Chapter 23: Goodbye


Roll opened her eyes slowly. She slowly sat up and looked around. “Where am I?”

The area was covered with mist. That seemed odd, because the last memory Roll had was being inside her PET. The mist around her was thick and looked spookily realistic.

“Guts,” someone else moaned.

Roll looked to her left to see another navi lying on the ground. “Gutsman!” she cried, scrambling to her feet. She helped the big navi up carefully. “Are you okay?” she asked. “What happened?”

“What did happen?” another voice replied. Roll turned to see Glyde stumble out of the mist. He had one hand on Iceman, who was walking around in a daze. “It feels like someone hit me in the back of my head,” Glyde said, rubbing it gingerly.

“How did we get here, guts?” Gutsman asked.

“The better question is, how do we get out?”

The group of navis turned to see another figure standing behind them. He had his arms crossed and was facing away from them.

“Blues!” Roll cried, relieved to see the red navi.

“What do you mean, how do we get out?” Glyde asked. “We don’t even know how we got here!”

“I wasn’t referring to this place,” Blues said quietly. “I know how we got here; I brought you here.”

“What?” Roll gasped. “We have to get out! I have to help Meiru-chan!”

“Yaito-sama!” Glyde cried out, remembering. “Oh no! I’ve got to help her.”

“You can’t help them now,” Blues replied.

“Why?” Roll demanded. “Why would you do this, Blues? We have to help our operators!”

Blues sighed heavily. “You can’t help them,” he said softly. “Access file Copiinav.exe.” He merely whispered the last sentence, but it had its intended effect. All of the navis froze, the command running through their programming.

“Accessing file Copiinav.exe,” they chanted as one. “File download… complete.”

“No…” Roll whispered softly, tears filling her eyes. “It’s not true. It’s not true!”

“Guts,” Gutsman moaned. The other navis just looked shock. They were too numb to speak.

“It’s true,” Blues said, turning toward them at last. “Everything Enzan said was true. This is a virtual world.”

“But—but—” Iceman stammered.

“Everything here is a lie,” Blues spat. “We’re not even the real navis, just copies of them. Copy navis!”

“But Blues—” Roll tried.

“Copy Blues!” Blues snapped. He pointed at his face. “I’m Copy Blues, not the real Blues. You’re Copy Roll. We’re all just copies programmed to fool our operators into thinking they were where they belonged.”

“You knew the whole time,” Glyde said softly, placing his hand on Roll’s shoulder. “We thought we were the real navis serving our operators, but you knew the truth.”

“Yes, I knew the truth,” Blues said bitterly. “I knew none of this was real, and that I wasn’t really Netto-ku—Netto’s navi. I fooled myself into thinking it could last, so I followed Immersion’s instructions to the letter. I was a fool!” He screamed the last sentence and slammed his fist against the ground.

“Blues…” Roll said.

“Copy Blues!” the navi roared.

“Blues!” Roll snapped. “What’s going on? Why did you bring us here?”

“This reality is breaking apart,” Blues said dully. “Immersion broke their promise. They’re going to destroy this reality and everyone in it to get what they want.”

“Why?” Iceman asked. “Why would they do this? Why would they hurt our operators?”

“I don’t know,” Blues whispered. “All I knew was that I could only be Netto’s navi if he was this reality, so I ignored the truth and believed my false memories. I wanted to stay here with him so badly…”

“We’re copy navis,” Glyde said softly. “We were copied from the original navis themselves. That means we have their emotions and feelings toward our operators. If there’s anything we can do to save them, we have to try!”

“We can’t just stay here and let them be taken from us, guts!” Gutsman added.

Roll walked over to Blues and knelt so she was looking him in the face. “You care about Netto very much,” she said softly. “That’s why you wanted to be with him. I understand that, Blues. We all do because we all feel the same way. Right now we have to do all we can to save them, even if it means our world will be destroyed.”

Blues touched her face with one hand. “But what will happen to us afterward?” he asked softly.

Roll smiled. “We’ll find a way to live. Could you stand by and watch Netto be hurt without doing something about it?”

“No,” Blues replied softly. He smiled at Roll slightly. “I couldn’t.”

“We have to get them out of here somehow,” Glyde said, looking thoughtful.

“Leave that to me,” Blues said, standing up. “I may have trusted Immersion, but that didn’t stop me from memorizing their codes. As long as we can get them to a certain area, I can get them out manually.”

“What are we watching for, then?” Iceman cried. “Let’s do it!”

…                         …                         …

“The Final Scenario is underway,” someone announced. “Within thirty minutes, it should have taken place.”

“How will we know when it happens?” someone else wondered.

“You will know,” the woman in black said. Excitement gleamed in her eyes, and she smiled faintly. “The whole world will know of our success today.”

The door to the room flew open as Commander Beef and the others burst through.

“Stop right there!” Beef ordered, pointing at the woman. “We’ve caught you in the act, and you’re all under arrest!”

The woman in black started to laugh. “You have got to be kidding me! Two Net Agents and the pitiful remains of World Three are going to stop us?”

“We got this far, didn’t we?” Madoi shot back.

Count Elec ran over to the three men at the terminals and pointed. “Shut these down right now!” he demanded. The men exchanged scared looks, but they didn’t move.

The woman in black continued to laugh, ignoring the group.

“What is so funny?” Mahajarama asked.

“You pathetic fools,” the woman hissed, glaring at them. “Don’t you realize it’s hopeless? Shutting down these computers won’t stop the Final Scenario!”

“What scenario?” Saloma asked.

The woman smiled. “You don’t even know the truth behind our actions? What fools!”

“You might as well tell us,” Mahajarama pointed out. “We can’t stop it now, according to you.”

“Do I look like a anime villain?” the woman said, pointing at her face. “I’m not going to explain my whole plot so one of you can sneak up on me while I’m distracted.”

“Forget about her!” Madoi snapped. She pulled out her PET and unwound the plug. “Let’s plug in and—” She froze as she heard the click of a gun cocking.

The woman smiled coldly as she aimed her gun at Madoi’s face. “Now, that isn’t very smart,” she said softly. “Why would you risk your life for your enemies and people you’ve never met? Just go home and dream your silly dreams about World Three while you still can.”

“Won’t you just give us a hint about what’s going on?” Saloma said hopefully. She froze as the woman aimed the gun at her.

“I shouldn’t even bother with this gun,” the woman said in disgust. “It wouldn’t matter even if you tried to break into the NetWorld. Soon Ijuuin Enzan will be dead, and the Final Scenario will send off a power surge that will destroy the Internet!”

“They always state their plans,” Mahajarama said, satisfied.

“But I don’t understand,” Elec whispered. “Why Ijuuin Enzan?”

The sound of a gunshot rang out, and both Saloma and Madoi flinched and screamed. Their screams were drowned out by the pain-filled howl of the woman in black, who dropped her gun and clutched her bloody hand.

Doors on either side of the room burst open, and uniformed police officers poured through. They passed the World Three members and disoriented Net Agents, and aimed their guns at the small group of men and the woman.

“The reason it’s Enzan is very simple,” a voice said, stepping into the room.

“Ijuuin!” the group of Net Agents (and temporary Net Agents) cried as one.

“They needed one person to die to initiate their plan,” Ijuuin said, lowering the smoking gun in his hand. “She chose Ijuuin Enzan because she harbors a grudge against him. Isn’t that right, Watanabe Yuuhi?”

The woman hissed at him, her eyes blazing.

“She was one of my board members,” Ijuuin explained. “Apparently, a group of them were jealous when I named Enzan my vice president. They started this company as a front to get back at me, but it became something more. They began to become radical, hating the Internet and everything it caused. They’ve spent the last year working feverously on the NetWorld.”

“So what do they mean by destroying the Internet?” Saloma asked.

“Those attacks on the Science Labs…” Beef muttered. “They weren’t meant to steal data and disrupt the work done there. They were purely intended to destroy the defenses—”

“—So they could implant links to their NetWorld,” Mahajarama cut in, catching on. “They did this all over the world to the major government facilities. They also implanted links in other companies as well, using sneakier means and bribery so no one would make the connection. Those links remained dormant—”

“Until the day the NetWorld activates them,” Ijuuin finished. “That’s what it’s for. It uses the intimate access it has over the subjects’ minds to implant false memories and suppress the real ones. Then it uses those memories to manipulate the subject’s personality and actions to create scenarios, as Immersion refers to them. The NetWorld acts like a parasite, feeding off the emotions of the subjects the scenarios cause. It’s amazing how willing her companions were to confess when faced with jail time.”

“We only needed one subject to feed from,” Watanabe hissed. “The rest were just to make sure we had others if needed. They also helped manipulate the scenarios, creating even more energy for us to use.”

“So she speaks at last,” Mahajarama said.

“Can we arrest them now?” one of the policemen asked.

“Not yet,” Beef said. “She still has to shut off the final scenario and tell us where they keep their victims.”

Watanabe began to laugh again. “You fools, don’t you see?” she said. “It’s no use. Once the scenario has been initiated, there’s no stopping it. If you try to destroy the machines, you’ll kill the people integrated in the NetWorld.”

“Then it looks like we have no choice,” Beef said. He tossed something to Ijuuin, who caught it in surprise. “We’re going to need your help,” Beef explained.

Ijuuin looked down at the object in his hands and nodded. “I see.”

The policemen hauled the men away from the computer and handcuffed them. Watanabe was also handcuffed and dragged away kicking and screaming. The group of Net Agents, World Three members, and a company president approached the computers.

“Let’s do it!” Madoi declared. “Plug in, Coloredman.EXE! Transmission!” She pulled out another PET and exchanged odd glances with the navi inside. “Plug in, Roll.EXE!” she said, repeated the process. “Transmission!”

“Plug in, Magicman.EXE!” Mahajarama called, holding two PETs in one hand. “Plug in, Gutsman.EXE! Transmission!”

“Plug in, Elecman.EXE!” Elec yelled, holding one PET in each hand. “Plug in, Iceman.EXE! Transmission!”

“Plug in, Woodman.EXE!” Saloma called out, holding her PETs the same way as Elec. “Plug in, Glyde.EXE! Transmission!”

“Plug in, Sharkman.EXE!” Beef said. He was holding the PETs in one hand and plugging them in with the other. “Plug in, Rockman.EXE! Transmission!”

“Here goes,” Ijuuin muttered, pulling the plug out of the PET in his hand. “Plug in, Blues.EXE! Transmission!”

The group watched as the navis were transported from the PETs into the computer system.

“Oh, and by the way,” Ijuuin said conversationally. “We discovered something very interesting on our way into this facility.”

“You wouldn’t be forgetting about us, would you?”

The group turned around and gaped at the two people standing in the doorway.

“Hino Ken!” Madoi and Elec cried.

“Miyuki!” Saloma yelled with joy.

The red-haired man grinned. He was wearing a black body suit; it had various plugs and niches to connect wires and needles. Miyuki wore a similar outfit beside him.

“We found them in a backroom pounding on the door,”  Ijuuin explained.

“Yeah, and we’ve been there for some time,” Hino Ken said dryly. “You won’t believe how boring it was.”

“Talk later, work now,” Beef said impatiently.

Miyuki nodded to the terminals. “You won’t be able to directly communicate with your navis while they in the NetWorld. The only form of communication I found to work was a primitive form of emailing, through pure electronic pulse rather than navi-delivered.”

“We don’t have a choice now,” Beef said grimly. “Hino Ken, Miyuki, your advice as well as navis are desperately needed here.”

“Right,” Hino Ken and Miyuki said, walking up to a terminal.

“Plug in, Fireman.EXE! Transmission!” Hino Ken called.

“Plug in, Skullman.EXE. Transmission!” Miyuki said.

The two net navis joined the others, and as a group they all tried to crack the NetWorld’s codes.

…                         …                         …

“Put me down!” Yaito hollered. “You have no right to do this!” She was being held in an officer’s arms, her feet kicking the empty air.

Everyone was struggling with the policemen. Yuuichirou was trying to defend his unconscious wife from the officers. Kero was screaming some threats as two of them tried to pin her arms, and Higure was fending off a few with a chair. Meiru was struggling against an officer’s hold on her hair. Tohru and Dekao were spouting insults and curses as they struggled.

“Let go of me!” Yaito screamed. Suddenly the man holding her shattered into several pieces, like a sheet of glass dropped on pavement. Yaito fell to the ground and landed painfully on her bottom.

“Are you all right?”

Yaito looked up into the face of her rescuer, speechless. The gray-faced navi stared back at her curiously, a sword on his arm. Yaito screamed.

Yuuichirou gasped as the two policemen holding his arms behind his back disappeared. He turned to see a large navi patterned after a Western wizard in design standing in the shadows.

“Elecman, you have wonderful people skills,” commented the wizard.

“I didn’t expect her to scream!” Elecman cried, swinging the Elec Sword around. It caught two more officers, who exploded in the same way as before.

“What… is this?” Kero cried. She wasn’t sure whether to be happy or to be sick.

“They’re computer data,” Yuuichirou said, recognizing the pixilated spray immediately. “They’re just computer data!”

The policemen froze in their positions and released those in their hold. Elecman grabbed Yaito and hauled her to her feet. The police officers began to morph and change. Meiru and Kero screamed as they became faceless and robot-like in appearance. Their body and limbs became silvery and sleek, and two glowing red eyes were the only features on their faces.

Elecman swung his sword, deleting more of the programs. “They’re everywhere!” he announced. “Magicman, I think we’re going to need help.”

“I think you’re right,” Magicman agreed, summoning some viruses to attack the fake policemen.

The walls of the house began to blur and fade and more of the robot-like beings appeared.

“What’s going on?” Higure cried.

“They’re defense programs!” Yuuichirou shouted back. “They’re responding to a threat.”

“What’s the threat?” Meiru cried, ducking away from two programs reaching for her.

“Us,” Yuuichirou said grimly. He knelt by Haruka’s body and picked her up, cradling her carefully in his arms.

Higure shot him an odd look. “How do you know so much about this?”

Elecman leaped forward and cut the defense programs reaching for Meiru in two. “Fight now, explain later!” he snapped.

Several defense programs surrounding Tohru, who was pinned to the floor, suddenly froze as they were surrounding by ice. As Tohru watched, puzzled, the defense programs disappeared in a flurry of data.

“What the—” Elecman started to say.

The defense programs holding Dekao disappeared, and Dekao felt two large hands grab his shoulders, steadying him.

“Heart Flash!”

More defense programs disappeared. Meiru opened her eyes and moved her arm so she could see. She gasped when she saw her rescuer.

Something grabbed onto Yaito’s braids and pulled her back. She screamed in pain and fear. Suddenly her hair was released and the girl was picked up by gentle hands. She looked up at the person who was holding her.

“Glyde!” she cried.

Magicman looked around. Iceman was helping Tohru to his feet, and Gutsman was hovering over Dekao. Roll was close to Meiru, watching for more defense programs.

“We’re surrounded,” Magicman said grimly.

Elecman cursed and pointed his sword at Glyde. “Put her down!” he commanded.

“They saved us!” Yaito protested, wrapping her arms around Glyde’s neck. “They’re our navis!”

“Don’t be foolish!” Elecman snapped. “The real Glyde is fending off more defense programs with Woodman, Sharkman, and Iceman. The real Iceman,” he added, glancing at the small navi. “These guys are nothing more than copies of them! They work for Immersion, the group behind all of this.”

“Why should we believe you?” Yaito snapped, sticking her tongue out at Elecman. “We don’t even know who you are.”

“Yaito-sama, he’s telling the truth,” Glyde said quietly. “I’m not your real navi.”

Yuuichirou looked around the room grimly. “Of course. They a part of this virtual world, just like Enzan said.”

Yaito stared at Glyde, unable to believe what she had just heard. Dekao turned slowly to stare at Gutsman. The tall navi refused to meet the boy’s eyes.

“Iceman, tell me this isn’t true,” Tohru begged, staring at his small navi.

“It’s true,” a voice said, replying before Iceman could. Blues walked out of the shadows and faced Elecman. “We may be copy navis made by Immersion, but we’re on your side. We want our operators to be rescued from this place before it’s too late.”

Higure looked around frantically. “Where’s my navi then?” he asked, panicky. “Where’s Numberman?”

“And Toadman!” Kero cried.

“They were not copied,” Blues replied. “Immersion figured that if they gave you enough battle chips, Higure, you would not notice Numberman was just another Double Program. Midorikawa was also too busy with her job to notice.”

Both adults turned pale. Higure looked at his PET brokenly. Numberman had been acting oddly lately, but he had barely noticed. Kero bit her lip and looked at her hands. She had barely spoken to Toadman at all over the last few weeks. No wonder she hadn’t noticed the switch.

“I don’t believe you,” Elecman snapped. “You’re programs made by Immersion; you don’t want to help us. This is a trick.”

Glyde walked up to Elecman and held Yaito out. “Take her,” he said gently.

“Glyde!” Yaito cried, reaching back for him.

“Take her back home, to where she belongs,” Glyde continued. He smiled at Yaito, tears in his eyes. “Sayonara, Yaito-sama. It has been a pleasure being your navi.”

“Glyde!” Yaito screamed. Elecman took her from the taller navi’s arms, still staring at Glyde suspiciously.

“Take them!” Blues said, gesturing. “Take them all away from here. We’ll stay behind and fend off the defense programs.”

Yuuichirou nodded. “This place is set up so anyone connected to it has to leave a certain way. There’s only one point where a human can go back to his or her physical body without damaging their brain.” He frowned suddenly. “But how did I know that?” he whispered to himself.

Blues nodded. “The entrance and exit—or the Gate, as Immersion calls it—is in one spot in the NetWorld. It’s heavily guarded to prevent outsiders without authorization to come in. I imagine many of your comrades are fighting to keep the Gate open.”

“We have to take each human through the Gate one by one, or else they’ll retain permanent brain damage,” Magicman admitted.

“Magicman!” Elecman cried. “Don’t tell him that!”

“He’s obviously on our side, Elecman,” Magicman replied. He nodded at Blues. “We’ll do what you suggested.” He gestured toward the humans. “Come on.”

“Roll-chan!” Meiru cried, ignoring Magicman and running up to the pink navi. “I won’t leave without you!”

Roll looked away and wiped tears from her eyes. “Go on, Meiru-chan,” she said, pushing Meiru away. “Your real navi is waiting for you. I bet she’s worried sick.”

“But what about you?” Meiru asked.

“I’ll be okay,” Roll said, nodding. “All I want is for you to be safe. Go with Magicman now.”

Meiru reluctantly walked toward the wizard navi, glancing uncertainly over her shoulder every few minutes. Kero grabbed her arm and began to talk comfortingly to the girl.

“Iceman…” Tohru said.

“You don’t belong here, Tohru-kun,” Iceman replied, smiling at the boy. “If you go with Elecman and Magicman, you’ll be able to see your father again. Don’t worry about us.”

“Come on, Tohru,” Higure said, walking over and tugging on the boy’s arm. “It’s time to leave.” He pulled the reluctant boy along with him.

“Gutsman, you’re going to be okay here, right?” Dekao asked. “I’ll see you later on, won’t I?”

“Of course you will, guts,” Gutsman said. “Right now, your real navi would be overjoyed to see you.”

Dekao nodded and walked toward Magicman, not looking back. Elecman walked toward the group, pausing in front of Blues.

“Good luck,” the electric navi whispered. He knew the copy navis’ chances as much as they did.

“You too,” Blues said firmly.

Elecman walked over to the group and placed his hands on Higure’s and Kero’s shoulders. The group slowly faded from sight. They resembled ghosts fading from existence, but Blues knew the two navis were taking the direct route by cutting through the data streams that made up the underlying programming of the NetWorld.

“You lied to Dekao-san,” Glyde whispered, looking at Gutsman. “We are going to die here.”

“I know,” Gutsman said sadly.

“We may face deletion,” Blues said grimly, forming his sword. “But I’m planning on taking as many as them with me that I can.”

The other copy navis nodded and got into defensive stances. They didn’t have to wait long as the Hikari house faded around them to reveal a battle grid. Defense programs began to appear, surrounding the navis.

“We betrayed Immersion,” Iceman said. “They don’t seem to take that well.”

“In that cause,” Blues replied. “Let’s give them the hell they deserve.”

And then the battle was on.