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‘Reploids patrolling Reploids’; that was the ideology behind the Maverick Hunters. People had come to the agreement that Reploids were sure to feel more at-ease with their own kind policing them rather than humans. At least, that’s what Sigma was told when first activated and told to lead the organization. The dynamics between humans and Reploids had already become tense enough without Reploids feeling like humans could call to have them deactivated at any moment (even if that was the case).

In the beginning, Sigma felt like the distinction in law enforcement didn’t do much to ease the minds of civilian Reploids. The promise of capital punishment for malfunction or madness only brought further tension to the table when the Maverick Hunters were created. But eventually, a kind of balance was found, and both humans and Reploids were forced to accept the new laws, despite any lingering misgivings. 

Even so, while the Maverick Hunters were supposed to be free in policing their own kind, humans were still at the core of their organization, albeit quietly (though Sigma had a feeling it was an open secret to those working at the base). It was, apparently, important for humans to know how well their tax dollars were being put to use, and reporting the Hunter’s research and successes (as well as failures) was a job that fell to Sigma.

He was in such a meeting now, standing before two holographic screens displaying the faces of Dr. Cain and the mayor of Abel City.

The meeting was going about as well as it usually did, which was to say it wasn’t.

“Despite the creation of the Maverick Hunters, incidents involving Mavericks and resulting accident rates haven’t gone down.” It was a discussion point covered time and time again in these monthly meetings, one which Sigma knew was tiresome for both parties.

Sigma folded his hands behind his back, responding patiently. “They also haven’t increased, Mayor. We are still trying to determine the cause of these program irregularities, but until we find out, my Hunters can do little more than act as a response team to de-commission Reploids wreaking havoc.”

“Likewise, the Maverick Hunter’s research department is doing everything they can, but there are too many factors we still have to rule out,” Dr. Cain said with a sad sigh, rubbing his temples. “But I assure you, progress is being made.”

“More must be done to pacify both our peoples,” the mayor said, tapping her pen. “Through whatever miracle, there has yet to be a reported death caused by a Maverick, but I doubt our luck will hold out. What if Reploids helping the elderly were to go Maverick? Those working in hospitals? Or with children? The consequences could be catastrophic. Our society has advanced far thanks to Reploids, and it’d be a shame to have to discontinue our production of them, not to mention how messy it would be to try and deal with those currently activated.”

“Surely there isn’t talk of that,” Dr. Cain gaped in horror, looking up at the screen, “is there?”

“Certainly not. As I’ve said before, we have much to thank Reploids for,” the mayor said, waving away his concern with a hand. “That being said, when the costs start outweighing the benefits, people may forget the gratitude they once had.” She leaned forwards, expression grim. “We would like to prevent that and keep things peaceful for as long as possible. Sigma, Dr. Cain, I urge you to try and increase your efforts.”

“We will do our best, Mayor.”

“I certainly hope some headway is made, I’m sure you both find this as frustrating as I do. I have another meeting to attend, but please remember that my office and I will assist you in any way we can. I expect another full report this time next month.”

Her screen went black.

On the other screen, Dr. Cain visibly sagged in his chair. “Frustrating indeed…”

“The concerns are understandable. We have regular patrols around high-population areas where Maverick attacks could prove fatal. Perhaps people would be more at-ease if we increased our watches.”

“I wonder if that would make people feel safer or if it would just make paranoia rise…” He sighed deeply. “I appreciate your efforts, Sigma, but I think it’s time to start thinking beyond military tactics.”

Sigma frowned. “I’m not sure I understand what you mean Doctor.”

Dr. Cain considered him for a moment before shaking his head and murmuring, “No, I suppose you wouldn’t.”

A beep sounded, and Sigma’s communicator alerted him of an incoming message. He accepted it, and the crisp voice of a navigator echoed on the other end.

“Pardon the interruption; Commander Sigma, you’re needed in the Navigation Room right away.”

“Understood.” He ended the transition, turning back to Dr. Cain.

“Trouble?”

“It would seem so. If you’ll excuse me—” Sigma made to exit, but Dr. Cain called to him.

“If I may make a final suggestion; personally, I find that when things become stagnant, adding new blood to the mix helps.”

“Thank you, Doctor. I’ll keep that in mind.”

He switched off the communication channel.

 


 

Sigma was met with a distressed sight as he entered the main navigation intelligence room.

“What seems to be the problem?” Swift salutes greeted Sigma before the navigators swiveled back around in their seats, checking in with their Hunter teams, writing mission reports, and detailing Maverick encounters and statistics.

The reason for him being called into the room made itself apparent immediately. A small group of Reploids were congregated in a group the end of the circular room, all muttering and encircling a navigator who was replaying part of what sounded like a recently received transmission.

“—outnumbered, Hunters are scattered and we need backup from HQ immediately—”

“How did you reach this line? This is a direct communication line, how did you connect to it?”

“Please, I have injured Hunters here and the enemy is—BZZ—”

“Hello? Hello, can you hear me?”

The first voice didn’t respond, and the recording ended shortly after the navigator’s final question.

“What seems to be the trouble?” The Reploids surrounding the navigator started, startled to suddenly find Sigma behind them. They gave embarrassed salutes before sheepishly returning to their various stations around the room.

The navigator seated at the station briefly glanced up, offering him an automatic salute before turning back to her monitor and pulling up several windows of data. “I just received a request for backup from Vile’s team, but the Reploid who sent the message isn’t on the list of Hunters dispatched on the mission.”

Storm Eagle, who had been relaying information to another Reploid nearby, paused and turned to listen, his interest caught. “I can hardly see Vile calling for help, nor do I see him letting anyone in his squadron do so. Maybe another Hunter wandered by and saw something?”

“I considered that, but I cross-checked the Reploid’s serial number with all other active Hunters stationed nearby and it doesn’t match any in our records,” the navigator said, her fingers moving rapidly across her keyboard. “Although, that could be due to the transmission error we had upon receiving the message, the signal cut out halfway through.”

Sigma glanced over the mission info the navigator pulled up for him. "Strange…and you haven’t been able to make contact with Vile or his team since this message was received?”

“Negative, sir.”

“In that case—” he said, straightening up—“perhaps it would be best for us to take a look.”

“There’s a chance this could be a prank or a trap, Commander,” the navigator said as she turned to face him once more. “There are other Hunters we could send.”

“True. But given how unusual this situation is, I think it’s best confirm whether this is something of concern or not, especially since communication is down.”

“Not that Vile is ever one to check in with HQ,” a neighboring navigator muttered.

Sigma let the remark slide without comment and continued, “If it’s a trap, all the more reason for me to deal with any situation that may arise myself rather than another Hunter. Besides, I’m interested in seeing how the mission is being handled.”

Storm Eagle stepped forwards. “My next assignment isn’t until tomorrow. I can offer some air-support and act as surveillance if needs be.”

Sigma nodded his approval and looked at the navigator expectantly. He could tell she still had some reservations, but as she was hardly in the position to argue with her superior, she tapped a few commands into her computer and transferred the coordinates to himself and Storm Eagle. “I’ve prepped a warp line for the both of you. It should get you within a half a mile radius from the distress signal, Commander.”

“Very good. Have medical bay ready in case there are any injuries.”

“Yes sir!”

 


 

“From the records, it looks like Vile’s regular team is on the mission,” Storm Eagle noted, going over the additional mission information the navigator sent to them as they walked to the warp room.

“Reports came in that materials were being stolen from an old recycling facility several miles from the outskirts of a city. The thieves are likely Mavericks trying to replenish supplies or locate spare parts for upgrades.”

“Communication issues aside, it seems like a standard assignment. Most likely, things will be taken care of by the time we get there.”

“Perhaps. But Vile has an unfortunate habit of being too enthusiastic in his battles. The recycling facility has both Reploid and human workers stationed there, so it would be best to keep him from causing any additional or unnecessary damage to surroundings or allies. We Maverick Hunters have a reputation to uphold, after all.” Anti-Reploid sentiment could easily bubble up among humans if they weren’t careful, and it was Sigma’s responsibility to keep his Hunters in check. (As an aside, he also wanted to avoid having any bills sent to them with angry letters about “property damage”. It baffled him how humans could lament the loss of their possessions when their very lives could have easily been lost instead, but such was their nature).

“Given his inclination for battle and bloodshed, I’d say Vile walks a fine line between Hunter and Maverick,” Storm Eagle noted with distaste as they entered the transmission room and stepped onto the warp platform. “His actions often make me wonder how far-gone a Reploid can be before they’re considered Maverick.”

 “I’m well-aware of your opinion of Vile,” Sigma said, a brief amused smile quirking the corner of his mouth. “Though his methods may not fit standard procedure, he never fails to get the job done.”

“I suppose,” Storm Eagle agreed half-heartedly. “What matters is that Mavericks are stopped and people are safe, though his personality is hardly befitting someone in his position.”

“Make no mistake, we benefit just as much from having noble Hunters like you among our ranks, Storm Eagle.” Sigma motioned for the standby Reploids to activate their warp before folding his hands behind his back, waiting. “I’m sure if every Hunter shared your admirable traits, humans would be set more at-ease. Though, if we could control the personalities and values of a Reploid, organizations like ours wouldn’t be needed in the first place.”

A low hum sounded as the machine beneath their feet released an energy surge. Being a veteran Hunter, Sigma was used to the momentary unsettling feeling of having his atoms scrambled into a beam of light only to be put back together seconds later. Even so, the conversion upon arrival would give them a momentary disadvantage if they warped right into a battle.

Sigma was on-guard and alert as they re-materialized at their destination point; a deserted parking lot nearby the recycling plant where Vile and his team were stationed. No shots were immediately fired at their heads, which he took as a good sign. He surveyed the empty lot, noting the lack of allies or enemies.

“It seems like the battle has not yet moved to this location,” Storm Eagle said as he too scanned the area, frowning. Neither Hunter disputed that there would be a battle; Vile was not known for resolving conflicts peacefully.

Sigma raised a hand and activated the communicator on the side of his head. “Vile, report.”

Silence.

He repeated himself, scanning for radio waves or other communication signals. When this too was met with silence, he let his hand slowly fall to rest back at his side. Despite how difficult Vile could be, he never failed to answer a direct call from his commander (even if some were answered only grudgingly). Something was definitely amiss.

“Storm Eagle, survey the area. Even if there’s some sort of electrical wave blocking communication, our short range channel should still work. Give me an update if you see anything.”

The latter Hunter nodded, spreading his wings and taking to the air with one strong sweep that sent the fallen leaves around them spinning in miniature twisters.

Sigma made his way towards the recycling plant, entering the forested area around it and unlatching his beam saber hilt from his belt as he did so, cautious and on the watch for enemies. He left his communication channel open in case there were any signals sent by Vile’s team, but it wasn’t until five minutes later that a sound cut through the stillness.

“Ca—bzzz—one—bzzz—”

Sigma paused, raising a hand to his communicator as he tried to identify the direction the signal was coming from. “Is this Vile’s team? Report.”

“We need—bzzz—to Headquarters—bzzz—Anyone in—bzzz—please respond!”

“This is Commander Sigma. Report, Hunter.”

“Sir!” The voice on the other end of the channel replied immediately, sighing with relief. “Our team was ambushed by Mavericks. The—bzzz—more than we expected, I think they knew we were coming.” Sigma located the communication origin point and resumed his quick pace in that direction. The Hunter’s message became clearer as he hurried forwards, less static distorting her voice. “We had to fall back because of the severity of damage we were sustaining. We managed to evacuate the workers, but some of our allies are still on the front lines, including leader Vile.”

“Can you give me his approximate location?” She complied, and Sigma adjusted his path, quickly relaying the information to Storm Eagle on a separate channel.

“One of the Mavericks knocked out our long-range communication, we haven’t been able to contact Headquarters, it’s like they set up a mile-wide long-range communication deadzone.”

“I’ll have Storm Eagle send them a message once he locates Vile. In the meantime, make sure the workers are safe and cared for.”

“Yes sir!”

Sigma redoubled his pace, grip tight around his saber’s handle. Such Maverick attacks were uncommon, but given the information the Hunter had just given him, the situation was more serious than he initially suspected. He could only hope that Vile and whatever other members of his team still on the front-lines could hold off the Mavericks until he arrived to help.

 


 

The scene was chaos.

Sigma was no stranger to battle and death, but even he had to pause a moment to take in the horrific destruction before him. Carnage from both sides littered the ground, fire scorching the recycling warehouse and nearby trees around them. Shots were still being fired through the haze, momentarily illuminating the battleground, shouts and yells echoing from further away. Coolant oil from broken Reploids shone like pools of blood in the light cast from explosions and burning debris, discarded weapons soaking in them.

Something else caught Sigma’s eye, a flash of blue in the otherwise scorched and smoke-clogged battlefield. A Reploid was crouched behind a broken stone wall, charging his buster and returning fire at several Mavericks who were sure to overwhelm the lone soldier as soon as they reached his position.

Sigma recognized him at once, as would any first or second generation Reploid built before the technology that made them became commonplace in society. After all, X was the frame from which the rest of their kind had been created.

But the sight of such an important Reploid wasn’t what surprised him—the question on Sigma’s mind was why X, a Reploid who only worked as a part-time Hunter (primarily in the research department of HQ), was on the battlefield at all. 

Casting his thoughts aside, Sigma joined the battle, activating his beam saber and cutting off the advancing Mavericks. He reasoned they were likely construction Reploids, since all four were big, nearly as large as he was. Two of the four halted, cautious of the new adversary. The other two charged forward to attack, only to be quickly incapacitated. His strokes were quick, deep, and decisive. Sigma knew how construction Reploids were built; strong bases and sturdy arms for heavy lifting, but they had slow reaction time and weak neck-components. He had their inner-structures memorized, as he did for all Reploids, for anyone could fall victim to program irregularity. He knew what joints he needed to sever, what integral inner-circuitry he needed to damage, to ensure an opponent would never get back up.

The other two Mavericks retreated a safe distance awat, likely to regroup with whatever allies they had left. Sigma considered following, but given that Storm Eagle was keeping an eye on their location, it wouldn’t be long before he rounded them all up. He turned back to the crumbling building behind which X had taken shelter. As he approached, he saw X was supporting a Hunter with a gash in his head and abdomen, and he was standing over another seemingly unconscious Hunter as though to shield them. He also noticed how X was leaning against the crumbling wall, like he was having difficulty standing. The side of his leg was badly burned, and a deep cut across his chest showered sparks every time he moved.

“Commander Sigma—!” X’s surprise showed only for a moment. “Please, can you take these two to safety? I can’t carry them both and get them to a safe place fast enough. The enemy is approaching too quickly, I don’t think I’ll be able to shield them and fight at the same time.”

“I’ll have Storm Eagle take them to their allies who fell back.” Sigma sent their location to Storm Eagle, who arrived less than a minute later, a gust of wind swirling around them as he landed. His eyes widened momentarily in surprise as he spotted X, but he wasted no time asking questions. He lifted the Hunter on the ground up in one arm and took over supporting the one X was carrying with his other arm.

“I can only carry two at a time,” Storm Eagle said to X, adjusting the two Hunters. “I’ll come back and get you when I drop them off and send a message to Headquarters.”

“I’ll be fine, do what you need to do,” X replied, eyebrows knit together in concern. “Just please be careful with them, they’ve both sustained serious damage to the head.”

Storm Eagle nodded, then turned back to Sigma. “Vile’s a hundred meters or so in that direction,” he motioned with his head to the east. “He’s in his ride armor so he’s doing a fair job holding them off, but he and his Hunters are slowly getting pushed back towards this location. I’m not sure if they’ll hold their position for much longer.” 

As though on cue, the distant shouts now sounded like they were coming closer, and sudden bursts of light briefly illuminated the smoky haze around them. Sigma stepped back as a laser narrowly missed his side, but another shot hit a crumbling structure above X and Storm Eagle, which came toppling down. Storm Eagle made to jump out of the way, but he was hindered by the Hunters he supported. In an instant, X’s arm transformed into a buster cannon and he fired three quick shots at the falling debris, bracing himself against a wall. The bricks and cement disintegrated into an explosion of dust and smaller rubble that bounced harmlessly off X’s armor and the wing Storm Eagle had raised to shield the Hunters he was carrying.

“Storm Eagle, take those two to safety and call the base for backup, then get back here,” Sigma shouted as he raised his blade. Storm Eagle was in the air in seconds, and Sigma turned to X. More sparks spurted from the gash in the smaller Reploid’s chest because of his previous action, and Sigma frowned. “Do you have enough energy left to defend yourself?”

X looked like he’d fall over if he stopped leaning against the wall, but he nodded.

“Keep your head down.”

With that, saber drawn and at the ready, Sigma entered the fray.

 


 

The fight was over by the time backup from Headquarters finally arrived.  

Fifteen Mavericks in total had been retired by Sigma and the remainder of Vile’s team, not including those defeated before Sigma arrived to help. The majority of them were massive construction Reploids, like the original two he faced upon arrival, though two giant mechanaloids among the enemies’ ranks gave them some trouble towards the end of the battle.

Sigma’s circuits were still thrumming with energy as he was approached by Boomer Kuwanger, one of the backup Reploids sent by Maverick Hunters HQ. The Hunter lazily glanced around the area with a bored expression before saying, “Looks like we missed quite the fight,” in a tone that almost sounded disappointed. “I suppose my team and I will just have to act as the clean-up crew for today, what a shame. And here I thought I might finally have the chance to see you in action, Commander. It seems like the enemy’s abilities were overestimated, no?”

“It’s always better to err on the side of caution. From the sound of things, Vile’s team was split up and caught off-guard by a surprise attack. It’s understandable, this is the largest congregation of Mavericks we’ve seen before,” Sigma said with a frown, observing the broken Maverick bodies around him. “I’ll have to have our research department of look into this. Regardless, the situation likely would have ended poorly if we hadn’t received that distress call.”

“I don’t doubt it. But I’m curious; wasn’t the one who sent the message X? I thought he only worked in the research labs with Dr. Cain.”

Sigma’s reply was interrupted by an incoming message from Storm Eagle.

“Commander, we have a situation. Please return to X’s location.”

“Acknowledged.” To Boomerang Kuwanger, he said, “Keep me updated on the clean-up and recovery,” before turning and striding quickly back to the site Storm Eagle specified. He thought it unlikely that Storm Eagle encountered another Maverick, but there was a high probability that X had come to more harm during the course of the battle. Even if the Maverick Hunters had saved the recycling plant’s workers and (miraculously) suffered no fatalities of their own, the loss of the First Reploid in a battle against Mavericks would certainly result in undesirable questions and news coverage. Sigma grimaced at the thought, wondering what sort of consequences and reprimands his next meeting with the Mayor would entail if that were to happen.

A string of expletives derailed Sigma’s train of thought, and he was greeted with the sight of an unusual trio. Vile, Storm Eagle, and X were all congregated around the side of the old recycling facility, next to which Sigma had found X taking refuge nearly half an hour earlier.

“You little runt!” Vile shouted as he jumped out of his ride armor, looking like he was ready to go another round despite injuries to his arm and shoulder.

“That’s enough Vile!” Storm Eagle stood next to X, who looked like he had recently sunk to the ground, unable to stand.

Vile ignored him, continuing to shout at X. “My squadron didn’t need the help of some outdated tin-can like you! Who do you think you are, running in trying to play the hero?”

“No, I just—” X balked, taken aback by Vile’s hostility. “People were hurt and there was no one to help them—”

He laughed; a cold, sharp sound. “Ha! So you thought you’d rescue them? From the looks of it, you’re the one who ended up needing rescuing.”

“He kept two members of your unit from being killed and probably saved even more people by getting a message through to Headquarters. You should be grateful,” Storm Eagle said, his tone disapproving.

“Who cares? If a Hunter can’t carry their weight, they’re not worth keeping around.” He looked down at X, red eye glowing behind his helmet’s black visor. “To me, they’re as worthless as this bleeding-heart wimp! You better learn to keep your nose out of other people’s business, X, or you just might end up losing it, along with a few limbs.”

VILE.” Sigma’s tone was sharp and warning. Vile wasn’t startled by Sigma’s appearance, but the reprimand succeeded in making him back off.

“Whatever. Stay off my missions, X.” Vile stomped off and departed in his ride armor, Storm Eagle and Sigma watching.

“He should know better than to threaten his own allies, particularly in the presence of his Commander,” Storm Eagle noted with distaste. “He certainly lives up to his name.”

“I’m sure he’s just frustrated…” X said with uncertainty.

“Vile isn’t someone who’s easily pleased,” Sigma said simply, examining X. The smaller Reploid didn’t look like he’d sustained any additional damage, but given his posture his energy levels were likely severely depleted. Turning to Storm Eagle he said, “Inform the medical team that we have another injured Reploid and have them prep transportation warp for us and any other remaining Hunters not assisting in the clean-up. I’ll take him over there, I need to give Headquarters a report.”

Storm Eagle nodded, then took to the air.

Sigma looked down at X uncertainly for a moment. "Can you walk?"

"Yes." X tried standing up and winced visibly as he did so, a barely audible breath of pain slipping through his gritted teeth.

Sigma raised an eyebrow. "You do realize that lying to your commanding officer is a punishable offense, correct?"

"I’m not—”

Sigma gave X a sharp look that immediately shut him up.

X didn’t meet his eyes. “Yes, sir.”

“Would you care to rephrase your answer?”

X hesitated. “I don’t think I can walk, Commander.”

Sigma briefly considered their options before he sighed and carefully, albeit a bit awkwardly, scooped X up in one arm as easily as he might a child (size-wise, X may as well have been one if not for his hundred years of meditation). X’s chest gave off a few more feeble sparks at the motion, and Sigma made sure not to jostle him too much as he began walking to the location where the rest of Vile’s team had fallen back to. “So tell me X, how did you become involved with all this?”

“Oh…I was getting some supplies for Dr. Cain about a mile away from the recycling facility when I picked up part of a message being transferred through the Hunter communication channel. When I opened it, I heard the distress signal from Vile’s team. I wasn’t sure what was going on, but it sounded like they were having problems, so I ran over there.” The back-light in X’s eyes was slowly dimming, his eyelids lowering. “When I saw how horrible it was, I tried to contact HQ, but one of the Mavericks discharged some sort of electrical pulse that jammed my communication too.”

“I’m not sure I understand,” Sigma said, frowning. “Why did you go instead of letting the Hunter base take care of it? You’re only ranked as a B-class Hunter, and you don’t even work in the field, you work in the research department. You’ve never had any real battle experience, yet you stayed. Why?”

X’s eyes were closed, but he still responded, the words spoken slow and softly. “People were hurt. I wanted to help them.”

Sigma didn’t understand. Even if that was the case, as soon as X was injured, his sense self-preservation should have come before any obligation to remain on the battlefield. But did stay, managing to protect two wounded Hunters and hold his own until help arrived, despite being badly injured himself. Sigma just couldn’t understand it, but when he prompted X further, he realized the Reploid had shut down, energy completely depleted.

 


 

The journey back to base was uneventful. Sigma handed X off to some of the waiting medical Reploids, who rushed him and Vile’s other injured Hunters to medical bay. Overall, the mission was deemed a success; they had protected the workers, lost no Hunters, and the enemy was soundly defeated. In the week that passed since the battle, Sigma had multiple meetings with the Mayor, Dr. Cain, owners of the recycling plant, and human authorities.

He had just finished another meeting with the Mayor, who informed him that her office had chosen to keep the event quiet in spite of the positive outcome, a decision which didn’t surprise Sigma at all. It was the largest Maverick outbreak they’d seen thus far, and even if there were no civilian or Hunter casualties, he had no doubt the attack would worry people. Still, the fact that there hadn’t been casualties was impressive in of itself. The Mayor praised him and his Hunters for their work, which was a nice change, and gave Dr. Cain the greenlight to do further experiments on the bodies of the Mavericks to determine what caused them to go berserk.

It had been a busy week, and as Sigma stepped into the elevators to return to the navigation floor, he almost considered taking an hour break to recharge his systems. His thoughts were interrupted by someone calling, “Ah! Can you hold the door please?” Sigma complied, and X ducked into the elevator, halting sharply when he realized who was in it. “Oh, Commander!”

“Glad to see you’re doing well, X.” Indeed, X looked significantly better than he had a week prior. Dr. Cain told Sigma he had to patch X up personally, as most of the Reploids in the medical ward were uncertain about how X’s internal structures worked and feared they might do more harm than good. But despite having to do the majority of the repair work by himself, there were no residual signs of injury on X; even his armor looked practically new. “Headed to the research labs?” Sigma asked, noticing the paperwork X carried.

“Yes, I was just getting some data for Dr. Cain.” The lift started moving as X pressed the button to his floor. “I’m glad I ran into you; I wanted to thank you for your help the other day, sir.”

“Of course, though I’d wager your actions were more immediately helpful.”

“I just wish I could have done more.”

The elevator descended slowly, quietly humming as it passed floor after floor. Sigma considered X, turning a thought over in his mind. “Back then,” Sigma said, breaking the silence, “you told me you stepped in to help not out of a sense of duty as a Hunter, nor because you thought you could defeat the enemy, but because you wanted to protect people. That’s the mark of a true Maverick Hunter.”

He didn’t say anything, as though sensing where the conversation was heading.

“X, I encourage you to become a full-time Hunter.”

X bowed his head, hugging his documents to his chest. “I don’t want to fight.”

Sigma rested a hand on the smaller Reploid’s shoulder. “None of us want to fight. Except perhaps Vile.” X gave him a reluctant smile at that. “But there comes a time when inaction puts as much blood on your hands as action would. It’s important to fight for the values you wish to uphold. Given the nature of your design and potential, not to mention your willingness to go out of your way to help others, I think you’re capable of doing more good than most Hunters.”

“I…”

The elevator pinged. It was Sigma’s floor.

He slowly retracted his hand and exited, turning to look back at X. “Consider what I said, X. As Hunters, it is our duty to become a sword and shield for those who cannot protect themselves.”

“I’ll…I’ll think about it.” As Sigma started to turn around, X called out again. “Commander?”

“Yes?”

X smiled. “Thank you.”

The elevator doors closed, and Sigma continued his route, thoughts still churning in his mind. New blood and something to help keep the peace...Dr. Cain had spoken to him about the unlimited potential X possessed, and how he was meant to be the bridge between humans and Reploids. Sigma was certain that having him in Hunters would bring about the change they needed, and he had no doubt X would officially join their ranks, it was only a matter of when. Now that the idea was in X’s mind, there was only one logical course of action for him to take if he truly wanted to help.

An alert sounded in his head, and a message came through. “Commander, we’ve just received a report that a deranged red Maverick destroyed Garma’s unit, we need your assistance at once!”

“Understood.” Sigma redirected his path, heading to the transport room.

For now, he would have to be the sword and shield fighting for their future.