Complaining about stuff.

Duke nodded in response, then posted a quick reply to the BBS. "I don't suppose I could get a copy of the video data, could I?" he asked.
"No problam." Leonard said as he took a flash card out of his pocket, and inserted it into his PET. A few seconds later, and he took the card back out and handed it to Duke. "I don't have any more info for you at tha moment. If you come back in a few hours, I may be able to help you further."
Duke accepted the flash card, pocketing it. "Thanks for your help," he said, standing up. He looked at his PET, seeing a response to the BBS topic, then left the colosseum to head for the NetCafe.
Returning to the colosseum, Duke wandered up to the front desk and called the receptionist over again. "Hey, I was here earlier about a missing sword program and was told you guys might be able to help me further later. Of course I'm probably talking to the wrong person, so I don't suppose I could speak to Mr. Leonard Korrigan again?"
The receptionist looked up from her console as Duke and Miriya approached. "Can help you?" She then listened attentively to Duke, and once he was finished speaking, replied: "One moment please." A few key strokes later, and she added: "He has been notified, and will be with you shortly, Mr. Rigel."


A few minutes later, and Leonard Korrigan walked out into the lobby. As he walked towards Duke and Miriya, it became apparent that his earlier happy demeanor didn't seem to be present this time. It wasn't until he was standing right in front of the two of them that he began speaking, and in a more hushed tone. "Hello, Mr. Rigel and Miss Takemura. Your timing is excellant. Please follow me to my office." The large Netopian man turned and began walking away.

Miriya's eyebrows flew up. She'd expected Leonard to haze her about the current situation, and had been totally disappointed. She blinked, shook her head, then walked after him.


When the group reached Leonard's office, the security officer opened the door and gestured for them to walk in. Waiting inside was a young Netopian woman in fairly bland casual attire (a pale green shirt and jeans) seated at one of the numerous chairs around a decent sized meeting table. She turned to look up at the new arrivals, and stood to greet them. "Hello there." She was taller than Miriya, but maybe a bit younger as well. "I assume the two of you are Duke Rigel and Miriya Takemura?"

Miriya raised an eyebrow, and began speaking cautiously... "You seem to have the advantage of us, miss...?"

"Oh, good. I do have the right people." The young woman smiled. "I'm Heather. A contractor working on behalf of the GNA. I was hired to handle a case that has now become related to the disappearance of your Navigator, Mirage." She looked over at Duke. "This also concerns you, Mr. Rigel. Perhaps more than it does Ms. Takemura."

"I'd like to think the disappearance of my partner, Mirage, concerns me greatly, thanks." Miriya replied, sounding a bit miffed. "Especially carrying off that particular sword when she vanished."

"I totally understand. And have a bit of good news in that regard, but first..." Heather turned back to Duke. "I'd like to hire you and your Navi to help me and my Navi with our mission, which is to locate and either secure or delete a total of three extremely dangerous programs that have taken the shape of swords. That happens to include the one you had with you, Mr. Rigel."
Duke only managed an "...erm..." as Heather introduced herself. He remained silent as she talked, narrowing his eyes slightly as she referred to the swords as "extremely dangerous programs".

"You obviously know much more about these 'programs' than I do," he said after she finished. "I'll help you, but I'd like you to fill me in on what exactly they are."
"Are you for real?" Miriya said in a clearly surprised manner as Duke admitted to knowing nothing about the sword his Navi had been in possession of. She looked like she wanted to say more, but couldn't decide what to say quick enough, as Heather proceeded to answer Duke's question: "I'm not sure who created them or for what purpose, but from what the GNA has told me so far, I gather they're every bit as capable as an operated Navi packing a full folder of battlechips. It's also my understanding they were created for battle, but against what is anyone's guess."

Once Heather was finished speaking, Miriya waited expecting to hear the younger woman say something more. When it became clear Heather had nothing more to add... "You're kidding me... That's all they told you?"


"And you didn't do any research of your own? Oh come on..."

"Oh, I have that covered." Heather smiled. "I was going to do the smart thing and get an info broker to fill in the blanks for me. Luckily, the broker I'm looking for is sitting in this room."

Miriya stood there quietly for a few seconds, her expression inscrutable. When she finally did speak, her tone was all business. "...Alright, but I have my price."


"Further, I know who you are, so I'm willing to delay payment until after your mission is complete."

"I'm flattered... How much?"

"Mirage." Miriya said flatly before continuing in her previous business like tone. "Return my Navi to me unharmed and I won't charge you a Zenny. Else, the price for my brokerage starts at the cost of NEMA Tech's recovery service plus 50,000 Zenny."

Heather whistled. The NEMA Tech corporation's world class data recovery service was expensive... expensive to the tune of several million Zenny. "I don't think I can afford you."

"Don't give me that. We both know the GNA can foot the bill as a liability claim. I just want my Navi back. I don't care about the money." Miriya paused for a moment, then added: "Anyway, those are my terms."

"I accept."

"Good." Miriya said as she took a micro recorder out of her pocket and pointedly turned it off before putting it back. Heather didn't seem very surprised to see it. "You were right about one thing, the swords, and their other weaponized brethren, are as capable as Navis. This is true because they are Navis. Rather, they started out as Navigators, and were modified to be what they are now." Miriya walked over to the table, pulled out a chair, and sat down. "The individual responsible for this change is unknown, but my theory is that it was one of the old network Administrators. The Administrators being the predecessors of the current network governing body, the GNA. Probably a pair with an aptitude for programming and code splicing. And yes, I'm aware that that would place their time of origin a bit more than a century in the past. There is evidence to support that. Also, as for why they were modified... I'm really not entirely certain. Major networking threats such as the Cybeasts did not exist back then, and the Administrators didn't fight amongst each other. That's common sense if you ask me...." She sighed. "Anyway, the reason they are so dangerous is pretty much what Heather just said... They literally are Navis with their own set of innate abilities and access to a full folder's worth of battlechips without the need for a human operator. It is suspected that they are able to edit their own programming slowly over long periods of time. In other words, they are self evolving."
"That explains the airsword," Pianissimo commented from Duke's PET. Duke nodded in agreement, it also explained the strange and complex readings from the sword objects...though not as much the spike that crashed his scanning software. He wondered for a moment who would be capable of programming something like that and briefly remembered Altair, but dismissed the memory, doubting she even existed on the old network.

Deciding Miriya's explanation was satisfactory for the moment, he gave a nod and turned to Heather, saying "Very well. What do you need me to do?"
"That's good to hear." Heather said. "There are three networks with unusual activity recorded in them. The locations are YumNet, HadesNet, and VegasNet. My Navigator is checking out VegasNet as we speak. I was hoping you'd take one of the other two locations." She reached into a pants pocket, retrieved a flash card from it, and handed it to Duke. "The data for all three locations is on that chip. If you encounter your particular sword, I'd be perfectly fine with you just pacifying it in whatever manner you've managed up until now. They only need to be secured, but deletion is an option if they're not cooperating. And..." She looked at Miriya. "...Try to help Mirage if you run into her. My employers would be very upset at having to compensate Ms. Takemura for the loss of her Navigator."

Miriya sagged in her chair with a sigh relief upon hearing that.

Heather looked back at Duke. "Okay? You will be compensated a portion of my contract's pay, of course...."
Duke nodded, taking the flash card. "I'll do that," he said, giving a nod to Heather before walking out of the office and returning to the lobby.

Settling in his old seat from during the irritating Bird God mission, Duke set up his chip folder once again and jacked in.