Chapter 22: Beware of the Boys


“I think not,” Miyuki said calmly. “Hikari Enzan, I’m placing you under arrest for the murder of Hino Kenichi.”

Silence reigned. It was like everyone in the room was frozen solid; all were staring at Miyuki in shock.

“Murder?” Rockman whispered.

Miyuki pulled out a wallet and opened it up. Inside was an ID card identifying her as a police officer. “We suspected Enzan for some time now,” she said calmly. “He was the last person to have contact with Hino Kenichi before the man disappeared. His body was found yesterday hidden in a closet in the Mega Float stadium. I came here to arrest Enzan and in the process heard what sounded like a confession.”

“Hino Ken’s dead?” Netto asked softly, staring at Miyuki.

“You’re crazy,” Enzan said, shaking his head. “I didn’t kill Hino Ken!”

“We have enough evidence indicating you did,” Miyuki said, putting her ID away. “Please come quietly, or I will be forced to subdue you.”

Haruka screamed and fainted, the latest developments overcoming her. Dr. Hikari caught her before she hit the ground, kneeling so that he could cradle her limp body. “Haruka!” he cried, staring into her face.

Yaito, Tohru, Dekao, and Meiru leaped from their seats and backed away from both Enzan and Miyuki. Kero and Higure also leaped to feet, both of them talking at once. Enzan watched it all happen as if it was in slow motion. His body felt numb and his brain refused to function correctly. He couldn’t think or move.

“Please remain calm!” Miyuki ordered.

 No, no, no, no, no! Rockman begged silently. This isn’t happening! It can’t be!

“Rockman. Access file Copiinav.exe.”

“Blues?” Rockman turned, but there was no one behind him. “What Copiinav.exe file?” His eyes grew wide as he said it, and suddenly new information flooded his mind. In a stale, recorded voice, he repeated, “Accessing file Copiinav.exe. File download… complete.”

The front door burst open, and uniformed police officers poured through it. The girls shrieked as they were grabbed by the men and pulled away from the table.

“Hey!” Dekao cried. Two officers grabbed him by the shoulders. Tohru was also grabbed, and he struggled against the officer with all his strength. Higure and Kero found they were surrounded by policemen from all sides.

“It’s for your own protection,” Miyuki stated. “Enzan is extremely dangerous and could use someone as a hostage.”

“You can’t just arrest him!” Netto cried. He backed away from the policemen and stood in front of Enzan. “You have no right to come in here without some sort of warrant.”

“Ijuuin Netto, you’re defending a dangerous criminal,” Miyuki said sharply.

“You can’t take my son without proof!” Dr. Hikari hissed from his position on the ground. He had Haruka in his arms and was unable to move.

This… this wasn’t supposed to happen! Enzan thought frantically.

“Run, Enzan-sama, run!” Rockman shouted. “They’re going to kill you!”

What?” Enzan gasped, staring down at Rockman.

“Just do it!” Rockman yelled.

Enzan reached over and grabbed Netto’s arm. “Come on!” he shouted, pulling Netto with him.

Netto thought about struggling, but he looked Enzan in the eyes and saw nothing but sincerity. With a nod, he followed Enzan as they headed for the stairs. Two policemen blocked their way.

“I’ve had enough!” Dekao snapped, breaking free of the officers’ hold. He kicked the table over toward the stairway, knocking the two policemen who were blocking it over. “Get out of here, you two!”

“Thanks, Dekao!” Netto called as he disappeared up the stairs.

“Stop them!” Miyuki snapped.

Dr. Hikari stood and blocked the stairway. “Hold on!” he snapped. “I demand an explanation for all of this.”

“Arrest him,” Miyuki said emotionlessly. “Arrest them all. They’ve aided and abided a criminal.”

“You can’t do this!” Yaito screamed. She was being held above the ground in a policeman’s arms. “It isn’t legal! Glyde, tell them! Tell them now!”

Glyde did not answer her. Yaito grasped her PET and stared at the screen. “Glyde?”

Nothing but static greeted her.

“That’s right!” Higure snapped, pulling out his own PET. “Numberman, tell—Numberman?”

Static covered Higure’s PET screen too. Kero looked at her PET and gasped, seeing the same thing.

“Toadman!” she cried.

“Roll-chan!” Meiru gasped, pulling her arm out of the policeman’s grasp to check her PET.

“Iceman!” Tohru gasped, checking his PET.

Static covered the screens of all. The navis were nowhere to be found.

--                         --                         --

Netto slammed the door shut behind him. “Now what?” he gasped.

Enzan shoved the desk over so it blocked the door, allowing Netto to move. “That won’t keep them for long,” Enzan grunted, standing up. He pulled the disrupter device out of his pocket and handed it to Netto. “Hold this.”

Netto took it and looked at it doubtfully. “This is that thing that proves this is all a virtual reality program?” he asked.

Enzan eyed him out of the corner of his eye. So Netto can hold it. That means he’s the real Netto, Hikari Netto, and if that’s true, then the others must be too. But why is it I’m the only one who remembers my real past? He gestured toward the bed. “Press it against the blankets and see what happens.”

Netto hesitantly did what he was told and gasped with the area around the bed began to blur and flicker like static. “You were telling the truth,” he whispered softly.

“I wasn’t supposed to know the truth,” Enzan said grimly. “That’s why Miyuki accused me of murdering Hino Ken. They’re trying to shut me up, just like Hino Ken told me they would.”

“Hino Ken knew too?” Netto asked.

Enzan nodded. He searched the room, looking under the desk and through drawers. “He talked to me before he disappeared. I didn’t get the whole story from him, but I gathered whoever is behind this is up to no good. That’s why they got rid of Hino Ken; because he was trying to help us.”

Do you really think he’s dead?” Netto asked.

“I hope not,” Enzan replied softly. He dug under the bed and pulled out something long and metallic. “Got it!” He frowned at the object. “A lead pipe? What is a twelve-year-old doing with a lead pipe under his bed?”

“It was there because you were looking for it, Enzan-sama,” Rockman said quietly.

Enzan stared at the navi for a moment. Rockman’s eyes held a sadness Enzan couldn’t figure out, and the navi met his gaze steadily. He knows something, Enzan realized.

“We need to get out of here, Enzan-sama,” Rockman said. “Blocking the door won’t hold them for long.”

“Enzan, what’s the lead pipe for?” Netto asked. Someone pounded loudly on the door, and he jumped away from it, startled.

“Emergencies,” Enzan replied, sticking the pipe in one of his pants pockets. Fortunately the pocket was deep and the pipe fit snugly. “We’re going to have to go through the balcony.” He slid the balcony window open and looked out. There was a tree in the yard, its branches within reach.

“Are you sure?” Netto said doubtfully, glancing down at his PET. “Blues—He’s gone! Blues is gone!”

Enzan hardly spared Netto a glance. “We’re figure it out later. Come on!” He grabbed Netto’s arm and yanked him out the balcony window.

…                         …                         …

“Everyone accounted for?” Commander Beef called.

“Here,” Madoi replied, peeking around a computer terminal.

“I’m here,” Saloma said, climbing on top of another one.

“Present,” Mahajarama said shortly as he helped Saloma climb.

Count Elec looked around at the large machinery around him. He didn’t like the way the machines were humming. It was a loud, angry sound that resembled the rumbling of many beasts. “You could get lost in a place like this for days,” he commented.

Beef made an irritated noise. “I’ll take that last sentence for a yes,” he said. “Found anything yet?” The map they had did include the hidden section of the building, which contained the central control center of the NetWorld, but it didn’t show the entrance to that section.

Madoi unplugged from the terminal and shook her head. “There’s no link to the NetWorld from this place,” she said. “We’ll have to keep looking.”

“I see another door!” Saloma called, jumping down from the huge piece of machinery. “It’s to the left. You can’t see it from the floor because it’s painted to look like part of the machinery.”

“That’s probably what we’re looking for,” Beef said. “Let’s go!” He took off in that direction, Saloma and the members of World Three following.

“Why are we doing this?” Madoi wondered out loud.

“Because Hino Ken is one of us, and he could be in danger,” Mahajarama replied. “Because if Immersion succeeds, we’ll be unheard of as a net mafia. Isn’t that good enough?”

“Yes,” Madoi said meekly. “Just needed to be reminded.”

“I’m being followed by escapees from the circus,” Saloma mumbled.

Beef paused at the door and pressed his hands against it. “It’s locked,” he grunted.

“If Hino Ken was here, he could kick the door open,” Madoi said wistfully.

“Allow me,” Mahajarama said. He pushed the others aside and pressed his hands against the door lightly. For a moment, nothing happened. Then the door creaked open like it had never been locked.

“Good job!”  Elec cheered in English.

“How did you do that?” Madoi demanded.

“You should study yoga sometime,” Mahajarama replied, pressing the palms of his hands together.

“Circus clowns,” Saloma muttered loudly. Mahajarama ignored her.

“Let’s go,” Beef said, sweeping passed the group and entering the darkened hallway beyond the door. The others followed.

“Where is everyone?” Elec whispered.

“The NetWorld only needs those machines to run it. That and a few computer experts to make sure everything is working,” Saloma replied. “There were workers to insure the machines kept working, but the police made sure they didn’t arrive at their jobs.”

“I didn’t know you could use the local police to assist Net Agent business,” Madoi said quietly.

“This is also a kidnapping case, and with that we were able to recruit the police for some of the operation,” Beef said, studying the hallway. It was long and narrow, but there were no doors on either side in sight. The walls were painted black and it was dimly lighted, making it harder to see any doors or openings. “Thanks to that ridiculous law passed several years ago, our resources are severely limited. That’s why Internet gangs and mafias can get away with what they do without being caught.”

“You mean the law involving personal privacy and regulating government authority on the Internet?” Mahajarama asked. “I remember it caused quite a stir when it was passed.”

“Yes, that one,” Saloma said, answering for Beef. “It’s why you guys are allowed to run your curry house and not be arrested for what you’ve done. Because your crimes were Internet related, we can only bring charges against you if we’ve caught you on the Internet.”

Elec looked sheepish. “You had to bring that up,” he mumbled.

“Quiet!” Beef hissed. “Just because this place looks empty doesn’t mean it is.”

Mahajarama stopped, causing Madoi and Elec to plough into him. “There’s a door,” he said, ignoring his comrades’ complaints. He slowly turned sideways and pointed. “There.”

“That’s just a wall,” Madoi said, leaning against the spot. She let out a small shriek as the wall gave way behind her and she fell in, disappearing in the dark.

Beef pulled out a flashlight and shined it into the room. The flashlight revealed Madoi, who was rubbing her back and muttering to herself.

Elec and Mahajarama stepped into the room, followed closely by Beef. Elec helped Madoi up as Beef waved the flashlight around. Wires covered the floor and the shelves in the room, creating a tangled mess.

Suddenly the room flooded with light, and everyone except Mahajarama jumped and cried out in alarm. Saloma smirked at them from the doorway, pointing to a knob on the wall. “It’s called a light switch,” she said.

Madoi turned away from Saloma and started muttering very unkind comments about the flower seller underneath her breath. She stopped suddenly and stared at something on the shelves. “Hey… do you guys see what I see?”

Mahajarama leaned closer to the shelf and shoved some of the wires away. “They’re PETs,” he said, sounding surprised.

Saloma blinked, unsure if she had heard actual emotion in Mahajarama’s voice or if she had just imagined it.

Beef hurried over to a shelf and studied the PETs carefully. There were several black boxlike devices resting underneath the shelves. “They’ve all been scanned,” he said. “Their data has been scanned by these devices.”

“Is the original data intact?” Elec asked.

“There’s only one way to find out,” Beef said. He started unplugging all the wires from the PET and gestured for the others to do the same. “This PET has been inactive for some time,” he noted. “There’s dust on the screen.” He brushed the screen off and held the PET up. “Here goes nothing,” Beef said, pressing a switch to activate the PET.

The screen glowed blue and the letters P E T appeared on it. They quickly faded to reveal several windows zipping back and forth on the screen. A swirl of data appeared in the corner. It slowly began to come into focus, revealing a navi.

“Commander Beef!” Rockman.EXE cried, staring at the man holding the PET. “Where’s Netto-kun?”

“I don’t know,” Beef said grimly. “I was hoping you would tell me.”

“I don’t know either!” Rockman said frantically. “The last I can remember was hearing him cry out, and then—and then I don’t remember anything!”

“Your operator has been kidnapped,” Beef explained. “We’re on a rescue mission to find him.” He gestured to the others. “Activate all of the PETs! They could help us in our search.”

--                         --                         -- 

“This is getting out of hand,” the woman in black declared. “Activate the Final Scenario!”

“But we haven’t—” one of the engineers protested.

The woman in black pulled out a gun and pointed it at the man. “Do you have a problem with my request?” she asked coldly.

The man stammered and shook his head no, turning back to his computer.

The woman smiled coldly and left the room, heading for her office. “Looks like Hino Ken did more damage than we thought,” she said grimly.

The screen of her computer lit up. We underestimated him. Now there’s no way the Final Scenario can play out as we planned.

“It doesn’t matter,” the woman said, shaking her head. “As long as Enzan dies we will get what we want.”

Should I still manipulate Netto to kill him? That may be impossible now.

“No, we’ll have to come up with something else. All that matters is that he dies.”

Understood. I’ll make the arrangements immediately.

The woman smiled. Finally, things were coming together. After this, nothing would be the same ever again.


Author’s notes: The image of the Net Agents and World Three working together is just too much. Their interaction with each other is more fun to write than the interaction of Netto and his friends.