Captive Flower

"Am I floating? I feel... Satisfied. As if I... Ate something. But why don't I remember? Where is... Where is... Uh... Who is my Operator again? What happened? Where am I?" Thoughts surged through the Navi's programming as he slowly opened his eyes to look through the screen and find out where he was.

"So you woke up," a husky female voice said, as a woman walked into view of the Navi's sight. "VenusMan, right?" she continued to speak while looking at a piece of paper, "A fascinating specimen, aren't you?" She picked up the PET VenusMan was in and thumbed through some menus, while VenusMan groggily checked out the kind of PET he was in. "You bonded nicely with the Carnivore. Although you didn't properly take care of him."

"Carnivore," VenusMan muttered. It was clear to him that something was very different about the current situation. But what was it? He rubbed the side of his head and suddenly realized that someone had altered his appearance. Quickly he pulled up a mirror application to look at himself as his confusion only grew more.

"Confused, huh..." the woman said as she looked down at VenusMan, "Of course you are. I did just trap you, captured you and made you my own."

VenusMan's eyes widened behind his goggles as he looked at the window that separated himself and the woman on the other side. "What are you talking about?"

An ominous glimmer came from the woman's left eye as she smirked. "Oh, you poor little lamb. You ran away from your herder and now you're stuck with a wolf." the woman said, which was followed by a hearty laugh.

"Answer me!" VenusMan yelled at her, "I've got access to the entire system here! I'll mail the authorities if you do-"

VenusMan's words were cut short as the woman put her face closer to the screen. "One peep out of you and I'll delete every trace of you. You're expendable. A mere speck of data in my project. There are more like you. Don't think you're special because you happen to be with me now." Just the mention of deletion was enough to make VenusMan back down as the realization of his captivity sunk in. "Good," the woman remarked as she sat down on a chair by a table, "But as foolish as you are, I suppose I do have some answers for you. My name is Maru Lulu. I created the Carnivore virus and was the one who implanted it into you and others."

Frustration bubbled under the surface of VenusMan's skin, but figured it wasn't worth blowing his lid over. It was clear this woman knew what she was doing and wasn't going to let him go his way. "Others too," he thought before he, carefully, spoke up, "Why did you create the Carnivore virus?"

Maru simply shrugged as she answered VenusMan's query, "I wanted to add some aggression to the digital world in order to make it more interesting. Create an ecosystem worth participating in, with defined hunters and prey. And I'm not talking about mindless drones like viruses. The Carnivore project failed though. Those affected by the Carnivore virus became as mindless as a simple virus, just fodder for the hunters, or simply deleted themselves."

"We are not some person's playthings," VenusMan said. He would've blown up with a louder voice, but the threat of deletion was still fresh in his mind.

"Oh, but you are," Maru said and grinned, "Just specks of data. Mere fools who think they have free will." Maru's grin turned ominous with her final words, as she browsed some more menus on the PET. "I acknowledge your intelligence or knowledge, but you're a creature of the internet. Of course you have those traits. Everything else is what we program you to have," she continued, "You want me to acknowledge you as more than just data? Surprise me. Be more than what you're programmed to be."

Shaking his head at the words he's been listening to, VenusMan eventually sighed. With the moment of silence between the two, VenusMan could take the time to properly look at the surroundings from his PET and at the woman before him as she continued to browse various specs-related windows. "Humble. I see some exercise devices... A PC... Where a-Oh, Yumland. This'll be my new home? She's evil, but..." he thought, his eyes moving around.

"So?" Maru chimed in, noticing VenusMan's curiosity.

Just like Maru did before, VenusMan simply shrugged before he spoke up to her. "Be more than what I'm programmed to be?" he started, addressing Maru's requirement, before directly looking at her. "You know I can't do that. If I could, I'd have already left you. Find out where my real Operator is. And to stop this madness you call the Carnivore project."

Maru's grin turned even bigger as she heard VenusMan's words, honestly irking the Navi a bit. "Good, little lamb. Your desire to go against your programming is a good sign. Maybe we can work this out after all." Maru said before standing up. She walked away from VenusMan's vision, but eventually returned to sit down again. Brought along with her was a small USB stick, which was inserted into the PET. Immediately new information was fed into VenusMan's mind, specs about the Carnivore virus itself and a list of locations that would be affected. "And that is why I trapped you. I need a Navi to hunt down the Carnivore hosts. To fix them. To delete them."

"Why me?" VenusMan simply muttered, feeling a bit tired from the sudden surge of information.

"You were simply the first one to trigger my trap," Maru explained, "It could've been anyone."

"But trapped me? How?" the Navi asked, "I had an Operator and everyth-"

Once again cut short by Maru, she continued her explanation, "Carnivore went berserk and cut your connection to your old Operator. You didn't properly feed him. You ran and well... You ate a Navi. That hunger brought you to my trap."

"Wait, hold on," VenusMan said, raising a hand at Maru, "I ate a Navi?" It sounded preposterous, but something inside of him knew it was the truth. He felt stronger. Had feeding helped him? The memory was foggy. The memory of feeling satisfied. The memory of a foreign taste. His thoughts ended abruptly as Maru was now holding her face closer to the PET's screen than ever before.

Maru grinned wide after licking her lips and spoke to VenusMan in a sultry voice, "How did she taste?"

Was this to be his new life? His new Operator? He looked up at Maru who was greedily awaiting an answer. He then looked down at himself, wondering where the shackles of his captivity were. But maybe he wasn't captured. Maybe Carnivore just wanted to be with his original owner and therefore... VenusMan's owner. The Navi looked up at his Operator again and replied to Maru's question, "Hot and spicy."

Maru nodded at the Navi as her grin subdued. "Hold on to that feeling. The feeling of standing at the top of the food chain. The memory of having eaten a, for your world, living person."

Maybe it was due to the influence of Carnivore, but if he had to be honest with himself... The memory of having eaten a Navi excited him. He was unsure if he was happy with that though. He moved a hand over the scarf he was wearing, feeling in his code that this was Carnivore's new home, thinking about everything that had happened. Could he even go back? Even if he wanted to contact his former Operator, he didn't know who to contact. So why not just make the best of the situation? "And she was damn tasty," VenusMan said, "As long as those other Carnivore hosts are as tasty as that appetizer, count me in." This was his new home, whether he agreed with it or not. He nodded to himself and continued speaking to Maru, "I won't say we're friends all of a sudden, but if I'm going to be your Navi from now on I fully accept it. But please, no more threats with deletion."

Maru looked back at VenusMan, almost surprised at how calm the Navi was accepting the situation. "You guys are quite adaptive, aren't you?" she remarked, "I'm fine with not being friends. You're just a tool to finish what I started. As for the deletion well..." She dismissively waved her empty hand, "Like I really would. It took several months to catch one of you idiots. But you forced my hand to make you shut up and behave." VenusMan breathed a sigh of relief at Maru's words, but she wasn't done with the Navi yet. "I've got big plans for you. Rest up."

"Yes, ma'am," VenusMan said with a nod before turning away from her and opening a couple of windows. In this new place and with this new form, he had some documentation to browse over to be at his best.
A rattlesnake. The ominous sound of looming danger. It didn't come closer, but stayed at a distance. Waiting for the right moment. VenusMan deposited the script he had received from the Wrangler and opened a window to the real world where he immediately ended up face-to-face with his Operator. He and Maru were back at the table in her living place, where he was greeted with a glare and the rhythmic tapping of Maru's nails on the table's surface. "Already fighting against me?" Maru asked.

VenusMan averted his gaze for a moment, immediately feeling Maru's eye trying to burn a hole through his head. "The very least we can try is to cooperate," he said, "We didn't go there to insult a program simply doing his job." He didn't feel like returning his gaze back to her, although with his goggles and the appearance of his eyes it was hard to figure that out. "You clearly don't want to deal with the digital world," VenusMan commented, "So why don't you let me do so?"

"As long as you follow my instructions," Maru replied. The tapping of her fingers had subdued as she simply put her hand on the table. Out of VenusMan's vision though, who was already imagining she was now trying to crush the table with her bare hand instead. "I won't deny I have things to learn about your world. Even humans seem alien to me," Maru explained, "I feel a stronger bond with animals than anything. My goal was to have Carnivore make the internet easier for me to handle. By creating animals out of Navis."

"And look where that got you," VenusMan commented, a stupid grin on his face. Which immediately faded as he noticed from Maru's expression he had stepped over a line he shouldn't have crossed. "But..." he continued, mulling over the things Maru had said, "I do think this can work out. I'll help you with the digital world."

"Hmph." Maru huffed, "Cocky runt." Maru's words were met with a nonchalant shrug from VenusMan. "Then let me pick your first destination," Maru continued as she tapped a few buttons on her PET, initiating a jack-in process, "Go ahead and help me."