Questionable Allegiances

((From -> Rogan's PET))

A simple light beam, like many dozens of others dropped onto one of the multitude of entry pads around the exterior of the high-domed concourse that held the GNA-run recruitment centre for the various factions seeking representation on the net. This one was a little different from the others that appeared on different transits, swiftly depositing navigators before winking out; this one took linger, if only by a few moments, and the light itself faltered and flickered, quavering in an unstable way.

When it flickered out, the young girl that stumbled out of it staggered briefly and only halfway resisted the need to drop to one knee as her arms wrapped about her own body and she hugged herself to fight back the discomfort, and brace her way through it. She managed to straighten after a couple of short gasps for air, meaning to look around, but by the time she had, one of the usher navis had rushed over, GNA blazon clear on his chest.

“Are you alright, miss? Is there a problem?” There was a measure of concern, but still just a professional measure.

Lyntael tried to shrug off the feeling, but the transition had been a rough one, even by her own standards, and the turmoil she was still struggling with had distracted her from making the link as clean as she could, more than it had galvanised her against the inevitable pain it caused. She nodded, and blinked her eyes clear, and finally looked around the large, bustling space.

“I- I'm sorry. I'm okay. I'm... looking for...” She looked about again, this time trying to take in the various advertisements and banners. “There's a group... they say they want, um, to help make the net a safer place, and a better place, and where people can work together, rather than fighting. I think they... I read, they were called, um, the neo-shogunate, or, something like that?” Still hovering, as though waiting to see if she would fall down again, the GNA handler just nodded; it didn't seem to be in his purview to give an opinion about the motives or mission statements of the factions, or how reliable they were. Instead, he moved around to stand beside her, raising one hand to point in a direction, while the other moved to guide the young girl's shoulders around so she could see. At his touch, Lyntael flinched and skittered to the side a step and the handler lifted his arm back, murmuring an apology as he did.

“Sorry, miss. If you look over there, where I'm pointing, you'll see the recruitment windows that are taking care of Neo-shogunate applications. They should have a member or two present as well, somewhere over there, willing to assist with more information, if you want.” Once he had made sure that Lyntael had seen where he was directing her, he stepped back. Lyntael nodded and tried to draw herself up to a firmer stance, taking along breath and letting it out again.

“Thank you. I'm sorry. I'm okay. Um... I'll go ask them. Thank you.” She picked out the banners that the man had pointed out to her and began to make her way over. As she did, she made an effort to walk with more certainty, and squared her shoulders. She could do this, and it would be fine, and there was nothing Rogan could do about it if it was what she chose to do with her time. She didn't care what he thought... Internally, Lyntael wasn't able to make it all the way through that thought without admitting that she was fibbing to herself, but she set it aside and pushed on. This was a good thing to do. It would be something she could do to help people, and add some more good to the world. That was what mattered. She approached the area where the Neo-shogunate organisation was recruiting and began to look for someone to talk to.
If Lyntael was looking for someone sharing her somber mood, she would find that the Neo-Shogun Empire's recruitment desk did not fit the bill; the cheerful, somewhat goofy, possibly even irreverent atmosphere was almost comically at odds with her own demeanor at the moment. To the average person, the news they'd heard about the Neo-Shogun Empire was that it was a new, alternative option where you worked with a lot of girls in miniskirts, meaning if anyone tended to hang around the stand, it was trendy girls and overly excited guys. That said, perhaps that slightly upbeat mood would do her some good in this situation.

Today, the station was manned by one of their foot-soldiers, a large man with black hair in a flat-top cut, shaved around the ears in a way that looked a bit unfashionable and at odds with the others here. He seemed to be feeling a bit of discomfort with the crowd himself, as they somehow talked around him, despite him being the only real Neo-Shogun member here. Adding to his unfashionable appearance was his choice of accessories, a pair of over-sized spectacles with a swirling imprint upon the lenses. At any rate, he was in a good position to notice Lyntael's interest and wave her over.

"Hoi there! You're looking for a recruitment mission, aren't you? I can help you with that," he offered, seeming to put on a more welcoming face once he spotted her. Perhaps he had a more helpful nature than it first appeared... or perhaps he just liked small girls. There was a small, but big-headed doll of a ninja dressed in yellow on his counter, whose stature could be said to be rather similar to Lyntael's, by how they'd built her proportions. "I have a mission that's just come in for new recruits. Should be a good fit for you, if you're interested."

If she was, he'd slide across a pad so she could read some of the particulars.


Thank you for your interest in the Empire. We have a mission opportunity befitting a new recruit.

Tango, of the newly christened "Wanderlust II" cruise ship has offered to exchange useful information in return for us providing help with his/her/their festivities for the day. Having attended one of the original ship's gatherings before it was overtaken by pirates, I can testify that despite the strange mannerisms of the host and the cruise ship's advertisement as a couple's getaway, the work of the crew was plentiful, but rather average in nature.

As for the information we're looking for: Tango promises that a new organization, calling themselves the Business Owner's Coalition- or BOC, for short- has set up camp there. They have not shown any violent behavior. Rather, their stated goal is "the collection of reparations necessary to make us whole again, following unwarranted economic stress caused by one Neo-Shogun Empire." It sounds ridiculous: we don't make a habit of messing with anyone's livelihood, unless you count operations that were quite unsavory to begin with, which do not deserve such flowery statements of intent. That said, we need all the intel we can get. This will be a good chance to find out what Tango knows and, at the same time, get eyes on the other members.

Your mission is not to impede or dismantle the Coalition. Your part will be merely to follow Tango's instructions. Get their intel and also return any useful details you can regarding the members of the BOC and why they've formed.

I don't anticipate any danger- especially since you are not to advertise yourself as a mission of the Neo-Shogun Empire- but if you doubt your abilities, know that your safety will be in the good hands of Subordinate DragonierMan. He is one of our strongest Subordinates and will also be evaluating your fitness for joining the Empire in this mission. If you're worried about the pirates, don't be: the new Wanderlust II is in an entirely new locale, a body of water far from the pirates' territory. I can certainly see why Tango wanted to relocate.

Should you choose to accept the mission, we'll have you and him meet Tango on board to go over next steps. I look forward to your results and to serving alongside you, for the glory of our Shogun and the prosperity of the net.

-Sky-Severing Ronin, Natural Blademaster, Yasu.EXE

"She gets a little long-winded, he he..." the man chuckled, seeming mildly tongue-tied himself. "Sounds like a sweetheart of a mission, though, if you ask me. There was one a little while ago where we staffed a water-park! Got to ride the rides and everything, even got to see... er... the inside of a castle," he murmured, seeming like he almost let something slip he hadn't meant to. "Point is, a cruise ship sounds like a nice place to do a mission, don't you think?"

Lyntael, having history on what happened to the first Wanderlust, would probably appreciate knowing that the new ship was nowhere near pirate territory... but would she want to re-engage with Tango's eccentricities, knowing that they were often the architect of their own demise? The last time she'd found work aboard a cruise ship, being forced to defuse a turf war between pirates, the work had been anything but simple...
As she approached, Lyntael could feel her firm, stern expression and the set of her shoulders melting a little bit. A smile found its way onto her lips instead, though it was small at first. Everyone seemed so happy and enthusiastic here. This had to be the right choice. Her eyes traced over the various fashion choices of the other people milling about the area, taking in the little details as she wandered forward.

Eventually her somewhat bewondered stroll took her to the actual desk and she nodded, a little hesitant, at the way the recruitment representative filled in all the blanks rapidly for her.

“I- I am... ah yes... I think... I'm... my name is Lyntael, and... oh!” She started to introduce herself but trailed off when the mission briefing was handed across to her. her eyes dropped to scan the information ,but the girl started slightly and her eyebrows rose when she read the name of the ship, and its host.

“Oh. I... I know this ship! It was...” She trailed off again, thinking of how that entire event had panned out, and the different pirate women involved. She was relieved to read further down the report that it was supposedly safer now, and that someone who was already a member would be with her.

By the time her reading reached the bottom of the report, her expression had shifted a little more serious again, and she re-read the name at the bottom an extra time. It certainly sounded like a military title, which was concerning, but she had to suppose that they couldn't do what they intended to across the net without a lot of structure and some powerful people to uphold it. she looked at the document and then back up to the handler again.

“It does sound nice, if all the pirates are gone now... So... they just need me to help Tango out for a while, and then she'll give us some information to give back to someone here? I can do that.” She nodded and carefully slid the data pad back. After a moment she blinked and shook her head, remembering the other questions she had.

“Oh, but, I was hoping you could maybe tell me a little more about the group, and what you do? I only really know a little bit.” She folded her hands together behind her back and looked at the mission-giver with a slightly pensive expression. It felt like she had jumped ahead to a point where she should already know more than she did, and had somehow skipped over the information session.
"Ah, don't worry. They sorted out the problem where fake requests were getting in to the list. If the First General herself is writing the request, you can be assured the details are accurate. Besides, from what I hear, the pirates all kind of fight over one sea. As long as you're not in that sea, you're good," the big man reassured Lyntael, though some of his unnecessary details might be a little less than reassuring. His mouth fell and he rubbed his chin slowly with one giant hand as Lyntael pointed out she was really a neophyte to the Neo-Shogun Empire. "Huh, I guess that's not surprising. A lot of people know our members but don't know our ideology. Heck, even all us soldiers were originally brought over by Dee before we knew what we were actually signing up for. I'll explain it all so you can understand."

The guy adjusted his glasses, suddenly looking like someone's parody of a school teacher, before continuing. "These days our goal is to unite the net. Not just the Net War, but really, all sorts of dark events in the net's history can be attributed to people's self-serving interests. We want to create a societal entity that people can work together to contribute towards, improving quality of life for everybody. Along with that goes the might to protect that society, of course. A lot of people ask how that's any different than the NetPolice... well, key differences are that we want people to join voluntarily with the promise of what we can do for them. But we do want everyone to join. It's uh... it's changed a lot from the beginning."

The man seemed to feel a pang of consternation and decided to continue. "See, earlier on, things were dangerous and kinda reckless. The emperor- Neo-ShogunMan- wanted to achieve his... her... dream and draw out her old flame, ShogunMan, as soon as she could, so she was trying to claim several theoretically unoccupied parts of the net. It didn't go well; we lost time and time again. It was especially hard on us soldiers! So you could say she learned a lesson: if she wants her empire, she has to be willing to take it with patience and understanding, not with force. That's the same way we want everyone to join: with consideration of what works best, to everyone's benefit, with nobody dragged kicking and screaming."

He rubbed his chin harder, seeming to glare down at his desk. "But whether that works remains to be seen. The NP and Mafia are both playing nice now, I imagine cause they don't wanna be fighting two wars at once, but are they just gonna go 'okay' if we try to hand them some kind of deal where they keep their own structure but submit all their lands to the Empire? Not likely," he grumbled. "That's for the big thinkers, though. Point is, right now: despite the spear I'm holding behind this desk, it's actually the most non-violent faction on the net. If that appeals to you."

He looked pretty stressed; this was probably the first time he'd ever had to really sell the Empire to anybody. At first, he'd seemed pretty enthusiastic to be doing something useful, but now, he seemed to be sweating a bit, wondering if he'd just turned away his first on-the-fence customer.
For her own part, Lyntael nodded and listened as attentively as she could to the description that the navi behind the counter gave, though as he went on and things sounded positive, she could tell her was getting increasingly uncomfortable, or perhaps nervous? It sounded like they had actually stated out with a more military mindset, which had initially set a concerned crease in her brown, but as the story unfolded, Lyntael relaxed a little more. She nodded again and offered the subordinate a smile as he wrapped up.

“I think that sounds good. I'm glad. I'd just heard that you wanted to make the net better and safer for everyone, and I was getting worried with all the military ranks and soldiers and things... I... I don't really want to fight. I'm not good at it. But it sounds like who they are now is a lot more like something I want to help! Thank you.”

The bit about the Shogun... or Neo-shogun... sounded like a confusing story that she didn't want to pry into immediately, especially since the man in front of her seemed to be so uncertain about how he was doing. Instead she tried to reassure him.

“I think this is something I can do. Is there anything else I need to do to sign up, before the entry mission? Where... um... Where should I go now?” The mission had mentioned the cruise ship, of course, but she had no idea if there were any other steps she'd need to go through first before being sent to its location. Another thought occurred to her and a thread of worry slipped through her attempt at confidence. “Oh, um... I don't really have my operator's permission to be here. He doesn't know I'm out... you don't need an operator's sign off or anything, do you?” She winced and peeked at the other navi through a slightly side-on glance, almost apologetic in her stance.
"Yeah, none of us soldiers really want to fight either! That wasn't our first profession, really; we were all manor servants before this gig. So we were all pretty relieved when we stopped, you know, going up against giant robots and fields of lava and flying guard-towers and all that stuff. I mean, we do our training, but I think we're all peace-loving people at heart," he explained, pressing one hand to the breast of his tunic. "Well, some of us are a little more violent than others, but every organization is like that, I think. General Yasu may seem intimidating, but she's really the glue that helps hold this organization together." By saying that, he'd sort of inadvertently named her as the one he was thinking of as more violent. "Shes' still getting the hang of it too."

"I'm glad you're on board for it! Nah, you just tell me you want to join and I give you a data packet with the coordinates. They'll be told you're coming and someone will be there waiting for you; probably DragonierMan, plus anyone else you guys are collaborating with on this," he explained, sliding the data packet across now.

*Lyntael received Coordinates.DAT*

"As for your operator... You probably should be in contact with him, seeing as you'd ideally be ready with chips or that sort of thing in case something does go south. I don't think it will, but you know how it is... whole net's full of folks who can pull out a weapon," he responded awkwardly, scratching the back of his head awkwardly. "We don't need his sign off. Just be careful, alright? Stay close to DragonierMan for protection." He frowned here, then looked down at the toy on his desk. He seemed like he wanted to add something, but didn't.

((Topic opening soon in Beach Net))
Lyntael found herself nodding to the rest of the explanation, and a certain element of tension began to relax from her shortlist of worries. Whatever complicated politics were behind the organisation, it at least sounded like it was all on the up and up now, and that was a source of relief for her without realising it, she'd been quite worried that her sudden rebellious act might have been a terrible mistake, but as the soldier at the desk spoke, she grew more confident that it was the right thing to do. She'd be safe enough, and Rogan couldn't stop her doing this. Especially if he didn't care enough to talk to her about everything else that had just happened and was more interested in his work.

On the other hand, the reassurances only made her a little bit more nervous about meeting the apparent General. Someone who had opted for the more militaristic approach initially was almost certainly going to find someone like her wanting. Lyntael shook the worry away and shored up her resolve in her mind; no, she wouldn't. She could do whatever they needed, and it would be just fine. Rogan wasn't here to be passively annoyed at her for not doing as well as he wanted, and everything else would be fine, because she could do what was needed, and she would. After a moment, she caught herself and made an effort to soften her increasingly serious expression. Instead she reached out to claim the data packet and convert it into a simple data string that raced up and around her wrist, up the length of her arm and slipped across her skin and under her vest, until it settled into a slim pending circle around her emblem. She grinned more brightly to the soldier.

“I will. I'll be okay.” She let her hands settled behind her back, head tilting to one side as she looked across the counter to him. “I just need to get away for a bit, and I've wanted to look all of this up.” She reminded herself that she was trying to be confident and capable, and she smiled in a more reassuring way. “I do try not to do anything dangerous when I'm disconnected like this, but, it's not the first time... I'll be careful.” Something pensive about the soldier's expression made her look at him a little more closely.

“Was something else wrong? Do you know much about DragonierMan? Does he help new recruits like this often?” In the back of her mind, she assessed the data she'd been given and examined it, though the extended network address and coordinates were largely meaningless to her. At least, after the first PET to Net transit, other transfers around net locations didn't rely on the emulation, so, the transfer would be easy and painless, wherever it sent her.
The soldier awkwardly returned a smile, seeming pleased at the conversation but relatively fish-out-of-water when it came to talking to girls that didn't outrank him. "Yes, all I ask is that you be appropriately cautious," he reaffirmed.

His wince at her second question showed that he was embarrassed he had been caught looking sour. "Ah, it's nothing you need to worry about. More of those complicated politics, ha ha... You'll learn everything you need to know about them when it's time," he brushed it off. "Don't worry, the guy is one of the Shogun's most trusted soldiers. He's their go-to-guy for all kinds of tasks. This one ought to be easy," the soldier shrugged. The resentment in his voice was hard to hide. Maybe he was just jealous of DragonierMan, a subordinate ranked member with the approval of the Shogun? It was easy to imagine the rank and file soldiers got bitterly envious of the kind of power a navi like DragonierMan held and the trust the Shogun gave him. "It'll be great, yup. You better get going or he might start that talk with Tango without you. Don't wanna be late on your recruitment mission, even if Yasu's not the one waiting on you."
That someone of a rank described as 'Subordinate' was also considered one of the shogun's most trusted contacts struck Lyntael as odd, though she supposed that it might be a higher rank than it sounded... perhaps by 'subordinate', what it meant was that they were directly under the generals, on the ladder, and above the other rank and file in the organisation? She couldn't be sure, but the soldier in front of her at elast seemed honest, if a little biter about his praises for the navi who would be escorting her. The brief reminder at the end of the soldier's explanation startled Lyntael out of her otherwise studious listening and she nodded more swiftly.

"Oh! Right, yes, I should... Um thank you! Bye for now!" She took a hurried step back from the counter, unconsciously brushing herself off as she did, then waved to the soldier with a smile as she followed the address she'd been give. A simple yellow beam of light whisked her away to a hopefully cruisier cruise this time.

((To -> A New Cruise Ship))