Vocal Vision

A Decidedly Miku-ish Plan! You Don't Have to go Home but You Can't Stay Here!

Gumi Megpoid was… not worried.

Somehow, for once, she was actually not worried. She was… what was the word for it? Tense? Expectant? Perhaps even excited? Yeah, that one sounded good. Excited.

She didn’t really understand why she was feeling so confident, and indeed, every part of her considerable intellect told her that confidence was not the correct emotional response in this situation, but still, there it was.

It had all happened after she had spoken to Miku and she had, in her usual manner, managed to take Gumi’s perceptions and turn them a complete 180. Now she was at least no longer worried about what was going to happen, but still skeptical on what she needed to do.

Or at least she had been until that morning when she woke up. Upon waking, a thought occurred to her. It was something Miku had said during their last conversation.

“With your brains, you could probably come up with a better plan than I ever could! And it probably wouldn’t even have to involve the risk of death or serious injury!”

Death and serious injury... Those were two things Gumi definitely wanted to avoid at all costs; for both herself and others. Miku’s approaches were… effective. But they usually ended with other people having broken bones. Gumi didn’t want people to get seriously hurt by any of her plans.

But then that was another thing altogether. It had become clear that force was going to be applied in order to keep this quarantine in effect and in order to counter that, she might have to use force herself. But force wasn’t really her thing. She wasn’t a fighter. She was a thinker. She couldn’t throw energy blasts or punch over a tree like Miku could.

Furthermore, these weren’t just random people she was dealing with, they were trained soldiers. As a unit, they had even Miku outmatched in terms of force. And if that was the case, what chance did Gumi have?

But then her brilliant mind finally threw a good idea at her. What could she do? She was helpless. And since she was helpless, no one would expect her to be a threat. And indeed, it wouldn’t really be her that was the threat at all.

She looked around her room. It was a fairly large room but nearly every inch of it was full of… stuff. There was barely enough room for her bed and her desk. There were boxes and shelves and containers and all of them were filled with the same thing: junk.

Well, it looked like junk to anyone but Gumi. To her, it was merely a collection of components waiting to be utilized, and she couldn’t think of a better time to utilize them than now.

It had occurred to her that while she might not be a threat herself, she had the means and the capability to create things that were. She had never attempted to make something quite like this before, but she was sure she could do it if she tried.

She wasn’t thinking of guns. She wouldn’t stand a chance against a town full of military personnel. Not that she would ever shoot someone in the first place. The idea of killing another human being made her cringe.

What she was thinking of doing hinged entirely upon her being able to predict what was going to happen next. She could tell that this quarantine couldn’t last forever; likely only a few months at most. After that… she felt that she had a pretty good idea what would happen.

It would be the logical thing. What did a government do when its people were afraid of something? They did something to get rid of what was causing that fear. In this case it was Vocaloids, and so it would be Vocaloids that would be gotten rid of. Of course it wouldn’t be like they were killing them in the streets or anything. These were still people after all. No, it would be slower than that. If history was any indicator, removal preceded disposal. In Gumi’s opinion, Vocaloids would be removed to… somewhere… at some point in the near future.

Of course she had nothing to base this on but her own intellect (however considerable an intellect it was), and most people probably would have thought she was overthinking the situation. Still, she was confident that her assumptions were correct.

But that brought up yet another question: If she was going to make something that could help her out here, and she was hinging it upon the idea that at some point, military personnel were going to come breaking her door down to take her away, what exactly could she make that would prevent that? More importantly, what exactly could she make that would prevent that and have the added benefit of not injuring anyone?

It was a simple answer. What do you make if you don’t want to kill something but you still want to catch it? Traps.

Her thought process finally coming full circle, Gumi shook her head, realizing that she was sitting at her desk. She glanced at the clock. She had been sitting there thinking for a full half hour.

She had the tendency to zone out for a while in order to carry a thought to its logical conclusion and it caused her problems when it happened while in class or in some other social setting, earning her the nickname “Space Case” on more than one occasion.

But that was ok. Being quarantined had certain perks, and one of those perks was copious amounts of free time. It was ok because now she knew what she was going to do… sort of. She had a basic framework anyways. Now all she had to do was flesh out that framework a bit and…

Whoa. Hold up. Wait just one gosh darn minute there. What on earth was she doing? The logical part of her brain finally got fed up with being pushed aside and finally asserted itself. Did she seriously just spend a significant portion of her morning considering ways to incapacitate soldiers? Well, when she put it that way…

She needed a second opinion.

“That’s an awesome idea!” came a familiar voice through her scrap phone, “Really Gumi, best plan you’ve ever come up with by far.”

Ok, so maybe Miku shouldn’t have been her first choice for an unbiased opinion, but she didn’t exactly have a lot of options here.

“You really think so?” she asked, coming to realize that Miku would probably think of this as some kind of super secret stealth mission.

“Totally!” Miku replied, “You’ll be like a secret agent or something. You use your ultra high-tech gadgets to dispatch the enemy while you claim the prize!”

“What prize? I’m just trying to get away.” She stated, not really following Miku’s movie-based system of thinking.

“Uh… freedom. That’s your prize” she said without missing a beat, “You’re like a secret agent freedom… fighter… person.”

Gumi really wasn’t following, but she needed some serious input on this and it was clear that Miku was not going to be able to provide that. However good a friend she was, this was not her forte. But if not Miku, who could she talk to? She needed someone who could give her the advice she needed; someone who was experienced in the art of stealth and silent warfare. Ok, maybe that sounded a bit dramatic. She wasn’t actually trying to be a secret agent.

“Hey Miku, I value your input, but I’m not really trying to be a secret agent here” she said, echoing her thoughts, “I need advice on how I should go about this. Not how cool it is.”

There was silence on the other end of the line and for a moment Gumi thought she may have offended her, but then…

“Well… there is… one person who I’m pretty sure could help… only…” Miku paused, choosing her words, “She doesn’t exactly talk to a lot of people so she might be…”

Gumi knew in an instant who Miku was talking about, and for some inexplicable reason, it made her nervous. Miku hadn’t told her much about her teacher, other than the rambling, slightly nonsensical story she had given Gumi about her first three days with her, and that was hardly anything to go on.

In her mind, Gumi had a sudden image of an old woman, wizened by the passage of time, fighting off hordes of faceless enemies like it was nothing. She shook herself back to reality.

“Oh… I suppose… that is, if it’s ok with her.” Gumi said, a little apprehensively.

There was some shuffling on the other end of the line as Miku went to go find Luka. She then heard muffled voices, something that sounded like “Me? Why?” then a new voice came on the line.

“Hello, Gumi? Miku’s told me a lot about you. It’s nice to finally talk to you in person.”

Gumi facepalmed. Yeah, that sure sounded like she had problems talking to people.

“Hello? You there?” came Luka’s voice again.

“Oh, yes, sorry, hello” Gumi replied.

“Miku tells me you want my advice on something?” Luka said, “I don’t know how much help I’ll be but I’ll give what wisdom I can.”

“Well you see… I’ve got this plan, and… now this is going to sound crazy…”

Gumi laid out her plan for Luka bit by bit. Admittedly, she hadn’t gotten into the details yet, so all it amounted to was something like “The military is going to try and take me away and I’m going to set traps for them so I can escape” but Luka listened anyways. When Gumi was done, Luka spoke.

“Well that’s… uh… quite a plan you have there” she said, “And it’s a solid one, I think, as far as a plan like this can be anyways. But what you’ve neglected to take into account is what happens if you’re successful. Say you get out, what then? Where are you going to go? You can’t just live the life of a fugitive forever.”

Even though she wasn’t the one on the line, Gumi heard Miku’s voice loud and clear.

“What do you mean? She can come here, duh!”

Gumi had to admit, she hadn’t thought of what she was going to do should her plan prove successful. She hadn’t planned that far ahead; maybe because a part of her didn’t expect to succeed at all.

“Well, sure I suppose here would be a good destination but she isn’t exactly close is she?” Luka stated, “And furthermore, how would she even find her way here? We’re in the middle of a huge forest.”

“Actually, um… I can track the signal from Miku’s phone” Gumi said quietly.

Luka pondered that for a moment. She had to give the girl props. Having the foresight to put a GPS tracker in those little pieces of scrap she called phones was pretty impressive. Not to mention it really spoke to her technical prowess that she was able to design a GPS tracker at all. In all reality, the safest place Gumi could be was with her and Miku. It was remote, hidden, and not easily accessible to anyone who happened to wander by. If she could feasibly make it there…

“Well if that’s the case… I think you should aim for here. Wait, I’ve got an even better idea!” Luka said brightly, “Miku and I can meet you halfway!”

Miku was all for it.

“That’s a great idea! If you’re with us, then there’s nothing to worry about!” she said enthusiastically.

Gumi smiled. She was glad that they had been able to hammer out something solid. But this was all still conjecture at this point. There was a lot of work to do before this plan could bear fruit.

They decided that they would meet in Sesame Town. It was a small, nondescript agricultural community roughly halfway between where Gumi was and Luka’s Cottage; the perfect place for a meeting of illegal Vocaloids. Gumi hadn’t traveled long distance before, especially not by herself on foot, and she had never had a need to keep a low profile either. Such an out of the way destination made it less likely that any of them would encounter trouble during the trip.

As she hung up the phone, Gumi once again felt that same sense of waning confidence once Miku and Luka’s voices could no longer be heard but she quickly pushed it away. This was no time for such sentiments. She had work to do, and since she wasn’t well acquainted with the mechanics of the devices which she was planning on making, her first stop was her local library to pick up a few books on the subject. Knowledge is power after all.

Just one problem: Being under quarantine didn’t exactly allow her to leave. A trip to the library wasn’t a possibility if she was confined to her house. Gumi allowed herself a small bit of depression as she realized this. Her trips to the library were one of her favorite parts of the week. The feeling of literature weighing down her bags filled her with a sort of quiet pride. In this day and age of media and social networking, people sorely underappreciated the value of the printed word.

Yet even as she thought this, her gaze shifted to her right and rested on her computer which sat on a small table next to her desk. Printed words were great and all, but right now Gumi was infinitely more thankful for the internet and its ability to access a wealth of information without the need to leave one’s residence. So while normally she would have made the trek to the library on principle alone, she instead sent up a small prayer for forgiveness to the book Gods and pressed the power button.

There was something wrong here. Something very wrong. A cursory glance around the house would not provide one with the impression that the situation at hand was anything but normal, but Teto knew better. She knew that around every corner lurked a vicious unseen enemy. A foe so cruel and unforgiving that if given the chance, it would destroy you and all you love without a second thought, leaving you barely a shell of your former happy self and having nothing to do but dwell upon the bleak, desolate wasteland that had become your day to day existence.

What enemy could possibly be so foul and yet go unnoticed, you ask? The answer is simple: Boredom.

So many people disregard boredom as something that could never happen to them. There will always be something to keep me interested they thought. Teto scoffed. How naïve. Didn’t they know that at any moment, their lives could be shattered?

I was like them not so long ago she mused. How careless she had been. How foolish. Now she paid for her inaction with the unbridled tedium of task… less… ness…? Was that even a word? Teto wasn’t sure. All she knew was that this was most certainly not how a summer vacation was supposed to feel.

As you’ve probably guessed by now, Teto Kasane is bored. She is bored out of her head and struggling to stay sane. Ok, so maybe she’s being a bit melodramatic about the whole thing but come on, it’s summer! Isn’t that the season that’s supposed to be synonymous with fun?

You’ve probably also already guessed the source of her boredom. Quarantines don’t really provide a lot of leniency when it comes to getting out of the house. She had made plans. Oh the plans she had made! How glorious they would have been! The simple joy of walking to the corner store to spend what little money she had seemed like an unattainable luxury now. How she longed to wear her new swimsuit that she had gotten for her birthday. She’d be the envy of every guy in town, probably (provided she could get over her shyness, that is, but she was working on it!), if only she could just get to the swimming pool.

Now, you might be inclined to feel sorry for Teto. Maybe a bit of pity for the teenage girl forbidden to have fun by the powers that be. Let me assure you that Teto’s boredom is nobody’s fault but her own. While she might not be exceptionally good at being bored, she is exceptionally good at being very, very lazy.

You see, since Teto isn’t registered as a Vocaloid, she isn’t technically bound by the quarantine… she’s just very bad at mustering the motivation to get off the couch.

It had been two weeks since the simultaneous beginnings of both summer vacation and the government-imposed quarantines. Teto had left the house on approximately zero occasions during that time. She had done her fair share of whining, but at this point she might as well be complaining to thin air. Her mother, being a woman of strong convictions and possessing a level head, had long since come to terms with her confinement and as such had taken to tuning out Teto’s complaints in favor of whatever happened to be on television at the moment. Sometimes she wondered if that made her a bad mother, but then she’d hear another bout of “I want to go have fun” and she would decide that no, no it didn’t.

In all reality, the reason Teto hadn’t left the house yet was because Uta had been gone. Two days after school got out she and her parents had left on an early summer getaway. None of them were Vocaloids so they were free to do as they pleased. Uta promised that she would come rescue her the moment they got back. Fortunately for Teto (and her mother) that moment happened to be right then.

It was a curious transformation that Teto underwent when she heard the knock at the door. As if someone had flicked an invisible switch, her personality changed instantly from one of complete boredom to that of a woman possessed. To the untrained eye, it may have appeared that Teto had simply disappeared into thin air, but in reality she was moving too fast to see.

Like a charging beast she was heedless of all in front of her. Anything unfortunate enough to be in her way would be crushed without a second thought. Fortunately the only thing she managed to break was the sound barrier (well, not really but she had to be close) while cutting her warpath directly to the front door.

As the door opened all Uta had time to say was “Mmmph!” as a red blur tackled her to the ground. Taken aback for only a moment, Uta quickly realized that the freight train that had bowled her over was none other than her best friend.

“Wow, miss me much?” she said in her usual sarcastic manner. Teto’s only response was to hug her tighter.

“You have no idea!” Teto replied. She couldn’t decide what to do between laughing, crying, or yelling so she tried all three at once. When she found herself unable to do this she settled on the biggest smile she’d ever had.

After her initial burst of giddiness at Uta’s return had subsided, Teto had curbed her excitement back to a low boil. Her movements now able to be tracked by the naked eye, Teto and Uta had a lot of catching up to do. To this end, they (Uta) had decided that they (Teto) needed to get out of the house and go somewhere. The destination wasn’t important, anywhere other than there was fine.

The instant she heard the door shut, Riko Kasane breathed a sigh of relief; at last, a moment of peace and quiet. Turning off the television, she simply sat and absorbed the tranquility of the house around her, having nearly forgotten that such a thing was possible with Teto around constantly.

Her moment of repose was short lived however, as certain matters were weighing heavily on her mind and they chose that quiet moment to invade once more, as such thoughts are wont to do. While Riko was most certainly usually a calm and level-headed woman, even she had to admit that the current state of affairs had her in a mental tailspin.

She hadn’t been to work in two weeks. This was perhaps the most notable difference. It felt unusual to her to not see any of her coworkers for such an extended period. Even so, she didn’t miss it that much. Being one of only two Vocaloids on staff, the atmosphere had changed as of late. She could hear people’s hushed conversations taking place behind her back. She knew what they were thinking; wondering if there could be any truth behind the news reports. What if she was dangerous? Could they be at risk? She watched people that she had worked with for years suddenly become distant with her. It was the most alienating feeling she could ever have imagined. But that wasn’t what worried her the most.

While it’s true that money can’t buy happiness, it most certainly can contribute to peace of mind. The best things in life may be free, but there are a lot of things almost as good that aren’t. She had already received several of the government-issue food packages being sent to Vocaloids but it was things like a house payment or cable that her now nonexistent income would soon be unable to support.

She had a fair amount of money in her savings; enough to last four or five months. However, she would definitely need to start cutting back. Things were going to be tough for a while.

A sigh escaped her lips as her mind mulled over possibilities. Three months ago she never would have thought it possible for any of this to happen. Funny how everything you know can change so fast. It wasn’t fair. But Riko knew all too well that oftentimes life wasn’t fair. It was a hard truth, but a truth nonetheless, and she had no choice but to carry on anyways.

Being a mother, her main concern was not for herself, but for Teto. She could only imagine what this would do to her. She felt guilty that she was unable to provide for her daughter, even though she knew it was no fault of her own. It would be harder for Teto than it was for her. She had never had to live frugally before. Well, at least not that she remembered. She had been too young when the “accident” had happened.

The thought struck her that perhaps it was better that Teto went to live somewhere else for a while. One so young shouldn’t live with a mother that does nothing but stay home all day. It would surely get incredibly boring (It had already). The responsible parent in her knew that she had to send Teto away somewhere, for lack of a more appropriate word, better.

The only issue was: where? They didn’t have any relatives nearby. Where could Teto go? It wasn’t like she could just put her outside and say “start walking”. But then something made her pause.


Maybe she could.

Getting up, she walked over to the phone. She dialed the number for the Utane Household. It rang a few times until there was a click and a female voice said “hello?”

“Sarah? It’s Riko.”

“Oh I’m fine. How was your trip?”

“Oh that sounds wonderful! Listen, I’ve got somewhat of a favor to ask of you…”

Teto was feeling great. She was so happy to have her best friend back after two weeks. The sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach had been replaced by ice cream (Vanilla. But who needs creativity when the classics taste so good?). She couldn’t think of anything that she would rather be doing at that exact moment.

Uta had been telling her about all the things her family had done on their vacation. They had seen so many amazing things. The giant waterfall in Clandestine Valley, the harbor at Soundsmith Port, the enormous gardens in Medley’s Vale, it truly sounded like a trip that would not soon be forgotten. Uta hadn’t stopped talking about it since they had left but Teto was content to listen, “ooh-ing” and “ah-ing” at the appropriate moments.

“…and then there was this one flower thing that I swear had petals bigger than your head. It was so cool! I wish you could have been there, you would have loved it” said Uta, continuing her excited discussion, “But enough about my trip, what did you do while I was gone?”

“Oh God it was awful” Teto whined, the lethargy of the last two weeks still fresh in her mind, “There was nothing to do! I literally sat inside and watched TV for two weeks. It was soooo boring!”

“You could have… I don’t know… gone outside or something in that time” said Uta, perfectly aware that Teto doing something alone was about as likely as hell freezing over.

Teto put on a look of mock-surprise. “You make it sound like it’s so easy! I assure you, I did all in my power to escape, but the forces of darkness are formidable indeed.”

“Darkness… right…” said Uta, smiling at her friend’s antics, “You couldn’t by any chance mean laziness, could you?”

“Darkness, laziness, same thing. It’s too much work to keep track of which one is which” said Teto, returning Uta’s smile.

They laughed as they approached the front door of Teto’s house. While Teto would, under the circumstances of several hours ago, have thought coming back to this house was basically torture, she now had Uta with her, and the “spirits of darkness” (or laziness) were safely kept at bay.

“You know, I bet if I asked really nicely I could convince my mom to let you stay the night” said Teto, not wanting to let her friend out of her sight now that she finally had her back. In all reality, Uta felt pretty much the same way.

“That sounds awesome!” replied Uta, “I haven’t pulled an all-nighter in forever. But then again, I haven’t had a reason to since I actually study regularly unlike some people I know.”

“I regret nothing” said Teto.

As they entered the house, they were greeted by Riko’s voice coming from the kitchen. “Teto? Is that you? Could you come in here for a moment? I have something I need to talk to you about.

Teto and Uta made their way into the kitchen. The western-facing window let in the rays of the afternoon sun, warming the room and illuminating a few stray motes of dust floating in the beams of light. Riko was sitting at the dining room table, wearing a pair of reading glasses and poring over a few official-looking documents. She glanced up at their approach.

“Ah, and Uta is with you too! Even better, I can talk to both of you at once” she said, smiling a bit. Teto didn’t have any idea where this conversation was going. What could her mother possibly want with the both of them? At least it didn’t seem like they were in trouble.

“Teto, I have some news. It’s a bit sudden, so I apologize if it catches you off guard.” She cleared her throat and stood up to make her declaration. “Ahem. I have decided that in light of recent circumstances… this house is no longer the best place for you to be. A young girl needs a living space that isn’t occupied by a mother that doesn’t work. So in what I believe is your best interest, I have arranged for you to live elsewhere until circumstances improve.” She crossed her arms and nodded, as if to finalize her statement.

Teto was… well… her mind wasn’t working too fast right then. It took her a moment to process what her mother was actually telling her. Teto had thought she heard her say something about sending her to live somewhere else, but that couldn’t be right. That was preposterous. Where would she go? No, she must have misheard her.

With her best tone of non-comprehension and her most convincing expression of disbelief, Teto replied with a dumbfounded: “Umm… what?”

“I know this is probably a bit sudden for you but I truly believe that this is in your best interest” Riko continued, “Now, as for where you’re going…”

But she was suddenly cut off by a red blur latching onto her. Teto was suddenly sobbing into her chest, crying her eyes out and blubbering protests.

“I’m sorry! If I did something to make you angry I promise I’ll do better!” Teto cried, tears running down her face, “I’ll do all the chores and… and… WAAHHHH!!!!!”

Riko glanced up and gave Uta a look. As one they both rolled their eyes. Typical Teto. Didn’t even know what was going on and she was already freaking out. Riko softly placed a hand on her daughter’s back and comforted her.

“Come on Cupcake, calm down” she said soothingly, “It’s ok. I promise it’s nothing you did. Also, you didn’t let me finish. Come now, dry those tears.”

Slowly, tentatively, Teto looked up and sniffled a bit.

“There’s my little drill bit” said Riko, smiling down at her daughter. Uta let out a snort of laughter at the pet name. Oh she was going to have fun teasing Teto about that for weeks.

“You’re sure it’s not something I did?” asked Teto, no longer crying but still looking like she could break down again at any moment.

“You could never do anything to make me want to send you away” said Riko, “Anyways, it’s not like you’ll be far away. I think you’ll probably even come to like it.” She glanced up at Uta. “I’m glad you’re here too. I’ve made arrangements for Teto to stay with your family for the duration of this… situation.”

Once again, Teto displayed an unnerving proclivity for mood whiplash. Whereas moments before she had been on the brink of despair, seconds later she was practically jumping around the kitchen in glee. She turned to her mother. “Oh thank you thank you thank you!” she said before disappearing up the stairs to pack.

“Wow, a second ago she was begging me not to let her go and now she can’t get away fast enough”said Riko. She and Uta shared another look before they both burst into laughter.

“Arrgghhhh. Why does this have to be so complicated?!?” Gumi said exasperatedly. She had been at it for hours. She was finding as much knowledge as she could on the subject of laying traps. Unfortunately, it looked like she was going to have to improvise a lot of what she was going to make. There weren’t exactly a lot of sources of information on setting traps for people.

Abandoning that search, Gumi had put her mind to work. If she couldn’t find designs for traps on her own, then she’d have to make them herself. The only problem was most of them weren’t even electrical. Some could be as simple as a net connected to a tripwire. Why was this a problem? Gumi couldn’t tell you if she wanted to because she didn’t know herself. By all accounts, this stuff should be a breeze for her.

“Grrr… I can handle the most complicated electrical circuits known to man but I can’t grasp simple mechanics? What’s wrong with me?” she said to the room at large. The mechanisms themselves weren’t too hard, but fitting them together was another matter. For some reason, she just didn’t get how to go from point A to point B.

Another problem was materials. She had access to pretty much any circuit or computer part she needed, but as luck would have it, that’s exactly what she didn’t need right then. She needed a net, some wire, hinges, clamps, weighted bearings… this was ridiculous. She didn’t own a hardware store. She couldn’t even recall ever having been to one in her life. The whole plan was starting to look more and more impossible.

No. she thought. Not again. I’m not giving up that easily. I will find a way to make this work if it kills me. There had to be an easier way for her to do this. She should play to her strengths. Forget about the mechanical, she was doing this her way. That net would be attached to the ceiling by remote controlled release mechanisms wired to a motion sensor. Forget all the tripwires and latches and whatever else, she’d start from scratch.

She cleared some space on her desk and brought out graph paper and a pencil and sketched a rough drawing of her house’s interior design. How should I do this? She thought to herself. She thought about it logically. If she was going to resist arrest, then she had to make it as hard as possible for the authorities to catch her. If she sprang a trap on them at the front door, then they could alert others too easily. No, she’d have to let them penetrate further into the house first. She’d make it easy to get in, but hard to get out.

The first point of resistance would be the entrance to her room. Being only wide enough for one person at a time, it was an effective choke point. She couldn’t imagine there being more than one or two people being sent to get her. After all, they wouldn’t expect much resistance from a teenage girl, Vocaloid or not. She could stay in her room and refuse to come out, forcing them to come in for her. When they stepped through the doorway they would trip a motion sensor that would release a net positioned directly above her doorway. She could then use their confusion to… wait, she could already see a flaw. Just dropping a net on a full grown person, possibly two, wasn’t going to knock them over. It would need sufficient force behind it. She wasn’t just going to need a net; she would need a net launcher.

Gumi put her head in her hands. This was already shaping up to be ridiculously complex. Where on earth was she going to get a net launcher? Well, she could buy one but she had no idea from where or how much it would cost. Probably way too much for her to afford anyways. Who would sell a net launcher? There had to be a site online that would but Gumi couldn’t imagine that they would sell to the general public much less her.

Well that was just great. Now she was going to have to jerry rig a net launcher from scratch, and she didn’t have the faintest idea how to do it. How did one go about obtaining the knowledge for building a net launcher? What components would she need? Where would she get them? How would she get them?

She let out an exasperated sigh. This had all seemed much easier in her head. Still, where there’s a will, there’s a way, and Gumi had the will. If she couldn’t acquire a net launcher, then she would build one.

Wow, that sounds weird no matter how cool you try to make it seem… she thought to herself. Well, that was just fine. She didn’t need cool, she needed effective. There are probably a million easier ways to do this… her brain told her. She knew exactly what Miku would have to say to that. It would be something along the lines of: “Yeah, easier, but not nearly as awesome! I mean, a net launcher? How much more awesome can you get?”

She smiled as she imagined Miku’s reaction. It was her that was really responsible for this hare-brained scheme in the first place after all. If she hadn’t convinced Gumi to come up with a plan and to worry just a little less, Gumi would probably still be crying her eyes out and losing her mind wondering what was going to happen to her.

Miku was the real hero, but something about her indomitable spirit made Gumi feel like maybe, just maybe, she could be a hero too.

She could still feel that spectre of doubt whispering to her from the corner of her thoughts, but she was stronger now, and she knew just how to deal with it. Turning to face her inner demon (figuratively of course), she calmly picked up a net launcher and smiled a menacing smile.

That demon didn’t know what hit it.

Several hours later, Gumi had to admit that she was making more progress than she had initially thought she would. However, it had become painfully apparent that knowledge of electrical components alone was not going to be enough. As much as she hated it, she knew that a crash course in mechanics was present in her near future. The wiring and remote control would be a cinch. She could build a motion sensor in her sleep. The problem was going to be the part that actually fired the net. Sure, if you just gave her a launching mechanism, she could wire it up just fine, but ask her to build one herself? That’s where things got tricky.

And besides that, there were all sorts of other factors to consider as well. How much force would need to be applied to knock a person off their feet? What was the optimum angle for the net to come from? How was she going to build this thing and keep it hidden from her parents?

That last question had given her a fair amount to think about when it first came up. She couldn’t let them find out. If they knew what she was up to they’d flip. Opposing the military? Openly defying government policy? Assaulting law enforcement personnel? She would never hear the end of it. She knew they had her best interests at heart but when it came down to it, they weren’t Vocaloids and Gumi was. It wouldn’t be them being taken away when the hammer came down.

She knew that they would do everything in their power to protect her, but she also knew that that would get them in trouble too. No, she had to do this alone. Maybe she’d contact them and tell them after the fact, but not before. They must not get involved.

She looked down at the paper on the desk in front of her. It was littered with scribbles and shorthand notes as well as a few rough sketches of what she had in mind. By no means was it a design for a functional net launcher, but it was a start.

Stretching, Gumi glanced at the clock. 2:00 AM. She had been at this forever and she had barely made any progress. But some progress was better than no progress. She would do it… eventually. Fortunately for her, she had all the time in the world.

For now though, it was time for bed. Yawning, she switched off her desk lamp and slipped into her pajamas. As she got into bed it hit her again how utterly ridiculous the idea of setting up a net launcher in her room was.

Ok, maybe it was ridiculous, but Gumi couldn’t deny that the whole thing had a very Miku-ish feel to it. This was the kind of thing that Miku would think up. Heck, she’d do it just because it would be fun. Well, assuming Miku could get her hands on a net launcher, that is (and somehow, Gumi thought that she would find a way).

Miku’s insanity was a special brand of crazy. She could come up with an idea that everyone but her would think was nonsense. They would keep telling her that it was a bad idea, telling her that it could never work… until it did. She had a crazy sort of gift for that.

I guess she’s rubbing off on me Gumi thought. Strangely enough, it didn’t bother her. This may not be the most logical plan, but man did it feel cool. It was like something out of a movie. Is this how Miku thought about everything? It didn’t feel very smart, but it did have a certain undeniable flair to it.

Whatever, too tired to think now. As she fell asleep, Gumi wondered if maybe she’d wake up and all of this would have turned out to be a dream. If you’d told her a month ago that she would be building a net launcher for the express purpose of incapacitating someone, she would have assumed that you had some sort of mental disorder and would have tried to put as much distance between the two of you as she could.

Now? Now she’d probably ask you if you knew any good tips.

In the movies, when a child must leave the care of their parents, there is often a tearful goodbye and an emotional outpouring from both parties as they express the unbreakable bond of family.

This was not a movie.

Teto was like a tornado as she moved about the house collecting everything she needed for her “trip”. Inevitably, this included about half the junk in her room. After around an hour of trying to shove everything into suitcases, even Teto had to admit that she was going to have to leave some stuff behind.

“For God’s sake Teto how long does it take you to…?” Uta stopped when she saw the veritable mountain of luggage that Teto had accumulated in the center of her room. “Oh no. No no no! You are NOT bringing half this house with you! We don’t have a guest room and there is no way in hell that all this is going to fit in mine!”

“Awww… but Uta!” Teto whined, giving Uta her patented puppy dog eyes. They had no discernable effect whatsoever. Uta stood firm. She locked eyes with Teto and took the full brunt of the attack.

Slowly but surely, Teto’s resolve faltered and she eventually gave in. “Ok” she pouted, “I’ll put some stuff back…” She shuffled over to one of the suitcases and dejectedly began to unpack it. She muttered to herself as she did, saying things like “well I have to keep that” and “can’t go without that”. Uta watched her bemusedly. She was glad to see her friend so happy, but she couldn’t help but think that staying in the same house as Teto 24/7 was going to be quite the adventure. Luckily for Uta she had watched her get up in the morning enough that she knew it took an unearthly amount of effort to wake her up. Also, when she was tired, her tendency for crashing into things was roughly doubled.

Breakfast was another matter entirely. Teto had trouble making certain choices. What to eat was one of them. Usually she had to have someone make the decision for her or else she’d spend so long deciding that she’d run out of time.

She enjoyed long showers. VERY long showers. It was not uncommon for Teto to spend an hour just standing there, enjoying the warmth. It had caused her to be late for class on several occasions, but Teto argued that there was no substitute for a good morning shower and that it was the only thing that could truly prepare her for the rest of the day.

And then there was the hair. Oh don’t get her started on the hair. Teto had a… unique hairstyle, to say the least. Those peculiar twin drills were demons in their own right. If Teto put the same amount of effort into studying as she did with that ridiculous hairstyle, she’d be valedictorian for sure. Teto maintained that her hairstyle was one of her defining features and forcing her to change it was akin to forcing her to change who she was. Certainly it gave her a flair all her own.

Uta now knew that packing suitcases (and unpacking them, coincidentally) was something else that Teto liked to take her time with. Maybe Teto had the right idea. Maybe we should all take a leaf out of her book and take it slow once in a while. You know, smell the roses and all that. Then again, maybe Teto just took so long to do things because she spaced out so often. Like right now, for instance.

Uta tapped her on the shoulder and gave her a look that said ‘Anybody home?’ “You know, despite my laid back attitude, I actually have a desire to get out of here before the next ice age sets in” said Uta, jokingly, “I’m going back downstairs, I want to see you down there packed and ready in ten minutes, or I’m leaving without you.”

“Why do you always have to be so mean?”asked Teto, trying another unsuccessful attempt at her puppy dog eyes.

“Because if nothing had a deadline, you’d procrastinate until the universe ended” she replied, “Someone has to keep you on track.”

“Fine” Teto said, crossing her arms, “But if you’re going to make me move at a speed outside of my comfort zone of “leisurely” I’m going to require compensation. You owe me food.”

“No promises” said Uta as she left the room. Honestly, if anyone but Teto said she owed her for asking them to hurry up, she’d probably hit them. But with Teto, it was just amusing, and she didn’t really mind anyways. At the bottom of the stairs she passed the entrance to the kitchen. She was about to continue to the front door to wait for Teto when the sound of someone lightly sobbing reached her ears.

Cautiously looking around the corner an awkward sight greeted her eyes. Riko Kasane was sitting at the kitchen table, crying. Tears streamed down her cheeks as she buried her face in her hands and shook with unrepressed grief. Uta didn’t know what to make of the situation, but she had a sudden desire to make herself scarce. Mrs. Kasane had always struck her as a very forthright and strong individual. The crying, sobbing form wracked with despair before her did not fit her mental image at all.

Uta decided to hide until the crying stopped and then act like she had just shown up. She didn’t want it to seem like she was eavesdropping (even though, she told herself mentally, that was exactly what she was doing). But, as the minutes stretched on, it became clear that Riko had no intention of stopping any time soon. Uta decided to quietly retreat back up the stairs. Silently, she began to step backwards.

Karma was not on her side.

The first floorboard her foot landed on took this most inopportune of moments to creak very loudly. In the kitchen, Riko gave a small “eep!” of surprise and spun around in her chair, catching Uta’s now frozen form partially hidden behind the corner.

“Uh… Mrs. Kasane, I’m sorry. I-I was just…” Uta stuttered awkwardly, grasping frantically for something to say.

“Oh, Uta, I didn’t notice you there…” said Riko, avoiding meeting Uta’s gaze, “Please, come in.”

Uta would have liked nothing better at that moment than for a rhinoceros to come crashing through the wall, if only as a distraction. But the both of them were now unfortunately bound by the unspoken laws of awkward conversation. She stepped uneasily into the kitchen.

There was complete silence as both women tried to think of something to say. Uta had never felt this awkward before in her life. Should she ask what was wrong? Would that be appropriate? Shuffling through the possibilities, her mind settled on “stand silently and perpetuate the tension in the room”. The silence stretched to uncomfortable lengths. Great, mission accomplished.

If Uta thought the situation was awkward before, she was wrong. When Riko finally spoke, she redefined the word:

“Do you think I’m a bad mother?”

Riko was still averting her eyes, as if she was ashamed that she had accidentally let Uta see her weakness. She fidgeted nervously, and bit her bottom lip as if preparing herself to hear Uta confirm her fears. Uta, however, was far from being able to speak properly, let alone tell her best friend’s mother that she was a sub-par parent.

The silence came back, only now it was even worse because Uta knew that she couldn’t just stand there and not answer. When she finally decided on something to say, it was only a single word:


Riko repeated the question. “Do you think I’m a bad mother?” she said again, quietly, like she was afraid to hear the answer.

Uta was now recovering slightly from her initial awkwardness and she actually considered the question. Did she think Riko was a bad mother? No. Why would she? From what she had seen, Riko was just as good at being a parent as anyone else. Better, even. She loved her daughter, even though Teto was hard to deal with sometimes. She worked hard to provide for her. Why would she ask that? Did she think she was a bad mother?

“No, I don’t” Uta said, and she meant it.

To her dismay and confusion, Riko once again started to cry. Though she had been finding a mental foothold a moment before, this threw her once again into freefall. “I’m sorry! Did I say something wrong? I really don’t think you’re a bad mother!” she blurted out, unsure what was happening anymore.

Riko gained control of herself more quickly this time. “I’m s-s-sorry Uta. I just don’t know what to think anymore” she said brokenly, finally meeting Uta’s eyes, “How can I be a good mother if I have to send my own daughter away so she’ll be better cared for? Isn’t that my job?” She quickly looked away again, realizing what she was saying.

“Oh God. Look at me. What am I saying?” she said sheepishly, admonishing herself, “I’m sorry you had to see this Uta I… I haven’t been myself lately.”

Uta was still very confused, but she could at least tell that Riko was upset about something that was driving her crazy. She moved quickly to reassure her.

“Oh no, not at all. It’s my fault, really. I shouldn’t have been snooping around” she said, trying to assuage Riko’s guilt, “I’ll leave now, please excuse me.”

She gave a quick bow and started to beat a hasty retreat. As she turned to leave, however, she felt a hand on her wrist, pulling her back.

“Wait, please. It’s ok. I don’t mind. I…” her voice caught in her throat. Slowly, Uta turned back around and faced her. She felt compelled to ask:

“Mrs. Kasane, what’s wrong?”

It was as if Riko had just been waiting for someone to ask her. The floodgates were opened and an outpouring of emotion followed. Breaking into fresh sobs, she tried to speak. “Everything is wrong! How can this be happening? It’s not right! What am I supposed to do if I can’t work? How can I provide for my daughter if I don’t have a job? It’s my responsibility to take care of her. If I can’t even do that… then what kind of mother does that make me?” she grabbed Uta’s wrist forcefully with both hands, scared of being washed away by the rushing tide of her own emotions.

Uta may have been a bit taken aback by Riko’s sudden outburst, but she could tell that right now, she needed someone to talk to. Uta was no grief counselor, but she’d do what she could.

“In this case?” she said a little louder than usual to grab Riko’s attention, “I say that in this case it makes you a wonderful mother! It’s not your fault you can’t leave your house! It isn’t your fault that you can’t work anymore! How can it be your fault that everyone believes the crap the news is saying about Vocaloids?” Uta had seen the stares and heard the snide remarks made behind raised hands and in hushed tones. She found it disgusting. If there was one thing she couldn’t stand, it was intolerance. People could be such sheep sometimes.

Uta took her hand that wasn’t locked in Riko’s vicegrip and placed it on her shoulder. “I think the fact that you’re so concerned with Teto’s safety is answer enough for your question. A bad mother wouldn’t care.”

Slowly Riko looked up into Uta’s eyes and gave a feeble smile. “Do you *hiccup* really think that’s true?” she asked, her voice wavering a bit, “Do you really believe I’m a good mother?”

“Yes” she answered, returning the small smile with one of her own. She still felt pretty awkward about the whole thing, but at least it seemed like she had been able to help a bit.

Suddenly Riko stood up and hugged Uta. Forget pretty awkward, now she felt incredibly awkward. Tentatively, she reached up and softly patted her on the back. God this was weird. Uta made a mental note to not let herself get into this situation ever again.

“Thank you” said Riko, her voice barely more than a whisper, “Please... keep my daughter safe. She looks up to you. She’ll listen if you tell her something’s dangerous. And I think we both know that she doesn’t always make the best decisions.”

“You’ve got that right” said Uta, and she was glad to hear Riko laugh. They broke their embrace and Riko smiled again.

“Oh, just look at me, rambling on like an old woman” she said, wiping her eyes on her sleeve, “You must think I’m pathetic. Here, sit down and let me get you something to drink.”

Uta was glad that the tension in the atmosphere had dissipated. “Yeah, vodka on the rocks if you have it” she joked, “Top shelf. I don’t want any of that cheap stuff.”

“Nothing but the best in this establishment” Riko bantered back as she poured a can of cola into a glass of ice.

They sat there and joked for another twenty minutes (Teto’s time limit now long passed) before they finally heard Teto coming down the stairs. She was dragging the most overstuffed suitcase either of them had ever seen. “What?” she said, looking at the pair of them, “It’s not like I could just leave my stuffed animal collection!”

The pair burst into laughter once more.

When they finally got around to actually leaving, the sun was setting. Its orange rays shone through the windows and lent the house a peaceful air. The three inhabitants of said house were gathered before an open front door. Uta helping Teto drag her ridiculous suitcase through the entryway.

Riko watched the pair from the hallway, a sad smile on her face. She knew it was for the best, but she would still be staying in a very lonely house that night.

They finally got the gargantuan luggage out the door and onto the outside walkway (Uta thanked the heavens that it had wheels). Riko walked out to give Teto a hug and kiss on the forehead.

“Mom, not in front of Uta, come on” she protested, but Riko would not be deterred.

“Oh no, don’t mind me. I would never notice the fact that my best friend is such a momma’s girl” Uta teased. Teto huffed and crossed her arms.

Riko turned to face Uta and gave her a knowing look. “Take care of my daughter, will you? Make sure she stays out of trouble and eats her vegetables and all that.”

Uta snapped to attention and gave a stiff salute. “You can count on me ma’am! Your daughter will be safe and sound.” Then she smiled. Turning to Teto, she continued “Come on you. We still have to lug this abomination all the way to my house.” As they walked to the front gate, Riko heard Uta snicker and look at Teto.

“Heh, Drill Bit, huh?” she prodded.

“Shut it” said Teto crossly.

Riko watched them go, smiling and waving till they rounded the corner and disappeared from view. But when they could no longer see them, her smile slowly faded. She simply stood there for a while, staring at the spot where they had vanished. Finally she sighed and turned around, walking back inside. As the door closed, a single tear ran slowly down her cheek.

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