WAC Secure Labs

It wasn't likely either Phero, Eris or Boil would recognize the laboratory space they would find at their client's attached coordinates. The majority of the laboratory was hidden in darkness, but shapes of various unknown devices, cabinets, and furniture cast silhouettes in the room. Even finding the door (assuming there was one) would be a challenge. Only a few figures in the room were readily identifiable, and would likely take the focus of the new arrivals:

First, dominating the room, a large rectangular box, approximately thirteen feet tall, framed in clean, polished metal adorned with stenciled letters that probably identified it to someone with trade knowledge. Each face of the box featured a huge panel that looked like frosted glass: peering inside revealed nothing but a dim glow and smoky, unidentifiable shapes inside, only one of which was moving. Closer observation would reveal some of the letters on the sides of the box were, in fact, LED displays, although none of the text displayed was changing. Some labels of note included "WAC WONDER WALL - U1 v1.1," a painted stencil, and "OCCUPIED ID 03," an LED read-out. A number of thick, dark, smooth tubes fed into the box from the top, seemingly still... there was likely even more equipment above, but it was impossible to tell with only the dim glow of the sides of the box itself illuminating. Closer inspection would also reveal a recessed handle on the outside of a panel in the glass the women were facing. There wasn't any sign of a lock.

In front of the facing panel was a monitor, and a panel with a conspicuously huge number of unlabeled knobs and a digital keyboard for text entry. The panel was lower than head height, comfortably positioned for sitting while reading. The only text currently displayed on the monitor was "LOCKED - Enter Password", and a box for text entry just below it displayed a number of flickering asterick characters.

The figure seated at the monitors was a bit hard to make out in the faint glow, largely because of her posture. The young woman was wearing what looked like a graduation cap, although a keen observer would notice it had no tassel. The cap locked into the midnight blue earguards on either side of her head, and a messy mop of dark hair reached the back of her neck. The earguards displayed her symbol, a green circle with a white, horizontally-oriented rectangle. Most of her figure was obscured, as she was wearing a graduation gown and had her knees tucked into her chest on the black cushioned swivel-chair before the monitor. Her gown sleeves seemed to be rolled up to her shoulders, exposing thin arms and fingers of swarthy complexion. All of her attention seemed focused on her work at the computer; however, while her fingers were moving steadily, they weren't nearly rapid enough for her to be directly altering the monitor's display. Rather, she had a digital display of her own in front, with a number of unique characters that were impossible to decipher. The woman was muttering to herself in a low tone, and only snippets could be heard: "...One one one one one one one? One? Stooges..." *clack clack clack* "Foolish mortals! Nyuhuhu... Foolish mortals...!" *clack clack* *pause* *clack *clack* "Hee! Fooli- Huh? Oh, new access. Mmm..."

At that point, the lady seemed to finally recognize the others had arrived and swiveled in her seat. With her back to the box, only the light from her own personal display lit her face, putting a purple glow against her large, round, thick-lensed glasses. Her mouth was curved into a toothy smile, but it didn't look especially friendly; more like that was her resting face. Facing the Navis, her height and thin frame would make her look younger than the others gathered, although that was tough to verify in the low light. "Mmm...!" She would remain quiet and unreadable in spite of her seemingly pressing work, during which time the ladies might introduce themselves. Introductions or not, her brow furrowed over her glasses, a bead of sweat forming as she chewed her lip. "Hrmmmmm...!"
[>> Phero and Boil, as well as...? - NetSquare]

Eris was the first of the three to arrive at the designated area, having followed the coordinates through the Mission BBS in the NetSquare. "Whoa, it's dark," she commented rather matter-of-factly, as she looked around the area. The unlit laboratory provided an instant surge of curiosity inside of her as she hopped off from the entry point. Of course, the biggest focus of the room was the giant rectangular box with glass panels that appeared to show the insides of the box. "...? What's this?" she said, tilting her head here and there as she looked at the display panels, as if looking at it from a different angle would divine part of its mysteries to her.

Soon enough, however, she would direct her attention elsewhere, and her eyes would be set on the only Navi that was visible inside the room. "Hi! I'm here for the top secret mission!" she announced, clasping her hands behind her back as her tail turned about, appearing to examine the area around them, and then finally the Navi in front of Eris. For the moment, it was silent, but kept its pointed end towards her.
Despite their scientific operators and semi-scientific backgrounds, neither Phero nor Boil recognized the machinery in the center of the room they'd jacked into; they were just as in the dark as Eris, figuratively and literally. "Um... Hm. I've never seen one of these before. Boil, do you know?" she asked, leaning her torso this way and that to give the device a confused glance from a few different angles, though it didn't illuminate any new information for her.

Her new assistant wasn't able to help any more than the examination did, though she wanted to try. "It's... erm... i-it may be some sort of cultivation chamber for a type of net-being, such as a navi or virus," she posited, offering a supposition as substantial as the steamy air around herself. She was, for now, thankful that neither of her allies were likely to call her out on the baseless claim.

"It could be that! I used to have something like that, though it was a 'learning chamber' and had a little walking around room," Phero agreed, then put it out of her mind for now. While Boil found herself pondering the ramifications of a strange chamber that locked itself from the outside and the threat that might pose to Phero and herself, Phero herself joined Eris in greeting the girl who was presumably their host. "Y-Yes! We're Phero and Eris, from the GNA board. Boil is over there," she added, pointing over to where Boil was lingering in the background. She had never met a person who acted like this shadowy girl did and suddenly felt a little insecure in her ability to guide Eris on appropriate behavior here. "We're very eager to start!" she continued hopefully. Ordinarily, she'd ask for a hug now, but considering she hadn't actually really been greeted in the traditional sense, she thought that adding her own unique spin on it seemed a little silly.
Eris and Phero spent some time upon arrival observing the centerpiece of the room, but even if she were to try the door, she'd find it as unyielding as the smoky silhouettes hidden by the tank's panels. Finding no answers there, the two approached the robed stranger.

The woman continued to mutter as Phero finally provided some names. Her eyes darted from Phero, to Eris, to Boil, to Eris's tail... but ultimately came to rest on Phero, her brow continuing to knit as if in thought. "Mmm... Phero, right..." A twitch tweaked the corner of her mouth, as if she were waiting for Phero to say something more. Either way, she would awkwardly fumble on. "Eris. Uh... Boil. Pass. I'm Pass, your client. I'm not a conversationalist, exactly. But I'm your client, you'll be doing my mission and... I look forward to working with you," she muttered, speaking quickly and clutching her tablet with antsy tightness. She finally tried on a polite smile at the end, a tight gesture that quickly fell to her resting smirk again.

"Eager is good! Details, onto details. Ask and ye shall receive. So, um... I'll keep it as simple as possible," Pass cleared her throat dramatically, looking vaguely like a lecturer with her glasses and academic gear as she began. "A Navi who works here is trapped in that device, called a... well... I'm gonna hold details cause a lot of this stuff it's better if you don't know. The Navi was testing in there and accidentally locked herself in. What a world! Well, she managed to get a message out to me so I could come solve her problem, but since then her condition must've gotten worse cause she went communication dark."

As Pass's explanation picked up speed, she began gesturing with her hands more. She grew animated, even if the gestures often lacked any obvious purpose. "So, she's trapped. But I'm here! Never fear, nyeho... Ahem. So I'm trying to brute force crack this thing from the outside. She wants to get outta there but she wants it done without anybody else finding out it happened, cause it's humiliating. And kinda funny! But not for her... So! Students, quiz time! If I'm here trying to brute force the security from the outside, what are you here to do?"

Pass would remain quiet for a bit as if waiting for an actual answer, long enough for them to venture some actual guesses. Seeing as it wasn't likely they'd hit on the right answer, she'd eventually snigger and wag a finger. "No no! Study harder, mortals! If I'm working it from the outside, that means you're working it from the inside! There are two other labs in this area with similar tanks. All you gotta do is, Part 1! Go out that door over there," she instructed, pointing a skinny finger into the dark behind them. As she pointed it out, whether it was due the new knowledge or simply eyes adjusting to the low light of the room, the women would become aware of a handle protruding in the dark, and the faint outline of a door. "That'll put you in the hall. Part 2! Go left. Not right, not forward, up, down, or back. Left, okay, students? Left is where you'll see additional labs. I've already worked some magic taking down security, but you don't wanna hang around the halls and bump into anybody, okay? My magic can't save you then, and you won't get to Part 3! Part 3 is you go in the lab," she said, walking her fingers of one hand into an arch formed by her other. "You go in the lab and you go in the machine. When you're in the machine you're in Part 4! Now part 4 is the fun part: uncharted territory. By now, you've probably put it together, right? Quiz time, students! Why would I want you... wa-"

Pass finally paused, choking on her words and licking her lips. "Ah... one moment students..." The lecturer reached into the folds of her robe and producing a bottle of soda from beneath. She chugged it vigorously and wiped her mouth, capping it again and stashing it in a single, quick motion. "Aah! Why would I want you to go in the machine? How would that help me with my goal?"

At this point, Pass allowed a large pause in the lecture, evidently expecting an actual response. She remained paused with a finger raised and a conspiratorial grin on her face, as long as it took to get some guesses. If they took long enough, they'd eventually see her put a fist to her mouth in an attempt to stifle what was generously a cough but, in actuality, probably a burp.
"Oh, someone's in that box? Hmmm... Brute force... crack. Uh, I guess we can help smash it so it cracks easier? It looks like a pretty sturdy box, so maybe we can help throw some fire on it. Pow!" exclaimed Eris enthusiastically, throwing a couple of punches forward in a one-two to indicate her proposed solution. She turned to her inviter, her fists still extended into the air. "What do you think, Phero?"

However, the solution was quickly shot down with Pass's next revelation--that they had to do it from the inside. "Eh? We're going to go inside?" she questioned, as Pass pointed out the door they had to go through. "Oh, not inside the box." Afterwards came some more instructions, and Eris bounced them in her head for a little while. However, her interest was quickly taken by something else, as she seemed more interested in the soda bottle that Pass had extracted than the previous instructions, her eyes following it as it was taken out, then back into the robes.

"That looks good..." she muttered, before jumping as she realized her stare, and wiped a trail of black drool from her face. "Oh! Quiz time. Uh... Machine... goal... Mmm... Oh! I know! The machine has a tunnel into the box!" Her hand shot into the air, as if it was some classroom with a teacher picking out the correct answer. "Oh, also, can I try some of that drink? It looks good!"
"Yep! I'm Phero," Phero agreed with the lady who was presumably their employer. She smiled and waited patiently as the rest came out. "Pass... I remember that name! You're friends with Toss and Dart, aren't you? That's kinda neat! Did you get to see any of their show?" she asked, tilting her head slightly. If she'd thought a little harder, she might remember that Pass might have some negative feelings about that show, either from being excluded or from it being broadcast in the first place, but all she remembered for now was that Pass was a friend of a friend. "Funny... Because of their names, I sort of assumed you'd be a navi specializing in physically passing things! But instead, you look... academic... so I guess there's another reason?" Or maybe Pass was really an all-star Netopian footbomber player under her robe? No, that didn't seem likely.

The group listened, Eris offering her own suggestions a bit prematurely for how they could help by busting open the box. "Um... I guess I could give it a shot or two if we need to, but I'm worried if we went at it too hard, we'd hurt the person inside! I hear that suddenly disconnecting somebody from machinery they're testing can be dangerous. That's what I hear, anyway," Phero worried, remembering a bit from safety guidelines she'd learned back during her own development period. As it turned out, their employer didn't want them attacking the box anyway, which was a bit of a relief for her.

Boil stepped closer, coming around to the side of the other girls. She lowered her eyebrows and pursed her lips a bit more than usual, knitting her brow hard. "That's quite ridiculous," she commented, at the notion of a tester getting trapped inside the test device like that. "The way you stated it, I'm assuming you want us to open the box without brute force, presumably by means of hacking," she murmured, casting a sideways glance at Eris, her eyes hidden behind her steamed up glasses. "Which is good. Destroying machinery is a hypocritical task for a scientist."

As it so happened, she was still wrong. Steam shot out of her ears as she angrily pretended to straighten her glasses, while actually facepalming. "From the inside? That's nonsense! You just said the tester got trapped inside, and you're asking us to go in too?!" she complained.

"N-Now, let's listen a bit longer," Phero encouraged her new SP, hoping to bring the volume back down. As she listened, the mission certainly seemed simple enough. "Can do!" she agreed, a bit too easily.

"No, no. Can not do!" Boil protested, stomping her foot again. "We-!" she started, but before she could get far, they got another test. She crossed her arms and glowered at the other glasses girl in the room. "I certainly hope you're not implying that Phero... or Eris... has to undergo whatever dangerous procedure got the first tester locked in. There's no way I'm allowing Phero... or Eris... into one of these things until I'm fully certain it's safe."

"That wasn't her question though," Phero reminded Boil, although Boil thought it was the far more important question to get answered. "Well, um... maybe we can look around at the inside of the machine and we can call out to you how it opens on the inside! Then we can instruct the other tester how to get out!" she surmised. She was using her brain... just perhaps not enough. "A tunnel might make sense... but then, Pass or the person inside would have already used it..."

Boil waved one hand in front of her face as though shooing away an unpleasant smell or dismissing a bad pun as part of a comedy duo. "Eh, I doubt that. If it were that easy, the tester would certainly have been able to get out already. She probably could not receive such instructions." Here, Boil smirked; it seemed she was the only one competent enough to propose a real, valid possibility. "Obviously, the machine generates some kind of simulation, almost like a net inside a net. The goal is to get us to find her inside that space and bring her out or free her. Is that right?" she asked, pointing one finger forward dramatically. Surely this was the correct answer, meaning she'd earn the respect of Phero and Eris and begin to guide this mission properly on track and not just make a fool of herself. Though, she'd still need a great deal further detail before she consented to allow Phero to participate in the mysterious ploy. In the end, it probably wasn't her decision to make regardless, however much she might feel like it was...
Pass jumped a bit as Phero revealed she seemed to know her, casting her eyes aside in a guilty expression. "Uh, oh, show? Uh, mm, m-might've seen a bit..." The Navi didn't bother responding to the questions on her specialties, treating them as internal musings she'd just happened to hear, not meant for an answer. Instead, she had launched directly into her information/lecturing. When she first paused for answers, she again jumped as Eris offered a practical, direct approach to breaking the box's security. It didn't cause her to stop, though, as she continued on to her second. She held her smrik as the others talked, obviously waiting until each person had spoken to dramatically reveal her answer. "Umm... Let's see. Eris, you get an F. I don't think you were paying attention. Boil... you get a D. A net inside a net? That's some imagination! Uh, I don't think these are anything as grand as that. Phero, you're actually very close. Close, but no cigar! Not close enough in my classroom, and also, you're going along with these other silly ideas too easily. B minus! Kehehe-" she started, before seeming to only just now realize the women might be getting annoyed by this quiz aspect and sheepishly seeming to retreat. "Umm... The grades don't r-really mean anything, you know, they're just for fun... hehe... A-also, get your own soda!" The girl complained, pulling her cloak to herself protectively as she addressed Eris. "This stuff ain't... well, uh, how about we say that if you do a good job in this mission, I'll toss some in as a reward? It's the nectar of the gods, and I am a generous god, mortal! Anyway, let me continue..."

The girl crossed her arms, showing her teeth in a grin. "As Phero said, my goal is to have you three try to figure out how she could have managed to close this thing from the inside, and what conditions actually open this thing on the inside. The other testing boxes should be the same as this one. So, yes, student," she said, first shooting her eyes in challenge to Boil and then quickly casting them away, apparently too nervous to even make eye contact with steamed goggles of someone that excitable. "Yes, that means I expect you all to enter. But, uh, if you don't want to enter Boil, I somehow feel... that'll probably be fine... I dunno much about these things, of course! But somehow I feel like an ol-." She started, gulping and grinning more widely. "An SP! I dunno how an SP would affect things. You could stay outside and keep an eye on things. But uh, if you do wanna go in and keep an eye on Phero or whatever, that's probably fine too. Anyway, you ladies don't have to worry about getting trapped in there, cause eventually I'm gonna crack this security, regardless. With or without your help! Your help will just speed it up. So when I crack it, obviously I'll get you all out if you're stuck."

The Navi paused here, drawing her soda out again and taking another chug, her eyes darting to Eris in a guilty way, looking ready to jump back if she was confronted. "So those are the basics. I saw enough of the system to tell the other boxes aren't locked and probably aren't in use, so you shouldn't have trouble getting in. Security is down, so don't worry about cameras. There should be very little if any staff right now, so even a mortal can probably move around without being seen... But, uh, if you do get seen this could get kinda weird and you'll need to find a way out. Or rely on my genius! Speaking of my genius," she paused, grinning widely again and producing a few devices from beneath her cloak. "Tada! These'll clip onto an ear or earpiece and allow us to communicate. To make it easy, I've configured it so that mostly it's just me talking to you. This'll also let me track your position on this tablet. If you need to talk to me, say the word 'chatter' and it should make it so I can hear you. I don't expect whatever puny interference is messing up communication from this box to stop my superior device! So, once you get in and figure it out, maybe I'll have broken down the communication barrier and can get it into my trapped client here... or, maybe my great genius will break the lock itself first. Who can say how great genius works? It's all flashes of inspiration!"

The girls might want to check out the device before clipping it anywhere... especially Phero, who'd recently had an interesting experience with earpieces. The devices were small, mostly round, and purple, curved to fit comfortably in an ear. At one end of the curve was a small microphone attachment, extendable and retractable. At the other end was a tiny antennae and a small, round magnet, designed to attach it to a typical Navi ear-piece. At least in appearance, it was clearly different from the ones Phero had received in her previous mission at the beach.

Pass gave her genius a congratulatory laugh once again, then paused pensively. "Am I forgetting anything...? Well, just go straight from here to therere without any detours. And if you get inside and can't figure it out, how to get out I mean, don't sweat it. I mean, I definitely want the help, but uh... you don't exactly seem like the most effective problem solvers when it comes to technology. So just... t-try your best, you know?" the Navi said, suddenly sweating as she made a lame arm-pumping gesture. "Just try your best, and you'll get paid. And even get a soda, uh, if you want one. Doesn't that sound nice, mortals? Payment, and uh, soda? N-now how about you get going, cause this is uh, way more conversation than I normally have with strangers, already."
"Nectar of the gods..." mumbled Eris, who couldn't keep her mouth closed after hearing the tantalizing description. She then slurped up a trail of black drool and wiped her mouth roughly with the back of her hand while Pass continued with her explanation. As she shook her head to clear her thoughts, she began to listen a lot more seriously, though the way her eyes stared intently at Pass (or more accurately, the bottle inside her robes) would probably make her slightly uncomfortable. It didn't help that she was clenching her fists tightly in front of her periodically as well. Thankfully, her attention was directed to something else--the earpieces that Pass drew out.

"...?" Eris wordlessly took one of the devices handed to her, and began to inspect it. While she wondered how it tasted, she bit down on it lightly as an experiment, before stopping herself and going back to inspecting it. Eventually, she tried to affix it to her horns, since her ears were covered by them, but their thickness prevented any sort of purchase from the earpiece's clip. After several futile attempts, her cheeks puffed up in frustration. Eris then placed her thumb into her cheek, pushing it outwards. Suddenly, her thumb was no longer inhibited by the skin as the side of her face tore open with a squelch, showing a deep hole boring into her head. Eris shoved the earpiece given to her into the open tear before closing her mouth, while her torn cheek began to warp and heal around the earpiece.

The result was her looking as if she had affixed the earpiece to an ear hidden somewhere behind the horn, while its true nature of being forcefully embedded into her was covered by her hair. A more astute observer who hadn't been completely distracted by Eris's act would also notice that her thumb was missing from her hand, though it quickly restored itself behind her back. Eris rolled her head around slightly, most likely to test whether the earpiece was properly affixed. "Alright, got it! I'm gonna get that soda! Yeah!" cheered Eris, mimicking Pass's gesture with much more zeal, before she turned to Phero and Boil.

"I'm done! Ready or not, I'll race you there!" she said to her partners, before dashing off towards the door in pursuit of first place in line for some cyber-soda.
Boil steamed and gave unintelligible curses under her breath, stomping her foot like a cartoon character, after hearing that she'd failed the admittedly not terribly important seeming test. Phero looked excited at first, hearing that she was close, but then deflated hearing she wasn't going to pass either. "Aw... Wait, they're just for fun? Hmm..." she asked, looking pensive and perhaps making it a little too obvious that she wasn't enjoying the quiz very much. "I guess it will be fun if we get some soda! I've never tried it before."

Pass' further slights set Boil from steaming to whistling like a kettle. "You expect us all to go inside a machine that your tester got locked into and couldn't figure out how to unlock from the inside?! And who's 'ol'? Ol'?! I'll show you how ol' I am!" she ranted, pushing her glasses up several times in quick succession as she muscled her way past Phero towards the employer. If she was thinking straight, she'd would likely question how likely it was that Pass had chosen to hire people to try to speed up this process if she was that confident she was going to bust them open anyways. She might also wonder if she hadn't just been baited into entering the machine with the others, instead of staying outside to keep an eye on Pass.

Next, Phero got to hear another earpiece explanation, the second in a strangely short period of time. She tried to focus on all of the details, although it seemed a little more complex than the last one she wore, in execution. Talking about people's genius got her a little down; she hadn't come to expect very nice things from geniuses. Hopefully, Pass was a nicer genius than Dharma was. Both seemed to enjoy talking about their genius about as much, though. She attached the item to her earpiece in a much more conventional fashion than Eris had, but she was interested in the sight. "Wow! You..." she began, then found her words. "You put an earpiece in your cheek!" she announced, as though that was the strange part and not the fact that Eris had just grown a new hole in her face.

Eris barely had time to hear Pass' pep talk before she took off, the most enthusiastic of the bunch. Phero wasn't used to being outdone in that regard, so she turned and followed. "Oh no! I hope the race isn't graded!" she huffed, running girlishly after Eris. She wasn't really made for battle in the first place, but even more so, she wasn't made to be athletic. She turned for a moment, jogging in place. "Oh, don't worry, Pass. I don't have a lot of experience talking to strangers either. You did pretty well at it, though, I thought! It was fun talking to you!" she encouraged her new friend, before turning to half-race Eris, despite effectively being a lap behind now.

No longer boiling, but not racing either, Boil crossed her arms and wiggled her nose at Pass. Or maybe she wasn't wiggling her nose at her, so much as just sniffling in general; her nose always seemed sort of red. "We'll see who outsmarts who before the day is through, Pass! I won't let you have your way with Phero. Don't think I'm not wise to your shenanigans," she warned their employer, although, truth be told, she was still pretty in the dark. All she knew was several things were fishy and also, if Pass really had watched that show she'd caught bits and pieces of, Pass was also intimately familiar with Phero's naivety. Phero might have her guard down, and she questioned if Eris had any guard to begin with, but she wouldn't be so easily manipulated. And so, she left to lock herself inside an unidentified machine with the other two girls.

Assuming Eris and the others didn't get stopped in the hallway, Phero would be reunited with Eris late enough that it could barely be called a race. "You won!" she let Eris know. If they made it to the room they'd been instructed to head towards, she'd inspect it for the boxes they were supposed to jump inside. Boil would arrive still later, so much later that the other two may have already hopped in boxes already.
"Yes, yes, I'm sure you'll love it, impetuous mortals raiding my divine fridge..." Pass agreed with Phero, trailing off into a muttered curse. Of course, short as Boil was, she at least had a mass advantage and temper advantage on her employer. Pass shrunk back from the angry support program and put a polite smile on her face as she was confronted. "N-never you mind what I didn't say! Now, young lady, uh, how about the earpiece!?"

Pass watched Eris take the device with a forced grin that quickly fell to a shocked grimace. "My device! How dare you put the fruit of my genius, the fire of Prometheus, in your-" she started to complain, before shutting up and staring wide eyed as Eris found a way to make it work. "- your face. Um. Okay..." As much as she seemed to care about her device, she had obviously lost track of her complaint. She gave an even weaker wave of her arm to return Eris's enthusiasm, trying to make herself stop staring at Eris's head. "It looks pretty natural, but when you know how it got there... Mmmm!" The girl shivered theatrically. "Anyway, uh, all three of you ladies have your earpieces, so how about you get started on that-" she started, realizing Eris was already enthusiastically bounding for the door. "-stealth mission," she finished, pushing up her glasses and smirking with bemusement.

She waved goodbye to Phero lazily, her same resting smirk spread across her face. Apparently having decided she'd already fulfilled her conversation quota, she said nothing further as Phero left. Boil had a few more words for her before heading out. A twitch played at the corner of Pass's mouth as the huffy woman called her out; since her default expression seemed to be a smirk, though, it was hard to tell if that was what the expression was meant to be. "Hey, don't worry about me. I expect I'll be completely out of your hair. Just don't forget to put in that earpiece, alright, my precious student? Otherwise, I won't be able to follow your blip!"

By the time Boil was making her way towards the door, Eris had been long out of it. Emerging into the hallway, the lead runner would find a sterile metal hallway, with black rubber tread down the hall, stenciled white labels along with LED displays along the walls, and fluorescent lighting overhead, giving the hall plenty of light in contrast to the room she'd just exited. To the right, the hall turned a corner right less than ten feet away. While the wall directly ahead of the wall was bare, following it further to the left would reveal what looked like a power-operated door. The glass panes didn't reveal anything beyond, with the adjacent room seemingly completely dark. A security pad of some sort and a hall camera were adjacent to it. The camera was completely still.

Of course, the main attraction would be what lied to the left. The lab Eris had exited was labeled "01." A second lab, "02," was located across from the power operated hall door. Even further down, a third, labeled "03," was located... so technically, there were two lab doors on the left. At the far end of the hall, the hall hooked left.

Lab "02" might be most enticing for a particular reason: in spite of Pass's assurance, someone was in the hall, heading towards Lab "03". The figure was tall and slender, wearing a cream-colored suit with long, dark hair hanging behind. The suit was modeled as though in real-world style, with the only notable Navi-like feature being earguards on either side of the head and what looked like a metallic cover from the neckline of the suit up the back of the neck, mostly hidden by the hair.

Unfortunately, since the ladies were making a bit more effort to race out and not much to be stealthy, the sound echoing down the hallway alerted the stranger to their presence. The face that turned to them was covered with a metal lower half-mask and goggles with long, periscope-like eyepieces, ending in red lenses. "Hm?" a voice came from behind the mask, as the figure turned to approach them.

If Phero thought she recognized the figure before, she'd now be seeing a kind of optical illusion, as the figure became larger than expected as it approached. If she spent time observing, she might notice this figure was a bit taller than even the taller-than average height it had been during her previous encounter, with a bit wider shoulders... then again, Phero might have forgotten this familiar appearance as she'd only encountered it briefly in this shape.

Regardless, the group might be better served not to make acquaintance, based on their employer's instructions. Eris was already at the lab 02 door by the time the stranger turned around: Phero could easily make it to the 02 door, but Boil would probably need to hustle if she meant to beat the suited figure. Of course, even if she did, there was no guarantee there'd be a lock to keep the person out... On the note of keeping people out, if Boil was for some reason to try and duck back into Pass's lab 01, she'd discover the door had, for whatever reason, sealed behind her.

Eris would be in a good position to see the lab they were about to enter: it looked familiar in the sense that the layout was the same as 01, but unfamiliar in that it was well-lit. Unfortunately, while this left much more of the equipment on the fringes of the room visible, it was impossible to quickly discern any of its use. The only notable fixtures would likely be the box itself, and perhaps the fact that there were two closed doors on the back wall, elevated about four feet from the ground. The door to the box itself was open, although from the current angle, there wouldn't be much chance to see inside. The console wasn't displaying a locked message and the box didn't display "occupied." Of course, there'd hardly be time to investigate the console unless the approaching stranger was first dealt with.
With the lead established, Eris quickly followed the instructions found herself at the doorstep of "Lab 02", which was much more well-lit than the previous one she had been in. Just as she reached for the door's handle and was about to open it, she noticed that something was amiss. The small voice from the side alerted her to the fact that there was another person with them, that wasn't in the original group.

"Um..." Eris was at a loss for a moment as she blankly stopped, blinking a few times at the sight of the new suited figure. What was more, the figure was masked and goggled, though appearances didn't really make much of an impact on her as they did for other people; she simply stored her observations as thus. As the figure approached them, her employer's words that had been said just prior came to mind. Part 1, go out into the hall. Part 2, go left. Don't hang around in the halls or bump into anybody. Part 3... her thoughts wound down, before she looked to the side, at the door for Lab 2 that was waiting for her. Her current task was already compromised, considering they were noticed.

Still, if she interpreted the statement in another way... It doesn't matter if I don't actually bump into them, right?! she thought, as she flung open the door and rushed inside, completely forgetting that she was also accompanied by two others. Part 4! The door to the machine that she was instructed to enter was open, and she quickly rushed inside, stumbling on her feet and rolling onto the floor as she did. "Oof!" she blurted out, as she propped herself up slightly, looking around at where she was. "N-Now what?"
"Follow our blip where? Just to the side room? What are you expecting to-?" Boil grumbled, her eyes narrowing suspiciously behind her thick-framed goggle-glasses, before she realized she was being left behind. "I'm only leaving now because I'm entirely confident in my capabilities to watch over Phero... and Eris... regardless of your plans!" she insisted, pointing one finger in accusatory fashion before rushing out the door to follow the others. She fit the device onto her earpiece and then scampered out, looking terribly awkward running, pumping her fists up and down as she lifted her stubby legs. She wasn't hooping and hollering like the other girls, but she was still making plenty of noise.

Meanwhile, Phero was denied her chance to congratulate her ally on a good race, as by the time she reached the destination, Eris had hurried inside to avoid bumping into someone. Whether that someone was still in the hallway or had followed Eris in, Phero would end up encountering her one way or the other. For a moment, she was worried... until she thought about it a little harder and remembered where she had seen the interesting-looking navi before. "Ah ha! Sex Ki- er, A-AdjustLady! It's you!" she called out, abandoning all attempts at stealth. After all, their employer had said not to be seen, but it shouldn't matter if it was one of her friends, right? She and AdjustLady had gotten along pretty well and bonded in many ways. There was no doubt in Phero's mind that they were friends now, through and through. "It's me, Phero! From the beach!" the pink-haired girl announced, raising one arm.

Phero suddenly came upon the nervous realization, from the lack of Eris and the rapidly expanding size of the navi she assumed to be her friend, that she ought to be concerned about her own situation too. "U-Um, we'll catch up later!" she muttered hastily, hurrying to door number two and running in after her partner. A moment earlier and she probably would have tripped over Eris, a mistake that would be as slapstick as it was poor for her mission objective. Instead, being more or less right behind Eris still, she'd look for one of the machines that had been specified, nearly dancing up and down on her feet as she tried to spot a vacant one and jump inside. "I think that's my friend, but she's way bigger and a little scarier than I remember her looking, so I think we should try to find one of the machines and lock up as quick as we can!" she notified Eris in a hurried babble, but her partner was probably already on that same task.

Boil came a fair bit behind the others, immediately panicking when she noticed the figure in the hallway, who was now very large and very close to lab #2. The other girls were already gone, which was even worse. She said nothing and clenched her teeth, steam shooting out of her ears in excited puffs as she ran back for lab #1 instead. Her intention was to regroup with Pass inside and perhaps hide, maybe even EJO for now and come back later, but the door was already locked. "Crap!" she groaned, admitting she'd already lost track of her charge and disobeyed the part of her mission that required avoiding others.

"Boil?" Dharma's voice came from the other side of the PET, very sudden and alarming, though quiet.

"Yes Madam President?" the SP answered, trying to remain as stately as possible.

"Could it be that you have been separated from Phero?"

"A-A temporary setback, I'm sure," Boil insisted in a quiet whisper, looking both ways nervously. She could turn the corner and get out of sight... but she knew nothing about the layout of the place. For all she knew, she could be running straight into a broom closet. However... with the other two girls heading for the boxes, she could be the best one to create a distraction for them to continue their mission unimpeded.

She straightened up, coughed into her fist, and tried to pretend she hadn't already been seen running nervously back and forth down the hall. "Ahem. You," she called out, pointing one finger out. She blanked for a moment, unable to decide whether pretending to work here or taunting her was a better option. In the end, she decided on neither, simply turning and resuming her awkward sprint around the corner. "Th-this way!" she called out, offering no reason the large figure in the coat should follow, but hoping they would... at a leisurely pace.
Eris and Phero hurried their way into the single large box that occupied about half the floor area of Lab 02. The figure in the hallway had begun to react to Phero's greeting: as it spoke, the voice from behind the mask would be revealed to me distinctly male, which would probably feed Phero's second-guessing of her initial decision to stick around. "Ah, you're Phero? Then- excuse me!" he shouted, shifting as he realized she was suddenly running. "Hold on-!"

Eris made it through the unoccupied lab and into the box first. She'd find the box (it really felt more appropriate to think of it as a room, once inside) to be interesting, but rather barren: the floor, ceiling, and three of the walls were entirely covered in the same glass-like material that formed the outer walls. Walking on it didn't feel like glass, though, but some sort of hard plastic. There were only three things of note in the room:

First, the wall of the chamber that corresponded with the back wall of the lab itself was different from the others. While all of the other walls showed vague shapes corresponding to the unmoving equipment in the lab outside, this back wall was a sterile metal up to four feet above the ground. Above this was another glass panel approximately 8 feet tall, with unknown figures that didn't correspond to anything they'd seen in the lab. The shapes within were mostly gathered at the four-foot transition line, and very little seemed to be moving.

Second, they didn't seem to be alone after all: they wouldn't see it until they were actually in the chamber, as the figure was standing directly next to the entry wall in the back corner of the room. While the sight might make them jump initially, the figure didn't acknowledge them at all. On closer inspection, it might not even be a Navi: the shape was a sort of silver shape of a man, slightly more angular than a regular person and well-built, dressed only in black trunks, completely silent and unmoving. It lacked any defining facial features such as eyes, eyebrows, or a mouth, and was bald. There was a protrusion on its chest that might be recognizable as a Navi symbol, but it was the same featureless silver as the rest of him.

Third, the door behind them had remained open behind Eris as she entered, but immediately closed behind Phero, far too fast for either girl to react. A follow-up *click* strongly implied that it had been locked: sure enough, there was a handle on the inside, but pulling it wouldn't budge the door. Alarmingly, the inside had no card reader, keypad, or even keyhole on the lock... if the girls were going to find their way out without damaging the room (cage?) it could take some creativity.

Perhaps fortunately, a synthesized voice spoke up, seeming to emanate from the back wall's screen. Unfortunately, a lot of it was gibberish, and it only occasionally paused, which might leave the girls struggling to parse meaning from it. "Wonder Wall initialized. Administrator identified. Admin ID *synthetic garble*. Users identified. User ID *synthetic garble*... User ID *synthetic garble*... Program: User-defined. Environment: User-input. Objects: User-input. Actor: Custom. Target: Synchronization, level 1 — level 2 — level 3 -level 4 — level 5 — level 4 selected... At any time, user call query for query. At any time, user call ID number for emergency termination... No prior calibration procedure detected for user. Calibration procedure initiated. Users call self-identification. Clarification: provide speech and behavior to establish baseline parameters for calibration to continue."

After that, the voice would go completely silent. A low hum in the room would be the only noise, unless either of them made some.


The stranger outside made a sound like teeth clicking and was beginning to follow Phero into the lab before realizing Boil was calling for him. At around 6'-4", the man was far taller than Boil, and his goggles telescoped as if to zoom in on the support program. "I'm sorry, I really need to speak with Phero- Hm. She went in...? Ah, now that I think about it, I guess she isn't going anywhere if she headed in there. I guess I have a second... and I really need to speak to you, too!" he called, beginning to sprint himself (at a significant gait advantage) as he moved to catch up with Boil.

As Boil turned the corner, she would find herself in a shorter hallway which turned in the direction she'd come from at the end. Could the hall be a ring? In any case, there was a door in the wall at the middle of the hallway, into what would be the center of the theoretical "donut" of the hall. The door seemed to be locked, though, having a keycard slot for access. The door was labeled "ADMINISTRATOR ACCESS: AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY" in red block letters.

"Please, don't make me run around here!" the man called, adding what sounded like a good-natured laugh. "I'm not security here, but I have places to be and I really need to find out what you're doing here. I'm not the running type!"

Boil's distraction seemed to have worked, at least to a degree. She might try her luck running around the corner, or it might be well enough to speak to her pursuer.
"... Oh, what's that?" muttered Eris, as she picked herself up off the floor as her attention was drawn to the silver figure. Before she could inspect it, though, Phero made her way into the room as well, and the door slammed behind her, just as she made her frantic explanation of who they had just encountered earlier. "O-Okay, um, let's lock the door, then," said Eris. However, just as she was about to head for the door, the sound of the door clicking shut resounded throughout the room. True enough, when Eris reached for the handle and jiggled it slightly, the door didn't budge an inch.

"Oh! That was convenient. It locked by itself, so I think we don't have to worry about the lock or that friend of yours. Easy," she grinned, as if the locking was her own doing, and somehow not worth panicking over. Then, she seemed to realize something, and looked around. "Oh, where's Boil?" she asked. Suddenly, some announcement played over some invisible speakers, making Eris look around curiously for a while once more, before she saw the back wall of glass, with figures lined up behind them. As soon as the voice ended, she stared at the strange figures, before she spoke up. "Speech and behavior... What does that mean, Phero? Are we supposed to talk or something?" she said, walking over to the back wall. "Is someone there? Hello?" she called out to the back wall as she tapped on it, presumably addressing the figures behind the glass wall.
Phero felt a little bad leaving behind the navi who'd been calling out to her, especially cause he seemed to know her after all, perhaps from AdjustLady. At the same time, the fact that he was not, in fact, AdjustLady, made her nervous, and when the door locked behind her, it helped her feel a little safer. That said, she realized after a brief look at the entrance that she had no idea how to get it back open... she hadn't been expecting it to be that easy, of course, but it was a little disappointing. She'd been hoping she'd be able to get the good news to Pass quickly.

Neither Phero nor Eris were as worried as they probably should be in this situation, instead feeling happy for now to be in a room where nobody would reach them while they completed their mission. Phero noticed now, for the first time, that Boil hadn't made it in. "Oh, hm... I guess she didn't make it in. I hope she's okay..." she murmured, pressing her hands onto the entrance and trying to get a look out at the door, in case Boil had managed to get in. The pink-haired navi wanted to reassure her new friend that Boil would be okay, but she had no idea of Boil's capabilities or even really how she acted under pressure... if Boil got agitated and tried to assert herself like she seemed to, from Phero's brief experience with her, there was a good chance Boil could put herself in danger. All Phero could do was hope her SP could take care of herself.

Next, there was more from the chamber to take in... it seemed a navi was in the room with them and that the "Wonder Wall" they'd heard of earlier was now activated. That big, flat wall at the back of the chamber must be the aforementioned "Wonder Wall," she realized. Unfortunately, for all the testing that had been done and all the time she'd spent time in a lab environment, Phero wasn't too familiar with most of these terms or how she might be able to manipulate the program... After all, Dharma had always thought it would be safest if Phero didn't know this type of thing, to make sure that Phero didn't become capable of tampering with test conditions on her own.

Luckily, for now, at least, Dharma had the ability to pitch in; she projected her audio so that both Phero and Eris could hear. "Those portions of the machine's speech with missing audio appear to be Pass's interference. She is likely acting as the administrator and has prepared the machine to accept the two of you. It sounds like this is a chamber for some sort of simulation... Unfortunately, whatever simulation the chamber is supposed to conduct, you won't be able to terminate it from your side. That process requires a user ID, and Pass wasn't kind enough to give you the one she'd prepared for herself," the pharmaceuticals CEO explained. Oddly enough, this sort of thing was sort of in her wheelhouse... she hadn't been using her brain for her latest missions so much as her body, so she felt strangely relaxed even with her expensive prototype navi locked up in this infernal contraption. "At this point, it sounds as if the system wants to 'get to know you.'"

"Oh, well that's nice," Phero responded with a smile. "My name's Phero! It's nice to meet you, um... Wonder Wall," she finished, looking first at the big slab in the back, then at the strange man-shape they shared the chamber with. "This is my friend, Eris," she continued, gesturing to the red girl who was currently rapping on the back wall.

"That's not going to work. You've got to begin with 'self identification,'" Dharma corrected her navi in an impatient sigh. "Then try using 'query' to ask it how to input behavior." Despite her research background, though, Dharma's guess as to what this chamber and the strange navi inhabiting it were for was about as good as Phero's.

"Oh! Um... Self-identification, Phero. It's nice to meet you, Wonder Wall," Phero repeated, pressing both hands to her lap and trying speaking to the figure now as opposed to the wall, as if the target of her introduction had also been part of what she needed to correct. She turned her head and nodded to Eris, indicating she should also self-identify. "Then... Query! How do I demonstrate my behavior for you? Also, another query: what does 'level 4' mean?"


This unusual level of exertion was already making Boil winded, as her glasses snapped up and down on her nose with the bobbing of her head. She didn't think she was going to get very far at all from the navi pursuing her, but at least it was chasing her after all. That might buy Eris and Phero some time, at least. The next door she came to seemed like no help at all... there was no way she was getting into any key-card locked rooms with her current keys or armaments: empty on both accounts.

Running wasn't going to help her much longer; she decided that, for her own sake, she was going to preserve a little dignity and talk to the navi standing upright with a little breath left in her, rather than doubled over, red-faced and shooting steam all over the room. As she passed the door she couldn't open and reached the corner, she turned back and raised her hands to signal her pursuer should stop, or risk running her over. "Stop!" she added for emphasis. "You're right! Let's talk!" Boil insisted, then adjusted her steamed-up glasses to proper position. If he heeded her, hopefully not having bowled her over yet, she'd hold her tongue despite having initiated the conversation. Her hands clenched into fists as they lowered back to the sides of her skirt. She had no idea what she was going to do as far as... anything, really.

"So! You... know Phero?" she asked as calmly as she could, picking up on the only common conversation topic between the two of them. If the man in the mask got to ask all of his questions, once it was done, it'd probably be ready to kick her out... she needed to keep it engaged as well as she could. Her slightly heavy breathing would give the man a hint of just how objectionable she found the idea of any further running around.
The figure in the corner didn't give any reaction to its new guests, and if any of the figures behind the screen were any kind of sentient beings, they weren't doing anything different to respond to Eris's inquiry. Everything remained silent save the low buzz around them, and if Dharma's guess was correct, something was anticipating their input.

Immediately after Phero attempted to query the supposed system she was in contact with, the Wonder Wall responded. "Query near match: How to establish baseline parameters. The user will speak and act normally to allow the system to create a baseline file for adjustment. User *garble* be advised: baseline has been established. Query near match: Clarify 'level' designation. Level designation is a one five scale designating the target synchronization threshold. One represents minimum of selected threshold value. Five represents maximum of selected threshold value. User *garble* be advised: level 4 has been selected by administrator. User be advised: 'Warning mode' activated based on user queries. Baseline has been established: preliminary adjustment to meet target has been initiated. User call monologue. Optional: user *garble* call conversation with user *garble*. System call synchronization versus threshold percentage at termination. Warning: do not terminate conversation before time has elapsed. Estimated time to elapse: one minute twenty seconds.

"Initiate level one,"
the voice finally concluded, pausing and evidently awaiting a response from the Navis. Unless either of them spoke, they would once again be left with the quiet buzz of the room alone... After exactly twenty seconds had passed, the voice suddenly spoke again.

"Level two." As the voice spoke again, the ladies might, if their ears were particularly sharp and their attention distracted, notice a slight pick-up in the beeping noise in the buzz around them. More likely, if they were speaking, they'd notice something strange happening: even if they'd prepared a continuous thought to speak, the thought would rearrange itself by the time it left the mouth... or were the right words coming out, and the ears were what were affected? In any case, while the thought might basically be in-tact, thoughts that were generally positive (fun, funny, appreciative, or flirty, for instance) would come more naturally, and attempts to say things negative (angry, accusatory, upset, or argumentative) were difficult to voice, as though saying a tongue twister.

This continued for another twenty seconds, before the voice toned in again. "Level three," it droned. If the ladies were still speaking at this point, they'd feel a sharper grip on their speech. While any trouble speaking at the previous juncture might have been written off as oddity from the pressure of their assignment, the ladies would now find their speech entirely limited to flirtatious banter. Experimenting would reveal that anything else they might try to say would get caught in their throats, or otherwise twisted into an entirely different thought. If they could find what they were trying to say while masking it in the limitation, it might be effective...

Unfortunately, they'd only have about twenty seconds to experiment before the system interrupted. "Level four." At this point, the ladies would find even their inflection affected: anything they said would inevitably be delivered in a sultry tone, and anything said needed to be directed to arouse the listener, peppered with innuendo or outright propositions. Even invoking a query would be difficult, as any words that weren't directly crafted to the restricted purpose practically clenched the teeth in their refusal to come out. If either Phero or Eris were industrious enough to try private messaging or communication with their operators, they might be surprised to find even these methods of communication were subject to the same limitations. Only within their own heads were they able to form thoughts that didn't meet the confines the system seemed to be imposing. They'd also note that should they not wish to speak, or should they be unable to speak within the confines, nothing would stop them from simply remaining silent.

"Evaluating, the system would finally declare as another twenty seconds passed, leaving the two women in their restricted state. The two might notice that nothing was restricting their jack-out procedures... Maybe that would correct the issue? Of course, if it was that simple to exit the cage, one might wonder why the person they were trying to help didn't just take that course of action.


In the meantime, Boil was having a relatively free conversation, albeit one she might not be eager to pursue. Reaching the corner allowed her to see another hallway the length of the first, and running parallel to it. Each side of this hall appeared to have a number of more standard looking doors, like offices, six in total on each side. There was no activity in the hall, and without moving further into it, Boil couldn't make out any nameplates or other identification.

"Ah, you're there." The tall man stopped when Boil called for him to, holding his hands palms out in front of him and focusing his red-lensed gaze down on her. "Very good. A woman of reason." He remained calmly quiet for a moment, seeming like he wanted to be asking questions, but politely waiting as she seemed to be coming up with some of her own.

When she finally spoke again, he crossed his arms in front of him, leaning against the wall next to him. "Well, I wouldn't say I know Phero. My name is AdjustMan. A colleague of mine took quite a fancy to her the last time they met and described her to me at some length, so I was able to recognize her from description alone. Her appearance is quite distinct, wouldn't you agree? But you... I'm sorry, your name was...? I don't think you're someone she's mentioned. I have a very urgent appointment to keep, but why don't you tell me who you are and what you're doing here? My time is limited, but depending on who you are, I'm afraid I'm going to have to put myself out a little and get you, Phero, and her other interesting friend to leave the premises. I hate to be a spoilsport, but besides the regular clearance levels required to be in this area, we're technically outside of ordinary operating hours... But I must admit, I'm fascinated to know what you're up to. A social call for my colleague to her new friend?" AdjustMan asked, leaning a hand on his fist, propped on his other crossed arm, his voice smiling even as his actual face was hidden by his mask.
"Ooooh, so you do it like that," said Eris, nodding to Phero's correction of her attempt to interface with the vocal system. She contemplated for a little while, before the system preempted her with further explanations in response to Phero's queries. "Oh, we did it right the first time around!" she exclaimed happily, while the system proceeded to explain some yet-unknown system about levels of synchronization close to a selected threshold value. Her brow furrowed as she attempted to parse what the system had just told her.

Something about monologues, and about initiating a conversation... She turned to Phero and scratched her head in puzzlement. "I'm not sure I get it completely, but... I guess we're supposed to talk about something with each other now? I wonder what that 'synchronization' thing is that it's going to do," she said, her face indicating her strained thinking while the system noisily announced its shift into the second stage of its evaluation.

Her scrunched-up face didn't last too long, however, as something came up in her mind, and she clapped lightly in response. "Oh yeah! I guess if we're going to talk, I've been wanting to ask you about your outfit, it looks really neat! Everything looks really pink and cute! What's the design based on? It looks like some kind of flower," she continued, tilting her head every which way to examine Phero's... rather suggestive outfit. "Mine's supposed to be some kind of demon, I think. That's what my designer told me, at least--he said Master would really like it."

Another system notification went by, with Eris briefly cocking her head in response. "Anyway, I hope you really like it too, Phero! I'd really like to have fun... eating you up?" she said, the last phrase of her sentence switching abruptly into an odd questioning tone. The reason being that she was puzzled by the sudden intrusion on her vocalization by something she hadn't meant to say. However, she was quick to be distracted by thoughts of what the phrase could mean due to her consuming tendencies. As a result, she then simply proceeded to run her mouth on whatever came to mind. "I'd not sure what eating you up would be like, though... Maybe I'd start with your tender loins. That sounds like a good start."

The last 'level increase' notification came and went without so much of an acknowledgement from Eris as she twirled around in front of Phero in a slowly gyrating form. "I'm curious as to how you'd eat me, though, Phero," she said, her rear end suggestively raised as she tilted her head back towards Phero with a smile that accompanied a glazed-over look in her eyes. "What do you think?"
Even as the answers were being given, Phero had a tough time understanding much of it, just as Eris probably was. Even Dharma was having a tough time gathering what the voice emanating from the wall wanted, although, like the others, she understood it meant a conversation. The pink-haired navi tapped one finger up and down on her lip for a moment, stared at the ceiling, then nodded. "Alrighty! Talking with friends is always fun anyway," she agreed with Eris, beaming happily with no particular misgivings about the situation the two girls had found themselves in. Dharma, on the other hand, was plenty suspicious, but so far, she noted that there appeared to be no interruption with features related to calling back Phero, so she supposed there was no need to worry just yet.

Stage one had passed rather innocuously, with both of the girls remarking upon little more than the fact that they needed to begin conversing for the test. The second stage got a little more chatty. Phero giggled, pressing her fingers to the hem of her silver armor skirt. "He he, thank you. It's supposed to look like tulips, I think. Of course, it's really mostly this plastery-silver color, except for a couple parts that are pink. Honestly, most of the pink is in the under-suit," she noted, shifting up her skirt a bit at the waist to show where the swimsuit-like portion at the hips was an exciting, hot-pink color. "I like your dress! I'd never be able to pull off black like that, it's so... mature!" she commented. "I can see why your master would like it! It looks very sexy and adult!" It was true that black looked very nice on Eris, especially with her unique, deep-red skin color, but Phero thought it was especially nice to see it on someone other than Dharma for once. It was nice to acknowledge that not all people with an all-black ensemble were as mean as her operator.

With various light commentary completed, the navis moved on to segment three, where things got a little saucier. Or cannibalistic. One of those two. "E-Eating me? Um, I know I'm designed to smell and taste sweet, but I think that's for people who'd be kissing o-or licking me... oh, that's probably not helping," she commented, rubbing her arms nervously. "Let's not eat each other! Unless you mean like..." she trailed off, growing a little pink and pushing her index fingers together bashfully. "I-I guess we probably shouldn't do that here either. I-I-I mean, um... unless you really want to try it, but it'd be embarrassing if someone walked in cause they could see inside the box-"

The twenty minutes for level three ended, and thus, level three began. She recognized the funny feeling she had: it was a lot like the last time she'd worn an earpiece and received mental suggestion from some unseen force, who at that time guided her into acting strangely, presumably to get good ratings on MascotMan's show. However, this one was much more focused, harder to ignore, and seemed to be limiting her entirely from saying or doing anything but the most suggestive sort of things that came to her mind. She remembered a very recent experience where she learned that hugging people and especially grabbing their butt wasn't encouraged when two people were merely new acquaintances.

... But that said, not saying anything would be impolite (and counter to the purpose of whatever this synchronization was), so she tried to keep talking. "Eris, I don't want to eat you! What I really want to do is hug you and squeeze your butt... I know it sounds weird, but my friend Cheshire, we hugged in the bath once when we were all soapy and naked and warm, and it felt really good, s-so I thought it might feel good to, you know... um... grab each other's butts..." she murmured, growing redder as she realized that the situation was not only embarrassing in that it was overtly sexual, but also in that it sounded stupid said out loud rather than done spontaneously. She wanted to tell Eris to forget about it, but those particular words weren't coming out and her eyes, rooted upon Eris' sizable derriere, made it pretty apparent the words came from a place of truth.

The thought that someone might be watching this was even more embarrassing, so she decided to solve that through a query. "Alright, I'll ask: is there a person watching this and what do they want from us!" she resolved, clutching her fists at her sides and mentally preparing herself. In the last few seconds of the wait period, she issued her question. "Query! Is there a horny person watching this, and if so, what do they want me and Eris to do to help them pleasure themself?" she asked, bending her elbows to clutch both hands at her chest and leaning forward towards the wall. "Whoops," she thought to herself, moving her gloved hands up to hide her face. "Oh gosh, now it's evaluating... I wish I hadn't added all that embarrassing stuff at the end."


"Ahem, yes. A woman of reason," Boil agreed, adjusting her glasses and pursing her lips, as was her habit, while trying to get her heavy breathing and sweating under control (the latter being another of her habits). "Of course her appearance is distinct," the white-haired lady sighed, though she did not spell out to her new acquaintance that Phero had been designed to appear eye-catching to a large sample size of surveyed operators and navis, including heterosexual male navis, of course, but really, navis of all kinds beyond that. Unfortunately, his questions of Boil didn't leave a lot of room for her to keep stalling.

In fact, he'd really only left her one opening, and it was going to be really strange pursuing it without Phero in tow. Still, it was her only option. "Yes, you see... I'm a scientist and a friend of Phero's. Phero told me about AdjustLady and I thought... Wow, I'd sure like to meet a fellow scientist like her. Someone who'd really... hit it off with Phero and become such good friends," she responded awkwardly, doing her best to smile. In truth, she didn't even know enough to positively say that AdjustLady really was some kind of scientist; she was only guessing, because AdjustMan appeared to be one. Boil hadn't been around for the previous mission or even learned about it from Dharma or Phero. At this point, she was really just flying blind.

"Since Phero really brought me here so that I could meet AdjustLady and become good friends with her, I think it would be... just awesome... if you'd help me meet her alone. Could we do that?" she asked, placing her hands on her hips and maintaining as normal an expression as she could. "I heard that she and Phero had a really fun time together in their previous encounter and it would be great if I could have that same sort of... fun... with her," she continued, growing increasingly flustered as she dug herself deeper into the lie.

Dharma knew that Boil was setting herself up for failure, but at the same time, she had no better ideas for using Boil to help stall for Phero. She'd let Boil dive under the bus without interjecting, if that's where Boil wanted to go.
The girls were alone with their thoughts and their words (more or less), the system voice and occasional background buzzing the only other noise to interrupt them, and even then, only at scheduled interviews. No one introduced themselves to make it immediately apparent who, if anyone, the ladies were trying to impress. Finally, after the time had elapsed, the system remained evaluating for a period, during which the girls could continue making more-than-friendly conversation or further testing the limits being imposed on them.

After a short interval, however, the voice spoke again. "Evaluation. User *garble* synchronization rate: 2. 85%. 3. 73%. 4. 75%. Warning: level 4 evaluation based on limited data may lead to erroneous test data. User or admin call level number retrial to attempt correction. User *garble* synchronization rate: 2. 85%. 3. 64%. 4. 67%. Warning: certified user does not meet test calibration levels. Recommend user terminate trial and report to admin for troubleshooting. Test paused."

There was a brief period of silence, before the system changed its mind. "Admin override: test resumed. Be advised: trial based on poor calibration may lead to erroneous test data... Query near match not found... Query split. Query near match: Confirm admin present. Confirmed: admin ID *garble* is at station... Query near match not found. Query closest match: Clarify target parameter for adjustment. Program is user-defined; no target designation has been provided. Target near-match: sex appeal." During all this time, the limitations on the girls' communication remained. It seemed those were sticking around until further notice...

"Calibration procedure resumed." The voice paused briefly, during which time the background whirring picked up. The wall panels glowed faintly before two luminescent shapes appeared inside the chamber, growing brighter and then dimming so their forms could be seen... The first looked like an ordinary wood and metal office desk and cloth-seated office chair, located close to the screen at the back of the room. The second appeared to be a steel pole, solidly fit to the ground and extending up into the high ceiling as though, as though embedded. Once all the light show was over, the objects looked as though they'd always been there.

"User demonstrate interaction. Options: Interact with object 'DESK' or object 'POLE' or 'ACTOR' according to target level. Warning: do not terminate demonstration before time has elapsed. Estimated time to elapse: one minute twenty seconds.

"Initiate level one,"
the voice spoke. By this point the ladies might have a better idea of what was expected of them. Again, the room was quiet until the voice spoke, initiating levels two, three, and four in sequence.

At level one, there had been nothing unusual besides the speech limitations. At level two, they'd find their movements beginning to be restricted: if they weren't already at the desk, the pole, or the mannequin in the corner of the room, they'd be compelled to move to one. Once there, the actions they could accomplish were not unusual, but were inhibited: any action at the desk had to be taken on the desk or in the chair; action at the pole was limited to grabbing it or moving around it; action at the mannequin was restricted to physical contact, which might disappoint a wary Navi that hoped to give it a shot.

At level three, the expected course continued: action at any of the three areas ended up, intentionally or not, adding some showmanship for any potential watchers. Level four tightened this limitation even further, making it difficult to perform any movement that didn't directly appeal to the arousal of the unseen viewer. The girls would find this didn't extend to private communications, jack out functions, or similar abilities, however: only physical actions and interaction with the environment. The two could generally resist the call by doing nothing: however, remaining completely and intentionally still was a bit more difficult than remaining silent, as even standing still seemed to require a bit of sway and swagger.

"Evaluating," the system would again conclude as a minute and twenty seconds finally passed. The ladies would feel a lock release as the trial concluded: their actions and words still had similar limitations, but at least they weren't stuck at an object anymore if they didn't want to be.


"Ah, a fellow scientist," Boil's tall new acquaintance remarked. He continued listening patiently, although he tilted his head to the side, raising a fist to where his mouth ought to be. He let out a small cough. "Yes, I got the sense they became good friends. AdjustLady spoke of her fondly, although... I sensed she was withholding some details of what took place. I was under the impression it was broadcast, but haven't been able to find the video around the regular web. And she said it was swimsuit competition! Seems like a lot of people would have been eager to record those two... Haha! Say, is that the kind of fun you had in mind?" he said, folding his hands behind his back. "As much as I'd love to see that and I'd love to help you out, she's currently busy testing in one of our units. I'm supposed to be as well..."

The man lowered his head, crossing his arm and tapping his foot. "Mm... I hate to leave you put out like that, though. I'd invite you to witness the testing, but I was told to come alone. How about you give me your contact information and I'll get her to contact you when she's available?"

Other than the two of them, the hall remained silent, allowing their voices to reverberate alone.
"Hmm... The butt?" muttered Eris, after Phero expressed her apparent desire to grab it. The system kept on talking, and Eris paid some amount of attention, before it mentioned that the test was "paused". That was her cue to filter out whatever else it had to say, and satisfy her curiosity about what Phero had meant. Twisting her body about to look at her rear end, she mostly ignored whatever embarrassment Phero had had about her revelation as she tried to figure out what it was that was so good about it.. She didn't quite understand what Phero had meant by "mature" and "adult" when she had referred to her outfit-- though considering her statement about the butt, it was probably related to it? The way it looked to her, her outfit did indeed accentuate her butt somewhat without actually revealing much of it. She filed away the thought for the moment.

The degree with which she twisted her midsection was a little excessive to be normal, but the sound of the system announcements drowned out any odd sounds Eris's body would've made, which she quickly rectified anyhow as the next set of tests began starting up, without her knowledge. With their surroundings garbled up and shifting around, she commented briefly. "Oh, what's happening now?" she questioned, while the system explained something about interaction with desks or poles or actors or whatnot. "Uh, Phero? What's the test for this time? I wasn't really paying attention. Do we have to use these things to do something?"

Some small bit of curiosity compelled her to move over to the desk and examine it. "I wonder if there's anything here..." Tilting her head here and there and bending over to search for anything unusual about the desk, she found---nothing. Confused, she went down on all fours to look under the desk, as if completely convinced that there was something under it. Of course, her search would turn up without any results. However, when she was about to back out of her fruitless endeavor, she found herself rooted in place, in the exact pose which she had taken to get under the desk.

"Um, I can't move... It feels like there's some kind of invisible force holding me in place!" said Eris. Her rear end would be shown off completely to anyone standing behind her, though by some force of decency, her tail ended up being drooped over any actual revealing bits. The tail, which, incidentally, would normally already be chomping at trying to protect Eris, was now rendered mostly ineffective as it hung limply without any kind of movement. "Um, Phero, could you help me? Could you grab me and pull me off the floor? It's getting kind of tiring like this..." asked Eris, unaware of what kind of provocation she was inviting with her words.