The Hunt Renewed

(( From Navi Net-Shop ))

The white light flashed again and Vasilia found herself standing on the Net once more. She looked around curiously then reached up and scratched under the brim of her hat as she realized the readings of the Net she was on was not the Net where she wanted to be.

"Uhm, Sophia? This isn't Electown Net." She said slowly, letting her hands drop to her side as she rocked back and forth nervously. The tail of her hat rolled up tight and beneath her feet her shadow swarmed energetically. She didn't look down even though she could feel the movements like a tickle on the back of her spine. If she just ignored them then it would fade away from awareness eventually, especially here on the Net outside the PET where there was so much going on!

"Really? I can't tell a difference but I don't even know what Electown is suppose to look like." Her NetOp replied. Vasilia peeked along the connection back to the PET and spyed her NetOp sitting calmly on a bike. Her feet and legs were moving but she didn't seem tired at all!

She hoped this would work, would keep Sophia ineterested in NetBattling, in her. She didn't want to go back on a shelf somewhere, dusty and alone and lonely unless someone took pity on her. She wanted to explore all of the Nets and meet people!

She didn't want to be lonely again.

"I'll check again, again!~" She pulled up the network details again and it was hard, so hard to pay attention when there was so much going on in the background! There were lines in the sky and the ground seemed to stretch away forever, not like the cramped confines of her PET at all! She wanted to explore it all, wanted to see it all!

First she had to figure out where she was.

"Ah, it looks like this is SciLabs Net! It's home to a lot of Elec viruses and- oh no." She gulped as she spotted the stars, the tail of her hat curling up even tighter. "Uhm, it's a two-star Net! Your dad is going to be really mad..."

There was a mimicked shiver from her NetOp. "Yeah, we uh, should get you out of there. Let me just...mmm, hey, I'm getting an error when I try to iniate the plug-out? It says you have uninitialized upgrades...is it talking about what we just bought?"

She pulled the capsules out of her hat and stared at them in her hand. Was there anything else that it could be? She didn't think so!

"Yes, yes. I think these are it! I'll install them right away!" With that she swiftly crushed the packets and sent the data spiraling around her. Streams of blue fragments surrounded her. Slowly, lazily they orbited her body before slowly sinking into her emblem.

"Hey that did it! It just says we have to wait...really? Twenty minutes?" Sophia made a disgusted noise and the puppet winced, wondering if she should apologize. "Oh hey, don't look like that! It's not your fault the PET is so old! Mm...maybe in the future we can transfer you to a newer model! That sounds like something that should be possible, right? And hey, as long as we don't get into a fight we don't have to tell dad we were here at all.""

"Right, right!" Relief coursed th rough the puppet's body, her hat's tail uncurling and hangling limply with relief. From the sounds of it she didn't have to worry about Sophia ditching her any time soon. She waved her hand in a stuttering arc and dismissed the Network information screen. She hummed a happy little tune and watched as Sophia fiddled with the settings on her bike and spoke with another human at the gym.

All she had to do was stand here and not be get into a fight and she wouldn't have to worry about being locked away again.

She could do that. Easy.

(( No battles, social thread (until it isn't) ))
A sudden influx of dingy off-white poured into the Net from nowhere. It splattered against the panels and stretched itself wide, like a puddle growing without rain. Limbs crept up: <heartwood/fractal/unguarded> was close. The cilia writhed with anticipation.

From its depths came a distant rumble, [Distributing data] and then Hex retreated back into the white, abandoning thought to exist as instinctual motion. Egomorph felt herself being ejected into the Net, though she did not know where. She couldn't see.

She felt unfinished. Parts of her weren't working; her hands weren't moving; couldn't stand up; face wasn't working. Could still hear the screaming. Could still read the remnant left from the corrosive voice - didn't need eyes when the words were right there in your head. She was still loudest, her fury still distinct.

Curled up on the ground, Ego rubbed the stumps of her arms against the stumps of her legs. The thin skin flaked away in slivers, spreading the jagged rips up her limbs. Oozy white gleamed from the holes. She couldn't seem to understand what was happening until she brought her wrists up to her head. She felt at her wisps of hair, at the round hole where her face used to be. A horrified whimper leaked out from her many tears, like each one was a mouth. "What did you do," she sobbed, "what did you do, what did you do?"
"Staying out of trouble~, staying out of trouble~" Vasilia sang softled as she swung her hands back and forth. One of them flipped up into the air then fell back into place.

"Hey, why does your body do that?" Sophia asked. Vasilia paused for a moment and then tilted her head, one hand reaching up to scratch under her hat.

"Uhm, I don't really know? It kinda just, does it." Vasilia shrugged then hurried on, the flippancy in her voice giving way to a more urgent tone. "It doesn't bother you right? I mean, I'm not making it happen but if it's bothing you I can make it not happen!"

"No no, it is fine! It is, hm, amusing a bit." The puppet leaned back with a quiet sigh of relief. She didn't know why but the woman who had put her on the shelf had been bothered by it.

Then again that woman had been bothered by every bit of Vasilia.

There was a splatter and Vasilia's head turned toward rapidly to the source, leaving the rest of her body facing the other way. Something wet and white was dropping onto the Net. It spread across the tiles until it didn't. One foot lifted off the ground then the rest of her body spun around to face the same direction as her head, her shadow reluctantly following. All of it leaned forward, the distance between the pieces increasing as she looked on curiously.

"What is t̷h̶a̵t̸?" A flare of static in her NetOp's vocal channel b ut she had other things to worry about.

[color=#6A287E]"I don't kno-whoa!" The puppet's entire body jerked backward in surprise, her hat flying off for a brief moment before she slapped it back into place. A shape had risen from the sludge. She leaned forward again, one hand up to further shade her face as if that would help her see better.

From here she could see the back, the hair, a few of the small places where more of that weird white liquid could be spotted.

Then the parts moved and a broken voice cried out.

"That's a NetNavi, I think!" Vasilia cried out, her hands reaching up to grasp the sides of her hat as its tail rapidly curled and uncurled. She quickly shushed as the refrain repeated, straining to hear over the sudden flurry of tap-tap-tapping from the shadow beneath her feet.

"See if they need help! I have never seen one look like that before. Perhaps...something went wrong?" The puppet's head bobbed with her vigorous agreement. She stepped forward with one foot and then found the other halted. A look back showed misshappened fingers of shadow wrapped around her heel. She frowned mentally and reached down to swat them off before skip-hopping her way to the figure.

"Hello~! Are you okay?" She stopped a short distance away, close enough that she could see the flaking skin and stumps of her limbs, far enough she wasn't stepping where the liquid was/had been.

From this angle she could see the curve of the other's shoulder but no further. Something tingled down Vasilia's core and she found her self hugging herself with her own hands.

"Where you attacked by viruses? Or did-" she gasped in sudden horror. "-a Navi do this to you?"
Ego froze. New voices, coming not from inside but outside. The white was swirling beneath her at rest, distracted for now. She remembered the lab, her fear feeding the white's agitation until it woke up. She remembered coming back afterwards to find her hands, her feet, her face stolen. She didn't want to imagine what would be left of her this time, tried not to give the white anything to latch onto.

She did anyway. A whine leaked out against her will.

Ego tried to relax; if she panicked, the voice wouldn't be safe. She made to speak, a hesitant answer of, "It wasn't-" that abruptly cut out. Something had flooded to the surface, pushed her voice out of the way and gushed out the tears in her body: a final, distorted, desperate cry from the caustic voice.

Y̥͈͓̳͔̆o͓̮ͬ͑͌ͮͤ̃̉̔͆ṷ͉ͦ̐̄ͨ ̙̩̗̖̗̹̮̈͆̾t̪͔̝̹̮̾̂̓ͬ̉͆̎̾ͯh̥ͧ̈ͥ͛͑̀̚e͈̰̰͕̫͖̭̜ͫ̏ͯȓ̠̒͛̿̆̊̑͆̚ḛ̦̠̪̂̉ͬͫ̇̊͛̊̇!̝͎̱̜̻̖̈̿͑ ͖͍̣̱̺͉̫̜͋̄͛̊̒͐ͯG̲̻̳̪̋̾ͯ͂ė̹̟̪̯̅t̼̫͍̟̖̤͋̿̊͒̊͆͂ ̱̺̙̜͈͖̜̥͎̆͌̍͂́̆ͬ̊m̟͖ͤ̏e͓̜̱̱̭̥̾̾̈́ͮͯ͊̋̚ ͙̬̦͍ͪͦ͒͑̾̒̎͋̐o͖͕̤̰̮͓͂̑̇̊̅̓̌͌ͅu̖͑̈̽͊͐̊t͎̳̹̖̐̍̆̽ͪ̐̅͒ͅ ͇̘͚̮̰̈̃̃̿̏́õ͖̞͉̞͚͕͔̪̽̋ͅf̜̗̱ͫ̎̒̾͋͒ ͈̖̠͖̙͓̤̯ͤ͒ͩḥ͓̮͖̍̉͊ͫ͊͒ͨ̚ė͎̟̝͉̙̖͈͖͗ͫ̊̒r͉͙̝̙̲ͪ͒͊̐̏ẹ͍̜̪̮̈́̿͛ͭ,̮͙̬͔͓̗̖͇̈̂ ̜̼͔̘͕͕̍̍͒͂͊g̙ͦͭ͒̽ͅê̤̱̭͍̔ͅͅt̳͎͆ͤ̓̑ͥ̅͌ ̹ͭ͒m͇̹̖̳͕̤̱͂̏ͭ̄ͯͣ̎̚e̼̟̹̺ͨ̏̅̂ͬ̏̋̋͐ ̠̖̖͔̀ͪ̓̈ͭ̓̍ͦo̬̘͒̒ͧ̍͒ͦͬụ̼̼̫̗̻̟ͪ̽̐͐ͅt͔̞̘̉̂̐ͪ̈ ̗̯̝͚̙ͧg͕̤͖͇͕̫ͤ͗̂́ͯ̍̽̇ḙ̙̣̙ͨͣ̂̃ͨ̂t͓̮͔̲̯̣̞̻͗̇́́ͫ̒ ̼̦̰̘̺̖̠̥̜́̏̔̈́̉̚m̙͓͕̈ͦ͑̑ͧ͑e̟̞ͭ͌̔̒̑ͥͪ ͖̣̣̭̼̜̞̱̜̋̑̄̉̈́̏ͦ̇̾ȏ̞̭ͣú̫̟͉͇̄̾ͅṯ̮̱͕̞̤̮͊́ͮ̈͂̓ ͙̪̭̭̭̊̊͋ͣ̅ͅp̲̜̖̦̪ͧͥͫ̂͗̈́l͔͔̮̻̆e̯̥̫̼̪͓̦̅̓a̺̻͙̯̣̙͓ͧ͒̽̄̓ͩͪ͌s͈̩̻̼ͮ̒ͫͯ̽ͣ͑̈́̚ͅe͍͇̳͔̹ͪ͆͐̂ͬͭ̽ ̭̹̻̀g͈̃̑̑̾̐ͪe͔͔͚̮͙͈̖͗ͯ̎̇t̙̙͉͓͐ͣ̎͒ͅͅ ͙ͫm̤̪̰̬͔ͧ̈́ͅẹ̻̈͂ ̜̭͍͖͚͇̠ͬ̍ͫ̐ͤ̿͂o͖͕̦̓͐̌͆͌͆ͧͩ̈́ṳ̱ͪ̇t͎͙ͪͧ̅̍̏̈̏,͖͓̩̼͎ͨ͋̈͒̚ ͔͇̯̝̜ͯͩ͋ͧi̯ͨ̐͌t̗̺̲̭̯̹͖̆́̓̾ͪ̎ ̲͈͖̦̖̪̰̦̊͐͋̉ͭ̈h͎̪̦͉ͤͦȕ͍̝͇̥̱́ͭͥȓ͎͚̿ͥͦ̋ͮ͆̇ͭt͔̼͑ͣ̆s̲̭̳̻͈̪̼̤ͯ̇̈́ͩ͋̔̑̓̋ͅ,̩̊͆ͅ ͔̥̠̦͈̖̝ͮ͑ͭͩi̠̝͆ͪͮ̀̒̏̇ͩṭ̥̩̖͇̮̥̃̄̋̆̊̽ͅ ̯͚ͤͫ̏ͪ͑͗d͍̟̼͍̠̩̝͂͆r̹̯̓ͫͫ̈́̅̔ͦa͙̭̻̹̅͂̽͌̆͊͛̉g͈͉̪͎͕̤ͩg̼̠̫̘̲̣ͥͪ̄́͋ͦ̉e̙̱̽͋̏d͍̟̖̽ͪ̿ ̳̘̰͕ͪ̂̔̑ͯ̂ͯ̔m͈͉̗̻ͫ̋͐ȅ͚̘̻̆͑̒ͤ ̩͈̮̤̈̇̏̂ͬ̃̊̾i̘̫̘̟̟̱͉͋͐̾̋̉̔ͪṉ͚̊ͥ̿̿ͪ,͕̳͍͊̏̿͛̐̍̓ ͚͑ͧ͛̔̀̚c͓̫̬̔͂̌͐͊̈́ͅȧ͈̟͂n̝̊̀͌'͍̲͖̥̻͙̂̃̇͐ͯͩ̽̚ṯ̗̠̪͍ͧ̉͌ͮ̽̇ ͕̼̜̖͉̹̲̲̂ͩ̓͊͑͆͐̓f̳̗͓͉͕̲̭̮̆̐͗͊͑ͣ̚i̥̣ͪͩͮ̆͊ͨ̈́n̜͚̖̏͒̋̓́͂̆͋d̤͖̩̭̰̮̹̈́͑ ̖̣͎̦̗̫̳̇ͤͬ͐ͥ̑ͨm̤̩̫͗̏ͨͤͅy͔̙̤̦ͭ͋ͤ̄ͫͮ͆ ̤̲̮̣͙̮̙ͮ̅b̜̩͔͚̞̞̼͂̇͂ͬ̐̎o͕͈̻̖ͭ̽͊ḏ̝̭̙͇ͬ̀͋ẏ̲͖͖̖͓̯̰͆̓͊ͤͅ ̻̣͉̜̮̎ͭ̀͗̌̊ĭ̺̰͚̯̘̮̞t̤̝̅ ̞̹̹̺̋̎̿h͍̘͎̘̲̤̱̾̀͗ͫͣ͂̅u̥͍͍̱͎̙̲̰ͫͮ͌̌ͬ̍r̭̮̼̣͚͒͋̆̈ͨt̹̙͚̫̪̲͊̄̊̆s̥̰͔̣̠̻͂ͥͣ̓ ͖̬̬̱͕̩̅͛͐w̲͖̜̹͉̹ͫ̑͆̚h͇̪̙̯̍̀̊̆e̫̐̃ṟ̂͒͗ͯͤe̟̺̾ͭ̈́ͣ ̱̣͓̩͕ͥá̤͂͋̅ͬm̙̞̪̗̺̠̼͙͔̓͐ͥ̔ ͔̞̩̙̬̎͆̾ͥ͌i̹̹̿́̊ͭ ̣̜̘̂̓ͅw̲̻̥̦͖͎̲͍̘ͭ͌̉̋ͫ͆̈̾̂h̦̘̬̤̩͐̔ͪ̏̓o͍͕̮̐ͪ̽ͅ ̺͓̗͍̯̦͈̺̀a̞͇̻̭͓ͬ͒̎͆m̘̦̭̥͌ ͕̳̈́̓̇i̬̦ͪ̆̄ͤͪ ͍̹͔͍̻̟̪ͤͦ̔̉̑͆̋̔ẇ̬͖̲͒̿ͨ̎͗̇̏h̼̮̟̘̽̚o͙̺̦͉ͧ̋͗̔͛̐͊ͅ ͈̘̞̣̹̺̗̼̻ͤ͊̀ͭͣa̬̖̫͔̝̘͖̱͔̅́̏ͫ̈́̒̓̏r͚̯̳͈̳̞̻̽̑̐͗͛͂ͅe̘͍̳̳ͤͥͬ͌̔ͣͧ̐͒ ̞̚w̭̥̟̬̫̼̺̩̲̄͛ͦ̀ẽ̹̮̪͙̘̇̽̆̃ ̹̝͚̩͍ͩ̀̈̌ͣ͌̎i̠̝͙̪͉͍̟̻ͩ̈́ͣ̅͋ͅt̯̺͔̻̲̮̖ͮ̐̓̂̈́͌̒ ̦͖͆̅̈̍h̬̘̯̺̰̀̇ͅͅu̝̅̊̀͑̓ͮ̓̄r͓̔̾ť͕͎̯̰̤̭̺̱̹̈́̑̑̇s̬̺̤̼̟͈͓͑͑ͭ̀̓ͅ ̟̣̹̺͑ͫͥ̔͆i̮̬̤̗͙̳̔̓̊̐̈́̇t͎̲̙̲͕̲͂ͯ̆ ͉̭͈̮͐̒ͦͭ̑̓ẖ͚̬̳̠̠̓u͔̜ͤͥͬ̒̋r͈̱̝̞̲̣͒̋̓̽̿͌̍̐t͈̩̖͉̗̑ͯ͐ͭ͛̌̓̇s̖̘͖̝̟̉͗̌̚ ͚̫̙̬̰͖͓̩ͣͦͤͧ̊h̺͈̰ͮ͑u͕̪̥͇ͤ̔ͩͤr̼̙ͣ̈́ͮ̔̏t͓̓ͨ̈ͮ͑̅s͔͖̤ͬ ͈̝̰̫̭̽ͮͥ͋ͪ̑h͔̭̩̭̤́̂̓͐̊ͫ̈́͗u̼̟̘̤͈͇̻͉̿ͦ̏̈́̿͌̈̆̊r͓̦͛ͨ̃̔ͩt̹̻͓̗̠̓̀ͫͣ̎̄̂̃s͚͇̗̠̺̖̞ͬ̈́ͅ ͓̥̥̪ͨͅh̙̣̜͎ͮ͛̆̄̚u̺̩̗̟̬̖̼͚̇̽͆̏̋̌͂̚r̬̱̲̞̥̠͉͈̞̂̃͛̓̇̌ͤ̚t̟̣̄̑̃̏̓̎ś̳̦̞͔̣̘͎ ̞̙̲͕͖̻̳̈́ͭ̇͊ͅh͍̻͒ͦͫͥu̫̗̐ͫͫr͚͎̬̯̼̥̬̘ͪ̏͛-̼̯͂͛͑͋̋ͣ̅̈

The voice ran out of energy. Ego felt it sink and blur and lose itself amidst the rest. "I'm sorry," she crumpled to her knees, arms splintering where they cradled her head. "I'm sorry," she repeated, "I couldn't help you." Maybe, though, maybe she could protect this new voice. She forced herself still. "You have to go. You need to go," she stressed. "Its asleep now but I won't-" a sob threatened to overtake her, "-won't be able to help you if you don't go now. Please."
Even Vasilia's glee couldn't stay untarnished in the face of such strange occurances. The caustic voice caused the puppet to jerk her body backward: her feet staying rooted to the floor as her hands slammed onto the sides of her head.

It didn't keep the voice out. It didn't keep the pain in the voice out. It didn't keep the pain from hearing the voice out.

"W-what was that?" She asked. She dropped her hands as Ego dropped to her knees and the puppet slowly pulled herself back together as the other Navi spoke. The broken girl wasn't making any sense! "You couldn't help us? But we just met you? I don't think we asked for help, did we Sophia?"

"Uhh, no, no we haven't." Sophia's window appeared to hover to Vasilia's right and the witch-doll looked at it gratefully, not that anyone could really tell. The situation was weird but just like in Hades she could handle anything if her Operator was with her! "Wait, did you mean that voice? Or did that fall asleep? If you want out, where's your NetOp?"

"Yeah! Is your NetOp nice? Mine is! If she was your NetOp she'd help you out of the Net, she'd make sure you weren't hurting real bad too!" Vasilia nodded vigorously, her head bobbling in the space abover her torso. She swung her hands and then abruptly stopped with a finger raised in the air. Such a silly thing to forget, introductions! Maybe that was why the girl couldn't help them? Maybe she could only talk to people she knew!

"We didn't even introduce ourselves! I'm Vasilia!" Pleased to find an easy fix Vasilia struck a pose with one hand out and one shoe lifted partway off the ground before she bowed. She straightened up and gestured toward the girl. "Why don't you go next, what's your name? Don't worry: if it was a virus you couldn't help the voice with, we definately can handle it!"
Trying to process so many questions at once froze Ego in her tracks. Her balance gave out, and she toppled back into the white with a thick splatter. She couldn't think - no room in her head for her own thoughts. She couldn't tell the caustic voice apart from the rest anymore.

When the outside voices quieted, Ego chanced a peek at her memory log. The last query had been a simple one, but upon thinking, she realized, "I...don't...know." She couldn't seem to lift her arms out of the white. "The voices call me Egomorph. The white calls me Administrator. The human called...me..."

Overwhelming hunger roiled in a wave she felt through her entire body - the human. Nausea and despair tangled in her belly; even knowing she had no face to express it, she still doubled over, retching into the white.

"No, no no no no no, have to warn him, he's not safe, the human's not safe," Groaning, the faceless girl made to crawl forward, and found she could not. Gelatinous stalks of white had merged her wrists to the pool, a connection she lacked the strength to break.

Something was oozing out of her head.

Another surge of understanding, of once-tasted, of <heartwood/fractal/unguarded>; all Ego could get out was a garbled, "stay away, it knows you're here." Her halos crackled, casting their bloody red malevolence over her back.

Egomorph? Administrator? These weren't names! Well, one of them wasn't even a real word and names weren't really words so that had to be the name! The wooden puppet gave a firm nod and then stared in horror as the girl was shackled to floor, her words almost forgotten. Something was curling in the doll's code, something nudged the back of her head and she remembered the grip of the shadowy hands on her feet and she inhaled noisly, her torso rising and then falling as she let out air.

"Oh man she looks like a zombie! Wait- the human's not safe?" Sophia asked in alarm, her rising voice distracting Vasilia from her current thought-line. The young woman shifted closer to the camera on the PET, her eyes gazing past and above it. She was looking at the TV above the bike Vasilia realized belatedly. "You mean your NetOp isn't safe?"

"Oh-no! That's awful! Sophia what do we do?" Vasilia asked, her hands flying up to her face. Everything about this situation was going terribly! The witch-doll had met a maybe-friend but she was very clearly in rough shape, there was a human in danger, and Vasilia didn't know what to do.

And now something was oozing from her maybe-friend's head.

"Get back, Vasilia! That goo doesn't seem to like you." Vasilia's feet were only too happy to comply and the hands in her shadow seemed to have no objection to her hurried backwards movement this time, a reluctant one-two step that carried her another panel away.

It felt strangely relieving to walk away.

She felt bad about that at first but then an idea sprung to mind as she put her final foot down and she snapped her fingers before holding one up in the air. She was

"Egomorph! If I help your human, maybe that'll help you too! Tell us where your NetOp is, we can call the police or-or an ambulance!"
A tentacle stretched out from the void of Egomorph's face.

The little projection felt her shape twisting, curling around itself, stretching instinctively towards this new voice, this bright cluster that so surely called its own name. "Vasilia...it sounds...pretty." - she repeated the pretty sound in her head, hanging onto that little nice feeling as she lost herself bit by bit. As she twisted around to match her feeler's pointing and face the Navi properly, feeling and hearing so much she felt thin enough to snap, she thought about how much Vasilia's creator must have loved her, to give her a name so sweet and human.

Hearing her name brought her back a little; behind her, the Conduit's crackling hushed a few decibels. Ego hunched small and buglike in her pool and tried to keep herself still. She's trying to help, she repeated in her head, she's trying to understand, help her understand.' She had to know, she had to know or the human-

N҉̧̢͟͠O̧͏҉̧ ̸̶̷̢͠P͞͏͡͝͝L͡͡E̸̸̡͘͟Á̵̶҉͝S̴̨̛E͝͏̸͜ ̷̨͜͝Ń̛Ò̸̕͟͡

A rope of thin black veins threaded itself down the length of Egomorph's feeler. Through the humming red halos, the veins fed information into her one pulsing trickle at a time, making her whole body ripple and shudder like cloth underwater. There were things in her head, memories of a place she had never been to. "Where he lives...its a dead space. In this world." Ego spoke in a hushed whisper, afraid to raise her voice, desparate to get out as much out as she could. It tumbled out in a jumble, "He's alone. In a locked box. Walls are thick...built them thick. Can't hear any other humans. Blocked out this world too, it's like there's nothing there - but he has the machine it lives in. Is he the Creator? No...no, he found it." Realization jolted her upright. Her voice cracked, "He took it inside. It's locked in with, no, he's locked in with it!"

There was that feeling again, hunger like a whirlpool in her belly, a swirling pit that will never fill. Static caught the edges of her voice as she choked on revulsion, "Now it just needs resources - material to build̷ t̢he ̸c̨ońn͢e͞ctiòn͠. " She wanted to clutch her head. She wanted to scream. Instead she shook herself and moaned, "no̪̲b̡͙̗͓̟̦̰od̖̹̜̲̤͕y̼̜̠'͉̥͙͕̙s͙̳͕͚̮ ҉̙̤̬͚̮g̥͓̻̼̯ǫ̦̪ͅi̬̖̤̳̯ṉ̱ͅg͔̼͔̦̹̖̖ t͠o̙͓ ̥̗̳̕k͚͙̭͈̙̟͘ͅn̘͖̳̺o̖̣̯w.̮͇̝̰͟.͚̰.̝ͅt̗͓̺̺͕ͅh̨͓͙̥͍̟̖̬e̫̺̦͉̙re'̥͎̻̘̬̯̀s͓̗̭̰̞ ̥̠̻͉̰̥͢n͔̦̩̣͙o̞̥̭̘̠̘͙b͕͈̗̣͚͜o̯̱̫̦͖̗d͓̺̦̮̖͠y̤̹̠̤̹͍͡ ̫̯̘̗͍t̖̝͇̼o͚̻̪̙ ͍͍͍͍͍͍͍͍h̫͔̞̰͍ẹ̰͔͖a͔̦̗r ̢̖̣̼h͈̲̠̝́i̢̩̬̳̱ṃ͙͇̙̝͍͕͠.̷̰͕̳ ̮͈̞̀."

She could taste heartwood. "No...no, please, do͘n̕'͠t wak̡e ̛up̷, just a little longer," Ego begged. The pool was starting to spread towards Vasilia; ankles dragging on the ground behind her, Egomorph's neck began to stretch, the white filling her body trying to project beyond the boundaries of her brittle skin.
The compliment on her name came as a pleasant surprise to Vasilia and Sophia. Something they were doing must be working if the ragged doll in front of them was able to string that much clarity together. The wooden puppet bobbed her torso forward and down, her hands pinching the air then raising to the sides as if spreading an invisible skirt. The doll straightened up.

Vasilia held onto that moment of clarity from the pale girl as a sign of hope. They would do something!

Egomorph started to speak and Vasilia paid strict attention. Her NetOp wanted to help Egomorph and so did she! No matter how confusing, no matter how weird the situation got she would do her very best!

Except maybe the confusion would beat her after all. Her head spun, literally, as she repeated some of the words Egomorph had said, trying to make sense of them. "Lives, world, locked, thick, machine..? I don't understand!"

"Oh Vassie, get a hold of yourself!" The puppet's hands reached up and slammed into either side of her head, stopping it in place. "...Not what I meant but I'll take it! If we want to help we have to understand. It sounds like he locked himself in a closet with a rabid dog or something..."

"Eeh? I thought doggies were nice?" She swung her hands freely at her side, her feet tap-tap-tapping on the ground as the shadows beneath them coalesced for a into solid form before being swiftly and sternly returned to insubstantibility via concussive force. The hands were making it hard to concentrate, and it was already hard to understand! "Wait, dead space in here? So where he lives in the real world doesn't connect to the net or is it really scary?"

"Good thought! If it didn't have a presence here then how would Egomorph get here? I'll pull up a list of the Nets...somehow." There was a pause as Sophia manipulated the ancient pet to find what she needed. Vasilia could feel the processes struggling to work as if they were struggling through a thick muck.

Or maybe like a little girl covered in white goo.

"Oh! Is this stuff slowing down your processes?" Vasilia slapped her hands to her face as a large exclamation point appeared over her head. She dropped both hands to point at the white that clung so tightly to Egomorph's frame. She didn't really need the girl's reply, as she said the words it 'clicked' in her head as if it were a fact she had just been reminded she knew. One hand cupped the bottom of her head, the index extended to tap at her smooth 'cheek'. "Hmm, if that's the case this is going to be tricky. If we seperate you from it will you be able to speak better?"

"Wait, does that make this stuff dangerous? You shouldn't touch it then!"

"Got it!" A light bulb appeared above Vasilia's head as she twirled her hands in front of her, a small glowing blue line appearing before her. She reached it and pulled out her broom with a flourish that included tossing it over her head. "Alright Egomorph! I'm going to hand you the end of my broom and use it to pull you out, are you ready?"

Suiting action to words, and not waiting for a reply, the witch doll stepped to the side and gave the cleaning instrument in her hands another twirl before extending the bristles towared Egomorph. "Grab hold!"
"Vasilia...Vasi...lia..." The voice echoed strangely. Something was sticking in Ego's head, something one of the voices had said. She murmured the pretty name a few more times to ground herself - the words came slowly, "how would I...get here?" The thought had never occurred to the creature before. She knew where she came from, where she was kept when it wasn't connected to this world. Where it came from, and how it got here, those were both unknowns. She would have to think.

[<heartwood/fractal/unguarded> offers a vector for transmission]

[Still dormant, still gestating new rootcode, Administrator is for the moment inaccessible to the white. An autonomous peripheral node, growing from Administrator's client, accepts the vector, and begins directing new growth.]



"Where it grows into this world from...I don't know. Somewhere...outside. Outside, all around." The voice wasn't coming from the little girl on the ground, not quite. It rang from her echo chamber-face, hissed from the rents in her skin. Whispered, with the halting cadence of a child, from the white tendril that oozed and slithered over Vasilia's proffered broomstick. Ego didn't seem to notice the veiny feeler was a bare arm's length from Vasilia's head - the tiny voice whispered as though right next to Sophia's window, or Vasilia's ear, "I think - I think I'm a part of it."

The tendril drew on more mass, more veins, more white. Ego's neck cracked like dry plaster.

Her head fell off.

"It's - stretched - from outside, into the human's machine. It - it talks to him." she continued. She gave no sign she'd felt or even noticed her head shatter from the inside. Didn't seem to realize she had sprouted a tentacle as long as she was tall, slithering towards Vasilia across lazy, creeping seconds. Seeping out her wrists and ankles, echoing from the reaching tentacle - from the vague blob of white ooze that hung from her ruined neck, was a crackling stream of, "Please, you have to find him - it wants - wants in - it wants - the human - he can build - build it a way in - it's going to - Ņ̷̧̛͇͔͎̠͍͍̭̣̻͂́̈̀͆͛̏͂̇̏̈́͊̚Ỏ̵̡̱̱̟̤̣̗̜̹̠͍̪̙̞̖̓̿͝ ̶̡̯̹͉̤͉̖̪̳̠̦͎̳͕̠̃͂́͆̽̉͑͒̃̌̉̾̎͝P̵̨̢̮̬̙͎̹͓͈̥͚̭̈́L̴̢̤͕̠̫̲̲̳͐͌͆̈́̑̍̔̌͛̐͘͜͝E̶̢̨̢͈͓͈̯̻̬̳͔͎̻̪̾͜A̸̛̠̔͑S̸̨̖͇̦̻͖̩̪̩̑̾̃̀́́̔̓̐E̵̳͇̅͊͝ ̸̧̠̰̱̋̃̈͑Ņ̵͈̰̝͖̥̬̊̓̄͆̔̚O̴̲̎̀͛̈́̎̕͝ - nobody will even know he's - it wants in-"
Maybe it was the outdated systems of the PET struggling to work that slowed her reaction.

Maybe that was why she found it easy to brush off the feeling that this situation was familiar.

When she examined the feeling telling her this, all she found was a fragment that pointed to memory space that no longer existed or had long ago been overwritted. Like a loose page torn out of a book and left on the floor.

"Yes, that's me! I'm glad you like my name. You have a weird one but it's kind acool too!" She chirped. She took a hand off the broomstick to give a little encouraging wave to Ego. The way the other Navi took the broomstick though...


"Outside...do you mean the real world or outside that current Net? Hm.." Sophia asked while Vasilia gave her broomstick a little wiggle, almost as if she was attempting to shake the tendril off.

It looked like the slime the witch-doll wasn't suppose to touch. It sounded like Ego who the witch-doll was trying to help. A sticker-like sweatdrop rolled down from under her hat to dash itself against the floor below. It was getting closer, maybe closer than she should allow?

[color=#CD7F32]"Wait, you're part of the white?" Sophia abruptly dropped her thinking pose, her face looming large in the video window that floated near her. "Then-Vasilia! Drop the broom and get away!"

"Okay!" She let go. Her hands released the handle as Ego's neck cracked loudly and then they flew to Vasilia's face, both of them covering the area where her mouth probably should have been. There was a sharp hiss of indrawn breath from Sophia as they watched the slime grown and consolidate, Vasilia leaning back to avoid it as it reached for her. Something scratched and scrabbled at her soles and finally when her body had long since appeared to be off balance she stepped back. Away from the tendril. Away from the head. "Oh no, oh no no no no i don't like this!"

"Vasilia!" Sophia's voice was sharp with something splintered and high. It brought back memories of a similiar cry as it rose above both Ego's stream of pleading and Vasilia's own denial of the situation. The doll pulled her hands from her face to knock them against her hat then shook her head wildly.

"I've pulled myself together! But what about Ego? She's in more pieces than I am!"

"I think... I think it might be too late for her. Her NetOp- if this thing wants to do something to him then we need to stop it! Or at least slow it down." The puppet's hands clenched and unclenched, bunching the hat in their grip as Vasilia stared. The scrabbling at her feet was worse now, but she didn't care about that. Was there really nothing they could do for Ego?

Something hurt in her core but she lowered her hands from her hand and gestured to dispell the broom back into bits of data. "Okay, I'm ready!"
A sickening sort of relief started to spread through Ego at Vasilia's protests. Being scared of her was good, she thought as firmly as she dared - scared meant they understood, or at least they were starting to. Scared meant the sweet voice with the pretty name was still alive, still discrete, and not just one more mindless shriek from somewhere in her head. Being scared would keep her safe.

Still, she wondered what she must look like now, to make the human shriek so.

"Yes...slow it...down. Th-the twins!" she startled herself by recalling, "i-in the lab. The one-in-two-bodies. They were..." where had they been? The blue one had told you, it hadn't been long ago...right? "..what did they call it? Po...lice? They didn't...understand - tried to help - it escaped - have to - warn...them..."

A gurgling moan cut her off. The tendril coiled over Vasilia's abandoned broomstick, pulling it down Ego's hollow neck with sucking squelches. "Heartwood...fractal...unguarded...familiar..." Egomorph gasped out, swaying from side to side, "this taste...Vasilia...is that you?"

[Prey is nearly within reach. Alerts are circulated into the main system from Administrator's client: with new rootcode nearly finished distributing, the white prepares to reactivate.


"N-no!" The pool eddied and swirled underfoot, "it - it knows you, why does it know you?" Ego's voice was starting to break at the edges, asking questions that made her shake to consider. Tendrils were creeping now from the edges of the pool; she felt herself being dragged slowly forward, towards Vasilia. There was a nauseating weight pressing all over her, like being deep inside the white. She shook her head; it was getting harder to hold up with every second. She saw herself from every angle but her own eyes, walkingslithering into - "...a dome? So full...so many scents to follow. It ate something there...a Navi? No...no, something else. It just...reached out there. Reached out, and - it tasted you. It recognized you-"

The realization burned as hot and sudden as acid - all at once the panic returned, redoubled, and slid straight down into stark, screaming terror. The pool drank deep of her unrest, a dozen new feelers writhing and churning their way out the edges of the pool. There was a feeling like sliding feet-first down a giant's gullet: Ego felt the pressure creep up her legs, balloon in her belly, swallowing her up from the inside out. She was out of time.

Irregular shapes drifted beneath the pulsing surface of the white. Egomorph's halos crackled, casting their bloody light in jagged arcs - above the rising hiss of static, the Support Program cried out, "It...IT FOLLOWED YOU HERE! R-RUN! RUN!!""

<(ACCEPT PVP REQUEST? Y/N)>
"Twins in a lab? That could be more specific." Sophia muttered as Ego spoke. Eventually though the pile of parts that use to be a girl (or still were a girl? Ego's condition was a mystery) spit out the word 'Police' and even Sophia knew she could do something with that.

Surely the country didn't have that many twins in a lab who worked for the police.

Vasilia snapped her fingers and her broom disappeared! Just not in the way she had wanted. She froze as the broomstick was ingest and leaned forward as Egomorph spoke.

"Familiar? You know me?" The puppet asked, wonder in every word. She had been ready to flee but- those crumbs of not-quite-memories still nudged her awareness. Despite her yearning, despite her attempts to chase that thought-train any further the tracks stubbornly refused to magically extend past where they abruptly dead ended. One hand crept to the witch-doll's emblem, an unconcious act as the puppet started to babble. "I'm, I, I don't remember you! Were you there?"

"That is not good sign." Sophia said as horror crawled up her spine and Ego continued to talk. The scary-creepy white goop apparently recognized her Navi, remembered her from some time when it had eaten something that wasn't a Navi? That part was confusing but it didn't really matter. There was only one real option here. She jammed her finger on the jack-out button only to be met with a pop-up message box and a loading bar.

ER̴ROR: Unable to q̸u̸i̴t̴ until active processes a̵r̷e̴ closed. Now closing processes. T̷i̷m̸e̵ remaining: µ2:7¢

"You glitchy piece of-" Sophia snapped her mouth shut as her eyes landed on the many search tabs she had been using while Vasilia spoke. Her fingers scratched against the control panel for the bike. Distantly she was aware a few people were gathering to watch the events on the screen. She caught whispers of commentary but she couldn't spare the brainspace to translate. "Vasilia, you have to start running! I can't jack you out yet, there's a delay, a timer but it's broken, you have to run! Run so that that thing doesn't catch you!"

She broke off as Ego's weird halo-thing sent off spikes, as the support program started to yell. The witch-doll didn't hesitate any further. As much as she wanted to stay, as much as she wanted to help it was obvious that she couldn't, not now anyways.

"I'm sorry! It'll be different in the future, I promise!"

(PVP Request: Accepted)
What started as a cautious desire to help had rapidly spiralled into horror and madness as Hex woke, Ego fell away and all that remained was panic amidst the impulses of fight and flight. Vasillia was not safe, and in that moment she became aware of just how deserted the empty back-alleys and rarely travelled by-ways of the remote area of Sci-Lab actually were right now. There was no-one around to help, or to witness her plight. She could run, but how quickly could the amorphous monstrosity move? She could fight, but how exactly did you fight something like that? Ego's screams echoed between the high-rise structures that cast the light from above into tilted rays.

In this moment, they were in a small oval-shaped plaza, raised and suspended between walks that moved between the many tall structures all around. There were only two pathway out of the normally peaceful rest space – one lead back behind Vasilia, between two buildings before curving away to the left. The other was at the far end, behind the swelling mass of nightmare-fuel, and seemed to lead to a down-ward curving ramp.

The plaza itself had a small garden feature in the centre, with a single tree, as well as a neat park bench on either side. There were railings, but a glance off the edges revealed more walk-ways below, leading in different directions – a fair jump and a drop for a navi throwing themselves over the side, but against staying where she was, it was perhaps another option for the desperate.

-=The White=-
Hex: 180Hp [Metal]
Egomorph.SP: 90Hp [on Hex]

-=The Witch=-
Vasilia.Exe: 120Hp [Metal]

-=The Walk-Way=-
60% Metal
  • Cannot be Broken or Cracked except with Geddon/PanelShot, cannot be Burrowed into.
  • Elec attacks: +100% Source Damage.
  • 100 Damage Aqua attacks: Change terrain hit to Cracked.
  • 100 Damage Fire attacks: Change terrain hit to Furnace.
  • PanelShot: Imbue Elec + Break.
[large ovular plaza]
20% Grass
  • Wood Elementals get +5 HP/action.
  • Fire attacks: +100% Source Damage, change terrain hit to Soil.
  • PanelShot: Imbue Wood.
[Small greenery feature in the centre]
20% Solar
  • Elec Elementals get +5 HP/action.
  • Wood attacks: +100% Source Damage, change terrain hit to Cracked.
  • PanelShot: Imbue Elec + Stun1.
[thin strips along the edges of the area, like edge-guards]

-=Fight or Flight, Begin=-
"Battle routine set! Execute!" The video screen disappeared as the PET prioritized the Navi's functions to the exclusion of all others. Her voice stayed with Vasilia, and the puppet only.

"Vassie! We're going to get a bit tricky here, okay? Make for the path behind you but don't run that way yet."

"Okay! I can do it!" The witch-puppet's fingertips began to glow and she lifted her shoes in sequence to tap her fingers against them and activate the defensive spells imbued within. Immediately they began to stomp in place, prepared to intercept attacks directed toward the main body and Vasilia readied herself to run.

The hands below her moved themselves to assist. They squirmed out of the confines of her shadow and raced across the net to scratch and tear at the metal, wearing the area away and turning it to dust and dirt.

"Goodbyyye~ creepy goop!" Vasilia waved a still glowing hand above her head as she took several steps backward, her body already turning to the path behind her. It was the obvious, safest path away from the goop monster and the doll wondered why they weren't taking that route but she trusted Sophia! Her NetOp was smart!

"Incoming, Vasilia! Use this then make a break for it!"

"Oooh...I'm really sorry about this Egomorph! We can still be friends later, right?" Magic flooded Vasilia's system and she sketched a horizontal cylinder in the air and then slapped her hand against it twice. With loud 'pop' a log appeared for each slap and went bouncing toward the White and the it's unfortunate lure. Now that the logs were away, such a good spell!!!, Vasilia was on her way! Her boots smacked against the ground as she raced for the railing.

If she made it to the railing there would be a shriek of fearr before one of her hands turned into a cannon and, following her super-smart NetOp's instructions, she fired in such a way as to hopefully align her better with one the walkways below.
Battle Log

1) Kick-Out!- 2-Hit Shield and Counter(Last Shield broken): 10 Wood + Knockback + Self Slow - 2 TCD
* Set Soil
2) Feint toward path behind her + Evasion boost from Soil -Evasion Self Slow debuff
3) RollingLog1Damage: 50 + Ground Attack + Wide Attack (2) + Double Attack
Accuracy: C
Description: Rolls a log at enemies. Can hit up to two enemies at once per log.
Duration: Up to 2 uses before the end of the turn.
Element: Wood
Special: Double Attack: After spending an action to attack with this chip, you may choose to spend a second action and attack with it again before the end of the turn.
Note: This chip used to be known as RingLog1
Trader Rank: D
@ Hex/Ego (+5dmg Same Element Boost) +100% Final Damge from Soil/Change to Grass
4) RollingLog1Damage: 50 + Ground Attack + Wide Attack (2) + Double Attack
Accuracy: C
Description: Rolls a log at enemies. Can hit up to two enemies at once per log.
Duration: Up to 2 uses before the end of the turn.
Element: Wood
Special: Double Attack: After spending an action to attack with this chip, you may choose to spend a second action and attack with it again before the end of the turn.
Note: This chip used to be known as RingLog1
Trader Rank: D
@ Hex/Ego (+5dmg Same Element Boost) +100% Final Damage from Soil/Change to Grass
5) Movement -> Up and over the railing + Evasion boost from Soil -Evasion Self Slow debuff
6) CannonModeEffect: Adds +20 Null and Knockback to your Buster Shot Attack.
Accuracy: Buster Accuracy = A
Description: Your Custom Weapon vanishes, and is replaced with a Cannon. Your buster returns to normal when the chip effect ends.
Duration: Number of Uses equal to double your Rapid stat. Cannot be Broken.
Element: Null
Special: Overrides Buster. Disables Charged Shot.
Trader Rank: D
1/2 uses -> Midair manuevering onto walkway

Cooldowns
Kick-Out! - 0/2

Chips Used
CannonMode
RollingLog1
The scream cut out. Egomorph lay still, frozen but for the tentacle's crawling. An incandescent red glow settled in the space between her halos, refracting bloodily against the metal skyway. From underfoot came a quiet, bone-deep drone of static.

Ego stood, or rather, straightened. Her legs were gone, now; a column of white ooze held her torso aloft, tattered dress hanging empty from the waist down. Tendrils crept from her wrists, joined the larger one from her neck in creeping forward, ever forward.

The earth itself seemed to speak, with a voice like scraping metal, [Gestation complete > Command: administrate]. The Conduits' crackling grew audibly louder as the oozing pool began to boil over with its own mass, rising higher and higher off the ground. The dark shapes loomed within, stared Vasilia down with too many empty eyes, and-



-breached the surface.

As Egomorph disappeared under a layer of dead, hollow skin, the pool lurched with its newfound mass. Administrating its own growth, a carved-out head oozed out and became a shoulder - it in turn vomited an alabaster leg, shattering its jaw around its base. Tarry black veins seeped from the pool's depths and knitted the grisly arrangement together, and then the white had an arm with which to drag its pool forward. More of it seeped into the Net with every second, spurting out of the shell in feelers and tentacles.

They all pointed in one direction. In catching her signature and tasting a sliver of her being, a part of Vasilia had vanished into Hex's event horizon, which reached endlessly to draw all things into itself. It knew its objectives, had gestated and processed them prior to reactivation - now Hex was awake, in full intelligent control of itself, and there was nothing left to distract it from obtaining the rest.

<heartwood/fractal/unguarded> was fleeing. In a surging wave, it pursued.

All at once, the Net was filled with grinding, stamping cacophony. Still swelling and sewing itself together, the white crawled after Vasilia on a tumble of hands and things it had crushed and mangled into hands. Some had eyes; others, whole faces stretched and reaching in dreadful ways; some were nothing but grasping teeth. Stretched tall above the crawling depths was Egomorph, only recognizable by her halos and the thick, undulating tendril that had broken her head off. Her arms were rigid as antennae, fixed out and slightly up in a pose that looked almost religious, as though the white were saying (were Vasilia to look back at what followed her), 'behold, all that we have become; behold, all that you shall become'.

The Conduits were spinning faster and faster, whining with staticky feedback. [Command: Activate] the voice from below said, and pushed against its connection to the halos. Crimson light arced off the rings from the power spike, the energy processed from the white seeping back into it. Feeding off its Administrator's power, it gave a triumphant gurgling bellow, and charged.

Little attempt was made to avoid the obstacles <heartwood/fractal/unguarded> had set down in its path. Barely sentient (albeit intelligent), perpetual motion was the white's natural state - to deter its advance would take a significant display of force, and while well-coordinated, Vasilia's log trap failed to register. It went through the rail as much as over it, Egomorph's tendril shooting through the air after Vasilia as she made her desperate leap. The body carried its trajectory after her, ooze piling upon itself, all the momentum of its charge behind one single, grasping, hungry point. It was getting closer.

-Turn Summary-
-FastArmour [40 HP Casing around Hex]
-One for All [Link Hex & Ego's HP]
E1. Equip [unified body, Ego atop Hex]
1. Feint [ADVANCE]
2. Buster Charge
3. Movement [FOLLOW]
4. Buster Charge
E2. Command: Activate [Random Effect, mod rolls d10; 1TCD]
Possible Activations
1 - Hollow bodies rise from the pool, to be grifted on as disposable armour.
Effects: 2-Hit Shield (random ally)

2 - A cloud of crackling static bursts from the pool and settles over its creator.
Effects: 40 HP Barrier (random ally)

3 - Hex's pool is churned and agitated, seething with aggression.
Effects: Sig Chill (random ally)

4 - The pool directs its code to gather, corrupt, and rupture into a toxic haze of static that befouls all it settles over - even Hex itself.
Effects: Glitch 2 (indiscriminate target)

5 - Ego is pulled under. The pool lurks underfoot, feeling out its next target.
Effects: Burrow, Take Aim (Egomorph only)

6 - Hex or Ego begin moving erratically.
Effects: Haste (random ally)

7 - Tentacles rise from the pool, sensing, reaching out from every angle.
Effects: Accuracy Enhancement (random ally)

8 - A misshapen pile of sewn-together bodies is raised for cover. Upon its destruction, it bursts into a noxious slurry of energized matter, which is consumed by the white as fuel.
Effects: Summon 20 HP CorpseHeap (in front of random ally), Trap (When Destroyed): (15 Healing, random ally)

9 - The pool reaches out to eat at the terrain, growing stronger for the added mass.
Effects: Medium Cracked Terrain (random location), Strengthen 20 (random ally)

10 - Red light bleeds from the Conduit and surrounds Ego in a searing aura, damaging her but increasing her strength several-fold.
Effects: 60 Strengthen, Sacrifice 15 (Egomorph only)
5. Movement [CHARGE]
6. D̴̺͊̾I̴͍͍͛S̵͙̕Ȃ̸̢R̴͑͗͜M̷̺̑͝
As Hex arose and began to spill forth onto the network, a brief lurching moment of predator and prey passed between Vasilia and the writhing mass. The body formed up, covering itself in more data even as its mass stretched and expanded, while Vasilia started up her own emergency precautions. The navigator flinched backwards, beginning to back away and in a lurch, the White followed. Another step, a larger lurch, and then Vasilia began to flee.

As she made for the far end of the rest area, Hex followed after, giving chase. It moved, taking what remained of Ego with it, the remains of her ruined body displayed almost like some macabre deific martyr. It came on, gaining speed as it crossed the distance, unheeding of the attacks that Vasilia threw behind her. One long bounced and rolled, slamming into the mass of body parts and sinking in; the broken limbs and twisted remains cushioned it, then gripped on, wrapping themselves around the offending piece of data and drawing it into the white.

The second log struck the ground and upended itself, tumbling end over end to crash with full force into the ego-shaped body lure and the seething nightmare below at once, but though this seemed to ruin most of what remained of Ego's form, the log remained wedged upright in the white mass, driven partially through doll's shape. It shifted and twisted, beginning to be devoured as the horror surged forward.

The chase had become a sprint now, as Vasilia's feet thumped through the soft soil and Hex's mass became an onrushing torrent that consumed everything behind her. Ego's tether crackled and activated, but it was hard to tell what it had done immediately; there was no visible sign other than the pulsing red light (Effect: Sig Chill: applied to Command:Activate itself).

Just as grasping tendrils reached out to being curling around Vasilia's various parts, the navi heel-turned and dove to one side, going over the railing as much of Hex's bulk thundered past. Grasping hand-facsimiles and reaching tendrils lashed out, arresting its forward momentum and heaving it around to give chase again.

Free-falling for a moment, Vasilia transformed one hand to blast herself back under the platform and inward towards a lower walkway, perhaps hoping that the Hex mass would continue to fall to the much greater descent below them. The shot pushed her back easily, but even as it fired, the surging, twisting horror of the white pursuing blocked the light and filled her vision above. It oozed like a hungry flood down over the rail, while grasping parts shot out in every direction to grab onto the lower railing and stop it from falling further. Multiple tendrils continued to reach for Vasilia even as she pushed away from it; two caught onto her cannon hand and wrapped around it, followed by a sensation of hunger and screams.

Vasilia felt a tugging sensation, trying to pull her back towards it again, before she came free, landing roughly and rolling over twice to fetch up against the far railing of the crossing walkways below. She'd made it down safely, but she hadn't thrown off her pursuit. In the moment it took the navi to pick herself up, she could see the hideous mass of aberrant data clawing its way back up over the side of her new location. Two of its tendrils caught her eye for a moment; they had something. The cannon she had just fired was wrapped in white mass and cracks laced it, but the muzzled wavered before pointing itself towards Vasilia. It was enough to realise in that moment that the whole apparatus had been torn free; the hand that had helped her stand again was the only one she had right now. She couldn't feel her other hand at all any more.

This lower walkway split and branched; one led back into a high-rise building, with the faint green light of a wide archway marking it as a public entrance of some sort. To her left, a smaller gantry skipped over to a different building; there was a door, with a hand-print panel on one side, for access. In the centre of the area, directly between Vasilia and where Hex was in the process of mounting the railing, a broad spiral stairway, with an open central shaft, seemed to descend all the way to the ground, a long way below. The final path curved back upwards at a gradual angle, but it was obscured by a large yellow and green machine that was trundling along the walkway towards them. It had a selection of spinning brushes that were cleaning the path, and a smiling prog operating the controls. It seemed largely oblivious to the horror show that was unfolding before it.


-=The White=-
Hex: 125Hp [Over Missing, but stable][2 Buster Charges][ CannonModeEffect: Adds +20 Null and Knockback to your Buster Shot Attack.
Accuracy: Buster Accuracy = A
Description: Your Custom Weapon vanishes, and is replaced with a Cannon. Your buster returns to normal when the chip effect ends.
Duration: Number of Uses equal to double your Rapid stat. Cannot be Broken.
Element: Null
Special: Overrides Buster. Disables Charged Shot.
Trader Rank: D
successfully captured; 1 use remaining]
Egomorph.SP: 1Hp [on Hex]

-=The Witch=-
Vasilia.Exe: 120Hp [Normal][A Hand Down: Only one wield slot available for remainder of fight][Kick-Out: 2-Hit shield + Counter][Self-Slow]

-=The Walk-Way=-
60% Normal
  • No effects.
[Branching walkway]
40% Missing
  • Permanent bottomless hole.
  • Doubles dodge penalties for bad RP.
  • EJO if you fall in.
[A large drop; falling will not necessarily result in EJOs, merely a change of battlefield, or potentially an end to the chase if enough separation occurs]
Nothing had gone exactly as planned and the seperation between what was wished for and what was reality was startling at best for the novice Net Op and Navi team.

But this situation was no where near the best.

Frightening might be better term, or maybe horror film-esqe...it certainly brought a few black and white images to Sophia's mind as she watched the scene unfold on the moniter over her bike, completely focused on the pet and the screen and the meager pile of chips in front of her.

"Egomorph! I'm so sorry!" Vasilia's hands couldn't stop, couldn't slow their frantic actions as she tried to keep ahead of the surging tide. If she had been able to stop, if she had the time to spare they would have been cupped over her face in an expression of horror as the logs impacted against the broken doll. The one she had promised to try to save, the one she had wanted to protect-

Something sharp and painful lodged in the witch-puppet's chest as she tossed herself over the railing. It wasn't fear at the fall, she wouldn't remember the pain from something like this anyways, no the fear was in the kernal of memory that was sprouting panic at the sight of the bodies sticking out of the White's nightmarish mass and the words being spoken. The panic was in her hand being engulfed, in the familiar way her name was called.

"Vasilia!"

The panic was in the fact that even with her limb torn from her body and the connections that let her control it being snapped she could still feel it.

The realization hit her as her shoes hit the pathway and she staggered, her intact hand groping blindly at the spot her other one should be. She could feel it, still, could feel the tacky slime sliding over and around her, dragging at the hard edges and corners of the gun-shape it had assumed.

"It stole your gun? I'm sending you another chip! Start running!"

Sophia's voice wass foggy and distant but the little puppet still tried to do what she said. The puppet staggered away from where she had landed, letting for once the hands beneath her feet guide her with their incessant tugging.

Left foot, pause, right foot, pause.

More ungainly than even her normal steps and so slow, too slow. The hands grew frustrated. They scratched and scrambled and tore at the smooth pathway until it began crumbling to dust and dirt.

"MOVE Vassie! I can't send you another chip- I don't know why! It says something about a limit but- oh! Because it stole the chip! I still can't log you out, you have to run!"

Vasilia came back to herself with a start. Sophia was worried and it was the doll's job to stop that!

"Und- under- I got it! I'll get moving!" She suited words to action and twirled on one foot away from where she had been standing with the faint hope of avoiding the deluge. She surveyed Egomorph's remains once more while something tightened in her chest and crushed out the sharp pain before, smothered it under cold and a flash of an image of her body laying there instead.

She turned and fled.

There was a machine ahead of her. Her angle of vision was all wrong, she didn't see or didn't register the Mr. Prog perched in the driver's seat. She saw only the possibility offered by something bulky enough to obstruct the path and keep the White away.

1) I can feel myself being eaten! - do nothing
2) Shadows' puppet -> Dodge +Self Slow nerf
3) Dodge + Self Slow nerf
4-6) Movement -> Toward

Active
Kick-Out! - 2-Hit Shield and Counter(Last Shield broken): 10 Wood + Knockback + Self Slow

Cooldowns
Kick-Out! - 1/2

Chips Used

CannonMode
RollingLog1
Halfway-dangling over the long drop, the pool flattened and clung to the edge with veins and clinging protoplasm. Every hand that had made it over the rail smashed itself into the ground; unseen beneath the road, the shell's dangling edge split open at the seams. White slithered from the cracks in a snakes-nest of tentacles, climbing the patchwork body's jagged ridges and looping back into its own mass like an abstract ouroboros, jettisoning the hollow deadweight as it went. The logs were already cracking and splitting where they'd stuck fast - ooze mixed with wood pulp into a lumpy, bubbling semi-solid that tried to form teeth even as the white pulled it down to feed on. Through it all, two tentacles wound slowly over their capture with something like reverence. Its Administrator quantified the weapon wrapped over it, yes - but the hand within, and its connection to the mind that moved it was the white's true prize.

One scraped open a hole and made its entry. It was not quick.

Egomorph was the last thing to be dragged over the edge. A few scraps of white fabric were all that remained of the little girl Vasilia had found just minutes ago, now floating in a lumpy pustule that looked like nothing so much as a tumour on Hex's surface. Wood pulp fused like mortar with the skin that stretched over her bubble, and then she was a tumour with writhing tendrils and too many mouths. The Conduit hung pristine and untouched, if slightly dimmer from the white's damaged connection.

[Command: replicate] Its connection damaged, Hex's voice sounded farther away this time. The pool seeped and spread, eating itself a foothold on the walkway. All it consumed was taken under and digested into more oozing white, which Hex fed right back through its window, bolstering slightly the pillar-like connection that clung to the Net's underside. The oozing pile and its tumour visibly swelled with yet more mass. Ego's halos steadied some, glow intensifying - her many mouths gibbered and gnawed at each other. [Command: activate] The voice sounded closer; Egomorph remained a writhing but immobile beacon to its master. The white seemed to suck the light right out of the air, flaring bloodily from within as the energy it processed from itself was in turn digested, and converted into yet more mass and might.

Pulsing arhythmically and brimming with red luminescence, static humming deeper than bone., a flailing mess at the walkway's edge, the white almost hurt to look at. This, along with the slow, savouring burrow of tentacles into Vasilia's hand, as it continued its dizzying motion a few seconds after it had found its foothold, was not unintentional.

It lunged. The hunt renewed, the cacophony resumed like it had never paused. Hands upon hands smashed the ground in her wake, split themselves to shards only to vomit out more skittering fingers. As it neared, more and more hands started reaching around the Navi as much as for her. The amorphous mass crowded the path, herding her to the edges. Shards of a trademarked smile leaked out in places - the white knew the scent of Mr. Progs well, knew them to be empty and tasteless compared to the rich wealth that lay in a Navi's cortex. It had little use for the insubstantial mouthful ahead or the device it drove, and it wanted them gone (it wanted its prey helpless, alone).

Amidst the tangle of hands, Vasilia's own was raised against her on the end of a long coiled tendril - over far too many seconds, it had burrowed all the way through, the sharpened tip slithering out the cannon's cracked barrel. For a moment it swelled up, wooden fingers splintering as pressure built inside - so much so that when the tentacle shot after Vasilia, the cannon blew apart. A small forest of little feelers rose from the pool to sweep up the remains, careful not to miss a morsel. The tentacle flew with the force of a bullet and all the mass it could fit behind the amorphous blow - if it didn't go right through, the force alone was liable to send Vasilia tumbling off the ledge, just how Hex wanted her.

Whether she fell or continued to run, the white's hunger-driven tunnel vision kept it following her all the same. It was all around Vasilia, a constantly moving blur of whipping feelers and pounding, stamping legs that would not stop spurting from the pool. It had tasted her spark, her mind, and the force she could bring to bear. Now it was wary enough to add this extra layer of unpredictable terror to its pursuit, and prepared to retaliate in kind.

A tentacle grew from the writhing white grass. Studded along its length were the splinters of Vasilia's hand, woven with veins into cruel thorns that even still reached out for the once-them. Something in <heartwood/fractal/familiar> signalled through the connection of hands to the white, a fragment of a passage of growth. As the thorned whip came down in a lashing storm, Hex sought out that dormant seedling of self-outside-of-self in Vasilia's core; reached out to touch it, feed it, make it grow and bud and flourish and blossom.

-Turn Summary-
*FastArmour [40 HP Casing over Ego]
E1. Command: Replicate [30 Healing, Hex & Ego; 2TCD]
E2. Command: Activate [Random Effect; 1TCD]
Possible Activations
1 - Hollow bodies rise from the pool, to be grifted on as disposable armour.
Effects: 2-Hit Shield (random ally)

2 - A cloud of crackling static bursts from the pool and settles over its creator.
Effects: 40 HP Barrier (random ally)

3 - Hex's pool is churned and agitated, seething with aggression.
Effects: Sig Chill (random ally)

4 - The pool directs its code to gather, corrupt, and rupture into a toxic haze of static that befouls all it settles over - even Hex itself.
Effects: Glitch 2 (indiscriminate target)

5 - Ego is pulled under. The pool lurks underfoot, feeling out its next target.
Effects: Burrow, Take Aim (Egomorph only)

6 - Hex or Ego begin moving erratically.
Effects: Haste (random ally)

7 - Tentacles rise from the pool, sensing, reaching out from every angle.
Effects: Accuracy Enhancement (random ally)

8 - A misshapen pile of sewn-together bodies is raised for cover. Upon its destruction, it bursts into a noxious slurry of energized matter, which is consumed by the white as fuel.
Effects: Summon 20 HP CorpseHeap (in front of random ally), Trap (When Destroyed): (15 Healing, random ally)

9 - The pool reaches out to eat at the terrain, growing stronger for the added mass.
Effects: Medium Cracked Terrain (random location), Strengthen 20 (random ally)

10 - Red light bleeds from the Conduit and surrounds Ego in a searing aura, damaging her but increasing her strength several-fold.
Effects: 60 Strengthen, Sacrifice 15 (Egomorph only)
1. Dodge onto Normal
2. Feint [FLANK]
3. CannonModeEffect: Adds +20 Null and Knockback to your Buster Shot Attack.
Accuracy: Buster Accuracy = A
Description: Your Custom Weapon vanishes, and is replaced with a Cannon. Your buster returns to normal when the chip effect ends.
Duration: Number of Uses equal to double your Rapid stat. Cannot be Broken.
Element: Null
Special: Overrides Buster. Disables Charged Shot.
Trader Rank: D
: Vasilia [30 Null {A}, Knockback aimed to push off walkway]
4. Movement [CHASE]
5. Dodge
6. Entry [80 Null {A}, Break, Glitch; 3TCD]
The moment of horrified showdown only lasted for an instant, before the reality of Hex churning, consuming and regenerating from Vasilia's attacks saw it expand and spread ever more vigorously. Red energy crackled across the conduit and what remained of Ego's presence, before arcs or garbled code and sticky whit mass burst like popped boils to spatter the walkway and Vasilia herself with their senseless screaming gibberish.

In the brief stretch where she couldn't act, however, the incomprehensible infusion of distorted code sent a shock through her – it wasn't pleasant, but it startled the navi in a more galvanising way. There didn't seem to be sense fighting this... thing... but she could still get away from it, surely. A tingling in her systems said it had to be so. A wash of rough, energetic healing washed across her, and though it wasn't necessary right now, she also felt a swell in her own magic, almost like it was responding to the danger.

The white mass came on, and Vasilia started to run, retreating back across the lower walk towards the rising path where the cleaning machine trundled towards them. Hex followed, seemingly unheeding of all but its desired goal. As Vasilia began to vault over the cleaning machine, Hex levelled the pierced and cracked remnants of her own weapon at her, releasing a heavy whit mass that one of Vasilia's protective boots kicked up to deflect at the last moment. The impact spun the with navi around, however, and she stumbled back from her perch, precariously to the edge of both the machine, and the entire walkway as a result.

“HEY! THAT'S DANGEROUS!” A bright, jovial announcement from the cleaner prog in the driver's seat likely went unnoticed by both Vasilia and the monster pursuing her. Vasilia tottered, trying to keep her balance as the mass of Hex's form chased and lunged for her, thick tendrils lancing out to break and pierce and claim her. In a last desperate twist and shift of her body, Vasilia's foot slipped and in a jolting instant the doll found herself beginning to fall.

The stabbing thorned tentacle slammed through the space where she had been, embedding itself into the guys of the large machine instead, which immediately began to twist and mutate, crumpling and expanding as long, random grows of metal sprouted up and grew out of it in chaotic directions.

“OH NO! OH DEAR! OH NO!” in the midst of the swiftly unrecognisable machine mass, a muffled voice called out, but Hex was already swarming over the point where Vasilia had fallen; it could see the puppet dropping away, towards the ground far below, and it would only need to fling itself after her to catch up.

As she fell, the aberrant sensations coursing through her shifted and combined into a powerful pulse, deep in her core; it felt strange, not entirely comfortable, or pleasant, but it offered her strength and power, if only she could work out how to use it.


-=The White=-
Hex: 155Hp [Normal, Edge of the walk, directly above Vasilia][2 Buster Charges]
Egomorph.SP: 31Hp [Casing: 40/40Hp][on Hex]

-=The Witch=-
Vasilia.Exe: 120Hp [Falling over Missing][A Hand Down: Only one wield slot available for remainder of fight][Kick-Out: 1-Hit shield + Counter][Glitch: SAS Soul (Indefinite)]

-=The Walk-Way=-
20% Normal
  • No effects.
[Branching walkway]
80% Missing
  • Permanent bottomless hole.
  • Doubles dodge penalties for bad RP.
  • EJO if you fall in.
[A large drop; falling will not necessarily result in EJOs, merely a change of battlefield, or potentially an end to the chase if enough separation occurs]

Glitch Log


SAS Shortcut (Positive Glitch)(Mutable Glitch): The victim suffers a glitch in their signature Attack System which causes a more efficient and longer enduring function. Positive effects generated by signatures last for as long as this glitch does, unless their duration would already be longer. SPs and Navigators are treated as independent by this glitch; an SP whose navigator has allocated them personal signatures is unaffected if their navi has this glitch, and similarly an SP with this glitch finds only their personal signatures effected, without infecting their navi's. Lasts three turns, until combat ends, or removed with Status Cure, Glitch Eater or other similar effect.

Growth Catalyst (Positive Glitch)(Catalytic Glitch): The victim suffers a temporary protective or restorative effect, randomly determined, and taking effect immediately upon application. This effect lasts only until the end of the turn. At the end of the turn, the Glitch checks for any Mutable Glitches in the victim's system. If none are present, the glitch is dispelled. If a Mutable Glitch is present this glitch interacts with that one, and creates a new, long-term glitch of a related nature to one or the other, or both. If the Mutable Glitch and the Catalytic Glitch are of different natures (Positive, Negative, Balance), the new form will be either Balance, or the nature of the Catalytic Glitch. If multiple Mutable Glitches exist, one is randomly selected. Glitch lasts only for the turn that it is applied.

SAS Soul (Positive Glitch): The victim's Signature Attack System briefly defies all code logic. Signatures have no cooldown and can all be used once per turn. Positive effects generated by signatures endure indefinitely (or until destroyed as usual in the case of defences), instead of their listed duration, as long as this glitch remains. This includes enhancements, such as Haste, body defences, such as shadow and multi-turn/action benefits such as regeneration effects. Any time the victim uses a signature with a beneficial effect on themselves, they spontaneously regenerate 10Hp. Glitch lasts until combat ends, or removed with Status Cure, Glitch Eater or other similar effect.