Vukanovic Manor

A twisted spire loomed against the darkness. Blocking all sunlight, it stole God's gift of light from the faces of those who needed the warmth, shivering against the pale and the cold of the world the vampires had ruined. In no direction do the sun's rays find purchase, casing a gray malaise over the entire countryside. The path leading to the spire is fittingly treacherous, defying one's progression in the same way that the creatures who ruled the worth denied the human resistance their freedom: ruthlessly and effortlessly. No man could hope to scale the spire's stairs or to reach its oaken door. No mortal being would ever bear witness to its interior, horribly resplendent in its decor of rare metals and silk, flesh and bone. No breathing thing would ever...

"... Want to read this," sighed Tajana Vukanovic, delicately laying her pen down onto her breakfast table in a gesture of surrender. The master of vampire fiction (or so she'd once been called) had barely touched her breakfast, instead doing her damndest to try and conjure the opening to the next chapter of her book. She'd just woken, although the time was just past noon, and while her black hair kept its shape admirably, the dark bags beneath her eyes revealed the late hour she'd stayed up the night before. Her clothing, a long, black frock over a gray blouse, was the same outfit she'd fallen asleep wearing in her armchair.

Chopping chilled melon that had just been removed from the refrigerator, Tajana's wife, Marian, called out. "Sure, I'll read it," she responded, answering a request that hadn't been asked of her. "Give me just a sec, though!" Marian was dressed in a bulky white sweatshirt, necessary given the cold, with black denim jeans and a white-and-pink checked apron over her front. She didn't need the apron so much just for making breakfast, but she liked wearing one just to get in-the-zone while preparing food for her family. She'd long since dressed and showered, seeing as Alexandru had to be driven to camp earlier, and for all of the good she could say about her wife, she would never claim that Tajana could be relied upon for anything in the morning..

Tajana smiled ruefully. "I'll be happier if you don't," she sighed, eager to pick back up her pen, but finding herself too defeated to write.

Although the breakfast room the girls inhabited was by no means small, it was one of the cozier rooms of the Vukanovic family mansion. The mansion itself was great in size, far larger than Tajana needed when she lived with just her son, and still too much even for three to live in. Half went unused, except for the study where the writer liked to read, write, and occassionally doze off. The other half was bright and domestic, obviously transformed by the work of one Marian Simeon. The outside was large and built mostly of hard wood, with accents in stone and iron... Marian's work there had repaired a lot of wear and damage, but couldn't do anything to stop it from looking like the home of an 18th century vampire. Gargoyles, which Marian was not a fan of, dotted the outer gates of the manor, making grotesque faces and spreading impressive wings. Unfortunately, the ordinarily yielding Tajana hadn't been keen on selling them or repurposing them in any way, so they remained as the first sights to greet any visitors, before the gates opened, revealing the a path winding through tall grass, dotted only by a few wind-blown trees. Marian had wanted a flower-bed as well, but had settled for putting it around the back of the house, as it sort of clashed with the rest of the outer decorations.

"What you need," Marian continued, setting her wife's food down almost too fast for Tajana to move her notes from where they were sitting, "is inspiration! With Alexandru out of the house all day, there are all kinds of things we could do to motivate ourselves! You know... Things we don't ordinarily get the chance to do?" she chuckled, buttering Tajana's English muffin for her with a sly smile and generally going out of her way to make her wife comfortable.

"... You're right," the writer responded, eyeing her food warily. Her appetite was never as great as Marian planned for and was especially weak after a night of writing as unsuccessful as this had been. She still managed a smile, though, momentarily lifting Marian's spirits. "With Alexandru at camp, this will be a great chance to allow Daybreak to stretch her legs a little. I've been wanting to see her in action for a long time now, actually," she explained, causing her wife to deflate instantly. "You don't like that idea?"

Embarrassed now to say what she'd really been thinking, Marian chuckled and waved it off. "O-Oh, you know... Daybreak and I just don't always get along so well..." she offered.

"It's a thankless task," a haughty voice responded from Marian's PET, which she didn't realize had been turned on. The PET was sitting on the table, mostly forgotten (but thankfully not as forgotten as it had been about a decade ago). "The burden of ridding the world of vampires rarely earns me 'recognition,' or 'friendship,' or the 'chance to stretch my legs.' My legs will remain cramped and confined, in the staunch stance I have taken against the ones who threaten humanity. Pay me no mind!" When Marian didn't immediately respond, her navi stopped playing hard to get and spoke up again. "Of course, one can only stay in a sentry's position for so long... Eventually, it will be up to me to take the fight straight to the vampire's door. Could that day be... today?" she questioned dramatically, undoubtedly making a cool face on the PET's screen, which would go unseen by anyone.

"It could," Tajana answered with a laughing voice, amused by the navi's antics, as she always was.

"... Is this a trap? I trust it not," Daybreak countered, suspicious of her creator's wife, as she always was.

"No, it's no trap, just a bad idea," Marian retorted, impatient with her navi, as she always was. "But I guess we really haven't done much since we reactivated you... I've been so worried about you tainting Alexandru's head with all that nonsense of yours."

"The vampires are the source of the taint! Remember that. Also: was this 'nonsense of mine' not 'nonsense of yours?' If the taint was not so deeply rooted inside your soul now, you'd remember the wise teachings you gave me," Daybreak scoffed. "As for my soul, it cries out in just fury, demanding that I root the vampires out and banish them from our world with the power of my Sun Spears! I will never do that unless I set foot outside my home."

"Fine, fine! Just... try not to kill anyone who's not a vampire, alright?" Marian conceded, intending to make a joke at her navi's expense.

Daybreak took it literally, smirking behind the veil of the net. "I shall try, but leave us not forget the vampire's servants, their sympathizers, and those too far lost to the taint! Each has his own special place in hell, as the sun in the sky has ordained!" she cried dramatically. Already regretting her decision to go along with the plan, Marian jacked her navi into the net port on the kitchen counter-top, hoping her navi would go straight for the GNA and not make any pit stops. She hadn't let Daybreak walk around very far out into the net proper since she'd recovered the PET and been asked to reactivate it. Hopefully, nothing would cause her to regret allowing it now.

((Jacking in Daybreak for GNA mission board))
Marian and Tajana had both gotten a lot more than they bargained for by letting Daybreak off her leash for a while. Marian had never expected she'd allow Daybreak to go through with deleting another navi, nor that the chance would ever even arise... even now, it felt surreal just to think about. Her partner, on the other hand, had managed to make a good bit of progress writing. Navi vigilantism was definitely unusual enough to get her inspiration flow like she'd wanted it to. They were still split over the decision, though: Marian couldn't get over the thought that she'd committed a crime, while Tajana thought of it as having done a good deed that no one else was capable of doing. Therefore, even though Tajana's writing had gone well, she was feeling an uncomfortable rift between the two of them and needed a way to close it.

Ultimately, both of them found themselves wishing it was time to pick up Alexandru, both because they missed him, but also, because that would be a great way to get back onto the same page. Unfortunately, the mission hadn't actually taken that long, and although the mission had taken place under the cover of night, it was still early morning at the Vukanova manor. The two of them had eaten breakfast, cleaned up, and watched over Daybreak for a while, but there was still plenty of time to burn. The sight of Tajana writing as though nothing crazy had happened was only making Marian more irritable, as much as she'd wanted her wife to get her inspiration back, and she decided to interject with a new idea. "Let's go on a mission together!" she suggested, standing in front of Tajana and deliberately blocking the light.

"N-Now?" Tajana asked, lowering her eyebrows and pressing her pen to her lip. "It's still pretty bright out..."

"What are you, a vampire?" Marian joked, covering her PET with one hand as though to keep her navi from hearing. "I think Daybreak's pretty wound up still, so we'll just handle this ourselves. Just the two of us! I'll bet we can get you some more inspiration for the parts that don't involve crazy vampire hunters," she beamed, becoming more pleased as she reminded herself that she could get some time away from her insane navi.

"I suppose it wouldn't hurt... Will you drive out? I could do some more writing on the road..." Tajana smiled hopefully. Marian was happy to agree, pulling out her PET and doing her best to avoid eye contact with her navi (not easy, as PETs were designed for navis and ops to face eye-to-eye) while she navigated to the BBS herself.

((Jacking in, headed to Mission BBS, then to Sylvan Station Suites))
((Returning from Sylvan Station Suites))

After leaving the Taylor and Nora at the Sylvan Station Suites, Marian drove the long road up to camp to retrieve Alexandru, who was in the kind of good spirits that both of them found difficult to comprehend, being mostly unfamiliar with the so-called "great" outdoors. "It's a good thing, you know? His father wasn't outdoorsy either. It's nice to see that the apple can escape the shade of the trees," Tajana remarked with a smile, as Alexandru energetically began unpacking things from his backpack, scattering them around the living room to show them off rather than returning them to their proper places. "You had fun, didn't you, Alexandru?"

"Sure, Mom," the young boy answered distractedly. "What about you and Ms. Marian? Did you have fun?"

"Just Marian," Marian reminded him, giving him a noogie for his misstep and pulling him into her breast momentarily. "And yes, we had lots of fun," she smiled, not elaborating further. She knew Tajana wouldn't have wanted to answer that question herself.

"Doing what?" the boy asked, looking upward.

Marian blushed a little, then set him upright onto his feet. "We drove out and met some of your mom's fans. Now, your mommy has to get to work, and you, Dru, are going to play with me!" she giggled, reaching out to grab him again.

This time, he stepped away slightly, leaving her grasping at air in a way that momentarily frustrated her in spite of herself. "No... Ms. Marian, I want to play with Daybreak! My navi's not a combat navi... I want to see what it's like to operate a combat navi and bust viruses!" he announced, pointing at the PET clipped onto her belt. "Mom has to write her books right now anyway, right? Let's just operate Daybreak!"

"Dru, Sweetie, Daybreak is still resting from her last-" Marian began to fib, before Alexandru interrupted again.

"The screen's on, I can see her leaning in at me! I think she wants to talk," he pointed out. "But the sound's turned off..."

The corner of Marian's smile twitched for a moment, as she reached down and unclipped her PET. "Fine, fine... Let's hear what Daybreak has to say, then we'll-" she began, before a raucous narrative burst from her PET and drowned out the rest of her words.

"Finally! Oh ho ho! Good boy, Dru! The taint is quite strong in your stepmom, Dru, quite strong indeed! Some evil force has reached her! Did you know that she's had me muted all day long?" the navi scoffed, now backing away from the PET screen for some dignity. "And did you know I haven't been on a single one of my necessary busting runs since reawakening from my long slumber? To think... the minions of darkness are out there, multiplying, copula-!" she continued, then withered under a glare from her operator. "Er... As I was saying, multiplying in the shadows and then swarming out into the light, chasing good people from the streets! It disgusts me. These creatures are the low-hanging fruit, Marian, the easily culled rats that spread the plague. I am God's exterminator and you must leave me to my work!"

Marian thought to herself that she'd like very much to leave Daybreak, but that wasn't an option for the moment. "Daybreak... Do you promise to be on your best behavior and not do anything that might upset Alexandru?" she asked, looking closely into the PET. Daybreak nodded, uncharacteristically obedient, but smirking as soon as she looked away. "Dru, do you promise... not to pick up any weird habits from my navi?" she asked, facing him just as seriously with her hands on the knees of her jeans.

"Y-Yes," Alexandru answered with a slow nod, wondering why he hadn't instead been asked to pay attention while operating and do it like his teachers had taught him.

"Good. I'll sit here while you operate..." she informed her stepson and warned her navi. "You two have fun!"

"Hu ha ha ha! Come, Alexandru! We will unleash God's wrath upon the creatures of the night!" the navi cackled from the PET. Alexandru found himself wondering if his stepmom's navi was really a good guy or a bad guy. "Oh, but first: a swing by the store so I can purchase some upgrades... if there are truly such things available to those outside the vampire hosts."

((Jacking in, headed to Online Navi Shop))