((Outside of the field base in the Evolution thread -- ignorant to what's going on downstairs))
" ... "
It'd been ten years now since Cherish Pele's brother had passed away. She didn't cope with it well and blamed herself for the accident that caused it.
Cherish was never able to get over her guilt. But she did find a way to temporarily cope: she secretly joined NIA and kept herself as busy as possible so that she wouldn't have the time to wallow in her regrets. If she was constantly working, she was able to keep her mind off of her problems, so that's what she did. An ill-considered solution conjured by a rash girl.
Her enlistment into NIA was completely illegal at the time: she was too young to enlist and her family would not give their consent to her service. So of course, the only solution was to fake her own kidnapping so that her family would not get suspicious when she left for basic training, then to create a fake identity and register for active duty anyway.
And by some joke of fate, that actually worked.
Ill-considered motives aside, things went smoothly for a little while, grief and regret were the furthest things from her mind as she climbed her ranks in the organization. But her father, Seth Pele, would end up being her undoing.
Years later, after everything that had happened during the Eternal Endgame Era, NIA sought to create countermeasures against super-powered Net Navis, or "Titans", from threatening the real world. Their plan was to create an "Anti-Titan", a being capable of destroying anything within the Cyber World (even the Cyber World itself) should mankind ever lose control over their limitless power. Seth Pele, and his assistant Faith Nymphra, were requested to provide assistance for this project as contractors, while Cherish was stationed there as a security officer.
Faith remembered the fear in Cherish's eyes when she noticed the two of them one day, begging them not to reveal to anybody else who she was. But having not seen his daughter in years, and even thinking she was dead at one point, Seth called her out immediately. Needless to say, their reunion turned into a pretty big scene and Cherish's commanding officers were very disgruntled with her deceptive methods. She enlisted underage, falsified her identity, and overworked herself while avoiding personal relationships in an almost suspicious nature, like that of a spy.
Cherish was discharged immediately, and dishonorably at that, but was lucky not to suffer any additional penalties by virtue of her father still being an asset whose interest they wanted to uphold.
She'd hated him ever since.
" You really are a walking trope. Just staring off in the distance like that, all silent and angry. "
Cherish's recollection was interrupted by her mouthy cargo, Shine.EXE.
While most people in Gigamerica couldn't access other networks these days, Cherish had her illegal methods and had been sneaking into Netopia's cyber world quite frequently lately, despite having resided in Gigameric's real world for about a year now. Now that she was back on her home nation's soil, she could be less discrete with her presence here.
On a recent visit, she was able to... "acquire" Shine.EXE, who was being transported by an unnamed agent to NIA HQ. It was uncertain what became of that individual, but for whatever reason, Shine was lost in transit (most likely due to the infiltration and evacuation of NIA HQ).
" How do you even know about this place? "
" I've got my sources. "
" Aaaand that checks off another trope box. Next you're going to tell me that you used to work here. "
" ... "
" ... Oh, and there's the third box. "
Shine held back the urge to laugh at the irony, lest Ms. Grumpyhead go punching her in the throat or something.
" I'm going to miss you, Cher-Bear, y'know that? You ought'a reconsider getting rid of me like this. "
Ever since Cherish had been discharged from NIA, she'd been in tireless pursuit of getting back in. It helped to keep herself busy and keep her mind off of her problems. And whether she ever succeeded or not, the pursuit itself was enough to serve as another temporary remedy to the guilt and grief she'd never learned to deal with earlier in life.
She'd tried many methods by now; faking her identity once again under the guise of a "Navi" named "Feint" (a tragically poorly chosen pseudo-name in hindsight), rectifying commotion that she secretly caused in vain attempt to "fake" her heroic deeds, and even considered sabotaging non-vital NIA secrets and threatening to blackmail them away if she wasn't taken back.
Needless to say, she was probably on some sort of blacklist by now, at least as far as she would have assumed. Yet some inexplicable degree of patriotism (or just flat out obsession) urged her to continue trying to win back their approval, and she'd done about everything she could think of at this point.
Desperation was an under-statement: her newest scheme was to return Shine to NIA in exchange for earning a place among their ranks.
That was it. That was her plan.
She was still the same rash young girl that she started as, all those years ago.
" I'll be glad I never have to hear that nickname again. Zip your lips and keep moving. "
- - - - -
So, here she was. Approaching the building, she wasn't sure if she'd be stopped on the way in or if she'd actually manage to get inside and find a person to turn in her property to.
Either way, she'd at least have a head start in thinking up how she was going to verbalize her request, since the closer the moment drew, the more she realized how ill-planned this entire endeavor was. No turning back now though, and after all, it actually wasn't the worst plan she'd ever gone through with (shameful as that was).
Last Edit: Jan 31, 2020 16:14:37 GMT -8 by Warrior
As she suspected, there were individuals outside the base that were surveying the area, five in fact. And at her approach, they took note of her. And as they took further stock of her at her approach, one of these five raised his hand in a gesture for her to halt, making it clear to her at her approach what he was aiming at and what it was for with the gesture he presented.
"Halt. What is your purpose for being here?"
While they were a series of generic appearing Navis, they didn't appear armed while they were in their standard attire, but it was better to assume that they were despite their appearance. And they didn't betray anything of whether or not they knew her background or not.
She'd halt immediately, as requested. Her base assumption was that these five were NIA members of some sort, and given her covet for their allegiance, it was in her worst interest to implicate herself as an enemy here.
" Just returning something that was lost. "
Feint motioned her head slightly toward to Shine as she said that, indicating that she was the subject of that last sentence.
" Am I alright to proceed? "
Normally she wasn't as straight up and honest with her intentions, but perhaps her nerves were just starting to get to her, being at the doorstep of an opportunity to attain her goals and all. Strong desires have a strange way of making even the most stubborn people compliant, and no better word than "docile" could describe Feint's attitude in that moment.
Last Edit: Jan 31, 2020 16:14:51 GMT -8 by Warrior
They looked between Feint and Shine, one running a brief scan over Shine in particular. And it lined up that she was lost indeed. They had been transporting her before things had gotten out of hand as the world now knew, looking to each other before one nodded to them, looking back to Feint before speaking up.
"A moment please."
It was clear that he patched through a communication then to ask for authorization. And after a few moments passed, he stopped and nodded to her, the others stepping aside for her as he turned, preparing to lead the way.
He would proceed into the building, expecting Feint and Shine to follow him in tandem. So far things were looking favorably at least for her as she wasn't denied entry. It was just a matter of where they were leading her next. It didn't appear to be to the prison section, so unlike the time with Thrash and Nightshade, she hadn't rightfully earned her behind bars for present actions. Just past ones. Knocking on the door to the office, the door slid open to reveal a likely new face to Feint. A cyan navi of mechanical design, the only facial feature being his yellow eyes. He was rather plain looking as aside from his color and slightly bulkier frame he'd more likely be considered just a customized normal navi. He glanced up from the papers, waving his hand for the soldier to depart and they did just that. The door closing behind him as he left as he stayed quiet, almost as if he were waiting for the two to speak up.
Feint hid her shock as the navi invited her to enter, keeping as blank a stare as she could while she obeyed and followed him forward, holding Shine by the shoulder as she moved onward to ensure she couldn't try anything clever.
If honesty was all it really took, all this time, she felt foolish for never having tried it sooner. But nothing was certain yet other than she had made it further than previous attempts in her endeavors. So far, at least.
Anxiety was killing her, growing heavier with each step as she was navigated through the building -- her eyes soaking up every detail, envious of those agents inside that saw these walls everyday and maybe even thought of them as cages to their daily work. Her mouth felt dry as she realized just how woefully under-prepared she was for whatever came next, feeling totally off-script and long out of her comfort zone at this point.
When at last they made it to the room with the cyan-navi inside and were left alone with him, there was a good moment of silence among them as she, too, waited for him to speak up at first.
Everything inside of her told her to be careful with her words. She felt an intensity toward herself that her odds of getting what she wanted were slim to none, and it all came down to how she presented those desires. The weight in her throat was almost enough to choke on, but she mustered up her thoughts and opened her mouth to speak.
" Hi ! "
Feint's mouth shut immediately after Shine's absent-minded greeting, teeth gritted in an irritated manner, but her expression was not exceedingly overtaken by the annoyance.
Some of her anxiety got washed back by it at least, but the self-imposed tension was certainly still there. She just wouldn't take as much time voicing her thoughts now, as a means to keep her subordinate from disrupting her opportunity.
The spontaneous greeting went unacknowledged by Feint, and she'd hoped it'd go unacknowledged to their audience of one as well.
" ... I take it you're in charge here? "
She was hesitant to ask that because of how shady it sounded, but she didn't want to go voicing her request to somebody without the power to provide it. And she only wanted to have to make said request once, not be pulled up the chain of command one link at a time or anything -- not if she didn't have to, at least.
She held her silence until the Navi responded, ready to take the situation onward from there as it was about the most preparation she could give herself at this point.
Shine on the other hand was just happy to not have been brought directly into any of the cells, as that was what she had been most worried about up until now, so she was beaming and friendly as opposed to the cautious and anxious Feint beside her.
Last Edit: Jan 31, 2020 16:15:05 GMT -8 by Warrior
Well one of them were certainly of the friendly sort. That wasn't the most common occurance he ran into around here. It wasn't as though they were adverse to being a beaming and friendly kind of individual as much as their work required a stern approach. As a result all of them, including the troublemakers they had the pleasure of meeting, were all of the same breed. He still gave a nod of affirmative to Shine and in a way Feint as well, though words would accompany her question too.
"That's correct. I'm Grom, the one assigned to lead on this end."
It was the NIA in the end. Navis might have done the work on this end, but in reality they were the tools required to do the job of the organization. That did nothing to diminish his authority, just that this was the reality of their group that opposed the tyrannicals powers that were about.
That was what she was hoping to hear, at least. She figured now was about the time she'd voice her request, lest he get the wrong idea of two women in skintight bodysuits standing in front of him alone in a closed room.
Her hand was still on Shine's shoulder, now moving to Shine's back as she gently nudged her forward a step.
" I found this one alone after what happened at your other base. She was being transported by another one of your agents before that; no clue what happened to that one. No clue what he wanted her for either, but I figured you could use the extra hand in this case, all things considered. "
While she herself didn't exactly know the causes behind the evacuation of their HQ, it likely tied up some of NIA's resources and some degree of personnel would be dedicated to accommodate for that which unavoidably thinned them out somewhere else.
He wouldn't be able to see her hand shaking from behind Shine's back; her other hand in a softly gripped fist at her side so he wouldn't see that shaking as well. Anxiety was still fighting with her, but she pressed on regardless.
She was hesitant to introduce herself at this point -- she wasn't even certain whether or not he knew who she was already -- but honesty got her this far so it was honesty all the way with this attempt.
" My name's Cherish Pele... in the real world. "
Shine raised an eyebrow and Cherish's willingness to just provide that information up front this time. Cherish's sapphire gaze stayed on Grom as she continued.
" In here, I go by Feint. I don't have the prettiest record, but I do cherish my country. If NIA still needs more hands with whatever's going on, I'd be willing to provide mine... if you'd have me. "
So there it was: neck on the line and intentions fully exposed for Grom to do with as he pleased. She figured she could have worded it better, but was content in just being able to say it completely at all at this point.
Anxiety turned into anticipation now, but she was mostly certain of the worse outcome of this. Wit's end brought her here, and she couldn't be disappointed if she still tried and wit's end wasn't enough.
Last Edit: Jan 31, 2020 16:15:18 GMT -8 by Warrior
He listened intently as he had before once he was engaged in conversation. To hear what Feint had to say in a time where their workload was most certainly at its high. If Shine had gotten lost from one of their agents and the agent didn't go back for her, he would assume that agent to be one of the casualties in the Cybeasts that were released. They had done quite a deal of damage before they were mysteriously silenced in a show of brutality. Whatever took them down had done so with force and absolution, swift and certain in a show of their own power. It was concerning enough for the NIA to have no heads or tails of what exactly had done the deed. But it was good that someone had gone to pick Shine back up even if it perhaps wasn't simply out of the kindness of their heart.
No, he preferred that it wasn't out of something simple like compassion. She had done so because it was out of drive instead. Because she also wanted something. Drive had always contributed more than compassion. And the revelation of who she was caused a bit of thought on his end as well. But this was a positive check on their list compared to a lot of other reveals these days, as her name alone was something that he was familiar with. Because of her own actions on top of their associate, even he was quite familiar with Pele by this point.
"There's plenty who do not have the prettiest of records these days. They're on the list to receive their proper punishment in due time after their repeated offenses."
It wasn't exactly a nice thing to hear given what Feint had done. And it was left to hang in the air for some time as well. She couldn't have known that the NIA had taken quite a different approach to crimes dealt against them so far. It was how certain individuals had managed to get into either good or bad graces at this stage.
"But how could one go about clearing their record if they aren't presented the opportunity?"
So it was about time for her to determine which one she would land in as well. Nightshade had been given several chances, Vanguard the same. They always at least offered them a chance at redeeming themselves for their acts of foul nature when they committed them. This time would be no different. This time was more important than the ones that came before in Grom's eyes as well.
"If you're willing to lend a hand in these trying times, we have no reason to refuse it. You and Shine are both welcome additions to our ranks. Are you certain you want to endanger yourself as well?"
But it was something to ask all the same given the nature of Cherish herself. Not so much Shine in this case.
" There's plenty who do not have the prettiest of records these days. They're on the list to receive their proper punishment in due time after their repeated offenses. "
Cherish noticeably swallowed at the words, but she'd more or less accepted that outcome in her mind by now. This was last ditch, and if it failed and she did get locked up, there wasn't anything left to regret as she'd tried every other approach to win NIA's approval.
" But how could one go about clearing their record if they aren't presented the opportunity? "
" ... "
She cracked a small smile, visibly showing the she latched onto the hope those words brought. Tears of joy threatened to well up, signifying this clearly meant more to her than he could have possibly thought, but she closed her eyes and turned her head to gate those back.
" If you're willing to lend a hand in these trying times, we have no reason to refuse it. You and Shine are both welcome additions to our ranks. Are you certain you want to endanger yourself as well? "
She opened here eyes again. Glazed now, but no streams -- a testament to her willpower. Her cheeks looked stressed holding back her smile, some of it still cracking through just barely. She focused so hard on containing her joy that she didn't notice him mentioning Shine by name here despite her never being introduced -- her rose tinted glasses affixed now with no hope of removal, an ignorant puppet tying itself proudly to new strings.
" Concerning only for my own safety would be a bit selfish. I'm fine with the danger. "
She'd thank him for giving her the chance, but her expression showed it more strongly than any words could have conveyed. After years of failed attempts at their acceptance, they'd now earn her loyalty unwavering.
Shine was a bit less emotional about it all, not too keen for the mention of danger. But if there was money involved, she'd shrug and go with it. It probably wasn't any secret that she'd flake over for the next highest bidder if it ever came down to it, but for now she'd extend the hand by virtue of having no better option presented at the moment.
Last Edit: Jan 31, 2020 16:15:30 GMT -8 by Warrior
It was clear that she wanted this more than he first thought. This made it easier on him for sure. It meant that he didn't have to deal with demands and such that some of the others would make as opposed to her just going along with what he had to say. At least as long as he didn't make any outlandish demands he figured this would be better than the ones Mistair had to deal with before now. And their work was pretty simple as the situation would have it. They had criminals at large that were making a mess of things. And it was about time they were dealt with.
"You have the right attitude. Let's get right into it then."
He placed his hand on the desk, the room dimming as several images showed. In this case it was of several individuals. Vanguard, Mistair, Nightshade, Embera, Genesis, and the Armored Destroyer chief among them. Considering the broadcast with the Overlord and the Destroyer that was shown recently it only made sense that they were problem children going around and having a temper tantrum.
"Vanguard damaged the border and has fled without fully making reparations with Mistair after taking some of our technology with them. Nightshade is more of an international issue. He's spread a virus to other nations and has no intentions of making up for his actions properly. And Genesis and the Armored Destroyer continue their stints as terrorists with no end in sight. Discussion with them will no doubt fall on deaf ears. Embera supports Genesis, so she won't agree with us either. The navis with wills of their own often neglect the good of others, and by and large they will likely show themselves in Netopia sooner or later."
It played into them being more strict with them. Left to their own devices they often brought disaster and problems that by and large devastated others. So someone had to make it their job to police them so that others wouldn't be harmed by their random outbursts. Since they refused to control themselves they would be treated like the rabid animals they often behaved as.
"If you have any other questions concerning anything, you can voice them now."
Cherish listened intently on what he had to say now, her composure returning as he debriefed her on NIA's Most Wanted.
" Netopia's enemies are my enemies. If they cross my path, I'll handle them. And if you see their faces pop up anywhere, consider me en route. "
She was actually lower on the power scale than all of them, really. She had the confidence, though. It didn't help their case that they were all Navis, too. No surprise to Cherish, of course.
Shine, on the other hand, didn't have that same air of confidence, nor the supremacist bias of her newly appointed colleague.
" Sooo... are there any like... smaller scale baddies? Or any jobs that don't involve baddies at all? I'm not as die-hard as sugar-tits over here, but I mean I'll do what I can if I come across them too. "
It'd be adorable to watch, actually. Like an aggressive six-year old being held back at arm's length, swinging aimlessly at the air and unable to do any actual harm.
But it wouldn't be much of any use, either.
Last Edit: Jan 31, 2020 16:15:46 GMT -8 by Warrior
He wouldn't mind seeing that scenario play out, but it would be a pointless waste of manpower at the time. They weren't all good at being combatants which meant assigning the roles best suited to each of them. In this case, Shine more than likely shined at gathering details than not. So assigning her any formal designations that she was affiliated with them would be counterproductive with the intended agenda because unlike Electopia's poor choice in spies, they knew better than to put water instead of cracked jar.
"You can gather information instead. Be it around Netopia or any of the other countries. Knowing their situations is beneficial given the radio silence from some of them."
Namely Electopia, considering they sort of got taken out in that attack. That they of course caused themselves with their own machinations. That was the story to run with and it would stick that way because the only ones who could say otherwise were all active criminals or supporting said active criminals. Their word held no real value when they offered it. Not in their eyes at any rate. And they'd keep it that way too.
"For the time being, Feint, you can be at ease and get accustomed to your surroundings. Once we get your communicator ready it will make intercepting them easier as well."
" You can gather information instead. Be it around Netopia or any of the other countries. Knowing their situations is beneficial given the radio silence from some of them. "
Shine's eyes perked up at the instruction to gather information. That was her specialty!
She just had a tendency to only gather useless information was all.
" Yes sir! "
And without much further direction, she made her way out of the base and eventually out of the network to go gather all of the random facts and notes that Grom would never actually want to know. An easy one to please.
Cherish seemed relieved to not have to concern herself with the mischievous one anymore, her own ears perking up a bit when issued her own orders.
" For the time being, Feint, you can be at ease and get accustomed to your surroundings. Once we get your communicator ready it will make intercepting them easier as well. "
" ... "
Cherish nodded in affirmation as she went to excuse herself from the room.
" I'll be exploring the halls, then. "
Getting familiar with the building seemed like a good enough place to start in the meantime. She didn't necessarily have a badge to go flashing so she was probably limited in what spaces she could access, but walking around beat standing around.
( Shine -> ??? [Location will be linked later] )
Last Edit: Jan 31, 2020 16:15:56 GMT -8 by Warrior
Feint had managed to get familiar enough with the building. There were some lower levels that were said to be under repairs so she couldn't quite visit them, but the upper levels were fine. And after some time had passed, one of the agents came to provide her with the communicator that Grom had mentioned, the Isolator. But it wasn't too long after this that an alarm started to go off, the ones who were already linked up with their communicators getting their orders and starting to rush off as it were. Looked like her first operation was already ready to start given the rush of things.
The alarms started blaring suddenly, but she wasn't sure where she should be going or what the alarm particularly meant -- generally different situations call for different alarms, but needless to say she sort of lacked that training here. Feint put on her communicator in case she was to receive orders herself, but for now calmly followed behind the others to be lead to whatever the commotion was.