He honestly didn’t know what to think, making it this far. This entire time, Forte had felt powerless. Buster shots did nothing to Gutsman, Cutman dodged most of their attacks, Elecman almost fried them to death, Iceman froze them until they could break free with nothing but their will, Timeman… actually, they only pushed him off Big Ben. Fireman burned most of their bodies, Oilman tricked them into setting themselves on fire, Bombman almost blew them up. Rollwoman had almost sliced them to pieces.
Forte stood nervously before the door to Rockman’s boss room, with nothing much but his weapons system and his little brother Copy Robot. “Ready?” He whispered to Copy gently.
Copy nodded, so Forte opened the door. Once they walked in, they could hear the door close and the lock click into place. “Be careful,” spoke their father, Wily, over the headset.
Forte didn’t bother replying. He’d already agreed so many times, and he was mortified that if he spoke he’d burst into tears. In order to defeat Doctor Thomas Light, in order to end his tyranny… He’d have to destroy the man’s ride armor. And that would require the equivalent of a self-destruct.
It was a death mission, and Forte knew that, but he couldn’t give up. Not now, not ever. He instead took a step further into the room. “Rockman… Remember me?”
The Lightbot turned towards the voice and blinked. “Forte. You do know it’s our job to destroy challengers. You have thirty seconds before I kill you!”
“I knew you once. If that you still exists… Back down.”
“I’ve shortened it to ten seconds!”
“Okay, forget talking.” Without another word, the Wilybot switched to Fire Storm and shot it at his opponent thrice. Rockman dashed out of the way of two blasts of the weapon before simply jumping over the last.
“You’re naïve,” said the Lightbot.
“No, I’m Forte.”
“You know what I mean. Advanced weapons training, dodging patterns, reading opponents like a book before they so much as move. That was programmed into me. And you cannot win.”
Copy fired a single shot of Thunder Beam while Rockman was talking, but the opponent jumped over as if it was nothing. “I see you’ve learned nothing,” he spoke quietly.
Before either Wilybot could have registered what was going on, Rockman had fired a charged shot at Copy’s IC chip.
He didn’t even think, he just moved, desperate to save someone, for if he was to die, then at least his father could still have one son. Forte shoved Copy out of the line of fire a split second before his younger brother would have been hit, causing the shot to connect with the older’s arm.
“...Big bro? Are you okay?”
Forte nodded. “Yeah, I’m fine Copy.” He turned to Rock, feeling anger in his chest, burning in his eyes. “Rockman, this is your last chance.”
“No,” said Rockman a bit too happily, “it’s your last chance!”
Forte glared and switched back to his buster, letting loose almost an entire minute of rapidfire. Not a single shot landed. Taking a shaky breath despite not needing the air, he switched to Ice Slasher with a different approach in mind. Hit Rockman once and he’d be able to take him down, as opposed to having to get lucky enough to hit him enough to at least cripple the Lightbot.
He ran out of Ice Slasher ammo before connecting once. When his weapon cannon made the click denoting the lack of ammunition, he felt his chest tighten in anxiety. Clearly that didn’t work.
Then Copy Robot was next to him. “Big bro,” he whispered, “use your buster to guide him, and I’ll use Oil Slider to make him slip!”
Oh. Duh. Forte was honestly embarrassed that he didn’t think of that before. “That’s a good plan.”
When Copy had gone to crouch behind a crate, Oil Slider equipped, Forte muttered, “I hope it works…”
He switched to his regular buster and began firing at Rockman, attempting to herd him in the general direction of Copy.
Rock slipped on Oil Slider.
Unfortunately, in all the craziness, no one noticed the blue destroyer had been hiding a charged buster. In less than a second, a charge shot hit Forte in the face.
Copy heard the sound and acted without thinking. He rapidly equipped Ice Slasher and froze Rockman in place before checking on his brother. “Big… big bro?”
Forte was dead. Copy’s entire body was shaking. He then walked back to Rockman, who was only frozen enough to be stuck to the ground. He can hear me, Copy noted.
“Rockman. I…” Tears were streaking down Copy’s face. “You… you killed my brother. And yeah, I know we were attacking you and all, but really! I thought people were better than this!”
“You’re forgetting something,” said Rockman. “You’re breaking the law. You’re the criminal here. All I’m doing is protecting the civilians from you.”
“The world doesn’t need you to protect them! Look… Forte, he was better than you. And I’ve messed up a lot if I’ve let my bro die… But still, even I am greater than you.”
He walked back to Forte's dead body and picked him up. Why…? Just… it isn't fair, he thought.
Yet… something prevented him from killing Rockman. Was it… Mercy? Pity? Perhaps he just wasn’t thinking clearly? Or perhaps he didn’t really care?
Without looking back at Rockman, he began running home.
Copy Robot blankly stared at the space just in front of him, legs pumping to reach it. He wasn't sad. At least, he didn't think he was sad. He could feel tears dripping silently off his cheeks, sliding onto the ground. But still. He knew the grief was there, but it just... felt like it wasn't. He just felt stunned.
Rock used to be just a housebot, Copy was told. SLN-001 was a little robot boy, just like he was. Oh, how he had changed.
And so had Roll, and Fireman, Iceman, Timeman and all the others. All because a man wanted them to.
Copy clenched his fists tighter around the body of his dead brother and ran even faster.
He had tried to reason with him. He had thought kindness was the answer. But it hadn't worked.
"Kindness can't solve everything," Forte had said, "no matter how much you want it to. It seems like we're going to have to resort to battle."
Copy closed his eyes. He didn't want to think about his brother. He didn't want to think about the possibility that he wouldn't hear Forte's voice ever again.
But was he really dead?
Wasn't there a way to make sure?
Blah blah blah, something something about IC Chips?
Oh yeah, I can teleport!
Copy stopped running and teleported home.
Albert didn’t know what to think. What to hope. He had lost connection to Forte’s signal, and Copy Robot had somehow found a way to block him off. Could it be that they were…? No. Dr. Wily refused to believe that. They had to be okay. They had to be.
Unfortunately, he couldn’t be sure until they came back. Until then, he would just have to wait.
So he waited.
It felt like hours before a bluish pillar of light scuffed the air, and there was Copy. The little bot croaked, “Dad?”
“You’re alright,” Wily cried in relief, rushing up to hug his son. That was when he noticed the heavily damaged Forte, a dead weight in his brother’s hands. “What… what happened to him?!”
“Rockman hit him with a charged shot, and…” He trailed off, voice cracking. “And…”
Dr. Wily swallowed in frustration. “Oh no…” The doctor thought for a moment. “...Are you completely sure? Did you check his IC chip?”
DWN-002 suddenly facepalmed. “‘Doh! I forgot about that. Maybe there’s still a chance…!”
A determined look spread across the doctor’s face as he opened up Forte’s chest and pulled out the IC chip.
It was still intact.
Both Copy and Wily sighed in relief. “S-so he's… he's going to be okay,” the little bot whispered, shaking.
“Yes,” his father replied, “but it’ll take quite some time to fix his body.”
“So let’s get to work!”
Copy Robot sipped quietly at his E-Tank, watching Dr. Wily work. He knew Forte was going to be okay… But somewhere, under all that relief, a dark thought lingered. “Dad,” he called.
The scientist didn't even turn to look at him, but Copy knew he was listening. “Yes, son?”
“Do you think we're going to get through this?”
Now that made his father turn. “...Of course,” Wily murmured, voice gentle. “I know we will.”
The robot gazed at his feet, unconvinced. “You say that… But do you really mean it? You saw Forte out there. You know how strong he is. But Rockman still defeated him! Really easily! If big bro can't stop him, and I can't stop him, then what makes you think we have a chance against Dr. Light?” He sighed. “I… I’m losing hope, Dad…”
After a moment’s hesitation, Dr. Wily responded, “I know it's hard for you. It's hard for all of us. But I’m sure you'll win next time, when you-”
“You don't understand,” Copy suddenly shouted, shooting up onto his feet. “Forte almost died! We're lucky he came back alive this time, but if we go back there again, we might not be so lucky! What will happen to the world if he's gone? What will happen to us? I don't want to lose anyone!” Tears were streaming down his face, glimmering droplets of his pain sliding down to the floor. He sat back down and put his hands on his face.
Closing his eyes, Albert sat down next to him. “...Do you think this is easy for me? I wouldn't be able to take it if either of you died. I know how it feels to lose someone. But… Forte is going to want to try again. You know that. And besides, we have no choice now. It’s too late to ask for forgiveness.”
Copy didn’t answer.
“I… I’m sorry. I never wanted this to happen. I should’ve stopped you when I had the chance… I’m a terrible father.” The doctor looked away, tears welling up in his eyes.
“...Don’t be sorry,” the little bot finally whispered, wrapping his arms around his father. “It’s not your fault. It's Dr. Light’s.”
Dr. Wily smiled weakly and hugged his son back. “...I love you, son,” he murmured.
“I love you too.”
The two of them stood there for a moment, two caring beings in an otherwise cruel world, before Copy Robot broke the silence. “Wait… you said you know how it feels to lose someone… who was that someone?”
“I’ll tell you when you’re older,” Dr. Wily replied.
“But… Robots don’t age!” protested the Wilybot.
Copy knew that was all he would allow on the topic. So again, the two of them stood in silence. A silence that grew heavier by the moment, dragging on, piling on top of them until they were almost crushed by its weight. With that silence came the weight of the Earth’s cry, a call for help, a plea for someone to return it to the peaceful state it used to be. The robot shut his eyes tightly, trying to stop himself from falling to his knees.
Finally, after what seemed like a lifetime, Wily let go of his son. His fingers still skimmed Copy’s arm, as if he was hesitant to turn away. The doctor cleared his throat. “Well, um, I better get back to fixing up your brother.”
“Yeah, that's a good idea.”
There was a moment of hesitation. Then Wily said, “Copy. Promise me, no matter what happens, you'll always stay strong. Promise. Do it for the world.”
He had a feeling his father was hiding something, but with that feeling came another, his conscience warning him not to ask in fear of finding out the answer. So he didn't ask. “...I… I'm not sure if I can keep that promise…”
“Please,” Dr. Wily begged. “You know I don't want to lose you, and…” He trailed off. “...Just, please.”
“...Okay, dad. I promise,” said Copy.
“Good,” his father muttered with a sad smile. “Now, why don't you go and relax for a while?”
Why did this happen? Why was Light so cruel?
After checking many files and recordings, Copy had his answer.
When Thomas was 11, his father noticed they were out of tape. He went to the store to buy some, but was ran over by a car and died. Since he was grieving, almost nobody was willing to befriend and the school children bullied him. This made him believe only oppression would stop humanity's cruelty.
And a harsh twist of fate? Thomas had simply borrowed the tape the previous night.
All this agony because of tape borrowed, but not mentioned.
Somewhere, in another universe, he had said something about taking the tape, and all of this was prevented.
There's nothing to do about it now. Copy Robot closed his brother’s laptop and fled to the terrace.
Forte was alive. He was alive but it would take far too long for repairs. Within Copy, that left a strange feeling… One of doubt and underlying loneliness.
Copy Robot knew what he had to do. He knew what the world needed. It needed a hero. Perhaps no one could truly be that hero, but there could at least be someone good enough to try. Someone whose soul was greater than the existence of all the Lights combined. Someone... truly just.
He sat on the terrace of an abandoned apartment, thirty-seven flights above the city, and no tears came. Crying didn’t fix anything, anyway, so he just sat. He stared out at the distance, at nothing in particular. And that's who he spoke to: the distance, nothing, no one. His voice was a wavering whisper as he spoke.
"I… I doubt I can be the hero… not alone. But I have to try. Hope, love, confidence, honesty, kindness… That’s what they see in heroes. Am I a hero, or do they see me as a monster? Heroes also have forgiveness… Can I forgive this? Am I a hero? Am I evil, if I cannot forgive Rockman? Where’s the line? To save the world, do I have to be someone I’m not? Does this world need a hero? Does it deserve one, after doing nothing to fight this tyranny? Do I deserve to decide what’s right and wrong? Should I try to be the judge? ...Do I have a choice?
“It may not be saving the world, or maybe it will be. But there’s something I can do. Someone I have to be, to do what’s right. I guess that means that I am…