NFG Season One - Metal Fabrications

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Description: Team Metal is all set to move into their new training space, high atop the skyscraper of Ultratech's American headquarters building. There's a few crunchy details to get smoothed over first, though, so Minal "Mint" Panesh requests a meeting with Gregory "Greg" Ilvich.

Ultratech's American Headquarters is alive with activity, as it always is. The faces might change, nobody is expected to work 24/7, but one thing that Team Metal are going to learn very quickly is that the place simply never stops. There's always work to be done. And here, in the heart of Ultratech's domain, that work never ceases.

Gregory Ilvich had accepted Mint's meeting request less than one second after she sent it. The man is currently stood in the middle of the E.V.O.L.V.E project's first floor. Just over six feet tall, he is a classically handsome man in his mid-fifties, salt and pepper hair, dark green eyes, clean shaven, broad shouldered and wearing a plain grey suit so finely-tailored that it definitely costs more than the average person makes in a year. And that's before the italian loafers he keeps polished to a bright sheen.

He's not wearing a tie, though; that's how you know he's relaxed and easy-going. Really.

The notable thing about this space compared to the reception area and what would have been visible from the elevator on the way up, is the quiet. There's Gregory, and then there's a pair of Fulgore units - hulking monstrosities who tower even over him, all muscle and the implication of violence - but that's it.

"Can we get those things out of here before she turns up?" He mutters, "I know you're, concerned, but we're basically dealing with kids. Hell. Not one of them can even legally drink. They're going to get freaked out."

The cool, impassive female voice that answers him seems to come from the room itself; cunningly hidden speakers make it difficult to pinpoint an exact location.

"No. Security is paramount. The risks involved in this project are considerable. I will not allow wider operations to be compromised. You have been given your directive. Fulfill it."

The executive sighs and rubs his eyes. "I need a drink."

"Refreshments are available on the second floor."

'She,' being a certain Corporal Minal Panesh of the US Special Forces R&D division, steps off the elevator not long afterward. Like Gregory, she is not wearing a tie. Unlike Gregory it's quite possible she picked up her collared polo shirt at a department store clearance sale. And yet, the diminutive corporal still feels it necessary to adjust her collar as she steps off the elevator, mild unease visible in her features at that moment.

A few steps into her journey to meet up with Gregory, that unease is replaced by the cool, lightheaded confidence of a Marine. When nervous, sometimes the old tricks work the best. And when facing a six-foot-something guy flanked by armored mechs roughly the same height, a lack of self-assuredness is -not- what the corporal wants to project at all.

She walks up to Gregory, thrusting her mechanical hand out to greet him. Out in public, it would be a technological marvel: alternating shrouds of translucent and lime green plastic, housing a battery of complex dynamos and widgets that collectively replicate the functions of Panesh's missing fingers. Here in Ultratech, the twinned appendages feel decidedly quaint.

"Hi there!" chirps the corporal. She makes a rather broad assumption that the man towering over her is the one she'd corresponded with, largely because his location is exactly as he said it would be. "Minal Panesh -- though, please, call me Mint! Thanks for taking the time out of your schedule today; it's a pleasure to meet you!"

Necessary formalities. Her handshake would be firm, as one would expect from a Marine. Though the limitations of plastic would certainly prove inadequate to withstand a Fulgore unit's grip, assuredly.

Mint grins, attempting a light amount of levity. "After a brief stop back at post, it really is refreshing to come to a place like this where I won't have to worry about electrical breakers popping." A power outage here could be a nightmare for the organics inside, after all...

When Mint steps out of the elevator, Gregory shoots an irritated glance to the Fulgore units, but aside from that tiny tell, he's all smiles and corporate professionalism. "Mint!" He exclaims, taking the offered hand and shaking it without even the slightest hint of discomfort. That, at least, is genuine. He's worked for Ultratech long enough, he has, decidedly, seen worse.

"Gregory Ilvich. Call me Greg. Honestly, you don't need any introduction." He says to the much shorter woman, "I was just about to get myself a coffee, care to join me?"

It's a question that isn't a question as he leads the way through the expansive first floor, towards one of the elevators which leads up. Happily, this also means leaving the Fulgore units behind - they seem perfectly content to do their best statue impressions. It'd be easier to ignore them if it weren't for the heavy breathing. "And let's get some music in here. Big spaces like this are damned eerie when they're this quiet, if you ask me."

Tactical swearword deployed to help put the Marine at her ease, decidedly inoffensive elevator music begins to play; matching the tune that no doubt guided Mint up through the facility.

"I have to say, the pleasure is all mine. When this NFG Project kicked off, I told the Board we should keep an eye on the talent, and boy was I proved right. In no small part thanks to you. When the opportunity came up to get involved, well."

This is said as he steps onto the elevator, turns, grins, "I hope you don't feel like we're swooping in to steal the glory now the hard work is done. But yeah. If there's one thing we can provide, it's a comfortable place to train. If the power goes down here, it's because the building was hit by a nuke."

A moment's pause.

"Even then I'm not sure the lights would turn off, to be honest. Pretty sure HQ would stay standing and we'd be making cappucinos in the apocalypse to share with all the roaches."

For the ones she's had to schedule meetings with, civilians tend to fall into one of two categories -- those who were strictly bound to formality, and those who seemed to run from it at every opportunity. She's glad to sort this Greg person into the latter category.

"... I'm pretty sure you just said the magic words," is her answer to the invitation of coffee. Sure, she may already be three cups in for the day, but who's counting? "Let's hit it!" She is eager to follow Greg's lead to the elevator. And she seems to be pleasantly surprised by the suggestion of music. "Definitely. I can't get any work done at the lab without some kind of beat goin'..."

The corporal definitely seems to be more at ease when she approaches the elevator. Team Metal has done exceptionally well in the NFG, as far as she's concerned -- but she's quick to hold up a biomechanical hand. Credit is accepted where due, but... "It really did come down to them, of course! The team worked their butts off and I'm glad they get to see the payoff. Bigger exposure, and now a much better training facility."

The corporal is guardedly optimistic about the prospects of this facility. It goes much further than the humble pharmacy they refurbished in Sunshine City -- though she does, of course, have her concerns.

"... Well, that -is- the most important product of modern civilization, so." Mint grins, lacing her fingers together as the elevator makes its ascent. She turns to Greg with an contagious smile. "So how long have you been with the company, Greg? You seem like you're pretty used to..." Unlacing her fingers, she gesticulates with her left hand: "... y'know, - all this-."

"Twenty years, more or less. How do you take your coffee?"

Walking over to the dumbwaiter, Gregory places the order and then leans against the wall. "Ultratech has always been good to me. I'm not going to say we're perfect, Lord knows there's always room for improvement, but we have strong corporate values and I like the work. Lets me spend plenty of time with some of the most interesting people in the world."

He smiles, and it's a good smile. But then, this is quite literally his job. Fighter Outreach; the number of fighters in the world who responded well to stringent adherence to formal behaviour was vanishingly small... and no doubt, if he found himself in the presence of one of those, he could switch it on in an instant.

"And yeah. You had good people to work with. But that's a skill too. You chose your fighters, you managed them well, you got the goods." He waves his hand dismissively, "Sure, not JUST you, I get it. Nothing is ever a solo effort. But. The fact remains."

Almost unbelievably fast, the drinks arrive. The dumbwaiter makes a cute little chiming sound, and Gregory pulls out a pair of paper cups, handing one to Mint and taking a long sip from his own.

"Man, that's good coffee."

He chuckles, shaking his head. "Of course, this is just the start for all of them, right? That's the whole point. Showcase the next generation, kickstart their careers." He chuckles again, a bit more wryly this time.

"I can't say I'd given much thought to my career at their ages. But that's the bit of my job I like the most. Helping talent find success."

"Black, thanks." She smiles; normally she'd be happy to continue filling the dead space with her questionable wisdom, but that's one topic she feels comfortable leaving with a single-word answer, particularly as she's more interested in Greg's.

She seems happy to learn that he's a good career man who takes his job seriously. It's refreshing to hear someone who speaks plainly and at length, It'd be nearly impossible for the New Jerseyan to take someone at face value, but... she feels comfortable being a bit more 'real' with Greg, compared with the remainder of Team Metal's sponsorship team.

"You're -really- committed to this Fighter Outreach gig," she comments, though her thought is interrupted by the arrival of the dumbwaiter. Which... is enough to widen her eyes. She gingerly reaches out for the cup, wrapping both her hands about the cup as she cradles it close. She waits for Gregory's approval before taking a sip for herself. "Aww, yeah, that's the stuff." It's caffeine, and it's strong. She'll splurge for some flavors, but when it comes to coffee, simple is quickest, and so simple is best.

"Yeah... JD seems to have lucked his way into one awesome gig after another. Natural talent there, he's gonna do great no matter what he picks, as long as he can navigate his little entourage's questionable wisdom." She thinks on that for a moment, staring off to the side for a moment -- but realizing that, this round, Matt and the others are Ultratech's problem, not hers specifically.

As her moment of introspection ends, she looks up to meet Gregory's gaze. "Heck, come to think of it, 'fighter' would be a -second- gig for most of the team. Not sure about Kenzo." She laughs faintly, ticking off the fighters' careers as she talks: "Movie star, exotic dancer, club DJ, odd jobs detective agency..." She grins. "And university student, in Kenzo. Hadn't really put it together like -that- before, but hard work was definitely a factor. They know what they want and they know what it'll take to get it."

She takes another sip of her coffee, savoring the flavor. "The facility here looks pretty amazing so far. Forcefields everywhere -- though the harmonics are kind of interesting. Though I gotta ask... there's audio warnings to go along with the visual ones, in case Djamila finds herself somewhere she's not supposed to... right?"

Gregory nods in agreement to the fact that he's dedicated, and raises his coffee cup. "We're only as good as our people."

He nods along with the appraisal of the prospects they'd picked up. "Of course, you have to understand I'm biased." He says, "I haven't met any of them yet so I can't be sure they'll be great fits, but my hope is that they'll accept a position with us long term. Evolve is about more than just the New Fighting Generation Project. If they're ready to become fighters first and everything else second, we're ready to help them bring home the gold."

The question, though, has him snap his fingers. "Almost forgot. Yeah, we've got it covered." He says, patting his suit jacket for a moment until he reaches into the pocket and pulls out a small black box stamped with the Ultratech logo. This, he hands over to Mint.

"Engineering weren't sure it'd be a good idea for you, it's... doubtful that the biometric capabilities are going to work for you, but I grabbed you one anyway."

He holds up his right arm, then, and pulls back the sleeve enough to show the fancy digital watch he's wearing.

"They're called a LifeBand. One has already been sent to all the sponsees. Slip your SIM card in there and it'll act like a phone. More importantly it's got ARIA installed on it, too. Djamila said she doesn't want any special accommodations at all, but... it'll keep her appraised of her surroundings, and I think she'll like this."

He brings the watch to the side of his coffee cup and clears his throat. "ARIA, read this for me will you?"

And a smooth robotic voice emanates from the watch:

"Caution. Contents may be hot."

He shakes his head, dropping his sleeve back down to cover the device. "Wild stuff we can do these days, huh? Djamila isn't going to need to worry about braille any more unless she wants to, ARIA will read her the whole telephone directory if she wants it."

"They will," agrees Mint, "and you'll love 'em, I'm sure of it." Someone like Gregory who can speak in approachable language and meet every one of their needs? That's... what's needed most right now, she feels. The corporal felt very overstretched in the preceding weeks, and she's very glad to have someone willing to engage with her students openly and attentively.

She is... curious, though, when Gregory plucks a box from his jacket pocket. She sets the coffee cup down on a table so she can accept the box with both hands, peeling it open and taking a closer look at the band.

For one fleeting moment, her brow furrows in concern. That expression softens as she listens to Gregory's explanation. But it doesn't turn back into a smile until he mentions that Djamila didn't want any special accomodations at all. This... this could work.

She doesn't have any particular illusions about what Ultratech will do with the data it gains. But she also made a point of leaving her super-duper-extra-classified credentials back at the base when she'd stopped by. Like it or not -- Ultratech is a military contractor who would -love- to have a secret backdoor with someone of her security grade.

"That's pretty amazing! Hardly any delay or lagtime. But I'm guessing it gets worse once you're far from a celltower, huh...?"

She swivels the palm of her right hand upward, nudging her thumb against a small tab at the base of her prosthetic's wrist. The tab swivels open, and a small press of her finger is enough to release the SIM card within. "... Mm... one thing I -did- notice, since you mentioned biometrics -- most of mine are recorded for performance evaluation, but I'd noticed that it stopped recording anything to flash once I walked into the building. Do you guys... get that a lot, with outside tech?"

Say what you like about Gregory Ilvich, the man knows his business. He wouldn't have risen as high in the extremely demanding corporate environs of Ultratech if he didn't. There's a slight nod from him at the mention about cellphone towers.

"Yeah, for ideal performance you want to be as on-grid as possible. It'll function as long as there's any kind of connection at all, but... it isn't magic, right?"

A flashed grin; maybe a little joke about one of the competitors who is new to both of them. Magic. It doesn't take a genius to see why Ultratech would want to get their hands on that, too. Mint's proprietary tech and security clearance make her a useful potential asset for sure, but magic?

How much would being the first corporation in the world to mass produce the arcane be worth?

Then the question about recording equipment.

"Oh. That."

He hesitates for a moment, then, perhaps surprisingly, he addresses the room at large.

"ARIA, do you want to field that one?"

And that impassive, robotic voice comes back - centered on the conversation this time, as though there were a third participant here all along.

"Certainly, Mr. Ilvich."

He shrugs helplessly to Mint as though to say 'what are you going to do?'

"As part of my security function within this facility all external surveillance equipment is blocked. This is to ensure compliance with Ultratech's regulatory obligations to its government partners. Any requests for an exemption to this require Grade K or higher authorisation."

Gregory looks genuinely apologetic, "Quite literally above my paygrade." He says, to clarify. "I mean, if you're really going to need it, we can put in the application, but... we'll need a solid justification. Trust me. They do not mess around when it comes to information security."

Magic. Yes. Mint grins -- and holds up a finger on that point, making sure to note that particular quality as one of her later questions to ask. But for now... she slots that SIM into her LifeBand, and trades its now-empty box for the cup of coffee. Because it's still warm and she needs it now

As ARIA speaks though, Panesh seems oddly unfazed by either the boilerplate denial or the casual, human face that Mr Ilvich puts upon it. "Oh... maybe we don't need to go that far. I'm used to working within limitations." She flashes her teeth in a broad grin.

Glancing at the LifeBand, she's happy to see it has connected, and from the look of things, ARIA has nicely catalogued the limited list of NFG contacts she's added to the phone. Only three government contacts, and all of them available on public websites.

With a sip of her coffee, she turns her eyes back to Gregory. "I mean, I can totally understand why writing to local storage is a security risk. But that one little thing is gonna make training prohibitively difficult for me and Kenzo. Him, because -everything- is about data, and me, because I'd fall right over using my KNUCKS system without constant recalibrations."

She lifts the LifeBand up, smiling. "It's a kickass system, really. Access to a digital super-intelligence patched right into your wrist..."

Here, she turns to the band itself. "In the interest of permitting Ultratech to continue maintaining its regulatory obligations, I'd like to ask: Is there any way that a non-Ultratech device would be permitted to interface with the LifeBand to receive realtime telemetry on a temporary, contract-brokered basis?"

Gregory actually raises an eyebrow at the suggestion, quietly impressed. Not just by the attempt at compromise, but the diplomatic way Mint has neatly threaded the needle. He hadn't expected her to be a fool of course - he's been in the business far too long to fall for the 'marines are jarheads' stereotype - but he hadn't expected her to so neatly and quickly identify what Ultratech are really after here and find a way around it.

"I would like to clarify." ARIA chimes in, "I am not a superintelligence. I am the latest in large language model technology utilising predictive algorithms and access to Ultratech's proprietary datasets in order to mimic consciousness."

Gregory smirks at that, and finishes up his coffee, discarding the empty cup into a recycling receptacle. "I guess it's good she reminds us of that." He says, "It's easy to forget sometimes. The things she can do for you are downright spooky."

The answer to the actual question is not as immediate as before. It takes three whole seconds for ARIA to consider the proposal and come to an appropriate response.

"In order to facilitate the Evolve project I have submitted this request for approval. Approval has been granted. Access to external networks will remain locked down but internal connections will be approved for LifeBand products registered to Evolve participants."

"Huh." Gregory says, "I'll be damned."

But ARIA doesn't stop there. The smooth robotic voice continues:

"I have also taken the liberty of submitting a request for Evolve participants to be granted access to a limited number of sites ordinarily restricted by the intranet to include FightTube, BattleHub and FacePunch in a read-only capacity to allow access to the maximum number of fight data sources."

That, gets another chuckle and a shake of his head from the executive.

"You see what I mean? Spooky. Can't fault the efficiency though."

"Mm. There we go. 'Large language model.'" Mint grins, raising her eyebrows at Gregory. She knows the difference between an 'intelligence' and a 'large language model,' but she also shares in Gregory's assessment of the technology as 'spooky' to the point that she likes to throw a compliment to the LLMs every now and then. You know. Just in case.

Like Gregory, it doesn't take her long to drain her coffee cup. Now that she knows it's easy to get another, she doesn't feel the need to nurse this one slowly. But, in the meantime, she gets confirmation that her request is approved. And she flashes her teeth in another grin to Gregory. It seems like she's about to say something else, but then ARIA continues -- and she tosses her cup in the same bin Gregory used.

"Ooh, definitely spooky. But sure, that ought to get us up and running. Thanks!"

She takes a moment to loop the LifeBand around her wrist; it seems she comes to terms with it now that it's going to becoem the best working storage device for her embedded systems. "So... I guess this is pretty much everything I'd needed to tug your ear about, but for one more thing..."

Mint looks back up from the LifeBand with a pleasant smile. "You mentioned magic. And it's something I =don't= have a whole lot of experience with. But I'm guessing you watched the Rumble -- and you know what Iris is capable of, yeah?"

Mint chuckles, holding out her hand as if she's gripping a mighty hammer. "So I'm wondering... with all the forcefield systems Ultratech has on hand, is there like... a way to project forcefields that can take on the forms of different weapons, in her style?"

Gregory nods along, and at the note that she doesn't have much experience with magic, he only nods more emphatically. "Few people do." He says, "And those who have, generally aren't talking."

He continues to nod as the conversation turns towards forcefields. Not a bad thought at all.

"Iris Osterlund is of particular interest to us, as you might have guessed by how highly we wanted her in the rankings. That wasn't, just, because of her performance. The fact that she's competent as a fighter doesn't hurt but we'd have made an offer at some point anyway. Now. As to the forcefields... ARIA, you're going to have a better view of what's up in R&D than me."

The Voice returns. "Certainly. Please direct your attention to the fighting arena."

The reason why is obvious; the hologrammatic display bursts into life, showing an indistinct individual holding a handle.

"Weaponised force field technology has been explored." ARIA continues, to the surprise of nobody in the room. "The flexibility it offers in a combat situation is valuable."

The figure goes through several motions; first, a sword made of light comes into being and they slash at the air, then the sword becomes a hammer which they swing, and a shield, which is used to block a burst of flame which arrives from off-screen.

"However." The voice continues, "The technology has limitations. The field of energy has little mass. Any force is generated from the internal energy reserve of either the weapon or the wielder. This can be extremely draining."

Which is apparently demonstrated when the shield winks out of existence shortly after the fire burst and the model collapses to the floor.

"Project Hardlight was therefore deemed nonviable for mass production and the existing prototype allocated to Agent REDACTED for field testing."

Gregory turns back to Mint as the display fades away completely. "Well. There you have it." He says, "What were you thinking?"

Mint nods in agreement regarding Iris. She's still a -little- weirded out by the repeated insistence on extending Ultratech employment offers to the team's fighters, but... that's a conversation she can have with the recruits. Personally. With the LifeBands off, preferably.

She doesn't have much time to worry about that, though, with the demonstration being shown on the floor below. Edging over to get a better look, Mint seems curiously enthralled by the holographic display. "It's great that visuals can be seen in normal light..." she comments, more to herself than to anyone in particular.

Though, as she listens, she sees the considerable drawbacks. And, she... coughs lightly, swallowing any laughter that might have^H^H didn't happen at all as the fire burst causes the indistinct individual to fall. There's really no idea whether this is a pure simulation or reconstructed footage from a real event. And she'd really rather -that- footage not make its way to social media.

"... Mmm... I'd say failure would be a concern for a field op, but in a limited training scenario, it -should- be fine..." She steps back away from the display and turns to Gregory. "If we can get a power source of some kind, either a portable cell or wireless, limited to -just- this floor, I think the technology might be of some use. All I want to do is be able to show Iris what it's like to be on the receiving end of an attack. She's got a knack for tossing out squeaky mallets when she wants big Thor hammers, and..." She shrugs lightly. "Professional assessment coming through: I think that's the ideal candidate for something we can work through with practice."

She smiles hopefully. "Because my next best thing is nerf weapons. Much cheaper. But a bit harder to deploy on surprise."

"Hey, you're the expert." Gregory says easily, "I'll see what I can do. Pull some strings. No promises. If you wanted a velociraptor or a flamethrower, those I can get you no questions asked, but it's difficult to tell what the high-ups will decide is off-limits sometimes."

He turns around, then, and props himself against the barrier as he gives Mint his full attention. She'd asked her questions after all; now it's time for him to ask his.

"So. Couple things." He says, trying to keep his tone breezy but - there's no mistaking the 'this is actually serious business' edge drifting in. "Threat assessment. I'm pretty sure that we don't need to worry about anyone messing with our picks inside the HQ. So long as they obey the LifeBand protocol we'll have tracking data on them too, so any motorcycle abductions will be picked up like."

He snaps his fingers.

"But. Cards on the table time. You, I get. I'm not going to bullshit you, we have a file on you, have done for a while, you're a known quantity. US Military, loyal, not an unblemished record, but you're competent and you're good at what you do. If I wanted a 'friendly face' for the US Marine Corps, you're exactly who I'd send."

It risks sounding like flattery, but his tone has a certain level of frankness in it now that was missing before; that had been 'hey we're all friends look at how much we can offer isn't this going to be great' Greg. Now he's turning towards the 'I have Concerns' portion of the conversation.

"But. There's very little data on the other three sponsors. Arctel as a corporation are, technically, our competition. But we haven't been able to get much insight on what they are hoping to achieve here. So, I'm just going to ask you straight up. What's been your read on them so far?"

Okay. In many ways, the Marine is unflappable. But Gregory's words just proved otherwise, as the New Jerseyan's jaw slowly hinges open, her brain performing the gymnastics feats necessary to slot 'velociraptor' onto the same feasibility tier as 'flamethrower'. And -she's- the -expert?-

"Wait, c'mon, Greg, we're... talking about kids one step out of high school here, not hardened prisoners in a Soviet-era gulag..." coughs out Mint in an attempt to mask her nonplussed state. Though, with the way she blurts out that statement, it seems Gregory found a way of bringing out her true native tongue. "I mean, I know I got somethin' of a reputation in the first draft of bein' a hardass, but -damn-, man."

... A full second might elapse, though, before she circles back with another scoff. "... Do you have, like, -surplus- velociraptors or something? What was the reason -those- guys got remanded to Agent *Redacted*?"

Still -- she -is- playing it off as a joke.
You know, before the serious business starts.
Even if she is a -little- curious.

It's hard to let the 'motorcycle abduction' scenario pass without mention. Mint's lips press together into a firm line as she bravely attempts to hold back her laughter. But then she remembers that Djamila had gotten attacked by her crazed father under the corporal's own watch -- and declines to add fuel on that particular fire.

This new side of Greg is... well. She didn't expect him to not -have- a business side. But the matter-of-fact way in which he rattles off the particulars of her file actually straightens her spine, as she sees him in the new light.

Military, loyal, not unblemished, but competent. Her eyes widen at that 'not unblemished' part -- but then she remembers that being a lowly corporal in the Special Forces tends to stand out like a sore thumb. She answers with a sober grin: "I appreciate the assessment."

And then he gets down to brass tacks. What is up with the Arctel representatives? And Mint then feels... a shrug coming on, along with a hiss of breath drawn through bared teeth. "That's... kind of a tough read, if I'm being honest. Nothing -seemed- out of the ordinary. But... hm. Where to begin...!"

She takes a deep breath, looking away for a moment to collect her thoughts. Then she begins.

"Veronica Sullivan. Security officer for Arctel, so her record says. Never got the chance to meet her, constantly deferred her parts to Kathy Flake. Kathy, now... she plays like an airhead, but her lucid moments show a pattern of intelligence that shows she knows the game she's playing. Particularly the way she volunteered to watch over Ms Greene."

Mint's lips cross into a firm line as her eyes meet Gregory's. The goblin girl's transformation was not, shall we say, subtle.

"And Zel... she's too tight-lipped to give me -anything- to work with." She shrugs mildly. "But she gave Mr Kuroiwa some good pointers. So I can't be too upset with her."

She raises her left arm, tapping the LifeBand with a finger. "So of course I dug into their IMEI codes. And wouldn'tcha know it? Burner phones, all of them."

She turns both hands palm up. "Nothing else turned up, really. They've been great at covering their tracks. And I wasn't about to bring any hot intel to potential threats."

She pauses for a moment, then smiles. "Not an unblemished record, but doin' my best, Greg."

Gregory laughs, obligingly, at the joke about the gulag. The comment about surplus velociraptors actually has him smirking, though, and the executive shakes his head, "Maybe one day I'll tell you about that." He says, but obviously, he doesn't feel able to go into the whole sordid business right now.

There's some strange economies of scale when you're dealing with velociraptors. Turns out you can get them a lot more quickly and a lot more cheaply than you can get people trained and ready to handle velociraptors.

The shared intel on the competition, who are also their partners and collaborators in all this, gets a more serious expression and a firm nod. What had happened to Nixie was, indeed, difficult to miss.

"That's more or less what we've turned up too." He says, "Maybe they're just looking to get Arctel's name out there. Maybe. But I don't really believe that. No sponsorship deals, no attempt to integrate whatever tech they're working on into the student's fighting styles, just staying in the background and one, unfortunate, incident with a goblin."

He spreads his hands wide.

"Thanks for sharing. I'll be sure to let you know if anything else comes up whilst they're enjoying our hospitality. It's probably just good old fashioned paranoia, but." And at this, he chuckles apologetically.

"It's my job to know what people want. I get uneasy when I can't figure it out. Anyway!"

And he claps those hands together.

"Glad to be working with you, Mint. I think you and I are going to do great things for these kids. You're still in charge of the training, obviously, that's your area far more than it is mine, you or they need anything special to make that happen, just come to me and we'll see what we can do."

Log created on 00:22:19 09/05/2023 by Mint, and last modified on 19:48:55 09/06/2023.