Craft Comics Expo Homepage

If ZephyrMan was jacking in looking for the glam of a fashion show or the other sort of glam attributed to half-naked models, he would be sorely disappointed at his surroundings upop entering the event hub homepage. The only decor consisted of four writing desks, almost like those of school students, lined up in a row and a giant monitor, showing the currently empty runway from a slight worm's eye view at the front-center of the ramp.

Rather than staff and models, most of the navis moving around were identical standard navis, brown in color with angry looking faces. Each wore a cowboy hat, but otherwise looked normal... the hat made it pretty clear that they belonged to the security posse that had been mentioned earlier, probably associated with Bill.

ZephyrMan spotted a few other navis who seemed like other judges... the only confusing part was that, other than him, they all seemed to be women (and a few of them impressionable younger ones at that). Starting from left to right, he first spotted a slender woman with orange hair, cut in a tight but rough-cut hairstyle that curled in towards her cheeks and nearly went over her eyes. The tips of her hair were white, giving her a fox look. Really, that bit of her hair was about all he could see; the rest was covered by a black, close-fitting hood. Spikes on top of the hood seemed to imply pointed animal ears. The mask inside of her hood was decorated with a jagged white design like sharp teeth. The rest of her body was covered in a slightly snug black suit, also bearing the white jagged design in some locations. She didn't seem to have a tail, so maybe the ear-like protrusions upon her hood were something else? The snugness or her outfit made her look like the slender, scrappy type.

Next in line was a mildly short but well built woman. Her skin-tone was dark, but she did look Eastern. Her thin eyes, dark and brown in color, rather this way and that uncomfortably. Her outfit consisted of a red, sleeveless cheongsam, bearing a gold dragon design on the back. Her gloves and boots were red with soft, white fur at each opening, matching the neck of the dress. Her dark hair was done into a tight,traditional bun to complete the look. Perhaps most importantly, a long, curved sword hung at her hip,suspended in a gold scabbard attached to a gold sash. The look of her thighs was sort of tantalizing but... even with such a flashy appearance, she seemed to be keeping to herself and most others were ignoring her.

Next was a short girl in a brown overcoat... well, it wasn't supposed to be an overcoat, but it was long enough on her to look that way. She might be drawing a skirt or shorts underneath, because her knees and below were visible, revealing brown boots. She might be wearing gloves to match those, but again, the coat was too large;the sleeves covered her hands, somewhat. Her hair was short, red-orange, and styled into a parted bob-cut. Her eyes were big, green, and very cute. Her face was just slightly freckled. She looked mildly embarrassed already,but was the only one who basically fit the image of the student's desk.

The last desk... was empty. That must be ZephyrMan's.

Continuing the theme of mostly younger girls, Cornelia's navi made the scene, appearing from a flashy warp gate that opened in thin air. Her identity was obvious, since she was wearing a non-skanky version of the operator's outfit: a blue superhero costume, modest enough in most respects, with a matching eyemask. The only part that wasn't: her "pants," basically girl's exercise bloomers, an outdated Electopian fashion that most tended to either love or hate. "Greetings! I am Warp, sidekick of the Starborn herself! Thank you for volunteering your participation in this charity expo..."

ZephyrMan would want to go ahead and take a seat (could he, with his tornado body?) so as not to be awkward.
ZephyrMan arrived in a beam of blue light, and took a look around...and, it was pretty obvious that the budget for the Net portion of the mission wasn't very high. But, why were there so many security Navis? Surely, any threat to the fashion show would come to the real world, and it wasn't like the judges would completely incapable of defending themselves...well, most likely, anyway. Speaking of which, he seemed to be the only male judge. Then again, based on what he'd seen, most shapely women had female Navis. Ariel was in the minority in that she had him. Hmm, maybe it was because she herself wasn't involved in his creation? He was a gift from her parents, after all. If she'd picked out the details, he may well have been ZephyrWoman...and who wanted to see a woman with a big, cloud-like beard? No one, that's who. Yep, definitely a wise decision on the programmer's part.

After he briefly looked over the others, someone who could only be Cornelia's Navi showed up, causing him to immediately head to his seat...where he faced a small problem. Tornadoes couldn't sit in chairs. But it was easily remedied. Form...change! In the blink of an eye, the whirlwind that made up his lower body was gone, replaced with, surprisingly enough, legs. Legs covered in white, somewhat baggy pants, something one would expect to see from a northeast NetFrican Navi, instead of an Electopian one. Though, technically, it was impossible to completely tell it was just pants, as the bottom edge was within a pair of sky blue boots, and a large black band covered the waist and abdomen, to obscure the top of them. They were probably pants, though. Definitely probably pants.

Either way, ZephyrMan took his seat, and started to listen. There might be vital information being shared, and he couldn't miss that.
Unfortunately, although he hadn't done anything wrong, ZephyrMan could feel himself being glared at by the sword-carrying navi, probably because he was a guy judging a woman's underwear expo. The others let him be... although it was hard to tell what the fox-haired one was doing with that bandit face-mask under her hood. Warp continued on, elaborating on contest rules that ZephyrMan had likely already gotten an idea for during his brief period with Ariel listening to Heidi.

"Now, to reiterate, I am aware that most of you have operators participating in this contest... to ensure against bias, we will be gauging your judgments against those of the audience... a vote that deviates too significantly from the standard will be discarded. Onto the judgment criteria!" she continued, moving out from the front of the screen so everyone could see the first girl come out. She looked like the eastern operator from earlier, the A-cup model, but her childish look made it an awkward example to start with. "We can't ask you to separate pieces of the performance do judge impartially, so we will only have two criteria: wardrobe and model. Wardrobe refers to the outfit itself: do you like the design? Would you... o-or your girlfriend...want to wear it? Do you feel like it would be... e-effective..."

Warp was starting to get a little embarrassed herself. Cornelia asking her to explain all pc this was probably another case of the artist getting her kicks. "Anyway! The model you will judge by your overall feel of their performance. Did they seem comfortable and uh... empowered! Right. The overall results of those scores will help us make sure that we aren't giving consistently higher scores to one set of outfits just because he model was better... because we can compare the scores at the end and look for trends,with weighting on the wardrobe scores."

In the scene behind her, the MC (offscreen somewhere) was rolling with it. The voice sounded like that of a woman. "Did you know that you can tickle a Choina-dress fetish regardless of your nationality? Men go crazy for the legless look, tall at the neck but bare on the arms. The silk is comfortable to wear around the house and its the perfect exotic look to spice up a dull bedroom~" the MC announced.

To her credit, the model did hold her face well, keeping a model-like pout and working the catwalk. At the edge, she lifted the skirt of her dress ever so slightly to reveal a red, silk thong beneath, but only the straps. "Wow! Captivated him with the legs and then reel him in with even more leg! This is a good one for you who don't want to rely on a full bosom, ladies!"

This could easily enough be a real fashion show if it weren't for one thing: the many, horny men, surrounding the stage and holding money forward like they wanted a lapdance. Also, there was a big, silver pole in the center at the end of the catwalk, a safe distance from the ramp. Bill clearly did not have a fashion show in mind when he set up this charity event.

Thankfully, men threw money at the stage as they'd beep encouraged to, rather than making her come to them. It was something to behold... dirty, perverted men, throwing tons of money at a fashion catwalk for charity...

Sensing that everyone was watching and she'd lost their attention, Warp coughed to wake them back up. The little girl next to ZephyrMan was watching wide-eyed, clamping both hands onto the lap of her heavy coat. The dark-skinned girl was watching irritably, making a face like she wanted to gag (she probably wasn't the ideal judge here). The fox-hair girl chuckled and nodded, then finally said something. "I like it, I like it! It would look even better on someone with bigger knockers, though," she spoke up. Her voice made her sound somewhere around young adult age; she was a fast talker with a snappy sort of laugh.

"Yes, well, please score from 1 to 10, round numbers only please," Warp encouraged them. The bodyguards were all busy watching the screen now... they'd probably be no help if somebody showed up. A small pad arose from the desk in front of ZephyrMan, as well as a marker pen, which all seemed needlessly old fashioned, but did fit the scoring cliche.

The other girl next to ZephyrMan looked around suspiciously, then back to ZephyrMan. She scooched her desk a little closer while everyone was distracted by the next contestant coming out. "Psst... hello. My name is Incognita, navi of Clyde Smalls, who's working security for this event. Can you tell me your name and that of your operator?" she asked. It was lucky for her she wasn't watching the screen.... "Clyde Smalls" had just walked onto the stage, wearing an indecent transparent nightie, which Ariek had gotten a look at earlier. She came out with a masterful catwalk strut, then twirled at the end of the stage and stopped with her hand on her hip. As the MC extolled the virtues of her outfit, she turned around to show off the back, with the bare area from shoulders to lower back being particularly exciting, perhaps even more than her slender waist and buttocks. And she was really giving people their money's worth, snaking the pole in a way that really did sort of look like poledancing...

With that going on ,ZephyrMan may or may not realize that the pretty young girl talking to him was actually a pretty young boy.
Though he felt like someone was shooting him with eye beams, ZephyrMan kept his focus on Warp. He understood why someone would be suspicious of him, but since he was so used to his operator prancing around her apartment in nothing but a pair of panties, he'd handle himself far better than most male Navis that were into women. The explanation itself was pretty straightforward. He'd probably just go by Ariel's tastes for the wardrobe score, since he knew her tastes in outfits pretty well. The model score...he'd probably play by ear, since that would be harder to objectify. Though, if it was all about confidence, he had a funny feeling that his own operator was going to get pretty high scores across the board...

And now, the judging began. Somehow, it seemed kinda hard to believe that first model was actually legal in all countries...but, she had to be Electopia legal, at least, so that was something. As for the outfit itself...Ariel never cared to have her neck covered, since it always made her feel like she was choking or something. She probably would like that it was made of silk, though. And she definitely liked silk underwear...overall, pretty good, and it seemed like something she'd be interested in. He'd give it decent marks.

...Getting lower marks was the atmosphere. The men were already acting like complete perverts, and gave off some vibes of a themed area. At least it was all for a good cause, he supposed. And now, the moment of truth. What to grade the outfit. A 7 or 8 seemed reasonable, but make sure he didn't have any unintentional bias, he briefly imagined Ariel in the outfit, with a figure much more conducive to lingerie modeling...wait, did he just envision her as having no bra underneath it? Er, either way, definitely an 8. He grabbed the marker and drew a nice, big 8 on the pad. That'd work...hmm? The Navi next to him wanted to know his name and his operator. Simple enough. "Indeed, I'm ZephyrMan, humble servant of Ariel Fuujimoto!" Amazingly, he managed to keep his voice down, yet still provide some boom. Oh, here came the next model...who acted less like this was a fashion show, and more like this was a show, period. Well, her outfit was definitely the sort of thing his operator would like, at least...

And suffice it to say that with that distracting him, there was absolutely no chance at all ZephyrMan noticed the true gender of the Navi next to him. Both the judge and the man in him was preventing him from taking his eyes off the screen.
"Ah, so you're Ariel's navi! That's good to know..." the young boy sighed in girlish relief. "Besides Warp, you may be the only one out here I can trust... you see..."

Although the navi was surely weaving together an interesting appeal, the screen demanded attention for a host of obvious reasons. While the sometimes-detective was dancing, the lights went out, showing off the glow-in-the-dark bits of her outfit. The luminescent bikini figure moving against the pole screamed strip club, although the MC continued to rattle off the finer points of the outfit as though trying to sell it.

Realizing ZephyrMan wasn't listening, the navi pouted in a cute expression and kicked his desk quietly. "This is important!" he sighed, looking at the screen temporarily. His face went red again as he became momentarily intrigued... then shook himself out of it. He still didn't realize his operator was on stage, given the lack of lighting. "I'm trying to account for all of the navis who are in here as judges. I know that you belong to Ariel, I belong to Clyde, Warp belongs to Cornelia, and I have accounted for each of the bodyguards hired by Bill Fawkes. The number of those does indeed match the number of human bodyguards. With that in mind, I believe that the two other models and Bill himself should have navis here... and yet I see only two other navis. I feel that it's paramount that I learn the true identities of the operators of those remaining two girls so that I can have all presences accounted for."

"... I tried asking both girls... but the sword-carrying lady, Jian, won't speak to me... she's a known mafioso but I don't know who her navi is. The other girl, the one in the hood, gave me a distasteful joke moniker... that I didn't realize was such until I walked away. Regardless, I think we need to get that information from them somehow."

By this time, the next girl was already on stage. Dressed in an immodest latex one-piece, she quickly made it more immodest by unzipping her chest and crawling around on all fours, beckoning people to put money into the opening,which many were happy to do. The majority of them had to throw it ineffectively, but some guys were close enough to literally reach their hands in as she came by. In a feat of poor planning, she stopped crawling about halfway through, blew kisses, then skipped away,leaving the left side of the room to wonder why they'd gotten shortchanged.

Interestingly, the MC was awkward in this one, possibly because it was so raunchy and off-base. But for whatever the reason, she couldn't come up with much besides some weird Christianity related sex jokes that didn't seem to fit the wardrobe at all.

Poor presentation aside, caught in the grasp of his gender, Incognita was unable to stop watching the screen. If there was anything else he was going to demand ZephyrMan help him with or otherwise offer to help ZephyrMan solve the mystery, it was lost on him.

"Vulgar! Disgraceful," Jian spat, turning her head from the screen. She was probably a pretty bad pick for judge. "The first performance was far and away the best, wouldn't you agree?" she asked, putting ZephyrMan on the spot. He'd seen her watch him put up his scorecard earlier, so chances were she was complaining with the thought that his 8/10 score meant he was pretty pleased with it.
Alas, at first ZephyrMan found himself completely (but unintentionally) ignoring the other Navi, as he scrutinized the outfit. The somewhat see-through gown part was definitely something Ariel would like, but she hated glow in the dark stuff; it kept her up at night. That was probably a 6/10. Passable, but he couldn't see Ariel getting something like it.

Wait, that Navi was still talking? Whoops, looked like he got carried away. "Er, sorry...being a judge is fraught with distractions. Go on, I'm listening now." So, basically, she was counting Navis, and seeing who belonged to who. Well...wait, that Navi. Now that he actually turned to look at hehr, it was becoming increasingly clear that she wasn't a she at all. That was actually a young male Navi. Though, if his operator was 'Clyde', that explained a lot.

Oh, next person was up. And...what on earth? This was still a fashion show, right? This seemed more pay-per-view...the windy Navi scratched the side of his head (since he wasn't much for putting his hand into a blender by scratching the top), trying to make sense of the scene. Somehow, he knew this model was going to get a bad score...and honestly, the outfit wasn't really his operator's scene. She liked to at least have the illusion of modesty in her attire. Plus, the suit itself wasn't really creative at all, it was basically a regular latex suit. 5/10, and he was probably being a tad generous with it.

With that, Jian spoke up, possibly indirectly revealing her operator in the process. "It's a bit too early to be rating performances...but I will say that the first seemed miles ahead of this. This one was a bit...much." There, with any luck, that'd get the hooded Navi into the conversation, and she could indirectly confirm her operator, as well. And that would put everyone in the clear, except for Bill's mysterious missing Navi.

Oh, there was Ariel, acting like this was the most natural thing in the world for her. It wasn't of course, since nothing came more naturally to her than piloting...and probably doing it. Now, let's see...spinning on the pole to show everyone the outfit and convey a sense of innocence, good. Bending over and showing what would generously be called underwear...not very subtle, but it worked. And finally, the...wait, where was the bra?! And she seemed genuinely completely unaware of it, too...ZephyrMan immediately and instinctively facepalmed at his operator's unintentional lewdness, as though it was almost routine for something like this to happen. He didn't even bother looking through his fingers as her, since that was a sight he saw every day. Granted, that wasn't a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination, but it wasn't anything he wouldn't see later. At any rate, the outfit itself very much seemed like something she'd wear, at least of what he saw, anyway. Another solid 8/10. The fact he was able to put up a score with a straight face that quickly probably outed him as being Model 4's Navi, but eh, he wasn't exactly keeping that a secret.
The navis all reacted in various extreme ways as Ariel's show progressed: the fox-haired one laughed initially, then eventually nearly fell over in her chair. This was largely because she was watching the reaction of Jian next to her; the otherwise tough navi was showing a mixture of disbelief and disgust at the display, making a voice a little like Bruce Lee preparing a knockout punch. Her disgust turned to anger as she surmised that Ariel was not even repentent for her sin (although the fact that Ariel wasn't aware didn't cross her mind). "S-somebody end this show immediately!" she ordered.

"I'm afraid that we already accounted for this sort of thing... that is, we're going to censor it for any media channels. That said there was nothing we could do to censor it in real time for you all..."

"Who would design a bra that can't even stay on a wearer of the intended size!? Moronic!" she spat, drawing as big a zero as she could fit on her sign, despite the fact that 1 was the lowest rating.

Incognita, now clearly Incognito, was crossing both hands into his lap and staring down at the desk, trying to look like he was focusing on what to write and not on nursing anything in his crotchal region. "Th-thank you for your cooperation... Let's talk to that fox navi together. Oh, and if there's any way you can communicate with your operator... I would like it if you'd ask her if she has seem Bill or can find him.We need to know who his navi is. If you can think of any other staff we ought to check out, that would be good too... I already looked into the stagehands and bodyguards, but not Bill himself. Come to think of it, I didn't check on the MC either."

Incognito got up a little stiffly, trying to pull his coat out from hid body as discreetly as possible (although, unless he was stupidly well endowed, his coat wasn't going to show anything... maybe he was just self conscious). "Um... I have to finish my scoring... would you mind speaking to that girl for me?" he requested, sitting back down with a red face. As it turned out, said girl was already howling in laughter watching him, which caused him to sink further into his seat.
All things considered, the other Navis were taking Ariel's wardrobe malfunction rather well. Or such was ZephyrMan's thoughts on the matter. He thought about speaking up over the zero score Jian had provided...but was smart enough to realize that there was probably no one in all of Cyberworld right now that would catch quite as much venom as himself if he did so. With that in mind, he listened to Incognito, who wanted to talk to the fox girl Navi for a bit. It made sense, but it probably wasn't going to be easy getting to do anything other than laugh right this minute. And talking to Ariel was probably going to involve her contacting him, and all things considered, what were the odds of that-

"Hi ZephyrMan!"

...Extremely high, apparently. The wind Navi chatted with his operator for a minute, fulfilling the other Navi's request in the process. Once he was done, his focused returned to the Navi of unknown identity, who had shifted focus to the investigator. He let out a small sigh; apparently she was very easily provoked into laughter, including via subconscious physical reactions to the female form. He certainly wasn't condemning Incognito for it; the only reason he wasn't yielding a similar reaction was because, well, Ariel was his operator. That said it all, really.

Anyway, now he was a bit curious himself just what the Navi was called, so ZephyrMan hovered over to her. Somehow, he had a feeling this wasn't going to be easy...and in that case, might as well be direct to start out with. "Excuse me! May I be so bold as to inquire your name, miss?"
The second round of the show was getting started now; luckily, Warp didn't seem to care much whether people were in their seats and judging much. It seemed like she was going ti be pretty absorbed in this leg of the competition, for whatever reason. ZephyrMan left Incognito to see if he could lift the identity of their fourth judge.

unfortunately, it didn't seem like he was going to have much better luck than Incognito did. "Hey, we judges can't get too familiar with each other! That'd ruin our impartiality and all that stuff!" she responded, her voice slightly muffled by the fang-print suit covering her mouth and nose. Her attitude seemed to imply she could really care less about the rules of the competition or the judging. "Listen: I don't give out anything for free! Whenever I give something out, I expect to get better than I put in! That's how I get a little richer every day!" she sniggered. "So if you want my name, you gotta give me something first."

The short girl who was very likely Jian's operator had come back out. This time, she was dressed in a long flannel shirt with no pants... Functionally, it was very similar to the last outfit, only with less of the neck covered and long sleeves added. It resembled something an office worker might wear with a tie, only without the tie (or the pants). Slowly, she unbuttoned the shirt, revealing a simple pair of light blue panties... she kept the upper part of the shirt held mostly closed, since it seemed she wasn't wearing a bra. The fox-haired girl laughed again. "Alright, I'll tell you my name and operator if you start clapping while that girl does her act! Just clap, quick, loud enough so everyone hears!" she beckoned in a whisper, giving him a shove with her elbow.
As he expected, the fox-themed Navi wasn't going to cooperate. He could sort of see her point as to why...though, being the Navi of a daughter of a wealthy business couple, such a thing was never an overly big concern of his. "Very well then, what do you w-" Before he could complete his sentence, the next outfit was out. It...didn't really stand out to him, and it was kinda similar to the last one, which hurt its score slightly. That's a 6 from him. And...displayed.

The good news was, it prompted a deal from the unknown Navi. Well, if that was what it took..."...If that's what it takes. You'd best hold your end of the bargain, however!" And with that, he let out some loud, extremely obvious clapping. Good thing he was loosely based on the Fujin, and not the Raijin, or else ear drums might've burst. Either way, it should be enough to get that Navi's name and operator.

...Eh? E-mail? That was quick. Luckily, he didn't need to use his hands to access it...

'To: ZephyrMan
From: Ariel
Subject: Bill

I found him, and he's over by the edge of the stage, uh, enjoying the show. Guess it's better than him peeping on people as they change...anyway, since you asked, thought I'd tell you. Hope you're enjoying yourself as much as I am! :D'

...He probably wasn't, but at least Ariel was having fun. And had no idea that she'd flashed everyone earlier. But that was probably for the best...for everyone.
"Good, good! Nice and loud, then!" the masked girl sniggered, then leaned back in her chair and crossed her hands behind her head, in the way that schoolteachers warned kids against for the danger it posed of said kids falling over backwards onto their heads.

Jian looked at first irritated that ZephyrMan had gone with a six while giving earlier, raunchier displays higher scores. She looked even further annoyed when he began clapping; she rose slowly out of her seat and put one hand on her sword, glaring daggers at him. "What are you trying to do, huh? Are you making fun of my operator?!" she asked, clenching her teeth menacingly. The bodyguards, who were still mostly enjoying the show, started to take notice and summon cannons onto their arms. Realizing that, she raised her hands to show she didn't intend to attack. But then she spoke exactly the opposite: "I'm a Bloodhound. I've injured navis to the brink of deletion for much less than insults such as yours! You'd do well to remember that."

"Scary, scary! Girl, you've got minion written all over your face. You're such a goon it's embarrassing just looking at you!" the fox-haired girl cackled, slapping her knees with her hands. Nothing seemed to entertain her more than other people getting offended. "I'll bet you ain't ever beaten anybody worth talking about~"

The other girl dropped both hands, looking more affected than anyone could have expected. Apparently, something had hit a nerve. "I-I'm not forgettable! I really am a powerful sword-user! Anyone in the Mafia would be proud to fight alongside me! What do you even know?!" she barked, starting to draw her sword again. One of the bodyguards ran up and grabbed her arm, to which she responded by batting him off and then placing her hand back on her seat. "Don't make light of me!"

"I don't think I said you were forgettable, did I? Just a shmuck. But anyway," the other continued, shrugging in an annoying gesture, "you did good! I suppose I can reward you a little. My name's Pilfer! There, that's what you wanted, right?" she finished, offering no further information.

Incognito, who was still watching from his seat (although he was about to lean out of said seat), nodded enthusiastically. He bounded up quickly and clenched both hands beneath his chin in a way that made him look, again, like a cute girl rather than a boy. "Great! Now, who's your operator?"

"Eh?" the girl asked, looking to one side with a newly bored expression. Enthusiasm for work seemed to run counter to her nature or interests. "I guess I'll give you a freebie. The guy's name is Bill."

"Excellent!" Incognito cheered. "That's him and his navi accounted for... So that leaves only one unaccounted for! The C-cup model. Who's her navi? Why isn't that navi here? I feel like I should share these questions with Heidi-"

Incognito was probably right; Heidi could probably help with the investigation. That is, if the B-Cup model wasn't currently doing another risque dance, flapping the frills on her bikini up in repeated pops to reveal what barely counted as a bikini. This time, Incognito's eyes were in the wrong place at the right time, and he wasn't spared the sight of his operator entertaining men who were trying to reach out to her as they threw zenny onto the stage. "O-o.... Woooooah!" he cried out, backing up with both arms flailing. He tripped over his chair in the process, then fell onto his back. "Oh my God!"

"What, you just hit your climax, kiddo? She your type or something?" Pilfer cackled. "You sure are easy to pick on!" This was true.

"Um... don't forget to keep judging, guys," Warp reminded her judges, seeing as Pilfer and Incognito hadn't put up a score for a good while now.
A weary glance to the side was about the physical extent of ZephyrMan's reaction to the other Navi's indignation. He knew it was coming, after all. "Of course not, I-" Also as he expected, he didn't really get a chance to explain himself, and was immediately threatened. "If you'll allow me to explain-" Followed by the other Navi making things worse. He certainly saw it coming as well, but goading was the last thing he needed right now. Eventually, the situation worked itself out, but he still let out a weary sigh. Dealing with these Navis was exhausting.

Fortunately, he got an immediate reprieve, as he obtained another e-mail from his operator. All right, let's see...

'To: ZephyrMan
From: Ariel
Subject: Curious

Have you run into a Navi named Oath anywhere? Her operator says she hasn't seen her since the event started. If it helps you find her, her operator's the woman that was crawling around earlier in the show. AKA the model with biggest boobs aside from me.'

Hmm, that did raise a good question. If that Pilfer belonged to Bill, there should be one other Navi...and yet she wasn't here. Hmm. He floated over to Incognito, though he didn't try to help him up. He had a feeling he wasn't quite ready to stand again, anyway... "I realize you're having a, erm, situation, but I just got an interesting tidbit from my operator. Apparently, the operator of that unaccounted Navi hasn't seen her since the show began. But, for the duration of the show, it's just been the four of us, Warp, and the bodyguard Navis...I must say, that sounds a bit suspicious..." The windy Navi didn't give another score right away, since he felt this development was more important. But then again, since he'd been so diligent up until now, it'd be simple enough for him to catch up.
Incognito shot one finger up in a sudden "Eureka!" moment. "Very good! Well, not 'good', since I'm beginning to suspect foul play... but useful! This system of jacking in your navi and then leaving them has one glaring issue of security. While it assures that the navis that make it in are protected and also can access this private judge's area, it also makes it so that navis like you or I can only communicate with our operators through emails or other such methods... That means an especially ditzy operator might not know their navi was missing, even if they'd been missing the entire time since jack-in."

He seemed now to be on enough of a roll with his detective stuff that he had managed to rip his eyes away from the monitor. "You remember another detail of the terminal: there were many set-in, not just one. If just one of the teminals was set to deliver a navi to another location and the operator was negligent,we might not even notice the navi went missing. I'll bet Oath was taken somewhere else at the very start of this thing!"

"Wait, wait, squirt! Whoever did that would have to either be on the staff for this event somewhere, since they would have had to set up that dummy terminal ahead of time. I can vouch for every one of Bill's guys! None of them would kidnap anybody," Pilfer defended, still not standing up.

"We can't just take your word for that... Besides, there were others involved besides Bill and his men, right? There was also Cornelia... Heidi... and maybe someone else? ZephyrMan, do you know anyone I've forgotten?" Incognito questioned, looking a lot more composed now. Kidnapping didn't seem to upset him nearly as badly as adult entertainment. He had also dropped calling his operator by a male name, because she clearly wasn't male.

In the mean time, Warp was trying to draw everyone's attention back to the screen for judging purposes, but almost everyone was more involved in the case now. On screen, Dolly Chapellin was putting on another stripperific show, slowly tugging the tie out of a sailor's suit top... She then shed off the tee and shimmied off the skirt, until only a string bikini was left. As she walked around swaying her hips,she appeared to be unconcerned about her navi and greatly concerned about getting men to slip money into her bikini (not that it would hold coins particularly well). The MC was still writing up a storm.
Incognito's first remark caused ZephyrMan to scratch the side of his head a bit; by that logic, he was incredibly lucky he wasn't the one that went missing, since by the time Ariel would figure it out, he probably could travel halfway across Electopia's networks. As for the staff...hmm. Who else besides who was mentioned? "Hmm...I assume we're disregarding the other three models hired, since they had nothing to do with the show ahead of time." Which, fortunately, officially cleared Ariel of any wrongdoing, though even if she hadn't been, he had the irrefutable proof of having enough character witnesses to cover up Mt. Belenus that she really was as sweet and clueless as she appeared.

"Other than that...the only person I can think of is the MC. Why, I imagine that if she typed enough ahead of time, she could just get up and go get some fresh air, and no one would be any the wiser since her booth's glass is so dark!" Almost immediately, the windy Navi blinked, realizing what he'd just said.
"No, I don't think it is possible that these were typed ahead of time... for one thing, that would mean whoever did the typing would have to be keenly aware of which outfits were being modeled tonight... the only ones with that knowledge would have been Cornelia or Heidi. Beyond that, some of their writing has been coming up responsibly to what's happened during the show," Incognito commented, debunking the theory that Ariel and ZephyrMan had reached simultaneously. "On the other hand, I think you bring up an excellent point: the booth the MC supposedly inhabits is a perfect hiding place and, moreover, we've yet to lay eyes on the MC or her navi."

"But I don't get it... even if they were hiding, why would they switch to writing instead of speaking, Kid? That just makes them seem more suspicious," Pilfer questioned. At least she wasn't mocking him anymore.

"You're right: there had to be a reason. It is possible, going back to ZephyrMan's theory, that the speaker is not in her office... rather than having recorded these earlier, they could be speaking from another location via connection by navi. But why? The key to that must lie in the messages we've been seeing... why switch from speaking to writing?"

"Maybe they're taking to someone while they write?" Jian proposed, crossing her arms seriously at her chest.

"Or it could be that they don't want someone to recognize their voice?" Warp theorized. Even she was no longer paying attention to the judging as her instincts to play hero got the better of her.

"All possible! We've got to know the answer. Does anyone have an operator free to check that booth out? Heidi has her busy signal up...she must be dressing," he remarked, glad that she'd warned him so that he could avoid another embarrassing reaction.

"My operator is also changing," Jian added.

"Then you're our only hope to solve this, ZephyrMan! Or your operator, to be precise. Can you catch her before she goes to change?" Incognito requested urgently.

Pilfer interrupted, standing out of her chair again. "Hey, am I under suspicion or something? What about Bill?! I can just get him to check... probably better if security does it anyway-!" she interjected, seeming irritable at having been forgotten or otherwise placed under contempt.

"No... I think it's best if we let Ariel do it. I admit, I'm partial to her going instead of any of the staff because she was called in last minute. That means that she is far less likely to have any part in any foul play staged before the show started," the little detective replied, confessing that he did indeed harbor suspicions against Bill and co.

"Whatever... you just don't want to owe me one," the irritable, fox-haired girl scoffed.

"Or he might not want your operator backstage...?" Warp added, with a fairly good point. Bill already looked ready to jump out of his seat at the performers, as did half of his security team... having any of them backstage with the girls so scantily clad could be unwise.
Admittedly, he'd forgotten about the context appropriate remarks, but it looked like overall ZephyrMan's theory had some merit, in that it was definitely possible that the MC wasn't in her booth. And, it seemed like Ariel had just 'volunteered' to be the one to find out. "She's also the last person to model, so she'll also have the time to do this, and still have enough to go back and change." And it looked like Ariel was now (actually) beneath suspicion, since due to circumstances it was impossible for her to have any role in anything shady. Which he already knew, but it was nice that others understood it. "I shall e-mail her right now!"

Let's see...there, e-mail written and sent. The rest was up to Ariel...fortunately, she was actually quite reliable when something important came up, so he was confident that they'd get to the bottom of this. Hmm? Oh, a reply.

'To: Ariel
From: ZepyhrMan
Subject: Re: Check it out

Already doing it! Heidi asked me to check it out I'm kinda worried there really is something going on...hope it's just one big understanding.'

"Seems Heidi already asked her to look into it. I suppose the operators reached the same conclusion as us." Hopefully they also reached the conclusion that sending security backstage was a very, very bad idea...things seemed awkward enough already.
"Good... and I figured Heidi would be on it too. Neither she nor I can resist investigations, once our curiosity is peaked!" Incognito responded, pleased at all of the news. "Your operator should be careful, however... I was certain the security and my presence would be enough, so I didn't mention it, but Cornelia does have powerful enemies... Although, the most dangerous one should be in jail right now, so there shouldn't be much to worry about. If you hear anything strange from Ariel, though, let me know."

However, there might not be any need... occasionally, the view on Warp's giant video screen allowed them an occasional glimpse at the MC booth from a distance. They could see her walking up to it right now, although she was moving a little like something was bothering her. Like a rash or something.

"We should be able to watch her and make sure nothing bad happens..." Heidi's navi stated, pressing one fist to his chin. "Although once she's inside, we will lose visibility unless she turns the lights on."

"She might not even go in... Once she opens it up, she should have a good idea of whether anyone's up to anything in there. It's not a big room or anything," Pilfer pointed out.

"If she's got any kind of brain, she will survey the room closely before she even goes inside. She could be walking info a trap," Jian added, crossing her arms coolly with a disinterested frown.

"Of course she will! Who wouldn't look at a room before walking into it? What a dopey thing to say... You just didn't want to be left out of the conversation, huh? You're a background character, big time," Pilfer joked, getting on Jian's nerves again thanks in equal measure to both Jian's short fuse and the pinpoint accuracy of her insults.
ZephyrMan's expression soured slightly as he was informed that there was a decent chance Ariel was rushing into danger. Well, a kind other than piloting an air vehicle. "That...could be problematic. Ariel's oblivious enough to just barge in without a second thought, even in this situation." He placed his hands on his temples, almost like he was trying to psychically tell her to be careful. It didn't work, of course, and he visibly flinched as she fell just short of kicking the door open...not that she could. On the bright side, she didn't actually just walk inside, like he'd feared. Still, she was hardly safe, so he watched the screen intently for, well, pretty much anything.
ZephyrMan and the others watched as Ariel knocked open the door and peered inside. As she did, the lights and music started playing again. It seemed like the models would start coming out again in just a moment, although, for now, the MC wasn't saying (typing) anything at all. Perhaps she was distracted with Ariel?

"If only I'd been here when the event area was being set up... I can't remember a single detail about our MC for today's event," Incognito admitted with a sigh. "But I hope Ariel can get us the answers we need about that mysterious MC." The camera refused to pan around to give the navis any kind of good look inside the room themselves.
"This isn't looking good... she turned the lights on, stepped inside, then turned them back off without exiting? I somehow doubt she and the MC are just trying to keep the light from distracting the event goers," Incognito murmured. "If only we had eyes in that room! Well, don't worry, ZephyrMan... there's no way someone got in here armed. And I'm sure Heidi will be up there soon to figure out where Ariel is."

A grave silence fell over the navis assembled as they ask tried to think of how to make light of the potentially dangerous situation. Suddenly, Jian spoke up: "Nek... nek!" she gasped, sounding surprised to the point of breathlessness.

"Neck? Like butt-nekkid?" Pilfer questioned, smiling behind her face mask.

"No... NEKOMIMI!" the navi gasped, nearly falling out of her seat. "I swear, I...!!"

"You want to kill whoever is making your navi dress up as a cat, yeah, I get it," Pilfer responded, rolling her eyes.

"No! I pet those ears..." Jian responded quietly,, looking lost in desire and seemingly nor finding it odd to announce that she wanted to pet her operator. "They look so soft..." Jian's operator had taken the stage again, this time dressed in a cat themed garb and with no MC introduction to speak of. The crowd seemed to be enjoying this one, even though it wasn't very sexual.

"Let's try to focus on thinking of how to stop whatever evil plot is going on here," Incognito sighed. Amusingly, he didn't seem interested at all in girls his same height and probable age.