Annihilation

Ambitions

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A trumpet fanfare rang through the hall as the great doors before Kingman opened, introducing him to his new home. The formerly proud warrior had been mostly numb and apathetic throughout the transfer process to this hidden server and the minor recompiling that accompanied his arrival. At this point he wasn't sure if his lack of energy was a side effect of the reprogramming that changed his original black and red color scheme to the white and purple of Queen Majesty or if he was just completely emotionally defeated by the events that led to his capture. Either way, he didn't care enough to figure it out.

Now he found himself teleported to this hallway with only the large doorway opening in front of him as the obvious choice of where to go. He felt no reason to ignore this cue, so he slowly hopped forward. He entered into an imposing throne room and command centre. Ornate white pillars lined the side and stretched upward, disappearing into darkness. The floor was black and white checkerboard pattern with a red carpet leading from the door to a staircase that climbed to the raised platform with twin thrones and an array of view-screens behind and flanking them, with views of multiple locations in the real and cyber worlds. Queen Majesty's chess piece minions lined the carpet and bowed one-by-one as Kingman approached. Queen stood atop the staircase grinning.

"What do you think of your kingdom?" The all-powerful woman asked, flourishing her arms outward to indicate everything around them. "This is where We will direct the new world once the common rule is abolished once and for all, and thanks to you that day will come very soon."

Kingman looked around the massive chamber and at the locations on the monitors. He still wasn't as enthusiastic as her about the prospect of ruling everything, but he was curious about the other things she was saying. "What do you mean 'thanks to me'? What are you going to have me do?"

"For now, you don't have to do anything. By joining Us, you have already done your part." Queen explained. "As you arrived, your operator took from you the data he needs to advance the master plan."

"My operator? My new operator you mean? Who is that, anyway?"

"Who else? Your true operator. The man who has always held the key to your destiny..."

Then a voice from the real world echoed through the throne room. "Welcome home Kingman. It's been too long."

Kingman recognized the voice instantly and scoffed in response. "Samuel. I knew you had to be behind this. Although I still fail to see why you would abandon me only to make a new navi based on me to retrieve me several months later. What is all this?"

Blackbelt chuckled. "In all honesty, back then I didn't think I needed you any more. I was content to leave you in Nijubu's hands while I built a new army. It turns out you had a special coordination program I couldn't replicate on my own though. So congratulations, I had a reason to take you back after all."

"My coordination program? That's what this was all about?" Kingman stood flabbergasted. "From what I've witnessed, your Queen can command multiple units as well as I ever could...better even!"

Queen giggled and draped her arms around her unresponsive counterpart. "Oh darling, you flatter Us, but do not sell yourself short. Your right to rule is pure. You possess true greatness. With your birthright, the operator's Vengeance can be realized!"

"Vengeance? What are you talking about? Just what do you need that program for anyway?" Kingman called out for more answers.

"You can explain it to him, Queen. I need to get back to work. Later, King."

Before he could hear any more protests, Blackbelt closed the window on his computer that linked to the throne room area. He had many other monitors lighting his otherwise darkened underground hideaway. Various screens fed him security camera footage from outside the entrance to his location, views of battle-torn areas of the Undernet, network data for the cyberworld areas of Rom city, the audio waveform display for an outside signal being monitored and recorded, in-progress code for a custom navi, and design specs for a circuitry-integrated bodysuit. Blackbelt cracked his knuckles as he walked from station to station, making sure everything was in order. The code finished compiling in one application without any errors, bringing a satisfied smirk to the criminal mastermind. Queen Majesty had been a good agent, as effective a leader as Kingman ever was, but as far as he was concerned, both their roles were at an end. If the next few steps in his plan were successful, he wouldn't need them at all any more.

The light on the wrist of a skeletal metallic glove on the desk went green, indicating that the required data update for it was complete and it was ready for another test. Blackbelt unplugged the glove from the computer, put it on, and moved his hand around in it while watching the test monitor. The object on screen moved perfectly according to his directions, the most successful test in weeks. He finally felt ready to complete the assembly and proceed with the operation.

The Officials would get just what they were looking for just as he destroyed them.

* * *

On the same server that served as Blackbelt's base of operations, but far removed from the palatial trappings of Queen Majesty's throne room, a lonely custom navi dutifully maintained his post in spite of the distant sounds of celebration filtered down from above. Dark, enclosed, and filled with a foul odor, the dungeon of the Queen's castle housed the navis that Blackbelt had yet to experiment on. Each prisoner was sealed in a security cube that lined the walls, stacked on top of each other, holding together despite the constant struggles of the programs locked inside. The threat of escape was minimal, but enough to warrant a guard, and Blackbelt had assigned the one navi in his possession that could at least contribute to the dungeon's dank atmosphere.

The poisonous djinn known as Mistman had fallen far since his glory days, and was understandably miserable about it. Once he contended for the top Rank of the Undernet, until a surface-dwelling navi came and made a mockery of the entire system by defeating everyone and abandoning the prize. Then he joined Fate with promises of revenge and glory, only to be consigned to an irresponsible human operator and eventually abandoned at a used PET store. He wouldn't have to ponder his future for long at that point, as that same store was burglarized by none other than Blackbelt, whom Mist was surprised to see performing such an act considering he was working on the side of law and order when last he met the man, then calling himself Sam Jeffries.

Blackbelt needed a large number of PETs for his project, but not necessarily the navis inside. He customized the lucky ones, making them into his servants. The rest were transferred into storage on the lower levels of his server, and Mistman appointed as their keeper.

Mistman wasn't sure why he was singled out like that. Blackbelt had recognized him as a brief former enemy and a brief former ally from his brief former life. Then as an act of pity or mockery or some conflicting mix of the two he freed Mist from the bounds of his PET only to have him endentured to such a menial task as watching the grim spectacle of the fate he narrowly avoided. Moreover, Blackbelt gave Mistman no indication of a future beyond this task, but there was every indication it would be temporary. When there was no longer any need for orphaned navi fodder or their watchman, what would Blackbelt do with them? Nothing good, as far as Mist could tell. The minor adjustment Blackbelt made to his programming prevented Mistman from breaking orders, but he could still think, and the monotony afforded him plenty of time to contemplate the possibilities of escape. Once free, he wasn't sure where he would go with every home he had ever known forever lost to him, but nothing could be worse than his current prison.

Mistman's lamp sat upon a pedestal in the corner of the room, from where he rarely moved except when he really needed to stretch and hop around. Most of his actual job was done by the purple mist that poured out of the lamp. The mist expanded his awareness across the dungeon, and allowed him to subdue any prisoner that came close to forcing its way out of a cube with a burst of suffocating gas. From down there he could barely hear the coronation ceremony in the upper levels and merely guess its actual meaning. Blackbelt's activities and the nature of the server were not for him to know. His interactions with the other navis like Executioner and Dragoon were brief, and they all looked down on him as they came down to the dungeon to deposit or remove prisoners. Mistman was indignant, but suffered in silence, concentrating only on the future possibility of freedom. Until then he would play his part without provoking his captors.

Just as he was getting comfortable ignoring the party upstairs, something unexpected happened to divert his attention. There was a slight change in air pressure in one corner of the room. It was like a door opening, except there was no door in that spot. Mistman lifted his smoke from the floor and diffused it evenly around the area, creating a haze that would be effectively invisible in the dark dungeon. If something was going to come through this unseen doorway, he would quietly observe it first.

As Mist had sensed, space was tearing open in the empty corner as some aggressive code wrote in a link from an outside source, breaking through the authentication barriers protecting the server. Much of the security in this particular sector happened to be dedicated to keeping the prisoners from breaking out. There were slightly less ironclad measures in place to keep someone from breaking in.

As soon as the link was complete, something came through and the doorway closed much faster than it opened. The figure of a navi kneeled silently in the darkness, rising slowly and carefully while taking stock of their surroundings. The individual thought their entrance went unnoticed, not realizing they were actually surrounded by a vaporous sentry.

"It's some kind of storage archive." The intruder whispered in a male voice, reporting to another not present. "I think I need to go to a higher level to get the data you need."

"You won't be going anywhere." Mistman spoke out clearly, finally breaking his silence to shift from observation to apprehension. His mist became more palpable as it swirled around the shocked intruder, aiming to render him unconscious.

The move only appeared to work for a second before the target disappeared, instantly reappearing several panels away, coughing. "Well, so much for stealth...so it's only fair if I can see you too!"

A blinding flash suddenly illuminates the dungeon, and the mist is briefly driven away as the lamp on the pedestal stands paralyzed by the electric pulse. The intruder summons a pair of flickering lightposts to bathe the room in a yellow glow, finally giving clarity to the situation.

"Well well, I wasn't expecting to find you here." Flashman said bemusedly to the familiar lamp as it recovered and spewed forth a new cloud of purple smoke.

"Likewise." Mistman responded as his body formed out of the vapor. "Is this some Acid Hackers operation? I'm surprised you're still around."

Flashman's shoulders sank and he let out a depressed sigh. "They're not. I've got a new operator now. Well, nothing personal, but I've got to delete you and steal some data from upstairs."

Flashman held out his hand to shoot a Neon Light orb at the Mistman's lamp, which the mist body intercepts and absorbs, avoiding any damage to the part of him that matters. "I can tell from your tone that you are serving a master against your will. That is something we have in common right now." Mist spoke with disappoitment as he formed another body closer to Flashman, hurling a punch.

The light navi parried the blow with his Spark Arm and teleported behind the genie, aiming for its source. "Great. If your heart's not in it, how about letting me pass?"

Another mist body materialized to grab Flashman before he could strike. "Unfortunately, my actions now are dictated by my new master's programming. As much as I would love to help you screw him over, I have to fight you instead."

"And I don't even want to be here!" Flashman laughed in spite of himself. "Well, let's just get on with this grim puppet show then."

The two enslaved navis continued to battle in the neglected prison. Despite their ideological reluctance, they were partly grateful just to experience some action after so much time stuck in such menial roles. Flashman, well aware of his opponent's weak point, constantly aimed for the lamp that hopped around the room attempting to confuse him while Mistman's control over his Majin forms countered Flash at every turn. All the while, their internal motivation was only a pale shadow of their external efforts.

"Doesn't that Jester work here? I was really hoping I could pay him back for getting me into this mess in the first place." Flashman grumbled.

"You would have to get through me before getting a crack at him. You have an operator, don't you?" Mistman asked, starting to get somewhat bored. "Why not use some chips? It's not like I have any at the moment."

"My operator apparently has more important things to do than help me out here. Hmph. Remember when the navi-operator relationship was something mutually agreeable?"

"I've spent most of my time as an autonavi, and I must say none of the humans I've had dealings with have been very agreeable."

"This must be extra hard for you then...then again..."

Another blinding flash permeated the area. This time, the light comes from the lightposts Flashman had placed earlier. Once again the mist all at once sinks away as the golden lamp is frozen with paralysis. Flashman wastes no time in catching up to the lamp and pumping it full of electricity with his Spark Arm.

"I'll give you a little credit here." Flashman chuckled. "I don't think you're stupid enough to ignore my bulbs, especially since you'd have an advantage when it's darker. Let's say that autonavi part of you mustered up enough free will to make you subconsciously throw the fight. If so, I envy you."

Before Mistman could respond, Flashman brought his boot down on the weakened lamp, shattering it and deleting his opposition.

"Or maybe you are that stupid. Either way, it's like we both won." Flashman finally turned his attention to the teleporter that led to the upper levels of the server. "Oh well. Back to work then..."

* * *

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