15

"Where the hell have you guys been?"

Upon returning to the parlor, Ibuki and I are greeted by a very angry and impatient Doug. Whoops, I forgot he was still here. How long were we gone, a half hour or so?

"Sorry, Ibuki and I were talking to the real Karirin."

"Dude, what are you talking about? Karirin is that maid standing next to you."

"It's a long story and I'll explain later. Right now, we got a job to do."

And so, our strategy meeting begins. After bringing us some tea, Karin lays out a map of Pleasanton on the table. We gather around the map, and it falls to me to lead the briefing. But before that, I make sure to quickly fill in Doug about Maria and Karin. It takes a while to sink in, but eventually he frowns in a kind of way that makes me think he's got it down.

"So basically, I've been talking with a minor online this whole time?"

"Yeah, you have."

"Well, I didn't say anything to her that can be taken the wrong way, so it's all good I guess," he sighs. "But I guess that means I've been complimenting Karin this whole time?"

"And I'm very grateful," Karin responds with a smile. "Maria also appreciated you liking her work."

"And that work comes with a price," I say as a lead-in to the meeting. "In exchange for Ibuki's Regalia, Maria wants us to track down a rogue Dea known as the 'Electric Fairy'. This Dea is the one responsible for the power outages around town, and it's only a matter of time before the government gets to her."

"So Ibuki was right," Doug mutters. "But, why is this…'Fairy' causing the outages? Deae don't take action against humans."

"Ordinarily, yes," Karin joins in, "but we believe she is doing this purely to maintain her existence. Without power, she would surely shut down, possibly permanently."

"Right, self-preservation is one of the Three Laws," Doug nods, "and it's not like she's really harming anyone; just inconveniencing them."

"As far as her abilities are concerned, she seems to be an S-Type Jammer-Class, with the ability to mask her presence," Ibuki explains. "We don't know much more than that."

"An S-Type Jammer, huh…?"

Doug pulls out his phone and starts looking something up. Meanwhile, I turn to Karin and ask, "Where has she shown up so far?"

At my question, Karin takes out a pen and circles several spots on the map. There's the maglev station, an electrical substation, a major intersection in the business district, another substation… All of her targets so far have been perfectly logical points for recharging herself. Furthermore, the spots on the map form a rough semicircle, with a radius of approximately two kilometers.

"Okay, assuming she keeps to the pattern she's been following so far, her next mark will be…here."

With the pen, I circle a shopping district a few kilometers from the second substation. It's one of those open-air malls; a ton of big name stores are there, and the huge neon signs would be like catnip to this energy thief.

"That seems plausible," Karin nods. "She would also be able to sneak around unnoticed too, I think. The many alleyways and crowds of people would help her blend in. She wouldn't escape my detection abilities, though."

"At least until she activates her stealth ability, that is."

"Well, yes…"

"Ha, found it!" Doug suddenly exclaims. We all turn to look at him.

"What are you talking about?" I ask.

"I think I know what kind of Dea we're looking for. I typed in her general specs, and one hit came up. Her model number would be 207."

"And…? You got to give us something more than that."

"I'm getting to it. Okay, #207 is not that common these days. They stopped production a few years ago because, well, she was kind of broken, combat-wise. Her cloaking ability is actually a localized hack of digital visual feeds. She releases these particles that disrupt those feeds and cause her to disappear. Basically, security cameras—and more importantly, a Dea's eyes—won't be able to see her. Of course, our eyes could see her just fine, except that she's also really fast. Eventually, Kirishima released a mandatory patch that increased the energy drain of #207's cloaking to try and balance the game, but that ended up not being enough, and so they just stopped making her."

"So the reason she's leeching all of this electricity is because of that patch?"

"That'd be my guess."

"What do you think, Ibuki?" I ask my Dea. "You think you can handle this #207?"

"I will give my very best," she replies. "If I couldn't handle one Jammer-class by myself, what kind of Scout would I be?"

That's my Ibuki, dependable as always. "So Doug, I'm guessing this hacking has a time limit because of the energy drain?"

"Yeah, that's right. It'll last for about 90 seconds at most."

"And that's after a nerf? Sheesh, that's pretty crazy."

"We can assume that the time period is probably less than that," Karin interrupts. "#207 likely hasn't had a proper charge in at least several weeks, and if she's continuously active…"

"She's running on less than a full tank," I finish. That works to our favor. Ibuki might not necessarily have to fight her if we can get her to run out of energy first. And if #207 shuts down from energy loss, that'll make transporting her here a lot easier.

"Okay, I think we go on to the actual plan now. We know #207—uh, let's call her 'Fairy' for now; I'm getting tired of calling her by her model number—will appear in this shopping area. Based on the map…let's see…Doug, Karin, can you stake out this rooftop?"

I point to an office building across the street from the mall. Buildings like that are usually fairly tall, so they should have a decent view of the site.

"Yeah sure," Doug replies. "We're going to be like your eyes in the sky, right?"

"That's the idea. While you're doing that, Ibuki and I will track her down on foot."

"You're coming with me, Master?" Ibuki asks in surprise.

"Well, yeah. Fairy can knock out your vision, remember? You'll need someone to be your backup eyes, and Doug can't do it while he's monitoring the area."

"But it could be dangerous. We don't know what…'Fairy' can do."

"Well, Deae are designed to be Three-Laws compliant, so I think it'll be fine. And if Fairy does try something, I trust you to handle it."

"…Then, I'll do my best not to betray your trust, Master," Ibuki says firmly. I know she means it, too. The sharp gaze in her eyes says it all.

"Okay, now we just got to figure out when we make our move. Karin, was there any particular pattern to the times Fairy would strike?"

"Hmm, based on reports, the outages occur every six hours."

"Every six hours… Okay, so...the power went out on the train over here… That was…okay, we left the station at 11:00, and it took us three hours to get here, since the outage happened about halfway through and lasted for an hour…"

"The next outage will occur at approximately 7:00 PM, Master," Ibuki finishes for me.

"Uh, thanks… Ugh, we don't act until a little before 7:00, huh?"

"I'll get us some refreshments," says Karin.