SP Mission: Bullet Train

Majinman appeared in the network and looked around for this train that he was apparently supposed to board, "Okay, so where is this thing?"

"It's supposed to be just past the portal to the netsquare. Considering how often you shoot past there, I'm surprised you haven't noticed it before," Wes replied.

"Maybe it's new... like in the past hour. Or maybe since it never directly affected me, I never bothered making a mental note of it. Either way, it's a frickin' train... or something like that. It can't be too hard to find," Majinman said, heading in the direction indicated in search of this fabled vehicle.
A straight shot from the portal, near enough to be within visible and quick running distance, the network opened up into the vast expanse of SciLab net familiar to almost all navis who ventured into the area. Nearer, however, and branching off to either side in the area around the NetSquare link was a vast array of pathways and smaller links leading out into other areas of the network, to private servers, and to various Sci-Lab facilities. The area was littered with hundreds of navis and programs moving between paths and links, some stopping to converse with other navis or discuss business with receptionists at information kiosks scattered around the hub, while others paid the gateway area no mind and rushed through as though it wasn't even there.

Down one pathway, Majinman could see, partially masked by partitions that separated it from several other branches of the gateway, a section of a sleek, train-like vehicle being boarded by several navis, most of them generic models with the occasional custom navi thrown in. 'Standing' at the edge of the partition was a holographic projection of a slim female navi, speaking with another navi clad in generic orange armor.

"We do not need NetPolice assistance for this matter. I have already hired someone to take care of it. And I'm sure I don't need to remind you of what happened last time you provided your 'assistance'." The orange-armored navi grumbled something inaudible to Majinman in response, to which the hologram replied, "I won't prevent you from boarding this transport, but I have to ask that you refrain from interfering."

Grumbling again, the orange-armored navi turned away and walked toward the train. The hologram, meanwhile, noticed Majinman and waved him over.
"So whatever this something is, they don't want the NP involved, at least not directly? Either they are extremely incompetent and thus any assistance they provide would result in failure or this something is very interesting indeed. Looks like you got us a good one," Majinman said, privately to the PET.

"You might be right, though you better not try to sneak a peek. Accidents happen, and knowing our luck, they probably will, but if I catch you purposely finding out more than our employer wants us to know, there will be consequences," Wes said, eyeing up his navi to make sure there were no hints of mischief in his coming response.

"Relax, relax. I'm a professional. We accepted this job and we will adhere to the conditions set. Though I have to admit, your vague threat does make me kind of curious," Majinman smirked at Wes and then walked over to the orange navi, speaking aloud, "So, I take it you're the one I need to talk to to get this job started?"
((Apologies, I just noticed the typo in my last modpost. The orange navi was supposed to be grumbling at the hologram there, not Majinman. Ah well, I can make it work like this.))

"No, that'll be me," the hologram navi said. Up close, Majinman could see that her image sported a very slim figure and was clad in emerald, segmented, skin-tight armor with bright yellow-green lights pulsing through the gaps between the plates. Her head and face were mostly obscured by a matching helmet, with a lit visor completely obscuring her eyes. As she spoke, the orange navi turned back to face both of them, muttering something else under his breath. "And you, police navi, if you're going to complain about my attitude to passersby, do it so we can hear you," she added coolly.

Wordlessly, the orange navi turned away again and joined another orange-armored navi and one in green armor with a silver knob on the helmet and a glassy-looking right eye by the train. As all three boarded, the hologram spoke again. "I apologize for that. The NetPolice have been out in force around here ever since a pair of Mafia navis were supposedly sighted. I've had to relocate a few of them for starting fights in sensitive areas. Anyway, I am called ENA, and you're in the right place. There's still a few minutes before the transport leaves, so do you have any questions?"
"Nice to meet you. I'm Majinman.EXE, though I'm guessing you already knew that," Majinman introduced himself, though given the circumstances, it was more of a formality rather than a neccessity, "I don't have anything specific, just is there any kind of specific trouble you're expecting? Any details you can give me would be a great help."

Wes frowned. Re-opening the private channel with his navi, he asked, "Shouldn't you ask about the data you're escorting, like whether its being kept in a specific container or something? We should know in advance what we're guarding so that we can give it priority."

"And this is why you still have a lot to learn," Majinman sighed internally, "It's like you said, they probably don't want anybody knowing anything about it. Showing any interest in whatever this is, even if it is for the purpose of protecting it, could make them reconsider using us for this job. For the sake of this mission, I will assume that that every mystery data, every passenger, heck even every segment of the train itself is carrying a piece of the data we're guarding, and deal with any problem that arises with the mindset that I can't let anything get damaged," Wes looked at Majinman with surprise. Despite his youthful appearance, he really could think things through when needed to. Majinman had to resist the urge to shake his head, "You're the one who wanted to act all secret agent-like on this thing. Better start thinking like one," Seriously, the kids these days. Distracting him from the things he really wanted to ask, like what ENA stood for. Probably something sexy. Unfortunately, now wasn't really the time to try to be getting in good with his contractor. Better just wait for her response to what he already asked.
The hologram nodded slowly as Majinman introduced himself, then asked what sort of trouble they were expecting. She waited patiently for him to finish his private chat with his operator, then spoke. "Nothing specific, no. Unfortunately, that just means I don't know what sort of trouble we would be suspecting. I wish I could say I wasn't expecting anything, but...

"Normally I have a custom GuardNavi contracted for these operations. Recently, however, that navi has gone missing in Sharo net, presumed deleted. Navis get deleted every day, unfortunately, but this transport hasn't run in month and he disappears right before it goes back into operation. I think you can understand my concern."
"Hmmm... I see. So it could be just a horrible coincidence or... someone is up to something. Let me ask you this: How many people knew that you hired this specific navi? Like, was he the type to wear a uniform and make his presence known or did he do the sort of undercover, blend in with the rest of the passengers and only step forward if someone started making a problem? Also, if you happen to know, was he on business in Sharo and how commonplace would the information that he was in Sharo be?" Majinman placed a hand under his chin as he asked his questions. This could be important. If this was planned, was it just some petty thugs who staked out the train and then ganged up on the guard after following him or was it someone higher up, with privledged information? In other words, would they know that Majinman was the one specifically hired to take his place? It would kind of suck if they knew he was the one to watch out for, whereas it'd be preferable if they singled out the NP boobs and allowed him time to come up with a plan before making a move. This could be complicated.

Majinman also took a moment to look over the train. He needed to know how many cars there were, which one he was in, and whether all the segments had windows or not. While it seemed likely that he would be stationed in the car that would take priority, he should keep in mind the layout of the train as a whole in case things got so out of control that he needed to move. It might be better if the NP guys didn't bite it right away. If they stayed alive, he might be able to use them as flunkies.
"He was not on business, and no one would have known unless he told them or ran into them there. We don't monitor what our employees do on their own time, and we certainly don't post records about it," ENA said. "As for his work, he preferred not to be seen at all, undercover or not."

Looking over the train, Majinman could see that there were six cars, plus the engine. All but the engine had a narrow slit of a window running the length of the car, well above eye-level from the outside. All of them had been taking a reasonable number of passengers over the course of his conversation with ENA. The engine, however, appeared to have no doors at all, much less anyone inside.
"I see..." that didn't give Majinman much info on what happened in Sharo, though he wasn't exactly expecting much from that line of questioning. However, the fact that this missing person kept his movements a secret, even when on the job, was troubling. If his disappearance wasn't a coincidence, that meant that it was either someone with privledged information or someone he trusted. Given the brief decription ENA provided him with, the latter seemed unlikely. If that was the case, it was going to be kind of hard to blend in... or would it? "Okay, I think that should about do it, as far as information that I need to know. If you have any last instructions, let me know now. Otherwise, I'm going to plug out and switch into my disguse .GMO and then head back here to get in board."
ENA turned toward the train, gesturing with one hand toward the second car. "You should board the second car, there. It's closest to what you'll be protecting," she said. "Once we're moving, if anything does happen I can provide terrain support, but that's all."

She paused again, then said, "That's all I have for you. Good luck." As she finished speaking, the hologram vanished.
"Okay, thanks for all the info," Majinman replied. After thinking everything over for a few more second, he wandered a short distance away from the train and plugged out. Once he was back in his PET, all he did before going directly back in was activate his .GMO, changing his appearance into a blue heelnavi. Once back in the Net, he made his way back to the train, moving at a leisurely pace. He then bordered the second car, looking about for a seat. As he tried to pick out an empty spot, he also looked over each of the passengers. Was there anyone who looked odd or were they all just a bunch of run of the mill, straight off the shelf navis? While he wasn't expecting to find any would-be train-jackers that easily, it paid to be careful. Plus, he might even be able to find someone tough looking, who he could try using as an ally if things got bad (assuming they weren't an enemy themselves). Or better yet, maybe there'd be a real hot babe sitting by herself that he could plop down beside.
The train car was designed with a group setup in mind. Each row contained two seats on either side of the isle, separated from two more seats facing them by a table. Nine of these rows were present in the car. The rest of the car's interior was unremarkable, with simple monochrome walls, ceiling, and carpeted floor. The slit window Majinman had seen from the outside ran along either side at around eye-level for most of the seated passengers.

A wide array of passengers had already boarded the second car by the time Majinman got on. There were still plenty of seats remaining, mostly toward the back of the car, though the front row and a few scattered rows in between also had open seats. The last two rows in particular were almost completely empty, with a lone HeelNavi at one table and a pair of NormalNavis across the aisle in one row, and a lone NormalNavi across the aisle from a second HeelNavi seated across from a scantily clad, brown-haired custom female navi. The female navi had a metallic weapon not unlike a jousting lance with a sword hilt resting against the seat next to her, and was glaring menacingly at her HeelNavi tablemate.

The next two rows were mostly full, and all entirely unremarkable NormalNavis save for one whose armor's colors were somewhat muted compared to the others. Beyond that, a group of six custom navis shared two tables. Though their designs varied slightly between them, each of them shared somewhat ragged bodysuits and carried custom weapons designed for hunting. Of these six, the only one who stood out was a navi in dark armor with a glowing visor on his helmet and carrying an intricately designed compound bow with a mechanical sight attached.

The next three rows were completely filled, all with various generic models. Beyond that, in the front row of the car, a pair of unfriendly-looking navis in deep red, high-tech armor sat across from a singly navi in featureless black armor and a helmet that covered the entire head, leaving no opening for or indication of the presence of even a face. Across the aisle a female custom navi in a low-cut dress sat at an empty table. Her hair and dress were completely white, and her skin as well was abnormally light.

As Majinman looked over the passengers, a mechanical voice resounded through the train and the station beyond. "This is the last call for boarding. This transport will be leaving in five minutes."
Majinman looked over the crowd of navis. It seemed there were plenty of unique people, though two groups struck him as particular suspicious. First was the group of two red and one black in the front. Not only did the two red navis give off an air that said not to mess with them, the black navi that seemed to be in charge seemed to be hiding any of his prominent features, as if he didn't want to be remembered later on. The other suspicious group was the girl with the lance and the Heelnavi accross from her. From the way she was glaring at the guy, she was either trying to ward off some unwanted advances or they were partners and she was threatening him not to screw up whatever plan they had cooked up. Of course, that was probably a stretch. Maybe he was just paying too much attention to her because of the way she was dressed. There was also the hunting group, but if they were planning to hijack a train, he really hoped they would be less obvious about it. Out of all of them, the trio in the front were the most suspicious, though if there were a hijacker, they could easily be wearing a disguise much like his own. No one was above scutinty. He opened up a private channel with his Netop, "So, kid, tell me, out of all of these guys, which one or ones do you think we should pay the most attention to, and where exactly do you think we should sit based on this information?"

"Well, while there are a few that stand out, the black one with the two red flunkies raise the most eye-brows. Other than their armor, there are no defining characteristics, almost like they don't want anyone knowing who they are," Wes answered. So far so good, "As for where to sit, it's probably best to be either in the very front or very back, so that you can keep an eye on the entire car without having to turn your head too much. In this situation, it would probably be better to sit in the back, so that you can watch those three from afar and see what they do before taking action, assuming they are the ones we need to keep an eye on."

Majinman smirked internally. So close, "You almost have it right. Under normal circumstances, that would be the way to go. However, you forgot what Miss ENA said: this car is the closest to what we want to guard. That means that we're looking out for the first car. Being the engine, it's probably the only car that's authorized personal only, which is why we were only stationed close, rather than right where we need to be. Thus, the seat that puts us the closest to our priority should work the best. While I would have liked to have a seat in the corner, it looks like we'll have to settle for an aisle seat."

"I see. Just be careful of the woman in the corner. While I don't have anything against albinoes, something does strike me as off about her. Another thing, it looks like those NP units aren't in this car," Wes advised.

Majinman hadn't noticed that. Which car had they gotten on? "Don't worry. She's cute enough that I'll be paying attention to her, too," Finishing that sentence, Majinman cute the private link to his PET, allowing anything he said now to be heard aloud. He walked towards the front of the train, stopping by the seat next to the pale navi. He looked down at her, trying to make a pleasent face despite the fact that his entire head was just one single unmovable helmet, "Excuse me Miss, but do you mind if I sit down here? A hobby of mine is studying trains and I was hoping to be close to the engine so that I could hear it work its magic. I'm told that when it runs it makes quite the pleasent hum."
The pale woman looked up as Majinman approached, studying him. "A HeelNavi with actual manners? That's a new one," she commented, smiling. "But don't mind me. Yes, you can sit here." She moved over to allow more room. From this close, Majinman could see the faint outline of the image of a ring extending about a foot out around her body, dipping in and out of visibility as it shifted between brighter colors and fainter ones that were nearly impossible to make out.

Across the aisle, one of the red-armored navis turned toward them, reaching for what was probably a weapon. The woman raised a hand, waving the armored navi off. "It's fine," she said before turning back to Majinman. "Sorry, bodyguards. Tend to be a little paranoid like that."
Wes raised an eyebrow. The ones they were suspicious of turned out to be bodyguards? They were either off the mark with their original guess or the group to watch out for had one more member than they suspected... though that would also shatter the disguise hypothesis. This wasn't good.

Majinman, on the other hand, was actually quite pleased. While this did through off his intial estimates, it was a long shot anyway, the more likely choice being one of the generic models in disguise. Plus, this girl had armed help. If he got close to her and things hit the fan, he might be able to use her and her guards as back-up. Even if that didn't work out, he still had the advantage of being beside the engine car's door, "Thank you very much, Miss. My name is Meekman.EXE and I do allow myself to feel a bit of pride for my manners. Afterall, since Heelnavis do tend to have a bad rep, it's up to the few of us with a good upbringing to do what we can. I wouldn't want to shame my programmer," Majinman sat down, placing his hands in his lap. This seemed to be going well so far. Now to try to find out more about her. This would take up most of his attention, so he would have to rely on Wes to keep an eye on the rest of the train. Turning his head slightly so that he could glance at his new companion, he asked, "Though, goodness me, bodyguards? If you would permit me to ask, would you happen to be someone famous? I spend most of my time studying, so I don't know much about celebrities."
"Famous?" the woman asked, looking taken aback for a second. "No, no, nothing like that. My job just tends to get rather dangerous at times, and I'm not all that good at defending myself. My boss insisted."

As the woman spoke, the doors to the train car shut, and the train began moving. It did indeed make a very pleasant hum, as Majinman had put it, as it pulled out of the server gateway. Looking out the slit window, the passengers could briefly see the gateway complex retreating into the distance and the rest of Sci-Lab Net spreading out around them, before a black shadow engulfed the train. Darkness filled the view out of the windows for several seconds, before emerald and golden lights began appearing in trails lining off a silicon tunnel, passing by at high speeds.

This must have been the "shortcut" that Ena had mentioned.

Scattered expressions of awe could be heard around the train car from some of the less experienced passengers. Majinman's new female companion joined in, briefly, before stopping and realizing she hadn't actually responded to his introduction. "Sorry. My name is Photon. And these are..."

"Say nothing," the faceless black-armored navi said bluntly.

"...these are my hired bodyguards who don't wish to be named," Photon finished, somewhat bitterly.
So they had yet another guard who didn't want any attention, huh? Was this a new trend or something? Oh well, at least this one wasn't dead in Sharo. Though the question was, would his need to keep to himself also extend to his client? "Dear me, quite... to the point, isn't he?" Majinman said, placing a hand under his chin, "I'm sorry. I try to promote pleasent conversation with those I meet in order to create a healthy social environment. However, it seems to be causing some strain, at least on your companions. If you wish, I can remain silent for the rest of the journey." And here was either where he would get cut off or the green light to try and score some personal information. Of course, he had to watch out that he didn't switch from information gathering to flirting. He did have a mission to complete. Everything else could wait until later... or at least it probably should.

Wes just kept silent. For the moment, it was probably better if Majinman appeared unoperated and uncustomized. While his navi was... doing whatever he was doing, Wes would keep an eye on the rest of the car. While panning his PET moniter back and forth, he really had to wonder, what part of the body was his navi thinking with? He better keep his mind on track.
"No, don't worry about it. I rather enjoy a bit of pleasant conversation," Photon said. "And I don't think they'll mind too much either so long as we don't talk about them. Just don't expect them to join in.

"I will admit, though," she added, lowering her voice slightly, "I was hoping for someone other than these three. Someone I know. But he couldn't make it."

Around the rest of the train car, nothing particularly stood out. More than one of the NormalNavis in front of them were now reading or manipulating data on holographic touchscreens. Behind them, one of the hunter-themed navis was recounting a story about a vicious program he had fought that was sounding suspiciously like nothing more than an average Spikey virus. Toward the back, the scantily dressed female navi had picked up the spearhead weapon and pointed it at the HeelNavi across from her. A few seconds later, however, the HeelNavi leaned away in his seat and the woman set the weapon back down.
And here was the mention of another guard who couldn't make it. While he somehow doubted there was a connection, Majinman got the feeling he should try digging into this a little bit and see if he turned up anything useful, "My, that is a shame. Did something come up on his end? I certainly hope he isn't feeling under the weather."

Wes continued glancing around. This was kind of... boring. While he knew he shouldn't be wishing for anything to happen, he did feel a bit of excitement when it looked like that one chick was going to start something. At least his navi was finding a way to pass the time, though why couldn't he have a pleasent conversation too? What a drag.
"No, nothing like that," Photon answered, waving the thought away. "Just something came up and he couldn't make it. A shame too. He's not exactly subtle, but he's at least more interesting than a faceless black shell. No offense by the way." She glanced toward the black-armored navi as she addressed him, but he didn't so much as turn his head.

"You told me he was an assassin navi in full-body maroon armor and no one had ever seen his face. I fail to see how that is different or more interesting," he muttered.

Photon rolled her eyes. "It's what he says and does that makes him more interesting. He's built up quite a reputation around him. He stalks less-traveled areas of the net, but he's usually harmless unless you provoke him or he's on a job, but when he's trying to kill you your only hope is to jack out right away and hope to the NOS that he doesn't track you next time you're online."

Upon hearing this, one of the NormalNavis from the table in front of them turned around. "Wait, you know that guy?" he asked. "I heard the rumors, but...oh, is it true he can move through the undefined space between networks?"

"No," Photon said bluntly. Disappointed, the navi turned back around and sat down again. Once he did, Photon leaned in closer to Majinman and whispered, "Of course, he wouldn't want me telling you that. Says it ruins the mystique."

Beyond the conversation about the maroon-armored assassin, very little was happening in the rest of the car. One of the hunter navis had started up another tale, and the scantily clad female navi opened up a holographic screen, browsed for a minute or two, typed out an angry message, then closed it. The lone NormalNavi across the aisle from her leaned against the side of the car and appeared to go on stand-by.

Then, the door to the car behind opened, and a navi walked in, scanning for empty seats. He, like most of the passengers, appeared to be a simple NormalNavi, except with a slightly darker green body and a few modifications, such as a solid silver visor in place of eyes and several slots built into the arms. He advanced into the car until he stood halfway down the length, then stopped, continuing to scan the passengers.