19: Work and Play
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When Danika finished work, she did her exercises and then responded to Mei's message. By the time she fixed her supper Underneath's concert was over, so Shinichi called her.

They got to talking about the new city in the desert, which Danika hadn't visited since the incident with Kit's baby, and Danika commented, "It's cool that they are allowing everyone to build there, and not just people from their guild."

Shinichi laughed and told her a little sourly, "It's not like they could stop people without fortifying the whole area, since the site wasn't bought from the system and is being claimed fragment by fragment. Plus, it's the only way to make sure that it will be the largest city in the desert for a long time."

"I think they could figure out ways to stop people," she objected.

"They don't even want to though," he explained. His experience as an assassin within the game let him tell her with confidence, "Having their enemies build headquarters within reach and subject to the rules they set for the city makes it easy for them to be spied on. Anyone you can put a mark on can be messed with. A timely assassination can cause a delay or a failed quest."

"Well, I guess," she agreed, "but isn't it a good thing overall if it keeps the city open to everyone?"

"I'm just a little disappointed that the new territory is going to remain dominated by the same people," Shinichi complained.

Danika pointed out reasonably, "New guilds, and small guilds, like Endless Song, will never have the resources to set up an entire city. I still think it's cool that they're even letting their closest rival guilds build there."

"I suppose it is," he agreed with amusement.

"Are you laughing?" she asked.

"Maybe," he replied laughingly.

"Why all of a sudden?" she questioned suspiciously.

"Our conversations are so romantic sometimes aren't they?" he questioned teasingly.

Danika thought quickly. "Sometimes they really are," she agreed sweetly. Shinichi laughed outright, while she added, "But I'm kind of glad that they don't always have to be."

"Yeah," he agreed with real affection.


When Danika logged in to play as ZipZing, she kind of wished that she hadn't used the VR-medi pod to do it.

A huge mound of rotting seaweed lay at the entrance to the new lot. It smelled horrible. It was really easy to tell who was logged in through VR and who wasn't.

Their newest guildmember stood proudly beside the mound, and MatchlessMinion was standing beside her and nodding. Ryullusion stood at the far edge of Shrubbery's garden, next to Silvam, while Nao1 danced back and forth carelessly trompling the edges of the mound.

Danika zipped over to Ryullusion who gave her a knowing grin and said, "Hey."

Silvam, who had been frowning at an invisible screen looked over and asked, "Were you successful in getting answers to all of the questions?"

Danika protested, "You didn't say I had to get them to answer!" She admitted uncomfortably, "Um, I think they only averaged about 1 in 4 questions answered."

Silvam gave her a look and then replied, "Not too bad I guess."

Danika gazed at the blonde elf with confusion, and then shook her head and asked, "Who aren't you supposed to fix according to the King of Cats?"

Ryullusion raised an eyebrow, and then Danika gasped as two hands reached out and grabbed her out of the air from behind.

Danika identified and then relaxed into Aishin's hands as Silvam replied, "I'm still not sure about that, at first I thought he meant the merchant, but then I thought about how he seems to be aware of your actions at work and able to make the connection between your identities. I think maybe he meant the Turtle, since a lot of NPC races are already being moved into and out of the new areas, and I was talking to Josh about fixing that." Silvam spoke freely despite the presence of half the guild.

"You're not at work right now," Aishin scolded ZipZing. He glaced at Silvam and added wryly, "And neither are you."

Danika protested, "Just let me ask him one more thing."

Aishin chuckled and Ryullusion grinned at her again. "It's not like I can prevent you from asking," Aishin pointed out dryly.

"What's special about those cats?" Danika asked quickly. "Most of them seemed like pretty normal NPCs."

Magna Silvam glanced at Aishin, then grinned at her and said, "Ten of them are ordinary, the others I modified so that they are always alert like the snow leopard."

"Oh," she replied thoughtfully.

MatchlessMinion demanded, "ZipZing! Aishin! Come look!"

Danika turned toward him and eyed the stinking mound of seaweed reluctantly. Aishin turned and carried her over without any hesitation. He was startled when she clapped her little clawed hands over her nose.

"Look at what?" she asked querulously in a muffled voice.

MatchlessMinion gazed at her in surprise.

"Here ZipZing," Silvam called out with amusement and flicked something from her menus. "Face your duties with fortitude!"

The prayer hit her accurately and Danika blinked, and sat up straighter. The smell didn't vanish, but it did diminish.

"Oh, you can smell it, like that turtle?" Aishin asked.

Danika nodded.

"You can smell things that well through your VR system?" Nao1 stopped bouncing around and asked with interest.

"Sometimes," Danika agreed.

"We should all shower before we do the VR thing then," Nao1 declared to Aishin.

Aishin looked down at her cute face and rolled his eyes at her. "You don't want to give fans that authentic odour?" he asked teasingly.

"VR thing?" Danika questioned. "Are you getting new commercial avatars?"

"Yeah, since Saaki and Edwardian have actually grown a bit taller," Aishin replied.

Nao1 reached out and poked him. "This guy is a couple centimeters taller than then too," she complained.

MatchlessMinion asked sourly, "Now who won't stop talking about work?" His question displayed his ability to over hear them from the far side of the garden with his large round ears, and Danika grinned at him.