Suitin up for Victory!

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."
Critias let out low, soft growls, nuzzling Phase's hand. He was grateful for the little show of affection the other navi demonstrated. Even more so considering Phase's background.

"I'll protect you." The wyvern chirped, much to Yu's surprise. The wyvern slowly balled up around Phase, oddly protective of the smaller navi. He gently held her in his coils, still very much seeking her ear scritches. "I'll keepyou safe. I won't let any bad guy get close. I'll delete any virus that will try to threaten you."

For that moment, Phase's blind would would just become entirely Critias as he gently lifted her up to fully envelop her in his cuddle. A soft lavender smell in a sea of smooth scales with faint purring all over. "I'll be your shield. Cost me my life. That much, I swear on my honor."

Of coure, he would settle her down as soon as she showed even the slightest hint of being distressed or uncomfortable.

Yusaku smiled at his navi finally being able to get one hug in after a good while of trying. Critias behavior seemed to still be influencing him, as he instinctively steppsd closer to Vincent. "I'd say Sci labs sounds like a good middle ground between science and virus busting. I think it's the best of both worlds. However, maybe we should give em a lil more time.they seem to be enjoying a bonding moment so I'd hate to inteerupt it. Plus, the more they trust eachother the better we'll do together..."

Folding his claws together, Yusaku grinned beneath the mask of his feedback suit. "You know, Phase, I'm kind of massively jealous of you right now. I'd die to be all snuggled up with Crit. How does it feel?
Phase's smile froze on her face the closer Critias got. Her hand froze, an instinctive attempt to stop whatever was making it come closer. "Okay," she gasped, "okay okay that's good thank you let's go." She didn't wait for Critias to release her so much as she dropped out of his grip. One more second had her scampering back up Dignity's arm. The purring didn't sound so comforting anymore.

Vincent frowned at the display. His eyes, already blue as glacier-melt, took on a whole new sort of ice as Phase slammed the hatch shut behind her. Tall though Critias may have been, if he was looking through Yu's eyes, he would have to look up. "I'll thank you to allow Phase her space, Critias," Vincent rebuked, using Yu as a switchboard to speak to the Navi behind his eyes. "You'll let her come to you, or...well, I built Dignity for a reason," he gave the pair a pointed look, before returning to the map function. "I'll trust your judgement for our destination; I've no mind for such things, no mind at all. Phase and I have never done this before, after all, so I should think we'll be following your cues," Having said his piece, he rocked back on his heels. To Yu, he spoke, "It's your computer, so I'll let you make the call. Are we ready to go?"

Dignity was silent. Phase sat once more at the controls; this high up, Critias looked smaller, less frightening. She made no move to touch the controls, instead just listening to her Operator through the tinny speaker. "Ready when you guys are," she spoke silently; Dignity resonated with her voice, projecting it outside to Critias as well as the Operators.
Yusaku sighed, folding his arms together. It seemed that critias would have to wait to get his cuddles.

"Alright then. Scilabs sound fine for something like this. Crit, I'll leave it out to ya."

The wyvern, somewhat disappointed but not really new to the whole debacle nodded. "Everything set and connection stable."

Yusaku flinched as his body connected back to his Navi. "We're all set then. JACK IN, CRITIAS...PHASE, EXECUTE!"

And with that, they were off into the unknown.
A pleasant chime announced Phase's safe return to her PET. After a bit of prodding, Vincent manages to rescue the device from the innards of Yusaku's computer. A couple tapped keys, and Dignity began transferring back to her gantry for repairs. "Well!" Vincent started, notably cheerier than when they'd started, "I should think that worked out quite well, quite well indeed!" For a moment he waited for Phase to snipe back, perhaps that her bruises begged to differ, but she had nothing to offer but the quiet, snuffling breath of the dead-asleep. Just as well, he thought; she'd certainly earned the nap.

And speaking of naps, he was feeling awfully tired. Checking the time made Vincent's narrow eyes pop wider than Yu had ever seen them. "Goodness gracious, how is that possible?!" the man yelped, dashing into the changeroom to wrestle off the clingy mo-cap suit. "I must apologize, Yu, terribly rude of me," he called over the thin divider. He was dressed and out in record time, albeit a bit rumpled where he hadn't shown his fancy threads the proper care.

The giant turned to approach Yu, hands up like he wasn't sure whether to offer a handshake or a hug; Critias' touchy-feely influence, it seemed, was felt even in the real world, for Vincent the Teacher would never be so presumptuous.

In the end, he went with the tried and true compromise, making for a handshake and pulling the young man in for a quick pat on the shoulder. In his frantic search for the right words, he managed, "You've some magnificent equipment here, you do, and I'd dearly love to keep playing with it, I would. Sadly, we must be off, much to do, much to do. I'll see myself out!" And with that, he was off, dashing as quickly as his cane would let him down the shining halls, back to the mountain of worksheets and essays he forever toiled upon.