Neo League 0143 - NL#0150: Leona vs Mint

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Description: A Neo League fight between Leona Heidern and Minal Panesh turns into a clandestine sharing of military information and secrets as the contest goes from fighting ring, the pool hall.

Australia is a continent with no shortage of threats to one's well-being -- carnivorous fauna, searing temperatures, and raging wildfires just to name a few! But right now, life is pretty good in the city of Sydney, here at the very start of summer. Scant clouds drift by, painted pink from the light of a setting sun.

Corporal Panesh -- aka "Mint" -- is determined to enjoy the blustery breeze blowing in along the coast of Sydney Harbor, decked out in an OD Green t-shirt and baggy cargo pants. Plastic fingers lightly grip the guardrails overlooking the harbor. Mint closes her eyes to better enjoy the cool breeze on her face. On the cobblestone beside her are two rather large cylinders of carbon fiber and polished steel -- recognizable as the Special Forces fighter's weapons of choice.

There might not be a performance -inside- the Syndey Opera House, but it's clear that an event has been booked just outside it, gauging from the dozens of people gathered about in bleachers. Temporary barriers cordon off an octagon in the center of a wide expanse of cobblestone -- the site of an impending Neo League fight!

The Neo-League. It is not the kind of social scene she should be a part of. It is not one she is entirely comfortable with, the promoters and the organizers are not her people. Thankfully, there are liaisons that handle the matters that matter. It is only through their efforts that the silent soldier, Leona Heidern, is present in Australia for another training session through the Neo-League's competitive roster.

Leona is her taciturn self as she ties her hair up and tight against the steady bluster coming off the ocean. Stone-faced and cold, she gives off a violent aura and a killing intent. So much the production crews are avoiding the serious woman as she prepares herself for combat. Though in reality, she is enjoying the wonderful view of the waters as she desperately tries to organize the thoughts in her head and prepare herself for her true mission: information dissemination.

A combat presentation is the easiest way to guarantee a meeting, and the premise of fight training serves as excuse. It is all a complicated deception, Leona finds, but it is something that she knows she can do. She just needs to get ready for it. Compared to the threat of conversation, those heavy gauntlets are a welcome contest.

There are much, much better places for social interaction than Neo League. Coffee shops, bookstores, shopping malls -- these are available in any major city, from Sydney all the way back to Minal's home of northern New Jersey. In these sacrosanct havens of commerce, physical combat is an exception rather than the rule.

Sometimes it can get a little stuffy, really.

Mint's nose wriggles. Her toes begin to tap against the railing. Staying in one place is something she's had to get used to after her duty shift. And staying in one place is also making her antsy. Neo League is a quick fix, a departure from the norm, a gust of fresh air. A change of the winds -- not unlike the audible shift in the timbre of the production crews and the audience that heralds the arrival of her competitor. The chatter of the crowd falls silent, thick with anticipation.

Mint's eyes pop open, accompanied by a broad smile. She steps away from the fence, artificial hands flung to either side for an impromptu stretch. Her eyes shimmer with reflected light as they separate Leona from the crowd.

One soldier finds another: Leona's stone-faced calm snaps her back to the moment. The reason she wanted a Neo League fight -- to feel the rush of adrenaline that's simply not possible in her nine-to-five shift.

"Hi!" chirps out the corporal. No need for office or rank -- she's off-duty, after all. "It's 'Leona,' right? I recognize you from the videos!"

The corporal takes the few short steps to her armaments. Crouching down, she punches in a quick access code on one of the devices. She speaks, her voice barely audible over the wind: "Voice authorization: Mint, Bravo Foxtrot Golf." And with that signal given, the cylinders split apart at the seams. From each cylinder, a small turbine engine swivels out. Mint presses her plastic palms into the voids left behind. The cylinders eagerly split apart at the seams, metal and carbon fiber swallowing her forearms whole. Mechanical fists spring out from the cylinders, bionic digits flexing as Mint rises to her full 4'9" height.

The audience oohs and ahhs. All by design of course: Mint intended the 'suit-up' animation to be functional -and- elegant. She basks in the crowd's adulation with a proud smile -- though she remains mindful in keeping her gaze locked upon Leona.

"It's an honor to have the chance to fight you one-on-one! You're kind of a badass, y'know?" The diminutive Special Forces tech is practically beaming at the opportunity; it's clear she meant the comment as a compliment. Her mechanical servos whirr and click as she clenches her fists in excitement. "Are you ready to get this thing started?"

A cold look, distant and rigid. Aloof and even predatorily cold eyes look Mint over and visual dissect her. The size of the woman, the vocal inflections, the information. Calculations made for approach vectors. Calculations made on strike points. Calculations made on when and how would be the best way to pass off information in a way that isn't awkward and too-direct as to lose meaning.

Missions were always more easy; attend to the objective in the most effective and efficient manner possible. No time to get caught up in emotions. No chance to lose focus and lose yourself. No confusion when succeed and survive becomes everything.

Leona finally just breathes in deeply and fixes the snap on the wrist of her glove. She looks over Mint's mechanical marvels. An interesting approach and one Leona is internally anticipating a demonstration of. She wondered the physics, the control, the technique that such things would imply. She also liked machinery in its organized purposeful design.

Wait. Her opponent was talking to her. Leona wonders for a moment if she had missed much. "You are my target," she states, stepping closer, quickly looking for where the taped marks were for the Neo-League organizers to call positions. "Let the mission commence."

COMBATSYS: Mint has started a fight here.

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

COMBATSYS: Leona has joined the fight here.

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Mint             0/-------/------=|-------\-------\0            Leona

Mint surmises she's at a tactical disadvantage to Leona in a number of ways, the most obvious of which is height. Her oversized gauntlets may counteract her otherwise relative lack of reach, but that can only carry her so far. But -- perhaps more than that, the corporal can see the look in Leona's eyes. And the way in which her words aren't ... really hitting their targets.

At least, that's how it seems until Leona steps closer, piping up. Mint follows along, smile increasing fractionally as she nods in agreement. "And you are -my- target," she replies with an impish grin, raising her balled fists to her face to put emphasis to the point.

It becomes clear to Mint that Leona's pretty serious. Whether that's about fighting, or this 'mission' that just happens to involve fighting, is a mystery the corporal might never solve. However, one thing remains clear -- she can't remember winning a fight against someone serious where she wasn't also serious. Seriously!

Mint pads over to her mark, hopping lightly from one foot to the other as she lets her gauntlets hang loose by her sides -- her knuckles swinging precariously close to the pavers.

The announcers work the crowd to a fever pitch, now that both fighters are in position. Mint doubles her fists before her defensively, drawing in her breath. She trades her friendly features for a more serious look. Even as the announcer is about to begin, she whispers the words -- more for herself than for anyone else, really -- "Mission start!"

The word is given.

And almost instantly, Mint leaps into action, striding to close the distance to Leona with her left foot forward. She swings in close with a right jab, then lunges into a powerful left hook. The real terror though is in the punch that follows, a right uppercut aimed at showing the Ikari Warrior just how much power this little dynamo can spit out! "HA! HA! OOOORAAAAH!"

COMBATSYS: Leona blocks Mint's Knuckle Dragger.

[  \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////////////  ]
Mint             0/-------/-----==|=------\-------\0            Leona

Leona is serious, she always is, she needs to be. Just in case it happens again. But in the moment of the fight, everything slips to easy focus. She has her purpose. She has control.

Leona stands her ground, pivoting to put more of her weight onto her back foot than her front. She plans to play the distance game over her shorter opponent. A judgement made; heavy weight and short legs suggests quick lateral motion may not be her opponent's forte.

The strike comes, Leona's arms raise in a guard. She turns with the blows; left and then right, glancing off the first one and rolling off the second. The scrape, the scrapes hurt, but nothing lands clean enough to call a direct hit. But she has seen the force, and Leona believes she knows the right movement forward.

"Target engaged," she states, the words coming monotone and factual. Before Leona uses pushes off that weight back foot to mantle Mint's mechanics. A springboarding bounces and Leona rotates in the air, clashing her wrists together in an X formation. The resulting burst of chi comes point blank, scorching and cutting in equal measure at such close range.

COMBATSYS: Mint blocks Leona's X-Caliber Assault.

[    \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////   ]
Mint             0/-------/---====|==-----\-------\0            Leona

When closing the gap to her opponent, Mint's pace uses more leaps and bounds than strides and steps. For such a tiny fighter, she knows how to swing those gauntlets around for maximal effect, driving in close despite the height discrepancy between herself and Leona. Once she realizes Leona has rolled away, she straightens the path of her uppercut, pivoting about it like a fulcrum rather than allow it to act as an unwanted anchor.

As luck would have it, keeping her right arm upward seems to have been an advantage -- for it takes only a quick shift downward for the armored limb to act as a shield. Energy sizzles across the carbon fiber finish, the material creaking from the leading edges of the wavefront. The remainder of the attack slicing into her shoulder; Mint draws in her breath with a sharp hiss. "Tch..."

Undeterred, she hops backward to catch her breath, placing that strike into context. Her lips curl into a slight grin as she lowers her chin.

And then in the next instant, she surges forward again. This time she vaults upward, apexing a meter away from Leona before crashing down with an outstretched fist. If contact is made, there will be one audible difference -- the hiss of air pressure escaping pistons, as the mechanisms inside Mint's knuckles give her punch a little more of a kick! "Rrrr-HAA!"

COMBATSYS: Mint successfully hits Leona with Dash Punch.

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Mint             0/-------/-======|=====--\-------\0            Leona

Step aside, move with the motion, slip around and strike. Lessons taught, lessons learned. To feel the rhythm of the fight and to move with each beat of the internal drum. To fight with unconscious effort. To dominate and control a battlefield.

Boots land, scraping on the ground. A turn, leap and roll out of the way. Pistons unaccounted for. Mistakes. Pain. Unbalance. Leona feels the ground move away from her. She feels the heavy weight of Mint's gauntlet. She hears the piston's cry. A burst of pain, then nothing, and then the ground again.

She holds, not losing balance, spread out, fingertips sliding, scratched as her feet remain posted. She slips away from Mint and has to breathe a moment to recall her vision. To see the blurred image of her opponent fall back into form.

She clucks her tongue, knows her mistake. The pressure is on, and so she makes for her escape. She reaches up for her ear. Removing her earring with a tug, she flicks the bauble toward Mint. A clouded, bursting explosive rings out in hopes of getting Leona some needed distance and time to reclaim her momentum.

COMBATSYS: Leona successfully hits Mint with Earring Explosive EX.

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

Panesh's boots hit the ground not long after the point of impact. She pauses, watching the results of her controlled experiment. It's been a while since she's been in combat outside of controlled circumstances. Reacclimation to the ebb and flow of battle will take some time.

After a moment to catch her own breath, Mint hits the ground running again, arms raised level to her sides like airplane wings. Though Mint does realize that... -something- is going to happen before she gets there.

It's bright. It's shiny. And that means it's probably explosive of some kind.

Mint doesn't do well with explosives. And she's moving much too quickly to shift direction sharply. Eyes widen -- and just as quickly, shut in reflexive fear. She ducks her head down, with the 'airplane' pulling a quick barrel roll, her arms swinging sideways and legs pulling off the ground. Just enough time for the explosion to hit her full on in the torso instead of the face. Mixed blessings, there, as the detonation stops her momentum cold.

Mint drops to the ground on her side, wincing in pain. Sucking air through her teeth, she rolls sideways, using a quick burst of vectored thrust from her right arm's turbine engine to kick her back to her feet. For the moment, it seems as if Leona's gambit to get more distance and time has paid off, for the littlest Corporal is a bit winded for the moment, the lower hem of her shirt now singed and threadbare. She clenches her fists at shoulder-height, marching slowly towards Leona as she puts together her next strategy.

"That was a dirty trick there, but I'm here for it," she admits with a faint grin.

COMBATSYS: Mint focuses on her next action.

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Mint             1/-----==/=======|=======\-------\0            Leona

The blast serves its purpose. It buys the time and lets Leona get her bearings. The world falls into a stable pattern again. She can feel the ground under her, and though she remains low and near feral in posture, she is able to judge her approach.

"Direct hit," she mutters to herself. And then she is off. She doesn't have time to give to speaking or pontification. She has to be on top of the situation at a moment's notice. Her run is characteristically low, but with someone like Mint, that may not put Leona as out of reach as with most other fighters. Still, she has her habits and her serpentine dash takes her close in. She drops one arm low, a knife-edged hand, and it rips through the air, bursting into a blazing blade of blue chi she uses to rise up and cleave at Minal's chest. The blow has enough force that, with momentum, Leona carries it through with a sharply rising series of leaping kicks.

COMBATSYS: Leona successfully hits Mint with Gliding Buster.

[               \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////////////         ]
Mint             1/<<<<<<</<<<<<<<|=======\-------\1            Leona

Mint remembers how some fighters work. Some like an up-close-and-personal slugfest. And others like to keep their distance. But seeing someone way taller than her dropping down to her level for an approach is... a novel experience for Mint.

"What the--" she mumbles while taking a quick hop backwards. She activates the boosters on her jet turbines, but Leona's ground-skimming approach is much too fast for her to put them to full use. Chi shears upwards, warping the air as it slams into Minal's chest, knocking her upwards. Mint howls out with pain, her body ratcheting back and forth with each successive midair blow.

Mint topspins backwards from the last hit -- the dazing blows forcing her to drop to one of her metal hands for stability. But as she flashes a determined look back, she not only rises back to her feet -- she -thunders- towards Leona, with twin plumes of orange in her wake!. Both jet engines catapult her forward at high speed -- and this time it's the left punch that seeks to make full-thrust contact with Leona's abdomen! "OOOORAAAAH!"

COMBATSYS: Mint successfully hits Leona with MOAB.

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

Mint crashes down hard into Leona. A direct, jet powered punch that lands with a crashing cacophony. Slamming Leona down into the pavement. Air pushed from her lungs, gravity letting slip, the silent soldier gasping out as she scatters off the ground and rolls, tumbling, fumbling on the pavement.

Roaring pain surges through her, from her gut to her toes, a ringing in her ears is a nasty distraction that dominates her mind as she pushes up to her feet. She sags for a moment, breathing caught up with her hammering heart. She looks across to Mint. And she wipes her mouth with the back of her glove. Tactical assessment required, but the force the little soldier brings is reassuring in a way. But that is for after the combat. The post mission mission.

Leona lopes forward. She leans far enough forward that her fingertips brush the ground in an almost three-point stance. She checks her left arm, holding her hand in a sharp knife's edge that sheathes itself in a sudden flare of explosive energy. That same energy that comes lancing forward for Mint's chest at a speed that sucks the air in behind Leona's wake.

COMBATSYS: Leona successfully hits Mint with Leona Blade.

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

An object at rest stays at rest. Mint didn't get into the fighting scene to stay at rest -- she wants to keep moving, as much as humanly possible! Even if that, occasionally, results in considerable damage to herself. She's always felt a need to prove herself, and fights like this are no exception.

This time, when her fist lands true, she doesn't ease up on the pressure. With Leona now hurtling ahead of her, Mint throws her right fist forward, resuming her jet-boosted acceleration even as her legs struggle to keep pace. She may have gotten an earring bomb for her trouble last time, but she feels she's a bit more prepared this time...

And if it were another earring bomb, that might have been true. But a sudden blade of explosive energy streaking into her center mass, well, that's a -bit- harder to avoid. She skews her fists up, hoping the jet thrust can power her over the attack -- but to no avail! The emerald energy burns, a pained yelp escaping her lips as her forward momentum is reversed. Jet engine output drops to idle as a safety measure, as Mint's body ragdolls backwards in a wild spin.

She bounces when she hits the pavers -- a loud, ugly series of clanks and more fleshy thumps. The last bounce brings her to a tilted tripod stance, one bent arm barely keeping the corporal from pitching over. Mint shakes her head, dazed momentarily.

And then her eyes focus. She draws in a ragged breath. Pain lances through her body -- and yet, she forges a smile. "I can -do- this!" A barely audible whisper. But then her eyes screw shut , as she forcibly wills the pain away. "/I CAN DO THIS!/" she shouts, at the top of her lungs!

Orange plumes of flame spout from the nozzles of her jet turbines. Mint roars to her feet! And soon she's thundering towards Leona, starting with a body blow and then segueing into a right hook! She'd continue to blast forward, her jet engines alternating fire pattern to keep her zipping forward with each successive punch. A left cross. A right uppercut. A left straight. A bionic knee strike, for variety! And then if those connect she'd unleash a whirling backfist, aiming to clock Leona hard in the shoulder with the broadside of her armored gauntlet, before her alternate gauntlet can catch up to the pace with one final dazing punch! "YEEEEAH!"

COMBATSYS: Mint successfully hits Leona with Alpha Mike Foxtrot.
Grazing Hit

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Mint             0/-------/------=|=======\-------\0            Leona

That should've finished the fight. A stab and an ending. But the petite Panesh has more power in her left to go. Leona's exhalation is sharp, feeling the burn of exertion, but it's respectful. She could do without the shouting, however. That was a bit much.

But the power that bursts forward from the roaring turbines, the contrail leaving bludgeoning that comes, that is something Leona Heidern respects. She too, is someone for whom combat must be ever in motion, and this is no different. She intends to duck, weave, and slip around the heavy haymakers of doom. However, the oversized parts of the fist, the shape of them, their difference from Minal's slight size throws off Leona's internal gauge just enough. It isn't the worst of it, but the battering bruises and bashes a tucked and curled Leona.

It is only well into the combination that Leona grasps the focus to pull herself out of it, to roll under the final hammer blow and to give Leona the freedom to take to the air. With her window presented, Leona clashes her arms together for a strong enough blast that it hurls Leona herself clear away from Mint, rolling the silent soldier in the air to land a secure distance away.

COMBATSYS: Leona successfully hits Mint with X-Caliber.

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Mint             0/-------/---====|===----\-------\0            Leona

Meditation isn't always quiet time! Some martial arts -demand- that their practitioners shout out a kiai whenever delivering their attacks. It's just a different kind of focus... that has a side effect of disrupting an opponent's focus. At least that's how Mint understands it...

Those shouts came along with enough of an adrenaline boost for the petite fighter to power through the pain. She will most definitely feel this fight for the next few days -- possibly even longer. But it's a good kind of pain, the kind that breaks down muscles so they can grow back stronger! But Minal will worry about that later -- for her immediate concern is stalling her momentum, or burning up all her fuel. As Leona rolls under the hammer blow, Mint angles her fists up, giving her that little boost to hop over Leona -- a coordinated dance of sorts that has Mint landing even lower than before.

And then it hits her -- the rippling energy blast that barrels down, causing her fatigue-riddled body to collapse, to fly backwards a good few meters as the turbines snuff back to an air-rippling idle. She hits the ground in a tumble, her roll stopped only by the broadside of her left arm chocking into the pavers. "Ugghhh!" she exclaims with a wince, eyes screwing shut from the pain.

"One day... I'm gonna learn how to throw that stuff..." she mumbles, rubbing her swollen face with the pads of her first two fingers. She slaps her numbed cheeks, shaking off the cobwebs of consciousness -- and suddenly snaps a punch to fling herself back to her feet. Her rise is a shaky one, as she rocks from side to side. But her eyes gleam bright with confidence.

"But that's later. This... is now!"

The jet engines roar to life. And this time, she uses all her strength and no small amount of jet thrust to jump into the air! Her legs and hips are pulled along for the ride as her jet engines do the work here -- sending Mint sailing overhead as she seeks to rain a four-hit punching barrage down onto Leona from above...! "OOORAAAAAH!"

COMBATSYS: Mint blitzes into action and acts again!

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Mint             0/-------/---====|===----\-------\0            Leona

COMBATSYS: Mint has reached second wind!

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Mint             0/-------/---====|===----\-------\0            Leona

On that last stroke, her feet finally manage to catch up juuuust as she lands -- and with one more leap, she vaults into the air again, slamming both fists down into one final overhead strike, the full weight of her fists slamming down like twin jackhammers!! "WHAAAA-POW!"

COMBATSYS: Leona dodges Mint's Ground Pounder.

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Mint             0/-------/-----==|===----\-------\0            Leona

COMBATSYS: Leona interrupts BFH EX from Mint with Moon Slasher EX.

[                            \\  < >  //////////                    ]
Mint             0/-------/-======|>>>>>>-\-------\0            Leona

The chi that ripples through Leona, the cutting and slashing force that lashes out from within is something she has always known. Using it is never something that is far from her mind. Just as the curtain of red and a child's cries in Brazil. It is part of her, as easy as breathing, as easy as fighting.

"Mission. . ." Leona speaks before making certain things are finished. She makes a small quizzical grunt when she sees Mint rise back up, just as ready for anything. Spirited, it's impressive. That tendency should have been something Leona researched prior to her sortie. Heidern would've chastised her for not collecting more intel.

However, Leona can see the exhaustion, and she can see the lingering effects of the fight. She can read the approach. Each swing is just slow enough to step and weave around. Slip to one side, then to another, stay one step ahead.

Untouched for the finale, Mint leaping into the air. On instinct, Leona takes her shot. As Mint comes down, Leona readies herself low. She rises up, swing a cutting arc of her arm wide that carves a sickle of chi into the very air. Mint crashes down, the weight of those knuckles cannot be ignored, but Leona is still standing, and she's feeling the distant drums beating in her ears, she can feel the moment come to her, and she lives in it. Wide eyes, steady breathing, Leona waits for her time.

Momentum is both a strength and a weakness for Mint. Once she's committed to her airborne attacks -- a feat manageable only by carefully-modulated bursts of jet thrust -- she's unable to stray far from the course. The crescent slash hits Mint diagonally across her torso, a fiery, searing sensation so intense that her bones feel chilled in its passing. She grits her teeth as she's whipped backwards, both gauntleted arms cradling close to her chest -- as if -not- doing so might cause her to fall to pieces right there in front of Leona!

She lands low, her hips just barely above the level of her knees. Panting heavily, she nonetheless keeps her eyes locked on Leona. The fires of determination burn hot in her irises. Wisdom might suggest quitting while she's not too far behind. However, wisdom is not what drives Mint into battle.

"Not... finished yet!" comes her insistence. She rocks forward, shoulders dropping low, as she keeps her gauntlets pressed against her shoulders. She weaves low as she charges closer, then snakes roughly to the right. Another juke to the left -- another swing to the right. And when she lunges into point-blank range, she exhales sharply, delivering just one blow: a solid, committed punch to the abdomen. Bringing boxing right back to the bread-and-butter basics!

COMBATSYS: Leona blocks Mint's Heavy Punch.

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Mint             1/-------/=======|>>>>>>>\-------\1            Leona

The beat of battle has Leona. She's through and through focused on the fight. Exhaustion, pain, both bleed off of her like so many beads of sweat built from fighting in the Australian sun. She pushes inward, pressing her advantage when she pushes Mint back. The only sound heard beside the rush of blood in her ears is the thudding of her heard.

A fist, simple, solid, taken. A close clinching block, a huff of exertion, and a twist off the blow to move on forward. It will bruise in the morning, it will ache in hours, but in the heat of the moment, Leona just has to press onward. To soldier forth and strike.

She surges upward, cutting a sharp slash into the air, leaving a burning trail of chi in her wake. Just as soon as she streaks upward does she crash back down to Mint. A cutting, carrying smash that bursts forward with one final incline. A zigging and zagging cut of air and chi that slices and crackles. The buzzing of the energy a second only to the wordless cry coming from Leona.

COMBATSYS: Mint interrupts V-Slasher EX from Leona with Attack of Opportunity.
- Power hit! -

[                          \\\\  <
Leona            0/-------/----===|

COMBATSYS: Mint can no longer fight.

[                          \\\\  <
Leona            0/-------/----===|

Adrenaline makes the obvious tells easy to miss. That's its purpose -- to dupe the mind into ignoring some pain to achieve an ultimate goal. So Mint probably can be forgiven for interpreting the slickness on her collarbone as sweat. The audience probably wouldn't even see it with how Mint is keeping her gauntlets so close now. But once she lands that punch, the bloody gash becomes a bit harder to ignore. The aftereffects of a strike cutting with more certainty than a razor-edged knife.

Mint's face contorts with the onset of nausea. Not unlike the crimson stain on her shirt, the narcotic high of adrenaline is starting to drip away. Pain washes over her chest as the muscles strain to pull the leaden weights back from their pugilistic duty. She clenches her teeth, hoping the tension on her jaw can trade ambiguous pain for something more specific.

A shudder rolls down her spine. Perhaps it worked. -Something- seems to have worked. Because a momentarily lethargic Mint responds with lightning-quick alacrity.

A burning wake of chi sears into her. And yet the thump of padded metal against bone can be heard -- as Mint short-circuits the V-shaped strike before it can reach its full potential. A quick, rising uppercut to knock Leona off-course, delivered with a counter-clockwise quarter-turn, as the two bodies clash in a less-than-optimal collision!

Lightning strikes -- but the darkness that follows feels so much darker. Blank ink crowds in on Mint's vision -- and when she flies apart from Leona, there is only a token attempt made to soften the fall, a small twist to keep her head from hitting the ground first. The twin engines on her gauntlets sputter out -- and the only look she can pass Leona is a dull, glazed-over one, punctuated by ragged breaths from wracked lungs.

"... Heh..." she comments, in an absent-minded, oxygen-deprived rasp.

Crash. Soaring. Smash. Leona bounces against the ground. She skitters toward the edge of the makeshift ring. Her hair tie is off, a cascade of blue around her head. She shifts, twitches, and gives up the ghost. Something landed wrong. Something hit harder than it should. She putters out and knows there's not much fight left in her. So she remains for a while, down, let the referee call as he may.

At least she didn't lose control of herself this time. But for now, she can rest.

No. She can't. Mission status: incomplete.

With a groaning, struggling sense of normalcy invading her body, she pushes herself up and stumbles before correcting her posture. She drags herself over toward where Mint is. And she drops aside. She breathes heavily and squints in the air.

"I need." a pause. A breath. Leona's eyes close. "I need to give intel."

COMBATSYS: Leona takes no action.

COMBATSYS: Leona can no longer fight.

The dull roars of the crowd melts away to near silence next to the rhythmic jackhammer in her head. The temptation to just fall asleep is overwhelming. And Mint, too, succumbs to the urge.

Calls are made -- ghostly, detached voices with no meaning at all. She could have been out an hour or more -- it'd be hard to tell, really, if not for the fact that medical techs usually take a while to decide on whether a patient's condition is severe enough to risk on transferring to a stretcher.

Minutes pass. And finally, Mint's eyelids flutter open. It's not long after Leona arrives -- talking something about intel. Groggily, she lifts her head. Her whole body feels like lead, just as much dead weight as the inert gauntlets strapped to her arms.

"Nnnnnrgh... Arr... arms release." With the hiss of hydraulics and pneumatics, Mint's gauntlets retract, leaving her once more with normally-proportioned prosthetics. And she unsteadily pushes up to a somewhat seated position.

She stares woozily back at Leona. The crowd is losing it, cheering mightily -- but out of sight, out of mind. First aid's already been delivered -- she'd need a full checkup, and med techs are standing by to deliver it, but Leona may as well be the only other person in Minal's world right now. And still...

Mint looks hopeful for a moment. And then she doesn't.

"... Intel?" she repeats, raising an eyebrow. "I don't... I don't... have any intel," she stammers, misunderstanding the statement. She shrinks back, warily. "You're... not in my chain of command, anyway..." For some experiences hit a bit harder than others.

Leona remains on her back. She does not consider superfluous movement to a seated position to warrant a thought at the moment. She doesn't need to in order to speak. And the talking from the others doesn't matter much to her. She is still focused, above all, on her mission.

Her eyes open partially, squinting to the sky again. Yup, there is still a sun. "Passing intel on," she repeats. "Matter of importance, but need to keep distance. Too many want the Ikari."

She thinks back on what she was briefed on. What her fellow Ikari had been seeing. What some were approached in hiring for. They were, after all, mercenaries. "Something happening. Looking for magic things. Not my specialty, Not Ikari. Darkstalkers as well. Gears. Man from Australia."

She clucks her tongue, not liking the spiraling thoughts and the words coming out only in clipped bits of information.

Disorientation. Nausea. Soreness. Cheering. Subterfuge. Betrayal. Mint sees Leona through a filter of disconcordant thoughts and rhythms. Dark hair, strange buildings, unusual sunlight. Breezes with unfamiliar scents. And clipped words, fitting together like mismatched jigsaw puzzle pieces.

Mint closes her eyes, holding up tinted plastic hands. "Okay. You're... Ikari, right." To some, wanted criminals. To others, valuable paramilitary assets. Mint has done the research -- it was lying just beneath the surface of consciousness. Mint nods dully, drawing in her breath.

Her hands lower, and she nods again. Proceed. More thoughts. -Something- happening. Magic things. Not her specialty -- not Ikari.

"... Okay. Magic things... aren't my specialty either." Her eyes open again, as she searches Leona's face for any additional clues, inflections, meanings. "Darkstalkers. We can... handle darkstalkers. Now gears..."

She raises a finger, then spins it in a circle. "Gears are my specialty."

Dead pause. Mint drops one hand, while the other lifts to rub the back of her head. Side note: ow. "D-different Gears, though, hm?"

The last phrase, though, gives her pause. "... Lots of people from Australia," she notes with confusion, shrugging to suggest the crowd she can only barely recognize. She scans left and right, before asking, "... Head's a bit woozy. S'this really... the best time for you to talk?"

There is no best time for Leona to talk. Functionally it is during a fight. She feels a connection then. Otherwise, she just feels muddled and uncertain. At the moment, she is still feeling muddled and uncertain. Even if she's staring up to the sky with squinted eyes.

"Better than other times," Leona admits. "Worse than others," she adds. "It was the most certain way to ensure meeting. And efficient. You are here. I am here."

She turns her head and spits hair from her mouth. "Is there better options for you?" she remembers to ask. Perhaps there was a differing methodology that she had missed. One that did not risk spies or outside observers raising suspicion.

Mint normally talks a whole lot more than this. It's just that there's a whole lot of -other- ailments right now, keeping her from processing thoughts the way she wants to be processing them.

Mint devotes some time to processing that response. And as she shifts her seated position -- with some degree of wincing -- she notes, "... I mean, heck, I can't argue with that logic."

The question that follows is a good one. "I dunno, just... -later-, really. I, er... take it you're not worried about confidentiality in..." She gestures around to the crowd of people surrounding the two. Who knows how many lipreaders are around. "... Y'know, -here-." She laughs slightly -- forgetting that anything involving her ribs will be associated with -pain-.

Coughing into her forearm, she notes, "I'm heading back to the barracks at Holsworthy tonight. It's like an hour or so away. Wanna catch a drink or somethin'?"

Leona's logic tends to be straightforward, if not always the most convenient. Or less painful. "Visual conformation moreso than auditory conformation," she says, feeling more of herself as time ticks by. It hurts, but she will survive.

She sits up. And she pats around for something to retie her hair. "Later is a broad window of time," she states. A wince, and she starts to push herself up to her feet. She has little more than cold consideration for the people around, still watching. She is not greatly concerned, given what intel she has, about sophisticated means of surveillance. She could explain this, but she chooses not to as it doesn't seem to matter in the moment. Mint seemed capable of gleaning that matter already.

She looks down, she thinks for a moment, and then she offers an arm to help. It is good etiquette for competitors, she thinks. "Lipreading is a rare skill. Easier to record audio with parabolic equipment." But she does consider the drink. She doesn't quite enjoy the idea. It makes her skin itch. But she knows what she must do for the sake of the mission. "I can," she states, rather than agreeing that she 'wants' to do such things. She hopes that answers the question well enough.

"Oh. Huh. Well, looks like we gotta go somewhere a bit noisy then, huh?"

- - -

Apparently, "I can" suffices as an answer. Because a few hours later -- per the corporal's definition of "later" -- Mint and Leona have a rendezvous scheduled at a dive bar about a kilo away from the gate of Holsworthy Barracks. With this being early in the week, the bar itself only has a half-dozen patrons in various states of intoxication. Tonight there's one bartender and two folks in the kitchen. The bar itself is... humble, with wood paneling on all four walls, the usual assortment of alcohol-related paraphernelia on the walls, and a lone pool table off in the corner by the jukebox. The bar isn't -quiet-, but it's not egregiously loud either -- just enough ambient white noise to make going somewhere else a desirable option.

Luckily, there -is- an easily-availed option: the back room, with another pool table. Minal seems to have arrived a few minutes before the designated rendezvous time, giving her the opportunity to work on her nine ball technique.

Leona Heidern, most thankful that someone acknowledged her somewhat truncated and potentially inscrutable replies. She is familiar with dive bars. They are places that Clark and Ralf frequent for the purposes of missions. They also have other reasons to go to them, but Leona is primarily concerned with their purposes regarding operations. This time, is no different. She arrives, still in the gear she wore for the earlier fight, having spent much of the time between simply putting her thoughts in careful order.

The music is good, as far as music goes, and the clientele seem less confrontational than the last bar she had been in. At the very least there are no clear NOL operatives here. It would make for an easier conversation. However, Leona is certain that, without her initial Neo-League maneuvers, she would not have been able to organize this meeting. Of that, she is certain.

It takes her longer to figure out the backroom area. She had waited for a time at the main bar, expecting that to be the obvious place. It wasn't until further observations suggested a more clandestine locale. Considering Mint's clear inclinations, Leona puts it together that that is more likely where the diminutive soldier would squirrel away within.

She slips into the backroom, standing out as much as she tends to given her demeanor and the aura of seriousness that exudes from her. But she has to look around for a bit before she can see the small woman playing nine-ball.

When played solo, nine-ball is a practical application of geometry. Calculate the trajectories, pray that your stick hits the ball in the precise way you wanted it to, and repeat.

To someone like Mint, it can also be all-consuming. Mint had originally been checking the bar every three minutes. She'd set an alarm to remind herself of such. That she had let said alarm slip unnoticed may be obvious when, still cradling the cue in one arm, she looks up at Leona's arrival, instantly pulls her phone out to assign blame to the innocent device. "... Ah, damn, how long were you out there? I'm so sorry, I got distracted..." She rubs the back of her head, cheeks darkening as she gives an awkward, self-effacing laugh.

As she recovers, she sets her phone back on the table gestures towards a small device off to one side of the room: a white noise generator kicking up a bit of audio froth. "Should be a -bit- quieter, so we can talk freely." The diminutive soldier lifts the cue stick up for demonstration: "Or we can play while talking! I can rack 'em up..."

She looks at the table -- in complete disarray -- and makes the decision to re-rack the table anyway. "Mmm. Right, formalities, I'm Corporal Minal Panesh of the US Special Forces Command. Most people just call me 'Mint.' She smiles briefly, then raises an eyebrow. "... And, long delayed, but like... -any- Australian guy, or did you have someone specific in mind?"

sp Target acquired. And target acquiring. Leona doesn't pay much heed to why she was missed. She wasn't attempting to be particularly stealthy opposed to alert for herself. Her subtlety and stealth more a natural part of her demeanor than any planned action. So when asked by Mint, Leona just gives a small shrug in response alongside a pat, "I have not been taking account of time."

She looks over the table, looking at the balls and watching Mint rerack. She calculates in her head that the question of playing while talking was rhetorical and meant to be an intimation as to what Mint wants to do. Pleased with herself, Leona decides to not say anything and instead just go grab one of the house cues to show she understands the small soldier.

"The man in question is an international weapons dealer by the name of Kano. He has ties to a syndicate known as the Black Dragon. We do not know his current whereabouts, but I felt it necessary that your organization knows he is recruiting, likely for something large scale."

The mechanic has a lot on her mind -- particularly, the weirdness of offering an introduction hours after the first actual moment of conversation. Better late than never, right? That's just one the thoughts going through her head as her synthetic fingers sweep the billiard balls back into their rack. She always did enjoy the gentle sounds of the billiard balls clacking into proper order.

Work done, she notices Leona's got a cue in hand. Stashing the rack back into its proper place, she steps back from the table with a smile.

"Kano, huh. The name sounds a bit familiar -- but not as much as Black Dragon. Those guys set up shop in Sunshine City, too." She glances away with a thoughtful expression, drawing in her breath. "Never... had to come face-to-face with 'em, though." With a faint frown, she turns back to Leona. "Do you know where he's tryin' to pull talent from? Or what -kind- of people he's tryin' to recruit? That might give some kinda clue where his targets lie..."

To Leona Heidern, the introduction was the fight. Much more to be learned from a soldier to their reactions in the heat of battle opposed to the ranks and names of a person. She felt she had learned more in those few minutes than in the intel gathering and briefing session. To her, the pleasantries were just matters of facts. Perfunctory motions.

She holds the cue, bouncing the end of it off the toe of her boot. She looks over the rack, studies the lay out of this new playing field. And promptly waits for Mint to do something so she can gauge what's the best approach in the moment.

"Mercenaries. Ikari refuse to work with them. Unsure of what others. This is unofficial," Leona explains, as though the Ikari were official in any real capacity. They were mercenaries, after all, regardless of Heidern's motivations and morals. They were no standing army. "We believe it is related to our experiences with Justice." We, being operative words for Leona, had considered that the major factor. She has other suspicions, but they weren't asked about and are therefore not something worth airing.

"Anything else would be speculation."

Mint grins as the taciturn Ikari Warrior surveys the battlefield. She reaches for the cue she'd propped against a table on Leona's arrival. "Take a shot, I don't mind."

Mint dispenses with asking if Leona knows how to play -- it's common enough that such a question might be considered rude. Especially with how Leona's holding the stick already. Leona's still an... unknown quantity to Mint, in many ways.

But, luckily, there are words and topics which are a bit more familiar to the former field officer. "Justice, huh...? Is that lowercase-j justice or the capital-J Justice that attacked Japan?" She laughs faintly. "I'm tryin' to follow but I'm missing a few of the dotted lines. What -did- you have to do with Justice?"

Leona approaches her enemy. She assesses the situation. She nods. "Acknowledged," she says before leaning over the table and lining up the cue. Steady, still as death, she aims and her breathing ceases.

Crack of cue against billiard balls and Leona rights herself again. As the balls carom off one another, Leona looks to Mint and nods once. "The Gear," she confirms with solemnity. "The Ikari fought her, alongside a man named Sol. We halted her approach. Though not without injury." A simple answer, direct, report-like in its cadence. The pain of the night was well remembered, but Leona doesn't know Mint that well. She doesn't know how much to delve into the nature of a warrior, or what it means to be made a weapon.

Mint rubs her stomach absently; beneath the surface of her t-shirt is a criss-crossing latticework of bandages from their earlier fight. She... hadn't figured she'd be shooting billiards with Leona at the time, but it's serendipitous how things work out sometimes.

Mint's eyes light up as the orderly arrangement dissembles. Nodding with encouragement, she twirls the stick around in her hand -- her prosthetic making an unusual hollow, plastic ringing sound in the process -- and starts calculating the best position for her next shot.

She still has time to listen, of course. "Ah, interesting. The intel on that was a bit spotty..." It seems like Mint was about ready to delve into another bout of stream-of-consciousness meandering, but then she leans forward, stepping up on her tip-toes to line up a shot. The cue is drawn back, tested... and with a precise motion, she pops the cue ball into the lowest ball, sinking it into the pocket.

Smiling, she nods quietly, pacing around the table as she seeks another shot. "... So you think this Kano is after Gears?" As before, she lines up the cue, sights the line, and takes her shot. But this time, the impacted ball misses its mark by an inch. Mint sucks in her breath, stepping back from the table with a faint grin. "I mean, if you got a Gear on your team, your take as a merc goes sky-high, yeah?"

Leona observes. The movement of the balls, the pacing of Mint's decision over her shot. The cadence of the words. She stands still as the grave, eyes on the 'battlefield', but still observing.

"There was interference," Leona states, "Organizations downplayed and misidentified Ikari involvement." Though most places not the NOL knew more about the situation, broad wanted lists and bounties made for more than enough people willing to choose which version of the 'truth' they felt was best.

But then it's her turn again. And the topic is back off her and the Ikari. She steps to the edge of the table and narrows her eyes, judging what path she needs to get to the target ball. "It is likely he was looking for some group that has familiarity with Gear combat. And one that is mercenary, making groups like the NOL unlikely for recruitment. His lack of knowledge on Ikari motivations suggests he is not being cautious."

She leans forward and takes her shot. The ball cracks. The low ball spins and hits the corner, but drums off both sides and does not quite fall in.

Leona's lips quirk downward. Mission failed.

Admittedly, Mint doesn't know much about the Ikari. But unlike this Kano person, she hasn't planned operations against them. That changes the field considerably.

The left corner of her lip lifts in mild disgust. "Yeah, that sounds... -sad-, really. He must not care much about his mercs if he can't even do the basic due diligence on his recon..."

The disgust fades into a more somber look as she casts her gaze on the green battlefield before her. Her lips downturn for a moment -- though that happens before she notices Leona's consternation.

It's at that point that she flashes a reassuring smile. "... I wouldn't worry so much about the table, I wanna say we -both- did a number on each other today, hah!" The mini-Marine steps around the table, toggling the stick between her finger and thumb as she lines up her shot. "That's one hell of a style you got. I don't think I'd ever seen anyone who fights like you before!"

The stick is raised, lifted off the table by two delicate plastic fingertips. And then the stick pops forward, knocking the cue ball forward. A satisfying clack, as the cue transfers momentum to the low ball. But in the end, the ball falls a half-inch short of dropping into the pocket.

Mint chuckles, rubbing the back of her head as she steps back from the table. "Did you fight this Kano guy -directly- or was it just his scrubs who paid you a visit?"

Mercenaries fight for others, for pay. The Ikari are mercenaries, however, the leadership of Heidern has focused the Ikari as a force for those that cannot bring their own armies to the fray. They consider themselves more heroes, unbound by the notions of nations.

Leona blinks, the thoughts coming back to her as she looks closely at the shots being taken. "It's Heidern technique," she answers tersely. "Developed by the leader of the Ikari. He taught me personally." She takes her place at the table and leans forward. The next shot sinks, but clearly doesn't register on her face. "Direct, flowing, strike at critical points to disable. It is effective CQC."

She shifts spot and takes her second shot. Crack, thump, sink. Two in. She stands back up to scrutinize what comes next. "I did not fight him. I did not see him. He is a known factor, but not the contact." It's a simple matter of fact. She does not exactly know the man's capability, but she has intel on international weapon shipments. That is a matter of Ikari concern. They need those weapons too, at times.

The third shot, lined up, goes wide. It is nothing more than a mistake, and one that causes Leona to narrow her eyes and frown intently. "I am sorry there is not more concrete intelligence on the matter."

"... Huh, neat!" Mint hasn't had the privilege of studying under someone first-hand. And while it seems strange to her that the techniques should be named after the person instructing it -- rather than something generalized like 'Krav Maga' or 'Muay Thai' -- can it really be a -bad- technique if it gets such good results? "Yeah, I really had trouble with you up close! Still kinda hurts from all that, haha."

Though, as Leona takes her shots, Mint clamps down on further commentary. Which is to say: her jaw hangs open with the intent to continue, but once Leona lands her first shot, Mint's jaw closes. And the second shot raises her eyebrows, causing Mint to nod in approval. If her knuckles weren't plastic, those knuckles might be white from her tense grip on the cue stick.

For the third, Mint loosens her grip. She'd say something -- but then there's a statement about intelligence.

"Aheh -- nah, this is plenty. You're giving us a huge leap forward as it is!"

The corporal smiles broadly at Leona, before turning her attention back to the table. She walks around, tongue darting out to moisten her lips momentarily as she thinks.

She lines up, takes her shot -- and the ball sinks right into the pocket. On her second shot, the cue stick slides off the slick plastic. With a sheepish laugh, she leans back to look at Leona. So... uh, I hope I wasn't too forward, askin' you to come here." I'm kinda dense sometimes. Did this meeting ruin any of your plans for the night?"

Leona nods curtly at the compliment. "It is specialized for close in, rapid assault," she states, "I have not fought against anyone with your unique prosthetics. Is this a standard issue U.S. military program?" She doesn't feel the need to address the ever present awareness of her own pain. She suspects that such matters are already known.

Nor is she registering a great deal about the billiards game. It is easy for her to remain distant. Cool, calm, and collected is her base level, all she needs to do is not lose the simple focus of her mission: pocket the balls in a particular order.

'leap forward'. Leona takes a moment and she nods with a small, but present smile. She has succeeded in her mission. She has delivered intel to an operative of another branch and has done so in a way that, while not the most discrete, was still stealth-y enough to make for a clean separation. The burst of pride she feels at the moment may show up only slightly, but it's a warmth that quiets the everpresent war drum in Leona's ear.

"I had no other plans. This was my mission," Leona confirms. "You have helped in accomplishing it. Now, my mission is to finish this game, preferably with victory. However, I am not certain that will happen. Odds are not in my favor."

In response to whether her bespoke gauntlets are standard issue, Mint winks back with a sly grin. "Not yet," is her unusually tacit reply. The corporal has trained with the weapons a great deal, but distributing her gains to the rest of the military might be a bit premature.

After a moment of consideration, she raises her fingertips, wiggling them a bit. "The control circuitry for the big arms ties into neural taps in my forearms, so they wouldn't work for other soldiers out-of-the-box. But that's an easy problem, considering!"

Mint reflects Leona's small smile with a much larger one. "Oh, I'm glad. I really am glad we got to meet. And... pop each other for a few rounds. But more on the meeting, and talking, and stuff!" She grins, twirling her stick within a 'circle' made by her right hand. "I dunno, you're ahead of me, so I'd say you're doin' alright. The four ball's yours for the taking!"

Leona appraises the field. The layout of balls and the remaining positions. She thinks on experience; of Ralf and Clark's predilections. She crosses her arms and hums, reaching to touch her chin in thought.

She blinks and looks toward Mint, shaken from her planning in the moment. "I suppose it is not difficult to remove arms if necessary. And better in a controlled setting rather than on the field. One can plan for whom gets the gauntlets."

When comes her turn again, Leona takes aim. "The question is not most balls out of nine," she states. "From my ascertainment of the rules of war, this contest is similar to battle: the victor is who makes the last shot count." The ball cracks, the next target rolls, sinks.

What is left is a poor lay of the ball. And a follow up shot fouls, leaving Leona to step away from the table. "What can you do with your advantage?"

Mint's plastic fingertips rub the back of her head. "... Well, yeah, that's true, but..." Mint breaks into an anxious smile. "The KNUCKS are useful but I still lost out bigtime on the trade!" Her expression softens, as she adds: "I meant, like, if we were gonna mass-produce or something, I'd re-engineer them so anyone could use 'em, 'hands-free' or nah."

The engineer nods quietly as Leona takes her shots. "Ah, I see. So was 'odds are not in your favor' a neutral and not a negative?"

Mint watches the table, calculating her best vantage points. As soon as Leona steps back, Mint slips in. The field leaves her a thin margin of error, but after concerted effort, Mint's shot weaves through the field and sinks the five ball. It leaves her cue ball trapped behind a cluster of the four remaining balls, however. "... Advantage? Well, I'd figure we'd tap the intelligence community and see if we can't narrow down some more specifics on this Black Dragon."

Mint, unable to find a solution that allows her to hit the six directly, pops the eight in front of it, dispersing the field considerably. "See if maybe we can flush him out of hiding, y'know?"

The acrid smell of the bar. The sounds of the patrons. The clack of the balls. A surrounding of sensations that Leona has to put focus on. The cover for her and Mint is potential cover for any enemies that may have already followed. Clack! The balls hit tick off a drumming in the back of Leona's mind.

She closes her eyes and tugs hard on her glove; feeling the digging between her fingers.

Something needs clarification. "I choose my words specifically," she says. A pause. "So, yes, it was a neutral statement of fact, not negativity."

The game gets forgotten in the moment. "It may be more prudent to withhold some information. If the situation grows too dire, the weapons dealer may go to ground. It is in their nature."

Minal grew up on the rough side of town -- she may not know suburban Australian life all that well, but she knows the general markers of when something's about to go down. Or at least, she -thinks- she does -- until she notices Leona closing her eyes, tugging on her gloves. Tells that... something may be afoot. Or it could just be Leona's mood taking a turn.

With a grunt, she nods slowly. "... I can honestly say I've not come across anyone quite like you, Leona." She offers a sincere smile, lest that be deemed as some kind of insult -- she's hoping for it to be taken as a 'neutral statement of fact' in the same sort of vein.

But the concern does not go unnoticed. The wounded warrior lifts her wrists to about waist level, cupping her hands. Rays of green laser light spill out from her palms, painting a monochrome image of the heat signatures in the surrounding area onto her fingertips. She spends a few moments perusing the imagery -- though it could just as easily look as if she were staring at her palms -- before looking back up to Leona. "Yeah, I'm not much of a strategist, that's way past my pay grade. But, er... are you thinkin' there's any chance we may have been followed here?"

She offers a faint, mirthless laugh. "I think our chances are better together than apart, if you're gettin' some bad vibes about this place."

Mint can't really know what goes on inside of Leona's mind. The traumas of her youth, the drumming of war in her ears, and the deaths of a small village in Brazil. Moreover, the lingering ripples of that time and how it effects Leona Heidern today. The concern, the one that comes the moment she realizes she's left herself exposed off mission. That there might be a threat nearby.

And how much blood they would spill on Leona's hands.

She pulls on her glove, hard, and the silent soldier comes back down to earth. Factual statements, Mint hasn't meant someone like Leona. It's a calming notation. It gets Leona to nod and that brings her closer to base. And the sudden light gives her something to look at.

"I do not," Leona has to admit, exhaling slowly. "There is a possibility, but I do not think that we were." She looks at Mint, racking her brain to figure out how to say things to explain her fears of bloodthirst and the lingering presence of war on her mind.

She finds nothing comes to her.

"I do not doubt your ability," Leona tells Mint, "However, the Ikari have had their reputation tarnished in recent memory. There may be political fallout in extended contact and open cooperation. It is also not my place to make calls on the Ikari, that would be Heidern. But if hired, then there is little reason for any further concerns or hesitation."

Minal watches Leona's expressions like a hawk. For someone who speaks little, body language can speak volumes. And while Mint has said no one's quite like Leona, she does know a few people who adopt similarly closed gestures.

Her scanner hasn't picked up any unusual heat signatures, and that jibes with the Ikari's assessment of the situation. The device has done its job -- and with it, she unfolds her palm and the projected display winks out. "I'm not seein' anythin'. We should be good." She doesn't need to say she'd scouted the place out beforehand, that she'd done her recon -- or that she'd asked for support.

Mint drums the blunt end of her cue against her boot, offering a good-natured ear to Leona's clarification. "I got it. Mercs cozying up with a sovereign nation is bad for business an' all that." She smiles faintly. "Hiring decisions aren't -really- my call, but if it comes up, the Ikari could be on the list."

And just then, a band of light sweeps across the room as a car pulls into a parking spot outside. Not long after, a car horn can be heard tooting through the open door.

Mint turns towards the sound, smiling -- and by way of explanation, she notes, "... Ahh, that's my ride. Did you have any other 'rumors' to share?" She grins cheerfully, walking her cue over to the rack with its brethren.

Leona's expression changes little in most situations. A slight quirk in one direction or another, a moment of sudden shock or frustration, but for the most part she retains a steady and stoic expression for whatever presents to her. It is not that she doesn't feel, but she has a solid clampdown on her feelings. She does not want to risk losing control in this place. She also is quite concentrated on the contest at hand and doesn't want to risk the situation.

"I understand that someone with your ranking would not make such determinations. We are both in similar situations. But the potential should be noted." Leona looks up from the table midway through her word. The sound of the horn, the look on Mint's face. Telling and explanatory. She calms and nods to the door.

Leona beings the cue to the stand. She is characteristically blunt when she says, "I have nothing to state at this moment, Corporal." She pauses when she watches Mint a moment more. "Stay safe, keep the information I've given you close. Know the Ikari will be there to fight if something threatens peaceful people."

When Mint was first broken free from the yoke of Shadaloo control, there was a considerable loss of trust in her opinion as it regarded national and world security matters. By and large, she hasn't really been placed into situations that required need-to-know on any such things -- and even now, her suggestions are viewed with some measure of suspicion.

But hunches and rumors are still actionable by a proactive military force. Readiness is paramount. So it's not just blind faith that allows Mint to smile back in response to Leona -- it's the knowledge her words have shaped policy in the past, even if her rank has not. "It will be!"

Mint's picks up the tubular-metal framework housing her gauntlets, slinging it across her shoulder. The pitch of the white noise shifts as she does so -- reminding her to tap her left palm with three quick pokes of her index finger, silencing the noise. "Affirmative!" she chirps back with no small smile. "Thank you so much for the info. And for the fight! I'm going to put what I've learned to good use."

She starts to turn away, but stops herself for one more look at the stoic soldier. Mint's plastic hand snaps to a brisk salute.

"We'll finish this billiard battle next time. Stay sharp, Leona!"

Log created on 01:29:42 01/03/2021 by Leona, and last modified on 18:12:26 01/28/2021.