When the cold of Winter comes
Starless night will cover day
In the veiling of the sun
We will walk in bitter rain
But in dreams (But in dreams…)
I can hear your name
And in dreams (And in dreams…)
We will meet again.
Preformed by Edward
Ross, written by Fran Welsh and
“In Dreams” from The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Soundtrack
Author’s note: In the CD jacket it the second verse of the second line said I still hear your name, but the singer actually said I can.
This is my first Rockman.EXE fanfic, so please forgive me if I’ve mangled the characters. It’s pronounced World Three when spoken, but when written out (at least in the manga), it’s written WWW. I did the same in my story.
* * *
The figure studied the blade glowing vibrantly on his arm, its pale light casting shadows in the darkness surrounding him. He could see through the red haze of the sword down to his feet, but although his eyes were on the blade, his mind was focused on something else. It swarmed with broken thoughts, never completing themselves, all running together in an endless circle.
It was an accident…There was nothing anyone could have done… he was dead when they got there… an accident… he was dead…accident…dead…
The words pulsed through his mind, getting louder with every cycle. Accident… dead… accident… he was dead…
He raised the blade suddenly, banishing the voices with the motion. It burned like a flame from his forearm. He watched the flame… and smiled. With another quick motion he swung it out to his side and held it prone for a moment, reflecting on what he was about to do. He shut off his ability to see his surroundings and the burning sword. For another moment he was still; then he swung the blade inward, aimed straight for his chest.
Something heavy slammed into his back and he fell forward. A blue hand smacked his own, knocking the blade away from his body as he hit the ground. Before he could move or even protest the hand slammed down on his sword arm, preventing it from moving. Another hand was wrapped tightly around his waist. He stared at the blade dully, his mind not registering what was happening.
“Don’t do it, Blues!” the voice cried again. “Don’t delete yourself!”
Blues.EXE withdrew the blade and replaced it with his normal hand. He wanted to hurt Rockman.EXE, not delete him. “Get off!” he yelled, swinging his free hand up to strike the Navi sitting on his back. “Stay out of this, Rockman!”
His blow connected, and Rockman.EXE tumbled off his back with a grunt. Blues stood up and glared at his attacker. “Stay out of this, Rockman,” he said again, more calmly this time.
Rockman jumped to his feet. “We won’t let you do this, Blues!”
“It’s none of your affair,” Blues turned his back on Rock. “You and Hikari stay out of it!”
“Netto-kun doesn’t have anything to do with it,” Rock said quietly. “I’m the one who wanted to talk to you. I’m the only one who knows that you’re trying to kill yourself, Blues.”
“I’m a Navi!” Blues snarled. “Navis don’t die, they get deleted! Unlike… unlike…” Blues cut himself off, choking on his next words.
“Unlike Enzan?” Rock took a hesitant step forward. “Blues, what happened was not your fault.”
“He’s dead, Rockman!” Blues shouted, aware of his voice shaking. “He’s dead and I couldn’t save him. He…” Blues fell to his knees as it all overcame him.
“He what, Blues?” Rock approached him and knelt down beside him. “It was an accident. There was nothing you could have done.”
“I was there, Rockman,” Blues whispered, his large hands covering his face. “My PET was on the ground as he lay there, bleeding to death. I was only a few feet away, yet I could have been miles for all the help I was. I was helpless as he died, Rockman. I couldn’t save him.”
* * *
It was around lunchtime when Netto Hikari first heard the rumors. They spoke of anything from exploding buses to the return of WWW. He found that he couldn’t eat his lunch, worrying about what was happening outside his school.
“Netto-kun, what’s going on?” Rockman asked softly, his voice sounding worried.
“I don’t know, Rock,” Netto replied. “But I think it’s bad.”
“Netto!” Meiru cried, running up to him. “Mariko-sensei is looking for you.” She stopped in front of Netto, looking worried. “I think it’s important.”
Netto held his PET up so he could exchange looks with Rock. “All right, Meiru-chan. We’re going.”
Meiru nodded. “She’s in the classroom.”
“I hope everything’s all right,” Roll.EXE spoke up from Meiru’s PET.
Netto nodded his thanks and walked off toward the classroom. “What do you think it is, Rock?”
Rock could see that Netto was tense. “I don’t know,” he replied. “But we should relax until we get there. It could be anything.”
“Yeah,” Netto sighed. Sometimes he wished he could be as calm as Rock in situations like this. He paused before the door of the classroom and peered in. “Mariko-sensei?”
“Oh!” Mariko-sensei jumped. “Netto-kun, come in.”
Netto took one look at her face and knew something was terribly wrong. “Mariko-sensei, you’ve been crying!”
“Yes,” Mariko-sensei nodded. “Hikari-san—”
She hardly ever calls me Hikari, Netto thought in a blind panic.
“—there’s been an accident. One of the downtown buses crashed, and everyone on the bus was killed.”
“Crashed?” Netto gasped. “But how? They’re run by a centralized compu—”
“Mariko-sensei,” Rock cut Netto off. “Who was on the bus?”
“Oh, Netto-kun,” Mariko-sensei said softly. “I wanted to be the first to tell you because it was one of your friends. One of the people on the bus was Ijuuin Enzan.”
* * *
“Netto, I’m so sorry,” Dr. Yuuichirou Hikari said, gently squeezing his son’s shoulders. They were in the lab where Dr. Hikari worked. “The police—and I—checked the control center for the buses out from top to bottom. It was the fault of a worn-out circuit, nothing more.”
“So are you saying Enzan died for nothing?” Netto snapped back. “I know World Three has to be behind this! It doesn’t—it’s not fair!” Netto felt the tears in his eyes spill over as his father embraced him in a hug.
“I know it’s not fair, Netto,” he said gently. “It’s not fair when anyone dies like that, or at such a young age. But there’s nothing you can do to bring him back.”
“Hey!” Rock suddenly spoke up. “Isn’t that Enzan’s PET?”
Dr. Hikari looked over to the red PET sitting on a table. “Yes, it is.”
Netto backed away from his father to get a closer look. “Then… that means… Papa,” Netto said, turning back to Dr. Hikari. “Does Blues even know that Enzan’s gone?”
“Yes,” Dr. Hikari said heavily. “I believe he does. We tried talking to him once, but he didn’t respond. The PET may be damaged in some way…” he sighed, “but I haven’t got the heart right now to check it out.”
“Netto-kun!” Rock hissed. “Ask him if we can take the PET!”
“Why?” Netto asked, confused.
Dr. Hikari smiled, hearing Rock’s request. “You can borrow it for a while, but be sure to bring it back. It’s not my property.”
“Um… all right,” Netto said, still confused.
“Netto-kun! Grab the PET and let’s go!” Rock told him, still trying to whisper. Netto looked like he was about to argue, but he grabbed the PET and headed out the door.
What did you want it for?” he demanded once they were outside the building.
“I want to talk to Blues,” Rock replied softly. “I would feel terrible if something happened to you and no one told me.”
“All right,” Netto looked at the PET with doubt. “He might not talk to you either, you know.”
“We have to at least try,” Rock said. “C’mon Netto-kun, let’s go home and try!”
They got home sometime later. Netto placed the red PET on his desk and stared at it doubtfully. “Now what?”
“Plug me in, Netto-kun,” Rock told him. “I’m going to talk to Blues.”
* * *
“Blues…” Rock looked horrified. He had known the sketchy details, but he had not imagined this; never this. Rock placed a careful hand on the shattered navi’s shoulder.
“I tried talking to him,” Blues continued. He didn’t want to do this; talking was the last thing he wanted to do. But once he got started, he found he couldn’t stop. “I called out to him… I tried… I tried to keep him awake. But he didn’t answer me. He—I don’t even know if he could hear me.”
Rock looked up at the sound of his operator’s voice. “Netto-kun!”
Netto smiled at the two navis. “Blues, do you really think that Enzan would want you deleted, just because he wasn’t here to be your operator?”
“What other choice do I have?” Blues demanded, shaking off Rock’s hand and standing up. “What do you think will happen to me now that my operator’s gone? I’ll probably have a memory wipe and be sold to some stupid kid who doesn’t know a thing about netbattling. I’d rather be deleted than to have that happen!”
“Rock and I would never let them do that to you!” Netto cried. “Blues, you can’t just give up! There has to be some other way.”
“Maybe…” Rock mumbled to himself, his thoughts racing.
“Without my operator?” Blues snapped back. “Without… Enzan-sama I’m nothing.” He looked down at his feet. “Just a piece of well-built data.”
“That’s it!” Rock exclaimed. “That’s the answer!”
“What?” Blues snapped.
“Look, you’re an official netbattler navi, right?” Rock asked him. When Blues reluctantly nodded, he continued. “That means that Blues is authorized to netbattle by himself, without his operator telling him what to do. Now if only we could find a way to download you completely…” Rock trailed off, thinking.
“Rock, what are you getting at?” Netto demanded.
“I’ve had it with you two,” Blues snarled. “Just leave me alone!” He formed his sword and pointed it at Rock. “Or else.”
Rock backed up with his hands in the air. “Just hang on a second, Blues. Please? Netto-kun, remember Forte?”
“How could I forget?” Netto said with a grimace.
“He survives on the net without an operator,” Rock said excitedly. “What if we fixed Blues’ program so he could be an independent program as well?”
“That might just work!” Netto exclaimed.
“You’re forgetting some details,” Blues snapped. “I don’t want to be independent! I just want to be left alone!” He took a threatening step toward Rock, sword raised.
“Blues…” Netto said softly. “Enzan cared a lot about you. He wouldn’t want you to just be deleted, I know he wouldn’t. If he were here—”
“Well, he’s not, now is he?” Blues demanded, swinging his attention toward Netto. The blade made a swiping motion as he did so, and Rock hurriedly backed out of the way.
“I know he’s not,” Netto said smoothly. “But think about it. Enzan would want to be able to continue fighting World Three. If you had the ability to fight on the Internet without him, I think that’s what he would prefer. Don’t you?”
“I…” Blues trailed off. In his entire memory, he had never known a moment where Enzan hadn’t been there to tell him what to do. The thought of being on his own was completely alien to him. What would your operator want? Netto’s voice nagged him. “I’m not guaranteeing that I won’t delete myself if I don’t like it,” he warned. “But if you can make the necessary changes without messing around with too much of my program, go ahead and do it.”
Netto cheered. “All right! I’ll start right away. It’s pretty easy, actually, and it won’t take much time.”
“Please hurry, Netto-kun,” Rock said softly, watching Blues. Before he changes his mind.
A half an hour later Netto gave a sigh of relief. “There, I’m done. How do you feel, Blues?”
Blues examined himself, running a check on his data and looking his body over. “About the same.”
“But now you have all the necessary data to freely roam the Internet without being connected to anything,” Netto beamed.
“Like Forte,” Rock put in.
“Only a good Forte,” Netto added. “One that’s on our side.”
“Now all I have left is to be… downloaded?” Blues asked.
“Then once I am…” Blues looked at Rock. “Destroy my PET.”
“What?” Rock gasped.
“I won’t need it anymore,” Blues shook his head. “I want it destroyed. Please?”
“All right,” Rock nodded slowly. Something akin to understanding passed between the two navis as they looked at each other. “If that’s what you want.”
“I’m plugging you in now, Blues,” Netto called. “From my computer you’ll be able to access the Internet.”
Blues nodded. Rock watched him disappear as he was downloaded away from the PET. Soon Rock was the only one there.
Netto sighed at the words flashing across the red PET and transferred Rock back to his blue one. “I guess that’s it,” he sighed.
“No,” Rock shook his head. “Not quite.”
* * *
“Are you sure about this?” Netto said doubtfully. He casually weighted the baseball bat in his hand.
“It’s what he wanted, Netto-kun,” Rock said softly. “Trust me; Blues won’t be coming back.”
“But to destroy the PET…” Netto eyed the PET where it was sitting against the stone. It seemed like a horrible act to him; destroying something that had once harbored Blues’ program. He raised the bat to rest on his shoulder. “If that’s what he wanted…”
“It is,” Rock assured him. “If we leave the PET intact, it could be used against Blues in some way. I think this is what Enzan would have wanted too.”
Netto now had the bat raised above his head. “I don’t think I can do it, Rock,” he confessed.
“You have to,” Rock replied. “Please, Netto-kun. Please destroy the PET.”
Still Netto hesitated, the bat quivering in his hands. “I… I can’t do it!” he yelled.
“Just do it, Netto-kun!” Rock yelled back.
Netto swung the baseball bat down. It struck the PET and smashed it into pieces. “There,” he gasped. “That wasn’t so hard, was it Rock?”
* * *
Deep in the Internet, a WWW navi was preparing to infect a system with a controlling virus. The virus would spread throughout the system and force it to do what the navi told it to do.
“Not today,” was the last words it heard before it was deleted.
Blues stood where the WWW navi had previously been. Not bad. He had already tracked down three WWW navis that were up to their dirty tricks, and he had only been at it for an hour. Enzan, Blues felt, would have been pleased.
In memory of a boy I knew who died recently after a long battle with cancer. May you be playing your saxophone in the Lord’s band, Matt.