Melissa covered her eyes as the wind pulled another wave of dust along the sandy road. They were sneaking through the middle of a city and still there was sand everywhere. It splashed into her eyes so suddenly that she could taste its bitterness. Not that she wasn’t bitter already, this whole mission felt wrong. Something in her gut told her that something would go terribly wrong. That’s why she had volunteered to hang back. Keep an eye out. They crept up to the wall that surrounded the refinery. A thick brick wall with a few spikes on top. Nothing that would stop them really. One of the group climbed the wall and checked the other side. When all was clear the rest of them followed but as she climbed the wall and was about to cross the spikes, she felt it again. Not much, but enough for her to hesitate. Then it broke out. The refinery exploded in a sudden burst of flames. It was what they had planned to do, but someone or something else had got ahead of them. The fire quickly tracked along the ground engulfing all the others in flames. She was nearly caught in it as well, but threw herself backwards as it closed in. Licking the wall and her flesh before she fell to the ground. The flames were everywhere and they had caught her clothes, already searing her skin. Melissa quickly disrobed as she got to her feet. The fire on the other side of the wall was still burning wild. The others were still screaming but there was nothing she could do but to watch her own clothes burn to cinder as the screams slowly quieted down. She leaned her head forward as she closed her eyes. She had known this already. She had warned them. With a tear in her eye she looked up to the flames, still reaching over the wall. Then another sound suddenly came closer, sirens.

With no other choice, Melissa ran from the scene. Keeping to small alleyways she kept out of sight and would avoid detection. At least until sun up. Slowing down her pace she stopped by a container. She looked down on herself. A few burns had caught her skin, but nothing severe. Though she had nothing to conceal herself with any more. With the exception of her oppressors, she was naked. As long as the moon still clang to the sky she would be able to hide in the shadows. But when the morning broke it would prove more difficult. Her feet started to move her again. At least her boots weren’t of any burnable material.

After a short while she heard singing. Drunken singing. Knowing that the morning was close, she crept closer, keeping to the shadows. Leaning slightly around the corner she could see a few men walking in the middle of a road, singing badly as they waived around their pistols and bottles. Another gust of sand tracked the path, to her annoyance. One of the men paused. He walked from the others, convincing them to wait. He moved straight towards her. Melissa quickly found a hiding place behind a slanting wooden fence. Keeping low she waited to see what he would do. Seconds after she noticed him drop his pants, a gush of fluid started pouring out. By the smell she could guess that it was more alcohol than urine. Either way, this could be her chance to both armour herself and get some clothes. Slowly and quietly she crept closer. He was in plain sight of his friends, but they were most likely not watching him. As he finished she lunged forward and grabbed him around his mouth and chest. Quickly pulling him back behind the fence. As he started struggle Melissa simply snapped his neck. She paused for a second to listen. The others didn’t seem to have noticed. They were still talking loudly with each other. She looked down on the man below her. He was a scrawny man, she noticed as the poncho laid itself along his body. Might be a little too small for her. She put the man on her shoulder and brought him away from the area. His friends would probably think that he had wandered off somewhere.

Trying his clothes she found out that they were mostly too small. The poncho covered up a lot, but the pants were too tight and she wasn’t really able to button the shirt. The boots fit perfectly though and the gun belt was fastened underneath the poncho. A thought had occurred to her. She might need to cross places with a lot of people during the day. She had to look inconspicuous. Which meant she had to drop her boots and use his. Her skin could fool people that she wore pants. Being grey could have some advantages. But that would only work if she covered up her face. She tied his handkerchief over her mouth and put on his sombrero. She made sure her hair was beneath her poncho.

Still there was the problem of her oppressors. They would tip people off. Taking the man’s knife she crammed it into her knee. Behind the lock mechanism. Screaming in pain she bent and broke the casing. Forcing it to fall out of her body. Sparks flew as it fell to the ground, her blood slowly crept down her calf as she started with the other knee. Sitting on the ground, she leaned forward and moved her hair from her neck oppressor. Cramming the knife into the back of her ear she felt how the electricity surged through the blade and into her hand. Twisting and turning she finally got it of her head. Panting from the pain she brought together enough strength to get her shoulder oppressors as well. She used the mans pants to clean herself up and to tie over the cuts.

Before she left, Melissa grabbed his bottle and his wallet. She quickly counted his money before putting the wallet into her shirt pocket. As she started walking she took a taste of the bottles content. The strong liquid made her face curl. Shrugging the affect off, she took a better drink of the burning fluid. Already feeling it dampen her pain. As Melissa left the corpse behind the sun slowly showed its first rays across the sky. People would be waking up soon.

As shops started opening and people started to move on the streets, she kept to the shadowy parts of the streets. The strong morning wind threw sand everywhere. Somehow it seemed to get it to every bare part of her body. Holding the poncho down didn’t help against the sand, but at least people would not notice that she had nothing underneath it. They were already looking weirdly towards her. Melissa carefully kept the sombrero tilted to the ones that watched her most intensely, avoiding any kind of eye contact. Keeping an eye out for some kind of transportation, she noticed a crowd of people outside a store window.

Already walking past it she paused and looked inside. A TV was showing the news. There were no sounds and the subtitles were in Spanish but the message was clear enough for her. It showed imagery from the fire during the night and a picture of her comrades and herself as they climbed the wall. She studied herself as she sat on the wall, holding onto one of its spikes, just before the fire erupted. Then a phantom image of her came up. It was far too strong a resemblance of her. Guessing they wanted her for blowing up the refinery, she kept moving. She took a chance to empty her bottle as the wind calmed. The fluid might not be of any aid in a battle, but it did push some of the pain away and helped some against the itching sand that had caught its way up her thighs.

As the sun neared it’s zenith she sat down by a mostly empty parking lot. Her blood had seeped through the cloth and the pain made it hard to stand as the liquor was slowly leaving her system. Leaning on the wall, just behind a broken down vehicle, she panted as she tried to regain some of her strength. Melissa had noticed how there were fewer people around during the middle of the day and that most of those who were around were laying on the ground, resting. In the tremendous heat she was not surprised.

A hovercraft slowly entered the parking lot and slowed down over one of the empty spaces. With a groan she got to her feet and started to walk closer. A man in a suit left the craft and closed the door behind him. As he noticed Melissa coming closer, he spoke a question in Spanish. She didn’t understand what he was saying and kept moving closer. Much to his worry. When she was close enough she pulled out the pistol and pointed towards him. She noticed his eyes rise quickly from the lower areas. He knew. She had him pressing against the craft with his hands in the air, incoherently rambling. The butt of her pistol was swung about, hitting him in the head. He swayed down but got back on his feet looking up towards her as she hit him again. A shot would provoke peoples’ attention. As he was lying on the ground she hit a few more times to make sure that he was unconscious. She then rummaged through his clothes, taking his wallet and keys. Quickly unlocking the craft she moved off.

Not entirely sure of how to drive it, things were rather bumpy at the beginning. She was lucky there only were few people around during the hottest hours. That way she could move quickly out of the city and into the desert. The auto cooler was turned on and she sat relaxed back as the opened road showed itself in front of her. It pained her knee as she pushed the gas down and her shoulders ached as she turned the wheel. But she was out of the city and out of peoples’ eyes.

After putting the sombrero and the handkerchief in the passenger seat, she opened the new wallet with her free hand. A few coins and bills. It might help a little. At least she might be able to get her hands on a first aid kit. And some more liquor. Flipping it over she noticed a photograph. The man’s family. Himself, a women and a child. All with smiling faces. She couldn’t remember the last time she had seen those kinds of smiles. Let alone wearing one herself. She put the wallet with the other in the shirt pocket and leaned back.

Something ruffled in the seats behind her. Checking the rear view mirror she noticed a child slowly getting up while rubbing her eyes. As Melissa slowed down by the side of the road, the child started talking. Asking questions in Spanish. Melissa stopped the hovercraft and got out. The child was scared as she opened the door in the back, but with nowhere to run, Melissa got her by the neck and dragged her out and threw her away from the craft. As Melissa got ready to enter again she stopped a second and looked up towards the sky. The sun was burning angrily and seemed to keep all the clouds away from the sky. All buta thin line from a passing aeroplane. Without a second thought, Melissa left the child on the road.

As she left the child to fade away in the rear view mirror, she wondered what else might be hiding in the seat or the trunk behind her. It might be something useful. Maybe even a first aid kit. When she had gotten far enough she pulled over once more and turned off the engine. Starting with the front compartment she found the regular papers and cloth and a few discs for the stereo. She crammed one in and started the music before getting out of the car. The back seat was empty, save for the little girls jacket. Quickly ruffling through it, she found nothing of interest. The last place to search was the trunk. A few tools, a few spare parts but no first aid kit or any other useful item. She leaned against the trunk as she closed it. The heat was horrendous. She couldn’t understand how people were able to live in a country this hot. And the sun was only a quarter down.

She drove for the remainder of the day and pulled in by the road during the night. Even though the back seat was reasonably comfortable, she had trouble sleeping. Her joints kept aching, her skin kept itching and the night seemed to change the world from far too hot to far too cold. Even though she had put everything on herself, she had problems with keeping the heat in. The echoes of the others crept into her mind. The screams as they burned in front of her eyes. A constant nagging in the back of her head that someone was watching her. Following her. That they, who ever they were, would find her. She huddled together as much as she could on the small seats. Trying to block out all thoughts.

She was driving before the sun had started a new cycle.

The road was mostly empty. Only a few cars passed by. Which was why she wore the poncho. She still didn’t want to get any unwanted attention. Being naked had its effects on some of the other mavericks. She supposed that it would be the same for humans. As the sun rose, the engine suddenly shock. Terrified she checked the gas meter. Empty. After a few coughs and shocks it stopped and slowed down. Leaving her completely halted in the middle of the street in the middle of the desert in the middle of nowhere. Sitting completely still for a few moments she kept staring at the meter. As if it would charge up from her will. Then she started hitting it with her fists as she screamed curses. Jumping out of the hovercraft, screaming and kicking dirt. Her only way out had just stopped. She turned and sent a lightning bolt towards it. Watching it explode and jump high into the air. Melissa dropped her jaw as she watched the burning corpse of the craft. Looking at her hand, she hadn’t collected that much power. Not to blow it into the air. Not even close. Flexing her hand. Maybe something was going wrong within her. Might be something to do with removing the oppressors.

After watching the flames, she looked up to the still rising sun. It’d be hot soon, too hot to walk. She started moving along. It went slow. Her legs ached. Her shoulders ached. Her eyes ached from all the bright light shining everywhere. The desert seemed to move in the warm light. Black lines slid up from time to time. The sand found its way across her entire body. With only a poncho concealing her, she had no chance against the sand. If she’d at least remembered the sombrero, she’d be able to protect her eyes against the sun. She walked and hoped for someone, anyone, to drive by. If they would, she would stop them and kill them, slowly. Then steal whatever vehicle they might be moving in. The road kept its empty appearance. Until. She noticed something in the horizon. A small building. As she got closer she slowly noticed more and more details. A gas station. She got a grim smile on her lips. Now she might be able to get some transportation.

She entered the shop to find a sleeping clerk by the counter. She only raised an eyebrow at his posture. An older man with a moustache and a shirt. Letting him sleep she looked around in the store. A first aid kit. Finally something to patch up her wounds. Some liquor, tequila, to ease the pain. She let out an eased sigh as she opened the bottle and drank a mouthful. She felt how it raged through her, cringing her face. Walking through the other items she took a bag of bread. Probably not fresh, but her stomach was uncomfortably empty. She stopped by the counter and looked at the man still sleeping. Transportation was still an issue. Preferably with some form of cooler. She put down her things by his head. Waking him up. Dizzily, he started talking, forcing a smile. Spanish, of course.
“Can you speak English?” she asked. Only incoherent ramblings came as a reply. He did not seem to understand her. He pointed at the cash register and the cost of the wares she had placed in front of him. That wasn’t her plan though. She lunged forward over the counter, grabbing his shirt. She threw him into one of the ware stands, breaking bottles and bags. He seemed confused as he tried to get to his feet. She kicked him a few times to make sure he would not try again. Then she crouched down by his side and checked his pockets. Nothing, not even keys. She sighed before she got up and stomped his head. He would probably survive. Probably. Behind the counter and through a door there, she found a living quarter. If the wares were transported here, he would not need any transportation of his own. The sight shocked her. Maddened she started running around the building. But no. Nothing. No car, hovercraft or even a bicycle. She clenched her fists as she went back in. Taking her stuff and a glass that was standing there, she spat on the unconscious man.

She sat down by the gas pump and took a glass, filled it with liquor and drank it. And once more. And once more. Throwing the glass away she drank from the bottle directly. Until only half was left. She sighed and watched the burning hot sun. The heat seemed to fade some. As did the pain. Instead of drinking herself out of her mind, she pulled out the first aid kit. The wounds had partially closed up underneath the torn pants. But she still needed to use some tape to close them. Then bandage to make sure it’ll hold. It had held up better than she had expected. She took out a piece of bread and started eating as she thought of what to do next. Unless someone came along soon she would have to start walking again. She did not want to walk again. Her legs still ached, even through the liquor, and the sand was still climbing her with every gush of wind.

She woke up as something poked her in her side. Slowly gaining consciousness she opened an eye and saw an armoured foot in her side. A quick stomp to the ground and she was on her feet, ready to fight whoever was waking her. A man in red armour and a yellow scarf. His eyes were concealed underneath the blackest glass she had ever seen. He must be a reploid and she did not recognise him as a Maverick. Which means he’s most likely a Hunter. Clenching her fists she started to charge her power into electricity. He cleared his voice before he spoke.
“I would not recommend that” he simply motioned against the gas-pump they were standing by. The very same she had fallen asleep by. “It would destroy me, sure, but you’d follow with me”
Gritting her teeth, she knew he were right. Instead she emptied her hands, screaming, unto a cacti, burning it to dust and ashes. Leaving silver like shards of glass on the ground. An eyebrow moved slightly on Melissa, but no more showed her surprise of the effect. Turning towards him she pointed her finger, wishing her pistol had not been in the hovercraft.

“Who, the Hell, are you?” she suddenly felt a rush as she was understood.
“I…” he motioned towards himself. “am, amongst other names, Blues, and you…” he motioned against her “are Melissa, I presume”
He knew who she was, most likely what she had done. He apparently knew what she was capable of. The name Blues was the name of a legend. She did not believe that he existed. She still did not. Blues slowly turned away from her and walked towards an old and run-down pick-up truck.
“hardly legendary” she murmured beneath her breath. Just watching his movement. His small form.
Opening the drivers door he paused and looked towards her.
“Will you walk through the desert in the bare brim?” she looked towards him with a confused look as he sat on the driver’s seat. As he turned on the engine she rushed forward, grabbing the half empty bottle, and got into the passenger side. He did not seem to react as he simply pressed down the peddle and drove off.

They were driving for hours. Only desert and cactus passing them by. He was heading for the border, of that much she was certain. What would happen there was a different matter. Especially if he was working for the Hunters. Then again, maybe not for the Hunters. He reminded her of someone. The way they move. The way they speak. The way they seem to be aware of everything behind them. As if it were already planned out and set in stone. She was not sure.

“How did you find me?” Melissa broke the silence. Watching only sand bothered her as it kept reminding her of the itching all over her body. Blues cleared his throat before he spoke.
“I didn’t…” he started slowly “I was running low on petroleum and just happened by you” his eyes did not leave the road in front of them. He barely seemed to react on the question more than just replying.
“Where are you taking me?” the mighty Blues, found her by chance. He was as big of a joke as she had thought.
“I’m not sure yet” Melissa twitched from the reply. Her eyes fixated on those black glasses.
“What?” there was a long silence before she leaned closer. Putting her face just next to his. “What?” she snarled into his ear, gritting her teeth.
“I need to remember something first. Before I know what I will be doing” he sounded as calm as before. Not the least afflicted by her anger or her irritation.
“You mean I will have to wait for you to remember something before I know if I will live the rest of my time imprisoned?” her knuckled hands started to turn more white than grey “Can you at least tell me what you are trying to remember?”
“No…” he did not seem bothered about the fact that she could lash out and attack him at any moment “But” the word stopped her “I will set you free as we reach Del Rio” she stared at him. Then, leaning back into the seat, she turned her eyes to the desert outside.
“Why will you set me free?” she already knew the answer.
“I can’t tell you that” she had been right. He was a lot like Vile. He did not work For the Hunters. He worked With them.

As the roads seemed to gather together into a bigger road, some buildings started to show by the horizon. As they came closer they saw two big fences reaching towards the edges of the world on both sides of them. The boarder. The space in-between the fences was guarded by gun-turrets with an even spacing in-between them.
Black towers with four pipes running out of them. Seemingly pointing towards the ground. On one of the closer towers Melissa noticed a bird sitting. A vulture. Blues drove into the space between two of the buildings and slowed down. Two guards were sitting behind a glass window and Melissa noticed a small projector sending out images of wanted people.
Something was spoken first through speakers. In Spanish. “Identification, please” was repeated as they didn’t get any reaction the first time. Before they got to answer the projector changed image, showing a crude but fitting image of Melissa. Something that the guards noticed at the same time. A turret suddenly sprang out of a former small globe, aiming straight towards them and big bars suddenly rose from the ground both in front and behind them.
Then silence.
“Please, step out of the vehicle. Keep your hands in the air” one of the soldiers behind the screen picked up some form of communicator while the other kept by the transmitter. Before they opened the doors Blues calmly said “Hold your lightning”. They stepped out and kept their hands in the air as told. Almost immediately the wind blew by. Both lifting Melissa’s poncho and spreading the sand over her body. With gritting teeth she wished for something to go wrong.
“I am X. Colonel of the Maverick Hunters. This here is my captive that I am bringing to the headquarters” there was a moment of silence.
“If you are Colonel X you should be able to pass the eye-scan” Melissa stood by and watched, hearing the sarcasm in the attendant’s voice. She wondered if all that Blues had said before was a lie. She saw how Blues stepped up to some kind of machine. He folded his dark glasses up and looked into some kind of eye-scanner. A clearing beep sounded and the turret swung back as the bars slowly crept back into the ground. Melissa kept her itching hands closed as Blues slowly returned towards her. He looked straight into her eyes for a short second before flipping his black glasses back down. She saw something deep inside those eyes. There was more than just the frame.
“We apologize for the inconvenience, Colonel. Have a very nice day” Blues climbed into the truck again and turned on the motor. As Melissa climbed up they started rolling.

A short distance from the toll Blues slowed down into a halt. Melissa looked over towards him, irritated.
“Why are you stopping?” Blues looked over towards her and made a gesture towards the door.
“Release” the comment took Melissa by surprise before she realised how much power she held from before. She stepped out for a second and burned another cacti into ash and glass before getting back in.
“Better?” she growled as the truck started moving again. No reply was made.

They reached Del Rio in the middle of the night. Melissa had been leaning towards the door frame, staring towards Blues, since the border. Blues parked by the road in the city and looked over towards her.
“Either get out or come with me to the headquarters” Melissa blinked, then leaned closer.
“Why are you doing this?”
“Why are you still here?” the comment enraged her. She grabbed his scarf and pulled his face close to hers. Opening her mouth to speak, or yell, she found herself without words. Throwing him back into his seat she left the truck, slamming the door loudly.

“Bastard!!” she screamed as the truck went away. Calling attention from the few people walking on the night street. “What?!”

The guards were playing cards when the perimeter alarm suddenly lit up. They were simple machines, constructed only as a warning beacon for the others within the base. If there was an attack they would be destroyed first. They knew this. Which is why they treated every alarm as the most urgent thing in the world. One of the two ran for the surveillance system. Checking the outside. While the other ran for the turrets, getting ready to eject it to the outside and fight whatever force there might be. A moment of silence as they waited for anything to arrive. Nervous flicking of handles and alarm buttons. Then the one suddenly looked rather surprised.

“There’s – ” he stuttered as he tried to figure out what he saw, to the other’s disturbance “There’s a cab rolling up.”
“A what?”‘
“A cab. A taxi, it just stopped in front of our gate” they felt unsure of what to make of the situation.
“Is it host – ?” he got cut off.
“It’s opening up. Someone is…” blinking a second before looking over towards his friend “Melissa is getting out of the cab.”

“Melissa? Shouldn’t she be in – ” an explosion rang through the air and they both jumped. Before the second got a chance to eject the turret, the first held out his hand. Stopping him.
“Melissa blew it up. And she’s walking this way” a few seconds of silence went by “We should take cover, she looks pissed!” looking around in the otherwise empty hold they kept in their seats, looking busy, as the door opened. Melissa walked through the hold, not giving them any notice but the clenching fists and the irritated look kept them both quiet. She went into the elevator and went away. Much to their relief.
He was playing chess, alone, as the elevator suddenly sounded. Leaning back in the seat, Byte could see a rather roughed up Melissa walk into the hallway. Under the mask he lifted an eyebrow at her clothes. Her regular uniform had been fully changed for a poncho and some bloody clothes. Then it connected in his mind, the oppressors were all gone. It was not safe to have them off of her. He decided that the solo game could wait and followed her. Just in case someone was foolish enough to start arguing with her.
“Why, welcome back, sweetheart” Axle popped up right around the corner with a rose in his hand. Posing for her pleasure.
“Move!” Melissa snarled towards him, making him take a step back. His appearance less desirable as he let her pass by him.
“What is going on?” Axle asked Byte as he joined up with him.
“Heh, no idea. But it can’t be really good, now can it?” Axle just looked at him then shock his shoulders as they kept walking. Following Melissa’s lead.

As they passed the training grounds a squeaking voice sounded.
“Hey, stop right there, Gray” the ice triplet walked out with Ice Penguin in the lead “You still haven’t – ” a lighting bolt suddenly cut him off as it jumped from Melissa’s hand straight into his chest. Sending him flying through the local into a wall. The other two froze as they were trying to figure out what to do, while Melissa simply walked away.
“Did I hear you laugh, just now?” Axle asked Byte.
“Hrm, no” Byte was glad that his mask hid the big grin on his lips. Penguin had had that coming a long time. Byte was just sad that it was not him that had done the beating. “You should probably wait. You know what she’s like when she’s in one of her ‘moods'” Axle just nodded and left Bytes side.

Melissa had entered her quarters and was taking off her poncho when Byte caught up with her again. She gave him a short glance but did not say a word. Neither did he. He watched as she had removed all the bloody clothes and the two parts of her oppressors still stuck in her. Studying her naked body and the mechanical parts now in clear view from flesh. He waited until she entered the shower and he heard the water rushing before he left for Doppler’s office.

He heard the hissing of machines before he entered the room. Doppler was probably working on some ‘ingenious’ machine to make the war easier. Byte found him by his workplace with Penguin in front of him. Byte smiled greatly as he realized the damage she had dealt to Penguin.
He cleared his throat “Excuse me, sir. Doppler?”
“Not now!” Doppler did not bother to turn to respond but barked angrily. Byte shook his shoulders and looked around for something to sit on. He found some free space on a table.

As Melissa walked in Byte grinned in the prospect of what would happen. She was now dressed in nothing but a big shirt, showing the big holes in both her knees as well as her elbows.
“Doppler, I could nee – “
“Not Now!!” Doppler growled more angrily than before. Melissa watched his back angrily before she turned towards Byte. Making a gesture towards him to make room, she sat down next to him, keeping quiet.

“Now, listen here, Lady” Doppler turned with Penguins energy cell in his hand, ready to lecture Melissa. “I will Not accept this kind of – !” he stuttered as he noticed the missing pieces of her. Dropping the cell to the ground as if shocked. Byte burst into laughter.

Story is © Peter A. Svensson 2007
All characters are coyright respective owners.
All Megaman related characters are copyright Capcom.

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