The Tako Secret Sushi Store

The location data led Mei from the side of Kotobuki with money to the side with less; from the tourist trap restaurants to the hole-in-the-wall haunts. For the most part, each restaraunt looked like an adventure that one would have to be a little brave to take, but the Tako Secret Sushi Store looked a little crazier than the rest. This was owing to two things: the first, a large, 2-dimensional octopus in neon tube lights, wrapping its tentacles around the "Tako" in the store name, upon a sign that was conspicuously small like it wasn't intended for anyone to see... a waste of neon if there ever was one. The second was that, despite the "CLOSED" sign next to the octopus one, there was a production van outside the place, as well as another small car, white with a blue undercarriage and, for whatever reason, black-tinted windows. The store itself was small but nestled between two larger buildings, one unmarked, one some sort of storage building. The outside was orange-brown with a purple mural pattern like branches tracing its walls. The air conditioning units around the roof were bellowing noisily, even though the building was supposedly numerous, and they were surprisingly numerous.

Between the cars and the store, hanging out just in front of the door into the place, several folks were waiting. A thin woman in black slacks, a white dress shirt, and a black tie, with shiny black loafers, was speaking to two of the production crew. Her hair was bushy and brown, forming a mop around her head that looked like she'd been cutting her own hair for a while and only working out the length without considering the volume. Her hands and fingers were busily gesturing... from a distance it might look like she was just freaking out, but closer up, she looked... even more like she was freaking out. It was clear that the cameras on her were giving her a bit of stage fright.

The others included a weirdly tall guy with brown hair, spiked and swept backward in a way that made it look like he spent as long combing as the presenter didn't. He was dressed in a white dress-shirt as well with the sleeves rolled up, black suspenders over with tight, brown slacks. He wore shades on top of his head and was puffing a big cigar like he was worried it wasn't clear just from looking at the rest of him that he wanted to be a big shot producer. The girl carrying the camera, and the only one who wasn't both tall and wearing a white dress shirt, had half black, half purple hair, combed so that the purple formed a swoop just over her eyes and the black reached just down her neck, barely touching her shoulders. Her outfit consisted of a bright red tank-top displaying the words "LOOK AND LISTEN" in black rock letters, which made it a little hard to avoid staring at her rather impressive breasts. She was wearing ripped black jeans with chains hanging from the sides, almost like they were meant to be suspenders to match the other guys'. Over her shoulder was an over-sized, black, box-shaped camera, the kind that seemed like it should be so far outdated as to no longer exist in the current world.

"Here, the Tako Sushi Secret Store... Th-The Secret Taco-Stand... Sushi shore...!" the woman tried frantically to get the words out. In desperation, she clapped her hand onto the glass at the front of the store and put on a fierce expression. "The Tako Secret Sushi Store, secret hideout of Willhelm Jacques, the notorious criminal, known for making mind-controlling robots and mechanical devices. My name is Heidi Mansworth, and I'm here with the BigTime Productions crew to finally put the pin in my long quest to bring him to justice and end his devious schemes. We've got the man behind bars; now it's time to put an end to his legacy by disconnecting the rest of the machines he made from the extensive remote control grid, which spans all over Electopia. The key lies inside this store," she explained, seeming to have collected herself.

"Finally, a good take! Now that we got take uno, you can take five, sweetheart," the man calmed her down, lowering his hands expressively. "Good energy there, very good, I can feel the justice and conviction radiatin' off'a ya. Now the only thing is, and I can't stress this enough..." he continued, pulling at his collar a few times. "Loosen up a button or two. The audience wants to see a sexy hero who looks like she's takin' on the whole world! They ain't gonna watch the show if they' accountant's the only thing on the screen," he advised, waving one over-sized finger.

The girl, now identified as Heidi, looked very hesitant to obey that order, and would probably welcome the arrival of Mei to put the directions out of everybody's mind.
Okay, Kotobuki Town. Time to find the mission and get it over with. But..."Hey, Skye?"


"Are you sure this is the right way?"

"Absolutely! Why?"

"Well, it's just...this is the not-so-great part of town. Kotobuki's isn't really that big, but it can be pretty nasty, based on what I've heard. I mean, Ariel's had a couple of run-ins before, by the sound of it."

"It's daytime, so I doubt anything too insane will happen. And you'll be inside an empty building. I doubt anything like that'll happen."

"I guess..." All right, let's see...wait, what was that giant octopus sign? "Well, that's a waste of perfectly good electricity."

"Yeah...and those air conditioning units are going strong, too. I...kinda have to wonder why no one thought that was suspicious."

"Yeah, it's pretty obvious to me...hmm?" A movement down near ground level drew Mei's attention, which was revealed to be a small woman doing...something. "This is the place, right? So that's probably Heidi. Sheesh, from here, you'd think she was about to face a firing squad."

"Yeah, but she's probably just talking to the crew, there. Maybe she's just really expressive?"

"I guess we'll see..." She walked a bit closer, and it became clear that the other woman only looked like she was in a panic because...she was really in a panic. But, surprisingly, she seemed to settle down and deliver an intro to the camera. "Willheim Jacques? Why does that sound vaguely familiar...?"

"I remember that name popping up in the news, but I don't remember why offhand...we'll find out soon enough, I'm sure."

"Right..." Well, time to go introduce herself. Mei walked up to the pair right as they were wrapping up some talking. "Er, hi there! Mei Fuujimoto, reporting for duty!"
Clutching at the top of her tie and breathing a sigh of relief, Heidi stepped away from the camera-fronts to greet Mei. "Thank goodness you're here! Pleased to meet you... Heidi Mansworth," the girl began with a smile, extending one thin hand for a shake. The presence of somebody not related to the BigTime production crew seemed to have a calming effect on her.

The large man raised one hand and scowled in the direction of his camera-girl, indicating that they'd have to take five; it didn't seem to be lost on him that Heidi was ducking his instructions. He brought the hand back down, grabbed his cigar, puffed, then tapped it off with the shaft against his knuckle, letting ashes fall onto the sidewalk. As he approached, his mood seemed to improve, his eyes moving up and down in an obvious bid to size Mei up. "Happy to make ya 'quaintance, name's Tommy Giannapoulos, but you can call me Biggy; 'at's what they all call me, those in the business, I mean," he began, reaching out his over-sized hand for a shake while not quite managing the tilt of eyes and head that'd make it clear he was looking at her face and not her boobs. "People call me Biggy cause I make everything big, even a little ho'dunk affair like this one. I like everything big, too! I can tell that you fit the bill, sweetheart." It sounded like "sweetheart" was just his go-to for all women.

"H-Ho-dunk? This is important! If you knew how much work has led up to this point, and how resourceful Willhelm Jacques has been in terms of making more trouble for myself and authorities, you'd know better than to say that..." Heidi protested, trying to reprimand but mostly just coming off pouty.

"Yeah, well, all I see is a friggin' sushi stand," Tommy complained. "Friggin' empty sushi stand. It may smell fishy but 'at's about it," he complained. "It's different when you's goin' after a wanted criminal or accomplice or something but we's basically bustin' in here to fry the guy's computer, ain't we? That's not exactly prime-time material. 'At said... It's my job to make it prime time! 'At's why we spent a little extra dough and brought in Mei here. She's got a... face for TV," he snickered. "Speakin' o' which, over 'ere's the vision behind the vision, my numba' two, Tamatha Smalls. I like to call her 'Tiny' as a... eh... kinda' a joke, but it's best if you make friends wit' 'er before you do."

The girl was busy checking out something on her PET and shouldering her camera with her other arm; she didn't do much more than turn her reddish brown eyes upward, then back down. "Tammy's better. You can use Tammy."

"Heh heh, Tiny handles the small stuff. She don't like to go in front of a camera... matta' of fact, she's kinda suspicious about gettin' in front of a PET at all, trut' be told. No idea why. But as such, I can't rely on her to provide the sorta, eh, crowd-pleasin' delights that gets shmucks to tune into sub-prime tele-o-vision," he explained. "Ah well, different strokes. Fortunately, she does plenty to pay her for. But you, Mei... you's I want right in front of the camera," he reiterated. "Hiedi here was just givin' us the lead-in, see, and we wrapped that up for now. From here, all's we gotta do is go inside, take a lotta footage of you and her lookin' around the place and providin' some commentary, like you's really puttin' a lot of thought into it. I put the camera on ya a bunch, and Heidi, 'course. Once it's all done we splice it together with some real introspective stuff, like all Heidi's hoopla wit' this guy, then boom, pass it on to the consumin' public."

"And I'm telling you it's not going to be that easy... Nothing involving Willhelm Jacques is. The guy practically gets off on deceiving and manipulating others. I hope I'm not scaring you, Mei, but we need to be prepared for booby-traps, possibly ones that utilize high-tech behavior modifying- or mind control- devices," Heidi interrupted, getting expressive with her arms again.

"Forget about it! We seen... one lock, okay? One lock that's keepin' us out of the back door into the friggin freezer section. Guess that's what all 'em air conditioners are doin', keepin' the friggin' fish cold!" he complained. "I'm savin' it for the end in case it gives us a last juicy thing to end off on, alright? Ain't like the freak's got some laboratory in a friggin' sushi shed!"

"Using air conditioners for refrigeration? And just how much refrigeration do you think they use in a fresh sushi store?" the girl in tie sighed, looking critical. "Just be prepared, okay, Mei?"

"Up up! Before we go in, girls, I'm serious as a friggin' heart attack about 'at top button. Heidi, you lose the tie and go down a button. Mei, you... uh... do whateva' the equivalent is wit' 'at neat get-up you got on. I dunno, just gimme somethin'. Ain't gotta be the friggin' Beach Queens Tournament or whateva', I just wanna know 'at botha you's girls are willin' to do what it takes, okay?" he demanded, then stuck his cigar back into his mouth and tilted his chin up, blowing smoke rings into the air, perhaps signifying he wasn't willing to talk about it any more.

Heidi gave him a sour expression, then did as he requested, loosening up her tie and removing it, placing it on top of the tinted bug she presumably drove. She unbuttoned down to the collarbone, which, while making her look a little less boyish revealed exactly nothing.

"Eh... one more button," he insisted, giving a tweaking gesture with his thumb and forefinger.

Still frowning, she did as he requested. Even down to the chest now, there wasn't much of a view.

"Damn, these bones, these bones, these friggin' dry bones! Alright, alright, Mei. Sorry to spring it on ya so fast, but gimme a little somethin' just to prove you're good for it and we'll get goin'," he compelled Mei, tilting his head up, to the side a little, and watching out of one eye, as if trying to hide how interested he was. Heidi gave her a shrug, as though saying she wouldn't blame Mei for bailing out now. The other girl, Tammy, looked up from her PET again and this time kept looking, as though she too was curious if Mei would have what it takes to make it in Tommy's show.
Mei smiled and shook the other woman's hand, but her mood soured a bit as she looked over at the man, only to see him checking her out. "...Hi. For the record, I'm not some alien, so that's not where my eyes are." Instead of accepting his handshake, she crossed her arms over her chest. "So...anyone interested in filling me in on who this Wilheim Jacques is?"

Apparently not, as the other two went off on their own thing. One thing she could agree most definitely was a sushi stand. "...You know, considering how Cyberworld works, frying someone's computer could be pretty interesting."

"Don't look at me, fire's not my specialty."

"Not literally, Skye. Although I guess that's a possible approach..." ...Face for TV. Yeah, she was fairly sure that's not what he really wanted to say. More like her she had a body for TV...maybe certain aspects of it in particular. Though, many would say that she did in fact have a face for TV. She'd even heard people tell her it before. Before this weirdo, anyway.

Oh, right, there was someone else. Between Heidi and...what's-his-name, she'd almost forgotten. "Well, hi there, Tammy. Nice to meet you." From there, the man that was very difficult to tune out explained things...huh, that actually didn't sound bad at all. ...Wait, what?! "Mind control?! You're kidding, right?" The way Heidi was acting made it fairly obviously that, at the least, she didn't think she was kidding, though. No wonder they were willing to offer so much for this...

After a bit of arguing, Mei decided to chip in. "Heidi's right. All that air conditioning isn't normal for a simple sushi place. Seems more in line with something you might use to cool a server room, or something along those lines." Being careful...yeah, no matter how you looked at it, something was fishy about this place. ...Other than the fish.

But she could worry about that later, as BigGuy decided to spring some button crap on the both of them. "Do I LOOK like I can do that with this?! There's not a single button on my outfit!"

"I don't think we need to be literal in this case. Hmm...oh, I know! Just decompress!"

"Decompr-" Oh, that. "Fine...I guess that'll work." Making sure her back was turned to the man before starting, she started to do...something to her tights around her chest. When she turned out, her breasts appeared to be slightly bigger. "Happy? One of the reasons I wear this bodysuit is because it keeps my chest nice and secure, better than any bra I've tried. With some adjusting, I can undo that, but it's also not exactly comfortable...but I'll deal if I need to." She nearly started to follow up with 'Anything else?', but caught herself. That was the last thing she wanted to say to this creep.
"Sweetheart, if you's an alien, then take me to your leader," Tommy responded with the kind of grin that shows the confidence, founded or unfounded, of a man who is willing to turn anything into a come-on. "As for this William Jack person, he's a screw-loose inventor who decided he was gonna try his hand at world domination like some kinda cartoon character. He and some broad on the net came up with some kinda mass mind devices. To make it worse, he's some friggin' roboticist! Frankly, Heidi over here shoulda spoken to me sooner... if we coulda started recording before she got him locked up, this'd be big ratings.

"He broke out once before and they moved him to somewhere higher security. I'm still taking care of a few things as far as the co-developer he mentioned, Recall, but she shouldn't have the ability to produce any new devices with him in jail. The most present threat left is this network of robots and technology he still has hidden around the world... or I'm convinced he does, anyway," Heidi added. "That starts- and hopefully stops- here, based on what I've learned."

Things went on for a while before Mei noted the absurdity of asking her to get TV-ready in the same way he had asked Heidi. "Aw, you're breakin' my heart with that, Mei! You's gotta have somethin', like a zipper or somethin'?" he asked craning his neck bout and looking her over. Finally, Skye pitched in with an idea. "I dunno what that navi's talkin' about, but let's see it," he nodded. When it was done, he looked pensive for a moment. "Yeah... okay, I guess that works if that's what we're gonna get. Heh heh, think you can do that trick too, Heidi? Make em a little more like Mei's?"

"Unfortunately, I didn't bring my disguise kit. That's the only way I would even get close," Heidi mumbled, sounding a little depressed rather than angry.

"Eh, no use cryin' about it. Let's go ahead'n get in there, get friggin' started already!" the man known as Biggy persuaded them, clapping his hands together loudly and motioning for the girl known as Tiny to begin filming the location again. Heidi and Mei would lead the way in, with Heidi providing most of the narration. Thankfully, he wasn't calling for any more cuts, so it seemed any problems he had, he planned to fix in editing. That or he was just lazy.

On the inside, the sushi store looked a little dinger than the outside. Chairs were turned upside down and placed atop tables. Booths had layers of dust beginning to form on each of them. The revolving sushi station looked like it hadn't revolved any sushi for at least a year or two. The color on posters and take-out brochures has begun to fade a little. The notably all-octopus menu above the ordering counter had lost a few letters. Someone had emptied out the register a long time ago. The tiled floor hadn't been swept in quite some time. The general state of the room showed that the BigTime production crew wanted it in just the same condition Jacques had left it in.

"Hope you's wasn't lookin' forward to a sushi dinner, cause only thing they got around here to eat is spiders and roaches," the producer joked. "We're gonna take some shots of Heidi near the tables, talking about Jack and crap. You's can get started on that lock in the back, behind the curtain there. If you know how to take the thing off before we even get back there, we can make production a lot smoother. But if you do take it off, be sure to put it back on so it looks undisturbed-like. And if you take anything else off, I wanna be the first to know," he finished grinning and replacing his cigar in his teeth.


If Mei saw fit to comply, she would see that the area behind the storefront was maybe a little shabbier even than the dining area, perhaps because it wasn't meant for customers. There was a counter for preparing take- out orders, a small fridge that still had a few of the less popular types of sauces and soft-drinks in it, and not a lot else besides dingy brown wood and a double door in the back. The most noteworthy element of the room. As she perhaps suspected, was the lock on that double door.

The lock was in the shape of a cartoony octopus, with black, beady eyes that seemed somehow fixed into an angry expression despite a lack of eyebrows. A tube for the octopus' mouth was extending out with a small speaker inside. A screen was held in its tentacles. That said, the screen, not the speaker, seemed to be doing anything at the moment. The lock was not designed to come off with a key... but if Mei was used to taking apart technological devices, she would find that separating the front and back panel would really be child's play, just by removing four screws on the front and back.

Interacting with the lock in other ways didn't seem like it would do anything for now. She could either get the lock off now and presumably make the easiest money she had ever had in her young career, or she could report it back to the others and they'd do it together. It might be nice to work without Biggy for a while, though.
"Gee, I'm glad it has your approval..." Mei let out an exasperated sigh...putting up with this guy alone should net her that reward. "But trust me Heidi, mine may be big, but by no means are they all sunshine and rainbows."

"That's what she tells me, too." Skye popped up as a hologram on her operator's shoulder for a moment, notably without her Fishy companion. "At least us smaller chested girls don't have to worry about ours getting in our way! I couldn't imagine riding Ray if I was more top heavy..."

"Right. They have their perks, but take it from me, they're also trouble. But enough about that. Let's go ahead and get started." And get started they did, as they entered the store. And to no one's surprise, it need of housekeeping. What did surprise the college student, however, was how badly in need of it the place was. "Uh, wow. I was expecting a disaster, but I think this managed to top what I was thinking..." She performed the finger test on a nearby table, then looked at just how noticable the line she'd drawn was...then flicked off all the dust on her finger, which took a few tries due to just how much there was. "Easiest. Health inspector job. Ever."

"Luckily, that's not our job. Actually, what IS our job right now? Aside from being that man's eye candy."

"First, eww. Second, there's a lock in the back, according to him. We should check it out."

"All right, but be careful. It goes without saying, really, but anyone that's tried mind control stuff might have some nasty traps."

"Yeah..." Now, let's see...somehow, the area behind the counter seemed even dustier than the main area. "Soooo glad I don't have allergies right now." Ah, there was the door. And there was the lock. The future machinist got down on her knees, and had a look. "An octopus. Of course it is. Definitely an electronic lock of some sort..."

"An electronic lock? Do I need to go in there and unlock it myself?"

"No, I don't see any ports to jack in." Speaking of ports, it occurred to Mei that she was really fortunate to have really long hair right now...she was willing to bet that if she didn't, that creep would be checking out her ass. "Okay, this panel should be easy enough to get off. Screwdriver."

"Screwdriver." With a press of a button from within the PET, the business end of a screwdriver popped out at the bottom. The operator started to use it to undo the screws, choosing to keep the others in the dark for the moment.
Heidi returned the sort of lukewarm smile that said "I don't want them to be that big, but maybe just half of that?" without the need for words.

"Meheheh, I hope we'll see how perky they can get as we keep filmin'!" Biggy cackled, ready to snag on an entendre wherever it lurked. The only thing that could get him to stop talking about Mei's sex appeal was the lack of appeal that the sushi store presented. "Yeah, smellin' like octopus was bad enough, I bet. Dust bunnies and tack-o-yucky ain't a combination anybody oughta have to deal with. But then, that's what I'm payin' you broads the big bucks for. That and puttin' up with the tiniest little pinch 'a sexual harrassment."

Mei would recuse herself from the latter for a while, leaving to work on the lock that had been mentioned. In mere moments, she had the screws out; she could either gently pull the thing apart or she could instead opt to let it fall in half. Either way, the lock appeared to be nothing more than a child's toy... it was completely empty inside, no machinery inside. She would notice a few things on one of the inside panels, however: a tag reading a serial number, followed by:

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Custom Security
A Locksmith Original

Some custom security! On the other hand, what was behind the door seemed surprisingly ominous... an extremely dark room with no windows outside, seeming to resist what light came in from the door. No light switch could be easily reached just looking in. The only way to proceed would be to go in.

As if on queue, the others arrived. "Whatcha got? Oh, snap! Off already! I wish I could get other types a' snaps and things open that fast!" Biggy pointed out. "Tine, nevermind settin' it back up. What's goin' on in this next room?" he directed his coworker, abbreviating her name even further and waving the camera over. If Mei had any trepidation, now would be the time to voice it.

Whether they entered or not, the lights would turn on by themselves moments later, revealing a room that appeared to be a boss's office, marginally nicer than the rest of the place but just as dusty. Most of it was unremarkable: a big wooden desk, a bunch of faded clippings on the walls talking about the store, an old dart board, a very antique television, but two features stood out. The first: a tall cabinet, a little like a weapons locker, on one side, with another octopus shaped lock on it. A matching lock rested upon the door in the back, although there shouldn't be room in the store for much else besides maybe a restroom there.

If Mei moved to investigate either lock, she would be greeted by a surprise. This time, the monitor on the front of the lock did turn on, as did the speaker in the mouth of the octopus. A very blurry image of a navi in brassy armor appeared; their voice made it sound like they were a girl, but the image was very fuzzy. The tone of the girl's voice made her sound cheerfully excited. "Wa-hey! Could it be? Somebody's actually here to check in?" the voice asked.

"Woah mama! We got somethin', gals! Tine, camera in, move move move!" he insisted, huddling in with her and looking through the camera himself.

"Aw man, you do not know how bored I was getting! I'm Locksmith, Copy Alpha Nine-Three-One, but you can call me Locksmith. I know this is supposed to be all business, but can I just say: bless you guys. I haven't had anything to do in like a year! I am running out of space in this near infinite net space to doodle on things," she stressed. "Anyway! Business. If you are here, that means one of four things things: first, you are an employee of Tako Sushi, in which case, disregard this lock and back to work, slacker!"

Everyone held their breath, perhaos understanding that playing this the right way might be crucial to advancing.

"Two: you're Wilhelm Jacques. My vision is hella fuzzy right now, but I am almost as positive as I can be that none of you are."

"Three: you are hypnotized minions of Wilhelm Jacques. If that's the case, you know the routine: say something that proves you're mind controlled by Wilhelm Jacques and I'll open up the cabinet so you can get your work gear and come inside. Man, this has gotta be it, right? Hey hey, what happened, did that guy just get tired of mind controlling people? Or did he fire the whole sushi store?"

She barely waited for an answer before giving a fourth answer. "Four! You are trespassers. If it ain't one and it ain't two and it ain't three, it has to be four, that's the protocol Jacques requested. If that's the case, i'll have to arm security systems. That'd be a pain. Although I guess I haven't done anything in like... a year. I ought to earn my keep" the onscreen figure shrugged.

Biggy and Tammy seemed to have decided that now was a good time to keep quiet and out the camera on the actresses. Heidi looked like she wanted to speak up, but she pointed at her PET instead. The holographic figure of a young... boy or girl- it was hard to tell given their boyish haircut and cute, girl-like face- wearing brown and beige navi armor, appeared. He spelled out words on a holographic viewscreen.

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Sorry I haven't introduced myself, I'm Incognito. That's my name, I didn't mean I'm undercover. Anyway, this navi might recognize Heidi since she's been hunting Jacques for so long. It might be best if you talk to it, Mei.

We ought to pretend we're hypnotized. Jacques is mean-spirited and has a huge ego, so saying something that would appeal to him that way might work. He also likes girls with big you-know-whats, so you could say something about that too.

Mei had the floor, being the only one with a reasonable inclination to speak right now. If she was interested in trying to remove the lock like she did the last one, she would see the same four screws, but the weight of the lock (along with the active screen and speaker) made it clear this device was somehow different than the previous empty one.
"Fair warning about that. If that pinch gets literal, I'll kick you in the balls so hard you're going to have to chase them all the way to ACDC." With her threat imparted, Mei headed over to the lock, and started working on it. "These screws aren't even putting up any resistance. This is some pretty shoddy craftsmanship...huh?" Without further guidance, the lock fell in half. And...there was nothing in there. No tech, no mechanical components, no nothing. "...I guess a screwdriver serves as the key to this? Novel concept, but not really good at the whole locking people out thing..."

"Yeah, I'm going to say that's not a good choice."

"Hold on, there's a tag or something inside...meh, it's nothing important."

"Wil Jac? ...Actually, I think you're dismissing it a little soon. That proves beyond a doubt that Wilheim Jacques has some sort of involvement in this place!"

"I don't think anyone was doubting that anyway...but I guess so." Now, to open the door, and see what was inside...though, aside from the darkness, there really wasn't much to see. "Dang, where's the light switch?"

"Can't find one? Um, I guess you can hold the PET up like a flashlight, if you need to."

"That probably won't work, unless it's a locker sized room-wha?" Just like that, the lights came on automatically, and everyone else came over. "Oh, good, it was just automatic. Now let's, that's an old TV. I doubt it can even be jacked into."

"That's pretty old, all right. But, I'm more interested in the lock stuff. Especially that door...if everyone's guess is correct, that can't be just a closet."

"That's true. Let's see if I can undo this one, as well..." Mei reached out to grab the lock, but froze as the monitor came alive. Wait, given that vague shape, and female voice..."There's a Navi in there?!" ...Well, obviously, but even so.

As Locksmith introduced herself, Skye looked off to the side, with a pitying gaze. "He's kept a Navi in the lock's cyberworld for all that time...? How awful..." Luckily for everyone wanting to play along, her mumbling would, at most, be unable to be made out by the other Navi, if she even heard it to begin with.

And as said other Navi went through the options of what they could be, the mechanically inclined girl noticed a hologram off to the side, and took the chance to read it while she could. Uh-huh...she should talk to the to his ego...and big surprise, he liked girls with big t-wait a second, THAT'S where she heard the name before. Ariel told her about a mission that involved him. ...As she recalled, it ended with her naked and nearly penetrated by Jacques. If the mission came to that, she was out...she wasn't super choosy about men, but ones that were basically comic supervillains with an octopus theme? She'd rather do it with an actual octopus. Which, was still gross on so many levels.

"Wilheim Jacques...oh, of course, you mean Master! Yes, we've come here to retrieve something for him! He was really vague about it, though...and then he said that if I couldn't figure it out, I didn't deserve him. Can you believe it? Why, there's no woman on earth that truly deserves such a great man! And yet, if I can prove myself, he might give me his tentacle as a reward...oh, I'm getting all hot just thinking of it...!" Mei places her hands on her cheeks, as though dreaming about the 'tentacle', though in reality it was just to hide the fact she wasn't blushing or anything if that Navi's vision improved. She also made sure her arms were squeezing and showing off her breasts just a little. "Oh, I don't even know where I'd like him to put his tentacle...I should let him choose. As long as I can serve as an instrument of his pleasure...oh, words wouldn't even describe the amazing feeling from it!" Speaking of feelings, she needed to fight off the urge to puke from talking that way, especially about what was fairly obviously a terrible person.
Now that the others had entered the unlocked room alongside Mei, she would find that Tammy's camera was almost always on her, unless there was something else to draw the attention away, like the navi speaking from the lock. Heidi wore a serious expression, looking to Incognito, as he communicated what she was likely thinking:

Quote (Incognito)

Our theory is that Wilhelm Jacques is controlling most of these devices remotely. That may mean that, while the server machine has a way to jack into it, the robots- or the locks, in this case- don't have any way to jack in directly. It may be you can only get "inside" by jumping from the server device. Of course, that doesn't mean she wasn't jacked in and then abandoned. A navi stuck inside a system with no operator to jack them out is essentially trapped. Though, her mood doesn't seem terrible considering, and she seems surprisingly non-hostile towards Jacques, even though he left her there for over a year.

Figuring out what her motivation is for guarding this place could be a good way to get her to stop guarding it. We should see if an opportunity comes up to flip her. Though, if we play along enough, that might get us all the way in too. Or you can use your mechanical skills to get through them, perhaps. I'll let you know if I think of anything else.

Biggy looked like he was about to bust a gut keeping quiet. Silence was not his natural state. Tiny, on the other hand, was all for her camera and didn't seem to be one much for words anyway. It only became more difficult for Biggy to stay quiet as Mei started going into the specifics of her mind control. Locksmith gave a short chuckle. "Hoo boy, you don't know how tired you get of hearing about octopus stuff when you live inside a bunch of octopus locks inside an octopus restaraunt," she sighed. "Ah, well. You're definitely hypnotized alright, if you can say embarrassing stuff like 'his tentacle'! I'll unlock the door for you now. Don't forget to pick up your gear from the locker over there! You're going to need it to proceed through the level 2 security locks, if you're going there. If not... then enjoy security level 1!" With that, the image turned off and the tentacles unwrapped from around the left handle, leaving the lock holding onto only the right.

"Shaaarp work, Mei, friggin' sharp! We got our in!" Biggy guffawed, slapping his hands on the backs of her shoulders in an overly familiar way. "Hey, if I find some mind control crap in there, trust me not to use it, even though you sound absolutely friggin' primo as a mind-controlled whateva', friggin' luscious! I'm glad we got all 'at on camera!"

"Overdoing it," Tiny commented, terse, as she watched the tape back on a monitor poking out from the side of the camera.

"Okay, okay. Payin' her a compliment, that's all! Big, big brains on her," he chuckled. "Don't worry, you's brainy too, Tine."

"Not interested," she added.

He threw up his hands in a gesture of giving up, then moved over to open the locker, which had come unlocked similar to the door. "Hmmm, 'kay. Looks like we got some kinda helmets in here. No way uh... no way they're actually control minds, right? That hypnosis is all a buncha crap, ain't it? Like a psyco-schematic whateva'?" he asked Heidi.

"Wrong. Where Jacques is involved, you can be certain that cutting edge techniques that can actually be called 'mind control'. We'd be extremely foolish to put those things on," Heidi informed him, speaking quickly as though to stop him from putting it on his own head. The thought clearly wasn't crossing his mind nearly so much as having the girls wear it, though.

"Buncha friggin' octopus. Who wants to put these on their heads? Look, it covers up the whole face! This's what that guy likes his girls like? Friggin weirdo." Biggy stepped aside, allowing Mei to see the helmets. They looked like a head-mounted version of the locks, almost, though with no screen or speaker involved. It would essentially be like wearing an octopus over your head, covering your eyes, with tentacles extending down the sideburns area. As far as one could tell, there was no way to see out of it. A switch was placed behind one ear, presumably to activate the helmet.

"You don't have much place to criticize other pervs," Tiny threw in.

"Zing! On point. Let's just carry these things wit' us and we just don't use em, alright? Aw fug, they's all squishy. Friggin' oily!" he complained. It might give Mei some satisfaction to realize that even Biggy seemed to think these things were too gross to entertain the idea of wearing. Heidi looked as though she'd prefer they stay right there in the locker, but Biggy insisted, so each of the four would leave the room with one in hand unless Mei absolutely refused.


Behind each lock seemed to be a room better kept than the one before it, yet more nefarious in purpose. This one was a well air-conditioned room with many standing lockers, similar to the ones they'd retrieved the helmets from earlier. The tile on the floor was cool blue, along with the walls. Things didn't look dusty, implying it had been used past the other rooms. There were a few low benches, almost like a locker room's, which this might very well be. There were a few ominous, human-height metallic crosses with silver, octopus shaped heads and tentacles curled inward, as though for holding a captive. Presumably, this was pretty much the back of the building... which might make one wonder what was behind the large double door at the back. This door was mechanical, in a circular shape, with a giant, octopus shaped fixture barring entry. This octopus was like a more fearsome version of the others, very large, with an appropriately scaled up screen and tentacles about as long as the average body height among their group.

As they entered, the screen came on. The image on this one was fuzzy as well, meaning that even with the larger picture, it was hard to get a good look at the navi this time either. "Welcome! It's me again, Locksmith. You know this room, but let's go over it again regardless. This is the holding room; from what Jacques told me, this place is where he keeps his mind control slaves for storage. This is also the jumping off point to Wilhelm Jacques' laboratory! That means that to progress any further, you're going to need level 2 clearance," she explained. "Sorry, the monitor's a little shoddy, so I'm going to need to go over who has level 2 clearance again and verify if you're one of them. First off, I need you all to speak up! Can you say your names? I know there's four of you!"

The group hesitated for a moment. "Eh, Biggy," the man started.

"Tammy," Tiny continued, not using her nickname.

"Henry," Heidi answered, in her slightly altered male voice.

Biggy looked to her, raising an eyebrow, then to Tammy, as if inaudibly saying, "that's not doing it for me, can we cut it out in editing?"

Locksmith began again, assuming Mei said her name. "Four, alright. I think we established last time that you're all mind-controlled, right? That's good and all, but if you're going through this security level 2 door, then I'm going to need more proof. There's certain types of people that Jacques tends to let in here. Unfortunately, I don't think 'Henry' or 'Biggy' qualify! You guys must be here to enter holding, right? Please step into the cages or exit if you've arrived by mistake."

The looping tentacles of two nearby octopus cages opened up, inviting them to step in. Biggy raised his eyebrows and put both hands up, then backed out towards the door. "Uh, gals, I'm supervisin' this hands off from here on. Tammy can handle this," he informed them, choosing to leave rather than be locked up.

Heidi took a different approach. "Did I say Henry? I meant Henrietta," Heidi coughed, a weak excuse that Locksmith bought all the same.

"Oh, great! Sorry, coulda sworn you said Henry. Anywho, you girls will need to step up. I've got to verify that you're mind-control slaves! Here's how it goes: women that Jacques controlled mostly have two features. They're either gonna have knockout bodies, or they're going to have uh... skills to make up for not having knockout bodies! That means you've got your choice how you want to get in. If you think you're the first group, step to the left. If you're the second group, step to the right."

Tammy shrugged, then stepped to the left, keeping her camera on Mei and 'Henrietta' by turning around and keeping her back to the door. Heidi watched the camera hesitantly, seemingly like she was dreading what came next, and stepped to the right. Mei would have her choice which way she wanted to go. She certainly had the qualifications for the left, but it could be that whatever the right entailed was less humiliating. She may also want to consider the helmets all of them were carrying but none of them were wearing. For now, there didn't seem to be any harm in it; Locksmith couldn't see so there didn't seem to be danger in her recognizing the unusual behavior. That said, it could be a source of contention later.
...Wait, that worked?! Mei was honestly kinda surprised at how well her acting went...then again, after all that embarrassing stuff she said, she was definitely either hypnotized or crazy. And she wasn't hypnotized right now. Speaking of crazy, Big Boy started grabbing her by the shoulders, and that would've gotten him kneed if someone else didn't point as much out. "That had better be ALL you were doing..."

"Perhaps I'm being overly naive, but I don't think he was actually up to anything that time. Emphasis on 'that time'."

"Sometimes, you just can't take chances..." Now, let's see what was in that locker. After a few moments of complaining, she got her wish, and immediately wished she could take it back. An octopus shaped helmet was one thing, but this practically WAS an octopus. Even the way it felt...ewwwww. "Gross...if I'd known I was getting into something like this, I would've packed a barf bag..."

"I, for one, have a feeling I'm never going to want to eat cyber takoyaki again..."

"I hear that..." Grabbing onto the helmet with as little gusto and physical contact as possible, the college student proceeded to the next room. The first thing she wasn't super dusty. Clearly, they were on the right track, which was only made more obvious with Locksmith reappearing and talking about a laboratory. Level 2 clearance...she could only imagine how that was going to go, considering what she had to say to get past Level 1.

...Oh, her name? Easy enough. "Mei." Her name wasn't a super rare one, so maybe she'd get lucky and share a name with someone that had clearance. Let's see...certain types? Based on the sound of it, women were the preferred mind control target. Whether that was good or bad for her, she wasn't really sure. ...But more talking revealed that it was, in fact, not good, as she now had a decision to make. Go left, and probably get violated in some way, or go right, and maybe not prove herself to have the skills. ...Sadly, the safe option was to trust that her body was capable of getting her access to places she couldn't normally go to. It wouldn't be the first time. Or the second. With a sigh, and biting her lip, she moved over to the left, bracing herself for whatever came next.
Faced with the level 2 access door, Biggy was forced to drop out of the expedition by the unfortunate coincidence of being born a guy, while the others were permitted to be tested. Mei decided she would rather work with a known commodity than rely on a skill she could only guess whether she had or not. She would therefore join the inappropriately nicknamed Tiny, while Heidi tried her luck on the right.

"Everyone ready? Great! Don't worry, if you're really mind-controlled, this won't bother you at all," Locksmith joked from inside the door. "... Just like you probably won't have the presence of mind to appreciate humor. But i gotta chat or i'm gonna go crazy in here! Ha ha ha!" she laughed, an acknowledgment that seemed worryingly like an admission that she may already have a screw loose. "Who wants to go first?" she asked.

"I'll start," Heidi offered, perhapa thinking Mei might like the chance to change her answer if the skills option wasn't so bad. The octopus door uncurled its tentacles on her side; remarkably, it seemed that they had a robotic skeleton of some kind inside, although they looked perfectly smooth and jointless (and nasty and oily). Three tentacles paused in front of her, each a little over a foot apart and lined up vertically. Their tips angled slightly upward with a quick click noise, making it look like the octopus had decided to be fancy while holding a teacup. Heidi stared at them without recognition of what kind of test this was supposed to be.

"Ahem! If the guy brought you here and you don't have a perfect 10 body, you have to make up that 10 in other ways, right? So you have to show me using the joysticks that are built into those tentacle tips. You can go high with your mouth, top with your top, or bottom with your bottom! Whichever works best. That's the versatility of my patented security system," Locksmith revealed, sounding as though she understood the reason for hesitation but not as though she was going to be lenient with the test.

Heidi looked like she might never eat cyber-takoyaki again either, as she sized up the various tentacles, trying to decide which option was the lesst terrible.

"Oh, it's got to be skin contact, if I didn't mention," the security navi added.

The bounty hunter had probably been hoping to get by with some over the clothes contact and appeared miffed by that addition. "Okay, so..." she murmured, pressing her hands ro her chest. A painful reminder that she would not pass the test if she went top. Her bottom wasn't a whole lot better; she had very slender hips, useful for passing as a guy but not for passing as a woman with a good butt. The prospect of putting the oily thing in her mouth, however, was so revolting that she almost looked like she wanted to risk another option, though.

Heidi showed great conviction by not taking this opportunity to bow out and rejoim Biggy back outside. Instead, she purposefully grasped hold of the tentacle and, with a technique more like swallowing medicine one was trying to avoid tasting rather than trying to pleasure anybody, stuck the tendril deep into her mouth, wrapping opening wide to let it in. It seemed she had gone at it so powerfully that it had ended up further in than was appropriate for modesty.

"That feels right.. okay, now you... Oops! I almost gave you the answer," Locksmith gasped. "Go ahead! You do it."

Heidi cast a worried look over to the others, to fish for advice, then found herself in an even more sour mood as she realized that Tammy still had her camera up and on her. Closing her eyes slightly against the irritation, Heidi glared at the visible shaft of the tentacle while pulling it in and out of her mouth in a lewd sucking motion, creating a loud slurping noise. One might ask how it tasted later, if one was feeling unkind enough to inspire this memory back to the surface.

"That's good!" Locksmith continued, thankfully more in an approving way than an aroused way, for anyone who might be wondering what kinds of feelings she took from this test. "Yep, you pass, Henriettea. Stand aside and we'll get to the other tests. You first, Mei," she continued, completely unfazed.

Tammy kept her camera on Heidi a bit longer as the girl stuck her tongue out and tried to wipe off whatever was coating the tendrils. Soon, though, she swung it over to Mei. "You're the type who could go top or bottom," she pointed out, providing monotone sexual harassment in Biggy's place.

"And yet, she won't! Her test is somewhat different," Locksmith interjected. "All you have to do is raise your arms above your head and stand still. The tentacles will size up yout critical stats- breasts, waist, butt, of course- and if you meet the threshold, you're in! That easy," she reasured Mei. "Of course, for this, we need direct contact, just like the other. That means you have to make sure they have access to your goodies. Of course, if you'd like, we can also try this automatic mode I've never switched on before! Apparently you don't have to have your clothes off for that. Let me know which sounds better!"

If Mei was hoping she would get any mercy from Tiny, she would be left disappointed, as the camera lens remained squarely focused on Mei's critical stats, so to speak.
...Great, it was now basically confirmed that their fates currently rested in the hands of a crazy Navi. Granted, if she was by herself for as long as said Navi probably had been, Mei figured she'd probably snap. Now, let's see what sort of tests they could expect...

...Okay, a test involving various kinds Suddenly she was REALLY glad she didn't go that way. But, Heidi went in so hard...even though it was obvious she was as disgusted as she was. She couldn't help but admire her resolve...which just made it harder for her to consider not doing this. "I am SO glad I don't have to do that." ...Wait, that sounded bad. Backpedal! "...Because I don't think I could really try without Master's eyes on me. Or his tentacle..." Oh, she probably shouldn't say tentacle right now, in front of certain parties trying to get slime out of their mouth. She typed something on her PET really quick, and put it up for a hologram: 'Nice work, Heidi!'. Once Heidi saw it, she'd quickly disable it. But, Mei felt like she had to show SOME respect for how far she was clearly willing to go.

As she waited to learn her fate, the camerawoman spoke up, which just made the future engineer to glare over at her. Before she could say anything, Locksmith let her know about her test, and the choice there in. The decision was obvious, though. Sorry, but her clothes were staying on. Now she just needed a good reason to do it. "Well, um...oh! Let's do the automatic mode! Surely Master would like to know if it works or not!" ...It actually occurred to her that this put her at a slight disadvantage, as her suit was designed to knock her down a cup size or two. Or at least, it would, but she was still wearing it slightly off, so that it wasn't engaging in that function. Yeah, she'd be fine. And without stripping or blowing off a slimy tentacle.
Heidi left off brushing her tongue to smile for a moment and nod, showing that she appreciated the show of solidarity... before screwing up her mouth and resuming, clearly eager to get the taste of gooey tentacle out of her mouth. Whatever the robot's tendril had been coated with (or otherwise, even worse, secreting) had clearly not done its flavor any favors.

Locksmith's blurry form nodded along with Mei's supposedly hypnosis-driven assessment. "Hm, hm! Yes, I too am eager to see how it works, given that we haven't tested this particular function yet! Okay, let's see how it works. Going full auto!" she continued with a chipper voice, happy either just to be doing something or perhaps to see the fruits of her namesake security system (though, it seemed unlikely she was actually seeing much of anything). To Mei's left, the camerawoman was watching noiselessly, her stoic face making it unclear whether she was banking for or against something to happen to Mei. Heidi watched with growing concern, as though she had something she wanted to communicate.

If Mei herself was also feeling an increasing sense of dread, it might grow yet further, once she noticed the set of tentacles on her side uncurling just like the ones Heidi had faced earlier. Rather than presenting themselves erect and upright, these ones continued moving until they touched down upon her, flapping their surprisingly articulate, repulsively slimy masses against her. They then prioritized wrapping one around one wrist and the other around one ankle, or two if she was standing with her legs together, restricting her movement. The others moved seemingly with less obvious intent, crawling their way upward to allow their lengths to rest atop her shoulders. They seemed to be squeezing gently, almost as if they planned to give her an unexpected massage. She'd still have one hand free at this point, to do whatever she might, although whatever machinery was inside the tentacles seemed rather sturdy. Heidi watched, ready to move in and help if Mei appeared to be in pain, but not wanting to ruin their chance for infiltration. Tammy watched with the focused lens of someone anticipating what might happen next.

Mei clearly wasn't going to get a break today, at least not as far as Wilhelm Jacques' robotic legacy was involved; all automatic mode had done was tell the robots to move things along at their own pace. Once they had massaged her enough to get a general idea of where parts of her anatomy were and what she was wearing, tiny sucker cups attached themselves on to the surface of her bodysuit... then, with a motion like miniature pinions, began tugging at the surfaces they were grabbing. The cups latched onto whatever cloth like surfaces they could find whilst making their way inward towards Mei's breasts. By the time they reached, both her bodysuit and whatever she'd chosen to wear underneath would be thoroughly ruined in the chest area. To make matters worse, the tentacles then wrapped around each breast, squeezing with a soft, repeated pat of the suction cups, as they looked for any stray threads to tear away.

It wasn't done yet, of course; the tentacles maneuvered down to the waist and, as though peeling an apple, continued to remove clothing so that Mei could be sized up. Mei would have one hand free, still, if she felt like covering her top at this dire time, given that no tentacles were guarding it and she was, annoyingly, being recorded. Finally, the tentacles continued their journey down to her butt, stopping blessedly short of pulling the fabric away from her groin, while revealing everything else down to the extreme of her buttocks. "Wow! Is that right? You'd have to be huge for those to be right..." Locksmith gasped. "Is auto mode broken? Anyway, by all the debris I'm detecting on the lab floor, I'm guessing that he never used this because it'd be a pain in the ass to clean up! Hopefully somebody gets on that later."

Slowly, the tentacles would relieve their grasp on Mei, leaving her naked, for the most part, except for ironically most of her sleeves and legs up just past the groin, which the tentacles hadn't needed to peel her bodysuit off of for their tests. "Don't worry... We'll make it 'cable-ready' as they used to say in the business when cable was a thing," Tammy informed Mei, seeming happy with the footage she'd obtained. Heidi gave a sympathetic sigh, both acknowledging Mei's situation and affirming that she'd been expecting something like that.

"Okay, so there's just Tammy left, right? Do you want to do auto mode too?" Locksmith inquired.

Obviously, Tammy did not. "I'm going to go on the other side after all," she shrugged, showing little desire to risk more than she had to. When the tentacles came out, she went with the safest bet: she rolled up her t-shirt, revealing an all black bra designed to look as though it had been slightly torn by some clawed animal, much like her jeans. She placed her hands to the center of her breasts and lifted the bra as well, revealing a very noteworthy-sized pair, though not as noteworthy as Mei's. With little fanfare, she stepped up and nudged the tentacle between the middle of her breasts, then made repetitive, slapping jiggles up and down with her hands upon her boobs until the tentacle was sufficiently satisfied. As if in defiance of her attempts to avoid what Heidi had gone through, the tentacle sprayed a thin trickle of whatever that goo was onto her face when it finished. Tammy muttered a few non-cable-ready phrases of annoyance as she put her bra down, then lifted her shirt to wipe her face.

Notably, she'd had to put her camera down to do all of this, so it was near Mei if the unfortunate second-in-line girl felt like tampering with any footage or recording anything new during these proceedings while Tammy had her back mostly turned. That didn't seem to be lost on Heidi, who found herself glancing down at the camera a few times... but she wasn't about to risk doing anything that'd lose her the good graces of the ones footing the bill for her excursion.

"Swell! You must have had some practice," Locksmith cheered. "Now I'm positive that you're all 100% mind-controlled and ready to enter without breaking any rules! Neat! Uh, don't forget to grab your gear out of those lockers before you go in, though. Uniforms required past this point!" she informed them all. With that, her screen cut back off, and the octopus began to roll away to one side like the stone from Lazurus' tomb.

Mei may have been excited to hear that they were going to get uniforms before proceeding in, since she'd just lost most articles of her own clothing, but the sight of the uniforms might turn her off a bit. There didn't appear to be any in men's sizes, but plenty in women's, and each of them was in the shape of a high-legged one-piece swimsuit with little in the way of chest support either, just shy of being a V-shaped sling bikini. Worse, they were all made out of the same elastic, wet-feeling material the octopus was. Gloves and boots of a similar material were included, hanging from small racks above the swimsuit-slash-uniforms. The good news was, all the pieces would be fairly one-size-fits-all, due to their stretchy, clingy nature.

Heidi looked back to be sure Locksmith was no longer present, then frowned, inspecting inside the cabinet. "She sounds like she expects us to wear them this time... So far, all we've had to do is follow instructions, so this hasn't been as hard as I figured... but what awaits us further in is likely the toughest security of all," she warned the others. "i'm guessing that's going to be the last easy one we have to go through." Mei might want to object to her calling that easy, but it spoke to the kinds of situations Heidi had already been privy to. "What do you think, Mei? Do you agree that we ought to put on uniforms? Or do you want to try it without?" After the words were out, Heidi blushed a bit, trying to avoid looking directly at Mei, who had distinct incentives to put on anything else at this point.
...Hmm? Heidi seemed a bit worried. Mei nodded wordlessly, though she figured there probably wasn't an answer that would give her access AND spare her dignity completely. She had resigned herself to it, and-whaaaat was that movement? ...More tentacles, great. Really, now that she got a good look at them, the articulation was really impressive. She'd actually compliment their maker if they probably weren't about to molest her or something. She shuddered as each one slimily started touching her, as her legs and left arm were held in place. ...Actually, she had stuff she really didn't need slimed, so with her free arm, she undid her belt, and gently tossed it to the side. Skye wouldn't appreciate a gooped up PET screen.

Okay, it was feeling her body up, that wasn't surprising. Though, it sure seemed to be taking its sweet time. "So, how much longer is thi-KYAAAA!!!" With great speed, the tentacles started to rip off her tank top and the bodysuit below. Based on the scraps that fell on the ground, she wasn't wearing anything underneath it. As if that wasn't humiliating enough, only then did it proceed to give her breasts a good groping. It actually might've felt good if she was on her own, but the knowledge of there being multiple others, one with a camera getting footage of it, really killed the mood for that. Her face suddenly becoming incredibly flushed, she covered her newfound nudity with her free arm as soon as the tentacles were gone, which, in a cruel irony, remained fully clothed.

But it didn't end there, as it continued downward with disturbing efficiency, though it thankfully ended before it completely exposed her. As Mei looked down, though, it might as well have, as aside from her arms, legs, and a small scrap covering her lady parts, she was totally uncovered. "...What the FUCK was that?!?! All my clothes are ruined!! If I'd known that was gonna happen, I'd totally have just gone with the blowjob option...or the boobjob one...really anything but that..."

When she had thrown her belt aside, her PET had partially come out. "Huh? What hap-" Skye took a look, and conveniently happened to be facing her operator. Her...suddenly almost naked operator. "HOLY SHIT WHAT HAPPENED?!...Meep!" The Navi's face also became red, mostly in response to the scene, but a small part of her was embarrassed for her outburst. "I, uh, didn't mean to actually say that out loud..."

"No, I don't blame you, it's what I'd say..." Locksmith piped in, and...was doubting the results? For some reason, this actually kind of annoyed her. "No, it's real...big tits run in my family, really..." As the tentacles loosened their grip, she defiantly placed her other hand over her crotch.

"Hey, uh, Mei? Just a heads up, since I got, er, a little look at your situation from behind, before your hair covered it might not want to bend over. If your hair's off to the side even a little, the others, uh...they're gonna see at least one of your holes down there if you do. Maybe two, depending on how that tiny piece of fabric is holding on."

"...Right..." Almost defeatedly, Mei went over to her belt, picked it up (notably making sure her exposed posterior was pointed away from the others as she did so), and put it around her waist. "..."

"I know it's small comfort, but at least you weren't wearing anything expensive..."

"..." The college student remained quiet as Tammy went over to do what she SHOULD have done, deriving a small measure of schadenfraude as the tentacle basically shot its load on her. In her amusement, she didn't stop to notice the suddenly free camera. She most likely wouldn't have done anything with it anyway...what good would it have done? Anyway, now they'd need to move o-heeeey did she say uniforms? "Uniforms? Sweet!" Anything would be an improvement.

...Though, looking at them, they did their best to make her reconsider. But, it wasn't ripped up sadness, so that was still an improvement to her. Turning her back to the others so she could use her hair as a natural curtain, she took off the shreds she still had on, as well as her gloves and boots, and put it on with zero hestitation. "Gross...I don't even want to know what happens if that slime gets in any of my cracks..." Heidi spoke up, but it just caused Mei to glare at her. "EASY?! You'll get the slime taste out of your mouth eventually. I will NEVER get my clothes back! All I can say is, either you or the TV station is footing the bill when I go buy the replacement!" The pondering of whether everyone should wear the uniform only intensified the glare. "Heidi, if you or Tammy tries going without that uniform, I'm going to make the both of you go through auto mode, with the camera staring right at you!"

"Please...both of you, do it. She's really not kidding at this point..." Skye appeared as a hologram, respectfully bowing to emphasize 'seriously, do it, there's been enough clothing destruction today'.
"I'm going to be working overtime on catching all the censorable moments... but it'll be worth it," Tammy joked, smiling at Skye and her operator as the two of them panicked. Their response was reasonable given the sudden shredding of Mei's wardrobe.

"Big is putting it mildly! Those are the biggest knockers I've ever recorded here! I wish I could see em," Locksmith sighed in response to Mei's reassurance that Locksmith's readings were not the result of a malfunction. "Welp. Feel you up again some time!" she finished before flickering off.

Tammy shrugged, still looking Mei up and down appreciatively as she put her bra and shirt back into place with one hand and wiped the gel from her face with the other. "Yeah, don't sell yourself short, Mei. You have enough ass fat that you'll have to bend over pretty hard and square at the camera to show anything worth me censoring," she informed her acquaintance, as though that was supposed to be reassuring.

The group made their way to uniforms, which Mei was initially appreciative of... a little less so once she got a look at them. Speaking of which, Mei was equally unappreciative of Heidi's claim that being stripped nude on camera by a gross set of tentacles qualified as easy. Tammy readied the camera again, hoping for a cat fight.

Instead, Heidi shook her head, with an expression that seemed to show sympathy. "Mei, this is almost too easy. We aren't just dealing with a deviant who designs fun-house toys that strip girls... we are dealing with a man who has the tools and means to build weapons, break out from jails and most importantly, dominate people's minds and turn them into slaves. In the course of my pursuit of this man, I have been put into situations so taxing that I have literally been forced to sell my car- which was my house- along with everything I owned besides my PET. In my work, I have seen friends risk life and limb- even as much as climbing across the outside of a high-speed railcar- just to bring this guy down. So I'm sorry if I offended you and I'm sure BigTime plans to pay you back for your clothes. But this is the very tip of the iceberg," she explained at length, her eyes looking down to the floor as though even explaining those past events drained her.

Tammy had apparently become disinterested once she realized it was a lecture and had stripped down to her panties, which were black and shredded for fashion, like the top. She put on the most leotard with a frown on her face. "Ick," she spoke quietly.

Nodding, Heidi began unbuttoning as well, removing pieces until she was left in a gray sports top and silly, heart-print boxer shorts. With more info, Mei might recognize they were part of her man disguise, but right now, they'd just look out of place. Tammy was filming the two of them and shook her head disapprovingly. "Those have got to go... no way I'm filming you with those boxer short legs sticking out of your bikini," the camera-woman complained.

Heidi turned red, but nodded, putting her money where her mouth was as far as her claim that stripping was no big deal compared to past experiences. She pulled that piece off, revealing her skinny hips and covering her sex with one hand as best she could... then turned, taking off the tee as well. The bounty hunter then quickly stepped into the slimy swimsuit that served as her uniform. When she turned around, her face was clearly saying, "gross," but she kept it to herself to try not to discourage Mei.

If Mei was satisfied, she would want to put on her own gooey uniform, which would feel just as unpleasant squeezing against her private areas as one might imagine. Tammy would record the whole time, of course.

"For a minute, I thought you might try to get to my camera and delete the footage I've taken. I don't know how you handle yourself in a fight... but touch my camera and there will be one," she warned. The thought may not have even crossed Mei's mind, but it had crossed Heidi's; the other girl looked both ways in a guilty fashion. "I have a special relationship with all cameras... but especially this one. You don't touch somebody's camera," Tammy reiterated, now turning her eyes upon Heidi like a wildcat: the bounty hunter did her best to put on the same unafraid face she'd shown Mei.
Mei didn't really have much more to say before going to get the uniforms, but one comment got a rise out of her, and she glared over at Tammy. "Hey! My ass isn't THAT fat!..." ...No response, which did little but make her self-conscious. "...Um, Skye? Is it-"

"Of course not! She's just trying to goad you into ratings boosting positions! I mean, you've got junk in the trunk, sure, but it won't be covering anything if you bend over."

"Just...making sure it's not just me. Thanks, Skye..." Now she could shimmy over and put on that uniform...

...Which had pros and cons. She was, at least, decent for cable television, but the way it felt..."'s like someone made this out of actual octopus..."

"That's...just gross looking. I'm pretty grateful I don't have to wear anything like that..."

"You should be. I haven't felt this disgusting since I went to that one fraternity party!" Without elaborating, the college student heard out Heidi, softening as she went on. "Outside a moving railcar? Wow. I kinda wanna meet whoever's badass enough to pull that off."

"Me too! A human pulling that off would be amazing!"

"Okay, I understand that this might be the tip of the iceberg. Just remember, my iceberg's already gotten stripped. At this rate, I'm going to have multiple bleeding holes by the time this is over. I don't think you can blame me for being a little nervous..."

"You said that kinda casually for someone worried about it happening to them..."

"I said I'd do it, so I'm doing it. Those NCPs are important to you, so they're important to me, too. If that means putting my dignity in a blender, well, it won't be the first time. Though it IS the first time it'll be televised..."

"I'm sorry, Mei. I didn't know stuff like this would end up happening to you..."

"I'm more worried about what's going to happen to me..." While they went on, the other two ladies had put on their uniforms, Tammy cheating somewhat by leaving her underwear on. "That is SO not fair. You can't even take it off for solidarity? ...Whatever, you put it on, at least." The camerawoman warned them about touching her camera, but unlike Heidi's apparently guilty conscience, Mei just shrugged. "Fair enough. Just don't do anything that'll make us want to mess with it."

"Remember, I'm good at working machine networks. If you bug Mei more than you have to, you'll be sorry!"

"There's no need to threaten." At least, she hoped there wasn't. "...Let's just get this over with, so we can all go home and take nice, hot, soapy baths to get the slime off of us." Unless a cold bath was better for that. Then she'd totally do that.
"If Biggy was here, he'd recommend you bend over so we test that theory," Tammy pointed out, still smirking. For all that Biggy was a pervert, she seemed to have sexual harassment on the brain as well, though the answer as to why wasn't as apparent as it was with him.

Heidi listened to Mei, keeping her eyes averted respectfully until the other girl was dressed. "Frat party...?" she murmured, sounding curious and briefly lost in thought, before stammering and answering the other point. "Er, oh, no! Don't worry about that. I highly doubt Jacques put anything like that in here. It wouldn't match his motivations, from my extensive profiling of him... however, imprisoning us down here or making us mind control slaves would match his motivations, so let's remain on our guard."

Tammy laughed again, bringing her camera up to catch the best angle on Mei. "Sorry you guys had some bad luck, but I'm not being recorded anyway. There's no need for me to take mine off," she taunted. "Hey, could you try to tone down the 'me, me, me' stuff? NCPs, your problems, all that stuff. People are going to want you to be in this for the sake of saving the world from mind control, not for getting your navi jazzed up for the Colosseum or whatever. Really they aren't gonna want to hear you complain all the time anyway. Can't you think of anything good to say?"

It sounded like she was trying to goad Mei into a fight, or else, was just tonedeaf to how annoying such a request would be. At any rate, Heidi shook her head and interjected again. "Don't worry about that, Mei. Come on... we should see what's through the next gate," she rallied them both, looking out of place amidst the other busy girls in uniform as they headed through the dark doorway.

On the other side was a clean, wide elevator with mirrored walls, perhaps not surprising considering they had definitely run out of space for the building to span backward. It appeared to lead up to the attic or down to the lab. "Ah ha ha... at least this choice is easy," Heidi chuckled dryly, before pushing the button to make the elevator descend.

A smooth but awkwardly lengthy ride would take them down to the subterranean lab level. The door opened up to reveal perhaps a large laboratory space, perhaps surprisingly large to those who hadn't seen the full scale of Jacques' robots before. While it was very large, it was also very dark and abandoned... a few nefarious looking devices and even more evil looking giant, octopus shaped robots were lurking in the darkness, but none of them moving.

The only lit portions were a long walkway with handrails, leading to the wall on the back of the room. At that wall was a large, octopus shaped console, with seats suspended on its curled tentacles. The piece was very befitting an evil layer; it would be out of place anywhere else. Also noteworthy: a single light was flickering over a large door, locked with another giant, octopus shaped machine hanging over the doorframe.

"This must be it, huh? The server you were looking for. Unless its yet another room back," Tammy spoke up first.

"Hmm... I imagine it probably is. Although that begs the question what is behind that door. At any rate, there is a conventional jack-in port on this console, and it appears to have power. The screen says 'sleep mode,'" she pointed out literally, placing one finger just below the blinking message in green. "How about it, Mei? Are you ready to jack in, or should we check out that last door first?"

The door in the back had another monitor attached, although this one had not immediately flashed on to display Locksmith. Interestingly, a few items sat on a dashboard nearby that door: a box of saltine crackers, a stack of paper cups, and a small, box-shaped device with one red button on top, as well as a message taped to the surface: "INSTRUCTIONAL VIDEO."
"Somehow, that's not really comforting..." Mei shook her head at the 'assurance' that the octopus obsessed man was only interested in imprisoning and enslaving them, and not doing things that would happen at a sleazy frat party. She then looked over at Tammy, and smirked. "Famous last words, 'Tiny'."

"Now now, you guys. If it's going to get harder, you need to work together, not tear each other apart."

"True. Still, you'd think that someone that cares so much about their camera wouldn't try to piss off the woman with the tools and technical know-how to make short work of it..."

"See, that's exactly what I mean! Togetherness! Teamwork! You three need to work on it!"

"I'm perfectly willing, but-" Heidi's interruption made her stop and shrug, as Mei wasn't quite emotionally invested enough to further disparage the camerawoman. "All right, all right. Faster we head down there, faster we leave." They headed into the elevator, and down they went. Once it started, though, she placed her hand on her chin thoughtfully. "Hmm. Now I'm kinda curious what he'd keep in that attic. Not enough that I want to check it out on the way back up, mind you..." From there, it was just an awkward, quiet ride down.

Things would cease to be quiet, however, when the doors opened to reveal what was down there. "Whoa! This place is huge for something beneath a sushi restaurant! ...The man really needs to vary up his tastes, though. At least throw in a squid or something for variety...and, maybe it's just because it's pretty dark, but I've gotta hand it to him. They're actually not nearly as horribly constructed as I would've thought, at least as far as I can tell. So, Heidi, someone actually climbed one of these while they were moving? I said it before, but I'll say it again. That's awesome. You'd have to be in really good shape to do that...some upper body strength, too. Who were they, a pro martial artist or something?"

"Um, you're kinda rambling on at this point, Mei..."

"Yeah, I know. I guess I'm just starting to get a little nervous."

"Me too. I don't want to see you become someone's mind slave!"

"That makes two of us..." The group made their way to the back, and the octopus console it contained. "So, what now? I doubt this is hooked up to a cable box." ...Ah, the server. That worked, too. "So, this is a server? It doesn't exactly look like one, but you're the expert. One thing I'm pretty sure about, is that we shouldn't check that door out yet. That Navi'll get suspicious if we go around checking rooms without approval."

"Yes, we really shouldn'" ...Sorry, what was that first option? "J-Jack in?!"

"You heard her. Looks like you're going to have to go in."

"Hold on a, does he mind control Navis...?"

"You've got traits that'll help you out here. First of all, if you actually do get mind controlled, Ray can always try to snap you out of it. Close bonds and all that. Second, thanks to Ray, you can jet out of there in a hurry if something happens. Third, you're adorable, and that might make that Navi drop her guard a little."

"Thank you...? But I suppose it can't be helped. It'd be heartless to make you go through what you have already without risking it happening to me as well."

"That's the spirit...I think...oh, on that note, I think you should leave Ray behind. It might raise an eyebrow if you went in riding on him."

"True, not many Navis do that. I'll leave my spear unsummoned as well, so I don't look too threatening. I can call it in a jiffy, anyway."

"Probably wise. ...Are you sure you're okay with doing this? Who knows what'll happen once you're in the network."

"Thank you for the concern, but if I want to reach the goals I aspire to, I'll need to throw caution to the wind and triumph over all obstacles! Even ones that could end up with me covered in tentacles!..."

"I'm sending you in before you manage to talk yourself out of it." There was the port, so point, "Jack in! Skye, Execute!"
Tammy regarded Mei's words by pulling up her lower lip in a pensive frown... but something was shining in her eyes, underneath horizontally set dark eyebrows. Divining the subject of the interest discretely gleaming in her gleaming eyes would be difficult. Still, she seemed to go back to her earlier quiet persona, sulking quietly in the corner of the elevator and fiddling with her camera as the three took a long ride together.

In Mei's defense, she had plenty of time to ramble with a captive audience. "I am not sure why it's always an octopus and never a squid... maybe eight is his lucky number?" Heidi posited with an idle smile, trying to be friendly but finding it hard to make small talk given the circumstances. "She actually was a pro martial artist! Her name's Leslie, she lives at a dojo. I didn't know it at the time. Later on, I visited her place and we took a bath together-"

The camera was suddenly back on her, peeping from the corner. Noticing that, she backtracked quickly. "I-I-It was a hot spring bath, so it's normal for people to bathe together there!" she clarified, squirming in her uniform.

Noting Skye's concerns, she nodded sympathetically. "I would send Incognito in too, but I'm worried that if Jacques' navi, Mindroot, is inside, she will recognize him. As for Tammy..."

The cameralady tapped her camera with one hand. "I think I'll send my navi in too. Not much point in just filming all of us standing here," she responded, stepping forward with her PET.

That seemed to surprise Heidi, who allowed it regardless. "Um, yes, he has been known to use mind control on navis as well. Be careful in there... I think you're as prepared as anyone can be," she agreed. With that, Tammy and Mei jacked their navis in, leaving the door for another time.
As soon as she saw Skye (whose outfit was thankfully fully refreshed upon her return) back in her PET, Mei made a dash for the door. As she started to open it, she turned her head back to the other two, one of which had no intentions of going anywhere. "What?! How do you know it'll...actually, there's no way to know it won't be able to tear through the door. Fine...but be careful. C'mon Heidi, she's probably right! If there's a way to shut this down, it's forward!" Grabbing her by the wrist, she opened the door and pulled her into the next room, whatever it contained. So long as it wasn't robots, they'd probably be fine...for now.