Miles Above the World

"Mr. Miles? Are you feeling alright?"

The man blinked, coming back to reality. In front of him stood one of his students; he wracked his brain to try and recall her name (Shigehara, he was pretty sure...) before deciding to forego it entirely. "But of course I am! Of course!" he waved off the concern. "Just been...distracted by science, is all! By science, I say!" What was he doing?

Whatever he was doing, Shigehara(?) didn't seem to know either...or look very convinced. Instead, her gaze fell to the PET sitting dark and empty on his desk. "Is Ms. Phase still missing?" she murmured, looking back up (despite his seated position, he couldn't help but note) at him. He stared back through his glasses, making her fidget, until finally nodding slowly. The schoolgirl worried the hem of her sera-fuku for a moment, then blurted out, "I hope she comes back soon!" and bolting out of the classroom.

Vincent Miles stared at the door for some time, then leaned back in his chair and directed his piercing gaze to the ceiling. "Me too, too," he breathed, reaching behind his glasses to rub at his tired, shadowed eyes. Countless searches across every Net-scape he frequented, call after call with the NetPolice, every favour he could recall being owed, and it all amounted to nothing. Phase had just...disappeared, like a whisper in the wind. This was nothing new, as she often skipped off to Vaccine to hang out with her coworkers, but she hadn't come home that night, and nobody at Vaccine had known anything.

The anxiety and pure, unadulterated fear of a parent losing their child had gnawed through Vincent's nerves with all the inevitability of Nidhoggr beneath the world tree. The students of his physics classes couldn't help but notice the steady decline, over the course of the week without Phase: his twice-spake verbal tic exaggerated to comical levels, his piercing gaze gained an extra shadow, and the man could've sworn his hair was getting grayer. "Please, Phase," he prayed aloud to the empty room, "please be alright."

The room, as expected, offered no comment to its inhabitant.

Sighing, Vincent made a half-hearted attempt at getting a head-start on grading the stack of tests in front of him, but threw in the towel two pages into the first stapled booklet. Instead, he jammed the papers into his battered old briefcase, packed the rest of his things, and leaned forward to carefully lever himself to full height. His prodigious 7'8" frame just fit within floor and ceiling of the small classroom, supported with the help of his cane and the braces supporting his legs beneath his navy trousers. Moving with great economy of motion, Vincent ducked through the comparatively-tiny doorframe, and started down the empty hallway, all the while carrying the face of his virtual daughter in his mind.


The plating Vincent had long-since covered his PET with had a tendency to ring like a brass bell anytime the PET's phone rang. The result was a clanging cacophony that never failed to wake Vincent, no matter how deep the nap. His baseball mitt-sized hand scrabbled across the coffee table for a moment, butterfingers-ing the PET several times before he finally got a proper hold and activated the video call. "Yeah?" he muttered, still rubbing sleep from his eyes and straightening up on his oversized sofa. Replacing his glasses, a familiar face sharpened into focus. "Leif? Good to see you, man, good to see you," he offered a wan smile, pleasant despite circumstances.

The smaller man's expression looked as though he didn't know whether to be happy or sad. He confirmed Vincent's observation the moment he spoke, "Vincent...well, I've got good news, and bad news. The good news, we've found Phase; she's at Vaccine, Ion's got her."

It was a curious sensation, Vincent noted, having all the very worst of his fears be put to rest at once. It felt rather like the disproportionate amounts of stress were being wrung out like dirty water from an old dishrag, leaving him limp and dried out and curiously light. Phase was alive...Phase was alive! Euphoria was quick to set in, and in two gargantuan steps he'd crossed the room to his crusty old desktop. It was only thanks to Leif, realizing through the vid-call what Vincent was doing and shouting, "Hold on a sec!" that kept the giant from immediately opening a window in the homepage to see his Navi. "I haven't told you the bad news yet," he continued, his face grim and shadowed with old horrors.

Vincent was stone-faced as Leif told him the tale of Phase's arrival: battered and panicking, her mind fractured under the heavy weight of whatever she'd seen in her week away. "...I can't say anything for certain; Ion's still calming her down...but Vincent, whatever you do, don't push her. She's just been through something horrible, whatever it was, and she's going to need time to recover. Be there for her, and let her come to you, okay?" None of Vaccine's NetOps had put much time into getting to know one another, but Vincent could tell that the younger man was speaking from past experience. A comparative stranger to the world of trauma recovery, he had no choice but to take Leif on his word, and nod mutely. "Good. Now, hook your PET up to the homepage; I'll let Phase know you're here. Take care, man." The vid-call ended, and the giant found the earlier euphoria had gone decidedly cold.

Dutifully, Vincent established a link from his PET to the computer, and settled down in his sofa to wait. Two agonizing minutes of waiting later, the two polished gears he'd added whirred as the PET's processor worked its magic, uploading the datastream sent from Vaccine. The teal light coalesced on the PET's holographic screen into a schoolgirl with hair the same colour, looking out through her end of the window with an expression like a scared kitten. "Hey Phase," Vincent greeted, his voice and eyes soft with relief.

"Hey Vincent," Phase sniffled a little, a watery smile slowly blooming in sync with her Operator's own quiet elation. Leif had been right: even without knowing, it was clear as day that the Navi had just been through the worst week of her short life. Ever since Vincent had first coded Phase's body, she'd been eternally pristine, with an unshakably-bright personality to match. Scuffed and bruised and dirty and despondent as she was now, he barely recognized her as the same Navi. It broke his heart that he couldn't do anything but watch as the young girl started quietly weeping, sinking to her knees in the PET's small netscape...but his gentle smile never broke. Nor did hers, however weak and trembling it might have been.

In the end, the NetOp and Navi were just happy to see each other again. Neither of their worst fears had come to pass, and for the time being, that was enough.

Days went by. A quick reboot was all it took for the bruises and grime to vanish, but the psychological effects of Phase's kidnapping persisted. She'd thrown herself into Vincent's backlog of administrative paperwork with a fever pitch; Vincent had been skeptical about letting her go back to working, but she'd said that keeping busy kept her mind off...things (and the pain had still been so fresh as it flashed across her elfin features), and that had been that. She hadn't gone back to Vaccine, or indeed accessed the Net at all since her return to Vincent's PET; she was content to work silently in the PET while he taught his classes, and he was happy to keep her company after work. In Vincent's modest apartment, the two would watch movies on his battered old TV, work on sewing patterns, or simply stay up talking, long into the night. It was a friendship that went rather beyond the simple working relationship that was the norm, but labeling them as like roommates or father-and-daughter was equally inaccurate. To them, they were Vincent and Phase, and that was enough said.

It wasn't all sunshine and daisies. Abnormalities to Phase's code - or indeed, her very state of being, began to crop up. Nothing major happened, merely small details, like Phase wiping tears away and realizing she'd never initially been capable of shedding tears, or phantom pains where she'd been bruised despite not having a graphic layout realistic enough to simulate ruptured blood vessels. Worst in the list of self-discoveries had been a particular set of phantom pains that'd had Phase clenching her legs together, as anatomy that hadn't existed as Vincent had coded her made its displeasure known. It was the last one that finally made her confront her Operator, whispering the symptoms and anomalies to him through an incandescent blush (and there, Vincent had noticed as well that he definitely hadn't written a blush reflex that comprehensive). In the end, he agreed to run a full diagnostic, with the promise that he'd do his best to reset her code.

And so it was, one late night in Vincent's apartment, that the giant hooked the PET up to his desktop and began the diagnostic. With Phase in sleep mode, the streams of streams of code that comprised her virtual makeup. Her core module was given a deep scan, the 3D representation of her consciousness branching out in the PET's interface like a massive snowflake within a sphere. Typing commands into his computer, Vincent ran a broad spectrum of searches looking for aberrant code, and came up short on each one. The man's gaze sharpened, eyes narrowing as he stared into the snowflake, as though just staring at the representation would provide a clue. Going back to the monitor, he widened his search, including the code that made up her body. There, he struck paydirt.

The very first general scan of her body, with an old model of his initial programming laid out as comparison, was plastered in alert flags. A veritable spiderwebs' worth of unidentified code strings ran through her entire frame; attempting to follow one string brought Vincent all the way down to her baseline code, her virtual 'bones'. Finally, he isolated the strange new data, and came up with a deceptively small file buried within her core directory: realgirl.bat. The list of effects it'd had on Phase were extensive: it forced the download of a human-real sensory index, a new touch-memory skin that registered input at 1-1 data-transfer, the addition of a couple key body short, everything a Navi needed to touch and feel things precisely as a human did (or, Vincent's mind tried not to think, be touched and felt as a human could). Attempting to remove it proved impossible, despite his best efforts - it was seamless with Phase's source code, and wrapped tightly enough around several key clusters for the implied threat to ring loud and clear: it was part of her now, and removing it would remove her.

When Vincent told Phase that he hadn't been able to remove the code, she'd just nodded, unsurprised. She had been relieved when he'd confirmed that the code wasn't aberrant or malignant, simply a part of her she hadn't had before. A copy of the batch had been localized and sent to Vaccine for examination; Vincent had borne witness to Ion perusing the readme, penned by a CookieMan.EXE, only to turn apoplectic with rage halfway through reading and turn his buster on the file, deleting it with extreme prejudice. He refused to repeat a word of the readme to anyone, and thanks to WakeMan's message including a dossier on said CookieMan and his organizing of Phase's kidnapping, nobody could really blame him.

It was a late Friday night. Vincent was stretched out on his oversized couch, watching an old history documentary and idly poking at a bit of code on his PET screen. Phase was in her hologram, a tiny sprite sitting in the hollow of Vincent's neck. They sat in silence, doing nothing in particular. Finally, the schoolgirl spoke up in no more than a whisper, "I only wanted to help find WakeMan." Vincent didn't say anything in reply, but she knew he was listening. "I knew Netopia Net can be dangerous, but I...I guess I just thought it'd be fine, that I'd find WakeMan in no time and he'd protect me from all the viruses and things."

Vincent made to reassure her, but Phase stopped him, holding out one finger on her insubstantial hand to his lips. She kept talking, "And...and those guys, the HeelNavis...they grabbed me. I was just walking and then the big one was dragging me into the alley and shoving a bag over me, and I couldn't jack out or anything. They took me to some shack somewhere, I don't know where...and they chained me down. Like, to a post or a bar or was horrible, not being able to move. Being their prisoner, you know?" Vincent didn't know, couldn't even fathom the terror of something like that. The extent of his traumas were being bullied for his height through childhood, and the ones his own body and its impossible dimensions imposed on him. He was a lawful man and always had been; that sort of criminal element had always been far-distanced from him and those he knew...until now, apparently.

Phase's voice began to tremble. "They...they put that code in me. The big guy said their boss, that CookieMan, would do more...he was going to reprogram my brain, I think, make me some...doll," and there was disgust in her voice, like she herself couldn't even believe what she was saying. "Who does that? Just...messes with someone else's mind, just because they can? Just because Navi brains are easier to access and fix than's just so wrong," she whimpered, and Vincent's breath grew shaky in turn, empathy stringing the two of them together. She continued, "The program they put in know how it changed me. And...the other one...the other one said they didn't have to bring me for a week, so they...they kept me. So they they could r-r-" she never finished the thought, a choked sob escaping her lips before she could bring the ugly word into the open. Vincent was able to finish the sentence in his head, a queasy feeling spreading through his guts as he turned the word over in his head.


It was an uncomfortable word, one he didn't want to be in the same room with. It was too brutal, too violent for him to say without feeling a bit dirty himself. Just like the criminal element that had brought it into his life, it was something he thought he would never have to deal with, himself or those close to him. 'It's like robbery,' he mused to himself, 'you always think it'll happen to someone else, until it happens to you.' Phase hiccoughed on his shoulder, and he turned his head to look her in the eye. She was still crying, tiny tears making her eyes shine bright in the TV's glow, as she tried to keep talking.

"It w-was just so *hic*h-horrible," she wrapped her arms around her knees, curling into a tight ball. "To be that h-helpless, and not b-being able to st-stop them...I never want to feel like that ever again!" The last words were shouted, echoing around the little apartment, before she broke down into a fresh round of tears. Vincent crooned reassurances, the sort of platitudes you can only say because you can't offer anything else, but inwardly his mind was beginning to light up and churn with ideas. He turned his eyes back to the documentary, watching the grainy footage of fleets of beautiful steamships, relics from a bygone era. Even in the old sepia tones, their hulls gleamed in the sun, masterpieces of ancient engineering.

His eyes sharpened with the glint of a man with an Idea.

Once Phase had finally gotten her story out, she began to show signs of her old self. She returned to her job as class assistant, to much fanfare from the students that idolized her so, and Vincent was pleased to find that his class was actually functioning again. Also happy to see her again were her coworkers at Vaccine, who welcomed her back to the lab with smiles and open arms. She was still wary of being touched without her notice, but found it in herself to give each of the core members as warm a hug as she could manage (even Cal, however difficult his abnormal frame made hugging). Her remaining time was spent badgering Vincent, who had thrown himself into a project of some sort and wouldn't share the slightest detail on it, saying he wanted it to be a surprise.

Said project was an attempt at giving Phase battle protocols. Technically, this was supposed to be impossible with Phase's model, hardcoded as she was as a social model incapable of running battle routines. However, Vincent was confident sidestepping that barrier was possible, and he was on the right track to doing so. A .cmd file, for instance, could be run through her systems, applied and removed at will of the user...and all he had to do was figure out how to encode a full suite of combat functions through said file, such that Phase would be able to interface with them. Gradually, his desktop cluttered with blueprints and code streams, the scientist in him relishing the intellectual challenge. He contacted Vaccine after awhile, asking for their help; Calcinatio, Jenga, and Ion were incredibly enthusiastic about the idea, promising to get to work on their part of the secret. A model began development, wireframes stretching and forming bit by precious bit...and Phase was privy to none of it.

At long last, fully one month after Phase's initial return, Calcinatio called Phase over to Vaccine's lab one evening, claiming they all had a present for her. She warped there with no problems, and was greeted by Ion on the inside. "Hey dewdrop," he greeted from behind the counter, pulling her into a quick hug. He waved aside the P-Cube and stepped towards the back door, calling, "Come on, everyone's waiting!" before vanishing into the link. The schoolgirl had no idea what was happening, but took a deep breath and pressed through the gateway herself. The lab materialized around her, and she registered Cal, Jenga, and Ion waiting for her on the other side of the room. Vincent's window hovered between them, and behind them stood a door she'd never seen before. Unlike the many modular doors lining the square room's walls, this one was unique, more permanent in structure. Her emblem was emblazoned on the steel surface, though with the addition of a thick black gear around the usual H20 diagram.

"Go on in, Phase, go on in," Vincent's voice was light with genteel and no small dose of mischief, and it occurred to Phase that this was probably what he'd been working on this whole time. Unsure what to expect, she pressed the access panel beside the door, and stepped through. As she beheld the contents of her room, she was dimly aware of her jaw making a solid attempt to unhinge itself, as far as it was dropping, but couldn't quite gather the processing power necessary to close it.

Nearly face to face with her was a bronze colossus, a virtual monument to all things steampunk. She stood on a gantry extending out to wrap around its tremendous bulk; far below, she could see its digitigrade legs like massive factory pistons, capped in wide, birdlike feet. "What...what is this?" she breathed, unable to even believe what she was seeing.

"A way for you to never feel helpless again," Vincent answered, and she whirled around to stare at him with huge eyes. His smile was a little meek and sheepish as he went on, "I had to find a workaround to make your noncombat systems work with these ones, and I figured the best way would be to give you something you'd manually control or drive. Of course, the resulting file size was way too big to fit inside the PET, so Cal's agreed to let me keep it here in the homepage, since they've got space to burn thanks to Jenga. Do you like it?"

"Do I like it!" Phase parroted, sounding almost on the verge of hysteria. "This...that...the SCIENCE! It's MAJESTIC!!!" she beamed, running to press her hands against the cool bronze of its 'torso'. "Oh, the work you must've put into it! Did you take the engine from a 20th-century steamship and map it to fit onto a humanoid mecha? Oh, you totally did! AND IT HAS A WHISTLE!!" She turned around to see Vincent and the three Navis smiling ear-to-ear (or whatever passed for ears in Cal's case) at her. "What?"

"It's just good to have you back," Jenga replied, looking almost a little teary. "It was so much quieter without you around; Cal's antics can only make up for so much."

"Hey! My antics are done for science! I do what is necessary!" Cal shook one of his crane-arms at Jenga, who erupted into a body-shaking laugh that left both males looking for a polite place to look. "But anyways, this armour needs a name! Phase, do you have any ideas?"

Phase processed the question, wondering what such a majestic creation could possibly be called. Then, in one of those flashes of inspiration that only seem to get passed around as needed, she breathed, "Dignity." As everyone turned to look at her, she continued, "It makes sense, doesn't it? This...this is the keeper of my dignity. I can protect myself with this." She flashed a small, elfin grin at Ion. "I can protect everyone with this. Maybe you can finally take a break!"

"We'll just see about that," Ion quipped back, and everyone had a good chuckle over it. Meanwhile, Phase turned back to the shining giant before her, imagining herself inside that wonderful cockpit full of gadgets and levers and who knows what else. She imagined a Phase that wasn't afraid of HeelNavis or being grabbed or losing control or anything like that.

A Phase...with her Dignity.
The classroom was filled with an ominous silence.

It was a a feat that astounded Vincent not only for its merit, but also for its reliability. There was a span of time at the end of every Saturday, inevitably concluding at the three-o-clock bell, wherein all motion in the room utterly ceased. He wasn't even sure the children were aware of it, but at some point in the final minutes of class, one person would commit to packing up and watching the clock. This alerts their immediate neighbours that the weekend is nigh, which triggers a domino effect of packing bags and joining the flock in their watching of the clock. Before too long the entire classroom is silent as a tomb, breaths bated, like a cat coiled to pounce. Vincent takes part sometimes, as he was doing this particular day.

Phase made a game of timing the total time-loss from end-of-day clockwatch per year. Vincent pretended not to notice the fantasy football-esque rankings she'd made for each of his classes.

The clock finally obliged, and spelled 'L' for (See You) 'Later'. The bell rang. Pandemonium resumed.

Vincent stood to his full height and indulged himself in a long-held stretch, fingers splaying against ElecTown West's vaulted ceiling. A few students, those for whom the shock of Vincent's...more or less everything had yet to wear off yet, couldn't help but stare. For the rest, who had watched him butterfingers one too many class experiments to take him any sort of seriously, it was old gear-spangled hat. "Hasn't Bjorn finished that new desk for you yet? Being hunched over that tiny thing can't be good for your back!" Phase chimed up from over his shoulder, having finished her last round of farewells.

Vincent grinned wryly. "Shop teachers," he drawled, as though that explained everything. Phase made a long 'ahhh' noise as though it absolutely did. "C'mon, let's get out of here." Buttoning his coat shut was the work of a moment, and he was off down the hall, briefcase in hand. 

The classroom hallway was a solid wall of glass all down one side, the better to overlook the verdant living compass rose of the central courtyard. Phase made a long, contented sigh. "Oh, it's such a lovely day!" she cooed, staring into the curlicue clouds. "Hey, we should go to the park! We've both got grading to do, might as well enjoy the day while we do it!" She hovered just in front of Vincent's face, wearing an impish little grin as she reached to give his nose an insubstantial booping. "Or do you just want to hide inside with your sewing machine for another thirty-six hours?" 

Vincent weathered the abuse with a sigh and a giant-sized eyeroll, imitating his Navi in a surprisingly-capable falsetto. "Yes, yes, my poor human eyes are only good for another thirty years at best before you'll need to start reading my books out to me, I should've become a cyberneticist, stop sewing in the dark you big silly goober." He smiled as he said it, in that sheepish sort of way that let Phase know she'd absolutely caught him out. "Park sounds good, there's that big one a ways off the main drag." And off they went, powered by extra-strength leg power.

"I'm just saying, with the advances virtual technology's made in replicating biological engineering, isn't it about time we started reversing that? It's time for Navis to start giving back to their creators!" 

"I mean, I certainly wouldn't mind having a buster of my own for assembly riot control." Vincent took a moment to ponder. "Or parent-teacher interviews."

"Vincent!" But Phase was laughing, and Vincent was thinking of that and that alone. Heavens knew the girl needed to laugh more. 

The park was far enough away from ElecTown's famous marketplace that the traffic was comfortably muted. It wasn't much more than a decent-sized hill overlooking a levelled field; an impromptu game of soccer had already broken out between two groups of students in different uniforms, while a few young trees and benches studded the hilltop. Vincent picked a bench near the edge of the park and sat, withdrawing his organiser from his briefcase and getting comfortable for an extended sit-down. Phase took up her usual spot on his shoulder, an iridescent, barely invisible glimmer of a sprite, and kicked her feet off the long, long drop down the front of his tailcoat. Everywhere she looked, there were Navis, either in PETs guiding their harried Operators through their mapbook directions, NetBattling in gaggles of kids beaming local-band skirmishes back and forth, or relaxing with their favourite people just like she was doing. After a moment of fiddling and one more pinched finger, gentle sweeps of music from a bygone era wafted soft from Vincent's PET, so as not to be a nuisance. As one, Navi and Operator sat down to fight the eternal war of grading with a comfortable smile.
" know it kinda feels weird having a second very subtle presence inside your body. I don't really mind it tho. How does it feel on your end, Yu?" Critias's voice buzzed right in Yusaku's right ear as the guy simple walked around ElecPark at a slow pace.

"All good on my end. We are completely synched up. I can feel what you feel as we walk around during this super cool night." The human replied, stopping a moment to admire the purple suit he was wearing, the suit he had built himself. The thing that would let him become his navi and share joy, pain, everything.

"I just need to get used to having three fingers per hand and a tail. The extra padding and the thick rubber soles under my feet were a nice suggestion though. I have great grip and I don't feel uncomfortable walking around outside of our ARS." Yusaku added, stretching lightly. He had been wearing the thing for a while now, as such he had almost fully accustomed to the "changes".

"This is why we came out here late at night, no? To test the FBFS. Now that we know it can handle city and nature you can keep it on for as long as you want. As per the changes, I know...I'm smart. Thank you, thank you. Autographs are this way."

Yusaku chuckled. "Yeah. The way I built in the sensors and the suit itself means I could even go for a swim in it since we pretty much confirmed this is completely impermeable. I would have done it without trippig into a puddle but hey, the FBFS held out nicely...although to actually swim I would have to pull the mask up and that would kinda ruin the immersion factor. I built this so I could be with you as we explore the net. If I am going to be a bat wyvern, I want the full experience."

That last comment somewhat amused the 8ft tall purple navi. "Eheh. Well, you're you. But what about other people?" The navi asked. "Surely you can't go to work wearing this?"

"I don't care. As far as I know my human self is dead. I'm a bat wyvern now. I'll just throw some baggy clothes over and keep this on without the mask up. No one will ever care about my hands as I can either keep them in my pockets or simply never show them around. I do work alone most of the time"

Critias shrugged, grinning. "Yep. Yu being Yu alright."
"Apple and pear trees were a-blooming / mist creeping over the river," a voice drifted across the grass, singing in soft, deep Sharoan. Vincent didn't speak the language, could barely understand the very words he sang. It was only the memory of his father's voice that preserved the folktune's canter on his lips. Phase heard winter in the chiming strings of their gentle accompaniment; there was nothing for her virtual brain to process, just a shiver that ran deep through the hollowness within her spine. It felt, she decided, just like standing in a vast field entombed in snow, looking over the tundra to a horizon unending.

"Katyusha set off on the bank / on the steep and lofty riverbank," Phase answered her Operator's call absently, hands awhirl in online assignments.  A faint chime went off in her head as the world clock ticked to a new hour. Roused from her working trance, she checked the time, and promptly squawked in alarm, sending documents flying. "Waaaah! Vincent, it's ten! It's dark! It's ten and it's dark and you need to eat dinner but it's not good for you to eat so late and oh jeez how did this happen?"

Vincent's eyes fluttered a moment as his mind visibly changed tracks. He looked up from this lap, where hours worth of work sat in a mysterious array of piles. He looked to the sky, saw the last brushstrokes of daylight across the stars. He opened his mouth, and kept it held such for a full five-count before uttering, "Whuh?"

"Vincent! Are you okay?"

"Y-yeah, fine. Just...confused." Vincent tucks his papers away, already resigned to going over the whole lot again later. "It's unusual for us both to lose track of time like that. It was...synchronised tunnel vision, I say! Synchronized tunnel vision!" He shoots to his feet just as his Navi did, only with a lot more gasping and almost tumbling over from exceptionally numb legs. "Oh, that does not feel good at all," he grimaced, bending gingerly to rub at his thighs.

Phase looked particularly manic, feeding off the energy of their shared goof and Vincent's own vigour. "Did we do it? Did we achieve Full grading essays?" Her eyes were positively luminescent. "We need to replicate this immediately! The papers we could publish! The work we could get done! The studies we could run! OH MY GOD A COPYROID!" The last part, in particular, was screamed at the top of her lungs.

At this Vincent looked up, just in time to see Phase clap her hands over her mouth in mortification. He followed her eyeline...and it was only by the sheer bamboozlement of earlier that he didn't follow her example posthaste. After all, what else but a Navi would walk around on two legs, yet have two monstrous talons in place of feet, swing a tail behind it, and perhaps most importantly, be bright, bright purple? His brain locked, and for a long moment he met the thing's eyes without a word. What was there to say? Asking himself that question, what Vincent came up with was little more than, "Nice night for it."

"Vinceeeeeeent Vincent Vincent Vincent Vincent we need to study this right now oh my goodness this is the greatest day ever HI!" Phase darted away without another word, a tiny sprite of a schoolgirl immediately getting far closer to the anthropomorphic...bat? than was strictly appropriate. No more than a couple inches from him at any given moment, she flitted this way and that, studying him from every angle and peppering him with dialogue. "My name's Phase.EXE, it's really really great to meet you! This is a Copyroid, right? I thought they were myths, how on earth did you get one! Can I try it? Can I try it please? Can we run some tests, like right now? Oh man I don't even know where to start this is the best~!"

Vincent couldn't help it, he had to laugh. "Sorry about her, she can get a little overexcited when she sees mysterious science," he offered, tipping his top hat in greeting. "Vincent Miles, at your service. Might I ask...are you human in there, or am I witnessing a feat of modern programming right now?"
"Oh it's extremely experimental prototype tech alright. We sould kill them now that they know!" Critias casually joked, snickering. "Chop Chop!"

Yusaku didn't really move. He just stood there, quietly allowing all the gushing to be over with. Looking up, he met the giant's eyes with his own glowing emeralds. He gave a small bow in respect upon the guy's introduction. "It's no copyroid, but just as advanced. If not more advanced than that." He casually stated, shrugging. Then, the purply being reached for his upper jaw and started pulling. Slowly, he peeled the upper mask from his face, the thing apparently so tight it sticked onto Yusaku's skin, while his neck and chin remained covered.. While the outside looked somewhat rough, the isnide of the thing were completely smooth, looking like some sort of black colored inert, latexy/rubbery compound riddled with thousands upon thousands of small receptors. Once off, the thing dangled behind Yusaku like a hoodie.

"This full body suit is actually an experimental Full Body Feedback System I built. It uses haptic technology to link up a human with their navi and allow said human to experience what the navi feels. Couple it with some holo imaging and you get to experience the net from your navi's point of view. It has some copyroid tech in it, but not much. Mostly to deal with extra appendages without incurring in neurologick appendages I mean things like my tail, which stores some wiringand  servos and the power supply for the suit to work." Yusaku answered, simply swinging the actual tail of the suit around as if it were a real part of his body. "It's rather easy once you learn how to move around as something not human. Navigators can't use this though."

"Yeah, he then made it look like yours truly so that the feeling is extra real!" Critias' voice could be head coming from inside the mask Yusaku had removed. Integrated headphones most likely. "I mean, no one wouldn't want to be me, but aside that this is basically a much much much cooler PeT system! I'm Critias, by the way. This guy inside me is my partner Yusaku. Just call him Yu. You might have seen him around on some papers, cause this guy is totally busted rich thanks to his papa's company."

"I'm not inside you. I'm wearing a thing that looks like you. If anything, I'm like a copy of you." The young man replied, somewhat ignoring his navi's teasing behaviour. 

"Nah, Yu. You can't copy perfection. You can try though...and I dare say you're close."

"Critias, I coded you."

" that case you are perfection too now!"
Phase startled at the unexpected voice, close enough as she was to just barely hear the sound of speakers inside the suit. Her hologram pinwheeled uncontrollably for a moment before she regained control of her positioning, appearing to stand on thin air about three feet from the suit's head - for it was a suit, Phase was beginning to understand, containing a human. Her grin redoubled itself as she watched the mask come off, and the mesh of circuitry woven through it that indicated some unknown high technology. Already hypotheses were forming in her minds, which followed into potential experiments to run, which became potential theories. There was nothing like the scientific method to make life exciting.

Vincent's reaction ran along very similar lines, but expressed itself differently. One eyebrow very delicately cocked at the pronunciation that the young man's suit before him was equal or superior to an urban legend, especially one he could remember bandied about as far back as his boyhood, but he hadn't seen anything to suggest otherwise. He was certainly eager to extol its virtues, and Vincent was willing to play ball. Chuckling at the hidden Navi's antics, he extended a hand to shake. "Well, Yu, it's certainly good to meet you, and I'm certainly impressed, Please feel free to sit, please feel free, unless you're in a hurry to go anywhere. My Navi and I are both scientists at heart, you see, so I'd be delighted if you'd let us pick your brains a little. I teach physics at ElecTown West, just down the way there," he gestured vaguely in his workplace's direction, "and I don't believe I've ever seen a machine quite like this one. What does the tail feel like to you, if you can feel it through your Navi? Is his sensory function built to match a human's, or a...dragon? Fox?" He looked ready to keep guessing, but closed his mouth before he could go too far.

"No, silly, he's definitely a bat! Look at those ears!" Phase chided, tutting teasingly, then waved"I'm more curious how you'd go to the bathroom in it! Is there a quick release hidden somewhere, Do you go to the the suit? It's so tight, but maybe it's advanced enough to fit a basic life support package? Could it be made to?" Phase was clearly going through a very different mental tangent, and was much more vocal in sharing it. 

Vincent gave her a sharp look...but scientific curiosity weighed equally on both their minds, and the question had been asked; thus, his Navi remained unchastised.  A thought came to mind, and he backtracked a bit, waving his hands (and the rest of his prodigious wingspan) in front of him. "Ah, but please don't worry if any of this is classified! It's mere curiosity after all, mere curiosity. We wouldn't want to put out anyone at your father's company."
Yusaku raised his three fingered hand to shake the giant's own, doing so without problem. He had to admit he wasn't really used to all that attention, but Critias was very much enjoying it. The young man then walked over to one of those interactive park Map screens just beside their position. He placed his hand on the screen, a green energy pulse running from his body to his arm bathed the suit in green light for a second. Removing his hand, Yu took a step back as a purple navi walked into view. Critias waved his hand at the couple, snickering like a child. He did tell them the suit was a very weird PeT, so Yusaku could indeed jack his navi in the net through wireless connections points in his right hand.

"Hello there." He greeted with a smile, showing a row of sharp white fangs and pronounced canines. "I'm a Bat-Wyvern actually. Half bat, half dragon and full awesome." He corrected. "But you got 50% of it right."

Yusaku turned over to face the two. "Ok, one question at the time. This is a project I'm doing, nothing is really classified as I'm pretty sure no one lese really wants to wear this kind of things so I don't mind sharing info. First of all, the suit is obviously slightly tighter than skin tight so that all the haptic and motion control receptors stick onto the body to allow the suit to function the way it's supposed to and relay navi-netop informations correctly. Wearing it on your person feels like your body is gently squeezed from all sides. Once you accustom to this, it pretty much becomes like any other piece of clothing. Nedless to say, you can't wear nothing else while using it cause it would mess the delicate receptors and just feel uncomfortable."

Despite having just told two random strangers that he was basically naked under the suit, Yusaku didn't seem to be embarassed by it. "It's actually a composite, made of 3 different layers, you see. The outside layer is made of what I call "pumice silicone". Basically a highly porous rubber compound which appears rough like shark skin due to the other chemicals mixed with it. It allows the body to breathe without worrying of the suit getting stains from you accidentally spilling things on it like coffee. The compound has been treated with higly hydrophobic chemicals so that fluids just slip right off. The second layer is all the flat wiring and receptors, also covered in hydrophobic material to make them work underwater if needed be. Third and final layer is the same rubber as the first one, only without the hydrophobic chem treatment. As such, it's completely inert, smooth and easily sticks to the skin so that the receptor do not move around when you move. The outher layer stretches with you instead."

To prove that, he did a few stretching motions, and sure enough, the suit responed by stretching and returning to its original form after he was done. 

Critias chuckled. "Yu's been working on this thing for three full years. This one he's wearing is like...the 40th iteration or so."

The man nodded. "41st actually. Now, question 2: The tail. First of all, the suit doesn't work unless fully zipped up. So I need to pull back the upper jaw over my face, or it will remain on standby. Meanwhile I do that and link up to Critias again, he could actually answer one of the questions that regars him." Yusaku said, giving his navi a look that pretty much meant 'Be nice' before reaching behind for the mask. He had to struggle for a moment to stretch the thing over his head and settle it back in its original position. Once done, he began fiddling to adjust it better while his navi took over for him.

"Yu never designed my senses to be the same as human they are kind of shitty compared to other animals' ones." The bat wyvern pointed at his large ears. "These things are very sensitive to sound, and I can 100% confirm that I hear things differently from any of you. I am sensitive to ultrasounds, a thing that Yu can't really hear so instead he had this great idea of building something that would downscale the Ultrasound to something he can actually comprehend and play it over the speakers inside the mask if needed. Then he simply shaped the receptors the same as my ears and voilà! As per eyesight, the stuf is a little more complex. I can see in the dark, so that means Night Vision lenses are needed to replicate that. Everything else is roughly the same as humans, Can't really do much for smell or taste. He just need to trust me with those calls."

Yusaku shuddered, as the connection to his navi was re-established. He pointed to the masks eye sockets where Vincent and his navi could see his eyes. "Not using the lenses right now, but you would put them on here. As per how does it feel to have a tail...well..."

The purple bat wyvern turned sideways and pointed at the base of his tail. "Here I have batteries and servos that actuate to move the tail. There could be space for life support, but I haven't finished building it yet. You could potentially keep it on for 72 hours, but it's best to take it off while you eat or go to the bathroom for now. I do admit that it's very addicting to keep it on you though. Once you experience this sort of connection with your navi it's hard to go back to a normal PeT."

"Yu, tail thing. Don't get off track."

"Right, right. Tail. Basically, the minicomputer inisde the tail is responsible of my connection to Critias right now. Since the human brain doesn't really know how to operate a tail but Critias does, the tail is indeed controlled by him and I feel it through him. Then, after a few months of traing and Full Synchro...well it feels like another hand. I can pick up things with it and all that.

Finally, the connection itself: It can either work two ways or simply let the human experience what the navi feels .It's like two minds in one body, moving in unison, but Critias needs to be in the PeT unit inside the suit right here in the middle section of our tail for the two way link to work. Otherwise it's just me feeling things through him. He still can communicate with me through integrated speakers and see the outside world through the lenses I have on right now. If my eyes glow green it means the two way link is active, meaning me and Critias are fully synchronized to eachoter."

Critias grinned. "If I were to hug another navi, Yu would feel it. If I get hit somewhere, Yu would feel the damage as well, of course somewhat inhibited. At the same time if I'm inisde the PeT unit, it allows me to enjoy the nice breeze of tonight, grass and stone beneath our feet... It's amazing. This suit is Yusaku's portal to the net and my portal to the real world."

Yusaku placed his hand on the screen again and the same green pulse of before happened again, this time in reverse, meaning that the green energy was actually Critias' navidata returning inisde the PeT Unit. Just as explained, once Yusaku walked back over to Vincent and sat beside him, his eyes suddenly began glowing a bright green.

"That's all the is to know about this experiment of ours. Call us crazy, call us weird...we don't really care. I am him and he's me. To us, there's nothing in the world that would make us want to separate. We are the same being." Yusaku stated, while Critias voice echoed in unison trough the speakers, now loud enough to be heard by the scientific duo. They were indeed exibiting the same behavior as any NetOp and Navi experiencing Full Synchro. "We enjoy sharing this bond's something unique to us. It's our own version Full Synchro. Well...actually, you two could do it too. It's not like we can't replicate this suit's design and adapt it for other people. It's just that most people wouldn't understand it and just deem it stupid or not worth a try." 

Having finished their long demonstration of their weird contraption, both Navi and NetOp quieted down and waited for the other couple to process all the info they dumped on them all at once.
Operator and Navi turned as one as the 'driver' of the suit made his introductions. Vincent gave him a nod and a cordial smile, as was his wont. The inspiration behind the suit was clear to behold, though with a much wilder bent. Phase's work at Vaccine had well-inured him to the sheer variety CustomNavis came in these days, but the novelty had yet to wear off for him. His grin widened as he compared the virtual light hitting Critias' amethyst-tinted fur to the gleaming bronze of Dignity's gears. Maybe there would be a way to sneak it into conversation; they still hadn't taken it for a test drive yet.

Phase raised her hand to wave hello, but found her hand strangely hard to raise. There was a tremor shooting from the crook of her elbow up to her fingertips, like the limb had fallen asleep. She wasn't unfamiliar with the feeling since...obtaining her new body, but it was odd in this context. Whatever, it was easy to ignore when there was Science! (add exclamation points as necessary) to listen to.

"Fascinating..." The word escaped Vincent more or less outside his control as he listened to Yu go through his suit layer by layer, the scientist in him lapping the information up like cream to a cat. Something about the conversation was bringing him back to his university days, though exactly what it was about Yu's demonstration he couldn't say. Perhaps it was how serious the lad looked disseminating his ensemble, even as he rambled and changed tack as every new thought and fact demanded it be shared. It could have been the suit itself, a novelty the likes of which weren't often seen outside the proof of concepts lurking within the local Faculty of Engineering.

His stomach took the moment to sound off a tremendous growl. Or, he thought ruefully, it was the combination of being hungry and awake far too late for his own good. "Forty-first iteration, you say? Well, nobody could deny you're a scientist, with drive like that - nobody at all."

"If it's a job worth doing, it's worth doing well! The Net wasn't coded in one sit-down, you know!" Phase chimed in, positively vibrating. "And now that you've got that as proof of concept, oh, the places you could go with just the pieces alone!"

Navi and Operator grinned at each other, before Vincent killed the music and stowed his PET away, while Phase retook her seat atop Vincent's prodigious shoulder, geo-locking her position relative to her brass home. There was something soft in Vincent's eye as he beheld the youth and his Navi in one body. "That's really quite special, to be so close to your Navi," he said plainly. "I get what you're saying. You spend long enough connected at the hip to someone - literally, even!" he gestured to Yu's tail, "and, well, I find they wind up close as family before too long. Phase and I have been working together for years now, and...well, I'm not even sure there's a word for it, but we go a few quantum leaps past 'colleagues' for sure."

"I'd argue that was intentional on the Administrators' part! A Navigator is a human's extension into the Net; it makes sense that you'd want your virtual arms to know best the body and brains they came from!" Phase reclined back, looking up to the heavens. "Which reminds me, Vincent, that oversized body of yours needs fuel! Don't think I didn't hear your tumbly rumblin', no matter how far down there it is!"

Vincent opened his mouth as though to retort...and was beaten to the punch by a second growl as his stomach added its own two cents. "Oh, alright, alright," he griped, levering himself to his feet. He made to tip his hat in farewell, then stopped a moment to think, then tried to pass it off as just adjusting it to a jauntier angle. "I don't suppose you're hungry?" he offered to the draconian boy. "I realise it's a tad late, but I missed supper myself...and if I recall being your age, there wasn't a moment that went by I wasn't hungry," his smile turned a little sly. "My treat, of course."

Already browsing a window for potential open-lates, Phase made a little 'ooooh' of discovery and shot the holoscreen up for Vincent to peruse. "There's a Creamish pub within walking distance, it looks reeeeally good! Look, they've got fish'n'chips and bangers'n'mash and...all sorts of thing'n'other things!" Despite being a Navi and thus largely incapable of eating, she seemed to be...drooling a little?

Vincent couldn't help but huff a laugh at the thought; if the throwback to being a college student hadn't felt strong enough already, he supposed a weekend pub-crawl would soon fix that. "I could do with a, what's that, a spot o' bitter 'n mild?" he affected a heavy country Creamlander's accent. "Come along if it strikes your fancy; drinks taste better with company, don'cha know?"
Yusaku tilted his head slighly at the huge man and his tiny navi. The two had good chemistry together. Sure, their bond probably wasn't going to be as strong as his and Critias' but it could be a start...maybe he could ask them to test more things with him. The two didn't seem to find him weird. 

He hoped up from the bench and walked over to the man's side, eyes still glowing green. Critias was still very much present and had seemingly warned Yusaku of Phase's weird behavior towards him. The bat hybrid was keeping his distance, trying to not bother the small navi hologram by always staying at the opposite side of her, keeping Vincent always in the middle. Now that Yu was out of the darkness of unlit nature, Vincent could take notice of his slightly altered balance and walk cycle. Having a tail meant a lower center of gravity, which meant Yu leaning slightly forward to compensate. No doubt, Critias was lending a hand to him in the equilibrium department.

"Sure, we'd be delighted to spend some time with you." Yusaku replied, stopping on Vincent's left. Yet another small detail discovered about the pair: while connected, it looked like Yusaku's personality was the dominant one. Although...the hybrid moved around with Critias' overconfident and theatrical mannerisms, as demonstrated by the purple bat wyvern by casually placing his right hand on Vincent's PeT, giving it two light taps. Another green flash through the suit, and Yusaku had the directions already copied in his systems. He could se a line through the AR lenses he was wearing pointing at the pub. "Alright. This way then."

Beginning to walk over to the Pub, Yu grabbed Vincent's hand with his, which sent a faint tingly sensation to the tall man, while gently tugging him over to the pub. "Sorry about the tingling. It's because of the receptors. Say,  you are a teacher no? You give off this aura of...well...a teacher. Clam, are the students behaving in your classes?" He asked out of the blue. 
There was something, Vincent knew, rather like a father in him, despite all physical evidence to the contrary. It manifested not in any primal sort of urge to rear children or any of the steps involved therein, but in all the side-effects that seemed to just happen to any new dad. A newfound feeling of being out-of-touch with the times, even though Vincent had damn well lived, breathed, and churned steampunk since time immemorial. A propensity for terrible humour and antics that he can enjoy in purest solitude...because nobody, absolutely nobody else is laughing.

A  very, very sharp eye where his child (or all but, anyway) was concerned. Something was up with Phase, and Vincent wasn't even sure she knew what. If she didn't know, there was no way for him to know without being intrusive, and there was no delicate way to do that with their present company. The only course forward was more careful, unobtrusive observation, and taking the reins of their strange two-to-one conversation.

Speaking of which, where had Yu gone? He'd been just there...ah, there he was, slinking behind Vincent like a cat. The hand on his hip startled him, but was easily explained as more of the bat-suit's mysterious science. More startling still, and less easily explained was the hand clasping his own, enough so to see him dragged off without so much as say-so. Even more and less-so of the above, the youth's apparent newfound powers as a psychic. "I am a teacher?" Flustered, he couldn't help but add the question mark. "I mean...I am a teacher, I am I am!"

Phase snrk'ed with great abandon, a faint glimmer in the glare of streetlights. "Well, are you?"

Vincent huffed a great breath, and the disquiet was dispelled. "You are a sharp one; yes. I was grading essays here, ElecTown West High is just 'round the corner there, when I lost track of time." He indicates the old leather briefcase dangling from his free hand. "The kids...I mean, you get the full gamut in a public high school, kids that totally mesh with the system and kids that are never gonna have that drive. It's a big job, telling something to, what, a couple hundred students per grade, and then making sure they understand? If I'd known what I was getting into before I was done college..."

"You'd have still become a teacher anyway and done your solemn duty to nourish the minds of the future, and then gotten a really great Navi to do all the work for you, riiiiiiiight?" Phase interjected in his face before he could go too far, grinning a very frightening sort of grin. Vincent waved her off with a chuckle, and she resumed her position atop his shoulder. "Really, though, it's so neat to see when a kid finds something that really captures their interest and gets them thinking, especially if they aren't a very good student otherwise! Like when a meathead jock who can barely spell his own name gets a story into his head that he just needs to write! I wanna show everyone that comes through that science can do that, blow through your mind and leave an imprint shaped like a machine that you've been given the blueprint to, if only you had the lab to test it and the tools to build it and the hypothesis to ask if it can exist at all! It's...ahhh I can barely stand it standing next to you!" Her grin turns the slightest hint manic, but the laughter coming forth is excited and genuine.

They continue walking a time, until their directions take them off the main drags and into the mouth of an alley, wherein lies a set of stairs leading into a low-set pub. A sign above advertises the place as 'The Mousehole'. "Phase...the site didn't by chance say anything about the ceiling height, did it?" Vincent sighed just looking at the place, but didn't stop walking towards the steps. Phase only had a slightly worried smile to offer as answer. "Didn't think so. Well, we are here, and I must say it does smell heavenly." And that, between the familiar smells of fresh-stuffed sausage meats and gravy and soda bread, all mixed to the tune of bitter'n'milds, was a fact.

A woman shaped rather like one long, rolling series of parabolas guided the two inside, with a cheery call of 'sit anywhere ye like, I'll be back in a mo'!' Vincent was left to negotiate the chandeliers and wall sconces. He gestured to his companion, "Go on and pick a spot," he waved between the rows of more private booths and the more open, festive atmosphere of the bar, "I'll just see about securing some food for us."
Yusaku shrugged. Any place was as good as any. As such, the purple bat tip toed his way over to the first available table able to fit both him and the giant. Hopping onto the couch, the purple bat hybrid tucked his talons under himself and curled his tail around his body.

Satisfied with his current accomodation, the weirdo turned his head over to Vincent and his navi, following their every movement with his glowing green eyes.
"It's so nice in here," Phase oohed and ahhed at the rustic decor. "Wait, where did Yu go?"

Vincent tried, he really did, but there was simply no resisting. "Right here," he called to much booing. He cast a look over his shoulder; sure enough, two glinting eyes were tracking him from across the room, popping in the dim light.

"Wow, that's a little unnerving, isn't it?" Phase laughed just a little too loud, forgetting that she was more or less right next to her Operator's ear.

"Volume," he says without looking; his attention is fully on the card reader in his hands. Very carefully his finger pecks at the tiny buttons. "He does sorta look like a denning dragon, though, doesn't he? Fortunate that we have procured an appropriate sacrifice!"

The bartender, a jowly bulldog of a man, stared Vincent down with admirable resolve when one considered the larger man probably weighed two of him. His gaze drifted inadvertently past the giant onto the bat. From there the man got such an interesting look on his face, Vincent wished most dearly for a camera. He finally seemed to resign himself to serving the two, and relinquished his bounty with a great sigh of dismissal and a muttered, "No trouble."

Vincent gingerly picked his way back to the table; helpfully, Yu had found somewhere they could both sit comfortably. The thud of his tray as he set it down, laden with glasses and salted nuts and a pitcher the size of a small keg, was eminently satisfying. "Food's on the way," Vincent grinned across the table, pouring a glass and sliding it over, holding up a glass of his own to cheers. "To the chemistry of new friends, and the physics of new technology!"

Phase snickered. "Sooo lame," she jeered without venom."Hey, theres a TVComp in here, Crit, let's hang out! You can give Yu some funny data for his suit to load while he's getting loaded!"
The bat's ears twitched once as Yu demonstrated his suit-enhanced hearing by giving a very innocent thumbs up at the bartender, with a nod of acknowledgement soon after. Deep down both Critias and Yu were deeply amused at the guy's expression, but decided to make their sudden visit worth his while.

The bat would then scoot himself a little closre to the giant. There was something that Critias liked about the guy, by proxy making Yu feel kind of the same way. Vincent was a likeable fellow, his behavior a possible result of years of academic polishing.

Looking down on the table now, the bat-wyvern observed the glass. He hesitated for a moment, unsure. He never really tried holding slippery things like that before. Nevertheless, Critias' bond to his operator came in handy, literally, as Yu grabbed the glass with his three fingered claw and firmly raised it up to meet Vincent's own.

"Cheers. Although we do not really fancy getting wasted on alcohol. It would lead to very bad stuff." The two replied the other couple. Then, like normal, Yu began drinking. Apparently the suit's mouth could open and close normally, allowing the human inside to consume food n drinks. Although Vincen and Phase both had seen Yusaku pry the suit open by the mouth to expose his face to them. Considering no other seams were present, the suit was probably worn and taken off through that single opening itself.

Once finished drinking the glass all in one go, Yusaku carfully placed the glass back down. With another small ear flick, he turned over to Phase's hologram. Both him and his navi were quite surprised of the little scaredy girl already asking to meet Critias face to face. She was terrified just moments before their arrival there...

...nevertheless, the purple bat hybrid chuckled and agreed to her request. Raising his right hand and placing it onto the tv screen not too far from them, Yu sent a green energy pulse from the suit to the screen. With Critias' transfer complete, he turned over to the huge man beside him.

"You know...every time I jack in Critias I'm kinda lose touch with him a little. Like our connection to each other is faintly muffled by something." He casually stated, fiddling with his claws. "You are nice and two could help me tweak my FBFS could try this want." He sheepishly proposed. If Vincent and Phase would agree to test a suit similar to his own, he could get all kinds of data he could use to tweak his invention to perfection and also create a more generalized design many could use.
The more Vincent watched his new friend (or friends, he supposed), the more he was reminded of the family cat from his childhood. It had been an ornery little beast, but every night it had curled in the hollow of his back to sleep. So when the young man started edging over, Vincent decided to allow it without fuss.

Yu then decided to down a full pint without so much as a wobble; that was worth a little fuss. Vincent sputtered a moment before raising his glass with a look that all but screamed 'Challenge Accepted.' He wasn't the most seasoned drinker, but his size was enough to make a teacup of the drink. "Whoof!" he vented the gas before it could percolate into a belch, "Very bad stuff? If you can't do very bad stuff on a Saturday night, when can you?" He chuckled and refilled both their drinks, looking daringly at Yu as though daring him to down the second as he had the first.

Phase, meanwhile, was in a very personal sort of crisis. The odd tingle was making her hands shake again, and there was nothing in her index she could find that was causing it. Thus, she had to conclude with a huff of annoyance, it was one more irrational human thing she didn't understand about her body yet. This was directly at odds with the scientist in her, which needed to understand ALL the irrational human things about her body. This bubbled out in a blast front of nervous energy as she babbled, "Vincent Vincent Vincent this is your chance! Your chance to do DRUNK SCIENCE!"

Vincent snapped his head around in a double-take that would make a trained actor proud. He held it for one beat, two...and then quietly, reverently breathed, "Make it so." The PET spun its gears, and Phase's hologram winked out.

When the virtual fireworks of jacking in had faded, Phase's eyes fluttered open. She was in something like the lobby of a small movie theatre, tables and chairs analogue to the Mousehole scattered about. Through a darkened door, she could see a snippet of the sportball game playing on a massive screen. A Saturday night's worth of Navis mingled, in groups or in the privacy of booths just as Vincent and Yu were doing. She cast her head around to try and find Critias, but she was definitely on the shorter end of the spectrum of Navi heights, and the room was just crowded enough that one couldn't see through to the opposite wall. "Crit! Where aaaaare youuuu? There's science that needs to happen!" she called through the crowd.

Spots of pink were already starting to bloom on the edges of Vincent's cheekbones. He folded himself like a newspaper until he found a comfortable nook in the booth to fit into, and from there he could properly match Yu's height, and meet his eyes. His gaze burned like a laser. "I have...several questions," he began. "The first: will it fit me? You realize my labels tend to read 'custom', right?" He tried for a light tone, but couldn't help glancing sheepishly down the front of his suit. 
Yusaku looked down at the second pint, then at Vincent, then at the pint. I didn't really mean to initiate a drinking game. He just chugged the thing since it was being offered to him. He gently put the beverage aside. "No, thank you kindly for the offer though. I don't like getting drunk, plus I would risk far more tripping and falling than you would. Humans aren't really used to walk in a digitigrade stance. Even with the extra support, Critias' help and three months of training, I'm still can't keep equilibrium if I'm even slightly dizzy. I am not sure...I am well versed in this drunk science you seem to...know well."

He would watch the big guy lower down, as if in an attempt of scaring him. He probably had forgot that Yusaku was used to a much more scary sight about the same in height and double in sharp fangs and claws. Critias could be very scary, should he want so. He had been mistakingly labelled as a Darkloid a couple times, one of them after roaring in a normal navi's face so loud the poor guy was spinning. His fault though. He stepped on a 7 feet tall wyvern's tail.

"If you can't tell from the Prime sitting right here...this thing is more than skin tight as it needs to stick onto you to work." Yusaku leaned in, ready to play the same 'innuendo game'. "You're kinda squeezed in, but you'll find it quite...pleasant in the right situation." With his green eyes, he pointed down.  

To make the point clear, now with a much more serious tone, he held a firm stare. His project wasn't something to joke about. It took him an immense amount of dedication to put it to fruition. 

"It fitting is the last of your problems. I am willing to bet ten thousand Zennies straight out of my personal bank vault you won't be able to move a single step once you're linked to your navi, unless I suppress the software and turn on 'baby mode'. Pain, pleasure...there ain't no filters in here Vin." He tapped the side of his head with his paw. "It's all dumped straight into your nervous system, spinal cord and cerebral cortex included. I play it off nicely, but it's not all roses and rainbows. When I said my fate and Crit's are linked, I mean it. I have felt...I feel what Navis go through in a netbattle. It hurts, and it hurts really bad. I'm talking nines out of tens amounts of searing to excruciating pain, should your navi come real close to deletion."

Looking over at his pint, he folded his arms. "I asked you this because I think you'd understand this ain't really a game. Perhaps I made it sound like a cool game earlier, but let me quench your doubts with hard facts. A minute screw up, a single digit wrong in over nine hundred lines of coding could end in Neurogenic Shock or Psychological trauma. I wouldn't be asking you to try it if I didn't already make sure everything is beyond the realm of perfection. Every single diode is finely tuned to your biometrics. Measurements are precise to the micrometer. If you and your navi agree to test this out, I will make sure everything will go as planned."
Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump...

Something bigger was getting closer. The ground was trembling. Whatever it was, it was heavy. And if it were to be that heavy, it surely would be massive. A blur dropped down from higher above, its silhouette blocking the artificial lighting. 

From her perspective, a serpentine head peeked at the edge of her field of view, a good few feet higher than the top of Phase's head, revealing a 7 feet tall bat-wyvern clad in an amethyst coat of almost metallic sheen. Every move exposed huge, ripped, tense muscles of the being thigs, while two toed claws inched into the terrain for extra grip as Critias gently curled his long tail around him once he had stopped in front of Phase. He was towering above her now, not on purpose. He wasn't really trying to intimidate her. Quite the opposite. Lowering all fours, albeit obviously able to stand on two, trying to look as less menacing as possible the female navi was face to face with two glowing, slitted emeralds focused solely on her and her alone. His neck lowered slightly, seeking an eye to eye. From the right side of Phase's head, Critias' expression turned into a hint of curiosity, then into a very amused shit eating grin.

"Hello there, Princess." The bat greeted in his usual theatrical, faux gentleman manners, trying not to show his canines too much. "How nice art thou, to grace me of thine presence this fine evening." he added, chuckling like a small kid.
As Yu went on after refusing another drink, it became increasingly clear to Vincent that he'd said something wrong. It might have been defensive posturing, for try as he might to match Yu's height there was an unfortunate loom to his hunch, and altogether just too much of him. Perhaps his attempts at levity had veered too far, and now the young man thought he wasn't being taken seriously. Or, he thought with a wince, something skeezy was being read into being offered drinks by an older man.

Damage control was in order, at any rate. He raised his hands and patted the air in front of him in the universal sign for surrender. "Peace, Yusaku, peace!" he urged the lad, "I've no doubt the suit is exactly as dangerous as you say without the proper know-how, and I've little desire to try driving Phase through a punch-up, very little at all." He took the moment to wet his throat with a sip. "For one thing, Phase can't fight; she's hardcoded as a social model. It took some serious thinking to come up with something she could operate manually...though, now I think of it, it'd be a trip to see if I could pilot Dignity through her." He munched on a handful of peanuts in contemplation...and simply couldn't help himself. "I'd still need a size up, though, don't suppose you have a hook-up?" he grinned around another sip.

It was at this point that the curvaceous waitress reappeared, bearing a tray positively laden with the kitchen's bounty. A massive platter of gold-crusted fish and chips took centre stage, with side performances of pickles and fine cheese and baked apples and charcuterie enough to serve as meals in their own right. "Oh, but that smells incredible!" Vincent boomed, forgetting his inside-voice in his fervor.

The waitress fairly beamed at the two of them, professional enough not to bat an eye at the odd duo. "Anything else for ye, lads?" she offered teasingly, as though there weren't enough on the table to feed a large family. Vincent wasted no time in putting together a plate for himself, motioning for Yu to dig in.

Bereft of her Operator's presence, the Navi in Phase's dichotomy of being shrank into background noise. Her systems churned impartially on without any input from her, leaving a flesh-and-blood human's body to process the thump of large, heavy footsteps. Screencrawl noted an increase in cardiovascular pressure, and increased respiratory workload. Phase processed all this without hearing any of it, and how could she, when her heartbeat was threatening to drown out the rest of the world? She looked towards the disturbance, and there was Critias.

"W-wow, hi there!" Her mouth flapped soundlessly a moment, unable to speak around all the strange new somethings in her veins. Human bodies could be so odd. "It's really good to meet you too! And just look at you!" She gestured at his general presence, "Which of you two was in charge of designing you? Was it you, or Yu...saku?" She giggled on some odd impulse, and stopped to wonder why that was so. It was hard to think; her face felt pale and clammy while her hands wouldnt stop twitching and sweating, like all the blood in her head had flooded down to her extremities.


Perhaps Yusaku had been too harsh on the guy. Vincent didnt even know Feedback suits existed up until that very late night, meanwhile Yusaku had worked on the project for ages.

He hummed lightly ay the new informations he was given, taking a moment to notice his proximity to the giant. Vincent seemed to not mind, so perhaps it would be fine for him to go all the way. He was feeling slightly squeezed in, with his new big friend taking up so much space.

The bat hybrid wriggled himself into Vincent's lap, now sharing the gian'ts same seat. Once Yusaku had found a pretty comfy spot within Vincent's arms, he gently rested his back against the giant's chest. His long tail would coil around Vincent's waist as best it could, prettu much giving away just how much Yusaku enjoyed his new friend's close proximity.

"Don't worry." He reassured, gabbing the professor's huge hand with his smaller, three clawed own. "I hereby solemnly swear everything for you and Phase will be beyond perfect!" He stated, giving Vincent's hand a good squeeze.

At that very moment, the waitress came back with food, and the little purple bat in Vincent's arm would get visibly excited. But first things first, he reached with his right hand for the waitress' PeT and ding! 50 thousand zenny were transferred.

"Thank you for everything. If possible, could we get some milk chocolate too, thanks. Oh and...keep the change as a thank you for letting us stay here. It is a very nice pub.

Now the little bat couldn't wait no more. He grabbed a sizeable portion of the fish, trying to be mindful of his friend and let him have his own part, and began devouring it like a vicious predator mauling its prey. Little Yu was very hungry. Wouldn't be far fetched to assume he had not eaten dinner to test his suit outside.

With the hybrid's large ears flicking just inches under the giant's chin, Yusaku let out one happy squeal as his hunger was satiated. He would devour most of the fries soon after, before looking up from his position towards his friend.

"By the way, who's Dyna-thing? Is it an SP program?" He asked. "How big is it? Bigger than Critias?"
The purple bat grinned widly as he very much appreciated the compliments. He rose up to full height and spread open his wings, proudly puffing his chest and showing the little navi his rather impressive yet majestic wingspan. "Yusaku coded the beginnings, the rest I chose of my own volition." The bat replied, this time forgetting to hide his sharp canines as he smiled. His pelt glinted in the dim lighting, his amethyst glittering from a deep shade of bluish purple all the way to a sleek black. "The rest is 100% me,and without me...well it would be just aweso-"

It would be at that pun that the wyvern's green slits would take notice of Phase's condition. Falling back on all fours, with ears splayed on the back of his head, the bat's snout turned from cocky to worried.

" ok? You feeling alright?" He asked, before looking up in the sky. "Ehi! Yu, Vin!" He called for the humans attention. Of course, Yusaku's reaction time would be near instant. "She looks weird..." he whined, now himself slightly distressed at the situation. Did he do something wrong? Was it his fault?

"Vin, Phase might have a problem." Yu's voice echoed from the outside world.


The sovereign state of Vincent Miles' Personal Space was under siege.

"Um," was all the man could manage before he was summarily invaded. There had been no warning; the cramped confines of their seating meant there was nowhere for Vincent to go, and not much at all he could do to deter Yu's advance. His femurs creaked in protest at being sat upon, but the tail made any sort of adjustment difficult. All he could manage was shifting until Yu sat between his legs rather than atop them...which, with his unique (dis)regard for propriety, meant he was pretty well nestled right up in there.

There was a hand holding his. He looked down at the purple claws, then to their owner as Yu spoke almost into his ear. "Quite," he replied faintly, and slammed back the rest of his drink. After a moment of contemplation, he refilled his glass and skulled it again, for clearly Yu's one glass had hit him so hard Vincent was now playing catch-up.

The waitress watched the exchange with barely-concealed glee. She accepted the tap to her hip gracefully, about to gently point out that chocolate wasn't on the menu, when her PET went off in a fit of wordless screeching. Frowning, she opened it to her Navi outright dry-humping the recent downloads window. She squinted at the hologram a moment...and very calmly nodded once. "Iiiii will get right on that," she promised, before dashing into the back. She reappeared seconds later throwing on a coat, presumably off in search of the finest chocolate Yu's money could buy.

With business taken care of and three pints of beer percolating, it was time to eat. Such was his awe at watching Yu inhale his food, Vincent couldn't help but murmur, "Ahh, to be a young black hole again." He chuckled heartily, shucking down to his vest and shirtsleeves as he reached around his captor to fill a plate. Cracking an apple open in his hands and filling it with slices of ham and brie, he tucked in with a sigh of deepest satisfaction.

Between good food, good drink, and good company, the weirdness of being sat upon began to ebb. "Dignity, you mean?" he clarified. His cheeks were already blooming pink. "Dignity is... she's a sort of ride armour, if you will. Phase can't fight, but she can drive, and Dignity does the fighting. She's... here, this is her docking bay...." he fiddled with his PET a moment, opening a holographic window.

The hangar was dimmed to emergency lights. Even in the relative darkness Dignity's gears still gleamed, filling the room with soft bronze light like an old lightbulb might cast. The camera was affixed just above the open cockpit, giving Yu a long, long look down the colossus' hull. Gantries wide enough for two Navis to stand side by side wrapped around it, as though it were a child in a cradle.

"Pretty cool, huh?" Vincent fairly beamed; it wasn't hard to imagine he relished the chance to show the titan off. "Phase and I haven't had the chance to test drive her yet, but hey! This could be just the opportunity we've been waiting for!"

A choked squeak fell from the back of Phase's throat, as she stood deep in Critias' shadow. Her legs weren't working. The logical part of her mind noted this; the illogical part kept repeating it like a skipping record. "Ch-chose of your own volition, huh?" she parroted distantly. Her eyes were just a little too wide, staring the giant Navi dead in the eyes without seeing him at all. Blood rushed like thunder in her ears.

"Phase!" Vincent popped a window open the instant Yu's warning registered. He held the PET above the smaller man's head, looking through it to his Navi. Her head snapped up, huffing shallow breaths. "Phase, are you alright?"

She tried to smile. "I'm just...fine!" she gritted out. "My body just feels...weird, all of a sudden! Like I want to run but there's cement in my legs! Weird, right?" She forced a shaky laugh. "Maybe we could, uh, run tests on this?"

Vincent's jaw worked, but no sound came out. He gave up after a moment, giving Yu a helpless look. "I'm sorry," he said, "I dont know what's wrong with her."
Yusaku leaned in on Vincent's PeT, to the point where his "nose" was almost touching the screen. The megazord thingy was shoddy by his standards, all in all it looked built solidly enough to warrant a field test. "I see. Well before you go off piloting a mech I need to teach you how to synch with your navi first. Once you and Phase can move around with enough control over yourselves we can think about actual piloting. Might need to adjust the software's DNI parameters."

It was hard not to tell that he was thoroughly enjoying his time in Vincent's lap. The more time he spent there the more relaxed he became. "I...probably should have asked...ehehe..." he commented, before stuffing the last bit of food in him. "You know...think of this as research on cuddling. I...never really got to cuddle with anyone."

There was but a twinge of sad in Yusaku's tone, followed by a squeeze of Vincent's hand. "I was kinda of the special kid at school. You know, the nerdy type that doesnt really get along with others. Parents always abroad for this or that reason, so the only guy keeping me company was Critias. Plus, my social status came with all the rules about not meddling with other non famous kids yadda yadda. I...just wanna make sure you know that I appreciate you putting up with my weirdness."

Letting vincent's hand go, the little bat hybrid shuffled around a little. "Oh, and before you get weird ideas, I do not swing that way and I aint drunk. Besides, you'd be too old for me, Vin."

Stifling a chuckle, the youngster in the bat costume turned his head to his navi and Phase. He stared intently at the small female navi, then over to Critias, before turning over to Vincent.

"That behavior is clear indication of post traumatic stress disorder. I don't mean to barge in personal affairs, but it looks like she is scared shitless of Critias. Some of his features might be triggering her panic attack, despite my navi being absolutely no threat to her. Phase dear, you wanted to meet Critias and hang around with him. I can assure you he is very well mannered despite his rough exterior. He also likes being pet, so why don't you try that...for science?"

Critias pouted at his NetOp for runing his macho facade and exposing his secrets. Then, he sighed. The bat knew that if he wanted to do anything with the cute little navi in front of him he had to make sure she felt safe around him. He lowered down as best he could and sat down in a way she could reach for him easily or back off if she felt like it.

"Go on, go on." Yusaku cheered her with a soft tone. "He's not gonna move unless you want him to. If you don't feel like reaching between his ears, you can always just pet his snout. He's very fluffly all things considered."

Critias huffed slightly, blushing at Yusaku's words. But he had to agree that letting her approach him would yield better results than his usual antics. He was so busy showing off that he almost scared the poor girl to death. So now the big bat wyvern was quietly looking at Phase, the tip of tail wagging at the other navi as he waited to see if she would actually try to pet him as suggested by Yu.

Only time would tell if her curiosity for him was greater than her fear for whatever she had experienced in the past.
By the time Beer #4 had finished its journey down Vincent's gullet, he had more or less resigned himself to being a blanket for the night. A warm haze had settled into his limbs and shoulders, pushing him into his seat even more than Yu's body-weight would manage by itself. There was something like novelty to being cuddled like a child's plushie, not something he liked per se, but it certainly wasn't doing him any harm, and Yu seemed like he could use the attention.

So he let himself become the teddy bear, and listened to Yu, quiet and polite as you please. 'Isn't it supposed to be the drunk one that gets all emotional and huggy?' he mused, but refrained from comment. As Yu continued, he couldn't help but quip, only slurring a smidgen, "I'll have you know this isn't how I normally spend my Saturday nights." He let his hand be played with, rested his head on a convenient pillar behind him. "I'll also have you know I don't swing any of those ways. The only part of me that swings...are my arms. When I walk. It's very dangerous, they break a lot of sh...stuff. "

Four murmured words pierced through his inebriated veil, words that seemed to demand they be taken seriously. "Post-traumatic...Phase has PTSD?" he squinted down at the screen, then back to Yu. "Navis can get PTSD?"

"I don't know," the words rushed out of Phase all in one gusty breath. "I don't know I don't know I don't know Navis are supposed to be logical and this doesn't feel logical at all!" She was starting to gasp for air.

"No, it doesn't," Vincent agreed, struggling for thought. He often envisioned his 'science-brain' as an endless field of axles and pulleys and gears, which churned and chugged as he pitted his organic mind against Phase's cybernetic one to produce scientific progress. Right now, the field was struggling against an outbreak of alcoholic rust, grinding against the syrupy inhibition. "But...humans aren't logical at all. And when they...that is, now that your body's human...maybe your brain is human too? Didn't we figure out your emblem is the only piece of you that works like a Navi now?"

Unconsciously, Phase's hands came up to her ribbon, worrying the stitching of her emblem in her fingers. It chilled her to think of her old self preserved in something that felt so flimsy. Her breathing was still too much coming in not enough going out, like a dial was stuck in the red somewhere she couldn't see, only imagine. She shifted until Critias was out of her vision and stared glassily at the nearest wall, tried to think about nothing for just a moment, just one.

She took a breath. "It's funny to hear you talk about feeling the human world as a Navi, Yu," she murmured, just barely audible in Vincent's speakers. Her breathing was shaky but it was back in some kind of control. "To me, being a Navi was always being a being of pure logic. A creation of science, for science, right?" Her tone got a little stronger the more she was able to put her thoughts in order. "And then, I was...changed. Into this body. It's human, in every way we've been able to test."

"And...the human in you is reacting to Critias. From, well. From before," Vincent clarified without clarifying much of anything at all.

Phase didn't reply, just stared a thousand yards into the wall until she gusted the last of the shake from her lungs. "I see...I see what those old philosophers meant now, the ones that talked about humans thinking with their brains, but also their hearts and guts," she spoke to the wall more than to anyone in particular, though she knew everyone was listening. A void had formed in the crowd around them, which gave her a confusing blend of gratitude and despair. She worked with it, at any rate, and kept speaking, "And there was comfort in being just logical, without all the confusing stuff. I didn't know it 'til I didn't have it anymore. And sometimes it feels like all I get is the bad, confusing stuff, that just...pops into my head, until it's all I can think about."

Finally she turned to face Critias. She shivered a little despite herself, but the calm on her face didn't waver. "You're...big. And purple. a HeelNavi. That's all it is. I promise that's all it is." And, closing her eyes, she reached a hand out to Critias' velvety snout, knuckles down as though offering it to a dog.
Critias was about to mutter something before being immediately fried on the spot by Yusaku's glare. The bat's mouth hung open for a moment, before shutting back up. No more Critias for a bit.

"Hm. Well...true. Navis are logic driven beings. But that doesn't mean Navis are emotionless machines. Your body isn't human per-se, otherwise you'd be standing right here with us and I would very much be enjoying cuddling with a cute girl istead of a grown man chugging on beer on a Saturday night." Yusaku's response was analytical as usual.

"I know of a few highly experimental prototype software that allows for a more "human" navi to be created. One of wich is the core of Critias and many NSD created navis...but I've never seen it just transmitted to other navis before."

The big bat-wyvern slightly tilted his head at Phase's comment. He quietly observed how she slowly raised her hand with closed eyes, trying to pet him. She stopped short of his nose by a few inches, which prompted the purple navi to look up at his NetOp for consent before moving closer. Slowly, the hulking navi lowered his head down and gently rubbed his snout onto Phase's palm. Silky smooth and fluffy soft, Critias' fur tickled lightly as he nuzzled. A small muffled growl akin to purring escaped the bat-wyvern's throat. As Yusaku mentioned, his navi enjoyed being pet. He was certaily wagging his tail way more vigorously now.

Meanwhile, Yusaku was still deep in thought and still cuddled up to Vincent. If Phase's weird condition was NSD related, then Critias would have felt it. Hell, HE would have felt it. So it wasn't his father's company. But then...could any of competitor be the cause? No one of them produced Heel models. Either their facilities had been breached by the outside/inside or someone else unknown was trying to play God.

"Whatever thing you're doing tomorrow, postpone it." Yusaku told his friend. "If it's work and stuff I'll pay you triple your salary's worth but tomorrow morning you're in my lab by 8am while I work on things."

The bat costume wearing youngster seemed pretty adamant on this whole sphiel.
Hey!" Vincent boomed, more or less spinning Yu in place such that he could meet his eye head on. He affected a most affronted face a few moments longer, then relaxed and grinned around a swig. "I Resembool...that is to say, I resemble that remark," he snarked, earning a wet giggle from Phase. His grin widened - there she was.

With her eyes closed, the Net fell away until all Phase knew was the microscopic space between cornea and eyelid. It was an unfamiliar darkness - she didn't remember needing to blink before. Certainly she might have done so as a cosmetic reflex, but her awareness of the world had been a perfect, unending stretch of memory. Part of her quailed at the self-imposed blindness, while the other relished the control it gave her over her own body, however slight. Control over her perceptions: a shutoff switch her eyes had once lacked, rather than another strange anomaly. It was easier to think along lines like that, lines that put her on the positive side of this eternal ambivalence.

When Critias bumped his nose into Phase's hand, at first all she felt was the solid, large mass behind the push, and she had to grit her teeth to avoid yelping and flailing backwards. The mass didn't advance on her, didn't move at all once it had made contact. She repeated that in her head like a mantra, eyes still wincing shut. Her hand felt..."Warm." The word slipped out mostly by accident. "Soft..." That one, as she flexed her fingers experimentally, was less accidental. The longer she spent listening to the great beast's breath (there was just so much weight to him), the more she was reminded of Vincent's cat, particularly of playing laser pointer on the floor with him. For all Vincent treated him like a furry little snuggle-nugget, Thomas could be intimidating if your hologram only came up to his shoulder, particularly if you were his favourite toy to pounce on - which of course, was the case for Phase on both counts. The same was true here, only without the sight of Critias driving her adrenal cortex into bedlam, she could also remember watching from high, high up on Vincent's shoulder, as her Operator skritched the cat into a purring black potato in his lap.

In her private darkness, she digested Yu's words. They rang true enough: even as a NormalNavi she hadn't been numb to feeling, but it had been a pale shadow of what was coursing through her now. "I remember..." she took a breath and composed her thoughts, fingers rasping up and down the crown of Critias' head, "When I felt, before. I was always happy with Vincent, and proud of hard working children and exasperated with students that don't apply themselves and sad when I saw stray dogs. But it was just one...bit of me, I guess you'd say." Her hands flexed open and closed in spasms as she tried to find the words. "Like, thinking and emoting in human speeds was just another sub-process, and I had room for so many more, and they could go as fast as they liked without being slowed down to your offense."

"And now, this," she gestured blindly down at herself, "this is all there is. I can't interface with the Net as a Navi anymore, so I have to access everything manually, just like Vincent." She brought her hands up and waggled her fingers, mashing an imaginary keyboard. Slowly, almost unconsciously, her hands reached back towards Critias, this time with both hands. She probed forward with her palms up, fingers slowly swishing back and forth in a motion she remembered Vincent using to scratch Thomas' chin. "It was a syringe," she murmured almost as an afterthought. "I remember that. They injected me with something, and then everything got really hot and awful for a second and then I was. Ah." She shrugged. "I was this. It was so strange, I didn't even understand what had happened until..." she went very quiet. Her fingers caught in Critias' fur.

Beer #5(?) was tipped back and polished off as Yu made Vincent an offer, ability to refuse pending. There was a long moment where Vincent held his new friend's technicolour gaze with what he likely thought was great passion and vigour. Within about 0.25 seconds that red-shifted into immediate panic, and he whipped his head around just in time to spare Yu a tremendous belch right to the face. As it was, given the sheer volume of carbonation his lungs were capable of storing, the volume was impressive to say the least. "Pardomme," he said finally. "Well, I mean, tomorrow was...Sunday. So school's out, but... Phase, the, the schedule Phase! The Sunday shhedule! I *urp* need my Sunday shhedule Phase! You gotta, you gotta know what I'm doing Sunday, what've I got goin' onnnnn-"

"Sorry, Vince, all I've got for you is 'hangovers and steamship documentaries'," Phase quipped, at long last smiling a little.

"Oh right I'm a teacher and have no life!" Vincent cheered, pumping a fist in the air and promptly bashing it on a wrought-iron light fixture. "FFFRUGGIN'-" He shook his throbbing digits out, his lap heaving like a ship at sea and more than likely jostling his passenger a little. "Now youuuu," he waggled a finger in Yu's direction, "You an' I, Yu, I think we got a lot in common, Yu." He leaned back; a carelessly-placed arm looped around his torso meant Yu was more or less pulled along for the ride. "I got a lotta attention in school too I wasn't so hot about, and I'll give yeh three guesses why." He gave their whole situation, him more or less making a teddy bear of another grown-ass man, a very long look. " really sucks, dunnit? When you get attenshun cuzza stuff had no power over? Like you didn't ask to be filthy stinkin' rich, right, but that's all erryone sees, yeah, and then nobody cares about the stuff you wanna get weird and crazy about. Like science! And your suit! And your suit science! I LOVE SCIENCE!"

The last declaration was made just a little too loud, and the barkeep threw them the hairy eyeball across the ball. He gave Yu a loaded glance, as though asking 'You gonna deal with this?'