Project Aftermath

Deep within Hades Net, camouflaged through the use a device of his own invention, AlchemyMan, a high-ranking Netpolice officer, and his league of lab-hands work ceaselessly on a project entirely unbeknown to the Netpolice. This project is known as "Aftermath" and violates many ethical standards in the pursuit of new weapons and battle technology. The architecture inside the laboratory is twisted and transparent, making the whole lab feel like a series of beakers and flasks. AlchemyMan is currently toiling away at a new project report, musing over what he has found to be a very successful new experiment. We turn our attention to two tremendous tanks of liquid, each holding the figure of a female net navi. These two navis, former underlings of the mafia renegade Idol, are the first tragic prizes of this madman's ambition.

Scavenger's hooked talons began to clench and unclench as she came alive inside her regenerative tank, her dreary eyes looking around her in stupid incomprehension. The navi's taught, dark-suited body twitched slightly as she came to wake. The setting was unfamiliar, she knew that much, and she still had the vague sensation of an intense pain in her jaw. As if recalling a dream, she suddenly remembered her loss to the Netpolice and a civilian navi, during which she'd been shot through the jaw and incapacitated. Hurriedly, she glanced around her surroundings, raising bubbles on the surface of the water as she looked for her ally. With a sigh of relief, she located Stalker, her lean body suspended in peaceful slumber inside the next tank over.

The next sensation she knew was a feeling of disbelieving joy. She realized that her first thoughts had not been immediately towards Idol, her former master through the influence of hypnotism. Ordinarily, she would be unable to break her mind from that mesmerizing witch's spell, but now she seemed to be entirely cured of the infatuation. Her eyes turned to AlchemyMan, showing a sort of a naive thankfulness, and her mouth curved into a cautious smile. "Doc, I don't know how you did it, but... you did it! I'm cured. You broke that Idol bitch's hold over me. Y-You're mafia, right? Geez, I knew we had all the best guys on our side! This is a miracle!"
she nearly wept in triumph.

AlchemyMan, a hunched figure in a purple cloak and large, purple cloth hat, simply continued to speak into his recorder, failing to acknowledge her. She finally wizened up, thinking to listen in to the words he was speaking. <span style='font-family:Futura Bk'>"... and as an added bonus, I understand that CravenMan was destroyed in the battle's conclusion. How fortunate for me! Fortunate indeed... I hate to see my past mistakes rolling around the net like tumbleweeds. This is a great hour for me and a terrific day for science,"
he concluded, pressing the stop button on his recorder. Turning around, he revealed to Scavenger his bizarre face. The upper portion was masked with two pure white, crescent slits in the purple cloth to represent his eyes. His mouth was turned into a kind of sickening smile with moist, thin lips, constantly shifting from teeth to closure. Overall, Scavenger was disheartened by his look and, as she would see, rightfully so. "Oh really? You're thankful? Well I'm thankful too, you know. This experiment has been a success, why, a profound success! You're free to kiss me if you like. Both cheeks, maybe other places too," he suggested with a snickering undertone.

"Rrrr! Out of the frying pan and into the frying pan, huh? Just who the hell are you, anyways?" Scavenger asked indignantly, baring her sharp fangs at her captor.

AlchemyMan gave a playful look of shock, then returned to his former disposition, laughing into one hand. "Oh dear oh dear, this is quite morbid, isn't it? Morbid in a number of ways. Firstly, it is morbid because you've been captured due to the very technology that you, the Net Mafia, insidious organization, created. Second, it is quite morbid because you have fallen from the hands of one controller into the more capable grasp of a far more intelligent party. It's morbid for you, perhaps, but a great triumph for the scientific community," he rambled on, raising one finger into the air and turning his back to her as he talked in a theatrical way. "My dear, you are going to be the first in a long line of navis that will further my extraordinarily important research," he concluded, turning his head to see her reaction.

Scavenger just spat back irritatedly, then bore her teeth again. "So you're a Net Police dog, huh? Just what can you do with us, anyways? And what do you mean that we helped you capture us? Go ahead and tell me, since you seem to like running your mouth anyways," she insisted, glaring hatefully into his eyes.

"Why thank you, I'd love to expound a little for you. You see, you Mafia simpletons have developed this wonderful device that you call a Jack-Out barrier... wonderful, but woefully simplistic. You simply block the response back to the PET, erasing the navi from the net. Do you realize what a profound mistake you all have been making?" he asked, clutching his forehead and his mouth at the same time, as if to stop himself from bursting into laughter. "Consider this: navis utilize the power of chips, the navicustom, crosses, upgrades, even the ferocious beastouts. But there's an untapped source of power yet! Can you name it?"

"What, Support Programs?" she responded with one eyebrow raised dubiously.

"What a delightfully simple-minded answer! No, the answer is navis themselves. You see, we can keep making these stupid netpolice and mafia goons as long as we want, but you know which side will ultimately win? The one that implements my latest design. It's a multi-step process I've come up with that I find is really quiet ingenious. First, we reroute the former 'jack-out barrier' to instead link directly to these tubes, as if they were PETs. The program will accept the tube reroute as if it was a sort of 'back-up location' for your memory. Once you're reconstructed here, we can then take your innate data... things you might see as your 'signature attacks' and plant them into a new being. A new being that is perfectly subservient to its master. Taking the human factor out of the navi... although it sounds like a step back, it is really a brilliant lunge forward for my field of weapons science!" he chortled, hugging his arms beneath his cloak.

Scavenger angrily scratched her talons against the unyielding tank, unable to control her temper."You dog! You don't even care about the net war, do you? You're just an arms salesman, when it comes right down to it," she crowed in her husky voice, beating her claws against the lid.

"I may be a dog, but you are a bitch, so it all fits!" he giggled childishly, pressing his face against the glass and grinning widely. Bringing it back, he coughed into his fist and then looked to one of his lab assistants, a man in a hooded purple robe. "Go ahead and take the first sample there, if you would. Take it from the wings! These flying navis seem to harbor a lot of power in those wings of theirs. Maybe next we'll move to the claws and take a couple of bone samples. Oh, I'm getting chills just thinking about it! Science, science, science~" he sang to himself, twirling his cloak around him as he moved back to his desk.

"Hey shithead! Do you really think you're going to get away with this just like that?" the navi snapped back at him, extending her wings once experimentally. A throbbing pain went through them as they collided with the glass, so she quickly retracted them.

"Oh, I've factored in that as well. Did you notice that you two were my first catch? Unfortunate as it is, I'm currently limiting myself to useless, relatively powerless navis for my experimentation; ones that nobody will miss. Don't take it personally, you'll be a great asset to my scientific advancement here," he explained, flashing her a grin of mirth over his shoulders. "Once you get over your animosity, I think you'll discover that these are the kind of weapons that you wish you could use yourself! Well, if um, you were ever getting out of there. I'll speak to you more later if you're still feeling up to it, hee he hee!" he finished, waving over one shoulder and then taking his place at a console.

Scavenger was going to retort, but before she could she felt a sort of gagging presence, like the liquid around her had become pressurized. Her snarling face contorted with pain as two sharp, hot needles shot out from the sides of the tank, accompanied by metal arms to subdue her. The needles embedded deep into her wings, sucking data out of them greedily and depositing the material into a reservoir somewhere. The pain was tremendous, but worse than that, the wings were practically wilting, falling away to nothing. Despite the pressure, she managed to let out a mind-numbing wail of stress before AlchemyMan cut the sound from her tube.

"I have a feeling," AlchemyMan said to his lab assistant very casually, leaning one cloaked arm upon his console, "that this will be a wonderful experiment!"</span>
Project Aftermath, AlchemyMan's experiment designed to pull unique traits from navis and manufacture them into a distributable form, had moved along swimmingly as far as those working for the navi were concerned. After numerous tests, pulling data from the Mafia navis Stalker and Scavenger, they'd managed to come up with some truly interesting formulas. Cloaked navis all around the labs were laughing drunkenly, downing the liquid extract and giggling as they grew coarse, black wings, faded into shadows, or gained enhanced reflexes. It was, perhaps, the closest the net had come to breeding a society of ritualistic cannibals.

Walking around and observing the handiwork, AlchemyMan kept his arms crossed around his back. Despite the joy of those around him, he wore a scowl of disapproval, contradicting the natural happy slant of his eyes. "You'd think they'd just made the first trip to the moon," he muttered to himself, leaning drunkenly on a wall next to a small group of his followers, his cape dragging across the floor sluggishly before coming to a rest at his feet.

The men were having a grand old time, showing off their newly obtained wings. Unable to stand any more of what the navi considered a defacement of science, AlchemyMan walked forward and adopted an extraordinarily false grin. From behind, he stroked the navi's wings in a drunken way. His supporter laughed awkwardly, as did the rest of the crowd. "You all look like a bunch of morons, flapping around like this! Like a bunch of big, silly chickens in pajamas! Heh... hehe!" he giggled. The others picked up their laughter, none more so than the one their leader had approached. "But tell me, what's the use of wings that don't fly!?" he growled, ripping the wings out of the navi's back with a quick jerk of his arm.

The loud, tearing noise that accompanied the severing of the weak, developing nerves and tissue could be heard amongst the nearby crowd, but the scream of pain from the navi reverberated throughout the party, instantly silencing all of those around. AlchemyMan watched the useless wings crumble into even more useless data particles in his hand, then let the particles fall onto the floor like ash through his fingertips. "This is not scientific advancement. This is like a... a Graphic Override Module! Yes, it's like you're all running around dressed as that filthy mafia slut in the tank! I'm surrounded by perverts and simpletons!" he cried in a high-pitched voice, stomping his feet into the ashes beneath him and spitting onto the prostrate body of his own follower before him.

Leaning back against the wall and crossing his arms, AlchemyMan smiled, having now gained the attention of all of his men. "Alright, where did we go wrong? That's the question, isn't it? Luckily for us, there's an easy answer!" he said with a small chuckle. Nobody was stupid enough to laugh along with him this time. "Think about it, chuckle-heads! We're trying to extract power where there isn't any. We're pulling from a dry well, so to speak. These navis are weak and useless... Well, now they're really weak and useless, after all of this draining, but they were useless even before!" he explained, punctuating the dreadful monologue with a small laugh. "What we need is better navis! We've got our method right here, theoretically, but it still needs to be tested. If my hunch is right, as it often is, we simply need a larger pool to draw our powers out of. But for this... we need a stooge," he said with a wide grin. "Stooges are always handy. Oh Caaarbuncle~!"

Surprising all of the men around, a female navi dressed in a similar pointed-hood robed stepped out of the crowd. None of them had even realized there was a woman amidst them. "Yes, my lord?" came a surprisingly pretty voice from beneath the robe. The men watched with interest.

"I think I know just the person to help us in our endeavor! Why don't you be a doll, Carbo, and go issue him one of our special jack-out redirectors? Be sure to take this folder full of blackmail material or you're not likely to get much leverage in the negotiations. Of course, he might be stupid enough to buy into a 'you're doing the right thing' scam, so try that first! You won't be lying, after all," the caped navi rambled, waving one hand in the air in a glorious sweep. "This is all for scientific advancement!"

"Indeed, my lord," the voice finished, taking the folder quickly and turning away. Slowly, her body descended into a bubbling green puddle and her form vanished from view.

The room was silent for a few moments. AlchemyMan turned his head back and forth, seemingly having forgotten his anger entirely. "What harm is liquor in the hands of the responsible, eh? Drink up you guys! Just don't go calling this a scientific advancement, though, or I may have to rip off some more appendages," he said with a chuckle, waving one hand as if dismissing children. As the party resumed, he leaned against the wall on his right arm, gazing calmly into the faces of the navis whose lives he was ruining, suspended inside his liquid tanks. "Boy, it's a good thing we're almost done, isn't it? You girls hardly have anything left to give me!" the scientist giggled, noting the small stubs of feathers where Scavengers wings once extended from her body, along with the discoloration of her hair from black to gray. Cutting off his one-sided conversation, AlchemyMan retreated through the party-goers and into his private chamber, leaving his men to their amusement.