[Only Navis with explicit permission may enter this space, as well as any Navi that possesses special in-story access]
At first, this strange Network appeared only as streams of strange, broken code that wrapped endlessly upon itself, like the usual data lines seen between Networks that connected them, but arranged in a nonsensical way and constantly terminating themselves. As quickly as these broken bits of code appeared to deteriorate, however, some strange force deeper within surged and rewrote it in an instant, recreating these streams that would give the only Navi ever welcome to this place something to ride upon as he waded through the mixture of colors.
The farther along the stream of broken code its passenger followed, the thicker the strange substance became. The pressure in the air became more apparent, threatening to crush those without resiliency to it, and, yet, he would feel fine. The more dense the bugged code began, the less it appeared like a traditional bug frag and the more it shifted into this strange, black Netscape that was outlined in white. The Netscape was not arranged in a typical way, the blocky structure connecting to other pathways at corners rather than direct intersections. Large holes and gaps were etched into the road they walked upon, and huge spaces expanded between one platform to the next, the platforms impossible to get to without following the set maze of the Network. The very road that the individual now walked upon, as though beckoned forward, seemed to suffuse itself with static at random intervals, break itself away and reaffix itself in an odd way, as though the very Network was still deciding exactly what shape it wanted to take.
The space had these weird, black, blocky shape, like a set of layered cubes from a child's game of stacking blocks floating around inside of it. Reminiscent of Bugfrags, they appeared like some sort of solid, condensed shape of whatever substance they were walking upon, the very same phenomena occurring that covered it in static before it rearranged itself entirely.
It was in this space that the visitors would finally feel the strange hand guiding them cease, as, far into the distance, they saw an impossibly large structure, appearing as a near planet-sized sphere of dense, deep red, overlayed at intervals with swirling pieces of the large black blocks floating around them. Seeming leagues beyond where they stopped feeling the pull, it was like this was their last chance to turn away from the sheer pressure this thing exerted, the guests able to feel its tug and power from here, as data from across the Network seemed to reach this point only to inevitably speed up to dart towards its core.
The crimson waves emanating off of the satellite were not at all unlike the corona of a raging sun, the massive sphere appearing in many ways like a red giant from space. If this were true, then it was most dense at its center, and the whisps of energy it released would be devastating if the storms decided to pick up - assuming it released some sort of "bug" storm in the same way suns released solar storms. As those present would notice, however, not all of the data streaming throughout the Network was the unique black and blocky, nor was it all the deep red at the edge - at the fringes of the Netscape, certain strands of Crimson seemed to overlap with this material that looked nearly identical, but was miscolored a deep black with platinum highlights, like some other encroaching presence continuously trading back power with the crimson satellite in the distance.
The sense of some predatory force hung in the air, as though someone not careful may run into something quite unpleasant, always flitting just out of sight and seeking after vulnerability where it could be found.
This was the Red Shooting Star's Server, vast and expansive, and the pressure exerted and the massive streams of data flooding into it seemed to grow more powerful and faster the closer to that core one traveled. It was a dangerous path, and even those granted access could feel the weight of the Crimson Satellite, its malevolence more than powerful enough to rip them apart -
- but its control over itself more than sufficient to allow them access. The whole Network held a strange intelligence to it, as though the whole of the space were alive with activity and thought, each moving block and every shifting space, alongside all of the moving data that seemed to be collected faster with each passing second, having a purpose and reason behind it, even if indiscernible.
....this... was incredible; the inside of Joker's meteor. Was this a server? What kind of OS was it running? Unity steps inside of the meteor and looks around in amazement. In a manner similar to a child, he reaches out and touches the bits of crimson floating around, causing his gray barrier to flash yellow for a brief moment while adapting. It's all so new and spectacular. Unity starts to absent-mindedly step forward, but the small OS then remembers who he he was here to see. This is when he composes himself, regains focus, and sits quietly in order to wait to be invited deeper into Joker's world or leave if he had to.
It didn't take long as Unity arrived for the intense storms to kick up, a massive outburst of raw energy that carried with it a biting wind. The gale of crimson washed over the net space as the bits of crimson, strange fragments of clustered data and the scape as a whole tearing apart and rebuilding itself in response to the massive meteor's energy.
Through this storm, a figure appeared, the daunting silhouette of the giant appearing first. The storm calmed and Unity found himself once again before the Crimson Titan.
Looking at Unity, Joker thought about his actions from that day, how he had pointedly smashed Unity directly out of his connection, tearing him from the connection. He looked at Unity's leg, where he had formed the block of crimson, noting that it didn't stick. In some ways, seeing the small OS before him was sobering. It had seemed like a long time since those moments atop the New Life building, and Joker had been through a lot since that time.
The thoughts brought a small smile to his face, the titan leaning down to face Unity on his knee.
"Unity," Joker said, rather plainly, his deep voice holding a hint of uncertainty. "I see you found the little back-door I left for you. I hadn't expected it to become relevant so quickly, but, then again, a lot has happened since we last saw one another that I did not expect.
"You surely have questions. I will relent to allow you to speak your mind."
Joker was as imposing a figure as ever. His stature and baring gave him the presence of a legend more than a man, as if a rising emperor that the masses would eventually build statues of, be it in honor or because compelled. His fight with Eon's program also left him with an obvious increase in pride and determination, one that even a being such as Unity, innocent though he may be, to easily take notice of at a glance.
Unity steps forward and into the shadow of the Dread Joker. His face looks on with a strong fortitude as he takes a firm stance before this monolithic figure before his eyes slowly rise. He stands staring at Joker for a few moments in silence, holding as strong a presence as he could while barely surpassing Joker's kneecaps, before finally lowering his head slowly and dropping to something of a half-bow.
Unity: I never intended to encroach on what is yours, sir. My entire function is only to help wherever I can, and I did not know that I was over-stepping. Please forgive me, I meant no disrespect or trespass.
Unity tried to keep himself strong, as he knew that Joker would be more likely to respect him if he did so, but it was obvious that he was still a bit broken from their previous meeting and just wanted to make things right if he could...
He narrowed his eyes at Unity, wondering what could possibly be going through the little OS' mind that its first questions were to ask for forgiveness. No demanding that he explain his actions? No questioning why he left, suddenly attacked the ONB's forces, only to suddenly reappear before the Navi he literally smashed into the ground? "What frailty of character were you designed with to have the urge to seek forgiveness of a fault before you seek out justification for those that wronged you?" Joker asked, mulling his eyes over the strength that Unity was trying to amass.
"You want my respect? My forgiveness? Grow a spine and tell me what you're really holding in."
....Unity stood up straight, his head still bowed like a branch after a heavy rain. These were questions that Joker wanted answers to, yet questions that Unity had not yet even posed to himself. He knew little of what was expected of him, and didn't know how to act when called into question.
....but now he had an example.
Unity's head rises and snaps to attention, looking Joker squarely in the eyes as he clenches his spiked fists.
His silver eyes flash yellow and his face becomes set as he puts on his strongest face. His voice faltered slightly, but he mustered everything that he could as he faces down the giant that stands at nearly five times his height. He steps forward and looks nearly straight up to look squarely into Joker's eyes.
Unity: Never.. call my character into question. I'm strong enough to carry my pride when I've done something wrong. If you see it differently, then that's on you.
....oh dear, that came out a bit stronger than intended. Still, Unity holds his fists clenched and keeps his "war face" painted on, doing his best to not divert his eyes from Joker while he continues.
Unity: Now why did you leave me a way to come here?
This was about as curt as Unity could be, but he held himself to it, looking as brave as possible as he looks up past Joker's kneecaps....
He saw the doubt and concern as the OS struggled to find his voice, noticing his head bowed as though he were a child being scolded, too scared to meet his parent's eye.
Then, he suddenly found himself, looking Joker in the eye, but still stuttered over his words. Joker waited, patiently, as his eyes glowed as he suddenly found himself, glowing with new confidence. He spoke curtly, even stepping up to Joker, and was able to get through his speech to defend himself while also maintaining his new stoic facade.
Joker hoisted himself up to his full height before Unity, rising up and daunting over him as though a warning against his pride. But, the stone-face he normally glared at the world through was graced by a slight curve of his lip on the left side . . .
Was he smiling?
"I left you a backdoor to provide an opportunity. An intelligent man, I tend to become shortsighted in the throes of battle; I get blinded by the data and the adrenaline and tend to lose sight of other details," he trailed off, just then, looking off into the distance at the coiling energies of platinum and black against his of crimson and gold, remembering the words of the Eternal Endgame even now. He turned back to Unity, looking uncharacteristically despondent.
"I was given a choice to join the opposition or risk the destruction of everything I cared about, Unity. To be reduced to nothing as all of this was destroyed," he explained, holding out his hands and turning to reference the Satellite Server. He kneeled back down before Unity. "I remember you telling me that you wanted to make an impact - to change lives. We were to become a team for the ONB before all of this occurred.
"I will not lie to you and tell you that I came to the ONB without ulterior motives. I will also not lie to you and tell you that the composed, level headed and polite individual before you is all that I am. We may not always see eye to eye. If you would consider this attempt at an apology, however, I would appreciate someone on my side that does not intend to treat me like an expendable resource."
...an expendable resource. Unity cringes ever so slightly at this statement. Though he'd known him for such a short time, the small OS saw that there was good in Joker. But maybe the word "good" isn't quite right; perhaps the right word was something human in the Crimson Titan. Despite his power, despite his nature, he was reaching out for someone to look past it all and just be a comrade... a friend. But Unity already knew how to answer. Looking around at the crimson that Joker commands with such authority and power and combining it with the memory of the ONB and his recent words, Unity was able to piece together the entire picture. Joker truly was not a "good" Navi, but did that also mean that he was "bad"?
Unity takes a deep breath and looks up, keeping a stern look on his face as he speaks to Joker and trying to speak with command as he looks the crimson titan directly in the eye.
Unity: Dread Joker, when I first met you I will admit; I was so impressed with what I saw. But it wasn't your "power" that I admired, it was how strong you seemed in yourself. You looked like an anchor in the ocean, not budging while the world moves. But I saw something else too; you're not anchored in the same place that I am. Maybe it's just because I'm naive and don't know how the world works yet, but I think that I'm coming from a different direction than you are. Because of this, I don't think that I'll always be able to agree with whatever you choose to do.
Unity's face grows a bit stronger, as though being able to bask in the respect of this giant was giving him new confidence as he speaks.
Unity: I won't always be able to support what you decide to do, but I can promise to support you if you can offer the same and accept my friendship.
Unity smiles and reaches a hand towards Joker, still slightly rigid in the face of uncertainty.
Unity: If so, then I can't accept your apology, as I truly don't feel that you've wronged me in a way that I'm owed it.
Joker waits for a long moment as he watches Unity, and then listens in silence as he responds, watching Unity's careful pauses to recollect himself with a keen interest. The adversity he seemed to face while standing before Joker was overshadowed by his own sense of strength, a power to rise above even when pressured.
In many ways, it was a strength that, while not akin to Joker's, was just as formidable. The strength to see where you waver, to stare into the depths of your fears, and push past them, all the same, to do what he believed must be done. It was a quality he could respect. They were indeed anchors of different kinds, in different depths, raged against by different storms - but anchors that were rooted together would weather the storm better.
Joker's own stoic figure did not falter as he reached forward with his hand, dwarfing Unity's. "I can promise to do the same. If you would join me in once again allowing me to run on your OS, there is an additional step to my plans that I was working on before you arrived."
It was clear that the Crimson Titan was still hiding many things from Unity, and it was equally clear that Unity was prepared to deal with his own beliefs towards Joker's actions as they came. He wasn't sure how Unity would feel about what was to come next, but, there was something he desired to seek after. A power that could potentially cement him above the forces that controlled him for his one and only weakness.
Joker would notice Unity taken aback slightly as he's asked for aid so soon after making peace, instinctively pulling back on his hand slightly. He looks Joker over for a moment, but then relaxes again.
Unity: Alright, I'll help as best I can.
The "Navi" form of Unity fades away into the gray field, which expands to engulf Joker, shrouding him away as if in a deep, thick smoke bank. A moment later, the field contracts to the proper size and Joker re-emerges, armored in gold and blue as he had been at the ONB when they'd first met.
He saw the hesitation in Unity's response, and wasn't sure if he had overstepped. True to his view on no-nonsense, he had simply moved forward with his plans as this seemed to be a closed problem.
Unity still agreed to the bond, and Joker felt the familiar surge of power as he connected to the Unity OS. He looked over his new colors and his spikes, remembering his most recent change in design also forced by the Eternal Endgame. He pushed these thoughts aside, however, and surged within his being the power that he absorbed from the Eternal Endgame, forcing the netspace around him to surge with energy. The space of the network realigned itself as the massive swells of energy began moving rapidly once again, the previous crimson storms paling in comparison to the massive uptake in energy. In all of this, the Network moved around and reestablished itself in random places, energy swelled and waned, and the crimson and black skies overhead surged as though days were passing by in moments.
He had been doing this to master his own control of Eon's energy, made a little bit more potent by the fact that he already had near complete control over this Network as it were. Surging this power up, he searched through his systems, tapping into Unity's reserves, reaching out to try and summon the consciousness of the Eternal Endgame back to him.
The energy spikes you're feeling are new - and the power you feel is not entirely mine. I am searching out for something very hostile, and it may not enjoy me gashing up old wounds.
....not only asking for help right off the bat, but also bringing Unity into danger? This was already a bit of a strain on this new "friendship", but the little OS holds back his slight frustration and decides to continue supporting Joker. After all; there had to be a good reason for this ....right?
Either way, Unity focuses himself into Joker's power, attempting to concentrate and enrich the Crimson Titan's own capabilities in order to provide additional focus to the task at hand. This continues amid the storm of rising crimson and through the piercing gray aura that engulfs Joker as more and more power is focused into the crest. Until, at last, a breaking point is reached
The whole of reality that Joker and Unity lay eyes on and feel around them shatters like glass, disappearing from sight as if the final vision of a dying man. In its wake, the same destroyed city-skyline of Element City breaks, with a silvery black sky hanging below a moonless expanse. It's here that Joker's goal stands in the distance, looking into a number of shattered realities similar to the ones that he'd generated during the fight not long ago.
Unity was nervous to say the least. He recognized the form of the Navi before them from his files, but didn't exactly know how to react.
Unity: For the record; this is the kind of thing that you really need to go into more detail with a friend about before dropping him into it!
Eon, meanwhile, finally turns an eye, flashing in every color like before, back to Joker with a neutral yet firm glance before returning his gaze to whatever it is that he's working on.
He could not help but let out a laugh at the concern he felt gripping Unity, power surging through him harmonizing with his systems well. "This was not something I had intended to drag you into, Unity - you simply interrupted me in the process of doing this just before."
That would better explain why the Network appeared to be rapidly changing beforehand. He still took notes on the fact that this was something to warn Unity about more clearly in the future; but, in his defense, he was more forthcoming than he had to be on the matter. Unity was strictly under his protection, and he was confident that, so long as he was present, Aeon would not be able to hurt him.
He watched as the reality around them once again fragmented and fell apart like glass, getting used to the aesthetic that came with Aeon's force. Looking around the shattered skies, with fragments of their reality still hanging in the air, Joker reminisced for a moment over their battlefield. The fact that Aeon had answered his call at all was at least promising; he was expecting little more than a disgruntled growl and a refusal to hold an audience with him, or at least another show of aggressive force.
Perhaps the reality monger could sense his intentions. Joker moved forward, the grey energy coiling over his body seeming to confront the crimson energy he radiated. His face, steely and composed as over, was maintained in order to try and hide the melancholy he felt, hearing the titan's words repeated within his mind time after time again: That he had set something into motion that would inevitably destroy him.
He paused on his promenade just short of the vantage point held by Aeon, watching him look into the separate realities as though approaching an old friend, rather than approaching a very recent enemy. His demeanor from their encounter earlier was markedly different, Joker seeming far more the composed and level-headed statistician than the rampaging 'ogre' Aeon called him. As he had done so many times before, he looked back at the hedonistic zeal that caused him to lose his foresight and wondered that he even made it out of his fight with this being alive.
Trying not to focus on these thoughts lest Eon since his weakness, he simply curtly nodded and made a humble promise, and then a request. "No one is going to be harmed or attacked here," he said quite simply, a promise to Unity and a request to Aeon. "If you would welcome us, we would like to join you for conversation, Aeon."
Eon scoffs and glances back again, holding onto his previous demeanor of authority and supposed power. This was an attitude not only borne of the program that this piece of the triumvirate of the Eternal Endgame represents, but from a genuine record of being one of the most insurmountable powers that the net had ever known at the time of his grand revelation, and definitely one of the strongest to exist now... if ever he could be returned to power. Regardless of their last meeting, Eon knows who he is, and knows where he stands here.
Aeon: Perhaps you would, but I don't share in your desire for meaningless chatter. And kindly remove that thing from my presence. It's bad enough that I have to listen to you without having to entertain something so repugnant.
Unity knew that Eon was speaking about him, but Joker would know that he didn't take it to heart, instead conversing directly with the Crimson Titan in a way that Eon wouldn't hear.
Unity: If it would help your cause, I'll stand back whenever you need me to.
Joker watched the authority and power from the titan, and knew that Eon's opinion of him hadn't changed even slightly in light of his most recent defeat at his hands. He responded to him simply by stepping up to stand next to him, looking through the different realities that Eon seemed to be studying.
The being he stood next to was powerful indeed, but, Joker had stell laid him low. Without the power to delete him, Joker was left with this fractured wraith within his code, always waiting to prey on his weakness, always slinking just within his mind. It had only been a few hours since his triumph, and still he could hear his mumblings if he focused hard enough, see that which was not before his eyes. Even the platinum and black coils wrapping through his satellite server was a reminder of what now lived within him.
They hadn't met on the best of terms. In Joker's defense, the reality monger switched directly to trying to order him around and take his will from him, a slight Joker would forgive from no one. The niceties he received now was out of a realization that, in some ways, Joker did still find a kindred spirit in him. He could not explain why, but, he felt heartened by Eon's story, so very similar to his.
He would also be lying if he said he was not at all interested in the power and opportunity Eon presented.
"Very well," he said after standing there in silence, considering the scene, as he dismissed Unity from him. It was as simple as finding himself within the Unity OS and removing himself from it, and pointedly moving Unity away. In many ways, this was both a bargaining piece and a way to keep Unity safe should the being relent.
Not that it would change much. They both knew how that would turn out. Wasted efforts, a lot of insults, and Joker ultimately being unable to claim a true victory, but still winning nonetheless. It was a daunting and terrible cycle he was locked within, should the titan ever wish to push again.
"I'm also not one for idle chatter," Joker said after a subtle silence hung in the air between them. "You begun our conversation telling me to go look for something - something I now understand to be more pieces of you. If you would entertain the thought, I wish to be informed of the other's location so that I might retrieve it, as well."
He decided to purposefully lay his plan out without explaining his reasoning, assuming Aeon would simply guess the worst of his intentions no matter what he may say.