The Wanderlust II with Lyntael and DragonierMan

Navis, like humans, could make mistakes. The mistake that cropped up at this moment in time was that the dragoniers did not exchange contact information with either Tango or Lyntael. Because they didn't, they couldn't contact them through interpersonal communication lines. So while the four linked, undercover agents could communicate their situation to each other, and they would, they would have to manually track down the other two and talk to them in person. The four dragoniers sent pings to each other with the situation they were in, trying to remain in character on the outside, as they planned at the speed of thought on the inside. Thankfully navis, especially battle navis with lots of experience, could multi-task better than most humans. It was a dead battle navi that couldn't keep track of multiple targets while performing complex maneuvers.

As Corrin was meeting with Memora, Sign let slip that the person on the radio was ReservoirMan. Cynthia tried to hold back any facial ticks that would give away the knowledge that she knew who that was. Though it made a lot of sense that ReservoriMan was involved. The incident at the Alaki Reservoir caused him to lose everything. Though technically the Neo-Shogunate didn't directly damage or destroy the dam, the one who did then joined the Neo-Shogunate. "Oh, that is sorry to hear. He will be missing such an wanderous time aboard this ship. I hope he will recover soon and come next time," Cynthia added.

Corrin greeted Memora, and then ArmoryMan as he appeared, with a welcome smile. "Of course," he replied to ArmoryMan's request for privacy from Memora and some food. "Please come this way, I will prepare you a spot to sit and then check on the kitchen. And madam, please be happy to take a seat with the other guests at your leisure." Corrin said, quickly gliding towards any open seating on the other side of the room from ChronicleMan and the rest. If there wasn't any seating on the other side of the room, he would try to make some, including moving any spare tables around. He then pulled out the chair for ArmoryMan and bid him to sit. "Now if you'll excuse me, I will go look towards your food situation." He then bowed and glided out of the room.


Nikki began quickly taking everything that would be damaged by the cold (such as soda and chips) out of the freezer first and began stacking them on whatever chairs, table, boxes, floor, etc. she had access to within reach. She replied to Yasu as she was doing that:

Quote (Aya to Yasu)

<We have enough here to make a showing. I am including a listing of items in our possession. We request fruits, wine, and maybe steak or something more substantial. As stated, Tango did not pay Takeout yet, but she is willing to negotiate for her services out of our paycheck from Tango. Unfortunately we did not exchange contact information with Tango, so if you could contact our employer and get to the bottom of this, that would be appreciated. Until then we will make do with what we have.>


Mara smiled as best as she could to Takeout, while holding back biting criticism. "I'm sure we can work something out in that regard. I promise you will be paid by the end of this, one way or another," she said with her sweet smile, as she was imagining hanging Tango by the neck and shaking the navi down for money at knife-point. "Now, if you could help us with the preparations?" Mara asked as she helped Nikki out with bringing the food materials to the kitchen to be made. A lot of the food seemed pretty quick to prepare and they would try to get some of the easier stuff done first so that they could give the ravenous rapacious Raptor and TribalMan something to eat. Once they were calmed down, and Corrin arrived to check on their situation and pitch in, they would start working on a full-course spread of whatever they had available, including the Chinese food and the rest. It would be up to the various attendees as to what they would want to eat, but they would have quite the selection.

As Mara slid plates of food in front of Raptor, TribalMan, and MerchMan, she gave a slight chuckle. "Sorry about the wait ladies and gentlemen, please enjoy. We will be cooking up a storm here so please don't be shy about asking for anything that is available to your keen eyes." Assuming Takeout was helping Mara with the cooking, Corrin and Nikki would be free to gather together extra plates of food created for the other guests, and would be able to take them to the meeting hall to give to the others (especially ArmoryMan). Meanwhile Mara replied to MerchMan to keep him talking. "Famous huh? Cuter? Lil' ol' us? Well, Mr. Big-Shot, you have my attention. I assume you interviewed those Neo-Shoguns in the same way huh? I bet they couldn't resist your charms," Mara flirted back.


Corrin and Nikki eventually made their way back to the meeting room with trays of food. Hopefully, they had found handcarts or something to carry the food, otherwise they would have to make extra trips. "Here you go," Corrin stated to ArmoryMan as he placed a plate of food and drinks on the table. "Some appetizers to start the day off. Please let us know if you need anything further." Nikki meanwhile was showing off a selection of prepared food to the main table with Lynn and all the other guests. "Your starting appetizers. More will be on the way. What do you want to start with first?" she asked while placing food and drink in front of each person as they picked out their selection. Once her and Corrin were done, they would head back to the kitchen for another round of cooking and table waiting.

“Ah, allow me to correct a misconception,” Sign offered, folding her large hands in a strange way before extending one out, apparently signaling the beginning of an explanation. “ReservoirMan is on board this ship, he just isn’t here. He is, frankly, too large. The doors to this dining hall are not large enough to allow him passage, and he refuses to use a .GMO… Nevertheless, he insisted on participating. I also thought that wise, although it poses certain challenges…” The Navi adjusted her glasses and frowned. “As much as I’d love to say he’s enjoying himself elsewhere… I’m assuming Tango didn’t see fit to send catering and entertainment to the ship’s cargo hold? Anyway, don’t concern yourself with it. He seems to prefer solitude, and… I feel confident the dinner will not be enlivened by his presence.”

Next, Sign whirled to Lyn with excitement as she heard what she wanted to hear. There was a fair shake that having someone she was pressing acquiesce and agree to sign her papers was a more effective method of pleasing her guests than Lynn would otherwise manage to accomplish on the crazy cruise. The woman shook her head and raised her eyebrow at the hostess, smiling all the same. “Tango? Cross? I can hardly imagine it. Anyway, like I said, as long as you and your friends have no shady plans, there’s no reason you should fear signing anything I put before you.”

ChronicleMan seemed like he was trying to subtly peer forward and get a look at those papers himself, but Sign correctly guessed that “AmberMint” was treating her “real” name as a sensitive matter and took her papers back swiftly.

“You’re smart to use your real name, ‘Lynn.’ I can’t tell you how many phonies I’ve cleaned out for my clients because someone tried to sign with an alias,” she said, with a smile that suggested she was trying to make friendly conversation rather than issue a threat. “Oh, but you don’t have to worry about that. Again, if there’s no reason for me to go after you. Thank you. And don’t worry about Tango. I’m confident I could do argumentative circles around your boss in my sleep, should the need arise… I-I mean, not that it will come to that.
“In any case…” Sign cleared her throat and rose, seeming to sense Lyn was eager to get out of the discussion of legal matters and into fulfilling ChronicleMan’s request. “I’ll get out of your hair for now. Now, Cynthia…” Sign decided to press her luck, turning to the support program with a smile. “Perhaps I can get your signatures as well?” It seemed this was really the only way the lawyer intended to be entertained until she had every blank filled in.

As she did so, ChronicleMan was once again engaged by Lyntael, holding his watchful smile on her, turning his expression to solemn empathy a moment too slow for it to be natural when she began expressing her own concerns. However, his eyebrows raised in genuine interest when she described being an unoperated Navi. A hint of an inappropriate smile might have begun to curl the corners of his mouth under his moustache. “Oh my. It sounds like you don’t get up to many adventures, per se, but you have plenty of marketa- er, ah, exciting experiences nonetheless. Do continue.”

The Navi listened with eyes that seemed to be begging her to arrive somewhere in particular, perhaps offensively failing to find anything of note to respond to in her statement of her rather selfless desires. He listened to her talk about her experience with Tango and her request for discretion and nodded politely. “Of course. Ah, I might want to circle back around to this story of how you first met her.”

ChronicleMan looked a bit surprised to be asked about himself, as though he were trying to decide how he felt about it. Eventually, he frowned, stroking his moustache. “Yes, these ‘shogun people’ as you put it, Lynn… Pah! Poppycock! ‘Gone pacifist?’ Let me tell you, the only place they’re going is straight to court, where they will compensate me… er… us, most handsomely! If you care to hear my story, I’ll be happy for you to join us when I take the floor at our meeting, at which time I will elucidate every detail, but, for now, allow me to share but a single, tantalizing tidbit: Those scoundrels hit me with a limousine,” he finished with a total lack of humor, perhaps giving away the meat of his story a bit too readily. “Ugh. Feel like my poor, poor hip is flaring up just thinking about it, oh woe is me!” The old man looked like he wanted to continue elaborating on that a bit more productively, and he looked to the door of the kitchen as if anticipating getting things started.

---

Memora’s eyebrow twitched as she saw ArmoryMan being seated before her. She didn’t seem to have any problem with his petty request being fulfilled, but it probably stung her pride as a woman somewhat to see a the handsome host guide the burly man to his table and leave her to seat herself… Shrugging, she made her way to another free seat by herself, away from the male arms dealer and closer to the table of the other guests.

ArmoryMan, took his seat at the clothed table, seeming to approve of the spot Corrin chose. He picked up the card on the cloth and read it with a curled lip, looking wryly amused in spite of himself. “This is no joke? You guys are really serious? Hell, get me a burger out here then, chief.” He sat moodily staring at nothing in particular, occasionally glancing at the other tables and their guests, coming up with a snide remark that made him smirk, then keeping it to himself and falling into a mood all over again.

---

Takeout rubbed her hands together. She’d apparently asked to be paid upfront, but the prospect of being paid at all seemed to have her excited now. “Okay, you got a deal. Leave it all to Takeout, and just remember the promise.” Takeout joined the rest of the would-be kitchen staff in preparing what she could, although it seemed most everything would be time-limited by the microwave. “Ooh, lucky Takeout is here. There is a secret. What you can plate, how you adjust microwave… The secrets of fastfood are known to me! Takeout learned how to be lazy veeery efficiently, hehe…” Sure enough, the small woman began brazenly putting different items together on microwave plates and stove trays, not inviting any questioning of her methods, calculations, or experience.

As dishes left the ovens, stovetop, and microwave, whatever was placed in front of Raptor and TribalMan immediately disappeared. Funnily enough, while they seemed to have staked out their own areas and didn’t seem poised to fight over apart from some cagey standoffs if anything was placed equidistantly between them, their zones seemed to split the counter in front of them 50/50. In other words, they had clearly established there was no room for MerchMan to receive anything. With some effort, the man finally got a plate of fries before it could vanish, and even some ketchup after he managed to flag down one of his hostesses for it.

Soon, Raptor and Tribalman had slowed down, having taken about fifty percent collectively of everything that was prepared for themselves. Finally, the disguised ninjas were able to start creating a serving line.

“Hoo! I changed my mind, this cruise is all right! We don’t even have to pay for any of this junk, do we?!” Raptor admitted. She let out a burp and, perhaps surprisingly, blushed a bit… apparently that was a step less graceful than even she intended to be.

TribalMan let out a large belch as well… If anyone was expecting a similar display of emotion and vulnerability from him as well, they’d be disappointed. Still, he gave a thumbs-up to indicate he’d been satisfied as well.

“Sheesh,” MerchMan muttered, chewing on a fry and looking hungrier than he’d let on. “Also, what are you doing back here, Beard Guy? You didn’t, uh, get the hint that I’m satisfied with my current level of service?”

Nobody else seemed to be complaining: too many cooks might spoil a broth, but the broth this kitchen was preparing was pretty hard to screw up. Everything was ready to take out to the front.

Halfway through these preparations, Aya had gotten a response from Yasu.

Quote

I will delegate the task of procuring the food to another, while I deal with Tango personally. She will see how persuasive a Neo-Shogun general can be, and learn exactly how much tolerance we have for shenanigans. Little, in case that was unclear. How many are you serving?


MerchMan flashed his smile again, happy to get back to flirting, even if his target was busy preparing food at the same time. “Sure you are! About interviews though… yeah! Sure, I interviewed ‘em. Oh, I’ve talked up all of those Neoshogun girls, for sure.” The hopeless Casanova seemed to be relying on this as an ill-advised pickup tactic. “They’re cute, sure, but uh… not a lot goin’ on in the old noggin, if you catch my drift. I prefer a girl with a little wit, Mara. A little wit, a big smile, and a cute laugh, hehe!”

His eyes were transparently not on Mara’s “big smile” as he said this.

---

Meanwhile, outside, ArmoryMan bared his teeth in an expression that didn’t mean anything clear, with his eyes hidden behind his shades. “Well, I’ll be. You actually came through on that? Dunno how I feel about a burger as an appetizer, but I bet I’m gonna work up an appetite listening to these sad sacks whine, so why not. And anyway… free’s free. A businessman takes a deal when he sees it… While passing on the small fries to leave room for the main course. That means I’m really hoping there’s some actual cruise food coming out of there at some point, okay, chief? This joke’s only funny once.”

When Nikki made her way to the other table, they took it without the propensity to make a big, self-important speech about it. Soon enough, everyone had a plate to munch on, even if some seemed more pleased about the fare than others…

ChronicleMan, in particular, had ultimately only taken a glass of water. “Okay now, attention, attention, ladies and gentlemen! I feel it’s just about time we got started and bring the first meeting of the BOC to order! We are about to commence ceremonies which, at their conclusion, will swiftly find us all justly recompensated for our misery, and those unsavory ruffians of the NeoShogun empire selling those swords of theirs to keep the lights on! Ohoho… Ho… Heheh… Raptor!” He shouted, suddenly cross. “TribalMan! Where the blazes are those two?! You, with the beard, won’t you please fetch those two? Knowing them, they’ll be content to keep chowing down on chicken nuggets until I’m the one carrying them around!” Never had any of those gathered heard such a disdainful pronunciation of “chicken nuggets.”
In amongst the polite conversation and inviting smiles, Lyntael filed way the information that the other missing guest, ReservoirMan, was indeed on board... and was apparently camping out in the hold because of his size. They would really have to get someone down to him at some point. When the information itself was presented, Lyntael tried to catch Magistrate's eye and subtly confirm that it was something they'd need to do something about, but there wasn't any chance to actually share words with the other hostess yet.

To her credit, Sign was quite circumspect after the document had a non-hostess name on it; Lyntael wasn't sure if Magi would have been able to see what she did, but she hoped so. It would save having to explain later, but Sign had been quick to ensure the privacy of the document. Oh well. She managed a last nervous and grateful smile for Signatory herself; both to answer that she had nothing to hide, and to thank the other woman for her discretion, before she was left to chat with ChronicleMan in as near to 'alone' as they were likely to get in the dining hall.

Despite his stated interest, Lyntael watched the older man as he spoke, and it soon seemed clear to her that he was listening for something particular in her story – looking for something specific, and perhaps wasn't really hearing it. He seemed to be going through the 'correct' expressions and reactions, but not in a way that struck her as particularly genuine. He was after something. Despite the thought running through her mind as she spoke with him, Lyntael kept her own expression in check, matching the tone of her story – it wasn't inaccurate after all, and in places it was more a matter of not letting her own personal feelings run away too much.

The less than subtle reveal from the older gentleman about his feelings towards she Shogunate led Lyntael to bring a hand up to her mouth in surprise, and she widened her eyes as she did so.

“Oh! Oh my, that sounds terrible! It must have been a dreadful harm if it's still with you now! I'm so sorry to hear that...” She squeezed the hand that was resting on his gently as she held his eyes. “If there's anything I can do to help with the discomfort, do just let me know, alright?” She leaned in a little bit now, just subtly, and shifted her position on her chair so she could face him more directly as she spoke. “Is... Is everyone else here with a grievance against them as well? I had no idea...” While Lyntael feigned shock with her voice and expression, her mind sorted through the details quickly.

She didn't know a great deal about the neo-shogunate, it was true, but she'd done a little reading at least, and heard some more from their advertising staff. She knew at least that they had been more aggressive once, but were more interested in unity and co-operation now... if everyone here had a complaint, she thought that could make sense, but even then... it was a room with fewer people than she could count on both hands, across a large, net-spanning organisation... even the net police could probably field at least this many people who had personal grievances with their conduct. There had to be more to it than that, she supposed. It might be personal.

Besides which, she had to admit to herself, a whole organisation didn't 'hit someone with a limousine' – an individual did that, and so it was probably just an individual to blame, rather than the whole group. She wondered if the other complaints would be of a similar nature. As her guest looked back towards the kitchens however, Lyntael sought to get his attention back on something else distracting. The others still hadn't emerged, though she was beginning to hope that it meant they'd be producing actual cruise-grade fare. She glanced about nervously, as though expecting violent, limousine-wielding shoguns to leap out at any moment, then rubbed his hand gently with her own again, tilting her head to the side a little bit.

“Oh, but, you wanted to know about how Tango and I met? It's a bit scary, actually.” She spoke with a smile here, as though reminiscing on something; truthfully, a darker part of Lyntael's own mind reflected, the incident with the pirates was a very, very far cry from the most frightful or traumatic things she'd experienced in her life so far, but she wasn't about to share any of those incidents with a complete stranger. Especially not one who seemed intrigued by her vulnerability.

“Well, it started when I was trying to find some work. I'm not really a fighter, so I can't really make zenny from viruses, and, well, I'd probably get killed if I tried... but I've got, ah...” Here she paused and shrugged, glancing away with an uncomfortable expression. “Well, I've got needs that a lot of simpler navis don't have to worry about, you know... and, ah, food that I can actually benefit from costs money, so...” She looked back and brought the smile back to her face, before glancing around the dining hall again. A small spike of self-consciousness jabbed at her briefly before she could shove it away, and Lyntael caught herself wondering if her current outfit gave away any sign that she had spent too long recently not eating properly. She hoped not. “So... I was looking for something safer to do, and I saw an add looking for a hostess on Tango's ship... that was the first Wanderlust.”

The food began to arrive, as Lyntael spoke, and she resisted the urge to sigh with relief, and then resisted just as hard the desire to put her face in her hands. Food it was, certainly, but it was the exact fast-food items that the menus had tentatively promised. Not exactly the expectations of a luxury cruise. Even so... the list of different foods that Lyntael had actually had a chance to try for herself was still criminally short, and if she was completely honest... the tall, many-toppinged burger that was being delivered to some of the other guests looked, and smelled, all together too tempting. ChronicleMan seemed put off by the low grade fare, however, and Lyntael herself felt obliged to avoid taking anything as well, given that she was acting as hostess and not guest. As one of the others passed by with heated offerings, Lyntael's stomach announced its interest with a quiet but unmistakable sound.

The girl immediately put one hand to her middle, and the other leap up to cover her mouth as a fierce pink blush flooded across her cheeks.
“Oh! Oh, I'm so sorry, please pardon me!” She ducked her eyes low, staring at the tabletop for a moment or two, before clearing her throat and bringing her hands back to fold together on the table in front of her.

“Ah, um... As... I was saying...” Persona or not, Lyntael's hurriedly flustered attempt to get back on track was entirely genuine. “Sorry... um... Well, as it turned out, Tango had a problem with pirates, back then! The ship had ended up in the middle of a turf war of some kind, I think, and three different crews of pirates had all decided to become guests of the ship while they squabbled!” As she got back into the rhythm of telling the story, she perked up a little bit, a more natural excitement coming back to her body language.

“Tango didn't have any staff, and she needed me to go and convince them all to be nice!” Here, she paused and lifted one hand to her chest, fingertips covering her emblem for a moment. “Oh, I should say... to be fair to miss Tango, she didn't actually know that I, um, that I didn't have an emergency line, or an operator looking over me. I hadn't told her, so, um, she didn't really know how dangerous it was... but I was there, and I'd agreed to it, so I though, if I was just careful and polite... Well,” She paused here, not quite getting to any of the juicy details about how she had not, in fact, ended up becoming a piece of pirate booty. It seemed like ChronicleMan was finished waiting for the others and 'Lynn' didn't want to interrupt of delay his address, of course. Lyntael took the moment to look around the room as he prepared to speak.

The late-arriving woman had seated herself nearby, but didn't seem to have anyone to talk to just yet – there was a clear animosity between her and the cruder male, despite the fact that they seemed familiar with each other. Business partners perhaps, or perhaps rivals who worked in the same circle. They'd need more taking care of to be happy, she was sure of it, but it might be easier once they leaned a little more. Perhaps part of the gathering would involve the guests airing their grievances, and if so, maybe that might help. Signatory had moved after her companions now, and didn't seem inclined to relax or sit down yet, she certainly seemed brighter and less completely frustrated than she had been before... What else could she help with? Not much, without leaving ChronicleMan, and for now he seemed like the strongest information source. Hopefully Drago and the others wouldn't think less of her for leaving so many guests in their hands while she focused on warming up just the one.

At their table, ChronicleMan had started speaking only to hit upon another frustration; of course, his assistants weren't back yet. Lyntael stood quickly to move to him, if he had actually approached the speaking platform again.

“Is there something I can help you with? Please, it's no trouble. If you're in pain, we can arrange something easier. I'll just see if we can't track down your companions for you as well, I'm sure it won't take long!” She ducked her head and smiled towards him, one hand resting against his arm in a reassuring way, before she darted back to speak quietly to Aya, once she was finished serving the starter foods.

“Nikki, if I could borrow you for a moment...” She wore a warm hostess smile, and gently tried to move the other woman aside from the immediate attention of any other guests. When she was close, Lyntael leaned in toward her, whispering quietly to one ear; to any looking on it would seem just like any other brief hosting exchange, and in a way it was, partially, but Lyntael spoke in a quick, clear whisper instead of her graceful hosting voice – it was the tone she used when reporting to Rogan, and to the ear of someone used to battle and dangerous situations, the whisper sounded much more immediately serious and almost soldierly.

“I signed Sign's documents with a secondary name; if it comes up, my 'real-person' name is AmberMint, or just Amber for friends. It shouldn't come up, but you may all need one too. I think the group all have minor petty grievances with individual N-S navis. They mentioned courts, but ChronicleMan seems to think this meeting will lead to some kind of direct recompense, maybe even immediately so. No word on how or what, yet. I'm going to see what else I can learn while the announcement is delayed. The excuse I used to talk was to ask you to find Raptor and TribalMan for ChronicleMan, but I'm going to try to help him with whatever he needs myself; if it at least looks like you've gone to find them, that should be enough, no need to actually drag them back here. One of us should find a way to speak with ReservoirMan directly, if possible. He's alone and probably uncomfortable, in the hold of the ship.” She pulled back again, hostess smile firmly back in place, and feigned stifling a small giggle behind her hand before speaking at a more audible volume.

“Thank you, Nikki, that would be lovely. Come get me if there are any problems.” She inclined her head to the other woman again and gave her a small wave as she stepped back. Unseen by her, at least, the sitting, standing and leaning had once again displaced the precise settling of her skirt and sash, and the high side was permitting small intermittent flashes of a soft white cotton that didn't match the formal wear at all. Oblivious, Lyntael rushed back to ChronicleMan's side, warm smile and bright eyes ready.

“I'm sure we'll have them back to you soon. Do you want to wait for them, or should we go on?” Underneath the amicable expression, she was struggling to keep a dozen different thoughts in order, but she did her best not to let it show.
"I see," Cynthia noted about ReservoirMan's location as Sign explained that he was on the ship, just not in the meeting hall. "It seems like everyone has arrived then," she said as she pushed her chair out and stood up. "I will inform Tango that we are on schedule and discuss our next steps. Excuse me," Cynthia courtsied a little, picked up her tablet, and quickly headed out of the meeting hall before Sign could get her to sign anything. Her next stop would be to search the ship for Tango. She sent out another mental ping to the others with the information on ReservoirMan's possible location.

Corrin and Nikki meanwhile did their best to serve the various guests with a steady stream of foodstuffs from the galley. The food wasn't as high-class as you would expect, given the decorum, but it served as a distraction none the less. Corrin smiled at ArmoryMan's comments. "Of course sir, you needn't worry," he assured the burly man about the better meals to come. Nikki sent another message to Yasu informing her that there was at least eight individuals: Signatory, MerchMan, ChronicleMan, Raptor, TribalMan, Memora, ArmoryMan, and ReservoirMan; and that all damage control efforts have been successful thus far. It also looked like they were about to start their meeting, so that would give Yasu some time to deliver the better fare. But speed was still an issue.

As she sent the message, Lynn flagged her down.

They moved off to the side to talk in hushed voices, looking like professionals having a small team meeting. Nikki listened as Lynn explained what was going on and what she was doing. Nikki nodded along as one of her hands crept over to Lynn's open palm and tried to slip a small, fingernail-sized device into it. It looked like a battlechip or subchip. Nikki gave her a knowing glance, one that said she should activate it as soon as she could without anyone seeing it, and then adopted her fake hostess smile. "Of course Lynn, I will go and gather our wayward guests."

She then headed for the kitchen. If Lynn activated the chip that Nikki handed her, it would dissolve away like all chips after being used, leaving no trace of its existance after. It was then that in her head she could hear the thoughts of the other four dragoniers. She had been given a tap into their internal communications. They were having multiple conversations, giving each other status updates every few minutes, and listening into each other's conversations. It sounded like they had several open lines, broadcasting whatever each of them were hearing to the other three. It might be a little overwhelming at first with the cacophony of noise, but with some concentration one could isolate or mute various subchannels.

Through these internal channels Lynn could learn of what was going on in the kitchen as well as the communications to the Neo-Shogun HQ, including any reply by Yasu. In combination with the glasses she could note where Cynthia was and that she was going on a quest to find Tango, while mapping out the ship. Lynn could see Nikki moving towards the kitchen while the twins held a conversation about how charmed MerchMan was, and how simple it was to pacify TribalMan and Raptor. She could also hear Nikki telling the others what Lynn told her from their aside, about the fake name and all, and that she had given Lynn their comm-link since they forgot to share that before. There was a note of agreement among them that the fake name was a nice touch.

Lynn could talk to them through this internal channel if she wanted. Or she could just listen.


As Nikki arrived at the kitchen, Mara continued to pour on the charm with MerchMan. She clearly had an easy mark here that she could pump for information, given time. Takeout's efficiency, and that they were winding down on serving various hungry individuals, even gave Mara more concentrated face-time with the love-struck fool. Mara pushed up her 'big smile' a little as she leaned a over the counter towards MerchMan, letting him get a good look at her .GMO enhanced assets. "Oh, I'm sure I could give them a lil' run for their money, hehe~" Mara agreed with a flirtatious giggle.

She pouted out her lips a little while absently twirling a lock of her hair around a slender finger. "So tell me more about yourself," she began. "You seem out of place here with the rest of these individuals," she emphasized, while leaning further in and lowering her voice. "At least you seem like you are on top of things." She licked her lips as she spoke in sensual tones, really pouring on the innuendos to an almost ludicrous degree. "What could they possibly offer you?"

If Lynn was listening in to Mara's open channel, she could hear everything that was being said.

Nikki waved to TribalMan and Raptor. "Oy! Friends! Sorry to interrupt, but yer bossman is about to start up in the meeting hall. I've been sent to escort you back if you're ready." She then smiled. With the way that they reacted earlier about not 'working' for ChronicleMan, Nikki was hoping it would rile them up a little more. It might provide enough of a distraction in their minds so as to better mask the undercover mission, and make it harder for them to pay closer attention to what was going on around them. Also if they could erode the trust between the various BOC associates, it would hamper their efforts against the Neo-Shogunate and make it easier to stamp them out in the future.

Nikki seemed to be ignoring MerchMan and going out of her way to only grab TribalMan and Raptor alone, leaving Mara with the charmed businessman. If TribalMan and Raptor acquiesced, Nikki would escort them back to the meeting hall.

Seeing he’d have to wait at least a moment longer for Raptor and TribalMan to return, ChronicleMan sighed and took a seat again, the bookmark-tassel of his cap flopping limply with his rapid descent. “Oh, yes, the point of this organization is that we all have such grievances. It would please me if each of these aggrieved individuals present had also been hit by vehicles with reckless Neo-Shogunate nitwits behind the wheel,” the elder added, either not knowing or not caring how that sounded. “However, in all likelihood, theirs is a more trifling collection of miscellaneous fiddle-faddle. Well, the two of us will find out the exact nature together, hm?”

If Lyntael was worried about exposing her vulnerability to ChronicleMan, she probably didn’t have to worry too hard; whether it was his old “limousine hip” acting up or simply a renewed desire to get behind the podium and command the room, the Navi’s slightly distracted attention had become slightly attentive distraction. He nodded absently and affirmatively along at such appropriate moments as “it’s a bit scary,” “I’d probably get killed,” and so on. By the same token, at least, his mind had wandered so far by the time the food was out that he didn’t seem to notice either Lyntael’s growl or her apology, since he was determinedly flagging down the server to get his cohorts from the kitchen.

When someone had set about doing what he wanted, Lyntael had half his attention once more. “Hoho! It sounds like you certainly got more than you bargained for. Take a lesson from a seasoned elder who’s been around the NetSquare once or twice: Always have a goal and a reward in mind when you set out to do something. Never do anything, whether working, relaxing, or even casually conversing without keeping in mind what it is you want! That way, you’ll live a rich, storied life with never a moment wasted.” The man gave another inappropriately warm smile, letting the implications of his words hang, perhaps not realizing they might beg any follow-up. “Well! I’m certainly eager to hear the very fine details of that dangerous life of yours, but I’d say it’s about time to begin…”

ChronicleMan was noting Nikki returning with Raptor and TribalMan. Both were satisfied from their meal, but either of them would probably have been happy to hang out in the kitchen ducking their “boss.”

Things seemed like they were about to get started, but before they could, Signatory briskly walked back to Lynn. It didn’t look like she’d managed to get Cynthia to sign, and, furthermore, she’d recognized that she was being avoided, so she apparently intended to take care of another matter. “Ahem. Lynn. As the discussion begins, I’ll likely be tied up in the business. I passed on the fast food, no appetite for it, but if they’re serving something vegetarian later, I’d be interested. You should make sure you save yourself some time to eat, if you need it… Also…” She tapered off, then leaned in to whisper to the other woman. “I’m not sure if you’re aware of your uniform trouble. Be sure not to show any compromise around that MerchMan. He’d definitely take that as a sign you were trying to catch his attention, that empty-headed, womanizing moron…” She leaned away again, then took her seat once more, folding her hands and looking very professional.

---

Cynthia chose to search the ship, and she would likely be stricken by how completely devoid of other life it was. The cruise ship, like the original Wanderlust, was sized for much more than just the BOC, and a great portion of it was unused. As Cynthia traveled from deck to deck, she didn’t run into a single other person… Eventually, however, she came to the main exterior. She’d see there a shuffleboard deck, which, with a little studying of the hinges around the sides, could be easily interpreted to be serving double duty as a cargo deck. Quite a strange feature for a cruise ship…

Of course, Cynthia now had the context to understand what was inside that cargo hatch. She could hear some muted grumbling coming from inside. It was probably worth considering if there was really any point in entering that sour lion’s den… Sign had hint-hinted this guest was best left alone. However, if she did want to, there was a control panel on a nearby wall which displayed “CREW ONLY,” and a clearly-marked switch would be simple to find. Seeing as she was the closest thing this vessel had to “crew” right now, there probably wasn’t any harm.

It might also occur to Cynthia that unless Tango had taken to hiding in another guest room, the only place left on the ship that she’d likely be is her own room. In all likelihood, the pair had returned there upon departing. It was easy to imagine them dancing by themselves… Actually, that was probably the only thing one could imagine them doing with their free time.

Another thing Cynthia would become clearly aware of as she stood on the deck is that the very still water they’d all seen outside the windows was not just simply calm: the ship was, in fact, not moving. A bit of a bummer if one was hoping to enjoy a sea breeze, but it made sense, considering the ship was basically unstaffed.

---

As Raptor and TribalMan were leaving the kitchen, Mara was continuing to work her charms on MerchMan. He shouted out to the two as they left. “Hey you two, would you let the egghead know I’m busy back here and the meeting can go ahead and start without me? She already knows all my biz anyway.”

There wasn’t any evidence they heard or planned to comply, but they weren’t stopping and he wasn’t stopping them. Instead, MerchMan was left to a private conversation… with as many as four other people possibly listening, not counting operators or Takeout, who was busy on her phone again and didn’t seem to care to listen in.

“Well, me, I’m just a businessman, you know, an entrepreneur. Sign and I tend to work together a lot. I guess you could call me the genius, with the flashes of inspiration to seek out new opportunities, and she’s the brains, with the paperwork and the calculator and all the nerdy stuff. Working together, we’ve turned me into one of the premier merchandise licensing forces on the Net, while she’s split off a bit to work on expanding her law practice. Whatever. The point is, she’s the only one of these bozos I know. They’re basically here to, uh… Well, I don’t know all the little details, but I think it’s like we’ll strengthen our case with a shotgun approach, burying them in the legal system or something. So, really, it’s like they’re all tagalongs on my own completely solid case. Needless to say, I’m not too worried about making nice with people like that. Especially that old man, the guy that doesn’t know his book-head from his bookend, acting like he’s in charge of all this…”

MerchMan paused his rambling to quickly dip and munch another couple of fries, then flashed Mara an expectant grin. “Say, so, didn’t you mention some special service earlier? I assume you weren’t talking about, uh, this.” The man gestured at the plate in front of him with his hands spread. “A romantic cruise ship like this with a lovely lady like yourself… I bet you’ve got all kinds of experience satisfying customers, don’t you? If you’ve got any nicer services worth tipping for, I’d be happy to ask you about ‘em right here-“

A noisy cough came from beneath the overturned food carton Takeout wore on her head.

“Uh, or wherever. Back to my guest cabin, maybe?”

---

The group had quite a lot to juggle with all their own situations, but Yasu’s response added one more vector pulling their attention. If she’d keyed herself in, Lyntael would be able to receive the same message:

Quote (Yasu.EXE)

I’m currently engaged in discussion with Tango. I followed the same coordinates you did, so I’m in the room with him or her or them. This person is very difficult to deal with, but I will show them the NeoShogun army’s zero tolerance for hijinks.

Tango has asked me if you all have managed to “sew the seeds of passion throughout the decks of the New Wanderlust,” so I’m reluctantly passing that on. Tango appears to insist on this, but I will remind you that is not officially part of your mission objectives.

The food you requested is being obtained. I put Dee on it, believing she would be more well-suited to understanding the foolishness and frivolity required of cruise ship dining. I told her I would note her protests that she was not allowed to appear in person, but that would obviously be far too dangerous. I will have her enlist the help of an unknown from the GNA. It may take a bit longer. I have advised her to stick to a budget, and told her I would note her protests that it was too small of a budget. I have no luck with this woman. DragonierMan, please see if you can slip some discussion of frugality and common sense into your next chat with her.

On the note of that danger, I should also advise that I am jacked in and actually in Tango’s room. Obviously, it would be a critical error if anyone from the BOC was to meet me here, so please keep track of the guests.

About the names you mentioned… Our only record of ChronicleMan is the limousine incident, which Escort reported to me and which is not a concern. Memora and ArmoryMan were involved in an incident with the Terror Girls and engaged in hostilities with subordinate MachMan. Armoryman is certainly an enemy, and although she cooperated to some extent, Memora should be treated as one until proven otherwise, especially considering her appearance here with the BOC. DragonierMan is already privy to the details surrounding ReservoirMan and the incidents at the Alaki Reservoir.

The most concerning names are MerchMan and Signatory… I have heard these names before. but cannot remember where. It must have been something of low importance. Be aware that I handle many communications as the First General of the Neoshogun Army and can hardly be expected to remember all of them. Still, best to be cautious. Can you provide any additional information on why they are here?


---

Regardless of which members of the ship’s hospitality team did what, ChronicleMan was having his cronies hoist him on stage and starting the show. He tapped the microphone on the podium a couple of times, eliciting a loud and grating squeak. “Ahem! Your attention, please!” he shouted into it, far too loudly. Immediately, he had the irate attention of the entire room. Smiling, he continued. “The first meeting of the BOC shall be called to order! I want to sincerely thank you all for gathering for the collaboration and prosperity of-“

“ChronicleMan! Would you mind if I made the opening remarks?!” Signatory shouted his name early, and, seeing he intended to keep talking over her, rose her voice to a loud boom with visible exertion.

The offended elder obviously did mind, but he probably thought it would hurt his credibility to bicker over it at the very start of his speech. “Oh, fine! Make it quick!”

“Yes, well. Good evening everyone. You can call me Sign.EXE. On behalf of my regular client, MerchMan, I have gathered you all here to discuss your representation by my firm in building a case against the Neo-Shogun Empire and its parties. In simple terms, understand the following: the more people we have on board, the stronger our case will be. The individual merits of each case are important, but the critical thing is having enough cases to scare them away from challenging each simultaneously. Simply speaking, unless one of the cases turns out to be exceptionally solid, our preferable outcome will be to receive out-of-court settlements paid by the NeoShogun empire. I assure you, those settlements would still be very lucrative. Second, please know that I have advised my client that meeting in this fashion is inappropriate and careless, yet we are proceeding, in spite of my advice… This is to say that, should discussion fall apart here, I would be more than pleased to continue conversations with each of you separately. Indeed, to reiterate, even if this meeting falls apart, I will probably be able to help you make even more compelling cases in a private, secure environment. So, to recap for clarity, the goals for the BOC should be thus: One, avoid losing individual participants, and two, recognize the shabby state of security and, with all due apologies to the staff present, conveniences here and retire to a more productive and secure environment. Thank you.”

“Well, it sounds like we’re off to a great start already, according to our counsel!” Memora spoke up in sarcastic high spirits.

“Yes, well, our lawyer may be a master of all things in the realm of law, but clearly she lacks the personal touch to lead an organizational gathering such as this,” ChronicleMan dismissed her with a pitying smile. “That, of course, falls upon me.” He paused, obviously bracing himself for the auspicious position of “leader of the complainers to be challenged.”

“Why do you get to be the leader, anyway?!” Raptor shouted from her seat at Memora’s table, resting her head on her hands and her elbows on the tablecloth. TribalMan, his arms crossed, nodded.

Clearly furious at the backtalk from his own corner, Chronicleman growled into the microphone from gritted teeth. “Because I am the oldest and the wisest, and also because I have the greatest claim! I’d like to elaborate on that, but before I do, does anyone else have anything to add? Before I officially and formally kick off this meeting, that is?”
Lyntael wasn't entirely sure whether to be relieved, or a little put out, that ChronicleMan's interest in her social engagement waned further and further with each passing moment. Relief won out, overall as the girl continued her story and watched the room around her with an eye to gathering more information. It seemed like her current charge was mostly eager to get on the stage again and talk to everyone, so she tried not to take it as a personal blow against her story-telling capability.

In the brief exchange of words and glances that she shared with Aya, Lyntael was at first worried by the small chip that 'Nikki' slipped into her palm in exchange; at first she thought the other woman might be attempting to slip her more weapons, but she palmed it anyway, keeping the small chip out of sight. Without really knowing what it was, she didn't dare activate the chip immediately, and instead returned to humouring ChronicleMan until her companions began to return several of the others to the hall. She eyed the guest identified as Memora every few moments in between listening to ChronicleMan's return chatter – his focus had anchored itself most firmly on his own importance again, so all she really needed to do was smile for him and let her features drift to concerned or sympathetic tones whenever appropriate – but it seemed like no-one had really assisted Memora at all yet. She made a note to head over as soon as ChronicleMan was actually on the stage.

Under the table, as she sat with one hand extended to brush her companion's, Lyntael carefully activated the chip she'd been given. The first response was for it to react as any other acquired chip data; it decompiled immediately into a thin data string that coiled about her fingers and wrist, then snaked up her arm and across to settle in a ring around her emblem. She had enough time to read the data as it passed through her fingers, however, and realised what it was she'd been given. After a quick glance to make sure no-one was paying her any attention, she lifted her free hand up to her chest, brushing it with a casual gesture that drew the data string back to her hand so she could actualise it more deliberately.

The brief feeling of static made her suppress a wince, before a multitude of different back and forth communications sprang into her ears. At once she could tell that it was a number of different channels all operating at once and her mind scrambled to keep up with the sudden influx of sensory information. She blinked a few times and tried to focus. Voices from each of her companions spoke back and forth, sometimes over the top of one another without any hesitation or delay. There was probably an internal interface she wasn't getting. It was only a moment later that she realised Sign had returned to slip in beside her while ChronicleMan made his way to the stage finally. She gave the other woman a small smile and moved to stand – with ChronicleMan no longer at the table, she really oughtn't be sitting down any more, not while there were other guests to take care of. Her ears were still full of other threads of conversation, but she did her best to push it away and focus on Sign.

At first she nodded, a warm smile on her lips, but as the woman leaned in to murmur something more private, Lyntael couldn't exactly stop the sudden widening of her eyes. There was no point pretending that she didn't know exactly what the other woman was referencing as her gaze first, and then both hands darted low to her hip to hurriedly try to straighten her sash and get her outfit decent again. A rapid blush dashed across her cheeks.

“Oh! Ah, I'm sorry! Ah, um, thank you!” She returned an embarrassed, sharp whisper. The flustered moment probably didn't do much to sell her as a mature woman rather than a girl, but Lyntael ducked her head in nervous thanks anyway. “I'll... ah... I'll go see what the kitchen has to offer for you, of course!” That she could use Sign's own request to duck out of the hall briefly and recover her modesty wasn't even dishonest or misleading, and Lyntael cast another quick look about the hall before slipping quickly from the room. There were others present that could listen, for a few minutes at least.

Out in the hall, Lyntael strode a few more quick paces, before pausing to lean with her back against the corridor wall, putting her hands to her ears and squeezing her eyes shut. First thing first... She took a longer breath, willing the blush away from her cheeks, and focused instead on drawing the comm device back into a data string that she could read. She shuffled the string between her fingers then drew it apart, spreading the chip's data into a small array between her hands. Right. She could see what it was meant to do, and how, but there was no tactile interface at all and... Her mind narrowed in on the task as she began to make small, quick edits to the code running between her hands. After another short minute, the girl collapsed it down again and re-actualised it.

Silence remained for a moment, then, with a subtle gesture, Lyntael touched her thumb to her first finger, and listened as the comm device gave listening priority to DragonierMan's sent and received channels. A similar touch to her net finger prioritised Magistrate, with Aya and Suzume on her next two fingertips. Leaving her palm open left the channel relaying only all-and-open communications and she nodded to herself. Good enough.

Next problem. She looked down at her outfit, and the way the sash was already creeping in a way that would let the high split side show off the side of her underwear again. She'd left the actual matching piece in the bedroom they'd been briefed in. If she could just nip back and change now, things would be fine. At least now the room would be empty, most likely. She started walking briskly, putting her thumb to one fingertip as she went.

“Mara, dear...” She murmured as she walked. “If you're still in the kitchens, could you please check and see what vegetarian options we have for our guests? Miss Signatory would prefer something lighter.”

It was as she hurried back towards the initial bedroom that Lyntael received Yasu's message along with the others, and stopped in her tracks suddenly, a sudden lurch in her chest. The general was in the briefing room, and going back there now was not an option. Her eyes darted up and down the corridor in a panic. It was disconcerting enough that that was where she'd stored her other clothes, and the last piece of her current outfit as well, but it also meant that she had no way of retrieving either. Her options narrowed. She couldn't go back out there with her underwear flashing every few moments – the higher cut garment was designed specifically to let the dress skirt move without it being seen, and would give the tease that the hostesses might not have anything at all on underneath. Lyntael's hair crackled as she took a few more steps forward, then turned and paced back again.

At last, she muttered a mortified curse under her breath and looked back and forth again to be sure no-one was nearby. Once she was sure the coast was clear, she reached both hands to her hips, beneath the skirt, to hook her fingertips under the sides of the out-of-place undergarment and, in a swift motion, whisked it down so she could step out of it with one foot, then the other. Another quick, embarrassed glance up and down the halls as she folded the offending piece of white cotton up and tucked it away securely under the band at the top of her thigh, on the opposite side to the dagger she'd been given. On reflection, it was lucky she had it – Lyntael had no idea what she'd have done with the removed garment otherwise.

Her heart thudded quickly as she took a couple of long breaths and carefully straightened her skirt down again. It would be okay. She straightened her shoulders and breathed. It would be fine. She was a mature, competent woman, and she could wear, or not wear, whatever she liked. It wasn't an invitation, and no-one would even know anyway. They'd just think she was wearing undergarments designed for the outfit, naturally. It would be fine. As she turned about and began heading back towards the main hall, she listened to the conversation that was passing between MerchMan and Suzume, and was silently glad that he was being handled by someone obviously more comfortable playing that role.

Lyntael paused and took a breath just outside the hall before she re-entered. No-one would know. Her heart raced. She reconstructed her hostess smile and breezed into the room with light steps once more. She caught the end of Signatory's address, before she surrendered the stage to ChronicleMan once more. As the lawyer retreated and ChronicleMan came to the fore again, Lyntael glanced about the room and pressed all four fingers to her palm softly. When she spoke, it was quiet, barely above a whisper, her lips barely moving at all.

“General, this is Lyntael... Please assure miss Tango know that we are all endeavouring to make each guest's cruise a passionate and inspiring experience, and assisting each wonderful patron in pursuing their own personal and passionate joys.” She hesitated for a moment, then continued. “I'm really not sure that either of them really know what any of that means any more than I do, but it should placate them, and make them easier to deal with. Oh, and they're always much more amiable if you dance with them while they talk.” She paused again, going over the message as best as she remembered it in her mind, then continued.

“For the others, I've been engaging with ChronicleMan and miss Signatory, and it seems as though they are gathering people who have any kind of complaint. It sounds like they want to start some kind of class action, but ChronicleMan acted like there was something more to it than that. Something more... immediate, somehow. No details yet, I'm sorry. Still trying.” Whether it was through a communication link or otherwise, there was still something incredibly unnerving about talking to someone touted as a general while she wasn't wearing any underwear. It was a war to get the nervous pink flush out of her cheeks.

She has ended the communication by the time Sign was returning to her place and Lyntael moved across to her with a smile and a grateful nod.

“Thanks for before. Miss Tango would insist on outfits more alluring than practical...” She shook her head, brushing the embarrassment off with a smile. “I did send message to our kitchen staff to find some more suitable options for you.” She caught herself speaking to Sign in a more relaxed way, compared to her full hostess act, but it seemed like an appropriate degree of warming up to the other woman, and Signatory herself so far seemed to appreciate it in turn, if she was reading the other woman properly. She paused for a moment, hovering near Sign's table and made a show of uncertainly biting her lip. She'd listened in as her companion had retrieved the others, and joined the remaining dots for herself on why the merchandiser hadn't returned with ChronicleMan's assistants.

“Ah, MerchMan... indicated... that he was... otherwise occupied... and that you would be able to handle his business needs here without him.” She gave a show of hesitating again, and looking about herself with a nervous rubbing of one hand on her other wrist, like she wanted to say more, then drew it back and resumed a brighter smile. “I, ah, I do have to go and take care of some of our other guests, but if there's anything else I can do to help make your time with us more relaxing or memorable, please do give me a wave.”

Internally, Lyntael was hoping that Sign would call her back after a few minutes, or maybe invite her to chat some more once better fare was organised – the lawyer seemed like there was a part of her that was just itching for someone to talk with in a more relaxed way, with the right reassurances.

First, however, she had other guests to attend; that much had been very much accurate. She made her way across to the table where Memora had settled. Lyntael's first action as she drew close was to offer an apologetic incline of her head and shoulders, one hand over her chest as she dipped on leg behind the other in a half curtsy.

“Hi! I'm very sorry for the delay in service today, I can promise we'll do everything in our power to make it up to you right away. My name is Lynn, and if there's anything I can get you right away, I'd be happy to take care of it.” She smiled and dipped one shoulder, tilting her head as she did before straightening. “But, here at Wanderlust, we do seek to provide an enticing and exciting experience for all the senses and for every desire... if it would make you happier, I could always fetch Corrin to serve you instead, if your senses would prefer his attention...”

She hoped that Memora was indeed the sort to prefer an attractive man serving her instead; it would give her a chance to ask DragonierMan about ReservoirMan and Yasu's comment, if nothing else. The more serving work they did, the more they would fade into the guest's subconscious while they spoke about their plans, or at least that was the hope. Either way, Lyntael as keeping her ears pricked for the actual conversation of the proceedings to get started.
After a few minutes to get used to the new communication system that Nikki handed Lynn, Mara received a ping. Mara glanced down a little at the table as if thinking on her next answer to MerchMan while listening to Lynn's message. Then her eyes darted up with a open-faced expression as she just remembered something, probably interrupting her companion with her exclamation. "Oh I almost forgot! We probably might have vegetarians among the guests. Silly me, we should check for what options we have for them."

She pushed herself off the table she was leaning over to get to work on that idea she had. Though she stopped for a moment to reach out across the table to brush at MerchMan's nearest hand. "Also, we promised you an emperor's treatment right? Hopefully there are some fruits or something around here to get us started." Mara then turned towards Takeout. "I don't suppose you have any vegetarian options in your repertoire?" she asked her bored colleague. If Takeout didn't, then Mara would excuse herself and head back down into the pantry to see what she could round up. She sent a message to Yasu as she went, also open to the others, as all the messages between the group were.

Quote ((Suzume to Yasu))

<If you can add vegetarian options and fruit: grapes, cherries, and bananas preferably - to our order that would be great.>

"You are going to take the Neo-Shoguns to court?" Mara asked as she came back from her first of potentially many trips. "Did they not like the merchandise of them you were making? I don't know about them, but I think I would be flattered to have such quality. Especially since they are all about getting their name out there as a kindly, friendly group of people that just want the best for us." She paused for a moment in thought. "And the rest of them have similar grievances? Makes you wonder what's really going on."


Cynthia noted that the cruise ship had not left port. Like they had surmised, this wasn't actually a cruise, but an out-of-the-way location to have a meeting. Thankfully that would also mean that it would be easier for the food assistance from the Shogunate to come aboard when needed, without any extra delays. As for finding Tango, it looked like Yasu had taken care of that as well. Cynthia also noted the location of the cargo hold and the ways in while she listened to Yasu's communication. After Yasu was done, Cynthia sent a message back, using the information that they have overheard thus far. It helped that Corrin, Nikki, and Mara were in hearing range of most of the guests this whole time.

Quote ((Magistrate to Yasu))

<It would seem that they are attempting to take the Neo-Shogunate to court. ReservoirMan I can understand, he will probably want reparations for the Alaki Reservoir being destroyed in the incident with our group. However, I would like to note that he had acquired the dam under dubious circumstances, and his 'relationship' with the pirate Power was equally questionable. I will grant that Kama, who was the main reason for the dam being destroyed in the first place, then joined our group thereby making us somewhat liable. However, I would also argue that DragonierMan and Sparks had offered their own reparations in an effort to smooth over the incident, but they were subsequently rejected.

... And then there was the further incident with ReservoirMan's attempt to take SpaceAge after the water had calmed down, revealing her craft. So, if they all have similar stories, we can then understand their attempt at taking us to account for their loses. I will also note that just having this get out would compromise the Neo-Shogunate's attempts to brand itself in a positive light. Further 'action' may be advisable. If you would supply us with a few barrier ropes we will 'handle' this problem.>



Corrin and Nikki had finished serving their guests and had been watching the gathering from the sidelines, listening as best as they could, and piping what they heard through one of their comm channels. If someone flagged them down for more food or drinks or whatever, they would comply to the best of their abilities. Assuming Lynn beckoned Corrin over to where Memora was, he would turn on a charming smile and seek to lighten the atmosphere (especially with Lynn probably hearing the ominously worded message from Cynthia about assassinating their guests). "How may I be of service during this Wanderous time?" he asked as he bowed his head slightly. He continued to play the charming host in front of Memora, chuckling good-humorously at whatever quips were thrown around. If Lynn took him to the side to ask questions, he would probably answer fairly truthfully.

Lyntael managed to perform her panicked magic trick without an audience. Regardless of how she felt about the state of the Wanderlust, she’d surely be pleased it was nearly empty for this particular purpose. When she did re-enter the hall, she might be self-consciously expecting all eyes to be on her, searching for the minute difference that would reveal she’d just done something inappropriate. If so, however, she’d find to her relief that all eyes seemed focused on the starting presentation.

That said, when Lyntael returned to Sign after her speech, the other woman’s eyes did momentarily dart behind her glasses to the smaller woman’s hip before she responded, not missing a beat. “He did, did he? Not surprising.” Her face matched her words, with a level brow and an even frown as she kept her attention on the important business of ChronicleMan’s opening. “Thanks, I’ll do so.”

After Lynn departed for Memora’s table, the woman watched Lynn introduce herself with a bemused smile, still resting her chin on the back of one hand, then chuckled. “Ha, if I hadn’t already had the cruise of a lifetime aboard the previous Wanderlust, this would rank as my most bizarre. That Tango really didn’t think about how this would come together at all, hm? Your attendant speech doesn’t go with this old crook rambling on about money, Lynn. That man you mentioned… Well, he doesn’t look bad, and if he asked you to ask me to ask you for him, tell him his invitation’s accepted. He should know, though that my ‘senses’ really need to pay attention to what ChronicleMan’s going on about.” For what it was worth, it seemed like Memora’s attention really was on the business side of this cruise.

---

Mara continued to have MerchMan’s attention as she drifted away from him, although he did give her a kind of wry smile. “Hey, hey, so that ‘emperor’s treatment’ really was getting fed grapes and stuff, huh? Well, if it’s a lady like you, I won’t say no to it. Probably the most excitement I’m gonna get on this ghost ship, anyhow.”

The odds of Takeout having any fine vegetarian dining probably seemed slim. Nonetheless, she gave a ready grin when she was asked. “Sure we do! Takeout has both veggies and fruit. Fast food is ahead of the curve these days, kehehe…” The strange young lady turned back to the freezer and pulled salads out of the back. Even before being frozen, they looked about as cheap as you’d expect a fast food salad to, and now that they’d been frozen, it wasn’t hard to see why they’d been left in the freezer during the earlier rush to get the serving line set up. “And for fruit: apple slices!” Takeout took a bunch of chilly plastic baggies of apple slices, the dried kind that were sometimes seen with kids’ meals, then tossed them Mara’s way like throwing stars. Really, scarily like throwing stars… It seemed like something she’d practiced, for whatever reason.

Needless to say, despite Takeout’s offer to “help,” Mara would probably still want to send that message for additional provisions to Yasu.

When Mara returned from doing so, MerchMan was resting with his head on the counter in front of him like a kid. He perked it back up at her approach, though, seeming eager for more conversation. “Hell, I dunno if any of them know about the merchandise. But yeah, my stuff is obviously the best on the market. Not to mention, the only legal stuff on the market, now! Hahahaaha! Oh man, those amateurs are gonna learn a tough lesson about copyright law, for sure. Anyway, forget about all those other dopes! Who knows or cares what they’ve got to say about anything? How about you and I go back to my cabin, and we talk about how I can start making my first line of Mara merch? I might need to see a bit more for reference, though… Just to make sure we’re making the best fan-goods possible, of course.” This time, he took the lead, grabbing for Mara’s hand and stroking it meaningfully (and clumsily) if she let him.

---

Quote (Yasu.EXE)

Lyntael, your advice is noted. You seem to have a handle on how to deal with them. Talking with Tango is proving to be a challenge, but I am determined to do so without resorting to dance. I will exert my influence and have this insufferable person respect my authority as a general. Continue to monitor and report the situation with the BOC.

Suzume, I believe Dee already has appropriate provisions in mind. As an aside, my understanding is you are all in disguise. I have told Dee that each of you is disguised as waitstaff, and instructed her to tell the unaffiliated help bringing the food as little as possible. They should leave swiftly after accomplishing their task.

Magistrate, thank you for the briefing. I do not believe ReservoirMan is a concern for the reasons you’ve noted. Do not take any rash action. At this time, my judgment is that even a successful covert operation of that type would have unacceptable consequences. I’m counting on you to keep that sword in its sheathe, and to be a model example for our new recruit in that matter. Keep in mind the Shogun’s order is not simply a public-facing appearance: it is intended as a directive to all of his soldiers. Violence must be a last resort for us.


---

Everyone seemed as eager to get the processions started as ChronicleMan himself, so without further ado, he cleared his throat noisily and began speaking into the microphone. “All right, ladies and gentlemen. Since the good Signatory has been kind enough to give her quaint introduction, I will keep my own introduction as succinct as possible. As the esteemed leader-“

“Boo!!” Raptor shouted rowdily from her nearby table.

“As the esteemed! Leader!” ChronicleMan raised his voice petulantly, his voice rising temporarily to a squawk. “I will present my case first. Now, the more observant among you in the audience may have noted the unfortunate limp I carry. It has been my bane and curse since the tragic and unprovoked vehicular assault by a member of the Neo-Shogun Empire at that time… who remains in that position, even to this day!” The man paused for dramatic effect, leaning forward on the podium and glancing around the room as though expecting teary eyes. “Ahem. It is no secret that the Neo-Shogun member Escort is known to wield limousines as a weapon in combat. It is my belief, backed up by witness accounts, that in the service of a secret operation, this Escort committed attempted vehicular Navi-slaughter, simply because I was in her way! Innocently minding my own business!” Looking around and seeing the room still silent, he cleared his throat yet again. “Yes, well… Raptor and TribalMan will support my account. I open the floor to any discussion.”

Sign immediately rose from her seat, adjusting her glasses before crossing her large gauntlets beneath her modest chest. “You have witnesses other than Raptor and TribalMan who will attest to that register of events?”

ChronicleMan glared at her, although he kept his grin on. “Ah… That’s necessary, is it?”

“It would be highly preferable to have the testimony of witnesses not directly affiliated with our organization or yourself, yes.”

“Aha… Well, luckily, there are many such who will provide such testimony-“

“Who haven’t been paid by you? Or, more pointedly, were not being paid by you during or since that event…?”

ChronicleMan’s wooden smile fell further as he rubbed his chin. “Well… M-most of them were only paid once, and not very handsomely-“

“Yes, well, we’re going to need their testimony to counter the other witnesses at the event, who claim they were paid to act as, quote unquote, ‘a gang of street toughs to menace civilians with numbers in a back alley outside a strip club,’ which is where you were seen to be hit… And is where you later appeared, without a limp, inside the strip club along with your cohorts. According to this testimony.”

ChronicleMan’s grin grew tight as he took his monocle from his face and polished it, obviously holding back a curse. “And you would trust the words of a self-proclaimed hired street tough over an elderly and afflicted gentleman such as myself?”

“It’s not about whether I will or not,” Sign replied with a sigh, straightening her own glasses again. “Please keep in mind I am not here for an adversarial relationship with you. Because I will be building your legal defense, I need to understand every facet of the case in total factuality to understand what can be brought against you.”

“It is just as I said,” ChronicleMan repeated, smiling sweetly. “My character is unimpeachable.”

“… Very well. Ahem, I’ll proceed with a summary of the… absent MerchMan’s case details,” she added with a weary sigh barely restrained. “In the past, when the Neo-Shogun moved to become a public-facing entity with marketable personalities, we expressed interest in claiming the copyright to the animated or drawn form of their officers in digital or print goods, sensing the reasonable business opportunity. At that time, no appropriate copyrights had been sought on any of the intellectual property of the NeoShogun army, including the name. We made several appropriate contents to contact their head of market outreach at the time… Or, rather, their highest ranking subordinate, who was handling business communications at the time. On the only successful attempt at contact, upon describing our aims, the topic of discussion was dismissed by the other party as ‘cartoons, childish nonsense unworthy of the Shogun’s time or my own.’ After many following unsuccessful attempts at contact, we sought and obtained the copyrights. Since then, a large number of legally counterfeit fan works infringing on our license have been sold and distributed, many on NeoShogunate property. Our claim will move to obtain back damages from the harm the unauthorized goods have already inflicted on our business, as well as force the immediate distribution of such goods. We will then reach out in a good faith attempt to the NeoShogun Empire to discuss an asking price by which they might claim control over our copyright… And, if we do not come to terms, at that time, we may consider appropriate alternate avenues of monetizing the animated or drawn form of NeoShogun officers. Ah, as an aside, please note that this only applies to ranked officers in the NeoShogun empire. We have no copyright on the appearances of their subordinates. Thank you.” The woman sat down and took a big sip of her water.

Memora was the one to speak up. “That’s funny… You say you don’t own the rights to their subordinates? But aren’t there quite a lot of goods MerchMan is carrying around with the faces of some of those subordinates?”
“Mm. Good question. MerchMan is not selling or distributing those goods, although he has produced them. They’re simply fan-goods for characters no one owns the copyright to. I asked him not to bring those in order to avoid confusing the case, but…” Sign gave a small smile while grinding her tightly clasped hands resting on the table. “Anyone else?”

ChronicleMan spoke with an inappropriately sweet smile from the podium. “I would just like to point out for the record how patently absurd it is that you’re poo-pooing my vehicular injury case while confidently promoting your case on the oh-so-critical concern of cartoons!”

“Anyone else?” Sign spoke again without responding.

Memora and ArmoryMan looked at each other, almost as if having a silent conversation. Finally, ArmoryMan spoke up. “Yeah… Not sure how comfortable I am speaking about all this here. Something smells wrong. Also, those two cases sound about as lucrative as pop-gun sales. I’m gonna keep my case private with you, if that’s all the same, ma’am.”

“Same here,” Memora spoke up with an apologetic shrug.

“… In that case, I suppose business will be over more quickly than expected,” Sign noted, adjusting her glasses. “I’m going to make sure MerchMan has no final comments. The rest of you, feel free to discuss as you will, but please be prepared to repeat any comments you’d prefer to be on the record upon my return.”

As soon as she was gone, ChronicleMan (notably sans-limp) clattered over to the edge of the stage and began hissing at his “subordinates” with irate whispers.

ArmoryMan rested his elbow on the table and his chin on his hand contemplatively. “Pretty damn sure we’re forgetting something…” he muttered, apparently to himself.

Memora seemed like she was willing to pay Corrin some attention now if he was still up for a little flirting, but Corrin might have something else on his mind… During the presentation, someone had suddenly tapped him on the shoulder, then retreated hastily to the exit, back into the entrance hall. If he was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the stranger’s form from behind, he’d note her to be a woman with long, blonde hair and a familiar, pleasantly curvy body, clad in a long, blue, tropical-patterned skirt, a matching bikini top, and sandals. When the door swung open for her to leave, he’d get a glimpse at what looked like a large (two-person) serving cart with a white tablecloth draped over it to hide its contents.
At Memora's acknowledgement, Lyntael let a soft smile touch her lips again a she inclined her head and backed off to fetch Corrin instead. She met her companion part way through the room and leaned up on her toes to whisper in close to him; it was casually done, and without subterfuge – at this stage, it seemed like the better play was to pass any other subtlety they need off under the cover of simple working communications, as any serving staff might. Even so, the height difference between her and Drago would probably need him to stoop slightly just to make up the difference in covering the polite whisper. As she did, she cast her eyes back towards Memora, still with the curl of a smile at one corner of her mouth, but the words she whispered were altogether different. Once again, they came delivered in the sharp and clear short sentences that didn't really seem to fit with the character of the girl they'd seen.

“I said I'd send you to Memora, the woman I was just speaking with. If there's anything I should know about this ReservoirMan or his history, let me know. If no-one else does, soon, I'll check on him, especially if there's a chance of him recognising any of you personally. I agree with the general; no violence, please – not all of us have emergency systems in place.” The tone would probably make it clear that she was talking about herself, but as Lyntael drew away from her private whisper she was all warm smiles and playfully flirtatious expression again. She smiled at 'Corrin' and stepped aside to give him clear direction towards Memora, whom she gave a playful wink to in the process.

As she moved on to assist with the serving and general blending in, Lyntael couldn't help the pointedly present awareness of her state of dress, and had to fight the urge to double check herself every few moments, perhaps even more so than before now. Instead, she reminded herself that she trusted her own fashion design, and reaffirmed like an internal mantra that no-one would know, and nothing would show off any more than it was meant to. Rogan would be very disproving of her dressing like this. The thought bubbled up, and she turned it around on itself; would he? Well maybe he should pay more attention to her, if that mattered to him. The anger in the thought caught her off balance and she pushed it away, trying to focus instead on what the various members of this new committee were talking about.

She let herself fade back into the background as much as she could, moving between the tables in the room and bringing fresh supplies where they seemed like they might be needed, a soft unobtrusive smile on her features and her eyes mostly focused on whatever small tasks she was occupying herself with; it sounded like the meeting had come together only vaguely half planned. almost as half-planned as Tango's reception, she caught herself musing. The claims sounded minor in some cases, and outlandish in others, and by the time the addresses had moved through, Lyntael was confident that the most vocal complaints were also the most fictitious. The whole limousine thing sounded ludicrous, really. None of them had mentioned ReservoirMan's case either, during the meeting, but she guessed that if ChronicleMan had his communication link, it was probably the older man's responsibility – and no surprise that it slipped his mind.

Her eyes flitted about the room as she checked each of the supposedly aggrieved parties, but when the two quietest guests opted not to speak, Lyntael suppressed the urge to wince. Instead, she let herself glide across to ArmoryMan's setting with a warm smile and slight incline of her head as she greeted him.

“I'm so sorry to hear that your not feeling completely comfortable and at ease here with us today... Please, if there's anything else I can do to help you feel more relaxed or welcomed, just let me know.” She ducked her head again, letting one hand move to the side, low and palm out as she turned the gesture into a brief bow. It didn't seem much like he was going to change his mind just from some pleasant service, but she still wanted to play the part – with any luck something he said might give her an excuse to slip out of the room again... a chance to talk to her companions in more than short messages would be useful right about now.
Mara tried to hide her true expression behind her smile when confronted by cheap frozen salads and chilly plastic bags of apple slices. Now chilled baggies of apple slices are pretty great when you want a quick snack on the go, any bit of convenience was a plus in her book, but they were yet another reminder that their cover of being a luxury cruise was strained to a premium. But regardless of these problems, they were still something that Mara could work with. "Thank you Takeout," she said as she took a few bags of the apple slices, "These will do for now." She then jiggled the baggies at MerchMan as she returned. "Who wants some apple slices?" she asked in her partially-sultry, partially-sing-song voice. She was going to try to sell him on the fact that feeding apple slices to him "Roman Emperor"-style was close enough to the grape-treatment she promised earlier. "Lead the way handsome," she replied to MerchMan's request to attend to him in his own room, grabbing two bottles of water in her other hand. Then sashayed with MerchMan to give him some extra attention, and to "pump" him for more information like any good honey-trap spy.


Meanwhile, Corrin and Nikki were as faded into the background as they could be, serving anyone who asked for a refresher on their drinks or bringing more food to the hungry, and listening all the while. Lynn took Corrin to the side for a moment to fill him in on some details, asked him to tend to Memora, and asked for more information on ReservoirMan. As Lynn turned to head off, she was pinged by Cynthia:

Quote ((Magistrate to Lyntael))


<We met ReservoirMan on two separate occasions. He is of a stocky build, so wide it looks as though he would barely fit through any standard doorways, which explains being put in the cargo hold. He is composed mostly of a rocky and bearded head. The beard is really just a series of lighter-colored cement blocks about his chin and upper lip. His shoulders sport the standard number of arms found on most humanoids, two, which are thick and ending in overly-large hands. He has legs, but no feet. And when we last saw him his mouth was open and creating a constant stream of water that he moved across as though much lighter than he appeared. His eyes are completely white with no pupils, and were set seep into the face. The navi emblem on his ear-guards displayed a wide gray dam with a thin river streaming out the center. Rather than holding stuff, he appears to attached it to his shoulders, for ease of access. He was always quick to anger and constantly demanded that things went his way. This was more likely due to the aggravated situations we always found him in. However, even though he is large and aggressive, his threat profile is minimal. He was quick to retreat whenever anything did not go his way.

If you need further assistance, I am heading towards the entrance to the dock to await the delivery people. I will oversee the transfer of goods and to make sure that we keep our cover intact. As I have already established myself as the responsible manager, I will raise no alarms by attending to what are essentially my covered duties.>


As the call ended, Corrin was brushed by a new waitstaff. With Memora needing attention, Corrin flagged down Nikki to attend to the mystery person. Nikki nodded her head and excused herself, chasing down the stranger. Corrin then smiled and weaved over to Memora. "How may I be of service during this Wanderous time?" he asked as he bowed his head slightly. He continued to play the charming host in front of Memora, chuckling good-humorously at whatever quips were thrown around.