Description: With the clone body of "Lightning Spangles" in her custody, The Black Dahlia consults Shadaloo's best available IT specialist on matters concerning possibilities and problems. Marz is there.
[ ooc note - replace #3330 with #1530 ]
Even before Scarlet Dahlia began to cooperate with Shadaloo, the nefarious criminal cartel had already planted a number of barbed hooks into Japan's coastline. But now, with the addition of Akatsuki-gumi intelligence, the Shadaloo points of presence have practically tripled, with deep-water ports now established in Nagoya, Osaka, Hiroshima, and Fukuoka -- and plenty more in the coming months.
Dahlia peels off mirrored sunglasses as she steps into the Nagoya facility. From the outside, it's as unassuming as every other warehouse. The front office looks legit. Everything looks above-board at the loading docks. But as she walks past a wall, she stops to stare at one of the numerous warning posters, one eye squinting while the other is held wide open.
With the retinal scan complete, locks click open. The wall slides sideways, revealing a hidden cargo elevator. Tucking the temple of her sunglasses upon her lapel, she sweeps her long forelocks away as she steps into the elevator, watching the doors shut with a look of smug amusement on her lips. She pulls a pen from her sleeve, flicking it through the motions as the elevator drops down through several meters' worth of concrete.
She speaks into the air, eyes focused on the elevator's display. "Marz, are you listening...? I'm hoping we have some time to chat today..."
And before long, the elevator slows to a halt with a soft beep. The display reads 'B1', and the door swishes open. "We have so much to talk about..."
Marz has been busy organizing the Shadaloo operatives taking care of the many and varied problems that she has been tasked with troubleshooting for Lord Vega. The command to slash and burn the current military personnel under Shadaloo control was troublesome to say the least. Personally, she would've preferred knowing the status of compromised agents and utilized them to send false information as a way to signal jam Interpol and the Special Forces, but what did she know? She was only the information specialist and strategist among the Dolls.
She is deep in her current lair, lit only by the glow of her computers, said glow reflects back off her glasses. Information streams in, speech to text to catch calls from outside agents as well as active livemapping of chipped sleeper agents. And a few gaming streams running on a side monitor.
One of the many incoming messages actually manages to catch her attention. She sighs, because of course she's listening, but that doesn't mean she always wants to do the talking part. Rubbing at her temple she turns in her swivel chair and sits up. Because the incoming message coming from Honoka means that even without her input that the Dahlia would just show herself in.
Though, as Marz considers it, there is the matter of her personal project that she needs the Dahlia for. Turning about, she manages to switch a number of the screens over to the point of need. One Koto Mukai, AKA Mega Dragon Fighter J-Dragon and his curious displays of Psycho Power.
Dahlia's smile grows a bit more sincere as she rounds the bend to the control center and catches sight of the screens. It doesn't really come as a surprise that Marz knows the topic of conversation, of course -- but the breadth and depth of the information brought up are singularly impressive to her.
"The fact that you're always prepared never ceases to impress me, Marz." She quickly returns the pen to her sleeve lining, resting a palm lightly on the back of an empty chair, basking in the light cast from the battery of screens.
"Koto has been -quite- impressive in combat. I had meant for him to show me more in our fight, but Hat Guy just -had- to keep running his mouth..."
Dahlia glances at the desk beside her, an idle thought crossing her mind. But after deciding she'd rather -not- irk the computer-savvy Doll unnecessarily, she slides instead into a chair. She'll be a good girl... for now.
"He's quite thoughtful. I certainly hadn't expected him to leap to my aid as quickly as he had. Have you been following the tournament, hmm?"
Okay, maybe she can allow a -little- prodding of the Doll's ego.
As one would handle a cat. Provide a box, it will sit in it instead of your workspace. Marz is content to see that her experiment works wonders. A small bit of effort to distract and coax and then you never have to deal with nuisances. Ounce of prevention and pound of cure and all that.
The Doll adjusts her glasses and smiles to herself when Honoka compliments her. Though there is the matter of timing on things. But a compliment that leads to the chance of boasting is never a bad thing. She turns enough to reach behind her and cue up footage from the two fights. "I have been following the King of Fighters so far. It's ample information on potential operatives."
She turns around, pulling up the civilian data on Koto Mukai. "Your partner has been on my radar for a while now," she says, pushing her glasses up her nose. "Koto Mukai displays a great deal of Psycho Potential. I think he could be prime material for Lord Vega's plans; even if he doesn't know that. Of course, he needn't know at all."
She turns around and cues up her false information, plenty of online form and forged documentation to place the Doll as a young transfer student into Pacific High. "I've been attending classes and keeping an eye on him, growing close and offering some promise of help understanding his capabilities. It was terribly easy to coax him into saving me by way of a few chipped Darkstalkers."
She leans to pull up the fight between Honoka and Kung Lao on a third monitor. Just to have Hat Guy be there for Honoka to see. "Your connections with him came after, but honestly, that can only help my position."
Expectations are a fun little toy to play with, Dahlia considers, crossing one ankle over the other as she sits prim and proper in her seat. Elbows prop on their respective armrests, as fingers tent against one another. Her full attention rests upon Marz for as long as the Doll is turned her way; it's not until she turns away that Dahlia even deigns to glance at the screens. "Mmm... yes. I'm finding it to be -most- useful for reconnaissance. The Kyokugen Dojo shows... potential. One might figure a dojo propped up by one of the richest playboys alive wouldn't be -broke- all the time, but they're no quitters."
She taps her fingers together, nodding quietly in assent. "Koto can... perform some impressive feats. Though he seems, to me, to be more of a savant than someone who can will his powers on command."
Dahlia seems amused, when the cover identity comes up on screen. Yayoi Fischer... of German descent. "A perfect cover story," she comments with amusement. "He's definitely got a mind of his own. I understand he's been getting into fights over and above our tournament matches, even."
Dahlia leans back in her chair, index fingers brushing past each other idly. Her smile lessens, not the least because of the reverse angle of her getting shoved into a buzzsaw-like hat happens to be on screen.
"... Just so I'm clear, though... I'm simply playing the philanthropic incubator role for him now. So that I'm not interfering with your work... do -you- have any specific designs on bringing him into the flock?"
To Marz, it doesn't matter how clever Dahlia may feel herself, in the end, she is getting what she wants. She cares a great deal more for results than for means, after all. But as she keeps her back to Dahlia, not much caring to have the attention on her when all the pertinent information is on screens, she pulls up data readout after data readout.
"That he can call his, um, costume from wherever is sign enough for me that he has a fair degree of control over his capabilities," Marz says. She pulls up footage of the Henshin cry, playing it over and over again. "And his presence among the SNF community showcase a considerable degree of direction in his aims."
She leans back in her chair, fingertips pushing up on the bow of her glasses. "Considering my orchestrated demonstration of his noble intent, along with your aforementioned experiences, I think he can be of considerable use to us." She watches, considers, mind racing as she wonders just how much to offer to the Dahlia.
"You really cannot intrude too terribly on my work," Marz says, "You are, in many ways, augmenting it." She turns now, finally looking back to Dahlia because for her next part she has no slides or data to show. The 'flock', the thought amuses her. She has her sisters, and there is Lord Vega. The Four Kings are respect worthy to a degree, but everything else is a tool. A means to an end. But since she's talking to one of those tools, Marz cannot give too much away. "He has a predisposition against Darkstalkers. He is also greatly in the dark about the nature of Psycho Power. He's also lonely, unaware of any 'like him'. All three of these things are generally exploitable weaknesses. Give him affection, give him the right knowledge, point him at an enemy. He will do as we wish with little provication."
In observing Koto, Dahlia has come to understand the young prodigy's talents to some degree. Marz's point is certainly true in that he -has- some sort of control over his powers, in that he's able to manifest the costume and unleash feats of heroic justice. He's consistent, and malleable -- like any good tool. But, in Dahlia's estimation, those powers are constrained to feats witnessed in the tokusatsu shows he watches. His entire ideal structure... based on those shows he's seen as a boy. It's a marvelous structure for control -- but she hopes to be -more- to him than just a simple puppetmaster.
Dahlia displays a pensive smile as she nods in reply. She respects his talents, and his skills, in much the same way as Marz. "He's eager, willing to learn, and quite capable of filling our needs. I think we're on the same page there." She taps her scarred cheek, amber-laced eyes glimmering with reflected light. "But is it -more- than simple loneliness, a need to fit in, that drives him? Does he have anyone he... -cares- for, that you've found?"
Marz taps her fingertips together before spinning back around in her chair. She tick-tacks away on the keys. Tokasatsu shows, clips and images. "I've been researching his techniques and styles. I think in a controlled environment he can be lead to believe what we want him to. If would just be a matter of showmanship."
She pulls up the Yayoi Fischer ident. "I believe it's less a desire to fit in and more to find people like him. Others with Psycho Power. Which, of course, we can provide." A push of her glasses. "The matter is not if he already has people he cares for, it's how we become those people. And one thing I've noticed from the style he emulates, there is formula and pattern. Ones that we may also emulate and direct."
Dahlia rolls her chair closer. She's quite aware that leaning forward might be considered a breach of Marz's bubble of personal space -- a threat made doubly potent by the peculiar force of presence that normally surrounds Dahlia. But there she is all the same, her face lit with tokusatsu imagery, as she edges ever closer.
And, being so close, it'd be hard to mistake the amusement that comes across her face as she realizes where this research might lead.
"So you've been doing research too. Do you plan to 'suit up' like he does? I really hope you pick out a complementary color scheme. It's rather important that these sorts of things match, if you plan to combat 'evil' together... Oh, and a -name!- What would one call the number one sidekick to Mega Dragon Fighter J-Dragon, anyway...?"
Amber eyes glance sideways to Marz, that insidious smile still plastered on her face. It's likely true that Dahlia has done her own research into the matter, to say the least.
A nuisance and annoyance, but Marz is all too familiar with having to work with people that just don't get the basics of human decency. And even with her own presence, Dahlia isn't Lord Vega. And that close it's all too clear how opaque Marz's glasses are reflecting the images on the screen.
"I don't have any plan. He has to do that part. The more he finds it his idea, the easier it would be to control. At least until the chip is implanted." Marz looks to the side, toward the Dahlia, she shakes her head and looks back to the screens. "With your current proximity to him, it would be helpful if you instilled the concept. I can see to it that appropriate challenges are brought to bear."
Dahlia's smile reaches maximum intensity for a moment...
And then she pulls back and away, departing the personal bubble of space.
"I'm operating on similar wavelengths, sure -- challenging him to apply the lessons of his fictional heroes to the realities of life as a troubled teen. As you'd said -- it's not that I can intrude too terribly upon your work."
She raises a finger to her lip, easing back into her seat at a less impositional distance. She draws in her breath, the insidious smile pressing into a thin line.
With a more subdued tone, she resumes. "Since you mentioned chipping, though... there... -is- a more pressing matter that I've encountered. How familiar are you with Yoshiaki, the brilliant engineer behind the Violet Systems and HitBit technologies?"
So the conversation shifts from her project to one of Dahlia's. Marz can accept that. It's nothing but explaining so far. She minimizes what she has up for Koto and shifts to a new series of unending tabs and searches. As she types in names and key phrases, she starts into searching whatever information is freely available.
"I don't much pay attention to personalities," Marz admits. "I find it less interesting than the work itself. Which I've also not looked much into. But as you bring it up, I'm beginning to see that I might have to study the hardware?"
Dahlia's raises her finger once again. "Just one, primarily: Yoshiaki. Lead engineer on HitBit, lead engineer on ComBot. And also, conceited lead engineer for a brand new team. You remember the oddly realistic doppleganger of Lightning Spangles who made her world debut on the Terry Roger show, mm?"
Dahlia presses her hands together. "She's in a van parked just outside. A wonderfully accurate clone, in almost every regard. Better, if you count the aberrant personality defects that appear to have been -fixed-. And she's been chipped, of a sort... with a ComBot wire harness."
Dahlia reaches into her jacket, withdrawing a slender cellphone. And with a sweeping motion across the face of the device, she begins a wireless transfer of photos -- MRIs and X-rays of the aforementioned clone, showing the data nodes embedded within the body of Lightning Spangles.
"Obtaining Jezebel Faiblesse's DNA is likely child's play. My question is, which sort of organization would possess the resources to create a perfect clone -- let alone hire an eccentric engineer with an axe to grind?"
"The images came across my screen. I read a recap. Didn't have time to watch the whole interview," Marz admits with a shrug. She types in searches, pulling up picture of Spangles the clone, alongside uploaded videos of Spangles original flavor. Something to compare appearances of. She looks between the two, finger plucking at her lower lip as she thinks.
"I'd like to isolate their audio and compare vocal wavelength and patterns," Marz mutters to herself. When Dahlia mentions the engineer is actually there, that gets attention. "The engineer, or the facsimile of Spangles?"
Her answer is quickly supplied with the stream of data uploading onto Shadaloo's systems. Sweet, sweet data gets Marz going and she's already leaned forward and observing whatever comes up, as it comes up.
"There is a lot to consider," Marz admits, hesitation even in her voice. "But there is always information. The most obvious answer to all of this would be The Southtown Syndicate. But it does not line with their standard patterns. Of course, the Novus Orbis Librarium is a possible threat in this regard. It may be a curious approach, but I don't have enough to understand their patterns yet."
Marz shakes her head. "All of this is meaningless speculation until I've had time to study the data and consider the metadata."
A picture is worth a thousand words, and Dahlia just slid over several. And as that appears to please Marz, a grin is brought to Dahlia's lips as well.
The grin falters somewhat as Marz mentions the likelihood of -Southtown Syndicate- being brilliant enough to hire away the talented engineer. "... Cloning is -way- out of their wheelhouse. If it weren't for their hacker queen, those thugs wouldn't know a DNA sequencer from a fry vat." Still... Nagase has messed with her HitBit aspirations before, and despite her hasty dismissal, the thought continues to rumble around inside the manipulator's head for a moment.
Thoughts of the Novus Orbis Librarium interfering, though... that is a much more viable possibility. Lost in thought, she scratches her scarred chin, nodding with understanding. This was an idea that -hadn't- occurred to her yet. "Yeah, I don't know much about them either."
Still -- progress. And Dahlia appreciates Marz's insight enough to slide the cellphone out of her own reach. She's got more.
"As for the Yoshiaki factor... just out of curiosity, I recited my ComBot admin password. And lo and behold -- Yoshiaki's voice took over, laying out a quite -vicious- speech to Lee Chaolan." With a wrinkle of her nose, she forges a brief smile. "Seems he thought only -Chaolan- would have had the password. 'Now I'm part of something bigger than Violet Systems. With money, and respect, and authority. And other perks.'"
The smile turns to a glower, as she rests her hands back upon their respective armrests.
"Whichever organization it is -- they've infiltrated the circus. In addition to Lightning Spangles... three circus personnel had been replaced. The Twilight Star CEO, Issei Nagaoka. A performer, Reika. And Ainu Spangles."
Dahlia looks... more than a little unsettled at that.
"I'm hoping you can glean more from the chassis. Maybe even... resusciatate her for a little counter-operation..."
Marz knows that there are people outside the so-called authorities that wish to challenge the greatness of Lord Vega. "They might not, but money can buy the service of the ones that can." She doesn't outright state this Yoshiaki's name, but lets the possibilities hang in the air.
"But it's all just speculation."
And then she hears about the voice, and a speech to Lee Chaolan. She instinctively opens more tabs to look for public information on him. Yes, it's a lot, but the more pieces she can put together and consult, the more she sees the game board.
"Reviving? I'm a genius, not a god. I don't do wetware, but I can find people who can," Marz admits, but her speaking has slowed, she's reading, and as she reads, she starts piecing something together.
"Why did they infiltrate a circus and why do you care?"
Dahlia grimaces at the idea that Southtown -could- fund clones. And in doing so, she might just show that Duke Burkoff got further under her skin than just about anyone else. With a prideful arch of her eyebrow, she counters, "If there was one thing that my campaign against them was successful in, it was draining their cash reserves to the point cloning is just -out- of their budget."
But... there are other possibilities to look into. And other topics of study to extract from the banks of her cellphone -- to say the least of what could be pulled from the comatose Lightning Spangles clone upstairs. "She's not dead, just sleeping, as far as I can gather."
She looks over at Marz's multitude of displays, her eyes beginning to cross at how fast the technological genius can skip through them. The question of why the circus is relevant, though, takes about two seconds for the normally quick-witted Dahlia to register as an actual question.
Dahlia narrows her eyes, bristling. How can Marz -not- know the connection? And yet, she plays it as if the Doll doesn't know, anyway: "Because... Honoka Kawamoto...? Of the -Twilight Stars?- It's my damn circus is why. Just because I'm not performing doesn't mean I've dropped my stake in it."
Exhaling sharply, she continues: "Far as I can figure, whoever's running this tournament is trying to throw observers off the track. They threw birdseed at Jedah Dohma, they threw birdseed at me, at Lightning Spangles... But we were just third place, and they didn't pick on the winning Team Balance or the runner-up Syndicate Team. Maybe it's just the Spangles connection..."
Not to self, thinks Marz, look into Southtown Syndicate spending. Visually, Marz just purses her lips and returns to the glow of her screens. She has a collection for Lee Chaolan, a collection for Yoshiaki, a Lightning Spangles collection, a list of results from the last several King of Fighters competitions. Geese Howards record in that World Warrior thing that Marz didn't much pay attention to, and more to cover the spread of all possible Persons of Interest.
And then she smirks.
"It's a game," she says. "Look at your opponent's movements. They strike the circus because it is yours. That means, they know who you are and your connections." She turns the chair to face Dahlia. "It would appear, in this case, that you have an excellent sacrificial pawn. Use it to draw out your opponent, and then Shadaloo will envelope them for you."
Dahlia is still bristling as Marz's smirk -- captured in the reflection of one of the less vibrant screen displays -- makes its way over to her. Pressing her back against the chair, she presents the German Doll with more of a smoldering expression as their respective gazes lock.
"Present them with a trap, then. Instead of attempting to -sever- the connection, embrace it."
Almost immediately afterwards, she pulls a pen from her sleeve, toggling it back and forth between the fingers of her right hand. "It's not a bad plan..." she admits, before grinding her molars together. "... The tournament prize is only a prize because it has value. One approach might be to -devalue- the prize by offering a meet-and-greet with the 'real' Lightning Spangles -- forcing their hand to act. The copycat Ainu Spangles could prove instrumental in this."
Dahlia nods slowly, her glower diminishing with each passing moment. Begrudgingly, she yields Marz the moment of smug satisfaction as she hops into line. "I can get behind this. But we'll need to act soon. How long will you need to examine the clone?"
Marz can indeed look smug. She sees more and more positions on the board and many of them will help in securing the future for Lord Vega. Even if she has to help Dahlia with her little problems to get there. And so she smiles, and she tents her fingers, and her glasses reflect a screen of numerous potential movements.
"Is the circus a value to you? Sentimental?" she questions. "You seem hesitant." Marz isn't even bothering to play dumb, she's just being so to taunt. "And the clone won't take too long, I imagine, but I will have to assemble a team here and I despise group projects."
She sighs, putting her fingertips to her head and squashing memories of Sergei Dragunov. "Yes. It can be done. Have your people bring the clone to surgical. But I will need my privacy."
Dahlia's eyes narrow fractionally at the suggestion. "Sentiment has nothing to do with it. For all intents and purposes, the circus is as much a Shadaloo asset as I am. I don't like wasting time -or- effort, and the circus represents years of both." She wouldn't even respond at all to the obvious bait, except for the need to emphasize that Twilight Star Circus personnel are not -- at least in her mind -- expendable. "The Twilight Star Circus is the same vehicle that allows me to be such a -positive- role model for your pet experiment, so yes -- I'd kinda like to keep it operational, hmm?"
As thorny as the response is, Dahlia still finds herself smiling at the end of it. There's... a reason she seeks Marz's advice from time to time, and it's not -just- the brilliant strategical deductions. "Excellent, I'll have it brought in."
The request for privacy, though, is enough to arch the Ainu woman's eyebrow once again. Her pen thumps lightly against the back of her hand as she rolls the chair back a few centimeters. "Aww... and here I thought we could spend some more time together."
The pen disappears into the folds of Dahlia's sleeve. The manipulator flashes a grin. "Was there anything else you might need from me before your alone time with 'Lightning Spangles?'"
Marz has doubts. She doesn't voice them, she just adjusts her glasses. A few new tabs. Mostly to blanket cover her screen and signal jam as she opens several let's play videos and a film review. She'll run them concurrently and pay attention to whichever catches her in the moment. Mostly, it's done now to show she's bored more than she actively has missives to send to the Four Kings and Lord Vega about potential conflicts of interest or leverage points on the tool best called Dahlia.
"I understand your predilections, but I'm not interested in you. I still consider it a compliment," she says, smirking and pushing her glasses up her nose. "However, there is something you can do for me. Yes. It's of the utmost importance."
Marz reaches over for a can of coffee, she picks it up and gives it a little wiggle. Empty. "I could use a fresh one."
Dahlia's no stranger to having multiple streams running simultaneously -- it's just that she'd prefer not to surround herself with things that aren't immediately pertinent to her interests. Let's Play videos are out of that category -- a most un-subtle signal on Marz's part.
Dahlia rises to her feet, smoothing out the front of her coat in the same graceful gesture. The Akatsuki manipulator made up her mind a long time ago to endure sass from her co-workers, so long as they still provide use to her. But the instant Marz ceases to do that... well, that's for a different time. A compliment is -- however backhanded it may have been delivered -- still a compliment. "As it was intended, of course."
When it comes time for the urgent task of utmost importance, though? Dahlia offers a saccharine smile. "Right away, ma'am." She pivots on her heel, striding out of the room.
Moments later, a can of coffee will sail into the room. Quickly, as if it were -tossed- -- buoyed by only the slightest sheath of fuschia-hued Psycho Power. Its trajectory is perfectly guided to ensure that, if action isn't taken to prevent its forward motion, it would skid to a halt just alongside Marz.
Dahlia still has a reputation to uphold, after all.
A moment later, as the elevator door shuts, Dahlia's pulling her pen right out of her sleeve, shuttling it back and forth between her fingers with a pensive, tight-lipped expression. So many things to consider...
Log created on 11:39:45 07/15/2019 by Marz, and last modified on 00:31:05 07/18/2019.