Sofia's Simple Comforts

The crickets outside the mosquito-netted window played the melody of the beginning of summer. Sofia Langley laid back on her futon in her room, holding up a PET that was projecting the image of a pale purple-skinned girl wrapped in bandages. The Navi was sitting cross-legged in the air, putting her hands on her knees with a grave expression.

"So you don't remember anything from before BakerMan picked you up?" said Sofia, raising a finger to gesture at her head. The Navi shook her head repeatedly. "I don't even remember that guy picking me up. Just my name, how to not disintegrate, how to breathe... That's pretty much it," she said, shrugging. As she did so, a wisp of purple escaped from one of the screws embedded in her arms, and her body shrunk slightly.

"Whoa, Scourge, what was that?" said Sofia, sitting up suddenly. Scourge's one uncovered eye popped open in attention, and she examined herself, stretching out her arms. "Oh, I lose energy sometimes when I don't fight any viruses or Navis for a while. No big deal," shrugged Scourge.

"... I thought you said you didn't remember anything about fighting," interjected Sofia. Scourge stopped for a moment, about to say something, and put a hand up to her chin in brief thought. "Eh, I just didn't mention it before. Can't be expected to pull out my head over this," said Scourge, though she had completely forgotten about fighting before that moment.

The girl on the bed flashed a beaming smile before snapping her fingers. "Oh, right, speaking of fighting, I think I had something Aunt Judy gave me," she said, walking up to her desk and grabbing a chip folder of eight chips. She took some of them out for her to examine, twirling them around in her fingers before plopping herself back onto her futon.

"She called them... battlechips? I dunno, I guess I'm supposed to use these for your Netbattling," Sofia explained, looking at some of the designs printed on the chips. They looked pretty neat, she thought, one of them had a little alien on it that looked really angry, while another had a gleaming blue-bladed sword. At that time, Scourge was still deep in thought, her brow (or what was left uncovered of it) was furrowed quite a bit. Sofia scratched her head a little, she knew next to nothing about all the PET and Navigator stuff; her father had taught her browsing the Internet through the old-fashioned, manual way.

"Oh, maybe I could ask BakerMan, hold on," said Sofia, dashing out of the room, leaving Scourge left hanging, about to reach out to her. "Lively girl, that," chuckled Scourge, as she heard the thumpings of the girl's footsteps rampage about the wooden floor.

"I got iiiit!" a bellow sounded, and Sofia jumped onto her bed with a belly flop, and clicked open the holographic projector. The visage of a plump Navi made entirely out of bread in a chef's garb blinked to life, with a cough finishing off the initialization.

"Miz Langley, I vould 'ighly advize you not to fling around PETs like zat," said BreadMan, twirling a moustache styled from two croissants. "Now, vat is it zat vas needed of me?"

"I need some help with Netbattling. Apparently Scourge needs to do it or she'll like, shrink or something. Poof!" said Sofia, waving her arms about dramatically. "Hey, hey, hey, I'm not going anywhere!" exclaimed Scourge.

"Oh! Well, zat sounds simple enough. I could monitor your PET quite eazily, und I could teach you 'ow to operate miz Scourge, yes? It is not too difficult," said BakerMan, crossing his arms and nodding to himself. "Vat does ze mizzus think?"

Shrugging, Sofia turned to Scourge, asking, "You fine with it?"

Though Scourge loathed to see herself being helped by such an odd-looking Navi, she was aware that this was much better than being left out for dead. Besides, she was rather worried about herself possibly disappearing through lack of battling. The zombified Navi responded by putting her fists up and putting on a "ready" expression. "Eh, let's try this fighting thing," she said.

BakerMan clapped his fluffy baguette hands with an elated expression. "Wonderful, wonderful! Ze wireless is set up nicely, so let us jack in, shall we? Ze large red button on your PET screen should be enough for ze command, Sofia," he said. Sofia picked up both of the PETs, and touched the stated red buttons.

Immediately, BakerMan and Scourge started to disintegrate into data cubes, eventually disappearing altogether to be transferred into the Yoka network.

[Jack In: Yoka Net]
"Sorry, Sofia honey, I don't know the first thing about all these technomobooblies," said Judith, as the girl looked down at the PET in her hands. She was trying not to look dejected, but it wasn't exactly the easiest of feats. The screen only showed a loading circle, with some incomprehensible verbose output littering the rest of the screen's space.

"I deeply, deeply apologize for my miztake. If only I had stayed with 'er!" exclaimed BakerMan, bowing deeply as he stood on Judith's shoulder. The Navi took somewhat after his operator, who was a plump, cheery woman with a bright face and a dirty smock.

"... All right, sorry to bother you, auntie," said Sofia, turning to walk back to her room. Judith's face screwed up, she hadn't seen Sofia this sad-looking since she first got to Electopia. The girl was strong, but Judith knew she had a breaking point. The baker tried to crank her noggin to think of something, just something, before Sofia crossed the doorframe to the hallway.


BakerMan cried out from atop her shoulder. "Miz Sofia! Wait!" Sofia turned around; her eyes were clearly about to leak. "Y-Yeah?" BakerMan crossed his arms, and inhaled. "I've 'eard zat SciLab 'as good facility of this sort, to repair broken things. Per'aps we may visit?"

Sofia's eyes widened, and she looked down at the PET, and then back at the Navi. "Can I, Auntie? Pleeeeeease?" Judith could do nothing but chuckle in relief. "Of course, honey. Be careful!" she said, handing over BakerMan's PET to her.

Two minutes later, she heard the characteristic loud thumping on the wooden floor, followed by dirt scraping against shoes, moving away from the house. She scratched her head, somewhat amused, and stretched out her limbs.

"Mmmh, kids sure have some punch in them. Wish I had some so I could pick up that dang laundry faster!"

[Area Transfer: SciLab]
[Previous Thread: Tech Support, SciLab]

The storm began to rumble loudly outside, as Judith peeked out through the window grills with her forehead creased. She closed her eyes and shook her head, trying to clear her thoughts of all the bad things she imagined had happened. A deafening thunderstrike made her heart, and her mind, run wild. Her hand placed on her chest, she clutched the locket around her neck tightly, and began to recite little prayers under her breath. Wracked with worry, Judith's next few minutes turned into hours.

Then, the door thumped loudly, and opened to reveal Sofia, who stumbled into the house, thoroughly soaked down to the bone. "Uuuuugh! I'm beat!" she groaned, as she lightly shook her head, whipping about a small drizzle from her wet hair. Her blouse and sweats clung to her toned figure as she pulled at the ties on her twintails. Immediately, her aunt rushed to the door.

"Sofia! What happened? I was so worried! You weren't answering your phone!" she said, though it was clear that her expression was much less of a wreck now.

"Oh, Auntie, I'm so sorry! You wouldn't believe it, the Metroline broke down like halfway through, and they said they wouldn't be able to fix it! The rain wasn't too bad at that time though so I figured I'd try walking back home, but then it just started pouring like you wouldn't believe! So I kind of like, tried to walk from cover to cover, and it took me forever. You must've called me when I was in the rain so I didn't notice, I'm so sorry," explained Sofia, dragging her fingers through her hair.

Judith just sighed, shook her head, and waved her in quickly. "Oh, never mind, honey, I'm just glad you're safe. Just hurry up and get out of those wet things and wash up, you're going to flood the whole house doing that. I'll get you a towel and you can help me set up for dinner, so don't take too long," she said, whisking herself away to the kitchen, while Sofia hobbled over to the bathroom.


After her shower and dinner, a very tired Sofia stumbled into her bedroom, with her PET limply in tow. Throwing the PET into the bed, she let her body follow suit, faceplanting directly into her fluffy brownish-red pillow. Had she wanted to, she would have passed out then and there, but she turned her head towards the PET. "So you really don't remember anything?" she mumbled.

The small holographic image of Scourge popped up in front of her on top of the PET screen. The Navi was sitting cross-legged, pressing her hand to her temples. On her arms, a wisp of purple mist lingered about the screws embedded into them, making her look a little more ghastly. "No, not really... I feel like I should sleep on it. Maybe I can clear my head a little in the morning. Good night," said Scourge, tilting her head a little as she disappeared back into the PET.

"Mmm, okay, I'm getting tired too," said Sofia, rolling around slightly to tuck herself into the blanket. The day had been a bit exhausting, and she really wanted to get some good shuteye for when school started the next day. She picked up the PET off her bed and onto her bed's side table. It beeped a few times, before its screen went into standby mode, and shut off. Pulling the string switch on her table lamp, she muttered, "Good night..." as her eyes flitted a few times, before closing them for the night.


Almost on cue, as soon as Sofia had fallen into slumber, her PET lit up dimly with a quiet beep. Dark red lines of gibberish text began to scroll rapidly past the screen, blending into the already dark background. After about a minute, the gibberish text ended, and a few legible lines presented themselves, though to nobody in particular.

INIT 0000 0000 0000 0000 OK
CLOG Psyche unit initialized. Please present remote credentials.
SERV prsn://08e1:0133::4a10::1111/0000/ Sofia.Langley *******
CLOG Connection to server established. Finalizing ENVR handshake.
ENVR RePs v0.9.3b OK
CLOG Welcome, Sofia Langley.
CCDR ./sys/bin/
RUNS rls "scourge.exe" /A /F /C net0 /D nnet://
CLOG Transferring NetNavigator over Restless Mode.
CLOG Plug in "Scourge.EXE"... Transmission OK.

[Next Thread: Spelunking in the Night, Dentech Net]
As Sofia opened her eyes, she found herself looking up at the curtains above her bed. Its pink floral pattern shimmered slightly in the soft light of sunrise, filtering in through a crack in the window. She rolled about on her pillow, still somewhat unwilling to unbundle herself from her blanket. Her face turned towards the PET on her nightstand, which, for some reason, had its holographic display on. At the moment, Sofia saw that it was displaying Scourge, sitting on the screen with her face turned away from the girl. She yawned, and stretched out her arms sleepily. "Good morning, Scourge," she said.

As soon as Scourge turned around, however, Sofia shot up from her bed to sit up, blinking hard. Weirdly enough, she could have sworn that Scourge was wearing black gloves and boots, but now that she looked at the Navi again, she was still the same purple-skinned bandaged-up creepy lady, with no coverings on her hands or feet to speak of. She did look deathly tired, though, as dark circles appeared to line up under her eyes. "Ah-- what, morning? Mm," muttered Scourge, as her eyes fluttered in and out of focus.

"Did you get any sleep, Scourge? You don't look so good," asked Sofia worriedly.

"Bah, fuck... I'll be fine... Probably," grunted Scourge in response, though she also briefly nodded off about twice during her answer. "Just let me go back to bed." And with that, the Navi disappeared from view, presumably to return to bed. Sofia opened her mouth and reached out to the PET, but Scourge was already gone. She puffed up her cheeks in indignation at not responding fast enough, before picking up the PET to boot up the screen. Scourge's avatar was missing from the status screen, and in its place was a digital clock display. Judging from the number on the clock, she didn't have time for another quick "5 minutes", or more accurately, 20 minutes, of sleep. She had never used any alarm clocks, but if she did, the snooze button would've gotten a fair amount of use. Forcing herself to leap out of bed, she rolled (quite literally) towards the doorway and out to prepare herself for the day.


Shortly afterwards, Sofia walked into the kitchen, busily fumbling about with her hair ribbons. She was already dressed in a sharp-looking navy blue and white uniform, with a pleated checkered skirt and black socks. The girl saw her aunt carrying a baking tray full of freshly baked pastries, and donning a heavy apron and pair of gloves. Her rosy cheeks smiled broadly at the sight of her niece. "Good morning, Auntie," she said, as she slipped onto the dining table. Stacked onto the table was a plate of warm bagels, one of which quickly found itself in Sofia's mouth.

"Good morning, dear! Did you get enough sleep?" Judith said, disappearing into a doorway that went to the front part of the shophouse.

"I had a super weird dream, I'll tell you about it later after school," said Sofia, in between mouthfuls of bagel. Soon, she finished doing up her ribbons, and stood up from the table, still with about half a bagel in her mouth. It was disappointing that the weekend had to end, but she still had to go to school, after all, and she couldn't be late to catch the first bus out of her little nook in the village. Else, she would have to wait 30 more minutes for the next one, and that would likely land her in trouble with the security guard at the gate for jumping over the fence again.

"I'm going now, Auntie! Bye!" she yelled, as she dashed out of the kitchen.

[Next Thread: Ura High School, Yoka]
[furl=782419,90,10003005][>> Inside the shop - SciLab.][/furl]

"I'm hoooome," Sofia's voice echoed out through the hallways, right before she appeared in the doorway of the house's kitchen. She found her aunt reclining in a chair at the dining table, watching a small "television screen" projected into the air with her PET, since there was no room for an actual television in the cramped kitchen space that they had. In front of her, a projection of BreadMan was watching the same screen as she was. From the sounds of passionate East Netopian exclamations, it sounded like they were watching a drama series. The two turned towards the doorway, and her aunt smiled as she saw the young girl's face.

"Ah, welcome back."
"Bon retour, mademoiselle. Were you studying in ze training hall again, perchance?"

"No, I was going to, but then I met someone there and we talked a little. She taught me a bit of martial arts, and a bit of virus busting, too. It was great! Ooh, croissants," she said as she picked up one of the croissants, taking out half of it in one bite.

Judith raised an eyebrow. "Oh my, you've made a friend? What's her name?"

"I think her name was Leslie... uh, Battle, I think. Ah, I'm kind of tired," said Sofia, yawning in between munches.

"Leslie... Battle? Sounds familiar..." muttered Judith, her brow creasing in thought.

Finishing up the croissant, Sofia walked over to the faucet and poured out some water, gulping it down before answering. "She said she ran a dojo nearby."

"Hm, is that so... Well, you go wash up and we can have dinner in a bit," said Judith.

Another yawn escaped Sofia, this one longer than the previous ones. "Sorry, auntie... can I take a nap and push it back to supper?"

Her aunt raised an eyebrow slightly; Sofia rarely ever skipped any meals. What had she been doing? "All right, I'll wake you up in an hour."

"Thanks, auntie," said Sofia, flashing a smile in a shallow attempt to mask her tired eyes as she left the room, while Judith watched her back, concern painted all over her face.


"Beeeeed," moaned Sofia, as she collapsed onto her bed in the shirt and sweatpants that she had worn from school. Burying her face into the pillow, she rolled about on the bed, trying to will away her tiredness. Memories of the day drifted into her head--of the fateful encounter in front of the dojo. Being led around, she had unexpectedly made a friend, and even shared a few secrets between them. The thought excited her; she hadn't had a friend close enough to do so since she arrived, but with Leslie it felt like she could safely confide in her and look up to her as a big sister of sorts.

Sofia reached out to the PET beside her bed. Fiddling with the screen, she turned it on, becoming the sole source of light in the darkened room. In it, an image of Scourge lay sleeping in the middle of the PET's network space. She had wanted to propose if the Navi wanted something more comfortable to lie on, but every instance that she found time to talk to Scourge, she was already sleeping. While she was glad to have found another friend, it slightly hurt her to see the Navi reject her at times. However, Scourge did say that she needed to fight to survive, and Sofia continued to check on her periodically.

True enough, every once in a while, she would see the Navi shrink slightly more than her previous size. From today's battle, it seemed like she had accrued a fair bit of buffer for that, but even so, Sofia worried for her all the same. While she was usually rather inept at picking up signals, it seemed like Scourge trusted her, at least to some extent. With her train of thought on trust, her mind went to Leslie's Navi, Martia, whom Scourge seemed to have found some connection with. Perhaps she was more open to someone who could fight with her. She wanted to help out, too, but all she could do was help Scourge with her battlechips, and that was usually the limit.

Sofia's eyes lingered over to her hand, illuminated by the terminal screen's backlight. Physical limitations... It would be nice if she could somehow fight by her side. Being transported to another world, gaining powers beyond human limitations, fighting besides a friend and exploring the great expanses of the unknown in a grand adventure. All of these were, of course, nothing more than imaginary scenes that any young teenager would fantasize about, Sofia included. These scenes would accompany her to her dreams as her heavy eyelids finally succumbed to sleep, and the backlight of the PET dimmed into blackness.
A murky world opened up before her, in which she stared out at an empty expanse filled with black mud, with the skies being no less grim-looking. Suspended slightly above it, she was limply hanging over the sea of black, being somehow suspended by something stabbing into her shoulders and hips from the sides. For some reason, her limbs were devoid of any feeling, and she wasn't able to move them either, though she couldn't even see them in the first place. Struggling against her restraints yielded nothing except that she was held absolutely firmly with the unknown force. She only served to squirm about ineffectually, while the black mud rippled beneath her feet. Her anxiety began to build up--and that was when it appeared.

From the viscous depths of the mud, a figure began to rise from beneath its surface. Its movements displaced the mud slowly, causing it to squelch about as the mud dropped to the figure's sides. Underneath the mud, she could make out a small humanoid figure with lean limbs hunched over it, its face completely obscured by long, blonde hair covered in opaque mud. Before she could react to it, the figure shrieked loudly, lunged out towards her, latching onto her torso. It then began pushing its face into her stomach, gurgling fervently through the mud obscuring its face, as if it was trying to push its way right through her.

As she opened her mouth to scream, the voice that should have been there was silent--only her mouth moved, and no sound came forth. Only the sickening noise the figure's unhinged howling could be heard piercing through her ears as it reared back, and headbutted her torso again and again. At some point, something finally gave, and a snapping sound could be heard as something crumpled inwards. The strangest thing was that she felt no pain, even though the fear of the situation left her practically paralyzed. Meanwhile, the blackened figure heedlessly continued forward, again and again and again, until...


"Sofia! Sofia!"

The girl's eyes shot open, as she woke up to the sensation of her body being shaken awake. Bleary eyes blinked a few times before she recognized the person rousing her awake as her aunt. Out of the usual ensemble of work clothes she wore around the shop, Judith looked concerned as Sofia squirmed around in her bed. A cursory glance across the room through her mosquito-netted window indicated that it was still nighttime, and quite late into it too.

"Are you all right, sweetie? You were tossing around and groaning earlier," said Judith.

"Y-Yeah, it was just a nightmare. I'm okay, auntie," said Sofia, sleepily rubbing her eyes as she sat up in her bed.

"Well, if you say so..." said Judith, her clasped hand on her chest with a worried expression on her face. "You did ask me to wake you up to eat, so I left dinner in the pot on the stove if you still want to."

Before Sofia could reply back, her stomach roared in agreement. Her face turned scarlet for a moment, before she sheepishly smiled. "Thanks, auntie. I'll go get a bite,"

Judith chuckled, and stood up, ruffling her niece's hair before walking out the door. "Just clean up and turn the lights off when you're done, all right?" Sofia watched her aunt leave as she waved her good night, before sitting on her bed in silence. Her eyes lingered down to her lap, and blinked a few times, as she tried to recall exactly what it was that got her so frightened in the dream earlier. A solid minute passed before she scratched her head in frustration, and felt the ribbons in her hair. At that point, she realized that she never properly undressed from her earlier changing, and stood up to do so.


Suddenly, a loud exasperated grunt caused her to jump, before she noticed that it had come from the PET at her bedside. She picked it up, and turned on the screen, to find Scourge angrily splayed out on the floor, scratching her dense-looking hair in a frustrated frenzy. "Scourge? What's wrong?"

"The hell you mean what's wrong?!" retorted Scourge, turning to yell at the girl. Sofia was taken a little aback at the Navi's sudden snap, and she recoiled slightly from the retort. However, oddly enough, it was Scourge whose eyes widened first, and spoke before Sofia could say anything in return. "Aaaah, no, it wasn't anything you did. It was just this stupid dream that I got woken up from. Uuuugh, I can't get it out of my head."

"O-Oh, is that so? I just got woken up from a dream too. Hehe," said Sofia, smiling slightly as she did so.

"Mmh, is that so? Isn't that nice," grunted Scourge, as if she wasn't quite in the mood to deliver any more scathing retorts for the day. The display in the PET's corner showed that it wasn't quite that late at 11pm, but it was certainly a time for good girls like Sofia to head back to bed soon.

"Yeah, I was about to head out to get some food, since I didn't eat earlier," said Sofia. "Are you going back to sleep?"

Scourge sat quietly for a few moments, blinking at Sofia's question, before she shook her head, and rose up to full height. "Nah, I'm going out. Operate me while you eat," said Scourge. Before Sofia could say anything in edgewise, the Navi had already vanished from the PET's screen and initiated the jack-in sequence herself, apparently headed for some random network she didn't recognize. Well, it was probably good for a short distraction, she reasoned. The girl scratched her head, before clumsily picking up her folder and PET and heading for the kitchen.

[>> Man 'n Machine - Electown Net.]