“So, XR, what’s with this mystery resonance you’ve been tracking?” Booster asked.
“It’s weird, Booster.” XR replied. “It’s like…you know how you can tell the difference between regular milk and soy milk: they’re both milk, but one definitely didn’t come from an animal?”
“Well, I assume it’s kind of like that. I’ve never actually drank milk.”
“And you think Savy’s friend is behind it?”
“I don’t know how, but he’s gotta be up to something! You could see it in his eyes, he’s got secrets!”
“XR, he’s a teenage boy, of course he has secrets.” Mira came in and looked over the robot’s shoulder. “And why are you looking through his permanent record when you’re supposed to be helping us search for NOS-4-A2?”
“Why? So we can find that floating nightmare? Mira, look at this: he’s apparently a straight-A student, but he’s got so many write ups for sleeping in class and pulling pranks on other students. If working with you people has taught me anything it’s that no one’s that good.” XR paused. “Maybe he rebuilt NOS-4-A2.”
“Okay, now you’re obsessing over some ridiculous possibility that a high school student had the means and motive to reconstruct one of the most dangerous robotic villains of all time.” Mira reached over and closed the information window on Kaito Yamaki. “You should be focusing on the real problem. That energy vampire isn’t going to just turn himself in.”
Everyone in the room went silent and waited.
“Usually when someone says something like that, it happens.” Booster noted.
“Guess we’re not that lucky this time, my friend.” XR said, taking the info on Kite and hiding it away while he pretended to work for searching for someone he hoped would just disappear or explode again. Spontaneous combustion: it was totally a possibility worth praying for. That vampire deserved it.
“Okay, rangers, report.” Buzz walked in.
“So far there’s no sign of him.” Mira reported.
“But, there are so many energy readings and signals, it’s hard to pick out his from the rest.” Booster continued .
“We’ve also gotten several reports from the search teams who’ve found drained robots all over the place and in no particular pattern.”
“He’s toying with us. XR, have all the search teams checked in?”
“Well, almost, Ty’s still out there searching, but he hasn’t been responding for the past several hours. Rocket said Ty went off on his own this morning and hadn’t seen him since.”
“Maybe his communicator’s busted again.”
“Or maybe he’s in trouble, again.”
“Buzz, do you think NOS-4-A2 got him?” Mira asked.
“Either that or he’s going after NOS-4-A2 without back-up.” Buzz activated his communicator. “Attention all rangers, we have one of our own M.I.A. I need all personnel to report to the main hanger.”
“So, he’s going after his nemesis without back-up. That sounds awfully familiar.”
“Mira, are you ever going to let that go?”
Kite stirred and awoke to the ghastly stench of sewage. He looked around to see a giant coffin in the middle of the room, and the silent remains of several robots lying about the chamber. If this whole place didn’t scream “Vampire Lair” he wasn’t sure what did. He tried pushing his resonance out, but there was nothing.
“Mari? Saki? Tohru? Kero?” His remaining sprites did not reply, and the silence made him anxious to get out of here. He tried to stand, but found his arms were chained to the cold damp metal grate in the floor. Plus the knowledge that he wouldn’t be getting out of here alive scared him. His only comfort was that this wasn’t his worst nightmare.
“If you’re calling out for those little vermin, I should tell you they were quite delectable for digital lifeforms.” NOS-4-A2 hovered upside-down above him, eyeing him with a strange mix of curiosity and utter loathing.
“You killed them,” Kite snarled.
“I’m amazed you care about them. They were simple disposable minions, and I’m sure you can make more.”
“They were more than that.”
“Yes, just like you.” NOS-4-A2 sneered. “You are more than an average little brat. You actually attempted to control me to protect your little girlfriend using whatever ability you seem to possess.”
“I was so close, too.” Kite smirked. NOS-4-A2 floated down right in the boys face, and slapped him hard across the face, tearing the colorful bandage off his cheek. “Ow!”
“Yes, I suppose you were, and for that I should rip your throat out.” Kite shrunk back against the wall away from the energy vampire’s claws. “But why would I do that when an opportunity to create a new form of terror in my new life? I know what you are, and I would have sworn it was impossible: an organic computer, a life form able to commune with and control machines and electronic signals by mere thought. That kind of power can be useful to me.”
“Why do I think I’d prefer the throat-ripping option?” Kite inquired cautiously.
“Oh, don’t be like that.” NOS simpered, stroking the boy’s hair with mock affection. “You have the potential to become my most powerful minion yet. The wirewolf was only the beginning of my effect on organics, though I’m certain I can’t make you into one without the necessary radiation. However, your unique bioelectrical field should react with my bite just nicely.” NOS pulled his hair, forcing Kite’s head back to expose his neck. This isn’t happening! Think of something! Anything!
“And, you think it’s going to work just like that? Instant and total control? I hear that didn’t go over well with the wirewolf.”
“I’m willing to experiment, and if you turn on me, you will be a lot easier to manage. Now, hold still, or I might damage something important.” NOS-4-A2 ran his fangs over the boy’s neck, adjusting to the soft flesh: if he used as much force as he did when biting a robot he could end up killing the boy. Kite shivered and tried to squirm out of the energy vampire’s iron grip. “Relax, child, it’ll all be over soon.” One swift panicked kick sent the energy vampire sailing across the chamber. NOS recovered quickly, and with a monstrous roar attacked Kite, pinning the boy’s head to the wall.
“Do not resist me, child.” NOS-4-A2 hissed in his ear. Kite screamed as those sharp metal fangs sank into his neck. His persona raised its firewall, sensing the oncoming threat to the resonance. Kite whimpered as NOS-4-A2 quickly pulled away spitting out the blood.
“Ugh, I swear I will never get used to that taste.” NOS muttered. Kite slumped forward in a daze. Never thought I’d hear a vampire say that, he thought as the blood trickled slowly down his neck and into his shirt. “In a matter of minutes, my nanites will attack your central nervous system and take control of your bioelectrical field. Then you will kneel before me, your dark master.”
“Y’know, if I bleed out, I won’t be very useful.” Kite slurred out. NOS sighed and picked up an abandoned med drone and rummaged through it for some bandages.
“Tsk. Organics: so high maintenance.” NOS said as he bandaged Kite’s neck. “What I don’t understand is why no one caught you sooner. Surely someone must know what you really are.” Kite didn’t respond. “Really? Well, if you’ll work to keep your little secret under wraps, so I hope you’ll keep your dark master’s, too, little one.” NOS flicked the two puncture holes in the boy’s neck to make Kite wince in pain. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to feed, but I will be back.” Spreading his energy wings, NOS-4-A2 abandoned his captive in the sewer chamber to hunt for more robots. Kite could feel his own resonance being slowly corrupted, his persona was struggling to resist the assault as a massive headache pounded in his skull. That combined with the pain in his neck and no network connection was making him more and more anxious with every passing minute.
“Oh, god, Savy, please get me out of here.”
“All right, I’m sorry!” Savy yelled after about ten minutes of silence.
“Beg pardon?” Ty asked, turning to her with a surprised look on his face.
“I didn’t know who you were, and I know that my losing my parents and then getting them back doesn’t hold up to your wirewolf thing. You were right. We shouldn’t have been down here, especially Kite. The idiot’s never so much as struck anyone in anger.” Savy continued. “And now that monster’s got him!”
“Look, we’re going to find him, all right.” Ty reassured her. “And it’s no one’s fault, though in retrospect cuffing you two to something would have saved us a little trouble.”
“Not going to lecture me about charging into battle without any plan or with a non-combatant as my back-up?” Savy inquired.
“No point in lecturing you now. Just learn from it.”
Ty wondered if he should tell her his suspicions about her friend. She’d probably hate him for what he was about to suggest, but from what he saw she was smart and could handle herself. He couldn’t leave her in the dark about this.
“Besides,” Ty ventured, “it’s not your fault he took Kite. I think he did it on purpose.”
“Yeah, to use him as bait to lure us both into his little revenge trap. We’re both responsible for putting him offline on one occasion.”
“Yes, but I think he specifically targeted Kite. It was dark, he could have struck out all three of us before we even knew what happened, but instead he takes the one kid who has no connection to him. Why?”
“You got me.”
“During the fight earlier, you saw NOS-4-A2 stop attacking and start going on like he had voices in his head…”
“Not just then. Yesterday I ran into him and he tried to kill me, but then he stopped, went mental and flew away. I didn’t think too much about it because I had to make sure my parents were still alive. What does that have to do with Kite?”
“I don’t know, but during that little episode, he didn’t even look up. He just kept saying ‘go away’ and ‘leave her alone’ under his breath.” Savy stopped walking.
“You realize what you’re saying, right?” Savy asked. “You’re saying Kite’s like NOS-4-A2. That he can control robots and machines. How can he even do that?”
“Savy,” Ty sighed. “I just don’t want to see someone else become the next wirewolf. He’s a good, if weird, kid, fine, but if he has such abilities, NOS-4-A2 will either get rid of the competition or turn it to his advantage.”
“It’s just not possible!”
“Maybe I’m wrong, all right?” Ty said, exasperated. “Maybe the kid was just convenient bait, but I do know that something is going on and your little friend is in serious trouble.”
“Let’s go, then.” Savy snapped, storming ahead through the sewer. She could see the dim light at the end of the tunnel ten feet ahead. When she reached it, she saw the familiar “evil lair”, coffin and all.
“I remember this place!” Savy exclaimed. “He used this hide-out last time.”
“Great, then hopefully you remember the way out,” Ty said, looking around. There were many tunnels leading out of the chamber, and he was really hoping she remembered which one lead out. He tried his communicator again. “Ranger Ty Parsec, checking in. Can anyone hear me?”
“St-static…all static…” came a rasping whisper from the bottom of the chamber. Savy immediately leapt down when she saw Kite slumped against the wall. Ty followed after.
“Savy, wait, what if it’s a trap?!”
“Gone…” Kite rasped again. “Left to hunt…a while ago. Hey, Van Helsing, you and Jonathan Harker came to rescue me.” Ty noticed the bandage on the boy’s neck and felt a sense of cold dread run down his spine.
“Oh, please tell me he didn’t bite you.”
“I’m sorry…I guess I’m Mina Harker now, or Lucy Westenra.” The kid looked bad, pale and feverish, and his rambling didn’t sound good either. Who the hell was Jonathan Harker? He pulled at the chains around Kite’s arms, but they wouldn’t give.
“Savy, help him lean forward.” Ty cut the chains with his laser and helped Savy pick him up. “Which way is out?”
“That way.” Savy pointed at the leftmost tunnel close to the top. Ty activated his jet pack and flew them all up. Savy picked up Kite and tried to get him to walk beside her a little instead of dragging him along.
“Come on, dude, just focus and walk.” Savy urged.
“Trying, but can’t see straight.”
“So, Kite, was meeting NOS-4-A2 in person what you thought it would be?” Savy asked sarcastically.
“Dude, he’s like Bela Lugosi, except without the Hungarian accent.” Kite muttered
“That would mean a lot more if I knew who the hell that was and if you didn’t sound so sick.” Savy rolled her eyes.
“We’ll have a movie night.” Kite promised with a weak smile. “Y’know, provided I’m Mina and not Lucy.”
“Buzz Lightyear to Ty Parsec, come in! Ty, do you copy?” Nothing was coming through except static. Either his communicator really was busted or his friend was in serious trouble. Mira flew up to him.
“I can’t get a read on Ty anywhere.”
“Neither can I.”
“Buzz, what if he’s…I mean, NOS-4-A2 would probably have it out for him of all people.”
“Mira, just keep looking.”
“Hey, —one — there?”
“Ty? Status report!”
“There’s so much static.”
“No, it’s clearing up!”
“Yes, we have a signal, this way.” Ty lead them towards the end of the tunnel. “Savy, do you need me to carry him?”
“Nah, he barely weighs anything, but if you’re going to make a call for help, do it now before he passes out again.”
“Savy, I hear…spam.” Kite said airily, standing up a little taller with a look of relief on his face.
“Or before he says something weird again.”
“Ty Parsec reporting in. I need an ambulance at the following coordinates.”
“Ty —sec repor—- in. – need — ambulance — — ——— coordinates…”
“The coordinates are transmitting.” Mira said, pulling up a map.
“I know where this is, let’s go!”
It took about ten minutes for them to reach Ty and the two teenagers.
“Ty, are you all right?!”
“I’m fine, glad you care.” Ty replied dryly. “We have a problem…”
“Savy, are you okay?”
“I’m fine, too.” Savy said. “Kite, on the other hand…”
“He’s been bitten by NOS-4-A2.” Ty told them.
Back at Star Command’s outpost, Ty briefed them all about what he had found and what had happened to Kite, but he left out the theory he had about why NOS-4-A2 had bitten him.
“It sounds like he was trying to create another wirewolf. You got to him just time, Ty. Good work.” Buzz congratulated him.
“Yeah, but how was he planning to do it?” Mira asked.
“Got me.” Ty replied. “I’m going to go check on him, though.”
“Their parents are on their way over to pick them up.” Mira told him. Ty nodded. He headed toward the medical bay, thinking about the nightmares he’d been having lately. Not that he believe in prophetic dreams, but what if they weren’t simply concerning his personal dread about NOS-4-A2’s return. At the medical bay, the LGMs were looking over Kite and Savy.
“Guys, I’m fine.”
“Yeah, me, too.”
“Said the feverish bite victim.” Savy snerked.
“I’m not feverish!”
“Body temperature: 101 degrees,” one LGM informed him.
“Okay, a little feverish. I guess NOS-4-A2 never brushes his fangs.”
“Take this.” Another LGM handed him a pill and a glass of water. Kite took it and gulped it down. His entire body felt a flash of cold before his fever dropped. The LGM scanned his temperature again. “Body temperature: 98.6 degrees. Good.”
“So everything’s okay?” Ty came in.
“Nanites are inactive. Fever is gone. Neck is bandaged. Everything is all right.” the LGMs reported.
“Good to know.”
“But we should keep him under observation just in case.”
“Excuse me,” an older woman spoke up, entering along with her husband and the SL2s. “We’re here for our kids.”
“Mr. and Mrs. Yamaki, and Mr. and Mrs. SL2, I presume.”
Kite and Savy both walked over to their respective parents.
“I’m grounded, aren’t I?” Kite sighed.
“Yes, Kaito, you are.” Takashiro replied, hugging his son.
“Mom, Dad, are you all right?” Savy asked. “I didn’t mean for this to happen. I just wanted you both to be safe.”
“Savy, it’s okay.”
“But it’s our job to worry about you, too.”
“Savy, you can go.” Ty interrupted. “The LGMs want to observe Kite overnight.”
“I feel all right.”
“Are you sure, sweetie?” Yoshie asked. “Does he have to stay if he’s all right? I mean, he’s been through a lot, and we’d like to take him home.”
Ty turned to the LGMs, all of whom shrugged. Ty sighed.
“All right, I guess, he’s clear to go. But if NOS-4-A2 shows up for him again, don’t hesitate to call.”
“Thank you, Ranger Parsec.”
Savy and Kite left with their parents. Ty turned back to the LGMs
“There isn’t a serious problem with letting him go, is there?”
“Firewall still holding.”
“What does that mean exactly?”
“That’s not helpful. Can I see his medical scans?”
The LGM handed the scans to Ty, who looked them over for abnormalities, and boy did he find a big one.
“Well, that’s different.”
“I’m sorry about this, Savy.”
“For the last time, don’t worry about it. You basically found his lair, so now it’s only a matter of time before we get him.”
“Yeah, vampires need to return to their coffins eventually.”
“I’ll see you in school tomorrow, okay.”
Kite curled up in the backseat of the car. He listened to the white noise of the network as he tried to stay awake. His persona’s firewall was holding, but NOS-4-A2’s invasion into his bio-node was not letting up. He wondered if it was even safe to go to sleep.
“Kaito, are you feeling okay?”
“Yeah, I’m just tired from the whole getting kidnapped and bitten by a vampire thing.”
“I’d thought that’d be your greatest ambition to meet a vampire.”
“I don’t think I’d like to repeat it.” Kite shivered.
“So, you’ll finally get rid of all that horror show paraphernalia you’ve got all over your room?” Takashiro asked hopefully.
“Not a chance, dad.” Kite grinned. “But, when we get home, I think I’d like to just go to bed.”
“You’re not hungry or anything?”
“I’d prefer if you ate something. You’re already such a twig.” Yoshie said.
“Mom, don’t worry, I won’t snap like one.”
“I’m your mother: worrying about you is my prerogative.”
“All right, I’ll eat, if you promise to stop worrying about me.”
“Not a chance.”
Kite relaxed a bit. He always felt safe with his parents, they were always protecting him. It made him feel guilty that he hid things from them, like the people he played tricks on, or the world he visited inside the layers of the network, or the invasion in his mind that he was certain he couldn’t hold off forever. Those were his problems though, no one else’s. He couldn’t bring himself to burden his parents, who were kind enough and patient enough to adopt and take care of him when he was such a stubborn scared little kid.
“Kite, is there any traffic up ahead?” Takashiro asked.
Kite tuned into the resonance around him and mentally picked at a few vibrations to listen into the reports and traffic lights. He could hear NOS-4-A2’s roar of frustration as he moved about without letting him in and he nearly jumped out of his seat.
“There’s a jam up ahead, take the next left and go around that way.” Kite replied.
Read, review, do whatever you do.