CTRL: Good deeds are always rewarded


A lightning bolt deposited Raiden just off one of the busiest roads in ACDC.

"We can at least look for somebody who would be that type, with the encryption crap and all," Anti said over the audiolink that was piped directly into his head. Raiden's eyes closed briefly as thousands of personality subroutines clicked into place. When he opened them again, they came along with the tiniest of smirks.

"And what am I supposed to be looking for? Evilman.EXE?"

Anti slammed her fist on the next next to her PET, but to her disappointment, Raiden didn't show even a flicker of surprise. "Just look. Let me know if you find anything unusual, smartass."

With a faint mutter of "your face is unusual", Raiden slipped in to join the foot traffic heading away across the network.

True to Anti's order, Raiden would occasionally find an isolated or raised lot of ground and scan the street for anything that might have been even the slightest bit malign. Most of the time the desired antagonism came from the Navis that yelled at him for blocking the way or standing on something he wasn't supposed to -- sometimes a particularly square Navi.

Half an hour of such searching passed. Anti watched the proceedings impassively with her socked feet up on her desk and her chip case in one hand. Raiden was just about to call the whole thing off when something danced across his shoulderblades. He whirled, but there was nothing -- no, a thin strip of paper, floating away from him on a wind that he couldn't feel. He snatched it out of the air. There was only one thing printed on it - an arrow, pointing left. Despite himself, that was the way he looked.

A Navi sat on the railing, waving at him. She was tall and beautiful, and wore nothing other than strips of paper that were wound none too securely around her person. A massive scroll stood against the railing next to her.

"I'm just awesome at this searching thing," Raiden said quietly to Anti as he elbowed his way across the street. The paper-bound Navi pushed off the railing and departed down a narrow side-road. He shouted at her retreating back, but she didn't stop, even when he came up right behind her.

"Hey, I'm talking to--"

Without even looking back at him, she bonked him on the nose with one of the scroll's wooden rollers. "The NetPolice wouldn't be too happy if they caught me out in the open," she said cryptically. Raiden rubbed his face and looked like he was going to retort with something indignant.

"Just shut up and follow her," Anti snapped at him. He grumbled and nodded.

Their path took them far away from the main road. Raiden tailed the paper-wrapped Navi along narrow sideroads and in between towering and derelict structures. Behind him, the noise and light of the main thoroughfare faded away. He opened the private link with Anti.

Chips. Have them ready. Fire up those Signature Attacks -- I want 'em at a moment's notice.

His Operator didn't respond, but he felt the Battlechips loading onto his systems deck and the locks on his signature programs releasing.

"Do I even get a name or something?"

"Glyph," the woman responded.

"Look, I want to know how much further we're going--"

Glyph stopped. They had reached a very narrow path that branched off for a short distance. Raiden could easily see the homepage hyperlink at the end of it.

"After you." Glyph bowed and gestured him forward with a wave of her huge scroll.

"Yeah, right. You first."

She straighted up with a thin smile. "Jumpy, huh?"

"It's so I can get a head start and some extra air if I have to kick you in the face. You first, and I'll be right behind you."

"Whatever," Glyph laughed. Nonetheless, she stepped onto the hyperlink and vanished in a flurry of flying words and paper. Raiden started to follow.

"You're an idiot," Anti snapped over the private comlink. "You're going to walk right in there? Who the hell knows what's on the other side?"

"I can handle whatever it is."

"You're expecting me to believe that?"

Suddenly, Raiden grinned. "Yeah, but I don't really care if you do, because I know who's got the legs here!"


He walked into the hyperlink. A blast of lightning roared upwards, into the sky. Anti threw something at the wall that was heavy enough to make a sizeable thumping sound.


[Next post coming soon.]
For the first second, Raiden saw only darkness.

He reached out experimentally with one hand, and met no resistance. The sound of bare feet, Glyph's feet, padded softly away. Fingers snapped. At her command, the countless runes on the walls and floor lit up and began to glow a soft, bloody red.

It was a homepage, obviously. It was roofless, but its soaring enclosure walls were supported by massive Egyptian statue-pillars. In between the carvings' legs were cases upon cases of books. Everything was black, so black; the only colour came from the characters written in red neon, and the glowing circle of the hyperlink. Raiden inspected a few of the runes. His language programs scanned through their databases until they determined that this one was Electopian, that one was Sharoan, the one over there was Yummish, those three on the wall he just didn't recognize.

"Yo! Over here."

Glyph had gotten ahead of him. He ran to catch up.

"Did you even give the place a look-over?" Anti demanded.

"Paranoia queen!"

"Fine, then it's not my fault when something comes out of the stonework and rips your arms off."

Raiden made a sound that was half laugh, half breezy blow-off. Glyph laid her massive scroll gently down on the sofa that was tucked between two corner bookcases. "L'Histoire," she said fondly, patting its papery length. "The written history of everything that's ever happened. Or that's what they say, at least."

"What are you giving me?"

"Who says that, you asked? Oh, just my enemies."

Raiden was about to give Glyph a sarcastic tongue-lashing when Anti's shout cut in. "BEHIND--"

But at that point it was way too late. Something clattered noisily, and suddenly there were chains all around him - chains weighted with evil blades on the ends, all of them wrapping around him from behind. Before he could move or run or do anything to save himself, he was bound up in a straightjacket of steel.

"I-I-I-I-I...!" stuttered a voice behind him, presumably his captor. Glyph snatched her scroll, L'Histoire, from the chesterfield.

"Yes, Fiasco, you got him," she said boredly. "You can drop the cloaker already."

"Oh, look, something came out of the stonework," Anti said with a told-you-so edge to her voice. "Get ready to lose those arms."

Something bleeped behind him, and Raiden's systems deck picked up a data signature directly behind him that he hadn't been aware of a moment before. He tried to turn his head to see what kind of threat this Fiasco looked like, but the chains had immobilized even his neck. So Raiden faced Glyph with gritted teeth, ready to withstand whatever kind of deleting blow she could deliver. Glyph, however, just stood there. Her expression dropped sluggishly into one of annoyance.


"Y-yes m-ma'am!" trilled the Navi behind Raiden.

"You haven't realized it yet, have you?"

The chains around Raiden rattled a little as Fiasco shifted. The captured Navi exploded into motion, hoping to catch Fiasco by total surprise and break the hold while he was on the ropes, but the chains held firm. With a shocked yelp, Fiasco winched them a little tighter.

"Hey, idiot," Glyph said, "I'm not going to be able to smash him up without putting a crater in you, too."

Fiasco released a surprised kind of sigh. Raiden snickered as quietly as he could.

"I...d-didn't th-think of th-that, G-Glyph."

"Yeah, that's because you never think." She pinched the bridge of her nose. "This hit is going just great."

"A hit?" Anti hissed in his ear. He shrugged - or at least did the best he could, due to the chains and all.

"Guess we're going to have to...yeah, on my signal, Fiasco."

"O-on y-you signal wh-what...?"

"Just let him go! The board said that he's compressed, so he'll never be able to keep up with both of us at once."

The chains rattled away, and suddenly Raiden was free. He jammed an elbow into what he imagined was Fiasco's solar plexus and sprinted a couple of steps away. The chain-Navi gasped and doubled over. Fiasco wasn't anything frightening - just a regular humanoid Navi, black and white in colour scheme. His long hair was tied back with a headband. The chains and blades originated from his lower arms and legs, where the ends of the chains were fused directly to the bodysuit. The chains cascaded to the floor and pooled around him.

"You're in trouble now," Anti said.

"And I'll get out of it."

"Moron," Glyph grumbled, undoing the ribbon on her massive scroll. Fiasco started to get his breath back and straightened again.


"Don't be sorry, delete him!"

Glyph.EXE: 350 HP
Fiasco.EXE: 300 HP

Raiden.EXE: 240 HP


Raiden decided to act before they could.

"Anti! Areagrab, now!"

In the Real World, his Operator riffled through her chip case and seized the one he wanted. Raiden unpacked it the instant it turned up on his systems deck. His basic coding broke down as the Areagrab tore it apart. A single bolt of lightning streaked up into the sky, disappeared into the darkness, and then slammed back into the ground ten feet away. Raiden began to re-form out of the electrical charge, already calling for another chip.

Anti swept the Magnum off her desk and slotted it in. Raiden was anticipating the massive surge of data onto his systems deck. Two fingers shot out and pointed to Glyph and Fiasco. Red light began to build underneath the surface, shining through the cracks between the tiles in ruby blades. Fiasco was too busy trying to swing all of his chain-blades up into an attack position to notice, but Glyph felt it coming. She leaned forward, into the first step of a run, just as the Navi let the Magnum go.

Bits of data, panel, smoke and fire exploded everywhere, totally engulfing Fiasco. All of a sudden Glyph came tearing out of the smoke cloud, with her massive scroll partially unrolled. The red light building inside registered with Raiden, and he dropped to one knee to slam a palm into the ground. A wall of panels rose in front of him, complete with a mirrored surface that could reflect anything that Glyph could throw at him.

Well, almost anything, anyway.

The ornate red sigil that Glyph had opened L'Histoire to blazed, and an extra layer of offensive data slid across the scroll's paper. With a practiced movement, she slammed the scroll shut and swung it right at the Guard. The shield fragmented dramatically as soon as the empowered scroll touched it. The wooden roller barely missed cracking Raiden across the head.

"Fiasco! Hurry it up!" Glyph shouted, as Anti muttered a gruff "you idiot." With a jolt, Raiden realized that he had shifted all of his attention to Glyph, allowing Fiasco to run a strafing pattern. He picked up Fiasco and his cloud of chain-blades in his peripheral vision. It was already too late. What he saw was Fiasco leaping the air and twisting his entire body around, sending his chain-blades whipping down in a storm of iron.

Glyph swore and was barely able to leap back in time to get out of range of the cloud of blades as they landed like sharp meteors. Raiden had been right in the middle of the field, and countless duplicated alerts popped up on his systems deck as blades sunk into his arms and shoulders and stayed there.

"Dammit, Anti, you're supposed to let me know about things like those!" Raiden barked. He tried to pull away from Fiasco. The chains went taut, but Fiasco proved to be stronger than he looked; he refused to let himself be dragged by the Navi he had hooked. Quite to the contrary, he began to reel in a number of chains at random, pulling Raiden closer. The blades were embedded too deeply for the bounty to escape.

"H-how was th-that, Glyph? Good, r-right?" Fiasco asked. Poorly rendered digital sweat beaded on his face, whether from exertion or pure nervousness. Glyph pointed at Fiasco with her giant scroll.

"You almost deleted me with that, moron. Learn to aim."


Raiden gave up straining at the chains. His empty silver eyes slid sideways, fixed on Glyph, and lit up with lines of code that squiggled just under the surface of his avatar. An invisible but massive piece of programming detached from Raiden's core. It silently pinpointed a particularly vulnerable line of Glyph's code and attacked it with all the intensity of an infotech weapon. The bounty hunter yelled in surprise as the coding materialized and left her system in the form of a streamer of light that linked her to Raiden. The hijacked code fused itself with his own, and the program returned to hibernation.

"Hey, that's pretty cool," Raiden said, and stuck out his tongue cheekily. Fiasco gave another haul on the chains, and the smarm was replaced with a yelp of pain and annoyance.

"Glyph, I can f-finish th-this!" said Fiasco, although his voice lacked any kind of conviction.

"Yeah, sure you will."

Instead of answering, Fiasco dragged the blades chained to his right arm free of Raiden. Sensing an opening, the bounty tried to pull away from the others, but they still held strong. An thin film of energy bled down the chains and across the swords at the ends. Swinging his arm back mightily, Fiasco formed a tall parabola with the afterimage that the blades now left in the air, and brought them crashing down on Raiden.

Or would have, anyway, had Raiden not run forward and tackled Fiasco.

The chain-blade Navi landed hard. Raiden, with the blades still stuck in him, gingerly got up off of Fiasco. "Take these stupid things out already!" he shouted at the floored Navi, who simply stared at him with an expression of terror. Raiden kicked him in the face to wake him up. "I said take 'em out!"

Fiasco caught on, and nodded frantically. With a subtle little flick of his wrists and ankles in the right directions, all of the blades hissed easily out of Raiden's body.

"Well, that's one way to get it done," the bounty remarked casually. The alerts on his systems deck faded to damage notices, but didn't go away.

Below him, Fiasco retracted all of his blades. The chains hissed into his arms, and the black plastic spines of the swords locked together into the forms of vambraces on his arms and legs. With the blades successfully put away, he did a backflip that landed him on his feet, several yards away from Raiden, and ready to make his next move. With another unspoken command, the chains fed out two feet of themselves, so the blades just dangled off his wrists and pooled around his feet.

"I-I know th-that I can d-do th-this!" he stuttered inanely, deploying the blades into a sort of armour around his body. Raiden snorted the poor show, and opened up his systems deck to the next wave of chips.

Glyph.EXE: 280 HP
Fiasco.EXE: 180 HP (Armoured!)

Raiden.EXE: 210 HP
Instead of a Battlechip, Raiden detected the protective programming containing one of his Signature Attacks dropping away. It was his oldest one, but it would still be useful in a situation like this.

"You know, I can use Chips, too, right?"

Anti informed him that he was an idiot just as he unpacked the Signature Attack. Electricity exploded down the length of his arm, terminating in a single, twisting bolt held in his hand. He cocked his arm, like a javelin, and hurled the lightning bolt straight at Glyph. It streaked through the air, almost too fast to follow with the eye. Glyph had even less time to dodge it. The Signature Attack came to a halt in her chest. On impact, it unloaded the debilitation data that had come as part of the program. The malicious software targeted Glyph's movement coding and dragged it down into the pits of lag. She made as if to jerk back, but stopped halfway through the movement. The bounty hunter was frozen in an exceedingly uncomfortable position.

"Glyph!" Fiasco cried, taking a few errant steps toward her. The female Navi's eyes snapped across to him, and she made an angry growling sound. Raiden realized that it meant that Fiasco was to take care of the bounty before anything else.

As the chain-blades wrapped all around Fiasco began to rattle, Raiden seized on the Battlechip data that had just dropped onto his systems deck and stomped the ground. The force of the impact knocked fragments of the panel loose. He re-routed the Chip's data into those little pieces. They rose into the air and revolved to point at Fiasco. On the same count, they all exploded into white fire, and went shooting at the bounty hunter. They clanged off his makeshift chain-armour, knocking the various blades and links aside. One managed to sneak right through a gap and drove itself into Fiasco's shoulder.

Glyph's built-in antivirus programming was finally able to overcome the effects of Raiden's Signature Attack. Her mobility programming released again, and she was barely able to catch herself before she fell over entirely.

"Go!" she yelled. Fiasco didn't. He had managed to get tangled in his own chains. With a grumble at his ineptitude, she decided to seize the moment herself. A swing of the scroll sent it flying open. Light exploded from a sigil written inside, shooting out in a wide beam that engulfed Raiden totally. He threw up an arm, but too late. When the light faded away, his silver eyes had gone entirely white.

"What's the matter?" Anti demanded when he didn't press the attack.

"I can't see, moron!"

Although Glyph's attack had blinded him, the rest of his digital senses were still intact. Fiasco's chains clattered somewhere, and Raiden swung his arm toward the source. Energy exploded down his arm and snapped through the distance betwee himself and the bounty hunter like a plasma flare.

Except that it missed.

The Markcannon blast scorched the ground a good five feet to Fiasco's left. The bounty hunter yelped in surprise and threw himself sideways, dragging the mess of chains and blades along behind him. To his credit, though, Fiasco managed to convert it into a roll that deposited him mostly on his feet.

"Get moving, loser!" Glyph ordered him, and Fiasco did as he was told. Raiden could hear the clattering chains and the clanking boots, but the total noise was so overwhelming that he couldn't get a precise bead on it. He raised his hands in an attempt to stave off whatever was coming. Cold metal wound around him countless times, and pinned his hands to his sides. Fiasco had caught him in the same chain-wrap that he had ambushed him with.

"There, Glyph!" he heard Fiasco shout from just behind him. The sudden volume caused his temporarily enhanced audio systems to crackle slightly.

What he could not see was Glyph unrolling he huge scroll again. The sigil revealed this time was a sickly purple in colour. It erupted with plagued light as soon as it was fully exposed. The panels directly underneath his feet bubbled venomously and shifted form into poisoned tiles. Both Raiden and Fiasco choked on the fumes.

"Shoulda gotten out of the way," Glyph said unsympathetically.

"G-Glyph, you're c-cruel." The stutter was back. Raiden couldn't believe that he was letting a loser like this pound on him. But he was trapped by Fiasco's chains again, and it seemed as though no amount of fighting back would free him this time.

He was going to have to rely on Anti...wait, what?

85% Normal, 15% Poison

Glyph.EXE: 250 HP
Fiasco.EXE: 170 HP

Raiden.EXE: 200 HP (Accuracy down one rank! Chained!)
"G-Glyph, wh-what now?" Fiasco whined. For a guy with some really wicked-looking chain blades, Raiden thought, he sure was a dork.

Glyph, the clear ringleader of the whole operation, strolled lazily in a wide circle around the chained Raiden - well out of his reach. She grinned slyly at him. Raiden wanted to break her perfect nose.

"Just hold him there," she told Fiasco. He nodded like a bobblehead toy with its neck-spring loose. Glyph stepped slightly closer to Raiden and bent at the waist to get level with his eye. She had to go down annoyingly far. "You scared, kid?"

"Screw off, lady."

"Okay, you're not, then. Now, I've got a couple of questions that you can answer for me, all right?"

"Screw off, lady."

Glyph pulled a face. "Cute." She straightened up, lifted L'Histoire off her shoulder, and smashed Raiden upside the head with it. Only his tightly-bound cocoon of chains, courtesy of Fiasco, kept him from going sprawling.

"Questions, you little pain," Glyph snapped, levelling her giant scroll like a sword, "that you're going to answer."

Raiden's systems complained about damaged coding on the side of his head, but he silenced the warnings for the time being. "Okay, okay, what?"

"The location of the other three CTRLs, first of all."


Glyph studied Raiden's blank face, as if trying to see through it to the truth underneath. He blinked, as innocently as he could manage. The private comm link between himself and Anti buzzed momentarily as his Operator activated it.

"What the hell is a control?"

C-T-R-L. It's a Navi product line...but...

"Don't fool around with me, kid," Glyph threatened, prodding him in the nose with one wooden scroll roller.

"Yeah, y-you'd better not m-mess around w-with h-her!" Fiasco agreed, tightening the chains until they were even more uncomfortable than they had been a moment before. Glyph shot him a dark, just-shut-up-and-let-me-do-the-interrogating-here look. Fiasco quailed under it. She turned back to Raiden.

"I want to know where all the CTRLs are."

"Deleted," Raiden said quietly.

"That's not what our intel says." Glyph raised the scroll again, obviously to deliver another blow.

"They were all deleted in the incident at the NNDC server. The whole project, plus the NNDC, were disbanded after the accident. It's on the record of every news site." His volatile silver eyes narrowed in an unusual display of seriousness and anger for his ACDC personality. "Whoever hired you for this job gave you bogus info. Now leave me alone, lady."

With his final statement, he activated the chip that Anti had deposited on his systems deck a substantial amount of time ago. Electricity sparked dangerously around his body. Yelping from the tiny surges that were leaping along the metal chains, Fiasco pulled back his arm and turned his wrists, somehow disengaging the chain-blades. They fell away and clattered to the ground around Raiden's feet, just as he swung up one arm and threw a massive bolt of lightning right at Fiasco.

For all his stuttering and babbling, Fiasco wasn't exactly stupid. For one thing, he evidently understood the principle of electrical discharges. The Navi leaped into the air and swung all of his chains downward. His intent was clear - to get out of contact with the floor, since grounded objects tended to conduct electricity a good bit less efficiently than things on te floor. That would have worked, too, if only his control over the wildly flying individual chains had been slightly better. They fanned out helter-skelter in his haste to get them off the ground. A few errant blades skimmed his own legs and sides, while a full quarter of them went flying toward Glyph.

The female bounty hunter swung her scroll open. A brownish-grey sigil flashed into the open, and quite unexpectedly, she turned to rock. Fiasco's blades clattered off her craggy skin. The second the chain-blades touched the Glyph-statue, electricity exploded along their length. The insulating stone repelled the charge, which was sucked away into the massive energy reserves of the network. The surface of the statue was burnt black, but there had been very little damage to Glyph herself.

"Anti, give me that Lag Wall, now!"

For once, she did as she was told. Although he did not move so much as a finger, Raiden immediately went to work on the coding of the network itself. He broke the lock on the programming with the powerful lag wall tool, and just a little bit of revision and deletion achieved the effect he wanted.

A great torus of greyish, fuzzy lag appeared around him. He stood in the centre of the lag doughnut, untouched by by the network fallout, but Glyph and Fiasco weren't so fortunate. The connection anomaly caught up with Fiasco first, plunging him into a world of stuttering steps and reduced mobility. Again, Glyph opened her scroll, this time to an orange seal. The same sigil was drawn by some invisible hand in the air just in front of her. The lag wall pushed against it, trying to envelop both it and her. The orange sigil abruptly exploded in light. It was as if the lag field was a bank of grey fog, and the sigil's wake a strong wind; the seal's power sent the lag field flying before it, washing over Glyph -- and Raiden.

From there, things just got weird.

The entire fight slowed down to a laggy, buggy mess. Raiden tried to get some form of communication through to Anti, but the data fuzzed and broke into pieces as it passed through the lag field. A disjointed, fragmented stream of chip data tricked down onto his systems deck. As the chip assembled itself into its complete form in his systems, Raiden began to move. His body responded slowly and jerkily, and it felt as if he was trapped in a giant block of gelatin, but it was moving.

Boomerang. What was on his systems deck was a Boomerang.

Raiden called up the chip. Slowly, unbearably slowly, pieces of floor paneling rose and locked together to form the rough outline of the weapon. Now Glyph was moving, too. Fiasco gawped at her in slow motion and then flung himself forward. Raiden bucked his shoulder forward for the momentum and hurled the Boomerang at both of them. It rotated slower than a fan in the slightest of breezes. If he had wanted to, he could have isolated plotted every point of its travel on a finely detailed parabola.

Glyph saw the Boomerang in flight and started to raise her scroll to defend against its immiment impact. Fiasco tripped and began the slow, idiotic process of falling on his face. The Boomerang smashed into Glyph and kept carrying on the wind of its own passage, sweeping Fiasco the rest of the way off his feet as well. With its job done, the combined force of the dual impact and the lag field tore the helpless Boomerang to bits.

Compared to Fiasco, Glyph recovered at the speed of light. She was on her feet again by the time he was beginning to pick himself up. Glyph growled something that the lag field destroyed on route to Raiden's audio sensors. She opened her scroll again, this time to a grey sigil.

Well, they'd all be grey in this crappy lag, Raiden thought. The voice was snappish and disjointed in his head. The lag field seemed to distort even his intracommunication.

A cube of solid force assembled itself around Fiasco. Glyph snapped her scroll shut -- or the best she could, given that she was moving impossibly slowly -- and drew back to bide her time. Her expression was furious, but there wasn't much else that she could do in lagland.

Fiasco grinned at his sudden protection. He reached out and touched the insides of the cube, like a mime. Raiden snorted and started booting a small chip that had taken an eternity to upload. The Shotgun, usually a basic routine for his systems deck, coalesced slowly into an orb of energy at the end of his hand. With his confidence restored by the cube-shaped barrier that Glyph had lent him, Fiasco began a sluggish, exaggerated gallop toward Raiden.

Raiden confirmed the successful transmission of the Shotgun with no great haste. As Fiasco and his big protective cube bore down on him, Raiden swung his arm around and lined the sphere of destructive energy up between himself and the chain-blade Navi. Fiasco swung the weapons in question; they formed a rippling silver wave that was nearly scary. The cube around him let Fiasco's blades through with no problem. Raiden suspected that his own Shotgun would have a significantly tougher time permeating the barrier.

He sent the silent command to fire, but it took a good two seconds for that order to reach the chip data on the end of his arm. Almost before the Shotgun had launched, Raiden had thrown himself to the side; a moment later, a number of blades sliced through the air where Raiden had just been. The Shotgun blast scorched the side of Fiasco's bodysuit, but inflicted no real harm. It sailed wide and eventually collapsed inward on itself, devoid of a target to transfer its energy into.

Raiden narrowly caught himself before he could trip over his own feet. He righted himself again and faced the barriered Fiasco, aware that Glyph was probably getting around behind him. Something gave beneath his left foot. It was the poisonous muck that Glyph had created not long before, and it was trying to suck him in. He quickly stepped off the blighted panel. He wasn't fast enough to keep the acidic poison from eating away at the suit on his leg, exposing the raw coding just underneath his digital skin.

Things weren't really going as well as he had wanted them to.

85% Normal, 15% Poison

Glyph.EXE: 173 HP (Lagging! Accuracy down!)
Fiasco.EXE: 76 HP (Lagging! Accuracy down!) (100-HP barrier!)

Raiden.EXE: 173 HP (Lagging! Accuracy down!)
Being a digital construct himself, Raiden knew enough to realize that a lag field to could only support itself for so long. The Internet, by nature, was a pretty anal thing. Any irregularities were prioritized to be dealt with as quickly as possible. In the same vein, the Internet was also absolutely huge. Although its restorative systems had taken the mass glitch in ACDC into consideration, it would be a while longer before the Internet got around to fixing it. There were just more important things to do.

For the time being, the lag field idiocy continued.

Raiden tried to force a message through to Anti, but it was no good. He would have to fly without his Operator's input. Admittedly, the idea of it didn't bother him too much -- except for the fact that she was a necessary conduit of Battlechips, without which he wouldn't stand a chance. What did the battle look like to her, he wondered vaguely as he fired up some of the Signature Attack coding that he could use without Anti's OK. Probably a choppy succession of disjointed images that didn't make much sense. Served her right.

Glyph was unrolling her giant scroll again. In the grey, muted lag block, even the pink sigil she opened it to was dull and washed-out. Raiden broke the final safety lock and hurled the queued data straight at her. The network overloaded and froze up. When it juddered into motion again, the floorspace under Glyph had changed. Raiden didn't recognize them, but a cursory scan would later -- once the data got back to him -- say that they were now of the holy persuasion. A frame later, Raiden's Signature Attack program crashed invisibly but forcefully into her. A frame after that, stolen coding began seeping down the connection.

The tag on the packet of data that arrived on Raiden's system deck just then read Shotgun. He grinned and booted it up.

The Signature Attack was somehow pulling in way more data than stage two of the program would convert into usable energy. Raiden rerouted it to his offensive port and used the excess to power the materialization of the Shotgun.

Although Fiasco was a running target, Raiden's shot was good enough to make the inept bounty hunter jump out of the way in order to maintain the integrity of his skinsuit (barrier aside). He skidded to a precarious halt in front of Glyph.

"And what are you doing?" she asked him in a dangerously neutral tone. The question came through in slow, garbled pieces, and her mouth lagged behind the words.

So as to save himself the trouble of completing a sentence -- an act that took up way more processing power than was necessary -- Fiasco simply pointed to the holy panels underfoot. Unfortunately, making a gesture ate up even more precious computing space than talking. With a scowl, Glyph pointed over Fiasco's head in a full-on mockery. Her finger, however, ended in the little blue sphere of a Bubbler that Raiden was charging up. As Fiasco followed the line of Glyph's arm, Raiden hurled it.

Glyph took one long step backwards.

The Bubbler crashed into the cube of force around Fiasco, spraying water everywhere. The residual suds fell just short of Glyph's well-placed feet.

Raiden grinned his success at a decent hit. The sketchy outline of a chip that turned up on his systems deck wiped that smirk away. The total size of the data packet would be huge, and would take forever and a day to fully upload under lag-wracked conditions. His list of things to give Anti heck about was only growing.

Then, all of a sudden, Fiasco was in his face.

Raiden had lost himself in his disconsolate thoughts long enough for the hapless retard to rush him. Those chain-anchored blades were moving; they passed through the force-cube as if it didn't exist. On the whole, though, having to maintain a barrier was a substantial processing drag. Raiden, who wasn't doing any farghing about with extras at the moment, was able to leap nimbly out of range well before those blades got him.

Finally the incoming chip dinged at 100%. Raiden unpacked it, dropped to one knee, and shoved one arm into the floor. When he pulled it back out, his hand was closed around a big, jagged panel fragment that vaguely resembled a sword. He leapt at Fiasco with it. The tile-sword cracked off the already damaged force-cube. Additional cracks spiderwebbed across its glassy, steel-coloured surface. By Raiden's bookkeeping, that blow should have shattered the forcefield. He chalked it up to the shiny panels below.

Out on the fringes of the lag field, something happened. It was like a particularly low-quality blanket being unraveled. Strands of greyish crap broke off and drifted away into the realms of maximum capacity function, only to fizzle out of existence. The lag field was falling apart.

Damn! Raiden had wandered off again. Fiasco had seen the opening way faster than usual. An arm's load of metal was descending on him from above. Thinking quick, Raiden threw the sword up above his head in a lame attempt to stave off the attack.

Fiasco's blades worked much like grappling hooks. The chains hit the panel-sword, but their payload kept going. In an instant, they were wrapped a couple of times apiece around the makeshift weapon.

Fiasco pulled.

Raiden pulled.


On the far end of the holy panels, Glyph began the ominous process of opening L'Histoire. Rays of possibly deadly light welled up within the papyrus or vellum or whatever it was. Fiasco gawped; apparently he had just realized that Glyph meant to hit both of them if it meant getting Raiden.

The target in question tried something new. He jerked the panel-sword sideways. Surprisingly, most of the chains dropped off. Another tug plus a gesture from Fiasco sent the rest tumbling. As the charge of light inside Glyph's scroll reached critical mass, Raiden and Fiasco both hit the deck.

A ruler-straight laser incinerated the airspace just above their heads.

Something booped loudly...

60% Normal, 15% Holy, 15% Poison

Glyph.EXE: 153 HP [On Holy Panels]
Fiasco.EXE: 76 HP (35-HP barrier!) [On Holy Panels]

Raiden.EXE: 183 HP [On Normal Panels]
...and the lag wall fizzled out.

There was no grand implosion or holographic specification display; the network just caught up with its work and quietly fixed things up. One moment was grey and laggy. The next, everything was back to normal. The homepage was gloomy, not washed-out, and the writing on the walls and floor glowed redly.

Raiden was expecting it. Glyph and Fiasco weren't.


If there was one good thing about her, Raiden knew, it was her reflexes. Anti's hand flashed to her chip case and back again. The next moment, the chip data came roaring down the pipe. Now that the network's full processing speed had been restored, the Areagrab was ready to go on his systems deck in just a few seconds.

In that time, though, the bounty hunters came back to their senses. Glyph snapped her massive scroll open, and another blinding laser blast welled up inside. At her encouraging shout, Fiasco leapt into action, chain-blades glittering in a highly dangerous fashion. A grin burst across Raiden's face, huge and almost evil -- and then he was gone. A white-hot laser beam roared through the vacated spot, and a host of chain-blades cut uselessly through nothing but air. A lightning bolt carved a blazing arc through the black sky for a single frame, linking the place where he had stood to a spot directly betweenFiasco and Glyph.

Before either of his foes could react, the lightning had reconstituted its data into Navi shape. Fiasco began a half-turn, gasping in surprise on the way, and met Raiden's panel-sword. The strike cracked off Fiasco's force cube. It shattered like a plate of delicate glass and fell away in broken shards.

"Whuh-oh," said Fiasco.

"What now?" Raiden smirked. "Ready up, mor--OOMPH!"

Fiasco caught him full in the side with a roundhouse kick and slammed him to the floor with a well-placed elbow. Raiden crumpled, and the sword dropped from his hand.

"Wow," Glyph said, looking up. There was definite sincerity in her voice. "Nice one."

Fiasco just grinned.

Raiden's hand lashed out and locked around his panel-sword. Chip data shot invisibly down his arm and into the weapon. A narrow crack appeared up the length of the sword, and it fell apart into two fairly equal halves.

He rolled back to his feet with a sword in each hand. The first of the two strikes the Twinfang chip allowed him was aimed at Glyph. She swung up her massive scroll just in time. Instead of cutting into the paper and lodging itself in the wooden rollers, the panel-sword just slid off. Raiden didn't bother wasting time on giving it any extra thought. He swiveled on his back heel and turned to Fiasco--

Both narrow blades sank into Fiasco's chest up to Raiden's fingers.

"Ah," he croaked. The many chains hooked to his wrists and ankles simultaneously released; chains and swords went clattering noisily to the tiles. Then he explodedinto a nebulous cloud of data that swirled away into nothing.

Raiden straightened back up and pushed his separated swords back together. They fused seamlessly into one big panel-spike as the Twinfang's data wore off.

"Oh no, Glyph, your meatshield's gone," he joked, still turned away from her. She still had L'Histoire half-raised from her last parry. It fell slowly to her side as she stared blankly at Raiden's back. If there was any emotion in response to Fiasco's deletion, it was quickly banished. Up came the scroll again, but this time, it was open. A furious red sigil pulsated inside. A pinkish aura, almost like a mist of blood, exploded around Glyph. Raiden turned quickly.

"Watch yourself," Anti warned. Raiden hissed her into silence, but a feeling that was almost like uneasiness grew in the place where his gut should have been. He shook his head clear. There was no time to be screwing around. After all, one down, one left to go, right?

60% Normal, 15% Holy, 15% Poison

Glyph.EXE: 203 HP [On Holy Panels] (Acc+, PowerUp)

Raiden.EXE: 182 HP [On Holy Panels]
"Look, kid," Glyph snarled, no longer herself. She levelled her scroll like a sword. Maybe she was hoping to parry Raiden's sword with it. "You were supposed to go down easy, and we were supposed to rake in the cash on this hit."

"But I've deleted your retard buddy, and now you're on the edge." Raiden grinned impetuously. "Thought you could beat me or something, huh? Dumb."

Glyph skipped over any kind of specialty attack and flung herself right at Raiden. Her scroll arm trailed angry red sparks. He brought his sword around to block the attack, but Glyph ducked underneath the guard and swung L'Histoire into his side with the force of a thousand raging librarians. Raiden stumbled a bit to the side, surprised, but wasn't shaken enough to miss the chance she'd just given him. He retaliated with a blow from his own weapon, which was much better suited for combat. Lines of programming dropped off Glyph and hit the holy panels below. If she hadn't been standing on them, she likely would have been left in far worse shape.

She gave him a rude shove. It doubled as a distancer and a push-off. All of a sudden they were on the opposite sides of the Holy field again, staring one another down. With an elegant flick of her wrist, Glyph's scroll cascaded open, revealing deadly light within. Raiden had already seen all of the tricks that he cared for, and rushed at Glyph to strike her down before she could go messing around with magic again.

Just as Raiden brought the sword down, Glyph brought her scroll up. The two met and caught. Grinning in sudden triumph, Glyph let L'Histoire snap shut, trapping the blade within its somehow unripped parchment. She yanked the scroll back, tearing the sword from Raiden's grip. Instead of remaining stuck inside the scroll for her to retrieve, though, it went flying out and clattered across the panels to a halt a few yards away.

When Glyph looked away from the fallen sword and back to Raiden, there was a hand in her face. She had only a fraction of a second to start the first syllable of a dirty word. Lightning crackled around Raiden's extended hand, and a massive electrical discharge launched Glyph right off the holy panels.

60% Normal, 15% Holy, 15% Poison

Glyph.EXE: 58 HP [On Normal Panels]

Raiden.EXE: 179 HP [On Holy Panels]

Objects: Sword [1 move away, to the left]
Glyph shoots you twice for a whopping 8 damage, ooo 16 total damage. You pretty much annihilate her with your first sword swing. End battle.

*thumbs up*

In her damaged state, it took Glyph a little while to recover from the Elecreel blast. She heard footsteps, very close, then passing by. Looking up, she saw Raiden running straight past her -- headed for the sword that lay not far away.

For the first time, it hit her. There was nothing she could do. This one little...kid...had proved to be way more than even Glyph and Fiasco could handle. It was supposed to be an easy job --this kid was a government infotech weapon, yes, but he was supposed to have been stripped of all his power. Clearly somebody had been lying.

Glyph snatched up her scroll and hurled it open. An explosion of light shot from the inside like a plasma flare, cracking Raiden across the shoulders. He stumbled in surprise, glared back at her, and picked up the sword that he'd dropped.

Another claw of white light struck out from the surface of her scroll, gouging Raiden across the arm, but he was running again -- right at her, with the sword cocked back.

Glyph knew she was finished.

Almost to spite reality, she raised L'Histoire into a blocking position. "C'mon, you little prick," she growled at him over it. A grin rushed across Raiden's face. Up went the sword -- and down again, chopping Glyph's scroll straight in half.

"Later," he said a second before he rammed the sword through her head.

He watched the fragmented data implode and disappear from view with a definite element of satisfaction. The sword, its purpose fulfilled, broke into its composite panel pieces and tumbled from his hand. A faint buzz of static in his ear indicated that Anti was back on the comlink.

"I think we've got some crap to talk about, Raiden."

He sighed heavily. His cheeky ACDC demeanor was, for the moment, gone. "Yeah, I guess we do," he replied. "But we're gonna have to hop a plane to Netopia."

"Why?" she asked incredulously.

"It's a pretty long story. And we've got somewhere to go."

Thunder boomed overhead. A bolt of lightning roared down from the clouds, engulfing Raiden. When it dissipated, he was gone.

That was the last anyone would see of him for a long time.

60% Normal, 15% Holy, 15% Poison


Raiden.EXE: 163 HP [On Holy Panels]

[The end.]