Monique steeled herself, becoming Fulcrum within her own mind, before she jacked in, completing the transformation. The VR chill of the citadel floor cut through her riding leathers, mixed with the last fading impression from her meatbody of folding her hands in her lap. She rolled off the floor and stood. Despite the Stopwatch Hearts expansion freshly deployed, a breath revealed the familiar smells of metal and stone, other Verts confidently working, and cooking, metalwork, and other crafting going on in the floors below.

She was home.

«Greets, guildies!» Fulcrum's first order of business was greeting Vertex over telepathic guild chat. Of her personal friend list, the only ones that were on — Jenna(Snarkbat), Crooked, and Hoshoku — were also Verts.

Hoshoku was the first to "speak" up in guild chat. «Greets, guildie! But, now that you're on… you may not be able to log off.»

Fulcrum summoned the system menu with a gesture, and found the logoff button, examining it while Aurafalx replied. «My big sister logged off fine while I was still deploying the expansion, but she heard other people were reporting it not working.» The look of the button certainly hadn't changed.

«So, Stopwatch Hearts comes with day zero bugs? I am Veracity's complete lack of surprise.» Nearly a dozen giggles and chuckles chorused over the telepathic channel, which is actually harder than it seems. Thoughts of such laughter are unfocused by their nature, difficult to focus onto the guild channel, and thoughts won't transmit unless focused on a channel.

The shared moment was cut short, however, by Audacity. «Fulcrum, perfect! We've got a thing going, come on down to the garage.» Audacity technically didn't have a rank in the guild, but she and the guildmaster Veracity claimed to be the same player, somehow two-boxing both characters in VR.

«Yesser, OMW.» She turned on her heel to make a beeline for the elevator. Given her skills on her statorbike(and the types of missions *acity liked to organize personally), this "thing" was probably a hit-and-run attack. Maybe it'll be a ways away… Fulcrum thought hopefully.

The garage smelled better than a real one; instead of the battery tech being gasoline, the battery tech was "electron fountains" — which had a strong smell of ozone, but none of the all-pervading stench of gasoline vapors. On top of that, Vertex had installed one each of the best rooms, in order to make such a small citadel work for their territory, so there was also active scent cancellation going on.

The garage was packed with vehicles, fully half of them hoverbike kin. Towards the back, a temporary map table was set up, showing an exploded view of one of the broken-down multilevel freeways in Megakanto, and Audacity was leaned over it with six other Verts at her sides. Fulcrum raised an eyebrow; would this be a full team of eight, with Audacity herself on the team? But then Draglann saw her and sent her a team invite, and upon accepting, she saw she was only the seventh on the team.

At the same time, the telepathic team chat cut in. «‑fully not occupied, but if anybody's left mobs there we can blow past them with this comp.» In this case "comp" would be short for "team composition", not "computer" — and indeed the team was so far composed of five Hoverjock-class Verts, and two classless Verts with racing-heavy builds. Draglann nodded to Fulcrum and spoke openly, to include Audacity. "Speaking of, welcome to the recon team. The expansion added a world boss, and Vertex is sending two teams out for the new content: Based on our recon," he nodded to Audacity, "Audacity's strike team will equip and follow."

Fulcrum perked up, but didn't interrupt. This "thing" really was going to play to her strengths.

"This is close to us, but closer to the Nightie Knights's citadel. They don't have a guild presence at the Hoverdrome, but that doesn't mean they don't have racers, and we have to assume that as a raid guild they're very able to do focussed content. Any questions?"