Breaking It Off Easy

Rodney had planned ahead and left out in the morning even before Jocelyn, knowing that he needed ample time if he wanted to hit up Dr. Rob Stephenson early enough to finish his business there, then intercept Jacky on the way to the meet-up point. At this rate, he figured he'd only be a little late meeting up with his favorite employee. "For now, though... gotta deal with four eyes," he thought, sitting atop a raised flower-bed near the front entrance of the school, which was empty at this time of day. He'd instructed Jocelyn to come in from the teacher's side, so there wasn't a chance they'd meet up accidentally. Jacky, on the other hand... Rob would probably pass along to her only that she needed to meet at the school. It would be unusual of her to come from any other direction.

His thumb rubbed up and down the smooth, metal lid of his flip lighter, which was hidden inside his pocket. His eyes darted down to his PET; he felt the sudden anxiety of being watched. "Milky-buh-buh-buh-baby?" he asked, raising one eyebrow.

"Our goals should always be aligned, Rodney. Remember that," she spoke coldly. "Our goal is not to hoard 'Jocelyn' to ourselves, it's to keep constant, assured surveillance of her until we make sense of her secret. If this other girl is a legitimate threat to our operation, then do what you must. But if she's simply a girl... and you are putting my work in jeopardy for reason of your own nonsensical arrangement, this little game of master and pet... you wouldn't betray your loyalty to me, for her, would you?"

"No, ma'am," Rodney spoke, stone-faced. The hand in his pocket had closed tightly around his lighter.

"Don't hold back... Address me properly," the voice reiterated, speaking with strained patience.

"Yes, Mama. You got it," he murmured quietly, slouching more heavily than before. His eyes looked out into the distance behind his shades, perhaps watching for Jackey, perhaps devoid of thought. "Nobuh-buh-buh-budy else but you, Mama."

"Good boy," the voice whispered from his PET. Rodney would continue to sit in silence until Jacky arrived.

Once he caught sight of her, he'd certainly recognize her... after all, he'd done his research, and appearance wasn't a hard thing to glean. "Jacky," he'd call to her, keeping his hands in his pockets and smiling amiably. Knowing that he'd probably find that suspicious, he explained the rest quickly. "Rob sent'cha here, right? I'm a friend of his," he grinned, lying through his teeth. He just needed enough to get her close enough for them to speak more quietly. If she instead walked on by with her head down like she didn't see him, the rest of the conversation would be much more difficult.

Provided she didn't try to leave without speaking, he'd wave her over, then wait till she got close enough for him to speak without raising his voice. "Listen, Jacky. Uh, Rob and I met, buh-buh-buh-butt truth be told, I ain't a friend of his," he amended his earlier lie, while he scratched his chin stubble lazily. "Quite the opposite," he thought to himself, but his face kept the same smile. "Buh-buh-buh-butt we talked at each'chother a little earlier. I looked him up cause he's a teacher at this school and, well, Jocelyn happened to mention to me that you studied here," he continued, shifting his seat on one of the flowers he'd sat upon. "What'dya think of Jocelyn?" he asked. Her answer might draw a reaction or two out of him, but rather than let her answer, he'd cut her off short. "She's a silly buh-buh-buh-burdy, ain't she? It's okay, you can say it; won't offend me none. Truth be told... other girls hanging around her... well, it's a recipe for disaster. They get caught up in her shenanigans and damn, before they know what's going on, they're up to their asses in stupidity they only dreamed of. To that end, my request to you is just to stop hanging around her. No problem there, right?" he asked, tilting his head up to scratch beneath his chin again. It might have been his way of trying to look like he wasn't scheming too hard.

"You'll need to tell her in person, though. If ya'd buh-buh-buh-be so kind," he added, tilting his eyebrows an entreating expression. "If I do it, then I'm her mean ol' buh-buh-buh-boss, and me'n'her got a relationship to keep," he chuckled, though Jacky already had some idea of what kind of bizarre relationship that was. For his part, Rodney wasn't aware she had that knowledge, and continued thinking he was the only one of them with any insight. "So, you'll find her over at the teacher's parkin' lot. Just go over there and buh-buh-buh-break it off with her. Oh, yeah, what am I buh-buh-buh-botherin' going on and on about, I know you're smart! Doc told me so. He said, 'that Jacky, her head's on straight. She'll do the right thing,'" he embellished, not bothering to change his voice to sound more like the professor's. "He said, 'Gee, I feel kinda buh-buh-buh-bad about all the trouble I put on her already, I don't want her mixed up with your sh*t too," although, he didn't use the language. Pardon me," he laughed. "Don't know what he meant about that! Sounds to me like the man's got some demons. Whatever. None of my buh-buh-buh-business."
Jacky approached the school building at a leisurely pace, her glasses shining in the light. In spite of the trials she'd been through the day before, she wasn't tired at all: she'd discovered that being constantly on her feet recently, running through malls and performing on stage, she was actually quite tired when she returned home. She'd begun massaging her cushion of study time to allow for more sleep time, understanding that it would begin negatively affecting her capabilities if she didn't allot time for it. Of course, the other part of getting that sleep was silencing Hyde's PET at night. She understood that went against her earlier agreement, but she'd discussed it with the calmer half of her Navi and come to an understanding. If she hadn't, she thought she'd shortly lose the ability to function rationally... In any case, her leisurely pace had nothing to do with being tired, or laid back, or unconcerned: rather, it was because she knew the route well, and had left herself a generous window in order to arrive on time.

The girl had a frown across her face that was a bit more cross than her default. Even her shifted schedule had "safety spaces" she'd reserved for herself in case of emergencies. Dr. Stephenson's unplanned excursion was now cutting into those emergency savings, and she hadn't been able to get any straight information from him on the phone. For a professor to call outside of class hours and arrange activities, then remain so obviously cagey about the details, struck her as extremely unusual. Then again, she imagined if she was a professor calling a student to help him with some tedious task on that student's time off, she'd avoid giving the details and scaring them off, too.

Jacky had come with her labcoat on over her usual sweater and pants, assuming she could be called in to do some lab work. However, looking at the only person who appeared prepared to meet her, she realized she was probably overdressed. She came to a stop in her walk and glanced around, trying to find anyone else that could be the person Stephenson had told her to meet. Finding no one, she approached the man reluctantly. If she had come across him in other circumstances, she'd almost certainly have kept her head to the ground and kept on walking. "Yes, sir. A pleasure to make your acquaintance," she returned his greeting, standing just close enough for them to speak without raising voices, while just far enough to make clear she really would prefer not to be talking to him at all.

The comment that he wasn't a friend of Rob's caused her to raise an eyebrow. Besides the fact that she was sure all adults who knew Rob at least pretended to be his friend, the strange man's story raised flags. First, the mere mention of Jocelyn's name was enough to raise a flag alone; second, he randomly ended up contacting Stephenson out of the entire list of the school's faculty? "No, that's besides the point... what could this man have to talk to me about that's so important he has to track me down?"

Jacky kept her distance, holding her sullen frown. "Jocelyn? She's a hard worker, but I believe-" she started, before biting her tongue. She realized the man wasn't really expecting an answer there, but more importantly, she believed she had identified the man. "That eccentric look, together with intimate knowledge of Jocelyn and a concern for her affairs... this must be the Rodney she was referring to." Having decided this was the case, she continued hearing him out, but couldn't hide the distaste in the wider frown that covered her face. She didn't do the courtesy of returning his jovial tone as he carried on with his proposal. She raised her eyebrows again at Rodney's relaying Stephenson's supposed commentary, but she didn't give the reaction that one might have expected the casual mention of Hyde to give rise to. It was easy to quash emotional responses when she had business she needed to attend to... and besides, suspecting who he was, she had no reason to give his words or intentions the benefit of the doubt.

"You must be Rodney," she finally returned, adjusting her glasses so the light would catch on the lenses and hide her eyes. "Jocelyn's spoken to me about you, as well. I understand you oversee her activities at the mall... which, I must say, Jocelyn has given a rather confounding account of. I'll spare you the details, but suffice to say, I agree with your assessment of Jocelyn's nature and the effect she has on her acquaintances. However, I have seen ample evidence to suggest Jocelyn needs someone to act as a voice of reason with second opinions."

Jacky hesitated here. Really, she wasn't sure if she'd intended to meet Jocelyn again: without having her right in view to witness what she was like, she didn't necessarily feel a responsibility to act as a caretaker or teacher for Jocelyn. She certainly hadn't planned to do so. However, faced with the obviously shady suspected Rodney before her, she felt that moral imperative again.

"Of course, as a bystander, I don't have much say on how you choose to run your business at the mall. However, I think it will be productive if I continue to offer Jocelyn my friendship and advice when possible, so that she can come to informed and clear-headed decisions. I understand this might inconvenience me. However, I have recently become well-accustomed to coincidences. Therefore, I thank you for stepping in to make an offer so apparently concerned for my own well-being, but if there is a chance I can be useful to Jocelyn and the world at large, I feel I must take it."

Jacky had sped up near the end of her speech, and, unknowingly, backed up a good couple of steps as she delivered it. "Now, if you don't mind, I have other things to take care of at the university... unless you brought Jocelyn here so I could 'break it off' in person? In that case, I think it'd probably be wise for me to speak with her... I might be able to give her some advice as to h-how to best whatever task you've given her today." She cursed that her voice had broken momentarily in her declaration, but that was to be expected... she really wasn't built for handling conflict, and probably would have avoided it entirely if she hadn't dealt with an entire day's worth of handling the fallout of Rodney's handiwork earlier.
Rodney was jovial enough while he was given free reign to chatter all he wanted. He'd planned to talk her into the ground and get it over with quickly; that strategy worked pretty well most places. Unfortunately for him, Jacky had built up something of a resume, dealing with severe nuisances... worse, she was already privy to his role in Jocelyn's life. "No good... I took my eyes off her and it cost me. A guy hanging around her would have been normal. A girl? She's got a sense of responsibility. That belongs in a mom, not a little ain't-got-tits, ain't-got-jack-sh*t like her," he thought, managing to keep a grin, although one of his lips curled up into a snarl again. "You are indubuh-buh-buh-buhtibly correct, Jacky," he responded, two finger guns at her. "And that voice of reason is me, her buh-buh-buh-boss! That's the way our capitalism works, right? You get it," he attempted to edge in.

Jacky's continued insistence revealed to him that he'd misread the situation: she hadn't been entirely tricked by Rob Stephenson into taking on her troublesome navi, or really even assigned... she could have fought back. No, if Jacky hadn't been forced, then she must feel a sense of responsibility. "What a good little egghead she is! Kinda makes me wanna crush that egg-head in my fists," he thought... it occurred to him from time to time that it was bad that his mind went there, but hey, he figured it was fine as long as he didn't act on it. "Psychiatrist is just another form of egghead. Stick em both in the blender and make yourself a tough-guy smoothie." His wits were quick but his reservation was not strong; he took out another cigarette, lit it swiftly, and began to brazenly puff the smoke towards Jacky without a care, as she finished up her words.

"You gotta buh-buh-buh-be the one to buh-buh-buh-break it off with Jocelyn. Like I said, I'm like her role model, her confidante, whatever. I can't be the one who tells her she can't hang out with her new friend," he smirked. Although he obviously had more to say, he paused to take an absurdly long drag of the cigarette, reducing a little over a quarter of it to ash and tapping it into the flower bed behind him, before continuing. "And if you ain't gonna do it, well, then I guess we'll switch gears. See, her work's tough. I need you to see that and you'll see why it's gotta buh-buh-buh-be a solitary existence. So go on, meet her like we're all thinking, then do what you do. Help her, buh-buh-buh-be her friend, shrink her head, whatever the heck you're doin'. Just know that helpin' her might mean you have to get in on her buh-buh-buh-business and quite frankly I ain't sure you got the guts for it. Or the tits," he chuckled with a guttural growl. "Aw, hush up, that ain't me buh-buh-buh-bein' a buh-buh-buh-bad guy. Jocelyn's the kind of person the world takes advantage of, I'm like her protector! If I'm not around, well damn, she'll get run over by a car while she's on her little Segway or pulled into a dark alley and mugged or any crap like that. So you get off your pedestal and let me do what I do buh-buh-buh-best: I'm a ***-damned savior- and nobody's gettin' in the way of me and my-"

"Rodney?" a cheerful voice interrupted, as Jocelyn peeked out from behind the gate that Jacky was probably desperately hoping to reach on the other side of the courtyard. "And Miss Jacky! What a nice surprise!" the mall cop called out, moving as fast as her Segway would allow. "I was just here on business, but I hadn't expected to see you here today! I guess it is your place of education, is it not?"

The boss seemed to almost swallow his cigarette, before promptly hiding it behind his back. He stood up, slicked his hair with the non-cigarette hand, straightened his collar, and seemed to change entirely. "Jocelyn! You didn't wait like I told you, you silly girl," he almost giggled, or at least it seemed that way. He seemed suddenly nervous and subservient. "What am I gonna do with you? Aw well, that's all in the past! Let's focus on buh-buh-buh-business!"

"Right-o! Miss Jacky, listen- I have important work today, and you're just the person to help me!" Jocelyn exclaimed, reaching over her Segway by tilting it forward and clasping Jacky's hands. "With my enthusiasm, your brains, Rodney's leadership, Miss Sleuth's wit, and Miss Hyde's wild card bravado, we can accomplish anything! Oh, and Rodney's navi I've never met. With their mysteriousness, we'll-"

"Gonna stop you right there! Jacky's takin' the wheel today! I'm going to give the two of you some buh-buh-buh-breathin' room, although, as you remember: don't let anything come between you and your work! That's your top imperative," he finished, having just managed to discretely toss his cigarette into the trash can behind him after edging over to it. "I'll let you two go over all the details. Don't do anything I wouldn't do!" he finished, waving goodbye over one shoulder and strolling off, although he was moving a lot less lazily than he had earlier.

Jocelyn smiled after him, then turned to Jacky with stars in her eyes. "You're going to love this!" she began, although unless Jocelyn told Jacky that she'd decided to find a new place to practice her trade or perhaps planned to go back and further her education, that was unlikely. "Today's job is easy, but it will be better with friends! You see, it's about the friendly spirit of competition between the jolly good Gloria Scott and the also quite good but not as much so Sheamus Austin. We're going to go around the school, acting out parts! I think the plan was that Rodney would be the Gloria Scott and I'd be Shamus Austin... but hm... he left. So... we'll have to improvise! I'll be the Gloria Scoooott," she murmured, batting her eyelashes at Jacky hopefully as if trying to stymie protest, knowing that Jacky would really want to be the Gloria Scott, "and you be Sheamus Austin! We'll come up with a more girly name for you though like... um... Shame... Shame... I'll let you think of it!" she finished, flashing a thumbs up. "There's costumes inside the school, we'll head there-"

"Ah ah ah! Not so fast," another similarly enthusiastic and annoying voice piped up from Jocelyn's PET. "You have another, more important mission today, my dear. Namely, pulling me out of the doldrums and into the sweet embrace of labor, the great lady of the proletariat class! If I do not do work, then my skills rust. If my skills rust, then I may come to... erroneous conclusions," Sleuth shuddered, although it sounded like she was joking. "Miss Hyde, my bosomest buddy, must accompany me on this outing, she simply must!" Sleuth didn't mention her extra motivation: the curious case of Hyde's split personality, which she intended to solve and write a fantastic memoir about, in due time. Really, if she just wanted a mission, it would be easier to do herself than to move hindered by Hyde's off-the-wall antics.

"Fantastic! A double date it is!" Jocelyn giggled, clapping her hands. "What do you say, Miss Jacky? We simply must! Your navi could go ahead and get us started with a polite inquiry to the GNA, asking for suitable work for Hyde and Miss Sleuth," she recommended, smiling sweetly down at her pal from atop the perch of her Segway.
Jacky impulsively took a few more steps back. Rodney was bad enough without the distasteful habit he seemed to be flaunting, but with it, Jacky could barely stand to be near him. She clenched her teeth behind her lips as Rodney shifted from his nice guy act to straight-up insults. She thought about pointing out to Rodney that she'd watched over Jocelyn through her entire time at the Sheamus Austin... but that wasn't entirely accurate, nor was it entirely helpful to her argument. She let Rodney do the barking, knowing that no matter how riled up he got (and, by her estimation, he was quite riled up), he wasn't going to do anything drastic in a public space.

That said, she was a bit relieved when Jocelyn showed up (possibly the only time she would feel that way), feeling some of the shakiness in her knees subside as Rodney's tension seemed to drain out. She gave Jocelyn a small nod in both greeting and confirmation to her question, seeing that Rodney was going to be the one greeting her. The smile she'd impulsively adopted fell to a frown as Jocelyn wasted no time skipping ahead to the work. She started to raise her finger to stop Jocelyn, before Rodney interrupted. She started once again raising a hand to make Rodney stop and give a proper explanation, before he swiftly took his leave. "What are you going to do with her, indeed...?" Jacky muttered, under her breath. She made a mental note of his changed behavior and stocked it as possible evidence to use in a presentation against his character to Jocelyn... "Not that it will help much, I suspect."

She returned Jocelyn's starry eyes with her own impenetrably shielded gaze and tight frown. That frown continued to fall farther and farther as Jocelyn quickly made it clear the work Rodney had in mind only had the most tangential of relationships to the actual work of a mall cop (or most any respectable profession, for that matter). Her mind was somewhere else when Jocelyn stealth snagged the Gloria Scott name for herself, not that she would have fought over it in the first place. Her frown fell to an actual grimace as Jocelyn mentioned costumes. "Drat." Besides the fact that she had no desire to return to show business after leaving it all on the stage in her most recent mission, the initial similarity of this setup to her recent activities felt a little too uncanny. "That Rodney may have done some focused research on my activities..." She didn't think Rodney was stalking her with predatory intentions, but certainly with adversarial goals in mind.

She remained quiet as Sleuth begged Jocelyn for a mission, then finally spoke up after Jocelyn came to a pause. "... Shae would work," she muttered, crossing her arms and shutting her eyes, contemplating. "And a mission seems like a reasonable idea, although we'll need to request something with a bit less work on our part than last time. I'll leave that up to you, Hyde." Jackie was aware of the fact that "leaving that up to Hyde" had put her in plenty of compromising situations before, but she really wanted to focus on her problems with Jocelyn for now. "Besides, I survived that mission Hyde specifically fished for in order to put me out of my comfort zone. What she does to herself is little of my business, I suppose. I feel sorry for Sleuth, but then again, she's made her bed to lie in."

"Jocelyn, I'll accompany you for your activities today, but I'm going to need much more information than you've currently given me. Additionally, I'd like to recommend that you critically consider why you're being asked to do what you are today, as you divulge these details. When you reach the answer on the surface, I want you to do your best to dig deeper and consider any underlying motives Rodney might have in asking you. I want you to recall my previous lectures from our time in Sheamus Austin as you do so. If you promise me you'll try, I'll... consider giving you my aid." She stopped just short of promising it to Jocelyn, recalling again that she really had no idea what nonsense Rodney had lined up. "Anyway, Jocelyn, if you intend to go inside the school building, I'll remind you that you need to sign in if you haven't already done so, and that you will definitely need to leave your transportation means outside. There's a bike rack you can use, if you have a chain..."

Jacky assumed Jocelyn wouldn't hesitate to make her promise, even if she highly doubted Jocelyn would have much success in keeping it. As such, she went ahead and put Hyde on the school network, headed for the mission BBS.
"That's a cute name! Shae it is! Miss Shae Austin," Jocelyn agreed. "I don't think we could shorten the Gloria Scott name without losing the meaning of this exercise, but luckily, we don't need to!" She slowed her roll and bridled her enthusiasm, adopting a vacant smile as Jacky explained all of her misgivings. "Don't worry! There will be plenty more details to come later on today. We've just got a few skits we're going to put on, explaining the relationship between the Shamus Austin shopping center and the Gloria Scott mall! We'll put on costumes so people know which of us are which,' she elaborated. "Once we get into costume, I'll tell you how it's supposed to go!" She tilted her head, bobbing her golden curls as Jacky explained another condition of her assistance. "Ulterior motives? Well, I've been thinking about those, honestly... After all, Rodney has changed a bit lately. He's working me much harder," she sighed, resting cheek on one gloved palm. "Don't worry! I'll definitely put my mind to use. I would be a disappointment to Miss Sleuth if I didn't!"

She gave a thumbs up and a wink, holding it there for a while, before declaring. "And I've got it! He thinks I'm a bit naughty for playing around at an opponent's mall, and that's miffed him a bit, so he's making me do this slightly unusual task because he wants me to learn my lesson. Oooor... He's decided I should do more tasks outside of the mall! Perhaps we're expanding? Oooh, that's exciting!" she exclaimed with mirth and glee, even though a school couldn't possibly factor into those plans. "There, two potential theories! But as Miss Sleuth would say, it falls to me to investigate to discover which of these likely possibilities is the truth!" Jocelyn affirmed, although neither sounded quite right. "But enough about that! Let's get into costume-"

Jocelyn's enthusiasm finally wavered as Jocelyn pointed out that she probably needed to sign in and definitely needed to leave behind her signature means of transportation. "T-The school doesn't allow devices such as this? Well... I suppose it might be troublesome if everyone rode them... even I'm not an advocate for that," she murmured, pressing her fingers together as she tried to think of some way she might be allowed to bring it inside. "Fine... I'll leave it with the bikes! This must be one of the challenges Rodney meant for me to face today," she resolved, although she was clearly pouting a bit. With reluctant slowness, she set up her brake and locked down her scooter, although, again, that wouldn't really stop anyone devoted to carrying it off, just someone interested in riding it off. "Now let's go find the sign in office!" she exclaimed, eager to get pumped up again. She stood that way for a moment, pointing her finger toward the door inside, before swinging the finger around at Jacky. "Miss Jacky! Can you point me to the office where I may sign in?" she requested.

In the mean time, Sleuth had already gone off to the GNA mission board. The Shamus Austin had been a bit dangerous for Jacky and Jocelyn on their own, but here at the school, Jacky could probably keep Jocelyn in line by herself.

((Jacking in, headed for GNA board))
Jacky wasn't feeling much more confident after hearing Jocelyn's very brief sharing of details, which was really more of an explanation of why she wasn't sharing details. She continued frowning impassively as Jocelyn indicated she fully intended to do some deep thinking, then demonstrated her apparent impression that critical thinking was accomplished in short bursts of less than ten seconds. Jacky listened to the hypotheses Jocelyn had developed... she didn't think Jocelyn had hit the nail on the head, but she couldn't say she'd expected much more. Really, she suspected Jocelyn might not be far off with the first idea. "I think it's a bit far-fetched to suppose a mall security chief is planning to expand operations outside of the very specific jurisdiction granted to him by his place of employment, but yes, continue giving these ideas your attention."

She fell silent momentarily as Jocelyn faced the difficult task of parting from her preferred transportation. "Don't forget your PET, if it's still in there..." she reminded Jocelyn, recalling the way the officer normally toted it around. "The office is right ahead. You'll have to make a temporary ID to be allowed on campus... of course, I have my own permanent ID. I'm assuming you have a license on your person? They'll need it to make the pass." Jacky would lead the way, holding doors for the other woman as they moved. The front lobby wasn't busy at all, and Jacky didn't dwell there as she quickly passed through to the office on the right, her feet gliding across the waxed tile floor.

The office she entered was carpeted, decorated with potted plants and photographs that seemed to cover the history of the university. Several chairs, a small padded bench, a coffee table, and side tables with lamps and magazines were provided for those forced to wait. Fortunately, Jacky and Jocelyn were not too such people. Jacky quickly made her way to the desk, which curved out from the wall in a U-shape to enclose a secretary space that looked to comfortably accommodate three. Only one was there at the moment, a man, and with the exception of his large hands, his features were entirely obscured by a newspaper he was reading.

Jacky was always surprised to see printed newspapers still circulating in the current age of technology. That said, it hardly seemed worth commenting on. "Mr. Straighter, I have a guest to sign in," she spoke up, recognizing the man's hands and being familiar with his position around the office.

"Hm?" the man put down his paper, revealing a slightly pudgy form with a receding auburn hairline and a plain moustache over a wide mouth. The man looked tall, although he was sitting down, and had hair on his forearms, revealed by his green office polo. He looked first at Jacky, then shifted his eyes to Jocelyn. "Welcome to Dentech U, ma'am. What are you here for today?"

The student put her finger and thumb to her chin, trying to think. It occurred to her just then that she had no idea if Rodney had come up with some sort of plan to explain what he and Jocelyn would have been doing there. "After seeing that man, I have no trouble believing he meant to walk about campus with no identification..." She had a mental image that Jocelyn intended to traverse the school at random, putting on shows wherever she felt like it. "Jocelyn's going to be helping me as we practice some performances. We'll just be walking about..."

"Walkin' about? Walkin' about where?" Straighter asked, not suspiciously, but as a man who at least tries to do what he's paid to.

Jacky shifted her eyes nervously to Jocelyn, indicating she should answer the question of where they were going. The medical student was completely clueless.

The man would wait if Jocelyn gave the answer, but if it wasn't immediate, he'd simply hold up a hand. "Don't worry about it, Jacky. We know you're not the type, and your friend doesn't look like anybody suspicious. Just hand me your ID and I'll get you a temp," he told Jocelyn, putting his hand forward for it. Assuming he got it, he'd quickly go about scanning it and printing an adhesive sticker ID with Jocelyn's name on it, "GUEST" written below.

Jacky shifted on her feet anxiously in the meantime, eager to figure out what Jocelyn intended to get up to and hoping Jocelyn wouldn't do anything that would make this no-questions-asked clearance more difficult than she'd hoped. If Jocelyn got her ID, she'd thank Mr. Straighter and let Jocelyn lead the way to... wherever the costumes were.
Chuckling, Jocelyn wagged one finger at Jacky. "Thank you for the reminder, but it's unnecessary!" she explained, showing her PET as though she were displaying a badge. "As you've noticed, Miss Sleuth is not one who will allow herself to be ignored! I couldn't lose the PET if I wanted to," she boasted, then clipped it onto her belt. "Are you fine without my supervision so far, Miss Sleuth?"

"Somehow, I think I'm managing," Sleuth answered sarcastically.

That prompted a satisfied nod from Jocelyn, who gave the PET a quick pat-pat, to assure Jacky all was taken care of. "I would be remiss to come without proper identification! I have my badge, my segway road-side license, and of course, my officer's ID! That ought to be all the information they need, unless they need my measurements like they do at the metroline. Or, I had to give them once, anyway," she recalled, producing each item from her slacks pockets in turn. After that, it was just a matter of following Jacky.

Mr. Sharper had some questions, which Jocelyn was all too happy to oblige. "Miss Jacky and I are here today on a mission of safety, as surprising as that may seem! We're going to go from place to place, where people gather, and go over essential tips, necessary for the safety, well-being, and efficiency of all mall-goers at both the Shamus Austin and the Gloria Scott malls. You know that those places are popular hang out spots for the 'in-crowd,'" she added finger quotes here, not being too familiar with the ins-and-outs of school life herself, "and thus, it's important that all those we expect to go there be properly educated. It's my responsibility and privilege to impart to them this information... and my great pleasure to do it with my friend here!" she added, placing a hand upon Jacky's shoulder.

It turned out the man didn't really need reassurance anyways; Jacky's word seemed good as gold here. Jocelyn had to admire that (she did personally, and her character did even more), so she beamed and clapped her hand up and down again. "Good deeds breed trust! It's good to be in the good graces of administrative folks at your school. Why, that's just a step away from assisting security, one of the greatest honors in duty that one can uphold!" she announced, while fishing her officer's ID from her slacks pocket. She did it quickly, even though they had to be pretty shallow pockets... the tight slacks didn't leave a lot of extra room. "Her you are, sir! This should be sufficient, shouldn't it?" she questioned, then smiled over to her partner. "Ha ha! For a moment, I thought we'd get a special uniform like over at the Shamus Austin! Well, the differences between all of our establishments, in terms of safety protocol, are exactly why our demonstrations are necessary," she added, giving a knowing smile and dredging up memories Jacky would probably rather forget.
Jacky noted with passing interest that Jocelyn hadn't mentioned any sort of driver's license as an identification form. That would presumably be the one Mr. Sharper was expecting for the temporary ID. Thinking about it, though, Jacky wasn't ultimately too surprised that Jocelyn didn't have one, and she didn't think the office staffer would hold them up on that technicality so long as he was given something official.

Mr. Sharper seemed to take Jocelyn's explanation in stride, although his mind seemed to be doing some gymnastics to keep up with some of the stranger points. "So, um... like, a general safety presentation? For public hangout spots for the kids?" the man asked, trying to fit his head around why students at a university should need tips (essential or otherwise) about two specific malls on campus.

"In a sense, yes," Jacky would pipe up, cutting off Jocelyn if she tried to disagree or offer her own elaboration. Jacky remained quiet, keeping Mr. Sharper's eyes as though willing him to focus only on her and to ignore the bubbly, bouncy elephant in the room.

Thankfully, the man appeared to do just that. He took Jocelyn's officer ID, turning it over once in his hand before getting up and making a copy as he'd claimed he would. He passed it back, raising an eyebrow curiously. "Is that outfit a Shamus Austin security get-up, ma'am?"

"Not quite, thank you sir, we'll be going," Jacky muttered in quick succession, swiping up her partner's temporary and permanent identification before quickly ushering her out of the door by hand. "Thank you, Mr. Sharper."

The man's mouth hung open for just a split moment before fixing into a friendly "see-you-next-time" smile, even if he couldn't get the words out before Jacky was out of the door.

Once outside, Jacky quickly handed Jocelyn's things over to her, frowning. "Where are we going? What are we doing? I still don't understand anything. We're clear to move, now, so let's please move." Having the 'special uniform of the Shamus Austin' mentioned again was making her imagination, normally not prone to such things, go bad places. While she was dreading the answer, she felt like any concrete information that would keep her from chewing over her worst fears would be appreciated now.
"Yes! And what place is more popular than the friendly neighborhood mall?" Jocelyn echoed with a smile, but Jacky too back the reigns on that one before an honest answer could be offered. "Oh, we're done? Thank you, sir," she finished, waving one gloved hand on her way out after her friend.

On the other side, Jacky made her misgivings known again, this time more clearly. Jocelyn watched with surprise, then put on an encouraging smile. "Oh, Miss Jacky, I thought I told you. Well, first of all, we're going to head to where Rodney left the costumes for us. Once we pick them up and get changed, we'll head around the school where people gather and talk to them! Not those in classrooms of course... I was thinking the lunch room, perhaps club rooms, maybe even trendy spots like... behind the school or under the bleachers! I know those are popular spots for kids," she offered, looking amazingly innocent as she offered the suggestion.

Jocelyn led Jacky on a short walk as they talked, moving from the sign-in desk toward the gym. Rather than go inside, she stopped short at one of the locker rooms and motioned Jacky to come in. "It's normal to change in here, right?" she asked. "We'll have some privacy." Strangely, wherever Jocelyn went, it felt like privacy was in short supply... whether it was because she was naturally eye-catching or because of something else was hard to say. A door seemed to creak open nearby, but no one appeared to be in the hall. If Jacky looked, she'd find no door open at all.

"I'm actually already in my costume," Jocelyn explained, waving over her outfit. "Rodney had brought one for himself, a male version of the same thing, but now that I'm playing the role of the Gloria Scott, well, it'll be easier! You can wear the Shamus Austin outfit I was going to wear." By now, they'd be entering the locker room. "Your costume is in the locker over there. Hopefully it fits... I suppose our sizes are a bit different... Oh dear, it might not quite work after all," she murmured, fidgeting with the hem of one of her gloves. "Perhaps just take a look and see what you think?"

While Jacky was doing that, Jocelyn bulled on. She didn't have any need to change her clothes, so all she had to do was stand near the door and elaborate. "We're going to be dueling contrasts, you and I, Miss Jacky. I'll start, by explaining the policies of the Gloria Scott, while you counter... perhaps not strictly the policies of the Shamus Austin, but rather, a contrast to what I've said. You must own it, Miss Jacky; your character will be the 'other' here, telling people about what it's like to be another outside of Gloria Scott. After that, everyone will understand our own policies more clearly. It's best if you can sort of put on a character... have you ever tried doing that? I'm not so good at it, so I was worried! I'm going to try acting myself, but it would be good if you could... um... own it, a bit. As in, act however you think best befits the policy we're sharing."

At this point, Jacky might be fearing the worst, and she'd soon realize she was right to be. The costume inside the locker was very easily adjustable to the right size, that was good... but the reason was because it was only a few bands of vibrant, safety-orange cloth. Rodney was clearly at least a little keen on the visiting officer uniform Jocelyn had worn at the Shamus Austin and had made an effort to duplicate it, though without the words printed on. There was nothing else there... it looked as though he'd really intended to have Jocelyn wear it around the building. The worst part is, she probably would have done it, based on what Jacky knew.

"Do you think you'll be able to fit into it? I gather it might be a bit loose at the... torso... but we can always tighten it up with a belt if you need?" Jocelyn suggested, attempting to look over Jacky's shoulder to see what was inside.
Jacky continued to listen to Jocelyn with healthy skepticism. She didn't bother pointing out that any university students "behind the school or under the bleachers" would likely have little interest in having the virtues of Gloria Scott mall extolled upon them, but she figured she'd offer that advice when it become pertinent.

Hearing about changing reminded her briefly of their adventure at Sheamus Austin. As a result, Jacky was willing to blame her own nerves when she heard nearby movement and found nobody watching. "This should do," she agreed with Jocelyn, stepping into the locker room.

Jacky was pleased to hear, initially, that it seemed both Jocelyn and Rodney's costumes were intended to be the mall security uniform... before quickly realizing that she'd made an incorrect assumption. She remained silent and stone-faced as she looked at the costume in the locker, hearing Jocelyn saying something about "owning it" and "acting out a character" as if she were experiencing a recurring nightmare. She didn't bother searching the locker any harder, as she had no expectation there was anything more to the outfit than what was immediately apparent.

She remained that for a while after Jocelyn finished talking, which might lead the mall security officer to believe she was considering the question of how to make the articles fit. Jacky shut the locker door quietly and softly, as though trying to avoid waking a baby. She turned back to Jocelyn with a dull frown, folding her hands in front of her lap and trying to decide on what to say first.

Finally, Jacky coughed into her fist, then straightened her glasses. "Well. Needless to say, I'm not going to be wearing that."

She paused for a second, anticipating Jocelyn asking "why not," or otherwise insisting.

When the moment passed, she'd continue, whether Jocelyn protested or not. "Jocelyn, the article that is inside this locker is clearly not appropriate clothing for a school setting, or in any sort of demonstration that might provide contrast between commendable and deficient security forces. We've witnessed that this isn't garb that's traditionally worn by Sheamus Austin personnel. While I'm still not certain I have a total grasp of the performance you had in mind, this clothing clearly has no place in it."

The operator sighed, putting a hand to her forehead. "Ms. Jocelyn, you'll recall I mentioned in the Sheamus Austin restroom that the time would come to reconsider your relationship with your supervisor, Rodney. I'm sorry to say that this is as good of a time as any. Is it hard to see that, when it was only you and Rodney involved, the situation would have been a direct parallel to your experience at Sheamus Austin mall, at which time we agreed it was warranted to cast suspicion on Rude's motivations? That, perhaps, Rodney's intentions having you display yourself in such an outfit came from a place of... sexual arousal? Now, consider the fact that Rodney changed the direction of the event after I met with him. I will tell you that Rodney and I had a less-than-friendly meeting, during which-"

Jacky suddenly halted, her breath hitching as though she'd seen a ghost. She slapped a hand over her mouth, her eyes wide. She realized what was about to happen, her eyes narrowing again. If she'd finished that sentence, letting Jocelyn know that Rodney had instructed her to stop hanging around his subordinate... Jacky's eyes fell to the locker again. "For whatever reason, Rodney's position as a superior in Jocelyn's profession acts as a barrier, obscuring his obvious character flaws. If I tell Jocelyn that Rodney told me to stop associating with her, she'll probably follow the order he didn't have the heart to give her. I'll lose my chance to act as a voice of reason, and Rodney will get exactly what he wants. I can't let that piece of information slip..."

"Still, there's no reason I have to pretend we got along famously."
Jacky removed her hand from her mouth, then turned so she was facing the wall as she continued. "Well, during which Rodney made clear he had no interest in a woman of my appearance and disposition. Clearly, he prefers women gifted with generous assets, and with... loyalty, making them easily manipulated," she said after a pause, swallowing the first word that had come to her mind. "Given that he has no sexual interest in me, why would he be interested in having me participate in this performance instead of the two of you?"

Jacky really wanted Jocelyn to come to the conclusion herself, but even she found her own vague and roundabout logic unconvincing, even when she knew it was the truth. She decided to circle back around and get to the heart of the issue again. "Just to be clear: I'm not wearing what's in that locker. I hope you can appreciate that this is the university where I study, and the students on this campus are my peers. I can, perhaps, afford to help you in the strange demonstrations you've been asked to perform. I cannot, however, do so half-naked, and without any obfuscation as to my identity. To do so would permanently damage my reputation. Additionally, if I've correctly understood your explanation, I hardly believe it is essential. I think it would be well enough for me to simply not be dressed in a proper officer's uniform."

Jacky turned from the wall and faced Jocelyn, frowning, trying to drill the point into Jocelyn's mind with the grave nature of her glare. "It is a one-hundred-percent impossibility that I will traverse the campus and appear before other students in that outfit. I'm not wearing it. It's not happening. I simply won't. I can't."
Jocelyn tilted her head slightly and raised her eyebrows at Jacky's refusal. "You're not wearing it? Oh... you want to be the Gloria Scott representative and I'll be the Shamus Austin, is that it? I can't say I blame you. Our uniform is the spiffiest around," she laughed, before trailing into a sigh. "Just a moment and I'll-" she started, beginning to hook her hands at her belt buckle, before Jacky continued. Her further explanation caused Jocelyn to become worried. "Jacky, it's an assignment... I've got to do it one way or another," she interrupted quietly.

Still, she was obedient to her friend as well, not just to her boss, so she quieted down to hear Jacky out. "You're saying... Rodney favors me because of my assets? Oh, my wealth? I assure you, I live quite modestly, despite the family fortune," she chuckled. "I highly doubt Rodney spares a thought for that. Loyalty though and easiness to order, I have both of those in spades! No one follows orders like I do!" That part was probably objectively true. She seemed even more shocked to learn that Rodney and Jacky hadn't hit it off. "I-I'm sure you just got the wrong impression of him! Rodney's a sweetheart, really. He's always very nice to me, except when he has to be stern, like with today's task. Maybe... maybe he just didn't want you helping me?" she figured, rubbing her chin thoughtfully.

Finally, she came to a decision. "You're right... it would be silly for you to have to wear this outfit and be seen in it in front of all of your friends. I think it's time I give up and... just face the facts. This is punishment! And what a fitting punishment it is. After all, there's something we can't deny after our past experiences... Rodney sees it and I guess I have to admit it... The Shamus Austin is just not that good a shopping center, compared to the Gloria Scott Mall! Its inventory selection is subpar, the kids just don't look as enthused, and that uniform was not at all flattering. You can't beat the Gloria Scott blue! Putting it on after wearing one of Rodney's other daily assignments is just like coming home. With that said..."

She paused and untucked her shirt, then began to unbutton the top button quickly. Once it was done, she lifted it up and off (with some difficulty, it was very snug) and handed it to Jacky. "I want you to wear this! You deserve it. After all, the Shamus Austin suit was intended as my punishment; I'll be circumventing the original purpose of this if I shirk it off upon you. You should take this time to appreciate the Gloria Scott uniform..." she continued, unlooping her belt and shimmying down her jeans, which were somehow on almost as tight as her shirt. She stepped out of her shoes and handed those over as well, then, reluctantly, her gloves. When it was all done, she was left with a sky blue, glossy blue bra and panty set, both parts looking full to bursting thanks to her proportions. "There you go!" she finished, handing all of it over. "It might be a little big... But you can tighten the belt and... er... tuck in the shirt!" she encouraged her friend, pressing her hands together with a cheerful smile.

"You'll look spiffy, I bet! In fact, if your friends see you in this, they'll probably think you're cooler than ever! They might even think you've finished up your schooling and decided to pursue an exciting career in mall security, like I did!" she giggled excitedly. "Isn't that cool? Aaah, well... I guess it's time for me to dress into the Shamus Austin visiting security uniform," Jocelyn sighed, still referring to it as though it was an official piece. "I don't have underwear that fits it right this time but we'll have to make do. It's just pretend, after all!" Jacky's argument had been bent and twisted to the point where it was now unrecognizable, less going in one ear and out the order, and more transforming within the space of Jocelyn's mysterious, unknowable brain. "Can you pass me the Shamus Austin gear?"
Jacky's glare didn't abate even as Jocelyn appeared to be, finally, conceding to her logic. After all, nothing from Jocelyn's statement preceding the concession gave any glimmer of hope, including the mall cop's best efforts at looking deeply contemplative. Sure enough, Jocelyn was rambling about the nature of punishment, the quality of shopping malls, and the most flattering colors for uniforms none of which sounded like she'd had any epiphany regarding Rodney's intentions.

Realizing this, it was no surprise to Jacky when Jocelyn began disrobing, the natural final station for the woman's derailed train of thought. "Jocelyn..." she tried interrupting, at her usual mousy volume, to no avail. In spite of herself, she held out her hands to receive the uniform being revealed, as, all silliness aside, it'd be rude to let it fall on the floor. "Jocelyn." She didn't accept the gloves, as they were (she hoped) the final piece of the costume, instead leaving Jocelyn holding them. "Jocelyn! I'm not taking those... please, take these back. Any way you consider it, I'll be plainly ridiculous wearing your attire, if not so revealed. The, ahem, chest and seat are guaranteed to be comically loose. If the goal of your presentation is to present a spiffy and respectable Gloria Scott officer, I hardly think you want the audience presented with such.

Jacky sighed deeply, crossing her arms. "Jocelyn, against my better judgment, I really do want to help you. You're my friend, and I don't want to get you in trouble with your supervisor. The limiting factor here, however, is that Shamus Austin 'uniform.' I'm not comfortable participating in this so long as either of us is required to wear those bands alone around the school. Now, I'll compromise and don it over my own clothing, if I must. Even if we give Rodney the very, very generous benefit of the doubt and allow that this scanty garb is somehow the Shamus Austin uniform, is it necessary for one of us to wear it as such, or merely close enough to call the image to mind? I think so long as the audience sees it over my clothing, they'd draw the connection..." Jacky lied. She was going to do what she had to in order to keep an eye on Jocelyn without having to resort to revealing herself in that costume. She was still presenting Jocelyn's clothing to her. "Please, if you can accept this compromise, do go ahead and make yourself decent again... I have no notion of how I'd explain your state of undress, were someone else to wander in..."
Jocelyn frowned, realizing that Jacky still wasn't going to go along with the task Rodney had given her. "Jacky... I know it's hard, but... I'm gonna get in trouble if I don't do it," she complained, pressing her now naked fingers against one another. Still, as Jacky talked, she, for once, grew considerate, pressing a thumb to her lip and shutting her blue eyes for a bit. "Okay! You're right. I guess since neither of us have the matching underwear, and it's a little difficult to wear that outfit without exposing them, it would probably make sense for us to keep our regular clothes on and simply wear that gaudy gear over them. And if you insist, I'll be the Gloria Scott officer and you can play the role of the Shamus Austin," she smiled. It seemed as though her eyes were shining as she accepted the outfit back, perhaps elated that she wasn't going to have to betray her allegiance for the sake of the show after all.

As Jocelyn turned her back to the doorway to get dressed again, another girl came down the hall and rounded the corner into the room. Her hair was bright blond, much like Jocelyn's but a little more coarse, and fashioned into two bushy, short pods of pigtails. Her eyes were covered by thick-framed glasses and the rest of her outfit consisted of a blue blazer and skirt, with black tights underneath. The blazer was frilled and white at the hem. It might occur to Jacky that blazers weren't actually standard at this school, so she was just choosing to wear one. Her shoes were white and hard-toed, announcing her arrival before she actually came in. Jocelyn, however, didn't seem to notice at all.

"Aw, Jacky... you mentioned my bust and my bottom, but to be honest, my outfit is a few sizes too small for me, I think, so they might fit you just perfectly!" Jocelyn giggled, picking the most embarrassing topic possible to speak about in front of a stranger.

The woman behind Jocelyn was clutching a notebook to her chest and looking addled. She adjusted her thick glasses and smiled awkwardly. "Uh... ahem," she attempted to announce herself.

"Are you conscious about that sort of thing? Really, you shouldn't worry about it! I think it's very cute. Now, if you wanted to try on some cute new glasses, I think that could help your appearance a lot! There are some places at the mall that sell some really trendy ones! I'll show you next time you come," she further added, still making no attempt to cover up her scandalous appearance.

"Ahem-hem!" the woman coughed again. She placed one hand to her frilled collar theatrically and raised her voice. "You there! I'm fairly certain you're not student of the academy! It's my job to know; this place of academia has a dedicated Campus Security Club, and I am one of their illustrious ranks! I'm also a thespian of the Drama Club, an artiste of the Art Club, a poetaster of the Poetry Club! My name is Amergin Teague. But cycling back, I mentioned that I am a member of the honorable Campus Security Club, and thus, my concern is chiefly what you are doing here? And here with this... hack actress on top of that," she murmured, turning her shoulder to Jacky and her nose up in an unnecessarily snobby gesture. She'd have been plenty snobby if she'd just let her words do the talking. "Don't think I've forgotten, Jacky! How you tried to titillate the audience and then used your... lame excuse for theatrics to make them all laugh! Ha ha! Comedy! So much lower than drama, the basest form of entertainment! I tried to boo you out of the theater at the time, I was so offended! But they laughed and laughed and laughed..."

Jocelyn, still not dressed, seemed interested, and turned her curious smile to Jacky. "You were titillating the crowd? See? I told you that you shouldn't worry about how people see you! It sounds like you had quite an impact on those people and made them very happy besides! Wow!" she clapped, suddenly with increased enthusiasm about their task ahead. "I never knew you were an actor! You should have told me! This is going to really help our work here today." By the sounds of it, though, Jacky really did need to worry about how people saw her... it sounded like her name was already associated with acting in a unique way.

The other girl looked cross, then made an exaggerated expression of shock, then actually fell backward as though she'd been slapped, though she held her glasses to her face with two fingers as she did. "Thou... thou beslubbering, rough-hewn vassal! You're going to subject the school to one of your awful performances again!? Not on my watch! Or at least, not without extensive coaching and supervision from me first!" Jacky's task became increasingly unappealing with each added element. It might be nice for her to meet someone who wasn't crazy and weirdly obsessed with her today.
Jacky let out a sigh of relief. It probably wouldn't be often that she gave that reaction to the type of event she was about to take part in. Then again, with the company she was keeping... Jacky made an effort not to let her troubled thoughts show in her expression, lest she leave Jocelyn doubting the decision they'd come to. "Oh yes, I insist, Jocelyn. Now, please-"

Her words were caught in her throat, and she found herself choking them down as another arrived, just as she'd feared. She gave a couple of coughs along with the new girl, hoping in futility to protect her first impression. She frowned a bit more tightly as Jocelyn commented on her glasses. She really wanted to follow up on that, but for now, she really needed to focus on the bigger picture. "Ah, you're.." she began, thinking she knew the new entrant from around the school. Even among nerds, Jacky was something of a loner, so she wasn't personally acquainted. In any case, she kept quiet, allowing Amergin to finish her own introduction, as she seemed very invested in doing so.

As Amergin displayed theatrics appropriate of the drama club, vocabulary appropriate of the poetry club, and personal offense at Jocelyn's appearance appropriate of the campus security club, Jacky stayed quiet, trying to determine how she could manage damage control. She wasn't sure how she'd talked herself into going through with this: the reaction of just one person to Jocelyn's nonsense was quite enough, and she was beginning to consider Amergin's arrival had been a blessing in disguise, allowing her a convenient excuse not to go through with the plan after all.

Of course, Jacky soon found herself in the spotlight, first arching her eyebrows and then stifling a small gasp as she realized what Amergin was referring to. Though a bit of color was rising to her cheeks, she kept her lips tight. "Jocelyn... Amergin... that performance was part of a favor to the guest speakers that day. I agree that the performance and comedy were both juvenile, but the speakers were, um... determined to have an entertaining conclusion to the event. And, again, I must stress that I was not responsible for the direction, nor was I aware of what direction it would take beforehand. Unfortunately, Jocelyn, as I was following the directions of another... Hyde, my Navi with whom you are somewhat acquainted... I'm afraid my experience there may not translate to success in this endeavor. Also, please finish getting dressed." Jacky downplayed how much of her performance she'd disgracefully been forced to ad-lib.

"In any case, Amergin... Jocelyn's intended performance tonight is in the capacity of... the promotion of public safety," Jacky struggled, growing stiffer in delivery as she found the half-truth harder to swallow with her knowledge of the whole truth. "I intend to accompany Jocelyn and make sure nothing inappropriate takes place." Jacky's eyes brightened a bit as Amergin finished what was probably intended less as an offer and more as another haughty complaint. "Actually, your assistance could be very useful. As I've covered, our problems are three-fold: We have not rehearsed this performance; I need to screen the performance and guarantee it will be appropriate; also, I may not possess the prerequisite acting ability. As you profess to be a professional thespian, would you be willing to offer a bit of your time working with Jocelyn to prepare me?" Jacky didn't mean any offense: she was genuinely interested in having Amergin help her (and, also, a chance to try and correct the poor impression the other girl had of her). Hopefully, the new arrival wouldn't take any.
"Ha, and double ha, you cretin! It's a good actor's responsibility to take even the foulest excreta and make it into something palatable for an audience! So you are, at the very least, a poor actor, and at the worst, a liar and a scoundrel! And I will not stand for any of these, not in my school!" Amergin complained, sounding determined in the righteousness of her cause even though nobody really had an obligation as a student to be any good at acting.

Jocelyn smiled as she dressed back into her standard uniform, pleased to be doing so. "Miss Jacky's said it all! My mission today is education. I'm going to let the school know everything they need to behave well and maximize the safety and efficiency of their regular shopping trips!" she explained, as she slipped back into her white gloves. "Although, I'm not sure Miss Jacky was so happy with her part in it-"

"The obscene, moddled woman that she is, she probably knew she wasn't up to the task! Very well... I have no time to teach her the ins and outs of theater," the bespectacled girl sighed, shaking her head and crossing her arms and pronouncing every syllable with maximum inflection. "I appreciate that you want to learn, Jacky, but now is not the time! Right before a live performance? There's a plum of an idea!" she continued, as though it had been Jacky who'd stepped in to do it.

"Well, Jacky, I think it'd probably be fine if you let Miss Amegrin do it," Jocelyn offered, perhaps just trying to smooth the situation over. "It's not like you're the one under the proverbial gun here, after all. I'm the one who has to prove myself to Rodney! At any rate, like you insisted, I'll play the part of the officer and Miss Amegrin here will be the Shamus Austin representative."

"Precisely. Now, what exactly is a 'Shamus Austin representative?'" the hapless thespian inquired.

"Oh, well... You basically just recite the script that Rodney wrote for me and you wear this!" Jocelyn continued, producing the small, safety-orange fabric pieces that composed the outfit Rodney had originally instructed her to wear as punishment. "This outfit is pretty complicated," she warned Amegrin, though there didn't appear to be enough of it to have any complexity. "Basically, the Shamus Austin workforce dresses one way, and they make visiting guest officers dress another way, even though, as Jacky's explained to me, that isn't anywhere in the official rules!" She still had it a bit twisted. "You'll represent the Shamus Austin in this skit and warn everyone how bad all of their policies are, how they don't do the same job encouraging family-friendly fun that we do at the Gloria Scott, and how their food court doesn't have the same mix of east-meets-west food fare that makes the Gloria Scott welcoming to all. That sort of thing!"

"... Yes... A-A challenge... Terrible subject matter and... and this... garment," Amegrin continued, obviously forced to eat her words about how a good actress makes the best of whatever situation they're forced to perform in. "Of course, I'm up to the challenge! I only hope that your students don't end up at the Shamus Austin because my performance is so spectacular they end up rooting for the villain! That could happen! I-It might actually be a little safer if we switch costumes and roles, I think, so that-" she continued, her lips trembling just a bit in a way that looked like acting, but, from Jacky's brief experience knowing her, was actually her real emotion.

"No, no, you're perfect for the role! Now, Jacky, we need to practice. I appreciate your coming to give me Rodney's message, but I'm sure he won't mind if you nip away now," she winked. If one didn't know better, they might think that Jocelyn was purposely covering her friend's escape and giving Amegrin some comeuppance for being mean to her, but that was unlikely, given Jocelyn's usual lack of planning in anything she did. "It's a beautiful day! Wouldn't you rather be spending it outside!"

"Yes, yes. I don't want to see your... unseemly tears as I banish your very ghost from the stage with my fantastic performance!" Amegrin insisted, rolling her hand theatrically while beginning to unbutton her blazer with the other. It looked like her body had more in common with Jacky's than it did Jocelyn's, judging by the lack of a swell in the white shirt she was wearing beneath the frills of the blazer's outer lap. "Eh... Is there not... perhaps one or two more pieces to this costume that are not properly placed with the rest?"

"No, though I understand it's common to wear your underwear underneath it!" Jocelyn added helpfully.

Amegrin, now in her white shirt sans blazer and skirt, was pulling down her black tights, revealing a brief flash of overly ornate panties, blue colored with white frills and a huge bow at the front, as well as a little skimpier than a stickler for school rules ought to be wearing; they'd draw some questions regardless of the situation they were shown in. "W-Well? Are you leaving?!" she asked again, her eyebrows tensed over her thick-framed glasses.

"On that note, I may as well jack back in Sleuth. You up for doing some more on your own this time?" Jocelyn asked.

"Indubitably. I can only watch slapstick for so long. Like your new friend here, my tastes are oh-so refined, though my taste in underwear, I must say, is quite a bit more sophisticated than hers is," Sleuth poked fun.

"Now, now... They're very... Fancy," Jocelyn added, intending a compliment. It probably seemed to Jacky that she'd been let out of a lion's cage only for another to take her place, but the truth of the matter was, she'd managed to avoid her friend being caught in whatever trap Rodney had been setting now that the outfits were swapped, and Amegrin seemed batty enough to treat this as legitimate acting. Amegrin probably wouldn't even relinquish the role now, so her only option was pretty much just to take her leave now.

((Jacking Sleuth back in))
Jacky frowned, unsure of how to fix the poor impression Amergrin had of her when it came from so many sides at once. Fortunately, it looked like she wouldn't have to do so: Amegrin and Jocelyn, to Jacky's surprise, both approved of Amegrin's substitution. "Very well... If you're quite sure, I thank you, Amegrin." She remained quiet, allowing Jocelyn to lay out the ground rules for her task. She couldn't help but feel a bit sorry for her fellow student, seeing as she definitely didn't have any idea of the magnitude of the task she'd accepted. On the other hand, at least Amegrin was only doing it back here for practice.

To the operator's surprise, it seemed Jocelyn actually intended for Amegrin to take her place outright. This was a great shock for her, as she had thought certainly the rigidity with which Jocelyn viewed Rodney's instructions had bound her to inclusion. "Then again, in Jocelyn's mind, I suppose I was the substitution for Rodney in the first place. Thinking about it that way, another substitution isn't so strange." The student got lost in her thoughts, remembering that she'd actually had quite a lot she planned to do today. Absently, she jacked her Navi out of the Net and put away her PET. The sight of Amegrin suddenly not properly dressed forced an automatic comment from Jacky: "We decided earlier that you could just wear it over," she muttered, not expecting to make any headway with the reminder and not being invested in doing so, regardless. "I'll leave. Amegrin, I'm going to tell Mr. Straighter that you're with Jocelyn now... she's signed in as my guest. I'm sure I can count on you to make sure she's checked out properly? Oh, and the Shamus Austin representative is named Shae, we decided earlier," Jacky added, feeling an unexpected pang of some feeling as she said it, either regret that she wouldn't be using her own personal touch or guilt, leaving on that inconsequential note.

"Good luck to both of you," she said, sincerely enough. "I think I'll see you around, Jocelyn. Please think about what I said regarding your employer." For everyone's sake, she hoped Jocelyn's performance went well and without incident...

... And that, if Amegrin really was going to dress all the way done, the two performers would avoid mentioning she herself had planned to have any part in this.