R-Searchman, from Rockman.EXE Stream and beyond. His visor is missing due to inability to find transparent orange clay, and his gun is missing because I'm lazy and a college student.
Various pictures below the first cut, and preview!
And now for a two-in-one. I've been working on a oneshot fic (in two chapters! it got long.) involving Laika and Searchman in the EXE Beast seasons, which I've included below a separate cut so you can ignore it at your leisure. It's mildly self-referential, overly serious, dramatic, and probably only fits my tastes, but if you're interested, feel free to take a look at the first chapter.
“So this is Beyondard.”
“And you can't sense any of the others?”
“No, sir. Either they are out of range, or this network has a different communications protocol than I - “
“I don't need the details.” Laika snapped, and Searchman's voice immediately fell silent. He felt momentarily ashamed; this situation wasn't the Navi's fault. But their impromptu mission had already gone all shades of wrong, and he had no one else to be suitably angry at, standing alone on this too-unreasonably-sunny plateau of sand and rock and staring at the wires and network data which flowed through the blue sky overhead.
Beyondard, a parallel world. A world where an unfortunate accident had merged the Internet and reality and unleashed a horde of viruses on humanity, and if that weren't enough, gave rise to two uber-powerful Cyber Beasts who warred against each other with their Beast-Factor-infected Navis and made the world generally unpleasant to live in. And now Laika and several other Net Saviors had been pulled here from their own world through a Beast Navi's portal, but they had been separated in the process, and the only person who might have known what to do, Iris, had been kidnapped by that same Navi and – he could have screamed. Instead, he settled for the customary restraint of a Sharo Net Savior and simply glared furiously at everything.
Hikari Netto, Laika thought, would have reacted differently. A new world with adventures, dangers, and maidens to be rescued – the boy would have taken to it like a video game protagonist to a quest. That was presumably what he was doing at the moment. Netto had, after all, been the first one through the portal after Iris, and then Enzan, Laika, and a few others had followed suit, and now they were here -
But the problem was, he wasn't Netto. Laika enjoyed a new challenge insofar as he could solve it with what he already knew, but what he now knew was that his existing knowledge was useless here, in an alien world he had no way of getting home from, against two Cyber Beasts who'd already proven to be too powerful to fight. He was used to the structure provided by the Sharo military's missions, even if he sometimes disagreed with their motives; now, he didn't even have anything to guide himself by. And Laika wouldn't have admitted it even to himself, but he wished Netto were there. There was a sort of enthusiastic certainty about Netto's way of dealing with situations that Laika normally found annoying, but which, at that moment, he would have welcomed. Anything was better than staring at that unnerving network-merged sky and wondering what exactly he could do.
He was no longer angry, Laika found, as he forced his gaze away from the sky. Just confused, and tired.
Searchman again. He felt another twinge of guilt at having lost his temper, and replied, in a softer tone of voice than normal, “What is it?”
“I'm picking up a number of life-form signals to the northeast, but I can't read whether they're human or virus. I believe we should either seek a vantage point to better acquaint ourselves with them, or to find shelter immediately – your decision, sir.”
Choices, at least, were familiar. Laika made one swiftly. “We should at least see what they are, so that we'll be able to distinguish between friend and foe later. Northeast?”
On the otherwise flat plateau, a few hundred yards to their north, a sizable rock formation protruded from the ground like a great half-buried egg. Weathered by the wind, it was almost entirely smooth save for a few cracks and hand-holds, which Laika made use of in climbing. Finally reaching the top, he focused his gaze eastward, and his jaw dropped.
A black mass of movement covered the eastern horizon, traveling towards them faster than any human and kicking up a massive cloud of dust in its wake which nearly obscured the sky. Though the mass was still a few miles off, the rumble of the stampede and the identity of the travelers within were unmistakable.
Laika scrambled off the rock and pulled out his PET. “Searchman! That's a horde of viruses! Where's the nearest possible shelter?!”
“Laika-sama, there...” Searchman hesitated, as if making calculations, and Laika felt a sinking feeling in his stomach even as he ran westward, trying to buy them some small amount of time before the virus stampede arrived.
“This land is entirely flat, but the closest possibility – towards the north, there is more mountainous terrain we could hide in. It is still somewhat far -”
“That's all I need!” Laika ran on, forcing his sore legs to move faster through a combination of strict military training and healthy fear. He would probably not be defenseless if it came down to a fight; he could perform Cross Fusion as long as Searchman was willing, and it might even have worked, given that Beyondard was essentially one huge Dimensional Area. But it was a risk Laika did not feel like taking just yet. The mountains loomed, tantalizingly visible but still not nearly close enough -
Searchman's cry of warning came at the same moment Laika saw it, and he stopped in shock. Against the northern horizon, far in front of the mountains, rose another too-familiar dark mass which was spreading swiftly in their direction. Laika, bent double trying to catch his breath, did not even need to turn around to tell that the same held for the south and west. The rumble of the converging virus hordes was palpable; the only question left was which one would reach them first.
Perhaps Laika thought the fateful words, “it can't get any worse than this,” somewhere in his mind, because Searchman then spoke up once again, with a hesitation that brought chills down his Operator's spine.
“...Sir. I'm sensing, at the head of the hordes...two Zoanoroids. Beast Navis.”
Zoan Starman was enjoying himself.
Well, from his perspective, he wasn't Zoan Starman. He was just Starman – those Navis that Darkman had inadvertently let into their world were the Zoan – “Other” - Navis. Darkman had alerted him to them, after returning with the girl who'd escaped into the other world. That was why he now floated at the forefront of his own army of Beast Viruses, sweeping the barren digital plateaus for signs of the intruders. He didn't really know what he would do with them, but whenever Starman had such questions, he usually defaulted to blowing up the subject in question. Like supernovae – boom! That was probably why Darkman usually had him take care of things involving humans and other lesser beings, now that he thought about it.
In any case, Starman was certainly having fun. But he knew he would be having more fun if, minutes into the sweep, he hadn't become aware of another Navi with his own army of viruses scouring the area – a Falzer Navi. Probably Cloudman. God, he hated that guy.
Starman served Greiga, the obviously superior Cyber Beast, and would have detested Falzer-side Navis on principle, but Cloudman just got on his nerves. The guy acted like he had no idea what “fun” meant and was the sort of stick-in-the-mud Falzer-fanatic that Starman preferred to blow up rather than talk to, so it was all the more infuriating that Cloudman was powerful enough to resist being exploded on multiple occasions. Starman had no idea what he was doing there, but, after discarding the “just to annoy me” hypothesis, decided that Cloudman had probably received similar orders regarding the intruders. Well, Starman'd show him. He'd blow up the intruders first and watch Cloudman rage at his failure, and then blow him up. That'd be more fun than simply going after him again.
And so he'd swept his viruses onward, ignoring the other Navi, and Cloudman had apparently done the same, until they'd both seen it – a lone figure in the middle of the plateau where no one normally went. It was this figure that both of their hordes now bore down on, although Starman was quite a bit closer. And as Starman prepared his meteors, he thought that maybe he'd taunt the intruder a bit first, and grinned at the thought. That would be more fun.
To his relief, the familiar light once again engulfed Laika, hiding the viruses from sight as Searchman’s armor began to form itself over his body. This was better, he thought grimly. At least he still had the certainty of being able to fight, even if it would only be in order to find an escape route. Grasping his rifle, Laika raised it to shoulder-height, preparing to fire as the light faded away -
And knew immediately, with horrifying certainty, that something was wrong, as a spasm of agony shot through his body and nearly brought him to his knees. For a moment, the Cross Fusion wavered and almost broke, as if protesting against the alien network of Beyondard. It was all Laika could do to simply keep himself in-fusion as another jolt of pain, like an electric shock, coursed through him.
Searchman’s voice, faint and strained, sounded in his mind. Laika knew the Navi was feeing similar effects. “Run! You...can’t fight like this...”
“Searchman...” He gasped, rising with an effort and trying to focus once again on the approaching viruses, which were far too close and far too numerous. Small bits of electricity crackled across his armor, prying painfully at any weakness in his fusion. “Why is this happening? I...”
Then the first meteor hit, missing him almost deliberately and leaving a crater a few yards to his right. Laika spun around.
Above the western horde of viruses floated what was almost certainly a Zoanoroid, though not one that he had previously encountered. Its star-shaped helmet and location left little doubt as to the originator of the meteor, and it grinned down at him in manner reminiscent of a cat which had just cornered an entire family of mice. And was about to blow them all up.
“$%zbi9@e!” It yelled down towards him, gleefully. “a*iw@& !528pbs%, Gre1ga &q!”
(Starman had of course forgotten that Navis from his world did not speak the same language - or even in the same frequency - as the intruders.)
“...sir.” Searchman’s voice came again, urgently. Laika listened, keeping a wary eye on the Zoanoroid, who seemed temporarily occupied with gloating. The jolts of pain had subsided for the moment, and he could concentrate, but he didn’t know how long it would be before they returned.
“Another Zoanoroid from behind....but if you use my cloaking ability, and fly northward, there will be fewer viruses. Hurry, before the fusion fails - ”
“Acknowledged.” Laika whispered, and -
-Zoan Cloudman, or just Cloudman, was incensed. That Greiga-serving buffoon Starman had somehow gotten to the intruders before him, and that simply wouldn’t do; were not Falzer’s forces the fastest on sky and land? And so, as he tossed a thunderbolt at the green-armored Navi on the ground, he fired off a second one at Starman for good measure -
-Starman had already noticed Cloudman arriving, but paid him no heed. He was first, after all, and his viruses could probably have gotten the intruders before Cloudman even found his way out of that stupid thundercloud of his.
And thus he was extremely surprised when one of Cloudman’s thunderbolts actually came directly at him, although not surprised enough to be hit. But if he wanted to play it that way, than Starman was happy to oblige with as many meteors as necessary in return -
- and Laika felt rather than saw the thunderbolt coming, and as Searchman roared, “Now!”, activated both cloaking and his back-based jets and flew up and northward, moments before the thunderbolt blasted a hole where he’d stood. When the two Beast Navis looked back down, having exchanged a salvo of bolts and meteors, their intruder had disappeared.
Cloudman’s reaction, Starman thought, would have been comical if it had come from a less ugly-looking Navi. “Where did you hide him?! That was the prey of Falzer, and I will not stand for - “
“Oh, go blow it out your cloud.” Starman sneered, trying to hide his disappointment. He was slightly afraid Cloudman’s thunderbolt had actually blown up the green Navi, but he certainly didn’t need Cloudman thinking that. “Why don’t I ask you? Maybe you’ve got him stuffed in one of those stupid clouds of yours, and I’ll just blow it up and see - “
But oddly enough, Cloudman had stopped paying attention to him and was focusing intently on something to his right. Starman was offended for a moment, and toyed with the thought of reminding the other Navi with a meteor, but finally turned to look in the same direction. In a split second, he realized exactly what was so interesting.
The intruder, turned invisible, was fleeing northward. And neither of them would have noticed him but for the small jolts of electricity crackling across his body, which Cloudman’s thunderclouds were homing in on.
The pain returned, like a wave of fire. Laika cried out involuntarily and, for a moment, could not maintain flight. He regained control before he fell into the horde of viruses below, but the damage was done; Searchman’s cloaking had failed, and there were certainly viruses chasing after him now. But more than that, he could feel the great malevolent presence of the cloud Navi behind him, and a smaller Navi - the one with the meteors - following behind him.
Laika no longer knew if he could outrun them. His Cross Fusion was failing, slowly but surely, and the Beast Navis behind him were closing in. But he flew on. There was nothing else he could do, save for a suicidal head-on attack or a miracle -
“Laika-sama! Virus to your right!”
He raised his rifle, and almost without looking, fired. There was a squawk, and a dragon virus fell out of the sky onto several of its comrades. More took its place immediately. He fired again behind him, several times, without measurable effect. He was slowing down, and they were catching up, even though he’d flown far enough to almost reach the foot of the mountains. The land below, no longer flat, was dotted with copses of trees, and if he just continued on a little further -
But the viruses were around him now, and Laika had no further strength for running.
The familiar gun appeared on his hand, displacing his sniper rifle. He stopped, turned, and fired without thinking into the largest concentration of viruses. They burst into data bits, and more came after them, and met with similar fates.
If this was the end, Laika thought - and pulled another battle chip out and shot again - he might as well take as many viruses as possible with him. And for something as stupidly noble as that, if the viruses didn’t kill him first, Searchman or Netto certainly would have. Despite the pain, he smiled at the thought, and then wondered if Searchman had heard him.
“I did, sir. You must not...there must be another way, somehow - “
Laika stopped for a moment, and then laughed, sadly. He could say nothing.
There came a sudden lull in the onslaught of viruses. As Laika warily held fire, the star-helmeted Beast Navi - might as well as call him Starman, Laika decided - emerged from the crowd of remaining viruses and stepped forward. The cloud Navi was nowhere to be seen, but Laika did not particularly care at that moment.
Starman grinned, said something unintelligible, and sent a star shot flying, and Laika sniped it out of the air in one smooth motion and aimed the next for Starman’s head. But the other Navi was far too agile, and zipped out of the way of that shot, and the next one. Laika gritted his teeth against another jolt of pain, concentrated, aimed -
He had a single, swift shock of realization. And then the four thunderclouds surrounding him, previously hidden amidst the dark whorls of smoke and virus remnants, erupted.
There was an explosion of lightning, and Laika fell.
“Bastard!” Starman yelled, as the lightning engulfed the green Navi - his target - and narrowly missed him in the process, “I was about to get him!”
There was no response from Cloudman, who was presumably hiding in one of the clouds, snickering. It would be just like him to get Starman to do all the dirty work and then snatch the glory for himself, that Falzer thief, and Starman growled and readied meteors to throw. But then he realized that the intruder Navi, instead of distintegrating, had simply fallen into the copse of trees below.
Was he still somehow alive after that? But Starman never passed up an opportunity to blow something up, or set it on fire - and trees were probably the most flammable things around. His mood taking a sudden turn for the better, he grinned and -
-The leaves sparkled with the early afternoon light overhead, hiding the remnants of the battle and the two Beast Navis. It would have been beautiful. But beauty was almost completely irrelevant to his current state of mind.
“Laika-sama!” Searchman roared, forcing the PET speakers to full volume and trying desperately to see something, anything, through his screen - but there was only the leaves overhead. “Answer me, please! Laika-sama!"
Laika’s voice came, weakly, from somewhere near the PET. Searchman released a breath he had not been aware of holding, but sobered immediately. He did not know how badly hurt his Operator was, and the Beast Navis still loomed overhead, and if they decided to check -
“Laika-sama, please - hold on! Don’t lose consciousness, you have to...”
...have to what? He’d pleaded with Laika earlier to not give up, and he knew that there was another way, but what...
...this was Beyondard. This was the Internet.
“...plug me in!”
- and Starman threw his remaining meteors down towards the trees.
The ensuing explosions sent fireballs flying through the green canopies, and in the dry weather, the leaves caught fire immediately. Starman laughed and, satisfied that the green Navi would be well taken care of, turned his attention to Cloudman’s long-overdue beatdown.
The meteors had missed them. But the fire wouldn’t. Searchman watched in horror as tongues of flame engulfed the leaves overhead, fanned by the winds and creeping steadily downward towards the brush, turning the afternoon light into a hellish red glare.
But there was no further response. His Operator had fallen unconscious, or worse -
Searchman rejected the thought before it could take hold. It was not the time for speculation, nor for panic, and even less for despair. He emptied his mind of everything except thought. If Laika was incapacitated, then he knew exactly what he had to do. Whether or not it was possible was another matter.
But he was a hacker Navi.
As the fire crept along the branches, eating away at the trees like a ravenous virus swarm, Searchman sank himself into his PET’s programming. He typed rapidly, forcing his way through security barriers designed specifically to prevent rebellious Navis from doing what he intended. It was an inelegant and brutal hacking attempt, the likes of which even trainee hackers would have scoffed at. It was also the fastest he had ever worked, driven on by the knowledge that his Operator’s life hung in the balance. And as the heavy branch overhead, weakened by flames, finally snapped and crashed down into the clearing, it struck empty ground where a human and a PET had lain, seconds ago.
Searchman had plugged himself in. Holding Laika tightly in his arms, he ran.