Electown Outskirts

The location that 'BoltMan' would find himself arriving in was indeed an outlying section of the Electown public nets. It seemed like a very old section of it, in fact. He would touch down on a small rise that housed a few quick set-up structures that gave off the air of a temporary base of operations. The structures were composed of obviously pre-fab parts, and were all simplistic and single-story. Many had open fronts, which had since been reinforced with even more make-shift barrier fields to stop the weather getting in, and they were all arranged in a rough ring crowning the hill top, facing inwards.

Stretching into the distance in one direction, the more rigorously populated sectors of the Electown net glowed brightly, with tall buildings and electronic advertisements swamped with alternating colours and flashing lights, but closer to the hill the structures were lower, and less energetic, until the area they were in directly, which seemed mostly neglected. The buildings he'd be able to see nearest the hill in that direction offered a few lack-lustre advertisements for electronic products that were at least a year out of date, and obviously unattended.

Off in the other direction, the scenery stretched off into even more abandoned looking net space, though it housed what looked more like a scattering of residential-type structures amongst the disused shops. many tall spires rose from the ground, in that direction, sporting sensory equipment, or as lightning rods, and some were hard to discern any purpose for at all. What would become obvious quickly, however, was that conditions down there were a bit wild. The sky overhead was bright, with a scattering of clouds, over the majority of the net space, except for that area, which held uncharacteristically dark and brooding clouds, which rumbled and crackled with lightning. Down below, the lighting that there was flickered or surged seemingly at random.

A short moment after he arrived, a navi in one of the camp buildings looked up from a table covered in data pads from different sources and maps of the area. He looked to LightningMan for a moment, then waved him over. The navi looked more like a normalnavi than anything else, but he bore several hallmarks of being customised. In particular, his left wrist bore a complicated-looking bracer full of buttons and several smalls screens, and an advanced eyepiece reticle that looked looked like it was built into the rest of his standard headgear. His overall colour palette was green and brown, but the eyes beneath his visor were a very clear and detailed purple.

If LightningMan did, in fact, go over to him, the navi nodded his head politely, then looked back to his maps while he spoke.

"BoltMan, right? The boys said they were sending us another pair of hands. If that's not you, then you should probably evacuate somewhere safe, for your own protection. We've got something of a situation going on out here. He glanced up again, but seemed to take it for granted that someone zapping in right on their base of operations was probably sent there deliberately.

"How much did they tell you? I'm guessing not a lot, on the public boards. I'll keep it brief, we won't ask you to do anything too risky. Don't want to involve civilian volunteers any more than we need to. No offence, of course, it's just for safety, you understand. Now..." He brushed some of the data pads aside, to clear off more of the map.

"Probably don't need to point it out here, given what you can see from the hill anyway, but, there's a large part of the old public net here that seems to have gone haywire. All the normal system controls are saying that it's fine, but obviously, it's not. Weather there is supposed to be just the same as everywhere else today, but look at it. Weather control says it's as it should be. Worse, you may have noticed already, but there's a boat-load of communication static between here and anywhere outside." Light rain was beginning to fall in soft sheets now, and several other navis quickly began lowering water-proof covers over some of the more exposed structures in the camp, while others began to raise a couple of different sensory aerials.

"We can't get clean reports back, short of sending someone back with the data, but that's not what I need you for today. You'll be joining some of the folks we've got checking things out at ground level down there. More than anything else right now, we need more data, and more readings. You up for that? What skills have you got?" This time he fixed 'BoltMan' with a measuring eyes, then blinked a few times and held out a hand. "Oh, sorry. DigitalisMan. Good to meet you."
From where he arrived onto the scene, it was immediately apparent that this wasn't the part of ElecTown LightningMan had just been at. The bright lights were far in the distance, and aside from where someone had set up camp, it looked even more abandoned than that abandoned building. The real show, however, came after he turned around, and noted the stormy area with the random light flickering. "Heh, this looks more like my kind of area. ...Hmm?" A motion he saw from the corner of his eye drew his attention, revealing that the source of it was a Navi seemingly trying to get it. Looked like he might be the supervisor...might as well go find out. He walked over, and took a look at the maps. They were pretty clearly of the stormy area, but anything more specific than that wasn't intuitive enough to figure out on his own.

"Yeah, I'm BoltMan." Well, not really. "So, what's going on? You're right, they almost went out of their way to tell me as little as possible." It was partly why he took it...there was more to this than met the eye, and he wanted to know what it was. And, if possible, if it could be used for world conquering purposes. ...But for now, they genuinely didn't seem to know what was happening. Interesting. "I see. I'll do what I can...I have pretty decent analyzing capabilities, though probably not at your level, by the looks of it." Perhaps unsurprisingly to parties that knew him a bit more, he hesitated a bit, albeit not for the obvious reason of 'he can be a bit of a jerk'. "...You'll have to forgive me, I'm not really one for shaking hands. Still, well met." Especially when the Navi in question shared the name with a toxic plant. "Now, anything I need to know, or would it better to just head down there?" He'd hear out whatever the other Navi had to say, and then he'd hover on downward to start his personal investigation, and aid in the more public one.
The navi briefing him didn't seem put off by LightningMan declining to shake, simply going nodding and going back to tapping at a couple of the report pads he'd pushed to the side. He listened to LightningMan's answer, then reached into a compartment under the counter top. When his hand came up again it was holding a small clip-over eyepiece attached by cord to a small rectangular pack with a short retractable aerial, which in turn connected to a slightly larger black pack, housed in a fabric strap-on arm band. He tossed it across, and the kit resized and shaped itself automatically upon coming into LightningMan's personal space. It was such that it would fit comfortably and more or less unnoticeably once it was on — eye piece over the left eye, aerial pack over the back of the left shoulder where it would fasten, and power pack on the upper arm.

"This will take readings automatically, and you can turn it in once you get back, but feel free to take whatever other data recordings you're capable of, if you can. Every little bit helps. Mostly I was just asking that you can take care of yourself well enough. They wouldn't have sent you to us if you didn't meet the minimum self defence needs, I know, but I like to hear it from the navi myself. You keep your head in a panic, and you've got an operator back there pitching you some support, right?" Unless 'BoltMan' decided to fall into a panicked heap and beg fearfulness, DigitalisMan nodded and moved on, coming out form behind the table and gesturing with him as he crossed back over the small plateau, unbothered by the rain.

"We're not taking any chances, so everyone goes in pairs at minimum, especially civilian help. Again, no offence. Anisomeles will be your partner for today." As he spoke this, the other navi gestured off to the side where another green and brown navi was adjusting some of her various strapped on gear, one boot up on a box of supplies. Her mostly standard navi armour and suit were embellished by several custom touches, most of which revolved around delicate purple highlights at key points, including purple eyes and small floral patterns running down her back from the shoulders. As well as this, she was wearing a variety of practical-looking gear, including a compact utility belt with an assortment of sealed pouches, a sturdy pair of boots with what looked like a solid wooden knife tucked into a quick-release strap on the inside, as well as a set of the same sensory equipment that Digitalis had thrown to LightningMan. As well as this, she was bore an armband on her right, in white with a large red cross emblazoned on the visible side. Not that he was particularly the type to notice such things, but physically speaking she seemed about average in height with a well apportioned figure that was neither commendably large or small, but was quite definitely feminine. She approached as soon as she finished checking her gear, a small grin on her lips and a nod for LightningMan.

"All ready. This him?" A very brief flick of the eyes towards Digitalis for confirmation before turning back to LightningMan. "Hi, Anisomeles, good to meet you. BoltMan, right? I heard before." She didn't offer a hand to shake, though if she'd heard his name mentioned in the earlier exchange, she likely heard that he wasn't a fan of shaking, too. DigitalisMan continued once she'd fallen in to stand beside 'BoltMan'.

"So, you're going to go down and find out what we can. You'll be one of a few pairs down there, but you've all got different sweep paths, so don't expect to run into anyone else. We've cleared out the area while the anomalies are going on. If you see any other navis at all, be cautious and we'll confirm that it's someone we know before taking any action, got it? Ainsomeles knows your route, so don't worry about that. If anything really unusual comes up report it right away. Communications often fail once you go down, but sometimes things get through, so keep trying. And remember, be careful and stay safe. We need to find out what's going on and fix it, but don't take any risks. You're together so you can watch each other's backs, and if either of you gets in trouble, you both pull out. Understood? Any questions?" He was mostly looking at BoltMan as he asked this. By this point, he was standing facing the pair of them, side on to the wild weather and strange light show that was taking place down below. Oddly, the sheeting rain had changed directions three times while they'd been talking, without any apparent wind, and now was falling from a sky that bore no clouds, but managed to retain the dim gloominess as though overcast. Nether of the other two navis, or indeed anyone else in the small operations base seemed fazed by this any more.
While he didn't get a hand, LightningMan did get an eyepiece. It was a little weird how it reformed on him like that, but whatever, at least it didn't seem harmful. He also heard a voice of obvious origins...considering he was hearing it in his mind, it was pretty clear no one else could hear it, either. "Those data readings may be useful. I'm setting it up so my PET will receive a copy of them!" He didn't react, but he internally noted it. His operator was right, of course...and even if they weren't useful, that's what deletion was for.

"Hmph, keeping my head in dangerous situations is something of a specialty of mine." Keeping his head around masses of idiots, however, was a riskier proposition. "And of course I have an operator. It'd be rather foolish not to have one in this day and age." He followed DigitalisMan, not especially fazed by the rain himself, and was introduced to who would be his partner on the mission. Anisomeles? Let's see...yeah, definitely a plant theme going on. As an Elec Navi, it made him a little on edge. "Yeah, nice to meet you." Hello, sentient obstacle to put between himself and anything trying to kill him. He was more important, to be sure.

He heard out DigitalisMan, and nodded. "No, I think I've got it. ...Shall we head down?" He looked at his future meat shield, then down at the scene below. It'd be straight up bizarre if it was the real world, but in Cyberworld...it really fell flat for him. Maybe the cause would be more interesting.
"Great, then that means you'll know how to guard your healer if things get rough!" Anisomeles winked and casually slapped LightningMan around the shoulders... which could be assumed to be mildly antagonistic, if she believed he wasn't one for shaking hands. In fairness, the hand was gone a moment later. "Let's get on then, this place won't survey itself!" She would wait until LightningMan started down the hill with her, rather than striding off ahead, but she was clearly ready to go. Behind them, Digitalis shook his head and rolled his eyes, then called out.

"Just be careful. No risks, alright?" He was, it seemed, talking more towards the other navi, than to 'BoltMan' this particular time. Either way, though, apparently his work around the base camp couldn't be put off longer and he turned back to it, returning to the small structure that had held the maps while other navis darted about the area with tasks of their own.

Moving down the hill into the unstable area didn't take to long; LightingMan would veyr swiftly begin to find most of his communication channels fritzing badly, including his ability to talk directly to his operator. It would still work at times, but was just as prone to dropping out without warning as staying stable. Fortunately the other more hard-line functions seemed unaffected for now. They were, in short order, moving in amongst the older, more dilapidated buildings or the outer Electown region, rain lashing at them from rapidly changing directions while, for now, it looked clear overhead. There was a constant feeling of static in the air, too, an electrical tang that he would practically be able to taste.

"So. Boltman. What'd you ask for? It's not common for them to send our division someone fresh from the boards, unless they ask for something unusual, or they can't hook them up with another poster." Despite the conditions, his escort seemed relaxed and more than willing to engage in small talk. She wasn't looking at him while she spoke, though, instead scanning around herself carefully, with her eye piece, and recording small details in an open data sheet. Of to one side, a section of the ground panels covered themselves in a bright arc of dancing electricity, before converting to glowing solar, then magnetic circuitry, then disappearing altogether. It left a hole that seemed to drop away into blackness, before the extra sparks moving in the space revealed it to be glass.

Above it, and further back to cover the whole building that section was in front of, the rain water had reversed directions, dashing upwards instead. Anisomeles studied it briefly, one hand to her eyepiece.
"It's not the most spectacular abnormality, really, it's just not supposed to be doing any of this, and here's the kicker; look at it through your scope for a moment, you'll see — It's all registering as if nothing is wrong. The data for all of this looks and reads like it's all normal, a clear day, untampered with, nothing unusual at all. And yet..." She trailed off as all the power in the area around the anomaly they were looking at seemed to drain away, leaving not simply a dark patch of ground, but an area that radiated a dearth of energy so absolute one might worry about being drained if they entered it.

Sure enough, if LightningMan examined it with the tools he'd been given, it would show a statistical analysis that claimed all systems 100% and completely normal; the weather was set to fine and temperate, the time was mid-morning, the terrain was normal. It also supplied some basic information about the current lessee of the data-space in the area, which was a small navigator accessory business "rings'n'things", that had apparently gone bankrupt and dissolved years ago.

"It's like this in random places all over, but the anomalies seem more frequent and more widespread the further in you go. Got any ideas about it?" For her own part, his companion was very relaxed; just a field agent doing data collection. Chances were there wasn't' too much risk on the outskirts here anyway.

Guard his healer. Ha. Good one. LightningMan managed to remain stone faced instead of snickering, but did roll his eyes as his 'partner' Navi went running off. "Oh, whatever's causing this is going to have a field day with her..." He shook his head, and started floating forward, only stopping to turn back to DigitalisMan. "I can guarantee I'll remain cautious. Her, on the other hand, I'll need a leash for before I can remotely assure you it extends to both of us." He knew that was more directed at her, he just wanted to get that out of his system before proceeding.

Once he was down there, two things stuck out to him. For starters, the private channel between him and Roderick was going haywire. Beyond battle, he probably wouldn't need him, but it was still a thing he should note. And second, there was that nice feeling of static electricity in the air. He was definitely getting a charge out of it...unfortunately, the sound of a certain other Navi making conversation kept him from enjoying it too much. "...I wanted an SP, but apparently no one at the moment was offering one." ...Which seemed odd, after thinking about it. They weren't exactly common, but by his understanding, it wasn't incredibly difficult to obtain one. Really, the only reasons he was taking a GNA mission for one was to save on funds, and for the delicious irony of them providing a cyberterrorist organization the means to bring the net to its knees. He should probably remain on guard from more than just the strange weather, just in case.

Still, he took a moment to investigate with his new equipment...and yep, it was supposed to be perfectly normal. Wait, the leasee of that area...never heard of them. But it did raise a red flag. "...Wait a sec. If that business has been out of business for years, why do they still have a lease?" Might be a dead end, might not be. Worth asking, anyway.

As for his ideas... "Hmm. This is only affecting Cyberworld, and not the real world, correct? Then I doubt it has anything to do with the Environmental System, at least. ...Other than that, there's really not enough information to even guess what's going on. We should keep going."
Since LightningMan's partner for the day had not, in fact, run off but rather waited patiently for him before going anywhere, DigitalisMan only raised a eyebrow at the electric navi's ribbing comment before getting back to his own work. Still right by him, Ainsomeles had politely ignored it without letting her grin slip. The small talk went a little more smoothly, but only a little.

"Huh, that is unusual. Guess you just got unlucky if there was no-one they could match you up with at short notice. Still," She winked at him in between checking her other equipment. "It means you get to spend time with a pretty lady, so I'm sure it'll be a treat for you and your charming personality." There was nothing in her tone to suggest that the dig was made with anything more than friendly humour, but even so it was still a bit of a rib, potentially payback for his earlier comment. Regardless of the banter, the female navi remained mostly focused on her work taking readings and recording data. She knelt down by the patch of panels that had changed several times and drew a collapsible rod from one of the pockets on her belt, extending it to about two feet long and gently probing the surface of the glass with it. electricity crackled all over the rod, right up to the protective and insulated handle, though she drew back slightly all the same before collapsing the rod and recording some more notes.

"There's a lot of lots like that out this way. It's a bit sad, really. Disused data space that no-one can be bothered reclaiming or recycling, you know? This is how sink-holes happen... you'd think people would be more careful, but there's just so much of it, and to your average person, navi or operator, it always just seems like there's no reason not to get more fresh space from somewhere else." She stood up and looked around the abandoned area. "And so you get places like this, where no-one even knows half of what's actually here because the people it belonged to have just left it to degrade. Good point to remember, though; no-one knows exactly what's here now. It's been left to sit for too long, with only the occasional navi trawling it for virus busting practice." She shook her head and shrugged. "Ah, but yeah, it's just a net side problem for now, from what we can tell. Either way, you're right that we need to head in deeper. Our path takes us down this way." She moved around the anomaly to the clearer side of the road and gestured ahead, towards the left branch of where the path split.

They encountered a few more similar patches of terrain as they went, randomly shaped patches that danced with multi-hued electrical energy and rapidly changed their panel configuration. the general feeling of static in the air only grew stronger as they progressed, and the weather shifted more frequently; rain, sleet or hail travelling in various directions, including sideways and upwards, as well as patches of sunlight that didn't agree with what they were seeing overhead. At times, there came the feeling of being rained on, or assaulted by fierce hail, when there was nothing visible happening. At others, the rain that was falling wouldn't seem to be hitting them, and it felt like fine weather. Sometimes it was normal too, with rain feeling just as it should, but the further they ventured in, the more the tactile sensations of the weather disagreed with the visual signs, which again disagreed with the surrounding patterns, and wit the data readings of what it was meant to be.

LightingMan would begin to feel a crunching underfoot, as though he was walking through snow terrain, but his scope would confirm that it was 'normal', and visually it looked more like metal. Beside him, Anisomeles stopped and dropped to one knee, putting a hand down. Her eyes closed and she drew a long breath before opening them again. She seemed to think for a moment, then pulled the small wooden knife from her boot.

"Just a second. What are you experiencing right now? This looks like ice to me, but the scope says normal, and it feels like grass. I'm just going to test something, don't panic." She drew the edge of the knife across two of her fingertips with a small wince, then rubbed them together to make sure they were bleeding. After a second she put the hand down to the ground, which would still look like metal to LightningMan, and feel like snow. She took a second longer breath then lifted the fingers and looked at them. "Healed..." Her voice sounded very thoughtful. "Feels like grass, and it's acting like grass to me. Any thoughts, BoltMan?" She stood and holstered the knife again, beginning to jot notes on her data sheet.