A Many Layered Affair

Regardless of where they decided to hook up beforehand, or in what order they proceeded to the location provided, the small band of eager mission-goers would find it to be a pleasant, sunny day when they arrived. the sky was clear and blue overhead, with a scattering of white clouds that drifted by quickly in the strong wind of the higher altitudes, while a much more pleasant breeze met them at ground level. It was fresh and crisp, with a little bit of an edge, but not enough to be called cold. It would seem quite enjoyable, as a counterpoint to the warmth of the sun.

Underfoot, the grass was green and soft; the sort that would make some people want nothing more than to be barefoot, if they were so inclined, and the breeze carried with it a variety of scents — most of them food of different types. The breeze also carried sounds with it; people, many of them, talking and laughing. There was music, a bit folksy and rustic, with a heavy dose of ren faire overtones, and there were also the occasional sounds impactful thuds and metal on metal, though it was mostly over-run by the murmur of entertained voices.

Directly ahead of them, the source of the sounds would be clear; a wide assortment of tents and stalls, rings and pens, attractions, and other entertainments that were brightly coloured and scattered about with a loose, open plan. It looked very much like a country faire, but gone massive. The spaces between everything were wide, and navis of all shapes and sized could be seen amongst the larger population of mostly humanoid ones and normal navis.

"This way if you wouldn't mind, ladies..." The voice was cool and laid back, and came from behind the way they'd arrive facing, and as it spoke the wind shifted directions. If they turned around, they'd find themselves facing a navi standing only a short distance from them. He had deep blue skin that was shot through with something that looked like complex circuitry in places and straight up intricate mechanics in others, and while he had an average, humanoid-seeming build, his exact proportions were difficult to make out due to a great volume of subtly moving arms. Each was exceptionally long, very flexible, and ended in hands with far too many fingers, and they surrounded his body like an aura, moving in small independent ways. He had two arms that were folded across his chest, but they were no different from the rest, and didn't seem to be in any way primary over the others. The pose was very relaxed. His face was mostly obscured by a deep hooded cowl that seemed to blend into his back, as though it were a part of him. Even so, a pair of eyes were clearly visible, peeking out from the shadows of the hood; bright and green with a rapid scroll code and other data chasing up them in a flicker too fast and too small to follow from the outside. There was also the impression that he was smiling, but given the rest of his appearance it would be hard not to think that any such smile might be a bit creepy, if they could see it.

Behind him, about the same distance away from the them as the fair, was what looked like a traditional sci-fi futuristic space-port type set up. Just like the fair behind, there were the sounds of bustle and clamour, and the structures, with a variety of modern navi's ideas for what constituted 'futuristic' designs made up a sprawling space equally as large as the ground covered by the fair. As before, too, the area seemed alive with navis of all descriptions moving around, visiting attractions or conducting business, and while the sounds were more modern; hisses of automated systems, strange music, vehicles landing or taking off, and occasional spats of stylised laser sounds, there was something very strikingly similar about the two gatherings. The navi directly in front of them spoke again.

"So, you ladies will be working for me today. Don't worry how I know you're the ones, I know a lot. We're going to play a game, and maybe learn something more along the way. Our gracious host is holding a great gala event today. Lots of popularity to be gained, charity to be raised, influence to be gathered. Many of her important business associates are here, too, but that's not what really interests me." He chuckled softly, turning about to look at the two fair grounds.

Between them, a fair distance removed to the side, the group of mission-goers would be able to see a very grand-looking manor estate, complete with imposing stone architecture, fountains, and even a hedge maze. Paths lead from the manor ground out to the perimeter, but the field which the two fairs were set upon had no defined paths. Presumably, given the nature of homepages, they were still on the estate grounds, and the estate itself was the property of the event's "host". Their employer continued.

"Let Zenny have her fun; she's planning something bigger, something deeper, than just bleeding finances out of her business competitors, and certain stages of that plan are going to happen today. I need you to make sure they go the way she wants them to go, all except one. One will not go the way she wants at all, and it will be... hilarious. Are you ready to hear the details?" There was the sense of amused laughter in his voice, and it would probably do them well to remember that the navi's requesting post had remarked that his 'game' might see some of them expecting combat and violence, possibly.
((From Sharo))

A single beam of light crashed down from the sky, revealing a single Navi at the impact point on the ground. She wore a grey military-style jacket with a knee length two-pleated skirt, with black leggings and lightly polished black leather pumps. She had a grey garrison cap on her head, but her raven black bangs and drill-like ponytail seemed far out of regulation, and her amber eyes looked over the area with an air of suspicion. "No one else is here," she remarked critically.

"Copy, stand by here until your teammates arrive."
((Jacking in from Netopia))

*Exorcist PartyDress.GMO active*
*Bhikkhuni PartyDress.GMO active*
*Mary PartyDress.GMO active*

In a variety of accessories, dresses, and colors, Exorcist and gang beamed onto the net near the Scottsdale estate, hoping to increase their numbers yet further. The dresses were vibrantly colored (or white, in Mary's case), accenting their features well enough; the vibe was perhaps a bit too casual for the atmosphere though, certainly if compared to ResQ's. By the time they arrived, ResQ had probably been waiting a bit. There was a lot to take in, including their new GMOs, the fancy part locale, and their mission companion. Each girl offered a thought on one subject or another. "Pleased to meet you! I'm Exorcist and these are my fellow Counterinfectualists, Bhikkhuni and Mary," she began, pointing to each of them in turn. "I hope we're not under-dressed," she added, noting ResQ's dress uniform.

"Woah, look at the size of this place!" Bhikkhuni gasped, focusing on the mansion instead. "Whoever's place this is has to be absolutely loaded! Or... maybe they aren't... I guess you can have a big mansion on the net without being that rich. But where there's smoke, there's fire! We oughta see if we can meet any high-class folks, connections and all that..."

Mary smiled, distracted by the new dresses for now. "I can tell that Flo designed these instead of Burt. If Burt had been on them, I'd definitely be 'underdressed,' or, at the very least, more clearly advertising our religion. I got to keep some crosses this time... and not in suggestive places," she chuckled, rubbing the silver cross on her necklace between two fingers thoughtfully. "I assume you two have had the same luck." If it wasn't easy to assume she was blind by the way her eyes were always closed, her comments would probably lend that suggestion.

Presumably, Veda would show up and get a little introduction in as well, then it would be time to get to business with the one companion who was both not a girl and already informed of their mission tasks coming up. The group jumped as CrypticMan showed up behind them, startling them with both his sudden appearance and his physical appearance. Thankfully, for the moment, their employer chose to be less mysterious than his namesake and gave them a bit of an intro. Exorcist would ordinarily be happy to learn that their employer had heard of her, as she might assume that had something to do with the spread of Counterinfectualism, but seeing as he knew ResQ and Veda as well, that seemed less likely. Right now, the best course of action was keeping quiet and hearing what he had to say, though the possibility of exchanging names with influential folks interested her, as one interested in spreading her religion if she got the opportunity.

Of course, Bhikkhuni's mind wasn't in quite the same frame of tact. "Sweet! There's a person named Zenny here? I smell money!" she grinned, tugging on Exorcist's sleeve. Exorcist returned a confused smile, as it sort of sounded like her SP was suggesting they were here to steal something or beg. The little SP looked skeptical when she heard they were here to disrupt the plans instead. "I don't know if I want to get on the bad side of someone like that..." she murmured.

"Considering she's supposedly bleeding other business opponents, I don't think there's much to be guilty about," Exorcist pointed out, though she still wanted to hear more. "We might even be helping to block a monopoly, if I'm reading the situation right. That's probably a good thing."

"It sounds like a fun prank to me," Mary offered, giving an amused smile. "I'm always up for a little fun, even if it means taking risks."

"Yeah, but only if the risks are worthwhile! You were invited to the party, so you must have huge money, right?" Bhikkhuni asked, looking to CrypticMan excitedly, before deciding he was sort of hard to keep her eyes on; her grin became a little nervous. "Er, you were invited, right?"
In a burst of energy, Veda beamed down into the area and materialized. Immediately she looked around to see what kind of area the task giver had sent them to. It didn't take long for her to find the only person directly speaking to them as a group. She looked at him with a piercing glance, understanding this was their employer and trying to figure out what kind of person it was. The surroundings were definitely interesting, as if two differing entities had set up shop on the website. It was then that Veda saw she was not the only one listening to CrypticMan. Veda knew she had two allies, but it was hard to figure out which was which of the two. In fact, there were four of them which didn't make it any easier. Maybe the one talking to them was actually Exorcist or ResQ, it could've gone any way.

But considering he was talking about their tasks at hand, it was definitely CrypticMan. She didn't quite feel intimidated by the man, considering she was used to beings with many hands. Like herself. But while listening to him, she was more intrigued by the area that wasn't futuristic. Holding a hand above her eyes, she stared over the various stalls of the faire. "I hope we get to go there..." she thought to herself. It's not like she was more knowledgeable of either area, but the almost medieval design was more appealing and she could immediately see what was going on to get excited about it. It just looked more enjoyable. Eventually CrypticMan had stopped talking about Veda turned back to look at him. "I am prepared to play any and all games!" Veda exclaimed at him. She understood that some of the tasks would involve dubious acts or maybe even deleting someone, but she also didn't quite mind having to do that if it came to it.

She then looked at the foursome of Navis near her. Unlike Veda, they were all dressed up for a party and looked great. But as Veda looked at the open area past them again, she wondered if such a thing was necessary. "My name is Veda!" she exclaimed at her new companions, but still didn't know which were the actual Navis. Veda raised her hand and snapped her fingers, letting 2 sets of hands fly off of her and presented them to the girls to shake, one hand for each. "The Navi of Regina Rosenberg!" she continued to speak to them in a loud tone, "I am looking forward to befriend and partner you!"
ResQ crossed her arms as she waited, looking sour per usual. "Great, they've stood us up," she concluded after several minutes. "Not quite, the agreed time to arrive is still about 2 minutes out, but had you ingress 10 minutes early," Alex clarified, explaining why her allies were "late." ResQ's head drooped down, her expression partially slack-jawed as she looked around. "You're joking." "Nope, "If you're 15 minutes early, you're on time. If you're on time, you're late," that's how it goes," Alex explained. ResQ proceeded to mouth "wow" and roll her eyes to such a degree it was surprising they didn't simply pop out of her head. "That is... one of the dumbest things I've ever heard! What the hell do they teach you robots at boot camp?"

Alex was actively fighting the urge to start an argument with the Navi, but 3 others warped in. "Finally..." ResQ murmured under her breath, but quickly regretted it; it meant dealing with other Navis again, and at least one of them was smiling. Probably a talkative type. [[i]ugh...[/i]] Though ResQ's disdain was nigh palpable, she was also outnumbered and without her ANGEL. She had to play nice, even though Exorcist and her cohorts looked a bit dainty to be threatening. She elected to give a slight nod, pronounced a bit by the garrison cap on her head, while her eyes didn't break contact with Navi known as Exorcist. "Hello, I'm... ResQ. Nice to meet you," she said plainly, pausing a bit before uttering her "name;" she still wasn't quite used to it, but at least she didn't let slip her original name.

She was slightly taken aback by Exorcist's comment regarding her uniform, but that said, it appeared ResQ was dressed for a fine party and/or planning an invasion while the trio looked like girls waiting for their prom dates. "My options were... limited," she remarked with a jab to her NetOp. She then heard an unfamiliar male voice behind her, causing her head to snap to the right so one of her amber eyes could glare over her shoulder. Her expression didn't ease much as she turned to face the new arrival. She didn't move to attack the Navi, who she assumed to be Crypticman, because 1: he was the client, and 2: she didn't have a rocket claw arm at the moment.

Her arms remained crossed as she listened, her eyes glancing to different landmarks as they were referenced. She remained quiet as CrypticMan detail the mission, but her cold expression also remained unchanged. [[i]So we're chauffer's for some fat cat trying to fleece her competition, just to have it blow up in her face?[/i]] Her expression very briefly changed to a subtle smirk, as her schadenfreude got the better of her. [[i]Finally, something to take a sucker down a notch.[/i]] Meanwhile, Alex looked down at the PET thoughtfully with his chin pinched between his thumb and the side of his index finger. He was actually considering writing down notes, but he decided to wait until the details started to come out.

ResQ had noticed a 5th Navi, who she assumed to be "Veda," who introduced herself in a fairly unconventional way. She gave a quiet sigh as she reached out and shook one of Veda's summoned hands, simply uttering "ResQ. Pleasure." Truth be told she was slightly envious of Veda's particular talent, and noted how useful an extra set or two of hands would've been useful in her past life. That said, she had more important things to deal with. She looked to CrypticMan, and responded to his final question. "Alright, let's hear it."
By the time the new arrivals had all made themselves known and greeted each other CrypticMan extended a hand to each of them to offer a shake, if they were willing. He did this with an almost unnerving level of omni-dexterous simultaneity, never quite letting his apparent gaze focus on any one of them for too long. To exorcist and her companions, he was grinning, and reassured them each that they were dressed perfectly well, but said nothing more right away. He didn't seem to take any particular offence to the way certain support programs cased the joint, but then, it wasn't his joint.

He actually half chuckled to himself, and playfully attempted to shake each of Veda's hands with one of his own, before his eyes turned to ResQ. He head darted across the space, as his focus shifted, stopping with his eyes opposite hers and back by about a foot; his neck had elongated to accommodate this sudden shift, but it recovered a moment later as the rest of his body seemed to flow rapidly after, catching up and reorienting itself beneath his head.

"Are you now..? Are you really..? I wonder..." Briefly, his eyes went from the scrolling lines of incomprehensible green code, to a brilliant rainbow of swirling colours that formed two spinning spirals, before settling back to normal. CrypticMan grinned at her. Meanwhile, his feet stepped back, and his body flowed again, moving back to stand more evenly before the group. after an extra second, his head followed in its disconcerting way.

"Well, welcome to you all. One of you asked a wise question at least, bonus points to that person. Now, shall we get to the fine details? Let's." He clasped two hands in front of himself, still smiling.

"So. The host of this party is miss Zennocracy, she's a big fan of the power of money. The function is a day faire for a great many individuals all here by invite or as the entourage of particular guests, and it's also open to certain sections of the community as a charity event, too. She's running a sort of collision of worlds kind of theme, and there's going to be a big mock battle in the evening. Lot of fun and laughs for everyone, and then they all get drunk and donate lots of money to charity. You know the sort of deal." He chuckled to himself here. Around them, various other guests were zapping in and wandering towards either of the two fair grounds with excited murmurings, though no-one was really paying attention to the group gathered near CrypticMan. The ladies would be relieved to see that the dress code for others seemed to range broadly from smart causal to formal and fancy, and everything in between. Several people had also shown up in fictional themed costumes — either futuristic or fantasy-related. As much as there seemed to be plenty of navis of all shapes and sizes at both fairs, it still seemed as though the day was really just starting to pick up.

"Now, normally," Cryptic continued, rubbing at the back of his neck with a spare hand. "Zenny would be seeing that all her guests were well greased and find times throughout the day to corner each of them with well placed propositions as she needed, or just plain build rapport where necessary, but this shindig is a cover for something more today, but knowledge is power, my friends, so I'm keeping things need-to-know. Here's what I need you to do... write it down on your hands if you don't trust your heads, because you only get to hear it once. Are you ready? Listen close:" CrypticMan's head lowered slightly, his grin growing broader as he started to speak. His voice carried a low intensity now, and though it was clear and easy to here, there was rather a lot of information.

"There are many steps to get the first stage of Zenny's special plan off the ground today. There's a prize for the navi that wins by best point margin at the end of evening battle royale fun. Under the table, Zenny has promised something a little more important to whichever of her associates or their entourage wins, just to make them put on a show and keep things interesting for the higher ups. Not everyone wants to play though, and no-one gets her secret special prize if another random guest wins instead. Zenny is expect that someone is going to try and steal the centrepiece during the day. It's in her mansion right now, and her butler is not letting anyone in. One of you is going to steal it. You'll have to get to it first though, and that could be tricky. Zenny isn't expecting the thief to damage any of her stuff or ruin her mansion, of course, so do be careful.

"All of her special clients need to play the game, otherwise it's no fun. Three of them would rather not fight, even if it's mock fighting, so you've got to convince them. Their names are Mordenite, SaijaTsun and DueAccountabilityMan. Duey likes to dress up, and he'll probably be in the fantasy fair. Saija likes her creature comforts, and a good drink. Mordy is a giant gargoyle; you can't miss him. All three have to agree to join in the fun at the end of the night. If you see a man trying to push energy drinks, I'd advise you to decline. There are a lot of events on in both fairs, and you get points for playing. These add up with the points for the brawl, and if anyone scores a total of more than one hundred thousand all up, Zenny has promised to wear a special outfit for the award ceremony, as a kind of all-in-good-fun forfeit." Here he chuckled softly, then continued.

"You can also gain points by charitable donation. The forfeit outfit was supposed to be a lottery of submissions, but she's set it up so she receives something acceptable to her sensibilities if the target is met. You're going to see she gets something more fun. There's another element to all these fun and games. An element that's not interested in Zenny's zenny; someone wants nothing more than to ruin this party with mayhem and violence. They're underground for now, but they won't be forever. There's navis here representing a couple of unoperated groups. It's part of the charity. They'll be targets in particular, but you're going to make sure they aren't harmed. You're going to stop the guests knowing that anything is going on at all. There are people who will help. If you find an anarchist why not show her where people are treating lives like currency for defamation. That'll get her going. If you find your prince charming at the ball, well, heavens help you then. Don't forget to enjoy the parties, ladies. Try the lemon tarts; you might be pleasantly surprised. Knowledge is power, and I've given you much. It's your choice what you want to do with any of it. Have fun. We'll talk later." Still grinning, CrypticMan didn't wait for them to ask questions. Instead, he bowed slightly, winked once at ResQ when he stood upright, then vanished from sight.

This left the women standing on their own between the two fair grounds, and likely a goodly number of questions with no-one to ask. The first question was, what did any of them make of all that?

ResQ only briefly shook one of CrypticMan's hands, and didn't look to be enjoying the introductions. Her distaste only worsened as CrypticMan focused on her specifically, only to be met with a cold, unwavering gaze from her amber eyes. [[i]Hm, so he knows. Great, for an organization so hell-bent on security, the Sharo Military can't keep information secure if their lives depended on it...[/i]] she fumed to herself. She wasn't at all provoked or embarrassed by the prospect of someone knowing her past, she doesn't regret being a data thief, she just happened to get caught. Though she assumed that was the reason for the Navi's odd questions, she could be wrong, so she avoided from letting the cat out of the bag.

She continued to stand with arms crossed as CrypticMan detailed the setup. Upon hearing hearing the client's warning regarding the incoming information, Alex pulled a small notepad from his pocket, which had a pencil nestled in its spiral binding. Alex scribbled down notes quietly, while ResQ began to record audio while making her own mental notes. The theft objective obviously caught ResQ's attention, but her reaction was muted behind her mask of an expression, plus she wasn't entirely sure if she had the tools to do it; normally her AL-E "Kat" acted her burglary "multi-tool' and was purpose built for pilfering. The ANGEL, on the other hand, felt as subtle as a bowling ball. That said, she still wanted to try dusting off her skills.

The rest of CrypticMan's explanation was detailed yet vague at the same time; he gave the objective of stealing the centerpiece and it's location/obstacles, but didn't actually explain what the centerpiece was, or saying there are "people who can help," without giving any further details on who those people are. ResQ had seen her fare share of hustlers and thieves in her previous life, but it was still difficult to tell if some of the details he gave were garbage information, or deceptively important. [[i]Well, the creep lives up to his name.[/i]] ResQ concluded in her mind after the Navi departed before anyone could ask for more information, and resisted the urge to give CrypticMan a sneer and the middle finger in response to his wink in her direction. Back in the real world, Alex nearly filled up a page of his albeit small notebook with notes, and scratched his head as he tried to make sense of it.

Alex felt he was wasting time trying to decipher the entire thing, and decided to break it up into more manageable chunks by listing out priorities and general objectives. First thing would be to get the inputs from the rest of the group, then establish roles for each of them. Thankfully there were five of them, so they could "divide and conquer." Since ResQ showed no incentive to speak up or take charge, Alex decided to step in. A window popped up with his face, and it rotated slowly as he spoke to the group. "Apologies for the late introduction, I'm Alex, ResQ's operator. Since there's quite a bit to get done, anyone have inputs or preferences on what they'd like to do, so we can divvy up the tasks?"
Exorcist picked up that Veda might have a religious basis herself, which garnered her interest immediately, as a student of such. She eagerly accepted Veda's hand for a shake, while Bhikkhuni did so more hesitantly, looking from hand to hand in bewilderment. Mary reached out slowly, groping about until she found a hand to sieze, then chuckling as she gave it a light shake. The leader of the trio launched into questions hot and heavy. "Your name references the Vedas, the Sanskrit foundations of Hinduism, correct? Wow! I don't meet a lot of other navis with that sort of basis. Is that a way of paying respect to the religion, or is it more like you see yourself as a part of the religion itself? Are you Hindu yourself? Can you tell me about-"

"Or maybe she just thought it'd be cool to have lots of hands?" Bhikkhuni posited sarcastically, rolling her eyes. She looked at Veda and ResQ in turn... then their chests... then beamed happily. "You know what? I think we can all be good friends!"

"I wouldn't say your uniform looks out of place. It fits you perfectly! Though, it's hard to get much of a bead on how we're supposed to dress for this... maybe there is no dress code?" Exorcist wondered out loud, considering that navis of all types were around. Even their employer had a pretty strange look for a party, though, on the other hand, it sounded like he wasn't planning to be the one mingling.

"I think she wears it better than alright! I love a girl in uniform!" Burt added. "And that Veda's a great design! I wonder if she would want to become another SP for Exorcist?"

"I-I'd say that should really be volunteers only," Exorcist laughed. "Let's try to get disciples rather than SPs specifically, okay? On that note, let's talk about Counterinfectualism-" she began, but the time to listen to their employer instead. She nodded along and tried to look on top of it, but it was actually a head-spinning amount of information. Bhikkhuni did the same, but somewhere into it she started squinting her eyes and making a serious face, as though she realized she'd started to stare into space and tried to fix her face. Mary kept smiling; her attentiveness was hard to tell, when her eyes were always closed.

She'd been paying close attention to at least one part, though. "A 'fun' outfit? Do tell! Or is that part of the information we're not allowed to know?" Mary chuckled mischievously. "It could affect our motivation to complete the work, after all..."

"Whose motivation? Why do you care? You're blind!" Bhikkhuni asked, giving Mary a punch in the side that only solicited more giggles. "Besides, uh, I guess you missed it, but Creep-ticMan already disappeared, and not just into the crowd, I think."

ResQ's next thought was how they ought to split tasks up. There was so much to do that they were likely going to have to split up to cover more ground. Exorcist tried to sort it all out. "Boy, this seems like it really will be chaos... I guess we're going to have to do some sneaking. It sounds like one part will be to find each of those three she mentioned and make sure they all are convinced to join in on festivities. And... we're supposed to make sure that she ends up wearing her forfeit outfit for somebody winning too many points... but we also have to rig it so that the outfit she has to wear is something more fun? I don't think he explained how we do that, though, so I guess we're supposed to try to figure out something on the fly? And we also need to sneak in past the butler and steal the prize winnings. And there are people representing unoperated navis we're supposed to help make sure aren't harmed, possibly by finding the one who's going to harm them and stopping him or her..."

"Oh, don't forget: don't accept energy drinks from a guy, do eat lemon tarts, do tell an anarchist about human rights violations, and don't meet your prince charming. Easy peesy," Bhikkhuni groaned, slapping her forehead. "What kind of screwy mission is this? Don't the GNA have some rules that the employer isn't allowed to tell us our mission in the form of a riddle?!"

"Well... to be fair, we knew what we were in for when we heard his name," Exorcist said with an uneasy smile. She took another look around, then closed her eyes and repeated one more time: "Three navis to get to join the festivities. Making sure someone gets too many points. Rigging the outfit lottery. Stealing the prize winnings. Protecting the unoperated navi activists... I think that's everything."

"Oh my Buddha! We could each split up and probably still not cover all of this," the little SP added, pulling at her hair rings.

"On the other hand, we've got more time on some objectives than others," the pink-haired one offered. "If we're going to get the three players into the game, that needs to happen fairly immediately. Same for one person exceeding the point amount; if we don't start that early, we'll be in trouble. The unoperated navis will have to be ensured protection quickly as well. On the other hand, we have until the end of the night to steal the winnings and also to rig the lottery." Turning her smile to ResQ, she continued. "Well... I'm not going to be any good for sneaking. For obvious reasons. I'll go with whoever wants to try to convince the other navis to join in on the games. Once we're done doing that, we can try to ensure they win enough points to go over the total... a natural progression."

Bhikkhuni rubbed her chin thoughtfully. "I uuuh... Well, without my shakujo, I can be sneaky! I'll head in and try to find some way to steal the winnings. And maybe a couple of other things I can liberate from the over-impoverished to benefit the poor, he he he..." she finished, now rubbing her hands together excitedly.

Exorcist nodded. "And seeing as I'm more combat-ready than my SPs, it would make sense for me to try to find the people who are intending to harm those charity fellows. I can either seek out the ones wanting to do the damage or stay by the protection targets to make sure they don't come to harm. Honestly, I feel they ought to be our main prerogative regardless... All the rest of this is important to the mission, but we can't put the safety of those navis below party games or the other silly stuff CrypticMan mentioned," she suggested. "Does that work? What do you two think?" Exorcist finished, folding her hands at her lap habitually and looking between ResQ and Veda.
Veda had been paying attention to CrypticMan's mission lecture with a stern look on her face, while two of her floating hands were hanging by her hips to note down all the information. One with the brush hanging behind Veda and one with a virtual scroll, scribbling along diligently. While she listened carefully to relay the data to her hands, she continued to look around again. There was a lot to do, that much was known straight from the start of CrypticMan's words. Along with the time taken to jot down all the information. And before any questions could be asked or explanations on tasks at hand, there was no more CrypticMan to talk to. Veda reached behind her and pulled up the scroll to read through it while her hands docked onto her hips again. But she wouldn't have the time to read through it in details as Exorcist started launching her array of questions about Veda's heritage.

Veda just stared at Exorcist with kind of an oblivious look on her face. "I don't know what you're talking about. My hands are to manage multiple files at the same time without losing efficiency. My scrolls and brush are to write down data. My monk-like outfit is to come across as serious and focused towards others. These beads," Veda raised her right arm, "hold memories, but not yet all of them." She then crossed her arms, holding the scroll she had earlier against her body, "I think you're confusing me with something else entirely. My name, Veda, is obviously just a coincidence! Hahaha!" Shortly after her laughter, she pulled back her 4 hands and repositioned them across her upper body.

"Right, Regina!?" she looked upwards and tried to chat with her Operator about her design. But no reply came from her. "Regina?" Veda asked again, tapping her left silver hand with her scroll to cause some noise. A moment later ResQ came forth with a window for her Operator, who then introduced himself. Veda produced a fake smile at him and quickly turned away from the group and yelled at the sky. "REGINAAA!!" But no reply came. Completely ignoring that she had just yelled at the top of her lungs, Veda spun around to face the others and took a small bow. "My Operator, Regina, is currently asleep." She then shot a glance at Exorcist, "Your Operator came to visit her, right? You think he could wake her up?"

After initial introductions were over, Veda took the chance to open her scroll again to read through the tasks while Bhikkhuni also mentioned them. But what would Veda be best at in this situation? What task had her name written all over it? She didn't need Regina to give any input on this, as they had always been a pair who did their own thing to reach a common goal. Veda was sure that when the time came for Regina to partake in the situation, she'd be there. Browsing the texts with her finger, she continued to ponder while listening to Mary, Bhikkhuni and Exorcist discuss what they'd be good at. While Veda was eager to get into a fight again, she thumbed the part in her documentation of CrypticMan mentioning they wouldn't be alone in protecting the unoperated Navis. If it was Exorcist, it'd probably be fine considering she had 2 SPs under her thumb already. So what else would Veda be good at in the current situation? After a while she looked up from her scroll and pointed at Mary. "The pink haired one has a point!" she bellowed, "We need to get those 3 Navis to cooperate with us, so if we combine forces we'll have an excellent good cop/bad cop routine! If they like kind people, they'll talk to you! If they like mean people, I'll punch them in the chin!" Veda slammed her fists together and laughed out loud. Maybe she would get her fight after all.

"I don't know how the two of us will deal with three Navis," Veda continued after her laughter, "But I'm sure we'll figure out a way! However, if one of you two needs assistance don't hesitate requesting backup!" She tossed her scroll over her shoulder, making it vanish in a puff of data. "My hands and my strength will be there in a moment's notice." Veda then took a few steps over to Mary and tried to look directly at her face by standing on her toes. "So you're completely blind? Should I take your hand to guide you around?" Veda asked, already determined and sure that she'd be partnering up with Mary to meet these 3 Navis CrypticMan had mentioned.
In the wake of the flurry of details from their mission-giver, the small party was left to discuss amongst themselves how they wished to approach the matter and divide the tasks. While ResQ fumed over goading comments the others settled on plans to find the three of Zenny's guests that didn't want to play, first of all. Mary opted to remain with Veda to help do the convincing, while Bhikki volunteered herself for a stealth mission into the estate mansion. Exorcist focused more on seeking out the subversive element to the party, and those in danger from them. ResQ would be free to accompany either as she saw fit, or even explore another aspect of the party on her own, to cover more ground, if she felt it was wise. For now, it seemed as though Mary, Veda and Exorcist translated their chosen tasks as being best conducted by heading first towards the fantasy area of the fair grounds, while Bhikki presumably set off in a different direction, moving towards the main manor.

The murmur of party sounds grew louder as the group approached the medieval setting; brightly coloured tents and stalls were threaded through by a veritable throng of different navis enjoying he day and there was as much laughter and cheering to be heard as there was hawking of wares and attractions. It wasn't hard to move around, even with the density of party-goers; things flowed smoothly... but there was rarely any actual clear space around any of them, and making more than an arm-span would be awkward. Despite the crowd, though, it was easy enough to see what sorts of things were on offer at this section of the fair.

If they went to the left first, they'd end up in the area that offered foods of many traditional sorts. Most of it was almost certainly going to be fantasy or medieval themed, but there was a broad selection all the same, including a great many meat-heavy food-on-stick selections, ales and meads, harsher spirits, and truly strange brews. Most of the stalls had no real queue; the advantage of a net fair over a real-world one. One towards the far end was offering mystery drinks, purported to have random and fantastical effects.

Moving further around, there were several areas housing displays and shows. Apparently there would be a show later on in one area, so advertised a sign, to give prizes for the most popular costumes, though for now the large ring was being used for fantasy roleplay combat. A notice at the edge reminded players that actual harmful chips and signatures would be disabled within the ring, and a selection of abilities granted to players instead based on a class selection choice they made. Beyond that, there was a stage where a pair of navis dressed in tight leather costumes were performing an acrobatics display, with a small sign board on the side displaying show timetables for upcoming events. Off to one side watching from a fair way back so as not to inconvenience anyone else, a figure watched the stage play quietly, staying still amidst the hustle and motion of the fair. He was easy to spot, due to being a very large, stone-carved gargoyle, wings folded neatly at his back and maintaining a posture that was a comfortable crouch; despite this, his head was still about a foot above the majority of the other more average patrons, and while there were navis or all shapes and sizes present, he was nevertheless easy to pick out, if any of the girls were explicitly keeping an eye out for such a creature.

Taking up the back section of the fantasy section, and indeed, what was probably the majority of it, were events and competitions; everything from archery contests, dragon-riding, strength tests... a kissing booth? One lady seemed to be winning a lot of points on it... moving on... Most of the stands and stalls offered not prizes, but points for participation and success, and one could assume that this would likely be the point currency used to determine the winner for the evening.

Over the far side, there was an area that was more relaxed and maintained a bit more open space — unlike the quick food stalls, this area seemed to have a variety of spaces for interest groups and for sit-down cafes and the like. It was more of a restive area, compared to the busier places. There was a replica forge where a navi seemed to be running an educational display of old fashioned methods for working metals by hand, though there seemed to be a sound barrier muffling the sounds of actual forge work from being anything more than quiet. Several larger shade cloths covered open seating, in the middle, while a group of navis, most of whom were on the younger-looking side, sat around on the grass further out, listening to a much older-looking navi with a large, thick story book open on his lap. He was wearing a simple black coat that went to the ground, with a blue waist coat and black trousers, and had a wealth of long, silvery hair. Aged as he seemed, his skin was nevertheless still smooth, save for a few wrinkles in aesthetically complimenting places, and his eyes were a piercing blue. Despite having stern, hard features though, his expression was kind and relaxed as he spoke.

Amongst the children listening to his story, there was one navi who was clearly more of an adult; he looked more or less like a generic normalnavi, but was dressed up in a very detailed costume designed to look every bit like the traditional fantasy wizard, pointy hat and long jewel-tipped staff included. He seemed to be enjoying listening to the older navi tell his tale as intently as all the children.

In the middle of the open seating pavilion a classical band played a soft, unobtrusive tune with folksy strains to it. They were all dressed in attire that could be considered formal 'ye olde', but bore small insignias on the breast or shoulder of their outfits marking them as employees of the estate itself — the Scotsdale emblem, for anyone taking note of it, was a black field, outlined in gold, with a simple gold chevron decorating it. The motto banner, underneath, read "Aurum Posse Ipsum Est". The band was just concluding their current piece, and it would probably be a minute before they began the next.


Elsewhere, a Certain SP was tasked with a more daring mission. the main manor of the estate was a large mansion that only seemed grander the closer one drew to it — it was further away the one might first suspect, and larger as a result. The structure was made of old stone in traditional forms, with tall arched windows visible on several floors. A gravel path led towards the main entrance, and a number of fountain and hedge features surrounded the immediate grounds.

If she decided to approach the grand entrance directly, up the broad stairs, she would most certainly be seen long before arriving at the doors; a single sharply dressed figure stood in front of them with his hands neatly behind his back, watching passively. He was a tall, slender navi, dressed in a smart suit. The most notable feature of it was that his breast pocket bore a neat musical staff, on top of a small piano, just beneath the Scotsdale family crest. His hair was a soft brown, and styled neatly, while his skin was a pale cream. Likewise, his eyes were a deep brown, calmly watching the grounds ahead of him, as well as turning towards the fair grounds on occasion. He seemed to be listening to the strains of music that could be heard from the band playing in the fantasy section. While it was a certainty that she'd have to talk to him if she approached from the front, there was, perhaps the possibility of finding another way in, too.

The group more-or-less figured out their assignments, and covered a good amount of objectives, leaving ResQ's options fairly open. She was disappointed the shorter of the two SPs volunteered to steal the centerpiece first, but ResQ would admit she hadn't performed a heist in over a year, and her equipment isn't at all designed for such a task. Meanwhile, Alex noted the assignments, and tapped the bottom of his pencil against his chin as he pondered where ResQ would best fit in the equation. "The centerpiece and nonoperated Navis should be covered, and we have two for convincing the Navis to compete, but it looks like those two need to stick together to be effective. I think it would be best for you to help them out; work on one competitor while Veda and Mary work on another, to divide and conquer." mused aloud, then suggested ResQ's assignment. She continued to stand with her arms crossed, and she looked around as she appeared to mull it over. She was able to see who she assumed to be Mordenite and DueAccountabilityMan thanks to how much they stand out compared to their respective crowds, but SaijaTsun was still unaccounted for. If she volunteered to find the third competitor, this would give her the chance to scope the place out, and more importantly allow her to work alone and unimpeded.

"Hm, it looks like Mordinite is over there, and that man-child looking one is probably "Duey," but SaijaTsun is a no show. I'll look for her and convince her to play," she concluded pointing to the targets with a finger as she mentioned them, though she kept her arms crossed. Her tone wasn't very enthusiastic, and her expression still showed a level of cold boredom. Mentally she felt like she was flying by the seat of her pants, just making stuff up as they go. Last time she approached a mission like this, she ended up getting NERF'd. Regardless she didn't expect any resistance to her idea, so she simply turned away from the group and began to walk towards the futuristic themed side of the grounds. Alex's window rotated to face the rest of the group as he addressed them. "Let's keep in contact via direct comms, so we can keep everyone in the loop and call out objectives. Best of luck, everyone." He gave a casual two-fingered salute before closing the window, allowing him to shift his focus back to ResQ.

He looked at his notes, and chimed in to ResQ alone. "Alright, so SaijaTsun 'likes her creature comforts and a good drink,' so she might be in a restaurant or bar?" he suggested. ResQ adjusted her garrison cap and shrugged while she responded, "Yeah, I guess." Alex tilted his head slightly as his eyes narrowed. "Is there a problem?" he asked suspiciously. ResQ rolled her eyes as she assumed a comfortable walking stride. "Oh no, everything's fine. I love getting signed up for a mission with little to no prep time, especially when its for a shifty little creep of a client, who seems to get off on being the "smartest guy in the room" and being annoyingly vague," she parried with a heavy helping of sarcasm. Alex shook his head and was about to retort with the fact he sent her mission specs over an hour before they logged in, but admittedly he did sign her up for the mission without even asking for her input. He sighed before replying, "Alright, you got me on the first part. I apologize, I shouldn't have volunteered you for this mission without your knowledge or input, that's bad on me. As for everything else, I don't like it either. The best we can do is work on what we do know, and try to fill the info gaps as we move along." "Hmph," ResQ huffed, but she expected Alex to retort with the plethora of ammo he had against her, instead of apologizing. He was still on her 'shit list' for signing her up for this mission in the first place, but at least he owned up to his own mistakes, unlike her last NetOp... the rat bastard...

"Do you still want to do this? We can still pop smoke if this isn't going to work out," Alex asked in an attempt to get more clarity on ResQ's intentions and dedication to the mission. "Heh, you toy soldiers give up that easily? Whatever, we took the job, we'll finish the job," she replied in a snide tone as she smirked. Alex's expression softened at her response. She was still as abrasive as ever, but at least she wasn't one to run away from difficulties, even if it was simply due to her pride or purely to spite him. "Alright then, we'll keep our eyes peeled. But as our "client" said, we can have some fun with this, I don't get the sense we're under a significant time crunch yet." ResQ could tell he was trying to lighten the mood, and interpreted it as an attempt to get buddy-buddy with her. She wasn't going to fall for that. "I'll have fun when I get paid. Let's just get this over with," she countered before entering the starport. She continued to look around curiously, with the goal of finding somewhere SaijaTsun would be found, or simply Navi herself.
Exorcist returned Veda's blank stare with one just as confused; it seemed somehow impossible that Veda could carry so much religious symbolism and none of the actual context that went along with it. Of course, if she'd stop and think about it, she'd realize she was sort of in the same boat. Her outfit was designed after a Taoist, but the religion she claimed was entirely different. "A-A funny coincidence, to be sure," Exorcist laughed awkwardly; her enthusiasm and pride as a religious studies nerd had taken a hit but she was polite enough not to show it. "Your operator is asleep? Right now? A-Alone with...? Oh, oh! They're in a public place. Good. Burt, can you wake up Regina?"

"Reggie? She's not asleep, she was just listening to the 1000-feet view, beginner's guide to Counterinfectualism I was reciting! There's no way she- yeeeeah, wait, no, she's asleep," Burt admitted. "I know what will wake her up! Discretely taking some photos of her sleeping face..."

"... I-I'm pretty sure he'll wake her up eventually," Exorcist attempted to reassure Veda, though it probably wasn't the resolution she was looking for.

The young lady offered to guide Mary around, which the nun appreciated, offering her kindest smile. "Certainly! You'll be much better at the punching, I'm sure. God forbids me passing judgment on others. He doesn't say anything about me using my charm, though," she giggled.

"He says some things about you using some of those charms you use," Bhikkhuni protested, rolling her eyes again. "It's a good thing you're helping out Mary, Veda, but don't let her drag you into any of her funny business. You don't think of nuns as shady characters, but she's as sketchy as it gets!" Probably a little ironic coming from the Buddhist who'd jumped at the chance to go on a sneaky thieving mission.

Mary opened her pink lips to frame a sparkling grin as Veda offered her a hand. "It wouldn't hurt... I'm not as blind as I seem, at least! God gives me a certain level of guidance... I manage to pick up on things here and there. But in a crowd like this, it will definitely help if you stick close..." a bit of pink spread across her face again as she finished. ResQ decided she'd seek out SaijaTsun; Mary nodded along. "I'll be in touch..." Despite ResQ's operator's instruction that they ought to keep comms up, Mary did get the sense that the navi might be a bit of a loner, sporting something of a 'tude... Almost like a more competent Bhikkhuni. "I'm ready when you are, Veda. I can't pick out specific people, but... I think I have a general idea of where the stands are set out. Is there a kissing booth? I think I hear a kissing booth."

"That's got to be your dumb imagination," Bhikkhuni scolded. "Get your mind out of the gutter- no, wait, there is. You lucked out this time!"

Mary smirked, then turned her head in Veda's general direction. "I'm guessing we're not so lucky that one of our targets is over there, are we? Well, maybe we can think of a way to use it later." She rested a hand on her cheek wistfully while offering the other to Veda. "Do you have any leads on one of the targets?"

While that was going on, Exorcist prepared to take her leave. She really had no idea where she was supposed to go to get started... Part of the problem of the subversive element being subversive was that they could not be easily located, by definition. She figured her best bet would be to find those interested in protecting the other navis. They might already have information she could use to begin her search, or, even in the worst case, they'd be near the navis she needed to protect. "As I look about... I'm not finding anything that looks distinctly like either unoperated navis or anyone trying to defend them, unless the children are those who are unoperated. That older gentleman does have the appearance of being devoted to a cause. I'll circle back around and check here if I run out of other leads." For now, she conceded that she couldn't find anything definitive here and went to search the sci-fi area instead, where she'd look more than a little out of place among those in costume.

Bhikkhuni knew where she was going, but didn't have a great idea yet of how to go about doing it. If ResQ had taken the mission, she'd probably simply plot to sneak around the butler... but Bhikkhuni didn't have a lot of confidence in her ability to do that. Still, her best plan to speak her way through the guy was still mischievous at best, so might as well start breaking and entering and smile her way through it if she got caught. "Though, wouldn't be the worst thing if I had to talk to that guy," she admitted to herself. She wasn't Mary, but she knew a hot guy when she saw one... Presumably Mary never saw them, but she still seemed to know them. "Why would God bother telling her that? Must be one of those temptation things, she mused. "But all of that's just useless distractions! Let's see if I can find another way in."

Of course, Bhikkhuni didn't have anything like a grappling hook, or wings, or a glass cutter, or anything useful like that. Whatever alternate entrance she'd find would hopefully be as easy as an unguarded back-door. All there was to do for now, though, was walk around the back and see if anything stood out. Whether she'd even be able to get around the estate, however, was a question in and of itself... It was, after all, an estate. It was quite likely she'd reach walls soon enough. "Just remember... if anybody spots you, you're just lost! Ooo, or you're looking for the hedge maze! Or maybe an indoor garden. No, I don't know for sure they've got one yet. I've got it! If he spots me outside, I'm looking for the outdoor garden. If he spots me inside, I'm looking for the indoor garden! Easy cheesy." If ResQ could hear the SP's internal monologue, she'd probably regret not insisting she got the spot.
"Yes!" Veda exclaimed as she held onto Mary's hand in order to guide her, "You have nothing to fear with me by your side!" The hand Veda was holding Mary's with, however, was one of the floating hands she controlled. So Veda was completely free to do whatever while Mary could still be guided. It wasn't hard to discover where the gargoyle Navi was, so Veda decided to take and/or pull Mary towards the gargoyle in order for them to talk. But she was a little less sure about where the other Navi was they were informed about.

"The gargoyle Navi is ahead of us, Mary!" Veda continued to talk to her companion, not really intent on lowering her volume, "But I do not see the other one!" It was at that point Veda remembered that before Regina and she became 'adventures' she had inherited something of a Navi called Djinni. Not one to question things and without warning Mary about her plan, she jumped into the air and began to fly through the sky in order to find their 'childish Navi'. But having never used her new flying capabilities, Veda had no idea how to steer her body or adjust her speed and crashed directly into a stray hyperlink probably left by a participant of the fair. In the instant she touched the link, Veda was swept through the internet and vanished from the fair's homepage. The hand Mary was holding vanished as well, scattered as stray data.

((As discussed with the two allies, I'm leaving the topic 'cause I'm slow as molasses with posting))
Just as the party split up and began to explore the party scene, Veda found herself unceremoniously whisked away, and Mary was left all alone in the middle of the fantasy section, without anyone's eyes to guide her; the suddenly absent navi had directed her friend towards the stone figure before being pulled away, but if Mary wanted to head that way without her eyes she'd have to go a bit carefully; there were still many people moving about and she'd also need to navigate the assorted casual seating between her location and where Veda had pointed her to. On the other hand, if her keen ears were indeed hearing a kissing booth in operation, she would very much be able to find her way towards it based on that; her minder was conspicuously absent suddenly, and without any very obvious leads on several of their objectives, well, there could certainly be no harm in starting there to seek answers, right? Right? No-one would know, and she was blind anyway, so it wasn't her fault at all if she ended up at the kissing booth by mistake.

Nearby, the band started their next piece, playing some traditional faire-style music, and the story-teller continued his tale — something about adventurers and a deep cavern underground, and dark goblins plotting. In a brief pause, however, a smaller, chirpier voice entered in.

"Don't mind me, Logos, I'm just going to nip away — that young lady there appears to have lost her friend and might need a hand." there was a brief additional pause and the story started up again, but if Mary had been listening to that part, she'd be able to guess that at least one person was coming her way. A small cheer went up as a round in the fantasy combat ring ended, and the organiser for the game began taking players for the next bout, and a shift in the breeze brought her the scent of floral perfume, lavender, and fresh backing pastries with a fruity overtone.

Over the other side of the dual fair ground, in the zone designed with a futuristic, sci-fi aesthetic, both ResQ and Exorcist began exploring different parts of the area. They would each find that the actual floor-planning was more or less the same, only mirrored, as the fantasy section. One end of the area was comprised mostly of themed displays and games or contests — here sharp-shooting with phasers replaced the fantasy brawl, and the general seating was a little more uniform, with more solid, shielded plastics forming the cover shade. Where a story-teller worked in the fantasy section, here there were a variety of story-style game stations that let a player determine the direction their story took, while the events played out on a screen that viewers could see.

Replacing the open market food stalls and vendors, there was a long, low building that advertised itself as 'The Wandering Comet', with a design depicting a streaking blue comet disrupting a variety of colourful UFOs and satellites in its wake. There was a loud, constant murmur of voice and general sociability coming from within, which escaped outside every time the automated doors slid open and shut to admit patrons. If ResQ was looking for a bar sporting creature comforts, this would probably be the spot.

Provided she moved inside, the general murmur of discussion would become powerfully pervasive; the bar was quite busy, it seemed, and serving a broad variety of space and science-themed drinks; there were some documents visible on the bar that discussed the necessary details about what drinks catered to navis with varying degrees of food and drink capabilities and preferences, or other related sensory faculties; some would provide genuine statistical benefit to any navi, others were simply for the flavour and pleasure of the drink. Some would be able to get navis capable of becoming intoxicated quite drunk, while having no discernible effect on navis without that faculty, while others contained no such function and would taste alcoholic, without the effect even on navis capable of drunkenness. It looked a bit complicated at first, but after a glance it was all actually very straight-forward. Most drinks had small coloured spots next to their names to represent these features, so it would be easy to select what one wanted without error.

The bar itself was spacious. The actual drink serving area was tiled with smooth, shiny panels wide enough for a few people to stand deep near the bar, which ran along two thirds of the back wall. The far right end of the main room had a small stage with a band of navis dressed in alien-looking costumes, playing a somewhat lively tune with a high back and forth and a low swing section that some aficionados of particularly old-world sci-fi culture might recognise. It wormed its way into one's head as it settled into the background sound. The remainder of the space consisted of some high tables with chairs, for more casual drinkers, as well as a number of more comfortable, cushioned lounge settings, up the left end of the room. There was a back door behind the bar that looked like it led down to a cellar of some description; it might be vaguely curious how one could have a downstairs cellar in what was effectively a pop-up bar, at a faire, but then, this was the net, so maybe it wasn't that unusual. More pressingly for ResQ, perhaps, was that, now she was here, and it was almost certainly the place where one would find the woman described as liking her creature comforts and a good drink... that was actually all the information Saija had about her at the moment, and no hint of a proper physical description.

Outside, Exorcist had made her way here with the intention of looking for the navis representing unoperated groups, who may be in need of protection; it was the sort of thing that was quite hard to tell at a simple glance, and it was beginning to look like she may need to begin asking around, but as she scouted the science fiction area in general a few individuals might catch her eye over others: One was a woman of slightly below average height and a slight build, who was dressed in a vaguely future-punk costume; it sported a ripped denim jacket with anarchist logos and symbology decorating it, over the top of a tight black vest that minimised her already rather minimal bust. the jacket was loose and short, and the vest left her midriff bare. Beneath, a pair of tight combat leggings with artful rips in them exposed slashes of her thighs and calves, and she sported a belt made more to look like a grenade bandoleer and a thigh-band ammo holster. A dark crimson beret mostly covered up short-cropped red hair, though tufts of it still poked out here and there, mostly at the back.

The woman was lining up to try her hand at one of the smaller amusement games purportedly some kind of strength test, though it mostly seemed to be very nearly injuring contestant's arms in the process. She was easily the least physically intimidating navi in the line, or so it seemed, but a closer look would show that she bore some very sturdy muscle definition despite her slight frame, and the section of her midriff that was exposed was athletic and toned, with a slightly visible amount of core definition. Beside the apparent anarchist was a woman who was her opposite in many ways, except, seemingly, her penchant for the colour red.

The was taller, with a dangerously womanly figure; hips that begged to sway, and a bust that threatened to escape the modified kimono she wore. It was a deep red velvet that matched the dark crimson of her hair, eyes and lipstick, but the modification left it open in a 'v' at the front, all the way down to her navel. This, as a result, showed off a gratuitous amount of cleavage that looked like it only failed to spill out by the miracles of net physics. She was smiling and watching the fair while occasionally chatting to the smaller woman in the line beside her.

Not far from where the strength test game was wringing out prospective competitors, a display store was advertising a new line of muscle-stimulating growth drinks, and was being hawked by a very loud, boisterous man who bulged with muscles to an almost grotesque extent, and seemed to be referring to himself exclusively in the third person. He was wearing a gaudy blue wrestler's leotard that barely covered the things that absolutely should be covered, and looked like he was angled to cash in on party-goers who had just come away from the strength test beaten.

Away from the games and merchant-type outlets, the food here was gathered at the other end of the area, and comprised of a variety of odd and alien-looking things, which were, most probably, completely normal food dressed up to look exotic. In the middle of this side's 'rest' area, on a small platform surrounded by open-air lounge circles, another band played a rhythmic, boppy tune, somewhere between light techno and trance. The performers mirrored the ones in the fantasy section, including the Scotsdale livery. The lead instrumentalist had long black hair and a slender figure, and she played something that looked like a fusion between a clarinet and a slide electric keyboard... it was as odd to look at as to describe, but she was nevertheless coaxing masterful sounds from it along with the rest of her players.

All of this was quite pleasant and nice to be exploring, of course, but some people had important things to do... and steal. Bhikkhuni managed a small peek at the sharply-dressed retainer out front but decided against the direct approach and circled broadly, looking for a way round back or another entrance. It would take some walking, during which the young would-be thief would get a close up taste of just how much wealth this mansion seemed to flaunt; outside, decorative water features and artistically kept hedges, massive glass windows on the upper floors, a raised balcony here or there that she couldn't' really reach, and even one whole corner of the estate mansion that looked like it was made of glass and acted like some manner of fancy arboretum. closer to ground level, much of the mansion was decorative, but still unyielding, stone buttressing, however she did reach what looked like a spacious vehicle storage garage eventually.

There was a roadway connected to a circling courtyard in front of the main entrance, which led away to what was probably another exit from the estate... or given the affluence shown, potentially a separate driving page where the owner cold go for drives in the countryside, alone. There wasn't any real way to tell right now; more important was the fact that the garage itself wasn't immediately sealed, or at least it didn't seem to be. A series of broad arches replaced the solid wall for a the length of the garage space, interspersed with columns, so that anyone passing could look in and see the many rows of very expensive-looking vehicles; mostly they were old-world antiques, and a large number of them bore small placards describing what they were and why they held a place in the collection. It was obviously a vanity collection, really, and chances were few of the vehicles within ever saw any real use. If Bhikki took some time to inspect the collection as a whole,she might notice that one vehicle stood out amongst the rest; in prime position for driving straight out of the garage was a single, sleek, black motorcycle. Where most of the other spaces in the extensive undercroft represented full sized motor vehicles as favoured by various Scotsdale family heads, or the prize pieces of lead designers over the years, this one was the only bike, and it bore no model or branding, appearing instead to be a custom design, made for speed and with just the slightest hint of femininity to its curves.

There seemed to be a doorway leading into the mansion proper at the back right side of the spacious undercroft, and though it was closed, for now, it looked like the most inviting entrance opportunity Bhikki had happened upon so far, if she didn't want to try scaling the walls or talking her way past the man out front. A more sceptical person might think it looked too easy, perhaps, but at the same time, the majority of the fair was being held along way from the mansion, so it might not have been a major consideration. There always remained the option of continuing around in the hope of finding an actual servant's door, if she decided to give this possibility a miss for now.

"The gargoyle, you say? I can't wait to meet him," Mary cooed, following along Veda with the support of Veda's hand. As she followed, she heard the sound of Veda taking to the air... and then crashing... and then vanishing. "Veda? Um..." she murmured, realizing with rare annoyance that she'd been left by herself and pretend-blind. There wasn't a lot of fun to have that way, just trouble. "Burt, did something happen to Regina and Veda?"

"Uh, Regina had to leave," Burt sighed, while drying himself off with a dinner napkin. "She gave me her contact info, though! So that's something," he chuckled, adjusting his glasses with a wry smile.

"... She left? So... Veda is no longer here?" Mary asked, patiently requesting clarification.

"Huh, I guess so! Kinda sucks for you, huh? Nya ha ha ha!" Burt guffawed, still under the impression that his SP really was blind.

Struggling to keep a smile on, Mary listened for the sounds of anything promising she could use to get back on track. She couldn't even keep approaching the gargoyle at this rate; how would she explain stumbling into him blind and alone? She could also hear a band and a narrator... both points of interest, but neither places she just wanted to stumble into. Above all, she needed a good Samaritan to help her out and give her some guidance, to make the whole playing blind thing a little bit easier (and more rewarding).

Just as she was contemplating sneaking off to check out the kissing booth, someone else showed up to help her out. "Divine intervention, trying to keep me on the straight and narrow? How nice..." she thought to herself. She decided she'd wait to be the recipient of the person's help; in the mean time, she'd continue to appear lost and confounded. "Veda? Where are you, Veda dear? It's going to be quite difficult for me to navigate this crowd on my lonesome," she called, making a show of standing rather still to avoid bumping into anybody.


"Oh my," Exorcist murmured, being terribly ill-versed in science fiction. Even the parts that looked like virus busting or digital worlds to most navis looked a bit foreign to her, as most of her own tools manifested in ways rather reminiscent of traditional exorcism. "I feel out of my element, Burt. Speaking of elements... how did you get wet? And you'd just gotten your hair looking so nice..."

"Nya ha ha! Suffice to say, I got the wrong girl. It all worked out, though, more or less," Burt chuckled, adjusting his glasses (again) with a wry smile (again).

"Oh, good. So Regina-"

"Yeeeeah, she kinda left. Veda left too," Burt added, toweling off his face.

Exorcist pressed her hands to her mouth, then frowned critically. "What did you do, Burt?" she asked, furrowing her brow seriously. "And what about Mary?! She can't get through a crowd like this without someone guiding her!"

"Pfft! She's got 'God', right?" Burt scoffed, blowing a raspberry. "At least if she gets all lost and can't figure out what she's doing, she'll have to admit the big guy in the sky is fake. That's a win for Counterinfectualism, I say!" He noticed that Exorcist didn't look pleased about that at all, but he decided to keep going with some other info that would hopefully put her mind to ease. "Besides, I didn't do a thing! I was hitting it off nice with Reggie... or so I thought! In actuality, it was some other girl, and Reggie was somewhere else. So the girl I was talking to gave me a little holy water exorcism and then both of them took off. They were both pretty hot, though! Easy 9s in my book, maybe 10s. Aw, who am I kidding... there's no 10 but you, Exxy!"

The navi didn't quite understand everything that had been said, but she blushed all the same. "Come on, Burt... We gotta focus," she insisted, while taking another look around the bizarre sci-fi landscape. Two figures stood out; they were both currently hanging out near the strength test, but both had figures that made Exorcist feel a bit self-conscious in very different ways. One had the muscle definition she needed to be a better Counterinfectualist and one had the kind of figure that would likely make any member of her troupe jealous, except possibly Mary, who seemed pretty darn confident in her body. If she wanted to get on achieving the muscle definition, there was apparently a drink for that, which was being loudly advertised. Food was also in display, as well as music. Exxy found the music interesting as much as she found it strange, but the musician was currently quite occupied, so it would be rude to interrupt her right now.

Counterinfectualism's star pupil found herself without a lead, as she'd expected to; plenty of interesting characters dotted the fair grounds but none of them immediately associated with either attacking or protecting unfortunate navis. She'd have to start somewhere, though, and gather information. The two girls by the strength testing machine were certainly distinct; they looked so out of place that she figured they might have an agenda here. She began to walk that way before Burt pitched in:

"Hey! You've got no idea where you're going at all, right?" he questioned loudly.

Knitting her brow for a moment, Exorcist raised one finger, opened her mouth... then moved the finger to her lip and frowned. "No, you're right. I really have no idea," she admitted.

"Then you ought to fuel up first! Go get yourself a snack before you get started. In the mean time, maybe something will fall into place!" Burt offered optimistically.

Exorcist was suspicious. Even when it came to her, Burt was rarely simply altruistic. "Okay...?" she conceded, going over to the concessions stands. Like most things in this part of the amusement park, each of the snacks was difficult for her to identify. "What should I get...?"

Burt took a look around for the most erotic looking snacks he could, then made a list so that he could recommend them properly. For Exorcist's part, she continued eavesdropping as discretely as she could, for anyone saying something suspicious that might give her a lead.


"Uuuugh. One day, I wanna own this much land! Why transform land with Nirvana Ground Wave when you can own land?" Bhikkhuni complained, throwing her arms up and being audible in a way unbecoming of a would-be thief as she circled the premise, looking for a way in. When she heard Burt laughing, she huffed, then threw her arms up again. "Ugh! Don't laugh! Why'd I even bother talking to you?!"

"Naw," the operator dismissed, smiling lackadaisically. "It was something Exxy said."

Bhikkhuni crossed her arms thoughtfully. She hadn't been away from her navi very frequently and the first thought she had about the experience was that it made her operator even more annoying to speak to than usual. "Why are you soaked, anyway? Blech, I feel like I can smell you from in here... There's booze all over you!"

"Long story, told it already, should have paid attention," Burt responded, rolling his eyes such that the pupils briefly showed over his half-moon spectacles.

After a long period of being jealous of rich people's stuff and being agitated by everything Burt said to other people, Bhikkhuni finally found a place she might be able to get in. However, she ended up going back to being jealous of rich people when she set her eyes upon a particularly sexy motorcycle that gave her pause. "Woooah! Buuuurt, looooook," she gasped, clasping her hands to her jaw with a look of longing. "Can you imagine me owning one of those? Ooooh... What if I was riding one of those? I bet I'd be so hot! I've got that rebel spirit..."

Burt watched blankly, unable to imagine that or otherwise feeling no inspiration from it. "Uh, sorry, what? Are you going to let your four giant rings of hair down and feel the wind in them? I kinda want to see you crash it though! No way you could steer that thing."

"I could do it...!" Bhikkhuni pouted, beginning to gather up her skirt like she was really going to mount the stranger's expensive, custom motorcycle while trespassing. In fact, she was just one bad decision away from doing that, before she managed to pull herself back. "Oh my Buddha! You were really going to let me do that, you asswipe."

"Huh? Oh... What were you going to do? Sorry, not paying attention, watching Exorcist buy something sexy to eat," Burt muttered, paying zero attention.

"Grr! Now I want to jump on just to show you how I'd look so smokin' hot on it... and rich..." she sob/growled, hungrily eyeing the motorcycle. If something didn't happen fast, she was definitely going to get on it, so she decided to take the next door she saw. It'd be hard to explain how she accidentally got in back here but... well, she'd cross that bridge when she came to it. "I just passed the Buddha's test! They put that sick motorcycle there to test me. Now that I passed that, I built up enough good karma to make it all the way to the attic of this place without being spotted!" she resolved, as though she hadn't just coveted someone else's vehicle collection for an unhealthy period of time.
ResQ calmly walked deeper into the futuristic area, and took in the sights in an attempt to look like a "normal" guest as opposed to an operative looking for a target. Alex was watching as well, and was initially impressed by the set up. If they weren't on a mission, and ResQ wasn't being a wet blanket, they could probably have some real fun and maybe improve their relationship. One particular building, the "Wandering Comet," stood out and piqued ResQ's interest. It looked like a good place to start her search. ResQ changed her course to angle herself towards the sliding doors, before mentioning "I'll start here first." "Copy, I'll provide overwatch," Alex replied dutifully, prompting a slight eye roll from the Navi in response to his almost clichéd military jargon.

She moved inside, and quickly seemed to regret her decision. The bar was loud and crowded. Back in her "glory days" she appreciated a hopping club to allow her to easily fade into the crowds, but she loathed combing through similar locations to find a specific person. She barely slowed her pace as she did a quick scan to locate the bar, and upon finding it she started to make her way there. As she worked out a game plan in her head, she did note and find some pleasure in thinking how much it'll irk Alex to see her not remove her garrison cap while indoors. She didn't know all that much about military customs and courtesies, but she assumed a "straight-laced sucker" like Alex would quickly take offense to such a breach in policy. To her credit, Alex was initially about to chide the Navi for that very reason, but he held is tongue upon making a realization. Being "out of uniform" might actually help; so many of the others were in costume-like attire, so she could blend in even better.

ResQ continued to weave through the crowd with the intent of reaching the bar and getting a drink. Alex picked up on her intent, and commented on it via direct comms, which would ring loud and clear over the din of the bar. "That's the spirit, we can at least have some fun with it." ResQ's eyebrows flexed and her eyes narrowed before she hissed back "It's to blend in. Who walks around a bar without a drink?" "Point taken," he conceded simply as ResQ finally got to the bar. She perused the documents on the bar as she waited for a bartender to take her order. There were a wide variety of options, but the color-coding helped refine her search. She wasn't there to get drunk, and the idea of "stat-boosting" drinks threw up far too many 'red flags' in her mind for her to try one out. Her previous life taught her to be distrusting of others by default, and bartenders were definitely no exception. She defaulted to any citrus-flavored, low alcohol drinks.

After receiving her drink, she would move towards the left side of the bar; she saw a more lounge-esque seating area over there when she walked in. She'd keep her piercing amber eyes open for anyone who might meet the minimal description provided, but she'd focus her search to the cushier seating area.
While Mary continued to make a show of her supposed blindness, she could hear the fair continuing around her; the next bout of fantasy fighting was beginning, that same woman, whoever she was, was continuing to win at the kissing game, the after a few moments, the voice that had excused itself from the story-teller spoke up again quite close to her.

"Excuse me, miss? Hello? If you don't mind my saying, you seem a bit lost. I noticed that your friend, who was guiding you, just got whisked away, and I thought I'd best come over and see if you needed anything. Are you alright? Please, I'm DueAccountabilityMan, but most people just call me Duey. If you are having trouble getting around on you own, perhaps you'd let me assist you, at least until your friend returns." She'd feel a hand touch hers briefly, as though checking for permission, before shaking it if she allowed. "Don't worry about imposing, my own plans are very flexible, now, what can I help you with?" Duey sounded quite pleasant and earnest; his voice was unremarkable in any real way, but he sounded calm, friendly and sure enough of himself to not be shy.


Elsewhere, Exorcist was staring down the barrel of Burt's best picks for what snack she should have. Casing the options had left her standing in front of a set up vendor proclaiming itself to be the seller of "Big Will's Jumbo Alfredo Dogs!", which were, as advertised, quite large, and liberally dipped in thick white Alfredo sauce. The music from the outside band was winding down their current piece, creating a short lull before the next one began, but in the gap Exorcist was able to listen in more closely to the bits and pieces of conversation going on around... at least as well as she could over the 'dog vendor's enthusiastic sales pitching. Standing as close as she was, it was even louder than the power-drink seller pushing his own product across the way.

More interestingly, she was able to focus her eavesdropping on the pair of women she'd eyed earlier as they casually queued for the strength testing attraction.

"Anyway... you will playing in the games later this evening, won't you dear? I can't imagine you'd miss the chance..." the first was the deeper, richer voice of the more voluptuous woman. Beside her, the slighter one smirked with a vaguely boyish chuckle.

"I want to, yeah... but I'm going to have to put the brakes on a little. Probably at least. I want one of her business friends to win the grand prize, and see Zenny dressed up in something silly. I'm betting she's rigged it for a 'respectable' forfeit, even if it happens, but you never know..." They moved up the line as another navi tried his luck and walked away clutching a sprained arm.

"You think she would rig a charity event?"
"Hah... if you think she wouldn't, then you don't know Zennocracy... I'm half expecting her to suddenly announce that she's entering her own representative and throw Armistice into the ring, just to make sure she doesn't lose." The smaller woman shook her head, dryly amused at the situation, but still with an air of disappointment.

"I have not heard this name before... he is a friend of you... circle?"
"Ah... yeah. If it came to an out and out brawl between me and him, it could go either way." She growled softly under her breath. "Probably him, without my supports, but Zenny wins either way if we both end up going at it. She might not have called him though... Armistice is very... single-minded."
"Ah, a brute then?"
"Oh no... he's not stupid. Lots of people make that mistake." The line moved up further, another victim of the machine skulking off.
"Enough of that, how are things in Yoka? Tera and the others talk a lot about everything they went through there, but they're glad to be helping a new cause. Have things calmed down there?"
"It is... interesting. Things have cooled, certainly. I am concerned that the religious lady... Divina... She now has a stake in our sanctuary, but it has led to more awareness of us as well. We've had more homeless navis arrive and join us for protection, but we are also becoming more known as a sanctuary as well, and that has its own problems." The busy lady shrugged. "But then, if I was worried overmuch about that, I wouldn't be here, would I? It looks like it is your turn, my friend. Do be gentle!" The pained cry of another failed attempt saw the smaller woman grin and move up to the tester. A small donation tot he charity fund was required to play, and points were awarded based on how long before it beat you, or so the description read.

"A new challenger?!" The machine proclaimed for the umpteenth time as it took the strain. Small lights began to build as it increased pressure. "Come on, weakling!" "Oh a strong one?" "Worthy opponent!" "You are a strong man indeed!" At that proclamation, the woman laughed aloud, derisively, and the mechanical voice cut out into a garble of shrieking metal and snapping electronics. The housing tore as the metal tester sheared away from it and a gout of smoke and sparks erupted from the top of the device. The anarchist girl dropped the remnants of the metal arm and stepped away from the machine to the side, shrugging.

"Oops..." She didn't seem too repentant, really. The other woman just laughed, deep and rich. Fortunately for other would-be challengers, a small restore program popped up next to the device and quickly refreshed its code, restoring it to working condition for the next person. One thing Exorcist would be able to gather, if she listened in, was that the taller, more sexily dressed woman was probably one of those representing unoperated navis; her companion was both an intimidating figure despite her stature, and also somehow related to Zennocracy's circle of associates.

Something else might potentially catch her ear, if she was listening closely, was a slightly more furtive voice, not far from her at all. It was hard to pinpoint who was talking without looking about too obviously, but it was someone close by, amongst the crowd as the food vendors here.

"Holy hell... Jeeze, no wonder she doesn't look worried... Yeah, yeah, boss, I see her, but... she's got some freakish battle-loli with her... no, no, I mean... I think she's got a pretty beefy body-guard, alright? We're not equipped for that, unless they split up.... No I... yes... Yes, I know... right, yes, I'll see what I can do..." The voice would be hard to trace unless it kept talking, or unless Exxy dispensed with any pretence of subtly in seeking it, but at the same time, it didn't sound like whoever it belonged to was going to make a move right now.


Inside the bar, ResQ had a slightly different issue on her plate, in trying to gain more obvious leads on her targets. As hoped, the variety of fancy dress and costume-wearing individuals mean that she didn't stick out at all, and really just looked rather like another sci-fi fair goer. Acquiring a drink form the bar was equally easy, with only one small hitch... She easily selected a lemon-flavoured non-alcoholic drink called a Perseus Streaker, but as the bar-navi handed it to her his other hand came out with a grin and a smile.

"Here you are miss, that'll be just...." Before he could tell her how much she was expected to pay for the drink, his words trailed off and his eyes were over-coated by a rainbow spiral of colour that swirled in an uncomfortably identical mirroring of their employer's gaze. It faded after a moment and the bar navi blinked a few times and shook his head while his hand dropped. "Thank you miss, and enjoy your drink!" He turned to serve the next customer and left ResQ to process the odd moment.

Regardless, she'd probably find herself with a little more luck as she scanned the lounges, looking for likely suspects. She knew, for example, that Saija was presumably female, given the pronouns that Cryptic had used, and there weren't many women relaxing in the lounge currently. the one that caught the eye most would probably be a woman with strong Electopian features, dark hair and an outfit that fit the theme of high calibre and futuristic. She was wearing skin tight leggings in a deep red that seemed to have built in highlights that sparked and flared in lines down the length of the garment. Her midriff was exposed, though hard to see from where she was seated, and she was wearing a minimalist top with a high, flared back collar and armlets that ended in golden ring braces. She was sipping a very colourful drink and raising an eyebrow at the man with her, who was talking with enthusiasm and wide gesticulations of his hands. The man had very dark skin and a matching deep Netfrican accent. He was wearing an outfit mostly themed in white and silver, that looked like someone's guess at what business suites might look like a few hundred years into the future.

Before ResQ could decide on whether to approach this pair or not, however, another individual sidled up alongside her, affecting a casual lean against the bar, drink in hand. He had tanned skin and blonde hair, with a twinkle of amusement in light grey eyes. His outfit was... outlandish. It seemed to be a suite comprised almost entirely if small crystals, cut and polished to a gleam.

"Good day to you, beautiful. Here on business? You look like you're looking for something, maybe you'll let me help." He extended his free hand to shake if she hadn't tried to get rid of him yet; it had a simple gold band on one finger, and not, as she might have been expecting, an assortment of garish rings. "The name's Rhinestone... I'm a people-person. I meet people, I greet people, and I know people. If you're looking for someone, I can probably help. Looking after folks is something of a life for me after all. South Netopian Association for the Protection and Sanctuary of Unoperated Navigators. SNAPSUN. Hope you're donating generously!" He winked at her as he offered his hand.


Elsewhere, with arguably fewer worries on her list, a certain would-be Buddhist passed up the opportunity to saddle up on a sweet cycle and made her way forward through the vehicle Undercroft towards the door that presumably led to the estate mansion interior. The door itself wasn't locked, and there didn't seem to be any alarms, at least, none that she could hear. The door passed out into a plush carpeted hallway, which in turn led back deeper in. There were a number of doors on either side; some looked like they led to lower state guest rooms, while some were plainer yet and apparently passed into servant sections and some of the more behind the scenes parts of the mansion. There didn't sound like there was anyone else in the mansion, but the silence bore heavily all around, enough to make a sane person want to move quietly anyway.

It took a few minutes, but eventually the hall led back into a grand entry hall; if Bhikki had her geography fixed, she'd realise that the large doors to the south of her must certainly be the main doors of the mansion, which the sharply-dressed servant had been standing in front of. From here, she had choices about where to go in her search for the night's central prize.

The entry hall had a high, vaulted ceiling, creating a feel of open space that only grew greater as she moved into the mansion proper. The fixtures were mostly trimmed with gold and a mixture of white and black marble seemed to be the general theme of decor, though the walls bore a great many overly large portraits, presumably of Scotsdale family members, either in old-fashioned poses or engaged in symbolic gallantry. For every family painting, however, there was a beautifully appointed landscape, or an artistic, renaissance-era nude. For a net space page, the attention to detail was so precise that it would be easy to suppose it a reconstruction of a physical family estate somewhere out in the real world.

One one side, the entry hall progressed a way before opening into what was seemed like a dramatic ballroom, dark and silent for now. Nearer where Bhikki entered, another broad passageway looked like it might lead to a more common class entertaining room, with a bar and wood-tiled dance floor. The passage that she had emerged from was mostly dominated over by a broad staircase that climbed in a gentle curve towards the upper floor. Where it reached the wall and turned, the portrait of a pale-skinned woman with long, straight brown hair and grey eyes that seemed to pierce, even though they were just a painting... and a data painting at that. She had been captured in a deep red dress, shoulderless and with a neckline that promised much, yet revealed little. A gold plaque on the bottom of the portrait was clearly legible even from the bottom of the stairs, and read "Zenith Scotsdale XVI".

Beside it, smaller enough to be proper, but definitely not pulling any modesty, a second portrait was hung, displaying a second woman, similar in appearance to the first but with subtle differences: her hair was slightly wavy, and her eyes were a deeper blue colour, and rather than a demure smile, this woman bore a predatory grin for her portrait. She was also depicted dressed in a much more modern businesswoman's jacket and blouse, with a gold name pin on one lapel. While the pin might be hard to read from the bottom of the stair, the plaque on the base of the portrait, like Zenith's, was not. It proclaimed: " 'Capital is King' — Zennocracy.Exe".

There was no immediate sign as to where her prize might be, but the mansion was, not to put too fine a point on it, huge. From the outside, she would have been able to see at least one glass-walled conservatory, and another area with a broad balcony for dancing under the stars. As well as entertaining facilities, it was probably safe to presume that the mansion also boasted a lot of lifestyle and comfort rooms, though they might not all be on the ground floor. There was also the question of Zennocracy herself- Cryptic had mentioned that she would normally be out with the crowd at an event like this, but today, was not; it might mean that she was here inside somewhere, and was probably someone that Bhikki didn't expressly want to encounter.

ResQ faked a smile and raised her Perseus Streaker cocktail to the bartender and responded with a simple "Thanks." Her expression briefly resumed to a RBF as sour thoughts went through her mind. [[i]So 'CreepticMan' is also keeping tabs on me... great. If he's got his tendrils spread that much, why the hell does he need us?[/i]] she pondered in regard to what appeared to be direct meddling by their betentacled client. [[i]Or wait, is he- euuugh...[/i]] she mentally bemoaned her theory that CrypticMan's intention was actually to "buy her a drink," instead of trying to assist her in the mission. Alex also picked up on the tell-tale kaleidoscope light display on the bartender's face, but thought it to be more of ResQ's latter theory than former.

With now two compelling reasons to get back on task, she looked to the lounge area and found what might be her target of interest. However, before she could move in, she was interrupted by another program. She bit her tongue to avoid vocalizing her frustration at this newest unwanted variable in her mission. [[i]Aaaand enter "BedazzleMan." Don't you have ceiling to go hang from?[/i]] she thought mockingly as she sized him up. [[i]Hm, married? Or just needed one extra shiny bit to fully break every rule of fashion?[/i]] Though she would've been more than happy to vocalize her thoughts, Rhinestone's affiliations now gave him significantly higher importance in her mind. She accepted his handshake and feigned a smile. "I'm ResQ, pleasure to meet you," she said politely and fell back on old habits of her previous trade. "Actually I'm here on curiosity, heard the host was throwing a serious party, so I had to check it out," she continued, providing a neutral response so she could continue to "feel him out."

She took a sip of her drink, while Alex sent a message to Exorcist and Veda via their common channel.

Quote (Alexander)

Be advised, we've found a Rhinestone.EXE, who claims to be involved in a Unoperated Navi protection organization called SNAPSUN. No joy on locating SaijaTsun yet.
Once he sent the message, he got a "message failed to deliver" error from Veda.

Quote (Alexander)

What's Veda's status?

ResQ kept the drink in her hand and lowered it down to the bar as she continued to face Rhinestone, but tried to keep who she assumed to be SaijaTsun and her male compatriot in her peripheral vision. "SNAPSUN huh? So you run a shelter for Unoperated Navis or...?" she asked the gaudily-designed Navi. As long as who she thought was SaijaTsun was staying put, she'd play along with the walking disco ball, and maybe find out some info on any groups trying to gun for unoperated Navis.
"Duey? Hm... One of the 'clients' that CrypticMan mentioned," Mary recalled, as she allowed Duey to take hold of her hand. She gave a warm smile in return, clasping her fingers around his in a perhaps overly familiar return of the gesture. He wasn't the type she preferred: young, corruptible, that sort... but she wasn't overly picky either, so the smile was genuine enough. "Good to meet you, Duey. I'm Mary," she introduced herself, keeping her eyes closed, one veiled behind a wisp of her moist, pink hair. She managed to stop herself from announcing that she was also quite flexible, and instead responded, "That's very kind of you to offer! If you could kindly guide me out of the foot-traffic, I would be in your debt."

Presumably, he was going to do that anyway, but even if he didn't, she was ready to continue the conversation. It was hard to figure out exactly what she ought to say to get him involved in their scheme, so instead, she focused on small talk for now. "My friend, Veda, had to leave, and I suppose she simply forgot about my condition. I'd explain that to you, but you've already picked up on it," she chuckled, giving his hand another squeeze. "I'm afraid I'll be quite helpless until she returns, with no one to lead me around. Perhaps you could introduce me to the whatever's worth seeing... or hearing about, rather... around the fair? I'd be especially interested in learning all about the games."

Ironically, this was an instance where her nun outfit might fit in a bit better than the party dress she'd arrived in, but she didn't mind too much. She was going to keep that information about being a nun to herself, unless she encountered some reason to divulge it. She also remembered that, at some point, she was going to have to coax DueAccountabilityMan into the festival's main attraction, per CrypticMan's instructions, but she'd need to feel him out before she did. Perhaps literally.


Exorcist scanned the many treats around, though her criteria were significantly different than Burt's. "Something sweet... Hm... I wonder how much of the food is future themed? I recognize most of these types, though. I guess anything too odd would probably just end up as leftovers..." she pondered. "I want something sweet, though, like-"

"There!" Burt pointed towards his screen, causing his navi to jump slightly. She held her hand to her head instinctively, as though worried about her hat falling off, but she had no hat to hold on for now. "'God' spelled backwards is 'dog!' It is the will of Counterinfectualism that we get you one of those alfredo dogs!" he announced dramatically, clarifying where he was pointing, which hadn't been clear to Exorcist as she watched him from inside the PET.

"R-Really? But Counterinfectualism doesn't have a god..." she reminded Burt, while examining the snack. More appropriately referred to as a meal, the alfredo dog was easily the snack she wanted to eat least of anything she'd seen so far. "That looks really messy and.. um... gross," she complained, quietly so as not to offend the vendor. At this point, she wasn't as upset about not getting to eat something nice as she was now having the threat of the over-sized, ill-conceived alfredo dog. "I wonder who they actually normally sell these things to..." she pondered, stalling. "O-Oh, listen..." she whispered to Burt, continuing to look over other goodies while listening in to the conversation over by the strength test machine.


"Shhh," she encouraged him, putting on an extra serious face so Burt would know she was trying to focus. It sounded like the two girls were very relevant to the night's going-ons and they knew Zennocracy rather well. Furthermore, the bustier of the two ladies appeared to be involved with some sort of organization in Yoka, maybe a church by the sounds of it, that takes in unoperated navis... although it sounded like it was questionable as to whether the woman actually wanted that to be its purpose. "I suppose that's a pretty common dilemma for religious organizations... The need to help the poor versus the need to attract well-off members, who might not necessarily want to associate with poorer folks," she contemplated to herself. She wished she had Burt to wax religious-studious with... apparently there was a time where she might have a riveting conversation along those lines, but he'd changed significantly at some point. Likely, all she'd get out of him now is wondering how he himself could rake in a little church money, or more optimistically, a commentary on the obsolescence of the church in face of Counterinfectualism.

It sounded like the two weren't above a little property damage, but she wasn't worried about that; at this point, she figured she needed to get to them and talk about the potential imminent threat to unoperated navis. There was a strong possibility that the ones in danger were part of the church, or whatever organization it was, that had been mentioned. Those weren't the only two she was able to hear, however... somewhere close by, another voice was speaking, who seemed to be scoping out the two but for seemingly opposite reasons. All she knew was it sounded like the two were safe while they were together, but in danger if they split up. Exorcist knew that she'd need to discretely find some way to keep them together for now, lose the tail, and then explain the imminent danger. If she sprang the news within ear shot of the criminal, he'd likely realize his plans were compromised and they'd make some kind of desperation move, which could be dangerous for those needing protection.

"Exxy..." Burt whispered into his PET.

Exorcist could feel herself making a suspiciously hard expression and corrected her face with a soft sigh. "What do you think, Burt? Which way should I go with this...?" she asked.

"Purchase the wiener," he answered, adjusting his glasses with a cool expression.

With another, heavier sigh, Exorcist dismissed her operator's instructions and went to meet the two girls. All she could do at this point was make sure they didn't separate and try to guide them somewhere they could talk more privately, if there was such a place. She moved over to them, quickly, through the group. She didn't think trying to deceive them would work very well... she wasn't a very good actor at the best of times and they seemed pretty wary. Still, she had to find an in with them somehow. "Excuse me!" she'd call out, holding down her fluttery skirt for modesty's sake while she made her way quickly through the crowd. "Hello there!" she began, giving a short bow to each girl in turn. "My name's Exorcist. I heard you're from Yoka and I know a little bit about the sort of business you care for," she began, already beginning to grow a little flustered as she realized she didn't have even the most basic cover story prepared, but keeping her eyes focused on the taller one. "I've been, um... interested in that sort of business for a long time, so I was wondering if I might audition somewhere privately, to show you what I could do to help out around the place? I'd definitely be a credit to your organization! I've read up on a lot of different things and... and I could probably do good work for you."

"Buh? A church?" Burt asked privately, finally revealing he'd been paying attention, but having drawn the same, perhaps unfortunate, conclusion his navi had. "We've got no need for a church, Exorcist! I don't want you making any commitments we're going to have to honor later, dammit..."

Exorcist ignored him for now, hoping the two navis would be willing to hear her out and wouldn't treat her like the little one had just treated the strength testing machine. She also hoped that they wouldn't ask if she'd been eavesdropping, ask if she even knew their names, ask why she needed to privately audition to join up to help with a church...


Bhikkhuni moved as quietly as she could manage through the mansion; she'd sort of imagined the place would be swarming with servants, but, fortunately for her, they either had the day off or they were currently involved with the festivities instead. The little thief saw much worth stealing, though little that she thought she could actually discretely smuggle out. The worst part about rich people's expensive displays was that they tended to be very grandiose and what was grandiose did not tend to fit in one's pockets. Plus, anything that was on display would be missed. She gulped, the sound nearly audible in the quietude of the house. She began to doubt if she even had the nerves necessary to steal one of the owner's letter-openers, let alone anything of value. Beyond that, could she really do what she'd actually been sent in here to do? This was not the kind of person a coward would choose to pick a fight with...

The owner(s) of the fine mansion around her were depicted in extravagant paintings; despite the fact that she'd wandered in to steal from them, she found herself feeling as if they were the ones sizing her up, measuring her value... and in that, she felt less than adequate. "Geez... these sexy girls and their sexy motorcycles... this whole mansion could be booby-trapped with anti-theft devices! Who even knows on the net?" she realized, now very wary of what she'd signed up for. "But I didn't come in here to steal anything! I came in here to play a little prank, that's all!" she remembered again, to which she imagined that the wolfish smile on the face of the smaller portrait only became wider.

Suddenly, she wanted nothing more than to finish up her business in the mansion and go outside to the festival with the others. "A festival's nice, fun even! I should have stayed out there..." she thought to herself wistfully glancing at one of the windows, which was so far away that it really drove home how large the building was. At any rate, servant's quarters and guest quarters weren't likely where she'd find the costume she was supposed to switch out... she'd have to find it, then swap it out with something... she'd think about that when the time came. "I'm sure Burt has something funny I could put there..."

Bhikkhuni had to concede that it seemed like finding the costume was going to be looking for a relatively worthless needle inside a stack of extremely tempting hay. There were many interesting rooms here on the first floor, but none that seemed especially likely to have what she needed. She figured she needed to start on the higher floors. Unfortunately, that might mean getting closer to the head of the house, if she happened to be freshening up for the party. Very carefully, she made her way up to the second floor using the staircase. "Where would she likely keep that costume? It would be... out of sight, because she doesn't want anyone to see it and tamper with it or even laugh about it. It would probably also be somewhere she could hang it," she theorized. "So what I need is maybe... a dressing room or a bedroom. Oh God... what if she's got it stored away behind some secret bookshelf where I'll never find it? Maybe I should have tried to charm the butler into spilling the beans after all," she groaned internally, while her eyes scanned frantically for something like a bedroom where Zennocracy might keep the clothes.
In the fantasy area of the fair, Mary had been quite comfortably assisted by her new friend out of the main thoroughfare and to a quiet table in the seating near the band. as well as walking by her side and holding her arm gently, the jovial navi also made sure to pull out a chair for her, and place her hand on the back of it, so that she would know where the seat was. A new piece of music began, smoothly masking the sounds of faux combat from those not directly around the fantasy fighting ring.

"Here we are, Mary. Just take a seat here for now, and we'll wait for a spell and see if your friend returns... unless she isn't going to be coming back?" The seating was surprisingly comfortable for pop-up fair ground arrangements, and one cold easily relax into to sounds of activity all around and find a modicum of peace without any trouble at all. Duey, friendly and cordial as ever, hesitated for a moment before continuing. "I must say, it's quite unusual to meet a navi with a difficulty like yours. I hope you don't mind my saying so, of course, it's just that few really wish to find themselves limited in such a way, and we're generally much easier to fix up after an accident than our operators tend to be. Although, I suppose," he grew thoughtful. "Problems like that would be much more troublesome for navigators without an operator on the outside to help. That's what this whole shindig is about though, isn't it? From what I hear, the representatives from at least three major sanctuaries are here, to help encourage the fund raising, and Zennocracy's estate has promised to match the totals raised over the course of the day."

"It's odd, really.. It's not like Zenny to be so generous with her coin unless she's getting something substantial out of it. I just don't know what. The publicity and good press wouldn't be enough for the kind of outlay she's got to be expecting here... there must be something else that none of us are in the loop about..." He stopped, a small intake of breath and the sound of his fancy dress shuffling slightly. "Sorry, don't listen to me, just rambling on about business when we've got a faire to enjoy! Now, you wanted to hear about the attractions, didn't you, let me see..." A small cheer went up from the fighting area, and there was applause from the stage as well, as whatever act that had been on concluded.

"Well, here, we're in the fantasy themed section. There's a a stage, from where you just heard the applause, doing a lot of different minor acts, though, that's probably not going to be too entertaining for you, I'm afraid, they're mostly visual performances. Next to that, there's a ring where they play at little fantasy war games. It's all quite amusing, if fighting is your thing, I suppose. You pick a class when you sign up, and it gives you a selection of skills and abilities to fight with. No-one gets hurt, of course, and it's all safe. Better, I think, than the rumble that's slated for later this evening at least." He sighed, and Mary might be able to imagine a tired shake of the head, if she was listening to his movements closely.

"There are some other small games here and there, as well s the food and such. There's a story-teller, just back a ways. That might interest you perhaps? I hear that the old man, Logos, he calls himself, is a good friend of Zennocracy, but he tells a great tale. Really paints the pictures in your mind. Other than that... oh, there's some kind of kissing game too, just that way. Up until a moment ago, there was a lady who seemed to be winning all the time and wouldn't stop, though I must confess, I don't exactly know how one wins or loses at such a thing... not really my cup of tea. But she seems to have disappeared now, so maybe someone else will get a turn. I think that's mostly it for games and attractions here. I've not actually explored the other side of the faire yet, I'm sorry to say, though it's all science and scie-fi themed, if you weren't aware.

While he was chatting away, Mary, if her ears were particularly sharp, might hear something of a subtle whisper from a table not far behind her. This one might stand out because its contents were far less reassuring than most of the other chatter.

"Think we're in the clear out here. No-one seems to have seen anything suspicious and no-one followed. If you're private, get her secure and take her below, quick and quiet-like." The whisper came from behind her and to the right somewhere, likely at another of rest tables. Duey didn't seem to have heard it while he chattered on, and now spoke up louder with a sudden thought.

"Oh! I know. I should introduce you to my good friend Mordenite. Some people are a bit taken aback when they see him, but I don't imagine you're one to judge a book by its cover, are you Mary? He's a charming gentleman, and likes to stay in the background and just watch and appreciate things. I'm sure he'd be very pleased to sit quietly with you and tell you all about everything that's going on, if you were interested?" The question would leave Mary with a couple of quick decisions to make.


Over the other side of the faire, Exorcist was being helped in distinctly unhelpful ways by her operator's input, but for now it seemed like she wasn't about to partake of a Big Willie. Instead she approached the two women who had begun to stroll on towards other minor attractions, taking in the scenery. The band finished one song, calling out a brief thanks to everyone for listening, and a name; apparently they were Symphonia's Songsters, the speaking band leader herself, presumably being Symphonia. After a short lull, they began again with another thematic piece. By the time Exorcist had approached and begun introducing herself, the two ladies had paused in their walk to face her.

The taller, bustier woman looked at her with a cool expression and a raised eyebrow, a small smile on crimson lips and a soft laugh rising in her throat. The shorter one had unconsciously put her hands to her hips and tilted her head to one side, measuring Exorcist up and down with her eyes.

"I run a private house in a secluded area of the Yoka nets, young lady... one far from the beaten track of tourist locations. I would be surprised if you knew of it and its services without being a local yourself, unless someone else referred you to us. Let me look at you. Hmm..." Her eyes appraised Exorcist in a far more unabashed way that the shorter woman's more mercenary assessment, but she looked thoughtful as her eyes wandered. "What do you think, Uprising?" The other woman responded to the name, which seemed more or less fitting given her anarchist attire, even if it was a costume, with a short, rough laugh of her own.

"I think that when you're here representing a place of safety and sanctuary for navigators with nowhere to go, interviewing someone for working at Koshoku isn't really something you should do here and now. But at least she didn't come to you half dressed and flashing the goods in public." She put her hands behind her head, then shrugged. The other lady nodded and tilted her head back the other way, eyes still on Exorcist.

"It would have been far more tactful, child, to seek me out at Yoka. If you know Koshoku, then you know that the red house is always open. Still... you are designed to look... young, and your form is, shall we say, classical. I admit, we normally cater to locals, with local tastes, so we do indeed have a slight disparity in some of the more exotic looks, for our region. If you are in earnest, my girl, we will have a talk, of course, but let me first ask you this: nearly all who live and work in our community are unoperated, and there is a complex web of politics that keeps the houses from each others' throats and ensures that the community can continue to operate as a sanctuary for those in need. Do you have an operator of your own?" Here, she reached out one hand in an offer to taking Exorcists in hers. "If you do not, then please, understand; our haven will offer safety to any who seek it, and there is no requirement that you dedicate yourself to a house, or work in any way that you do not wish to. Indeed, I might say that mistress Divina's influence on Kōzuke has made it quite welcoming of outsiders, without any great need for them to acquit themselves with a political stake." They were passing back along the other side of the way they had walked at first, now that the two women had begun to stroll again, presumably a taking Exorcist with them, but it seemed as though the taller woman had made up her mind in some small way. "If you desire some privacy while we talk, that can be arranged. I find these sorts of interviews are best when both parties are comfortable enough to talk frankly about what is and is not."

While the curvier woman was doing most of the talking, uprising still seemed mostly relaxed, but she also didn't seem to interested in wandering away, even after expressing the idea that her friend probably shouldn't do a job interview while they were at a party. Her eyes drifted about the faire grounds, and occasionally to the food vendors, but elsewise she seemed comfortable just to accompany her friend until the matter was settled. They'd moved enough that Exorcist would likely have no chance of really narrowing down the speaker she'd heard muttering before, so the best she could probably do about it now was to stay alert.


Quite close to where this conversation was taking place, ResQ was also dealing with a couple of spinning plates of her own, inside the sci-fi bar. She's picked up on her client's interference, but it really was anyone's guess as to why. It was probably quite a valid concern, however, to wonder exactly why there was a need outside help and assistance from people who were unrelated and unknown. A question to think carefully about indeed.

It was a line of thinking she might need to put on aback burner, however, while she entertained conversation with the dramatically glitz representative for one of the navi sanctuaries. Behind Rhinestone, the women pegged as Saija sipped her drink and rolled her eyes at her companion, muttering something under her breath that was hidden by her drink, even if ResQ had the skill to lip read. She reached out a hand to prod the dark-skinned man with a finger, nudging him until he laughed — this one ResQ could hear as a rich, deeply amused sound — and leaned back in towards her, pressing his face towards her neck in something that was somewhere between a nuzzle and a quick kiss. His hand drifted to her knee as he did, and though Saija leaned back afterwards, her eyes flicked between the hand and her companion's face a few times without actually moving the familiar touch away. Rhinestone was talking to her.

"Yes, something like that! In fact, I've been running SNAPSUN for about three years now, and I like to think we've helped many lost souls find home, or at least some safety, in the difficult times that losing ones operator leaves. It only hurts me that there are so many out there that we can't reach, or can't help, and I'd really like to expand out capabilities and operations, as it were. So, of course, I was thrilled to attend this faire on behalf of the organisation. Very good form of Zennocracy, and the Scotsdale family, putting on an event like this." He paused to sip his own drink, then leaned back on the bar in a more relaxed fashion.

"I hear that there are two other major operations attending the event as well... There's a woman who represents a group of old houses, that function as a haven in a secluded area of Yoka, goes by the name Madama Sanguine, so I hear... We've not been formally introduced yet, but I hope to meet her later. And there's a lady who speak for a charity that operates in Sharo. Not an actual sanctuary or haven, that one, but they are a charity who gives to unoperated navis in need, and they run a couple of secret safe houses and protection programs for those with a legitimate fear of danger or pursuit. They keep that part of it quite hush-hush, though, understandably, so I don't know any more details than that, and wouldn't share them even with a new friend, if I did. Hope you understand. The lady calls herself CascadingGrace, or just Grace for short. Charming young woman, and very clever behind her bubbly exterior. Quite the kisser, too." Here he laughed and slapped the bar at his own humour.

"Don't get any ideas; I met her by a kissing game where she was raising quite a lot of money for charity, I must say." Talkative or not, the man had actually passed on a few interesting snatches of information without much prodding; the trick might actually be getting him to stop, as it turned out. He continued a moment later.

"Still, if it was just curiosity and a fancy party that brought you here, I hope you'll still consider tossing a few Zenny our way, or maybe earning some donation points at least. It is for a very pressing good cause after all. So, Rescue," just speaking vocally, he likely hadn't picked up on the subtleties of her actual name. "Interesting name... mind if I ask what line of work you're in? Sounds quite community-minded to me, or maybe that's just my perspective." He chuckled at that, but was, at least, giving her a chance to talk now. Alert as her own senses were, it was probable that ResQ would notice brief signs of movement and an out of place sound or two coming from the doorway that presumably led down into a cellar below the bar — it was subtle but it didn't sound like the normal bar sounds of stock being moved. no-one else seemed to be paying attention to it currently — the bar was crowded and noisy, and only someone already suspicious and treating the place like a potentially hostile environment would be likely to notice something like that.


Far away from the party notice, Bhikki was feeling more than a little bit intimidated by the grandeur of her case. In fairness to her, the mansion was something that most found to be quite intimidating, and she herself was quite small. Her first target was switching the forfeit costume, though, and to the young Buddhist's mind, that meant finding Zenny's private quarters. Correctly, she guessed that these would be upstairs. Being that it was a private home, there were no additional signposts here, but the mansion remained empty, as near as she could tell, and it gave the girl enough time to look around carefully and quietly.

The second floor seemed to contain, at nearest guess, some kind of observatory, an extensive library, a few smaller meeting rooms, and a very long, grand hallway sporting an artistic ceiling fresco that appeared to portray the entire history of the rise of the Scotsdale family in classical style, while portraits of generation after generation of numbered Scotsdale family heads, all named either Zenith for the females, or Maxwell for the males, lined the walls. The numbers decreased the further down the hall one went, while the depiction of the history moved forward. Without actually going all the way thee, Bhikki would be able to see that the main hall ended in a single door, and it was clearly something important. If the mistress of the mansion had some personal or private quarters set aside, they would almost certainly be behind that door.

"Maybe I could offer a word of advice to a pretty girl?" From behind her, a smooth male voice carried a smile and some amused, friendly warmth to it. If she turned around, she would find that it belonged to a handsome male, a little above average height but not enough to warrant being called tall. his actual features were plain, but pretty; skin lightly tanned, sandy brown hair that was loose and rough in a roguish way, and eyes that looked mostly green. His grin showed a flash of white, well-kept teeth.

If the themes outside were fantasy or sci-fi, this one was definitely dressed for the fantasy aspect. He was wearing green-stained leathers and outlined a lithe, athletic form, and wore a quiver of arrows at his hip, with a long curved bow over his back, just poking up from behind a long, deep green cloak that had the hood thrown back to leave his head exposed. there was a small knife hilt poking up from the top of one leather boot, and as well as the quiver he was wearing a sword-breaker on the other side, with many neat slots, and a long dagger on the other, nestled beneath the quiver.
He was leaning against one wall, arms folded in a nonchalant, relaxed manner. He didn't seem surprised to see Bhikki sneaking through the mansion, but then, he hardly looked like he belonged there himself. He winked at her, still grinning.

"There's a lot of things a pretty lass might get up to in place like this, but I'd think that walking in on the boss lady while she's working is probably not the wisest one. Now, I can think of two things you're probably here to do, and I'll help you with one of them. What would you like it to be?" He spoke quietly, but it was the kind of voice that had the often unfortunate knack for making women's underwear fall down. Given the circumstance, however, the potential thief and clothing switcher might be more interested in deciding whether this was a figure she could trust or not.