Miko and Five were dying.
Well, not really. It was just that the office was ridiculously cold and that had something to do with Phil cranking up the AC to the max. Apparently he felt that today was especially hot for summer but to the duo, it was a relatively normal day.
"Hey, you go. Your new and improved Glitch Tech-issued LVL-1 gauntlet." Phil announced, placing the gauntlet on his desk. "After you somehow fried the circuitry, we had to fix it manually. Extracting its memory was harder than Shinobi Warriors, so don't ever break it like that. Ever."
Miko greedily grabbed the gauntlet and hugged it tightly, crying exaggerated tears. "Oh, baby! I'm sorry I hurt you. I promise I will never blast you apart ever again! Will you ever forgive me?"
Phil stared and watched as Miko caressed her gauntlet, unamused. "Yeah... Now get out of here. The front desk needs someone manning since Zahra is unavailable."
"You got it, sir!" Five exclaimed, saluting. Pulling Miko, the two ran out of the office, already in their Hinobi employee uniforms and now heading to work for the day.
As the two disappeared from his view, Phil leaned back on his chair and sighed. The past few days had been quite stressful for the middle-aged manager and it all started from finding out that Miko was debatably a Glitch. How did the sensors not pick that up? Was she so close to human that the sensors couldn't pick her out? Or was it something else?
Well, it didn't matter. The whole Glitch Tech HQ was being renovated after the whole infiltration thing. They couldn't have their systems bypassed and sensitive information being easily leaked. The good news was that they could finally replace all that outdated tech they have. The bad news was that the store would be in the red for weeks.
At least the Hinobi Technology Company was paying for this. No chance of having a heart attack from the accounting book.
Phil picked up his phone and began typing a set of numbers. With a tap, his phone rung and a few seconds later, it clicked.
"Is it done?" A heavily-edited voice appeared on the other side.
Phil spun his chair around, away from the door. "Yeah, she took it. The tracker should be working as intended."
"Good. With it, we'll be able to track her every move so long as she has the tech with her." The voice said, emotion hidden behind the editing. "Should she show unusual behaviour, we'll be able to pinpoint her exact location."
"Yeah, if she has any wireless connection. Put her in the middle of a forest and we wouldn't be able to know."
"That will be a different problem to tackle." The voice calmly retorted. "Nonetheless, you've done your part. The Hinobi Technology Company will take it from here."
"You know, you never did explain why you're so interested with her." Phil inquired, his voice laced with suspicion. "I mean, this explains why her memories can't be reset but you already knew that, didn't you?"
"It's why she and Five were allowed to get jobs here. You knew from the start."
"That," the voice began. "is classified information. Do not be alarmed however as she will not be harmed in any way. The tracker simply exists to monitor and keep her safe."
His brows furled. "Is it? Or is she bait for some bigger prize?"
"You don't need to know." The voice replied, refusing to answer. "For now, continue with your managerial duties. Inform us of any abnormalities through this number. Anything else is above your paycheck."
And just like that, the phone clicked, ending the call. Phil quietly groaned, feeling somewhat ashamed. He didn't like the thought of betraying an employee's privacy but without the full image, he couldn't exactly argue.
He had worked for this company for decades, from his itty-bitty Glitch Tech newbie job to the veteran manager of a Hinobi branch store. Despite the experience and high position, there was still a lot he didn't know about the company.
Hinobi Tech had a lot of secrets. Any big company would, especially one as renowned as this. But that didn't exactly calm his nerves. He didn't believe they were evil or anything. After all, if they were, they would have mind-wiped Miko out of existence.
But they didn't. Meaning the company needed her for something. What it was, was 'above his paycheck'.
"Well…" Phil exclaimed, pulling up a holographic map from his gauntlet. "No point in contemplating."
On the map, a small blinking light was shown. It was yellow in colour, a contrast to the Glitches' blue, and was directly at the Hinobi cashier desk.
A few hours since the two walked out of Phil's office, Five and Miko were standing by the counters. Since the so-called 'gas leak', the store was put on a temporary shut-down for the past two days. The real reason was that it wanted to check for any security breaches on the surface level aka the store.
Despite all that, Glitch Techs continued to be active. Though, they had to enter the headquarters through alternative means. The portals used by the van was one-way and having the van enter the store while it was closed off was a bit suspicious.
With the store reopened, customers flooded the aisles, as usual, looking for the newest games, the best sales and the cutest merchandise to get their grubby hands on.
"Thank you for shopping at Hinobi! Have a nice day!" Five greeted, bowing slightly in respect. With that, the final customer left the store and his shift had finally ended.
Five wiped the sweat off his forehead after a hard day's work. He didn't work here for the money but he had to admit, Hinobi paid their workers well. Meanwhile, Miko crept up behind him and watched as he logged out of the computer.
"You done, my dude?" She asked, having logged out of hers earlier.
"Yep, just about it." He replied, stretching his arms up. "Man, today was kinda busy, wasn't it?"
"Well, this is the only Hinobi store in like 10 miles. I'm pretty sure everyone goes her to get their digital kicks."
He shrugged. "Eh, probably."
Five walked alongside Miko to the lockers, ready to change out of the uniform and grab his stuff. "Since we got some free time, do you want to hang out?"
"Ooo, sorry Five!" Miko apologized, opening her locker. "I've got some plans with my parents later."
"Ah, that's okay. You want me to drop you off?"
"Oh yeah, sure! That'd be great!" She cheered, grabbing her bag.
After packing up, Five drove the van to the Kubota residence, with of course Miko in the passenger seat. She lived so far from the store that it was no wonder she needed her parents to send her every day. He used to need Miko to give directions too but he's been here so many times now that he was used to it. Plus, the occasional patrols helped.
"Here we are; the Kubota house." Five announced, parking the van right by the porch. Miko pulled the handle, opening the door. However, she suddenly stopped midway.
"Say, uh, Five?"
"You, uh... You wanna hang out tomorrow?" Miko asked, glancing at him. "Y-you know, since it's a Saturday and we didn't get to do it today?"
"Hang out?" Five repeated, surprised. "Well, sure! It'll be fun!"
"Cool! Let's meet up at the mall for lunch."
"Lunch, got it!" He said, mentally keeping a note. With a nod, Miko jumped out of the van, the door still open. She spun around towards him and smiled.
"It's a date, then!" She exclaimed, closing the van door and running to the house.
Five watched as she entered her home, not looking back. Once she was no longer in view, he drove off, heading back home. Honestly, he had to admit; hanging out with Miko on a Saturday sounded fun. Even though she called it a date.
Five slammed the breaks, immediately stopping the van. He even lurched forward, only being held back by his seat belt and safe driving practices. From behind him, a car drove past and honked its horn in anger.
Five choked. "D-D-D-DATE?!"
Miko strutted mechanically to the dining room. By mechanically, it meant she looked like a robot. Jerking movements, squeaky limbs, the works. At the same time, her mother was also home, leaning by the counters and drinking tea after a hard day's work.
Miko's mother, Mayumi Kubota, fumbled and startled, her cup in hand. "Dear God, Miko! You almost made me drop my tea!"
Miko's father then walked in, wearing oven mitts and carrying a casserole of lasagne. "I heard screaming! What's going on?" He asked, though the kitchen wasn't even separated from the dining room.
Miko wasn't sure how to explain this. She wanted to just hang out with him but instead, accidentally blurted something else. She should call Five and clarify her mistake, telling him it was just a normal friends-with-friends stuff. That seemed to be the most logical way to go.
Her heart skipped a beat, hesitant.
"I... got a date tomorrow."
Crack! That was the sound of her parents' mind breaking. Her mother felt lightheaded all of a sudden while her father was trying his best to not cough out blood like a terminally-ill person.
Miko Kubota, their rebellious home-schooled video-game-addicted teenage daughter, was going on a date?! As cruel as it may sound, pigs flying seemed more believable than that.
Holding the counter for support, Mayumi asked, wanting to clarify. "A d-date?"
Miko nodded, blushing and twisting a lock of her hair around her finger. Oh no, they knew that sign. The only time Miko ever showed uncertainty and nervousness was when she twiddled with her hair. Since she was always so confident, this stood out more.
Miko's father gently placed the casserole on a coaster and briskly walked to her side. He lifted both of his hands onto her shoulders and squeezed.
"WHO IS IT?!" He demanded, fire burning in his eyes. Not the fires of passion or love but the fires of pure parental protectiveness. The same one Miko had seen only once in her lifetime; when Nica told she was meeting someone.
Miko has never met this person but she hasn't heard anything about him since.
"F-Five..." answered the half Japanese, though unintentionally.
"HIS NAME IS A NUMBER?!" Her father screamed angrily, the fires only burning brighter and with more ferocity.
A boy with a number as a name?! That was obviously some delinquent or a member of a gang. Such a person would only corrupt his already easily influenced middle child. Thus, he reacted like any out-of-date protective parent would; through mildly-worded threats.
"I'LL CASTRATE HIM!"
No, no, no. "Y-you met him already! He's the guy that picked me up two days ago!"
Immediately, the heat died down and the room cooled back to the normal 'room temperature'. Miko's father weakened his grip, smiling.
"Oh, that nice boy?" He asked with gleeful tone. "Why didn't you say that earlier? His name is Hector, you know. It's rude to call a person by a different name."
"... His name is Hector?" Miko queried.
"Enough of that!" Her mother barged in, interrupting the conversation. "Who's Hector and why is he called Five?! AND WHY DO YOU HAVE A DATE WITH HIM?!"
"AND DON'T YOU DARE KEEP ANYTHING BACK, YOUNG LADY!"
Knowing it was a long story, Miko sighed and attempted to explain it in a condensed and somewhat abridged way. She made sure to avoid topics involving Glitch Techs and whatnot, instead replacing them with fake stories she made up on the fly. For example, instead of saying Five's old friend went on a rampage and she crashed Mitch's van with a bubble, she just said that she crashed Five's old friend with a van.
She realized the error of her ways really quickly.
It took an hour or so to finish, plus the questions. By that time, the lasagne had already cooled just like her parents' temper.
"So yeah, that's about it." Miko exclaimed, finally finished with her heavily-edited story. Honestly, she felt a slight pang of guilt for lying like this but it's for the greater good. Otherwise, she'd have to use the memory wiper and she didn't want to do that.
"So this 'Five' is your co-worker—"
"which you two went through a bunch of shenanigans—"
"and you went and asked him to go on a date with you."
Miko shrugged. "That's about right."
"Well," her father breathed in sharply, his hands folded by his lips. "This is an interesting predicament. I don't understand why you're worried. You've always been so... confident."
"Well, I might kinda... like him? Look, I know it's a bit too fast since I just now figured out I don't know his real name but..." Miko sighed in defeat, waving her arms up in anguish. "I don't know! Emotions are weird!"
"Miko, it's not that weird." Mayumi said, placing a hand gently on her shoulder. "When I first your father, he tripped over a pencil and spilt his coffee over me."
He nodded. "I did. I even got sent to HR for it."
"Ever since that day, we began talking. We started as acquaintances, then became friends and finally, we tried out dating."
"And how long did that take?"
"That's not important." Miko's mother countered. "The point I'm trying to say is that it all began through the build-up of trust. And from the way you talk about him, I can say you trust him very much."
Miko contemplated and found out that the words ran true. She might have known Five or 'Hector' for about a month but the truth was that she trusted him with her life, and vice versa. They were a team and the best one yet. After all, she got stabbed and he broke an arm.
"I kinda do, huh?" she muttered quietly, though not quiet enough for her mother.
Mayumi smiled. "So there's no reason to be nervous, right?"
She nodded eagerly. "Right!"
"So go out there and make it the best date ever!"
"The date is tomorrow but yeah!"
"What the heck is going on?"
Miko and her parents all turned to the front door, Nica having walked in. She was in her usual jacket and carried a schoolbag in one arm while the other arm had a pen twirling in her hand. She stared at them, bewildered.
"Seriously, why is everyone screaming?" She asked, confused.
"Oh, I got a date tomorrow!" explained Miko. "So mom and dad were hyping me up!"
"What, like a romantic date?" Nica asked, surprised. The only response from her little sister was some nodding, followed by shaking her head, a thinking pose and finally, just her fidgeting awkwardly.
Nice glared. "And what will you be doing on this date?"
"I don't know."
"What are you going to wear?"
"I don't know."
Nice sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose. With a roll of her eyes, she grabbed Miko's hand and pulled her to the hallway and up the stairs. "This requires some intervention. Luckily, I got just the plan for it."
"W-wait, what are you doing?!" asked Miko in a panic. She wasn't sure what was going on but she had a feeling she wasn't going to like it. Miko looked back at her parents, her eyes just begging for help.
Her parents shrugged.
The next day, Five was sitting alone by a fountain, fiddling his thumbs together. He wasn't sure when they were actually supposed for lunch and was a bit too nervous to ask yesterday. Instead, he came just before noon and waited, sitting on the fountain-side benches in the mall.
A part of him whispered to his brain that it was probably just a misunderstanding. Maybe he misheard her or maybe she just said the wrong thing. Friends hang out all the time, so there was no need to call it a date.
So why was he here, wearing his grandfather's old denim jacket over his official Chomp Kitty T-shirt and with more hair gel than usual?
He groaned, recalling what his guardians told him the night before.
"¡Mi nieto, oh mi nieto!" shouted the old man, tears in his eyes. "I never expected him to become a man so early in his life! This calls for a celebration!"
His grandfather rummaged through the closet, throwing out various old and dusty trinkets. It took a while but then, he pulled out a folded denim jacket, one that looked like it was made in a bygone era. It was darker than average but unmistakably the classic blue colour, along with some slight tears here and there.
"This is your abuelo's jacket. I wore it when I first dated your grandmother and so did your parents with each other. And now," He placed the jacket in Five's arms. "It is yours."
The rest of the night went as normal as it usually did, though his grandparents did try to help with a little bit of advice; just be yourself. It's a bit cliché and it wasn't really bad but a part of him wanted to believe there was something a bit more than that.
Still, that didn't stop him from anxiously sweating like it was the end of the world.
Five pulled out his phone to check the time. He had been waiting for... 10 minutes.
"Maybe the jacket's too much..." Five muttered to himself.
Just then, a familiar voice called out to him. "Hey, Five!"
The boy looked up from his phone to find the owner of the voice; his date, Miko. She looked… different. Way different. She was wearing a nice yellow summer blouse over a black form-fit T-shirt, a pair of black leggings and a short purple skirt with pockets sewed on. Her sneakers had been replaced with a pair of casual slip-on shoes.
She was also wearing a light amount of makeup. Most people wouldn't notice it but Miko never wore makeup at all. So even the slight blush became noticeable. All in all, she basically looked like a fancier version of her normal self. All Five did was wear a jacket and he thought it was too much. Pah!
"Miko! You look... uh..." Five started stammering, not sure what exactly he should say.
Miko, however, noticed his pause. "Do I look bad? Sorry, I'm just... I'm not used to this whole dress-up thing! My sister helped but you know, she's my sister and obviously, she's not like me at all—!"
"No, no! You look good! Great, even! I'm just surprised, that's all." Five explained, reassuring her.
"Do I?" Miko asked in return. "I dunno, the skirt might be a bit too much..."
Five coughed. It felt like he was hit in the stomach. "Nah, it's okay! I think it finishes the whole outfit!"
"Really? Thanks, Five! I'll make sure to tell Nica that!" replied Miko with a smile.
The two laughed awkwardly by the fountain. Neither had the experience nor the preparation in the dating scene. This was like playing a completely new game and being forced to learn the different controls because some smart guy decided to bind the jump action to the down D-pad button.
"So... Where are we going first?" asked Five. After all, he didn't plan anything. While he felt somewhat guilty about that, Miko was the one that asked him out.
"Oh, nerd." Miko nervously whispered to herself. Due to the time constraints, she ultimately forgot to plan anything. Thankfully, she had the help of her big sister Nica but everything went so fast yesterday. She wracked her head, trying to remember.
From Five's perspective, Miko's eyes twitched slightly, unhinged.
"T-the theatre!" she suddenly shouted. "Let's go to the movie theatre! The mall has one, right? Every mall has one!"
"Y-yeah, you're right. It should be on the third floor. I remember seeing it on the map. We'll take the elevator."
"Alright, lead the way!" Miko motioned, allowing Five to move on ahead. While on the way, she can start figuring out a plan for this whole date.
This was going swell.
The two teens-slash-co-worker-slash-friends started their little outing with a visit to the movies. This was usually not recommended since there was no telling whether there'd be any good seats or even any good movies. Thankfully, Five and Miko were simple folk; if the movie was fun to watch, they'd watch it, ratings and reviews be damned.
Mindlessly, they bought a few tickets to watch 'Robot Killer 9000', an old action movie where a robot and a resistance fighter both got sent to the past as enemies but then became best buds. There was also a female companion but apparently people didn't really care that much about her. It was the only movie neither of them watched before. Something about it being made before they were born.
Also, it wasn't a very popular movie from the looks of the nearly empty theatre at the moment. It's a wonder how they make a profit from screening this, especially since the only ones in the room were Miko, Five and some dad-looking dude a few seats behind them. Not talking smack or anything but he looked like he needed to shower.
"You can't be in love with him! He's a machine sent from the future to kill you!" said the time-travelling resistance fighter Kale Rice, pointing his assault rifle at the woman protagonist Sarah Cannery and her robot boyfriend, Hinobi.
"I can't help it, Kale Rice! He might have tried to kill me but in the past 48 hours, he had also shown what it's like to experience true love!" Sarah argued, refusing to move out of the way.
Despite being damaged, Hinobi gave a thumbs-up. "CoOoLiEoO!"
With a piercing glare, he growled. "That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard!"
Meanwhile, in the theatre, Five slurped on the overpriced movie soda. While Miko paid for the tickets, he paid for the snacks. It sounded fair initially until he underestimated how much food can fit in her digital body. Speaking of that, he did wonder what happened to the food Miko ate. Did it just disappear into her body? Did she even have a digestive system?
According to his instincts, asking about it was the same as a death sentence. So the mystery continued.
"This is a really bad movie." Miko whispered by his side, popcorn in hand. Despite nodding, Five, however, was willing to give the benefit of the doubt, even though he agreed that this movie was something for sure.
A robot walked into the burning building, holding a futuristic gun. It looked exactly like Hinobi but had yellow instead of Hinobi's usual blue. "Hello, brother." Said the other robot.
Kale turned to Hinobi and snarled. "You have a brother?! You're a robot!"
"Beep boop?" replied Hinobi apprehensively.
He's starting to regret giving the benefit.
On the other hand, Miko was engrossed in the movie. Yes, the movie was horrible even by her standards but there's something so comically catastrophic about it. Was it the actors or maybe it's the outdated CGI?
She wanted to leave but she also wanted to stay and watch how it goes. It was a train wreck of cinematography.
"Did you know that Hinobi Technology produced this movie?" Five explained in a low voice. "It's why the robot's named Hinobi."
"What? No way! That's gotta be a joke, right?" Miko replied as quietly as she could.
Five shrugged. "It's true. They were trying out different things back then. Movies happened to be one of it."
"This movie had a reboot, right?"
"It did but it amped up the comedy, so it got buried in bad reviews."
"Aww, that's sad..."
As they continued to chat in the almost-empty theatre, the annoyed movie goer sighed, glaring at the back of their heads. He watched this movie every month for the past two decades and even memorized every line. Sure, this was a badly-rated old movie but it was his favourite. Do people simply forget basic cinema etiquette just because of that? Talking nonsense and spoiling for the rest of the non-existent audience?
He huffed angrily, trying his best to ignore it.
"You weren't there for me, brother. You were my robotic sibling and you left me." The evil robot, apparently named Shinobi, said as it pointed its sword at Hinobi.
The blue bot blinked. "0111001101101111011100100111001001111001."
"Does not compute!"
"Hey, can you pass me that popcorn?" asked Five.
"Oh, sure!" Miko replied, lifting the box and handing it to him. Only a quarter of the popcorn was left and the movie was only 30 minutes in. "You kinda paid for it after all!"
Five grabbed a handful and began picking a couple with his other hand, eating it buttered puffs a few at a time. He liked to take his time with his food, not to say he was never sloppy but just that small manageable bites was always easier and allowed him to immerse himself in its salty buttery taste. It's the little detail that count.
Miko, on the other hand, ate a bunch. A handful of popcorn meant a handful of flavour and thus, the taste was amplified. Stronger taste meant a better experience. Sure, that meant the popcorn won't last as long but might as well go out with a bang. That left a stronger impression and was much more enjoyable.
"Who the heck is that?!" said the resistance fighter Kale. On the balcony above him was a man in a lab coat. Hinobi blinked, its hand had been replaced with a rifle attachment at some point.
"That…" The robot spoke. "Is my father."
Kale continued pointing his futuristic gun, only to lower it and shift towards Hinobi. "Wait, you can talk? When can you talk?!"
How long was this movie again?
After what felt like several hours, the movie ended with a bang. Despite the very narmy dialogue, Five had to admit; it was fun. He especially liked the ending, how the robot and resistance fighter destroyed the evil future corporation by using a code hidden inside Hinobi to shut down the entire factory. It was a bit sad that Hinobi later destroyed Shinobi after a heartfelt and dramatic battle.
"So, ngh, where to now?" Five asked, stretching his limbs after sitting for so long.
"There's not really much to do here other than shopping." Miko exclaimed, loosening her leg. "How about we go to the arcade instead?"
Five snapped his fingers. "Good idea! There's actually an arcade nearby. I've been meaning to check it out since it's new. We can just walk there."
"Alright, let's—!" All of a sudden, her stomach grumbled in protest. Her cheeks immediately turned red, embarrassed. "Eh, excuse me for the moment." With that, Miko rushed off, leaving Five behind. He wasn't bothered or anything and simply walked to the entrance to wait for her.
After what felt like very long minutes, Miko pushed the door open and left the public restrooms, satisfied. For the record, she did wash her hands. After all, hygiene is important and there was in any way would she disregard the most basic of hygienic practices. She may be a gamer but she wasn't willing to fall for the negative stereotype.
"Haa…" She sighed in relief. The day was going so well and unlike before, she actually had some idea of what to do later on. Though, that train of thought was interrupted when she walked into a person.
"Oof!" She blurted, having been pushed back slightly. "Sorry about that!"
"'Sorry'? I never thought you were the apologizing type."
"Wha—?" Miko looked forward, facing the person directly. She wore a pair of belted ripped jeans, a yellow-orange shirt with a cat skull, a hooded black leather jacket, some black boots and fingerless gloves. All this along with a toothy smile, carrying a sense of malice.
However, what bothered her the most was the fact that this person looked exactly like her, albeit with shorter hair.
Miko gasped sharply, shocked beyond belief. "W-w-wa—!"
"What?" The figure purred in her ear. "Cat got your tongue?"
"AAAAAAHHHHHHH!" Miko screamed, falling backwards onto the floor. "WHO ARE YOU?! W-WHAT ARE YOU?!"
"Why do you look like me…?" She added with a whisper.
"Pfffft— HAHAHAHAHA!" The Miko lookalike laughed, holding her stomach in. All Miko could do was stare with a bewildered face, too startled to move. "Hehehe, that's funny. You're funny! Hah…" She breathed in, catching her breath. "But I guess you don't recognize me without the mask, huh?"
"M-mask?! What mask?!"
"Oh come on! Don't you remember me?" The person insisted, her left hand pressed on her hips. She lifted her right hand and place it on her face, covering her eyes. However, her two fingers split open, revealing her left eye.
Miko's eyes widened. "You."
The person smirked. "Finally figured it out, huh? Took ya long enough. You know, you're not as smart as I thought you'd be. A bit… disappointing!"
"You broke into Glitch Techs. You hurt Five and Zahra and everyone else! You stabbed me!"
The person nonchalantly shrugged. "Guilty as charged."
Miko stood up and stomped forward, her fists rolled up tight and ready to pummel this lunatic to the next century, but paused when she wagged her finger at her. "Ah, ah, ah! I wouldn't do that if I were you."
She gritted her teeth and snarled. "And why wouldn't I?"
From her pocket, the figure pulled out a disc similar to the ones she left behind when she infiltrated the headquarters. Miko had only glanced at it once but from what she heard, it was apparently a miniature warp device similar to the ones inside the gauntlets.
"There are a few dozen Glitches through this little thing and with a press of a button, I can release all of them at the same time." Her smile widened, deranged. "And we're in a highly-populated commercial zone."
Miko didn't need a second guess to understand what she meant. Her fist, once tight, unrolled itself, letting her arms go slack. Seeing this, the figure's expression calmed. "Good girl." She snubbed.
"What do you want?" demanded Miko, her eyes piercing through the figure. Nonetheless, the figure scoffed.
"What, can't a girl go out and visit a mall? You're not my superior." She responded, her tone sarcastic. Miko, however, continued to glare, making her feel slightly uncomfortable. She lifted her hands in defeat, though her smile stayed. "I promise, I'm not here to do anything bad."
"As if I'd believe you, y-you villain!" Miko snapped.
"Villain?" She replied, looking confused. "I have a name, you know."
"I thought you said programs don't have names." reiterated Miko.
"True… but only because I hate you." She answered without sorry. "The name's M-2. First name 'M', last name the number 2."
Miko's eyebrow raised. "What kind of name is that?"
"The only name I have. Why, does it bother you?" asked M-2, looking annoyed.
"Well…" Miko drawled out. "It's not really a name. It's more like a code or something."
The twin growled. "Well, what would you call me then?"
M-2's eyebrow raised. "Meico?"
Flustered, Miko yelled. "L-look, don't judge! You look like me! I'm still bothered by that!"
"You know what? I don't care. Meico it is, or whatever." M-2 or 'Meico' judgementally replied. "As for why I'm here… Well, I got my own little thing to do."
That… was a very bad answer. There was no way Miko was going to let her walk off free after hearing that, not with all the trouble she did. Plus, there was some itch in her brain that screamed at her, saying how Meico was dangerous… but necessary. Like a forgotten relic finally unearthed for so long.
"Will you stop staring at me like that?" M-2 complained, a small blush on her cheeks. "Now you're making me feel weird."
Startled, Miko immediately dropped her gaze. "O-oh, sorry!"
M-2 stared. Did she really just apologize again? She must've been taught by a pair of weak spine humans. She groaned, shaking her head. "Ugh, you're so pathetic. I can't believe the Director likes you."
Before Miko could react angrily, she heard her friend's voice from around the corner, causing her to turn. "Miko? Are you there?"
Meico, realizing who it was, grinned. "Yeah, I'm here! I just got some stuff to do!"
"Alright, I'll wait!"
Miko was left aghast when she heard Meico speak. She didn't notice it before from her speech and tone but it was then too obvious to miss. She turned, fully intent on confronting the leather-wearing villain.
"Did you just use my… voice?" However, when she turned, the girl was gone. Not a shadow of her was left.
That… felt unnerving. The whole encounter came out of nowhere and as much as Miko didn't want to admit, there was no way she could've won had they fought. Not after the last beat-up the assailant left her with. It was like accidentally meeting an overpowered mob in an open field; she was utterly unprepared.
Miko shook her head off such thoughts. She wasn't sure why the mysterious assailant or 'Meico' as she called herself was here but she couldn't take the time off to chase after her. With no trace left behind, there was no telling if she'd even catch up. As selfish as it may be, she just wanted to continue hanging out with her friend, not deal with this. At least, not yet anyway.
"I'm coming, Five!"
After meeting up again, the duo waltzed their way out of the mall and onto to the sidewalk. The good news was that it was a slightly cloudy day, giving them a nice cool shade against the warm sun without it being too cold. Miko was also glad that she chose to wear something casual instead of high heels else walking too far hurt her feet.
"You know, we never really talked about all the crazy that happened this week." said Miko, remembering about M-2. She proceeded to kick a small pebble off the pavement. "And a whole lot of stuff happened."
Five scratched the back of his head. "Yeah, I guess you're right. I mean, Glitch Techs got attacked by an unknown supervillain! As fun as it is to imagine ourselves as superheroes, we're more like high-tech exterminators."
"Yeah!" the Japanese teen agreed. "Sure, Glitch Techs has a bunch of secrets and stuff. What company doesn't?"
"Also the whole thing about you being a Glitch or something like one."
"Which is super cool, by the way."
"It is very cool."
Hearing them agree with one another, the two laughed. It wasn't funny or anything, just banter between friends and the life-threatening situations they went through.
After a few minutes of walking, they finally arrived. "Here we are; The new Nook's Arcade!" Five announced, presenting the business like a showman.
Unlike the usual arcade they went to, this one was built in the middle of the city so it didn't have the free space around it. The outer surfaces were painted with glaring neon indigo followed by long and winding stripes of blue, white and the shades in-between. The windows were heavily tinted, blocking outsiders from view. Even from the sidewalk, they could feel the air-conditioned breeze pass through, keeping the insides cool.
"I heard it has a bunch of the newest games so it's worth checking out." He added as a bonus, walking through the automatic doors.
"Woah! This place is AWESOME!" Miko praised, eyeing the premise. The walls were lined with different arcade cabinets. From racing to shooting and even the traditional two-button-and-stick system, the room had every popular arcade game in the past two decades. It also included other devices such as the claw machine, some skeeball game and of course, the ever so significant air hockey. Of course with this many consoles, that meant the arcade was packed with children and teens of all ages, plus the occasional young adults here and there.
"I'll go get us some tokens. You should go around and check— and you're already gone." Five sighed, though not surprised. It was a typical Miko behaviour to move forward before everyone else. He chuckled at the thought. "Hah, I'll just meet her later then."
Meanwhile, Miko was zipping back and forth all over the arcade. It looked as if she ate that energy drink power-up again but there weren't any blue electrified trails behind, so this was just her being her normal self.
Suddenly, she halted and stared at the gigantic arcade machine in front of her; Dance Dance Revolution, in fact, the newest one. It came out about a week ago and was rumoured to have over 100 different songs, some new while others are recurring favourites. She expected to wait a couple of months before the international release but it seemed that this arcade got early.
Music-based games were always Miko's preferred type of gameplay, second only to JRPGs. If given the chance, she'd brag about her dance moves and musical talent for hours on end. Sure, she was skilled in other games as well but nothing is more fun than just rocking out and getting the high score, dominating the online leaderboards. She wasn't the best player around but oh boy, was she up there.
Stars twinkling in her eyes, the Japanese teenager squealed in delight. "Oh. My. GOD! Look at this pad! And oh, that listing! Just— mwah!" she happily gushed, kissing her fingers like an Italian.
Unbeknownst, M-2 watched her from behind, carrying a toothy smile and completely out of view.
M-2 leaned on a nearby arcade machine, chewing on this candy she found. The cover wrote it as 'bubble-gum' and its sweet candy flavour melted on her tongue. Her first reaction was to squeal in delight, making her wonder what other candies exist.
Truth be told, she never ate bubble-gum before and was genuinely surprised by the taste. The files also said something about being able to blow it up but she didn't see how explosives were involved. Did other candies have high-grade chemicals in them?
She liked the bubble-gum. Let's just keep a few in her pocket...
Once that's done, she tapped a hidden bracelet on her left wrist and with it, an orange visor materialized itself above her eyes, Plixel by Plixel. Rubbing said bracelet, the visor zoomed, providing her with a closer view. Now that she has a clear image, all she needed was—
"Miko! I got the tokens!" Crap, it's that tall Glitch Tech boy with the funky hair! M-2 pulled up her hoodie, covering her head. She waited as Five ran past her, barely noticing her presence. She knew he wouldn't recognize her but with her face looking like Miko's, she wasn't going to take any chances.
However, this did provide her with an opportunity. With a tap of the bracelet, she summoned a small spider-bot Glitch, scurrying towards the duo. The Glitch was directly connected to her visor which meant whatever it saw and heard, she did as well. And all she needed was a set of eyes and ears.
For now, she watched and listened.
"Woah, is that the new Dance Dance Revolution game?" Five asked in awe. Didn't it only got released recently?
"Yeah, cool, right?! And the best part?" Miko waved her arms in front of the console's dance pads. "It's got a two-player mode."
Miko swung herself onto one of the dance pads, landing as graceful as a monkey. Her hands on her hips, she grinned confidently. "Think you can keep up?"
Realizing the intent, Five gleefully accepted her challenge. He took off his jacket, placing it nearby. He can't have it restraining him over the beat-down he's about to show. "Oh ho, I know I can keep up. Can you keep up?"
"I can totes keep up! Can you keep up?"
"Please, I will definitely keep up. However, can you keep up?"
"I CAN SO KEEP UP! CAN YOU KEEP UP?!"
M-2 slammed her head on the arcade cabinet's side.
To think, this was a mission? What a freaking joke! She hated the fact that she was stuck here, listening to a couple of teens one-upping one another, just like she hated this mission entirely.
Meico, or M-2 as she's more properly known, walked towards a set of metallic doors. Annoyed at the results of her previous mission, she had spent hours in the training room, refining her skills against the simulations. She had prepared for every scenario and yet, she got punched in the face by some girly-looking boy, a wimpy stick and her.
Despite her loss, her superior had decided not to punish her which only made her even more miffed. Being punished meant that the loss was her fault and that she could improve. Not getting it meant that it was outside of her control and she hated that.
Next time she meets those Glitch Techs, she'd make sure to punch them in the face, repeatedly. Let's see how they like it.
Once nearby, the doors automatically slid open with a hiss and she walked inside. The room was dark and ominous, with a single large screen acting as a centrepiece. Small lights lined up a path, one she was very familiar with, directing her to the screen.
In a few steps, she finally reached her destination. M-2 breathed in slowly, calming herself, and tapped on a display nearby. The screen lit up brightly and on it, was a singular figure shrouded in darkness; The Director.
"Welcome back, M-2." An ominous voice escaped from the speakers. "Are you well? I'm glad you're using the training facilities to its fullest."
Without looking at the screen, she replied. "I am. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to use it."
"No need to be so humble. It was built for you, after all."
Another lie, just like every other. She held herself back, trying not to dispute. "Is there a reason for calling me, sir?"
If they had been smiling, she couldn't see it. She could never read the expression through the screen. Nonetheless, contrary to her expectation, the Director was not. "Indeed, I have a new mission for you, one from the Professor. I hope I'm not taking much of your time."
Suddenly hearing that name, she felt a warmth in her chest. "O-of course not, sir! I am honoured! What will she— I mean, you have me do? Corporate sabotage, or maybe data theft?"
The figure chuckled. "Nothing of the sort. Just some information acquisition and survey."
M-2 nodded. "If that's the case, what is my target?"
"Not what, but who." The screen blipped and on it, several photos and documents popped up, one she knew full well. "I'm sure you're familiar with her."
She knew those pictures anywhere. She saw them before, days ago. The one person she despised the most. As loyal as she was, she could not take this in stride. With gritted teeth, she protested. "NO!"
"No?" They replied, leaning their head slightly.
Realizing her outburst, she shrunk. "N-no, sir. It's j-just… I believe I am unsuited for such a mission due to our interactions in my previous mission. If we were to meet, she'd recognize me immediately."
"Really? And this has nothing to do with your highly negative and deeply personal opinion of her?"
"… No, sir. There's nothing of sort."
The figure coughed from behind the screen. "I'll believe it when I see it. Until then, you have your orders."
With a click, the data she was presented with transferred itself immediately to her bracelet, all containing the necessary information regarding her target. Her bracelet beeped, signalling the transfer process as completed.
"Remember, don't interact with her. I mean it, M-2." The Director warned and immediately after, they cut off the call.
Angered, M-2 cursed under her breath and wordlessly stomped back to her room, reading the data through her visors. She quickly skimmed through the pages, glancing them at most. By the time she reached her quarters, she already memorized the important parts. She never needed to read any files more than once anyway.
Without any choice on the matter, M-2 took the mission; watching a couple of teenagers duke it out on a DDR machine. She could've been spending her weekend productively such as CQC training or weapons training.
"… Fuck this." With a tap, she placed the spider-bot on autopilot.
The Glitch was initially her little voice recording device but who's to say it couldn't also be a camera? She didn't care if the quality was horrendous. That's the problem of the lab rats back at base, not hers.
Now that the Glitch was doing the work for her, it's time to move on. She strolled by some unsuspecting sucker and grabbed their stack of coins, placing them in her jacket's pockets. Eh, she needed them more than the kid did.
"Now what to do first…" M-2 looked around the arcade for something interesting. This was honestly her first time here and she couldn't understand why so many people would waste their free time here. Braindead, the lot of them.
"WAP WAP WAP WAP WAP—!"
What was that annoying sound? M-2 turned to its general direction to inspect. There, she found a vacant arcade machine in the corner, squeezed by the wall. Despite the console being well-kept, it didn't look like anyone touched it at all.
"Chomp Kitty…" M-2 spoke, reading the glowing sign above the screen out loud. Compared to everything else, the game looked outdated with its low-resolution graphics and simplistic art style.
M-2 grabbed a token she sto— acquired, and slotted it in the hole. The screen buzzed and changed, waiting for her to start. On the panel stood the controls and instructions, the latter she promptly skimmed through.
"So just jump around, eat enemies and reach the end of the level? Eh, sounds simple enough." She exclaimed, grabbing the controls and pressing start.
Five whistled wistfully, leaving the men's room. After several plays of DDR with Miko, they decided to go for some snacks at the arcade's indoor restaurant. Much like any other arcade, the food there was unhealthy and gross but oddly satisfying to consume. Despite only sharing a plate of nachos, Five felt the call of nature and excused himself while Miko waited by the door.
"Man, I can't believe they charge a dollar to use it. I guess there's no such thing as a perfect arcade." Five complained, rubbing his back pocket where his wallet was in. Thankfully, he brought extra cash for today since it was a special occasion and all.
Suddenly, he heard a shout nearby, followed by several bangs and thunks. Curious, he decided to check on the noise, wondering what it was. He guessed it was probably an angry player mad at the game after several losses. He knew full well how that was like.
Despite the loud chatter and music everywhere, it wasn't long until he found what he was looking for. There, by the wall, was as he expected; an angry player currently relieving her frustration on the arcade machine. Even though it was normal to be discouraged after a bad game, that didn't mean one should start kicking the cabinet and shouting bloody murder.
"STUPID—!" Thwack. "PIECE OF—!" Clunk. "SH—!"
"Heeeeey there!" Five interrupted, briskly sliding in-between her and the poor machine. "What's uuuuup?"
If there was one person she didn't want to meet other than Miko, it would be her awkward tall friend; Hector Nieves, or as he's called 'Five'. Startled by his appearance, M-2 pulled her hoodie down even further, covering half her face. From his files, he was known as the smart one but from her experience, the injured arm and face begged to differ.
"What do you want?" She spat out like venom.
"Just being a Good Samaritan and, uh, stopping you from breaking the machine?" He squeaked.
M-2 huffed. "I wasn't going to break it much."
"Yeah, that worries me." Instinctively deciding to help, Five turned around and faced the familiar console. "Chomp Kitty? Hey, that's my favourite game! Don't want to brag or anything but I know the game from top to bottom."
"Kinda sounds like you're bragging right now." She replied though he ignored the slight.
"Well, the game is pretty simple. First, you got your—" While Five continued to explain the ins and outs of the game, M-2 rolled her eyes and took back control of the machine. She still had tokens to spare and if she ignored him long enough, he'd definitely leave.
… Why hasn't he left yet?
"And that's how you beat the third level boss." He exclaimed in a helpful tone. Turning back, he realized that the formerly-angry player had just beat the same boss he was talking about. "Hey, look at that! You beat him!"
M-2 blinked. "I did?" She hadn't even realized it. She couldn't even reach the first level boss before. Had she unconsciously listened to his every word?
"You were kinda rough early on but then you took my advice so quickly and now, you move like a pro. That's honestly incredible!" Five praised, proudly at that. "I'm surprised you had trouble early on! You're a natural!"
"Well, this is my first ever game." She admitted, feeling somewhat embarrassed. She didn't know why.
Five's eyes bulged out, surprised. "WHAT?!"
"I… was a sheltered child." Why was she telling him this? "Not much chances to play games. I usually study and train."
"Train? Are you like a star athlete?!"
"Hah, as if! It's more like… job training." Please stop talking. "Need to keep my skills up."
"A job? Must be some intense stuff if you train a lot." Five said with a toothy grin. "I work at the Hinobi store. I'm sure you know where that is. It's like the only one in town."
"Yeah, I'm familiar." M-2 replied, continuing to play and still avoiding his gaze.
"If you ever stop by, just tell me. We'll hang out."
"Yeah, yeah, whatever. You know, it's really rude to just get involved with people. I don't even know your name." said M-2, though ending with a little lie.
"Oh, you're right! I'm so sorry!" He spoke with full of guilt, slapping his forehead. "The name's Hector. My friends call me Five."
"What, like the number?"
"Yeah, exactly! It's part of my gamer tag; High Five. Though, I guess you don't know what that is…" mumbled Five by the end. "What about you?"
Five chuckled. "Heh, sorry about that. It just sounds very similar to a friend of mine."
"What a coincidence." M-2 replied sarcastically. However, he didn't notice.
Clapping his hands together, he started walking away. "I gotta go now. Remember, if you ever visit the Hinobi store, just give me a call!"
Without so much of a reply, Five briskly left the scene, heading straight to the exit. By then, M-2 had just finished the fourth level, still under the same token. She hated to admit it but his tips probably helped her get better. If word got out about this, she'd be in trouble.
Still, it would be a lie if she said she didn't appreciate it. There's a certain sweetness she felt when he was around, giving her advice. She was unfamiliar with it and honestly, it scared it. And yet, she wanted more; this sweet and terrible feeling.
All of a sudden, she felt a set of sharp pin-like legs climb up her own, startling her slightly. It crawled around her, before finally resting on top of her hand.
"You're back. Good job, Glitch." She complimented, though her words rang empty. "Delete the recording in periods from now till 10 minutes ago. I'd rather not have the Director know about this.
With a nod, the spider-bot whirred like a mixtape running backwards, cutting out and deleting the specified part. It clicked, finishing the process.
Meanwhile, back with the duo, Five finally caught up with Miko at the arcade's exit. He took his sweet time getting there, though it wasn't that long anyway. Plus, Miko didn't look like she minded.
"Heya, Five! Took you long enough. Let me guess; it was a number two."
"What? No-oo-oo…" Five replied with a small giggle. "I was helping this girl with her game. She told me she never played a game before in her life!"
Miko gasped. "What?! No way! How could anyone live like that?!"
"I know, right? She was so mad about losing, so I showed her a few tricks. She's a fast learner and I'm hoping we'd all meet up again for some games."
"All that potential, wasted…" Miko cried dramatically. Wiping away a single tear, she smiled. "Still, she sounds neat. Did you get her number?"
Five raised a finger to answer but drooped down once he realized his error. Both hands on his head, he panicked. "Oh nerds, I forgot to ask her for one! She's probably not even there anymore!"
"Oh Five, you should've asked for her contact info. That's like, Friendship 101." Miko smugly said and wagged her finger.
Five stared at the Japanese teen. "And how do you know that?"
"I'm homeschooled! My friends are all online, so contact info is a must!" she claimed, her chest pridefully up high despite the questionable response.
"… You, uh, you want to talk about it?"
Five scratched his head, feeling somewhat awkward. Maybe it was time for a different topic. Seeing it was finally the afternoon, it was time for the main course of this little outing.
"Say, wanna go grab lunch?" Five asked, pulling out his keys, though only for Miko to grab it from his hand.
"Yep, and I know just the place." She replied with a wink, walking away and to the van.
Though smiling, Five could only sigh. He personally had an idea where to go for lunch but he was a bit curious on Miko's destination. Turning forward, he started walking but then out of nowhere, he saw his keys fly through the air, startling him.
"But, haha, maybe you should drive instead." sheepishly called Miko from afar.
Interesting fact about the van: There's a built-in portal function in every Hinobi Tech van issued to employees. The van can also be tracked via gauntlets, in case you need to find it again after you misparked. These two things combined meant that employees can use a portal to reach their vehicles easily.
Why is this interesting? Well, it's because of how the portal tech works. In order for a portal to be made, you need to set up an entrance and an exit; so technically two portals. Gauntlet portals work by shooting out a set-up point from the user and then opening another portal nearby. That meant it's limited to sight. The van was its own set-up point.
The only exception to this rule would the Glitch Techs HQ, due to security reasons. Can't have holes being opened all over the place.
"You know, we could've just walked. The van wasn't even parked that far." Five exclaimed, chopsticks in hand.
The duo were currently in a Japanese restaurant called Sanshimi, right at the other side of town. He initially planned on bringing Miko to a burger place but she had the idea of going here. Apparently, her sister Nica recommended it.
He attempted to grab a piece of raw fish with his chopsticks, only to fumble around and drop it.
"We could… but portals, Five! What's the point if we don't use it?" reasoned Miko, being much better with her pair of chopsticks. Portals were exclusively Hinobi Tech property and while there was no way to check, they were pretty sure it was patented.
In response, he simply shrugged. "That's fair." Once more, he tried to grab the fish and like before, it failed. It fell into the soy sauce, splashing the black liquid everywhere.
If there was a fish heaven, his piece was definitely smiling devilishly at him.
"You know, I never saw you as a sushi type person." said Five, still trying his best.
"I didn't know I was either!" Miko replied, grabbing a sushi roll and plopping in her mouth. Five stared at his sadly. "But hgey, I guesh gyou learn shomething new about yourshelf everygday!"
"Hehe, yeah." He simply poked the piece of seafood like it was a dead animal. It was.
Swallowing, Miko looked at her friend. "Hey, what's wrong?"
"Well, this fish making fun of me for once. It's just…" He sighed. "It's that player at the arcade. I'm still bummed that I didn't get her contact info. All I got was her name and, not being mean about it, is kinda funny."
"What's so funny about her name?" Miko asked, grabbing herself a drink. Green tea was apparently free here.
"Well, nothing really! It's just so similar to yours. She called herself 'Meico'." Miko spat out her tea in shock. "Funny, isn't it? … Hey, you okay?"
Miko coughed heavily, too shocked by the name told. Not only was M-2 at the same arcade they were, but she had also met Five and he didn't even realize it. To be fair, she never did tell Five about her but that wasn't the issue. M-2 had said that she had 'things' to do and her being in the same arcade as they were was no coincidence. Miko was sure about that.
"Five, what did you talk about Meico?!" Miko frantically asked.
"Huh? Oh, well I showed her how to play Chomp Kitty and she told me a few things about her." He lifted the same piece with his chopsticks, now soaked black. "We didn't talk much, I guess."
The piece slowly floated close to his mouth, just a few inches more, only to slip out of his grip and land on the table with a splat. The soy sauce on its surface smeared the table. With a heavy heart, he sighed.
Miko was internally panicking. She wasn't sure if she should tell Five about it, especially now. It's not that she wanted to keep it a secret, just that there was a time and place for everything. For example, tomorrow.
Right now, however, she needed some space to clear her head.
"I'm going to the bathroom!" Miko shrieked, standing up straight in an instant.
"Don't wait for me and good luck with your fish!" She yelled, briskly walking away.
Five watched her nervously traverse across the restaurant and through the women's room's door. He could immediately guess that she was panicking about something but what was it? That, he couldn't figure out.
Again with his chopsticks, he grabbed a different piece this time and carefully lifted it up. His hands shook and the piece fell forward, now into the small plate of wasabi.
Splash! The water hit her face completely, refreshing and cool. Her makeup was in no way waterproof but she didn't really care. It was a pain to put on anyway and she mostly took care of her hair.
Miko breathed in and out, the eerie silence of the restroom being her only companion. Water dripped from her nose and cheeks, into the sink with a tip-tap.
She wracked her brain for an idea. If she told Five about Meico, he'd get worried and cancel the date. And while that was a sensible move, Miko was not willing to jeopardize today, not when she looked forward to it.
Wiping her face with the towels, Miko stared at her reflection, the makeup gone from view. Surprisingly, she noticed a glint of static in her eye that she never saw before. Was it always there?
"What's up, loser?"
Miko quickly turned around right there in front of her was the girl in question; M-2 or Meico. Upon seeing her, her face contorted to an angry one. "YOU!"
"For the record, I was in this bathroom way before you were."
"What are you doing here, Meico?!" she demanded.
"Oh, you know…" M-2 shrugged. "Stuff."
"Yeah, stuff. Nothing you need to know about." she retaliated.
Tapping her foot, she pointed her finger by M-2's feet. "Oh, and I'm guessing it has nothing to do with that spider-bot Glitch RIGHT OVER THERE?!"
Immediately, Miko summoned her gauntlet and pointed its blaster directly at M-2. Despite the threat, M-2 smiled and pulled up her portal disc. "Ah, ah, ah! Didn't you forget this? You better put that away, little girl, or else I'll be freeing enough Glitches to wreck the entirety of downtown down under."
Without a word, Miko shifted her arm and blasted the disc off of M-2's hand, leaving only charred remains.
M-2 stared at the now destroyed portal disc, her face blank and eyes wide. "That… was my ticket home."
"Now, you better tell me why you're spying on me—" Her gauntlet pulsed. "Or else I'll send you through the wall."
No response. Yet, Miko held her arm front and ready, the blaster completely charged. A blast like this wouldn't kill anyone but it'll be enough to send an adult flying a full 5 meters. Plus, she knew how strong M-2 was so at best, it'd knock her out.
"Well?" Miko asked. "What's your answer?"
Her fingers gripped tight, whitening her knuckles. Teeth gritted with a snarl, her whole body shook.
"You…" she growled. "YOU BIIIIITTCCH!"
Screaming a war cry, M-2 lunged onto a surprised Miko, toppling both onto the wet ground. With her at the top, she began pummelling Miko with her fists, forcing the latter to go on a defensive. Taking in a few hits, Miko pulled her legs in and kicked M-2 off of her, followed by her lunging at the black-clad girl, switching their positions.
In such an enclosed space, both were at a disadvantage, neither being able to move around flexibly. While they continued to thrash each other around, there was only so much they could do with the slippery floors and walls being so close that one can touch both ends simultaneously.
In the end, the two managed to separate from another, pushing each other off to the other sides of the bathroom. Both were stained by the dirty bathroom water, Miko especially so. Her outfit just wasn't cut out for this.
"Had enough?!" Miko bluffed, her face and arms full of scuff marks. She had somehow managed to avoid most of the direct blows but dang, did her opponent hit hard. Her whole body ached in pain.
M-2, on the other hand, panted heavily. She lifted her arms to her face, changing her stance. "Not even close."
Miko charged forward, sending a mean right hook. M-2 ducked down, the hook flying above her head and missed, followed by a quick jab at Miko's cheek. Shocked, Miko stumbled backwards but her opponent was relentless; immediately hitting her with another quick jab.
Needing to counter, Miko pulled her arms up to a defensive and blocked the coming jabs before punching M-2 in the shoulder. She flinched but wasn't enough as she kicked the Japanese back, breaking her defences and continuing her assault.
Miko was naturally a good fighter with many VR games having full-body tracking. It's how she was able to handle all the Glitches she's fought over the month. However, M-2 was on a-whole-nother level. She was trained for combat. In fact, one might say she was trained for specifically this.
Miko was good. M-2 was better.
"You think you're so special, don't you?! Waltzing around in your fancy dress, having the time of your life?! Well, I didn't have any of that! NONE OF IT!" Her fists kept piling in, carrying ferocious anger with each throw. "And now you break my things?! Because of you, I'll be in trouble!"
With each subsequent blow, Miko was pushed back further and further until finally, her back was literally to the wall. Even with her on the defensive, M-2's strikes were strong and fast, and any attempt to hit back would just be brushed off and put her at risk.
Seeing a strong strike coming her way, Miko instinctively moved to the side, the fist barrelling right next to her left. It hit the wall with a crack, breaking the tiles and even through concrete. Eyes widened, Miko immediately ran under her, giving herself some space.
"Holy nerds…" Miko whispered. She'd seen superhuman strength before. Heck, she even knew how it felt. But that was just insane.
Gritting her teeth, M-2 placed her leg on the wall as leverage and pulled her arm out. Concrete fragments broke off and fell on the floor, leaving a large gaping hole.
"If it weren't for her, you'd be dead. And if it were up to me—" M-2 glared at Miko, her very presence deathly threatening. "You'd be dead."
"RGAAAAAAAAAAGGHH!" M-2 charged, her right fist winded back.
Miko knew that if that hit her, there was no way she'd come out unscathed. If it succeeded, she'd either be in the hospital or a body bag.
Momentarily, she remembered something about her sister Lexi. Ever since Miko tried to train her for a competition, Lexi became very enthusiastic regarding martial arts and always found time to practice her skills. At one point, she even showed Miko some techniques in a sibling-bonding moment.
"What you wanna do is grab your opponent's wrist when they punch," Lexi explained, grabbing Miko's wrist while she was in her stationary punch pose. "and slide the elbow across the arm and into their face."
"Then, you'd put your whole arm around their chest and with one leg behind theirs," said Lexi, slowly doing exactly that. "You push as hard as you can and use your leg as a pivot, breaking their balance!"
With a push, Lexi pushed Miko with all her might, causing her to lose her feet. Miko yelped in surprise, falling on the ground with a thud.
Standing back up, she rubbed off any dirt on her backside and started clapping. "Wow, Lexi! That was great! You're getting way better at this!"
Lexi blushed, nervously twisting her leg. "Y-yeah, I've been training hard! Next time, I'll definitely win and bring back a real medal! N-not that those video game ones aren't real or anything!"
That was a nice memory. One of the few moments she was proud to be the older sister.
Which reminded her; Miko grabbed M-2's wrist and roughly elbowed her in the face. While disoriented, she wrapped her arm around her and with her leg as leverage, she toppled M-2 to the ground. Hard.
Miko flipped M-2 over and with her knee on her back, Miko twisted M-2's arm, clutching it tightly. She made sure to put extra force on the wrist and for a moment, that extra force was just enough to be more than uncomfortable.
"RRAAAAAAHH!" M-2 howled, her right arm completely immobilized. She tried to fight back with her remaining limbs but Miko tightened her grip further, twisting hard.
"Please just stop! Y-you're not making it any easier!"
M-2's left hand rolled up tight. She was stronger than Miko, more skilled than Miko. She spent her whole life training to prove it. Unprepared as she was, this was that moment.
She couldn't accept a defeat. No, she wouldn't accept it.
Shaking her remaining arm, the bracelet slid out and into view. With a slam on the ground, the bracelet reacted and a small baton, one with an electric shocker for a tip, materialized itself in front of her.
"Huh?" Miko gawked. But she was too late. M-2 grabbed the shock baton and slammed its tip onto Miko, sending dangerously high voltages through her.
"AAAAHHHHHHHH!" Miko screamed, being electrocuted by a weapon designed for Glitches. The electricity coursed through her whole body, forcefully causing her muscles to spasm uncontrollably.
After a few seconds, her grip lessened, M-2's arm now free. Miko slumped forward, her body unable to move and her mind blank.
M-2 had won.
It was dark and eerily silent. She could see anything past 5 feet, the light above her only illuminating her proximity. Her right arm was stretched forward and on it, a bulky but highly-advanced gauntlet.
From the shadows, blue holographic humanoids ran towards her, scared and panicked. She glanced at each and every single one but never acted, letting them sprint past her. But from the same direction, red humanoids began charging at her, weapons in hand.
She didn't hesitate.
Blast! The gauntlet's energy shot out and towards the red targets, shattering them like glass. More and more reds appeared, again charging in a stampede. Each one, she hit dead centre with a blast of energy and much like the rest, they broke apart.
From afar, she saw a singular golden humanoid, about 50 meters away. In front of it was a wall of blue humanoids, raising their arms in protest while the reds kept them back.
With a flick of her wrist, her visor lit up and a targeting reticule appeared in view. As more red figures ran after her, she jumped and kicked one down followed by another, boosting her height. Twisting her body, she shot a curved bolt towards the crowd.
It travelled in an arc, moving at high speeds and went through the gaps between the figures' heads. Passing the wall, it was almost instantaneous when the bolt of energy hit the golden humanoid in the face, causing the whole body to crumble.
A wave pulsed out of the person, briefly lighting up the floor with a grid-like pattern. The pulse touched each figure, whether red or blue, destroying them all instantly. She landed with a thud, rolling forward due to momentum.
Looking up, large holographic letters appeared, floating in mid-air. This included an air-horn noise, followed by a robotic voice.
"SIMULATION COMPLETE. TIME: 21.834 SECONDS. NEW BEST TIME RECORDED."
The letters floated for several seconds, before blipping out of existence. Before she could reach to her gauntlet and restart the simulation, the doors behind her slid open, washing the room with light. This automatically turned on all the lighting and the darkness in the room disappeared from sight.
Tap, tap, tap. High heels stepped onto the metallic floors, its sounds echoing around the room. The owner of the high heels was none other than the Professor; her superior.
"Good work, M-1. You broke your record, again." The Professor spoke, her voice indifferent. "At this rate, you won't have any more simulations to work with."
There was no reply. There simply was nothing to say that contributed.
"Come, the Director wants to see you." she gently said, placing her hand on the young girl's shoulder. She nodded, turning around and leaving the room together. At the end of the hallway, they entered an elevator, moving upwards.
The complex was designed with monorails and elevators, carrying scientists, custodians and various other employees across and around the area. Half of the time, she spent staring at the deep concrete walls. The other half, she got a glimpse of the outside world. Snowy forests, as far as the eye could see.
At the centre of the complex stood a tall tower, surrounded by quadrants of buildings that formed a circle around it. She had spent her whole existence here. To her, this was the only world she knew. At least, for now.
After a few minutes, the elevator rang and opened its doors, finally reaching the top. She and the Professor walked out and onto the carpeted floors. Directly in front of her was a set of glass doors, blurred and opaque, with a pair of vases at the sides holding white flowers. Along the way was a single secretary, tapping on the keyboard diligently.
"Wait here." The Professor asked. No, more like ordered. She walked towards the secretary behind the desk and started talking.
She didn't listen. The Professor ordered her to wait, not listen. It was not her place.
After a brief phone call, the secretary called out. "You may come in. The Director is waiting for you right now."
The two walked in, pushing the glass doors open. This was the Director's office; a large room at about 150 square-feet, white marble floors, shelves and portrait lined up at the sides and a large window at the opposite end. In the middle of the room was a set of brown couches and a large dark oak coffee table, an azure table runner on top.
However, none of these was important. It was the person she's supposed to meet; the Director. She had never actually met the Director, nor had she ever talked to them. A mystery, one she never questioned.
However, instead of meeting the person, the room was empty. Just a single screen on the far-end office table, facing her and the Professor.
Out of nowhere, she felt a sharp pain in her head.
"M-1?" the Professor worriedly asked, noticing her discomfort.
"Don't you worry about her, Professor. She's just experiencing the effects of a new device the lab coats downstairs designed." The Director's voice spoke, the screen suddenly lit up. "It's not enough to do any harm but it's not exactly… pleasant."
At the other side of the screen, they slid a digital bar, increasing the device's power from 20 to 60 per cent.
She clutched her head, the pain too much. Her knees buckled, forcing her tumbling down in a rough thud. And even then, no matter how much she gripped her skull, this agonizing pain was worse.
"M-1!" her Professor yelled. She immediately kneeled down, holding her close. She turned to the screen, clearly distressed. "Sir, stop this right now!"
Despite her pleas, they barely reacted. They must see it. No, they needed to see it personally. There was no other alternative.
She continued to clutch her head tight, unable to move or even think. Her strength waned and after a minute of pure agony, she couldn't take it anymore.
"GGGAAAAAHHHHH!" she screamed, tears pouring out.
Eyes widened, the Professor pleaded in distraught. "S-sir! Please stop!"
It took a moment but eventually, they slid down the bar, reducing the power to null. The pain dissipated, leaving nothing but the residual effects.
Relieved, her body relaxed but she felt far too weak to move. Her eyes swollen in tears and her lungs left ragged. Short breaths, that was as much she could do.
She was so tired, her mind too muddled. Yet, she tried to keep conscious. She had too.
The Professor lifted her up, carrying her the same way a mother would to a young child. Wordlessly, she turned to the door, not even acknowledging the person behind the screen with a glance.
"You were getting too attached, Professor. Need I remind you that the subject is a product, not a person? I had hoped the procedure would've allowed you to remove such thoughts." Their head shifted slightly. "I was wrong. For your own sake, please do not repeat the same mistake."
Frustrated, she begrudgingly answered. "Understood." With her in the Professor's arms, she walked away.
The Director pressed a button, opening the doors automatically. "Oh, and Professor? Tell the scientists that their little device worked wonderfully. I want a smaller version by the time M-1 will be sent to her first mission."
The Professor heard but she did not reply. She paused but continued on her way, her chest tightening.
Five stared at his plate, a deep and frustrated frown etched on his face.
The boy had spent the last ten minutes trying to use chopsticks but God be damned, he could not win this fight. He didn't understand. He has fought monsters and men of the digital variant, both 2D and 3D. He should be completely able to use a pair of sticks for eating.
And yet, he has failed. His table was messy and his food ruined, one having fallen onto the ground. Nerd, even his shirt had patches of soy sauce stained on it.
Was it his fingers? Maybe he held the chopsticks wrong?
His ears twitched. "Miko?" he quietly spoke, turning his head to the women's room. Did he just hear her voice?
Suddenly, his bracelet beeped in a tune. Someone was calling him and it was work-related. Without even looking, he slid his fingers on the bracelet and summoned his visor, earpiece included.
"Hello?" Five asked, one hand by the ear.
"Five?!" Phil's voice shouted from the other side, surprised. He then sighed, the shock immediately worn off. "Hah, of course, it's you. You two are practically inseparable."
"Uh, Phil? I'm still here."
"I know. Just, I need to ask. Is Miko with you?" Phil asked.
He shrugged, not that his boss could see it. "Yeah, she's with me. Why?"
"No, I mean," he frantically said. "Is she here, right now, right in front of you?"
"Uh, no. Why? She went to the women's room." Five answered.
"I'm picking up some unusual activity from her tech. I need you to check on her!"
"What?!" Five practically screamed, only to quietly apologize to the nearby server. "I can't go in there! I'm pretty sure it's illegal!" he whispered in argument.
"Kid, do you really think everything we do on Glitch Tech is legal?"
Five blinked. "... I-it's not?"
"We're a secret organization under a private company. Every we do is technically illegal."
Phil groaned. "Look, it doesn't matter! You need to go check on her!"
"Alright, got it, Phil!" Five replied, ending the call. Since this was technically official Glitch Tech business, he kept his visor up. Now, he just needed to figure out a way to enter the women's room without looking like a creep.
Just then, a server of the restaurant walked past him, carrying a tray full of delicious bowls of ramen. Unbeknownst to the man, he unwillingly stepped on a piece of Five's fallen fish. Slippery as soap, the man lost his balance and tumbled forward, throwing the bowls into the air.
"Oh no!" He screamed, watching helplessly as the bowls flew on their destined path. Tray in hand, he leapt forward, stretching his arms upfront.
One by one, with the help of amazing reflexes, the ramen bowls landed on his outstretched tray with a clink, spilling but a drop of its savoury broth. Five, like many others, was incredibly impressed. Some of the patrons even stood up and cheered at such a show of skill. The server, exhausted, blushed in response.
He really wished he got that on camera.
Also, Five realized everyone was focused on the server. "Deus ex machina. I'll take it." He said, sounding amused. He then stood up and scurried off to the women's room.
Back against the wall like those cop films, Five flicked his wrist, materializing his gauntlet from thin air. Taking a deep breath in and out, he turned and kicked the door open, right arm ready for action.
First, he saw the gamer girl from the arcade, kneeling on the ground. "Meico?"
Then he saw his friend, unconscious and lying face-first on the wet floor. "Miko?!"
Finally, he realized that the two look identical to a really disturbing degree. "Two Miko's...?" He whispered in horror.
M-2 silently cursed under her breath, just noticing Five's arrival. She was confident she could handle him but she'd rather not. An unnecessary risk and whatnot. Thus, she chose what she assumed to be the best action; de-escalation.
"Hey, there. Five, was it? I know this looks bad but there's a completely valid explan—"
All of a sudden, a familiar feeling washed over her. It was quick like lightning and as loud as thunder. If she were to recall, this feeling once came up when she broke into Glitch Tech HQ and fought against that other pretty boy. The difference, however, was that time, she had a helmet.
From a strong right, M-2 was sent flying backwards, landing painfully on the tile floors. She groaned loudly, her left cheek feeling the sorest it's ever been.
"I'll give you that..." M-2 said, checking her jaw. "You got a mean hook. But that's the only freebie you're gonna get."
"RRAAAAAHHHH!" Determination as her fuel, M-2 twisted around, fist gripped tight and ready to clock the tall Latino off to another world.
Only for the said fist to suddenly lurch back and onto the wall, pulling her with it and slamming her. Startled, she turned to her hand and found it covered with pink bubble-gum-like goo.
M-2 tried to free herself but no matter how hard she pulled, her hand was stuck hard to the wall, the goo acting as the adhesive. Nonetheless, she continued to struggle.
"You stay there! I'll, uh, deal with you later." said Five, the pink goo been his doing.
Five, now sure it was safe, kneeled down and lifted the knocked-out Miko with both arms. If he got a nickel every time he had to lift an unconscious teenager to the back of his van, he'd have two nickels which wasn't much but it was still weird that it happened twice.
Miko in his arms bridal-style, Five walked out of the women's room and headed straight to the exit. Oddly enough, no one noticed him basically carrying a body through the restaurant. They were still fixated on the server that spilt and recovered some food. He didn't see it but he was sure the server was juggling some empty bowls and soy sauce bottles, entertaining the guests.
Out of the restaurant and by his van, he opened the back door and placed Miko inside as gently as possible. Other than a few bruises and burnt marks, she didn't have anything worse on her. Also, her eyes seemed normal so she was definitely not having one of those freak glitches.
Can Miko even get glitches? They really needed to check on this.
"You'll be fine, Miko. I'll be right back." he said, rushing back into the restaurant and its public bathrooms. "Alright, Meico, if that even is your real name! I'm bringing you back to HQ for questioning. I know I'm not a cop and just today, I learned that this may be illegal, but you look like Miko in a weird identical twin sort-of way so it's definitely related!"
However, once he got there, Meico was gone along with a huge chunk of the wall. Like, there was a literal hole in the wall that led to the alleyway behind the shop. It was small but definitely big enough for a person to crawl through. Still, this was still a pretty big hole.
Five peeked his head out of the wall, surveying his surroundings. But the alleyway was quiet with nothing to show for. In every way possible, she had successfully escaped.
Where was she? The last thing she remembered was being in the Director's office. Then that horrible ringing and finally... blank. Nothing happened after that, at least none she could recall.
She pulled herself up from where she laid. A bed? No, her bed. She was in her own room, apparently sleeping on her own bed. But how did she get here?
Her body upright, she looked around for anything unusual. And there it was; her mo— she meant, the Professor. The older woman was sitting nearby, her head low. She was fiddling with a tablet in hand.
"Oh, M-1! You're awake! How are you feeling?" the Professor asked, lowering her table. She nodded in response, feeling no worse than usual.
"Good? Oh, good. I was worried that you might have..." she bit her lips nervously. "It doesn't matter anymore. You're fine."
She then pulled out a small enclosed plastic bag from underneath her coat. It had a bunch of funky designs and colours on it. However, it's true product lied within.
"I wasn't sure what candy you'd like so I picked a mixed bag." The Professor ripped the bag open and picked out a small piece, wrapped in some kind of aluminium.
"Here, try some." said the Professor, handing it to her. She picked up the candy and stared. Was this supposed to be edible? She was sure aluminium was not the case but the Professor was smarter than her. Thus, she lifted the candy to her mouth, only to be stopped.
"You have to unwrap it first." Oh. Oh, that made more sense. She did what was told, unwrapping the piece, then putting it into her mouth.
Sweet. Savoury. Chewy. Deep.
"MMMMMMM!" She happily squealed, that taste just exploding in her mouth. This was candy? It was the best thing she had ever tasted! She literally had stars in her eyes.
"Delicious, isn't it? Still, no need to rush. You have many more left." said the Professor, shaking the partially opened bag. She then placed it next to her pillow.
The Professor continued to watch as she visibly chewed on that piece of candy, savouring its taste. The older smiled, faint but genuine.
"You remind me of my sister. She likes sweet things too. I heard she recently got married to some German fellow. I wished I could've been there to meet them." she sighed, the smile slowly disappearing.
"M-1, you'll be facing your first mission soon. I want you to promise me that if anything happened that jeopardizes your safety, you head straight home. Do you understand?"
Still chewing, she tilted her head sideways, confused.
"Oh, you don't have that concept yet. Well, home is..." the Professor brainstormed a definition. "Home is where your loved ones are. It's where you can freely express yourself without being judged. It's the safest place in a very cruel world. It's... It's where you feel belonged."
"My home is with my family. My sister and I are very close. If you were to meet her..." the Professor smiled. "I'm sure she'd love it."
That's what home was? And the Professor's home wasn't here. She knew the woman was never happy here. She just never understood why.
Home... Where was her home?
Slowly, her eyes fluttered opened and her mind awaken. Her head felt groggy and drowsy, and her body was aching everywhere. She was, in all sense of the words, in deep pain. Still, she sat back up, the jumpy and vibrating floor making it worse.
"Ugh, what?" Miko groaned, rubbing her throbbing head. Looking around, she realized she was at the back of the Hinobi van, which explained why the floor was all bumpy like that. Behind her was Five, driving away
"Miko? Oh, you're awake!" Five exclaimed, sounding thankful. "How are you feeling, buddy?"
"Like I got punched repeatedly and then got tased."
Five visibly cringed. "Oof, that bad?"
Miko shrugged. "That was pretty much what happened. But I'm feeling better now. Like, it still hurts but not so bad. A good night's rest is all I'll need!"
He sighed. "I was going to bring you to the clinic. Do you, uh, still want to go?"
Even though she was medically insured, or at least she thought she was, she decided not to take the risk. Besides, going there would mean her parents finding out. That was not something Miko wanted to deal with at any time or place.
Even though Five was still driving, Miko climbed through the gap in-between seats and plopped herself on the passenger's side. "Eh, no thanks. I'm feeling way okay now."
"Well, if you say so…" Five mumbled, turning around and away from the nearest clinic. "Honestly though, I'm not even sure if you can go to a normal clinic. You know, you being you. I mean, when was the last time you were sick enough for that?"
"Oh, when I was six."
"SIX?!" Five gawked, befuddled. "That's so long ago!"
"Yep! It's why I remembered it. One of my earliest memories was me being sick." Miko announced, somewhat proudly at that. "I never got sick since!"
"That's… honestly impressive." Five exclaimed, genuinely amazed. Suddenly, he remembered something and reached into his pocket, driving one-armed. "Oh yeah! Before I forget, Meico or whatever her real name was dropped this."
Five, eyes on the road, showed Miko a damaged disc-like object. It had a flat side and a curved opposite and was the very same one she had blasted out of M-2's hand. Miko, reminded of the disc, was shocked. "Is that…?"
"Yep!" Five affirmed, tossing it to Miko. "I tried to fix it with the gauntlet's reversal tech but it wasn't even affected. Maybe the technology was too advanced or something. I'm not the engineering kind-of guy so I thought you should have it."
Miko inspected the disc in her hands. Yep, it was heavily damaged alright. She didn't mean to use so much power. She just wanted to disable it so it couldn't be used. Still, she could try to salvage it some way.
"You're not going to give it to Glitch Tech?" Miko asked, putting the disc in one of her new tracksuit's pockets.
"Eh, they already have one." Five replied. "Plus, we're not exactly breaking any rules or anything. It's not exactly Hinobi property."
"Ooo, how rebellious of you, Five." teased Miko before laughing. She wasn't sure what to do with the disc yet nor how to salvage it, but she'd probably figure it out. Umm, maybe.
"Say, can we stop by a department store? I kinda need to buy some new clothes." said Miko, emphasizing her dirtied and damaged outfit. "My sis would kill me if she saw how I looked."
He smiled. "Yeah, sure. It's not that far from here anyway."
And so he did. The department store in the town wasn't that big. In all honesty, it was the Hinobi Tech store that was disproportionately huge compared to other shops and services. Being a member of Glitch Tech, he actually understood why but he was somewhat bothered by how he never questioned it before.
Hinobi paid their employees well, being the top gaming company in the country. Then again, they also worked in other sectors of industry, such as convenient home appliances and life-saving medical technologies. He heard that Hinobi even had their own satellite, having worked in the space industry. The point being was that despite their low salary, it was still enough to buy some luxuries.
But all the money in the world couldn't stop Miko from buying a tacky yellow tracksuit akin to Kill Bill. Well at the very least, today he learned what Miko's favourite colour was.
After buying her new clothes and keeping her old ones in a paper bag, Five proceeded to drive Miko back to the Kubota estate. After a long and fun day (not counting the whole bathroom thing), their date had finally ended.
"Hi-yup!" Miko cried, jumping out of the van with the bag of her old outfit. "Thanks for the ride, Five!"
He mocked a salute in response. "No problem, Miko! See you on Monday!"
With a wave, Miko walked through her porch. But before reaching her door, she abruptly stopped and turned. "Say, uh… Five?" she asked, cheeks turning red.
"Huh? What's up?"
"W-where does this leave us?"
Five cocked an eyebrow, confused. He wasn't sure what she meant. They hung out as usual today and did the usual things they always did. The only difference, other than the sudden appearance of a clone trying to kill her, was that it was labelled as a—
"Oh right, 'date'…" Five recalled, slightly blushing. He had forgotten that today was supposedly a date. "I'm… not sure… Are we dating now? Like, I kinda like you! But…" He sharply inhaled ad sighed. "We're not sure about this, are we?"
For some odd reason, that answer was the exact one she wanted to hear. Miko stifled a laugh, grinning throughout. "Psh, I guess we're not. Let's keep it at friends for now. At least, until something happens."
"That… sounds great." Five replied with a smile. "I'll see you around, Miko!"
After another momentary wave, Five drove off, disappearing around the corner. While most people would've felt dejected, Miko experienced a strong sense of relief. Her feelings about Five had been confusing and awkward but after the date, she realized it might be too early. In the meantime, they'll let it flow naturally and maybe someday, their feelings would change.
Thus, ended the momentous day. What started as a normal teenage date, ended up with her getting her butt kicked in a dirty bathroom and buying new clothes. Still, she enjoyed her little outing and may or may not agree to do it again one day. For now, she just wanted to rest.
Though, that turned out to be difficult when she had to explain to her entire family why she was covered in scuff marks and how her clothes got wet and torn.
"Good night, Lexi!"
"Yeah, yeah, night sis."
Click! With a flip of a switch, the lights went out and the room turned back to dark. Miko snuggled her blanket tightly, a warm smile across her face. It wasn't like she helped it; she was just happy and her body decided to obliged.
It worried her that M-2 was around. After today's debacle, she doubted this was the last time she'd see her. The worse part, she'd appear any time she wanted and there was nothing Miko could do to track the girl. There was no telling when she'd show up next.
Though much like any other person, after several turns and rolls, her mind finally calmed itself and she went deeply to sleep.
For today, peace at last.
Unbeknownst to her, something was lurking in the dark. It moved through the moonlight, not a peek or whisper. Like a ghost, not even the toys could be a witness. From the darkness at the corner, a figure stepped out, slowly and without sound. Its shadow enveloped the peaceful sleeping Miko, not aware of what's to come.
Standing over her, the ghost and the shadow, was none other than M-2. She looked tired but her eyes did not deceive; she was anything but.
"So this is where you live, huh? So..." She lifted her foot, having stepped on some dirty clothing. "Different..."
"Still, to think you don't even have your own room. Guess I win on that one. Hehe..." she laughed silently. An empty laugh, one where she felt nothing from. Yet, she felt an aching climb up her chest, one she was too familiar with.
Melancholic, she quietly opened the door. The light from the hall hit Miko in the face, causing her to squirm in her sleep. M-2 walked out, pulling the knob with her.
Before closing, she turned around halfway, her tired face melancholic. "You ran away from everything just... for this. I don't get you at all."
She closed the door and walked down the stairs, into the living room. Looking around, she found herself staring at a single photo; a family picture showing the Kubotas at a waterpark, having fun by the pool.
Immediately, her expression turned sour and her gaze sharp as steel. "But I'm not a coward. Not like you."
Drip. A clear droplet fell onto the floor.
"Not like you."