Chapter Nineteen | PROGRAM: ESCAPE

Piro stood on top of the apartment building with Largo, struggling to keep warm in the cool winter air. Shivering, Piro walked towards the edge of the building. Looking down, he tried to discern if he and his friend could get down without breaking their necks. It was the fifth time since they found themselves placed on the roof that he had tried to deny reality. The first couple times, he had gotten sick looking down the five stories and imagining the splat his head would make if it hit the ground. Now, the cold made him half-wonder if the pain would be instantaneous enough to make jumping worth it. Shrugging off the notion of suicide, he turned back around and started to walk back towards Largo.

"Largo," he said through chattering teeth.
"What?" Largo said, tired and cold enough to not bother using "l33t sp33k" for once.
"You think of a way down?"
"You figure out how we got up here?"

Piro sighed and turned away from his friend, rubbing his hands together in a futile attempt to make his body warmer as he walked back towards the edge of the roof. "What kind of a building doesn't have a roof access?" he wondered as he turned yet again towards Largo. He started to march off in that direction when Ping all of a sudden materialized in front of him.

Piro yelped, backing away from the robot nearly to the point of toppling off the roof. Ping grabbed his arm, pulling him towards safety while yelling something in Japanese that Piro was too cold to try and mentally translate.

Ping continued to talk excitedly in Japanese, while Piro sighed and sat down, shaking his head. "Ping," he said, "English please. I really can't deal with Japanese right now."


"Dammit, she doesn't understand English, does she?" He thought for a minute, trying to think of what to say before having the Japanese words come to him. <Ping,> he said, <if you know a way down, please take us inside…I'm too cold to try and understand Japanese right now.>

A few seconds later, Piro found himself next to Largo in Tsubasa's apartment. The lights were back on now, as was the glorious heat. Piro and Largo both ran over to the heat register, basking in the warmth as Ping stood nearby and fired off orders.

<Piro-kun, you and Largo-san need to get dressed and ready to leave. We have to go; the TPCD wants to kill the both of you and Sony Enforcement wants to capture me.>

Piro started to feel lightheaded and he started to wish he had never accepted Tsubasa's invitation. "Why did I even come here?" he thought. "What the hell is wrong with me?"

<Piro-kun, this is not a game for you. You must listen to me. Get dressed; I will wait in the other room.>

<Alright,> Piro stood as he stood up. Switching to English, he turned to Largo. "Ping says we need to get dressed and out of here. Those guys are coming back."

"S3cur1ty does not seem to exist here, not on t3h d1g1t4l, nor on the physical planes." Largo said, walking over to the futon where he had a change of clothes waiting. "W3 mu5t fix th4t."
"Uh huh," Piro said half-listening while he put on a new shirt.
"I'm serious, Piro," Largo said, now fully dressed and putting on his jacket. "We need some l33t g34r if we want to get out of this place alive."

"You know," Piro said, chuckling as he said it, despite the situation. "You seem a lot saner after last night." He finished tying his shoes as he called into the other room. <We're ready, Ping.>

<Okay, Piro-kun,> Ping said, walking back in the room. <Do you have what you're bringing?>
<Yeah. We don't have much to bring along, just my laptop and some clothes.>
<Bring the laptop; I can get the clothes later tonight,> Ping said, wiping something from her eye. <You're being awfully calm, Piro-kun.>
<I guess I'm too scared to be scared,> Piro said, packing up his laptop case. <Kind of like being too sad to act sad, I guess, but you wouldn't understand.> He finished packing up and stood up with his one bag. "You ready, Largo?"
"I am ready."
<Ping,> Piro said, turning back towards the robot, <we're…wah! Are you alright?>

To Piro's amazement, the robot was crying. <It's alright,> she managed to say through the tears as they started to slow. <We have to go now.> She wiped her eyes and threw the tissue in a nearby wastebasket that Piro could see was nearly full. Ping walked over to Piro and gently led him towards Largo. <Hold on,> she said as she placed one arm each around Piro and Largo's waists. A few seconds later, Piro found himself outside. He looked around and could see the apartment building far in the distance.

"Whoa," he gasped, shocked at how far they had gotten in that one split second, while wondering to himself, "Now what do we do?"

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