Back Alley Boogie

The mission coordinates given to Charles and RiderMan opened up into a lesser side-street of Netopia Net. The foot-passenger traffic here was much sparser than the packed causeways of the network proper, with only a few NormalNavis and Mr. Progs hurrying this way and that. This was obviously not one of the most palatable parts of town, given the slight signs of disrepair here and there and the odd HeelNavi skulking in the alleyway entrances, but the coast seemed clear...mostly, anyway.

The exact spot linked to was a street corner, in front of one of the myriad nameless storefronts that made up much of the architecture. The crossroads was a little no-mans-land in the dichotomy of the Net: down one street, one could see an intersection onto one of the main drags, emanating the distant hum of general Navi activity. Down the second street, the ambient light of the network seemed to dim as the road led into one of Netopia Net's infamous slums. Given the mission description, there was little doubt in which of the two roads RiderMan was going to have to follow.

One Navi lingered against a signpost, obviously uncomfortable with his surroundings but too stubborn to leave: this was most likely the Calcinatio who'd responded to the mission. Besides being noticeable in that he was the sole Custom Navi in sight, the Navi's design was more than a little bit strange. Standing somewhat shorter than the average Navi, nearly the entirety of his mass was based in his huge, boxy torso, more resembling a high-tech silver oven than anything truly humanoid; glass windows on the front 'door' glowed with heat from within. Two large, mechanical arms protruded from the sides of the torso, surprisingly dextrous robo-hands occasionally reaching to twist a dial on his front. Tiny, stick-like legs that shouldn't have remotely been able to hold up so much weight, did exactly that...excepting a bit of stumbling, but that could have just as easily been clumsiness. No solid head existed on the Navi's frame; in its place, a glowing round fireball floated just above the chest-oven, a crude emoji-esque face standing out in blue flames against the yellow 'head'.

The boxy Navi couldn't seem to stop fidgeting, switching every few seconds from leaning against the storefront to the lamppost to pacing back and forth...and occasionally tripping over his own miniscule feet. His face, all the while, was a static '(; ゚д゚)', suggesting he was more than a little nervous about being so close to such a sketchy neighbourhood. "Oh, I hope he gets here soon..." he groaned to himself, his voice surprisingly deep for such a wacky design.
((From Chauliac Memorial Hospital))

A single crimson beam with flecks of silver crashed down to the network floor, revealing RiderMan in a crouched, ready position. The Navi raised his head, his eyepiece glowing green from underneath his blue visor. It appeared they had been linked to a street corner, in a somewhat run-down part of the network. RiderMan stood to full height, balancing on his two large wheel "feet." He glanced around, taking in the surroundings and trying to establish a mental map of his location. While doing so, his gaze fell upon a seemingly out of place oven-themed Navi.

RiderMan tilted his head slightly to the side, examining the details of the custom Navi. [[i]Odd. Granted I'm not exactly of a "conventional" design either,[/i]] he mused. Chuck was interested in his design as well, so far they'd only seen very humanoid-like custom Navis, this one was a significant departure from that. RiderMan calmly rolled towards the Navi, giving a slight nod. "Calcinatio.EXE, I presume?" he inquired, waiting for a response.
"Ahh!" the Navi exclaims, fireball-head distorting for a moment before deciding on a gleeful '(*゚▽゚*)'. "You must be RiderMan! Oh, but your design's so bombastic! Whoever coded you really knew what they were doing!" He jogged up to face the other Navi, the flat top of his torso barely clearing RiderMan's waist. To compensate, the floating head simply levitated higher, excited emoji-face eying him for a few moments. Then he seemed to remember where he was and what he was doing, and his face shifted again to indicate embarrassment. "Oh, forgive me, I've lost my manners somewhere! Yes, I'm Calcinatio at your service, but feel free to call me Cal!" Lack of generally-humanoid body components, it seemed, did not stop Calcinatio from emoting for even a second.

He appeared to calm down after another few seconds, as though remembering why he was there. "Right, then, we must get down to business!", he nodded (well, bobbled his floating head up and down) to himself, settling his face into a neutral-but-amiable '(・ิᴗ・ิ)'. "So, as I mentioned earlier, I run a small business here in Netopia Net: Vaccine Antiviral," the boxy Navi explained, absently twiddling a dial on his front as he spoke. "You can think of it as a sort of pharmaceutical alternative to getting rid of viruses, since there are some things on this Net that...well, that aren't as simple to get rid of as busting will feasibly allow." His face made an abrupt shift to '(>.>)' as his head swiveled from side to side, as though looking shiftily about, before returning back to his previous expression.

"Now," Calcinatio continued, "down this street are the Backaways, the district you'll be meeting up with the client in. WakeMan's given me the address to a bar that he'll meet you in, so you'll probably want to head there straightaway...oh, but be careful on your way." Again he made his '(>.>)' face and twiddled his dial - a nervous tic, perhaps? "You don't want to attract too much attention or you'll kick up a fuss...and the types that hang around in there don't much like fuss. It's part of the reason why I came here alone to meet you: my coworkers are a wonderful bunch, but...oh, just a tad excitable, you know?" He made a quick '(^~^;)' face as though to say 'what can you do?', somehow missing the fact that he wasn't that subtle himself. "Umm...let's see, I'm forgetting something. Oh right, the actual package!"

One massive arm reached around to his front...and with a 'ker-chunk', popped his door open, expelling a small shimmer of heat into the space between him and RiderMan. Sitting on a rack inside his truly oven-like interior was a small brown box, almost the perfect size to be held in the crook of one's arm. Calcinatio fished it out with his other arm, snapping the oven door back closed, and held it out to RiderMan; the clinking of what sounded like glass jingled from within. "This is the package you'll be delivering," the oven-Navi gestured for RiderMan to take it, "Don't worry, it sounds fragile, but the contents are stronger than they look. really careful that nobody takes this; these are experimental products here, and WakeMan really needs them!" His face popped into distress-mode again for a brief moment, before smoothing back over.

He took several deep breaths (fireball-head expanding by several degrees with each breath), then fidgeted with his dial again, looking back up at RiderMan. "Sorry, I've been hogging the conversation so far! Do you have any questions?" The Navi didn't seem to notice that he'd failed to give several key pieces of information, such as the directions to the bar, what WakeMan looked like...heck, even why exactly this WakeMan needed the drugs in the first place. This wasn't exactly helped by his constant fidgeting; either he needed to go to the bathroom, or he was anxious to get out of there as quickly as possible.
RiderMan felt relieved he correctly identified his employer, preventing a fairly embarrassing situation. The Navi seemed friendly, so much as to compliment on RiderMan's design. Though hidden by his mask, a proud smirk grew on his face. The Navi proceeded to affirm RiderMan's assumption, introducing himself. "Nice to meet you, Cal," he said with a slight bow of his head. Riderman put his hands behind his back as he listened intently to the details of the mission, though the shifting expressions on the Navi's fireball-like face were a bit distracting.

So it sounded like the package was some sort of vaccine against viral infections, maybe something like glitches or bugs that infect other programs? This left the Navi intrigued, but somewhat concerned they would trust a previously unknown Navi to transport their precious cargo through this apparently rough area. The oven-themed Navi's warnings about keeping a low profile didn't help with the growing tension RiderMan began to feel. However, he was able to re-cage his focus when Cal presented the package. It was in a simple box, but it could prevent him from shifting to his 'moto-mode,' as it seemed necessary for it to be hand-carried. RiderMan extended his right arm to the box, the wheel's tire panels slid open and changed positions to form a set of wide, flat fingers and a thumb, allowing him to pick up and hold the box with ease. He looked the box over, and noted the odd clinking and jingling sound coming from within, as if it was a pile of items... or already broken. However, Calcinatio vouched for the item's sturdiness, so hopefully he wouldn't get blamed for an item that was already broken.

Calcinatio ended his quasi monologue, and opened the conversation for questions. RiderMan nodded, opening his other left wheel hand and gestured calmly as he spoke. "Yes, just a few," he began. "I'm unfamiliar with the area, so where is the bar located, and is there a recommended route to take?" he queried, tilting his head back to gesture to the street behind him. "Also, do you have an image file or description of WakeMan, and is there an alternate client or location if he isn't at the bar?" RiderMan waited for a response, hoping to get the information he needed. One thing popped into his mind, and once he found a suitable pause in the conversation, "Sorry, one last thing... do you happen to have a courier bag or pack program I can put the box into? I can manage without, but it could free up my 'hands' and possibly look less conspicuous to any nosy onlookers." he added, folding the fingers down on his left hand back into its wheel mode, then spun it up slightly to demonstrate the primary role of his appendages (pun not intended).
Cal's little pinprick-eyes tripled in size as RiderMan made to take the package, wheel shifting into a hand configuration. "I may have to bring you around to the lab sometime, RiderMan!" he exclaimed, sounding quite excited, "RocketMan's always into studying how other transforming Custom Navis are coded...oh, if you didn't mind, that is! Sorry, went off on tangent again!" He seemed quite abashed at himself, face reflecting this for a brief moment. He recomposed himself with a shake of his floating head, clapped his hands together with an impressive clang of metal on metal, and savvied on.

"I'm afraid I don't have any recommended route for you..." Cal continued, reopening his chest and rummaging about once more for something. He withdrew a collection of data after a moment with a quiet 'Aha!', unraveling it into a basic map of what were presumably the Backaways. The entrance was helpfully marked with a cyan arrow, while the bar was tagged with a bright red square...and one of the eccentric Navi's faces. "WakeMan gave me the coordinate data for this, so it should all be right. As far as the actual best route to go would be...well, it's the Backaways, so I'd probably say it's best to stay away from the alleys. There's rumours that circulate around Netopia Net about what sorts of things go on in the narrow alleys..." he shuddered with the fear that could only be felt by a true non-combatant. "Anyway, feel free to take this along. You should be able to send it up to your PET, so you can access it whenever you like."

<(RiderMan GET: Backaways Map)>

"WakeMan...hmm, he's kinda hard to describe," Calcinatio's face morphed into a comical '(⊙﹏☉)' as he attempted to come up with a description. "He's kinda small and wizard-y...but also kinda knight-y? Magic knight-y? Hmm...SHIELD!" he exclaimed, the enthusiasm flaring his head up like it'd been doused in gasoline. "He carries this whacking great shield with him everywhere, with an Electopian Rising Sun design on the face. You can't miss it!" Eureka Moment-excitement dying down, he returned to his dial-twiddling from earlier, taking in RiderMan's final request with a quizzical look. "You're right, that would make things a lot easier...I'm no Jenga, but I can probably whip something up. Wait just a moment, please..."

Cal's face shifted into a concentrated '(`へ´*)', holding his hands before him, mechanical claw-like hands rotating and shifting. Gradually, a grey square box formed, unremarkable but for the slightest hints of a hinge along side. The oven-Navi hrmmed, concentrating, and gradually one side of the box formed a buzzing, electric-blue film along the surface. "I think this should do it...yipe! Well, at least it works! The cry of alarm came from the blue surface colliding with Cal's metal arm, and sticking rather forcefully to it. After a strong tug from his opposite hand, it came free with a mild zap, and was promptly offered to RiderMan - it would appear that one side of the box emulated Magnet terrain, and could be stuck to his frame if he so chose to accept it.
RiderMan chuckled in response to Cal's excited reaction to RiderMan's transforming features, as well as a quasi invite to their lab. It sounded like one of his colleagues, RocketMan, had a particular interest in transforming Navis. Maybe some other time, Cal got off his tangent and back to the task at hand anyway. The range-themed Navi produced a map, noting their current position and the location of the aforementioned bar rendezvous point. RiderMan nodded, heeding Cal's advice regarding avoiding the alleyways, it only made sense to avoid them. The more maneuvering room, the better. RiderMan accepted the map from Cal, giving it a quick once-over to save the data in his nav function, then downloaded it to the PET. "Thanks, looks simple enough," he added. The map disappeared from his hands, but then reappeared in the form of a thumbnail on the side toolbar on the PET's main screen. The icon flashed to catch Chuck's attention.

He carefully touched the icon with his finger and slid to the side, opening a larger view of the Map, which was essentially an overlay on RiderMan's own navigation system. He could hear Cal's eureka moment from the PET's speakers, and listened in as the Navi described their client, WakeMan. Fortunately the Navi was apparently quite unique, so he shouldn't be too difficult to find even in a crowd. RiderMan acknowledged with a nod. He no longer had any burning questions, and believed to have enough information to accomplish the task, but Cal appeared to have one more thing for the Navi to use.

RiderMan watched as Cal started to program/forge a container for the box. After several seconds, the Navi created a hinged box, and even somehow magnetized just one side of said box. It clung to the Navi's metal hand with a significant amount of force, seemingly more than enough to handle hitching a ride. He was surprised to see the Navi create such an object with relative ease, and carefully opened the hinged side with his left hand and slid the box inside before he closed it, then took the entire thing in both hands. "Wow, this should work out perfectly! This is very impressive, haven't seen something like this before," he stated as he moved the box around towards his back, securing the magnetic side to the small of his back with a metallic clang. He also felt a minor jolt of static arc into his back, but the minor pinch was only temporary. He rocked his upper torso side to side slightly, and made a couple hops to make sure the container was secured.

Everything seemed to be in order, and there was no need to keep both Calcinatio and WakeMan waiting. "I think I'm all set, anything else I should know?" RiderMan asked, rolling his feet back and forth in anticipation.
Cal's head flared brighter for a brief moment, averting his emoji-gaze as though embarrassed. "It isn't much, really," he protested RiderMan's praise, "it's just a trick I picked up from another Vaccine member. All of us are strictly non-combat Navis, so we make up for it with any number of little knacks and tricks instead...but all self-deprecation aside, I'm glad you like it!"

RiderMan's final question gave the oven-Navi pause; he tapped his head several times, humming in thought. "I don't...think there's anything else? Oh, nevermind, there is!" He snapped his fingers with an impressive metal clang. "WakeMan...well, you've probably guessed by now that it's him that needs the medicine. He and I have been studying his...condition for some time now, and one thing that's popped up a lot is that he can't exert himself that much, or...well, bad things happen," his entire boxy body shuddered at this, as though remembering past horrors. "So...I guess what I'm asking is, if things do start getting all pear-shaped for whatever reason, try to keep him away from the conflict? I know that's kind of a strange thing to ask, but the poor guy's had a really rough time of things lately, what with being confined to the Backaways and all...but I'm going off on tangents again."

Cal straightened up (or at least, straightened as much as was possible with his frame) and beamed at RiderMan. "You seem like a bright chap, RiderMan! I realize this is a bit tetchy as far as location and the whole nature of this goes, but you're being a real great sport about it all. I've got to go now, but by all means feel free to keep in touch! I'll shoot you the company email; feel free to drop by our lab anytime, we'll more than likely have more work for you if you'd like! Cheers!" It was perhaps a bit presumptuous of the Navi to be talking about future jobs before this one had even really gotten started, but nonetheless RiderMan received a link for an email address, and with a cheery wave, Calcinatio beamed out.

There was only one thing left to do: the entryway into the Backaways loomed like a dark portal to the netherworld. The job lay ahead; what path would RiderMan take through the dangerous streets of the Netopian slum?

<(RiderMan GET: Cal's email address)>

<(RiderMan can choose to move either one block or two with each post. Moving two blocks (that is, going down two streets) will have him speeding, and get him to his location faster, but will potentially attract more unwanted attention than he'd prefer. Your goal is to reach the location specified by Cal.)>
Calcinatio expressed an expected humility in his own abilities, and confessed he was of the non-combat variety. That explained the need for RiderMan's services. He continued to listen intently as Cal explained, and revealed one last bit of information. Their client wasn't just a recipient, but also a patient of sorts. This struck a chord with RiderMan, due to the situation of his own NetOp. The mission was already important to him, but now it became much more crucial to complete. Though not really apparent, RiderMan put his game face on, and was raring to go. "Understood, I'll do my best," he replied, with a light purr of his engine.

Cal commended RiderMan's participation in the mission before he issued his farewell. It wasn't entirely surprising the Navi wished to distance himself from the rather sketchy area. RiderMan thumped his right tire against his chest, "Leave it to me, I'll contact you once the delivery is finished." He spoke with certainty, pumped up and motivated to accomplish the mission. Another Navi was relying on his success, and he was determined to not let him down. Cal logged out and left RiderMan alone to proceed. RiderMan glanced again at the map, then addressed his NetOp. "I'm ready to head out, Charles. Awaiting start signal." He tried to include his NetOp in the picture, and gave him a sense of control instead of just being a non-involved passenger. He'd processed most of the conversation, and didn't really see any need to object. ["Ready..."] Chuck responded after a second or so of hesitation, which prompted an unseen smile from the Navi. ["Go."]

Though RiderMan would've hoped for a more enthusiastic reaction, it was only the 3rd day of their interaction, and their 2nd time on the net. RiderMan leaned forward as his engine growled and accelerated him down the path ahead. He leaned down to place his hand wheels to the pavement and fused them together to put him in his "Moto-Mode." He didn't sprint through, but instead adopted a more discrete approach to cruise forward.

Move North 1 block
Package securely attached, RiderMan proceeded into the Backaways. The first thing immediately noticeable about the slum was the lack of light: somehow, the light of the Net actually dimmed somewhat, just enough to make the shadows between buildings that much more prominent. The streets were relatively empty, with only a few odd HeelNavis proceeding here and there. RiderMan got more than a few looks; from his candy-apple complexion, to his prominent cargo, to his being a CustomNavi in the first place, he definitely stood out...but he was still close to the entrance, and nobody was in the mood to cause a scene that close to the 'border'.

One short moto-run later, RiderMan approaches his first intersection. There were a few more HeelNavis here, scattered in a couple distinct groups. One group was gathered on a corner, muttering to each other in voices too low for him to pick up. Occasionally, they would glance at him out of what could have been curiosity, then went back to their private conversation.

Another group didn't seem to be paying him any attention at all, but their conversation was considerably more audible. "C'mon, boys, I saw dose no-good Black Haawt rats stashin' sumfink 'round back 'ere. Lez' nab it b'fore dey git back!" one exclaims, and is immediately shushed by his cohorts. They made furtive glances around, then slinked off into the street to RiderMan's right.

The last group seemed to be unloading some manner of cargo transport, perhaps equivalent to a real-world hatchback car. Two HeelNavis popped the trunk open, working together to heave out a massive sack of...something. "Damn, what's the boss making us haul here, bricks? And he only sends two guys to do it?" one gripes, straining to hold up his end of the bag.

"We don't need to know, we just need to get it back to the hideout. Faster we get this over with, faster we can hit the bar," the other replies, to which the first goon sighs and nods. The two of them proceed down the road to RiderMan's left, grunting with the exertion of their task. The map read that going either left or up would be the immediately-quickest route to the end-goal...but in the end, it was really Charles and RiderMan's call on how they ultimately got there. It was pretty evident by now that, whichever route they chose, it would definitely be an adventure.

=Current Position=

Center Road: The safe bet?
Left Road: What's that cargo?
Right Road: Finders-keepers?
Back Road: lol wtf r u doin
RiderMan continued to cruise down the dimly lit road; he tried to keep his engine down to a low purr, but he still noticed he was attracting more than a few looks. His glowing green visor further reduced his overall subtlety as well, but he almost felt the need to brighten it up even more due to the lack of lighting around him. He elected to let his eyes adjust and continue running "lights out" as he approached the intersection. He started to slow as he got to the entrance of the intersection. He wanted to avoid stopping if possible, but a quick dash through an intersecting street was a dangerous prospect, regardless of the apparent lack of traffic. A quick reference of the map revealed hanging a left or going straight through were efficient paths to take. Chuck followed along with the map, and occasionally looked around at his Navi's surroundings. He never thought these sorts of things existed, he assumed other programs were just like RiderMan, who resides inside a PET. The slums, however, looked to be residential, suggesting programs lived in this area.

The Navi glanced right and left to clear both possible paths, and at the same noticed three groups of HeelNavis ahead. Each group likely noticed RiderMan approaching, but were seemingly more focused on their respective tasks at hand. From what he was able to see and hear as he started to make his way into the intersection, it seemed apparent they were up to no good. He didn't want to be a non-reactive passerby to potential criminal activity, but he had a mission to accomplish, with a Navi who relied on his successful delivery no less. RiderMan was drawn to the two HeelNavis carrying a large sack out of a vehicle, who sounded like they were unaware of its contents, and were on the way to a bar. RiderMan didn't know how many bars were in the area, but it could be possible the three had the same destination.

With that in mind, RiderMan managed to convince himself to investigate on the way. He leaned left and hooked 90 degrees to travel down the street, mindful to turn gradually enough to keep his wheels from chirping against the road's surface. He straightened out down the right half of the street, a bit closer to the center-line than the curb. The map indicated he had an alleyway off to his right which led directly to his intended destination, and though an alleyway wasn't an ideal area to traverse, his gut and curiosity urged him to take that route. He didn't change speed or orientation on the road, and tried his best not to turn his head as he passed the pair. If he didn't see or hear anything suspicious, especially a lack of movement or sound coming from the bag, he would just keep going and leave the two behind.

Turn West
Continue West 1 block
The hatchback sped off like a bat out of hell, buzzing like a ricer engine, and the two HeelNavis set off on their journey down the street. The two of them made an ungainly duo; somewhere along the line they'd gotten the idea to hoist it over their shoulders, which made for plenty of stepping on each others' insteps and panicking as they tried to keep the two drooping ends of the bag balanced.

As they went along their way, RiderMan slid down the street after them, motor giving off a gentle enough purr that his pursuit didn't attract too much attention. The ne'er-do-wells lining the street watched the procession of goons and shiny moto-Navi with curiosity, many hoping for a little street-side entertainment. They wouldn't be disappointed; the moment RiderMan passed the two HeelNavis, the one that had been complaining earlier startled, tripping over his own feet and bringing his partner down with him. A ripple of low laughter broke out as two HeelNavis and a presumably-heavy bag ate it hard, announcing their displeasures with assorted curses, groans of pain, and...hold on, was that a squeak?

"Dammit, man, now what? What if the cargo's been damaged? You know how the boss gets if he thinks anyone's so much as touched his stuff!" The clumsy goon was sounding oddly panicked, having noticed the obviously-not-a-fellow-criminal in the vicinity. "O-oi! You there, candy-ass! What're you looking at, huh?" He kept making quick glances from RiderMan down to the sack, as though trying to make sure of something.

"Bro, cool your jets! Let's just get back to base, we're almost there," the authoritarian goon tried to placate his co-conspirator. He turned to RiderMan, his tone cooling noticeably. "That said, my colleague has a point. Move along, buddy, nothing to see here," his glowing yellow eyes flashed dangerously. He made a shooing motion, then bent down and picked up his half of the sack again. "Let's just get the hell out of here...quickly."

The two took a few steps...and then started booking it as fast as their cargo would let them, huffing and puffing their way to the end of the street. The road ended abruptly here, a giant black monolith of a building rising up as though to swallow the street. Only a tiny alley, barely noticeable if not for RiderMan's map, betrayed a way to proceed. Clearly something was going on, and RiderMan had had a narrow brushing with a bit of choice Netopian NetCrime. It begged the question: was it biting off more than he could chew to continue after the two suspicious goons?

=Current Position=
RiderMan continued down the street at a leisurely pace, and watched as the vehicle buzzed off and quickly got out of sight. Could be a quick getaway, or a Navi showing off with his supped-up ride. The ricer buzz elicited a grin from the Navi, it felt almost instinctual to treat that sound with amused disdain. His engine gave off a much smoother, healthier, and more powerful-sounding howl in his opinion. Funny enough Charles felt the same way about 'annoying little ricers,' though his reaction was entirely unnoticeable due to his still slightly groggy condition.

He passed the pair of bag-ferrying Navis, but almost immediately after they passed behind his peripherals he heard something hit the ground, prompting curses, groans, and a squeak? The onlookers dotting the sides of the street snickered and laughed at their misfortune, as RiderMan slowed to a stop and looked back at the pair. The pair of Navis were getting themselves back off the ground, and one of them called out the wheeled Navi in an attempt at intimidation. RiderMan continued to look back at the group, and didn't bother to dignify the insult with a response other than an emotionless stare from his headlight-like helmet. He mostly disregarded the Navis and focused more on their cargo. Unless one of the Navis had a bug that caused them to squeak, or one of them fell on a mouse, the sound most likely came from the bag. The Navi tried to shoo off RiderMan, which prompted him to shake his head with an implied eye roll. He feigned lack of interest and looked ahead before he resumed his original path. If the pair started to book it the other direction, he would've reversed direction as well to give chase, but luckily for him they continued onwards.

The pair picked up the pace and actually passed RiderMan before they hung a right to the alleyway. He tried to keep them in sight just before he too made the turn into the alleyway, but tried his best to still show a lack of interest. "I'm not following you, we're just going the same way," as it were. He continued to watch them as he followed, not entirely sure what they were going to do next. Worrying about it wouldn't really help, so he was just going to play it by ear for the time being.

Follow Navis (turn N into alleyway after them)
RiderMan chose to fall back and observe them from a slight distance...which may have been for the best; as the goons passed him, he could see the jumpy goon getting noticeably more panicked. The two kept up a steady stream of banter as they moved, too low for RiderMan to pick up, but undoubtedly more of the same that he'd been getting thus far.

He followed them into the alleyway, and the wisdom in Calcinatio's warning became quite immediately apparent. If he'd thought the main drag of the Backaways dim, this tiny strip of virtual asphalt was veritably cave-like in atmosphere: the two buildings on either side were close enough together to make the alley feel more than a little bit claustrophobic, even if there was enough room for two Navis to walk shoulder-to-shoulder. Just ahead, RiderMan could make out the two goons stopped in front of a nondescript building, banging against the door in frustration. As the moto-Navi neared, the source of their frustrations became evident.

"No, I told you, Mug, we've got the boss' request right here!" The de-facto leader of the ungainly duo dropped his shoulder to emphasize the heavy sack thrown over it, "Just go and call him over here and he'll confirm, I swear!"

"...Passwoid?" The thickly-accented reply was all of one word, and for all of Tough Goon's ensuing torrent of curses, this wasn't the first time they'd heard it in as many minutes. The HeelNavi, his load forgotten, started pounding on the door with all his might, turning the air blue with what sounded like his entire repertoire of insults, and then some.

"W-whoa, man, careful! It's slipping, it's slipping!" Jumpy Goon's voice jumped an octave as Tough Goon, cool temperament utterly gone, shoved the cargo in Jumpy's direction in favour of using both arms to hammer at the door. The smaller HeelNavi teetered for one precarious moment, fighting to control the sack...and quickly lost, toppling over with a heavy thud onto the concrete. Tough finally registered that something wasn't quite right, and turned to see his associate and their precious bag scattered across the floor. He made as though to say something...only to be beaten to the punch.

"Mmmmmph! MMMMMMPH!!!"

It was one of those sounds that anyone who'd ever watched an action movie would be intimately familiar with: a feminine voice, muffled by some manner of cloth or sock or whatever the goons had found handy. Just to emphasize further, the burlap sack started squirming madly across the pavement. There was no doubt about it: there was someone inside that bag, female from the sounds of it, and most assuredly not there by choice.

Both goons froze the moment their boss' cargo (and didn't that suddenly sound so much more sinister) announced its presence/identity. Neither said a word, or did anything other than stare wide-eyed at the commotion. Just to ice the proverbial cake, Tough Goon chose precisely that moment to notice RiderMan's bright green headlight-stare; this startled him out of his statue-like shock, but perhaps unfortunately for the moto-Navi, he clenched his fists and sunk into a ready stance, one hand forming into a generic buster. There were no words necessary for this one; there was a witness, and the witness couldn't be allowed to squeal.

Jumpy, on the other hand, was utterly shellshocked by the happenings, as though the thought of catastrophic failure had never so much as crossed his mind. Nobody was moving except the lady-in-the-bag, who was clearly squirming and thrashing against her bindings for all she was worth. All it would take is one move for this entire alleyway encounter to go straight to hell...the question was, who would move first?

=Current Position=

Tough Goon: 150HP [Buster equipped!]
Jumpy Goon: 100HP [Frozen on the spot!]

Sack: 100HP [Directly behind Goons] [Wriggly!]

100% Alleyway (Normal)

RiderMan: 170HP [FirstArmor: 10HP]


Alleyway: The alley is narrow enough that, with both HeelNavis standing shoulder-to-shoulder, the only way past is through. Note that this battle does not necessarily have to end purely via combat; RiderMan can, for example, choose to attempt negotiations, or cut and run, or whatever he feels is the most prudent course of action to take.

Sack: Someone's wriggling around pretty good in there! Picking her up should be possible, but take care to keep a good grip. (RP-weighted)

RiderMan followed them into the unsurprisingly cramped alleyway, with the slight glow of his visor showing on the walls and pavement ahead. The pair stopped to a door off to his left, and appeared to attempt to gain access. However, they seemed to be having trouble, much to the chagrin of the larger goon. RiderMan had slowed a bit to try to get a closer look, and close the gap if they tried to dart inside.

The larger of the two HeelNavis got so cross, he delegated the entirety of the sack holding to his counterpart while he proceeded to bang on the door in anger. The HeelNavi predictably was unable to hold it for long, and it tumbled to the floor with the thud. They went silent, giving RiderMan a clear opportunity to hear the sack utter a muffled scream. The bag thrashed about in protest, and the goons realized what they've done. Big mistake.

RiderMan's visor lit up even more than usual, like a green headlight. RiderMan's engine belted out a two-beat howl, causing his body to tilt slightly from the rapidly increased torque. Thanks to the dim light, one could see his exhaust pipes briefly emit a faint orange glow. As he revved, several glowing orange digital wireframe panels materialized over several locations on his chest, arms, legs and head; it was a new layer of protection thanks to his recent upgrades. Without uttering a single word, RiderMan's engine roared once again, this time kicked into gear and sent him rocketing towards the buster-wielding Navi. Like a racer bolting off the line, his rear tire chirped a couple times as it clawed for grip, and body was low to the ground to get as much traction as he could without resulting in a wheelie. Charles watched on in awe, he hadn't seen his Navi accelerate that quickly before, nor engage without leading off with some sort of superhero-esque one-liner.

RiderMan charged headlong towards the goon with righteous fury in his mind. If the boisterous declaration of combat was enough to cause the pair to flee, he wouldn't pursue them into the street ahead. However, he expected the angry one would try to stand his ground. As he got close, he tilted his front tire and gunned it even more to cause his rear tire to lose traction and begin to fishtail. His legs swayed slightly to his left, and started to swipe to the other side. As he did so, he split his front tire and kicked his left arm out to the side to keep him stable. His legs split as well as they whipped to the side, utilizing the built up momentum, which was further amplified as he locked his front wheels to act as a pivot point and deliver a sweeping kick towards the goon's upper body. The amount of force behind the kick had easily enough force to knock the HeelNavi back a significant distance, and from the angle of strike RiderMan aimed to send his target up and over the sack by several feet. He hoped the kick would be strong enough to send the target airborne, he didn't want to merely knock him over and on to the presumably female program in the bag.

His legs continued to windmill in the air, RiderMan wanted to use the remaining momentum to allow him to spin himself back to his 'feet' without scraping his cargo on the concrete. As he continued to twist almost a full turn, he lifted himself up with his 'hands' to something like an airflare maneuver and flipped back up on his two lower wheels. RiderMan's head snapped towards the petrified goon with a glare before he kicked off to pursue with a roar of his engine. He jumped diagonally towards the HeelNavi, using his right leg to catch on the right wall and use it as a springboard to vault towards him and hopefully over the bag. His right arm cocked back with his wheel pointing parallel to the ground. It too contacted the wall and rolled slightly before he jumped to his target. As he got close, he pumped his right 'fist' forward with a quick right straight in an attempt to bash the HeelNavi with a disorientating wheeled punch. However, if his target elected to flee as well, he wouldn't bother pursuing, as his primary focus was to get the pair as far away from the bag as possible. Though the Navi appeared to be in a fury, he didn't want to cause any additional harm to come of the trapped individual.

Once he touched down, he rolled back if needed to get near the bag. He tried to put himself between the HeelNavis and the thrashing sack on the ground. His head moved slightly from side to side as he tried to keep tabs on both of his foes as well as the door through which they tried to enter. "Sit tight, I mean you no harm," he said sternly, addressing the program that inhabited the sack. He wanted to free the individual, but he had to make sure the area was safe first. He squared himself off towards his potential foes and brought his wheeled fists forward in a fighting ready stance, ready to defend the helpless program at his feet with his own body. That being said, he would prefer they surrender with profuse apologies or scatter like cockroaches.

1. Slide Tackle: Tough Goon (Movement + Microburst + 2TCD)
-[Movement: Dash into melee range of Tough Goon]-
2. Wheel Bash: Jumpy Goon(Movement + 10dmg + Stun + 2TCD)
-[Movement: Wall jump towards Jumpy Goon]-
3. Guard Sack
Tough was a Guts-type Navi, made for and more than used to hardy, unrelenting offenses. In the stand-off between him and his foe, the background noise of the struggling hostage, the distant voices of faraway Navis, the ambient creaking of the Backaways - it all faded into a tense silence, stretched out taut as a bowstring. One couldn't help but superimpose the image of a tumbleweed blowing down the narrow alley. And so it was that Tough Goon found himself waiting for his signal.

The signal could have been anything, from a pipe bursting overhead, to his buddy sharpening up...hell, he'd have taken pretty much anything as a sign, in his battle-hazed mind. The brassy roar of RiderMan's engine spinning up, spawning a series of wireframe defenses before charging him - now that was more than enough. Tough Goon the HeelNavi brought his buster up, bellowing a battle cry as he rained fire onto his furious foe. One, two, three, four times his buster rang out; the first two shots buried themselves in the dust of the alleyway, RiderMan's charge speeding him just ahead of them. The third shot shattered his wireframe shields, the assemblage disintegrating behind him.

The fourth shot found its way home, crashing against RiderMan's chassis with an impact like a sucker-punch, but it was already too late for Tough; the burning moto-fighter was already right on top of him. His whole body pivoted on his front wheel, legs swiping around, and...WHAM.

There was a brief moment of clarity for Tough, in which time slowed down ever-so-conveniently for him to watch his entire body crumple around RiderMan's leg, surrendering to the momentum of the incoming Microburst. And then, like a slingshot, time sped up, and Tough was launched. The force was so vicious as to pinball him diagonally down the two walls of the alley, still gaining height all the while. Finally, he reached the end of the alley and ran out of wall to bounce off, flying bodily over the street. Onlookers watched in amazement as he soared across to crash against a dilapidated storefront, bouncing off it and finally coming to a tumbling, ugly stop in the middle of the road. He did not move.

Jumpy watched all of this in stark horror; had he possessed a jaw, it would have been lying on the dirty alley floor for some time. "Holy ff-" he started, only to get subsequently smacked upside the head by a friction-hot wheel. The shock was far too much for the jittery Navi, and rather than stumble back in disorientation, he simply fainted instead. It wouldn't last, but for RiderMan's purposes, he was most assuredly rendered no longer a threat.

The person in the bag had been screaming through their gag all the while, their entire world flooded in darkness and gunfire and roaring engines and sickening crunches of Navi-on-metal. Even as RiderMan's stern, curt voice told the entrapped person that they were in relative safety, the screaming and thrashing did stop, but he could clearly hear panicked, uneven breathing coming from the bag. They had the idea in their heads that a savior may have shown up, but as far as they were concern, they weren't out of the woods just yet.

=Current Positions=

Tough Goon: 100HP [DONE-ION RINGS]
Jumpy Goon: 90HP [Stunned, temporary dirt-nap.]

Sack: 100HP [Directly behind RiderMan] [Stilled!]

100% Alleyway (Normal)

RiderMan: 155HP [FirstArmor Broken!]


Sack: Whoever's inside the sack has stopped struggling...for the moment.
RiderMan's strikes worked out surprisingly well, his first catapulted the the buster-wielding HeelNavi mostly out of sight. From the pinballing between the alley walls, the impact with the storefront, and the subsequent fall to the blacktop below, it was safely assumed he was out of the fight for a significant amount of time. His less stalwart counterpart crumpled to the floor in a mixture of fear and surprise, which luckily left RiderMan unopposed for the time being. He pumped his fist slightly from his fighting pose, pleased at the success of his strategy.

He turned back to the sack as both of his front tires segmented into individual panels before they formed into a pair of five-fingered hands. He crouched down as he started to look for a draw string or zipper of the sack. He occasionally looked around in case someone else decided to join in on the street battle. "Hold still, I'll get you out. You're safe for now, I'm not here to hurt you," he said in an attempt to reassure the individual as he diligently worked to find an opening in the bag. If he didn't find an opening quickly, he would've just torn the sack open with his hands to free the program trapped inside. He glanced around one more time before going back to work and sent out a text message to his NetOp.

[[i]Charles, please slot in the BronzeFist chip, just in case.[/i]] Charles quickly read the message and less quickly grabbed the chip carefully from the table. His arm and collarbone area were still a bit sore, but he managed to slot in the chip without much trouble. If the program was bound, he would've attempted to remove them, as well as the presumed gag. He would've then helped the program up to its feet and face it directly. "Are you alright? Stay close, I'm here to help," he said calmly as his right arm and hand changed to a slightly polished bronze. He kept the remaining HeelNavi and the door in his peripheral vision, and was prepared to utilize an engine-boosted dash towards his foe. He wanted the alley to remain quiet, if the HeelNavi regained consciousness he wouldn't strike unless he attempted to retaliate. If he made that unfortunate choice, he would bring his chip to bear. Upon reaching a satisfactory proximity to his foe, he would've slammed his hardened fist towards the target with a haymaker-esque right cross to deliver a kinetic force comparable to a battering ram.

1. Free individual from sack and bindings/gag
2. Movement: Close distance to Jumpy Goon
3. BronzeFist: Jumpy Goon (100dmg + Impact + Knockback)
Thankfully for RiderMan and his slightly unorthodox digits, the rope holding the bag shut is easily unwound, and sure enough, he sloughed off the bag to reveal a young lady. Her turquoise(?) hair hung in two girlish, slightly wild pigtails, slightly smushed from being stuck in the bag but springing out the moment she sat up. As RiderMan diligently knelt down with her, untying the gag stuffed into her mouth, she took a deep breath as though to let loose a real belt of a scream...and then looked around her. Cheeks still slightly puffed out, she saw the formerly-jumpy HeelNavi face-down in the alley, a clear series of criss-crossing tire tracks leading to where she was sitting...and dents all over the metal walls of the alley. Finally, she looked up to RiderMan, who was working at her bindings...and her held-in scream dissipated into a tiny, wavering whimper.

For a moment, it looked as though she might have been about to cry, but instead she seemed to just let it wash out of her, a small smile taking the place of all that worry as relief finally started setting in. She took the proffered wheel-come-hand gratefully, standing and stretching to work all the kinks out; she wore an Electopian girl's school uniform, the skirt and sailor collar navy, with a bright red bow topping the ensemble out. "Thank you...oh thank you, thank you, thank you, you're so cooooooool~~~!!!"

Before RiderMan knew it, he had his arms full of emotional, gushing schoolgirl, who eagerly pressed herself against his motor-warm chassis; it didn't seem possible, but the line of gratitude seemed to have ratcheted itself straight up into outright hero-worship. "Oh, your design! Your customization! The science that must have gone into getting all your code just right! If only I could bring you by the lab, Cal would -love- to do a study on you...oh, but I guess this isn't the time for that, haha!" Her demeanor was rather reminiscent of another Navi RiderMan had just recently met...and one she'd just name-dropped, to boot. What on earth was going on here?

Meanwhile, Jumpy Goon finally came to, sitting up. He made a brief attempt to dust himself off, scowled when he realized it was useless, and looked up only to see all his efforts rendered useless: his target was out of her bindings, out of the bag, and the damned moto-monster was...that was a BronzeFist he had equipped. "S-sc-screw this!" he stammered, scrabbling at the ground a few moments before crab-walking backwards. He reached the door he'd been trying to enter earlier, and shouted, "C-Capofamiglia! The password is Capofamiglia, I remember it now!" Whether or not the remembering had come from his memory getting forcefully jogged via wheel-to-face was irrelevant; the door snapped open with a 'W'llcome back, Jumpy,' and he was gone. Huh...maybe Jumpy had been his real name all along.

And thus, RiderMan was alone in the company of this new Navi...who had neglected to introduce herself, and only just recalled that point of fact. "Oh, silly me, you've gone through all the trouble of rescuing me and I haven't even told you my name! Let's see...I'm Phase.EXE, proud member of Vaccine Antiviral, at your service! Well...I guess you're more at mine, since you were the one saving me and all that. Speaking of, you really did a number on those guys, huh? Like, that guy was all face-down eating dirt, and the other guy is..." she took a brief pause for air to check out the exit of the alley, immediately spotting the unfortunate victim of RiderMan's Slide Tackle, "Wow, all the way over there? What did you DO? Oh, if you're a motorcycle-theme Navi, does that mean someone could ride you, or does it not work that way?" If nothing else, she was certainly an excitable Navi, and she seemed to be intent on sticking by RiderMan for the next little while.

=Current Position=

Jumpy Goon: FLED


100% Alleyway (Normal)

RiderMan: 155HP
Phase: 100HP


<(On-map movements can resume. Rewards from this fight will be added to the end-of-mission reward.)>
RiderMan winced as the Navi suddenly belted out a scream, which seemed to reverberate and echo off the walls for a half second or so as her wail finally subsided. He couldn't help but run a quick status check on his audio sensor subroutines, thankfully the check showed no damage. As sudden as her scream, she hugged him while conveying her thanks and seemingly gushed over her liberator. RiderMan was taken a bit off guard by her unprovoked hug, and tried his best not to lose his balance. He tried to keep his focus on the lone HeelNavi as he came to, but the schoolgirl-themed Navi made an almost word-for-word copy of one of Cal's statements regarding RiderMan's design, and even mentioned Cal by name. They were likely thinking of the same Navi, but he couldn't help but feel a slight suspicion, as it seemed very... convenient.

Luckily for both of them, the HeelNavi smartly abandoned his task and ducked away into the building after suddenly remembering a password that entirely escaped RiderMan's vocabulary. Even Chuck, who was watching and listening in on what transpired, furrowed his brow at the password, and made a mental note to look it up later. With the immediate threat gone, RiderMan's right arm and wheel changed back to their default colors before his tire split into its hand configuration. He lightly patted the girl's back in a fairly delayed attempt to reassure her. "No problem, miss." He immediately realized it was likely unneeded, as she no longer seemed to be distressed or fearful at all. Her demeanor changed rather rapidly, from terror to adoration.

She introduced herself as Phase, and stated her employment with an organization called "Vaccine Antiviral." He became certain the "Cal" she mentioned was Calcinatio, also a member of Vaccine Antiviral. It still seemed really 'small world' to run into two Navis from the same organization not a half-mile from each other, and Calcinatio made no mention of one of his fellow members being kidnapped or reported missing. Maybe he didn't know? Regardless, this wasn't the place to ponder and decode the situation. "Nice to meet you, Miss Phase, I'm RiderMan.EXE," he responded before he gestured out to the street ahead. "We should get out of here, in case the jittery one comes back with friends," he insisted calmly. He kept an eye on the door; that was Phase's intended location, so it was very likely the individual(s) who called for her kidnapping were located there. He would've been more than happy to break down the door and open up a can in there, but he had to get Phase to safety first, not to mention complete his delivery.

He tried his best to slip out of Phase's hug, but extended his left hand to her, hoping she'd grasp it so he could lead her out of the alleyway. If she didn't seem to want to follow, or started to stall, he would pick her up, even throwing her over his shoulder if he had to. While their conversation would be relatively private here in the alleyway, they were in prime position to get ambushed or worse. "This way, we'll talk out there," the Navi advised, either pulling or carrying Phase along at a safe clip.

Continue North, out of the alleyway
"Oh! You're totally right, we should get out of here!" Phase (finally) disengaged her embrace, taking RiderMan's wheel-come-hand and letting him escort her out of the dingy alley. They emerged from the gloom into an intersection between two streets; being farther into the Backaways than the first such intersection RiderMan had encountered, there was a considerable amount more foot traffic. However, just about every last HeelNavi in the area took one look at the candy-apple red Navi and his schoolgirl entourage, followed the wreckage of the alley to the utterly wrecked Tough Goon...and stayed the ruddy hell away from him. If this was the sort of place where might made right, RiderMan had more than made his mark on the local population here.

"Ooh! RiderMan, RiderMan, look! We're almost there!" Phase squealed, pointing with her free hand across the intersection. A dingy sign across one storefront read, quite simply, 'Rusty's'. Between the HeelNavis schmoozing outside to the distinct smell of virtual booze (because hey, sentient programs could appreciate intoxication too), there was no questioning that this was the place. "I was looking for this place myself, before...well, before you found me," Phase admitted, looking a little embarrassed. Somewhere between addressing RiderMan and musing to herself, she continued, "WakeMan's a really nice guy and we love having him around the lab, but we can never get a hold of him until he contacts us and he's been stuck god-knows-where for so long and he always looks so sad...I guess when I heard Cal say he'd be here in Netopia Net, I jumped at the chance to see him and make sure he's doing alright." She turned to face RiderMan, a sheepish little grin playing on her cheeks. "Guess that wasn't the smartest thing when I don't have any combat routines or anything, huh?"

Phase trailed off at this point, glancing around the intersection. Tough Goon was still dead to the world on the ground just to her and RiderMan's right, a crumpled heap of HeelNavi. Nobody was making any attempt to move him - more accurately, the Navis passing to and fro were adamantly pretending he wasn't there. The alleyway was silent, no sign of any reinforcements of any sort coming through. The coast appeared about as clear as it was going to get.

"Hey, RiderMan?" Phase tugged on RiderMan's arm, trying to get his attention again. "If it isn't too personal a you know why you fight? I mean, the only one in Vaccine who really does any sort of combat is Ion and I know he just does it so the rest of us don't have to...but I think today taught me that getting all the programs and battle routines and things might be a good idea. And I just thought to myself, I doubt you started beating up HeelNavi chumps because you got nabbed by a couple of goons. I dunno, is that too curious? You're a stranger and all that, but you're so cool and, her cheeks reddened, "I just wanna know how you did that!"

=Current Position=
Luckily for the both of them, Phase followed along without issue, and they were out of the cramped confines of the alley. RiderMan looked left and right, noticing the unconscious goon on the ground, and the rest of the programs ultimately keeping their distance. With that, he finally felt it was appropriate to answer her growing list of questions. RiderMan also noted her excitement as she pointed out what seemed to be both of the Navis' destination. He turned back to her as she stated her intention to go to the "Rusty's" establishment. From the provided map it seemed like they were both looking for the same place, but he never actually gotten the name of the bar from Cal... probably should've asked that.

However, it seemed to become moot as Phase mentioned the intended client, WakeMan. Guess she really was part of the organization, but can't be too careful. She then confessed her complete lack of combat routines, with a sheepish grin. RiderMan nodded slightly, agreeing with her statement, but he had no intention of chastising the Navi for her lack of preparation. "Lucky I came along, especially considering I'm looking for WakeMan as well." He looked back at the alley behind them, to check if anyone else decided to pursue, then back at Phase. "I'd be a bit more careful next time, okay?" he friendlily advised before he resumed a slightly more leisurely pace towards the bar.

She tugged on his arm, which caused him to slow down a bit to listen. She asked his reason for fighting, musing how Vaccine apparently had only a single combat-oriented Navi, and how she would consider getting combat upgrades as well. RiderMan practically had a script to use, one he used on Chuck when they first met, but it didn't seem entirely appropriate at the time. However, he couldn't help but feel a bit prideful in his response. "For me, it's fairly simple," he started, continuing to roll along to the bar ahead. "I fight to protect the innocent, exact justice on criminals, especially those who prey on ones who can't fully defend themselves. And finally," he continued, his focus subconsciously shifted to his NetOp. "to inspire those who could use a bit of hope and motivation." He nearly plunged back into the script, though at least to him it sounded really, really cool. Thankfully he caught himself and discontinued his monologue to address Phase's interest in battle routines, and her final question. "If you want to take on that responsibility, I'd say go for it, as long as you put it to good use. You don't want to end up like those two back there, right?"

He glanced back at the tough goon, still motionless in the street. He felt a bit bad just leaving him there; though the other programs steered clear, he was out in the middle of the street. "... Might have kicked him a little too hard, hang on just a moment," he said as he released his grip on Phase's hand. He 'skated' towards the ToughGoon, still running on idle speed, and both of his hands folded out in preparation. He crouched down and took hold of the HeelNavi's shoulders before he started to pull the program out of the street towards the "sidewalk" ahead. As he pulled him along, he watched the HeelNavi for any sort of movement. If the HeelNavi started to stir, he would've quietly warned "Relax, unless you want me to kick you again." After depositing the HeelNavi safely with his back up against the side of the building, he returned to Phase and gestured to the bar. "Let's head inside, though it may or may not be safer there. Stay close, just to be safe," he cautioned as he continued to make his way to "Rusty's."

Move Tough Goon out of the street
Proceed to "Rusty's" with Phase.EXE