Covert Reconnaissance

((From => Rogan's Room))

The destination wasn't far. Normally, Rogan wouldn't have taken a room so close to his work, but he wouldn't be going back to the rented apartment anyway, and if all went well he'd be flying south again before night fall. His eyes flicked to the dash alcove in his hired vehicle, but Lyntael hadn't returned from he errand yet. He had to be more mindful of the resources they were allocating for her improvement – every time he thought about it, he caught himself wondering again whether it would have made a difference. It wasn't something he could afford to fret over now, at least – but it did matter that he made sure to spend the funds that accrued on purchases for her, now more than ever.

His car slid through the roughly cobbled streets slowly in the early morning mist; already the tourism side of the city was gearing up into full swing, with street-side shops wheeling out displays of pins, flags and numerous stuffed toys, but there weren't many regular people about just yet. His gaze remained on the road ahead of him, but in his peripheral he watched the various important political buildings slide by and into the background as he slowly made his way beyond the inner city and out into the increasingly urbanised town sprawl. Only... twenty years ago perhaps... the hills ahead of him had been green; now they were... colonised. He'd been much younger then. The thought was an odd one and he brushed it aside; this wasn't a time for reminiscing, and he certainly didn't need to be thinking about the places he'd left behind right now.

Before long, his car became lost amidst the twisting, winding roadways that made up the creeping residential suburbia that was still half modern convenience and half traditional farmland, all mixed together. He travelled, turning left and right, for another ten minutes before pulling into a small car park at the edge of a public playground overlooking a lake that had, most likely, originally been a bog before it was 'beautified'. This would be close enough, he was sure. A block away, he'd passed a small corner business store dealing in all the odds and ends local households needed on the regular, without going 'into town' properly. As with many things, the store served a number of other far more interesting purposes as well. He opened his bag and pulled out the various documents he needed to double check, along with his laptop. His other hand reached towards the PET in his pocket.

“Lyntael, we're here. Are you ready?” He tapped a few buttons to check his navi's status.
Lyntael had only stepped off the link pad in her living area a few moments before Rogan's voice called out to her and she nodded, turning back to touch the screen and slip out of the device. The PET was currently in Rogan's hand and she clambered out to his wrist swiftly then, when he shifted his arm to facilitate it, jumped across to the car's dash alcove so she could face him properly.

“All taken care of, sir. I'm ready to go.” Her eyes scanned the man sitting in the driver's seat as he nodded in her direction and returned to working on his laptop. He was tired; she could see it around his eyes, but he was focused as well. It was time for serious work, and serious Rogan was at the wheel – no-one else was around, or would be, but the stoic focused expression smoothed his features from giving much of anything away and the mask was up, all the same. Lyntael shifted to sit on the lip of the alcove, feet hanging and with her ankles crossed.

“So...” Things were still... complicated, after their last fight, and now was not the time to talk about it, she knew, but some part of her remained desperate to make some kind of conversation all the same, and reach for some feeling of companionship. “What do you think you'll find here? You said, this little business runs connections to Caoránach Creative, and I know you've started making plans now. I...” she hesitated, the knuckles on one hand unconsciously rubbing against her breastbone. “I don't know why, but you've got it in your head that this isn't business any more – that it's all personal. I can see it, in the way you look, when you're doing research.” She watched him for a reaction, but Rogan didn't let anything slip that she could catch; he just kept working to set everything up for their mission. When he answered it was over the soft click of keystrokes, without taking his eyes off his work

“Mostly, this is mapping some connections. I'll be confirming names and places, and a number of other details to do with data movement between this exchange and the organisations it serves. If that's all I can confirm for certain, I will be sufficient for today – I'm not rushing... but if I've made the right guess, I may be able to learn a bit more about several of the projects I want to track, where they're being worked on, and when.” He was silent for a few moments, then lifted his hands off the keys and looked towards Lyntael properly; hard eyes, bu the pain was still there, locked away tightly yet unmissable, now that she knew what she was seeing, every time he looked at her. What had she done to make him look at her like that? Lyntael shoved the thought away; no time for that today. Instead she met his eyes and forced herself to give him a small smile in return, nodding her readiness as he spoke to her. “All set. I'll be jacking you in properly Lyntael; it should be a normal dive, so all you need to do is go where I show you, and maintain the masking. Are you ready? Good. Away you go, and I'll send the signal in a moment.” He held out one hand and Lyntael jumped across to it, then again to the surface of the PET as he delivered her to it so she could slip back inside.


There was the brief moment when the girl's image froze, then faded away. When he was alone again, Rogan drew a longer breath, closing his eyes and scrubbing one hand over them briefly. All the little differences. All the little things that were the same. Why did she have to look at him like that, with eyes so innocent of what had happened while he could only see his mistakes, cut fresh with every smiling glance? He shook his head; it wasn't like there was a better alternative, and there wasn't time for such awkwardly prosaic thoughts today anyway. He set it aside and picked up the PET again, sending the jack-in signal to the nearby network. It was time to work.

((Lyntael Jacking in, Branch to => Netopian Suburban Net))
Rogan worked quickly while he waited for Lyntael to progress with the masking. The more steps he could prepare in advance, now that he had access to the network, the shorter their incursion would be, and the smoother the still uncertain elements could be made. Beside him, a series of short shouts, ending in an angry shriek, played from Lyntael's PET, and as his eyes flicked cross to where it lay in the passenger seat, he could see a light begin an urgent flashing. He paused his own work and reached over to retrieve the device.

On the screen, the display had slid across to display Lyntael's physical diagnostic again – he was getting better at understanding the schematic, at least partially; a few medical texts with helpful diagrams had given him enough understanding to at least make some sense of the complex read-out. What he read made him wish, for moment, that he could actually get a visual display of her network situation, even though it wouldn't exactly help anything. She truly wasn't made for fighting in the way that navigators did, or at least, her human-analogue body wasn't. That was the problem, really; she still had most of the capabilities of other advanced navigators and in combat that made for conflict – a fact he should have paid attention to far sooner.

A lifetime ago, he would simply have seen that she wasn't damaged, according to the baseline integrity statistics, and told her... he shook his head, the thought didn't need finished. Right now, he could see that she was dangerously overloaded, and likely in pain. It had happened before, he knew; some safety that Eric had made stopped her from hurting herself seriously, but it cut it very fine, and the experience was, as far as he could tell, still a harrowing one for Lyntael. She'd grown progressively stronger... little help from him, a side thought muttered... and it took more to drive her to this dangerous point, now, but it still came on suddenly, when she was handling so much more power than she used to as well; her really wasn't sure where any of that had even come from, despite reviewing it... if anything, being connected to the PET was limiting the girl's growth, and every expansion and upgrade he bought for her only seemed to temporarily relieve that pressure a little.

Rogan blinked and refocused. The main problem, right now, was that if she collapsed while the lock in was still there, she wouldn't be able to defend herself from the dangers that were still in the area, and that would mean he'd have to extract her and they'd need to start again. The warning note that blinked raised another problem: “Operator Data Input Crash: Synchroniser unable to connect, Chip Reader unable to connect, Network Mapping Projection unable to connect.” The PET claimed to have no idea how to fix the error, or when he could expect it to clear, either. A bitter chuckle managed to creep past his lips; he couldn't help her directly anyway, it seemed. He glanced at his own work again. He couldn't progress until she was ready to move the masking in tandem with his dive. She hadn't called for help, or even sounded worried about the delay, but... if whatever she was doing was crashing elements of her link in the process... A small sound of frustration made itself heard as he decided how to progress. First thing, he needed a better read of the subnet layer that Lyntael was in. He couldn't get a visual through her connection, but...

A moment later, Rogan had manipulated the device to separate from tracking Lyntael herself and switched it to a simpler exploration view. Finding the store's network was quick enough, and from there he could use the credentials he'd already put together to switch through to the private subnet manually. The view on the screen changed from a digital store space to a wire-frame layout of the same space, made of green lines and black space. So that's what she'd meant.

The view also showed him the extra paths and structures of the private net, tracing away into the distance, and the screen showed frames moving, further off. An ad-hoc view wouldn't be as closely in sync as the actual connection – there would be a delay, and it wouldn't let him use most of the normal operator functions, but if they were all offline anyway that didn't matter; what mattered was seeing what was happening, so he could work out how to let her progress.

When the view point pushed closer, through the layers of green-lined grids, Rogan felt a small catch of breath go suddenly the wrong way and he fought to suppress a rough cough. Why in the world... He forced his eyes to the corner of the screen, keeping what was going on at the edge of his peripheral only. There was some twisted fate that continually conspired to put him in these positions, and compromise his navi's privacy. He couldn't even think of an explanation for it this time – everything in the subnet was reduced to simplified tracery representations... everything, it appeared, except Lyntael.

Lyntael was fighting viruses, but she hadn't moved on quickly, or run away. Running away... didn't seem to be something that Lyntael would even contemplate now. Rogan winced, trying to shake off the thought of the girl on his screen being 'this Lyntael', and not 'his Lyntael'. It didn't help anyone to think like that. He pushed the feeling away. She'd mentioned a quarantine lock, but if it was just the normal variety, it should have released a second or two after the other end sealed. The space wasn't meant for active programs, and neither Lyntael nor the viruses that infested the lower nets could affect anything here – so why was it sticking? His eyes returned to check on his navigator, and he felt his cheeks threatening to heat; it was indecent, but he had no real choice right now. He'd told her he couldn't see, so he could at least spare the girl the knowledge of his unwitting view.

There... Rogan felt a grimace flicker at his features. The subnet couldn't treat Lyntael herself in the same way as it did everything else; she was an anomaly to the subnet layer he'd slipped her in to. It shouldn't have been a problem, and wouldn't be after this irksome little protocol... but it was a fast enough fix.

He opened his mouth to speak, but before he could, a new shout, this one wordless and insensate, pulled his attention. His eyes was drawn unwittingly to Lyntael again; with a second or two delay, he saw her struggle up from where she had nearly fallen, only to run at the remaining viruses trailing a mesh of electricity so dense it made discerning other details hard. The warning display pushed itself back onto the screen; she was dangerously compromised, and at risk of doing long term harm to herself, or so it reported. Rogan worked quickly to spring the quarantine – Lyntael should have been able to do it herself, but he could see she wasn't thinking clearly. More flares of light flashes behind the warning messages as her pale form struck from one target to another.

Just as he finished the bypass, the sounds stopped. A single warning message replaced the many smaller ones. Rogan dismissed it and flicked the screen back; he knew what it meant. Hopefully she wasn't completely dazed. Thanks to the delay,he saw the girl lash out one more time, then stumble and crash to the ground in a limp tumble as her safety took over. Despite himself, Rogan winced. There were more threats still being drawn to her location; she had to move. He could pull her out at any time, still, but that would mean restarting everything. Rogan closed his eyes and took a slow breath. Snapping at her wouldn't help. He'd seen other navigators talk the girl through these moments, or at least, that's what it looked like, on review... and there wasn't anything else he could do right now that would be helpful. Rogan kept his voice calm and level as he spoke.

“Lyntael...” He eyed the freshly arrived wire-frame viruses as he continued. “On your feet, Lyntael...” He knew she could hear him, and sure enough he saw her stir, then begin forcing herself up. It took precious few seconds, but he focused on her and tried to ignore the encroaching dangers.

“You need to move, Lyntael. You are not safe where you are. On your feet; we have work to do.” Whatever it was that put her into this dazed state, it hadn't released her yet, so he kept it simple and watched as she got to her feet again.

“Good. Now move, Lyntael, forward.” He was relieved when she did, and didn't attempt to re-engage with the other threats in the hallway. When she made it through the door, he tripped the quarantine again, sealing the hall off – it wouldn't last long, but long enough to let her get clear of the skirmish.

His eyes shifted back to Lyntael as she stumbled to one side and leaned on the wall; on instinct, he searched her quickly for other injuries, before realising what he was looking at and thrusting his gaze away to one side. Rogan swiftly covered the view with her more clinical diagnostic screen instead; he still couldn't understand most of it, and didn't exactly feel like he needed to, or had any business, knowing some of the things he did understand it telling him... but one indicator seemed to be tracking the internal nerve and muscle stress as it rapidly receded from her, and he choose to focus on that instead.

“Let me know when you are able to move freely, Lyntael, and we'll continue.” He glanced towards the girl as she struggled to recover properly, then nodded to himself and turned back to his own work.

Despite himself, Rogan had still ended up flicking occasional glances across to where the PET now rested close to hand, double checking his navi even while he worked on his own tasks. Each glance happened almost unconsciously and was immediately answered but a much more deliberate correction of his eyes to his own screen.

Even so, the almost accidental side glances were... distracting. The view was still in its exploration set up, and so was a decent latency behind whatever was actually happening, but it almost felt as though any time his eyes crossed over to check on her in between waiting for processes to load or finish, the girl seemed as though she were... almost deliberately trying to move in compromising ways. He was sure he was imagining it, and told himself as such every time he forced his eyes away from the smaller screen. He felt like a lech.

He had to be imagining it; if Lyntael even suspected that he was seeing her in that state, he was sure she'd be making an issue of it, and rightly so. For all she was prepared to do ridiculous and indecent things just to make him uncomfortable, he was certain she still felt deeply mortified by it, and embarrassed, and she definitely wouldn't be going out of her way to taunt him here, when they were on mission, and when she had no reason to suspect that he had checked in on her. He went over their conversation as he ran a fresh database search... He was sure she hadn't said anything to actually tell him about her situation – he'd been shocked when he'd discovered it, and she hadn't said anything to confirm it since. He was imagining it; he had to be, and it was... wrong of him to be doing so. He tried to stop glancing across.

The work, at least, progressed smoothly. He was being careful regardless, and Lyntael's masking was just an additional safety net that let him work a little more quickly, but at this rate, the sooner they could be finished with the work, the better. He was beginning to think that perhaps it had been a mistake to use Lyntael for this task when it wasn't strictly needed, but then, they had to start somewhere, rebuilding whatever their relationship was. The guilt and loathing he felt for what he'd done was something that he doubted would ever really go away, but it was locked away now, along with all the other marks on the wall that he couldn't expunge; moving forward, however, he didn't want to keep risking her safety as he had been. Lyntael herself had been insistent about wanting to help, and about being involved, and even if she could not – must not – remember it herself, he didn't want to deny her the right to be a part of righting the wrongs she had been subjected to. So... start small. Work together on things that were safer, and maybe they could make a start towards something they were both comfortable with. At last, that was what he was telling himself.

“Hold there for a moment, Lyntael.” He spoke as his own work pulled up a larger data set to comb and extract. If this had when he hoped for, they might be finished.
“Here, like this, sir?” There was something odd about her words. She normally wouldn't confirm a simple request like that. Rogan frowned but nodded to himself, briefly double checking that her location was still before responding.
“Good, hold that position.” Without thinking, he looked across to Lyntael's screen for a visual confirmation and half choked. He lifted one hand to cover a cough as his breath caught and he felt a hot rush in his face that he fought off. Through the slight delay, he saw Lyntael pause as she heard his request, then take a seat on one of the nearby benches; the pose she took however, was worse than lascivious. Her strange query made sudden sense, and he realised with growing mortification that his own response had been an unfortunate choice of words.

“Yes, sir! If you want me to change to a new position, let me know!” Her words came first, but across the delay, he saw Lyntael grinning as she posed... and he hadn't stopped looking. With a muttered curse Rogan tore his eyes away. There was no way she wasn't doing that deliberately. She had to be. She had to know then... but if she knew, why wasn't she complaining... why was she... A thought hit him. Maybe she was just pretending; she knew he wasn't watching, so it was a game for her, maybe. It didn't make it any better, from his perspective, but he had to at least save her from embarrassment, which meant he absolutely couldn't let on that he'd seen anything at all.

“... I will.” He grabbed at the first thought to question her strange wording from a safe perspective. “You sound taxed, Lyntael, is everything alright? Your vitals say-” Her voice cut him off with a borderline panicked sound – like a child caught with their hand in the jar, he thought. The assurance that followed sounded breathless. What in the world was this game she was playing at? A notification lit up on his own screen and he looked back to it... he realised his eyes had moved across to Lyntael again unconsciously and he berated himself internally.
“I see.” He did his best to keep his voice level and focused; he was just working, and knew nothing about what the girl was doing, and he really did need to stay focused, regardless. “I need you to stay there and take care of yourself for a little longer.” The words were barely out of his mouth before he bit his tongue and pinched the bridge of his nose. Of all the things to say... could he possibly have picked a worse phrase? What was wrong with him?

He barely heard her breathless confirmation, and across the delay he saw with mortified disbelief as the girl seemed to shiver and bite her lip, then reach one hand down towards her groin. In a panic of his own, Rogan threw the PET across into the passenger seat face down, and then threw his coat over the top of it for good measure. This was beyond ridiculous, beyond indecent. How had that even happened. He had to say something, anything, to put a halt to his inadvertent... instruction. What could he say, though, without giving away that he knew? He could feel himself practically dying from the second-hand embarrassment, letting Lyntael know was out of the question. He couldn't exactly give her other instructions, either – the work came first and he needed her where she was. Rogan grit his teeth and focused on getting his own work done, and tried not to think about anything else at all.
Second-hand guilt and embarrassment aside, it only took a few moments for Rogan to return to the task at hand properly and shut out everything else. Lyntael was in no real danger, and however she wished to fool around wasn't of too much consequence as long as she maintained the masking. Even if that should fail, and if he needed to extract her, he could still complete the work he was here to do safely enough, it would just take a little longer, and he had time. He put the matter out of his mind and returned to searching.

Most of what he was searching for were the confirmation lines that would trace back to people he could do proper work-ups on later, connected to CC and its operating facilities. There were dozens of small fronts like this, as it turned out, very much like the first one Varda had ever asked him to research. Come to think of it, her information had been less than perfect for that job as well. Over the course of his investigations, the picture had become clearer that this organisation had tendrils in a lot of places – thin, weak, and without power to really affect much, but present all the same. He had no doubt that the little inconsistencies he'd come up against were the result of information leaks, rather than Varda's family deliberately testing him.

Names were added to his list one by one, along with their connections and positions, and for several minutes Rogan was surrounded by focused quiet, save for the clicking of keys. Eventually he nodded to himself. That would be enough to build a plan, and research other avenues in more indirect ways. He paused, eyes scanning the data that flowed across his screen. He had located the connection between this store-front's subnet, and one of the intermediary private substations that served as the discrete in-between for obscuring cash trails. It would be watched and manned, obviously – those kinds of set-ups never shut down and always had internal eyes on them, but he could learn a lot more there too, now that he'd found the connection. The dive would be much easier to detect, and Lyntael's masking would be much more important there, but if he kept her in the subnet it should probably still escape notice. He weighed the odds in his mind. It was rogue net, and she could pass as a random netbattler easily enough. With a small nod he uncovered the PET and, gingerly, retrieved it without looking at the screen directly.

“Lyntael,” he paused, but her answer came rapidly enough. She sounded a little out of breath, but not s though he had... interrupted anything. He mentally cursed himself for even thinking about the way her voice sounded from that perspective, and pushed on. “I've recovered the things I need from here; it's enough to go on for now, but there's another lead I'd like to follow up as long as we're undetected. What's your status?” Listening to her answering report was more reassuring; back to business as normal. “Good. I'm setting up a transition. Hold position there, then take the emulation on my mark.”

It took a moment to set up on his own dive, and then a few moments more to begin the emulation link process for Lyntael. Fiddling with the PET, he found himself glancing up to the screen without thinking about it and accidentally confirming that, yes, his navigator still looked as uncomfortably naked a before. Emulating the connection forced him to return to direct operation again, and the screen returned to a simple data stream, unable to maintain a proper visual feed; small mercies.

“Are you ready, Lyntael?”
“Yes, sir.” He double checked both screens, then counted it in mentally.
“... Now.” His own net dive shifted in tandem with the emulation moving Lyntael across tot he new subnet location. There was a risk with doing it like this – if their timing was out, it would risk a brie separation of the signal from Lyntael's masking, but as he checked the details on his own screen, Lyntael's report confirmed that they'd made the jump successfully.

He looked across to her PET and resisted the urge to put a palm to his eyes again. This subnet apparently provided a high band of data space, and the PET had 'helpfully' restored visuals, even in normal operation mode. He knew he ought to tell the girl but there wasn't anything that either of them could really do about it as long as they were working and she was there. The only thing it would achieve would be to further distract the girl from her work. He shunted the screen over to her more detailed status screen, obscuring her distractingly bare form from sight for now.

Once he had familiarised himself with the new network layout, Rogan started to search for his next targets, but after a moment a quick side-glance told him that Lyntael wasn't following along. He turned his attention back to her device, but his first question was met by what sounded almost like a startled yelp. Was she really that distracted?

“There are other navigators here! They'll see me! Even if I have an excuse I can't let them see me like this!” This was a harsh whisper, and when he carefully checked her situation, he found the girl seemingly hiding from other figures. Right. He hadn't explained that. The odds of any of the navigators present in the sub station being able to detect her was minimal, and she shouldn't need to hide... but he couldn't deny that it would probably be very unnerving for her in her present state. He couldn't really let on that he knew what she was talking about, or draw attention to it. She continued to hide while he thought about the most sensible way to answer. As the other navigators left the room again, he returned the screen to its status report.

“You should be in a small relay network now, Lyntael, and it will be staffed by other programs, but you are still within the subnet layer, and they should not be able to see you unless they are there as well, or have special coding for it. Continue; this should not take long.”

“Yes, sir... What- What should I do, if I'm seen?” For a moment, Rogan felt sure that the sound of nerves in her voice wasn't from fear at all, and he scolded himself for thinking it. When he glanced across to her screen, however, he choked briefly and fought to suppress a sudden coughing splutter and the view the girl was presenting while she looked into the room beyond. She had to know she was doing that, surely she had to know! He forced himself back to control and calm before answering.

"Network errors and glitching are common enough in the rogue layers. A simple excuse is best, and ignorance would be believable in this case." He reassured himself with the knowledge that there wasn't really any danger for the girl here, at this point; she couldn't be seen and even if she was discovered, simply being a wandering netbattler in the unpredictable rogues should be enough of an excuse. He couldn't do anything to save her embarrassment if she got caught, but that wasn't on the same level as the real dangers and risks they would face in more secure situations.

Soon enough, she began to move forward into the rest of the relay and Rogan continued his own work.

The dive itself was not problematic or challenging, and it was made substantially easier by having Lyntael mask the main elements of it and serve as a proxy of sorts for the rest. If not for the unfortunate situation with the subnet layer's structure, it would almost have been an ideal situation to begin working with Lyntael properly again. He briefly checked the PET screen, beside him, trying not to look too closely at the details of the display; he kept Lyntael's pale form in his peripheral and instead checked the other details that it showed – sure enough, as she picked her way carefully and slowly through the subnet space, the other navigators working on the main network there paid no heed to the seemingly nude girl in their midst. He looked only long enough to ensure that she was undetected before returning to his own screen.

It was still an awkward and uncomfortable situation – one he had determined not to mention or bring up his knowledge of unless absolutely necessary – but Rogan took comfort in knowing that, at the very least, there was no other surveillance on the subnet beyond his own, and that however it looked and seemed, there was no real risk of any others intruding upon Lyntael indecently. That knowledge was almost enough to allow him to see a small element of humour in the situation – it was surreal, in a way, almost like on of those contrived adult game shows that always seemed, by unfortunate coincidence of course, to end up with just the female contestants stripped bare, while the males got off scott-free. He shook his head; it was astounding that those sorts of shows continued to be made, yet somehow they did, if the junk emails in his various throwaway accounts were anything to go by.

As he worked, another avenue of possible information occurred to the man. As long as Lyntael was there, there was potentially extra information that she could safely gather – tangential to his goals but useful all the same, and easier for her to gather than him.

“Lyntael,” he glanced across as he spoke to her, his own fingers never stopping at his work. Her response sounded rushed and flustered and it was enough to make him look towards the screen of the PET again before he thought about it. Nothing seemed to be wrong; she was hiding in a small empty area, while the figures of other navigators on the main network moved around her close by. Evne knowing that they couldn't see her didn't seem to be enough to relieve the girl of her nerves and Rogan resisted the urge to chuckle to himself – a small part of him felt a little vindicated, seeing her shyness here, after the other extremely inappropriate performances she'd given before; she was brave enough to put on a good act, but an act it certainly was.

“...Is something the matter, Lyntael?” He was teasing now, he knew, but it was easier to to do knowing she was safe. It helped that as she was now, crouched down and curled up, her could look at her face without also seeing anything inappropriate. Her response quickly dashed the mirth from his mind, however. Ah. If the interactions she might have could affect the main network in minor ways, then she would have to be careful after all.

“Understood.” He nodded unconsciously to her report. It still wouldn't actually let anyone see her, but they could detect the presence of a person if she was too obvious in her actions. He gave her the instructions he needed to anyway – at the very least it would be something to distract the poor girl from her predicament. If she could actually get some information about the navigators and operators that worked the node connecting this small business to CC's other interests, it might create a few more threads he could follow later. It was worth checking.

Silence continued, saved for the soft tapping of keys, for another minute or two while Rogan progressed his dive; the relay connected a number of perfectly legitimate businesses and networks, but the lead he was chasing today was tied, by way of several more obfuscating transitions, to one of the holdings that he knew handled funds for navigator related research. All roads would lead back to Lance and his navigator sooner or later, he knew, but that one would be one of the surest. The professional in him didn't want to outright say he was making this very personal; it was still business and it was still ultimately going to be work he was doing for Varda and her Family, most likely... but Fitzpatrick had already made it personal, and to a certain extent, vendetta was in his blood, especially over matters like this. It wouldn't undo his own failings, or make them better for the people it had cost, but that didn't make a proper repayment any less worth pursuing. When Varda asked him to go back – and he was sure she would eventually, Rogan intended to be ready and prepared to put an end to 'Caoránach Creative', to Lance, and to his sadistic navigator as well.

Eventually, while Lyntael maintained his cover, Rogan finished his intelligence gathering; the data itself was something he'd assess with a proper diligence later, once he was well away from the store front, for now he was confident he had everything he needed. Lyntael hadn't spoken up since he'd given her his last instruction, and Rogan picked up the PET to check on her. He nearly dropped it again a moment later, chocking back a sound in his throat. Why was the world conspiring against him? The view was still focused on Lyntael, but before he could avert his eyes it was more than clear enough to show him that she was currently stooped over a terminal, rather than sitting at it, with her hind quarters far too openly presented to the world behind her... which included his view, but also... Rogan's lips curled into a grimace, there appeared to be another navigator, still on the main network compared to her, but nonetheless leaning back in the nearby chair, seemingly ogling his navi unabashedly.

His first reaction was to speak, but rational thought stepped in and stopped him. Lyntael would have spoken if she'd been compromised, and he doubted any navi that knew she was there would simply sit by and watch. He consciously relaxed his jaw to stop his teeth from clenching. The navi seemed to be talking, and had one hand up to his ear – an unnecessary affectation, but in this case a relief. He was probably just talking to his operator, and looking at the terminal screen, not at Lyntael herself. It still looked creepy and indecent and he fought back the urge to pull her out immediately. She looked to be recording something and however it looked to him something told Rogan that it was important to let her succeed if she was going to, and not second guess the girl, as long as she was safe.

He shifted the screen over to her diagnostic page, to at least obscure the visual image while still keeping an eye on her. He immediate regretted it; the medical report was far too detailed and told him a great deal at a glance that he didn't consider it his business to know. The idea that she was... excite by the situation here, rather than scared, wasn't one he was entirely comfortable knowing about, though it definitely explained some of her behaviour... which, of course, he could never let on to knowing about anyway. She always insisted that she wasn't a child, no matter her stature, so he oughtn't be upset about the concept, but every piece of social training that he had on the matter screamed at him that seeing her in that light, with the body she had, was harmful and disgraceful... which led to the slimy, lecherous feeling he had for himself, because he couldn't deny that at least part of the reason he tried to stave off these awkward moments so fiercely was because a part of him did know, and see, that she was woman quite capable of adult thoughts and wants, and the desire to be seen as such. Rogan tossed the PET into the passenger seat again and pressed fingers to his temples with a tense sigh. How was it that this, of all things, was the most stressful thing on his mind right now?

“Sir?” Lyntael's voice pulled his attention back from troubled thoughts and he reached out to retrieve the device again. To his relief, she had moved on and was now crouching low again in a different are of the relay. “I've got what you wanted sir, but I think someone here can see me, I don't think I can stay.” Before he really took time to think about it, Rogan brought up the emulation system.
“Good. We're done here, I'm pulling you out.” He pushed the button right away, eager for the awkward situation to finally be at an end. He'd deal with whether she'd been properly seen or not later – it wouldn't be a problem either way, but he was going to feel very... uncharitable, if her suspect was the navi he'd seen before. Rogan took an extra moment to ensure that Lyntael had arrived safely, before putting his own things away and starting the car. Time to be gone.

((Lyntael, returning from => Jennings' General))
((To => Further Discussions))