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|Kale Hearthward||They say that echoes of old television and radio broadcasts are still bouncing around out there in the far reaches of space.
That's what they say, anyway. It isn't the truth for two reasons - one of which being the multiverse, which absolutely screwed up the cosmology needed for that factoid to be true... and secondly that even if there were radio signals out there in the far reaches, they'd be horribly diffuse and weakened to the point of not being able to get anything meaningful from them. You could not pop over to Alpha Centauri with your television aerial attached to your space truck and pick up old episodes of I Love Lucy - certainly not in any form that'd let you hear someone saying "Bang! Zoom! Straight to the Moon!"
In the same manner, today's story starts not in the far reaches of space, but here on the ground. Details are sparse, and purposefully so - a team of Paladin agents have gone MIA (believed captured and brainwashed), and their handler has posted a mission to retrieve (and/or neutralize) them. It's all legitimate, but the details of the agents, their handler, and the team's original mission are all classified and need-to-know.
What you get, in your initial briefing, is a set of coordinates... and a note that there'll be a test before the handler will approve you for the retrieval mission, in order to make sure that the Paladins are not simply throwing more wood into the enemy's bonfire. You can expect your mental fortitude and powers of observation to be tested, reads the note.
The note also says that you should come hungry, and bring some hard currency with you. It does not specify how much or what type.
And following the coordinates brings everyone to a public park. It's a nice park, just a few blocks from a warpgate. There's a pond with some ducks. There's a few joggers going by on the path. There's a pair of inconspicuous men talking quietly on one of the park benches. There's what looks like a cross between an italian restaurant and a futuristic starship in a clearing. There's a young mother pushing a double baby carriage.
None of this looks like something that's your test problem. It all seems perfectly ordinary. Maybe it's something to do with the inconspicuous men? Maybe one of the ducks is some sort of drone decoy? Maybe there's something out of your current line of sight, hidden behind the trees or the starship?
There's nothing - repeated, emphasized, nothing here that looks like it's your problem.
|Tina Natsumi||Mental fortitude, powers of observation, hunger, and money. That's quite the combination of things, and Tina's not really sure what to expect when all four of those things combine to lead her to a public park of all places. Still, she's not going to complain about what sounds like it could be an easy and overblown mission, especially when there's...
"... Is that a spaceship?" She comments aloud while staring at the Italian spaceship, looking from left to right slowly while trying to gauge if anyone else is seeing what she's seeing. She eyes the phone in her jacket's inner pocket, furrowing her brow for a moment before deciding against it and just heading right for the very normal restaurant.
"Haven't had decent Italian in a while, anyway.. Wonder if they got any good veal parm dishes in there." And so, she begins her quest to find some good ass veal parmigiana!
|Ioanna Langstrom|| Space culture influenced by past radio signals is always interesting, but it's interesting in the fragmentary way it develops. The bits and pieces of other cultures' ideograms being treated like words from a distant god, or a prophet's whispers, or just some interesting tidbit that pushes science forward - it's that very jumbled mix that made Ioanna take classes on this particular side-subject of Xenoanthropology. The idea of cultures building on shards of other cultures in an informational manner as well as a physical one...it was just too intriguing to ignore.
And that's what Second Lieutenant Langstrom is thinking about as they arrive. That, and the mission itself.
Agents, MIA. How many times had she been sent to dig through the rubble for comrades? For bodies and dogtags? How many times had she been sent back out to hunt not for survivors but for the slim hope that someone *had* survived? And now, here it was again.
The place is nicer, but the mission is the same.
Ioanna had brought some credits and some yen (she still had yen on her from her last dinner), and not much else. The OC's disguised itself as a watch. The MCM's disguised itself as a fancy-looking suit and skirt with a pair of sunglasses, and the FC's become a palm pilot. A *palm pilot*.
Behind her sunglasses, she raises an eyebrow as Tina starts walking towards the restaurant. The part of her that wants to warn the other woman wars with the professional. The professional, ultimately, wins out. Don't split the group and don't argue with the commanding officer if it's not a clear life-or-death situation, and it's not yet.
"Yes, ma'am. Be careful. Something's wrong with it." That's all she says, though.
|Kale Hearthward||That is... nope, that's still just a restaurant starship, certainly not your problem. One could say it's somebody else's problem.
"Sorry, reservations only, ma'am," says the robot just outside the front door. It says "ma'am" in a particular way that's not obviously hostile or snide, but has the perfectly toned amount of attitude and emphasis that makes it just unclear enough whether it's being rude or if you're just imagining it being rude. The sort of quantum rudeness that can only be perfected by a service industry professional who's just simply Done with a capital Uhn.
The rudeness is of more immediate import than the fact that she's a robot in the middle of an otherwise mundane modern-earth city park. The whole robot thing isn't important, right?
"There's a clownburger just down the road, I would suggest that they might have open seating - and no dress code, ma'am."
|Tina Natsumi||Tina, for her part, is dressed somewhat lightly considering the weather: A light gray jacket, a plaid button up with the really soft collar that definitely won't hold a tie, and a pair of convertible shorts that still have the legs attached. Definitely not Italian spaceship material, but at least it doesn't scream COWBOY all over the place.
She doesn't even have her hat on.
"Right? It's definitely eye catching being out here of all places, but..." Tina pauses, then turns to Ioanna. "Wait, if you're here, then does that mean..." She trails off, stroking her chin lightly in thought before being interrupted by hearing the robot speaking.
More importantly, it's telling her she can't get in. "What? You sure you don't got any spots for us in there?" Indeed, the fact that it's a robot doesn't bother her nearly as much as being told she can't get in. Letting out another thoughtful noise, she eventually shrugs and slips her hands into her pockets. "Alright, that's fine. Then tell me... You got a number for this place? And what's the dress code, anyway? I mean, from the looks of it..."
Tina steps back, looking over the building again. "... Yeah, I got nothing. What matches Italian /and/ spaceship?"
|Ioanna Langstrom|| Ioanna raises an eyebrow at Tina. She doesn't say anything, but there's the clear implication that, Of Course She's Here, It's A Rescue Mission And She Has Tons Of Experience. When the robot speaks, Ioanna just leans forward and smiles at her. "I think I fit the dress code just fine, ma'am."
And then she slides a few credits into the robot's hands. "Don't you agree?"
"Besides, we have a reservation. Check for 'Langley.' I'm sure you'll find it. Joan Langley, for two."
|Kale Hearthward||"Langely - Langely... Nope, nothing under Langely," says the robot.
"Reservation under S, party of twelve, more likely," says a voice from behind her.
Ioanna gives Tina the details over the radio, and as soon as Tina knows what to look for, it's like it becomes *obvious*. Like some neuron pathway in her head, previously blocked, lights up - there's a restaurant spaceship in the middle of the park. The sheer oddness and out-of-placeness of it comes rushing into her mind.
"Very good - Chevalier Langstrom, Chevalier Natsumi. Most people would not even see the restaurant, much less be able to approach it... much *much* less be able to make the connection on their own. You both pass. I am Agent Fjords. Please come inside, and I'll start the briefing."
Inside is... a restaurant. There's tables, chairs, waiters and customers (all robots), but the space is simultaneously the inside of a spaceship - wine racks adjacent to control panels, takeout counters next to oxygen recyclers.
"Welcome to the Starship Bistromath. Second generation Improbability Drive, prototype SEP field... and until recently a prize crew of field agents. Please, sit," he says, gesturing at a large briefing table (with place settings, menus, and slightly blemished water glasses.)
|Kale Hearthward||Agent Fjords is a bearded old human man: https://ibb.co/WVS63Qg
And the Bistromath (fan render): https://ibb.co/0ydCp75
|Ioanna Langstrom|| Ioanna doesn't salute, not in public. That'd just sort of blow everything. "Yes, sir. Thank you, sir."
She sits down, crosses one leg over her knee, sets both hands in her lap, and stares at the older man politely. She doesn't look at the menu yet. Business first.
|Tina Natsumi||Why didn't Tina think about bribing them? Inwardly cursing at herself for not bringing more than a decent dinner, she lets Ioanna take the lead with bribing the robot and realizing that it's... Well, a robot.
Also, the fact that this Italian restaurant spaceship REALLY doesn't belong here. It catches her so off guard that it actually takes her a while to even realize that someone else had come up from behind her, turning around abruptly to face the man identifying himself as Agent Fjords.
"Whoa. Uh. W-well, bein' able to see it's still a personal victory!" She laughs a little too loudly and forced'ly, then lets out a defeated sigh and nods as she gestures at the restaurant. "Alright, let's see what's what in here."
And so, she heads into the restaurant with Ioanna, trying not to gawk too much at literally everything and anything. It's not as though she hasn't seen spaceships before (probably), but seeing one up close like this is still a surreal enough experience that she doesn't even remember the fact that she came in here hungry.
"Those are... Some words I don't really get aside from field agents, but sure. When's the last time and where's the last place you had any contact with them?"
|Kale Hearthward||"24 hours ago, Agents Spin, J, and Chieftain had embarked to check out a disturbance, in space sector #44TI - informally known as the Beat Galaxy. We had assumed it was another incursion by the Gravillian Empire, but instead turned out to be something else. A local terrorist by the name of Purge. We believe he has some sort of mind control technology that-"
"Excuse me - are you ready to order?" asks a robot.
"- he used on the three agents. Purge's goals and targets are unknown - but the most recent intelligence places him at a local botanical garden known as Spacepark, so we'll be heading directly there once this briefing is complete, and the Bistromath's engines finish their calculations."
"Also is this your entire party?" prompts the robot. "The reservation was for twelve. We had to move tables, you know."
The menus are complicated looking affairs - there's no ala carte option, you have to pick a starter and a dessert, and it looks like some of the entrees come with a second starter? Some items mention coming with a side dish, but the list of possible side dishes is hard to find, and seems to cut off halfway through.
"The first warning I have, if you're still committed to this mission... is that the Beat Galaxy is named such because there's a high degree of..."
Agent Fjords struggles to find a good term for a moment. "... Informally, the team called it 'music-based bullshit', but there's likely a more polite term for it. If you have any dancing, instrumental, or vocal experience, you may end up needing to employ it at some point."
|Tina Natsumi||"44TI, Beat... Mm. Nope, I got nothing for this one." Tina shakes her head lightly and keeps listening, apparently having spent a moment trying to come up with something witty. Alas, her wit seems to be broken, but that's probably for the best.
"Chef's recommendation, please. Something with beef?" Tina most definitely is not craving burgers right as she answers the robot. There is a bit of awkwardness when she hears that tables had to be moved, but...
She makes a mental note to leave a big tip later.
"At least we know where he's gonna be. Uh. Spacepark's not the park we just came out of, right? I mean, aside from this place, it didn't look too space-y."
When Agent Fjords finally explains the beat Galaxy's name, meanwhile, Tina's face cracks into a wide grin. "Just the way I like it. I used to.. I mean, I still do some streaming on the side, so rhythm-based finger and voice work are right up my alley. Just... Uh. Don't expect me to dance or nothing."
She rubs her jaw absent-mindedly at that last part. "Even if there's handlebars... Geh. Ioanna, I'm counting on you for that stuff."
|Ioanna Langstrom|| 'Beat Galaxy'.
Ioanna raises her eyebrow, again. The robot prompts an order, so Ioanna goes about looking at it again, her thoughts unreadable on her face. Fingers trace down the menu, then stop. She's used to ordering at weird alien restaurants. This isn't that much more difficult. After a bit, she finally settles, folds up her menu, and hands it off the robot with a polite 'thank you very much, and hold my drink until my meal comes.'
"I've been there," Ioanna says finally. Her voice is very neutral as she says, "I bought a very cute tie-dye tanktop and short-short set there."
She scribbles something down on the napkin. "Do you want me to teach you, ma'am? It isn't especially hard to learn."
|Kale Hearthward||"The multiverse is a large and strange place," says Agent Fjords. "There are lots of places that the main Paladins elite don't routinely operate in - I'm surprised you had been there, Agent Langstrom. That's to our benefit, then."
Orders are taken. Ioanna's drink is brought before anything else arrives.
"Livestreaming might be cross-applicable. Agent Spin used to say that half of everything was improv, and the other half is confidence..."
He trails off.
"... I suppose that brings me to the mission - Ideally, retrieve the three Elite Agents from the Beat Galaxy, or neutralize them if you have to. Foil whatever plans the terrorist Purge has. And-"
"Sorry, ma'am, we're all out of beef," says the robot waiter, interrupting him.
"- And return safely, if you would. The Bistromath's SEP field will ensure it remains unnoticed and untouched during whatever battles are going on, so you should be able to use it for immediate extraction."
A minute later, the beef dish Tina ordered arrives, put in front of Ioanna, while Tina gets Ioanna's food, and a robot pulls up besides Fjords and starts preparing him a tableside salad that he didn't order.
|Ioanna Langstrom|| With all the calm one might expect of a customer used to Multiversal restaurants, Ioanna just picks up her plate from Tina's side and sets Tina's plate over where it belongs. She expected the drink to come early, so she's left it to the side with a great deal of diligence and restraint, and when it shows up, she sips it calmly.
Return them, or neutralize them.
Ioanna just nods and says "Yes, sir." She doesn't let the grim thoughts show on her face. Neutralize.
Put them out of their misery.
She'd had to do that, too.
So she eats, impassively. Finally, she says, "A dossier would be appreciated, sir, when you have time. One on the agents and one on the terrorist. If possible, more details on the area they were last seen. I'd like to review them, if possible, and be able to share these details with other agents in the event of backup being necessary."
|Tina Natsumi||"You have? Dang, what're the odds?" Tina laughs, then leans back in her seat after hearing what Ioanna bought. It's pretty obvious she's looking her over, holding a hand up once and squinting while holding her finger in a particular way. "Yeah... Yeah, that'd look good. Doesn't surprise me too much after you schooled Staren the other... Week ago? Ah, feels like you've been with us forever already."
Another laugh, and then she looks a little disappointed at being told there's no beef. Just a little.
"Improv and confidence are basically all I got when it comes to performing. I go off script way too easy, anyway." She replies to Agent Fjords, stroking her chin again while weighing what he's telling them with what he's just sort of implying without saying. "So retrieve 'em." She completely ignores the possibility of having to neutralize them. Or at least she just doesn't verbally acknowledge it. "Sounds straightforward enough if... Wait. Wait."
She looks around for a moment, then back at Fjords. "This place is really gonna be our mission command here? It's really not gonna just stick out to...?" A beat, and then she shrugs with an agreeing nod. "Eh, yeah. I can see it. What're the odds of us succeeding if we just went in gunz blazing, though? Just... You know, for comparison's sake."
|Ioanna Langstrom|| "Technically speaking, ma'am, I've been with you since the Paladins was founded," Ioanna reminds Tina in her usual neutral tone. "As for the outfit..."
"Yes, it looks very cute on me. Thank you. I make a habit of buying cute clothes when I go to a new civilization. I have a very..."
|Kale Hearthward||"A full dossier will be sent to your tactical network later," says Fjords, which is a fancy way of saying 'posted to the bulletin board'. "In brief - Agent Spin specializes in groove-based shields, Agent Chieftain has knowledge of ancient dances and was also the team's researcher, and Agent J is - was, our offensive utility."
"As for Purge..."
Fjords brings out the file photo. https://i.ibb.co/ph3Xpxz/Purge-s-Manualpose.jpg
"He's more charismatic than he looks. The nickname the team gave him was 'Warlord of the Dance' - he commands an impressive following, both naturally as well as brainwashed dancers, and also a number of quote unquote 'funky robots'."
"The Bistromath's improbability drive can also get to and from the Beat Galaxy nearly instantly, and teleport in at the most advantageous spot. If you have alternate transportation, please, don't let me keep you from using it."
"Here's your check, sir," says the waiter.
"Seperate checks, actually."
The waiter robot badly conceals a sigh, and then returns with separate checks, all of which are wrong. Tina's got both 'beef special' and 'replacement for beef special' on her check, while Ioanna's bill comes out to slightly more than the total amount of money she has on hand.
|Tina Natsumi||"R-right. Ergh. Sorry." Tina tries laughing it off, but in that 'ah fuck' apologetic sort of way complete with an awkward nod. Luckily, she can focus on the interesting closet thing instead! "Wish I thought to do that since I started. Streaming equipment is freakin' expensive, and all that money just went towards maintaining the cowgirl look. But... Maybe I'll be able to start updating my stuff to something more respectable instead of just showy bullshit."
Fjords explains each agent's specialty, getting cautious nods from Tina. "I see, I see. So... We'll have to be prepared to fight 'em if they don't want to come back easily." She still refrains from saying anything about outright killing them. "And Purge.. What kinda dirt do-"
And then she sees the picture. Tina's jaw clenches tightly as she abruptly stops saying anything. It's pretty easy to see she's trying not to snort at the first hit of just seeing what he looks like, simply nodding to continue showing she's listening very intently. It takes a little while for her to finally calm down, and she does at least manage not to laugh outright.
"If we can get more hands on deck for this, the better. We can't fight someone like that head on, that's for sure." She sounds completely serious as she says that, too, leaning back in her seat while picking up her check. There's a long pause as she notices that she was charged twice (basically), but doesn't say anything while fishing out a credit card. "Good thing I'm not updating my streaming rig anymore. Still.. Uh."
She quiets down. "Don't know if I'm gonna eat here again."
|Ioanna Langstrom|| Ioanna's not paying full price anyway. She just flashes her military I.D. and stands up. "Thank you, sir. We'll handle this as discretely and as safely as possible. Hopefully we'll be able to retrieve them, but if not, neutralization won't be a problem."
With that, she tosses her yen and credits down on the table and moves to leave.
|Kale Hearthward||Fjords takes a look at the numbers on the bills, and then reaches over to type them into the control panel.
Reality briefly shifts.
Outside, the environment is colorful. Large alien flora is everywhere you look, corralled into neat beds and exhibits, with pathways and novelty people-movers woven in, above, under, and in some cases through the exhibits. It's like a cross between a space station, a theme park, and a botanical gardens - and looks like it'd be a nice place to spend a day if the group wasn't on a mission.
... Oh, and also if it wasn't under attack by robots.
The Bistromath has parked itself neatly at an open space in a picnic area, and nobody reacts to its presence beyond maneuvering around it as needed. The Someone Else's Problem field tugs at Tina's mind a bit as she disembarks, but now that she knows the trick it's easy to remember what the Bistromath is and why it's important.
"Up Down Up Down," the robots chant as they march along the pathways, swinging at anyone they encounter. So far it looks like nobody's seriously injured, but that might just be good chance and fortune.
In addition to the robots, there's a broad-shouldered figure, dressed in all black with a zigzag helmet, menacing a group of people.
"Give me the code if you want to live, up, up up down chu!"
He stomps his foot on 'chu', and a bolt of lightning comes from seemingly nowhere to strike near the cowering people.
"... Chieftain," says Fjord softly, from the door to the Bistromath. "Langstrom, Natsumi, do what you must."
|Tina Natsumi||"That was a pretty... Uh. Eh, maybe a three." Tina comments as she steps out of the Bistromath with Ioanna, not sounding too impressed nor disgusted. "Really don't know why anyone was making such a big deal over..."
Right. It's a spaceship. It's their mission control. It's not supposed to be a real (good) restaurant.
Snapping her mind back to reality, it doesn't take her nearly as long to notice the chanting robots and the figure in black. "Chieft... Oh. One of them." Tina sucks in some air through her teeth as she's already forced to come to terms with the worst case scenario possible so soon after thinking she might have had a little more time than none at all to think about it.
"The code? Uh... You want the code? You really think you can /handle/ the code?!" Tina starts shouting as she stomps forward with a dramatic flourish of her hands and feet, as if trying to grab Chieftain's attention. She glances briefly at Ioanna as if trying to signal her and silently mouthing 'play along', then pointing at Chieftain.
"I'm only gonna say this once, so listen closely!" And then she starts gesturing wildly, not quite pointing in any identifiable direction beyond 'up', but that's not her real plan. As she's gesturing and moving along, she's approaching the robots, timing her dramatic swings of her arms to coincidentally be right where said robots are.
"You get what I'm saying now?"
|Ioanna Langstrom|| Alright.
Ioanna's dressed in a suit, a skirt, a pair of high heels, and sunglasses. She's got a purse, she's got a watch. She is in full fucking Secret Agent look, thanks to the Alter Gear. It is not, in fact, something most people want to dance in.
It is also a powersuit, and thus, not really a problem.
So when Chieftan comes out and Tina starts moving wildly, Ioanna instead does, in fact, move into a dance. She throws her hands up. She spins her hands down. She jumps and does a split. She hits the ground and finishes the split. She stands, she jumps, she jumps, she hits the ground.
She flashes the watch in front of her face and there's a flare of light and a bolt of lightning behind her.
Her face is completely neutral the whole time.
"I'm sorry, sir."
"I'm afraid I don't have the authority. You'll have to speak to my handler."
She tilts her head at Tina.
"But I'm afraid she's somewhat busy, so you'll have to go through me if you want an audience."
She spins once again. "Assuming you think you can keep up."
A left, a left, a right, a right. Up, up, down, down, left, right, left right. Kick. Kick. Kick and spin. Kick and spin. Up, up, kick and spin, down, down, kick and spin. It's the kind of dance you only learn from going out to hot spots, the kind of dance you don't learn as a soldier but as someone who spends their time immersed in local cultures.
And it is hot as hell to watch, because Ioanna Langstrom knows how to show off, because, in the end, that's what dancing is, and even if you're terrible at it, if you're having fun showing off, that's all that matters.
|Kale Hearthward||The plan of just hitting the robots works well - by the time Tina's done they're nothing more than piles of scrap and parts on either side of the pathway. But in return she takes a few hits from the robots, not enough to put her in any sort of danger, but...
... There's a sense that she could have avoided those (and avoided them effortlessly) if she'd moved with a bit more rhythm. On the other hand, moving out of rhythm means that the robots didn't see the hits coming? There seems to be a tradeoff here, being 'on the beat' like the robots (and Brainwashed!Chieftain) are is a source of power, but it also makes you a bit more predictable.
Chieftain whirls around, focusing on Tina - and then on Ioanna. "Hmmmh. So you've got the code to the receiver," he says, still moving to the beat idly as he talks. "I can keep up with you all day long."
Left, left, right, right - Chieftain's copying her moves, and the tempo she made them in. Up, up, down, down, left, left-
- and there. He made a mistake, going left instead of right, and just for an instant he falters - the full-body black suit and helmet fizzling like static for just a moment, showing the person beneath -
- then left, right, kick. Kick. Kick and spin, kick and-
- the spin comes a quarter-moment too late, and the outfit fizzles again. "Help-"
Up, up, kick and spin, down, down, kick and spin.
"You've got nothing. Now watch *me* move."
Left, left. Left, right. Up up up left. Up up up right. Kick kick spin down.
And then, a moment later, if Ioanna doesn't match those moves - lightning strikes!
|Tina Natsumi||Handler? Tina resists the urge to give Ioanna a bewildered look at that, focused as she is on just trying to keep those robots busy with her stumpy movements and mighty swinging. It's not even that she's timing it badly the longer she goes, but her coordination with trying to mimic any kind of dance is rather terrible.
It'd be generous even to say that she's a novice at it. She's certainly not pulling off the moves Ioanna is, and she does slow down after the robots are down to just watch. She doesn't even realize she's stopped moving for a while until after the Chieftain's outfit starts fizzling, and then Tina snaps herself back to reality.
"Chieftain? Ah... Not bad. Not bad at all. But don't count me out just yet, either!"
Instead of dancing (which she's terrible at), she starts vocalizing and raising and lowering her hands like she's controlling her pitch or something with them. She isn't, but it looks convincing enough, especially with her pitch control being significantly better than her dance moves.
Left and right are considerably trickier, but she leans into it in the most literal sense: She just leans left and right while projecting her voice to the designated sides. She even follows the directions well enough!
Her feet aren't moving, though. That could still be a problem.
|Ioanna Langstrom|| "Apparently, you can't even keep up with me for one round, let alone all night."
She leans forward, hands on her hips. "Believe me. Better men than you have tried."
And then she's into it again. She moves like she was made for it. Her heels tap to the left. To the left, to the right. She throws her hair back and points up, up, up, then brings her hand down to the left. She throws her hands up up up and then right. Kick, kick, spin, and she bends down, her hair hanging in front of her face, touching the ground with both hands.
"The difference between us, sir, is that I actually know how to dance."
And now she throws her head back again. She's dancing like someone out of a music video. She has probably been in one at some point, by the way she moves. She's all spin, kick, spin, kick. She's spin, kick, spin, kick kick, spin spin kick, spin, kick kick, spin. And then just to throw him off she incorporates his own routine back into the dance, like a fucked-up Simon Sez. When Tina starts trying to sing, Ioanna grabs her by the hand and pulls Tina up against her chest, and says, very simply, "Follow my lead."
And then she's moving again, left and right, left and right, guiding Tina's steps with hers, moving Tina's hands with hers, carefully curating the motion of Tina's feet and hands - and, more importantly, acting as a lightning rod if it zaps her.
|Kale Hearthward||The first lightning bolt comes in at Tina, when she misses a kick...
... and gets intercepted by Ioanna, who takes the hit for her.
The two Paladins move, going left, right, spinning, kicking - getting through the rest of Chieftain's maneuvers, hitting each beat, moving as one.
And then Ioanna takes the offensive. Chieftain follows her pattern, going for the spins, the kicks -
- and then he's thrown off entirely when his own pattern comes back in. "No!"
The black oversuit fizzles.
"No, no no-"
It fizzles again, and again, and then when it gets to Ioanna's final move...
... he's off the beat entirely. The suit fizzles, and then falls apart -
- revealing an exhausted, sunglasses wearing human male in a suit, who's making no motion towards launching another round of dance attacks.
"The... Project DIVA members, I presume..." he says. "Thank you, I-"
Then his attention snaps back to the Bistromath. "Introductions later. Tell me that hellscape of a diner is functioning, and we've got an exit plan," he says.
The reason for his concern becomes clear - he might be free of Purge's influence, and the fighting has caused enough of a distraction for the park to be evacuated of civilians, but there's still quite a number of robots around, and they're starting to aggro on the group. Time to make an exit.
|Tina Natsumi||Tina can totally take the lightning. She's confident in her ability to weather those types of blasts, especially with the power of her Persona! What she's less confident after being pulled up against Ioanna is...
Well. Several things, and not just the difference in their moves. If nothing else, though, she's way better at following someone else's lead in dance than making stuff up on her own, even if she can't quite pull off the more fancy spins. She does have more than enough strength to pull off any low dips, if nothing else.
By the time the Chieftain's oversuit is zapped to oblivion, Tina's panting with all the dancing and moving and looking considerably more flushed than someone probably should after dancing. She doesn't sound or look tired, though, but doesn't comment further as she approaches the man in the suit when he finally speaks up and sounds normal.
"Uh... Sure. Anyway, Chieftain, right? It's working, yeah, so get in, and let's get outta here before..." She looks over at the robots coming closer, then reaches over to pull him up (and resorts to hoisting him over her shoulder if he can't get up on his own) before making a break for the Bistromath. "Let's get a move on, people! We'll question each other about whatever later!"