The Weatherbey Estate

"But father, can you truly expect me to function on such a pittance? I'm an enterprising young man, you know that fully well! How do you expect me to take over the Weatherbey Business Empire if you can't even trust a few thousand..." Young Charles Weatherbey, the Third, was suddenly cut off by the other voice at the end of his cell phone conversation. "Well yes, I understand, but... Well yes, that's quite true, I under..." He sighed, exasperated, and clicked a button on his PET to terminate the call. "Dear father seems a bit too tight with money these days. What a shame. I was truly hoping to get my dear Alice that lovely necklace. And that pair of earrings for my little love Britney. Let's not forget Sylvia, the poor little exchange student would be completely lost without my skilled hands guiding her." Charles laughed loudly, uncaring of disturbing anyone else, though if anyone else was in the mansion beyond the servants it was news to him.

He plopped himself down in a fine leather couch and kicked his feet up onto the sides. "Well, well, well. What shall we do now, my 'little' friend? I find that I've grown bored with these simple affairs. Ah, but what a life you must lead, without bearing such terrible burdens like politics and relationships and money! Ignorance truly is bliss, eh my little CrushMan?" Charles waved the steel device in front of his face a few times as a smile slowly etched itself on his face. "I know! Let's go and show the world what I've created? Doesn't that just sound lovely? Yes, I think we'll have a rather exciting time of things outside of the company computers. I truly should report that small viral incident to dearest father, but if he can't handle such matters himself, well, he's simply not fit to run the empire anymore. And in my capable hands, the Weatherbey Business Empire will grow and expand, making me the wealthiest man in all of Netopia." He started walking over to a small laptop as he continued. "But no, why stop there? I could very well be the wealthiest man in all the world? Truly, how difficult could it be? Not that a simpleton like you could grasp such a concept. No, such ideals are beyond the abilities of commoners." He sneered a moment before adopting a smug smile of self satisfaction and connecting to the laptop. Wirelessly of course. The Weatherbey Boy could only have the best.

"I honestly don't care where we go. Pick a place and go in. We'll simply have a bit of fun decimating virii and then perhaps we can get some real work accomplished. You know CrushMan, I take it back. You can't be a Commoner. You're mine. Thus, you are above the status of a commoner. Think of yourself as more of a knight, or better, a vassal. Yes, a vassal to a nobleman, that fits your position quite well. You're no commoner, that's for sure. But those viruses..." That wicked sneer spread across his face once again. "Let's show them the difference between commoners and nobles."
"That was a miserable little excercise," Charles said, yanking his steel gray PET away from the laptop. "Those enemies were certainly nothing like what I've encountered before. Nasty llittle creatures. I'll have to return and teach them some respect. Not now though." He found a new seat in a lavish all leather couch as he held a small something in front of his face. "I believe I'd like to have some fun with this, first," he said, examining the small chip. "A bit of dealing has allowed me aquire a rather remarkable little program. The source was a bit shady, but I'm sure it's nothing to worry about. Ah, but let us not forget, there are more beings to teach respect to than the measly copies running around the net."

Charles Weatherbey shook his head as he examined the PET. "Ah, CrushMan. How valiantly you fought. A shame you are such an incompetant. We can't have that now, can we? I've put too much effort into you to have you fail me so regularly. Simply look at all of those wounds. Granted, a bit of damage will toughen you up, but the shape you're in now? Pathetic. I'll simply have to run the reparation program. Of course, there's no lesson learned if I simply turn you off and repair you like that. No, where's the point? Luckily, my dealings on the Net have taught me some rather interesting skills."

"Yes, my dear Crush. We're going to do that again. I truly wonder how it feels to have your programming rewritten, step by step? I imagine it's something quite like having adrenaline pumped through your veins as your forced to watch surgery or amputation performed on yourself. You'd think with that sort of encouragement that you would learned by now, but some things just have to be repeated to be properly learned." He punched in a few commands into the PET and left it on the couch, stretching lazily as the device did his work. "That should do it. You'll be fit in no time, my friend, and hopefully with a bit more sense in you."

"I do wonder what dearest father is up to?" He looked back at the PET, his only manner of communication, or at least the only method that he was truly satisfied with, and banished any thoughts of contacting his father. "I'd hate to interupt CrushMan's recovery. Truly a shame there are no gentlemen of my means about here. Nothing but commoners." He made a sound of utter disgust before continuing. "Perhaps it is time that I left this place? A little vacation? I'm sure father wouldn't mind if I took a few days off from the strains of wealth? A bit of an adventure across the seas, yes, that does sound nice. Of course, I'd have to contact the old miser first before I could get a single cent." Charles cursed before moving to his laptop. "None of my dear lady friends are available either. What a day! Nothing but boredom and repetition!" He began tapping away at his computer, trying to find some old website he'd come across once. "Best to make some contacts if I'm going anywhere. And if not that, at least I can do a bit of business."
As the minutes stretched by, Charles grew bored. He finished a final post and sorted a plan back into the back of his mind. "So much for business. Ah well. I've learned some valuable information at any rate. Good enough." He stood and walked over to his PET. "Ah, and has our dear friend CrushMan learned his lesson?" The screen read, 'Program Stabilization Complete'. Charles clapped his hands oncce and picked up the device. "Wonderful. We wouldn't want your programming to fail and for you to dissipate into the Net, now would we? I've invested too much time in you to let such a silly thing happen."

He walked back over to the laptop and sighed as he established a connection between the two devices. "A shame I'm not quite ready to go forward with either of my plans. And the day simple stretches on and on. It appears I have no recourse but to observe my faithful servant in action once again. No matter, all the better to establish ourselves. You understand this, don't you Crush? That the more we fight, the more we win, the better known we'll be? Now doesn't that sound exciting. There we are, connection secured. Choose CrushMan. I have no care of where you go." A moment later, there was a note of confirmation. "Ah, Sharo Net, I see. I wonder where you even find out about such places. And a complete reroute, perfectly executed! Ah, but you do me proud sometimes, my dear pet. Now off you go. There's work to be done, you know."
"Yes, sleep well, my faithful servant," Charles said as he turned CrushMan's primary systems down for repairs. As soon as he was certain he had been successful, he screamed. He yelled, long and hard, finally manifesting his rage. "How dare you! How dare you, you worthless piece of trash! How dare you disobey me! Where do you find the right to do such a thing! I created you! I own you! Argh!"

The young man smashed both hands against his desk as he gnashed his teeth and his eyes blazed furiously. "What's worst of all is that you, you the ignorant fool! That you managed to find the answer! That you managed to win! How dare you! You were supposed to either win flawlessly or fall, that was what I had predicted! Yet you acted out against me at every turn!"

"But you can't know that," he said, smiling even as his eyes still betrayed his anger. "Yes, you can never know. Because you are a servant after all. Little more than a slave really. You couldn't know that it was all a mistake, an unplanned error! I cannot be doubted by my warrior! Ever! I am the infallible Master after all." His smile grew wider as Charles looked over to the PET, it's screen blank and black. "Yes... You won't know. That's right. I just needed to show that I was still in charge. Because I am, after all. I feel it. I know it. You are still the ignorant servant willing to die for his Master. And that's the way things should be, after all. Truly a shame that I cannot punish you for your insolence, but to do so would be to contradict my story. I need you to believe that I believed in you."

Charles laughed. "But how very ridiculous that is! Unfortunately, my dear Crush, you are worthless without me. You are nothing more than a tool, a sword to be guided by my hand. And while you may be a very well designed sword, a noble's sword, you are still nothing more than that." He nodded as he came upon the conclusion he'd so long sought after CrushMan's latest battle. "I am the Master."

He got up moments later and cracked his head from side to side. "Ah, but all that fighting can be so very tiring. A bit of rest would do me good. Perhaps a little more time on the Net? Without the bumbling fool, of course." He chuckled as he sat down at his computer. "I wonder if any of the girls are on? A little chat might be just what I need to relax." Charles turned back one last time to look at his PET and sighed. "Yes, rest up, my friend Crush. My sword. I have no doubt we shall fight again, and soon. But for now, rest." He laughed again. "I'll find a way to punish you for your insolence soon enough!"
"Hahahaha! Yes, yes, YES! This is perfect! Oh, but could this whole matter be any more delightful! It just screams to be explored! And now it's time! Ah, but I waited long enough. The old hag probably forgot how to turn her 'magic blinking box' on again!" Charles gaffawed again as he moved towards his PET. It was still deactivated and Charles smiled as he gazed down at it. "And I'm given an oppurtunity for vengeance as well! Ah, but the gods must smile down upon this humble man!" He flicked the PET back on and hummed merrily as the device whirred to life. "Yes," he said as the device finished rebooting, "I will do justice to all." He stared down at the wide screen and smiled, beamed, down at his creation.

"Good afternoon, my dear CrushMan! Have you had a good rest? I do hope so, as it appears that there are others in need of our services! How delightful! To be called upon, it's quite lovely, don't you think?" He continued past CrushMan's silence and practically danced to his computer. How long had it been since he'd had any sleep? Ah, but what did it matter, there was fun to be had! And he did find so very little pleasure in life these days. 'Skirt chasing', as his male peers so eloquently put it, certainly had it's charms, but there was something completely different and amazing about the idea of making an actual and true difference by doing practically nothing! Amazing!

He quickly established a connection to the laptop and smiled. "Go, CrushMan. ElecTown! Now!" He waited for his Navi to comply as he continued to hum. He waited a few moments more before he realized something was wrong. "Why are you still here and not in the Net?"

The Navi shook his head. The insolent brat! Another order, ignored? How dare him! Why... Then Charles noticed the error message on the screen. "Ah, so we can no longer directly jump to locales, I take it? Very well, find a way to ElecTown. And quickly." He didn't have to force a smile as his Navi instantly responded. "Ah, but what a wonderous feeling it is indeed."
"What a disaster!" Charles practically threw his PET to the side as he finished his work on the computer. "That hardly went as planned. Not at all. And I've got such a damn headache from the whole thing! Ah, but now there's a way to describe it, a giant headache!"

He sighed. "But at least it's all done. No reward, that certainly pisses me off to no end. The chances of my little outburst in the BBS thread working are slim to none." Charles sighed again. "And then there's this friend business... Oh, now why ever did I start such a thing? Seems like a bit of a bother now... No matter, I'm sure it'll all come back to me soon enough. I never would've started such a thing without..."

Charles brought his hand to his head. "That really did give me some kind of headache. What's wrong with me?" He sighed again. "Not thinking right... I just need to clear my head is all. Do something." He quickly set up his PET to the recovery program. "I'm heading out," Charles said, although who was there to hear him he wasn't sure. He charged out of his room and practically flew down the halls and stairs of the Wetherbey mansion. "Just need to take a walk, clear my head..."

He walked, and kept on walking. He lost track of time as he passed by places familiar, places he'd gone to time and time again, but there was something bugging him, something at the edge of his mind. Before long, he'd started subconciously heading home once again. So long, Charles had kept his head low, looking only at the road stretch in front of him as he let his mind drift and wander, he felt an overwhelming feeling as he looked up and saw the Weatherbey mansion in front of him. He sighed. "I suppose... Sleep is good as well."

And so the young Weatherbey trudged back up the flight of stairs, his every step feeling heavier than the last. Just how long had he been up, he wondered. Again he passed into his own room. He shut the door behind him and the lock clicked into place. Then he fell to his bed, not even bothering to give a glance at his creation.

He tossed and turned, for how long he didn't know, before his conciousness faded and Charles fell into darkness.

"Young Master, how are you this fine morning?"
"Come here Charles, I have something I'd like to show you."
"That's nice Charles."
"What are you doing?!"
"What are you thinking?"
"Shut up! You don't even care!"

He woke up, suddenly. His mouth moved slowly up and down as he panted and sweat dripped down his face. "Again..." He brought his hand to his face and grimaced. Charles gritted his teeth together and punched his bed. "Damn it, now I really feel like hurting something!"

"CrushMan!" The young Weatherbey said, almost expecting his creation to respond. "We have some business to attend to. Are you ready?" He glanced over to the PET and groaned. The device was still recharging. "That idiot... Worthless." He trudged back over to his computer and angrily drilled his fingers against the desk. "Damn it... I can't just sit around like this... Not in this mood, I'll just wind up drinving myself crazy."

He slapped his hand against the desk and stopped his body, entirely. He took in a long deep breath. "Alright Charles. Just find something else to do. It'll be fine." He quickly uploaded his web browser on his computer and started searching around, dutifully avoiding the previous topic that got him into so much trouble to begin with. He never once looked at the clock. But he still felt so tired.
"Bingo. I think I've got it. Now all I've got to do is wait on..." There was a distinct ringing sound originating from the PET, and Charles grinned widely. "Looks like I'll get my wish after all." He cracked his neck, as if starting to get ready for a big fight, and smiled with a fierce light in his eyes.

"I'm just in a real pissy mood right now. Forget the rewards. Let's just see if we crush somethings, eh? CrushMan? Jack-in!"
"All according to plan," Charles said as he ceased the connection between his PET and the internet. "I wonder if he'll know I was bluffing about only going to make connections? I did just find out about the Net Police investigation recently. Ah well, it sounded good." He nodded to himself and then moved about the room, gesturing grandly. "This is quite the predicament we seem to have gotten in to, but the future is not completely black. This is just a very complex game of chess, a game where neither side knows where the pieces are or even what the pieces are. But the White Net Police, all they have to do to win is take the King. The Black Hunted have to..."

Charles stopped and scratched at his chin, pondering. "What do we have to do to win? Prove our innocence in the matter of course. The Hospital was a dump, there were no innocent Navi in there. No chance. Was there..." He shook his head. "Damn that bitch, whoever, is. It's her fault this even happened, this Granny." He flicked his Pet to recover, but not before setting Crush to hibernate. There was no need to punish CrushMan, not now. He needed him at full. So long as he obeyed... Charles shook his head. "So the question is, what to do now? I already determined that the first step should be to acquire a second identity. My 'Breaker' design should work, I just need a blank .GMO. Until then, I'll simply use the Met.GMO. Best to avoid using Crush's normal graphic system, in case someone saw him and reported his physical appearance to the Net Police. From there, I just have to hope that noone knows that Crush belongs to the Weatherbey family. If the Weatherbey family comes under suspicion..."

"Damn it! I should have been more careful! There's too much that can lead to me already, the Police just have to find the clues that have already been left behind!" He groaned, frustrated. "...But it will still take some time. First they need to find Crush's appearance, then they need to connect Crush to the Weatherbey family. Then they have to find me. There's time, just how much I don't know. The key to winning the game is to prove my innocence first, that's all. And to do that... First things first, I need to confirm that I'm being hunted at all. The hospital detonation is too close to our own little destructive act to possibly be coincidence, but to completely rule it out would mean that I'm worrying over nothing. Finding out if the hospital we destroyed and the destroyed hospital that was reported were one and the same."

"Second is to find out why the story changed. The Net Police are covering something up or someone covered it up before they got the chance to do it. In any case, we were used and now we're being used to take the fall for the crime. Finding out why this all happened might be the integral key. If I had some kind of connection..." He paused. "What if I could meet with a Net Police officer somehow? Alone? That way, even if the situation did turn dangerous, Crush could muscle his way out of a lone net confrontation. But I'll need that blank .GMO before I can try that. And if I do, that'll ruin that disguise... But it's worth risking, at least. If I had inside eyes, that would make things much simpler."

"I'll also want to reinforce what alliances I hold. That means Split and Chad as well as Polonius and DNR. Then there are the other Navi/Op pairs that accompanied us on the mission, Thundervoice, Valkyrie and... the last Navi, who I don't know. But I know his operator's name at least, Hal Belfast, I heard that somewhere. He shouldn't be too hard to find. Smoothing things over with Bjorn would be beneficial as well, but for now an alliance with Charl should suffice. Yes, things are working out, I just have to work harder."

"A confrontation with the Net Police might be inevitable though. I need to improve Crush's combat abilities. I have a strong store of Zenny and I'd rather not empty it out... but I have to be prepared. Improving his strength is at the top of my to-do list for now. Then, I need to find someone not involved in the crime, someone who can contact the Net Police and ask for details concerning the Hospital Destruction. I should investigate the Hospital as well, or what's left of it, perhaps find some clues there... so long as the Net Police don't have it sectioned off. That's probably the case, unfortunately. And then, once I acquire my blank .GMO, I can contact a Net Police official and get some more information concerning the event..." Charles nodded. "That should do, for now."

He craned his neck from side to side and then folded his hands together before stretching them out, as if preparing for some great deal of work. Charles sat himself down in front of his computer as his PET whirred softly, and his fingers raced across the keyboard.
"And done." He finished typing away and pulled a flash drive out of his computer. "To think, such important data lies in something so small. Such expensive data... I'm as poor as a pauper now. But there are more important things than dignity at the moment, and we can easily earn that money back with this kind of strength."

Charles moved to his PET and reactivated it. After a quick scan, he nodded. "Good, full power. Excellent Crush. Alright. Now to put you into full standby while I go through with these upgrades..." With a few taps, the PET screen went blank and the man went to work. "Upgrading... This speed upgrade will improve our ability to deal damage and these health upgrades should give us a little more lasting power. With Splitman as our ally, we'll have a hard time being defeated, thanks to his powerful healing ability. The question is, what now? I've sent a notice to DNR and Polonius, that's about as best as I can do for now though. I have to wait for them to respond before I can try working towards the ultimate goal of the reunification of our little gang for the purpose of clearing our names and capturing this Granny individual. It's also much to soon to start heading to Yoka..."

He sighed as his fingers tapped furiously at the PET. He slid the flash drive into the proper slot and continued thinking aloud. "I might have jumped the gun, leaving Splitman and Chad like that, but I really did need to try and make contact with Polonius, not to mention acquire these upgrades. But what do I do now? I can't just wait... So I could work towards solving the mystery? But where to begin." He continued to tap away, the steady sound almost hypnotic in it's continuity. "I could go back to the Hospital! If there are Net Police around, that'll at least give me a clue as to whether this hospital and the hospital in the news are the same, although it might be too much to ask for, for them to be different. I might even be able to find a clue to lead me to Granny there as well. The problem lies in the approach. I don't have that blank.GMO file just yet, so I'll either have to approach as Crush, which isn't an option at all really, get someone to investigate for me, and I know noone who could do such a thing, or..."

Charles suddenly broke a smile from ear to ear. "Of course! Why didn't I think of it before! The Met.GMO! It's the perfect disguise, who would question the presence of a virus anywhere! With that, CrushMan could even drive away anyone who tried to stop him! It's perfect, and it'll leave no clues that'll connect this investigation to Crush and his participation in the destruction of the hospital!" His fingers slammed into the PET with definity and the device blipped peacefully.

"Done!" he shouted. "And now, we can begin the investigation! Hah, this is really kind of exciting! Of course, there's the problem of you having never used that body before, but I'm sure you'll be fine!" He raised the now active PET into the air triumphantly. "This is beautiful, we're beggining the march to victory already! CrushMan, Met.GMO active, jack in procedures initiated! Go!"
"Damn, damn, damn, damn!" He hissed through clenched teeth. "What the hell just happened?" The device finally disconnected and he set Crush to standby mode. "The .GMO turned defective and one of his central power cores just died. Just out and out shut off. All that leaves is his Smash core power and it's ability to be applied elsewhere. Let's not ignore the biggest problem, CrushMan just made a brief reappearance to the area next to the scene of the crime! Damnation, there's more potential evidence against us! I still need to get some more information on the scene there, but with a malfunctioning .GMO I don't see how that's possible unless I risk CrushMan to even more exposure! Damn, just what on earth-" He was interupted mid-rant as the garbled tones of classical music played through the air. "Father?" He rushed over to his PET and snatched it up. With a few taps on the device a single antenna sprouted out of the end and a receiver dropped down.

"Father!" Charles said excitedly, happily into the mouth piece. "Yes, I'm doing fine. I wasn't expecting..." He frowned. "I see. Yes. Yes. Really?" He brought a hand up to his face as he rubbed at his temples. "Really..." Charles sighed. "Yes. Yes. No, of course I understand, it's just... Does it have to be... Nevermind, I understand. Yes, I'll be waiting outside. Yes, of course. Thank you. Good-bye." He tapped in a few more buttons, allowing the device to return to it's original shape and form. "Of course," he said to himself. "Business as usual."

He suddenly brightened. "Of course... This could work. Yes, this most definitely does work! An inconvenience, certainly, but this should work!" He jumped to his feet and paced around the room nervously, gesturing about as he spoke aloud in fragments. "Now if I did that... So that would mean that... But of course!" He smashed his fist into his open palm. "It works!"

Charles quickly let his PET go free of all connections and then started made a dash out the door. He returned a minute later with a suitcase on hand, which he then began to stuff with various articles of clothing and other essentials. "The airplane won't interfere with our normal procedures, we'll be able to begin there. First, this business with Charl. We can start as soon as we're borded. Then, when we get there, we can... Yes, yes!" He slammed the suitcase shut and grabbed up CrushMan's PET. "I believe this is the farthest you'll have ever travelled, physically at anyrate, my dear Crush. Enjoy your sleep for now, as we'll have plenty of excitement soon enough. We're headed to Sci-Labs!"