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Cat-Herding 101

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This week they were going to meet at Franziska's place. It'd taken a lot of arranging and in fact it'd been the first time since they'd all began dating that it had even been possible. To say that the von Karma family dynamics were thorny and complicated was to say that putting a minefield in the front lawn would be a bit of an over the top security system that might cause a few more problems than it solved in the long run. Actually, if Franziska's rather venom-filled descriptions of some of the older von Karma patriarchs were accurate, Maya wouldn't have been surprised to find landmines randomly installed in the garden. Since her dearest father had been imprisoned for murder and a host of other charges (the happiest day of her life, according to Franziska) she had been able to defuse a lot of the sillier security systems around the house, including the ones specifically designed to keep her in particular out of places. She had already swayed the guard dog to her side long ago, and in fact had taken it upon herself to make sure the big Doberman was actually well adjusted enough to know who it was supposed to be guarding against whom. Both the visitors were relieved when the frightening-looking hound sniffed them with mild interest, then plodded back over to curl up underneath Franziska's chair. They were even more relieved to learn that all the other von Karmas were away on official business, on vacation, deliberately avoiding Franziska or the occasional one was still in jail. It was a big and luxurious house to have all to themselves, a traditional-looking place with what Maya recognised as some priceless antiques and Ema recognised as some more recent modern conveniences that were difficult to get hold of. The technically-minded woman had inevitably been roped into helping Franziska work some of these, which had taken up a lot of time they had expected to be taken up with actual date things. Still, they were used to none of their dates actually working out like normal dates by now, and while Ema tinkered away and Maya tried to bribe the dog with tidbits passed under the chair into letting her pet him, Franziska managed to break into the wine cellar and steal a bottle of one of her father's most rare and expensive vintages. They had found some candles, too, which was handy, as whatever Ema had accidentally done with the lighting (she insisted it was Franziska's fault for wiring up so weirdly in the first place and that such a fault wouldn't be possible with a normal lighting system and where the hell had she imported these chandeliers from anyway?), it had blown the fuse and left them in darkness. While Maya hadn't yet seen any of the items rumoured by the tabloid press to exist in the von Karma household - of the sadomasochistic variety, the fascist variety or the vampiric variety - it was still a creepy old house with creaking doors and spiderwebs and a disturbing amount of lightning compared to everywhere else in the neighbourhood (that was just because it was taller and had a spire, right?), so the superstitious woman didn't want to be left in the dark or unaccompanied anywhere on the premises.

Fortunately there were plenty of candles, nobody was leaving anyone on their own and besides, the electricity came back on with the twelfth lightning strike.

Despite Maya's reassurances that there hadn't been a spectral containment failure incident since the case she and Edgeworth had investigated all that time ago, which the supernatural element of had been a hoax anyway, the other two had been as reluctant to try out her home as a venue for the first time as they had been the von karma residence. Of course, there had been another option: her home from home when she was working in the big city, otherwise known as the Wright Anything Agency. However, it was a pokey little office in the middle of a busy street next to a rather dodgy hotel, and there was a very real threat that Phoenix Wright would come back home from his court case early and try to interfere somehow. The spirit mediums of the family, which included almost all of them, had gone to an important training conference of their own, something fairly high-up official business in a temple in Japan. They had taken Pearl with them. Maya had been insistently invited as well but she had found the excuse that she was technically on standby at her work as Phoenix's assistant, ready to travel down to help him if he had one of his usual dramas. The truth was, Maya knew there would be politics at her family's conference, and she loathed politics with a passion. Politics involving spiritual tradition was, as a rule, worse, even though people thought it would be better because they mistakenly believed spirit mediums were somehow virtuous. Mostly it involved old people arguing vehemently over the very suggestion that anything changed from the rules last reformed about five hundred years ago, then agreeing not to make any changes.

The shrine itself was beautiful, relaxing and out of the way. Franziska rather liked the change of pace from the city, insisting on long hikes in the snowy mountains every day. Ema grumbled that there was no wi-fi for the first half of the stay, then by the third day, had worked out a way to boost the signal in the middle of nowhere in the mountains so that the Internet was actually usable for all the things she needed to do. She soon had equipment set up everywhere, testing this or that supernatural occurrence all around the shrines to see if she could find logical explanations for any of it based upon electromagnetic pulses and sub-audible and visible reactions. Maya understood none of it, worrying endlessly that they would break something valuable and/or sacred, possibly letting out the things she specifically did not want the seals broken on.

They settled down a little once Franziska demonstrated that she was a surprisingly good traditional cook.

Ema's apartment had barely been large enough to fit all three of them in, especially after it was already full to the brim with electronic gadgets. One entire half of it was devoted to a series of networked computers, several monitors each between them and one wall-mounted especially huge screen. While her more exotic equipment that she used for working on cases, and an entire workshop for repairing and improving them, was in a different room that was probably supposed to have been the bedroom - she appeared to sleep on the couch, judging by the discarded clothes on and around the sofa and the food trays she had hastily cleared up. From the bags under her eyes most of the time, Maya suspected that Ema didn't actually get much sleep and probably didn't keep sociable hours (not that any of them could really talk, the von Karmas all being workaholics and Nick constantly waking Maya up to go and take photographs of a lake in the middle of the night or something that was apparently vital to the case). Still, she had tidied up the mess for them, made them all a decent meal and apologised for the clutter.

"I haven't had any reason to invite people round before I met you two, you know, and I've always thought it'd be better for me to get a smaller but more expensive place in an area of town where nobody bothers you but the wi-fi is still good."

"Don't you need more space for all this?" asked Maya, pointing at something she had at first mistaken for a coat stand but now realised was slowly rotating, making whirring noises and sported what looked like stage lighting but probably wasn't.


Ema shrugged, "It's not like I have anything else I want to put in here. The machines kinda dominate the house."

"I noticed," muttered Franziska, swearing in German as she accidentally spilled tea on something expensive looking and hoped the cloth she grabbed to wipe up the stain wasn't also anything expensive.

"Hey, do you want to see something cool, though?" Ema's eyes lit up and she began clearing away trays, including Franziska's unfinished tea pot, to place devices in their hands.

"Is that one of those VR headsets you were showing me?" asked Maya, "The one you've got a haunted one of?"

"I already explained it wasn't a ghost, it was a glitch. That was supposed to be a cute puppy that follows you around, not a disembodied pale light. It just didn't load properly, is all," she said, "Anyway, I didn't program this one from scratch, so it should work better. It just plays movies. And it can tell we're all sitting together, but it looks like we're in a movie theatre."

"Can't we just go to the real cinema down the road?" asked Maya.

"I do not wish to go to the cinema," commented Franziska, still annoyed at her sudden lack of tea, "It is crowded and noisy and full of boors."

"Well, you'll like this one, then, because it's just us," Ema demonstrated how to put the headsets on, "And the real thing I wanted to show you..."

"Oh cool, you can make it look like you're underwater!" exclaimed Maya.

"... That too. But, the unique thing is, this device is imported and has been... modified... I apologise if it might not be, ahem, to your exact standards of legality, Ms. von Karma..."

"I have more serious crimes to worry about," Franziska reassured her.

"Anyway, I can stream a load of films that aren't out here yet, and in full immersion VR! Isn't that cool? Where shall we start?"

"Oooo, it can look like you're on the moon, too!" enthused Maya.

"Get me some more tea," ordered Franziska.

Meeting out for a date could be just as complicated for the three of them. Generally speaking, whatever two of them could agree on doing, the third immediately hated. Franziska refused to go anywhere noisy or crowded or where she might meet another family member or too far away from work, just in case she was called in. Maya didn't want to get involved in work while she was supposed to be on break, especially if it meant Nick or Edgy or Butz showing her up in public, or some kind of commotion disrupting her peace. She was also easily bored. Ema also wanted to go somewhere more exciting, but not anywhere with a bad wi-fi connection or where the weather was too bad to get her phone out or where she wouldn't be allowed to use her phone for long periods of time. In short, there was something wrong with the venue wherever they went, until they began wondering how three such different people had even managed to agree that they liked each other. Maya, being trained in matters of the soul, understood how opposites could attract so that they balanced each other out, as everything should do in a healthy system in nature. Franziska said that, with her being able to count the number of people she tolerated the existence of on one hand, she didn't expect any kind of perfect relationship.

Their most recent experiment was to meet at a high-class Japanese restaurant, one that reminded Maya of her mother's cooking, where Franziska appreciated the quality of the food, the green tea and the fact that the atmosphere and prices kept the riff-raff away. The restaurant being in the city centre, the wi-fi was good and the staff respected the customers too much to bother Ema about her occasionally taking out some kind of advanced security equipment to demonstrate how she could monitor what everyone in the restaurant was doing right now, the exact composition of the food, an accurate prediction of what had happened this morning before the place opened up...

Most importantly, the seafood soba bowls were delicious, they had gotten through several and had enough room for desserts, a plate of assorted mochi each. Franziska had deigned to try some sake and had lightened up a little while drunk. She had then agreed to go to the theatre, on the understanding that she would leave immediately if any of her family used their favourite box, while Ema was encouraged to appreciate the stage effects but not constantly talk over the dialogue about hem and not to try and interfere with them in any way. Overall, it had been a good day out with relatively few things going wrong, and they hoped it would be the start of a new tradition now that the three of them were officially, properly dating.