Starting an EXE Team
"Bwahh hah hah hah hah!! Deleete! Deleete! This is the EndGame! Now I will destroy the world!"
The giant green beast known as the Life Virus flailed wildly within the missile control system. The voice that echoed all around it belonged to Dr. Wily, who had given up what was left of his sanity in this final battle. The battle was against the small blue navi known as Megaman, the last thing standing between the mad doctor and his goals to hack into the world's military satellites and ruin society in violent chaos.
"It's no good! There aren't enough strong chips left to break through his aura!" Megaman's operator Lan was in the real world just a few feet away from Wily himself in the WWW's mountain base. He was sinking into despair and frustration as he stood so close to the real villain holding his PET, helpless to do anything but put his strength into his navi.
"We can do it Lan! With our bond as brothers, my Buster can get stronger! You have to fight with me!" Megaman himself positioned himself before the spiked monster and began charging his standard weapon.
"Y-yes...I'll give you all the strength I have. Fight Megaman! For everlasting peace!"
Megaman released an unusually powerful shot from his Buster. To Wily's shock, the impact dissolved the almighty Life Aura.
"W-what? No! My Life Virus!"
"Quick Megaman! With our last gun chips we might...wait, they're combining. It's the Program Advance again!"
Megaman's weapon grew into an enormous Powered Cannon. He took aim at the Life Virus.
"Huh, look at it."
"Megaman?" Lan was getting anxious. "What are you waiting for? We can finish it!"
"It's just standing there, charging its energy. It didn't even flinch when we destroyed its Aura. It doesn't even realize it's about to be deleted."
"It's a virus, Megaman. Bust it!"
"Right! Pure Cannoooon!"
One flash of light and a devastating explosion later, it was all over.
The next day, it was all beginning.
* * *
In the outer reaches of the Electopian Internet, a lone small blue navi was exploring a twisting, endless walkway. Not the small blue navi that just saved the world the previous day, but the small blue and green normal navi called TRC.
"Phil, the gate up ahead just closed again. Looks like we're still too slow to make it forward."
"Man, this bites. I just know the WWW's server is somewhere past this area. I bet that place is already looted dry by now." The blue-haired young man that operated the navi sat back comfortably in front of the computer in his brother's basement as he operated his PET. While most citizens celebrated the fall of the infamous netcrime organization, Phil DeStefano was one of the people who only thought of salvaging what was left of it.
"Well, if we're lucky, every other potential looter will be held back by these barriers as well."
As TRC spoke these exhausted words, a blue streak zoomed past him and headed straight for the glowing purple gateway that linked to the next sector of the Net.
"You may pass, oh master of Dexterity" a voice from the gateway spoke as it opened for the small blue navi. This WAS the same small blue navi that saved the world the previous day.
"Alright Lan, passed this test easily. Let's see what's next!" Megaman enthusiastically dashed through the portal. TRC tried to follow but the gate slammed shut in his face.
"Dammit! How could this get any worse?" In order to answer TRC's question, the data floating around the net began to twist and twirl as it started to converge and coalesce.
"Heads up TRC, we have trouble."
"Um, no...not that worse."
"It's a g-g-g-g-g-ghost!"
The data that drifts freely in the net often includes the memory of deleted navis that have met their defeat at the hands of particularly powerful foes. The navi ghost that formed before TRC was an ominous blue robed navi with a pointy hat, red orbs for hands, and a long, sharp face.
"This is the weirdest navi I've ever seen. Somebody must have deleted him with an Ugly Stick." TRC muttered while he slowly backed away from the soulless husk.
Phil did some readings with his PET and came to a pleasing discovery. "The timestamp on this guy is dated yesterday. I think he's one of the WWW navis that got wasted. This could be the kind of thing I was looking for."
"Are you nuts? What could we possibly do with a ghost navi? If I can defeat him, you can probably gather his data onto a navi chip, but that won't be too valuable."
"No, but a real live captured ghost could fetch a pretty zenny. I think it's time to try this high-capacity downloader." Phil patted a clunky piece of machinery that was hooked up to his PC. It looked like a large ripped-off car stereo, and appropriately so. He had stolen the machine himself from a van transporting it from the DenCity SciLab, of course his real intent was stealing the van, but the gadgets inside came as a bonus. Phil was also one of the people that thought very little of society's laws or decency towards his fellow man. To define him simply, he was a criminal, a net-criminal at that.
"Gyaahhh! It burns in a way I didn't know burns could burn!" TRC screamed incoherently as he was trapped in a stream of blue flame coming from the orbs on the robed navi's hands. Phil was too busy trying to route the downloader to his PET to properly operate his navi in this critical battle.
"Oh tough it up you wuss...oh wait, you're about to be deleted! Ahh! Hold on! Uh-er-uh-Download! Recover80!" Phil punched the keys on his PET in panic as he realized just how strong the ghost was. On top of the Magic Fire attack, the ghost was summoning viruses to aid itself. The whole time the ghost itself was silent and looked vacant and mindless.
"Nooo! It's no goood!" TRC shouted as a golden circle appeared beneath his feet following the last Magic Fire attack. The special effect of the attack was deleting the navi instantly. Since TRC was so far out in the Net, his data would not be able to completely return to his PET. Unless...
"The downloader! It's my only hope!" Phil fought desperately to activate the experimental software he had just installed. He targeted the spot where TRC was exploding and initiated the data transfer to forcefully bring what was left of his navi back to his PET. The PET and his computer both let out a high-pitched hum as they struggled to collect the data. A bright light filled the PET screen, causing the human to shield his eyes. A few moments later the humming had ceased and Phil opened his eyes.
He first looked at his computer screen. The sector of the net they had been exploring was still visible through the connection, but TRC was gone, as was the robed navi and its viruses, the ground where they were fighting was charred black. Phil then slowly turned to his PET. It had rebooted and was at its start-up screen. Phil swallowed nervously as he opened the navi folder. Its contents were full. He breathed a sigh of relief...until he saw the navi file that was saved in the folder.
Phil started the unfamiliar program and was greeted by the robed navi he thought he escaped from. "Phil? Man, my head. I feel awful. Glad we got out of it okay." the mysterious navi spoke familiarly in an unfamiliar voice.
"Holy crap...TRC? Wait a minute." Phil pulled up a log file of the download that just took place. "Looks like when I tried to pull you back I pulled back the ghost too. All your body data was lost in the deletion leaving only your mind. Since the ghost didn't have a mind, guess how those two pieces went together."
TRC finally noticed his new form. "I...can barely see past my nose! Or is this a chin?...a mask?...a beard?"
"Uh oh, those viruses too. Looks like they got torn up more though, I'm only reading trace amounts of viral energy in your system. How do you feel?"
"I feel itchy, but I can't scratch with these goddamn hands! Agghh!"
"Uh...I think you're fine...for now. I have no idea what being slightly viral will do to you, but right now I think you're more worried about the new body."
"Hands! I need real hands!"
"Yeah, just a minute." Phil calmed down as he got up from his chair to digest what had just happened. "Magicman.exe eh? He deleted TRC fast enough. I wonder how many powerful ghosts of WWW navis are still drifting through the net? Just waiting for the minds of junk navis of guys like me who can't afford real navis like that?" He patted the stolen downloader again, more affectionately this time. "World, say hello to Phil's-Get-Rich-Quick-Scheme No.57!"
* * *
Elsewhere, in a dimly lit apartment in DenCity's Kotobuki district, an old man covered in bandages was sitting up in his bed, typing furiously away on a laptop. The steady tapping of keys was the only sound that filled the silence in this room, until it was joined by the sound of heavy footsteps getting gradually closer. The door to the small room opened and in walked an unusually large, burly man carrying a tray with food and medicine. He stared at the bed-ridden patient through the artificial eyes of his half-metallic skull for a moment; the old man had not looked up from his work once.
"Master, you should be resting. I can handle the arrangements myself" the bear-like cyborg droned in a deep, indifferent, almost monotonous voice.
The old man responded first with a cough, and then an agitated, raspy muttering. "Not while you're busy playing doctor, obviously. Besides, it takes much more than an exploding fortress to keep Dr.Wily down!" Wily was hard at work designing new systems for the use of his navis and operatives, what was left of them anyway. "Have you gathered my minions yet, Docman?"
"There was no trace of the Professor, it seems he's gone into hiding. He may even believe you're actually dead. Yahoot, Iroaya, and Zap all expressed a genuine loss of confidence in the organization. They have no interest in returning to your side. Match was slightly more faithful, although he said he wouldn't return until there was a solid plan to work with. That just leaves the reserves in Netopia. We have a temporary base we can transfer to just as soon as that Scuzzy kid gets over here with the private jet."
"What about the navis?"
"None at the moment except for the navis of the reserve operatives. I've recovered the data of Bombman and Stoneman, and I can begin repairing them today. Your specs for Bubbleman and Drillman are ready and we can begin synthesizing them as soon as we get the proper facilities. I managed to rig up another Pharaohman copy as well."
"Excellent, give Pharaohman to me. He can guard the Undernet base I'm having Planetman and Napalmman set up. At this rate we should be ready to start rebuilding fully by the time we get to Netopia."
Docman set the tray of his master's medical care beside the bed and pulled some discs out of his lab coat. Wily took the discs and examined them. He noticed an additional disc besides the one carrying Pharaohman's data. "That would be what's left..." Docman began ominously.
"What's left? Left of what? It's not like you to trail off."
"Sorry boss, that's what's left...from your fortress. I know you didn't order me to go back there, but I managed to salvage just enough from the wreckage. There are...fragments of the Life Virus contained in that disc."
Wily was irritated at his servant for wasting his time, but couldn't help but wonder what became of the Virus he struggled so hard to create. He popped the disc into his laptop without hesitation and examined its contents. All there was inside were a few shattered and cracked fragments of the Life Virus' armour. All the energy that the Life Virus contained was gone, all evidence of the existence of the four elemental super-programs used to create it was gone, all evidence of life was also gone.
"This...is useless to me!" In a burst of rage Wily picked up the glass of water on the tray and hurled it at Docman's head. Docman didn't even flinch as the glass shattered on the metallic section of his cranium. Wily began coughing in over-exertion as he slumped back in his bed. "Get...get out! G-go make yourself useful for once. Stop wasting the WWW's time!"
Docman obediently turned and exited the room. The sound of his heavy footsteps became gradually quieter as Wily sat back in his bed to catch his breath. He stared at the screen on his laptop. The jagged green fragments hovered there, mocking what he spent years fighting to accomplish. He did not want it to end so easily. Then he got an idea of mad scientist proportions.
"These fragments. They may not carry the power or the essence of the Life Virus, but they still carry its...design! Hmm, it would take years to synthesize a new Life Virus from scratch, but using these pieces I can create a mock-up in its image! I could simulate the power by merging data from elemental viruses and battlechips. Of course after all that, it would still just be a lifeless shell...unless...hmm...could that work? A virus with the mind programming of a navi? Well, why not? A virus of that size would certainly have the memory space. Of course, with all the work this would require, I could easily make a brand new navi one not so experimental and hazardous..."
As Wily considered his options, he thought back to the previous day, how thrilled and exhilarated he had been right up until the point his precious Life Virus was destroyed, and he knew what he had to do. "It's time to begin an all new Life for the WWW."
* * *
One week later, society had pretty much returned to normal. The WWW was already nearly forgotten. The networks affected by the crisis were back up and running, and most people had gone back to their normal lives. But for net-criminals everywhere, their own normal lives were going through great upheaval. At the house of Phil and Wave DeStefano in Geo City Netopia, much upheaval was taking place.
"Luke! That's not a spittoon! That's a family heirloom vase! Dominic! For the last time, there's no porn in my bookshelves! You have to go to the bookshelves downstairs! Lee, Gary, please leave my brother's hamster alone. Trent, Banzai, please leave my brother alone." Phil was wandering the living room of his brother's house trying to ease the chaos he created when he invited fifteen of his old acquaintances from past schemes and forgot to tell them it wasn't a party. Phil may have been designing schemes for years, but he still wasn't very organized about it.
Kamui, a young man wearing a cloak, sunglasses, and messy brown hair approached the frustrated host and tapped his shoulder. "Hey man, Ryan and I were wondering when the food was getting here."
"For the last time Kamui, this is NOT a party. I have business to discuss with you guys."
"Oh" Kamui raised his voice to talk to make the announcement to the other guys. "It's not a party guys, let's get out of here."
The room suddenly went silent, and everyone started to pile out until Phil stopped them. "Wait! Business! We still gotta talk business!"
"You just want to sell us those navis you've been collecting from DenCity, don't you?" the mysterious, red-haired, trench coated man known as Gauntlet commented before he was out the door.
"No, no, you guys don't have to buy anything...wait, how did you know about the navis I was collecting?"
"Now THAT is a secret."
"Er...anyway...the G-man already spoiled the surprise, but let's all go downstairs for the unveiling anyway."
The boys shrugged and followed their old cohort to the basement. The spiky dark-haired pervert called Dominic was already there, looking for the smut he was promised. Hew had apparently looked underneath the veil Phil wanted to unveil, because it was sitting in a pile on the floor next to a table with fifteen PETs neatly laid out on top of it.
"Well, Dom already spoiled the unveiling, but I guess I can still tell you what it's all about." Phil groaned as he took a seat in his computer chair.
"Huh? Those PETs are for us? I thought it was funny you had so many of them. I figured you just robbed an electronics store." Dominic said as he ceased his search to pay attention to the 'business' they had gathered for.
Phil cleared his throat and began explaining. "As you're already aware, I got myself quite an upgrade for my navi. With Magicman I was able to easily scour the WWW network for whatever swag was left to pick up. The profits were minimal, but the real prize was all the WWW ghosts that were still haunting the area. Colourman, Fireman, Bombman, Elecman, Stoneman. I found these first five all in the same day. Those ghosts were no match for Magicman. I was able to weaken them, infect them, and then download them onto these PETs."
"Infect them'?" interrupted Lee, a skinny blue-haired boy. "How did you do that with a navi?"
"I'm not so sure. His special attack Magic Fire can alter a weakened opponent's programming a bit when the Magic Circle appears beneath the target. This is weird because I thought the Fire's ability was to instantly delete the target that way. I guess it has something to do with the viruses that got mixed in with its programming. I was curious enough about the effects of this 'Viral Navi' thing that I added the same effect to each of the navis I collected."
"You probably shouldn't have done that, what if something goes horribly wrong with those things because you messed them up without much testing?" a bald man in snappy clothing calling himself Mixmasta Banzai inquired.
"That's a good point, THAT'S why I need smart guys like you to think this stuff out for me. I guess I should get right down to the point. I originally planned to sell these ghosts, but then I figured the WWW nearly made it work as a big-time organization with these exact same navis, so why can't I give it a shot? That's why I want to form a team with you guys, and we're going to use these navi bodies to show the net what real power means!"
Trent, a muscular Oceopian guy was the next to ask a question. "You mentioned how you got five of them. What about the other ten?"
"Oh yeah, I was getting to that, but you guys kept interrupting me. I found the ghosts of Pharaohman, Shadowman, and Bass deeper in the net, it didn't seem like they had anything to do with the WWW since their dates were from the day after the organization fell. Magicman thinks it was the work of the fast little blue navi that dashed past him that day, not that I care. Anyway, that leaves Skullman, Protoman, Woodman, Gutsman, Sharkman, Iceman, and Numberman. There were no good ghosts left in the area, but I managed to find these guys wandering the net in the last few days. I weakened them in battle like I did the ghosts, but since they were whole navis, I couldn't properly download them. Instead I managed to alter the process just enough to make ghost copies instead. So I'd ambush the poor saps, beat-em up a little, then make off with their image, they never saw it coming. It got pretty complicated though, and I didn't really have the energy to get any more than fifteen. Although fifteen was plenty in my opinion."
"Alright, I've heard enough. Just hand over the Eskimo already." demanded Gary obnoxiously. He was a lanky guy with glasses who had a certain affinity for Ice, so he knew which navi he wanted right away.
Phil was a little surprised. "Hey, alright! You're actually going along with this? Well great, here's your Iceman!" Phil picked up the light blue PET from the table and tossed it to the volunteer.
"I was thinking of Skullman..." Dominic mentioned as he examined the PETs on the table. "But he looks too anorexic for me. I'll take Fireman."
"Anorexic? Pfft, no accounting for taste." said Ryan, a black-haired young man dressed in dull clothes. "I think Skully there looks pretty badass. I'll take him."
"Gotta go with the clown!" exclaimed Lee, the famous trickster.
"A Shark? Now that's power. He's mine." declared Trent.
"What's wrong with Shadowman here? He's completely lifeless." said Gauntlet, who had picked up his PET a long time ago without anybody noticing.
"How did you-?" started Phil, "Never mind. You should all know these are still basically just navi ghosts, although with some viral modifications. You'll have to supply the personalities yourselves. Last I checked you all had crappy cheap models like I did, it wouldn't take much work to transfer their minds into these bodies."
Within moments, all the PETs were taken, all the guests had signed up for the team. There was still the matter of really getting organized though. Phil gathered the attention of his guests once more; they pretended to pay attention while they transferred the data from their existing PETs onto their new ones.
"Alright people, the first thing to do is get ourselves a real base of operations. My bro's house isn't big enough for all of us, and I think Wave's wanted me to stop mooching off his loan for months now. There's a nice abandoned warehouse on the other side of town that will suffice until we loot us up enough cash to buy a mansion."
"Is that the same warehouse you pulled your spam e-mail scheme from?" asked Mike, Woodman's new operator.
"Uh, yeah. Lucky for us the officials still haven't found it yet. Hopefully we'll only be in there for a couple weeks anyway."
"So what are we going to do exactly? Any plans?" asked Alan, Gutsman's new operator.
"As a matter of fact...no. I didn't even know all of you would go along with the idea. I say we meet at the warehouse tomorrow after lunch to hammer out the details. That should give you guys enough time to fix up your new navis. I'll send you an e-mail about the exact time and place."
"So that's it? We're done here for the night?" asked Stoneman's operator Luke.
"Well, the mess upstairs still needs cleaning up, so if anyone wants to stay and help..." Phil stopped talking because the basement was suddenly empty.
The sound of crickets chirping was broken by the echoing voice of Magicman. "So, there all lowlife scum like us right? How do you know they're not going to just take the navis and you'll never see them again?"
Phil just blinked for moment then shouted at his PET screen. "How come you didn't bring up that possibility before I invited them here?!"
* * *
He remembered. For the first time he felt aware of time beyond the present. As he felt the capacity of his mind explode, his newfound memories flashed back to his creation. The sudden burst of energy from the fusion of the four Super-Programs. The constant feeling of vehement rage and the urge to destroy and infect anything and everything. The memories of the battles fought with the small navis that invaded his space. How the first navi managed to steal half his Aura before running away, and how the second navi made a mockery of his true power due to the weakened Aura. Then nothingness. How he never realized what was happening the whole time, and the emotions of disappointment, hatred, and shame, which he only now associated with those past events. It was his second awakening. He felt so much weaker than before, and yet so much more aware of the world around him. He was in on a small platform floating in an endless void. Strange devices hovered around him, feeding him energy and data. He took it all in and yet still felt lost in confusion. He did not know how to resolve his new feelings he did not even know how to make sense of them. He only did what his new instincts urged him to do, he attempted to communicate.
"What is going on?" He was shocked to hear his own voice. It was the first time he ever spoke. It also surprised him that he knew these words, and that he knew how to speak them. He uttered that one sentence without thinking of it; it was as if one of his thoughts was automatically converted into a form of audible output. As his mind continued to expand, he became more aware of his situation.
"Ah, you can talk now. I suppose the procedure is working." A different voice was heard from nowhere in particular. This voice surprised him less than his own voice did, for he was beginning to understand his situation more and more. He even recognized this voice from his memories.
"You are...Lord Wily. You are my creator. What are you doing to me?"
"Eh? How did you know that? I haven't given you specific identity programming yet." The voice of his creator sounded slightly unnerved. He was able to recognize the intricacy of speech patterns already. He also realized the devices surrounding him were feeding him basic AI programming. Every passing second he had new, revolutionary knowledge filling his electronic brain.
"I know you because I remember you. You created me to hack into the Military Satellites. I was deleted by Megaman. I am the Life Virus."
"Fascinating...your memories must have been stored in your remains. It must be because Viruses do not have mental programming separate from their body programming. Even though all that was left of you were armour shards, they still contained parts of your mind. Now those memories have merged with your new navi brain."
"A...navi brain?" The Life Virus used his new concepts of logic and deduction to realize the rest of the story. "I was deleted, you tried to revive me, and you gave me navi parts to complete me. You still need my services. Yes, my Lord I will do anything to serve you in reviving the WWW."
"Eh? You're sucking up even though I haven't given you the mindless loyalty programming yet. This experiment is coming up with some bizarre results."
"I do not need to be programmed for mindless loyalty. My new navi-like emotion of 'gratitude' for saving my life is all I need. I will follow you to the end of the earth."
"Oh? Bwahhahhah! Excellent! It just so happens that's what you'll be doing! Operation "Endgame" may have failed, but Operation "Cybergeddon" will bring an end to Net Society once and for all!"
"My Lord, you actually want to ruin the world?"
"Of course! My nemesis Hikari made the world as it is. I want nothing more than to see this world destroyed!"
The Life Virus could feel the navi programming inside him was complete. He had made up his mind. He felt loyal to his creator and faithful in his beliefs.
But even navis can change their minds. The Life Virus' rebirth was only just beginning.
* * *