Part Three

Public Relations


by I.M. Spartacus



      "Damn it!" Pak slammed his forehead against steel pillars in Wily's lab.  Blood began to seep from the skin, dripping down into his eyes.  "Damn it, damn it!" 

      He stood upright suddenly, and brushed his hair back with his hand.     "There has to be a way." Pak paced around the dark metal room.  "He hasn't beaten me, not yet."  He let the pale moonlight splash at him from the ceiling windows or Wily's lab.  "Just need to find his weakness."  Possible solutions ran through his mind.  "He got me once, before my glove could adapt.  He had one shot, and he wasted it."

      Pak came to one answer.  "I'm careless.  I used to be better."  A gentle tapping came from the windows.  "Who the f--" Pak looked up through blood stained eyes.  "You!" Riff smiled mischievously through the glass.  "So this is a game of tag, to you, huh?"  Pak slipped his sunglasses on once more, even though it was well past midnight.  "Load.  Flight!" Pak covered his head and flew through the window like a rocket.  He floated along the domed roof.  "Got your curfew extended, I see."

      Riff said nothing, but aimed his guitar.

      "Careful boy, you wouldn't survive a fall like this." 

      Riff simply back peddled on the skull-shaped dome of Wily's headquarters.     "Didn't know y'cared, Pak."

      "I don't," Pak raised his glove, still hovering over the surface a few inches below his feet.  "I just want the credit for pulling your plug."

      "That's a long way down the road."  Riff gazed over his shoulder.  "And that's just a long way down."  The newest Mega Man resembled a bolt of lightning, jumping from the curved roof of the lab, moonlight hitting his white armor as he fell hundreds of feet to the ground.

      Six hundred.

      Five hundred.

      Riff whistled, and a streak accompanied his decent almost immediately. 

      Four hundred.

      Three hundred.

      "Chord Board!" he demanded, as a gleaming white, metallic, jet powered surfboard appeared under Riff's feet.  "Magna-lock!" Riff's feet magnetically attached to the top of the board, his left foot pressing down on the thruster control panel located at the front half of the vehicle.

      Riff's fall became an ascension, and within half the time it took him to test his new mechanical counterpart, he had climbed to a height greater to where he had first started. 

      Pak's attention was only momentarily focused on the airborne adversary.       His senses became alive as he turned and fired behind him.

      "Geez--" Mike Vincent dodged the simple laser.  He ducked behind an antenna station.  "Riff, I am _never_ --- _EVER_ --- following another one of your plans!"

      Pak continued firing upon his opponent, but fell to a case of extreme dizziness.  Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Riff counter-attacking with a spiral beam effect from the white guitar cradled in the robot's hands.        "Computer!" Pak struggled to speak over the vertigo effect, "Auto Adapt!      Current Assailant!"

      The glove on Pak's hand hummed.  [Adapting: Done]

      The dizziness ceased, and Pak stood, smiling.  He turned to the airborne attacker.  "Try again, boy." he taunted.

      Riff smiled in return, doing exactly that.

      "NO!" Pak fell again, in dizziness.  "Computer!  Analyze!"

      [Cannot adapt to instruments of variable weaponry]

      "In short, I'm screwed," Pak translated for himself.  "Computer, initiate B.E. Two, now!"

      A shaking came over the dome of Skull Fortress.  A huge one-footed robot, with a large sensor set centered atop its frame, easily 20 feet tall, leapt from the seamless ground.

      "Whoa!" Mike cried, barely dodging the large foot as it landed a mere two inches from his arm.  "Crap!  Big Eye!"

      "Huh?" Riff turned from his attack on Pak, to the orange colossus that had just confronted his teammate.  "This is not what I need."

      "I didn't get this successful by not planning ahead, boy."

      "Are you still talking?" Riff asked demeaningly.  He motioned his board forward with considerable speed, trying to destroy the optical sensors of Big Eye.  To his dismay, his most accurate laser simply bounced off.  "Damn!  Wily upgraded.  Guess this'll take a new approach."  Riff gulped.  "Hope this works, don't wanna do this for nuthin'."  He circled around, and at point blank range, smacked his white metal guitar over the sensor of the large sentry.  The glass orb shattered, and Big Eye fell unbalanced to the ground below.

      "Nice work, man!" Mike congratulated. 

      Riff held the top of his guitar, which was connected to the bottom by a mere two strings. The instrument was useless, which only lead the owner to one option.

      "Retreat." he ordered.

      "What?" Mike asked, "We're winning!"

      "I said go!  Or do I have Rush drag you by your belt?!"

      Mike visualized the thought and shuddered.  "Rush Jet!" he called, as the red canine rocket sled appeared next to him almost immediately.  He tested his footing, and followed Riff back to the N Team's home.

      Pak watched the departure, smiling again.  "Stupid move boy.  You >were< winning."  The bounty hunter tapped the buttons on his glove.

      [State Requested Custom Function:]

      "Quick heal," Pak coughed.  He felt himself overcome a good majority of his injuries, and slowly limped back to the lab.


      "Why'd we fall back?" Mike asked, as he an Riff entered through the front door of the N Team's house.  Rush snuck in between the two, while Chord gently flapped overhead until the new robot sidekick had cleared the doorframe, finally taking a seat on a nearby bookcase. 

      "My guitar's busted, man." Riff held up the broken instrument.  "It'll take my old man about a day or so to repair it."

      "I still had my zapper, what was the problem?"

      Riff ran his hand through his short blonde hair.  "He can adapt to your zapper.  You'll get one shot, but after that it's useless.  If a weapon has a distinctive frequency, Pak's glove can protect him from it.  The only reason I can ever hurt him is because of my weapon.  His glove can't predict what it's gonna get hit with."

      "Oh.  Neat."

      "Quite," Riff folded the guitar under his arm.  "I'll bug Pop with this tomorrow morning.  Right now I need some sleep."  Riff whistled in Chord's direction.  "Temporary recharge." The bird limped slightly on the bookcase.     "See ya in the mornin'," Riff said, nearly slumping towards his temporary quarters.



      "Not a hundred percent," Pak announced, rotating his shoulder cuff.  "But definitely over ninety."  He looked to the old withered scientist a few feet before him.  "Y'know, this is gonna cost ya."

      "WHAT?!?" Wily almost choked on his words.  "I will not pay you any more money!  In fact, your performance has been rather disappointing.  Your services are no longer required, Mister Piedmont."

      Pak's eyes set on the old man.  "I'm sorry," Pak smiled, "But I just thought I heard you saying I'm not getting any money..."

      "You're not." Wiley insisted.

      "Oh," Pak released a chuckle or two.  "Alright then..."

      Wily was perplexed.  "You don't seem upset."  Pak's emotions however, were confirmed when the young man's boot found a home in the stomach of the old scientist.

      On the contrary, I'm quite pissed."

      "Gutsman!  Help!"

      The bulky robot ran into the lab.  "Okay you punk, I've been waiting to do this for a long time."

      "Oh do shut up," Pak sneered, as he fired a shot from his Mega Buster emulator, and kicked Gutsman's hollow head away as it bounced towards him.    "Now," Pak pulled Wily close to himself.  "Maybe you don't understand, but this isn't exactly good PR.  You won't pay me?  Fine.  What I don't take outta your lab, I'll take outta your hide!"  He tossed the stout man into a series of metal shelves.  "Let's talk business!"


      "Morning!" Stacey cheerfully cried as Riff stepped into the kitchen. 

      Riff looked at the young woman with squinty eyes.  "Are you always this chipper?" he asked, opening the fridge and pouring a milk-like substance into a glass.  Stacey shrugged. 

      "Oh, your 'dad' stopped by and picked up your guitar, he said it should be ready by the end of the day."

      Riff turned to Stacey as Mike entered the room.   "Why do you say it like that?  My 'dad'?"

      "Well he's not actually, you're dad," Stacey said, as Mike poured himself a glass of milk.  "I mean, he built you."

      Riff folded his arms.  "Didn't your dad build you?"

      With a hideous face, Mike spewed forth his selected beverage.  "Sick!  Who let the milk spoil?"

      "It's not milk." Riff answered.

      "What the hell is it?"

      "Barium."  Mike went wide-eyed.  "It cools my system."

      "Sick dude!"

      "It's great with nachos.  So what's up?  Any major injuries from last night?"

      "Just my ego."

      "Borrow some of Simon's then." 

      A bright blue flash filled the room, signifying the unexpected return of three friends.  Kevin, Rick, and Lana stepped from the vortex, getting welcomes from the three present Teamsters.

      "'Bout time you showed up!" Mike chided.  "Hey, I thought you said you'd be gone a month!"

      Kevin shrugged.  "What can I say?  I'm a sucker for punishment.  How's the situation going with you-know-who?"

      "Oh," Riff said.  "I'm fine."

      Kevin blinked.  "No, I mean, with Pak."

      "Oh...sorry.  Well, we _had_ a huge advantage.  But for the time being we're a little vulnerable.  Once my guitar's fixed, everything should be fine."

      "It broke?"

      "Yeah," Mike added.  "Smashing it against Big Eye's skull usually breaks it."  He looked to his glass and held it out.  "Milk?"  Mike's arm was pulled off to the side, and he dropped the glass.  "HEY!" the invisible opponent lifted the young man by his chin.  "Watch the shirt!"  Mike reached for his zapper, but it was thrown from his grasp.  It skidded on the floor, to Kevin's feet.

      "Hold on, Mike!"  Kevin aimed the weapon.

      "NO!" Riff halted Kevin, grabbing his wrist.  "It's a laser!"

      "So?  Mike's in trouble!"

      "But the guy's invisible!  He's bending light instead of absorbing it!  You fire that light-based weapon and you'll fry Mike to a crisp!"  Riff lowered his shades, switching his optical sensors to a thermal based setting.  He could definitely see the intruder.  But Riff didn't even need to guess at who it was.     "Pak." Riff whistled.  "Attack!"

      A streak of white whisked over Kevin's head, as Chord launched a sonic attack at Pak, steadily randomizing its frequency, and thus making it impossible for Pak to defend himself. 

      He dropped Mike, and faded into view, holding his ears.  "Computer, pinpoint target assailant!"  Pak's glove complied, firing a small laser at the bird, sending it crashing to the ground.

      "Oh that did it," Riff jolted forward and sacked the attacker.  He could feel Pak's throat between his hands as they squeezed, and suddenly, nothing was there.  Riff scanned the room with his thermal vision.  "Nothing.  He's gone."  Riff helped Mike to his feet.  "He must've teleported out." 

      Lana sighed.  "I'll have the security system bounce all teleportation signals to the Megaland Prison."

      "Good idea," Kevin said, watching Lana leave.  Suddenly a pain came over Kevin's wrist.  "Uhm, Riff?"

      "Yo." the robot replied.

      "How strong is your grip?"

      Riff immediately understood what had happened.  "When I'm excited?  I can put up to fifty pounds of pressure per-square-inch."

      Kevin cradled his wrist in his left hand.  "I better get a cast on this baby then." he said, leaving the room.

      "I'll be glad when this whole thing is over," Riff huffed, slinking out of the room.  He was glad to hear a metallic flapping close behind him.  _At least I'll come out of this with one friend_ he thought.


      "How's the wrist?" Lana asked, as Kevin sat on the couch, flipping between    TV channels.  "Better?"

      Kevin raised his right wrist, and the heavy plastic-framed cast that was protecting it.  "For now.  Doctor Right gave me some pain killers.  It hurts like nobody's business when those wear off."

      "Well, Riff didn't know it would happen."

      "I don't blame him.  My only problem is this is the hand I hold my zapper with."

      "Can't you use your other one?"

      "Not if I wanna hit my targets.  But from what I hear, my zapper wouldn't do any good against Pak, anyway."

      "Kevin," Lana's tone changed to a curious one.  "Why'd you come back?"

      "Like I told Mike, I'm a sucker for punishment."

      "Okay," Lana uneasily accepted.  "Now give me the truth."

      Kevin sighed.  "While I was home, I found one of my old high school yearbooks.  All of a sudden I was overwhelmed by these flashbacks.  Of Mike, back when he was a bully.  He was always picking on me, and beating me up.  I never stood up to him.  I always ran away."

      "And you couldn't take it anymore," Lana assumed. 

      Kevin nodded.  "Yeah, it finally got to me.  I'm tired of running."

      "I don't know if you're brave or stupid." Lana smiled.

      "If I live through this, then it's brave," he returned with a grin.


      "So it's ready?" Riff asked, as his creator handed over the repaired guitar blaster.  "Good as new?"

      "Better," Doctor Right informed.  "Its power has been increased by half."

      "Cool."  Riff smiled, but immediately sobered.  "Um, pop.  How come you never made these for the N Team?  You know this is the only thing that can hurt Pak.  And I don't plan on hanging around with those guys."

      "As I'm aware.  But I'm afraid your guitar was just a fluke.  I don't even know why it does what it does, it just does it.  The odds of recreating the effect are staggering."

      "I see.  Well, better get back to the house of boredom."

      "I really wish you'd join them, Riff."

      "You're the one who gave me the lone warrior mentality," Riff countered, tuning his weapon.  "Not my fault, really."

      "I'd hoped you would follow in Rock's footsteps."

      "By the way, how is my little big brother?"

      "He's taken a lot of damage.  I've been up all week replacing his chips.  His body needed to be completely rebuilt."  Right looked around the room.       "Where's Chord?"

      "Oh.  He's back at the N Team's place.  He likes buggin' the hell outta Rush." Riff smiled.  "Well," he slapped the guitar onto the magnetic plate on his back.  "Looks like I'm ready to go."

      "Just one question," Right stopped Riff before he could reach the door.       "After you've dealt with Pak -- then what do you plan to do."

      Riff took a moment to search himself for the answer.  He shrugged and exited the lab.  "I'll let you know."


      Two or so hours later, Mike Vincent passed by the communications terminal just as it rang.  He was not eager to see a law-enforcement droid on the other end of the transmission.

      "Captain Epsilon," Mike nervously smiled.  "What can I do for you?"

      [We have a problem,] The mechanical voice answered.

      "Look, I wasn't even near the mailboxes at that hour, so there's no way I could've stuffed twenty sausages---"

      [This is not one of your demented pranks, Mister Vincent,] Mike wiped the sweat from his forehead.  [I have one of your teammates here.  We found him endangering public safety in downtown Megaland.]

      "One of us?" The captain nodded.  "Who?"

      [Riff Right.]

      "Oh boy." Mike sighed.


      "I hope you appreciate this," Mike spit as he put his wallet away.  He had just paid Riff's bail, which was quite a hefty amount.  "That totally tapped me out."

      Riff waited for one of the officers to return his guitar.  "Hey, this isn't my fault.  Not my fault they couldn't see him."

      "See who?" Mike asked.

      "Pak.  He was invisible again.  I didn't want him sneaking up on me, so I left my sensors on thermal.  I saw him about twenty feet in front of me and---"

      "--and you opened fire." Mike finished.  "Man, Kevin and Lana are really gonna chew you out for this, I hope you know that."

      "Yeah, well that's there problem.  I don't have to answer to those two.  I'm not about to take abuse from people I'll be ditching after this is over."

Mike leaned in close and whispered.  "Listen, I can easily tell the captain that you're not a member of the team.  The only reason you weren't even formally processed is because of the immunity that the N Team is given.  Now you're a rookie, and entitled to one mistake.  But if you make another, I'm going to have to tell the others about it."

      Riff blinked.  "So this is what happened to the great Mike Vincent?  No more broom stealing?  No more yelling at the neighbors with a cheesy accent?  When did you become so responsible."

      "Since my best friend could've been killed," Mike retorted.  "And how'd you find out about all that stuff anyway?"

      "I read your journal." Riff easily admitted.

      "You what?!"


      "So Kev," Rick flopped down next to Kevin on the couch.  "What's on the tube?  Anything good?"  Kevin knew what Rick meant by 'good.'  The young man was a fan of classic movies, and found most of the new ones totally unwatchable.

      "The Adventures of Wombatman and Roadkill," Kevin had to groan at the show he had been watching.  "The old episodes from the sixties."

      Rick covered his eyes.  "Turn it off!  Turn it off!"

      "Hey!" Kevin switched the channel and found an interesting sight.  "That's the band!"

      Rick removed his hands from his face and stared at the big screen.  "Yeah, but Riff's up there."

      "Oh man," Kevin smacked himself in the forehead with his good hand.  "I forgot, we still had a concert left in our contract with Tecmoland when I left.  Riff must've filled in for me."

      "Is that Pak?" Rick asked, cameras zooming in on the bounty hunter as he did so.  "What was he doing at the concert?"

      "Looking for me, no doubt."  Kevin turned up the volume and listened to the full news report.  "I don't believe this."

"Yeah, that was a few days ago.  The news stations don't exactly jump on a story, do they?"  Rick shook his head.

      "No, I mean Riff.  He shot that girl!"

      "It was a stun dart.  She recovered.  Let's face it, it was better for her to be unconscious then try anything stupid while being held hostage by someone with an itchy trigger finger."

      "But it doesn't exactly portray the N Team like it is."

      "News flash, Kev."  Rick leaned back in the sofa.  "This isn't the N Team you know anymore.  It's changed a lot.  And correct me if I'm wrong, but when you first joined, didn't Simon talk trash about you the way your going on about Riff?"

      "I'm not saying he can't do the job," Kevin said "but he's not doing it the right way."

      "Look, Riff ended a hostile situation with as little violence as possible.  I hear he even made a somewhat strategic assault on Skull Castle.  Plus he doesn't panic under pressure, he thinks more than ever.  Riff's at his best in a fight, Kev.  You saw it just now, you saw it this morning.  Sure his methods may be a bit --- unorthodox, but they work.  And I think that's what frightens you.  That he can do it a way other than yours."

      Kevin sighed.  "Y'know, I think you're right."

      "Yup." Rick agreed, as he turned his attention back to the television. "What's on Fax?"

      Kevin switched to the desired station.  "Castlevania 90210."

      Rick shook his head.  "I don't know what's worse, Videoland's television or ours."  The two men regarded each other for a moment.

"Ours," they both agreed.


To Be Concluded...