Flight of the Soaring Spirit - [FSS:Week 3] Calm Before The Storm

Description: When Zach and Mint last met they were halfway across the world, but now they find a common bond has brought them together -- protecting the peaceful village of Pueblo Thunderfoot from the Cortejo Znebre. But for the moment, the stormclouds are kept at bay long enough for a friendly conversation.

Mint is a fairly competent fighter, but it's plain to see that she's not immune to explosives. Accordingly, the Marine is carrying an M4 carbine for her patrols around the troubled town of Pueblo Thunderfoot, with a baseball cap over her head and a flak jacket over her camouflauged clothing. Currently employed by the Mexican national guard, the traditional ranks don't matter -- which suits the down-to-earth gearhead just fine!

It might seem like the oversized fingers of her prosthetic gauntlets are too big to squeeze the trigger of her rifle --- and indeed it is a tight fit -- but as she takes aim on a target in the distance, it becomes clear she'd be using the grip pads on the tips of her finger to flip the trigger. She's not expecting assistance -- the national guard is stretched pretty thin from this incident, and she is not wholly unused to working alone.

Zach Glenn is no stranger to working alone, either. However, a recent... vocational shift has made it to where he is no longer working as part of a team either. That fact alone is enough to unnerve the former Marine somewhat. No assistance, no back-up for Zach to call on. No reinforcements waiting in the wings. Just one man, standing guard against the darkness that would consume humanity if given half a chance.

There are moments where Zach thinks he should have just chucked Drynwyn into the ocean, instead of following his grandfather's wishes.

Zach is, nominally, working for a private security force that is run by his extended family. His job description, in the loosest of terms, is "troubleshooter." In his case, the term is codespeak for "monster hunter." There were not reports of monsters surrounding the Soaring Spirits tournament, but there was something... achingly familiar about the matter to Zach. As part of his new "job," he had a fairly broad amount of discretion regarding what matters he did or did not look in to, and he was exercising it in this case. He walks quietly behind Mint before speaking in a loud but even voice.

"Easy there, Marine," he calls to Mint, to let her know he is there.

Mint doesn't recognize the voice at first -- but nor does she jump at the sound. Steeled nerves are part of her training, even if she doesn't get to serve in the infantry role quite as often as her mechanic role. Once she notices the face, though, she claps her heels together and snaps a quick salute. "Captain! Good to see a familiar face, sir!" She knows he's not in uniform -- but neither is she, so.

She's not really been informed of Zach's change of vocation -- not exactly need-to-know information. But she's smiling all the same, her boring day of patrol having been brightened at least a little bit.

Zach winces at the address, a certain amount of regret in the decision to resign. "No need to 'sir' me, Panesh," he says, never having gotten her first name. He waves the salute off. "Zach, or Glenn, is just fine now, I guess." Zach's not in uniform, though the cut of the clothes is fairly similar. Black fatigues, web gear, a very large sword (almost as tall as Zach is) attached to the back of the harness. A shoulder holder rides at Zach left flank, and Mint might notice at least two knives in sheathes attached to the back side of the belt.

Zach stares off at the horizon as if looking for something. "No need to salute me, either."

Despite acting like a wet-behind-the-ears rookie from time to time, Mint is about the same age as Zach. She's been on the front lines in Afghanistan, she's seen lots of things she'd rather not remember. And yet, Zach waving off the trappings of the office so casually is... almost injurious to her. Even if they're both officially off-duty, it seems a bit weird to the woman, as being a Marine is so thoroughly entwined with her identity that it seems like he's speaking gibberish.

But... he is (was) a superior officer. And he looks to be in pain himself: two very good reasons to respect his wishes. "Understood," she follows, soberly lowering her eyes. "Zach, then."

The hint of a smile creeps to her face, as she looks off to the horizon -- then realizes he probably wants to stare at it alone. So she finds another destination to look at.

"It's... kinda good I ran into you, actually. Um... when I was growing up there was a lady nextdoor who used to help my sister look after us. We just got an e-mail back from her. I mentioned I ran into you, and she... sent me a picture." She laughs musically for a moment, before adding, "Woulda printed it out but I didn't expect to run into you again, least of all here, heh! But yeah. Did you run into anyone named Mrs. Patel? I... don't really remember her first name, aheh, she was always 'Miss Patel' to me."

Zach sideglances Mint. "I'm not a Marine anymore," he says in response to Mint's reaction. "Family concern." Then he listens. He raises an eyebrow at the mention of a 'Miss Patel.' He chuckles a bit. "I met a nurse by that name in Metro City... during the incident." He looks thoughtful, a faint smile on his face.

"What was the picture of?"

Mint's hazel eyes meet Zach's as she stares back at him. And frowns, slightly, at his tacit admission, but seems to take it in good stride. "Then I can't get court martialled for correcting you." Enigmatically, she flashes a wink back at him. "Y'know... 'Once a Marine, always a Marine,' right?"

She nods to the recollection of the nurse. "Yep, that's her. She got -real- good at patching us all up, that's for sure." She smiles along with Zach, holding up her free hand in a wave. "Just a shot of her and her boyfriend, and the dog, the first day she got out of the hospital." Before letting that sink in any further, she amends, "Broken leg, I think. I can get you her e-mail address or somethin' when we get back to post. Er, town."

"Truth," Zach says in not-quite-grudging agreement. He listens to the subject matter of the picture. "...wait. Did..." Zach turns to face Mint, a look of confusion and perhaps hope flitting across his face. "She was at the opera house when I left there. And she didn't come with me to the bridge site. Panesh..." Zach takes a deep breath, trying to gather up the courage to ask the question.

"...are you telling me she got out of there alive?" The look on Zach's face would suggest that the answer means more than the world to him.

Mint had taken a moment to scan the horizon (since patrolling is the job at hand after all), but she can sense Zach's eyes upon her. Turning back, she blinks back cluelessly. "Y... yeah..." she states, mindful of her tone as she gauges Zach's expressions throughout her response. "Um. I... it was weeks ago, but I think she'd said something about everyone being gone when she got back from a supply run." Flickers of a smile tug at the corners of her lips as she adjusts the strap on her carbine. "I got all my news about Metro City from her, so, um..." Minal is trying not to elaborate too much out of concern for the non-active Marine's composure, so she concludes with, "Yeah, she's fine now. I'm glad, the world needs more people like her!"

The expression on Zach's face is... it might remind Mint of someone just finishing up a long stretch of hard work. He looks away; he doesn't want Mint to see the tears welling in his eyes. "She... we were operating out of the Il Paradiso opera house. It... most of that part of town got levelled during the last of the fighting. The rescue mission there was a complete disaster." He pauses, taking a deep breath. He is very careful not to mention that he felt what could best be referred to as 'a great disturbance in the Force' when it happened. "I didn't know... didn't think there could have been any survivors from there."

Mint says, simply: "Oh." It's understated -- of course it is! She's good at projecting positivity, but she was the baby of the family; her elder sister was the one with the sympathetic shoulder. "Yeah. The... opera house." She nods slowly -- that detail is one she remembers from the e-mails, but she hesitates on elaborating.

Mostly because it was hard for the nurse to speak about it at length, herself. So Minal condenses it down to: "She was really broken up over it, yeah. Lots of people she knew, worked with."

She draws in her breath, before looking back to the horizon. "Every conversation, Cap.. er, Zach. Every little moment matters, I tell myself." She looks down at her left hand, smile fading for a moment. "But we move on, right?"

Zach rubs at his face with both hands, scrubbing the tears away as he does so. "Right," he says with a faint smile, turning to face Mint and looking as if a weight had been lifted from his shoulder. At least /something/ good came of his time there, something that he could point a finger to and say 'I made that better.'

"We keep moving," he says firmly. "So," Zach says by way of subject change, "How'd you land /this/ assignment?"

Mint takes tacit note of Zach's emotional state. She's no psychic, and she's even a little dense, but even she can understand Zach's leaving some things unsaid here. And while some small voice is telling her she should, like, hug him or something, there's still a bit of emotional distance between herself and the former officer.

But that's not to say the ever-hopeful Mint can't give him an enthusiastic smile! "I'd be happy to put you two in touch. Maybe once all this is over we can go get dinner somewhere, right?"

As for the subject change: "... Well, I'm on leave, this is the fun thing. I gotta say, it's been challenging. Y'know. Boxing against people who don't just box." Metal bearings roll as she flexes her fingers. "But this... well, I can't just stand around and train while people are getting hurt. Locals were asking for help and all!"

Zach is definitely not ready to discuss all of the impacts that the trip to Metro City had had on him right now. He hasn't even really gone into depth on it with his family. Or Honoka for that matter. He realizes after a moment that he hadn't even mentioned leaving Edinburgh to her. But that's not here or there, and not something he'd want to talk about over the phone anyway.

"And some things don't change," Zach says agreeably, "Regardless of whether or not you're actually in uniform." He nods once, tugging on one of the straps to his gear. "Dinner would be nice," he admits. Then again, dinner is almost /always/ good as far as Zach is concerned.

"Right!" agrees Mint, casting a glance back towards the city. All the people, all so... seemingly ignorant of the true danger they may actually be in.

"... I gotta say, though, they make some pretty awesome food here -- I can tell they all know some pretty good recipes, but... man. What I wouldn't give for some home-cooked curry, y'know?"

She blinks for a moment, frowning as she thinks about something. "Sir? I mean, Zach... how long have you been around here? Something's not -right- here. Like... people are just going through the motions without really understanding why. I guess I never really thought about it, but it's like... they're responding in the way every one would -expect- them to."

Zach looks thoughtful for a moment. "I just got here day before yesterday," he admits. "Spent most of yesterday trying," Zach yawns. "Trying to adjust to the time difference. Scotland's six hours ahead of here." He looks at Mint with a concerned glance.

"How do you mean?"

"From Scotland? You went west! West is super easy," she says, matter-of-factly, "you just stay up till local time..." But it's too late for that advice -now-, she reminds herself.

Mint frowns, scratching her temple with a metal finger. "I just... mean that everything just seems weird. Like you would expect people to be more rude to tourists, but they're all... happy and stuff. I mean, I tell myself it's not that, since they're literally -asking- foreigners and out-of-towners to help and all, but some things just aren't adding up fully. Like they're working off a script or something."

Zach listens patiently to all of this, not explaining that it started out as Japan to Scotland to Mexico in a span of less than three weeks. That kind of travel is hard on the body clock regardless of what you do to adjust. He considers the statement for a moment.

"Not enough fear," he mutters, just loud enough for Mint to hear. "You'd think with all the trouble more people would be afraid." Zach frowns at this, considering his response. "That may be something to look in to, actually."

As someone whose mouth runs ahead of her brain sometimes, she can tell when she overextends. Slightly chastened, she looks back to the horizon, careful to look for intruders as she listens to Zach's musings.

"Yeah, that's what I was thinking. Plus... I'm not sure how to approach anyone else in the -world- about this, but... there was this 'Spirit Walk' they had me go on. I..."

She frowns, patting her pants pocket, and then pulling a post-it-note with a list of settings on it. "Something the village was doing. Spirit journey, to help me... settle with whatever weird spirits were messing with me. I just kinda played along. So they drove me somewhere desolate, gave me something to drink. I figured it was just like wine or something, but I blacked out."

She looks down at the strip of paper for a moment and frowns. "From my hands, it looks like I lost a fight with a humvee. From the logs of my inertial sensors, it looks like I was doing a hell of a lot more than that. And then I was driven somewhere afterwards. Don't remember a damn thing, was blacked out for it all."

She glances over to Zach -- worried. Scared. "All I remember is fighting a big snake. But I'm pretty sure that was a dream."

Zach is looking at the horizon as Mint speaks, since patrol and all. His eyes narrow as she lays out the 'spirit journey,' frowning as she mentions the large snake. "Might have been a snake," he finally says. "But it also could have been some kind of hallucinogen. a really strong one, maybe. More than a few Native American shamanic rituals involve some kind of psychotropic substance." Zach is silent for a moment.

"Though depending on what was used and how long it's been since then, that might be hard that down. The biology of that stuff's a bit beyond me," he admits.

Mint shakes her head slowly. "No, no, I ... I mean, yes, I know it was a hallucinogenic compound, just..." Mint clenches her hand to the sound of metal grinding against metal. "If I was punching the ground, Zach, I wouldn't have needed to retire that set of hands. Same ones you saw in the DEERS office. I punched stuff. Maybe people. If it was the ground, or sand, or cacti, or the tumbleweeds, I'd have had a lot of that crap stuck in them. And they'd be polished... y'know, sandblasted."

Mint bites her lower lip. "I didn't think to load my hands up with GPS antennas, otherwise I'd know for sure where I'd -went- when I was under. I messed up, Zach. Loss of SA bites me again."

Zach takes two steps toward Mint, placing his hands carefully on hers. "Easy there, Minal," he says softly, gently moving to prize the fingers open. He knows that they won't likely give under the pressure of his own flesh and blood fingers. He's worried Mint will somehow damage her hands with this display of emotion.

"It... has to be frustrating. Missing time is a scary thing," he says with that tone that comes from a person who is familiar with the subject. "You'll either learn what happened while you were out, or you won't. Either way, though, you have to make your peace with it or it'll eat you whole."

Mint looks down at the hands upon hers. It's a numb feeling, passed along via the nerves in her elbow, but she knows what the significance of the gesture is. And loosens the fingers accordingly. A mirthless laugh follows: "You don't need to worry about this set, it won't break as easily."

It's the thought that counts, though!

Minal is disturbed, but not really at the point of tears. Zach's reassurances do help her quite a bit though, lightening her expression. "Yeah. I... I let my guard down. It won't happen again. The local food isn't bad, but it isn't worth promising my life over for, hehe."

Zach nods once, firmly, at Mint's assurances. He takes his hands away with that selfsame confidence. "Good," he says. "So supposedly our relief is supposed to be here in a few minutes. Wonder what's taking them..."

Log created on 20:18:19 07/11/2015 by Mint, and last modified on 19:09:15 07/13/2015.