Swift's Expedition

Swift plodded up out of the quagmire known as the Metroline, sipping a thermos of coffee he had brought with him. He grimaced. Too much cream in this particular blend had given the drink the distinct aftertaste of soap. He took another sip regardless: Coffee was coffee, even if it meant washing one's mouth out with soap. He chuckled at he thought. "So, Gunner, you ready?"
"For what?" Gunner replied flatly, "More waiting?" His mood had soured considerably: the rush prompted by this new NetSquare had caused Metro travel to grind almost to a halt, and Gunner did not enjoy waiting.
"We've been out of practice for a while... I've decided to restart your training in ACDC." On the PET screen, a grin spread across the navi's face, moments before he was decompiled into a series of translucent blue cubes and sent hurtling into the Net.
((Maestro, if you please!))
"What the hell?" Swift eyed his PET screen with distaste. It proudly bore the flickering image of a swarm of hornets in a blizzard, known to most as static interference. This deeply worried Swift... Before the feed to his PET has stopped, Gunner had been on the brink of death.
Deletion, he reminded himself. It's not that final. It's just deletion. However, this did little to soothe his worries. After one or two experimental whacks at the PET's cover, Swift sighed and depressed a button on the handle. Looked like he was going to have to call upon those rusty old hacking skills of his. A keyboard slid from the PET's base with agonizing slowness. No sooner had it heralded its full deployment with a proud click than the boy began frantically tapping his fingers against the keys, trying to code his way out of whatever it was.

The static flickered and resolved into something for brief moments before departing again into the bug-infested blizzard. With renewed hope, Swift redoubled his efforts... Of course, that only really amounted to typing faster, but it was something.

"It's not a gap in the network... It's not hardware failure, or software for that matter..." The youth muttered absently to himself. Passersby couldn't help but wonder what this strange lad was up to. "It's -- Interference!? From inside the Net!" This epiphany came at full volume. An old lady with a dog stopped to stare at Swift, a look of sheer confusion on her face. However, he didn't notice; he had more important things to attend to. If Gunner was deleted... Well, he didn't know what would happen. The holster on his back had been a point of much speculation for him ever since it had bonded to Gunner at the expense of his ability... That was back when he was only known as NOU-001. The holster was not strictly a part of his programming; what would happen if he was deleted? He had to reinstate the emergency jack-out routines, at the very least.

With one last prod, it was done. The impetuous static still remained, mocking him with its impassable yet seemingly flimsy wall. However, he had regained contact with Gunner. Without thinking, he slid the last of his chips into the PET's cool plastic body... The Flameline1 and the Zapring. Neither was very useful, but they were better than nothing.

The static flickered again. Swift leaned in close, peering at the screen intently. It was just like one of those "VHS" systems from way back when, when you had to adjust the tracking just so or the picture would do just this. A near-solid bar of white skidded nonchalantly across the static. Nothing was happening after all. Swift sighed. The moment the breath left his lips, the static gave a last violent heave before resolving into...


What WAS that?

A grinning inhuman face on a slate of blackness... Was this what was keeping him from seeing what was going on in the Net?

"Damnit..." Swift raised his fist with the intention to bring it down right upon this strange creature's smiling visage. Such an action would undoubtedly break the screen, though, and this phantom would be no worse for wear. His arm slowly sank to his side... He was helpless. There was nothing to do but hope.

((Sorry for the crappy image))
Swift breathed a sigh of relief as the unconscious form of Gunner formed inside the PET. At least he was safe, now. He walked into the Metroline, idly tossing the now-empty thermos to himself. Looked like he was headed to Scilabs... To buy upgrades, meet a new partner... He glanced mornfully into the thermos' depleted depths. And above all, get more coffee. He climbed onto the train to Scilab, politely tipping his fedora to the attendant before he could notice the youth hadn't shown him a pass.