Aimless Vacationing

[>> Science Residence - SciLab.]

Arriving into the NetSquare, located in the heart of the central Internet area, Internet City, Eternalis and Aurora materialized in one of the numerous gargantuan entry pads. Designed to carry a capacity of over 1000 simultaneous login entities per pad, even the entry point of the largest Square in the world commanded awe to first-timers. Even though they had logged in during nighttime in Electopia, the day was just starting for many Netopians. Thus, the Square, where the cyberspace metropolis came to unwind and socialize, was rife with all manner of Navis, SPs, Progs, and what have you. While they had passed through the area before to take missions and meet up with others, this was the first time they were instructed specifically to seek out something a little less work-related and focus more on leisure.

"It's as lively as ever, isn't it?" said Eternalis, walking forward through the crowd at their particular entrance. Beside him, Aurora nodded as she strolled through as well, leaving their initial entrypoint. Even with the crowd, it felt as if everyone's movements were smooth and unimpeded, and they easily slipped past one another, either to head towards another entrance way, or to head towards one of the designated zones of the titanic NetSquare. The flow's strange efficiency was very much unlike that of actual human crowds, but the hustle and bustle of everyone there masked the oddity enough that it looked very much like a regular metropolis at first glance.

The NetSquare's rather paradoxical circular area was divided into several zones, all designated with a certain letter and number. Due to its size, the letters easily went up to the Z's, and as such, numbers were introduced at some point to accommodate its ever-increasing capacity. The growth owed itself to the Square's circular area. As land was not a problem in cyberspace, all one had to do to expand was build outwards, providing more and more zones as they went. Still, some zones were more popular than others, as they housed telepads to varying areas of the external Net. Often, these were commercial ventures, with the telepads being basically functional advertisements. Among these zones, Eternalis and Aurora wandered aimlessly, their heads looking about for what might be interesting.

"Well, I know Harke told us to take some time off, but he could've given us something to do in that time off," complained Eternalis as he walked.
"It's not like there's any shortage of things to do," said Aurora.
"Well, yeah, all these look plenty interesting. It's just hard to choose one, is the problem... Eh?"

Looking around, Eternalis realized that his partner wasn't next to him anymore, though a cursory glance about quickly revealed her location.

In front of one of these pads, Aurora had halted her tracks, tailed shortly by Eternalis. Observing the hardlight signboard revolving at a snail's pace above the pad, she recited it out. "Come visit the Netfrica Metavirus Exhibit! A new specimen of wonder: the mesmerizingly adorable Splatter! Take advantage of our special Open Day today!" Next to the text, an odd-looking translucent blob of multiple colors hopped about, with what appeared to be long rabbit ears and chunky round tail. The creature in the display appeared to hop out towards the viewer before dissipating into a mass of holographic fragments.

Aurora's eyes seemed transfixed on the creature, while Eternalis only viewed it with a hint of skepticism. "Well, it's free," he muttered. That seemed to be the cue for Aurora to pull him by the arm and drag him into the nearby telepad, where they both vanished before one of them could protest.

[>> Exhibit A - Netfrica Net.]
[>> Exhibit A - Netfrica Net.]

The exit telepad shimmered to life briefly as it ejected Eternalis and Aurora from their previous location. The fairer half of the pair immediately pulled up a map of the area from the public repository, now that she had been reminded of it from the zoo. "Alright, we're back here. What are we looking for, exactly?" asked Eternalis, while Aurora began scanning the map for the place that she had in mind. Unlike the zoo's map, which was beamed to every visitor, Eternalis didn't have the map that Aurora was perusing, and so was left in the dark. Not for long, though, as Aurora closed the map window and nodded in satisfaction. With a quick look around, she homed in on exactly what she was aiming for and turned to Eternalis.

"Alright, then, the shop should be right over there. Come on, Eternalis, let's go," she said, making her way through the crowd and leaving a rather befuddled-looking Eternalis behind.

"What? Shop?" he echoed, sifting through the crowd to follow after Aurora before she left his sight. Fortunately, the journey wasn't too long, and Eternalis found his partner waiting in front of a telepad while waving her arms to get his attention. This time, there was a variety of signs above the transport area. From the amount of Navis posing in different outfits, the area that the telepad was going to seemed to be concerned with fashion.

"STYLEHUB - Reimagine Your Look!" declared one of the signs, with a set of varied Navi designs lined up within the advertisement screen, which made it quite clear what kind of store it was. He stared up at the designs with narrowed eyes; they seemed to focus more on humanoid shapes, but the look and feel of each displayed design was quite varied.

"So we're going... costume shopping?" he asked, somewhat nonplussed.

"Yep! Come on, we can get you something other than some dreary armor. It'll be fun!" said Aurora.

Eternalis's face twisted about slightly, before he shrugged with an expression that pretty much said "might as well". The duo strolled onto the telepad, and disappeared as they were warped to their second destination of the day.

[>> Projection Magic - Electown Net.]
[>> Projection Magic - Electown Net.]

With the NetSquare being an international spot, it was still quite bustling when Eternalis and Aurora returned to the area. If one were to observe for a little longer, however, they would notice a slight slowdown in the rate of people going in and out. As quite a number of users were from Netopia and Electopia, the transition period between the two nations' peak levels of activity was a subtle but definitely noticeable dip in the Square's population. Popular gathering areas were no longer quite as packed, making it feel like a brief "nighttime" for the Square, though its doors never closed.

Some of the region-specific areas did have their areas simulate the night, with Electopia being one of them, so for those areas, it really was quite a spectacle. Towering buildings and floating lanterns, interspersed with grand neon displays as well as small, darkened alcoves of lesser-trafficked establishments made the Electopian NetSquare Area feel almost exactly like an authentic Electopian business district. Little green Progs dressed in comically designed versions of traditional Electopian garb hovered about the area, advertising their respective businesses with colorful animated signs and loud calls alike, soliciting curious Navis to patronize their little corners of the Square.

Walking down that bustling lane, a pair of distinctly Netopian-styled Navis surveyed the area with wonderment in their eyes.

"We've always passed through these areas to get to the unexplored parts of the Net, but I didn't think it'd be this lively," said Eternalis, waving off an insistent Prog that was advertising its establishment. He had busied himself with searching for a good place to rest for the moment, as he had realized that he was glancing at his partner by his side a little too much to be subtle. His self-distraction mostly worked when they had just entered the Square area, but as he passed by the fifth Prog, his mind began to wander once again.

"There's a lot of people here for it being nighttime," commented Aurora. Her instincts prickled at receiving the attention of some of the passers-by, but she wrestled down the pressing urge to bring out her analysis screens and simply focused on the task at hand of finding somewhere to rest. Ironically enough, Aurora was so focused on not reacting to the passers-by around her that she had also been completely oblivious to the person paying the most attention to her, who was walking next to her.

"This looks interesting. You want to check it out?" said Eternalis. Eventually, they had come to up to a large archway that dominated the sights around them, which had "Riverside Sector" written across it in huge letters. While the wooden archway itself wasn't quite terribly interesting, what piqued their interest was that the area beyond the archway was not visible -- it was a transport gate that was akin to a transport pad, except that users had to walk through it instead of on top of it to pass to the area that it led to.

"Sure, I'm up for it," said Aurora, leading the way through the archway, with Eternalis following close behind. The former townscape around them dissolved into a blank void as their surroundings morphed into a new environment.

[>> Heated Waters - Yoka Net.]