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Aftermath: Netopia's Hope and Tragedy

++ Spider transmits: "... I really... really hope you listened to my warning."
++ You transmit to Spider: "What do you mean?"
++ Spider transmits: "... Twenty-five minutes ago, at the top of the speech... I told you to get out of Hunter Headquarters. I sincerely hope you heeded my words."
++ Spider transmits: "If you're smart, you'll stay hidden... and say nothing. Its for your own good anyway."
++ You transmit to Spider: You can hear Gate breathing, but he's entirely speechless in shock.
++ Spider transmits: "Find a secure teleport line... get to the Lagrano Ruins, I have a temporary Teleport Gate open."

It takes a few minutes, but Gate makes it. He appears inside the test hall of Lagrano, where the entire Lagrano Disaster began. There's a hole in the roof, and yet the material still stays in good shape. The equipment persists, running despite all indication that it shouldn't.
He steps off the pad and into the empty hall; his footsteps echoing. His hands are clenched. He's beyond furious. He's beyond scared.

And standing at the end of that hallway, arms crossed over his chest, his eyes looking down the length of the hall at Gate, those plum colored orbs seeming to glow in the darkness... Gate's own cheshire cat appears as a smiling youth. His chuckle echoes in the corridor, then he blinks, those eyes disappearing for a moment, only to flutter open with another coquettish chuckle. Finally he smoothly glides around the corner into a large laboratory floor where stasis pods reside, the glass broken out of some of them where reploids once resided. Others still have reploid frames still inside, unused, unprogrammed, lacking any form of figure or definition...

Standing in the halo of light filtering in through a hole in the building and a bulb still burning, swinging loosely on a piece of electrical cable, Spider breathes several hard breathes... tasting the familiar stink of ruined, destroyed concrete and metal... "Welcome home, Professor..." Spider states flatly. Turning to look over his shoulder. "You're furious... And you're scared... And you have me to blame."

"I did this to you."
"And not because I was mad... no. But because I didn't believe you. All of your reasons, they were just excuses. Now you have no choices left but to be who you are." Plucking his hat from his head, he spins it in a palm, blue hair fanning out about his shoulders as he says, "See how quickly they turned on you? ... Didn't even give you the benefit of the doubt... They weren't friends. They weren't even allies. They were fakes."

"And now you have nothing. Because you never had anything."

"I'll kill you!" Gate snarls, trembling in rage. "You've ruined me! I have to hide like a rat for the rest of my existence! And Layer -- oh God Layer....!!"

"Shhh.... Shhh-shhh-shhh, Professor..." comes Spider's voice from around that corner. There's an audible creaking sound as he sits down in a captain's chair. The old and near broken piece of equipment groans under his robotic weight, but he spins around in it nonetheless. "That's just anger talking," Spider starts, his voice so very lucid, so very collected and sane. "Doctor, there's a difference between allowing someone to control you and being the one in control. I want you to learn to appreciate our new way of life... Because right now, I'm the only friend you've got."

"Everyone else will hunt you down and have you destroyed. I'm the only friend you've got at this point... but that's not the point... I'm stressing." Lifting his head, Spider drops his hat back on it and goes on. "Its time to do something different. My philosophy is simple... Do what you feel. There are no sides. There's no hunters, theres no Mavericks... That's all for people who make plans and attempt to control their world."

"There is no such thing as control."

"The only people who ever get what they want are the ones who learn to change and adapt... Stop playing sides, Proefssor. There is no good. There is no bad. There's just our ideals. What -WE- believe in. Be a pragmatist. The only thing that makes sense in this world is gain. For me gain is monetary.. for you, gain is ... I don't know... creation? The power of the mind? ... Knowledge? Know-how? ... Setting new standards? Whatever it is that you believe... you need to find a reason. And quickly. Because if you don't, we've got problems."

Gate drops to his knees.

"Why?" he asks in a raspy whisper. "Why did you do this to me? Wasn't there someone else you couldn't have destroyed...?" He's still in shock from all of this. Everything has been smashed away from him again, and his mind reels from the weight of it.

"No..." Comes Spider's immediate response. He stands from his chair, marches around that corner and closes in on Gate. Dropping down to his knees in front of him, he grabs the professor by his coat, jacking him up and yanking him in close, "LISTEN.... - listen..." He says, suddenly soothing, checking his tone, his grasp on that coat slacking up as he glares the professor in the eyes. "Listen... There wasn't anyone else. Do you understand? There wasn't... You have something that none of them seem to have. I could have chosen anyone, but only one intelligent mind was worth salvaging."

"Everyone else has this... ridiculous mindset on taking over... on destroying... or expanding their handlehold of power... Everyone except you. You did what you did in the past for a reason beyond ownership. Beyond the idiotic need for power. You're just like me. I do what I do because its my way... I was created for nothing. INTO nothing. And so I forge my path one dollar at a time. Money defines me. It teaches me how to go on, how to breath, how to continue to BE..." Shaking the professor, he goes on. "You did what you did out of what you saw as a need. You saw this world, you hated what you saw in it and you changed it. You DID something about it. It wasn't about good guys or bad guys or who did what to whom. It was just. About. Your IDEAL..."

"I dig that..." He chuckles.

That smile fades, suddenly serious. "So this time... when we make a stand... we need an icon... a symbol for those that buy into our vision to rally around. That symbol is you. We push nothing more than independant thought. If we want to help the Hunters, fine... we'll help them. If we want to help the Mavericks, FINE. WE'LL HELP THEM... Because in the end, we'll be the only ones standing and in turn the only opinion that MATTERS."

"Remember... History was written by the guys that sign the winners checks... Think, Gate... -- Complete freedom from what anybody else thinks you should do... forever. -- Trust me. They'll get over what happened here today. You didn't kill anybody. I did. We'll prove you are guilt-free. But right now is not the time."

Gate is like a ragdoll; the words are getting in but he's too broken to fight against them or Spider. His body is shaken. He can't look up. He gazes at the floor numbly, trying to make sense of it all as Spider's words stir the shards of his broken existence through the thick sludge of his consciousness.

Completely defeated again, and yet, not allowed the mercy of death. His heart is aching for Layer. There was so much potential there, so much he wanted to say, to do...

As if an immunological defense against the plummet into insanity, his mind starts walling in his fractured psyche to keep it from spilling out and drying up in the heat of this tragedy. You and Layer had a few moments of good conversation, but was it really going to be any more than that? Come now, evaluate things clearly, Gate. You weren't married. You weren't even close.
Remember your children, Gate. Certainly one was allowed back, but look at the others. The Guardians, sent off to do the work of the Federation - killing the 'useless eaters' of the reploids in Neo Arcadia. Was that how you wanted your work to be remembered, Gate? You never wanted your sons and daughters to be butchers. You wanted them to go beyond such banality.
Gate's grip relaxes, and he slowly and cautiously looks Spider in the eye.
"I need you to do something for me."

Watching the emotions play out over Gate's face was almost a painful sight to behold. The Bounty Hunter had to stop himself from falling into it, had to remind himself time and time again that this was business... it was a necessary evil... Taht he really hadn't meant to destroy anyone, but destruction was necessary to recreate. He could practically see the thoughts bouncing through Gate's head, and didn't relish his mental state or position. He couldn't imagine himself in a similar position. That's why he never tried to get close to anyone, to allow anyone to be considered a loved one. Those things always turned out to be things that you ended up missing.

Shaking his head as he watched Gate try to piece his life back together.. to find some other way to exist right then, now that he was apparently back in the role of a world changer... a leader without a cause, Spider finally released his coat. When finally Gate speaks, Spider slides back off of his knees and onto his rear, sliding against the wall of the corridor, looking the Professor over. "... And what might that be...?"

"When they finally repaired me, decades ago, the Federation decided that the combat armor I had created for myself was too dangerous to let me use outside of their consent. They placed a limiter on me to keep me from being able to access it."

"But that limiter has an unlocking code. It's within the Reploid Research Group's central lab in Innerpeace, China. Getting it will be difficult to say the least, but... I think you can probably pull it off. I think it's only fair to ask you retrieve it for me, since you've left me in a position in which I will need to prepare for attempts on my life," says Gate.

Leaning back against that wall, his eyes focused on Gate with a kind of sympathetic irony playing behind them, he finally chuckles. The whole thing striking him as rather comical. Not Gate's situation or his own, but the circumstances which lead up to this moment. "It's so funny... how people seem to think they have a firm bead on things..." He shakes his head slowly, lifting his knees and resting his elbows on them. "How they seem to think that... no matter how much they try to understand a thing... they inevitably end up misunderstanding it." Lifting his head to look upward at the ceiling, he again chuckles.

"Because... two hours ago the world -knew-... you were a friend. One hours ago the world -knew-... who the badguys were. And forty minutes ago the world -knew- that reploids were one step closer to being free... And yet thirteen seconds to the count past Signas' last words... the whole world desolved into chaos... because of the actions of my hand." Dropping his head he looks at Gate. "Isn't it funny how the instant you introduce a little chaos into the mix... Everyone forgets about friends and fellowship and falls into the same mob-like stupor?" Exhaling hard, Spider just nods his head... "I'll get the code. Just as soon as you give me your word... All the way Gate. No turning back."

Gate thinks on this.

He doesn't know that he has any choice now. Maybe... just maybe... he can prove to them that he's still not evil. There's still hope, he thinks. If he can solve the energy crisis, there's still hope...

And maybe they just might acknowledge him this time....

"... what are the terms of this agreement. Spell them out. And give me your name."

"... Why do you seem to think in terms of black and white like they do? ... You're better than that." Spider says with a disgusted frown. "There is no agreement... This is a movement. A rite for all Reploid kind... Freedom of choice. Just because they make their toys with teeth doesn't mean we have to choose sides just to bite. Its an ideal, Gate... This is freedom. I'm asking you to reach deep and do it because you want to. Not because I ruined your life. Stop being a fucking pussy. Will the world love you more when you make your stand and make it better or while you snivel and hide behind those Hunters who wouldn't know right if it slapped them in the face?"

"Remember. Right is relative. Right is -always- relative. Just because they stomp on Mavericks doesn't make them right. Just because the Mavericks stomp on Hunters dosen't make -them- right... All of this... this world... the way it runs. It's built on people jumping from tree to tree, limb to limb trying to make sense of something that cannot be made sense of."

"That's why money defines me. Its what I chose. Choose what defines you and live by it. Or stop. fucking. Breathing, Gate."

Gate stands up.

"Fine," he says, a coldness creeping over him -- almost as cold as the eyes of the fake Gate in the video. "I'll live by my own hand, by my own desires. I don't have much of a choice about it now, do I?" He barks a cold, sarcastic laugh and turns away, walking over to the equipment, examining it.

"Get me the damn codes."

Hopping up off of the floor, Spider almost shivers at the cold tone in which Gate takes. His eyes tighten, wondering if he'd done the right thing in releasing this ... thing inside of Gate. He knew full well Gate was capable of leading ... capable of making just what he told him happen... But at what cost? Then he had to remember with a cocky smile: Whatever the cost, he wouldn't be the one paying it. In the long run, it was for everyone's own good. "I'll get your codes..." Looking away for a moment, he turns his head back to follow Gate with his eyes. "I'd suggest you hit the basement levels and see how many of the drones you can get back online...

"I'd say we've got two, maybe three solid months to start working on beefing up security around here. My immediate advice is to continue to make it look abandoned... work below ground, build defenses up and start producing a Reploid army... There's at least one hundred unused frames sitting below us in the Cold Vault... All of them with a serial number like mine: LGR... And far as I know..." he starts...

"There's at least 4 NewGen frames down there. Maybe even more..." Spider turns away then and starts back down the hall. "I'm going to see about your codes, Professor..."

"Define the moment, don't let it define you."