Annihilation

When in Rom

One o' clock in the afternoon found the streets of Rom particularly busy, which was not all that unusual. Very few people in the Netopian town worked on Sundays, with the exception of the various minimum-wage slaves who were expected to serve smoothies to the doctors and lawyers. Most people were just getting out of some religious service or other, spending time with their friends and family, lazing about and doing whatever suited them at the time, or some combination of the three scenarios by that hour. One girl in particular, a rather plainly dressed Asian with lavender hair, was walking through the populace with a general ease about her. To most people in Netopia, the sidewalks would appear rather crowded, and a fair majority of the population would rather just stay inside and wait out the masses. However, the young adult found it almost insane how spacious the crowd was, an attribute that could only be blamed on her former residence of Electopia. Finally managing to maneuver her way into the apartment building, the foreigner pulled her PeT from her bag strap while beginning to ascend the stairs.

"I don't think I'll ever get used to how spacious it is here," the Asian chuckled to the PeT's occupant, a small, red-haired girl clad in purple and blue snow clothes. The digital Eskimo girl grinned back at her.

"You mean you've been here six months, and you still can't get over that, Hoshiko-chan?" The Navi teased, causing the NetOp's free hand to go to her neck, rubbing gently in embarrassment.

"It's just so weird here... kinda like hearing you use my real name," she trailed, a slight blush spreading across her cheeks. A giggle emitted from the device as the lavender-haired girl paused in front of her door. Quickly, she withdrew the key and was soon inside the sanctuary of her apartment. Tossing her bag onto the recliner, the Asian flopped down onto her couch quickly, with a groan.

"I still can't believe it's been half-a-year now..." She yawned, stretching slightly.

"I know what'cha mean... I can still remember our last week in Electopia!" The Eskimo paused as she brought a gloved hand to her lips and made a quizzical expression. Her NetOp smiled weakly, tilting her head back in thought.

"Yeah... me too."

---

Elec Town was one of those cities that always had something going on. Whether it was a concert, a battle tournament, a meteor about to crash into the Earth, a new fashion line showing, or some other form of chaos, there was always something to do, see, hear, taste, or touch. As a result, crowds were constantly descending upon the city at all times of day, sometimes filling the sidewalks to the point where people were forced to walk in the middle of the car-less streets. It was a place that, if one wanted to blend in, they had no trouble in doing so, and if they wanted to maneuver through the throngs of people quickly, they had their work cut out for them. Unfortunately for one purple-haired teen, her attempts to blend in had failed, and now she had to run. As the girl began the process of slipping between people, and occasionally knocking over someone or kicking a small child she hadn't noticed, she could hear someone shout at her to 'stop right there', and that they were the Officials, and she was under arrest. Luckily for her, the people of Electopia had a habit of not getting involved unless it directly affected them, and thusly no one was trying to grab her.

Hoshiko ducked inside the bathroom of one of Elec Town's plentiful department stores, hoping like all hell that no one had made note of her. The ex-member of the World Three listened for a bit and, upon realizing no one else was occupying the place, proceeded to lean against the door and sink to the ground with a groan. She stayed silent for the time being, instead inspecting her various injuries while panting heavily. The knees of her jeans were ripped open, and the unprotected skin was scraped and bleeding from when she had started crawling between people's legs in hopes of moving faster. Her left forearm was in a similar state, from when she had been pushed into the side of a building by the masses. A few bruises were forming here and there from bumping into people, cars, bicycles, and whatever else she'd smacked into in her frenzied escape from the Officials. Her PeT's screen was cracked slightly, a thin, diagonal scar across the screen, and she made a mental note to introduce her fist to the jaw of whoever groped her.

"Ne, Hosh-- Kurisu-san, are you alright?" A small, friendly voice chimed from the teen's PeT, the Navi contained within looking worried.

"Barely," the Operator wheezed in response. She coughed a few times before starting to take deeper breaths, hoping to regulate her breathing and heart rate once more.

"What was that all about, anyway?" Had the question come from anyone else in the known universe, Hoshiko would have smacked them. Instead, she just chuckled weakly.

"They recognized me," she whispered, causing the Navi to frown worriedly.

"Saa... that's no good, Kurisu-san. You keep getting recognized as you are..." the navi trails, obviously mulling over the situation. The teen smiled in response.

"What would you have me do, then, turn myself in?" The question sent a shiver through her spine. With all the horrors the World Three had caused, she didn't want to know what fate the Net Officials had in store for her.

"You could change your appearance!" The tiny Eskimo's exclamation drew Hoshiko from her reverie. Blinking a few times in confusion, she glanced down at the PeT once more.

"...Say that again, IceChan?" The red-haired Navi grinned.

"Change your appearance! Cut and dye your hair, start wearing different clothes... yanno, don't make it as easy to recognize you!" Sometimes, just sometimes, Hoshiko found herself amazed at how IceChan could think of obvious things, when they never crossed her mind. A laugh emitted from her throat as she stood up quickly, although still leaning against the door.

"That's a good idea! But won't they still recognize my face...?" The realization crashed upon her like a tsunami. Damn, maybe the plan wasn't as sound as she'd hoped.

"Leave the country for a bit! They'll forget your face, and we could use a vacation anyway," the Navi winked, drawing a smirk from her Operator. The sound of someone knocking behind her reminded the purple-haired girl that she was still in a public restroom.

"You've got this all figured out, huh?" A nod from IceChan was her answer. "Alright then, let's get out of here, and you can help me change my look," Hoshiko affirmed, glancing around. Spotting a small window on the opposing wall, she grinned widely.

A week later found the local airport to be severely lacking in crowds. The middle of summer was never a good time for travel, as most people who wanted to be in Electopia were already there, and those who'd wanted to leave had already left. Among the sparse few travelers in that day was a rather plain dressed girl, sitting in one of the many uncomfortable chairs.

She sat hunched over slightly to hide her face within the depths of a book, lavender hair falling to make a further protective curtain. A voice over the intercom finally chimed in that the flight to Rom, Netopia was boarding, and the strange girl stood, marking her spot in the book quickly. Moving towards the terminal, she grabbed her PeT off the strap of the bag on her shoulders, and grinned widely at the small, purple-clad occupant.

"Ready to see Netopia, IceChan?"

The digital Eskimo giggled. "Ready as I'll ever be, Kuri--" she stopped mid-word to correct herself, "...Hoshiko."

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