Elec . . . Yes, that was his name, and that ceiling over his head was both white and not quite right. Not that his memory banks held any parameters for what would be right. Blinking slowly, he waited until everything came into focus before trying to move. That didn’t seem quite right either, but at least he could sit up and take a look around. The feeling of something being off wasn’t alarming, but it was persistent even as he scanned the room slowly. The room itself was, in a word, boring. Sterile pale grey walls, puke industrial green floor, a drab cabinet housing a pale grey bodysuit, and a chick sitting in a chair next to his bed. The floor and the chick, were the only bits of any color in the room. In fact, why were his hands and arms dead fish white? And where had he heard that term? The gaps in his memory banks were getting annoying.
The chick giggled, having noticed him staring at his arms. “ Good morning! They’re white because we decided to let you pick your derma color and left the base alone. You can leave it that way, but it’ll vastly cut the amount of sensation you feel and leave you a little vulnerable. If you like, I can get the sample page and let you pick a hue?” “N-no . . . I . . would like . . to . . “ Elec grimaced, reaching up to rub his throat. That had kinda hurt. The chick abruptly rose and headed for a bedstand table he hadn’t noticed.
She returned very shortly with a glass of something clear and a little viscous. “Here, this should help with your throat – this is the first time your vox has ever been used, so it’s sure to be a little rough.” A giggling grin was added when he sniffed the fluid and wrinkled his nose. “It’s perfectly safe.”
He reluctantly drank whatever it was. “I’m Zydeco. I’m here to help you finalize your design! I can install your derma, and even do tattoos – we have all the good stencils! – if you like. We have some exotic colors too! Although you really don’t look like a neon green kind of guy to me . . .” Elec slowly eyed her over the rim of the glass as she talked. Was this going to be worth putting up with her relentless cheer? Zydeco beamed at him, and he wrinkled his nose again. “What are . . ?” Letting his voice trail off, Elec gestured to her outfit, scanning down it in a glance. “Oh, I’m Doctor Nidae’s assistant and the Head Nurse of Surgical.”
And that glance down showed him she indeed did have several prominent red crosses on her white armor (what was up with all the white?), her bodysuit was a pale blue-grey, and . . . this Zydeco jiggled in a most intriguing way when she abruptly shifted from one foot to the other. He couldn’t remember any girls jiggling like that before. He didn’t remember any girls, period. “Fine. Samples?” It was a little easier if he kept to one word sentences, going by how painless those were. Whatever that drink was had numbed his throat a little, but it still was better to not push – not if he didn’t want to get yelled at by . . . who?
Why couldn’t he remember?
Elec paused, frowning slightly – why had he thought that? Why did thinking that feel odd? Shaking his head, he turned his attention back to Zydeco, scowling down at the page of samples she handed over. A few embarrassing and slightly violated-feeling hours later (he could still feel the brush in places where no brush should be), Elec was standing in front of the mirror, glowering at his grey-clad self with mild disgust. The shape was absolutely fine, a bodysuit felt familiar, but the color? Elec grimaced at his reflection. So very, very bland . . . even the gauntlets and boots he’d found in the bottom drawer were the same, bland, lifeless grey.
It made his new skin look a little orange, to top it off.
Zydeco was bustling around the room behind him, cleaning up the few splatters of derma that had ended up on . . . things . . . when he flailed a bit. She’d been pretty phlegmatic about all that, quite calm and accepting about how the new derma was being both cold and the brush tickling. It would’ve been less creepy if she’d been irritated at the delays. Elec huffed and pulled his gauntlets off, swinging them in her direction before tucking them under his arm as he turned to glower at her instead. “I can get this . . . repainted, right?”
“Sure! Normally that would be the mechanics – we gave up on having special paint for Hunter armor because of how often damage happens and just buy mech paint in bulk – but they’re really busy. You might want to decide colors and paint the parts yourself.” Zydeco’s voice ended on an odd note, and she shrugged, tucking the sample chart under her arm before picking up the sealed case of derma jars. “I’d offer to help, but I need to go help my boss with your brother’s surgery.”
“I have a brother?”
“There we go – now gently tap the soil down around the roots, and add more soil if any are still showing.” Plant smiled apologetically from where it was perched on the small, multi-rack sled’s driver seat, non-functioning hands tucked out of the way on its lap. “I’m sorry about this. But thank you for helping.”
X shook his head, white gauntlets a little smudged with dirt as he followed the directions. He’d needed this odd down time, more than he’d realized. And it wasn’t as if Zero wasn’t keeping a close eye on Enker and Star as they tracked down Quint. “I don’t mind . . . I think I’m starting to see why Doctor Cain likes working in his garden so much.”
“I’m looking forward to meeting Doctor Cain in person – he’s quite fascinating. Quite a mind, and so very different from what I’m used to.” Its voice trailed off, gaze going unfocused as it clearly wandered into the past. X opted to go get one of the other seedlings instead of waiting for it to return from wherever it had gone. Three pots later, it seemed to finally rouse from its thoughts, giving X a sheepish smile. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to wander off. After so long, it takes a while to access older memories.” It leaned over the back of the seat to check out the thorny bush he was working with at the moment. X couldn’t have named it to save his life, but after transplanting it he would always remember every little detail of the damned thing.
“You’re doing very well though. Do you do any gardening?” X shook his head, most of his attention on checking that the latest pot was secure. If he hadn’t known better, he would’ve sworn the thing kept climbing out whenever he looked away. “Not at all, but Doctor Cain likes company when he’s tending his garden. It makes for interesting budget meetings.”
Plant’s unexpected laughter made X smile.
Elec stared into the surgical bay from the leftmost side of the observational windows.
There was no reason at all for him to be feeling so . . . unsettled at the view. Something nebulous seethed around the edges of his mind, bringing a frown to Elec’s face as he stared at the ancient robot down below. Wires crossed between the decrepit, comical little body – sometimes through the large, gaping, rust-pitted holes in the external armor – to a surprisingly large computer. Which in turn was connected to a body that strongly reminded Elec of his own reflection. At least, how he had looked before the derma, with that same blank, generic whiteness. The lack of hair and the open, blank eyes just made it incredibly creepy.
Generic whiteness like his body had been, but this one was shorter, stockier. There was some oddness with the head too – beyond the bald, almost-lacking-eyelids look. Like it was being prepped for some sort of mounted weapon system. As Elec watched, the surgeon turned his attention to the head, inserting colored lenses below the surface shields of the eyes. Watching the lenses iris and open under testing was less unnerving than the incomplete eyes had been.
Really, the eyes had been the least creepy part of this. It was the sight of the old body that stirred those odd whispers, and Elec forced his gaze away, unease churning in his guts. There was absolutely no reason that he could find in his memory banks for it to feel so /wrong/ to see the Surgeon at work on that old robot. Zydeco was much more fun to look at, anyways, practically skipping around her boss as she retrieved this or that, or held this bit or that on the new body for him. He had to wonder if she danced . . .
Heck, even her boss and his bizarre body was much better to look at. Extrapolating from all the Reploids he’d seen just walking in the halls while following Zydeco, having four arms was incredibly uncommon. The larger, heavier lower set seemed entirely meant for stabilizing the Surgeon, but for what that would be needed, Elec had no idea.
Elec very carefully kept his mind on speculating reasons for the Surgeon’s odd design (and quite happily on reasons why Zydeco was so, so jiggly) for the rest of the surgery.
The last vehicle pulled into Maverick Hunter Headquarters in a sullen way – the occupants were quiet, and not a one seemed inclined towards talking. Everyone had plenty to think about, from the Maverick attack to the crop of seedlings in the back of the truck, to how the ancient base had exploded as soon as the last Robot Master had left.
Enker had stared at the explosion, watching the rubble settle, as had Star Man and even the tied-up Quint. Plant had broken down, weeping, curled up, and limp on the ground. None of them responded to X’s panic-driven questions until Enker had abruptly spoken up. “It was Doctor Wily’s M.O. to destroy a base as soon as every usable Master was clear of it, in hopes of destroying Megaman with it.”
It had been a very quiet ride back to base.
The good doctor Cain had actually been waiting in the lobby beyond the decontamination room, a thin smile on his lips. He’d taken in the sight of them – frazzled X, annoyed Zero, Enker carrying a dazed-looking Plant quite casually under one arm like a football, Star Man dragging the still-bound Quint after himself – and not batted an eye. Instead the venerable scientist had coughed gently, and spoke in steel tones. “Your compatriots are making a grand mess of the Med Bay.”
What followed was brutally short.
Much to the disappointment of the staff who were betting on who would win in the med bay grand melee. Enker had marched into the room and barked out a set of orders in a language none of the Repliforce members present understood. The results had been impressive.
Every single one of the ancient robots had frozen in place, saluted, and moved to stand in rank and file in front of the golden robot. Even with limbs, weapons, even facial features disfigured or not working, they made an impressive and downright eerie sight. Enker had paced along the line, more of that harsh language tumbling from his lips. One by one, the ancient robots had turned and handed themselves over to the medical staff.
It was still a touchy situation – many of the ancients were sullen, and reluctant to let these new robots look at their internals despite Enker’s iron stare. The air was tense and almost crackling with unease and wariness as the medical staff assessed damage and began temporary repairs. McDougal was looking more distracted and grim with every status report as each team finished with their respective ancient. Finally, he stepped up to Enker himself, looming over the golden ancient with a grim but respectful stare.
“You in charge of this lot?” At Enker’s nod, he continued. “Most of them will need a great deal of work to bring them back to full function, but some we’re simply not equipped to handle. That wood wrapped one, for instance – I have no idea how he’s even sentient, with such simple parts. Going in to do more than basic repairs, and we may end up destroying whatever it is that makes him so.”
Plant yelped as it was suddenly thrust in McDougal’s face, wide-eyed in startlement. McDougal leaned back only slightly, his gaze detached and analytic. As he examined the bewildered offering, Enker spoke. “Plant is already familiar with all our systems. Ask it any questions you may have as you repair it.”
“Enker, my systems are sta-“ Plant’s protest died quickly as it looked back at Enker. It knew that look. “Yes Sir.”
Turning back to face McDougal as the tall Reploid tentatively and carefully lifted it from the golden ancient’s grip, Plant gave him a faint smile. “Plant, DWN-045. Who did you want to start with?”
Hours later as Enker sat on a table, being scanned by McDougal himself, Dr. Cain casually sauntered over. Wrapping his hands around the head of his cane, ancient human inspected far more ancient robot. “I’ve never heard that language – Enker, right? – before. If you don’t mind my asking, what was it?”
“. . . a language from a dead land.”
Three hours of pure torture. Three HOURS of potting techniques. If he had been less secure in his abilities, he would have suspected a ploy at making him drop his cover from sheer boredom. But no – he had been holding this guise for over a year without fail. There was no reason to suspect they were on to him.
“Double, could you file this?”
He looked at the old man’s beaming face, and pictured smashing it in, careful to keep his thoughts out of his own pleasant (and bored) expression. “No probleim at all, zir.”
No reason at all for them to suspect him.
First | Previous | Next