Second Home

After arriving at the International Electopian Airport, Scarlet made her way to the place prepared for her stay, checking in at the famed Yoka Inn. Obviously, it was not all that high-class, but it suited her tastes, and the hot springs were not to be trifled with. Pulling along her large traveling bag behind her along with the backpack she had slung over her shoulder, she made her way to her room.

The room was much simpler than the one she had had back at the mansion, but Scarlet shrugged it off. At least she could walk around newer places now, and not have to walk the same boring old streets around her residence. Unpacking her things into the modest wardrobe, she stretched around her room for a bit, enjoying the cool night air streaming in through the balcony. Plopping down onto the bed, she placed her PET into the charging dock on the bedside table. "Aaaaaaahhhhhhh~ A comfortable bed like this makes you feel like not doing work at all!"

".... Wouldn't that be bad?" a voice said, which made Scarlet look up from her bed. The projection of her Navi, Terra, was standing near her bed, with her hands behind her back. The Navi seemed not to look at Scarlet while she talked, instead opting to look around the area. It made Scarlet feel a little awkward, but she reassured herself. That's just the personality base I programmed into her, she thought. "Eh, I'm kidding. I can do my work fine, don't worry about it."

"In any case, the current time is ten o' clock, Scarlet. You should get plenty of rest before tomorrow," said Terra, sitting down next to her operator. The terraformer had begun playing around with a tiny ball of mud, shaping it freely as it floated between two fingers.

"Yeah, I'm feeling a little tired," said Scarlet. Turning off the PET's projection function, Scarlet went to get a change of clothes, and immediately hopped into the bed, pulling the thick covers over her. The blankets felt good in the cool night, and she immediately fell asleep. "Good night..."
An early morning breeze streamed in through the blinds as Scarlet walked out of the bathroom. "Haaaaaa~ There's nothing like a good warm shower to wake you up for the day!" she said happily as she rummaged through her clothes for the day's wear. Getting dressed quickly, she looked at Terra, who looked to be sitting on the floor mat patiently, staring out the balcony at the sunrise.

"It's beautiful, isn't it?" said Scarlet, walking by Terra's side and watching the orange slowly turn blue.

"... Yes, it is."

Finishing the last of her preparations, Scarlet grabbed her PET from the charging dock, her backpack, and her room keycard. "C'mon, Terra, time to go," she said, waiting at the door. Terra turned around, nodded, and stood up as she disappeared into the PET. Sighing, Scarlet locked the door behind her, and checked her watch on her way out. August 2nd, 7.49am.
The sliding door of the Yoka Inn slid noisily as a beep indicated the tenant's entrance. The lights of the room immediately switched themselves on as Scarlet walked into the room, with Terra following close behind, in her 1:1 scale hologram mode. Even though a few people gave them some strange looks, they were succintly ignored by the Operator, who silently went along with her Navi. She'd had a long day: besides her meet-up with Katherine, she was to set up with an associate at SciLabs about her project and a company deal with her father's tech company. The whole setup took a lot longer than she had thought, and she was exhausted.

Scarlet sighed heavily as she saw the plump bed that she had had last night. A look outside the balcony made it clear that it was the time for sleeping. She resisted the urge to sleep; she had things to do, after all. Sitting down on the bed, she extracted her prototype-model PET and set it on the table. It was a fairly old design, but she liked its simplicity. She then extracted the upgrades she had gotten from Suitachi's, particularly gleaming at the sight of the Speed Upgrade.

"... You are upgrading my systems again, Scarlet?" Terra asked, standing still in front of her, curious.

"Mm, yeah. I'll be doing some reconfiguring of your attack protocols, now that you'll be a bit stronger. Just go into stand by for the night, I'll probably go straight to bed after this," Scarlet explained, pulling up a holoscreen and tapping on it. Terra watched her operator work her hardest, and walked up to her side, watching the screen's various goings-on. Scarlet looked up at her Navi's concerned face, and smiled. "It's fine, go ahead. I'll be okay."

"... I understand," said Terra, her figure now disappearing into the aether. Scarlet heaved a sigh, and continued her trek through her reconfiguration. Soon after, she was walking about in a bathrobe, having taken a shower. She looked out the balcony, and surveyed the empty sky. The industrial development of the world had blocked out the sight of the sparkling stars; Scarlet knew that, but looked anyway.

Two solitary stars stood out as the only blinking lights in the sky for now. Scarlet looked wistfully at them for a couple of minutes, and yawned.

"Well, time for bed," she murmured, changing and slipping into the covers. "Night," she said to the PET beside her, now on standby.
"Ahhh, man, what a nice way to start the day," said Scarlet, drying her hair with the towel as she got out of the bathroom. She snagged a bit of the cereal she had ordered from room service, munching on it as she went through her wardrobe. Deciding on a loose T-shirt and track pants, she tied up her hair in a loose ponytail and finished up her breakfast. Walking out the door, she made sure to pick up her PET on the way out.

Scarlet felt like her teenage years again as she walked down the hallway, dressed as light as could be, with her hair tied up. Heck, sure, she would be all business-like again come noon, when she'd have to meet up again with some corporate-types for another long-winded meeting. She walked around the beautiful gardens in a brisk walk, enjoying the morning atmosphere.

After about half an hour, she sat down on one of the benches in the garden, looking at a small fountain in front of her. Then, she remembered Terra, and put the Navi out of standby. Terra appeared again on the bench next to her, still in her 1:1 scale mode. "Good morning, Terra," said Scarlet, smiling.

"... Good morning, Scarlet," said Terra, looking around at her surroundings. "... Are we home?"

"Ah, no, I'm not back at Whitesoil just yet," replied Scarlet, chuckling slightly. "Anyway, I've reworked some of your attacks last night. You should be able to do some other stuff now. For one, you can shift elements into your normal chip attacks. You can also create a spherical shockwave from a distance from the ground."

"... That is interesting," said Terra, raising an eyebrow. "Are we going to bust viruses again today?"

Scarlet scratched at her cheek, and shook her head. "Nah, I've got something else in mind. I signed you up for a social event in ACDC. I figure it'll help you develop your social skills some. Plus I think I've read of them somewhere."

"... Them?" asked Terra.

"They call themselves the Neo-Shogun Army or something. Might have something interesting," said Scarlet. She did not mention her intent of seeing how Terra handled herself in larger crowds, however. She opened up a holoscreen in front of her, ready to observe. "I'll jack you in now. That fine?"

"Mm," mumbled Terra, nodding as she did so. With that, Scarlet tapped the large Transmission button on the screen, and Terra disappeared from her side. "Jack In, Terra.EXE, Transmission."

[ACDC Net - Neo-Shogun Council]
Walking back to her room after jacking out Terra, she left the Navigator in hibernation mode before changing into her usual business-like attire. Checking herself in the mirror, she felt satisfied, and walked out the door. As her meeting was scheduled to be somewhere around the SciLab area, she figured a quick stop at Suitachi's wouldn't hurt. Perhaps some menial upgrades to Terra's systems would make her a little happier about things, she thought.

[To SciLab]
The door opened slowly as Scarlet inserted her keycard into the appropriate slot, lighting up the room. Running her hand through her hair, she threw her briefcase of paperwork on the bed, and tossed her red jacket onto it for good measure. Stretching her limbs, she exhaled heavily. That meeting was definitely longwinded as hell; she didn't have to listen to basically an hour of the higher-ups mumbling mass-marketing mantras.

Looking at her watch, she suddenly remembered Terra, whom she had set to hibernation mode for almost the entire evening. She checked the PET's status screen, watching Terra's unconscious image sleeping contentedly. A warm smile creeped up to Scarlet's face, immediately washing away all of her fatigue. She tapped the "Start" button on the PET, and watched as Terra's hologram slowly built itself up in front of her.

Terra rubbed her eyes tiredly, looking around. "Had a nice nap, Terra?" asked Scarlet, sitting down on the bed. Terra blinked quietly, probably still groggy from her hibernation mode.

"... A-Ah, yes. Hibernation is nice," said Terra after a while, smiling back at her operator.

"Good to hear," said Scarlet, standing up as she went through her closet and changed into something a little less restrictive than her usual business-y attire. Pausing for a bit, she took up a towel and some other clothes, and turned to Terra. "Oh, right. I was thinking of sending you to look around at the local Yoka network. I heard it has some relaxing hot springs. What do you think?" asked Scarlet.

"... That sounds good," said Terra, to which Scarlet responded with a thumbs up.

"Okay, follow me," the operator said, as she headed out the door, taking her PET and keycard with her. Terra changed into her smaller scale version, and placed herself on Scarlet's shoulder, waiting to see what the latter had in mind.


Soon, Scarlet was nose-deep in the open-air inn hot spring, closing her eyes and letting the warmth soothe her worries. Everything concerning her busy day quickly evaporated along with the steam that was emitted from the surface. Strangely enough, when Scarlet had entered, the place was practically deserted, except for a small group of girls which were just about to leave. And so, she had the entire place to herself.

Terra waited at the side of the spring, as Scarlet turned around. "Oh, sorry. I forgot," laughed Scarlet, as she saw Terra twiddling her thumbs figuratively. As her PET was one of the newer models, it was, of course, protected against watery death, as old PETs were prone to. Opening up the holoscreen, she scanned for a nearby jack-in point, finding one quickly.

"Jack in, Terra.EXE, Transmission."

[Jack In - Yoka Net]
Walking around the hallways of the Yoka Inn, Scarlet sighed in satisfaction as she wiped off her face after a soak in the inn's famed hot springs. "That was so relaxing," she said to herself, smiling happily. Looking to her side, she saw Terra sleeping on her shoulder, exhausted from her battling. The sight of her little Navigator's peacefully napping face made Scarlet chuckle. "All tired out there, I see," she mused.

Recalling previous events, she had noticed Terra was getting somewhat wound up over time, fighting near her limits every time she went out. Even though she had only reached her theoretical HP limit once, Scarlet couldn't say the same for Terra's mental limits. Perhaps she had overestimated the adaptive abilities of the variable Hikari AI? No, many more tests had been conducted before on a lot of other Navis, and it was observed that different Hikari AI-generated personalities faced problems differently. Perhaps she just had to let Terra unwind for a bit. At the rate she was seeing, Scarlet worried that Terra might pop at any given time.

Soon, she wound up in her room, dressed in a simple configuration of camisole and shorts, browsing the bulletin boards at her leisure, fixing up some of her business documents, and having some general me-time. Her laptop was plopped on the bed in front of her, and she was lying down, hugging a pillow to her chest. Terra's tiny holographic figure was still sleeping, now beside the laptop instead of on her shoulder. Since a Saturday was inbound the next day, she wasn't worried about having to wake up too early.

Finding a topic about Support Programs on a certain BBS she frequented, she read through the posts, thinking about her Navi. Perhaps she was simply lonely? She had seen before that Terra had loosened up visibly when she was virus busting with a certain knight Navi. The more she thought about it, the more she liked the idea. Her fingers raced across the keyboard, reading through the procedures. Though she could probably code up a Support Program of her own, she knew that would take her at least as long as forever, as it did for Terra.

"Need something else."

Fortunately for her, she knew a certain organization handed out special customizable program bases for these sorts of things, and for the low, low price of a small job done. Of course, the Global Network Administration's mission BBS popped up on her screen a few seconds later, and a prompt reply was soon received. "Damned efficient," she commented, reading through the offered mission. The job struck her as... not what she would have expected. "... A what?"


The next morning, Scarlet had finished explaining to her Navi, who seemed to take the idea her operator had given her with an unexpectedly receptive view. "Well, if you say so," said Scarlet, taking a small sip of coffee, courtesy of room service. "Mm, good java," she commented, sending in the reply of acceptance, with a quick response as usual. Starting on some buttered toast, she started up the holographic interface of her PET, and jacked in Terra.

"Good luck, and have fun," said Scarlet, sending her off with a thumbs-up.

[Jack In - Mission Homepage Site]
Sighing as she downed the last of her coffee, Scarlet couldn't help but have an amused look on her face, watching Terra seclude herself in the corner of the room, still swaddled in her bedcloth. Scarlet had offered to restore her original graphical base, but Terra adamantly refused for some reason, and went off silently to the corner. Seems she's a little embarrassed about a certain something, thought Scarlet, setting the empty mug on the tray that was set in. Taking her time to dress herself, she observed Terra in the corner all the while, thinking about what to say to her.

She walked over to Terra, trying to console her. "Come on, Terra, it wasn't that bad, was it?" she attempted. "I wanted to give you a little break from all that fighting. Come on, lighten up a little?" Terra turned towards Scarlet, about to scowl at her. However, the latter had such a soft, maternal face that the Navi couldn't help but melt at its softness. "... I suppose it was... somewhat enjoyable," muttered Terra, turning back to hide her small smile.

"That's the spirit. Anyway, I'm going to get you some upgrades, and let you tinker around with the base. See what kind of partner you'd like. Does that sound like a good enough apology?" said Scarlet. Terra simply nodded, and disappeared into the air into Scarlet's PET. "Let's go," said Terra, in her usual voice, to which Scarlet replied to with an affirmative and walked out the door.
"Well, Terra, did you decide what you wanted with the base yet? I'm not really going to start on the code without your go-through," said Scarlet, as she inserted her card into the door lock, and went in. Immediately, her stuffy jacket was thrown off, and she flopped herself onto the bed with a contented sigh. Terra reappeared before her in 1:1 holoform, sitting on the straw mat and examining the SP base in her hands. In its raw form, the graphical renderer simply projected it as a glowing data ball.

"... I have some ideas," Terra spoke up, as Scarlet rolled around to look at her Navi. "Oh, really? Do tell," said Scarlet, interested as to what kind of design choices her "child" might have. Just then, her watch beeped once, and Scarlet looked at the time. Her stomach realized that she hadn't taken any sort of breakfast, aside from the mug of coffee earlier, and grumbled in protest. "Rrrrrrr, it's almost time for lunch already. Half the Saturday's gone," murmured Scarlet, burying her face in a pillow.

"... Don't worry, go and eat. I'll work on it," said Terra, pulling up the bedsheet from earlier out of nowhere and swaddling herself in it, covering the data sphere along with her. "Really? You sure you don't--" started Scarlet, before her stomach interrupted her loudly. "Y-Yeah, I'll be going now. Don't go anywhere, I'll be back soon," she said without thinking as she picked her jacket back up and started making a beeline for the nearest roadside stall.

Unsurprisingly, Scarlet found the food from Yoka's nearby stalls much more inviting than the pretentious "food" served at the inn itself, which served more as a nice, tiny, wallet-breaking display. Having heard grand tales of Electopian rice and its preparations, she had had her fill of riceballs, finding it most addictive. Scarlet belched in a most unladylike manner as she entered her room.

She found Terra laid back against the corner, staring at a few holographic screens laid out around her with a small smirk on her face. The Navi looked up at Scarlet, and widened her smile without reservation. "I'm finished," she said, much to the surprise of Scarlet. "... What? Really?" replied Scarlet, sitting at the bed with appropriately raised eyebrows.

"... Well, not completely. I haven't obtained any information on how to install the Hikari Artificial Pseudo-Intelligence module. Complete tuning of the program's abilities derived from mine is also a little ways from being done," informed Terra. "Ah, right, that thing is a bit tricky to handle. I'll help you with that, and tune it for you. Kinda bored, anyway," replied Scarlet, sliding the PET over to her side as she picked up a pillow to stuff under her head. Terra sidled up to the side of the bed, and leaned in, trying to get a view of the holoscreen Scarlet had pulled up. Swaddling herself in the bedsheet, she made herself comfortable.

An hour later, Terra had fallen asleep, while Scarlet was still busily tapping away at the holoscreen. She had just finished installing the AI, which seemed like something of a fictional tale. From a customization perspective, it was technically possible to mold the personality in any way you wanted, but in the end, the AI's intricacies made it impossible to do that precisely, and there was always an element of weirdness in how the AI decided them, specifically for custom Navigators.

"Terra, I'm done. Wake up, sleepyhead," the operator said, rousing the Navigator quickly from her "sleep" routine. "... Ah, are we going to boot her up?" mumbled Terra, rubbing her eyes as she sat up to look at the screen. "Yeah, I've checked it for errors. You're pretty good at it, and I have to say I like the design," said Scarlet, smiling warmly.

"... Thank you," said Terra, hiding more of her face inside the bedsheet. "Hey, now, don't get too attached to that thing," chuckled Scarlet, as she turned back to the holoscreen, making her final arrangements. "All right, cold booting and setting to full-scale projection," she said, sitting up as she set down the pillow to brace against. Terra also pulled herself up to the bed and watched the projection slowly load itself to completion.

Moments later, a black-haired child was standing in front of them, dressed in a tank-top, jeans, and boots. Her hair was tied to one side, and it would seem like a normal, smaller version of Terra, were it not for the many perforations of rocks from the child's body. A blank expression was painted on the child's face for a few moments as she took her first blinks of "life".

And then, immediately after, her blank expression turned to that of awe, and then, elation. "Waaaaa!" the child exclaimed, as she leapt at Terra, hugging the Navi tightly in a fit of happiness. "Ahahaha! Hahahahaha!" laughed the SP, burying her face into Terra's ample chest, prompting Terra to recoil back slightly with a flushed face, trying to figure out what was happening. At this point, the SP's hands were now moving to Terra's sides, squeezing the Navi's assets with the same unending happy face as her face was buried in them.

Scarlet watched with slight surprise, which turned quickly into amusement. The SP retreated from her assault of Terra's torso, breathing heavily for some reason. "Haa, haa, s-sorry for that. Got, uh, c-carried away," said the SP, her eyes clearly lingering over to Scarlet and her twitching arms restraining herself. Lowering her head, the SP introduced herself.

"Name's Carbide, extension Support Program, at your service."

"... and please don't do that without warning again," said Terra, who had her arms crossed over her chest, looking slightly flustered. After a bit, they had introduced themselves to the program, and generally got acquainted. "Hahahaha, sorry, I can't guarantee that," said Carbide, with a suspicious-looking grin. Scarlet even saw Carbide gulp down some saliva, and Terra getting rather uncomfortable. She quickly thought to step in to defuse the situation.

"Anyway! Glad to see you two are getting along. I've got something for you two to break the ice with," she started, getting the two to turn to her. "I've just gotten a notification that I'm supposed to pick up a small business shipment from a Netopia company. I got advance word of it, and it'd be peachy if you two could get there and deliver it early. You can test out how you two fit together in battle."

"All right! I'm itching to go! Let's fight!" said Carbide immediately. "C'mon, Terra, let's go!"

Terra's expression looked slightly skewed for a moment, and then she sighed. "... Yes, let's go."

Scarlet breathed easy for a moment, and tapped a button on the holoscreen to her side. "All right then. Jack in, Terra.EXE, Transmission."

[Jack In - Netopia Net]
Scarlet breathed a sigh of relief when the jack-out transfer completed, and she disconnected the wireless connection to the internet. "Glad you guys are all right," said Scarlet, turning to their holographic projections. "Yep! A-OK!" reported Carbide, before a sudden leftover jolt from the attack earlier coursed through her arm, and causing her to jump in shock. "Ow, ow, ow. Okay, maybe not," she continued, grimacing as she gingerly touched her arm where the jolt had occurred.

"That was a good test run, and you guys did well. Package was a bonus," said Scarlet, earning smiles from both of the girls in the room. A ringing tone from her PET interrupted her, however, and she picked up the call. "Yes? Ah, yeah, I got the package. You're coming over? Mm. Oh, could you pick up some Navigator upgrades for me? I'll transfer you the list and cash for it. All right, thanks. Later," she said, putting down the call as quickly as she got it.

"Who was that?" asked Carbide, a sparkling look of curiosity clearly pasted all over her face. Terra seemed to be interested as well, as she looked at Scarlet with a milder, yet similar expression. "You'll see," replied Scarlet cryptically.
"Ahahaha! I win!" exclaimed Carbide, jumping around a disdainful Terra, who pinched her forehead at the loss of the game of checkers. Somehow, being extremely aggressive won the game for the hyperactive little program. Scarlet blinked her eyes open as Carbide jumped around and declared her win loudly. Terra stood up, and positioned herself in the corner to reevaluate her tactics. Of course, "reevaluating tactics" could just as easily be phrased as "sulking".

"... Fluke," muttered Terra, just loudly enough for Carbide to hear. "Hey! That wasn't a fluke!" retorted Carbide, making a point to puff up her cheeks indignantly. That elicited a response from Terra, who turned around at her support program. The latter made sure to maintain her indignant expression, while the former maintained a poker face.

Immediately, two rock fists formed themselves near Carbide's temples, and proceeded to drill themselves lightly into the side of her head. "Awawawaaaaaaooooow!" yelped Carbide. A chuckle escaped Terra's lips, and Scarlet smiled with amusement at the situation. "Hey, Terra, let up, come on, you don't want to crush her skull," said Scarlet, rubbing her eyes and sitting up on her bed. Sure enough, Terra retreated her assault, leaving a teary-eyed Carbide behind.

Heeeey, come on, open uuuuup, a small voice said after the loud noise subsided. "Oh, there he is," said Scarlet, dragging her feet from her seat on the bed to the door. Terra raised an eyebrow at the statement. He...? she thought, as the door opened, and closed again. "About time you got here," said Scarlet, who walked back into their view, along with a figure that followed behind her.

Terra went on to examine this new person, gathering information as best as she could. At a height of around 190 centimetres, a scruffy-looking young man presented himself through the doorway, scratching his head with a dull-looking smile. Dressed in a white long-sleeved shirt and black slacks that looked rather disheveled, the man looked to be uninterested as to how he carried himself about with his appearance.

The visitor had a small plastic bag with him, which he placed on the desk near him. "Cheese, you look like you just woke up. Anyway, upgrades you wanted," he informed, gesturing to them lightly. "Thanks, Luke," said Scarlet, who sat on the bed, and pointed her thumb at the chair near the desk. The man looked off to the side as he sat down, and thumbed at the holographic projections in the room. "These girls yours?" he asked, managing to make the question seem as uninterested as possible.

Carbide was rubbing out the last of her pain, and noticed the new person in the room. "Hm?" she muttered, curiosity peaked. Terra turned around as well, sitting down on her heels in a traditional Yoka pose she had observed somewhere in the hotel. Scarlet hugged her knees as she nodded in the affirmative. The man murmured an interested "Hmmm..." in response.

This went on for a few seconds until Carbide broke the awkward silence. "Uhhh... who's this, Scarlet?" she ventured. Scarlet chuckled in amusement, and said to the man, "Go ahead, introduce yourself, savage." The man rolled his eyes at the nickname, and straightened up his pose, scratching his hair as he did. "Just call me Luke. Lucas Flynn is kind of a boring name. 'Savage' friend of your cheeky little operator here," he said, making sure he put some emphasis on the last part.

Terra bowed her head slightly in return, and answered, "... My name is Terra." Her support program made sure to jump in with an enthusiastic "Carbide!" off to the side. Luke smiled slightly as he heard their responses, passing a glance at Scarlet. "Nice to meet you two," he said, relaxing his pose a little. "C'mon, Scar, if you wanna say something, you should start," he continued, passing the baton to her.

"Fine. Terra, Carbide, Luke's an old friend of mine from since I was in elementary. He's got plenty of R&D credentials, and he's the one who showed me the ropes on how to make Terra over a few years," explained Scarlet. "He's also... my... uh..." she trailed off, averting her gaze as her face flushed. Luke laughed as he continued the statement, "Fiancé."

"Ooooh!" exclaimed Carbide, while Terra only visibly raised her eyebrows. Scarlet buried her face in a thick pillow in response, while Luke grabbed the PET placed on the desk and the upgrades, and started idly installing them. "Anyway, nobody's said why I'm here yet, which is just to look at your code and see what I can do to soup it up or something," he said, finishing the install along with his sentence. Terra was interested as to how he could input all of the necessary prompts while still maintaining eye contact with them.

"I think she said something about terrain manipulation..." he muttered as his fingers danced across the PET's dashboard, going through lines of settings and configurations with a bored look on his face. "Ah, here we go, let's just install that... and set that up..." continued Luke, earning him worried looks from Carbide and interested looks from Terra. A few moments later, Terra felt her systems being jump-started, as did Carbide.

Luke pulled up a screen, which listed off some things from the jump-start. "Lava-type CyberPanel overwrite generation, general immunity to terrain effects, no effect towards planeswalking functions. ElementalRage1 set to fast transfer, target Carbide," he read off in a monotone. Carbide reacted with her usual oohing yet again, while Terra immediately started to test out her functions by forming a small ball of molten rock in her hand.

"Well, that's tha--" said Luke, turning his attention over to Scarlet, but somehow, with all of the happenings, his fianceé had dozed off, still hugging the pillow. "... Sheesh, must have bored her to sleep," he muttered. He turned back to the Navi and SP, scratching his cheek. "Well, dinner's in a couple hours, I can wake her up then. Where's the TV remote... oh, there it is," asked Luke, before answering his own question, picking up the remote on the desk.

However, pressing the buttons on it caused nothing to happen to the television screen. At first, he figured to manually press the buttons on the TV, but all that was displayed on the screen was a garble of colors. "Cheese, looks like a bunch of viruses froze it up. I swear, they've got to start proofing these more," muttered Luke.

Turning back to the still-awake pair, he said, "Hey, you two. Is it a little overstepping if I ask you guys to kill a few critters in this TV? You guys can test out your new functions and everything. I'll operate." Carbide practically jumped at the opportunity. "Yeah, le--" she started to speak out, before being muted by Terra. "Tsst, don't wake up Sleeping Beauty now. Terra, you up for it?" said Luke. Terra blinked a few times in contemplation, then nodded slowly.

"Great," he said, grabbing the PET and pressing some buttons. Unlike a bunch of people, he didn't feel the need to announce the jacking-in procedure. That stuff was lame.

[Jack In: Yumland Net]
"Nnnnnh," mumbled Luke, as he placed the PET back on the desk. "Sorry about that. Shouldn't have sent you in with no reason like that," he apologized to the Navi and SP, grumbling to himself as he leered to the side at the useless television. "... It's fine," said Terra, as she and Carbide reappeared in their small-scale holograms on the desk.

Absentmindedly, Luke stepped back towards the bed, looking at the peacefully napping Scarlet. "Heheheh, look at that trail of drool. Ain't that cute," he said, mostly to himself. Terra and Carbide's figures disappeared from the desk, and rematerialized on the bed. "Sleepy," mumbled Carbide, walking up to her snoozing operator while Terra trailed behind. "Think I'll take a nap too..." she yawned, laying down on her side near Scarlet's face and falling promptly asleep five seconds later.

Terra sat down near her SP, while Luke swept away some of the hair off Scarlet's face. The pair that was still awake gave each other a knowing look, and spent some time staring at the two dozers. "... So, Terra," whispered Luke, pulling out a PET from his pocket and booting it up. "Play any checkers?" he asked, which received a response in the form of a blank stare from the Navigator.

Some time later, Scarlet's eyes fluttered open to find Luke and Terra cross-legged on the floor, locked in a battle of wits; a grid of cards was lined out in front of them. Luke's forehead was creased noticeably, while Terra had her chin propped up with her arm. Rolling over to her side, Scarlet watched sleepily as Terra placed a card from her hand onto her side of the grid, and pointed to one of Luke's cards.

Luke clicked his tongue, and put down the cards in his hand. "All right, good game," he said, pressing two fingers to the creases on his forehead as Terra folded her arms in a silent victory pose. "Mmmm, looks like you guys're having fun," mumbled Scarlet, rubbing her eyes as she sat up on the bed. "Well, look who decided to wake up," said Luke, forcing a smile after his defeat.

As she looked down at the game in progress, which appeared to be some sort of trading card game, she also saw a miniature Carbide wandering in dreamland next to her. Stretching out and yawning, she asked, "... What time is it?" Luke glanced at the PET he had been using for Terra's side of the card game, and tapped a button. "Wow, it's eight already. That was fast," he said, reading off the screen.

"Oh, it's--" started Scarlet, before being rudely interrupted by a loud rumble from her stomach. The sound caused a nearby sleeping Carbide to be jolted awake. "Eh? Uh?" she mumbled, looking around her. "... dinnertime, I think?" Luke continued Scarlet's cut-off sentence. Scarlet laughed, and nodded. "I think I saw a good stand outside yesterday night," she said, jumping up from the bed and into the bathroom. "Gonna wash my hair and freshen up. Won't take long~"

Terra watched her operator walk off, and deduced the situation. "... I'll be hibernating early. Please enjoy your evening," said Terra, before she disappeared onto the bed, and picked up Carbide in her arms gently, materializing up the bedsheet from earlier in the day. "All right, good night," said Luke, who found the addition of space between him and Scarlet welcoming. Rough days at work make small things like this all the better, he thought, standing up and clearing out the game he was playing.

Scarlet exited the bathroom just then, drying off her hair with a towel, her face wet from some washing. Luke raised an eyebrow in questioning. "That... didn't take long. Are you sure you were "washing your hair" and "freshening up"?" teased Luke, gesturing with his fingers to provide the ubiquitous sarcastic quote effect. Scarlet laughed it off as she hung up the towel and started running through her briefcase.

"Mmm, should be enough," she said, pulling out a loose T-shirt and pants combination. Peeling off her clothes, she started stepping into the new ones when she noticed Luke looking away, face as red as a beet. Amused at his consideration, she finished dressing, and walked up to pinch Luke's cheek. "Come on, silly, you're buying," she said with a mocking note.

Chuckling, Luke pulled away his cheek, and rolled his eyes as he stood up. "Jeez, I don't even get a break for being nice," he joked as they walked out the door.
"You sent them to bed?" said Scarlet, as she wandered into the room, Luke close behind. Her gait was lighter than usual, courtesy of a little "experiment" at the stall. "Well, no, Terra just brought the little one to bed by herself," said Luke, closing the door behind them. They had had a great spread for dinner at the nearby stall, thanks to his knowledge of the area as a regular. Though he lived at SciLab, Yoka always felt close to him, as he visited often for its variety of delicacies.

"Whoa, hey, easy there," Luke called, catching Scarlet by the arm before the latter could stagger on to the floor. The woman hiccuped a little, and hung loosely off of Luke's hand for a bit. "Heh heh heh, so this is what it comes out to, huh, Luke?" laughed Scarlet, dragging herself over to the bed and flopping down onto the covers.

Luke shook his head, and ran a hand through his hair in amusement. "What the hell am I going to do with you, Scar..." he muttered as he sat down near Scarlet, and kissed her on the cheek. She giggled quietly into a pillow, and hugged it close to her. Meanwhile, Luke reached for his PET in his pocket to check the time. His face screwed up slightly when he saw the display read out "11:21". Not exactly the best time to drive home on bumpy Yoka roads.

As he was about to put the PET back in his pocket, however, he felt a couple of arms circle around his neck, and some weight on his shoulders press down. "What you're going to do..." Scarlet started. At this point, Luke felt a squishy mass press against his back, and his spine instantly jolted at the realization of what it was. "... is keep me... company," she continued, her hand trailing downwards towards a certain spot.

Rays of light filtered faintly through the blinds, signifying the crack of dawn. The streams of light illuminated a peaceful sight; a pair of lovers in slumbering embrace, covered by naught but tousled white sheets. A beam shone through the blinds on Luke's eyes, rousing him from his sleep. Sitting up in his bed drowsily, he stretched out, and did the usual things one would do on a Sunday morning.

"Mrnmrnmnm," he murmured, pulling a little bit of the sheets over himself and plopping back down on the pillow. Eventually, though, the "little bit" became "all of it", and Scarlet was left uncovered, sleeping in a fetal position. At that moment, one of the programs awoke from her hibernation, and wandered about on the table that the PET was on.

Carbide rubbed her eyes groggily, the entirety of the world still blurry to her. She sat at the edge of the table, and squeaked out a yawn. It took her a while to process the sight in front of her, though it did leave quite an impact on her when she did. Her face flushed in full beetroot red, her eyes were wide open, and her jaw was slack. Putting a hand to her nose and mouth, she left the scene, and went back into the PET, her morning improved significantly.

A few minutes later, Scarlet came out of the shower, having been woken up by a sneeze thanks to a certain blanket bandit. Swaddled in a bathrobe, she drew her hands through her long hair, straightening it out as she always did. She saw Luke sitting up on the bed, swaddled in a similar manner to hers, but in the stolen blanket instead. "Blaaaah, it's not fair that you don't get hangovers. That's just not right," quipped Luke with a groan, scratching his head and looking about for his clothes.

Scarlet laughed it off, and sat down on the bed, ruffling her fiance's hair like a child's. "Just get some rest. It's Sunday, anyway," said Scarlet, to which Luke grinned idiotically, knocking himself out onto the bed and falling fast asleep. She shook her head with a chuckle, and looked at the PET on the table. "Oh, I wonder if they're awake," she said to herself, walking over and picking it up. She noticed that the hibernate function was off.

Opening up the display screen, Scarlet saw Terra on the BBS browser in the PET homepage, and Carbide sitting very closely beside her, her face looking like it was stuck in perpetual bliss. "Hey, Terra, g'morning," said Scarlet, sitting back down on the bed.

"... Good morning," replied Terra, shutting down the browser.

"What's up with her?" asked Scarlet, referring to Carbide. She was even twitching a little. Strange.

"... I have no idea. She woke up before me, and was already like that," said Terra. "Ah, yes, Scarlet. I saw a request on the Internet City BBS, looking for a battle partner. I replied to it, and it's in NetVegas. Do you mind operating?"

Scarlet raised an eyebrow at the statement. So she's already becoming independent. They grow up so fast, thought Scarlet. "Sure, I need to wait for room service to get here, anyway. Keep me busy for a bit," she said, booting up the wireless jack-in protocol.

"Carbide, we're going," said Terra, poking the SP's forehead slightly. Roused by the action, she muttered, "Ah, eh, yeah, sure."

[Jack In - NetVegas Net]
Scarlet pulled up a screen beside her, tapping a few prompts to bring up the Yoka BBS. Sure enough, there was a top thread about some manner of interference with Yoka users to neighboring countries' networks. Some official GNA response only said something about "An international gateway has been damaged. Please do not exit the Electopian national grid for the moment, we are dealing with the problem."

"Well, it's not like it wasn't a good run. They were pretty good," said Carbide, stretching her limbs as she rematerialized on Scarlet's bed. "... I liked the dog," commented Terra. The operator shrugged. "Glad you guys had fun," she said, burying her face into the bed. Still browsing the outage thread, she rolled around and thought of what to do next.

"I'm still itching for some more battles. That was a pretty good fight but it didn't feel like I smacked enough viruses in the face!" exclaimed Carbide, putting up a show of shadow boxing. It would've looked cute if it wasn't for the enormous rocky shields being hurled around her fists as well. Terra sat down on the bed and watched her support partner attentively, albeit with her usual blank expression.

Then, Scarlet's finger stopped as she was scrolling down. Her eyebrows were peaked. "Hm, looks like they're gathering at the newly reopened Okuden Valley network nearby," she read out. Carbide's fist stopped mid-thrust, and she looked up. "Okuden? Where's that?" she asked.

"Apparently it's a nearby campground. They built it near the Okuden Dam. It's a forest-themed network, says here," she recited. Terra's ears perked up at the last sentence, and stood back up. "... Okay, let's go," she said. Carbide turned to her Navi in surprise. "Huh? Oh, you didn't say you wanted to go anywhere else."

"..." Terra blinked at Carbide, and turned towards her operator. Scarlet joined in a staring contest for a couple of seconds before she realized that Terra was waiting for her approval. "Oh! Sorry, sorry. All right, sure. You guys sure you're not too tired?"

"Raring to go!"

Scarlet grinned as she turned up the screen to the internet browser, and sent them in.

[Jack In: Okuden Net]
Briefly appearing in the room in fullsized hologram mode, Terra stumbled slightly before bowing curtly to Scarlet. "... Thank you for putting up with my curiosity. I'll be resting now," she said, smiling radiantly.

"Sleep well, you deserve it," replied Scarlet, after which Terra's hologram disappeared with a blip. Carbide didn't seem to show up, however, presumably retreating into the PET directly after jacking out. The young woman stretched out in the bed, grunting as she glanced at the bright sunlight streaming through the window blinds. "Well, it's officially morning now. What do you want to do?" she said, turning to Luke, who was similarly lounging about on the queen-sized bed.

His response was silent, except for the rumble that came from his stomach. "Does that answer your question?" he laughed, rolling off of the bed. "Let me take a shower and then we can find something to eat. I'm absolutely starving." Scarlet waved her companion off into the bathroom, and set about looking for some decent casual wear for herself. Soon after, the duo had their arms linked together, dressed in some loose T-shirts and shorts for Scarlet, and a scruffy polo shirt and pants for Luke. Heading out the door, the two prepared to spend the day together.

[Next Thread: SciLab Navi Shop.]
"You know, it honestly never feels quite right to eat fish just... raw, like this," said Scarlet. Seated next to a conveyor belt, the crimson-clad businesswoman stared intensely at the plate in front of her, with a thick piece of salmon atop a small roll of rice and seaweed-- in other words, sushi. In her hands, a clumsily held pair of chopsticks trembled, before being used to attempt to grab the bite-sized food. Even as she picked it up, Scarlet's eyes continued to bore into it-- the intensity of her glaring almost made it seem like she was attempting to set it on fire with sheer willpower.

Meanwhile, next to her, a young man patiently looked on with a lopsided smile on his face. He had a similar-looking plate in front of him, though the topping was a brownish cut of grilled eel instead of the salmon on Scarlet's plate. "What? Come on, don't play with your food like that, you're the one who ordered it. If you don't want any of it, you can give it to me and we can order you some ramen or something," said Luke, pointing towards his lunch date with his own chopsticks. From the way he was gripping them, he appeared to be a lot more comfortable with their use.

"Ugh, the calories in that's going to be astronomical," said Scarlet, her lips pursing before devouring it whole. "It tastes good, but like... I don't know. Maybe I'll take you up on the ramen after all."

With a shrug that said "suit yourself" from her date, Scarlet pushed off her plate towards him. She pressed the ordering button on their table. A beep came from somewhere under the table before a mini-projector showed a menu on the table. She scrolled through the menu on the touch-sensitive projection, looking for something to conform to her squeamish tastes. However, as she decided to settle onto what appeared to be the least calorie-heavy set of noodles, she saw something creeping onto her hand. "Eeeeeek!" she yelped, attracting the attention of most of the patrons in the restaurant. Oddly enough, she seemed to calm down rather quickly, waving her hand apologetically at one of the waiters, who looked rather concerned for her.

"My ears... what was that, Scar?"
"S-Sorry! It's just Terra, she decided to start up her hologram and creep up on my hand all of a sudden."

The miniature Terra looked rather shocked as well, with her sudden entrance apparently causing such a stir. "... S-Sorry for disturbing you," she said, bowing her head in apology.
"No, no, it's fine, I was just surprised, that's all... Did you rest up enough?"
"... Yes, I'm ready to be sent back in."

However, instead of immediately agreeing to send Terra back in, Scarlet hesitated slightly, mulling over her menu choice in the meantime. "I'm not sure if you can face that... thing we saw earlier this morning. Not as you are right now. If it was just the one fight I'd send you in, but... I'd much rather have some upgrades done so you and Carbide can survive the trip along the way. Especially Carbide."

Terra looked down at her feet for a moment, before nodding. "... Understood. How do we get these upgrades?"
"Hm... I think sending you to get a bit stronger to buy you a few more Processor Upgrades would be good. Not sure where, though."
"Leave it to me!"

The last voice wasn't present, but its squeaky attribute was already familiar to them; Carbide materialized in holographic form next to Terra, holding out what appeared to be a list on a piece of paper. "I snuck out to go to this 'Bounty Shop' I heard about on a BBS! It was in Netfrica!" she said, giving the sheet of paper to Terra.

Looking over the piece of paper, Terra read out the contents. "... Bounty hunt for virus horde, identified as 'Heat Jelly'. Affected network locations are attached. Return to Wrangler's Bounty Shop once two or more have been subdued or deleted."
"Hunting trip!"

"Hm, that doesn't seem too bad," mulled over Scarlet. "Luke, what do you think?"
"Sure, seems like a good idea."

With a unanimous vote of four, Scarlet brought up the area link in the message and set up the transfer, after which Terra and Carbide zipped out of sight from the table. The floating projected menu sat on the table, still waiting for Scarlet to make her decision.

[Next Thread: Hades Net.]
[<< Assistant to the Regional Manager - Netfrica Net]

"Whew... I'm so stuffed," said Luke. "How about you, Scar?"
"Uh... I think I'd rather not recall how much I ate."

Walking back to the hotel from the restaurant, Scarlet and Luke were leisurely following along a quiet lakeside path in one of the public parks. The line of ducks that were exiting the lake seemed to be the only life present in the slow late afternoon time, when most people would probably be enjoying a peaceful afternoon nap. Their walk halted at a crossroads, which split up between the Yoka Inn and the nearby Metroline. Having been prompted by Terra earlier to buy some upgrades for her, Scarlet had decided to go out to SciLab for a spell before returning.

"Alright, I'll see you in the room in a bit, then, Luke. Have a good nap," said Scarlet.
"Will do. Don't take too long, or I might think you've been stolen away by some other good-looking Electopian," replied Luke, parting ways, but not before receiving a playful punch to his shoulder in retaliation.

[>> Inside the shop - Science Labs]
[<< Soryu's Custom Chip Trader]

"That should be the last of it, I think," said Scarlet, as she looked up from the Navi diagnostics window in front of her, and stretched out from her desk seat. As engrossed as she was in her work, she jumped slightly as she saw how dark it was through the open window in the inn room. "Gah, is it already this late?"

"Oh, you're done?" said Luke, looking up from his own laptop on the other end of the room. He flipped up his arm to check the watch on his wrist. "Yeah, wow, it's already 8. That took you a while."

Scarlet turned around in her seat, loosening the joints in her stiff neck with a light massage. "Hey, come on, you know how much time this sort of thing takes. What were you doing anyway, Mr. Assistant Head Researcher?"

"Looking through some... anatomical reference material," joked Luke, earning him a lightly tossed screwdriver and causing him to raise his arms crossed in defense. "Okay, okay, hey, let up, that could've poked my eye out!"

The little scuffle ended up with a few pillows being thrown across the room, before they ran out of breath, lying on their piles of feather-filled "ammunition". "Phew, okay, that was a good bit of fun, time to wake the two up for their trip," said Scarlet, slowly getting up back onto the desk and hitting the "Reboot" button on the holoscreen.


"Alright, that's all the upgrades I installed on you two. That's about as much as I can prepare you for, so break a leg."

"... Understood." "Will do, boss!" the two girls said, before their holograms disappeared back into the net, where their fate awaited them.

[>> In Her Element - Okuden Net]
[>> In Her Element - Okuden Net]

As late nighttime started to descend on the Yoka village, and the crickets were at the height of their performance, Scarlet swiped her hand across her holo-displays, closing them out one by one.

"I've never seen you quite that panicked before," said Luke, as Scarlet threw herself backwards onto the bed, exhaling with immense relief. Slightly prior, Scarlet had been frantically trying to extract her Navi from the network, after the visual feed had frozen up in the middle of an attack. Pulling a pillow up, she hugged it tightly as she closed her eyes and tried to calm down.

"You've seen worse," she said, her voice muffled by the pillow somewhat, as she buried her face into it to hide her embarrassment.

"True," said Luke. He picked up the PET, left on the bed beside Scarlet, and began idly swiping through the screens. "You want me to do the maintenance?" he asked, stopping his scrolling on the status screen that listed out the stats for the two programs.

"Mmm... I'd appreciate it. Maybe compare the previous state and isolate whatever physical shifts Terra picked up after it from executing?" replied Scarlet, rolling around to get more comfortable on the bed. Her eyes began to flutter from drowsiness, having operated for a good chunk of the day to satisfy her Navi's whims.

"Sure, but... you're not going to change before you sleep?" said Luke, watching Scarlet already half of the way to dreamland.

"Mmmn, too tired. You can do it for me if you want," mumbled Scarlet, opening her eyes very slightly to flash a teasing smile at her fiancé, before scuttling up to her pillow and falling fast asleep.

Luke's eyes lingered for a moment on his bedmate, before chuckling to himself and turning back to the PET, parsing the readout. A small file named "MARR~.PSF" caught his eye, and he began investigating.
The first thing Scarlet noticed when she started to wake up was how warm she felt. At some point, someone had covered her with a thick blanket while she was sleeping, though with how she could still feel her clothes from yesterday, that was all they did. Her eyes pried themselves open as she grunted sleepily, and she peered about the room. The room was almost completely dark, save for a small light in the corner of the room, and the sun was just starting to rise from outside the window. Next to her, she could hear some quiet breathing--a cursory glance revealed it to be Luke's back, sleeping soundly next to her.

Before she could think about going back to sleep, the light at the end of the room shifted slightly, before reappearing next to her, in the form of a holographic projection--Terra's, specifically. Without saying anything, Terra simply sat by her side on her knees, and waited. With the Navi being so close to her, she figured that it was a good time as any to try waking up. Rubbing the sleep from her eyes, she yawned as she sat up and stretched, before looking over towards Terra's figure projected by her side.

"Good morning," said Scarlet sleepily with a half-smile.

"Good morning, Scarlet," replied Terra.

"So, I guess you had a good fight with... whatever that thing was?" queried Scarlet, holding onto the mug of hot coffee in her hands for warmth while she sat on a small chair next to the bed, where Luke was still fast asleep. Terra's holographic projection was now fully sized as well, standing next to the window, where dawn was beginning to peek out. Scarlet had thought of asking her if she wanted a seat, though she caught herself before she offered a seat to a holographic projection.

"Yes, though I wasn't able to defeat it, unfortunately," said Terra. Despite her words, her expression seemed to look quite satisfied, and Scarlet only chuckled in return.

"Heh, I guess you won't get any kind of big powerup from all that, then," joked Scarlet, before a small pinging sound alerted her to a notification from her PET. Curious, she brought up the PET's screen and read out a message that had been sent to her. "Hmm... Rogue Net Access granted? Oh, that's pretty neat."

"Rogue Net?" asked Terra.

"Yeah, it's kind of like a deeper layer to the normal net? At least that's what I've heard," said Scarlet, dismissing the screen to sip her coffee.

"... I see," said Terra, leaning against the wall and turning towards the window. Meanwhile, Scarlet watched over her sleeping fiancé quietly, before noticing a small noise. Turning towards Terra, she noticed that the Navi had begun fidgeting with her fingers, and her feet were shuffling about as well.

"Terra," she called out, causing her Navi to turn her head, "did you want to go to one? You look like you wanted to say something."

"Ah..." Like a small child caught hiding something, Terra looked down meekly towards the floor, slightly red-faced. "... I, just didn't want to bother you. It was a long operation session yesterday and it's quite early in the morning. Carbide is also still asleep."

At her Navi's reaction, Scarlet couldn't help but chuckle. "Well, why not? Nothing wrong with a little leisurely walk in the morning. We can be quiet about it, and you don't have to bring Carbide along," said Scarlet, opening up a list of networks to go through.

"I'm sorry," said Terra.

Scarlet continued to smile, shaking her head as she scrolled through the list. "Don't be like that. I'm quite happy when you ask for things, really. Let's see... Oh, I know. So far you've been mostly grounded. How about you try the NAXA network on for size? It'd be interesting, hm?" she said.

Terra looked up. "Space?"

"Mm, it's the Netopian space agency's network. They're quite popular, it seems. The network is primarily Electric-typed, so you can flex your muscle a little. Plus I hear it's really pretty, how they set it up," explained Scarlet.

The Navi pondered for a moment, before nodding. "Okay."

"Alright, I'll send you in, then. Have fun, but stay safe, alright?" said Scarlet, initiating the jack-in sequence. Terra's life-sized hologram began to flicker slightly, before disappearing into thin air.

[>> Earth to Terra - Rogue NAXA Net.]