Rockman.EXE is not mine. Don't sue.
Us After This
Author's Note: You can always tell when I'm finishing a serial, because the last chapter is always a billion times longer than the others. -_-
"Won't you die tonight for love?"
~HIM, Join Me ~In Death~
Mutely Netto allowed himself to be led into the apartment's kitchen, sat on a chair beside Meiru, and tied tightly with ropes. He was relieved to see that Meiru hadn't been hurt, though her face was damp and red with tears of frustration.
"I suppose I underestimated you, kid," Server said as he tied the last rope. "I wasn't expecting you to find me so fast. But no matter, I've got what I want now."
"Then let Meiru-chan and Roll go," Netto said firmly.
"Sorry, can't do that," he smirked. "I'll need them as insurance. I also need to catch the bigger one that ran away earlier, so if you'll excuse me--" he opened the door and stepped outside, "--I doubt he's so cowardly as to have left you, so I'll bring him back here for a nice reunion."
With that the tall man shut the door, and Netto heard the click of the deadbolt turning behind him. Server was gone.
"I do hope you have a plan," Saito commented dryly.
"Of course I do. We stall and try not to get killed while Blues and Enzan rescue Roll. Then Enzan and Yaito-chan save us and Saloma-san brings the police to arrest this guy."
"...Why am I thinking that you haven't quite thought this out?" Meiru groaned.
Netto blinked. "Did you want me to call for Enzan? We can jump Server when he comes back if you'd rather that."
"No, but we'd better be careful. This guy's crazy." She raised her voice. "Yaito-chan, are you all right?"
"I'm okay," the blonde's muffled voice returned.
"Good, stay where you are unless we call for you," Netto instructed. "Enzan! What about you?"
No answer came, and Saito turned his head towards the hallway. "Enzan?"
"He wouldn't abandon us, would he?" the brunette twin asked.
"You never know, with that guy..." the ex-Navi replied.
Before they could exchange any more words, the lock clicked and Server entered again, with a meek Dekao. "As I predicted, this one was easy to convince to follow me back."
"You surrendered?" Netto asked incredulously.
"He's got a knife," Meiru warned. "That's how he caught me too." Sure enough, as Server led Dekao to a chair Netto spotted a large kitchen knife in his right hand.
"I didn't want to leave you guys," Dekao said miserably. "I thought something bad happened to Meiru-chan." Thankfully, he forgot or didn't mention Yaito. Maybe they still had a chance to get out of this.
"Now, Hikari Netto..." Server turned the twins' chair around and dragged it into the middle of the room, where he inspected the teen carefully. "I think it'd be much more fun to do this in front of your friends. I had planned on having Snides kill you quickly," his grin was malicious, "but since you thwarted that attempt, I'll have to kill you slowly now. I do hope you've felt plenty of pain already these last few weeks."
Netto didn't reply, eyes flashing with anger. Server continued. "I won a few rounds though. Your Navi and your father--losing them was tough, wasn't it? I think that's ample payback for the positions we lost when World Three broke up. You ruined my life, Hikari Netto. Would you like to hear about it?"
"Not if it means you're going to be some cheesy comic book villain with a tragic past," Netto sneered back. "I've had to deal with plenty of you guys already."
Surprisingly, Server smiled. "You're annoying, kid, but you've got spunk. I was in Wily-sama's infiltration division--the tech team that created the Life Virus. I was head of that group--designing viruses is what I do best."
"Then it was you," Saito spat, momentarily taking over. "How?"
"Oh, you're curious now!" Server laughed. "It was the simplest kind of technology. I merely sent it as an unaddressed email attachment. It attacks executable files, of course, so when your Navi opened the email it targeted his program."
"I do remember that..." Saito said slowly. "An email that said it was from Papa, with a large file size, but no message. I thought it was odd."
"Can you imagine?" Server grinned. "Of course virus scanners became obsolete when Navis were invented. It's so ironic that a Navi could be infected by the very viruses it's trying to destroy!"
Saito's eyes narrowed and he glared at Server. "That's low."
"Well, of course." Server's grin was manic. "After the Life Virus was destroyed, I lost everything. My job, my family--my wife threw me out when she found out I'd been working for World Three. Snides and I moved in here and designed our own virus--the Higurashi virus, we called it. It was a simple matter of infecting your Navi and deleting it. I know you two were good friends, so I hope it was nice and painful."
Netto's nostrils flared. Painful hadn't been the word--there was no way this guy could have known about the twin link between him and Rockman. Netto knew firsthand exactly what it felt like to have the cells of his body pulled apart.
"Then Snides got caught. Now I've lost my ally and best friend too, just like you." Server sounded almost sad. "So it's very handy that you're here where I can take ample revenge. You can go ahead and say good-bye to your girlfriend if you like."
Netto blinked. What was this psycho going to do? Maybe screaming for Enzan might be an idea after all, but he wasn't sure whether Blues and the others had rescued Roll. "Uh...I don't think I'm going anywhere...?"
"We'll see. Now, where shall I start...?" He opened a drawer and extracted another kitchen knife, a smaller one. "This one will do. Don't worry, I want you to feel plenty of this, so, I won't kill you too fast." He approached Netto and traced a line down the boy's cheek with the knife, opening a shallow cut. Netto did not wince.
"A strong one."
He nodded with approval and moved to do it again, but was stopped by an angry scream from Meiru. "Don't touch him!"
Server turned. "Would you rather I killed you first? I'd love for him to feel a bit more pain before he went."
Meiru hushed, but he used a strip of cloth to gag her regardless before returning to Netto. "Where were we? I don't want you to bleed to death before I have my fun, so I'll try something else." He loosened the ropes just slightly, and then leaned back to punch Netto in the face. The force of the blow knocked the chair to the floor, and knocked all breath from Netto's body. Before he had time to recover Server had drawn back his foot to deliver a sharp kick to the stomach. Netto closed his eyes and waited for the rush of pain.
None came. When his vision cleared Server was grinning crazily at him again, and his body was doubled over with a pain he couldn't feel. His twin had taken over.
"Rock," Netto gasped, for Saito had withdrawn from their speech centres, as he always did. "What are you doing?"
"The least I can do," Saito answered grimly. "I'm protecting you. I won't stay back and let you get hurt."
He earned puzzled glances from Dekao and Server, who leaned down to hear the whispered conversation. "You talking to me, kid? Or are you prayin' yet?"
"Counting the ways I'm going to get you thrown in jail once we get out of here, bastard," Netto retorted.
"Netto-kun, don't make him angrier," Saito snapped.
Unfortunately, the comment had the effect the more levelheaded twin had expected. "You won't be getting out of here, Hikari," Server bellowed, kicking him hard in the stomach. Saito folded over in pain.
"Netto!" Dekao cried out, struggling to get out of the ropes holding him.
"It's okay," Saito rasped. "I can take much more than this." Server chose that moment to cut the ropes that bound him, picked the limp boy up easily, and flung him into a wall. Saito's head hit the plaster hard enough to dent before his body dropped heavily to the ground.
Meiru thrashed furiously against her bonds, to no avail. Saito leaned on his elbows for support, trying to take in a breath before the next attack. Fight. I've got to fight back. Grimacing, he gathered his energy and sprang at Server, knocking the bigger man to the floor. Stars swam in front of Saito's eyes but he continued to pummel Server with everything he had.
Enraged, Server lashed out with a kick to the stomach that stopped Saito cold again. Netto was trying to encourage or stop him, but the ex-Navi had control of every body function they shared. "You little bastard!" Server growled. "I shouldn't have taken my time!" He hauled Saito to his feet and threw the boy hard into the kitchen table, the weak wood collapsing under his weight.
"Netto-kun, I'm sorry..." Saito finally released control of their speech centres, grunting in pain. "I've got to protect you..."
"Rockman, no! I don't want you hurt anymore!"
"Sorry...oniisan..." Saito grinned. "I said I would, and I will. I'll fight to my last breath."
"Hit your head too hard, did you, kid?" Server was watching the exchange with a grin. "Your last breath? What an excellent idea that is!" He leaned down and lifted Saito up by his shirt collar. "I think we've played enough. Let's shut you up so you don't struggle." Easily he dropped the boy to the hard floor, wincing slightly as Saito's head hit the floor with a sharp crack. The twins' vision blurred nauseatingly.
When it cleared, Netto's head throbbed with pain, and he realized that he was back in control. "R-Rock?"
No answer. His twin's consciousness had retreated, either in self-defense or in system shutdown. He was on his own. Netto staggered to his feet, bracing himself against the pain, and leaned backward against the wall. "You're going to pay for that."
Blues yawned tiredly as he slashed through another row of viruses. "This is getting quite annoying, Enzan-sama."
"Keep it up, Blues. Just delete the Navis and get the girl."
"Fine, fine." Mouse had finally stepped in front of Blues, sword drawn, and attacked. "Now this'll get interesting."
"Don't underestimate me," Mouse laughed, dodging quickly.
Blues cocked his head. "I'm beginning to think that I overestimated you."
Mouse's smile was menacing. "I'll delete you in half a second, kid. Come on, I'll even let you attack first."
"Mega Guts Punch!" The attack literally tore the Navi in half, deleting it before it had time to scream.
Blues glared at Gutsman. "I really don't see why you bothered to ask me along."
"Something's happening out here, Blues," Enzan warned. "It sounds like they're trashing the apartment."
"We don't have Roll-chan yet!" Gutsman insisted. Roll was locked in an electric cage guarded by rows of high-level viruses. Skullman and Woodman were quickly trouncing them, but there were a huge number of enemies to fight.
As Gutsman watched, however, one Navi managed to get close to the cage. Iceman had somehow gotten through the small army of Mettoru and to Roll, where he quickly froze and broke the lock. Roll got out of the cage and stood beside him, facing rows of enemies.
"I'll get her," Blues said calmly, slashing a path through the viruses with his sword. He grabbed the female Navi and jumped high, landing beside Gutsman and handing him to her. "Watch her. I'll start deleting the information this guy stole from Hikari."
"Mega Guts Punch!"
Netto began his attack by throwing cutlery.
Server stared. "Kid, I'm getting tired of you now. You can't possibly think--awkk!" He was razed in the cheek by a flying fork. Furious brown eyes met grey. "You're going to regret that."
"We'll see. Nya!" Netto lobbed another butter knife at the sputtering man, catching him in the arm. It couldn't have hurt much, but it made him even angrier.
"Have it your way--I'll kill the girl!" Server picked up the kitchen knife from before and held it to Meiru's throat, grinning menacingly. "Now put down the knives and come here."
Obligingly Netto dropped the pilfered cutlery, praying Enzan would appear to help. Once he was close enough to touch Server grabbed him by the shirt and held him in a headlock, turning on the water in the kitchen sink with his left hand. He shoved the plug into the drain.
"You're pathetic," Netto spat finally, too spent to struggle. "You'd kill a kid and a great scientist because you lost your job. You don't deserve anything as good as jail."
"I'll never need to go to jail," Server pronounced, waiting until the sink had filled to the top before turning off the water. "Once I get rid of you and those two, there'll be no one to implicate me. Your Navi will be deleted, hers will soon, and Hikari will die in the hospital. I should have finished the job long ago."
"You won't lay a hand on my father, bastard," Netto retorted. Server replied by shoving the teenager's head into the sink full of cold water and holding it there.
Netto thrashed wildly, caught off-guard. He held his breath and tried to lash out at Server, but his arms were secured behind his back by the bigger man. He could hear Dekao yelling, though the sound was muffled. His eyes and ears burned in the icy water.
I'm going to die, Netto suddenly realized. I've just killed us both. I'm sorry, Rock... Meiru, Dekao... this is my fault. Maybe Enzan will save them once I'm gone. That idiot, just where is he!?
Mama...Papa... I'm sorry... you're losing two sons this time. Please, stay safe...
Unable to hold his breath any longer, Netto passed out.
"I think we're out of time." Enzan was unable to ignore the screams coming from the kitchen any longer. "Blues, have one of the others contact the police, if they haven't already. I think something's happened to Hikari."
"Right away, Enzan-sama."
"Plug-out." He disconnected his PET and crept to the door, opening it quietly. From the kitchen came splashing sounds and a girl crying, as well as that Dekao boy screaming obscenities. Enzan had a bad feeling that he'd waited too long.
Sure enough, Server was standing with his back to Ijuuin, and appeared to have just pulled Hikari out of a sink full of water. "That was much too easy." He tossed the limp body to the floor. "Kind of ruins the fun, doesn't it?"
The floor was littered with knives of all types, and Enzan grabbed one and cut through the ropes holding the bigger boy captive before Server turned around. With a growl, Dekao launched himself at Server, sending them both crashing to the ground.
Enzan cut the ropes binding Meiru, and she tore the gag from her mouth. "Get out of here," he instructed. "Run to the others. I'll take care of him."
"I can't!" she cried, dropping to her knees beside the blue-faced Hikari. "What about Netto? He's not breathing!"
Enzan knelt beside the boy as well, applying pressure to his ribcage and pumping rhythmically to draw the water out. Some of the water was expelled from Netto's lungs by Enzan's ministrations, but he did not breathe. Enzan put an ear against the boy’s still chest. A few seconds later he looked up and reported gravely, "His heart's stopped."
Elsewhere in the kitchen, Dekao had, in a fit of rage, managed to knock Server's head against a cupboard hard enough to render him unconscious. He too crawled to Netto's side.
"Yaito-chan!" Meiru screamed. "Yaito-chan, come quick!"
Enzan heard some scuffling, but he did not turn, instead attempting CPR on Hikari Netto. Yaito joined the group a moment later. "Hikari-kun..."
"Server held his head underwater for over three minutes," Dekao said disgustedly. "Right in front of us."
"Where the hell were you, Ijuuin!?" Yaito snapped as Enzan raised his head again.
"Saving your Navis. Hikari did tell me that he could handle it. Oh, and I suggest someone call an ambulance. I can't revive him."
"He's not breathing," Meiru said softly.
Yaito looked horrified. "He's dead?"
Meiru let out a choked scream and was yanked backward, a knife pressed tightly to her throat.
"He'd better be," Server said in a low voice. "And you don't have much longer yourselves."
Netto awoke suddenly in a dark room, so black that he couldn't see his hands in front of his face. He was without pain; really, couldn't feel much of anything--he shivered a bit in the cold, spotting a light up ahead. "Where am I?"
Netto got to his feet and stepped forward, his step light, almost ethereal. He felt as though he could float off the ground. "What's happened to me? Am I dead?"
He started to walk towards the light, but tripped over something on the floor and fell atop it. A body, still breathing, but asleep or unconscious. He--for the person had to be a he, with a flat chest and short, spiked hair--was radiating heat, and Netto tried to pick the other boy up and carry him to the light source to get a better look.
The unconscious boy was light, as light as Netto himself felt, and seemed to rise and fall limply against Netto's shoulder.
Idly, Netto started to talk to his passenger as he walked. "I guess I must be dead, since the last thing I remember was drowning. That's not an experience I'd like to repeat. Maybe we're in purgatory or something, because I don't think this is the afterlife. Yet.
"You're probably dead too, just haven't woken up here yet. We might be spirits. Heh." Netto trailed off, unsure what to say to the sleeping stranger, and not quite comfortable with his own position yet. "I'll probably just drag you up to the light-thingie and wait for you to wake up."
He fell silent for a few moments, hugging the unconscious boy against him, trying to absorb some of his warmth, until the light became bright enough to blind him when he looked directly into it. He laid the other boy down on the floor and turned him over.
The face was his own.
Netto drew back sharply. "...Me?" There was no mistaking it; round-cheeked and brunette, this was the face Netto saw in the mirror every morning. "But how?"
Wearing nothing but a plain black bodysuit, not even the headband Netto was never seen without, the boy was relaxed in peaceful slumber, his features slack. His mouth hinted at the beginnings of a smile, as though he were having a pleasant dream.
Still, Netto's curiosity got the better of him, as usual. "Hey--wake up." He shook the boy slightly, but he didn't respond. "Netto--er, hey, you. Come on, talk to me."
The other Netto stirred and opened his eyes slowly. They were a rich chocolate-brown, and they blinked sleepily at him. "Netto-kun?"
"Eh?" That hadn't been what Netto was expecting. But he had heard that inflection in his own voice many times lately; and it was becoming so familiar that there was only one person that could have made it. "Rockman?"
"Wait a minute, where are we?" Saito sat up quickly, casting a horrified glance at his twin. "Why are we both here?"
"I, um, think we're dead, actually..."
"It can't be! What happened? The last thing I remember is Server dropping me, and me hitting my head. I think my program withdrew itself."
"Yeah, I attacked Server after that, but he filled up the sink and held my head underwater until I passed out. I don't know what happened after that."
"Netto-kun, you're so cold!" Saito held his twin's freezing fingers in his own, trying to rub warmth into them. "I don't understand this; where are we? If we really are dead..."
"No idea. There's the cliché dark room and bright light; maybe we're supposed to go that way...?"
"But we can't just give up...who knows what will happen to Dekao and Meiru! They're helpless!"
"But what can we do?"
Saito closed his eyes. "I can still feel...my mind is still connected to all those links I had before. There's no way this can be real, Netto-kun. Maybe I'm dreaming this."
"If you are, I’m having the same dream. What do those links do?"
"A lot of things. They were what hooked my consciousness to the computer systems." Still holding his brother's hands in his own, Saito tilted his head back. "There's something wrong with the system. It's gone almost completely dead."
"I died," Netto said gravely. "I knew it."
"There has to be a way to reverse it. I'm still in there, after all!" Saito concentrated, trying to reintegrate his own program into the networks. "I can flush the system, and try and figure out why we can't get back into it."
"Okay." Netto stood quietly and watched his twin work, manipulating the computer systems with his mind.
When Saito opened his eyes again, however, they were a brilliant green. "I'm back in the computer system, and I think I've found the problem. My security programming deactivated your heart monitors back when we first merged. Your heart has stopped, and the computers are shut down."
"I'm restarting them," he said slowly, gripping Netto's hands tighter. "Netto...what do you see?"
"Um...the Net? It's like the inside of my PC when I'm looking in at you. A lot of blue, lots of circuits. And you. It's pretty dark, but there's an annoying light not far away."
"What do you see?"
"Right now? Only darkness. I'm sure my eyes are open, but I can't see anything, and I can barely feel. I'm lying down on my stomach, but it's like I'm reaching through the floor and you're holding my hands. Don't let go, Netto-kun."
"Darkness?" Puzzled, Netto leaned closer, and sure enough Saito's eyes did not move or blink. They stared blankly, his facial features once again relaxed.
Systems are online.
"Rock?" Saito's mouth hadn't moved.
"I can hear you in my head. What's happening?"
I'm not sure. All systems seem to be running correctly, though. The diagnostics say you're breathing and your heart is beating normally.
Your hands are getting warmer. Don't let go of me yet.
It was true; Netto felt a lot less cold than he had a moment before. "I'm starting to feel really dizzy."
I think you're waking up.
Netto braced himself, forcing himself to watch Saito in front of him. The other boy's green eyes fell closed and he pitched forward into Netto's arms. Netto caught him easily and lowered them both to the blue floor, hugging him close. "This might be the only time I ever get to do this. Thanks...Saito-niisan..."
Netto struggled to keep his eyes open, struggled to stay in the pleasant vision--for at last he knew for certain that it was a vision, and soon it would be gone--but there was a force pulling him from far away, and he finally collapsed again with Saito held tightly in his arms.
"I've had enough of this," Server said angrily, jabbing the tip of the knife into the side of Meiru's neck. "You brats couldn't leave well enough alone! Just where the hell did you all come from anyway!?"
Enzan hung back, his face cold. Yaito was crying quietly at Dekao's side, his arm on her shoulder, his other hand clenched in a fist.
The doorbell rang.
Server's face hardened. "I want you all to come into one of the other rooms," he said quietly. "If you make a sound, I'll kill her. Come on--keep facing me. Move."
Yaito, Dekao, and Enzan backed into the hall, Enzan in front. Server grimaced and kicked Netto's body to turn it face-up. "One of you come here and drag him in here."
Neither of the kids made a move. Server scowled and pulled the knife away from Meiru's throat. "You--pick him up."
Meiru, horrified, tried to comply. She bent and slipped her arms under Netto's, dragging him awkwardly to his feet. Server nodded. "You make a pretty good hostage. I'm almost sorry your little friend there had to piss me off. I might have spared you." He smiled condescendingly, angling his head to look at the body of the boy he had killed.
Netto's eyes snapped open.
With a howl of rage he lunged at Server, catching the tall man completely off-guard and knocking the knife to the floor. "What the hell--!"
"Somebody get the door!" Saito yelled. "Dekao, help me!"
Yaito, shocked, ran past the fight to the front door, while Dekao and Enzan moved to help Saito.
"Jesus, Hikari, I thought you were dead," Enzan gasped, wrenching Server's arm behind his back.
"We were," Saito said grimly.
Dekao grunted, shoving Server against the wall and holding him there. "We?"
"I'll explain later."
Less than a minute later the boys were pushed aside by police officers who snapped handcuffs onto Server's wrists, and dragged him out of the apartment. As he was led away he cast a final glance at Saito. "I don't know how the hell you did that, kid, but when I get out, you'll be paying with your life."
"That's an idle threat by now," Saito said tiredly, bracing himself against the wall. His body felt tired and worn, and his head swam. "Netto-kun? Can you hear me?"
No answer. Saito prayed his twin had lived, but he had no way to tell. Meiru scrambled to his side. "Netto! I'm so glad you're okay!"
Saito shook his head sadly, though he leaned heavily against her. "No... I'm not... Meiru-chan..."
"Rockman?" Meiru steadied herself under his weight, keeping him from falling to the ground.
"If I don't make it... tell Roll-chan I'm sorry... I couldn't help...."
"You aren't... you did everything you could! You saved all of us!"
"Listen to me Meiru... I thought I fixed the computers... please make sure Netto-kun's okay... and thank him for the ice cream..."
"Ice cream?" The pink-haired girl blinked in confusion.
"Tell him how much he meant to me... and I'm sorry..."
"Rock, don't apologize! Listen, you can wait for Netto! Don't go!"
"I can't," he said tiredly. "I can feel my program shutting down. I used everything I had getting the heart monitor going, and now there's nothing left for me."
By now the scene had captured the attention of the others, who were crowding around Saito and Meiru.
Saito lifted his head, though it took a tremendous amount of effort, and met Meiru's eyes. "Tell Roll-chan good-bye for me..."
With that, his eyes closed and he fell forward into her arms. "An ambulance," Meiru gasped. "Call an ambulance, quick!"
"There's one outside that came with the police," Saloma said. "Just what happened to him?"
"There's an aura missing," Miyuki said softly. "One of them is gone."
higurashi - for you, Spice :)
i finally got my JoinMeInDeath reference :P
thanks to Gaia, Spice and Goldy for help with this chapter...
huge huge huge thanks to Gaia-chan and her muses for editing/HTMLing this for me...you're a lifesaver. As usual. :)
epilogue tomorrow soon, I hope....