Planets, stars, galaxies, nebula. Even the greatest and most majestic of all things can seem small in the correct context.
This network lies in a realm far above any other that earth has access to; it is the network of a satellite that does not exist according to any official records. This network is massively difficult to reach for any Navi, unless the way is opened for them. And for good reason as well; the Galaxy Network houses the only known link to the Meteor Computer controlled by what is, perhaps, the most powerful being in existence: the world-destroyer known as Duo.
The network itself is a spectacular sight: nearly invisible pathways highlight the majesty of the cosmos in all of their glory. Earth itself is little more than a blue speck in the vastness of infinity, with an endless sea of light set to a backdrop of nothing making it seem insignificant at best. The glass-like roads all wind about space, creating amazing vantage points that overlook some of the most beautiful sights that the universe has to offer, and eventually lead back to one spot; a large, multi-leveled planet-like structure floating in the vastness of infinity. This structure, nearly indestructible to all but the greatest of beings, serves as the connection to Duo's meteor, and has been the scene of countless world-changing battles in the past. At its tip, a single pylon rises from the surface of the sphere, granting Duo the ability to constantly monitor the earth, as well as the ability to speak with those whom he deems worthy.
Special Requirements: The Galaxy Network is an area that only those of V20 are allowed to enter without special permission.
This network cannot be entered unless entrance is granted in-story via a special event[
One step forward, and one infinity melted away, traded for another one. Looking about the space, Joker felt awestruck by the vastness of it, but knew that his time was limited. He collected himself and looked around the expanse, seeing all that the fabled Galaxy Network had to offer.
It put what he was up to into perspective, then, that this power was housed here. Looking around, unsure if Aeon was still with him, he checked for his presence. Just in case, he also closed his eyes, accessing the information that told him where the power was, having analyzed and memorized the information when Aeon first showed it to him back in Element City.
It was truly a beauty, the space up here - the infinity present here was something he felt more and more able to appreciated with each passing moment, but knew that he, as he already guessed, would need to move fast. His movements would not go unnoticed, to say the least.
....it wouldn't take Joker long to realize that not all is as expected within the Galaxy Network. The fabled end of earth's reach is covered entirely by a strange, yellow field of some form, a field that fades in and out of sight slowly and feels as though it's watching the Dread Joker, studying him intently. It does no harm, and offers no hinderance, but it remains omni-present throughout the network.
The network itself has also changed from the tales that the great Navis of old spoke of; while still pristine and beautiful in most parts, the larger structures of the network are now covered in metallic plate-armor, and being used to relay streams of data out into the vastness of space. The Galaxy Network is being used for something.... but what?
After a few moments, Aeon materializes a few yards from Joker. He looks on to the great structures of metal that armor the cherished and hallowed lands with unwavering gaze, looking to all that had happened since the great battle with Eon himself all those years ago.
Perhaps a more seasoned Navi would recognize what was amiss, but Joker, albeit unbeknownst to him, was not truly a Navi, and nor was he seasoned. In truth, his actions at the ONB were not that far removed from his own creation; the youngest of his five siblings, Joker learned more of the world around him as he garnered power to find his place within it. The fact that these details were out of place, or different from the norm, fell to unaware eyes.
The implications of what he saw did not, however. Towering bulwarks of metal covered what otherwise looked like purposeful structures, as if they were added as an afterthought. An omnipresent yellow field flickered overhead, blotting out clear view of the nebulae beyond, and seemed to Joker almost as if it were intelligent. Streams of data flowed from the armored plates into space beyond, as if relaying information to something far out of sight, but definitely not out of the concern of Earth if it were connected to its final reach.
He considered the threat that now came to them, the power of Sirius, the self-proclaimed emperor of the stars . . . was he a hint as to the greater purpose of all of this? Was this a confirmation of the possibility that the conflict they were engaged in went so much farther than the confines of the Earth itself, and yet was being decided on this very blue speck in comparison to the great beyond? Even his data analytics felt subpar to properly take it all in, but there was one thing to be certain of . . . to unravel this mystery, this would be a necessary step for them, as well.
The Crimson Dread turned his head towards Aeon as he materialized, looking over the space around them with some sort of recognition. It served to reason that if his power was stored here, then some great event pertaining to his history had occurred here, as well. Joker was able to access some of the information regarding his defeat while battling him, but much of that information was a privilege to him from the Crimson Satellite. "You gaze upon it as though you know it well. Has it been changed since your time? There are concernign details . . .
". . . of course, there is also the concern of where your core may be stored. Can you guide me, even from here? I have the coordinates, but navigating this place seems treacherous."
Aeon looks around carefully, taking stock of the network and its many features. His eyes are drawn to the metal structures, and his attention rests on the yellow field. In this, he ignores Joker's questions and makes his own statement.
Aeon: Gate is here, and this field means that he probably knows that you are too. Why he hasn't send out any of his forces yet; he must be waiting to see what you're going to do.
Aeon's eyes shift to Joker, looking through him with the same piercing, superior gaze that he'd been giving since their first meeting.
Aeon: So now comes your first cross-roads; your every move is being tracked, what do you do?
Aeon motions to a platform far beyond their current position; what looks to be a planet connected to one of the paths ahead, yet half of it is completely destroyed, leaving a large, open plane sitting amid the expanse of the void.
Aeon: Your goal is there, but...
Aeon then motions to the metallic monoliths that cover most of the other structures in the area.
Aeon: ...you're within range of an enemy, leaving yourself open. Do you take these weapons out first, or...
Aeon then motions to the farthest reaches of the network, where a single stream of data rises to the heavens above... and to a very familiar meteor, barely a star in the sky.
Aeon: ...or do you appeal to a being beyond yourself? Or perhaps you have your own idea for attempting this gambit beyond these options?
Aeon turns back towards the center of the network and retains his mildly angered expression, awaiting Joker's choice.
Joker watched as Aeon looked about the space, and then listened to his explanation of the structures and the energy field.
An individual by the name of Gate was aware of his presence, then. Already in the proverbial lion's den, there was left for him the options to be returned from it either mauled or unharmed. He was not yet engaging him with any defenses, but the option to do so existed.
He was being tracked. Not being a reconnaissance navi, he had nothing that he could do of that effect, and given the Galaxy Network's history of being the location of Aeon's power, he surmised that there was little he could do with his power over reality to hide his presence here. There was nothing he could do to hide from his adversary, which meant that any of his options would be held to scrutiny.
His gaze followed where Aeon guided him, and saw the foreboding silhouette of the planet, partially obliterated, as its core leaked into the abyss. Then, he followed those same guides to the towering plates of armor, the energy emitting from them evidently some sort of weaponry. He looked, then, as Aeon referenced the OS of the meteor that hung overhead . . .
His gaze hardened, Joker answered Aeon by taking a step forward, walking towards the platform that Aeon declared held his core. As he strode forward, his taller frame allowing for longer strides, Joker explained himself - pointedly, as if speaking to more than just Aeon.
"The enemy is already aware that I am here. If he wishes to send his forces, or fire his weapons, he will do so regardless of my actions against them. If he does not, acting against his defensive measures is a blatant call to arms. To attack them incites unnecessary conflict on the assumption of potential prevention.
"To appeal a being beyond me for aid incites additional conflict, as well as potential attention. The adversaries we face seek after beings of his power, and if he is here then it is because they have yet had reason to cull him. I will not appeal to a being when they have just as much to lose. To request that he assist me, in any way, also proves frailty and weakness before the adversary. I needed you to guide me to this location, but this path is still my own, and I will walk it how I deem to.". He paused, and focused his attention on the energy field just beyond his vision, as if speaking directly to it . . . directly to the one on the other side.
"On the note of attracting attention . . . the hornet's nest is not yet riled, and there is no need to do so. If our adversaries are here and interested in the same goal, then my removal of the power source removes greater cause for assailing the Galaxy Network, and also removes a reason for chasing after Gate, as you call him.
"The choice, then, is not a matter of how I will attain the power - but how Gate will choose to handle the scenario. There is no need for his defenses to be destroyed, no cause for his forces to be met with fury, and ample reason to allow the power to leave this network in the hands of another. If he pushes forward to defend his goal and undershoots the effort, his hand will be played and he will be left vulnerable. I will not presume to be unstoppable, but my power will annihilate many before he could put me down.
"If he over compensates to ensure my destruction, more of his cards are revealed and he is once again left not only vulnerable but exposed, with the added danger of revealing what it is he is trying to defend to our adversaries. I would dare to guess that he needs someone to collect this energy, and that is why he cannot be here in person, but only in observation . . .
". . . so, the decision forward is not mine. It is his. I progress all the same."
Aeon scoffs at Joker's words, but continues along the way beside the crimson titan. His ever-present annoyance rises, but his assistance continues; for better or for worse.
Aeon: You overestimate your own power, ogre. Gate was the one who made my complete forme, which quite easily dwarfs what you fought at our meeting. And that was well over a century ago from this time. As of now, he has powers at his disposal that could potentially destroy the forces that you're amassing power to hopefully fight.
With an annoyed grunt, the time-space nightmare averts his gaze, looking back towards the goal ahead.
Aeon: But let's see how your plan plays out.
While Joker and Aeon cautiously walk the crystal paths towards the goal, Joker would continue to see the yellow field hanging in the air, but soon he would feel the presence of something watching him very carefully, observing his moves as if to see where he's going. This nagging feeling continues until at last Joker comes to the final cross-road and approaches the point where the battles with Eon and Revelation Forte occurred all those years ago. Taking that final step, it's as if the presence looks away, leaving Joker to his own devices.
The battlefield is surreal... a gigantic sphere of rock and metal cut perfectly in half. The center is roughly 500 yards from the border, and the multi-composition ground shows the wear of battle. Craters and scorch marks rise out from the center, radiating out as if an absolute monster took up center stage and unleashed its power in all directions. Yet... nothing is here. The battlefield is obviously barren, holding nothing of value for Joker to take for himself. And still, Aeon looks on in silence.
The "ogre" moved forward as Aeon talked to him, listened to Aeon's response to his talk of reason and choice. He paid particular attention to Aeon's choice of words, noting "potentially."
Joker had only one retort for Aeon, however, turning his gaze sideways towards the spectre, and kept ahead. "I do not overestimate my power. As memory serves, it was you, however, that did underestimate it, monger. Perhaps Gate wishes to avoid the same error."
The crystal paths easily granted them access to their goal, the constant yellow field seeming to him as a giant eye in the sky. His way forward was not obstructed, despite Aeon's warnings, and Joker found himself marching towards that center without opposition.
The remnants of the battleground were indicative of the might of the individuals that once waged war here, one holding Eon's complete power and the other that of Revelation Forte, with all of that power and more as his own. Seeing nothing of note, Joker looked around, trying to scan the area for something more than the naked eye could see.
"There appears to be nothing here. Is the power something one must absorb from the space? Is it the apparent battlefield, itself?"
Again, Aeon's eyes narrow in obvious aggravation at Joker's assertions. True or not, the Crimson Titan still didn't seem to understand just how much danger he's in even now. Regardless of how that may play out, for now he holds enough of an advantage to not continue pressing the matter and just press on. However, the time-space nightmare's annoyance becomes even more apparent with an eye roll at Joker's question about the situation.
Aeon: Once again, you limit yourself with three-dimensional thinking. The core is here, but it's been spirited away by other beings that are able to hide in plain view. If you could see past your own perceived superiority, you'd be able to use that...
Aeon motions to the Seal of the Generational that Joker had managed to claim in his previous meeting with Aeon
Aeon: ...to see your way. But since you can't, your only option is blind trust in my words.
Aeon looks back to the center of the area and scans the horizon of the battlefield. He turns slowly, searching with his eyes for something, until at last his eyes stop on a single, rather unimpressive crater not far from where they stand now. He reaches out and points to the crater, motioning to Joker as he does so.
Aeon: There; that crater. In order to pass through the 4th dimensional wall that hides your goal, you will need to enter that crater, look to the meteor above, and spin in place clockwise three times. But I warn you; where you go from here, I cannot follow.
Joker exasperatedly drew breath, turning towards Aeon's spectre. The nightmare's opinion of him was always incredibly evident, but Joker finally noticed what was bothering him more and more about the nightmare in comparison to his recent compatriots.
It was something he had mentioned beforehand, but hadn't spent too much time thinking on it. The reality monger's demeanor was strikingly similar to his own, even so far as to degrade any being that doesn't align with his own projected image of himself and the world at large. It was a constant conversation that Joker ignored from his own instincts to eradicate lesser life before him, a sense only interred into him with how often attempting to eradicate lower lifeforms backfired on him, and not only backfired but not met with fury. His previous ally's allowance of his mistakes and even his uncertainty of mind made his interaction with the nightmare even more volatile than it was before - because now Joker could see what made him a danger, reflected and made ever worse in Aeon. This was what he was designed to be - a monstrosity that would destroy it all, if only someone would make the order, and the order was put into his very code.
He pivoted on Aeon, power coiling around his body, and stomped his foot down to make his point made to Aeon, the energy roiling out from his point of being. "My self-perceived superiority is a reflection of yours, nightmare. My limitations are just as you described; if not taught how to, a child cannot be presumed to learn to walk on their own. I did not know it was necessary nor even possible to surpass these boundaries, and you look down on me for knowledge I had no access to.
"When I return from this place, you can teach me how to use that awareness, that this issue will not arise again." Still visibly furious, Joker moves and clears the distance in a few strides, and follows Aeon's instructions to the letter.
While Joker makes his way towards the point, Aeon practically snarls in retaliation to his assertions.
Aeon: I have no need for frivolity such as your goals, and no desire to further your education in your borrowed powers. I'm not your teacher, only your guide for so long as it suits my own needs. You are free to bask in your own ignorance...
...and then, as Joker performs the required action, Aeon laughs. His arms cross and his hardened expression turns into an obvious smirk beneath his mask.
Aeon: ...as well as your gullibility. You look like an absolute buffoon, ogre.
A silver energy encases Aeon's hand as he laughs quietly to himself.
Aeon: But enough of this silly game; what I said before is true: where you go, I cannot follow. Now the path of the future is on your head.
Aeon raises his hand, and slashes it downwards in an arc towards Joker. The power from it expands and appears to tear through time and space themselves, opening up a rift in time and space themselves. Eternities pass as seconds, and seconds last for Eons while Joker passes into another realm. Given an indeterminate amount of time, Joker finds himself back in the Galaxy Network, standing tall in the exact same crater where he'd been before. But not all is as it seems. The metal batteries are gone, and the yellow field has dissipated. Given a bit of time, Joker would also realize that the stars above appear to be moving... backwards. Their rotation around the network has reversed direction, signifying a reversal of time itself within this new realm.
How did you get in here?
...a voice from behind, low and gravely in its harsh utterance. Behind Joker now stands a Navi of average height clad in dark silver armor of kin to a knight which covers all but his face, which is shaded by his helmet and hard to see. While the majority of his armor is sharp yet not particularly descript, one specific piece stands out; his right shoulder displays the tell-tale black hourglass.
Joker figured with the comment of blind obedience that Aeon was looking to embarrass him, and to entertain the reality monger's "game," even as he admitted it, would at the very least put him in a good enough mood to progress his own goal further.
A moment of looking foolish was worth the time saved, as Aeon asserted his own far more potent mastery of space time. Joker wondered if this feat was something he were capable of, if he were aware of the need to do it, as he watched time reverse and dilate, placing him in a time that looked like the Galaxy Network, but was just out of place.
The power was impressive, and just one example of what he was searching for, but what came next was a surprise to him. Turning, Joker met eyes with the new individual, having first been seen from behind. As he turned, the prominent symbol of the black hourglass, imposed on Joker's left shoulder, became visible, and he saw the same symbol on this newcomer.
He had been sent backwards in time, and was left with whoever this individual was. Of average height, Joker towered over him by far more than just head and shoulders, but Joker had come to know that those bearing that symbol could not have their status nor power presumed. Still, he at least seemed more straight forward than his previous conversation partner.
"I was guided by the reality monger; a portion of a nightmare, if you would.
"As it seems, I cannot leave here. I am searching for Eon's power core. I do not intend to leave without it. I am Joker. Who are you, and do you intend to stand in my way?"
Eclipse scowls from under the visor of his helmet, planting his feet firm in defiance. He holds this position as he reaches out his hand, forming a white energy orb in his palm in preparation.
Eclipse: The program. You were either deranged or stupid enough to follow the program towards its ultimate purpose, and now you're standing before me?
Eclipse sizes up Joker, looking him over until at last his eyes fall on the Seal of the Generational. At this, the herald of old smirks through the shadows of his helmet.
Eclipse: My name is Eclipse; the Master Generational, third guardian of Eon, and the one designated to seal away the program. You will not have the core, and you will fall to my hand as the emissary of that corrupted algorithm.
Joker's face remained unchanged as he stared down the being known as Eclipse, but his eyes moved to match his movement, seeing the sphere of energy form in preparation. Seeing his smirk, Joker realized that, much like Aeon, he already looked down on him, despite not knowing him. Contained like this, Joker's full power wasn't on display.
He furrowed his brow, the blue visor over his eyes glimmering as Joker unleashed, allowing his power to fill the space. Black and platinum energy began to coil off of his body like snakes clinging to their nest in opposition to the energy that Eclipse called to his own aid, Joker allowing the mere collection of his full might to crack the ground they stand upon and quake the fabric of reality around him, space already fracturing and time already crystallizing in his wake.
Just as fast as his power flooded the space, Joker relaxed, and allowed his power to fade again, the energy that coiled off of his body allowed to recede, and reality began to repair itself. "I am neither delusional nor stupid, and I am no being's emissary. I came here to make my own decision, decide my own course, and I intend to do so. The program attempted to control me and found me an unbending subject, and I did make the mistake of allowing him too much say in our course of actions. I do not plan on making that mistake again.
"I wish to claim the power to make it my own. The program cannot control me, and I am willing to do what is necessary to see my own plans through. Now, I ask again, do you plan to stand in my way?"
Despite the sheer power on display by Joker, Eclipse just shakes his head.
Eclipse: And yet here you are playing fetch for the program. If what you're saying is true, then it's even more pathetic than I think you realize. You were sent here and are now facing down the one being on the net that can invariably stop the program from operating, sent as if a servant to grab what it desires. You are working for it, but you just don't realize it yet. And going deeper than that, you've already made one huge mistake:
Eclipse holds out his free hand and stretches his palm towards Joker.
Eclipse: You didn't heed my title; I'm the Master Generational; and thanks to that crest, your master.
Joker would feel it; the crest takes hold of him again, just like before. But where last time it caused his will to bow, this time his will would kneel to Eclipse. His power, his will, it all literally comes to naught as he finds himself entirely subservient to the Navi that he stands before, literally incapable of raising any form of offensive against the Master Generational himself.