The Business of War

Good Ideas

Scenario F
Mechanical Maniacs (RPD)
Ringman (W)
Seven Mercenaries (SA)

Location: Madrid, Spain
Max. Cossack Scrap Value: 2,818
SA Infantry: 1,477
RPD Units: 754
Wily Bots: 629

The city was safe. Armed guards were patrolling the streets of Monsteropolis. Heavily armoured cars were now a common occurrence. Now the Technodrome, with its guns and bulk, didn’t seem to stand out at all. Jackbots and repair crews were working ‘round the clock to repair the damage the Ascendant Androids did to the city. Due to the vast number of robots and sheer dedication, it was almost like the devastating attack never happened.

Shadowman slumped against the walls and looked over the scene. The police had begun to diversify their robots as well. While the common officer was still in wide use, there were a number of other models out as well. He surmised new models were made to try and combat the threat of new Joe attacks in different ways. Some of them actually looked quite sinister and Shadowman wondered whether some of the General’s modifications were taken into use. Moreover the RPD was becoming more and more international. There were less Robot Commandos to be seen and the RPD was always the first on the scene in times of crisis.

Shadowman ran all this through his mind along with his assessment of his last mission. Although it was a success in terms of his objective and his losses, it still hung heavily on the ninja’s soul. Ben was gone. And the General was still out there. Shadowman had devoted an entire program to analysing what he knew of the General in order to search for weaknesses and potential attacks. A good portion of his mind dwelled on how much he hated him in all the spare moments he had.


It was the first time in a long time that Hardman found himself greeting his boss at his bar. “Boss! Yer actually here!”

“Yeah. Sorry about that, but I’ve been …. Busy.”

It was the first time Hardman or Snakeman had seen their friend in weeks. They were all keeping busy with repair plans and fortification tactics. With the success of their last major mission, each of them had been given greater authority. Needlegal herself was busy working with the Robo Rescue Force to speed up hospital waiting times in case the Scissor Army came back to call. Crorq had been put into enormous pressure to do something to safeguard the city’s citizens after a particularly grizzly attack by their old nemesis, Mesmermen.

Shadowman did not look well. Neither Hardman nor Snakeman marvelled at Light’s new synthetic skin’s ability to mimic the effects of human exhaustion, rather they were concerned that the heavy shadows under their leader’s eyes and his paler than usual complexion that hinted at a deeper emotional burden.

“Boss … 'r you okay?”

“Yeah, seriously. You look like Hell.”

Shadowman smiled and leaned back in his chair. He didn’t like looking like he was having trouble at anything. “Hah, are you kidding me? Things are great. The city’s looking good and I’ve been pouring over those unknown designs all day and night! I think I’m just about ready to try my hand at building it!”

Snakeman looked at his leader incredulously. “So … you’ve figured out what it’s supposed to be?”

Shadowman gave him an odd look. “No. That’s why I’m building it. I mean …. Why else would I spend so much time on it?” Shadowman chuckled, as if something in that sentence was funny.

“Wait,” Hardman said, catching a vital fact, “Yer not gettin' any sleep? Uh …. I think maybe ya oughta catch a few winks there.”

“Hardman, I’m a robot. And robots don’t need sleep. That’s why we’re so great!” Although Shadowman was joking he didn’t look like he was doing very ‘great’ himself. “And, besides … we have to figure those schematics out. I can’t get them out of my head. It’s not that I haven’t been trying, either. Anyway, there’s no point sleeping when all I’ll be doing is analysing the designs all night anyway. Hell, even as I’m talking to you, I’ve devoted a program in my head to analyse the important schematics found at the site. But, everyone needs a break. And that’s why I’m here! To unwind.”

Hardman and Snakeman looked at their leader doubtfully. He was trying to build the unknown machine the General had designs for? And the lack of sleep disturbed them. While it was true that simple robots didn’t need sleep, the more advanced AIs behaved remarkably like a human’s mind. Sleep wasn’t just to recharge the body, the mind also needed rest.

Shadowman thanked Cassandra for the drink she brought and gulped it down. Perhaps they were wrong. Despite the dark rings under his eyes and his pale complexion, Shadowman seemed to be just as fine as he claimed he was. And being in charge would weigh heavily on anyone’s shoulders. But still …

Snakeman spoke up after a few minutes of bantering “You know, if you’re having trouble, we’re there for you. We’re all in this together.”

Shadowman met his team-mate’s eyes. Was that doubt? But it was only for an instant. Shadowman flashed a gleeful smile and his eyes sparkled with energy. “No, there’s no trouble. I’m fine. Better than ever! I actually have a secret plan that I’m very excited about. It’s still in the early stages, but …. I can guarantee it’ll spell the end of both the Scissor Army and the Shutdown Code!”


It was already all said and done. The Scissor Army was the superior force in the city, meeting relatively little resistance. It was a normally busy hour of the day, but Madrid was still and deathly silent.

Joes were already performing routine sweeps, making absolutely sure that no one was left alive. A couple of Joes broke off from their unit into an alleyway in the south side to check for survivors.

The whistle seemed to come from everywhere. One of the Joes stopped short and looked around, trying to find the source of the noise, only to get a ball of plasma to the back, destroying it. Its companion took up a more defensive stance, but met a similar fate as it too failed to locate the attacker...


A few of the Seven Mercenaries stood outside the country's center of politics and admired their handiwork. It was a battle certainly not without its losses, but it was one step closer to Elysium and that was all that mattered.

"Yet another falls to the Scissor Army," their captain mused, placing his hands on his hips and smiling as he surveyed the scene.

"Yeah... No offense, boss, but this was just too easy," Hyper Storm complained, leaning lazily on his sword. "Kinda boring."

Ballade simply shrugged. A victory was a victory to her. "They're waiting," she mumbled. The first words she'd said all day.

"Yes, we shouldn't let our comrades get..." Quint never got to finish his sentence. His communicator had started ringing -- one of the command Joes.

"Captain Quint! Several of our units have been disappearing on our sweeps of the city. We've already lost eighteen and we can't find the cause!"

"We'll look into it. What was the location of the last attack?"

"Around the southeast central area, not long ago."

"Alright. Keep us informed. Quint out."

The green robot turned to his teammates. "Well, then. It looks like we have more to do here after all. Scout the central area, starting in the southeast. We may have a bit of resistance on our hands."

The other two Mercs nodded and split up to find the cause of the mysterious disappearance of their forces. It seemed almost silly to Ballade, but she understood the logic. Two missing soldiers could become ten, then twenty, then a hundred if the cause wasn't found and eliminated... but such a "ghost hunt" would have gone better with the full team and not just the three of them in her own opinion.

A trio of burned and deactivated Joes, obviously of Scissor Army alignment, greeted Ballade's optical sensors. One of the mystery attacker's victims, no doubt. And again came the whistle, again from seemingly everywhere. It was obviously a scare tactic. Startle the enemy with an untraceable sound (and probably even the familiarity of the tune) and catch the victim while he's off guard.

Ballade leapt to one side and whirled around, predicting the surprise attack, but not fast enough to keep her right arm from getting damaged. She scowled. She knew she was better at defending against those tactics than that. A red and gray robot with a distinctive yellow scarf landed in front of her.

He always was one to make an entrance... She tapped her com. "Here."

From there, it was a staring contest. Both Proto Man and Ballade refused to make the first move, both robots had their weapons leveled and ready to fire if the other even did as little as twitch. The other two Mercenaries would be there within minutes and the tension was beginning to build. If Proto Man stayed, he'd soon have to face any number of enemy forces. His back was already to a wall, retreat wouldn't be easy. He resigned himself to the fact that he was going to have to do some fighting... as soon as this standstill gets broken.

"Ah, Proto Man, I presume."

Ballade glanced behind her. Quint and Hyper Storm had both arrived, weapons at the ready.

"Tell me. Why do you resist? Ambushing stray soldiers in alleyways... Tsk, tsk. You're the first of our kind, Proto Man. You of all people should appreciate what we're doing for the robotic race," said Quint, lowering his weapon and stepping forward.

"If you're going to say what I think you're going to say, then just shove it. I only work for myself. I'm not working from some psycho," spat Proto Man, "You and your Elysium can go to hell."

Quint stepped back in feigned surprise. "Ohh... Harsh words. Well, then. If you won't cooperate, I guess we'll have to force you to."

Proto Man cursed himself for stupidity as he hastily sidestepped the now-charging Quint. The alleyway he chose to launch his latest ambush was a tight squeeze for a full-fledged fight, not much room to move around. His primary objective was getting out of there.

Ballade vaulted into the air to attack from a different angle while Quint went for another charge. Proto Man responded with a leap backward and pulled out his shield to block the oncoming drill attack. A horrible noise resounded as the drill impacted the shield and the two found themselves deadlocked. The stalemate wouldn't last. As Quint's drill chipped away at the shield, Proto Man's Buster was already charging. Just before his shield failed, Proto Man threw his assailant off of him and prepared to take the shot... just as Ballade's and Hyper Storm's attacks struck his unprotected back.

A clumsy tumble from the blow turned into a handspring back to his feet. These Mercenaries were more powerful than he remembered. He put his shield back on his back, not finding any use for something that could fall apart at any moment, then opened fire on the airborne Ballade. Unable to avoid it, the purple robot took the attack head-on. She landed on her feet, her chest sporting a few new scorch marks.

Ballade scowled, but continued her assault, this time taking a close-ranged offensive along with her captain. This left Proto Man frantically avoiding punches, kicks, and drill charges. Proto Man countered as best he could. He was adept at defensive techniques and used blocks to deflect several blows. But his arms were full of dents from the effort. Meanwhile, Ballade was getting faster! With every punch avoided, he could feel an odd vibration coming from his attacker.

Is that...? Since when was Ballade...? "Gaah!" Proto Man's thoughts were cut short by a drill bit in his shoulder, followed by a knee to the stomach, knocking him to the ground, his internals rattled from the force. Ballade was definitely stronger than before.

The other mercenaries grinned in amusement. They were content to watch the fight. After all, this was the legendary Proto Man. Brother of Mega Man, the first robot with advanced intelligence. With their improvements, even this robot couldn’t stand a chance.

"Ugh, geez...! This isn't working..." Proto Man muttered to himself. Protoman jumped backwards, hoping to escape the battle. He ran into Hyper Storm who gave him a shove back towards Ballade.

“No running away, small fry!”

Protoman was still unbalanced when another Ballade Cracker hit him squarely in the chest. He screamed with pain and fell to the floor.

“Look at you! You’re a wreck! You should really let the General take a look at those injuries. You can trust him! He’s your brother too, after all!”

Protoman scowled. Whatever he looked like, whatever he called himself, this “General” was not his brother Cut Man! And neither was this time-lost reject who stood gloating above him.

When it didn’t look like he would respond, Quint’s mood changed. “Hey! Bro! I’m talking to you!” Quint shot Proto Man several times to emphasize this point. “Did that smack down we gave you earlier make you deaf or something?”

Ballade advanced as Hyper Storm laughed. “Maybe it’s that helmet of his. We can always crack it open, that way we know he’s listening.” Ballade chuckled at the thought and readied one of her Crackers. Proto Man stayed low and considered his options. With Hyper Storm blocking the way, there wasn't any way out of that little trap he put himself in. Or was there...? He let himself appear helpless before his attackers as they closed in for the kill, hiding his charging Buster.

Quint smiled, “You know I always did wonder what he really looked like under that thing. But, wait …. Won’t your Crackers blow his face off along with his helmet?”

Ballade shrugged. “Maybe."

"That’s okay, the General can always give him the same facelift he gave himself!” Hyper Storm added, grinning widely.

Just as Ballade and Quint got close, he fired, taking them by surprise, and made a mad dash toward the robot "door" while they were dazed.

"Oh, no you don't!" Hyper Storm yelled, preparing to catch the red renegade. Proto Man moved like he was preparing to slide between the behemoth's legs, but then took a flying leap and sprang off of his shoulders into the street beyond, much to Hyper Storm's dismay.

Quint was fuming, “He’s getting away! Don’t stand there looking surprised, go after him!”

The Mercenaries left the alley to find their target, but he had somehow vanished from sight. That red robot always did seem to be adept at that...

"Sorry, boss... I let him get away..."

Instead of responding, Quint turned on his com. "Mercenaries, we have some unfinished business to attend to in Madrid."


Warman lunged at the horde of Scissor Army Joes he as fighting. “Ya assholes think you know something about War, eh? You guys don’t know shit! I’m WARMAN, damn it! Warman!” To emphasize his point Warman shot missiles into the army attacking him and his crew. Joes were blasted to pieces, but more pressed on.

“Kill! Maim! Rend! Do not fear! Elysium awaits!”

Spinman finished an imitation Top Spin attack, slicing several Joes in half. However, these weren’t unintelligent drones, several jumped back and blasted the robot as he spun! The sheer number of bullets sent him flying into the face of a building. Spinman was knocked out of his attack and held his head.

“Guys, I don’t think this is – “

“Eliminate them!” cried a nearby Joe. Spinman dove, but took heavy hits all over his body. The Joes pressed on in their relentless assault.

“Kill! Maim! Rend! Do not fear! Elysium awaits!”

For the first time Spinman looked at his enemies in fear. He was going to die.

Or he would have if Clawman had not swooped in with his Raging Claw attack, dispatching the troop into whatever afterlife they seemed to believe in. “Don’t worry, Spin! We’ll get out of here in one piece!” Clawman said it with confidence, but he had already lost an arm to a lucky Joe attacker. His legs were showing signs of overexertion and sported cracks along their surface. He had blast marks all over his body. Spinman thought that Clawman was only trying to believe it himself.

Warman, on the other hand was revelling in the battle. His guns were blazing. He was laughing maniacally as he dispatched Scissor Army infantry into oblivion, even as a shots broke open his casing, he was having the best time of his life.

“Yeeeee-HAW! That all you little peckers got! Come on, pansies, don’t hold back, cut loose!” Warman emphasized the point by firing his flamethrower into the crowd of Joes while laughing in manic glee.


Outside Monsteropolis Shadowman dispatched the finishing blow to the last of the Scissor Army infantry that was sent to break the enemy lines with a surprising new weapon. The Joe’s eye widened in shock just before his head was severed cleanly from his body.

“Was that Cutman’s weapons?” Needlegal asked eyeing the weapon in surprise. Shadowman chuckled.

“Oh, no. Not really. It’s actually just a Shadow Blade. But I modified it to look like a Rolling Cutter. Heh heh heh, isn’t it funny? The way that Joe was shocked before my attack?” Shadowman laughed to himself again. “It’s just my way of sticking it to the General.”

Hardman brushed some scrap off his shoulders. “Dat’s a great ideas, boss. Heh heh, I’ll bet it’ll stick in th’ Generl’s craw.” Shadowman beamed. He hoped it did too.

The General’s forces had been completely defeated. Again. It was getting easier and easier. But then, the attacks were growing less and less frequent. What was the General hoping to accomplish? Or was it one of his generals? Was it to wear them down? Or just to remind them he was still around? Was it a diversion? Was it to lull them into a false sense of security?

Shadowman couldn’t decide, but decided to weigh the options later. There was something more important coming up now anyway. It was time to find out exactly what the General was going to make with those plans he discovered.


The ‘Maniacs stood in what was once one of several large empty rooms that occupied the Technodrome. They supposed it was Bizarro’s faulty memory that left so many areas of the ‘Drome unoccupied. Most of those were filled with new equipment and now this one was filled with a large, complex device that took up most of the rear wall.

“What if it’s a bomb?” asked Snakeman with concern. Shadowman looked at him. Again, there was an odd look on his face.

“Snake, don’t you think I know a bomb when I see one?”

“Your name isn’t Bombman.”

“Well, this isn’t a bomb!” Shadowman sighed. Why were some people so dense? It took a moment to register that the others were looking at him with … surprise? Well, he did lose his temper. He sighed. “There’s just no combustible material. The energy flow shows no timer, and the computer systems are much more complex. From what I’ve been able to piece together the energy matrix is much more complex than anything required for a simple bomb. The design itself doesn’t lend itself to any known weapon … “

“Why’s it look like som’ p’rts ar’ missin’?” asked Hardman. Indeed, several portions seemed out of place and others seemed to have been skipped. Shadowman sighed again. Wasn’t it obvious?

“Well, it’s not like I had all the time in the world to get all the information I needed. In fact, I remember someone ripping me from the console before I was done.” Shadowman eyed his sister then. But, before she could say anything Shadowman quickly moved on, “But it doesn’t matter. I’ve managed to hypothesize the nature of the missing pieces and make compensations. And now…” Shadowman grabbed the lever that turned on the machine. He was very excited to start.

That was when his sister spoke. “Doesn’t hypothesize mean you guess?”

“An educated guess, Needle.”

“But it’s still a guess. I don’t think – “

“I don’t care what you think! You didn’t study the blueprints, you didn’t create a mathematical algorithm to compensate for differentials in the energy matrix and you certainly didn’t help me with the heavy lifting!” Shadowman was glaring at her now. He was breathing hard. It was then that he noticed Needlegal looked surprised and hurt. All of them looked aghast. He wanted to apologize, but …. Well, how would they like being interrupted all the time. He muttered an apology and turned on the device.


Needlegal couldn’t understand it. All she had really wanted to do was help. Didn’t her brother see how dangerous this was? The General built monsters. He modified their friends into killing machines. His whole idea of heaven was built on genocide. No good could come of anything he made! And this is something only half built.

Needlegal was going to try speaking up again, but she was too late. Her brother pulled the lever.

It happened so fast! Some parts looked like they worked fine. Even some of her brother’s additions looked like they held. But it didn’t take long for … something started to go wrong. Sparks flew everywhere, casings melted. The machines rumbled as it made a visible effort to work.

Her brother looked surprised. He did not see this coming. Why didn’t he listen to her? Or his friends? Needlegal made a step towards him, to pull him away from this dangerous thing. That was all Needlegal could remember before she was knocked aside by Hardman.


Shadow’s machine blew up nice and good! Needle looked like she was gonna try to push her bro outta the way, but Hardman used a Hard Knuckle, palm open, to push her out of the path of the explosion. He then grabbed Snakeman and pushed him under his heavily armoured body. Snakeman looked too surprised to do anything. Hardman had to admit. He knew how he felt.

The boss looked so sure his machine was going to work. He looked sure of a lot lately. Sure he seemed a lot less patient and more irritable than always …. But he was under a lot of pressure. Hardman didn’t have long to continue this train of throught before the explosion hit him. It was kind of being like punched – hard – over his entire body. He grunted. It was an enormous amount of energy, but he felt worse. Overall, this didn’t amount to much.

He straightened and let Snakeman out of his one-handed bear hug. “Thanks,” muttered his teammate. They looked over to Needlegal. The explosion had knocked out the returning thrusters on his arm, but Needlegal crawled out safe and sound. Her legs, being unprotected, were somewhat scorched, but she was alright overall.

It didn’t take long for the sprinklers to turn on. There was smoke and fire everywhere. The machine Shadowman had created was just a pile of junk now. All three of them looked around for their boss. Needlegal was crying. She was such a sweet girl sometimes. They upturned pieces of wreckage, hoping to find something.

But Shadowman found them instead.


Snakeman leaped back in surprise. “Shadow!” Their leader was still up and about.

Shadowman used his hand to crack his jaw back into place. “Sorry about that –zzzzzzt!” Shadowman’s voice made odd electrical noises as he tried to speak. And no wonder. Snakeman was horrified by the damage taken by their leader!

One of his arms was blown clear off. His trademark blade had been blown from his head. The part of his face that used to be obscured was blown off and Snakeman could easily see an empty eye socket. Shadowman knees were wobbly and bent at odd angles. They looked like they could buckle at any moment.

“Boss!” said the giant Hardman stepping over to Shadow, “Geez, boss! Let’s get you to the medics! They’ll patch ya up! Aw, geez!”

Shadowman waved his friend off. “I’, fi –I –I - -I –I zzzzzzt*” Shadowman seemed to … chuckle? “I guess you were right after all, Needle. Ha hah ha – a – a- a- a- zzzt*” Shadowman jabbed at his neck, trying to get that stutter out of his vocal cords.

Snakeman took a step towards Shadowman. “No, Shadow, you definitely need help. Maybe you can’t see yourself, but – “

“I look like Hell? No, I – I – zzz*” Again Shadowman jabbed at his neck. Something clicked and he began to talk normally. “This is okay. I’ve actually been going over my blueprints, looking for improvements. This actually gives me an excuse to tinker with my design. I got it, don’t worry.”

Shadowman took a few steps to the door and fell over.

“Uh …. Little help?”


Another day at Wily's Skull Castle ensued as Ring Man entered the mad scientist's lab, watching him work on various foot soldiers for the war. Hearing the robot's footsteps approaching him, he got up and turned, his face forming a scowl.

"Finally, you're here."

"Sorry about that, doc," Rebel scratched the back of his head. "I'm still not very used to exploring this whole thing yet."

"Whatever," Wily brushed him off, walking over to a large table. Several blueprints and charts were scattered about as he grabbed one and lifted it up so his visitor could see. "Tell me, have you been using my Trick Rings?"

"Of course! I've been trying to experiment with them as much as possible," Rebel grinned behind his helmet. "They're pretty cool. I hope you make some more."

Wily stroked his mustache, pleased to hear this. It was not easy developing rings that could perform such a variety of functions. By utilizing them effectively, Ring Man could easily become one of the most versatile robots in his army; a huge asset, to say the least. Of course, Ring Man had no need to fear as several more were already being built as they spoke.

Facing the table, Wily started shuffling through several of the documents laid out before him, searching for one in particular. Eventually he grabbed one and placed it out on top. It was a large map of the world, with over a dozen red marks dotting it's surface.

"What is that?" Rebel asked, peering over his shoulder.

"It is a collection of data regarding the whereabouts of Proto Man."

Proto Man, the first robot with advanced intelligence. The infamous brother of Mega Man. In fact, if it wasn't for Proto Man's creation, Ring Man himself might never have been built. Although whether that was a good or bad thing in terms of the current situation was beyond him. Snapping back into reality, he blinked and looked at Wily curiously.

"So... you are looking for him, I take it?"

"You aren't as stupid as you look," Wily huffed as he placed the chart down. "Proto Man has been missing since this war started--A curious trait, to say the least. What I am wondering is what he could possibly be doing and I believe I now know."

"And that is?"

"Obviously, he is performing guerrilla attacks on the Scissor Army. There have been several of them across the globe, with no clear source. Obviously, it can't be my men. The RPD pulling this off is also rather unlikely, as it makes little sense to me. So it must be Proto Man!"

Ring Man thought about this for a moment. "Well... isn't it possible that it's from Cossack?"

"Bah! That fool and his pathetic robots?" Wily scoffed, noting that verbally assaulting Cossack and his creations made the red robot flinch, much to his amusement. "No, I refuse to accept that. It has to be Proto Man... it MUST be Proto Man! And you are going to go find him!"

"M-me!?" Ring Man could not believe his ears. "Why am I being sent out to do this? All alone, for that matter?"

"Relax, you'll be with a portion of my army as backup. However, Proto Man isn't the kind to come out in the open, so it would be better to have one person to try and search for him."

A sigh escaped Rebel's lips: He did not want to do this. Wily was prone to be rather rash about his decision making, and his previous defeats have only furthered his insane ideas. What if it was not Proto Man? Then it would have to be someone from Cossack's forces, and if it was the Comrades then he...

"...All right, I'll go," he hung his head low. "Where do I have to go?"

"The most recent attack was located in Madrid, Spain," Wily answered, ignoring Rebel's depressed voice. "I want you to go there immediately."


Immediately came a little too soon for Rebel's liking, as he teleported to a desolate part of the city, the SA already trampled through the surrounding area. Inspecting the fallen buildings surrounding him, he turned to look at the robots that had come with him--A whopping 629 total, although he wasn't exactly certain if that was counting him or not. Regardless, he knew that the SA had probably double the amount already, and the RPD, if they were there, had a good amount. Then again, Rebel knew that the SA had already taken over Madrid, and that the objective here was to not rain supreme but rather locate one individual.

"All right, listen up!" Ring Man called out, trying to not raise his voice too high so no one he did not want to hear heard him. "This mission is simple--Find Proto Man. We are not here to fight the Scissor Army, so only do so if they strike first. The same goes with the RPD and if anyone from Cossack's side shows up. Stealth is the key here. Understood?"

Only a handful of the robots that could actually speak replied, which was good enough for Ring Man. It was odd enough talking to these things anyway.

"All right, then split up into squads of twelve. Try and make sure that you are as well-balanced as possible," Rebel noted, remembering Wily had possibly the most diverse force in the war. He then pointed to two Sniper Joes. "You two, since we have an uneven number of troops, I want you to follow me."

"Yes sir," the Joes replied simultaneously. They stood behind him on both sides in an orderly fashion, their shields and buster cannons at the ready.

"All right, one more thing!" the leader called out once more. "If by any chance you find Proto Man, contact me immediately! I do not want you to destroy him. This is a direct order from Wily himself! Now, move out!"

The foot soldiers, processing this new information, all started to separate, slipping into every nook and cranny of the city, avoiding the Scissor Army's forces as well as possible. Ring Man motioned to the two Joes behind him and started combing throughout the city as well, traveling down an abandoned street where parts of the road had been blown to pieces, rubble now littering the streets. Every so often the red robot would bend down and touch the ground lightly, looking for a clue.

"Hmm... this is going to prove difficult," Rebel surmised. Despite the fact that Wily was certain that the prototype was located in the city, it was still like searching for a needle in a haystack. (Not only that, but if the Scissor Army finds him first then who knows what could happen...)

Turning his head, Ring Man stared into an empty alleyway, his gaze piercing through the shadows of small space. He had to think, think like Proto Man! What would he be doing right now, at this minute? Other than attacking the SA's forces, he would be hiding, of course. Proto Man was well adept in stealth, after all, as not even Dr. Light knows where to find him. He only appears at the sound of a whistle...

But no whistle was to be heard. Proto Man was not going to come for him, and why should he? The two had never met, so he would never trust someone such as Ring Man, no matter how friendly he tried to come off as. He was working for Wily now, too... Force may be the only way to bring him in.

Lost in thought, one of the Joes who had been following him spoke up. "Sir, we've found something!"

"What is it?" Rebel stood, cracking his neck while rubbing it.

The other Joe ran up to him and handed him a curious object--A yellow scarf. Rebel's eyes widened with shock as he hurriedly grabbed the piece of cloth to inspect it. Along with his shades and shield, Proto Man's scarf was a well-known "trademark" of the robot's. Granted, the scarf had seen better days, singed on the edges and covered with dirt, but no doubt it belonged to their target.

"So, Wily was right after all," Ring Man finally admitted. "Proto Man is here. The question is though... where? And is he still alive?"

The questions concerning him, Ring Man put the scarf away as both he and the two Joes started to inspect the entire area. If his scarf was here, then he just might be nearby. Activating a com-link, he spoke to a nearby unit.

"I want you to scour the buildings at Point 3A. Check them from the inside out and above air."

"Roger," a voice responded.

In less than a minute several Pipi's could be seen flying overhead, circling the buildings as a handful of Mousubeils scurried into the cracks, trying to find a trace of the robot. A few Batton's fluttered into open windows, attaching themselves to the ceiling and scanning the surrounding area. Mettools and a few Sniper Joes entered the buildings the old fashioned way as they barged through the doors, combing the vicinity as quickly as possible.

As for himself, Ring Man opened up a com-link to Wily. "Wily. This is Ring Man. We found a clue."

"Good," the old man's voice crackled into his ear. "Make sure that when you find him you do not damage his reactor. It is extremely fragile and could erupt at the drop of the hat."

"Understood. Ring Man out."


In the distance a pair of eyes watched the red robot carefully. Proto Man had been hanging out in an empty building not too far from the Wilybots' current location, and he knew that they were looking for him. Their reaction from his scarf certainly didn't dissuade this notion.

"Knew I should've gotten it..." he cursed under his breath, realizing that it was a fatal mistake.

He continued watching them, noticing how they were working back from the way they came, towards him. The red robot, who was more than likely the leader of the group appeared to be Ring Man, a Cossack-built robot. The rest of the robots seemed to belong to Wily, other than the Sniper Joes, which were of the Scissor Army's design. More than likely, however, this was just a tactic to fool opposition, and they were just Wily bots. Ring Man's affiliation bugged him, however. Last he heard, Cossack himself had taken a stand with his own creations backing him up, so why he was here with Wily's Joes puzzled him.

"Shit... not good..." the prototype muttered, moving cautiously to the door leading to the roof. He had to get away from them so he could regain his strength. Away from the windows, the cracks, the doors. Nothing was safe. If he didn't move soon he was going to be trapped. Trapped... with everyone hunting him down.


Magnus grunted in frustration after lopping the head off an RPD trooper they had beaten a while ago. Protoman was always a step ahead, but now it was more like twenty steps. The Officer crunched through debris from various robotic units, picking up the helmet form a damaged Metool and spinning it on his left index finger. A pair of joes approched him from the right, stopping quickly and saluting.

"Sir, it appears Wily troops are investigating the city." One of the Joes said with a monotone drawl. Magnus' right eyebrow slid upwards before he put the met hat on.

"Not a surprise. It seems Protoman has become quite wanted by all sides. Perhaps we should 'take over' for those Wily troops." Magnus said, a sinister tone in his voice when he said "take over". He stood up, then took of the met hat and threw it aside at high speed, lodging it in a nearby vehicle. "I want three squads with me, we're going to see what Wily's up to."

Magnus then switched on his com link as he followed the Joes to Ringman's location. "Quint, some Joes have found Wily's forces investigating some buildings. I'm going to see if I can't get them to do our work for us, then obliterate the fools. I'll be sure to have a pair of Joes come lead you to the location."


It was a few days after the accident in the Technodrome and Needlegal hadn’t seen Shadowman in all that time. She kept trying to knock on the door of his new laboratory, but he yelled at her to keep out. He must have been concentrating very hard in there, but she wished he didn’t talk so harshly at her. She was just worried.

Snakeman met up with her as she was going over the medical reports.

“Hey, how’s it going?”

“Terrible! Look at this …” Needlegal brought up the display on her monitor. “The Scissor Army is slaughtering everyone in the world! I can’t believe what they’re doing! Every day the death toll just gets higher and higher!” Needlegal put her head into her hands. Snakeman felt awkward. He wasn’t very good in these types of situations. He just didn’t know what to do.

“Well, Shadowman just called a meeting. Maybe he's on the verge of a breakthrough. Hopefully it’ll help put General Cutman out of commission!” Snakeman tried to sound enthusiastic about it, but Needlegal didn’t seem to feel any better. She just made a resigned sigh and got up to leave with Snakeman.


The two joined Hardman in the meeting room of the Technodrome. Immediately they were frozen in place.

Shadowman was standing there before the control screen. He seemed healthy and unharmed, but … hardly normal. The arm that had been blown off was replaced by a new arm. This one was made of black metal with a matte finish. It was plated and seemed very durable. His fingers looked more like claws now. Four tentacles were now affixed to Shadowman’s back. They moved eerily sometimes. But what was most startling was his face. The eye which had been blown off, the eye which he normally kept shut, was replaed with a large circular eyepiece. It glowed a sinister looking blue.

Shadowman smiled warmly. “Hah hah hah. Like the new look?”

Needlegal cleared her throat. “Em … ah … you look …”

“Pretty cool, right?”

“Freakin' disturbing is more like it!” said Snakeman loudly. Shadowman’s smile faltered a bit. He seemed to have been expecting this sort of reaction, but was hoping it wouldn’t happen. “What’s the big idea? Bizarro Shadowman was one of our toughest enemies to beat!”

“That’s right,” said Shadowman, “and I’ll use that to our advantage against General Cutman.” Snakeman paused to think. Shadowman continued, “The General comes from an alternate universe. Our only hope is to use advantages unique to this universe against him. So I’ve added some enhancements from my one-time doppelganger. Not everything, mind. Bizarro didn’t exactly care about keeping notes, you see. But some small things. My arm, for instance,” Shadowman held up his sinister looking hand out in front of him, “is stronger and more durable than my previous one. It’s also equipped with a variety of special scanners. My fingers are made to be faster than the average robot's, so my typing (and programming) speed is doubled. The wires on my back,” Those wires now twisted in front of Shadow and he swung his unchanged arm in a sweeping gesture, “are now capable with interfacing with computerized machinery as Bizarro’s were. They are also capable of sending strong electrical charges into an enemy robot. And, finally, my eye,” Shadowman pointed with his now claw-like hand, “is running supplementary visual diagnostic algorithms. I can now analyze the structure of machinery faster than ever. I can even 'see' electrical flow. A good advantage in a fight against an enemy with exposed wiring, like the General.”

Shadowman put his arms to his back and nodded curtly. “So there you have it. It’s resemblance to Bizarro is also intentional. It’s designed to strike fear into the heart of our enemies. Bizarro was fearsome, if anything.”

The ‘Maniacs visibly relaxed. Hardman even cracked a smile. “Yer tellin’ me, boss! I gotta say, I was pretty freaked out.” Shadowman laughed. This was exactly the kind of response he wanted. He didn’t think the General would be disturbed, but most following him would probably be.

“Now, then, to the business at hand. This isn’t a fashion show, after all.” The ‘Maniacs took their seats in the room. Hardman had a seat specifically designed for him and sat near the back. The display sprang to life and showed an aerial view of a destroyed city.

“This is Madrid, Spain. The Scissor Army has recently invaded and wiped out everyone there as well as all resistance in the area. Most of Spain has been overrun and their army’s having a tough time dealing with it. This, however, is besides the point. More to the point is that the Scissor Army has been having a string of guerrilla attacks targeted to strategically important locations. These attacks have served to hamper the Scissor Army’s efforts in their war. And these efforts are perpetrated by none other than our old acquaintance Protoman.”

“Protoman!?” said Needlegal in amazement, “is that what he’s been doing all this time?”

Snakeman barked a laugh and hit his thigh, “I knew it! We haven’t heard anything about Protoman since this all began, I knew he’d be in the thick of things. A guy like him could never just sit this out with Light and his guys!” Hardman was grinning too. They might not know Protoman too well, but they had met him a couple of times and he had earned their respect. They all felt good to hear he was fighting.

“However, all is not well,” continued Shadowman. His tone quickly sobered everyone in the room. “This morning I received this message.”

The display shifted to another scene. It was obviously recorded on a low quality camera. Static flickered against the image of Protoman. His glasses were cracked and his helmet dented on one side. His body looked like it had seen better days too; there were cuts and black scorch marks all over it.

“Mayday, Mechanical Maniacs, mayday! I’ve been fighting the Scissor Army all on my own since this war began, but I’m trapped! The Scissor guys are after me and …. I think Wily’s goons have come for me too. I’ve been followed by some robots that can only be from him. The city’s completely occupied and …. I’m running out of places to hide out.

It’s the Seven Mercenaries. They’re being relentless. I tried to fight them on my own, but there were too many. And I don’t exactly have a repair station to help me out.

I’m not afraid to say it … I’m desperate. I wouldn’t be asking for your help otherwise. I know you guys are with the Robot Police and that fascist code of theirs. But I’m hoping that won’t stop you from coming in to rescue me. I’m in Madrid, Spain. I’m afraid I can’t give you any more details over the comm. line. You never know who’s listening. This is Protoman. Over and out.”

The screen died. Shadowman was now moving into the details of their assault. “Unfortunately I couldn’t keep this from Crorq. He’s ordered us to bring Protoman in. Either as a recruit or as a prisoner. I, of course, have no intention of complying with that order.”

The ‘Maniacs gasped. Shadowman had never so openly said he would defy the Robot Police’s orders. Snakeman spoke up, “Hey, wait a minute! We all have chips in our heads set to explode if we don’t do as we’re told! And programs to wipe out our minds in case that first measure wasn’t enough! Maybe your “lieutenant commander” status can protect you, but we’re pretty vulnerable! If we’re ordered to bring Protoman in, that’s what we gotta do!”

Shadowman’s smile was wiped from his face. “Hey, now. Don’t you think I’ve already thought of that? This room,” Shadowman made a sweeping motion, “is completely bug free. I’ve checked. And built scrambler devices to make double sure. So, if you’re worrying about our big, fat, yellow windbag of a police chief, then don’t.” Shadowman’s voice was raising in anger as he spoke. “And if you’re questioning the wisdom of my decision to let Protoman go once we rescue him, then don’t do that either! The RPD can’t be trusted! They have no concept of loyalty! Protoman won’t ever join the RPD, and I don’t blame him. But we need him active and alive! So why not think a bit before you open your mouth?”

Snakeman’s jaw had dropped. He knew Shadowman did not like to be contradicted, but he rarely let himself blow up over it. His points made sense, though Snake didn’t really want to stake his life on it.

Shadowman took several, visible breaths to calm himself. He was letting his temper get ahold of him. It was happening pretty frequently lately. Although that could be because his blasted headache wouldn’t go away. He’d just finished some more tweaks, but that didn’t help too much. Shadowman thought he might try to install a small power regulator. He was using more resources than he used to, so it must cause occasional surges. He must consult his plans more thoroughly.

“I’m sorry,” said Shadowman. “I shouldn’t have yelled. I’m just … I’m just sorry.”

Snakeman had gone out of his chair during the outburst. He now sat back down. “S’alright. We all know how hard you’ve been working.”

Shadowman straightened. “Right. Well, we have seven-hundred-and-fifty-four troops at our disposal. There’s a bit of a range. We have a few Special Forces and some SWAT team members. We also have K-9s, so we can use those to try and track Protoman if we find something with his “scent”. Our number is made up mostly of Neo Officers.”

Needlegal smiled. “Nice. I was hoping we’d get to use some, they look cool!”

Shadowman smiled. “Glad to hear you say that. I actually had a hand in designing them.”

The team’s jaws dropped. “Since when do you design new robots?” his sister asked in disbelief.

“What? You know I’m a pretty smart guy. I just looked at what the General was doing and decided he had a few good ideas. Mostly, it makes our guys look more intimidating and they’re faster than the normal officers.”

Hardman chuckled. “I’m surprised they ain’t lookin’ like ninjas, knowin’ you!”

Shadowman sighed. He actually had pushed for that, but the RPD seemed to share Hardman’s idea on what a police officer should look like.


Shadowman and his crew had teleported into position. He and the other ‘Maniacs were away from the scene currently. They were surveying the land personally before carrying out the plan.

Even though their fighting force was formidable, the sheer size of the Scissor Army infantry made an attack daunting. However, they had the element of surprise working in their favour. It was time to take a page out of Protoman’s book. Their first priority was to locate Protoman and get him out. However, their second priority was to eliminate the Seven Mercenaries. To accomplish this, their army surrounded the city. They would sneak in and perform guerrilla attacks to drive the Scissor Forces into the center of town. And then … Shadowman smiled. IT couldn’t fail. To him, all these players were pieces in a puzzle and now he’d put his picture together. It would be beautiful.

“This place used to be so beautiful, but look at it now. It’s all …. Ruined.” Shadowman looked around. Needlegal had been right. The Scissor Army didn’t care about the natural aesthetics of their battlegrounds. It was all about destruction. Just another reason to hate the General and to bring him down.

Snakeman made a sound. “I can hear something!” The serpentine robot led his team warily closer to what he had spotted. It wasn’t long before the rest of them heard it too. Moaning. And the sound of a machine repairing itself.

They rounded a corner and walked in on Spinman re-attaching an arm onto himself. It was from a Scissor Joe, obviously. It wasn’t very compatible with his systems, but it didn’t seem he had much choice. The ‘Maniacs were right on top of him before he noticed they were there. Spinman sprung to his feet at once.

“You!? What do you want!?”

The team was shocked. They had never seen Spin so unnerved. Hardman made a defensive gesture. “Easy lil’ fella. Easy. We’re not here fer ya. Really.”

Spinman loosened up, but still looked panicked. Needlegal gave him a concerned look. He was an enemy of theirs, but he didn’t look very threatening right now. Just scared.

“Spin, what happened? Where’s the others? I thought War and Claw were with you.”

Spinman shuddered. Finally he relaxed. “Claw … I was separated from Claw in the fight. I dunno where he is. He was thinking of rejoining his old Dark Six buddies before all this started. And War… Just look around you.”

The ‘Maniacs did as Spin has asked. They saw him now. All over the place. Parts of Warman littered the area along with Scissor Joe debris. Shadowman nodded to himself. “Warman had a pretty appropriate end.”

The ‘maniacs looked up at Shadowman. He was being very cold. But Spin let out a weak, defeated laugh and sat on the ground. “Yeah, he did, didn’t he? The big guy was having a ball right until they blew his head off. And even then his body just kept on going. Just like a cockroach.” Spinman looked into the sky wistfully. “It’s the way he always wanted to go. Of course I think we all thought that it’d be you guys doin’ us in. No offence.”

Shadowman took none. After all, Warman, Clawman, Spinman, and Chimeraman were actually some of their oldest enemies. They used to be Wily’s elite force.

“What were you guys doing out here anyway?” asked Snakeman. Were they after Protoman too?

“You guys are gonna hate this, but … we were here to join the Scissor Army. We heard they were around here so we figured we’d sign on the dotted line! Only … “ Spinman looked down and seemed more depressed than ever. “Only they said they had standards and that we were has-beens who had no place in their army. Warman, of course, took the first shot. They … they didn’t even bother with us themselves. Just sicced a bunch of Joes after us.”

They all just stood there. They had never seen Spin in this light. Most of the time he was out trying to kill them, but now they could only feel sorry for him. Hardman, especially, felt bad since he sometimes gave the guy a hard time back at his bar. He teased him about being a second-rate Topman at times; mostly after one of their fights. Now he wish he hadn’t.

“But, you know … with you guys here … “ Spinman gave a small laugh. “If I said I was sorry, you don’t suppose it’d fix everything, would it? Maybe I tried joining the wrong si –“ Spinman’s words were cut in mid thought. His eyes widened in surprise. And they didn’t move at all. Spinman slumped onto his side.

Shadowman coldly removed the large Shadow Blade from Spinman’s back. He then made it disappear. He then levelled his arm cannon at the robot and took aim at his head. With no change in expression, Shadowman eliminated the possibility of repair. The others were looking at him in shock.

“He said it himself … he was here to join General Cutman,” explained Shadowman, “and you all know that he’s one of our oldest enemies. It wasn’t that long ago since he and his team went on a public feud against the Rescue Force and got us involved. He helped to put everyone in Monsteropolis in danger. He could never be trusted. And, in the end, the General was right. We don’t need has-beens on our team either.”

Shadowman then dismissed his friends to their locations at each corner of Madrid.


"Alright. Make sure you don't fail this time."

All of this mess was Hyper Storm's fault. Had he reacted fast enough at the first encounter, they wouldn't have to play hide-and-seek with Protoman and Wily's forces right now.

But now was not the time to complain. Quint commanded his troops to scatter around town, in groups of two squads. That way, one could cover the other while exploring the ghost town.

A point came to his mind : Protoman's weak, and surrounded by a large group of the SA. He wasn't as reckless as Bass, and might even call for help. But if he did, who? From the memories of his old self, he recalled Protoman was neutral to anyone non-Wily. He wouldn't put Cossack's forces into trouble by requesting an emergency rescue. He wasn't likely to trust the RPD at all either. He was too much of a loner, and valued his freedom and privacy highly. But did he care about it so much he would opt to die here alone?

He then opened a special comm. line.

"Quint to Mercenaries. Magnus has spotted Wily's forces. It's also very likely another force might move in. Carry the hunt on, but if needed, be ready to apply the battle protocol. Understood ?"

Six voices approved in response.

"Perfect. Quint, over."

Surrounded by a squad of Joes, Quint was thinking about the possible battle: he was hoping for a quick victory. He heard of Captain Napalmman's meeting with the General after Berlin's battle, and sure as hell didn't want to be involved in a similar scene.

Shaking out these thoughts, he headed back to lead the search, ready to call the Marauder for emergency teleportations...


Snakeman laid low in the grass. His troops did as well. He had launched his Black Mamba, Mambo to look for Protoman as well as Makoto (the Mamushi), Regina (the Queen Snake), and Jack (the Rhinoceros Viper). All had the ability to search for Protoman via a unique energy signature that the ‘Maniacs had thanks to their prior association with Dr. Light, but only the Mamba had a short-range teleporter that could bring him to Protoman. Snakeman hoped he would be able to recover all his serpents … it would be a shame to lose even one of them. Ultimately, however, Protoman was his first priority. He knew his snakes could do the job while staying hidden.

Meanwhile, it was time to bring the fight to the Scissor Army. He had to focus on that, making his snakes' well-being … and especially his leader’s disturbing behaviour, a second priority.

They were at the perimeter of the city. A small squad of guards were patrolling the area. It was dark and they weren’t on the alert just yet. Snakeman and some Neo Officers had no trouble silently dispatching them. Silently, more officers infiltrated the base while a good portion of his officers remained outside.


Hardman didn’t even want to think of Spinman’s death. That was just cold. He could understand killing someone in the heat of a fight. He’d done so a few times himself. To robots and humans. That’s why he and Spark had grown fairly distant recently and Hardman wished it didn’t have to be that way. But Spinman was just scared. And they said they weren’t after him. He’d said they weren’t after him. Maybe the boss was right about Spinman being and enemy, but they weren’t the Scissor Army … or even Wily’s faction. They were the good guys. They just shouldn’t act that way.

Hardman wasn’t built for stealth, but that’s what the mission called for. He liked to think he had his own unique take on the idea.

He sent some Officer Bots into the area to draw out the enemy. Sure enough, they were ready for them. A squad had already come out to greet them. And they were with … HyperStorm and Ballade!? So soon? Those two were wrecking the poor Officer Bots. Hardman felt bad, but drawing out the Scissor Army was the number one priority here. Snakeman’s snakes were handling the real search.

“Pathetic! I didn’t think the RPD would be dense enough to think these outdated pieces of scrap metal would be enough to take us all out, eh, Ballade?” Ballade merely nodded and took out some more Officer Bots.

”Get outta my way!” yelled HyperStorm, knocking some of his own troops aside in order to better pummel the robot police officers. The rest of the troops had learned from prior battles to keep their distance from Commanding Officer Hyper Storm.

The two Mercs had been drawn out from the city and deeper into Hardman’s trap. The Scissor Army Infantry looked a little nervous. Ballade also seemed suspicious. But, Hyper Storm was fully focused on destroying the Officer bots still in his path. Ballade had to watch that he didn’t get hit and that proved to be a fatal distraction.

Hardman emerged from his hiding place in order to signal the attack with his trademark Hard Knuckle. With Ballade’s back turned it managed to hit home and drive the enhanced robot master into the wall of a destroyed building.

“Attack!” called Hardman. Officers of every sort quickly emerged from their hiding places and attacked the two with all the weapons they could muster. Hyper Storm could barely utter any cry of alarm before he was hit with shots from all the officers around him.

“Y-you cowards!” cried Hyper Storm as he was battered by the barrage of plasma bullets.

“Hey, ya know wha' they say: work smart not Hard!” Hardman opened an internal communication line to the rest of his units. “Stay outta sight. Time ta infiltrate th' city an' herd as many SA Joes ta th' center a' town. Go!”

Hardman barely noticed as his units made their way into the city. The Scissor Army Joes were all down, but Ballade got up. It seemed Hardman managed to piss the robot off.


Shadowman checked on Needle before making his move. It seemed she had made her way inside of the city without encountering much trouble. Good. But that would change soon enough.

They didn’t like my killing off Spinman, did they? That was cold, wasn’t it? They should have understood, but …

Shadowman could feel the axe hanging over his head. He’d made too many mistakes. He’d let Mesmer brainwash him into letting that loose cannon Kenta onto the team. He let the General beat him in their first encounter. He’d sided with the RPD, breaking up the team. He’d been wrong about their ability to ‘cheat’ their way out of the shutdown code. He let Ben die. And now they were all doubting his ability to lead. All doubting him. It didn’t matter to them that he had led the team successfully for so long. Topman and Spark Chan just hung them out to dry at the first opportunity. And, if the reports were right, Geminiman had become evil. Again.

They … they’re all out to get me.

But even as Shadowman thought this he knew it couldn’t be so. He was being paranoid. It was him not getting enough sleep, wasn’t it? Still … his thoughts were logical.

These thoughts stayed with the lieutenant commander as he and his troops made their way into the city. Their cutthroat tactics had gained them more stealth than they needed, but now there was a particularly large amount of Joes heading their way.

“Keep on the lookout!” Shadowman heard Quint’s voice over their communicator, “We’re getting reports of the RPD attacking us! Stay on your toes!”

Time for plan B. Shadowman ordered three officer Bots to engage the enemy. They slid on their stomachs and took as much cover as they needed. The city was full of debris, this wasn’t hard. As soon as the Joes were near enough they latched themselves onto three of their enemies.

“What’s this?” cried out one of the SA Joes. The others didn’t have time to react. The three Officer Bots overloaded their systems and blew up at once! The Joes didn’t expect this sort of attack. The ones who weren’t destroyed were disoriented enough to be easily taken out by Shadowman’s officers in hiding.

Shadowman chuckled to himself. These Joes were programmed after Marines … but even the army had its weaknesses, didn’t it? And all it cost him were three disposable, outdated, Officer Bots.


Magnus grinned slightly. "Maybe you should have taken your own advice."

With a quick, sudden movement, a twister erupted around the officer, blocking the incoming plasma bullets. The police bots quickly stopped firing, then dove for cover once Magnus let the twister loose, cutting through some RPD troops until it hit a building. Ballade, meanwhile, was preoccupied with keeping the RPD Units from completely overtaking her. It was only moderately difficult, her skills and the SA Joes were picking them off rather nicely.

Hyper Storm then did something he'd always wanted to do while Kayorei went for the grunts; he barreled towards Hardman, ripping Officer Bots to shreds with either his hands, mini-twisters, or his emerald green sword. As soon as he was past the RPD fodder, he sheathed his blade and made an attempt to challenge Hardman in hand-to-hand combat with a quick punch aimed for the Maniac's face.


Well, Hardman thought as Hyper Storm charged forward, so much for stealth.

He sidestepped the incoming punch with some practiced ease. Hell, the big man could dodge better punches when he was less sober. Some days, being a barroom brawler had its advantages. He took the minimal opportunity to order his troops to fall back and find cover. No sense in getting everyone on his side killed while he took out some major trash.

Hyper Storm threw another, much more aimed attack his way that he weaved under with some dexterity that betrayed his size, and he returned in kind, his own large hand slamming forward, open-palmed, to catch his opponent off-balance. It also had the nice added effect of shoving the big idiot back a few steps and gave Hardman some room to work.

The RPD troopers followed their orders and found cover, returning fire on the SA Joes and forcing them to do the same. Ballade also took cover under the curtain of plasma fire, but she was already working out a plan to get around that.

Hyper Storm, on the other hand, could feel his proverbial adrenaline flowing. Throwing down with the Maniac's tank had been a longtime dream of his, and now he was finally getting to do it! He had the upper hand, as well, with his mastery over the wind. In these close quarters against an opponent like Hardman, you might not think it was helpful, but Hyper Storm still had a trick or two up his sleeve.

As the inevitable attack came from his sizable rival, Hyper Storm grinned, the air around his body rushing up to speeds usually reserved for twisters and the Auto Bahn. The effect was noticable, although not completely deterring, and Hardman's fist glanced off his side instead of slamming home into his gut. The big blue behemoth took a step back and gave Hyper Storm a look.

"Cute trick," he muttered.

"You'll LOVE this one!" the SA officer crowed as he let all of the wind gather before him and slammed it forward on the end of his fist. Opting to try to block instead of avoid it, Hardman got a nasty shock when the force of the blow sent him skidding backwards, and he had to put some effort into staying on his feet.

"Yer a lyin' sunuvva-" Hardman grunted, crouching low as the other robot charged forward, his zeal showing itself on his face. The Maniac simply accepted the charge after bracing himself, and the area shook as the two met with the force of two angry semi trucks. Hardman grunted, his eyes not on his foe as he fired off a Hard Knuckle that sailed, it would seem, off course. Hyper Storm barked a harsh laugh and rewarded Hardman's mistake with a fist to his side that made the blue robot cough briefly before he returned in kind, preying on his opponent's overconfidence and landing a solid hit on Hyper's knee.

The windy robot crumpled to the ground, the force of the blow having put a stress fracture on his lower leg armor, and the pain too great to ignore aside. It wasn't disabling, but it gave Hardman time to recover and back away.

Ballade, on the other hand, had been forced to fall back from her attempt at slipping into the enemy lines to silently dispose of them all while their commander had been apparently distracted. She could bring herself to believe that now, considering the fist-shaped hole in the concrete where she'd been that had been created by the seemingly random Hard Knuckle. She watched the larger opponent carefully, and she could have sworn she saw him grin and... was that a wink? At HER?

Hyper Storm stood back up with some pain on his features and stumbled back, now a little more unnerved by Hardman's grin.

"I admit, you've managed to surprise me," he wheezed, trying to shut down his pain sensors in his leg.

"Yeah, I do tha' a lot," the bartender smiled. "An' you oughta tell yer lady friend not ta try sneakin' off again."

Confusion crossed the SA officer's features as he looked back at his companion, whom he could now see under cover about halfway between the SA Joes and the RPD trooper's various positions. How had he noticed? And what was that look on Ballade's face for- Oh snap.

The first Hard Knuckle punished him for his mistake, slamming with frieght train fury into the back of his head and pitching him forward. The second Hard Knuckle sailed past him, toward Ballade, who again had to fall back toward the SA Joe position to avoid going for another ride into concrete.

"Lesson number one, kid," Hardman sighed as his hands came back to him and clicked into place. "NEVER take yer eyes off th' prize, ya got me?"

Hyper Storm's reply was a roar of fury mixed with outrage and pain as he opened up with his Surging Gust, a howling force of wind akin to a hurricane that blasted forward, lifitng up rubble and bodies and slamming them like rain against Hardman's frame.

"Tha's another neat trick!" the Maniac shouted over the wind as he batted away the debris that might actually hurt him, letting the small stuff just bounce off him. "Bu' lemme show ya one better!"

Hyper Storm's attack had quickly run out of random objects to fling at Hardman, but he was confident in his ability to keep the obviously more experienced opponent at bay, maintaining the Surging Gust would at least keep this guy busy long enough for Ballade to sneak around and kill off the rest of the RPD Troopers...

And then Hardman took a step forward.

That was impossible! How could...

And then Hyper Storm heard it. Over the raging cry of his beloved winds, the high pitched whine of an engine. A jet engine.

Practically doubled over, Hardman took another step forward, using the jet engine built into his body to counteract the force of the wind. Since the engine was normally used to lift his multi-ton frame off the ground, it was more than up to the task of providing Hardman with the force he needed to move against this kind of attack.

Now, Hyper Storm kept up the attack out of a will to survive more than anything else. If his Surging Gust stopped, four tons of angry RPD commander were going to meet him at a velocity unlike anything he'd ever witnessed before. That was not a comforting thought.

Ballade, however, was on the move. The RPD troopers were proving to have the upper hand on the SA Joes, more because of their better field position, having set up for the ambush and the attack before the Joes, they had the choicest pieces of cover and had left the SA with small rocks and crumbling walls to hide behind.

But this fact was also making sneaking around to reverse the reprehensible situation something of a challenge. She kept having to feel out a path, being rewarded for her mistakes with hails of plasma fire. There must have been some of the enemy forces which were now tracking her specifically, to ensure that destroying them with this kind of tactic was that much more unlikely.

She growled in frustration, unable to listen because of the roaring winds and screaming engines. She risked a glance back, and saw Hardman slowly approaching Hyper Storm, with a pace that made snail racing look like high-speed internet connections. Still, the big blue monster was making progress nonetheless, and her companion's face had gone from enraged to terrified in a short minute.

And due to the concentration required to keep the Surging Gust active to keep Hardman's jet-propelled self away, he could only watch as the other robot reached forward slowly and grabbed his arm.

The Gust died instantly. Hardman shot forward instantly. Hyper Storm felt the pain much, much later and for a much, much longer amount of time.

Hardman had slammed with an incredible, sudden force into Hyper Storm's chest. Even though the Maniac had shut off his jet engine right after the impact, the SA officer still shot backwards a few feet before landing heavily on the ground. He didn't move immediately, but he was still breathing, despite the large dent now in his chest plate. Ballade's attention was elsewhere. Specifically on Hardman himself.

He just shook his head and stood up straight, cracking his neck and knuckles. "Well, tha' didn't work out quite th' way I planned," he seemed to sigh. "Better wrap this up quick an' get back ta work. Now where'd purple chick get ta...?"


Needlegal blasted away some Scissor Army Infantry that was heading towards her. Despite being successful in avoiding the enemy, her mind was not on the job.

What’s wrong with you, Shadow? You’re acting like such a jerk!

Not that Shadowman wasn’t prone to jerk-like behaviour. Just not quite this bad. It was this distraction that allowed her to be caught off guard.

She was barely able to avoid being hit as Punk came barrelling through in his buzzsaw form right over her squadron!

“Gangway, comin’ through!” Punk transformed into his robot form and tore into the rest of her troops. The Special Forces with her engaged the Commanding Officer in combat.

“You have destroyed Robot Police property. That is a federal offence. Come in quietly or we will be required to use force!” Punk just laughed and blocked the powerful punches that came from the SF units. At the same time, regular Police Bots shot at the larger robot, but it only got them a minimal amount of damage.

Needlegal was collecting herself when she was hit by a large staff.

“Hey there,” said Buster Rod, walking with his staff held in a defensive position, “Fancy meeting you guys here.”


Mega Water and Enker ran on instinct from the explosions that surrounded them.

“What the hell was that!?” cried the kappa-based Robot Master. Enker just shrugged and used his spear to create an energy field to protect them from the assault that came at just that time.

“Well, we can’t just take this! We have to attack!” Mega Water ordered Joes forward and found them greeted by gunfire. Enker came in to protect his subordinates and used his weapon to make the police robot’s shots rebound back towards him. He smiled in satisfaction when he saw the amount of damage that did. With the same broad grin he aimed his spear towards his enemies.

So they think my weapon’s the same as before … I'll show them how much they're wrong …

He unleashed the power he absorbed from their shots amplified ten fold. It not only destroyed their cover, but took their lives as well. However, the Japanese-and-Greek-inspired robot master didn’t have much time to celebrate. From behind them police robots of all sorts fired!

He and his contingent received heavy damage. Mega Water began to panic.

“We have to get away! We have to go!”

“Steady Megs. We can handle this. Officers of the Scissor Army do NOT retreat!” Despite these words, however, the pair of robots began to back off.

From his hiding place among the ruins, Snakeman smiled. He had not been spotted yet. Very soon there’ll be one less adversary to deal with.


Shadowman had managed to lead several brigades of the Scissor Army into place using his cannon fodder as bombs. The Joes were pleasantly off balance with this tactic. But Shadowman did not smile. This part of the city was littered with the corpses of the people of Madrid. The Seven Mercenaries had done their vile task too well.

Shadowman surveyed the land. But was it worth it? The General had a genius chip that gave him great intelligence. Could a robot utopia be born from this Hell?

Shadowman could not imagine that the General had the capacity for kindness. He looked upon the broken remains of a school bus. This was the General’s idea of Heaven. Shadowman shook his head. Yes the world had its Wilys … and yes, Shadowman could now see that ridding the world of its trash was a commendable idea. How had he missed that vital point before? But this? This was a terrible waste. Mankind … it didn’t needed to be wiped out. It needed a gentle, but firm hand to guide it towards the right course! It needed to be kept safe … from maniacs like the General … as well from their own incompetence!

Shadowman checked on his “team”. If they could be called that. Hardman and Snakeman were doing well. Naturally his sister was having trouble. Would he go to help her?

No. No, she had her role and he had his. It seemed as if most of the Mercs had been accounted for, based up the reports he was getting. All except for Quint. Shadowman let himself chuckle. Quint was actually trying to hunt him down, wasn’t he? Did he fancy himself some sort of master strategist? That was funny.

Shadowman’s mirth faded as a voice spoke inside his head.

“My, my, my … you’ve made a mess out of my little operation, haven’t you? But I guess I should expect that from ’Lieutenant Commander’ Shadowman. After all, you’ve taken to the delusion that you’re some sort of rival to me, haven’t you?

Shadowman balled his hands into fists. General Cutman. Again!


Quint was starting to panic. He was receiving more and more messages indicating that whole squads had been destroyed, and every other Merc was engaged in battle with the Mechanical Maniacs.
Luckily, nearly all of them were fighting their targets as intended, but still ...
From the last report sent by a SA Joe a few minutes ago, Magnus was severely damaged. Besides, two Maniacs still went unspotted : Snakeman and Shadowman.
Naoshi and Falling Star can take care of Snakeman on their own. But Gauntlet is mine!
His eyes narrowed. He well remembered the shame the Androids had brought to the Scissor Army with their utter failure in their last mission … despite their success in Mexico in their last mission they would fall from grace hard if they failed even once. The General was brilliant, but not forgiving.

He shrugged these thoughts off. If he started to think of defeat, he'd surely lose.

Now, where is Shadowman? Quint moved out with his squad, and commanded the Joes closest to the Officers to help them. Protoman was important, but he made his priority to keep his fellow Mercs alive. Shadowman was the key. Cut the head off a snake and the body would die.

Quint calmed himself. The ‘Maniacs seemed to be attacking from the four cardinal directions, so Shadowman would be coming from the one direction the others weren’t. Shadowman may think he has the upper hand, but he doesn’t know who he’s dealing with.


Needlegal struggled back up after Punk’s relentless assault. Punk only laughed.

“Heh heh heh. Still up fer more punishment, eh?” Punk cracked his robotic knuckles and moved closer. Needlegal was breathing heavily. Her distraction earlier gave the Mercs that fought her the advantage they needed … and they were playing for keeps! What’s worse was that, while she was being treated like a punching bag, her unit was being scattered. Quite a few of the robot police officers were still on task on heading the Scissor Army into place, along with one Special Forces member, but she was taking heavy damage.

Needlegal narrowly avoided several hits with Punk’s Screw Crusher attack. She countered with her Needle Cannon, but it had little effect on the heavily armoured robot master.

Unknowingly she collided with another one of the Special Forces assigned to her.

“Sorry about that, Ma’am.” Said the robotic police officer.

“No problem.” said Needlegal. Punk fired another Screw Crusher in this moment of distraction. Needlegal gasped as the Special forces unit used his own Arm Cannon to deflect it.

Needlegal quickly repaid the favour and deflected an attack made by Buster Rod’s extending staff. She then took the opportunity to send some needles his way and they proved far more effective than against his larger companion.

“Hey, it looks like trading off worked out pretty well!” exclaimed Needlegal in excitement. Somehow, the mouthless Special Forces Officer seemed to grin.

“They say necessity is the mother of invention!” Back to back they stayed. Buster Rod shot out a plasma bullet, which Needlegal could deflect with the spikes on her arms. She returned with Needles. Buster Rod was nimble, but he couldn’t avoid all the needles. He pulled one out of a very awkward area.

“So, it’s like that, is it?”

Punk charged at the pair in his buzz saw mode. “This is like bowling!”

The Special Forces member had no retort to make when it grabbed Needle and dodged the attack. As Punk was flying past, the officer kicked the Scissor Army officer so hard that it sent him off course and into the wall of a building. Punk soon emerged from the smoke angry, but mostly undamaged.

"Feh. Gutterball."

Buster Rod leapt into the fray. He kicked the Special Forces officer out of the way and set his sights on Needlegal. She might be good at long range attacks, but Buster Rod was quite adept at short range melee combat!

With simian agility, he maneuvered behind the trigger-happy Robot Master who struggled to get a lock on the twisting and rolling monkey. He latched onto Needlegal’s back and began to hammer away at her head, laughing hysterically. She may have been heavily armored, but she was definitely feeling this. He screamed out in pain and surprise a short time later when Needlegal extended her porcupine-like spikes right through his legs. In fact …

I can’t move my damn legs!

“You bitch!” screamed Buster Rod in agony. His legs … his legs had been mangled. He knew his robotic muscles and tendons had been ripped and pierced to such a degree that he could only make his limbs twitch and spasm.

“Hang in there, buddy! Help’s at hand!” cried Punk, charging to Buster Rod’s rescue. He was stopped short by a member of the Special Forces. The Special Forces officer tackled Punk to the ground and proceeded to punch the robot into submission.

“You, sir, will not harm an officer of the law while I am in the vicinity!”

Punk was roaring mad! He was being kept busy while his friend was being mangled right before his eyes by the damned robot police!


A shot rang out in the dark. Mega Water gasped. His comrade had been hit! He must have been. But …. He was still standing there. What happened?

Enker smiled. His patience and calm had won out. After hearing that Hardman was in the area he knew that the other RPD-affiliated Mechs were around. He knew that a stealthy attack like this had to have been either the work of Shadowman or Snakeman.

And it looks like it was Snakeman. Enker had been sure to keep his Mirror Buster up at all times, hoping someone would take a shot. And Snakeman had. Enker was still smiling as explosions and buster fire drew him deeper into the city.

Snakeman was lying on the ground, clutching his shoulder. Both it and his ego stung. He wanted to get Enker out of the game. He was the calm one, the one who was most threatening. But he had that damned Mirror Buster up and he sent his own bullet right back at him. Those things really hurt! And what was worse was that his arm was shaking pretty bad. That was no good for a steady shot. Snakeman cursed. He could already hear Scissor Army Joes making their way to his position…


Pathetic aren’t they? None of us would be killed this easily. I mean, we might stumble, but we can be repaired. Not like these folks.

Shut up! You’re wasting my time.

A facility blew up as the officers inside bombed themselves in a strategic location. Several Joes were inside. The destruction of the Scissor Army was going well. And once that was done, Protoman wouldn’t be hard to find as well.

Unless he was in that building.

If he was in there, then he should have hauled ass when he heard the fighting! And besides, there’s no way he’d be there. Too many Joes around.

Shadowman moved to inspect the area. Human bodies lay in the rubble. He winced. Were they being kept captive? Or killed during the Merc’s assault?

Yes, it’s questionable, isn’t it? Of course you could consider this a mercy killing.

Yes there was that. Wait, no! You’re just talking to me to keep me off balance. I’m not listening to you.

Well, that’s a correct answer. Of course you really don’t have much choice in the matter of listening to me. And it’s not like I’m going to stop talking just because you tell me you’re not listening. The General chuckled. Shadowman gritted his teeth. Of course, he wouldn’t stop talking. Talking distracted Shadowman and that was –

Shadowman was hit by a volley of plasma bullets! The Scissor Joes had found him! Curse the General! And he was chuckling too. Did he send these guys?

No, I didn’t send them. I’m just curious to see my great rival in action, really.

Shadowman looked around. He used his new eye to magnify the surrounding locations. So … Quint was copying Snakeman and using the Joes as Snipers, eh? Shadowman smiled. He had considered this tactic. The wires on his back writhed and dove into his shadow. A combination of his Shadow Warp and his razor sharp wires. It was true that he could interface with a robot’s systems with them, but he could also use them to impale his enemies. Again and again he dove his wires into his shadow and each time he felt the scraping of metal on metal as his weapons hit their mark. Shadowman smiled. His new abilities gave him the edge he needed.

And the General was suitably chagrined.

It wasn’t long before Shadowman ran into his target, surrounded by Joes. Shadowman’s own infantry was busy destroying Joes elsewhere. And searching for Protoman, of course. Mustn’t forget that. But his focus right now was on his main enemy. Quint.

Quint was obviously struggling to maintain his composure.

“So, it’s just you and me,” said the robot from the future. Shadowman shook his head.

“You know, I faced a Quint before. He didn’t last too long. And neither will you.”

“Ahh, well … we’ll see about that!” In a surprise move the Joes around him lit up! Shadowman looked around. There were Joes everywhere, all lit up like Christmas trees. Quint was smiling more broadly. He had walked straight into his trap. His Shadow Warp, which he was relying so heavily on, was now useless. He even dared a laugh. Shadowman was not expecting this.

However Shadowman was smiling too. It looked like stealth was out of the question now. But that was fine. He was growing impatient and a good fist fight was just what the doctor ordered. He produced two Rolling Cutter shaped Shadow Blades and was pleased to see that Quint was sufficiently disturbed.

If they think what I did to Spinman was bad, then let’s hope they don’t see what happens to poor little Quin there.


This was not time to rush to the aid of a comrade. Ballade didn't have the size or the armor to rush blindly past several RPD officers and cross paths with Hard Man at the same time. Hyper Storm had it coming, anyway. This was all his fault. He was foolish, reckless as usual and driven by volatile emotions. Frustration and anger were beginning to swell within Ballade as well, but she wouldn't let them control her. That would be a human thing to do.

She wouldn't make the same mistake Hyper Storm did. The pain receptors in her back gave a constant reminder of what happens when you get careless around a tank.

Her objective was clear: turn the battle against the RPD around... and survive. She seemed to elude Hard Man's perception for the time being, somewhat thankful for Hyper Storm's last ditch effort that demanded all of the blue behemoth's attention.

She weighed her options. On the one hand, the SA Joes were fighting a losing battle against the better-positioned RPD. Picking off the police-bots would give them an edge, but there's still Hard Man to deal with... and he could mop up more Joes more quickly than she could RPD-bots. On that topic, getting rid of him would eliminate one of the major threats to the operation on a whole, even if this particular battle was lost. But would it be the correct tactical decision...?

Ballade jumped to one side as the answer to her question plowed into the ground in front of her.

"Found ya!"

The huge blue fist casually returned to its owner, who had the other fist ready to launch. Looks like I have no choice...

The thought had barely come to her when the other member of the pair came to say hello. Ballade's agility helped the missile to miss its mark, but she kept her eye on it, anyway. When the fist lifted itself out of the ground and made its return trip, the purple robot took the opportunity.

Ballade jumped onto the flying Hard Knuckle and proceeded to ride it back to its origin. Surprised but unfazed, Hard Man shot the other fist with bizarre precision at the oncoming Mercenary, who decided her stop had come up and hopped off of her unlikely vehicle, retaliating with a volley of Crackers. Too many and too fast and his temporary lack of hands preventing him from blocking them, Hard Man could only stand his ground against the assault as his torso got peppered with explosions.

"Tricky, bu' 's tha' th' best ya got?" he grunted as the hand that delivered his opponent clicked back into place. Ballade assessed her foe. The Crackers did visible damage, but nothing very serious. It was four tons of armor, after all, and even her upgraded explosives had their limits.

Plan B... Ballade's next strategy was considerably more risky. Hard Man excelled at close combat... she would have to use all of her agility and then some to get out of the fight intact. She'd also need to find or make an opening if she even wanted to attempt to get close.

The Mercenary opted for the latter. She clasped her hands together in the classic Ballade Cracker firing position. Undaunted, Hard Man let his other hand return and prepared to avoid another set of explosives... that never came. Prepared for the wrong attack, Hard Man was knocked off balance long enough by the sonic wave that came in its place for Ballade to run in for another attack.

Hard Man grimaced. "Damn, not this again..." He spotted Ballade making her move, speeding to him for a closer shot and threw a punch as she got into reach. The purple robot nimbly used her opponent's size against him, hopping again onto his arm and vaulting off of his shoulder to behind him. Wasting no time, she turned around and placed her palms flat against his back. Hard Man started to turn, but Ballade fired a powerful sonic blast into him, knocking him off of his feet.

At the same time as he fell, Hard Man fired his fist at the Mercenary, catching her by surprise. He reacted faster than she anticipated. The Knuckle hit home, driving itself into Ballade's chest and sending her flying a good distance away.

She pulled herself out of the crumbling building that the Hard Knuckle gave her a ride to and found herself at another standstill. Hard Man was beginning to recover from her last attack and was making his way over to her position.

"Geez, wha's wit' ya? Ya haven' said a word this whole time. All th' other guys 'r always talkin' their heads off."

"... Words are irrelevant."

Hard Man cocked an eyebrow. It wasn't really the answer he was expecting.

The fight then turned into a staring contest, each waiting for the next move. Ballade didn't dare move first, seeing how quickly her opponent reacted before. She couldn't handle many more hits like the ones she had already taken.


The rubble around Magnus stirred slightly. "Not done yet!"

The Seven Merc's behemoth staggered to his feet, using his sword as leverage to stand up. This surprised the living hell out of the RPD units, seeing as how Magnus had just taken a four-ton headbutt to the chest at insane speeds that would have put pretty much anyone else down for about three months worth of repairs, if not for good. Hardman seemed even less surprised then you'd imagine, but still surprised Magnus was able to stand, much less say anything that even SOUNDED like actual words.

"Well now, got a bit a' fight lef' in ya?" Hardman mused slightly, his eyes locked on Ballade. Magnus glared slightly and smirked.

"A bit more then that." He said, ripping his blade's tip out of the ground and launching himself at the Maniac's tank at speeds almost matching Chargeman's. Ballade saw it coming when Hardman made his comment, and quickly dove for cover when Hyper Storm started his mad dash. This almost completely caught Hardman off guard, but he still had ample time to attempt to move aside from the emerald green sword's path, but not enough to completely avoid it. The blade clipped part of Hardman's lower leg, leaving a surprising gash where it struck.

"Wha' th' hell?!"

Magnus grinned as he took a few short hops backwards. "Yeah, a potent weapon, isn't it? I'm just as surprised as you. I have no idea what this sword is made of, or where it was forged."

"Ya' don' say." Hardman noted. "Wha', ya find it 'er somethin'?"

"More like it was GIVEN to me. I'd bore you with teh details, but I'd rather do THIS!"

Magnus shot forward again, but this time Hardman was ready and fired a Hard Kunckle at Magnus' sword arm. The knuckle didn't shatter Hyper Storm's arm, but it stopped it in mid-air before it dragged Magnus with it as it returned to the walking tank it was launched from. Horror washed over the SA Officer's face before he smashed his free hand into the kunckle to dislodge it. It worked, but not in time to prevent the rocket punch to the face from Hardman's OTHER fist. This sent Magnus crashing back to the ground in a BIG hurry before the arm went back.

"Wha' did I jus' tell ya'?!" Hardman growled.

"Oh, stuff it." Magnus grumbled from the crater he'd just been slammed into.


The sound of fighting surrounded Ring Man and his forces as they continued barging into the buildings, inspecting each and every one. The noise had started to noticeably affect Ring Man, as his voice raised with each word he spoke, until he was literally barking orders at the robots. He also began to move impatiently, taking the initiative to break down any doors in his way with a solid kick, in what seemed to be a futile attempt to find Proto Man.

"C'mon, c'mon! Move it already! Check this place out thoroughly and don't leave a single corner left unattended!" Rebel yelled. Just where was that blasted prototype?

Unfortunately for Rebel, the sound that had aggravated him so increased tenfold, until a Joe spoke into his com-link.

"Sir, we have spotted a group of robots fighting each other," the Joe stated.

"Interesting," Ring Man replied. "Any idea who it is?"

"Sources confirm that they belong to the Scissor Army and the RPD."

Rebel rubbed his chin. So, the RPD had come after all. Things were starting to get rather interesting. The question was, should he take a peek into the matter personally? Oh, how he loathed the RPD with such a burning passion that it was tempting to even assist the SA at this point. But alas, even he knew when he had to focus on his duties.

Still, it would be a shame to leave them all alone... he grinned as he spoke into his communicator. "Take one hundred units and attack them. The chances are they are too busy fighting with themselves that they won't see the attack coming until it's too late. Oh, and be sure to take a few Big Eyes as well."



Proto Man breathed heavily as he saw Ring Man enter the building two doors down. He was out of time! Even after throwing his pride away by calling the RPD for help, he was still like a cornered rat, unable to do anything. He realized that at this point, it was either do or die. If he stayed he would get caught, but if he moved he'd probably get caught.

He chose the latter.

Edging toward a door near him, he opened it cautiously, revealing stairs that went upward. Climbing them, he found another door at the top and opened it as well, a blast of light making contact with his eyes. Thankfully, however, his shades absorbed most of it. The spotlight was rather strong and his eyes had become rather used to the darkness that his room provided him, but now he was outside. He had to hurry and make a move before--

"Pipi!" the sound of a Pipi flew overhead, spotting him.

"Shit!" he cursed aloud, not believing his own cursed luck as he blasted the annoying bird out of the sky. "I must be getting careless... I wasn't even out for a minute!"


Another door came crashing down moments later. Ring Man's chest was heaving heavily, the adrenaline of finding Proto Man coursing through his veins. It had been too easy! Who would have thought that someone with such a high notoriety of being elusive to his own family would become exposed from a measly search party?

"Proto Man! I'm coming for you!" he laughed to himself as he bolted up the stairs, entering the room Proto Man had been hiding in. "So, you were in here all along, eh? If you hadn't moved, you would have been a sitting duck regardless."

Now knowing why he did what he had done, Rebel noticed the door leading to the roof and took it, clambering upward. With each passing step he became more anxious, his desire to complete his mission taking over his body. As he ran outside, however, he stopped dead in his tracks.

Proto Man was missing.

"Grr... where are you?" he whispered to himself angrily, scanning his surroundings. "You can't hide forever! I've got all sorts of robots combing the rooftops! So just come out and let's stop this game of cat and mouse, shall we?"

Ring Man took heavy steps forward, walking to the center of the roof. Craning his neck left and right, he waited hopeful that one of the grunts would contact him with his target's latest whereabouts. It was not until a few seconds later that he heard the sound of someone creeping up behind him. Slowly, the rebel turned around, and faced Proto Man one-on-one. It seemed as though today was going to be yet another marvelous day.


The boots of the Scissor Army clicked noisily on the ground, crushing any debris along their path. Enker could only smile even more as he went deeper and deeper into the battlefield, the attacks being inflicted upon him being simply deflected off of his Mirror Buster. Something about all of this just felt so... right. He knew that in a short while he would find Snake Man and crush him and his puny soldiers.

Mega Water S. had other ideas, however, as he suddenly called out, "Enker! We've got some bad news--Wily's forces are headed this way!"

"What!?" Enker snapped back, caught off guard by this news. He had almost forgotten about them! He then realized a crucial mistake as a bullet tore into his arm, causing him to scream in pain as he clutched it bitterly. His surprise caused him to lower his shield momentarily... and that blasted Mech took the opportunity. Controlling his voice with slight difficulty, he spoke. "All right, go ahead and handle it then, Megs. I can take care of the nuisances here."

"Right..." Mega Water agreed with uncertainty before leaving Enker and focused on the approaching enemies. There was barely enough time to prepare. He had to gather some units and lead an assault on these annoying insects immediately!


Quint was looking in astonishment as Shadowman tore through his troops with terrifying speed and efficiency. He expertly dodged every sniper attack that was launched from the rooftops . He even threw kunai and disabled some of his troops. And he was still coming.

How? How??

You know, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

The General had been genuinely surprised … and amused by Shadowman’s use of Scissor-shaped Shadowblades. But his attempts to goad Shadowman were met by a surprising … nonchalance.

In truth Shadowman’s mind was focused and thinking of only one thing. Of killing all those who opposed him. And of the joy he would feel when he tore Quint limb from limb.


With a lot of pain Buster Rod dislodged himself from Needlegal’s spikes. He had to sacrifice his legs … and a good deal of fluids to do so, but it had to be done. Needlegal looked almost … sorry to have done that to him. But she still took aim with her cannon.

“Well, go on, why don’t you! You’ve already crippled me!” screamed Buster Rod. And with that, he raised his hands in front of him, creating an explosion.
The detonation pushed him back, as he expected, but it didn't stop Needlegal from firing in his direction.

Punk screamed in rage as he tore the Special Forces robot open.

“Die already! Just die and lemme through!” It took all his strength, but Punk finally tore the officer apart! His entrails littered the area. In his rage Punk made sure there was nothing left.

“That’ll show ya … Ya can’t mess with the Seven Mercs!” Punk gripped his shoulder. It had dislocated. His armor was also compromised, but it was still very sturdy. It took a lot of time, but the officer was down.

“Monkey! Hey, monkey-boy! Where the hell are ya?” Punk called out for his comrade. He was shocked silent when he finally saw him. He was lying on the ground with holes throughout his body and traces of impact from an explosion. His legs had been torn off. And he wasn’t moving.

For all of the General’s modifications, the Mercenaries still had a strong bond between hem. And now Buster Rod, one of their own had fallen. Could the General repair him? Punk hoped so. The massive spiked robot picked up his friend with surprising gentleness and placed him inside of one of the destroyed buildings. Needle would pay for this. If only he could find her…


Shadowman held a Spotlight Joe up with his now-enhanced arm. The Joe twitched as Shadowman stuck his wires into it.

“Poor Quint. You thought your little plan was so clever, didn’t you. Really, it’s like seeing a child’s puzzle to me! The right way out is right there for everyone with the intelligence to see. The Joe twitched again and all the Spotlight Joes Quint had made – all the Joes he had brought with him had been turned off. Quint was stunned. How was Shadowman hacking into them? Since when could he do that!? How!?

Shadowman chuckled. Not only at Quint’s frustration, but also because the General’s voice inside his head had gone silent.

“It doesn’t matter! One-on-one, then! I’ll still beat you! Quint felt a grip on his arms then.

“One on one? No,” corrected the ninja, “you seem to be mistaking me for someone who fights fair. Quint you poor, little fool …. You made these Joes interconnected, didn’t you? Don’t you realize what that means?”

To Quint’s horror he did realize it. But the firewalls … they were made by the General himself! Standard on all Scissor Joes! Quint also realized that the odd humming sound he heard all around him was the sound a robot made as it caused itself to overload!

Too late. The Joes all around him blew up at the same time! So too did the Joes on the rooftops. Shadowman could have used them later, but he didn’t care. This fight was over. Shadowman threw the Joe he had captured to the ground. It too blew up, as per Shadowman’s orders. Shadowman looked at Quint now. The General did fine work. He was still whole.

To Shadowman’s surprise Quint leapt high into the air. A nice jump. Did he think he was getting away?

Quint was leaping from rooftop to rooftop. He did not know about Shadowman’s abilities. He had completely misjudged Shadowman’s personality. Things were going badly. He needed to find another one of the Scissor Army for backup. Anyone would do! They must be getting their second wind by now! They had to be! Quint detached his Sakugarne from his shoulder. It was new and improved. No longer was it something to be joked around about. It packed some real power.

Unfortunately Shadowman leapt right on top of it in his giant frog.

“Burn!” snarled Shadowman. Quint was soon caught in the frog’s fiery breath. Quint tried to move but found he was rooted to the spot. Shadowman had caught his foot with one of his new tentacles using the same Shadow Warp fueled attack that took out Quint’s snipers. Quint didn’t have too long to feel uncomfortable. Shadowman used one of his new, highly disturbing, Rolling Cutters to sever both of Quint’s legs. Even if he could get to his Sakugarne, he would now not be able to use it.

Quint screamed in rage and frustration! It couldn’t end like this! He spent too much time planning …. Too much time training! He’d done things … terrible things while under the General’s command. Wasn’t it for perfection? Wasn’t he perfect now?

Shadowman used another Rolling Cutter to sever Quint’s left arm. Quint screamed. Where did he get those!? How dare he use such a thing!? And why was that bastard laughing!?

Nothing to say, General? Or are you ashamed of your sloppy work? Nothing to chance. No mercy! But the little commander wouldn’t die just yet. Oh, no. Maybe the old Shadowman would have ended it, but the new Shadowman saw Quint’s importance.

The ninja grabbed Quint with his new arm. He gouged a hole just under his collar bone so that he could look him in the eye while he did his work. His new wires extended and swung around. They punctured four new holes into the little robot’s back.

How do you like this, General? How much time did you spend on this one? How does it feel knowing it’s all going to waste, eh? Nothing. The General didn’t seem very talkative at this point.

Shdowman closed his eyes and felt around Quint’s systems. There was one program that was running … trying to figure out how to get out of this mess. Was it trying to contact the Sakugarne? Shadowman shut down that nasty little thought. And Quint’ screaming. Shadowman opened his eyes. He didn’t need to hear screams. He just needed to look into is eyes. He shut off Quint’s voice. Seeing his voice gone, Quint settled on staring at Shadowman with anger and resentment.

One day …. One day …

Shadowman smiled. There it was. The program that controlled all of the Joes in Quint’s command.

I think it’s time for some new orders….


Hardman grinned, ignoring the pain. The gash in his leg hadn't actually done as much to him as the fracture in Hyper's leg had done to the other robot, so why complain? With Hyper Storm back down on the ground for the moment, his attention was refocusing on Ballade. That was one slippery chick, disappearing whenever her larger friend provided the opportunity to do so.

Hyper Storm wasn't a problem, really. His sword was odd and should be watched out for, sure, but Ballade held the real threat to Hardman. His battle with Akoustolith a few months ago had opened his eyes to a glaring vulnerability to sonic weapons, and he was only praying he'd managed to mask enough of the pain off his face to put the purple Merc off the trail.

Not that, y'know, falling over had done much to help his case. Time for a different approach.

"Y'know," he said in a louder-than-normal voice to nobody in particular, keeping a close eye on the RPD troopers as they bunkered down and prepared for some kind of sneak attack, "I'm gen'rally against hittin' ladies."

A quick glance told him that the SA Joes, while greatly reduced in number, were still a sizable presence as well. He got the sense that the two sides had pretty much stopped shooting at each other to watch the battle, interested to see which side's commander(s) proved more competent. Given the matched state of the forces in the immediate area, it all pretty much boiled down to this fight anyway.

Did that mean Ballade was still trying to get into his lines and take out the rest of the RPD troopers, or were her eyes on the much larger and more tactically important target Hardman himself presented?

All these thoughts, and he kept talking, "So I think 's kinda sad tha' th' real fighter o' th' two o' ya keeps runnin' off an' leavin' th lady here." He grinned.

Hyper Storm growled from his hole in the ground, getting up in a painful, slow fashion. It was a terrible idea for him to keep going like this, and he even knew it, but his pride was at stake. He was just as good as Ballade was! He KNEW it! He was better! And it was time to show this guy exactly how tough he was!

"I'll KILL you," he said with heaving breaths, trying to work up the energy for another attack.

Hardman smiled. "Look, kid, I'll level wit' ya. Ya jus' don't have th' experience necess'ry ta take on an old guy like me. Talent? Sure, ya got it 'n spades. Control o' wind, a mysterious sword, probably some oddball martial arts training and loads of spunk. Let's face it, ya got 'top bad guy material' written all over ya. Me? I'm jus' a drunk wit' rocket hands an' a really high pain tolerance. An' yet, I'm standin' here grinnin', and yer wonderin' if yer gonna make it home ta mommy Gen'ral Cutman or if yer gonna just die here 'n now."

Hyper Storm grimaced. Remarkably close to home, all things considered. And even if he were to fail here and survive the experience, wouldn't the General just kill him anyway?

From her hiding place, Ballade could feel her eyes narrow involuntarily. Hardman was planning something... but what?

The big blue Maniac sighed, and opened his private team communications link. "Yeah, Boss? Listen..." Being a robot, he could carry two conversations easily.

Outwardly, he smiled a friendly, warm smile that comes naturally to everyone whose profession involves listening to other people cry at some point during the evening while serving them drinks that'll just make them cry more, and said "Th' way I see it, kid, ya jus' don't got what it takes ta play wi' th' big boys." Emphasis was placed on everyword, insuring that it was insulting.

And Hyper Storm lost it. He didn't say anything as he launched himself forward with an unbelievable speed, the sword held ready to strike at the exact moment necessary to sever his foe's loud mouth from his shoulders. So lost in the blind rage and rush of uncontrolled power was he that he never noticed it. He hadn't even seen it coming as Hardman had been talking.

The collected forces of the RPD opened fire, and Hyper Storm was too focused to defend himself from a different kind of storm. One of plasma and heat, rather than wind and noise. The shots slammed into him, knocking him off-balance and forcing him to stop his charge in a desperate attempt to protect his damaged parts from the attack, and that was it. His last mistake.

The shots stopped only a second before Hardman descended from above. The world shook as four tons of Mechanical Maniac impacted on the distracted form of Hyper Storm.

It was five seconds later when Hardman picked himself back up. That had HURT, but it had been worth it. Hyper Storm was not getting up again. Not without an excavation crew. It wasn't physically possible.

And Ballade took the opportunity to strike, landing easily on her larger opponent's back and letting loose the full force of her sonic fury into his back. Hardman shouted in pain, a rare occurance, and fell to his knees, his hands impacting heavily on the ground. He coughed hard as Ballade readied another attack, but Hardman had a different idea. Through the haze of pain, he reared back up onto his feet, reaching behind himself and simply putting all his weight into falling backwards.

For the second time in as many minutes, Hardman's mass hit the ground with incredible force, and again for the second time, one of the Seven Mercenaries felt the blow.

Ballade's world was fading to black. She coughed feebly. "I see... you did all that to draw me out."

"Yeah... I admi', I've 'ad bett'r plans..." Hardman grinned, looking up at the sky. If all went well, his remaining troopers would simply prevent the remaining SA forces from recovering the two fallen Officers until one of the other Maniacs arrived on scene. Sure, he hadn't completed his objective, but he'd already apologized to Shadowman for that.

With a smile on his face and a mind assured that, for him at least, everything would be all right, he passed out.


Snakeman kept a close eye on Enker as the golden robot killer continued his malicious march in his general direction. Snake was thankful for the distraction the Wilybots had provided, but it looked like it wasn't going to be enough. Still no sign of Protoman, and soon he was going to have to abdicate his position. At least he had a decent hiding spot. With any luck, Enker would be looking into the open windows on the side of the building and completely ignore the air conditioner vent he'd squeezed into.

"Come on! Shoot me! I'm right here!" Enker shouted into the darkness, thrusting his spear at the building for emphasis.

How stupid does he think I am? Snakeman thought with a grimace.

"If you won't fire on me, then I'll just have to fire on you!"

Does he even have an arm cannon? Wait...what's he doing with that stick?

Enker detached a short pole from his belt, and in an instant it extended into a segmented spear. Snakeman wondered what the mercenary was up to. The pole arm was obviously mostly hollow and light, being able to compact like that. How could such a weapon be worth using when his regular spear was obviously much tougher? More to the point, how was he going to "fire" on him with another melee weapon?

Enker answered the silent questions by adopting an elegant Olympic stance as if to throw the pole as a javelin. Sure enough, he launched the spear with calculated precision, sending it in a smooth arc above the building, ultimately diving into the roof and piercing a few floors before finally coming to a stop. Snakeman lost sight of the projectile when it went above his field of vision. He hoped that constituted a blatant miss, and decided not to waste the opportunity by releasing another shot...right into Enker's barrier. Apparently the golden robot's attack didn't require him to drop his shield. At least Snakeman didn't have to taste his own medicine this time, as he made sure to aim the shot at an angle so the reflection didn't go back the way it came.

He only had a split second to note this, however, as the supposedly errant spear detonated, spreading plasma in all directions. Snake felt the building tremor with the explosion. From his lookout he could see dust and debris falling from above. The upper floors of the building were practically annihilated by the one explosive spear. He was still safe...but then he saw Enker pull another exploding javelin from his belt. Oh, this won't end well.

The second javelin landed in the wreckage left by the first and pierced deeper, the resulting explosion demolished what was left of the structure. It did its job, namely driving Snakeman out of hiding. Before the spear detonated, he'd slipped out of the vent and started running again as he hit the ground. His Neo Troopers were keeping the SA Joes busy enough to keep him safe from enemy fire, but he still had an angry Robot Master to worry about, and now Enker could see where he was.

Seeing no point in looking for another hiding spot, Snakeman figured it was time to try some things to take his opponent down, not that there was much he could do. At least he still had his trump card. He started by unsheathing his knife in a quick move mid-step while running towards Enker, who made no move to avoid the striking serpent. Did this mean the Mirror Buster was just as effective against melee attacks?

If it was, Enker had other plans anyway. The knife thrust was parried by the taller robot's main spear. Snakeman followed up with a series of other quick jabs that were all expertly parried by the larger weapon. Despite wielding the larger weapon, Enker's speed was superior. The killer grinned confidently as he finished the amusing encounter with a quick thrust to the serpent sniper's chest, sending him flying backwards, dropping his knife.

Snakeman rolled as he landed and was back up in a heartbeat. So much for that plan. He should have known not to try a close range attack on Enker. Had to try something though. Now it was time to try something else. Grabbing his rifle once again, Snake leveled the barrel at Enker's head. His opponent chuckled in response and marched slowly towards him. The merc was just toying with him now, he knew there was nothing the Maniac could do to hurt him. He'd only let his guard down once when distracted, and he wasn't about to let that happen again.

That was put to the test when an unexpected explosion occurred on his barrier, right next to his head, from behind. As Snakeman had hoped, the missile launched from Skip caught Enker off-guard. With a look of shock and confusion, he twisted his head around to see where the mystery shot had come from, and then Snakeman pulled the trigger.

And once again, the bullet glanced off the invisible barrier and Enker laughed. Crap! Is he ever going to leave an opening?

"I don't know where your help is hiding..." Enker said as he turned back to face Snakeman. "But it doesn't matter, does it? You're finished. I can worry about that missile later." With that, he leveled his spear and dashed at Snake with unnatural speed. Apparently he was no longer in the mood for slow, intimidating marching. Snakeman was quick enough to dodge the charge, but his back caught the tip of the spear as it swung around to attack. Enker was relentless, and all Raijin could do was try to keep his distance. As bleak as things looked for the serpentine robot, he still didn't look the least bit frightened.

Damnit, still no sign of Protoman. Well, I have no choice now, I can't stall with this guy any longer.

At a critical moment, Enker managed to trip his opponent, landing Snakeman on his back. A blue and gold boot immediately slammed down on his scaled abdomen to hold him in place as the deadly spear was leveled over the power core in his chest. "Die, Maniac!" Enker offered his enemy no more chances and slammed the tip of the spear through the helpless robot's chest, or rather, where his chest would be if he hadn't disappeared in a flash of a teleportation stream at the last instant. The spear, and his pinning foot, fell harmlessly into the dusty earth.

"What in Elysium's name!?" Enker bellowed into the darkness and activated his communicator. "What is the status of the teleportation shield!?" he asked no one in particular.

"Fully functioning, sir." A tech Joe answered back.

Enker growled as he realized what that meant. "Short range teleport...since when did Snakeman have that kind of ability? He's still in the area." Looking around frantically, Enker came to the unfortunate conclusion that he was right back where he started.


Punk had Needle cornered. He could hear her panting. Throughout the battle he had been damaged, but not enough to stop him. It would never be enough.

There were Scissor Joes in the area as well. Good. “Follow me! For Buster Rod!” The Joes obediently took up a position behind him. He turned into a buzz saw again and tore through another building.

He was greeted by Needlegal’s mace. He chucked to himself as it was deflected by his invulnerable form. He then ploughed into the building as she leapt high above him. No matter. She was caught. She was dead.

She landed right between himself and his Joes. Even more Joes here in the area now. Excellent!


Needlegal covered her face as the squadron of Joes let loose with their cannons. She heard the shots strike metal. But it wasn’t her metal. She dared to open an eye. She was still whole. And the Scissor Joes had targeted … Punk?

“Damn you … what is your malfunction? I’m your commanding officer!” This was greeted by even more shots. Punk was peppered with bullets. With his armour damaged, these shots were having an effect. And there were so many to deal with … She was right there, but …

The RPD bots came in right alongside the Scissor Army Infantry and took aim at the red robot master. Something had gone very wrong. He had to get out of there! Now! Like a bullet Punk left the area vowing that, one day, the Mechs … especially Needlegal … would get theirs.


Snakeman breathed a sigh of relief. So much for Enker. And thank Dr. Light for Mambo and his short-range teleporter. Still, the location of Protoman was a big mystery. And the Wily robots … were they after Proto as well? Snakeman checked on the Maniacs’ location. Good, he was close to his leader.

Snakeman jumped as he heard explosions throughout the city. Things were heating up. He wondered whether those were officers or Scissor Joes. Snakeman was making his way to Shadowman’s position. He stopped. What was going on?

Shadowman held up a damaged Quint in one hand. Quint had been mutilated. Shadowman had dug his creepy new tentacles into his back. And the Scissor Joes … were they acting as a guard? Officer robots were there as well … Snakeman contacted his squadron.

“What’s going on with the Scissor Army? Why aren’t they attacking us?”

“They aren’t a problem.” Snakeman jumped. He had contacted the Special Forces member in his squad, but it was Shadowman who answered. “Come out, Snake. There’s nothing to be afraid of.”

Snakmean warily stepped out of his hiding place. Shadowman smiled warmly, but his eyes (or at the last the one Snakeman could see) unnerved Snakeman. “Shadowman … what are you doing with Quint?”

“Isn’t it obvious? I’ve hacked into his systems. I’ve gained control of the Joes through him. Don’t you hear those wonderful explosions? That’s the Scissor Army blowing itself up. I’ve also issued orders for them to eliminate the Seven Mercenaries. I’ve received several reports that Punk is running for his life … hah! Hardman has taken care of Ballade and Hyper Storm. Quint, as you can see, is no longer a problem. My sister managed to pull off a victory against Buster Rod. And, as we speak, Enker has called on a platoon of Joes to help him look for you. I wonder how effective that barrier is against thirty Joes blowing themselves up right in front of him?”

Snakeman looked at his leader. How long had he been controlling Quint? Was all this really necessary? And …

“Who are you talking to?”

“What? Oh, the General. Heh, he’s been keeping an eye on things.”

Snakeman shook his head. Shadowman was muttering things to himself some more. Things have gotten out of hand. If the General was here, then where was he? Why had the mission gone so favourably for the ‘Maniacs? It made no sense.

“Shadow … the General’s not here.”

“He’s here! But he’s hiding. It doesn’t matter, I have his own Joes looking for him.” Shadowman laughed then, a bit hysterically. He was commanding … how many Joes? And were the officers under his command as well?

“Shadowman?” His leader wasn’t listening. He was muttering something angrily. A conversation with ‘the General’ no doubt. God, it was happening. He never thought it could happen to Shadow, but … his leader was cracking up.

“Shadowman!” Snakeman was shouting now and Shadowman's head snapped to his direction. “What have you done? The Scissor-shaped Shadow Blades … the Bizarro-inspired look … you’re designing robots, taking mental control of thousands of troops … I’ve known you for a long time now and there’s no way you could have pulled these things off if you were normal! You’ve done something, haven’t you?

Snakeman was on the money. Shadowman looked down. He had done something, but … what?

“I just made myself better,” he said. Was he speaking to ‘Cutman’ as well? “I made the General’s power my own. That’s what I did.” Snakeman had a sinking feeling in his gut.

“Shadowman …. What does that mean?”

Shadowman stomped his foot angrily. Snakeman took a step back. “What do you mean ‘what do I mean’? The General’s already cackling away in my damned head! If he can guess it why can’t you? Take a hint! We have the General’s designs for his original body! I’ve poured over them for days. It became pretty damned obvious what made the General a threat … but we’re robots! I can simply copy his advantage. Don’t you get it? I installed the same genius chip the General has inside of my own head!”


Two words could describe Quint's emotions right now: frustration and terror.

His limbs were severed, his vocal module was deactivated, he was unable to control the Sakugarne, and he was used as a mere computer by Shadowman.

Though, his anger at Shadowman wasn't as important as the thoughts that raced through his head:

He'll kill me.

Once he'll be done with the other Mercs, he'll turn his attention to me. In comparison, coming back to the General after this defeat will look like Heaven.

Luckily, his eyes and ears hadn't been deactivated by the ninja-robot. He fully took advantage of this when Snakeman appeared, and started speaking with his leader.

His teammates were in a bad position, and it was partly his fault: after all, didn't he send all those Joes to support them ?

Even after this shock, Shadowman's latest revelation struck Quint even harder; how could have the Maniacs gotten access to such important information? Quint always thought he was the only one entitled with such an honor - it wasn't the General's style to let out such precious information or ... could he have planned that his opponent would do such a move ?

Does that mean I was only a pawn today, General ?

He quickly came back to his senses. Only fate brought him in the path of the Maniacs. It could've happened to any other Officer. Even -and he made a mental smirk- the Androids.

It wasn't a nice thought, but still better than counting the seconds before his death at Shadowman's hands.


"W-what are you doing!? Attack!" the water-based robot cried. Why were they not moving? They could not be... ignoring his orders, could they? The Wilybots were almost there.

Now in a panic, Mega Water turned his head and watched with shock as the enemy was right across from him. They had all stopped as well, as if waiting for the Scissor Army to make the first move. This infuriated Mega Water greatly: If his stupid soldiers had just listened to him rather than just stand there picking their noses, they could have already wiped them out!

"Someone... shoot already!" he cried, before feeling a strong blast rip through his midsection. Eyes wide, he turned and saw the culprit: One of his own men. "Wha... what...? You traitor...!"

He barely dodged the volley of fire that next came from the Scissor Joes, to which he replied by blasting the robots in pieces with his Liquid Lashes.

"If you take it like this... Rebellion is punished by death!"

Whenever one of the Joes tried to charge him, he raised his hand, and slashed the agressor with a blade-like stream of high-pressure water.

The Wily units, realizing that something was not right with the enemy soldiers, decided to open fire on the hapless Mercenary as well. He destroyed a good number of them, but then came the fatal moment: his water tanks were empty, and even with his moisture captors, it would take seconds before he could fire back.

With his guard open, and no way to shoot back, the rest of the Scissor Joes and the Wily Forces proceeded to open fire, blasting Mega Water S to pieces. Mega Water could only scream in agony as the bullets, explosions, and plasma ripped him apart until he collapsed onto the ground. He could feel the world growing dark...


"Well, well, if it isn't Proto Man!" Ring Man chuckled, as if seeing an old friend. "I must say, I never thought I would get the chance to meet you. Heck, I never even thought that I would get the chance to FIND you!"

Proto Man stayed silent, his eyes glaring daggers right into the red communist robot. He had risked everything and now revealed himself to the enemy... but for what purpose? He needed to get out of there.

As if reading his mind, Rebel stuck a hand out. "Hey, I know what you are thinking. I work for Wily so I can't be trusted, right? Well, it might be hard to believe, but I think that Wily is probably the best option to those who don't want the Scissor Army or RPD to win this war."

"...Maybe..." Proto Man mumbled. Although he hated to admit it, Wily did look good compared to some of the other... fabulous choices.

"Maybe? Well, that's getting somewhere," Rebel grinned under his helmet. "So waddya say we make this easy for the both of us, and we just head on over to Wily's Skull Castle now? I'm certain that he can fix you up and you'll be as good as new!"

It was then that Proto Man remembered why he was fighting. He took a step back and spit some old blood out of his mouth.

"Join Wily? Let him 'fix me up?' You have to be kidding me. Wily only wants me because of my reactor!"

Immediately the grin on Ring Man's face dropped. He could suddenly feel anger over this refusal--something that would not go well. Unfortunately, it seemed as though things would not be as simple as he had hoped.

"I was afraid you would say that," he sighed, before pulling out his rings. "Guess I'll just have to drag you back."

On cue Proto Man dashed to the right, firing a charged buster shot at Ring Man. In response the rebel leaped out of attack's path and threw his ring. The golden object, however, seemed to fly off course as it sailed right over Proto Man's head. Taking his chance, the prototype fired three shots from his cannon, all but one making direct contact with Ring Man, who seemed to have become preoccupied with something. The damage to his systems caused him to reel back and grip his wounds.

"You're pretty sloppy when it comes to fighting," Proto Man noted, not dropping his guard. "I heard you were designed specifically to beat Mega Man."

"Then you heard right," Rebel answered smugly. "It takes more than beating the crap out of someone to win a fight, however."

Proto Man's eyes suddenly widened as he saw a flash of gold appear before him, as the ring that was thrown earlier came down on him with him in the middle of the hole. The ring suddenly shrunk in size, squeezing his body as his arms were pinned to his side. Squirming, he found that no matter how hard he tried the ring refused to budge.

"You like it?" Rebel asked in far too-friendly tone. "It's called a Trick Ring and you have, well... just been tricked."


Unable to break free, Proto Man could only watch with horror as Ring Man walked over to him and grabbed him harshly, nearly pushing him around to get somewhere. Ring Man, however, did not seem to care as he continued this until they were back inside the building on the first floor, right next to the door leading to the street.

"Not so tough, now are ya?" Ring Man spoke dangerously, his face next to Proto Man's. "I'm going to call Wily right after I get some men over here to hold on to you, and then I can finally get out of this damned city once and for all. Capisce?"

"No capisce," Proto Man said flatly as he lifted his head and slammed it into Rebel's, knocking the other red robot onto the ground in a daze. Focusing all of his strength into his arms, he bit his lip until it started to bleed as the ring around him slowly crumbled under the pressure before finally snapping in two. Not giving his captor the time of day, he bolted out the door, fleeing the scene.

Meanwhile Rebel had gotten up, holding his head. He did not expect that. Quick to start giving chase, he activated his com-link. "I need some backup here! All Cooks at Point 3A give chase to Proto Man!"

On command about three dozen Cooks, ostrich-like robots, busted out of the buildings and sped past Ring Man, gaining far more ground than the red robot could ever hope. While he was fast on his own, he certainly was no Quick Man.

Proto Man kept barreling down the street, taking a corner when the opportunity presented itself. He did not want to look back. He did not want to see how close they were. He was tired, exhausted from the fighting. The RPD was not coming for him, despite his hopes, and he knew that, in the end, the only way to get things done was to just do it yourself.

At that time he heard a strange noise behind him, growing rapidly. Although he did not want to look, his curiosity got the better of him as Proto Man took a quick glance to spot the stampede of Cooks right behind him.

"What the hell is this!?" he cursed once more. If those things caught him he would get trampled to death!

Looking for a way out, he noticed a street light nearing him, still in tact even after all of the chaos and destruction about. Taking yet another chance, he leapt for the structure and grabbed hold of the bar overhead, desperately holding on while lifting himself up. The Cooks continued their mad dash onward, barely missing Proto Man's feet.

After the rampage subsided, Proto Man dropped down and smiled for the first time in what seemed like forever. He had dodged Wily's last obstacle. Now he had to escape the city. Before Ring Man could come onto the scene, the red and grey robot ducked into an alleyway, disappearing once more.


The first question that had come to Ballade's mind when she woke up was not how long she had been unconscious or what was happening in her absence, but rather what she was doing underneath a robot over twice her size. She squirmed and shifted, trying to worm her way out from under the multi-ton 'Maniac, but nothing much came of it. Apparently, brute force was the only option. Using her relatively-free arm, she pushed on the inert Hard Man's back, trying to roll him off. It was no easy task. Sparks shot from Ballade's already-damaged arm from the stress of the effort as she continued to struggle against the weight on top of her. After what seemed like forever, she managed to partially wriggle her way out. Gravity decided it'd do the rest.

Deeper into the impact crater Hard Man went, the ground beneath him having shifted with Ballade's absence. It wasn't far, but it was enough to completely free her. So she thought. The blue tank stopped on her other hand.

She was ready to scream now. Why wouldn't anything cooperate with her?! Enraged, she planted her feet on the ground and lifted with all her might. This time she did scream, though it was in pain rather than fury. Her addled mind didn't realize at the time that trying to pull her arm out like that in the condition it was already in would result in her not having an arm. This wasn't like her. She needed to think and think properly. Cursing herself, Ballade stared blankly at her arm under Hard Man's body, torn right from the shoulder.

This is what happens when you don't think logically. Focus!

Ballade shook her head and tried to clear her thoughts. What was there?

Hyper Storm was in the crater with her, heavily damaged with the Maniacs' tank on top of him. Ballade herself was also badly damaged; armor cracked and dented, one arm barely useable and the other on the ground in front of her.

She looked around and was in awe. The place was deserted, save for remnants of Joes scattered all over. She was out long enough to miss the entire battle?

She ducked back into the crater as realization of what she was doing dawned on her and she hoped she didn't get seen aimlessly standing around, especially after all the noise she made. Everything was going wrong. Ballade could only assume the worst. Her top priority quickly turned to self-preservation.

But she couldn't leave Hyper Storm alone. She grumbled. If he hadn't been so reckless, they wouldn't have wandered into Hard Man's trap and they wouldn't have been in this mess... but they were still teammates. She turned on her comm, satisfied that something still worked right, and called out for some Joes to retrieve her comrade, then slipped away to try to escape the battle gone sour. As long as the enemy thought she was down and out, she didn't have to worry about getting hunted. She was certainly in no condition to fight. The Joes would take it from there.

As Ballade fled the scene, she wondered if the others met similar pitfalls...


“Don’t you know how insane that is?” yelled Snakeman, “it’s like doing brain surgery on yourself!”

Shadowman clicked his tongue. “Didn’t you recently install your old Skullman Navi form?”

“That’s software, this is totally different!”

“I don’t see how. Robots can self-install all the time. It’s a common feature here. And, unless you didn’t notice, I am a robot!” Shadowman was getting frustrated. What was with the questions? They won, didn’t they?

He doesn’t understand you. Any minute now he’ll take leadership away from you.

“Shut up, General! Just shut the hell up already!”

Snakeman cringed. This was getting bad. Really bad. He opened up a private line to Needlegal and Hardman. “Needle? Hard? We’re having a … situation with G here. Zero in on my coordinates. We might have to –“ The comm. line died. Snakeman had a bad feeling about that. Slowly he looked towards the ninja robot.

He did not look happy.


Needlegal heard Raijin’s communication and felt sick. What was that about her brother? Was he down? She was rushing to Snakeman’s location (he had turned on his internal tracking device). She didn’t notice that there was no Scissor Army presence left in the area. She also didn’t notice that the police robots were looking at her oddly.

However she did notice Ringman run into her path. Luckily for Ring, there were no police robots in the area.

“You!?” they both yelled in surprise. They both froze for several seconds.

“Listen, now…” began Ringman, “I don’t want any trouble. I’m just high-tailing outta here. You got me, okay? You won. Most of my guys are goners. And, from your expression, I take it you’re not here for me either.”

Needlegal considered. “No, I’m not.”

Ringman nodded. “Yeah. So let’s just … save it for next time, okay?”

To Ringman’s relief Needlegal nodded. With the beating that his men took, he didn’t know why she agreed, but he was glad for it. He might hate the RPD, but he didn’t want to fight right now. He just wanted to leave.

Whatever unholy hell came from this operation, I want absolutely no part of it!


Needlegal gasped at the sight before her eyes. Shadowman was ripping into Snakeman with his new arm. Snake’s rifle lay a few feet away, but it was no good. Snakeman’s larger Search Snakes laid scattered around the ground in pieces.

Shadowman threw Scissor-shaped Shuriken at his former friend with glee. This would teach him to mess with the superior robot!

Ingrates, aren’t they?


Ready to bite the hand that fed them for so many years, aren’t they?

“Damn freakin’ right!”

Yeah, I get that all the time too. You know, Elysium can be for you too. My dream is for all robotkind.

“Bite me! You’re just trying to trick me. You, the Robot Police, my so-called ‘friends’ … I’m not buying it! And you wouldn’t either, so don’t condescend to me.”

Needlegal grabbed hold of Shadowman’s arm to stop him from hitting Snake. “Shadow, just stop! Right now! And … who the hell are you talking to?”

Shadowman wrenched his arm free from his sister’s grip. “General Cutman, who else!? Now, get out of my way, I have a traitor to skin!”

“Shadow, what has gotten into you?”

Snakeman coughed and steadied his voice, “He’s … he’s installed the General’s 'Genius Chip' inside himself.”

“He what??”

“Yes!" Shadowman was fully focused on his anger. “The General’s one advantage over us all, the thing that made him a threat to mankind is now mine! And now I can think up a hundred anti-General plans all at once! Oh, you don’t think I can, General? And no I won’t call you Cutman! Cutman was a friend of mine and you are no Cutman, General!

“There’s nobody here, Shadowman!” yelled out Needlegal. Her brother was scaring her.

“I know that! Don’t you think I know that? I’m smarter than you, you know. A thousand times smarter! He’s not here, but he’s around here … he’s using a random signal to avoid detection by you – Oh, I’m so glad you think that’s a clever deduction. Shut up, you sicko freak! I’m on to you, you know. I know that you know there’s no Elysium at the end of this road! I know how you think, asshole!”

“Bro, listen to yourself! The chip is driving you nuts! We have to take it out!”

Shadowman froze. His head turned slowly towards his sister. “Take it out? You want me to go back to being simple-minded … back to being like all of you? No. No, I have a better idea! I’ll fix you!” Shadowman brightened. “You all don’t see because you’re all stuck below my level. But I can fix that! I’ve been selfish to think only of myself … “

Shadowman had an evil glint in his eye now. Needlegal backed off.

“Whoa, what do you think you’re doing?”

Shadowman rushed at Needlegal with a Shadow Blade in hand. “It’s for your own good, sis! You’ll thank me when it’s over!”

Shadowman threw a Blade at his sister. She couldn’t dodge and was solidly hit. He threw another and was rewarded with a small scream.

“I’ll install the chip in all of you! And then you’ll see! You’ll all see. And the General … you’ll be in big trouble! You’re not unique anymore you bastard!” Shadowman laughed madly. The comedy was lost on Needlegal. Whatever her brother had done to himself, he had clearly lost it. But what could she do? Snakeman was injured and so was she. Hardman was nowhere to be seen … and the RPD were everywhere, ready to back up the sanity-challenged shinobi.

Hope came in a very unlikely form. There was an orange blur, the rushing of wind and the loud crack of metal splitting metal apart! Shadowman was now on the ground. His new arm had been crippled and lay loosely at his side. He looked up in surprise and anger. Who dared to defy him?

Topman was scowling. “You know … you’ve looked better, Shadow.”


Shadowman struggled to his feet, glowering at Topman. "You traitor! How DARE you show your face here! And to humiliate me in front of my team! My soldiers! How DA-"

He was cut off by an attack that, in his right state of mind, he'd have seen coming. The kick was fast, and it put him down again hard, bounding him off the broken ground before he settled down with a fresh look of pain in his features.

"LOOK AT YOURSELF!" Topman shouted, as if volume would penetrate the fog of insanity that had covered the head of the leader of the Mechanical Maniacs. "Just goddamn LOOK AT YOU."

The RPD troopers, the SA Joes... both sides moved to defend their 'commander.' A feeble cough from Snakeman and the solid click of his rifle being loaded as he hefted it up in his still-good arm warned against it, as did the microscopic sound of Needlegal's own weapons cycling rounds and preparing to fire. The troopers and Joes remained at bay, aware, somehow, of some unspoken thought that they would cease to exist if they moved forward.

Shadowman took heaving breaths, trying to collect his shattered, scattered wits. "I'm... I'm better now! Better than I ever was! I'm a genius! And YOU! You're some wannabe Benedict Arnold... ALL OF YOU!"

Topman's face set itself in a mask of fury and he stepped forward, slamming his foot down on Shadowman's chest and bending low to grab the ninja's neck, pushing his head firmly down to the ground. "Listen to you, all psycho-ed up."

"LEAVE ME ALONE!" Shadowman shouted. "DAMMIT! GET OFF OF ME!"

"Not until you stop being crazy."

"I'm not crazy!" he growled.

"Oh, really? Shouting at voices that aren't there, beating your own friends senseless, even hacking into an enemy we all used to call friend? How aren't you like General Cutman?"

At this, Shadowman laughed. "I'm BETTER! I've taken away his only advantage, and it's just a matter of-"

Topman cut him off by slamming his head into the ground and dragging him back up. "WHAT? A matter of time until you kill EVERYONE? A matter of time until you drive us ALL away? Until everything you ever fought for and believed in lies dead and bleeding at your feet? WHAT? WHAT DO YOU WANT?"

The leader of the Maniacs scowled. "I want him to SHUT UP!"

"Who?" Top asked sternly, putting more force into his grip to prevent Shadowman from getting up again.

"General Cutman! You all heard him! He's here! Taunting me! He-"

"He isn't here, Shadowman. He never was."

"NO! I heard him!"

"No. You heard you. You heard that damn thing you stuck in your head."

"How could you possibly know what has transpired while you were gone, you traitor?" Shadowman spat uncontrollably.

Top just gave a halfhearted grin. "For having a 'genius chip' in your head, you forgot that I have access to the team channels? Wow, you ARE smarter."

"Stop making fun of me!"

"It is pretty sad though," Top smiled sardonically. "Half of your precious team up and leaves you, so you decide to compensate by making yourself smarter. Good plan. Except you never realized that the design of the genius chip is flawed."

"Not possible! I studied every piece of it! I replicated it perfectly!"

"Yeah. The chip AND its flaws."

"... flaws..."

"The original genius chip created GENERAL CUTMAN. What did YOU THINK it was? Perfect? We've seen a lot of different Dr. Lights in our time, but none of them would have ever created something like him! Not willingly. Not unless it was a mistake."

"I know that! I compensated for the flaws! I fixed it!"

Topman just shook his head. "Yeah. I see that."

Then it hit Shadowman. If he'd been a real genius... would he have needed all the gruesome-looking modifications? Upgrades and enhancements that amounted to nothing when it all came down to it? Sure, he'd been able to control Quint, and the SA Joes through him, but how was that different than Mesmerman? And the scissor-like shuriken?

What WAS the difference between him and General Cutman? Why couldn't he remember anymore?

Needlegal and Snakeman gathered around, the RPD and SA sufficiently scared into obedience. Needlegal looked down on her brother.

"Bro... You need to stop this."

"But... we need me... we need this to beat him..."

Snakeman coughed, trying hard not to take a free shot at Shadowman's side with his foot in retaliation. "Are you thick?" he managed, frowning at his friend. "You're not the only guy on the RPD's side. There's us. There's Hardman, wherever the hell he's gotten to, and there's most of Drastic Measures, Makenshi, Starman... You don't have to try winning this war alone. That's just stupid."


"I want my brother back," Needlegal said. "And I swear to god, if you don't tear that damn thing out of your head, I'll remove it myself, and I won't be that gentle."

Topman nodded at her statement and looked down again, releasing his grip on Shadow's neck. "I'm not coming back to the team. Not yet. But I couldn't just let you destroy yourself. You're my friend. You're part of the family. I can't let you just senselessly destroy everything you and I have ever done together."

He took his foot of Shadowman and stood up straight, brushing himself off. Only now did Needlegal and Snakeman notice the state of his armor. Topman himself looked fairly rough; chipped armor, missing paint, his coat in tatters. His time flying solo had been harsh, and he was about to go back to that life. Snakeman thought of something.

"Hey, Top... how'd you know to come here? Shadowman switched all the team comm. frequencies after you left..."

Topman gave a smile. "I was in the area, following a lead. You were here looking for him too, right? Looks like he got away from me though. I need to run, I'm meeting someone in a little bit in Berlin. Or what's left of it, at least. It was good to see you again, Needlegal. And you, Snake." The spinning demon gave a nod before taking a deep breath. "I'll see you guys around. Keep Shadow alive, won't you?"

"Eh, it gets harder every day, it seems," Needlegal grinned, "but I'll do what I can." Snakeman simply nodded in agreement.

Topman left with a half-hearted wave before he sped off toward Germany.


Shadowman was in the repair bay. His Bizarro-like arm was beyond repair and Needlegal was glad. His wires were being extracted as well as his eyepiece. Maybe those enhancements could have come in handy in the future, but no one wanted a reminder of this terrible day.

The Genius Chip was also extracted and analyzed. Preliminary analysis of his mind showed that he had run over a hundred programs at once. One was even dedicated solely to hating General Cutman. Added to that, his systems simply weren’t designed for the Genius Chip in mind. His systems had frequent power surges, which accounted for his inability to sleep. He had installed power dampeners to compensate, but they did not seem to have worked. Needlegal shivered. No wonder he lost it.

Poor Shadowman. He must have been under tremendous pressure to do what he did. The brass had tried to isolate him from his team and his friends … they put him in charge of making all sorts of anti-Scissor Army plans … they probably figured that he could handle it, that they could just do that and expect flawless results.

Hardman wasn’t looking too good either. He sustained heavy damage when he fought Hyper Storm and Ballade. She couldn’t say whether it counted as a “win” for him or not. It was the sort of fight he’d want though. The place around him was demolished, so Needlegal thought he had fun.

Snakeman desperately needed repairs, but he was busy explaining their activities to Crorq.

“INNNNFIDEL! I don’t care if you wiped out all the Scissor Army in Madrid, look at the damage you caused! All of the officers we sent you are malfunctioning … they need a complete debugging and reprogramming. One was even spouting Scissor Joe nonsense about Elysium. All of you need major repairs! Your commander suffered some sort of nervous breakdown … and to top it all off, Protoman escaped! Incompetence! Utter incompetence!"

Snakeman tried to salvage the situation. “But we did bring you Hyper Storm, right? Well … what was left of him. Studying him might give us deeper insight into how the General warps the minds of his soldiers … we might even be able to save all of our friends …”

“That INFIDEL is responsible for the deaths of the people of Madrid and Mexico! And the scraps you brought back don’t tell us anything we don’t already know! And that wasn’t your mission, damn it! Your mission is a total failure. And Shadowman is a total failure! You can tell him he’s no longer lieutenant commander when he wakes up as well. If he screws up again, he’ll be shut down! We don’t need losers on our team!

Snakeman winced. This had not gone well at all. But Crorq continued and the situation got even worse. Crorq seemed to be savoring this moment. But there was an odd hesitancy to his tone as well. What did he have to say?

"And thanks to Shadowman’s bungling, it’s been decided that your unit been given a bit too much … freedom to operate on your own."

“What!?” Needlegal was now paying full attention to the conversation at hand.

“It’s time for the Mechanical Maniacs to fall into line! Up until this point you’ve been considered a special case, a valuable asset! The government decided to go easy on you after the LA incident, but you've wasted no time in squandering that leeway. You've made a bad example of the Shutdown Code system. It’s time you were Watched.”

As Crorq was speaking, the door to the repair bay opened and Crorq beckoned the new arrival over. The Maniacs turned to notice their new overseer, a familiar woman in a white trenchcoat. Her otherwise casual attire was betrayed by a simple white mask covering much of her face besides her exotic eyes, which glared daggers at everyone in the room, including Crorq. She gripped the compact Watcher remote in her hand tensely, obviously eager to use it.

Snakeman’s face turned ashen white. On top of all this …

Amatista’s eyes were suddenly beaming with anticipation. “I’ve been called in to keep you … things in check.”

Both Needlegal and Snakeman had nothing left to say. Their fortune had certainly taken a turn for the worse in a short space of time.


Quint lay there for what seemed like hours. It could have been days. His internal clock was malfunctioning along with everything else. His arms and legs hurt. His head was exploding with pain. Static laced his vision. His eyes must have gotten damaged in the beating he took. He was dying. There was just no other way to think of it. He should have been happy that someone came for him.

The General stood over the remains of his “trusted” commander and surveyed the damage this one battle had caused. He then gave Quint a cold, hard stare. Without any real face, Quint couldn’t tell what the General was thinking.

“If you think you’re getting off light just because Shadowman put a chip in his head, think again.”




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