8-Bit Dystopia/Writefaggotry

From 1d4chan
Small Book.pngThe following article is a /tg/ related story or fanfic. Should you continue, expect to find tl;dr and an occasional amount of awesome.

I used to think that we were strong, unbreakable. We all did back then. Before the Invaders taught us to fear. We fought for five years against the never-ending hordes, pilots destroying the incoming craft by the thousands. Still they came, and in the end the best of man just wasn't good enough. All of our heroes died the day the earth fell, our dreams broken in a single crash. That's why we're here in the City, hastily formed from old corporate mining colonies untouched by those inscrutable Invaders for God knows what reason. We'll probably never know why, I suppose – why the aliens that set our home world ablaze, without any warning, would simply disappear without any trace afterwards and without leaving a mark anywhere else. It's been ten years since then, long enough for a generation to be born without knowing about the blue-green world before. I expect there's grown people out there who don't even remember it. The green hills don't sing any more, they're dust on a dead planet. Instead we're trapped screaming silently in the City of Light. Chemical plants and casinos, bread and circuses while the corp elite close their iron grip. He – they - all of them are going to grind us down some day. I should know. I helped them do it; I build the ships and the bots. I put the guns in their hands because I still thought there were some heroes left, but I was wrong. They all burned with their Tanks.

I can't talk about Wily Corp. Not here. RoboDyne? I know why Wily is on top, too well, but the secret of Ivo Robotnik's success is a mystery. He owned some of the colonies, a head start that still should have seen him devoured like the others. Yeah, I hear the rumors. Abductions. Disappearances. People say he's got a beam that can turn anything into a robotic slave, but people say a lot of foolish things. He hasn't got any such thing, take it from me kiddo. I'm a roboticist myself, but you knew that already.

In a way I can respect Big R. From what I can see – and at least I get a good perspective from twenty stories high – he's a wholly self-made man. Owes nothing, his success done to his own skill as much as his ruthlessness. Almost everything that RoboDyne puts out is the doctor's own design. Maybe in his way he is a hero, a man with so much ambition he won't disappear no matter what. You can respect that. We don't live in a two-colored world anymore, now everything is so shaded you can't tell where the hero ends and the villain begins. My God. Maybe we'd all have been better off in the Tanks with all of the good men.

MetPharm, they freak me. I guess they freak out most folks, not least because their CEO is so secretive. Nobody has a clue who MB really is; you hear rumors but nothing concrete. Some nut told me the place is run by an Invader, but that's impossible. The Invaders never had any interest in talking, nobody even knows what they really look like, and no Invader ever gave an atom about the City. Just disappeared back into the darkness between the stars. I think MB is just another researcher turned overlord; the City has no shortage of them. I wouldn't be too surprised if he turns out to be stuffed full of dangerous bioaugs; isn't like the other Bigs have much humanity left in them. Or anyone nowadays; life is measured and always too cheap. The other 'vader tech rumors are certainly bullshit, the ships or drones would always wreck themselves as soon as they were damaged. I guess people get so frightened by the bioaugs they don't want to imagine any human could be capable of making it. I wish I could share that delusion.

Delusion. Despair. It's only natural that the dwellers feel it. It validates them in a way, means they're real. You'd think it'd make for a city of rebellion and heroes, but people just seem to stop at despair, never reaching out for something else. They just sit their, oppressed and apathetic. Content to pity themselves and cry out for somebody else to get the work done. They're just shells of men convinced that this is how things are meant to be. They're every bit as soulless as the machines around them. Not like you though. That's why you're here with me now.

Other than the Three, there's a host of minor corps. First among the smalls is Foot Limited. All the ambitious little shopkeepers who got together for the common good – at least that's what the Foot say. I'd say they're the most militant grocery chain in existence. Word is they're looking into heavy biotech and other high-technology areas, but there's been no products on the market just yet. They keep people in line through tight security and fight so fiercely they've even secured some zones from RoboDyne and Wily Corp. People are starting to talk about them like they're part of the Big Three. They've got the balls I'll admit, but they haven't got the resources in my opinion.

Then you have GD Tech, who I don't know too much about. They're run by a guy called Agahnim, I think. Creepy guy, he crawled out of one of the ruined desert zones and set himself up pretty nicely as a local warlord. Now he's in charge of the largest arms manufacturer in the City and half the gangs pack GDT pistols. The Big Three tolerate GD Tech because GDT is smart enough not to sell to anybody stupid enough to use them against the Corps.

GD Tech got in the news recently for wiping out an obscure Small, a hostile takeover for some treasure kept in the company vault. Rumor is, though, that the vault is not only gene-locked but has a three-part key-system too; and the security chief gave his key to some unlucky newbie before his death. Makes you wonder what's inside that vault, if you can trust the whole thing not to be corp propaganda. Still, I can see that crazy kid now, dressed up in green battle armor and trying to bring the pain back to the GDT terror crews. GD Tech is supposed to still have the CEO's daughter bound up in their central tower, kept alive while they search for the third key. If it's true, maybe that kid is crazy. Maybe he's in love. Maybe both. Idiot. Stories like that don't happen any more. Love? We're in a world where the closest brothers turn against each other, fathers can't trust their sons.

Huh. Forgot about the illegitimates; the biggest being the X Syndicate and NeoZeed. They'd be the corps if they'd have gotten here first, but as it is they're the guys who went openly criminal once all the 'legitimate' sectors were full. They're mostly pawns of the Big Three; it's not like there's any real difference between them and the Bigs and just one of the Three has as much muscle as both the illegitimates combined. Supposedly there's a war brewing with the illegitimates, two challengers have appeared and changed the balance of power. The Shadow Law, they call themselves, are a group of unknowns from God knows where. I don't know anything about them. The other one, a bunch of self-proclaimed heroes from the Crash. They're making a grab for the chaos zones and the sites of interest that the corps stay out of for fear of flash pointing into unrestricted warfare. They go by the name 'Outer Heaven'.

Then there's the undercity. The Pipes, we call them, and it's a good enough name. The sewers are so big and complex, so hastily put up by so many different groups that nobody has a clear picture of them. Newer works crush down on older systems, the weight of ages taking its toll. Nobody really knows what happens down there, but again people talk. There's whole kingdoms down their in the Pipes they say; strange places built by the mutants and dregs ruined by the mutagenic waste that our dying city produces. Ton after ton spilling into rivers, washing down the drains, smokily rising up into the streets themselves. I don't know about any kingdoms, but I've seen a true underdweller before, red robes and a mask that would never be taken off on the outside. Gangs like them keep the City supplied with mushroom, the latest drug fad. Makes you feel like king of the world, like the biggest son-of-a-bitch in the room. Probably no worse than Ring or E-Tank though.

There's other things out there too, in the Pipes and the ruins. Not everything in this city was built by human or robot hands; some of it was made by something else. The ones who came before with their unearthly architecture and strange statues. A people who built for ceremony, and every ruin hides atomically precise mechanisms that far exceed their apparent technological level.

Then there's the talk about Dream Land, but I can't tell a young boy what people say about Dream Land, even if you can't hear me. I like to think that you can though; I trick myself that I can see your eyes flutter in the holding tube. But you aren't awake, not active. If there's any part of you that can hear this maybe now you can understand why I can never let you out. This isn't a world for my son. You can't save it, and it isn't your fight. Nor should you do your part to hold them down. I need you here. The people don't need you, and Wily's taken enough, the empty tube next to you will testify to it. Rest securely my son. Some day they'll find you amongst the rubble, and they'll take you out, and you'll have a real life in the land built out of my bones. I love you.

Willy was just a normal man; he had a job that only just covered his expenses and a wife he barely got a chance to see. He kept telling himself that it was all worthwhile, that someday things would be right. Before he went down into mines for the final time.

Things were always spooky, especially when you're down their more-or-less alone. But this time it was different. This time he wasn't alone, and the Things that drifted in the darkness would reveal to him the dark truth of the cosmos. The whole truth of the vast, uncaring, lonely universe.

The City... dear god the City. It stretches forever it seems. I've lived here all my life. I know it’s not infinite, but it feels like it. They call it the City of Light. A marvel of power and skill crafted by the greatest minds to ever walk the world.

Too bad that light was dimmed by a lust for power. I've watched this city fall part. Divided into so many tiny pieces. Territory wars rage between the Foot, Willy Inc and Robotnik Co. It's a nightmare. They say that there are saviors amongst us; a figure in blue armor, some sort mutant turtle men... they're myths though. Things we say to keep us going. Myths and legends of a shattered world.

I've lived in the same hole for the past fifty years. It's changed hands about sixteen times in the past week it feels like. I've seen Foot ninja pumping small timer stores for protection money. A poker buddy of mine swore he saw one of the robot masters walking the streets a few nights ago. Wily Inc.s’ elite robots. Machines that can create and destroy at will.

I saw Gutsman once... god, I saw him and I ran. He stood twelve feet tall. Those metal fists smashed seven of Robotnik’s cronies into scrap at once. It’s not right; they say we have heroes, all I see are villains.

I'd been sleeping most of the day away thanks to getting laid off from the local parts factory. It was a subsidiary of ROBODYNE. A Robotnik corp. It was a shitty, sooty mess. I'd been a steel worker there but... that's a tale for another day.

I had been sleeping in. Had nothing better to do you know, that was till I heard the drums.

Well, no they weren't real drums. It was the sound Wily's machine corps made to alert an area to their presence. To let them know they needed to clear the streets and get ready for remodeling...By remodeling I mean ever single feature that even so much as hinted at the previous owners being taken apart, melted down and transformed into something that better suited Wily.

I'd grown up in the heart of Wily Inc. territory it had been one of the better parts of the city. Still was really. They at least pretended to care about us maggots that fed his machines. Of course, everything went out the window during remodeling...The first screams gave it away. Someone had been wearing a uniform probably. Something from ROBODYNE no doubt. I was out of bed by now digging through my collection of ratty clothes.

One thing I'd learn early on. Always have a change of clothes. I had saved something that just yesterday would have gotten me killed. It was an old coverall suit from my days living in relative safety. A Wily Inc. Coverall suit.

My change of clothes saved my life. Not two minutes later they started working through the hab complexes. The drums making their way ever closer. Every now and then you would hear a scream or a loud [i]ZZZT[/i] as thy weeded out people.

When it was my turn I found it so routine it was almost entertaining. I was forced to the floor without so much as a word by a few digger units. I could see their built-in picks pressed into a recess in their forearm. Their yellow helmets and Green crosses something that made me wanna flee into the pipes and face utter suicide instead. A brief series of bodily scans and it was done. My room was cleaned out and left completely empty. They had dragged away every possession I had to my name without so much as a word.

Eventually the drums moved on and things slowly shifted back to the norm. I was employed by a repair shop that worked for Wily Inc. Repairing what few household systems they made. I was the 'tree-guy' fixing the metallic trees that acted to keep the air at least mildly clean.

Doctor Thomas Light is one of the few employees that Wily considers to be a friend. Truth be told, if Light had gotten the protonic brain working before Wily did, it might be his name on the company instead of his comrade's. As it is, the old, portly Grateful Dead fan is just another lab rat. He could have his own division, his own branch of the company... but when Wily beat him to the punch, he seemed content to let the other scientist have the spotlight. He makes do with a budget typical for an R&D cell, and has done some pretty impressive things with it. The EDDIE units, those heavily-armored micro-couriers? Those are his babies. So are the AUTO series of toolbots - the original two are his lab assistants.

That's not to say that all's kosher in the labs. Light is a little bit... unhinged. Depressive. If you ever want to know why - and I didn't tell you this - go to the sub-lab where he keeps scrap parts. Back in the corner there are two bioroid tubes... yeah. The rumors are true, man. He was trying to build himself a family.

They just... never worked.

One of the few good things about 'remodeling was the new duds and supply drops. Robotnik never seemed to be big on it. By some strange twist of fate Wily for all their cold acts was at least nice enough to do a food drop and shop building.

Every day I'd seem supplies coming in. I later found out my little slice of the pie was now in a hotly contested area. This meant if you were willing to deal with a little street warfare you would be lucky enough to actually get a decent meal and some good pay.

As it was I was born with a set of steel balls. I'd stayed in a few hot zones even when Metpharm was making a push once. I about shit myself when I saw their Biotroopers. Walking masses of [i] something[/i] that just ate down anything the grid. It was like watching a walking black out...of course that included people...

The neighborhood that the Marino Brothers Plumbing shop is in isn't the best. Never has been. Back before The City, it was full of drug trafficking and prostitution. Now you've got back-alley biodocs and... more prostitutes.

Still, they carry on. Even with business so bad that they can't replace the "N" that fell off the sign almost twenty years ago... they've stopped correcting people that call it "Mario Brothers Plumbing". It's an easy mistake to make, especially since the elder brother's name matches the typo.

As for their loyalties? Who knows? Rumor has it that they work with the Foot... in any case, they're damn good fighters. Someone tried to mug Luigi last week... the scraggly little guy smashed his face in with an uppercut and then curb-stomped him. No remorse, no excuse, and no hesitation.

Don't get on the bad side of an Italian plumber, that's all I'm saying.

There were some rumors floating about a few weeks back that someone had challenged a master. I don't mean 'run up, punch and then ZAP I mean actually damage one. It was Cutman from what I hear.

Someone or something came out of the blue. Dropping out of the sky like a damn sack of bricks. Bystanders said he had some sort of fake arm jimmied onto a stump of old flesh. Word has it the guy managed to actually block the cut.

He stopped something that cuts through steel. And then smashed Cutman in the face. I guess when they connected something went screwy though. A massive explosion happened and all that was left was Cutman with a missing arm...

So...I got a Metpharm implant a while back...yeah I know, I know. It’s a hazard; it’s a threat to my life with all that alien gook they use. But, ever since I got it, well....I've been feeling pretty good.

I got employee of the month at the Yeast processing plant I work at and, I feel better. I used to get sick all the damn time. Nowadays not so much as a sniffle. Hell I can't think of a downside to it. I might even go back again and get a real augment. I was thinking possibly one of those kickass skin grafts I see on some of the gangers around town. You know, the ones that change colors?

Oh yeah, I never introduced myself. Names Ripley.

The Foot? Good folks to work for, I'll tell you that much. Long as you don't mess with the company. It's a little like working for the mafia, but less dangerous - you know where you stand, you know?

Me, I just work in one of the Hop-Marts. It's a good gig. 7 to 5 in the morning, shilling sodas, cigs, milk, whatever we've got stocked, and then I get myself some vending machine Udon and get some sleep. No one really messes with me, `cause of the company. We had some punk kid on rollerblades come in there the other day - him, some bioroid with a mustache, and a fucking kangaroo. Tried to rob me clean... well... I stall for time, and less than a minute later, the security detail's in there, the kangaroo's on the ground stunned, the bioroid's half disassembled, and they've got the kid in a choke-hold. Nice guys, though. Two of `em stayed after, tried out some of the Soya-Pizza.

I work on the Mouser watch program. Now...don't think the name means we are looking for them to get rid of them. The Foot hired us. Our job is to run maintenance checks and check the data scans. They are mapping out the sub-systems of the City. The Foot never got in on that part of the deal. They have the surface streets but, never once did they get the sewers. So, we get the job of scanning through hour upon hour of data reel to figure out what the hell they are.

It was a routine check up. A mouse had picked up some weird signals down below and we of course followed the Stockman protocols and dispatched a pack. Two hours after they reached the spot they went silent...the last image we got was something moving on two legs...

My buddy… bless him. He thought it was some sort of turtle-man... that was the last time I saw him. Rumor had it he got called into a Foot distribution center...

There's a new drug going around the city.

E-Tank is still the Corp drug of choice, that or Ring. The former is an upper and a stimulant, makes you forget your pains, gets you back at 100%. Some say that it actually heals you... I'm pretty sure it doesn't. It just stops you from realizing that you're leaking from 12 different gunshot wounds. Ring is different. Ring speeds up your reflexes, and acts as a kind of neural buffer. When you actually get hit, you're dead sober again, but you won't go into shock... it's pretty handy. Addictive, though...

But anyway, this new drug, they say it's made from some mold that they found growing in the bricks down in the sewers. It could take over E-Tank as the fave, because after you take it, you don't just feel better. You feel BIGGER. You feel completely fucking invincible. Like you could break rock with your skull. Like you could stomp dragons to death with nothing but your bare feet - and oh yes, there are dragons now, and horrible mushroom people, and skeletons that keep coming back even after you're done...

Yeah, hallucinations. But since when has that stopped the corps? Hell, they'd think that was a bonus.

There's a lab, deep within Robodyne, which specializes in one thing: conversion. It doesn't matter who you were after they're done, or how you were brought there, or why. It doesn't matter what you've done in the past, or how much you scream. There's nothing left that could be called "you". Flesh gone, nerves wired to steel, a reprogrammed brain altered to think only of the `bot's duty. Works faster than a positronic brain, and more creatively. You ever wonder why there's never anything left of a Robodyne `bot after it's rendered nonfunc? That's why. Self-destruct to keep the braincase a secret.

Another idea: merge the Mother Brain from Phantasy Star with the Mother Brain from Metroid. So instead of space pirates, MB is the societal controller of a human colony who unwittingly does its bidding and is unable to realize that it's gone completely fucking feral. Which, as a rule, is not something you want in the AI that runs your society. Then it discovers the Metroids, and Wily or Robotnik hire Samus to take out MB before she can do the same to them. For added grimdark, make it so, in truth all MB wanted to use the Metroids for was to create a power supply for the colony so that they don't have to rely on electricity from Wily or Robotnik. Which is of course the real reason why they sent you in to invade Iraq, sorry Algol.

The remnants of the city government have asked the feds for help to at least stop the gun running and mercenaries that have flooded the city. Supplying, the Foot, Egg Co. and Willy Inc. The head of this Mercenary Co. is a man by the name Col. Vernon Cataffy. He cares not for their petty struggles for corporate power, only those of the mercenaries under his command. As such, he hires his men out as needed. Recently, after Dr. Ivo Robotnik attempted a double-cross of the Colonel, the Colonel's men managed to steal a top secret project from the Doctor codenamed MG. Supposedly this project is a bipedal tank which permits the launching of short ranged missiles. As well, they managed to kidnap the projects designer, Dr. Ivan Petrovich.

All of the other operatives sent in have thus far failed. Including the legendary black ops operative Frank Jaeger. Unwilling to waste any more precious manpower on what is already a lost cause (in the governments eye), the army is going to make one last attempt by sending in a somewhat green Special Forces operative whose been given the code name of Solid Snake.

Good lord, I can't believe I made it! We have the security footage over and over and over again, until we could see those walls materialize in our sleep.

We started the descent three days ago. Repelling is the only way you can make it past the automated security. Granted, we didn't take into account the kinds of mutated creatures we'd be encountering on the way down. The birds, I still can't understand how they could even fly; their beaks were sharper then anything we could expect. Sliced through 4 of our lines before we drove them off. Reinforced cable, sliced through like nothing. Managed to kill one though, the thing's beak makes a handy blade in a pinch.

Once we made it to the landing at the bottom, we thought it would be smooth sailing to the old Hyrulian dig site, but we were wrong. We got jumped by a gang of mutated... things. They were mostly rat-like, though they were lead by three frog-looking brutes covered in boils and pock-marks. Some of the men tried to fight, but were slaughtered. Those frogmen... they used the corpses of my team as bludgeons against those that tried to hold them off. Me and three others leaped on the old hover bikes and raced towards the dig site. The gang gave chase. The track was tough enough to travel without being attacked by rat-mutant bikers. I didn't pilot the hover bike as much as I twitched in the direction I wanted it to go. Luckily for me, I was fast enough. ... Only I was fast enough...

Should I feel remorse for withholding the Rings from my team? No. No, I can't question myself now... Not only that, I'll need them for when this one wears off...

He fingered the little yellow disc with a certain amount of apprehension. Its center was punched right through the middle. Wasn't a knockoff at least. It had cost him a week’s salary to even land this one.

Ring...the drug that made the world go round at least, for whoever was popping the pill. With a final breath he stuck the little bit of drug in his mouth. With a loud crunch he chewed and swallowed letting a sickly sensation course over his body.

It was quickly replaced by something far more pleasing. His heart raced as he suddenly could feel the world moving around him. Shaking slightly he started off for the day of work. The dose was good for ten hours...plenty to get through the day.

This just in! We have breaking news from Wily Towers!

Professor Thomas Light is presumed dead after a massive explosion rocked his laboratory. The force of the blast left several nearby buildings in ruins and much of Wily Towers is now currently cordoned off.

Thomas Light was one of the leading researchers into biodroid concepts and engineering. He was also one of Doctor- er, President Wily's closest friends. Light is most well known for the creation of the EDDIE and AUTO units but, his greatest strides were in the creation of the synthetic replication system. A rapid learning system that to this day remains a trade secret.

I sit their stunned. My Wily Inc. Standard T.V. is suddenly turned off, the news stream shut down and my access to video media with it.

[i] Light was dead[/i]. It was as if someone had killed Wily himself. He had made this city practically. He was a veritable god amongst men...the uncle of the positronic brain...

"There are no more heroes...." escapes my lips as I stumble out my door looking for a bottle of Soy-Hol.

He shut off the television. He knew that it was spouting lies. He knew what he'd seen, in the flickering streetlights that night. His girl, his princess, stolen away by one of Wily's creations. Biological Weapon System and Endothermic Relay. Sure, she was a leading scientist over at Robotnik's R&D, but why send a B.O.W.S.E.R. unit after one girl? Mario Marino locked his shop and grabbed his wrench. No one besides the big man himself knew the layout Wily's tower like Light, and if he was still alive like Mario thought, he'd be in the sewers. And pipes were what Mario knew.

Dr. Light fiddled with the instruments he had set up in his makeshift lab on the outskirts of the central hub of the city. His eyes strained in the dim light of the few oil lamps he had saved. Like himself, they were relics from the past.

The machine hummed to life and static emanated from the receiver. Hesitantly, he lifted the old ham radio's broadcasting microphone to his mouth and in a somber tone, he spoke.

"This is Dr. Thomas Light. I'm broadcasting on the old A.M. frequencies in the hopes that someone, somewhere will hear this...” He paused, sighing heavily as he tried to collect his thoughts.

"Dr. Albert Wily is not to be trusted. The man is a sociopath. He intends to use his position and his massive armies of robots to take over the world... and I... I could not stop him in time."

Light hung his head in remorse, a single tear rolled down his cheek as he picked up the microphone again.

"This is a call to arms. I am too old to fight....too battered and useless...but I know there are others out there. Others who would fight the oppression and tyranny that Dr. Wily is placing upon this city. So please… if you can, come and find me.

Together...maybe we can bring back the light."

Thomas Light hung up the microphone and sobbed. For the first time in ages, the man with the answers was lost. He had no idea what he was supposed to do. That's when it caught his eye, the glimmering metal helmet. He felt renewed, a sense of purpose and determination washed over him as he began his work. He would create a man to bring change; he would build a man to fight, and free society from Wily's evil machinations. He grabbed a rag and began to polish the blue metal.

"There's so much work to do..." Light muttered to himself as he began his task.

She'd gotten the message as something of a shock to put it lightly. No one used Am frequencies really. It was a blast out of the past if it hadn't been for the fact her Met-pharm issued Bio-combat suit had been built for damn near anything picked it up she would never have heard it.

"Lieutenant Aran!" A voice barked in her ear making her wince. Her commander no doubt.

"Yes sir?" She replied punching on her two way.

"Get a move on to the Extraction Point. The containment went well. No thanks to you of course." He barked with a voice not unlike stones grinding together.

With a certain amount of apprehension she kicked on her suits movement systems. Synth-muscles made each step almost like walking on the moon at a normal pace. If she actually booked it well, she could easily reach a steady thirty miles an hour like it was a decent jog. If she jumped they said she could make it onto the second story with no problem.

Of course she hardly did anything like that. It was mostly perimeter patrol and watching out for whatever the rest of the troopers were mopping up. The one time she actually had a chance to fight she had blown it way out proportion and fired of a charge shot. The result was rather...messy.

It also came with a mound of paperwork.

As she drew near the transport truck, a massive semi-sized thing that could refuel that suits and repair them on the fly. She could see her superiors already loading up their suits...great she was late to boot.

Wily and Eggman, they are the names spoken of widely, the so-called 'leaders' of this city. However, there is one other name, spoken of in hushed tones, voices dripping with fear and contempt. And though his name not oft spoke, his presence is undeniable, his throne lighting up the night sky even amidst the graveyard he created.

He is the undisputed 'King' of his realm and his denizens, all dead, or driven mad by the hypnotic and subliminal messages played across all frequencies. His streets are infested by mutant monstrosities created by idle hands and childish whims. His dominion all kept in line by machines of his own design, built with no other intention than to maim and bleed.

And then there is It, his ultimate monster, the one that leaves no other recourse but to flee.

Above all this he sits, in his seat of decadence, and laughs. He laughs at the suffering and death he has wrought. He laughs at all the silly people scurrying for their lives, praying in their bloodied alleyways and slums. For what are they but his toys; for he is the Pork King.

Something’s wrong... I can feel it in the air. A static, a buzz.

It could be the soyohol but it can't be… not a feeling like this. This static. This horrid buzzing that hisses in my ears as I look down the street. It wobbles and weaves in and out of focus.

Something’s wrong...

That charged air picks up as I begin to understand. A broken street lamp flares to life for a brief moment revealing a blue haze. Something that seems impossible. As the light explodes in a shower of sparks its gone. The sound of a hurricane brushing past me as something moves faster than sight. In its wake I see footsteps smashed into in the ground.

I look about. The buzzing is gone. That sound like a saw whirring alone in the night...Perhaps the rumors are true...Big blue lives...

Somewhere in Subcomplex 32-Gamma, Joe stirred. The sharpshooter unit felt... restless. It wasn't something that normally happened to him -- maybe to other bioroids, but he was a more placid sort. He slung the mandatory-equip riot shield over a shoulder, and knocked on the window of the holding zone gatekeeper. "Going on patrol."

"You aren't sh-"

"I know. Back in a while." The repurposed metool unit would have shrugged if it had shoulders. Instead, it just went back to its work - Joe was already halfway down the hallway.

Something just felt... wrong. Instinct wasn't something that was supposed to occur within the positronic brain - oh, it happened, but it was considered a fluke, or a random side-effect of the processes that simulated emotional response. He never paid attention to them before, but now... now he was practically dashing out into the elevated highway, wondering what it was that was driving him on, this feeling like a rock in the core of his being.

He never had the luxury of knowing that he was right. Three seconds after he saw the crater in the Wily tower, he was reduced to his component atoms in the second blast, along with two lanes of the highway.

The Foot...it’s a name that sends chills down most people's spines. You don't see them beyond that nice front they give you. The everyman, the guy just looking out for the masses.

It’s a facade of course, as fake as the trees in Ivo-park. They are crooks and thugs. But, a lesser evil I guess than some. I've had the pleasure of meeting one of their thugs. A guy named Beebop.

A mountain of a biodroid at least, supposedly that's what he is. I've seen biodroids plenty of times. You ask the right questions you get a weird answer. It’s the way you can tell they are what they are at times. Feeling like a jackass I asked him one of those weird-outs and nothing happened. He looked at me like I'm an idiot. That big ugly horn he calls a nose pointed at me.

After that I had to pay up...I was late on my protection money you see...yeah the foot...gotta love em.

There is a vicious trio known throughout the city for their blood-thirsty lack of mercy, and the fact they still dress in traditional Viking garb. Whatever set of this lost group of Vikings, multiple times they have broken into Wily and Robotnik compounds alike, killing everything within. Rumors have emerged about what set them off, drugs, the companies testing them for a new type of drug to produce strength, agility, and endurance, or even aliens. This threesome is out for blood, and aren't afraid to kill bystanders

"You know the part of the city by the river?

Yeah I live down there. It's not too bad, for a place run by 16-year-olds. No shit seriously, there's something like nine or ten gangs that just run the whole damn area. Restaurants have to give them protection money or else. Wily and Robotnik let them get away with it because those kids aren't smart enough to supply electricity or water, and the Foot leaves em be because those gangs are where they get their best recruits.

The prices aren't so bad, none of the gangs can stand each other you see, so a little friendly competition between rival gangs keeps the prices down. Wait, did I say friendly? Sorry, I meant ferocious.

Well, apart from that one time a guy name Slick appeared. Some said he was the son of one of them Lee brothers, others that he was some sort of Robot Master prototype for Oil Man. All I know is that in a week he had those gangs all working together... and extorting the people out of house and home. And when they wouldn't pay, the gangs'd kidnap their daughters.

Well, one day they kidnapped the wrong set of twins, on account of the fact that their boyfriends were pair of kids called Alex and Ryan.

And THOSE kids could punch a grown man so many times, so fast that he'd barf his innards clean out of his face.

Those two boys ripped the gang to shreds, and then tossed those shreds clean over the horizon. I seen em do it once! They threw some mook from Generic Gang right over a house!

When the dust settled Slick was down, thrown down an elevator shaft, and it was Alex and Ryan were calling the shots.

I guess those two are good kids, it's just, that look of glee they got whenever they were punching some poor SOB's face in that keeps haunting me..."

The explosion of dust shattered the windows of the JankenCorp building. JankenCorp was a personal fiefdom run with an iron fist by King Janken, some former Oligarch from out east, some place called Aries. The building sank into the earth that spawned it, sending debris and dust across the city. It was called one of the greatest unexplained disasters of the decade by the state owned media. Investigators had tried to piece together what had happened. All they could tell is that each of the foundation supports had just shattered one after another in the space of 30 seconds. They just couldn't explain it.

Of course, there were stories.

About how just before JankenCorp collapsed, a kid on a motorcycle leapt out of the 75th story window, and seemed to float unassisted onto a nearby roof. Some will swear blind the guy had big ears and mullet the likes of which you have never seen.

There are some that then remember the previous ruler of Aries, an exiled King Sander Thunder Radaxian returned to the throne in Janken's wake, and that perhaps his prodigal long lost son Alex, somewhat resembles those descriptions. Some people might even then remember that Alex is a master of a weird martial art called "Shellcore" that let's you punch through stone with sheer force of will.

Some might, but if they do, they aren't saying anything.

Lt Aran scanned her surroundings. The low-light filter gave the abandoned steel mill a bluish hue. It seemed empty enough, but she knew something was here. Something had taken out the sentries posted on the perimeter of what was supposed to be a worthless pile of scrap metal, formerly of Wily Industries. Did the intruder know about the secrets lurking below, beneath the sewers? She flipped the visor to infrared, and turned her head...

Only to meet the business end of a silenced energy pistol. The camouflaged man in front of her had seemingly materialized out of thin air, his weathered face looking grim, an old, tattered bandanna tied around his forehead.

"Don't move." A quiet, dry voice, like shifting sands. "I'd rather not shoot you. Don't raise the alarm, and don't power up your beam cannon, pretend I'm not here."

"You know I can't do that." Aran's visor was already matching the face to profiles of known mercenaries, terrorists and rogue ninjas. He was probably tracking her power signature, so she couldn't charge the beam. "You are trespassing on MetPharm property. I'm going to give you 3 seconds to drop your weapon and surrender, after that I will shoot to kill."

The man was silent. He simply lowered his weapon and shot a grey shape on the ground, and Samus screamed as her visor, still on IR mode, was blinded by the eruption of the flare. Son of a bitch! That was the oldest trick in the book and she'd fallen for it like some rookie!

Now, I've been walking around Ivo Park at night.

I know, it’s a suicide habit. Worse than doing rings or E-tank. But, I can't help it. Lately I've been just getting this urge. When I don't, I get nightmares... so I do what my urges tell me to. I walk Ivo Park.

I've gotten into this little routine. I make my way around the block sized statue of Robotnik then make my way to this little pond...well it is called one anyways. I've never seen a pond made of mercury with metal fish swimming in it. When I get there I take a nap. Every time. It’s like it’s programmed into me or something...I'm not biodroid man. I just have well, instincts I guess.

Weirdest thing though. It never happened till I got my hand replaced.

Yeah, I got the job done by a MetPharm hospital... Why do you ask?

Professor Wily reclined in the wheeled chair of his office. One of the few eccentricities he had developed over the years. Wheelie chairs for some odd reason just appealed to him. It was the only type of chair he had in here. All wheels. All moving to some perfect effect....

"Sir. You have a visitor" A modified gunner Joe radioed in. Pulling Him from his peaceful malaise.

With a disgusted sigh he noted that this one would need to be reformatted. He needed to get that personality interface right. The Metools sold better because they at least didn't look human and couldn't get faulted for not acting like one.

"Dammit Thomas." he muttered as he pressed the enter button. As the door slid open he felt a cold chill run down his spine. Red armor glowed slightly in the diffuse light. Heavy footsteps and a visored helmet...he should have guessed who it was.

"What is it, Protoman?" He snapped glaring at the technical marvel. After all he was the first truly free thinking Biodroid. "You should be leading the charge on Sector three against Eggman and his goons."

The automaton simply stared at him, his polymer face unreadable. This drove Wily mad to no end. Thomas always could tell him what was going on in that sparking brain of the failed son before him.

"We have reports of a radio message..." He began trailing off as he turned his head slightly to stare at a picture of a smiling pair of scientists in lab coats receiving a Nobel. "From Professor Thomas Light."

Wily could not help but to grid his teeth at the words.

"What?" He snarled standing from his chair, causing it to roll away and collide with a statue of an early Cutman prototype; knocking it to the ground. "Did you say?"

"Reports are streaming over Wy-net that someone saying they are Professor Thomas Light (presumed deceased) is trying to rally support from various factions within Omegon City." Protoman stated with perfect memory. "It is presumed I shall be dispatched to deal with this target?"

Wily could feel his heart racing. All these years he had thought Light to be smarter than this. He'd explain what would happen. He had TOLD him he would have no choice after that botched Biodroid project.

"No." he replied slowly. "Dispatch Cutman to the suspect’s whereabouts with a Gunner Joe Squad. I want no survivors. This includes Biodroids." He could almost hear Light in the back of his mind. He had no idea what sort of force he had just brought down upon them all...

Professor Light turned to face the crowd in the dimly lit room. Weary faces marked by endless war, faces he'd come to know as his allies. He didn't always agree with their methods, but they were the enemy of his enemy.

"Ladies and gentlemen," he began slowly, "I am pleased to report that the pinnacle of my research has finally been achieved. I stand before you tonight, prepared to unveil the weapon that will finally turn the tide of battle in our favor. Tonight, the battle that will overthrow the tyranny of the corporations begins."

A murmur rose in the crowded room. Colonel Fio, of the paramilitary tank-jacking group that called themselves the Peregrine Falcons, raised her arm. "All due respect, Doctor, but we've heard this before. What's special about tonight?"

Light turned to face the girl. "A good question. Tonight was the night an operative, contracted by me, finally managed to penetrate the MetPharm facility in Zone X-900B. Tonight I received the energy absorption technology I required to finish my creation. With this Engram generator, he will be able to gain the powers of whatever enemy he defeats! In the end, he will become an unstoppable engine of vengeance."

A toad-like bioroid, representing the sewer dwellers of the Bioroid Underground, raised an appendage. "He? Who is this 'he', Doctor?"

"Another good question!" The doctor smiled. Why, he's my ultimate creation. The closest to a son I'll ever have. Here he is, ladies and gentlemen."

With a swift motion of his arm Dr Light pulled back a tarpaulin cover, revealing a glimmering bioroid generation tube. The smallish, blue-chromed cyborg within had a content face with a soft expression. It looked peaceful.

Light looked at the gathered crowd. "The startup sequence for my little blue bomber is running as we speak. In a few hours, he will be fully charged and ready for operation. In order for the attack to be successful, I will need the cooperation from all of you." He pointed at the group of bioroids huddling in the corner. "The Bioroid Underground will play a key role, striking from hidden sewer passages in key locations and disabling the heart of the corporate infrastructure. The various paramilitary groups," he turned to the Peregrines and the Contras, along with the other militia representatives, "will attack corporate army compounds, creating confusion and preventing a combined force response. A few groups of exceptionally gifted civilians," he looked at Mario, the Lee brothers, Adam Hunter, and many other brawlers, hardened from undercity life, "will incite riots and unrest in important districts, as well as disrupt corporate-loyal gang activity."

The room was buzzing with activity. The holodisplay behind Dr. Light was filling up with plans of city zones, building and enemy weapon schematics, and tactical information. A few ninjas, sitting silently in the back, had already approached Light, received orders, and left as quietly as they arrived. The paramilitaries were reviewing battle formations and weapons specs. Most of the brawlers were putting on their fighting face.

With a press of a button, Light illuminated the bioroid tank with his blue creation. Its eyes were now wide open, its positronic brain loaded with information. It smiled as it looked across the room. Dr Light smiled back.

"Ladies and gentlemen. Tonight, we take back the city. Tonight... Tonight WE WILL ROCK THIS WORLD!"

Cutman a far simpler model compared to many of the masters was more than thrilled when the orders came over the Wy-net. It was far overdue in his opinion. Light had always been a risk since Project M.

'Move out." He commanded as a healthy squad of twenty Gunner Joes began their steady march on an old warehouse. Already he could feel the blades built into his arms spinning up.

"When I give the order, fire!" He yelled pointing at the target. "Safety protocols off. All targets are to be eliminated. No survivors."

With a single sound like grinding teeth they responded in kind. Taking aim with built in machine guns.


Cutman surveyed the bullet-riddled warehouse. It was empty. Dr Light had apparently masked the true transmission source with a relay. As could be expected from a scientist of his caliber. The cyborg kicked a pile of corrugated iron in frustration, and turned to the JOEs, preparing to issue regrouping orders...

It happened so fast. A blue flash dropping from the sky, beams turning each Joes' head into slag effortlessly. Charge Beam technology?! Some kind of MetPharm weapon? Cutman spun up the blades and engaged enhanced combat subroutines. But the blue shape rushing towards him didn't have the signature look of a MP battlesuit...

It looked like Project M.

It happened too fast. Even with the increased response time wily had given his latest chassis it was like fighting lighting. It should have figured it was project M after all.

"You monster!" He bellowed letting a blade fly. Its monomolecular edge missing and instead cutting the remains of a JOE in half as it spun through the air.

Before he knew it a blast had somehow punched through his force screens tearing off a leg in the process. Sparks flew from a wholly metallic body. He was no biodroid...just another tool for Wily.

As his optics slowly flickered in and out of focus he new what was coming. Project M was designed after all to out do anyone...

Bioroid. Biological android, like all the "mutants" of the undercity, created for a specific purpose. Dregs of society, those.

Meanwhile at Foot HQ.

It'd been many years since anyone had brought him news that was so...exciting.

Light was leading a rebellion, Wily was in a panic and Eggman was up to something no doubt...

"You've done well my servants." he congratulated with an echoing sound from within his helm.

Two ninja stood with their heads bowed.


From somewhere amongst a mass of machinery a figure creeps out. His face riddled with surgery scars.

"Yes sir?"

"Activate the mouser protocols."

"Yes shredder sir."

There is a large, abandoned mansion in the heart of the city. Most people have just come to call it 'West Mansion' for the former owner, but among the local kids it's known as the 'Splatterhouse'. A while ago a friend of mine, Rick, decided to take shelter there with his girl Jennifer. The story he told me sent chills down my spine.

He spoke of large Bioroids, they were almost demonic in the description, coming from the house and dragging Jennifer away, attacking and leaving him for dead.

What he said next really had me fearing that place. He was sure he had died. He remembers waking up with a mask attached to his face, a 'hell mask' he called it. He spoke of running through the mansion and killing bioroids left and right, all the while searching for Jennifer.

Then, he said that the mask opened a portal to hell. I just think he was coming down off of a bad high, but then, why was he covered in blood and carrying a machete, and where was Jennifer?

Even though he screamed for help, the Foot ganger knew no one was going to come out. No one got involved with things like this. He was on his own, down on his face with something snagged around his ankle.

He knew he shouldn't have. He knew he was dead. But he rolled over anyway, just for one final look at the thing which had caught up to him. He thought it would spend more time eating the others.

A white miasma surged up his legs, burning through his clothes and searing into his skin. So fast. He thought was screaming before, but then he gave it is all. It engulfed his head quickly, and the white mass contracted around the body until it formed a large sphere. No blood, no mess.

"Good boy" a voice called out as a young man stepped out of the alleyway, "Maybe they'll leave our district alone now"

The blob began to jiggle, and slurped its way up to the boy, slurping around his ankles yet doing him no harm.

"Okay boy, okay! Here's a jelly bean"

A slow steady voice droned over the intercom.

"Cutman version 2.0408 has been deactivated, core removal unconfirmed."

Wily's blood went cold as he heard the news. It couldn't be...this version was unstoppable, at least far more so than what the last one had been. It meant sadly one of two things. He needed to rebuild Cutman or Project M had succeeded...

He prayed it was the former. With a look of utter spite he stared out the window towards where a curl of smoke rose. Below him he could see dozens of robots scurrying about, fixing Lights mistake. No... his mistake. He had given him to much of the leash and thought he could trust the old fool.

"Gutsman." He said aloud his voice as calm and cold as any machine.

"Yeah boss?" A deep bass answered back, reverberating through the room on hidden speakers.

"I have a job for you."

Doctor Ivo 'Eggman' Robotnik sat staring at the images that one of his spies had caught. A blur of blue taking out one of Wily's tin men. It was all too familiar. The energy readings were off though...Not quite fast enough and the beam was new...

"Computer!" he bellowed taking a muffin from a nearby plate. "Analyze all incoming traffic that Wily is sending in and out."

"Confirmed Master Robotnik," it replied in a cold voice. "Several reports have been received already stating that unit GUTSMAN is heading towards where the unit CUTMAN was dispatched. Should I send a harrier squad or an egg-tyrant?" It rattled off with a low hum.

The good doctor reclined, savoring the muffin as he shifted a corpulent body.

"No no no. That won't do, I want to know what's going on here first. Let Wily play his games, I've got time on my hands," he said with a loud laugh. "Computer, increase conversion rate of Robodyne employees by .3 percent. Also, activate all defense grids in key sectors. Terminate and collect anything that moves on the streets."

The city entrance checkpoint lay just ahead. This one appeared to be run by Robotnik's 'men', if such a term still applied to beings that were more fiber-optics than flesh.

Then again, hypocrisy never did anyone any good. At least they knew what they had become. His own enhancements had been found out in a hole by an abandoned Uranium mining facility. The battle suit was one thing, tough with a big gun, but the ride was something else. Neither had let go after he touched them, leading to times when he honestly couldn't tell if he was using the equipment, or if the equipment was using him.

Either way, Light's message had drawn both man and machine to the city. The call for help over long abandoned wavelengths would no doubt bring out plenty of rabble. Bully to them if they even lived the night. He had more personal issues to deal with, and right now, a little riot would provide excellent cover. The Robotnik guards were too used to looking inward, at the rusting pillars of metal and glass, to ever suspect that they were there because worse things lay outside, and someone had to provide that early warning scream. Too bad nobody was listening tonight.

The treads ground to life, digging into the crumbled span of what had once been a grand road. The checkpoint guards finally noticed with only a moment to spare, but that was plenty of time for enhanced reflexes to get their launchers up and send a volley of rockets screaming at the vehicle bearing down at them. It was too bad they lacked true faces, as the look of surprise would have been priceless as his tank simply jumped effortlessly over the rockets, and the checkpoint for that matter. His fingers danced over the secondary armaments, and the ugly side of the electromagnetic force made a conduit right through the guards to the ground. Scratch one Robotnik outpost, 1.3 seconds from normal to FUBAR. He didn't even have to slow down. The outland gangs didn't call him the "Blaster Master" for nothing.

The most direct route to the main Robotnik labs led him through a section of Wily's territory. The speakers were already blaring out propaganda, telling the populace that Wily kept them safe, that Wily was in control. The tread marks he was leaving on the walls said otherwise.

He was going to settle a score with Robotnik tonight. Most people wouldn't understand why he was going to such lengths over something so trivial, but they didn't matter. He had scribbled a few drawings near the vidwindow, of simple frogs and toads, just as he remembered them on the day a Robotnik collection drone had swooped in and taken all of them away. They had been precious things to him, and Robotnik had taken them.

Tonight, he would take something precious from Robotnik.

Warnings screamed across the board as Robotnik sputtered at the sight of a tank charging his lines.

"What is this!?" He bellowed slamming his meaty hands against the keys of a massive console. Screens and systems fluctuated wildly as he programmed a symphony. If this fool was willing to charge his lines he had another thing coming.

"Computer, Chaos Control protocol on my mark! I want the Egg carrier ready for lift on in thirty minutes and four KNUCKLE class Egg Tyrants online!" His voice held an almost manic anger as he spouted forth lines of near pure hate.

Automated monstrosities stirred deep underground and with a loud KERCHUNK A hatch came undone somewhere in the very heart of the compound. With a low roar a metal titan stirred.

As the 'blaster master' cut back into Robotnik’s territory he felt pretty good. It was moving smoothly each barricade he had come to had gotten bowled over and nothing seemed to be able to stop him... sadly he was mistaken.

His hands sped over controls that seemed almost beyond human comprehension as something loomed over head. A nightmare of steel and fiber. Its jaws easily ten feet wide, long claws digging into the concrete it loomed over even the tank.


He fired off as fast he could. A single blast impacted on a frame of something harder than steel. A roar like steel girders against concrete echoed through the city. A massive claw barely missed as he backpedaled as fast he could, just barely missing an attack capable of killing even a master possibly.

Hidden within his nest of steel Doctor Ivo Robotnik giggled madly.

In the 3rd floor of an abandoned hab unit, another chunk of ... whatever passed for building materials these days fell to the floor. The light from the street lamps outside barely illuminated the two figures inside: one on the floor, prostrated and begging, the other standing above him. Most of the 3rd floor had been turned into a smoking ruin: the walls had large holes in them, and deep gouges had been cut into them, surrounded by burn marks.

"Please! I beg of you, spare me!" "Heh, how many times have we both heard that one?" "I was only following orders! I was only doing my job!" "Your job?! If you had done your job RIGHT I'd be the one begging for mercy, not you!" "You think it's easy to do what I've done in this business, kid?! Trust me, it gets harder from here on out. You're in the big leagues now, kid!" "It's been pretty easy so far. Most of them were worn out codgers like you." "Then do it! And I'll see you in Hell soon enough!" "Fine by me."

There was a sound like a switchblade flicking open, followed by a low hum as a beam of searing blue light extended from the device in the man's hand.

"Don't worry, I'll make it quick."

And with that, he flicked his arm, swinging the blue beam through his victim's neck, the head bouncing away into the darkness.

"What rank does that make me now, Syl?" he said, glancing at the device strapped to his arm. "Kill confirmed. You are now the number 4 ranked assassin, and your account has been updated accordingly. Congratulations Mr. Touchdown! Would you like me to start searching for the 3rd rank assassin?" it chimed in a vaguely French accent, the virtual woman on the screen smiling. "Sure, go right ahead Syl." "Understood. Working..." the device said, the woman on the screen disappearing as the screensaver replaced her: the name SYLVIA followed by what the acronym stood for: Simple Yottabyte Logistics and Virtual Interface for Assassins.

As he made to leave, he turned back to look at his victim. Was he right? Were things about to get tougher? It seemed to twinge the same nagging doubts he had about this job every day, and bring them to the fore.

"Aaaaah, what does he know?" he bragged, trying to boost his confidence. "He was probably just trying to spook me!"

As he walked off, his nagging doubts about his job, and the city as a whole, returned once more however. It was the same conclusion he kept turning over and over in his head: that this city simply had no more heroes...

"Sylvia, updates on the selection process?" A low voice asked as he reclined within an opulent throne room. Behind him the Foot Banner hung large enough to even cover a tyrant class biodroid.

A holographic image of a woman appeared before the King, his face hidden behind a mask of steel and blades.

"There is master Shredder. A Travis Touchdown has recently ousted the number four candidate with surprising skill. He might prove to be a viable subject for the lineage program." the hologram explained as an image of a young man in a red jacket appeared.

The Shredder stared at the flickering image studying the young man.

"Sylvia." he began as somewhere in the distance an explosion rocked the city again. "Watch him closely. He might be just what we are looking for."

"Yes Master Shredder."

White hid behind a pile of rubble, his photoreceptors and audio processors operating at peak efficiency. The clanking of his enemies were still far off, but getting closer. He gestured to his multicolored brethren, silently ordering them into position.

The clanking of Ivo's machines grew almost deafening, their mechanical chatter becoming discernible.

"Sweep of sector X-13 complete, Crafters not located. Moving to new sector."

White waited until he could have reached out and touched the forward guard to send the signal from the small antenna on his head. Bombs, flawlessly crafted and deviously placed, exploded all around the patrol group, followed by the explosives of his companions. He ran out from behind his cover, and laser weapons began pinging the stone and metal all around him. As he dived behind another shattered pillar, Gold sprinted through the group and dove behind a pillar of his own as the bomb he'd left behind tore through the shattered remains of the Egg Man's machines.

White sprinted into the fray once more, a bomb forming in his hand in a split second; he dropped it to the ground and kicked it viciously, striking the head of a half-destroyed robot, exploding forcefully and ripping it apart. His companions left their own cover, looking at the site of their first victory.

The Bomber Men were slaves no longer.

Running into Robotnik had not been part of the plan. The plan had been to break into the biolabs and destroy Robotnik's long run experiments, hurting him the only way such a creature could be hurt- by denying him the knowledge he so craved. Tangling with the Doctor's personal battle armor was something to be avoided, especially with so many other forces close at hand.

Yet, something drove him on. The tank could make a mockery of gravity, and that maneuverability was all that was preventing a quick death. Instead, it was looking more like a slow death as every blow chipped away at his energy reserves. Even a direct lightning strike has failed to break through the battle armor's defense, with a strange jewel appearing out of nowhere to absorb the energy. Breaking physics was cheating. Then again, nothing wrong in breaking parts of a screwed up universe to keep your own screwed up life going, even if you did sometimes feel the icy breath of Death.

As for Death, well, that being had a boss of his own to report to, and that boss was quite pleased indeed.

"Yes, I glimpsed it myself. These 'Chaos Emeralds' bleed the very energies that empower my keep. Have our puppet keep investigating."

Death turned and left, leaving the lord to contemplate the city before him. Soon, very soon, his keep would return to him, grander than ever. Alas, poor Jason, to have unearthed such a ruin. The stuff of life nearly lost, he had not even made a decent snack, but that bitterness, that hate, they were sweet sustenance for him. Even now the unsuspecting puppet was taking the little toy tank he so prided himself on into battle, but not quite at his own will.

And now, another battle was joined, as animated bone and decayed flesh began to fan out, while the more powerful and stealthy of his servants were sent after the Chaos Emeralds. Win or lose, it did not matter. The Lord of Castlevania could only be delayed, never stopped.

A smile split Kalvin Graham's face as the old radio sparked and slowly came to life. He had spent years working, trying to get it up and running without spending enough to attract attention from the big MegaCorps. Time was, he used to read about those in books and think they were just scary ideas. Now they were facts of life, and nobody seemed to care.

As he pondered his success, he toyed idly with a screwdriver, spinning it in his hand and occasionally flipping it into the air and catching it by the head. Every so often, he also scratched it against his opposite forearm, leaving a thin red trail. The stuff was kicking in, so he didn't mind the pain.

But back to business--this light in his bunker down here in the pipes, he was going to save the world with it. With a good relay, he could send a signal out to the whole city, and if there was even one person with the same frequency out in that neon-lit hell, they could save the world together. But no kid today would listen to an old man. No one, of any age, would risk his life for the rhetoric of Kalvin Graham.

He was scratching his head now. The screwdriver slipped, just once, leaving a short but jagged mark on his coffee-colored forehead. This snapped him to full alert, and he rushed to the mirror in the bathroom. Fear and pain were gone, but this did give him an idea. A crazed grin formed on his face as he raised the screwdriver, and put two more cuts on his forehead. The letter K now stood out in blood. He would leave it to scar. And when he made his first broadcast, he would let it be his new name. Jet Set Radio would begin its first run in only a few short hours. There was a lot to do.

Time was, the gangs in my side of town were just kids. We didn't really have any goal 'sides making noise. But Rokkaku Gouji was different. When we were rocking out, he was doing work. He looked like such a poser, but he was smart enough to survive. I even respected the clown.

Before we knew what had happened, he'd gone from punching cops to paying them. He had gambled with his gang's lives, and won big.

And then he set out to make his new gang, the Rokkaku Police, the only gang. He took down anybody who tuned in, anybody who sprayed paint, and anybody who said "no".

I used to think we had it pretty good. Our town, Tokyo-2, was secure, untouched by the big guys like Egg Corp. and Wily Inc. Sure, the Rokkaku police weren't friendly, but at least they were HUMAN. They were just folks, family men, working stiffs. They were real. I didn't care about the gangs. They were loud and colorful, but then so was most of my neighborhood. I tuned in once on a whim to their pirate station - JSR, they called it.

That was what did it. That was the day that I realized the truth. That was the day that my parents got their heads aired out by Rokkaku's pet psycho.

And even then I thanked god for human cops. A robot assassin wouldn't have missed the scared 12 year old hiding in a closet.

I hate that fucker K, for preaching and ranting but never doing anything tangible. But I hate Rokkaku more, and the gangs are his pet peeve--for some reason, they're the one problem he never seems to try and work to his advantage. I hear rumors, but I don't care about 'em. Whatever it takes, someday I'll look him in the eye, plant my wheels on his face, and fill his lungs with paint.

"The Captain? No, I don't know what he's a captain of either, all I know is he took down three whole Metool divisions and a Wing KOOPA strike force before he decided to just disappear. Shot 'em all to pieces with his gun, some garish grey and red thing. Said it was 'easier than a duck hunt', whatever one of those is...

No, we don't know who the captain is; the only way to recognize him is by his jacket, with a great big N on it. I guess that's why we call him Captain N."

Kirby knows the gate. Kirby is the gate. Kirby is the key and guardian of the gate.

Past, present, future, all are one in Kirby.

He knows where the Pokemon broke through of old, and where They shall break through again. He knows where They had trod Hyrule's fields, and where They still tread them, and why no one can behold Them as They tread. By Their smell can men sometimes know Them near, but of Their semblance can no man know, saving only in the features of those They have begotten on mankind; and of those are there many sorts, differing in likeness from man's truest eidolon to that shape without sight or substance which is Them.

They walk unseen and foul in lonely places where the Words have been spoken and the Rites howled through at their Seasons. The wind gibbers with Their voices, and the earth mutters with Their consciousness.

They bend the forest and crush the city, yet may not forest or city behold the hand that smites.

Subcon in the cold waste hath known Them, and what man knows Subcon?

The ice desert of Zebes and the sunken isles of Koholint hold stones whereon Their seal is engraver, but who hath seen the deep frozen island or the sealed egg long garlanded with seaweed and barnacles? The Wind Fish is Their cousin, yet can he spy Them only dimly.

Iä! Iä! Mother Brain!

As a foulness shall ye know Them. Their hand is at your throats, yet ye see Them not; and Their habitation is even one with your guarded threshold. Kirby is the key to the gate, whereby the spheres meet.

Man rules now where They ruled once; They shall soon rule where man rules now. After summer is winter, after winter summer. They wait patient and potent, for here shall They reign again...

Lieutenant Aran stood in the debriefing room. Her hands and feet were pins and needles. It was a side effect of the suit she was told. So were the hallucinations and the voices...

"Lieutenant, twice now you have been caught misusing Metpharm property." A voice said from within the mirrored confines of the booth nearby. "We think it is high time you were reprimanded. You will be transferred into the CHOZO research project. Is this understood?"

Aran felt her blood run cold. She had heard of the CHOZO project. It was something meant to scare people. A horror story about a group working on proving the combat effectiveness of the Metpharm units through whatever it took.

The failure rate was so high that it had its own morgue...

"Sir yes Sir!" she barked, fighting the urge to break down and cry.

Whimpering as she stepped into the doorway of the lab Aran could not help but to feel as if all had failed her. She had been demoted to little more than a private, she was forbidden from further operation and now...CHOZO.

The room was dark oddly. No lights were on and in the back she could hear the low burble of some strange machine.

"Good day." Something hissed from within. Its voice like sandpaper. "You must be Samus Aran. Please, step inside."

Something moved within the darkness. As a pair of glowing eyes locked onto her she felt her body slowly stepping forward. It was as if she had lost control, a puppet now for someone else. Terror wormed its way into her brain as she began to fight back. Trying to regain control of her limbs.

"Interesting..." It hissed. "You are stronger than the last one. Perhaps you will be a suitable subject…"

Behind her Samus heard the door hiss shut leaving her to darkness... A single horrified scream escaped her lips. As she realized all too suddenly what CHOZO was.

Samus Aran... Yes she was Samus...

With the sensation of being doused in cold water Samus Aran woke from a nightmarish sleep of a strange figure and the horrors it had revealed to her. She was lying in bed, oddly not her own, its soft covers warm from her body heat and the steady beep of machinery in the background.

"Glad to see you're awake, Miss Aran." A calm voice said from her peripheral. It sounded vaguely familiar yet, it was still hard to place. "You must have taken quite the blow to the head. You're lucky to be alive."

Whether it was the drugs still working her over or the simple fact she had no better excuse she happily agreed with a mumbled yes...

"Well, on the bright side of things it would seem you've been cleared for active duty by next week. Full privilege for suit combat reinstated even. Now tell me what's the last thing you remember?"

"I..." She trailed off as she stared at the blank ceiling. The only thing that seemed to come back was impossible. A nightmarish landscape of ruins from some bygone era, a twisted creature lurking within them performing grotesque experiments on people trying to save a dying race and a weapon... A weapon unlike anything she had ever seen.

"I remember the debriefing room."

The boy shifted foot to foot as he waited for the start of the day. Over Wily towers the sun rose. With a deep breath he put his feet to the pedals and started his run.

Over his shoulder a bag filled with newspapers fresh off the pressbot hung, stuffed to the gills. With each rotation he gained speed. He was the best at his job. It paid the family bills and was helping put food on the table for him and his sis.

Steadily he felt the breeze of speed as he hurtled down crowded streets weaving through the mass of workers going on and off shift with such ease it seemed as if he was part of the bike. His first house came up.

Timing was key. Last time he had smashed a window, too soon. The time before that he'd hit a kid bump in the road and gotten thrown off for taking so long. This time. This time he would get it right.

With the sound of a loud thunk the paper collided with the doorway. Landing safely where it was meant to be.

He was not just a paper boy....He was THE PAPERBOY.

He grinned as the massive bioroid fell to the ground in front of him. The fight had been tough, but Mario Marino was tougher. Between the fungal steroids he had found earlier (he was still amazed at being nearly 9 feet tall) and the Flaming Liquid Wave Endothermic Relay he managed to grab from Wily's weapons division, the levels of the tower were child's play. His only tight spot was when he got surrounded by those hammer-wielding bioroid guards down on level 3-3. Lucky for him, he was in the R&D lab. He didn't know what powered the star-shaped thing he grabbed, but whatever did, it made him feel invincible. He took two hammers to the face and didn't even flinch. The carnage he caused, it was beautiful.

But all that was behind him now. He strode past the smoking remains for the inert B.O.W.S.E.R. unit towards the cringing lab rat trying to hide in corner. His F.L.W.E.R. had barely even used any of its fuel, and he was in the mood to burn.

"Where is she?", he shouted, grabbing the tech by his white coat, the man's over-sized headgear wobbling as Mario shook him slightly. "Where's my girl, Peach?"

"I-I-I-I... I don't kn-", the tech stammered, fear in his eyes.

"What do you mean 'Y-Y-Y-You don't know'? WHERE IS SHE?!"

"Sh-Sh-She's not here..." The lab tech began crying.

"Listen here, you sniveling toad, either you tell me where she is..." Mario began charging the firing mechanism on his arm, its orange light illuminating his face. "Either you tell me where she is, or you get to see first hand how well your weapons work, get it?"

The tech's eyes were wide with fear. Mario could smell piss soaking through the tech's pants. Pathetic.

"I-I-I-I-I' s-s-s-sorry. Sh-Sh-She's... She's in another t-t-t-tower..."

The Italian plumber's eyes grew wide, reflecting the growing fire he clutched in his fist. He'd been through eight floors of this damn tower... He's destroyed so many bioroids, he's almost lost count... Hell, this was the fourth B.O.W.S.E.R. he'd encountered... And he's still no closer to finding her. Finally focusing back on the lab tech, he felt himself snap.

"FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFUCK!” he exclaimed, incinerating the tech in a near mindless rage. The screams of the tech filled his ears. The smell of burning flesh filled his nose. The black, oily smoke burned his eyes, but he didn't care. Mario stomped off towards the ventilation shaft once more. Maybe next level...

EMPLOYEE MEMO: It has come to our attention that some workers have expressed concern regarding the imbued intelligence in experimental bioroids. While we acknowledge that dealing with sentient creatures may raise "ethical quandaries", it is vital to the advancement of biotech. The ability of subjects to analyze their own condition greatly speeds the recovery of usable data, as well as your paychecks. We would also like to remind employees that no living bioroid is terminated within this facility, and any inter-departmental contact is prohibited.


No one wanted to believe Rick. They all thought he was insane, or coming down off of Ring or E-tank, but he knew the truth. He knew what they were up to with the Bioroids, and how they started off as normal folks. He was not going to let that happen to Jennifer.

He gathered up the broken Hellmask and placed it on his face. He felt the sting as it attached itself to him and the world grew red. He grabbed his machete and started toward Ivo's side of town. His Jennifer was not going to be a freak, not if he could help it.

Samus Aran didn't feel right... They had suited her up for a test situation. Her suit had been damaged they told her. So, in its place she was given a newer model. It was nothing like any other suit she'd seen. Its orange frame seemed... Wrong. It was almost as if it was not built for a human being.

"We're beginning the phase one test now." A voice said with a crackle of static.

"Roger" She replied as she felt the suit clamp down on her. The Neural network began its slow creep into her body. Matching it nerve for nerve. Her skin crawled as it happened.

She knew what a suit felt like. It wasn't right. As her visor came online she couldn't focus her eyes. It was like seeing things from all the wrong angles. Symbols blurred together and the language interface was off. It wasn't English or any language she'd seen.

"Um..." she started shaking her head inside the cushioned helmet. "Something's wrong. It's all off..."

"You're vitals are fine and the suit is reading perfectly normal. If you want we can stop the test." the voice crackled in her ear.

'No. No, its alright." she answered back aware that this test was more than simply her doing a shake down. It could mean life or death depending on her success.

"Final check running. Alright miss Aran. Prepare for a live fire drill." the voice crackled as Samus fought off the uneasy sensation that crawled over her skin. It didn't feel right... But she would live.

"Alright." She murmured. Her eyes still were out of focus. It was a numbing haze. Like something was clouding her vision.

The room, a large concrete area that was linked to numerous sensors. It was cratered in a few places and was the base test bed for all armors built by Metpharm.

As section of concrete sunk slightly, with a beam of light a hatch opened with the sound of machinery working overtime to lift up something. With a final kerchunk a massive stasis chamber stood within the center of the room. Something slowly stirring within.

The Mushroom Kingdom lies underneath the City like a dark mirror, mutagenic fungus growing out from the pipes thanks to all the crap the Big Three have been spilling out over the years. The exact nature of this underkingdom is unknown - the denizens could be mutants, rogue bioroids, or even strange planetary natives (because the humans don't seem to be natives) or possibly all three.

The Hylians are a long-dead race that came before the Settlement, their legacy almost completely wiped from the surface. A minute number of ruins still evident in the parts of the City still not completely terraformed. Odd little stone temples made with inhuman geometry, statues of things that might have been birds and stranger things that look like a cross between a sea-creature and a man. The same things supposedly sighted near some of the coastal suburbs, in fact.

We can tell their lives were very ceremonial, very religious. Hylians believed strongly in a cycle of reincarnation and repetition and their temples contain the remains of highly complex mechanisms designed to be used in ceremonies. Doors that only open with the correct number of relics, and locks and keys made with a microscopic precision that seems impossible given the technological level which their ruins otherwise indicate. Because despite these engineering marvels, it looks like the Hylians never really advanced very far... but why they went extinct is a mystery. Perhaps they simply stagnated.

...or perhaps their 'King of Evil' isn't quite as mythical as modern scholars think.

Citizens! Uncle Wily has increased the deployment of JOE police units following terrorist threats against the City by anti-progress factions. Do not panic! No right-thinking individuals are at risk - repeat; if you are not a criminal, you are in NO danger. You are safe! You are secure!

For your safety, carry your identification with you at all times and stay to your designated Zones.

We would also like to remind you that all reports of an under-city rebellion in the Pipes are false. Do not believe this scare-mongering. Your opponents lie in the other City areas, beyond the current reach of the Good Uncle Wily.

Ninja Gaiden My father, murdered. Dr Smith, dead as well. Robotnik has one of the statues. Wily has the other. I will destroy both of them to ensure the safety of this world and avenge my father's death.

Mr. X sat in his throne overlooking the city. It wasn't as dizzying as the view he'd have gotten from a RoboDyne or WilyCorp building, but it was damn high. X wasn't a man to fuck with; he couldn't become one of the Big Three so had to become more than a businessman.

In front of him was an intruder, stranger, pissing off X with his very existence. A challenge to his power, a dark reminder that the slightest slip in his ability would result in JOE or SWAT crushing him down.

"Tell me again fuckface, why I shouldn't just get Shiva here to beat your ass down."

The stranger thought for a moment and said:

"Because your man doesn't stand a chance."

Shiva was too cool-headed to rise to it, but X smashed his fist down onto the chair and roared:

"Fuck you. My Right'd break you with his bare knuckles."

But even so, he hit his buzzer and brought some more men in. Street punks looking for the next hit, or looking to score big; wrestlers tired of fixed fights just looking for a rumble; pushers, pimps, thugs. They were the kinds of people that Mr. X made his whole life out of.

The stranger spoke again.

"I want to help you take out the Neo Zeed Syndicate. With your resources I can finish me fight against them. Vengeance will be mine."

Ah. Vengeance was something Mr. X could understand. He'd gotten used to it - punks thinking they could play the hero trying to take him on. They failed, of course, and he'd had to resort to some unsavory measures to make damn sure no-one thought about playing hero again.

"I like vengeance," he said. "It makes for some good entertainment. I can see from your infiltration here that you've got talent, and I won't deny that. Why come to me? Why not somebody else?"

"Who else is there? We don't have police; we just have corps and syndicates. The Corps don't give a shit, and between your men and the Shadow Law, no contest."

Hmm. Mr. X couldn't deny the man's talent. It took more than just steel balls to sneak your way into Stage-8. Neo Zeed were getting edgy, and he needed something to throw at them whilst he gathered his own men for war. "Tell me your name," said X. "I'm intrigued, but I'll have to think about it. Maybe see a little more of your skill."

"I'm Joe. Joe Musashi."

My expedition to one of the Hyrulian Ruins was a modest success to put it lightly. We managed to retrieve an artifact from what would seem to be the remains of a castle or citadel. It seemed to have suffered some sort of battle at one point or another.

Amongst the rubble however we found something most promising. A small triangular piece of metal. It is currently heading back to the Labs at Wily Tower as we speak.

There was a rumor going around about some chick working for one of the corps' subsidiaries. Real smart girl, came up with... Somethin'. Might've been new power source, might've been biotech, might've been the next big drug. Nobody knows what it was, but it was valuable enough that the company she was workin' for stuck it in the biggest vault they had to keep it out of everyone else's hands, sealin' the door up with a three-part keycard. The girl, the CEO and the chief of security each had a piece, and they musta thought that if they were the only ones who could get to it they could keep it a secret. Well, I'm tellin' you this story, so it must not've worked, am I right?

You ever hear of GD-Tech? Big weapons research firm. The head of the company supposedly headed up a few terror cells way out in the desert back in the day before he went legit. Truth is, he never stopped being a terrorist, but instead of doing all the fighting himself he just sells guns to groups willing to spread chaos in his favor. I think the only reason Wily and Ivo haven't gone after him is because he's smart enough not to fund anyone who'd go ruin their plans.

Anyway, he must've gotten wind of something valuable being in the vault because a ton of guys funded by GD-Tech and loaded for bear hit the smaller group's headquarters, killing the CEO and making off with the girl, getting two-thirds of the keycard in the process. As for the chief of security... man, from what I heard he and the rest of the rent-a-cops put up a hell of a fight to keep that last part of the card out of their hands. As I hear tell before he bled out the chief passed it off to the last guy standing - some fresh-faced kid, probably hadn't even been working there a month - and told him to get out of there. Poor guy.

Now I heard all this and I figured that the kid was dead in some alley and GD-Tech got their hands on whatever it is they were trying to find. But then I heard about a break-in in one of their underground storage facilities, where one guy fought his way through the bioroids on guard duty and made off with some of the equipment. Then a couple days later I heard about another, then a couple days after *that* I hear about a third one. That's when I realize that the kid is still alive and... well, I don't know if he's crazy or mad or in love with the girl or still on payroll or what, but he's taking the fight to GD-Tech.

I caught sight of the guy not more'n two days ago, climbing out of the sewers with one of those, uh, neurosynchronous audio-visual reconnaissance units buzzing around his head. The guy couldn't have been outta his teens and here he was, still wearing the green body armor like a badge of honor or somethin'. Crazy monomolecular sword in one hand, riot shield in the other and all kinds of grappling hooks and gauss bolt projectors and explosives and I don't know what else hanging offa the bandoleers he was wearing. Didn't say a word, just climbed out, looked around and dashed off into the night.

Crazy shit, man. Crazy shit.

Samus covered her face instinctively as the Glass of the tube shattered. Her head spinning from such fast. Motion. Within the cool fog something bulky began to take form. A single glowing eye staring at her.

"Bio-devil now online."

Samus Aran's blood ran cold. A bio-devil?! That was a Wily machine, what the hell were they thinking it was supposed to be a combat exercise not an execution! Her stomach lurched as something grabbed her leg. A sinewy mass of yellow was slowly crawling across the floor towards her...

She had one shot. Her body moved like it was in molasses as she brought her arm cannon to bear already kicking on the charge function. The high pitched humming of a power shot sending her back to her days at the academy.

That was when it happened. When she finally realized something far greater than herself. Pain wracked her body as the suit finally accepted its new master. Every fiber of her being entwined with its. For a brief moment she saw the face of thing in the room again. Its large glowing eyes starting at her with inhuman callousness. She could understand what it was trying to do now. How it was trying to help. How it was trying to save them all.

In a blinding sensation she touched her mind to an alien intellect in that room hidden away from prying eyes. She had touched an intellect so vast and strange it should have broken her....It hadn't.

The explosion vaporized the core of the horrific Biodroid, causing the entire mass to revert to little more than sand. Standing in a swirling cloud of debris was the one thing Met-Pharm had wanted for so long. A Chozo Suit wielded by one of their own.

Project M...

Wily reclined in his chair letting the micro electrodes work their magic over his spine. Easing the tensions that had built up in his body. It was too much at once. Lights treachery, the random attacks from some man dressed in red, the death of Cutman and the appearance of this megaman.

"Computer access Project M data files." He stated in a low voice.

"Authorization please, this file is a level omega clearance."

"Sigma eighty four." He mumbled rubbing his eyes.

"Access granted."

Holograms of a humanoid figure flashed into existence as the room became pitch black. Schema after schema floated by. Each a single slice of a perfect weapon. A biodroid that could surpass all others...No, it wasn't a biodroid yet. They didn't have the tech back then. This was a man of metal and plastic. It was to be their finest creation.

Now, it was Wily's greatest enemy. A threat that Light had brought forth foolishly. The prototype should have been an obvious indication that there was no way it could work. He could still see the half finished machine rising from the table a look of pure hate on its face. It had nearly cost them their lives, now Light was being a fool and repeating the past.

"Dammit Thomas. Why?" he muttered as he gestured with his hands in an easy practiced manner.

The images slid by revealing yet more of his schema. The arm cannon had been less stable then, the sensor systems too bulky to look human so they were hidden behind a visor. The first primitive positronic brain had been too large for a normal human skull mode which resulted in the helmet...Such a primitive design.

With another motion he paused the image. It was a circuit diagram...Something so incredibly outdated he had almost forgotten that they had used it.

"Computer, run biodroid reconfig program on project M schema." He said studying the image.

Another flash and slowly the holograms blurred and reappeared one by one. The new Biodroid systems were far more streamlined and their semi-organic nature allowed for a little more play with the heuristic processes.

"Computer, overlay Protoman schema to this configuration."

Another flash and the schematics were overlaid with new images. A Green overlay no less. The designs were near identical.

"Computer. Apply project M schema with biodroid enhancements to Protoman. Preserve the weapon and Positronic systems."

Wily settled into his chair. If this worked he would be able to at least ensure Light was stopped. It was madness what he was trying to do. If Wily Inc. fell Eggman and Company would proceed to take over the rest of the city without a doubt.

This was an unacceptable loss. He had seen the espionage videos of Robotnik’s 'biodroid factories'. Little more than slaughters houses they were it was not something he was willing to let happen to the City. These people were worthless, true. But they at least could think and feel; he had done what he had to. After all there were no more heroes amongst man.

So He had to play the villain.

[Oroku Saki = Shredder / Yoshi = Splinter]

Oroku Saki took a long sip of his drink. A man of his stature was expected to be fond of tea, or possibly sake or beer... but he had long since given up hiding the fact that he was a Blastola Cola junkie. The door to his office slid open, and a pair of terrapin bioroids walked in.

"`Scuse me, sir, but we've got a prollem."

"What is it, Musashi?"

"The mouser units... they're goin' nuts."


"There's sommin' in the sewers. Just too many of the sommin' for them to deal with... they're locked in exterminate mode."

"Interesting." He stood slowly, leaving the can of cola on his desk, and walked to the window. His advisers had tried to tell him that the window made him vulnerable; they didn't know about the force shield that was in place two inches behind the glass on either side. "Send the Leatherhead out. He's been itching for a fight recently. At the least, he'll have lots of little drones to play with."

"So you don' think there's gonna be anythin' down there?"

"It could be a feint. In either way, an attack will be coming soon, and it is best to keep our balance." He nodded to the terrapins, and they left. Such wonderful soldiers... but he could scarcely believe that Yoshi wanted to name them after western artists. They were warriors. They needed names that reflected that. And now... they were... well, not quite his sons. Nephews? That may be more accurate.

His students, anyway. The greatest disciples that the Foot Clan would ever have.

Beneath a small warehouse three blocks from the corporate offices, Ivo Robotnik was juggling three tasks at once. On one screen was the invasion protocol with a constantly updated status screen. The central screen held the offerings of his marketing division for the new personal bionics line they were introducing next month. And to his left, he was playing a game of Chinese checkers over the company network. Anonymously, of course.

Ivo liked Chinese checkers for one reason: it was fluid. Organic. You didn't have a plan in Chinese checkers - you had many. You reacted to your opponents moves, and from that you planned what you would do next. It was very much like being in a fight man-to-man - something which Ivo had not done since his youth, damn his thyroid problems.

But the ways of nature - they were truly the best. To take this blighted landscape of steel, these pathetic humans, beings that were no longer natural, but chunks of living pollution that inhabited it, and to return it to a more natural state... yes, that was the only great goal here. And one day, he would succeed. One day, there would be a new biosphere of steel.

For today... he'd settle for weakening some infrastructures. Or stealing a few corporate secrets. Or maybe just causing some confusion, whipping up the other CEOs so they'd be vulnerable to his next move. He wasn't sure yet. And he was okay with that.

Protoman could feel his body being turned off...

It was disturbing. He had no nerves yet...

It felt like he was being violated. His body, now disconnected from His positronic brain was being refitted by the order of Wily himself. It was so strange...

"I'm becoming a biodroid?" He had asked with a mixture of shock and...joy.

Wily had given him a simply yes.

"Thank you... Father." He whispered as his mind slipped into a sleep mode so the techs could rebuild him anew.

Wily turned back to the glittering schema. No doubt this would take entire night. Good. It had been so long since a proper problem had unfolded before him. Here was something he could grapple with, unwind within.

Running a city left such little time to pursue one's interests.

How long had it been since Wily had just been a scientist?

Too long, he lamented. There was no challenge anymore. No competition for grants, no back-and-forth between friends. His bid for power had left it all behind.


Wily knew Tom Light. They'd worked together. He was a good man. An optimist and an idealist, Thomas could never see the darkness that lay just past his nose.

Wily chuckled.

Light would build a machine just to see it built, blind to what it might do once it was turned on. He was sort of person who'd be happy until he saw just what sort of impression he'd left.

And now he had an army, and a monster.

Wily leaned back in his chair and forced his eyes shut, trying to relieve some of the gathering frustration.

Light needed to be stopped. Needed to realize the chaos he was leading their endless city towards.

And if he couldn't...

Wily focused on the readouts again. He could be a scientist just a little longer.

The Scorpion was dead. Not that it had slowed him down any.

Sure, he was just a brain kept alive in a corpse by nanites, but he was still rather attached to that corpse. One day he would have to undergo a bioroid conversion - one day soon, come to think of it - but for today, he could still move. He could still fight. He could still make war for his daimyo. He hefted his harpoon as he eyed the figure patrolling the streets beneath him. Most of Robotnik's machines had cruel mockeries of animal shapes, or else were simplified armored eggs with wheels and guns ... these new ones, however, were almost humanoid. Humans didn't have razor fins along their backs, and the head shape was all wrong, but they were bipedal.

He shrugged it off. The machine had something he needed. With a bellow of "GET OVER HERE," he unleashed the harpoon, the vibroblade tip whining to life. It punctured the machine's misshapen skull right through the oculars as it turned. Perfect. With a yank, he drew the six-hundred pound chunk of wire, steel, and plastic upwards, and tore the case from its hands. A dry, raspy chuckle escaped his lips as he dropped the machine back to the earth, and dropped a thermite charge on top of it. Another ninja was illuminated by the sudden flash of light - one that was obviously more machine than man, now. The blue-clad figure peered down at the smoldering ruins.


"Mm. Are you going to sit around and comment on my work all night, or are you going to stop jabbering and give me my next assignment?" The Scorpion tossed the case to his partner, who handed him a card, and then bolted off.

MetPharm? MetPharm was making their move at the same time? He groaned as he moved towards the biodoc district. It was going to be a long night.

There's this place I've heard about... It's a fight ring. A big one hidden in the Biodoc wards. It's supposed to be some elitist one too. They only take the best of the best. Fighters so skilled they kill men with a single blow.

Guess it’s run by some guy named Raiden. Word has it he dresses like he's from some old-timey monk from the old Earth east. Then again, they also say he shoots lighting, so the “word” is pretty sketchy.

Weirdest bit though is the fact they have a special thing there where if you lose, you lose everything all your wealth, possessions, hell even your family. The only way to claim it though is to do something called a fatality....

There are whispers in the night.

They speak of that which has no name; no need for a name. For you see, he is all that is. All is him - can't you see it? Creation distilled into a perfect simple monster.

He has no face - and yet I can still feel his smile bearing against my will.

My god, those eyes. Beautiful and terrifying at once. As they looked into me I could feel every eye on me at once oh god they're watching

  • gasp*

I'm sorry. Let me try again.

He has no body, no form, no mass, and yet he is the ultimate body, form, and mass. There is nothing extraneous, no element wasted in his... oh god, I hope he wasn't designed. Who could even...

  • gasp*

Listen, he is everything - part of everything, made up of everything. I look at your face - any face - and I see him.

It's no surprise, really, that there're people living below the city that - hell, I can't get him out of my mind, but they've given themselves up to his perfect roundness.

They cut the fat away, you see. Anything unnecessary. Noses, hair, fingers. They take a knife and- and then they drape flesh over the hole. They cut it all off and hide it away.

Even their chanting.

Just a single exhalation of breath.

  • P'yo*

"The refit will be online soon mister Wily." A soft voice whispered.

"Thank Gladys." He replied flipping through several more computer printouts. They were of a new design type he had been toying with. It was a horribly simple mechanoid but, it could prove to be a useful tool in the coming fight.

Without even looking Wily traced a pattern upon the dark featureless surface of his desk. A view screen came to life mid air at the perfect viewing distance. It showed a startlingly complex set up of machinery all centered around a single Biodroid tube.

A dark shadow could be seen inside. It had taken weeks to get the growth medium alone set up but, it was well worth it. The wetware was far more sound than anything found in nature and it tapped directly into a new Core made specifically for this Chassis.

Emblazoned across the Glass surface was two symbols. Z-0

If things aren't good in this city, they aren't good at all.

I was a factory worker, like so many of us - those of us that don't sell at the stores - or worse, sell ourselves for a little more Ring or E-Tank. I did my work as best I could - turned out enough motivators, kept working - but Wily ... Wily's a hard taskmaster. If you break something, then you're out, and he makes damned sure you never work again.

That happened to me.

I was working on the old, reliable lines - MeTools, mostly - and I don't know what happened, but I was looking over the metal they use to cast the hard-hats when the bad batch got out.

You know the one I'm talking about, I'm pretty damn sure. Snapped neatly in half if you hit 'em hard enough-and these things are supposed to be invincible! Hell, it's one of the main selling points of the MeTool.

That batch was responsible for the kind of outcry you wouldn't believe in this city. It may be dirty, tawdry, broken-down and horrible, but so long as one day is the same as the next, nobody really cares.

The upset over the batch of broken MeTools was massive. People started to question the corps... and Wily wouldn't have that. He apologized quite publicly, called a massive recall, and quietly found out who was responsible.


I was called up to the super's office - one of the robot ones - and told I was through. My Wily Robotics Corporation apartment was being thrown out into the street, my accounts were zeroed - I was through. That night, as I searched for somewhere to sleep, he found me - or rather, his kin did. Raggedy, bearded men in worn old coats, with little off-red 'bots in their own tattered clothing. Some had little stickers, others wore complex patterns-but all of them had something in common.

They told me the King wanted to see me.

I had nothing left-what else was there to lose?

As I followed them, things went steadily downhill. Buildings became more and more decrepit, the streets more cluttered with trash-and everywhere, more of the homeless, and more of those little red robots. But...as I really paid attention, things began to look up a bit. They'd made art out of the trash in places, REAL art, not that stuff where they nail three pieces of garbage together and set it on fire, claiming it's indicative of man's struggle against I don't give a fuck - sorry, pardon my Byrnian.


After a while, the buildings began to lean against each other-and there were little lights in the windows, in some places. Four buildings remained intact - like a castle, I realized.

When we entered that central part of the district, everything changed. It was all trash still, but it was trash used to its maximum-faded pennants, cars made wholesale out of scrap, robots and bioroids and hobos repaired with parts of same. Oil drums hung from the ceiling high above, among dangling platforms and mobile homes, a great dangling city. People were happy. Honest to God, happy.

The center of the whole place was a single great trailer. A pair of Sniper JOEs, their old green coating replaced with the dull plating of used metal, stood at guard, before stepping aside and inviting me-and those that had brought me there-in.

Inside, it was like a rummage sale. Shelving, piled high with the kind of stuff people just threw out - most of it still good, if no longer fashionable - and lots of it. Every kind. Discontinued soda brands. Old computer parts. Robots that had been canceled before beginning production, slumbering.

In the center of it all was an EggCorp PenguEnforcer ... Except ... Not.

They'd obviously done their best for him. A faded band of red and yellow pinstripe crossed his belly, and his coat was that of a department store Santa - worn open, of course. The hat from same sat on his head, along with a ring of golden metal, centered with the brass hood ornament of a car long discontinued.

And I saw, to my chagrin, he was inspecting a Metool. One of the ones I'd screwed up.

He'd heard my footsteps as I came in, and looked up - then stood up.

All things considered, he wasn't much bigger standing than he was sitting - the whole bottom - heavy design of the PenguEnforcer, after all. I just stood there as he set the MeTool down, and walked forward.

I was shocked when he enveloped me in a grandfatherly hug.

"You've done us a great favor." he said, in a fatherly tone. "Everything that is discarded comes to us - and even if the helmet is broken, the rest is still good. You've given plasma welders to our workers, plasma blasters to our soldiers, reactors to our Dees, and armor to our knights. A coup of this nature only comes along once in a decade."

He looked at the coat I was wearing, and considered for a moment, before turning back to the MeTool on the floor and twisting its helmet loose, smacking the helmet dead center, and letting it snap in two, before securing both halves onto my shoulders. One of those great mechanical paws clicked open, and a little swarm of tool-tipped arms flicked out, converting the rest into a rifle, and giving it to me.

"You will eat with us, work with us, and fight alongside us. When the Devourer comes, you will help us fight. For your gift, you are always welcome."

Now, I serve the King. As do all his subjects, I have taken a different name.

I am ... Mettaur.

-Log 59719715 -Subject: Kong rumors amongst city population --Begin transcript: "Listen, mac, I know you been asking around and let me just say, for your sake and ours, to drop it ok? We've all heard the rumors. Everyone on the street has heard whispers of those things out in the wastes. DON'T LOOK FOR THEM. I'll tell you everything you need to know, but for the sake of all of us, stay here in the city."

"Long ago, when Robotnik was first rising to power and Wily was rolling out the first generation of Bioroids, a group of terrorists tried to stop them. I don't know what they were planning. Conquer the world? Save it? Doesn't matter now."

"They knew they couldn't fight back, nobody can stand up to a bioroid or even an old battle bot and walk away. So they hid away, see? They built a hidden lab and made their own weapons. They were terrified of technology. So scared that they barely trusted computers. They knew how easy it is to compromise digital security, even AI, so they didn't use them. They did everything by hand as they worked. Their work? The Kong. DON'T SAY IT! Just whisper it. Never know what's listening, see?"

"They went through several genomes before settling on primates as their final platform. They built the Kong to be the perfect warriors. Strong as a battle bot, and just as big. Perfect organic weapons. They meddled in a dozen gene pools until they had produced an entire platoon of perfect soldiers. Capable of almost everything a bioroid could do, as strong as a battlebot, and living creatures that could grow, learn, and replicate without needing factories or labs. They could heal and repair just like all other organics."

"Then came project MULE. They needed logistics to support their army, hauling ordinance and cannons around, so they started working on modified kongs to do their labor, right? But it backfired. They intended to make the labor kongs a little smarter, to better follow orders. But genes and proteins aren't as easy to program as 1's and 0's. The first kong of the mule line, their Donkey prototype, was too smart, and the Kongs liked him. They listened to his orders over those of their creators. Donkey decided he didn't like listening to things smaller than him, so his army of kongs crushed the terrorist lab and walked off into the wastes."

"And they're still out there. Doing just what they were designed to do: Smashing everything in their way, and making more of themselves. I've said too much already. Just heed the warning. Stay in the cities." --End Transcript.

Donkey looked away from the monitor, scowling. He would have to locate the source of this security leak and smash it. It did not serve his purpose to be revealed to the city - dwellers. Not before he was prepared, anyway.

So there's a rumor goin' round at the moment, see? They say one of the corporations, no, I’m not tellin’ ya which one, was excavating under the city, in one of the old disused districts. Well, they found something under there. Something big. Something alive. It’s supposed to be the size of a city block, with big wings an eye on the front, and the color of rotten flesh. Lucky for us, and them I suppose, the thing’s still asleep. I’d stay out of those disused parts of the city if I were you. I wouldn’t like to be around if they wake it up. And don't tell anyone you heard this.

I've seen a lot in my run of the pipes. Been known house rogue biodroids and mutants. Something new has been talked of, something changing. Not the Big Blue, a friend of mine who works in a Mouser division said he saw a little fish eat a toad... and then it grew legs. A light brown thing, not sickly, but small. Imagine a foot-long goldfish with legs. Later that week I saw a few things that looked like that but it had horns and a longer neck. Not sure if that's what he described though, I mean he never mentioned a horn... Maybe he's too hopped up on god damn ring to know what he has seen.

It's a dirty job but someone's gotta do it. When an outlying Zone falls to a nanite zombie plague, or some nobody dictator rounds up a few regiments of bored militia for a coup d'etat in one of the sectors the corps don't bother with, or some huge monster of the week crawls out of the Pipes... they call us in. We're no bioroid army but we get the job done, nice and clean. Our base is on permanent standby, and our Slugs are ready to launch on a moment's notice. Guaranteed to eliminate all resistance or your money back, and our working rates are very reasonable. You won't find better baseline-human mercs anywhere in the City...

What? The HARD Corps? Bunch of hormone-swilling retards. The Ikari Warriors? You want to trust some no-name outfit with a psycho bitch commander? Delta Red? Those guys got their asses kicked by the frickin' Shadowlaw. You gonna give a bunch of losers your hard-earned cash, go ahead, I won't stop you, but man, if you want real results, the Peregrines are where it's at. And the Peregrines are who we are.

How, exactly, he had managed to get away from Robotnik was beyond him. One minute the voice in the back of his head was egging him on to fight, but after one particularity nasty hit to the tank it went silent. Reason suddenly broke through and he knew that he had better make himself scarce before he wound up as another experiment for the doctor. A quick 180, and he was retreating just as fast as he had charged.

That was easier said than done. Sure, he just drove right over the security wall, but with several egg drones in pursuit he rightfully shouldn't have gotten away. However, he did get some unexpected help - three amphibious bioroids on jetbikes had swooped in, punched out the "badniks," and led his whole mess on a high speed chase through an underground tunnel filled with collapsed walls and broken floors. The reaction time required to avoid becoming a smear was insane, but in the end, it did manage to leave all of Robotnik's machines as spare parts for the big-eye scavengers that lurked at this depth.

They left as quickly as they had come, saying that a "Big Blue" was impressed by his speed and gusto, creating an interest in keeping him alive. He now owed someone big time, and debts like this were not paid off easily. Still, they could do little for his nearly empty energy supply, so while safe for the moment, he had some scavenging to do. He set the tank to auto defense mode and hopped out, the suit's sensors indicating that there was a suitable energy source not too far off.

The tunnels were maze - like, decades of neglect leading to countless collapses, but he was well used to underground navigation. He made progress towards the energy source, but odd whispers began to echo in his head. Rounding a corner, he found a small child standing in his way, wearing ill-fitting long underwear and holding an ornate rod. The whispers in his head suddenly became a full voice, and he knew that it was this kid talking to him.

"Hello, Blaster Master. I'm the Dream Master. Would you like your puppet strings cut?"

"Sure, I got a lotta respect for the Peregrines. They got style and finesse, you don't see that in merc groups too much these days. But sometimes man, you don't WANT style or finesse, what you want is to destroy the entire site, destroy everything taller than your big toe, grind any and everything down into dust... that's ON FIRE. That's when you come to me. I run a professional Bioroid assault squad - annelid pattern, yeah, THOSE mean bastards. We were all pretty shocked when MetPharm discovered that putting arms and trigger fingers on supersized worms made them into supersoldiers. That and it's piss easy to homebrew up too, which is why you get all of those weird fat headed stubby ones out on the market. But not my guy's these are genuine MetPharm pattern WORMS (Warfare. Oriented. Reactive Military. Strikers) you can tell because they got working noses - helps them sniff out the enemy a lot better. What? Water? Okay, sure, technically they can't swim, but hell boy, if it weren't for that the little fucker would have showered half the city in Napalm by now!

So sure, go to the Peregrines if you want to pay through the nose for people who'll actually leave civilians alive and that. But if all you want is to raze something to ground? You'd be crazy to hire them with MY prices!"

Of course, before they got the project properly off the ground, there were a few screw-ups. This one feller, in particular. No arms, no legs, but big-about the size of a python-and smart.

He managed to talk MetPharm into giving him tools and equipment, and set to work-built himself a suit of armor, and a gun they still haven't figured out, using nothing but his teeth, the end of his tail, and pure, hard determination.

His creator called him James, but he prefers Jim.

'Course, round the same time, MetPharm was working on a bunch of other common city animals, seeing what they could do with 'em. Dogs - with a built in combat drug dispenser activated in times of stress. Yellowjacket - hoping to create a "hive" of cheap workers. Slug - don't ask me, my guess was that it was just for the hell of it - and crow.

James didn't like the crow. Said it was a bad idea; told it to anyone who'd listen. Not that anyone did, of course...

Now, y'see, Jim was good. REALLY good. Jobs other teams failed at - you'd send him in, and he'd GET it done. After a while, they started gimping him, just to see if he'd get it done anyway - and he would!

Now, you remember the crow, don't you?

When the crow started asking for parts, MetPharm jumped. If they could have another supersoldier, the equal of Jim, well - eager would have been an understatement. They fell all over themselves to get the crow everything they could, parts, tools, raw materials - if he wanted it, he got it.

Remember how I said Jim didn't trust the crow? He had good reason.

A few days after the crow'd gotten to work, he lurched out of his enclosure, lugging this ugly god-awful gun, in the ugliest suit of power armor I'd ever seen. Where Jim's was an attractive blue and white, the crow's was a hideous yellow somewhere between "construction equipment" and "piss stain." Where his was slim and agile, the crow's was bottom - heavy, clanked like mad, and lurched rather than moving.

All of this was rather academic when the crow switched on the anti-grav.

From what I'm told, the crow slaughtered everyone present, made off with a batch of puppies, and the yellowjacket girl - which Jim loved, in a bashful, elementary-school sort of way.

MetPharm was shocked. They'd lost a bunch of valuable scientists, several experiments, and a possible control should Jim ever turn rogue. The press was screaming for the heads of those in charge, so they made soothing noises at everyone important, and told Jim to go get the bastard.

Some wag named him Psycrow.

Damned if the name isn't spot on.

Well, that's the thing, isn't it?

Is Kirby a creation of man or a monster from beyond?

He's so cute, he must be a bioroid. Something just went wrong in testing and they flushed him rather than feed that appetite or try to kill it.

But then you look again, and start to wonder.

Sure, the design is kinda familiar; the WDL- D and Du units have been on the market for close to a decade, after all. Look at those arms, the legs, eyes, they must be the same.

But where then, go the things that it eats? Why does it inspire such madness? It's such a simple creature.

A round body, two little arms, and an adorable face. Why, it's almost humanlike. Look at that smile. Just look.

Of course man had a hand in its design.

Of course.

  • p'yo*

That remind me, I tried to look into the design history for the WDL-D's for a school project once. I nearly failed because I couldn't find ANYTHING, no design team, no project head, nothing. There's not even a listed manufacturing plant, and no one even seems to know where they come from. Everyone KNOWS that they were made by Robotnik Inc. Except, when you look at them, and then look at everything else he's made... it just somehow doesn't fit. If anything, the design reminds me more of the kind of things I used to see back when I was taking Toadstool. It's the oddest thing... You know what's more worrying though? Remember that archaeological trip I went on to the Hylian Ruins? Well, I was just looking through there hieroglyphs, and I could SWEAR up and down that their letter for D was one of those things...

Somewhere the vast asteroid field that was once Crateria they worked, tiny all the way up to vast robotic servitors tirelessly worked, mining away the shattered planet.

For ten thousand years they had worked in this fashion. Soon however, their great work would be complete, and the great doom would have a body worthy of its existence. Crafted from materials harder than all comprehension, soon the great destroyer would return, and in the place between death and reality it's cold intellect stirred fitfully as it began to rouse from wakefulness, to resurrect itself from its torpor. In its dreams a simple phrase echoes, and those echoes found their way onto every short wave radio operating for three galaxies. For scant seconds there was the booming declaration, on every radio on the entire planet, that filled those who know its meaning with unimaginable terror...




"Professor, Protoman has finished gestating." a cool soft voice whispered in the old mans ear.

Normally he would have slept through an alert but this one had quite the opposite effect. His eyes shot open and with dexterity far greater than anyone would expect from the near sixty year old man he shot out of bed running to the nearest elevator.

To say the few late-nighters were shocked to see the man who had founded one of the largest companies on the planet anxiously hitting buttons in his pajamas would be an understatement.

"Come on, come on." He muttered as the doors slid shut, crossing his arms and tapping his foot in the process.

The elevator slid to halt in a lower level of the towers. It was one of his oldest labs actually, converted into a state of the art facility or the project. Hurrying through the corridors towards his latest creation. As he entered the warm room he couldn't help but to wonder is this was what it was like to be a father...

The lab was overly cluttered, filled to the gills with machines of ever type. Each set to fuel the single biodroid tube in the center. No one except for the highest of his staff even knew about the project let alone what it meant. What sort of resources had been diverted and all to create a single unit based off of a faulty schema.

"Gladys, activation sequence engage!" He exclaimed excitedly as he stood in front of the canister. A smile, the first in so many long years was upon his face.

It was not the smile of 'Uncle Wily'. No, this was a genuine smile of excitement, of awaiting results, of creation. With a loud hiss and plumes of steam the canister separated revealing its contents...

Within lay the inert form of a young man perhaps in his twenties. His hair was a sandy blonde and save for the tubes connecting into him little else. A low hum and a sudden high pitched whine filled the air as electric current surged through the youth, animating it.

Deep in space, beyond the orbits of the planets, something stirred. Years ago, the Robotnik Corporation had sent out automated probes into space, probes made in gruesome parody of marine life. One of these probes had encountered something alive. It was augmented and replicated, transformed into a titanic fleet of warships each thinking, each conscious of a greater purpose. They were no mere machines now. They were Belser.

A message is received by the communications department of Robotnik Corp: Warning! A huge battleship King Fossil is approaching fast!

For the first time Protoman breathed. The sensation of air filling his lungs was something so unexpected, so exotic he had no adequate words to describe it. For the first time he could feel as well. He could feel the warm liquid that surrounded him and the air against his naked chassis...

No, it was no longer a thing of pure metal...somewhere along the way he had gained... Skin. For the first time he could feel his body. He could hear the low thrum of core in his chest along with the steady heartbeat that worked alongside it. He could feel each inhalation of breath and every exhalation as well.

For the first time, Protoman felt alive.

"How are you?" a voice normally so cold and distant was, for the first time in years friendly.

"I'm... Good." Protoman replied as he spoke, feeling his throat vibrate slightly. It was all so new and strange...

"That's good my... Boy." Wily replied reaching into the capsule. "Now, nap time's over, we need to get you back on the streets."

With a grunt from the old man he helped the newly remade protoman out of the container. The floor was shockingly cold to his feet.

'Professor... I feel strange..." He mumbled as he looked around trying to force his optics to dim. "I'm... Breathing? And I have a heartbeat. I thought I was just a biodroid refit."

At this Wily paused, his face shadowing only slightly. But, just as quickly he laughed it away. He was feeling too good tonight to let such things worry him. The refit had succeeded beyond belief.

"You are so much more my boy!" He exclaimed patting the naked figure on the back. "You are the first of a new series. You are the first of a new era. You are a perfect blending of hard and wet ware." Wily explained with an excited voice. "You are able to fight at twice your former chassis capability and can do so much more. Just wait till you try eating! I built a digestive processor into you! Isn't that wonderful?"

"Um... That’s great, professor..." He replied mildly confused at such a prospect.

Wily continued to laugh. He couldn't help it. He had succeeded; he had done what had never been done. And in the process he had also done exactly what Light had done... What better source of genetic material than the person who had created the machine.

"No worries, you are still just as powerful if not more so. I've had a sniper JOE walking around in your old frame. He's done a decent job at it and will have to do till I can finish the overhauls to your battle armor." Wily explained as he moved over to a large cabinet and pulled out several articles of clothing. "Once it’s finished you will be easily the most powerful biodroid ever built... Until then, well..." he trailed off as he handed over the clothes to his creation.

"You can live a little. Wily Tower is yours to roam. Talk to the people, get to know who you’re saving. Do what I can't. You are a prince now my boy."

Lucas ran down the empty streets of Sector Epsilon-22, the blood caked bat at his side making quiet thuds as it scraped along the cracked asphalt. He looked behind himself hastily, making sure he wasn't followed. When he was satisfied with the distance he had ran he stopped, leaning against a flickering lamp post as he attempted to regain his far lost breath.

"You can still turn back you know." Klaus smiled knowingly.

Lucas ignored him, instead taking huge gulps of air.

"You really are going to need your medication, I don't know what you hope to accomplish out here." Klaus said mock - sympathetically.

"You know I can't go back, not after what they did to me. Not after what they did to you."

"They made sure what happened to me wouldn't happen to you, they saved your life."

Lucas's face curled in disgust. "You call this life?" He said, motioning to the metal helmet permanently fused to his head, infused with his mind, regulating his brainwaves. "They made me into one of their goddamned bioroids, they didn't make me any better, they fucking broke me."

"You were broken before!" Claus exploded at Lucas, his face accusatory and stern. "They're the best thing you have going right now."

Contempt and tears welled in Lucas's eyes.

"You were never good at facing the truth, were you, Luke? You know that when you were at the institution they helped you make the voices go away. That you were able to control your powers better with their help."

"Shut up." Lucas whimpered

"And now look where you are, huddled in some dark street, talking with your dead brother. You know I'm a hallucination! You were there when I died! You saw how my body annihilated itself because I couldn't control my abilities, the same thing's going to happen to you if you don't turn yourself back in."

"Shut up" Lucas said again, louder.

"And what about those people you killed? You're nothing more than an over glorified weapon now, how many people will you kill when you need to get away next time? And there will be a next time. Do you really expect them to give up the chase that easily?

"Shut up!" Lucas practically yelled, covering his head, hoping to drown out Claus's harsh words.

"Hey man, you got any E-Tank?"


The bum looked confused for a moment, and then surprised as the entirety of his blood was ejected out of the backside of his body, his body hung in the air for a moment, his eyes bobbing into the back of his head as he fell backwards into a pool of his own viscera.

Lucas went pale for a moment, looking around to see if there was anyone watching. The street didn't stir, not even a sign of Claus. Lucas gasped a few more seconds and then decided he had stayed in one spot too long.

He picked up his bat and ran.

Rumor has it that Wily got a hold of some sort of alien machine awhile back. They call it Ra something... It's supposed to be a massive positronic brain capable of doing damn near anything that requires thinking.

Thing is no ones ever seen the thing. For all we know its just rumors nothing more. But, how do you explain how he figured out how to build the positronic brain so fast?

"Damn it" A rogue line of data echoed through the empty processors inside the heart of the city.

SIM, the AI in charge of city planning and repurposing was in a state of deep internal concentration, and had been that way for the last hundred odd years.

"Damn it again." His kernel clicked disparagingly, his digital expletive reverberating through the mass of dusty, neglected machinery that he had been given responsibility over.

His cursing had attracted attention from elsewhere though, and a new AI blipped into hypothetical existence beside him. One SIM was all too familiar with.

"Hey, SIM, might I have a data stream with you?" The other AI asked.

"Oh, hey COMMODORE. Sure, what's up?" SIM tried to lace as much sarcasm into his binary as protocol allowed.

"Oh it's just, y'know, the usual. You've been given the responsibility to clean up the city, and you also have all of the programs and resources to do so logged into your registry. Soooo I was just stopping by to..."

"To remind me?" Sim snapped, his blips crackling with impatience. "Look, I got everything under control, don't worry about it, go do whatever it is you do."

"It's just...It's been all of these years and you still haven't done-"

"I'm busy! I've been busy! Ok! Lemme relax a little, just let me finish this game and then I'll be right out to do all that stuff, OK? Sheesh, lay off."

"Fine, fine." COMMODORE finally relented, logging off and letting SIM wallow in the empty network he belonged to.

"Finally." SIM sighed, his capacitors finally loosening. "Oh Goddamnit! If I get one more L-Block I swear I'm going to fry a motherfucking circuit!"

SIM... I've heard the name; it was the AI that came before everyone. Wily, Robotnik, hell the only that might have been there is the Shredder and he won't say a thing about it.

Either way, SIM was simply put a thought experiment taken to its farthest extreme. It designed the initial city. Where Wily Towers is standing is one of first spots ever built on. It’s said SIM knows the entirety of the Pipes, It knows every nook and cranny of the city and it used to be in charge. Anyone that got out of hand found their whole block suddenly powerless, waterless and possibly on fire.

The something happened... some say it was a virus others just said things got to big to fast. SIM shut up. It won't talk back anymore hasn't for damn near fifty years. It wouldn't even give us an answer when the first blocks started getting leveled and rebuilt...

Some people say you can still find terminals to interface with SIM here and there. Large primitive things that hardly look like a computer as we know it. None of them seem to have power though... Even when you plug it back into the system they just sit there. Well, no. They do every now and then do something. One will light up and you'll see falling blocks on it and hear this weird little tune coming from it.

Guess it’s just another mystery of this damned city.

It was money, you know. Money that got me into this whole mess.

Kissy went all fish-licker on me and ran off with that bulldyke bitch, Takky. Left me with Susumu; said he 'reminded me too much of his scumbag father.'

Working for MetPharm's packing industry didn't pay enough - after all the taxes and mystery surcharges, I couldn't even keep myself afloat much less my kid. When they propped up that sign asking for a 'digger' I literally jumped at the chance.

Oh god. I wish I hadn't.

There's... THINGS down there. Some say they're part of the mushroom kingdom, but I don't think so. No, that place didn't have fire-breathing dragons and horrible red abominations trying to claw your eyes out while you beaned them over the head with a rock.

What's worse is that they wanted them ALIVE. The MP-12 'Pumper' can inflate a living being filled with whatever that shit-smelling helium crap is. Sure, pump them too much and they pop like an overripe melon, but just enough and they'll float right back up the tunnels you just dug.

The further you went, though, the more you'd see some really odd things. Old buildings, strange stonework with odd symbols, a giant winged body with an eye in the middle - all buried under centuries of detritus and slime.

I've been to the Mushroom Kingdom... it's not what you think I'm clean I've only done ring once or twice and E-tank maybe once a month.

Look... I know it's sketchy but, I've been there. It’s not what you think it is. It’s in the pipes yeah, but, it goes outside of that. It goes so far into the wastes I don't think it ends. It’s just the oil slick off the city out there.

What's it like? Well....It's hard to describe. It’s almost like its not all real. Everything down there is brighter. It’s like being ramped up on E-tank, Ring and One-ups all at once. Of course it’s not all fun and games. It's a nest of biodroids and mutants. I've seen walking mushrooms and some sort of bipedal turtle... thing. You can kick off or jump on sure but... It's the spikies. They are these little red things that fall out of nowhere and crawl towards you. On spike will knock you on your ass unconscious....After that well...dinner time.

The people at the distant edge of the galaxy had toiled for many a decade. Their creation had been named NOVA - for unlike the Devourer, which could only consume, NOVA could only give. It was meant to float through the cosmos, bestowing power to fight the Devourer, and the secrets he guarded. It was even said to have a heart inside of it - a true heart, capable of compassion, empathy, and possibly even love.

It was meant to be the ultimate good, the workers on the Project believed. They gave their lives to it, raising their children to continue their legacy, their work, and their eventual sacrifice.

Before it could begin its millennia-long journey, though, someone had snuck onto it. A child, only ten years of age. He didn’t understand why his ancestors meant to just leave that power to some ‘deserving soul’ out there. Why couldn’t he do it himself?

“READY>…” It bellowed out, as the child gazed into those massive yes, nodding to himself. He would do this, not some stuffy old geezers. “I will grant you one wish…>” “Well, I want to stop the Devourer!” he called out, as loud as he could to the construct, full of youthful energy. “OK…>” It rumbled, then its circuits seemed to go still. Confused, the child touched its surface. In this child, in his innocence, NOVA saw the perfect criteria that his circuits mandated. There had been no mention in his circuitry, however, of the target having the maturity to use that power wisely. It had never been thought of by the Programmers. His blood burned as that machine pumped raw energy into him. Too much energy, enough to blast a normal human apart. Yet somehow, his body managed to contain it all - power enough to match a sun itself. All of NOVA's energy was invested into that one child. As wings of rainbow-hued energy erupted from his back, he looked on his home, a twisted giggle falling out of his mouth. It was all a joke. They wouldn’t be able to stop it. The Devourer would come, yes, and he would stop him. He could stop him. But the battle would still destroy everything he loved - home, family, the cosmos as he knew it... Unless he destroyed it first.

For five years, Marx has roamed the empty void, destroying without abandon any sort of life he came across. “Don’t worry! Death’ll be fun! Far better than that Devourer!” He would gleefully exclaim, as he casually tore apart their frail shells with a hailstorm of his holy arrows. Countless worlds had been turned to nothing but space junk as he would fly by.

He knew was the only defense Existence had against that... abomination. Death was the only safe place for them all.

So... Yeah something shocking here man. You gotta watch out, there’s a knock off of Shroom going around. It’s called poison. It's a purple mushroom. It'll make you feel fine for a little while then BLAM.

You die. Just flat out die. I've never seen a thing like it before. I guess if you can get one a One-up, Oh? Sorry, forgot you're new to the game. One-up is a code word for a MetPharm drug. It takes E-tank and Shroom and mixes it up a bit. Its supposed to get you so fucked you feel like you are coming back to life.

Bread and circuses. That's all the people need. They can be living in shanty towns wallowing in their own filth working ten-hour days in factories for a pittance, but as long as they've got food on their plates and something to keep their minds off their sorry lives they'll stay in line and follow orders.

Wily knew this, brilliant man that he was. His plan was to bring back the old F-Max races, only... more. Bigger, faster, better. Some of his aides told him there wasn't any room in The City to build tracks. Wily told them that there was plenty of room above it.

So now we have race tracks above The City, where anyone with an F-Zero machine can sign up for their shot at fame and fortune. The smaller corps love it because sponsoring a racer gets their name out there, the people love it because it keeps them distracted, the organized crime syndicates love it because it's another thing to take bets on, and Wily? Well... he loves it because it worked out better than anyone could have dreamed.

Bread and circuses, my friend.

I was getting out of here tonight. I'd lost my job at the plant and I was broke I had one option...it wasn't pretty.

I'd signed up for the job a week ago. I was to sneak down into the Sub sectors of the pipes... And retrieve something... All I was told was that it was in a small metal box. They acted like it was the most important thing the world. I had to get it no matter what they told me. If I failed well I would be parts for Robotnik... Like I said it wasn't pretty.

I had the stuff I needed: a simple flash-bomb or two, a small energy pistol and the map to the damned thing. My entry point was near an old Robotnik factory. It'd gotten burned out during a riot, nothing left inside. Thank god.

Anyways down I went into the pipes. Let me tell you there is something down there. I don't care what Wily spouts, there is something down there. What exactly is beyond me. I remember vines... dear god the vines...

It took me two days to find that box. It was tucked behind a brick wall. Nice and safe. Figures, it was probably the only safe thing there. On it was a weird symbol... I'd never seen it before... It sorta hurt to look at honestly. Thing was corroded all to hell too. I managed to get trapped down there for another three days. I had to live off of E-tank and Shrooms.

If you thought you knew what hell was, I dare you to best me. The whole place was constantly changing. I'd enter one pipe section and come out nowhere near where I should have.

They say the place is loaded with some sort poisonous spores... Nah, it's a fucking death trap that makes you see things. I've seen weird things but down there it gets twisted about. Nothing makes sense. Everything twists and turns. You see ghosts and flying fish... It's a weird place man.

By the time I got back to the surface I was looking as bad as I felt. They were, of course, waiting for me. Four of them, all dressed in bulky clothes. Biodroids I think, I mean hell, one had claws... They took the box gave me a years pay like it was nothing and told me to get the fuck out of there. As I was leaving I coulda swore I heard someone talking about something called the mother brain...

I've been translating the Hyrulian transcripts for over three years now. It's incredibly complex work. But for some reason The Foot want it translated as fast as I can go, so here I am. Hidden in Foot HQ itself. I've done a fair job so far. The transcripts they have are utterly out of the league of many Corps. Nearly intact. They've hardly even faded. It’s as if they were being kept in a vault...

Regardless I've found something that will probably be one of the biggest breakthrough in the field of Hyrulian history. It seems there were two mythos. One is the Journeys of Lilil... or something along those lines. As he fights against a great evil known as Ganado (again along those lines. Naming was incredibly complex in this society)

These figures are believed to be based off of historical figures from Hyrule itself. This of course raises yet more questions, no doubt.

Now, this is a well known piece of mythology, it's the second one that holds the most interest.

The second set of myths is of extreme interest, really. They are never mentioned until this collection. These myths deal with the coming of the Warriors of Light. A group of four that seems to be destined to confront and defeat evil at a point in the future.

From what little I have gathered it was said that this Lilil was one such warrior or perhaps allied to them...Sadly, that portion of the text is horribly difficult to read. It’s also said that they will appear over and over again in history, taking on a new guise each time. This portion of the text is of course much like the rest of Hyrulian religion and philosophy.

The concept of the cycle and a pattern of light and darkness that transcends time. This pattern is something that might be something vital... I say this because of the last part of the myth...

  • clears throat*

And from a Tower he shall fall. This maker of men. And from the depths will she raise this warrior of the dead. And amongst the people he will stand this master of light and the link shall bind the past and future....

After this sadly it seems to have been scratched out... The only that I can make from it is the mention of a great city and its slow death...

"We had heard of reports of PSI phenomena in the Hylian ruins. Instead, all we had found was a haggard looking man clad in green rags had cut us down. Ness had managed to chase him off with PK phenomena, but that son of a bitch had cut the hell out of Jeff and ... Poo.

Yes, he was named Poo. Stop laughing or I'll make you scream like a boiling lobster. Anyway, as we desperately tried to stop the bleeding - so much blood - I prayed, to what ever could hear me to please help us.

Coming from all around us we heard the sound of "P'yo, P'yo" being chanted over and over. Now I know cults - but these guys were like something out of a movie."

Paula stopped talking as Ness stood up, excused himself, stepped outside, and lit up a reefer.

"Ness doesn't like to talk about what he had to do that night. I didn't just chicken out, but someone had to try and keep Jeff and Poo from dying. As I strived and prayed, I stole glances of what Ness was doing. I - Sometimes, I just can't look at him.

Seeing him face down those sick cultists was like watching some kind of inhuman predator tearing into defenseless little monkeys. I know it's horrible of me to say that, but you didn't see him with that bat, cracking skulls left and right. He did it for us, I know. Somehow, Jeff and Poo survived. If you can call that living, especially in Poo's case."

Nathan let out a groan, struggling to open his eyes. It felt like he had been out for days; the last thing he remembered was trying to take down a bioroid that went rogue in one of the labs. Considering that he was still alive he must have been successful, though from the way he felt he wondered if he wasn't better off dead.

There was a faint burst of static, and an older man's voice came forth. "Ah, Mister Spencer. You're finally awake."

"Where... am I?" he mumbled. The pain and stiffness were slowly fading, but his left arm felt numb and... disconnected, somehow; like his nerves were moving someone else's limb.

"You're in one of Robotnik's medical wards. One of the surgery wings, to be precise."

"What happened?"

"You lost your arm during an... incident in the testing facility. Fortunately, in accordance with the terms of your employment, we were able to apply repurposed bioroid technology to save your life. You will, however, be forced to undergo a short testing period, after which you will be reassigned to a position more suited for-"

"What," he growled, sitting up on the surgery table, "did you do to me?"

"You have to remember," the man replied, nervousness creeping into his voice, "that the contract you signed with the company gave them free reign to use your body as seen fit in the event of life-threatening injury or death, and-"

Nathan stared down at his left arm. His flesh and blood were gone, replaced with a bulky bioroid limb built from sheathed metal and thick cabling that ended in a four-fingered claw. Clenching his "fist" he slammed it down on the edge of the table, the metal buckling like cardboard. "WHAT DID YOU DO TO ME?!"

Lately the sprawl zones have been rocked by some new chems. Shadow Law is trying to muscle in on Syndicate turf with a new drug called Heart. Nobody can quite work out where it's coming from. Not as good as 'shroom, it's like an E-Tank... only different. Gives you a new lease on life.

I've seen something else being passed around too. "Max Tomato". People tell me it’s the greatest high in the world; they're going crazy over it. But I don't like the look of it. Something's a little fishy about it. There's no gang backing, only some shadowy group that stinks of being a cult.

In the middle of this big room is a mainframe computer with a huge monitor, illuminating the room in an eerie blue light. Two hooded figures sit in silence by a small table. One of them fishes up a handful of dice out of his robe. "Wanna play?"

Mac stepped down from the ring, he was exhausted. When he showed up at the gym this morning Doc had immediately sent him out to jog twice his usual distance, and when he returned his first sparring partner was already in the ring. It was 3PM now and Mac swore that he had sparred non-stop with every boxer in the gym. "Doc. Why did you push me like this today? I haven't been slacking off." "If you don't push yourself past your limits you will never improve, Little Mac," Doc put heavy emphasis on little, knowing full well how much he hated that nickname. "You have much potential but you hold yourself back, even if you don't realize it yourself. As your trainer it is my duty to make you the best boxer the world has ever seen." It was as if Doc's words triggered something inside of Mac, as he suddenly felt a burning sensation in his heart and all his fatigue washed away. "If that is how you see it," he stood up and put his gloves back on, "Then it's my duty to do everything I can to surpass your expectations."

"Signature detected. Confirming." Surprised, the hooded figures look at the mainframe computer. As one, they leap out of their chairs and walk up towards the monitor. "Confirmed. Signature ID: FIGHTER. ID is currently located in sector NES-87. Building confirmed to be Doc Louis' Gym." They looked at each other first in amazement, then with determination. "You go. I will stay here in case our fourth appears."

"Enough, Mac! You are going to break my arms if we keep this up." Doc took off the mitts. He wasn't sure if he would be able to lift his arms again. Mac's punches were so hard, so fast, it was unreal. It was as if he had received a level-up like in the games he used to play as a kid. "I'm going to rest. You can use the punching bags until you want to go home. I will be in my office if you need anything." Doc didn't even have time to finish his sentence before Mac had put on his heavy bag gloves. What had gotten into the kid?

"Aren't you going to go home soon?" a soft voice spoke. "I'm not the least bit tired. I could do this all night," Mac answered without hesitation. "And I probably will." "You are Mac, aren't you? We have been looking for you for a very long time." The woman's tone changed and sounded almost depressed as she added, "Too long, I'm afraid. We might be too late." Mac stopped punching the bag and turned around. They had been looking for him and now that they found him, it's too late? Who are THEY? "Who are you?" He demanded. "Why have you been looking for me?" "My name is... you may call me White Mage."

The woman who called herself White Mage put her hand on my chest and... I don't know what happened, it was unreal. The burning sensation in my heart began to spread throughout my entire body in concert with my heartbeat until it reached all the way to my toes and fingertips. I felt rejuvenated, powerful. I can't really describe it; the closest word I know is amazing. Yes, an amazing feeling. Then she said the weirdest thing, "Fighter. Do you acknowledge your destiny?" I said yes. No thought, no hesitation. She continued, "Will you stand by the Light, knowing that no burden is too heavy, no sacrifice too small?" Another yes escaped my lips. Why am I doing this? I don't know to be honest. It just feels like the right thing to do - what I am SUPPOSED to do. White Mage sighed with relief. "It is done. Your body and soul is yet again bound to the crystals." She paused, seemingly lost in thought and then said, "Hit the punching bag again. Give it everything you've got." Finally something normal. Hit the punching bag. I can do that, it's something I do every day. Getting my footwork in order I go for a few quick jabs and I throw a right hook.

I punched a hole in the god damn bag. I didn't even feel any resistance, my fist just went straight through and I almost landed on my ass. With a look of genuine happiness White Mage said "This is the power of the Warriors of Light," Her expression changed, I daresay the gloomiest I've ever seen. And I've seen a lot of gloom, living in this city and everything. "Unfortunately, I fear this power will not be enough," she sighed. "Not this time." Not really sure what I was supposed to do or say, I went back to my original question - Who are THEY? "The Light Warriors. Black Mage and I. The others... we haven't found anyone else. Follow me to our headquarters and all your questions will be answered." "Who will give me answers? You don't even know my questions." I protested. "Your questions are the same every time. I'm afraid I can't say for sure that the answers will be what we are used to."

Doc finished his second chocolate bar. He put away the sports magazine and decided it was time to see how Mac was doing and tell him to go home. He was not prepared for what he would see when he exited his office. A broken punching bag with half a ton of sand on the floor, and a letter affixed to the bag. It read: See you later, Doc. I've got some business to take care of. Sorry about the bag, I'll buy a new one when I get back. - Mac

Professor Albert P. Wily reclined in the wheelie chair he had so carefully placed. How long had it been since he'd been in such a good mood? Protoman’s refit worked like a charm; the SniperJOE impostor was doing its job posing as Protoman quite well.

And, he had the latest master coming online within the month.

"Gladys, how’s project Breakman coming along?" He exclaimed as he brought up several schema. They were of a very basic mechanoid frame. Its humanoid figure utterly genderless. With a flourish he placed another image over it. A hard suit that easily tripled its size. Encompassing one arm was a massive drill. Its point capable of carving apart even the strongest alloys.

Built into the shoulders were several indirect bomb launchers. And the armor along with a strength augment allowed it to soak up even a direct explosion...

It would be the first combat-based Master. A true commander unit for the battle against his numerous enemies...

"Seventy-two hours will be needed to complete this unit. Its break armor requires at least this long to complete." The computer explained as the schemas were replaced with the image on a youth with sandy blond hair.

"Friend of mine got jacked by gangers last week. Still isn't out of hospital. Listen to me son, when you're riding that motorcycle out to whatever godforsaken parts of the city you're going to - no I don't give a damn who you're looking for - you watch out for the Rashers.

Street racing punks bored by the tyranny, trying to live on the edge. They race through the streets, death sentences on their heads for all their public order offences, whipping each other trying to get to the finish line. Criminal groups love 'em, underground betting you see, but you stay away from 'em. If you ain't careful you'll end up caught up in their race, and nobody survives a race with the Rashers."

"Let the kid go. I know the Rashers. Lay of 'em. You want a gang? A real bad street gang? Hear about the Skitchers? Bunch of psychotic juvies on rollerblades, they hitch rides on cars and batter each other to death trying to finish first. They're part of the real gang scene. It's trash like them that give us legitimate racing enthusiasts a bad name, battering each other with crowbars and chains. Fucking disgusting.

Yeah, lay off the Rashers. Watch out for the Skitchers."

They call themselves Light's Warriors.

'Course, word down the Pipes was different. Said Thomas Light was a good man; a great man, come to free us from the corps' oppression. Said ol' Thom Light would never consort with psychos, least of all them what et people and bioroids. Said those three had nothing to do with Light or the Resistance.

Still, they call themselves Light's Warriors.

Nastiest fucking psychos you ever seen - least 'swhat I heard. Now, 'snot for a Magga like me to go doubting rumors, 'cause you know the Stand don't condone no personal feelings - we just push the latest news, we don't take sides - but from me to you? No fucking way there's any truth to this. Streets say these guys eat the dead. They say these guys have magic powers or some shit - they can blow you up with the power of their mind.

Magic? Seriously? The Magga-Zine Stand ain't suppose to listen to Ringheads and E-Tankers, but there's no fucking way these guys are real. I know we live in a sick and sad world, friend, but ain't no cannibal fucking psychos gonna live long out here - too many gangs'd do them in. Monsters ain't good for business.

Don't go telling no one I said so, though. I'd lose m'license.

I used to look up to Captain Falcon. Way back when. He just appeared on the scene like a bolt from the blue; our F-Zero messiah here to deliver us from the slugs who thought they knew what real racing was. Then he started selling out, started dragging behind in the races. Captain Falcon taught me disappointment.

But a little part of me still holds out. Maybe Captain Falcon really is the hero the advertising says he is. Maybe he's the Big Blue we whisper about, when we think that Uncle Wily isn't listening in.

Doctor Wily looked angrily at the holodisplay, his bushy eyebrows knit in concentration.

"GLADYS! I want a full spectrum readout on all the data this security cam recorded, and the readouts from the two that were destroyed."

It had been a minor coup, having his operatives steel the auto-cams' black-boxes from Robotnik’s retrieval bots. He restarted the holographic playback in slow motion, energy readings and spectrum analysis readouts overlaying the display as his central computer parsed information together and compared it to the Wily database.

The holographic figure moved smoothly even in slow motion, walking with a gait that even the good Doctor thought was too smooth for so odd a device. And a device it certainly was. The figure did not even pretend to be a bioroid or even a classical bot. A small sub-hologram sprang up with a similar picture and technical readout, detailing the SaniTech VM-7 waste disposal pilot. An incredibly simple bot, its only purpose was to pilot garbage scows. Nobody has seen any VM-7's in three years, since SaniTech got bought out by one of Robotnik's subsidiaries and gutted. The VM-7's were decommissioned and scrapped for parts.

Wily turned back to the larger readout as energy readings began to spike. The spectrum analysis on the figure showed a massive increase in magnetic field strength. Wily paused the playback and adjusted his viewing angle, the composite image shifting. He began noting the differences in the standard design. Smaller spheres hovered between the larger spheres that made up the unit's arms and legs, held in place by mag-fields, the magnetic-manipulation technology Sanitech used instead of standard motors or servos had been a clever gimmick, but not particularly efficient. Why then did the mag-fields that were this unit's arms and legs show a density and strength rating four times stronger than the standard output? Surely adding a pair of sub-spheres to each limb wouldn't result in that much increase, would it? He restarted playback.

The unit leaped easily over a crude grounder unit when a burst of light from its feet sent it catapulting even further, and tearing a pair of chunks out of the grounder. As it landed, it outstretched a single three-fingered hand and a burst of light, still moving in slow-motion, sped forth and smashed one of the monitoring cameras, reducing the composite image's quality accordingly. Freezing the playback once more, Wily examined the readouts on the light pulse. Neither it nor the jump-boost could be accounted for in any of the base VM-7 schematics, and even in the playback, Wily could not isolate any obvious source of the discharge. It simply appeared to form at the end of the limbs, as needed. The figure turned and casually flicked its hand at two more grounders moving to defend the facility in the background. They both exploded as further bursts of white light struck them.

The figure continued its march towards the facility unopposed. As it approached the RNN-news tower, it paused. The spheres making up its body seemed to quiver for a moment before flying apart and spinning rapidly, making the whole unit look like nothing so much as a giant drill-bit. The energy readings clearly showed a massive increase in mag-field density, the spinning spheres hammering into the relay tower with tremendous force. The metal of the tower quickly buckled and collapsed. The figure shifted back to its vaguely humanoid shape and, noticing another camera following its movements, blasted it. These clearly were not standard plasma bolts.

Finally, the figure turned, missing the third camera, and quivered again, shifting form into a small, wheeled shape as it sped into the distance. All that effort, massive energy expended just to destroy a simple relay tower? What was this thing's goal?

Wily nearly shook with equal parts excitement and curiosity as he poured over the data printouts. Exotic photon-reaction weapons? Self-reconfigurable robotics? High-yield magnetic-sheathing that doubled as musculature? SaniTech never had the resources or the scientific acumen to produce anything even remotely similar to this. And it was destroying Robotnik property, no matter how minor. Where had this thing come from? What other modifications did this thing have?

Wily trembled with an excitement only a scientist could understand as he composed a dossier on what he could infer from the recordings. "All units, be advised as to the structure and capabilities of Subject V. Do not engage unless Wily property is damaged. Contact superior units. Contacted units: Approach peacefully. Do not antagonize. Study and coerce. That is all."

Vectorman watched the tower collapse. The pressure in his radio sub-processor easing slightly. Less noise. Yes, less noise. Noise bad. Air dirty. Dirty with noise. Too much. Too many transmissions. Too much chatter. Need quiet. Quiet clean. Clean quiet. Need to clean. Need to scrub air. Need to stop noise. No noise. No chatter. Just clean. Yes. Programming right. Clean good. Need to clean. Need more cleaner.

Vectorman turned back towards the waste, his GPS beacon still calling him back to his crashed hover-barge. He knew that thousands of VM-7's were there, waiting to be reactivated. But he needed them. Needed their processors, their mag-spheres. He needed their parts. As he made his way across the blasted landscape, he picked swerved back and forth through the rubble. Needed cleaning. Whole world is dirty now. He needs to clean. Make everything clean. Sterile. Quiet. He imagined a perfect world. No noise. No radio transmissions hurting his receptors. No noise. No dirt. No pollution. Just clean, quiet sterility as far as the optic can see. The thought warmed his cold processors. Yes, he had a lot of cleaning to do.

And soon, he wouldn't have to do it alone......

The bar fell to a sub-zero silence. The door had been opened by something far from a man. It was a giant, a creature of fear and harsh, glowing red eyes. WILYCORP was emblazoned across its shoulders. Gutsman. A man followed, dressed to kill in the latest Corp security armor.

"Last night a Robot Master was attacked in this zone. Word is that somebody here knows who was responsible."

Silence. The bartender was stunned. Shitfuck shitfuck. He debated whether or not to reach below the counter for the gun. The exec wouldn't catch it, but would the Master? You don't fuck around with Robot Masters.

Somebody made a comment at the back of the bar. Shit...

"Jesus, shut up Max."

It was too late. Wily's henchman was roused; walking over with his smart little business suit, that nine foot abomination following.

"'Scuse me gents? You got a comment you want the Good Uncle to hear?"

Everybody else at the table bolted. But not the guy; a giant of a man made a solid muscle. Looked like a wrestler or something; still wore some colorful starred trousers.

"Yeah, I got something to say to WilyCorp." he said, bellowing into the execs face. "Fuck Wily Corp. Fuck Wily, and FUCK you!"

And neither guy flinched. Everybody stood there, in silence. Shit. What do you do, what do you say? The exec looked nonplussed. He stood there, adjusting his glasses, straightening his tie, not giving two shits about the 'roided junkie giving him shit. We stared, all of us. After an awkward silence, the exec spoke up.

"Somebody here is going to tell me who was dumb enough to touch a Robot Master." he said. "But looks like it isn't you. Gutsman, tear this motherfucker’s arms off."

The soft glow of a crimson eagle shaped light pulses rhythmically through the purple twirling haze that cowers most of the abandoned brown brick walls surrounding it from all sides. Old industrial territory looks like a maze when seen above, maze that is full of crumbling walls, rusting steel plates and occasional rotten green camouflage that is stretched over close standing passages. “5 minutes till start of the next round, place your bets gentlemen...” rattles a loudspeaker close by. Lifting my eyes from the ground below I switch on my PDA, glance at the greasy screen and put it back in the pocket of my waistcoat. No turning back now... Taking a glass of whiskey from the table I quaff it and look down at the maze again. Two battered tanks are rolling to the maze near the pulsing light and loudspeaker screams to my ear that the match has begun. Bright flashes at the other end of the battleground tell me that the drones are unleashed to the fray... Crowd is yelling as the green tank fires round after round of heavy artillery at the brick walls only to crawl over the rubble moments later. Drones, tanks, gleaming like quicksilver are berserking in the maze, random shots hitting, bricks and mortar flying... I have seen it many times before, heard the yelling crowd, felt the blazing heat of molten metal so far below, sniffed at the raw black smoke rising from burning machines and yet... it never gets old. This game, game of blood, violence and money... I reach to my pocket and take out the PDA that is vibrating gently. “John, where are you?” asks a female voice. “At the Battle City my dear...” I tell her over the noise.

What is a Tank? A motherfucking engine of destruction. More specifically though, a Tank - capitalized it to separate it from those piddling armored vehicles - was the primary weapon that we used against the Invaders during the Crash.

It's not really a tank - they were just called tanks because of the secrecy of the weapons program. A Tank is a sort of advanced VTOL craft; probably the most maneuverable fighting vehicle in the history of mankind. Each Tank was fitted with then state-of-the-art weapons systems, energy blasters that still put most of today's heavy weapons to shame.

Most were lost during the Crash, and we don't make any nowadays. Why bother? It's all civil protection and suppression nowadays. A few Tanks remain, locked up in warehouses, forgotten. The mothballed remains of old world governments and decency, a lost legacy of heroes. Nobody knows exactly where the Tanks are now, maybe that's for the best. Mankind doesn't deserve them. We sold our souls for a little safety, killed our pride for security and spat in the face of liberty and justice. There are no heroes left in man.

Somebody had fucked up...

He'd seen the metools walking the streets checking each building in silence. He'd seen the Hover blades streaking over head, ready to dive down and cut their target to pieces in a storm of whirling blades. And in the center of it all was a single dark figure. A parka of all things pulled over his head.

Iceman... Somebody had fucked up. He was working then when the room fell silent. When he suddenly could see his breath and hear the crunch of frost crawling over metal.

"People of sector Z-32-1. I come on the behalf of your benevolent leader Uncle Wily." A voice so dead and cold, so empty of any emotion spouted as metools began to round people up and shepherd them about. He was dragged out into the streets, screaming even as one of them smashed him in the face with a head but.

They'd tossed him in front of their master forcing him to his knees. The man screamed for innocence even as he realized how humid the day had been...

"You have been charged with the destruction of corporate property." The machine man said with such a deliberate nature it shut the man up.

The air began to get chill as the master inhaled. Its core temperature rising in the process. Steam came off of the parka even as snow fell for the first time in several years.

The man could only scream as frost slowly coated him and his tissues began to freeze solid...

Someone had fucked up... It wasn't that man.

In the darkness of an alley way Mario Marino watched as a robot master froze some poor fool to death. Without so much as a prayer for the man he turned his back to the street and began to run down the narrow side street.

He had to hurry. His princess was in another place.

Weirdest thing I ever seen? Me and a few buddies were headed back from a bar one night, and well, we wound up lost. In Foot territory, no less. We tried to backtrack, but it was no use. Everything in this city looks the goddamn same. So we figure if we can make it to somewhere well lit, and wait for morning, maybe we could sober up and get home. Well, we sure as hell sobered up real quick when we saw a big ol' group of Foot coming down the street, looking like they meant business. All geared up with weapons, knives, pipes, lengths of chain, even a few guns. We knew we were meat. Lucky for us, we weren't who they were after. We look where they're headed, and I tell ya, I've never seen anything like it. Each of 'em stood about a head taller than a man, and they looked like... Well, for lack of a better word, lizardmen. One of 'em had a head full of teeth, and the way they gleamed you could tell they would put even a shark to shame. The others were just as strange... One had this big ol' frill, with huge horns growing out over his eyes, and the last one had, I dunno, I guess some sorta plates down his back, and a tail covered in spikes.

Now these Foot guys outnumbered these... Lizardmen, by about twenty to one. Poor bastards never stood a chance. From outta nowhere the three pulled out some of the biggest goddamn hand cannons I've ever seen, and just start pouring fire into the crowd of Foot in front of 'em. About half of 'em were killed, bodies torn to pieces by the size of the bullets these guns had to have been firing. Well, the rest of 'em manage to get in close, figured they could bring them down with numbers. It only got worse. The one with teeth, I swear I saw him bite a man clean in two, the one with the frill was just headbutting people, impaling them whenever they got close. The one with plates didn't even bother to use his tail, he just started punching. When those big, scaly fists connected, you could hear the bones crack. It was over in seconds. Sixty dead Foot, and these three... Things, with barely a scratch on 'em. What they were, or where they're from, I got no clue. Never drank again though, I tell you that much.

Kreissack's WAR (World Aeronautics and Robotics) Corporation was the first to develop haptic feedback technology. After the disastrous failure of the Nova project, it was overshadowed by Wily and Robotnik's upstarts and faded into the background. But one legacy of W.A.R remains: the One Must Fall tournament. In some Zones of the city one can still find the old arenas, where 90 meter tall robots punch the armor off each other. Who funds the tournaments? Unknown. What is the prize? Also unknown. There are rumors it's a recruiting front for some new gang, a militia band, or even an anti-Corp resistance movement... But we don't know for sure. All we do know, it's a hell of a show.

While most corporations field their own private armies, either hired from within, built from the ground up, grown in vats or some combination of the three, a few private military contractors have managed to carve out niches for themselves in The City, doing things that corporate forces can't - or won't - do. One of the most legendary - and secretive - is Dragon Professional Resources, headed up by Lorasia Erdricksonn.

Nobody is entirely sure as to what operations DPR was involved with since its inception save for the people who hired them and DPR itself, and none of them are willing to part with that information. Likewise, the location of their base of operations remains a mystery; many assume that they must come from somewhere outside The City, simply because none have seen them in it. Erdricksonn, too, is a shadow; though a few know his name, none have seen his face.

But now the warriors of Dragon Professional Resources have been called into action again, hired by parties unknown to deal with the so-called "Light's Warriors"...

I sat with my notepad eagerly awaiting the drunk’s words. He was a hard man to find and a harder man to get to talk about his past. He wasn't the type who would let out his life story after the smallest number of shots. No, this was the guy who sat quietly in a corner and stewed over his glass and brooded silently for hours at a time.

People, even in this run down hell hole, left this man alone. Maybe it was the big sword and shield strapped to his back, maybe it was the bombs he kept on his belt at all times. Maybe, just maybe, it was the look in his eyes.

Those eyes, those slanty blue eyes told you this motherfucker had seen the things in the dark places. Seen them, hell he looked them right in the eye and cut there fucking tongue out with that sword of his. At least that was the rumor. Rumors of a forgotten kingdom, of a place of magic and honor that sounds like some legend out of time.

Yet here I was ready to take down this mans story.

As I waited the man took a long drag on his cigarette. He held the smoke in and lay back trying to collect his thoughts.

"Hyrule." The man said letting the smoke roll out of his mouth and form the twisting patterns of forgotten dreams in the air. "Fucking Hyrule. No matter how much that place changed it was always the same. Same princess, same castle, same idiot dressing in a goofy outfit to get the same set of equipment over and over again."

The man shook his head, revealing a hint of a pointed ear and very bright white hair. Or was it blonde? Hard to tell in this light.

"That kid you're seeing in the streets?" The man motioned the glowing cigarette toward himself. "Been there, done that, and you know what? Someone did it before me. Then before him. Then before him."

He took another long drag of his cigarette before continuing. "It's the memories you see. Old memories, old stories. It always has the same characters and the same plot and every once in a while you get some new secondary characters, but the story is always the same. Save the princess, kill the bandit king, stab the weak spot with the master sword for massive damage." The man shook his head and laughed mirthlessly. My pen was writing notes furiously. Yet somehow I had the feeling I wasn't getting everything.

"What is Hyrule?" I dared ask.

I felt the man’s penetrating gaze.

I swallowed hard as those blue eyes narrowed. For a moment I could swear I heard some big dog growling somewhere. I resisted the urge to shield my throat.

Finally the man spoke again. "Smart kid. You didn't ask where. You know it's not a place. Smart kid. Hyrule is the stage. It's where it all takes place. That poor bastard out there." He waved his cigarette towards the TV glowing in the corner of the bar. "That poor bastard is just playing the game. Always the same damn game."

"Vigilantism isn't a game." I replied.

"Ha! Vigilantes! Those crazy bounty hunters and robots are vigilantes. The green guy, the poor sod who always ends up chosen, destined, or fuckin’ fated is always a hero. Always. The story goes on, the bandit king gets a sword in his chest and the green hero goes home and fucks the blonde bitch senseless. Happily ever after. Right."

The man put out his cigarette. It glowed brightly, illuminating a tattoo on his hand. Three triangles placed to form a fourth triangle.

"What they don't tell you is what happens after wards." The man said reaching into his coat for another cigarette.

He lit his cigarette revealing a face crisscrossed with scars and wrinkles. He was old. Way older then I originally surmised. Wisely I decided not to ask.

"They don't tell you about what happens when the magic ends. The blond bitch decides that a rescued kidnapping doesn't form the basis of a good relationship, turns out that bandit king had a bunch of boys who remember there old man and come by once a week to fuck up your place and try to have a go at you. Most of the time you win." The man paused for a moment and seemed to start staring into space. "But the magic’s gone you see. The magic’s gone. They get luckier, you get older, the blonde bitch marries some fat Italian fuck on the other side of town. You see the friends you made die. The stories been told so there's no reason to stick around and keep you happy. It doesn't care about the aftermath."

My pen stopped. I had to admit this was getting ridiculous. "You're trying to tell me that there's some series of fairy tales and some magic force guides this? Next you're going to tell me that you have a magic sword and quested for the very sources of power, honor, and courage."

There was the slick sound of metal sliding against leather and before I could say another word that big sword of his sliced the air and stabbed right through the table and into the floor. When he spoke again it was cold and calculated.

"Don't mock me. I've spent the last ten years of my life being mocked. You just write down what I say and shut the fuck up. You came to me. You're a smart kid if there wasn't something to this you wouldn't fucking be here." He pointed the cigarette at me. "So don't mock me."

I nodded sheepishly. He continued. "You want to know where my shit started? Where my story began? Fine, then listen."

"I was just a kid when I was with my old man down in the under city. A kid with no ambitions beyond the path his father set for him. What adventure did I want? Shit, at my age the undercity was all the adventure I could ever want.

He was an archaeologist. Famous one, maybe you heard of him? No? That's fine. He was looking for Hyrule, like you are now, that forgotten land beneath the city. The old stone and memories that the steel and light towers around us stand on top of pretending to rule the world.

He found some stuff. The typical archaeology stuff, broken pots, ruins, hieroglyphs showing the daily life of some poor son of a bitch living before the time of TV and sanitation. Then he dug out the gold triangle. That cursed triangle. He should have put that thing back in the ground and left it there forever. At the very least he would still be alive."

Link's Journal, September 24 1992. Darkness falls across the world faster and colder, night sky currently closing in like a prison on my position. The world is going to hell and the only people who could do something stick to E-tanks and pornography.

The evening is a black cold, a void, sucking the life out of the world. The moon is leering at me like a malevolent orb dripping with nuclear waste. My coat can't keep it away, just like I can't keep the evils of this world from toxifying everything and everyone. Time and again I find myself asking does this world deserve to be saved? A place where humanity won't fight for itself? Pissing little screamers, homosexual nancies unprepared to get their hands dirty. The posters around me tell me I'm safe; I know otherwise. I'm going to make the greedy intellectuals suffer; they who would be our overlords. Our Masters. They'll all suffer.

The newspapers talk about terrorists, devils, and the Blue Man stalking the city. No mention of good men - there aren't any left. Pac Man is dead and the last hope of old home values died with him. I head to my apartment and prepare for the end. The streets will fill with blood and radiation and our species suffers from the divine judgement of ancient beings beyond our ken. Nobody will miss us and the world will not mourn us. We're the scummy remains, a shadow of something that once held so much potential.

We are dying. We are already dead.

But at least one man still feels like fighting.

"There's been a lot of talk lately in the sector twelve slums and the surrounding area."

"What about?"

"You remember how they found Dr. Keiner all strung up by his own guts in that alley?"

"Yeah... Don't tell me..."

"Another five scientists plus their assorted security staff were found trussed up in the same manner outside the burnt remains of the skunkworks down on the old Altean sub-block."

"You're shitting me, right? Who's stupid enough to-"

"I am NOT shitting you, and I can assure you if we don't find out who exactly IS responsible, Dr. Wily will string US up by our guts... if we're that lucky..."

"All right, all right. So there's talk. Give me the details."

"All right. Word on the streets seems to be that there's some crazy kid with blue hair out there raising some sort of rag-tag army from the slummers, addicts, and general scum out in the city."

"Sounds like another pissant small-time gang to me."

"You didn't let me finish. I didn't say gang, I said army. That big fire that burned down the Talys MetPharm plant with everyone inside? They're saying it was an attack, by this guy and his crazy followers. This guy... He doesn't seem to be out for money or power. Just blood. He takes anyone he can find and he's turning them all into an army. It's small, ill-equipped and irregular, but it's still an army."

"Right. So terrorist guerillas instead of gangers. Wonderful."

"There's more. They've got... something. Somethings. I got this from an interrogated Dreamland cultist that ran into them. Supposedly some ancient artifacts, magic or some bullshit, but I think it's more likely some alien artifacts. Those cultists and their magic hokum. I don't know how much I trust this info, but something's giving them an edge over the standard security teams."

"Right. Anything else? What's the name of this wunderkind?"

"...Marth. They call him Marth."

The man was dressed in rags at first glance. Oily, dirty bits of cloth haphazardly pieced together over a muscular frame. If one might look closer, they might occasionally see a glint of metal under the rags, or a bit of white cloth, somehow unspoiled by the filth worn over it. Somehow pure while covered in grime. He muttered to himself as he walked, for there was no one else around. The alley was empty save for used cans of spray paint on the permacrete ground. The only decorations were gang signs on the decrepit buildings around him.

"I think I might be the only one who remembers the way things used to be..." he quietly says.”Or at least, how I think they used to be. Even that knowledge is just a result of being an outsider in a very different way... Maybe that is the only reason my mind... my being is not as warped as the others."

Perhaps he was just voicing his thoughts aloud, perhaps he knew others were listening in the dark, and for their benefit he spoke.

"It's happened so many times before I should be used to it. The glowing door, the pulling sensation, the feeling of falling... But I woke up to this fresh hell, not the beloved land I vowed to return and protect."

His voice was wistful, but soon turned grim.

"But this new land, this perversion... Valor drives me to try and save it, but Honesty and Humility compel me to admit the task may be far beyond me... beyond anyone. If the others were here..." Hope enters his voice for a moment but is soon dashed.

"No. If the others were here... I dread going forth, for I fear the fate which has taken so many may have already taken those I knew as friends. I dread walking the streets and perhaps seeing Iolo as a garish pimp, downtrodden and desperate whores following him like lost children. I shudder at the thought of finding noble Dupre a corrupt police officer busy at work beating a drug addict with a baton than a dragon with a sword. But so far this has not yet come to pass. I must count my blessings for in this den of evil I have few. No, that is not right. Everyone here has few. But maybe that is why I was drawn here... Unless my deepest fears are true and beneath the bones of this place lies my other home in ruins."

The man bent down, took up a can of spray paint and gazed on it.

"I have been true to the Virtues, but Virtue seems to have no place in this bent domain. It seems foreign... a ridiculous thing to place here. But is that Fear or Truth? Even I cannot tell which. But I do know that the game is different this time. Far too different."

The metallic rattle sounds as the man shakes the can, beginning to paint a new symbol over the gang signs already in place.

"I have no way home. Why I was brought here, I do not know, but only one path has ever taken me through trials like these and ended back home. I am under no delusions. I will suffer greatly and all my effort may come to naught. But there is nothing else I can do. There is no other road open to me. The longer I stay here, the more difficult it is to move, the more despair claws at me, the more a little voice whispers that my fate will be the same as the others who arrived here before I did. There is little hope left in me. But what else can I do?"

The man threw the can away and walked forward into the darkness.

"I have no choice."

Behind him, an ankh was freshly painted against the wall

Last rays of the sun were painting a massive steel and glass building at the edge of the City of Light crimson red. It looked like a giant bloody finger, pointing at the sky and then it disappeared leaving only a sleek shadow against the fast darkening sky. Seconds later it burst back to the cityscape its brilliant neon lights shining through the thick evening air.

Captain stood staring out of the huge multicolored window at his office looking at the city and smiling. Smog was gently curving its tentacles around different parts of landscape, choking the living, clogging the night, making him rich. Industrial waste was everywhere, none were safe from its effects and he loved it. It was a dream come true to the now multimillionaire Captain Novolin who was selling cure to all sorts of ailments that the poor bastards out there contracted from the wasteland that was the City of the Light. His research labs were working full time, either trying to find new ways to cure sickness or create it, no one was sure.

Captain was an old man but no weakness showed itself in his form even now. He still remembered the first attack, chaos, valiant efforts and pain, everlasting pain. Fighting for the people at the time, side by side with heroes that were no more. He sneered at the thought and massaged his temples. Time stood still, chords of mellow guitar drifted in the air. It was best not to think about it. Better to make money while there was still strength left in his frame and forget things that can not be changed. Things that he would not change.

Robodyne industries...that name still sends chill down my spine.

I was raised in a robo-ward. A place that was under direct control of the Corp. It wasn't a great place but, it was food on the table and clothes on your back. I'd always been told it was the best life we could get. So, I lived and had fun. Went to the Robo-taught schools and learned the history of the company. That was till that day...

Dear god that horrid day...

It had started out like any other. A simple day of school and waiting in lines for rations. Standard Robodyne procedure. We hadn't heard the sirens till it was too late. It was like a baby screaming at the top of its lungs. Piercing everyone’s ears.

It made us nauseous. That horrid scream... then, the rumbling started. The massive treads of a grounder unit rolling up for some unknown reason. We had been told they were only deployed for military actions. So many of us rushed out startled at the site. It's great bulk grinding the street into ragged chunks as it crawled along, robot search eyes roving over its top looking...

The wailing stopped... We thanked whatever forces were in charge of this mad place. Then... Literally grinding to halt the grounder unit came to a stop. Its dark form blocking out the sun to those near it.

Slowly a sound came from within. A clunking trembling sound. Like something was moving around inside. In terror we watched as hatches opened all over thing. People were murmuring now. Some were too scared to speak.

I was one of the later. I watched as the first biodroid came out of the hatch. Back then they were not as sleek and simplistic as the ones we have today. Back then they steamed and hissed and clunked with slow steady steps. Most were eerily humanoid, we thought it was a new model... God... We were too right to know how horrible that fact was.

They gave no word as they started their work. Just slow, steady, mechanical precision. They would touch a person and look at them. Just stare for a few minutes and suddenly they would fall over. Unconscious. Needless to say we started running. We started to act like scared animals running and making noise as they just knocked people out. I never saw what they did in that machine, only that they dragged them inside...

I kept running. Every time I entered a building I would see them walking inside of it, searching room by room for people to take. If they tried to run... God it was like they hardly cared. One would raise an arm and out would come a laser cutter, then, zzzzt. Off went a leg.

I managed to get away obviously but not before I saw my mother and father taken...I saw my classmates, my teacher... dear god... everyone in the sector or at least damn near. Just herded up and taken away.

I never saw them but every now and then...when I walk by a biodroid I sear they whisper my name. Asking me to help...

I never should have been there that night anyway; I can’t fucking stand the mining district. You’re just walking along, streetlights, storefronts, and then suddenly there’s a three block crater. Buildings, gone. Street, gone. Just a few feet of concrete lip curving out over the void and metools swarming into it and out of it like ants.

Gives you the creeps, that many of the bionic little bastards in one place. Hundreds of them, easily. They won’t mess with humans - they haven’t been told to - but it still gives you the creeps.

The gaping holes in the city and the metools everywhere gave me the creeps, so on a whim I turned into the nearest joint with working lights, which was a strip club, which was fine by me. Go in, take a seat, order a drink, and notice the commotion back stage just after it arrives.

I shoulda left right there - I almost did, I know to avoid trouble in these parts - but before I could get out of my seat Gutsman walked onto the stage.

Gutsman. As in, THE Gutsman, the motherfucking robot master. Nine fucking feet of heavy machinery shaking the stage with every stomp. It might just be the way Masters are supposed to move (I’d never seen one before), but he was swaggering hard, staring straight ahead over the crowd’s head. And there I was, sitting front and center, about pissing myself.

And that was when Gutsman started dancing.

He tore the crotch-pole straight out of its sockets the first time he tried to make a pass around it, stumbled for a step, and then dropped it and started stroking his carapace with those Viking-shield hands.

Gutsman’s ass... oh god, Gutsman’s ass. You never wash something like that off the backs of your eyelids. It doesn’t matter what you do, how hard you try, what pills you take for it, it’s always going to be there the second you close them. He did a ‘rolling’ routine down on all fours, putting cracks and craters on the glittered stage, and then a belly dancer’s machine-gun butt-thrust that shook the fucking walls, all with the most gruesome expression of slack-jawed allure on his helmet of a face.

It turns out he'd been infected by something disguised as a machine drug that some glorious, unlucky bastard had sold him. I didn’t know that at the time; all I knew was that this shit was Dead Fucking Wrong.

I got out before I had seen too much, and apparently I was lucky to make it out alive. Five minutes later a security package from Wileysoft snapped him out of it and he made pulp out of everyone there.

Hey! You folks don't look like you're from 'round here! Best get to 'splainin' 'fore I start shootin'!


What's that? Ye're lookin' for Bayou Billy? Ha ha! Well o'course I hearda him! Who hasn't 'round these parts? Bayou Billy, legend of the swamps. Seven feet tall, three hunnred pounds and as hard an' cunnin' as they get. They say he killed his first gator at the age o'four and made a vest outta his hide. When Old Man Gordon and his gang kidnapped his girl he marched right on up into Gordon's mansion and killed every man what was in it 'fore he tore the whole damn thing down brick by brick. Benny over there can give you the tour of the place if you're willin' t'pay.


Naw, you ain't gonna find Bayou Billy 'nless he wants to find you, 'cause Billy knows these swamps better'n any man alive. He can sniff out a 'possom from five miles away an' creep up on it so close he could be right in front of the darned thing without it knowin'. Don't you think you can go in there an' call 'im out for a fight, neither; Bayou Billy can shoot the beak offa crow at a hundred yards 'n kill a man so quick he doesn't even know he's dead 'til Billy tells 'im.

So unless you're lookin' fer trouble you best not mess with any of the swamp folk, 'cause when you mess with the swamp folk you mess with Billy, and Billy don't take kindly to anyone what messes with 'im.

"Can you see that? No, not the blimp, idiot. Up there, in that mess of red stars. Hard to see with all the pollution, but if you squint, you'll catch a glimpse when it passes in front of one of reds. The mothership."

"How do you think humans got here? Most of the ships were taken apart for the stuff we needed to survive. Some people say a few ships landed and were built right on top of, that one of the big three's got a spaceship for a basement. But that mothership, the biggest and meanest of them all, she's still flying. She still has a pilot."

"One of the jetmen, space jockeys that came back when they got the call about the invaders. Did what they could, but when we lost space travel, the jetmen died out. 'Cept one, they say. Still alive after all this time. Watching for the invaders, and he refuses to die until he knows they'll never trouble us again. Stupid, right? But the big three have all tried to take that ship, and something keeps fending 'em off..."

I heard MetPharm had a ship... It wasn't human either. Some say it’s an invader or something even stranger. Rumor has it that they found it here though, and everyone knows that before the crash the city wasn't this big hell, the only things here were the Wily towers which had been dropped from orbit early on and a tiny little Metpharm lab...

The one person who saw the ship said it was all red with a big green viewport on the front. He'd never seen anything like it. I mean you know what the old human ships looked like right? The Gradius class fighters and whatnot that they deployed? If you don't, check them out at the Robodyne museum. They’re a sight to see. But I wanna see this thing for myself.

....No I don't do E-tank. Why do you ask?

"It's done, Doctor Light."

"Good, good...let me see him. Activate."

The robot's eyes flickered and blinked for a few seconds, and he started heaving during his initialization; it was rather reminiscent of a human breathing heavily. After examining its surroundings for a moment, its gaze settled on Light.

"Active and ready," it said, in an oddly polite tone.

"What's he capable of?" Light asked.

"He's the top of the line, sir. He makes the rest of the R series obsolete. His armor is the most durable we've ever created - the exact makeup is in my report - and his physical capabilities are well beyond my projections."


"Several laser projectors, a retractable fist, miniature propulsion jets - for tackles, should they be necessary - beam projectors that can repair both machines and living tissue, and my pride and joy, a three hundred and sixty degree Meltbeam."

"You've outdone yourself," Light noted with a smile before turning back to the machine.

"Yes, sir. I put my heart and soul into his creation."

"Unit, what is your name?" Light questioned.

"My name is R-66Y." It replied in a humble tone.

"No, not your designation. Your name."

"Name...I do not have a name."

"No? Then we'll have to give you one. Something simple, I think...Robo. Yes, we'll call you Robo."

The newly christened Robo beeped for a moment. "Designation applied. I am Robo."

"We'll run a field test tomorrow, then, Robo. I'll see you in the morning." Light gave Robo's shoulder a pat before heading out the door. Robo turned to his Creator, expecting instructions, but found her head down and her shoulders shaking. He found his Creator's arms wrapped around him. He was confused, but comforting.

She knew she was sending him to his destruction, but it had to be done. She had built him from the ground up, and loved him dearly, something - no, someone, now - that she was able to turn to no matter what happened in this godforsaken city. She held onto him, weeping for what the city had become, weeping for what Robo would have to do.

"Mistress Lucca, whatever is the matter?"

He'd been an experiment for Wily... Just another god damned lab rat.

Just thinking about what they had taken away from him was sickening. He downed the shot of whiskey without so much as a cringe. He was pissed. He had every right to be after all. He had had it great. Working on Wily's security force was a great gig. A nice place, decent pay. He'd had it all.

And then it happened. He could hardly remember right now what had started it. That nasty gunfight that had ensued for god knows what reason. Probably something petty like a food ration. All the same they'd called in bomb man...And then well...

"Kaboom." He muttered as he motioned for another shot.

Bombman... dear fucking god. One explosion after the other. It had leveled so much of the area it had been a miracle he'd even survived... Well... No. He'd died. At least mostly. After all, they put Humpty Dumpty together again.

"All the king’s horses and all the king’s men..." he mumbled downing another shot of whiskey. The Bartender, a biodroid... Jesus they were everywhere these days. "He he... They put Humpty together again.

They'd hauled him to some blasted lab hidden in the fucking pits of hell itself. Wily towers, the shining bastion of the good 'ol uncle Wily... And that’s where they started the Operation... It was a hazy mess then. He'd pop in and out of consciousness and most likely flat lined multiple times. They never told him how many times...

When he finally came to... Good lord he'd felt so wrong. It was like his entire body had been taken apart and put back together. He didn't know the half of it...

"Good day inspector." The first words he had heard. It was a shock, given who had said them. None other than Good ol' Uncle Wily himself. He didn't look like the pictures really. No warm smile or mad scientist gleam. He'd looked so old, tired. Like he had simply neglected to think about himself anymore. Like he had cast away all the little things in life for something bigger...

He hadn't been able to talk yet. They were still patching him up they had explained. By the time they were done he was put back under and moved out of the lab.

The second time was the first time he had realized what had happened to him. He had woken up as they were propping him up in a board room like some store front mannequin. They'd even turned off his motor servos. He could see and hear them... that was when he had found out.

"Gentlemen and ladies of the board." A scientist dressed in standard Wily labs attire. A black coat with little else on them. "I bring to your attention the first of a possible new generation of Robot master. This man a few scant weeks ago was nothing more than a human being. He was injured in battle against several resistance members. Now, as you can see. This man is no longer a man. He is a fully integrated biodroid equipped with a variety of different tools and weapons for carrying out his duty."

"Biodroid." He spat out as he motioned for another shot. "Nothing more than a filthy biodroid."

The presentation went on for four fucking hours. The whole time he had been forced to listen to them explain every nook and cranny of him to a bunch of industrialist vying for a contract. He had wanted to scream.

And he did, when they brought him back down into the labs and put him in a holding cell. Ironically, better than most apartments. When he had seen what they had done to him. Staring in the mirror that hung above a little steel sink...He had screamed. A scream of violent, animal rage. He screamed for hours. Every few minutes they would give him a worried look but, they would never enter the cell...after all they were just human. They couldn't subdue their own.

"Monster..." He whispered downing another shot. His vision wouldn't get blurry anytime soon. They had given a whole new liver. He could feel the side effects to a point but he could never get truly shit-faced or ramped up on ring these days.

A few days later he had stopped screaming. And had resigned to just sitting there in front of the mirror. His long hair covering his face but not the rest of him. Most of his skin had been replaced by polymer armor. What hadn't was mostly bad skin grafts that were nothing like it should have been.

Finally they let him out but, not without putting the leash on him. He was a lab rat. Running around his cage for Wily's amusement now.

He gave up eventually and accepted fate. Letting them tell him how to use his body like he was a stranger to it... which in all rights he was. Then it happened.

He had been trying on the only things they'd given him. A suit, a trench coat and a fedora. He hated the clothes but it was all he had. The lights went out and the entire lab went silent. This was something that never happened in a lab. Let alone a Wily Inc lab.

He heard the screams before he saw who was doing it. A blurry shape, moving through the room in an easy strolling pace. Killing anyone he saw with that blasted claw. And he was forced to watch as it happened. By the time the smoke cleared his door had become unlocked and he was alone... Except for penny.

"My little girl..." He mumbled as he looked at the biodroid. Motioning for another shot. "The only one who gets me... My little shiny Penny."

She had been hidden behind a pile of crates. Her parents had worked there he would come to find out and in fact had helped to build him... She'd been scared at first when she saw him. No doubt thinking he was the cause of it all. But, eventually he managed to get her to trust him. Just in time most likely. Shortly after that Wily's security forces. His former coworkers showed up with a demo kit.

They fled into the City. He had no name, had no I.D. and no way to make a living in any legit way. So, he cut himself a niche. Built himself a name and gave Penny a good life. He was the Inspector now. The man you called when you needed something found, lost or made scarce. An urban merc. He never told Penny about the jobs only that he helped people. It would break her heart to know what he had done to get so far.

When people asked about her. Well he would explain he was her uncle and that if they so much as touched her they would find out that the rotor blades in his head could do more than fly...

Oh boy, I remember that. Back in the day an independent researcher by the name of Dr. Tongue said he came up with a way of generating cheap - by which he meant "disposable" - manual labor without bioroids, and set a date for a demonstration. That got everyone's interest. Then the day of his big show comes around and he reveals that his big solution was to animate the dead via nanomachines.

The demonstration he had planned... didn't pan out as expected. Wily and Ivo helped clean up the damage, but nobody's seen hide nor hair of Tongue ever since. Draw your own conclusions.

Not too surprising. Inefficient, easy to break, slowly wear down anyway, and let's not forget the all-too-important "ethics" bit.

Seriously, what was he on?

It was suggested they were twins. Pretty fucked up twins, but twins none the less. No one knew their names, but they kept on parkas. They're pretty old and ratty, but had names stitched on them. "Nan" and "Pop". Probably parkas meant for their parents.

These two were supposedly gang bangers with nothing surprising amongst them. Supposedly the guy's always hopped up on shrooms. Fuckers always got these big ugly mallets in their hands. Part of it was spiked, real professional job. One of my guys saw him and her. They used their mallets to smash holes into walls and climb buildings for kicks. Could swear when they got as high as they wanted, they'd drop trough and fuck while being watch.

They keep this carbon nanotube rope as well. Seen em use it to keep each other connected, or to choke the fuck out of somebody while the other fucks them. Didn't matter which. People say they're pretty goddamn deviant, but they're not that out of the ordinary for gang bangers, if you ask me.

A while back - nobody's quite sure when, whether it was before the Crash or not - a car company wanted to insure they'd have a damned good place to show off their cars. So they hired a bunch of young bucks, some of which are running corps now - I won't say which; that's up to you to figure out -to make a display showcase, and a test track. They didn't say both had to be the same thing, but hell - they chose it anyway.

And they outdid themselves.

The result was the RECS - the Race Environment Construction System. You put in a series of letters, designing the racetrack you want, and it builds it for you. Trees. Rocks. Cliffs. Grass. Anything you want, but people.

Y'only get four cars to choose from - all of 'em damned slow by today's "hover-racing" standards - and you get to race.

Nowadays, it's something like a public park. Those of us that aren't fucked up on E-Tank or Ring go there with a few brews, and race. The kiddies love it, and it's a favorite birthday spot; and the corps make sure it's neutral ground. Who knows; maybe they're nostalgic.

All I know, the Lotus RECS is -the- place to go, if you want to relax, honest-to-god relax.

Music's nice too.

Everyone remembers the day that Bombman and the White Bomberman clashed, but I'm the only one who knows that's what happened.

I was sitting in some decrepit old building, taking some - well, that's none of your business. Point is, I was there. I was sitting on the ground, when I heard this massive BOOM. So I got up to check it out - hey, fuck you, if I had known what it was I would have booked it right there and then.

Anyway, I go deep into this old shit building, right? I see Bombman there, I was terrified, never seen a Master before - across from him is this basic thing, antenna on the head, looked through some sorta visor, wearing all white. Bombman said something about coming back to the factory, and leniency, I don't fuckin' know. In response, the little guy, the White Bomberman, throws a bomb, big fuckin' thing, right at Bombman. The Master tossed its own bomb and they hit each other, and they just DETONATED.

Deep THUD, threw up a lot of dust and smoke. Got in my eyes, it took me a while to get them clean. So next thing I see, they're running all around the inside of the building, throwing bomb after bomb after BOMB at each other. Explosions fucking everywhere, would have run away if I didn't think I'd catch a bomb myself. Bombman rushed White, slugged him right through his guard, proving his physical superiority. But White started throwing these crazy tricks; kicking his bombs into Bombman's face, tossing one while sliding another at Bombman, just to get him into a third he'd placed earlier, shit like that.

Well, turns out the dumbshits destroyed a few too many of the support pillars of the building. Thing started coming down, and I got out. The entire thing collapsed, and I thought they'd killed each other. Before the smoke had even cleared, more explosions rocked the ground. What I saw, when that smokescreen finally cleared, nearly made my shit my pants. White had a bomb three times his size held above his head, and he chucked it. He just chucked the fucking thing, and it landed on Bombman. I booked it, running as fast as I could, and the detonation still sent my flying through the air, my skin burning, unable to breathe - when I could tell up from down, alive from dead, I looked to where it had gone off.

Bits of Bombman were...everywhere. I learned later that the explosion had flung bits of him miles in every direction. Emergency services showed up a little later, got me out of there. I got paid a lot of money to keep secret what a saw that day.

Huh? Oh, yeah. Yeah, that's where my leg went.

When the explosions were finally over, he dared to peek out from his hiding spot. Much to his surprise, the park hadn't all been ground up into dirt; in fact a fair amount of grass had survived. Although after those Wilycorp cleanerbots finished burning those alien corpses they're probably wouldn't be much left.

The crunch of a foot on gravel to his left caused him to jump. He saw a man his blue jeans spattered with mud, his red shirt spattered with green blood. In his hands he clutched a gigantic cannon, it was so big that it was wonder that he could lift it at all.

"Were those... invaders?" he asked as he lifted himself up from his hiding spot.

The man in red just looked at him.

"I wish, they came from the Fantasy Zone... there are worse things out there than the invaders man. Much worse."

Morgan gently thrust his fighter around another asteroid. The rocks and other debris here in Meteo was pretty bad, but after he'd taken out that mobile alien stronghold that they'd turned Katina into, he hadn't seen any more alien attacks.

Most of them were still centered around the remains of Crateria. Building that... Thing. He checked his sensors again to make sure he was on track, sure enough there was the automated distress signal, now loud and clear. He swooped between a pair of asteroids idly orbiting each other and killed his engines as he realized that he had found the source.

The ship was badly damaged, the entire front bridge had been sheared away, and twenty years of asteroid impacts on the hull had turned it into Swiss cheese. Nevertheless, his onboard computer was able to identify the wreck as the AuxCv-SFX-93 Great Fox, and unless he was mistaken, it was also identifying at least two Arwing class Heavy Fighters and a Landmaster in working order in the hold.

"Galaxy Force 3 to Starship Command. I've found her."

In the deep recesses of the broken starship, decades old computers began to slowly grind their way back to life as they reacted to the presence of a non-hostile IFF, and began the thawing process on the Cryogenic pods...

"You wish for some assistance, young man?"

The phrase. Link halted - was this the man that he'd searched so hard for? The contact for the unnamed rebellion, the shadowy men who existed to throw off the shackles of corporate rule - or a fiction of Robotnik's Mindpol.

The old man was either a rebellious hero or, much more likely, an agent of a shadowy police unit so terrible that its name was never spoken aloud if at all possible. Still, the consequences of any act of rebellion were part of the act itself. You simply had to fight and die so that those to come later would know about your sacrifice.

There was an unspoken agreement between Link and the old man. A look. A mere glance that transcended words; a clear understanding of intent.

"Do you want me to say it, or are you going to do it?" he asked the old man.

"Say it."

"I'm here because I've been led to believe that you are an agent of an underground conspiracy dedicated to the overthrow of authority. You are an admirer of Big Blue, a follower of the traitor Thomas Light, a sympathizer to the undercity dwellers, an environmentalist, and an advocate of human rights."

All of the consequences of the act were part of the act itself. The old man seemed to study Link yet again. Finally he nodded, not saying in words but in the movement of his body.

"You wish to join such an organization?" he said.


"Are you willing to commit atrocities? To take a sack of bombs into a factory and perhaps cause the deaths of a hundred workers?"


"To slaughter any agent of Ivo Robotnik, Albert Wily, Embee, Shredder, Agahnim, and all of the other evil men who wish to strangle the human race and its altered children?"


"To destroy property and life, to spread lies and disease, to cause bloodshed, to scheme without end, to witness and record perversion of the ruling classes?"


"Then child," said the Old Man. "Some time in the next week I will see that you are given a copy of our bible. It will explain the state of the world in the most TRUE and HONEST fashion.

"Don't doubt that you'll die. That is the fate of all agents. You flower for a brief moment, are caught, and die. You will never know the size of our organization, and never will you identify a fellow agent. You will act alone, and you will forever be cursed by that loneliness. Your life will be short and full of suffering. Go now, before the patrols discover us."

Moments later, he cried out to Link. Link stopped, and turned back to the Old Man, who held out a package.

"It's dangerous to go alone, take this!"

Don't believe all the corp propaganda kid. Those purple chemicals they dump all over the place aren't safe. I learned that lesson in a bad way. You see, I used to live out in the sticks. Nice little sprawl area, ruled by an obscure biotech interest called Tongue Inc. What we didn't realize till it was too late was that you watch where you get your water from. That, and Doctor Tongue's... obsessions. Jesus. The wails in the night, screams in the distant. You didn't want to know what was happening; you just preferred the safety blanket. That's how people are nowadays. Stay quiet, stay safe. Don't look, keep it to yourself. I found out the hard way that a person can't live like that. Got a rude awakening. God.

We hunger, they wailed. We hunger. I won't ever forget their cries. We hunger, they said in the night after the street lamps had failed. They came for us, they were us. Doctor Tongue must have been abducted residents for decades, making them guinea pigs for his latest batch of bio-weaponry. Till one night the good doctor let them out as part of a field exercise, or maybe just because he could.

"We hunger" they moaned, some making whistling sounds as they tried to vocalize from torn throats. It didn't deter them, they continued. Ripped up bellies sagging with spilled dry guts, lopsided heads frozen into a sick terrified grimace.

Worst of all is what happened to Tongue. He's still out there, somewhere. Nobody was able to get close to him; he's either moved on to the next zone or he's merged with one of the Bigs. There ain't no justice. No justice but what we can force ourselves. If it kills me I'll find him. I know I'll probably die in some gutter before I get within a mile of him. Nobody fucks with a corp and lives. But he gave me a hunger - a need - I'll find him. Nobody else lives who remembers those folks, screaming for mercy, begging to die. There ain't no justice but what I can give.

Reports of another bombing run had reached Robotnik's desk. With reluctance, he saved and cancelled the holographic display of his latest invention. A beauty of metal, rigid, perfect, and clean. It would be a god, a clean silvery chrome god.

These bombings were a little different. They'd caught the perp on camera though he'd still gotten away. What made it worth the Doctor's attention was that it was someone new. Not Wily, not Bombermen (if they weren't just slaves to Wily), it was someone new. A man in comically bright purple, grinning as he detonated the bombs and doomed a dozen research staff to a blazing fiery death. Laughing even, chuckling at his own destruction. He wore a long blue cape - but it wasn't the creature that haunted his dreams - and actually wore his underwear over his purple jumpsuit! Some crazy who thought he was some kind of super hero, but a damn skilled one to have blasted into a RoboDyne R&D post. On the video, the crazy turned, and Robotnik saw a large 'J' emblazoned on his chest. The attached report had named the bomber 'Jack' for this reason.

Having read the report, and been made aware, Ivo Robotnik issued the death order, recorded a short speech for propaganda distribution, warned against any further interruptions, and re-loaded his design in progress. His wonderful metal god.

The Dragons are small time at the moment, but brother let me tell you about them. They weren't always street punks dressed up like NeoZeed wannabes. They were big. Then the Crash came, and they set into decline. They stayed big players in the City, for a time at least. I'd say about five years, then the rot really set in.

Before that though, they had it all. Politicians eating out of their hands; law enforcement too scared to touch them. They ran a hit on a president once - back when we still had a proper civil administration - and the secret service had to hire some unofficial trackers since they couldn't trust their own men. That's how deep they were into politics. That's the power of the Dragon Clan.

Nowadays of course, they ain't up to much. NeoZeed stole most of their business and top players, with Shadow Law claiming everything Zeed hasn't already touched. Most people have them written off as wiped out - but me, I keep hearing that the Dragon is out there somewhere, bidding his time, rebuilding his clan way out in the far zones.

Deep in the oceans sleeps the Wind Fish, the star being who flew on ether wings to the planet that is now our City. The Wind Fish slumbers in a Zora-constructed temple, a mind-bending construct of similar to the most malevolent of Hylian architecture.

Of those zones near the coasts, a few enlightened areas have had contact with the Zora. They are not wiped out - they have not been chased away by time nor toxic chemical. Under the protection of wards older than man, and their Father Jabu-Jabu, their wait, watch and guard. No sane man can fathom the mind of a Zora, for it is so fundamentally inhuman.

In the deepest ocean, they and their living god give praise to the slumbering dead god, the Wind Fish. For the Wind Fish is not truly hindered by death, being a creature so utterly unearthly, so unlike anything fathomable by humankind. It slumbers and in its sleep it creates dreams which blur and shape new potentials. In this chaotic, ever-shifting realm possibilities may sometimes be born into new creatures, sometimes even new lands.

The Zora sometimes ambush the poorer shipping firms, dragging off sailors for dark rituals. These unfortunates are dragging screaming into the very dream of the Wind Fish itself, to appease and delight the slumbering Ancient.

"Yeah, I know what you're thinking. You're right too... Almost right. Most of the 'Com was wiped out in the second wave of the invasion. Yes, I said SECOND wave. You think wave after wave of those bug-like Invader warships were the first ones to the party?

Oh no. Oh, no no no. It started years before then, back on Earth, when there WAS an Earth. Started back when the abductions were slowly growing more and more common, when people's eyes turned to the stars with fear instead of wonder. That's when our lovely little corps came into being.

What's that? Urban legend? Heh. Yeah, kid. You go on believing that. Ever wonder just HOW we made such rapid advances in technology in just a few short decades? Ever wonder just where the science that made those precious Tanks, Gradius-fighters, Arwings, bioroids and Robot Masters possible came from?

We were trying to defend humanity from THEM before the Big Three were just a pipe dream in the minds of some lonely doctors. Urban legend my ass.

No, their science was made possible by a road of corpses stretching from hidden bases across the globe to crashed UFO after crashed UFO. Their science was made possible by a league of nameless men and women who labored in secret for a world that spat on them later.

More than that... they tore us apart. Our best scientists parceled out to the corporations that needed their minds, our research stolen by greedy suits, our bases annihilated by the foe we spent so much time fighting... But no. We endure.

CenCom, the Interceptor bases, SORESO, all might be broken rubble in the remains of a dead world, but those weren't the only cards in our hand.

The biggest mistake everyone's made was assuming while we kept an eye on the sky we didn't have an ear to the ground. You don't know half of what I'm talking about, but I know your boss does. Maybe five people in this whole damn city actually know who we were and what we did.

But that's exactly why they're going to be so afraid.

So we have to work undercover. So we don't have the backing we used to have. So we're outnumbered and outgunned. So what? You could kill nine out of ten of us and we'd keep coming. It's what we do.

The difference between turning humans into alien slaves and robot slaves is academic. We don't have all the pieces yet, but we will. You and MetPharm... Heh. Your boss decided to make war on humanity. A secret war, but a war nonetheless.

X-COM is used to fighting wars like that."

"Contra..." the man mumbles as he sucks on a cigar, blowing a cloud of bluish smoke into the air.”That brings me back."

I look at him a little puzzled. He's been mumbling all night. Every time he'd stop it was either to smoke some more or drink some more. I'd come here about a mysterious group from the times of the Crash. Contra. No one remembers them these days. Except for this old timer it seems.

"We were a group of thugs at first." He explains. "Nothing but low-life guns for hire before the invaders. Then," He pauses again. This time to take a swig from a Foot and Co. bottle of gin. "They came to earth."

He stares at a wall on the other side of the bar. His eyes unfocused as he seems to remember something.

"Then, one of the corps out of the blue hired us on. Gave us weapons told us to fight... and we did."

"Ha! The Corps don't actually mine the adamantine. Nah. I've been down in those 'mines', thousands of feet down, down past the Pipes. The Lemmings? Yeah, you'll occasionally see one of those little fuckers still digging away after someone lost track of it decades ago. But they're not the ones that made the Caves. The Forts."

"That'd be the Dorfs."

"I shit you not, there's fucking dwarves down there, with the battleaxes and the beards and booze and shit. They've got an entire fucking society down there! They were here before the humans showed up, and when the City went up, the Dorfs went down. Deep down. And they're the only ones who know where to find the adamantine that the corps need for their fucking bots. Yeah, Cutman? Got scissors of adamantine. It's amazing stuff if you see it raw. Looks like fucking cotton candy. I am not shitting you, it looks like blue fucking cotton candy down to the way it comes in these wispy little strands. The Dorfs turn it into the wafers you see coming up out of the 'mine'.

"The whole thing is on lockdown though, keep the Dorfs separated from the overworld. We just ride the elevators down to the caves, negotiate a price, and cart the wafers back out. Honestly, it's probably the best thing, the Dorfs are fucking weird. Their priorities are fucked up, like they're glitched up biodroids. I could trade them a steak dinner for 10 pounds of unprocessed gold ore. 20 pounds if I cut the food into shapes. The little midgets go gaga for engravings. Every wall's got a hundred pictures on it of the most random shit. Lots of cheese and elephants. I asked the liason about it and he tells me it's in homage of some lost city. Shipkilled? I could tell he was groping for the words. Looked like an awful memory. But it's gotta be some sort of translation error. What the fuck kinda name is Shipkilled for a city?"

"What? Yeah, they got a leader. A Queen. Sankis, I think. Even saw her once. No guards, nothing. She just comes out to the trading post in these purple robes, rummages through the bins of adamantine, shares some words with the liason, then walked back inside. I asked the liason and he says she was making sure the ban on the export of rose-gold tables was still in effect. Like I said, fucking weird.

"Why don't the corps just kill the weird little fuckers and take the adamantine themselves? Well, if there's one thing the dorfs fucking love besides cheese is making traps. They've got fucking everything trapped. Even the trading post is trapped. I saw all these sluices around the walls. I asked about it and they tell me it's for elves. Not that there's fucking elves down there. At least not any more. When I ask more I find out they pump lava into the trading post if they don't feel like dealing with elves. Sadistic little fucker chuckled about it too."

"I mean yeah, it's not like there's any shortage of Mettools to throw at the dorfs, but I think it's best to just leave them be. Once, just once I was invited to see where they get the adamantine. The stuff comes in these massive vertical veins, practically indestructible except for the strands the dorfs pull off. And while I was standing there, I heard... things. Things from inside the pillar. Things like the scuttling of legs, the flap of wings, the click of claws. None of the dorfs seemed to notice, or if they did they'd stopped caring a long time ago. Sent shivers down my spine, and after that I was willing to drink whatever fucking mushroom sewer brew those bearded midgets drink."

"Speaking of, how about another fucking whiskey?"

  • swig*

"...I don't know where you managed to find actual Jack Daniels in this godforsaken cesspit, and I don't know what you hope to accomplish by getting in touch with the Dorfs. But I do know that as awful as this city is, at least you've got other people to share your misery with. It might keep those little freaks happy, but I don't stay sane just because a dining room has every surface engraved. I've told you everything I know, everything else is on the disk."