one word I can use to describe Rockman's fight against
Dr. Wily: heroism! In one stroke, this android has managed
to save both the world and the life of Dr. Wily. How
he managed to fight Dr. Wily without
harming him is still unknown. All that is known is
that Rockman, through amazing skill, courage and self-sacrifice,
was able to defeat the menace without leaving a single
scratch on his body . . . "
--recording from a newscast given outside of
Neo Tokyo city hall on the evening after Dr. Wily's
defeat, he had activated the alarm signifying a breach
of the third ring. Once his deception had been realized
by the true Rockman, Docman found that the blue robot-hunter
was more berserker than warrior.
chamber blazed with Rockman's rage and plasma blasts.
Smoke bled from a dozen minor wounds in Docman's exoskeletal
armor. Try as he might, even with timing of milliseconds,
Docman never even found an opening in which to fire.
For the better part of a minute, Docman found himself
fighting for his very existence. With every passing
second, his energy reserves drained themselves a little
more in a vain attempt to supply his repair systems
with enough power to keep functioning.
contrast, Rockman seemed to gain more strength and fury
as time passed. Moving at nearly a quarter the speed
of sound, the raven-haired demon that had once been
Rockman unloaded blast after blast into Docman. When
Docman managed to finally score a shot directly on his
adversary's buster mechanism--apparently disabling it--Rockman
let out a scream of anger.
had known fear for most of his short existence. Dr.
Wily's manic outbursts had threatened the emulation-robot's
life more than once. The possibility of instant death
was--ironically--a fact of life to Docman. However,
Dr. Wily always used a laser pistol when he felt threatened
by the monsters in his head. A precisely aimed burst
of energy from a laser pistol could end Docman's life
blood-lust in Rockman's eyes told Docman that what he
now faced was agony without measure before any kind
of merciful death. The emulation robot's crude emotion
circuits began to overheat and fuse together as the
a single message was repeatedly relayed through them.
of his buster, Rockman leaped upon Docman and
began bashing at him with titanium-reinforced gauntlets.
Blows that could crack boulders repeatedly bashed into
Docman's cranial neuro-computer case. The top-heavy
robot staggered under the punishment. At this rate,
it would be an even bet as to whether his skeletal frame
collapsed first or his auto-repair systems overloaded
and caused deactivation.
raised his arms and slammed his fists into the side
of Rockman's head.
moment, he thought he'd won. Rockman seemed to go slack
for a fraction of a second, and his head slumped forward.
Frantic, Docman repeated the maneuver in a vain attempt
to crush his adversary's head between his own steel
low, cold sound made Docman shiver.
could only stare terrified into his enemy's face as
it slowly turned upwards. The robot hunter's eyes literally
blazed with an unholy light the color of bloody sapphires.
A titanium-armored gauntlet shot and grabbed Docman's
Snap. The grisly sound rose above Rockman's evil chuckling.
signals flooded Docman's central processor and a gamut
of warning alarms lit up his neural pathways. His hands
had been broken by a single clench of Rockman's rage-strengthened
fingers. He fell to his knees and gasped.
on my fear, will you?"
were the first words Rockman had spoken since entering
his terrifying rage. "Bastard! How dare you!" The android's physical attack redoubled. Docman
spat coolant out of his mouth and tried to force air
into his internal combustion chamber. The robot gagged
and fell further forward onto his maimed arms.
knew from the blazing, intense pain and then the sudden
lack of sensation below his waist that the robot hunter
had broken his steel spinal support and the bundle of
fibre-optic circuit-relays that were encased within
Rockman demanded, his voice hoarse from yelling. "Tell
me why, impostor! Why does Wily want me to suffer any
more? Isn't it enough that I'm as good as dead anyway?
Doesn't he know that I can't hurt him, even if
I wanted to?" He kicked again, sending the emulation
robot skittering halfway across the room.
tried to push himself up on his spindly arms, but overbalanced
and crashed onto his side. Brain nearly overloaded with
pain signals and power-deterioration alerts, he spat
oil and coolant from his mouth and gasped for fuel.
don't know," he rasped. The sound of his own voice terrified
him. At least one of his voice-synthesis modules had
been damaged by overload, and the speech area in his
neuro-computer was damaged enough that his words slurred
voice of a living corpse.
felt his adversary grab him by the throat and hoist
him. His own vision had begun to fail, and static swam
across his darkened sight. The frame-rate resolution
of his optical processor faltered, and reality became
a series of barely-connected images.
Docman croaked, pain overwhelming him. "Please destroy
me. I have failed my father. I no longer wish to live."
grip loosened, and Docman's torso fell to the floor
beside his legs.
whispered Rockman. "God, what am I becoming?" He seemed
to be talking to somebody else. "What are you making
me do?!" he screamed. The room reverberated with
his anguished wail.
several minutes, silence. Finally, Rockman spoke.
can I kill anything so pitiful?" Then, a terrible, awful
let his head rest against the floor. His over-heated
auto-repair systems still functioned: just enough to
feed pain signals to his central processor, but not
enough to make any real difference. He was doomed to
a long, painful demise because of his adversary's cruelty.
sound of Rockman's footsteps receding was the last thing
Docman heard. His aural interpretation circuits cut
out in a feeble attempt to feed more energy to his auto-repair
systems. After a moment, his motor-control circuits
cut out as well.
Docman opened a radio link to his master.
he begged. Father, please. I'm dying. Rockman has
breached the third ring, and I'm going to die. Help
was a long pause. Three minutes. Four. Ten. Twenty.
Then, You failed me. Now deal with the consequences yourself.
would have wept if he'd had the capacity. Instead, he
lay still, quietly waiting for death and an end to the
* * * *
collapsed to his knees and choked back a sob.
adversary's broken, twisted remains lay at his feet,
you naughty boy, the virus chortled. You fight
dirty, don't you?
up!" Rock felt the force of his scream blow another
transistor in his vocal output simulators. His voice
cracked. "God, shut up." He glared at his hands. His
left hand was a morass of crumpled titanium and leaking
oil. The false Rockman had managed to score a disabling
shot to the matter-synthesis module that allowed him
to change his buster back into his hand. Rock's subsequent
bare-handed attack on the emulation robot had battered
his left buster past uselessness.
put his good hand up to his head and felt the spiderweb-cracks
the robot had made when it brought its fists together
against his helmet. A dull ache laced through with a
lancing twinge of pain had settled over his head, though
it was slowly, if surely diminishing as his auto-repair
systems tried to compensate.
allowed himself a ragged breath.
signals from his maimed hand/buster threatened to overwhelm
him. Rock glared at the source of agony and debated
switching off all sensation to his left arm. It would
be a dangerous thing to do--if his hand were caught
in any machinery, he wouldn't be able to feel it until
it was too late. However, the pain that radiated from
his hand and crawled up to encompass the left side of
his torso could seriously impair his ability to continue.
quandary, indeed. I wonder, will shutting down your
pain circuits allow me to hasten my conquest?
did you do that?" Rock looked miserably at the shattered
emulation robot that had been his adversary. "Why did
you make me do that? Where was the purpose in that cruelty?"
no "thank you?" I saved your life--you were paralyzed
would have defeated him."
You would have waited like a deer in headlights for
why would that bother you?" Rock snapped. "Aren't
you supposed to kill me anyway?"
way will be far more amusing. The virus' internal
voice sent waves of fear and cold down Rock's torso. I was just experimenting back at the lab. When this
virus-hunter is dealt with, I'll show you what I've really learned.
too-clear memory of the virus' internal attack on his
pain sensors made Rock shiver. "You're a sick bastard."
I know, I learned from you, my friend. Was the virus
unoriginal lie." Rock hoped what he said was true. The
virus hadn't been controlling his every movement
during the battle . . . And he had been enraged
by the robot's attempts to play on his fears. What if
the virus had only fed his own savage emotions?
you see. My darkest ambitions are all copied from possibility
matrices that you foolishly discarded. The virus'
voice was triumphant. I told you before, Rock. I am you.
shook his head. It couldn't be true . . . could it?
stood and glared at his shadow, as if it would pull
itself from off of the ground and face him with ghostly
dark glasses and a black motorcycle jacket . . .
I don't have time for this! Rock ground his teeth.
He had to find Dr. Wily and prevent death. The Prime
Law and his own conscience pushed him further on his
quest to find the mad roboticist.
walked and knelt by the ruined, smoking remains of the
emulation robot. He had been ready to break its neck
and release a blast of white-hot plasma into its fusion
reactor. However, its last words had drained the anger
from him like a leech draining blood.
have failed my father. I no longer wish to live."
Dr. Wily programmed him to say that, to play on Rock's
emotions just as the false Rockman hologram had played
on his fear? That was what Rock's logic circuits told
him. However, the way that the robot has said it, with
coolant foaming out of the corners of its mouth and
choked with sadness . . . Rock closed his eyes.
Wily certainly had the genius to program such emotion
into his creations. And Dr. Wily obviously didn't program
the Three Rules into his creations, except a skewed
version of the Prime Law that forbade them to hurt Dr.
Wily or, through inaction allow him to come to harm..
What would the result be if a robot were programmed
with emotions and no Rules to shackle it?
human." The words were barely a whisper on Rock's lips.
Almost human, and he had just killed it. He cast his
gaze across the broken body, placed his good hand on
its forehead. "I'm sorry," he said. "I wish it could
have been different."
shaft of golden-ruby light spilled into the room.
glanced at the source; during the fight, the doorway
sealing off the exit had shaken loose, and now the setting
sun sent its dying illumination through the cracks.
Rock look ed sadly at the shaft of light, extending
down on both himself and his slain adversary.
as if to hold back tears that he could not physically
shed, Rock took a deep breath.
turned and made his way towards the other exit: a small
grate that presumably led further into the depths of
Dr. Wily's mechanized Hell.
* * * *
awoke with a start. Cold sweat thinly sheeted his body
under the old quilt he had appropriated as a makeshift
blanket. while sleeping on a couch in Dr. Light's house-turned-laboratory.
He quickly glanced at his watch. By his count, Rock
would have less than eight hours now during which to
defeat Dr. Wily and return home.
newscast on the holovid had revealed shortly after Rock
teleported away that the HSL had been obliterated by
Dr. Wily's warbots. Realizing that Rock wouldn't have
to take on the suicidal job of helping/avoiding human
beings who were bent on his death, Snap, Roll and Dr.
Light had dared to hope that maybe the robot hunter
stood a chance of victory.
quietly stood and scanned the room. Bess and Julie still
slept in one another's arms on the loveseat across from
Snap's couch. He smiled at his sleeping daughters and
quietly left the room.
holovid was still running in the living room. Snap shook
his head as a dozen reporters from as many nations speculated
as to the condition of Rockman and his adversary Dr.
Wily. Each channel displayed on the holovid was either
running footage taken from sentry 'bots visual data
banks of Rock's earlier exploits in Syndey and other
cities previously occupied by Robot Masters, or showing
a detail map of Chile and the approximate position of
Australian man narrowed his eyes and picked up the remote
to the holovid. Switching all other channels except
CNN off, he enlarged the display and turned on the sound.
The journalist who spoke to the camera stood in front
of a small army of warbots and human soldiers in towering
mechanized power armor.
. . . stationed here in Argentina," the lady was saying.
"Having obtained the location of Dr. Wily's hidden fortress
by analyzing signals sent by the HSL's spy satellites,
the United Nations are now sending a small, elite army
to destroy the castle, arrest Dr. William Wily, and
recover, if at all possible, the hero Rockman."
attention was now riveted on the holovid's ghostly three-dimensional
U.N. estimates an arrival time of approximately five
hours at Dr. Wily's fortress. This fort--" the lady
stopped and listened to something in her headset. After
a moment, she announced, "Ladies and gentlemen, I have
just been informed that we have been granted an interview
with the young lady who gave the U.N. access codes to
the HSL's spy satellites. Now transferring."
image wavered, and was replaced by a picture of a young
woman, not out of her twenties. She was bruised but
not bleeding, and looked as if she hadn't slept in days.
A man's voice spoke--presumably the interviewer. "We're
here live with miss Kelly McChord, the young woman who
was instrumental in accessing the HSL's spy satellites
and locating Dr. Wily's fortress. Now, Miss McChord,
please tell the viewers what you told me a few minutes
young lady--Kelly--spoke. Although her accent American,
Snap could hear the near-imperceptible speech patterns
that marked her as one who had also grown up in Australia.
"I had fallen asleep in a secret passage of Skull Castle--"
reporter interrupter. "That's Dr. Wily's fortress?"
He called it Skull Castle. Since I was a courier for
the HSL, I spoke with Dr. Wily a few times." She swallowed.
"I could hear the sounds of fighting outside. I was
told later that it was more of a slaughter than a battle."
The interviewer spoke with the air of one who already
knows the answer, but asks to humor the audience. "By
face seemed pinched. Snap felt the muscle under his
left eye twitch. "Rockman," she answered. She hung her
head for a moment before continuing.
three hours ago."
what did he say?"
thought. "He said something in a different language--Chinese,
maybe--and when I told him I didn't understand, he thought
I was an American." Snap grinned at that, while Kelly
kept speaking. "He started speaking in English. He asked
if I was okay, and told me I should escape."
he know you were with the Human Supremacy League?" the
reporter asked. Was that a hint of accusation in his
Kelly nodded. "He knew, and he told me that I should
escape. He wanted to help me, even though he knew that
I worked for the organization that wanted to destroy
him." She took a deep breath. "He said that he'd keep
the defense forces busy."
thought he was crazy. I asked if he wanted to
die. When I did, I thought he was going to cry. He just
said no, he didn't want to die. Then he said he was
pleased to meet me, and told me again to run."
the nod. "I found a truck that had been shot a few times,
but the engine still worked. I drove to the nearest
town I could find and used a phone. It wasn't hard to
get in touch with the Australian consulate in Chile,
and from there to the U.N."
interviewer's voice spoke up again. "And how did you
come to have the access codes for the Human Supremacy
League's satellite network?"
of us were given our own access codes, in case of emergency.
Walken, the late commander of the HSL?"
He always seemed worried that something would happen,
and that everybody should have the power to act if something
happened to everybody else." Kelly took another deep,
shuddering breath. "I think maybe he was paranoid. Anyway,
I gave the U.N. my codes, and from there, I heard that
a professional hacker was able to use my codes to access
the whole network."
camera pulled back, and a middle-aged man stepped in
front of it next to Kelly. "Because of your help, I
hear you've been granted a pardon by the United Nations
for your membership in the HSL."
right." She seemed ashamed of it.
what are you going to do now?"
young woman looked straight at the screen--at Snap.
"I-I'm going to Tokyo. When Rockman saved me, despite
my being who I am, I realized that everything I was
taught in the HSL was a lie. I want to go to LighTech
labs and see if I can help redress some of the harm
I helped to cause."
very noble of you," the reporter said. He leaned to
the side, as if listening to something. "That's all
the time we have now. Thank you, Miss McChord, for your
help and for the interview. I hope you find the forgiveness
you are looking for. This is Roland Kendrick reporting.
Back to you, Erica."
exhaled as the screen shifted to the image of the female
journalist again. So, Rock had been alive three hours
ago. There was hope.
you, Roland." The holographic lady spoke into her holographic
microphone. "And I have just received word that the
status of Skull Castle has been confirmed. The architectural
design is of concentric circles, and sensor sweeps have
confirmed that the first two out of four have been cleared
of any truly lethal threats."
voice, still audible, floated out of limbo. "I think
maybe we have Rockman to thank for this, Erica."
think so t--"
turned off the holovid. So, Rock had cleared the first
two rings, and now help was on the way. Perhaps there
truly was hope! He turned and began to walk towards
Dr. Light's main laboratory.
stood in the doorway, holding a half-completed circuit
pulled up short. "Miss Roll! I didn' hear you come in."
God. He's alive." Roll breathed a sigh of relief. "Hang
in there, Rock. Just a few more hours."
* * * *
Wily glared at the vidscreen.
far his greatest creation--lay in pieces on the floor
of the Second Ring Guardian Station. Nearly an hour
past, the emulation robot had sent his creator a desperate
plea for help. Wily shook his head in disgust at the
memory. The abomination had actually dared to break
radio silence and beg him for existence!
Wily slammed his fists down on the video display of
the his saucer, from which he observed everything. Via
various spy cameras and the small roach-like sentry
robots, Dr. Wily had tracked Rock's penetration into
his invincible fortress, and witnessed the destruction
of his two finest Guardians.
in the depths of Skull Castle, beneath the cental spire,
Dr. Wily was safe. Rock couldn't possibly have much
longer to live, and even if he managed to find his way
through the underwater maze of the Third Ring, he'd
never survive what lay in the Central Ring.
German roboticist flicked a switch amongst the myriad
of button and levers on his war mech's control panel,
and the video screen flickered. After a brief moment,
it wavered and displayed an overview of the Central
Ring. Spiral-like, emerged in the cavernous lab where
Dr. Wily now waited, and twisted up through Skull Castle's
central tower, at the top of which lay an escape route
large enough for the saucer module of the war mech.
Rock were somehow to fight his way to the lab, Wily
could easily escape to the upper hangar. A hatch that
led straight up would guarantee his safe departure.
Anybody foolish enough to follow would find himself
swarmed by an army of Gutsman-model androbots that waited
in the barracks above.
Wily chuckled. Beyond that lay a teleport hatch.
Because the hatch was set on an alternating circuit,
one would have to step into it several times in order
to finally be teleported to the hangar. All other rooms
to which it exited were traps in which waited Robot
Dr. Wily would be able to destroy Rock easily if the
fool managed to escape the Third Ring. After all, if
he managed to get as far as Dr. Wily's inner sanctum,
it would only prove what Dr. Wily had been trying to
tell the world to begin with: never send a robot to
do a man's job.
brought up the display that showed Rock's present location:
the drainage system.
just to make things more interesting . . .
an evil grin, the roboticist punched a button that would
signal the remote switch to open the floodgates to that
in the madman's laboratory, the giant war machine floated
* * * *
landed with a rough exhalation of breath.
had assumed this was a heating duct. However, if the
mixed smells of oil and water were anything to judge
by, Rock calculated a 78% chance that this was, instead,
part of the coolant drainage system.
being the case, he would most likely be moving downwards.
android's hawk-blue eyes flicked back and forth, and
he increased the amount of energy reserved for his photoreceptor
operation. His his pupils expanded in the darkness in
an attempt to garner some shred of detail concerning
his new surroundings.
traces of light filtered through the opening above through
which he had jumped. The small amount of illumination
it afforded was insufficient for fighting purposes,
so Rock switched to infrared vision.
large pipe in which he had landed was an even six meters
in diameter. From where he stood, he could see that
the pipe extended in both directions for several meters.
Behind him, it sloped sharply upwards and to the left.
In front of him, it dropped off at a sheer angle. Rock
could hear movement from that direction.
aware of his time limitations, Rock made a few quick
calculations. Thus far, it seemed logical that Dr. Wily
would be found at the center of Skull Castle, where
the protection afforded by the four circles would be
at its maximum. The question remained: would Dr. Wily
be more likely to hide in a tower at the center, or
wait in the tower would be the easiest way to ensure
an escape--especially with his flying machine. However,
that would indicate that Wily had admitted the possibility
of defeat to himself, and that didn't necessarily compute
with the data Rock had gathered so far.
did it? Would Wily hide in the depths of the earth,
waiting for an attacker to corner him? Especially now
that Rock had breached the third ring of Skull Castle,
Dr. Wily would be more likely to move upwards, where
he could escape in a hurry if the need arose.
escape is his plan. Rock frowned at the thought.
Dr. Wily knew that Rock would not be able to hurt him,
and that in a pitched battle, Rock would almost certainly
lose against the German roboticist--restrained by the
wouldn't be feasible that Rock could thoroughly explore
both up and down within his now-limited lifespan. It
would be a gamble either way to decide whether to move
generally up or generally down.
was Dr. Wily confident of success, waiting for Rock
in depths of this man-made underworld, or was he frightened
and ready to bolt from the tower in the center of the
probably thinks--and rightly--that I'll most likely
be dead before I can even reach his lair. The android's
on more precious time, he moved towards the sharp dropoff.
From below, he could hear the echoes of machinery moving,
and the soft hum of hover engines at work. Gritting
his teeth, he swung over the edge, keeping a hold with
his good hand.
feet kicked something metallic. In the dark, empty pipes
of the drainage system, it was a stark blaze of noise
against the silence. Immediately, Rock could detect
radio transmissions on several frequencies as an alarm
released his grip and fell, switching his hand into
buster configuration before he hit bottom several meters
below. When he did land, he could see that he had kicked
an EyeBot clinging to the ceiling, and that it was already
dropping for him.
Rather than destroy it, he rolled to the side and quickly
looked for another means of escape. If he could navigate
these tunnels quietly, then he would; there was no need
for extra noise. The EyeBot landed with a dull thud and opened its five photoreceptors in an attempt to
sure to keep his body positioned in the sentry robot's
blind spot, the robot hunter looked from side to side.
There, opposite of the way he had just come, was another
drop-off, similar to the first.
tensed and judged the distance. Ten point seven six
meters. He should be able to cover that distance in
little enough time. If he could fire a series of rapid
shots to distract the EyeBot--
grimaced and glared once again at his maimed left hand/buster.
He wouldn't be doing any rapid firing with that mess.
Due to his carelessness, he would now be limited to
a rate of fire half as quick as he was used to.
heh. You sure botched that.
good hand clenched. "I don't suppose it would do any
good to tell you to shut up again."
Bitterness swallowed him for a moment, and the android
could only glare at nothing in the darkness-made-light
by his infrared vision. Why had Dr. Light given him
emotions and then made him into a weapon? Weapons had
no need of emotions--indeed, they were a hindrance.
It was cruelty to inflict feelings and a personality
for one destined only to kill . . .
Light . . . it had been his fault from the beginning.
Rock clenched his good hand into a fist. He could feel
the circuits in his left buster beginning to heat as
they tried to follow suit. Yes, he would return to Neo
Tokyo now, while he still had time. And when Dr. Light
wasn't expecting it, Rock would show him what a mistake
it had been--
felt a strange heating sensation near the center of
his brain, but brushed it away as thoughts of slaughter
washed through his mind. Oh, Dr. Light would pay. And
then Rock would hunt down Dr. Wily for making this necessary.
To feel human blood wash over his hands . . .
why stop with just those two? Humans were a pestilence,
to be wiped off the earth! If he could force Dr. Light
to remove the virus before he died, then he could kill
to his heart content!
heat became a sudden point of blazing pain, and Rock
sucked in air to fuel his emergency repair systems.
gasp of pain.
collapsed on one knee and pressed his hand and buster
against his head, to try to banish the keening wail
that had begun to suffuse his entire being. Something
was wrong. Profoundly, fundamentally wrong.
Prime Rule. How could he have forgotten that?
And what was he thinking--kill Dr. Light? The module
containing the Prime Rule had begun to activate itself;
the very thought of murdering a human was enough to
nearly drive his system to self destruction.
felt as if sub-freezing water had been splashed in his
face, and his eyes snapped wide open.
stop that!" Rock growled.
ache in his head had returned centered around the dents
in his helmet where the robot had pummeled him. How
it was accompanied by a sharper, more definite edge
that the Prime Rule's module had inflicted upon him.
for air, Rock pushed himself to his feet. The virus
was getting stronger if it could manipulate not only
his body but his thoughts as well. He'd better hurry
if he was going to find Dr. Wily and keep him from his
self-destructive course of action.
several minutes, Rock dodged EyeBots and made his way
further down into the drainage system. After navigating
his way through a nightmarish set of turns, drops and
switchbacks, the blue-armored android found himself
in a straight tunnel.
he had found one of the main drainage lines.
smooth, circular pipe seemed to stretch for infinity.
As far as Rock could see, there was no end to the perfect
darkness that extended towards him from the passageway's
cold maw. Even scrutinizing the area on both infrared
and ultraviolet frequencies revealed nothing but that
the pipe was several hundred, if not thousand, meters
wasted no time. He dropped into a tuck and roll, and
came up with his buster aimed behind him, where the
sound had originated. Another Robot Master? Certainly,
there had been enough in evidence throughout the fortress.
instead of an enemy androbot, Rock found himself facing
a floodgate that had just unlatched. He had less than
a half second to gulp in air before the wall of water
and oil slammed into him with hundreds of pounds' worth
eyes automatically closed to prevent damage to the corneal
lenses. Rock felt himself slam face-first into the iron-and-concrete
floor of the pipe. All sensation to his left arm left
him as the rest of his body screamed with pain. The
sudden shock to his system had overloaded most of the
touch-sensitive circuitry on the upper-left side of
grim humor, he realized that his useless left buster
no longer hurt.
current of the liquid swept him rapidly down the passage,
and Rock felt his hands and armor torn as he was dragged
over first one, and then another pipe junction. By the
time he had reached the third one, he had pushed himself
to his feet, and was able to stand upright while being
pushed along by the flow.
sooner had he regained his footing, however, than he
was forced to throw himself backwards to avoid the Sharksfang
missile that shot straight through the place where his
head had been.
entire pipe was filled with liquid, now, and Rock had
been swept at least a thousand meters by its force.
In fact, he could dimly perceive that in roughly another
thousand meters, the tunnel opened into a larger room--perhaps
more immediate concern was the swarm of underwater missiles
and mini-torpedoes that sped towards him. Rock charged
his buster and loosed a stream of white-gold plasma
bursts towards the foremost of the explosives. If he
could make the first one detonate, perhaps it would
trigger the rest before they reached him.
the plasma threw weird, twisting patterns of light against
the cylindrical walls. The first missed the missile,
which mocked Rock with its painted fang-grimace. The
second blasted off one of its guiding fins, causing
it to swerve and crash into the wall of the tunnel.
explosion hurled waves of fire and smoke through the
water, preceded by an almost visible ring of sound.
Rock leaned back to avoid being pushed straight into
the conflagration, and had to throw himself prone to
avoid a torpedo cutting through the explosion.
could feel circulatory fluid ebbing from a crack in
his lower lip from when he had been slammed down by
the rush of water. As he maneuvered his back back into
an upright position, he could see dark globs of it trailing
pathetic. He wasn't sure if the thought had been
his or the virus'.
several more uneventful moments, he was abruptly aware
of floating; the floor had dropped several meters and
he was being carried above it by the momentum of the
stream . . .
. . straight through a circular hatch that sealed itself
off after he passed through it.
took a moment to examine his new surroundings. He seemed
to be in some sort of reservoir, now. In the center
of the floor were several large rocks and pieces of
rubble--no doubt carried here in the same manner by
which Rock had arrived.
above, Rock could detect a tiny amount of light.
must be directly under the central tower. The thought
almost filled Rock with hope. He still had a few hours
left! If he could climb through the hatch at the top
of the room and make his way through the tower, he could
catch Dr. Wily and be back to Dr. Light's lab for a
huge blocked the light.
swore violently and hurled himself backwards as it descended.
His speed was retarded by the hindering liquid, though
the thing before him seemed to be agile enough in its
surroundings. It was at least three meters in height,
and seemed to be a large machine encased in a bubble.
took a quick gulp of the liquid to analyze it. If it
contained too much coolant, then firing his plasma buster
would be foolhardy to the point of suicidal. A chain
reaction here would not only destroy Rock, but most
likely cause Skull Castle to collapse, killing Dr. Wily.
his relief, it seemed that here within the reservoir,
there were only trace amounts of flammable coolant.
The rest of the liquid was composed of water and other
"safe" chemicals that would not be affected by Rock's
loosed a blast towards the giant thing, hoping to punch
a hole in its bubble. If he was quick, he might be able
to cause a short-circuit within the guardian 'bot without
a pitched battle. The white-hot globe of plasma crashed
into the bubble with a crackling sound audible even
where Rock stood. A small spiderweb pattern spread across
the affected section.
its attacker, the globular robot rolled towards Rock,
too quick in the water to be natural . . .
lead! The blue-armored android grimaced in frustration.
This would take longer than he'd thought. Bubble-lead
was a tough, transparent substance true to its name;
it was bubble-light underwater and lead-heavy on land.
To penetrate a shield made of bubble lead would take
several shots from his plasma buster. In a corner of
his mind, Rock wondered where Dr. Wily had acquired
so much of the substance--a notoriously rare and difficult-to-produce
within the bubble, a bolt of multicolored energy spat
forth and slammed Rock against the wall. He could feel
it spreading through his torso and igniting pain circuits.
the hell? Although he had been damaged, the purpose
of the attack seemed more to cripple him with pain than
to destroy him. Rock gritted his teeth and pushed himself
straight, firing a steady line of plasma straight into
the bubble-lead case.
a sucking noise and a flash of light, the robot imploded.
took a few breaths of water to feed his fusion generator.
That had been easier than he'd expected.
late, he saw the shadow of another robot, identical
to the first.
barely had time enough to propel himself out of the
way before it landed and began its immediate approach.
Rock narrowed his eyes and loosed another row of plasma
blasts into the new robot. Was it his imagination, or
was this one moving faster?
the same result. The robot imploded with a flash of
light as the bubble lead collapsed in on itself.
Rock realized. Not imploding: disappearing! Had it been
the same robot?
again, another identical robot popped out from a hatch
in the far wall and approached Rock, even faster than
before. This time, it wasted no time, but fired its
own volley of plasma and the strange, many-hued energy.
tried to jump the attack, but knew as soon as his feet
left the ground that it was too late, that the liquid
had slowed him too much. Instead of leaping over the
horizontal rain of blazing destruction, he took the
brunt of it full in his stomach. He screamed into the
water and blasted the giant bubble with an over-charged
expected, the bubble crumpled. This time, Rock detected
the tell-tale whine of a teleport device. He was ready
when the fourth emerged from the hatch at the top of
the room, moving with even more speed than it had before.
several minutes, he played a game of dropping, rolling,
dodging and firing when he could. However, he had no
way of knowing how many spare shields the robot had.
At this rate, he would be dead in a matter of minutes.
If only he could destroy it before it had time to teleport
. . .
sudden inspiration, Rock brought up his weapons submenu
and called up a Hyper Bomb.
it at the robot, he ran to the side of the room where
a particularly large, sharp piece of rubble lay. As
the bomb exploded, Rock switched from infrared vision
to keep from being blinded--as he hoped the robot momentarily
enough, it had stopped moving.
no time, Rock leaped forward and hurled the blocky,
sharp mass of steel at the robot like an oversized,
javelin. He switched back to infrared vision just in
time to see the robot crushed against the wall by the
makeshift missile; unable to detect it, the robot had
not had time to activate its teleporter before it was
for good measure, Rock unloaded several plasma blasts
into the inert robot until it blew apart in a shower
of sparks and underwater fire. For along moment, he
stood still, waiting for yet another attack.
exhaled and took stock of his situation. He was still
running at 50% energy. With luck, he would be able to
recharge a bit while he climbed out of the drainage
system. Rock dared to let himself hope, for the tiniest
fraction of a second, that he would live beyond today.
bet on it, the virus laughed.
* * * *
Mears shrugged in the night air.
one of the five major generals of the combined U.N.
Army, Saul Mears had risen to his position through hard
work and sacrifice. Three marriages had failed due to
his single-minded dedication to his career, but Mears
orders today looked like they had been pulled from a
comic book. He was to take his elite troops to a giant
castle in the mountains called Skull Castle and arrest
a megalomaniac who wanted to rule the world.
orders: rescue the android life-form Rockman.
a robot . . . now he'd heard everything. Like most people
on the planet, Mears had been following the battle between
Rockman and Dr. Wily's minions for the past week. Unlike
other people, however, Mears regarded Rockman as what
he was--a machine-turned weapon that could imitate human
stepdaughter had a toy robot that could talk when you
pressed a button on it--big deal. Just because it said
"I love you" didn't mean it actually felt anything;
and just because Rockman acted like a soldier didn't
mean he was a hero.
shrugged again. This uniform was too tight across his
shoulders. He made a note to have it replaced after
this assignment was done. Ah, well. Whether Rockman
was a hero or not didn't pertain to Mears' orders--he
just needed to see if the robot was still functioning
and return it to LighTech in Japan if it was.
looked outside of his pavilion. The hovership was almost
ready to lift off. Well, he'd better send a radio signal
to this Rockman to let him know an army was on the way;
it wouldn't do to destroy the fortress with the robot
* * * *
up the ladder, Rock stopped.
was like a tickle at the back of his brain--somebody
was sending a radio signal from outside of Skull Castle.
The raven-haired android continued his climb as he tried
to decode it.
the reservoir, he'd found an access ladder and escaped
to dry land once more. As he had suspected, he was now
at the bottom level of the central tower of Skull Castle.
In fact, he had emerged into Dr. Wily's lab. Spare parts
and shredded blueprints lay strewn across the floor.
The walls were blackened with scorch marks--presumably
from a laser pistol. Rock had wondered if perhaps some
of Wily's robots had turned against him.
lab was otherwise empty; all of the video screens in
the room had been destroyed--and recently. Rock suspected
that he had missed Dr. Wily by a matter of minutes.
But why? If Wily's plan was to destroy Rock, why had
he fled? And if his plan was escape, why had he been
waiting down here in the first place?
on the ladder, Rock shook his head and continued climbing
upwards. He noticed as he approached the ceiling that
was hinged in the center, like giant double doors. Did
that mean that the lab had doubled as a hangar for Dr.
Wily's flying machine? Perhaps Wily waited at the top
of the tower, in case Rock made it that far.
shivered, and felt his fingertips grow numb.
long now. The virus' voice was laden with sadistic
glee. Rock grimly continued his climb up the ladder,
emerging in a vast, spiral-like room that twisted slowly
Rock could not restrain the exclamation.
in the ceiling in crystalline stasis chambers were hundreds--no,
thousands!--of Gutsman models. If Dr. Wily were to activate
them, they could destroy anything in their path for
hundreds of miles. Properly supplied with energy, such
an army of Tim androbots could lay waste to the entire
continent of South America within weeks.
could just barely make out words within the repeating
radio message. " . . . to Rockman. Bzzzzt--Skull
Castle and bzzzzt destroy bzzzzt in forty
minutes. Message repeats . . ."
Skull Castle? What was going on? Had the U.N. finally
they intended to destroy Skull Castle within the next
forty minutes, that made Rock's mission all the more
urgent--by the Prime Law, he could not allow Dr. Wily
to die through Rock's inaction to arrest him and get
him away from Skull Castle.
broke into a run and ignored the rotocannons that sprayed
him with plasma "bullets." His auto-repair systems were
working well enough that the only damage he took was
superficial. Rolling, jumping, running, Rock made his
way to the end of the up-sloping corridor and climbed
the ladder at the end of it.
found himself faced with a vast sea of sharpened stakes,
coursing with electricity. The only way across the spiky
death grounds was a small cargo-transport platform.
Grimacing at the memory of using the same type of device
in Nokaneng, Rock took a few steps forward and prepared
two . . .
landed with a metallic clang and steadied himself. From
here, he could see that the cargo lift was taking him
towards a platform jutting from the wall of the massive
room. And at the end of the room was something tall
leaped from the elevator and moved across the platform
towards the large cylinder.
at ease with the idea of just stepping into it to see
what would happen, Rock switched first to infrared and
then to ultraviolet scanning, but could detect nothing
denoting a trap. In fact, after a few moments radio
scanning, he detected slight hypersonic whine that indicated
a teleport device.
his good hand through his mane of black hair, he paced
the arc in front of the teleporter. He had no time to
waste, and this teleporter seemed to be the only immediate
exit. Stepping in would be a gamble . . . but better
to gamble than to waste time on indecision.
readied his good buster--no telling what he would end
up in front of--and stepped in.
world turned fuzzy for a fraction of a second before
Rock found himself standing in a large cubical chamber
with no exit, and one Robot Master.
Scott model turned and glared at Rock.
it said, seeming to dislike the necessity of speech.
"You've come this far, then. I wondered why the castle
had been switched to Berserker mode. I admire your skill,
Rockman, but this is as far as you go."
frowned. "I don't have time for this. If you truly wish
to serve Dr. Wily, let me pass. Otherwise, he will die."
androbot nearly smiled. "You think to threaten me?
Very well, then. Feel the power of Bombman mark 2!"
And with no further discourse, the androbot leaped at
Rock, hurling a jet-black sphere of destruction.
tried to step back into the teleporter, but to his dismay,
he found that it had been deactivated. Angered at his
own carelessness, he dodged the new "Bombman's" explosive
and switched to Firestorm on his weapons submenu. If
he could overheat his enemy, then the bomb materials
within the spherical androbot would surely react and
the switch, his armor flickered from its customary shades
of blue to a fiery gold and crimson. Wasting no words,
he released a blazing wall of flame at his enemy, and
was grimly satisfied to see it hit home, hurling the
androbot to the ground. Rock was surprised to note that
he had been temporarily shielded by a sphere of fire
was that?" Bombman mk.2 struggled to his feet,
eyes narrowing. "Dr. Wily didn't say anything about
frowned and fired another incendiary wall, with the
same effect. The androbot recovered more quickly this
time, leaping high into the air and raining bombs down
on Rock. The gold-armored robot hunter dodged easily
and returned fire. He could see that Bombman mk. 2's
armor was beginning to noticeably melt. One more blast
. . .
the final strike, he shielded his eyes as Scott model
erupted into a brilliant explosion of violent crimsons
and yellows. Molten pieces of steel and iron landed
at Rock's titanium-booted feet and rolled a small ways.
Rock lowered his hand and looked around the room. Seeing
no other exit, he cursed.
drifted lazily around the room, and Rock let his gaze
follow it to the teleporter--
teleporter was clear of smoke. Rock narrowed his eyes.
That could only mean that it was teleporting the smoke
out of the room. Perhaps the teleporter would only stay
deactivated if receiving a signal from the Robot Master
to backtrack and find another way to the top of the
tower, Rock stepped back into the teleporter. However,
instead of emerging back in the cavernous spike-floored
chamber, he materialized in another room almost exactly
the same as the one he had just left.
in place of Bombman mk. 2, there stood a crimson and
white androbot with a stove-top helmet and top-heavy
fire-colored armor shimmered and became silver and frost-blue
as he summoned an Ice Slasher. "Fireman mark 2, I presume."
nodded curtly and assumed a fighting stance. No talk
here--just the will to destroy. Rock almost preferred
that, given his time constraints. Having studied Fireman's
tactics in New Denver, this IRA model's were nothing
dodged walls of infernal heat and conflagration, drawing
ever closer to his prey and driving him into a corner
with hurled Ice Slashers. The second Fireman's eyes
narrowed as he realized Rock's plan, and he charged
forward, blazing with fire and fury.
raven-haired android hissed as he took damage to his
outer armor, but stood his ground and called an Ice
Slasher to his hand at the last second. Ducking under
Fireman's charge, Rock braced the Ice Slasher on the
crumpled mass of his left buster and used the force
of both hands to slam it straight through the androbot's
new Fireman crumpled to the ground, gasping a single
took a step back and shook his head. What had Wily's
purpose been in naming these other Robot Masters after
his generals? Surely, he didn't plan to try again? His
fortress was under attack and the U.N. would soon be
here to destroy it. What use in creating new generals
unless . . .
this was not the only Skull Castle?
God." Realization washed over Rock in an ugly, cold
wave. If he didn't stop Wily soon, the German roboticist
would escape to another fortress every bit as hellish
as this one and begin his plan for world domination
thought drove Rock to turn and walk back into the teleporter.
If it had taken him to a new room once, it might do
so again. He ran a quick check on his power reserves
before he was fully enclosed by the teleportation field.
Still at 50% operating power, with 45% of the energy
reserved for weapons use still available. Not bad, for
having stormed the castle single-handedly.
he materialized in the next room, he was immediately
faced with a Gary androbot.
took a half step forward. His armor flickered. What
had once been silver now looked the color of burnished
platinum, and the frost-blue had faded to a steely grey.
Armed with the Thunder Beam, the robot hunter spoke.
are Iceman mk. 2?"
new Iceman nodded. "I am. And what is that to you, Rock?"
jaw tightened. "Don't call me that."
half shrugged. "And why not? We used to be friends,
you and I. All you have to do is cease this pointless
attack and we could be friends again."
shook his head. "My friend was Gary. When he became
Iceman, he was my friend no longer. And he is dead."
edges of Iceman's mouth turned up in a sardonic grin.
"Is he. Well, let us say his memory lives on in me."
Rock been human, his jaw would have dropped. Could it
be? Had Dr. Wily saved the personalities of his generals
and transferred them to these new bodies? The idea was
more cruelty than Rock could stand.
He intended for the accusation to sound righteous, but
it came out weak.
grin widened. "Oh, and what would lying gain me? I remember
everything from the moment of my activation until the
about twenty minutes after I heard you'd arrived in
New Shirewick." He waved a dismissive hand. "After that,
I assume you must have destroyed my body."
grin disappeared. "That will not happen again,
fight was quick and brutal. Rock had time to blast off
three bolts of coruscating electricity before he was
forced to duck and twist to avoid the lethal razor-sharp
Ice Slashers hurled in his direction.
standing on the teleporter, he felt the world twist
as he dematerialized. When he had re-formed in the next
chamber, his first thought was that Iceman must have
accidentally stopped transmitting the deactivation signal
to the teleporter. However, he calculated that the probability
of that was only 13%. More likely, he concluded, his
attack must have destroyed Iceman, and because he was
standing on the teleporter still, it instantaneously
few microseconds it took to come to that conclusion
nearly made Rock forget to take in his surroundings.
Once again, he was in a large cubical chamber, more
or less the same as the previous rooms in which he had
most noticeable difference was the presence of a large
Tim model rather than another Gary. Rock quickly switched
to Hyper Bombs, and his armor faded to silver and emerald
Gutsman androbot turned and took notice of Rock, and
its lantern jaw clenched.
then. Iceman is again defeated." He shook his head.
"Do you intend to destroy everything until you reach
summoned a Hyper Bomb and held it meaningfully. "Unless
you enable this teleporter again, yes." The way Tim's
eyes narrowed told Rock that his theory was correct.
His mind raced. Why was he turning up in different rooms?
Was the teleporter set a random cycle that would send
the user to a different location with each use? If that
was the case, it could be literally days before he reached
the top of the tower.
The Gutsman model clenched his fist and took a lumbering
step towards Rock. "If you persist in this, I'll smash
it began its juggernaut approach, Rock hurled a triad
of Hyper Bombs in quick succession. While only the first
struck home and exploded, he could see it had an immediate
effect. The cumbersome, triple-plated armor equipped
on Gutsman models was meant to absorb an impact from
outside. However, when it was nearly blown apart from
forces on a plane with it, its structural integrity
Rock managed to score another hit before the giant of
an androbot was nearly upon him, roaring with surprised
rage. He threw himself to the side as one of the massive
fists grazed his head. Had the punch hit home, the robot
hunter would have been decapitated.
a nasty grin, Rock summoned a Hyper Bomb and shoved
it against the Gutsman's chest plate, wedging it between
the point where the two parts of the breastplate came
together. "Have a nice day."
rolled out of the way in time to avoid the explosion,
but took some glancing blows from the flying pieces
of armor. Wondering at the virus' quiescence for the
past several minutes, Rock decided that it couldn't
mean anything good. If the virus wasn't taunting him,
then it was most likely doubling its efforts at eroding
the virus-hunting program before--
stopped stock still.
he reached Dr. Wily.
had to hurry. Rushing back to the teleporter, he could
already feel cold tendrils of virus' program seeping
into his mind. The virus-hunter was breaking down. With
cold certainty, Rock knew that his lifespan was now
limited to minutes--in the high teens at the most.
he re-materialized, he saw immediately that he had reached
his destination. The hangar was long and tilted upwards.
At the end of the long corridor was a hatch that most
likely led to the landing bay/launch pad for Wily's
as fast as he could make himself, Rock punched the entry
button to the main bay doors and rolled underneath as
soon as a wide enough space opened.
stopped in sheer awe of the moment. Here, at last, was
the culmination of his quest. After nearly two weeks
of pain, fear and torment, he had reached the end of
his search. Before him, in position to launch before
the half-open hangar doors, was Dr. Wily's giant war
in brass and still splashed with the dried blood of
HSL soldiers he had slaughtered, the mech waited impatiently
for its doors to freedom to open. Two giant coolant
tubes ran from the main chassis of the vehicle to the
engine, which operated the hover engines, the main thrusters
and the guiding propellers, which slowly spun.
back to the moment by the urgency of the situation,
Rock desperately scanned the room for a control panel
of some sorts. He couldn't let Dr. Wily escape to another
castle--his only option in accordance with the Prime
Rule was to arrest Dr. Wily and take him out of the
castle before the U.N. destroyed it.
the room, the control panel blinked with a myriad of
a deep breath, Rock aimed and fired.
control panel seemed to explode in slow motion, and
the massive hangar doors ground to a halt with a hideous,
wrenching groan. Rock felt a horrible sense of irrational
fear sweep over him. This, then was it. One way or another,
he would be dead within minutes. Logic dictated that
he could not physically attack Dr. Wily to restrain
him, and He could not possibly win against the giant
war machine without hurting Dr. Wily and so, activating
his own self-destruct mechanism.
he reflected grimly, even if he did manage to
do that, the virus would kill him in less than twenty
minutes. He straightened his back and held his head
high as the lethal war mech slowly turned to face him.
mech now faced Rock. Atop it, he could see the detachable
saucer module that he had seen on the video recordings
of the siege at Skull Castle. However, there was no
sign of Dr. Wily's personal location within the armored
behemoth. A large, bulb-like protrusion at the front,
plated with laser-reflective armor seemed to be the
most likely possibility. Mounted on either side of the
assumed cockpit were heavy plasma cannons--easily doubly
as powerful as Rock's own buster.
several moments, neither of them spoke.
Dr. Wily broke this silence. His voice came through
a large amplifier in the ceiling of the room, presumably
broadcast from within the mech.
Why have you come?" It sounded surprisingly sane.
took a deep breath, warning himself that Dr. Wily was
insane, and that a conversation could easily erupt into
violence with little or no provocation. He readied his
right buster just in case. "You know why."
You've come to kill me." The sanity had left the German
roboticist's voice, but he had not yet bridged the gap
to hysteria. "You come to release them!"
shook his head. "I've come to take you to jail." He
gestured out the half-open hangar bay door. "In less
than half an hour, the U.N. is coming to destroy Skull
Castle. It's over, Dr. Wily."
willst mich töten!" Wily had slipped from Japanese to
German in his speech.
shook his head. "You know I don't have any intentions
of killing you--I couldn't even if I wanted to." He
hesitated. What could he say that would make a madman
listen? "Just please come with me and I promise you
won't get hurt."
plasma cannons opened fire simultaneously, and Rock
rolled towards the mech, hoping to dodge his own destruction
and to move too close for the barrels of the cannons
to target him. He had to think of a way to get Dr. Wily
out of the mech.
close to the war machine, he could see a thin line around
the edge of the cockpit-bulb. A plan began to form in
his mind. Rock stutter-stepped and dodged as the mech
moved backwards, and loosed another pair of linked blasts.
German invective streamed from the speakers above, mixed
with senseless babble.
Wily. He doesn't even know that he's insane. Rock
tried to pity his enemy, but found an emotion rising
in him that--surprisingly--didn't sting with the taint
of the virus' touch.
had been Dr. Wily's friend. He'd joked with him, discussed
great works of literature with him, gone to concerts
of the Tokyo Philharmonic with Dr. Wily and Dr. Light.
He had given Wily the benefit of the doubt when the
attack on LighTech came. He had offered Dr. Wily a chance
at life and even possible redemption.
had extended Dr. Wily every kindness he possibly could
had destroyed his own life for the sake of this bitter,
Dr. Wily was trying to kill him.
switched to Fire Storm and blasted the nearest plasma
cannon. How dare he! How dare Dr. Wily
assault Rock when all the android had ever wanted was
to live in peace. His anger built as he blasted again
and again at the plasma cannon mounted on the mech.
frightened, outraged voice blasted from the speakers
"You--you're fighting me! You can't do that, Rock! You'll
kill me! Remember the Prime Rule!" Panic laced the overtones
of his speech. "You are trying to kill me!"
let fire course over the shield covering the cockpit,
knowing it would do no harm to Wily himself. "Wily,
you had your chance! I tried to help you, and you scorned
me! Now you'll face true justice!"
hawk-eyed android had to hurl himself to the side as
the mech dropped sharply in an attempt to crush him.
Two more proboscis-like tubes emerged from the top of
the mech and began raining invisible laser fire on the
room. The floor exploded with the force of the laser
blasts, and Rock felt the room heating up, despite the
open door and the hangar's own vast size.
me, will you?" Wily's voice was now laden with rage
as well. "We'll see about that! Die, you bastard!"
blazed throughout the room, accompanied by the high
whine of laser fire. A hatch in the back of the mech
opened and spat a dozen small missiles at Rock. He threw
himself to the side and rolled to avoid the explosions
they made. As he hit, he felt his left arm's joint pop
he could rise, the virus struck.
felt the virus hunter melt like snow in the sun before
the virus' onslaught. Pain coursed through his torso
and limbs, and he heard himself screaming nonsense.
Lying supine on the floor, he was dimly aware that he
had been struck twice by the mech remaining plasma cannon.
is this the end you wanted, Rock? The virus was
laughing in his head, every bit as maniacal as the insane
laughter which crowed from the hangar's speaker system. Enjoy your death. I know I shall.
the virus, Rock managed to push himself to his feet.
If he could manage to overheat the armor on the mech,
perhaps he could make it jettison the thick plates.
He could smash whatever protected the cockpit and retrieve
kill him! the virus sang. Kill him, Rock! You
know you want to!
growled and built energy in his good buster, readying
the Fire Storm once again. His weapons energy reserve
had dropped below 30%, and his operating energy had
drained to 23%. His internal chronometer gave him four
minutes to live before the virus entirely destroyed
the virus-hunting program.
managed to execute a staggering charge before releasing
the hellish blaze onto the armor-plated surface of the
floating war mech.
He wasn't sure if the scream had been his or the virus',
but it blew his last vocal transistor. Crimson-gold
fire blasted across the cooling vents of the mech and
melted the plasma cannons to slag. Rock poured more
energy into the fire, ever more, until he could see
the outer metal melting like wax.
with an impossibly loud crack, the armor plating
blasted away from the mech. Part of it hit Rock full
in the head and chest, bashing him to the ground and
slashing his face with searing pain.
pushed himself up on his hand and knees and looked at
where the bulb had been, was a glass-bubble cockpit,
and within it was Dr. Wily. His gaunt, lined face was
a study in hatred, limned in hellish shades of red and
black with the infernal atmosphere of the room. His
teeth were bared, and his hands clutched whitely around
a pair of guiding levers.
below the cockpit was a previously hidden hyper-cannon,
its energy focused into a massive red jewel that would
released a hybrid laser/plasma bolt into anything within
range. Rock knew that if he were hit twice--maybe even
once--with that weapon, that he would be dead.
if that's even a question anymore, the virus chortled.
the hell up!" Rock switched to Thunder Beam.
"You dare to attack me?!" Wily's voice raged from
the speakers above. Rock could see the spittle flying
from his mouth as he screamed within his cockpit. "Damn
robot bastard! I'll teach you!"
released a charged bolt of synthetic lightning into
the focus jewel for the hyper-cannon and rolled to the
side as it blasted a column of destruction along the
wall. Steel ran like water under its punishing glare,
and Rock could feel the heat of it crisping the outer
layers of his armor, even from several meters away.
Rock tried to step into a position from which he could
once again strike the focus jewel, the virus struck
once again. Oh no you don't.
sable-haired android collapsed to the floor in fits
of screaming agony. The hellish fires that blazed throughout
the room dimmed in comparison to the ones he felt streaming
throughout his body. He twitched spasmodically, and
saw his good buster firing Thunder Beams chaotically
into the room. His weapons energy store was nearly totally
could dimly see that two of the bolts had actually managed
to hit the focus jewel, which was coming around to bear
on him. Dr. Wily's sweaty, angry face was barely visible
over the lip of the mech's control panel from this point.
last shreds of the virus hunter program tried lamely
to push the virus back into the Second Rule module,
and Rock made himself stand. He could feel hatred radiating
from both the virus and Dr. Wily.
blasted once more missing the focus jewel. However,
the operating lights in the mech suddenly went dark,
and the mech slowly began to descend. Somehow, that
last blast had short-circuited electrical controls for
the war machine!
the bubble, Dr. Wily raged with impotence. In a last
act of desperation, he jammed his thumb down on a single
could tell, even as he saw it coming, that he had fired
the hyper-cannon one last time before all power was
cut to the mech.
saw one possibility as he aimed his good buster at the
seemed to slow down. A voice spoke in his head, though
it was not the virus--confined for one last microsecond
to its prison in Rock's module containing the Second
Rule. He thought it might have been his own voice, or
that of Dr. Light's.
don't have to do this. No lives will be saved by your
sacrifice--Wily is no longer a threat to humanity. The
U.N. will take him into custody and take him to jail.
If you do this, it is only for your own sense of justice.
Wily is my responsibility, Rock answered. Mine will be the hand that brings him to justice.
If I don't do this, I will be destroyed by the cannon.
will be destroyed anyway, the voice said gently, The virus will see to that.
my own sense of justice, then! Rock decided.
light gathered in the focus crystal.
charged his right buster the first microsecond.
the next, he forced all remaining power into his shattered
the third, he forced the power through broken circuits.
Pain flared through his body, suffusing his being with
he fired with both cannons at once, he could destroy
the focus crystal and completely disarm Dr. Wily, though
it would cause his circuitry to overload. He would die
as he fired, but Dr. Wily would be brought to justice.
no other reason, he told himself.
of agony made him shudder, but on the fifth microsecond,
he released the twin plasma blasts at exactly the same
time--into the focus crystal.
felt his body jump as his circuitry overloaded, and
realized with his last thought that he had violated
the Second Rule by endangering his own life without
saving a human's.
in the sixth microsecond, he felt a horrible, terrified,
impotent rage blast across his already numbing body.
was a terrible, deathly silence.
Continue to Epilogue