Netbattles and Chill

Skating his way around the bend, the path led up a winding incline by the side of the mountain. The further he went, the scent of sulfur started to permeate the air, rising from a few cracks splitting the side of the mountain. Something he noticed as well was that the white road was now stained with some sort of trail of black soot. Besides that, despite the cold that generally characterized the Sharo networks, the temperature was starting to rise little by little, such that the snow that usually covered the area was replaced by white CyberPanels and dark red soil. Eventually, he reached the end of the road, where the incline opened up to an open gate in some wire fencing. The fence protected from what looked like quite a sheer drop on both sides of the clearing.

Further ahead was a tall grey barrier wall encircling some inner area, most likely a little over twice CourseMan's height. Despite the large red "no entry" signs propped up alongside it, something seemed to have melted clean through what appeared to have been a security checkpoint station close to the wall, creating a very large hole in the wall, that was as wide as the wall was tall. Beyond the breach, thick opaque clouds of gas obscured whatever lay beyond, but whatever was back there, CourseMan could certainly feel the heat radiating from it. Par for the course for a "volcanic simulation" area, most likely. There was also something stranger that CourseMan might notice; on either end of the hole, alongside upturned and melted barricades, the remains of a pair of Basher viruses lay unclaimed. The multi-barreled turret viruses had been thoroughly disabled, with their metallic bodies warped from being melted, probably by whatever had invaded the area.

Before CourseMan would be able to decide whether to investigate further into the area, loud pneumatic discharges could be heard echoing out from the breach, accompanied every time by a slow, metallic stomping. A cloud of gas blasted out from the hole, obscuring whatever was making its exit. Stomp, stomp, stomp, a slow, methodical approach. A massive shadow, reaching the top of the melted wall, appeared within the cloud of gas. Then, the gas suddenly cleared, blown away by jets of steam.

Standing there was a heavily-armored iron giant, its square grey features almost entirely caked in rust. Glowing red vents all about its body hissed with trails of vapor, the biggest source of which were two large towers jutting out from its back, around a cylindrical base covering the majority of its back. Around its large metal feet, a pool of lava trailed back from behind it. Beady eyes peeked out of a square-jawed metal head, as the heat CourseMan felt earlier increased further, clearly radiating out of the new arrival.

"Ahhhhh, nothin' like a hot soak! Can't believe they'd be hiding something like this way up here!"

In contrast with its otherwise intimidating stature, the voice that came from the giant sounded somewhat like a cheerful old man, albeit somewhat robotic. Being otherwise uncovered, a fluffy white towel was wrapped around the lower half of the giant's body. A small hand towel in its gigantic gauntlet-covered hands, the giant used it to wipe down the side of its rust-covered head. Then, he stopped wiping, staring ahead.

"... Hm? Another one? Come back for more?" the giant grunted. He stayed silent for a moment, eyes narrowed slightly. "... Deal with it however I want? Alright, sure, I could use some more exercise now." He threw the hand towel over his head, landing neatly over his neck, and balled up his fists. Even more steam burst forth from his vents, and the heat reached a crescendo, warping the air with its intensity. The giant widened his stance and stomped on the ground, causing it to split open, leaking forth a torrent of lava that quickly spread out around his feet. Around him, the destroyed Bashers and barricades sank into the lava, while he stepped into it up to his knees.

"Come on!" he roared.

-- Aging and Active --
ThermalMan.EXE: 500 HP (Lava)

-- Cool and Collected --
CourseMan.EXE: 100 HP (Normal)

-- Terrain --
40% Lava (Around ThermalMan)
60% Normal (Everywhere else)

Field Effect:
-- Volcanic Activity: At the start of each turn following the first, the volcanic crack will burst forth with Lava, increasing the area currently covered by Lava by 15%. Any non-Fire elementals caught in the vicinity take the same damage as standing in Lava for 1 action.

-- Battle 10, Start!! --
Moving in a graceful compliment with his primary decoy, Courser drew to a relaxed halt as he came upon the unwelcoming complex entryway. The rupture in the inner wall seemed... sub optimal for a simulation facility, or whatever else it was meant to be. His decoy peered at the steam clouds within, watching, while Courser briefly inspected the two destroyed basher turrets.

“Can't make out much of what's beyond there, boss, mind yourself...” The clone stepped into the breach, squinting through the steam and haze, but Courser himself just nodded. The turrets weren't set up like intentional installations, as far as he could see – they were near the rather unconventional hole, rather than an actual entryway. Cautiously, he drew one wave whip and slashed quickly at each ruined virus. Who knew, maybe the wrangler would count them if he was lucky?

As the next crash of sound and the accompanying steam blast shot out from the gap, Courser and his decoy both twisted away to put their backs to either side of the hole in unison. They had a moment to look up as the figure showed itself within the steam clouds, and back off a touch more in opposite directions as the impressive creature emerged.

“Woah there...” The left courser let his water current skip him back into some of a clear space away from the breach in the wall. The right hand one did the same, raising a cautionary hand as he did and speaking up from the opposite side.

“Easy on the magma works, friend! We're just here to look around!” Both CourseMen had huddled away from the metal man's stomping with a flinch, water and mist swirling about their bodies. Each made the display of hiding partially behind freshly focused shields of rushing water, one wave whip from each forming a broad barrier that flowed out from the central boss and away to the edges before cycling back around, but courser himself was ready to leap and split again, if their new friend proved immediately hostile; a glance at the field disposed him to roll left, while the fresh clone would roll right; it would take him closer to the cliff, perhaps, but he had enough eyes on the field to be mindful even if he wasn't watching it himself.

Given the size and apparent power of the iron giant before them, courser was more cautious than usual about not getting caught out or singled out from his decoys; each pair of eyes he had was watching for any indication that his potential opponent could see through the deception, and in the palm of his free hand, a small inky bead of water coalesced, tucked out of sight until he needed it.

“You know, I'm all for a dip in a hot spring with some fun company, but I'm pretty sure that's not what this place was for...” He shrugged and nodded his hear towards the ignored warning sign. Across from him, his clone peeked out carefully from behind his shield.

“Say... you must have seen those Bashers you just melted down, right?” It tilted its head. “We're not looking to fight, really. I'm CourseMan, that there's RiptideMan,” Courser's clone nodded in his direction. “We've been following the trail of all these excessive artillery viruses in the area... you had any trouble with them, or know anything about what's going on? We'd really rather chat than fight!”

While his decoy spoke, Courser flicked his eyes to the area just past the other navi, and the hole he'd emerged from. The erupting lava vents were a pain, but it made him recall the last time he'd used unstable explosives in an unstable area. His clone shot him a quick, incredulous look between talking, but courser continued. Behind the huge navi, steam condensed into dark coloured water and formed a line across the breach in the wall. It pulled tight against the ground, then faded from sight as a small bundle of complicated electronics formed on one side, just within the wall. The first time anything crossed the line of the breach again, the charge would detonate a potent explosive across the impromptu entryway. A little further in, the black, shadowy water appeared again, forming a pool on the ground, before giving rise to the round, bumpy shape of a large sea mine, all black metal and a single red display that showed a number three on its front. It it ended up in lava, the mine would bob on the surface.

It seemed like their new friend was in a tussling mood, regardless, but even as the navi and his duplicates sought to avoid whatever opening onslaught the metallic figure threw their way, they kept up smiles and something of an amiable banter. Each of them was watching carefully for the kinds of offence their target was going to favour; Courser had a lot of tricks up his ever multiplying sleeves, but most of them were double-edged, and using the wrong one could prove disastrous.

“No, really... Anything you know would be helpful! You seem like such a nice old gentleman, after all!” Behind where they were attempting to make the focus of the likely impending battle, the red display on the mine clicked over from three to two.

-=Summary=-

C*) First Barrier: (40Hp Barrier)
C*) First Armour: (10Hp Casing)
C*) Shadow: Moving right and mirroring Courser's behaviour; doing more of the talking than Courser, but it's fairly even
C1) Forked Streams: Trap(Incoming Attack against CourseMan): Multi-Stage: First (Dodge + Decoy(1 round)), Then (10Aqua, Shot-Type x2 Hits).
C*) Forked Streams Decoy, if/when triggered: rolling inwards, towards the inner wall and circling in that direction
C2) Shield NCP: 2-Hit shield
C3) No Peeking: Counter(Nullify or Seeking Attack directed against CourseMan or any of his decoys): (First: (Blind + Disarm, Shot-Type), Then (Decoy(1 round)).
C*) No Peeking Decoy, if/when triggered: splitting and moving towards the centre, back, near the gate where Courser entered the area.
C4) Dynamite1HP: 100
Properties: Light
Object Damage: 100 Null + Blast2
Damage Method: Throw, Knockback, Microburst, Telekinesis, Gust
Attack Damage: 100 Null + Blast2 + Line Attack + Seeking
Accuracy: D (thrown) / A (trigger)
Description: Sets a lightweight laser trip bomb. When something crosses the sensor beam, the bomb detonates a shaped charge that blasts an entire line. It can see through Invisibility. This weapon is very dangerous to use, caution is advised.
Duration: Until destroyed or until it attacks.
Element: Null
Special: Laser TAG: Attack triggers when something moves through the targeting laser beam, no matter who or what that may be.
Trader Rank: D
(100Null, Blast2, Line Attack, Seeking, A (on Trigger)) Trip line across the destroyed inner wall hole.
C5) TimeBomb1HP: 100
Properties: Anchored
Object Damage: 50 + Impact
Damage Method: Telekinesis
Attack Damage: 100 + To-All-Clause (Enemies)
Accuracy: S
Description: Places a bomb on the field that will explode after two turns, damaging all enemies.
Duration: 2 turns or until destroyed.
Element: Null
Trader Rank: D
(100Null, To-all(enemies), S, End of turn after next) Set up a short way beyond the trip line created by the Dynamite.
C*) Fast Barrier: (40Hp Barrier)
C6) Dodge, chat, and watch for the kinds of attacks ThemalMan favours, if he does attack.
The metal Navi paused for a moment, steam venting from his joints. The fists that he had readied at his sides relaxed slightly, and his small eyes narrowed further. He looked back and forth between CourseMan and "RiptideMan", grunting loudly, and his shoulders hung down. Taking the towel off the back of his neck, he straightened up to his full height, draping it over his arm.

"Alright, sure. It's not like I have anything to do while I wait for this place to heat up proper. This godforsaken Sharo place is too damn cold for its own good, makes everything ache." At the mention of a hot spring, he rubbed his square jaw in thought. "A hot spring...? Oh! You mean like those heated water pools; no, can't say I'd be much of a fan of rusting any more than I've already got now. I'll stick to what I know," he said, scooping up some lava in his hands and letting it pour from between his fingers.

Curiously, the towels around his hips and on his arm didn't seem to be burning at all from contact with the molten earth. "Excessive... what? Artillery viruses? Those big turret ones that were here before? Mmm..." he said, looking up from playing with the lava pool to look around the place, presumably trying to find the now-sunken viruses.

Scratching at his temple, he shrugged. "Can't say I noticed if there were that many of them when I got here... These two I found here, yeah, but those got scrapped pretty quickly. I just came here to do what I wanted to do. If you want to look around, be my guest, s'not much here."

While CourseMan began setting up his insurance around the place, the giant retreated a little backwards to the edge of the gurgling pool of lava. It seemed like it was about to erupt a little, but he paid it no heed and reclined against the edge. Once the TimeBomb was set, however, he looked up suddenly, looking to his sides in puzzlement. He didn't seem to notice the bomb itself, though, as it silently set itself up along with the Dynamite trip line, he went back to addressing the two. "Any reason you two're following them viruses? Just out of some sorta civic duty, or someone payin' ya?"

-- Aging and Active --
ThermalMan.EXE: 500 HP (Lava)

-- Cool and Collected --
CourseMan.EXE: 100 HP (Normal) (Barrier: 40) (Casing: 10) (Shield: 2)
(Decoy: To CourseMan's right)
(Trap: Forked Streams)
(Counter: No Peeking)

-- Terrain --
40% Lava (Around ThermalMan)
60% Normal (Everywhere else)

-- Objects --
Dynamite1HP: 100
Properties: Light
Object Damage: 100 Null + Blast2
Damage Method: Throw, Knockback, Microburst, Telekinesis, Gust
Attack Damage: 100 Null + Blast2 + Line Attack + Seeking
Accuracy: D (thrown) / A (trigger)
Description: Sets a lightweight laser trip bomb. When something crosses the sensor beam, the bomb detonates a shaped charge that blasts an entire line. It can see through Invisibility. This weapon is very dangerous to use, caution is advised.
Duration: Until destroyed or until it attacks.
Element: Null
Special: Laser TAG: Attack triggers when something moves through the targeting laser beam, no matter who or what that may be.
Trader Rank: D
: 100 HP (Normal, across breach in wall)
TimeBomb1HP: 100
Properties: Anchored
Object Damage: 50 + Impact
Damage Method: Telekinesis
Attack Damage: 100 + To-All-Clause (Enemies)
Accuracy: S
Description: Places a bomb on the field that will explode after two turns, damaging all enemies.
Duration: 2 turns or until destroyed.
Element: Null
Trader Rank: D
: 100 HP (Normal, slightly behind Dynamite1's trip line) (2 Turns Remaining)

Field Effect:
-- Volcanic Activity: At the start of each turn following the first, the volcanic crack will burst forth with Lava, increasing the area currently covered by Lava by 15%. Any non-Fire elementals caught in the vicinity take the same damage as standing in Lava for 1 action.
As they chatted and Courser sized up the scene, he sent a pulse of shadow to refresh his primary clone and keep it playing the part. It didn't sound like the navi was involved, but his first comments, Courser had to guess to an operator, had sounded like he had more purpose here than he was letting on. He let himself skate across to one side, absently examining the damaged outer fence while 'Courser' took over the conversation.

“Aye, well, we'd love to call ourselves good samaritans, sure, but really? The bounty on 'em's pretty nice. Unusual over-population in the area, so it goes, and there's a pretty decent Zenny reward for culling 'em, once you've hook up a contract before hand, if you follow.” He shrugged and winked at the reclining lava navi, gliding up the the edge of the pool, though of course, the clone didn't deign to dip a toe in.

“Got to say though... this place is looking pretty wrecked up... supposed to be a research and testing facility, or something like that... Now me, I'd never trespass on a private lot like this normally, but Riptide over there...” The decoy nodded his head back behind him. “My mate's a treasure-hunter first and foremost, and a badly damaged research place seemed pretty sweet for finding valuables, so we though.”

While the clone was chatting, Courser crouched down by the fence and beckoned with one finger. A small well of shadow formed close by him, until it became a narrow hole in the ice and snow. Dark waters rose from it an coalesced into the shape of a hard-hatted mole with a shovel over one shoulder. It had a slim armband with Courser's emblem on it, secured around its shovel arm.

“Right, little guy...” He spoke, loud enough for the other navi to hear, but clearly in a quiet tone mostly directed at the new summon. “Place is a bit ruined – watch out for the lava, and be careful of the gentleman over there too... but see if you can't find us some treasure, okay?” The mole gave a lazy, undisciplined salute and ducked back under the ground for now. Courser, as 'Riptide', stood straight again and looked around the area as the thermal activity seemed to be making more lava patches the longer the situation continued. He made efforts to avoid any of the newly forming patches with light footwork.

“Say, friend... Sharo really does seem like a pretty ill-suited network for a gentleman like you. I can't imagine you'd come up here just because you felt like it, and then complain about it... or, if I'm honest... bust up some poor sod's facility just for a hot bath... What brings you up here to do something like that, really?” Closer to the other navi, the one calling itself Courser grinned and stretched, hands behind his head as the appearance of softly swirling waters circled around him in lazy patterns.

“Aye... what d'you know that we don't, mate? Something... lucrative?” The clone arched an eyebrow with a smirk. The real Courser winced slightly as he peeked at one of the newly opened pyroclastic flows in the area, shielding himself from the heat with one hand; the misting water field around his arm shored itself up as the heat seemed to make his hand glow a redish-orange hue for a moment or two before he pulled back from it.

“Hey, Courser! This place sounds like it's getting more and more unstable. We probably don't have long to search it!” His voice was clear but casual; neither he nor his decoy sounded worried by this prospect, so much as noting the danger and moving on with the conversation. Back in the middle of the enclosed area, behind the laser trip line, the black mine clicked its dial over as the red number dropped from two to one.

-=Summary=-

C*) Shadow: Moving towards ThermalMan, still cautious but acting more relaxed now, and chatting.
C1) Dodge (ducking the spotlight in favour of letting his decoy lead conversation)
C*) 'Forked Streams' and 'No Peeking' decoys intended behaviours as before, if triggered
C2) MomograHP: 60
Damage: 15 + Backstab
Accuracy: B
Description: Creats a Momogra virus to aid you. Attacks with a shovel from behind, and has a constant Mole status that ignores terrain solidness when not attacking (unless the panel currently does not exist). Still affected by other effects of panels.
Element: Null
Special: Allied Virus: This virus has one action per turn, and is fully controllable by the summoner. If no orders are given, it will perform actions at random, but will never intentionally interfere with or damage the summoner or their allies. Deleting this virus will grant no additional rewards to either side.
Trader Rank: C
(no tangible combat orders yet, aside from 'look for treasure' – just to be ready)
C3) Dodge
C4) Stall for time and hopefully more information.
C5) Fire+30Status: Fire Element UP 30, Stackable
Accuracy: S
Description: Adds 30 Damage to all hits of a Fire Element attack chip, before any external environment-related or target-related damage modifiers apply.
Duration: Once
Element: Fire
Trader Rank: C

C*) Fast Barrier: (40Hp Barrier)
C6) Dodge and Stall
"Hmm... Sounds like some good money. You think if I turned in these two I melted down I'd get some of the pay?" said ThermalMan. As he talked, the lava erupted with the sound of a bubble bursting, causing him to flinch slightly and shield his face from the lava. He was, however, otherwise unharmed. "Courser" and "Riptide" managed to keep their distance from the eruption as well, though the area was starting to heat up more now. Over on the other end of the lava pool, ThermalMan lumbered over to the spot where one of the Bashers used to be. Leaning over, he sank his hands into the lava, and grunted slightly as he wrenched out a heavily mangled pile of iron from the bottom of the pool.

"Even if they didn't accept this pile of junk, I'd bet I could make some kind of art piece from these!" he joked, laughing heartily with his deep voice. The mass of metal in his hands ended up next to the pool, just as "Courser" started asking him of his presence in the area. ThermalMan looked back over his shoulder, and shrugged. "Can't say I know anything about that. Got no clue what this place is for. Whatever my operator's got in mind, though, he clearly doesn't want this place around. Didn't take long, either, didn't have anyone around except for--" he grunted briefly, yanking the other melted Basher out of the pool, "--these two." The destroyed virus's remains made a loud clank as it landed next to its fallen comrade.

"Definitely made for a nice surprise to find this little patch'a home nestled in this awful frostbite of a network, though! Gave it a little push and this whole sector should be getting real warm in a bit. Been ages since I got to swim in a flow!" he said, beaming cheerfully. "You two can come along, too, if ya got what it takes! Hahaha!" As the TimeBomb's timer ticked down again, ThermalMan visibly twitched in place, and looked around once more, with suspicion on his face. Looking over at "Riptide", he eyed the Momogra suspiciously for a moment. However, with how it didn't seem hostile, ThermalMan shook his head, and looked back behind him, where the TimeBomb and Dynamite rested.

"Did I miss any viruses in there...?" he wondered aloud.

-- Aging and Active --
ThermalMan.EXE: 500 HP (Lava)

-- Cool and Collected --
CourseMan.EXE: 100 HP (Normal) (Barrier: 40) (Casing: 10) (Shield: 2) ( Fire+30Status: Fire Element UP 30, Stackable
Accuracy: S
Description: Adds 30 Damage to all hits of a Fire Element attack chip, before any external environment-related or target-related damage modifiers apply.
Duration: Once
Element: Fire
Trader Rank: C
: Active)
(Decoy: Near ThermalMan)
(Trap: Forked Streams)
(Counter: No Peeking)

MomograHP: 60
Damage: 15 + Backstab
Accuracy: B
Description: Creats a Momogra virus to aid you. Attacks with a shovel from behind, and has a constant Mole status that ignores terrain solidness when not attacking (unless the panel currently does not exist). Still affected by other effects of panels.
Element: Null
Special: Allied Virus: This virus has one action per turn, and is fully controllable by the summoner. If no orders are given, it will perform actions at random, but will never intentionally interfere with or damage the summoner or their allies. Deleting this virus will grant no additional rewards to either side.
Trader Rank: C
: 60 HP (Normal, next to CourseMan)

-- Terrain --
55% Lava (Around ThermalMan)
45% Normal (Everywhere else)

-- Objects --
Dynamite1HP: 100
Properties: Light
Object Damage: 100 Null + Blast2
Damage Method: Throw, Knockback, Microburst, Telekinesis, Gust
Attack Damage: 100 Null + Blast2 + Line Attack + Seeking
Accuracy: D (thrown) / A (trigger)
Description: Sets a lightweight laser trip bomb. When something crosses the sensor beam, the bomb detonates a shaped charge that blasts an entire line. It can see through Invisibility. This weapon is very dangerous to use, caution is advised.
Duration: Until destroyed or until it attacks.
Element: Null
Special: Laser TAG: Attack triggers when something moves through the targeting laser beam, no matter who or what that may be.
Trader Rank: D
: 100 HP (Normal, across breach in wall)
TimeBomb1HP: 100
Properties: Anchored
Object Damage: 50 + Impact
Damage Method: Telekinesis
Attack Damage: 100 + To-All-Clause (Enemies)
Accuracy: S
Description: Places a bomb on the field that will explode after two turns, damaging all enemies.
Duration: 2 turns or until destroyed.
Element: Null
Trader Rank: D
: 100 HP (Normal, slightly behind Dynamite1's trip line) (1 Turn Remaining)

Field Effect:
-- Volcanic Activity: At the start of each turn following the first, the volcanic crack will burst forth with Lava, increasing the area currently covered by Lava by 15%. Any non-Fire elementals caught in the vicinity take the same damage as standing in Lava for 1 action.
Despite the increasing instability of the area, courser and his duplicates had a role to keep up. A nervous message from Jenny was quietly put on hold for now; she was in the same mindset as he was, at least. Whatever this navi and his operator were up to, it was clearly in the 'no good' category, even if it wasn't related to Sharo's current Basher problem. He sent another pulse of shadow to maintain his primary decoy, who in turn skipped back from the increasing lava and grinned at ThermalMan with a shrug.

“You may do... Mimimum turn in on the bounties was just two, I think. The wrangle bot gets a bit shirty about the contracts, but I reckon you'd be able to talk 'im around if you brought the proof.” The clone looked back towards the entrance way as further unusual sound made their way through.

“If you missed any, our scout'll let us know in a jiffy.” He turned his head, standing upright and twisting to look back at 'Riptide' “Oi, Rip, what's the word?”

Courser waved a hand at him, wandering a few steps closer as he avoided the increasing spread of lava from within the compound. After a second or two, he crouched again, and the mole virus popped back to the surface near his feet. It chittered at him, waving its paws and gesturing with its shovel in a rapid, almost panicked manner.

“Okay, okay, hush, come on... Cool it, what did you see?” A few more viral sounds escaped, before the navi waved a hand over the virus, causing a thin, misty spray to fall about it and, apparently, soothe it. “Just show me.” The mist hanging around the virus took shapes, forming small shadowy replicas of several needler viruses, with a large, spiky object sitting on top of one. As the mist covering settled back into a blanketing shroud, the mole virus chattered away more, then ducked back under the ground. As this exchange happened, Courser was focused on two places, casting his eye between the mole, and the breached entry way into the structure. While the miniature shadow forms unfolded, a similar situation drew itself from the shadows, on the inside as well. A needle turret lifted itself from the dangerous terrain beneath the ticking mine, hoisting it up like a display piece. Its main gun rotated forward towards the breach, ready to shoot at the lava-bathing navi if he came into sight.

Courser, as 'Riptide' shook his head and stood again, turning to face his decoy and ThermalMan – he was careful to to look at himself in the process, though it was easy enough to manage, with the decoy looking towards the breach, and courser himself focusing mostly on the other navi.

“Sounds like there's a machine or two – automated defences or something – still kicking about, but the little guy was most worried about some kind of fail safe. Emergency cryo blast or something. He doesn't read too well, but it sounds like it's going to do something big, and soon. About a minute or so.”

“Hey! If that thing freezes the whole mountain top there won't be anything left to nick!” 'Courser' called out in response, standing to wave an aggravated arm at his colleague. 'Riptide' glared back at him and CourseMan had to fight off a headspin of dizziness for a few seconds.

“You're the one who knows tech! Get in there and disarm it!”
“That place is full of lava now! I'm not going in there alone with it like that!”
“It didn't look sturdy, just....” Courser glanced towards ThermalMan. “Oi, mate... you like smashing things? Want to help Courser before we're all popsicled?” The decoy sighed with an exaggerated exasperation as 'Riptide' made the appeal. It also glanced at ThermalMan and shrugged, then moved towards the breach with quick steps.

“Right, fine, come on then. Eyes out for the turrets, find the bomb and break it. I'll be just ahead of you, bearing left once we're in, alright? Don't worry if you can't see me, I'll be invisible, but I'll stay out of your way. Let's go!”

As the decoy stepped up to the breach, it made a gesture with one hand, drawing a waving shimmer over its body as it dissolved into shadows. The remaining Courser lifted a hand and waved it towards ThermalMan and the breach, causing the small mole to lift its head out of the ground again.

“Go with them, show them was you saw. I'll keep an eye out from here.” The summon nodded, albeit nervously, and gave a small salute before burrowing over to stay near ThermalMan.

Courser's hope was that the fast pace and his own friendly attitude would be enough to sell the need for action. The other navi seemed to enjoy smashing things in general, and probably wouldn't like the sound of his new volcano getting frozen, or so he hoped. The needler was poised to begin firing at him as soon as he stepped into the breach, and if he crossed the line, either to go for it, or the time bomb itself, the hidden trip laser was waiting. Either way, however, there was only a second or two more to go.

Within moments, what would hopefully be a pair of ground-shaking explosions shook the mountain top – if he'd made his play well, the shaped charge across the breach way and the time bomb would be detonating at almost the same time. If it was a little off, well, no-one was perfect, after all. The momogra gave a startled jump, feigning panic as it lashed out suddenly with its shovel to strike the nearest dangerous thing - ThermalMan, - while the explosions rattled the scene. Courser took a small side step and let his body turn side on to the breach as her drew the heavy bore silver-worked revolver from his belt and squared it at what was, hopefully, ThermalMan's back, then pulled, adding his own cacophanous boom to the fireworks.

“Sorry, friend. Civic duty, and all that...” He let the gun recoil, spinning it over and around his fingers before sliding it back into his belt, while his other hand swept up in a side-swiping motion. From the shadows in the breach, a mass rose and formed into an all-covering wall of freezing water that he attempted to batter the navi with from the opposite angle. “For what it's worth, one of the other 'me's thinks you seem nice.” As the icy wash subsided, Courser let his wave whips uncoil and held his defences forward, just in case the other navi weathered the chain reaction of surprises. No sense getting careless, after all – he was still ready at any moment to dive, split away, and keep up the assault, if needed.

-=Summary=-

C*) Shadow: Stays close to ThermalMan and chats; feigns surprise and relays information to him when appropriate.
C*) 'Forked Streams' and 'No Peeking' decoys intended behaviours as before, if triggered
C1) Talk to Momogra
C*) Fast Barrier: (40Hp Barrier, on Momogra)
C2) Needler2HP: 80
Properties: Normal, Mobile
Object Damage: 80 Null + Impact + Break
Damage Method: Ramming attack, Telekinesis, Throw
Attack Damage: 40 Null x 2 hits x 3 Targets
Accuracy: A
Description: Summons a gun platform that attacks up to 3 separate targets each turn with its trio of double spike cannons. It can also perform a defense piercing kamikaze attack.
Duration: Until destroyed.
Element: Null
Special: This chip's accuracy cannot be boosted or reduced by any means, including RP quality.
- This object may ram a target instead of firing needles, but is instantly destroyed in exchange.
- This object may dodge by trying to ram nothing, but if it hits something in this way, it is still destroyed and deals object damage.
Trader Rank: C
(Summoned underneath TimeBomb, lifting it up, holding fire)
C3) Dodge (as much to avoid lava pools as anything else)
C4) Any required movement for the rp descriptions (else, more dodge)
C*) Needler will fire at ThermalMan when it has a shot at him in the entrance breach, other shots at anything else that seems hostile (40null, x2 Hits, x3 Targets, A)
C*) TimeBomb Detonates
C*) Momogra 'panics' and attempts to backstab ThermalMan (15, Backstab, B)
C5) Magnum1Damage: 120 + Break + Panel Break x 3 Targets
Accuracy: A
Description: A triple barreled gun that blasts through defenses and terrain alike. Rare
Duration: Once
Element: Fire
Trader Rank: C
(150Fire, Break, Panel Break, x3 Targets, A) (ThermalMan, anything else that seems threatening)
C6) IceWave2Damage: 100 + Freeze
Accuracy: A
Description: Sends a wave of ice at one enemy
Duration: Once
Element: Aqua
Special: Ice Type: This chip counts as Ice Type for the purposes of potentially freezing targets on Aqua Element Terrain or environments, as applicable.
Trader Rank: C
(120Aqua, Freeze, A), (ThermalMan)
Scratching his metal head, ThermalMan grunted to himself in contemplation. With the reassurance from "CourseMan", the giant eyed the Navi with a sideways glance, and rolled his shoulders with a murmur. "Mmm, you're right. Screw it, if there's anything in there, I'll deal with it if it comes out. Probably drowning in the fire anyway," he mused. As he spoke, the volcanic pool gurgled with more activity, and began overflowing further outwards.

As usual, ThermalMan only shielded himself from being splashed in the face rather than avoiding any kind of damage. While "Courser" was able to keep his distance, it was definitely getting more difficult to keep close to ThermalMan. The iron giant was now a little closer to the center of the lava pool rather than at its edge, thanks to the volcanic activity causing its expansion. "Little fella found something?" ThermalMan called out to "Riptide". Once he reported his findings, ThermalMan lumbered up into a standing pose.

"Aaaah... I'd just gotten to relax, really. What a bother. Turrets, right? Should be fine if I suit up," he said. Lifting his fists, he punched them together, causing hefty brown metal plates to materialize in the air and fall onto his body, folding themselves around his trunk and limbs with a few noisy clanks. Afterwards, he raised his hand to his head. His expression hardened for a moment, and he gestured silently with his head to nobody in particular, before lowering his hand again.

"Okay, let's go," said ThermalMan, moving up to the breach. As CourseMan had hoped for, the huge Navi seemed to have taken the bait somewhat, as he stepped through the breach cautiously. With a bit of hesitation, ThermalMan crossed the trip laser for the Dynamite, and it beeped briefly, causing him to instinctively jump slightly backwards. "Wh--" he blurted out, before the explosion tore open the ground in front of him in a show of pyrotechnics, leaving him unharmed save for perhaps a little ear ringing.

However, there was yet more to come. The loud sound and copious smoke from the Dynamite charge masked the subsequent sound of a barrage of needles from the smoke. As expected, however, ThermalMan's armor deflected one of the shots, while the other whizzed over his shoulder thanks to his earlier evasive action. "Eager, aren't ya!" he exclaimed, as he raised his arm and pointed it forward, his palm rapidly opening up into the barrel of a cannon. A floating green visor appeared in front of his face, looking poised to relay some targeting data to him.

"?! There's something under the turret?!"

Before he could discern the second target under his original one, the "something" exploded spectacularly, this time in a particularly devastating manner. Shrapnel flew out and shredded through ThermalMan's armor in moments, though it still managed to protect him from any actual damage while he retaliated with a shot back at the Needler. The giant's cannon shot landed, destroying the Needler in one go. Before he could celebrate his accurate marksmanship, though, a sudden smack clanged against his metal body, causing him to turn around in surprise--the "little fella" he had called out about before had snuck in a hit on him!

Before ThermalMan himself could react, a wooden pillar shot out of the ground in front of him, spinning the telltale three faces of a Totem chip towards "Riptide". However, as it spat out its plume of fire from its mouth, it was received with a quickshot of two pulses of water from the trickster's hands, while he retrieved his trusty revolver from his belt. The Magnum tore through the Totem's wooden body with ease, and ThermalMan along with it. With holes torn in both of his targets, the Totem disintegrated in blazes, while ThermalMan staggered to a standing position with a cry of indignant pain.

"Arrrrrgh! Should've known!" he roared, trying to dash forward, only to be greeted by the wall of freezing water that had suddenly come up from behind him. The burst of ice snaked through his metal arms as he roared in pain once more. "Give me the big gun!" he bellowed out, clearly enraged enough to not care about keeping operator communications private. As he said so, ThermalMan's rusty exterior began to click and snap, as his joints fused together and forced his whole body to become rigid in a position that kept him pointing forward with both arms. At the same time, his feet spat out some treads to move around with, and his eyes were covered with a large faceplate.

The cannon barrel that was on one of his arms was now much larger, with its barrel count now suddenly tripled in a triangle, in a configuration that would look very familiar to CourseMan. The cannon fired thrice at both of the "CourseMan" figures, as well as the Momogra. The real one managed to swerve out of the way easily, while the decoy and Momogra suffered the powerful Magnum shell head-on. Thankfully for the Momogra, it was protected by the barrier that CourseMan had the foresight to bestow on it earlier, while the decoy simply phased out. After the shot, the barrel froze over. "Ugh, really!? Cheeky bastard!" he cursed.

-- Aging and Active --
ThermalMan.EXE: 95 HP (Normal, next to Lava pool) (SteelBody: 1 Turn) (Frozen: 1 Turn) (Casing: 0)

Totem1HP: 100
Properties: Anchored, Element Shift
Object Damage: 100 + Impact
Damage Method: Telekinesis
Attack Damage: 100 Fire + Line Attack (3) / Healing 50
Accuracy: A / S
Description: Summons a Totem to breath fire and heal you. Attacks once per turn, and switches faces when hit.
Duration: 3 turns, or until destroyed.
Element: Fire / Wood
Special: Element Shift: This Object alternates between Fire element when Attacking and Wood element when Healing.
Trader Rank: D
: DESTROYED

-- Cool and Collected --
CourseMan.EXE: 100 HP (Normal) (Barrier: 40) (Casing: 10) (Shield: 2)
(Decoy (Forked Streams): HIT)
(Trap: Forked Streams: TRIGGERED)
(Counter: No Peeking)

MomograHP: 60
Damage: 15 + Backstab
Accuracy: B
Description: Creats a Momogra virus to aid you. Attacks with a shovel from behind, and has a constant Mole status that ignores terrain solidness when not attacking (unless the panel currently does not exist). Still affected by other effects of panels.
Element: Null
Special: Allied Virus: This virus has one action per turn, and is fully controllable by the summoner. If no orders are given, it will perform actions at random, but will never intentionally interfere with or damage the summoner or their allies. Deleting this virus will grant no additional rewards to either side.
Trader Rank: C
: 60 HP (Normal, next to CourseMan) (Barrier: 0)

-- Terrain --
70% Lava (Around ThermalMan)
30% Normal (Everywhere else)

-- Objects --
Needler2HP: 80
Properties: Normal, Mobile
Object Damage: 80 Null + Impact + Break
Damage Method: Ramming attack, Telekinesis, Throw
Attack Damage: 40 Null x 2 hits x 3 Targets
Accuracy: A
Description: Summons a gun platform that attacks up to 3 separate targets each turn with its trio of double spike cannons. It can also perform a defense piercing kamikaze attack.
Duration: Until destroyed.
Element: Null
Special: This chip's accuracy cannot be boosted or reduced by any means, including RP quality.
- This object may ram a target instead of firing needles, but is instantly destroyed in exchange.
- This object may dodge by trying to ram nothing, but if it hits something in this way, it is still destroyed and deals object damage.
Trader Rank: C
: DESTROYED
Dynamite1HP: 100
Properties: Light
Object Damage: 100 Null + Blast2
Damage Method: Throw, Knockback, Microburst, Telekinesis, Gust
Attack Damage: 100 Null + Blast2 + Line Attack + Seeking
Accuracy: D (thrown) / A (trigger)
Description: Sets a lightweight laser trip bomb. When something crosses the sensor beam, the bomb detonates a shaped charge that blasts an entire line. It can see through Invisibility. This weapon is very dangerous to use, caution is advised.
Duration: Until destroyed or until it attacks.
Element: Null
Special: Laser TAG: Attack triggers when something moves through the targeting laser beam, no matter who or what that may be.
Trader Rank: D
: EXPLODED
TimeBomb1HP: 100
Properties: Anchored
Object Damage: 50 + Impact
Damage Method: Telekinesis
Attack Damage: 100 + To-All-Clause (Enemies)
Accuracy: S
Description: Places a bomb on the field that will explode after two turns, damaging all enemies.
Duration: 2 turns or until destroyed.
Element: Null
Trader Rank: D
: EXPLODED

Field Effect:
-- Volcanic Activity: At the start of each turn following the first, the volcanic crack will burst forth with Lava, increasing the area currently covered by Lava by 15%. Any non-Fire elementals caught in the vicinity take the same damage as standing in Lava for 1 action.
As the smoke and debris settled, Courser found himself having to dart away from return fire anyway; a combination of a little poor luck and possibly playing his part too well. He flashes a grin for his dance partner and shrugged, hands wide to the side as his wave-whips lashed back and forth with the gesture.

“Hey, don't take it to heart, big guy. We've all got to do what we do, right? Here, have one on the house.” He winked and as he did, one of his whips curled up, creating a dense seed of water in its base, before flicking outward and launching the high-pressure bead out across the space between them. It flew direct and fast, but was a casual flick of the wrist even so; it might hit the seemingly immobile tank-man directly, but chances were just as good it would strike down next to him instead; either way, the bead of water was primed to explode into a freshly formed pool of chilled, clean water, large enough to hopefully sink the other navi.

As the pool formed, regardless of its eventual size, a mire of liquid shadows coalesced by the edge, and another image of Courser faded back into sight, crouching down resting forearms on his knees and still grinning. He looked towards ThermalMan and gave a small salute with a pair of fingers just above his eyebrows.

“Don't panic, mate. Boss man might have lost his marbles, but I said I'd stick by you, didn't I? Look, here's the trick... Look at the boss over there. See the way he splits himself up, right? Well, the trick is to be quick. When you go for 'im, he'll split, but here's the thing – boss always tends to dive to his left, see, and send his dupe to the right. That's how you nail him.” The decoy avoided looking directly across at the other Courser, but nodded his head in the right direction all the same. “Oi! And watch out for—”

The shorter shout was cut off as the jittery momogra popped up again on the opposite side, attempting to clang ThermalMan with its shovel; it seemed unlikely that its weapon would have any impact on the heavily armoured navi, but it did its best all the same.

Courser, while this was going on, kept his shield ready, but braced himself for the trickier defence move in his kit; if he was lucky, the big guy would stay wet and frozen and not give him any further trouble, but he wasn't about to rely on that alone. Just in case, he readied another deception: if ThermalMan got himself free of his predicament and decided that he was, in fact, the real Courser, rather than the one crouching by him and giving a pep talk, the attack would meet only mist and vapour, looking for all the world like another dispersed clone while courser himself warped back behind his assailant, ready to deliver a sharp countermeasure. He opted to leave his secondary duplicate behind, for this one – if it triggered, the new decoy would fade back into place, after the attack passed, reappearing exactly where the original had been standing before. It was a disorienting move, all told, but he was gradually getting used to the double switch, and the practice was important.

Whether ThermalMan had managed to push through Courser's various other defences or not, the navi didn't let his grin falter as the wave whip that had first flicked the seed now drew itself in around his hand more tightly, freezing itself into a solid, jagged gauntlet grip instead.

“You know...” He spoke just loud enough to hear and no louder, the teeth of his grin growing more visible “I'm really not the one you should be watching, friend...” In a moment his form flashed forward, long coat flaring as an eddy of water lifted his steps and carried him up and over his opponent in a roll that twisted his body and let him slam his frozen arm down at the top of the other navi's head; unless the iron giant's armour had failed it already, the blow wasn't likely to do any real harm, but it carried with it a pulse wave that Courser hoped would be enough to slam his heavy metal body down to the bottom of the newly formed pool of water, and begin freezing it over in the process.

He landed, letting the current of water beneath his feet turn him about in a small curve and keep him facing the other navi. The motion absorbed his momentum and he kicked forward again, aiming to make a second follow-up before his opponent had much chance to recover. As he darted back in, he turned his shoulder, spinning his back to ThermalMan's pool just long enough to put fresh momentum behind the swing that involved both hands this time; rather than another icy punch, he came around this time bearing a large, long block-buster mallet with an only slightly tapered steel head; if the first strike hadn't planted ThermalMan firmly on the bottom of the pool, the amount of force behind this one certainly might.

Courser released the hammer after the swing, instead skating in one swift motion around the edge of the now frozen and possibly re-shattered pool he'd made, lifting one hand as he did. The gesture was followed by a cracking, tearing sound, as remnants of whatever ice and water lingered tore themselves up and dumped themselves back over at ThermalMan with renewed violence, while a cloud of mist wrapped itself about Courser himself and refreshed his outermost layer of protection.

“Or maybe I am... honestly, it's hard for me to tell sometimes...” Courser let himself skate further around the circle, trying to stick to the edge of water and ice and avoid the irksome lava pools. Any of his remaining clones only glanced at each other, not quite making direct eye contact, and shrugged.

-=Summary=-

C1) SeaSeedDamage: 10 + Small Sea Terrain Change / Medium Sea Terrain Change
Accuracy: A
Description: Lob a seed that create a medium Sea area. Only a small area if it hits an opponent.
Duration: Once
Element: Aqua
Special: Creates Onsen terrain instead of Sea if used in YokaNet.
Trader Rank: E
10Aqua + Small Sea Terrain Change, A (Medium change if it misses him/he dodges)
C*) Shadow: Giving a pep talk?
C2) Mist and Shadow: Trap(Incoming Attack against CourseMan): Multi-Stage: First (Teleport + Decoy(1 round)), Then ((Aqua)LifeDrain 10, Shot-Type), Then (Self-Slow)
C*) Momogra backstab ThermalMan (15, Backstab, B)
C3) ColdPunchDamage: 70 + Impact + Knockback
Accuracy: B
Description: Creates a large icy fist for the user to punch with. Anything it hits is knocked back a sizable distance, even objects.
Duration: Until Overridden/Broken. Breaks after 6 swings.
Element: Aqua
Special: Ice Type: This chip counts as Ice Type for the purposes of potentially freezing targets on Aqua Element Terrain or environments, as applicable.
Trader Rank: D
70Aqua, Impact, Knockback, B (Attempting to submerge and freeze)
C4) Take Aim
C5) BigHammer1Damage: 160 + Impact + Break
Accuracy: B
Description: Summons a giant metal hammer to utterly crush one enemy that stands before you.
Duration: Once
Element: Null
Trader Rank: D
160, Impact, Break, Impact, A
C*) Fast Barrier: (40Hp Barrier)
C6) PanelShotDamage: 100 + Small Broken Terrain Change + Terrain Effect Bonus
Accuracy: B
Description: Rips up 1 panel and sends it flying at the designated target.
Duration: Once
Element: Depends on Terrain
Special: Terrain Effect Bonus: Adds an additional effect to an attack where applicable, depending on the type of terrain used.
Trader Rank: D
100Aqua, Small Broken, Freeze (if I can get ice), B
"Dammit... I can't ignite anything!"

Clouds of steam hissed from ThermalMan's body, along with a low whining sound. His face became increasingly redder, warped by the heat mirage wafting up from the lava going up around his legs, up to his midsection. However, the heat didn't seem to be affecting the rapidly spreading frost on his cannon arms. As if to mock his current situation, Courser flicked out a SeaSeed towards the rusty Navi, splashing against his legs. Immediately, the lava underneath ThermalMan erupted in a burst of steam, covering him in scalding water. The lava around his feet was replaced with a small pocket of warm water. From the howl that escaped his lips, it didn't sound like he was enjoying it very much, being a Fire elemental.

The armor plating that had broken after protecting him a moment ago reappeared around his person, immediately latching around him yet again. At that point, the decoy that Courser sent out to poke fun at ThermalMan appeared next to him, while his tank treads began revving up, backing out of the pool of water towards the now very small bit of land that still remained unmolested by either lava or water. The safe haven that had been the molten rock was now not a very safe place for him at all, and his heavy body reconfiguring itself to weather blows didn't seem to work as well against CourseMan's methods.

Still, it wasn't like ThermalMan was going to go down without a fight, starting to move erratically from side to side on the tiny outcropping of land that he still had. As such, he managed to avoid the Momogra's jittery shovel slap with a bit of luck, and the icy gauntlet that CourseMan equipped moments later to follow it up also hit nothing but air. "C'mon, c'mon, c'mon!" he could hear ThermalMan desperately repeat, heavily breathing in between words. Unfortunately, Lady Luck wasn't there to grant him a hat trick, and ThermalMan saw the raw end of CourseMan's strongest attack thus far crashing into his arm.

The armor immediately cracked and gave way, and ThermalMan's steeled defense didn't hold against the stalwart steel of Courser's mallet, leaving the golem Navi with the tiniest protection offered by the Undershirt program. Colorful curses escaped his broken mouth, as ThermalMan's locked-up joints finally gave way, leaving him vulnerable to the last attack Courser threw his way. The chunk of water crashed against him with impunity, breaking through his last bit of resistance and triggering the Emergency Jack-Out in a beam of light.

-- Aging and Active --
ThermalMan.EXE: EJO'd

Totem1HP: 100
Properties: Anchored, Element Shift
Object Damage: 100 + Impact
Damage Method: Telekinesis
Attack Damage: 100 Fire + Line Attack (3) / Healing 50
Accuracy: A / S
Description: Summons a Totem to breath fire and heal you. Attacks once per turn, and switches faces when hit.
Duration: 3 turns, or until destroyed.
Element: Fire / Wood
Special: Element Shift: This Object alternates between Fire element when Attacking and Wood element when Healing.
Trader Rank: D
: DESTROYED

-- Cool and Collected --
CourseMan.EXE: 100 HP (Normal) (Barrier: 40) (Casing: 10) (Shield: 2)
(Trap: Mist and Shadow)
(Counter: No Peeking)

MomograHP: 60
Damage: 15 + Backstab
Accuracy: B
Description: Creats a Momogra virus to aid you. Attacks with a shovel from behind, and has a constant Mole status that ignores terrain solidness when not attacking (unless the panel currently does not exist). Still affected by other effects of panels.
Element: Null
Special: Allied Virus: This virus has one action per turn, and is fully controllable by the summoner. If no orders are given, it will perform actions at random, but will never intentionally interfere with or damage the summoner or their allies. Deleting this virus will grant no additional rewards to either side.
Trader Rank: C
: 60 HP (Normal, next to CourseMan)

-- Terrain --
15% Sea
  • Fire Elementals lose 10 HP/action standing, 20 HP/action submerged. Other Non-Aqua Elementals lose 5 HP/action submerged. Nullified for Aqua Elementals.
  • Ice attacks: 50% Freeze1 chance, Changes terrain hit to Ice.
  • Terrain changes between Sea and Onsen do not inflict damage upon submerged entities, nor do they eject submerged entities to the surface.
  • Elec attacks: +100% Source Damage.
  • PanelShot: Imbue Aqua.
(Small bit at the edge of lava)
15% Normal
  • No effects.
(Very thin bit around the lava)
70% Lava
  • Non-Fire Elementals lose 5 HP/action standing, 10 HP/action submerged. Doubled for Wood Elementals, nullified for Fire Elementals.
  • Aqua attacks: Panel explodes, +100% Source Aqua Damage, change terrain hit to Normal.
  • PanelShot: Imbue Fire.
(Everywhere else)

Field Effect:
-- Volcanic Activity: At the start of each turn following the first, the volcanic crack will burst forth with Lava, increasing the area currently covered by Lava by 15%. Any non-Fire elementals caught in the vicinity take the same damage as standing in Lava for 1 action.

-- Battle 10, Victory!! --
Rewards: 4500z, [GolemHit1] Battlechip

---

Even with the immediate culprit out of the way, however, the volcanic spread didn't seem to be stopping. The lava continued to gurgle, and the wire fencing around the area had already succumbed to it, dripping over the sheer drop that it bordered. It seemed like ThermalMan's vision of a warmer Sharo sector was going to come to fruition after all, despite not being present for it!
As the last crash of water and ice sent the other navi on his way, Courser let himself relax just enough to look around the area with a clearer eye. His drifting surf took him to the centre of the small pool of water that had been created while he listened with half an ear to Jenny cheering gleefully across their connection. Courser's own grin had dropped away once the golem-navi was gone, however, and as he scanned it became clear that whatever had been started wasn't stopping right away.

“Oh, hey! It's another chip, but it can't go in with the other preset images... What do I...? Oh! I've got it. So... Right, I'm swapping the second image of that electric one with this new one, that okay?” Courser nodded absently, before responding with affirmative words instead. Across the way, one of his decoys was peering into the breached inner shell of the facility, and neither of them were much liking what they were seeing.

“You know, maybe setting off a whole bunch of explosives wasn't the greatest plan there, boss... doesn't look like it helped much.” CourseMan felt himself grimace. He called back a fresh wash of cool water and spread it out ahead overlaying the emerging magma as he surfed across to the entrance; altering the terrain was okay in a pinch, but it wasn't his strong point, and it probably wouldn't do more than slow what was happening down. He let his clone peer further in, looking for something convenient, while he scanned the outer courtyard without much hope.

“Jen, you might want to make a quick post on one of the network exploration boards for Sharo. Not sure who you should—” A call cut off his words as his second decoy shouted out, crouching low to the remnants of one of the gate signs.

“Oi! Contact details here! Says enquiries, but this'll count for that I reckon.” Courser nodded and forwarded them through to Jenny in response.

“Anyway... it's slowed down a bit, but I don't think it's stopping, and I can't see anything else we can do here. Time to head on before the road gets impassable. Got everything, you two?” One of the decoys nodded and shrugged, giving the interior one last look before dissolving into shadows, but the other dithered near the entry way as Courser made for the path down.

“Aye... What about these then? Bit weird, isn't it?” The clone kicked at one of the mangled wreckage of the two Basher turrets that ThermalMan had trounced and lava-bathed earlier. Courser looked back with a fresh frown touching his lips. It was a bit odd, he had to admit. The two hulks had been blasted into inertia, and then dropped in the lava, but ThermalMan had fished them out again afterwards, and they were still intact enough to be identified, even then. Despite the gurgling of the magma and the dangerous-feeling ground tremors, Courser kicked back and let the water eddy glide him back to stand by his decoy.

“What's wrong?” Jenny sounded curious as well, though there was a note of distraction in her voice; she was probably filling out an email to the facility owners. Courser uncurled a wave whip from one hand and massed a current along its length as he looked at the two wrecks.

“Nothing, just... Well normally, Jen, you've seen it... when navis like me take care of a virus, it disintegrates more or less right away. without an active core, the code doesn't hold itself together. Strange that these two haven't. Might be they were converted installations powered by the facility, perhaps? I don't know... but... they still register as being originally Basher virus types, whatever changes were made to them... so...” With a glance to either side, Courser unleashed a series of quick razor-edged whip cracks across the bodies of the two wrecked turrets, the rushing water slicing metal with each pass. It took several harsh cuts, but eventually the two were sliced into small enough pieces that they began to dissolve properly... or at least, most of them did.” Courser shrugged.

“Umm... If they were, like, converted or something, then isn't that just damaging someone else's property?” Jenny sounded uncertain about her navi's off-handed decision, but Courser grinned and turned his back, making quickly for the path down again.

“Not sure what you mean, Jen...” He hummed to himself as he made a mental addition “That ThermalMan navi broke his way in here and trashed all of their defences, after all. We got here long after that happened.” Jenny was silent for a few moments before she spoke up again. When she did, her voice sounded more amused than her apparently scolding words.

“This is for that wrangler prog, isn't it? You're terrible.” Courser ginned and let himself enough a short laugh before responding. As he did one of his clones dashed ahead, scouting the path down and making sure it was clear while he turned and looked back at the facility from further back.

“No, I'm a man of fate and fortune, always willing to risk my life to seize upon exciting opportunities!”
“An' look, he's not even trying to get into anyone's pants when he's sayin' it this time!” A second Courser slipping out of the murky waters alongside him received a sharp look for its trouble, before Courser waved a hand and dismissed it. He heard Jenny sigh, though it was good-natured and he grinned back, ducking his head as he continued.

“Anyway, I've sent an email about what we found there. The PET converted quite a lot of data that time, there's a lot here from just one fight... but I do kinda feel a bit bad about it. He thought you were being friendly and then you just trounced him like that.” Courser only shrugged again as he made his way back down the mountain and began searching for an alternate route forward through the network.

“Maybe, Jen, maybe... but in my defence, he was also trying to create a new volcano in the Sharo network by destroying someone else's research and testing facility... He wasn't exactly being a nice guy, no matter how friendly he seemed.” Jenny relented and he heard her order a hot drink and something that sounded like a pastry of some sort, rather than push the issue. Courser opted to do the same and turned his eyes forward as his gliding pace took him in search of further tests.

((Ready for Battle 11))