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Chapter 49: Roll Call
Chapter 49: Roll Call
If Roll could slam the door behind her she would. The sliding mechanism made it difficult to take anger out on inanimate objects. She had just said goodbye to Mega Man and Link, off on another whirlwind adventure. Why was he was he taking a human over her? He hadn't demonstrated any skills that she'd seen. He hadn't any plasma blaster, any robot strength. He was even complaining about his non-existent magic that he subsisted on in order to fight. Something about rods and potions. More weirdness.
Why? When she could fight at the same level as Mega Man. Not just one, but two laser weapons, armor, helmet that could feed her information and statistics. So what if she looked like she was built out of stuff found in the garage... which actually, she was. But she was ready. She was dying to test out her skills, and she hadn't even had that opportunity yet. She so wanted to see what Mega Man always talked about. She wanted to experience that thing he called 'thrill' for herself. When Dr. Light upgraded her, he must've put in an amplified desire program in her A.I. because she was definitely feeling some.
But Mega Man had said his piece, over and over again, and left Roll back here to tend the fort, look after Dr. Light, look out for Dr. Wily, blah, blah, blah. All of it was meaningless. Dr. Light just needed time to heal. He was fine in the hospital, and what would Dr. Wily need him for anyway. Wily wouldn't do anything until he was finished with his plan, or Mega Man stopped him, whichever happened first. And it was usually the latter that would. And Roll was going to have no part of that.
But she did have one important thing that Mega Man told her to do, contact the space station and make sure they were all right. The remote location made it so it might have a chance to prepare a defense if informed early enough. Wily would be hard-pressed to get a robot master up there to terrorize the people and obtain his prize. He had done it before though. If he had access to hundreds of robots, he could definitely build a rocket, or some other space-faring vehicle as a private citizen.
She sat down at the nearest terminal and accessed the communication program, entering NASA/DSMA as her destination. The terminal connected the lines and brought up a menu full of options. With a little navigation she selected the Phoenix Space Station in orbit as her recipient for the call. While it connected, Tango the cat pawed up to her seat at the console. Roll looked down at her. "Hey, Tango. You wanna come up?"
"Mew?" it said in a perfect imitation of a cat.
Roll patted her lap, indicating that she wanted Tango to jump on. The cat sat on her haunches and sprang up onto her knee. Roll closed her legs together, giving a more cohesive platform, and Tango sat down comfortably.
As she waited for the communication to finish up the handshaking protocol she lovingly stroked Tango behind the ears, thinking what a good battle assistant she could have been. "Oh, Tango, what am I gonna do with you?"
"Do you think Mega Man's ever going to let me fight at his side? Maybe it's just because he's never seen what I can do. I'm not even a hundred percent sure of my own potential myself. I know he's always lamenting about how he has to be the only one to serve justice. But why does he want to bear that burden alone? Why doesn't he understand that he doesn't have to be alone? He's got people here that love him and don't want to see him suffer. I know he can do it, and he knows he can do it, but why not make it easier?"
Tango turned her head to the side and rested it on her paws.
"This Link must be something pretty special if Mega Man wanted him to be his partner. Maybe it's because he has more experience. I just hope he doesn't forget his friends here. I don't want him to turn out like Pr-"
Finally, the screen displayed a green 'connected' dialog, to which Roll acknowledged and observed what looked like the command center for the station, with several other metal computer consoles in the background on an observation deck. A middle-aged man with bright eyes in a NASA/DSMA uniform was leaning forward on the screen, resting one arm on the desk.
"Space Station Phoenix."
"Hello, is this Commander Lexington I'm speaking with?"
"Says so right there." He pointed to the lapel of his shirt which read his last name in block letters.
"Yes, I see," Roll said, not amused at all. "This is Roll at the Dr. Light manor. I'm calling to inquire about your current condition. Have you been keeping tabs at all on the current situation?"
"Not so much, other than Dr. Wily is on the loose again. But, hey, when doesn't that happen, right?"
She gave a faked courtesy laugh. "Right. We believe that Dr. Wily is planning to build some sort of super-intelligent robot, possibly using human brainpower. One of the pieces of equipment that he needs to complete the process is on your station - an inverser."
"No kidding? He wants our inverser? Well, how about that."
Roll arched her eyebrow at the glib manner the commander was taking on. "There haven't been any attempts to breach the station by unauthorized means, have there?"
"Well, I would increase your security to full red alert if you can. Dr. Wily is undoubtedly going to make an attempt to seize the station if he hasn't already done so. As soon as Mega Man is finished taking care of business on Earth, he'll be taking the next available transport up there."
"Well, that's great, but I don't think that'll be really necessary."
"And why's that?"
He spread his arms out and laughed. "Look at us. We're just a science station. We've got sensors and monitors up everywhere. We've got ultra HLE radar, sonar, every tracking system you can think of. If Dr. Wily even sneezes, we'd see it. We've got all the necessary security bots, we've got the trip lasers. We grow our own food. We can subsist for six months without needing resupply from earth. There's no way we wouldn't see him coming from ten light-years away."
"That's great and all, but I really think you should prepare for the worst. Dr. Wily has set his sights on space before," she said, recalling Star Man.
Commander Lexington dismissed her with a foppish wave of his hand. "Don't worry little lady. If Dr. Wily does decide to attack us, you'll be the first to know."
Suddenly, the screen darkened to a bath of infra-red repetitive flashing. The commander's face changed from arrogance to shock as he looked around. Lines of static randomly wiped out the screen.
"Hello? Hello? Commander?" Roll asked.
The commander, now oblivious to her, stood up from his chair, and yelled, "What the hell was that? What's going on?"
Roll's sensitive hearing picked up shrieks and screams in the background, patterned with the unmistakable sound of plasma blasts. Her eyes widened.
"Commander! Get out of there now!" she shouted.
The screen was now half static, she doubted he could hear her. "Wily! Get everyone to shelter!" came an off-screen voice.
"It's too late!" came a voice in the background. "He's taken the station. Everything's gone nuts!"
"You've got---- no time----- contact----"
Roll practically grabbed the screen. "Come in, Commander!"
The screen changed to complete static. Then a message stating the communication was interrupted.
The reality of the situation sunk in quickly to the female robot. Wily already had his hands on the station. He was up there right now, taking it over, and Mega Man wasn't around to do a thing about it. People were dying. And he couldn't do anything cause he wasn't here. He was somewhere else, trying to prevent more people dying. And the only reason people were dying was because he couldn't be in two places at once.
She could do something about it though. She was capable. But no, she couldn't do anything either. Rock said she had to stay here and monitor things. Well, that's what she was doing, dammit, and it wasn't helping anything. She was sitting here watching people die. And she had the ability to do something. Why did Mega Man have to say that? Why was she stuck here?
And then it dawned on her. She didn't need to. She had free will now. She could take matters into her own hands, regardless of orders. If Mega Man was here, he would probably tell her to get up and save those people, stop Dr. Wily before it was too late. She had the will, she had the way. She could do it. This was her opportunity. This was her chance to prove to Mega Man that she was now his equal. That space station needed saving. And boy, were they going to be surprised when she was the one who did it.
"Tango," she commanded with excitement and grandeur in her voice. "Go get my helmet. We're going in."
Tango jumped off her lap, landing soundlessly on the floor, and flopped on her stomach with her paws lazily hanging in the air.
"Tango! I- forget it." She had to keep reminding herself she was not Rush. She was going to have to talk to Dr. Light about adjusting that cat's A.I. a little bit when he got back.
For now, she reopened the communication to NASA/DSMA, but instead selected the ground control. The pick-up was almost immediate.
"NASA/DSMA ground control."
"This is Roll. I need you to schedule an emergency tether transport to Space Station Phoenix."
Mega Man and Link climbed down from the descended ladder and walked forward, away from the gray VTOL jet. This structure was like nothing Link had ever seen before, but it didn't strike him as being that far removed from a temple. The compound was set around a rectangular perimeter. Occupying most of the right side was a large glass building, but unlike other temples, this one was completely rectangular. Nothing special or indicative of what kind of temple it was. Most shrines had statues, or animal structures to them, meant to guard the gates from intruders. Not here. Just a big glass box that reflected the cloudy light coming down from the sky.
The left half compiled several different structures, some cylindrical and tall, some small and box-like. They looked like they had singular purposes, such as storing or factory processing.
"This is Ultratech," Mega Man said, coming alongside him. "Largest manufacturer of technology in the world. If anyone has a photonic density carrier, it's them."
"So, what? We just go in and ask them if they still have one?"
The doors to the glass compound opened up and people began spraying outward, screaming and flailing their arms in the air. They looked panicked, and with good reason. Bubble bats and other flying robots were attacking them, fluttering over their shoulders and firing laser blasts in the dirt, shrieking bat-like sounds emanating from their vocal synthesizers.
"I think we'll have to do more than that," Mega Man said.
"I knew it wasn't going to be that easy."
One young lady in a business skirt, screaming in terror came closer to them as a round bat, like the ones Link had seen in the tunnel, flexed it's jagged mouth, ready land in her hair and take a bite out. Mega Man aimed his arm cannon and fired, striking the target true and evaporating the enemy in a flash of light.
Mega Man thanked his lucky stars those things didn't have energy shields on. "It's nice to have something explode for a change." He waved his hand to Link. "Let's go."
They shifted through the dispensing people, dodging and weaving in and out stealthily. Mega Man bounced high to avoid them, landing in open areas, and Link took the low road, maneuvering in between the people making it past. As they penetrated the fenced gate, the number of escapees thinned out.
"The density carrier would have to be housed in the reactor tower. There." He pointed to one of the dirty white flat cylinders in the compound. Link nodded and the two of them headed down that way. Enemy robots, both humanoid and abstract, were wandering around the entrance of the tower, apparently guarding it. Mega Man sniped them from a distance with his plasma blaster, easily taking them out with one or two shots.
"These are just small fries," Mega Man said as they ran. "The real meat's inside. As you get closer and closer, they get stronger and stronger."
"I know that story," Link commented. Fighting robots was nothing he wanted to jump into too quickly after his disastrous first encounter. But Mega Man was finishing them off quickly, and Link hadn't even pulled out his shield yet.
The blue robot, having cleared a way, pried the door open with his inhuman strength. Inside, the smell of oil and metal saturated the air. They looked around cautiously, up and down, looking for attackers. A flock of orange flying daggers with large eyes and spinning gyros hovered in.
"Run!" Mega Man said. "Split up, divide them."
Link dodged to the side, making his way to some large piece of equipment. Half the orange bots went after him, pointing their gyros threateningly. Mega Man bounded in the air, firing off half a dozen plasma shots. They all hit true and eliminated the threat.
"Come on, up we go." Mega Man headed off deeper into the heart of the tower and Link followed him. He took hold of a ladder and scooted up it quickly. Link did the same, arriving at a higher platform. With more robots patrolling the area dumbly, Mega Man made short work of them. Several yards later they came across some shallow pits housing turtle bots. The one closest launched grenades into the air. At their apex they sprouted parachutes and floated above the heroes' heads.
"Scatter!" Mega Man commanded.
"You don't have to tell me twice," Link said as he dove away, opposite Mega Man.
The grenades hit the ground and made a minor explosion that harmed nobody. Link unfastened his shield and held it across his arm, ready to defend against the next onslaught. Mega Man jumped across the gap, turned around and fired at the turtle-bot. It absorbed shot after shot, but finally exploded. He turned around and did the same to the next turtle-bot waiting for him, just before it fired off two grenades.
Meanwhile, Link had climbed down the platform and back to Mega Man's side. They traversed down the corridor and back to another ladder, which they promptly climbed up. Link could see they were getting pretty far from the floor, and it was no wonder for all the climbing they'd done so far.
This area had several open pits on a platform. They were jumpable by Link, but it would take all his leg strength. Mega Man bounced into the air over the first pit and an alligator mouth jumped up and bit him in the leg. Mega Man flashed electrically and fell back on the ground at Link's feet.
"Acck," he said. "Need to watch for that."
Mega Man inched forward to the pit and the alligator robot jumped up, clamping its teeth at whatever it could find, which was nothing. Mega Man took the distraction at its best moment and shot the jumping jaws. Link, hiding strategically behind his shield, jumped the gap after Mega Man had cleared the way. Mega Man inched forward again, triggering the alligator's reflex, causing it to attack nothing, and get blown up in the process. They both jumped the gap again, and repeated the process.
They opened a factory door into the next room, suddenly inundated with noise. There were spikes all along the floor of the factory, and the only way across was via the conveyer belts placed at varying heights, and going all sorts of directions.
"Watch your step here," Mega Man said.
Mega Man jumped on first. The textured metal carried the robot off forward speedily, he jumped off at the end of the belt and onto the next one at a higher elevation. Link did the same, except the sudden speed of the conveyer belt took him off his feet and he landed hard on his back.
Mega Man gasped and tried running back towards him, but the tread's direction prevented him from gaining any ground.
Link, fortunately, bolted back up and jumped on at the last second, grabbing it by his hands. The belt helpfully pulled him up the rest of the way. "No problem," Link said.
They ran forward and hopped on the next belt, that was carrying back towards them. Mega Man jumped forward, avoiding the backtracking of the belt. Link, however, couldn't find his footing, running forward desperately, trying to avoid falling into the spiky death. Mega Man grabbed his hand and helped him along.
Suddenly, he saw a hard-hatted mettool heading towards him, being carried steadily on the conveyer, still in its shell. Mega Man jumped over it with ease. "Watch out," he called back.
"For a helmet?" Link said.
The mettool popped up from its yellow helmet, showing its bright childlike eyes and squidlike snout. A welder tool fired a small spark of electricity at Link's boot, giving him a hotfoot.
"Yeowch!" Link hopped up in the air nearly as high as Mega Man reached and landed right next to him. The stationary yellow robot turned around but then fell off the belt.
"That's a mettool," Mega Man said. "They're everywhere. Watch out for those."
The belt they were on now was a longer one that headed into a tunnel. Stomping pillars were placed at intermittent spaces, crushing whatever happened to pass by into paste.
"We need to time this exactly," Mega Man said, walking backwards to counteract the ebb of the tide.
"Can do," Link said, watching the pounding pillars. Timed traps were nothing new to him. The pillar nearest them slammed down, and Mega Man treaded towards it. As soon as it popped up, Mega Man slid under and Link sprinted across, nearly getting his tunic slashed off. The next pillar rose, and they slid under it again. There was only one more, and the pair darted under it easily. They emerged into a new room with a single door.
Link brushed the sweat off his brow. "Easy," Link said. He couldn't believe this was the sort of thing Mega Man had to deal with. Everything was so straightforward, just get from point A to point B, avoid getting smashed. Not a single key, obstructed passage, or wall was blocking his way so far.
Link smiled, "If this is all you have to deal with, I'll switch worlds with you."
Mega Man also smiled, knowing he wasn't serious.
"Where next?" Link asked.
"This door may reveal something. I think it might lead to the geo-plant level."
"Meaning we're getting closer?"
"Meaning we're getting closer, and there are going to be tougher bots down there. Let me go first."
Mega Man hit some keys next the door, which shifted up into the wall. He bounced through the doorway with his arm cannon drawn, darting left and right with it in anticipation of a surprise attack. With a final glance upward he rested his firing arm and said, "I think-"
Mega Man suddenly heard an unusual echo of creaking metal coming from above. The door slammed shut in behind him, followed by the unmistakable sound of locking up, keeping Mega Man and Link apart.
Next Chapter: Battlegrounds