotted the Z-saber, X's, lying in the middle of the room, bathed in the ray of yellow light coming in from the doorway. He walked over and picked it up again and sheathed it in his belt.
Looking up he spotted three security officers, armored in caution yellow with red trim, standing in the doorway, silhouetted in the light.
"Did you catch him?" Zero said emotionlessly.
They said nothing at first. "We've come to take you into custody, sir."
Zero looked up with alarm.
The guard continued. His tone gave away his inexperience and uncertainty. "Weve orders to detain you until trial. You've committed a murder. A non-Maverick reploid has killed another non-Maverick reploid."
Zero understood. The implication of what he had done would reach far and wide. There was no precedent for what he had done. There was no law to judge him. He turned around slowly and deliberately, looking at X's body in the capsule, hovering above Cain's slumped form.
"I have a sword," Zero said.
"We've been ordered to disarm you and decommission you."
"Captain!" the voice on the guard's comm link blared through its tinny speaker. "We've captured Janus. We're heading to your location now."
"Understood," the captain responded.
The security team was unsure of what to do. Zero was making no move to defend himself, but his back was turned. He was eerily calm. How would they have fought the finest robot warrior ever known? Would they have been able to take him down if he resisted? Four guards, two holding Janus, came shortly thereafter and stepped into the room.
"Sir?" one said to the captain awaiting further orders and wondering what was transpiring here.
"Janus," the captain said, though still staring at Zero. "Do you have anything to say?"
Janus paused a moment. "I wonder if there's a reploid afterlife," he mused in a sing-song voice.
Zero shuddered once. "If there is I'll make sure you GET THERE!" Zero leapt forward swinging down his saber. The green light ripped through Janus' side. The guard instinctively kicked Zero in the midriff, propelling him backwards, away from Janus.
"Disarm him!" the captain demanded.
"Stay back!" Zero brandished his weapon to any guards that motioned forward, the lethality of his saber skills well known. He twirled the green blade, leaving vapor trails of green plasma in front of him, a solemn humming sounded from the rod.
Janus quietly chuckled to himself as he released his gashed side, laughing louder and louder until it became a full-mouthed laugh. "Ah, Zero. You still can't seem to finish any job correctly, can you?"
"Silence!" the captain ordered. He pulled a disk. "We need not hear anymore from you anyway. You see this?" he waved it in front of Janus' face. "This is a little confessional from Duplex we found hidden on his person, his personal log. Yeah, it states everything you've done, from trying to implicate Zero as a hacker, to trying to frame X, to provoking X to attack, to framing him for murder and then trying to manipulate Zero into believing it all. He paid you quite a hefty sum for the fate he got. He was trying to vindicate himself, but it just led to your condemnation."
"Janus," Zero interrupted, breathing like a ragged man. He spoke in a collected voice. "Let me just ask you one last thing. And answer me as honestly as if it were the last data you'll have. The blood on the saber. Did you put it there? Are you the one responsible?"
Janus lifted his head. "I am Maverick."
Zero dropped his chin.
The guard captain interjected. "Enough of this. This is finished. Zero, you are to be arrested and detained for the murder of Mega Man X. You will await to stand trial. Since no non-Maverick reploid has ever been arrested there are no rights to read you. However I can read you the rights as a human would receive."
"Shut up," Zero spoke softly. "Just shut up. Shut up! All of you! You. Do you know how much I've done for you? How much I've sacrificed. The world has been saved a dozen times over because of what X and I have done. For you. Because of what we gave up. For the humans. And yet all you are going to remember is this. This one incident where duty and manipulation and anger took over honor and loyalty. That's all you'll get. That's what the history books will say. But when someone asks you what Zero was like, what drove him to it, what was so fucked up about him that he killed his brother, you tell them this. You tell them how Vile and his ride armor had X trapped in an energy freeze. You tell them how I broke out of my prison field with my last ounce of energy. And you say that I jumped onto Vile's Goliath and overloaded his own power generator like this."
Zero switched his grip on his saber, turned it to his chest and stabbed himself in the heart with it. Blue particles sputtered forth in the air as fireballs fountained out of Zero's broken chest armor. The security team shielded their eyes from the energy flooding forward.
"AAAAAAARGH!" White light enveloped Zero's form, screaming as his body ripped itself apart. A black silhouette of his body was all anyone could see. The force of the explosion threw himself backwards, smacking against X's capsule with a dead thud, propped over the body of Dr. Cain.
The crimson android looked up at X's form, his eyes closed, leaning forward. As Zero slid down, unable to support his own weight any longer, he said, "X... I'm sorry. I..."
He hit the ground and spoke no more. Sitting up in front of X's body, his eyes forever gazing heavenward.
The captain looked on the scene with shock in his eyes, his head darting back and forth between the bodies on the floor, his eyes on the verge of tears. He yelled in frustration and slapped Janus across the face. "There are no words to describe the horror of this." He grabbed Janus by the center spire of his helmet. "Look at your work. Look at what you've done. I hope reploids can feel as much pain as possible because that is the only punishment suitable for you. I will guarantee justice will be done if I have to do it myself. Get him out of here!" The captain screamed, unable to contain what he felt inside. The guards holding Janus took him out of the room.
"And this..." the captain added, looking at the trinity of corpses lying together. "Let's hope no one sees the fruit of what's been done today. If it can be undone, if X and Zero can be recovered, its memory should be sealed up. Let it be hid, forever."
The captain turned away from the scene and exited the room, shutting the door behind him, leaving it shrouded in darkness.
- E X E U N T -