Arch Gets Drunk/Lost in the Woods

In hindsight, Arch ruminated, the sake had probably been a bad idea.

He'd still been in ACDC when his beers had run out, meandering aimlessly and drinking as he went. He didn't get drunk too terribly often, but considering his current circumstances, he didn't consider it irrational to want release from sobriety. His mysterious glitch of a Navi was either a graverobber...or a cannibal. Arch had no idea how the NetPolice or whatever handled shit like that, but he really didn't want to go to jail for harbouring some sort of virtual monster. In short, he was decidedly on edge...and alcohol was well-known for supposedly taking the edge off.

And that was how he'd wound up walking into the first convenience store he'd passed in ACDC, and bought the largest bottle of Electopian rice wine he could find. He had no idea what brand it was...hell, he didn't even normally drink rice wine, but it was cheap and it was strong, so it was alright in his book.

As for where he that was a mystery.

As the evening had gotten darker, Arch had gotten drunker, swilling his bottle of cheap strong booze and eventually winding up on the Metroline going...somewhere. All he could remember was doing his best to stay upright as the train swayed around the corners, and glaring at anybody that so much as glanced at him. He was misanthropic enough when he was sober, and alcohol had that lovely tendency to amplify thoughts and bring them right up to the surface. As it stood, he got so into hating everything that he completely missed where he was actually headed. More and more people got off the train, leaving him completely alone in the car for the final stretch. And thus, he was subsequently dumped out at the terminus station...somewhere way out in the middle of nowhere. The last dregs of light were just then leaving the sky; Arch saw little point in camping out by the station, and let the wine decide where he would go.

And that was how Arch managed to get himself lost in the middle of the forest around DenCity, with nothing but a few snacks, a laptop without any wireless reception, and a half-full bottle of cheap sake.

The darkness was near-complete by that point, yet Arch wasn't bothered; the summer night was balmy, and there wasn't a single other human being to be found. He continued walking through the woods, occasionally bumping into this tree or tripping over that route, and not caring a whit. He was on an adventure, and he'd be damned if a few natural inconveniences were going to stop him.

He raised the bottle to his lips: the booze tasted like bread and punishment. "No," he thought winefully, "try again."

He raised the bottle to his lips again: it still tasted like bread and punishment. "Try. Again."

He raised the bottle yet again: it tasted like getting drunk. "Much better."

Satisfied, he kept walking. "My Naviiiiii...ish a cabbinal," he slurred aloud, uncaring that anyone was around to hear him. "He fuggen...eatsh other shentient' that'sh reeall bad." He patted his PET, uncaring if his Navi heard him or not. "Y'hear that, Hex? Yer bad."

After some undefined period of walking that could have been several hours or a few minutes, Arch chose a tree he liked the look of and stumbled to a halt against it. He let gravity pull him down, leaning back against his cozy tree (it wasn't actually that cozy, but he was alright with that; it wasn't the tree's fault). He sat there awhile, admiring the view of the stars and the way they danced around in his vision. On a whim, he took out his beat-up old PET, opening up Hex's hologram. However, to his confusion, Hex wasn't all that appeared: the gestalt Navi appeared to be holding a glowing white orb in his mismatched hands. "Whazzat?" Arch murmured, struggling to figure out what he was looking at.

Within the PET, Hex accessed the file containing the SP base, recently obtained for his experiments with Method and Madness. It appeared before him, a luminescent white orb not dissimilar to a Navi core. Hex's own core was a wreck, fundamentally glitched and patchwork. This, on the other hand, was whole and visibly radiating potential power; acting on sheer instinct, Hex's body opened up, torso-armour splitting down the middle and revealing a gaping maw of tentacles. The core was wrapped around several times over and swiftly devoured whole, bringing it into his depths.

An SP Base is meant to be just that: a base to be built on. To Hex, it contained power that the gestalt body could use for itself. So it was that the protoplasm around the SP Base pulsed, squeezing the glowing core until it was at breaking point, data being strained far beyond what a core should have been subjected to. And finally, almost imperceptible hairline-cracks appeared on the shining ball, ringing out an ominous crick...crick...crick.

In mere moments, the core would be shattered, and the morphic body would consume the contents and assimilate them into itself. That is, until a mass of data, separate from the Hex-gestalt and free to roam the endless depths, swarmed the core, surrounding it in such density that not a drop of the white mass could get through. The foreign data, corrupted beyond recognition but very obviously another of Hex's meals, seeped bit by agonizing bit into the core, bloating the white sphere and irreparably fusing the rogue data into the core, keeping Hex's body from being able to access it. When there was nothing left, the data accessed the SP Base, bringing the stored power to life.

Arch didn't have much of anything to say, watching Hex first eat the SP Base they'd worked to obtain, then remain silent for however long...and then start glowing like the sun from somewhere within. His mind tried processing what he was looking at, failed, and he instead went for his bottle...only to find that he'd successfully killed the whole thing. Where had all that wine gone to? For that matter, where was he? What was the sky doing? How did he stand again? Under the effects of three tall beers and more sake than should probably be consumed in a single sitting, Arch tried to stand up...and succeeded only in falling flat on his face into the soft grass. "Zzzcrew it..." he muttered, before passing out like a light

There was a bug on Arch's face.

Arch's eyes were still closed, and he still existed in the half-state between sleep and wakefulness...but if he'd learned anything in his thirty-one years, it was that the particular itchiness he was currently experiencing could come from nothing else than a bug crawling on your face. A hand that probably belonged to him came up, and after a few tries, succeeded in connecting with his own cheek. He probably had gross bug-splatter on his face now, but the itchiness was gone, and he was okay with that.

In a move of unfathomable stupidity, Arch made to both sit up and open his eyes at the same time. The resulting incredible vertigo and searing brightness, when combined together, squeezed his brain into what felt like a pretzel, with a knife stuck in each eye for good measure. Howling in misery, Arch collapsed back down against the grass, clutching his abused cranium and regretting most of the decisions he'd made the night before. He decided against making plans to rejoin civilization for the moment, in favour of lying under the tree for awhile longer.

After some time had passed, he chanced opening his eyes again. The sun glared far brighter than it really ought to, especially considering the dappled light of the forest, but Arch persevered through it, leveling himself up to a seated position against the tree. He took quick stock of himself: he smelled like a distillery, looked like a tramp, and felt like an old piece of gum. Getting back to his apartment and cleaning up quickly became a #1 priority, and so it was that he made to start walking...only to stop, recalling his PET lying in the grass where he'd dropped it. He picked it up, brushing some of the forest detritus off the cool titanium...and it was here that he finally noticed a general alert flashing. Curious, he opened the menu up, browsing through whatever could have been causing the fuss...and stopped. The SP Base was gone, and in its place was 'Untitled.SP'. Curious, he opened the Navi page up, and beheld the results of whatever the hell had happened last night.

Sitting at the holographic Hex's feet was a tiny waif of a girl, hair as stark white as the pool beneath her, with some sort of metal halo floating behind her head. "Who are you?" Arch called, making the little girl jump in shock and look up, then look down at her holographic form.

"I...don't know," came the maddeningly-unhelpful reply, so soft Arch had to strain to hear it.

"You don't know. Well, I guess I can bring my count of mysterious PET-intruders up to two now," the man griped; he was way, WAY too hungover to deal with this right now. "I'm guessing you don't have a name either?" he asked, rhetorically.

The girl paused, holding her head with one hand in a strange mimicry of Arch's current state. Finally, she spoke up. "Egomorph."

Arch blinked; maybe he hadn't heard that right. "Excuse me?"

The diminutive SP shrank back into herself, arms wrapped tight around her knees. "They said...they said I'm Egomorph."

Arch took a deep breath, forced himself to calm down. "Okay...first off, that's too long for my liking, so you're gonna be Ego instead." The newly-named Ego said nothing in response. "Secondly, who the hell said so? You've literally got Hex and I, and nobody else for miles." He waited to see if that would get a response, but from the looks of things Ego was done talking. "Okay, you know what, whatever. I don't even care, just...have fun with Hex and try not to eat anyone." He made for the rough trail he'd beaten in the undergrowth, following his tracks back towards the campgrounds.

"...They say they're hungry."

Arch steadfastly ignored the tiny voice, and focused instead on getting back to civilization and showers and being pissed off about life, not necessarily in that order. This day, he decided, was just not even worth thinking about, and he hadn't even been awake for half an hour yet.
Arch snapped his laptop shut, closing his eyes and leaning back against his tree until his head bumped the rough bark. "Hoo boy, time to not be sober," he sighed, mind still full of horrifying black storms and frozen screaming faces. There was a brief moment of him looking down at his feet, as though considering whether it was really worth the effort to get up from his slouch, until he finally muscled up enough gumption to heave himself up into a sitting position. Standing came after, and Arch growled as the pins and needles firmly asserted themselves into his legs. Fighting past it, he finally straightened up, and counted off as one of the most physically taxing things he'd ever done. All the panic and anxiety of the mission was being converted to exhaustion, and he had a long way to go until he was home.

Shaking off the hysterical exhaustion, Arch bent to grab his bag. His laptop was swiftly packed away, and his headphones switched over to his music player. Loud, angry music blared into his ears as he set out for the train station. On his way, his hands scrabbled through his pockets, searching for treasure lost and found. "Aha," he thought with a small grin, coming out with a small handful of roaches. With quick, well-practiced motions, the rolling papers were wrapped up tight and snug, the roaches were packed, and Arch was already flicking his lighter to life.

"After today, I think I deserve this," Arch thought to himself smokily, as he blew long grey streamers into the dappled sunbeams. "If I'm going to accomplish the trip through so many other humans, then I'll need to be a little less than sober...besides, there's more at home." Course set, Arch finished his chemical vicing, and carefully tucked away the remainder for the next time. He didn't run into a single other human being until he reached the station clearing. People gave him looks that were anywhere between curious and contemptuous, but they slid off Arch's exterior. Confident in his misanthropic armour, he waded through the crowds, finding his train and getting in the farthest seat back, resolutely staring out the window the whole ride back to SciLabs.

"There's a pizza place just a few streets down. Get their number to call a delivery, pack a bowl when you get home, then it's time to blitz 'til you fall asleep in the pizza box," Arch repeated the facts in his mind like little mantras, letting the words bounce in his mind. All the way home, he thought of nothing but his own intoxicated bliss, all thoughts of virtual nightmares put out of his mind for the moment.

<(Headed back to SciLabs: The Tenant of Room 1010)>