The Park

Zeo strolled casually down an ACDC Park path, PET in hand. Passersby could potentially hear him bickering with his Navi, but it would be a bit difficult to tell what they were talking about.

"...and last time was fine, since it was your neck on the line. For all we know, it's some kind of Net terrorist looking for hostages," ViralMan's voice argued. Zeo sighed. "You've been telling me to be more social. Well I'm including you in the plan. And the chances of you being kidnapped in the busy NetSquare are highly unlikely. Relax." Inside the PET, ViralMan crossed his arms. He wasn't really worried about being attacked, he simply wasn't sure what he would have in common with a Navi dressed like a schoolgirl.

With any luck, someone else would respond like that odd message before Zeo's. Then maybe it would be easier. The Navi removed his helmet and looked up. "Yeah, fine. Let's go. But if anything goes wrong, I'm blaming you for doing this while I could be getting more chips or something."

His operator smiled. "Come on, you're way better at conversation than me, right? You'll be fine. Remember, the Navi's name is Seli," he finished, pointing the PET at a phone booth terminal and sending the Navi to the Net.
Walking casually out of the Chip Shop, Harke stretched his limbs for a bit and cracked his knuckles. The sun was striking down on his hair, and he enjoyed the warmth that the infrared radiation gave him. Holding his PET in hand, he slotted in the new chip he bought to examine its contents. As he did so, Eternalis came up in a hologram near his shoulder.

Hey, Harke, whatcha doing? he asked.

Just slicing and dicing with your signature system. I'm removing your Force Cannon, just so you know, Harke said.

What?! Hey, man, that's my favorite move! EXPLAIN, his Navi retorted.

Cool down, Et. I've nearly doubled your recovery processes, so you should be nigh on invincible. And I've added a function for you to make ice to wreak havoc on your enemies. Plus, have you checked the stats on this awesome chip I got? he explained.

... Fine. Where're you sending me?

Sharo networks. Should get more in tune with ice there. You've already had your share of water everywhere else.

Are you- Never mind, all right, send me in.

Glad we had our understanding, Harke said as he looked around for somewhere to jack in. Sitting down at a bench, he looked at the nearby familiar pink squirrel. He was a bit too lazy to get up, so he looked around in his PET functions. Ah, the wireless. He pointed the PET straight at the input, and transmitted Eternalis' signal.

Jack in, Eternalis, Transmission!
"Thunder...oi. At least I got that neat WindRacket chip!" While still bitter over losing to the chip trader yet again, Sabrina made her way to the park, seemingly oblivious to the familiar faces in it. "Oh well. All ready to get started, SplashMan?"

"Hang on a sec. That does that even work? I mean, you keep all your chips in the pocket on the outside of your PET. What does it even do?"

"Well, even though I don't keep the data internally, I still have to have my folder registered in my PET, right? MegaFolder expands that data, so I can register more chips in it!"

"Nice! You really know your stuff now!"

"Well, I didn't spend a minute reading the description at the shop for nothing!" All right, time for the Net once again. "We're going back to Rogue Yoka, so we can get some awesome Aqua chips! I'm guessing you're okay with that?"

"Of course! I've never really seen it with my own eyes, so it'll be neat!"

"Then we've got ourselves a plan!" Let's see...set destination to Yoka...Rogue Net access confirmed...nothing left to do but...this! "Jack in! SplashMan, Execute!"

(to Rogue Yoka for I!)
Looking around the Park, Harke found time to relax and watch the skies roll by as he finished his operating for the short period. The rolling clouds walked by, and he counted the numbers that looked familiar. Dragon head, potato, elephant, rhinoceros, potato, armadillo, potato... Okay, this was getting more and more pointless by the second. Bored to death, he looked at somewhere other than the sky, and happened upon someone familiar. His face went from fair to bright beetroot red in one single moment. Nerve impulses flew from his brain to his mouth, causing his voice to kick in an involuntary action.

S-Sabrina?! he blurted out, rather out of place for a greeting, but what was, was. He wanted to kick himself for that, but no time for antics! Time for damage control!

H-hey, Sabrina! Over here! he called in her direction slightly louder, enough not to draw too much attention. At least, that was what he hoped. Damn, good thing Eternalis, or, eh, call him Elly, was in a battle right now. Else he'd give him hell for this.
Sabrina let out a sigh of relief upon seeing that her Navi would most likely escape his battle unscathed. Yep, WindRacket definitely looked like it was going to be a good buy. Kinda made her wonder why it was so cheap...overstocked, maybe?


Huh? That voice sounded familiar...a look in its direction revealed the source, one Harke Ezraith. That probably explained why she knew that voice. "Oh, hey Harke!" The Netopian girl walked over towards the rather shy individual, smiling. "Been a while! So, how's it going?"
Oh, I'm fine, Harke replied with a bit of red still left in his face, mostly in his cheeks. Flustered, he felt really uncomfortably hot just then. That last encounter with Sabrina turned out to be rather shattering for his confidence. However, he continued on.

You look especially fine today. How's SplashMan holding up? Still venturing into Rogues, I assume?

Crap, crap, crap. Harke's hands were slightly sweating, even trembling a bit if examined closely. He tried to focus on happy thoughts, searching in his mind for something to grasp and control himself. Finally, he settled on the bread he had eaten at the apartment earlier. Focusing on its crunchy texture and subtle sweetness, he steeled himself. Then, he reached out in the normal social gesture: shaking hands, although his hands could do the shaking by itself already, which he tried most valiantly to stop so that Sabrina wouldn't see it.
Ah, nothing like compliments to make a girl feel even better than usual. "Thanks! SplashMan's fine, we're doing some Rogue Net busting right now!" Speaking of which, a chip popped out of her PET, resulting in cheering and immediate folder editing. It only took a moment, but still..."Sorry about that, just got excited. Just got a WideShot2, woo!"

With that delightful rhyme, she extended her hand and gave Harke's a good shake. Luckily for him, she probably wouldn't have noticed his own shaking if she had tried. "So, how's Eternalis doing? Gotten some Aqua chips for him yet? I remember you never using any when we busted before..."
Okay, situation analysis. Sabrina didn't seem to notice his hand shake, or maybe that was just stored in the deep recesses of the female mind? Gah, he was being overly paranoid here. Gotta take control of the situation. Now, breathe. Okay, breathed. What was she saying? Something about... Eternalis, right, right. His Navi.

You're easily excited, it seems. Anyway, Eternalis is doing just fine. We did a lot of things since that day. Busted around a bit, whacked some heads. Got my first Aqua chip, WideShot. Hmm, wait a minute, you just got the second version, about now, right? WideShot2? Harke said, stealing a look at the chip that popped out from Sabrina's PET earlier. Yep, the same picture, except with a different color palette.

So, yeah, we just got out from an SP mission. My dad programmed one for me, and Et's fighting with her right now. We're busting in Sharo so that we can try and get more Aqua chips. Yoka seems a little... weak for my tastes. The battle-hardened landscapes of Sharo is what it's all about! Harke finished, a shine in his eyes. As he did so, his PET beeped, prompting Harke to check it. The PET warranted a screen touch or two before a chip slid out. He examined the chip.

Hmm, IceCube. Bah, I got a rock, the operator mused, before shrugging to himself and putting it into his chip pocket.

Oh, well. A chip's a chip. Can't just throw it away, now can we? Harke asked Sabrina, though it was really more of a rhetorical question than anything else.
After sending his Navi off to the NetSquare, Zeo kept walking through the park. Soon he reached the iconic pink squirrel and smiled. "Hey, the squirrel. Haven't seen that in a while." As he approached the statue, he noticed that there was some people standing nearby talking. He didn't want to look suspicious by walking alone in the park. But no one would consider someone suspicious simply for going for a walk. Zeo finally decided to walk over to the squirrel and studied it. "Huh, could have just jacked in here. I'll remember that for next time," he said to himself.

Oh well, time to get out of there. Nothing else to do, and standing around staring at pink squirrels would be considered odd, if not suspicious. Zeo took a few steps past the statue before realizing that he knew one of the people he'd walked past. One of the girls from the tournament lounge? Yes, that was it. Now he needed her name, which came pretty easily. Sabrina. Should I go over and say hello...? Maybe she's on a date or something. Without ViralMan there to force him over, he was feeling a bit indecisive.

Zeo weighed his options. The guy Sabrina was already with didn't look like some kind of overprotective boyfriend, so he supposed saying hello would be alright. He attempted to steel himself mentally like he had at the lounge. There wasn't that many people, so he would be fine. He walked the relatively short distance over to Sabrina and her companion, straightened his baseball cap and raised a hand in greeting. Of course, he unfortunately wasn't done. He then had to open his mouth and choke out a greeting as steadily as possible.

"Hello again," Zeo said to Sabrina. He hoped it didn't look like he was ignoring the other guy.
Sharo, huh? Come to think of it, she'd never even checked that place out. "You know, I've never been to Sharo Area. Though if it's like Sharo, it'd be a little too harsh for my taste. I love Yoka's relaxed atmosphere! Even the Rogue Net somehow feels a little calmer than other areas!"

And then, it looked like Harke got a chip, too. What'd he call it? IceCube? "Huh, never heard of IceCube before!" A quick checked revealed that it was basically an Aqua-element RockCube. "Huh...neat. Not my kind of chip, though...I'm more into offense based stuff!" Still, it WAS an Aqua chip, so admittedly Sabrina was a little jealous. But only a little.

"Hello again."

Oh hey, someone else she already knew. What was his name...oh, right, Zeo. "Hey Zeo! Been a little while!" Hmm...somehow, she doubted the two guys had ever met. She should change that. "So, Harke! This is Zeo, who I met in the Colosseum Lounge during that big NetBattle tournament! Zeo, this is Harke, who I met, uh...right here, come to think of it!"
"So, Harke! This is Zeo, who I met in the Colosseum Lounge during that big NetBattle tournament! Zeo, this is Harke, who I met, uh...right here, come to think of it!"

Crap, it's a fresh face. Situation analysis. Okay, this Zeo guy, about as tall as he was, maybe shave off an inch or two. Blue jacket, black shirt, ooh, Spikey design. Not too buff-looking, looks kinda shy and timid-like. Okay, looking at Jetto over there, doesn't look like he's a match enough to be her 'special' friend or anything closely-related. Far, far from it. Phew, good. Wouldn't want a confrontation or anything crazy like that.

Hey, Zeo, Harke greeted with a cheerful smile. Harke, Harke Ezarith. Nice to meet you. He returned the small greeting Zeo had given with a reciprocation, raising his hand as the guy had done.

So, Netbattle tournament, huh? Sounds kinda cool, though I wish I could've entered. I've just gotten Eternalis and my PET here, Harke said, lifting up his PET for the newcomer to see, just a week ago or something. So you met this guy in the Colosseum Lounge, was it, Sabrina? Combatant or something? he inquired casually. Realizing his manners, he raised his right hand to shake with the guy. Casually.
Okay, so Sabrina's other friend wasn't some kind of overprotective boyfriend. That was good. He seemed like a nice enough guy, so Zeo tried to respond as promptly and coherently as possible.

"Nah, I was only there to spectate. I didn't realize there was a tournament going on until the first round was over," Zeo laughed, returning Harke's handshake. "Sabrina's already partly informed you, but I'm Zeo Yamikagi, just to make it official." Wow, he was doing really good at this. Not one stutter so far. Wait, what was there to talk about now? If he opened his mouth without thinking he'd probably start stuttering. Harke had seemed to ask his question to both Zeo and Sabrina, but he figured he ought to add something on.

Zeo gave Sabrina a few moments to get whatever she intended to say out, then made a landmark attempt at starting a conversation. "Yeah, I'll probably sign me and my Navi up for the next tournament, where or whenever they have it. Although if the champion of the most recent tournament decides to enter the next one, we could be in trouble," Zeo noted, thinking of Red's win at the Colosseum and smiling. "Or maybe Sabrina and her Splash..." he paused to find the right word. "...Splash duo could take on the tournament champion." He wasn't sure what else he could say, but he figured that what he had said could elicit a response from Sabrina and keep the conversation going.
Good, now everyone knew each other. Sabrina thought for a second about what to say next, then opened her mouth for the enusing inner answer. "Yeah, I'd like another crack a tournament, personally. Even though it wasn't long ago, I think I'd do a lot better this time around! Maybe let everyone actually use their own folders...half of the chips in the one I had to use I'd never seen before! ...But either way, I'm pretty sure I couldn't beat the champ. There's no way SplashMan's improved that much..."

...Speaking of the champ, she never had bothered to find out who won the dang thing. This might sound bad considering she entered, but..."Come to think of it...who won the tourney, anyway? I wasn't around for the final fight, so..."
Zeo Yamikagi, then. He'll have to keep that in mind for later, though that was one heck of a difficult name. Maybe after trading e-mails he'd get to keep some sort of business card that he'd be able to draw that particular info from.

Wait, what did that Zeo guy say? Sabrina and her Splash... duo? As far as the operator knew, Sabrina had only one Splash-guy or whatever, and that was the SplashMan he'd busted with some time ago. Hey, Sabrina? What's Zeo mean by Splash duo? You got another Navi 'sides SplashMan? With effect, he did a questioning, kind of puzzled face. Oh wait, here come more questions. Something about beating the champ? Hmm, yeah, he did read something about it in the news feed earlier in the morning.

Who was the victor... Oh yeah. Yeah, I read this morning's news feed. The victor was some Red Riding Hood, I think. Against, uh, Piano- Pia- Peamisseemo, I think. Assassin-type. She got a fortune's worth of zenny, twenty five thousand or something, if I'm not mistaken. And get this, I read something about it that her operator spent the whole load on nothing but upgrades and chips! Man, that Red must be one heck of a fighter, he finished with a laugh. He felt it was appropriate, hopefully his companions would think so as well.
"Yep...kinda. They have to share some of the same core programs, but I do have a second Navi!" Since she wasn't in a battle for a moment, Sabrina started going through some menus, eventually reaching her destination: an image of what appeared to be a sleeping, mermaid-like Navi. She presented the find to Harke. "See? This is SplashLady, my other Navi! She's gotten a lot of work lately, so she's taking a nice, long nap while SplashMan gets some action!"

" that's who won it." Red...that didn't sound familiar. However, something about that Pianissimo Navi rung a bell. A very faint bell, but a bell none the less. "Well, it'd be neat to meet that Red one day! So long as they aren't the kind of Navi that lets stuff like that go to their head..." Ugh, her brother was incredibly bad about that sort of thing, so she was pretty sensitive about it. Speaking of that chip nut, she couldn't help but wonder what the prizes were for the top two. Fortunately, it being a noteworthy story, it wasn't hard to look up. "...Wow. The winner got 25000z and a Sanctuary Battlechip. The runner-up got a I really wish I hadn't been knocked out of the first round! Eh heh heh..." Sabrina let out a nervous laugh, having actually been half-serious about that last remark.
Bending forward to see the little screen, Harke examined the small representation of Sabrina's second Navi. Would you look at that, Harke thought. A mermaid-form Navi. Not something you'd find everyday. Whoops, he was kind of staring. Break, break. Hm, SplashLady... I see.. So if they'd share the same core programs, wouldn't that mean that they'd be on the battlefield at the same time, instead of one of them having a snooze now? he inquired.

Then, the remark about the tournament. Harke immediately tapped a few keys on his PET and brought up a screen in front of him, showing him the statistics of the chips mentioned. Sanctuary, looked like some sort of ground chip that... halves all damage? Wow, that'd be useful in a pinch. And the other is... VariableSword, a sword that, well, the name explains the use pretty matter-of-factly. His mind began to wander about, calculating the possibilities of him owning the chips that were staring him right in the face, staring up at the sky. Soooooo coooool.

Falling into an impromptu daydream, the act caused him to forget where he was for a mere instant, but that small moment was enough for his consciousness to ignore gravity's pull on his back. Slowly, slowly, aaaaand...


Legs in the air, head on the ground, one major blunder. Not what he wanted to show off. Well, his head was on grass and not concrete. That was something to be thankful for. At least his brain isn't haemorrhaging or some shit like that. Then, the painful impulses reached his head, and he did what anyone would do when cranium meets hard surface.

"Well, they don't share ALL of their core programs...though, I dunno all the details, since my brother created her..." As soon as Sabrina uttered those words, Harke just about did a 180 degree backflip. That...wasn't exactly swift. She bent over, getting a closer look at the situation. "Hey, are you okay?"

"Back, Sabrina!" Oh hey, her active Navi was back. "So, where to next?"

"Well, we could always do Yoka again. But Harke falling just then made me think of somewhere else. How about Sharo Area? We've never busted there, and it should be good for some Aqua chips!"

"Sounds like a plan!"

Shifting her gaze towards the squirrel again, the Netopian girl went through the whole prompt thing, making sure the Internet knew she gave her blessings to her Navi tearing up more advanced viruses. "Jack in! SplashMan, Execute!"

With that, she returned her focus to the fallen one in front of her. "So, seriously, you okay? Because that looked like it hurt..."
After Sabrina showed SplashLady to Harke, Zeo took a step closer to the bench to glance inside the PET. She was the same as last time, so it hadn't really been necessary, but...


A few moments after Harke saw SplashLady, he started daydreaming and fell back right on his head. Onto grass, thankfully. Zeo figured it would be more prudent to show some kind of concern, even though he was sure he'd taken worse spills. That didn't occur to him though, as some natural social instinct instead forced him to show concern anyway. Apparently he had that much social experience. "Woah, Harke!" the teen exclaimed as the guy headbutted the ground. "..." Zeo wasn't sure what to say. That was pretty random... he thought.

Stepping around the bench to where Harke had ended up, he looked down and smiled. "Um, are you okay? Sabrina's right, that kinda looked like it hurt." Zeo rubbed the back of his neck. "Thinking hard about something?" he asked. "I've heard that people have done that and just forgot to stay sitting up." Now he was rambling. Time to shut up and help him up. Then again, that could first require Harke to get his legs away from the bench. Zeo figured he'd ask, just to be nice. "Um, do you need a hand?" he asked timidly, sliding his PET into its holster and offering Harke a hand.
Arg, he definitely wasn't expecting that. Instinctively, his hand reached for the spot behind his head and touched it, sending more signals of pain through his brain. Reflexes prevented him from probing any further, though it's safe to say that it'll leave quite a bruise for the rest of the day. Looking up, he saw Zeo's outstretched hand and managed to crack a smile, despite the throb in his skull. He reached up for the offering, and heaved himself up. Not looking forward to sitting down again in case he let his guard down, he opted to stand instead.

Ah, I'm okay, I'm okay. This happens to me a lot, he lied, still managing to flash his weak smile, though it was faltering and falling apart for every second he held it. It doesn't hurt at all, heh. He winced and hoped Sabrina wouldn't see it, as a little knock on the head counting as major injury definitely does NOT look like material a real man would be made of.

Turning to Zeo, he thanked him sheepishly, Thanks.
Unfortunately for Harke, Sabrina had seen every moment of the fall, after flinching and all. Except for the few that she hadn't, but it was still more than enough to have an idea what had happened. Luckily for him, however, it looked like he hadn't seen her see him do that. Maybe she should just pretend she never saw it?

"That looked kinda nasty...are you sure you're all right?" Sure, that wince made it kinda obvious he wasn't 100%, but since she was playing Looked like SplashMan was done. Ooh, plenty of cash. Enough to get more stuff. "Listen, guys. There's a couple things I need to do real quick. But I'll be back, so don't go anywhere!" And with that, whoosh! She was gone. ...All the way across the street to the chip shop.

...But not for long, as Sabrina, true to her word, arrived back at the park before anyone had a chance to miss her. "Back! Sorry about that, just needed to do something!" And without missing a beat, the squirrel found itself with one more Navi inside it. "Jack in! SplashMan, Execute!"