As she grasped the dark chip, it instantly enveloped her in its dark hunger, the energy leaping across her body and doing exactly as Vanguard said it would - while not by any means perfect, dark energy surged across her wounds and mended them, and provided energy where she was lacking.
However, she also felt the dark energy begin to surge inward, trying deeper than the energy surging across her flesh. It's dark hunger wanted more . . . instantly, the dark energy surging around her body (or, rather, what remained of it) flooded back, Vanguard forcing the energy into himself from their close contact. The energy surged over his body, without any intent to heal or bestow power, but, it surged across his form with every intent to drown him in it.
It all but fettered out, surging towards his Navi Core and serving only to fuel his flames. His darklight harvesters on his hands flared outward, not from any renewed vigor or increased power, but, from a little extra fuel to work with. He died down the flames, to avoid using too much of it too soon; those were precious.
The chip, drained of its energy, lowered back down into its holster. Instantly, the dark energy flowing within his body stoked underneath it, and the chip began regaining some of its malicious color. "There . . . feel any better?"
Before her answer was provided, he heard the ding from the desk. He cursed under his breath; what now? Chancing the risk, he slowly extricated himself from her, seeing if she could stand by herself.
They were far enough within the base that whatever was there wasn't an immediate threat to them, but, Vanguard wanted to make sure. "Mistair, you need to go. Go to the private Network you ordered Aeron to, or follow up on the evacuation Navis; whatever happens, just go ahead and go." He wasn't looking at her at this point, and was already glancing down the hallway towards the desk, his cannon at the ready.
"You just need to make it to somewhere other than here, and fast. Once away from here, you can just watch the scene through my Isolator, and tell me how you feel about it, just in case they aren't immediately hostile. Now, go."
Just in case it were another threat, it was better for her to be gone and untouchable by any of the worries within Netopia - save for the few who could enter and leave as they pleased - considering the weight she carried. She was the one tasked by Forte to follow through with his orders. Anything less than complete satisfaction, and he'd destroy all of them.
Then, he felt it; the unmistakable rise of the lock, as though a giant weight were lifted from his shoulders. For a brief moment, relief filled him; they could finally vacate this nightmare, and flee from this Network that was riddled with mystery and conflict. They could freely leave, and escape the threat of . . .
Wide eyed, Vanguard turned, now pointedly pointing his cannon at Mistair. It was a reflexive response, and he quickly lowered the cannon, but, something had just occured to him. Something very important. "Whatever you do, you cannot leave Netopia. Do you understand me, Mistair? It's tempting, I know; we were caged up like animals and tossed around, abused and mistreated. Anyone in their right mind would want to leave, especially with the treat of permanent deletion looming overhead; whatever you do, though, Mistair, you cannot leave this Network."
He had seen with his own two eyes the code infect everything within Netopia, changing it down to single binary characters; everything was affected. The lock had been raised in an attempt to keep it all within Netopia, and, while it was raised, it had conditioned many individuals into fear, anger, reduced them down to base fight or flight responses, and even paranoia. They'd been smart in conditioning them up to this point; any chance at leaving the Network would be jumped on if no one took the time to think on it.
"If you do leave, I won't be following you. And if you return, I'll delete you for your ignorance."
She was able to stand on her own, not as wobbly as he might have expected her to be after everything had concluded possibly. She was going to answer him, but then heard the ding. Realistically speaking, no one would do that if they were trying to sneak their way in. Which meant that more than likely this one was actually just someone who had made it here. But given today's track record, it made sense for Vanguard to be alarmed by it. She did want to check up on how those people would be doing that she sent off, but she also was just going to send Grom to do it at first. They could change positions with him coming here and her heading over there instead, which was still fine as it meant he could actually do his job for once. But then the lock was released, her eyes widening as a screen appeared before her to show that it indeed was released.
She was searching for the 'how' next when she couldn't find anything. All she found at best was a part of Netopia that looked like it was hit by something that then spread through and tore the lock apart. She could only presume it to be Magnolia, as not being able to keep track of her would be exactly why she couldn't find anything on her even when searching for the source. Had she taken advantage of the situation to take it down? Worst part about it was that they had let Thorn and Nightshade go among others, which meant--this was when Vanguard had pointed his cannon at her. He at least had honed reflexes, something that was good for what he did.
She listened to what he said first, her facial expression not giving anything away. But she eventually smiled at what he said instead. That was a fine response and one that she could agree with wholeheartedly. They had already informed the others of how things were proceeding, but given this outcome they would have to let them know that they were likely unable to contain it as well. Thrash at least would be able to do a great job at taking care of the ones that were required... but it still left the few that were unattended by them as well.
"As well you should, if I did something like that. I would do the same if you made such a choice. Like it or not our cage has been broken. That doesn't mean that I have any intention of leaving this Network."
She was here through and through. This was what she signed up for, more or less. Though that being said, they did have something else that they should probably tend to first.
"For now, we have to do what we can in the swamp of things to do. Try not to fire your cannon right away at the newcomer in case they aren't hostile."
The gem-encrusted Navi, who now stands impatiently tapping his foot ant twirling the head of his hammer in place, looks up to see Mistair coming to the desk area. A loud, sharp "PING" resounds as he taps the pomel of his hammer on the ground. He then holds up his papers and addresses Mistair.
Evening. I'm Vytrex, and I'm here with the Wipe Data Deletion company.
Vytrex then looks at his papers, searching for something.
Vytrex: And before you think that you're so cleaver, I've either heard or used every joke related to that imaginable.
Vytrex points to something on his paper with a "eureka" expression.
Vytrex: I'm here today to talk about Netopia's account. May I speak with a Mr. Hymn?
...wait. Hang on a sec.
...Vytrex pauses for a moment and looks back at his papers. He knew that this had to be some sort of a mistake. He flips a few pages while mumbling to himself before once again gaining that same "eureka" expression on his face.
Vytrex: Sorry, that page was a little old. I'm looking for a Mr. Mistair, would you happen to know if he's available?
Vanguard left Mistair to herself in the upper level of the battered HQ, moving briskly down the stairs and across the halls into the main entry hall to see who was ringing the bell on the counter.
He rounded the corner looking bedraggled and quite literally like he had just stepped from a warzone, but, he had at least taken Mistair's advice and reabsorbed his cannon into his darklight form. His left arm, hanging limp at his side, dangled back and forth with each step, pain searing up the limb with each step that disturbed it. He walked through the pain, stepped up to the counter, and listened to the jeweled Navi's request from the other side.
The Navi's Name, as well as the company he represented, were entirely unfamiliar to Vanguard. The company's name, at its very best, sounded like a joke, and, at its worst, might've been a ruse just to get access to their files. Considering the jeweled navi didn't appear to be necessarily violent, his hammer just placed nearby rather than at the ready, he decided to give the man the benefit of the doubt. He was tired of conflict for the day, and only hoped that this could be resolved without it.
"Mr. Mistair?" Vanguard repeated, a little confused. Chuckling underneath his breath, some hysterical idea after the events of the day, and it left him in a laughing fit, right in front of the deletion Navi. It was just such a strange thought to race through his mind, so out of place and so different from the stressing questions of the day, that he couldn't much help himself.
The usually stoic Navi quickly collected himself, and coughed, clearing up his throat. "Eheh . . . no. No Mr. Mistair is here, but, Ms. Mistair is . . . and she's busy. Why, what do you need of us?"
With a dead-pan expression, Vytrex' eyes slide up from the paper and to Vanguard, looking at him blankly for several seconds before he continues.
Vytrex: Oh great, now those idiot paper-pushers made me a sexist.
Vytrex mumbles to himself and fiddles with his papers a little more, letting out an annoyed sigh as he does so.
Vytrex: Mmmmkay, here's the deal. My firm has the data-deletion contract for Netopia, and we just got an unexpectedly large data-influx from the...
Vytrex grumbles and looks through his papers again*
Vytrex: ...Rammount sector. The data-volume exceeds the monthly allowance as outlined on your network contract. As such, we are going to have to either get a signature to bill Netopia 100,000z for an extra 1TB of deletion services this month or return all of the excess deleted data.
Vytrex once again looks up from his paper, the same dead-pan expression from before glancing towards Vanguard with dead-serious eyes.
Vytrex: And believe me, you don't want that. Not sure what all happened there, but we haven't seen this much crap since that Eon fella' took down Bayside. Now THAT was a mess.
After this, Vytrex once again taps the pomel of his hammer onto the ground, causing a stack of files roughly 6 feet tall to materialize between he and Vanguard. Then another. And another. And another. Before long roughly 15 stacks of files of cartoonish height stand between Vytrex and Vanguard, with the former Navi now peeking at Vanguard through the cracks between theme.
Vytrex: Also, these are the objects that the suits thought you guys might have deleted by mistake. We can salvage and restore any of these items within the next 48 hours if you so desire. Just sign the file connected to each piece that you want and e-mail them off to us. And speaking of signing...
BARELY squeezing through, Vytrex reaches his arm along the cracks and slides the initial file onto the NIA's counter.
Vytrex: If you could get MISS Mistair to sign this or let us know what she wants us to do, it'd be appreciated.
Vanguard raised an eyebrow. Deletion services? There was a maximum quota of deleted data in an area per month? And Rammount had an overtly large influx of deleted data, which meant . . . this could be beneficial.
Vanguard leaned forward across the desk, grabbing Vytrex's hand as he presented the files and forcibly dragging the deletion Navi forward, incinerating any files that he caused to topple in their direction in the process with his darklight flames. If the deletion Navi was worth anything of his own salt, he could just conjure more stacks of paper, anyways.
He stared at him, deadpanned, and motioned to the still-standing wall of papers. "Are you telling me you can restore the deleted files? Any attempts at restoring deleted data within Netopia have been fruitless for a few days now. Are you capable of rectifying that issue?"
First, Vytrex looks Vanguard square in the eyes and very deliberately peels his hand away one finger at a time. He then steps back and looks over the newly deleted files, shaking his head as he does so.
Vytrex: Yeesh, maybe you guys should consider getting 2 extra TB at this rate...
Vytrex then re-summons his main file and begins to look it over again.
Vytrex: To answer your question; yes and no. We handle all non-sentient data deletion and restoration. If you lose a building, we can restore that... at least in parts. If you lose an item, we can probably get it back for you. Of course this is all assuming you get to us before it's fully erased. Case-in-point...
Vytrex pulls a file out of thin air and puts it on the desk. He then takes his hammer and taps it to the file, causing it to instantly light up and disappear.
Vytrex: That file is now permanently-deleted. No force on the net can bring it back because it no longer exists. Meanwhile....
Vytrex then taps Vanguard's hand with the head of his hammer, causing his hand to... feel like it had just been tapped by a piece of metal.
Vytrex: ...you're a Navi with complex algorithms and neural activity. You are not only far to complex to be erased directly short of a massive amount of power, but you're also illegal to perma-delete outside of whoever owns you.
Vytrex turns back to his paper, glancing back to Vanguard as he does so.
Vytrex: And before you take offense at that statement, self-ownership is included in it. Anyway; the point is my firm is physically and legally incapable of handling Navi-deletion. Your best bet there is to make a trek to the Graveyard network in the under-net. Rumor has it even perma-deleted Navis exist in some capacity there.
Vanguard listened through the brief explanation, and only just allowed the Navi to tap his hand with the hammer. He waved his hand in dismissal of it all, though; this wasn't what he had in mind, at all.
"I could care less about individual Navis or the objects lost at Rammount. I'm thinking bigger - more than likely the result of our overexpenditure. Do you have data on the Cybeasts? At least one of them isn't legally owned by anyone, if memory serves . . ."
Vytrex raises an eyebrow at Vanguard, both at his request and his obvious lack of "humanity" at his statement. He wasn't without an answer, though..
Vytrex: The cyber-beasts and all non-Navi beings of similar power do fall under our jurisdiction, yes. However, we're literally incapable of permanently deleting them. The best that we can do is shut down their program and store them away until someone on the upper-side of the net tries to revive them, at which time it's out of our hands. The point is, though, that getting beings like the cyber-beasts is a huge deal that takes every bit of man-power that we have to subdue. In short; if those monsters were at Rammount or anywhere else on netopia, then they're still alive.
He tsked, leaning forward. He'd gotten the answer to a question he hadn't asked; why was this glorified custodian jumping around his questions so much? "That's not what I asked, and you know it.
"Do you have the Cybeasts, and, if you do, can you return them to Netopia as a part of our data recovery?" If the Cybeasts can't be permanently deleted, then, they had to be somewhere; if the little runt, Nightshade, wasn't lying, then, they were definitely defeated and somehow extricated from the Network. If they weren't deleted and in storage, as Vytrex explained, then he knew at least that they could start searching elsewhere. If they were deleted and not in Vytrex's storage, then, that opened up a whole new avenue of issues.
The dead-pan look returns as Vytrex stares at Vanguard, tapping the darklight warrior on the head with his hammer as he does so.
Vytrex: ...okay, let's go over the obvious. I'm a data-deletion specialist. I deal with deleted data. I just said that the cyber-beasts would fall under my jurisdiction. I also said that they are still alive. What is the obvious conclusion that we can both come to here? And I'm not saying it in any concrete terms until you do, so don't try and strong-arm me.
Vytrex really didn't care that Vanguard could literally kill him with little more than a thought. Worst-case that'd bring disability pay until they can get this entire fiasco sorted out. No, at this point he just wanted to make sure that Vanguard could peace together 1, 2, and 3 to make 6.
Vanguard keeps a steady stare into Vytrex's eyes, having already considered the obvious answer, but wanting to press just in case. He slackens his grip on Vytrex's arm, releasing the Navi from his death hold. He hadn't realized just how much force he had been putting into his grip on the Navi; he almost felt a little bad for his show of anger. The day must've gotten to him more than he thought; he could usually keep himself better collected than this.
For once, with the weight of the rest of the day gone, the weight of his own injuries thus far seemed all the more extreme. His limp arm throbbed at his side, scars across his chest ached, and his whole body was sore from the extensive and constant activity. He wasn't programmed to feel physical fatigue, and, yet, as he could finally relax, he couldn't describe the pain or weight that fell upon him in any other way.
"Point taken. Back to the original matter, then . . . 100,000z, you say?
There was no way he could afford to pay that much zenny out up front; Siega Corp wasn't that affluent, and it would also put them out in the public. His private company supporting Netopian Government affairs wouldn't remain very private for long. The NIA wasn't in much better shape, either; he doubted they could afford the expenditure of resources, given what damages they had suffered thus far. "Can't you consider the fact that we're in a national crisis? Catastrophe happens, and, like you said, sometimes we can't help it. Rammount was attacked, ransacked even; the deletions there weren't of our own volition."
The deletion Navi sighs and once again taps the pomel of his hammer on the ground, generating a sharp "PING" sound.
Vytrex: So let's look at the situation for a sec. We had a small catastrophe and there was excess deletion as a result. Happens all the time. Now let's say that I do give you guys some slack today. First thing that happens is I lose my job
Vytrex then leans in towards Vanguard, his face dead serious and abnormally frightening for a V1.
Vytrex: ...and buddy, I do not feel like losing my job.
Vytrex then leans back out, returning to his normal dead-pan expression.
Vytrex: The second thing that'd happen is that we'd have to lay off about 10% of our workers. That may not sound like a lot, but each of us are extremely specialized. Take a few of us down and it could double the turn-around time for deletion. Meaning you'll start finding bugged data literally everywhere.
Vytrex once again taps the pomel of his hammer onto the ground, causing a bugfrag to appear on the desk... where it slowly begins eating its way downwards.
Vytrex: Seriously; why do you top-side Navis love these things so much? It's literally like a human collecting disease-ridden rotting flesh.
Vytrex taps the bugfrag with his hammer and deletes it before it can continue to corrupt the network.
Vytrex: And that's not even the worst part. There are two examples of top-side networks trying to deal with deleted data themselves that come to mind. The first is in Sharo, where they tried to pretty up their garbage heap by making it look like a mountain-range.
Vytrex's eyes go absolutely blank as he looks at Vanguard now, an almost sick expression on his face as he continues.
Vytrex: Yes, all of those beautiful mountains are actually garbage-heaps.
Vytrex then returns to his normal expression as he continues.
Vytrex: The problem with doing that is... well...
Vytrex taps his hammer on the ground again, causing a small sculpture of Gospel to appear.
Vytrex: Eventually, they're going to end up making another one of these.
The sculpture disappears as Vytrex finishes his sentence.
Vytrex: The other you're probably familiar with; the good 'ole "bug lake". It's actually a cesspool of fermented, congealed deleted data. And the best part is that it didn't have to be like that; oh no. It started out as just a gash in the network, but someone in the Netopian ONB refused to pay for proper clean-up service. The result is that he got fired and Netopia got its very own unfixable multi-bug-organism toilet.
Vytrex leans in one last time, his dead-pan eyes seeming to look through Vanguard as he does so.
Vytrex: Funny thing is you're really starting to remind me of him.
The tell-tale chime of a message hitting Vanguard's inbox, audible only to the recipient of the mail. And Mistair's, by the looks of it - judging from the header, this message was sent on a broad channel to all remaining NIA personnel still on-site at the HQ...
Simple E-Mail Interface v0.06a
To: NIA Administration (Wide-Band Broadcast) Subject: Evacuation Successful
Shelter point reached and secured, all personnel arrived and accounted for. Minor non-lethal casualties sustained. Confirmed presence of Cybeast influence in the network, in the form of Zoanoroid (Beast-altered) Virus outbreak. Awaiting further instructions - recommend sending a team to extract remaining personnel from HQ to safe zone.
Vanguard sighed. He ran a business; he knew the answer to the question as he asked it. Of course they couldn't just give them a little slack; of course, the explanation of the other issues like this that the Navi had run into was unnecessary, but, he obviously had a point to make. For their dilemma, he could be mildly concern; for the rest of the story, he didn't much care. Business was business.
"I get the point; you can stop with the extrapolation of the entire history of Un-Deleted data. Here's mine: We cannot pay the listed amount right now. Can we set up a time to pay these fees later? I have agents in the field that I need to get to, and a wounded personelle to escort across a desolated Network. You're taking up valuable time, Mr. Vytrex, and, right now, time is another Navi's life on the line."
He'd quickly read and set aside Thrash's message, respecting the little amorphous figure's efficiency and diligence if nothing else. Despite her relationship with the cat, she was an asset to their mission, and assets that produced results were hard to come by. Still, they'd have to handle her carefully, just in case she became hostile after their decision against her so-called protege.