Kotobuki Fire Station

"Aww yeah there's that Big G!"

"Oh, there he is! You get lost or summat?"



The fire hall was full enough for Griffin to earn a well-deserved fanfare as he walked in, grinning to beat the band. While he recognized some of the volunteers from their afternoon's entertainment, everyone who'd ridden the engines back to the station had had time to wash the housefire off. Having stayed behind to finish handing things off to the EMTs, Griffin had missed his ride, and was still a mite blackened and singed around the edges. He had clearly transited through the city in his athletic skivvies, turnout over his shoulder, and doubtlessly left a trail of dusty footprints and smudged handrails behind him. The boys found this hilarious.

Finally the career fireman managed to escape the backslaps and jackassery, and after a bark through the captain's office door to 'WASH THEM MITTENS, BOI' and the ensuing scramble to comply, Griffin was collapsing into an open spot on the lounge couch. After plugging his PET in to charge, he keyed it open and flipped through a few tabs. All of them were lit green.

"You awake in there, ScorchMan? How're you feeling?" he asked the device. Someone handed him a bottle of bright red sport drink, a tribute he gratefully accepted, and immediately drained half in one down-the-hatch.

The screen lit up, first in a thermal red welter, then in wireframes, and then ScorchMan was yawning on Griffin's homepage. He took a moment to process the question, looking down and rubbing his chin for a moment like he wasn't sure how to answer. "Good," he nodded to himself at last, "I'm feeling pretty good." He sounded surprised to hear himself say so. His hand slipped under his visor to scratch his face. "I'll be honest with you, Griffin, I wasn't sure I was going to win that one." he spoke quietly - he could hear other people moving around the station.

"Right with ya there, dude," Chuckling, Griffin's head tipped back to hit the pillow. "I had no damn idea what I was doing for most of it," he admitted. The couch was working his magic: the more his muscles relaxed, the lower his filters dipped. "Kept wanting to jump off the bench and break through a wall, but I had to be all strategic instead. Was a damn trip."

"Heh..." ScorchMan kept stretching and flexing experimentally, prodding his stomach where the seeker-beast had stung him. Nothing hurt, somehow. Griffin's words were ringing a backward sort of familiar; idly, he poked at the thought to see how it would unspool. "It was like...firefighting, in reverse," he realized, "Right? I was doing your job bashing around in the fire, and you were doing my job feeding me the where and how!"

Griffin digested that a moment. Then, as his mind was expanded, "...Huh!" He sat back, turning the idea over in his head and finding it very much to his liking. "Dude, that's awesome. We're all, like, learning from each other, how cool is that!"

"Yes...we are, aren't we?" ScorchMan murmured, his head churning. After a moment he spoke up, "Not to change the subject, but we got a tidy little sum from pulling that off, right?" The number was in his head, but there was no telling how much Griffin had spent already. "You mind if I...?"

"Hm? Yeah, of course, go ahead! You damn well earned it...so, you want me to jack you in?"

A thoughtful hum. "The PET's already hardwired, I can do it. Only...you think I could try making the trip myself? I could use the practice, if we're gonna do this again." Left unsaid was a strange desire for time away from his Operator. ScorchMan wondered how one gave voice to that sort of thing.

Griffin blinked. "Yeah," he managed, feeling a fine-grain blend of pride and wistfulness, "Course, ScorchMan. I'll set you up with a call for a GuideProg if you need it, alright?" He held the little screen to his face in time to catch the Navi's grateful look. "Right on. Well, have fun, dude."

"See you in a bit," ScorchMan nodded, and vanished in a red streamer of light.

<(To Navi Net Shop)>
<(From Navi Net Shop)>

By the time ScorchMan returned, the station was quiet. The distant rumble of traffic had dwindled to almost nothing; night must have fallen. There was a familiar light snoring nearby, but ScorchMan couldn't hear anyone else. Not the bunkroom, then. Had Griffin moved at all since he'd jacked in?

The urge was strong to call out, and start filling in the blanks in his awareness. And yet, Griffin's steady breathing lent the atmosphere a calm softness. They weren't going anywhere, and their agenda was clear until morning. Off-call nights were opportunities for ScorchMan to take time for himself, and he had plenty of thinking with which to occupy himself.

Most of the Navi's headspace was dominated by his recent excursion, and the giant lava-spider he'd fought. The shard of carapace he'd taken as a trophy was passed from hand to hand, belying his agitation. Just recalling the adrenaline was enough to make his furnace crackle in anticipation of a fight. He'd heard of Cybeasts and the destructive force they codified - this hadn't seemed lethal enough to qualify, but it had been far too large for a Netborne virus. Could it have been a fledgling of some sort? A mutant? There were too many gaps in his knowledge to say.

Did it matter what it was? Some strange inkling was trying to tell ScorchMan it did. Only, how did he start filling in the blanks? Griffin was unlikely to be much help, at least without him actually finding where it laired. Other Navis, then - track the monster Net-side, enlist help. The PET should have kept track of where he'd fought the spider-beast. Would he have to dive into the lava where it'd escaped, assuming it hadn't been cleaned up already? Other Navis that could handle submersion in lava, then.

A plan began to take shape, but first..."Griffin, did you fall asleep on the couch again?" A thump and a muffled curse. "You sure did, huh?" ScorchMan allowed himself a chuckle at his Operator's expense (moderation was key, or else he'd be stuck laughing at his Operator all day). "At least hit the bunks if you're gonna sleepover at the station, dude," he chided, touch-typing open a BBS with practised motions.

"Aight, yell if you need me..." Voice low with sleep, Griffin shuffled out of the room, PET in hand. ScorchMan gave a hum of assent and listened for the clatter of being set back on a nightstand. A quick command muted the simulated clack of his keyboard while keeping the haptic feedback, and then he was typing into the night, alone once more with his thoughts and his Operator's snorfling.