The last thing Rockman remembered was the core of the Cybeast exploding as it was destroyed, taking himself with it. He had the foresight to cancel out of full syncro with Netto, so at least the brunette would be safe.
Rockman couldn't quite say the same for himself. He had hoped to see his operator grow up, but he knew he couldn't let the boy be sacrificed along with him.
'I'm sorry, Netto-kun.' The blue Navi smiled sadly. 'But I guess this is it for me.'
Rockman shut his eyes as the explosion engulfed him. But instead of searing pain, the Navi felt nothing instead. Cautiously, he opened his eyes to find that time around him seemed to have stopped, and hovering before him was a familiar half-transparent figure.
"Serenade!" Rockman was beyond surprised. He thought Serenade had been deleted during the Undernet Navi's final encounter with Forte. "You're… you're still alive?"
"Not for long." Serenade seemed resigned. "Even as we speak, my strength is quickly fading. I will disappear entirely before long."
"Serenade…" The blue Navi frowned. It was his fault that Serenade had been deleted. He hadn't been strong enough "I'm sorry."
Serenade shook his head. "Don't be. It was not your fault. My time may be up, but yours is far from over, Rockman."
"What? But… I was just about to be…"
"Rockman." Serenade's gaze met Rockman's as he began sternly. It was one of those rare times that Serenade became serious. "I need you to do something for me."
That made the blue Navi pause. What could he do that the other navi could not? "What is it?"
"Please…" Serenade gritted his teeth. "Please, save Forte."
The request hit Rockman hard. With his fight against the Cybeast, Forte had given the last of his strength to Rockman that had allowed him to continue fighting and win against the Cybeast. It was doubtful that the dark Navi was still alive at this point. "Serenade… I…"
Serenade cut him off with a laugh. "I trust you to help him, Rockman, in a way that I could not. You can save him, whereas I have failed."
"W-what do you mean, Serenade?" The blue Navi was visibly confused.
"It's okay. You'll understand what I mean soon enough." The Undernet Navi gave him one last smile. "Now, with the last of my strength…"
Rockman wanted to stop him, to ask him what he really meant, but he was once again engulfed within a bright light.
"W-where am I?"
When Rockman reopened his eyes, he realized that he was definitely nowhere near the place where his battle with the Cybeast had taken place. In fact, it seemed that he was back in the net, though it wasn't any place he recognized.
'I should probably ask around, to get an idea of where I am.' He decided, and began to walk around the area. Still, it took him longer than expected before he found another Navi.
"Excuse me," The blue Navi said as he approached the other. "I think I'm lost. Would you mind telling me where I am?"
The Normal Navi grunted, annoyed. "You're in Den City's net."
"Den City? B-but… What year is it?" If this was indeed Den City, then it had changed quite a bit. Rockman hoped he hadn't been blasted into the future.
"It's 19XX." The Normal Navi rolled his eyes. "Sorry, but I have more pressing things to do." He said, then left hurriedly before Rockman could ask anything else.
'19XX?' Rockman was still stunned at this realization. 'But that would mean Netto-kun and everyone else still hadn't existed yet!'
Rockman sighed, slightly defeated. 'Is this what you had meant to do, Serenade? To send me back in time?' He wished he knew what Serenade was trying to do. He wouldn't be so lost then.
Before he could continue pondering his own thoughts, the blue Navi jumped as he heard the familiar sounds of viruses approaching. He turned to see a group of Beetanks growling as they approached him. Briefly, Rockman was surprised to see so many at once, especially in such a populated area such as Den City's net, but he supposed that if this was indeed 19XX, security probably isn't as advanced as it will be in 20XX.
Slightly nervous, Rockman summoned his rock buster. Normally, he could handle these viruses without much of a problem, but…
He was severely handicapped by the fact that he was missing his operator.
Rockman dodged out of the way as the first of the Beetanks fired their shots at him. Quickly, he retaliated by shooting several of his buster shots at the virus, but as expected, it didn't put much of a dent on its armor. Another Beetank fired its shot, and the blue Navi only barely managed to roll out of the way of the second shot.
He cursed internally. He needed something more powerful than his buster if he wanted to stand a chance against these viruses.
Rockman watched as the third Beetank fired at him, as if it could tell that the blue Navi wouldn't be able to dodge out of this one. Wincing, Rockman crossed his arms in front of him and braced for the impact. But something unexpected happened.
The shot curved. Instead of hitting its intended target, it changed its trajectory, and landed several feet away from the navi, leaving him unharmed. Both Navi and virus were stunned by this turn of events.
'That was Serenade's special ability!' Rockman quickly realized. He couldn't believe it. 'Was Serenade behind this as well?'
He wasn't given much time to think about this before the fourth and final Beetank decided that it would have a shot at the blue Navi as well. Rockman watched as the projectile sped towards him, but this time, he was prepared. Standing his ground, the Navi tried to replicate the feeling that briefly washed over him when he curved the previous shot, sensing the wave of energy produced by the projectile blast and trying to redirect it…
This time, the shot did a complete one-eighty, and ricocheted back towards the Beetank, its own shot penetrating its armor and deleting it in one fell swoop before it even realized what had happened.
Seeing the other viruses stunned, Rockman turned and ran, not wanting to push his luck any further than he had to.
It was only when Rockman was sure that he'd lost the viruses chasing him that he stopped and allowed himself some time to think about the events that had occured. He sat behind a data cube and began to mule over recent events in his mind.
If he understood correctly, Serenade had sent him back in time, to the year 19XX, way before everything he knew had happened. He also seemed to have gained Serenade's special ability to deflect shots, or Serenade had given him his own ability before he disappeared. It was either one of the two.
Then, there was the other thing that Serenade had talked about.
'What did he meant when he said "Save Forte"?' The blue Navi wondered, thinking of the possible things Serenade could have meant. 'Forte did became a Darkloid later. Did Serenade want me to save him from becoming one?'
If so, wouldn't sending him directly before the Darkloids got ahold of Forte's data and reprogrammed him into a Darkloid be enough? Rockman shook his head. It was all so confusing.
"ALERT! ALERT! SECURITY BREACH IN SCILAB MAINFRAME! ALL SECURITY NAVIES REPORT TO SCILAB MAINFRAME IMMEDIATELY!"
The loud announcement once again jolted him out of his musings, but it left him wondering as well.
'I didn't realize I had entered the SciLab computers. I was just trying to get away from those viruses.'
Curious but cautious, Rockman peeked out from behind the data cube he was behind. It appeared that the source of the commotion was not far from where he was. Already, he could tell that several security Navies had been downed. They were lying on the floor, with damaged data dissipating into nothing as the chaos continued.
'This doesn't look good.' Rockman thought to himself. 'The SciLab Navies seem to be completely overpowered. Whoever's doing this must be really good.'
"You!" Rockman heard one of the Navies shout. "I don't know what you're trying to play at, but stop it right- gGGHHHAAAAAARRGH!"
The Navi was subdued before he could even finish his sentence. Rockman watched, half in horror, half in awe, as he was tossed across the floor effortlessly.
Rockman jumped as the security Navi's arm was stepped on, snapping instantly with a loud crunch.
The Navi was then kicked aside. Breathing in nervously, Rockman took a look at the figure who had caused such mayhem, and wasn't prepared to recognize the Navi responsible for this chaos.
"Forte!" Rockman gasped. He continued to observe quietly as Forte approached the downed Navi.
"Is this all SciLab's top security has to offer?" Rockman heard the red-eyed Navi muse as he stepped on the Security Navi once more. "What a joke… At this rate, anyone could have hacked into SciLab's computers."
Rockman swallowed as he watched the scene unfold or, more specifically, at Forte. If Rockman still doubted that he was in the past, he would have been corrected by now. The ebony Navi was clearly missing his trademark cloak, and the way he held himself had a certain sense of gracefulness to it as well, instead of the pure sense of rage and brutality Rockman had been so used to in the future.
This was obviously Forte when he was younger. But what was he doing, attacking SciLabs?
As he contemplated whether to come out of his hiding spot and attempt to stop the red-eyed Navi from continuing his rampage, another voice sounded out through the network.
"That's enough, Forte!" Rockman looked towards the source of the voice and saw what appeared to be a human male in his early thirties. "Stop this instant and apologize to everybody!"
Forte looked towards the man as well. "Doctor Cossack!" He said. Rockman was surprised once again. He'd thought Forte loathed all humans, but the blue Navi couldn't even sense an ounce of hatred in his eyes. In fact, he would say that Forte looked at that man… Cossack, with admiration.
"It's no use, Cossack!" Rockman could here the other humans, probably SciLab scientists, say. "He won't listen to us! He only thinks that he's correct-"
"...I'm sorry, everyone…" The black Navi said. This time, Rockman wasn't the only one that was shocked. It appeared all of the other SciLab scientists weren't expecting Forte to actually apologize.
All except for doctor Cossack, who just laughed. "Good! Good! You're a good child, Forte! Don't let anyone tell you otherwise!" He then turned to the other scientists. "You can all forgive him now, right?"
One of the other humans didn't look convinced. "But doctor Cossack! He-"
"Frote never meant any harm." Cossack cut the other off before he could continue. "He only meant to show you the flaws in your security, isn't that right, Forte?"
Rockman could only watch in silent awe as the red-eyed Navi nodded politely. This younger Forte was so different from the one he'd known; the Forte he knew would rather be deleted than he associated with humans, while this Forte not only seemed to listen to humans, but seemed to genuinely want to help them, in his own unusual way.
It made Rockman wonder what had happened to Forte that had caused him to become that Navi he was today… well, in the future. Rockman had an idea as to what it was. Forte had talked about being betrayed by the humans in one of their first encounters before. The blue Navi just wasn't sure what it was exactly that caused such a drastic change in the other Navi.
"Itf that is all," Cossack now addressed Forte. "Forte, I know you mean well, but you'll tell us before doing anything like that again, alright?"
"Of course, doctor." Forte smiled.
Rockman took a moment to gather himself. What he had witnessed just now was a lot to take in. He knew Forte had probably been a different Navi before the "betrayal" he said had occurred, but Rockman could never imagine the change to be this big. Carefully, he retreated back into Den City's net before anyone could discover him lurking around in the SciLab computers.
Meanwhile, Forte snorted internally as he felt the presence of the hiding Navi gradually faded before disappearing entirely. Hmph. SciLab's security must be worse than he had originally thought if even Navies could make it past them unnoticed.