Rockman.EXE is not mine. Don't sue.
Us After This
Author's Note: May be a short epilogue to follow. I need some closure here. x.x
"I was waiting for you
Waiting for all my life
And I'm not going to
Lose you tonight."
~HIM, Lose You Tonight
"Netto...Netto, wake up..."
Someone was calling him.
Blearily Netto opened his eyes, wincing sharply at the bright lights his eyelids had been concealing. A white room with lights; excited voices.
"Netto!" Meiru was upon him in a second. "You're awake! I'm so glad!"
"Meiru-chan...?" Netto tried to sit up and was overcome by a wave of nausea.
"You're in the hospital again," a deeper voice said. "Seems you got yourself into more trouble."
"Papa!" Netto's mouth dropped open in shock. Hikari Yuuichirou was alive and well, though he looked tired. "You're all right!"
"You've been sleeping for nearly a week, Netto," Yuuichirou said gently. "I'm still recovering too. But while you've been here, Server and his partner Snides are in a jail cell, awaiting trial."
"We'll give you some privacy," the medical doctor said, leaving the room.
"But--if I've been sleeping for a week, why didn't Rock just take over...?" Netto propped himself up against the bed's pillows, running a hand through his messy brown hair. "Rockman?"
No answer came. Silence hung heavily in the air. "Netto...I don't think Saito-kun made it..." Meiru finally said, her voice a whisper. The use of his twin's real name was like a blow to Netto's stomach.
"What...? How could that happen, if he was in me?"
"He asked me to tell you some things, before he passed out that last time...he wanted me to tell you how much you meant to him, and to thank you. He mentioned something about ice cream... He seemed to think that he wouldn't be coming back."
"For the ice cream..." The memory was like a knife stab. Netto forced back tears. "But Papa, you're okay now! Can't he be reprogrammed?"
"I already have. We were waiting for you to wake up so we could transfer it out of your implant. You have to know first, Netto, that the way I programmed Rockman... it can't be duplicated so easily. That's why he was unique. He might not be the same. And besides, I don't think you're up to that just yet--"
"--I am!" Netto finished. "I have to make sure he's okay. Do it now, please, Papa!"
Yuuichirou glanced behind him at the door, then reluctantly took out his PET. "Emdee, I want you to initialize the Stage Two transfer. Remove all traces of Rockman.EXE and Saito.BAT from the medical systems--they'll be dormant, of course, since the heart monitor is functioning again. Transfer them to the drone and then link back to my PET." Netto lifted his nightshirt and Yuuichirou plugged the cord into the implant.
"Transfer initialized," Emdee said emotionlessly. "Core data of Rockman.EXE twenty percent recovered. Forty percent recovered. Sixty percent recovered. Seventy-five percent recovered. Core data of Saito.BAT ten percent recovered. Twenty percent recovered. Twenty-five percent. Searching for remaining data."
Netto held his breath. Finally Emdee continued. "... No data found. Twenty-five percent of Saito.BAT recovered. The rest has been deleted or corrupted. Seventy-five percent core data of Rockman.EXE recovered. Transfer complete. Linking out now."
"Only twenty-five percent? What's that mean?"
"As I thought, part of his program is missing." Yuuichirou did not mention that since the Saito.BAT program had been too heavily damaged to initialize itself while Netto's body recovered, he feared the corrupted part might be the consciousness programming. It could be re-created, but not without a price. "I can reinstall data from the original program, hopefully. I'll get back to the Science Labs now and work on that."
"A little while, Netto. I'll hurry... you need to rest. I'll be back as soon as I can." Yuuichirou departed, leaving Netto alone with Meiru. As the doctor left, however, Dekao, Yaito, and Enzan entered.
"Hi, guys," Netto said solemnly.
"Yo, Netto," Dekao said, trying his best to look normal. "You were sleepin' long enough."
"Yeah, well, I thought I could get out of more school, so..."
"Hikari-san told me what happened to your Navi," Enzan said matter-of-factly. "I'm sorry."
Netto didn't reply.
"So, it was that guy Saito who fought Server in the end, eh? I must say, I thought we were all dead. If it makes you feel any better, I admire his bravery."
"Papa told you everything," Netto said dully. "Brave, yes, but stupid...he got himself killed for it..."
"But how can you both have controlled your body?" Dekao asked.
"We took turns, until last week...then it was Saito-niisan all the time..." Netto found himself switching to the other name out of necessity. Saying 'Saito' instead of 'Rock' made it feel less real.
"I'll explain to you guys later," Meiru urged gently. "Let's talk about something else."
"I...really don't want to talk," Netto said finally, turning on his side. "Thanks for coming to see me..."
He couldn't quite explain it, but having his twin's consciousness just gone was leaving him feeling lonely and empty. The only person he wanted to talk to at that moment was Rockman.
"We'll go," he heard Meiru say hastily, and she ushered the others out the door. "You get some sleep, Netto. I'll come by again later."
"Sure," Netto replied, pulling a pillow over his head. "Bye." When she had gone, he lifted his head and spotted his headband on the night table, along with a collection of other small objects. There was the black shirt Saito had worn. His shorts were folded neatly beside his shoes, and his roller skates lay on the floor with his backpack.
On top of the pile were a handful of change, a torn Metrorail ticket, and a napkin from Le Créme Parfait ice cream shop.
Netto's eyes blurred with tears and he turned away. Even if Rockman was reprogrammed, he still felt alone. The time he had shared with his brother during their recent hardship was only a memory, nothing more. Rockman would never be human again.
Netto consoled himself with the thought that things would again return to normal. He would have his Navi back; he would go back to school and Netbattle Dekao and make fun of Gutsman, and Rockman and Roll could be together again. This was real life; this was normal.
He must have drifted off, for what seemed like a few moments later his father returned. "Netto, are you awake?"
"I'm up," the boy said quickly, forcing himself into a sitting position. "Did you bring him?"
"I did," Yuuichirou said gravely. "I combined an old backup of his Navi program with the data we collected from you. But there are things you need to know before you activate him. First, most of Saito.BAT was damaged or destroyed...so you two will no longer share your DNA link. He will be just like any other Navi now, albeit very technologically advanced."
"But...why didn't you just use a backup of Saito.BAT? Wouldn't it be the same as when he got hurt fighting World Three?"
"The program that's been inside you since Rockman was attacked by the Higurashi virus is a mix of Rockman.EXE and Saito.BAT. Installing the old backup of Saito.BAT might not just have negative effects; it might corrupt the rest of the program altogether. Rockman has evolved so much since then that the dot-bat isn't designed for him anymore. That's the other problem. Since we only have a part of the Saito programming, he might not be the same as before. There will be memory gaps, personality differences...but short of redesigning him...there's nothing that can be done. Even I can't predict what will happen with such a small amount of data."
Netto took the PET from his father and held it in his hand, watching the other programs run in the background of the screen. On the desktop screen was a single icon labeled 'Rockman.'
"Go ahead," Yuuichirou whispered softly. "Activate him."
Netto pressed a key and the icon highlighted, made a clicking noise, and a window opened. A status bar ran in the foreground. Installing Program. Press any key to cancel.
Shortly the window disappeared and was replaced by the outline of a helmeted Navi. It briefly glowed blue, and then Rockman appeared, eyes closed. Netto sighed in relief.
Rockman opened his green eyes and smiled. "Hello. My name is Rockman, and I am your new Navi, Hikari Netto."
"New?" Netto glanced at his father. "Is that because he was reinstalled?"
"That's his default programming," Yuuichirou said slowly. "It's the first thing that I programmed into the EXE file. If he doesn't remember your first meeting, it may be that the memory component of Saito.BAT is one of the missing files." Rockman was still waiting patiently for Netto to introduce himself. Yuuchirou addressed the newly programmed Navi. "Rockman, do you recognize me?"
"You are Hikari Yuuichirou. You created my program."
"Correct. This is my son, Netto, whom you were programmed for. You were in a battle and much of your data was erased, so you had to be re-installed. Some of your memories may be missing."
"You are correct. My databanks contain much knowledge that I should not yet have, and much that I do not know the meaning of. It seems a large portion of memory data is missing."
"Is he always going to talk like that?" Netto asked, horrified.
"That is a default programming too," Yuuchirou replied. "His personality was probably part of the file Emdee wasn't able to recover. In time he'll adapt to you and begin to copy your personality, the same way he did before."
"No way!" Netto cried. "Rock and me had totally different personalities, but this one's just weird!"
"Netto...there's nothing I can do about that, I'm sorry..."
He sighed. "I know, Papa."
"Visiting hours are over, and I've been released, so I have to go," Yuuichirou said apologetically. "You and Rockman should talk awhile. I'll come see you in the morning, all right?"
"Fine. Good night, and thanks."
"Good night." Yuuchirou left after giving his son a hug.
Netto waited until his father had gone before speaking. "So you don't remember...anything? About what happened to us? About being Saito-oniisan?"
Rockman looked shocked. "I am surprised you have been told about that. I was told very strictly to keep it a secret from you."
"Papa just told you that some of your memory is missing."
"Even so, it was kept from you to protect you. Revealing such details to you was an unwise decision."
"It wasn't unwise--we were saving your life!"
"My deletion is irrelevant. I am a Navi that can easily be reprogrammed, as you can see."
Netto stared in disbelief. "Yeah, and look how that turned out! You're a whole different person!"
"This is my default personality progr--"
"--Shut up! I don't care about that; I want the old Rockman back!"
"This is the first time we've met."
Netto held back tears. "I want Saito, then."
"I am he."
"Idiot! Forget it!" Netto suddenly turned off the PET, shoving it onto the nightstand. Having that heartless parody in there was worse than having no Rockman at all!
Finally letting tears escape from his bloodshot eyes, Netto buried his face in his pillow and cried himself to sleep.
In the morning Netto arose feeling much better, ready to face a new day. His optimistic side had won out--Rockman could easily be taught to behave like he used to, if Netto could stop himself from thinking about what he had lost. So he had formulated a Plan.
The Plan consisted of a few basic elements--Net-battle, skate around Akihara and procrastinate, spend time with his friends, and talk to Rockman until the new Navi got a feel of his surroundings.
It was with this thought in mind that Netto snuck out of the hospital and arrived on Dekao's doorstep, PET in hand.
Dekao answered the knock. "Netto! You're out already?"
"You knew they couldn't keep me for long!" Netto winked and held out the object in his hand. "Want to Net-battle?"
"Battle?" Dekao stared confusedly for a moment. "Wait--did you get Rockman back!?"
"Sure did." Netto grinned.
"Hello," Rockman said as though prompted by Netto's smile, "I am Rockman.EXE. Pleased to make your acquaintance."
Dekao blinked. "Uh, did he get amnesia or somethin'? It's me, Dekao."
"He's been reprogrammed," Netto said quickly. "He doesn't remember some things. So I'm doing familiar stuff with him to help him out."
"That seems a useless plan," Rockman warned. "Deleted data cannot be recovered when it has been removed from the source."
Dekao and Netto both stared at the Navi.
"...However, Net-battling is what I was designed to do, so..."
"He's acting really weird," Dekao whispered.
"You're tellin' me."
"I am ready whenever you are, Netto-san."
"-san!?" the two boys chorused in disbelief.
"Did I say something wrong? My intent was not to offend."
"No," Netto groaned. "It's not that. It just sounded wrong. Call me Netto-kun, okay?"
The inflection was all wrong. Netto made a face at the Navi. "You speak really strangely. Maybe you could try not to use such formal speech."
"I was programmed for etiquette. My speech habits should be nothing less."
"But Papa said you were supposed to adapt."
Dekao plugged his PET into his computer and stepped back, waiting for Netto to do the same. "Still want to?"
Netto grinned. "You know I do. Plug-in, Rockman.EXE! Transmission!"
"Plug-in, Gutsman, transmission!"
The two fighters appeared on the monitor, one big, one small. Gutsman looked thrilled. "Rockman, de gutsu! You're all right!"
"It seems we've met before." Rockman smiled faintly.
Gutsman gave him a puzzled look. "De gutsu...?"
"Gutsman, be on your guard," Dekao instructed. "It's not the same Rockman, so he won't remember you."
"Not remember? What?"
Before either of the boys could reply, Rockman attacked, spraying Gutsman with charged blasts. "Rockbuster!"
"Hey, wait a minute!" Netto cried. "We weren't ready to start yet!"
"This is a battle, is it not?" Rockman paused to look at Netto. "Am I not supposed to win?"
"No!... Well, yeah, but not before the match begins...!"
"I see. Am I permitted to attack now?"
"Ummm..." Netto gathered a handful of battle chips. "Yeah, I'll give you a Cannon chip, all right?"
Dekao equipped Gutsman with an Ice Punch chip, and the match began. Rockman fired off a cannon shot almost immediately that caught Gutsman in the chest, easily laying him on the ground. Rockman's speed gave him the advantage in this round.
The blue Navi easily avoided the Ice Punch and began to attack with his Rockbuster once again, forcing Gutsman to scramble to his feet. "Send a chip!" he implored.
Dekao complied. "Here's a Fire Tower."
Gutsman immediately launched the Fire Tower, but the smaller Navi easily dodged it. Rockman moved behind Gutsman with blinding speed and launched the Spreader attack point-blank. It struck Gutsman in the back, dropping him to the floor. Rockman aimed his buster once again.
"Rockman, back off," Netto ordered. "This is only a practice match."
"Too much, de gutsu," Gutsman wheezed. "Sorry, Dekao."
"It's all right. Plug-out." Dekao disconnected the cord and pocketed his PET, while Netto continued to watch his own Navi.
"That's all?" Rockman complained. "I was expecting a bigger challenge."
Though he'd been holding back, Dekao's pride got the best of him. "That's because you fought dirty!"
"He's just slow," Rockman pronounced.
"Plug-out," Netto snapped, pulling the cord free. "Sorry, Dekao. His personality's not quite back to normal yet."
"I see," Dekao replied sourly. "Well, good luck, then."
Netto had the feeling that he'd worn out his welcome. "Okay, well, see you later, then. Thanks."
Netto left the Oyama residence, still feeling unsettled, and headed back toward his own house, detouring at Meiru's next door. He waited on the porch and was quickly greeted by two bubbly girls who seemed excited to see him, and even more so to see Rockman. Meiru hugged him happily. "Netto! We were just on our way to see you!"
"We weren't expecting you to be up so early," Yaito said slyly. "But you've been sleeping for a week, so..."
"Rockman! Rock, is that you?" Meiru leaned over Netto's shoulder to glimpse the Navi, who raised his hand in silent greeting. "It is! Roll will be so happy to see you! Come on over and see her!"
Netto had to re-bookmark Meiru's PET for Rockman to gain access, and he explained the new programming to Meiru and Yaito. "He'll be the same soon though, ne?" Yaito said confidently. "After all, that's how he turned out last time."
"I guess so, but he doesn't remember anything about me. He's like a whole new person."
Inside the PET, Glyde and Roll had come to a similar conclusion. "You're certain he's really Rock," Roll asked doubtfully.
"It is possible that Rockman-san would function like this after a memory wipe," Glyde said.
The urge that Roll had felt to run forward and hug him tightly had been quelled by the formal introduction. She later learned that it was the same one Rockman had stiffly presented to Dekao, Meiru and Netto himself. "Roll-san?"
Her head snapped up. "What?"
"You seem upset," Rockman said mildly.
"Aren't we a master of the obvious?" she said bitterly.
"Roll!" Meiru hissed.
For the first time since he had been activated, Rockman looked abashed. "I hadn't realized that my return would instigate such disruption. Am I that repulsive?"
"No, it's that...it's just I want the old Rockman back. I'm sure you understand that."
"I do not," he confessed. "Save for a few missing memories, I am an exact duplicate of the Rockman you knew."
"It seems to me as though part of Rockman-san's personality program is also missing." Glyde commented.
"Papa said that the personality was part of the corrupted files. When Rock restarted my heart monitor there wasn't enough room in the computer's memory to hold them both, so he was taken over and partly deleted."
"That would explain the radical change," Glyde agreed.
"And there's nothing else your father can do?" Yaito asked.
Netto shook his head. "He says Emdee got all the data he could. He already had to use a lot of his old backups."
"I see." Roll moved closer to Glyde, keeping her eyes downcast. "I guess we'll be getting to know each other all over again, huh."
"So it seems." Even Rockman seemed flustered.
The tension in the air was so thick that even Netto noticed it, hurriedly putting his PET away. "Well, Rock and I should go, we've got people to terrorize, hospitals to escape, et cetera...see you girls later?"
"Come on, Rockman. Link out."
Rockman paused and looked Roll straight in the eyes. "I'm sorry."
The pale boy frowned. "That I'm not him. Sorry." Before she could answer, he linked out. Roll blinked back tears and turned away.
"Well," Netto said awkwardly, "I'm off. Bye." He jumped down over the steps and turned a sharp left, cutting across the Hikari lawn. The front door was locked--Mama was probably doing her shopping. Netto unlocked it and entered, shutting the door behind him again.
Wearily the boy plodded upstairs and flopped onto his bed, letting his house slippers tumble to the floor. The plan obviously wasn't working very well.
"Is something wrong?" Rockman asked as Netto turned over to stare at the ceiling instead.
"Everything," Netto groaned. "Dekao's mad, Meiru's acting weird, and I don't even know you anymore. Why does this have to happen to me?"
"It cannot be helped. Roll-san is uncomfortable as well."
"That's because you've become a whole different person. You don't even seem to realize it."
"My data is easily repla--"
"--easily replaceable, yeah, I know. You seem to have totally lost the concept of being able to think for yourself."
"Navis aren't equipped to do that."
"Mine was. Roll is, Gutsman is. Why aren't you?"
"I do not know." Rockman actually looked forlorn, and Netto withdrew. It seemed this Navi's feelings could be hurt after all.
"I know you can't help it," Netto said softly. "But that doesn't make it any easier for me..."
"I under--agh!" Netto clutched the sheets tightly as a wave of pain washed over him.
"What's wrong?" Rockman asked in alarm.
"I knew we shouldn't have left the hospital!" Rockman moaned. "Can you stand?"
"I don't think so," Netto gasped, fighting back sudden nausea.
The Navi wrung his hands together, managing to look laughably like Glyde. "What should I do? I can't contact the hospital; the only link I have is to Roll-san."
"I think there's something wrong with my implant," Netto managed to choke out between laboured breaths. "I can't breathe. Can you...can you...plug-in?"
"I can try," Rockman said doubtfully. "Shouldn't there be medical Navis in there?"
Netto coughed, flecks of blood staining the sheets. "...Yeah."
Rockman looked even more alarmed. "I'll try it. Plug me in."
Fumbling, the teenager pulled the cloth of his shirt away and jammed the plug into the implant. He didn't have the energy to bring his PET to an angle where he could see. "Well?"
"There are Navis here, but it seems to be a computer problem," Rockman answered hesitantly. "They don't know how to fix it."
"I could try. I have very advanced repair programming, and--"
"--Just...do it..." Netto choked.
"Commencing. Hm... there seems to be an error in the breathing regulators. Instead of forcing you to breathe normally, they have cut off air supply. I may be able to find out more."
Netto tried to ask what he thought the source of the problem was, but he found black spots dancing in front of his eyes. No oxygen had entered his lungs in over a minute. An overwhelming sense of deja vu and panic hit him, and he blacked out.
"Just five more minutes, Rock..."
"What, what!" Netto rolled over and sat up, rubbing his head. "Geez, Rock, don't scare me like--uh...what the hell?"
He was back in the black room with the little light. Saito knelt before him, still wearing the black jumpsuit and a broad grin. "Welcome back to the land of the living! Er, well, dead."
Netto very slowly reached out and touched his twin's arm. "You're going to either tell me that I'm dead or dreaming."
"Can't help you there," the ex-Navi said with a shrug. "I have no idea where we are. I've been sitting here in the dark for days."
"But...but it's really you!" Netto threw his arms around his brother. "I thought you were deleted! Please tell me that everything that's happened today was a dream!"
"Well, what happened today? I'm guessing you weren't stuck here in limbo or I would have found you long ago."
"I was in the hospital for a week recovering, and then Papa reprogrammed you."
"He made another Navi that was supposed to be just like you," Netto explained. "But he's an idiot! He's not like you at all! How can I get you back?"
"Netto-kun...I don't even know where we are... and I certainly haven't been able to get out of here. Just how did you get back here anyway?"
"I had trouble breathing and I plugged in the new Rockman, but then I passed out. But this means we're still linked!" Netto said happily. "And there's a normal-you here; I just have to take you out of here with me!"
"That supports the theory I'd been thinking... Well, I've essentially determined that this must be some state of consciousness we share. I can't think of any other way for physical forms to manifest themselves like this--"
"Hell, don't start talking like him!"
"Never mind..." Netto took Saito by the hand and started walking forward. "Come on, let's find a way out of here."
"Netto-kun...I already said what I think this is...I think maybe we might be inside the computer."
Netto stopped abruptly. "Wait, even me?"
Their chocolate-brown eyes met. "I exist only in the computer systems here. Since those systems are wired directly to your brain, I thought maybe the reason we could communicate like this was because we're both in a similar state of consciousness."
Saito cupped his chin in his hand. "Well, the only time when we've met like this is when we're both out cold, right? When my program has retreated to recover, and you're unconscious. Ne?"
Netto bit his lip. "Yeah, you're right..."
"Maybe the computer's creating some sort of a vision or a dream for our unconscious minds. Since we're so closely linked they'd have to be the same thing."
"Wait, okay, I get the whole vision-dream-thingy. Does this mean we're not dead?"
Saito blinked. "I suppose not, unless you're dying right now from lack of oxygen..."
"Is that the same thing that happened to the computers before? When Server tried to drown me?"
"Yeah, it is. Only, this time... I think the problem is me. The security systems I wired into your computer when I was occupying it is interfering with its operation now, because I'm not there to control it anymore. I guess since I rewrote that programming myself, the medical systems don't recognize it. But this is essentially the same thing that happened before."
Netto grinned broadly. "Well, can you do what you did then? Jump-start the system?"
"I'm not sure," Saito confessed. "When I finally got my program up and running I was too weak to access anything. Now I can, but there's a lot of my data missing from the system. It's just...gone."
"That must be what Papa took out to make the new Navi!"
"If Father removed it, that would explain why most of my links are gone. There doesn't seem to be a whole lot of me left in here. Just consciousness, and some threads to the computer systems I can't reach any more."
"That's what the other Rockman is missing," Netto said gravely. "We need to find a way to get you back together."
"Why do I not feel totally comfortable with the concept of merging with some pseudo-Navi you just told me was an idiot?"
"Aw, come on, Rock--"
"What the--?" Saito stopped suddenly and tilted his head, looking up into the blackness. "There's an intruder in the computer system. I don't know what it is, but I can't force it out when my own systems are so low."
"That's got to be the other Navi!" Netto said excitedly. "Can you contact him?"
"I can try. He seems to be flushing the system, which is what I did to restart your breathing last time..." Saito paused. "I don't have enough memory left to make a comprehensible message, though. And I think you're waking up."
Netto had noticed as well that the room was starting to spin, and he felt the same lazy pull he had before. He hugged Saito again, tightly. "I'll find a way to get you out of here, Niisan. Somehow."
"I trust you." Saito smiled. "Good luck."
The twins broke their embrace and the latter swayed, sinking through the floor as though it were made of blue fluorescent tar.
Netto awoke to a haze of pain, but he was happy he was waking up at all. He immediately grabbed for his PET. "Rockman!"
"You're all right," the Navi said in relief. "I wasn't sure I was able to do anything in time."
"I had some help," Netto replied grimly. "Stay in the computer systems--did a part of the system hail you not too long ago?"
"I got a message from the computer security system, but it only analyzed me and left me alone."
Netto sighed. "I need you to access that security system and download it."
"The entire system?" the Navi asked in shock.
"You'll know when you see it. Try to access it first."
Netto peered closely at the screen, where Rockman was wired into the computer database. After a few moments of searching, the Navi made a face.
"What is it?"
"There's unfamiliar data clusters here. They're integrated with the security, but they're not like any other system I've seen before. Might be virii."
"Can you communicate?"
"Uhm...well, it definitely has some sentience programming, since it's hailing back, but it doesn't seem to have the capacity to communicate."
That's him. "Download it into your own program."
"The virus?" Rockman asked in horror.
"Trust me! Do it!"
Rockman turned and met Netto's eyes. "I'm programmed to do what I am told by my Operator. I think this is highly dangerous and could damage or delete me or parts of your biomechanical systems. I do not understand what we could gain from this. However ... I feel I can trust you..."
Netto smiled weakly.
"If I am deleted, then I shall say now that I am glad I could help you, Netto-kun. It seems to me that you are in a lot of pain right now, and not just physically."
Netto didn't know what to say. "Rockman..."
The blue Navi smiled slightly. "Transferring data clusters now." His eyes fell closed and then he lost all function, frozen where he stood. The PET gave off a beep of warning.
Hurriedly Netto disconnected it from his monitor and forced himself into a sitting position on the bed, watching the Navi's status bars plummet and climb. Twice he received 'Error--Program corrupted' messages from the diagnostic systems, but the Navi seemed to be successfully repairing the damage it had received.
Only when the bars had stabilized at a medium level did Netto stop to inspect his own damage. He was breathing normally again, meaning that at least one of the Rockmans had managed to shut down or repair the malfunctioning system. He still felt dizzy and weak, but he was all right.
The PET beeped for his attention.
Netto grabbed it, thankful to see that the Navi had opened his eyes and was busily attempting to set the status bars back to green. "Rockman, are you okay?"
"There seems to be some interference--" he said confusedly, lifting his hand to his head in a humanlike gesture. "Whatever was in those data packets has re-installed itself in my program and is making normal function extremely difficult. Some systems have been corrupted."
Still the new one. Now I've really done it, he thought bitterly. I should have had him copy Rockman's files and let Papa handle it. If he's gone for good, it's my fault.
Rockman was still working with the status bars, seemingly tweaking a string of programming codes. "The foreign program--it does seem to be a virus of some sort--is vying for dominance with some of my default programming. I will attempt to override, but it appears to be more powerful than me."
The blue Navi entered another code and was immediately shot through with sparks, crying out in pain and falling to his knees. "Rockman! Are you okay?"
"Ita...Yeah... yeah, I'm all right... it's that weird default program overlapping with mine. I think I've got it under control now." One of the status bars went up to green. "All right, I got it! Remind me never to do that again."
Something in his voice made Netto hesitate. "Wait... Rockman... has any of your core programming been disrupted by that download?"
Netto almost imagined he felt his heart stopping again. "I know there's no way you could have developed a personality or a sense of humor in the last thirty seconds."
"Well, I've been learning from the master for years, Netto-otoutochan*..." Rockman turned from the coding to grin at him.
"Rock!" Netto continued to gape at the screen. "Saito? Is it really you this time?"
"Providing your 'new' Navi didn't leave any data behind, it should all be me this time." the blue-haired twin winked. "Sorry I took so long--I had to remap a lot of things to get control over the default program. I don't understand how something with no personality could be so stubborn. Aw, Netto-kun! Don't get upset!" He grinned broadly, but Netto could see something intense in his green eyes. "You're the genki one, not me!"
"I guess we've both gotten a lot of practice at role-reversal lately," Netto joked, his voice thick with emotion. He fell back against the pillows of the bed, too weak to sit up any longer.
"No kidding... I think I'll appreciate what I have in here more from now on." Rockman smiled. "I can't wait to see Roll-chan and Gutsman again."
"And I'll feel much better knowing that I don't have to worry about someone else literally putting words in my mouth..."
"Hey." Rockman cast his twin a rueful glance. "As long as you don't complain when you don't want to do something and you can't just say, 'Saito-niisan, pretend to be me today!'"
"My computer systems are at your disposal." Netto patted his chest.
"I'll take you up on that sometime. I never did get to learn how to roller-skate."
"Any time," Netto whispered, holding the PET close to him in a pseudo-hug. "Any time at all."
"Netto-kun...." The twins shared a moment of silence, bright green eyes meeting deep brown. Despite their differences in looks, lifestyle and personality, Rockman still felt that he knew his brother so well that they didn't even have to speak the words they were both thinking. Netto laid one hand over his heart and closed his eyes, imagining the sound of their two hearts beating together, the sound of two voices speaking in unison. One brash, abrasive, quick to snap--the other soft and melodious.
Netto was the one to finally speak the words. "Welcome home, brother."
Shi-chan: Epilogue to follow, I hope...thanks again to Gaia!!!
*Rock has never actually called Netto 'otouto,' most people don't use the word like like that. It means 'little brother.' Rock always says 'Netto-kun' - he only used 'otoutochan' here to hint that he was back to himself. :)