Description: Major Briggs gets to meet the person who'll be working on his arms for the forseeable future: a pipsqueak half his size who insists on calling herself "Mint."
To look at a map, it wouldn't seem like Naval Weapons Station Earle is all that far from Metro City. It's just that it takes a while to navigate the labyrinthine series of highways to the military facility. And, considering the frequency with which catastrophes strike Metro City, it's probably better to not have a top-secret weapons development facility too close.
Security is, as one might expect for a top-secret military weapons facility, pretty tight -- buildings are secured by chain-link fence, steel turnstiles, and CAC card readers. Armed guards stand watch by the building designated as a development center for the Special Forces Acquisitions, Technology, and Logistics division. A receptionist stands by to personally verify the information provided in a servicemember's ID card matches what's on record. But once that security theatre is over with, the inside of the facility looks much like any other office building. Long hallways snake through the white cinder-block building. One room stands out -- marked 'Cafeteria' at one point in time, though this has been blotted out with black magic marker, and its replacement sign is an 8 1/2-by-11 printout reading "INFANTRY AUGMENTATION DEVELOPMENT", holding on by one remaining square of masking tape.
Inside is a woman with dark skin and moppish black hair, leaned over a desk. It still looks like a cafeteria, but there are all sorts of human-sized battleframe armatures around. The woman is wearing an olive drab t-shirt and camo pants, much like any other enlisted soldier might. Her right arm is metal, from the elbow down. Her left arm looks similar at first, though there are places where the skin of her forearm and her fingers can show through. Before her on the table is a series of blueprint-style printouts, and in her right hand, she toggles a mechanical pencil back and forth between her fingers.
The nameplate on the table shows that this is the person who has been corresponding with Jax: Corporal Minal Panesh. Though it doesn't say "Mint" like it did in the email.
For Major Jackson Briggs, the security checkpoints were a blur. They went through the motions of course, routine identification checks and the rote salutes that Jax hated but always returned. Thoughts on Doctor Tobias -- the man who gave him his arms -- clouded Jax's mind, and his faith in Corporal Panesh as a viable replacement. Tobias was a patient man who put up with a lot from the impotent Major's worse tantrums, and a friendship was formed between the two that would have lasted the rest of their lives, if it weren't for the man's sudden and unexplained death.
When Jax sees just how tiny the Corporal is when he enters the former cafeteria, those doubts soar to new heights -- right up until his eyes find her arms. They weren't too different from his -- smaller, naturally, but it was what it was. The articulation of her mechanical fingers. Months of physical therapy and lessons of robotics from Tobias had taught Jax how to appreciate the work that was put in to these prosthetics, and he could see the work that was put into hers.
"Corporal," he greets sharply. He's very formal right now. "You make those hands yourself?"
The tiny corporal looks up to Jax as he arrives, eyes bright with enthusiasm. "Major!" The answer comes quickly, as she shows both her hands off as if for a meet-and-greet: "Yeah, I did! The doc wanted to leave me with hooks, but I just couldn't leave well enough alone." She wiggles her fingers -- there's no visible difference in dexterity between her mechanical fingers and the three fingers of her left hand which appear to be flesh-and-blood. "I lost track of which version these are, though. I burned through a lot of time on the CNC machines."
Her eyes track over towards the glistening metal of Major Briggs' arms, then -- pursing her lips as she pauses to study the intricacies. The look lasts only a moment, though, before her eyes snap back to Jax's, a guilty smile on her face as she adds, "Thanks for noticing!"
And then another realization comes to mind -- a lapse that often plagues her. She snaps her heels to attention and fires off a crisp salute to her superior officer. The guilty smile persists.
"I'm... glad to meet you in person, sir! I've heard so much about you. And your arms. And your work, gosh!" Her cheeks redden slightly, as she finds herself looking down with a moment of shyness.
"... Your... arms. Have they been working smoothly for you?"
The salute is forgiven for now. This is their first face-to-face meeting and they had to take their measure of each other. She certainly wasn't what Jax expected, but he wasn't sure what he expected at all to begin with. He returns it easily, though perhaps less crisply.
"At ease, Corporal." He's not too self-conscious about his arms -- at his forearms the metal looks slightly warped. While it's not enough to ruin the shape, it's certainly heavy damage to the considerably durable alloy they were created with. When she looks down, Jax decides to sit down, perhaps to the height difference between the two. He slides his chair a little closer to her desk, and leans over to peer at her printouts. While Jax had some technological experience due to his time with the doctor, he wasn't a specialist by any means, and most of what he sees might as well be heiroglyphs to him. "...Took some hits from a magic bat lady," he says bluntly, as if that was something that happens all the time. "Doctor Tobias taught me how to keep 'em clean and oiled, but I need more than that. I need someone to check up on 'em. And eventually..."
Jax's eyes lift up towards the Corporal's face to study it.
"Gonna need 'em replaced."
The corporal smiles at the order to be at ease. She's very happy that the major doesn't seem to be one of those stick-in-the-mud types who insists that every interaction be strictly by the book. And what wins him even more points is sitting -- to put the diminutive New Jerseyan even more at ease. She's quick to take the unspoken suggestion to sit along with him, resting her hands on the table as he takes a moment to peruse the blueprints.
Though, it does become hard to ignore the warpage on the arm -- a curiosity illuminated by mention of a magic... bat lady. "Like a baseball bat? Made of titanium? Geez." Baring her teeth in a sympathetic grin, she shakes her head to dismiss her attempt at levity. "She must've hammered you hard. I can tell just from looking at it that the subframe's been bent too. And from the construction specs, um, -ouch-."
At the mention of Doctor Tobias, Mint's general cheer level drops a few ticks. "I'm... sorry to hear about the Doctor. I didn't get to meet him in person. You spent a lot of time with him, yeah?"
When the mention of -replacing- Dr. Tobias' work comes up, Mint's eyes widen. It's not just an -honor- to work on his arms -- but a great responsibility as well. "R-right! Well, it'll probably take a while for me to get up to speed, but..." She hops up out of her chair, going over to a rolling tool cart -- one which was more-or-less inherited directly from Dr. Tobias himself. She pulls open a drawer, withdrawing a pair of pliers with a dozen razor-thin, finger-like protrustions. Another device that should seem familiar.
Mint looks back to Jax with a hopeful grin, clutching the pliers close to her chest.. "Would it be okay if I have a look-see?"
"No, no, no, I mean she was..." Jax trails off eventually, and thinks better of it. Sometimes seeing is believing, and the details of how his arm got messed up was irrelevant in the long run. Instead, he describes, "She hit me with somethin' hot, like fire."
The major leans back in his chair, and after a beat, he goes on. "He was a good man. Not gonna lie and say I won't miss him. Part of the job though." He watches as Mint moves across the room to get her tools, and as they roll forward, he wets his lips with anxiety, but already shifts forward in a lean so he can show her his arm.
"Be my guest. There's a weaponized energy release thing, so be careful," he mumbles, though she may already know that from the earlier-mentioned specs.
Minal laughs. "Oh, don't worry, I know all about bat ladies! I mean, when you break your body fighting a resurrected demon from hell itself, it kinda puts things into perspective, y'know?" Still, she seems a bit frustrated by the idea of having to pry titanium back into place. Without spending a great deal of -time- on the matter, anyway.
"Yeah. Part of the job." She offers a saccharine smile -- 'part of the job' is a phrase she has to hear, and repeat, all too often in her line of work. Whether by the constant duty station transfers, or losing people in the line of duty, it -is- a constant. In one reality she might have been able to meet the doctor herself, but... in this one, she's got his toolbox and his legacy to carry on.
And with that, Mint lifts up the pliers, squinting somewhat as she guides the fingers of the pliers into the gap between two of the arm segments.
She pauses, though, on the mention of an energy release. "... I'm glad you reminded me about that, actually." And with that, she raises her index finger, wrinkling her nose. The "fingernail" of her index finger extends with a mechanical whirr, growing to about an inch in length. And with that, she prods a little recess at the base of Jax's wrist.
And -then- she returns her attention to the damaged segments. With both hands on the plier device, she flicks a switch with her thumb, which triggers the internal unlatching mechanisms on Jax's arm. Though... there is a bit of resistance.
"Hoo, yeah, might need the WD-40." She moves a few of the thumbdials on the extraction tool, eyes flicking up to Jax with a grin. "Do you fight? Like, onstage or anything?"
"Nah, maybe when I was younger, but I see enough kombat outside the ring," Jax replies while he watches her work. There was an impressed whistle when Mint's artificial fingernail became more of a tool, and then his eyes were on Mint's face as she triggers the unlatching mechanisms. His other hand lifts to where the arm she works on ends.
"I must've skipped that after-action report," Jax comments on while he watches her work. "No offense, Corporal, but you're one of the shortest soldiers I've ever met. You see a lot of field duty?"
It might be a little insensitive, but Jax's voice is gentle -- especially since she pretty much has control of one of his arms at the moment.
The tip of Mint's tongue darts out as she puts some English on the extraction tool. She smiles as she takes note of Jax stabilizing his arm, giving an appreciative nod. After a bit of wiggling the extractor back and forth, she works through the last remaining resistance. Armor plating pops off with a satisfying *clang*. The fingers of the extraction tool serve to keep the plate captive so that it doesn't hit either Mint or Jax in the face.
Gently, she pulls the extractor and its armor plating away, releasing it and holding the damaged plate up to the light. "Oh, that was in a pro fight, actually. Took place outsome some freakish haunted house deal in Romania. The demon guy turned out to not be all that bad, really. Nice guy once you get to know him!"
Mint smiles cheerily, shaking her head. She's used to people commenting on her height, and it doesn't appear to bother her much. "None taken! And... I used to! Started off infantry, but they usually have me fixing up stuff someplace or another. I'm tall enough to rack a gun -- that's good enough in most localities!"
She leans forward, squinting at the newly-revealed innards of Jax's arm. "Hrm." And with that she reaches for a digital caliper from her desk, making a few minute measurements. While she seemed to be in a generally good mood, her expression darkens slightly. "I think I'm done with field duty for now though. Command isn't something that agreed with me."
Jax's fingers twitch slightly as he focuses his gaze on the innards of his arm as well. There's surprise evident on the man's face when she mentions it was a professional fight, and he can't help but chuckle. It's both amused and self-deprecating -- the tiny woman was not only a soldier, but she had fought for money as well. It's the guilt that brings on the chuckle.
"You get my age, Corporal, you think you've seen it all. If you hear me doubting you, don't be afraid to check me," he offers. Still, the Major was a soldier first, and he can't help but add: "You know. Respectfully."
He didn't blame her for wanting to quit field-work. She's gotten this far, and there was no shame in it. Part of him wishes he could quit it, too. It'll be the death of him. It almost has been plenty of times.
"Brain like yours, you can probably get your own division."
Wait a minute.
"You know. Somethin' more official."
Mint's heard chuckles like that before. Perhaps if she knew Jax better, she might twist the proverbial knife a bit more, but right now, she's content with her straight dope answer.
"Haha, yeah. Though I s'pose you might've got a different impression of me if you saw me wearin' my 'big girl gloves.'" She nods, for emphasis, towards a pair of olive drab gauntlets sitting on a shelf behind Jax's right shoulder. Gauntlets each roughly three feet in length, with miniature jet engines strapped to their respective outboard sides. Gauntlets with fists large enough to crush pumpkins with ease. And room for a ton more gadgets that make the extending fingernail pale in comparison.
Mint flashes a broad grin. "Those're the gauntlets I spent the most time hackin' away at," she notes.
Minal makes a few more measurements, and then steps back and away, heading over towards a second rolling cart. She extracts a small tool with an air hose attachment, and a set of earmuffs. She smiles at the compliment, but the followup comment throws her for a moment.
Mint laughs, as the realization sets in. "Oh, you mean the -sign!- Haha, that's just the guys down the hall pranking me. They keep putting my real sign up on top of the fridge. We'll see who's laughing when the fridge walks off with their last night leftovers!"
She walks back over to Jax with the tool in her hand -- air hose trailing behind -- and offers to hand him the earmuffs. "The good news is, your base frame's only a few millimeters off of true, so I can fix it now. The bad news is, the piezo-hammer can get a bit loud?"
Jax does look over his shoulder at the gauntlets in question, which he does spend some time admiring. He had considered getting more gadgets in his arms other than the release system -- and the lighter Tobias had installed into his finger to make lighting victory (or tragedy) cigars easier, of course -- but the Major performed best when he was just slugging away with his fists.
"'Big girl gloves'," he echoes her term for them aloud. "I'll need to see 'em in action one of these days," he remarks. "Maybe a field test of your next upgrade on 'em," he suggests. "You quittin' professional fighting too?"
The earmuffs are taken reluctantly, put on after she responds to him.
"Hmm... no. Not -quitting- pro fighting, no." She offers a mirthless laugh -- opting not to amend the record on why the job of command -- and not the commanders she'd been listening to -- didn't suit her. "I've just been throwing myself into my work to keep my mind off stuff. Which ain't a bad use of my time, those battleframes over there are good for making bionic soldiers out of people with all their original limbs."
Her breath catches in her throat. And then she offers a meek smile. She's used to only dogging on -herself- with those sort of self-deprecating statements.
Minal fishes about in her pocket for a pair of bright orange earplugs. Working them in, she adds, "But yeah. Southtown's the capital of sport fightin', and they kinda got their hands full right now."
With earplugs in place, and a small shop rag around her hand, she locks her bionic thumb about Jax's elbow, holding tight. She raises her voice -- perhaps unknowingly -- as she says, "This'll only be a few moments!"
It might be surprising how -steady- she can hold Jax's arm against the force delivered by the 'piezohammer' tool she's using. But while her forearms are bionic, it becomes clear the young woman has some pretty developed shoulders and biceps as well. The hammer lets loose -- delivering a high-pitched whine as wails into the frame, heating the metal to a cherry red.
Sweat begins to bead on Mint's forehead. If she'd used a torch, it'd be too hot to handle, but with the specialized tooling, only a small area is effected. She wraps another shop rag around her right hand, and begins to press against the heated metal.
"Nn... I -think- that's just about got it..."
Jax's eyes settle on the battleframes in question, his expression guarded for a moment. Eventually his eyes find hers again, but he nods his head once, acknowledging the statement without drawing too much attention to it. While she works he leans a little forward to peer at what she's doing. This is more than just a courtesy call, after all. They were going to be spending a fair amount of time together, and while it was clear she knew more than he did about what was happening, those were some critical eyes he 'supervised' with.
When it's all said and done, Jax can't help but whistle that impressed whistle again. There was already a familiarty to sitting here watching someone work on his arm, and while this was a different setting than Tobias' lab, the Major decided it was more than satisfactory.
"About Southtown -- I don't know how long this shit is gonna be goin' on, but if it goes on too much longer it might become a Special Forces problem. If it is and I find myself with boots down over there, you might be seein' me more sooner than expected."
Mint wipes her brow with the rag she'd used to keep her hands cool -- and nods back with a grin to the Major. She'd been following the man's career for quite some time -- and it's still something of a rush to see him here in her workspace, let alone doing him a favor of this caliber!
"Oh. Well, yeah, that's just a given!" Already she's taking the digital calipers to the restored subframe, ensuring that the actual results match her own dead reckoning. "You're doing a great job of keeping your arm clean and functional, so that really kinda makes my job easier! I'm not seeing any rust or corrosion on the insides, which is usually what I have to deal with when the noncoms come back with their prosthetics. ... 'course, they don't have anything -near- as advanced as what you've got, so there's that, haha!"
Satisfied at her work on the frame, it's now time for her to deal with the relatively superficial warping on the outside of the shell -- the piece she'd set aside earlier. She picks it up, turning it over in her hands for a few moments. "... You went to Outworld, was that right? What's it... what's it even -like- over there? Is it fire and brimstone, like all the stories I'd heard? I mean, I'm just tryin' to square up if Southtown could be -worse- than that?"
"I still couldn't do this." Jax nods down to his arm, and when she goes for the piece she removed earlier, he takes the moment to inspect her work underneath the plating. Her question catches him off-guard, and he looks up towards Mint, before going back to looking at her work.
"Lots of ugly in Outworld. There's some beauty, too, but a whole lot of ugly you got to get through first. I'd say it's like our world in that regard, but no -- you go into Outworld expecting to fight for your life.
"I still couldn't do this." Jax nods down to his arm, and when she goes for the piece she removed earlier, he takes the moment to inspect her work underneath the plating. Her question catches him off-guard, and he looks up towards Mint, before going back to looking at her work.
"Lots of ugly in Outworld. There's some beauty, too, but a whole lot of ugly you got to get through first. I'd say it's like our world in that regard, but no -- you go into Outworld expecting to fight for your life."
After a beat, he adds, "...You get to the cities, though? Lots of different people, more variety than you've ever seen before. Some of them might look scary, but they're all just people in the end, tryin' to survive and be happy, same as us."
"Well, yeah, but if you could work on it yourself I'd probably be out of a job!" Mint flashes a broad smile, bringing the armor plating over to a third cart with a hollow cavity. She kicks the cart's brake system into place.
"That's fascinating -- I'd only heard the bad stories, not so much about the -good- and -beautful-..." Her lips press together, as she sorts this new information into her worldview. "... I had no idea." As she preps the armor plate for reshaping, she muses aloud, "... So is there like... still a portal or something there? Is there any way for Outworld to invade our world?"
"I don't think there's anything like what might've happened if that Dahlia woman didn't win," Jax remarks while he looks at the third cart, though he remains in place for the time being. "Don't mean we're out of the frying pan yet. We don't know enough about Outworld yet to just consider them a non-entity, you know? And... there's doors open on both sides, I think." The bionic shoulder of his more pristine arm lifts up in a shrug. "Little ones, though. They're probably tryin' to find out more about us, same as we're doing to them."
His eyes follow her hands as they work, and every now and then his gaze drifts over his shoulder, to the more heavier prosthetics she indicated earlier. "This Darkstalker shit rubs me the wrong way though."
Mint blinks at the Major's matter-of-fact recounting of the events of Mortal Kombat. "... Oh right. There was... a tournament or something. I wasn't really in the loop at the time, it's all kind of a blur." She gives an awkward laugh as she ambles from the cart to the aforementioned gauntlets.
Minal decides to just listen for the moment. She's prone to rambling when it's a topic she knows a lot about, but when it comes to Outworlder and Darkstalkers... she's kind of just a punch-first, ask-questions-later type of gal. "... Well, and this may just be me falling back into jarhead mode..." With a casual grace, she slides her robotic right hand into the arm of one of those beefed-up gauntlets. The whine of small servo motors, the rolling of ball bearings, and finally, a series of mechanical latches snapping into place signify the successful mating of Corporal to machine. The tiny Marine stands up as before -- the only exception being that she's now carrying one arm that seems to be a fourth her own size.
She continues, not giving any thought at all to equipping the unit to her body. ".... Could we just point the Outworlders at the Darkstalkers and let both problems solve one another?"
The Major's brows rise slightly as he watches Mint give her arm an upgrade by sliding that gauntlet on, and he braces himself for something spectacular. Why else would she need to put one of those things on? He doesn't laugh at her suggestion, but his features do soften a little.
"/If/ they'd even fight each other. Who the Hell knows, Outworld might have some magic to control Darkstalkers or vice versa. The Darkstalker problem is a big one, but as far as the brass is concerned, it ain't our problem yet." Those softened features harden again, while he frowns. "Geopolitics was already complicated, Corporal. Now we got transdimensional politics, trans-species politics."
His head shakes. "You probably will be able to make sense of it before I could."
Minal gives a gentle laugh as she flexes her much significantly larger fingers. It's required, after all, to make sure that the interlink between her smaller prosthetic and the larger is intact and that her fingers are not seized up.
She walks back to the cart, opening up a drawer and retrieving a metal bowl with an elastic strap on the inside. She wraps the strap around her gauntlet's hand -- and when the mechanical arm's fist clasps tight, the round side of the bowl shields its knuckles.
"I should've guessed it wouldn't be -that- simple. But still, like... that whole spire thing was supposed to be a sign that Darkstalkers are just tryin' to survive and be happy too. An embassy, they called it. People were just startin' to get used to 'em being around, and now... boom? Madness in the streets?"
"I don't know. Intel briefing I got from brass says it's some cult behind this shit, but the situation's not political there too for Special Forces to come in." Jax shakes his head. "Instead we got that N
"I don't know. Intel briefing I got from brass says it's some cult behind this shit, but the situation's not political there too for Special Forces to come in." Jax shakes his head. "Instead we got that NOL organization in charge of things over there." The Major makes a face. "Don't know if I trust them either, but it is what it is."
He stops rambling, realizing he's being tangential, and instead nods towards the engineer, shifting in his chair to face her better. "So what're you doin' now? How many gadgets you got in that thing anyway?" It's a subject where she can talk and he doesn't have to waste time ruminating.
Mint doesn't seem terribly surprised that NOL wants to step up to handle this one: she chuckles, in fact. "Well, dealing with the supernatural is right up in their wheelhouse, I guess. Maybe -they- have some trick that can keep things at bay. And if they get out of control, y'know, -that's- when we get to step in and set things straight." She balls her left fist as if she were going to feign strength, but blinks as she remembers the disparity in her palm sizes -- and shakes it off with a grin.
"It's funny you ask -- I -used- to carry a lot more. But now it's just three..." She opens the large gauntlet's palm, tugging the strap aside to reveal a lens glowing with muted red light. "A light beam, slash energy blaster..."
She then flexes her bicep -- but it's mostly so she can turn the broad side of the jet engine over to Jax. "And booster jets, in case I need to close distance in a hurry."
With her big hand, she then reaches up to pick up the armor plating, allowing her small hand to coat both sides of the armor with some sort of metallic compound. "But it's best at what we in the shop like to call 'percussive maintenance.'" She sets the armor plate down into the hollow. She curls her fist so that the bowl clamps down over the knuckles.
And then she punches the armor plate -- demonstrating the trio of pistons that slams the fist and its surrounding bowl down onto the armor plate at about 8-10 cycles per second. As the compound grows a nice cherry red, the short-throw rabbit punches are able to start battering the armor plating back into its proper form. It looks chaotic at first -- but Mint pulls back after a few seconds to examine the form.
"... It's getting there. Slowly...! But it's not something I wanna rush."
"Damn," is all Jax can say when he gets a better look at that jet engine. He looks at his more intact arm briefly, then back towards hers, that whistle escaping him a third time. When she begins to straight pound at the armor plating, he leans back a little in surprise, watching as she delivers those incredibly quick punches with wide eyes.
"Damn, girl." Any formality is lost in those two words. "Percussive maintenance -- you gotta put a patent on that," he advises, leaning forward again to also examine her work.
"Well -- if you need more than a day to fix it, you got something in here I can borrow in the meantime? You never know when a fight might break out these days."
"Haha! Yeah, maybe, but... I'm pretty sure it's not just fix-em-up shops that say that. Anyone can, y'know, like say the copier's busted? Give it some ol' percussive maintenance, and boom, it's working again." She swings her foot into a kick, for further demonstration of her point. "Just gotta know the right place to whack it!"
She waits long enough for Jax to get a good inspection in, and for him to pull back to a safe distance. "Nah. It's nothing like that. Five minutes, tops." And then she leans in to give it another few seconds of rapid hammering.
With the armor plate now red hot, she relents for a moment, prodding into it with her giant fingers. Giving it an appraising nod, she notes, "It's taking shape. The damage kinda frayed the edges out a little bit, but I'm knuckling the corners back in, giving it a sharper edge again. So it's properly thick around the edges like it's supposed to be. It's basically good enough to wear -anyway-, I just wanna make sure it isn't so tough to get off next time."
"First time I'm hearin' it," Jax tells the tiny Corporal. He can't help but chuckle at the kick to mid-air Mint throws to demonstrate her point. She's certainly animated -- a stark contrast to the ever deliberate Doctor Tobias, but that wasn't a bad thing in the Major's eyes. He watches her work some more, his bionic hand lifting when she begins to explain what's happening now.
"Hey, you're the expert. Take your time, Mint." He gives in, deciding to call her the name she used in the emails. "You makin' it easier to take off -- that's just for fixin' it, right? Won't be easier to mess up in a fight?" It's more rhetorical -- of course it won't be easier to mess up in a fight, but he'd be damned if he just sat there in awkward silence.
Mint does not have a reputation as a passive participant of conversation, to say the least. She generally either has something to say, or she's off to the next job on her overflowing to-do list. She nods cheerfully as Jax shows his enthusiasm for her work -- and realizes that, as usual, she forgot something. "Oh, yeah, we kinda skipped introductions, didn't we, Major?" She offers a pregnant pause just in case Jax feels like correcting her. "Hardly anyone calls me Minal, and the nickname just kinda stuck."
As for whether a 'loose' panel would be easier to mess up in a fight, she shakes her head -- and then lets loose with another barrage of hammering on the metal. Once the ringing dies down, she chirps up again: "If everything were just bolted together, sure, but these latches are spring-loaded. When your arm's under the kind of tension you experience in a fight, something that's fully rigid would just fall to pieces on you. So that's why Dr. Tobias' design is so neat, it actually -does- allow the metal to flex here and there."
Mint reaches out with her left index finger, prodding at the spring-loaded latches she'd released earlier. "The way the metal was lodged, you were basically one bad punch away from having the armor plate fly off. For -this- arm system, you just want it to -look- stiff and impenetrable. Inside, it's nice and springy. Go on, flex your bicep fully, and without the covering you can see how it actually gives a little, yeah?"
"Only my mother ever called me Jackson," Jax replies easily back to Mint. "Even my superiors would either go with Jax or Briggs. You can call me Jax when we're alone, but around the other soldiers, we'll follow protocol. That good with you?"
Jax's arm lifts and he shifts so that he can get a good look at it himself while he flexes his bicep. He exhales -- it's as if he can feel the pressure while he watches the innards of the bionic limb yield so easily. "He mentioned something like this before," Jax admits. "I might've been tight that day, though. I wasn't listening very well." Jax's eyes settle on her gloves. "Can you feel them? I can, a little. Like a pressure. No pain anymore, but definitely a pressure when I'm touching something or punching someone."
"Huh. Jax, then." Mint repeats it, smiling at the way only the most important syllables are carried forward. "I like it, yeah -- sounds good!" It shouldn't be -too- hard to keep mindful of rank when others are around, she resolves.
Minal is quite happy to talk through the minutiae of engineering design, with a practical real-world example right in front of her. She gestures to the seams between each of the segmented plates: "Each plate is solid, but they have to have a -little- room to give. It's just like when you pour concrete, like... you gotta have joints for expansion and contraction."
She takes a step back towards the still-cooling plate, pondering her reply for a moment. "Mm, yeah, actually. I have sensor strips for cold, heat, and pressure..." And at this point, she gestures to the sinuous electrodes running down her left forearm. "Pressure's a must-have, otherwise I'd crush everything I touched. And... at one point I had pain sensors wired up on the right, but that..." She smacks her lips, shaking her head in the negative. "Eeeeesh. Let's just say if somethin's triggering one of the three, that's good enough for me."
She wiggles the fingers of the big gauntlet, grinning. "As far as my brain's concerned, -both- of my right hands feel just as real as the left. Software compensates for what my brain hasn't already worked itself around."
She pauses for a moment, turning back to the cooled-down plate, and humming softly as she passes the digital calipers over the surface. "... I think this is -done-, actually."
"Why did you have the pain sensors?" Jax does wonder curiously to Mint when she mentions she had them, while he rises to his feet to get closer, more to peer down at the cooled-down plate she's working on than anything. "Tobias didn't give me the option -- not that I hold it against him," he adds, with a chuckle, while watching. He does give her gauntlet a second glance. "And if you can wire somethin' for pain, can you wire somethin' for texture? I think I miss that the most, you know? Bein' able to touch the leather of my car, or the metal of my sax."
Then something occurs to him about what she's saying, and his eyes move towards her hair. "Wait, do you got software in your brain or something?" His eyes search her scalp as if he could maybe see some kind of hint of it, even though he couldn't whether she did or not.
Mint's reply to the question of pain sensors is short but sweet: "For the sake of completeness... I guess?" She shrugs with a helpless grin.
But while Jax continues to watch her, she has other tasks to do, like pulling a handheld scanner from the cart. Her comically oversized gauntlet makes for an awkward grip as she holds the device over the plate, but she only needs to hold it still for a few seconds. The tip of her tongue darts out the side of her lips as she focuses on the work, giving perfunctory nods to show she's still paying attention to the Major.
And as she finishes up, she states calmly, "No, there is no software or hardware jacked into my brain." Flashing a smug smile, she says, "It's all done with how the sensors and motors are set up."
She looks back to the screen of the scanner, and nods cheerily. "Aww yeah, that got it within 2 millimeters. Good enough for government work!" She smiles the smile of someone who says that joke way too often. She brings the extractor over, using the interleaved jaws to carry the plate back over to Jax's arm. "So, short answer, yes, I -can- get that installed for you, just not in this trip. I need to pore over Dr Tobias' designs to figure out the best way to make use of the sensors and motors you already got -- the last thing I want is to make it -harder- for you to use."
Mint maneuvers the plate into position, cheerfully explaining, "So, part of the problem with sensing is not having enough sensors. Usually they're paired, one sensor for each motor, which is fine if you're just trying to wash dishes. But what you would need is like... nine more sensors per finger to pick up the pressure differentials..."
All the while, she's steering the plate into position. And then she flicks the thumb switches, and with a satisfying series of clicks, the repaired plate is firmly locked into position.
"There! We're done with that part." She pulls the extractor away, her brow furrowing. "The other problem is getting your neurons to assimilate the data. And that..." She offers a small frown. "It can take some time. And lots of experimentation. But I can look into it!"
Jax lifts his arm up so that she can affix the plate to it more easily, watching closely just in case he needs to do some basic maintenance of his own. Her smug smile doesn't go unnoticed, and he looks up at her pointedly with his brows risen. "You take pride in your work," he remarks. "Good, 'cause I'll be honest, if you were any less confident, I'd be a nervous wreck right now." He's probably using hyperbole, but he doesn't mind. Once the plate is fixed on, he backs up a step and flexes his arm like a bodybuilder might, before giving it a few knocks with his hand.
"Part of the problem it took so long for the doc to make these things was the first few models were weaker than I was when I had my real arms," the Major reveals. "He got it right the third time -- but before he died he hooked me up with these, and they pack a punch." It does make Jax frown slightly -- while Tobias took great pains in ensuring the arms would give Jax his quality of life back, they were definitely made for kombat.
"Don't stress too much over the wiring and other stuff. Long as I can fight, that's what matters most to the Forces and the brass."
Minal dips her chin, cheeks darkening to a fair degree. "Haha, well, yeah! I... I guess you could say I have a vested interest in making the best hardware I can, right?" She seems more than pleased that her work stands up to the Major's scrutiny.
When he talks about the first few models being weaker, she nods with understanding. "Oh. Yeah. That..." She nods. And nods more -quickly-. "Yeah, there were several revisions of my gauntlets that just fell apart on the first few punches." Setting the extractor aside, she grins, doing a flex of her own. Her right arm's biceps have no problem with the additional weight. "That's one reason mine ended up so oversized. If I had access to Dr Tobias' tech at first, maybe mine wouldn't be so bulky now." She laughs. "But I gotta admit, now I'm just addicted to the longer wingspan!"
She moves her elbows to either side, twisting back and forth at her waist. "Oh, no stress, I love the challenge! I already have a few ideas for how to go about it, but I'll lab 'em before I subject you to the mad scientist act. We'll probably start small, with just like, the last three fingers of your left hand." She holds up her hand -- showing those same three fingers, her last three flesh-and-blood. "You're right-handed, yeah?"
"Yeah," Jax confirms. "I mean I guess maybe I'm more ambidextrous than I used to be, but I definitely still lead with my right." Jax does look at Minal's arm, and something does occur to her, eyes lifting to her face. "Hold up -- no offense, Mint, but you're like three feet tall." Certainly hyperbole there, but he moves his hand to his bicep, rubbing at it briefly. "No offense, but I'm amazed at how strong you are, to be able to lug those things around. I guess I've seen stranger things, but..."
It occurs to the Major he might be insensitive here, and he holds his hands up. "Not that I'm saying anything about you being a woman and all that," he quickly ammends. "My best field agent's Sonya Blade, and she's the most badass person I know. It's just -- damn, girl, you're tiny."
"Gotcha." Mint makes that mental note for later. Wouldn't have wanted to experiment on his left hand if he -were- left-handed, after all.
Mint blinks back as her size is called out, and she's quick to offer a correction with a mock pout: "Four-nine!" But from the good-natured laugh that follows, it's clear she's not going to hold a grudge. "Nah, I get what you're saying! I heard nothin' but good things about Lt Blade. It's... it's kinda like, people back home thought they could throw me around with how tiny I was. Maybe I took it personal or somethin', I'unno." She offers a lopsided shrug, grinning. "Before the accident, I was a boxer. And a pretty damn good one too! So yeah. Quality of life and all that's a big thing for me."
She tilts her head askew slightly. "Plus, I used to work on tanks. So gettin' stronger just meant less people to bug. So how about you? It isn't an all-work-and-no-play life for you, is it?"
"I used to box too, but when I took command of Special Forces' ground team, I had Muay Thai and Judo added to the training -- I more or less use those a little more often, but I was Golden Gloves when I was in high school," Jax boasts mildly. "I was always stronger than pretty much everybody, which is why I was sent into Outworld. Strength didn't mean a damn thing to some of those monsters, though."
He gives a bionic shrug -- yes, a bionic shrug, while raising his chin. "I attend boxing tournaments, I watch some martial arts stuff, but I don't think I'll go pro unless I'm ordered to by the brass. I mostly like those old jazz clubs, you know? You got a few of them in Metro City that lets you sit down, have a smoke, and just listen. I thought about going on stage in some of them under some alias, but... I don't know."
He does confess, "I'm married to the job, though. I don't see a Missus Briggs in the future, and I'm alright with that. Would be unfair of me to expect a woman to wait for the flag, you know?"
It doesn't take much to get a reaction out of Minal, when she's not focused upon her work at least. Her eyes light up at the mention of other fighting techniques. "Oh I -love- watching Muay Thai! But I think I'd need to work on bionic legs to go toe-to-toe with anyone in that. Last time I tried was more like toe-to-face, hah!"
She offers a slightly downturned expression as Jax brings up Outworld. She'd love to learn more about the place mostly mentioned as 'that thing no one wants to talk about.' But at least there's the possibility of talking to Jax more about the topic later, now that they'll be seeing each other more often.
"Eh, fights are good for blowing off steam, but yeah. Work's... a bit more... structured?" She walks over to where her arm -was- parked, setting it down and starting the unlatching rituals.
Though, when the discussion moves towards marriage, and relationships, Mint takes a few moments to catch up to the topic shift. Blinking, she gives a slightly unsettled laugh. "... Oh. Hm. I guess I never really thought about it, haha! The jarheads who bothered asking to the Corps Ball kinda put me off on the whole idea." Now with two evenly-sized arms, she can give her own non-bionic shrug in response. "So yeah. Work is... work is good." She presses her lips together, nostrils flaring as she breathes in. There's something she -wants- to say, but decides against it. "What's that they say about idle hands an' all?"
"Yeah, I heard about that thing," Jax murmurs, making a face. "I hope I didn't make you uncomfortable bringing relationships up -- I just put relationships in the realm of 'play', rather than work." Deciding to change the subject, he nods towards her hands. "One of these days, maybe I'll get some people together, we'll have ourselves a demonstration of what those hands can do in a fight." It seems despite himself, he misses her hesitation to say something more.
"Well, I took enough of your time, I think," the Major says apologetically, busting out his cell phone to take a look at the time -- no watches on his bionic wrists. "I appreciate this," he says earnestly to the tiny woman. "For real. I didn't know what I was gonna do without the doc. You gave me peace of mind."
Mint blinks a few more times, as she catches up with how her moment of self-reflection must have looked to Major Briggs. "... Oh! No, no. I'm not... it's not relationships that scare me!" She laughs nervously, bionic right hand snapping to the back of her head. "I mean, maybe it is, but nah, I'm still workin' through a lot of mental baggage, don't mind me!"
She closes the distance to Jax, raising her fist in a show of comradery. Knuckle-bump, maybe? "Hey, we gotta stick together, right? In for a penny, in for a pound!"
She seems positively giddy at the prospect of a live demonstration, her earlier unease practically melting away. "Yeah! We'll have to schedule somethin', totally! I'll be looking forward to it!"
If one ever finds themselves in a situation where they have bionic arms and refuse to answer the call to fist-bump someone similarly augmented, they're probably out of their minds. Fortunately for Jax and Mint both this isn't the case, and Jax replies with a signature, "Hell yeah," while lifting his fist to knuckle-bump hers. "Don't be a stranger, Mint. You ever need an ear to talk into or eyes to type to or whatever you preferred method of communication is, I'm just a button away."
His other hand tucks his phone away, and he raises his chin. "Keep up the good work, too. Don't think we're gonna find anyone as good as you in the near future, so." He makes for the exit, hands tucking into his pockets.
Log created on 11:23:40 06/03/2020 by Mint, and last modified on 09:56:46 06/23/2020.