"Anyone home? Cain?"
Rock closed the door behind him and glanced around anxiously. He was trying not to, but he couldn't help being on edge.
The window was open to his world.
Zero frowned, staring out across the rooftops of Reality Vanish without really seeing them. His world was still there. Zeta's arrival proved that. Since then, the two worlds had seemed to shift in and out of synch with each other - mostly out. But it was enough to allow the occasional message through.
--Things are going well enough out here. There's been a bit of an increase in Maverick activity, but nothing we can't handle. Just enough to keep us busy.--
Busy. If Zero knew X, busy was an understatement. What he didn't know was whether X was busying himself with more work than was necessary, or if he was understating the severity of the whole situation. Zero snorted softly, a fond smile creeping across his face. The first one was almost a given.
--...miss seeing you around the compound. I hope things are going well.--
X wasn't asking him to come back. Not directly, anyway. Zero had made his decision back then and X respected that. Their world would have to be in a hell of a lot of trouble before he went back on that. Oddly enough, that thought was comforting. It meant that, even if X was understating matters somewhat, the situation wasn't nearly as bad as it could be. "But nothing we can't handle." X wouldn't lie about that.
So, where did that leave him?
With a choice. He looked up at the sky, ignoring the wind that wanted to whip his ponytail into his face. Rain was coming, and soon. He should probably get inside if he didn't want to get wet. There was certainly no shelter to be had sitting on the roof. I still have a choice. This time, the smile didn't creep onto his face. It came readily and easily, and it came to stay.
Yes. He still had a choice.
When the first fat droplets splattered across the roof, Zero had long since escaped. Before he made any decisions, there was someone he had to see.
Sitting in front of the TV was Rockman. There was an E-tank by him on the end table and a game controller in hand. Buttons were being mashed like there was no tomorrow. The whole 'new Robot Master' incidents had been a false alarm and work on getting him home was going well. Things should've been good. But Rockman had been ready to fight and now that was not needed, leaving him battle ready with no battle. It was like drinking a couple redbulls for an all nighter then trying to stick to a normal sleeping schedule.
So while a game you spent blowing things up wasn't something he enjoyed, it was helping a little. Now if only the AI was a little... more challenging.
Under normal circumstances, Dynamo wouldn't do anything so insane -- or so blatant. It wasn't remotely productive for his goals, wasteful of energy, and all-too-likely to backfire. As it should, really.
Unfortunately, he was not labouring under normal circumstances.
Not when dogged by the screams he could hear even after he'd woken from rest and recharge ...
Without so much as a pause, he'd teleported within a block of the Hunters' VC lair; then stalked the rest of the way in a red haze, hands bloody. Stalked right up the front steps until he'd reached the very door, then scrawled a singled word across the mocking barrier in blood and fluid.
Half-strangled on his anger, he spit once -- nearly frothing -- and turned to stalk stiff-legged away.
It'd been prickling in the back of his mind over and over, really; ever since meeting the human boy, Netto -- and then that other Zero -- Serin had been curious about the Hunters. Of course, X had said that he was supposed to avoid them; but nothing he heard on the newsfeeds ever seemed to show any reason to be concerned ...
Said curiosity (warring with wanting to not upset X) thus kept Serin wandering through the local neighbourhoods as the afternoon wore on, shuttling between a nearby corner cafe and the Hunter property -- and periodically stopping in front of the townhouse and watching as if half-expecting to suddenly see a burst of activity.
The past few days had been filled with a feeling of restlessness. It was difficult to pin down the exact reason, which only vexed him more. His poor carpet had suffered from all the pacing he'd done.
Glaring at that carpet, it finally occurred to him that a change of scenery might be what he needed to figure things out. He needed to get out of here. He needed to go...
Unfortunately, it only made things worse. Damn it!
Bare minutes later, the carpet was no longer the only victim to his frustration. Damn it, damn it, damn it! With a snarl, he blew up another holographic drone.
The necessity I can understand, of course.
But why he can't clean up after himself I'll never know.
There were any number of chores that Harpuia would have preferred to be engaged in; filing, paperwork, training, patrol even. But instead there he was, working his way methodically across the lawn of the townhouse's substantial back lot, rooting out clumps of mangled machinery from amongst the grass and tossing them into a bin for recycling.
Picking up a shattered hard-hat, he snorted through his bangs.
"They're like crabs or lobsters for him, I suppose ..."
Things had calmed down for the most part. Well, maybe it was better to say that Techno wasn't slammed like he had been for a while. At this very moment, he was "hiding" himself in the labs. Hiding out of sight from pretty girls who made him nervous. The new female reploid matched that description in his mind anyway.
Techno was welcoming the peace and quiet while relaxing on top of one of the lab tables and staring at the ceiling. Coda was sitting off to the side on the ground and holding some small electronic ball with flashing lights. It was keeping the little bot entertained.
It happened overnight. The sun fell in the evening and everything at the Ijuuin house was normal. The next morning, though, there were fliers everywhere. Stuck to the house, stuck to the door, tied to the branches of bushes, tucked under the windshield wipers of the car - everywhere. There was even a flag proudly waving from the chimney. They all read the same thing.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY ENZAN!
They weren't signed.
But, really, there could be only one perpetrator behind this mess. That perpetrator was across the street, grinning madly as he hid behind a car and waited for Enzan to come out.