The Office of Syne.EXE

Outside of the office of the Number 3 ranked NetPolice Internal Affairs officer, Syne.EXE, stood a different woman: those familiar with Syne would know it wasn't her; the person she was looking for her might not, except that she already had a name. The Navi, presumably Late, stood at average height, holding two mugs of hot coffee and blowing on one before taking a thirsty sip. She was decked out in a dark purple outfit like a police officer's uniform, but short-sleeved and relatively short-skirted, with a matching badged cap, dark pantyhose, black high heels, and long, black gloves. She was an attention-catching young woman, with fair skin, dark makeup, a neatly combed lilac-colored bob of hair, and a decent figure, but looked like she was still shaking off sleepiness as she chased her coffee buzz. Her eyes were covered by a black eye mask, over which pure-white eyes were currently curved into half-shut parabolas.

Judging by the fact that she was standing in the hallway waiting for Pirouette to approach, it stood to reason she was anxious to head in, as she wasn't even setting down the other mug. That goal seemed at odds with her obvious desire to finish her coffee, but duty probably came first. Occasionally, another office member would rush by: as though by instinct, she'd lean out of the way, colliding shoulder-first with the wall and propping herself there before peeling herself back off and into a proper standing position.
((Pirouette, jacking in from -> The Swan Theatre))

When Pirouette arrived from the link she'd been given, the expanding oval of white swan feathers burst and scattered to reveal the ballerina in her newer and much more business serious outfit.

Her uniform sported a narrow-profile peaked cap, the body of it white, while the sides and brim were a dark blue. A broad band of checkered white and blue circled the body of the cap and an emblem representing the NP sat proud in the front centre. Her hair was still pinned back in a tight bun, but the cap covered it comfortably, from all appearances.

Aside the police-girl hat, she was wearing a white collared dress shirt with a feminine tailored fit, underneath a blue blazer, with front breast pockets, the left of which displayed a silver-worked badge on a black backing, also of the NP logo. Here, too a white and blue checkered strip was present, running down the length of the blazer, on the side opposite the badge. Despite the full covering jacket appearance, her wings poked up visibly behind her shoulders; the back of both the dress shirt and the blazer were tailored specifically to create space for her wings to move freely.

A belt at her waist held a clipped on pocket book, and also seemed to have holstered attachment points for other, presumably police-related, objects. Underneath, a short pencil skirt in the same blue as the rest of the uniform's theme reached only as far as her upper thigh, while her legs were covered by Opaque white panty-hose to keep the shortness of the skirt from being too questionable. A set of dark blue flats completed the outfit, and Pirouette putting her heels together and removed the hat, putting it under one arm as she looked around.

Given the arrival location, Pirouette was only able to guess that the individual in front of her was probably the navi she was supposed to contact. She was relieved to gather that the navi seemed to actually be wearing something identifiable as police uniform, though their colour choices seemed to be at least partially in opposition to each other. No matter, it would all come out in the wash once it was formalised, she hoped. Instead, she took a deep breath, ruffled and settled her wings, then stepped forward to greet the navi that was waiting for her.

It was only as she stepped up that she noticed the... eye mask? Odd... although, it didn't seem as though she was hindered by it, all things considered. She extended a hand as though to shake, but was half expecting to have one of the cups put into her hand instead, all things considered.

"Good morning! Ms. Late, I presume? Pirouette. Nice to meet you. Are you well? Perhaps we may talk about the task that needs doing today, yes?" She held her hat underneath her arm, but kept her other hand resting neatly in front of her waist, her focus on the woman she was addressing.
The sleepy Navi perked up as soon as Pirouette arrived, either having finally met her caffeine quota or eager to make a good first impression. Fully opened, her eyes went from crescents to nearly full moons as she looked Pirouette's sharp outfit over, nodding occasionally. As her junior officer expected, the Navi handed over a mug instead of a handshake, putting her now-free right hand to her chin and smiling. "Morning. The pleasure's all mine, Pirouette! And yeah, I'm fine, I'm just... used to working the night shift. That's an important first meeting thing I've always gotta tell people when we first meet. I'm not 'Late' as in 'comes in later than she's supposed to,' I'm 'Late' as in 'stays as late as it takes to get the job done!'"

"We'll get to the mission right away, but first, let me say... you and I are on the same wavelength, Pirouette. Seriously, how crazy is it that nobody wears a uniform around here? And yours is so great, it has it all! Cute, stylish, a little sexy, but professional... if all of us dress like that, I don't know how the guys are gonna get any work done. Actually, on that note, did you come up with one for guys?"

"Are you about done with your briefing, Officer Late?" Another speaker's teasing voice came from the doorway, where the office door had swung inward. The speaker was stepping out, though, allowing the girls a bit to make space. The woman, known as one of Internal Affairs' lead dispatchers, was a bit shorter than either of her junior officers. She also hadn't gotten the memo about wearing a uniform, and was instead dressed in an ordinary teal-green Navi suit, lightly armored by a chest-plate with a high-tech module of some sort in the center, possibly a type of projector. Other than that, her outfit was non-descript, but was made up for by her luxurious brown locks and thin figure. She was currently carrying a brown file folder, which she held up with a smile before passing it to Late. "Actually, it's better that you don't seem to have gotten to the meat of it, like, at all. The new information's all in there. I'm sorry to say it's gotten more serious."

Late took the case with a frown, although she didn't look too upset. "Syne, ma'am! This is Pirouette. She just joined up with us recently."

"Of course. Hmm, I kind of want to, like, do a nickname, though. Pirouette's too long. Is Piro fine?" The ranked Navi grinned, although she seemed like she'd go along with whatever Pirouette said in spite of her aggressive attempts to feel out her comfort zone. "Anyway, Bayonette already told me a bit about her."

"With due respect, ma'am... Bayonette talked to you about her?" Late inquired with an eyebrow raise, accompanied by a shift of her mask-eyes.

"Oh, I know, but everyone talks to me! And, you know, she technically reports under me, so if I really wanna know anything, I can just make her tell me." She had a quick laugh before setting her focus back on Pirouette. "That's all just joking, of course, I don't, like, throw my weight around for gossip. Anyway, Late, let's make this a brief brief. You can talk to Pirouette to fill her in on the rest while you walk, but I'll tell you what's changed: The Investigations department got deeper into the records on TrailingMan's activities. I know it's not what you want to hear, but it doesn't look good. Their investigation already has him figured."

Late frowned as she held the case file open with one hand, taking a sip of her coffee. That seemed to put her in a better mood than whatever she was hearing or reading could counter, as she looked back at Syne with a confident smile. "Don't worry, ma'am, I'm sure when we talk to the guy it'll all-"

Syne held up a hand, looking sympathetic, but also tense. "I'm sorry, Late, but it's past that. You two aren't Investigations. The investigation's already done, and I'm counting on you two to handle the department discipline. Pirouette," she said, turning from Late, "Your job will be to assist Late if she needs it, and to provide a brief report of the meeting. The information should all be there for you. Bayonette said you're, like, super detailed, so I'm sure you've got this."

Pirouette's partner finally seemed to have settled into the reaction Syne was looking for, staring pensively at the information in front of her and across her mug. "I got it, ma'am. Er, we got it. Right, Pirouette? I'll fill you in on everything we need to know as we head down to... holding," she said, sipping her coffee quietly.

Her commanding officer gave her a nod, then smiled between the two of them. "Don't forget, I'll be giving you two a performance evaluation when you're done. But like, no pressure! Anything else for me before I get back to the grindstone? Please tell me you do, cause like... this office is killing me. I miss the Net War. Am I allowed to say that? I miss active deployment! Ugh," she sighed, rolling her eyes before returning them to Pirouette.
After she'd greeted officer Late, Pirouette absently accepted the drink instead of the shake, but was nevertheless pleasantly surprised and a little relieved to hear the other woman give a somewhat more charitable appraisal of her first impression. She nodded along with a pleasant smile; more likely it was 'late' just simply for late-shift, she wagered, but if the woman wished to represent an attitude towards her work with the name, then it was a positive one she was pushing for. Her warm smile faltered just for a moment as Late side-tracked onto her uniform. It was nice to have it complimented of course, and to find someone who was interested in putting forward a proper showing, but the tail end of the comment made her smooth the front of her skirt and resist the suddenly strong urge to tug the ends of it down just a little more.

"Yes, well, I would hope it would be with proper professionalism, no? I made this outfit for myself, though anyone could use it, you know, but I think that the men folk... they would prefer something different. I hope to—" she trailed off speaking as another voice brought a more mission-minded focus to their conversation. She held her quiet while the two more senior officers exchanged words, though her brow furrowed slightly as the new arrival directed a question to her. Her wings ruffled slightly.

"With respect no. Pirouette is my name, ma'am, and I find its length to be quite suitable." She was relieved that Syne didn't appear too fussed about pushing the matter, however, and nodded head in a polite thanks for respecting her wish. The rest of Syne's casual delivery threw Pirouette off slightly, and she found the lazy way of talking unbecoming of a superior officer but did her best to let the niggles scuttle away underneath a smooth an poised expression without showing.

From the sound of things, a she listened, they wee being sent to deliver discipline to another NP member who had been investigated and found at fault, or something to that extent, though, alongside her, Late didn't seem convinced. She nodded as Syne gave her her own portion of the instructions. She raised her eyebrows slightly at the rest of Syne's complaint, but there was a certain amount of humour in it, and she chose to interpret it as such.

"I think perhaps it might be best not to say such things too loudly, no? Regardless, if I may, Ma'am... In brief, the situation is that Investigations have found this member to be at fault, or otherwise worthy of disciplinary measures, you know, and we are tasked with determining the discipline to be taken and handing it down, yes?" Provided she got a confirmation of that, or a correction, Pirouette nodded once more then took a brief step back, before falling in with Late to get going on their business.

"So, Officer Late, please do tell. You are acquainted with this TrailingMan, no? What are the known details, and perhaps also, you could tell me why officer Syne had a look of such sympathy for you, when she reported Investigations' new findings, yes?" she walked in step with the other woman, gliding delicately one foot to the next, but casually took note of where they were heading in between casing her eyes across to her companion. After all, she wasn't exactly familiar with the facility yet, and that was something she'd probably need to get used to at some stage.

Syne smiled in response to Pirouette's warning about what she ought to speak aloud, looking like she had some stories she wanted to tell. "Yeah, you're right. Let's keep that little outburst of mine to ourselves... The three of us can joke about these things, but there are some people in this office that, like, keep their stuffed shirts on and buttoned while they sleep, you know? Anyway, in brief, that's right. As much as I wanna be the one rattling off the details, there's protocol involved, and I'm supposed to 'delegate,'" she said distastefully, air-quoting with her fingers. "Officer Late needs the training, anyhow. She'll be doing most of the heavy lifting here. Your job will mostly be to assist in any tasks she needs and, like I said, provide a brief report. Probably wouldn't hurt to, like, take some notes while you're in the meeting. Late will explain the report procedure to you, as well." She let out a little sigh, then turned back into her office, pausing halfway through the door. "I'm looking forward to seeing your report! Ciao for now, Officers."

Late didn't respond to the farewell, still sipping her coffee as she finished scanning what appeared to be the last page of the briefing. While Pirouette was ready to get moving, it took Late a moment more of consideration before she began leading the way, heading down the hall only a short distance before swerving to the right and opening a door to a winding concrete stairwell. The acoustics around them made Late's voice, which was coming out quietly, echo for them all the same. "You picked up on that, huh? That's a little embarrassing, sheesh..." The officer laughed without humor as she descended the spiral, one hand on a metal handrail, moving with undue care.

"Okay, so, the business out of the way first. TrailingMan is one of our more experienced mission dispatchers here. Before you showed up, he'd already been telling me this crazy story about how Investigations was harassing him because he, I don't know, gave out some illegitimate missions or something? See, because of his experience, TrailingMan is authorized to dispense classified or confidential missions to both NP and GNA assets... Well, that was an ongoing investigation to the best of my knowledge, but it looks like they found what they were looking for. The report says it's Mafia!" she revealed, with a snort of laughter. "Can you believe it? Double agent, subterfuge-type stuff!"

The officer continued to walk ahead of her junior, picking up the pace slightly while gesturing with her folder-carrying hand. "That's like finding out your best friend is a .GMO for Drakkas, you know... oh, er, yeah, so that's the gist of the set up. But, trust me, this whole thing is gonna be a funny story by the time the night shift rolls around! Yeah, me and TrailingMan normally keep each other company when the office empties out because all the regular daylight-observing Navis and their operators hit the hay. If you're a night person, I'll see if I can make you the third member of our exclusive club."

By this point, if Pirouette tried to get a word in edgewise without raising her voice, she'd find that Late's conversation kept spilling out, forbidding any interruption. She reached a heavier door that appeared to have an electronic lock one story from the bottom. She continued dishing even as she held the door for Pirouette (the lock didn't seem to be engaged at the moment). "Anyway, since Syne is lead dispatcher she knows him well, and I guess she knows how we hang out by extension. Or she might even be into him? Trust me, you'll get it when you see him... if you're not a night owl, you might become one when you get a look at the sights you get to see when you're up late here, if you catch my drift... b-but don't tell him I said that!" she implored, finally pausing and entreating Pirouette directly. "I'm, uh, kinda keeping that aspect on the down low. Don't want him to think I'm perving on him or anything..."

By the time they reached what appeared to be the lobby to holding, Late had said a lot and yet, probably, not enough. The holding lobby was reminiscent of a doctor's office waiting room, but with the relaxing colors replaced with a white paint and dark blue accents. There were a number of armless plastic chairs to sit in, and a front desk attended by a heavy-set man with a light-brown armor. A heavy, metal blue door was in a recessed wall between two potted plants at the side of the wall behind the desk. The desk keeper seemed light on customization, with a only his light-to-dark brown color scheme setting his armor pattern apart from a standard NormalNavi. The only differences in his armor were an open helmet, which revealed a face with no nose, a heavy jaw set in a frown, and heavy-lidded dark brown eyes, and a pair of huge, black, downward-pointed wedge-shaped armor pieces at his shoulders: a recessed slot in the forearm armor would suggest they probably folded out somehow. The Navi had been reading a paper, but upon the two entering, he'd fix his eyes on them. It was the kind of stare that would make a guilty person start to sweat, and it didn't seem like his attention would leave them until they stated their business...

Which would make the current situation awkward, as if Pirouette wanted any further explanation, she was likely going to have to get it in front of the lobby keeper. If she didn't act quickly, it looked like Late was going to press right on to speak with the large stranger.
As they walked, Pirouette listened to Late's description of the situation with a quiet calm. She nodded along at the story, but in a gap spoke up, frowning softly as she turned her head to look towards Late.

"I will try to make myself available as I am needed, of course, but I have many other engagements on my time. I work with my operator instructing ballet students, and you know, that must continue to be my focus before other things, no? So... They say that TrailingMan himself has been working for the Mafia, yes? Or is it that something he has done has allowed them to interfere in some way? There is a large difference between some negligence and a turn-coat, you know."

The opportunities to answer became few and far between after that initial exclamation break, and Pirouette found herself simply listening as they travelled the rest of the way, unconsciously memorising what she could of the direction they were taking and noting nay actual signage that existed. A small smile curled one edge of her lips at Late's confession of attraction, and subsequent half-stammered recovery. In a brief moment, her thoughts drifted to a different Net Police member, but she got her mind back on track quickly enough, nodding politely to the other woman's slightly more pointed plea not to tell.

It sounded like that was all she was going to get for background information, however, as Late led her into what she had to presume was the holding room. She let her eyes travel over the navi that awaited them, but assumed that he was more likely the holding cell warden, rather than the man they were, apparently, coming to see. She held back the urge to introduce herself right away; this was Late's duty for the time being and she was mainly here to assist and observe, so she let the other woman take the lead, figuratively speaking. Physically she remained in step with her, presenting a teamed front along with the complimenting, if pattern-opposed uniforms they both wore.

While she let Late state their business and intention, Pirouette listened and scanned the rest of the chamber with her gaze, in between giving a polite nod tot he man in the room. Given Late's description, she'd be very surprised if this turned out to be the sight-seeing attraction of the night shift, but she wasn't about to make an audible assumption either way. Instead, she pulled her notebook and quill from its band on her belt, holding the items neatly in clasped hands at her waist for now.

"Oh! Right, of course," Late broke from her monologue, acknowledging Pirouette's point. "I'm one of those Navis where the operator really only thought as far as wanting a day planner and technical assistant when they made their Navi. Since I had a good work ethic and all the leftover time, I treat this basically as a full-time job. Unfortunately, unless you have that kind of time to spare, dispatch work probably won't be your primary field... Well, you can still pop in and shoot the breeze when you feel like it. We won't kick you out or anything."

The officer clearly shifted moods again as she considered Pirouette's second question, though she presented it as simply turning her focus back to work, looking straight ahead again and walking more briskly. "Some of the information Investigations uncovered is still at a redacted level of classification, even for me... But yeah, allegedly, his classified dispatch messages have contained coded messaging that Investigations has tied to ongoing NetMafia activity. The allegation is that he's divulging sensitive NetPolice information to supposedly neutral GNA workers, who are, in fact, undercover NetMafia agents... Sounds a little far-fetched, doesn't it? I thought the GNA had a whole screening thing to stop that from happening..."

Late continued doing most of the talking, and that trend continued as she greeted the worker. "Officer Late and Officer Pirouette here. Warden WedgeMan, we're here to speak with TrailingMan in block 6."

"Uh-huh," the larger Navi replied, keeping his eyes on the speaker. "You, I know. You're normally up in dispatch, right? What brings you down to holding?"

"Actually, a dispatch-related disciplinary matter with TrailingMan," Late replied, looking down but keeping the sigh out of her voice. It was clear from her tone that she intended to keep it mostly business while speaking with the warden. "Pirouette here is the officer has been assigned as the second, in charge of reporting."

"Uh-huh," he replied again, turning his attention to Pirouette. "You, I haven't seen. What's your story? New?"

Late would give Pirouette a chance to make this part of the introduction herself, if she chose; otherwise, after that brief pause, she'd confirm WedgeMan's assumption.

"Fair enough. Shouldn't be a problem. The room TrailingMan is in is confirmed secure. Not often you see that for one of ours, but whatever. That's your business. My business is to take the two of you there, stand outside the door, make sure I don't see nobody going in or out that isn't supposed to be. That double clear for you, newbie? In case you're part of our Mafia problem." The Navi gave a hard chuckle and a smirk: his gruff demeanor made it hard to tell if that was a friendly rib or a warning. "When the door's shut, you press the button on the other side when you want me to open it. Otherwise, it's locked. No sound comes out, so your chat stays private. Clear, newbie? Questions?"

The warden would wait silently a moment to see if she had anything else he needed to answer. Meanwhile, Late would begin to step forward, heading for the door to the next room. WedgeMan held out a hand to stop her, indicating that he was answering questions first, and if they didn't all go in together, nobody was going in. Late gave it a bit more patience. Then, if Pirouette didn't have any questions for them, they'd all head in.

The hall beyond the heavy door was all solid concrete and not as well lit: WedgeMan led the way down a corridor lined by electronically locked doors on each side, stopping at third set. The blue-painted door on their right had a "6" stenciled on it in black. Pirouette could see there were a number of other doors down the hall, a total of 8 on each side. Not all of them looked the same: notably, it appeared the lock was not a persistent feature on each, and some appeared to be more heavily reinforced. The hall itself was completely empty, and only the sound of highly muffled and unintelligible conversation and a green-lit buzzer instead of a red over door 9 would indicate any of the others were in use. The light on their door was green: evidently, it indicated whether it was locked in use by NetPolice agents, and not whether it was simply occupied.

Late would give WedgeMan a quick nod, which would lead him to unlock the door by placing his hand on the electronic lock. The business-minded officer headed in immediately, which, if Pirouette for some reason chose, would leave her briefly alone with WedgeMan. If, on the other hand, Pirouette had no desire for some one-on-one time speaking to the gruff gatekeeper, she could join Late inside.

Pirouette might recognize the inside from any number of cop shows: it was sparsely decorated, with a metal table, three small metal chairs with built-in arm rests, and a camera. The two chairs were set up opposite the third, in which the Navi TrailingMan must sit: the fairly tall Navi was mostly defined by his armor, a sleek, dark blue design made to look like a trenchoat. The Navi's face was entirely covered by a gun-metal colored mask, simplistic in design and containing only two angular eyeholes, while his dark hair was combed back and tied into a ponytail. The eyeholes probably afforded him sight, but where recessed in the mask's shade and didn't give a look at his own eyes. He appeared to have a full-body Navisuit of midnight blue beneath the trenchcoat. His hands were hidden inside the folds of his coat, but it was apparent that he was handcuffed, as a chain snaked from inside the coat and into a block on the table. His armor appeared to have a number of small, mechanical vents along the back, at the shoulders and around the tails of his coat... His design might be sexy from an aesthetic or technological standpoint, but Pirouette might have to use her imagination a bit to imagine how sexy the rest of him was. "Late," his voice spoke up after a pause, smooth and clear in spite of his mask. In that pause, the door was closed behind them, and the lock engaged. "You're here to bust me out?"

"Sure thing, Man!" the officer responded in her lighthearted, familiar tone, before drawing a sharp breath as she seemed to suddenly remember what she was here for. "No, no I'm not. TrailingMan, what's going on? What've you gotten yourself into?"

"Don't make me say it," the Navi told her with a self-conscious laugh, shifting in his seat. "You've got the info right there in that folder, don't you? I'm sure Syne wouldn't have passed it on to you if she didn't think it was complete... Ugh, I'm in a jam this time."

"Well, c'mon, tell me about it!" Late interrupted sharply, no longer seeming to be in a joking mood. "What's the mixup?"

"Sure, but first, take a seat. Hey, and who are you?" TrailingMan would speak, acknowledging Pirouette for the first time. "You must be new... I'm TrailingMan, I work in dispatch. Have a seat and I'll tell you two what's going on."
Pirouette continued to nod and listen to her companion, taking in what information she could while being polite. By the sound of Late's description, the actual incident could have been the result of a few different possibilities, some more incriminating than others, but she'd have to wait and hear what TrailingMan himself had to say before she could make any kind of informed opinion. At best case, it sounded like he might have been unknowingly passing information that was more sensitive than he knew, to individuals that he believed were neutral... at worst though, it was far worse, to say the least. By the time the warden asked her a question directly, however, she inclined her head and offered a brief micro-curtsy, one foot ducking back behind the other with a very slight bend on the knees.

"Yes, Good evening. Officer Pirouette, as she says, yes? I have only recently joined, and I am here today mostly to observe and act as a second set of eyes on the handling of this matter, and to assist Officer Late if she requires it, you know. It is good to make your acquaintance."

Her introduction didn't seem to cause any additional problems, at least, and before long the two of them were being taken through to the holding cell where Late's colleague was being kept. She looked around at the moderately clinical walls, letting her eyes trace the area, thought here wasn't too much to see really. She hadn't exactly expected anything lavish though, since it was a holding area, at the end of the day.

She shook her head to the warden's question-check; it all sounded fairly straight forward, and she assumed, if they were a professional organisation, that the matter would be safe for the officers involved regardless of the individual being held. She followed Late into the cell, glancing back only briefly as the door closed and sealed behind them both. the cell itself was about what she'd been imagining... even though that imagined idea was mostly built from crime-romance novels. while Late was quick to give a more familiar greeting, Pirouette remained back a step and watched the man they were apparently here to deliver sentence upon.

Safely shackled to the table, her eyes darted first down to the legs to see if his ankles were locked in as well; crime-romance told her that it was supposedly a good sign of how much of an actual threat the individual was considered. After a moment she shook the thought and tried to focus more clearly on the fact that this was serious and real, and that she should not, in fact, be basing any of her judgements on fiction novels. TrailingMan himself sounded pleasant enough; his voice had a nice cadence to it, at least, and his form looked well balanced, though she couldn't get a clearer look at his definition just yet, no matter Late's talking up of the man. She wondered if this meant that Late frequently got to see more of him that was currently on display, and then tried her best to banish the thought quickly.

When he turned his gaze to her, Pirouette nodded her head to him in return, though she allowed Late to take a seat first, and took one for herself only if there was room. Out of habit, when she did, she turned the chair sideways to prevent the back from interfering with her wings, whether it was actually a risk of doing so or not.

"Officer Pirouette, Internal Affairs. I am just here to observe and assist Officer Late today, you know, though I am very much interested in hearing what you have to say, alongside the documents we have, no?" Given his restraints, she resisted the normal politeness of extending a hand to shake, but placed her hat on the table in front of her neatly, with her hands folded on top. "Perhaps if you explain your situation to us both as best you can, yes? Then Late can relay Investigations' findings to you after that, perhaps." She smiled, trying to come across as reassuring as she could. She really wanted to hear more details from both sides before she made up her own mind; as much as the findings were already made, and it was just their job to administer correct discipline, the impression she had was that the actual sentence given afforded them some lee-way, so, there was room for a sensitive or lenient course of discipline if it was warranted... and for a harder punishment if it wasn't.
WedgeMan didn't seem to mind Pirouette's concise introduction, and things proceeded on course from there, transferring Pirouette and her senior officer from the lobby to the holding hall and, finally, the holding room.

Observing the room's only occupant, Pirouette would note he didn't have any kind of shackle to restrain his legs. The table appeared to be solidly attached to the floor, however, so he wouldn't have a range of movement around (or outside) the room. Due to the man's mask, it was hard to tell if he'd seen her looking for it or not.

Since WedgeMan didn't follow them in, there were just enough chairs for Late and Pirouette to each have one. Late took her seat first, followed by her junior. TrailingMan heard Pirouette out, keeping his unreadable face turned to her. He seemed to relax a bit after he heard her introduction, leaning back. Evidently, that position wasn't comfortable with the chains, however, so he leaned forward a bit again to allow his arms to rest on the table. "Good. My pleasure to meet you, Pirouette, and I'll be happy to lay out the situation. I'll be interested to hear your side of it after. I've heard a lot of it, but I don't know if there's some new allegations Investigations came up with since they put me in here..."

"I would hope there are," Late interrupted, raising an eyebrow. "Man, if you'd seen what was in this folder, I don't think you'd be this chilled out."

"You know I'm always chilled out, Late," TrailingMan responded with a bit of a chuckle. "Well, let me get my part out of the way first. As you know, as a lead dispatcher, I am responsible for some sensitive dispatches. Classified missions, that sort of thing. Often this specifically applies to missions dispensed through the GNA to assets that aren't NetPolice. The short version is that some of those assets turned out to be undercover NetMafia agents. Obviously, for such important and sensitive missions, I submitted those potential prospects for internal review, but apparently, they weren't flagged. The NetMafia agents, typically, managed to complete the missions as requested without raising any concerns during. Nothing in the post-op review, either. But those boys were one step ahead of us. We've had a number of... concerning failures. Areas hit for Mafia operations, stealing, subterfuge, hacking that required foreknowledge or access Investigations believes came from those dispatches. And, unlucky me, as the guy handling most of our covert ops, that put me in a spotlight."

"But did your dispatches have anything to do with that securing that information or access that went above or beyond the mission objective?" Late inquired, glancing through the file as she talked.

"You know I'm thorough," HiddenMan replied evenly, tilting his head slightly. "I do my own research on the mission requirements and I try to help the potential asset along."

"So things here, like... Mission to perform reconnaissance at a bar. Your orders: dispatch an unaffiliated resource to monitor the bar, see if any Mafioso appeared. Your mission dispatch recommended the client also keep an eye on the stage show. An undercover NetPolice operative was performing in that show. That operative's cover was compromised shortly after. Investigations suspects you had knowledge of the NetPolice operative undercover, and your "extra advice" was a tip-off to get them looking somewhere they might have otherwise ignored." Late's eyes traveled from the file to her friend as she spoke, keeping her voice even to match his own.

TrailingMan remained quiet for a while, then chuckled again, looking at his hands. "Heh. See my luck? I try to expect a little more from the GNA client, make sure our bases are covered and we see the two possible entry points for the Mafia, and it's my luck I've pointed them to one of our undercovers."

Late's eyes widened a bit as she struggled to keep her face even. "So you really didn't know?"

"Of course not," TrailingMan said, this time with little humor. "If you follow the records, you'll also see that I had nothing to do with the NetPolice operative's dispatch. I had no idea she was there."

Late thumbed through the file a while longer. "... That checks out. So, what, you're saying if we go over all... ten or twelve cases here, we're going to find out the NetPolice's misfortune was paved by your good intentions every time?"

"That's exactly what I'm saying. You know my luck," TrailingMan replied, hanging his head. Late laughed along with him on this, the two apparently sharing a inside joke. "In all seriousness, though, Late, I'm glad you're the one here. I'm not so stupid that I can't see how bad this looks for me. If it wasn't you, I don't think I'd be convincing the person across the table to hear me out. Look, I know it's asking a lot, but why don't we go through these one by one? I'm sure I can convince you this is just my same old unlucky streak. You can make an appeal on my account. And once this is all over, we'll talk about how to improve dispatch procedures to stop this from happening again. You know there's no one here better qualified to do that than us."

Late crossed her arms, then turned to Pirouette, still serious, but pleading with her eyes. "What do you think? This is my important detail, so I've got time to sit here and go through all of this, but I don't know about you..."

"I'd really appreciate your cooperation, Pirouette," TrailingMan added, turning back to her and sounding hopeful. "Unfortunately, Late and I are buddies, so she's not exactly impartial. I'm not your buddy, not yet, so maybe you can serve as the final call."
With a polite nod to TrailingMan, Pirouette took her seat after Late, then let her eyes trace what she could see of his features while he discussed the charges with Late, and the other officer listed what her file claimed. For her part, Pirouette kept quiet at first. As expected, Late presented him with the first piece of claim evidence and waited for a reaction, which was proper, though after TrailingMan's explanation the other woman seemed a little too eager to immediately buy up his explanation. Pirouette maintained her own composure, though it was much easier to do hen she had no real familiarity with either of the people in the room with her.

As she listened, however, an issue caught her ear. At a relaxed pace, she drew out the same small black notebook she'd used previously, this time being able to lift it directly from her uniform rather than summoning it from the air. The quill she still had to call directly, which vaguely spoiled the image, but there wasn't any practical place to store a full writing quill on a police uniform, and she would prefer not to resort to a clip pen, if she could. Oh well.

She flipped the book open to a clean page and wrote some title notes; the basics of the case that had been presented to her by Late and the bones of the details for the people involved. As the two continued to converse, she took some extra notes; TrailingMan had seemed both surprised and unknowing that his actions had caused a compromise, when he first responded to the allegation. His reaction had been on of initial ignorance that such a compromise had even occurred. Below that, she wrote a second note; "I had no idea she was there." She underlined the fifth word lightly. Late, of course, had not specified the gender of the compromised operative, and if he had really been as ignorant of the compromise as he had first claimed then Late's words should have been all he had to go on.

There could, she supposed, be other innocuous explanations, and in her mind she made sure she could think of at least one innocent possibility, before electing not to say anything just yet and let the pair continue. It was a yellow flag, not a red one, unless more signs showed up. She was, in truth, just as concerned by Late's swift and easy acceptance of the explanation. When the question was put to her, Pirouette nodded and smiled gently towards TrailingMan.

"Da, I understand that it might be irksome for you, but before we deliver the discipline of the findings, I would very much like to hear the other cases involved, you know, and your own part in them, TrailingMan, yes?" She looked across to Late and made a small wave with the hand holding her quill. "Please do continue, officer Late. After all, if the circumstances are truly mitigating, then the discipline we hand down for the findings can always reflect that, no?" And of course, she added mentally to herself, if the answers exposed more flags of questionable credibility, then they would be in the right handing down whatever full disciplinary action Investigations had recommended. Idly, she recrossed her legs, sitting with her chair turned out from the table as she was, to prevent her wings catching on anything.

"Please rest assured, TrailingMan, I intend to view this with the full impartiality and fairness expected of any NetPolice member. I am sure all will be well, no?" She shrugged her shoulders in a delicate ruffle and smiled for him again as she waited for Late to bring forward the next piece of case evidence.

Neither Late nor TrailingMan showed any visible reaction as Pirouette began taking notes on the conversation. Indeed, if they were the ones sharing in some sunny naivety of the situation's severity or Pirouette's internal assessment, neither seemed to realize Pirouette wasn't in the same position. "No, not irksome at all. If I could get a hundred officers to listen to me break down the circumstances right now, I would. It isn't lost on me that everyone here is Internal Affairs: the investigation is done, and you can bet I'm going to smile and say 'yes ma'am' to everything you say that isn't 'hand over your badge.'"

"'We really appreciate it," Late responded with a relieved smile, looking like she was forgetting a bit what side of the table she was on. She frowned again, turning her face back to TrailingMan. "Like she says, we'll go through this, but you've got to understand neither of us will go to bat for you if we aren't convinced. I've got my own credibility to worry about, and, needless to say, I can't ask Pirouette to."

"Of course," TrailingMan responded, his voice even again, as though preparing to slip back into the interrogation. "You're all right, Pirouette," he told her, a wink implied in his voice despite his impassive mask.

Late cleared her throat and turned papers in the folder, maoving on to the next case. "All right, let's try this one. A mission came in to plant an undercover reconnaissance agent in a comic convention... three, actually. You dispatched that mission, but you added to your response a particular split route the agents should take."

"I don't see how that's even being flagged," her coworker interrupted, sounding a bit indignant. "The report goes on to say when they all split up, a Mafia agent any of them should have been able to spot used timing in specific openings to slip through the show floor undetected and evade capture, right? So the implication is the extra info I added opened the way for that crook. But... look, there's so much wrong here. First of all, I submitted a complaint to the higher ups that civilians couldn't do that work, and you know why."

He paused, giving Late an opportunity to think it over herself. Late did so, coming to a conclusion after a while. "I know where you're going with it: a trained mafia operative can probably spot untrained civilians scouting for him in a crowd and avoid them easily enough. That's some speculation on the abilities both of the civilians and the mafia, though. Higher ups returned the argument that an official NetPolice presence would be disruptive to the event and possibly agitate the Mafia presence. The more important thing is... why that particular route? Why didn't you just tell them... you know, 'split up, go in three directions?'"

"Well.... Full disclosure. Two reasons. You remember I said I think ahead on this stuff, right? I knew that ordinarily that three-way split I recommended should have good coverage. On my honor, I swear I believe the only reason it didn't work is because our civilian agents gave tells that they were plants and spooked the Mafia. The other reason... uh, I had them pick up some comics for me."

"What the hell?!" Late shouted, rising from her seat and slamming her hands on the table. "You did what?"

"Calm down, I swear that was above board. Again, the routes they took gave them good coverage, and I correctly predicted just enough line time for them to get a good sweep of the area, secure the package, and move on."

"Man, 'secure the package?' You're really gonna slip that in there with official language like we're gonna forget you got civilian assets to by you freaking comic books on duty?!"

"That portion of the payment came directly from my own pocket. That's why it's not listed," TrailingMan insisted, leaning forward.

"Oh great, so there's unlisted payment that Investigations didn't even know about. Great." Late slumped back down in her seat, putting her hand to her forehead with her eyes narrowing to frustrated slits. "This isn't what I want to hear right now, man!"

"I told you, full disclosure," TrailingMan replied, leaning back again and turning his head a bit more sheepishly to Pirouette. "Uh, I know it's not a good look, but that aside... any questions? Like I said, open book."

"Do we... do we really wanna go through with this? Maybe we ought to just throw the book at him now," Late sighed, although it sounded like she was joking.
Pirouette nodded politely, her expression calm but neutral as the pair went back and forth. She scribed a few more lines, the white swan feather quill fluttering as she worked. She didn't know yet exactly what Investigations had recommended in terms of discipline, and finding the right moment to ask Late about that more closely was something she was keeping an ear out for. she had to wonder, though... if Investigations had indeed decided that TrailingMan was some kind of Mafia collaborator, then cutting him off hard might well be on their discipline card. She hadn't noted any particular reaction from Late when he made the half-joke, though, so it probably not that severe. Despite herself, she allowed the small curl of a smile touch her lips as he addressed her directly; the sound of his voice was pleasant to listen to.

The description of the next incident drew her attention back to what was important. It repeatedly struck Pirouette that there was an inherent problem with the way the Net Police seemed to have to rely on giving important mafia-related mission work to effectively untrained civilians for pay. If visible NP presence would have been a problem, that was precisely what under-cover officers were supposed to deal with. That was the sum of their job, really. It concerned her that TrailingMan had recommended a split and sweep pattern that, apparently left gaps in it that could be moved through, regardless of the competence of the sweepers, but the point that such tasks should not be put in civilian hands in the first place was a valid enough one to make, in her mind. She wrote another note.

"Tell me, TrailingMan..." She leaned forward a little here, lifting her quill and flicking her eyes up to him beneath her eyelashes.

"You have said you do research before dispatching, no? How much research did you do into the specific three civilian assets that were hired to perform this task? How much did you know about each of them before giving your recommendation?" She left the issue of comic-book pick up on its own, that one was open and shut improper and absolutely worth discipline of some measure on its own, without any further discussion. She made notes for whatever answer he gave, nodding along. To be honest, her suspicion was that he mainly researched the situation and the mission, and was probably light on research to the civilians that the mission was dispatched to.

"I see," She leaned back again and recrossed her legs, tapping the end of her quill against the top of her notebook. "So, then... the question, you know, is... Do you feel that you dispatched this particular mission properly and acted as a net police officer should in relation to it, TrailingMan? Do you believe your conduct in all matters related to this mission was correct and proper?" Her head tilted slightly. The question had to be taken mostly rhetorically given that he'd already admitted to the comic-book purchasing matter, but she was interested in hearing him out anyway before she continued.

"The civilians?" TrailingMan asked, sounding surprised at the line of questioning, but not necessarily shaken. "Well, naturally, I checked to make sure they weren't flagged with any known risk factors: NetMafia presence or associates, past poor mission performance, that sort of thing. I'll admit I didn't bring the full force of the NetPolice's information systems to bear on them. I know this might not be satisfactory for you, but the NetPolice doesn't have covert operatives available for every mission, and even if we do, there are benefits and consequences the higher ups weigh in each decision. I'm not privy to every zig and zag of the top brass's decision-making process on these matters, but I will say that we actually have a rather high rate of success with our civilian dispatch program. I'm sorry, I'm getting off topic: to answer your question, I knew names, I did a by-the-book background check, I got their own statements, and that was it."

"I think that's fair," Late input, gesturing with one hand while keeping the other behind her head. "Honestly, the best civilian asset where the mission is to see someone and not be recognized would be... someone not recognizable, right? Someone where nothing comes up when you do a search."

"Thanks, Late, but I think that might be over-simplifying it a bit." The two of them let it sit there while Pirouette felt TrailingMan out further on her next questions. The Navi paused as if considering, then folded his hands on the desk. "I made a judgment call to utilize the available assets in the way I found most effective, working with what we had available... which, I'll mention again, I already stressed to command was threadbare enough to, in my opinion, jeopardize the mission. My dispersal pattern optimized coverage and I don't believe there was or is reasonable evidence to conclude my added parameters negatively impacted the result. So, to answer your question, I feel I acted in fine accordance with my job statement. The outcome is unacceptable, to be sure, but I'm confident that's a flaw in the mission dispatch system that can be improved."

"I'm just not sure a panel of our peers would agree," Late commented, shaking her head pensively. "You'd better move onto the next one, Man, and hope they form a pattern that's a lot more positive than this episode."

TrailingMan only gave her a curt nod before facing straight again, waiting to see if Pirouette had any follow-up comments. If Pirouette started into any, however, she'd find it only a short time before she was interrupted, the door guarded by WedgeMan sliding open to reveal another large, bulky Navi, but of a completely different shape. This one was reminiscent of a coat/hatrack, in that they were ostensibly a large brown trenchcoat covered in black ink smudges with a fedora, and no visible head between the hat and the coat. Clearly, however, there must be some body underneath, as a set of purple-suited arms and legs came from the sleeves and bottom of the coat respectively, terminating in a set of thick brown leather gloves and boots. The thing must be a Navi, as a symbol on the front of the trenchcoat signified, displaying a black ink spot on a black-and-white striped background.

"Hey there, folks!" a chipper but mature female voice came from the coat as the fedora moved up and down, as though manipulated by a skilled puppeteer. The figure gave a small bow, revealing a short fan of dark black hair (?) that must be attached to the back of the fedora. "Coat, Investigations."

"Always a pleasure," Late replied, sounding a bit like she was forcing politeness. "This is Pirouette, I assume you haven't met...?"

"Afraid not!" Coat replied, crossing her arms and leaning against the frame of the door, taking up most of the doorway by herself. "I've heard a bit about you, though, Pirouette. Nobody's talking about how cute you are! Can you believe it? I hear you're not one to waste time, though, so I won't waste yours either. What's goin' on here? You guys have a little, uh... department shift? I didn't hear about? Cause you know I hear about most stuff!" Not seeing recognition in Late's eyes, the Navi tittered, then explained. "Investigations! I'm Investigations, you're Internal Affairs, right? Isn't this kinda funny, then, you guys doing some interrogating and me here asking about it? Role reversal! How fun!"

"Haha," Late chuckled, only barely feigning cordiality now. "Late, does Investigations have you on an order here?"

"Oh no! My order's done. You know. The order on... this talk drinka water over here!" The Navi pointed a finger at TrailingMan. "But I heard there was something interesting going on down here and I thought I'd like to sit in! Any problem with that? I was the one who did the investigation, after all. Maybe I can give you guys my viewpoint? I promise I'm not here just to meet cute with our cute new recruit. I can help!"

"Thanks, but I think your file is probably thorough enough," Late said with a tepid smile, shooting Pirouette a glance as if requesting her input. "Pirouette?" It wasn't clear if Late and Coat had some past history or if Late just didn't like her, but there was some obvious tension.

"Not that I wanna get involved, but this is their show," WedgeMan added from the hallway in his usual gruff tone. "Their business here is Internal Affairs. If you don't have an official reason to be here from Investigations, and you're telling me this is a pleasure visit... Unless they say they want you in, you're out."
Pirouette continued to listen and make notes in her little black book as TrailingMan answered her. Her features, she kept as calm and mostly impassive as she could, though the fluttering of the end of her quill grew slightly more pointed in various places. Her suspicion sounded like it was disappointingly accurate, but she nodded anyway, narrating one particular line of her notes aloud.

"Officer believes that requisitioning civilian assets to enact personal errands for off-record payment during an active mission is an appropriate use of authority and considers such abuse to be 'acceptable' conduct..." She looked up from her quill, unfazed in her expression. "Now, TrailingMan, you also tell me that you offered unsolicited and non-mission mandated 'advice' on how to conduct this mission, up to and including positioning and movement advice, to the civilians tasked with it, without researching their personal capabilities and specialities, potentially plotting and advising a method of activity that ran against the individuals' skill-sets and predilections; the potential exists that their skill-sets may have been better put to different positioning and uses for better effect, which they may have opted for, but for your unofficial advice muddying their decisions and preventing them from working to their best capability... And by your own words, you know, you consider, this, also, to be acceptable behaviour, and proper use of your position as dispatcher, yes? This too, I have noted." She glanced sideways at Late; while the other woman had been quick to assess his statement as Fair, it was clear to both of them that Pirouette did not consider it a good defence.

"If you do not have the information at your disposal, TrailingMan, do not give advice which requires you to have it, especially if it is not mandated by your duties. These are the basics of responsible conduct, no?" She drew a breath and arched her wings briefly, resettling them. As she was about to continue, however, their interview gained more sets of eyes... Or at least she presumed there was a set of eyes, hidden beneath the trench-coat and hat. Pirouette held her next remark, and instead turned her head to examine the one interrupting them; when the other navi introduced herself as a member of Investigations, responsible for, well, investigating this matter ahead of them, Pirouette nodded to her with a polite incline of her head and a downward cast to her eyes.

She froze for a moment, mid gesture, however, as the other navi jumped right into personal compliments immediately. A part of her preened, just a little bit, but this was also a serious investigation interview room and she felt one corner of her lip tighten slightly. She wanted, very much to be friendly, as she always did, but it was hard making as much effort to be serious as she was when everyone around her was being so alarmingly casual.

"Coat. It is a pleasure to meet you. We are here to deliver the appropriate discipline to TrailingMan for his actions, yes. I wished to speak with him first in order to better determine exactly what the best course of discipline would be, you know." She turned her face back towards TrailingMan and re-crossed her legs unconsciously, her chin slightly raised as she looked at him instead of Late or coat. When she spoke, however, it was clearly in a tone still directed to the two officers who weren't in trouble.

"I appreciate your interest, Officer Coat, But I do believe we will be fine. There is, however, one thing I may like to ask of you before you go. Since you are here," she didn't look away from TrailingMan, her eyes focused on his reactions. "Before we continue with the case review, perhaps you could tell us, in your own words, what your recommendation on file towards TrailingMan actually was. We will, of course, make our own decision on this matter, you know, but I think it might be good to hear what the initial recommendation for discipline was pencilled in as, yes?" As she pronounced the last word she tilted her head just enough to flick her eyes across to roughly where she guessed Coat's face must be hidden.

Both TrailingMan and Late looked like they had something they wanted to say in response to the junior officer's dressing down, but neither had time to get a word in before being interrupted by the new arrival. Coat drifted from the doorway along to the side of the table, drumming her fingers on it without rhythm as she drifted around the room. "The best course of discipline..." Coat parroted after Pirouette, not phrasing the thought as a question, necessarily, as she continued wandering behind the subdued TrailingMan. The accused had remained nearly silent since she had entered, but it remained difficult to get any read from body language as to why that might be the case.

Coat's hat popped up as she threw up her palms in an expression of shock as Pirouette declined her offer. "Oh! Well, it's actually Detective, but you're fine without me? Aw, and I was eager to get a look at Internal Affairs' new rising star myself. Well, this shouldn't take long to wrap up for you, so we could always catch a drink after..." She rested her hand on the back of TrailingMan's chair, pausing there as Pirouette asked the only question she seemed to want an answer on. "Well, it's not really a matter of what my recommendation of discipline was, so much as the findings of my investigation, right? After all, that was my job. The discipline is just what's in the NP code, right, Late? I know it's a thick code book and nobody knows it from cover to cover... Still, why don't you fill her in?

Late frowned tightly, her eyes narrowed to adversarial slits as she focused them where Coat's eyes would be if she had a proper face. "TrailingMan stands accused of making false representation to his fellow officers, of endangering fellow officers and civilians, but most importantly, of aiding and abetting a criminal organization, the NetMafia." She paused, but as Coat seemed to be waiting for more, she sighed and continued. "The punishment for a NetPolice operative subverting the organization to knowingly aid criminal operatives and activities is immediate termination of rank in the organization and detention for further interrogation."

"That's right! And I'm just itching for us to get to that further interrogation part, because I don't want to keep sitting on whatever land mines our two-faced friend has planted for us." Coat spoke genially enough, but moved one hand to clap TrailingMan on the shoulder, a move that was aggressive with the context of the accused's restraints.

"It's not my department, but I feel you've definitely jumped to conclusions in this investigation. Do you have a smoking gun for even one of these cases? Some communication where TrailingMan is clearly speaking to a NetMafia operative? Internal communications scanned from NetMafia channels discussing those operations? Anything? No, and you can't strip one of our most dedicated dispatchers of his rank on circumstantial evidence!"

"And for your part, do you have any evidence of innocence? One or two of these would be enough for serious disciplinary action. Together, I believe it's an undeniable pattern of happy coincidences for the Mafia in missions dispatched by TrailingMan. I agree that he seems like an ordinarily sharp and dedicated guy. How do you explain his lapses in judgment, then? The guy is trying to accomplish something, and it isn't the NetPolice's interests. Once we have him out of our ranks and in a cell, we'll all learn just what that is."

"We have more to go through. You already heard Pirouette's opinion, and I happen to agree with her. That'll be all," Late commanded, turning her head back to WedgeMan and nodding it to her uninvited guest.

Coat released TrailingMan and backed away from the table, making her way to the doorway to show she didn't want trouble. "How about it, Pirouette? You seem level-headed: what's your gut telling you? I can understand Officer Late wanting to drag this out, but there's no reason you need to be a part of it, is there? Or, at the very least, no reason I can't stay to offer my valuable input...? Pretty please?"

"Maybe not my place to say," TrailingMan finally spoke, still evenly, "but if Coat remains, she and Late are just going to continue to butt heads."

"Not your place at all, sir!" Coat agreed with a laugh.

"This is going to be hard enough without her stirring trouble, and we already heard what she had to say. Let's just get her out of here," Late repeated herself, waving a hand towards the door and placing the other to her temple.

For his part, WedgeMan wasn't hurrying Coat out. He seemed ready to do so if Pirouette added her voice to the majority, but it seemed like he wasn't in any rush to get in the middle of the debate.
As Pirouette listened to the exchanges go on around her, stemming from her own question, she felt her focus shift slightly. At first, the request for punishment recommendations had been with the intention of watching TrailingMan's reaction, and possibly putting a small fire under him... but now, as she listened to the back and forth, another concern rose up as she drew along breath, then let out out slowly, making a show of her calm, somewhat pressured patience to the others in the room. That done, the ballerina carefully turned over a fresh leaf in her notebook and wrote Coat's name in the header instead.

"I see..." she sighed, then pushed back her chair enough to stand, stretching up to her toes briefly and aching her wings, then relaxing a little to walk around the small space of the room, contemplating to herself as she looked at the barren walls.

"I do wonder... Is it too much to ask, to find even a single department staffed with competence and proper behaviour? Is this... really too much to expect from the net police? Will I be encountering this assortment of undisciplined, unprofessional and... petty conduct, everywhere I look, and with everyone I must work? I did realise, you know... I realised that I had a task ahead of me with this work, yes... but I did not think it would be so... absolute." Under her breath, a few choicer phrases slipped out in a low whisper, "Nu skol'ko mozhno uzhe...", before she spoke up again. "Where to begin?" She looked up to WedgeMan in the doorway and smoothed her expression.

"WedgeMan, if you would please, could you perhaps fetch a chair for Detective Coat, no? I fear she must remain for now, if only that she might also learn a lesson which it appears she is in sore need of." She inclined her head to him politely, then turned her attention back to Coat.

"Now... Detective, Coat. As aware as you seem to be that the codex which we strive to follow is dense in nature, perhaps some might forgive you for forgetting one of the more particularly core pieces of conduct. Namely, it is not upon anyone to prove or provide evidence of innocence. Innocence is the default presumption, you know, and if you have no evidence of actual mafia sympathies or affiliations here, beyond the... aie... what word..." She groped briefly for the phrase Late had used. "Ah, the circumstantial, you know... then you have nothing. If that is truly all you have, then I must disregard your findings until you can offer something more concrete. Now, while you sit and listen, I have a question for you to think on. I will request your answer shortly, no?" She turned more fully to Coat, eyeing her up and down for a second or two, then flipped open her notebook again and wrote a few lines; they were mostly basic description notes, but that wasn't the point of the mild intimidation tactic; Coat herself likely wouldn't know what was being written.

"The question I would have you answer for me, Detective, is this: what is your track record like in regards to finding and identifying mafia agents and sympathisers within the Net Police? Of all of the times you have been set to such a task, you know, how many of them have you successfully uncovered one? Sit, think carefully, Detective, and remain quiet. I will return to you in a moment, yes?"

With that, she turned the leaf back over in her book and shook her head, returning to the table alongside Late and looking across at TrailingMan.

"So, TrailingMan. If I am understanding the situation correctly, the formal action I am meant to take right now, is to state what our good detective has found, state the penalty that carries, and carry it out. You have heard what it is to be. This is where were stand at this moment, no? And so, you know, I must ask myself. How am I to improve the conduct and reputation of the Net Police, if I simply follow orders no matter from which incompetent source or abused position they arrive? I have a duty to carry out; one which, you know, you have told me you will not be pleased to accept. It also comes down to me from, as it turns out, a deeply flawed source. So, you see my predicament, no?" With a small shake of her head, she closed her notebook with a pointed gesture, then slid it to one side of the desk, away from her, and instead folded her hands in front of her, opposite him.

"So, assist me. You know that your conduct has been poor. you know that you have acted in improper ways and that you have, by your actions and misuses of your position caused more problems than you have assisted with, and drawn suspicion and ire onto yourself as a result. I am sure you are a smart man, no? Once or twice, and you would quickly have learned that acting outside of your mandated duties was causing unforeseen problems, and yet we have here many cases of such, and the difficulties it has caused. At one time, you have given advice which you did not, truly, know was fitting for those you were giving it to. At other times, you drew attention to specific places that you weren't asked to, and created more problems. Still again, you have used civilian assets for personal errands during mission time and with off-record compensation. all of this, you know, is quite unacceptable. Yet, TrailingMan, you are supposedly a sensible person. So. As I say, assist me. Work with me in this. What is it, truthfully now, that is leading you to do these things? If I have your honest answer on this, it may alleviate my dilemma somewhat." She tilted her head slightly as she watched him.

She wasn't entirely sure what she was expecting; some confession of something petty but persistent leading him to poor decisions... like the comic book story... or maybe something else deeper... the romanticist in her mused briefly about it being driven by some matter of the heart, but she shoved the thought down again. A flat denial of there being anything else would be frustrating, of course, but if he wasn't going to give her at least an admission of continued poor judgement and a resolution to improve that she believed, well, there wasn't a lot she could do for him. She waited for his response, keeping her expression calm but open; as friendly a she could muster in the circumstance. Once she'd heard what he had to say, Pirouette kept a calm expression and nodded without giving anything more away, then stood again and turned smoothly to Coat, raising an eyebrow to her.

"Now, Detective. Your answer?" With a small flick of her hand, her notebook collapsed into a small flutter of material and reappeared in her hands again, the quill coming to her fingers as she resumed the page with Coat's name on it.

The tension continued to crackle between Coat and Late as the two waited on Pirouette to give her opinion, perhaps a strange position for the junior officer to find herself in. For his part, TrailingMan remained quiet, perhaps thinking that any misstep he made here would be hurting his case for one party or another. Finally, Pirouette rose to her feet, and began airing her frustrations. Nobody seemed eager to jump in before anyone knew her the target of her ire was.

WedgeMan was the first one addressed, although Pirouette's instruction made it clear the detective would be the target of her words. For his part, their large gatekeeper gave her an unamused expression, lowering his eyelids. "Look, I gotta guard this door, all right? If the detective needs a chair-"

"No thanks!" Coat interrupted cheerily, waving a hand. "I'm actually practiced and super comfy on my feet for long periods, so I'll stand." She turned her attention back to Pirouette, who began returning some of the fire the detective had given Pirouette's partner in Internal Affairs. It was very difficult to tell how Coat was reacting with no face and only a barely discernable body to give it away... then again, the fact that she wasn't interrupting with a jovial yuk or gesticulating with her typically expressive hands might be telling enough. She remained quiet until Pirouette gave a pause. "Awesome! I love questions," she responded, although her joviality was clearly affected at this point.

Coat crossed her arms, becoming even more like a coatrack as she stood disarmingly still for a bit as she seemed to ponder Pirouette's question. Even as she did, though, it wasn't long before she was rocking on the balls of her feet again and tapping one finger index finger on her opposite forearm. It wouldn't take a detective to figure she wasn't spending all of the time Pirouette gave her ruminating on that question seriously.

When Pirouette returned to the table, she'd find her initial partner in interrogation watching her with wide eyes, although she quickly corrected them and focused on the detained again when she realized Pirouette had seen. For his part, TrailingMan was still quiet and impossible to read. His leg was briefly shaking but seemed to calm down again as he faced her impassively. Nobody seemed to know how to respond to Pirouette's concerns about whether her orders should be questioned and how she should improve the character of her organization... a sound came from the direction of Coat, which could be either a restrained laugh or simply a cough, but if Pirouette looked, she'd find the Navi silent again.

TrailingMan didn't seem to think Pirouette's question about her predicament was something that she actually wanted a "yes" or "no" to, and remained silent accordingly.

Late watched her partner's line of questioning, her mask shifting to the approximation of a raised eyebrow as she did. Something Pirouette said seemed to make her think, though: idly, she picked up the case folder and began thumbing through it again, focusing intently on the contents.

For his part, TrailingMan stayed quiet until Pirouette finally asked him for an answer, sighing and glancing to the side again. "I'm sorry. I can tell you're looking for something more from me, but I've already given my defenses. Maybe we could go over more cases. I think it's fair to say that at least there's no straight line drawn between what you're referring to as lapses in judgment, right? Maybe you'll see something that wasn't there before."

It probably wasn't what Pirouette had wanted, so the Navi tried her luck with the berated Coat. "Hmm... you actually asked a few questions, didn't you? Let me see if I can answer them in turn..." With a smile still in her voice, the detective rose to her feet and approached Pirouette at her side of the table. If Pirouette stayed seated, the coat-wearing detective would be looming over her: otherwise, they might be nearly eye to lack-of-eye. "One!" she started, raising the index finger of her right hand to start. "You asked if you could find even one department staffed with competence and proper behavior? A good question! It seems a bunch of our departments are starting to take in rude upstarts who get it in their heads they can talk down to their senior officers about things they have no experience in. But hey, maybe all of the newbies around here aren't like that? Just the ones I've met.

"Two! You asked about assumptions of innocence! No, wait-" she paused, putting her left hand up in a faux shock, then curling in her other hand's second finger. "I guess that wasn't technically a question, right? No, that was a statement, a strong one! And warranted, after all! Considering our justice system and the court of law are founded on innocent until proven guilty, I suppose the judge would probably have a lot to say about my statements. And the attorney, and the jury... Oh. Huh! Saying all that reminds me... this isn't about a court! This is about an internal investigation, something that is going to be decided by a panel of NetPolice officers and not a court at all. I mean, maybe I'm fuzzy on this, but I think that there is some language about not holding the interests of another organization over those of this organization while engaging in NetPolice's work? And if we had suspicion of that, we certainly aren't going to sit back and let the dispatcher continue to do their work while we investigate it. Instead, there's simply a temporary suspension while we verify wrongdoing. You're right that we need evidence, but you're absolutely wrong that we need verification of criminal activity to suspend a Navi from NetPolice duty if there's reasonable doubt determined by our investigative department... which there is!

"Now, three- sorry! Two," Coat continued, raising her second finger again, before pausing more pensively and crossing her arms... "Oh no! This is where you got me, cause I've never successfully found or identified a Net Mafia agent in our ranks! I mean, not that I've ever tried such a case, but, hey. Pirouette is the one with the experience in this, right? Aw, dagnabbit, I guess we have to let him go, huh? WedgeMan, do you have the key to his cuffs? Cause we gotta unshackle him and let him get back to his work! As a show of good faith, I'm going to apologize, and then let him head back on upstairs! Nobody look over his shoulder either while he works, we wouldn't want to bother him while-"

"Can you please shut it?" Late interrupted, slamming the case down on the table. "Pirouette, I'd like to talk to you privately in the hall. We really don't want Coat for this, she's throwing the whole thing off track. She's always like this: smarmy, confrontational, and, frankly, I think you might be right about her detective work!"

"I love you too, buddy!" Coat chirped, clasping her hands together and lifting one leg back.

"Point being, at this rate, we aren't getting anywhere. I'd really like a break..." she jerked her head at the hall again, a gesture meant for Pirouette. "Can we take 5 and resume in a sec? Without the uninvited guest?"

"Hey, if you want me gone, just say so, Pirouette!" Coat threw up her hands defensively again, although she certainly wasn't voluntarily heading for the door. "I'd love a bit to go review our detective protocol with my department head, considering how you've opened my eyes to all these problems... I'm happy to stay, too, if you wanna have me...~"

TrailingMan looked at Pirouette with a gaze that felt oddly sympathetic... For his part, WedgeMan coughed and continued to fill the doorway with a frown, looking as though he was developing a headache. If Pirouette did choose to move into the hall, however, he'd get out of her way.
To begin with, Pirouette concerned herself with TrailingMan's answer, scant though it was; a small frown creased her lips at his protestations of nothing more to say, and frankly, if he didn't have some genuine answer for the continued string of misjudgements, as it sounded like the remaining reports would contain, then the situation wasn't going to end up looking any better for him soon. She folded her arms, wings rising and twitching occasionally as she held his look for a few extra moments after he finished speaking.

By the time she turned to address Coat, the ballerina wasn't surprised to find the other woman... difficult. She left her get it as much out of her system as she wanted to before addressing her. It went on for some time, and as the detective listed off, Pirouette did her best to keep calm features and began writing in her notebook again, only occasionally glancing up to meet the other woman's eyes. The rant found no natural end, however, before Late tried to intervene and Pirouette lifted her quill, looking up and across to her.

"There is no harm in letter her get this... whatever this is.... out of her system, Officer Late. TrailingMan is not going anywhere for now, and our work will be addressed as we must. I was simply waiting until the good detective ran herself down or grew bored of her childish sarcasm, you know. A moment, and I suspect she will be finished." She offered her fellow officer a small smile, then turned back to Coat to see if the detective was still going, or if the pointed dismissal of attention had given her cause to wrap up. When there was a moment of quiet, she turned a polite smile to Coat as well, before speaking.

"Detective Coat. I directed you one single question. I may have directed others to other individuals, you know, but only one to you. You powers of observation and deduction appear to have failed you, no? But I do thank you for the answering of the one thing I did ask. Now. I have asked you to stay for the time being, while I feel your presence may be of use. When I am Finished with you, I will ask you to leave. It is as you say, of course; theses are requests. Seniority aside, I have no station or cause to give you orders, so you may, of course, do as you see fit, and if your behaviour is unseemly or inappropriate I will, of course, be reporting it as is my own duty. You understand, yes?" She drew a long breath and then turned back to the interview table, retaking her seat and setting her notebook down in front of her.

"Now, Detective Coat, perhaps I have been misinformed, no?" She didn't look back to the other woman as she spoke, but instead make a visual show of flipping back through the pages of her notes. "You talk of an internal investigation; you speak of, you know, suspicion, of decisions yet to be made. As I have been informed, however, the investigation has already been concluded — by yourself. It was the suspicion and circumstantial coincidences that have led to TrailingMan being temporarily suspended from duty, and confined so... so that a proper investigation into his guilt or innocence could be conducted. That was your job, as I am led to believe..." Again, she flipped back and forth through her notes, allowing a puzzled expression to furrow her brow.

"And yet, Detective Coat... I invited you to supply anything beyond this... circumstantial evidence, and instead of referring to the proof you uncovered, you lashed out at me for questioning you. You did not, in fact, supply or refer to any. You all but agreed, that, yes, you have no evidence at all beyond the circumstantial. A folder full of poor judgements, minor misdemeanours and otherwise unfortunate circumstance from which, yes, one could draw a particular picture, if one was determined to do so, you know... but nothing more." She shook her head and sighed.

"But of course, one could draw any number of pictures from a collection of circumstance, no? And any of them may be true, or false, without proper proof. Just so, one could look at circumstance and conclude that a detective who has never found a mafia infiltrator, but is now set to investigate the possibility, is so determined to find this 'truth' that they, you know, will jump nose before knees to uncover what they hope to find, and win such accolade for it, no? Worse than that even, one could look at this and see a true mafia sympathiser wilfully convicting other upstanding officers both as a tool to weaken the net police, and as a mean of keeping their own cover. Such are both possibilities given the circumstantial evidence I see before me, you know."

Pirouette reached under the level of the table for a moment and pulled the set of handcuffs off her belt, before holding them out to one side, dangling on an extended finger.

"Of course, if you think that it is... reasonable to detain someone for such suspicions based on circumstance, I'm sure you will comply peacefully, Detective Coat, yes? If you think it is ridiculous, though, you must surely admit that your own work is just the same." She waited an extra moment, then put the cuffs back on her belt.

"No. TrailingMan here was detained and suspended from active duty while he was under suspicion. This was fair. You, Coat, were given to that investigation. This, too, was fair. That investigation was supposedly conducted to determine guilt or innocence, and those finding passed to Officer Late here to hand down the required discipline. What we have found, however, is that your investigation is nothing but a trail of circumstance that is in no way sufficient proof on its own, unless you have neglected to mention any legitimate points of incrimination." She turned in her seat now, looking back to see Coat properly and meet her eyes. "Have you? Or have only more immature posturing? If you have anything more tangible than the mere circumstance that is contained in these files, then by all means, detective Coat, speak clearly, concisely and quickly, yes?" Astonishingly, Pirouette was not truly expecting that Coat suddenly had more evidence to offer beyond the folder of supplied findings, and if she could reference some sterling proof of sympathies contained in them then it would defy belief that she'd neglected to bring it up first, right away. Even so, she gave her a glare and a moment, just in case.

"If you have nothing to add beyond what is in these files, and the sum total of your investigation into this case, from which you drew enough conclusion to claim guilt and recommend the termination of another officer, along with detention for interrogation, is simply the compiling of these factual dossiers on the individual sub cases, then I am quite finished with you, detective Coat." As much as her face remained calm, the stern tone of Pirouette's voice grew progressively more iron-clad as she spoke, and the tips of her wings trembled slightly on their own. She drew a longer breath and let it out again slowly, then closed her eyes for a few extra moments. "Good day to you, detective. Perhaps we shall work together properly some day." When she opened her eyes, it was to look up to WedgeMan. "WedgeMan, if you would, please allow the good detective to leave if she wishes to do so, yes?" She turned from Coat again, reorienting herself at the desk and writing a few more notes in her book under Coat's page, and shot a brief, reassuring smile across to Late as she waited to see what Coat would do; if she refused to leave, Pirouette's own words had been quite genuine — she didn't have the authority to make her, as far as she knew. If Coat elected to stay regardless, then she would need to step away to hear Late out regardless, leaving WedgeMan to keep an eye on the detective and TrailingMan both.

Coat continued to rock on her heels as Pirouette managed her composure, happily talking over the junior officer whenever she had a chance. “The only thing I love more than childish sarcasm is helping people out. I have a habit for listening to people’s voices and detecting the questions they’re trying to ask. I guess it is possible to be too helpful, but I can’t hold myself back when someone sounds so very confused!” She made a gesture that might be interpreted as peering over to get a look at the notebook if she had eyes, but quickly leaned back, probably only trying to get a rise. “Yeah, of course! Especially as Internal Affairs, reporting that behavior is like your job, right? Mm hmm…”
The Navi remained mostly quiet as Pirouette needled her on her investigative conclusions, turning a finger at her earpiece in a gesture that mimed cleaning the ear. She inspected it and gave a laugh, facing Pirouette again. “I see it less as ‘drawing a particular picture’ than ‘connecting the dots,’ but if you wanna try to make a pretty giraffe out my some data points, be my guest, buddy.” She shut up again and remained quiet until Pirouette began to hypothesize, first laughing hard at the idea that she was trying to earn honors with a crapshoot investigation… then quickly tapering off as Pirouette mentioned a more outlandish possibility, folding her arms. “Now buddy, those are some interesting hunches. How about you give those hunches some thought and bring ‘em up with a supervisor before you free-think ‘em, ‘kay…?”
The air was a bit more still for a moment before Pirouette brought out her cuffs, which brought Coat back to levity, anyway. She let out a spitting laugh, waving her hands in front of her. “Woah-ho-ho! Most of my flings don’t break out the cuffs on the first date, y’know?! Okay, easy there, tiger.” She shut up again as Pirouette made it clear she didn’t intend to trade more small talk, and certainly not any jokes. Finally, hearing the severe Navi dismiss her, Coat stood pensively a moment longer, then shifted on her feet, crossing her arms behind her head again. “Well, I’ll remind you this investigation pertains to his termination as a NetPolice officer and not his detainment as a criminal, which will be a separate investigation. But, uh… Nah, what’s in the folder is pretty much what I got. I was hoping to see your insight, but I guess I really oughta get back to work. I’ll go talk to Syne about my interesting conversation with her department’s new golden girl. Hope to hear about your breakthrough, ta ta!” With that, Coat turned and slapped WedgeMan twice on the shoulder in a friendly way as she moved past him. If Pirouette was saying anything more, she was either being unheard or ignored.
Late let out a sigh as Coat departed, giving Pirouette a rise of her white eye mask that probably indicated an eye roll. “C’mon, Pirouette, TrailingMan could probably use a break anyway. WedgeMan, we’re gonna step outside a sec. Can you give us some privacy?”
WedgeMan looked like he was going to object but conceded, tilting his head. “Whatever. Somebody probably ought to watch this guy, anyway.” The large Navi muscled into the room and stood to one side, allowing Pirouette and Late to leave for their discussion.
When Late made her way outside, she took a look around to make sure the hallway was clear. She even peered into some near cells, as if worried that Coat had slid into an adjacent room to spy on their conversation. Satisfied they were alone, Late began her piece in a conspiratorially low tone nonetheless. “Some stuff Late and you talked about got me thinking about this. Like, we know TrailingMan did a bunch of things wrong, but only just that they were wrong. We only have coincidences that tie them to the Mafia, nothing concrete. We don’t know anything about TrailingMan that would tie him to the mafia… but I began thinking. Is there another angle, something unconventional Coat might have missed? I just can’t believe TrailingMan is a Mafia guy… Well, I started looking into the files more closely some other details that didn’t seem super relevant the first time… Of the ones we covered:
“First, the stage show. We talked about the fact that it was a bar with a stage show, but we didn’t talk about who the compromised operative in question was. The Navi’s an undercover operative named CaseGirl, but the thing about her is… Well. I guess I lucked out having a girl partner for this, cause this is kind of a weird thing to be talking about on official business… But like, I guess you haven’t seen her, right? She’s hardly ever around her. But when she is, the guy’s are always trying to get a look, cause… I don’t think you or I are low scores, okay? But this one is an obvious Ten. Some pervs I’ve seen in other departments call her the ‘Best Kept Secret of the NetPolice’ because when she’s in the office she wears conservative clothes, but when she’s in the field, she uses her sexy body to her advantage… The civilian in this case was wearing a camera for our monitoring. If TrailingMan was having the help watch the stage, maybe he was actually trying to see the show?
“Long shot right? But second, that comics convention. The booths that he was dispatching to weren’t any ordinary booths: there was something that linked each of them… They were all adult-targeted. You know, where an artist makes a smut version of a regular work? All three of them were like that. That bit wasn’t in the report, but the artists were, and I did a quick search on the artist names to verify… Hope that didn’t screw up my search history,” she said, frowning.
Late had spoken a lot in a short time, but paused, shaking her head. “Well, I looked through all the cases quick, and I bet money there’s something like this in every one. I don’t think it’s any stronger of a connection than the mafia one, but it is at least as strong. But I was thinking…” Late paused here, crossing her arms and staring, first between her own arms, then over Pirouette, reddening a bit. “Well, we can’t prove the mafia connection, but what if we can find some evidence on this connection? He doesn’t know we’ve put our finger on this yet. Maybe we could… I dunno… get him to tip his hand? After all, this is mostly about convincing you and me. If I could get evidence he is a perv, so hooked on it that he’s messing up his missions, we could shift the focus of the investigations… At the very least, they could-“
Late stopped, crossing her arms and huffing. “Look, I know this isn’t a good look. Let me be clear, I’m not saying that we try and throw the NetPolice off the right trail. All I’m saying is, we need to at least bring up this thought, right? It could be the difference between him just getting fired or being treated as a criminal! Then they could still find any NetMafia ties in the follow-up investigation. I know I have all of this to consider, but I still think of the guy as a friend…”
Late stared a hole in the wall for a moment before biting her thumb with concern. “But if he was like that, why didn’t I ever notice him ogling me? I mean, I’m maybe not a Ten, but I’m an easy Eight… Uh, sorry, that’s an aside. What do you think?”
Pirouette made a few more notes in her little black book while Coat prattled and wrapped herself up; the ballerina was making a visible show of giving the detective any more time of day until she had well and truly departed. She snapped the book shut once she was gone, however and looked back up to Late, and then TrailingMan. About to speak, she held her words when Late cut in and insisted on her earlier request to speak alone. It was the same request brought to her with a different excuse, but it seemed urgent enough that Pirouette closed her lips again and nodded once, rising from her seat and sliding it back under the table.

“Aie... as you wish.” She glanced back as she began to follow Late. “TrailingMan, if you would, please do think about informing us of anything else that may explain your lapses in judgement, yes? As things stand, we have no justification to hold off on delivering the full recommendation for your punishment, and I should hate to do so when a less insidious explanation may exist. Think on it, yes?” With a brief incline of her head, she followed Late from the room and into the hall.

Unlike her companion, Pirouette saw no reason to adopt any kind of furtive behaviour, and simply waited, poised neatly on the balls of her feet and her wings flitting with occasional twitches as she listened to what Late had to say. It sounded mostly to be the sorts of ideas she had been turning over herself, though it did sound very much like Late was pre-sold on the idea and was simply determined to get him off the hook. She drew a long breath and nodded slowly to her companion.

“I do not think these things are as... as you say, as long a shot, as it may seem. I have been suspicious that this may have been part of the cause, or at least, I should say, that something in particular was driving each of these poor decisions, you know?” Late might, at first be relieved that Pirouette seemed to be on the same page, but she wasn't quite finished, and continued with a more abrupt sigh and a shake of her head.

“Regardless of that, and I understand that he is your friend, Late, but it is his own decision on what he tells us and does not, you understand? If it should be that he considers revealing that his...” Her eyes shifted aside as she looked for a polite turn of phrase, her cheeks blushing a faint pink colour. “Aie, his personal interests, have been occupying him enough to compromise his work... If he views admitting to this, and it becoming a matter of record, is a worse result than keeping silent and accepting his termination on suspicious grounds, then, you know, we cannot force him to decide otherwise. I have invited him to tell us if there is anything at all that is the explanation, ah, the root, of his misconduct, that may mitigate the more severe suspicions. So far he has claimed that there is not. If he continues to remain...” she briefly waved one hand, seeking an appropriate term. “Mule-headed, on this matter... Then we will have no choice but to deliver his discipline as directed. It is his decision to make, you know?” Pirouette took a moment to adjust her hair and run her fingers across her scalp briefly, then rolled her shoulders and flexed her wings.

“As for what I think, Late... I think that it would be difficult to tell if a navi such as TrailingMan was looking at you indecently or not, no? I give him the benefit of doubt so far because his behaviour has been polite, but I am not unaware that such a mask affords him the capability of letching unnoticed on you, myself, or anyone else that takes his eye.” Her wings quivered slightly, agitated at the admission and the vague sense of potential discomfort it caused.

“I am content to continue going through the remaining case files with him, and to use that as the time he has to supply us both with some other good explanation. If another reason exists and he is willing to admit to it, then perhaps we may lighten his discipline, no?” She folded her arms, glancing back at the door. “However, if he remains determined to deny any motive beyond coincidence of bad judgement, then we must follow the procedure given to us, for the safety of the net police. His individual misdemeanours alone are not, I do not think, sufficient grounds for termination. The nature of their regular coincidence, without good explanation, is. Are you ready to return?” She offered a smile for Late, but stood aside a little, to allow the other woman to lead the way back into the interview room if she was ready. In the back of her mind, an errant thought wondered where her own appearance might fall on such a scale, but she shooed the thought away with some effort.