Bronco Burgers at BeeCon

Phero had indicated the pair would probably want to go to Bronco Burgers to start, as the mission had requested, but even if Satou and Dharma chose not to, they'd probably pass by it on the way out of the buzzing BeeCon hive. The booth was relatively busy, as a fast-food-joint in a convention full of kids with money might be. There were a number of tables set out front, all occupied with dining patrons. A shack at the back with an "employees only" door seemed to be where the cooking was happening, and the door occasionally swung open to allow a black-and-blue uniformed employee to sprint out with an order. Actually, the prospect of approaching the door seemed frightening... it wasn't at all clear how the employees were to avoid hitting each other with it, as there were no windows on the door.

Luckily, Satou and Dharma probably wouldn't have to brave that trap. A man leaning against the wall to the right of the door seemed to be the man they were looking for, because he was quite clearly looking for them. The man was tall and gaunt, with a long black moustache that obscured his upper lip. He was wearing a full-cowboy ensemble, with a blue ten-gallon hat and shirt and blue jeans covered by a black vest and chaps. One of his spurred leather boots supported him while the other kicked against the wall behind him. The wide brim of his hat combined with the sunken features of his face and his slouch against the wall made it impossible to see what his face looked like... until he would suddenly perk up, his sharp grey eyes darting around the convention like a hunter after prey.

After doing this a few times, the man's darting gaze caught the eyes of a child, who had suddenly caught the sad, sleepy cowboy very much awake. Immediately, he propelled himself from the wall and sauntered over to the child. "Hoooowdy, boy! How's that Mulekick Milkshake treatin' ya?" A bright and genuine smile had lifted up the corner of his stache, and he was keeping his head high. The result was like a dark cloud passing from the sun, and he immediately seemed more like an eccentric grandpa than a threatening vagabond.

The kid, still evidently wondering about those eyes he'd seen earlier, gulped. He sucked his straw a bit longer, before stating "good" quite factually.

"Sure's shootin', pardner. Lemme toss yer a star, boy! Hows'd you like ta be sheriff?" the cowboy asked, drawing a plastic star from his pocket and thrusting it at the boy. "BRONCO BURGERS DEPUTY SHERIFF," the badge proclaimed.

The boy accepted it wordlessly, not looking any less shaken for the gift.

"Didn't ya know? You can trade that purty penny for a free Bronco Single! Tell 'em Ken Broncos said 'It's ooooon me!" The man, presumably Ken Broncos, drug out his "on" and made a hammy grin. This, combined with a free burger, seemed to finally crack a smile from the young child, who went back to his shake. The cowboy clapped him on the shoulder and let out a wheezy laugh before sauntering back over to his corner.

He seemed to age at an unreal speed as he re-adopted his sharp yet sullen glare and moody walk. Taking his place back on the wall, Ken Broncos went back to glaring around. Despite his close proximity to the door, the employees seemed to be quite aware of his presence, and navigated around his personal space as if on instinct.
Dharma made her way to the location where she'd been instructed to go for her mission. Satou had left her earlier to change his clothes, likely due to the wardrobe malfunction he'd managed to hide from her; in her mind, it made sense that he'd want to change, because honestly, no one should be meeting their employer dressed as some comic book character. It would never occur to her that she always dressed in such a way that others saw her as one. "That boy... Despite my best efforts to avoid injuring him, he went and gave himself the same dumping treatment I reserve for my despicable underling. I'm really calling a young boy I just met, with the physical coordination of a newborn calf, who, in his high school age, dresses as a super hero... my 'reliable companion?' I hope that the proprietor of Bonco Burgers, as well as Mr. Clusterbuck, are fools like most of the world," she ranted to herself, shaking her head. Foolishness amused her on occasions when she could look down upon the perpetrators from a safe perch, but when it came to relying on fools, she would at least rather not have to say that she picked them herself. She also seemed to be conveniently wiping from memory the fact that she'd nearly been stripped and paddled by a convention prop before meeting Satou.

"This looks like a fun place to work. If I was in your world, I would want to work somewhere that let me be around kids and other lively people. It would be highly preferable, compared to working in the stark whiteness and sterility of the lab, or the... what's the word for it... the desperation of working directly under you," Phero commented, going from happy to miserable as she realized that she was, more or less, working under Dharma.

"Phero, let me tell you about something called 'salary,' and you'll understand why either of those two positions you just said you'd reject would be immediately taken by any worker you see employed at this establishment," Dharma replied quietly, giving a smile that hid both indignation and amusement at the perceived stupidity of her navi. Before she could give her navi a harsh life lesson on economic disparity, she realized she was being watched... a man was hiding in the shadows, dressed as a cowboy. To his credit, he wore it pretty well; most people would look downright foolish dressed in such a hat, surrounded by screaming children. She got the sense that he was someone who carried a lot of weight in his organization, which always counted for something... but still, she knew that the world is composed of 99.9% crawling worms, and some just manage to crawl at the top of the pile. She'd soon learn whether the Broncos Burger manager was just another of those worms.

She put on a less demeaning smile than the one she'd shown Phero and approached him, extending her hand as she walked forward for a businessman-to-businesswoman handshake. "You must be the owner of this establishment. My navi, Phero, told me you wanted to speak with me? You also requested I bring a companion, yes? He'll be along shortly," she began. She felt no need to introduce herself, seeing as she'd been asked for by name.
Despite being very much like a kid himself, Satou had never actually eaten anything at a Bronco Burgers. His relatives always made sure that whatever he had for dinner was healthy and not some sort of junk food. But as important as healthy food was in his daily routine, simply no kid could resist the smells coming from the stand he was headed towards. "I hope I'm not letting Dharma wait too long," he muttered to himself as he carefully ran through the crowds, making sure not to bump into anyone. His attire was now a lot more simpler and less cosplay than before. A pair of sporty blue shorts and a white shirt with VenusMan's helmet pictured on it, made by his artistic aunt, along with sneakers was all he decided to wear. After all, Dharma was there for business while Satou was there to have a good time. He had swapped VenusMan's location from the cosplay helmet to his regular PET which he carried around in his hand.

"I don't think you took that much time to change, kid," VenusMan replied from his PET. It was not his turn to go all over the place yet, so he simply chilled inside of his PET while listening to the humans of the convention. Also to hide his inner excitement of hanging out with Phero again. But as he started to think of the scenario they had gotten themselves into, he suddenly realized that the mission requested a 'handsome man'. "I don't look bad," VenusMan thought to himself, "But if I'd call myself handsome? I don't know... So far I know there's only one person who actually-Of course, that's it." He snapped his fingers and turned up the volume somewhat to make sure he'd get Satou's attention. "Hold on, kid, got a question here."

Satou stopped running for his destination, but still kept a brisk pace as he took the PET closer to his face. "Yes, Venus?"

"I'm going to be using the e-mail function for a bit," he said, saying it instead of actually asking it, "May help us with the mission."

Satou simply nodded to his Navi, which immediately started up the interface for e-mails. As that was going on, Satou had arrived at the Bronco Burgers stand and was welcomed by a wave of fast food and children. He was, however, not welcomed by Dharma who he had to actually search for. But, however again, this was a simple task as no other location at the stand involved a cowboy and a scientist talking to each other. "Hey Dharma!" he shouted, waving at her and taking a short sprint towards her. It was at this point he could actually look at the cowboy and something seemed similar about the situation. He turned to Dharma and started to talk, "First you get entangled in the arms of an animatronic and now you're having a conversation with a fast food mascot." Completely not reading the situation or issues of personal space as a genuine kid, he grabbed hold of Dharma's sleeve and pulled on it. "Come on, we need to look for..." he started, but then realized the mission description provided had no name for their Bronco Burgers contact. Eventually he decided on, "the guy we're supposed to meet," and looked around for a more serious looking person than a ridiculous cowboy.
The cowboy immediately left his wall as Dharma began to approach, putting to rest the idea that her client could be anyone else... unless, of course, he was moving over to deputize her as well. "Ms. Heart Payne herself! I do declare!" the man said with a warm grin (and possibly a louder voice than Dharma would have wished). He wasn't dragging out his "do" like he had before, so evidently this was the way he intended to talk business. He grabbed her hand with his own and shook it earnestly, his thin eyes curled into a squint by his smile. He disengaged the handshake and the grin, and seemed to take a moment to size her up, looking into her eyes. Evidently, he liked whatever he saw, because his face once again broke into a smile. "Ken Broncos. It's my pleasure, ma'am, and I'll be pleased ta' meet Phero as well, but first..." he began, as Satou re-emerged on the scene.

Ken glanced down at him, adopting a countenance identical to the one he'd explain when awarding a kid a free burger earlier. He quickly realized, however, that the kid was here for Dharma and not for him. He seemed quite confused at what was happening, looking quite his age as he puzzled out what was being said. "Fast food mascot... Hahahaha!" Ken suddenly guffawed. He roughly put a hand on Satou's head and started messing up his hair.

He turned to Dharma with a smile that to most people probably said "Kids say the darndest things!"... but to Dharma, it might very much remind herself of herself, if she were a an elderly cowboy instead of a beautiful young pharmaceutical head. His eyes seemed a bit more like a man trying to look serene when his kids were acting up than someone meeting a profitable new acquaintance. Keeping his eyes on her as if re-evaluating whatever he'd come to earlier, he turned back to Satou. By this point, he had fully put back on his "free Bronco Burger" face. "Kiddo, I guess I am a mascot inna way! I'm Ken Broncos, the owner of this here franchise! I put so much of myself into it that I guess ya'd say, after a while, I made m'self the poster boy for it, too. So, kiddo, how about I hand ya' a free Bronco Burgers Deputy Sheriff star, and ya' grab yerself a free burger? The lady and I got a bit a business to discuss, y'see."

Without waiting for a yes or a no, Ken withdrew a star from his pocket and passed it to Satou hastily, then turned back to Dharma. "Now, unless ah'm mistaken, you must have an acquaintance on the way? How about I go ahead and introduce ya to BroncoMan? I show ya mine and you show me yers?" He grinned beneath his moustache and whipped out his PET (perhaps to everyone's surprise, it was under his vest and not in a leather holster on his belt). "I don't normally let this dangerous fella out around the younguns, but ya seem like a grown up fella, so why not."

The screen in front of them displayed a pretty strange looking man... horse... thing. The Navi was dressed in a brown Navisuit that went down into horselegs, although they were also covered by the suit. He had gold armor on his shoulders, arms, and legs... and most notably, his head, which was crafted in the image of a golden horse's head. It appeared to only cover his face and actually was connected around the head with a leather strap, meaning the luxurious brown mane hanging behind him was most likely his actual hair. Glassy red eyes adorned the horse helmet's face. Two golden pistols and a leather whip hung from a leather belt around his waist.

His man-figure was pretty impressive, but overall, it was easy to see why such an intimidating thing wasn't the mascot of Bronco Burgers.

"Heeeeeeyeeeaheeooowdy," the Navi neighed / introduced himself. "I'm BroncoMan. Pleasure's all mine, ma'am and sir." His accent didn't sound as cowboyish, so his greeting was probably about as far as that went. He did seem to make snorts about like you'd expect with a horse, though... and sure enough, his legs seemed to want to trot and his tail to switch, so the horse part seemed genuine.
Luckily, Dharma considered herself well trained and highly qualified for handling situations which called for patience and problem solving finesse. This case clearly needed a little of both, because her two new business associates were almost comically looking past each other in what needed to be a three-way conference. She smiled and took the right hand of each of them; she abhorred physical contact. but in this case, she felt she could use it to establish herself as the big dog in the conversation, which was always important. "Satou, this is Ken Broncos, owner and proprietor of Broncos Burgers. Mr. Broncos, this is Satou, my associate. I'm happy we've all been introduced now, so we can go straight to business," she concluded, placing their hands together for a shake. Hopefully she could manage to make them just forget about the animatron assault that Satou had alluded to.

Unfortunately, business was not first on the menu. It would have to wait until navi introductions were out of the way (and possibly Satou's burger, if he chose to cash in that badge). To Dharma, meeting an anthropomorphic bull dressed as a cowboy was about as much a waste of time as the previous misunderstanding had been, but she put on a smile and managed to deal with it. "Good to meet you, BroncoMan. My navi is Phero. The two of you will meet later, I'm sure," she responded, not wanting to give any more time to the net navigator pow wow than she absolutely had to.

"Why? Can't I meet him now?" Phero asked; ordinarily she would have been shut down hurriedly and without mercy, but in the company of others, Dharma was forced to oblige.

"I simply thought we should hear Mr. Broncos out as quickly as possible. I'm quite anxious to get started," the president sighed, playing the victim. "But if you want to meet BroncoMan so badly, I'll let you," she concluded with a warm, doting, and entirely fake smile.

Phero's form, designed for the vague intention of "inducing love," appeared before the crowd. "I've never met such a shiny navi before," she began, which was true, if perhaps an odd topic of conversation. "What interesting legs, to boot. I used to have a friend who was half-octopus, from the waist down..."
Satou quickly moved his hands over his hair to get it neat and tidy, as much as possible, after having it assaulted by the cowboy. And before he could say a thing, he was grabbed by Dharma and pulled into a handshake with the man. She even got to do the introductions between the two. Everything went so swiftly in a row that he didn't even have the chance to feel embarrassed about touching the hand of a girl. But with all the interactions going on, he was definitely sure of one thing. He was treated like a 'kid' in the company and, quite frankly, he was OK with it. He took a look at the sherrif star that Mr. Broncos had given him and nodded to himself. "Well then", Satou started and smiled at the cowboy, "I'll be going for that burger offer. I'll hear the details about the mission you've got for us from Dharma. Or in fact..." He turned to Dharma and pushed his PET into her hands, whichever was open, "VenusMan will relay them to me later."

"Huh? What?" VenusMan's voice sounded as he looked upwards from his PET, "Oh. Hi there." His eyes were focused on Dharma, then to BroncoMan from his screen. "And hi there as well," he continued before turning his eyes to his own business and went quiet again.

"I'll see you two in a bit," Satou continued and walked off to find himself a burger. While a boat and paddle would've been useful in the sea of kids, eventually he came across the location to place orders and walked over to it. With sherrif star in hand, he looked up at the Bronco employee and started to talk. "Do you have any vegetarian burgers here?" he spoke up, handing the coin over, "If not, just give me a burger without the meat." An innocent smile spread over his face while he waited for a reply.

Back in the 'house' of VenusMan, he continued writing his e-mail to his female friend while making sure to pick the right words. "I think she should be able to help me," he spoke to himself, "I could count on her before after all." For a moment he looked up to glance at Ken and BroncoMan again, "Hey partner, tell us what our job will be." Swiftly afterwards he focused on the screen in front of him again while keeping an ear open to whatever instructions and conversations.
"Satou, then! It's a pleasure, sir," Ken remarked, adopting a more formal stance again when he realized Satou was Dharma's acquaintance. Still, he seemed notably relieved when Satou went and got a burger like the kid the cowboy perceived him to be. "Well, he looks like an interesting character. An intern, maybe?" Ken incorrectly ventured. "I like it! Honest work while they're young, that's how ya' grow 'em up right. Anyway, the circumstances aren't really important. Down to business, I like the sound of that."

Meanwhile, BroncoMan regarded the two Navis with his untelling bronze horse face. "Thank you, kindly. I'm quite proud of this armor, if I may say, ma'am. The shine is the result of a looo-heeheehot of polishing, I'll tell you. The legs, though, those are just programmed. But, if I can toot my own horn, they're plenty strong!" While the Navi seemed to want to show off a bit, he also seemed to realize that his operator was hoping to rush introductions. "And you're VenusMan, then?" The Navi paused while staring in VenusMan's direction. He went conspicuously silent, letting out an occasional snort and swishing his tail passively. "... Hmm, boss..." he finally murmured.

"Hm?" Ken, who was apparently his Navi's "boss," returned.

"Well, I don't mean to say VenusMan isn't handsome, he's plenty exotic, at least, but uh... and please don't take this the wrong way or anything, sir, but... well, this one's a little bit... passive, don't you think?"

"Aw, passive? Shucks, naw!" Ken replied jovially. "Don't ya see that he's modeled after one of them carnivorous plants? He's a meat-eater!"

BroncoMan didn't seem overly convinced. He stood in an awkward silence for a bit longer before finally speaking in a quiet voice that didn't seem characteristic of him. "You-"

"Aaaaw, I get it! This BroncoMan of mine, he means to say that he's jealous that you two know each other! Sometimes he don't see what ladies don't just flock to him, and he don't realize it's cause he's as passive as a BubbleWrap himself."

BroncoMan hung his head, indicating his embarrassment without showing it on his face. "Well, yeah," he responded quietly. "I mean, just on account of Phero being so pretty. Are you two seeing each other?" he commented, seeming to find this the natural course of conversation.

"Eherm, maybe we can just keep this thing movin', pardner?" Ken said, with a half-chuckle half cough.

BroncoMan nodded, but looked restless, like he had something else to say. "W-well, maybe we can exchange e-mail addresses? If you could give me yours, I'd-"

"Now, don't be desperate, you ol' hound-dog!" Ken laughed, drowning out his Navi. "Now, let's finally get to that business..."

By this point, Satou had probably been pleasantly surprised to find that Bronco Burgers did indeed serve a veggie burger... and without even a silly name! It was simply listed as "veggie burger" on the menu, so he had no trouble obtaining one with his badge. If he wanted to be a part of the conversation, he could go and join in on the explanation Ken was giving Dharma, Phero, and VenusMan.

"So, let me start by saying how thrilled I am that we have the opportunity to corroborate on this, and to apologize that I can not offer any more aid than I will be able to. Unfortunately, I will be forced to rely rather considerably on your intelligence, as well as... hm... well, let me see how I can most delicately introduce this complicated matter. Please allow me to begin with a story. As I'm sure you're well aware, to be successful in a business, and in life for that matter, you must associate with some of the lower dregs of life. I consider Bill N. Clusterbuck to be the very lowest of low. However, I imagine I'm not telling you anything you don't already know when I say that the two of us are the two biggest fast food presences in Yoka at this present time. We're direct competitors. And to avoid being run out of this turf, I have been forced to buddy up with him. And buddy up I have! That fat ball'a lard probably considers me among his closest con-fee-dants. Well, he and I were out drinkin' one night, I was trying to press him for any information and news and contacts I could, as I often do... and something very interestin' came up. Somethin' about you."

Ken paused in his rambling explanation and reached into his pocket, drawing out a pack of cigarettes. He suddenly frowned and put it back up, probably remembering he couldn't smoke in the building. "Now yer probably wonderin' what a couple a fast-food cowpokes would know you for. I must admit, shamed as I am to say't, that I wasn't familiar with you before that night in the bar. Unfortunately, I'd never had an opportunity to plan a mutually beneficial business relationship with you. But Bill knew ya, and he didn't know ya fer bein' a brilliant mind advancing the practice of modern medicine, or one of the youngest and most successful company heads of your age of all time! He knew ya from a friend of his in publishing, who knew ya... from this."

Ken drew in a little closer, trying not to invade Dharma's personal space while showing her something privately on his PET. BroncoMan, on cue, had brought up a browser page showing a cover shot from a cheesy entertainment gossip magazine, Photo Ops! The headline on the front: "CELEBRITY BEACH BODS REVEALED."

Dharma may have had an idea of where this was going, but Ken slid his finger across the screen to further elucidate: the next image in line was a page on the feature. A quarter of the page was devoted to Dharma Heart Payne. The magazine proved itself to be the garbage one might have expected: nearly every picture and every fact on the page appeared doctored... except one, for sure. One with a very familiar scene on a very familiar yacht that was in poor quality, as though it might have been taken with a shaky hand or on a poor quality camera.

Ken's voice was now a politely quiet conversational tone. "As you can see, everything on this page is nonsense. All of these shots're doctored and anyone with half'a brain knows it." Ken pointed to the hauntingly familiar photo, continuing. "I have full faith in the fact that a young pharmaceutical head like yerself wouldn't end up in this kind of embarrassing situation, and if she did, she wouldn't do it in front of a bunch'a party guests with their cameras at the ready!" But how many employees had been on that boat, with their cameras potentially at the ready? And while most of them would surely value their jobs enough to not even think of taking such a shot...

"Aaanyhow, sorry if that soured your day, ma'am, but that's how Bill knows ya, and gosh-darn if he ain't impressed by yer body. Today, at this very convention, y'know what that rascal messaged me he was gonna do? He heard you are here, and he fully intends to send you a mission request. And then he fully intends for you to accept it, and go to his burger shack. And then he fully intends for you to work to cover a missing employee of his. I'm not entirely sure if he intends to pay you a regular employee's wage. It wouldn't surprise me if he did."

Ken stopped and smiled sadly, as if waiting for the gravity of this to sink in. "So yes, I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news. But I hope you're as outright upset about the whole thing as I am, because... if you and I work together, and you can bear with his nonsense for just a little while, you and I can have a very profitable venture together. You see, he has somethin' I very much want. It is his most closely guarded secret, and the fact that I want it... is my most closely guarded secret." Ken was muttering low now, and had in fact moved a bit into Dharma's personal space. "I want it more than anything in the world. I'd trade my momma, my franchise, and 10 more healthy years'a my life for it. And that is..."

"... The 11th secret spice," he finished, backing off. "Everyone knows Buck's first 10 damn spices, but that dagblasted dognabbet fricklefraggled 11th!" Realizing he was probably seeming something like a cartoon villain caricature, Ken coughed, calmed down, and resumed. "But that blasted Bill only keeps it on the Net. I don't know how he does it, but he keeps it completely protected by his single, personal Navi. Behind one door. That no Navi has ever been able to get behind..." A huge, clearly bad-guy grin broke across Ken's face. "Until today."

"Begging your pardon," BroncoMan suddenly spoke up, sounding awkward. "I'll explain. On a recent trip to Bill's establishment, I performed some surveillance. Until that day, you see, Bill didn't know me, and Ken didn't know Bill's either. I met his Navi, Buck, and well..." BroncoMan very abruptly stopped, his tail swishing a bit more sullenly. "Well. I learned we can probably get her away from the door with a handsome man." BroncoMan still seemed nervous, and kept starting to speak before quietly continuing. "I... think a handsome man can lure her away from the door. Or possibly trick her into letting her in. At which point, you must somehow plant the program I will send in the machine in his back room. Which... I have seen..." BroncoMan fell momentarily quiet again. "The program will harvest a chemical list of all ingredients in Bill Clusterbuck's chicken seasoning. As soon as the program is in place, and the Navi detects a script indicating it is completed, that Navi can jack out. If you'd please give me your address, VenusMan, I will send it to you," BroncoMan huffed, sounding rather urgent.

"No need for that, pardner, I'll hand her my physical drive. Faster that way. Now what do you say? The decision is yours, but I think for the work entailed, I am being very generous... these are some extraordinarily rare chips I am offering. And, of course, you can look forward to the business cooperation of Bronco Burgers in the future, if you are so interested! It would probably be nice, having the sole major fast food proprietor of Yoka in your company..." Quite notably, Ken's cowboy accent seemed to disappear when he was being super-sketchy... at least, when he wasn't angry AND super-sketchy.

"As you can tell, we're leaving most of the specifics of the operation... up to you," BroncoMan finished, seeming to have returned to his business-like state. "For this kind of reward, we are counting on you to take some initiative on the planning. However, I will be on standby. If you do manage to lure Buck from the door... and, if you can't find any other way to do it... I will be on standby. You may contact Ken and have me sneak in. But I'm really... only interested in doing that, if... Buck is far from the door. Looking away from it, if I may say. If you understand."
"This is actually the first time we've met in a while. 'Long time no see!' That's what they say, right?" Phero chuckled, not realizing that the phrase didn't have much wit or application in this instance. "Now I guess I'm seeing both of you."

Dharma gave a tired smile and shook her head. "No, you're not. He means to ask if the two of you in a relationship. Unless the two of you have had a romantic getaway behind my back, you and VenusMan are not 'seeing each other' in the sense that our new acquaintance means," she explained.

"Oh, no! We're not in a relationship. Except, you know, friendship," Phero clarified quickly, not realizing that such words might injure VenusMan. She smiled warmly, clasping both hands together in front of her chest. "I've become a much better friend since the first time we met! I think you'll be impressed, VenusMan." Once he left, she turned her attention back to the shiny, shiny navi, who was busy trying to make conversation. "Sorry, I don't actually have an e-mail address to give you. You'd have to get it from Madame President."

The company president laughed, then turned her attention elsewhere, clearly not intending to surrender her private e-mail address so that BroncoMan could continue his awkward pursuit of Phero. In spite of her good-girl persona, Dharma found herself nodding along as Ken Broncos began his explanation of their mission. "Dregs of society, yes," she mentally affirmed as he continued; the story of being forced to pretend you like someone you hate to build good relations with them was so familiar to her that she found herself zoning out for a moment. A spiteful feeling arose in her as he mentioned the surprising query of why two fast food moguls would be aware of Dharma Heart-Payne. "How is it possible for anyone to be unaware of my name, let alone for two leaders of industry? Even a filthy industry like that of junk food..." she sighed internally. She grew more intrigued as she learned that Bill had no idea she was even a medical genius (still offensive), but rather, knew her from somewhere else. She began to furrow her brow, as the reveal was taking a lot of exposition to get around to and it was clear something bad was coming.

Her brows raised, then furrowed again, then settled into something like bemusement as he went on to explain where Bill had learned of her from. "You're referring... to that picture of me? My dear man, that swimsuit of mine was a social experiment. Radical xperiments are often necessary in my line of work, partially due to the pheromone research that I conduct," she responded, lowering her eyelids halfway into a bored expression so that her smile became one of amusement at a petty concern. "As for the supposed situation, I assure you, that is simply one of my associates with a little too much cocktail in their system. It doesn't take a genius to imagine what those who work close to me are thinking at all times, even the women. If it seems like she was attempting to touch me in a perverse manner, I assure you, you're not reading too much into it. But know that I deflect any and all such advances with immediate reprimands. I'm well capable of handling myself."

She didn't mention that she did indeed have certain misgivings about appearing in front of all of her coworkers wearing a sling bikini with practically no side to it. Furthermore, she didn't mention that the other girl in the picture had accidentally grabbed her breasts after she'd put them in peril by attempting to casually drown one of her own subordinates (the second of the night). "I must admit, for a moment there I allowed myself to imagine you were blackmailing me," she chuckled, keeping her voice low so that Satou wouldn't hear. Her eyes turned thin, cold, and dangerous as she kept her hand pressed over her mouth to hide her smile. "But no one would get anywhere, using a flimsy photograph like that against me. Well, nowhere profitable. If I were you or, Mr. Clusterbuck, for that matter, I would try to focus on the positives that the CEO of Heart-Payne Pharmaceuticals can accomplish under your employ, rather than holding anything like that over her head." She desperately wanted to try to intimidate him, but she had a feeling that would put the brakes on the whole operation, due to the fact that the cowboy seemed like the type who liked to do the intimidating himself... which would end what she was attempting to accomplish with Phero and VenusMan here.

... What was she trying to accomplish again? Embarrassed that she'd managed to forget that detail, she worked to reclaim focus.

"I'll assume you were just showing me that as setting for this whole fiasco, to explain why Bill's interested in me. So that was it, hm? I suspect there must be more to Mr. Clusterbuck's motivations than simply wishing to see me based on a swimsuit photograph. There are other people who look good in a swimsuit... other industry leaders, even," she reminded Broncos, crossing her arms with a thoughtful frown. She quickly returned to her default smile, to set Broncos at ease. "Not to worry. If he's as easily manipulated as you say, then I should be able to distract him with minimal effort. I'm very good with people," she laughed, although what she meant was, "I'm very good at manipulating people." Since they were laying most everything on the table, Dharma felt that she didn't need to try too hard to keep her distaste for other people a secret, and thus backed up so that Ken had to lean in to speak to her. An observation she'd made a long time ago: people really were bad about invading her personal space (although, her definition of how much space she was owed was larger than most).

She did have to admit, the thought that Bill N. Clusterbuck intended to hire her on, ogle her, and then pay her poorly really did make her want to put the screws to him in as personal a manner as she could manage. It sounded like Broncos was giving her the opportunity to do just that, although, she wasn't exactly thrilled that she'd factored in as a pawn to his schemes either. Ideally the mission would give her the chance to stomp her heel into both of them, but she'd have to see how it played out. Perhaps more importantly...

"Secret spice..." she murmured, trying not to look interested. "An unknown spice, the key ingredient to the fast food empire of Bill N. Clusterbuck? This sounds like something we could use... perhaps I might get a little bonus out of this mission after all," she reasoned, now switching to an enthusiastic smile that went along with her true feelings, without exactly betraying them. "I understand the plan. It does sound like it could be profitable for us both, doesn't it? Very interesting... Yes, coming up with a plan for this on my part will be simplicity itself. I'll explain it to my reliable partner, who is returning to us now with his burger. Mr. Broncos, VenusMan- I believe it will be best if we keep some of my role in all of this as a secret from Satou," she responded, then turned to face Satou. "Probably best if as few people as possible know about what could, in a sense, be viewed as corporate espionage." She really found herself wishing that VenusMan hadn't been a part of the conversation either... there was now the possibility he was going to decline the mission based on his own moral compass (because everything about this was shady), or that he'd want to be frank with Satou, which would only add another moral compass into all of this.

"Mr. Broncos has explained the situation to VenusMan and myself. His good friend, Mr. Bill N. Clusterbuck," the president began, intentionally spiting her new acquaintance, "has asked for my service today, likely to work a shift at his restaurant. While I do that, I'll want your navi to spend some time with Clusterbuck's navi, since he'll be busy, likely instructing me and so forth. That's why we need VenusMan to look handsome: he'll be entertaining her and we don't want her to get a bad first impression. All you'll need to do is make sure they're very cozy. I may have additional instructions to give you, of course, once we learn what Mr. Clusterbuck's plans are, but it sounds like this will be easy as pie!"

Dharma had already given Phero a hidden glare, indicating that the true nature of the mission needed to stay private to Satou. Her navi felt bad about that, sure, but she felt more uncomfortable about VenusMan's role in all of this. Phero didn't really understand the concept of mutually exclusive romance, so it didn't bug her that VenusMan needed to woo another girl, but she did notice that she didn't have much of a place in the mission and likely wouldn't be spending any time with him... Even she knew that wasn't good for her "friendship," or whatever their relationship turned out to be. Realizing that she was sulking, she cut her projection so that the others wouldn't see how upset she was with the arrangement.
"Seeing each other? Me and Phero?" VenusMan wondered out loud once BroncoMan had asked his questions, "While we're not in a close relationship, I guess I see her in my dreams." His words were followed by a nervous chuckle and a chill down his spine before he could continue. "I won't, however, deny that she's pretty. Beautiful in fact," he said as he looked around to see if Satou was anywhere close, "I think it's wise to keep a certain connection, BroncoMan. If you've got a notepad, it's" He repeated the address again, letter for letter, to ensure BroncoMan got it right. After that he just continued to listen in on the briefing.

Elsewhere in the area, Satou was happily eating his unimaginative Veggie Burger while scoping the surroundings. He never really came to places like this, mostly due to his father being bedridden indefinitely and his mother being with someone else. Not to mention that his father probably couldn't handle the food served here. Instead he lives with his aunt and while he enjoys living with her, she imprinted him with a desire to eat whatever is the healthiest option and therefore still didn't opt to pick a dining establishment filled with grease. "I guess Dharma only eats classy stuff," he pondered, "Isn't she a rich person? Imagine the toys she could get..." His thoughts wandered off to exactly what he was pondering about, even wondering if he could get Dharma to buy him things. He dismissed the notion, considering they didn't even know each other that well and he snapped back to reality. Eventually he decided to return to his companions and could, in the distance, see them having a serious conversation. "VenusMan had better be taking notes there!" he said to himself, but before he could listen in on the meat of the conversation a swarm of children blocked his path and accidentally had his foot stepped on. "Owww!" he yelped, quickly stepping backwards and taking a nearby seat. "It's not too bad," he said, holding his leg to his chest to get closer to his foot and apply pressure on his foot through his shoe. "Wait," he reminded himself and stood back up, hurrying to get to Dharma and Ken. "Sorry, what'd I miss?" he asked when he arrived, taking his PET back, and was greeted by Dharma's explanation/orders.

"Yeah, that's about right. Rather than entertaining her, I guess I'll be flirting with her," VenusMan confirmed, "I'm afraid I won't exactly need your strategic insight for this. It's not exactly a battle. Besides, what would a kid know of romance?"

Satou looked at his PET, pouting at VenusMan. "I'll have you know I watch plenty of shows with romance in them!"

"Oh come on," VenusMan scoffed with a mocking smile, "Shows? You mean cartoons." VenusMan waved at Satou with a dismissing gesture, followed by pointing at Ken. "Hey cowboy, I'd like to have a talk with your Navi before we head off. You cool with that?" He then took a look at BroncoMan once Satou held the PET in their direction, "Can you tell me some more about Buck? Any information is useful and you know... I've got Phero's private e-mail." His smile had switched from mocking to mischievous while looking at BroncoMan. He did need information on the female Navi, but his face showed no signs of deceiving BroncoMan about Phero's e-mail.

"But if we need VenusMan to handle this Navi," Satou started and turned his face to Dharma, "And you willl be, ehm... Working? What will Phero and I do?" He took a glance at Phero's PET, tilting his head with curiosity and wondering why she didn't seem as cheerful as usual. "If you need me to, I can keep an eye on her. She seems to be into friendship a lot, so maybe she can learn from VenusMan?"

"Kid," VenusMan's voice chimed in, followed by him pointing at Ken, "Get me closer already." Satou simply obliged and kept the PET upright so BroncoMan could properly see VenusMan within the screen.
BroncoMan didn't make any apparent reaction to Phero's charming naivety or VenusMan's undisguised come-ons, remaining silent and swishing his tail. He could easily be surprised by their personalities, withholding jealousy of VenusMan, deep in thought... or be caught up trying to swat a particularly annoying fly. Regardless, he finally piped up again. "... Right. Thank yeeeeaaahough-ou, VenusMan. I'll send you the program in a bit. Be on the lookout for a message from"

Meanwhile, Ken Broncos looked confused and a bit elderly again. He took another look at his own PET display, turning it back to Dharma with a finger on a chunky, sun-burnt beachgoer that had the back of Dharma's head above her neck. Evidently, Ken hadn't noticed any one particular picture that he'd been pointing to. Listening to her a while longer, it dawned on him which one she must be referring to, and he scrolled back to it curiously. He looked down at it and back up at Dharma, still looking surprised. As he put two-and-two together, he clearly hadn't been expecting Dharma to confirm that what he saw in that photograph was an intentional situation. "Well! Ms. Dharma, you are full of surprises. But that kind of progressive attitude ought to make our business with Bill a breeze." The old cowboy grinned and chuckled. Whether he had been hinting at blackmail or not, he easily let the accusation slide by without a response.

"Anyway, yes ma'am. I don't suppose you're going to have any trouble dealin' with ol' Bill. Men and women like us can easily run circles around him in most any contest, except maybe eatin'!" Ken had a hearty laugh at this, obviously expecting Dharma to join in. "I'll leave the plannin' to you, y'seem plenty capable fer it. Only other pieces of advice I can give ya... well, maybe you already thought of this and maybe it don't matter to ya, but if you're at all concerned about being recognized as Dharma waitin' tables at Bill's establishment, y'could probably demand he let you wear a disguise. I'm pretty sure all a person like you'd have to do is put on a hat, or er, tie up yer hair, wear some fake glasses..." Bill paused a moment, taking a glance again at Dharma's choice of attire. "Or maybe you'll be fine regardless, since I doubt he'll have you waitin' tables in that rather interestin' coat," he finished with a grin. The guy had a lot of nerve talking about distinct fashion sense.

"Oh, an' the other piece of advice," he said, wrapping a finger in his moustache and folding an arm behind his back. "BroncoMan and I want to help with your mission, but let's keep in mind this is a covert op. That is to say, I'm counting on you to come up with a plan that keeps you out of jeopardy. Please don't take this as a threat, but rather a warning: if you get caught trying to steal Bill's formula and accuse his best friend of plotting the whole business, carefully consider who will press charges, and the intellect of that man. I've worked a long time establishing myself as his good buddy, y'see."

Ken almost jumped, realizing that he'd only just caught the window of time by which he needed to turn back from an evil megalomaniac to a silly cowboy. "Hey, Satou! Hopefully my team of burgermasters treated ya t' one of their finest. A lot is gonna be ridin' on your pardner, VenusMan. I'll be countin' on you two, y'hear?" Ken heard the boy's concern. "What do you do? Why, whatever you want!" he responded, with a smile that clearly told Dharma "I couldn't care less!" "Well... my guess is Ms. Heart-Payne will be busy with Bill's tasks, so y'may end up coordinatin' the operations of both the Navis. There shouldn't be much for you t'do as the operator, though... Y'won't need battlechips if you ain't fightin'." Hearing VenusMan was calling for him, he gave a curt nod and handed over his PET with BroncoMan.

"Information on Buck, huh? Yeah, I suppose I should have thought of that. I'd planned to send it along with the program, but let me tell you what I thaaa-heeeeeyeeaheeink will help. The door Buck guards is at the back of the establishment. I don't think you'll have a hard time recognizing her. Buck is a well-endowed Navi, styled after a Western cowgirl, of sorts... She is incredibly powerful. Or, uh, that's what my research tells me," BroncoMan added, shifting his weight on his legs. "I'm not sure I've seen any other security systems in place at the restaurant, and yet she's managed to guard that door successfully. I'm a pretty tough hombre, I think I told you before, but for the purpose of this mission... you should consider fighting a non-option. Other than that, I want to again mention that the most vital and difficult part of your task may be catching her interest and keeping it without making your goal obvious. Don't lose her interest for a second. And whatever you do, don't talk about the room behind the door!" BroncoMan seemed to have made himself nervous thinking about this. "I... don't think that would be a good idea. Try to draw her attention away from the door, and going inside... because, obviously, you don't want to give away that as your objective. If you see what I'm saying."

The Navi gulped, seeming like he both desperately did and did not want to say more. "That's about it. Look forward to my message laaaaaeigh-ter, VenusMan."

Ken took his PET back, regarding his Navi with a strange smile. "Well. I wish the two of ya the best of luck. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got some Beecon business to attend to... my pardner's already given ya my address, so if you gotta contact us, do it that way." The cowboy waved and turned, heading towards a throng of kids that must surely be craving a photo op with him.

(Topic opening in Yoka soon)
Dharma wasn't told anything she hadn't already planned for: don't snitch if caught and expect herself and VenusMan to handle the heavy lifting. At this point she just had to hope that VenusMan was as charming as Phero seemed to find him. She couldn't really get past the ab-fangs to see him as attractive herself, but she guessed in the world of navis, there were far stranger traits one could possess. Then again, she would likely have never admitted an attraction to any other person, navi, or creature, even to herself. She was interested in bottling that sort of thing and selling it to others, not experiencing it personally.

Phero sighed, seeing that she and Satou were third wheels after all. She wasn't sure if Satou would be fooled, since theoretically "do whatever you want" was an order that allowed a lot of freedom... but she didn't care about that so much as being separated from her friend. "Well, good luck, VenusMan," she finished, sounding sulllen in a way that could easily be interpreted as jealousy, but was actually just loneliness. Still, she would have Satou, and spending time with another operator besides Dharma was always a treat for her, if not a harsh reminder of her own sad situation.

"Consider it done," Dharma finished, smiling to both Ken and Satou. She could have added an ending note about what a small task this was for her or how the ruling class of intellectuals deserves to stand upon the shoulders of the feeble minded, even if that means the theft of intellectual property, but those comments were best left internalized. "We'll speak to Mr. Clusterbuck directly. Or... I will. It's probably best that you keep your distance to whatever extent possible, Satou. You wouldn't want to get in the way of Buck and VenusMan's play date, after all," she chuckled. "Blech. 'Play date.' I think VenusMan may have an even worse role than myself in this mission." Again, internalized.

She headed, along with Satou, to their destination across BeeCon.
"Alright. Gotcha," VenusMan said after his talk with BroncoMan. It was all fairly obvious and maybe even simple for him. He didn't really regard himself as a charmer, not exactly having any luck with women aside from Chic. But he simply had to work with what he had. "Hey kid, I'll be going over some personal strategies." He brought up the e-mail of BroncoMan after his words, dimming the backlight of the PET's screen. With the screen dimmed, he took a glance in the direction of where he heard Phero's voice. "Duty calls," he said quietly to himself with a smile.

"The burger tasted well," Satou replied to the 'burgermasters' questions, "And I was quite surprised to find out you do have vegetarian burgers..." He attached his PET to his right arm with its strap and looked up at Ken. "I think I'll just act normal. I don't really see a point of acting differently. I'll just spend my time chatting with Phero, I think. And I'll know more when I'm actually there... It'll be fine." Satou nodded at Dharma afterwards, showing he figured they should keep distance from each other, before chasing her to their destination.