The last major Maverick outbreak had wiped out several utilities throughout the city. Millions of people are without water and electricity. Reploids and mechaniloids are without refined fuel because it can no longer be transported. The Maverick Hunters are spreading themselves paper thin as they struggle to meet every disaster.
The human government looks on in silence. Only a handful of federal organizations are mobilized to bring water and power to the damaged city, and it’s suspected that they’re acting of their own volition. The human-reploid solidarity as they work together, however, is nothing so insidious. Despite the Mavericks, despite the crushing silence, operations are going smoothly.
This is the report X makes in his head, another entry in his digital diary. He walks among the bustle of crawling trucks, pallets, and humans. Occasionally, he stops to deliver jugs of water further down the line. Injuries are visible everywhere and fear creates shadowy faces. Even the children- brave, resilient- clutch at their mother’s hands.
Everyone is understanding of the danger at hand.
“Good morning, little one,” X says gently. A child, wrapped in a loose jacket, has wandered from one of the winding lines. “You look lost. Are you alright?”
The child is a little girl- no more than eight, X estimates, and is not so much lost as she is adventuring. She beams at X and attaches to a blue gauntlet. “I want to see all the reploids! Mama says I can if I ask nicely, too, so can I? Can I?”
“Where is your Mama? Can you point her out to me?” X deflects. While he had no qualms against the child’s wish, he did not want to cause a panic.
The child turns, pointing at a huddling family in one of the nearby lines. One of the adults– tall, sleek black hair, green jacket- turns and waves. X takes the child’s hand and approaches them.
“Is this your daughter?”
“Oh, yes! Don’t worry- we had our eyes on her… I figured with all these people and reploids around, there wouldn’t be harm in letting her wander,” the green-jacketed woman says earnestly. She’s gripping the hand of another woman, all curls and clothes that haven’t been changed in days.
X nods. “I’m glad… I was worried she might have been separated. She asked to see, ah, the reploids. Do you…?” He leaves the question hanging.
The curly-haired woman smiles. “Yes, she has… a fascination with you reploids. She wants to be a mechanic some day, isn’t that right?”
The family descends into a chattering storm in which X finds himself absorbed. It’s another ten minutes before he confirms that oh, the child is going with him, and he has the mothers’ numbers for emergency. He promises to return their daughter- little Marie- in due time. She wants to see the reploids, after all.
The other hunters are disapproving X’s stunt but say nothing– he’s X, and who would say no to the man on the moon? No one but Zero, that’s who. He smiles as they grudgingly walk the child through the whole process- they even let her fill some jugs. It isn’t very long until they relax into the role.
They’ll soon understand.
X goes to check on the other trucks. The ground rumbles slightly as another division arrives- mobile generators, armored, from what X can see. He ducks through a meandering human line to intercept them.
“Good morning! Is everything alright?”
“Everything’s fine. A bit of engine troubles, but nothing we can’t fix, sir,” a reploid says. He’s an industrial type but Hunter-commissioned. X’s core twinges. “How’s the water, sir?”
“Not as fast as we’d hoped but at least it’s calm. You said engine troubles…?” X pressed, head quirking to the side.
“Yeah… They don’t like all the added weight,” the electrician says. He raps on the side of his vehicle- and X realizes what he means. The vehicles are modified, loaded up with armor and extra defenses. Probably past their weight capacity. “No biggie. We’re at our destination now, so it should all be smooth sailing from here.”
“I’m sorry we couldn’t fix something more adequate… I’m happy you got here safely, though!” X says earnestly. With that, he waves good-bye.
X feels confident that this makes at least one sector partially secured. On the other side, units would be working to restore the water facilities. But there were still so many more homes, people, and sectors to repair. Not to mention the energy shortage…
He was still trying to get the Maverick Hunters to announce a conservation policy for the city, but no one was keen on listening to him. If you’re not a front line fighter, you’re worthless, in the eyes of the Maverick Hunter law. A terrible policy, considering that the powers that be continually begged him to return. Bastards.
He looks around hastily to distract himself. There’s something different than when he passed through before– the lines were more nebulous, disrupted by mostly human youths as they traveled back and forth. It took him a moment to realize what was happening.
The humans and reploids were working together. He smiles to himself- this hasn’t happened for months, not since the last war ended, and tensions were higher than ever. He wonders if the small child from earlier has anything to do with it, but his wondering is cut short by a call from HQ. X answers with an unbidden sigh.
“X, I have something you might be interested in.”
“Such as? I hope it’s not Mavericks…”
“…Well, we don’t know. It’s just bogeys- unidentified signatures are approaching from your 22nd street. We can dispatch a hunter now to–”
“Okay. I’ll go check it out- don’t alert anyone else, understand? Thank you, ma'am,” X says, cutting her off. Bogeys were usually citizens in the wrong place looking for the right thing.
X’s summation is correct. The bogeys were a gaggle of civilian reploids, three on foot, one held in the arms of another. Their armor was scuffed, marred by bandages and amateur welds. He makes a series of cursory predictions– days old battle wounds, worsened by the crisis, and the lifeless one was in worse danger. He drops down from his hiding spot to approach them.
He ignores the pistol the lead reploid lifts in defense.
“You look like you’re in need of some help,” X says gently. He lifts his hands to show that he’s not dangerous. “Were you heading to the square?”
They tighten together, but a ‘loid in pale green armor nods. “We need… help for our friend here. His name’s Tetron. We heard that they were trying to fix the power.”
X nods, listening to their plight, silently communicating with HQ all the while. He asks if any nearby hospitals are up, winces when they report that they’re only accepting humans. Of course they are. How many of his kind are going to die of their wounds? He abruptly calls one of the generator groups for aid.
Can you hook up a few stragglers to your machines?
Sure… For a little while, until we hook these babies up to the plant. Why?
A few survivors need a power up. I’ll bring them to you.
Okay, X. We’ll be ready.