Glitch Test Lab

The test site that Hexadecimal and his operator had been given the coordinates to was located inside the NetPolice Headquarters, inside the restricted halls belonging to the Department of Technology. Many secure laboratories shared adjacent netspaces, each locked off by specific researchers. One could only get into the halls with a department ID and only into the labs with an individual code. Luckily, Hex had been offered access along with the coordinates he was given, but even still, entering the hallways would be impossible; he'd get no further than this one laboratory. Not that he needed to, seeing as his employer was already waiting for him in that room.

The room itself was sterile and white, nearly entirely featureless; the only breaks in the scenery were a door (locked), a wall-console designed for some unknown, undoubtedly research related purpose (probably user-locked), and three rolling office chairs that had been brought in for the purpose of convenience. Light filled the room, seemingly without source... the light was pale and alternated between light pink and light blue.

Two navis were already seated in the room, presumably Madness and her sister. One, the more talkative of the two, was dressed in a shining, purple, elastic bodysuit with only slightly thicker pink armor gloves, boots, chestplate, and belt. She wore goggles, seemingly attached underneath the helmet, which emitted blue light and showed her pupils through at exaggerated size and made her look like a cartoon character. The light her goggle set was putting out wasn't able to combat the strange one that enveloped the room, putting out only about as much as an LCD monitor. Her hair was long, pretty, and pink, a lighter color than her armor... or, well, it would be pretty, if it weren't for the fact that it was mostly uncombed and the strands that stuck off in all directions were lit ablaze, burned black at the tips with lingering blue flames. It looked like she'd been caught in some sort of explosion and never bothered to put those out. Small monitors on her armor and bodysuit, with a similar coloration to the goggles, lit up with numbers in random patterns.

Her opposite, but probably her sister, sat next to her in an upright position, while the crazy-looking one straddled her chair. The less crazy one had similar length hair, although hers was blue and neatly combed. No fire danced along hers, but crackles of blue electricity occasionally in fixed intervals of time, almost like through exposed wires... though, it was clearly hair, not wires, coming out of her head. She wore a matching purple bodysuit and goggles with a similar color, although hers displayed dark on the half top, light blue on the bottom, with no ability for the viewer to discern where she was looking. Her armor was light blue instead of pink, matching her hair color. The lights on her outfit flashed numbers in an exact, upward counting sequence, each showing the same number simultaneously.

They were also both the average height of working women and very curvy, which their outfits did little to hide. Both exactly as tall and exactly as curvy, actually.

"I can't wait to see the look on your face when you finally realize that I was right about glitches all along," the one with the flaming hair laughed, rubbing her hands together deviously.

"I can't wait to see the look on YOUR face when you understand what simple science tells us must be the truth," the electric hair one countered, crossing her arms and her legs defiantly. "A truth to which I subscribe but you simply ignore."

"If I win, we have to switch places for the day! And I'm going to go hit on AlchemyMan while pretending to be you!" the pink cackled.

"No, gross! If I win, which I will, then we have to switch places for a day and I'll just goof around, like you do, while I do all the work! Or... well... you do all the work. But if you try to do my work, you'll screw everything up. I'll do my work, you do yours, and neither of us tries to make the other go out with AlchemyMan..." the blue replied.

"Deal!" the pink agreed, spinning around in her chair happily.

"W-Wait, I wasn't done yet! I get to name a condition too!" the blue pouted.

This was the scene as Hex arrived.
The static cloud that announced Hex's arrival came entirely without warning, enveloping a corner of the blank floor in a patch of pure virtual aberration. The telltale pool of gel, black ones and zeroes darting within erratically, remained when the static faded, a body rising from the opaque depths as if by magic. The ramshackle Navi's body was in fine form that day: a shattered mechanical helmet with its visor stuck in a permanent static haze, two mismatched arms on one side, one larger limb cobbled from the opposite arms' pairs on the other, and a smattering of undulating tentacles sprouting from his back as the cherry on top.

A mostly-functional pair of legs moved the poltergeist-Navi towards the only two inhabitants of the room. His vocal processor buzzed to life, announcing, "Jack-in successful; commencing mission. Personal idEnTIFication: Hexadecimal.EXE; moniker: Hex."

"Call him Hex," Arch chimed in, opening a video window and setting it to face the twin Navis. "I'm Arch, his Operator. I'm guessing one of you is Madness?" He wasn't quite sure who he was addressing, or even if these were Madness and her aforementioned sister...but given their outfits, it wasn't too hard to guess. "It's, uh...good to meet you both," he added, trying not to stare at their figures. He was bad enough with human women, he reminded himself; attractive female Navis was just too weird a concept for him to want to wrap his head around.
"Aaaah!" the girls both cried in unison, one out of delight and the other out of surprise. The pink one continued. "Amazing! Those are some unique glitches, for sure!" she applauded, starting out of her seat to examine the new arrival from all angles. She stumbled back when a video window suddenly opened nearby her, revealing Arch. "You've got an interesting navi, Arch! Yes, I'm Madness, although you can call me Maddy, if you're just into shortening names or whatever! Not Ness or Nessie, I don't like those," she introduced herself, rambling on. "My sister here is named Method. There's no real good way to shorten her name. Sorry!"

"Method is fine," Method agreed, giving a short nod. She rose as if to shake Hex's hand, then realized that doing so was difficult for reasons that should have been obvious. "It's nice to meet you both. Our operator is involved in some important experiments right now, but I'll see if he has time to say hello-"

"Of course!" a man's voice announced, as a 30-something-year-old man appeared on a viewscreen opposite Arch's. "I am Maso Cuocco, innovator by trade," he announced, although it was hard to imagine that his business card really said "innovator" on it. He looked to be trying to copy his navis, as he was dressed in a similar form-fitting purple suit suit, but with a lab-coat over it. His eyes were covered by green goggles, which were lit and displayed his eyes as thin slits. His hair was also green, probably dyed, and done into an unfashionable faux hawk. He had just a bit of black stubble forming on his chin and his eyebrows were similarly heavy and dark. He was a pretty muscular guy, despite his apparent science background. "Maso Cuocco!" he repeated, then paused. He placed one hand to his chin contemplatively and grinned. "Maso Cuocco," he spoke once more, this time more quietly and with a debonair smirk. He seemed to like the way it sounded this time and finally stopped. "Right now, I'm attempting to innovate glitches. For a long time, glitches have gone without innovation and that's just criminal, my man. That said, I'm very busy right now. So I'm going to cut out and leave the science to you. Ciao', my man!" He winked, which was a pretty awkward thing for one thirtyish guy to do towards another thirtyish guy, then disappeared.

"He's interesting, right? But he's also not related to this project, at least not directly, so feel free to forget about him for now!" Madness chuckled with a teasing smile.

"W-Wait!" the voice popped back up, though, without a window this time. "Remember, today's proceedings and findings are all the intellectual property of Maso-!"

Madness cut him off, leaving them briefly in silence before she started laughing again. His input must be really unimportant on all of this... It was pretty hard to imagine he was actually much of an intellectual, given the way he dressed and the fact that Madness didn't show much remorse cutting him out. Even Method remained quiet about it, despite their earlier display of bickering. "Well, Arch, all we need is me, my sister, you, and your navi! We're going to be performing experiments related to glitches that will hopefully give us not only new raw study material, but more importantly, some insight into the very nature of glitches. Part of this is thanks to the NP laboratories exclusive Glitch Room! The entire environment you see around you is equipped with imperceptible tools, developed by Maso and the two of us, which are designed to analyze glitches as they occur! We can look into all sorts of factors using particular algorithms... probable cause, potential consequences, possible military applications, rate of adoption, spread, rate of spread, potential for cure, potential for vaccination, potential for prevention, ease of adoption of potential cure, ease-!"

Method finally interrupted her sister, frowning uncomfortably. "I'm sorry, that's more than you wanted to know. The focus of today's experiments will be to try to gain insight into the cause of glitches and if there are any external factors that can influence what glitch arises. That is, we're going to try introducing a number of different glitches in otherwise controlled states, adding additional variables and recording results," she explained. Her abbreviated statement was still a bit of a mouthful. "Before we start, we'd love to ask you some questions and record your answers, if you don't mind. The more information we have on your navi, the better our understanding of the experiment results will be."

"Don't worry, it'll be quick! We just want to know a few things. Numero uno!" Madness inquired, sitting back down into her chair so that her crossed arms straddled its back, which had been spun to face Hex. "Were you designed with the inherent intent to create glitches, or were you glitched and yourself became a carrier of glitches, able to spread them to others? Assuming you are freely able to spread them to others." She seemed to be stumbling over her own words in her attempt to learn as much as possible.

"And my question," Method continued, sitting in a more reserved manner. There was still a free seat for Hex to take, but the two of them were no longer certain if they could expect him to just sit down. "or, well... line of questioning. How do you, specifically, transfer glitches to other hosts? Please describe any contact that must be made. Also, please let us know if there is any known damage or physical discomfort that we ought to be aware of before testing the glitches on live subjects. Of course, to some extent, such affects are unpredictable, but if you have a history... please make us aware. For that matter, it would be very useful if you would tell me what sort of glitches you've experienced or created so far." They both appeared to be directing their questions towards Hex, even though Arch would presumably be the one answering them.
With the quiet exception of Hex's visor-static, man and Navi were both by and large completely silent through Maso Cuocco's introduction. The Navi was silent out of simply having nothing to say, simply standing in the same corner of the room, form rigid but for the steady wavering of his protoplasmic 'skeleton'. Arch, on the other hand, was frozen in utter shock; he couldn't have said a word if he'd tried. Perhaps it was the other human inexplicably appearing out of nowhere to shout at him, or perhaps it was the sudden traffic jam of thoughts caused trying to process what had just come out of the other man's mouth.

Instead of replying, he simply straightened up in his chair, looking into his camera and feeling rather like he was at a teleconference. Listening to Madness' explanation of what they were looking for buried inside Hex's code, Arch rather felt like he was about to come to know things about his Navi that he'd never even considered...both on the technical side ('just what sorts of long-term effects might Hex have on the Net?') and out of his own personal curiosity ('just where did something like Hex come from, anyway?')

In the end, all he ended up saying was, "Go sit down, Hex."

The misshapen Navi moved towards the simple chair, protoplasmic pool curling around the legs as he sat down; it was only by virtue of his mostly-intact shell that nothing, be it chair or Navi, broke upon contact. Autonomously, the tentacles protruding from his back began feeling out the piece of furniture, touching and studying it from every angle before returning to their usual slow waving. Completely unaware of the strange spectacle, Hex took in the other Navis' questions. For a few seconds, there was silence as the glitch-Navi numerated the list given to him. Then, starting with Madness' original point of interest, he began to speak.

"Details of origin unknown; memory files dated prior to habitation within Operator's PET confirmed to exist, but inaccessible. Cause: data corrupted," his vocal encoder buzzed; the complete disconnect between Hex's body's subtle movements and his speech was never more evident than now (possibly, Arch, thought, due to his Navi never having had to speak any more than a few words at once before).

Arch coughed to signal the two ladies' attention away from his communication-challenged Navi. "In plainer speech, neither of us know where he came from. He could've been meant to cause glitches when he was created, but he just sort of appeared in my PET one day, already bugged beyond anything I could repair. And yes, he can spread them to others...pretty easily, really."

Then Method's words began to sank in, and the rarely-seen intellect responsible for his degree in virtual architecture kicked in; Arch sat back to mentally list the answers to the many questions. He was done a fair bit before Hex's processors could have finished going over the questions, the Navi's in-progress answer dying the moment he saw that his Operator was handling the questioning.

"Pretty much every other host that Hex has infected has been a virus, so he's been using it for combat. As for how...well, all those Navi pieces are just shells that he's 'wearing'; his real body's that white gel-stuff. I can't figure out just what state of matter it is, but anyway he needs physical contact to transfer the glitches; it seems like all it takes is that it gets on you, so even getting touched by his body can glitch, but he can form a sharpened...uh, tentacle, and stab with it as well. He doesn't really need to do that, though, because I've seen him just grab things or envelop them or what have you...he's pretty, well, morphic."

And finally, the last question, and for this Hex had the quicker memory. "Effects of glitches on external hosts include:" he paused here as the list was compiled from his recent busting run, "Increased athletic p-p-perFORManCE and...(ERROR, print to screen:) bravery, increased muscular strength, sudden engorgement of body ComPOneNTs, reduced mobility, sudden StoneBody effect, altered colouring... the Navi trailed off, unable to continue listing in the face of his Operator's sudden fit of coughing. "Operator, medical assistance required Y/N?"

Arch straightened back up, still trying to hide the bit of red that had spread across his face. Maybe it was just Hex listing, with very particular wording, his past glitches to two attractive women, but suddenly his view of his Navi changed utterly, possibly forever.
Madness watched with unveiled excitement as Hex took his seat, moving as she'd never seen a navi move before... given that she'd never seen a navi that propelled itself with tentacles. "I figured it was something like that! I never imagined that he would just show up like that, though. What a shock!" Madness nodded along. "Navis usually don't just appear out of thin air! In fact, this could be exactly the type of thing we're studying! Got any fancy theories on how that could happen, Sis?"

Method adjusted her goggles and stared thoughtfully. "Many navis have the property of invisibility. It's possible he was a rogue navi and teleported into the PET ordinarily. It's also possible that he simply has a very discrete entrance sequence. Either way, I guess what I'm saying is that my money is on the possibility that he's an abandoned navi who simply wondered his way into your PET while you were connected to another network and had your security down," she offered.

"Wrong!" Madness laughed, annoying her sister. "He glitched his way in there! He's a dynamo, alright! Nobody knows where he's going; nobody knows where he's been!" Madness patted her sister on the head patronizingly. "There, there. Some things just defy explanation!"

"Nonsense!" Madness replied, shocking her sister's hand away with her odd hair-electricity. "Everything can be explained with the proper research and devotion. I guarantee it." She frowned seriously for a moment, before swapping that look for one of embarrassment. "I-I apologize! We've gotten off topic. What were you saying?" she asked Arch. "So... he's actually the fluid substance inside the apparent body? He can contract the glitches by contact, either as a liquid or solid," she repeated. "I see..."

"Wooowie! That's a bonkers list of glitches!" Madness exclaimed. "We've seen some pretty weird ones here in the lab, for sure, but 'sudden engorgement of body components?' That sounds wicked weird!" she guffawed happily. "I wonder if we're going to see stuff like that during our experiments?"

The operator's mood was rubbing off on Method, who was going a bit red in the face herself. "I certainly hope we won't see something so outlandish," she responded.

"Don't be a spoiled sport! When you play with fire, you're going to get burned! It's a necessary risk of scientific advancement!" Madness announced, proudly. She rose up from her seat and leaned both hands onto the back of her chair, grinning at Arch. "That's right, I forgot to mention! The two of us are putting our bodies on the line for the sake of science! We'll be the test subjects today! To explain why, you'll need to know a little more about us!"

Method was still looking uneasy, but she nodded and continued. "We ourselves, about three years ago, were one single navi belonging to Maso: Method. That is... 'we' were simply 'me,'" she murmured, realizing how strange that sounded out loud. "My sister here was herself created from a series of glitches during an encounter I had with another navi, whose name I never learned. But that's part of why we study glitches: to learn more about what created my sister here. It's also why we're the perfect subjects for this glitch testing... our data is so similarly arranged, since we're two halves of the same coin, so to speak. That makes us controlled test subjects in a world where the individuality of navis has become a selling point. We're custom navis, but we're custom navis composed of like elements. That means that we have a unique edge as useful subjects when introducing other variables."

"Right! But you know, there are some other variables too that we need to take care of before we start!" Madness followed up, placing one hand on her sister's shoulders. "The obvious one is..."

"Our elements?" Madness questioned, tilting her head. In some ways, she looked like the younger sister, although she appeared to be the more responsible of the two and they looked like identical twins.

"No! Try again!"

"Our hair?"

"Bah! No, silly! Our clothes!" she chuckled, crossing her arms defiantly. "If we're wearing different clothes, that's extra bias in this experiment that we can eliminate at the source!"

"E-Eliminate?!" Method cried, but it was too late. She had bolted up from her chair just in time for her wardrobe to begin glowing and disappearing. "Aaaaah, no! Don't look!"

"Relax," the pink sister sighed, as her goggles disappeared, revealing her bright, pink eyes. "See? It's our bikinis!" she laughed again, showing off a newly adopted, shiny purple bikini. Her sister was wearing a matching one. Both were string bikinis, which didn't seem like the most professional sort of swimsuit to wear into an experiment... The coverage was still decent, but the outfits were still quite eye-catching.

"W-Why are we wearing swimsuits?" Method inquired, her blue eyes now revealed and lightly flecked with tears from when she thought she was going to be nude in front of their guest. "Our skinsuits are exactly the same too... We could have just worn those."

"... Whoops! Well, I'm the random one, remember? Cut me some slack! Ha ha ha ha!" Madness guffawed, slapping her exposed upper thigh. "Alright, alright, enough silliness. I'm going to go get the machine calibrated!"

"Wait!" Method called out, but her sister skipped away, barefooted, and started messing with the wall panel. The remaining sister squirmed in her seat uncomfortably, her eyes moving slowly between Arch and Hex. "I apologize for her. Don't worry, we'll stay professional," she offered. "Otherwise professional, I mean..." Her eyes wandered back down to Hex's inner goo and writhing tentacles. She gulped visibly. "So... Pardon my asking... Is there no way that Hex can transmit the glitch without touching us? I-I mean... Not that I really mind, there's nothing wrong with him... I was just thinking that, given the circumstances..." she muttered, pressing her fingers together sheepishly. "... I guess he can touch if he wants to," she sighed, crossing her hands over her lap modestly in a way that was more arousing than if she'd just kept quiet.

"Sister!" Madness laughed, causing Method to jump. She'd snuck back over quietly while her sister was distracted. "What are you talking about without me over here, huh? Aw, nevermind! Hex, Arch, are you two ready?" she asked, beaming excitedly. "I'll volunteer! Do me first! We need to get a good glitch going to test everything we can! We'll start raw, with just me and a glitch... mano a mano! In future experiments we'll be introducing other variables, of course. But for now, just lay it on me!" she announced, stepping in front of her sister and spreading her arms heroically. "Or... Or do I need to go to him? I don't know how it works," she admitted, crossing her arms behind her head as she made a fool of herself. Her large breasts bounced along with the motion as she raised her arms, providing no relief in the onslaught of needless sexual charge that the mission was adopting.
Arch's professional interest managed to win out over his embarrassment for the moment, listening to Madness' origin. Looking from the shapely Navi to Hex, and back again when the connection didn't quite manage, he finally murmured, "So both you and Hex can chalk up your origins to glitches, huh? That's pretty crazy, that one glitch can make you and one can make...well, him," gesturing first to Madness, then to his own ramshackle Navi. For a moment, he thought that despite the two buxom ladies, he'd be alright to handle this mission.

And then Madness and Method's clothes fell off, and that line of thinking flew straight out the window.

Arch's first immediate instinct was to look away; this never happened, due to some strange professional instinct forbidding he turn his back on an employer. His second instinct was to choke, which he managed with aplomb, dropping away from the camera for a brief moment in a spectacular coughing fit. His third and final instinct was to go bright red, and remind himself in a stream of half-audible mutters, "They're just Navis, they're just Navis, they're just Navis..." Finally, he pulled himself up in time to hear Method's questions. Her final comment left him seriously questioning his ability to speak; thankfully, Hex answered for him...and in his own way, further compounded the man's mental distress.

"Negative; glitch transmission requires physical contact between core body and new host," Hex told Method, dashing Arch's hopes that perhaps there had been a less...intrusive method after all. The glitch-Navi's optics sized up Method; the sheer concept of sexuality was utterly foreign to him, and thus the scanning of her near-nude body was wholly methodical, predicting possible outcomes of introducing glitches to her systems.

Then Madness returned in a bouncing storm of energy, and Hex's attentions returned to the pink twin. "Systems ready; commencing Experiment No.1," he announced, accompanied with a strained wheeze that might have been a yes from Arch. There was a moment of processing, before the Navi concluded, "Ease of contact inhibited by armour. Rectifying..." and the twins got a prime view as Hex disengaged his armoured shell, hollow Navi pieces falling away to land in the pool at his feet, where they sunk into what amounted to a shallow puddle and utterly disappeared from sight. The glitch-Navi remained in what Arch knew as his 'natural state': a tall, thin humanoid body utterly void of gender, rising from the protoplasmic pool in a single thick stem in lieu of individual legs. The ones and zeros floating within him vibrated as his naturally-bugged code rose up, preparing to transmit to a new host.

Eyeless face looking straight at Madness, taking her in in her entirety and privately hypothesizing, just as he'd done with her sister. "Initiating contact," Hex answered the pink-eyed Navi's musing for her. In a bizarre defiance of physics, his pool began stretching out without thinning at all, as though it had access to a limitless supply contained somewhere the twin Navis couldn't see. The extension of Hex's morphic body stretched to cover much of the room, avoiding Method but sliding over Madness' bare feet. Then, from out of the unknown depths, a series of tentacles, all varying in size, sprouted up from beneath and around the scantily-clad woman. Acting on sheer autonomous reflex, they began coiling around her legs, pulsing slightly with the medley of glitches that was Hex's code. His morphic body was warm to the touch, and the moment the tendrils made contact with the Navi's bare legs, her tactile sensory array started to fritz, producing a strange glitch-born feeling somewhere between burning and tingling...and not altogether unpleasant, for that matter. That was merely the side-effect, however, as the coiled appendages began transmitting some of the glitched code contained within; Madness would soon feel the glitch taking effect, her body responding and morphing in a process not even Hex knew how to determine.

Even as the pool-generated tentacles worked at Madness, Hex's shoulders sprouted several more similar limbs, writhing in preparation and showing the twins a taste of just how many vectors his body could morph into existence. Running on autonomous processing, independent of Hex's core thinking, a few tendrils joined their brethren studying Madness, running tips over bare skin, prodding slightly at the seemingly-flimsy strings holding the bikini up before continuing the same process with Method, touching lightly over her and introducing the blue-eyed twin to a small taste of the glitch-sensation. "Contact successful, awaiting input," Hex announced, perhaps a little unnecessarily, but the Navi was prepared for the next phase of testing, now that Madness' original request had been filled.

Perhaps unnoticed by the two ladies, with Hex doing a very good job at remaining the centre of attention, Arch had disappeared off the camera, preoccupied as he was with a sudden persistent nosebleed; clearly all the blood rushing to his head had needed to vent somehow. "Thought this shit only happened in those goofy Electopian cartoons," he muttered, holding the toilet paper to his nose and watching the show with unveiled shock.
Method only became more embarrassed in the face of Arch's reaction, while Madness laughed it off. "Hey, we're all science-buddies here! No reason to choke up on us," she guffawed, somehow keeping more professional than her two peers, who would normally beat her out in that aspect. She nodded along in support as her sister grew increasingly worried about the state of the experiment, hearing that physical contact was unavoidable. "Mm hm! I am fully and totally prepared for this scenario! We're women of science, we don't back down because things get a little slippery!" she announced, speaking for both herself and her sister. "Now that the situation is unavoidable-"

"You could have just not put us in bikinis..."

"- FULLY UNAVOIDABLE, we just have to roll with it!" Madness continued, raising one finger into the air. Hex had already commenced his role in the experiment; she looked with interest at his newly revealed gooey, spindly, pooling white body. "Wah! Look, it's growing!" the pink-haired navi pointed out in an excited voice, picking up on the fact that Hex wasn't ostensibly widening as a liquid, but rather, expanding outward. "It's hard to remember whether I'm studying this guy or glitches in general," she laughed, still keeping fairly calm given the situation. "Woah! He's covered the entire floor! I'm starting to wonder if we needed a bigger laboratory for this!" Method whimpered slightly and drew up her feet, not ready to commit to touching the substance yet. "Aw, don't be a 'fraidy cat! You don't go into a glitch experiment without expecting to see some unusual stuff!"

Madness was fearless in the face of danger, but Method wasn't. "I-I know... but... well, dressed like this and being covered in white liquid... it's going to be a little... y-you know...?"

"A little scientific, that's what it's going to be!" the pink-haired sister guffawed. With her hands on her hips and laughing thusly, she clenched her teeth into an awkward grin and shivered as she felt the goo reach up her ankle. "Eep! It feels a little like taking one of those therapeutic eel baths, where they nip at your legs," she giggled. "Ahaha! Hey, easy there! My feet are ticklish!"

"I-I-I'm scared now!" Method protested, now fully withdrawing her legs off the floor and hugging the back of her chair.

"No, don't be! It feels kind of good, actually~" Madness revealed, crossing her arms thoughtfully and smiling wide. "Mmmm. Oh wait, right, glitching! What's going to happen? Is Maso's machine analyzing already?! Is- oof!" she gasped, suddenly falling to her knees. "Waaah! My whole body's rumbling!" she announced, and indeed, she did appear to have the shivers.

"Are you alright?!" the other sister cried.

"Yeah, it doesn't hurt, but.... urf!" Madness grunted, now lying down fully on her face and belly so that she was partially submerged in Hex-fluid. "Pfft! I think some went in my mouth! But this glitch is-!"

Maso's voice began to come from the walls. Presumably, it was the machine they'd set into action earlier, designed to speak with his voice.

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Test #001. Test subject: Madness.EXE. Controlled test environment. Subject exhibits increased susceptibility to gravity's pull inside the test room. Subject appears incapable of rising to her feet or otherwise pushing off of the ground. Great potential combat uses. Danger level: medium. Risk of spread: above average, as subject exhibited sudden motion and will look to be in danger, necessitating physical contact and assistance.

"S-Sister! There's more tentacles coming out of him!" Method wailed. Her hair sparked with electricity, faster now, but in basically even intervals.

Madness was still rooted to the floor, so she couldn't see all of that. She could, however, feel Hex's tentacles running over her legs now. With the situation as it was, there was a significant danger that the rest of her would become enveloped as well if Hex didn't put the brakes on it. "Hey! Um, we're science-buddies, not science-friends-with-benefits! Don't yank off my science-wear!" she laughed nervously, noticing the tentacles getting fresh with her bikini bottom. "If you do, I think your operator's going to have a heart attack..."

"Eep!" Method gasped, now caught by the tentacles as well. "W-Wait, it's not my turn yet!" As she shouted, horns composed of bone slowly began to grow out of her head. They grew so without fanfare that it was almost comedic; none of the mutant growling or the sound of shifting of muscles you'd normally associate with growing horns. "Um... I guess it's not that bad!"

"Easy for you to say!" Madness called out from the floor.

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Test #002. Test subject: Method.EXE. Controlled test environment. Subject has quickly developed curving horns, about 3/4 a foot in length if uncurled. Low potential combat uses. Danger level: very low. Risk of spread: low.

"As you can see, the effects of similar contact are entirely random on the two of us! I don't think anyone could say why we've reacted so differently!" Madness pointed out. "How about it, Method? You have any theories on this one?"

"Well, one could theorize that the timing influenced the outcome."

"Exactly! So, we're going to cure up, and for the next test, I want the glitches induced at precisely the same time!" she announced. A light mist filled the room as she spoke, acting as a status cure to rid the two of glitches. The horns went away, retracting inward slowly, but Madness didn't rise to her feet. "You know what that means! Come on in, the water's fine!" she beckoned her sister. When her sister hesitated to do so, she clarified. "I mean, in order to both get glitched at the same time, we both have to be doing this. So lie down, just like I am!"

"Do I... really have to?" Method murmured quietly, but obeyed. She slowly and gingerly lay her knees into the substance, then lay flat into it, keeping her cheek to the side as Madness had done (submerging one's face in it would be a little much.

"Isn't that nice and soothing? It feels a bit like a warm bath~" Madness cooed. It didn't look even a little like a warm bath, though. "Kind of wish we'd padded the room now, though. How about you, Arch?" she asked, perhaps surprising the operator, who'd been mostly excluded so far. "What's your take on the first experiment? I want to know what you think the potential ramifications of our first exposure to Hex. Do you think there's a reason we each reacted the way we did, or is it entirely random? Kind of hard to tie horns and gravity together, isn't it?"
Hex's fluid body, contrary to his largely non-sentient appearance, was in fact completely covered in sensory processors, enabling him to register tactile input from every single surface coming into contact with him. Every minute portion of Madness' body, lying half-in him, registered as though the entire pool she was lying in was a giant, morphic hand he was using to study her. Even the portion she had accidentally ingested was still fully connected to his network, if mostly immobile in its isolated state.

As his body moved over Method and Madness, glitches accepting their new hosts, Hex felt peculiar resonating in long-corrupted files, located somewhere deep within his core data. He set a semi-autonomous processor to study the resonance, and continued on his way, retracting his tentacles from the twins as the light mist cured the glitches. The mist burned upon contact with his fluid body, the omnipresent webbing of hopelessly-bugged code dying and shrinking back at the surface level; his entire form shuddered momentarily, losing the slightest bit of cohesion until the mist had faded, and the glitches rapidly overtook the purified space once more. The aberration went without comment from the glitch-Navi, who simply asked, "Madness.EXE, Method.EXE, initial contact experiment successful Y/N?"

"He's, uh, asking if the original experiment went well," Arch noted, coming back into the camera frame pinching the bridge of his nose and breathing deep and slow. He looked up in mild surprise as Madness addressed him directly; he'd expected to be shunted aside just as the twins' own Operator had been. "You want my opinion? Well..." he took another deep breath to organize his thoughts, "Method only got touched a little bit towards the end, and all that came of it were the horns. You, on the other hand, got exposed to a lot more of Hex, so maybe that made for the more serious effect." He thought he was done, only for another thought to spring to mind. " might be willingness to accept the foreign data. You wanted a lot, so you took in a lot. Method...well, didn't so much, so her own code could have repelled the worst of Hex's code back?"

It was about as clear as he could put it in his current mental state, which was, admittedly, fragile at best. He thought for another moment, hand to chin, and then piped up once more, "While I'm still talking...out of curiosity, is that machine just coded to your Operator's voice and processing automatically, or is that him actually reporting live?" It was an honest question, since he had no idea how much input the eccentric-read-crazy man had here.

Hex, meanwhile, had heard Madness' own remark on the hard floor, and, thinking for a moment, sent a pulse through his fluid body, simultaneously flooding the area directly under the twins with more protoplasm. His body tensed as a result of the pulse, stabilizing into just enough of a solid that, with the extra matter, Method and Madness felt themselves lift slightly off the hard floor, suspended atop the warm, soft bed of gel, sinking just enough in that they were still largely embedded within the pool. The two felt the warm buzzing of their tactile senses from the contact.

It was nigh-impossible at this point to tell just what state of matter the protoplasm was in, whether liquid or solid, but it regardless should have been fairly comfortable for the twins. Hex's humanoid 'avatar' remained upright in the centre of the room, and began consciously diffusing his glitched code through his physical body into the two 'test subjects', transferring from the all-encompassing contact that being in the Hex-pool caused. "Commencing E-EXPERIment no.2: simultaneous transmission," came the somewhat-garbled announcement, along with whatever mutations might come as a result of being introduced to his personal brand of glitches. With the hot tingling glitch-feeling flaring up with the transmission, the space surrounding the two Navis rapidly grew a multitude of short feelers from either side of them.

"That's...that's Hex studying you two, I think," Arch forced himself to watch the short tentacle begin running gently over the backs of the two prone women, not going red by some miracle. "All his optics and other sensory networks are spread evenly around his entire body, not just the human-looking bit. So I'm pretty sure this is him just...observing, and logging the changes himself, from whatever glitches might show up." He considered adding that there was pretty much no chance his Navi had any sort of sex drive to motivate his actions with, but figured that actually bringing it up would only make things more awkward for himself and Method...Madness would probably just laugh, given her actions thus far.
"Of course it's successful! Any data is good data," Madness acknowledged with a little nod, as much as she could manage while lying down on her stomach. "But that's a good point, Arch! We should try a few matching the area of coverage and see if that makes any difference! Look at you, all on top of it with the scientific method!"

"We aren't really following proper scientific method at all," Method added; she was probably personally offended that the procedure was advancing so randomly. "Then again, trying to get the experiment perfectly free of bias might be more trouble than it's worth."

"Exactly! The other hypothesis has merit too, you know."

"Right... Beyond that, there's also the possibility that, because you are a navi that specializes in bugs to some extent yourself, you are therefore more susceptible to glitches."

"We'll see! Uh... I think. I'm not really sure how we could eliminate that last bias, other than to not have me participate. But we need two test subjects," the pink-haired sister shrugged. She turned her attention back to Arch and frowned, as if struggling to recall the name of her own operator. "Oh! Maso, yeah... That's just his voice programmed into the machine. He's busy with another experiment of his own. Clearly he doesn't know what kind of action he's missing! The science, of course." She stretched out on the warm, increasingly soft floor and closed her eyes, letting out a contented grunt as one might while cozying into one's bed. "Aaah~ It's like a big, warm waterbed! What a versatile navi! Not very many navis can serve as a bed."

"I hope he's not insulted that you're calling him a bed... Well, I think you said he wouldn't really feel emotions, right? So... he's not really feeling us lying on him, is he?" the other sister asked, increasingly conscious of her own breasts submerged in the white goo of Hex.

"Oh ho ho! I wonder if he likes what he sees?" Madness laughed, looking at the tentacles surrounding her. She gulped, then laughed again, somewhat nervously. "It's a good thing I'm the trusting sort!"

"... He probably doesn't like or dislike it. Remember what we just talked about?" Method asked, rolling her head to one side to look at her sister. For the sake of the experiment, she was trying not to move her body too much.

"Right, right. Mmmm... ooooh~ Your navi is kind of good at this. I might need him for more testing in the future~" the pink-haired sister cooed, enjoying the impromptu massage. "Aaaaahhhh... Whoop! There it is!" she suddenly remarked, seeming to shiver. She and Method both restrained themselves from hopping up as they felt glitches setting in. "Hey, come to think of it... it doesn't hurt your navi to get sprayed by our status cure solution, does it? I mean, that'd be kind of weird if he was, but considering how synonymous he is with his glitch, one has to wonder."

Method looked surprised. "That's a good question, but at the same time, are you not distracted by the glitching?" she asked her sister. "We should focus on the effects for now... What's happening to you?"

"I don't know... Hm," Madness murmured. "I'm- erk!" she gasped, then suddenly began to transform. Her hair went changed first, going from pink to brown and curling slightly. The fires faded from the ends and the length decreased. Her eyes went from pink to green while her skin began to lighten slightly in hue. The purple bikini she was wearing changed as well, growing in fabric so that it went from a tight, stringy purple piece to a more conservative red one... but one that was yanked down so that it rode her considerable hips, covering none of the top. Luckily, her arms were still crossed there to hide any of the naughty bits from view, but the rest was still pressed into Hex. A white eye-mask slowly manifested onto her face, but it didn't seem like the kind that would hide an identity well and one had to wonder what it was doing there.

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Test #003. Test subject: Madness.EXE. Equal glitch coverage and timing used on subjects in tests 003 and 004. Subject's appearance has changed to match that of celebrity "Waltz.EXE," little known NP representative. Wardrobe and features match that of Waltz's appearance on a particular charity event. Abilities unaltered. Minimal potential combat uses but various other potential uses seem evident. Danger level: low. Risk of spread: average.

"You... You turned into that navi from the holiday charity event... Waltz, the NP representative," Method noticed. "Your top's not on right, though!"

"Oh, whoops! Ha ha ha!" Madness/Waltz laughed, going a little red in the face and fixing it. The laugh didn't sound at all right, considering the voice that was coming out of her mouth had a slightly deeper pitch and a slight Creamland accent. It looked as though her breasts might have expanded slightly as well. Her muscle tone also looked somewhat better, at least from a perspective of physical fitness. "What about you?"

"I'm... a little thirsty," Method replied, but she was apparently a lotta thirsty; her next act was to try to discretely put her mouth to the floor and start sucking up some of Hex. When she realized she couldn't do that, she began lapping at him like a cat with her tongue instead. "Nemurmine, mime merry mirsty..." she attempted to speak around the distraction, now beginning to salivate onto Arch's unfortunate navi/floor.

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Test #004. Test subject: Method.EXE. Equal glitch coverage and timing used on subjects in tests 003 and 004. Subject is stricken with thirst. The subject attempts to lick moisture up from the floor, indicating an urgent need to access the first source seen. Great potential combat uses. Danger level: medium. Risk of spread: above average, as subject may mobilize to seek out liquids and may need to receive physical assistance from others.

"... Even if he can't feel anything, that's a little much... Let's go ahead and administer the cure," Madness/Waltz murmured, allowing the status cure mist to circulate through the room again and free them of their glitches. "Sorry, I hadn't listened to your answer yet! I hope that's not hurting Hex... Let me know if it is." It was odd to hear her voice transform back to normal, as well as to watch her body and wardrobe return gradually to normal.

Method's thirst was cured, but there was nothing to cure the fact that she had her nose buried in Hex and her tongue dragging across his surface in search of liquid. "Ah! Um... S-Sorry," she apologized, retracting her tongue. She would probably be the only navi throughout time to be intimately familiar with the taste of Hex. She resisted the urge to spit, thinking it would seem rude.

"Hahaha! That one got you good!" her sister guffawed, sitting back up. "Okay, so I think we can safely say those factors yielded impressively little in terms of related effects. Another mark in my box! Sooner or later, we're just going to have to accept that glitches are all random, all the time. There's no rhyme or reason to them and that's what makes them so appealing!"

Method shook her head, now sitting up as well. "There is nothing on the net that can truly defy logic! We just need more tests. Rigorous and thorough testing is the key to..." she responded, obviously talking around something. Blushing, she looked back and forth. "Um... I don't have any of him in my mouth, do I? If I do, do I... do I spit it out in order to put it back? Or is it safe to swallow?"

"Bahahahaha!" Madness reeled with laughter, kicking her legs until she thought the better of it, as splashing around in Hex couldn't be comfortable for him. "You probably just think you have some in there, like when you think you bit into the paper around your ice cream sandwich and then can't stop feeling it in your throat." Method sighed, seeming more willing to accept that than to explore the ramifications of swallowing a part of Hex. "Okay, okay. For our next experiment... hm... Arch, I want more of your suggestions! Let's keep along that same line of progress, that is how you're applying it. Can you tell Hex to try applying it a different way? Like... hmm... we could try lying on our backs? Or... or ingesting him!"

"L-Let's not!" Method protested, shaking her head violently so that her electric blue hair swung this way and that.

"Okay, okay. My dull, dull sister here says that's a no-go, so I'll leave it to you, Arch! You choose how you want him to put it on... Or let him choose? I don't know how closely you command him, after all," Madness admitted.
Method's question on Hex's emotional state gave Arch pause. Humming to himself, he scratched his chin and said, "You know what, I don't actually know. Hex, you feel things physically, right?"

The answer was quick in coming from the Navi in question, even if his spread-out state made gauging the source of his voice rather difficult. "Affirmative, sensory index includes full tactile network; even dispersal throughout body enables registration of physical COnTAct along all surfaces," he explained, even as his tentacles worked along the backs of both Navis.

"Alright, so no matter how much you stretch or grow, you can feel things touching you...or partially submerged in you, as is the present case..." Arch rearranged the jargon-heavy explanation into something he was more comfortable with. "What about emotions? Do you even have those?"

There was a very heavy silence as Hex's processors attempted to handle the question. All that he managed was a cold, "ERROR: does not compute."

Maybe it was just the sudden introduction to two incredibly animated, lifelike Navis, but this revelation bothered Arch more than he felt it should have. "Well, there's your answer," he addressed the twins, before the glitches took effect and commenced a new series of bizarre effects. "Um..." there was absolutely nothing he could say; clearly the simultaneous transmission hadn't had much of anything to do with the two very different effects. Thankfully, despite the sudden even bustier transformation Madness underwent, he managed to keep his dignity this time.

Hex's whole body shuddered nigh-imperceptibly as the mist washed over him once more; Madness couldn't have felt it, slight as it was, but Method may have noticed something with her tongue lapping at the pool he'd created for them. Meanwhile, Arch frowned as the question washed over them. "Does it hurt him? I don't know...does that mist hurt, Hex?"

In the silence that followed, Method and Madness could have sworn they heard Hex humming with the effort of processing the question, halfway-submerged as they were in his body. "Status Cure effect does not affect HP write pRoTeCtIon. Conclusion: all physical discomfort irrelevant," came his answer...which did a spectacular job of not answering the question at all, but it sounded like that was all they'd get. He clammed up on the matter, forgoing any further explanation by calling out, "Ready to commence further experimentation."

Arch put a thumb to his chin, thinking about his relationship with his Navi. "It's hard to say, honestly...sometimes he acts more like an automated service than a Navi, other times he's clearly thinking on his feet...mostly in battle, admittedly, so it's probably more a question of what thoughts he's actually capable of thinking, with whatever programs he's got for it," he ruminated, before shaking his head. "That's not really the point, though; we need another way of testing...well, we've done various levels of contact, and all of it's just been against your skin. Most of the time in combat, Hex uses puncture wounds to transmit the glitches...we probably wouldn't need to go that far, unless we did it as a very small injection like a needle. Sorry, Method, but your sister does have a point with ingestion being a valid idea, if you're trying every angle...putting aside the thought that Navis even have functioning digestive processes in the first place. Hex, think that'd be safe?"

"No evidence suggesting danger. Confirmed, COM-ME-MENcing Experiment No.3: internal contact," Hex intoned...and the following experiment finally returned the red to Arch's cheeks, as the man considered just what he had asked Hex to do. A single tentacle rose up directly in front of both ladies, relatively thin compared to most of his limbs...but, with the thought in mind that they were to be consumed, still quite thick. With careful precision, the two tendrils lined themselves up with Madness and Method's mouths. With motions that could called gentle but clinical, Hex slipped the tentacles past the twins' lips, slipping inside with liquid ease. The prehensile limbs stretched further in, getting almost to the point where gagging might become inevitable, before suddenly breaking off at the tips; the tentacles retracted, while the respectable bullets left behind slid down their throats, leaving a trail of liquid heat as they went and pooling in whatever Navis had in place of human stomachs. The pieces of Hex, as it turned out, would be easily absorbed into their systems, whereupon the glitching would be directly introduced and incorporated into them from the inside out.

The process did not take overly long, but Arch felt every last second of the process drag by as the first...penetration (and dear god did he feel dirty for even thinking the word) of the experiment took place; and he'd thought the mission was needlessly sexual to start off. "How do you two feel?" he asked, out of not a little bit of concern for the two sisters...moreso one than the other. "Sorry, Method...but it is like your sister keeps saying. You wanted to try every angle for research..." he felt incredibly awkward, but managed to keep a straight face as he waited for the changes to take effect this time.
"It's hard to imagine what that feels like... the most I can imagine is the sensation of swimming in water, feeling your entire surface area covered with sensations, possibly inside as well. Hex's sense of feeling goes even beyond that... he is the water, after all. So it's impossible for someone with human sensations to understand, I'd think," Method nodded along. "Well, it's not unachievable technically... more like, one set of sensations excludes the other. You can either understand the feelings of touch as a human or as a liquid. No human knows what it feels like to be so thoroughly permeated. I hope..."

"Interesting! But not at all related to glitches," her sister laughed, patting Method on the head in a diminutive way. Method responded by sending a jolt of electricity through Madness' hand. "Eep! Okay, sorry! But back to you, Hex. I can't imagine having no emotions at all! Would it be possible to give Hex some? Of course, it might be especially difficult, given that for one, you didn't initially design him, and two, I'm sure his coding isn't exactly the Normal Navi standard."

"Well, you're getting into existential questions there, such as whether computerized being such as ourselves are even better off with emotions in the first place, or even "happier" with emotions. I think it's best we let Arch tackle that particular question on his own and table it for now, so that we can focus on our current experiment... besides... not trying to be rude, but his current state without emotions might make this particular experiment a little easier, as it is," Method sighed. She listened to the rest of the questioning, then shook her head. "It sounds to me like it is making him uncomfortable. A being with no emotions should still be able to understand comfort and lack of comfort, if he has feelings. So, for his sake, we'll administer a controlled dispersal of the status cure solution from now on. There's no reason he needs to be doused in it."

"Sure, sure! Let's get on with the next experiment, though!" Madness replied, impatient now. "N-Needles though? I'm not a big fan of needles..."

Method scowled. "You're a scientist, sister... Your hair is on fire all the time but you're worried about needles?" When ingestion was seriously suggested, her eyes went wide; it was clear she actually would have preferred the needles. "We're... eating him?"

"Hahaha! Wow, this will be one for the records! Let's do it!" Madness giggled, squirming in anticipation. "Sometimes to advance into the future, you've got to be a little barbaric! Yay cannibalism!"

"... We're going to have to wipe that off the experiment record if we ever take this any higher than our own circle," Method sobbed. Still, even if it was really, honest to goodness cannibalism, it might still be more preferable to her than what Hex actually had in store: tentacles aimed at her mouth and her sister's, each about the shape, approximate texture, size, and so forth to be heavily suggestive of a thick, turgid... "D-Doesn't that... It looks a little too much like a... you know, a, um... like a p-?!"

Madness had already opened wide, but Method was caught off guard; the tentacle bumped against her parted lips, then squeezed past into her throat, encouraging her to open her own mouth as well for the whole circumference of the appendage to fit through. Her face reddened and her eyes started to water at the thought of inevitably choking on the tentacle. She gave muffled complaints, writhing this way and that, before the part of Hex that was inside her broke off and the limb slid back out. She clenched her teeth and made a mortified expression. "He... he didn't pull out... It's so warm inside my stomache now... I won't get... You know... P-Pregnant, will I?" she sobbed, clutching her fists to her chin.

Madness hiccuped, then wiped her mouth with her arm, where some leftover Hex was still trailing from a string of drool. "... This is still an experiment, you know? That wasn't baby gravy or anything," she reminded her sister, looking worried now, but for her sister's sanity rather than her own health. "Oop, no more time for chit chat! I think it's taking effect now... Oh golly!" Without warning, the aforementioned flames on Madness' hair began to grow, going from the strength of candle lights to pillars of flame. The pink-haired sister's head had become like a flamethrower, pointed into the ceiling. "Aaaack!"

"A-Are you okay?!" Madness gasped, forgetting about her own nonexistant insemination problem.

"Oh, yeah. That just surprised me, is all. It doesn't hurt or anything! Ha ha ha! Woosh!" Madness laughed lackadaisically, moving her head this way and then to scorch the ceiling of the lab room. "I can't turn it off, though... So it's a good thing this isn't somebody else's lab! Although, I guess that's a good thing for a lot of reasons regardless."

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Test #005. Test subject: Madness.EXE. Equal glitch coverage and timing used on subjects in tests 005 and 006. Glitch base was introduced to the throats and stomachs of the affected subjects. Flames previously existing on the subject's head have grown in intensity and strength, projecting a sustained stream of fire upward from her head. The subject is not burned, but is also incapable of deactivating the stream of fire. Many potential combat uses. Danger level: high. Risk of spread: low, as most will be discouraged from approaching the subject during the effects of this glitch.

"Ho ho! What about you?" the fiery-headed sister asked her twin.

"My hair's changed too... But..." she murmured, noting that her hair had changed to green instead of keeping its blue color or electricity. Her strands began to stick up, as if from a bad comb... then, as electricity flowed out, it began to solidify into a circle, orbiting her head... that electricity broke into singular bolts, then those bolts transformed into leaves. "... It's Leaf Shield? Why?"

"Bo ho ho ho! That's pretty random, right there! Don't show Maso that hair, though, or he'll want you to keep it! He'll think you've joined his fan club!" her sister guffawed. In the process, she accidentally tilted her head downward, blasting fire into her sister's face. "Aaaah! Sorry!"

Some of the leaves dissipated, but she appeared to be fine. "It... really is Leaf Shield," Method murmured. "B-But I still want the cure..." Both ladies stood up and went to one side of the room, where mist slowly poured out from the walls around them. They posed as though under a standing shower, allowing it to cover them fully, but without having to worry about it spreading across the room. "That's alright, then," Method finished, as her hair began to turn back to normal.

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Test #006. Test subject: Method.EXE. Equal glitch coverage and timing used on subjects in tests 005 and 006. Glitch base was introduced to the throats and stomachs of the affected subjects. Hair coloration has changed to green. Leaf Shield activated, centered around user's head/hair. Many potential combat uses. Danger level: low. Risk of spread: average.

"Phew. That was fun! I'd like to do two more tests, then we'll wrap it up to do some theory crafting based on our present data. So... that yielded some interesting results! But um... I think we'd better kill the internal penetration angle since uh... well, even for the sake of science, ahem... some things are off limits," Madness coughed. "You get what I mean. For this next one, let's try this: my sister and I will be in contact while you administer the glitch. Come here, Sis!" Method did as she asked, then shrieked as she was promptly tackled to the floor. Madness held her arms down, then spread her legs and likewise trapped her sisters legs beneath her own, causing Method to spread her own in turn. With the angle Arch had gotten, with Madness' body pressing down on Method's and both of their lower bodies pointed towards his screen and Hex with their legs spread, it was quite a view. "Like this! He he he!"

"I don't like it!" Method cried out, pointing out the obvious. "I'm starting to hate science!"

"Let me know if you have any other ideas! I have a feeling that the gods of glitches are going to show us true randomness today!"

"It's not random and you know it!"

"Don't let them hear you say that!"
The talk on Hex's emotional state washed over Arch, sinking the man into a state of deep rumination. "I've only tried fixing him once," he murmured, mostly thinking aloud, "he denies me access whenever I try to change his code at all; he'll accept upgrades, but I just give them to him and he loads them himself. The one time I actually hacked past his protocols and tried to fix his code up...suffice to say it wasn't pretty." He shuddered, recalling the mess that had been made of his homepage as a result. "But that's beside the point: he is what he is, and if I can't change that then I won't."

Hex was mostly silent following the experiment, a few tentacles waving in the direction of the two girls but avoiding touching anywhere. Finally, he spoke up. "Effects recorded, ready to commence further experimentation," came the simple, predictable reply, almost as though he were a little more than a particularly metamorphic computer. It only sank home just how unlike a standard Navi he was, as his protoplasmic pool shivered involuntarily with an errant glitch.

"Hmm...very odd. Madness' Fire-element traits were amplified with that last one, but Method changed elements completely..." Arch was still sunk into a state where he was more just thinking out loud, rather than actually contributing to a cohesive conversation. He could see definite combat uses for both states like Madness had mentioned them studying...but actually getting those exact effects honestly seemed more like luck of the draw to him, at least as far as they'd seen thus far. "If not internal penetration, and yes, any farther than that would be...distasteful...Hex, got any ideas?"

Hex was silent until Madness tackled her sister, spreading their legs wide and finally breaking Arch's trance; the sight of...well, that, combined with the tentacles already taking stock around them with light touches here and there, was just way too much for the poor man to take, and he fell straight backwards out of his chair. Meanwhile, his Navi churned out possibilities in his glitch-ridden processing core, thinking as hard as he could of different possible angles he could take this current situation. Finally, he confirmed, "Affirmative, Experiment No.4 conceptualized. Variable of study: host-to-host transmission."

"So transmitting glitches between the two of them...sure, go nuts," Arch groaned from the floor, debating climbing back up into his chair and watching the show, but deciding that to be far too much exertion in that moment.

In their current state, both Method and Madness were touching the ground: Method lying on her back, and Madness straddling her, hands on either side. "Current experiment requires: Madness.EXE rendered incapable of touching ground-based morphic pool, Method.EXE rendered incapable of moving off morphic pool. Rectifying..." Hex's humanoid body, thus far having remained mostly immobile, began moving, lining itself up directly behind the two Navis. His arms split lengthwise into four, then eight long limbs, the simulated articulation of his fingers and joints disappearing in favour of sinuous tendrils. Drawing from his seemingly-limitless pool of fluid matter, the tentacles widened until each one had the approximate shape of a thick rope.

Taking care not to touch Method even in the slightest, Hex manipulated his new limbs to coil around the pink-eyed twin. Each arm and leg was wrapped around several times over, tentacles binding both Madness' arms behind her back, stretching her shoulders back to accommodate the tight wrap. Her legs were given a similar treatment, each thigh tied tight to each lower leg and spread apart, her feet barely touching. With great care taken to ensure none of the tingling, buzzing ropes would touch Method, Hex lifted, and Madness came off the ground, bound tight but not in any particular discomfort in her full suspension.


With Madness taken care of, it was Method's turn to be immobilized. In a comparatively simple effort, the morphic pool moved under the prone Navi, lifting her off the ground into a soft, malleable pool. The moment she was contained within it, tendrils sprang up along all four of her limbs in turn; the limbs grabbed her arms, spreading them to either side of her, and then looped around her arms back into the pool, creating a series of effective shackles. Her legs were similarly bound up, kept spread so as to keep it easier for the shackles, which only had to wrap around a single limb. And thus, the twins were bound up and immobilized to Hex's specifications.

"Commencing Experiment No.4: Host-to-host transmission," Hex announced, and the ladies' shackles began tingling with a fervor as they started to transmit their contents, glitches jumping from protoplasm to smooth skin. As they were thoroughly immersed in his data, the glitch-Navi grew a new pair of fully human arms off his 'body', shifting the ropes about but careful not to move Madness down. In a bizarre feat of physics, Hex began extending up towards his aerial captive, ropes shortening at the exact rate that his featureless lower body grew, like a long snake's tail extending out of the morphic pool. His torso aligned itself with the immobilized Madness', hands pushing down on her back. "Transmission vectors successfully contained to both subjects. Initializing inter-host transmission," And with all the precision of a machine, Hex began the descent, hands staying right on his fellow Bug-type for stability as the ropes and his own body slowly dropped in unison. Madness felt her body start lowering, bit by bit, as though she were being winched down by a crane, coming to rest against her sister's body. The glitches within the two of them hummed, exchanging from one twin to the other as the skin-to-skin contact enabled even further transmission.

To Arch, the entire show almost resembled a piece of modern performance art. As his Navi announced that it was awaiting results, limbs sprouting up around the edges of the pool to observe the three Navis in their strange experiment, Arch couldn't help but be a little entranced by the show...if he could put aside at least a little of the inherent weirdness, it was kinda cool to watch, at least for this portion of the test.
"Fun! Me and my sister don't get a lot of opportunities to snuggle. She's so professional, you know? Hehehe!" Madness giggled, rubbing her cheek against Method's, who winced and didn't appreciate it at all. When Hex elaborated further as to what he intended with this experiment, she opened her eyes wider in surprise and stopped rubbing. "Eh? What was that about not touching your morphic pool?" she asked, not having caught her partner's words. She noticed Hex approaching the two of them from behind, this time lining his humanoid body up with the two of them from behind. Madness couldn't stop herself from blushing a bit, squirming in spite of herself. "Wh... What are you doing back there?" she asked, somewhat hesitantly, realizing that her raised butt was about level and lined up with the shape's lower body.

"It's not what you're thinking..." Method calmed her sister; it worked, briefly. When her own eyes widened, Madness started panicking again.

"Waah! What are you holding me for? What are we doing?" she asked, wiggling around as she worried about whatever was going on behind her while her arms and legs were being bound. "I'm flying!" she incorrectly noted, now hung from the ceiling in surprisingly professional bondage.

Method closed her eyes and shivered, waiting to be pulled upward towards the ceiling as well... but instead was simply bound to the pool and the floor. "Oh," she murmured, then sighed with relief. She rested for a bit, noting that the room had suddenly become silent besides the low hum of Hex's body moving and the sounds of him narrating. She smiled, feeling like she could fall asleep, since the bed of gel was fairly comfortable and everything had become so quiet. After a short while, she blinked, then slowly adjusted her eyes again... only to see Madness' grinning face inches away from her own, being lowered closer. "WAAAAH!"

"Boo!" the pink-haired sister snickered. With her laughing it up and the other shouting, the two were lowered further until their bodies pressed together, starting with the swell of their breasts. Before either could turn their heads, their faces touched together, locking scandalously at the lips. Madness shook her head quickly and spat to show her distaste. "Hey! What's the big idea, huh?"

"That was our fault, really," Method pointed out, as Madness had been pranking her and both girls were free to move their heads. "But... more importantly, I can feel glitches coming on."

"Things are getting pretty weird alright," Madness agreed, but she was more so referring to the accidental kiss than any sort of glitch. That didn't stop a glitch from manifesting itself, of course. Her bikini suddenly transformed, taking on a metallic quality and losing some of its tightness. Unfortunately, it was still just a purple, shiny bikini, albeit a metal one. That wouldn't be very useful for anyone.

Method, on the other hand, was slowly turning transparent, including her body and her swimsuit. "Invis?" she proposed. The transferance, as hypothesized, had ended up being two way; Method's bikini turned into armor and Madness began to disappear as well. "Those two weren't really related at all... I was thinking we were on to something," she sighed; it was a little odd, hearing her voice come seemingly from nowhere. It was even weirder, seeing Hex with all of his tendrils wrapped around invisible limbs.

Quote ()

Test #007. Test subject: Madness.EXE. Glitched subject was put into contact with glitched subject from test 008. Glitch base introduced to length of arms and legs. Navi's clothing has taken on the properties of metal. Subject from test 008 adopted this property with no variations after the glitch was communicated via contagion. Small potential combat uses. Danger level: low. Risk of spread: average.

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Test #008. Test subject: Method.EXE. Glitched subject was put into contact with glitched subject from test 007. Glitch base introduced to back and select portions of limbs. Navi slowly fades to invisibility. Navi is still tangible. Subject from test 007 adopted this property with no variations after the glitch was communicated via contagion. High potential combat uses. Danger level: low. Risk of spread: high, as the affected navi will be unseen by other mobile entities which will potentially be afflicted upon contact.

"Er... well, I can't really get over to the status cure shower right now. Hey Hex, can you let me down from here? Pretty please?" Madness inquired... presumably. It was actually a little hard to tell their voices apart without being able to see them, since they essentially had the same voice with the same inflections. Once Hex had let the two of them down, they'd go over to get cured. "Boy, where'd you learn to do that? What kind of searches have you been doing on your PET, Arch?" the pink-haired sister joked. "That sort of thing isn't just learned naturally!"

"Actually, if it's as effective a method of restriction as it seemed, he may have simply been taking the quickest route to an effect bind. I'm sure that those who've mastered the art are doing the same," Method interjected, although she hardly knew much about those who have mastered the art of bondage. The girls would slowly reappear, wearing their regular, non-metallic bikinis again. "Hm. If we're doing one more test, what are we using it for, exactly? We've been through four so far, but I don't really have many theories that point towards glitches being any more than random factors and coincidence... It's possible there's even a random algorithm involved... Which would actually be a win for me, since it WOULD be an algorithm, after all-"

"That's wishful thinking on your part, Sis!" Madness interrupted, grabbing her shoulders and spinning around in a flurry of pinkness, so that she was back in front. "Now, we've just got to figure out the criteria for the last test of the day. Hm... We tried ordinary contact, simultaneous contact, simultaneous internal contact, contact including further contact to transfer between glitch-bearing hosts... Maybe we should try introducing the glitches in unique ways between the two of us? Like, something real different in both cases. Perhaps clashing stimuli..."

"I see, we could try," Method shrugged. "If anything similar occurs, I'd say we're going to have to look into getting a much larger sample size before conducting any further tests. It's starting to seem like, while we're good from the perspective that we're so similar despite being custom navis, we're not suitable for this because there's only two of us and experimentation takes a while..."

"Sure, sure. Okay, so here's my idea: we'll do opposite stimuli on each of us. Hex, I want you to interact with me and Method, but I want you to do it completely different between the two of us! Like... hm... how about you try being really rough with me and really delicate with Method? Just try to make it as different as possible between the two of us!' she recommended. The way she was standing boldly in front of her sister would remind Arch (and possibly Hex) of their position near the start of the experiments. "Or you could try making me laugh and her cry, if you wanted," the pink-haired sister suggested, destroying the illusion of chivalry.

"That's so mean... why would you be the one laughing and I the one crying?" Method asked.

Madness rolled her eyes, as if her sister had just proven the point. "Because I'm more suited to laughing and you're more suited to crying, doi!" she explained. "Uh... If not that, then... W-Well, those were my ideas! Arch, you and Hex have final say. Just make it super different between the two of us. Don't hold back, since this is our last test and all!" she encouraged Arch and his navi.
Without so much as an 'Affirmative', Hex gently released his bind on the two sisters. The seemingly-empty shackles rising from the morphic pool slipped back under the surface, while Madness' binds somehow unwound from her limbs without the slightest bit of jarring. Only once the two sisters had reappeared under the mist-shower did Hex confirm, "ExPeRIMEnt No.4 complete, awaiting orders."

Arch finally reappeared on-camera once more, rubbing his nose and muttering something under his breath, the only words audible being, "...need a friggin'..." and "...blaze so hard..." He straightened up upon noticing the experiment was complete, clearing his throat and asking, "How are you two holding up with the tests? I've never really exposed Hex to other Navis before, so I'm sorry if he's made things...well, weird...and I didn't have anything to do with the...tying-you-up thing. I'm kinda in the same boat as your Operator here, since this is really more about what Hex can do. I'm just here to...interpret for him and pass ideas around, really."

"Previous test required respective isolation of host-sources; contact with morphic popo[sup]pool[/sup] by Madness.EXE would create bias, potentially compromising experiment," Hex explained, the 'face' of his humanoid body turned to face the Navi in question. "Limb-immobilizing suspension was most efficient solution."

"Huh...guess you were right, Method," Arch mused, "but anyway, I'm not really seeing any real order in the glitches so far...maybe you'll have to make a larger sample group if you want to take this sort of test further? I think that's how empirical research works, anyway..."

Hex remained silent for the remainder of Madness' and Method's dialogue, only speaking once they'd finished "CONCeptualizing...ERROR: does not compute," his clunky vocal encoder cludged out, trying to process Madness' request. "Retrying...ERROR: does not compute. Operator, requesting assistance."

Arch scratched his head, confused; he'd heard his Navi failing to compute this or that plenty of times, but actually asking him for help was relatively new. "Uhh, sure, what's the matter?" he asked, a little concerned despite himself.

"Error conceptualizing: 'rough', ['delicate']; definitions comprehended but vague," Hex explained, in one of the most bizarre turns of event Arch had seen the Navi undergo.

"Um..." The man needed a moment to think about this, "well, this last experiment is gonna be about making the two transmissions as different as possible. So, for Madness, you'll be rough with her...I wouldn't outright damage her, since your one Infect attack's probably a little too forceful, but at least something that would, I dunno, knock her around or whatever. Just be careful, this isn't a fight. That understood?"


"Good," Arch sighed; this was certainly a mental exercise. "Now, for Method...I dunno, being gentle's pretty easy, you can just give her a tiny injection or wrap around an arm...hell, you could even just hug her." The thought of his Navi giving someone a tender hug was enough to make the man snicker.

He very nearly facefaulted when he actually heard, from the mouths of babes, "Force routines, embrace routines conceptualized. Confirmed: commencing Final Experiment: Differing TrAnSmIsSiOnS." Hex's pool morphed into a wide ring around Method, running beneath Madness' feet but leaving the order-based twin untouched. His humanoid body shrank back to a more standard configuration of a simple two-armed body, lacking in extra tentacles or morphic oddities. A translucent face, blank but for the little digits humming within it, looked straight at Method, the body sliding through the pool towards her. "Executing embrace routines," Hex announced. His arms came up, and slowly, almost tenderly, one arm wrapped around the other Navi's shoulders, with the other coming to rest against the small of her back; his head came to a rest on her shoulder, in perfect emulation of the definition search he'd run prior to the experiment. His body felt warm against Method, even as he started transmitting his glitched code into her...if she was willing to overlook the fact that she was being hugged by an emotionless databug of a Navi, it was actually quite comfortable.

A few tendrils started creeping up Madness' ankles, in remembrance of the very first test they'd run. "Executing force routines," came Hex's declaration, and the room froze, wondering just what he had planned for the other twin.

Then, without any warning whatsoever, the entire pool came alive beneath her, a torrent of comparatively-massive tentacles wrapping around her and yanking, pulling her into the paradoxically-thin pool, where she disappeared from view completely.

Within the protoplasmic pool, she could feel pressure on every single surface of her body, trapped within the strange quantum state that Hex's body existed in. All around her was nothing but stark white and the omnipresent black zeroes and ones, stretching so far that she couldn't begin to see where the pool ended...and somewhere below her, she could see a vast dark mass, collected into a rough ball; upon closer examination, she could see the horrid truth of the dark planetoid: it was a gargantuan pile of deteriorated Navi corpses, some of them intact, others scattered into component limbs, and all of them floating lifeless. Madness couldn't have begun to count the number of bodies present within Hex's pool...and she wouldn't have time to, either, as a few seconds after her discovery, the entire ocean of protoplasm pulsed; she felt every last bit of her body being contracted against, as though being squeezed inside a giant's fist. In the next moment, she felt her body being rocketed upwards (relative to her, at least), seemingly propelling further into nothingness...

...And Madness reappeared in the virus lab, protoplasm sloughing off her in her rapid ejection from the pool. In the indeterminate time she'd been under, Hex had let go of her sister, body retreated back into a side of the room safely away from the showers. "Experimentation complete," Hex said, pool shrinking back from the various corners of the room he'd stretched to over the course of the tests. Within a few seconds, he was back to a roughly-humanoid configuration, a small circle around him the only sign that he'd managed to completely cover the room with protoplasm just moments before (and, Madness having seen the true extent of his pool, perhaps a fair bit more).

"Well, that's that. I'll let you two direct the theory-crafting...and out of personal curiosity, Madness, could you actually see anything inside Hex? I've seen that he at least has some sort of limit to how far he can stretch, but you did kind of disappear into him for a little while" Arch asked. Hex remained silent, unable to give voice to what his Operator was asking...for after all, he himself didn't really know either.
"We appreciate your input all the same, Arch! Don't worry, the two of us are holding up fine. We built this chamber to make the dangers of these glitch tests as minimal as possible! I like being spontaneous, but that doesn't mean I like unnecessary danger to my health and wellbeing, after all," Madness laughed. "Although, if you could somehow glitch me and Method here another few dozens of sisters, that'd be pretty helpful. That way we could reach the sample size while keeping the uniformity!"

"I don't think that glitch is anything we want to replicate," her sister scolded her. "From what Maso tells me, that was the result of an unheard of overloading of glitches. With glitches as unpredictable as they are, administering multiple to a single target is always dangerous... When you start adding that many at once, the effect becomes exponential. No one should toy around with anything that has that kind of potential for disaster," Method concluded. She turned her attention back to Hex and Arch and didn't seem particularly amused by Arch's joke. "Come now, we need to stay professional here. Hugging isn't professional," she complained, turning her nose up at the suggestion.

"There's always time for hugs, Sis!" Madness teased, wiggling her toes as Hex slipped back beneath her feet.

Method went red in the face as Hex's body went for a good, old-fashioned, slow-dancer hug. She held her hands awkwardly at her side, not really knowing what to do. "I guess... I guess I hug him back?" she asked, looking between Arch and her sister self-consciously. She wrapped both arms around his back, in an unfamiliar way, then lay her cheek down onto his shoulder. While the hot sensation of glitches ran through her, Hex was at the same time tingled by the mild electric current running through her soft, blue hair.

"Gohoho! You-!" Madness started, then was suddenly pulled beneath the pool where she couldn't be seen. She was gone so quickly that Method and Arch barely had a chance to see what had happened, like prey being pulled underwater by a hidden marine predator. She struggled to keep her eyes open as she was dragged under the liquid form of Hex, expecting to feel as though she were wrestling an octopus underwater. For a time, she was, but that feeling was replaced by a sicker sensation of being drawn into some dark glitch depository, still ferried by the same tentacles, but surrounded by nothing that could be called "liquid." She wasn't comfortable, but she was tough, so the grip of the tendrils hadn't bothered her much up to this point... as she gazed upon a compressed ball of data, seemingly from dead navis, fear jumped into her heart and her heart simultaneously felt as though it wanted to pound out of her throat. "What have we been doing?" she questioned, wanting to shout out but finding herself unable, as every part of her body felt snagged into place by Hex. "Teasing Arch and my sister... Studying glitches... Theorizing about what happened to my sister and I... we've been focusing on those kinds of things... when something like this...!" She couldn't complete the thought. Could she blame Hex for this pile of dead navis that was lurking somewhere inside of him? Was it fair to be as frightened as she now was? Was it justified? How could it not be justified, given what she'd just witnessed? Her head began to ache as she found herself dwelling both on the horror she'd just discovered and the dilemma of what it meant for Hex himself.

Those thoughts became muddled as she became more focused on the physical aspect of her distress; the whole void seemed to be scrunching around her. She was hardly claustrophobic, but the pink-haired scientist imagined she easily could become that way if she didn't escape from the pool soon. She had very little control over her arms and legs, but attempted to make swimming motions regardless. The effort was useless; she'd have had better luck trying to butterfly stroke while in the literal bondage she'd found herself earlier. She closed her eyes to focus, feeling the scrunching becoming tighter... until finally, he spat her back up. What had seemed like a minute to the others had felt like hours to her. She lay upon the floor on her hands and knees, coughing as if she expected to come up, but then stopping once she realized that nothing had gotten inside of her. Her pink hair was matted down now, such that it covered one of her eyes... the other was open in an expression that only Arch could see and not her sister: she had a look like a deer caught in the headlights of a vehicle, as if circumstances had just forced her outside of her quaint understanding of life, making her contemplate how little she understood. It certainly wasn't the devil-may-care smile that she'd worn throughout most of the experiments.

"Sister?" Method asked; she wasn't concerned for Madness, given the fact that her view of Hex was currently as a creature that gives warm hugs on demand. "I... erm... I finished the experiment," she coughed. "I am not entirely sure I know what effects the glitch brought this time," she admitted, all the while staring at her sister's behind as she kneeled upon the floor.

Madness brushed the hair out of her eyes and fixed her expression, then stood up slowly, turning to face Method, then softening as she realized that her sister had already been released by Hex. "G-Good... Arch, there's something you should know about-" she started immediately, but Method interrupted her, running up and grabbing both hands over her breasts and clutching them tightly, such that they raised away from her body briefly. "Ack!"

Method's face was growing red, but with a sweet smile forming, like that of a shy lover. "Your bikini is starting to fall into shreds... You should get under the shower." She placed one hand over her sisters crotch area to hide that as well... although, she probably didn't need to be pressing down her fingers like she was.

"A.... AH! Y-You're right!" the pink-haired sister shrieked, the final bits of string falling away from her body as her sister provided coverage for her. "Quick, let's move to the showers! W-w-wooo! What are you doing!? Don't pinch there!"

"S-Sorry... But the thought of showering with my cute little sister... It makes me feel really hor- happy! I mean, happy," Method murmured, lowering her eyelids into an expression of obvious flirtatiousness.

"Arch! Hex! Method! Maso! Forgive me. I won't make it~" Madness sighed, unable to stop a gasp of arousal from escaping as Method kneaded her boobs, thankfully keeping them covered while she did.

Quote ()

Test #009. Test subject: Method.EXE. Glitched subject was subjected to a full embrace from a human-like form and introduced to glitch. Navi developed intense sexual arousal, perhaps extending even to a rationalization towards incest and a preference towards lesbianism. Possible combat uses. Danger level: above average. Risk of spread: high, as infected desires physical contact.

Quote ()

Test #010. Test subject: Madness.EXE. Glitched subject was pulled into a pool of fluid carrying the glitch, sensors lost track of subject after losing visuals. Navi's clothing became brittle and detirorated. Possible combat uses. Danger level: low. Risk of spread: low.

Just in the nick of time, the one who had been named arrived. Maso Cuocco's voice yelled at high volume, competing with his own computerized voice as it attempted to read glitch results. "It is I, Maso Cuocco! Disinfect, now!" the operator cried; the test chamber showered the area the two girls were standing in with anti-glitch solution. "Also, GMO revert! Revert now!" he added. The skinsuit and armor began to reappear on Madness, just in time for her sister to move her hands modestly back behind her back. "Wowza... What the heck kind of glitches is Hex carrying?"

"A-About that," Madness murmured quietly, her focus now returned to what she'd seen beneath the pool, since she was no longer in danger of being molested by her sister. Before she could verbalize her own inquiry, Arch posed the question up front, asking what she'd found. "U-Um.. It was all kind of dark and..." The helmet she wore, complete with its funny visor, hid the upset look in her eyes. What should she do? Should she tell Arch that his own navi was capable of pulling others into another dimension, where all that awaited them was darkness, a lack of control, and the shells of dead navis? That those dead navis could be ones that he'd picked up along his travels before stopping in Arch's PET, or they could be ones he'd effectively killed and stored the corpses of, possibly even eaten? In the end... she slowly put her smile back on, then laughed. "No, it was really just white and broken code as far as the eye can see! I have to say, Hex, you're a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there!"

Sweat had begun to roll down her cheek. She realized she could not reveal the truth about Hex; it would mean breaking her own character, ruining the atmosphere, upsetting Method, and probably upsetting Arch. The potential ramifications were much worse, however...How would Maso react? Hex had been brought in just to induce glitches, but if he himself was a bigger story than the glitches they were investigating, would the Department of Technology let him walk out of the test room and roam freely across the net? Would Maso be angry that his navi had been exposed to such danger, even though Madness herself had volunteered for it? There was so many questions that she couldn't commit to anything...

Not in public, anyway. "Arch... I was thinking... Could I get your e-mail address? It's so much fun teasing you and... and I just thought maybe, once you report in and go on your way... I'd like to send a special message, just for you! Don't show it to my sister, Maso, or even Hex. Is that okay?" she asked, sounding flirty. That would be the only way she could tell Arch what he really needed to know about his navi, however.

Maso laughed, unaware of the turmoil his navi was going through. "Ha ha ha! You left a really good impression on her, huh? Careful now, I think you're about my age, and neither one of us who's getting near forty has any business playing around with young girls like that. Well, they're navis, but... you get it. Maso Cuocco says some wise things, you know!" he laughed, proudly. "Well, you two finish up, then we have to get to crunching this data. You can report back to the kiosk for a nice reward, yourself!"

"Thank you again, for all your help," Method added, still looking a bit sheepish after being caught fooling around with her sister during the last glitch.
Hex's cobbled-together index of processors, while fully equipped for all sensory input, had next to nothing in the way of emotional registration. Thus it was that, feeling Madness struggling in the depths of his body, an utterly unnameable sensation overtook Hex's cold thought, blurring his vision with the suddenness of a mental hammer-blow. There was no way to give voice to it, for he didn't even so much as have a name for what he was undergoing...but something in the way Madness writhed within him made something deep, deep inside his programming resonate.

This produced an emotional reaction that he did, however, have a name for: fear.

In a flurry, Madness was immediately ejected from his system, earlier than he'd originally meant to hold her inside, but to whatever had just awakened in Hex, she could not be allowed to remain a moment further. The glitch-born Navi started rebelling against itself, cutting away its connection to that deep dark something with a brutal efficiency that, had anyone been watching his code in that moment, would have spoken of leagues of past experience. When the terrifying resonance had been completely silenced, Hex's emotional index repeated the same process on itself, snipping all the threads of code that connected that collection of fear from the rest of the gestalt body. It was a sickening self-lobotomy, and Hex showed not the faintest outward sign that anything of the sort was happening; only one person present might have had even a faint clue as to the true nature of the silent Navi, and that sole individual had just been forcefully ejected from his morphic body.

Arch had originally felt quite good about the final stages of testing, even going so far as to consider it a job well-done. True, Hex had been a little...weird, especially with things like the bondage and the...internal transmission, but he'd long-since come to accept his Navi's oddities as facts of life. He was ready to sign off, jack out Hex, and call it a day...and then he saw Madness' face.

All of Arch's previous ruminations on the validity of Navi emotions were immediately forgotten, for there was no mistaking that whatever Madness had seen inside his Navi, it had frightened - truly frightened her. Arch had no way of finding out for himself what it looked like inside his Navi; his mind made the immediate connection that now, more than ever, he needed to know. "Madness, what did..." he made to ask...only for Method to pounce, and derail the moment faster than a stone on the tracks. He sighed and sat back, repeating what he'd just seen over and over again in his head while the chaos unfolded, lest he forget something once the proverbial dust had settled.

Quote (Maso Cuocco)

"It is I, Maso Cuocco! Disinfect, now!"

At the start of the test, Arch had thought he'd be perfectly happy to never hear from the be-jumpsuited man again. In that moment, he forced himself to eat his words; that, he thought, had been good timing if ever he'd seen it. Satisfied, he listened to Madness' beginnings of an explanation...and what he heard only confirmed several decidedly Not-Good theories that were starting to take root. Seeing clear as day the sweat rolling down the pink-haired Navi's cheek, he couldn't help the seeds of genuine worry that sprouted up.

Thankfully, he was saved by Madness' quick thinking, ensuring a way to continue the dialogue later on. "Sure, hang on...I'm sure I've got the link somewhere..." Arch steadfastly ignored Maso's chiding...if not for visibly bristling upon being called 'getting near forty' (he was 31, thanks and goodnight). Finally, he came up with the link, shooting it at Madness for her to receive. "There you go, all yours...and don't worry, Hex doesn't check my e-mails," he reassured the girl.

Finally, through all the chaos, Hex spoke up in reply to Method's words of thanks. "Sending: Operator's e-mail address," he said, broadcasting a link to the other twin just as Arch did so to Madness. "Available for assistance should further testing become necessary.

"What he's saying is, if you two need a hand with any tests in the future, he's...well, we're free if you want to drop us a line," Arch translated, hiding his scowl; he hoped it wouldn't prove tricky for Madness if her sister also had his email address, but figured one twin couldn't exactly see what the other might be writing him...he still hoped it would go alright, anyway. "Well, we'll be heading off now. We'll keep in touch, alright?" he tried to direct the last remark at Madness as much as he could without alerting Method to anything suspicious...but his heart was still hammering just a little bit, as he tried to imagine what the lady-Navi had seen to scare her so much.

Hex's humanoid avatar sagged, sinking into his pool with an ease of motion that, while standard for him, may have given Madness an unpleasant flashback to having been dragged down into him. The edges of the pool clouded over with static, cloud of toxic aberration growing until Hex's body was completely hidden from view. When the cloud cleared, Hex was gone, jacked out and leaving not a single trace behind...except, of course, for the bit of himself he'd left inside both twins, but that was of little consequence to the glitch-Navi. Arch looked back and forth between the sisters, giving an awkward little smile and a nod goodbye, before closing down his window and disappearing from view.

<(Jacking out)>

<(Madness & Method GET: Arch's e-mail address)>
The test lab that Maso and his navis, Method and Madness, had set up earlier closely resembled the state that Hex had left it in before, differing in only in the absence of two elements: Hex himself and Method, the blue-haired sister. Seated upon one of the rooms' only three articles of furniture was Madness, crossing her legs and hunching her back, while whistling to herself. She was dressed in her usual vibrantly colored armor and bodysuit, although, to Arch and Hex, the bikini might be more familiar at this point than her actual navi suit. The giant circular lights behind her goggles moved left and right in a manner that looked almost suspicious; it wouldn't take long for the casual observer to realize that Madness was quite nervous, compared to her usual self. Still, she maintained a cheerful whistle and waited for Hex to show up.
Just as Madness might have recalled from the previous meeting, the exact same corner of the room erupted with a sudden cloud of static. The Net itself seemed to groan, the little patch of space distorting and bending into the virtual aberration like the hunger of some eldritch beast...

...and then it was gone, a familiar pool of white protoplasm pulsating in the static portal's place. Just like the last time, Hex's avatar rose from the opaque depths; similar to her normal-yet-unfamiliar armour, the other Bug-Navi's mismatched, borrowed/stolen body parts appeared just as normal, but may have reminded Madness of precisely what lay beneath his surface. Unbeknownst to her potential discomfort, the body spoke out, "Jack-in successful, Madness.EXE present." Eyes that could have been anywhere in his featureless morphic body observed the other Navi present; he wasn't facing her, but Madness currently had Hex's full attention.

"Yes, Hex, I can see that. Hey Madness," Arch's window popped up, alerting Madness to his presence. He made to say something, then paused; he'd just noticed his state in his camera-view, looking very much like he'd just spent a night in the woods. He blinked several times, then very slowly raised a hand to his hair, pulling out a long leafy twig. He methodically set aside the spare bit of foliage, and added, "Excuse my appearance...bit of a rough night."

He took a seat back against his tree and tried to look official. "Well, we're here and ready for work...oh, and Hex's SP...thing is around too. Hex, introduce her," he said, chin held up (and a little bit grass-stained, upon close examination).

"Compliance." And with that, Hex's pool crept over to his left, creating approximately the same space over again that he was standing in. The protoplasm pulsed, pulsed twice, and grew a sizable lump in its centre, looking almost like a pulsating tumour in the floor. And then the 'bubble' split open like an orange peel, revealing a tiny, white-haired girl inside, curled into a fetal ball on her side on Hex's pool, head clutched in bony hands. "Designation: Egomorph.SP," Hex explained; the SP's eyes shot open at the mention of her name, looking first up to Hex, then to Madness. The look in the little waif's silver eyes mirrored the older woman's expression when she herself had been dunked into Hex's depths: haunted, deer-in-the-headlights, privy to the real nature of this twisted gestalt-creature they were standing next to.

"The...the human calls me Ego," the diminutive program murmured, possibly to Hex, possibly to Madness, possibly to nobody at all; it was impossible to tell with her still curled into a ball at Hex's feet.

"So I do...and my name's Arch, by the way," the man sighed; he'd gotten so used to Hex just calling him 'Operator' that he'd neglected to so much as tell Ego his name. He stared at the unresponsive SP. "...Stand up, will you? You're making me uncomfortable."

Ego did as she was told, using a hole in Hex's robotic leg as a handhold to lever herself up. Her halos came up with her, floating unerringly behind her head no matter how much she twitched. Even upright, she didn't come up much higher than her Navi's waist, still holding onto his leg and looking up at Madness with huge, unblinking eyes; her pose huddled next to Hex might have looked cute if the two of them weren't both such individually disturbing. "They wonder...are we helping this lady?" she asked, head cocking to the side.

Arch nodded; Ego twitched at the sudden movement, but otherwise didn't take her eyes off the NetPolice Navi in the room. "Yes, that's correct. She needs our help with...something, I don't actually know the details yet, so you and Hex are just going to follow along with what she asks of you two. Got it?" Ego gave a spastic little nod, and Arch turned back to Madness. "Alright, they're both here to do whatever you need...sorry about her, by the way. Hex ended up sort of...eating that SP Base you gave him," and here he tried to give a meaningful glance to Hex's pool, referencing what it meant for Hex to 'eat' something, "and then he kind of spat this one out...chalk it up to a Navi accidentally birthing an SP, I guess?"

The two would-be helpers stood side-by-side, silent but for the grinding of Hex's desiccated armour, and the soft crackles of energy along Egomorph's Conduit. Madness might have appreciated some help with a little more...sentience, but she could at least rest easy that nothing she requested would get any complaints or questioning.
Madness didn't laugh and praise Hex in the name of science this time; rather, she jumped back in her seat, as if worried he was going to grab her again. "Oh! It's just you," she sighed, although the fact that it was "just him" didn't appear to be calming her much. "Hello again. Hello to you too Arch! Well, we all our crazy nights! Just so long as you still have all of your teeth!" the pink-haired scientist joked, getting back into her old routine. She looked surprised to hear an SP was on the way, but nodded along and let the large eye-lights behind her goggles drift down towards the floor. Thankfully, it wasn't anything particularly scary inside of the lump of Hex; perhaps a little eerie in context, but not overtly frightening. Madness' own large, unblinking lights stared back into Ego's eyes. "Please! Mommy Method was a lady! Madness is still a girl at heart!" the scientist hyuk-hyuked, not being used to such a label.

Arch explained what circumstances had come to birth Ego; the scientist in turn nodded along, smiling as she did. It was perhaps a little encouraging for her that Hex was able to birth something so cute (although a lot of those less open-minded than her would debate that) and innocent (although she was apparently hungry for bugfrags, really, aren't all SPs?). "Great, great! It's good to meet you... Although uh... Hm..." she murmured, suddenly growing less sure of herself. It wasn't immediately apparent whether that was due to the dangerous nature of the mission or the weirdness of learning that Hex had given birth. "Er, this mission... Might not be appropriate for kids! So, you know... if she's impressionable or anything it might be better to... wait till she's older, like me! Not old old, but you know... a little more filled out?" she asked, giving Arch a well-meaning smile. "In knowledge and stuff, I mean."

She waited a moment for Arch to decide which way he wanted to play it. After, all, Ego could secretly have the brain of a 100 year old navi implanted into her or something and it wouldn't be the weirdest thing about her). Once that was cleared up, she cleared her throat and continued. "Alright, so... AlchemyMan doesn't usually read reports, so I just redacted about every other word of the report I submitted, thinking he'd toss it in the trash or blow his nose or whatever he does with those things. As it turns out, he was either paying a little more attention than I thought when we first submitted the request for the lab funding or he read something between the lines that appealed to him... cause even though I left everything I thought was dangerous out, he still wants me and Method to replicate the experiment. Method will be showing up later and I've told her and Maso that we have to pull the wool over AlchemyMan's eyes on this one... I pretended it's just to keep you guys out of the whole rigor of an extended experiment. But... I don't think it's the experiment he's really interested in, to be honest. I don't think he gives two clucks about the nature of glitches or whatever split me and Method. I believe somehow he managed to glean out of that report that your navi was something interesting to him," she warned Arch, dropping her amusing tone of joviality so as to let the operator and his navi know this was serious. "He might ask you to come in for further research. He might even make you an offer. Those things sound good, on the outside, but I worry what could happen to Hex... or Ego, for that matter... behind closed doors. The worst part of it all is this: even if you refuse the initial offer, I think he's got some powerful people in his back pocket who have a good track record of apprehending criminal navis that just so happen to commit crimes very soon after they're discovered to have research applications. I'm sorry you got into this, but it's going to take the two of us working together to get you out of it!"

Thus resolved, she readopted her grin and tapped her helmet with one finger. "Luckily, I've got the brain of a great scientific navi! Or... half the brain, maybe? Maybe two times the brain? I'm not sure how it went when we multiplied. Anyways, here's what I'm going to do... The thing that's got him so interested is that I redacted so much of the account, right? Well, I thought back to the experiment and the report I submitted and came up with the perfect gimmick. First off, we need him to stop being interested in Hex. That means that your navi is going to have to dial it back a bit... I want him to act like he's nothing exciting at all. Here's how we're going to do it: I act like the reason I wrote off all of that stuff is because I've got a huuuge tentacle fetish. Like, we got into this experiment together, and before I knew it, I realized I just loved slimy, phallic, slithery tentacles all over me and what not, and what should have been a controlled test became a nasty, freaky tentacle-play session! Don't even mention bugs, although using them is fine. Don't even mention his origins, or that weird stuff inside of him, or how he ate an SP base and coughed up Ego. Pretend that you just made all that stuff cause you're like... a creepy tentacle guy yourself! Or something. Maybe you actually are? That'd actually make this easier!" she gasped. "Well, if you are, this will be better for you anyways, so there's no better time to get into it! That's my plan, though... What do you think? Will you go along with it? I think AlchemyMan will just lose interest, I'll get a reprimand for egging you on and omitting details from the report to hide my kinky preferences, and that will be the end of it. All you have to do is ask Hex to be himself... but, like, if he was thought up intentionally by a guy who just wants to squeeze all over the boobs of net girls like me, instead of being some kind of unexplainable cosmic horror with no known origins."

She sounded confident as she finished up and waited for her answer, but Arch could see the same telltale sweat from earlier. She might be thinking about how degrading her plan was, might be thinking of what happened if it failed, might be worried Arch would decline... or she might even be nervous about getting back into the clutches of Hex.
Arch nodded along to Madness' explanation, surreptitiously running his tongue over his teeth; it never hurt to make sure, after all. Satisfied that his pearly-whites were all still in place, he hummed. "Well...yeah, fair point. I've got no idea how old Ego is, but if this job ends up anything like last one...not for the kids. I mostly just wanted to introduce you to the kid anyway, figured...I dunno, I'd update you on what's new with Hex and I. Or something?" His train of thought was derailing while he was still riding it; he closed his eyes and coughed, getting back on track. "Well, you heard the...girl," he visibly corrected himself from Ego's earlier terminology, "Ego, back into Hex you go."

Egomorph stared up into Arch's window; the result was rather like being watched by a particularly traumatized puppy. "...It's scary in there," was her only comment, but she didn't seem to fight the man's decision. She turned to her creator, then back to Madness, and then to the pool at her feet. Seeing the tendrils creeping over her bare toes, she bit her lip, eyes darting from side to side, then in a tiny, timid voice, piped up towards Madness, "They want to see you again...and so do I." Unfortunately, Hex chose that moment to comply with his Operator's demand, and the pool beneath Ego erupted, dragging the little girl under in a tangle of tendrils; one second she was standing in the room, the next second she was gone completely. The morphic pool receded back towards Hex, Ego's 'floorspace' no longer required.

Arch watched in somewhat-mute horror for a brief second, then recollected his thoughts and continued onto business, letting Madness fully explain the scenario. A few niggling thoughts sprang to mind, here and there as he took the idea of AlchemyMan, a Navi so obsessed with research as to bend the law to make his experiments happen. "Huh...I guess I can see, objectively, how Hex would be fascinating from a scientist's perspective...heck, your initial reaction to him was pretty telling, but...being under AlchemyMan's watch would get him in trouble? How could...wait, I should tell you something..." and then he stopped completely, staring very intently at Hex's left arm and legs: a cracked, feminine limb the colour of tarnished alabaster, and Arabian-style billowing pants missing below the knee on one leg. He thought hard for a second, opened his mouth like he was about to say something, then stopped himself. "Nevermind that for now. Well, if Method's coming back, it'll be good to see her again..." his casual, content look trailed off, straining to keep his face civil, "...and I guess Maso as well." The memory of being winked at by a man his age, wearing a lime-green jumpsuit...still didn't rest well with him.

"Awaiting directive." Hex's announcement jarred Arch out of his train-wreck of thought; the corpse-puppet was acting even more quiet than usual, motionless in his corner save the odd twitch or shudder.

"Umm...hold that thought, Hex, Madness is gonna explain," Arch sat back against his tree (and damn, he needed to remember where this tree was, it was seriously comfy), and listened hard to his employer of the day. He blinked once, twice, and a third time for good measure when she was finished. "Hrmm..." he hrmmed, crossing his arms and sighing to himself, looking down at the keyboard, then up at the dappled sunlight. On the one hand, it was demoralizing to absolutely everyone involved, and could probably wind up on records somewhere; they were pulling the wool over the eyes of the NetPolice...but Arch was having an awfully hard time coming up with reasons to say no. "Alright...Hex, strip off your armour, like last time."

The armour came off as requested, freeing Hex from the relative restraint of a solid avatar, and freeing Arch from having to look at that arm and those legs that he'd never coded. "Alright...I'll do it," he repeated, sighing the sigh of a resigned man. "I'll make sure Hex doesn't do any weird...Hex things, I'll make sure Ego doesn't show herself, I'll...I'll pretend I'm that, that thing you just said I should be." He took a deep breath to steady himself. "Some ground rules, though. First, if you don't get the chance to tell your sister precisely what's happening, I'm sending her a PM explaining all this, because that last experiment was one thing, but being roped into...well, what we're planning on acting out is just a little bit too cruel." Arch tapped his chin, thought to himself, and snapped his fingers when the eureka moment finally showed up. "Second, and this is for you, dunking. Pulling down into your dimension-portal-goo place. You're just gonna be my creepy tentacle-Navi, and you're gonna do whatever I tell you to do. You hear me?"


"Great. And lastly..." once again Arch cast around for another thing to say, "safewords. You need safewords for stuff like this, right? should come up with one. Method too, I think...yeah, both of you would be smart. total, Method gets explained everything ahead of time, Hex doesn't eat anyone, and we make sure you two have stop buttons, so this is all as safe as we can make it. All of that, and I'll do whatever you think needs doing. Sound fair?" Arch thought it was himself, but didn't want to presume to know the limits of the pink-eyed young lady. Hex, mindless as usual, stood (insofar as a being without legs can stand) in his usual corner, tentacles waving idle from the pool like a series of dancing cobras.