Honoka - The Long Trip Home

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Description: Scarlet Dahlia and Marz are an odd fit together. And while Marz would much rather be safe and secure in the Shadaloo stronghold, Dahlia had dragged her and on a mission which gave every sign of being for Dahlia's exclusive benefit. Add to that the fact that the Doll feels like she survived the crushing pressure of a black hole, while the Ainu still wears that incorrigibly smug smile. Will the two ever see eye to eye?

A simple mission with three objectives. And all three objectives complete -- albeit with a few more casualties than expected.

Scarlet Dahlia frowns back at her reflection in the handheld mirror. A number of fresh cuts and abrasions on her scarred face are nothing to really -stress- over, but they are nonetheless tangible reminders of the potentially life-threatening battle she was engaged in just a short while ago. After dabbing an alcohol-dampened cloth against the most egregious of the wounds, she angles the mirror back to survey the cargo bay full of dazed circus members strapped into jump seats behind her. Patients, recently released from imprisonment at the hands of NESTS scientists and a crazed researcher with no respect for personal space. To Dahlia -- or Honoka Kawamoto, as they would know her, they are only family she'd ever really cared to keep around. Most are taking the opportunity for some shut-eye -- though some have better success than others at catching forty winks in the cargo bay of a noisy VSTOL aircraft.

Dahlia snaps the mirror closed with a faint, albeit contented, sigh. She settles into her seat. Hers is a bit more comfortable than the jump seats: it has padding. And armrests. She steals another glance at the young Doll in the matching seat beside her. Dahlia's lips curl into a broad smile. The Doll proved her ferocity in battle -- and piqued the Akatsuki crimelord's interest even more than before.

The mirror disappears into the folds of her battle-worn jacket. And a moment later, a smartphone is withdrawn. So many things to document...

A fight with a hellish NESTS manager. All to rescue some contacts of the Dahlia's. Her "family". These people that are, ultimately, just a wedge between the Dahlia's best off position with Shadaloo. The lingering connections to yet another potential strain on loyalty. Another thing to divide the Dahlia's attention from what needs to be the focus.

And Marz was there to fight against her own interest. To fight, and be battered, and to be crushed in a singularity created by one of NESTS senior leadership. And now, for all of it, Marz lay against side of the van, staring into the distance, hugging her laptop against her chest. Blood drips from her nose down onto her wrist. She doesn't notice. She doesn't feel a lot right now.

But she is awake, aware, and if she could do so without feeling nauseous, she would be inspecting the situation. But she can't right now. She is conscious of the phone coming out. And does little more than twitch a judging eye toward the Dahlia.

Ah yes, judgment. That's something interesting to jot down in her documentation.

The blades of the VSTOL aircraft continue their thrum, thrum, thrum. Dahlia can feel the penetrating glare, though she makes a point of acting as if she -doesn't- for a few seconds. Marz may not necessarily understand the relationship between Dahlia and the dozens of cast and crew sitting idly in the back -- and truth be told, Dahlia doesn't fully understand it either. But the manipulator knows that wild variances in her emotional state can have a ripple effect upon those under her pull. Her cast and crew are quiet and docile now. But if Dahlia were to lose her temper, that could have a ripple effect on the cast and crew -- and that could get a little dangerous.

Of course, another perfectly reasonable interpretation of Dahlia's calm could just be simple arrogance on her part. It's hard to tell.

But finally, after a few moments of her index finger swiping lazily across the touchscreen, she speaks -- clearly and slowly. "No one's going to steal your precious laptop from you, Marz. If you keep curling up like that you're just going to make your back sore." A motherly tone, that seems more than a little out of place.

Also in the back of the air vehicle: the cyborg affectionately dubbed "Coffee Maker," and a small contingent of Shadaloo security forces. The rest of the assault team presumably departed on other, less crowded vehicles.

Marz does not understand relationships outside of her diagrammatic studies and a degree of game theory. She is, even were she not brainwashed, a young woman. In a lot of ways, her childhood had been stolen. And she is none the wiser for it. But under all of it, the feeling still lingers.

Dahlia's family is a wedge within the "family" of Shadaloo. Marz does not hold a great deal of esteem for many, but under her prickly and judging exterior she did feel greatly for her 'sisters'. Dahlia was not one of them. And yet Marz was here, for the behest of Lord Vega, being battered by the leadership in NESTS.

Marz clenches, a twitching, pained muscle, something likely torn inside of her. And her lip curls at the motherly tone. "You owe Lord Vega greatly for this," she manages to say. The pained annoyance is palpable even to those not particularly gifted psionically.

Her eyes close, her breathing shallow for a steady minute. "I hope these people will prove worth the cost in retrieving them."

Dahlia offers an impassive nod. She hadn't expected Marz to take the bait of complaining about something as trivial as the laptop, or Dahlia's jab at it. Nor had she expected the battle-forged Doll to complain about the injuries which will undoubtedly be wiped away with a dip in the Shadaloo recovery vats. She did, however, expect the indoctrinated Doll to repeat the ever-present mantra of Lord Vega Is Better Than You.

"Of that I'm sure," she acknowledges, lookijng away with a guilty frown. "It's an enduring shame of mine that I'm not as strong as he. I'm not so strong as to wade right into the thick of battle and swat down pests like that man in one fell swoop."

Poignantly, she raises a finger to her lip. "Indeed. I -do- wonder what that man's name was. Normally someone so arrogant would be quick to share it." An eyebrow arches; the look of shallow introspection turns to a pensive stare back at Marz. "I'm sure the data you retrieved while I was drawing his fire will be enough to identify him, though, hmm? So that we can remind ourselves who the true enemy of the day is."

The focused gaze lasts only a couple moments, though, as Dahlia leans back in her chair, effusing contentedness. "But yes, you're right. Retrieving them -is- more effort than simply annihilating them. But we gain dozens of potential test subjects with unparalleled experience with a recent NESTS endeavor. Test subjects who we can -trust-, sparing Lord Vega the effort of breaking them individually. Surely that's better for balancing out the ledgers than simple brute-force devastation, hmm?"

The laptop has kept Marz alive against Interpol's finest, against sun gods, against any number of threats great and small. Her laptop is her everything. And as such, she clings to it as though it were a life raft. Her eyes shut as they are, she just leans against the door and listens.

A small huff, disregarding the words from Honoka. She does not think Honoka is truly grateful for what she gets from Shadaloo. But Marz just sighs and exhales with a shudder at the throbbing pain rolling through her. Vats, healing, or not, the pain is current and not Marz's preference in the first place.

"I suspect it will be difficult," she finally answers. "The data that we have is likely worth little." Eyes open. A look toward Honoka. "They will know what data we have, it will only be useful in the short term. It will be best for them to course correct from any lost information."

A hiss as Marz sits up more straight, but the hold on her laptop remains. "Do not be so foolish as to mistake complexity for clever. If anything, the most useful information is the recording of that man's combat capabilities that Coffee Maker will have on his sensory drives." She looks forward as she thinks, always thinking, always planning.

"If you consider their skills worth retrieval," Marz says, speaking slowly to listen and to gauge, she adds, "Then they will make good candidates for a new study of the control chip technology."

Dahlia has been working within Shadaloo to know that, no, people -don't- trust her implicitly. She's not one of the Four Kings. She's not with the Dolls. She's not even part of the military command structure, existing wholly separate. And -- until now -- her 'branch' of command has been empty. Vacated. It's only through the grace of Lord Vega's personal recommendation that she has any authority whatsoever in the echelons of Shadaloo command.

Scarlet Dahlia is accustomed to the level of friction Marz displays. So, due to experience, and to her latent tethers to those in the cargo compartment behind her, she refrains from displaying her umbrage at being questioned, masking it behind a subtle smile. "You might be missing the big picture here. If NESTS refrains from using this technology, then that too is a success. Whereas if they try to use it against us, they're fools. Either way, the mission's a success."

Dahlia wrinkles her nose as Marz forwards the idea of computer control. It's... possible that the idea had not occurred to Dahlia, in that she takes a moment to respond. After a moment, her eyebrows part and she offers a noncommittal shrug. "As a secondary measure, certainly. But as primary?" She pauses deliberately -- but that's it. She hasn't had reason to rub in the failure of the -last- study of control chip technology. Gracefully, she segues with: "Ultimately, the decision lies in the hands of Lord Vega, though, does it not?"

The smartphone is, however, placed face down on her lap. And she turns to Marz with a sincere look. With the pretenses discarded, Marz can likely see the melancholy that Dahlia tries to keep away from her scarred face.

"But really, now, Marz... it seems you're questioning my loyalty to Lord Vega. Do you have evidence for this intuition of yours?"

The reasons for doubt are many. Lack of displayed purpose, for one. Manifold independent ventures, is another. Multiple external ties, a third. Marz sees little more than an exploiter, one using what little remaining goodwill they have earned to further her own goals. A greedy vacuum that expects all to serve her own needs. Not one that truly knows her place in serving Vega's goals.

And one that has the condescending arrogance to not even offer gratitude for what has been done for her.

Marz closes her eyes and leans her head back against the seat cushion. She listens, but she makes an annoying scoff. "I will be making my suggestions. There have been failures, they can be learned from. They will be learned from." She inhales, exhales slowly, running her fingertips along the edge of her precious.

"With all your apparent knowledge of stratagem, why not you tell me why your loyalty would be in question?" Marz asks with a single opening eye and a challenging quirk of a frown.

Dahlia stares back, as Marz casually ticks off just how she will tattle to Lord Vega on the Akatsuki leader's indiscretions. The irritable condescension of someone much younger than her, who thinks they understand everything about how the world works.

Dahlia breaks away her gaze just befort Marz peeks over at her, closing her eyes in frustration. Fingertips press into her temples, kneading the skin gently. Her skin starts to grow a dark shade of red. "Hmm. Well, I'm not wearing a bodysuit so tight you can see the pimples on my butt. And there aren't enough Shadaloo lightning bolts or death's heads on my outfit. So, no, I'm -not- trying as hard as I can, I suppose."

She exhales sharply. "So am I bitter? Maybe. I resent the line of questioning, considering all I -have- sacrificed to serve Lord Vega. You didn't -ask- that so I won't trouble you with it. All you see is Scarlet Dahlia doing Akatsuki things, or Honoka Kawamoto doing Honoka Kawamoto things."

She pauses to catch her breath. Or for effect. One or the other. "Even though that is, in fact, the -deal- I made with Lord Vega, in order to prove my worth to him. I have -insisted- that I am worth more to him as an independent, free-thinking agent, rather than a mind-slaved automaton fit for serving coffee and jumping on live grenades. Which, just so you know, -is- the end result should I ever decide disloyalty to be an attractive option."

As she speaks, her skin slowly returns to its normal shade of alabaster, the momentary burst of rage bleeding away. She opens her eyes, turning once more to Marz. She's still frustrated, but she's managing to keep it from spilling over. "And believe me. I know it. I'm doing what I can."

Still, she unfolds her hand, splaying her fingers out. "I can see how it might appear that running my businesses the way I've always run them might -appear- to be betraying him. The fact of the matter is, even with my Southtown presence shattered, Lord Vega trusts me as a native to manage the Japanese domain. It's as necessary a part of intel as infiltrating an air-gapped site in person. And -running- all these organizations requires personnel. Who can be seen in -public-."

With a neutral expression, she gestures to the people behind her. The ones dressed in rags, wallowing in a dreamlike haze.

"Have I covered my bases? Is there something I've missed?"

Marz stares into the distance. She holds herself still because every movement invites pain. Same with each shallow, steady breath. She is certain something is broken. Something in her was cracked by the cold mathematical and directed crush brought by the NESTs department head.

Wasn't isn't broken is her resolve. She cradles the laptop, the last blow was solid, destructive, enough to jolt the man, but who knows what it might have done to her most precious possession.

One she readily near sacrificed for an ungrateful brat.

"Your pride is all you have sacrificed. And even that seems quite intact." Marz closes her eyes. She sighs and rubs her face. Her glasses skew, but she doesn't fix them.

"I have spent too long solving your problems," Marz gives a resigned sigh. "From unlocking that puppet, to organizing the offensive, to this. And you have nothing to say. I will return to Mexico as soon as possible."

Dahlia blinks impassively back at Marz. Not because she couldn't easily dredge up more words to contest the ones which Marz is slinging out, but more that she doesn't see a point to it. It's the same argument she's lost time and time again -- the one where Dahlia fails to convince the other party of her good intentions.

She frowns -- and shrugs her shoulders. And pulls the cellphone out again, swiping two delicate fingers across the screen.

When the chips are down, pride is all that keeps Honoka going. Confidence in her own abilities is what allows her to exceed. Lord Vega has power -- but Honoka isn't there yet. She has to -believe- in her power for it to have any effect. And that's where this oft-repeated argument continues to claw at the shell of confidence she's constructed around herself. And should that shell crack now -- amidst the cast and crew of the circus? That would be very bad.

The more she thinks about it, the more she realizes Marz might already know this.

"You're right," she concludes after five screenfulls of text. "I've leaned on you, Marz, because I've trusted you. I've relied on Lord Vega's gifts for far too much. And I've put too much faith in someone who has no reason to trust me at all."

The smartphone is set back down upon her lap. And she closes her eyes.

A thumbswitch is flicked by her thumb, as she intones into the air. "Pilot, how many hours till we reach our destination?"

The answer given is enough to trigger another shrug from Dahlia.

"We'll be here a while, then." She starts to stand up. "How do you like your coffee?"

It was just the surface of the frustration. Just the surface of the annoyance and the pain and the struggle of the Japanese angle. Marz had met the arrogant crimelord in her faux wheelchair. The taunting, the smug assurance, and when her agency failed, Marz knew that Lord Vega was there to give her a second chance at a game that doesn't oft give many chances.

And yet this woman just takes and takes and expects everything to be given to her. Marz's eyes narrow to close and she rolls against the door again. At least now she admits it. "Sugar, no cream," she mutters, needing something more sweet than bitter in this moment.

"A woman with a failed organization, with stolen family, and without resource would be foolish to turn down the offers of a stronger force," she says with a hanging sigh. "Do not deign to me that you trust me. Do not talk of faith. You had no options. I am not some child that is looking for your approval."

She removes her glasses. "The sun god was more troublesome than this man."

Scarlet Dahlia has been a staple in the underworld for a long, long time. For she had not been a big fish, like Vega or Duke -- she was a cockroach, scurrying around the underbrush. When Mortal Kombat struck, she survived by simply not being a large enough target, quietly amassing strength until no single force in Outworld would stand against her. Her guile, her -lack- of world-dominating ambition, allowed her to fly beneath the radar. It was only when she stepped out of her corner that her house of cards was scattered -- that Marz had any ammunition at all in such an unequal battle of achievement.

Dahlia smiles as a flight attendant might, nodding her head to the order. She would agree, this is no time for bitterness. She dutifully walks along to the thermos -- because of -course- a cyborg named Coffee Maker would have kept it ready, diagnostic cycles be damned. And she's a quiet listener -- knowing quite well that the flight will be a long one.

It's not until she's pouring Marz a cup that she offers a response.

"That's half right. You aren't looking for -my- approval."

She holds the coffee cup and its saucer delicately. Piping hot, and full of sugar, just as requested. She's willing to stand, as a servant, for as long as Marz is willing to turn a blind eye to the piping hot clouds in front of her.

But the offer comes with a price: conversation. "I had, and always have had, plenty of options. Leaving you behind, for instance. I wonder how much more troublesome this Leader would have been without me soaking up the hits for you." She shakes her head. "I've failed. A lot. And you've somehow managed to let the most unfortunately impressionable corporal in the entire Special Forces division slip through your overconfident fingers. So don't go pretendin' you're -flawless-, sugar-and-no-cream."

Dahlia starts to lean against the bulkhead. One eye winces shut; the weight redistribution brought another injury back to light. She finds the time to grin about it, though. "Come to think of it, you haven't had to -deal- with the hardship of 'choice,' have you?" She laughs softly, cheeks dimpling. "Your turn for twenty questions, Marz. Think back. Tell me -- has working for the praise of Lord Vega always been the -best- option for you, or just the -only- option?"

It's by now that Marz is annoyed enough to just sit up and open her laptop to check the data gathered from the work of the day. And to see if anything was damaged by the NESTS officer. Even if most of the information is immediately dated, there might be something to work with. If that blathering scientist bothered to keep good records, that is, and not mewlings mixed with depravity.

The tickatacks of her fingers are quick, and punctuated with the frustration still under her skin. She purses her lips and taps a finger as she follows the written lines. She reaches to take the cup and holds it close to her, not worried for the laptop since it still hangs from her on the straps she has. "Thank you," she says, off hand, before blowing over the coffee with her whole attention on the work in front of her.

"Forgive me if I was tired after capturing a high profile interpol agent and fending off a self-proclaimed sun god," Marz says. "Do not project onto me your insecurities."

She sips the coffee and watches the monitor. "Are you attempting to salvage face here? Trying to find some footing on how you are superior in some way? To feel better, ja? Would you prefer I pat you on the head for a well done coffee?" Marz snorts. "Do not discount my sisters. The work is for Lord Vega, but Shadaloo is more than a single man."

Dahlia seems amused by the barbed responses. She is a good listener, in that she doesn't seek to interrupt -- but she's also cognizant at how infuriating her arrogant grin can be. To certain people.

She listens, patiently enough that Marz might be wondering just when she's going to bring out something for her fingers to fiddle with. There is no such event -- for the most interesting puzzle before her is the gears turning within Marz's head. The way she took the bait about failure -- took -offense- to the concept. The way she defended Shadaloo as a goal in itself, rather than the vehicle of a power-crazed dictator. Interesting points of data.

Dahlia shakes her head, lightly curled hair tumbling softly about her shoulders. "There's nothing to forgive. The only thing that matters is how one responds to a setback. And me... I've never been one for a desk job."

She gestures around to the belly of the cargo aircraft. "I don't need your pity, though, no. This is just conversation. Shocking concept, I'm sure. And you'll forgive me if I just want to learn a little more about you, won't you?"

It's at this point that she reaches for an MRE packet. And while her expression betrays a moment of distaste at the miniature cloud of powder that erupts as she tears it open, she nonetheless redeploys a faint smile. "There was a time Shadaloo wasn't welcome in my life, I'll admit. But I've moved past that now. I think you phrased it well: Shadaloo is more than just one man's vision."

She arches an eyebrow at Marz. "Shadaloo can save the world from itself, wouldn't you agree?"

"I apologise if you think I would pity you."

Marz drinks coffee with one hand death-gripping the mug, and the other dancing over keyboard commands. She hunches over the board not only to see, but for the fact it compresses her aching wounds somewhat. "The wars you wish to fight are won at desks," Marz defends her profession with solid stubborn pride. "But nein, you are not suited for the job."

She sucks in a breath and exhales slowly. She sees the ploy. She knows the games. "Shadaloo is part of the game as any other. I am young, not childish. Shadaloo does this for itself, and for Lord Vega. If the people wish to comply, all the better. If not. Then oh well."

Marz shakes her head and closes her eyes. "But we need not be so cynical with our Dragon Fighter," she says. "Our shared connection from the high school?"

Marz turns the screen on her laptop to face Honoka. It shows data and footage from many fights involving the masked hero with the unique powers. "You see his usefulness too, obviously. The next step is to be considered."

Scarlet Dahlia has read about warfare. And she's quite familiar with her own people's history of conflicts -- the most notable of which were ended with false promises and jugs of sake. In this case, though, she does not want to get wrapped up in minutia. Her reply is a placating smile -- knowing full well that Marz is certainly suited to end -some- wars from her desk.

Dahlia is considerably more interested in Marz's take on how Shadaloo fits into the world -- and whether she believes it's for some greater altruistic purpose. Gauging from the response, that would not be the case. The tusukur begins to ask a question in response -- only to have a laptop turned around to face her.

"Yes... Koto." She glances back and forth to the various screens, growing pensive. "... Have you noticed any anomalies in his past few fights? Anything that would be... a departure from his normal fighting techniques? He did mention 'something weird' in regard to his abilities recently." She strokes her scarred chin, studying the screen. FightTube won't watch itself.

Altruism is a funny word. Marz herself may define her goals as ultimately beneficial for society. At the very least a more efficient and directed one. But she is not simple and naive in her approach. Some may have trouble understanding her nuances, but Marz is a smart young woman, and she is not particularly caring about the opinions of others.

She minimizes the majority of the footage. After all, Honoka was there for much of it, to bring up what was sent to her recently. "Footage from a recent bout. I received it not long ago but other priorities kept me from it." She speaks with a knowing look around herself to punctuate what other priorities there was.

"But if you witness here. Where he does this shouty thing," she says, tapping the screen while showing Koto's Aurora Burst. The bending of the light, the altered shift to the prismatic energy that bursts forward. "There is something different here. I cannot call it wrong, for the technique seemed to do as it should, but it is something."

Marz's face contort into puzzlement and uncertainty. She presses her glasses up her nose. "This could be something to benefit Shadaloo. On top of his already considerable potential."

Dahlia's faint smile turns upward with the mention of those 'other priorities.' Sure, Marz, go ahead and bristle. The frustration she can sense is just one of the tusukur's favorite flavors of emotion -- so long as it's not impeding her plans.

The Ainu woman may have been giving the other pieces of footage a bit too much attention, for there is a moment where she visibly shudders at the sudden minimizing, smile turning to a pensive frown. Blinking rapidly, she recenters her gaze onto the indicated portion of the screen.

She studies the footage for a few moments, before scratching her scarred chin. "It's... difficult to make out. But he does show... confusion. Panic, maybe." Tougher for the tusukur to gauge emotion through a screen, but some looks are universal.

"Mm. A number of leads." She raises her finger towards the image of the swordswoman. "We know his opponent struck him beforehand. So we need to be sure this opponent of his had nothing to do with the change, for one." She steps back, folding her arms over her chest. "And we have the ... unique opportunity of him likely wanting to -volunteer- for some sort of test."

She tilts her head, glancing askew at Marz. "When was the last time Yayoi made a visit? Anything of note, there?"

Marz is headlong into observational studies to care much about the Dahlia's opinions of herself; not that she much cared in the first place. She pivots the screen back toward herself. "This is a rare moment," Marz explains, "Because we have prior footage of Koto fighting this woman." She pulls up previous Neo-League tournaments. It's another loss for Koto, but there is another showcase of Koto's Aurora Burst coming after a heavy blow from the same swordswoman.

"As you can see, this is the signature of Koto's Psycho power here," Marz says, "And the comparison to how it appears in his fight with the woman recently." She turns the screen to Dahlia. "Clear difference."

"As for Yayoi, I have made it clear there are secret societies of people with powers similar to him. And I have given him a test, as it were. That said, he has contacted me with worry over the behavior of his abilities." Marz pushes the glasses up her nose and leans herself into her seat. "I believe there is something to study here, and any assistance offered, plus some requisite fawning, will put the hero into a better position to consider us."

Scarlet Dahlia, not unlike Marz, is a child of the digital age. She lives and breathes on information, and skipping from one tablet display to another is part of her normal modus operandi. It's just that she's used to being in control, rather than watching passively as someone else handles the controls. Without some tactile signal, keeping track of someone who is more deft with computer technology than herself can be a little disorienting -- even for a juggler used to handling multiple moving objects at once.

So, perhaps, it is good that Marz turns the screen away for a moment, allowing Dahlia to scrutinize the Doll's factial features instead. Her frown fades, showing her appreciation of Marz pulling up the older footage. A tactic Dahlia would have used herself, just... that it took a fraction of the time.

And when the screen is turned to her, Dahlia nods quickly. "Yeah. That's -much- clearer." She gestures with her hands, careful to avoid coming close enough to trigger a UI gesture. "You can even see some sort of... -distortion- going on."

She shifts her stance, murmuring a low tone as she considers. "... I agree. It'd be good for either of us to approach him. Possibly both of us -- but he is intimidated by me, to some degree." She pauses for a moment, reflecting -- and then it seems she's made up her mind. "Do you think you'll have recovered enough to see him in the next couple days or so?"

"And that is with the less than impressive technology that the Neo-League uses for filming," Marz says while both videos play side-by-side to showcase the differences. "I can imagine that with personal sight, and what we have available to us, it will be far more apparent that something is wrong."

But now she swivels the monitor back toward her, starting to compose a reply. "Yayoi will meet with him again, to discuss the matters. But it would be best if we were to keep a degree of showmanship. I was over-confident with the dog. I will not be in this case."

A wince, her hand goes to her side. "I should have recovered, but I will have to focus on that matter to make sure it is so. Will you have the ability to supply the 'society' that Koto believe is there?"

Dahlia flashes a tight smile. Video has its drawbacks. While her pet HitBit project has a Psycho Power blindspot, there's a chance -- however small -- that it would have picked up on whatever manifested with Koto. But that's neither here nor there -- what's past is past. She nods in full agreement, holding her thoughts.

In the meantime, Dahlia leans against the armrest of a seat, steepling her fingers about her middle as she listens. The word 'showmanship' raises an eyebrow -- and it stays raised until the Doll segues into a request.

And then Dahlia grins broadly.
"Of course."
She tilts her head toward the stage cast and crew in the back of the cargo bay. "If these actors won't be ready for a curtain call, I have others I can sub in. We'll make it happen."

Then her eyebrows furrow, her confidence flagging. "... Though..." Two fingers break loose of the steeple, tapping against one another. "... His power is still awakening. And he -might- notice if I happen to be waiting in the wings. It -would- make sense for Miss Honoka Kawamoto to be a member of this secret society, yes?" She flashes a faint grin -- still leaving the ball in Marz's court should the plan need to go in a different way.

"I have already alluded to the fact," Marz states. "Your partnership with him during the King of Fighters Tournament has proven fruitful for Shadaloo's ends. It is much more believable now that he has been watched by a society of people with his type of special power."

Marz closes her laptop and leans back into her chair. She takes to the coffee with more earnestness now that it's cooled. "And in the end, the society will be Shadaloo. But there is no reason for him to know that yet. But I was thinking, we have enemies that authorities consider troublesome. If we help them, while helping us, then we all win."

Dahlia nods crisply. "The simpler it is for him to understand, the less work we make for ourselves in the long run, yes. That'll work great, yes." Simplifying the cover story is a key aspect towards how Dahlia was able to keep her multiple personas consistent over the years; Marz's solution is elegance itself.

As for the secret society's identity being something other than Shadaloo, Dahlia certainly appears grateful. "Thank goodness. I'll work with our costume designer for a suitable look. I'm so not ready for -that- uniform." She flashes a mirthful grin, drumming her thumbs together.

The tusukur does, though, seem to be a half-step behind when it comes to the topic of enemies and authorities. "Certainly. We have lots of enemies -- and some of them have -bought- the respective authorities. So, apologies for being a -bit- slow on the uptake here, but who are you suggesting will be the lucky recipient of Shadaloo's help, here?"

Marz closes her eyes as she enjoys the flavors of the coffee. Even growing colder and stale, it's better than focusing on the thrumming constant that is the pain in her body. Explaining things is, as always to her, more trying than not. She might be capable of talking at length but she is not a fan of having to explain things that are so simple and obvious in her mind.

"Yes, yes, you are afraid you would not look good in uniform, so you mock it, that is understood," Marz says with a wave of her hand. "

Marz takes a moment to sigh and take off her glasses. "I did not think I would have to be so explanatory," she says. "But to use simplistic terms, he is a hero. Or at least he believes himself to be. If he were pointed toward organizations such as the Syndicates, the Yakuzas, the Zaibatsus and other organizations that oppose Shadaloo, but perhaps are not so publicly accepted, then it benefits us. Is that clear enough?"

Scarlet Dahlia's eyes narrow as Marz reframes her words into a less favorable space. After all, the gauche design of the uniform was much more of a concern than whether the lithe acrobat would -fit-. However, this time she keeps her lips pursed as she's making a concerted effort to humor the German Doll. That, and she doesn't need to dump more fuel on the 'I'm not a fan of Vega's questionable decisions' fire.

And once Marz explains, it's clear to see where Dahlia misjudged the introduction of authority symbols as a change of topic. Here too, she takes pains to bite her tongue -- and mind her tone. "I understand now, thank you." Nostrils flare as she takes in a restrained breath. "... As I see it... the trick here would be to find an authority figure that can keep the boy from killing himself, without catching wise to us. Or multiple targets, leaving him moments of opportunity while we assist from the shadows."

Her thumbs brush against one another, as the start of a fidget comes on. She shakes off the indecision with a sardonic smile. "We wouldn't want to lose him before the full plan comes to fruition, mm?"

Log created on 22:08:56 04/13/2020 by Honoka, and last modified on 19:52:47 05/05/2020.