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  1. 10:15 Monday, January 31st, 2405 A.D. Providence, Eupraxia Grand Station, Jovian Sphere. Hitomi turned off her communicator and let her arms fall to her sides. After a long moment of silence, she shook her head and straightened up. "This is just a joke, right?! Linus is thinking about joining a different team?! I'm going to be the only one left at this rate! We'll be disbanded! I can't let the Odyssey end like this!" Team Odyssey really was in serious trouble, here. They were down to just two members, one of whom had all sorts of worrisome ideas about their future. Neither the fact that Hitomi was the daughter of one of the Battle Network's executives, nor the fact that she was a student of the Legendary Silver Bullet, Felix Lis, would save them from this one. There was so much more Hitomi had to tell Linus to reassure him before she got off the line ... mostly incoherent pleading, but she had a lot of it saved up for the man. She'd gotten a message from Felix in the middle of their talk, though. Battlenet's big convention was already underway. It wouldn't be long until Hitomi's father and even Felix were up on stage addressing some insanely large crowds. Linus and Hitomi opted to continue the conversation at the convention after meeting up. Hitomi was already dressed, so she only had to put away her breakfast and then head out. Not all the players wore these uniforms at Battlenet gatherings, especially when they weren't going to be posing for photos or doing interviews, but Hitomi's uniform was comfortable enough. It also served as an ID, which was always handy. Before heading for the door, Hitomi approached the main window of Felix's apartment. They were near the top floor of the building, in one of the small but well off suites. As a result, the view of Providence and New Victoria was still stunning to this day. Below her was a metropolitan area that rivaled any terrestrial city, and above her was a similar but unique city, inverted and too far away to reach on foot. In truth, Providence was a city on the underside of Evergreen Province. New Victoria, for all intents and purposes, was right side up. Unfortunately, this sort of view had a way of intimidating Hitomi a little. She knew that the pressure difference would leave her floored and unconscious if the window happened to break. She also knew that this wasn't just ordinary glass sitting between her and an extremely thin atmosphere. If it ever broke, the smart glass making up the interior layer would repair itself before there were any fatalities. Reaching out with her right hand, Hitomi gently placed her palm flat against the window. Pale blue lines of light raced out from her hand and converged in front of her, forming a smart screen display. The image said 'Ready.' "I need a Swift," Hitomi said, letting the device interpret her meaning and place the call. "Right away," came back a friendly but clearly synthetic male voice. It was still a subtle tell, but not every company went out of its way to make their AIs sound exactly like their human representatives. The sound itself came from the apartment's speaker systems, which had some directionality to them when needed. "Is there anything else we can do for you today, Ms. Moto?" "Yeah, put at least twenty extra boosters on it so I can get to the convention faster," Hitomi joked. The voice seemed to realize as much. "Of course. Thank you for choosing Swift, Ms. Moto. Your compak is being assembled and will be waiting for you in the lobby." The call ended and Hitomi pulled her hand away from the window. "Maybe I can get there first for a change ..." Doubtful, unless she ignored her breakfast ... In the end, Hitomi consoled herself with the thought that 'Swift' had efficiency down pat. That and breakfast was important. Her compak was ready and waiting for her when she reached the lobby, and it wasn't difficult to spot among the others The one man shuttle had a paint scheme that perfectly matched Hitomi's Battlenet uniform. It wasn't the first time she'd ordered a compak from Swift just to skip the metro, so she wasn't surprised the preferences she'd fiddled with in Felix's account before had actually came through on this order. Once she was aboard, the cockpit closed and the system gently reminded Hitomi to put her harness on. Once she did, the system opened up to her ... not fully, though. She only had a learner's permit at the moment. About all she could do without annoying the system was tell it her destination and then sit back and relax. "Let's see ... it was at Battlenet Plaza, right? Hey, Swift, Battlenet's convention's at the plaza, right? Is that big enough?" "It looks like they're holding the event at the shopping center," a different voice from the last one, this one female, answered, "Yes, it looks like the plaza's in use, too. The whole area. This must be major~ Would you like us to bring you anywhere in particular?" Hitomi felt she was too short for crowds, so maybe starting near the plaza would be best. As long as it wasn't crowded, too. "Plaza. I can find my way from there." "Very good, Ms. Moto. Just relax and enjoy the ride." With that, the compak's engines flared to life and they were airborne a couple of seconds later. As they lifted off, Hitomi placed her palm on the inside of the canopy, and just like with the window in Felix's apartment, a display made from the converging lights appeared and formed a display. This time she was just going to let everyone--Matsuo, Felix, and Linus, that she was on her way. The Convention The view of Battlenet Plaza from overhead was both beautiful and grim at the same time. It didn't matter how tall her people were, she was too short to be spotted over anyone else. It Even if she was still a growing girl, for the moment Hitomi only reached a measly five feet and two inches. There were plenty of people pushing six and a half feet due to the lower gravity and their good genes. Speaking of gravity, the closer the compak came to the ground, the more Hitomi could feel it, again. She was under about half a G by the time they touched down. "I'mmm," Hitomi glanced around once she was out of the compak, "yeah, I'm probably going to head back with someone else, so I'm done. You can recycle this one, now. Thanks." "Very well, Ms. Moto. The charge to Mr. Lis' account should go through within the next five minutes. You can also review the order on your account." They were linked, so that made sense. Hitomi shrugged. "Alright, thanks." "Enjoy the event, Ms. Moto." With that, the compak lifted off into the sky and disappeared into the perpetual sky traffic. Hitomi started toward the plaza and the stage they had built near the center, even as the crowds began to increase in size and the through traffic grew more intense. As much as she wanted to track down her father and Felix first, Hitomi had an almost overwhelming urge to head straight north to the shopping center's main building. It would be just as crowded, but with pockets and out of the way shops she could use to take a break from everyone, not to mention cleaner seating. Hitomi realized she could also head underground if this place just became too much for her. The only options down there were the parking areas and the underground mall. Probably better to stay on the surface; the mall would be even more crowded than the plaza, and the parking lot traded headcount for eardrum rupturing amounts of noise. Before she'd even entered the plaza proper, Hitomi spotted a smartglass pane flanked by two benches. She raced over, being careful not to scare the couples resting on the benches, and placed her hand on it. A fresh display appeared and Hitomi brushed the window aside with her free hand. It was instantly replaced by a series of menus, and she quickly hit one of the options, which connected her to Battlenet. Information about the convention came up, along with a map that had more information associated with it than it normally would. The gaming center was on the opposite side of the plaza from the food court, and the Frame Ops players, both professional and casual would probably be playing there throughout the event. There were plenty of places around here people could play of course, but the cockpits they had installed were really popular, and for good reason. The shopping centers were apparently working closely with Battlenet for the next few days. Quite a few of them were going to be selling items and apparel related to the event, in addition to their normal wares. The underground mall had the same arrangement in place. The food court was also getting in on the action, with Battlenet and team themed meals and the like. Hitomi supposed that wouldn't be a bad place to meet up with Linus to discuss their options ... "It's coming right for us." Hitomi glanced at the couple on the bench to her left. The boyfriend was looking through a pair of enhanced specs, so she couldn't tell what he was trying to point out, exactly. Neither could his girlfriend, apparently. He handed the specs off to her and she flinched when she saw ... whatever she saw. Whatever 'it' was. "Is that why the traffic cleared up over there?" the woman asked. "Bet so," her boyfriend nodded, sure as anything. Hitomi huffed. She didn't have enhanced specs, but she still had options. Carefully lining herself up with the display between her and this mystery object, Hitomi tried to use the display to resolve the object and isolate it. With the woman constantly pointing right toward it, it didn't take long to get a the object marked. Only the running lights were on, so it really didn't stand out very well. After she had it marked, Hitomi made the display zoom in on it. Her face went pale when she saw the warship drifting silently toward them. "That's an Independence II!" "Yeah!" The man didn't notice how weirded out Hitomi was. "Why's it ...?" Dad. Dad. Dad! "Dad!" "Yes, Hitomi?" Matsuo answered quickly, thankfully. The display was sound only, and let Hitomi know as much. "What's Scipio doing?! There's a ship headed right for us!" "It's all part of the show," Matsuo assured her. He clearly understood just how unlikely that was, and went onto add, "The Battle Network is finally adding warships into our professional games, so we needed something really big to help get everyone excited. It took a lot of convincing--a lot of credits, but Scipio is letting us have this one for the event. As soon as she reaches her target point, we're starting. It should only be another couple of minutes, actually. Try to find a spot near the front, Hitomi." "Erm ... o-okay ... as long as we're not about to get rammed into counterspace by a battlecruiser." "Hardly," Matsuo chuckled. The two couples had been listening in and seemed satisfied with Matsuo's explanation. Hitomi was just a tad confused. Did they really find Scipio's price for flying a battlecruier over Providence? She wasn't a military type, but she could thing of a lot of reasons not to do it. Still, if it was for the event, and it would help get players and Frame Ops fans alike excited for the upcoming season, then get over here, you giant Independence II class behemoth. "Just ... please slow down once you get here ..."
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