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[NPC] Rogue

Troubling. Very troubling. Worrying, in fact!

Vexing, perplexing, disquieting, disturbing, irritating, concerning, and downright distressing!

This was the second time in as many outings that his operator had suddenly ceased communication in a rather alarmingly abrupt fashion. One moment they had been in the middle of a flight to assist in some exploration or other of the....the Dante Verse. Then all hell had broken loose, and the data connection between the primary presence of Cricket, the information-seeking and humor-supplying assistant to the far more taciturn soldier navi, Colonel, and the data backup which had, in a grim turn, become the primary presence of the digital assistant navi. 

"Oooooh, being reconstituted from backup data and rogue code fragments is precisely the opposite of a pleasant experience...especially when the backup is done in such haste, and so shortly after being reconstituted to begin with!" The little digital construct wailed, shaking a nondescript fist at the equally nondescript binary sky. "....sigh. I wish sometimes I were capable of breathing so that I could actually sigh and properly express just how disagreeable this entire ordeal is."

The disgruntled little helper program turned away from the rather substantial amount of nothing occupying his field of vision, to survey the smoking, sparking remains of several viruses and 'cleaner' programs which had crept into the digital space that made up the connection hub for Colonel's PET on the dataverse. "I should really clean up in here. Perhaps go and explore, afterward. Have a wander around while I wait for the inevitable, and eventual, restoration of communication with my operator. Hmm..."

A broom materialized in one outstretched hand. "Well...first things first. Cleaning up and re-purposing all this loose data. It's just cluttering up the place in this state."
"Hold on a second, I have a call..."
[Image: blog-Wesker.jpg]
"Yes, this is Wesker. Go ahead."

"You seem to have rather a lot of garbage data there, chum."

The other voice was highly unexpected, and it gave the little helper program pause, making him whirl about, cyber-broom raised and ready to ward off any hostility. But all he was met with was the sight of another navi. It didn't do much to his trepidation, especially given the appearance of the other. Judging by appearances was rarely a good thing to do — especially among navis — but it was a dreadfully difficult habit to shake. And when you were staring down someone a full head taller than you, nearly twice as broad at the shoulder, and with a massive cart nearly overflowing with junk and garbage data toted behind it...it was a little hard not to jump to unpleasant conclusions. That was the primary reason Cricket remained on guard as he warily spoke up, "Oh, yes...it's been a rather busy time around here lately. So many viruses to contend with. I'm rather surprised they're even here."

The ominous navi just chuckled. "Oh, you'll learn not to be so surprised sooner or later, chum... Sometimes folks just go and summon things without meaning to, y'see. And if someone from your own world is hangin' around, who knows what they might go summoning witout meanin' to, eh?"

Slowly, the cyber broom in Cricket's hands lowered. "Well...yes. I suppose so." His eyes slowly spun this way and that, rotating and zooming in to focus more thoroughly on the navi. "I don't mean to be rude, but...who might you be, exactly? I wasn't expecting company, so this has caught me rather off-guard."

"Oh, I gathered as much when you looked about ready to broom me upside the dome." An absolutely gargantuan mitt of a hand was lifted in a lazy wave, dismissing the entire matter. "As for who I am...well... Name's Crunch. I'm a breaker. Wander around, collecting old bits of deleted, broken data hangin' around here in the dataverse. Smash it down into manageable chunks, haul it off to my boss. Miracle worker, he is; can even convert junk data into something useful."

Cricket finally relaxed fully, letting his arms drop to his sides. "Oh. I see. It certainly sounds like busy work."

"Eeeeh....busy's one way to put it, alright. Certainly no shortage of work. Lucky I'm not the only one on call, though. Never get a moment's rest, otherwise." Crunch turned aside, looking over the pile of garbage data that had been gathered up. "Anyway...long as I'm here, don't suppose you'd mind if I get this mess off your hands?"

"Oh, no, please do so. I was rather at a loss as to what to do with it, myself."

"Fantastic. Should be just enough to make a full load so's I can start headin' back to drop it off. Sure the boss'll be pleased." A flourish later and the massive hand he had revealed shimmered, morphing into an equally massive hammer. "Might wanna stand back. Can be a bit messy, smashing it up to manageable size and such."

Cricket needed no second bidding.
"Hold on a second, I have a call..."
[Image: blog-Wesker.jpg]
"Yes, this is Wesker. Go ahead."

It was certainly unnerving to watch the ease with which the wrecker navi went about his work, and how nonchalant he was about the earthshaking strikes of his massive fist. He reduced chunks of rubble and garbage data the size of a man to fist-sized shards and rubble with all the effort Cricket might have put forth to swat a fly, had they been in physical space. It made the digital assistant feel just that little bit less confident about his own lack of physical capability.

He was very good at finding information, as that was what he had been designed for by his operator. But the design process had been far from perfect, and while Cricket had been designed to be more than capable of handling himself in an emergency, he was very far from a fighter. Even the few viruses he'd busted were almost too much for him, and had dinged him up quite badly. Really, he should have spent some time to tend to his repairs and re-energize before he bothered with cleaning up the aftermath of his ordeal. That would have been the smart thing. It would've even made his cleanup afterward that much easier!

Ooooh, but he really hated hindsight, sometimes. And he was far too nice to hate much of anything. He'd been specifically programmed not to hate things!

That particular paradox made his processors plea for anything else to occupy them, to which he quickly acquiesced, bringing up a line of thought that had been bugging him. "You said your name was Crunch, yes?" he spoke up to the wrecker navi.

"Yep. That it is, chum," the hulking navi answered jovially, scooping up another load of the mostly-smashed digital rubble.

After debating how to phrase his query for a few moments, Cricket finally just opted for the straightforward. It would be easier to apologize for any offense caused after the fact than worry about causing it to begin with and fry his processors even more. "I do not mean to be rude or pry into anything you consider personal, but might I ask whether you happen to be a prime or a secondary?"

The wrecker just chortled, pausing briefly in his work. "Ah, I don't mind y'askin, really. Though I would'a thought it'd be obvious, given what I'm here doin' and all." He resumed his work, shoveling more of the garbage data into his trundle. "Secondary, as it so happens. Summoned her to do the glorious work o' cleaning up after folks what don't clean their data themselves. Old data, deleted bits of this and that, viruses and bugs what crop up out of it all. Someone's gotta smash it and get it out o' the way so people with actual business can get on with it, eh?"

Slowly the little helper program (who felt considerably smaller the longer he spent in the company of the cyber-garbageman) processed that bit of information, nodding his head slowly. "Yes...it sounds like a thankless job, I have to say."

"Completely thankless!" Crunch confirmed, his tone all too cheerful despite the particularly potent blow he levied upon a chunk of detritus, reducing it to a cloud of fine binary dust, scattering in a swirl of bright green. "One of the many joys of being programmed to do a specific task and not having any say in it. Thanks and appreciation don't really factor in. Enjoyin' your job don't really factor in. Just gettin' it done is all what factors in, y'see?"

Now Cricket was downright nervous, fearing he may have unintentionally touched a nerve. "I...I apologize if that was a sensitive subject to bring up. I am still trying to get a handle on the topic of tact and social conventions. I am still only a few days old, by my reckoning."

The burly garbage disposal program just laughed. "Hey, hey, hey, don't worry 'bout it none. Y'had no way of knowin' it's a sore topic, and din't mean any harm by it. So don't go worryin' yer processes over it." The last of the to-be-disposed-of data was loaded onto the trundle cart, and Crunch turned to regard the smaller navi. "Well, that'll be my work done, and I'll just be gettin' on off to finish another day. Was nice havin' someone around actually willin' to talk for once. Most folks just ignore me outright, thinkin' I'm just part of some automated system, y'know?"

"They are not entirely wrong, in a certain sense of the word, I suppose," Cricket mused aloud, though he very quickly caught himself. "But...I suppose it is never a pleasant thing to be considered just another piece of the background there to fulfill a task and nothing else."

"Oi, I already said stop worryin' so much, kiddo." Crunch just shook his head, taking up the handle of his cart again. "Right, well I'm off now to drop off this mess. Be seein' ya around, maybe."

"....one last question, if I might," Cricket spoke up quickly. "If it isn't too personal a topic, and you are aware of the answer, would it be possible to know who it was that summoned you?"

The cyber-garbageman's expression was quizzical as he turned to regard the much smaller navi, eyes slowly narrowing. "....mmmm. Well...guess you seem like an alright enough sort...so it's a bit disappointin', really. But he likes to keep himself a bit secret, y'know? Doesn't care to get known too much. Keep to himself and work on his own stuff. Doubt he'd mind much a meeting with someone from his own world, though." He slowly nodded his head, a faint rumbling rising up from his chest. A puff of steam erupted from a crevice behind his head, and he tilted his head to one side. "....right. Tell ya what. Next time I'm set to report direct to him, I'll come by and grab ya, take you to see him personally. Sound good?"

Somehow, it was just a little concerning (not to mention suspicious) but it didn't seem malicious or...overtly dangerous, at the least. It didn't seem to be intended as anything nefarious. Hindsight would no doubt tell him later on that he was very bad at reading people, and should have seen whatever was to happen coming. But at the moment he was only wary for the usual dangers as he agreed wholeheartedly. "I am a bit stagnant without directives from my operator. I suppose gathering new information to present him with — especially the presence of others from our world — would not be unwanted." He nodded. "I believe that a meeting with the one who summoned you would be a very good thing, indeed, Crunch!"

The wrecker just chortled, giving a crooked grin. "Right-o. Settled then. Shouldn't be but a couple days or so, at most. Be seein' ya when I see's ya, kiddo." And he set off, hauling his load of garbage and refuse behind him, off to do...who knows what, really, with.

Cricket just thought It was hard to see how anything that smashed could be used for much.
"Hold on a second, I have a call..."
[Image: blog-Wesker.jpg]
"Yes, this is Wesker. Go ahead."

After the unexpected but certainly rather interesting meeting with the intimidating — if undeniably jovial and disarming — cyber-garbageman, Crunch, things had rapidly lapsed into dullness and an overwhelming sense of boredom. There was only so much that Cricket could do to keep from pulling his proverbial hair out, and he didn't even have hair to pull out in the first place! He had even briefly contemplated seeing about compiling a bit of data for a sub-program to change his appearance slightly. Perhaps give himself hair to pull out over the boredom he was feeling. He wisely decided not to do such a silly thing, and resolved himself to poke around the paths and byways of the digital verse of information, to see if there was anything else he could run across while remaining relatively safe.

A few new topics of mild curiosity had popped up on some of the messageboards and new domains and websites had been created since his last thorough examination. New alliances and groups on advertisement, and all manner of shenaniganery on display, as per usual. It was hard to pick out what was more than a general curiosity and might actually be of some substance and worth looking into, among all the random tomfoolery and business as usual of the Dataverse. People coming and going, making topics and comments all willy-nilly...there was so much to sort through, so much traffic to try and not get swept up in. A highway of information was still very much a highway, after all! One wrong step and suddenly you were caught up in a thirty messageboard pileup, watching a video about shapeshifting into bizarre shapes and forms, and wondering why you had a half-filled out order form for genuine wood cookware occupying most of your interface, when you didn't even need to eat, let alone cook anything!

Wisely, he had decided not to reveal that almost-accident to his operator, of course.

But there were a few things which did catch his interest. He filed away some of them for later, to share with Colonel when he returned to a place where they could link up again and resume their usual communication and travel, and pulled a few more of them up to peruse right away. Some topic or other about villain leaderboards caught his immediate attention, and he gave it a once-over, finding the entire thing to be both highly amusing, and practical, if a bit unorthodox and self-defeating. Sure, every villain that he had heard about and been told of by his operator had been in possession of an above-average size ego, but openly broadcasting your existence, intentions, and actions just seemed a bit silly. And, in a place like the Omniverse, a good way to get a bounty on your neck, even if you happened to get away with your villainy at the time of the villainous act in question. Still, for someone in a position of enforcing peace and security like his military-minded operator, such a thing could only be useful. Cricket left a cheerful comment on the topic and bookmarked it for future access, being sure to note down a reminder in his memory to bring it up to Colonel when they spoke again.

The next thing he found was a seemingly unrelated pair of topics, one of them calling all heroes, the other requesting all villains. It was...odd, alright. Seemed like there was a big confrontation just waiting to happen with two groups like that setting up. A whole new set of problems to be dealt with if things got out of hand. Cricket bookmarked the both of them as well, on the off chance they were ever updated again, and resolved to bring up contacting the group calling themselves the Avengers to offer assistance, if it ever became necessary. They were always going to have to worry about their own business and agenda first, but given their Institute-appointed occupation, it was likely they would end up working on the same side in at least some endeavors.

The last thing to catch his interest was an ad from, of all places, Syntech. Checking into the information proved that it wasn't just a hoax, and they had managed to locate video and audio feed of events on that crazy island. It briefly gave Cricket hope of finding out whether his operator was still alive and he was going to have to wait an indeterminate amount of time for him to get off that island, or if he had already died and might show up at any moment. Then he saw the paywall. A very minor one, just to cover equipment costs, but all the same, it kept him from actually accessing any information or the video feeds, archived or live.

Now he was just depressed. What a way to start the day.
"Hold on a second, I have a call..."
[Image: blog-Wesker.jpg]
"Yes, this is Wesker. Go ahead."

Quietly, the helper navi spent his idle time perusing the myriad wonders of the Dataverse, spending his time among the lesser-traveled byways and data pathways of the digital verse. He didn't want to busy himself with anything that would become too distracting or require too great an investment, as he needed to remain ready and on-call for the possible return of his operator, and aware of the spotting of several other individuals.

He had taken the time to thoroughly scan his memories of the flight through the Dante Verse from before the crash, and tracked down any scrap of information on any of the individuals he had so much as gotten a glimpse of. It wasn't easy going, by any means, but he was managing it. A few names, here and there, and sightings that some of them had reappeared in the Nexus fairly recently, seemingly respawned as Primes were liable to do. It was simultaneously encouraging and worrying, to know that. Encouraging, in that wherever it was that the rescue group had ended up, they weren't going to be stuck there and in need of rescue themselves. Worrying, in that wherever the rescue group had ended up was apparently dangerous enough to prove lethal to the ones who ended up there.

It was a terribly confusing feeling, and not one that Cricket really wanted to spend much time at all pondering over. He merely resolved to accept the fact that, one way or another, everyone that went there would make it back out, in one way or another, and left it at that. He didn't want to fret his poor overtaxed processors any further with the very worrying fate of the no-doubt many secondaries involved in the endeavor. They didn't come back when they died, like Primes did, if his informational sources were accurate. He had no reason to doubt them, but that only made things more worrying. He didn't have the extra memory to spare worrying over people he didn't even know at the moment, not that it made their fates any less unpleasant and awful to even imagine. He was far more occupied with worrying about his own issues.

Like the very, very worrying realization that he had only just managed to compile enough data for a proper backup before the plane had crashed and he'd lost signal to Colonel's PET. A minute sooner, and he'd have been cut off mid-backup and left a garbled, half-finished mess, and very likely dead, or corrupted beyond repair and left only to a slow decay and eventual death. And probably a meeting with Crunch, or one of his fellow cyber-garbagemen. It was enough to make him quake in fright, that something so routine had almost had such drastic consequences, and what it might mean for him if it had. He'd been imparted with the tragic, but ultimately logical fate of navis in his universe of origin by Colonel, but the Omniverse didn't play by the same logic, really. It had its own special brand of rules, laws, and physics at play. Things decided solely by Omni himself, by all accounts, if even a third of the common theories were to be believed. Unique rules and laws of physics, created solely for the Omniverse, by its creator, Omni, himself.

Omniphysics, if you would.

Because everything in this world had to be named after its creator, to ensure everyone would never forget who was responsible for all of it. Omniphysics, for the Omniverse, created from and made of Omnilium, and able to be changed and manipulated by the ones directly summoned by Omni so long as they followed some vaguely defined rules for the process which were, of course, fully known only to, and enforced by, Omni himself. It was confusing, and it was verging way too close to Assonance, in his very unprofessional and non-literary opinion, for something that was not a poem.

.....what had he been doing, before that distracting line of thought? Oh, digi-drat it.
"Hold on a second, I have a call..."
[Image: blog-Wesker.jpg]
"Yes, this is Wesker. Go ahead."

Good heavens, but...it was starting to get rather warm. That was just one more oddity to be added to the general odd-ness of this verse within a world of verses made by a very odd little person who may very well have been a legitimate god. Until now, Cricket's passage along one of the many massive paths of information — the equivalent of lazily drifting down a sedate river in an inner tube, really — had been rather uneventful, interrupted only by the occasional passerby and exchange of pleasantries. It had escaped his notice, but for the past short while he hadn't done that, and had, in fact, been drifting along in solitude.

"....I believe this is when most people would say 'I have a bad feeling about this', or something to such an effect..." the normal navi spoke aloud to himself, windmilling his arms to try and stymie his forward momentum. He was partially successful, and managed to regain some semblance of an upright posture, more or less 'standing' in the river of data. A stream of search requests, images, messages and communications, and countless amounts of deep green 1s and 0s shot by him, seeming all the more spritely now that he had come to a halt. Or, well, most of one.

"Oh, good heavens, where have I ended up now?" he fretted, spinning slowly about in place. He would have been satisfied with the sight of anyone else at all, even someone unsavory or as intimidating as Crunch had first appeared. But he saw no one. Only the ever-constant, dizzying array of information flowing this way and that, spiraling off into side paths and branching off to its respective destinations. And a slowly-dwindling amount of it following the main 'current' on ahead. Only a single line of data, hard-coded and encrypted as a mass of 1s and 0s so densely packed they almost seemed a solid mass, continued unerringly onward. And Cricket was firmly anchored and attached to that mass of data, being hauled inexorably along. When had that happened?!

"Oh, that..." he started, faltering lamely. It was a lot of things, and it wasn't a lot of things, at the same time. It was certainly confusing, and probably not good for his continued travel plans, if nothing else. "...that isn't good," he finally finished, opting for the very, very obvious. "And my word but it is getting hot. Dreadfully so." Craning his neck, he spun in place once again, the joint in his ankle creaking as he pivoted on it, searching for the source of the oppressive heat. It reared its head in short order, rounding a bend in the proverbial river, and suddenly everything was a whole lot more clear, as to just what was going on.

Clearer because everything was on fire, really.

"Oh, a firewall..." Cricket stated blankly. He was just... Really, he was just at a loss. Things were that literal, here? It certainly did explain why the traffic had cleared up so much. Firewalls were notorious for only letting things from users with proper clearance and permissions through. They had a tendency to keep other users and information out. Apparently in the Omniverse, where people could physically enter the net, firewalls needed to have a more tangible, dangerous presence. A very powerful defense for encrypted data, honestly. Remarkable, really. It was therefore rather sad that he was so caught up in his admiration of the thing, even in its ridiculousness, that it took him until he had completely rounded the final turn, and was on the final approach to the firewall that the helper navi made a very unpleasant realization.

"....oh, I don't think I have clearance."
"Hold on a second, I have a call..."
[Image: blog-Wesker.jpg]
"Yes, this is Wesker. Go ahead."

Rarely was panic ever a good thing, but at times it was unavoidable. Emotions were delicate things, as anyone who had them could tell you, and even with an iron grip on them you could lose yourself to a chaotic storm of mangled feeling when presented with a looming threat you were ill-prepared to deal with. It could make logic crumble and give way to blind desperation, trying anything and everything that might have even a chance of getting you out of a bad situation, even if it was a very minor one. Or one that made sense only because of just how addled and out of it you were in your frazzled emotional and mental state. It was rough business, and almost never paid off in any sort of long term. Or short term. No term at all, really. It was almost always a bad thing to fall into the grip of blind panic. When in the face of a dire situation, you needed to keep calm and think clearly. Logically.

Cricket knew all of that, of course.

But knowing and being able to follow through on something were two very, very different things. As he doubled over, grasping at his imprisoned leg with both hands and tugged for all he was worth, it didn't take a genius to realize just where he sat on the 'knowing-doing' sliding scale of disaster preparedness. "Oh, no, no, no! Not good! Negative good! Everything bad, not positive, very negative! Bad situation! Poor timing!" he wailed, wrenching on his hostage limb, the sound of straining metal clearly audible over the low crackle of the massive firewall drawing ever, worryingly, dangerously closer. "Very much not good, oooooh this is what I get for my lapse in spatial awareness!" His grip exhausted itself, and with a grating of metal on metal he was sent comically flopping back upright, and arced right back down, smacking against the stream of hard-code on his backside.

"Ooooh....I fear this will not end in any manner that could be construed as positive...I wasn't rated for temperatures as high as direct contact with an inferno!" He hauled himself back into an upright, sitting posture, lifting both arms up, palms facing outward, toward the firewall. Desperate times called for desperate measures. "Maybe...if my timing is spot-on, I can...!"

Both hands flashed with bright blue, glowing neon wireframes materializing around the outstretched appendages and rapidly solidifying into the form of...nozzles. Just like on the end of massive firehoses. To a casual observer, it probably looked silly. Very silly, indeed. But as they collected in more detail, finally losing their wireframe blueprint design and morphing into solid, physical objects, they were revealed to be sporting something very much akin to a set of crosshairs, and an underslung magazine. Clearly a weapon of some type, and likely one that used liquid of some description in its design. It still looked ridiculous, but in his panic-addled state, Cricket seemed to think it was worth a shot to try whatever it was he had in mind with the odd weapons.

"Battle chip: Bubbler! Bubble Spread!" he shouted, as if announcing his new weapons to the world. And as he named each one, a blue light blinked on the strange apparatus on the end of each arm with a muted beep. "I don't think...I'll get more than one shot at this. Going to need to time it just right..."

"Time what right, pray tell?" an inquisitive voice piped up from behind the frantic, trapped navi.

"I'm going to use an aqua weapon to try and extinguish a section of the firewall and pass through while it's down, of course!" Cricket snapped, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.

"Oh, that'll never work, you silly thing! The timing would need to be so exacting as to be impossible to calculate by eye alone!" A dizzying series of beeps and clicks, as of many switches and lights flickering on and off, sounded after that pair of exclamations. "It is lucky that I happened by and saw you stuck here, or you might have had a meeting with the cleaning crew on the other side." Another short series of beeps. "....or their brooms, at any rate."

"Wait, what? Who?" Cricket finally realized he wasn't alone, spinning about at the waist to face his unexpected guest. And the sight he beheld was not at all what he had expected. Hugely tall and lanky, all spindly limbs and joints, with a massive head full of a dizzying array of lights, blinking and flickering in crazy patterns, and an electric-orange pair of eyes peering down at him. "Where did you come from?!"

"I am here to save you. I am called Number Man. And I frequently come this way, as I have clearance to pass through here." A series of beeps and light patterns accompanied the mathematical navi's speech. He lifted one hand, bearing only three digts, and tapped his rather large dome. "I run numbers, you know. Calculations and recordkeeping. Very valuable to have around, for certain types of business. But that can be discussed at length later, when you aren't facing down an incinerating, yes?"

"I, er, uh...y-yes!" Cricket agreed hastily, shoving his confusion aside by sheer strength of panic, flailing his weapon-bearing arms about wildly and gesturing at the wall of flaming death that they were still serenely drifting toward. "Just-- Please, you mentioned saving me?!"

"Oh, yes, right!" Numberman chirped, his hands rotating on the end of his wrists. "Allow me a moment, I will secure you passage." He stood upright, his eyes blinking and flickering along with the light in his head, as a blistering series of beeps, clicks, whirring noises and stuttering noises echoed from his vicinity. With barely ten seconds to spare before they hit the firewall, the plate over the number-running navi flipped open, and a reel of paper roll out, covered in writing and code. "And here we are. One temporary pass, for the little lost navi. Expedited, for emergency purposes."

Cricket snatched it without thinking, and as soon as he did, a section in the wall of flames simply stopped being, spreading out to the approximate size of a doorway, and rising up to admit even Numberman's great height.

"This certainly has been my most exciting commute to work in recent memory," the lanky navi mused. "Mostly I just find the occasional bit of ash stuck in the data streams. It's always nice to find something different!"

Cricket could only stare nervously at the flames as he was carried through the sudden doorway that appeared in their midst, thankful more than ever for the occurrence of random coincidence. And with a renewed belief in random happenstance. "Yes...and fortunate for me, I guess..." he muttered, slowly letting his hands morph back to their default state. No sense having the guns ready if they wren't going to be used, anymore.

"Oh, yes, very fortunate indeed. This is the only day I am scheduled to work this week!" Numberman offered, all too cheerfully. "And to top it off, I am actually running a few minutes late, due to some messageboard reconstruction and data re-routing. You are quite fortunate, my little friend!"

"Oh...well, that's good."
"Hold on a second, I have a call..."
[Image: blog-Wesker.jpg]
"Yes, this is Wesker. Go ahead."

"So, if you hadn't come along when you did, I would be..." Cricket tried to strike up a conversation as the line of data moved right on along its way, none the wiser to the almost-disaster which had very nearly occurred atop it. One of the good things, and one of the bad things about raw, encoded data as a means of conveyance: it didn't much care about anything except having a clear path to where it was going. Made it sure enough as a transport (provided you weren't literally stuck in it, mind), but made it a perilous one if you ended up in a situation where you didn't necessarily have the requisite clearance to go where your binary conveyance was headed. You could end up being conveyed right into a garbage dump for data with lost passwords, or through a security system which would kindly escort you off the path, or right through a firewall or three.

Yes, wherever it was that Number Man was headed on his trip to work, it was behind not one, not two, not even three, but five separate layers of protection and security. A firewall, a good old-fashioned security checkpoint, a second, much more potent 'incinerator' firewall, a laser-guided scanning station with, according to Number Man, a "very subtle, but very effective, magnetic kill system" in place, and a third firewall which burned so intensely the flames weren't even visible any longer. The final defense was the most effective and diabolical, according to the number-crunching navi.

"Oh, yes, it was certain that you would have died, if I hadn't come along when I did," the numerical worker responded after a moment of deliberation. "Your strategy wasn't going to prove very effective, but it certainly was interesting. And rather thoughtful, given the stress you seemed to be under, at the moment!"

"It was certain, you say..." The assistant navi would have gone incredibly pale, had there been any color to drain from his face. As it was, he just turned his face downward, letting out a sigh.

"Oh, no, not entirely certain!" Number Man clarified, holding up one finger. "You had approximately a 31.72364912% chance for successful timing and creating an opening to make it through the firewall intact!" A series of bleeps and flashes ran across his dome, and he spread both hands wide. "Why, you even had a 17.813% chance of surviving the ordeal!" The clerical navi went right on with his analysis, blissfully unaware of the swift double facepalm and groan of terror from his much less numerically-minded traveling compatriot. "Oh, by my estimation, you even had an 11.36198% chance for successfully making it through the next obstacle, a 9.541% chance for the second firewall, and a 4.19254% chance to get past our magnetic kill system!" He paused, a swift beep-blip-click-whirr sounding as he lowered his raised finger slightly. "Ah, my apologies, a 4.19253% chance, based on your briefly observed levels of physical strength and creativity. Though there is only a 0.098134% chance you would make it past the final firewall, and a 0% chance you would have done so alive."

It was at this point that Number Man finally turned his eyes back down to Cricket, to find the assistant navi all but curled up and weeping. "Oh...oh, dear, I went and did it again. My apologies; that was all just speculation and extrapolation upon very minimal, likely very factually incorrect information! It was just-just assumption! You know what they say about assuming things! Ahahahaha! ....hah..." He trailed off.

And things got very quiet.
"Hold on a second, I have a call..."
[Image: blog-Wesker.jpg]
"Yes, this is Wesker. Go ahead."

The silence lasted for a long while, interrupted intermittently  by the brief background noises of the Dataverse. A few side paths, with thin streams of data branching off and joining the larger stream, were all that broke the otherwise uninterrupted line of code. The slow, periodic clun-ka-thunk-clang of Number Man shifting joined the dull drone of travel, and many attempts at trying to remedy the increasingly-oppressive silence from him came and went.

It was not until Cricket finally spoke up, forcing himself to push past his fear over how close he had come to certain death to ask something he had been growing curious about. "Number Man...where is it you're going, exactly?"

The numerically-minded navi paused in his shifting about. "Ah..." He seemed uneasy for a moment, looking pointedly away from the much shorter navi. "...strictly speaking, I'm not supposed to say. But you're already headed there, and we'll be sending you on your way..." He trailed off. "No harm in it, I suppose. I'm headed to a meeting with my employer, a gentleman who manages the breaking down and recycling of junk data into omnilium to reintroduce into the digital economy of the dataverse. It's really quite the little business, and certainly helps keep things clean around here."

Cricket was momentarily struck dumb at the sheer coincidence on display here. Slowly, he spoke up, "I think...I was scheduled to have a meeting with him at some point."

"...hmmm?" Number Man finally turned to face the normal navi at that, head tilted to one side. "Now that's odd. I don't recall hearing anything about that." A series of rapid flashes of differing colors splayed across his cranial dome, before he held up one finger thoughtfully, tapping his chin. "....though I suppose that isn't really so surprising. I am only infrequently called in for personal meetings and hands-on work. Most of my work is done remotely, calculations and lists sent in via e-mail." He paused, shrugging lightly. "But that does make this somewhat convenient, I suppose. You get a chance to meet my employer before your scheduled meeting with him."

"Who...is your employer?" the helper navi ventured, wariness and shame fading as curiosity overtook him once more.

"Oh...he's a very strange sort of person. Hard to really get a bead on him, but he's certainly dependable enough. And a very hard worker; I've scarcely seen anyone so devoted to their work as he is." Number Man chuckled briefly, tilting his head back to look upward. "It would be admirable, if he weren't so frighteningly hands-on about his insistence that he do the actual labor himself. His employees are only allowed to do the collecting, and calculations about how much should be managed and put together into each individual shipment to be sent back out. Any actual breaking down and reforming is done strictly by him." A synthesized sigh escaped from his speaker-mouth, and he lifted his hands up in a gesture of defeat. "But, it is reliable work, and something to keep the processors busy. And meaning no offense to them, but it is far more preferable to working for the Empire. Coruscant is certainly an interesting place, don't mistake me, but..."

There was a rather pointed pause in his speech as he stalled, waving one hand in a lazy circle. "....well. I suppose personal opinion doesn't really factor much into it. They're no doubt a fine place to work in as well as for, if you're of a mind to have such a..." Once more he stalled mid-sentence. "...er.... That is, such a police...well, military, really, state as your employer." He waved his hands quickly, as if trying to brush that thought aside. "But I much more prefer clerical work, you understand, that has nothing to do with such things! Personal preference only, I assure you! Hah...ahaha....ha...."

Cricket just stared at him blankly, his eyes slowly spinning to narrow his focus down to the clerical navi. "...yes, I think I get it," he finally said. "But you...managed to bypass my question in all of that. You talked about your employer for a bit, but...never really mentioned who he is."

Number Man had no color that could drain out of his face, but the expression on his face -- one eye expanding, the other contracting, lights flashing in number patterns on his rounded cranium -- as he recoiled said it all. "Ah, well...yes. Do forgive me, I was..." He coughed, trying to right his expression and recover himself. "Ahem. Well, yes, my employer... He is an individual by the name of Junk Man.EXE. Eccentric, and perhaps a little volatile...but truly, he is a good worker, and cares deeply about his chosen task, odd as it may be."

"Junk Man..." Cricket echoed, looking down momentarily. That name was registered in his memory files, courtesy of Colonel upon his creation. An independent navi, born out of junk data and bugs amalgamated into a single entity, somehow gaining sentience and the rough, crude form of a net navi along the way. His appearance was said to be frightening and unsettling, and his nature full of spite and hate was well-documented, though his deletion was also confirmed, according to the records he had. This...was going to be an interesting meeting. "I...I see. He certainly did pick an appropriate field to engage in working, if nothing else."

"Oh, yes, very much so. No one could possibly understand or work better with junk than Junk Man!" Number Man said cheerfully. "Without him, there certainly would be a lot more useless junk around. Or, at the least...junk that people perceived as useless. He breaks it down and reforms it back into building material. He's unappreciated and unknown, most certainly due almost entirely to his reclusive nature, but his work is certainly taken note of and very much appreciated. It allows for expanding of the dataverse, and rebuilding of any damages that much easier. Certainly helps make up for any destruction caused when some unfortunate souls go off and blow things up in dealing with viruses or the like."

"Yeah...some things you just can't get away from, huh?" Cricket mused.
"Hold on a second, I have a call..."
[Image: blog-Wesker.jpg]
"Yes, this is Wesker. Go ahead."

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