Author's Note: A big thank you to FierySable who drew a gorgeous fanart for this fic. You can find it at my webpage, the link for which you can find on my ff.net profile. Sable, you're the best! And to everyone else, thanks so much for reading. This has been a joy to write. Domo arigatou gozaimashite.
Chapter Five: Beginning
"You want Dita to destroy her."
Zima's voice was quiet and smooth as he stood in front of the window watching the rain fall outside. She could see his reflection in the glass but his face told her nothing of what he was thinking or feeling. Dressed in his usual black he reminded her of some dark warrior, a creature of the night. Anyone looking at his tall frame and shadowy appearance might have taken him for some sort of criminal. Not unless they got close to him would anyone know of his tender heart.
Tanaka pushed her glasses up with a finger and refrained from sighing. Her head hurt and she was tired beyond belief but now was not the time to rest. The committee wanted confirmation that she had carried out their orders within the hour.
"It must be done, Zima," she answered wearily. "Freya's mistake must never be repeated. It might have been enough to simply erase Elda's memory but Chitose wouldn't hear of it. When I went there tonight, Elda was simply gone and both Chitose and her husband refused to tell me what they had done with her." That had stung. She had thought Chitose trusted her but then she couldn't really blame her old teacher either. Tanaka was, after all, on the government payroll and both Ichiro and Chitose knew that. "Zima, the committee has scrapped the Chobits project and I don't believe Ichiro will ever again create another. You, Dita, and Elda are the only ones left. Since I created you and Dita, you are both safe from termination, but Elda…" She shook her head. "Ichiro admitted to me that he installed a program into Elda, a special one, before she disappeared. The program is dangerous to persocons but even more so to their owners. This is why I must upload new attack ware into Dita. As Chobits, you will be mostly immune from Elda's powers. Only you two will be able to get close enough to shut her down before she executes her special program."
Zima traced the path of falling rain drops down the window glass with his fingers. "Elda's program, what does it do?"
"I don't know."
He laughed harshly. "So we really have no idea whether it is dangerous or not."
"The government does not feel we can take the chance that it's harmless."
Zima looked at her over his shoulder. "Why are you telling me this? You are my Master. You don't need my permission to upgrade either me or Dita."
She smiled sadly. "Because, Zima, once I have finished installing the mission parameters into both of you, the Master level protocol will be subverted, buried inside your mind. Both of you will be set free to begin your search for Elda. I have no idea what Hibiya has done with her. She could be halfway across the world. You must find her before she executes her program." Tanaka cleared her throat. "This means you two must be self-sufficient. Can you do this, Zima?"
He looked away. "I can take care of Dita and she can take care of me." His eyes flashed like the lightning outside. "We will both take care of Elda."
* * * *
Zima was sad.
She could tell by the way he stood and by the way he forced himself to smile placidly as if nothing were amiss. She didn't understand why he was sad though. Tanaka had told her that they were putting another program into her, attackware that was built for a specific purpose: to annihilate a threat to persocons everywhere. Elda. If that girl was a danger to persocons, to Zima, then she would fulfill her mission. It wasn't something to be sad about. It was a necessity. It was the logical outcome of her programming. Even if Zima didn't like it.
"Makoto, ready the link for the upload," Tanaka said crisply. Her assistant nodded and slipped a connector into Dita's ear socket gently. The doctor focused her gaze on Dita. "Ready?"
Dita's eyes went blank as Tanaka's computer installed the new software into her. It took only a minute but when it was done she felt oddly unfulfilled. Incomplete. As if something had been taken away.
She blinked. "Installation complete."
"Dita?" It was Zima and his dark eyes were watching her carefully.
"Good." Tanaka said, setting her clipboard down with more force than necessary. When she looked at Dita again though, her expression was almost melancholy. "We'll need to do a trial run to make sure the software is strong enough to stop Elda's program. With the information in his databank, Zima will be the one to do the tracking. Dita, you will have the responsibility of… terminating the rogue program." Tanaka handed each of them a pair of dark sunglasses. "These are mobile monitors. They'll be useful in the field."
Zima slipped the glasses over his eyes. "If you don't know exactly what Elda's program will do, how can we do a test run?"
"Chitose has given us a dummy program. It is not as current as the one Elda has and, once activated, nothing will happen but it is a good way to test you and Dita. If you can track down the program and stop it then you will be ready." She took a breath as Dita put on her glasses. "Ready?"
Both Chobits answered as one. "Yes."
* * * *
An hour later, Zima sat in a darkened room on the fourth floor holding a very tired Dita. The dummy program, embodied in one of the lab's test persocons, lay nearby as well, its circuits fried beyond repair. Even the room itself was disarrayed. As part of the test, Tanaka had activated the program before they could get to the infected persocon. To stop the execution of a program already in progress, especially one they knew nothing about, had been difficult for Dita but she had pulled through.
It had been a lot more dangerous then they had thought.
Being as gentle as he could, Zima brushed short strands of dark hair out of Dita's face, noticing the places where she had been singed. Her right ear connector had splayed, the outer casing cracking under the immense pressure. It would have to be replaced. Thankfully, those were the extent of her injuries besides her low energy reserves. After she had successfully completed the termination, he had shut her down to rest, mostly against her wishes. She would be angry with him later but he couldn't help but smile as he held her. She truly was something. It was almost unfair that all the dangerous situations could only be handled by her, but the fact that she handled them so fearlessly was the real thing. And for him. Always for him.
Watching her sleep was almost hypnotizing.
"Who would have imagined?" he murmured. Surely not their creators. And surely not Dita. His little Dita, who professed not to have emotions, but who expressed them without realizing them for what they were. A mystery of programming that defied even infinity. Oh what a pair they made.
"I wonder what will become of us," he whispered, stroking Dita's hair, a gesture more for his own comfort than hers. Would they spend the rest of their functioning years hunting the night for the last Chobit? And if they found her, would they fulfill their mission? He wasn't sure. He had a feeling that everything would not turn out so simply. The dummy program had brought a few things to light, things he wasn't quite sure what to think of. For instance, why had Hibiya given them the dummy program in the first place? Surely she could not want him and Dita to terminate her last daughter, but if Elda executed her program that was exactly what they would have to do. There was only one answer he could think of.
She didn't think Elda would initiate the special program.
This lent credence to the government's idea that Elda was dangerous. If everyone was hoping that Elda didn't use her program, even her creator, than he and Dita were justified in shutting her down should she use it. But, if Elda could only choose not to…
"We would be free," he breathed and leaned back against the wall, his own eyes closing. Yes, the program would have to be stopped, he could see that, but he truly wished almost more than anything that Elda would not fail as her sister had.
Cradling Dita against him, he allowed his system to hibernate, one last hope escaping his lips.
"I believe in her."
* * * *
"It's done," Tanaka Shidou said, watching the lab's monitors go black one by one. Oddly enough, looking around the spotless, empty room, she wasn't sad. She wouldn't miss the place. If anything she would miss being a part of something that had had such high hopes. She had been proud to work for Ichiro and Chitose and though she no longer wanted to make Chobits, that pride was still there whenever she saw Zima and Dita. She had down everything she could for them. After successfully completing the trial run, Tanaka had updated them both for the last time. She had fixed Dita's ear panels and had subverted the Master level protocol on both of them. They were on their own now, set free in a world were they would have to struggle to be seen for who they were and not for what they were. But she knew, deep down inside, they would be alright.
And if they weren't, if humans could not accept them, there was always Elda's program.
Stepping out into the night, she shrugged into her light coat, pulling her blonde hair out of the way as she looked up at the sky. Silhouetted against the stars, two figures both tall and small stood solemnly on a nearby rooftop. From the ground she couldn't tell if they were looking at her or not but she smiled anyway, a little tearful.
"Please, be happy."
* * * *
The wind rushing through her hair was brisk and when she looked over at Zima his features were gilded in moonlight. It was an atmosphere that was new to her but she felt a sort of excitement all the same. This was the beginning. They had a mission and she meant to see it through. Till the end, whatever it may be.
"Dita." Zima was grinning at her. "Looks like the rain stopped. "
She crossed her arms over her chest. "You're insane, you know that?"
"So you've told me."
She sniffed and looked out towards the darkened horizon, starting suddenly when two strong arms wrapped around her shoulders. She looked up at Zima, surprised, and found him looking down at her with something unidentifiable in his eyes. It made her anxious, that smoldering look.
"It's just us now, you know? We have to take care of each other."
She crossed her arms over his, thinking he needed reassurance. "I won't let anyone hurt you," she said fiercely. He hugged her tighter.
"The night belongs to us," he said, releasing her to step farther down the rooftop. He turned back and held his hand out for her. "Shall we make the most of it, Dita, love?"
There was that deep look again.
She slowly put her hand in his, their fingers interlocking. Zima smiled.
"Yes, let's go."
My Someone Just For Me.