“I have an idea,” Lexel told her determined defender as she motioned for them to head on down the street. “There is an underground arena somewhere in low town, they call it NaN. I hear things, see things mentioned when running the nodes; it exists but doesn’t exist.” As they walked on Lexel struggled to explain it to Zero. How could she put it into words; it was a legend, a myth among the streets.
“That is a contradiction; your statement can not be possible,” Zero objected as a can rattled, rolling away from his foot to bounce off a nearby wall. Lexel gritted her teeth and took a quick breath before trying to make the logic-locked lab rat understand. “While you are right technically, you are wrong in reality,” she countered. Lexel spun on her heel, stopping dead in her tracks to focus her full attention on Zero.
“NaN is not a place; it doesn’t exist as a location. There is no sign, no building; they have tried to shut it down for years but nobody can ever find it to do so. But it does exist; I know it for a fact. NaN is, like I said, an underground arena among other things. From time to time hidden feeds surface to showcase fights or other events to lure in new blood and the like. There is a lot of money to be made but it isn’t without its share of risk. Tourists and people from the street vanish all the time trying to make it big in the games.”
“That isn’t going to happen to us though,” Lexel reassured Zero with cool confidence. “I have seen you fight, and with my advice there isn’t going to be anything that can stand a chance against us.” Zero carefully considered everything his new companion told him, but found himself unable to completely reconcile the notion that they were looking for something that didn’t exist. It made his transistors twitch just thinking about it; how would they find it if it couldn’t be found?
“The trick is going to be finding NaN, and I know a lot about tricks,” Lexel proclaimed with a wicked grin. “We just need to find ourselves a public terminal or some way of accessing nodes and I think I can work some magic.” That was going to be the challenge she knew; finding a workable access point wasn’t like finding trash in the street. Most people carried their own hardware; almost nobody used public terminals anymore which meant they were few in number and even fewer functioning. But if she could find one she could patch up just enough – well it was bound to be no longer listed on the grids, which could mean less chance of being tracked.
“Come on,” Lexel said before dashing off, Zero obediently following behind her. It wasn’t like she had never exactly done something like this before. There was that one time she pulled a prank on her teacher using an old terminal, but back then she had Xeph by her side to nervously play the part of her conscience. Her friend didn’t like the idea at all back then, and Lexel was sure she would have liked it even less now. Even so, she did wish that she had her scared scarlet-haired sister by her side. Without Xeph to be brave for Lexel found she was going to have to do her own share of worrying.
It took hours of searching as the sun rose higher overhead and Lexel grew more frustrated with every time they had to duck for cover. She was growing more irritated by the minute, not by the lack of terminals but more so by the fact that she needed to use one. If she had had her own mini-com like most other people she wouldn’t be frantically hunting right now. However, if she did have her own it might have already leaded whoever was hunting them straight to her by now.
That thought was a welcome consolation as they patiently waited for some passing workers to go by. Lexel looked up to check how high the sun had managed to climb up in the sky to find instead a sight that made her almost yell with excitement. Nestled behind the sanctuary of debris they were hidden in she could see the mangled remains of a terminal barely hanging on a wall. Its weathered frame cracked and most of its wiring frayed or exposed.
Quiet as she could, Lexel reached up to examine her fortunate prize. Shielded from view by the safety of stacked scrap and assorted bits she set herself about discovering how much of the damaged device still could function. Most of the visual output was gone, several of its boards were cracked or fried, but some of its core functions looked to be intact. After re-routing a few wires and adjusting some plugs Lexel delighted at the familiar sound of a terminal clicking online.
Drawing a short datajack cable from her bag Lexel looked over to Zero as she plugged one end into the device. “I won’t be long, just keep an eye out; alright,” she asked her waiting guardian. Zero nodded his agreement and Lexel slid the other end into the jack behind her ear. The familiar hum of the nodes greeted her with its subtle songs of static.
“Here we go…” Lexel commented to herself and started running.