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!"