Mint - Mission: Midnight Channel

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Description: Jax has a mystery to solve, and he knows the perfect person who can help him solve it. Percussive maintenance to the rescue?

There is small comfort in the fact that Naval Weapons Station Earle has not changed much in the past few months. All the real shakers and movers are off located in other bases, whereas the brass at Earle likes things nice and sleepy. The route up to the Infantry Augmentation Division is pretty much -exactly- as before -- a chain-link fence maze, security airlocks out the wazoo, you name it.

Once one steps into the third floor, though, things get a little crazy -- the division has come a long way from the printed-out sheet of paper stuck to the wall. A melamine placard is affixed to the wall nearest the elevator and stairway. A new set of double firewall doors has been installed. And as soon as the new doors are opened, the block hallway looks -mostly- the same, aside from the addition of a row of one-way glass windows along the right side of the hall.

The double doors leading to Corporal Panesh's office are.. a bit bulked up as well, with heavy bars welded on for additional structural support. It looks like they could be secured for an extra measure of rigidity, but for the moment, the door is hanging wide open -- Some sort of... Japanese rock music plays through the open aperture.

Once inside, though, the IAD looks -completely- different. A number of suits of powered armor can be seen, each coated in some variant of carbon fiber and powder-coated metal. Some are complete -- and fearsome --, hooked up with a harness made of cabling and doodads. Others are dissembled, parts still in-place within fabrication jigs or test fixtures. By officer standards, it's a mess. But there's -order- to the chaos, as even with the 'mess', everything looks to have a proper -place-.

Off to the side is a raised panel of bulletproof glass. Behind it appears to be the source of the rock music -- a standalone Bluetooth speaker. And Corporal Panesh -- clearly identified by the brand-new nameplate on her desk -- is currently facing away from the door, click-clicking on her mouse, the input to a quad-screen computer terminal. She appears to be completely absorbed by her design work, as a 3D visualization incrementally evolves with the additions of new widgets and nodes. A large metal mug of coffee sits on her desk -- 75% full and room temperature.

The meeting Briggs just came from was a lot more serious than he had planned this one to be. He had to watch someone get literally murdered on television in a room full of old men, many of whom never saw kombat. Needless to say, it became a messy affair, and while he managed to stay clear of any vomit, he was glad to be out of there. And as he navigated the labyrinthine corridors of Naval Weapons Station Earle, his mood brightened considerably more. After all, he was here to see the ever so optimistic Mint Panesh.

Jax wasn't the engineer that Mint was, but a keen mind for cars when he was a teenager and a part-time job at a Metro City garage gave him the technical know-how to appreciate how different the place looks from the last time he was here, though the sound of Japanese rock music slowly had his bright mood dampening to one of abject bemusement. Of all the things Briggs knew about Panesh, her liking Japanese music was something the Major would have never guessed. It wasn't that he didn't like the music. It was as alien to him as the bat lady he fought the year before was.

Once inside the organized chaos that makes up Mint's office, the Major's eyes take in the suits of powered armor, and before even approaching the Corporal to snap her out of her busywork, he steps near them first. His eyes slowly took the suits in, bionic fingers lifting to brush over the metal before checking the residue left on his fingertips. Wiping them off on his fingertips, he announces his presence -- though she might not hear him over the music -- with an appreciative, "Damn."

Because of his meeting with the brass, Jax was very well-dressed today. He wore his formal uniform, a black necktie tucked into his officer's jacket. A beret was in one hand, tucked under his arm, and a pair of sunglasses was plucked off his nose and slid into his breast pocket as he turned and moved towards Mint's desk, his bionic hand moving to the back of her chair while he leaned over her shoulder -- very politely not using his great height to just lean over her tiny form.

"Been a while, Corporal. This place is looking good."

Get the small talk out of the way first, the Major figured.

The corporal is definitely not dressed as sharply as the major: an olive drab t-shirt and camo pants. It seems she's given up on the idea of passing her prosthetic hands off as original equipment, though; translucent orange plastic tends to stand out a bit more, with the servos and pushrods visible as she taps her way through the design app. Long strips of silicon-infused plastic enshroud her forearms, ensuring that both her arms look somewhat similar to each other. But, just as with her former prosthetics, the flesh-and-blood fingers on her left hand stand out on their own.

"Oh, hey, be right with you," chirps out the engineer, slouched in her chair in engineering enlightenment. Her current task is pretty clearly the leg of one of those augmented battle suits, showing up in x-ray view on her screen, and sporting a few nifty new improvements. No one's allowed in the building without at least Secret clearance, after all -- and her own work isn't even at that level. So why should she be alarmed? She just continues clicking and dragging through her current train of thought...

Right up until she sees the reflection of a familiar face on the darker portion of her workspaceAt which point she sucks in her breath, sitting up prim and proper in her seat as surely as if she'd been caught napping. Which, she obviously -wasn't-, but...

"Major!" she blurts out as soon as the thought occurs to her. "I... " She looks up at him, realizing he -probably- doesn't expect a salute, considering his proximity makes that... difficult. "... um... thanks!"

Catching her breath with a relieved smile -- this -is- Major Briggs, of course -- she continues on. "Oh! Yeah. Thanks! Brass was impressed at what we'd put together, so the ol' cafeteria got a bit of an upgrade. And for the moment, it's... storage too, so." She laughs softly, her tangerine fingertips lacing together before her. She'd try to swivel her chair to face him, if possible.%r "It's great to see you! How are your arms holding up -- are you here for a tune-up?"

Jax's eyes take in the x-ray view of the screen, and it distracts him enough that he looks from those screens to the battle-suits nearby. These things would come in handy for less talented soldiers than Special Forces, but they'd also be useful for an edge against some of the more dangerous threats out there. The fact that someone as chipper and small as Mint could design war machines still surprised Briggs.

When the Corporal turns in her chair Jax's bionic hand withdraws and he takes a step backwards to give her a good amount of room to stand, while he took a second look at her -- particularly her arms, which he studies, a self-aware twitch of his own prosthetic fingers briefly breaking his hand's otherwise relative stillness. His bemusement at her choice in music has made the mode-shift to amusement though, at how she reacted to his arrival, and he gives her a look of good-natured exasperation.

"You're probably the only person I know who gets embarrassed when they're caught working, Panesh," he ribs the tiny woman, and then his eyes drift down to his arms at her question, and he gives his palm a strike with his knuckles, a faint 'klinking' noise happening, as opposed to the inferior sound, 'clinking'. "I don't need a tune-up today, Corporal," he tells her afterwards, looking up at her. "That last patch before is still treating me right," he assures her. "I haven't lost a single fight since."

His features grow somber after a moment as images of his last few kombat missions race through his head, and that same sombriety persists when he remembers why he's here, but he decides not to get into that too much, instead lifting up a lone bionic finger as the music continues to play, raising his chin towards her and lifting both of his brows.

"Didn't strike me as a J-Pop fan," he admits to her. "I honestly don't know what kind of music I imagined you'd be into."

Mint laughs self-consciously, left hand snapping to the back of her head. "Ahaha, yeah! I'm just embarasssed that a major made it this far without barking at me..."

Sometimes blurting out can be bad, though. And after a moment to realize what she just said, she straightens up, clicks her boot heels together and snaps a firm salute. In a level baritone, she answers, "With all due respect, Major!"

Still. It's hard to stay -too- formal around Jax, as, well, she knows how easygoing the major can be. She relaxes accordingly, dispensing with formality at the mention of her... eccentric music choice.

"... Uh, yeah, I..." Her toe scuffs the floor; her gaze falls as well. "It's not my usual thing, sir -- but I seem to've picked up a few earworms on my last leave-time in Southtown." She laughs faintly, looking back up to Jax. "The fighters out there are incredible! I wish my record was as clean as yours, sir."

"At ease, Corporal," the Major says immediately when she snaps her boots together and salutes, a hand lifting in a warding gesture and his eyes lifting to the ceiling with that same good-natured exaggeration. He looks down afterwards when he sees her toe scuffing the floor.

"I wasn't judging you for it," Jax says in a tone meant to be reassuring again, and he even gives his head a few bobs to the current song. "It isn't bad. Not my thing," he readily admits, "But it isn't bad." He moves over towards one of the suits, admiring it again while gathering his thoughts for the mission briefing.

"Well, my record isn't all /that/ clean. Just so far, so good, since you hooked me up," he explains to her, looking her way. "Still, I always thought about touring Southtown, seeing the local color. Maybe throw some hands," he jokes. "Actually, that's a little bit why I came."

He gestures to the exoskeleton. "This is good work, Panesh. But I'm afraid I'm gonna have to take you out of this lab and put you into the field," he says bluntly, looking down at her after once more.

He may say he wasn't judging her for it, and he may even say it's not bad -- but Mint still steps over to the speaker and knocks the volume down to about half what it was. No sense in being impolite about it, particularly as it's 'not his thing' and all. "Ahaha, yeah. Japanese just has this weird sort of rhythm to it, kinda helps get me movin' early in the mornin'." She casts a sidelong glance at her coffee cup, frowning at the realization that she'd gotten a bit -too- absorbed with her work to have drained said cup.

Still, she looks up to the Major with a broad grin as he pays her work another compliment. "You should! ... I think the Neo League is -staying- there this next season, actually, so that'd be a great opportunity!"

But... when Jax pivots the discussion, Mint's cheerfulness takes a back seat as she asks, "Sir?" There's any number of reasons why he -could- pivot from a discussion about off-duty fights. She wouldn't expect a dressing-down from someone outside of her chain of command, but she suddenly seems a bit... hesitant, all the same.

Her eyes widen slightly, as Jax gestures to the exoskeletons. And her mouth makes an 'o' as he mentions bringing her back to the field.

"... Wow, I... like... a transfer? I didn't think... I mean, with my history and..." She bites her lip, shaking her head. "... Sorry, I'm just thinking out loud, sir -- that's interesting!" Sub-consciously, she stiffens up, as if he didn't say 'at ease' just a moment before.

"How can I help, sir?"

"Oh, I don't know if I'm gonna be putting myself out there professionally," Jax says, even though there was a time he would have loved to have been that kind of celebrity. No, the Major was married to his work, though he does concede, "Though I wouldn't mind seeing how I can hold against some of those professional guys. You know, off the record, Panesh." He gives her a grin, the kind of grin meant to disarm her before he gives her a job to do. "I follow it, though, you know? So I saw your name on the league's roster."

"And no, not a transfer. Honestly, depending on the time between your matches," the Major figures, "You'd probably have enough time to do your duties here, though I'll admit it'd be a lot to put on your plate, and we wouldn't expect you to do both jobs at once."

He crosses his arms over his chest, the only indication they're even biotic the full on gleam of his hands, which aren't covered by gloves. "If you're going to be fighting professionally anyway, Mint, I want you to be our girl on Saturday Night Fights," he tells her. He doesn't want to go into the gritty details just yet. He'll get to it, but he needs to gauge how she's going to take this in general.

"That'll mean a bit of a lifestyle change, you know. You'll have some television exposure, and we might need to promote you sometimes to get you some attention that we'd need you to have, if you agree to do this."

He looks down at her arms, and then he adds, "Also means we're gonna have to do a little training, so if things get tough, you can get out without... anything serious happening." Like dying.

Jax doesn't say that, though.

Minal smiles as Jax waves off the idea of jumping into fighting on camera. It's not for everyone, she gets that -- and really, ifi t weren't for the thrill she gets in fighting against people way beyond her caliber, she might not dig it that much either. "I think you'd do great! But I'm also a bit biased since I know how hard you can hit." She laughs a bit, at that.

Her lips press together as he makes an off-the-record comment -- though as he actually delivers said comment, she cracks a toothy grin. "Well, I'm glad to be noticed! Did you watch any of my fights?"

As Jax dismisses plans for a transfer, a wave of relief washes over the diminutive corporal's features. "Oh, good, I'd... hate to see this work get passed along to anyone else, I'm not, like... the best at leaving notes!" But then she realizes Jax said 'matches.' And she turns towards him with a renewed, laser-sharp focus.

"... Wait, you mean... -officially?-" Her eyes go wide. "I mean, that's... that's -awesome-, I mean, I like this lab job and all, so like, that'd be a =fantastic= way to get out and..." She senses herself running wild again, and clasps her hands together -- though it'd be easy to tell that she's making conscious strides to restrain herself as she's practically bouncing on the balls of her feet as she listens intently to everything the Major has to tell her.

"-If- I agree?" she chirps, as he's done. "I mean, I'm onboard with everything you just said. Especially if it means some CQC time with you." She stops cold, and then adds, "Respectfully. Sir."

The servos of her tangerine-colored hands are a bit noisy with how much she's fidgeting right now. She is truthful when she says she's completely onboard, for it'd be hard for her to be any -more- excited. "It wouldn't be my first time on SNF, I mean, I know what's involved -- how soon can I start?"

"Hold on, Corporal." There's a sudden distinct change to the Major's voice as he takes a step back, flinching away from her enthusiasm and lifting his hand to ward her again. "I've been following your fights. I try to make a habit of knowing my men." Despite her gender, the way he says it is almost uniform, and she's certainly included in that generalization.

"I mean officially," Jax confirms, letting out a slow breath. "Listen though; I know you got your knee messed up before," he tells her, and his own hand moves to the side of his leg in a grimace. He never had his leg hurt seriously, and couldn't imagine what he'd do if he got his busted.

Well. Maybe a little. He'd have Panesh here make him a new one, probably. That reminded him of the danger of the task at hand.

"And I plan to be there, with you, as your coach during some of these matches if I can get away with it," he goes on to say. "Especially the more dangerous ones." His eyes search hers. "I don't know if you've been keeping up with SNF, Corporal, but recently their Midnight Channel spin-off has gained popularity, especially in online circles on the dark web."

"Since the Darkstalker incident in Southtown, they've put them in another league, almost, you know? They use Midnight Channel to highlight these matches," he explains to the Corporal. He's in briefing mode now. "But it isn't just Darkstalkers who fight on the Midnight Channel, Corporal. There's people, too. Like that one ninja you once fought on SNF." His lips press slightly. "Some of these people don't seem aware they're on the channel. And some of them have been /dying/."

He puts heavy emphasis on this. "Something's happening there, Panesh. And that's the mission. We find out what it is they're doing and how they're doing it," Jax tells her. "Our objective is to figure out if this has anything to do with the Darkstalkers themselves, and if it's an existential threat. If this means you fight on the Midnight Channel, I'll be there to try and extract you in case things get lethal."

Yeah. That's the mission.

Mint may be hanging on nearly every word Jax puts out there, but one thing she does -not- take umbrage at is being called one of Jax's 'men.' It's just a turn of phrase she's gotten used to in her many years of military service. She does do as bidden, though, forcing her hands apart and pressing them to her thighs. So as not to seem -as- enthusiastic. Her hazel eyes lock down onto Jax's as he speaks, and she nods along at first...

Though she pales slightly at the reminder that she had taken victory a bit -too- personally in her fight against Scorpion. "Yes," is her chastened reply, a mere acknowledgment of such.

The corporal does straighten up her stance, though, as Jax mentions his plan to be in her corner for the tougher fights. She seems pleased at that, though it isn't until Jax mentions Midnight Channel that she starts to -really- be concerned. "... Oh."

And yet, while she shudders at the mention of Darkstalkers, it's a fear she's at least got some kind of control over. "... Dying?" she repeats with a frown. And from there she stays quiet and attentive for the remainder of the briefing, nodding here and there as the pieces fall into position.

She stays quiet for a few moments more, her fidgeting having practically disappeared as she devotes the bulk of her focus into rationalizing her role in the mission.

"I see. Then..." The corporal hesitates a moment, her left hand curling, then relaxing.

"I accept." She says this neutrally, at first, before nodding with a bit more of her usual enthusiasm. A more... mature smile than before, though. "The entire purpose of the Infantry Augmentation Division is to outfit soldiers to deal with supernatural threats. I'd see this as an opportunity, Major."

And once more, she flexes and relaxes her tangerine-colored hands. "I'm even more confident we can accomplish this mission knowing you're in my corner, sir."

"I won't let you die, Corporal," Jax assures Mint. "I don't send any of my people to do something I'm not willing to carry out myself," he promises her. "If at any point the mission becomes lethal, I'll step in and we'll handle the threat together. With your hands AND my arms? I don't see us losing too many fights."

"You keep fighting those Neo-League matches, Corporal," Jax says. "For the time being you just carry out your day to day," he tells the tiny fighter, while giving her lab a brief once over. "I have to get a few assets together, but when you're ready, sign up for an SNF. I'll try to put those assets in place so that you're not the only one out there risking your neck."

"Still, I look forward to seeing what you've got in store. Some of this tech looks pretty snazzy, Corporal," the Major says, with an impressed glance around once more. "You keep at it, and I'm betting you'll be leading the whole Division someday," he proposes good naturedly, giving Mint's shoulder a bionic klasp.

There was a buzzing noise in his uniform jacket, and he pulls his phone from it and hits the screen to silence it, reading a text message on the device with a frown on his face. "I shouldn't keep you any longer, Corporal," he tells her, and then he gives her that disarming smile he tried on her the moment before.

"For what it's worth, I'm glad you accepted, even if I'm worried about the implications of this whole thing. Next time we talk, it's to get some training in, Panesh," he says, and he offers her then and there a bionic fist to bump.

"Looking forward to that, too."

Jax won't let her die -- it's a statement that strikes the corporal in a funny way. "That's sweet, Major.... and also mildly terrifying!" She's on the verge of laughing, but the sentiment has no less impact on her. The fact of the matter is, Mint has long been burdened with the realization that she might encounter a battle that she's unable to walk away from. She wasn't expected to survive an EOD blast -- and if rocks had tumbled a different way, perhaps Charlie Nash would be taking on this mission instead of herself. Speaking of death so candidly still just strikes a nerve, though, at times -- and laughter is one of Minal's coping mechanisms.

It helps, though, that Jax steers the topic to more mundane matters, as it allows a less shell-shocked smile to return to her face. The corporal's head bobs lightly with the suggestion to keep up her Neo League bouts -- this time with something of a mandate behind them.

"Right! The software's evolving to be a bit more user-friendly -- we're getting there!" She laughs softly at the shoulder klasp -- feeling a -little- helpless next to the towering Major Briggs, but understanding the sentiment.

"Oh, thank you so much for dropping by! I'll do my very best, Major!" She raises her fist -- however tiny it may be in comparison -- and bumps his fist in reply with a hollow plastic 'clack'. There is -no- way she'd be able to enter a fight with those...

"Can't wait, sir!" Heels click, and she snaps a quick salute, with a bright-eyed grin. It may be a dangerous assignment -- but at least she has something to look forward to in the short term!

Log created on 07:46:47 04/26/2021 by Mint, and last modified on 17:38:17 04/26/2021.