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Chapter 22: Separation Anxiety
Chapter 22: Separation Anxiety
Woo-hoo! Link thought as he zipped through the darkened tunnel at breakneck speeds. His arms were clasped to his sides as he zoomed through the waterway like a bullet. Bubbles streamed past him.
Mega Man followed suit behind, flailing his arms, trying to correct his balance and poise so he would stop hitting the sides of the tunnel. The water velocity wasn't made for someone of his mass and density, so he kept bouncing off the bottom of the tunnel. He had tried rolling himself into a ball, but that didn't work so well. Now he was trying to arrange it so he could bounce off the floor with his feet, but not so much he would hit the ceiling. Keeping his yaw straight was the tricky part.
Link saw light coming towards him, the tunnel curving upwards towards it. He burst out of the vortex with a great splash and treaded away from it so Mega Man would have room to emerge. A clump of dirt rolled down the steep sides of the pond.
The blue robot jumped up out of the current... and then sank back down. Trying again to avoid the undertow he set power to his legs and erupted out of the water. He soared into the air, at least three feet above the pond and landed with a splash far away from the vortex.
Again finding himself on the sandy bottom of the pond, he looked up and saw Link's feet swishing back and forth keeping him afloat. Figuring he could cling onto the wall to prevent from sinking, he jumped so he would rise out and grab the sheer side of the pond. However, once he was out, he saw the wall was slippery with mud. Link watched him grab the side and begin slipping off, scrambling his arms, clawing at the rock to stay up, until he thought of the idea to punch his arm though the mud, creating a sort of hook for himself. It worked, Mega Man stayed waist high in the water, secured by his shoulder deep arm in the vertical shore of the pond.
"Well, that was fun," Link said.
Mega Man suppressed any comments he wanted to make about the roller coaster tunnel. "Now how are we gonna get out of here? The walls are too steep to climb."
"Observe." Link pulled out a device from his bag. It was a hollow cylindrical device with a spearhead on one end. "The hookshot." The hero put the hollow end onto his arm and pointed it up at a tree branch close to the pond. The spearhead shot off with a pressurized burst, a long chain attached to it. The spear embedded in the branch and Link flew away, the chain retracting into the device and pulling him along with it. He made it to the spearpoint and jumped down harmlessly onto solid ground.
"Pretty neat, huh?" he asked as he stood over the edge of the pool. He tossed the hookshot down to him and the robot grabbed it in mid-air. "Just put it over your hand. You should feel something like a handle for you to grip onto. And then just aim and pull the trigger."
Mega Man maneuvered his fingers around the cannon so he could slip the device on without releasing his grip on the wall. His arm barely fit into the hole, the metal armor scraped against the metal of the tool. His hand met the handle and he gripped onto it, feeling with his index finger for a trigger. He found it and outstretched his arm to the same tree branch Link had hit. He pulled the trigger and the grappling chain shot out just as it did before. Mega Man thought the device had to work on a spring-pressurized mechanism that gave a tremendous amount of torque and energy. Quite an amazing device really. The hookshot rooted into the wood and sat there. Mega Man waited for the apparatus to start reeling him in.
"You have to let go of the trigger," Link called out.
/Well, he didn't say that, /Mega Man thought, using his precise thought-process of line-by-line instructions. He pulled his muddy arm out from the wall and jumped off.
And sank into the water. The chain spun out more slack to compensate for the user's weight as he sank down again to the bottom. Mega Man thought about how much he was really beginning to hate water as bubbles floated up past his eyes. Still holding onto the hookshot he tried jumping up to lessen the drag on the line. The chain slowly started taking up slack as the pull of the line propelled him close to the wall. Mega Man stuck out his feet and stood on the muddy terrain. Jumping again, he let the hookshot pull him in a little bit more. Now he was doing a sort of reverse-repelling, letting the chain reel him in like a fish. At the surface of the water, Mega Man did a power jump and broke the surface of the water. Climbing up the chain with his free hand as far as he could in the short amount of time it took for the line to swing back over the pond and towards the wall again, he just made it to dry land. Mega Man yanked the spear down from the tree to loosen it and it spun up back into the hookshot.
"Easy as pie," he said, with a slight tone of sarcasm as he handed the hookshot back to Link.
"You must weigh too much," Link said as he replaced his item.
"Come on, let's go." Link gestured to Mega Man and the two began walking into the nearby forest. The shadowy canopy of the trees obscured the light of day. Small woodland creatures skittered back and forth.
"This is about where I found you," Link said.
Mega Man realized this was true. In a moment of wishful thinking he opened up a comm-link to Roll. Perhaps some cosmic scientific force had allowed a glimmer of the portal to be open for transmission waves. All he received was a communication error. Nonetheless, it was worth a try. As he looked around with his sub-sensors, he couldn't even detect a trace of the portal. Only the bio-rhythms of the trees and animals registered on his scanners. Another ray of hope shot down.
"If I was a moblin base, I would probably be underground," Link muttered. "Some of these tree stumps are hollowed out hiding places, left over from thieves. There's got to be one around here."
"Makes sense," Mega Man said.
"Wait, stop. Do you hear that?" Link said.
Mega Man attuned his aural sensors and picked up repeated noise. He ran through his databanks and tried to match the sound to any similar noises.
"Sounds like... fluttering wings. Thirty feet behind us... and closing," he said.
"Wings... from crows!" he exclaimed as he looked behind and pointed up.
A great flock of monstrously big crows soared out of the tree branches, heading in a scarily organized formation down towards the two. Their sharp talons and beaks flexed in preparation.
"Run!" Link commanded. No way could he fight all those crows. Mega Man followed behind him. He twisted back with his arm cannon and fired backwards into the flock. Most of his plasma shots flew in-between the speedy birds. One hit a blackbird who vaporized in an outline of light.
They continued running between the trees, blocked off by a grove too thick to jump into. The birds began closing in. Mega Man kept turning back and firing his Mega Buster at the birds, trying to thin their numbers down more.
As he turned back, his next step met with nothing but air and he fell forward into a dark pit. "Whoa-" he exclaimed as he went over the ledge, wishing he had watched where he was going. He tried to grip onto the ground, but the dry earth crumbled in his fingers.
"Liiiiink!" he yelled out as he tumbled down into the pit.
Roll pulled off a sheet metal panel that had been leaning on the wall next to the horizontal capsule. Finally, she found Rush. He had been where she thought. Safe and sound in his maintenance pod. It was his programmed destination when he had lost Mega Man and could not fulfill his orders. Rush stood on all four paws with his eyes closed, locked in standby mode. The capsule was inactive, meaning Rush was essentially just sitting there. Typing into the console attached to the capsule, she overrode the lock and unplugged him from the system. The screen displayed several status-checking lines and gave the OK. The capsule's green tinted hood slid back with a hiss of pneumatic steam. Rush blinked his eyes open and looked around. Finding Roll, he began panting happily.
"Hiya, Rush. Why don't you get out of there?"
Rush stepped out of his capsule and onto the floor, his metal claws clicking on the floor.
"Come on boy," Roll said. "Come on over here." Roll waved her hand to him, looking behind. Rush traipsed along the floor behind her. "We're gonna hook you up to a data log. Won't that be fun, boy?"
"Woof!" Rush barked, knowing a question was asked, but not being able to comprehend its meaning. It was not in his command list so he responded with his default comeback.
Roll typed some commands into a different computer in the room. The screen displayed a smooth GUI interface. She took a cord lying on the panel and hooked one end into the console's input panel. She bent down to Rush and started petting him. "Good boy. This won't hurt a bit."
Her petting was actually pulling back the access panel on his head, covered by an arc of armor acting as something of a helmet. Only Mega Man was capable of interacting with Rush, her interface was not compatible, so this was the only way to access his internal systems. Various ports were wired into this flat section of his CPU. She jacked the cord into one of them and turned back to the video screen. Rush blissfully sat there, either uncaring or unknowing of what was going on.
Roll fired up the program and began downloading Rush's data logs into the central database. At first glance, there was nothing indicative in them. She opted to playback the video recording section.
The main video screen up above the console lit up as video feed began streaming in. The viewpoint was from Rush's eyes, so everything was very close to the ground. She fast-forwarded to the point where Wily made the attack and her and Rock separated. Rush followed Mega Man's battle with Wily's armored tank and the subsequent robot masters. She followed along with the data command log time indices as the action on the screen continued. Rush transformed into jet mode and began zooming around the room for a while, as Mega Man fought the robot masters. Apparently they had some sort of shielding preventing Mega Man's shots from getting through. Then the view shifted around to sailing down a hallway. Mega Man shut the emergency door on Elec Man, and absorbed his power. That had to be the broken robot arm she found in the transporter room.
Mega Man told Rush to leave him at this point. Rush teleported away and landed in another room in the laboratory, one far away from Mega Man. He sat there on the floor, waiting for a call command, but it never came. According to the log, he lost connection to Mega Man shortly afterward. Attempts to reconnect were met with failure, so Rush began walking towards his capsule. Once inside, the automated system came to life, attaching its recharge wires through the floor and the pale-green lid coming down over Rush's eyes.
Once again, a clue to the mystery of Mega Man's disappearance led nowhere. He could have been captured, destroyed, or used the portal. She grimaced in anger at having another dead end and the incapability to look for her brother. She was starting to feel very helpless, coupled with the irony that she was now so much more powerful than she had been.
However, the next step was to find out the significance of Dr. Selkirk's vase. Since she had already scoured the photo archives of Dr. Light and what Dr. Cossack had sent her, she had plenty of material to work with. She brought up the hi-res image she had scanned into the file system earlier, the same one she had sent to Dr. Cossack, and looked at it in the large-screen monitor. Fortunately, with all these materials, she would be able to extrapolate a full 3-D image of the vase.
She zoomed into the section of the image with the vase and sharpened it to unfettered clarity. She told the computer to extract all elements but the vase out of the pictures. Then using all she knew about graphical enhancement, she used the tools of the program to judge based on height, width, light density, shadows, resolution errors, proofing, refraction, and depth perception, along with several lens constitutes to try and resolve a clear, full picture of the vase. The system began processing the data entered, displaying a status bar as it calculated along. Hopefully, this would yield a full picture of the vase, based on the obscure image in the background. The computer finished and showed several cross section images of the sides, top and bottom of the vase. Roll inspected it and was pleased with the results. Inputting a few more commands, she used the modeling algorithm to construct a fully 3-D model of the vase she could look at.
Roll played with the coordinates, rotating the 3-D vase around, looking at its pattern. There were three lines at the top rim and three down by the base. Unlike other vases, the middle pattern did not consist of pictures or symbols. This one was covered with horizontal jagged, zig-zag lines, none of them symmetrical. Very unusual for a decorative vase. Roll zoomed into the top and tried to follow one of the lines and discovered that the lines were, in fact, one continuous strand that spiraled down the length of the vase. The space between the lines and actual width of them made it seem like they were separated. Now that she knew this, she tried to look at the pattern in the lines, trying to see if they yielded some sort of mathematical meaning. All the zig-zags were made of the same length, so there was no information found in that aspect of the segments.
Roll tilted her head and thought about something. The design of the lines seemed to harken back to something she had learned some time ago. Pulling up the Hypernet access she called upon the referrer and put in the beginning snippet of the line segment to cross-reference. The program executed its commands and came up with several results. She scrolled through, looking for anything that might click as to the connection between the lines and something of value...
And found it. The graphic she sent in matched what was called a binary pulse pattern. It was used during the early days of computing to represent the electrical patterns of a computer network communication across old-style transmission lines.
In other words, the line was a binary number.
Binary was so archaic it was no wonder she had missed it initially. Computer code made of ones and zeroes, it was used back when computers mostly consisted of transistors, now replaced by revolutionary new computing components that allowed logarithmic increases in advancement. The meaning was not lost on Roll however. It meant that something of Dr. Selkirk's used that binary pattern. Dr. Wily had to have wanted the vase for that reason. What that reason was escaped her at the moment, though. However, she knew that it had something to do with Dr. Selkirk's work, some crucial piece, something that probably had no business in Dr. Wily's hands. One madman's work connecting with another's - a scary thought.
Next Chapter: Dungeons