"I really appreciate you volunteering for this," Dr. Cain was saying. He was sitting at a large computer monitor in one of the many robotics labs in the Hunter Tower. "After all, I couldn't find your brother and..."
"...I was the second choice." Protoman made his comment with the same indifferent voice he used for everything, be it be complex battle strategies, his feelings about Wily (which were less than friendly), or the weather. Dr. Cain, however still caught something in the statement--something like how that was a common occurrence and he just learned to live with it. Dr. Cain gave Protoman a quick sidelong glance. He was lying on a lab table, his helmet off, and his face was his standard emotionless mask that he usually wore if he wasn't flashing that cocky grin of his.
"Well, anyway," Dr. Cain said, breaking the slight tension he'd created, "the scan is finished. Do you want to see if anything is out of place?"
"Sure," was the response, and Protoman swung his legs over the edge of the table, picked up his visored helmet from a smaller table next to it, strapped his shield that was leaning against the table to his back, and lazily strolled the short distance to the computer equipment.
"Hmm, interesting," Proto muttered to himself. The results of the scan Dr. Cain ran on him looked exactly like they should have, except he seemed to be surrounded by some sort of aura. "What th' heck is that, anyway?"
Dr. Cain read the readings carefully before answering, "A temporal field of some kind, I guess."
Dr. Cain grinned. "Do you want layman's terms or scientific terms?"
"Uh, better explain it to me like I was an idiot, okay? That's th' only way I can understand any of that sort of crap."
"Okay, here goes. When you dove through that portal, part of you went forward in time and part of you stayed behind."
"Wait a minute! Are you saying that I'm not all here?!"
Dr. Cain laughed. "No. You are all here, but you left a shadow of yourself in the past. My guess is that Bass, Wily, Mega Man, and everyone else that went through that portal did, too. That's why history didn't change."
Protoman frowned. "Is there anything that could 'erase' these shadows?"
"Not much. If you go back to your time period, your shadow will disappear, but history wouldn't change because you'd be there. But if you were destroyed or if that source of the Time Portals left without you, then it would vanish and change the entire course of history."
"That doesn't sound too good," Protoman muttered.
"No, it doesn't. That means that we've got go find Bass and Wily before they leave for the past!"
Zero was in the living quarters of himself and X, taking full advantage of the lounge chair in front of the television set. He was wearing a dull red tee shirt and a pair of faded blue jeans and was taking a nap, since Iris and Colonel were on patrol and X was off on one of his "disappearances." The door buzzer to the apartment suddenly sounded, waking Zero with such a start that he fell out of bed. Sputtering and cussing, Zero tried to spit out the strands of his own blonde hair that he almost swallowed. "Man, I knew I should'a put my hair in a ponytail or something!"
Then a voice came over the intercom system. "Oh, sorry, Zero. Didn't wake ya did I?"
Zero grinned. He knew that voice. "Ah, don't worry about it, Chip. C'mon in."
At that, the automatic front door to the apartment opened and in rushed an energetic young man in a hover chair. Matt "Microchip" Baker--"Chip For short--was the Hunters' resident computer hacker, hence the nickname. He was once one of the best Hunters when it came to finding a Maverick's weakness and exploiting it. But a battle with Neon Tiger paralyzed him from the waist down. His disability didn't seem to bother him in the least and he was good friends with everyone on the force.
Zero stood before his friend and asked, "So, Chip, what brings you to this neck o' the woods?"
Matt bit his lip, somewhat nervously. "D'ya know where Doc Cain is, perchance?"
"We've got company!"
X was awakened by a strange yet familiar beeping sound. He opened one eye partway and took a look at his helmet. It was beeping loudly, indicating that someone was trying to reach him on his communicator. The strange thing was, Rock's helmet was beeping as well. X tapped Rock lightly on the shoulder to wake him up and got a blue gloved fist planted right in his face.
"Ow! Why'd ya have ta go an' do that!?"
Rock was instantly awake at the loud voice and when he saw X rubbing his sore nose, he almost visibly shrank. "Oh, sorry about that. Reflex action."
The two robots stared blankly at their blaring helmets for half a second before grabbing them and quickly activating their communicators.
"Hello," both said simultaneously.
"X?" It was Dr. Cain.
"Mega Man, too!" Rock exclaimed with a grin.
"Strange. It seems that both of your helmet coms are tuned in to the same frequency. We'll have to do more research on that later."
Zero's voice came to Rock's and X's ears. "Rock, X we need you over here just about as soon as you can hover bike over here..."
"Yeah, Rocky!" Protoman. "We've got somewhat of an emergency here...hey quit that! Leggo my scarf!"
Then came Iris's voice, "Zero, put him down this instant!" Then there was a punt and a yelp followed by the sound of an automatic door closing. X and Mega Man grinned. They both knew what happened Protoman interrupted Zero, who always hated to have his thunder stolen by anyone. So, Zero picked Proto by the loose ends of his scarf and drop kicked him out the door.
Dr. Cain came on the com systems again. "Zero's right. We need you over here ASAP."
"Alright, Doc," X agreed. "We'll be right there. Over and out and all that crap. See ya."
Minutes later, X and Mega Man were riding their particular motorcycles in the direction of the Maverick Hunter Tower. As Mega Man zoomed past the many seemingly abandoned buildings on his Rush Cycle, he remembered something that he'd noticed earlier. "Hey, X?" he called to his "twin."
"Why is the city so deserted. I mean, it is New York isn't it? As in one of the biggest and most populated cities in the world?"
X's face was drawn into a sad frown. "Unfortunately, this war with the Mavericks has caused more human fatalities than us Hunters would like to admit. The city is only half as populated as it was even thirty years ago. And most humans are still hiding. Frankly, I'm not sure if this war will ever truly end until there are no more Reploids left to become Maverick."
X fell silent, and Mega Man cast him a worried glance. What he said made all too much
sense. In fact, Rock had similar worries himself. Maybe the Human Race doomed itself by
creating robots. Such thoughts would have to wait for now. They had arrived.
X and Mega Man stormed into the lobby with Rush hot on their heels. X stopped at the receptionist's desk, where a young blonde woman was boredly playing video games on the computer. "Hey, Kass." X called out.
"Hey, X," Kassie Taylor returned.
X leaned over the desk. "Kass, you wouldn't happen ta know where ol' Doc Cain is, would'ya?"
Kassie leaned back on her chair and grinned. "Sure do. Try Conference Room 19."
X and Mega Man ran full speed toward the elevator. "Thanks, Kass, you're the best!" X called out before the elevator doors closed behind him.
Kassie smiled sweetly. "I know."
Conference Room 19. This was the place. Mega Man grinned. "Hey, X. Check this out." X looked over to the other end of the hallway and saw Protoman pouting on a small wooden chair. He turned to check out the other end of the hall and found Zero in a similar position.
X grinned. "Probably from the fight that resulted from Zero's little stunt earlier," he added with a chuckle before he and Mega Man strolled through the door.
Once in the room, Mega Man gasped. Sitting around the conference table were seven people--three of which he expected to find. These were Dr. Cain, Iris, and Colonel. The other four were, Dr. Light, Roll, Dr. Wily, and...
"Bass!" Rock muttered through clenched teeth.
"Hello!" Bass said cheerfully.
"What are you doing here?!" Mega Man screamed at the top of his voice.
"That's my brother--right to the point," came a voice right behind him, followed by a chuckle. Mega Man turned to find Protoman and Zero standing in the doorway.
"Hey, bro," Zero said, addressing Bass.
Bass stared for a second in shock. His little brother, fighting for the good guys? Impossible! And yet...Bass recovered from his shock and leaned back with his feet resting on the table. "Well, Rock," Bass said the name with slight sarcasm, "I just saved these two characters"--indicating Dr. Light and Roll--"from a super powerful robot named Sigma and I just thought I'd drop 'em off here."
Mega Man stopped short for a second. Then his eyes narrowed. "Do you really expect me to believe that!?"
Bass just waved Mega Man's comment off. "Believe what you like."
"He's right, Rock," Roll spoke up, earning wide-eyed stares from most of the people in the room. "He got Doc Light and me out before Sigma could do us in."
Dr. Light sighed and said, "I hate to admit it, Rock, but Roll's right. Bass did help us out back there."
Bass's ever-so-annoying grin got even wider. "Told'ya."
Dr. Cain spoke for the first time since Rock and X arrived. "Mega Man, I know your personal feelings regarding Bass, but he and Wily are probably our best chance against Sigma."
"Huh!?" X and Mega Man exclaimed at the same time.
Dr. Cain continued. "They know the way to the new Maverick base as well as the easiest way through."
Mega Man's eyes narrowed even more. "Well why should I believe that you'd help us?"
Wily slammed his fist onto the oak table. "Because Sigma betrayed me, that's why! And I'm going to prove that no one betrays Dr. Wily and lives to tell about it!"
Zero put a hand on Mega Man's shoulder. "Face it, Rock. Against Sigma we could use all the help we could get."
Mega Man stared hard at Bass for another second before his face softened. "All right. I guess I could put up with him for a little while..." Mega Man offered a hand to Bass, who stood and shook it vigorously.
"Well, Rock," Bass said, still grinning, "I guess we're partners this time." Before anyone realized what happened, a blue gloved fist planted itself right in Bass's face. "Owwww!" he whined as he crashed on the floor. "Whach'ya do that for?!"
Mega Man's face hardened again as he folded his arms. "Lets get one thing straight here. My friends call me Rock, you can call me Mega Man." Mega Man grinned sweetly. "Do we understand each other?"
"Perfectly," Bass muttered as he tried to stop his nose from bleeding.
"Good!" Mega Man finished as he stormed out the door.
"Rock wait!" Protoman cried out as he scrambled out the door after his brother.
"Hey Rock!" Protoman yelled when he caught sight of his brother stalking down the hall. Rock stopped. When Protoman caught up to him, he asked, "Rocky, what was that all about?"
Rock clenched his fist. "I can't help it Hadrian. I hate him. Worse that Wily even!"
"Why, Rock? Just because he stole those parts that you and Rush were supposed to get..."
Rock spun to face his brother. "It's not just that! He betrayed my trust! Do you know what that's like!? No, of course you don't." There were a few seconds of silence as Rock tried to get a hold of his emotions. When he finally calmed down, he asked, "Did you notice what Bass did when I hit him?"
Protoman grinned. "What, that he went 'el splatto' all over the floor? That was great!"
Mega Man grinned, then he grew serious as he answered, "No, he registered pain." Then he teleported away.
Protoman was left pondering the significance of this revelation for a second before it dawned on him. Before, Bass had been nothing more than a robot. An advanced robot, to be sure--with some of the most convincing personality routines ever programmed into a robot--but he was a robot nonetheless. And robots don't feel pain. Only Bioroids feel pain.