====================
Session 5: Just Another Day in Paradise

A rainbow rat
A checkered cat
Go tail in tail around the road
The mouse is pleased
The moon is cheese
The sun is shining hot and cold
====================

The place was a dump, even by Martian standards. The walls of Caci's cramped bedroom (or
closet, whichever term one preferred) were mostly bare, save a few unusual odds and ends,
including a drawing of a multicolored tomato, a sign saying artichoke in five different
languages, a wild turkey feather, and a rubber chicken. Faye peered over the youth's shoulder
as she sat cross-legged on her bed, clicking away at her keyboard. "Are you sure this is
gonna work?"

"It'll work. Just lemme get ahold of my chikin and we can light this fire. The TJ is set
up like a giant AI matrix, which is why it's called a jungle. We're gonna go in sim mode an'
break in just like ol' Jimmy Bond."

The brunette beauty leaned back against the colorful pile of pillows and stuffed animals at
the head of the bed. Now she understood why Spike hated kids so much. You just cannot
understand what they are talking about. But, the teenager seemed pretty sure of herself,
so she decided that she had better sit back and let the genius-or idiot-work.

She lit a cigarette, and waited.

***

"Fancyfree" was the password that Caci typed in upon being prompted. She rolled her eyes
at Footloose's taste in entertainment, then entered the room. Her favorite chikin were
already there, well-dressed in their simulated avatars. She loved this virtual reality
technology. It was always so much fun to pretend that you really were as good looking as
your avatar.

Footloose lifted his brown and orange head, and quit playing with the colored strips. He
smiled as much as a sim could, seeing DancinQueen's entrance. "You made it? Congradulations,"
he smirked.

WildAngel flipped her electric blue hair over her shoulder and smiled, shuffling her large
and seemingly unnecessary angelic white wings. "Good ta see yah, sweets!" she chirped.

DancingQueen grinned, swatting her silky violet hair out of the way. "We gots ourselves a
night ahead of us. We all ready to make ourselves a salad?"

Footloose chuckled, "Yumyum, baby! Let's do this!"

WildAngel pointed one finger into the air. "Groovy! Let's toss these veggies!"

Caci the DancingQueen raised her hand before her face, her thumb and middle finger pressed
together. A small movement and..."SNAP!" The world of Ed's Tomato Jungle opened up around
them.

"Wow..." is all Xinying Footloose could mutter as he absorbed the sight before him. His VR
goggles depicted a world much like, but very different than a real jungle.

"Oh my," observed Kyouhon WildAngel as a little carrot-shaped creature scurried across the
toe of her boot.

"Scoon, baby," muttered Caci as a flock of colorful mushrooms sailed past her head. "So this
is Edo's domain."

What they had entered was nothing short of a vegetable paradise. It mostly consisted of dense
jungle (although she was sure she could see cruton mountains rising in the distance), which
would not have been so strange had it not been composed entirely of edible things--namely
vegetables. The simulation was extremely realistic, despite the surrealness of it all,
and it was a little unnerving to see celery stalks rising meters above their heads.

"Can we say 'Vicious Vegetarian'?" Xinying wandered around a few steps, marvelling at how his
black, buckle shoes weren't scuffed or soiled in the moist soil. "This is outta sight! I
love that kid!" In the distance he heard cries of various jungle creatures--jungle creatures
which appeared to be of an unusual sort.

"Is this whole jungle veggie-themed?" Kyouhon mused. She took a deep breath, and then
squinted and sniffed again. "And do I smell salad dressing?"

"I think Ed told me once that she finds vegetables funny? I dunno, I'm more of a fruit
person myself," Caci sighed, observing a fat tomato as it waddled across the ground. "At
least that's kind of a fruit..."

Xinying clicked his simulated tongue. "I say we follow the Tomato and see what Radical's
got in store for us..."

"I'm game," Kyouhon shrugged. At that moment, one of those strange flying mushrooms fluttered
up and nestled itself into Xinying's hair. She giggled. "Aww, I think it likes you!"

"Gah!" He swatted it out. "Li'l bugger..."

Caci threw her body into a pose that only a disco fan or crazed magical girl would dare try.
"Hai! We're the only fruits in this place! Onward...erm...Techno Tomaters!"

"Techno Tomaters?" Kyouhon put a finger to her chin, as if thinking. She put her hands up and
smiled. "I like it. It's got a sort of...new age vegetarian hacker feel to it."

"El sigh. I guess it'll do." Xinying pulled a boom box out of cyber space and hit the play
button on the CD deck. "Let's get this party started, Techno Tomaters."

Caci listened as a feminine voice sang about how crazy, crazy, crazy she was about a chicken
bone and began to dance--or attempt to dance--her way between the colorful trees.

Kyouhon shook her head. "When in Rome..." She pulled a long, hook-shaped sword out of cyber
space and began to hack away at the thick vegetation, carefully stepping over various critters.

Footloose had just hopped over what must have been Tomato dung when a thought struck him
harder than DancingQueen or WildAngel ever could. The music seemed to halt. "Umm... what
exactly should we be looking for?"

Caci spun to a stop, head turned up towards the pink/green/plaid colored sky. "Anyone know
which way's North?"

"Maybe there's a star we can follow?" suggested Kyouhon. When she looked up, she realized
that would not work - there were no stars. Unless you could call the hovering rainbow orbs
stars, which she assumed one could not.

"Yeah, Wild. And maybe there's one of those 'You Are Here' signs, too." Footloose scoffed.

The electric angel raver girl conked Footloose lightly on the head with the dull edge of her
sword. "Don't get smart with me, Foot-boy, or I'll slice your avatar into noodles faster than
you can say 'instant ramen'."

"How appropriate. Chinese style noodles, and not even the proper kind." He wasn't amused.
"Thanks so much, mm?"

The purple haired disco girl shrugged. "Alright, jus' wondering. I think we're supposed to
be looking for the central brain. The question is, what would one look like in a place like
this?" She shuddered at the thought of a giant brain hovering in the sky somewhere.

"Well, let's think like Edo, ne? Get inside the genius in order to understand it." Hoping
that made sense, Xinying nodded.

"The mind of Edo..." Kyouhon looked around. "That's a scary thought, but I'm willing to try
it."

Caci scratched her head. Then she stopped when it started to hurt. "Think like Ed? I have
a question. Does Ed think?" Somewhere she thought she could hear Faye Valentine laughing her
head off. It was a rather unsettling sound.

"A question many-a-hacker have asked. However, I personally feel she just has seizures of
inspiration and madness, which she thus concocts into her various inventions that make up
her true genius," mused Xinying.

"So...what you're saying is... she doesn't." She sighed. This was hard. And it was past
her bedtime.

"Maybe that's the key to this whole thing?" Kyouhon said, pointing at nothing in particular.
"Maybe it's all about not thinking. You know, like, what's the thing you expect the least?"

"The thing I'd expect the least is for Foot-boy to get eaten by a giant cucumber." Just
then she heard a roar. Bugger.

Xinying shivered. And it wasn't because of his intense fear of cucumbers. "Believing is
seeing, believing is seeing..." he repeated. "I don't believe I wanna see something big and
scary behind us..."

"Would it be painfully obvious for me to say 'uh-oh'?" Kyouhon spun around, coming face to...
well, not exactly face...with a giant, snarling, foaming-at-the-mouth cucumber. "Because if
it is, I don't think I will."

"Ehehe mayhaps we should take a little stroll in the other direction? Fast?" Caci began to
sidestep away from the giant plant, wondering whether it enjoyed Ranch dressing...

***

It was a land of luxury and wealth. It was a land of comfort and culture. It was a land that was
founded upon the upper-class virtues of greed and selfishness.

Gaspra was all this, and more.

A peanut-shaped asteroid orbiting somewhere between Mars and Jupiter, Gaspra was without a doubt
the number one hot springs resort in the solar system. To dip one's finger into the top-quality
mud would cost more than many could afford in a lifetime. Indeed, the price of paradise was
enough to make this hunk of rock nearly as exclusive as the distant galaxies.

That was the way it was, and that was just how Alister Silvius Scott liked it.

He was an elderly man, and as respectable as they come. He was fond of his land, but fonder still
of his computer. Custom built, it was the size of a small book, with enough memory to kill a
horse. The codename for this little electronic wonder was "Bond". Bond was quite a pampered
piece of equipment, with its own team of trained specialists on call to make sure that it was in
top condition at all times, as well as a spacious room to call its own. Bond and Alister had a
good relationship, and were sure to meet regularly between the times of six p.m. and three a.m,
especially on Tuesdays.

They all called Scott eccentric, though never to his face of course. He liked his gin cold and his
springs hot, and that was all that really mattered in this cellophane world of baths and golf.

Although, Alister had recently discovered a new interest. Having 2508 square kilometers of solid
paradise at his fingertips was all well and good, but surely more would be better. Surely a little
extra, just a little more icing on the cake, would solidify the perfection of this fabricated world.
But it would take a whole lot of woolongs for that kind of project. Woolongs that even Alister Scott
did not have access to. Not yet, anyway.

And so, with Bond's trusty help, he found what he needed. And no one was the wiser.

====================
Author's Notes: Due to real life issues, this took forever to write. I apologize to everyone
who has been kept waiting and I thank you for being patient with me. Also, I'm afraid I went
a little overboard with the non-canon characters here, but I assure you that it won't last much longer.
The canon characters, especially Faye and Ed, will continue to be the central characters of
this story. It's just that this was a necissary break from all the depressing angst, besides
being an interesting way of tracking down Ed's location. Besides, who wouldn't want to see a world
fabricated entirely by Ed? 8D

Once again, domo arigato gozaimasu to Tsukai and AngelAnne for contributing to the personalities
of the hacker trio!