The first breath of night air was the light at the end of a long walk in darkness. It was freedom, filling his lungs and spreading out from them into the rest of his body until he could feel the cool, slightly damp tingle of it right down to his fingertips. He felt invigorated and suddenly alive, the heady taste of freedom like a jolt of raw power to his circuits and making him want to run and shout and never look back regardless of the consequences. It was the first time he’d been permitted to leave the tower without an escort.
Rules were still in place; Wily had been very clear about the things that would get his new taste of independence revoked. Despite the sudden spike of wild desire to throw all of that away and just go, he wasn’t quite willing to risk the unknown that would follow getting away with it—or being caught. He was armed and armored, in case things got rough in the slums he was bound to head for despite their complete lack of appeal, and he would be observed. That was the kind of limitation he could easily come to terms with—wasn’t he observed already, every hour of every day? Wily kept him as close as a dog at heel, and even out of his direct sight the cameras were everywhere. At least with that as a leash he was allowed outside.
It was a good thing the crowd had so many sights and sounds to draw their attention away from their so-called hero—no one would have been inspired by the blank look of childlike confusion and revulsion concealed behind the tinted blast shield of his helmet.Though physically ready to react to danger, he couldn’t help but let himself be pulled along by the wrist, his right arm feeling numb and useless and his head much the same. Everyone stayed well clear of him, and he imagined he could see the hidden expressions of fear and disgust on the faces of the soldiers he had so recently seen as comrades of a sort—he was a monster, an inhuman killing Machine, and they all knew it.
Even keeping his recent training sessions in mind, Protoman had been essentially inactive for months. His only true experience as a warrior was the cold night when he burst into life before an army, a fiery dynamo of vengeance. Despite the shift in the details of his situation, he found himself filled with that same burning purity of purpose as he lunged inevitably forward, reacting without question to the distant flash of movement that could only herald the kind of violence he was so intimately familiar with—the kind he was born to perpetrate.
It felt good, finally recalling the harsh, efficient movement of his body, every muscle tensing or stretching to get maximum results with minimum expenditure of energy.
The first stop was always the wealthiest district, and not only to stroke the egos of Wily’s most loyal citizens – this part of town was also the safest. The more well-off members of society enforced security on their own, walling out rebel elements that might take away the comforts they enjoyed. Among Wily’s hand-picked bodyguards were some younger soldiers that’d never been out on a publicity project before, and they were always nervous and jumpy the first few days. Better to start them out somewhere with an easy crowd to settle them before moving on to a district that’d require a bit more self-control.
Shit is about to go DOWN, y’all. Seriously. If you’re not already reading this story, WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH YOUR LIFE?
It had taken all the willpower Protoman possessed to keep himself from acting, reacting, to Wily’s taunting closeness. He found that when he was allowed—encouraged, even—to take himself and his wildly conflicted thoughts elsewhere, he had no emotional strength left to do anything but leave. He gathered up the rest of the armor bundle without further comment and retreated to his own room, huffing a short sigh of relief as the door closed behind him. Feeling nervously energetic, almost like his skin didn’t fit quite right, he laid out the rest of the armor on the bed and resolved to go ahead and try the rest.
Jessamine was furious, and Wily knew from her tightly controlled anger alone that Protoman had done well with marksmanship. He wasn’t surprised, and allowed himself to gloat a little, just enough to goad his favorite mercenary - even more than Protoman, needling Jessamine was like taunting a tiger. Wily had to remind her who held the power, challenge her to defy him, because only then could he be certain of her loyalty.
Wily, why you gotta be such a douchebag? Seriously. PROTO ONLY WANTS YOUR SWEET
After three weeks on the training grounds with Sal, Protoman couldn’t help but start to feel good about his chances of going along for Wily’s media tour. He was never going to be the paragon of hand-to-hand combat, but the reward dangled enticingly before him had applied the right amount of motivation to teach him how best to use his considerable weight and strength against his more frail human opponents. He could throw Sal to the ground, if nothing else, and though no one else would volunteer for an attempt he was reasonably certain he could do the same with most of the other soldiers.
One might even go so far as to characterize the attitude that came with his success as cocky.
The tension between Wily and Protoman – no longer his captive, now most certainly his guest – changed quite dramatically over the next few days. Wily wouldn’t let Protoman return to his own quarters down on the main level, and found that he didn’t have to work very hard to convince him to stay. The room he’d been given was attached to Wily’s, of course, but otherwise it was just as private as his first room had been, and it was far more comfortable. He alone out of all the residents of the tower had access to the elevator that brought him to and from Wily’s quarters, and he was free to spend his time however he saw fit. Wily was very obviously pleased when Protoman chose to take his meals upstairs with him, but didn’t object when he left for the mess hall either. There was no curfew, and though Wily preferred to know what Protoman was up to, he didn’t pry. They both knew Wily could keep tabs on him through his security cameras, anyway, but by not asking or making that obvious, Wily was extending a courtesy to Protoman that not many of his soldiers and servants received.
Twenty floors above the dark streets of the city, Dr. Light lived in a run-down tenement. An eccentric and brilliant man. Light was a loner, a thinker, a man of ideas.
But his ideas had turned on him. They had done violence where there should have been peace and fallen where they should have stood victorious. All of his dreams, from bright visions of a better world to dark and lofty goals of vengeance, lay in shattered fragments around his feet, and with only those pieces left he did the only thing he knew to do.
He began to build, to shape new life from the bones of the lost.
Protoman found that he was shaking, and though he couldn’t have articulated the reasons he found that it was okay, suddenly, to show this brief flash of weakness in front of his keeper. Wily, for his part, guided the man/Machine gently over to the couch and hid his visciously delighted grin against the little Wolf’s shoulder as he helped him sit down. Where there had been tension and rage, only a languid, breathless calm was left. The man watched his prize for a moment, letting him work out his thoughts in peace but quite keen on picking up what he could of the process. It was essential, after all, that Protoman emerge from the strange, sudden crash of violence and intimacy with the proper attitude.
In an instant Wily found himself up against the reinforced glass window, pinned by a pair of strong hands fisted in his shirt. Protoman’s gaze shocked him into an emotion he hadn’t felt for a very long time – fear. City lights flickered and wavered in the heat hundreds of miles below, and though he was still safely inside he felt like he was being dangled straight off the edge of the tower. He’d always been cautious around the Wolf, but now he was genuinely afraid, all too aware that even if he couldn’t force him through the glass, Protoman could certainly break his neck.
There’s more~~~ Give us…. half an hour. Seriously, dudes and dudettes, this is the fucking best thing ever. I don’t even give a fuck.
The mercenaries’ equipment was kept in the basement, between the soldiers’ barracks and the storage hangers to which the Machines retired after their alloted patrols were done. Protoman hated going down there, so close to the horrible things, and was numbly pleased when Sal told him that the boss had asked to see him and volunteered to take his helmet and flak jacket down to storage so he wouldn’t have to make a detour on his way upstairs. He stepped into the restricted elevator without even thinking to thank the man, and only by virtue of his unwillingness to catch up properly to the here and now did he miss a derisive comment passed from one soldier to the other.
All he could think of was the look on the woman’s face as she realized where the help had come from. How horrified and angry she’d been—not even really afraid, he instinctively knew. She’d been upset by the audacity of her so-called oppressors trying to do a little good. It was just like Wily and Jessamine and the other soldier said; they wanted something to be upset about. They wanted martyrs, not heroes, because a live hero can’t be mourned and lamented.
Wily leaned his forearm against the thick plate-glass window and peered out at the plaza below, squinting to focus on the tiny figures crossing the white marble. There were five today: two human mercenaries, two Snipers, and his Wolf. From this height it was hard to distinguish the mercenaries from Protoman; the Machine had donned the featureless black helmet worn by all human members of his guard and the black flak jacket that would protect his still-burnt skin from attack. He wasn’t wearing a weapon, and Protoman was perhaps a bit broader in the shoulder than either of the men he walked with, but those were the only significant differences. Wily found that he was pleased with the illusion, and as with so many other thoughts and feelings related to the little Wolf, he wasn’t quite sure why.
Don’t cry, bb Proto <3 They didn’t mean it. Well, I mean, they did, but don’t listen to them! ;_;
When the nerves on the right side of the Machine went live, his face twisted immediately into a silent grimace of pain, but when his voicebox warmed up to meet the rest no sudden string of swearing emerged to follow it. Instead, there was only a low, distorted groan, teeth bared in an animal twist of agony as half his body rushed to inform his brain just how much damage he had caused. Without the adrenaline of battle to accompany the feeling, he found himself suddenly afraid—he wasn’t designed for consequences. He had been built for one shining burst of violence and idealism, and the business of continuing to live was a bizarre an unsettling challenge when pitted against his new understanding of self.