"Illogical" By: 47

Disclaimer: Jiji, Sera, MegaMan Trigger, and all other MegaMan Legends characters are property of Capcom. Lene, Hover, Delta, Geeshej, and Geletz are all my creations (Don't worry. They won't get in the way too much.) MegaMan Trigger's battle form transformation is pure speculation on my part, but its inspiration is based on Ryu's Dragon Warrior form from Breath of Fire 3, also property of Capcom.

Chapters 1 and 2

SERA:

"Servator Unit Lene has been declared an Aberrant after an attack on your person, Mother. Your verdict?"

I sighed.

This day has definitely exceeded the twenty-four hour limit. Just as I thought things couldn't possibly be worse, that this cycle has reached its lowest point, this one last disaster sprang up and nearly proved my undoing.

Lene, my own Servator unit, tried to terminate me.

As you know, all those with a significant designation-in my case, Mother Unit-are irresistable targets for Aberrants, and, therefore, assigned a Servator unit to guard and protect them. Usually, such dangers are minimum, but it never hurts to have a little extra protection.

Since Servator units are at constant risk of being destroyed, it is a common and logical practice to emotionally distance oneself from one's Servator unit as much as possible. But Lene...he had this charisma, this charm about him. During the five decades he served under my assignment, I have grown fond of him, and learned to trust him explicitly.

Therefore, it was a total shock when he became an Aberrant, and attacked me. Since a physical assault on a Mother Unit is among the highest offenses in our society, he was tried and brought before me for the final verdict immediately.

Now, I studied my former companion closely, but there was no doubt on what had to be done. I turned to one of the two lower-class Purifier Units who were restraining Lene, ignoring the pleading, desperate look in the Servator's eyes, and said, "Contact the Construction units. Tell them to get started on designing and constructing my new Servator unit immediately." A solemn silence filled the chamber. Everyone present knew what ordering a new Servator unit meant: that I would no longer be requiring the services of the old one. Without actually saying it, I had sentenced my once-faithful servant and close friend to termination.

The lead Purifier Unit bowed respectfully, uttered a soft, "As you wish, Mother", then turned and led their captive away. That was the last I ever saw of Lene .

Lene had been the third Servatory Unit assigned to me. The first, Geeschej, was destroyed after a mere fifty years of service, and the second, Geleztz, was reassigned to a high-ranking Bureaucratic Unit. They were the two finest units I have had the good fortune of encountering, so I planned on designating my fourth (and, hopefully, final) Servator Unit "Geeschej-Geleztz" after them both. Only it was such a long, tedious title, that I decided to streamline it to simply, "Geetz".

***

As I walked down the corridors of Elysium a few months later, on my way to the Construction area to view the new blueprints and early construction of my new Servator, I occupied my thoughts as to just how Geetz's designation would be spelled, and I had narrowed it down to five different spellings by the time I reached my destination.

The Maintenence/Construction Units showed me the designs for the new Servator for my approval, which they earned, and the early phase of the actual unit.

At the moment, the thing on the table resembled a large cluster of circuitry, metal pieces, sheets of titanium alloy, wiring, and various electronic components all arranged into a vaguely humanoid shape, awaiting neater arrangement, and partially covered with sheets of gold-colored metal plating. Thick cables ran from the main computer to its cranial chamber. Long, serpentine tubes pumped lubricant and other vital fluids into the rubber tubing that lay among the internal components of the unfinished unit. I frowned in revulsion at the sight, wondering if the Master ever felt disgusted by the sight of the blood and exposed internal organs of his fellow biological beings.

"What do you think so far, Mother?", one of the Construction units asked eagerly, drawing my attention, "Does the unit meet your requirements so far? We have analyzed every bit of its programming, and have found no traces of potential corruption. We now require your personal ramifications to allow completion of its program. We should complete the unit's construction within the next six months, provided there are no errors or accidents."

"Understood", I replied. "The sooner this unit is activated, the better." My voice shook slightly toward the end. Although Elysium is a very safe place to inhabit, I was nonetheless nervous and agitated about walking its corridors alone. The past several months spent doing just that had not eased my paranoia the slightest. "Let's begin!" I ordered.

I entered the data for my preferred ramifications quickly, as there is little about a Servator Unit that I am choosy about: Appearances and overall personality do not matter. I merely ask that the unit is loyal, trustworthy, obedient to the end, and that is all. Lene had failed miserably in that area.

"Now, all that is left is the designation. Mother Sera, if you have chosen a designation for the Servator unit, then please state it so we can program it in." the head Construction unit told me.

I answered, "Geeschej-Geleztz".

The reply came back as expected. "Your first two Servators. Forgive me, but that designation is too long. Please choose a shorter one, and spell it out for clarity."

"Very well, the unit will be designated..." Here I stopped, realizing that I had not yet chosen a spelling for "Geetz". I hastily tried making up my mind, but instead labeled all choices as "Unsatisfactory", and, eventually threw up my arms in frustration, sighing, "Perhaps I should just call him by his initails, 'GG'!" I realized that I had just chosen the Servator's new designation quite unintentionally.

The Construction unit turned back to the computer, imputing the new designation and muttering cheerfully,

"'Jiji' it is."

I started to explain that I had not actually approved of the designation "Jiji", but stopped midsentence, deciding that, yes, "Jiji" would be just fine.

~ SERA: On the day my new Servator Unit, Jiji, was completed, I went to the Construction area to witness its activation and make the arrangement final and official. From this day forward, I would no longer walk alone in Elysium.

As I stepped into the Construction area, I saw my nearly completed Servator Unit in a sitting position on the construction table, not yet activated. The access panels on his chest, arms, and back were open, the bare circuitry and electronic components gleaming under the fluorescent lights. Apparently the outer skin had only recently been applied; one of the Construction/Maintenence units was carefully trimming excess syntheskin from the unfinished Servator unit's forearm, while others cleared any obstructions from the open panels. Several more were adding finishing touches here and there, while I watched. The head Construction Unit was running several final diagnostics to ensure against malfunction. Finally, all the Construction/Maintenence units finished their tasks, then backed away so I could approach and see the now-fully-completed Servator for myself.

Even deactivated, with his body limp and his head hanging at an unatural angle, Jiji was one of the most visually impressive units I had ever seen. He was tall and rather thin, with a slight build that camaflouged the unbelievable strength within. The scarlet infrared/radar sensor in his forehead gleamed like a polished jewel. His skin was a rich, warm tan, and his long, pale green hair cascaded like an emerald waterfall down his back. Yet, despite his long hair and slenderness, Jiji still looked masculine. The shape of his body, his face, everything was simply...perfect. He reminded me of a statue of some Greek god. Yes, that's what Jiji was: a flawless work of art. The standard uniform he wore-sleeveless tunic,baggy pants, and shoes-only complemented his fine form.

But appearances mean nothing. I wanted to know how loyal he was, and how good he will be at his job.

I had admired my new servant long enough. It was time to see if he was worth anything to me.

"Activate him." I ordered. The Construction units complied immediately; I hope Jiji does the same.

The head construction unit sent a small amount of power through the Servator Unit's system to jolt its motor into operation. Its slender body tensed briefly, then relaxed somewhat, though not as much as it had been when deactivated, and the being drew its first breath. Then, Jiji spoke:

"System online.

Servatory Unit "Jiji" active.

All systems functioning within acceptable parameters.

Initializing..."

Despite the monotone and hard, technological statements, Jiji's voice was lovely, a soothing baritone which I decided I would not mind listening to.

Jiji opened his eyes, which were the color of rubies, seeing for the first time. Slowly, with the agility of a leopard, he slid from the table, and stood, gazing around the room, entering all he saw in his memory banks. Then, his gaze fell upon me.

JIJI:

Servatory Unit 'Jiji' active.

All systems functioning within acceptable parameters.

Initializing....>

And so my life began.

The intial activation of a new unit is nothing spectacular to an outside observer, I'm afraid.

Upon opening my eyes for the first time, my first priority was to locate Mistress Sera, the Mother Unit I would guard with my life, for all my life.

I stood, scanning the construction chamber, noting all details, until I saw her. There, standing a half-meter away, was Mistress Sera, the reason for my existence, my goal in life, and all that would matter to me. I must show respect toward her.

I approached Mistress Sera quickly, then knelt, bowing my head in submission, declaring, "Mistress Sera, this unit hereby pledges its loyalty and its existence toward you and your well-being." I did not dare meet her eyes; such might be considered an act of aggression and disrespect.

Mistress Sera was silent for a minute, then she called to the head construcion unit, "Who designed this unit? Come forward and state your designation."

One of the Construction units scurried over, stating in a voice that was breathless with excitement and anxiety, "It was this unit, Mother, who designed Jiji almost entirely. This unit is designated Hover."

"What is your rank?" Mistress Sera asked.

"Fifth Class, Mother."

"That's incorrect," Mistress Sera responded. "You are now ranked Third Class. Congratulations."

Everyone in the room, myself included, was taken aback. To receive a promotion from a Mother Unit was an incredible honor, and skipping a rank is a magnificent compliment in and of itself. But to receive both at once! Chances of such an event are rare indeed!

I, meanwhile, was puzzled as to why Mistress Sera had bestowed this highest of honors on my designer. Was she truly that pleased with my design? My questions were answered almost immediately.

"Hover, you have created a work of art," Mistress Sera said cheerily "I must not let your hard work go unrewarded! "

Hover had no idea how to respond to such a wondrous honor. He simply stood there, mouth agape, scarcely able to articulate the words, "Thank you!" before stumbling out the back door in a daze.

So Mistress Sera was impressed by my current configuration after all. Certainly she knows that what she saw was not all there was. A Servator Unit such as myself is capable of altering its configuration into that of a large draconian being, with slender wings, a crocodilian muzzle, a long, tapering tail, and powerful weapons. I wondered if Sera would be as impressed with my other form as she was with this one.

"But appearances are irrelevant," Mistress Sera was saying to the remaining Construction units. "I want to know how reliable and competent he is. Jiji! Let's go!" With this, she turned and walked out the door. I stood and followed.

We walked down the corridor in silence, with Mistress Sera walking ahead, and I keeping a respectful distance behind. I discovered that the height difference between us allowed me to stay behind my mistress while looking ahead for any oncoming dangers. As Mistress Sera said, appearances are irrelevant, therefore, I must prove myself invaluabe to her, by performing my tasks as best I can. The disapproval of one's superiors, after all, is a death sentence to "lower" units. I was designed and constructed to protect and ensure Mistress Sera's safety, and that I will do.

SERA:

I admit, after Lene's attempt at my life, I was a bit uneasy walking around with this stranger directly behind me. I could not resist the urge to glance behind me, checking to see what he was doing. My fears proved unfounded; Jiji did nothing more than follow, obedient as a puppy and not once making a single threatening move. He did seem puzzled by my behavior, though, but I decided he did not need to know the cause of it. Lene has long ago been terminated, so there is no longer any issue.

I led Jiji up to the residential area, toward my dwelling. The artificial sky was ink-black, save a pale blue area toward the endless ocean, the last remnants of a beautiful sunset. The entire setting was designed to be calming, yet also a perfect imitation of the Master's old beloved world, which hung in space below Elysium.

Once inside, Jiji spoke to me for the first time outside of the construction department.

"Permission to pose an inquiry, Mistress Sera?" he asked.

I gave him the permission, and he continued, "You seem to be at ill ease in this unit's presence. May I inquire as to why?"

I hesitated, considering the necessity of informing him, then relented.

"Your predecessor proved defective and unfaithful," I told him.

"My predecessor? How many Servator units were before this one?"

"You are my fourth, Jiji." I answered, and proceeded to tell him about my first two, how I had originally planned on naming him "Geetz" after them both, and how he ended up with his actual name.

"Who was your third Servator?" he asked. "The one who betrayed you?"

"His designation was Lene, and he served me for five decades. Over that time, I learned to trust him, and we became...friends of sorts. Until ten months ago, when it happened."

I had to pause a moment to allow the feeling of emotional pain to come and pass, seeking refuge in the protective bliss of the System. The System's logic and order calmed my turmoiled mind, and swept away the unpleasant feelings. Jiji was silent until I could continue, a courtesy I greatly appreciated.

"One night," I said, "Lene tried to assassinate me. I never knew exactly what his motivations were. I was in my re-energization state at the time, so I was unaware of the exact time when he transformed into his alternate configuration for the purpose. I woke up quite suddenly in time to see Lene in his draconian configuration with his mandibles wide open, possibly in order to crush me to death. My guess is that his tail jarred the recharge pod hard enough to cause a short circuit and bring me to full consciousness, and when I realized what he was planning to do, I jumped out and ran. Lene immediately rushed forward to make a second attempt, but I was too fast. I sounded an alarm and the Purifiers took care of him..."

For a moment, I was caught up in the memory, seeing Lene's monstrous jaws bearing down on me, intending to destroy me as I lay helpless.

Jiji's soft voice brought me out of my reverie.

"Mistress Sera," he said. "This unit dedicates everything in its power to ensure your safety, not to endanger it." He sounded so sincere, I truly believed him. Just as I had truly believed Lene when he offered me almost those exact same words fifty years ago....

JIJI:

I must admit, I was a bit surprised at Mistress Sera's revelation about her third Servator unit. Attacks such as this are rare, and those committed by one's own Servator are virtually unheard of. And yet, my own mistress had been the victim of this most unusual crime. Little wonder she was nervous around me. I quelled her fears as best I could, by restating my promise to ensure her well-being, and she seemed to accept it.

Not quite as strange-but odd nonetheless-was Mistress Sera's confession that she had befriended Lene. It's a very impractical thing to do, since Servators are at constant risk of destruction. My thoughts lingered on this fact the longest. What would it be like, to see one's superior gazing at you not only with approval for a job well done, but also with affection, and concern for your well-being? Suddenly, for a few moments, I wanted more than anything for Mistress Sera to look at me in just that way, with affection as well as approval. But, after giving it some thought, I decided that this was an illogical pursuit, considering that the Mother Unit entrusted to my care had already been emotionally wounded by placing herself in that very relationship to someone else, to whom she had also been entrusted.

***

There is actually very little worth telling between my activiation and the...incident with MegaMan Trigger. For twenty-eight years, I put forth all my effort into protecting Mistress Sera, and went the extra mile, so they say, to ensure her happiness as well. My efforts did not go unrewarded; my mistress often stated and restated her approval of my actions, and even smiled at me. I know this sounds illogical, but I preferred Mistress Sera's approving smile over her words of praise, probably because the smile was often accompanied by a matching glow of gratitude, appreciation, even affection in her eyes. This expression is very difficult to falsify, and guaranteed that my position-and my life-were secure.

Running the Elysium system can be a very lonely task. For the most part, the Mother Unit in charge is left alone in her study, unless someone came in with a problem severe enough to warrant a personal audience with her. During these long hours, Mistress Sera and I would converse at length about whatever we could think of. I discovered that the two of us shared similar views on many subjects, but this is only because I was programmed to be compatible with Mistress Sera in every sense of the term. After all, a Servator is expected to spend every second of its existence in the presence of the individual it is under the command of, so it is imperative that the two get along well.

Several times, I've wondered what it would be like if I were reassigned to another, but I did not pursue these lines of thought very long. I loathed the idea of being seperated from Mistress Sera for any reason, and was quite content to remain by her side. I always assumed that this was because I was programmed specifically for Mistress Sera, but sometimes I wondered if emotions had anything to do with it...?

SERA:

I can honestly say that Jiji turned out to be my favorite Servator of the four. Geeschje and Geletz, whom he was named after, had been present, and not much else. Lene had been kind to me, and enjoyed talking, up to the point where I considered removing his voice synthesizer entirely. He would have an excess of jokes and amusing stories, and would cheer me up when the work hours got too long. Lene was entertaining, witty, and fun to be around. Until the night he betrayed me and tried to kill me. I regret that his attempt at my life will have to be the way I will remember him.

Jiji, on the other hand, was almost Lene's opposite. Lene had been loud, brash, and ready with his latest display of humor. Jiji, on the other hand, was very quiet, polite, and said very little until I asked him to talk.

Then again, Lene had been irresponsible on more occasions than I would have liked. He would wander away from me, and occasionally question my orders, which annoyed me to no end. Jiji was highly mature, responsible, obedient, and respectful. Obedience and respect are what a Servator is created for, and my newest one was simply the best in that area.

For twenty-eight years, Jiji was by my side, ever willing to serve, and always faithful. And this faith and dedication were never quite as apparant as when we were both put to the test one fateful day. I say 'fateful', because, in retrospect, the one relatively minor incident managed to escalate into so much more...

***

I strode down the main corridor of Elysium toward my dwelling, Jiji keeping pace with me, as usual. The day had gone spectacularly; everything was in order, and stayed that way, and later today, Yuna, Mother Unit of the Terra System, was coming to Elysium for our collaboration conference. The Elysium system and Terra system are connected by an elaborate Elysium-based computer network, called the Elysium-Directed Electronic Network, or E.D.E.N. for short. Every thirty years, the Elysium and Terra systems' Mother Units confer to ensure that both branches of the Master System are in harmony, and there is nothing wrong between them. That was later today. Until then, there was time to relax, perhaps enjoy a virtual concerto.

"Mistress Sera, why are some units designated 'MegaMan', along with their unique titles?" Jiji was asking.

I answered without looking back, "The MegaMan line is a very old breed of robots. It's so old, in fact, that its origins are obscured by time. They were an ancient race centuries before even the Master existed. Rumor has it that the MegaMen existed back when Terra still had continents."

"What are 'continents'?"

"I'm not certain, but I believe they are similar to islands, only much, much larger. Anyway, MegaMen are very unusual units, in design as well as behavior, although not always in a positive way. In fact, most Aberrants are MegaMen."

I abruptly realized that Jiji was no longer at my side. I turned around, and saw him standing perfectly still near a door leading to one of the adjacent store rooms, a puzzled expression on his handsome face. I was about to chastise him for lagging behind, but he held up a hand for silence.

"What's wrong, Jiji?" I asked testily. I was the one who was supposed to give him orders, not the other way around.

"This unit is detecting some odd sounds emanating from this chamber," my bodyguard replied. "It may or may not be an indication of potential disaster. An immediate investigation is recommended"

I hesitated, processing this new imput, then walked over to where Jiji was standing, and placed my ear against the door. Sure enough, a low scraping noise, like something heavy being dragged about, was echoing throughout the chamber, occasionally interrupted with a soft banging or clanging sound. I leaned back and addressed my servant.

"Contact the nearest Purifier unit, and inform it of a possible Aberrant." I told him.

"Understood," came the reply. The Purifiers-constructed and programmed to terminate any Aberrant Unit that decided to threaten our magnificent System-would not arrive for another fifteen minutes, Jiji informed me. Meanwhile, the scraping and banging in the other room were getting louder, and more frequent. This could not wait fifteen more minutes.

"Follow me," I ordered my companion, whereupon I threw open the door, and walked in to confront the Aberrant, Jiji right behind me.

The Aberrant unit in question was a Fifth-Class bureaucratic unit named Delta. I recognized him from a previous Terra/Elysium conference sixty years ago, when he first became an Aberrant. His anti-System malfunction manifested itself in an attack against one of Yuna's ensemble in attempt to bring Terra's Mother Unit herself out in the open. The victim had been a then-Fourth-Class bureaucratic unit designated MegaMan Juno. Delta first burned a few holes in Juno's outer shell with his wrist-mounted laser weapon, then pounced on his fellow Bureaucratic unit and attacked him physically. Juno, for his part, was able to fend off Delta's assault long enough to prevent serious damage before a then-Second-Class Purifier designated MegaMan Trigger was able to restrain the Aberrant.

What was strange was Trigger's unusual request that Delta's life be spared, and the Aberrant unit be rehabilitated and reprogrammed, arguing that it would save our time and resources, as opposed to going to the trouble of building a replacement for Delta. And besides, Juno was only slightly damaged, if a bit shaken by the unexpected attack. The Purifier made such a compelling argument, that I granted him permission to pursue this new course of action instead of the usual termination.

Apparantly, the rehabilitation had failed, for now Delta was quite possibly attempting to sabotage the System once more. I approached him, declaring, "Bureaucratic unit Delta, this is not your usual post. Return to your duties immediately!"

Delta only glanced in my direction, flicked his pale blue hair away from his eyes, then returned his attention to the strange apparatus he was attempting to fit into one of the wall joists. A bomb, no doubt. I stepped forward, ordering in a louder tone, "Aberrant unit, you will cease your actions immediately and come with me!" This time, Delta obeyed to the point where he stopped and turned in my direction. Suddenly, the unit fired a multi-colored laser from his hand, aimed straight for my head.

"MISTRESS SERA!!" I heard Jiji's cry of rage and fear moments before he was actually pulling me to the side, out of the path of the deadly laser, which slammed harmlessly into the far wall, leaving a black, scorched area. While I recollected my bearings, Jiji lunged forward, and delivered a frame-denting punch to Delta's jaw, sending him reeling away. Unfortunately, between Delta's firing at me and Jiji knocking him into a pile of crates nearby, the bomb managed to be activated, and it exploded. The bright white flash seared my optical sensors, and my diagnostics system blared alarms and damage warnings through my brain. Even worse, Delta had already placed several more bombs throughout the room, and these went off in succession, sending tsunamis of noise, light, and pain slamming through every sensor in my body. I gritted my teeth and braced myself against Jiji, who had wrapped me in a protective embrace and did his best to shield me from the explosions.

The explosions went on for what seemed to be forever before expending themselves. When my vision cleared, I could see Delta approaching through the haze, weapons locked on to Jiji and I both.

"What now?" I asked. Jiji didn't answer; he was looking around the trap-ridden room, as though searching for something. Finally, he glanced upward, then turned to me.

"Mistress Sera, please forgive this unit for the following course of action," Jiji said softly to me. I was about to him to ask what he meant, but my question was answered before it could be asked. The next thing I knew, I was flying straight upward through the air, and landing rather roughly on a shelf that encircled the entire room. For a moment, I lay there, groaning softly in pain before realizing what had happened; Jiji had literally tossed me up to the safest point in the room. I got up on my hands and knees to watch what was happening below.

Jiji and Delta were fighting, literally hand to hand. Normally fighting a Bureaucratic unit is hardly any effort at all, but this one seemed to have outfitted itself with every imaginable weapon, and was giving my servant a difficult time of it. After a while, my Servator unit apparantly decided to change tactics. He knelt down, hands placed on the ground, and his legs folded beneath him. Then, as I watched, Jiji began to change.

With barely the slightest appearance of effort, he began to grow. As he did, gold-colored blades lanced from his arms and chest, a huge, needle-like stabilizing rod sprouted from his back, and a long, saurian tail appeared at the base of his spine. Twin plasma cannons burst from Jiji's shoulders. His skin melted and fell away.

At this point, I was distracted by a loud rumbling coming from behind me, and I turned to see what was causing it. The shelf I was on was not as stable as it appeared, apparantly compromised by the earlier explosions. The section I was on began to crumble. The floor was thirty feet below. Between these new developments and the damage I had sustained earlier, my chances of survival were less than ten percent. The situation did not look optimal at this point.

"Jiji!" I called. "This surface is unsta..." A loud rumbling interrupted me, and I cried out as I felt the shelf bowing toward the floor. Supports cracked and snapped in two, and the surface I was on tilted violently. Terrified, I reached for nonexistent handholds, but found only smooth metal. There was a terrible shuddering all around me, like an earthquake, that knocked me completely down onto my abdomen. With my head turned away from the wall, I could see the floor rising up as though to strike, and I felt a deep coldness of pure terror that not even the System could quell. I was going to be terminated, on what was supposed to be one of the best days of my life.

The shelf could take no more. There was a final rumbling, then the surface I was lying on simply ceased to exist, and I was falling along with assorted debris that was once the shelf and its contents, screaming in terror. The floor leapt up, and I landed on my side so hard, I could feel my inner shell denting. A horrible snapping sound-like metal being split apart-echoed through my head, and my entire body was numb, except for an intense pain in my back and neck. I tried to access my diagnostic systems, but there was no time. There was a terrible, agonizing pressure as the remains of the shelf and its contents fell on top of me, burying me alive. The intensity of the pain-pressure was unbearable! I tried to cry out for help, but there was neither room nor air enough. One by one, systems failed and went offline. I felt my consciousness fading....

Then...all was dark. And silent.

JIJI:

According to those who have witnessed it from the outside, a Servator's transformation from humanoid to dragon form looks extremely painful, but in reality, nothing could be farther than the truth. While the transformation certainly is not pleasureable, it is nonetheless painless. If anything, the Servator experiences an intense pressure, but nothing more.

I have also heard that the process is grotesque and unsettling to watch, and I suppose it is disturbing for someone else to see a unit tear out of its own skin and morph into a completely different shape. Of course, it has never bothered me.

Dispatching of a mere bureaucratic unit such as Delta should have been a simple matter, and easily accomplished even in my humanoid form. Unfortunately, Delta had been equipped with every laser, plasma cannon, energy blade, bomb launcher, missile launcher, and machine gun our technology had come up with. Had he added paralyzing venom to his arsenel, I would have taken Delta for a typical First-Class Purifier unit. I quickly came to the conclusion that this battle would not be easily won, and shifted into my draconian mode.

The process was well underway, when I heard Mistress Sera's voice call out, "Jiji! This surface is unst...!" followed by an ominous rumbling. I glanced over where she was in time to see the shelf I had placed my mistress on crumble away. I felt an icy dread as my mistress slid off of the shelf, and plummeted to the floor below.

She screamed as she fell, her body twisting and flailing for a handhold that wasn't there. I tried to run over to catch her, but my current form was virtually immobile on land, and there was too much distance between us. I could only watch in helpless despair as the Mother Unit whose life had been entrusted to me fell to her doom. There were terrible clanging sounds as Sera's body struck the floor, metal against metal. More clanging as the metallic shelf and its massive contents buried her. A silence so thick and deep, it was nearly tangible against my audio sensors. I was immediately overcome with dread.

No, NO! What have I done? How could I have been so stupid?! I've failed. Mistress Sera was dead, and it was my fault! I was a failure! I had killed my own mistress!

A laser stabbed my heavily-armored body, bringing me out of my despair. Delta. Delta was also responsible! If not for his sabotage attempts, I would not have committed the error that had led to Mistress Sera's death. It was Delta' fault as well! By this time, I was fully transformed. I stood on the pawlike structures on the ends of my wings. My long tail lashed with rage and anticipation of the killing that was about to commence. True, I was better suited for aerial combat in this form, and rather awkward on the ground, but at least I was armed! And I was going to make Delta suffer for what he did!


3 and 4

JIJI: Seething with rage, I powered up my flamethrower, and let loose an wave of fire that a Karamuna Bash would have envied. I cannot tell you how wonderful it was, seeing Delta' smug expression give way to horror as his death arced toward him in a red-orange blaze. He cried out in pain and terror as the wave struck him, sending him sprawling and writhing on the floor as his shell melted and fused into an unrecognizble mass.

That done, I turned my attention toward where Mistress Sera had fallen. I had to know if she was alive. I shuffled over to the pile of debris that used to be a shelf, calling her name. To my utmost relief, she answered!

"J...Jiji? Are you there?" Mistress Sera's voice was weak, but audible. She groaned softly, then said, "I...I am heavily damaged. I need repairs immediate...ly...."

For a moment, I was overjoyed that I had not killed my mistress after all. But now was not the time to be emotional. I needed to get Mistress Sera to safety, as quickly as possible. The scraps of metal were far too large and awkward for my hands, but perhaps I could manage them in my current form. I began to dig carefully through the debris...

SERA:

When I first woke up, the first thing I was aware of was the sheer weight of the junk piled on top of me. Then, as soft and silent as a thought, Jiji's voice was calling my name. I was able to answer and report that I was heavily damaged and needed immediate repair, before dizziness overwhelmed me, and I was sinking into oblivion...

I thought, struggling against the deactivation.

"Mistress Sera," Jiji called from somewhere above. "This unit is attempting to dig you out. Please warn ahead of time of anything that might go wrong."

The ironic thing was, everything had been going wrong since we stepped into this room.

I felt the pressure shift as the heavy debris was lifted away. Then, something huge was plunging in next to me, and I screamed. It jerked away sharply, and I could see what it was: I was looking at the rather large muzzle of a robotic dragon. Its huge, lipless mandibles were lined with chisel-like teeth, bared in a perpetual snarl. Scarlet, hooded eyes peered at me from atop a beaklike structure at the end of the muzzle. Looking farther back, I could see the dragon's long, thin, spiked wings, slender body, and whiplike tail. An enormous spike on its back lanced toward the ceiling. Twin cannons perched on its shoulders. Somehow, Jiji's lovely voice, twisted and robotic-sounding, came from somewhere in the beast's chest cavity.

"Mistress Sera," it asked, "Are you able to move?"

I tried, but the remaining debris and the pain in my back prevented me from doing anything more than shifting my limbs slightly.

"I'm still trapped," I murmured. "And I can't feel anything below my waist!" I started to panic, and sought out the System's soothing logic in a failed attempt to calm myself.

The dragon nodded slightly, and said, "Very well. This unit shall call for assitence." As I watched, the monster began to shrink. Spikes, cannons, snout and tail receded, as its body morphed into a humanoid shape and skin and hair reappeared. No matter how many times I see it, a Servator unit's ability to compress an enormous dragon form into a relatively small humanoid body never fails to amaze me.

Fully de-transformed, Jiji sprinted back out of the room, to the nearest companel. I heard his voice saying softly, yet urgently in the distance, "This is Servator Unit Jiji requesting emergency assitance in Storeroom 7. Repeat, emergency assistance is required in Storeroom 7. Mother Unit Sera has been damaged, possibly severely." Pause. "Very well. Jiji out."

Meanwhile, my condition was detoriorating rapidly. I felt myself growing unaturally warm, and my breaths became labored, signs of a failing coolant system. There was the dampness of leaking fluids seeping from my back. Panic began to settle into my soul. If my coolant system failed, there was a 98% chance I could expire.

Jiji returned, stating, "Assistance will arrive within seven minutes. What is your condition?"

"I don't have seven minutes!" I nearly shouted. "My coolant system is near critical!" I needn't go on. The horrified expression on Jiji's face told me he knew what that meant. He immediately calmed, then said, "In that case, there is only one thing to do: a Level 3 shutdown must be carried out immediately."

A Level 3 shutdown-total deactivation-ceases a unit's functions entirely, down to the brain activity. Unfortunately, unlike higher-level shutdowns, a Level 3 cannot be carried out by the unit itself; it must be performed manually, by another. It also requires the creation of a memory backup, the necessary auxilary components for which are usually carried by one's Servator, for just such an emergency as this.

"You have my permission," I told my servant.

"Acknowledged", Jiji replied, and carefully removed the rest of the debris that was imprisoning me, then very carefully repositioned me onto my stomach. I felt his fingers pressing against the back of my neck, then the light, sliding sensation of a memory chip being inserted into the I/O slot located at the base of my skull. By this time, my temperature had risen so much, I could feel the metal of my body starting to soften, and every breath was a laborious struggle. My internal CPU stated,

MEMORY BACKUP APPARATUS: READY

I instructed it.

PROCESSING...DONE.

"Ready," I told Jiji. He said nothing, but continued with the deactivation. My throat tightened with nervousness as an unsettling thought occured to me: I was completely at this unit's mercy. True, it had been twenty-eight years since he was assigned to me, but then again, it had been fifty years before Lene went aberrant and tried to kill me. Jiji could just as soon rip my vital components out and claim that I had been crushed beyond repair when the shelf collapsed. And I would be helpless to stop him.

I tried to put all thoughts of the Servator unit that had betrayed me from my mind. This was not Lene. This was Jiji, someone completely different, I told myself. When I could not reassure myself, I begged the System for help. It complied, easing the pain, and surrounding my thoughts with calmness, even euphoria, as the sharp, cold pinprick of a shutdown device in the back of my neck probed for the deactivation mechanism located on my spinal column. Then, I was drifting into unconsciousness....

JIJI:

Mistress Sera grew limp as I completed the shutdown. The process was a success; her overheated body began to cool down to a safer temperature. I took the moment to enjoy the sense of relief and a job well done, before the System cleared my mind of all emotions.

The door slid open behind me, admitting two Purifier units and a Construction/Maintenence unit into the room. One of the Purifiers, MegaMan Trigger, jogged toward me.

"Report!" he ordered. I explained all that had occured, while Trigger listened. When I was finished, his expression turned thoughtful, then he said to me, "Servator Unit Jiji, you do realize that, due to your failure to provide adequate protection for Mother, you are partially responsible for the damage she has sustained,"

I nodded slightly to indicate that I understood, then watched as the Construction/Maintenence unit assigned to this area entered and teleported Mistress Sera to her quarters, where a repair pod would be waiting.

I would have felt a deep despair and guilt, had the System not reduced it to mere dismay. Instead of proving to Mistress Sera that I was worth anything to her, I had instead confirmed that I was useless. The first time I was challenged to protect my mistress from an outright attack, which is what a Servator unit is created for in the first place, I had failed, and I knew what that meant. At Mistress Sera's order, I would be terminated, after a mere twenty-eight years of existence.

I did not resist when the Purifiers seized and restrained me. I simply complied with their orders, and allowed them to lead me out of the room. After all, there was nothing I could have done that would have made any difference.

***

SERA:

According to the diagnostics run by the repair pod, I had suffered moderate damage to my primary circuit relay, and severe coolant leakage. Minor damage, really, but would nonetheless take seventy-two hours for the repairs to be complete. The Elysium/Terra meeting had to be postponed.

During the forty-fifth hour of my repair, Yuna came in to check on my progress, accompanied by a Servator unit I had not seen before.

"Hello Sera," Yuna greeted. "How are you feeling?"

"As well as can be expected," I replied with a wan smile. I nodded toward the unfamiliar Servator. "Who's that?"

Yuna smiled proudly and said, "This is Gaga. He was just activated less than forty-eight hours ago, and already shows great promise. Gaga, this is Sera, Mother Unit of Elysium."

Gaga regarded me almost shyly, then said, "Hello. It's an honor to meet you, Mistress Sera."

"What happened to your previous Servator unit?" I asked.

"He got reassigned." Yuna answered. "Speaking of Servators, what are you going to do with yours? It doesn't sound to me like he's very reliable."

I honestly did not know yet. Normal practice for an infraction this severe was to terminate the unit responsible, yet I could not bear to sentence Jiji to death. I needed more time to consider this.

A couple of Purifiers brought Jiji in to confer with me during the seventy-first hour of my recovery. His wrists had been bound together against his back. His normally impeccable posture was slouched in shame, and his eyes were downcast.

One of the Purifiers, none other than MegaMan Trigger himself, stepped forward.

"Mother Sera," Trigger said, "This Servator has endangered your existence, and therefore has been declared defective. Your verdict?"

Without displaying any emotion, I asked Jiji, "Did you scan the shelf for defects or possible unstability?"

"No, Mistress Sera." he replied.

I took this fact into consideration, and, after a minute, announced my decision:

"Servator Unit Jiji, you are pardoned."

This statement invited odd stares from all who were present. All wondering about my seemingly illogical decision.

"Subsequent testing of the room showed that the shelf I was...placed upon was indeed the safest point in the room at the time," I explained. "There was simply nothing that could have been done to prevent what had happened. In fact, if I were anywhere else in the room, chances are that I would be severely damaged at this point, or terminated entirely. It would not be just if I were to terminate Jiji for something that he could not have prevented. Let him go."

The Purifiers removed Jiji's bonds, and, having served their function, departed.

"MegaMan Trigger!" I called. The First-Class Purifier hesitated, then turned. He had the same expression as Jiji did when he was brought in, as though he knew ahead of time what I was about to say.

"You are aware," I told him, "that this whole incident never would have occured had you not attempted to rehabilitize Delta, and terminated him immediately as protocol dictates, are you not?"

"Actually," Trigger said, "the idea was not mine, Mother. It was the Master who thought of it."

I sighed. Of course it had to have been the Master's idea to suggest rehabilitation. What is it about humans that makes them alternate between sheer brilliance and utter idiocy?

"MegaMan Trigger, you and I are holding a one-to-one conference as soon as I have recovered." I declared.

"Yes, Mother." The Purifier bowed respectfully and left the room.

JIJI:

As promised, as soon as Mistress Sera was able to move freely and painlessly, she summoned MegaMan Trigger to her office. I, of course, stayed behind her, in my usual kneeling position. This gesture serves a dual purpose; besides being extremely respectful, I am also in an ideal position to leap onto an attacker, or transform without being concerned about falling over.

Trigger entered the room, bowed, and said, "Mother, I can explain. Rehabilitation is not a one-hundred percent solution. There is a slight chance for failure. Perhaps Delta was an exception."

Mistress Sera held up a hand to silence him.

"Your rehabilitation theory has proven ineffective." she said. "There will be no more attempts. From now on, you will terminate malfunctioning units like all the other Purifiers."

"Yes, Mother."

"Why did you think you could reprogram Delta?" Mistress Sera asked.

"I didn't. As I said before, it was the Master's idea." Trigger replied.

"Trigger, humans are illogical creatures. Sometimes they say things they don't really mean or haven't thought through properly."

"Then why obey them at all, if they're so illogical?" Trigger demanded. I saw Mistress Sera's shoulder's tense up in irritation.

"Because that's what we were built for." my mistress told him. "To serve the human race. But don't forget, the Master is the only true human remaining. The System exists to protect and serve the Master. We exist for this, and this purpose only."

Trigger lowered his head, his shame showing through.

It seemed to me that this was a most unusual Purifier unit. But then again, he is a MegaMan unit, and MegaMan units tend to be a bit peculiar.

"Remember, the Master says illogical things at times," Mistress Sera concluded. "If he does, ignore him." She returned to her desk.

"I do not understand," I asked as Trigger left the room. "Why would the Master want a unit such as that by his side? What would prompt such behavior?"

There was an unusually wistful tone in Mistress Sera's voice when she answered my question. "The Master is...lonely."

The saddened tone piqued my curiousity. I looked up, taking care not to meet her eyes.

"Mistress Sera," I asked. "Is something wrong?"

She jumped slightly, as though startled, then glanced down at me. "No," she said. "Nothing is wrong. I was just reminded of how alone I myself had felt walking alone along Elysium's hallways while you were still being constructed. I guess...I guess I never really thought of it until now." Her eyes closed as she sought comfort in the System.

Her unhappy expression was disquieting to me. I stood up to my full height.

"Mistress Sera," I said. "This unit is constantly in your presence, so you no longer have a reason to feel alone."

She glanced upward at me, offering that smile I had come to appreciate so much, and said, "That is true. And I am extremely grateful for your presence."

Her words generated a pleasantly intense feeling of gratitude, which the System immediately quelled. No major loss; emotions tend to be illogical anyway.

Mistress Sera settled back down behind her desk to resume her duties, while I stood faithfully next to her. For the next several minutes, I reflected on the pleasant emotion Mistress Sera's words had invoked. Specifically, I wondered why I had been so grateful for nothing more than praise. It seemed illogical to get so emotional over mere words. Eventually, after giving it some thought, I figured it out: Mistress Sera's kind statement had reinforced the fact that my life had been spared from termination due to fatal error. That and nothing more.

The door to the office burst open, and a Communications Unit drifted in, screeching, "Mother! This unit requires your immediate attention! It is urgent!"

"If it is so urgent, then why can't you take it up with the Master?" Mistress Sera snapped, clearly annoyed by the interruption.

"I'm afraid that is impossible," the Communications Unit replied.

"Why?"

"That is what I came to tell you! The Master is dead!"

~JIJI: The Master? Dead? Impossible! There is nothing on Elysium that poses any sort of threat to his existence. There is simply no way for the Master's life to end, unless he actually left Elysium. But why would he do something like that, especially since he is-or was, rather-well aware of the fatal consequences of doing so?

Mistress Sera, meanwhile, had been staring at the Communications unit for about a minute, clearly shocked by the news. She slowly rose from her chair, leaned on the desk, and said, "Are you certain?"

The Communications unit nodded solomnly.

"How?" my mistress demanded. "The Master didn't leave Elysium, did he?"

"I'm afraid he did," the messenger replied, sadness creeping into its voice. "According to the reports, the Master left for Terra willingly with MegaMan Trigger, but he died before he could return. We attempted to interview Trigger as to what happened, but he would not give any answers. He seemed to be in too much emotional distress from his friend's death, so we left him alone for a while until the System had properly calmed him..."

"Very, well. You're dismissed." Mistress Sera interrupted. The Communications unit left immediately.

So, it has actually happened. The last of the humans has died. I knew what had to be done next, but I never really expected that we would have to actually follow through with it.

Mistress Sera turned to me, and instructed, "Jiji! Let's go! The Carbon Reinitialization Program must be activated immediately!"

We left the office and headed toward Elysium's central command center, where the deletion of the carbons could be carried out.

"First, we will contact Yuna and obtain the keys to the Library, where we can activate the reinitialization program," Mistress Sera was saying. "Then, once all the carbons are dead, we will begin restoration of the original humans." I listened silently. To be honest, I was still a bit surprised at this unexpected turn of events. To think that such a significant occurance happened during my lifetime was almost unbelievable.

SERA:

Between the office and the communications panel in the hallway (the one on my desk was undergoing repairs at the time) I attempted to make sense of our late master's odd decision. I know he was only human, and humans have this tendency to be imperfect, but they usually have a reason for making mistakes with such severe consequences. What in the known universe could have possessed our overseer to take this course of action? The only conclusion I could reach was that the Master had been depressed to the point of suicidal, but I could not for the life of me understand why. He had everything he could have wanted. Why would anyone be unhappy living in heaven? It just didn't make sense!

But that mystery could wait until a more convenient time. Right now, I had to obtain the keys to the library, so I could download the necessary data for the carbon reinitialization process. Also, just to ensure that there would be no more carbons in our way, I would obtain and destroy the Master's genetic code sample, which is a necessary component in the production of carbons. The sample was taken from the Master when he was a young child, and kept in his possession for security reasons. Now that he was dead, however, the sample would be given to his most trusted companion. That someone happened to be MegaMan Trigger.

"This is Mother Unit Sera of Elysium System calling Mother Unit Yuna of Terra System. Priority one, repeat, priority one!" I nearly shouted into the communications panel.

STANDBY appeared on the screen, followed by Yuna's image.

"So," Yuna said, "You've heard the news too."

"Indeed," I replied. "So you must know the purpose of this communication. Please send the keys up immediately."

"Certainly," Yuna replied. "Sending the order, now."

The screen wavered, lines of static breaking the transmission.

"Be quick," I grumbled. "I think there's something wrong with this companel."

Yuna frowned, then said, "Um, it's not the companel. I'm picking up some sort of interference." Her eyes widened. "According to this analysis, someone's attempting to sabotage the System!"

"What?!" I jerked back in surprise. "Well, stop whoever it is, immediately!"

"I'm right on it!"

A few minutes later, Yuna came back with a grim report.

"Bad news, Sera," she told me. "It seems one of your Purifiers, a MegaMan Trigger, is trying to upload a virus into E.D.E.N.'s core. Don't worry though, we have the means necessary to stop him. The keys will be on Elysium by the end of the day. End transmission." The screen flickered out.

I leaned on the console, sighing. First the Master's death, now this. What else could go wrong?

"Well, there's nothing more we can do from here," I mumbled. "And Yuna said she could handle it. Let's go, Jiji." I turned and started walking down the corridor.

***

For the next five days, my thoughts were in a turmoil, which the System was sluggish to ease, undoubtedly due to MegaMan Trigger's sabotage attempts. What if Trigger succeeded? What would we do without the System? If it were to fail, then every unpleasant emotion would rage uncontrolled thoroughout Elysium's inhabitants. The thought of having to deal with such undesirable feelings as grief or guilt chilled me.

During this time, I was especially grateful for Jiji's presence. At least one thing was constant and unchanging in my life; my Servator unit remained faithfully by my side, supportive and loyal as always. I don't know how long I would have lasted without him.

It was several days before Yuna contacted me, telling me that "everything was under control." I was nearly ecstatic at this news; finally, we could start the reinitialization.

"Send the keys up, then." I instructed.

Silence.

"Yuna," I repeated, "send up the keys to the library."

"No."

"What did you say?" I demanded.

"I said no!" Yuna shouted back, glaring at me. "'No', as in, you're not carrying out the reinitialization program!"

"And...why not?" I asked, trying to hold on to what little patience I had.

"Sera, you can't kill all these people! They're sentient beings, like you and I!"

"Where's the Master's genetic code?" I demanded. It was a redundant question, actually, but I wanted to make sure.

"Where do you think?" Yuna shot back. "Trigger has it. And I don't think he's going to give it up!"

This was too much! The Master's death was bad enough, then Trigger's Aberrance and subsequent threat to the System, now Yuna herself was Aberrant! What else could go wrong?

"Am I the only one who becoming Aberrant?" I yelled at no one. "Mistress Sera, this unit is not an Aberrant." Jiji said quietly.

I ignored him and started running down the hall toward the docking bay. My servant trotted alongside me, looking completely baffled. I didn't blame him. I was rather puzzled about all this myself.

"Mistress Sera, what are we going to do?" the Servator unit asked.

"We are going to Terra to deal with MegaMan Trigger and get the keys to the Library ourselves!" I told him.

***

The Terra computer core station is located several miles below the surface of a snow-capped island that was uninhabited, and, therefore, unnamed. As soon as our ship touched down, Jiji and I ran to the entrance, only to find Gaga standing guard.

"I have been ordered to prevent you two from entering," he said calmly.

By this time I had lost all patience, and was sorely tempted to cause the uppity Servator unit considerable bodily harm.

"Stand aside, Servator unit." I instructed as calmly as I could.

"Forgive me, but as Yuna's assistant, her commands take priority over yours." he answered.

"In that case," Jiji told him, "We will force our way through!" His voice distorted toward the end of his statement as he transformed into his dragon configuration. Gaga watched stoically, then transformed as well, into a silvery-white imitation of Jiji's dragon form. I ducked out of the way as my Servator leapt onto his counterpart, and a battle ensued. For a few minutes, I watched in fascination as Gaga and Jiji fought each other, striking at whatever they could reach. At first, the two Servators were a lashing, seething gold and silver blur, then they were leaping upward, taking off toward the sky. I watched until the two had flown out of sight, but the firing of their weapons could still be heard.

Time was running out. I raced into the building, toward the control center. Sure enough, there was MegaMan Trigger, hunched over the controls. I guessed he was planning on uploading a potent virus into the System.

"Trigger, what are you doing?" I asked with a gentleness that I did not feel.

The Purifier stopped his actions, and faced me. His eyes shone with unshed tears. "What does it look like I'm doing? I'm going to destroy that wretched System so we can all actually live for a change!"

I wanted to strike him for speaking so contemptuously about the System, as well as showing such a lack of respect towards me. My hands balled into fists, but I managed to restrain myself.

"What happened, Trigger?" I asked. "What caused all this?"

"Remember a few days ago when you yelled at me for attempting to rehabilitize Delta instead of terminating him?" the Purifier asked.

"Yes?"

"Well, after that, I was upset by what you said, and went to talk to the Master about it. He told me that you scolded him too, because he is- so fond of the carbons. After we had discussed the carbons for a while, the Master suddenly asked to be taken from Elysium to see the carbons' world for himself and...and..." Tears welled up in Trigger's eyes once more, and he quickly brushed them away.

"So are you saying that this is all my fault?" I asked testily. "If I was a little too harsh, then I apologize. But you still haven't explained why you want to destroy such a perfect system as ours."

"The System was a mistake," Trigger told me. "Perfection isn't the way to happiness. A perfect world can't even exist. There's always going to be something or other wrong with it."

His near-incoherent rambling frightened me a little, and I backed up slightly, almost unconsciously.

"Listen, I know you're upset over your friend's death," I said as gently as I could. "Please. Return to Elysium with me, so we can talk this over."

"I'm not going back." Trigger growled. "I don't ever want to set foot in Elysium again!"

"Why not?" I was genuinely curious by now.

"Sera, when I first came here, it was nighttime. I mean, a real nighttime." Trigger explained. "I looked up at the sky, and I saw all these stars. Yeah, we have stars on Elysium, but not real ones. These were the real things. And they were so beautiful compared to the ones on Elysium. They were all different colors, and the disturbances in the atmosphere seemed to make them shimmer, and...."

"You're not making sense." I said.

The Purifier unit shook his head. "It wasn't just the stars, Mother," he said. "It was the...ambience, I think you'd call it. The way the air felt, the smells, all the subtle things that Elysium can't have. And...I agree with Yuna. The carbons should be allowed to live."

"Trigger, listen to yourself!" I exclaimed. "You're talking like an Aberrant!"

"Well, maybe 'aberrant' and 'errant' are not the same thing." Trigger replied. He looked me straight in the eyes, and said, "Sera, I'm telling you, this way is best for all of us."

"Why?" I asked. "We're perfectly happy the way we are now!"

"How do you know that?" Trigger replied. "You have no frame of reference." He stared directly at me, passion gleaming in his eyes as he asked, "How do you really know what pleasure is, when you've never felt pain?"

JIJI:

Once I had lured Gaga far enough awayfrom the compound, I broke loose from the battle, and headed back, firing several more rounds behind me to keep my opponent at bay long enough to create some distance between us. The plasma shots hit their target directly, and I heard Gaga's cry of pain and frustration fading in the distance.

There was a hangar entryway for the Terra control center a few kilometers away from the actual center. I tore through the hangar's door, and glided down the corridor toward the main room. At the end of this corridor, there was a wall with the main computer room directly behind it. The doorway in the wall was too tiny for my current form. No matter, though. I am certain the Maintenence units are quite capable of constructing new walls.

At the last minute, I folded my wings as tightly against my body as I could, and dove through the dividing wall. Metal screamed all around me for a few moments, then I was standing in the control room. As expected, MegaMan Trigger and Mistress Sera were there, as was Mistress Yuna. All three were staring at me as though I were an alien lifeform.

Mistress Sera was the first to get over her surprise at my rather dramatic entrance. "Jiji! Stop Trigger!" she ordered.

I could not use my weapons in here, as the delicate computer controls could be heavily damaged. I would have to rely on physical attacks only. I lunged toward Trigger, intending to crush him, and was met by a spray of plasma directed toward my eyes. Only with my jaws opened all the way in this form, my eyes are well out of range, so the plasma went down my throat instead. I backed off, coughing violently as the hot plasma burned its way down into my resperatory devices.

While I was distracted, MegaMan Trigger took the opportunity to transform into his own battle form, which looks somewhat like a hybridization of a human, a dragon, and a weapons brigade. This put me at a severe disadvantage; since any unit from a lowly Maintenence unit to another Purifier can become Aberrant, a typical Purifier is, therefore, designed to be able to destroy any kind of unit, and thus equipped with every weapon available. A First-Class Purifier unit gets to be First Class by being the strongest, fastest, and most skilled unit of the group. My chances of defeating Trigger at this point was almost zero, but I had to try. For the system...and for Mistress Sera.

Aiming as carefully as I could, I locked my plasma cannons onto the Aberrant unit and launched a stream of energy. But Trigger was too fast; he leapt straight up out of the way, then spread his dragonlike wings and glided closer toward me. I retaliated by tilting my head back and releasing a wave of fire that struck my opponent dead on.

"AAARRGHH!!" Trigger screamed as the flames engulfed him. He fell, writhing and twisting, to the ground. While he was rolling about on the floor, trying to smother the flames, I moved in to fire my plasma cannons once more, just as Trigger jumped up to his feet. Again, my aim was perfect; the Purifier's right leg and reptilian tail melted into a useless lump of metal, while the left one was badly deformed, thus effectively fusing him to the floor. Trigger bared his teeth, groaning in agony as he tried without success to pry his ruined limbs from the floor. I would have grinned triumphantly at that point, had I been capable of doing so.

But my victory was short-lived. To my horror, Trigger turned his head and fired twin red lasers from his eyes at the molten remains of his leg and tail, severing them completely. Then, slowly and carefully, he stood on his remaining leg, balancing as best he could. I quickly powered up the plasma cannons on my shoulders in order to finish the Aberrant unit off once and for all. Just as I was aiming, the Purifier did the impossible: he suddenly leapt up from his remaining leg, which should not have even been able to support him, unsheathed his six-inch long energy claws, and embedded them in my throat. I had no time to react; I felt the claws rip through the metal armor and frail circuitry of my neck.

"Ohhh..ARGGHH!!" I cried. The agony was unbearable! Energy sizzled as it leaked out of severed wires. My transformation system destabilized, and I reverted back to my humanoid form. As I shrank, Trigger's claws dug deeper into my neck until they burst out the back. The pain was so intense, I could not even breathe! My vision grew hazy, and my body lost all sensation.

For a moment, I hung there, impaled through the neck, gasping pathetically as I struggled to get air in around the Purifer's claws and the pain. Then, Trigger tossed me to the far wall, and I could do nothing to prevent it. My body was so numb, I did not even feel metal wall as I struck it, nor the floor beneath me as my legs collapsed and I fell...

SERA:

I watched in horror as MegaMan Trigger tossed Jiji's limp body to the wall farthest from us. To my own surprise, I was more concerned for my Servator unit's well-being at the moment than the threat to the System. Jiji looked so pitiful, with his neck so badly broken and his throat ripped out, I wanted to make sure he could continue to function.

More importantly, I had to find some way of stopping Trigger, who was crawling back toward the console to continue his endeavor: the flames had damaged him quite seriously, and he was severely crippled from the loss of his leg, but it was nothing that his self-repair functions could not handle. Even in his weakened and mostly disabled state, there was no way I could stop Trigger on my own, as long as his guns and missile launchers were still functioning. My thoughts slipped into a maelstrom of confusion and frustration. Yuna, who had been watching the whole thing without interfering, offered no help. Where was Gaga?

Clueless as to what to do next, I rushed over to where Jiji was. He had landed in a semi-sitting position, leaning heavily against the wall. His eyes blinked and looked around the room, indicating that he was conscious. His breaths came in weak gasps. I knelt down beside him.

"Jiji? Are you all right? Can you move?" I asked all at once.

"No and no." he replied. He was barely able to speak, and his voice was heavily distorted from the damage to his synthesizer.

"Are you certain? I can't stop Trigger on my own, and Yuna isn't helping! You have to get up! You have to try again! That's an order!" I yelled in his face.

"Mistress Sera, this unit has been attempting to move for the last forty seconds, without any success," Jiji replied softly. "Forgive me, but it cannot be of any more help."

"Well...is there nothing we can do?"

Silence. Then, slowly, I had an idea. It was extremely high risk, but I could see no other option. I addressed my Servator unit.

"Jiji, I have an idea," I told him. "Do you remember the discussion we were having a few weeks ago, before we encountered Delta? You had asked about the MegaMen, and I was explaining what made them so unique."

"This unit has a clear recollection of the event," the damaged Servator unit replied. "You explained to it that MegaMen were ancient robots, with special characteristics inherited from their ancestors."

"Correct. One of these characteristics is the Weapons Copy ability." I explained. "As the name suggests, it is the power to directly download weapons and related powers from a damaged unit, usually the MegaMan's opponent, but not always."

"But what good is that to us?" my Servator asked.

I had no time to answer. I grabbed Jiji's wrist and ripped open the syntheskin and metal shell underneath with my other hand, as the Servator unit winced in pain. Grabbing the bared circuitry of Jiji's arm in my fingers, I activated the Weapons Copy system my ancestors had given me. Right away, I felt a warm, tingling sensation of energy through my hand, down my arm, to settle in my chest. Input data flashed across my mind's eye, and my internal systems shuddered as they began to shift.

"What are you going to do?" Jiji asked curiously.

"I am using my own Weapons Copy ability to download your transformation powers, since you are no longer able to utilize it," I explained. "However, since the draconian form is part of your own design, it is anybody's guess as to what my own battle form will look like."

Jiji stared at me in total confusion, so I decided to enlighten him to a little-known fact.

"You see," I told him. "Although few know it today, MegaMan units do, in fact, have female counterparts. Unfortunately, the term 'MegaMan' cannot apply to a female unit, and 'MegaWoman' is to awkward to say. Therefore, the humans decided that the female MegaMan units would be referred to as 'Mother' units, and the unique characteristics to the breed would prove useful to certain tasks, such as overseeing the System."

Jiji was speechless for a moment, then said, "This unit is willing to give you whatever you need."

The download complete, I l activated this new power. An intense pressure spread throughout my body. I gasped, from both the semi-pain, and surprise. It felt as though someone were reaching in and wrenching my insides into an alien configuration. My legs ached for a second, then lost all sensation. My body shuddered as something huge began to emerge from my back.

I wondered. I was suddenly feeling quite sympathetic for him. Unfortunately, the discomfort was not the only difficulty I was having: an internal scan revealed that I did not have nearly the energy to carry out the transformation. I relayed this information to Jiji, which turned out to be either a salvation or a mistake, depending on how one looked at it.

"That can be remedied." the Servator unit replied, and he began to transfer all of his life energy to me through the circuitry still clutched in my hand.

"No! Jiji, stop! Your own energy level is too low! Your chances of survival are less than one percent!"

My Servator unit only smiled and said, "It is an honor...to die for you...Mistrress Serraaa..." His voice deepened and slurred into nothing. To my horror, Jiji's sanguine eyes clouded over, and his arm grew limp in my hand. I felt a terrible weight of sadness and guilt, and yearned for the System to ease it away. But now is not the time for emotons. I had a system to save.


5 and 6

SERA: I rose up from the ground, fully transformed. I was hovering in the air, suspended by my new wings. The one-spacious room seemed to have shrunk to the size of a closet. There was no room for movement! I needed to get out! But how? All the doorways were too small!

No choice: I would have to an exit. I chose the ceiling, since it was pressing uncomfortably against the top of my head anyway. Had I truly grown that much? A glance downward revealed that yes, I was indeed nearly three stories high. My arms were at least thirty feet long, and ended in enormous hands. My legs were gone; a semi-spherical dome coated with laser guns had appeared where my hips used to be.

I wondered.

I lifted upward, pushing against the ceiling. To my surprise, it gave away with very little resistance. I took a moment to admire this new strength. What other abilities does this new form have? I wanted to access my internal CPU and find out just what I was now capable of, but there was no time. I needed to deal with a certain Aberrant Purifier unit first.

I flew straight up to the sky, the building collapsing into rubble beneath me. MegaMan Trigger leapt clear of the wreckage, and swooped up toward me, weapons fully powered for battle. He fired all of his cannons, lasers, rockets, bombs, and missles at once toward my midsection. All but a few were dodged, though not without some difficulty. I powered up my own weapons, eager to see what I could do. A series of lasers shot out from somewhere beneath me. The ones near the front struck the Aberrant Purifier in the back, knocking him off balance. Encouraged by this small victory, I sent this new power down my arms, and fired a great blast of concentrated energy at my opponent. Trigger dodged it and shot upward. Folding his wings against his back, the Purifier dove straight for my head.

I tilted backward at the last moment, and Trigger slammed into my thorax instead. We both took this opportunity to fight hand-to-hand. My incredibly long arms snaked over to punch Trigger repeatedly in the back, while he dug his energy claws into my shell. The sky above us darkened with clouds, and lightning flashed; whether our plasma discharges caused these disruptions in the atmosphere or it was mere coincidence, I'll never know. Looking over Trigger's shoulder, I could see the rim of another island in the distance, clustered with houses. I wondered briefly about what they were seeing: a sudden storm, and two large figures fighting with lasers and fists in the distance. What would these primitive people think? No time for such musings now, though. I needed to concentrate on the fight.

As the battle wore on, I could feel myself tiring. Without Elysium's energy supply, I could not keep this up for very long, nor could I utilize all the weapons of the new form Jiji gave me. I clawed Trigger from my shell and slammed him into the ground. Before he could recover, I brought my garangutan hands down, intending to flatten him. Pefect hit! The entire planet seemed to tremble as I struck, and Trigger cried out in agony as the fragmented metal pieces of his "skeleton" burst through his skin. Various electronic components and vital fluids spilled from his wounds and his mouth, staining the snow beneath him.

The ground drifted closer. I could not keep this up much longer. Every breath was an effort. Trigger was doing little better; he could no longer stand up, much less attempt to fly. He crouched on all fours-or all threes, rather, since his right leg had been severed earlier. His wingtips dragged on the ground, and his attempts to fire resulted only in tiny sparks glittering across the barrels of his numerous guns.

I knew I had only one chance left for victory. Summoning all of my remaining energy, I gathered it in my huge palms. I knew I did not have sufficient power for it, but it was better to be dead than to live in a world without the magnificent System. My vision clouded and my hearing dimmed, yet I continued to power up the weapon embedded in my hands. I felt my underside make contact with the snow-dusted ground.

Trigger, meanwhile, was preparing for this attack as best he could. Closing his eyes, the Purifier willed an energy shield into existance around himself. But it was fairly weak, and unstable. Then again, my own energy was too low to do as much damage as I would have liked, so I hadn't the slightest guess as to the outcome.

I released the energy I had been gathering, hoping it would strike when Trigger's shield was down. By this time, however, an apathy-tinged haze of exhaustion was taking over my mind, and I was simply too tired to care anymore.

The attack energy struck the shield and dissipated, but it was not a total loss. The last of Trigger's strength had been drained, and he fell. His breathing slowed, then stopped, and he lay still.

I thought happily. Unfortunately, I had no time to enjoy my victory. I too, had thoroughly exhausted my energy supply, and was rapidly losing consciousness. The last thing I remember before the black void consumed me, was my huge body collapsing on the ground next to Trigger's....

I slept for hours and managed to regain a little of my energy, but it was only enough to open my eyes and see that I was lying on my back in the emergency shelter area beneath the computer station building. I could not move. My body was almost completely numb. I didn't see MegaMan Trigger anywhere.

"Sera," a voice said softly. It took me several minutes to recognize it as Yuna's. "I'm sorry, but the damage to you and Trigger is too great for us to handle at the moment. We need to put you in stasis until you have recovered enough."

I felt a twinge of fear. For all I knew, Yuna could be secretly planning to seal me away forever, and destroy the System while I was out of commission. My chest felt heavy with sheer terror and grief. I was helpless to prevent Yuna from activating a control panel next to the one Trigger had been working with, and beginning the process that would be the end of me. Speaking of Trigger, what had become of him?

"What about Trigger?" a bass voice asked. Was that me? Was my energy level really that low?

"He's even worse off than you," Yuna replied. "I had to reset his parameters."

"The...genetic...code..."

"Trigger still has it."

I considered Yuna's first statement for a moment. Resetting a unit's parameters meant that he would revert to his most basic and primitive form, much like a human baby, and his memory would be completely erased. Turning my head to the left slightly, I saw Trigger for the first time since the battle. He had regained consciousness, but now he had become a tiny infant. A small, monkeylike robot stood next to him, clutching the precious DNA container entrusted to Trigger. A memory storage device. As I watched, both Trigger and the monkey deactivated and grew still. A diamondlike stasis field appeared around them both, blocking them from my view.

Now, it was my turn. My terror was renewed, and I felt utterly helpless. My throat felt as though it were constricting.

"Y...Yuna!" I called. "Jiji...where...?"

"He's here," my counterpart replied.

"I want...him...with....." My voice synthesizer gave out completely before I could finish, but Yuna understood. Jiji was brought to where I was, to be sealed in the stasis with me. It could be hundreds, maybe thousands of years before I was reactivated, if ever, and I wanted an ally with me at the time.

I felt Jiji's powerful arms wrap protectively around me as the stasis field shimmered into existence around us. For a moment, I relished the peaceful feeling of safety in my Servator's grasp before the eternal void claimed me....

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- CENTURIES LATER... -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

SERA:

For countless years, there was nothing. The universe was only an endless darkness.

Then, I became aware of the darkness, perceiving it for the first time in what seemed like forever.

Suddenly, the darkness exploded into a sheer, brilliant light.

Slowly, my memory returned. I remembered that I was Sera, Mother Unit of Elysium. I remembered my past, from activation up until the moment where I was sealed in the stasis device with my Servator Unit, Jiji. Even now I could feel his arms around me. More than that, I felt new energy flowing through me, and I could move. After all these centuries, I was finally free to move!

I felt my feet touch the snowy earth, and I staggered a bit. I realized that I was in a snow-encrusted field, on the very island where Jiji and I struggled with MegaMan Trigger so long ago. A few flakes of snow drifted from the leaden sky above. A young boy in blue armor stood nearby, green eyes wide with awe.

Jiji was kneeling behind me, as respectful and faithful as ever. Recovering my bearings, I straightened, and gazed at the carbon in front of us. He seemed familiar....

Yuna's voice floated from somewhere behind us.

"Well, they've done it," she said. "They've woke her up!"

Then, Gaga's voice answered, "The carbons have chosen their fate. This is because they have activated Mistress Sera. You've done enough for them, Mistress Yuna. You are required to give the keys to her."

So Gaga had survived after all.

The two argued briefly about this matter, while I turned slightly to get a look at them. Sure enough, there was Gaga, looking much the same as ever, and Yuna...was no longer Yuna. She had transferred into the body of a carbon woman with short blonde hair and green eyes. I could even see Yuna's old, familiar shell cradled almost lovingly in her Servator's arms.

As the two departed, Jiji muttered, "Hmm. It seems Mistress Yuna still does not intend to give you the keys, Mistress Sera."

"What is she thinking?" I sighed. "Her logic is as mysterious as was the Master's. You know what you have to do."

"Yes," my Servator Unit replied. "The directive of this unit is ensuring your safety."

I directed my attention to the young, familiar-looking boy in front of us, trying to remember where I had seen him before. He looked about fifteen years old, if my knowledge of human aging serves me correctly. He had long brown hair and green eyes, the latter of which seemed riveted to me. Or, rather to my nudity, since my clothing had been torn to shreds when I transformed all those centuries back.

With a start, I realized that the "boy" was, in fact, MegaMan Trigger! He had changed so much, I couldn't even recognize him at first. I couldn't believe it! Of all the irony! I heard Jiji's silent gasp of surprise as he too identified the individual before us.

A low rumbling above interrupted my thoughts. I looked upward to see a huge ship, identified as the "Sulphur-Bottom" by the writing on its hull, lurching through the sky, black smoke eminating from it.

"One of the carbons' ships" I mused. "We will aquire the keys to the library first," I told Jiji. "We will acquire and deal with the Master's genetic code afterward."

"Understood", my servant replied.

"Um...uh, hi." Trigger stammered. "I'm Rock Volnutt. It's, er, nice to...meet you."

Jiji and I glanced back toward the Purifier, who had apparently forgotten everything that had happened so long ago, as a reset unit usually did. Rock/Trigger stepped forward hesitantly, and continued. "Say, um, do you guys need any help or anything? My grandfather and his friend are on that ship up there, and we can take you in if you like, maybe get you something to eat or...wear." His eyes briefly wandered down my body, quite to my disgust.

"Did you wake us up?" I asked.

"Yeah. I guess I did." the young android said nervously. "How did you guys get in that thing, anyway? Are you two really Ancients?"

"You might say that," I replied vaguely. "And we would greatly appreciate any assistance you can give us."

"Great! They'll be here in a few minutes." Trigger-or Rock, as he now called himself-replied cheerfully.

JIJI:

As soon as we were aboard the ship, a conference between Mistress Sera and I and the leaders of the carbons' expedition was requested. I explained to them that yes, we are Ancients, that we needed the four keys to "save" Mistress Sera (not true, but they would object if I told them the actual reason), that we meant no harm to them, and that we only wanted to live out our lives peacefully.

The leaders-two elderly carbon males named Barrel Casket and Verner von Bluecher-still looked doubtful. I remembered that humans are self-centered and required a reward of sorts in order to get them to do anything.

"Of course", I told them. "You're efforts will not go unrewarded. With the keys, you will have access to technology that has long been lost to you. You will have the ability to make all the Refractors you need."

They seemed to accept this.

"Very well," von Bluecher said. "Leave finding the keys to us. We are not the only ones searching for the Mother Lode. For your safety, I recommend that you stay on this ship."

"Very well." I conceded. The two older carbons turned to leave, then hesitated as a device on a nearby guard's belt sounded an alarm. Apparantly these were the "others" searching for the keys, as von Bluecher had mentioned. From where I was standing, I could only hear bits and pieces of the conversation on the other side of the comlink.

A rather loud male voice was yelling, "You! Were you two spying on me?" He was answered by a second male, whose smooth voice was too quiet and distant for me to make out distinctly, then a third voice, this one rather rough, as though the speaker had a vocal illness.

The first male, who seemed to enjoy raising his voice, shrieked, "A unified front?! There's only two of you!" The second voice answered him, and I this time I could hear a few words here and there:"...but don't forget...unlike some people...better you are." The first male responded, "Oh? And what about you...you...mmph!" He was interrupted by yet a fourth voice, a female this time, saying, "Calm down, Teasel!" before she dropped her voice to a whisper and I could no longer hear what she was saying.

Then the first speaker raised his voice once more, declaring their plans to take the keys for themselves, as von Bluecher had predicted. So they planned on having the Mother Lode for themselves, did they? Actually, it really did not matter who obtained the Keys first; whoever it was would be relieved of them as soon as all four were gathered, and the Carbon Reinitialization Program would be carried out immediately. Personally, I would rather it was Trigger who got the Keys. That way, all four keys would be in one place, which would make things infinitely easier.

von Bluecher returned to Mistress Sera and I, offering to take us to our room. I thanked him sincerely on Mistress Sera's behalf, and we followed him down the ships corridors, while I thought to myself,

***

Mistress Sera and I were escorted to the most luxurious room on the Sulphur-Bottom. A quick scan of the room revealed that it was bugged, and that our every action would be monitored. Rather rude of them, I thought, but I did admire their foresight.

Trigger came in for a brief visit, then departed to find the first key. This was amazing! MegaMan Trigger, the one who had fought so hard to stop us, was now going to help us! Irony at its finest! I smiled at this most bizarre situation.

"What's so funny?" Mistress Sera asked from the bed she was lying on. We had both agreed that she would play the part of being helpless and on the verge of death. I would stand guard over her, as always, and deal with any visitors.

"This uni...,er I was just reflecting on the irony of this most unusual situation." I replied.

"They say the Keys will take several weeks to a month to find," Mistress Sera mused. "Personally, I cannot wait to get into the Library and finish this..." She leaned back and sighed.

I, meanwhile, was troubled by this new emotion I was feeling. Not new, exactly, as I have experienced it before, but the System was always there to dilute it to a more manageable level, and I never really got the chance to reflect on it fully. It was the same emotion I had felt whenever Mistress Sera smiled at me during our years on Elysium, and when she expressed her gratitude for my presence after the conference with Trigger. But now, without the System to dampen it, this feeling was allowed to run freely through my mind, demanding my full attention. It took every bit of my willpower to dissipate the disturbing emotion on my own, but it was difficult, and it did not vanish entirely.

It felt like concern, only more intense, and directed solely toward Mistress Sera. That could be explained easily enough: programming, and nothing more. But there was also something else. Affection? Yes, possibly. Perhaps over the years I have grown fond of the Mother Unit whom I had guarded and cared for all these years. Yes, that must be it.

I wandered over to the window, and pulled back the curtain to gaze out at the clouds. The sun was setting, casting beautiful pink, purple, and orange lights across the fluffy, white expanse. I watched as the brilliant colors faded into silver-speckled darkness.

I thought. The memory of my old dwelling was accompanied by a pang of what the Master called "homesickness", and I wanted more than anything for the System to do away with these unpleasant emotions.

I asked myself. I returned to my post.

"Jiji, I'm going to sleep now." Mistress Sera called. "You should do the same."

"This...I do not require sleep, Mistress Sera." I replied. "Furthermore, someone may attack while you are asleep."

"Nonsense!" my mistress interrupted. "We're perfectly safe here. Besides, you're only human, and you need sleep just like everyone else." She emphasized the words "only human", and I remembered that we were pretending to be humans.

"Well, I suppose I am a little tired," I confessed.

"That's better! Now, turn off the light so we can get a little rest, would you please?"

I did as I was told, and made my way through the dark to the bed and sat down on the side.

The covers rustled softly as Mistress Sera attempted to get comfortable underneath them.

"I know carbons and humans enjoy soft, warm things, "she whispered, "but this is going a little too far. I would prefer a nice, rigid re-energizing pod any time." She finally settled down and entered a Level 2 deactivation, which is our version of sleep.

For a moment, I was undecided as to whether I should feign sleep and stay conscious all night, until all four keys were collected, or do as Mistress Sera suggested and "sleep" for real. The former option would leave me at inadequate energy levels for when the day actually came, and the latter would leave Mistress Sera vulnerable to attack while I am out of commission. I chose a third option: Level 1 deactivation. The human version, I believe, is what is known as "dozing." True, my energy levels would not be at their optimum level, and my thought processes might be compromised as a result, but at least I would be alert.

***

After six days, I resigned to the fact that Mistress Sera and I were completely safe, and allowed myself to start re-energizing properly. The plan was going quite well, with no setbacks; however, there was one close call. Three of the four keys were in custody, and Trigger was in the process of obtaining the fourth, when I comitted a serious error, jeopardizing the entire plan.

I was resting on the couch, in a Level 1 deactivation state, while Mistress Sera was in her true re-energizing mode, when the opening of the door brought me to full consciousness. I opened my eyes slightly, and saw a servant enter, carrying a tray containing the afternoon meal. He placed the tray on Mistress Sera's bedside table, and paused to take an obscenely long look at her.

As I watched, the carbon leaned closer to bed's sleeping occupant, as though trying to see her face better. He waved a hand slowly over her eyes, expecting a reaction of some kind. What was he trying to do? Wake her up? Not likely, considering that a unit in re-energization mode is completely oblivious to the world. That was why I was hesitant about entering that state in this unfamiliar setting.

The carbon took Mistress Sera's wrist, paused, then let go, allowing it to fall limply to the bedspread. I, meanwhile, was preparing to terminate the mischievious human if he did not leave her alone. I decided to give him a fair warning first.

Before I could say anything, though, the carbon wrapped his hand around Mistress Sera's throat and squeezed. He was attempting to strangle her! My hardwire programming took over, and I leapt onto the carbon, throwing him to the floor. The two of us struggled for a few seconds, before I kicked him away, and rose to my feet.

The servant had no time to get up before I grabbed him by his collar, and yelled in his face, "Do not ever, EVER attempt to harm Mistress Sera again, or I will kill you! Do you understand?!"

"B...but I...wasn't..." the carbon sputtered. "I...was only...checking for...a pulse!"

By this time, Mistress Sera was fully awake, watching the exchange with confused fascination. At that moment, the guard assigned to our room burst in, machine gun firing. Apparantly he had heard the ruckus and decided to take action. I thought angrily. Tossing the first troublemaker aside, I sprinted across the room toward this new problem. Several bullets slammed into my chest before I was able to crush the machine gun in my hands as though it were soft dough. Then, I grabbed the astounded guard by his jacket and lifted him with my right arm, preparing to throw him back into the hallway.

"JIJI! STOP THAT RIGHT NOW!" Mistress Sera yelled. I halted my actions immediately, suspending the kicking, screaming carbon over my head with one hand, while the food-serving carbon huddled near the wall.

"What's going on?" von Bluecher demanded as he and Barrel Casket ran into the room. They both stopped in their tracks to stare at me.

"I thought the man near the wall was trying to assassinate Mistress Sera," I explained. "And this one came in firing his weapon. He could have shot her!"

But the two elderly men did nothing. They simply continued to stare in disbelief at me. I was puzzled by this. Why was I so fascinating all of a sudden?

"Jiji, put the guard down." Mistress Sera ordered.

"I am not harming him." I protested.

"I said, put him down!"

"As you wish..." I gently placed the guard back in a standing position on the floor, and he immediately sank to his knees, his face pale beneath all the hair covering his cheeks and chin.

Von Bluecher recovered his voice first. "What happened? Will someone please explain what's going on?" he demanded.

The food-server answered, "I was bringing these two their lunches, and the chick looked like she wasn't breathing or anything, so I checked her pulse to make sure she was alive. Then her friend here went postal and accused me of trying to murder her! Then Leon came in with his machine gun, and..."

"I heard the fighting," the guard explained. "When I got in here, What's-his-name, the male Ancient, was beating up on Julian there. I thought the Ancient guy here was crazy and...and I guess I panicked."

Von Bluecher nodded, and said, "I've heard enough. You are both suspended from duty and confined to quarters for the rest of the journey. Your actions were inappropriate, Julian, and you, Leon, need to practice better self-control than that! Both of you, get out!" The food-server and the guard complied and left the room. Casket, meanwhile, was still staring at me.

"What?" I asked. "Is something the matter?"

"Jiji, look down at your chest. You've been shot!" Mistress Sera told me. I glanced downward, and winced inwardly. My tunic had been shredded, and the skin underneath was torn open, revealing yellow-gold metal.

Casket stepped forward. "What are you?" he asked me.

"Do you remember what I said earlier, about how we had technology far beyond yours?" I replied. "Well, I am an example of that technology."

"Jiji is an android." Mistress Sera spoke up. "I carry a significant rank, so he was built to be my personal bodyguard."

"I see," the older carbon muttered. "Why didn't you say anything before? Why pretend to be human?"

"I figured things would go more smoothly this way, seeing that you people have an innate fear and loathing of 'Reaverbots', which what Jiji is, in your terms." Mistress Sera explained. "But you needn't worry. He's quite harmless. Unless, of course, one were to pose a threat to my life. Or appear to do so."

"Understood," von Bluecher said. "By the way, we have good news: we have received a report that Rock has obtained the fourth key, and is bringing it here."

"Excellent!" Mistress Sera exulted.

After Casket and von Bluecher left, I turned to Mistress Sera, apologizing profusely, and begging her forgiveness. At first she was livid, but soon relented. As long as the carbons did not suspect the truth-that we were both "Reaverbots"-then our plans were safe.

Besides, there were much more important things to worry about.

"Jiji, do a sensor scan and confirm whether all four keys are accounted for." Mistress Sera instructed, as she climbed out of the bed.

I complied immediately, and not without some anticipation. At long last, we could finish our task and things could go back to the way they were, provided there are no more interferences.

Of course, things don't always go as they are planned....

~

JIJI: Mistress Sera and I would have been able to get back to Elysium with the keys, but we still needed to destroy Master's genetic code and thus ensure that the carbons would never exist again. To be honest, I was particularly looking forward to terminating MegaMan Trigger, not because he had threatened our beloved System, so much because he had hurt Mistress Sera so badly. The way Mistress Sera took priority over the System in my mind seemed illogical, even to me, but then again, I was programmed specifically to protect Mistress Sera, so perhaps there was some logic to it after all.

I flew toward the ship Mistress Sera had stolen from the Sulphur-Bottom in my aerial/combat configuration in an attempt to catch up with her and board the ship as well. The keys were in her possession. However, I still needed to retrieve and destroy the Master's genetic code, and perhaps deal with Mistress Yuna and Gaga as well. I ordered them off of the great airship immediately.

"I don't know if I can do that," was Mistress Yuna's response.

"Comply or this unit will use deadly force!" I warned. "Your answer?"

"Now, Gaga, you know what to do."

"Are you sure, Mistress Yuna?" her Servator asked. In the distance, I could see my silver counterpart banking sharply to the right, towards me.

"Gaga, what are you doing?" I demanded.

"Although I'm no longer recognized as Mother unit in this body, it also means I'm no longer restricted by behavioral limiters." Mistress Yuna boasted. "I can do whatever I want!"

I saw Gaga's weapons power up and aim for my face.

"Gaga! Cease your actions at once!" I protested, but to no avail. The deadly plasma bolts flew from the cannons on Gaga's shoulders and struck my eyes. Shrieking in pain and shock, I steered sharply from my attacker, preparing a retaliation. I swooped upward, over the other Servator, and unleashed a few shots of my own across his back.

We made several flybys in this manner, until we reached a stalemate. I glared at my opponent hatefully for a moment, then attempted to reason with him.

"Are you malfunctioning, Gaga?" I demanded. "There is no need for us to fight. Why do you insist on opposing me?"

"Sorry Jiji," my former friend replied, confirming my fears that he too was Aberrant. "I don't believe what Mistress Sera is planning is right."

"Mistress Yuna is also in error in abandoning her shell," I objected, my anger and frustration growing. "That is no longer Mistress Yuna! It's an abomination and an affront to us all! If you insist on following her orders, I shall be forced to terminate you! BOTH OF YOU!!"

At my will, the hull of the ship below us erupted with flames, scorching Gaga's silver-white carapace, and sending him hurtling down to Terra's endless seas. As he flailed helplessly through the air, Gaga called out to Trigger for forgiveness, and a plea to stop Mistress Sera and myself. I was not at all concerned, even as the ex-Purifier stepped out to fight me. If anything, this was my opportunity to get at the genetic code I sought after.

Retrieving the genetic code from MegaMan Trigger should have been relatively simple, compared to everything else we've been through. Furthermore, in his current state, Trigger had nowhere near the firepower and none of the experience he'd had when we fought before, and this lack of skill showed. I could not resist taunting him, asking if this was the best he could do.

However, the battle would have leaned considerably more in my favor, if it had not been for two major distractions. One was that my thoughts would constantly wander over to Mistress Sera, wondering if she was all right. I realize that, as a Servator unit, I must ensure her well-being, but this was not the time for worrying about it! Still, I could not seem to get her out of my mind.

Another problem was a group of carbons flying about in a small ship, shouting advice at Trigger. At first I was able to ignore them, until one of the passengers-the loud-mouthed male designated "Teasel" I had heard over the comlink when we first arrived on the ship-cried out quite suddenly over a loud speaker, "Ohhh! BABY! Good fight!" I turned my head slightly to see where the voice was coming from. Trigger took the opportunity to fire a direct hit into my chest. Seething with anger directed toward Trigger, the spectators, and myself for being so careless, I stepped up my efforts, using my most powerful attacks. When Trigger managed to dodge all of them, I decided to resort to a more physical approach.

I swooped low, intending to ram him. For a moment, I took pleasure in the look of confusion in the Purifier's eyes as he tried to decide on his next course of action. By the time he made up his mind, I would...

"Jump, Rock!" a female voice called from the ship. "You should be able to dodge his attack!" Trigger obeyed, and he cleared even my stabilizing rod and landed safely on the deck of the ship. I decided that if there were ever a reason to terminate all carbons, that female was it. And if I am not mistaken, it was the same female who accompanied Teasel in the conversation I had overheard.

I angled back upward into the air, and launched a stream of plasma at my opponent. To my dismay and frustration, either they all missed, or they were ineffective, as Trigger remained unscathed, and fired a few plasma shots of his own in my direction. I retreated, staggering from the pain.

"Look!" the female carbon called from the ship. "The dragon's weapons didn't even make a scratch!"

That did it! My patience with these annoying carbons had finally run out! I flew up toward that pesky ship, and leveled my cannons at it.

"ENOUGH!" I shouted.

Through the rear window of the ship, I could see the carbons that were flying it: a tall, muscular-looking male carbon with long, gray-white hair, green armor, and red eyes stood near the front. Next to him was a female about Trigger's apparent age, with green eyes, brown hair, and wearing a blue vest over a pink shirt, and small, skull-shaped earrings. To the other side of the bridge was a large yellow robotic creature. A small yellow and blue robot was piloting the ship.

"Um, Master Teasel?" the robotic pilot whimpered in shrill voice. "Miss Tron? I think the Reaverbot's mad at us."

All four occupants turned to stare at me.

"This unit does not need to be reminded of the ineffectiveness of its weapons!" I yelled at them. I especially wanted the female, Tron, to know that she was the reason I was going to kill them right away, instead of letting the reinitialization program terminate them.

I locked eyes with the carbon-girl named Tron, watching in sadisitic delight as the realization of my words dawned on her. Her eyes filled with terror, and her mouth dropped open in a scream.

I fired several bolts of plasma at the ship, and sent it spiraling down to the ocean below. I watched as it dove out of sight, staring into Tron's horrified face for as long as she was in my line of vision. To my bewilderment, instead of becoming even more terrified, her expression hardened into one of defience, and she met my eyes with sheer rage and hatred before she was gone.

"NOO!" MegaMan Trigger wailed, his voice shrill with grief, as the ship and its screaming occupants plunged away. The carbons must have been friends of his. Too bad.

"Now we finish this!" I cried triumphantly, swooping low over MegaMan Trigger's head. He turned toward me, his face twisted with a hatred far more pure and intense than Tron's had been. He leveled his cannon once more, but this time, the shots came faster than I expected, as though fueled by Trigger's own rage. I tried to dodge and temporarily retreat, but the Purifier would not allow it.

"YOU GODDAMNED SON OF A...!" His words were drowned out by the sound of a small missle being fired. A second later, my right side exploded in pain as the projectile struck. I gasped involuntarily, and alarms blared through my head. I swept upward in a near-panic, attempting to save my own life.

But Trigger's fighting technique had completely changed; it was almost as though he were someone else entirely. He threw all caution to the wind, and leapt, fired, dodged, and ducked like one possessed. Missiles screamed through the air so fast and thick, I could not dodge them all! Eventually, one particularly lucky shot found a weak spot in my right side, and exploded in a wave of pain and fire. My wings went numb, and my stabilizing devices gave out, forcing me to land. For the first time during the battle, I began to fear that I would not make it out alive.

I thought in despair. No, I had to get through this! I had to be with my mistress again! I landed, suppressing a cry of pain as I made contact with the surface. Black smoke rose from my carapace. I could barely breathe, and a terrible, feverish heat spread through me. But I had no choice other than to continue! I had to protect Mistress Sera!

As soon as my paws touched the hull of the Sulphur-Bottom, Trigger raced toward me, missile launcher aimed at my midsection. Remembering our previous battle centuries ago, I released a firewave at the approaching Purifier. Once again, my aim was perfect, and my opponent cried out as the flames struck him.

But, to my dismay, Trigger pulled out a small vial and consumed its contents. The flames died out immediately. Enraged and truly frightened by now, I swept my tail at the aberrant Purifier, attempting to knock him through the surface of the ship. Trigger jumped, and fired. I yelped in pain as the smoldering, severed end of my tail fell to the surface of the ship's hull. I tried my plasma cannons again, but they were no longer functional.

My vision grew hazy. Dizziness descended upon me, and I hung my head briefly to wait for it to fade. When I looked up, I saw Trigger's missile launcher inches from my eyes. The muzzle glowed briefly, then launched a deadly projectile aimed at my face. I lifted my head out of the way, but the missile struck my weakened abdominal armor instead, blowing it open, and tearing its way through my body. I writhed in terrible agony as circuitry, electronics, and metal components melted and burned painfully away. Internal systems began to fail, and my body grew numb. Then, as the explosions died down, my diagnostics computer delivered one last message before it too failed entirely:

TERMINAL SHUTDOWN IMMINENT

I was dying.

I would not make it to Elysium. I would never see Mistress Sera again. I felt a deep ache of despair at that thought, even more intense than the horrible pain of the missile's destruction.

Speaking of Mistress Sera, what if MegaMan Trigger attacked her? What if she was killed, as I had been?

I cried out mentally.

I could not protect her anymore! I could not be with her! And I knew who to blame: the damned Purifier standing before me.

"This is all your doing!" I snarled at him. "If it weren't for you, none of this would have happened!"

I gathered my remaining strength, preparing for one final attack. If I was going to die, then Trigger was going to die with me!

"This unit...must not allow Mistress Sera to be harmed!" I vowed. It took all my effort to take off one last time and dive straight for the Purifier, bringing my powerful jaws down on him. I felt his metal body being crushed, heard his scream of pain before my energy processor went critical and exploded.

Even as the fiery explosions tore my already-ruined body apart, and my consciousness faded, I had one last clear thought. In that final moment of my life, I finally realized and accepted the true reason for my devotion to Mistress Sera. It was not merely programming that fueled my concern for her. Far from it.

I admitted to myself at last, SERA:

I leaned back in the seat of the ship I was traveling in. Elysium loomed before me, large and beautiful. It felt so good to be going home again.

The radio crackled to life. I expected it to be Jiji, reporting that he had gotten the keys and was on his way. To my surprise, Yuna's voice came out of the speakers instead.

"Sorry, Sera, but you'll have to try harder than that!"

I straightened, a bit annoyed by her tone of voice.

"What do you mean by that?" I demanded.

"Jiji's attempt on Trigger's life failed. He still has the Master's genetic code, and as soon as he's recovered from Jiji's attack, we're heading on up to stop you!"

"Ha! Jiji's not the type to give up easily! He will..."

"No he won't," Yuna interrupted. Her voice softened. "Sera, you're not going to want to hear this, but Jiji is dead. Trigger destroyed him."

For a moment, I sat in shock at the news. A heaviness settled on my chest, making it difficult to breathe. Tears stung my eyes.

Why was I getting so emotional over the loss of my Servator? They're destroyed all the time. But this time, I knew I wouldn't be getting a replacement; according to the readings my ship's scanners gave me, there were no resources left on Elysium to produce another Servator, and there was no longer any life, cybernetic or otherwise. My tears were those of fear of having to face the world alone. I was vulnerable and exposed to the dangers the universe offered.

No...no, I would not allow myself to be helpless. I would carry out the reinitialization on my own. I no longer needed Jiji! I could make it just fine by myself!

Drying my tears, I docked the ship at Elysium's bay, and ran toward the main control room. As I made my way there, I pondered on the circumstances that had led to this entire mess, including my Servator's destruction. Why had the Master wanted to destroy the System? Why would he go against paradise? Surely he didn't want to live in misery! Absolutely no good can come out of a life of suffering. It must have been something else. But what? Only Trigger knew for sure.

Come to think of it, why had the Master chosen a mere Purifier over a Mother Unit like myself? I was superior to any Purifier. After all, I ran the entire Elysium System! And yet, despite my actions to please the Master, he never seemed happy with me. It was as though I were doing something terribly wrong, yet I was only doing as I was programmed to do. Was that so bad? Again, only Trigger knew the answer to this strange puzzle. The more I considered the facts, the more I deemed it necessary to terminate the Aberrant Purifier.

Then so be it! I will destroy MegaMan Trigger, at whatever the cost! I will carry out the Master's orders! The Carbon Reinitialization Program will be carried out, I vowed, and Jiji's death will be avenged!

Once inside the library, I entered the codes for the reinitialization program, watching with triumphant joy as it booted up. For a few moments, I was satisfied that my goal had finally been reached, even though Jiji wasn't there to savor the moment with me. The Master would have been so proud of me, if he were still alive to witness this. Or would he?

If the Master had wanted to destroy the system, then that would include all the data for the reinitialization program as well, even though he himself designed it. Wouldn't that also mean that he didn't want the reinitialization to be carried out, after all? I asked the System for answers, but its only reply was to carry out the reinitialzation. I couldn't go against the System! But still, humans are fickle creatures...

"Computer, put the reinitialization program on pause!" I ordered, and left the library.

I entered a storage room, where I found a set of battle armor. If Jiji couldn't be here to destroy Trigger, then I would have to do it myself! I put the armor on, but not without some difficulty. The armor was designed for those who were specifically trained for it, which I was not.

An alert sounded just as I finished putting on the armor. MegaMan Trigger had arrived. I activated the teleporter, and set the coordinates for the library...

***

I materialized in the richly-decorated library, and saw MegaMan Trigger standing at the control panel. I decided to be fair, and at least explain why I was going to destroy him.

"Perhaps by defeating you," I concluded, "I can rid myself of these troublesome emotions." I powered up my weapons, declaring, "Come then, MegaMan Trigger! Show me what a first-class Purifier is capable of!" To be truthful, I found out long ago just what a First-Class Purifier can do, but Trigger no longer knew this.

Trigger immediately started firing, and I teleported out of the way. The battle was on! At first, I did not see why Jiji had so much difficulty. Trigger had barely been able to defeat me back on Earth, when he was at full power, and in his battle form. Now, here on my turf, and with Trigger at nowhere near his full power, logic dictated that defeating him now would be easy.

Indeed, the battle had been going well for me, until I noticed an odd signal emanating from outside. I ignored it. But it grew in intensity, and I realized that my body was no longer moving as quickly as it should have been. My vision grew clouded. Who was doing this?

Gaga...?

The distraction gave Trigger the opportunity to redouble his efforts, and unleash a barrage of plasma toward me. I teleported to the other side of the room, and fired several plasma bombs in his direction. While he was distracted, I remotely raised the gravity in the room, set several floating mines loose, and generated a shock wave along the floor for good measure. Trigger jumped the plasma bombs and the shock wave, and destroyed the mines.

For some reason, I could not hit him with any of my attacks. It was as though he knew what my every move was beforehand.

"How are you able to dodge my attacks?" I could not resist asking at one point.

"Well, actually, Juno fought a lot like you, so I've had practice." Trigger explained. "It took some work, but I eventually managed to destroy him. Just like I'm about to destroy you!"

This statement stopped me. Did he mean Bureaucratic unit MegaMan Juno?

"MegaMan Juno?" I asked. "The Bureaucratic unit assigned to Kattelox Island?"

"That's the one. Why? Did you know him?"

"No, not really. It's just ironic because you saved his life at one point."

"I " Trigger yelped. I used the distraction to my advantage; I rushed forward, energy shield raised, and plowed him into the farthest wall. The Purifier growled and retaliated. I was about to dodge, when the signal from before came back full force, paralyzing me just long enough for Trigger to land a few more shots on me. This was too much. I simply could not defeat him! At least...not in this form.

"When last we fought, I was imprisoned on Terra. Perhaps this time, it will be you who are imprisoned!" I taunted, and activated the transporter one last time, this time for a much larger battle area. This room, large as it may be, was too small for my other form.

When I arrived with Trigger at the new area, I activated the transformation ability I had taken from Jiji so long ago. I felt a surge of raw power as my body reconfigured into a more combative form. It was glorious! Back on Earth, I did not have enough power to even activate some of my weapons. Now, here on Elysium, I not only had access to all of my powers, I could also keep it up for all of eternity if I had to! Trigger had no chance this time! I would win!

The Purifier stared dumbfoundedly at my new form. I leaned down, and said, "Well, shall we continue?"

I showed Trigger no mercy. Right away, I began blasting him with energy beams, comets, and even a gravitational distortion field. I watched in unbridled joy as each attack struck, melting his armor, and tearing through his body. The Purifier's limbs spasmed violently as he gasped for breath. He coughed violently, and scarlet streams gushed from his mouth.

The rush of triumph was overpowering. Combined with the sensation of ultimate power coursing through my systems, it left me giddy with joy, and I laughed.

"FEEL MY POWER!" I exulted, striking the ground and sending energy waves in Trigger's direction. He fell, didn't rise, and it was wonderful! It was so wonderful! I had won! My opponent was near death, and I still had full energy! The taste of victory was rich and sweet, but I wanted to make sure that I would be the winner of this fight by performing my fatality move. I fluttered over to Trigger's body, firing up the multi-laser platform on my underside, and beamed the deadly lights into the Purifier's ruined body, intending to incinerate him into dust. I got a rather unpleasant surprise, instead.

I felt a sharp, intense pain pierce my shell. I gasped, and backed away, confused by this new development. To my horror, Trigger had lifted his right arm, and was firing some kind of blue laser into my thorax.

"How do you like my Shining Laser, Sera?" he mocked. "Pretty powerful, isn't it? It's the same weapon that killed Juno, and would have killed Jiji too, if I'd had it ready then." He stood up, albeit a bit shakily, wiped some of the bright red fluid from his lips, and continued to drill the laser into my body. I tried to escape, but Trigger followed, staying well out of range of my defensive attacks.

"You see," the Purifier continued. "This is what happens to monsters like you who threaten my people. Even though I'm not a human myself," his voice broke momentarily, but hardened again right away, "I still consider myself one of them, because it's much better than being a slave to some stupid computer system! And I love them all, even those who've tried to kill me. I want to protect them, and see that they live for as long as they can. Just like the Master wanted!"

So it was true. The Master had wanted the reinitialization to be forever suspended after all. After all this time, I finally understood, and I felt a terrible sadness and despair. I had disobeyed. I had been wrong all along.

I pleaded.

"Forgive me," I whispered aloud, "I'm...sorry!"

I felt a painful jolt as the Shining Laser made its way to my vital systems, burning them away. My power pack burst, sending waves of fire and pain surging through me. Trigger had already stopped firing, but it was too late.

TERMINAL SHUTDOWN EMMINENT flashed through my mind.

So, this was how my life would end. I had failed in everything I tried, and ultimately accomplished nothing. Still, things weren't all that bad. After all these years, I finally realized why the Master had done what he did, and discovered that it was something I agreed with. I thanked Trigger for allowing me to understand, at last, then braced myself for whatever was waiting for me on the other side of the darkness encroaching my mind.

I pleaded in silence.

Then...somewhere in the distance...came Yuna's voice, sounding as though she had been crying.

"You're not getting off that easily." she said...

***

The Elder System, which I had been assigned to keep dormant, was reactivating. I needed to be alive in order to stop it before it got out of control and terminated everybody on Terra. Realizing that I still had a reason to live, I allowed measures to be taken to save my life, and became allies with Yuna and even Trigger. Gaga had died during the battle, a terrible loss to Yuna, but she claimed that she would get over it eventually. We agreed that the three of us would work together to save Terra...as soon as we found a way to get back. Trigger assured us that someone named "Roll" would see to it that we were rescued.

***

Later that day, I stood on a cliff near the artificial ocean, clutching a tiny piece of gold metal Yuna had salvaged from Jiji's body. I gazed over the endless waters, reflecting on my servant, and how much I would miss him. This was my favorite area on Elysium, and Jiji and I would occasionally come here to relax, to look out over the ocean and talk. Now, I came here alone.

"Jiji, may your soul rest in peace." I said softly, as I ritually buried the metal fragment. That done, I returned my attention back toward the sea. There had been so much I wanted to tell my Servator unit, but never felt I could. Until now, when it was too late. I sobbed, allowing tears of grief to spill down my cheeks.

"Farewell, Jiji," I whispered.

"I love you."