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CH 14: Realizations

Zero?

Where are we? What is this?

Are we in the lifestream?

Zero?

X was once again surrounded by darkness. He knew that Zero fell in with him, but he was nowhere to be seen. X continued talking, hoping his best friend would hear.

I was always worried about going maverick myself...afraid of what I might do to my friends if that dark day ever came. You weren't worried about becoming a maverick, though. You always shrugged it off. You never even let the possibility enter your mind.

I assumed you were just being confident. After all, it fit perfectly into your personality. But after a while, I began wondering if it was something else.

You hated Sigma with a passion. Yet he constantly tried to persuede you into joining him. I began to get su ious the day you returned from death....

You remember, don't you?

Don't you?

X listened for a reply from Zero, but got none. He instead heard muffled noises all around him. He heard Plasma blasts and explosions, cries of anguish and fear, swipes of beam sabres and screams of blood-curtling pain. They gradually got louder, until it was almost deafining. X held his hands over his ears, but it didn't stop the onslaught of sounds and images of misery and pain.

Zero....Help me!

X felt lke he was spinning in circles, going faster and faster until he just....stopped. He was a bit disoriented, so it took a few moments to get his thoughts together.

He looked around and saw Zero to his left. But as he started to run over to him another glimpse of crimson armor caught his eye. Glancing around again he noticed several incarnations of Zero, each looking distressed or distrought.

"Zero...What's wrong?" X asked.

One of the Zeroes stood up and advanced towards him.

"What's wrong, X? I'll tell you what's wrong. Ever since I came here I've made the wrong decisions. I'm the reason Meteor is in the sky. I'm the reason Pulse is dead." Zero sadly pointed out.

"You were not responsible for all of this, Zero. Let me help you figure this out." X replied.

"I....just....don't know...." Zero murmured.

"We should start from the beginning. How far back can you remember?" X asked.

"I don't know if I can..."

"Just try, Zero. That's all I'm asking you to do. So snap out of it, okay?" X said.

"R-Right. You're right. But my memories are a little fuzzy. I see bits and pieces, fragments of emotions." Zero said.

"Concentrate. Think back to the day Sigma first found you. Was what Sigma showed us the complete truth?" X asked.

The scenery around the two hunters suddenly shifted to that of the cave on that fateful day. The events began playing out again as if it were a simple recording.

Zero and Sigma fought viciously. The battle went back and forth until Zero managed to amputate Sigma's arm, with a steel pipe no less. Zero began to cut loose and horrendously attacked his fallen adversary, laughing all the while. It wasn't a hearty laugh, or even an evil one; it was a laugh of enjoyment. Zero relished the destruction, and embraced it.

Before he could finish off this waste of scrap metal, though, his head started to throb. Then unimaginible pain shot though his body. To make matters worse, his head became a conduit and rechanneled the pain before it had a chance to dissipate. This amplified it ten fold. He was screaming, and Sigma saw a last-ditch opportunity.

With his remaining arm, Sigma pulled together whatever strength he had left and leveled Zero with his giant fist. The force of the impact shattered the crystal embeded in Zero's forehead, sending the crimson one to the floor in abrupt silence.

The scene faded away into the depths in which it had come. Wether or not it originated from within Zero's memories was a moot point.

"Why did you just stop fighting and suddenly scream? Was there anything wrong with your internal systems?" X asked.

"This doesn't make any sense." Zero sighed.

"It will. It has to. Try to think back to when Dr. Cain reprogrammed you. Maybe that will shed some light onto this." X said.

"I'll give it a shot, but I can't promise anything."

Once again, the scenery shifted ubruptly to that of Cain's lab. Zero, or rather what was left of him, was being studied by several tech-docs. Amung them was a reploid by the name of Ice Blue X. It was her first day and was told to observe the dismantlng process of the maverick. All newcomers were to be introduced to this process; though it's intentions were somewhat clouded. It was required to learn, though, just in case an aspiring hunter would be better suited to settling down and becoming a tech-doc.

Sigma strode into the lab fully restored and healthy as ever, though something had changed. Usually he was simply intimidating, but now he was more on edge, so to speak.

"You are all dismissed. Report to Storm Eagle for patrol duty or something." Sigma said in demanding fashion.

"But sir, this is kinda important and since this my first day and all-" Ice piped up.

"You were brought here on your first day!?! What idiot would allow such a thing?"

"This idiot." Dr. Cain simply stated.

He had been overseeing the study and was quite annoyed that Sigma would interrupt an important study such as this. Still, Sigma must have his reasons, and it must be the utmost of importance if he would do such a thing.

"It's all right, Ice. Go see Blazing Lion for your hand-to-hand combat lessons and come back when you're done." Cain said.

"Ah, what the heck. This 'Tech-Doc' stuff isn't for me anyway." Ice mumbled as she walked out the door.

As soon as the door shut behind Ice, Sigma spoke his true intentions.

"I don't want you to dismantle this one." Sigma said bluntly.

"Oh? Why not?" The good doctor inquired.

"He is a formidible and resourceful fighter, I assure you. With a little tweaking to his programming we could have him fighting alongside us." Sigma said.

"That's illegal, and you know it. Every reploid, maverick or not, has the freedom to make their own choices in life, and I'm not crossing that line no matter what the circumstances."

"Oh, and dismantling him is a better option? Listen doc, I don't think he had a choice in the first place. Look at this." Sigma said, sitting in the now-vacant console.

Cain leaned over Sigma's massive shoulder and studied the console. Sigma was running a diagnostic on Zero's programming. One by one, the computer downloaded and listed Zero's primary functions and goals. Cain was horrified, for each one used destruction in some form or another. Except one, however. One solitary command gave Zero the ability to override his destructive programming if he so desired.

"That's not all." Sigma scoffed.

Sigma then skillfully used the very basic computer to roughly date the fallen reploid through a process of radiation-breakdown. Cain was shocked to say the least.

"Over thirty years? Wha-?" Cain mumbled.

"Based on this information, I have concluded that Dr. Wily, the infamous roboticist, is in fact his creator. Furthermore, I believe someone else, maybe another roboticist such as the famed Dr. Light, somehow added that extra command in hopes of giving him a choice. I assume you saw the command that stated 'Initiate immediate auto-destruct if any commands are deleted'?" Sigma said.

Cain nodded.

"Good. Then you realize that if we don't do this, he may not make the right choice." Sigma said.

"And if it doesn't work?" Dr. Cain asked.

"We destroy him." Sigma said bluntly.

The lab faded away and once again Zero and X were standing in the middle of their strange terrain.

"That must be it. Dr. Light got to you and helped you." X said.

"Yeah, that's one mystery solved. But that doesn't explain what we're doing twenty thousand years in earth's past." Zero asked.

"Well, Me and the others were speculating that the planet was trying to guide you to perform a certain task, and that's the reason you've been so screwed up."

"But why? What does the planet want me to do?"

"Maybe you already did what you were supposed to." X pondered.

"I get it. I was under the planet's influence when I gave the black materia to Sigma."

"And if you didn't, Aeris would've had no reason to go to the Forgotten City and summon Holy." X added.

"If she didn't go there, then we wouldn't have chased her. That led me to unknowingly send Pulse to her death." Zero confirmed.

"So the planet's goal was to kill Pulse in this time period, on that particular altar. That may not make much sense, but it's the only working theory we have." X said.

"Right. Let's go back and tell the others."

X nodded as the entire area began to fade away. Suddenly both of the hunters felt as if they were resurfacing and relaxed their bodies.

*********************

"Well I'll be damned." Blaze said, standing above his friends.

"We're glad you guys are all right." Aeris said.

"You guys are alright, aren't you?" Cloud asked.

"Yeah....we're okay. Just....tired, I guess." X managed to sputter out before falling into blissful slumber.

Blaze picked up his buddies and slung one over each shoulder. Everyone present quickly made their way to the Highwind. After all, they had some more friends to pick up.

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