Blesser's Court with the Shogun
However, the pad was in like-new condition compared to the one building in the area, which looked as though Trebuchet may have attacked it as well. A hall of justice, a standard Netopian court building, stood tall in front of the jack-in point, but a few of the pillars had been knocked down as if something had barreled into them. Thick slashes, like from some sort of sword... or, from their density, more like a rolling ball of swords... lined the marble all over that side of the entrance. The door of the building was half open, and only the left half even remained; the right half had been lost somewhere. A look inside would reveal that it had collapsed against the opposite wall, blown off its hinges.
The inside was more shining marble, but again, slashed terribly from the entrance point on into the court. One would have to be pretty thorough to bother looking anywhere than straight ahead, following the scratch marks. The court room looked to be full of navis; some sort of procession was under way. Without interrupting, it would be hard to get in to see what, but everyone seemed to be ignoring the damage to the outside... the tone of the court sounded rather ordinary. The only recognizable figures in the room were Neo-ShogunMan and another woman, presumably Guillotine based on her outfit, who stood on the floor in front of the audience nearby the (likely empty) trunk. Guillotine was a tall, haughty looking lady with pink hair, cut conspicuously short. Her eyes were narrow and suspicious, with a steely blue gray color to them; right now, she appeared to be watching the figures on the other side of the room with ill-advised contempt. Her outfit was similarly colored, consisting of a long-sleeved robe with semi-circular axe blades hanging from attachments on the sleeves, which swung precariously when she crossed her arms. Based on her outline against her robe, she was as shapely as the Shogun members tended towards. It was hard to tell if it was a uniform or her base outfit.
The proceedings were overwatched by a short lady with black hair in an official, combed style that looked a good bit more mature than she did; her clothes matched a judge's robe. In the witness stand was a bald navi in a white robe, much like the judge's only a different color. More notable, his bald head was surrounded by a massive, golden halo... several plates had fallen away from its surface, revealing rapidly spinning machinery inside of it. He held a vacant smile on his handsome, if slightly aged, face as he listened to the judge speak.
Seeming to sense MachMan's entrance, Neo-ShogunMan looked towards the door. "MachMan, if you are there, please, join us," he encouraged, signalling MachMan forward with one hand.
Mach warped in to the attached coordinates, but instead of being a good distance away to evaluate the situation and make a clandestine approach, he found himself essentially at what he feared was their "front door." He instinctively prepared himself for combat, and gave the area a quick scan as he waited for Skywriter and Pest to arrive. Thankfully they didn't appear to have summoned a "welcoming party," and whatever caused the damage to the building ahead seemed to not be in the area.
Though not under immediate threat, Mach sought to keep their entrance at least marginally stealthy, so he sent text only messages to his wingmates. [[i]Stay close for now and keep your eyes peeled, especially for the Shogun and/or Guillotine. If the Shogun is in danger, I'll try to teleport in and secure him before making a getaway. Skywriter, I'll need you to conceal our retreat; Pest, you take out or at least slow down anyone attempting to get in our way as we make a break for it. I'll give y'all the signal when appropriate. Let's move out,[/i]] he ordered before rising a few inches above the cloud-like floor and began to glide forward and through the ruined doorway.
Upon entering, Mach soon realized the building was still occupied, even to the point of near capacity, but they didn't appear hostile. Thanks to his altitude combined with his height, 4 figures stood out, one of them being the Shogun. He appeared unhurt, but definitely surrounded, and oddly like he was involved in a court case... [[i]"What are we walking into here?[/i]"] Mach thought to himself as he slowly crept to the door frame, attempting to eavesdrop. However, he immediately stopped like he hit an invisible wall as he clearly heard his name called out. [[i]"Shiiiii- wait,"[/i]] he stifled the urge to bolt as he recognized the voice being that of the Shogun, who was wanting him to further approach. His tone was slightly relieving, but it was too soon to make any accurate assumptions.
Regardless, the "jig was up," so Mach touched down, and folded his wings tightly to his back before walking through the doorway. [[i]Well now this is happening. Same plan if this thing goes belly-up. Keep a cool head, but be prepared for anyone in this room to become hostile,[/i]] he updated his allies before responding to the Shogun properly. "Of course, Sir." He calmly walked to the crowd, and would find a path through them if they didn't move aside. Unless further ushered forward, he planned to stop at the front of the crowd, allowing him an unrestricted view of the Shogun and the rest of the courtroom.
Don't worry! If I see anyone posing a threat to us, I'll drain them dry!
Once inside, sneaking appeared to be off the table, as the Shogun blew their cover. On the bright side, he seemed to be implying there was no need for cover. That made Skywriter visibly relieved and Pest visibly disappointed, but the two followed MachMan in step as the crowd parted somewhat. It appeared some of them had been standing in the aisle; once they made room, it was clear that there was a path through the center, with long, wooden benches on either side. It almost looked like a church floor, though the seats were clearly intended for court observers rather than people at worship. Then again, given BlessMan's appearance, it could always be the other way around. The girls nodded to MachMan again, indicating they'd be ready to execute the same escape plan they'd discussed earlier.
Neo-ShogunMan has a private message for MachMan as well, which was probably not surprising; the whole situation needed some explanation.
I can't explain the entire situation right now, but be on your guard. Everyone you see around you has some sort of enhanced power, courtesy of their leader. BlessMan is most dangerous of all... he's gone completely mad, although not violent, and he's been persistently offering to bless the two of us since we arrived. You must decline immediately whenever he asks. The madness is worsening; if you look around you, its clear in all of the audience. The damage you saw to the court, that was caused by one of their own.
I came here thinking I might exchange their captive for the strength of the Blessers, to help us accomplish our goals. That was folly; I see now that such a gift would certainly be poisoned. However, seeing them, there is a certain logic to their leader... I do not believe we want these navis as our allies, but nor do we want them as our enemies. I never intended to put Jack in harm, so I left her back at the base and I'd intended to bluff with the chest. Now I think it's best if we avoid addressing the chest entirely. We merely need to go along with BlessMan's proceedings and ensure that we leave on amicable terms. If he asks about Jack, we must unfortunately promise to return her. If he does not, then we'll keep her at our base... however, she must be prone to the same deterioration of sanity that the others are, so we may have to put her back in the box.
As for what BlessMan wants... I'm not sure yet. Theoretically we should be able to just walk out, but he seems to believe I'm here for some court proceeding, when I'd only sought to meet him through his daughter, Jury, who sits in the judge's seat there. Let's simply finish the conversation for now and try to keep our relationship as friendly as we can.
Also, about my meeting with Boss Oni
That was as far as he got before MachMan had finished closing the distance and BlessMan interrupted. "One of your compatriots, I see. Thank you for coming... it's good of you to join us. There's no need for the hard expressions! MarriageMan is being slow to show, so I figured we'd just get the trial going without him," BlessMan suggested, folding his hands into a steeple on the front of the podium. "If I remember the details of the case correctly... MarriageMan, under his authority as a blesser, accused... hm... am I in error-error-error-" he wondered to himself calmly, his face twitching in a constant repetition of the same word, while sparks shot from the disc floating around his head. "Error- I vaguely recall that MarriageMan was the one on trial- error error- but that doesn't seem right. Jury, are you ready to take on your blessing yet? I feel like it may help our court proceedings."
"No, father," the young lady answered simply, keeping a passive frown.
"Very well," he sighed. "The details of the case are coming back to me now, PhotoMan," he chuckled, turning his smile towards MachMan. "That's right... you were accused of getting up to some funny business with the girls in your shoot... in a beach setting, as I recall? Oh! I read the file... not just the beach, also an office and... a museum of some kind... a traditional Electopian shrine, even! My my. Jury, sweet child, I don't know if I'm entirely comfortable with you presiding over cases like this," he teased his daughter. She smiled back, strained, but with a semblance of affection. "Well... in absence of those photographs, we're going to need to go over some of those instances through dramatization. Hm hm... it's a bit awkward, but we'll consider it professionalism, given your field."
His eyes turned up to Jury, as if he expected her to speak now. He'd gone so far off course that she clearly had no idea what to say. "Father, I'm... a bit lost. Can you clarify?" she asked, still struggling to smile.
"Of course, dear. And don't fret over it, the judge's seat takes some getting used to," he responded kindly. MachMan could hear others in the audience murmuring that she'd been on the seat for at least two or three years now. "Well, it pains me a bit to spell it out in front of my child, but as I recall, you, PhotoMan, were in a few photographs. I can't remember the specifics but... I believe you were in your swimming shorts and... let me think... one of the ladies was bent over your knee and you were giving her a spanking with your open palm. She'd removed her pants, so she was wearing only her undergarments... a fundoshi? Or was it something else? Hm. At any rate, I'm going to need you to recreate the scene for the purposes of the court so that we can make a proper judgment, PhotoMan."
The crowd had begun murmuring now; it was clear that they were just as confused as MachMan likely was. Guillotine had a look of indignation on her face, but she was looking at MachMan, possibly thinking BlessMan was talking about something he'd really done. Pest was staring curiously at BlessMan, rubbing her fingers together excitedly. Neo-ShogunMan kept his arms crossed at his chest, but remained quiet. Skywriter stuck close to MachMan; her face was red and it was clear she wanted to say something, but might be afraid to speak in front of the crowd. MachMan received a few messages.
MachMan, I should be the one to do this. It sounds bizarre but I'll need you to trust me. I don't want you to jeapordize your relationship with your squad and I don't think Guillotine will offer. For the sake of our relationship with the Blessers, please request that I assist you with the recreation.
I can't believe they're asking for us to do something like that, but I can help if you want me to. Whatever you think is best!
Pest stayed quiet, as did Guillotine (she'd probably be pretty difficult to convince to go along with that kind of plan). "I don't mean to rush you, PhotoMan, but as you can see, many of us have taken time from our schedules to be here. I know you're used to spending time setting up your shoots just right, but it's imperative that we proceed with all due haste," BlessMan encouraged MachMan, ironically considering MachMan's real name.
Mach already knew of the Blesser's caustic "gifts," so the warning from the Shogun was of no surprise. However, it seemed that knowledge wasn't yet known to the Shogun; why else would he be so foolish as to exchange a prisoner for the Blesser's ruinous power? At least he recognized the error of his ways before doing something disastrous. Regardless, the goal was to disengage without damaging relations with the Blessers... Mach personally felt he could simply just dispatch the "patient zero" to halt the spread of the Blesser disease. Though the rest would perish from their blight, it would protect an untold number of innocents from infection. Mach wouldn't violate the Shogun's orders, but he would be remiss to not make his opinions known.
BlessMan cut in before he could message the Shogun, and began a monologue that rapidly switched rails multiple times before finally steaming towards the conclusion MachMan was actually a Navi called "PhotoMan," who was allegedly in trouble for some "funny business..." A message came in from Mazer, who was previously half-listening to the audio from his PET until recently. [[i]"Am I hearing things, or did someone spike my coffee? Are you living a double life as "PhotoMan" now?"[/i]] [[i]"Your guess is as good as mine..."[/i]] Mach replied casually, since he picked up on his NetOp's incredulous tone. That said, it was relieving to know he wasn't the only one confused by the buggy Navi's statements.
It also became apparent nearly everyone else was equally perplexed, including Jury, who hadn't yet inherited her father's insanity. Mach continued to look forward at BlessMan even as he was addressed as "PhotoMan," and did his best to not appear flabbergasted at the accusation, details, and demands of him. The only one who didn't appear confused was Guillotine, who eyed him down suspiciously. Mach was about to ask why, exactly, he needed to recreate these "photographs" BlessMan allegedly knew about, but messages came in from both Skywriter and the Shogun.
Quote (To Skywriter)
Understood, let's see how this plays out first.A glance would show his comrade's face was flushed; why was she volunteering? Maybe she wasn't quite as reserved as she let on?
Quote (To Neo-ShogunMan)
I do trust you, sir, but I don't exactly know how you would help, nor why we should go along with this in the first place. Should we not destroy BlessMan and halt the spread of his blight? Regardless, if you believe we should play along to keep this situation from deteriorating to violence, I shall comply and take the roll of this "PhotoMan" as BlessMan claims me to be.
A split second after sending the message, he felt he might have figured out how the Shogun planned to "assist in the recreation." [[i]Wait, the "rumor" Suzume told him a few days ago... Is the Shogun really a... Shoguness? If so, wait, he/she doesn't mean to...[/i]]
MachMan, your question does not show proper forethought. Not only are you suggesting we destroy a man for the crime of being sick, you're also suggesting we do it in front of his daughter and a court of his closest friends. It's unnecessarily cruel, in addition to being likely to provoke the start of another war. We are not eliminating BlessMan unless as a last resort.
Going along with this will cost us nothing, ensure that the Blessers are satisfied, and allow us to ponder what to do with Jack at our leisure. We're out of time for thinking of other options.
Echoing that thought, BlessMan spoke back up, tilting his chin down slightly as he spoke. "I apologize, but we must move this meeting along. I see that you have brought four of your models," he suggested, nodding to the girls (including Neo-ShogunMan, if he was indeed a girl). "Since there are four photos, we'll need you to recreate each of them anyways, so it doesn't particularly matter who goes first. How about we just proceed right to left? First the one in blue, then the one in red, then yellow, then finish with the lovely young lady on your right," he recommended, continuing to smile vacantly. "Of course, I don't want to offend your sensibilities as a photographer, PhotoMan. If you have an order you need to go in, feel free to propose an alternative."
Neo-ShogunMan narrowed his eyes, perhaps irritated at the news. Skywriter gulped nervously while Pest continued to watch BlessMan and stay silent. Guillotine glared at MachMan again, as if blaming him for being chosen to go first. "Aren't you going to say anything for yourself, Pebblewit? Are we really going along with this?" she hissed, but moved to assume the position anyways. Only... she didn't quite take the right position. Instead of going over his knee, she propped her hands atop the defendant's stand and bent over, with her face towards the opposite wall and her bottom towards the crowd. With the curve of her hips outlined against her robe, it seemed like she was well chosen for this particular task, even amongst her Neo-Shogun peers. Furthermore, one might even add that her sour mood and foul mouth made her a relatively good candidate for a spanking. That said, she certainly didn't think so. "I left the ROT to get away from this sort of nonsense. Be swift, you fool," she added, clenching her teeth.
... She hadn't lifted her robe either, so the picture really wasn't complete yet. MachMan was either going to have to try to change the Shogun's mind and go with his own plan, play along with the ridiculous act, or perhaps come up with something else. He wouldn't get any brownie points with Guillotine enacting this plan, it seemed, but the Shogun would probably appreciate his orders being followed. As for Skywriter, she was watching Guillotine now with a certain excitement as well and whispering something to herself... either anxious to see Guillotine spanked or perhaps working herself up for her own turn.
Pest was just hungry; even Guillotine's position or her own looming predicament hadn't distracted her. If MachMan didn't kill BlessMan, Pest might still take a shot at him before the day was over...
Understood, sir. We will comply, but any additional information would be appreciated. Also, what did you mean to say regarding your meeting with Boss Oni? He showed up at one of our satellite camps demanding answers; Aera and Roc are stalling for time, but they just notified me Oni's patience is running thin.
He tried to send out the message without missing too much of BlessMan's statements; Mach listened carefully to the Navi, for he detailed what the "court" needed to see. It sounded like Mach had some leeway though, which could play to his advantage. As the Shogun requested, Mach played along with the plan and the persona. "Of course, your honor. We'll see how the models cooperate and make changes if needed, to further demonstrate my innocence, of course," he said calmly with a nod. He noted BlessMan seemed to infer the Shogun was female as well, but tried to keep that prospect from weighing too much on his mind.
Thankfully Guillotine provided a sufficient distraction. She only verbally protested the arrangement, and took the albeit modified position without any further coercion, but she definitely made her displeasure known. Reminded him of Roc a bit, actually... With that in mind, he guessed any attempts to get her bent over his knee would result in sharp implements being whipped about in close proximity to his face, so he didn't protest her current position. Before moving up to the witness stand at her side he could hear Skywriter whispering something, hopefully to herself as he couldn't entirely make it out. A glance would show she was taking a particular interest with what was going on, she didn't look petrified, was she excited about this?
Mach took a deep breath and exhaled as he moved up to Guillotine, and took his spot beside her. Since she was just simply leaning over, instead of being over his knee, Mach remained standing. He wasn't sure how important the accuracy would have to be, nor the details of the "funny business" which he's accused of, so he had to 'shoot from the hip.' He leaned down slightly towards Guillotine's face, and spoke just above a whisper. "If only you knew the nonsense I've seen in the Empire..." he trailed off as he calmly lifted her robe up to expose her derriere. "This is rather tame," he punctuated with a moderately firm slap against the middle of her right cheek with his open hand.
"Good enough, your honor?" Mach asked, hoping to get out of dicing range of Guillotine as quickly as possible. If she had a similar temper to Roc, Mach assumed she'd likely be even more pissed off now.
I need to meet with Boss Oni, but I was not ready to face him just yet. The two of us have much to discuss and I have some history with him. It's not strictly our relationship with the Mafia I'm interested in. I can't tell you all of our history, but I will say that ShogunMan, his former self, was a man worthy of respect and a great inspiration for the path I walk today. I'd like a chance to bring him back onto that same path. But, as I'm sure your compatriots are realizing, it will take a lot of work, possibly even a miracle. I came here hoping for some sort of miracle, but that's still beyond me.
Boss Oni is a good case study in how great people can become twisted. BlessMan may be the same way. I don't want to give up on either of them if we don't have to. At the same time, I understand your viewpoint: the needs of the empire and the people we serve may go beyond individual concerns. We'll simply do what we can.
Aera may be in some danger interacting with the man as he is now. Be sure that they're on their guard. I've never known him to be particularly crafty, but he's petty and jealous with just enough power to be dangerous. His influence is more of a threat than he himself is... delusional as he is, he's one of the sanest members that the Teksqp Family has in its higher ranks, and thus, one of those relied upon the most. Our relationship with him is important, not to have the Mafia as allies, but to ensure that they are not our enemies. One way or another, I'll have to meet with him. Now that DragonierMan has promised him that, I won't be able to put off the meeting much longer.
The serious talk was hard to take so seriously when the situation was otherwise so laughable. BlessMan raised his thin eyebrows, seeming surprised. "Really? Why would your models not cooperate?" he asked, seeming genuinely confused. "I suppose that's not relevant to question here, though. The tall, red model certainly looks angry, though."
"Dad... that's a man in armor," Jury politely informed her father, quietly, so as not to embarrass him.
"A man? Well that would certainly be a twist! But I recall PhotoMan only using female models in those photos, so it must be a woman," he resolved, smiling calmly. "At any rate, let's move on."
If MachMan was excited about the opportunity, which he didn't appear to be, he might have the air taken out of him when he realized that beneath Guillotine's robe was a full-body skinsuit, made of thin, gray material. The lower part of it covered her legs all the way up to where he'd exposed the waist like tights. That said, her shape was erotic, round and soft, and the fabric clung tight, enough to see the outline of her panties against the fabric as she bent over. Slapping the surface caused her to jiggle a bit, while she clenched her teeth and lowered her head. She didn't respond as to whether she found this tame or not, but she seemed more irritable than she did legitimately embarrassed.
"Now PhotoMan, I don't mean to criticize your work and I respect that you're trying to protect the sanctity of the court, and perhaps not to cross certain lines in front of my daughter. That said, accuracy is vital! My recollection is somewhat vague, given my advanced age... hm hm hm... but as I recall, the panties of the model were visible and you were moving your hand much more forcefully, with rapidity, though it was hard to tell from the photograph. Please, don't spare the rod, in this instance," he advised, still smiling patiently. "And you were in swimming shorts as well, correct?"
Guillotine still wasn't being much more helpful than she had been, meaning she wasn't being very proactive. That said, MachMan had few options for how to expose her panties. Unless he wanted to try taking advantage of BlessMan's failing memory somehow, he'd need to display them, and the only way out of the suit appeared to be to either take it off from the neck down or rip it open. Another option would obviously be to ask her to take it off or switch into a GMO.
BlessMan gestured to the other girls waiting. "It might speed this process just a bit if the rest of you would go ahead and get in costume. Or out of it, as the case may be. I recall that... each of the others were dressed only in bikinis, rather small ones. Very provocative, if I'm being honest. I can't remember other details, but I'm sure you models have bikinis on-hand, do you not?" he requested.
Skywriter nodded with nervous quickness and Pest followed suit, though with more composure. Neo-ShogunMan crossed his arms and made a low hum. "I will call to us another model who can handle this more readily. For, as your daughter noted, I am not a woman," he explained, before seemingly jacking out from the net in a beam of light. Another beam, gray instead of red, replaced that one, sending onto the net a navi of shorter stature, wrapped from head to toe in a white cloak that revealed only the yellow of their eyes through a dark slit in their hood.
"You're the model?" BlessMan asked, curious.
"I am," the woman answered, in a voice that seemed to verify their gender. "My name is Hime. It's a pleasure to meet you." She gave a quick bow. "Since time is of the essence, I'll get to it..." A burst of wind came from around her, powerful enough for MachMan to feel it from where she was standing, and suddenly the sheets exploded away from her body. And it was, indeed, her body, as the figure that was left was very shapely, with an hourglass figure left mostly exposed. Perhaps off-putting or perhaps intriguing, her skin was entirely pitch black, her hair long and white, and her teeth slightly fanged, in addition to her purely yellow eyes. The only clothing left to her was wrapped gauze, crossing over her upper body to form a strapless bra, slightly strained with its load, and a batch covering the lower body in a v-shape, like a bikini's bottom. "Now I'll await your orders... PhotoMan," she chuckled.
"Ah, that looks right. And the other two?" he questioned.
"Alrighty, bzzzz,. You have a swimsuit, right, Skywriter? Let's both change at once," Pest responded, quickly switching over to a GMO at the same time. Pest's was a pretty ordinary design, with a brown and yellow striped pattern to it. The band of the bottom and around the neck of the top was brown ribbon, tied into cute bows on the front of both parts. Her figure, as expected, was very petite. If BlessMan was more possessed of his senses, he might realize her body shape didn't match the original model's.
Skywriter's outfit simply didn't line up with that standard. The outfit she'd swapped over to was a hot pink bikini with back, neck, and side ties. The fabric shined in the light, made of some glossy material. Her breasts were covered with twin triangles, each which seemed fitted to allow a good look at each side from bottom, top, or sides, and the bottom was little better, riding very low without a ton of coverage on either side. MachMan was probably rather well acquainted with her figure by now: attractive and well filled out, though not nearly so vivacious as Guillotine nor the newly arrived Hime appeared to be. That said, she was dressed much less modestly even than Hime.
Pest stared at her for a while, her bug wings flapping in irregular periods and the needle on her mask twitching. "Bzz...."
"Wh-What's with that tone? It's just a bikini!" Skywriter protested, becoming increasingly red in the face. "I don't have any that are better suited..."
"Bzz... Really...? Well, I do believe you... bzzz," Pest responded quietly.
"Hm hm hm! I guess that's why you girls are models. Ah, to be young again," BlessMan laughed cheerfully. "Now aren't you ready to hurry, PhotoMan? So many lovely models are awaiting you!"
Even with everyone else in suit, Guillotine hadn't switched over yet. She'd probably need to either be ordered or forcefully disrobed.
I see, I wonder how a Navi could fall so far. Thank you for the information, Shogun; with this intel Aera will have a better handle on the situation.
Unfortunately "PhotoMan's" recreation wasn't enough for BlessMan, who pointed out several inaccuracies from his recollection of the pictures, namely both parties' attire and the forcefulness of the 'act.' [[i]Rats, hoped that would be good enough... Getting sliced up was not on my list of stuff to do today...[/i]] Mach grumbled in his mind. He looked down at Guillotine, and attempted to open a private conversation with her.
Mind helping me out here with a .GMO change or something? I'm not happy with this situation either, but I'm also under orders to not kill the old kook and anybody else who gets in the way. To make matters worse, my SPs are dealing with an unstable/dangerous Mafia leader while I'm stuck playing "PhotoMan." We both have much more important things to do right now, so let's not stall this out, alright?
His message was fairly forceful, but from what he's seen of Guillotine so far, she looked like she'd respond best to no-nonsense straight talk. To more accurately fit the stage, his subordinate tunic and wings rapidly dissolved into data fragments and disappeared, while his pants reconfigured into his navy blue and orange swim trunks. His mask remained, but the rest of his undersuit was gone, leaving behind lightly tanned skin with toned, light-bulk musculature. He hoped Guillotine would at least humor him with a .GMO change, but he noted the outline of her panties thanks to her skin-tight bodysuit, and the fact his RageClaw program was still loaded and primed...
BlessMan also seemed to have brevity on his mind, and prompted the rest to make their appropriate attire changes. Mach paused and looked to the group, mostly curious of the Shogun's reaction. Pest and Skywriter looked to be prepared, but the Shogun called upon an unknown female associate. It looked like he jacked out, and a new program jacked in to take his place. He continued to watch curiously as the program, introduced as "Hime," shed her cloak and revealed her shapely, and oddly colored, form. Mach tilted his head ever so slightly as she spoke to him. She already knew of the plan, and Mach's persona. Maybe she was eavesdropping through the Shogun? "Noted, Miss Hime," Mach calmly responded with a friendly nod. He still couldn't help but wonder if that "Jack out/Jack in" animation was a .GMO change, or if the Shogun did indeed swap places with a separate program.
The remaining two made their costume changes. Pest's was oddly cutesy with the bows, while Skywriters... He'd seen her taste in underwear before, but her bikini took a new level of "revealing." What little material she had on was loudly colored and glossy at that. However, it was quite obvious she had the body for it, though Mach was surprised to see her flaunt it so readily. Before focusing back on Guillotine, he sent a message to the Shogun. This was partially to get a better handle on the situation, and also to clue himself in to the true nature of Hime's appearance.
Sir, are you inbound to the Netfrica encampment? If so I'll have Aera prepare for your arrival.
With the message away, he looked down to Guillotine, hoping she made some sort of effort to get "in character." If she did, he'd look up to BlessMan, and ask "How's this?" before delivering a much faster, sharp slap against Guillotine's shapely rear. He kept his boosters primed in case said spanking prompted a violent reaction. If the ill-tempered Navi didn't do much to help, Mach would be forced to activate part of the RageClaw chip, causing one or two of his fingers to extend and twist into sharpened crescent-like claws. He'd then run the dulled back edge against Guillotine's bodysuit in an attempt to just barely get the point of his claw dug in to smoothly and safely cut away the material to reveal her panties. If he was successful, then he'd deliver the spanking as requested.
Very well, you conflicted philanderer. I'm sure you understand my hesitation. I left the ROT because they did not respect my talents and tended to punish me for little reason at all with scenarios very similar to this one. The last thing I planned to do was get back into this sort of routine again.
She shut her eyes with a boiling-over expression, then allowed her outfit to glow for a moment before vanishing. It seemed she couldn't do just the robe or bodysuit, but could get rid of everything save the underwear. What that left her with was a very elaborate, lacy, gray-blue bra and panty set, semi-transparent in the areas of non-essential coverage. Seeing her shape uncovered like this, it was pretty clear why her former employers might be keen to issue these sorts of punishments regularly. "Make haste, 'PhotoMan,'" she instructed him, keeping her legs mostly together with a certain poise and prim behavior that was almost amusing given the situation.
MachMan temporarily turned his attention to the others. Hime smiled by way of greeting. Pest flapped her wings absently. Skywriter squirmed and nearly jumped, clutching both hands at her chest. As he turned away, she hung her head to the side with a dead-eyed smile, noting that she'd gotten no noteworthy reaction for her troubles. Hime's smile became a bit more strained as MachMan mentioned Neo-ShogunMan's whereabouts, but she took pains to wait until he looked away to let it falter.
Not yet, MachMan. You should tell them not to expect me right away. I apologize, but they'll need to continue the distraction for a while longer.
That probably came as a disappointment. At the very least, MachMan's next spank seemed to solicit the proper reaction from BlessMan: a solemn nod. On the other hand, Guillotine yelped sharply, spreading her legs a bit and losing her posture. A pink spot was left behind where he'd slapped. "Pebblewit!" she yelled in spite of herself, leaning her head down.
"I'm sorry, ma'am, I know that's probably not the sort of shot you want to do multiple takes on," BlessMan reassured her, sounding a bit amused despite his attempts at courtesy. "You know... you must have gotten quite a suntan for the shoot! I'd forgotten how long ago it was. Your skin is so fair now," he commented, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. "Sorry, that must sound perverse. And in front of my daughter! I apologize to the court," he laughed genially, but only a few of the court laughed along, and those clearly out of courtesy. The whole crowd was abuzz, recognizing the trial for the farce that it was. Unlike the usual crowd of pervs enjoying the antics of Shogun girls, these were all assembled thinking they were coming to participate in some sort of trial, so the degenerated condition of their leader and his sanity, so it was no surprise they weren't acting calm and collected.
"I'm done!" Guillotine announced, rising back up to full height and closing her eyes. She made as though to flip her hair over her shoulder, then remembered it was too short to do that now. "Don't expect this to be a regular activity, 'PhotoMan'," she grumbled, opening her cold blue eyes to glare at MachMan again before rejoining the other girls, crossing her arms across her bra. Pest watched Guillotine with interest, then rubbed her face-needle thoughtfully with her fingers.
"In the interest of wrapping up here... as you do seem as though you have somewhere to be, PhotoMan... I'd like to conduct the next three recreations all at once. As I recall, one of the photos had the girl go out into a close crowd and pose provocatively, topless but covering herself with... a guitar? Or something else? Something similarly shaped, maybe, like a sword or an axe? The next had one of the models recline upon a couch while you photographed them by drone. You have a drone, correct? At any rate, the jury's bench will work well enough for that. Not my daughter, Jury, the usual jury. The last one... oh, and this is the one that got you in trouble, as I recall..." he murmured, placing two fingers at his temple as if trying to recall something to mind. His expression became legitimately pained for a moment and the halo above his head started making a noise like a computer overheating. "Ah, right. The lady was on the floor, lying on her stomach and you'd grabbed hold of her bottom. As I recall, you were rubbing your manhood into her bottom in a most suggestive manner. MarriageMan didn't like that, not one bit. It's a bit unbecoming of a professional, I must say, though it's none of my business."
Even the pitch-dark skin of Hime seemed to have gone a bit red at that description, with the description getting a reaction from Pest and Skywriter as well. All eyes turned to MachMan, including Guillotine's; it seemed like none of them were willing to offer up quite as quickly as they had before. As if sensing that MachMan might hesitate if he saw everyone else hesitating, Hime shook her head and sent him a message.
This is no time to get cold feet. I'll take on whichever responsibility you think best.
MachMan would need to either pull the plug on this operation or otherwise assign the ladies to the tasks he thought they were best suited for... and also decide who he was most comfortable with humping on the floor of the court room. Jury oddly didn't look all too affected by this, almost as though she'd seen it before.
Thankfully Guillotine's angry response to said moment was entirely verbal, so Mach allowed his thruster programs to wind down, though he began to give her a wide berth in case of an unexpected slap or attempted decapitation. BlessMan continued to blabber on another tangent, and it appeared Mach's opinion of this so-called "court" was shared by a large percentage of the crowd. Sounded like they expected something serious, not a poorly-scripted tease show. If mob justice meant anything here, at least Mach may possibly have the crowd on his side. Guillotine was unsurprisingly irritable as she warned "PhotoMan" and went back to the group of scantily-clad ladies. "Ditto," Mach responded plainly, not to further antagonize or taunt the already provoked Navi.
His attention was again drawn back to the kooky BlessMan, who explained the remaining three photos in somewhat vague detail. As he spoke, Mach mentally evaluated the requirements for each photo, checking off what he had/needed. [[i]Drone? Got that covered. Guitar/Axe/Sword? None on hand, might have to improvise or see if the others have one.[/i]]
BlessMan, after appearing to nearly short out his brain, described the final picture. At first Mach nearly uttered a groan, but made a realization. [[i]Bingo,[/i]] Mach mentally declared, having figured a potential way to end this farce of a trial right then and there. "Your honor, a word?" Mach requested to BlessMan. If granted, Mach gave a quick glance back to his barely-clothed allies before floating up to BlessMan. Not wanting his voice to be heard throughout, he quietly detailed his embarrassing, but hopefully irrefutable proof of innocence. "You see... I can't accurately replicate "unprofessional" aspects of that last photo, for I lack the erm... hardware for that," he explained with an unintentional pun, pausing to see if the Navi even understood what he meant before continuing. "Therefore," he began to conclude, with a slightly more conversational volume, "it's clear I was not actually in those pictures, or they were doctored in an attempt to slander my good name and frame me for a crime I did not commit." He floated back down to the floor in front of the judge's podium, hoping for even a fleeting action of lucidity from BlessMan.
If his declaration was rebuked, or simply ignored, Mach would have to fall back to reenacting the photos. "Nrggh..." he'd grumble, disappointed that he revealed a fairly embarrassing detail, and got nothing for it. He'd then go back to the girls, his gaze eventually landing on each of them as he spoke. "I'll give you all the chance to pick the photo you'd prefer, otherwise I'll just start picking at random. Anyone have a guitar, or an axe?" he'd ask, and shoot a glance at Guillotine at the mention of an axe, as she seemed to be the one most likely to have those at her disposal. As he would've given the girls a moment to deliberate, a single dark object would have materialized just over Mach's shoulder. As the data configured to their proper places, the object would be revealed to be one of his holoprojector drones, but the projectors dotting its metallic shell would remain off, so it would mostly look like a floating black softball.
After BlessMan lay down the next challenge and with the whole court watching him expectantly, MachMan made a quiet revelation to BlessMan that would hopefully prove his innocence. The information caused BlessMan to raise an eyebrow; the smile curled up a bit at one side, in a way that made him look more than a little dubious. "Now PhotoMan... I remind you that you're under oath. The last time you were here, I remember that you had quite some 'hardware' indeed the last time you were here. We've all seen that." MachMan further extrapolated that, not having said equipment, he was clearly not MachMan, a conclusion which seemed plain to everyone but BlessMan himself. The navi's halo whirred and clicked as he attempted to process the information. "There's no crime, however, if it's done in the name of art or of love. We established that... last time... ERROR," he murmured, seeming a bit lost now.
The girls all watched curiously, able to only vaguely hear BlessMan and MachMan not at all. Jury heard and watched, but if she thought anything of it, she didn't show it on her face. BlessMan frowned harder, cleared his throat, then pointed towards Guillotine while keeping MachMan's eyes locked with his own. "If you're not PhotoMan, why did you persist in this farce? This is a court, not to be taken lightly. Yet you answered along with that name when I addressed you by it and you even went so far as to perform the first pose. All of you even stripped down at my instruction! I feel very foolish, very foolish indeed. But why did you agree to all of that if you're not PhotoMan?" he asked, his eyebrows arched critically as he tried to seek some betrayal of the secret in MachMan's eyes, ironically unaware that he was the one mislabeling MachMan to begin with.
On the bench, Guillotine had her fist to her mouth with a thoughtful frown, as though she were pondering what was just said. Pest's wings were buzzing a little faster now; it was possible she'd sensed there could be an imminent cut-and-run, which would be a great time for her to drain a target of her choosing. Skywriter still looked pretty disheartened that she'd failed to get a rise out of MachMan (and might be even more so if she knew how impossible that was to begin with), but did her best to look attentive whenever he looked back in that direction. Hime had her eyes narrowed and a slight blush frozen on her face, perhaps because she was still occupied with the thought of the final photograph, or possibly for another reason. She shot another message to MachMan as well:
"I'll trust your best judgment here; I think it's a clever ploy, but one that BlessMan seems to have tripped over once again. Whether you keep to the truth or not is up to you, but we definitely don't need this turning into a new trial. I'll happily assist with the photos if needed, whatever you need me to do. Just try not to agitate him.
"ERROR. Well? ERROR? Well? Well?" BlessMan asked impatiently, before clenching his teeth as though a sudden migraine had come on. Given the noise being emitted by the halo above his head, that was perhaps not surprising.[/quote]
Mach did get a moment of lucidity from BlessMan, but unfortunately it only brought additional complications. Mach immediately wanted to parry with the fact BlessMan never actually asked Mach's identity, and Mach himself never explicitly denied being PhotoMan, but it was apparent one shouldn't fight a battle of wits with someone who owns the rules and rapidly swings from lucidity to madness. Mach's mind continued to race, thinking of possible angles to take, with the nearly palpable unease and pressure permeating the courtroom. [[i]Alright, plan A: stay as PhotoMan, maybe say it was attempt to keep the dignity of "my" art. Plan B: not PhotoMan, maybe blackmailed by the real PhotoMan to be his proxy/frame it on ROT? Plan C: Bolt. Choices, choices, choices.[/i]]
He also received Hime's message, at least he continued to have her support and the further emphasis on not agitating BlessMan helped narrow down some of his responses. BlessMan persisted, demanding answers, so Mach made his choice. He could only hope it was the right one.
He inhaled deeply then let out a resigned sigh. "I apologize, it was an attempt to preserve what little dignity this art form has left nowadays. But to please the court, I shall try to recreate the photos even in this less than ideal atmosphere, to show they were in the pursuit of the love of art," he confessed, keeping up the persona. He hoped his rueful confession and impassioned declaration would at least keep BlessMan satisfied in maintaining the little "skit" he's so keen on playing, while regaining some control of the situation. Upon hopefully receiving some form of affirmation/permission to continue, Mach turned back to the girls with a focused expression. "Alright ladies, let's get to it. Now who wants what? I'd prefer to have models who would enjoy the individual scenes, to make it look natural instead of forced and artificial; feel free to speak up. Also, need that prop for the topless photo." he exclaimed, his eyes moving from one Navi to another, looking for them to step up. If needed, he'd match up the remaining 3 Navis to the photos. From the information he had at that moment, he'd likely choose Pest for the first photo (could use her mask to cover up), Hime for the second (seemed natural for her somewhat refined look), and Skywriter for the third (he knew her better than the rest, and from some of her reactions... maybe she'd be most likely to enjoy it?)
He went back to the original plan after that; asking "who wants want" might have been the wrong question, since, despite the theoretical exception of Skywriter, who appeared eager to give MachMan an eye-full, and Hime, who seemed eager to help however needed, none of them seemed actually looked ready to jump right in. "Not to worry. I can help with the... final shot," the dark-skinned lady offered, pressing a hand to her chest. Quickly, Skywriter interjected.
"N-No, you don't need to. He should probably be with the... actress... he's the most familiar with. We've been on a lot of missio- er, photoshoots, before. It ought to be me, if it's anyone," Skywriter protested, watching MachMan with a face only slightly less pink than her swimsuit.
"... Or maybe I should do it just because I'm an impartial party, bzzzzz," Pest suggested, seeming to be fed up with the hesitation. Guillotine, at least, didn't jump for it.
Hime paused, pressing a hand to her ear as though listening to a communicator headpiece. "I'm sorry, Skywriter. I see where you're coming from, but the... producer... just gave me specific orders. He says he doesn't want you and... PhotoMan... compromising your... professional relationship," she relayed, standing very straight as she gave Skywriter the news. "I think it would be best if you adhered to his orders and took one of the other shots." Skywriter seemed to deflate, but nodded all the same. "He's also sent us something to help with one of the shoots... here," she murmured, materializing a long-poled Neo-Shogun banner, displaying the shape of a red demon mask over a white flag. "That can be good coverage for whoever steps out there."
"I'll take it," Pest offered. She was looking at the crowd rather eagerly, rubbing her hands together. Ordinarily, one might worry for her going out into the crowd in just the bottom of her swimsuit, but... given what they knew about her, the Neo-Shogun subordinates might be more concerned about the health of the Blessers in the audience.
Skywriter nodded with a sheepish smile, seeming happy now she was going to avoid having to go topless for now, at least. "Then I can do the second shoot." Pest raised the banner up to cover her front while quickly removing her top; the wings stayed where they were, which confirmed that they did indeed come from her back rather than part of her clothing. The mask stayed on, though, staring with eerie bug eyes (though MachMan might remember that she had similar eyes underneath as well). She had to keep the flag pretty flat against her chest... there wasn't much to hide, regardless. If anything, Skywriter seemed like she was more in danger of something slipping, just given the flimsiness of her suit, as she stretched across the bench. "Um... PhotoMan, what would be a sexy pose?" she asked, lying down pretty plainly for the moment. She switched to lie on her side and prop herself with one arm. "Something like this?" It was hard to imagine that was quite right. In the mean time, Pest hoisted the banner and went out into the audience, as she'd promised. It seemed like she was going to be pretty safe... the crowd were more confused than lecherous, for the most part.
The big question was how the last shot with Hime was going to go. She did her part to get ready, walking to the center of the space between the two stands, before flipping her long hair behind herself and lying down onto her stomach. "There... now you just need to get into position and we can wrap up quickly," she suggested to MachMan. From this distance, it was clear she was maybe a little more nervous than she let on, given that her face was a few shades brighter than the rest of her pitch-black body. "Remember, we don't really know each other and it's my job to do whatever is necessary for... the photoshoot. What we're doing now is just for... the producer... and his empire. His media empire, that is."
"Yes, this is all very familiar... though... if the other one had a tan before, you must have er... been lacking one," BlessMan added, perhaps realizing that Hime looked nothing like the original model.
"Alright then, let's hop to it," Mach concluded before making his "rounds." As he moved to check over Pest and her banner, one of his decoys started to materialize above and slightly behind him. The black spherical drone was studded with tiny holoprojectors, but they remained off, leaving the drone looking like a dark softball floating in the air. "Now, for your pose... looking for provocative, but confident. Look as if you're acting like a walking advert, looking to get others to join your cause," Mach explained to Pest, trying to take the clues from BlessMan's description of the picture and combine it with a bit of improvisation from the inclusion of the banner. Unfortunately other than the setting and the model "posing provocatively," he had little else to go on. Hopefully BlessMan wouldn't spontaneously remember more fine detail that would question Mach's legitimacy as "PhotoMan."
He looked for an affirmation from Pest, verbal or not, before turning next to Skywriter. His decoy trailed lazily over his shoulder like a small balloon, while his eyes focused on Skywriter as she made her suggestion for the pose. It certainly didn't look bad, and she had plenty to show, as Mach's eyes took in the whole picture as he pinched his chin between his thumb and the side of his hooked index finger. "Hmm, not bad... Can you try sitting more upright and stretch out? The backs of the benches aren't exactly easy to work with, but try to look comfortable," Mach suggested as his decoy floated foward and started to make a slight orbit around and above Skywriter. If it looked like she couldn't get quite comfortable, he'd make another suggestion. "Might be better to try reclining across the bench on your back, with one hand cradling the back of your head. You can look towards the drone, and try to act like you're beckoning it to you, pour on the charm," he said with a wink, hoping to ease the nerves.
As the decoy continued to make a slow semi-circle orbit a few feet above and away from Skywriter, he moved to the fourth and hopefully final "shoot." Hime had already taken her spot on the floor, and reminded him of the motivation behind the "photoshoot." "Of course." Mach felt the same, the stage was just too awkward and too many unknown variables to really enjoy the situation, and Mach simply wanted this done quickly so he could get back to his SPs and get Boss Oni off their backs. He didn't exactly fear for their safety, but Roc could fly off the handle and do something brash to wreck the negotiations.
As Mach moved in behind the obsidian-skinned (though oddly flush in the face) Navi, he tried to think of how to set himself up. The description seemed odd, where he'd have both of his hands on her butt along with his crotch, so he had to take a brief moment to figure a stance that wouldn't require acrobatics to achieve. He got an idea and straddled Hime's legs, his front facing towards the rest of her body as he started to get down on his knees. However, BlessMan seemed to remember a inconsistency in the recreation. He paused, looking at the quite black-and-white contrast of their skin tones before responding. "Will this do for this setting? Her skin is still quite stunning, but if the photo isn't accurate to be proper evidence, we'll adjust."
If BlessMan directed a lighter-skinned model to take Hime's place, Mach would go to plan B. He gestured over to Skywriter as he spoke. "In that case, for sake of time I'd like to use the model on the jury bench for this shot as well." If BlessMan agreed, he'd beckon Skywriter over to take Hime's place, while sending Hime a message.
I know orders are orders, but as you said we need to get this done quickly. You can trust me to remain professional with Skywriter, and only working to recreate the photo just enough for BlessMan to accept it.He'd stand up straight to give Hime room to stand back up and for Skywriter to take her place, and wait for Skywriter to give him some sort of signal of her readiness to continue before getting back to a kneeling position.
Regardless of who ultimately acted as the final model, he'd take a kneeling position on top of them, his knees on either side of the model's abdomen so he could lower himself down so he'd be sitting nearly on top of her rear. He'd give a quiet sigh as his hands moved into position. [[i]Here goes nothing...[/i]] he said in his mind before gently placing his hands on the model's bottom. He'd pause, giving the model time to react and even partially get mentally comfortable before continuing. Then would come the difficult part. In an attempt to replicate the secondary aspect of the photo, he'd have the palms of his hands essentially flush with his pelvis and the sides of his thumbs placed together with the rest of his fingers splayed outwards over the model's derrière.
Skywriter was just as quick to follow orders, first switching to a position sitting up. She raised her hands above her head, a position which showed off just how poorly her swimsuit constricted her breasts, seeming to threaten a wardrobe malfunction at any moment. "Like this?" she asked, smiling uncertainly. He had another thought; she nodded, then tried it out, lying down across the bench and placing one hand behind the back of her head. "Beckoning..." she repeated, then worked that direction, smiling warmly and cradling beneath her chest with her free arm. She drew one leg up so that the knee faced outward towards the camera. "You're not actually recording though, right?" she asked, punctuating her sentence with a nervous giggle.
While ordinarily this might be more like fun than work, MachMan had his SPs to think about; MachMan was correct in thinking that Aera and Roc were in a situation together, but wrong in exactly how Roc was letting the situation get away from her. Hime seemed to jump a bit as MachMan got into position; before MachMan could actually make contact with his hands, however, he took heed of BlessMan's words. She turned her head to look over her shoulder as MachMan spoke, but abruptly swished back to facing forward when he mentioned her stunning skin. "That's fine. We'll adjust if we must," she agreed aloud.
"Well, it's your photoshoot! But for the sake of accuracy, that might be best," BlessMan nodded. Hime would wait till MachMan let her up, then quickly move to take her place back with the others. "Who are you thinking?"
As it turned out, Skywriter was going to get her shot after all. She looked momentarily embarrassed, then somehow pleased, then sort of a combination of both. "O-O-Oh! Right, of course. Sure! Like I said, we're squaddies! W-We've been on lots of missions-uh, shoots, together, so I'd be best suited for it," she agreed, becoming beet red as she approached MachMan. With no hesitation, she moved to where Hime had been lying and assumed the same position... actually, not quite. If MachMan was paying attention, he'd realize she had her bottom elevated a bit, as if expecting he was going to take hold of it. "Boy, it sure is, uh, awkward having to do this in front of everyone else! But I don't mind at all. I-It's just a thing, right?" With her bottom in the air, viewed from behind and overhead the horizontal line of the band of her swimsuit seemed to disappear entirely against her flesh, almost making it difficult to tell she was wearing a swimsuit at all...
MachMan's squad-mate managed to avoid jumping when his hands connected, but did seem to shift a bit to reposition her legs. She noted the position of his hands, then looked back, her eyes seeming like they were almost spiraling. She looked like smoke might start shooting out of her ears pretty soon. "A-A-Are you going to push? This position sort of seems like you're getting ready to thrust! W-Which is okay! It's part of our mission!" she reminded him (or herself?) in an anxious squeak. The model seemed to be growing warmer and warmer under his touch as her skin flushed. She also didn't remember to call it a photoshoot this time. From this distance, MachMan could notice a distinct flowery smell, possibly Skywriter's shampoo.
The most awkward part was that she was clearly waiting for some last point of contact, not realizing that MachMan had already more or less mounted her for the shot.
"Hm... Yes... That does look about right! The only thing that seems off... Oh, right! You oiled the model first, didn't you, to give her skin a moist look! Maybe if you applied something like that it would all come back together?" BlessMan pitched in, stopping just short of accepting every photo recreation. "Did you bring anything like that?"
Skywriter shook her head, swishing her purple hair as she did. Guillotine also shrugged and Hime knit her brow, having nothing to contribute either. From the audience, Pest buzzed, looking around the audience for anyone that could help with that. "Sorry, BlessMan... I don't know if we can do that part. I was on the beach at the time, so all we had to do was hop into the ocean to get wet," Skywriter explained. BlessMan looked like he was smiling, about to accept that answer, when Skywriter added, "Oh, wait! I do have suntan lotion. I always take it to the beach, though I haven't been in a while." Out in the audience, Pest slapped her face, but Skywriter seemed oblivious; she created a bottle of the lotion from thin air, then handed it back to MachMan. "Y-You can put it on, since you're the director for the shot and all...?" she asked, sounding almost hopeful.
Hime joined Pest in covering her face with her palm, then sent MachMan a message:
It's over, MachMan. BlessMan is ready to accept the ending with or without that. Try to wrap it up, we need to get back to the camp and deal with Boss Oni.
The final picture didn't go as planned, but thankfully Hime didn't protest too much to the model-swap, and Skywriter appeared all-too-happy to take her place. The decoy fragmented and disappeared once Skywriter moved from the bench to Mach. After getting down into his position, Mach noted he had to kneel somewhat more upright, as it looked as if Skywriter had hiked her butt up to meet his hands. That and her excited babbling made it seem she was enjoying this a LOT more than Mach was. After getting into position, her frenzied look and comment about thrusting actually caused an embarrassed blush to appear on Mach's face. [[i]C'mon Skywriter, don't make it weird... you're making it weird.[/i]] Mach complained in his mind, doing well to keep from saying it out loud.
Thankfully BlessMan sounded satisfied, though he pointed out one last detail; he remembered the model's skin had a "moist look," as if it was oiled. Mach blinked and hoped he didn't actually roll his eyes, then started to think of possible ways ahead. If no one had some sort of oils, Skywriter's skin was already starting to become so warm he assumed she would start to sweat, if she had that sort of programing. However, Skywriter did seem to "sober up" enough to explain the reason for the discrepancy and why they wouldn't be able to recreate it. She then jumped right back in to the hole she'd previously gotten out of by suggesting, and producing, a bottle lotion.
Skywriter's frazzled "helpfulness" was only causing further delays, so Mach had to improvise as he was handed the lotion bottle. As he held it in his hand, he shook it a bit and exclaimed, "Feels a bit light..." He went further and gave the lotion bottle a light squeeze, but he exaggerated the motion to make it appear he was struggling to get anything out, and tried his best to only have a very small dollop of lotion to fall into his hand. "Yeah, there's not enough here to make her skin look uniformly oiled... looks better as is, in my opinion," He concluded before he handed the bottle back to Skywriter, along with a private message.
Play along. Don't forget we still have to get back to Roc and Aera before one of them deep fries Boss Oni.
He looked up to BlessMan before speaking. "Are you satisfied with the evidence?" he asked, gesturing towards the girls.
Oh, sorry, I got carried away. If those two are still tied up with Boss Oni, we definitely ought to finish up...
"You're right, PhotoMan; that is quite enough. I only wish that I hadn't wasted so much of your time... MarriageMan never showed up, so the whole thing was quite pointless. I may have to call you in for another trial later, I'm afraid," BlessMan warned MachMan, with a nod to each of the girls in turn as well. To his right, Jury shook her head slowly, perhaps implying it would be best not to take issue with the potential summons, given that her father would likely forget about it soon enough regardless. "I thank you for a free behind-the-scenes look at the photography biz, as it were. Hm hm hm," he chuckled, clearly not realizing the grave situation he'd put MachMan in by using up so much of his time.
"It was our pleasure," Hime responded, motioning for Skywriter to get off the floor. She did so, now looking significantly less excited as she blushed and more just embarrassed. Pest returned to the others as well, flapping her wings behind herself to float through the air a bit as she approached. Guillotine was already seated, crossing her legs and looking haughty despite sitting in her underwear. "Let's head out... PhotoMan," she suggested.
"Wait, if you would! You deserve a small gift for your time here- ERROR ERROR. I can bestow you power as a token of apology. Would you like to step forward and be blessed- ERROR ERROR- name your cause and be -ERROR ERROR- name, name, name... name..." BlessMan babbled on, his halo starting to whir more and more noisily. Jury left her judge's stand and placed her hands on her father's shoulders, massaging them gently.
"It's best if you all go ahead and leave," she encouraged them, while BlessMan's smile transformed into a strained frown, his hands moving up to his temples as a terrible headache struck him. The halo had begun shooting sparks out of one side and onto the judge's stand. Hime was frowning worriedly, showing obvious concern for his well-being, but the others all seemed ready to quit out of the place as soon as they could.
Don't worry about it too much; I appreciate the dedication to the situation regardless.The message was in response to Skywriter's own message and her slight disappointment; Mach's previous message likely came off as "scolding." Mach's attention was drawn back to BlessMan who finally brought the trial to a conclusion, though it sounded like a mistrial due to MarriageMan being MIA. [[i]Then why did we even go this far?[/i]] Mach grumbled to himself, he felt like this entire "photoshoot" was just a waste of time, but then again the judge was less-than-sane.
"Agreed. Glad to be of service, have a good one," Mach responded to Guillotine's suggestion with a farewell to BlessMan, but was stopped by the Navi's offer of "power" in return for their time. Mach already knew of its mentally caustic properties, and was more than happy to refuse, and thankfully Jury was on their side. "That's not necessary, thanks anyway though," he said before turning away to the rest of his group and sent a message to Aera.
We're finally wrapping things up here, any issues?With the notification away, he looked to the girls. Hime looked to be concerned for BlessMan's condition, but unless someone in the group was secretly an advanced coder, no one would know what's really wrong with the Navi, let alone know what to do to fix the issue.
"Let's leave him be, the trial was probably taxing and he could use the rest. I'm heading back to the encampment, but I don't think I'll require either of you to come with, so where you go next is up to you," Mach explained with his focus on Pest and Skywriter regarding where they desired to go. He then looked to Guillotine and finally to Hime as he wrapped up quickly, "Nothing further, hopefully our next meeting will be of a more professional nature. Miss Hime, mind notifying the Producer, and reminding him of his meeting? I can pass the information along to his guest, so I can free up my associates." He gave the group a few moments to state their intentions, and hoped to get some useful information from Hime to pass to Boss Oni.
Hime agreed with the suggestion that they ought to get moving, though. As much as BlessMan needed help, their whole empire was under a three-pronged attack by the heads of the ROT, and she couldn't argue that it seemed like the wrong time to get involved. "Very well. I'll make sure that the... Producer... is ready to join you when you get to the camp. Guillotine, I would recommend you return to the main camp and assist the others there. Skywriter, Pest, you two should go with MachMan in case he needs squad support. I'm not fully aware of the situation there. Let's head out," she finished, before giving a salute and vanishing. The others saluted as well and left, with Skywriter being last out.
"We should do it again sometime..." she suggested, before realizing how awkward that was given the situation. "I-I mean, wear our swimsuits and go to the beach! I don't want to do a weird trial and be humped again or anything. J-Just the beach part!" she defended, before vanishing quickly off the net in a burst of smoke. MachMan could exit now too, with nothing left here but BlessMan, his daughter attending him, and several other upset Blessers who were now moving to help their leader as well.
Mach skeptically raised an eyebrow at Skywriter's suggestion to repeat this some other time, but his expression soon eased to an amused grin as Skywriter sputtered out an explanation. "Haha, I'll keep that in mind if we get some free time." Mach chuckled. He chose not to tease the Navi, as she was already fairly riled up, and from the looks of things they were nearly overstaying their welcome. Jury and some of the crowd were moving to tend to their ailing leader, giving Mach an opportunity to depart at his leisure. [[i]Hm, maybe these Blessers aren't so bad; they could be powerful allies, as long as we (the NS) don't let them spread their "Blessing" to our own members... I wonder if Peace could help with BlessMan's woes.[/i]] Mach pondered to himself briefly before he casually walked from the center of the courtroom and to the seating area.
Once he found a large enough gap in the crowd, he vanished in a brief flash of cyan light, and beamed back to the Netfrica Camp.
((To Netfrica Camp))