Suitin up for Victory!

The Nebula Systems Dynamics lab complex was rather big and really easily noticed. The extremely pristine condition and cutting edge engenieering made for a rather smooth and clean look. Curvy, streamlined, on a mainly white and light color palette, that was the place Yusaku had spent most of his life in and the place Vincent and his navi Phase would spend their next day in, too.

As soon as they walked past the entrance, they were greeted by not one, but five different researchers and lab technicians. Their first stop would be an invitation to the luxurious staff lounge, where a morning buffet was being offered as breakfast. There were no shortage of high quality food. Nebula treated their employees with the best of the best, becaue they also were the best of the best in what they did. It was a mutual do ut des, and the stepping stone that allowed the company to grow so big and prestigious in the first place. Everyone played their part to perfection. Since its inception, everything had been working like a well greased clock.

After that small breakfast stop, the two were instead outfitted with the highest clearance level in form of a magnetic id pass and digital access code. All of NSD's doors were open to them, be it physical or digital. Finally, vincent was directed towards what the scientist there called "Simulation Lab 03". Upon entering, they would find Yusaku (the actual human Yusaku) going through a checklist and typing some lines of code inside a pretty terrific computer setup. In the face of Pc peasants, the bad boy Yusaku was using had a 16k resolution screen. Critias could be seen lazily waving his tail around as he too controlled some number. Unlike Yu, he was bored out of his mind.
Dressed down in a shirt, cardigan sweater and slacks, leaning heavily on his wooden cane and pale with hangover, Vincent knew he probably looked a sight checking into NSD's visitor entrance. Shepherded around by sharp-suited professionals, he folded into a table with a crackling of knees and much relief. "Oh thank goodness, there's tea," he moaned in relief, drowning an entire scalding pot in moments. With nobody to talk to save Phase, he kept to himself until he was finished his breakfast, allowing his handler to carry him further down the rabbit hole. "I always did want to go back for a PhD," he thought with a private smile, accepting the visitor card and continuing on.

"Whatcha thinking about?" Phase, looking out for her Operator as always, caught the grin. She leaned back against Vincent's shoulder in her hologram, relishing the freedom of seeing the real world with her own eyes.

The giant just smiled, rolling his shoulders as he walked the labyrinthine halls that every major business embodied. "Just wondering what life would be like if I'd kept going with school," he admitted, finally coming up to a hall that exuded science. White-coated eggheads scurried about like goats in a herd, filling him with fond nostalgia for his days as a lab rat. "Maybe if I'd kept going, I'd be working in a place like this."

They walked through a door, and immediately Vincent's eyes lit up. "Oh, this looks fancy, it does!" he called upon entry, cane clicking with every other step. "Albeit not the sort of lab I used to work in. How are you, Yu? That was quite the reception," he waved hello to his new friend. "Is there anywhere I can jack Phase in? She's, ah, a little elusive right now." Phase, having spotted Critias on the screen, had immediately fled back into the PET, presumably preparing to enter the Net...or perhaps just hiding.
"Right. So. What numbers do you have."

"13, 45, 65, 34, 2, 7, 76"

Yusaku nodded to himself,typing away at his computer. All the software things have been dealt with swiftly and efficienly. Just like how he liked doing stuff. "Right. Right. Everything checks out. Now I need to check the XiFF code..."

Critias groaned, slapping his ar monitor closed with the help of his long scaly tail. "You already did that. Five times over too." He whined,taking a moment to look around and spot Vincent just standing there.

A cocky grin crept on his muzzle, showing up his white fangs. He shuffled aroun in a "look who's here" pose, before bursting Yusaku's science bubble. "Well well. Looks to me our friend Vin has finally graced us with his presence..." He said.

Yusaku jerked his head upwards and the proceeded to hop over to Vincent. "Hey there. Good morning! Let's not waste time shall we?" He greeted the professor, grabbing the guy's free hand and tugging him over to his science corner.

"Slot your PeT here will ya?" He showed a space for the man to actually secure Phase and his PeT inside the terminal.

"Right, right. So much to do and see. Right. First,I should wear Critias and teach you how to link woth your navi..." The young scientist began mumbling random stuff to himself,as if sorting a plan in order.
Feeling very much like he was in class with his pushier students, Vincent did as he would then, and let himself be dragged through the lab without a fight. He picked gingerly around tables, wishing once more unto eternity for a lab surface actually sized for a man his height (just once in his life and he'd die happy, that's all he asked). "Just like...this?" Vincent offered his PET to the slot. The terminal accepted it, brass gears and all, and beeped to indicate a successful dock. "You alright in there, Phase?" he called to the PET, unsure if he could be heard.

"I'm alright...just a little dark in here," Phase's voice crackled from the speaker, sounding like a recording of an old telephone. In truth, she wasn't in the PET at all, but would be ported into the Net via Vincent's terminal. She herself was in her lab at Vaccine Antiviral, seated in Dignity's cockpit. The mech was dark in her gantry, waiting for the okay to power on. While the PET couldn't store Dignity's total frame, it could transmit it, and would do so the instant Yu's machine gave the okay.

"So, you said last night I'd be linking with Phase the way you do with Critias, so you said?" Vincent clarified, trying to shake the young man from his reveries. It seemed he was a slightly different person out of the suit than in it. It was almost a little odd looking at him, as though Vincent had gotten so used to the general insanity of Yu's technology that he just expected to see a purple bat. "So whereabouts did you want to go for this? I gathered we were to be exploring the Net in some capacity, while we experiment in here?" He began moving closer to the computers, trying to decipher what was happening on the screens. He was always one for science, but computers had never been a strength of his.
Yusaku nodded, the terminal allowing Phase to connect to NSD servers with ease. "Yes. We will explore the net together. It will be very weird at first, but you'll get used to it as we go along. Now...first of all."

He pushed a few commands on his computer, and the wall behind them slid open, revealing the truth of Yusaku's laboratory. It was a massive hangar. Numerous cameras and sensors littered the place, while the floor itseld seemed to be made by reflective panels.

Yusaku grabbed a weird laser gun from a open hatch in the terminal and slotted in a battery. "Alright. Can you T-Pose for me? It will take only a second."

As soon as Vincent complied, Yusaku would fire the gun at him, a small beep sounding after a few moments of nothing. The man placed the gun back into the hatch he got it from and pressed one final switch on his computer.

Besides his terminal, two storage tubes were raised from the floor. They opened up revealing a human shaped hole for people to stand in. Yusaku quickly scurried over to the one on the right and gave a thumbs up to Vincent once he had settled inside. "Be right back with ya in a moment~"

The tube closed up and for a good minute, Vincent was the lone witness to the whirring and weird mechanical noises of Yusaku's equipment. Then, when the tube opened up again, a very familiar Bat-wyvern stumbled out. Yusaku was once again wearing his own FullBody Feedback Suit.

Stretching a little and wiggling his tail, Yusaku turned his muzzle over to Vincent. "Eheh. Alright. Now's your turn." He said, motioning him to the second tube that had now opened. Unlike the first one, it seemed it had been fit as some sort of changing room. The old professor would have no problem in fitting and moving inside.

"Take off all of your clothes. All of em. Then, simply wear the suit there. There's an opening on the back, but mind you it will be skin tight. Once you're done simply walk outside so that we can get you a AdLink 101."

Critias chuckled. "Oi, princess." He called fpr Phase. "Here's the coordinates of the lab's private server. Feel free to drop in when you want."

With a flash of light, the huge bat wyvern disappeared from the terminal...only to appear as a rather realistic hologram right besides Vincent. The navi seemed to enjoy towering over the huge man.
Though a hardened man of science in his own right, the transforming room brought out a very boyish sort of joy in Vincent, to the point where he couldn't speak beyond gibbering and wildly gesticulating at the space where the walls had been. "Ha-hang on a moment, give me a moment to process that, just, no, no, okay, we're just jumping straight in, are we?" Sighing and shaking his head, he just gave the world a what-can-you-do grin and obligingly spread his arms for Yu's scanner. Presumably his measurements were being taken...he hoped.

When Yu returned, it came almost as a relief for Vincent to see him in his usual purple and tri-clawed. The bundle of stretchy fabric he was handed was...slightly less relieving. "Aha...ahaha...right, I should have expected that," He held the fabric up, looking incredulous. He carried that expression all the way to the changing tube, casting one dry, dry look back at Yu before ducking inside. "You know, I'm a little more used to being the tester, not the testee." He supposed, as he started on his shoes and socks, not quite sure why he was doing this, it was a good thing he hadn't done up in the full suit and tails.

Clothes stored on the provided hangers and firmly embedded in stretchy morphsuit, Vincent exited with a complex series of buckles and straps in hand, wearing a very complicated expression. "My leg braces," he provided in explanation. "Will it be a problem if I put them on overtop? I'm supposed to keep them on for any sort of activity, and I don't know how strenuous this will be." He seemed, at a glance, to be attempting to pretend nothing was out of the ordinary, with...mixed results. Critias took that moment to materialise, nearly sending the man sprawling with the force of his startle. "Gracious me, it's a good thing you didn't do that thirty seconds ago. Phase?" he called along with the other Navi, "we're ready for you over here."

In the dim yellow gleam of Dignity's standby lights, it was hard for Phase not to fidget. The seat of the cockpit was a complex rig of straps and buckles, which linked all along the jacket of her pilot suit. Even suspended and supported from all angles, with full use of both arms and legs resting securely in a saddle seat, the restraints sent chills down her spine. The leather-esque costume didn't help, clinging in a way she was utterly unused to from her usual uniform. She flexed her gloves, shifted in her trousers, trying to find a comfortable way to rest herself. Her lips were rather thoroughly gnawed-on with anxiety.

A bell chimed somewhere behind her; a screen lit up with pages of numbers. Even if they weren't flashing right through her head, reading them was small work for Phase, Navi of Science. "Time to go," she murmured, keying the console to confirm the message: connection had been established on Yu's end, she was go for launch. She reached for the ignition, surprised to feel tingling in her cheeks and fingers, the good kind. Like any applied science, there could be scary parts, but knowing that the buzz of experimenting, the fun part wasn't lost to her washed the last bits of doubt from her head. "Alright!" she called, making herself heard through the speakers in Yu's lab. "Dignity, LAUNCH!"

A crank of the ignition lever, and Phase vanished into turquoise light. The gantry went ballistic with alarms and flashing lights, warning all and sundry that Dignity was on the move. The mecha collapsed around her into a massive datastream the breadth and weight of an elder tree, setting Vincent's PET off in a cacophony of processing as it was ported into the Net proper. They were off at last.

<(Thread opening...somewhere lol)>
Yusaku nodded at Vincent's question while his own navi walked over to his side. He gave Critias a hard look on his face, but the snickering bat would soon make his netop's serious demeanor crack.

"SYSTEM COMMAND: INTIALIZE ADLINK!" He shouted. Suddenly, every piece of tech equipment disassembled and disappeared into the floor, leaving the two inside a massive open hangar. Soon enough, Dignity would be able to materialize behind them in her full 27 feet of glory.

Critias turned around and boy was the bat wyvern excited. A flap of his wings and he was up in the air, only to perch up on the mech's shoulder and lean his snount over to the cockpit. "Hello there, Princess." The bat wyvern saluted with a huge grin. With his extremely sharp canines showing, the bat wyvernd chuckled. "Nice toy you have here."

In the meantime, Yusaku had once again hopped in front of Vincent, with his own tail wagging at him. He was ready for an explanation.

"Ok, so...what you are wearing now is the same as my own suit's inner layer. The one I showed you yesterday. As you can see, it clings to your skin rather tightly, yet its elastic enough not to hamper your movement. There are about ten million different receptors in there, ranging from haptic sensor all the way to heat and pain stimulators. This is the very foundation of the Advanced Link technology, ADLink for short. As you already know, it allows a human to interface with their navi."

On cue, Critias flopped back down on the ground behind Yusaku, wrapping his wings around his netop as if to hug him. Yusaku raised one of his clawed hands to gently pet Critias' snout as he kept on explaining. "Basically, this gear amplifies the phenomenon known as Full Synchro by relaying the navi's feelings directly to the operator. Once you link up, there will be no more A and B but only a AB. It will kinda be like a fusion. You'll both feel eachother's presence within your bodies...and that might be rather distracting at first."

Yusaku could be seen picking up to weird lenses and slotting them into the suit's eye openings. On the outside, Vincent would see them looking like any costume eye prop, the ones where the person iside a costume can look trhough. With the two eye lenses glowing green and a shudder, Yusaku had once again linked up with Critias. "Pain, pleasure, cold, heat. You will feel everything Phase will feel. Usually, there would be no filters or inhibitors but since this is your first time using a feedback suit I have lowered any imputs on your body by a factor of 1:100. We can slowly rise all the way to 1:1 as you guys get more familiar with eachother."

Critias gave a nod. "While ADLinked, you'll even be able to control Phase's movements yourself and through a similar type of lenses, you will see things from her point of view. The whole thing is really complicated but, you can sum it up as: You are the navi. Within this hangar, you will be able to move around and explore the net as if you were your navi. On the other side, the navi actually connected to the net will be under your directi control. Like an avatar from any VR game. A dummy that mimicks your movements and interacts with stuff."

To show te concept, Yusaku spread his arms wide, with critias opening up his wings to full wingspan length. Any wiggle of yusaku's body was instantly replicated by the navi. The movement was so immediate and precise it couldn't be mimcking.

"Critias is right, although he likes to cut corners in explanations, which makes things confusing." He said, folding his arms, causing his navi to do the same. "The navis connect to the internet. Whatever they feel or see it's replicated here in this hangar. We control them like puppets as we move around interacting with stuff and they act like sensors, allowing us to explore the net as if we were navi ourselves. This all gives the humans the impression of being inside a network. Example: I walk around Elecctow and see a Navi Cafe. I order a cup of net coffee. In the net, Critias is doing the exact same thing. Once the Mr.Prog hands over the cup, I pick the cup up which makes critias pick up the cup as well. Since Critias is able to feel that the cup is hot, the suit I am wearing activates the receptors around my hands and simulates the temperature, so that I too can feel that the coffee is hot."
A large square wireframe appeared on the server floor, moving in clicks to adjust position until it found a suitable amount of space for itself. A holographic copy of the same square box formed in the middle of Yu's lab, letting Vincent and Yu watch Phase's inaugural launch nearly in-person. From somewhere in the Netspace's skybox echoed an air-raid siren, blaring like Electopia hadn't had cause to hear in nearly a century. Blinking green with a happy electronic chirp, the wireframe vanished as a metal door was loaded into the server floor. The clarion calls of triumphant brass could be heard faintly through the thick steel. [DIGNITY.CMD] was stamped across its surface in industrial white, like a shipping stencil. "This is so, so cool," Vincent murmured as he snapped his braces on, wincing at the strange fit over the strange textile.

Mirroring Yu's lab, the metal gates retracted with the sound of many gears. The music swelled as the gap widened, tall columns rising from each corner. At their centre, cradled in its gantry was Dignity, rising from the floor one burnished foot of brass at a time. Her great round head faced Critias, and with a great vmmmm of charged coils on came her floodlights. The server was cast in gold and sepia under her yellow eyes, radiant as a lighthouse. The rest of her body followed, rising even as Critias perched like a hawk on a cliff atop her shoulders. Within the cockpit, colours bloomed to life on the inside of her helmet, dazzling Phase for a moment before resolving into a multitude of screens, sectioned all around her like the inside of an orange. The perspectives bled strangely into each other at the edges where the screens met, Dignity's cameras moving as smoothly as Vincent could manage to provide a full view from her vantage point.

And from her vantage point, there was Critias, sitting on her shoulder just like she did with Vincent. From her seat in the cockpit, he seemed tiny, barely even knee-height. Phase could hold him in Dignity's one hand. "W-whoa," was all she managed, but her voice, projected through speakers on Dignity's frame, had none of the fear Critias might have grown accustomed to hearing. "I feel...huge," she gasped, breathy with wonder. "Hey Critias, good to see you!" Reverberating through the brass under the bat's clawtips, there was a real joy that Dignity's protection was letting shine through.

Vincent could have watched the mecha sit at rest forever, had there not been science to listen to. Only with great reluctance did he tear his gaze from the bronze colossus, listening as a grad school alumnus was long-accustomed to listening. "Phase," he called, something uneasy brewing in his gut, "Are you gonna be alright with this?" He fidgeted, surprising himself by doing so; he wasn't usually this antsy. There was something surreal about this, technically the first time he and Phase had ever interacted face-to-face barring her hologram-sprite. Yet for all Dignity's majesty, not being able to see his Navi's face, particularly this very moment, was disconcerting.

Inside the cockpit, Phase listened silently, looking down at the immense console spread out before her. Vincent had been meticulous in his creation, and in all the excitement of receiving it from him, Phase still didn't know how to drive it. "Well..." she tried putting a few words in the air and seeing what stuck, "Vincent, you know what everything in here does, right?"

"Of course! I built it, after all!" Relieved to not hear any moodiness, Vincent was eager in answering. He spread his arms wide, then grimaced and tugged at his suit. "Odd, that felt tight all of a sudden. Well, tighter."

"So...if we're linked and you can see out my eyes, you could like, guide me to the right controls?" Phase was starting to put it together. She frowned suddenly, bending down to rub at her legs. "Something's pinching in here," she complained.

Vincent frowned further. "Odd, the stirrups shouldn't feel intrusive. Unless..." he glanced down at his leg braces. His eyes went wide. "Hang on," he turned to the chiropteran duo before him. "Are Phase and I linked right now? Phase, do you feel this?" He waved his arms wildly, not knowing what was happening to Phase in the cockpit.
Yusaku nodded. "I went ahead and connected you two in the meantime you were staring at creation." It was clear that by Yu's standards the robot's construction wasnt all that great. Still he was trying to be polite about it.

Critias once again hopped into the robot's hand, curling up inside it amd getting cozy in the meantime of his NetOp handling a weird kind of thivk glasses at Vincent. "These are the AR lenses. Connect them to the ear mounts of the suit. After that, I'll increase the connection signal between you and Phase. Try opening and closing you hand. If both you and Phase are doing the same motions, then we are all set."

Critias's snout peeked over one of Dignity's fingers. "I suggest going to Yoka. Or Beach. Somewhere easy so that our princess here and her old man don't get instantly killed by viruses."
At the realisation that there was someone else in their body, both Vincent and Phase went still. Holding the glasses limp in one hand, he closed his eyes, deep furrows carved into his brow, lost in statuesque thought. His breathing went slow and deep, purposefully so. "Is that..."

"...your breathing?" Phase asked, after a very distressing involuntary bit of flailing followed by slow, even breaths, mirroring Vincent even as they felt each other's inputs, very different bodies working through the same motion. Low in her gut was a shallow tremor of fear that just breached through into nausea, like her body was trying to outright purge the sensation but was incapable even of that now. Keeping still made it easier; Phase wondered if Vincent had thought of that in the real world, or if he was going through the same thing. Either way, she appreciated the comfort. On her right, she could see Critias just poking up from the bottom of her viewscreen. Dignity, still at rest in her conning tower, had her arms just high enough for the beastly Navi to perch almost as though he were the size of his real-world analogue, cradled in a very broad man's hand. "I' for just about anything, honestly," Phase called down at him, surprising herself with the levelness of her tone. "I've never really done this before, but Dignity's supposed to jack me out automatically if it ever breaks down, so don't worry about me. I'll be...I'll be safe."

"Safe as houses; I ran the code myself, nothing's getting inside Dignity's cockpit without her say-so," Vincent nodded confirmation, calm and steadfast despite what had to be some the most unfortunate wording he'd ever managed.

"OH MY GOD VINCENT" blared from Dignity's speakers, Phase wishing more than anything to curl into a ball and sink straight through Dignity's saddle-seat. To be completely immobile as she died internally was a very unique kind of hell, one she very much wished never to experience again.

"I, ahh, UMM," Feeling the blood rush into his cheeks and the revulsion curl his stomach like a millipede, Vincent had the distinct pleasure of experiencing his Navi's embarrassment firsthand. For all that, his breath was still steady, carrying the weight of two bodies with ease. "THAT ASIDE, Yu, I think we're ready," he raised the science goggles over his ordinary spectacles more to hide his face a moment than anything, until the flush subsided. "I'll, ah, I'll see you inside, then," he muttered, and snapped the visor into place, thereafter blind to the world.

Inside the cockpit, Phase's fell open, completely out of her control. Thankfully able to control her face if nothing else, she closed her mouth and chimed in, "Everything alright there, Vincent?"

In the real world, a single tear leaked from the bottom of Vincent's glasses. Laid out before him was Dignity's console, exactly as he'd envisioned it. "It's so beautiful..." was all he could gasp out. "Oh please, Yu, can we go now? I need to drive this beautiful beast, I need to! Anywhere's fine, we can just jack out and do it again if she crashes, right? Oh, if only you could see in here! Oh, these screens! These LEVERS! These CRANKS! This BAT-DRAGON!" Some part of the giant man knew he must look an absolute fool, gesturing around at empty air, but he was far, far past the point of caring. Phase, mirroring his movements as he marvelled at how well his attention to detail had come out, could only laugh. It really didn't feel so bad at all, being linked like this.
Critias grinned widely as Vincent gushed about him. He hopped on his feet and waved at the old man. The proud wyvern couldn't help but chuckle. In the meantime, the sound of a metallic door opening and the beeping of a stowing machine coming in could be heard.

"Easy there Old man." Yusaku said, grabbing Vincent's hands and gently squeezing it. Unlike before, it felt scaly. "ADLinking is strenuous to the nervous system. Your brain isn't used to elaborating two sets of feelings. So you both should be taking it easy or you risk some serious aftershock."

The young man in the bat costume grabbed Vincent's hand and led him to the center of the room. Then, thanking his costume gave him a few centimeters more in height thanks to how his feet claws were designed, he gently clicked a button on the visor, calibrating more things and making sure to keep the whole setup in focus. "You were stil running in 1080p debug mode. Our eyes can take 2k resolution, so now you should be able to read the labels inside the cockpit. Also, if you take it off for just a moment you might be able know...get into position."

There was a reason he had taken Dignity's model last night. Thanks to 3d printing, he had been able to cook a mockup of the cocpit and then upscale it so that it fit the man. It was mainly just the saddle seat and a fake console pannel with no buttons or switches. No need for them if you would experience it all through the visor and the suit.

"Now, as I said...the ADLink software in the suit is dampening the effects by a factor of 100. This can be scaled down to a factor of 1, which means your brain is straight up linked with your navi. I am sure you might feel some nausea and some balance problems, but once they are gone you'll be mostly fine for the day. In case you want to lower the dampening effect later, just tell me."

He left the man to get ready and walked over to the center of the room himself. "It's a good thing you don't have to move around too much, but I do, so I'll need to get some space in between us to avoid flailing into you. As you can see, the visor is outfitted with a speaker and a microphone, so we can talk just fine. Before we go off into the net I want to see if you can pilot this thing at all while ADlinked. So we'll do a small little game first."

Critias seemed to know what was coming, proptly jumping off Dignity and simply began standing in front of the tall mecha as Yu fully linked up to him.

"Catch us." They said in unison. "We are way bigger than a mettaur or any virus. So, if you want to gou out in the net, you have to prove to us you can deal with little critters running all over the place and under Dignity. We don't want to damage the net infrastructore too much as well. If you do well, me might even consider lowering the dampener effects by 10."

Critias began to stretch, something rather uncommon to do for a navi. Yusaku, much like Vincent, was in control of his own navi. "Alright. We're ready. Catch us if you can."
In the world of Vincent Miles, the words 'virtual reality' were taking on glorious new meaning. Phase had never seemed any less a person than any flesh-and-blood human he knew (particularly after being reborn flesh-and-blood in her own right), but she was just that - a person. No matter how many times he'd supervised the bustling lab floor of Vaccine Antiviral, it had always seemed removed, in a sense, from his perceptions. Less so now, when not ten feet from his beaklike nose, perched atop Dignity's burnished hand waved one Critias.EXE, Net Navigator, scales glinting like jewels under the floodlights. And even tucked away in their cockpit, the little drake could see him, see the real him, via the Operator standing with him in Vincent's world. It was a bizarre kind of double-vision to imagine; certainly his one-way knockoff would quite suffice, for now.

"What-ho?" he startled at Yu's touch, holding where he couldn't see them. "Oh, that is odd, that is," he exclaimed, looking down at his hands where he knew Yu must be, somewhere in the space of the console. He chuckled when the phantom hands pulled him forward, allowing himself to be led; Phase's legs kicked with his mincing blind steps, pushing at the strapping of her stirrups to no drastic effect. "Careful with the knees, young-buck, I'm marked 'fragile'." he sniped back to the teasing with a grin that bared just a little bit of teeth. Perhaps he'd grown used to Electopian schoolchildren and their tendency towards respect in addressing elders (at least to their faces), but it was remarkably novel to be treated so irreverently by one so much younger than him. It was something, he thought, he could get used to. "Alright, Phase?" he called to...well, himself, he supposed (was it even 'himself' if he was looking through female eyes? Things to ponder...). "You're pretty quiet in there."

"All good here, Vincent," Phase replied, slowly acclimatising to being a stranger in her own skin. Speaking through her breath so none but her Operator heard, she added, "You're're gentle. You're always gentle."

"Wh-well!" Lacking a coat lapel of his own to straighten, Vincent huffed and shook out Phase's instead. "I should rather well hope so, I should! Now Yu, my friend, before I agree to anything I feel I must ask what position I'm to get" he trailed off as his goggles rose up and off his spectacles, in utter beholdance to the prop cockpit. His jaw, once more, got itself re-acquainted with the lab floor. "Good heavens," he breathed faintly, "I agree."

While Yu rattled off more of the suit's tutorial reel (a lengthy tome, Vincent was sure), the man found himself, as seemed to be the norm that day, utterly unable to help himself. With the speed and urgency of a man perhaps closer to Yu's age, he fairly vaulted the entire thing, landing with his legs neatly docked into the saddle just as he'd imagined Phase doing. The fit, per Yu's typical standard, was immaculate. "Oh...yeeeuuuurff" Almost precisely at his cohort's mention of nausea, and wasn't that a word that exuded its own meaning, Vincent doubled over, green as a bullfrog. "Yeah...yeah, got that one," he gagged on the double-feel of rapid movement in one body and stillness in the other, bodily perception twisting between the two in ways that it was never, ever meant to handle.

"Oh god, Vinceeeent! We're still linked!" Phase moaned from the cockpit, just barely keeping it together herself. "Deep breaths...deep breaths...ahhhhh Vincent you said this helps you when you get pukey!" she whined with vitriol comparable to an ill, overtired child.

"You have to go deeper! Come on, sync with me," Vincent, hands braced against the decorative console, heaved with the effort of breathing for two. "In...and out...and in..." he grunted, keeping time with long, slow taps of his fingers. Swiping a hand down his face, the goggles went back online. Now, the console he was leaned against had active displays, and toggles and levers and wheels and most importantly, it had two long butterfly grips, one extending aside each arm from the seat. "So, Yu," he gasped, finally getting some level of control back, "You say I just have to catch you?" He leaned over the console, lung working like bellows.

Phase's eyes followed Vincent's over the control bank. There, nearly dead centre relative to her seat, was the main ignition switch. Her hand was just now reaching for it; free only to move her eyes, she devoured the viewscreens, taking every last screencrawl in at once, announcing for her Operator. "Boiler pressure, within parameters," she read, "Hydraulic pressure checks out. Up-shifting priming pump..." the list was tremendous, Vincent's penchant shining through like a love letter to every steamship documentary she'd ever watched with him. "Opening steam inlet valves. Adjusting gland steam pressure...pressure normal. Preparing for second stage."

The engine turned over, Dignity's gear-spangled back roaring and whirring to life. A massive hiss of white steam billowed from her parapet smokestacks, her chassis rumbled like the belly of an ancient steamer's engine room. With the butterfly grips right in Phase's hands, Vincent in the real world resembled nothing more than the resting pose of his childhood Super Fighting Robots, fists raised as though he were holding imaginary rifles braced at the hip. "Alright, Critias!" Vincent called, flexing his grip in one hand; in the Net, Dignity's one massive hand clanged open and shut, before freezing in a clawed grasp. "Try...THIS on!"

With a hiss of hydraulics and a great whirring of gears, Dignity throttled up. With Vincent providing the motion in the real world, miming a wide sweep of his arm, Phase's hand on the grip propelled the brass titan into action. Her great blocky torso swivelled and reared high, high overhead, hand coming down from an angle like a farmer's scythe. Were the mech sized as a human, the falling arm would have looked almost in slow-motion, awkward and ungainly in its motion still. Scaled up, her hand, aimed to sweep Critias' legs out from under him and scoop him up in the same motion, moved fast as a Navi running full-tilt, bearing down like a avalanche of freshly-polished cogwheels.
It seemed like Phase and Vincent were having the time of their lives, even through the ups and down of nausea and other problems.

Yusaku snickered and walked over to the center of the room. A snap of his three clawed fingers and the entire Augmented Reality systems got online. The room faded away, replaced by the translucent ground of the net and the empty void uptop. Before him, a tall mech standing menacingly in his view. Part of him would have to wonder if the two could really pilot such a construct while experiencing the ADLink for the first time. True, he had them on a fraction of what he was used to...but no one was born all knowing. Sometimes, baby steps forward were still good progress.

As soon as Vincent declared the engarde, Yusaku could feel his own body stiffen up slightly. It was natural, Critias scales hardened instinctively at any sign of threat. Thicker, sturdier scales would mean more durability. They would need it just in case the old man and her navi decided to put a little to much force on them. Then, he prepared to show the science duo the kind of power ADLinking could provide.

If Critias' scales were shiny on a normal basis, now his whole form was glinting. His entire hide seemed to brighten up considerally, the muted blackis purple now exploding into a vibrant ametyst, not counting the navi's already glowing eyes. Light reflected off the surface of his hardened scales, slightly altering their hue depending on where the eye would look. The bat wyvern's ears flicked twice, as the navi took a rather cocky pose.

"Bring it, old man. Let's see what you can do to us." The bat stated firmly, and Vincent could swear he would be able to hear Yu's voice echoing in the navi's throat.

Then, the arm came down of a classic wide angle sweep. It was a neat, precise movement...yet not really enough. Critias short hopped up in the air and gracefully parkoured safe of the hand's grasp in one fluid backflip motion. Ending up on all fours, the navi looked up with a huge grin on their face. It was like the navi wasn't even trying.

"Not too shabby, old man. but there's something missing." He barked at the mech. "You guys are linked, but one of you is just there passively. Like that you won't be able to touch us. If you guys want it. You gotta mean it!"

Critias stretched once more. "Not bad of a first try though."
Like trying to grab an eel bare-handed, Critias slipped through Dignity's fingers in a liquid shimmer of scales. With so much mass committed to the swing, the titan overbalanced, listing dangerously to starboard as Vincent experienced a hangover, scientific advancement, and something like a giant, invisible hand of inertia pulling his face into the console, all at once. He took it, all things considered, rather well. "Vincent! Vincent, you need to balance or we're going over!" someone was calling right in his ear. Was that Phase? Had he fallen asleep on top of the PET again? His head felt half-again too large; where was he? "Vincent!" Oh right, Dignity.

"I'm up, I'm up!" He attempted to lever himself up over the console, needing a couple tries to manage it; his arms were too short, or was the world just too big? "I just..." he broke into helpless chuckles, "It's very strange, Yu, being small. Very strange indeed."

"Yeah, well you should try it more often then!" Phase shouted, panting with exertion. Being ragdolled around in her own skin was proving to be far more taxing than she'd imagined. "Yu's right, Vincent, this isn't gonna work. Crit's too fast to catch one-handed!" Despite the seeming unfairness to the challenge, she was starting to grin.

"Then we start chasing him down!" Vincent's hands found the gear shift, gripping an imaginary lever in his fist. "Engines primed, Captain, make the call~!" his voice went a little brassy and theatrical around the edges, cutting into his many nights taking in ye olde age of steamship engineers.

Phase felt her hand clench and relax, clench and relax around the lever handle. It soothed the last of the tremors from her throat, and lent the swelling of her voice a little extra. "Put 'er in gear, Engine, and give us a little steam while you're at it!" With a great thrum like a motorcycle made of church bells, Dignity seemed to rumble a little louder around her, as if in anticipation.

"Aye aye, Cap'n!" And with a crank of the gearstick, the church bells rang. Gears the width of a man's arm were meshed into engage positions throughout Dignity's torso, priming her burnished piston legs for motion. As she started to move, Vincent caught the tasseled rope perfectly suspended above his left ear. Two quick pulls of the rope, and Dignity's whistle sounded off a triumphant toot-toooooot, engine chuffing out a steady drumbeat of motion. "Hows she feel, Captain?" Vincent called out, enraptured.

"She's...oh! Oh Vincent, you outdid yourself!" Maybe it was bleedoff from Vincent, but Phase was having no trouble sharing her Operator's headspace. "Okay, let's open it up! More steam, Engine!"

"More steam!" Vincent parroted. Together, they opened up Dignity's throttle, amping the tempo of her engine's chuffing. She was bearing down on Critias now, a tremendous brassy clang sounding off each titanic step; as Vincent and Phase took up the butterfly grips again, her arms came up in front of her like a giant crab claw ready to snap shut. "Watch the bayonet!" Phase called, more for Vincent's benefit than Crit's; the way his scales shone, she bet he could break a boulder over his back and be no worse for wear. The colossus' hand came at Critias from behind now, ready to pin him against the broad expanse of her torso in the strangest interpretation of a hug since...well, the night prior. "Don't count us out yet, Yu, we'll figure this out yet!"
Critias smirked. "Well. Look at that. This time they're really trying. Shall we?"

Yusaku took a moment to evaluate the situation. "Hm...I'd say not to bee too rude or slippery. Let's just get the message across without too much fuss, shall we?"

Critias chuckled loudly. "We shall." He stated as the two huge hands came down on him. They managed to grab hold of something, but that something wasn't Critias per se. Instead, the bat wyvern was snuggily fit inside a translucent sphere. A barrier.

"Right right. Careful now with your contraption thingy." Both navi and netop spoke in unison. "You guys are big yet slow as hell. Are you sure you can handle some viruses like that?" The couple asked, popping the barrier and gracefully landing into Dignity's cupped hands.

"Either way, can Phase come down here for just a moment? There is something we need to check on her. We think we spotted a minor bug on her readings that needs fixing..." They asked. A swipe of their claw and a holoscreen materialized in front of them. To Vincent's happiness, it was full of more occult sciency things he didn't have a clue about. He could guess readings from his suit and Phase's data.
The sudden shock of colliding with Critias' barrier rocked Vincent and Phase off-balance, a feeling not unlike missing the last step of a flight of stairs and the unexpected lurch thereafter. "Whoa!" Phase gasped, still catching her breath even as she marvelled at the glowing orb pinned to Dignity's breastplate. Her hand darted out to jerk the locomotion throttle shut, stopping the titan in her tracks with one last hissing cloud of steam. Her face reddened at the other pair's teasing; silently, she thanked Dignity for the inches-thick armour between her and the Net World. Less silently, she called back, "I mean, sure we aren't all darty-aroundy like you guys, but-hey, wait a minute!"

Her thought went unfinished, because for Science-knows-whatever reason Critias decided to release his barrier. He dropped like a stone, but Phase and Vincent alike had reflexes hardened by years of minding teenagers with lab equipment, and all the potential for catastrophe that implied. One quick twist of her right wrist, and Dignity's single hand slipped under Critias just in time to catch him at the mech's hip. "Ohoho, that's downright odd, that is," Vincent fairly erupted in chuckles, shaking his (their) head(s) a moment. "Hearing you from over there, that is," he gestured in explanation towards Yu's physical body before him, "and down here, all at once," he indicated where Phase was seeing Critias, down in the phantom space by his right hand. Teasing aside, they did have a point. He hummed in thought, "Our reflexes seem to translate fine, I think Dignity just needs a little time for her gears to warm up. This beauty's got a lot more engine yet!"

"Erm," Phase frowned at the question; whichever misgiving of hers was objecting to the idea of leaving the cockpit, there was a more immediate concern: "I'm...a bit stuck, here," she reminded them sheepishly.

"Oh, I can get that for you," Vincent blithely volunteered, already reaching up before Phase could protest for the hatch release. "I wanted to make Dignity's head open right up, but I couldn't find a way to make the animation look good without sacrificing from the diver helmet aesthetic, so she's got an escape hatch behind the seat if you need to leave the cockpit for any reason," he explained, slipping briefly into the calm tones of his Professor Voice. Almost instinctively, Phase's nerves settled in their myelin sheaths; the urge to babble her dismay was still there, but sufficiently diminished to keep her quiet. "Now," he barrelled on, "Dignity's gears will keep spinning with or without you at the helm, and that includes her legs, so make sure she's at a full stop before you try getting out, right? I'm gonna take the headset off now, that should cancel the connection and let you move around on your own. Have fun!"

Without another word, the real world revealed itself once more to the glacier-blues of Vincent Miles. "Gracious me, but that takes some getting used to," he blinked several times, giving his head an experimental shake. "You feel that one?" he called to Dignity's hologram.

"Feel what?" came the obvious answer. Unseen, Phase shimmied out of her strapping, mindful of the minefield of delicate controls. The hatch was a shimmy-space built down rather than up as one might expect; a scientist's eye caught the crank cleverly built into the door. Turning it on its well-oiled gears, the hatch slid neatly out of sight, revealing a crawlspace precisely large enough for Phase's narrow shoulders, and not an iota more. Clearly, Vincent had designed the mech for one Phase-sized pilot and one alone. "Oh, Vincent, you are *oof* lucky Navis can't gain weight, mister!" The pilot in question was rather neatly wedged into place, learning that faux-leather such as what her flight suit was made to resemble, for all its shiny finish, did not slide well.

One more hatch, and Phase was crawling out of a well-hidden gap in Dignity's impressive shoulder guard. There, far enough down to make daunting the thought of descending, was Critias. From this high up, cradled in Dignity's upturned hand, he looked much less threatening than he had looming right overhead. Breathing a little sigh of relief, she started the climb down the upper arm, to where the elbow bent at a hard 90 and one incredibly purple wyvern sat upon Dignity's palm. "This is a lot easier than I thought it'd be!" she exclaimed, upon discovery that being made almost entirely of gears, cogs, and pipes effectively made the titan a 27-foot walking jungle gym. Handholds were more than plentiful, taking a lot of the anxiety from being suspended this far above the ground.

One hand braced against Dignity's nearby waist, the spritely Navi perched in the crook of her massive elbow, her back against a gleaming metal bicep. There was that tremor again, seeing Critias so close, but being wreathed in bronzed light, so close to such a magnificent engine was a bulwark to Phase's integrity. "H-hey there, Crit!" she chirped with only a trace of quaver. "What was it you needed me for? And hey, whatcha got there? Is that the data you just got from our test run?" The glowing holograph was not just a lure to Vincent, it seemed, but Phase as well, who had the benefit of being able to read the numbers backwards through the transparent screens.
Critias was fumbling with numbers, probably under Yusaku's influence as per usual. His long ears flicked when he heard her voice, turning his glowing emerald eyes over to the other Navi. "Oh hey, that looks good on you." He mumbled, looking over at her leather suit. With a graceful hop, the hug bat gracefully landed beside her, curling his long tail around her waist as some form of a cuddle. He shared his holoscreen with her and pointed at a graph that looked like some sort of ECG.

"Look here." He mused. "You two sure have a bubbly relationship. When you're living your power fantasy." He pointed at the highs "Your Synch level gets to around 80...87 in some cases." He then moved his claw to the lows. "And then you two simply go off your own tangent and your Synchro State dips real low."

The bat wyvern pointed over to a similar yet different graph. "You should try bickering with eachother way less. Or, if you really want to bicker, do it as one." He traced the somewhat steady line, expressing how it kept between 90 to 93% "See?"

In the real world, the other purple wyvern walked over to Vincent and grabbed the helmet, fidgeting with it. "You're already getting the hang of it. As per your I guess leather linings can work." The young science wyvern squatted down and looked at Vincent's legs. He gently poke his tutors with a claw. "Those can be integrated into it as well. Should be easy enough. I just need to make a few calls, I have a guy from orthopedics that owes me a favor.
Focusing on the numbers, Phase discovered, made dealing with Critias much easier. Oh, it certainly wasn't any mark against his character; by all rights, he'd been a perfect gentleman...bat - a perfect gentlebat, albeit a rather touchy one. Nonetheless, something in the way his tail caged her was like ice in her gut. On some basic meaty level, she was already beginning to think of chains and hurting and cold, bone-deep despair. Numbers were easier to think about, easier to process and correlate and tally up as empirical facts of the world. And for those chilling moments when her breath was starting to hitch, and she was ready to scamper right back up Dignity's arm, conversation be damned-

"Phase? Take a breath, kiddo, take a breath." Well, there was always Vincent. The giant was presently relishing the opportunity to lean against a console that was actually sized for him, staring up at the Dignity hologram thoughtfully. When next he spoke, he peered down at Yu, who looked to be quite literally nipping at his heels. "So we just have to live our power fantasies even harder? Well, you've certainly got me convinced. If you think we can work together, the, the four of us," he mused, peering once more at his creation. A wry grin smoothed out his severe features enough to make the twelve year age gap seem, for just a moment, like not so very much at all. He held up his PET. "Well, why don't we get cracking?"

Numbers. Numbers. Think about numbers. "Vincent and I race each other sometimes, when we grade homework," Phase babbled, staring with all her might into the synchro charts. In her mind, the chart could be a Tuesday evening, worksheets due for handing back the next morning (who would've thought teachers made just as much homework for themselves as they made for their students?). "We'd split 'em into even piles, right, and then grade as fast as we could, and afterwards we'd check each other's work for goof-ups," she went on, smiling distantly into the clean plotted lines of her Operator's brainwaves. "It took Vincent awhile to get good at it, he's always been a bit clumsy, but now he wins as often as I do." Finally she turned back to Critias, staring him dead in the eye. One might not have called her expression determined, but it was getting there. "If he can think as fast as me there, he can think as fast as me here. We can do this," she finished looking almost defiant, as though daring Yu and Critias to suggest otherwise.
"Well, is it a power fantasy if it's real?" The two purple bats said in unison, by now Phase and Vin could consider it normal occurrence, as Yu offered Vin his own helmet. "The more you believe it, the better you get at it. The situation as it stands is not at all unreal. You are your navi and your navi is you."

Yusaku pointed at the hologram behind him. "Just because you can't touch it, it doesn't mean that bucket o bolts there is any less real. But I like your excitement. I think he's ready, Crit."

In the digital world, the large bat wyvern was almost shocked to see Phase's look. The anethyst navi lowered his snout down and nosebooped with the girl out of the blue, snickering like a kid. "Well well you do have a fire in you eh?" There it was, that playfully devious tone of a mischievous kid. Critias being Critias alright. "But I like your resolve. I think she's ready, Yu."

*Intelligence System Analytic Computer is activated. Networking Encryption nominal. Connection extablished. Stanby for JackIn*

The area's lighting dimmed, Dignity's form dissolving as the holoprojectors started rendering something else. Critias materialized right besides Vincent, Phase still cuddled in his tail. The wyvern's ears were flat on his head and the tip of his long tail was wagging at the girl he was nosebooping. While he wasn't really asking it out loud one could tell the wyvern was dying for cuddles. Just like the first time Phase gave him a few pets on his snout.

Yusaku chuckled. "You know, I've never seen Critias trying so hard to get someone's attention, granted he doesn't know many navis. Phase sure doesn't make it easy. Perhaps he likes the challenge." He chimed, waving his hand in front of him to summon a huge map. A real time render of the net. "So, the entirety of the net is ours to explore, ISAC also can give us real time intel on virus presence, so we can avoid the more populated areas. We should also avoid the Undernet."

"Ah come on Yu, but I want some fun."

"Yeah you do, but let's not kill our guests ok?"

Critias pouted, even if just lightly.
Vincent couldn't help but chuckle at the duo's antics. "Touche, my friends, touche," he grinned, and found he absolutely meant it: these two were friends now, Navi and Operator alike. He accepted his helmet back with a grateful nod, wincing a little at the snug fit. A careful test of his knees revealed only the usual protests, none of the hot throbbing that heralded trouble.

"Legs doing okay there, Vincent?" Phase chimed in, just as she was given a surprise booping. Her eyes squeezed shut involuntarily, while the rest of her face relaxed. It was not unlike the cat giving Vincent little kisses, only in reverse; with Critias' great head so close, Phase felt his purring more than heard it. It was, as purring animals tended to be, aggressively soothing.

An oversized thumbs-up answered
Phase and Yu both. Clever use of tiny spectacle-like windows in Phase's eyes meant she could see through to the real world, and beam back. "That's a good look for you, Phase! A pilot should have a crew!" Vincent crowed. He bounced on the balls of his feet, rubbing his hands together. "So where to, Captain?" he turned his grin to Yu. "Oh, I haven't been this excited for Net things since, since..." His grin faltered.

"Since my accident," Phase finished for him. Still in pet-the-kitty mode, a hand came up around Critias' massive ear, just a little beneath and behind, to gently scritch the smooth scales. "I've never really explored the Net before, especially not since then," she admitted softly, breathing deep, "never really gone anywhere but my work. The people there are great, but not really friends? Not people I would hang out with after hours, anyway. This...this is nice."