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Chance Meeting: a sequel to Upscale Bar, featuring Olympe Reese, kuudere detective. No 40K content.  [RSS] Share on facebook Share on Twitter Submit to Reddit
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Made in jp
[MOD]
Anti-piracy Officer






Somewhere in southern England.

Chance Meeting


The girl in the wine-stained blue suit left the bar, quit the NSFW channel, and headed towards the Scarlet Cathedral. She intended to consult the Oracle.

As she walked, she wondered why she had such bad luck in bars. So far she had flunked out totally in the Upscale, narrowly avoided a gunfight in the Milton-Arcadia hotel, and got red wine sprayed on her smart suit in the Nanashi. All she wanted was to meet someone interesting.

Turning a channel corner, she narrowly avoided bumping into a pre-occupied looking fellow.

"Ah. Shouldn't think and walk at the same time," he said.

His disheveled ebon hair flashed in the light of a streetlamp as he jerked his head to toss it away from his face. However, it almost immediately slid back over to obscure half of an eye. As he stood slightly hunched, he gave her a quick once-over.

"You look like a woman on a mission." Despite his words there was no smugness in his tone, but only the casualness and boredom of an on-the-spot observation, as if she were some clouds or raindrops to be remarked upon.

"I'm so sorry for almost bumping into you." Her accent was cut-glass English. It could have seemed snooty, but on her it was natural. He caught a breath of her scent, a medium weight, citrus and marine fragrance, tempered with stale wine, spots of which stained her suit, as she stepped back to a more seemly distance.

"Yes, I'm on a mission to visit the Cathedral. I intend to consult the Oracle." She appraised the young man's posture, wanting to estimate his true height if he were not hunching.

He looked at her curiously, and stated, "You're not from around here. Do you know where you're going? I was headed that way myself."

He suddenly pulled out a mobile device from his pocket and typed away furiously. After scrutinizing the screen for a few seconds more he powered off the screen and put it away.

"So you are a native son,” the girl responded. “If you are going to the Cathedral anyway, shall we walk together? Did you look up the path on your phone?

She stood tall, trying to find if 5 feet 11 inches in her heels matched her to the young man's frame.

"Allow me to introduce myself. I'm Olympe Reese." She pronounced it O-lamp, it sounded French. She stuck her hand out for a shake.

He gave a lopsided grin, finally straightened up, and shook her hand. "Darios Kazemi." He could have been no more than 1 or 2 inches taller than her in her heels. "I know the way to the Cathedral. I was... taking notes."

For a fleeting moment he had a faraway look in his eyes. She waited for him to elaborate but he did not. They fell into step together in contemplative silence.

If Darios is perceptive he may have noticed interesting calluses on Olympe's hand. Patches of tough skin on the knuckles, and inside the finger joints and across the palms. Not the typical office girl's soft hands.

She looked at the boi for a long moment, approving his briefly erect posture. She herself looked like a dancer or an athlete, tall and poised.

"Thank you for your assistance, Mr. Kazemi, it is greatly appreciated."

They walked in step for a few minutes.

"Mr. Kazemi, please forgive my asking, but is it your intention to consult the Oracle?"

"Please, just call me Dari. I am not going to consult the Oracle but it is on my way."

He failed to suppress a grin as he pulled a tiny airplane figure out of one of his jacket pockets and slowly trailed it through the air.

"Have you heard of the Nizicraft Grounds? I would like to work on a build there. Walking around the city helps me get ideas, and I have enough now to put them into a design. As a rookie aircraft engineer, I have to hit the ground running with a flight of ideas so they know I'm serious. No pun intended."

He put his figure away and looked toward the sky. His gaze softened a bit. He glanced back at Olympe.

"What brings you to the Oracle?"

"Why does anyone visit the Oracle?” she asked, rhetorically. “To ask questions, of course. Naturally I can't tell you what mine are."

Dari wondered what Olympe needed to ask the Oracle. He noticed the spots of wine on her suit and the calluses on her hands, and thought she might be in a tough spot. He felt, though, that he did not want to meddle deeply in her personal life when they had only just met.

They walked on. The floodlights of the Scarlet Cathedral gradually appeared in the middle distance. Olympe could have found her own way there now, thanks to that red beacon, but it would be impolite to spurn Dari's kindness.

She was curious about the boi's toy plane. At first she had thought he was merely childish, but when he said he was an engineer, she realised it must be a kind of totem or lucky charm. She understood the need for that kind of moral support. She had her own totems. Some were carefully hidden, others were in plain sight but were not obvious as charms. Her block heels clicked on the pavement as she strode on.

"I haven't heard of the Nizicraft Grounds. What kind of plane do you plan to build, Dari? Will it be electric? I have a marvellous electric scooter which takes me everywhere. An electric plane would be a *thing!*" Olympe was enthusiastic about eco-friendly transport.

He was agog over her interest in planes, and his eyes took on a gleam as he endeavored to explain.

"Electric airplanes are certainly a possibility in the near future! Some of my colleagues are developing hydrogen fuel cells as a power source for drones. The temperatures, long air times, and sheer size of larger airplanes make it such a challenge though.

"My current projects are related to plane design. The efficiency of such large machines is so important. One small change could make a huge difference in the propulsion and stability of the aircraft. Look."

He pulled out his model again and held it closer to her, causing them both to pause their trek for a few seconds. It was actually made up of an uncountable number of tiny pieces with hinges and joints. He deftly adjusted the length, number, and position of the wings.

"It is useful to put into real life what I visualize in my head. I have software that can take this plane's design and populate it into a program for further manipulation. It opens up as well..."

He continued to fiddle with the figure as they started walking again. It reminded Olympe of a child engrossed in his own world. It was almost as if he had forgotten she was there. But only a moment later he gazed at her with a serene smile.

"What is it that impassions you?"

He inwardly cringed at his words, but didn't let it show on his face. Didn't he just think about how he shouldn't interfere into a stranger's life? But there was something about her that made her seem trustworthy.

"What impassions me? Serious question. Deep. I don't know. Perhaps that's my problem."

Privately, Olympe thought that passionate future dreams were a Disney concept. She was an observer and an actor, not a dreamer. She moved in the Zen moment, more concerned about transcending the present than how to achieve some remote, imaginary future goal. Her very unusual personal circumstances, comfortable and disturbing in equal degrees, conduced her to such a mindset. She had strong loyalties to her close friends and colleagues but there was no love in her life. She did not know how to get any. Not since… what had happened.

"I'm just trying to have some fun," she said, and paused. Pia's heart was as empty as the Upscale Bar where her sad evening had begun.

"Dari, is your little plane an ornithopter? Is that what you want to build out there at the Grounds? Where are the Grounds anyway, what are they? I've never heard of them before and... I know a lot of stuff, so that's kind of..."

Her voice trailed off, then she asked, "Are the Grounds a secret? Maybe you shouldn't have told me."

She didn't want the boi to get into trouble. It was just a random meeting in the channels. He seemed like a nice guy, a good guy, based on her quick judgement of character, which was honed by experience and proved accurate most of the time. The Mods said they didn't bite, but there were persistent rumours about Skyen...

Olympe watched Dari's face closely in the flickering light of the lamps. Her earrings twinkled, matching the gold flecks in her eyes.

Suddenly it occurred to her that Goddess speaks through actions as well as the words of the Oracle. Perhaps the meeting with Darios was not mere chance.

As they walked on, Olympe began to ponder if she should make a project of this boi, take him under her wing, guide him a little. He was untidy and tended to hunch, but he looked like he would scrub up well. A decent haircut, better clothes than his current tee-shirt. Perhaps a pair of fashion glasses with neutral lenses, to emphasise his intelligence. She decided to get his contact details, and consult the Oracle about her new idea.

Dari felt Olympe's eyes scrutinizing him and felt somewhat self-conscious. It wasn't like him to tell a complete stranger what he was all about, but she had seemed so inviting and it had been a while since he talked to another intelligent human being (or any human being at all; he was so caught up in his work). He couldn't backtrack on his words now, but he felt he should break away and head to the Grounds now for some contemplation and designing in solitude.

"The Grounds are not a secret, but few are interested in the possibilities they hold. The learning curve of aircraft design can be steep and discouraging."

He slowed down and stopped at an intersection. "I'll be going this way now, but the Cathedral is just up ahead, at those red lights. It was nice talking to you, Olympe, and thank you for listening to me go on about planes ad nauseam. Could we exchange our contact information?"

*Bingo*, thought Olympe. *That was easier than I expected*. She held her smartphone up to exchange contact info through near field communication. The two phones touched and pinged, and they had each other's details.

I'm writing a load of fiction. My latest story starts here... This is the index of all the stories...

We're not very big on official rules. Rules lead to people looking for loopholes. What's here is about it. 
   
Made in jp
[MOD]
Anti-piracy Officer






Somewhere in southern England.

To be continued...

I'm writing a load of fiction. My latest story starts here... This is the index of all the stories...

We're not very big on official rules. Rules lead to people looking for loopholes. What's here is about it. 
   
Made in jp
[MOD]
Anti-piracy Officer






Somewhere in southern England.

"Thank you for walking me so far, Dari. I can see the Cathedral from here." She smiled and held out her hand for a goodbye shake, then stood and watched him as he slouched off in the other direction.

*He would look so much more handsome if he stood up straight.*

If Dari looks back, he will see Olympe standing with her hands in her trouser pockets and her hips cocked, a pose which somehow looks rather boi-ish. When she sees him looking at her, she waves with her right hand, then turns towards the Cathedral.

She played an old song in her head. *He was looking back to see if I was looking back to see if he was looking back at me.*

It was time to confront the Oracle, if that was the right turn of phrase. Olympe had a mixed history with Oracles. There was a time they had got her into terrible trouble with Saki, and it took nearly two years to work things out. On the plus side, eventually she had become rich, which was some compensation, and a great help for her current circumstances. The Tarot also had proved helpful, thanks to the Garden Fairy Yura's advice.

Olympe paused at the great main entrance of the Scarlet Cathedral. She looked across the piazza at the neon-bright Niziiro Casino, which stood opposite the Cathedral. Saki, now chastened and meek, would not refuse her entry but tonight was a time for serious purposes. She went into the tall pile of cool stone.

There were various members standing, sitting or kneeling inside. The space was so vast that you could be private in public, though. Feeling the need for maximum luck, Olympe lit both candles and incense, then took the shelter of an empty confessional to pose her enquiries to the Oracle.



*Excellent*



*Typical. However it is not a 'No.'*

She went on to pose her very personal questions. The answers were unsatisfactory but not decisive, which was better than a clear bad result. Olympe thought she would have to find other ways to approach her difficult situation. She went home and had a relaxing bath before bed.

TO BE CONTNUED...

I'm writing a load of fiction. My latest story starts here... This is the index of all the stories...

We're not very big on official rules. Rules lead to people looking for loopholes. What's here is about it. 
   
Made in jp
[MOD]
Anti-piracy Officer






Somewhere in southern England.

Pia woke the next morning feeling refreshed and hopeful. She decided to commence her Darios project, and send the boi a message.

"Meet me at the corner of Dream Disco and Main at 11 o'clock, if you want an adventure."

Then she had breakfast, dressed appropriately and made her face. She did not wait for a reply from Darios, she simply mounted her electric scooter and zipped down to the rendezvous, stopping on the way to get necessary supplies.

Just before 11, Olympe braked smoothly to the kerb at the corner of Dream Disco and Main. She put the scooter on its kickstand, and took off her helmet, to enable Darios to recognise her, as she hadn’t told him how she would arrive or what she clothes would look like.

She was wearing very casual, sporty clothes today, patterned blue leggings, a matching croptop, and water shoes. On top she had a light black and white splash jacket with a bucket hat and polaroid sports sunglasses crammed in the pocket. Her phone and some girl stuff were in a cheap sacoche from Uniqlo. The scooter had a picnic hamper strapped to its front luggage rack.

Olympe had put on makeup as always, though it was light, a natural look with subtle enhancement. She shaded her eyes with her hand as she scanned the sunny channel for Dari.

Darios got out of his morning shower and heard a notification sound from his phone in the next room. Steam filled his apartment as he opened the bathroom door. Gripping his towel around him, he picked the phone up from its charging stand and read the message from Olympe. He smiled to himself and replied simply by affixing a thumbs-up to her message. She did seem like the adventurous sort. He put his phone down and tossed his hair, attempting to dry it with the towel.

At 11:11 am, Darios walked down to the corner of Dream Disco and Main, wearing a modern black trench coat with zipper pockets and dark trousers. He was slouching a little less, and although his hair was still ruffled it was at least combed back so more of his face was visible. He was slightly nearsighted and had decided to wear his glasses today even though his vision was adequate without them.

When he moved his hands he could catch a hint of his jasmine musk cologne and wondered if he had applied too much. He felt he must be very vain, but rationalized his actions with the thought that yesterday he had only been searching for ideas, and today he had an appointment with another human being.

When he saw Olympe, he gave her a mildly quizzical and amused look. "Fancy meeting you here."

Olympe was a bit miffed at Dario’s lateness, but she concealed it. She nodded a greeting, and took note of his glasses and scent.

She gave Dari a helmet and made sure it fitted. Pushing the scooter off its kickstand she told him to get on first. It was impossible to swing a leg over the back, due to the luggage pannier.

The boi got on, shuffling himself to the rear of the seat. Olympe stepped through the frame and settled herself comfortably.

“Are you all set back there?” Her voice came through clearly on the Bluetooth helmet comm system. She didn’t wait for a reply, just saying, “Hang on tight, because this baby’s got torque out the wazoo.” She twisted the throttle and Dari was pushed back in the saddle as the scooter took off at a surprising rate of acceleration. As an engineer, he understood this was due to its electric motor.

He was surprised at the speed and quickly wrapped his arms around Olympe for safety. He could feel her slim waist under the jacket she was wearing. It was a bit embarrassing, but he thought it would look worse to let go and find the passenger handles, besides, it would not be safe, the way she was driving.

Olympe cut through the sparse traffic like a shark, using the scooter’s fast pick-up to outpace the cars. It seemed the speed limit was more of a guideline to her than a strict rule.

She headed east. Pretty soon they reached the river and must turn left or right. Olympe drove south until she came to a large wooden building which was built out into the water. She pulled into the car park, and dismounted, holding the Vespa upright so Dari could get off before she rocked it onto the kickstand.

“Gimme your helmet.” She stowed it under the seat, then took a cooler box out of the rear pannier. “Here, be a good boi and carry this for me?”

She put her own helmet into the pannier and locked it, then locked the scooter and put a heavy shackle on the rear wheel. She got the picnic basket from the front luggage rack.


TO BE CONTINUED...

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2020/09/08 09:18:54


I'm writing a load of fiction. My latest story starts here... This is the index of all the stories...

We're not very big on official rules. Rules lead to people looking for loopholes. What's here is about it. 
   
Made in jp
[MOD]
Anti-piracy Officer






Somewhere in southern England.

“This place is a boathouse, Dari. I’ve got a boat here. I’m taking you sculling.”

The whole ground floor of the building was basically a kind of hangar for boats. There were at least a dozen different small craft in there, some of them on racks and others in the water. There was a winch system for moving them around.

“This one’s mine,” she said, walking over to a shiny brown wooden boat which was floating, tied up, buffered by a strake on the wall of the pool or dock, whatever the word was. It seemed small and frail. There were three seats, one in the stern which had a backrest, and two in line in front, which seemed to run forwards and aft on slides.

Dari was a bit out of his comfort zone. He watched with interest as Olympe took two wooden oars from a rack, climbed deftly into the rather narrow looking dinghy and fitted them into the swivels beside the middle seat. She put another pair of oars into the boat, strapping them to the sides, out of the way. Standing in the boat she called up to him.

“Hand me down the picnic stuff, then come down yourself.” She held a hand out to help him.

The boat wobbled alarmingly as he stepped into it, but Olympe did not seem to be concerned. She directed him to sit in the cushioned stern seat. She sat herself in front of him, a few feet away in the rearmost of the two sliding seats, and took the handles of the oars in her hands.

“Undo the painter, that’s the line which is tied next to your seat,” she told him.

Darios fumbled the knot loose, dropping the thin rope into the water. He had to pull it in from the other end, which was looped to another cleat.

“Yeah, you’ll find this is a bit of a wet hobby,” Olympe said. She pushed the boat away from the dock with one oar, and carefully rowed out into the river. Once they were floating in the open stream she stopped.

“Okay, Dari, you’re the coxswain. That means you’ve got to look out for danger, and steer the boat. You steer with the cord that your feet are on at the moment.” He picked it up from the floor. It seemed to be a loop, which went behind him to the rudder.

“To steer to starboard -- that means to the right -- you pull the string forwards with your right hand. Try not to tug hard. A boat, like a horse or a girl, handles better if you’re gentle with her.” She smiled encouragingly.

“If you see something we are in danger of hitting, like a log in the water, maybe, just shout out ‘Hold Hard!’ and I’ll stop us. Don’t worry about ducks or geese. They’ll get out of the way by themselves. Let me know if you see another boat, especially sailing boats. We have to give way to them.”

She paused to take off her splash jacket, revealing her crop top, strong bare arms and midriff, and put on her sun hat and polaroids. She leant forwards, dug the ends of her oars into the water, and pulled. The boat began to move.

TO BE CONTINUED...

I'm writing a load of fiction. My latest story starts here... This is the index of all the stories...

We're not very big on official rules. Rules lead to people looking for loopholes. What's here is about it. 
   
Made in jp
[MOD]
Anti-piracy Officer






Somewhere in southern England.

At first Olympe paddled in a strange, erratic way. She started to paddle with just her arms, then began flexing her body at the waist. It looked like a set of warm up exercises. At last she used the slide to move up and get a longer stroke. Eventually she began to work hard and the boat moved well.

Dari heard the water chuckle under the bow. He thought he should keep a good lookout, so he tried not to be distracted by the athletic girl who was moving, panting and sweating only a few feet in front of him. The slight breeze of the boat’s movement carried her increasingly sweaty fragrance back to his nose.

The scenery was beautiful. This part of the East River was essentially rural, wild even. Traditionally you could get in and out of The Server just by walking along the correct strange paths, if you could find them. But if you walked far enough, you would reach the Edge of the World instead, which was a dangerous place to visit. Most people preferred more conventional means of access.

Olympe worked and sweated without speaking for over 20 minutes, taking them up stream for at least a mile until the boat reached some small islands. She slowed her pace and brought the boat close to the shore until she found a place she could run the bow up onto a sandy beach. She hopped out into the water and tied the boat to a bush by a line at the bow.

“Well steered, cox,” she said with a grin.

They unloaded the hamper and cooler. Olympe got a small towel from her bag and wiped the sweat off her arms and back of her neck. Dari could not help but notice that she did not shave her armpits. She put on a light sweatshirt, to avoid becoming chilled.

“That’s better! Now, I need something to drink. Let’s find a picnic spot.”

They found a grassy bank, with the shade of trees and a pretty view of the river, whose gentle waves lapped onto a small sandy beach just below it. Olympe laid out a rug, kicked off her shoes and wiped her legs and feet dry before she stepped onto it. She patted the rug beside her for Dari to sit down.

“I didn’t know if you’re a vegan or something so I got a bit of everything. Please help yourself, there’s plenty, even for a boi’s appetite. There’s tins of beer and water to drink.”

She lay down, to enjoy the sky and the shade of the trees, and stretched her arms and legs to full length, leaving Dari to unpack the picnic hamper.

I'm writing a load of fiction. My latest story starts here... This is the index of all the stories...

We're not very big on official rules. Rules lead to people looking for loopholes. What's here is about it. 
   
Made in jp
[MOD]
Anti-piracy Officer






Somewhere in southern England.

She was even more adventurous than he'd bargained for. Dari was impressed at her sculling skills, knowledge, and stamina. He mentally compared boat design to airplane design. He was more interested in the engineering aspect, but he respected people who could put the finished product into good use.

It was a bright and warm day, and he was enjoying the time on the water. There were not too many obstacles to avoid. When they reached the island, he took in the view of the green leafy trees, the sound of the water lapping at the shore, and the fresh smell of the riverside air. He took off his coat and folded it away, as the coolness of the morning had given way to a balmy afternoon. He was wearing a thin red t-shirt underneath and enjoyed the slight breeze on his skin.

"You must have a lot of experience with boats. Your sculling reflects years of practice." He sat and began unpacking the contents of the picnic basket onto the rug. "This is quite a pleasant spot. Do you know this island? We should explore after we finish eating."

After unpacking, he took out his phone and took some notes, looking thoughtfully at the water and the distance between the next patches of land. He took a bottle of water and took a few swigs. Then he lay himself down a foot or 2 away from Olympe. "I could get used to your idea of adventure."

“The adventure is going to be you sculling us back,” she said. “Don’t worry, I’ll take the bow seat. I’ll coach you. I’ve got a UK class 2 licence.”

She sat up and looked at the long boi reclining in the *komorebi*. She subtly appraised his torso in his thin tee-shirt. If he took notice, it wasn’t an obviously sexual look but it wasn’t an asexual gaze either.

“You’re probably wondering why I brought you out here, Dari. Partly it was just for fun. I like sculling, and this boat is more fun with a crew. But also I want to hear more about your plans. Have a beer and tell me about your plane design.”

Olympe sat herself in *seiza* position facing the reclining Kazemi. She popped a can of water and chugged it down in one long, sensual, animal gulping motion which seemed at odds to her ladylike pose, but then, her sporty costume did not argue for a formal concept of feminine behaviour. She popped two cold beers and gave one to Dari, then handed him an *o-bento*.

“That’s chicken *karaage*, because bois like meat.”

She grabbed a couple of *o-musubi* for herself. She opened one carefully, stowing the spent package in a plastic bag, and took a bite.

“Tell me, Dari. I want to hear about your dream. I want to know more about the Nizicraft Grounds, and what you want to do there.”

Dari sat up and took the bento with a smile. Olympe noticed his posture was better when sitting than when standing.

"Well, I thought you'd never ask."

He opened the bento and took a bite, chewing thoughtfully. A zephyr ruffled his hair and left a little more of it in his face, but he didn't immediately brush it away.

"Many years ago, there was a young boy who didn't know where he belonged. Because of his parents' work, he moved from country to country multiple times a year. When he was seven years old, his teacher gave the class an assignment. Every student had to write about their hometown. The boy asked the teacher what a hometown was. The teacher said, 'It is the place you felt most familiar with growing up.' The boy thought about the teacher's words, and thought about familiarity. He remembered countless times of him excitedly boarding with his mother and father, taking his favorite seat next to a window, and watching the clouds below and the pure blue sky above. That feeling was what inspired him to write that assignment about his hometown in the sky."

Dari paused and stole a glance at Olympe to gauge her reaction. He never talked about himself this way before and felt embarrassed, but tried not to let it show on his face.

"Many years later, something happened to the boy's family. He ended up separated from them, and unable to enjoy the freedom and excitement of flying as he used to. It made him appreciate how important it is to safely connect people, across lands and oceans, in a vessel that is efficient, durable, and accessible.

"So he studied physics and engineering, to create aircrafts for all different purposes. And..."

He looked Olympe in the eyes.

"To ensure the people and places I love are only a moment away."

Something in Pia’s kuudere heart was stirred by Dari’s tale. She envisaged the young Darios, dragged in his parents’ slipstream, never allowed to put down roots until eventually he rooted into the sky, like the tree in that old film, Studio Ghibli it was, something about a flying city. A lonely boy, who could not keep friends around him, yet his eventual reaction was to want to connect people rather than to distance them from him.

She blinked away a tear, to not spoil her make-up. It was a skill she had perforce become adept at. But she could not hide her emotions totally.

“Dari, that is a wonderful ambition. I want to help you. How can I help? Do you need information, connections? Do you need Coins?”

She munched her rice ball and sipped beer, while watching the young man’s face, to see if the dreamer would awaken and suggest a practical course of action she could support.

Dari tilted his head back and laughed, breaking some of the tension in the moment. She was so earnest it made him feel he was taking himself too seriously.

"You've already helped, Pia. I've gotten a few ideas coming out to this island; it's been a great inspiration. The practical matters I'll deal with myself when I get back to the Grounds later."

He sipped at his beer.

" ...Of course, if you knew anybody willing to invest in a young and relatively inexperienced aircraft engineer I wouldn't say no. Maybe it'll get me off the ground a little. No pun intended."


TO BE CONTINUED...

I'm writing a load of fiction. My latest story starts here... This is the index of all the stories...

We're not very big on official rules. Rules lead to people looking for loopholes. What's here is about it. 
   
Made in jp
[MOD]
Anti-piracy Officer






Somewhere in southern England.

Pia heard Dari’s words about money and digested them.

Pia’s father could bore for Britain on the topic of warfare. The most significant learning she had brought away from those dull dinner-times was that the three critically important factors are; money, money, and money. Apparently it was the same with aeronautical engineering. And everything else in adult life, it turned out. It was only love that money could not buy, *but if love is a battlefield, then haven’t we gone in some kind of a circle?*

She realised she was wandering in her thoughts, probably because a whole can of Suntory Malts on top of hard, sweaty exercise and a single rice ball was a bad idea. She sighed, said, “Well…” to gain time, and decided to accept her somewhat altered cognitive state for free association, a valuable technique for addressing certain types of problems. She mustered her wisdom concerning Coins and investments. And a particular rich fether who had too much of them and wouldn’t miss some.

“Yes, Dari, there are some members I know who have plenty of Coins and an interest in aeronautics. It may be possible to persuade them to fund your design, but you will need to build a strong case because they are not members without a sense of practicality. I think you will need a lot of spreadsheets. How are you at spreadsheets? I have a friend who can help you with the spreadsheets. She’s *gak hot* actually.”

Pia smiled at the thought of Chanmi the cyberpunk, and the way she had used her 4D spreadsheets to break the bank at Saki’s Great Casino. With some help from various friends and colleagues.

“Also, you need protection. If you set up the wrong kind of structure you’ll do all the work and get none of the rewards. So we’ve got to be careful.”

She bit into another o-musubi, and waited to see how the boi would react to her offer, even though in her addled state she hadn’t really made a clear one, which just goes to show something.

Dari leaned forward in interest. His tee-shirt clung to him a little as it was a warm day and he was feeling slightly sweaty, though not completely uncomfortable.

"Sounds like you have a patron in mind. I've been working on some designs that I can export to a more globally accessible file format. Nothing is completed, though...it's a work in progress."

He looked away and ran his hand through his hair, brushing it out of his face. He hoped Olympe wouldn't ask him how long some of his ideas had been in progress for. After working on one for a while, he sometimes found himself losing interest and coming up with a different plan. As such, there were plenty of unfinished projects that he didn't know would ever see the light of the sky. He mentally chastised himself for the umpteenth time for being too much of a dreamer and not enough of a doer.

"What do you mean by protection? Some kind of insurance? Do you have an idea about how I should proceed?"

“What I mean is there needs to be a contract, and outside that there needs to be a social convention which lets us get what’s due even if the guy we’re partnered with is trying to trap or cheat us.”

The patron Pia had in mind was Lord Yuzu, with whom she had some indirect but surprisingly close connections. Immensely rich, he was capable of the most underhand behaviour in support of his ambitions concerning his cricket team.

*There is definite leverage there* thought Pia, *We can work out the details later.*

“Okay, Dari, I won’t say right now who I’m thinking of. I’ll arrange a meeting if I can, without pre-conditions. Mind if I snag some of your *karaage*?”

With this non-sequitur Pia reached out with her fingers, plucked a chicken piece straight from Dari’s lunchbox, and popped it into her mouth. She chewed and swallowed sensually.

“It’s a warm day. Shall we go for a paddle?”


TO BE CONTINUED...

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2020/09/12 05:17:50


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Somewhere in southern England.

Darios wasn’t sure what she meant. Was it paddling in her boat, or wading in the river?

“Do you mean we should row back now?

“It’s sculling, Dari. No, I mean go for a swim. Skinny dipping. I should have said to bring swimming costumes but I didn’t think of it. I’ve got a towel, though. You can have first use of it when we come out. I don’t mind being a bit damp because I’ve got sports clothes on anyway.”

Dari’s cheeks coloured, and Pia realised she had made a faux pas.

Dari felt skinny dipping was too much for a first date, not that he was ashamed of his own body but his fairly secluded lifestyle, working hard on his designs, was hardly a good preparation for this kind of encounter. "She is very adventurous indeed," he thought, and said,

“I’d rather not, Olympe, I’m sorry.”

“No, I’m sorry, Dari, it was a stupid thing to say. The beer loosened my tongue. Shall we finish our picnic and go back down the river?”

“Yes, please. I have got some new ideas I want to work on. I need to get to the Grounds.”

“Good! Keep your brain running at top speed, Dari. We have to get a plan together to present to our investor.”

As Pia was already slightly tipsy, she did not drink another can of beer. She ate half of an o-bento, while Dari finished his karaage chicken and two o-musubi. He drank more beer. They packed up everything and took it back to the little boat. Pia disappeared into the bushes with her sacoche, to spend some quality time with her ‘She-Wee’.

“Right!” she said, looking refreshed. “I told you the adventure would be you sculling home, so I’m going to teach you the basics.” She got into the front seat and put the spare pair of oars into their swivels. She showed him the sculling stroke, how to put the blades into the water at the start, push with the legs, and extract the spoons cleanly at the end of the stroke.

“We won’t worry about using the slide, or feathering. Just concentrate on the sequence I showed you.”

Dari got into his seat and Pia cast off the painter. He took the handles of the oars with some hesitation, but he could tell she was a kind and confident coach. He was determined to do his best for her.

They set off slowly and carefully, with much splashing of Pia by the apologetic novice sculler. She simply laughed it off. She was used to getting wet on this kind of outing. It took only half an hour to get back, because they were going with the flow of the river. When they were docked and ready to get on the scooter again, she asked Dari where he wanted a lift to.

“Please would you drop me where you picked me up, Olympe?”

They buzzed off and quickly regained the junction of Main and Dream Disco. Olympe took back Dari’s helmet and stowed it.

“Thanks so much for coming today, Dari. It was a lot of fun. Now listen, I need a day or two to think about how to approach our potential patron, so I won’t contact you straight away. If there’s anything you want in the meantime, just call me.”

She offered her hand for a shake.

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Somewhere in southern England.

Dari took the offered hand and shook it with a firm grip.

“Thank you for inviting me, Olympe. I enjoyed sculling. It gave me a new idea I want to explore. The flow of water is similar to that of air. Maybe we can go again sometime, and take swimming costumes..”

He quailed inside at those last words, wondering if by being polite he had involved himself deeper with a possibly dangerous girl, though she was attractive and interesting. But he consoled himself with the idea that she had a way to get a patron for his engineering project. Something he needed desperately to turn any of his ideas into reality. He watched as she remounted her scooter and zoomed off, cutting in and out of the traffic, then turned his steps towards the Nizicraft Grounds.

Pia went straight home, slung her sports kit into the laundry machine, had a shower and remade her face, and put on a pretty white minidress. She sat down with a glass of red wine to think about Lord Yuzu.

Yuzu was the uncle and theoretical guardian of her good friend the Princess Onecornchippy. He was her guardian in law but Chippy had managed to gain her financial independence and now lived freely. Immensely rich, Yuzu’s wealth was not visible on the public leaderboards thanks to a firewall of complex Base-8 code. But that didn’t matter, the point was that he was interested in aeronautics.

He had three aerial toys she knew about. One was the Grumman Goose seaplane he used to travel from his country estate in the Mellow West to the East River, when he wanted to visit the centre of The Server. It was quite often seen flying over the city.

The next one was supposed to be a secret. Pia had learnt about it through certain detective activities. It was a semi-demilitarised Imperial dropship, which Captain Riley of the light cruiser The Heart of Choko, had ‘lost’, accidentally on purpose, in order to gain a brand new replacement. Yuzu rarely flew in this powerful craft because it tended to frighten any members who saw it. It looked mean and threatening, bulging with sensors and weapon pods, and it was capable of hypersonic cruising and ground to orbit transit. He had offered it for the use of Mistress Kou in emergencies, and she refused, thinking it indiscreet.

Yuzu’s most recent acquisition was a dirigible balloon or blimp, a Helium-filled lighter-than-air craft, powered by solar cells arrayed across its skin. It was sometimes seen moving serenely around The Server, or holding station over an event Yuzu was interested in, such as a cricket match. Though slower than the Goose, it was more luxurious and had vastly greater passenger capacity.

Since Yuzu had already acquired three different and interesting aircraft, he might be persuaded to sponsor the build of a fourth, so long as it was an intriguing design. It was up to Dari to dream up the design. Pia would find a way to introduce Dari to Yuzu, and get someone to help with the business plan.


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Somewhere in southern England.

It was clear that they would have to go out to Cowley Court and put their proposal to Yuzu in person. Pia could easily get invitations to the Court through her connection with Chippy. She thought it would be fun to spend a long weekend out there. She would take her new flapper outfit. Lady Sakura would be outraged, which would be fun to see, but Yuzu enjoyed it when members played along with his fantasy lifestyle based on the Jazz Age. It was important to butter him up lushly, in order to inveigle him into sponsoring the project. Which meant:

*No more tee-shirts!*

Dari would need a full wardrobe of smart clothes, including at least two lounge suits, a white tie getup for evening wear, and a couple of tweed suits for the countryside, plus the matching shirts, ties and other accessories, shoes and so on. She would sponsor him for them, as part of her contribution to their project. It would be fun, anyway, helping choose the fabrics and get him fitted. And there were other considerations.

*I wonder if he can dance?*

Because Yuzu indulged himself in an old-fashioned, gracious lifestyle, it was important to have some accomplishments when visiting Cowley Court. Among these were ballroom dancing, tennis, card games, cricket, singing or playing an instrument, and croquet, which was fought with an utterly bloodthirsty spirit during long summer afternoons.

Pia was pretty useless at tennis and cricket. She could sing and play piano moderately well, but not at the same time. Her card-playing was skilful but her luck tended to vary with the inverse of the state of her love life. Above all, though, she was a fierce warrior on the croquet lawn.

Dari’s wardrobe could be easily improved with the simple expenditure of Coins, but it was not so easy to learn tennis or Contract Bridge in a hurry.

*I’ll call him tomorrow to discuss it.*

She thought about the boy, what she had seen of his qualities so far. He had taken up the offer of an adventure with aplomb. Although he was late to their rendezvous, he clearly had tried to smarten himself up. He coped well with the surprise boat outing, and on the return leg he made a good fist of learning the basics of sculling. Even his refusal to go skinny dipping spoke in his favour.

Pia was a shameless flirt, with both bois and girls. She truly loved the object of her interest for the hot minute she was focussed on them, but it didn’t mean she wanted to sleep with all of them, it was just a kind of sexy teasing. Sometimes things did go farther, if the target of her flirting got excited, pinned in the beam of her sensual searchlight. But Dari had resisted her charms. He obviously was not impulsive.

“Would I sleep with Dari?” she asked herself. He was attractive in a slightly nerdy way, and she didn’t have any love in her life at the moment. “However if we are to be business partners, it’s best not to think about that.”

Having reviewed and organised her thoughts about Dari, Pia began to think about who could help out on the business side of things. Her old friend Ms Moon Potato was the real business mind behind the success of the MPY Agency, and Chanmi the cyberpunk sidekick was an ace spreadsheet pilot. If she could get those two on board, the chances of success would be greatly improved. She decided to contact them after speaking to Dari.

She flipped through her notes and thought she deserved a rest from all the brain work. The leftover lunch o-bento called to her. She had as usual over-catered, because she had a horror of appearing to be mean, so there was plenty left for a good supper in front of the TV. She watched three episodes of the classic Japanese micro-soap Midnight Diner, drank two cans of chilled Suntory Malts, had a bath and went to bed.

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Somewhere in southern England.

Pia got up the next morning feeling cheerful and energetic. She decided it was important to meet Dari face to face to explain the basics of her plan. She messaged him to ask if he was free for an informal lunch or dinner, her treat, to discuss the project. Then she went out for a run before breakfast.

Dari, following his usual routine, had stayed late in the Grounds, working on new design ideas. He woke up at the sound of his phone alert. It was a message from Olympe.

“What now?” he thought. The river outing the day before had been unexpected. While it was fun, he did not want too many surprises in his life, because they would disturb his engineering work. However it was a simple invitation to lunch, to discuss business.

*If she can get me a patron I have to meet her.*

Besides, Olympe was attractive and interesting, in measured doses, so it made good sense to meet her for lunch. He wondered what to wear. He sensed something a bit more formal than his usual tee-shirts would be right. Olympe seemed to pay attention to style. Even her sports outfit had been carefully chosen for looks as well as practicality. It was a high-end brand. He recognised the name from overhearing some of the girl engineers talking about yoga and running outfits. He messaged her to accept her invitation and ask for the details. Then he went to inspect his wardrobe and choose something suitable for a serious business meeting.

When Pia returned from her exercise, sweaty and full of hormones, there was a reply from the boi. He was free for lunch. She quickly booked a table at a pizzeria she knew, and pinged him the details. “Everyone likes pizza,” she told herself.

She had a shower and made breakfast; eggs benedict royale, to savour the tang of smoked salmon. She always had a couple of packets of it in her freezer. It thawed very quickly under cold running water. The hollandaise sauce was from a jar. She could make her own but it was too much trouble, unless she was trying to impress a special guest. She washed it all down with black coffee, while reviewing her notes from the night before. The key points to establish were:

1. Dari needs to come up with a design concept which seems practical.
2. We can’t do this alone. Will he accept other partners?
3. Does he have some accomplishments?
4. He must be willing to be suited and booted to meet Lord Yuzu.

She wondered what to wear. A skirt suit appealed. It would emphasise her business nous while still being feminine. Something to show off her legs. She wanted some colours, but nothing too splashy. She chose a one button pastel pink jacket over a dark taupe miniskirt, nude court shoes with a three-inch heel, a white bra and slip, and Brazilian knickers. She laid out all the clothes and went naked to the bathroom to make up.

Pia made her face carefully, choosing colours to enhance the gold flecks in her eyes. Simple gold stud earrings, a good spritz of Lancôme Jasmins Marzipans, a light, summery floral fragrance. She dressed, put one pistol, a spare magazine, and her girl stuff into a pale grey handle bag, and was ready to go. She unplugged her scooter, put on her helmet, and she was off, the stylish girl-about-town on her way to another delightful lunch appointment.

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Somewhere in southern England.

For his part, Dari was dressing just as carefully. He chose jockey shorts and a white tee-shirt as underwear, a pale blue Oxford shirt with button-down collar, grey slacks, dark grey socks and black leather shoes. He put on his favourite eau de toilette, and his glasses. He checked his look in the mirror, and drew the sleeves of a Burgundy sweater around his shoulders, to moderate the formality of his outfit. He carefully timed his approach to the designated restaurant in order to enter at the auspicious moment of 12:11.

Olympe was already seated within. She did not seem surprised or annoyed that he was late to their noon appointment, she stood to greet him with a smile, and her characteristic handshake.

“Thanks so much for coming, Dari. How do you feel after yesterday’s exercise?” She ignored the menu while she paid full attention to his conversation, leaning forward to engage his gaze with her expressive eyes.

Dari felt some slight aches and pains after the sculling of the day before. It wasn’t bad, because he was a fit boi, however he had used his muscles differently in the new sport. It had been a challenge. He wondered if he wanted to go sculling with Olympe again. He hadn’t really thought about it until she asked him how he was.

Now he admitted to himself that it had been quite a thing, the athletic girl moving and sweating so close to him, her body a rhythmic animal machine, powering the boat. He decided he would not at all mind a second go at boating with her.

“I’ve got some aches,” he told her, “But they’re not so bad. I enjoyed it. Perhaps we could go again sometime?”

Pia beamed to hear that the boi was interested in sculling. Apart from the sporting aspect, she believed that there was nothing half so much worth doing as simply messing around in boats, and it was a lot more fun with some pals along.

“I’m so glad you enjoyed it! Of course we’ll go again, soon, I hope. Next time I’ll advise you on a more suitable outfit, and you can bring a swimming costume if you like. But anyway, I do want to hear about your designs. That’s really what we need to discuss. How is your work going?”

Just then the waiter came to see if they wanted to order aperitifs. Pia asked for a Bellini. Dari had sparkling mineral water. He wanted to keep his mind clear for their business discussions. The drinks were quickly brought. Pia raised her glass for a toast.

“Here’s to flying!” she said, and they clinked and drank.

Dari wasn’t sure how to explain his technical work to a non-engineer. He didn’t know much about Olympe other than her name and what he could infer from the way she had behaved on their two encounters so far.

He thought she was intelligent, impulsive, troubled, flirty, and somewhat manipulative. She sometimes knocked him off-balance with the things she said and did, like the skinny dipping idea. She was definitely a bit directive. It was Olympe driving their relationship forwards. But fundamentally she seemed kind and helpful. He felt he could trust her not to bring him into harm. She seemed to be financially secure. She was always well-dressed and there was no carping about Coins, for instance it was she who had invited him for this lunch date. He decided to give her a very high overview of his progress, glossing over the sad fact that he never finished anything, because he kept getting new inspirations.

“Well,” he began, “I am mostly interested in the area of variable configuration aircraft. That means planes which can change shape during flight, to adapt themselves to different modes and conditions. I have many different ideas about this and some of them are very good. My problem is how to combine various different concepts into a single working design. Some of it can be done by computer modelling, but ultimately it is necessary to make physical scale models and test them in wind tunnels and so on.”

Pia nodded. She accepted the concept of a variable geometry design, though she did not fully understand it. It was basically like a Battroid Valkyrie Variable Fighter from the old Macross film, she thought.

*Impressive!*


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Somewhere in southern England.

She knew what a wind tunnel was. She could imagine Dari taking his little flexible toy plane, building a version 10 times larger, and testing it for its flight capability in different configurations.

“I see,” she said. “About how much would it cost to do this wind tunnel testing?”

Dari named a substantial figure. It did not make Pia blench. She could have afforded that from her own fortune, but of course the tests were only the beginning. There would have to be adjustments based on the results, then retests, more adjustments and so on. Eventually a working scale model with motors and wires and whatever, the things real planes had inside them, which could actually fly. In the end, the objective was to build a full size real aircraft.

Obviously the whole project would be a lot more expensive than just the wind tunnel tests. That was the point of involving Lord Yuzu, to let his vast fortune bear the cost. She mused for a minute.

“Let’s order some food, and I’ll explain my ideas about finding a patron.” She smiled and waved at the waiter, who was only too glad to come and serve the handsome girl. Pia ordered a simple Margherita pizza, a side salad, and a sharing platter of salume and marinated grilled vegetables for an antipasti.

"Order whatever you like, Dari," she encouraged him. He chose a Capricciosa pizza and salad. She drained her Bellini, and asked for a large glass of Valpolicella Ripasso.

“Right, Dari, here’s my idea. There’s a rich old boi I know. He’s called Lord Yuzu, you may have heard of him.”

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Somewhere in southern England.

“I’m afraid not.” Dari wasn’t interested in cricket or the society gossip magazines where Yuzu sometimes featured.

“It doesn’t matter. The point is that Yuzu likes unusual aircraft. He’s got three I know about.”

She explained the seaplane and the blimp, but she mentioned the dropship only in passing, making it sound like the kind of fairly ordinary spaceship that a few rich members owned, such as the Princess Onecornchippy. She didn’t think it wise to spread information about Yuzu’s menacing ex-navy ship, with its hopefully deactivated weapons and sensors.

“So if you can come up with an interesting design, which looks feasible to build if we can get enough money," she encouraged him, "I think we may be able to persuade him to finance the project.”

Dari was agog at the idea that he might be able to get finance. So far his dreams had remained just that. Now they might achieve actuality. He got his tablet out and started making notes.

“But that’s only part of it, Dari,” she went on. “We need to get your idea costed as accurately as possible, and put it into some kind of a business plan.”

That was obvious to Dari, and it was part of the problem. He was great at coming up with new engineering ideas, but his mind found financial accounting and project management dull and stifling. He frowned. “I’m going to need help with that part of it,” he told Olympe.

“That’s okay, I know a couple of members who can help us. You might have heard of Ms. Moon Potato, the Kuudere Detective?”

Dari nodded. Practically everyone in The Server had heard of Ms. Moon Potato of the MPY Kuudere Detective Agency. She had solved many important cases and had many strange adventures, the weirdest of which was her error-struck holiday voyage through time, which had ended in a rescue by her long-time partner, Yancey the hard-boiled detective, working together with various other members and a number of Catgirls.

“Right, well.” She smiled. “I’m pals with Moon. She’s got a hard business head, and her sidekick Chanmi is a whizz with spreadsheets. I can get them to help us formulate the business plan.” She smiled, totally confident that she could do this.

Dari wondered how Olympe had come to know these detectives. He didn’t know she was a detective herself, because she had not mentioned it to him. He thought it diplomatic to listen to her, rather than ask questions which she might not want to answer. Perhaps she would tell him later about how she came to have such close connections with these members. He nodded and made notes of the names.

She went on, “Once we’ve got a good business plan, the next thing is we have to present it to Yuzu, in such a clever way as to inveigle him into the scheme.”

“What do you mean, Olympe? How can we possibly do that?” Dari's head was already spinning at the idea of creating a business plan.

“Once we’ve got a good plan, it’s the way we present it, and ourselves.”

Dari wondered what that meant. He had never even created a business plan, let alone presented it to potential investors. He was more of a dreamer rather than a doer.

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Somewhere in southern England.

The food arrived all at once, stifling Dari's immediate questions for a while. Olympe took a slice of pizza and some salume. She sipped her red wine before she spoke again.

“Once we’ve got a good business plan, we need to get ourselves invited to Yuzu’s country house, Cowley Court, in the Mellow West.”

“Okay.” He said that to keep the conversation going, but he didn’t know how it could be achieved, or what they would do there, in the rich lord’s private domain.

“I can get us invites. You’ve heard of the Princess Onecornchippy?”

“Sure.” Everyone had. The Princess used to be very active around The Server, until Yancey, who was her Waifu, had bought her a moon of her own, and a spaceship to visit it. Now she spent a lot of time away, but she still maintained an official residence in the Blue Home channel. It was called the Frog Palace, and different people sometimes stayed there as well as the Princess.

“Okay. Chippy’s an old friend of mine, she’s Yuzu’s niece, and she’ll get me a couple of invites. The thing is, Yuzu’s got a bit of a weird situation going on down there in Cowley, so I need to prepare you.”

“What sort of weird thing?” Dari wasn’t sure about this. He didn’t like too much strangeness. Olympe was already testing his limits, with her wine-stained suits, surprise scooter rides, and pizzeria business meetings.

“Weird’s not the right word, actually,” she said. “Eccentric is a better way to put it. Basically the whole set up is like an upper-class English country house in the Jazz Age. He’s got a butler, maids and so on. Everyone plays tennis and croquet, dresses for dinner in the full fig, white tie and tails for the bois, full-length gowns for the girls. Afterwards we dance to gramophone records, play the piano and sing, or play cards. It’s quite good fun, actually, like a kind of glamorous cosplay party. The food is excellent, and so is the wine unless Yuzu has been persuaded to go on the wagon, which sometimes happens.”

Olympe had sour memories of a couple of dry weekends at Cowley, after Doctor Mayoi had persuaded Yuzu to give his liver a rest.

“I can sing and play the piano.” Dari offered. He was actually a very good piano player, not concert standard, but he could sight read sheet music well except very difficult pieces. “I can play cards too, Bridge, Canasta, Piquet and so on. I’ve won Coins at it.”

“Excellent! I knew you had qualities, Dari.” She concealed her slight disappointment that he had not mentioned dancing. Olympe loved dancing. She wanted to dance with Dari, just to see if he was… physical. Maybe she could teach him a couple of dances before they went. It would not be for some time, as they had to work out the business plan first.

They ate their lunch, sharing their pizzas the Italian way. Olympe pressed more salume upon Dari. It was her fixed idea that bois need to be fed well with meat. She drank her wine and became a bit tipsy. Some power of free association reminded her that she must take Dari to a good gentlemen’s outfitters, to ensure he was properly dressed for the weekend at Cowley.

“Would you like to go shopping, Dari? I mean, I would like to take you shopping. Will you come shopping with me? It will be such fun, I promise! And I need to buy some frocks for myself. You can help me choose.”

“Do you mean shopping for clothes?”

She nodded, looking wide-eyed and seriously at him.

“Yesss! You must be suited and booted to confront Lord Yuzu. You will need all sorts of smart things or he will think you are a chump and refuse our aeronautical plan. It’s really important!”

“Okay… I guess.” He was slightly hesitant. “I mean, when do you want to go, Olympe?” It was a long time since Dari had gone shopping properly for new clothes. He knew his measurements, and usually just ordered stuff from the internet.

“After you have your pudding.” Olympe wanted to share it. She kept her trim figure partly by diet as well as a strict regimen of exercise. She liked her dates to eat well so she could share with them.

They finished their pizzas, and Dari chose pannacotta for his dessert. Olympe asked for an extra spoon. She had no reticence about wanting to share. It was a kind of flirting, an intimacy, to eat from the same plate. She also called for two glasses of Marsala wine, and two double espressos for herself.

“Would you like a coffee too, Dari? Order it now. I hate waiting for the coffees and the bill at the end of a meal.” Olympe detested being made to wait for the bill when she wanted to leave. There were times when only her Englishness prevented her from simply walking out of a restaurant without paying, because of slow service.

Dari was not sure he wanted the Marsala, but he felt powerless to resist Olympe, so he also asked for a strong coffee to go with it.

They shared the pannacotta. They both drank Marsala, and Olympe had two strong coffees. She asked for the bill and went to the powder room while the waiter rang it up. She paid with a generous tip, because he was cute and had looked after them properly. Her scooter awaited them outside, but she had enough sense to realise she was not in a fit state to ride it.

*I drink, I fall over, I die. Bad plan.*

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We're not very big on official rules. Rules lead to people looking for loopholes. What's here is about it. 
   
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Somewhere in southern England.

“We’ll take a cab.” She flagged one down. It swiftly carried them to a destination Dari had heard of but not visited, as his wardrobe consisted entirely of pret-a-porter items from everyday shops. Nothing he wore was disreputable or unfashionable by Olympe’s judgement, only it was not up to scratch for a serious consultation with Lord Yuzu. She would have liked to fit Dari out in bespoke suitings, but there was not enough time. It would take weeks of work to produce the wardrobe Dari needed. Instead, she brought him to Isetan, her favourite department store, where there would be a wide range of ready-made menswear which could be altered for an elegant fit.

“Besides which,” she thought, “I have to be tactical. If I present Dari to Yuzu dressed to the utter nines, he will query our genuine need for his Coins. But if we bring the whole thing off, I will treat Dari to a bespoke suit as a reward.” She hadn’t realised the awful truth that Dari wasn’t interested in suits, and probably would prefer a new computer or a machine tool, or something.

They entered the great Japanese institution. Olympe led her companion to the Customer Relations desk and asked for a personal shopping assistant for Boiswear. Since she was a frequent and valued customer, a dignified, middle-aged Japanese gentleboi quickly appeared. His name badge read Tanaka, and showed by flags that he could speak English as well as Japanese. He bowed to the young shoppers, and Olympe bowed back, but not so low, as she was the customer.

They all went to the Boiswear floor and took a private studio, where Dari would view and try on the selections Mr Tanaka and the floor assistants suggested for him.

Olympe explained her mission: “Tanaka-san, I need your help to outfit this young boi. He needs a full wardrobe of good quality clothes; including two lounge suits, two tweed suits for the country, a white tie outfit, and all the accessories which go with them, such as shirts and cufflinks and ties and shoes. Everything must be elegant and stylish. I rely completely on your judgement, as I know nothing of bois’ fashion.”

This last remark was a white lie. Olympe was nearly as au fait with bois’ styles as girls’, partly because she sometimes bought very masculine clothes for herself, to wear when she was feeling particularly butch. However, she wanted to flatter Mr Tanaka, to encourage him to his best efforts.

The next couple of hours later faded from Dari’s memory in a sort of post-traumatic stress reaction. He was carefully measured, then presented with racks and racks of clothes to choose patterns and styles, try them on and have them criticised or approved by the masterful girl. She sat waiting for him to change, then stood when he came in wearing the new costume, walked around him and scanned him up and down, as if he was a living mannequin. Sometimes she asked him to pose.

Whenever Olympe had made her mind up to buy something, she asked him, “But do you like it, Dari?” and he would nod, and it would go away to be altered to fit him better. The list of her purchases grew longer and ever longer. It was more money than Dari had spent on clothes in the course of several years. It was actually a bit embarrassing. He began to feel he was her toy boi, even though they were a similar age. But he could tell she had the bit between her teeth, and he did not dare try to rein her in. He consoled himself by thinking that it was all to help with the project, to impress Lord Yuzu.

Eventually Mr Tanaka ran out of things to sell them. He and Olympe reviewed the whole list, muttering together in Japanese, and he asked for Dari’s address to make arrangements for the delivery of the finished clothes. He gave it, and suddenly realised:

*Now Olympe knows my address!*

It was a slightly alarming thought. Who knew what she might be capable of, in terms of sudden, unannounced visits? She was a very adventurous girl. He decided to get a cot set up at his design office in the Grounds. At least she did not know how to access them… yet.

However, Olympe seemed to let the valuable knowledge slide past her. She had a carefully itemised bill drawn up, because she had a vague notion it might be tax deductible. She paid, thanked Mr Tanaka for his hard work, and gave a huge smile to Dari.

“You’ve been such a good boi, Dari, that must have been very tiresome. But necessary! You will understand once you are down at Cowley, talking to Lord Yuzu. Now, let’s have some tea and cake, and then you can help me to choose a couple of new things.”

But Dari wanted to get away and return to the Grounds. He demurred, tired of shopping, and Olympe began to exert all her powers of flirty persuasion.

“Of course you must go!" She touched his arm. "I’m so sorry to have taken up so much of your time. But let’s just have one cup of tea. You need to rest a little, surely?”

Again Dari said he must go, but his resolve was weakening. It had been tiring, standing and changing and modelling the clothes for hours. One cup of tea surely couldn’t hurt.

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Somewhere in southern England.

Olympe led him to a fancy tea salon, where they were quickly seated, and menus put in front of them. She ordered lapsang souchong and a palmier without even looking. Dari had never seen such a long list of teas, and did not know where to start. He just asked for the same as her. As soon as the waitress had gone away, Olympe began to talk fashion.

“I must say, Dari, you actually looked rather super in those outfits, especially the white tie with its tails. Couldn’t we practice waltzing together? It’s not all that hard a dance. I would love you to squire me around the floor. I’ll wear a long gown, instead of my flapper dress. With your tails and my skirts, we’ll look so good together!”

Dari had some basic knowledge of the waltz. Also, as a practised musician he had a very good sense of beats and bars. He thought it might actually be rather fun to take her in his arms and sweep her away across the ballroom.

“Okay, if I can spare time away from designing, we could try that.”

“Good! It counts as project work, because it will be another accomplishment to show off at Cowley. I’ll look for a slot in my diary, and contact you, if that’s alright? It would be so nice to be able to dance with you.”

The refreshments came. Olympe said, “Will you be mother and pour for us?” He poured two cups, and she took a sip. Dari discovered that a palmier was a kind of large crumbly flat pastry, very sweet. Olympe picked at hers and drank more tea. She wasn’t really hungry. She had invited him in order to have more time to work on him.

“Actually, Dari, I have a gown in mind already for waltzing. I would love to model it for you, if you could spare the time after tea?” She smiled so nicely that he was persuaded.

“Well, just one dress, Olympe. I really have to go and do some more design work.”

She beamed to hear this, and asked for another cup of tea. Dari ate the rest of his palmier. Olympe touched up her lipstick with the aid of a pocket mirror. She paid the bill on the way out, and they went to Girls’ Fashions.

Olympe made a bee-line for the evening gowns. She already had an image in her head of what she wanted, an asymmetric off-the-shoulder dress with a bare left shoulder, and a low, square cut back. The bodice was fitted. It needed adjustment for her small bust. The high waist was gathered in by a fabric belt, which helped give Olympe’s rather boi-ish figure a more feminine profile. There was silver detailing in the shoulder strap and bodice. The skirt fell from the hips in a series of light gauzy flounces, exposing half of the right thigh, and falling asymmetrically lower to the left and behind, nearly to the floor.

It was very modern, Lady Sakura would surely hate it even more than the flapper outfit, and it would be *totally awesome* for waltzing. The only question was what colour of fabric to choose.

She quickly engaged a sales assistant and had the style she wanted brought to her in three colourways, black and silver, navy blue and silver, and burgundy and silver, plus the necessary special underwear. She demanded a private fitting suite, and was conducted there with Dari in tow. She disappeared into the changing room and came out in a few minutes, wearing the black version fitted to her with temporary clips, and a borrowed pair of strappy silver dance sandals. She did a twirl and posed to show off her lines.

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Looking into the long mirrors, she hugged herself joyfully, then got into a ballroom dance pose and took several quick waltz steps. Her skirts flew out at the back as she spun, and her thighs gleamed.

“What do you think?” she asked him, paying strong attention to his answer.

Dari didn’t know what to think. This kind of glamorous evening gown was well beyond his normal experience. He saw her bare back, muscular and sexy, and he couldn’t understand how her bra worked, why there weren’t any straps visible around her shoulders and back, not even transparent ones. The dress looked great, though. The bodice clung tightly to her svelte torso, while the skirts half hid, half revealed her legs and shapely thighs.

His engineering brain began to imagine how a strapless bra might be constructed, the kind of materials to use, the way to arrange lines of force to contain, support and protect Olympe’s soft breasts. He flushed, embarrassed at this line of thinking, but suddenly he realised that the same kind of principles might be applicable to safety seating for a new aircraft. Perhaps the kind of airline seat currently in use, a strong framework of metal, with many bolts and hinges and moving parts, could be refined, even replaced entirely with a much lighter, softer, more compact assembly of advanced materials, to protect the vulnerable human body. He whipped out his tablet and began to make notes.

Olympe was in love with the dress. She only wanted Dari’s imprimatur about the colours. Any of them would be good. Choosing by herself, she might prefer the rich burgundy, which made a bold statement. “Black, or burgundy,” she thought, “It’s got to be black or burgundy. But navy blue is so nice too...” She could not make her mind up. She twirled again, watching in the full length mirror how the skirts flew up and revealed her legs. She needed Dari’s advice. She looked to him for help…

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2020/09/24 22:04:00


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Somewhere in southern England.

The annoying boi was busy tapping at his tablet, instead of giving worship to her!

Dari!” she snapped. Startled, he looked up suddenly. “What colour should I choose?”

Having got his full attention again, she smiled, and made the assistants hold up the red and blue dresses, so he could see all three options alongside each other.

“Navy blue, for the colour of the deep midsummer sky,” he chose decisively.

Olympe nodded. She went and changed into the blue dress, and presented herself for his inspection. It was a wonderful colour, subtle yet impactful, and would go well with Dari’s new dinner suit. She loved it immediately. She danced over to Dari on her high heels, leant in and gave him a soft kiss on the cheek.

“Thank you so much for choosing blue, you clever boi. We’ll look marvellous together as we waltz.”

“You’re welcome. Do you want to try more dresses, Olympe?”

“No, I want to look at swimsuits. You don’t have to stay for that, unless you would like to…?”

Dari thought he had better escape before he was drawn down some path of blatant seduction. There was serious engineering to be done. He wanted to put some time in on his new strapless bra-inspired seat concept. He looked at his watch for an excuse.

“Is that the time? I must leave, unfortunately. I’ve got some new ideas to work on.”

“Have I inspired you, Dari? What are you thinking about?”

He blushed again. He could not say he was inspired by her breasts and bra, so he told her, “It’s just engineering stuff. New seat designs, actually, I can explain next time we meet.”

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Somewhere in southern England.

Olympe smiled, satisfied by his excuse. She felt she had done enough work for one day. The business lunch was a success. They both had clear action points to work on, one of which was already completed, since Dari’s new wardrobe would be ready within the week. She would make him model everything for her again, to “check the fit.” That was something to look forward to. Finally, she had his perfect recommendation of her new, navy blue ball gown. That also would be ready from alteration in a few days.

“Excellent!” she said happily. “You go and do more engineering. I’ll work on the business plan. Thanks so much for your time today, Dari.” She stuck out her hand for her usual shake. To her surprise, instead of taking it, he gave her a peck on the cheek. Olympe coloured a little at this, but it was not noticeable because of her make-up.

Dari went back to his design studio in the Grounds and made a pot of coffee. He began to research bra construction. He was quickly astonished at the amount of engineering in bras. He really had never thought of them as anything very special, just something girls had to wear. As a boi, it was only important to know how to undo them without fumbling, if you could get close enough with a girl. Yet the variety of construction methods and materials was extensive, used to support and configure the bust in different ways according to the purpose; sporty, seductive, or everyday.

He read for several hours and made copious notes in a password protected file, then erased his search history, just in case. He began to think of ways to use his new knowledge in the design of a revolutionary passenger seat.

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Somewhere in southern England.

Meanwhile, Olympe was looking at swimsuits. She wanted something practical and sexy, which she could wear on a wild swimming outing with Dari.

“Wild meaning river swimming,” she thought, “But it could become wild in a different way, once he sees me in the right costume. Do I want to get involved that way with Dari?”

She thought about the boi and his qualities. He was certainly attractive in various ways, but Ms Moon Potato always advised against getting tangled up with a business partner. It was a good rule. Olympe shelved her musings for now.

* * * * *

It was probably lucky for Dari that Olympe did not know he was being inspired by her lingerie. She would have been delighted to provoke his imagination in such a sensual way, but rather annoyed that he did not take the obvious step of at least trying to seduce her. Olympe didn’t dress sexily to be ignored, by bois or girls.

Worse, if she found out that he was beginning yet another digression away from the clear critical path of their project, she might start to lose faith in his ability to deliver. A fierce doer, Olympe would then deploy a combination of carrot and stick to protect her investment. However, all this remained in the realm of the possible, rather than the actual.

In the end Olympe decided she needed a wetsuit rather than a swimsuit. She had several normal swimming costumes already, so it was a bit of a waste to buy another. The river was actually pretty cold, because the water was flowing from the north. It was too late now to go to the sporting goods floor, though. She thanked the shop girl and went home.



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Somewhere in southern England.

She made herself a croque monsieur, but only ate half of it, because it was so full of calories. “It’ll keep for breakfast,” she decided, and put the uneaten part in a tupperware box in the fridge. Then she began to Google wetsuits.

It was quickly obvious there was a lot more to wetsuits than most people would think. There were different types for different activities. The warmth varied with the thickness of the neoprene layer, and needed to be suitable for the water you were going to swim in. A wetsuit for the cold East River would be too hot for the sub-tropical Cays. You also had to worry about what you wore under the wetsuit. There was a lot of advice about different kinds of underwear, some of them kind of wetsuit materials in themselves.

In the end it was impossible to reach a clear decision. Olympe put the issue on one side and got ready for bed.

Dari worked late into the night, and managed to produce a good design file for a new type of aircraft seat. He felt proud that he had actually managed to finish something, even though it was only a file. It needed to be printed and tested before he could use it as a component in an actual build.

“At any rate, it’s something I can show to Olympe,” he told himself. “Perhaps I should invite her over here. I can’t avoid it forever, so maybe it’s best to do it according to my timing rather than hers.” Her burning energy and sudden changes of direction made him a bit nervous. He wanted to control the flow of time better.

It was past midnight when Dari left the Grounds. His stomach gurgled and begged him for food; the *palmier* at Isetan was the last thing he had eaten. He stopped at an all-night diner he knew in The Deep. It was a kind of long cut to his 1LDK, but it was the best place to get some food this late in the night, unless you wanted to venture into the NSFW channel.

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Somewhere in southern England.

He pushed open the swing door and stepped inside. There was table service, so he waited to be seated in a booth. There were very few customers this late. In one booth, a middle-aged boi sat who had an aura about him which was somehow disturbing. He was talking in whispers to a stunning girl wearing a barely there dress. She was clearly out of Dari’s league, so he ignored her.

Another booth held a girl in a heavy black windbreaker jacket with the reflective white letters MPY on the front pocket, working with a small computer. Mirrorshades were perched on her head. He thought she was more his type. He idly wondered if she was perhaps an engineer, but he had come for food, not conversation, and only wanted to eat and get home to his bed. He ordered a burger, fries, and a cola float. High calorie, but the amount of brain work he had done this evening must have burnt off most of his glucose reserves. Dari scarfed down the basic meal, paid, and slouched home. He barely remembered climbing into bed.

* * * * *

Dari was up late in the morning. He checked his phone, expecting a summons from Olympe, but there was nothing. Frankly it was a relief. He felt he needed a break from her, in several ways. His life had changed a lot in just a couple of days and it was difficult to understand. He had a leisurely breakfast and headed back to the Grounds to continue his design work.

In the meanwhile, Olympe had gone early to The Deep to consult with Ms Moon Potato and Chanmi. She stopped at the corner diner to buy a big bag of assorted donuts, in order to wheedle the two girls. She let herself into the MPY office, where there were four desks. The name plates read; Janjan, Moon Potato, Chanmi, and Olympe. That desk had belonged to Yancey until he went away and Olympe arrived to replace him.

She got the coffee machine set up, then arranged the donuts in an elegant presentation on a serving plate. Olympe believed everything should be elegant.

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Somewhere in southern England.

She was just pouring herself a grateful cup when the door of the adjacent small consulting room opened and Chanmi staggered out, looking pretty rough. She had spent the night there after working late with her AI. They kept the separate room partly for a rest space in this kind of situation.

“Hey Chanmi! Want some coffee?” Olympe offered her a cup and a donut, which Chanmi glommed onto and nommed half of, before she went into the tiny bathroom. Olympe sat back down and sipped her coffee. Chanmi came out five minutes later, drank some coffee and ate the rest of her donut. She began to look more human. The two girls were pretty close to each other, and chit-chat flowed freely. Olympe did not bring Dari into the conversation, though. She was waiting for her partner, the one whose initials formed the MP part of the agency’s name.

Ms Moon Potato arrived on the dot of 9. She clocked the pile of donuts, her professional situational awareness noting that it contained both chocolate praline and lemon curd filled buns, which were her two favourites. She knew that Olympe only brought such tasty treats to the office if she had spent the previous night with a lover, or if she wanted to do some wheedling. The tall girl didn’t look tired but relaxed, so it must be wheedling time.

Moon didn’t like to beat around the bush. Besides, it was a good big, elegant pile of donuts. She took a lemon bun and a cup of coffee, and sat at her desk. She fixed her stern eye on her partner.

“What d’ya want now, Pia?”

“Business advice. I need your help and Chanmi’s. I’ve started a new scheme.”

Olympe went on to explain her chance meeting with Darios Kazemi, and her outline plan to get Lord Yuzu to finance the build of a new type of aircraft. Moon had dealt with Yuzu before, in the Case of the Cow Creamer Crisis, when Chanmi had been at Cowley as a guest. They both figured that that part of the plan made a kind of sense. Olympe could handle Yuzu. She had charmed him before, despite Lady Sakura’s interference. The part which looked potentially tricky was Dari’s design.

Moon knew that Pia was prone to *enthusiasms and novelties* which sometimes turned out unrealistic, even hazardous in various ways. She was anxious not to let anyone get burned this time.


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Somewhere in southern England.

“Well, I can write my knowledge of aeronautical engineering on a postage stamp,” she admitted, “But I do know a crapton about bs. I reckon I can rumble this Kazemi character if he’s just snow-jobbing you, Pia.”

Olympe looked a bit miffed. She was somewhat smitten with the tall boi. He was kind of handsome, and clever, and open to new experiences, and he looked like he was good with his hands. She wanted to believe in him even if they couldn’t *get together* because of the unwritten rule against ‘Tangles with Partners’. But Ms Moon Potato was a formidable detective as well as one of her oldest friends in The Server. Pia trusted her beyond anyone, except maybe the Princess. Or Major Tomoko Dammijj, in combat situations.

“What do we have to do, then, Moon?”

“We got to get down there, Pia. We got to go to the Grounds and check this boi out,” was Moon’s judgement. “We’ll brace him on his home turf. See the lie of the land. Find out what he’s about.”

“When, Moon?” Pia was more than glad for her help, and only needed to be organised away from fashion towards proper business planning.

“Now, Pia. Ring him right now and find out where he is. If he’s at the Grounds, tell him you’re coming down. If he’s at home, tell him you want him to take you there.”

Pia needed no further prompting. She picked up her smartphone.

* * * * *

Dari’s phone beeped at him while he was engaged closely with a wing joint design.

*What now!?*

It was Olympe’s number. As anticipated. As feared. He had hoped for one day off at least.

“It’s like riding a tiger,” he thought, “Only I didn’t climb onto the tiger, she picked me up and made me sit on her back.” This wasn’t entirely fair, though. He was the one who first had asked for her contact details, even though she gave them immediately. He quietly admitted he could have blown her off at several points during their encounters since, but he was carried along by her energy, and swept up in the fiery hope she could find a wealthy patron for his new aircraft. And she was kind of cute.

At heart, Dari knew that Olympe wasn’t dangerous herself. If he got hurt, it would be the way due to the way he would feel if he hurt her by disappointing her expectations.

The phone was still beeping. The call had to be answered. He swept up the handset and tapped the ‘Accept’ icon.

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2020/10/04 13:10:18


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Somewhere in southern England.

“Good morning, Dari…” That characteristic cut-glass English accent plinked cheerfully at his ears.

Chanmi and Ms Moon Potato exchanged a glance. They thought they detected a degree of romantic enthusiasm in Pia’s tone of voice. They also noted she was already on nickname terms with the boi.

“Hallo, Olympe.” He wondered what to say. … “How are you?”

“Not so bad. I’m at the office with a couple of members who can help us with our business scheme.”

“Right. Good.” *It *was* good, wasn’t it?*

“We want to come down and see you, let you show us your designs.”

“Um… Great! When, Olympe?”

“Right now. We’ve got a big plateful of donuts.”

He was puzzled by this non-sequitur, but anyway he had the feeling it was impossible for him to resist Olympe’s force of character, whether she was equipped with donuts or not.

“Okay, er, do you know the way?” he asked.

Olympe nodded, stupidly, as he couldn’t see her even though she had set her phone to speaker mode. Chanmi was giving her the thumbs up sign. Chanmi had been to the Grounds a number of times to do incomprehensible things with her AI. She hadn’t ever told Olympe about these expeditions because Olympe wasn’t interested in that kind of activity. Even so, Olympe trusted Chanmi and she accepted the hand signal.

“Yes, we can find it. Will you meet us at the entrance?” Olympe thought the Grounds were a kind of big exhibition hall or something, maybe like the Frankfurt Messe for example. She had no idea what they are really like.

“Well, er… It’s not exactly like that,” he told her. “When you get in, ping me and I will send you a route.”

“Okay, Dari, we’ll see you soon.” She rang off and started to bag the remaining donuts to take along. Chanmi took her Sandbenders off its charger and packed her go bag. Ms Moon Potato put her coat and beret back on. She stuck a filterless Gitanes in her mouth, but did not light it. She only carried the fierce French cigarettes because they were hard-boiled.

“Where’s Janjan?” Olympe asked. She hoped he could drive them. He was the best driver in the agency. He had a race driver licence as well as advanced driving certificates. Olympe always enjoyed being driven by him.

“On a business trip,” replied Ms Moon Potato. Janjan ran a side business in rare perfumery. He often had to go and inspect possible consignments. “We’ll take a taxi.”

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2020/10/04 18:01:47


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Somewhere in southern England.

The three girl detectives locked their office and went to a main channel to flag down a cab. They squeezed into the rear seat together, since it wasn’t a long journey and they wanted to chat. Chanmi sat in the middle, because she was the smollest, with Ms Moon Potato on her left, and Pia on her right.

“Have you been to the Nizicraft Grounds before, Pia?” Chanmi asked. She had been a number of times, doing odd things with her AI.

“No, I had never even heard of them until a few days ago, when I met Dari and he told me he worked there. I was a bit surprised, actually. At first I thought they must be a secret, but apparently they are open to any member.”

“That’s right, they are, but it takes a special kind of mind to know what you want to do in them. I mean, what do you think happens there?”

“Well, I suppose it’s a kind of big factory, basically, or maybe like an airfield with hangars and workshops and things, or like the Frankfurter Messe site, a load of big halls around public spaces and so on. I mean, it’s got its own trolleybus stop.”

Pia had looked up the transit details after hearing that Dari worked down there, in case she decided to pay him a surprise visit late at night when she was drunk and couldn’t use her scooter. But she had no real idea of what the Grounds actually were. Everything she had said was just idle supposition.

Chanmi looked a bit worried, “You could be in for a surprise.”

“How’s that?” Pia wanted to know.

“It’s not a factory or a fairground or anything like that. It’s a space fold containing a near infinite number of bubbles of immanent protean nanoid elements. You grab a makerspace and configure a bunch of nanoids into whatever kind of equipment or other stuff you want to play with. Members build *entire worlds* in there.”

**“Fecc!”** was the only response Pia could make. She had a first class education, and she understood all of the words Chanmi was saying, but she couldn’t make intellectual sense of it. “Entire worlds? What’s it look like, then, Chanmi?”

“Well, they’re small worlds, but anyway… It looks like… Like a great big… ...**I don’t know!**... It’s different every time I go in there. The thing is, I’m worried your irrational fear of heights might get triggered, because it often looks infinite and gravity works in various directions. It’s easy to lose track of up and down, and sometimes it goes sideways.”

Pia looked a bit scared. Her irrational fear of heights was a serious impediment. It had struck numerous times in her career, paralysing her, preventing effective action, and it usually required the help of a friend or colleague to get her through the crisis. Often with the help of strong drink, and she was not properly equipped. There was enough odd stuff in her handbag already for her not to want to load it more with a hip flask.

This message was edited 2 times. Last update was at 2020/10/05 05:37:58


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Somewhere in southern England.

Ms Moon Potato asked the cabbie to stop at the next liquor store they passed. She jumped out and bought a half-pint bottle of rye whiskey. She knew Pia preferred gin, but Moon thought room temperature gin was a pretty awful drink, *which it is*, so rye it had to be. She asked for a receipt for tax purposes, and got back in the cab.

They cruised on. Ms Moon Potato handed the bottle to Pia, who put it in her handbag, where it clinked against her powder compact and the steel butt of her PSA-25BB pocket pistol.

“Thanks, Moon, I owe you,” said the slightly timorous girl.

“No problem, it’s tax deductible, business expenses,” the tough detective replied, with a straight face. She got out her pocket account book and made a note. Ms Moon Potato had claimed any number of unusual expenses against taxes. On one occasion she successfully claimed for a trenchcoat with several bullet holes in it, which she had shot herself, and the sleeve half bit off by a zombie. Ms Moon Potato was surprisingly good at tax accounts.

“Oh! That reminds me,” Pia exclaimed, “Can I claim all this stuff on expenses?” She passed her receipts from her recent Isetan expedition over for examination. Ms Moon Potato began to leaf through them. Her eyebrows rose higher and higher as the list of clothing and the associated costs piled up in her mind.

“What’s all this for, Pia?” Moon frowned at the long list of suits, shirts, shoes, cufflinks and other accessories. “Don’t you have enough clothes already? Why is this all boi stuff, are you going butch again?”

Ms Moon Potato liked fashion as much as the next girl, but she considered Pia’s shopping habits, which were strongly influenced by the Princess, to be excessive.

“You can’t expense this,” she declared sternly. “It’s private spending, not legitimate business expenses like my shotgun ammunition. Why do you want a white tie evening suit anyway?”

“It’s not for *me*, Moon, it’s for the *project*,” Pia explained with a straight face. She would have flexed her eyelashes, but if there was one member in The Server who was immune to her flirty charm, it was her old partner. They had been through far too much together. “It’s all for Dari. He’s got to impress Lord Yuzu. Surely you can see how important that is?” She turned to look out of the window, worried that Moon could read her too well.

“A Bambah label ball gown in navy and silver! 2 stick-on bras and a pair of Jimmy Choo silver dance sandals with 3-inch heels. What’s all this? You clearly told us that Kazemi’s a boi.”

“Of course he’s a boi! The gown is for me, Moon, so I can partner Dari at dancing. There will be a dance party, because I’ll get the Princess to suggest it to Yuzu, and you know he likes a girl who can show a pretty ankle. It’s all part of my plan. That must make it tax deductible, surely? I mean, it’s only pret-a-porter with slight adjustments...” Pia’s voice trailed off.

I'm writing a load of fiction. My latest story starts here... This is the index of all the stories...

We're not very big on official rules. Rules lead to people looking for loopholes. What's here is about it. 
   
Made in jp
[MOD]
Anti-piracy Officer






Somewhere in southern England.

Ms Moon Potato huffed a sigh.

“Why do you need two stick-on bras, Pia? You had one already, didn’t you?”

“In case of accidental damage.” There had been an incident which taught Pia the lesson that the stickiness of an adhesive bra doesn’t always last the 15-20 uses it’s supposed to. The point was, she needed a replacement and a back-up, just in case.

Ms Moon Potato thought she might try for the tax refund, and see if the Mods would accept the explanation. It would depend on the nature of the ‘damage’.

“You’ll have to be a bit more specific than that, Pia.”

“It involves chocolate. I found out that melted chocolate spoils the sticky layer.”

“How in Goddess’s name did you manage to melt chocolate in your bra, Pia!?” Chanmi was boggled. She hadn’t even known stick-on bras existed until Pia and Moon started to discuss them as tax deductibles. Her cyberpunk styles tended to be more practical than decorative. She normally wore a low profile tee-shirt bralette.

“I was having a good time… ” Pia offered, “With a boi… We were at his flat eating chocolates. They were really good ones, actually, a Scottish artisanal brand, hand-made, with such pretty decoration on the top. I’ll bring a box to the office so you can try them.”

Chanmi perked up at this. She considered chocolate to be essential brain food. Moon’s patience was running low, however.

“Get on with it, Pia!” she snapped at her partner.

“Sorry, yes, anyway,” the detective continued, “He went out for a few minutes to make coffee or something, and you know that chocolate melts at skin temperature, and I thought it would be fun to let some chocolate melt inside my bra so he could find it later and…”

Ms Moon Potato broke into the stream of Pia’s erotic reminiscence.

“That’s *too much information*, Pia! I get the idea. It’s never going to fly. I AM NOT going to sit in front of Skyen and explain details of your love life to try and save the tax on a 40-Coin bra. She bites, you know. I’ll take a shot at the rest of the stuff, including the gown, but there’s a limit.”

Pia looked a bit pouty at this refusal, but she knew better than most members that Skyen *did indeed* bite. However Pia was an optimist. She thought she had probably done pretty well overall, so she quickly became complaisant and smiley again.

“You’re the best partner ever, Moon! Thank you.” A couple of bras was nothing against the value of the new ball gown and the Jimmy Choos.

“Thank me when I get the deduction approved,” muttered Moon. "Better than that, take me out for a fancy dinner sometime." Pia knew her wines, so Moon anticipated a good evening’s entertainment.

“Of course, of course! It will be my pleasure.” Pia was wondering if she could put the dinner on expenses, however she had the good sense not to voice this thought.


I'm writing a load of fiction. My latest story starts here... This is the index of all the stories...

We're not very big on official rules. Rules lead to people looking for loopholes. What's here is about it. 
   
 
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