Prologue

"No matter how many times I come to Internet City, it never ceases to amaze me." Glyde mused as he, Iceman, Rockman and Roll climbed the Sky Branch.

"It sure is quiet," Rockman said, looking around. "Is anyone else here?"

"I think it's just us," Roll was just behind him.

"Don't you find that a little…strange?"

"A little," the female navi conceded, before beaming. "But who cares? It just means no crowds. Besides, we're here to have fun, not worry!"

Rockman found himself grinning too. He could never resist Roll's smiles; they always managed to raise his spirits.

And what she was saying was true; they were here to have fun. School had been let out early due to a leak in the sewers – not caused by viruses, for once – and Netto, Meiru, Tohru and Yaito had decided to let their navis have a little fun while they studied. So the four of them were in Internet City, determined to enjoy themselves.

At the moment, they were climbing the broad stairs of the Sky Branch, the tallest building in Internet City. Rockman had never been to the top, but the view was supposed to be magnificent. He could hear Roll giggling with delight as they climbed higher.

He smiled again – she was so cheerful. How many times had he been down in the dumps, only to be cheered up in the space of seconds with a single comment from her? Too many to count.

Rockman was snapped from his reverie by Glyde's voice. "Rockman, Roll, hurry! The view truly is sublime!"

Increasing his speed, Rockman took the last few steps at a run. He burst out onto a balcony, Roll close behind. And he gasped. The entire Internet City sprawled out below them, the buildings sparkling like a carpet of diamonds.

Rockman joined Glyde and Iceman at the railing, gazing out at the city.

"It's magnificent," Iceman said.

Rockman nodded.

Hearing light footsteps beside him, Rockman turned. And the sight before him took his breath away.

Roll was standing on the railing, leaning out over the city, arms spread as though she were about to grow wings and fly away. Her face was filled with unabashed wonder, and Rockman thought he had never seen her look so beautiful. Her slender figure stood out in stark relief against the digital sky, accentuated with subtle, willowy curves. The light from the city glimmered off her golden hair, stray reflections lancing across ivory skin. Eyes like liquid jade, deep as the oceans, sparkled with delight as she let loose with a soft laugh. Watching her standing there – ethereal and vibrant – the thought crossed his mind that she looked like an angel. An angel gazing down upon the world and revelling in what she saw.

It was times like these Rockman wanted to meet Roll's creator. He wanted to thank them. After all, anyone who created something so lovely must be extraordinarily gifted, and should be told how precious their creation was. Perfection may well be impossible, but Rockman was convinced mankind came the closest to it the day they created Roll.

For the second time that day, Glyde's voice cut into his thoughts. "Beautiful isn't it?"

"Gorgeous," Rockman breathed, still looking at Roll. A second after he spoke, it occurred to him that Glyde was referring to the view of the city, not Roll, and he snapped his head back around, hoping he hadn't been caught staring.

"I-I mean the view, yes I agree, it's beautiful…the view, that is."

Glyde barely held in a chuckle at Rockman's stammering and the blush that was rising to the blue navi's cheeks. Roll, apparently having noticed Rockman's admiring gaze, had flushed dark red and was looking studiously over the city, trying to pretend she hadn't noticed anything. Both she and Rockman tried very hard to conceal their feelings, but all too often they were both very obvious.

Like last week when a rogue navi attacked the school's computer. The navi had sneaked up on Rockman and knocked him out, essentially ensuring there would be no one strong enough to stop him. Of course, other navis had tried to stop the invader but they had all been deleted. While everyone panicked, Netto had tried desperately to wake Rockman, but had been unsuccessful. Until the rogue navi made a very stupid mistake.

He had tried to kidnap Roll, never suspecting that the meek-looking navi was actually a fierce fighter. She had struggled desperately, forcing her assailant to literally drag her away with him. When she slapped him in the face, the strange navi swamped her body with torturous electricity. At Roll's agonised scream, Rockman's eyes had snapped open.

In the ensuing fight, the navi had done the smart thing and used Roll as a shield while he attacked Rockman. The blue navi hadn't dared to return fire for fear of hitting Roll. Throughout the battle, Roll had pleaded with Rockman to fight back, begging him not to worry about hurting her, but Rockman had been unable to do so.

It had been a surprisingly emotional scene. Rockman taking blow after blow, refusing to attack and endanger Roll because he couldn't bear the thought of hurting her. Roll writhing against her captor, imploring Rockman to strike at them both because she couldn't bear the thought he was being hurt because of her.

Eventually, Roll managed to twist at such an angle that she could strike at her would-be kidnapper with her antennae. The blow forced him to release her, and at last gave Rockman the opening he needed.

Deprived of his living shield, the rogue navi lasted less than three minutes. At the battle's end, Roll had been furious with Rockman for not attacking before she wriggled free, and he had been furious with Roll for even thinking he could. They had bickered for five minutes straight, the volume steadily increasing and the atmosphere becoming evermore emotion-charged. All those watching could tell it hadn't been real anger that drove them, but rather the anger born of worry and fear.

Glyde never knew who moved first, but suddenly Rockman and Roll were no longer fighting – they were entangled in a desperate embrace. Rockman, ignoring his battered state, had held Roll tightly to him while murmuring admonishments for thinking he could do anything that might hurt her. Roll had wrapped her arms around him gently, sniffling slightly as she chided Rockman for letting himself get hurt because of her.

Even now, the memory of that scene had Glyde trying to hide a smile.

"Hey, look down there!" Iceman yelled, yanking Glyde back to the present.

The taller navi peered over the edge and struggled to find what Iceman was pointing at.

"It's a new battle chip shop!" Iceman continued, "Want to go check it out?"

"Why not?" Glyde smiled. "Rockman, Roll, what do you think?"

"Yeah, I'm in," the blue navi replied.

"I'm coming too!" Roll exclaimed.

She started to scramble down from the railings but Rockman stepped in and took hold of her waist, lowering her gently to the ground. Roll tried – and failed – to hold in a blush at the feel of his hands on her waist.

"Th-Thanks," she stammered, rewarding him with a tremulous smile.

"No problem," he murmured.

He hadn't removed his hands from her waist, and Roll didn't want him to move them. It just felt so…nice…comfortable. His hold on her was firm, not hard, but enough so she could feel the pressure of his hands. He was gazing at her with a strange expression on his face and Roll found herself trembling without knowing why. She felt certain something was about to happen…something important and special and-

"Hey, you guys are coming, right?" Iceman called.

Rockman snatched his arms away from her as though she had burnt him, and Roll felt a stab of disappointment. He swallowed and shuffled his feet, looking like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

"Y-Yeah, we'd better go," he muttered.

Roll followed him down the stairs silently.