Megaman X, X and Dr. Cain, 872 words.
Summary: Shortly after the end of X4, X and Dr. Cain talk about stuff.
Notes: This is a small part out of a longer story that remains unfinished and unposted. The rest of the fic will most likely be remaining that way for good, but this part actually stands on its own, I think, and it doesn't make me want to smite things when I look at it, so up it goes. Just for the hell of it. This is kind of old, but I forget when I wrote it. Not anytime recently, I can say that much.
Besides, Dr. Cain gets so little attention that I feel obligated to share what I have on him, even if this scene was just me getting him out of the way for the rest of the story. ^^;;
"He's not himself," X said glumly.
Dr. Cain shrugged. "I don't find that surprising. The Repliforce situation has taken a toll on everyone, it seems."
"And Zero was rather close to Iris, was he not?"
"Well, he never said much, but..." X sighed. "Yeah, it always looked to me like he was a lot closer to her than he wanted to let on."
"Repliforce was quite the grand failure on my part," Cain murmured. "If I'd only spent more time in the testing phase, perhaps..." He shook his head.
"I don't think it was all your fault," X said calmly. "At least, not the fault of your programming skill."
"If anything, Repliforce is proof of how far reploid technology has come. They weren't turning against humans, weren't rebelling...they just wanted a society that they could call their own, a place where they weren't constructed solely for the needs of another race. They hoped and dreamed and felt just like any group of humans in the same situation would," X said quietly. "And like humans...many of them died for it."
Cain gave him a long, thoughtful look. "I never thought of it that way."
"I don't think most people did." X shook his head. "Humans...they all seem to keep looking at reploid technology as being successful only if the reploids do the jobs they're supposed to, the way they're supposed to. But wasn't the purpose of the project to create robots who were capable of all of the same thought processes as normal humans?"
"And humans hardly do all the things they're supposed to do, either," Cain mused. "I do believe you have a point, X. But perhaps it's all too little, too late now." He sighed. "I'm retiring, you know."
"Retiring?" X looked at him blankly. "But Doctor--"
"I've been doing this for decades, X," Cain said wearily, and for a brief moment, his eyes seemed to hold the weight of all those years. "I never dreamed I'd be devoting myself to robotic engineering. Discovering you...it changed the course of my life. I was never prepared for this. And I don't know if I can keep doing it."
X frowned. "I understand...but I still think we need you."
Cain smiled sadly. "I doubt those who died in the Maverick upheavals would agree with you. Some days I think things would be better had I never started building reploids. I'm only a paleobotanist. I don't have even a fraction of the genius for robotics that your creator had, you know."
"You've done so much good. Look at all the reploids who are making the world a better place."
"But is it worth the failures?" Cain shook his head. "I understand what you're trying to tell me, X, and I appreciate it, I honestly do. But I've just been doing this for so long. I want to stop before it burns me out completely, stop while I still have a chance to retire peacefully and pursue other things. I never did finish the study I was conducting when I found you..."
X was silent, unsure of how to respond. He knew that Cain truly deserved the break, needed to leave the world of robots he had created and return to the life he had originally planned for himself. Realistically, removing Cain from all active reploid development projects would have little ill effect on current development, as there were plenty of robotics engineers, human and reploid alike, who were sufficiently qualified to carry on the studies.
But X couldn't help but feel a sense of loss. Dr. Cain had been the one who found him, activated him, brought him back from decades of hibernation. He did not create X, but he was still a father figure of sorts. No matter what else was going on, he was always around the lab, and always more than willing to set down what he was doing and listen to anything X had to say.
He was no longer X's only friend, nor was he even X's best friend. But he was nonetheless irreplaceable.
"No need to look so glum," Cain said, a kindly smile crossing his face. "You're more than welcome to come see me down at the dig site, if you're not too busy. But..." He sighed. "I just need to get away from all this."
X nodded slowly. "I'll miss you, Doctor."
"I'll miss you too, X. But I'm getting too old for this. It's not goodbye forever, anyway--not yet. Chin up, eh?"
He was right, X realized as he left. It wasn't goodbye forever. Not yet.
But that final goodbye suddenly didn't seem so far off, and X realized with a start that he had always, in the far corners of his mind, thought of Dr. Cain as almost immortal--someone who had always been there, and would always be there. But Cain was human.
And humans, someday, died.
And to lose a friend, to know that they were dead, that they were never coming back, ever--
Iris, even were she repairable, had been lost in the explosion that claimed the Repliforce space station.
Iris was not coming back.
And Zero's grief was suddenly sharper, clearer, more understandable.