Lower Element Containment Mysteries [Network Advancement Mission for Jazz]

Stephine had been at her PC for a while after picking up some stuff for Jazz, she was busy integrating things into Jazz's programming as the message came in. Taking a sip of her off-brand cola, she responded back immediately. "Come in. Jazz is laying in bed right now, but he should be awake still. He was pretty tired after the mission, funnily enough. Maybe seeing you again will put a spring back into his step, even managed to get out without taking a hit from the viruses or Asteca. You should have access to the homepage."
There was no particular fanfare, and Prose didn't respond directly; just as when she'd visited before, Stephine's PET simply clicked over from registering one navigator to two, with only a small, barely noticeable increase in code weight.

From Jazz's perspective, between one restless turn and the next, she was simply there; white fur under soft blue denim, curled up at the end of his bed, knees drawn up and with her arms wrapped about them, making her already diminutive form seem particularly small and delicate. Her body moved subtly with the slow rhythm of her breathing, and her ears, lying back flat, twitched independently at each small sound in the room, but her gaze just looked at the nothing just past her knees. It was a few seconds before she spoke, but when she did it was soft and quiet.

“Marridite, First of Five, hidden within the core of all life. The Cycle Inevitable; Beast of Timeless Earth...” She paused and drew a breath, then continued. “Seranox, Second of Five, hidden within the heart of fire. The Sky-Dancer; Beast of Burning Freedom... Asteca, Third of Five, hidden within the tractless static. The Myriad Blade; Beast of Chaotic Storms. Hraltish, Fourth of Five, hidden within the lightless womb. The Ocean's Song; Beast of Shadowed Depths. Cresheth, Fifth of Five, hidden within the well of cages. The Shattered Chain; Beast of Wrath Beyond Reason.” She paused, falling silent for a moment, then swallowed, eyes closed tight as though swallowing something bitter, and when she spoke again it was a whisper.

“Prosopopoeia... Sixth of Five, hidden upon the open stage. The Mask's Gift; Beast of Will Personified...” The rest of her breath came out in a long sigh, and her head dropped onto her arms, hiding her face. Her next words were understandably muffled.

“I'm not feeling very wilful, right now, Jazz... I'm just scared.”
Jazz immediately perked up as he saw Prose, the navi's body, while still heavy with tiredness and stress, came up as if there was nothing wrong with him, though he held back a groan of pain as he began to crawl over to the huddled up Prose, stopping briefly as she began, his own ears flattening from her, letting her speak. His eyes closing slowly as he listened, hands slowly reaching out for Prose.

Gently, his hands landed on her side, slowly dragging her over to him if she'd allow it as she finished. Slowly but surely, the hare wrapped the bunny into a hug, bringing her against his body and wrapping her in warmth. Even as the eye atop his head opened, even as he opened his crimson red eyes, he held her gently against him. I'm sorry, Prose. He whispered into her ears, holding onto her tightly. I'm sorry I wasn't better...I'm sorry I couldn't help more...I'm...I'm just sorry about everything that happened...I wish I could have been stronger...smarter...faster...I...I don't care what you are, Prose. I only care for the woman I'm holding, about who she is. I will do everything I can to make you happy...I only want to make you happy...I- He continued, holding back tears, holding back the bile in the back of his throat at his own self-loathing. I still love you Prose, I won't turn my back on you. And if anyone has a problem with it...they can take it up with me. I am going to get stronger for you, Prose. I am going to do anything and everything to try and make things right...I'll be here for you whenever you need a chance to decompress, when you need to cry...whatever happens, it's okay to be scared, it's okay...we'll get through this, differences between us be damned.
In the quiet, Prose didn't resist as Jazz gently pulled her in. Despite all he knew now, the body in his arms was warm, soft, and trembled faintly as he spoke. She relaxed against him, head against his chest and eyes closed.

“You didn't do anything wrong, Jazz... none of it was your fault. You think it was, and that's my fault... my doing. Because I messed up, and I always cause other people to take the blame. I want it to be true, what you say... but you don't know who I am, Jazz. That's what I'm scared of. We flirted, and we slept together, and we shared a night's worth of pillow talk in between... Navis bond quickly, I know that... but, it's a thin bridge to test heavy weights on. I'm not scared of what's out there, or what's going to happen after all of this mess... I'm scared because I promised you answers, and now I'm going to tell you who I am... and I'm scared you won't think or feel that way once I have.” Despite her words, she huddled against him, seemingly unwilling to pull away, or look up to meet his eyes. A few seconds stretched as she licked her lips, still shaking, seemingly with nerves.

“I don't know what to say. I messed everything up, and I can't take it back. I didn't want to deceive you... but I chose to, because I never meant for you to know. That's the truth, Jazz. I was never going to tell you. I would have kept it from you, forever; for one more date, for one more night; forever. I'm scared... of telling you that.” He felt her draw a long breath, her fingers reaching up to hold onto his arm as he hugged her.

“I'm a lot of things... but I'm a liar, and a deceiver as much as anything else. I'm the Mask's Gift; I'm a pretty picture and a nice story to make people happy and ignore anything that lies underneath. I'm an easter bunny, and a hallow's spook, and a festive elf... I'm a cybeast, with enough power to put another one in its place... and I hide it, and let others be endangered, for the sake of keeping up the mask.” She lifted her head now, letting it fall back against Jazz's arms, though her eyes remained closed. “I love to run and dance and fly, to race the wind and feel the grass between my toes; I'm essence without form that doesn't really grasp any of those things; I'm a quadriplegic, from the jaw down, can't even chew my own food...” She shook her head and kept murmuring quietly, pausing in between each set of contradicting phrases. “I'm a mascot, or the idea of one; I'm as old as the first time two sentient beings shared a common concept of something together, old as shared social imagining; I was coded three years ago; I'm turning twenty-two next month. I'm a force without parentage or origin; I'm an experiment that isn't really trusted to exist on its own; my mother raised me when my father left, and she's cared for me since the accident.”

“I know thousands of netnavis, and they know me... but only in passing; my mum has been my only human contact, aside the doctors, for years. I'm a virgin, and I'm almost certainly going to die that way; I'm an incorrigible slut who'll throw herself into the bed of anyone who shows even a little bit of interest, and have done, dozens of times, even when I'm not supposed to; I've never gone on a proper date before, and I wanted one... so I was selfish, and tried to get what I wanted, without caring about the danger I was putting you in. I thank navigators for helping make the net safe; I maintain virus producing programs and make sure there's always more threats to fight; I watch, when navigators bite off more than they can chew, and get hurt, and I do nothing to help them.”

“I am Prosopopoeia, the beast of will personified; I have a name, recorded on a birth certificate, in my mum's filing cabinet, in a home, on a street, in a city in netopia and I'm never going to tell you what it is; I'm Prose... pretty little words and a cute little story... just a fun girl who likes to fool around, and pretend that's all I am; sometimes I don't even know what's real and what's acting; sometimes I can't tell. I am all of those things, and I'm no single one of them alone; I'm a liar, and a deceiver and I was never going to tell you any of it. And I'm scared... I'm scared of what it means, now that I've said all of that.” The nervous shaking in her form continued throughout the bunny-girl's list, even as she seemed to be forcing herself to get through it with uncertain words, but once her words fell to silence, the soft tremble was replaced by tension, almost as though she was physically bracing herself.
Jazz simply held onto Prose, holding her tightly as she spoke, letting her words flow, her contradictions, her truths and lies...he did not want to interrupt her, he wanted to listen to her in full before responding, gently squeezing the beast in his hands, tensing as she continued. Even as she finished, he stayed silent, he processed, moments passing painfully to the parties involved.

Jazz chose to go along with it all. He chose to risk his ass for you. Give the old bastard some credit, bunny girl. Stephine spoke, breaking the pregnant silence with her blunt words. You said it yourself, Prose. On our brief "date" at the cafe. "We all have our secret crosses". It took me till now to realize what you meant...it took my dumb ass up till you put Cresheth on his back to realize what you meant. Jazz followed up, squeezing her tightly against him. I won't say I know perfectly what you've gone though. But I can sympathize to a degree. Outside your "family", outside your work...you've been just as lonely as I was...for fear you'd lose others. I know that feeling...I know it all too well... He continued, a tear falling down onto Prose's fur, the hare's arms trembling against Prose, inhaling briefly before continuing.

I am Jazz.exe. I was once a murderer, a genocidal maniac and nearly brought Sharo to it's knees forty years ago, singlehandedly. Because of my wonton desire for power, I put my netop in debt, heavy debt to the mafia. He died because of me. And that started my rampage, psyche shattered into three pieces, the "Freudian Trio". Ego. The creature that piloted the shell of Jazz forty years ago, hellbent on revenge even without a netop. Id. The one to control the drive of the Ego and the demands of the Super-Ego, failing to do either in the end. Super-Ego. The failure that could not try and stop the Ego from his rampage and his genocide. Jazz continued, trembling even more with Prose in his hands, in his grasp, pausing briefly to let the definitions linger. I never intended to tell you about what I actually was, either. But you knew well before I nearly had a mental breakdown today. But every time I held back my true nature...my true past...someone finds out...they get angry, they attack me...half of these scars, these burns, are from those who lashed out at me, because I tried to keep secrets from people, crosses trashed where applicable, leading me back to net zero... He continued on, trembling against Prose, body shaking like nothing else as he spoke again. back to crushing depression and loneliness...time and again I wondered if it was worth existing...time and again, I contemplated trying to get into the undernet to die like I deserved...but it wouldn't bring back the lives that were taken...my penance... He looked down to Prose again, holding onto her. You need someone...someone to hold onto...we're both liars...but that can change...all we can do is take steps to change, Prose. That's all we can do...and make steps to make things right.
A small, silent exhale of breath accompanied the tension giving way to soft pliability again as the smaller woman lay against Jazz and listened to his response, though if he was looking at her, he might still catch a small wince, quickly smoothed away, when Stephine chipped in and announced her listening presence.

Even so, Prose kept quiet as she listened in return, shifting so that she cloud lie down alongside him instead, and press her back against his chest. Her hands reached up to hold his arms about her as she pressed in close; she wasn't looking up at him or making face to face contact, but there was a closeness of psychical contact that she seemed to take more comfort in, in a more intimate way. She squeezed his arm and rolled the back of her head softly against his chest.

“I... I knew, but, I didn't know everything. There's files, on all the house-guests, in each facility, all across the net... but they don't really paint as full a picture as they should... but Jazz, please... please let's not talk about self-destruction or anything like that. There's always a better answer... I believe that. I have to. If I'd given up after the accident I wouldn't be here now. Someone, something would be, but not me... So, if you're... if you're really okay with me, and this, whatever this is... then promise me that, okay? No giving up.” She drew a longer breath, settling against him in a way that ended up being more physically suggestive that the bunny girl probably intended, in the more serious moment.

“So... So what happens now? I don't want you to see me differently, or think of me differently, I don't... but... that's not really possible. I never really needed you to protect me, any of those times, but... but knowing that you wanted to... that mattered, it really did! It was nice, and I liked it... Things are changed now... it's one of a dozen other little things that just can't be, and can't happen now, not really. Is that petty and selfish? I feel like it probably is...” She sighed and curled up a little, taking a moment to breath. “First question... Jazz, do you still want to see me, after all of this? I know, you've said you still love me, again and again, and it makes me so happy to hear it, but there's lots of types of love, and I have to ask, before I do anything else... I can help you sort out your demons, find out which facility your other parts are lingering at, help you, however you need, as... as colleagues, if that's what you want. We can be friends, if you want... or, if... if you still really want me, we can be... this...” As she spoke, one of her hands squeezed his arm while her other slipped down to rest on his hip and squeeze him closer, while her foot lifted just enough to entwine across one of his and lock her leg over his. “If you want...” After a moment of pressure and tight holding, she relaxed again. “How do you want this... us... to be, Jazz?”
Jazz shook as he held onto Prose, squeezing her gently at her words as his mind continued to surge with ideas, with words he couldn't get out there as everything happened, everything was said, he was still uneasy with Prose, but before long he nodded. As long as you stop blaming yourself entirely for today...I think I can make that promise. I didn't know what I was getting into, but I still jumped to help you, any opportunity to help...make up for my past. Still, the chains were still my fault in the end, I'm man enough to admit to it, I waited too long to launch them to keep you from having to put them together and inadvertently put you in danger regardless. He spoke, simply, calmly. Besides...those thoughts were long ago, after...I lost someone important to me because I couldn't fight back against her assailants, too weak to protect the woman I loved at the time...it's been years, but it still stings. Along with everyone else before I met with Sephine. He continued, closing his eyes as he felt Prose beginning to squeeze his arm and lock her leg with his. He smiled as he gently brought his hand to hers and entwined his fingers betwixt hers.

I want us to be more than just colleagues. I want to be more than just close friends. I want to be as close as we possibly can be, despite our differences. He spoke again, the cross he had used to show her slowly wrapping around him. But despite that, it changed, small crimson wings came out of his back, but even then they grew...encompassing the two in holographic feathers. Jacket slowly grew out to a greatcoat, twin tails of fabric stretching out under the wings and big enough to leave plenty of room for the hare with plenty of items inside. His bodysuit taking on the same crimson sheen, even the pompom from before began to appear and drooped down over his head with the hare letting out a chuckle. Even then, white leather gloves began to slowly move across his hands and upon his feet, a pair of leather boots in white, slowly going up towards his knees. I want to be there for you when you're down. I want to be your boyfriend...husband...more than just "friends with benifits"...and if I can help the folks you work with, all the better. I still have my own things to do, busting viruses, dealing with my "other selves"...but I'll help you wherever I can. he continued in a solem tone, leaning down to kiss the scared bunny on the nose. Even if it's far less than what you can do for me. I have more secrets from my past...it's been about seven years since I somehow escaped...and my past seems to be catching up to me...
Despite everything, Jazz caught the sensation of a small giggle and Prose wriggled against him in a playful way as she took in his answer. As she nuzzled at his chest, one hand fumbled to drag whatever covers existed on Jazz's bed over them both. Somewhere in the process, subtly, her skirt and top had mysteriously made themselves scarce.

“I thought intimate conversations between the sheets were supposed to be for taking clothes off, not putting more on, hehe...” Her mood had relaxed, gradually shifting away from the overwrought worry and nervous fear, and even if Jazz still had some unease of his own, she seemed to have decided that this much was enough, for now.

“Boyfriend... I can do that... I've never been someone's girlfriend before.” She quieted for a moment, moving just slightly enough to enjoy the feeling of his embrace, one hand holding his and her other reached back to grip at his waist and hip, holding tight.

“There's going to be a lot that makes things difficult. You've got your things, and I've got... so much, as well. I don't have a lot of time to myself. I spend about twenty hours here every day, and most of it is usually full of... responsibilities. I can make time, here and there, but not always... As they like to say, 'the net is vast and infinite'; I have a lot of places to be. But... we'll try. We'll make it work, okay?” Jazz could feel her hips shift against him more pointedly and her free hand reached back further, to rest with more meaning on his behind.

“Jazz...? I know there's more we should say... but these past two days... I'm glad I'm here, and I'm glad you are, and I'm glad you don't hate me, and still want me... but right now I want... I want you to make me feel like a woman, and not a beast. Like someone to hold, and to love, like someone that can hold and love in return... We can talk about the rest in the morning. I'll still be here this time, I promise.” The hand on his behind squeezed, and she lifted her head, craning her neck up to kiss gently at his jaw line.
He playfully grinned as she dragged some fairly thin covers over the two of them, falling through the wings he had made and around them. I mean...the fun part about clothes is to remove them... He responded with a chuckle, running his free fingers through her hair, slowly and gently moving back behind her neck and down her back, fingers ever so gently kneading against her as he held against her body. That's all I ask, sweetie, we'll try and do what we can to make this work...maybe go on a date together one of these days when you have a chance, we can arrange something down the road... He continued, feeling the hand on his rear, letting him let out another chuckle as his fingers gently grabbed hers, giving a firm squeeze.

Stephine had let out an audiable sigh, leaning back in her chair and rubbing her eyes, as far as she had known, she finished what she set out to do with Jazz and his "parasite" next time he showed up...she could only hope it would work in the end, but all the same...she still didn't feel CONFIDENT about it, with how far he had reached up, how much his influence managed to permiate her Jazz's mind...and there was still the eye that grew out of that "incident"...she also had signatures to code...but she wasn't about to do anything tonight at least. And don't you worry...I'm not about to let go tonight...just...ah...I'm a little sore from all the running around today...so, it's not gonna be -as- enthusiastic as it was last time. Not that's about to stop me from loving you all over, sweetie. Jazz's voice rung out from her PET, with that, Stephine figured a night's sleep was a good idea, leaving the two to their "things" for tonight.
A faint rustle of fabric and a quietly hummed giggle responded to him, along with a more tactical shift of her form against his.
"That's okay... Gentle is good, tonight..." She whispered, though words became substantially more infrequent for a while after that.


((Mission concluded, Network Advance rewards already rendered, Jazz gains +50 FXP with Prosopopoeia.lapin))