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What could Charlie Zhou be possibly doing in the basement of his friend's house in the middle of a stuffy spring afternoon?

For one, there were plans to be looked over and revised. He was all alone, in his friend's private design room/drafting room/car workshop, looking over the latest plans for customized OKAY sportscars. Blueprints and computer workspaces filled out the edges of the brightly lit room. Two locked shutter doors that led to the outside world occupied one wall. A half-finished car came through one of these doors a few days ago; it was currently stationed in the center of the room, being inspected by Zhou.

He decided to take it light today; no mechanical work needed to be done, only aesthetic. Instead of more protective work gear he wore tight fitting jeans, as well as an extra large red shirt that covered his waist. His brown mechanic's uniform was in his friend's wash upstairs.

Zhou inspected the car. Sleek, black, just as Admin #1 liked it. Celere always delivered. Mr. Ruiz personally sent one of these cars over for inspection, noting in a recent email that Zhou could make it more...probably "versatile."

Knock, knock, knock, sounded the red double doors on the far end of the room. "It's Rupert. Open up."

"What's your business?" Zhou responded, moving towards the doorway. He opened the doors, facing Franchise security personnel, decked out in urban blue camo. Rupert was currently on shift, and had a serious, business-like demeanor painted over his rugged, messy, sunburnt face.

"Zhou," he pronounced perfectly. "The interviewee has just arrived. She is in the living room."

"Thank you, Rupert. Go on ahead with your shift." The guard turned to leave, and Zhou quickly rushed back to the car to make the last five minutes with it count.


Zhou arrived ten minutes later, bursting into the living room, carrying a toolbox in one hand and a briefcase in another. The skylights above brought in a pleasant radiance, accentuating the soft white decor his friend was indifferent towards. It made the perspiration on his brow more conspicuous, despite most of it being wiped away with a towel beforehand.

"Hello, Mrs. Lee!" he managed to greet despite his entrance. "Thank you for showing up." He sat down on the cream-colored sofa closest to him, in front of the small circular coffee table, across from the interviewee. "My name is Charlie Zhou, and I am authorized on behalf of the Franchise to conduct this interview." He set down the toolbox and suitcase on the carpet, then reached out his right hand towards the interviewee for a handshake. "How do you do?"

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Anna wandered the almost uncomfortably clean room as she waited. And waited. And waited some more. Bo quietly hissed his own impatience from his perch on her shoulder, and she reached up to scratch his neck as she said plainly, "Hush."

She was almost afraid to touch anything, in case the oil perma-stains in her hands should get on anything. That "almost" didn't keep her from from poking at some sort of oddly-shaped sculpture that, unfortunately, turned out to depend on on careful balance. Anna muttered a curse and glanced around as Bo started pacing back about forth across her shoulders. Seeing no one yet, she picked up the fallen piece and attempted to replace it as it had been, but the blasted thing just wouldn't stay put. She cursed again and slapped the piece down next to its base - right about the same time a man burst through the door.

Anna dashed for a seat, with Bo nearly falling off in the process. He had his claws suck into her collar, and managed to pull himself back up. Instead of hissing this time, he started dooking and nipped playfully at her ear. She responded by pushing him back with one hand while using her other to grasp and emphatically shake the hand of the man who'd dashed in.

"Anne Lee. Nice meetin' ya, Mr. Joe!"
"Cool, cool. Same to you too!" As he shook the interviewee's hand, Zhou quickly caught a glimpse of his least favorite three-dimensional, aqua blue coral reef avant-garde sculpture in front of him. A small chunk had been torn off and placed aside its base, but he didn't mind that much. Given ten minutes, his friend could fix that piece with some Superglue Turbo and plumber's putty.

"Right, Mrs. Lee, I don't want to waste any more time than I already have making you wait, so..." Quickly unbuckling his suitcase, Zhou inquired, "If you could go ahead and tell me, how did you hear about the Franchise?"
"Friend mentioned it," Anna said, and adjusted herself on her seat, though she remained hunched forward. Bo was still attempting to bite at her, so she pulled him from her should, set him down next to her, and proceeded to absentmindedly wrestle the noisy ferret with her hand. "Guy's hired me a few times, knows business 's been slow, mentioned you folks. Said ya'd helped 'im out with some kin'a infestation."

Bo bit her thumb a little too hard, making her wince. She flipped the ferret on his back and flicked his chin, shooting him a quick glare accompanied by a hiss. He wriggled free and continued wrestling with her hand, but was a bit more careful about how hard he bit.
"I don't recall ever helping out with an infestation," Zhou responded, pulling out his papers from the briefcase. "Though I was notified about an overgrown tomato plant outbreak sometime last year. Or maybe that was the mutant rat people standoff?" The ferret on Anna's hand made him barely remember that mutant rat people were a thing. They were cool rats, and the standoff ended in a ceasefire, a truce, and a better understanding of relations between OKAY, the rat people and the mole people.

Zhou smiled, probably because of the ferret, probably because of the rat people. "It was probably the former," he supposed, referring to the tomatoes. He then brandished what appeared to be a set of qualifications on A4 paper; quickly he darted his eyes to the most relevant qualifications and began: "Alright, Mrs. Lee, it looks like you have a lot of work experience with you...especially the part about you being a pilot." He looked up towards Anna. "Tell me more."
"I 'unno," she said with a one-shouldered shrug. The other arm was still busy with Bo, whose dooking seemed to be getting louder. "Whole thing sounded crazy. 'Bout the same kin'a crazy you're talkin' now. Rather ya'd call me Anne, by th'way."

Despite her comment, Anna didn't really seem to think there was anything wrong with the "craziness" of it, and she was quick to smile again when asked about being a pilot.

"Been flyin' most o' m'life," she happily bragged. "Best trainin's from the Navy. Folks don't un'erstan' how hard lan'in onna aircraft carrier is. Tried some fancy trick flight af'er retirin', ne'er got far. Mos'ly do cargo now. Plane's all up to stan'ards. Got a sof' spot for classic models, 'ough."
"That's cool," Zhou remarked. He wondered if Mrs. Lee would be interested in test piloting an OJAY Mk. IV sometime, if she got the job. "Real cool."

He eventually took out from his briefcase a purple-cover notebook filled with important dates and instructions, with a black pen attached to it. "How many planes do you own, then, and which is your primary aircraft of choice?" he asked, opening the notebook to a blank page. He twirled the pen in his left hand around, almost moving in time with the ferret.
"Ha, ya talk like I can afford a fleet!" Anna let out a hearty laugh and shook her head. "Naw, I've hadda sell a few off o'er the years, so's I jus' got my hellcat 'n my speedmail. Hellcat's mostly business, an'a speedmail's a li'l restoration project if my downtime."

She chuckled and looked down at the ferret, not really for any particular reason, but just because.

"Speedmail's a big project, act'ly. What li'l was intact wa'nt much good. Jus' about buildin' it new." She looked back up to Charlie, grinning. "Luck'ly, my husband, won'erful man 'e is, got hold a' some schematics, so I ain't gotta work blind."
"I see, I see," Zhou commented. "That's pretty cool." He'd have to ask more about Speedmail once the interview was done; for now, the more peculiar inquiries needed to be brought up. "Let me move to a different question: in all your years of flying, what is the most interesting thing that you have seen while flying?"
The woman considered, then offered, "Saw a cloud 'at looked jus' like Grumpy fr'm Snow White once. Spittin' image, I swear."

Bo was finally starting to calm down a little, getting a bit exhausted from play.

"Seen some o' them crop circles from o'erhead. Crazy things. Ne'er knew they got done 'n forests a'fore. Think I spotted one o' those tribes 'at keeps t' 'emselves, too."
Zhou nodded, writing notes ("TODO: INVESTIGATE CASHEW REACTOR 1") completely unrelated to the interview going on. "Great, interesting," he remarked, looking up from his writing. "I have to wonder, have you encountered hostile planes or artillery in your flights?"
"Well, most o' my time in th'Navy was peacetime, so's not a whole lot outside trainin'. Some o' my clients 'ese days need deliveries 'n hostile territory, though."

The ferret finally seemed to have gotten the excess energy and need to play out of its system, so Anna lifted him back onto her shoulder. From his position draped about her neck, Bo peered and sniffed curiously at the man who sat across from them.

"Hellcat's got no weapons no more, but she handles great fer dodgin'. An' o' course I keep a gun handy fer onna ground." The woman's mouth spread into a lopsided grin. "What sorts o' places ya ten'a send folks?"
"Every sort of place," Zhou said with a few seconds of consideration. He noticed the ferret's sniffing; perhaps it was taking an interest to the peculiar layer of sweat in his hair. "We have centralized operations in parts of the globe, so our missions are around there. You won't be needing to fly to and fro places most of the time, if that's what you're thinking. But, should we hire you, your piloting skills are more than welcome in our operations.

"But let's get back on track...sorta." He scribbled a few short sentences on his paper. "What's your favorite place in the world that you've gone to, and why?"
"Fair 'nough. I ain't choosy." Anna shrugged, prompting Bo to readjust and pat at her fluffy collar with mild frustration. He settled again once satisfied, though there was no notable difference. "I don' mind flyin' wherever, s'long as ya help pay fer it."

She though about the question, and chuckled a little to herself before saying, "North Carolina, fer personal reasons. Mount'in's 'r purty, though. Other places, I mean."

It wasn't that she minded anyone knowing that North Carolina was where she'd met her husband and where he still lived. Rather, she didn't like people knowing that she actually had a little romantic streak when it came to him.
"Cool," Zhou simply remarked. "I kinda like flying over mountains too, but...I don't fly planes. Somebody dared me once to ski off a plane down a steep slope in the Swiss Alps. One of the best experiences in my life, hands down, both the view of the snow from above, and the actual ride, too." He left out the part where he got chased by an armored bear out for his blood and intel; little details like those were irrelevant to the small talk he was trying to make.

"Alright, Mrs. Lee- sorry, meant Anne. You've got a lot of flight experience down. I want to go through other skills that you might have; explain to me your handyman profession, and your general experience in the field."
"'At's another thing I got real good at inna Navy, 'least in terms o' havin' the right materials. Been tinkerin' my whole life. Got good at makin' do witha wrong materials." She looked up thoughtfully and absent-mindedly scratched Bo's head and neck. "Still got some parts 'at needa be swapped out, actu'ly. Once hooked a' engine up t' my bike as a kid, though. Daddy got a laugh when I crashed it!"

The woman let out a hearty laugh, clearly just as amused by the memory. "Had a bump on my head for weeks."
"Heh," Zhou chuckled. If Mrs. Lee was as good as she claimed she was, imagine what she could do for the Franchise's Steampunk division, or its Dieselpunk branch, or just the Franchise's core mechanic group in general. "That's awesome. We'd love to have more mechanics and engineers on board. We've got on board a whole bunch of DIY-ers, more guys and gals who we recruit from maker fairs, civil engineers, et cetera...should we hire you, you're gonna love it. You'll have all the stuff you need."

The ferret was resting; Zhou noticed, and thought it would be a good time to bring it up. "I, uh, forgot to ask this before, but who's this little fella?" He pointed at Bo. "What a rascal; reminds me of all those guinea pigs I had back when I was little."
"Ahh, 'at's mah li'l buddy, Bo!" Anna said with a grin. She grabbed the ferret by the scruff of his neck and pulled him off her shoulders. The small animal's flailing and noises announced his displeasure, but the woman ignored it and he gave up soon enough. As she laid the ferret out across her lap, she said with a chuckle, "Gets grumpy sometimes, but 'e's always been good company."

With the pleasant neck scratching resumed, it seemed all was forgiven. Bo arched up against Anna's fingers, then rolled over for a mix of good belly scratches and lazy wrestling with the woman's fingers.

"Wanna hold 'im?"
Zhou peered down at the playful ferret. "It wouldn't hurt to." He stuck out his own hands to catch the ermine in case it jumped at him or wriggled into his palms.

Anna, to Zhou, had what the Franchise was looking for, at least skill-wise. A few more minutes of her time would certainly shed light on her experience with helping others, as was part of the core Franchise values.

"Going back to your flight work," he said, "Have you ever saved someone from a stranded island? I mean...more generally, have you ever been called mid-flight to save someone you don't even know from a life-or-death situation?"
Without a second thought to it, Anna lifted the ferret from her lap and plopped it in Zhou's hands. After an initial moment on confusion, Bo proceeded to sniff inquisitively at the man, sometimes poking here or there with his nose.

"Sometimes 'fore I left the Navy," she said, smirking at Bo a moment before focusing on Zhou once more. "Mos'ly fellow soldiers. Not always life 'r death, though."

The woman paused to crack her neck and stretch her back and shoulders.

"Those're usu'ly planned, too. Lot o' the places I've heard 'mergency calls since 're in places where's landin' a plane ain't likely t' work, ne'ermind tryin' t' take back off. Usu'lly a best I can do's t' pass on the message."

About this time, Bo had become fascinated with the man's sleeves and was attempting to wiggle his way in.

"Picked up a few lost trav'lers o'er the years, 'ough. Beat down a few fakers 'at thought they'd take my plane 'r my shipment. Mighta played a part in a li'l revolution at some point... but ya' di'nt hear 'at from me."

Moderators: OKAY Employees (played by mk_97) Richard Ruiz (played by mk_97)