Spooky Spying

The coordinates provided by Pyre.EXE would have Slay materialize next to a tall power distribution/data processing unit. It's a 20' tall, 5' wide rectangular tower-like structure with no entrance or windows, designed to help regulate and monitor the massive amount of data and power flowing through the area; the casinos, hotels, and other establishments nearby demand a robust data/power architecture.

If one looked around the other side of the tower, one would see the backside of a large, 4 to 5 story-tall grand stand in the distance with a long fence extending outwards from either side. Near the grand stand's roof sits a large, circular, brightly lit sign reading "NetVegas Derby" wrapped around the richly dark pink curled petals of a chrysanthemum flower. If one continued to watch the flower itself, its color would slowly fade to white, then lime green, purple, orange, and even red.

A smaller rectangular building stands nearby, and seemingly attached to gate made of an ornate tangle of metal bars. The front of the building has a rectangular neon sign reading "Tickets," and there appears to be a few windows on the outward facing side. Though they were a significant distance away, one could see activity; lights of different colors seemed to glow behind the grand stand, and Navi-sized figures could be seen entering the gate and milling about, some of them lugging large pieces of equipment, notably one appeared to be hauling a... candy cane?
The giant tower-of-power would immediately attract Slay's attention as she popped onto the net using Pyre's given coordinates. It reminded her of something unpleasant... "That's right. My last mission partner..." she thought to herself, wondering if she'd fare better this time around. The other navi was a tall, dark drink of unpleasantness. It was one thing to act as a criminal and another thing to be a career criminal... she hadn't quite confirmed that her partner had been one, but it sure felt that way near the end.

"Huh. That must be some kind of... post-modern haunted house. Kind of gives me an idea... what if there's this murderer who waits at the top of the tower, cause he knows that after victims climb like... however many flights of stairs, they're going to be so tired they can't run. Then it's really easy to kill them," Gordon posited, rubbing his chin thoughtfully.

"That sounds like a boring watch, no offense... Anyway, I don't think it's our haunted house. There's no entrance," she murmured, looking around quietly for something matching the more conventional definition of a "house" that might be haunted. She circled the tower before coming upon the NetVegas Derby, which seemed to be strongly connected to her given objective. She began to head that way slowly, rubbing her glove along her knife idly as though to clean it, but the old blood was caked on too thick to come off. She'd certainly look like a deviant to anyone watching right now, dressed in her heavy, blood-crusted apron. Still, this was one case where she sort of had an excuse to arrive in such a costume, so maybe it'd work out.

She raised an eyebrow as she approached the gate, not because a ticket gate was a particularly strange thing to see at a haunted house, but rather, because an oversized candy cane was.

"A dentist. This all goes back to a dentist. Dentists are scary, you know. Gosh, they could murder you whenever you want," Gordon pointed out. "And with a giant candy cane like that, he gets you right into his office..."

Slay made a mental note to check when was the last time Gordon had been to the dentist, before approaching the ticket counter. "I suppose that there are... other attractions besides just the haunted house," she decided. The candy cane couldn't possibly be part of the haunted ask she'd been asked to man. If it turned out it was... well, she was going to have quite a challenge making scares out of this after all. "I did say I'd been wanting to try something outside my wheelhouse," she recalled. She then thought about various holiday-themed donation drives she'd seen on television and how they'd gone and shook her head, deciding she might be a bit too shy for that sort of thing.

All there was to do now was meet the ticket man. "Hello?" she asked at the booth, placing her knife inside her belt as a means of holstering it. "I'm Slay... I'm here to meet Pyre. I'm supposed to be helping with a haunted house... I have a business card, if you'd like to see it," she asked, to whomever might be manning the station. She was worried she'd end up running late if she got held up at the ticket gate, and worse, it looked like there was a fair amount she was going to need to learn before her job of the day started.

A few moments after Slay logged in, a head of silvery-blonde hair passed through the outer surface of the tower at head level. The head was looking straight down and its long hair draped in front of its face even as it slowly began to look up. It then snapped upwards and began to look around, even while obscured by its own hair, upon realization Slay had already left and had made her way towards the stadium. "...aw." the head bemoaned softly before a couple of robe-draped arms also phased out of the wall, and pulled a hood up and over its own head. A moment later, the head and arms faded into the background and vanished.

As Slay made her way towards the ticket stand, more details came into view. The ticket stand itself was covered in tinted windows, save for a small slot to allow currency and tickets to be passed under the window on to counter across the "front" of the building. More Navis could be seen past the gate, some were hauling props like fake walls and pre-lit trees, while others chatted to eachother with costumes on or bundled in their hands. If any caught sight of Slay, they didn't react to it. At least one other Navi appeared to be covered in blood, so Slay appeared to be in line with the event's dress code.

It didn't appear there were any Navis inside the ticket stand, but the tinted windows and apparent lack of lights inside made it difficult to tell. "Hello!" a muffled voice responded from behind the window, but was immediately followed by a head draped in pale blond hair that phased through the glass. Though the head was completely obscured for a moment, a quick tilt caused the bangs to slide to the left, revealing the right side of a fair, feminine face with a bright green eye looking in Slay's direction. "I'm Pyre, and I'm glad to finally meet you in person," she said with a kind smile as her right arm also phased through the glass with an open hand.

If Slay decided to accept the handshake, she'd find Pyre's grip to be quite gentle. If she refused, Pyre would've gotten the picture and retracted her hand without a change in her expression. "I hoped to meet you over by the switch tower, but it seems my timing was a bit off, haha..." she admitted before she started to float out of the window to come into full view and face Slay directly. Her long, pale blue and magenta robes wrapped over her body, their mostly loose fit and light material gave them a wispy, floating look. Her collar was shallow, but even the loose robes appeared tighter around her chest, denoting her sizeable bust. Around her waist is a brown, woven-leather belt fastened with a simple gold buckle bearing her logo: a vertically-placed spear with a pair of white wings spreading from the middle of the shaft. The rest of her robes draped down blow her feet, and she was actually floating a few inches off the ground to stand level with Slay's height; Pyre was probably a few inches shorter than Slay if she was standing on solid ground.

She adjusted her wrist-length sleeves as she continued. "I thank you for assisting me, and it looks like you'll fit in perfectly! I love the spooky look!" She also sent a request to send a private message to Slay directly. If she accepted, the message would read:

Quote (Pyre.EXE)

There's no one else in the ticket office, and it looks like everyone else is inside, but who knows who might be listening. As we discussed before, my client is looking into DerbyMan and his business's involvement in a myriad of different crimes; illegal betting, data theft, program trafficking, and "special" services... To date, their investigations have come up empty. They say DerbyMan has been entirely cooperative and polite even when being overtly investigated, but they're not convinced he's truly as "clean" as he claims.

There are also a few "regulars" who work with/for DerbyMan:
Rein - DerbyMan's wife/mistress. (it's complicated) She's usually associated with advertising and hiring, also clean record, but she kind of just "appeared" when DerbyMan set up his arena.

TurfMan - Groundskeeper and lead tech; prior Mafia affiliations, but no arrests. Any maintenance Progs likely report to him, while customer service Progs report to Rein.

HoistMan - Assistant groundskeeper, and usually the one coordinating with the virus racers/owners. Word has it he's on the hook to take TurfMan's job soon, but TurfMan has allegedly "shown no intention of retiring."

Any questions so far?
Slay, ridiculously enough, felt slightly reassured when she noticed another navi coated in blood like she was. It was nice to know she hadn't come to a Christmas party dressed for Halloween, like she'd been worried she had for a moment. When Pyre made her appearance (well, her second appearance), Slay didn't exactly start, but she did raise both eyebrows. She accepted the otherworldly handshake. "I"d offer you my card, but I believe i already transferred you a copy earlier," she responded with a polite shade of a smile. It didn't come off as generous as it might, but turning on that charm point had never really been a strong suite of hers.

"Don't worry about the timing. We'll work on it for the haunted house," she joked, but without the smile, it might be a little hard to tell it was a joke. When Pyre made a more complete revelation, Slay found herself initially upset to find out that her new mission partner was a busty one. However, when she stopped to think about... "Hm. I think ghosts are exempt from the rules typically governing busty ladies in horror movies," she reasoned. Typical rules didn't quite apply, and besides, she already thought the friendly ghost seemed like the perfect person to work with. "Thank you. That's what I was going for..." she accepted the compliment, straightening her apron and feeling a little guilty for judging the other girl on the size of her bust. For the rest of their initial briefing, she'd go to private messaging...

Quote (Slay)

Sounds like they've got a pretty complicated racket going, both in terms of activities and of the web of players. We'll have a lot to investigate. Do you anticipate all of the players being involved here today, or is there a chance some won't show? I'll certainly be interested to see how he uses a haunted house as a cover for these sorts of things, also.

Any behavioral notes on any of the persons of interest?

She figured they'd probably head on inside soon. There wasn't much exciting to her about a haunted house at this point, besides some professional curiosity, but in this case, she was also especially interested to start looking at it from the standpoint of the case. Wherever secrets were lurking, they wouldn't be in plain sight, so she'd need all the chance she could get to sniff things out.
Pyre's smile widened in response to Slay accepting her handshake. "Ah yes, I wouldn't mind some tutoring, especially from someone with your experience!" After letting go of Slay's hand, she brushed at the sides of her robes before she started to float around to Slay's side. Her smile didn't leave her face thanks to the private message also being accepted by her new partner. "Shall we head in?" she asked before leading the way towards the gate, and quickly added to their clandestine conversation

Quote (Pyre.EXE)

Um... They didn't really give us much other than the fact they're "regulars," but if I were a betting woman, I'd expect to see at least the first three. As for their behaviors, I can only speak from their public appearances. DerbyMan is an outspoken, energetic showman, while Rein is more like... a hostess. Joanna describes her personality in different advertisements and public interactions as a "Southern Belle." As for TurfMan, he seems more content to stay in the background rather than in the limelight.
If Slay chose to follow, she'd be treated with a slightly better look of what they would be dealing with. The ticket building and the grandstand had initially obscured the venue, but upon passing through the opened metal gate, it would all be in view. It wouldn't take long to realize the grand stand was set up to observe a large oval track with only basic fencing between the "racers" and the rest of the crowd. There was a wide opening in the fence, allowing programs to walk across the track to access the field in its center. Said path appeared to be covered in some sort of protective sheet or paneling.

A few programs moved over the path, showing the two Navis the obvious flow of traffic leading to an oddly shaped structure sitting in the middle of the arena. Though Pyre mentioned a "scare house," the structure looked more like a tiny "scare village." The buildings that lined the structure's outer boundary looked like they were uncomfortably crammed together. That combined with their pointed snow-dusted roofs and old darkened wood designs made it look more foreboding than festive. The village itself appeared to have a dome-shaped roof that extended just a few feet above the individual buildings' roofs and crooked chimneys. There only appeared to be one entrance, which was flanked by two awkwardly bent Christmas trees.

While they either took in the sights or continued to approach, a green prog with a simple purple chrysanthemum brooch zipped across them both, but then "screeched" to a halt and turned to them. "Oh thank goodness you're here! We thought you weren't comi- wait, you're new..." the Prog proclaimed then paused with a curious tilt of its ears. "No matter. You'll do, come with me please. Need to run it by the missus," it ordered and started to move towards the grand stand. It zipped a few feet ahead then stopped to turn back to the pair. It's pupil-less stare made it difficult to tell which of the two Navis it was looking at. "Come now, the boss is getting antsy!"
"Well, it won't hurt to talk about tricks of the trade if we get some down time," Slay agreed, although, in reflection, she knew her own job was scaring people... she wasn't sure if that was part of Pyre's usual work or just a hobby.

Quote (Slay)

Thanks for the info. If possible, it's best if we can kind of know these guys before we even shake hands with them...

Shaking hands was a big thing for hers. She might have a hard time making lasting relationships, but darn if she was going to let a business relationship sour from a bad first impression. Now through the gates, Slay decided to take in the scenery of their haunted house, which was quite different than she imagined. She supposed that was a good thing. "Creativity is an important element of horror. Even something like this, where the meaning of the arrangement isn't necessarily apparent or doesn't inspire fear, can go a long way... when they arrange it this way, those entering don't know what to expect, and that helps..." she murmured, keeping her head low. Ordinarily, she worried that going too far into technical aspects of horror would be a turn-off with a new acquaintance, but her new acquaintance seemed to have a thing for giving people the heebie-jeebies. Pyre might appreciate the topic.

Like the candy-cane from earlier, or the Christmas trees, the Mr. Prog that flew by the two of them didn't really seem to fit. Unlike those other aspects, though, he was immediately engaged with Slay. "Oh, uuuuh..." she grunted, trying to decide if it would be better to tell the little guy he was mistaken or to go along with it. In the end, she decided that the Mr. Prog was practically handing her a cover story, and that such an opportunity was too good to pass up. "Yep. That's right. I will do," she agreed, shooting Pyre a thumbs up to reassure her. At this point, they might get separated, although she was hoping that the Prog had meant both of them ought to come. "Okay... Coming..." she answered. She didn't say more than that or ask questions for now, cause if the Prog was talking about Pyre and not her, it would be embarrassing to be talked over. A sort of silly concern, but she still wanted to be a professional for now. Though, if she was worried about that, she ought to try to stop dragging her sentences out too.

Slay would follow along with the Mr. Prog and hopefully Pyre, unless she was instructed by either Mr. Prog or Pyre to do otherwise.
"Mm, this may keep us busy, but I'd love to 'talk shop' if we get the chance." Pyre responded with a polite grin as she floated alongside her spooky compatriot. In the meantime, the clandestine conversation continued.

Quote (Pyre)

I agree, but as they say, "time is of the essence," and people may get suspicious if we go around asking about their employers.

They continued to approach the rotunda-esque village, and Pyre listened intently as Slay commented on the creative and deceiving aspects of horror. If Slay looked to Pyre's direction, she'd see an increasing amount of excitement on her face (well, half of it, that is). "Oh yes, the mystery of it just makes me want to see it even more!" she replied with her forearms raised upwards in anticipation, along with slight compression of her chest.

The Prog's interruption drove a wedge in the conversation, but there were no protests from either party before they followed along. Pyre kindly nodded at Slay's reassuring thumbs-up and fell in slightly behind her as the trio moved away from the track and towards the grandstand. The large stadium-styled structure was lined with folding seats of various styles and colors, with more ornate and comfortable-looking ones closer to ground level, but they were entirely empty save for one.

Sitting in one of the nicer stadium seats near an access stairwell was a female Navi in nice, albeit non-thematic clothing. The fair-skinned woman was sitting with her legs crossed as she tapped away on a holographic keyboard at lower chest level. Her emerald-green eyes were partially obscured by her light tan wide-brimmed woven derby hat, with a large blue/purple chrysanthemum flower attached with a similarly colored bow. She also wore a white collared shirt with a blue/purple tassled scarf wrapped around her neck, with the "tails" hanging down the front of her chest to her waistline. Her knee-length pleated white skirt was hiked up slightly due to her seated posture, so the band of blue/purple snowflake designs wrapped around the bottom of the skirt lay nearly half-way up her thighs.

"Miss Rein?" the Prog queried to get her attention. She looked up from her holographic workstation as the Prog continued, "I found som-" "Well you took your sweet ti-" the seated Navi interrupted the prog with narrowed eyes pointed in Slay and Pyre's direction. However, the woman appeared to make a realization as her expression and tone immediately softened. "Oh, I'm sorry dear, I mistook you for someone else!" she admitted before she closed her holo display, but remained seated. "We had a no-show of one of our anticipated performers, probably forgot to pay her bills again, but I do believe you'll be a perfect stand-in for her, you're practically a spitting image!" she exclaimed with a smile and clasped her hands together before she looked down to the Prog nearby. "She's an obvious shoo-in for our Ghost of Christmas Past, as for her dark-haired friend... " she remarked as her brow furrowed and she tapped her chin as she briefly pondered. "See if we have some costumes or something to pair her up. I'll keep you both in the same area, since you two arrived together. Is that alright with y'all?"

Pyre nodded kindly before responding, "Yes Miss Rein, we're glad to help out!" The Prog affirmed its order from its supervisor and turned to the pair of creepy ladies. "Whew, we were about to have to edit the layout until you two arrived. Now, here's a brief description of the haunt and more importantly the rules. Please review them as soon as you get the chance, and feel free to notify us if you have any questions!" A pair of data packets materialized just in front of the prog, one for each of the Navis to receive.

Quote (Haunt_Description/Rules)

Thank you for volunteering for the first annual Unhappy Holidays Derby Haunt! Since you have volunteered as a [Performer] for the event, please keep these rules in mind:
1. Your role is to frighten and excite, but not to harm our guests.
2. Safety is paramount for both guests and performers! As such, battlechips, busters, and damaging signature attacks are disabled within the confines of the haunt. A jackout-barrier also exists within the haunt, so don't get rough with the customers!
3. There are two "levels" to this haunt. "Standard" (indicated by a Blue data bracelet worn by the guests) means scare, but don't touch! "Full-Contact" (indicated by a White data bracelet worn by the guests) indicate they've signed an agreement to be "handled" by performers. That means you have full permission to grab, pull, and push guests to enhanced their experience. Strikes and inappropriate touching are still prohibited.
4. If a guest is wearing a flashing Red bracelet, they have used their "Surrender Card." Any performer who sees this must politely escort the guest out of the haunt, all others must pause their performances until the guest is safely out of the haunt.
5. All performers must keep to their own assigned areas, this is to reduce confusion and keep things orderly.

Slay smiled at Pyre's enthusiasm, then smiled more bitterly at the effect Pyre's enthusiasm had in causing her to squish her breasts together. The two of them met a new acquaintance, Rein (or Miss Rein, Slay decided) who, thankfully, thought Pyre looked just right for the job. She accepted Slay, though not as enthusiastically, which she found a little amusing given her own experience playing ghosts. "I guess I don't have the pedigree of playing a Christmas Carol ghost yet, so I shouldn't be offended," Slay thought to herself.

It sounded like the two were really lucky to have positions in this performance at all. The rules seemed straightforward; she didn't have any plans to beat anyone up or sexually harass them, so she figured it ought to work out fine. On the other hand, being surrounded by so many couples was going to be pretty tough. "The bachelorette life..." she sighed internally. It did sound a little awkward to stop being spooky on the turn of a time while people were escorted out... Presumably, she could be nice when the time came and that would calm people down. She felt a little bad about not asking any questions, but just shrugged and turned to the Prog. "I'm ready to start whenever. If you can just tell me where I should get into costume, I'll go get ready. Alternatively, if you don't have a costume, I could just..." she murmured, pushing down her mask briefly to show the blood-streaked face on it.

The only problem she saw so far was that she was so into the simple idea of playing a part in the odd, Christmas Carol themed haunted house that it was hard to focus on the original mission, which was to sniff out criminal activity. "Gotta stay focused..." she thought to herself, even while she was thinking about how nice it was going to be to use her acumen for the business somewhere it wouldn't immediately deflect off of her operator's forcefield against learning or practical knowledge.
Pyre also perused the straightforward rules on her simple datapad that opened from her palm, then closed it as Slay indicated she understood the rules and her willingness to begin promptly. [[i]"Ah, down to business right out of the gate; I guess that's to be expected for a professional"[/i]] Pyre mused internally before giving a nod to the Prog, indicating she too was ready. The Prog looked to Rein and commented, "Hm, no questions again. You were right about the rules, Miss Rein; short and sweet takes the cake!"

Rein gave a sideward nod in a "of course I was right" sort of expression, which prompted the Prog to look briefly back at the group before it began to skate forward towards the middle of the grandstand. "Changing rooms are this way, Men's on the left, Women's on the right," the Prog explained as they approached a tunnel-esque entrance at the floor level. The rectangular entrance was bracketed in steps and railings to allow patrons to move to/from their seats and the ground level, or use the tunnel to access the normally unseen innards of the grandstand.

As soon as the Prog rounded the corner, it yelped and teetered backwards. "Ey, watch it!" a deep voice echoed out from the tunnel before a figure game into view. Upon exiting the tunnel, the figure was finally able to stand upright, looking like he topped out at around a dozen feet. His bulk was supported by a pair of blocky gravel-colored boots, with what appeared to be "steel toe" plates riveted over the front halves of his boots. His deep yellow legs consist of riveted I-beam shins and tube latticework calves, which led to the dull silver drums that made up his knees. His thighs were similar in design to his lower legs, and a large black multi-pocketed belt decked out with assorted tools hung around his waist. His abdomen consisted entirely of a latticework of yellow and gray tubes, like the stalks of cranes used to build skyscrapers. His upper torso was more solid and blocky, though oddly shaped. His rectangular head (topped with a hard hat) was actually offset closer to his left shoulder, which made sense because his right shoulder and arm were significantly larger and shaped like the extendible arm of a crane truck, but with an elbow.

His green pixel eyes looked down from the glass pane that made up his face, and the Prog regained its balance to reply, "HoistMan? What were you doing in there?" The construction-themed Navi huffed and rolled his eyes before he put his smaller left hand on his hip. "Now that's a darn good question. The old man claimed a piece of the set was stashed in one of the storage closets near the back of this cramped cave of a building, and he sends me?" he asked rhetorically and pointed to his face with his bulky two-fingered claw of a right hand. "I swear, he's getting more senile by the week. Now if you'll excuse me, I got things to do other than wasting my time." he grumbled before he slowly clunked forward, physically requiring the Prog to stand aside to give him room. As he walked past Pyre and Slay, he pinched the small brim of his hardhat with the fingers of his left hand. "Ladies," he said in a slightly less gruff tone to give the impression of a "polite" greeting.

Though his strides were significantly longer than Slay's (no idea for Pyre; she's yet to physically "walk"), his progress was lumbering and slow, so he'd be easy to catch up with. The Prog shook it off and got back to the task at hand. "Right, this way. We're just a bit ahead of schedule, but please get don't dilly dally and get caught up in "locker room gossip" as it were," it advised and gestured to the ladies' change room with one of its mechanical ears, but soon did an about-face and zipped off to leave the pair to their own devices in the short hallway. One door clearly read "ladies" and the one on the opposite side said "gents," but the hallway didn't go far until it abruptly ended and seemed to open up to allow multiple other paths inside the "belly" of the grandstand, but the lights were turned off and it was too dark to see very far.

If they chose to open the ladies' changing room door, they'd see a row of sinks and mirrors lining one wall, with wardrobe-like lockers lining the opposite wall, with a couple simplistic cushioned benches between the two. Restrooms aren't needed for Navis, but it appeared the derby included a "powder room" for their patrons to spruce themselves up. A couple Navis were already in the room, one was spritzing her sickly emaciated frame with with what one would assume is fake blood, while the other seemed to be having difficulties with a wig program. If one looked closely back towards the lockers, one would see labels on each of the doors, "dresses," "wigs," "paints," etc.
Judging by the directions she'd been given, Slay assumed they wanted her to get into something a little more festive... festive as it related to Christmas, not just to Halloween. She nodded, resolving that she'd get into an appropriately ghostly getup before going back out.

Before they could reach the dressing room, another new navi ran into (or perhaps "over" would be the better word, given his size) the Mr. Prog that was guiding them. The navi was about two and a half Slays tall; she earnestly hoped this was one of her scare-mates and not somebody she was supposed to scare... there was only one so much she could do with that kind of height difference. She looked up to where his head ought to be and, for a moment, was worried that he was so tall there was no way she was going to be able to even see his eyes to make eye contact. As it turned out, his head was just a little off center, so she adjusted her gaze slightly. The man wasn't much interested in introductions and actually appeared to be in a hurry, so she just gave him a short nod. "Sir," she addressed him, in a match of his own brief greeting. Slay thought upon what he'd said... it was indeed pretty strange that he'd been sent through that hall. She was frankly amazed a man of his size was even able to get through there, even stooping (or crawling)? There might be more to it, but she couldn't play connect the dots with just one dot.

She'd like to learn more about what he'd been asked to do and try to pump him for info, but there was no time; he was already in a hurry and she'd blow her cover, or at least look very unprofessional, if she didn't keep following Mr. Prog. It seemed like everyone here was running a pretty tight ship. Soon enough, the group would reach the women's dressing room, where a few others were already busy getting ready. "Hm..." she murmured, then looked over to her partner. She crossed her arms, looked Pyre over once again, then nodded. "I do a lot of costumes, but... you're a real ghost," she remarked, though the definition of "real ghost" as far as net navis went was a little shaky, she admitted to herself. "And I think you already got the go-ahead on your costume. So... if you wouldn't mind, would you like to help me get my ghost just right? I can still do the make-up and so forth. But maybe you can advise me on the rest of the costume?"

Hopefully, Pyre would be willing to help with that. This would also be a good time to catch up on the details of the mission:

Quote (Slay to Pyre)

"We've met Rein and HoistMan now. What do you think? It's hard to find anything that doesn't seem on the up and up yet. I don't know if you noticed, but HoistMan had a pretty good point... it didn't really make sense for him to be sent through that narrow hallway. Either he's got a very unconcerned employer or someone was trying to get him out of the way for a good, long time. Or maybe I'm just being paranoid."

"Oh, before I forget... There's one other thing we should do." She went over to the other ladies, then produced a pair of business cards. "Hello there. I'm Slay... It's good to be working with you. I hope I'm not interrupting you." Slay noticed that one of the two was having wig difficulties... she wanted to offer to help, but that might be a little overbearing. Maybe she'd help if it kept on bothering the other girl.

Just then, she remembered one more thing she needed to do. Blushing a bit, she sent a message to her operator.

Quote (Slay to Gordon)

"If you want to sit around in your boxer shorts, that's one thing, but you really shouldn't watch while I'm in the women's dressing room. As in, you already shouldn't be watching."

"Are you gonna murder someone?" Gordon asked, tilting his head curiously. "That's a great cover-up, you know. 'Eek, don't watch. I'm trying to dress! You perv,'" he narrated, not swapping to any sort of girlish or enthusiastic voice even while seemingly mimicking a bashful girl. "And then you kill somebody while I'm not watching. That'd be pretty smooth. Though, uh, you know... don't actually kill anyone."
Pyre gave HoistMan a polite smile and a slight wave before he trundled past. Slay didn't seem to focus on him, and she didn't want to get separated too early, so she floated behind her spooky partner to the dressing room. She took in the sights for a brief moment before she paused as Slay looked her over. According to her, it looked like Pyre was already in costume, matching what Rein said before regarding her intended role. She grinned sheepishly before responding "Real ghost? You flatter me!" she brought one of her sleeve-covered arms up to partially conceal the lower half of her face in meek gesture. "Am I spooky enough then?" she asked before she put pointed her covered forearms and hands directly forward with her elbows pressed against her lower chest, which coincidentally caused her bust to smoosh together a bit.

Though the sight was likely amusing, she put her arms down and quit her "Casper the Busty Ghost" bit when Slay requested her help with her costume. "Oh, of course! Since we're paired up, we could maybe match up, or even be direct contrasts?" she answered as she put one of her still sleeve-covered wrists to her chin. She also received Slay's discrete message and responded in kind.

Quote (Pyre)

Hm, you have a good eye with Hoistman, he was certainly out of place. I wonder if he was actually trying to cover up his reason for being there in the first place... but I bet your theories are more accurate, would be hard to not notice "the elephant in the room," haha! As for Rein, she mistook me for someone else but didn't seem to show any concern with me taking her place; but she did seem upset with the no-show, she could've been part of their "ulterior" plans... or simply a main "character" for their haunted house. Too soon to tell, you think?

Both of the other girls briefly paused what they were doing and looked at Slay as she introduced herself and presented her business card. The blood-spritzing Navi, who seemed to be wearing nothing more than a pale skin-tight body suit, raised an eyebrow then turned back to the mirror and continued dashing herself with crimson specks and streaks. "Rael. Mind leaving it on the sink or something? My hands are sorta full at the moment."

The other, who was wearing what looked like a frumpy, drearily-colored Netopian-style dress, placed the wig on the sink faucet then turned to Slay. "Hi, I'm Lita. Are you a producer or something? I'm looking for some acting gigs, a bit more big-time than this, no offense to Rein... pleasedon'ttellherIsaidthat." she said before accepting Slay's business card and looked at it. "You're little more than an extra, honey. I wouldn't expect much of a draw," Rael commented, with her eyes still looking in the mirror and punctuated with a hiss from the bloody airbrush. Lita narrowed her eyes and shot a glance to her emaciated counterpart and countered, "Gotta start somewhere, and I'm in the "Christmas Past" section, so I'll be one of the first they see. They'd be too strung out by the time they see your skinny butt." "Uh huh..." Rael replied with a bored tone, denying the shorter one the dramatic response she likely was looking for.

"Oh, I think we're in the same section as well. I look forward to working with you!" Pyre commented with her usual kind attitude. Lita looked her over as well, and had a muted (though seemingly unamused) reaction to the arguably more graceful Navi. "Hm, you must be new at this, you seem far too excited. This ain't trick-or-treating, honey. Fair warning, though we can man-handle the guests, some of 'em will come just for that, and might try to "put their own hand in the fun," if you catch my drift..." Rael continued to comment from the peanut gallery, to which Lita scoffed and pointed a thumb over her shoulder and towards Rael. "Don't mind her, she's too much of a bean-pole for anyone to even bother feeling her up."

One of Rael's grey eyes twitched, but that was the only emotion she conveyed before she pointed her airbrush towards Lita and spritzed the back of her head with blood. "HEY!" the pint-sized one cried out and brushed the back of her head with her hand. She looked at her palm after doing so with a frown, her hand was slick with crimson. Her eyebrows then raised, and she strategically placed her hand near the side of her dress skirt, then dragged it down slightly to leave a clear hand print and a slight crimson streak. "You're lucky I wasn't wearing that blasted wig..." she then shot back.
Slay's eyebrows raised slightly as Pyre questioned whether she really eerie enough to fit the bill, probably rhetorically, but it occurred to Slay that Pyre was going to inspire feelings other than terror if she acted that way around house-goers. Slay fiddled with her own hair awkwardly, rubbing some of the matted strands of her bangs between thumb and forefinger. "Uh... Let's just remember to stay in character once we're in the haunted house," she murmured, not wanting to burst her ally's bubble by informing her that she was as cute as a button. Then, more spitefully, she thought to herself that they were going to be in direct contrast in certain aspects no matter what she did and she cast her dark eyes down to her own non-existent curvature.

Quote (Slay)

Too soon to tell, really. It sure works in our favor, though. Now we just have to hope the real ghost actress doesn't show up...

Inside the dressing room, Slay did as she was asked, placing the business card on the sink. Not being offended when someone didn't really want your business card was just part of the culture of business card carriers, after all. She'd seen them evaporate into thin air in the worst of cases, though she supposed, in a way, she ought to be thankful that at least the recipients hadn't chosen to litter. "Not a producer, but an actress. Once we're off the job, though, I'd be happy to tell you about producers I keep in touch with." She watched Pyre join in, commending her chipper attitude, which Slay herself had a hard time carrying. She narrowed her eyes at the idea of some of the guys getting grabby, though... She was more worried for her ally than herself, given that she had an unapproachable aura coupled with an unremarkable bosom. Pyre was opposite in both regards. "How strange... it almost sounds like the ghosts are in greater danger of being mistreated than the ones they're scaring," she mused. "I can hardly condone behavior like that, but then, I guess I'm not supposed to. I'll just have to be careful not to get... too into character." At the finish, she found herself inspecting her rusted knife casually, an unconscious action that lent a great deal of malice to her words.

She did her best approximation of a smile (her mouth was more of a horizontal line of bemusement), before lowering her hands a few times. "Let's try to stay professional," she repeated her catch phrase, hoping the girls wouldn't horse around too much. "But okay... I should probably leave off introductions now and get dressed quickly. Gordon...?" she murmured, noticing he was still watching the screen. He turned his head and closed his eyes, as if he'd decided to start taking a nap. Nodding, she moved to the closets and began looking for the most upsettingly ghostly costume remnants she could find. She really wanted something like a phosphorescent glow, but she knew she couldn't afford to go that route, as eventually she might be switching to stealth in this mission... which would not mix well with glowing in the dark. Instead, she decided she'd keep to drab, "dead" colors, like gray, black, brown, and possibly crusted reds. She'd go for mostly cloth and gore, since neither would make noise or stand out if she had to sneak around the exhibit. In the end, she might end up pretty closely matched to the others.

She figured she could really go without a mask or wig this time around, if she wanted to, but a wig might still be best. Her hair was generally a little more emo than it was specter. After finding a suitable one, she'd grab an outfit meeting the previous criteria as closely as possible, then lift off her apron, eliminating whatever last misconceptions anyone might have been harboring about the size of her breasts. She hoped she could just put the outfit on over her skinsuit, but if she couldn't, she'd begin pulling it off from the neck. "What do you think?" she asked Pyre, being careful not to use Pyre's name in case she was trying to keep it hidden for now. "We could put some fake blood on you if you want to match me and the others... I'm pretty handy with the brush, if you want to use it when they're done..."
"Of course, the goal is to unsettle and terrify, after all..." Pyre replied to Slay's word of advice with a smile, a moment that would be unnerving if taken out of context. Comment aside, the Navi didn't appear deflated at all from her comrade's tactfully indirect criticism. Another clandestine reply followed shortly afterwards.

Quote (Pyre)

I was thinking the same, if the other actress does show up and make a fuss, we'll rightly claim innocence. We didn't attempt to impersonate, we were simply in the right place at the right time.
Meanwhile Rael quietly acknowledged Slay's willingness to place the card on the sink, while Lita showed a much more expressive response. Her expression was initially stone-faced as she learned Slay wasn't a producer, but her mood and expression brightened upon hearing the newcomer's willingness to network. "Really? Wow! I owe you one, sister!" Rael just rolled her eyes and sighed in a jaded sort of way.

Slay's comment regarding the potential for harassment by their own guests elicited a general lack of response from the group, but her followup did catch Pyre's bright green eye, followed by a subtle smirk. It also apparently caught Rael's attention who reiterated, "Like I said, some of 'em might be into that."

After the bout of blood spritzing and impromptu costume modification, Slay's advice to get down to business was followed by all. Rael had mostly finished up her blood shower and began to applying a gloss to give said blood splatters a stationary yet "fresh" appearance. Lita moved to wash her still blood-smeared hand in the sink, then seemed to have a lightbulb go off in her head before she started to run her fingers through the strands of her wig in an attempt to style and prep.

When Slay opened the dress closets, there were was a surprising variety of choices. While most of the dresses appeared similar to Lita's in regards to color, but they came in a plethora of different sizes, styles, and level of disrepair. They were almost all designed as winter-wear, which fit with the theme of the haunt, but the blouses could be worn with or without jackets, and some of the skirts were already torn or tattered. Mixed amongst the normal-esque clothing were bloodied garments, even some articles that looked more like disembodied skin and guts, draped neatly over their pearl-white hangars.

Pyre floated beside Slay, and it was apparent she had an eye on her own dress. One of the few non-drab or gory items was a set of robes in pure white, and looked to be made of a very light and whispy material, not unlike her own pale blue and magenta robes. "Ooh, I think this'll do nicely," she remarked aloud to herself before Slay began to remove her apron. She caught a glimpse of Slay's full body shape thanks to her Navisuit, but didn't appear to react, though the thought of [[i]"Hm, cute butt,"[/i]] went through her mind. Since her comrade moved to get dressed, it made sense for her to do so as well. She undid her belt which fragmented and disappeared as it fell away, along with some of the wrappings of her robes as she removed them. As she moved to unwrap the last of her robes, some of the wispy material looked to wrap and catch around her leg. She made a quiet gasp in what sounded like pain before she reached down to more carefully and gingerly remove the garment before it disappeared. This left her floating in a one-piece white Navisuit, which was only a few shades lighter than her own skin.

Said Navisuit put her body shape on full display, including her impressive bust. However, it wouldn't be surprising if any witnesses or peeping toms' gazes would've been caught by something else. Her gracefully shaped thighs started to become more and more fragmented the further down one's gaze traced. In fact, the area where her knees would be were occupied only by a handful of floating cutouts of data, and even fewer, smaller pieces floated in the path where her lower legs would normally be. The damage became more pronounced, was nothing left only a few inches below where her knees would be. There were no protruding bones nor shreds of skin and muscle, but it looked too severe to be a design choice. That said, beyond the brief moment of pain, she didn't appear uncomfortable or shy. She turned to Slay as the Navi spoke, prompting Pyre to look contemplatively between her partner and the rack of outfits.

"Hm, I can't help but be drawn to that white outfit, from some of the retellings of the old story, the spirit of christmas past wore white and glowed, like a candle. Then again, that seems more inviting than scary... Have any suggestions?" Pyre asked, tilting her head slightly. As she did so, the bangs that normally obscured the left side of her face swayed slightly from the midline of her head, briefly revealing something deep crimson with a couple spots of bleached white beneath.

A few moments after Slay would've had a chance to answer, a crackle of a microphone keying in echoed from the ceiling, followed by Rein's voice. "Hello volunteers and staff, welcome and thanks again for helping us make this event possible. So we may start the festivities on time, please make your final preparations and meet outside the entrance of the haunt in 10 minutes. Thank you!"
Slay nodded at Lita's enthusiasm, sliding two fingers down her bangs a few times and pushing them out of the way of her eyes. "I'd be happy to. Just make sure we catch up after the job's over," she reiterated, thinking that it would leave a lasting bad impression if she flaked out and forgot to hand over her contact information once the mission was over. She turned to Rael and raised an eyebrow. "... People who are into the kind of 'character' I'm talking to could only be so thanks to the miracle of EJO technology... When I play a character, it tends towards deadly. I'm going to have to tone that down for this role... I don't remember the Ghost of Christmas Anything trying to outright murder Mr. Scrooge."

In fitting with that theme, Slay ended up picking a grotesque combination of bloodstained winter gear, somewhat form-hiding, including a scarf and fur hat. Without the blood and disrepair, the outfit might make her look cute and bundled up. With those elements, however, and with a further drabbing out using the intentional application of powder, she would look more like a threatening ghost, with the extra layers offsetting her status as a small girl. She thought to herself that Pyre was going to look rather fetching in her chosen outfit and wondered if she ought to advise against that. She didn't end up staring at Pyre's somewhat surprising leg deformity (or her somewhat surprising bust size or hip measurements), but Gordon did; he'd looked back at the screen at some point. "This gives me another idea for a story... Wait, that's not a horror story, it's a... nevermind," he sighed, resting his head back on his fist.

Slay shot him another withering glare that did its trick; he suddenly returned his attention back to the script he was writing. With Gordon handled, she pondered the costume for a moment, as well as their own situation. The announcement of only 10 minutes to showtime sealed the deal, as far as her thoughts on the subject. "I think..." she murmured, then decided to send a message with the majority of her comments instead.

Quote (Slay)

I think it might not be such a bad idea if you look nice for this event. I hate to say we're using you as "bait", but if you look as scary as I do for this, we might miss out on interacting with certain parties that we need to speak to. If you invite attention, that might also lure out these criminal elements we're looking for. I'll be around to keep an eye out too, of course. What do you think? I'm not sure we have time to properly bloody up and powder your outfit regardless.

"... I think it's probably not a bad idea, Pyre," she answered verbally, with a slight nod of her head. "If you're Christmas Past, then am I Jacob Marley?" she asked out loud. It was hard to tell if she was joking or being serious. "Well, anyway, let's get the finishing touches worked out and go on out." She grabbed the gown and examined it; if it opened up, she'd open it for Pyre to step into, and if it went over, she'd instead indicate open up the hole of the dress and hand it back to Pyre to slip over her head. "Luckily, you've got a bit of a ghosty head to begin with... I mean that as a compliment... Point being, I don't think you need any make-up or a wig. We probably ought to head on out... if we're late, we won't have as much time to figure out what's expected of us."

Assuming Pyre went along with that suggestion, she'd grab her knife, tuck it inside the jacket, and head out with the others to the meeting spot.
Lita was practically beaming at Slay's willingness to help her out, she almost looked as out-of-place as Pyre. "Definitely! You might be the key to my big break!" she exclaimed with a smile. After Slay shifted her focus to Rael, Lita brought her wig up to her chest and shook a couple times in excitement, prompting a smile and glance from Pyre towards Slay.

The conversation turned notably grim, but Rael didn't seem at all intimidated or impressed by Slay's indirect touting of the lethal nature of her "method acting." "Riiight, just keep the gore to the imitated variety, honey; some customers like to go through, and pay, multiple times. If you were on the payroll, you'd realize getting felt up every now and again is a small price to pay," she said matter-of-factly as she applied the gloss to her bloodspray/spatters.

Eventually everyone got back to picking out/preparing their costumes, and Slay made her own comments in both aloud and private avenues.

Quote (Pyre)

Excellent point; it looks like this dress was made specifically for this role, so it makes sense to play into their game.
She replied clandestinely before following up with a vocal response. "Haha, I guess so, but you seem far too cute to be a Marley," she teased before she realized Slay was holding the dress for her to don. "Oh, thank you!" she remarked before she took the "opened" dress and slipped it over her head. After she released the rest of the dress, it seemed to spill down her frame like white smoke, but still had the "bounce" of fabric.

"Of course, after you," Pyre replied and began to follow/float behind Slay while putting her arms through the sleeves of her dress and made any needed adjustments. They left Rael and Lita behind, but from the look of things, they too were just about ready. Upon exiting the dressing room, they'd see additional Navis moving about and congregating towards the front of the haunt. They'd hear an errant murmuring conversation here and there, but most of the programs moved into place with a purpose.

It would only take them a minute or two to reach the front of the haunt, identified by an archway in front of the artificial village/town. Said arch was made of two jagged, light-speckled evergreen trees bent in an unnatural curve inwards to form the curved entryway. Easily a dozen Navis and Progs had gathered by the time Slay and Pyre arrived, with a few others shortly behind them. They naturally formed a semi-circle around the entrance and faced a Navi standing just outside the entrance on the artificial snow.

Said Navi was a fairly round humanoid wearing a brown suit and bowtie with a tan collared shirt and dark shoes. A small purple chrysanthemum sat just above his jacket pocket, and a small, similarly colored feather was sticking out of the black band of his derby/bowler-styled hat. Said hat didn't at all obscure his portly face or his bright hazel eyes. Most importantly it allowed the crowd to gaze upon his impressive brown muttonchops, connected with an equally impressive and well-groomed mustache. He also wore what looked like a sash diagonally over his shoulder and across his chest & back, but said sash was deeper than it was wide, so it looked more like a planetary ring than a traditional garment. Said ring was bracketed in white, and had a total of three "lanes" drawn out on its brown surface with thin white lines, so it looked like some sort of racing track. On closer inspection, one could see a trio of tiny horse figures slowly and quietly "racing" over the track.

"Well, looks like everyone's here, more or less. I'm DerbyMan, if we haven't met already, and I welcome you all to my 1st Annual "Unhappy Holidays Haunt!" I trust you all have read the rules provided by my lovely wife and her assistants; please speak with her if you haven't before you move to your respective locations. This is our inaugural event, so our customers won't know what to expect, so put on a show! Go big! Go flashy! Do that, and I'll be happy, and so will our customers! Well, happy with being terrified, you know what I mean, ahahaha!" he bellowed with a guffawing laugh. Some of the members of the crowd gave a token chuckle, but they didn't seem to show even a fraction of their host's enthusiasm.

Undeterred, DerbyMan continued. "Now, the haunt itself, built by TurfMan with the help of HoistMan and crew, can be a bit cavernous and tricky to navigate. That was our point in building it, but we'll keep the lights on for a few minutes for you all to get situated and accustomed to your areas. Be careful not to trip or fall into any errant holes, or if you do, be scary while doing so!" Rein, who was in the inner ring of the crowd, stepped out towards the middle and addressed the group. "Alright y'all, head to your respective areas. If you're not sure where to go, my progs can guide you to your spots. We'll keep an eye out with cameras throughout the haunt, just give us a wave if you need anything. Have fun, y'all!" she said and dismissed the crowd.

As the group started to disperse, Pyre looked over to Slay. "Since we'll both be in the "Christmas Past," section, I assume that would be fairly early in the haunt, don't you think?"

Slay's eyebrows rose a bit at Rael's response and she made some mental notes to share with Pyre as they walked to their next destination. She was happy that Pyre had gone along with the plan, but lowered her eyebrows back down at her comments. "Cute...? I don't get that very often," she remarked, more affected than her voice probably let on. She didn't think she'd normally fit that bill even out of costume, and it was especially strange to hear that when she was bundled up in gross clothing as she was. As the two left together, she'd send over another message.

Quote (Slay)

"Did you notice just now that Rael realized we weren't on the payroll? I wonder if there's anything behind that? It seems to me that means she regularly works for and is paid by DerbyMan... and also realizes that whoever was coming to fill the other spots was not to be paid in the same manor. It makes me wonder how the ones coming to fill these spots originally would have been compensated.

More obviously, her words reveal that the workers are typically paid very, very well... and uh... judging by the fact that some customers come through several times and apparently the pay matches putting up with them... I'd say it's less of a matter of "if" we run into funny business and more "when." Be sure to keep in communication with me if anything gets too far out of hand...

By about the time she'd finished sending that message, they'd be to the gathering of navis and progs that composed the majority of the workforce for today's event. Slay discovered that their would-be employer seemed to derive his name from his choice of hats, or at least it was a possibility. A closer look revealed that the race aspect probably factored in as well. "That's some facial hair... he looks he'd be a better Marley than me," she thought to herself, thinking that his mustache and chops looked appropriate for Dickens' times.

Despite his words, she couldn't bring herself to even fake-laugh... she wasn't often called upon for that response in her field of acting. She tried to imagine who could be scary falling into a hole, and that did make her chuckle a bit, at least internally. "Huh... That gives me an idea. A guy who keeps killing people and tries to bury them, but he's so clumsy he falls into his own holes, so he gets the idea to get somebody else to follow him around and dig the holes, but then he has to kill that guy and then has the same problem all over again... Actually, I don't really know how I'd finish that one," Gordon murmured. Whatever mirth Slay had felt a moment ago drained out pretty quickly at the realization that her writer-in-training wasn't drawing much good inspiration out of this yet. She reminded herself that there was still time and for now, she'd just need to stay positive.

There were no new clues that she could find just yet, so she looked to Pyre and nodded, keeping all of her talk verbal. "Yeah... That's convenient. I guess we just need to find the early section. That should be near the entrance... This arch we're standing near shows us where that is. That means we just need to go a little ways inside. Honestly, the two of us don't know exactly where to stand... so I think we should try to get in roughly the right place and then ask a Mr. Prog the proper place to wait," she suggested, then began her stroll into the attraction to find the right waiting area. DerbyMan had said to make the event big and flashy... she wasn't quite sure how she was going to do that either. She almost wished she'd brought some chains to rattle, then quickly remembered that she might need to do some sneaking around later. On that note, there'd be cameras watching... She sent Pyre another quick warning.

Quote ()

"Remember, DerbyMan said cameras are watching. Any investigation we do needs to be kept very discrete..."
"Well that's a shame, unless you prefer the 'scary' look," Pyre commented regarding Slay's infrequency of being deemed "cute," in a tone almost like a mother confiding in her child. It didn't seem like Pyre was continuing to tease or had any tinges of sarcasm in her voice, was she being serious?

The pair continued out the door without issue, and Pyre responded to Slay's discrete message

Quote (Pyre)

Good point, but I'm not sure if she's regularly paid by DerbyMan specifically; she seems to know a thing or two about haunted houses, but this is the first DerbyMan has hosted, to my knowledge. She might be a pro... "haunter"? "actress"? "performer"? I don't know what the official term would be... I also wonder if the person I replaced was on the payroll tool, if so, then Rael would know we're stand-ins. Granted, it could also be because I really stand out as a "beginner."

Now I'm a bit nervous about being the "bait," but at least this will be exciting regardless!
She continued to follow Slay to the circle of people and listened quietly to DerbyMan and Rein's instructions, occasionally looking around the group to see if she recognized anyone else in the crowd. It didn't look like TurfMan or HoistMan were present, or she would've likely let Slay know. After the speech and dismissal by Rein, Pyre floated next to Slay and listened as the crowd dispersed, many went in through the entrance while a couple milled outside and started to don large snowman-esque costumes. Pyre smiled at Slay's suggestion and clasped her hands together excitedly. "I agree, and I'm interested to see how things will look, even with the lights on!"

Shortly afterwards, Pyre responded to Slay's caution regarding the cameras.

Quote (Pyre)

Of course, and any obvious attempts to avoid the cameras could rouse suspicion. It would be a good idea to note where they are, though.

Upon passing through the archway, the first "stage" looked like a large, old study lined with shelves of decrepit books and a jagged fireplace on one side of the room. There was a single high-backed lounge chair in the middle of the room. A prog was sitting in the dark maroon chair, seeming to be doing some final checks. The chair then suddenly pitched backwards and two ring-like restraints sprouted from the arms of the chair and clamped down, while two others sprang up from the floor and snapped in the air, as if looking for ankles to clamp down on. Of course, the small, mostly limbless prog wasn't ensnared by the restraints, and didn't appear spooked at all.

Another program was in the room, but suspended several feet in the air by pale metal chains around his arms, legs, torso, and neck. He looked like a regular Normal Navi, but so pale blue he seemed to have been almost caked in makeup powder. His yellow eyes casually looked down at Pyre and Slay, but didn't seem to pay them any mind as he turned his head up towards the ceiling and called out "Alright, let's try the leg." If Slay looked further up, she'd see a rectangular cut-out in the ceiling, which appeared to hide an "attic" of sorts. A single prog was peering over the ledge, and stood out amongst the 6 or so small crane arms extending out and holding the ghostly chains in place. The prog nodded and made some sort of command, which caused one of the cranes to whir to life and forcibly retract its chain about a foot. With an unceremonious *pop*, the Navi's left leg separated from his body and began to dangle by its ankle.

For a Navi that just had his leg ripped off, he didn't seem to be fazed by it. Instead a few streams of glowing data reached out from somewhere on his body, and wrapped around the leg like a bunch of glowing plant roots before it pulled the leg back into its "normal" place. "Okay, how about you bring the tension in slowly for a second or two before you wrench the leg off. Should add to the effect, don'tcha think?" the Navi called back up to the crane prog. Its bunny ears tilted slightly as it thought it over. "Sure, can do," the Prog continued.

If Slay continued through the room towards a large wooden door, it would open inwards automatically to grant them access to the next room. She'd also likely notice what looked like a track that led from the door to the large chair, suggesting the entire thing would move and possibly shunt guests through the door. The floor of the small room beyond was white and apparently covered in cloth as opposed to old wooden panel flooring. Pyre wouldn't have noticed due to her persistent floating, but once Slay stepped foot in the room, she'd notice her foot sinking a bit into the floor. This made movement difficult and sluggish, which likely would further add to the unease of being inside such a cramped space. It seemed the room was designed to be like the inside of a canopy bed, with four tall wooden pillars holding up pale tan curtains.

There was a rustling heard from outside of the room, then a prog poked up from underneath the curtain, temporarily struggling with the material before it could finally poke its entire head inside. "Ah, you're here. Everything's prepped, just be careful with the curtains. It's alright if you rip them, just don't tear 'em down, it'll kind of spoil the effect. Now, for blue guests you can lead them just past here to the tunnel. As for white guests, I'll be waiting with the other progs to yank 'em into the next room. What trigger word or action do you want to use to signal us to nab 'em? And you, are ya in this section too? I guess you can be one of the yankers to free up one of us, you up for that or have something else in mind?" the Prog explained, and directed the last two questions at Slay.
Slay lowered her eyebrows, thinking hard about Pyre's response (to her private message, not to her surprise at being called cute). She sent over something quickly, while she could still focus.

Quote (Slay)

You're right, I'd forgotten that. But then how does she know to expect people through multiple times for... that sort of thing? I wonder if it's common to haunted houses or maybe to DerbyMan's events in general...

The actress nodded along with Pyre, as the two closer to their stage for the festivities. She watched Mr. Prog checking one of the props for the show; she had to admit, she was pretty interested in the chair and thought it looked like an exceptional prop. A little out of place for "A Christmas Carol," but just right for the haunted house. It might give Jacob Marley a pretty good chance to expound upon three ghosts before the unfortunate victim moved on. She spotted chains hanging from the ceiling as well... occupied chains. At first, she thought the navi might be testing a prop that she might find herself in later, but based on his ghostly color and the way he seemed to be adapt at popping off his limbs, she now wondered if he might not be filling the Jacob Marley spot himself. She would just have to roll with it and adapt to whatever the event gave her.

She also found herself wondering if he was one of the navis she needed to keep an eye on. If she hadn't already met HoistMan, she might assume that was him, given that he was, well, hoisted from the ceiling. Could he be TurfMan? She didn't really see how that added up, given how much more readily the others suited their names... Maybe she'd encounter TurfMan later on. Anyways, for now, she was moving on to the next room, seeing as she didn't seem to be needed here.

The appearance of the next room was somewhat clever, but also somewhat scary, and not in the traditional haunted house sense... Slay was already sort of worried for her sexy friend and was now moreso given that the white pass customers would essentially be meeting said friend on a bed. She really ought to go somewhere else so that she could cover more ground... but she really didn't want to leave Pyre alone in a room like this. "Yes, I'd like to be on... yanking duty," she murmured, feeling silly as she said it. "Blue guests are sent on through, white guests are pulled through... got it."

Her head was beginning to hurt as she pondered how she was supposed to snuff out clues in this sort of situation. Hopefully, she'd find an opportunity as the event went on...as the next matter of business, once she'd moved to where the yanking Progs were, she'd take a look around for cameras. She thought to herself that mid-yank would be a good chance to question people. But would visitors know anything about the shady dealings? Of course, if there were any cameras when she made her look around, she'd be forced to admit that staying here was a bad idea and might have to find a way to move on, to some less heavily surveyed area.
Pyre didn't physically react to Slay's message, but instead sent one of her own.

Quote (Pyre)

Not sure, but Rael did say some programs enjoy it enough to go through multiple times. Some may enjoy the rush, or see it as a challenge. "Do what you fear and fear disappears," so they say.
She followed along with Slay, seemingly unfazed by the odd chair contraption and the Navi being hoisted/dismembered by the chains overhead.

The prog's ears perked up at Slay's response and nodded. "Ah, good! C'mon over, we got a decent spot for ya to wait between guests. How about that trigger, blondie? The camera on the ceiling is on the fritz, so Rein can't tell us if the guest is blue or white," the Prog replied with a level of excitement towards Slay, but its tone seemed to lower to a more critical tone when it questioned Pyre. "Oh, um... give me a moment, I'd probably grab the guest's hand if they're wearing the blue wristband, oh right, you wouldn't see them. Um... Pyre sputtered as she appeared to become flustered, but she pointed a hand towards the Prog with a single upright index finger, prompting the program to wait a moment.

She seemed to be momentarily lost in thought, a moment too long to the Prog's liking apparently. "Alright, we'll let miss airhead sort it out. C'mon in," the Prog declared and lifted the curtain slightly with its body to give Slay an opening to move through. The curtain wasn't especially heavy or thick, but it had enough material to make it impossible to see anything other than rough figures on the other side. Once she got through, she'd get a better picture of the area's true setup: the canopy-styled bed was only part of a larger room, with a large tunnel with a "bridge" going through a series of counter-rotating rings, and the side from which she exited appeared to have a "landing pad" of sorts to deposit the yanked guests. A slot-shaped aperture was in the opposite wall, which suggested the guests would be forcibly shunted through and into another section of the haunt. A few matte black chairs were positioned a few feet away from the pad, suggesting the performers could actually take a load off while waiting between guests. While the lights were still on, Slay saw the tell-tale reflection of a camera lens in the corner of the room just above the tunnel entrance, but it looked like it's view of the pad and shunting area was obscured by the canopy bed.

Slay's attention would be eventually shifted back to the bed, as Pyre cautiously pulled some of the curtains to the side so she could poke her head through and address the group. Sorry for the delay, but I have an idea for a "trigger." Instead of saying "come, I have much to show you" to the 'blue' guests, I can say something like "so, are you ready?" to 'white' guests in a more foreboding tone, maybe punctuated with a laugh?" she suggested, and sent a private message to Slay.

Quote (Pyre)

Maybe you could use your knife to slash at the curtains to reach in and grab the guest? You could use that moment to get a good look at them, or even get a moment to question them if they seemed suspicious; the curtains seem to obscure vision a bit, but do little to muffle sound.
The fact that the camera was out of whack seemed like a stroke of good fortune. She spotted another camera (or perhaps the same camera), but it looked like it wasn't positioned well to record her position regardless. The yanking spot would be a great place to remain after all, if there was no way camera surveillance could pick up on it. With any luck, there might be someone else looking to do some shady dealings without scrutiny from the cameras, who would perhaps choose to discuss those dealings in such a place. She could kill two birds with one stone, this way. On the other hand, she felt a little bad for her partner, who seemed like she was having greater expectations levied on her. "Hopefully, while she focuses on the job, I'll be able to focus on the mission. That way, I can make it up to her," Slay reasoned to herself, her dark eyes watching Pyre with a glum, unreadable expression.

As if to punctuate the thought about Pyre, the girl herself reappeared (or rather, her head did), and offered a thought about the code words she ought to use. "That ought to be fine," Slay agreed. She also took a moment to respond to the message she'd received:

Quote (Slay)

Yes, I'll plan to do that. My hope is that maybe, if something criminal is going on, the perpetrators will think this spot is unassuming and conduct their business around here. There's a resting area nearby that seems a likely location, although only for workers. Until I know at least a starting point of what sort of crime is being committed, I won't really have any way to question anyone... though, if we see someone especially suspicious, I'll make an excuse. We can keep up private communications, at least, so let me know if you see anything that seems suspicious and I'll do likewise.

"Ready for yanking," Slay informed Pyre and the nearby Progs. It was intended as a joke, but coming out of her monotone voice, it sounded like she was just tonedeaf enough not to understand that it was silly to keep phrasing it that way. "Let's see what we've gotten ourselves into..."