The corridors of head quarters were obscenely vacant. Clinking my way through the halls, and I mean clinking as that I was walking metal feet to metal floor, I sauntered around to Zero’s room without encountering even one other reploid. Zero was three section blocks from my quarters, so you can imagine how desolate that is. Arriving at my destination, I knocked backhanded on the door. Of course I can be rude as heck, so I just opened the door with my granted clearance directly thereafter anyway.
In his recharging capsule, Zero abruptly snapped his eyes open with a sputter as I stepped in. The way he stared at me… I don’t know, I’d never seen him look like that in twenty-two years. Almost like he was… I don’t know how to describe it… hatred. It was gone in less than an instant however, so maybe I’m just hallucinating.
“What are you here for.” He perswasively demanded rather than questioned as he stepped onto the floor.
I shrugged. “Just felt like talking.”
Zero glared at me for that one, the well-known prince of anti-conversationalism that he’s made himself out to be. He’s really not though, he just doesn’t want everyone on base bugging him about battle tactics and techniques, or so I’ve concluded. He’s certainly more skilled then I’ll ever be.
I looked around his room, the only thing I could think of to avoid eye contact with him. Zero’s room: a recharge pod. That’s it. Zero can be so boring like that. He always kept it too clean as well. What good is keeping a bare room clean? The light just glares blindingly off the metal on every wall, including the floor. I think it’s a ploy he has to make people look directly at him when they’re in there instead of looking over his quarters.
Grudgingly, my friend sighed as he passed me out the entranceway. “Might as well roam, this place is too cramped.”
I turned and tagged out behind him, locking his door before falling in at his side and mussing my hair.
“You really should take that brown mop of yours to a barber.”
I frowned in reply before responding, “This from the guy who keeps his hair at a length to his ankles?”
“I take care of it.”
Him and his simple sentences, they could be hard to rebuke sometimes. “Not my fault I’m a victim of helmet hair…” I flicked a few stray bangs from my face, little good it did. I finally gave up after several attempts of the dull strands falling back over my eyes after being pardoned away, deciding to try sparking up some banter over the silence. Zero beat me to it.
“Do you ever get the feeling that we’ve finally defeated Sigma?”
I nearly stopped in my tracks at the comment. I cocked my head at him quizzically and muttered, “Huh?”
We both halted in the middle of a random passage, him continuing to stare off at nothing. “Do you ever feel like we’ve truly disposed of Sigma?”
Sigma, previously the leader of the Hunters, currently the leader of the Maverick’s, destroyed at least five times by Zero and myself. That reploid had the uncanny ability to upload himself into various backup bodies after every destruction he experienced. He’s just this weed that won’t die. I shook my head and gazed to the ceiling.
Zero closed his eyes and started off again, as did I. He had me thinking about the Maverick’s again now, which is one thing I was trying to distract my attention from by chatting with someone in the first place, but it’s not so bad when you know someone else who shares the same sentiments is there with you. Sigma was the spreader of the Sigma Virus, AKA- the Maverick Virus. The thing that turned any infected reploid homicidal. No one knows why the virus was ever created, how Sigma contracted it, or how the heck he’s so contemplative in his planning’s of mass destruction under it’s influence like no other reploid has ever come close to, but that’s just how it is. Zero and I are two of the handful of reploids who have come in contact with Sigma and resisted infection. No one’s sure why, so don’t ask.
“Do you think any Maverick activity will ignite soon?” I scratched my ear blankly.
“Positive. Signas is inept for dispatching so many units off for training today. Something will happen.”
“You’re so sour to Signa sometimes, can’t you just give the guy a break once in a while? He is the leader of our organization, after all.”
Zero gave me the ‘that’s exactly why’ look he can pull off so easily, letting the subject hang in the air a minute. “If anything happens, you, me, and about half staff are here. Idiocy.”
“You’re sure something will happen?”
Spontaneously, the intercom clicked into function. “Emergency, emergency, all Maverick Hunters report to stations. Irregular Hunters head for mission briefing in command center.” This message repeated several unheeded runs.
I palmed my face and sighed, “I’m an idiot for jinxing that, aren’t I?”
We both took off at a running pace to the command center, as Irregulars were instructed. Irregular is the term given to higher ranked Hunters. I sometimes wish they’d rethink that. Along the way, I decided to ask Zero about when I walked in on him earlier.
“What were you dreaming about this afternoon?”
He selectively failed to hear me.
“So that’s the plan. Port in and destroy the Maverick threat at Dopple City. Any questions?” Alia looked over me and Zero at the end of her over view of the situation.
“Why would the Maverick’s be attacking the reconstruction of the city they destroyed a year ago?” I asked perplexed.
“Unknown. It’s only our job to stop them.” Alia was stone faced in her repose. She’d lost friends in the attack a year prior to this, many others she knew surviving and currently there still. She was strict on every mission however, you have to focus on her eyes to know how personal each particular event is to her.
Zero shook his helmeted head slightly with a sigh. “The statue?”
“Unconfirmed.” Alia replied.
The attack that devastated the city before was Sigma employing the statue of the main square to transmit the Sigma Virus to a global extent. Still, Sigma wasn’t one to reuse identical tactics, and his presence wasn’t even detected in the battle zone… that meant nothing though, he's hardly ever traceable.
Alia prodded the headset nested in her short blond hair as she sat at her black console. She always looked funny sitting there, black next to her white and pink armoring.
“You two are the best Irregulars on base, so we’re sending you and your units in at separate locations. There is too high a concentration of Mavericks for a single squad, we don’t have enough time for that.” She turned to us, pointing to elaborate maps on her station monitor. “Zero, you and your zero unit will be sent to the east entrance of Dopple. X, you and your seventeenth unit will enter on north highway one ten. Converge with one another in the square and investigate all happenings in the area with out excessive time expenditure. You have your orders.”
Zero and I saluted and took off to the ‘lobby’, a vastly unfurnished room where active Hunter units are stationed to wait for their commanders when an emergency is sounded. Zero and I are both commanders of separate units, as if you couldn’t have guessed.
Upon arriving, I received a new helmet for myself, as I’d requested before briefing. I loved on base mechanics; they could be so efficient. They probably just had a rack of custom helmets stored God knows where though, but at least they keep them on hand over my disuse of replacement requests. It felt odd, a new helmet after having the pervious one for eleven years… Trashed due to a training scenario. I knew I didn’t have time to lament on that though, I proceeded to fall in with my troops. My spirit was a tad dashed when I realized I only had two members of the seventeenth unit present to command for this. Zero was a better off with four. Full staff was six for each of us, incase you’re wondering. I dismissed their salutes and gave them a condensed briefing, Zero doing the same faintly in the background. Synchro and Drampin, they were newly assigned to my unit. I wish I’d gotten to know them before going off on a field mission, just incase one or both… I always think pretty bleak, don’t I?
“Ready?” I prompted the two after concluding.
“Yes, sir!” They replied in unison. We all beamed out to the coordinates Alia had given us, busters armed and eyes sharp. The city terrain was ravaged: pavement under our feet in splintered upheaval, cars over turned, trees obliterated and strew across the charred landscape. I clenched my free hand into a gear wrenchingly tight fist, someone had pulled a job on this place. After all the work and resources that had been expended on restoring it less than a year ago, it was reverted to a state even worse. Someone was going to pay for this.
I turned at the inhuman whisper of a gasp behind me. A dog that had conceivably come out from behind a dented trash can limped around in a bloody, maimed state and collapsed at the foot of an upturned bench. It whimpered in piercing agony as Drampin leveled his buster at it, fired, and continued walking. I closed my eyes for a brief moment before taking post at point to lead.
“Stay in sight of one another and me. If anything happens, take it on or yell. Wipe out anything that moves, it’s either an enemy or something you’re doing a favor for. We’ll sweep this road for seven hundred meters, then left for four hundred meters to meet up with the zero unit. Understood?”
“Yes, sir.” Came the careful replies.
It was easy going. Well, easy going for a disgustingly sadistic scene. It didn’t seem as if we encountered any trained Mavericks, mostly just fodder infection units and berserk virus victims. It was frustrating, forced to waste time on such useless opposition. If my entire unit had been there, we’d have cleared in maybe ten minutes; it took the three of us about twenty-five. That was still an impressive time for three soldiers to clear in, two being fairly untrained in field missions of this fashion, but it was too long for a situation like this.
Stamping out opposition and fires the entire way, I’d given up brushing the ash from my face. The choking smell of concrete dust, smoke, and burning was almost blinding to me, but I’d been subjected to it enough that I could look like it didn’t bother me. Synchro was struggling with the atmosphere, coughing every few steps as she vainly tried to refrain from it. Drampin had some kind of mask feature built onto his helmet, the tainted air not reaching him as he mowed down opponents. We finally hacked our way to the rendezvous, only to find nothing there. No enemies, no zero unit. I frowned slightly as I punched the side of my helmet to kick on my communications systems.
“Alia, you receiving me?” I listened closely to several moments of static. “Alia!”
“…Read…. X… We…. Reading you X. Do you copy?” There’s always a level of radio interference due to the shield we generate in the stratosphere over hazard areas. It prevents reploids from teleporting out or into that given area. If they try it with the barrier erected, it’s instant atomization.
“Affirmative. Where’s the zero unit?”
“I’ve lost track of them, I can’t pick up any signal, not even Zero’s ‘SS’ channel.”
The ‘SS’ channel is a special high level frequency that is easily detected by those who know the line, and near impossible for others to detect. No Maverick know has ever broken the ‘SS’ channel after four years, which is one reason we dare using it.
“I’ll track from down here. Anything else?” I was getting impatient, Zero’s team would certainly have beaten mine here, something was wrong.
“I’m not registering anything on the field anymore, I’m barely even getting you, so this is it on comm.” Her signal was starting to noticeably fade. “Unit zero lost contact with me two hundred meters to your south. Good luck.” She cut out as I turned to my team of two. Drampin was bothering to frag a group of badly disabled robots while Synchro busied herself by wiping her shaded visor clean. I grit my teeth at their actions and brought my fist down on a nearby car hood. They immediately turned at the reverberating crash of imploding steel, fracturing glass, and the annoying screech of a dying car alarm.
I didn’t realize how darkly I was glowering until I felt my face stinging like a paper cut. I tried to relax and waved at my team, leading them off to investigate southward.
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