Killer Instinct - [KI:Round 3] THE DEVIL'S CHOICE

Description: Brandon's been busy. The battles and his investigations are leaving him with a chilling idea; that fighters are being kidnapped in the field, and are being moved towards nefarious ends. Further information recovered suggests that even his own contacts may be compromised--his client is no longer answering his calls, and recovered information about the contact he received about the burial site in Japan leads back to Ultratech facilities, conveniently the site of his next battle, and where several fighters are being kept in hospitality suites. As Mint breaks into one of the secured upper levels of the facility they're being housed in to get ahold of some of Ultratech's advancements, Brandon only really has to follow and see what he can confirm. Quite seperately, Kaede comes to her quarters to find a bouquet of flowers, with a small and insidious spider-like device that attaches to the skin. Her next battle is Brandon and Mint both, in the R&D Lab, a slightly unfair battle in operations she's quickly becoming accustomed to. But that small device is an invitation, representing power. Power.. and servitude. On it is an engraving: Evolve, or die.

As far as Corporal Panesh knows, her commanding officer is a real charmer. Broad shoulders, a powerful voice, and mysterious eyes you could just lose yourself in for days. She'd do anything for that guy, whether it has to do with her specialty or not -- because, really, you -have- to do what your CO tells you to do, right?

Besides, he didn't seem to mind that the Indian was growing her hair out over the course of his mission. All throughout her Marine career she's been compelled to keep it short, but she's just letting it run wild over the course of this Ultratech deployment. Sure, 'officially' she's a 'competitor' in this 'competition', but that's just a front for her to gain access to some of the more, shall we say, 'interesting' areas of the Research and Development areas.

Most people would have trouble figuring out where the access panels are. But Mint has a curious advantage in the "knucks" on her hands -- like a swiss army knife, they come equipped with all sorts of devices which can provide extrasensory abilities.

Suffice to say, Mint found a network access tunnel which runs the entire height of the building, complete with ladder for easy ascension. She'd looked around for a bit, and didn't -see- anyone, but there's no telling who else could be on the way.

As Mint climbs up to the R&D lab, she quickly finds herself rewarded with a three-dimensional visualization of one of the newer projects under development, with Gantt chart readouts outlining the construction processes going on down in fabrication. The gearhead's eyes light up like stars at all that she's able to see -- and she holds out her prosthetic hands in two "L" brackets -- her hardcoded gesture for taking discrete video of everything she sees. "Man... this is almost -too- easy..." she mumbles to herself with almost giddy glee.

The more Brandon Malone finds out about this tournament, the less he likes it. Fighters being kidnapped, graves being compromised, and his mysterious benefactor is on radio silence, and every time he thinks about the burial ground, he feels a lingering nausea and confusion as to what part Ultratech played in it. Just that it was connected and that the spirits were incredibly hostile. And that was before Sada started chucking shrine markers.

Feeling restless, the Thaumaturgist decides to leave his quarters and investigate. His investigation nearly comes to a screeching halt when he sees one of the security doors. His observation skills come into play when looking for the access panels but unfortunately it didn't come with the technological knowhow to access such a sophisticated system.

Enter, Corporal Panesh. She does on the other hand have the technical expertise to access the panels so he takes advantage of two skills he does have in spades. Discreetly trailing people and ability to manipulate light. He utilizes a light spell to manipulate the light around to camoflauge him. It's not true invisibility but as long as no one looks too closely he should escape notice. And as long he trails from far away, Mint probably won't notice him as he follows her through the access tunnels.

When Mint, says it's too easy, that's when she'll probably hear the sound of a cellphone vibrating. If she were to turn around she'll see everything she'd expect to be behind her with the addition of a distorted of a man in a fedora right behind her in the vein of Predator.

The distortion mutters, "Oh god dammit," and lets the illusion go as he pulls his cellphone out and looks at it. "Big Brother is watching us and apparently we're supposed to be teamed up for our next match, if you're Mint."

After fighting a goddamned cyborg dinosaur, Kaede was ready for a change.

Ultratech appears to have given her a change. She got a hospitality suite. She got an official match, instead of having to fight an escaped monster (that, fortunately, they did not charge her for kicking out a door).

From what she understands, she expects it to be brutal. Two on one, and neither of them she knows very well at all. But Kaede is up to the challenge, she thinks. She's good. She knows she's good - she's better than she's ever been, now that she's recovered, mostly, from a dinosaur mauling.

That's why the flowers caught her by surprise. Flowers... and a gift.

Kaede thought about it. She really did. She spent a good hour in meditation, clearing her mind - and only then did she consider the problem of what this offer meant. It was an offer, she knew that. An offer of power, based on what she knew about Ultratech, but it led to obligations. Obligations that, had they been spelled out, she might have been able to make an informed decision about - but here and now? Less so.

And so she wrote a note. She put it in the flowers, which she set up in her room. She knows they are watching. They can read it at their leisure. It read, simply: 'Next time.'

Kaede's desire to test herself, to see whether her poor performance against Riptor was a fluke and to see how far she'd come, won out over power. She needs to know where she is before she decides where she goes - and this is her first tournament since she mastered the secret arts. Next time, though - next time she might have to see what Ultratech can offer her - and what she can offer Ultratech. She doesn't want to be chained down forever. But working together? That's a little different - and completely acceptable.

So as a result, Kaede enters the R&D area - without the regulator. Actually, that's not true; it's in her pocket. But she isn't using it, not right now.

She does not hide herself. She knows that there's an assigned match. And though she doesn't immediately see Mint and Brandon, because she doesn't know that they are dirty infiltrators who break into random facilities to take pictures, she is obvious enough for /them/ to find - a woman in her early twenties, blue-haired, with a gi. She is very clearly a martial artist, or pretending to be - and given Ultratech it's probably best to assume the first.

"I can tell someone's here," she says, raising her voice. She can feel elevated chi. Of course, it could just be a worker. Or a project, for that matter; this /is/ Ultratech. But she might get lucky.

Mint is... surprised to hear a cellphone vibration behind her, at roughly the same time an indicator light on her left knuck starts flashing blue. Okay, maybe 'surprised' is an understatement, considering she jumps forward about a half-meter before whirling around to face the person who scared her, her fists reflexively balling into gigantic metal fists.

But then the cloaked figure reveals himself, and a wide-eyed Mint nods dully. "... Ahh... yeah...." This is the -second- time that Mint's encountered another fighter in the midst of her being extremely and possibly unacceptably nosy, which, Minal can agree, lends credence to Brandon's assessment of the situation.

She's been asked a question, indirectly. After getting that moment to catch her breath, she relaxes visibly. "Y-yep, that's me! I... it's good to meet you!" She steals a glance at the holographic display on her left gauntlet, slowly nodding in agreement as her defensive posture relaxes. "And ... that would make you... Brandon?" She smiles pleasantly, giving a half-assed curtsy. Because -why not-.

Not long afterwards, the holographic displays flicker out of existence, which brings a frown to Mint's face. "I guess it -was- too easy after all..." she grumbles, slowly turning about to find another face -- someone she'd seen from earlier reconaissance, who just so happens to be matched up with the name she's just seen on her display.

There's playful amusement in Mint's voice as she strides through the R&D section, calling back, "... Someone? Here? No one here but us ghosts in the machine!" With Brandon in tow, she clutches her fists shut, with the small whine of a turbine slowly coming up to speed. Somehow, she suspects this R&D area might be reinforced against casual damage -- or else, why stack the competitors up -here-?

"Oh! There you are." And from Mint's posture, it seems she's ready for a fight... but is Kaede? "I guess Ultratech's not a fan of stadium seating!"

COMBATSYS: Mint has started a fight here.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Mint             0/-------/-------|

COMBATSYS: Brandon has joined the fight here.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////////]
Mint             0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0          Brandon

COMBATSYS: Brandon has joined the fight here on the right meter side.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////////]
Mint             0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0          Brandon

COMBATSYS: Mint has joined the fight here on the right meter side.

                                  >  //////////////////////////////]
                                  |-------\-------\0          Brandon
                                  >  //////////////////////////////]
                                  |-------\-------\0             Mint

COMBATSYS: Kaede has joined the fight here on the left meter side.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////////]
Kaede            0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0          Brandon
                                  >  //////////////////////////////]
                                  |-------\-------\0             Mint

"Indeed. I would be Brandon Malone at your service."

With that, the Arcane P.I. performs a bow in answer to the Corporal's 'half-assed curtsy.' After that, he follows the cyber fisted soldier to the source of the sound already pulling out his deck and shuffling it and giving his cards a charge with his energy before placing them back in his pouch. The cards were already charged but the ritual of shuffling and charging the cards gave him a little bit of comfort as he prepared to march into battle.

He nods to the blue haired martial artist in the gi waiting for him in acknowledgement before he says in response to his team mate's remarks, "You know... I got that sense too, partner. Burial grounds, airship brigs, here... I suppose they are fans of odd fight locations."

With that, he takes his own stance which look oddly reminiscent of a particular, boxing stance. The Hitman aka. the Philly Shell with his hand open right where his pouch would be. Looks like he's ready to go too.

"Pleasure," Kaede says to Brandon, without making it sound like one.

She seems more tense than anything else. This is going to be a hard fight and she's just made it harder on herself. The thought that she /could/ use the item is enough to prevent her from doing so; she doesn't even betray its presence by checking her pocket.

She looks at the tall man for several long moments, almost consideringly, before her gaze passes to the to the... very short woman. With gigantic metal hands. It is not difficult to see what Kaede thinks about them (and, for that matter, her), which is best summed up as 'really??'.

"I see," Kaede says, without going into much detail. "It's their facility. If they want to run this by camera, I suppose it's their right. But don't think I need an audience to do my best."

She gives a bow - short, not quite impolite but working on it. "I am Kaede Mayuzumi. I'll be your opponent today... both of yours." Her eyes track back from fighter to fighter as she shifts her weight, drawing energy into her body. It's not enough to make anything visible happen, though the pressure increases -

Until she suddenly takes a half step forward, driving her hands toward Mint, who is apparently the less prepared of the two. This makes a pair of sparks of flame; one bursts from each hand and orbits a streak of flame that appears in between them as it approaches Mint. The side flames weave a helical pattern in the air as they travel, and the triple fireball explodes into a larger sphere on impact.

She looked like the easier target; in a case like this, Kaede is not adverse for going for a cheap shot before she's ready. It's not like there's a bell in here!

COMBATSYS: Mint blocks Kaede's Helix Flame.

[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////////]
Kaede            0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0          Brandon
                                  >  ///////////////////////////   ]
                                  |=------\-------\0             Mint

Minal returns the bow with one of her own, though with an arched eyebrow -- first to Brandon, then to Kaede. "Man, you two gotta lighten up! It's like talking to a pair of funeral directors in here..."

Less prepared?! While it's true that Mint is certainly a bit more jumpy than the calm and collected P.I., she -has- been run through the Gauntlet, and she's sure as heck not going to assume that someone in a kimono isn't ready to -fight-. She's seen martial arts flicks, she knows how that's supposed to work! When Kaede lunges forward, Mint's gauntlets react before she even fully recognizes the motion, built-in rumble packs helping guide her hands forward. When the fireballs begin to converge on her, the metal gauntlets are already interposing themselves in the way, palms outstretched and fingers splayed to disperse the impact away from Mint's significantly less metallic frame.

"Hah!" she chirps back, as flames nonetheless rocket past, lighting her hair and her pant legs on fire. "Witness the power of my advanced AI! Haha!"

But... instead of aiding in her attack, the turbines on her gauntlets grind to an abrupt halt, as an audible warning sounds:

"... =damn= it..." she mutters. "Brandon! Your turn, pardner!" Mint balls her fists and draws back, while the knucks system counts down until her guidance system comes back on-line. Ahh, technology!

COMBATSYS: Mint focuses on her next action.

[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////////]
Kaede            0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0          Brandon
                                  >  ///////////////////////////   ]
                                  |=------\-------\0             Mint

It's interesting what you can learn from your opponent in the opening moments of the fight. The fact that she went for an energy attack spoke to how comfortable she was flinging it and the helix path spoke to a fairly good of level control. The fact that they had them both matched up against her spoke to a high level of skill because Brandon wasn't exactly a slouch either. Or something else was at play. He had to assume the high level of skill part until he had more information.

He watches as the gauntlets interpose themselves between his ally and the energy. And then the subsequent glitching. "Ummm... Yeah."

He then performs a bit of sleight of hand making a card appear from out of nowhere and into his hand. It's at that moment he begins dashing towards Kaede as he holds up the Empress card which glows for a moment before his entire body is covered in a pale yellow light. And then he plows into her shoulder first.

Meanwhile he's concerned about his team mate. That overload was bad timing for them if she is indeed good enough to be taking them on at the same time.

COMBATSYS: Kaede fails to interrupt III - The Empress from Brandon with Gemini Flare.

[      \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////// ]
Kaede            0/-------/------=|=------\-------\0          Brandon
                                  >  ///////////////////////////   ]
                                  |=------\-------\0             Mint

Kaede is taken aback.

"AI?" she asks. She thought they were proper prosthetics (well, improper prosthetics perhaps, most false arms don't have turbines attached). "You use /AI/ to fight?" She doesn't sound impressed. More... annoyed, honestly.

It's not that AI-controlled gloves can't fight. It's just that that wasn't the kind of battle Kaede was hoping for. Especially when they don't even work right.

Rather than capitalize on the opening, if it is an opening, Kaede deals with Brandon. Or tries to. Cards are surprising. Shoulder tackles are less so. Kaede expels chi again, more than she has before, and a shimmering aura of flame begins to surround her.

Whatever she was trying to do, it doesn't finish before Brandon slams into her. Kaede flies backwards; she manages to land on her feet but stumbles another step, almost hitting some of the computer equipment. She does her best to recover, bringing her hands back up, beginning to regather some of the dispersed chi. It actually visibly swirls around her for a moment before fading back into invisibility.

She's surprised. She wants to see more. And she is hoping, once again, that her match against Riptor's near-failure was a fluke. She /has/ to manage this.

"Well, it..." Mint frowns somewhat at the implications of her own words -- As her gauntlets beeping steadily increases in frequency, she explains, "It's more that since I'm -missing- seven fingers, I have to let the computer guess what I want to do -as- I'm tryin' to -do- it..."

And no, =normally= it doesn't get short circuited so quickly. But as soon as it comes online, it bleats a helpful warning:

"... =damn= it!!" screeches Mint, as she commences to snuff out the flames which had quietly been blazing away while she delivered her explanation. "Rrrrgh! Look, don't count me out just 'cause I can't throw those fireball things!" Is she talking to Kaede... or her own partner?! Mint rocketsforward into a single leaping punch, hoping to crack her right fist right across Kaede's shoulder with enough force to send her spinning! "HAAAA!"

With a flourish of his hand the Empress card disappears. Then with flicks of both wrists tarot cards appear in each of his hands, both bathed in that pale yellow light that's a signature for most of his light manipulations.

The Thaumaturge Investigator had to admit that he's curious about what she was about to do to him purely from an energy stand point since he was pretty much limited to light outside of rituals and since this fire didn't originate from combustible blood. He shudders from the memory of fighting Sada. He hoped that he could one day work past that limitation but for now, he was bound to light.

The revelation about the missing fingers of his team mate elicits a cringe but he doesn't have time to give it any more acknowledgement since it still is a fight.

He gets in close, mimicing the motion of a flicker jab with one card, distracting and harassing before stabbing the other card in the abdomen with the similar motion to throwing a straight punch. If the cards connect, they'll release that energy in a burst of light.

COMBATSYS: Kaede dodges Brandon's Medium Strike.

[      \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////// ]
Kaede            0/-------/------=|=------\-------\0          Brandon
                                  >  ///////////////////////////   ]
                                  |=------\-------\0             Mint

COMBATSYS: Kaede blocks Mint's Haymaker Punch.

[        \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////// ]
Kaede            0/-------/----===|=------\-------\0          Brandon
                                  >  ///////////////////////////   ]
                                  |==-----\-------\0             Mint

Kaede obtains slightly more respect for Mint once she hears about the missing fingers. Slightly. Kaede, of course, still has a pretty significant ego; she's sure she's better, or they wouldn't have booked her for a two on one. Still, it's good to overcome your limits.

"Oh, I don't," Kaede says. That, at least, is completely honest. A style is a style, and while of course she likes hers, she recognizes that others are useful, too. She'd never settle on one like Mint's, though - it's too limited.

Plus, she has all her fingers.

But just because Kaede primarily uses chi manipulation doesn't mean she doesn't recognize perfectly mundane fighting. Brandon tries a straight punch, and Kaede deals with it in the simplest way. There's not a lot of room for her to maneuver, but she slips sideways, hopping up onto a rolling cart and balancing there for a moment.

Mint rockets in on the follow-up. Kaede, already up high, has to crouch; she takes the impact on her hands. Ordinarily she would not have tried to simply absorb all the force from Mint's gigantic fists like that, but - on the cart - she can manage it, because it sends her rolling backwards. The cart squeaks. Even Ultratech apparently abuses those things.

Kaede leaps off the cart as it continues to roll. She tries to not kick Mint so much as spring off her shoulders with both feet, sending Kaede flying across the room, leaping right past Brandon, and leaving Mint with solid impacts to stagger her forward; if she misses, she's just going to hit the ground and sprint instead, moving to an even more crowded area of the room. That area has the catwalk access.

COMBATSYS: Mint interrupts Heavy Kick from Kaede with Foxtrot Oscar.
- Power hit! -

[            \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////// ]
Kaede            0/-------/--=====|=------\-------\0          Brandon
                                  >  ///////////////////////       ]
                                  |===----\-------\0             Mint

Mint is still paying -some- attention to her teammate; situational awareness is something the Marine has been trying to polish up on, after all. So she's vaguely aware of his use of cards and light, and... well, it certainly =looks= cool, but she can only gauge how much the attacks hurt by how they affect Kaede. And judging from how much she seems to want more...

Maybe she'll go over the fight logs the next time Ultratech confines her to a room. Too much to think about now, with Kaede using the wheels of a cart to blunt the impact from Mint's punch. "Hey, thats--" she starts to retort -- but then Kaede's trying to leap at her.

Honestly, Mint doesn't know that she's about to be used as a stepping stone to get to the catwalk access. She just sees Kaede coming for her feet-first. And the first thing that comes to mind is, as typical for a boxer, to punch back. While Kaede's leading knee manages to box Mint in the ear, the slugger's gauntlet connects with her trailing hip. "OWW!" howls Mint as she shimmies off to the side a step or two, but she follows up by swinging another three punches blindly, each blow sounding with a high-pitched hiss of turbine-fed air.

"Ow, ugh... " Mint stammers as she pulls back, her vision starting to double and triple up on her. "You're pretty quick...!" she comments, sensing the need to make up for the quiet in the room.

As the flicker jab and straight fail to connect the cards disappear from his finger tips as a couple of new cards appear. He can only watch as Kaede leaps up on the cart and then subsequently gets sent rolling backwards on the cart.

He realizes that she's going towards Mint and he sees that his team mate is going to smack her around in the air. At least part of his plans have to change. As Mint connects with those three punches, he makes one of those cards disappear and is quickly replaces that card with another one.

As Kaede starts descending down to the ground, he holds up the Magician card sending a tightly formed ball of light right towards the landing point hoping to catch her while she's still in the air. Then he chases after his ball of energy while keeping the other card behind him.

COMBATSYS: Brandon successfully hits Kaede with I - The Magician.

[              \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////////////  ]
Kaede            0/-------/=======|==-----\-------\0          Brandon
                                  >  ///////////////////////       ]
                                  |===----\-------\0             Mint

The sudden hammering of Kaede by Mint does succeed in preventing Kaede from launching herself as far as she would like to go. She hits the ground at a bad angle and rolls into a collection of gear rather than clearing it midjump. It makes a hell of a clatter, and it can't have been comfortable for Kaede - on top of being slugged by Mint, which is a whole different (bigger) set of not fun.

Kaede being in the pile of equipment makes her an easier target for the ball of power. Picking herself up out of the collection, it's possible she didn't even see it coming; she manages to get one hand up to keep it away from her face, but that only means her hand gets smacked instead, causing the spark to burst with a bright flash.

She's doing it again. She's losing. She /should/ have taken Ultratech up on it. Kaede seethes internally. Why did she cripple herself that way? She's going to have to tell them she wants another chance -

But that's for later. Right now she has a problem to deal with.

Kaede begins to gather power. More than she was before, it's visible around her now; a halo of red-white energy, a corona that sometimes wisps into flame near the extremities of the flare. The sudden appearance of the aura knocks the equipment away, leaving her momentarily at the center of a spray of gear, but it doesn't last; she just stands there, the chi building as she focuses, hands in front of her.

"I might be fast," Kaede says, "but right now I'm more interested in /power/. You want to see what I can do? Come over here!"

COMBATSYS: Kaede gathers her will.

[              \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////////////  ]
Kaede            1/----===/=======|==-----\-------\0          Brandon
                                  >  ///////////////////////       ]
                                  |===----\-------\0             Mint

Mint realizes that she shouldn't be 100% aggression, not with her partner throwing energized cards all over the place. She wouldn't want to get caught up in collateral damage, after all!

But now... she's starting to get a better idea of what Kaede's all about: Power. It's kind of scary, Mint notes, for someone to just up and admit that, but hey, to each their own.

While Mint passes a brief glance at her partner, she snaps her gaze back to Kaede just in time to see her blast a whole bunch of equipment out of the way. "... Man, take it -easy- with that stuff! I haven't gotten a chance to inventory it all yet, I mean, some of it could even be explosi--"


Mint is already hunched down with both her hands over her head, at the slightest -start- of the explosion. "SEE?! SEE?!" she shouts back over the roar of the small detonation that'd just gone off. Ultratech -is- a weapons manufacturer, after all! "Gosh! Are you trying to get us all -killed?!"

Mint brings both her fists to her sides, and with a whirring and clacking motion, eight cylinders pop back into their primed position. "On second though, don't answer that!" Mint charges forward without any further hesitation -- a ninety-degree angle from Brandon's approach -- levelling two body blows at Kaede, breathing out with each punch. The pugilist isn't -totally- relying on the technology, after all...

Brandon skids to a halt as he makes the cards disappear with one being used and one being rendered useless. Another card appears in his hand instead. He begins to approach Kaede however the combination of the explosion and then the rant about power causes the Thaumaturgic Brawler to hesitate.

He has heard that type of talk from humans and darkstalkers alike and every time that he heard it, things got really bad. It's because of this, he's actually considering reaching for direct access to his energy because if things get desperate enough, he just might need to put his body through the pain and stress to required to put her down. That being said, he has an ally which may allow waiting a bit more before tapping into his power.

He can feel his energy stirring inside him waiting for the bonds placed upon them to be released but he ignores it for the time being as he glances to the card a moment before he performs a trio of slashes with it and then makes that card disappear.

COMBATSYS: Kaede blocks Brandon's Random Strike.

[               \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////////////  ]
Kaede            1/---====/=======|=------\-------\0          Brandon
                                  >  ///////////////////////       ]
                                  |==-----\-------\0             Mint

COMBATSYS: Kaede blocks Mint's Body Blow.

[                 \\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////////////  ]
Kaede            1/--=====/=======|=------\-------\0          Brandon
                                  >  ///////////////////////       ]
                                  |===----\-------\0             Mint

And just think: Kaede didn't even mean it that way. All she meant is that she is gathering power, right now, with a rather dramatic flare.

The rest of it is mostly true too, mind you. She just advertises it less. But she is really regretting not going along with Ultratech last time. Maybe she'll write them a better note... assuming they didn't take advantage of the fight to read her first one.

Kaede's flare was not explosive - it just threw stuff away from her, a burst of force. Her chi when she /expels/ it, on the other hand, can be explosive, but right now she's restrained herself, at least mostly. (Who knows what she was doing the time Brandon interrupted her by shoulder-checking her.)

Braced as she is, with the added resistance of pushing through the gathering, thickening chi, Kaede manages to protect herself effectively from both incoming strikes. Not perfectly, of course. Mint in particular nearly batters Kaede off her feet with the pair of body blows, though she tries to keep the worst of the injury away from her body. Brandon nearly gets in too, but his chi is blunted - Kaede is very, very good at protecting herself from energy.

Kaede grunts with the impacts. "I am - a master - of Shunpatsuryokuken! I will show you what I can do!"

And somewhere in there, Kaede managed to do something with her hands. Performing specific movements as she learned in the Secret Arts, she focuses the power. It swirls around her, gathering, thickening...

...and a second Kaede appears. This one, though, is not a perfect double; it is made of fire, thickened chi, and it darts toward Brandon. It slams forward, driving fist after fist at the investigator as Kaede concentrates on it, holding it together -

And after about five steps, it /does/ explode in a shockwave of fire and heat, detonating with sufficient force to set Kaede's hair blowing backwards and to launch some more of the junk scattered around. It actually melts a couple things too (oops). Kaede is pretty hard on her surroundings sometimes.

As an assault breacher mechanic, Cpl Panesh has had to teach explosives safety to several of the new recruits. Admittedly, the task has gotten much easier since losing her hands to an IED in Afghanistan, but she still has to stress one thing in particular: if the bomb blows up, you'll still get written up and/or court martialed whether you'd -wanted- it to or not. She... kind of takes explosives safety seriously now.

Kaede is proving to be remarkably resilient, even against her reinforced fists. Beneath all this powerful chi, Minal knows there's a real life, flesh-and-blood human under there -- and she's mindful of that in that she doesn't want to completely destroy her internal organs. But, at the same time, she doesn't want to give any less than her best in fighting someone who's clearly her better, here. Especially a master of Shunpatsu... Shun... pa... Look, she can say long -Indian- words, but this Japanese is blowing her mind.

So she takes a different tack, while chambering her knuckles for another strike. "Oh, a -master?- Are you taking on students?" It's highly doubtful that Mint would actually sign up for classes or anything, but if she can distract the master, then perhaps another of her attacks will land! She steps in, flurrying a few left-handed jabs in Kaede's direction before following up with a wide right hook for the Shunpatsuryokuken master's jaw!

COMBATSYS: Kaede successfully hits Brandon with Gemini Phantom.

[                 \\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////////////         ]
Kaede            0/-------/----===|=====--\-------\0          Brandon
                                  >  ////////////////////////      ]
                                  |===----\-------\0             Mint

He can sense that energy coming towards him and what's more, he knows that what is coming is going to hurt... A lot. The flame formed version of Kaede darts in and charges him. And as this flame formed fighter bares down on him he brings his arms up in a boxer's guard trying to bolster his defense with his aura. The flames burn through his guard leaving his sleeves burnt off up to the elbow, his white vest and tie thoroughly singed and his fedora completely blown back and on fire and himself on his back and in a lot of pain.

He rises back to his feet, not even bothering to go after the fedora and there's a bit of amusement on his face in spite of the fact that he got blown off his feet. "I actually have something similar to that."

And while he speaks the truth, he doesn't utilize it because when it comes down to it. He's not out to impress her. Just to get the job done.

The Strength card appears in his hand, illuminated by a bright light a few moments before he charges in and delivers a powerful chi enhanced palm strike to her stomach with the card in question driven in so he push that energy in. When he draws back his hand, the tarot card is gone.

COMBATSYS: Brandon successfully hits Kaede with VIII - Strength.
- Power hit! -

[                       \\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////          ]
Kaede            0/-------/-======|=======\-------\0          Brandon
                                  >  ////////////////////////      ]
                                  |===----\-------\0             Mint

COMBATSYS: Mint successfully hits Kaede with Hook Punch.

[                          \\\\  < >  ////////////////////          ]
Kaede            1/-------/=======|=======\-------\0          Brandon
                                  >  ////////////////////////      ]
                                  |===----\-------\0             Mint

"Not yet," is Kaede's snap answer. She refuses to be too distracted by the question. "Why do you think I'm entered here?"

She needs to see what she can do. And the more she sees, the more she realizes: it's just not enough. Kaede really should have taken Ultratech's offer. She can't do it without, no matter how much she wanted to be able to. She'd have felt pretty good about herself if she could have taken down one of them with the other still fighting her.

And she can't. She doesn't even think she got close.

Both of her opponents manage to land solid blows on Kaede. Mint's right hook hits Kaede square in the jaw; it doesn't break but the sheer shock of it rattles her. It leaves her unable to properly respond to Brandon because she's been stunned.

Kaede lets out a sound best described as 'guh' while she staggers away from the fist, only to get a gut-punch from Brandon, energized with chi. She felt that. She really felt that one. She isn't about to pass out, quite, but she doesn't think she can fight much more.

And so rather than preserve her power, give it out in measured doses, Kaede discharges everything she has left. Brandon is the worst damaged, and so she aims at him, mostly to try to do something - anything - effective; she thrusts her hand out, a palm-strike at Brandon. It's not quite close enough to connect.

The white-hot lance of flame that jets out from her palm is absolutely close enough, though; a beam so bright it's painful, expelled out about two feet before simply ending. It's more than just power: it's well-controlled. Kaede knows her stuff.

Unfortunately, it takes everything remaining from her to manage it. She sinks down to one knee afterwards, unable to quite rise or completely catch her breath. "Damn it...!"

She can't do it herself. Even with everything she's learned, all the power she's gathered, it's not enough...

COMBATSYS: Kaede can no longer fight.

                                  >  ////////////////////          ]
                                  |=======\-------\0          Brandon
                                  >  ////////////////////////      ]
                                  |===----\-------\0             Mint

COMBATSYS: Brandon reflects Blast Lancer from Kaede with IV - The Emperor.

                                  >  ///////////////////           ]
                                  |=======\-------\0          Brandon
                                  >  ////////////////////////      ]
                                  |===----\-------\0             Mint

Multiple factors come into play in that incredibly short moment between the palm strike that stops short of him and the precisely delivered lance of flame thrusting out towards him. First there's his own sense of the movement of energy around him indicating what she was about to do. There's an innate sense for which of his cards is the right card for the job. Then his hand speed comes into play, not only drawing the card quickly but also making the card appear as if by magic.

Brandon's card, The Emperor, is suddenly in hand, bathed in light as a circular shield forms in front of him, intercepting the white hot lance before it can make contact with him and redirecting it. Normally, when he uses that card, he'll redirect that energy either into center of mass or towards the source of energy. Seeing that she's pretty much done and down on one knee, he opts to use a bit of control of his own to turn the energy upward, forcing it to lance just above her shoulder missing her though the heat from it could probably still be felt. He's not out to kill her, after all.

In that moment, he's grateful he didn't reach in to access his power directly. Accessing that power comes with costs. He loses control over both what the power does to his opponents let alone what it does to him. He's not confident that he would be able to keep from harming her beyond what was necessary plus the potential for setting off any explosive weapons in proximity was significantly higher.

It takes a few moments for the adrenaline high to wear off, but when it does, the exhaustion hits him hard and he falls backwards to take both a seat and lots of deep breaths.

The life of an assault breacher mechanic in the Corps is filled with boring, mundane things. But since the start of her leave, Minal Panesh has been experiencing progressively more surreal things: a gigantic snake, a criminal cartel hellbent on killing her, and... a -second- criminal cartel hellbent on killing her. And the pain, oh god, the pain... any time she tries to think about what happened after her capture, Panesh is overwhelmed with an intense wave of emotion, never quite able to identify enough tangible sensations to really put words to the experience.

So all these wispy illusions, these... manifestations of flame and energy? She's predisposed to think of them as hazards: either things she can punch, like cards, or things she can't, like flame. Punching is visceral, tangible, concrete: it's a clear and direct way to deal with the things she's encountering. And she's exceptionally pleased to see that the heretofore metaphysical Brandon is taking her implied advice and just doling out a killer punch to the abdomen... well, that draws a grin from Mint as she draws back. "Yeah, see? Boxing is the -purest- way to fight!" chirps the Marine with the cybernetic enhancements.

Kaede seems to think otherwise, preferring to fight with her palm, and then a white-hot lance of energy -- and Mint stays around for neither one, hopping back to safety as she peripherally notes Brandon's card rerouting the energy aside. Gingerly hopping from one foot to the other, her attention is fixed firmly on Kaede: she can only appreciate the forces at play by observing how her loose and overly long hair is tossed about in the wake of the attack.

While Kaede falls, Mint continues to bob about, albeit with a slight frown. While her turbines are still spinning rapidly, she notices Brandon's energy level beginning to flag -- and her frown grows a bit more.

Upon realizing the fight is over, with no officials to declare the fight over, she tentatively begins, "Sooooo..."
Right at that moment, two holographic avatars appear: one next to the now-seated Brandon, and one next to Mint. Victory is proclaimed in a digitally-refined voice. Mint realizes that she wasn't really... /conscious/ for the end of her last fight... so, this is how it's done? The Marine shrugs and grins cheerfully back at her teammate, flexing her bicep as she raises one fist to the ceiling. "... Well I guess that's it, then! Victory to Team Brandomint!"

The corporal's battleframe turbines begin spinning down at this point. She looks back at Kaede, thoughtfully, giving her a small bow with equal measures of courtesy and apology. "Oh, and thanks for the fight! Sorry they stuffed you against -both- of us, but I'm sure we'll meet aga--"
In mid-sentence, the corporal abruptly holds up one metal finger and begins moving to a display, her expression shifting from apologetic to... devoid of any feeling whatsoever. What is it that captured her attention so? A computer display, from the looks of it...
To an onlooker, said computer display has been constant throughout the entire fight. But Mint doesn't see the display; instead, she sees the reflection of her commanding officer.

"Understood. Right away, sir."
Her mechanical hands snap up to the nearest keyboard and begin typing away, filling the screen with lines upon lines of coding gobbledygook.

COMBATSYS: Mint takes no action.

                                  >  ///////////////////           ]
                                  |=======\-------\0          Brandon
                                  >  ////////////////////////      ]
                                  |===----\-------\0             Mint

Kaede is beaten, and she knows it.

Brandon reflects her beam back at her, though it doesn't connect, as he wasn't trying to; it goes past her face, giving it a weird set of rather stark shadows for the few instants that it exists. When the light clears, she's squinting, the bright light having temporarily blinded her.

The announcement of victory - and not for her - only makes it official. Kaede lets a hiss out through her teeth as Mint skips off to... poke at a computer. She's less important than a computer. Great.

Kaede manages to push herself up to her feet. The first time Brandon's eyes leave her, she vanishes. Not supernaturally: no teleporting, no invisibility. She just leaves, unable to fight and unwilling to sit around, shamed by her relatively easy defeat.

Next time, she's not going to turn Ultratech down.

COMBATSYS: Brandon has left the fight here.

                                  >  ////////////////////////      ]
                                  |===----\-------\0             Mint

Log created on 18:00:18 09/03/2015 by Kaede, and last modified on 18:50:50 09/10/2015.