Description: Ken travels all the way to Atlantic City to search for a Mint. Guess he's dead set on finding the right one.
Minal was on leave. Smack dab in the middle of her home turf. And yet -- her mind is racing. She'd tried to throw herself into personal engineering projects, her usual idle pleasures... but every time she turned a wrench, or modeled up some idea in a CAD program, her thoughts found their way back to her life as a Marine. The very life she was trying to forget. So screw that!
With all the time off, she has the luxury to pursue her second personal passion -- boxing. Ringside. A huge casino in Atlantic City. Crowds shouting and screaming. Noise, everywhere, making it practically impossible for the New Jersey-grown Marine to descend back into her pit of melancholy. No, here, there's just pure, raw, energy, buoying her spirits sky-high.
She's wearing an oversized bomber jacket in brown leather, over top of a mostly nondescript black t-shirt. Baggy cargo jeans and combat boots. She looks pretty much like any -other- Marine, which is exactly the look she's going for. And here, of course, blending in with the crowd entails shouting at the top of her lungs.
"KICK HIS ASS!" shouts the Marine, pumping a plastic fist into the air. The fighters are going at it -- one swing after another. The skill discrepancy is pretty great between the two pugilists -- one takes heavy, lumbering swings, but it's clear he'll lose the war of attrition against the lighter, cannier fighter who has the determination to wait him out. And of course Mint's cheering for the -smart- one.
"Stick and move, Mac, stick and move! Hahahaha!"
Finding information on military personnel is usually rather difficult. Of course, if your fiance's brother in law just so happens to be a high ranking officer in the United States Air Force and is willing to just provide some information to get you off the phone and out of his broom-shaped hair, it's actually quite feasible.
The tiny marine struck a nerve with Ken Masters with her magical vanishing act after pulling her from a sinkhole in Sunshine City. The reports of actual missing soldiers, such as the Military Liason to Interpol have lead the blonde trust fund kid to start snooping around some on his own. Especially since one of those missing is someone he happens to know rather well.
Charlie Nash is MIA.
The bus of students that were kidnapped.
A sudden increase of violent criminal activity.
There's a good number of things here that would normally make Ken wave his hand and ignore the situation, however there's one thing that still bugs him.
And that would be Corporal Minal Panesh.
It wasn't easy finding out where the Marine was stationed, nor was it easy finding out she has been placed on Inactive Duty pending an investigation. It was easy though finding out where she's been going. So while the tiny Marine is enjoying the slugfest in the ring, Ken is steadily sneaking his way through the packed crowds to hunt her down.
It was a good thing that Mint had happened to invite at least -one- of her former co-workers to said boxing match, even if they were too busy to attend. And even more of a good thing that they were ready and willing to share information with such a famous personality.
Really, the corporal should probably hang out with more infosec-minded people. She doesn't exactly have a sterling track record in that regard.
And yet, in another feat of oversharing, she's holding up a cellphone to record footage of the high-speed chess match taking place in the square-shaped ring. Almost every lumbering punch is deftly avoided and/or deflected by the assertive underdog. And even the surprise attacks are dealt with aplomb, earning cackles of glee from the Marine.
It's enough to cause her to clap the person beside her on the shoulder -- earning an alarmed cry from him.
Yeah, she may be a little overly tipsy.
And, engrossed so thoroughly in the on-stage action, she's even less likely to notice someone when they're -trying- to stay stealthy, like a certain martial arts champion. What does the disgraced(?) Marine(?) really have to fear, in such a public place like this?
A packed venue. Of course it would be a packed venue. A loud sigh escapes the mighty Masters' mouth. Navigating his way through the crowds, Ken keeps his gaze down low to avoid anyone from possibly recognizing him.
Having bribed some of the security staff with promises of autographs and a possibility of having an exhibition match at the venue was more then enough for them to happily provide him with a matching suit the rest of the security staff is currently wandering around in.
Finding someone of Mint's stature in all of these people would be considered finding a needle in a haystack, but, for Ken? Papa Gouken didn't raise no quitters. Eventually though, the blonde Masters catches the glimpse of an arm flying up to clap the person next to them on the shoulder.
Could it be Ken has finally discovered his target?!
Cautiously, he makes his way through the seats. The spectators seem to lose intrest in the match before them as the disguise that Ken so carefully crafted seems to be losing it's power. The further he gets in to the crowd, the more the hardcore fans of fighting will know just exactly who is wandering around. Yet, it doesn't deter Ken whatsoever. Secretly, it fuels what ego he does have, and its enough to make him grin even more then the most Fight loving drunk in the place!
Turns out, a mechanical hand slamming without warning into one's shoulder can be a bit painful. And the unwilling recipient of Mint's impromptu show of comradery is ticked off enough to bark off a slew of invectives at her for the trouble.
There have been times she's punched back at someone who shouts that much at her. And there have been times she's been drunk enough to instigate a fight all on her lonesome. But ... something's different this time. For a good long moment, her only response to the tirade -- stupid bitch, pay attention to what you're doing, such and so forth -- is a perplexed, disbelieving half-grin.
And then, just as the tirade skips to a second level, she holds up both her plastic hands in apology. The tipsy, delusional smile remains fixed in place. "H-hey, sorry! Thought you were someone else! Won't happen again!"
And she backs away, hazarding a quick glance over to the fight. Wouldn't want to -miss- anything, after all!
But when her gaze flits back to the ticked-off patron -- well, =his= gaze is locked down on an unspeakably handsome blonde making his way through the crowd. Minal blinks vapidly for a moment, craning her neck to follow the man's gaze. Right over the heads of other cheering patrons -- and into the wells of Ken Masters' eyes.
The dark-skinned Marine finds herself staring. Not just because he's one of the most eligible bachelors in the nation. Not -just- because he's one of the best martial artists in the world. But because they have a history -- and memories come flooding back to her. Memories of the -last- time she'd had a conversation with Ken Masters.
And she starts to back away from him, balling her plastic hands into light fists. Panic creeps into her face, as she casts her gaze left, then right, then left again. Lost in a sea of people -- lost in the din of excitement.
All of a sudden, nothing about this place is -right-. And Mint backs away from Ken, shaking her head in wary anxiety. Her hands are held in front of her. "I..." She struggles to remember the -result- of their last meeting. She knew it involved pain -- lots of pain. She's been doing so well at distancing herself from that dark time... but now it's staring her right in the face.
She lowers her head. And she starts to back herself away, pushing through the crowd.
If she had her full wits about her -- she'd talk. If she had -half- her wits about her, she'd turn her back to Ken and plow through the crowd at full force. But right now? She's half-immobilized with bad memories...
Ken grumbles loudly as he watches Mint's reaction to him. Generally speaking, people don't freak out like he's the boogeyman. They usually rush towards him, in an attempt to bask in his awesomeness.
Making his way up now to the freaked out Tiny Marine, the Blonde Masters holds a hand out to her. "You know, when a woman suddenly vanishes on me, it's because I've done something to really offend them. By my count though... I don't believe I've done that to you Miss Panesh. I would however, like to borrow some of your time."
Continuing to close in on the Mini-Marine, Ken moves to shield her from random splashes of beer from people freaking out and slamming into eachother to try and get a glance at the blonde man who is closing in on the dark skinned girl.
Not that he'd know -- but Mint has been struggling with the concept of 'reality' for the past few weeks. Every time she sees a figure from her past, she has to question herself -- is this the real person, the way they really are, or is it the picture painted by a highly invasive mind control? Is the person going to act the way she remembers, or some other way? Is she even saying the words she thinks she's saying?
She flashes panicked looks to the audience members. Most are watching the pugilists go to town on one another up in the ring. Some are glancing between her and international fighting superstar Ken Masters. And others just wish she'd stop bumping into them in her awkward retrograde flight from the blonde.
But then Ken reaches out a hand to her. His words clear from lip reading, despite the cacophonous roar of the crowd. The request is made to borrow some of her time -- and Mint immediately shakes her head in the negative. No, no, she -can't-, not right now... She has to focus on her recuperation...
And then she remembers a technique her psychologist suggested -- a way to differentiate the spectres of her past failures from the realities of the present. She shuts her eyes, with a great deal of tension in her expression.
And as Minal focuses, her panic dissipates. In the real world, it lasts but a moment -- but to Minal, it feels like an eternity of swatting away the dissonant voices, of pushing through the crowd to a more comfortable distance. To stop the incessant -bombardment- of conflict.
So that when she opens her eyes again, she can see clearly.
And she realizes that Ken is still there, holding his hand out to her.
And she lets her breath out, at last.
Her eyes flit back at Ken, at those around him -- making sure he's real, and not some psycho-powered conjuration. "... You're still here." She offers a small, shy smile. "... I'll go with you, sure, but..."
The crowd roars all of a sudden, and Mint's attention snaps back to the stage. A brutal, blistering assault is unleashed from the underdog -- with his overconfident opponent staggering back with increasingly exhausted defenses.
"... d'ya wanna catch the end of the fight first?"
As Mint closes her eyes and recenters herself, Ken seems to be a bit taken aback by the situation. When he last encountered the mini-marine, she was awestruck and totally wanting to ask him for his autograph. Now? It's like he kicked her puppy while stealing candy from a baby.
That's really .. not how this kind of thing is supposed to go.
Yet when she opens her eyes and gives him that meek smile, a part of his heart melts at it. It's adorable in her own right, and any sort of ill-will that may have been brewing is gone in an instant. "Not at all. Though..." A quick glance is given to the other spectators who are now grumbling loudly over this disruption to the fight, which causes Ken to do the most logical thing.
Quickly snatching Mint's phone from her hand, the charismatic man quickly enters his private cellphone number into it, even going as far to label the contact as 'My Bae Ken<3'. Handing the phone back to the girl, he gives her a wink as he starts to walk back through the crowd, heading to stand with the rest of the venue's security. "I think it might smarter to text me when the fight's over since I technically didn't buy a ticket."
With eighty percent of Mint's attention now directed toward the fight on stage, the twenty percent that's still lingering on Ken isn't -completely- mindful of anything else he might be cooking up. Much less the disgruntled audience members around her. It's not like the diminutive Marine is blocking their view, even if international fighting sensation Ken Masters may be.
But really. She -should- be more attentive to the phone leaving her hand. Such as it is, she gives it a passing glance -- just enough to realize it's Ken Masters and not some random schmoe. The New Jersey native has enough common sense to know what's about to happen, and has the presence of mind to press her thumb to the fingerprint sensor.
It's here that you might be wondering how this even works with a plastic thumb.
It might be worth asking her, because the engineer has certainly spent time on the solution.
Still -- her attention only forks for a little bit. She's completely enraptured by the underdog taking his turn to pound on the meatbag, bobbing lightly on the balls of her feet with excitement. She's definitely got the giddy look of someone about to say 'Oh, he had it coming!' Even though, well, it'd be hard to hear.
But when Ken -talks- to her again? And she looks down at the name on her phone? Well. -That- brings a red stain to her cheeks. "Aww, that's sweet...!" She thinks for a moment, then realizes Ken's already starting to make his way through the crowd, and turns to address him. "Yeah!" she shouts, "I'll give you a buzz!"
- - Some twelve minutes later - -
News flash: Casino restaurants are pretty fancy! Normally Mint really wouldn't spend much time in one of these places. Sure, it's good food, and sure, it's cheaper than one might expect from such a fancy place. But... honestly, if it weren't for the text, she'd have probably never walked in. As it is... there's still a bit of color in her cheeks. She doesn't look -as- hopelessly lost, or as clueless; rather, she stands with the self-confident stance one would expect of a Special Forces agent. Minal holds her phone in front of her, verifying the location one more time before stepping past the threshold of the restaurant, her eyes looking up to scan for her now-scheduled rendezvous.
As Mint enters the resturant, the maitre'de gives the woman a once over, before beckoning her to follow him. The further into the resturant that Mint is led, the fancier the clientle seems to become. Eventually, the Marine is led to a alcoved table that is far away enough from the hustle and bustle to be rather private.
Playing with the silverware and a glass of water, Ken is killing time trying to balance a fork on the edge of the glass while waiting for the young marine to make her way there. Yet, as the maitre'de arrives with Mint in tow, Ken unabashedly looks at the two. "Two menus, and everything will be going on one bill." Without giving the maitre'de a chance to respond, the blond man motions for him to carry on.
Now, he stands up and moves to pull a chair out for the young woman, showing off the gentlemenly side that's part of his upbringing. He moves to sit back down, and leans forward on the table, studying the young woman closely now. "The last time I saw you, you suddenly vanished on me. The rescue crews didn't find anyone in those tunnels either..."
Fortunately, casino staffers are used to dealing with both of these types of people: the Marine who dresses down in t-shirt and cargo pants, and the well-to-do silver spoon types who bark out crisp orders and then make motions to dismiss. The first type causes only mild discomfort -- why should -they- get to dress down when everyone else is dressed fancy? The second type, though, tips more than well enough to make the exchange worth it.
Mint, though -- all she sees is people dressed way above her pay grade. It's enough to make a girl self-conscious -- even one as outspoken as she normally is. Eyes cast downward to avoid the potential glares of the other customers around, she nonetheless looks up as the maitre'd welcomes her to the table -- and finds herself restraining a giggle at the fork and glass antics.
She'd even started to sit down, until Ken rose from his chair in the gentleman act. Smiling cheerily as she seats herself, she stuffs her phone in a side pocket, bomber jacket fluffing up as she, too, rests her elbows on the table.
"The last time you saw me, I was pretty heavily compromised. It's... a long story." Her lips curl into a smirk. "But for My Bae Ken, I guess I can share it."
She leans back, flattening the backs of her mechanical hands across the table. The difference between the two hands becomes clear: the middle, ring, and pinky fingers of her left hand are flesh and blood, with a plastic thumb and index held on with a cleverly concealed strap.
Her expression gradually loses the good humor. "Lost my hands to an IED in Afghanistan. So I've had prosthetics in place ever since then. And of course, I -fight- with the big giant ones, because these buggers would only last through a few punches." She flexes her fingers, as she finds herself lost in thought for a moment.
"... There was a time where I was... kidnapped, in Mexico... by Shadaloo. And I'm pretty sure that was when I got the Chip."
As Mint starts to explain about her hands, a look of honest sympathy crosses Ken's face as he glances down at the prosthetics. A nod of understanding is given when the mini-marine explains about her gauntlets. Yet, when she starts to explain about being kidnapped, a look of shock suddenly crosses the man's face, only to turn into a gaze of pure outrage after Mint says one single word.
The blonde mogul immediatly pulls out his cellphone, firing off a rather hasty text before placing it back within the inner pocket of fine black suit jacket. "Before we go any further, I need to know something. Were you involved in the recent Interpol investigations? Do you have an idea as to what happened to Charlie Nash?"
Mint offers a nominal nod to show she's appreciative the sympathy. Long ago, a single moment of indiscretion began a chain of events that molded her into the soldier she's become. By now, she's told the story so many times that it's just rote recitation. Sympathy is, to some degree, expected. If anything, the -absence- of it would simply tell her she's dealing with an amoral psychopath.
That is clearly -not- Ken, not with how viscerally he responds to the mention of the shadowy cartel. Mint purses her lips, clamming up as Ken immediately rushes into a cellphone text. Not, in itself, a -strange- reaction, and not one the New Jersey native is unacquainted with. But enough to earn a silence, as she reaches over for a sip of water the maitre'd was nice enough to leave at the table.
The ancient past might not be able to hurt her. But the recent past? The one that earned her an extended vacation in her home state? The Marine had been happy to keep her hazel eyes locked upon the international superstar through the bulk of the conversation. Even as she shakes her head 'no' to the suggestion that she was involved with Interpol's investigation.
But as soon as the first syllable of 'Charlie' is uttered, her gaze snaps down to the glass of water, curled lightly in her artificial hand.
And she nods slowly, to that second question.
The playboy ought to have no trouble understanding that the woman's succinct response is acting as a dam, holding back a tide of emotions yearning to break free. Her breathing grows shallow. Her mouth goes dry -- even with the water she'd just sipped. And Mint does -not- lift her gaze.
Watching Mint's reaction to his question is enough to force Ken to stop with his onslaught of questions. He continues to stare at the young woman, internally debating on how he should continue to proceed. There are hundreds of questions he's wanting to ask, yet right at this very moment the only thing he can do is utter two simple yet profound words in regards to this situation.
Slowly, he reaches both of his hands forward, gently placing them over the Marine's. "Miss Panesh, right now you've done the hardest thing of all and that is being honest with me." The words are soft, almost consoling in their own right. Yet Ken doesn't pull himself back. He allows the contact to continue, while the matire'de returns with a couple of busboys.
It seems that the results of the hastily sent text message become clear as the staff hastily sets up a folding wall, seperating the two occupants of the alcove away from the rest of the establishment to give them further privacy. Two servers immediatly arrive, only to set down trays of finger foods and appertifs until they're summoned again.
"Take your time. I'm pretty sure there's more you might want to say."
Mint had been able to keep her eyes open -- but Ken's exasperated utterance is enough to close them, finally.
There are so many things she -wants- to say, but can't. Just a month ago, there was a -reason- she couldn't speak about her past missions involving Shadaloo -- and she's gone to many sessions confirming this. So why can't she just speak about it -now?- Without restriction?
She draws in her breath, her head sinking down a bit. Her descent into despair is clear.
And yet, the descent is halted, by the sudden sensation of warmth against her left hand -- a jarring motion enough to cause a stir in her breath, to part her eyelids. A tongue darts out, moistening her dry lips -- as she focuses on keeping from turning into a -complete- mess at the table. All the rich casinogoers might get upset...
And then, inexplicably, that ceases to be a concern as folding walls are emplaced. That's enough to get her to look up... and realize what's taking place.
Her face slips away from its symmetry with a half-smile of disbelief. So. It's... -not- accusation, then...?
'Take your time' really only results in about three seconds, in this case.
"Yeah." Pause. "There is."
She draws in her breath. And with a few blinks of reassertion, she continues. "Major... Nash was in our squad. He was one of the folks buried under all that rubble."
She looks away for a moment -- but is rewarded with sight of the folding wall. A comforting barrier for sound -- but also a prison wall, providing no further solace.
Mint closes her eyes again, drawing a wracked breath. She practically sobs out her next statement: "... It was a trap. For him." She shakes her head slowly. "... And, Ken, I... was -absolutely- sure in that moment..."
She opens her eyes, welled over with remorse, locking her gaze onto Ken. Trust. Only with trust can she make such a statement. Her hands shudder, beneath Ken's gentle touch. "... I was -positive- at the time that it was the right thing to do. I hate =every= moment of that memory, Ken... I'm -ashamed- of myself."
As Mint explains just what had happened, Ken remains silent. It's extremely difficult for him to process what she's saying, yet he knows if he were to interrupt then she may never open up about any of this again. The gentle pressure upon Mint's hand is increased once she starts to descend into the agony of self-loathing over her actions. There is nothing he can say that would provide any relation to what Mint is going through. All he is capable of doing is being the sounding board she so desperately needs in this time.
"Miss Panesh. Everything I've ever heard about Charlie, and from what I've seen every time we've fought... He always went into things fully understanding he may not walk away from it." Ken's right hand slides away from Mint's, only to move and grab his glass of water to take a short drink. Once he sets the cup down, he moves to grab a random item off the trays before them. "From what you've said.. I'm not sure he'd have as much hatred towards you that you seem to have for yourself. The only thing you can do now is just recover, and actually try and correct the mistakes you've made."
The tasty little morsal is finally tossed into the blonde man's mouth, giving him a few moments to remain silent so he can savor the flavors. "I mean, that's just how I see things."
Mint's gaze starts off locked on Ken's face, through her difficult admission. She's normally the type to expound at length on a topic, out of fear that she might leave some aspect unexplained. But on this topic, the fear is that tears will spill out if she says too many words.
But, as Ken begins to speak, she finds it might happen anyway, and breaks away the gaze, looking down out of guiltiness. Not because he's adding burden -- but because she's proud. And she's had to face the duty of explaining to other people how their son, or their brother, got injured in battle. She can recognize the attitude -- and she respects Ken for knowing the right way to go about it.
Looking down and drawing in breath, she allows herself to gain some measure of composure. The moment her left hand is free, she moves to dab the side of her pinky finger against her eyes.
She smiles, as Ken's conclusion matches up with her own. And nods her head in agreement. "If I knew where he was, it'd be easier, y'know? To ask for forgiveness myself. In person." She draws in another sniffling breath. "The whole time we fought, I could tell he was holding back. Trying to make sure I understood what was going on..."
And then, as if she'd not noticed them before, Mint turns over. And sees, beside the aperitifs, some hors d'oeuvres. And instantly snags one, popping it into her mouth in similar fashion.
And with that, she tilts her head sideways. "... I don't mean to change the subject, but -- you didn't buy a ticket, does that mean you came just for -me?- Are you following me or somethin', Mr. Masters?" She offers a mirthless laugh -- as if proving to herself that, why yes, she -is- still in control of her emotions.
Now its time for Ken to be put into the hotseat, and Mint does a mighty fine job of it. It takes him a few moments to mull her words over, only for him to flash the smaller womain one of his most dazzling smiles.
"Miss Panesh, I really don't care for mysteries. For starters, they're bad for business, and as most of the world sees me as a billionare playboy.. Well. I have to really be careful with what actually catches my attention."
The blonde battler finally pulls his hand away from Mint, understanding that the need for the personal interferrence has finally ended. Popping it into his mouth, he makes short work of the item before speaking once more.
"Unfortunately for me.. I don't like unanswered questions either.. and you brought up a good number of them. Which is why I decided to be roundabout in hunting you down, instead of direct. I didn't want to risk you running off and leaving me to have to guess as to just what is exactly going on."
It's easy -- perhaps too easy -- for Minal to fall back on levity when she's experiencing a darker emotion. As a child, she used to fall into crippling despair. As a teenager, bitter and violent outrage. But now, as an adult sitting across the table from one of the world's most famous martial artists, those just aren't productive.
Keeping the emotion bottled up isn't really -addressing- the problem though. Especially with the sympathetic ears turned her way.
She breaks into a smile, nodding slowly as Ken confirms her suspicions -- that yes, he -was- following her, and yes, he -had- questions.
"Well, I'm here now, and you're plying me with sweets and stuff, so ask away, I guess?" She looks down at another appetizer, plucking it off the table -- before her smile fades into a skeptical look, wrought with oversold melodrama. "I mean, these aren't -drugged,- right?"
But -- as she downs the next treat, she considers thoughtfully. "It's... weird. That chip I told you about. When you were helping me... the chip was starting to break. I knew I had to focus on my men, because, well, it's -my squad-. That was the only thing I cared about."
Her right hand clasps about her left. Plastic presses into the flesh of her ring finger and pinky. Her smile is intact -- just slightly diminished.
"The chip was a nasty piece of work, Mr. Masters. The folks I answered to -- I didn't see them as any different than any other Marine. But the more broken it got..."
She looks down at her hands. "I fought someone else, after I ran from you. Ran the -long- way around." Looking up, her left fist closes. The rage isn't gone -- lurking just beneath the surface. But she's got full control of it -- speaking with an even, controlled voice. "My 'handler,' Marz. She didn't have her stripes and rockers any more -- just the uniform of a Shadaloo Doll."
"Tell me something Miss Panesh." Ken doesn't seem to be phased by Mint's explanation as to just what she did after she pulled a Houdini on him outside of Sunshine City. Of course, when he wants to be, it is rather difficult even for the most trained to really get an idea just to how he feels.
"If you had the chance, what would you do to Shadaloo? Would you want to bring them to justice and see them rot in a cell for the rest of their miserable lives? Or are you the type to dispense the justice yourself, and know you're doing the world a favor?"
The blonde man reaches into his pocket once more, and sends off a rapid text. In a few short moments, the waiters show back up, this time with menus in hand. A dismissive hand is motioned towards the waiter as the menu is offered to him. "I'll pass, but take my partner's order, and while we wait, bring her a molten fudge cake as well."
"Miss Panesh. My honest suggestion is this.. Ignore them for now. Speak to Medical, and request they grant you an extended leave of duty in order to get your life fully back on track. I think, as you are now.. There's a chance you'll lose yourself to your emotions."
Minal had prompted him to ask his questions. And he did.
The Marine sits up in her seat, lacing her fingers together with an inscrutable expression on her face. Thinking, turning the question over in her mind.
"That's a tough question to answer, Mr. Masters," she answers, after a few moments of thought. "I want them to get brought to justice, sure. But." She shakes her head slowly. "And I've mulled over a lot of things. But /vengeance/?" She draws her breath in -- a measured response. One she's thought over a bit. "That'd just get more good people hurt, for no real benefit."
She offers a scant smile back at Ken -- measured, disciplined. Like a good little soldier. "I'm not goin' vigilante, if that's what you're worried about. When the brass is ready to strike, they'll strike."
Mint flashes a grin back at the waiters, when they come to take her order. A quick look at the menu, and... her stomach starts to grumble. How long had it been since she'd eaten, anyway? "Fettucini alfredo, with a side salad. Ranch dressing." She arches an eyebrow. "C'mon, you aren't gonna get anythin' to eat? Feels weird eatin' alone." It's not like one of the richest bachelors on the planet has to scrimp and save, right?
But as the waiters walk away, Mint's ebullient expression turns into a sour frown. "... Have you... ever worked with engineers before? Work -is- what helps me get back on track, Mr. Masters. Tinkering and building is just what I -do-."
"I've worked with plenty of engineers before, Miss Panesh... Though I generally don't have much input beyond funding." Ken leans away from the table, gently tilting his chair back with great care. If he were to lean just a tad more, it's quite obvious he'd go ass over kettle.
Leaning forward now, the chairs feet clank quietly upon the ground. "If you're hinting at entering in a partnership so you can focus on getting back on track..." Ken places both elbows upon the table, resting his chin upon his fists. His eyes belay a bit of intrest, yet there's also something else just behind them. Almost as if he were a kid trying to figure out just what is inside that present under the tree, and if he could manage to unwrap it without being found out.
"Then again... I could be misreading things entirely."
Mint blinks, momentarily at a loss for words as she sizes up Ken's words. Sure, one part of her would -love- to work with Ken Masters, building things for all sorts of fun applications. But on the other hand, well...
After that moment of recovery, Minal blurts out, "No, no, I just meant that I can't just sit on my hands, I mean, aside from only having -half- of one, it's not something I'm... real /great/ at?" Self-consciously for a moment, she passes one hand over the other, kneading gently at her knuckles. "I mean, like, as an engineer, If I'm not -building- or -doing- something, I just don't feel like I'm much use as a -person-. I've been on the bench so long it's just making me focus on what I did to get me on the bench in the first place.
She then blinks a few more times, cocking her head to the side like a bird. "... Wait, did... are you offering me a job? 'cause..."
"Miss Panesh, I could go on and on about how I'm a world class martial artist, or how I'm constantly on the top ten sexiest men alive rankings. I can even gush about all the money I have. Everyone knows all about Ken Masters."
Ken's expression hardens as he moves to stand up from the chair, sliding it closer now to the mini-Marine. Sitting back down, he flashes her a charming, albeit hallow, smile. "Everyone knows all about me. I'm not that special. I'm lucky. I understand that my privilege is there. Yet, the fact of the matter is this. I'm in a posistion where I can help people who actually /deserve/ that spotlight get it."
Reaching forward for another apertif, Ken pauses. "I'd be more than happy to offer you a job Miss Panesh, you just have to be sure that's what you'd really like to do..."
Minal may be, at least partially, affected by the Ken Masters charm. And yet, she still has the presence of mind to nod her head in agreement, rolling her eyes and twirling her finger in agreement with his rampant self-promotion. Everyone's got a schtick, and this just happens to be his.
"See, yeah, you're not wrong! -Everyone- knows everything about Ken Masters, and his vast media empire, and the awesome hotels that are -just- out of per diem range..."
Fingers lace together, the artificial pressing against the natural. The plucky Special Forces operative grins.
"But unless you guys made some recent acquisitions, I didn't see any defense contractors in your portfolio..." It seems she might be about to continue, but that's when the wait staff shows up to present her with a side salad. Minal plucks up a fork and nods in appreciation.
"I'll bite, though. What all would I be -doing-, for this... job you have for me?" She stabs at the lettuce, but just before consuming it, she offers a breezy shrug of her shoulders, grinning amiably. "I mean, I got shit-all to do till the hearing anyway. And then I'll know whether I can keep helping out Uncle Sam directly or not."
"That's just it. What you'd be doing is something that I've never ventured into. Your prosthetic is amazing, and looks to be extremely well made. Honestly? That is something that would be better served helping the world then televising people beating the snot out of each other, or offering people an amazing place to rest their head for the night."
Ken's gaze remains upon Mint's left hand. He moves to reach towards it, but then pauses, looking at Mint for a moment. "May I?" Instead of just taking ahold of it, he stops realizing that it might actually just bother Mint more then he'd really intend. Regardless if he manages to inspect it or not, it's something that really does interest him.
"I could donate my entire fortune to all of the charities I come across, but that would still do very little in the end to help the world at large. People lose appendages daily. Some are born without them. The Mishima Zaibatsu and Ultratech both have their own departments dedicated to medical research.. but I don't want to do that. The Kanzuki Zaibatsu has in the past worked with me on ventures like this. Sunshine City is something I'm interested in as well. It's why I was there the day you popped out of the ground like a bewildered groundhog."
As the Marine listens to Ken's words, she comes to realize that he may not have talking about the -military- at all. The engineer's forehead wrinkles in concern, as she tries to piece together exactly what -is- being asked.
But then her gaze follow's Ken's down to her left hand -- the one that's only half-synthetic. She opens her hand, flattening the palm out to emphasize the sheathing and the securing strap. The artificial left thumb and index finger move ever so slightly, with an almost imperceptible whine of servos. She extends it freely, not really minding -too- much when Ken inspects the technology.
After all, she's listening. And she lifts her gaze, nodding in agreement. But when his 'pitch' is finished, she remains quiet with her lips pursed, clearly mulling the issue over.
And then, finally, she answers. "I like that idea. And I want to help. And gosh, I need to do -something- for the next few weeks before I go totally bonkers."
She draws in her breath, forging a confident smile before continuing. "Would you be open to a fixed-term contract? I'd just need a CAD workstation. End of work period, I provide you with the digital blueprints you need to build a hand prosthetic like mine. Then I can work with you on finding people to push it to production."
She settles back in her seat, prodding another forkful of her salad. "Then after my hearing, I'll be able to give a better answer for your bookkeepers on whether I have a little time to help, or a lot."
While Mint mulls things over, Ken finally pops one of the appertifs into his mouth, carefully chewing it for a few moments. Once Mint gives her response, it's the blonde man's turn to remain silent.
Ken's eyes close as he runs the scenerio in the back of his head, trying to account for how he can move things around to prevent the investors and board of his enterprises from having a complete and utter meltdown over moving large sums of money around with no potential return in sight.
"A fixed-term contract?"
That's not something he's quite so sure about considering just how much time could be dumped into a project such as this. Then again, he has to realize that for the time being, the person he sees actually having a chance to provide him with samples to shut the leeches of his company up actually is property of the United States Armed Forces.
It's really a big problem when he stops to really look at it.
"I'll tell you what. I'll have my lawyers draw one up, and have them reach out to Navy JAG in Quantico and see if they'll sign off on it. I don't want to put any more trouble on your plate if I can help it, so we'll have to play by the Navy's rules for now."
Minal crunches thoughtfully on her salad as Ken mulls the idea over. She'd been accomodating thus far, but the fact remains that there are a lot of committments to maintain as a Marine, and a member of the Special Forces at that. Even if she's been -forced- to distance herself from the organization, the fact remains that her possible charge of high treason could be escalated if she steps even the slightest bit out of line.
"I'm sorry for the complexities, but timing is... kinda delicate for me." She offers a smile -- not to be dismissive, but just to be polite -- taking the opportunity to cut down most of the salad. Even with the apertifs, it would seem the Marine has a hearty appetite!
When he announces his decision, though, Mint nods cheerily. "Yeah, that's a good move really! It... might actually come up, so it's good to get it surfaced in front of stakeholders and all that." It seems she's about to launch into a different topic, but her mouth hangs half-open as the divider parts, and a waiter arrives with her fettucine alfredo.
She sits back, offering a gracious smile as she slides her salad to the side. Once the piping hot plate of alfredo is placed before her, she tilts her head to Ken. "This looks delicious! Sure you don't want a plate to try some?"
A dismissive wave is given as Mint offers to share the alfredo with him. "I understand it being a delicate time for you." Forging business contracts is almost a second nature by now for the Masters Family heir, yet there are times when he really dreads having to deal with them.
This borders on one of those times. "That's why I think having the military okay it, even as an advisory role would be the smart thing to do. I'm an unknown in that sort of industry, so when it becomes public just what I'm up to, a shit storm is going to hit. An' it might not be one that I'm possibly ready for." The blonde man leans forward on the table now, arms sprawling across it like an angsty teen at Thanksgiving dinner. "I just want you to be aware of just what sort of world I'm asking you to step into. The Military may be rough, but the world of business? It really is cutt-throat in its own right."
Minal may be going through a lot, it's true. But matters of business, and dealing with higher-ups, are things that are decidedly above her pay grade. The dark-skinned Marine tilts her head a degree or two to the side, like a curious bird.
"... Haha, you're not trying to talk me out of it now, are ya?" She calmly lifts a knife alongside her fork, slicing the longer noodles into smaller portions as she considers Ken's words. "I suffer for my art, Mr. Masters. I got tons of bruises figuring out the process, and I damn sure ain't gonna be handing you somethin' that could get a random customer hurt."
She winds up an alfredo noodle, raising it on her fork as a point of demonstration. "So, the plan is, I deal with the design process -- once you get me set up with a workstation. And while I'm building you the best, safest, awesomest mecha-hands on the planet, it'll be up to you to deal with the cutthroat business bros. That sound about right?"
Point made, she pops the contents of the fork into her mouth.
A wry smile is given to Mint as Ken reaches into his pocket to retrieve his phone. His fingers carefully move across the screen as yet another text is sent off to have its short time in the world. "I'm not trying to talk you out of anything. I'm just giving you an idea of just what sort of hurdles we'll encounter."
Laying the phone down now on the table, Ken grabs a fork from the other side of the table, and quickly spears the mini-Marine's plate. In an instant, the stolen bite is gone, with the blonde man nodding approvingly. "It is good. I'll have to remember to come back here in the future when I'm not pre-occupied with other business."
Ken's wry smile is reflected in the diminutive New Jerseyan's expression. "Oh, believe me -- bean-counters are universal! Sometimes control used to get on my ass for banging out repairs too -quickly-, like... of all the things to yell at someone for, yeah?"
She seems pleased, to say the least, once Ken partakes of a bite of her meal. At least this way she doesn't feel like she's taking the millionaire playboy for a ride when it comes to a dinner meeting. Even millionaire playboys need to eat, after all! "Yeah, it's not bad! I'd say they could go toe-to-toe with La Lanterna, up in Ridgewood, too. Which is a -great- place to go if you ever find yourself stuck in North Jersey..."
Minal takes the opportunity to wolf down a few more bites of her alfredo. And she finds herself just... enjoying the view for a moment. The dividers, blocking the table off from the rest of the restaurant. The table, the remaining apertifs. And of course, the company.
She grins broadly. And in typical Mint fashion, it takes almost no time at all for her to voice her internal monologue.
"Yeah, my sister's gonna freak when I tell her /the/ Ken Masters sat me down for a private dinner! Gosh. The last time we talked she insisted I'd never have even a -chance- of beating you in the ring..." She starts to reach for her cellphone, but, eyeing Ken's phone, she decides against it.
"... Yeah, definitely gonna freak. Haha! How long are you in town for?"
Once Mint starts babbling about how her sister will need to go to Jelly Camp with how jelly she'll be over the Mighty Mini-Marine having dinner with Ken Masters, a knowing nod is given to the woman. Obviously this has been like a dream that most people couldn't even fathom happening to them. Picking up his phone, Ken suddenly /really/ invades Mint's personal space by wrapping his right arm around her, pulling her close.
Whether or not Mint is ready for the sudden flash of the camera, the blonde Champion is already smashing the 'Take dat Photo boiii~' button with incredible speed. Eventually the selfie-express stops, and Ken starts swiping through the plethora of photos until he finds one that he deems good enough, texting it to Minal. "Well, you can let your sister know that you've officially made my 'Friends' list."
Log created on 00:51:48 02/02/2019 by Ken Masters, and last modified on 15:16:08 05/08/2019.