Circuit Relay

"... This can't be it."

Mill had taken the Metroline, fought his way through the crowds, and found the address of the job ad... And was this it? This parts store looked like a freakin' pawn shop. Damned misleading ads...

"This is, in fact, the correct address, Operator." explained Magna, totally missing Mill's sarcasm.

"... Thanks, Magna," grumbled Mill, lamenting his Navi's bluntness. In the end, though, Mill decided to go in.

The inside was... cluttered. Random boxes were everywhere, shelves were totally disorganized, and Mill was pretty sure that whatever he just stepped on was going to cost him a pretty zenny. He was really starting to appreciate Suitachi and Soryu's shops, that's for sure. It took Mill a good 3 minutes just to make his way to the counter without stepping on anything... else.

Once he finally made it there, Mill was quick to discover... there was no one there. Getting a little ticked off, he shouted, "Is anyone here?!" With that, another pile of boxes in the back bursted apart, allowing a man to jump out and walk over to the counter. Long hair, tye-dye shirt, rose-colored glasses... Good lord, this guy looked like a beatnik. Confused and a little frightened, Mill managed to force out, "Uhh... What were you doing back there?"

"Just some organizing," said the man, waving it off as nothing out of the ordinary.

Given the state of the shop, Mill didn't buy that one for a second. In any case, the man realized that he was talking to someone, and said, "Now... what can I do for you?"

Taking his cue, Mill explained, "There was this ad, and-"

"Oh, you're here for the job!" Or maybe he doesn't need to explain. In any case, the man continued. "Wonderful! You know electronics pretty well, right?"

"Well, yeah..." muttered Mill, totally freaked out by this guy.

"Perfect! You're hired!" announced the man happily.

"Great... You do you have a name... Boss?" asked Mill wearily.

"Oh, of course. Bilst Kaullel. Just Bilst is fine."

Weird name... thought Mill. "Okay... I'm Mill Alidine. What do you want me to do?"

"Why, find a client, of course." stated Bilst matter-of-factly.

"But... isn't this a parts shop?" asked Mill confusedly.

"Yes, but now that you're here, we need to expand our horizons! Now, go and spread the name of Circuit Relay throughout Electopia!" And, with that, Bilst pretty much tossed him out of the building.

Mill just stared into space for a moment before realizing what just happened. At a loss, he turned to Magna: "Now what?"

"You were instructed to find a client. The BBS should prove the fastest method of doing so."

"I guess... Wait, can't I just use the shop's computer for that? Uh... Actually, maybe I should keep my distance from that guy." decided Mill, making his way from his new workplace to the Netcafe he went to before.
Mill trudged his way back into the shop, carefully maneuvering around boxes of who-knows-what. Eventually he made it to the counter, which Bilst was sitting behind, casually reading a book through his rosy-colored glasses. Realizing that he was totally absorbed in it, Mill tapped his fist against the counter to draw attention.

"Oh, you're back already?" noted Bilst, pulling his nose out of the book for a moment.

"I ended up doing freelance work for the NetPolice. I got paid, but..." explained Mill.

"Money's money. You did work, and got paid, so that's good enough." responded Bilst, closing his book and setting it under the counter.

"This is a parts shop, though! Shouldn't there be, you know... electronic works?" questioned Mill.

"Good point, I guess... Come to think of it, I did get a call from an inn in Yoka to bring some parts in and install them. You could go do that, if you want." suggested Bilst.

"Well, it's what I took this job for, so alright... What are you going to be doing, though?" accepted Mill, but not before making sure his boss wasn't just shoving work onto him.

"Reading." answered Bilst honestly as he pulled his book back out. Mill looked at it for a moment, and noticed it was entirely written in Sharoan. Oookay then...

"... Whatever. As long as I get paid..." muttered Mill in defeat. "Where's the box?"

"Second one by the door. The tools are inside too, so don't worry about that." answered Bilst before waving off his assistant. Mill dodged his way back across the store to the box in question and picked it up... Oof. This one was heavy. With a grunt, Mill heaved it up to his chest and made his way out the door and towards the MetroLine.

(Moving to Yoka)
"Operator, a new e-mail has come in." announced Magna from his PET abode as a single envelope warped its way over to the Navi's side.

"Alright, just a minute!" shouted Mill from across the room, having left his PET on the front counter after being ordered to stock a shelf by Bilst. In retrospect... He probably should've argued, since he had never actually seen a customer come in before and, as a result, the shelf didn't really need stocking. So, with a full shelf and a box full of electronic parts, Mill had to get pretty creative with placing. However, Mill's creativity was rather lacking today, and he was totally at a loss. Magna telling him about that new e-mail came as a welcome excuse to give up this futile task. With a slight heave, Mill pushed himself up off the floor and walked over to the counter. "Who's the sender?" asked Mill quizzically.

Magna took a moment to look, but that moment just kept stretching on and on with no answer. Mill waited... and waited... and waited... then finally sighed, saying "Well?".

"There... is no sender, Operator." explained Magna, finally resigning his search for a source. He just couldn't make any sense of it.

"... What? Let me see it." ordered Mill hastily. Was it a glitch? Magna zoomed the PET's view in on the e-mail, and sure enough, the return address wasn't there. That was... impossible. E-mails don't even send if they lack a return address. Mill tweaked his viewing options to make sure his screen wasn't bugging out, but that didn't deny the fact that the e-mail had no sender. "... Whatever. Delete it, Magna." commanded Mill, figuring there wasn't much good to come out of this e-mail either way.

"Understood." responded Magna decisively, prompting him to lift his right hand and open the shutter on his palm, letting loose a flurry of shots at the message and kicking up a cloud of dust in the process. Once the dust settled... Nothing had changed. The e-mail still remained there, completely unscathed. Magna just stood there, hopelessly trying to grasp why he couldn't delete this single e-mail.

"... What the hell? It's indestructable? Okay, this is really a problem." groaned Mill. If this was the future of spam mail, he was about ready to swear off the Net forever. He sighed again, then just kind of glazed his eyes across the store, hoping that a solution would jump out at him. Unfortunately, the best option he saw was his boss, who was lazing about on a couch in the back room, reading a book. Well... It couldn't hurt to ask, Mill thought. "Hey Bilst, could you come over here for a second? I've got this weird e-mail..." asked Mill, however unsuccessful after noticing that he was listening to some music through some very discrete earbuds. Mill just shook his head as he walked around the counter and into the back to try and grab his boss's attention.

With the dialogue with his Operator at an end, an awkward silence prevaded over Magna, which allowed him to notice something... out of place. It was a very quiet sound, but Magna could tell it was real. It was far too consistant for him to be hearing things. Tick... tick... tick... There is was. Ticking. Something was ticking... Wait, ticking? Warning sirens went off in Magna's head as he realized that the e-mail was counting down. Whether it was a bomb or just a prank Magna didn't really want to find out, so he dove for the far corner of his PET, making a loud crashing sound through the speakers as the weight of his massive 10 foot tall frame came to a hard stop. The loud noise, coupled with the PET rattling on the table from the speaker's force, made Mill and Bilst, who had only just opened up his ears, jump in surprise, then rush out in front to see what happened. Just as they reach Magna's PET, the e-mail opened in an unspectacular fashion, proving that the ticking was just a false alarm. In simple white letters, it read:


After reading it over 3 times, Mill came to the conclusion that he had no idea what this was about. "What the hell... Is this some kind of joke?" said Mill angrily through gritted teeth.

"Correciton will be issued momentarily..." muttered Bilst, in what was probably the first thing he said all day, "... Something else is going to happen?". The lax Sharoan posed it as a question, but it almost seems like he expected it to happen. And, sure enough, something happened after that "moment" passed. A single beam of light shot out from the e-mail's envelope... right at Magna's chest, causing him to clutch the spot in pain.

"Magna? Are you alright..?" asked Mill as Magna gripped his chest even tighter.

"Operator..." groaned Magna before stopping on the spot, having realized what was going on. He could feel his programming being overwritten... changing. This must've been the "correction"... but this wasn't right. Magna could feel his body rejecting the changes, alerting him that he wasn't the e-mail's intending target and that he couldn't support these modifications. The problem, in short, was thus: Magna was being forcibly reformatted, his systems were fighting agains that, and neither end would let up. He'd self-destruct at this rate. And, he realized... this was probably his last coherent thought.

A sudden data leak from his neck and one loud roar later, and Magna as a soul was gone. The now-berserked Navi began thrashing around in his PET as the e-mail, with its job complete, disintegrated into nothingness. Mill watched in horror as his Navi flailed around, shouting at him to regain his senses, while Bilst just watched on silently. Programs and connection lines gave way to Magna's rampage, and soon enough Magna managed to break open the jack-in protocol, warping him off to Electown Net to continue his rage. Mill just stared blankly at his empty, and now internally damaged PET for a moment as he was slow to gather his thoughts. Finally, he spoke:

"Bilst! You have to go after Magna!"

Saw that one coming, thought Bilst. He really wanted to just get back to his book, but... It didn't look like it could be helped. "You know he's self-destructing, right? There might not be much of him left after we find him." said Bilst sternly, outlining the reality of the situation.

"That's better than doing nothing!" shouted Mill loudly, having lost most of his restraint over this.

"Yeah, alright... Just a moment." agreed Bilst reluctantly as he walked into the back room again. Over on the desk in the corner were a pair of PETs, one of which Bilst picked up and returned with. He booted it up, and a rather haggard-looking Navi appeard on the screen. "SpectreMan, this is Mill. Mill, SpectreMan. We're going to go catch his Navi." explained Bilst calmly.

"Really? What're we gonna do when we catch him?" grinned SpectreMan, revealing a row of rather sharp fangs. Mill twitched at the question, but Bilst answered before he could say anything.

"We'll figure that out after we find him." answered Bilst, not even phazed by the weird question. Without another word, he pointed the PET at his computer's jack-in port, and away SpectreMan was on the chase.

(SpectreMan, Jack-In)
"What the... The door's locked?" noted Mill as he tugged on the shop's door handle in futility. "I can't believe Bilst would close up on a weekday... Yes I can." Mill tried acting surprised for a moment, but the undeniable flakiness of his boss just couldn't be ignored. "Anyis, the keycode for the door should be in the PET's personal folder. Could you get it?"

"The menial labor is the part of being a Navi that I really hate..." grumbled Anyis in response as she waved her hand in front of, producing a variety of screens and information in front of her. "No... No... Definitely not... Wish I hadn't found this..." she mumbled while dragging her index finger across the data pages. "There it is. God, Mill, your organizational skills suck!" whined Anyis as she stuck her hand into a certain screen, pulling a packet of data out from within.

"I'd like to see you do better." responded Mill grumpily, and he would come to regret that response in the next week. Anyis would take the given liberty to completely reorganize all of Mill's personal files to her liking. Leaving that as a future issue, though, Mill pointed his PET at the door's electronic lock, which disengaged with a beeping sound upon receiving the keycode. He tried pushing down the handle again, and time it gave way, letting Mill open the door and walk into the apparently vacant ship.

"Hello? Bilst? You here? Asleep? Dead?" asked Mill into the darkness for a moment before deciding that was getting nowhere fast. A quick flip of the light switch illuminated the room, and Mill was met with both ease and frustration. Nothing was particularly out of place or suspicious, but at the same time nothing was particularly in place amongst the store's shelves, so whatever organizing Mill was trying to do over the past few weeks and months was apparently undone in speedy fashion during his leave of abscense. "Well, he definitely was here recently..." sighed Mill as he picked up what looked like a toaster's heating coil from the "PET Parts" shelf. "Guess I'll just leave a note on his desk for when he comes back."

"You really have a great job, Mill. You skip out on work far longer than you were supposed to, and your boss in turn skips out too! I can't even begin to guess how many people would kill for that." Anyis mentioned with a sarcastic tone as Mill trotted his way into the back room.

"Too bad I don't get paid during all this." muttered Mill under his breath as he looked for something to write with. His search would be cut short, though, as the sound of the door opening alerted Mill to additional people entering the store. "Sorry, we're not open toda-" Mill started to say as he poked his head into the store's main room, but quickly stopped upon seeing the new arrivals. Two large men wearing black suits and sunglasses... What the hell?

"Ah... We are sorry, but we are not here for that." responded one of the suit-clad men through a mild Sharoan accent. "We have... personal business with Mr. Kaullel. Is he in?" As the first man spoke, the second began wandering around the store and leaning over various shelves as if he was searching for something.

"No, he's not." Mill answered the first man cautiously, leaving his eyes to follow the silent meandering of the second. "I just got here myself, and I haven't seen him today. I can pass a message along if you need that..."

"Thank you, but that will not be needed. We'll just try coming again some other time. Sorry to be a bother." said the first man with a bow before motioning his partner over the door and leaving.

"Okay then..." sighed Mill as he turned back into the second room. With no more secret agent-looking people to disturb him, Mill continued his search for a writing tool. This time his search would be cut short for good, as Mill fell flat on the floor after tripping on something.

"Operator, are you undamaged?" asked Magna in place of Anyis, who was busy laughing her ass off at Mill's clumsiness.

"Yeah... What the hell was... this...?" grunted Mill, whose frustration transformed into confusion as he looked back to see his foot hanging on what was apparently a trap door embedded in the carpet flooring. "... Oh come on, Bilst can't be THAT weird. Who the hell puts a secret room in their shop?" Mill sat himself up, lifted the trap door all the way open, and saw a ladder leading down to god knows where.

"Thinking about finding a different job, Mill?" asked Anyis, whose laughing fit had ended for the moment.

"... Gimme 5 minutes and I should have an answer for you." groaned Mill as he stuck one foot through the hole and began climbing down the ladder. The hole wasn't particularly deep, which Mill was grateful for, as it pretty much proved that Bilst didn't have the money to build a secret underground lair. In fact, when he got to the bottom, it looked more like a small bomb shelter than anything else... a very cozy one. There was an old reclining chair, a bookshelf full of books, a second bookshelf full over... non-perishable canned food, a minifridge, a desk, and a table with a computer on it. Now having knowledge of this lovely little reclusion, Mill couldn't help but wonder if all the times Bilst just suddenly vanished were just him crawling down here to read a book or something. He picked one of the many books off the shelf out of curiosity, cracked it open, and immediately put it back on the shelf... It was in Sharoan, of course.

Aside from all this, the one thing that definitely wasn't there was Bilst. The quirky Sharoan had flown the coop, apparently. Mill would've been at a loss if he had discovered this yesterday, but having met the two guys in suits earlier, he had to wonder what kind of shady business his boss had gotten himself into. "... Yeah, I probably need to start looking for a new job." admitted Mill with a heavy sigh.

"Well, that's that, then. Get out of there, Mill. This place is boring now." ordered Anyis impatiently.

"Hold on, hold on. At least let me check his computer to satisfy my curiosity..." replied Mill, unable to leave such a weird situation totally unexplained. He walked over to the computer in the confined room, hit the power button, and stood over the machine as... nothing happened. Mill pressed the power button again, and still nothing. "Really? It's not even hooked up to anything? Why?!" moaned Mill in sheer irritation, having gotten very, very sick of this nonsense. He leaned over to the back of the computer to see not only the lack of connecting cables, but... a PET? "Huh...? Did he leave SpectreMan behind?"

"Who, the ghost dude? Boot the PET up and find out." responded Anyis, now with a mild curiosity to her tone.

"Actually... No, the colors on this PET aren't the same, now that I think about it. Maybe it's just an empty spare..." noted Mill of the mostly green device. He flipped the power switch, and the PET turned on to reveal a beautiful female Navi. Long green hair, a soft green summer dress... She almost didn't look like a Navi at all, save for the fact that she had those old-model Navi ear covers that haven't been in major use for years. "Uh... Hi?" stuttered Mill, having nothing better to say.

"Hi!" responded the new Navi cheerfully.

... Okay, so she needed some prodding to talk. "Um... Do you know Bilst or SpectreMan?" asked Mill, trying the direct approach.

"Oh yes! They're both very nice people." she nodded. SpectreMan was a nice person? Maybe looking past his sadism and cannabilistic tendencies, but otherwise...

"Uh, right... So what's your name?" Mill was really going to have to make some more progress somehow, because he'd be asking questions all day at this rate.

"Euthenia. It's very nice to meet you." answered the female Navi with a curtsy of her skirt.

"Oh god no..." whimpered Anyis from inside her own PET after hearing that last answer, covering her face with her hands in hopes that it'd somehow turn her invisible.

"Hm? Is something wrong?" Mill asked to Anyis, lifting her PET with his other hand, opposite of the green PET.

"Oh gosh... Is that... It is!" squealed Euthenia, who immediatley transferred over to Anyis's PET through the wireless link Mill had unwittingly set up by pointing the two PETs towards each other. After landing in the other PET, Euthenia immediately launched herself at Anyis, tackling her to the ground with a tight hug. "Oh my gosh, it's been so long! I haven't seen you in forever, Big Sis!"

"..." Did she really say... Yeah, she did. God. Mill was really starting to hate this day. Anyis shared that sentiment, as her younger sister continued to smother her with affection.

(Moving to Later In This Ridiculous Day)
"Sooo... Why are we going back to that abandoned junk shop of yours again?" asked Anyis with the sound of boredom in her voice. She was lying prone on her side on the PET's floor, with her head propped up by a hand on her cheek. "Last time we went there, you... found my sister... Ugh..."

"Well, between the freaking bomb shelter and Euthenia, I got just a little distracted the rest of the way." griped Mill in response as he strolled his way across the sidewalk of ElecTown's bustling main street. "Now that everything's settled down mostly, I figured a second look around might turn up a clue as to why Bilst up and skipped town. Plus, if he's not going to write my paychecks, then I might as well see if I can't drum up some profits of my own. No reason to let all those good parts just sit there, right?"

"And there's the ulterior motive... You're such a selfless person, Mill." muttered Anyis, wielding the sarcasm with her usual finesse.

"Operator is merely looking to function at peak efficiency. As human units are often highly disorganized in this manner, I respect the Operator's desire to improve himself." interjected Magna, issuing his honest opinion, while simultaneously praising Mill and taking a shot at the human race in general. Nice.

"... Uh huh. Hear that, Mill? You'll be in good favor when the AI Overlord takes over the world." chided Anyis, glossing over the matter of her being a solid candidate for said AI Overlord.

"Yeah yeah, whatever... Just get me the door's key code again, we're here." announced Mill, as he came to a stop in front of the completely average looking parts shop that had a not so average bomb shelter established underneath it.

"You heard the man, Magna." said Anyis with a lazy sigh, passing the buck to her SP almost instantly. Thankfully, Magna took to the task obediently, and to Anyis's ire, found the code file in a fraction of the time it took her last week. The code was quickly uploaded to the PET's transmitter, the electronic lock beeped, and just like that Mill had access to the store.

"Doesn't look like anything's changed since last time." noted Mill as he walked through the door.

"Shocking... It's not like you're one of only two people who can even open the door in the first place." Anyis was really in fine form with the sarcasm today.

"Is something bothering you, Anyis?" asked Mill with polite words, but an irritated tone as he got to a knee to fight with the drawers the store's counter.

"I just have no reason to like this place." she sighed. "I woke up here just in time to get dislocated off the Net along with Magna, fight him until he up and exploded, and flop out of his rotting husk of a body when that was done. And, of course, you managed to find my ditzy little sister stuffed in a bomb shelter the last time you explored this devil's shop."

Those... were all very valid points, Mill had to admit. "Well... It's not like I'm going to find Euthenia a second time. Lilia took her to school." replied Mill, offering a sad attempt at humor as he thumbed through some of the folders stuffed into the counter drawers.

"Oh, no, of course not. I figure, instead, that your dad and Aecher are going to pop out of that bomb shelter any minute for a visit. Or maybe my fatass of an older brother is taking a nap in the cash register right now." replied Anyis angrily. Well, at least she wasn't bored still.

"Ha ha... Yeah..." groaned Mill after a weak laugh, who really didn't want to entertain the prospect of his dad stalking him any more than Anyis did for her jerk of a little brother. On that note, though... Mill realized he still hadn't met the eldest Undertaker sibling. The one Anyis called a fatass. "Why haven't I met your older brother yet, anyway?" he asked out of curiosity.

"... Meh. He wanders around a lot. It's not worth the trouble to look for him." answered Anyis, offering no more on that subject.

The familial conversation would've continued, but the sound of a bell interrupted that, signaling that some customers had opened the door to the shop. "Ah... Right, didn't lock it back up..." muttered Mill, before getting up off his knee to look at the entrants. "I'm really sorry, but we're not open quite... Wait..." he couldn't finish his apology, having suffered a major case of deja vu just now. Two large men in black suits walked in, their eyes obscured by sunglasses. "Aren't you two the same guys from last week?" asked Mill.

"We are." nodded one of the men, his slicked-back black hair not budging an inch in the process. "We would like to once again inquire as to where the proprietor of this store, Bilst Kaullel, is."

Mill almost wanted to ask if they had been staking out the shop the entire week, but better judgment held that at bay, as the two men both were much, much larger than he was. "Uh... I really don't know." answered Mill somewhat nervously. "I have to assume at this point he's left town, for some reason..."

"... I see." responded slicked-hair man, before turning back around to whisper to his partner with parted blonde hair.

"..." Mill wasn't really sure how to approach all this, but for better or worse, he didn't have to. His PET had ultimately been propped up on the counter during the search, and Anyis, to this point, had kind of been dozing in and out. When she picked up on the foreign voices, though, she took a look through the screen and saw the suit-clad pair for the first time. "And there you have it!" shouted Anyis, with little to no regard for Mill or the two men. "Black suits? Sunglasses? Whispering! Secret agents! See Mill, I told you this shop draws ridiculous crap to it!"

The sudden outburst caught the men by surprise, and what was said in the outburst got their attention even moreso. "... Who tipped you off?" said the slicked-hair man threateningly.

... Wait, really? Mill could really only bury his face in his palm and swallow the fact that Anyis was right. This shop makes weird stuff happen... Well, at least this allayed some of Mill's worries.

"So..." Began Mill, without any real clue as to where to go from there. "... Okay, first, that was the result of an earlier conversation, and my Navi was only just taking a stereotypical guess because of your clothes. Second, I'm glad you guys aren't like, underground mafia or anything, but what the hell did my boss do to incur the wrath of secret agents?"

"... We are not at liberty to discuss that." said the parted-hair man this time as he stepped forward.

Anyis just sat down and stared at the man for a moment, almost to size him up. After a moment, she couldn't help but let a small grin crack on her face. "Hmm... I don't suppose you'd be interested if I mentioned the name "Euthenia", would you?" asked Anyis, almost like she was casting bait out for a fish.

Parted-hair man's eyebrow twitched at the question, forcing him to turn around and confer with slicked-hair man. After a moment, parted-hair man turned back around and responded, "... What is your relationship to Euthenia?" questioned the man, in effect taking Anyis's bait.

"I'm her big sister, of course. You'll have to get through me if you want my precious little sister!" laughed Anyis, who was thoroughly enjoying a standoff with secret agents far more than a sound mind should.

"... Precious? She drives you nuts, Anyis." interrupted Mill.

"Shut up, Mill, I'm trying to enjoy this." barked Anyis as she switched her gaze over to her Operator for just a moment before looking back at the agents.

"..." Both just stood there for a second, before turning around to deliberate across whispers again. This time, slicked-hair man stepped forward, asking, "Do you also possess that strange function to manage junk data?"

"...? Yes? What does that matter?" responded Anyis with a bit of confusion, not expecting that kind of response.

"... I suppose that there's no choice, then." sighed slicked-hair man as he pulled a badge out of his pocket. "Gregor Dolvechki, Sharo Intelligence Agency. This is my comrade, Viktor Kruzchev." he explained, giving a nod to his parted-hair sporting ally, who in turn nodded towards Mill. "We are in pursuit of former Lieutenant Bilst Kaullel, who kidnapped the NetNavi Euthenia from the research branch and fled the country."

"... Oh god, what did she get herself into this time..." groaned Anyis as she buried her face into her hands. Magna came over to give her a pat on the back (with just a finger), and Anyis didn't even care at this point. It was just all so... stupid.

Mill, too, was fairly at a loss, but not so much that he couldn't still pose one particular question. "Uh... I suppose if you know why Bilst 'kidnapped' her, you wouldn't still be looking for him. But... what did Sharo's entire research branch want with Euthenia?"

Gregor nodded over to Viktor, who stepped forward again to take over. "Euthenia was discovered by one of our researchers roughly two years ago, and not one person in the branch had seen a Navi designed quite like her. The junk data management process in particular was especially abnormal, as such a thing is typically limited to Net administration systems. However, her systems were odd even compared to that, so the research branch took a keen interest in her, and how to apply this function to other things."

"... Did Euthenia... not explain anything to you all?" asked Mill slowly, who was beginning to get a feeling that there was a very, very big information gap between his side and that of the agents.

"Well..." interjected Gregor, "While she was entirely cooperative with our efforts, Euthenia was... less than forthcoming in our questioning of her." The words of his answer sounded a bit heavy... in the depressing kind of way.

Mill and Anyis looked at each other, and sighed in unison. They could totally understand how much trouble that was. "I feel a bit obligated to explain all this to you." said Mill. "Anyis?"

"... Yeah, might as well. I really can't just stand and watch my sister unwittingly pull an entire country along by a string like this." she sighed again. As so, Mill and Anyis began enlightening Gregor and Viktor on everything surrounding Euthenia and the Undertakers...


"... And there you have it. Your country has been wasting the last two years on us." said Anyis, referencing herself and Euthenia.

Even always-professional agents like Gregor and Viktor couldn't find the words for this. Good lord...

"Yeah..." added Mill. "The 'strange function' you've been researching is just a really, really old prototype for the current Net admin systems. Completely obsolete. Heck, processing through junk data isn't even efficient compared to what modern Navis do..."

"... дерьмо..." groaned Viktor as he ran his fingers through his parted hair. Mill had no idea what he just said, and in all likelihood, he didn't want to know.

"... Well, good friends Mill and Anyis, you have done the nation of Sharo a great service. On behalf of the country, we thank you." said Gregor, bowing just before Viktor followed the motion.

"Ah... Uh, you're welcome. What happens with Euthenia, though?" responded Mill, still curious about that.

"We still need to pursue the former Lieutenant for this theft, but we really have no reason to maintain possession of her any further. We will inform the research branch of these developments shortly." answered Gregor, who then paused before asking a question. "... I would like to know, however... Where is Euthenia now?"

"Oh..." mumbled Mill, having forgotten that little detail. "I, uh... gave her to my little sister. It seemed like a good idea at the time..."

"Good idea my ass..." muttered Anyis under her breath.

"... I see." sighed Gregor, understanding that not much more needed to be said on that.

"Do you two... uh, want to meet with Euthenia once more? Maybe she can give you some information on what Bilst was doing by taking her, if nothing else." offered Mill, who had found himself at this point genuinely sympathizing with this pair of secret agents.

"That... would be appreciated, comrade." nodded Viktor.

"Okay, uh, lemme just lock this place back up, then." announced Mill, prompting Gregor and Viktor to go wait outside. "I really hope Lilia doesn't like, scream or anything when she gets home from school..."

"She totally will." bet Anyis with complete confidence.

(To The Stakeout Of The Little Sisters)
Well, he came back to the shop again today, just as he said he would. But man... it was dead silent. Mill was almost wishing that Gregor, Viktor, or some other foreign agents would come bursting in just to make something happen. "Urghhh..." grumbled Mill as he pressed his face against the front counter he sat behind, "I figured things wouldn't just spring to life after this place has been closed for so many weeks, but god..."

"A failed communication seems to be the source of error, Operator." suggested Magna from inside the PET next to Mill's head. "A change in status from 'closed' to 'open' has not been sufficiently relayed to potential customer units, so the error may be resolved by issuing that statement."

"You say that so easily, but what am I supposed to do more than turn on the open sign in the front window...?" sighed Mill as he sat up in his chair. "There weren't any missed calls on the phone, either, so it's not like anyone was looking for this place."

"..." Mill was on guard and ready for it, but Anyis remained oddly mute. Usually she had some verbal barb or jab to hit him with when he was complaining like this, but Anyis only sat cross-legged in the PET and kept herself in a deep state of thought.

Sensing this, Mill could figure why his Navi was so unresponsive. And, well... He was going to have to ask eventually. "So, uh... About yesterday..."

"Mrr... Fine..." grumbled Anyis as she snapped out of it. "I was going to explain eventually, but first I had to do some serious thinking."

"What, is there something confusing you?" questioned Mill.

"There are a lot of things confusing me right now..." sighed Anyis as she flopped down onto her back. "You remember all this crap with me and the River, right? Ghost data, Undertakers, that asshole supercomputer, and so on?"

"Yeah... Honestly, all your ghost stuff has become so normal to me that I've been kind of ignoring it." admitted Mill with a shrug.

"... That's fair, I guess. The whole problem is that this job is so pointless, so I shouldn't be surprised if it comes off as irrelevant to you." nodded Anyis slightly, only having just realized what she was saying. "Regardless, Euthenia isn't a part of this anymore. She dropped off the Undertaker network entirely."

"I'm guessing that isn't nearly as easy as you make it sound." figured Mill.

"I sure as hell would've done the same already if I knew how..." muttered Anyis, though loud enough for her Operator to still hear. "Obviously something changed when Euthenia got Ratatoskr, but what...?"

"Hmm... Maybe-" started Mill, but that thought was quickly interrupted by the ringing of the store phone. He hadn't heard it in so long that Mill actually jumped out of his seat at the sound. Once he actually got his nerves back under control, Mill picked up the phone. "Hello...? ... Yes... Ah, I see. How can I help you? ... Really? Hmm... Huh. That's strange. Yeah, I should be able to fix that. Yes... Okay, I'll be right over then... Bye."

"... Seriously?" asked Anyis in disbelief.

"Yep... I don't think I'm going to tell them that the store was shut down for a few weeks." announced Mill as he started rustling through a box of parts.

"Good plan. We can continue our talk later, so hurry up and let's get going. Like hell am I going to let you screw everything up with your first customer." decided Anyis.

"How encouraging... Just hold on, I need to gather some things first." sighed Mill as he moved on to the next box.

(Moving to Yoka)
"Seriously, what is with your luck...?" sighed Anyis from within her PET. She sat with her arms crossed and lips tucked in, contemplating the issue very thoroughly. "You open up this shop your boss abandoned for the first time in weeks, get a call for a maintenance job within 30 minutes when no one should even know that the shop is open, and once that's done, you come back and immediately get a call from the biggest tech firm in Electopia trying to coordinate this gigantic task that could really put your name out there in the business. Are you a storybook main character or something?"

"Well, it sounds weird when you put it like that, but come on. The firm pretty much called every tech shop in town, so it's not like I got singled out." retorted Mill as he closed up a box of parts and put it up on a shelf. "Besides, who would read something this... normal?"

"Mm, good point. Your life is too boring for a story." nodded Anyis decisively and in complete agreement.

"... Anyway," digressed Mill, trying to get away from that hole he just dug for himself, "I'm going to need help for this job, and since Lilia's at school, I e-mailed Rania."

"Who?" questioned Anyis.

"The Operator of Unit MeleeMan, Mother Unit." explained Magna concisely.

"Oh right... Well, I can't help it that she and I never talk. Mill's always talking her up, and I'm stuck dealing with MeleeMan!" shouted Anyis, being quick to turn her point into a complaint. "... Wait, wait. This job can make or break your future in Electown, and you're trusting it to MeleeMan?"

"... And whoever else Rania brings along, yeah. Just... do your best, I guess?" responded Mill, who couldn't deny that his confidence was now shaken.
Rania arrived to Mill's business and burden, bringing the much needed touch of a non-skeptical, accepting, able to do manual labor woman with her. She also brought a large Whazzapian with her, although she made it to the shop first (she'd begun to challenge herself silently to racing Na'im halfway through, just to see if she could outrun his rollerskates). Still panting, she leaned against the wall and rapped on the door with one small fist.

"I sure hope this is the right place. This place looks like it's been abandoned for a bit," she thought, noticing the state of the inside from a cursory glance at the windows. "This gets shadier by the minute... I hope Na'im doesn't think he needs to protect me or anything. Well, if he does now, he sure won't once he gets a look at Mill. I'm pretty sure I could take Mill if it came to it," she thought with an inward chunkle, then reprimanded herself with a pinch to cheek for thinking such ridiculous things.

The pinch to the cheek was fairly covert, since she already had one arm up to allow her right hand to rest, nestled inside the glistening strands of her red-dyed hair. Now that she'd knocked, she figured she'd play it cool and wait for him to answer. With his personality, it seemed likely Anyis would answer for him instead, though. She couldn't help but smile as she imagined Anyis' voice projecting out from the shop, as loud as a real store-owner's despite her status as a captive within the PET. "This should be the place, Na'im... Just give him a second," she told her ally, just to prevent him from going on ahead of her, in case it turned out that she'd gotten the wrong place.
It wasn't like Na'im was even trying that hard to keep up with Rania, even when she suddenly started running ahead of him. The wheels did the work for him. The journey to Rania's friend was silent and relatively uninteresting, but that seemed to take a swift turn once they reached the store.

A store? Na'im had to admit to himself that he didn't even know what was going on, but from reading Rania's mail over her shoulder he could guess that not even she knew what was going on. It didn't seem like the place for a 'dead body' and if this was the case, shouldn't there have been more trouble in the area? He didn't enter the store as Rania had told him, but with his curiosity raised to a high point he wallked over to a window near the door and literally pressed his face against the glass in order to look inside. "Dead body... he thought, his pupils swiveling from side to side as he took in more of the store from outside which probably wasn't a pleasant sight for whoever was inside, "Could it have meant... A broken computer?"

It was too early to decide on the true reason behind the e-mail though, as Na'im could only see the areas visible from the window. In the distance he could see something moving near the back of the store, which was quite probably the friend Rania mentioned. "Well, at least we can just meet up with him and then we'll understand what's the matter." He removed his head from the window and turned to Rania. "Aside from your friend," he started to talk, "Are you alright? You did quite some running there."
"Mill, Rania's here." announced Anyis, spying through the outdoor security camera's footage. "... And she brought a foreigner with her."

"Yeah, yeah, I heard the knocki- wait, what?" queried Mill as he processed what his Navi said. He glanced out the front windows, and yes, there was a tall, bald, foreign-born man with Rania. "... Well, maybe Rania brought more help. That would be very good."

"I think you're just praying things don't end up like the last time a foreigner approached your shop." suggested Anyis.

"... Yeah..." sighed Mill quietly as he made his way over to the entrance. He pulled the glass door open in front of him and stepped outside to meet the two people on the street's sidewalk. "Thanks for coming on such short notice, Rania. Who's the friend you brought along?"
"Oh, yeah, I'm fine. A little jog like this isn't anything to worry about," she replied to Na'im, shaking her hair and then brushing a swath of bangs from her forehead. The hair immediately fell back to where it had been, nearly covering one of her eyes. She shook it once more, just to displace the bangs. "Darn..."

While Rania was busy worrying about her hair, Mill came to the door and greeted his visitors. "Oh, hey again, Mill" she replied, fussily pushing aside her bangs once more. "Let me introduce you two: Mill, this is Na'im. Na'im, Mill."

"And this group's supposed to get manual labor done? Not one of you look like you've ever moved a barbell in your life! I could probably do more from here in the PET," MeleeMan complained, mostly out of boredom. "Say, what am I supposed to do while you help Mill clean under the desks or whatever, anyways? I'm not going to just sit here bored for a few hours. Knowing you're just doing chores will make it even more boring."

Rania chose to ignore him, instead continuing her conversation with Mill. "Na'im's my buddy! We got initiated into the NetPolice together," she continued. "Anyways, sorry, I should probably let you cut to the point if you're on company dime or what not. Why'd you need me?"
Na'im simply looked at Mill as he was introduced to the man by Rania. It was then that he realized that he probably didn't have to come with Rania. Na'im, however, didn't immediately notice a Navi on the person he was standing in front of him. Nor did he even see a PET, although he had to have one. "So much for a first impression of his Navi," Na'im thought and glanced down at Rania once he heard MeleeMan speak up. "You'd be surprised," Na'im whispered and took Mill's hand forcefully in a handshake while smiling.

"Nice to meet you, Mill. Rania hasn't mentioned much about you, but I'm sure we'll get along without trouble," he continued said while in the back of his head some gears started to turn. "Wait a second, his name is Mill," he thought as he continued to shake Mill's hand, longer than one would do, "Didn't I trade chips with him before?" Na'im released Mill's hand and nodded at him approvingly. "Or maybe we've already gotten along," he said before taking a step backwards.

"I more or less just tagged along since I have a mountain of free time. I don't have any obligations, so I go where I please," he explained, figuring he would tell why he was actually there other than being Rania's friend. "Oh, and," he continued quickly after saying that with his voice a tad louder, "My Navi wanted to hang out with MeleeMan some more! Yeah, that's it." He then settled down again and asked Mill what was asked already, "So what can we help you with?"
Mill did a quick look over of Na'im, his eyes traveling up, down, and... further up, since the Whazzapian was a good few inches taller than he was. Well, whatever, Mill could trust Rania's friends... he thought, only to have memories surface of Erin beaning him in the face with a ball of sand. Maybe Mill should just be careful, then...

"Yeah, nice to meet you too, Na'im." said Mill in response, before glancing around the surrounding area. "How about we go inside for now? No point in me just keeping you two out on the street like this." he offered, leading the two inside and back to the counter.

"So, about the job... The biggest tech firm in Electown reached out to all the smaller shops like mine in regards to a contract they won in bidding recently. One of the port cities in Netfrica is overhauling it's entire network, which is... well, a massive undertaking." said Mill, pausing as he scratched his head, wondering if that word actually did the scale of the operation justice. "Hundreds of subcontracts have been issued just like the one I have, so we're probably talking over a thousand people working on this between the distribution center here in Electown and over in Netfrica."

"... Ah, but don't worry, our particular job isn't that big. We'll just be organizing recycled hardware while our Navis establish a transport route for the software systems. We even have free choice on whether we want to just go to the distribution center or fly out to the Netfrican city, too. It seems like they've already got a pretty balanced workforce on each side." added Mill.

"Or, in short, you all will be playing packer while us Navis destroy viruses in a straight line across Netfrica Net." interjected Anyis from her PET on the counter.

"... Or that, yes." sighed Mill as he picked his PET up. "This is my Navi, by the way. Anyis, this is Na'im, a friend of Rania's." he introduced, perhaps for no reason seeing as Anyis didn't even remember who Rania was 5 minutes ago.
"Ha! You'd better hope it's not a straight line, or that means you guys aren't getting any, since I'll be the first one in. Or like.. a 3 virus wide straight line... Or something," MeleeMan laughed in response to Anyis' comment, feeling the impulsive need to try to one up her in conversation.

Ignoring MeleeMan's comment, Rania was taken with the idea of going straight to Netfrica by plane. Sure, they could just jack in and reach their destination, but hadn't she wanted to travel just moments earlier? And as she understood, by some feat of technology the planes were now capable of delivering passengers at astonishing speeds. She could be back so quickly her grandfather wouldn't even miss her, perhaps.

Still, how could she rationally say, "Let's fly out to Netfrica, bypassing the opportunity to quickly ride up to the DC and handle things quickly there," anyways? She'd have to either own up to her childish want to travel out of the country or miss out on her opportunity to travel.

"Well, hm... Going directly to the distribution center is an option, but if you ask me, they probably need more help on the Netfrican end. If they're the ones doing the overhaul, it'll be useful to see things from the area where the greatest changes are taking place," she managed to squeeze out, hoping to preserve her dignity by using some of the logic she'd learned from one of her college friends in global supply chain operations management. "I'd say it's worth the trip to Netfrica!"

Besides, if she looked at it this way, it was like she had more of a goal in mind. She'd be more motivated if she convinced herself that the company actually needed them to help out and weren't just giving this to Mill so that it got done, regardless of his credentials or individual identity.
"Well, looks like this is completely harmless after all," Na'im thought as he shrugged to himself while the two figures before him were talking, "Should I continue to tag along? Well it's not like I have plans. And it would look weird to suddenly leave them."

"I am used to travelling around," Na'im said to Mill, once Rania had told what she thought of the idea, "So Netfrica sounds fine. I have a friend there who runs a small hotel where I can sleep for the time being. If I'm going there I might as well stay a few days." Once again he shrugged, thinking that this way of life was completely normal for him while it may have looked weird for an outsider.

Djinni was still asleep, having no input at all on directions and destinations or even knowing what was waiting for her. But it wasn't like she ever complained about fighting, even if she didn't know the reasons for it.

Na'im walked a few steps away from Rania and Mill while taking a small foldable headset with microphone from his pocket. He slid it over his head, then connected it to the PET while manually inputting a phone number. "It's me," he said to the person on the other side of the line, "A few days, yes. Not sure how many. What do you want? You want me to get rid of him? I assume I'll get free room service in exchange. Yes. OK. You'll have to supply the goods. OK. See you soon." He hanged up, then glanced over his shoulder at Rania and Mill with a smile. "Shall we get going then?"
"......... Uh, yeah..." answered Mill with an uncertain nod, unable to put the words together to describe Na'im's highly disturbing phone call. Putting the contents of that call aside, Na'im was... talking into a large electronic keyboard strapped to his shoulder. Maybe he should just... leave that alone. This man lived in a different world from Mill, and that is how it should stay. "Well, if it sounds like we're going to Netfrica, lemme just message the coordinator to get the airfare taken care of..." he announced before turning his PET back around to face him and tapping some buttons. Just keep to your own business, Mill.

Well... Okay, so he wasn't quite sure as to what kind of tickets to get. Na'im was going to stay over a few days, apparently, whereas he himself was just going to make this a day trip. That much he knew. Rania, though... "Hey Rania, do you just want a round-trip ticket for today, or are you staying longer? The subway will still be running no matter how late we get back, but shifting timezones twice in one day can be pretty brutal if you suffer from jetlag."

So he says without a care in the world. To his defense, Mill had bounced to and from Sharo just a few weeks ago. A round trip to Netfrica and back in one day was no different to him, and no less feasible. Unfortunately, Mill gave absolutely no thought to the fact that he just suggested they fly back home, about a quarter of the way across the world, with just the two of them.
"Oh, er, no, I can't really stay a couple of days. E-Even if it is in a fancy hotel... Especially if it's in a fancy hotel!" she responded, trying to picture how in the world the sleeping arrangements would work out. She briefly paused to try to figure out what Na'im could have been talking about over the phone (it helped to think phone to herself, as opposed to keyboard), then eventually, like Mill, decided it was out of her depth. "I'll have to make it round-trip."

At the same time, she realized that she might be dooming Na'im to a lonely, multi-day stay in a hotel by himself for no reason. "I-It's not too late to cancel that stay, is it, Na'im?" she asked, thinking to herself that it sounded like he'd made a pretty big favor trade-in just now. Rania shifted awkwardly where she stood for a moment, then started jogging in place again. "Alright, let's head to the airport! But first, the metroline, cause I guess we have to take that to the airport," she reasoned, amazed by the thought of how much vehicular travel she'd be doing today.
"What do you mean 'cancel'?" Na'im asked as he looked at Rania with a raised eyebrow, "Who ever told you that I made this arrangement for all of us? I figured both of you wanted to get back as soon as we finished the job." After making sure that the PET on his back was tightly on its place he tapped the wheels of his right skate and did a spin in place. "What's the hold up though?" he asked and, while he understood that Rania would be more at ease running by herself, he grabbed Mill's and Rania's hands, "My client won't wait all day nor will yours. So let's get a move on already." He then started to skate ahead while dragging the two forwards, figuring that Rania would be capable of keeping up with the pace while it might've been torture for Mill. He, however, did not stop to wait for either of them and just continued to skate towards the metroline as Rania had said.

[Next stop: Netfrica; Bomber's coming topic]
"... And so that's where we are now. Besides the shop, anyway." said Mill as he opened the door, allowing his sister to walk in before he followed and locked the door behind.

"Wow... When it rains, it really pours for you, huh Mill?" asked Lilia honestly.

"Seems like it..." sighed Mill in response as he walked around the counter to check his computer. "Anyis, Magna, you there?"

"About time you showed up." grumbled Anyis.

"We are present, Operator." confirmed Magna.

"Good. Lilia and Euthenia are back from school, by the way." added Mill as he went into the back room for... something.

"I'm really sorry we couldn't help, Anyis, but it's great that you're all better now." said Lilia as she approached the computer.

Her approaching the computer, of course, meant that Euthenia would drop in on her fellow digital beings. She wasted no time in wrapping Anyis up in a hug. "Aww, big sis~! You're taller than me now, and so pretty~! Did you see Grants again~? Gosh, it must be great to have someone like that with you~! Oh, did your friends help out a lot~? I bet they did, you always have strong friends~!"

"Oh my god, make it stop..." moaned Anyis from within the vicegrip of Euthenia.

"Oh, but... It's so weird to see you without your gloves~!" announced Euthenia suddenly as she laced her fingers together with her sister's. "I only ever see your bare arms when we take baths together~"

"Do you really need to bring that up?!" snapped Anyis, before calming a bit. "But... you're right, it feels really weird to have absolutely nothing. Hmm... Gimme a few seconds." Anyis disengaged from her little sister with that, and closed her eyes. She wrapped her left hand around her right wrist, and... Behold! Anyis let ago of her wrist to reveal that it now had a gold bracelet on, with a single sapphire inset in that. "That's better." nodded Anyis with a sense of satisfaction.

Magna just stood to the side the whole time, observing the girl talk curiously. Since Euthenia was here, that naturally meant that her SP Ratatoskr was too. The red squirrel scurried his way over to Magna, and started sniffing around the golem's new legs. A few quick circles ultimately made him produce a "Chichichi!" sound which was probably some kind of acceptance, because Ratatoskr then climbed his way up Magna's side and perched himself on the golem's shoulder. This was basically the relationship the SPs of the Alidine household shared: the perch and the perching.

Finally, Mill returned to the storefront with a large cardboard box in hand. "What took you so long?" questioned Anyis as Mill put the box on the desk and sat down.

"Had to collect some things, aside from reinstalling all the upgrades I've bought for you." explained Mill simply. "I stored some of the stuff in the bomb shelter, so you can imagine how long that took to get together."

"... Eh? Bomb shelter...?" repeated Lilia nervously. Admittedly, that was a very abnormal term for this situation.

"Oh... right. You've never actually been here before, have you Lilia?" asked Mill rhetorically. "There's a bomb shelter underneath the store. The hatch is hidden in the back room. The previous owner was... strange like that, I guess."

"And Mill found Euthenia in that bomb shelter, just by the way." added Anyis.

"Yep~!" concurred Euthenia.

"... Uh huh. I'll just, uh... talk to you about that later, Euthenia." sighed Lilia, who really wanted no part of that nonsense. "Mill, can you just get your PET? Electown was not part of my plans for this afternoon..."

"Yeah, sure, that's what the box is for. Honestly, I hadn't finished it yet... I didn't think my old PET would burn to death so soon. Or at all." explained Mill with some very dry humor. "I don't really even want to use it right now, but I guess there's no choice. So, uh... You all need to swear that you won't say anything about it."

"Why? What's the big deal? Oh... I get it. It's really embarrassing, isn't it?" snickered Anyis.

"That'd be your problem as much as mine, so no. It's... a business secret, I guess." answered Mill after some thought.

"...?" Everyone just looked at Mill curiously.

"Oh come on, don't act like I just let this shop rot day in and day out!" whined Mill in response. "I've been trying to put together a new PET. Like, actually new. No previous model it's based on or anything. It's like... ah hell, I'll just show it..." With a frustrated sigh, Mill opened the cardboard box, extracted a few layers of styrofoam, and then finally pulled out the PET.

"Hmm... Oh! I know! It's one of those old phones, from the pre-Net era. A lot of people still had them when Euthenia and I were made. What's that going to help, Mill?" exclaimed Anyis before questioning her Operator.

"It's the PET! It's your PET, Anyis! Ugh..." groaned Mill as he held the device extremely close to the computer screen. It was about the same size as a Link PET, but pretty much the whole front side was a screen. There was a chip slot on one end, and a few other external ports on the side, but otherwise it was completely flush. The casing was all white and dark blue, clearly made in reference to Anyis when compared to Mill's old PET, which was mostly purple and orange in reference to Magna (whom Mill built it for).

"Uh... Okay? I don't really get it." admitted Anyis.

Mill hung his head in defeat, before turning the PET on. "Just get in..."

Anyis looked over to Magna, shrugged, and then lead the way into her new home. "... Ohhhhh. Wow. What kind of harddrive did you cram into this thing, Mill?" Now she got it.

"Best one I had. I used all my best parts on this PET, so you should start taking note of a lot of performance boosts compared to your old one." answered Mill smugly, enjoying the recognition however late it may be. "Like I said, though, it's not done. I can't really do much with software, so it's just running the Link PET's OS right now."

"Don't worry about that, it's not like I know anything better." replied Anyis, quickly dismissing that issue. "I never really decorated the old PET any, but... Man, this thing is just so spacious that I need to do something. Magna, you start thinking of things too."

"Understood, Mother Unit. I will construct furnishings for this PET when I have the appropriate amount of data." complied Magna.

"Um... Mill?" queried Lilia.

"Oh, sorry, do you want to jack Euthenia and Ratatoskr in? You probably can't get a good idea of the difference just looking at it like this." apologized Mill before offering his PET.

"Well, sure, I guess... I was just going to ask if we could get going, though." explained Lilia simply.

"Ah... Yeah, sorry. Let's get back home. Hopefully nothing else will explode the rest of the day..." wished Mill as he started cleaning up his mess before the two of them left.