"It's hopeless, X." Celeste said. Her voice sounded weary, and with good reason: For 2 hours, X had been going in circles around the force field surrounding the Mavericks' base, in a fruitless effort to find an opening to the barrier, or a trace of the missing Zero. He bit his lip in frustration. Why would Vile challenge X to a showdown and then end up locking him out of the fortress? And where was Zero?
That's when X's mind froze. Suddenly he understood.
Zero was in there. In the fortress. Vile had wanted HIM, not X. X couldn't help but feel a little rejected.
What chance did Zero have against a fortress of Mavericks? El Zilcho. X knew he had to get in there. But not so much for Zero's sake. In fact, X was still ticked off at Zero, which was surprising, since he was always so quick to forgive. No, it was more for the sake of the human race. If Vile wasn't stopped while he was in his somewhat weakened state, it was likely that he would destroy humanity in a bloody holocaust. That wasn't a good thing.
X knew of one way to get through the force field...it was a very stupid and dangerous idea, however. X sat motionless in the Gryphon, and stared intently at the neon field, as if in hopes that a magic fairy from the merry old land of Oz would appear out of thin air and suggest an alternate plan for getting into the fortress. X's fairy never came. He sighed. Celeste and Forrest sat as soundless as statues, waiting for X's next move.
X twisted his body half way around to face his friends in the back seat. He moved his gaze from the platinum shine of Forrest's armour to Celeste's trembling face. Once again, X couldn't help but notice how remarkably similar Forrest looked the old Doppler robot, Bit.
"I have a way to get into the fortress," he announced. Celeste and Forrest cheered up a good deal. X's next sentence came out in a rush. "If it fails, however, I must say that it was good to know you both. Have a nice afterlife!" X couldn't help but be amused at the bewildered look on the faces of his companions. Before any one of them could react, X started charging up the Gryphon's motor to the max. The gentle purring turned into a dragon like roar. X shifted gears insanely, laughing like a madman. "Let's see what she's got!" He howled above the commotion the motor was making. The Gryphon clanged towards the force field at full speed. She wasn't breaking for anything.
In a dismal genetics lab, an unconscious reploid at the bottom of a small cage stirred. He opened his eyes for what seemed to him the first time. It took a while for his eyes to focus, but when they did, he became more interested in his surroundings. He tried to sit up, but this only made him dizzy. He rested his aching head against the cold, iron cell bars. The reploid didn't know who he was, or where he was. He only knew that someone had given him life, and he planned to serve that person in any way he could....
The "newborn" reploid tried to get to know himself better. He looked down at his armour. He noted that is was titanium, and it was a sombre grey colour. He noticed a blonde ponytail running over his shoulder like a river of gold. He discovered that he had hair...long hair at that. He reached up to his head. He was wearing a gilded helmet. Whatever for? And where was his creator?
His last thought was answered promptly. Two figures came marching down a long corridor ahead of the reploid. As they came closer, the reploid noticed that one of the figures was a birdlike female, with folded wings sprouting from her back. The reploid's new eyes were dazzled by the brilliant colours she was clad in. In front of the bird was a slightly shorter figure, encased in purple titanium armour. The purple figure also donned a mask. It appeared that the two strangers were arguing with one another.
The female bird was flapping her arms wildly at the purple guy in front of her. "I leave you in charge!" She shouted angrily. " I give you something fun to do! And what do you do? You take my idea and screw it up royally!! See if I ever talk to you again!"
The purple dude didn't even turn around. He kept up his stride towards the new reploid. "Come on Phoenix," he tried to reason with her. "I think he looks fine in those colours."
"That's far from the point, you....you....half witted male!" The bird kept up. "When I found out I was needed elsewhere, I put you in charge of the paint job and asked you to paint him SILVER! Now, I don't know what silver looks like on the little planet in your mind, but here on Earth, silver is a racy, metallic colour. I Émean, LOOK at him-!" The bird halted in the doorway of the lab and pointed a black talon at the captive reploid. "He looks as pukey as I feel right now! He's GREY!! GREY, not SILVER!"
The purple fellow came closer to the reploid's cage. He was about two meters away from the bars. He leaned closer to the reploid within.
"Who cares, Phoenix!?" He shouted so loudly that the reploid jumped. "He's awake! He's alive! Come and see!"
Forgetting her venom towards the purple guy, the bird joined him. They simply stared in wonder at the reploid in front of them. The reploid stared back, frightened. Did these people mean him harm? Or were they his masters?
"Look at him," The bird said softly. "He looks so confused."
This was true. In fact, this was true of every newly activated reploid. Like human infants, reploids are "programmed" with certain abilities, like the ability to walk, talk, and in some cases, fight. But they have to discover these abilities for themselves through experience. However, while a young human might take several months, even years to realise its talents, a reploid could know everything it needs to know within an hour.
"Guess we should 'educate' him," Vile said and grinned behind his mask.
"Ahem.....uh, welcome to life. I currently don't have a name for you, but don't worry, you'll get one. My name is Vile." Vile motioned to the bird. "And that lovely figure over there is named Phoenix. We're your, uh, creators." Vile flashed a nervous glance at Phoenix, as if begging her to take over.
"Uh....creators! Right!" Phoenix said brightly to the reploid below them who was taking all the info in with wide eyes. "You see, you were created for a very good reason." Phoenix continued. " There's this nasty species on this planet. They're called humans. They're bad, I can assure you. They make slaves out of reploids, which is what WE are, and they...uh...like to blow the heads off of little puppy dogs."
"That's right!!" Vile chimed in. "They also get a kick out of killing Panda Bears, but they torture them first, poor little creatures. Then they burn them, and eat the pitiful, charred corpses......." Vile broke into an utterly false chorus of sobs. "I witnessed it once," he wept, collapsing into Phoenix. "it was horrible! They're possessed! Possesed, I tell you! All of them!"
"There, there." Phoenix comforted the purple reploid who still sobbed brokenly. She gave the astonished grey reploid at the bottom of the cage a sad puppy - dog look. "We built you as our last hope," she informed him. "You wield powers that those filthy humans can't even dream about. We ask you to help us rid the planet of this terrible species. We've tried it before, while we were under the rule of a great reploid named Sigma. Sadly, he was killed." Phoenix sighed. "You see, there are some reploids that WORK for humans. They're called 'Maverick Hunters'. They think that WE'RE the ones in the wrong, and destroyed our leader." she snorted. "That's a good one. We're merely trying to make the world a better place. Please, help us."
The grey reploid opened his mouth. He was trying to say something...
"Yes? What is it you're trying to say?" Questioned Vile, who had recovered from his hysterics.
"When...do we start?" The reploid voiced. He looked up at his 'creators' with a grin.
"Sounds good. Put me down for 'Charlie."
"CHARLIE?" What loony bin did you break out of?! I tell you, 'Sean' is where it's at! Classy, don'tcha think?"
"Gator, put me down for 'Hugh Jass.' "
Wheel Gator was frantically scribbling down the names that his fellow Mavericks called out to him. He was thrilled. Never had he enjoyed such popularity....
"Oop! Here comes Vile!" Storm Eagle hissed.
"Quick! Everyone look busy!" Neon Tiger advised in a whisper.
The ring of Mavericks surrounding Gator broke in a hurry. Vile strode down the hall. Slightly behind him was Phoenix, who had an arm around a shy - looking grey reploid that none of the Mavericks had ever seen before.
"Gather around me, friends!" He called to the Mavericks. The Mavericks gave each other curious glances. Vile hadn't called any of them 'friends' since time out of mind. They huddled around Vile, Phoenix and the stranger.
"This is a very important moment in the history of the Mavericks," Vile began. "I'd like to present the newest member of our happy little troop." Phoenix gave the stranger a friendly little shove towards his new colleagues.
"Hey it's Zer --" Storm Eagle began to shout, but Vile delivered a swift kick to the air fowl's shin that silenced him at once.
Phoenix noticed the paper that Wheel Gator was clutching in one claw. She snatched it from him. "What's this, you misbegotten lizard?"
Gator looked pathetic. "Vile, sir, I'm sorry. I collected some names for our new friend. You didn't give me the go - ahead, but you didn't tell me not to, either....You're mad at me, you're giving me that 'look." I hope you're not going to make me give Babykins a bath again...like last time..
To everyone's surprise, Vile said "I'm not mad. In fact, I'm grateful. You just solved a problem for me. Now, why not read those names out?" He gazed out at the sea of Mavericks. "I guess to save humiliation, I won't have you read out the contributer's names. 'Kay? Begin."
Gator took the paper back from Phoenix. He cleared his throat. "How's 'Sean' "?
"'Disembowler, the Scariest Maverick In the Whole Wide World?'"
"'Not bad, but no cigar."
"Dear creeping God, NO!!"
"Wait...what was that last one?"
"Yes!! Yes, that's IT!!" Vile sprang five feet into the air. "That's perfect!! I must insist, Gator. Tell me who came up with that one! It's brilliant!"
"Me," Gator grinned, blushing slightly.
Vile's excitement died down at once. "You?"
Vile mumbled something about idiocy leading to creativity. Then he raised the hand of the new Maverick. "Welcome, Hellfire!" He shouted. "You're the most powerful one among us! Today, the tables will turn on the Hunters!" He turned towards the Mavericks. "Let's hear it for the guy!!"
A thunderous cheer rose from the crowd. The age of Hellfire had begun.