Gala's Mansion

One large peak in Electopia, formerly covered with weeds and sparse trees, had been beautified in an eccentric way to accentuate Gala's mansion. A long, winding stone staircase led up the side of the hill, surrounded on all sides by strange, stone statues resembling heroic-looking navis. The hill was illuminated by tall, pretty, standing lanterns.

The navis who crowded the staircase, however, were a far cry from the beautiful statues adorning the hillside. The Teksqp family was known for its madness, not its looks. As such, the gathering was already a showcase of all kinds of deformities and weirdness. The weirdest ones were the ones just standing there and discussing current events; if one were to put such gatherings under the magnifying glass, they'd certainly discover something they wish they'd rather they hadn't.

Not all Teksqp members were so worthy of harsh labels, however. Nitro and TNT would soon be here; but how would the night treat them?

A strange navi, dressed in an apron and gray, saggy clothing, stood at the foot of the hill. He was clearly male, judging by his muscles, but his face was covered by some sort of heavy, iron, full-head mask. He was busy handing out masks to entrants.
"Ugh, this thing is so stifling. Why couldn't we just come in our standard armour?"

Nitro and TNT were making their way to the party, the coordinates that they were given depositing them a stone's throw away from the base of the hill. The two of them were dressed in a pair of smart-looking dress uniforms, each one a black ensemble trimmed with gold. A slick-haired Nitro was currently fiddling with his green tie, loosening it and tightening it in an extended fit of discomfort.

"Because, Nitro," the Navi's SP, TNT said, as she swatted Nitro's hands away from his suit, and fixed his now crooked tie. "We were specifically told to dress up for the occasion. Those were the conditions of the mission, and showing up in our standard gear would be a flagrant violation of the rrrules!"

Nitro stopped for a moment, looking at his partner. "I'm sorry, did you just say 'rrrules'?"

Tina blushed slightly, from embarrassment. "Yes, I... I suppose I did..."

Nitro supressed his laughter as the two of them reached the bottom of the hill. He looked over, and noticed the iron-masked navi handing out masks to the party's attendies. They walked over to the navi, and Nitro introduced themselves.

"Hi there, I'm Nitro, and this is my partner, TNT." He began.

"Please, call me Tina," the Support Program interjected.

"Yes, well, anyway," Nitro continued. "You wouldn't happen to know ehere I could find a Miss Jailbird, would you?"
It slowly became apparent that the giant, apron-wearing navi wasn't going to call them much of anything; he stood silently, fumbling through his masks with some muffled, wheezy grunting. With a thrust of his meaty arm, he presented them with two masks, one red and one gold. Both featured smiling, crinkled eyes and curling demons horns, covering just the upper half of the face while tying around the back of the head. Unless they were both particularly coordinated, they might need each other's help tying the masks.

Unfortunately, the navi's lack of speech meant that they couldn't get Jailbird's location out of him either. He didn't even seem to react at the name. With another low grumble, the navi pushed open the iron gates and allowed them into the garden.

The stone steps leading up to the mansion looked as though they might tire the two out before they even participated in the party. Immediately, they were unable to spot anyone that looked like Jailbird; most of the navis lounging around looked a little freakier than she did. Nearby, a tentacle-armed navi flailed its tendrils crazily and a fat guy with pitch-black skin and a pharaoh's headdress led a troop of scantily clad women, each wearing animal head masks and loose wraps of gauze, up to the peak of the hill.
As Nitro watched the navi retrieve the masks, he felt a slight twinge of embarrassment. He just realized the Navi couldn't speak. Nitro took the masks with a quick nod and a thank you, and led Tina through the gate. He stole a quick glance at the masked Navi, and turned to his SP.

"God, I feel like such an idiot..." he muttered. "I can't believe that I didn't notice he couldn't talk..."

"Well, let's not dwell on it too much," Tina replied, taking the gold mask. She held the mask up to her face, and turned her back to Nitro. "Could you give me a hand?" She asked, pointing to the strings of the mask.

"Oh yeah, sure," Nitro said, moving to tie the mask. As he did so, he continued. "So, it kinda sucks that the guy couldn't talk, or he could've told us where Jailbird was." Nitro finished with Tina's mask, and he turned away, holding up his own, red mask to his face. "Gimme a hand?"

"Of course," The newly masked Tina said, turning to assist Nitro. She tied up the mask, and replied to his earlier statement. "Even if he could speak," she said, "I don't believe he could have told us Miss Jailbird's whereabouts. He didn't seem to know her, judging by his lack of reaction to the name."

"Makes sense," Nitro said. He turned to face Tina. "Well, how do I look?"

"You look good," she replied. "And myself?"

"You look nice," he replied. He looked up the staircase, but couldn't seem to pick out their "client". "Welp," Nitro said. "I guess the only way we'll find her is if we start climbing."

Nodding, Tina began walking up the steps, Nitro following just behind her. He glanced at the group that was also travelling up the steps.

"Hmm... maybe the guy at the head of the group knows who Jailbird is," Nitro theorized. "Why don't you ask him?"

"I suppose there's no harm in asking..." Tina said. The two of them hurried until they were even with the dark-skinned navi. "Excuse me sir," Tina began. "You wouldn't happen to know a Miss Jailbird, would you?"
"Hello, little girl! You must be a member of Teksqp too, right? It's a pleasure to consort with my brethren in this fashion! I'll bet you're excited too... hmmhmhm, yes..."[font=eras demi itc][/font] he muttered, sizing up TNT with his sunken, white eyes. "I'd love to help you out, but I'm afraid I've never heard of that name before. And even then, unless she's someone very distinct, she'll be hard to find in this crowd."[font=eras demi itc][/font]

The girls all stood around silently, keeping their gaze on Nitro and his SP. They seemed almost as inanimate as the statues dotting the hillside... sort of like creepy, life-sized dolls.

"I hope you two find who you are looking for. I'll be up shortly,"[font=eras demi itc][/font] he chortled. It occurred to the two that perhaps the reason he was all the way down at the foot of the hill was that he was so extremely corpulent that he was having a hard time just making it up the stairs. The navi's black skin glistened with sweat, despite his confident, sharp-toothed grin and composed way of speaking.

There still wasn't anyone around who seemed at all like who they were looking for. So many bizarre navis...
Little girl? Tina thought as the navi acknowledged her. She decided not to call attention to it, and simply listened to what he had to say, with Nitro watching the unnatural entourage of girls following behind.

"Thank you, and I look forward to seeing you at the top," Tina said as the Navi finished. She gave a quick bow, and continued up the steps, with Nitro trailing behind.

"Hey, did anything seem 'off' about those girls to you?" Nitro asked his partner once he was out of the dark Navi's earshot.

"Well, their clothes were certainly 'off', in a manner of speaking," Tina noted.

"Not that, they just seemed kind of... not all there..."

"Well, perhaps it was a choice made bywhoever designed them to not give them much personality," Tina reasoned. "They do seem a lot like they're there merely for show."

"Just seemed a little wierd, is all," Nitro said. As they continued up the stairs, Nitro kept his eyes open for Jailbird, reasoning that a more normal-looking Navi like her would be easier to spot amidst the eccentricly designed Teksqp members, mask or no mask.
Once Nitro and TNT made it to the mansion at the pinnacle of the hill, it became apparent that the mansion was even further packed with Teksqp navis than the hillside was. The sound reverberating inside the mansion walls was ominous, even before opening the door.

After opening the door, the two found it almost maddening. So many misfit, questionably crazy, or full-blown insane navis packed into one room created a deafening din of addled voices saying all manner of things; the voices all swirled together until he could no longer make out any of them. It felt that standing in that lobby too long would cause him to become crazy himself.

The lobby decor itself wasn't much better. The whole mansion was decorated with all sorts of statues, paintings, tapestries, and other artwork. It was cluttered in a way that no interior designer could have ever suggested to anyone. Again, the choice theme for most of the art was heroic looking figures.

Furthermore, he could see no navi that was obviously Jailbird. The crowd now worked against him more than anything else. It would be difficult to find anyone in the midst of so many people.

Just as the situation seemed hopeless, Nitro and TNT spotted a woman's figure in familiar black and white stripes at the top of the staircase, where very few party-goers lingered. The navi slipped discretely into a room, which was guarded by a very opulent red and gold door. Nobody else was anywhere near the door or even looking at it. It didn't look like the kind of place you'd just slip off...

Just what was she doing, exactly?
Nitro's heart sank as the doors opened to the immense crowd. He never fully appreciated just how big the Mafia was, let alone the Teksqp. It seemed like he'd never find Jailbird in this crowd. Making the best of a bad situation, however, Nitro shrugged. "Well, TNT," he said. "Should we meet our colleagues?"

Tina was scanning the room for any sign of Jailbird, and eventually, she spotted something. "Nitro, there, at the top of the staircase!" she said, gesturing there.

Nitro looked up, and saw the familiar black and white form. "Hey... that's her! That's gotta be her!" Nitro said. He watched her slip into the room behind the door. "Huh, where's she going?"

"Perhaps we should follow," Tina suggested. Nitro nodded, and the two made their way through the crowd and up the staircase. Reaching the door' Nitro slowly opened it and slowly stepped through. "Hello, Jailbird?" He quietly said as he entered, Tina following and shutting the door behind them. He lifted up his mask slighty so that it rested atop his head. "It's Nitro and TNT, you in here?"
Nitro made his way up through the crowd of fittingly misfit Teksqp members, towards the staircase, then up to Gala's room. If that huge guy from earlier had to make this ascension on top of the earlier one, one could only imagine that he might faint from exertion. Finally, the navi and his SP made it to the door they'd seen the woman slip in to.

A long, ornate hallway continued past the large, ornate door. At the end of the long, ornate hallway was another larger, more ornate door than the one he'd come through to begin with. It was still cracked open, indicating that the one Nitro suspected was Jailbird had continued on through.

Further past that, Nitro found he'd entered someone's bed chambers. Why had Jailbird gone all the way in here? Nobody could say for sure. The decor of the room consisted of lots of fancy teacups, fancy wall-hangings, fancy portraits, and etc. The subject of most of them was a woman in an extraordinary red and gold outfit, full of tassets and puffs. Her hat was similar and she wore a golden half-mask. Her smile was whimsical and vibrant, orange hair trailed, hanging down across one shoulder. Her skin was so pale that she seemed almost doll-like, but her lips were painted bright red.

There was no sign of Jailbird. It looked as if the room had been hurriedly searched; many jars had been pulled from their places and smashed upon the floor, but Nitro had no idea why. As his gaze continued to move across the room, he finally found the highlight of the room: a large, red-sheeted bed sat at the back of the room with gold, transparent hangings drawn around it.

However, there was no figure in repose. Whoever was inside, they seemed to be thrashing around madly. Bizarrely, they were creating no sound.

As he looked around some more, Nitro felt a chill. He suddenly realized that the large back window had been left open.
Nitro slowly slipped through the second large, ornate door, and examined the bedroom. He didn't even know Navis had bedrooms.

"Wait, since when do Navi's have bedrooms?" Nitro asked his partner as she walked through the door, mask raised up onto her head similar to Nitro's.

"I suppose that some Navis enjoy the luxury of not being forced to use a PET as a means of recuperation," Tina suggested. "That, or it could all be for show."

"Yeah, I guess that makes sense," Nitro said, walking idly through the room. As he examined the various decorations, he felt something crunch underfoot. Looking down, it seemed he had stepped on a shattered piece of a ceramic jar.

"Do try to be careful, Nitro," Tina said, eyeing the piece of crushed ceramic and assuming Nitro was the one to initially break it.

Nitro shook his head. "It wasn't me that broke it," Nitro said as he looked at all the broken jars littering the floor. "It almost looks like someone was looking for something."

"Hm," Tina pondered. "Perhaps Jailbird had alterior motives for bringing us here?"

"Nah, that doesn't seem like her." Nitro said. "Maybe that was actually someone else we were..." Nitro trailed off as he noticed something thrashing and writhing on the bed behind him. "Hm? Hello? Is someone there?" After not recieving a response, he decided to go investigate. While Tina walked to the open window to see if anyone suspicious was out there, Nitro walked over to the obscured bed, and gripped the hangings. With a quick intake of breath, he quickly pulled the hangings open.
The figure that had been thrashing around finally became still as Nitro moved to open the curtains. As he spread them, he found that the woman behind them was so strikingly familiar in demeanor and appearance that he could easily have thought he was looking into another of the portraits lining the room. The pale-skinned, female navi with luxurious orange hair smiled back at him with a silly wave from inside the curtains.

She was dressed in a red, velvet sleeping gown with her sheets pulled up around her lower body. She wore no mask, which meant that unlike in the portrait, her eyes were revealed; they possessed a surprisingly ordinary brown hue. Her makeup was not nearly so heavy as it had been in the painting, however.

The navi, who could now easily be assumed to be Gala, reached one hand forward, keeping her same frozen smile. As she did so, her hand seemed to stop mid-air, leaving the palm facing outward towards Nitro's face. Raising her eyebrows, she slid her hand slowly downward... well, a motion like sliding. She was really just moving her palm, wasn't she?

Her lips parted as if speaking, but Nitro heard nothing. With just a few subtle movements, Gala's guest suddenly realized that she was surrounded by some sort of invisible wall. It appeared that communicating with her verbally was impossible. Furthermore, from her movements earlier, it was apparent that she must have already tried breaking it. Could she not jack out either?

Gala pointed towards a wall, seemingly vacant except for a portrait and a small podium, formerly used as a base for a pot. The pot had been smashed against the ground, like most of the others. Nitro noticed a small cushion, lying upon the ground with the remains of the vase. The surface was indented, as if something had been resting upon it until recently...

Nitro heard a heavy thudding in the hallway. A low, muffled grunt came, matching the one he'd heard from the masked gate-guard earlier. Nitro would have to explain why he was here alone or otherwise escape the room. The bathroom might also provide him a place to hide, or under the bed.
Nitro raised an eyebrow curiously as he discovered the Navi trapped on the bed. Taking a quick look around him at the various portraits, he assumed that the Navi was their hostess, Gala. Tina looked over to the bed after not being able to locate anything of note outside, and started thinking. Why was Gala in here, in a nightgown and being otherwise underdressed, while there was a party going on in her mansion? Tina made a mental note to inquire about it later.

Nitro, meanwhile, was piecing together what had transpired in the room. Obviously, something had been stolen, as indicated by the empty pillow on the ground, and the assailant, the Navi they had assumed to be Jailbird, was the only suspect. However, from what Nitro had seen of her, Jailbird hadn't demonstrated the ability to create jack-out barriers, an ability Nitro was sure was beyond Navis on their own. Assuming Jailbird hadn't been paired with a new operator at that point, that made it presumably impossible for her to have trapped Gala in the bed. Was there a third person in the room before "Jailbird" had entered? Was the person an accomplice "Jailbird" was helping or the true assailant she was trying to stop? Was that even Jailbird? And perhaps most importantly, what was stolen, and why?

Nitro was about to pantomime the last question to Gala, when he heard something outside. Quickly looking for a hiding spot, he noticed the bathroom. Quickly putting his finger to his lips to indicate to Gala to not say they were here, he waved for Tina to hide with him. The two rushed into the bathroom, and Nitro left the door open a sliver, so that he could see and hear what was going on between the Navi outside the room and the trapped Gala.
Nitro moved into the next room over, hiding himself within the bathroom. Would the big masked guy come through and find him? It appeared to be a dead end; despite the appearance of the rest of the house, the bathroom was quite small. The only places to hide would be either in the curtained tub or the towel closet, and that'd be a crunch. There'd be no way for Tina and Nitro to both hide in there, at least.

A tremendous explosion rocked the bedroom as soon as Nitro and TNT exited; the door was knocked from its hinges and sent smashing down. The entire room began to slant, sliding them towards the newly created hole, which had once been Gala's bedroom. The giant, masked navi hung on to a protruding chunk of tile for a mere moment before it gave way to his weight, sending him plummeting downwards. There was nothing for the two navis to grab onto either; Nitro and TNT slid down after him.

The big guy landed flat on his back in the center of the kitchen counter, smashing the dishes and glassware of the few dining there. Nitro and TNT were lucky enough to land somewhere not quite so populated. All of them were lucky that the roof was low enough so that their fall didn't hurt so badly. There must have been another room between the bedroom and the kitchen, put they'd fallen through so cleanly that they'd failed to see it.

Water poured down from the pipes upstairs, drenching the two hapless Vivarte navis. Gala's bed seemed to have somehow managed to avoid coming down in the explosion; she must still be up there in the smoldering remains of her room. The big guy clutched his head, trying to gain his bearings as several patrons interrogated him, wondering why he'd fallen into their dinner. It seemed like a good chance for Nitro and TNT to escape.

From there, the closest exit was into the study. Luckily, there were few navis inside. Before the two could even catch their breath, however, they were surprised to witness a navi climbing through the window and sitting down upon the edge.

The navi was clearly Jailbird, although she'd swapped out her usual black-and-white prisoner garb for an ironic police-officer's uniform, featuring a tight blue button-up and navy shorts. It looked good on her, but it could perhaps remind Nitro too much of the female domineer he'd met just a short while ago. She twirled her shiv absent-mindedly as she greeted Nitro.

"Man, do you always have to announce yourself by blowing up Teksqp property? Is that your calling card or something?" she asked, seeming amused rather than displeased. "I hope those fanatic guys didn't trick you into doing their dirty work again or something."

A couple of interesting questions were raised by her arrival. First of all, Jailbird was clearly not wearing her usual outfit; who then had they seen earlier? Was it possible she'd slipped out and changed? Was it fair that she'd just assumed that Nitro blew up the place? Was it even a good idea to reveal what he'd already seen to her?

One thing was for sure: he'd need to figure out quickly whether she was putting on an act or not. It seemed obvious that the theft and the bombing must be connected.
Nitro landed in the kitchen below, and Tina fell squarely on his chest, knocking the wind out of him. They both stood up, brushing rubble off of their suits, and looked up at the kitchen's new skylight. The lack of a falling bed told them that Gala was most likely still up there, so it might be worth their while to go back and investigate. Before they did that, however, they decided to slip away from the scene unfolding in the kitchen. Nitro knew he was a relatively unknown member of the Teksqp, so he might seem somewhat suspicious to people wondering what was going on.

Nitro and Tina both slipped into the study, and as they turned, they saw their "client" climbing in through the window. It would make some sense that she would be, assuming she was the one they followed upstairs, but she was wearing a different outfit, so either she changed, or she may be being framed for something at this very moment.

"Uh, hi there," Nitro said sheepishly, rubbing the back of his head. "No, no, that wasn't me," he explained regarding the explosion. "I just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time." He decided he'd try to play things close to the collar, and question her subtly, in case Jailbird was actually involved with this whole thing. "Man, I've been having a hard time trying to find you in here," Nitro continued. "We probably should've decided on a place to meet up beforehand. I thought I saw you upstairs earlier, but maybe I was confusing you for someone else?"

"That really is a nice outfit, Miss Jailbird," Tina added, examining Jailbird's uniform. "It would appear that all three of us have chosen attire somewhat inappropriate for our Family, though. All three of our uniforms seem somewhat too "orderly" for the Teksqp's chaotic nature. I suppose it's somewhat ironic." Tina paused for a moment. "Of course, this person Nitro and I saw was wearing something more your usual style; a black and white-striped ensemble. Perhaps you changed sometime this evening?"
"That wasn't you? Darn... that's actually kind of disturbing. I don't want to know that there are that many people capable of blowing up our structures chilling out around here," Jailbird laughed awkwardly, glancing around the room. "Well, it could have been Oni and his big-ass cannon or something. Really, we Teksqp have a lot of dangerous people capable of blowing up buildings," she mused.

"Oh! Someone dressed like me? Speaking of dangerous people..." she muttered, again taking a quick scan of the room. It seemed like she was looking for someone in particular. "Alright, so before I got here, there maaaay have been a little trouble. See, somebody let this killer out of my jail; one of the Teksqp guys we imprison for being insane to the point where they're no longer useful to the Teksqp, right? Anyways, she maaaay be tailing me now," the jailkeeper continued, trying to make light of the situation by using a playful tone. That aside, it sounded like she was in a great deal of danger.

"Anyways, she'd be wearing one of our black and white prison suits, so that was probably her you saw. I came in this, of course. She's also about my height and has similar hair to me... So yeah, I guess she'd look a lot like me," she continued, staring out the window briefly. Her upper body vanished through the frame, poking out her shapely behind towards Nitro. "You saw her upstairs before the explosion? Crap, that's some situation..."

She pulled herself back in, then turned to lean against the wall. "Hey, maybe we should just get outta here, huh? It seems sorta like we're endangering everyone and uh... The situation's not really right for me to get Gala's favor and all that..."

Unfortunately, her face wasn't betraying much of her emotions; she kept the impartial look she often sported. Was she suggesting they leave because she was legitimately concerned that they were wasting their time? Was the navi chasing her actually a danger to the others at the party?

... Or could it be that there was no other navi? Perhaps she really had snuck in, stolen whatever she stole, then changed out back and detonated a remote explosive? It could be that the murderous pursuer was just a cover-up story to let her get away with her theft.