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Saved… Well, sort of…

The center of Skull fortress was a very large workroom, with odd computers set in the walls, and tools scattered about in disarray. Papers cluttered the tables, living symbiotically with a vast assortment of junk. This room gave the impression of being a place where mechanical life could naturally evolve, pulling itself up out of the primordial paperclips. Wily himself was hard at work constructing a brand new robot when Bass walked in, head held high, carrying Aria. Wily turned around and almost dropped a laser torch on his foot.

“Bass! What the devil…?” He yelped, staring at the lovely bioroid lying still as death in Bass’s black clad arms. Bass grinned evilly.

“Just a little someone for reprogramming, doc.” And he shoved the half-finished robot off the workbench, replacing him with Aria. He smoothed her hair into place possessively, and grinned up at the Doctor. “A lot better than that junk, hunh?” Wily’s eyes narrowed.

“I wouldn’t say that.” He replied, glancing her over. “In fact, she isn’t much use to us. No weapons, no armor worthy of the name, and she can’t use that lovely power any more. It would be simpler to just use her for parts.” Bass was momentarily speechless.

“Doc! We can modify her to fight, and who said she’s powerless?” He argued. Wily just folded his arms, staring hard at his creation. “We don’t know that she can’t use that Song Magic power anymore, and if you take her apart we never will! Doc?” He asked uneasily. Wily was just looking at him, and he had an odd expression on his face.

“Perhaps.” He finally said, still gazing at Bass. “It will take a great deal of work.” He mused, peering down at Aria. Her armor was only a white titanium vest, badly tattered, and the rest of her clothes consisted of a purple jump suit. “Well, let’s start with the mind.” He gathered up several discarded tools. “Bass, get me a some connecting cables, would you?” He asked.

“No problem, mien fuehrer!” Bass saluted playfully. As he left, he gave Aria one last satisfied glance. Pretty soon, she would be on their side…

“Ohh…” Aria moaned weakly. Her head hurt, her chin hurt… in fact, almost everything hurt. I didn’t think being dead was this painful. She thought. She knew she ought to open her eyes, but it just seemed like too much effort.

“She’s coming around.” A voice commented. Aria listened dazedly, trying to figure out who it was. It took her tired mind a few moments, but she remembered Bass.

“It doesn’t matter. She can’t break those restraints.” Aria opened her eyes slowly. Her vision was fuzzy, but she felt a sudden jolt of panic as Wily grabbed her by the chin and forced her head to one side.

He’s trying to access my programming! That realization gave her the strength to fight despite her pounding headache. Twisting her head away, she tried to bite him, missing by a hair. Wily jerked back. He didn’t relish the notion of broken fingers. “Bass, hold her!” He ordered, backing away. Bass laughed, and took her head in an iron grip. Aria fought for all she was worth, but it was no use. She wanted to spit at him, but spitting was something she had never quite mastered, and a misfire would be worse than nothing.

“What are you doing to me?” She growled. Bass smiled down at her, his left lip pulling up to show one canine tooth, an odd little quirk. Aria noticed, with a slight pang, that he really was very attractive.

“We’re making you one of us. How do you like that?” He asked casually. Aria snorted.

“And live in a pigsty like this? I think not!” She replied flippantly. Bass blinked. Wily ignored the by-play, focusing on opening a panel to Aria’s neural net. She focused on Bass as Wily connected the cables.

“Well, I suppose you could clean it up.” He said cautiously. He had never really cared what the fortress was like… he never spent much time in it. She only glared up at him.

“That’s a job for metools, not me. And I don’t want to be part of this!” She retorted, trying to wiggle free. Bass only tightened his grip.

“Well, that’s to bad, isn’t it, since you’re going to be anyway. Besides,” And he leaned close, as if he was about to kiss her. She could feel his breath on her lips. “It’s nice here. You’ll like it, trust me.” She stared up into his eyes, seeing something strange, something she couldn’t put a name to…

“Stop!” A sharp cry came from the door. Bass jerked up, releasing his hold on her face. Aria twisted her head, and saw…

“Mega Man!” She cried out. He was here to rescue her! Bass jumped in front of the workbench with a snarl, a feral expression on his face.

“No you don’t, Rock! She’s ours!” He growled out, charging his arm cannon.

“No she’s not… she’s her own!” The blue bomber replied angrily. Aria felt like cheering.

“Get him Mega Man!” She called. Bass shot her a furious glance, then turned back to Mega Man, who was getting ready for a full fledged battle. Bass shot several times, and dodged Mega’s returning blasts… until one nailed him in the arm. Then he snarled and leaped, Treble meeting him in mid-air. Aria’s eyes widened as the pair joined into a dark form with giant, purple wings…

Then Wily got her attention. He was tapping at his computer, and Aria realized that the cord was still attached to her head. She twisted her head frantically, banging the cord against the table, trying to loosen it. Wily looked up and scowled.

“Stop that!” He snarled, and kept typing. Aria could only think of one thing to do…

“Mega Man!” She shrieked as the equipment started to power up. He turned, dodging a blast from Bass, and gasped when he realized that soon it would be too late. Mega powered up quickly, and fired directly into the computer terminal. Wily jumped back with an oath as it started to spark. Bass laughed, knocking the distracted Mega Man across the room with a powerful charged shot. Then Aria shrieked in pain, and everyone stared at the transformation that was occurring...

Lines of electricity were streaking down the equipment, down through the cable and into Aria. She spasmed helplessly as the energy tore its way through her body and her mind… changing her, doing something to her, she didn’t know what. A savage snarl started, deep in her throat, and she strained against her bonds… which snapped. She leapt to her feet, tearing out the cord with a quick jerk, ignoring the pain. Her thoughts were different… intensely focused, but crystal clear. Mega Man and Bass both backed up, apprehensive. Her eyes were different, both harder and brighter than they had been before, and her face was still as stone. She flexed her hands, eyeing them both.

“Wily! What have you done to her?” Mega Man exclaimed. Wily only gaped. The shot into the computer terminal had disrupted it completely, and he didn’t know what it had done to Aria. However, that brought him to her attention. The look she shot him spoke eloquently of death. The component that was supposed to make her loyal to him obviously hadn’t worked… She leapt towards him, hands twisted into lethal claws…

“NO!” A black form intercepted her. Hissing, she clawed at his face. He tried to restrain her, grabbing her arms, but she kicked him in the gut. He grunted in surprise as his armor folded under the blow.

She wasn’t this strong before! Bass thought in shock. What the hell did that jolt do to her? But there was no time to think about it, as she slammed into him with a whirlwind of punches and kicks. He didn’t want to really hurt her, but she wasn’t making it easy not too… He managed to punch her hard in the stomach, and she folded over with a gasp, loosing her cold expression. For a moment she seemed confused, gazing up at him almost sadly. Then a blue arm grabbed her.

“Aria… hurk!” Her hand shot out, catching Mega Man around the throat. Bass and Wily both stared, wide eyed, as she threw him halfway across the room. Mega Man slammed into the floor painfully, and pulled himself up slowly, shaking his head.

She’s gone crazy. Bass thought in dismay, seeing the cold look was back on her face. Holding his hands out in a non-threatening way, he walked towards her slowly. Her head snapped around, those cold, bright eyes focusing on him.

“Aria, calm down.” He said as soothingly as he could. Mega Man frowned, and Bass made a “go away” gesture at him. “It’s okay, just calm down. I’m Bass. Remember? And he’s Mega Man.” He pointed at the blue bomber, but Aria didn’t move her head. She only stared at him. “Nobody’s going to hurt you. Now just calm down…” As he spoke, he stepped closer. Only a few feet away from her, he stopped, looking into her grass green eyes.

The alien expression slowly melted off her face, replaced by confusion. With a low sob, she sank to the ground, blond braid curling on the floor. Mega Man dashed up, putting an arm around her and pulling her back as she turned to cry on his shoulder.

“We’re leaving.” He said, his expression daring Bass to try something. But he just nodded, looking at the sobbing young bioroid.

“I hope you can help her.” He said softly, so softly only Mega Man could hear. His eyes narrowed, and he gazed at Bass distrustfully. Reaching over one handed, he tapped his teleporter and disappeared in a blaze of blue light.

“Bass…” Wily gargled as he got up from the floor, seeing Aria and Mega Man disappear. “BASS!” He screamed. Bass winced. This was going to be a long night…

Continue to Chapter 8 of Aria
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