Courting Shadows

((From => The There That We're About to Return To))
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A Light in the Storm
Part One: Courting Shadows



One of the things Lyntael missed about Eric's home was that, well, it was a home. Rogan moved about a lot, travelled where his work took him, and rarely stayed still for long. There were a couple of safe houses that he kept prepared, or so he had told her once, but really... this was it.

It, for the moment, was the back seat of Rogan's car; clean and well-kept, it still retained something of the man's scent even when he wasn't in it, and to Lyntael that made it as close to home as she had. Rogan himself lay sprawled on his back along the seat, breathing slow and deep. He had worked for hours on the data she'd helped him retrieve earlier, taking it apart and putting it back together in a way that made sense, then back-tracing and researching where it led, then longer still working out what needed to be done. Lyntael had stayed silent the whole time, looking on, and now that he had finally closed his eyes for a few hours her tiny hologram rested on his chest, arms wrapped around her knees and head down to one side as she watched him sleep. Aside from the drinks he had shared with Leslie, earlier, he hadn't eaten anything, and soon he would be waking up again and heading back to SciLab for an even trickier piece of work than they'd gone through before. He never seemed to give any sign that he was hungry, or tired, and he did indeed sleep and eat, but it really never seemed like enough and it was only one of a list of things that made her worry for the man. Still, he was sleeping now, if only for an hour or two; at least it was something.

They were parked in a side street about twenty minutes from the complex they would soon be returning to. No lights, either from the street, or from any of the houses nearby left them both in almost total darkness; there was no moon tonight, and stars were few and far between, peeking out only occasionally through the thick cloud layer. Lyntael stifled a yawn, then glanced out the window. She should probably try to sleep as well, really, but nervousness about what was next wouldn't let her mind rest. Rogan would chide her for thinking about sleep; he'd tell her that she didn't really need sleep, in reality, and was just programmed with a realistic inclination towards it for the sake of mimicking human behaviours. Then he'd tell her to stop pretending. She made no effort to stifle the next yawn that took hold of her, as if to spite the thought. She'd tried to go without sleeping for a few days already, to prove a point, and had barely been able to do anything properly at all by the fourth, but Rogan had still refused to accept that her inability to function was due to literal exhaustion. What would it take to get him to see her, really see her?

The girl glanced up to the window as a strong breeze buffeted the vehicle. It was a windy night, but as a hologram, here in the real world, Lyntael couldn't feel or sense anything of the air as it moved. She found herself wondering what it would be like to feel real wind about her. Would it be different? On the net, she could always feel the air currents around her, and the way they moved, but what would it be like, out here; not just to feel it on her skin, but to sense it, as she could on the net. A small, unconscious sigh escaped her, before the young girl turned her attention back to Rogan. He was putting a lot of trust in her this time. It was a plan he would never have tried if he were alone. Worry about all the ways things could go wrong gnawed at her, and without realising it, one hand crept inward to begin running two fingers slowly about the emblem at her chest.

What he planned was wrong, illegal, but even as he'd planned and she'd wanted to say something, she'd known there was no point. She'd help him do it, despite that, of course she would... but there were so many ways she could mess up and make things more difficult for him, make him think that she was useless, or broken, or even get him in serious trouble. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes. No, at the very least, if she messed up badly, Rogan could still get himself out of trouble. He needed her help to ensure he succeeded, but even if it all went wrong, he would be able to take care of himself at least. He was smart enough not to put his safety completely in her hands. She resettled herself, resting her head down as she continued to watch him sleep.
When Rogan woke he didn't stir right away, but opened one eye a crack. Lyntael was out of her PET still, her little hologram sprawled out on his chest with her head in her arms. He didn't move at first, taking a few moments to watch her. Lying on her front, she looked to be asleep, and he marvelled again at how realistic the behaviour seemed. She shifted slightly, snuggling against the fabric of his shirt with her cheek and stirring the rest of her body into a new pattern of disarray, now with the arms framing the head instead of under it, and one leg arched up at the hip and bent at the knee. He couldn't see her face, but heard her sigh softly, with a faint hint of breathy voice to it. Unbidden, the pose conjured the thought of having a real, and real-sized, woman lying against his chest so. How long had it been since... Banishing the thought, Rogan abruptly sat upright, scrubbing a hand over his face and through his hair. The resulting shriek of startled surprise was accompanied by the whisper-delicate sensation of something very light tumbling down his front and landing on one thigh. It was enough to call a wry smirk to one corner of his lips.

The semi-tangibility of her hologram was something he didn't really understand. It wasn't truly solid, not completely, but it had a certain amount of presence, and resistance; enough that she could touch and move and climb, hold a few small and very light objects, and be pushed, poked or tapped if need be. He hadn't understood Eric's explanation of how it worked, not drowned in nonsense about authenticity of experience and sensation, and all the rest of it, but he understood enough.

"It's almost time, Lyntael. No messages or contacts?" He spoke quietly as he straightened his clothes and shifted around to the driver's seat again. Lyntael had slipped off and was still kneeling on the back seat, blinking and rubbing at her eyes when he looked back to her. Her cheeks had turned rosy pink as she looked up to him, but she only blinked a few more times as he raised an eyebrow. "Lyntael?"

"Hmm? Oh, ah, no, sir, nothing new. Is it two already, sir? I only just checked a moment ago and it was... oh."
"Enough, Lyntael. You must be serious tonight. Your role in this is important, so no games. Is that understood?"
"Yes, sir." His ears caught the quiet sound of another soft sigh as she answered, but he ignored it. So long as she did as he needed her to, that was enough.

The sense of serious calm that he always got while working settled over Rogan as they returned to SciLab. It was a pleasant feeling, in its way; a mixture of personal solitude, and of surety and confidence. Distantly, he was a ware that his body was getting quite hungry, but it was only a minor thought, barely brushing the edges of his mind. It wasn't a concern for now.

"Rogan, sir... Are you sure about doing this? Now, so soon?" Lyntaels voice was a faint whisper, from where she now sat with her legs folded, in the alcove of his dashboard. Well, not exactly solitude any more these days, it seemed.
"Hush. Away for now, Lyntael." In the corner of his eye, he saw her draw back, pouting for a moment, before hanging her head. The hologram dissolved, leaving Rogan alone with his own thoughts again.

Back inside her PET, Lyntael resisted the urge to pace. Everything would be fine, really. Rogan knew what he was doing, and what she had to do wasn't really all that complicated, in the end. She still felt half asleep. And lingeringly warm in embarrassing places. She'd fallen asleep, that much was clear, but just what had she been dreaming about when Rogan woke her? It had all but faded now, but she'd been mortified to look at him when he had first stirred her. A part of her wanted to tease at the wisps of memory to recall whatever the dream had been, but instead she did her best to put it, and thoughts of it, from her mind. There was very little else to distract her in the blank template of a home space, though, so Lyntael did what she normally did when Rogan consigned her here and commanded silence; she dropped down at the terminal and continued to work on ideas and designs for .GMOs that she knew she'd probably never get to wear.

Even so, she found herself simply staring at one in particular and biting her lip, rather than making anything. How might he look at her, if she wore that? How might that make her feel, if he did? Soon enough, she and gave up the idea of actually working in frustration. The feeling of wanting, urgently, to recapture what she'd been feeling before waking just wouldn't go away, and the half-recalled memory of a sensation persisted in a place she really needed to stop thinking about. Not thinking about it was swiftly becoming an effort in futility, though and she stood from the terminal again. If she had needed any more proof that understanding academically about something often failed utterly to prepare for the reality of it, the way this slightly uncomfortable, unconsciously urgent tension was crowding in on her every other thought, no matter how she tried to divert herself... well it certainly reinforced that truth. Once, she had promised herself that she would make sure to truly explore and understand every new experience and sensation she had, but this, right now, right before Rogan needed her for something, was not the time at all. Think of something else. Do something else.

She flexed her fingers then clenched them again, bouncing on her toes, then began to pace around the small space. When that wasn't enough she started to stretch, then to dance. Just focus on moving and stretching, rhythm and flow, and keep going until Rogan calls. As she moved, Lyntael threw herself into each pose and motion, one leading into the next however her instinct or inclination pulled, until she began to sweat from the vigour.

Unnoticed by the girl, flashes of static raced over her skin and snapped through her hair, making tiny trails of sparks fly off her fingers and toes as she danced. If anyone else had been watching her, they might have noticed that the movements and poses of her dance had grown far more sensuous and pronounced, instinctively advertising herself to imagined viewers, but saving her from more embarrassment, Lyntael herself was blissfully unaware of this, caught up in the distracting joy of the motion itself. Even if it wasn't actually making the feeling go away at all.


The rest of the drive passed in silence, though Rogan stopped well outside the most extreme perimeter, walking the last part on foot. The night air was cold and the wind felt pleasantly sharp on his skin. The scent in the air, and the clouds themselves, both hinted at rain to come in the early morning, maybe even a storm. Hopefully they'd be done and out again before it broke. As much as he loved stormy weather, getting drenched was a less appealing prospect.

Rogan turned off the path he had been following just before reaching the outer perimeter and cut through a park that presumably served as beautifying greenery. He stopped at the edge to lean his back against a tree that, to the keen eye, could be identified as housing one of the outer security camera towers in reality, cleverly dressed up to blend in with the real trees. He pulled his PET out of one coat pocket and extended the probe, beginning the process of creating an interface link where one oughtn't be.

"All set. In you go, Lyntael."
"Yes, sir." The lights on the probe changed colour, blinking a few times before going blue, each in turn, as Rogan adjusted the interface mask to keep the link smooth. Lyntael would be safely jacked in to the camera network for the external net now. He waited a few moments.
"Status, Lyntael."
"I'm here safely, sir. This camera tower is connected to all the other towers around the outside and other external areas of SciLab, and to the over-arching security system."
"Good. We'll stay outside for as much distance as we can, and enter here." He made a mark on the schematic currently displayed on his screen. "That's the nearest way inside to the lab I need to reach. At the doorway, I'll need you to pass through, from the external network, to the main security system, then back down into the sub-system responsible for the cameras in that part of the complex. I trust there will be enough time between covering the outside, to fixing the camera covering the internal side of that entrance?"
"I- I think so, sir. Yes. Yes, sir, there will be."
"Good. This first one is safe by now, yes?"
"Yes, sir, recording and re-writing a loop of the last five minutes, sir."
"Then let's go."

Rogan strode across the grounds with a calm, relaxed stride. PET in his pocket, and wearing his usual dark tones, anyone who saw him at all would likely assume him to be just out for a walk while working late, or some other explanation. It was quite amazing what most people would accept without question, so long as every sign of your outward behaviour said that you were meant to be there. Not that there was anyone out to see him, as it turned out, but a professional took every precaution regardless. Twice, Lyntael called for him to wait, or to divert where he was walking slightly, but they were easy actions to normalise when you were outside. He reached the stairway that led to the entrance he'd selected a few minutes later, and leaned casually on the rail by the door while he waited for Lyntael's confirmation. Her voice reached him after another minute, though she sounded strangely out of breath.

"Sir... I'm here, hahh... I've switched over to the internal sub-system, and I'm working on the camera covering the door... You've got thirty seconds on the outside camera still, just... just a moment... There! You're clear, sir." If he didn't know better, Rogan would have said Lyntael sounded nervous as well as winded now, but he shook his head and pressed on, slipping inside while the door shut behind him with a quiet hiss.
"Let's hope no-one else is home."

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((Branch: Lyntael Jacking in, to => SciLab Net))
((Begin Game, First move to follow when it's not after midnight))
Inside the doorway, Rogan took a moment to resettle his coat and flipped a few leaves through the file he was carrying, picking a point at random to 'read'. Ahead, he could see where the door he'd come in through met up with others that criss-crossed the offices and labs, and his eyes darted for a moment to the camera bubble that, if not for Lyntael, would be recording him right now. It still made him uneasy, giving her this task, but she'd done well enough so far, and even if she failed, he wouldn't be in any immediate danger. Well, not unless their physical security was nastier than he'd planned.

Lyntael's ready came to his ear a moment later and he set off at a slow, unconcerned walk, scanning between his 'research' and his PET and making it look as though he wasn't really watching where he was going. This part of the complex was mostly small laboratories, testing chambers and a few offices, and it was laid out in a helpfully uniform style. In between scanning his documents he sent his navi a message of directions then crossed the first intersection. Out the corner of one eye, he caught sight of another white-clad figure in the halls and made to move on passed the junction before he was seen.

Lyntael's panicked voice gave him pause, and he turned the half step into a falter, raising the back of his hand to his mouth and feigning being caught off-guard by a yawn. It swiftly became a very real yawn and Rogan blinked a few times, shaking it off as he rubbed at one eye. Oh well, at least it would be convincing if anyone did see. The scientist a short way up the hall hadn't looked his way yet, but the seconds he was forced to wait for Lyntael felt like minutes instead and his pace was probably quicker then it ought to have been when she finally gave him the all clear to move forward again.

As he walked, he wondered at how flustered the girl sounded. Her task wasn't really all that difficult; just keep whatever camera he was in from reporting faithfully, but she was going to lengths to sound stressed and out of breath. At any other time he would have reprimanded her for it, but there wasn't really any time to do so now. As he reached the second junction, Rogan glanced to his left. There was a larger block just ahead, and if he went straight on now, it was a long hall, with no options for turning off if anyone showed up. Probably better to turn up now, just to keep his options open.


Summary

*L1) Maintaining Camera 1
R1) Moving East: In Camera 1(Safe, 2 Actions Remaining)
*L2) Moving to Camera 3
*L3) Begin Looping Camera 3
R2) Wait: In Camera 1(Safe, 1 Action)
*L4) Complete Looping Camera 3
R3) Moving East: In Camera 1(Safe, 0 Actions), and Camera 3 (Safe, 2 Actions)
Of course, Rogan wasn't the only gentleman walking around, and the scientists started to make their rounds...most of them, anyway. A couple were too preoccupied with what they were doing to actually go anywhere at the moment. Unfortunately, one happened to block his escape route to his left...and if he looked hard enough, there was another one at the end of the extremely long hallway. On the bright side, neither of them had actually noticed him. Yet, at least. Decisions, decisions...

NOTE: The line coming from the dots indicates which direction the scientists came from, NOT where they're going.

NOTE 2: If I screwed anything up, PM/get on the chat and let me know. You know the drill by now.

His mind made up, Rogan turned to the left, continuing his idle stroll through the complex. He continued to read his file as he walked, seemingly engrossed, though he kept a careful eye on the rather more genuine scientist ambling in the other direction. Fortunately, whether the other man was up past his bed time, or was simply too occupied with his own thoughts, he didn't even appear to notice Rogan as they passed, and Rogan didn't give him much chance to either, keeping onward at a slightly faster walk.

Lyntael's panicked voice in his ear made his brows furrow for a moment, though he didn't stop. Mock fear or worry aside, if she said she needed more time to make it safe, then that much would be true, but even so... A small mistake here or there on the cameras was something he could clean up, if he really needed to. Getting caught in person would be much harder. She'd just have to do her best. Especially when there seemed to be far more people about than he'd originally hoped.

As he reached the next junction, Rogan began to pause, shifting his folder to look at his PET for a moment to hide the change, but a glance out the corner of his eye kept his feet moving. Absorbed in enjoying a coffee, a researcher in a rumpled coat rested on one of the small benches at the same junction as him, but thankfully the combination of beverage and small hours had left her utterly uninterested in even noticing Rogan, for now. To the left, however, he could see a man in what was clearly a security uniform, pausing to talk with another late-night lab-coat, and difficulties with cameras or not, Rogan knew better than to linger and be queried. Other workers he might brush by or talk past in a pinch, but the security was much more likely to be alert and apt to remember an out of place face. As he crossed the junction, Lyntael cried out, more desperate than before, and he was glad that her voice was in his ear, privately, rather than playing aloud as it often did.

"Stop, Rogan, sir, stop! I can't keep up, there's just too many cameras!" Now she sounded positively wracked and Rogan caught himself frowning slightly. He let his feet drag, pausing in the junction, and looked more closely at his folder, as though confused by something. The cover action let him turn so his back was mostly to the security guard down the hall, just in case he looked his way. The girl's affectation was enough to make him wish for the umpteenth time that she would keep such so-called niceties to herself. She continued quickly enough, though her voice wavered and her breathing was hard.

"Please, sir, I'm trying, but there's just to many. The north side of the wing has so many more cameras overlapping each other. Please, you have to go a different way! I just can't do it. I'm... I'm sorry sir, I am. I'm doing the best I can." He suppressed the urge to sigh. Was it too much to ask for just the facts and nothing else? He had stressed how serious this matter was to her... why did she continue with the prattle and the emotive jargon, even now? She was making it sound like she was almost in tears, all for pushing a few buttons on some camera controls. It really was too much.

Keeping his back to the the security, Rogan made a small tech under his breath, leafing through the pages in his file quickly and looking for all the world as though he'd just discovered that he'd forgotten something. Perhaps it was all for show, since the white-coated woman resting on the bench at the corner of his junction still seemed far more engrossed in her coffee than anything else going on in the world around her. Even so, better not to press it; he turned about the rest of the way and headed beck the same direction he'd come, letting a vaguely vexed look crease his features to keep up the image. Well, maybe it wasn't quite all an act.



Summary

L1) Move to Camera 2
L2) Scramble Camera 2
R1) Moving North: In Camera 2 (Safe, 1 Action Remaining)
L3) Maintain Camera 2
R2) Moving North: In Camera 2 (Safe, 1 Actions Remaining)
L4) Move to Camera 1
R3) Moving South: In Camera 2 (Safe, 0 Actions Remaining)
The other scientists made their moves, and luckily, most of them ended up moving away from where Rogan went. One, however, was only barely avoided, as he chose to head straight for where the non-scientist had only just been. In an immense stroke of luck, however, he was distracted by another scientist, so for the moment it was extremely unlike he'd turn that way. Probably wouldn't stay that way for long, though...

There was the feeling of danger behind his back, and the urge to look back tickling at him like an itch he didn't dare scratch as Rogan keep on back the way he came. He could hear the heavier, measured footsteps of the security guard crossing the junction he'd just been in moments ago, and had to fight the urge not to sigh with relief as they continued onwards behind him. This really was cutting things rather fine, but he couldn't deny the exhilaration it provided. The danger of the game had always been one of the reasons he lived as he did, and tonight was nothing if not dangerously exciting.

"Left here! Now, sir, now!" Lyntael's shout, fraught with the hallmarks of panic and desperation made him roll his eyes, but he trusted that her commands, at least, would need to be followed. He turned as he reached the junction, moving more quickly once he was around the corner. The white coats that had been here before seemed to have moved on. It was useful for now, but Rogan found himself wishing that he could know where they'd gotten to, as well.

He let his pace slow again as he approached the western wall of the wing, looking left and right. The short glance was enough to make him turn quickly to face his body more southward. The same security guard had also gone all the way to the edge of the wing, on his own route, and though his back was turned for now, Rogan wanted nothing more than to be out of the same corridor with the problematic man. Of his two choices, he was more than happy to head quickly southward, away from the guard and putting more distance between them, but he heard his wayward navi shout at him to stop again before he could turn the next corner. Now she was panting and sounding out of breath again, as though she had to physically run from on camera to the next.

The idea was laughable and it made him wonder why she bothered, when he'd told her countless times not to, but his would-be mirth was dampened on two fronts; first with the continued irritation that she seemed incapable of obeying his command for simplicity, and secondly because the thought of standing and loitering in the same stretch of corridor as the guard was setting him on edge again. The result was that, instead of smirking, Rogan stood and flipped over the page on his file, pretending to read the words there with a look of deep concentration on his face. He foot tapped quietly as he waited for Lyntael's all clear, though and he forced it to stillness again with an effort.

Summary

L1) Begin Looping Camera 1
L2) Complete Looping Camera 2
R1) Move East (In Camera 1, Safe, 2 Actions Remaining)
L3) Maintain Camera 2
R2) Move South (In Camera 1, Safe, 2 Actions Remaining)
L4) Move to Camera 3
R3) Wait (In Camera 1, Safe, 1 Action Remaining)


Rogan made his moves, eventually choosing not to move. But maybe he should have...as a scientist came right his way! He seemed intent on studying a folder he had open, though, so it probably wouldn't take a ton of effort to deflect him.

"Oh, hey there. You catch the game last night?"

...But it would take some effort, at the very least.

While he waited, reading his file, another of the late-night employees approached. Hopes that the other man would just walk on and ignore him faded as the actual scientist paused, though Rogan betrayed no sign of having noticed yet, seemingly engrossed in his work. When the other man spoke, Rogan flinched slightly, feigning startlement. He looked up briefly, scrubbing one hand over his face in a tired motion that obscured most of his features, before turning his face back to the files in his folder.

"Home... Tv... Sleep... I think I remember what those things are. Vaguely." He made his voice sound tired, but not so far gone as to cause worry. The tone was that sort of bland, unremarkable pitch that you forgot the sound of almost as soon as it stopped; he had practice with that sort of thing. "I remember the theory, at least. The practice has eluded me for some time... Ah!" Still without looking up, he pulled a pen from his top pocket and crossed through a line of text, beginning to scribble a note in the margin next to it. In his ear, Lyntael's voice told him to move and he looked across to his PET. His brows furrowing.

"Yes, yes, I'm on my way. These mistakes don't correct themselves you know. I'll be there shortly." He spared a small, weary smile for the other man, just a momentary glance. "No rest for the overworked, as they say. Good night." He was walking on even as he slipped the pen back in his pocket, striding away down the hall with a little more purpose than before, looking for all the world like he was lost again in his own mind and how it pertained to his 'work'.

As he reached the corner of the large block again, Lyntael urged him on quickly, but Rogan hesitated. At the end of the long, branch-less hall he could see an older man heading into the straight. Too far off to see his face clearly, the hair, on the other-hand, was fairly memorable; in his quick information reconnaissance the head of this department had been noted as being of the friendly type, familiar with all the staff members that worked under him by name and face, a people's boss. It wasn't good news for Rogan, though, since he'd definitely know that Rogan wasn't one of his the instant they met face to face. He'd mentally marked the man's wild, bushy spray of orange hair as his most defining feature, and someone to avoid if at all possible. Without hesitating any further he turned to his right, away from the long hall.

Lyntael immediately objected, complaining about the timing for the cameras, but he ignored her for a few moments longer, moving quickly once he was around the corner. This hall terminated in a cul de sac with a few benches, some aesthetic plants and one or two more comfortable couches. Rogan dropped down into one, settling himself against the arm of one of the longer seats so that his back was mostly to the junction, and opened his folder. He took out his pen again and began to scan the pages, again putting on the image of someone error-checking a research document. The look of annoyed consternation on his face wasn't entirely feigned, either, as Lyntael started up with her 'distress'.

"Lyntael, you are grating my nerves. I have instructed you already to do as I command and nothing else. It is not a terribly complex order. Do you understand what I'm telling you?" He spoke low and quickly, though there was no keeping the harshness out of his voice. That her affirmative was a barely audible whimper only fuelled his irritation. "Desist, Lyntael. Your options are simple; either do as you're told and perform the task you've been given, or else tell me that you are incapable now, and be silent for the rest of the night. This is a serious matter. Now can you perform the task I have given you, or not?" He waited, expecting her normal dropping-the-nonsense 'Yes, Sir', but all that came through for a few seconds was the sound of muffled sobbing. So now it had moved from emulated distress to crying. He sighed, beginning to work out his plans for how to manage the situation without her and moved to put his PET away altogether when her voice reached his ear, now something of a panicked, anxious shout, making him wince and wish she had stayed silent.

"Yes, Sir! I can! I can do it, I promise! I won't let you down, Rogan, sir, I swear it I won't! Please, please, I can do this!" All credit to Eric, Rogan didn't think he could really distinguish between the way her voice sounded, and how a real person might if they were begging through broken tears... but now was really not the time for such artistry. Why was she acting up so much, now of all times? He let the silence stretch as he though, and continued to 'correct' his files. One way or another he'd probably have to wait here until the department head had passed by altogether. At least that would probably give the girl all the time she felt she needed to rig things. It was like working with a child, sometimes, and he wondered vaguely if Eric had designed her that way deliberately. Probably.


Summary

L1) Begin Looping Camera 3
L2) Complete Looping Camera 3
*(Deflecting employee; scientist is 'safe'/blue, so not costing an action)
R1) Move East: In Camera 1 (Safe, 0 Actions Remaining), and Camera 3 (Safe, 2 Actions Remaining)
L3) Move to Camera 1
R2) Move South: Blindspot! (For Reference: Camera 1 True, Camera 3 Safe, 1 Action)
L4) Begin Looping Camera 1
R3) Wait: Blindspot! (For Reference: Camera 1 True, Camera 3 Safe, 0 Action)
The scientist froze and turned back to Rogan, an eyebrow clearly raised. But what could he have done to raise suspicion? "...You didn't hear what I said, did you? You must really be out of it...you should probably go file for a vacation ASAP." Fortunately, beyond the suggestion, he didn't have a ton of interest in the situation, and so he continued his walk. One crisis averted.

Speaking of crises, for once, absolutely nothing endangering occurred. The one problem came when one of the big shots started walking down that last hall...but, seeing nothing other than two scientists talking (fortunately, circumstances were ideal, as Rogan was facing away from him at that moment), backtracked to where he had been. Thus, he was able to duck away in a corner in peace. ...Maybe too peacefully, since there wasn't even anyone near him right now.

It was only a few seconds, really, but the wait felt interminable. As Rogan sat with his back to the junction, scribbling nonsense notes in the margins of his files, his ears prickled for the sound of the department head passing but, but the footsteps didn't come. The urge to look behind him was an itch in the centre of his back, but he held fast, waiting. Lyntael's voice sounded less fraught now, and while the affectation still annoyed him a little, at least it was perfectly clear to listen to now. Emotive affectation was fine, so long as it didn't get in the way.

Not hearing the footsteps was a problem; he hated losing track of a person once he'd made a note of them once, but there was nothing much he could do about it. He wanted to get up and look, at least, but caution held him in check. At last he stood while she relayed more detail to him, and moved up the hall part way. He couldn't approach far enough to et a good look down the other halls, not without stepping into sight of the other cameras, but for all he knew, he'd be walking out face to face with people he'd really rather avoid. It really came down to Lyntael, in the end, and it made Rogan clench his teeth, behind his otherwise relaxed mask.

"Now, sir! Go now!" Her voice was imperative and Rogan clenched his fists, then relaxed them again. He could either trust her, or not. It made him want to shout. After another instant of hesitation, he growled quietly in his throat, then strode briskly out into the crossroads.

Summary

L1) Finish Looping Camera 1
L2) Move to Camera 3
R1) Wait: Blindspot! (Camera 1 Safe, 2 Actions, Camera 3 True)
L3) Begin Looping Camera 3
R2) Wait: Blindspot! (Camera 1 Safe, 1 Action, Camera 3 True)
L4) Finish Looping Camera 3
R3) Move North: In Camera 1 (Safe, 0 Actions), and Camera 3 (Safe, 2 Actions)
Scientists moved, non-scientists moved, and there still wasn't anyone within two corridors of Rogan. Perhaps it was time for him to make his move...or was it? Who knew?

It was surprisingly difficult to keep hidden the sense of relief that took Rogan as he turned the corner and looked around. He didn't slow, and kept on with the turn, heading down the long corridor, but the small scattering of different, brief, feelings he had made him think as he walked.

First had been relief, yes relief that there had been no-one to see him in any direction, but more as well, relief that his navi hadn't led him blindly into danger, too. Then after that, something very much like surprise, which he could only really put down in his mind as surprise that she hadn't, somehow, caused more problems. It made him wonder though; why surprise at an instruction from her not causing more problems than it fixed? It wasn't that he expected her to make mistakes at every turn, certainly... it wasn't that, not exactly, but as he pondered it, he could only conclude that he was expecting her to neglect important matters in favour of of irrelevant ones, and mentally planning for it to happen. It was an irrational expectation for a program for whom he trusted the maker, but it was hard to argue that the longer he had her about, the more is natural expectations seemed to be falling out of line with what was rational. He sighed softly and shook his head. It was a problem for another time.

For now, the mission was where his mind needed to be, and he was almost out of the nerve-wracking stretch with no turns. Ahead, he could see someone that looked more or less like another lab technician, but it was clear the other man had seen Rogan as well, and he looked a lot more alert than most would at this hour. He paused to glance at his PET, as though checking something, then turned to head north, out of the other man's path, but Lyntael's voice cut in quickly.

"Sir! You can't go north yet! There's two cameras in sight of the junction north from you, and I've only taken care of one. I'm working on the other, but it's not safe yet. Please, sir, keep going east if you can, or wait. I just need a few more moments!" Fear, panic, pleading... but at the very least what she had said was concise and to the point about the situation. That was what mattered, and he was glad, at least, that she was getting that much right for now. Still, it was irksome in and of itself.

He nodded to himself, as though the glance at his PET had confirmed what he thought, then kept on eastward. At this point, stopping and waiting would probably seem more suspicious than just walking past the other man, but he prepared himself for having to deal with some quick talking anyway. Who knew, maybe the other man wasn't really as alert as he seemed.

Summary

L1) Move to Camera 8
R1) Move East: In Camera 3 (Safe, 1 Action)
L2) Begin Looping Camera 8
R2) Move East: In Camera 3 (Safe, 0 Actions)
L3) Finish Looping Camera 8
R3) Move East: In Camera 8 (Safe, 2 Action)
L4) Maintain Camera 8
Everyone moved. The end.

...Is probably what Rogan wished happened, but an extended arm from the scientist prevented him from going forward. Unlike most of the others, this one happened to be a woman, though she still managed to mostly look like the others. It was probably the lab coat. Lab coats did that, right?

"Hold on a sec. You look pretty well rested, so maybe you can help me with something. I'm working on some new algorithms, to further refine the Navi emotion simulation program, but something's off, and I can't quite figure it out. I've got it narrowed down a bit, but...well, mind giving me some input? What I've got so far is-" What followed was a sequence of numbers and computer code that even the most hardcore programmer would probably be hard-pressed to completely follow. "Any ideas?"

A fine question. Did he have any ideas right this moment?

It was a sign how much his mission-focused mind had reduced things beyond his immediate need for interaction to targets and non-targets, that Rogan didn't register that the researcher he was passing was female until she had reached out to grab his attention. He had plenty of time to adapt to the situation, though, as she seemed just as absorbed in her own theoretics, just grabbing him as another sentient being to ask, rather than for him in particular. He met her eyes and fixed her with a thoughtful expression as she went into detail on her problem, letting his features fall into the set of someone listening closely. Most of the fine details went over his head, but he caught enough to understand some of what she was talking about.

The irony of it would have brought a smirk to his face if he hadn't been keeping his outward expression tightly controlled. She was working on navigator emotion simulation. Hah! It left him wondering just what SciLab would make of the, so he said, beyond cutting edge work Eric was doing in his own home... or the wayward, problematic little navi he himself had running around in their systems even now. When the other lady finished her dissertation, Rogan let his eyes drop away from her and took a moment to bite one knuckle, feigning deep thought.

"Hmm... It's not really my area, truthfully, I can't help with the specifics, but from what I can tell the math floor seems to line up the way it should, at least. If the algorithms aren't growing in the way you expect, it may be another variable. Don't quote me on it, I think better when I have it written out in front of me, but..." He delved into some of the language and descriptions that Eric had often used when describing his work. A small corner of his brain was surprised and glad that he had, after all, taken the time to hear his brother out from time to time. He tilted his head, as though thinking of something.

"Have you considered... well, I was talking to another fellow about this, recently, and he had this strange theory about interweaving the emotive functions into the rest of the core at a neural level, so that it could draw from all possible sources of incoming stimuli and data, not only its own pre-set algorithmic feeders. He thought it might make it less refined and less predictable, but also more human-like and realistic." Rogan gave a small shrug and offered an apologetic smile. "Truthfully I didn't understand much of what he theorised, I'm just repeating the concepts. I couldn't even tell you if it was a sound idea or not." He feigned stifling a yawn behind one hand and then glanced at his PET quickly. "Sorry, I've got to get this reports checked over and filed before I head home tonight... ahh... this morning. My wife gets annoyed at me if I stay at work all night, so I have to at least make sure I get home before dawn. Good luck with it." He nodded to her again with a small smile, then made his way past her.

As much as his fashion choice and facial features blessed him with an unremarkable look that most tended to forget easily, or not notice in the first place, he'd always found it best to drop at least one casual reference to a partner whenever he was being cordial to women. More than once he'd had the problem of being remembered purely because a lady he'd spoken with thought he was unattached. Lyntael's voice telling him to keep on northward put his mind back on the mission, but he groaned inwardly as he approached the next intersection. The same night guard from earlier was just coming into view at a leisurely walk further ahead. How had that happened? He'd taken too long waiting for Lyntael, and things were way too dangerous here now. He still didn't know which way the department head had gone, and it was irking him.

Pausing for a moment at the corner, he glanced ahead to see whether the guard had moved on yet or not and failed to stop the wince that took over his face as he saw further past the, very much still present, guard the shock of bright hair that he'd just wondered about, looking like it was coming towards him too. Everything was determined to go just perfectly wrong, it seemed. Without pausing for thought, he turned to his left and hurried down the hall. Cameras or not, he had to get out of the way of those two.
"Ah! Sir, where..? Ah, no..." Lyntael's voice sounded like she wasn't even certain if she was addressing him or talking to herself. The quiet sound of her breath panting came through as well, but he ignored it. If she had proper information, she'd relay it, and that was all that mattered. For now he just had to wait until the immediate danger passed, before going on. He should be fairly close to the lab he needed now, if his mental map was accurate.

Summary

L1 Move to Camera 7
L2 Begin Looping Camera 7
R1 Deflecting: In Camera 8 (Safe, 2 Actions)
L3 Finish Looping Camera 7
R2 Move North: In Camera 8 (Safe, 1 Action) and 7 (Safe, 2 Actions)
L4 Move to Camera 9
R3 Move West: In Camera 8 (Safe, 0 Actions) and 7 (Safe, 1 Action)

"Hmm..." The lady scientist took a moment to ponder Rogan's 'suggestion', though fortunately for him, only a moment. "Actually, that's not a terrible idea. I don't think it can be fully integrated, since then the Navi would just be a blank slate, but a partial merging...that might just work. It'll mean the last two weeks of work was for nothing, but if this works, it'll revolutionize the emotional aspect of Navi AI! I'm glad I bumped into you! Thanks!" And so she wandered off, lit up like a Christmas tree at the possibilities. One would probably get the feeling that at this point, even if she suspected something, she'd be prone to ignore it simply because of the spark she'd gotten. (GREEN SCIENTIST DOWNGRADED TO BLUE)

Anyway, there was movement, and Rogan got a first hand look at one of the bigwigs. Fortunately, he seemed to be talking to someone on his other side, so he wasn't looking in the direction of the intruder. The scientist was basically staring straight ahead, looking zoned out. Hmm, maybe he wasn't so much talking with him, so much as talking AT him...

Either way, unless he did something incredibly stupid at this juncture, he probably wouldn't get spotted by either of them.

A small part of Rogan's mind wondered if discussing some of the theoretics of his brother's experimental research with SciLab employees would upset him, but he dismissed the thought as quickly. If someone with as little understanding as Rogan himself could communicate enough of the concept to cause problems, then it couldn't honestly be that ground-breaking. He reassured himself that the truly valuable aspect of is brother's work, whatever that was, would likely remain opaque from just the vague ideas he'd offered.

Non-mission ponders fled from his mind again completely as he turned at the fork and looked back the way he had come from the corner of his eye. Sure enough, he'd only just gotten out of the way in time and, thankfully, the department head seemed to be thoroughly engaged with the employed walking beside him. It was nice to have something, at least, go right. He quickened his pace, moving northward once he was sure the security guard was well past the intersection, but good fortune didn't seem to want to stay around for very long.

He was just wondering how to deal with the pair of employees that had chosen that exact crossroads to stop and chat when Lyntael's voice cut into his thoughts. She was sounding beyond pathetic now, enough that he paused and lifted his PET, turning to the side and feigning a call halfway down the passageway. When he looked at the screen, he could see the girl collapsed by one of the camera terminals and sobbing uncontrollably. The realism of it was enough to make him wince, but any emotion he might have been tempted to over the display was pushed out by irritation at the needlessness of it. He couldn't help but roll his eyes as she, brokenly, pleaded for him not to hate her, but brushed the comment aside as he ordered her up and back to work.

The thought sometimes came to him that if he relented and actually played along with her emotive simulation, and treated her as though she actually did have human feelings, he might actually get better behaviour out of her, but the concept of being made to do so, just to have a tool function properly, irked his stubbornness enough that he never contemplated it for long. In fairness, she had warned him about the northern passageways, and the number of cameras on them. Perhaps it really was too many for a single navi to keep up with.

So, if he walked forward now, the cameras there would definitely record him. But, if it was just one instance, in an otherwise flawless set, one case of him existing for a few moments in one location, and not at all anywhere else, then that was something he could probably hack a fix for, once he was in the clear. More than once would be too obvious though. Still... He took a breath and cut off her apologising to him again.

"I'm aware of that. That is not what I asked of you. I will fix what you have broken, in time. For now, Lyntael, Stand Up." Without really thinking about it, he layered his voice with the same commanding set he used to get people to do as he wished, pointless as it was with a program, but one way or another Lyntael got to her feet again and received the rest of his orders in a more calm fashion.

Letting his PET drop to his side again, he spared another brief glance at his folder, nodding to himself just in case anyone was watching, then turned and continued towards the junction. It was only his imagination that created the itchy, being watched feeling as he stepped into the intersection, and the camera's sight, and he ignored it, instead looking up brightly, with a small, uncertain smile for the two lab coats that were already there. Rather than wait to be noticed, he stepped up and looked between the two of them, letting a look of hopefulness cross his features.

"Hi there, sorry to interrupt you, but, I was wondering if you could help me? I'm looking for lab NO416." He ducked his head with a grin as he referenced the lab he was heading towards. It was a bit risky to give the information, but, most people forgot his face easily and he certainly intended to head in the right direction after deflecting these two, so he'd slip from their minds easier if their own directions sent him that way. "I'm Tim," he flicked his ID tag with one finger, making the gesture look unconscious, "I normally work over in humans services, but James, in accounts, asked me if I could run the hard copies of these files up to that lab." He paused again, looking earnestly between them. "I, ah, don't usually come to this wing and I think I'm a bit lost. I'm sure I'm on the right floor, but I think I've gone around in circles twice now without finding the right place. I don't suppose either of you could point me in the right direction?" Again, he let his eyes flick back and forth hopefully. A part of his casing of any place usually involved picking out a few names of people in referable positions, just in case. At least that part had been easy for SciLab, since they employed so many people. Now that the damage was done here, he didn't mind taking the extra time to wait here like this; the fix would be the same, later on, and it might ensure that Lyntael had the time she needed to prevent any more mistakes.


Summary

L1 Move to Camera 8
L2 Begin Looping Camera 8
R1 Move North: In Camera 5 (True), and 7 (Safe, 0 Actions) !Rogan is Exposed. 'One Time' used.
L3 Finish Looping Camera 8
R2 Deflecting: In Camera 5 (True), and 7 (True) !Exposed Grace Period until next movement.
L4 Move to Camera 7
R3 Deflecting/Waiting: In Camera 5 (True), and 7 (True) !Exposed Grace Period until next movement.
The scientists that had been talking to each other for a moment before Rogan showed up both turned to look at him; one had green hair, and the other had blue hair. The former narrowed his eyes at 'Tim', while the latter just stared at him. "...Lab NO416, you say?"

"Which one's that again? The one where that one scientist that completely snapped kept and bred all those N.O. viruses until he got busted, and then everyone started ironically calling it that?"

"That's the one."

"Yeah, my Navi hates it when I go in there! He keeps thinking he's going to beamed or something!"

"But that doesn't make sense...why would anyone go anywhere near NO416, much less someone in Accounts? I don't think that lab's been used for anything in over a month."

"Maybe it's about to be used again for something?"

"That still doesn't explain what Accounts wants to send files there."

"Oh, come on! You act like he's suspicious or something! Seriously, NO416 is a SciLab in-joke! What're the odds an outsider would know it?"

"...I suppose that's true."

"You'll have to forgive him, Tim, he thinks everyone he doesn't know is some intruder! Anyway, NO416 isn't too much farther. Head that way until you hit the next intersection..." He pointed in the way Rogan was facing. "Then turn right. It'll be the first lab to your left!"

"You'd be surprised how often I'm not wrong on that...blah, I've got too much work to do to stand around chewing the fat. You two shouldn't dwaddle here, either."

"Don't remind me..."

With that, the scientists went their separate ways. Looked like he was in the clear, though he hadn't exactly amazed the green haired one the way he did the woman a moment ago. Oh well, he was by his lonesome, and that's what mattered, right? Well, that, and a bigwig was probably about to start heading his way...