Rockman.EXE belongs to Capcom. This fan fiction was created for the Tri-Monthly Contest at Rockman.exe Online. Please do not post this fiction anywhere without the author's permission.
Rockman EXE: Hub of a Non-Existant Navi
Story Description: Hub lives. But what has that done to him? With his navi, Crashman EXE in hand, is Hub the same thing that embodied Rockman EXE?
Chapter One: Alarm Struck
"Hub, get up. Hey Hub, you're going to be late for school!"
Opening one eye wearily, Hub rolled over in his soft and warm bed. Staring at his PET in its docking bay, he spied his net navi glowering at him from afar. Thankfully, the visor on the navi's helm covered most of the expression, and therefore was lost to Hub. "Nmm, just a few more minutes Crash, I'm so tired."
"It's not my fault that you spent all night organizing your battlechips," the red navi replied, "get up now or I'll make you get up."
Rolling back over, Hub replied lazily. "Please, what are you going to do, crash bomb the PET to death?" Hearing only silence in response, Hub smiled under his covers in silent victory; he didn't happen to hear the clicks of his PET on the other side of the room. "I know you too well, Crash. Do you honestly --!" Hub's gloat was cut abruptly short by the harsh ringing of the alarm clock feature in his personal terminal. "Shut it off Crashman! Come on, cut it out!"
The only response that he got, however, was the incessant beeping that slowly grew louder and louder. Knowing that he lost, Hub dragged himself out of his bed while mumbling something incoherent, and jabbing on the buttons to halt the alarm, he saw Crashman's smile, a smile quite similar to the one he had a moment ago. I'm gonna turn off the PET tonight; let's see how much he'll smile then! "Dammit, what are you in such a hurry for Crash?"
Crashman looked at him as if he were mad, "you're telling me that you're already forgetting stuff when you're just three weeks into fifth grade? You are such a bad example for Netto, Hub."
"Well, if we're having this conversation," Hub said indifferently, "I'm going to take a shower." He then turned away and walked towards the door of his room.
"Hold on, Hub!" Only the sense of urgency stopped Hub, and so he turned his head to listen to what his navi had to say. "Don't you remember what Mariko-sensei told us yesterday?" Seeing Hub's confusion on his face, Crashman continued, "the field trip to the Sci Lab, Hub."
Like the slap of cold air after coming out of the bath, Hub awoke with a sense of anxiety. "W-what are you talking about?"
"You know what I'm talking about. If you don't hurry, the class will go without us!"
Chapter Two: War Navi
Pedaling on his bicycle, Hub could feel his legs burn, the only thing that was driving him onward was pure force of will. One, two. One, two. "Darn it, Crash. How come you didn't wake me up on time?"
Sensing Hub's joke, Crashman went along with it, "well, you looked so angelic there; it broke my heart to wake you." Their laughter was cut short as a school bus roared by, going in the opposite direction. "What luck we ha--!" the sudden beeping of the PET made Crashman stop oddly. "You've got mail, Hub! It's from Mariko-sensei."
Bringing his bicycle to a halt, Hub pulled his PET off its clip. "Hub, was that you on the bike? Whether it was or wasn't, you're not excused from this assignment. I'll be expecting you and Crashman EXE at the Sci Lab Square in thirty minutes."
"Well, what are we waiting for, Hub? Let's go home so I can plug-in!"
"Easy for you to say, I don't see you pedaling the bike." Turning around, Hub let out a disgruntled sigh; it was all uphill to get back home.
"Hey, it seems we got here before the rest of them," said Crashman. "Ironic isn't it?" Between the wheezing, Crashman could hear Hub cursing; the only thing he managed to pick up was something about throwing-up. Crashman couldn't help but have fun with it though and said "the first time you're prompt and you could've stayed in your bed the whole time."
"If I could reach through the screen, I'd strangle you Crash," croaked Hub. "You're the one that set off the damn alarm."
After drinking a glass of water, Hub started to speak normally again. "At least we can check what the merchants are selling before the class arrives. I've been meaning to pick up a Hammer chip anyway."
Lurking in the shadows of Sci Lab Square stood a monstrous navi. A second glance would assure the gazer of but one thing, this navi's sole purpose was destruction. No one would dare question his motives, the heavy cannon mounted on his head was explanation enough.
"It's almost time, Napalmman. Proceed with the mission in 300 seconds."
"Understood," Napalmman said as he stretched his arms. His arms were actually long cannons themselves, yet not quite as large as the one built into his cranium. He glared at the programs and Official navis as they went about their usual regimen. They were still oblivious to the chaos that would ensue in a mere five minutes. He was not one of them, nor would he ever be, but he could care less as long as they smoldered in heaps of burnt data.
Chapter Three: Battle Routine Set! Crashman EXE, Transmission!
"So, that's one Hammer chip and a Barrier chip," the net merchant said cheerfully. "That'll be 1400 zennys, sir."
Hub couldn't help but cringe at the price, but he had been meaning to acquire those chips for a while now. "Are you sure about this Hub?" Crashman said, reading his mind. "That's about two weeks worth of allowance money."
"Yeah, I know, especially with Netto's birthday next month… Too bad it's not a thousand zenny, I think I'd be willing to part with that much." The net merchant was clearly disturbed at the prospect of losing a customer and quickly spoke up.
"Well sirs, I hear your dilemma." The green and yellow navi continued talking, but now in a fast and clipped speed. "I suppose I could part with it for the thousand. I've sold more than my usual amount of chips today, anyway."
Both Hub and Crashman grinned inwardly; although they might not agree on everything, they could agree on haggling. "You're generous sir," said Hub. "Pay the merchant please, Crash." After handing over the cash data, Crashman started to head towards the entrance of the Square where navis of various colors, sizes, and shapes emerged.
"So there you are Hub and Crashman," Mariko-sensei said through her PET. "I'm glad you managed to make it, however, you need to get up earlier for now on!"
"We are very sorry Mariko-sensei," Hub decided to hurry on after seeing Crashman twitch at "we." "What are we supposed to do here anyway?"
"Apparently, the scientists here at Sci Lab, namely your father, Hub, are developing a new program that may be released to the Net very soon." Mariko-sensei's purple and maroon navi proceeded to point at two orange and gray navis coming in their immediate direction. "Here they are now, actually."
Napalmman grimaced in disgust; he was tired of seeing normal navis go on with their normal lives. An atrocity like him, as he had been called numerous times, could never masquerade amongst them. Not until he got the program anyway. His operator may have plans, but Napalmman had his own devices for such a delicious commodity.
His operator's voice shattered his reverie; it was a smooth voice, about as smooth as steel being grated on sandpaper. It said one word before the subtle click of silence, "Start."
Oh he'd start, yes he would.
It was all happening too quickly, despite Hub holding the PET, he felt as if he could feel the thunder of the explosions in his chest. Just as the Official navis were going to present the location of the prototype program, the blue grid ground exploded in a shower of data, smoke, and fire.
As all the navis fled in an upheaval of terror, a broken voice of an Official came on the universal channel in an attempt to calm the ensuing madness. "Warni…g…angerous……..attac….civilian…plug…mea…iately…em..genc…" It seemed to bring forth an inverse effect as it rained light when multiple navis plugged-out simultaneously.
The last thing he managed to see before everything became black smoke was Mariko-sensei's navi instructing everyone to plug-out. In an instant all that was left in this once thriving area was Crashman.
Or so he thought. Within the center, Hub spied three cylindrical shapes emerge from the smoke. The cannon barrels were attached to a menacing and colossal creature; its eyes, black with fury, tried to burn holes through Crashman. Hub couldn't help but shiver as he saw those cold, unrelenting eyes.
"What do you suppose we should do Hub?" Crashman asked. He already knew the answer, considering Hub was at least as stubborn as he was. To voice his thought, Hub voice came through with what sounded of excitement, "I just can't let this terrible navi destroy the entire Net, Crashman. Considering the Officials aren't anywhere, we're the only people that can stop that."
"Battle routine set! Crashman EXE!"
"TRANSMISSION," they both yell simultaneously.
Chapter Four: Clashing Opinions
"I am Napalmman EXE, now die!" The huge navi wasted no time in getting the battle started by raising his cannon arm and shooting a rocket into Crashman. With a nod, he turned away, but was interrupted by a voice.
"Is that all you got?" The red navi declared as he emerged from the smoke unscathed. "I've done worse damage scratching my foot."
"Just who do you think you are, fool?"
Battle poise, switching his hands to crash bombs, the visor wearing navi declared "I am Crashman EXE. It's time to end this."
"Agreed," Napalmman then promptly shot out a barrage of missiles at Crashman and dashed forward while using the smoke for cover.
"Crash Bombs!" Crashman's bombs destroyed the missiles coming at him, but unfortunately, he moved to slow to block Napalmman's punch. Sliding across the ground, Crashman rose shakily only to see Napalmman fire a missile from his head mounted cannon.
"Barrier, slot-in!" Hub yelled in an alarmed voice. Through the PET's screen he could see an iridescent blue shield form around Crashman just before the missile hit. Despite his efforts, Crashman still launched backward and bounced off the grid floor like a rock being skipped across water.
Crashman's visor was shattered and his breastplate was falling apart, but still he shambled to his feet. His entire body was smoking and parts of his torso were starting to decompile. This is going to end soon one way or another. I have to move fast!
"So you lived through my magnum burst? I'll remedy that soon enough." In no hurry at all, Napalmman started to walk forward.
Fumbling in his pocket, Hub found his three last battlechips: Blitz Gun, Area Steal, and his brand new Hammer. Luck be with me. "Blitz Gun, slot-in!"
At Hub's ominous mention of the Blitz Gun chip, Crashman's right arm transformed into a buster, I sure hope Hub knows what he's doing. But he always did when it came down to Netbattling. With a curt nod, Crashman screamed "Fire!" Only a single shot of pure white that crackled like lightning came forward, and in less than a second the blast exploded into an inconceivable amount of smaller shots. The blast radius hit everything in front of Crashman, but more importantly the elemental shotgun hit Napalmman.
Using this moment of confusion as an advantage, Hub inserted the Area Steal chip followed by the Hammer. "Hurry Crashman, we don't have much time!" Teleporting in front of Napalmman, Crashman felt the metal hammer materialize in his hands and he swung full force. The head of the hammer connected with Napalmman's main cannon and sent him flying. "Did you stop him Crashman?"
"Of course he didn't you idiot human," Napalmman said not even phased. "He will pay for destroying my head cannon, however!" With a speed to rival the Area Steal chip, Napalmman burst forward and slammed into Crashman. Bringing both his arm cannons forward, he let loose one shot in to the red navi's stomach and another into his skull. "A shame I have to watch your deletion, we are both demolitionists… Brothers in a way..."
"You're wrong. Although I may be deleted, you won't live long enough to see it." Crashman's finger shakily pointed at Napalmman's shoulder, burrowed in it was a crash bomb. He must have planted it when I shot him!
Feebly Napalmman struggled to remove the timed bomb that was beeping its countdown. With no hands, it was impossible to pull off such a task, there was only one thing he could do. He switched his attention to destroying Crashman instead. Before he could do anything though, he felt a sudden shock in his shoulder as the bomb detonated and knocked him off his feet.
There was no time left, he could feel it. He only had one thought left embedded in his memory banks, deletion. If he was going to decompile, he'd do so laughing after finishing off Crashman. "Napalmman, plug out now," the rasping voice always came in whenever anything remotely exciting was occurring.
"But, I'm almost--"
"No. Plug out now, you failed the mission."
Napalmman knew not to argue when the normally soft voice sounded so harsh, "understood." Someday, someday I'll get my revenge on everything!
Through his flickering vision, Crashman saw Napalmman plug out, he wasn't sure if he was delusional, but he hoped he wasn't. From his PET, Hub could hear Crashman laughing and it made him worried. The eerie sound was a cross between something maniacal, elated, and frightened. "Crashman hold on! I'll get you to dad!"
Chapter Five: Hub of the Matter
Two weeks after that fateful event with Napalmman, Crashman was still not yet online, and it was worrying Hub. Despite it being his birthday, Hub was hardly content as he stirred his spoon through his curry. Dad was supposed to be home soon, and hopefully he'd be bringing Crashman with him.
Hearing the doorknob jiggle, Hub launched from the dinner table to greet his dad at the door. "Is Crash alright?"
"I'm fine, thank you for asking." Hub's dad said walking through the door, "oh, you were talking about Crashman EXE weren't you? My mistake."
"Dad, cut it out! Is he better yet or not?" The alarm was so obvious in his voice that Hub's dad hurried on to calm him down.
"Yes, yes. However, before I return him to you there are some things I need to talk to you about?"
"…..This isn't about school is it?"
"Yes it is Hub," said Mrs. Hikari as she walked out of the kitchen to sit on the couch. "Mariko-sensei has been telling us of how poor your grades have gotten and she felt it was best that we talk to you about it."
"Why bother," Hub said nervously. "It's just history."
"Just history? Hub, this is your education we're talking about here."
"You have so much potential," Hub's mom piped in. "Don't you realize what you can do?"
"Of course I realize what I can do!" Hub was losing his cool because he had this discussion before too many times. "It's just that what I want to do isn't what you want! I'm not going to need history when I'm a Netbattler, so why should I have to study it?"
"Hub, it's just--"
"No, I'm tired of this dad. I'll try harder then, alright? But I'm not going to be living up to my potential, my goals. Just yours." Letting out a sigh Hub continued, "please give me back Crash." Upon receiving his PET, he started for the stairs when he felt a hand on his shoulder. "What is it Netto?"
"Here, I know it's not much but…" Netto shrugged, "happy birthday brother. "Take it. It's a Long Sword battlechip."
"T-thank you, Netto." Hub gave a quick hug to his younger brother and then dashed upstairs.
"What's wrong with you Hub?" Crashman wasted no time in confronting his operator and friend. "I've never seen you treat your parents so harshly."
"For two weeks I've been sitting on my toes waiting for your return and that's the first thing you say to me?" Hub looked at Crashman with accusation in his eyes.
"We have to talk about it Hub, especially now that it's on the surface." This is the only chance I'll ever have.
"What are you going to do if I don't?"
"I'll crash bomb this PET to pieces." The two shared a mutual smile, a smile that held agreement.
"Fine. But if you tell anyone, I'll decompile you myself."
"Back when I was an infant, I came eye to eye with death itself." Hub was talking softly and slowly, the memory was a painful one. Any infant memory someone has must either be wonderful or painful... "I was hooked up to every machine possible, in the end they even managed to have navis going throughout my body to help the doctors in any way they could."
Crashman nodded, he remembered this story of which Hub's brother was not yet privy. "But what does this have to do with what happened today, Hub?"
"It's not my past that was bothering me, Crash, not directly anyway." Crashman waited silently for Hub to continue. "It's mom and dad and how they always bring that up in our arguments. They always say how I've been given a second chance to prove my potential. A second chance!" Hub laughed shakily, "I didn't even know I was given a first chance!
"Crash, when I look at dad, mom, and Netto it feels like I just don't belong. It's like I'm living on borrowed time, like some twisted mind placed me where I shouldn't be.
"I feel like I have something more important to do than what they think, like I should be saving the world. Not doing history tests." Hub was breaking down, his body starting to tremor. "I'm just so tired, Crash…"
Crashman tried to give the most encouraging smile he could, a difficult feat for a demolitionist navi as Napalmman called him. "Then sleep, Hub. One day you'll wake up and discover your true potential, I'm sure of it. Until then, I'll be with you always."
"Thank you, Crash. I believe you, I'm sure I'll discover my reason for existing someday. I'll try harder for now on, I'm sure it'll show me the way."