Swift's Apartment

Swift sat cross-legged on his bed, his laptop between his knees. The PET sat beside him, the black and red of its casing contrasting with the deep ocean blue of the bedspread. The laptop screen proudly displayed the Official Netpolice Special Missions BBS, with its serious, proud, design. "To serve and protect" twisted across the banner in gilded letters. How hypocritical, he thought. When did they last do anything but coordinate civilians to do their work for them? He clicked through to a certain page of the BBS, and smiled. "Gunner, you ready?"

"For what?" His navi inquired. "They post the matchings?"

"Yeah. We're with, uh... Naviman, Gungnir, Nikko, and Count Edgar."

"Nikko?" Gunner burst out laughing. "That idiot!?"

"Yeah, the one who was too stupid to pick which way she was going to go. Either you be a good little citizen and give it back, or keep it and cover your tracks so you're not caught."

"Hah hah... Well, to her credit, not everyone's a master thief."

"True... But it looks like we still have some time on our hands. We don't have to be there until ((Monday.))"
Swift woke with a start. Lifting his fedora up from over his eyes, he noted that there was still daylight. He gave a hearty yawn and turned to the clock.

The time displayed was 8:07 AM, the day after he had last checked.

"You're finally awake." Gunner noted from the desk.

"Why didn't you wake me up, Gunner!?" He leapt to his feet, fuming.

"Hey, what happened to that calm, collected demeanor of yours?"

"Hah hah... I'm not a morning person." He cast his eyes about the room. He had slept in full clothing, again... Well, at least he wouldn't have to change.

"Well, we might as well get going. We've half an hour or so beforre we have to be there."

"Yeah... We'll use the link here, alright?"


Once Gunner had jacked into the BBS and followed the appropriate link Swift sat at the desk, trying to prepare himself for anything.
Swift rose from his chair, PET in hand. He needed to take his mind of the dilemma, and perhaps a good busting run would do just that. He needed to get out of this room, too... Maybe brave the rain to relax at that coffee place that had just opened, the Leva. Yes, he could order some exotic blend and warm himself from the inside out as he and Gunner fought some regular old viruses for a change. It was the grand opening, so it would be packed... But he would manage. Maybe he could share a table with a fellow Netbattler. Now, wouldn't that be --

A sudden tingle ran down his spine, soon growing into a shudder that shook his foundations and left chilling cold in its wake. He rubbed his arm, trying to soothe the goosebumps which had appeared.

"What's the matter?" Gunner enquired, a shade of worry in his tone.

"Nothing..." Swift dismissed. He popped open the hatch on the bottom of Gunner's electric home and began to methodically unwind the manual jack. "Someone just walked over my grave. Listen, Gunner." The chill had taken all his zeal for battle, and left him feeling strangely vulnerable, a way he hadn't felt in more than seven years. "I'm going to go for a walk, clear my head. I'm leaving the PET hooked up to the internet; keep tabs on the BBS now and again, see if they post those rewards, but otherwise you're free to do whatever you like. Try not to get into a fight." The jack slid home with a friendly snik. There was something about the sound of a manual jack... Swift never got tired of hearing it. But his mind was too fraught with the spectre of fear to focus on all the happy little things now. He fumbled for his hat and hurried out the door.
Swift's mood soured further as he plodded down the rain-slick street. Rain was one of his least favorite things, and it was coming down in such a deluge it had even managed to soak through his fedora. The Leva couldn't be far away...

Footsteps. Hurried and deliberate.

Perfectly natural. It was raining, and of course someone would quicken their pace to get out of the torrent. There was something rather gloomy about Electown during a rainstorm; the normally bustling streets were empty as his stomach. He was painfully reminded of the fact that he hadn't eaten since yesterday's lunch as his stomach churned about, hopeful of some tidbit it had missed. He distracted himself from his stomach's relentless gnawing once more, focussing instead on the gloomy ghost town that Electown could become with a little water. The scene was made all the more depressing by the muddy images smiling from the many giant viewscreens that covered the urban face. A smiling model advertised a new car, her message reduced to a faint mosaic glow by the everpresent drops of water busily refracting capitalism into a sad lightshow. Swift couldn't see so much as her garb through the shifting smoke window, but from the sheer amount of tan that shone through he could guess it was nowhere near suitable for the weather. Small, finnicky neon signs replaced the viewscreens as he moved farther into the pseudo-slums that the Leva brightened. These signs tried to mimic the glow of the viewscreens, but failed horribly; all they could manage was a flicker of blue or green or pastel red. But an abnormally square building had come into sight, proclaiming the cutting-edge design of the cafe; cutting-edge design nowadays mostly amounted to organic curves, sparingly used, and supplemented by the occasional right angle.

A gun was thrust into his sight, and smoke curled from the barrel before his mind could register that it had fired. With a wordless cry, he fell to the ground clenching one eye. The bastards had shot out his eye... But he was still alive. Only an expert shot could take out his eye without taking a sizeable chunk of brain with it. He was mildly impressed. The trick was to come in at a sharp angle. You usually grazed the far side of the socket, but the end result was a properly defaced victim properly reminded of his obligations and properly living. Of course, it would also be used to render a victim helpless before an execution; only a few other organs could register quite so much pain as the eye. He was rambling... The pain had made him inchoerent, it would seem. He had hardly noticed the dark shapes who had closed around him, with one gruff hand holding his head up by the hair. He faintly wondered where his hat was. One of them said something he couldn't make out. The idiots. The proximity of the gunshot temporarily deafened the victim of an eyeshot. The speaker let out a muffled angry torrent fo words at Swift's silence. His hearing had started to flow back, though; that became apparent with the next speaker.
"Fr[size0]a[/size]nx. Cops." "Franx" sighed. A lengthy machete flickered into his fist.

Swift's last sight; an oddly clear stop-motion of a painfully beautiful blade, slicing through the gloomy rain toward him.