Description: Mint was kidnapped in Mexico by the brutal cartels linked to Shadaloo. She escaped -- or so she thought. Now, in Southtown, she's here to deliver a perfectly ordinary debriefing to a perfectly ordinary member of the Special Forces.
Shadaloo operations and observations continue even in the absence of Vega. The nature of the machine continues to drive it onward. Of all the locations in the world, the Doll called Marz has focused her efforts on Southtown. The rise of a new threat in the NOL, the strange occurrences regarding Gears, Darkstalkers, and the Green appearing on the wounded mountain and forest. All of these things need documenting and study so that Shadaloo can continue to maintain a strong presence behind the curtain of the world's stage.
Marz has, in her information gathering, realized the potential of a sleeper agent currently embroiled in the Golden Angel Tournament. A plethora of young fighters with an eager ambition to do more and spread over the world are prime targets for Shadaloo. And it would pay dividends to make certain that some of them are documented and tagged for future resourcing operations.
It's with that in mind that Marz has made a move in alerting one already such agent, one Minal Panesh. Outfitted with Shadaloo tech, it was not hard for Marz to track Mint down and to make certain a simple message is sent. One with the directions to a secure location in a Shadaloo operated storage facility. A simple request to report in to her superior officers.
To fit the bill, Marz is outfitted in her proper uniform. Bodysuit and jacket, her cadet cap bearing the Shadaloo lightning bolt. She already has her laptop out, and is using a standing desk she has dragged into the small storage garage to use as an impromptu office. It's a barebones facility, one that hasn't seen much use in recent months. But it's been shielded from outside observation and is isolated enough that privacy is all but guaranteed. Besides, picking the brain of Private Panesh is something that needs to be done in person. Much to Marz' chagrin at having to hold a face-to-face conversation with a person she doesn't know.
Mint occasionally wonders if she made the right choice in transferring to the Special Forces. On the one hand, yes, she was getting tired of filing paperwork and constantly telling people how to do the fun jobs she loved to do, only for them to transfer out so she has to do the process again a couple months later. And there weren't a whole lot of "fun" options available to her as an ABV mechanic that would involve higher rank or higher pay, so transferring out was the only option. And yes -- she gets more advanced combat training with MARSOC against much more talented folks.
But the new position leaves her stuck with really -weird- assignments from time to time. Like rooting out corruption in the middle of this weird "Golden Angel" tournament. The UN-Japan kerfluffle has left the brass concerned that Japan might be trying to instigate conflict on a more global scale -- and that means embedding talented fighters into these so-called "informal" fighting tournaments; ones where more high-profile fighters are not exactly welcomed.
A job's a job though. And Minal Panesh is happy to take orders.
"Corporal Panesh, reporting for duty."
She snaps a crisp salute at the entrance camera.
With a click and a hiss, the door unlocks.
And Mint makes her way inside.
As she walks through the facility, her nose wrinkles slightly at the musty odor, at the slight accumulation of dust and cobwebs along the corners of the dimly lit hallways. Not... totally unheard of, especially not in a city where exterior forces were only allowed occupancy for a few weeks now.
But nothing about the facility sticks out as anything that might be unauthorized by the US Military.
Nothing sticks out to Mint much at all, really.
It won't take the corporal long to get to the small garage. And upon seeing the average-sized officer (who nonetheless stands nearly a head taller than her), she snaps a second crisp salute. Even in the sub-optimal lighting of the garage, it would be clear that the corporal has kept up with uniform standards: her green-and-black camouflage is cleanly pressed with perfect creases, her boots are freshly polished, her cover is in pristine condition.
"Corporal Panesh, reporting for duty," she repeats. Though there is some hesitation in her voice. "I had been in contact with Major Cortez, but I have not heard from him for many months... ?"
Marz taps away at her keyboard. She checks a feed from outside. The diminutive Panesh is seen, watched and heard snapping off her information. A quick check and Marz buzzes the woman in. Files that she has on Mint fill her screen. Anything to help engender a feeling of understanding to help guide this agent in the way that Marz, and Shadaloo, need her guided.
Marz is still studying the information on her laptop when Mint arrives, and starts in immediately with questions. She looks over her laptop to study Mint in person. Crisp, clean, well taken care of. It's clear to Marz that Mint is someone dutiful and concerned with the details she needs to be. In short, a very good subject for Shadaloo.
"Yes. Major Cortez is currently indisposed. I am his liaison, Lieutenant Fischer," she introduces herself with a handily generic surname. Though she does have a fairly noticeable German accent. "You will be, for the time being, reporting your information to me as the Major's proxy."
Marz pulls up some information that's been taken down so she has pertinent info on the assumed mantle of Major Cortez. Lying is only as good as the corroborating stories, after all. She hums for a moment, reading, and realizing she's drawing out perhaps too much time, adds, "Don't worry about the time. We are trusting you to operate without so much breathing down your neck, yes."
Minal stays at full attention while "Lieutenant Fischer" introduces herself. She even remains at full attention even through the relative void in conversation, politely disregarding the reflections of digital windows flitting across glass -- after all, the junior enlisted officer's been told often that if that information was relevant, it would be acknowledged verbally. And since it is not...
The humming and the statement that follows are enough to set Minal's mind at ease, if not her full stance; the barest glimmer of her usual smile manages to peek through the cracks of her mask. "Understood. Thank you, ma'am."
Once Fischer is ready for the report, the Clifton native draws in her breath, and proceeds.
"I'm not certain the last time that I was able to speak with the Major, so I apologize if I'm giving you reduntant information. I've been transferred to a MARSOC detachment to provide logistics support to ongoing initiatives.
"Previous assignment was to secure the United Nations facility in Metro City; there were isolated incidents of concern there, the most significant being the asylum provided to UN diplomats from Japan. There were several assassination attempts, but these occurred outside of secured areas and Intelligence committees are still compiling recommendations to reduce those incidences in the future."
She folds her hands in front of her, fleshy pads of her three fingers brushing idly across the vinyl and titanium of her mechanical prosthetic.
"Current assignment is observation of the Golden Angel Tournament in Southtown."
Marz adjusts her glasses, considering the information that is on her screen. Everything is checking out and no signs of Minal Paresh being compromised are showing. That's enough to get Marz to smile to herself.
"Your efforts in Metro City are commendable," she says, just as a means to compliment an eager to please soldier. Even if Marz is several years younger than Mint, she has to adopt the air of a more knowledgeable military officer. And while knowledgeable is something Marz feels she can pull off, Shadaloo isn't always a standard militaristic operation.
"And do not fear redundant information. I can simply remove what does not add to the situational awareness at hand," she recites. "So be thorough, I would much rather there be too much to read than not enough." She taps at the keyboard to pull up a new note file. A quick looks back to Mint and she narrows her eyes to study the mechanical prosthetics.
"The Golden Angel Tournament, yes. Tell me what you've found so far. Not only of corruptive influence, but also your strategic opinions of those that are competing." She tents her fingers and leans forward, her glasses reflecting light from her laptop back at Mint. "In order for the Special Forces to continue to promote peace and stability around the world, we must know not only of the already powerful, but those that might prove either ally or enemy among those that will no doubt become powerful in time."\
Mint's totally used to taking orders from know-it-all Ensigns and Lieutenants. The ones who don't know what they're doing get cycled out faster than the ones who do, so it's a good system overall. Fischer certainly conveys the airs of a "good" lieutenant; the praise brings about a fractional increase in Mint's smile.
"Thank you, ma'am."
The corporal nods in understanding; this goes well with her own natural tendency to provide too much information. Fischer's acceptance of this just makes her even -more- likable. Why couldn't -every- officer be as open and understanding with her?
But... as Fischer looks at her hands, Minal realizes she had slipped out of the 'attention' stance. Is... is that gonna be on her record? Self-consciously, she folds her arms behind her back, stiffening her spine and raising her chin. It doesn't matter whether Fischer is personable or not; she wasn't given permission to relax yet. Her demeanor grows more serious, though her eyes definitely show some signs of a non-verbal apology for letting herself slip as she had.
"As far as the tournament is concerned, there is cause for concern that one of the tournament organizers, Alma Towazu, may have had undocumented interactions with the United Nations diplomatic efforts. So far these have been unsubstantiated, but I am keeping informal surveillance on him during the event when possible. Also, official reports suggest that one of the close relations of the tournament, Aya Hazuki, may be tangentially related to the defense of Japanese Self Defense Force bases related to a surprise attack from UN-aligned Gear forces. That is to say -- we believe that she sounded the alarm. Cause for concern is that she may have had intelligence that the military itself did not."
She blinks, looking at the back of the laptop as she tries to remember the next points on her briefing.
"Also, there were two fighters in the tournament firing automatic weapons upon each other -- a mercenary with the Ikari Warriors named Fio Germi, and another figure presumed to be a black market weapons dealer named Bulleta. Surprisingly, no casualties were recorded."
Minal looks back up at Fischer, focusing upon her eyes through the reflected laptop screens.
"At least one person understood to be affiliated with the Novus Orbus Librarium -- Clio St. Jeanne -- has entered into the tournament as well. Suspect there is a relation to their new point of presence in Southtown. The NOL is understood to be working with local powers, but considering their role in the removal of the UN, it may be of some concern."
She shifts her stance slightly, adding, "Aside from Germi and Bulleta, unorthodox weapons were used by two fighters, identified as Faust and Makoto Nanaya. Scalpel blades in the first case, and ridiculously large gauntlets in the second. ... Which, as a personal note, I'm totally okay with. We are coordinating with local authorities to dive into the background on these weapons, but there is no hard information yet."
Marz was not the best at talking with people. She wasn't a cunning or silver tongue speaker. She was, in many ways, simply being herself and brute forcing the notions that are already in her subject's head. It was, however, seeming to work well at getting all the information she can work with.
Once Mint begins speaking, however, is when Marz really settles into watching the small soldier with rapt attention. Words being soaked up. Fingers tapping away at keys with a stenographer's awareness. Marz is stock still, almost staring, but for her red-gauntleted hands tap-tapping away at the keys.
"Compromised positions," Marz says, things that Shadaloo could exploit. Particularly if these individuals were more nationalistic. Japan could use protection, after all, and Shadaloo could offer such things. The 'lieutenant' nods and continues to hammer away at the information provided.
"The Novus Ordo Librarium needs quite a degree of study," Marz says, "Have you seen some of their methodology? A great degree of power for limited spaces. The Japanese may not understand that refusing the help of the U.N. is inviting forces that have much less stringent oversight to conquer them from inside," she speaks without irony, fixing her glasses as a point.
"It would seem, to me, that this tournament is a matter of political flexing," she notes, "I would like to informally congratulate you, Corporal Panesh. You've done well." Marz hums to herself, thinking. So many with connections to all the power positions. Young ones that may yet rise, and if made to see things as clearly as Corporal Panesh, it would greatly improve Shadaloo's position in the world.
"I would like you to go deeper into this tournament, Corporal. I would like a more in depth tactical assessment of their combat capabilities."
Minal nods quietly in response to the Lieutenant's tactical assessments. She's in full agreement there -- Japan lost.a lot by fighting back against the UN forces, and from what she's able to see from the tournament alone, the country's in for a few rough years until the various powers can reach a new state of equilibrium.
"I'm afraid I haven't yet, ma'am, but I will research the NOL and let you know my findings." She may not be privy to plans to destroy the multifaceted organization from within, but that doesn't mean another pair of eyes wouldn't help the Special Forces and/or Shadaloo.
Congratulations are offered, and as a swell of pride lifts her ribcage and shoulders, she answers crisply, "Just doin' my job, ma'am."
Why, she asks herself again, can't everyone be more like Lt Fischer?
Mint's eyes widen slightly when she's asked to go deeper. That is the cycle though, isn't it? Praise, and then make a bigger ask...
"Yes, ma'am," she responds. "Up until now I feel that an observer role was too limiting. I have considered the parties in play, and I feel that the only way I could go 'deeper' would be to involve myself as a full participant. There is only one competitor who might have... issues with my technology, and that is one... Sylvie Paula Paula."
She pauses, cheeks staining pink for a moment.
"She fights using electricity, and she's pretty determined, to boot. Her... exhibition match was pretty, er."
A moment of indecision. Should she pun in front of an officer?
The decision is made.
"Pretty well documented online."
The tumult of a great upheaval in power structure is the best time to start laying the foundations for a better tomorrow. And if you can gain power through information and the proper placement of agents rather than dashing your forces against the rocks of other power centers, then all the better. Shadaloo cares for strength, Marz understands that strength needn't always be so obvious. But she always did prefer chess to fighting.
She just needs more pawns to move about the board. And an understanding of the board's dimensions. But with so many of the stronger people in the world no doubt lured in and distracted by the announcements of Krauser, Marz cannot help but see the opportunity presenting itself.
"Your efforts are appreciated," she tells the eager corporal. She does seem to want praise so readily. And well, seems almost too anxious to simply offer what was already going to be asked of her.
"Yes, yes," she agrees, nodding, not letting on to Mint that she was already planning on asking the soldier to take to fighting. "That is a fine idea, Corporal Panesh. If you fight them, they may see you as one of theirs. Get to know them. They may be excellent sources of information if they trust you enough to speak with me or another of Major Cortez' liaisons." Marz's smile is a genuine one, even as she taps at the bow of her glasses in anticipation for how well this is going.
"A fighter with electrical potential. Yes, I see that may be a problem. We would not want your equipment damaged," she agrees. "Though there is a great deal of water there, yes? Should you be forced into confrontation. Perhaps you may use that make the fight quite short. The water should react poorly and. Well. Short I suppose." The pun unintentional and realized a moment too late. "But that is a bridge to cross later."
Mint is a brilliant and insightful engineer, but she also enjoys being a rank-and-file soldier. Because at the end of the day, she'd rather deal with discrete problems that she can knock out quickly, rather than sustain any sort of long-term campaign. That's... left for people with a grand vision, or a keen insight for strategy.
Like someone with a better view of the big picture, who knows how to lavish compliments upon her. The corporal nods her head, smiling at the repeated round of approval. It's not unwelcome -- but the mild wrinkle in her nose shows that she is really not -used- to getting commended so frequently. Perhaps it's... too much of a good thing?
Luckily, her anxiety is lessened when Fischer talks about blending in. Mint has always had trouble feeling like a 'fighter' in the same sense as other successful initiates to the world of fighting. The only way -she- can fight is with tools that can actually stand up to the power of her punching, and that always makes her feel different somehow. So, having the process abstracted into the conceit of a mission does help -- and Mint nods enthusiastically with each point made.
"Yes, ma'am, that sounds like a great plan!"
Mint does seem to be grateful that Fischer acknowledges the problems unique to her particular vulnerability. As she brings her hands alongside her, fingers uncurl as she thinks about the last time she suffered a short-circuit, at the hands of an enemy EMP.
She offers a polite chuckle at the pun -- pleased that it was made, and yet kind of wondering if the word 'short' was chosen at the diminutive corporal's expense.
"Luckily, this Golden Angel compound has allowed me to solve the electrical conductivity problem in my interface contacts; I'll be testing a sea-salt flavor of my KNUCKS in the next week, one that won't short out if I touch the water."
Her fingers clench into fists. One good pun deserves another...
"So if any sparks -do- fly, so to speak... I should be able to keep my performance grounded."
She presses her lips together tightly.
Trying very, very hard not to laugh.
Perhaps fishing for a good reaction from Fischer.
Marz is not the best communicator. She really doesn't even like doing things like she is now. But liking something and having the talent to do it are two vastly different things. She can see the short soldier is wanting for attention and service and is wondering why the pretense of special forces operation is even necessary when she seems like the kind of useful tool Shadaloo could use at any case.
Marz looks down her nose at her computer, thinking on moving the pieces and the potential windfall the could come from inserting a number of chipped and loyal soldiers in various locales across the world. Could or would they all be as, puppy-like, as Minal Panesh? She makes a quiet grunt and reaches for an energy drink that she doesn't have. Sighing at her lack of foresight in getting something like that before this meeting.
"You are working on methods to protect your circuitry?" Marz asks, nodding. "A very good idea, yes, they are very important, after all." She taps a few notes down onto the file to look into the grounding effects and potential interference with Shadaloo chip technology.
"It is good you're thinking ahead a potential threat, but," she pauses a moment, blinking and looking at Mint over her glasses. Then she laughs, a genuine one. She may, unknowingly, be even more mentally controlled than Mint is, but Marz still has the same personality of the bookish geek that she was before Shadaloo's ideology and psycho power were instilled into her. "That is a good one. That is a good one," she assures with a nod and a smile that, for that moment, really do show that Mint is dealing with an eighteen year old girl that's been pushed to a great deal more than she might be.
Shadaloo influence has so thoroughly infected the corporal's mind that she has no qualms about giving up confidential, high-security-clearance information to a person she's never met. For, in her mind, Marz truly -is- the Lieutenant Fischer she claims to be, and a Common Access Card may as well be protruding from that laptop. As long as the correct frequency is used, the corporal has no idea of knowing that anything is awry. Indeed -- if the war had gone differently and the United States had seen fit to send tracked vehicles onto the Japanese mainland, it's quite possible that Mint's security credentials could have proven an enormous asset for Shadaloo.
But right here, right now, the junior enlisted soldier has an intelligence mission in front of her. And it seems to be giving her carte blanche to indulge her fighting proclivities. And that makes her happy.
But not as happy as Lt. Fischer getting her pun. The corporal breaks into a broad grin -- a kindred spirit! "Haha! No one else in command really notices when I say stuff like that. They just think I'm talkin' weird."
She gives another chuckle, curling a bionic fist in front of her mouth and coughing lightly.
"Yeah, the Golden Angel compound makes a watertight seal once it solidifies, as long as there's some salinity to the water. Salt water's way more corrosive than regular water, so it's a good anti-corrosion agent to apply to the bolts."
She laughs softly -- almost fully conversant now with this superior officer as she rubs the back of her head.
"It also has this weird way of knowing what colors and such people want to wear. So it'd be a good way of applying temporary decorations too! ... Kinda -weird- though."
She arches an eyebrow.
"I mean, think of it. Like... a psychoreactive compound? That reacts to what I might be -thinking- at the time? What other uses would something like that -have?-"
Marz is indeed a kindred spirit in the world of puns. After all, her adopted name for this operation is one. As she marks down the notations, uploads the data from the chip on the short band, and watches the deeply infected soldier rattle off so calmly so much information, she cannot believe how she hasn't considered this kind of psychoactive control before.
The "hündchen", as Marz is seeing Mint, seems to be almost indulgent in the casual conversation. And to Marz's enjoyment, it does make much of the conversation an easier one. "Perhaps it is because I'm in technology," she offers. "Working with Major Cortez allows me autonomy. I appreciate the opportunity that his command gives me." She peers over her glasses and smiles.
"I would think you would do better more under his wing, but sadly, you are very useful where you are. In time, though," Marz says, tapping away. It's useful to keep pawns moving forward. Let them know that should they reach the end of the board for their players that they may become queens.
The information about Golden Angel is important, it pricks Marz' ears and she focuses sharply at Mint once the mention of psychoactive chemicals comes up. "Yes, yes, very strange indeed. Another reason for you to be in the competition. I would like a sample for study. The kind used by contestants will do nicely. I can work with it to make certain that the psychoactive compounds are not reading more than just color preference and how much skin you should show."
"Yeah, that... You build tech all day? That sounds like a sweet deal! I'd... I'd probably like it, as long as I still get to test stuff out in the field every now and again. I'd love to talk to the Major again, but... let him know I said 'Hi!', okay?"
Mint is almost -completely- at ease, now that the two have established such a warm rapport. She understands tha she may have a way to go before being able to request a transfer -- but there are certainly worse fates for someone of her rank!
"Somehow," she notes, reaching into her left jacket pocket, "I thought you'd ask that." When she removes her hand, she's holding up a plastic bottle about the size of a hip flask.
As she sets the bottle on Marz's desk, the fluid inside can be seen swishing about, behind the 'Golden Angel' brand label. It's not appealing -- resembling some sort of colorless gray mud. And it's got the viscosity of heavily-used motor oil, thick and sludgy but not as thick as ketchup.
"It's pretty crazy stuff, but it works exactly as advertised. Little bit of fresh water, and the whole chemical compound breaks down."
She taps the lid of the bottle -- and underneath it would be a foil seal. "Just don't open the seal until you're ready to apply it, once it's exposed to air it starts to thicken."
Vega has been missing for some time. It's a concerning though for all of Shadaloo. But it is also not information that the little soldier needs. So for now, the acting Lieutenant Fischer offers a simple pleasant lie. "Of course, Minal."
The informal first name is used intentionally. Discomforting as it is to talk to strangers, Mint's lack of apparent threat and virtual thrallment has made things a lot easier. Almost as if talking with a device than a person. "And I see you are thinking ahead. Excellent," she says, taking claim of the bottle with a sharp look of anticipation in her eyes.
"I will have to test it," she admits. "And have it tested. But this will tell us much. Thank you, Minal. Your service is invaluable. And what you find out when you join the fighting will be even moreso."
Marz looks around the garage and considers. "As I will be working in Southtown, perhaps our next meeting will be in a better location. This is quite dank and cold. I do not think you will mind." She slips the bottle of Golden Angel into one of the many pockets of her vest and pats it for safekeeping. "But unless you have any more information for me, I should be on my way and allow you the time you need for your duties."
Minal may be plenty book smart, and street smart when it comes to money, but having fallen under the spells of both Vega -and- Marz... she's falling for the honeyed words hook, line, and sinker.
"Sure! It shouldn't be much trouble for me to get more. Odoukou Chemical wants to roll it out everywhere, and they're more than happy for the free publicity."
More appreciation, more accolades -- and Corporal Panesh isn't even fazed! So used to being on the low end of the totem pole despite her prodigious grasp of engineering, she's fully appreciative of the lieutenant's consideration.
"Roger that!" she responds, clomping her heels together and snapping a crisp salute. "There's another big event tonight, so I probably -should- get ready for it."
Relaxing, she takes a half step backwards, bowing. It's hard to not do that while standing in Japan, after all.
"It was a pleasure meeting you, Lieutenant Fischer! We'll be in touch!"
Another salute -- and then Mint is briskly jogging to the exit, with her new mission priorities in place.
Log created on 11:01:46 01/27/2018 by Mint, and last modified on 21:56:47 01/27/2018.