Mavericks always smelled a little funny, in that sharp, charred way, to Zero. But then, he did have the habit of reducing them to charred components. Smirking, the blonde Hunter prodded a Sting Chameleon head with one foot before slowly crushing it under his treads. Damn, did he ever feel better after that. Turning off his sabre, he casually flicked on his comm.
–Zero here. Mavericks out here eliminated. Heading inside to help clean house.-
-Understood, Hunter Zero, news will be relayed to Hunter X. Headquarters out.-
Zero grimaced as the connection cut off, a shiver racing down his back as he leapt up to the door. Iris definitely had a way of making you feel every inch of her disappointment. “Freaking ice bitch, what the hell did I ever see in her?” Life really sucked sometimes – all the mavericks he could trash, but all the other girls in the base seemed to have an axe to grind since the first time he broke up with her. Outright scowling, Zero stalked into the dusty halls, intent on finding a few drones. A little slaughter would help his foul mood.
In the compound’s tertiary command center, Enker was typing away, expression closed and neutral. Throughout the compound doors, walls, and traps were in motion (more or less) as Hunter squads withdrew to secure locations under his and X’s guidance. The very idea of working with Megaman was still odd despite all the centuries since the Robot Masters were last a force in the world. Suddenly X smiled. “Alia reports Zero has taken care of the Mavericks outside – the drone generator is down-what the?”
One of the screens had abruptly flared white before going completely dark. ‘Camera Destroyed’ blinked dolefully in one corner. Plant murmured quietly from where it was plugged into the console (something X was careful not to look at). “That was the Beta room.”
The flash – followed by a thick rush of flames – in the hallway had been visible even from the back of the room her squad had taken refuge in. They’d been respectfully prepping some of the last of the bodies for transportation when the warning from headquarters had come through. After that, they’d hidden, being mostly field scientists. The field mechanic next to Tai Chi blurted out, “What the hell was that?!”
An unexpected (and listless) answer came from their guide – Star Man – who had been ordered to help them by Enker. “Looks like Heat Dude attacked. Like, that almost final strike big attack.” The Robot Master shrugged as everyone else exchanged glances at his nonchalance.
It couldn’t be coincidence, the generator going down, and that flash . . . within seconds, her squad had taken to their feet and raced back down through the halls, tracing the soot marks to their source. Making sure survivors actually survived was a top priority, despite this ‘Heat Man’ having been dead only five minutes ago (maybe a last ditch automatic system defense activating?) and everyone else in the room as well.
They found a hissing nightmare.
The room was nothing more than ash – the walls, the floor, the ceiling, all coated with a thick layer of ash that crumbled and crunched under her knees as Tai Chi slowly collapsed. Eight capsules, respectfully shrouded, were nothing more than featureless ash in slightly thicker layers. The walls themselves were pocked and melted from the intense heat, patches and surprisingly large spans everywhere were still hissing with the heat as they cooled off . . . the floor under the one bit of color in the room was effectively vaporized.
He blinked green eyes at them, gaze slowly wandering from face to face in wary care, his stance tense and ready for combat. His entire body bathed in flame brighter than the lights in the room. The radiant heat dried Tai Chi’s face as she slowly curled up and wept, not noticing his bafflement and how the heat slowly diminished, or the ash streaking her legs and hair where it brushed the floor. She didn’t notice the growing lost look on his face as he took a longer look at the group, noticing Star Man standing among them. Star shrugged, and waved a hand negligently.
“Calm down, Heat Dude. Plant’s gonna want to check you over in the biosphere. Let’s go.” Another long look around the room, and Heat Man’s face crumpled. Moving listlessly after Star, he asked almost timidly, “I did a bad thing, didn’t I?”
“I dunno, dude.” The sheer indifference in Star Man’s voice caused a visible flinch, Heat Man half-missing a step as he followed. The misstep punctuated by a look of pure misery. Tai Chi’s weeping seemed all the louder in the silence that followed. In a quiet, wisp of a voice as they stepped past the Hunters, Heat murmured, “I want to talk to Planty.”
None of the Hunters made a move to stop them – many practically skittered in their haste to move out of the way. Heat Man more or less kept his gaze on his feet (well, their rough location) as he followed Star through the halls. Not even turning a corner and coming face-to-skull with Skull Man truly grabbed his attention. He entirely missed the flat look from Star, and Ring Man’s bewildered presence behind the gothic Robot Master.
Getting into the biosphere once more was practically child’s play with a careful application of Heat Man’s power to half-melt and shove the door back far enough to allow passage. This took some coaxing, and more time than either Ring Man or Zero (he wandered up around the halfway point) had patience for. X very quickly withdrew out of earshot to consult with Signas once Zero appeared.
X came back with a very odd expression, making a beeline straight towards Plant, who had been set down under a nearby tree. Clearing his throat, X grimaced for a few seconds before speaking – something that had Plant clearly amused as it waited, hands folded on its lap. “. . . one of my superiors, Doctor Cain, wants to know if there’s any seedlings that can be transplanted to his garden back at Maverick Headquarters?”
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