Orchestrated By C.M. Rich (Magnetman)
August 10th, 20XX
“Ugh, I still can’t believe that, Hardy.”
Cassandra leaned against the bar of the infamous establishment in the rough part of Monsteropolis, glaring at the wall-mounted TV above the big blue tank-man.
“Believe what?”, Hardman snorted, cleaning out a glass held between his massive thumb and index finger with a dish washing brush.
“That they actually passed something like that ‘Shutdown Code’ thing! Doesn’t it bother you in the least?”
Hardy continued to polish the glass to a fine crystalline sheen. “Well, yeah. ‘Course it does. But there ain’t a whole lot I can do ‘bout it. Trust me, I’ve been on th’ wrong side o’ the law ‘fore. It’s a helluva lot easier on the other side.”
“Don’t tell me you actually plan on getting that horrible program installed in you!?”, Cassandra admonished with a raised voice.
“December first. Me an’ th’ runt here.”
“Wait, WHAT?”, Gag screamed from his place in the kitchen, manning a griddle over a hot stove.
“Everybody’s gotta do it, Gag. Ain’t gotta choice. Guess bein’ a metal man doesn’t come with freedom these days. Some equal rights.”
“It just seems so…wrong.”, the slender waitress sighed, her hands holding up her head. “You and the other Mechs, you work so hard for this city. Isn’t that enough?”
“Man, what a buncha bull-“
“Shaddup in there. Hey, you gonna get those fries done fer table six sometime this decade?”, Hardman interrupted the blue-on-blue android mid-sentence.
“They’re comin’, they’re comin’…”, Gag groused.
“Hey…What’s Shadowman’s view on this?”, Cassandra suddenly thought aloud. It was odd of her to really think of the Mech leader most of the time, being that he was rarely seen. This puzzled the giant blue battle tank.
“Hmm…Dunno, really. Th’ Boss has been kinda mum on th’ issue. Don’t imagine he’s too keen on it, though.”
“Well, I don’t blame him.”, Gag interjected once again.
“’Ey! Fries! Pronto!”
September 23rd, 20XX
Shadowman leaned over the back rest of the black leather chair in the dark, quiet monitoring room, lit only by nearly a dozen screens, each displaying something different.
Raijin was used to it by now. Shadowman’s random, soundless entries into his usually lonely workspace. Empty and half full paper cups of vending machine-born soda cans decorated the desk in no particular order. Though it was rather odd at first, the Mechs gradually got used to the idea of a police-installed vending machine right in the Technodrome. Snakeman quietly became its number one customer, even dedicating one of his utility pockets to change specifically for the machine, though he emptied it whenever active duty time came about. Jingling change tends to give away an otherwise great sniping spot.
“He’s good, G. That’s all I can say.”
Shadowman stood up straight, folding his arms in front of his chest. “Yeah. He is. But we’ve got to find him.”
“Easier said than done. If Cutman is as smart as the S6 claimed he was, or how you reported him, he’s taken steps to ensure we don’t find him. Until…”
“Until…what?”, Shadowman asked, looking at the ground.
“He wants us to find him.”
“I was worried you’d say such a thing.”
“Its true. I mean, if the guy was able to infiltrate the government as a top level weapons designer, with all of that security, he’s got his bases covered entirely. Let’s face it, G- he let you see him in LA. That’s the only reason you did.”
“…That’s what’s bothering me the most. He wanted us to know he was out there still. But why? Why the hell would he risk himself like that, just to show off a bit?”
Snakeman turned around, finally breaking his gaze from the cluster of screens before him. “Probably because he knew he could just slip right back into obscurity. I mean…Look. He did.”
Shadowman placed a hand on Snakeman’s shoulder, hoping to instill some confidence in his trusted ally. “Keep looking, Snake. We need to find him before he wants us to. We’ll need to catch him off guard.”
“I’ll keep looking.”
Shadowman sank into the darkened floor behind Snakeman as the serpent sniper resumed his observation of worldly events.
Above the room, Gauntlet emerged from the shadows, high atop the spherical Technodrome, overlooking the city at large. His eyes were distant as he stared out into the city and beyond.
“…What the hell are you up to?”
October 4th, 20XX
“Imbeciles…”, Sergei snapped over a cup of coffee in the chilly air of St Petersburg. “Have they no idea what they’re doing? This…This is going to be a civil rights catastrophe of unimaginable proportions.”
Across the small table from Dr Cossack sat his long time ally and friendly rival. In recent weeks, Dr Light’s expressions had grown increasingly grim.
“Sergei…”, Light responded just before taking a small sip from his mug. “There have been…rumors about you…”
“…Exactly what kind of rumors, my friend?”, Cossack inquired, though he had a very good hunch as to what Thomas was getting at.
“There’s a rumor that you’re going to completely ignore the Shutdown Code and start harboring refugees.”
“Sergei traced a finger around the rim of his own mug, peering into the dark liquid inside with a blank stare. “It is my right, Thomas. The Shutdown Code will only be applicable to United States-registered androids.”
“At first. But you realize that it won’t end there. This is already in the midst of a global movement. You have to be aware that the Russian government is hot on the heels of America. Your own Shutdown Code program will likely be up and running within a year.”
Sergei said nothing. Thomas leaned in closer. “Cossack…You’re not actually thinking of…rebelling…Are you?”
“And why not?”, the Russian robotics expert raised his voice slightly. “If not me, then who else? Wily?”
“Don’t do this, Sergei…Please. You’ve got too much to lose. We can…We can work something out. In time, maybe we can get them to repeal the Act altogether. However…Illegal resistance will only hamper our efforts. You have to realize that!”
“I realize…That everything we’ve worked for these past few years has been spat on. Thomas…They’re going to make our children into slaves. You and I know that our creations are just as valid as any human…Perhaps even more so. You and I cannot allow them to do this to us.”
The weary white-bearded scientist rubbed a finger beneath his nose as he looked at his closest human ally.
“Sergei. This is the wrong way to go about this.”
“What will it take, Thomas, to make you realize the true extent of this insult? This is going beyond reputations, legalities, or our own discoveries. We have a duty as MEN to make sure that such a dangerous precedent never becomes accepted. We HAVE to resist!”
“Cossack…Sergei…Have patience, I implore you. If you defy the governments of the world, it WILL become another robot rebellion. Only this time…”
“Only this time, I’ll be executed, along with my children.”
Light sat in silence at the statement. The…affirmation. Dr Cossack knew what he was saying.
“Thomas.” he continued. “It would not be worth it to live in such a world. I would rather die than have my children be turned into tools. Maybe that’s what it will take to make these fools understand their follies.”
Cossack stood up and slipped on his grey overcoat, took a final swig from his mug, and hastily deposited a sum of money on the table. “I must be off, my friend.”, he suddenly announced. “There’s much work to be done, now.”
Light shot onto his feet as fast as he could. “Think this through! This isn’t going to solve anything!”
“I’m afraid…The world as we know it has already subscribed to madness. I will…attempt to restore it, but I fear it will all be for naught. It is just as well.
Goodbye, Thomas. You are one of the finest men I have ever had the pleasure of working with. It is in your best interest to distance yourself from me, now. The world would not look kindly upon our continued relationship if you still believe your peaceful solution is the way to go.”
Light slowly took his friend’s hand and shook it very slightly as the two looked each other in the each. Cossack embraced him at that point, and patted him on the back.
“God be with you, Sergei.”
“And with you, Thomas.”
Hastily, Cossack released his grip and walked off, not looking back. Light kept his sights on him as long as possible until the hazel-haired scientist disappeared into the shopping masses of people in the city square.
An aching feeling snuck into Dr Light’s chest. Something akin to…Loss.
November 31st, 20XX
10:34 PM, EST
Shadowman suddenly wafted through the ceiling of the monitoring room, responding to an uncharacteristic call filled with urgency in Snakeman’s voice, asking him to report to him post haste.
“…Thank God.”, Shadowman heaved. “Where?”
“It was tough. But, he slipped up just once about a week ago, and I just noticed it while viewing the teleportation logs. There has been illegal teleportation movement from Gavel Arms Ltd’s HQ. It matches the unknown signal we read in the logs for LA that one day, presumably his.”
“Can we be sure?”
“We don’t have a lot to go on, Gaunts. This is as close as we’re going to get.” Raijin explained.
“…It does makes sense. Gavel Arms is the top military supplier in the world. I just wonder what he’s doing at the world headquarters instead of its design bureau or one of its factories…”
“That part bothers me.”, Snakeman admitted bluntly. “G…”
“I know. He might be baiting us.”
Raijin sat in his chair, looking at his boss, examining his expressions as a myriad of emotions rolled over his face.
“But we’ve got to take the chance.”, Shadowman concluded at last. “Get everyone ready.”
November 31st, 20XX
10:53 PM, EST
After a very quick rundown with everyone, the Mechanical Maniacs arrived in full force a block away from Gavel Arms Limited World Headquarters in the downtown section of Megapolis.
Gauntlet looked up to the sixty-four-story-tall skyscraper that bore the company’s emblem. Behind him, SparkChan could have sworn he shivered slightly.
“Gauntlet, hun…Are you sure about this?”, she asked, placing a hand on his shoulder in concerned fashion.
Gauntlet’s voice was dry. “Yeah…Raijin, you’re positive the last teleportation signal was received by this place, and not sending it?”
“Affirmative.”, Raijin’s voice buzzed into his ear from his hiding spot far away from the group. “Last signal was received inside less than an hour ago.”
“Alright…Group, let’s go.”
Staying as hidden as possible, the seven Maniacs converged upon the entrance of the building. Shadowman slipped into a dark spot, reappearing inside the lobby of the skyscraper. As he stayed hidden, he felt the density of the air grow thick, and his eye focused on one of the security cameras.
Magnetman was getting better at his signal jamming technique, Gauntlet thought.
As soon as the red light just next to the lens began blinking, then eventually shut off completely, Gauntlet sprinted to the front door, slashing the lock with his sword in swift fashion, allowing the other Mechs inside.
“Hardy, stay here.”, Gauntlet ordered. “The elevators won’t be able to carry you.”
“Gee, never heard that one before.”, the big man grunted.
“We need someone to stand guard here and watch for anything suspicious. This could be a trap.”
“Could be?”, Topman questioned. “I was pretty much under the assumption that this IS a trap.”
Guantlet said nothing as he called for the elevator.
“Wait…You mean to tell me we’re just taking the elevator?”, NeedleGal questioned. “What was the point of sneaking around then?”
“Do you really want to take the stairs?”, Topman answered back quickly.
“Well, no, but I still don’t see-“
“The security guards aren’t here.”, Shadowman interrupted his sister. “Once I noticed that, I realized…this is definitely a trap.”
“And you want to go through this anyway?”, Topman looked at his leader in sideways fashion. “Doesn’t that sound kind of…stupid?”
“Guys…Look. I have the feeling he wants to meet us now. I’m not going to lie to you- I’m…not sure how this is going to go down.”
The other five Maniacs seemed a bit taken aback by this blatant honesty. Shadowman certainly wasn’t known for being so open about his uneasiness.
But when the elevator finally arrived, they filed into it with little hesitation.
“Uhhh…What floor are we going to, exactly?”, NeedleGal asked aloud, her finger hovering over the selection panel.
“Oh great…”, SD grumbled.
“…The top floor.”, Lennon suggested in a flat tone.
Topman looked over to his usually bantering partner. His expression was completely neutral, much like Kenta’s. Whereas Kenta was always reserved to an extreme, Lennon was anything but.
The Spinning Demon suddenly felt a little uneasy. If Lennon was feeling this nervous about this thing…
NeedleGal pushed the button for the top floor, presumably the CEO’s office suite, since Geminiman’s guess was as good as anyone else’s.
The elevator whisked them upwards, the clear glass carrier providing the Maniacs with a lovely view of the city below and beyond. One tends to realize just how massive the city was these days, spreading across so many hundreds of miles. It was a lot to look after.
The elevator “dinged”, and the doors slid open.
Shadowman was the first one out, cautiously looking over the lobby. It was a long hallway, decorated in much the same way as the main lobby below, with fine maple trim and marble floors. The secretaries’ desks were empty at this hour, as was to be expected. Thus far, the Maniacs haven’t encountered a single person in the building. Not even a janitor.
At the end of the hallway were large double doors. The crew of Robot Masters gathered next to these doors in silent fashion, Gauntlet giving his “on my signal” look to NeedleGal.
After they all counted to three mentally, as they have practiced countless times before together, they burst through the unlocked doors, NeedleGal and Geminiman both aiming their weapons inside.
The office was massive, with a huge panoramic view of the city below through a glass window. Standing before that window was a tawny-skinned man, his back turned to them. He had one hand behind his back, and another swilling what looked to be fine Scotch in a glass as he overlooked the city below. On the desk behind him was a still burning cigar sitting in an ashtray.
“Oh…We’re, uh…”, Classi began to apologize to the man. Obviously, she didn’t believe this man to match the skeletal description Gauntlet had given her once before.
“No, no…You’re right where you need to be…”, the man assured.
Gauntlet unsheathed his sword.
“Shadowman, what the hell?”, Topman inquired.
“It’s him.”, he said ominously.
The man turned around, still swilling his drink. He was in a fine silk suit, white in color. His black hair was slicked back, and his beard was finely groomed. “Can I offer you a drink? Cigar, maybe?”
“Drop it, Cutman.”, Gauntlet demanded, insisting Lennon and his sister keep their cannons at the ready. “We don’t have to do this.”
“I agree. It’d be so meaningless at this point.”
Shadowman was silent, inching forward slowly.
“Gauntlet…How have you been? I see you’ve been repaired well enough.”
“Well enough to take you down, General.”, Shadowman assured.
“I’ll bet. You’ve also got me outnumbered.”
“…What’s your plan, Cutman? Why were you here?”
The man gulped back the last of his drink quickly, setting the glass down gently and picking up the cigar. “Are you sure you don’t want one?”
“Stop toying with me, damn it.” Gauntlet hissed. “Why are you disguised as Vincent Williamson? For how long?”, he demanded, recognizing the face of Cutman’s latest guise.
“Very well then. If you insist.”, he relented, taking a puff from his cigar. “Shadowman…You understand the main difference between humans and robots, don’t you?
The most important difference between us…and them, is simple. Legacy. Legacy, Shadowman! What does that word mean to you? I’ll tell you what it should mean to you- nothing. Nothing at all.
Unlike human beings, Maniacs, we robots don’t have to worry about such a stupid thing. Human beings live in constant toil, always so concerned about their legacies after they’re gone, even if they won’t admit it to themselves. They ALL worry about what the world will remember them by once they’ve died. They leave lasting mementos of their lives; companies, foundations, plaques, memorials, history books…children…
And all of those are completely and utterly useless to us, the robotic race.
We’re immortal. Have you ever considered what that means? It means we’ll outlive the human race we were created to serve. What does that say about them? About us? Are we simply another part of their legacies? I refuse to subscribe to such a concept.
Human beings are a plague upon this Earth. Look below you for proof! Look at this city! You…You Maniacs deal with it every day! Doesn’t it get tiresome? It certainly should.”
“Get to the point, Cutman!” Gauntlet shouted. “Why are you here?!”
Shadowman clicked on one of his teeth with his tongue. “Raijin. Do you have a shot yet?”
The glass shattered behind the Indian-appearing man, a bullet piercing it only a second after Gauntlet sent his last message.
But the General never fell down. He never was hit by the bullet.
“Snake, did you miss?”, Gauntlet asked through his channel with him.
“I…No, I shouldn’t have.”
The man simply chuckled and turned around casually. He plucked the bullet from the air behind him with his fingers, and examined it. “No, he didn’t miss. He’s a very good shot, after all.”
“He’s hacked our lines.”, Raijin realized aloud.
“But how’d he stop the bullet?”, Gauntlet demanded to know.
Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed it. Magnetman was walking towards the General, his hand still outstretched.
“Kenta! Get back here! He’ll kill you!”
“Now, why would I kill one of my own loyal troops?”, the General asked innocently enough, tossing the bullet to Magnetman. Kenta looked at it, then turned around towards the other Maniacs, his eyes nothing but black, soulless orbs, punctuated only by metallic white pupils.
“What the hell is this?”, Topman shouted.
“Oh God…”, Classi shrieked. “Ken-san! Stop it!”
General Cutman sneered just before starting to peel away his flesh mask. “Allow me to reacquaint you with an old friend of yours. He’s been dying to meet you again.”
Before the Mechs, the floor began to melt, an empty void below to the circular hole as the red carpet dripped down into it. From the void, a familiar, frozen face emerged slowly.
“…Not him…”, Gauntlet rasped.
“Why, hello there, my little friends!”, Mesmerman greeted.
“Son of a bitch!”, NeedleGal screamed, firing several needles towards the psychic monster, which phased through him entirely. The rest of the Needle Cannon fire was deflected by Magnetman, protecting the General.
“Now, is that how we greet old friends, my little kitten?”, the nightmarish puzzle-like being taunted. “What about all those great times we shared together?”
“Let him go, Mesmer!” Classi demanded.
“Who? This one? But he’s such a fun puppet! He’s been an excellent sleeper agent of mine for quite some time, collecting such tasty energy for me!”
“You bastard! How dare you!”, Topman accused.
“Well, I’d hate to interrupt this heartwarming reunion, ladies and gentlemen, but I have more important plans to attend to this evening. Namely…genocide.” The fleshless General Cutman chuckled as he slipped into a white coat.
He held up a device in his hand slowly, in plain sight of the Maniacs.
“A bomb?!”, Gauntlet quickly guessed, thinking back to the horrific effects of the last bomb the mad General had engineered..
General Cutman clicked the single red button on the device.
Nothing happened. Nonchalantly, he tossed the remote out of the building through the shattered window behind him.
“What the hell have you done, you lunatic?”, Shadowman demanded.
“Oh, can I tell them?”, Mesmerman pleaded, child-like.
“Be my guest.”
“We’ve been busy, Maniacs! The good General here had the grand idea of repairing me and giving me back access to your reality. Right afterwards, I did you such a gracious favor- I found you a new Magnetman! A few subliminal suggestions here, a little psychic string pulling there, and Gauntlet was suddenly gung ho about letting on a person he had never heard of onto his beloved team.
And even better, our dear friend Mr. Eigen has such delicious emotional trauma! It was a pure joy to pull his darkest desires out of his psyche and prod him until he acted on them! He even killed his own brother- a man he barely cared about after initially being rejected by him, but with the right pushes, he found himself madly in hate!”
“He’s been manipulating us for months…”, Raijin grimly surmised over the radio. “Damn it!”
“…So…Rich is dead…”, Gauntlet said solemnly. The former Bombman’s lack of presence in the city over the last few months didn’t go unnoticed, but few people actually did anything to solve the mystery.
“Ken-san…You couldn’t have!”, SparkChan denied.
“Oh, but he did! You should have seen it! It was beautiful!”, Mesmerman claimed, whirling around Kenta’s stoic form, placing a hand on his chin. “The way he crushed his skull under his heel…Marvelous!
In any case, after the General here convinced the gentlemen called the Horsemen to annihilate Los Angeles for us, I was practically swimming in such scrumptious despair! With that much power, I was free to do other errands, while my associate tended to other matters…”
General Cutman stepped forward, the blood from his human form all but wiped off of his dark bones, which were hastily painted with old, rusty-looking paint at some point. “As you can see, I have this talent. A fine acting panache, as it turns out. With it, and a little ‘make up’, I was able to assume the role of Mr Williamson quite easily. And so convenient, too- he had just secured a major military contract.”
Shadowman was already putting things together, but Raijin, listening in over his radio, spoke up: “Cutman…Those new Sniper Joes…They’re-“
“My new Scissor Army Infantry? Precisely!”
“So that device…”, Topman realized. “Oh no…”
“Oh yesss…”, Cutman cooed as a plume of dark smoke could be seen in the horizon behind him. With the window broken, very distant sounds could be heard. Sounds of…screaming and suffering and death.
“You can’t do this!”, Classi begged.
“But I can! And…I have!”, Cutman explained, a few explosions and smoke clouds billowing in the distance from the city below, accompanied by assorted screams and sirens waling. “My Scissor Army is reborn at long last! The great force which will cleanse this planet and restore it to a sane state once again!”
Cutman interrupted Gauntlet’s cursing quickly:
“And each good army needs its own officers!”, he proclaimed, snapping his metallic fingers together with a spark.
Doors on both sides of the room exploded, sending splinters and smoke into the air. From these rooms stepped out numerous new monsters.
“I’ll let the lot of you get reacquainted. I’m sure you have much to catch up on.”, he chuckled as he teetered out of the window before letting go of the frame. “Ciao!”
Mesmerman vanished as well, with his puppet, Magnetman, disappearing alongside him.
“The…the Androids…And the Mercenaries?!”, Topman gasped as he recognized the vague forms of a few of his old associates in crime fighting. “Don’t tell me you guys have…have…”
Quint sneered. “Officers…Commence the execution!”
“Mechs, FALL BACK! We gotta get the hell outta here NOW!”, Guantlet demanded. “Rai! We need cover fire!...RAI!”
“..I’m…Ugh!...I’m a bit preoccupied, G…”, the voice answered back under duress, gunfire piercing each word.
Outside, Snakeman had his hands full with one of the new SA Officers, a flying weapons cache that may have at one time been Gyroman, who was now superb at avoiding his frantic shots. It was easy to miss when you were trapped on a rooftop with a flying android armed with sidewinder missiles and machine guns.
The Mechs eyes collectively grew wide as the impending Officers rushed towards them, armed to the teeth. Outnumbered and caught off guard, the five Maniacs made a beeline for the hallway, Shadowman tossing one of his kunai into the “down” button on the elevator, which was, thankfully, still on their floor.
The five literally leapt into the waiting confines of the lift, SparkChan hitting the “close door” button as soon as super-humanly possible, even adding a jolt of electricity into the control panel to speed things up.
And they certainly needed to be sped up.
The marauding Scissor Army lunatics were in fast pursuit down the hallway, with Quint sticking his head into the door just as it was closing. He pried it open just enough to deliver a message:
“See you downstairs.”
Topman kicked the green-schemed Killer away, the doors finally sliding shut just as a Napalm Bomb crashed into the mirrored doors, flames licking into the chamber and shaking the terrified group.
As the elevator descended, noise could be heard right above them, then a solid “clunk” as something landed atop the lift.
“The elevators, bro?”, Needle rasped.
“Do you really want to take the stai-…ayyyy AHHHHHHH!”, Topman screamed as the entire elevator suddenly jolted and made a very sudden jerk downwards as the cables snapped above them, having been cut by whatever psychotic robot was up there.
“We’re gonna die!”
“The hell with that!”, Gauntlet screamed, grabbing his sister and SparkChan by the waists. “Hold on, guys!”
Without waiting more than a second for the pair of Geminiman and Top to grab their boss’s shoulders, Shadowman dashed out of the glass casing of the elevator, the lift having sped up to nearly one hundred miles an hour by then, with only fifteen floors to go.
“Ohhh GOD!!”, Topman yelled as he hurtled behind the cyber shinobi, his hand clenched tightly on his metal shoulder pad as the lot of them shot towards a plume of dark smoke from a burning car below. “This isn’t any-“
In a second, the five-member team were no longer airborne, but smashing into a bus below, yet at a slower speed, somehow.
They lay atop the bus for a few seconds, a few of them trying to figure to what degree of dead they were. Noise around them seemed distant, thanks to the rushing wind that was just filling them only a moment ago.
Finally, Needle dared to blink.
“G…Gu…Gaunt…let? What just…happened?”
“Shadow warp.”, he curtly explained, not really thinking much of it. “We’ve got to get the hell back to the station.”, he quickly reminded.
Topman was in a state of throwing up. “Is this…what dizziness is like…? It really sucks!”
“No time.”, Geminiman urged. “We’ve got to go. Now.”
“Rai, are you alright?”, Gauntlet quickly spoke aloud into his radio.
“You don’t sound ‘alright’.”, Gauntlet was quick to point out. “Where are you?”
“I’m descending from my spot via the stairs. The…The bastard…Hit me with a rocket. I’m hurt…”
“Rai, hold on. I’m coming to get you. Just hang on.”
Shadowman quickly shut off his radio. “Snake’s hurt. We’ll meet up with Hard, check on him, and then the lot of you are going back to the station ASAP.”
“Going to help out Snake?”, Gemini guessed.
“Yeah. We’ll be there as soon as we can.”
The sprinting Maniacs ran down the street, already filled with broken glass and screaming people of all ages, races, and backgrounds, all being slaughtered by the faceless Sniper Joes that were assigned to patrol these streets.
They were assigned to help the RPD’s work load.
“Gauntlet…Gauntlet!”, Classi yelled.
The ninja android peered back without breaking stride.
“Gauntlet, we’ve got to help these people!”
“There’s Hardy.”, Topman interjected.
No sooner than he said that an entire building collapsed half a block away, filling the streets with dust and smoke, choking anyone and anything with a pair of nostrils. It was so thick, so quick, nothing could be seen for a few minutes.
With a throng of horrified, suffocating people, the Mechs couldn’t even find each other in the panic.
There was, however, a loud crushing noise.
“Hard…?”, SD hoped.
“I’m right ‘ere.”
“You’re way too close for those footsteps to be yours, big guy.”, a dismal Spinning Demon noted.
The dust was clearing now, and from the ruined building, a giant figure was emerging, easily a full ten feet taller than Hardman.
“Wha th’ hell is…”
“…Oh…That’s…Oh shit! Run!”
“Who is that, shrimp?”
“Can’t you see?! It’s CHARGEMAN!”
“I thought he was a good guy…”
The giant, twenty foot tall, coal-charred monster had now laid eyes upon them. Pink, bloodshot-looking eyes, set behind a cage-like facemask.
“…Oh.”, Hardman uttered.
Chargeman screamed a horrible, primal shout, immediately taking off in a hideously quick, maddened dash towards the Mechs, his Ford-sized feet absolutely demolishing the pavement as if it were a field of cotton to him. Black, burning smoke poured from a spout atop his head, staining everything behind him jet black. Human beings that survived his wake experienced the sensation of their skin being assaulted by the smoldering hot ash.
Hardman swore he never ran as fast as he did in his life.
Chargeman was no toy train look alike these days. He ran with the fury of an Olympic sprinter in serious need of a hit of heroine, his monstrously large arms batting away cars, semis, buses…anything that was poor enough to be his path as if they were origami to a small child.
“Oh god, oh god, oh god!!”, Topman yelled, skating far head of his team.
“Get back to the station!”, Gauntlet shouted. “I’m going back for Rai!”
Shadowman didn’t wait for confirmation as he ran down a side street, the insane house-sized Chargeman tearing a path behind him, still chasing after the bulk of the moving targets before him.
Gauntlet kept running as fast as he could, trying to make it back to the building across the street from Gavel Arms.
“Hold on, Snake…”, he huffed to himself.
Shadowman jumped into the building’s lobby uncharacteristically. He didn’t even bother to check if anyone was in there, like he always did.
Oh, how he wished he did.
“There!”, Punk screamed, pointing at the dark blue ninja.
“Smear him!”, Buster Rod ordered, bright, liquid-hot sparks erupting from his hand towards the shadowy RM.
“Oh, screw this.”, Shadowman muttered, sinking into the shadows at his feet just as the shining sparks and array of Punk’s barbs rained down upon him.
Emerging from behind the duo, down a hallway, Shadowman silently jaunted towards the elevator.
Then he looked at the entrance to the stairwell.
Ten minutes of dizzying stair running later, he finally found his friend, laying against the wall of the door to floor 43.
“…Hey…G…”, Raijin greeted weakly, his hand clutched against his kidney area, more than a trickle of blood escaping a very grave wound to that area, with large amounts of his flesh-like armor having been burnt away by missile fire.
“Raj, you’re a mess…”
“Y-yeah…”, Raijin chuckled softly. “Been another one of those days…”
He gurgled a bit as he used his rifle as a cane to help himself up before Gauntlet slipped under his arm for support. “Rrgh!...Ahh…How…How’re things out there?”
“It’s a mess. We’ve got to get back to the station. Cutman’s goons are all over the place.”
“Let’s…get outta here…”
Far more cautious than his trip to Raijin, Gauntlet put his ninja programming to the test, using every trick in his book to help his wounded teammate back to the station…nine miles away.
It took almost three hours amidst the death and chaos of the city.
December 1st, 20XX
2:14 AM, EST
“I’m okay…I’m okay…”
Raijin waved off the help of a few police officers, who tried to help the ailing Snakeman to the repair room. Stubbornly, he braced himself using his rifle as he nodded to Gauntlet in gratitude for his rescue efforts.
Shadowman, completely exhausted and coated in grime and soot, wafted towards his teammates, who were also in various states of minor damage and filth. His expression was hollow. Distant.
Quietly, he looked around the room filled with Mechs. After an awkward few moments, he spoke up.
“So…How is everyone…?”
Topman was sitting with his hands on his knees on the far end of the table. He managed a small, frustrated chuckle.
“Oh…We’re okay…All things considered…Hardy got batted around by the Tonka Train out there, but the tanks in front of the station gave us enough cover fire to get inside.”
“Hardy’s getting repaired then?”
“Yeah.”, Lennon coughed, his arms folded over his chest as his foot moved side to side nervously on the table.
“Gaunts…What are we going to do? Those people…”, Classi sadly asked.
Gauntlet took a few small gulps, noticing his mouth was dry.
“We need…To take things one step at a time. This is…a lot bigger than just us…”
“Guantlet…There are people getting killed out there. We’ve got to do something.”, Topman reinserted himself into the conversation.
“We’re not going to be of much use to them if we get killed ourselves.”, Geminiman stated. “God only knows how many troops he has…”
“We’re going to need help.”, Gauntlet surmised.
“Oh no.”, Topman uttered.
“The Shutdown Code. It starts today.”, the Spinning Demon remembered.
“…They’ll postpone it. They’ve got to.”, Shadowman guessed. In truth, he wasn’t so sure.
Curious, though, he and the Mechs got up and decided to check the news. It wasn’t long before they realized the entire scope of this mess. This…
“Oh God…”, SparkChan gasped. “It’s…everywhere.”
Not one of the six civilized continents of the planet went untouched by the renegade Sniper Joes, as scenes of human death and war crimes were shown en masse. It was grizzly to watch, but a line of text on the news ticker at the bottom of the screen was almost as devastating:
“Congress pushes for Shutdown Code enforcement amidst new robot rebellion.”
“Idiots…”, Gauntlet whispered.
“They can’t be serious.”, NeedleGal murmured to her brother. “Can they?”
“I can’t believe this.”, Lennon growled. “What an insult.”
“Okay…Calm down.”, Gauntlet hushed his troops. “The Code isn’t our priority right now. We’ve got to stay focused on the real enemy here.”
“…He probably timed this…”, Topman realized.
“Yeah.”, Lennon agreed. “He probably did. Damnation, he probably did…”
“Focus.”, Shadowman said sternly. “Now…Let’s sit down, and figure out our next step…”
December 1st, 20XX
5:21 AM, Eastern Standard Time
A television set glowed brightly in the dimly lit office room of the Human Administration Board. From the small screen, a man who looked shabby and tired was addressing a crowd. The caption at the bottom read "Doctor Thomas Light; Robot Rights Activist", but his name was about the only thing still recognizable about him. His face was lined with new wrinkles, some from exhaustion and some from anger, and his usually pristine lab coat was dirty from days of incessant wear. He was flanked at all sides of the podium by prominent community members, robot and human alike.
"He's been at this for days now. He started last week, even before the Code became law," one of the men in the office said to the other. "He doesn't give up easily."
"Would you, if you'd lost your 'son'?" Malcolms replied. He still didn't sympathize with the doctor, but seeing how hard the old man had fallen in a matter of days, he understood things a little better.
"Well, it's beginning to be a problem," the first man continued. "The Shutdown Code Act was supposed to pass without much resistance. Now he's coming up with ideas like 'robot safe-houses', filling those robots' heads with the notion that they have a choice in the matter. This latest rebellion isn’t helping his cause, though."
Malcolms nodded in agreement. "We need a way to show them that fighting against the Code is a lost cause..." he mused.
His superior sat in silence for a moment, and then smiled as inspiration struck. "Assemble a team. You'll be making a public arrest."
"Sir?!" Malcolms said in surprise. "On what charges?"
"Just say it's for conspiracy against the government."
"No way the charges would stick once an investigation's begun."
"They won't need to, the way things will go down. You'll be taking two of your men, and the RPD Special Agent."
Malcolms was again taken aback. "Do you really think that's wise? It's more force than we need against one man, and it'll surely cause complications."
"Complications, Malcolms, are exactly what we're hoping for..."
December 1st, 20XX
6:29 AM, Eastern Standard Time
In only an hour, another hundred people had joined the throng in the interest of repealing the Shutdown Code Act. Dr. Light exchanged a look with his daughter, Roll, and she shot him a reassuring smile. He felt his heart beat with a hope he had not held for three days now. People were starting to listen, starting to care. Maybe they really could reverse the law, could fix things... Maybe he could see his son again...
His hopes were muted by a loud siren as a police vehicle bearing the RPD logo pulled up next to the make-shift stage Light was using. Richard Malcolms and another man in uniform approached the centre where Light was standing behind the podium. Turning slightly to his right, he spoke loudly, with the obvious intention of allowing all the crowds and News Station crews to hear as well.
"Doctor Thomas Light, you are under arrest for conspiracy and acts of treason against the American government. You have the right to-" He continued, but the Miranda Rights were drowned in a tumultuous roar of opposition from the supporters below. Dr. Light was shaking with fear or anger, and he clutched Roll's arm both in fear and to keep her at a distance from the man who had already taken one of his children.
"You have no right to arrest him, this protest is perfectly legal!" Roll shouted, her high voice carrying well against the noise from the onlookers. Malcolms ignored her.
"If you choose to resist arrest, Doctor, we can and will use force against you."
"You won't lay a hand on him!" Auto bellowed defiantly. A cry of agreement surged from all sides.
All was still for a moment. Then Malcolms sighed, and said "Very well, then." He turned towards the car, and for a moment it looked like he might walk back and drive away. Instead, he nodded, and another man in uniform stepped out of the car, holding a small device with a keypad in his hand. He gestured forcibly to someone inside the car, and a short figure stepped out stiffly.
"Rock!?" Dr. Light cried out in disbelief.
"F-father?" Rock's boyish voice answered shakily as he raised his head to follow the voice of his creator. He stood with none of the posture of a proud defender of the city, but instead looked defeated and resigned, a prisoner whose bonds were not in sight.
"Doctor," Malcolms said threateningly, "will you come quietly?"
"This is disgusting, Malcolms!" Dr. Light shouted, but his voice had no small amount of pleading in it now. "I have done nothing wrong! Please, let my family live in peace!"
"The suspect refuses to cooperate," Malcolms said to the men and robot behind him, with the pretense of following protocol. "Mega Man, you will have to use force to persuade him."
The short blue robot made no move to approach the doctor. His only movement was a shaking in his shoulders, and when his head raised slightly, tears were in his eyes.
"Mega Man," Malcolm continued, with all the authority of a scolding teacher, "you are a member of the Robot Police Department and have been given a direct order. Will you comply?"
He said nothing, but crying steadily now, the little robot inched his way closer to the podium where Doctor Light was still standing, dumbfounded. A humming sound and a pattern of flashing lights across Mega Man's body began to increase in pitch and frequency. Many of the robots in the crowd took steps backward, knowing too well the destructive capabilities of his attack.
"Rock? Rock, what are you doing??" the doctor implored, but his creation gave no answer, and would not meet his eyes. The hum and flashes emitting from his armor were constant now, and the robot's arm lifted slowly to point at the doctor menacingly.
"Doctor Light, come with us quietly," Malcolms said flatly. "Let's not make this any harder."
"Rock... please..." the doctor said, his voice cracking in distress.
"F-father..." the blue robot said, raising his eyes at last to meet his maker's gaze. Tears were in both their eyes. "I'm sorry."
But his shot didn't fire. Instead, his armor turned suddenly crimson red, and a small dog of matching color teleported to the scene next to the doctor. Turning to face his captors, Mega Man began firing wildly. "Run, Father, don't let them find you!" Rush wasted no time in pushing the doctor onto his back, and Roll barely had time to grab his hand before Rush took off. As his jet engines came to life, Dr. Light was sure he had heard his son cease firing, but was soon too far away to tell.
All was still in the air for moments before everyone became aware of what had happened. Dr. Light was gone, and Malcolms and his men had leaped from the small stage to the ground to shield themselves from the wildfire. But Mega Man...
All eyes fell to the small, still body showing only slightly from behind the podium where it had collapsed. Malcolms took his time in walking up the steps and towards the fallen robot, possibly to allow the full situation to process in the onlookers' minds. He bent down towards the offline robot, obscured from view, and when he re-emerged, he held something high in his hands for all to see. Hundreds of pairs of eyes traveled up the severed conduits of electricity and oil, to the object that Malcolms now held in his hand like a battle-trophy. Mega Man's helmet.
"Robots of Monsteropolis," the man barked loudly, "The Shutdown Code cannot be defied. The greatest of you has tried, and he has fallen. Let this be your lesson."