If I did, feel free to ignore.
I really love trying to figure out the culture and soforth of the ReBoot world. I see the Net as the more civilized place to be, the WEB as rather barbaric and old-fashioned by comparison.
This started out as a simple exploratory and it sorta snowballed from there.
Unintentionally related to Old Apartment
Characters: Bob, web riders
Set: Season IV; After Bob and co. return to MainFrame, before Daemon becomes a problem.
Summary: You really miss things like running water and convection heat when you don't have them.
Warnings: Implied Sprite undress (Nothing explicit, I promise. I mean c'mon, it's ME.)
Nullzilla had taken care of his last attempts at interior design, and the system restore had reverted the modest flat back to its original tacky and slightly Spartan furnishings. Guardians didn’t carry much with them in the way of house wares, most of that was supplied in the form of barracks and mess halls. A System protector such as himself was usually granted a stipend from the people he was protecting, but it didn’t afford much. MainFrame’s people, he had heard, had been particularly generous. As such, Bob appreciated his slightly-dated top-floor apartment all the more. It was his, and they had given it to him as the best payment they could offer; the least they could do.
Standing with his back to the bedroom door, Bob didn’t feel as if he’d earned the stark little room at all. Right now he was so far behind in his ‘rent’ that it was a wonder he hadn’t been evicted to sleep on the Principle Office floor. Granted Phong probably had guest bedrooms to spare, but that wasn’t the point. Looking at the small room now, it was strange to think that he had ever thought it somewhat cramped: just an end table, a twin bed, and a picture window of his home system on the wall above. Sink and toilet were built into a closet-like space off to one side, and the shower wrapped around behind.
When was the last time…? Bob shook his head, not wanting to dredge the dreaded second to the front of his memory. Instead he glanced briefly at the pristine surface of the mattress and trudged past it towards the tiled half-circle. He didn’t want to dirty anything with the layers of grime and sweat accumulated from days in the WEB and minutes battling Viral hordes.
His boots clicked slightly on the shiny yellow squares, the auto path moving him forward and under a column of warm energy. Rather than let it scoot forward after only a handful of nanoseconds, Bob extended one arm beyond the warm flow to touch the pause button. For microseconds he just stood there, enjoying the warmth, the feeling of cleanliness percolating through the plate and chain mail of his armor, around each matted strand of hair. Eyes closed, shoulders slumped, he simply stood. Here in MainFrame, protected by an envirosphere and the benefits of things like janitors and street sweepers, a light coating of dust on the coffee table was about as bad as it got. Heat rose in his cheeks along with the memory of his first awkward experience concerning personal hygiene in the WEB.
Bathing in the WEB was primitive at best. After his initial foray with the riders, he had reeked almost as bad as one of the herd creatures. None of the riders- equally pungent in their clothing of hide and scales- seemed to notice or care. Data streams were hard to come by out on the trail where the creatures grazed, and the precious liquid was usually conserved for drinking rather than washing. Not until they had arrived safely at the home ranch had any of them bared more than hands and faces in order to rid themselves of the very worst of surface dirt.
“Come on, Pretty,” they had called to him. “Time to clean up.”
Bypassing the living areas and storage cells, they had led him down a winding worm hole to a warm cavern. In the center of the floor, a data spring bubbled from the depths of a subterranean stream. Already there were Sprites submerged in it up to their shoulders as if it were a hot tub. It took Bob an extremely tense millisecond to realize with profound relief, amid the rising steam and murky liquid, that they were all male.
It had been so…so…manual. The riders hadn’t simply clicked icons and invoked a change of wardrobe with a verbal command, they had peeled off layers of filthy scales and leather and shucked them to the floor before taking rags and brick-like cakes of gray, greasy soap and scrubbing their mangled hides with their own two hands (or what was left of them). That alone had startled him, but what had truly shocked him was the rider’s apparent lack of modesty. While the manual change of costumes was uncommon in the Net, it wasn’t unheard of. However, in such instances, one usually preserved a minimum of decency. Evidently that did not apply out in the wilderness of cyber space. Undergarments as well as boots and gauntlets were cast aside, leaving Bob, still standing in his shorts, feeling awkward in the extreme. Apparently no one was bothered by anyone else’s nudity or ugliness. Bob, however, was beginning to feel unpleasantly out of place as the now clean riders looked at him expectantly from the data spring.
“Well don’t look at me!” he had shouted, voice cracking to an embarrassing falsetto in mid-sentence. Although the outburst had been in his native language, they seemed to understand and shrugged pleasantly before turning their heads or averting their gaze. Gif, the leader, even obligingly flopped his tentacle left hand over his beady blue eyes. Their good-natured chuckles and lack of staring hadn’t helped much. Still dressed in damp and rather soapy shorts, Bob approached the spring with fear and trepidation.
“No one cares,” Gif had assured him. “Do not be embarrassed.”
It wasn’t their judgment of his comparatively handsome physique, lean and wiry as he had become, so much as their concept (or lack thereof) of personal space. His expression must have made his thoughts evident, for Gif’s features knotted in consternation and then softened into neutrality.
“We are all men, here. Men of honor. No one is going to harm you.”
Swallowing his nerves as best he could, Bob nodded. It wasn’t that he didn’t trust them; they’d certainly spent enough time keeping him alive while acclimating him to their strange, harsh world. However, the situation still made him more than a little nervous. Summoning the dregs of his bravado, he put one foot in the pool. The rest of him soon followed.
It had been beautifully warm, hot in fact, almost too hot to bear after so much exposure to the cold outdoors. Breath caught briefly in his lungs, it escaped in a long, low sigh as Bob sank to his shoulders in the bath. Although it should have seemed crowded, the riders on either side were each giving him at least a micro of space. It wasn’t a lot, but the lack of physical contact did much for his nerves.
Perhaps because the full-body immersion was so infrequent, he’d never gotten used to it. Never had he been able to summon the stomach to get into the natural Jacuzzi completely nude, always leaving his worn, gray boxers intact. Standard issue. The academy tailors would have been proud.
Sweet User, he still had those same under shorts on. At least now he was in close enough proximity to simply download a new pair. A change of clothes period would be wonderful. Lifting one sluggish hand, he tapped his icon once. However, rather than gather the necessary brain cells to summon a new outfit, he simply let the setting default. The armor was heavier than he’d thought. Standing there without it, the icon hanging from a short strap around his neck his only clothing, gave him a surreal feeling of weightlessness. Or maybe it was because he was still hungry and sleep-deprived? Either way, he felt cleaner than he had in ages. Finally keying the flow to a stop, Bob braced himself for the jerk forward and the descent of the blow-dryer. He had only a split nano to decide on something before the shower spit him back out into his bedroom. At the moment, the only thoughts on his mind were of long procrastinated downtime. As such, the little-used pajamas that appeared were less of a surprise than they would have been otherwise. Skin radiating with warmth and cleanliness, Bob flopped onto the soft surface of the repulsor face-first. Sleep in the WEB had required cramped positions that conserved body heat, and his muscles automatically curled him into a tight ball on his side until he remembered that his apartment was climate controlled, and that he had a blanket. He hit the button more by accident than anything else and stretched out on his back for the first time in what felt like ages.
Good to be home…
It was the last thought before his mind shut down to sleep. With any luck, he’d be too tired to dream.