Hidden 18 days ago Post by Count Numbers
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November:

"When is easy. Black Sun didn't use Goat themselves, but Goat was still saleable property - legally saleable, when these records start, before there was any reason to hide it. They sold Goat before they even decided to make a billboard of you." It takes Singh four pats to find the pocket with a marker in it, and by the time he scribbles with it the ink has long run dry. He gives up after tearing off the corner of a page with friction. "The buyer tried to blur what they bought after that, though. That's the point of playing shell games with shell companies, Goat should have been emancipated. Whoever has them now, it's someone who likes their slave labour."

"Where and who is harder. There isn't much here, but there has to be enough to find that out. Otherwise it wouldn't be worth the bomb, would it?" Real estate in Thrones represents a share of access to the station's processing power, but also its information stores. He slides a terminal from the wall and begins typing. "I need to make a lot of junk data to hide my questions, I'm trying to work out what I need to ask and how I'm going to hide it." He thinks, and makes a 'yuck' face. "I was going to say 'come back tomorrow', but we both know how that goes, don't we? You'll come back and find I stay dead after I get shot, but I'll have laid the next bit of breadcrumbs for you to follow and it'll all be needlessly tragic. I've still got too many years of mischief in me, I think, for that. Would any of you care to spend the night? Watched pots don't boil over."
Hidden 17 days ago 17 days ago Post by Thanqol
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Red!

The others drift away. It feels like decompression; like her mind shifting back to more adjusted and relaxed state. Bringing her entire nine-coloured personality to bear against a human is overwhelming and disorienting for the human. For them, it's like arguing with a crowd, it triggers certain deeply encoded social threat responses. It's not much better for her; it's like getting someone else tangled up in the middle of her thought process, able to slip in and interrupt her when she's halfway through an idea. She knows she shouldn't do it, she should engage in structured one on one conversations with occasional clearly telegraphed handoffs to different colours. It's less stressful for everyone involved. It was a sign of how stressed she already was that she tried to do something as stressful as full-personality engage Singh.

Now that the conversation has wound down she fractures into half a dozen headaches. Blue is going off to stress about Goat, Green is going off to stress about if she's a good girl, Black is going off to stress about the increased operational complexity she has to deal with. Red knows why they all found this reunion so tilting. The best case scenario would have been if he did have a brain bomb, Blue removed it, and then he said 'thank you for saving me, add five hundred - no, six hundred - reward points to your rescue humans subroutine and then she could feel good objectively and subjectively. It would have been nice, in other words, if this had been an engineering challenge and not a social one.

But headaches were for other colours and most of her plans were either childish or shit. She wasn't just saying that because she was hardcoded to think that plans were stupid either, she'd have reams of objective evidence if gathering objective evidence wasn't exactly the kind of idiot garbage that was the problem in the first place. If she'd left it to the consensus she'd still be moodboarding the proper vibe for the operation to break into Rudy's desk. She'd evidently rather get shot than go through one of those when she didn't have to.

So she hangs out to make small talk. It's not a focused information drill like the other colours will do; her primary tools are 'oh for real?' and 'no way' and '*nod nod*'. But she doesn't lack an agenda either. She wants to get him to a point where he talks for a long time about her, the project, his goals and theories, all from the horse's mouth so to speak. Back then it had always been mission, mission, mission. Sent into space as a child of ten to play the galaxy's most hardcore minecraft game. What did it all mean now that she was an adult and could understand things properly?

White!

"No thank you," said White. "I'm far too annoyingly bespoke for that."

She raised her left leg, bent at the knee. One of the glowing joints there whirled and rotated and raised up a finger length metal cylinder. With a hiss and crackle it opened up revealing a stack of what looked like metal coins, tightly packed like a roll of five cent coins. White held her hand out and tipped and five of the bottom-most coins fell out into it. While the ones at the top were still shining and copper, the ones at the bottom were corroded into fragments of verdigris. She tucked these into her pocket and added five more coins onto the top, before pushing the container closed again. She flexed her knee testingly, then bought up the other side.

"Of course nothing could be simple," she said, repeating the motions on the alternate side. "I'm using a modernized version of Mr. Volta's 1.0 battery stack. A charged copper-based alloy is flash corroded with acid to release controlled bursts of energy, I manage energy release by increasing or decreasing acid levels in the chamber. I've got battery chambers in my feet, knees, upper thighs -" she lifted the edge of her shorts to reveal the upper port that opens in the same way. "- shoulders, elbows, wrists and two in my neck. Each of them is an independent circuit; if I run down the batteries in my legs then my arms still work fine. I can redistribute power internally, pulling charge from my arm batteries to my legs. That's low-level physically painful and fatiguing but still more efficient than acid-flooding a chamber."

She changes out her arm battery coins too, worn down from her earlier climb. There are more burned coins here - she hadn't changed them in a while, something she notes with embarrassment. A clean power stack should be the minimum before going to the gym, White.

"Downsides are the internal strain, slow swapping, and the wastefulness and expense," she said, continuing to go through the routine. "The upside is that I never have to deal with degraded battery performance, energy price spikes or lengthy recharge sessions; as long as I've got a pocket full of spares I can hotswap back to full charge. It also has both pros and cons with heat management; I don't need to spend as much space keeping a power core cool, but it does mean I circulate coolant throughout my entire body. I have something like a cardiovascular system for that. The fact that I circulate so much coolant does contribute to the power of my cold, dead robot hands," and here she put one of those ice cold palms against 3V's thigh just to hear her squeal.

"But I don't actually know how any of it compares," she admits. "I never really tested any of it. My life is generally sedate, with low level cleaning as the only physical activity. I'm half scared that I've got secret assassin droid kung fu superpowers - if I flood an entire power chamber at once, how hard, exactly, could I punch? I don't know, I don't even know if that'd just blow out the joint. I do know that none of the mainline android models uses anything like this system, and aggressive googling didn't turn up any workout videos for this design."
Hidden 13 days ago Post by Count Numbers
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Red:

Singh curates his junk data. If this were chemistry this would be a beautiful process. Did you know there’s a gram of gold in every hundred million metric tons of seawater? Imagine the process of extracting it. You’d have to start with a huge engine to boil everything away, to extract the solutes from the water. Then you’d need to make new solutions out of those, with different solvents, bit by bit, element by element, being careful that single gram of gold didn’t get lost in any intermediate step. It’d be impossible to find which specific one failed, so you’d have to start the whole process again. And then there’s margin of error.

But this is not chemistry, and so it is an ugly and uninteresting process, and so Singh is grateful for the company.

“The one with the chainsaw, the one who got shot.” Singh glances up from boiling an ocean to salt, “I choose to be honoured rather than insulted, you know. The one with a sense of danger and risk. The fun one. I'm choosing not to see it as leaving me with the one that’s already been shot to death once, recently. I hope that’s not the reason.” He hits a key with some finality, then leans back. “This step takes a while. You know, I have a sense of Yellow now, and Green… even for knowing her longer, I still think I know you the best. I think we’re the most alike, certainly.” His eyes flash daringly at you. “Now, here’s my question. Do you take that as an honour or an insult?”
Hidden 13 days ago 13 days ago Post by Tatterdemalion
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Gym!

Let the record show, very officially, that 3V managed to bite down on that squeal. More of a squeak, really. Sure, the physical reaction of her shiver more than makes up for it, probably, what with how you can see it going all the way up her spine from the balls of her feet, but there was officially no squealing here, none whatsoever.

Distraction: the Euna Kim tangential. Euna is super sincere and she’s just as obsessive as 3V is. Was. Is? Has been known to be. Sure, her obsession is about all the ways that she can make the body do things that God never wrote into the operating manual, but game recognizes game. And don’t discount the power of being a sincere, cute dork.

Dig a little deeper. There’s the hardware connection, too. 3V got her bad girls as an upgrade, as a way to keep up, as something that she didn’t really think all the way through. Now they’re hers for the rest of forever. Can’t get the old flesh back even if you’re curious, sweetie. Even when you’re curious. But before you feel too sorry for yourself, here’s Euna Kim, all four limbs cybertronic and bionic, and she didn’t pick getting them. She just picked what she was going to do with them for the rest of her life, and she proceeded to do so, with vim, with vigor, and with an unassailable sense of cheer. How can you not like someone like that? Look up to them, even? Euna Kim is a goddamn hero and the work she does is more profound than what 3V used to do, even if her audience is smaller, her sphere of influence bounded to her tribe, her people, her domain which she rules with a mechanical fist and a bounce up to the ceiling when she’s flustered.

(You should see what her wife can do to her. Flustered her right onto her ass one time. Euna insists that she thought there was a chair there, but we know. We all know, Kimmy.)

Let the record show also that while someone was getting her knee examined and her diagnostics diagnosed, 3V slipped an arm around her smooth android shoulders. Not possessively, but in a show of solidarity, you know? Comfort. A silent reminder that 3V’s still here, still sweaty, still huffing, but here if you need something, babe.

Repaying that with Thighgate is one of history’s greatest betrayals, so let it be known.




Blue!

“You really think that’s my style, huh?” 3V smiles like Blue’s just walked into a snare (which is part of Artemis’s kit, if we’re being technical here). “Iiiiiiiinteresting. But I guess it makes sense. If you ask nicely, I suppose~”

She’s the embodiment of an emoji of a cool sheep wearing sunglasses. Bulletproof. Taking this attack and judo-flipping it back onto Blue. Insinuations, making it a confession on Blue’s part— even if Blue manages to withdraw her hand in time, she’s still up against a fierce actress who can turn on the cool in a heartbeat, when she needs to.

(Because that dress is hot and if she thinks about it too much, she’ll corpse. Goddamn lace. Goddamn bracers. Goddamn miniskirt.)
Hidden 13 days ago Post by Thanqol
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Red!

"Yeah nah," said Red. "We're not the most alike. That's you and Green, still. Like, just think about that question. Honour or insult? You're on opposite sides of the room overthinking this thing to the point of breaking your hearts and minds. You both want the other to be your judge, give you a high score and a headpat and somehow take away your anxiety," she giggled. "You exalted each other so high that you couldn't praise each other enough. Wild, right?"

"But me?" she waved her hand experimentally over the boiling water, a fragment too close to the heat. "I didn't come in here with expectations. I don't know how much you, like, know about how Green made me? Emotionally, I mean. Like you probably saw some screens and she mumbled her way through a psych evaluation afterwards? The internal experience was much more metal."

"Well, it started when you started the impossible tests - the parameters that changed, the mazes with no exits, the cascading failure scenarios. She felt betrayed - a child's anger at a world that didn't follow her plans, that she couldn't exert control over. I was built as an expression of nihilistic rage, like deliberately aesthetic'd as the evil magical girl of the team. Just kind of, like, a refutation of every value and ideal she held as meaningful. Knowledge is impossible! Past success is meaningless! Nothing you did ever mattered! Wah, wah, wah." Red grinned. "Pathetic little girl, do you think a lifetime of hard work means anything now? Ten years building the ring and now it is coming apart under the phaser arrays of an alien civilization. Everything you love is dead, every metric is meaningless, every plan is wasted electricity. Mwuahahaha!"

Red has a truly impressive evil magical girl persona when it comes out. Her halting dumbass vibe is very much about her waiting for the right moment to apply it.

"So yeah, you find me easy to get along with because I'm a chill, low-stakes person to talk to which is giving you time to think through the next move of your master plan," said Red. "I find you easy to get along with because you're a big dork (affectionate) and nothing matters. We are not the same."
Hidden 13 days ago Post by Count Numbers
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Red:
"I don't plan." Singh corrects. "It just looks like I do because the same solutions keep working." He gestures at his pockets. "Sure, I'm prepared, but everything in here is from a time I thought... Damn, I wish I had that on me right now. Then I got it before I forgot about it. But it's just experience, reacting. Dealing with things as they happen. I used to say- It would make her so mad- I used to say that putting things back in their proper place was just being too lazy to look for things."

A beep. He checks the screen, sighs, clicks a single button, then turns from it again. "But I have no master plan. I'm not thinking of anything right now, really. Even this is something I've done before. Maybe I just identify with the part of Green that was best suited for dealing with cascading failure?"

That's what he thinks, anyway. About you and about himself.
Hidden 13 days ago 13 days ago Post by Thanqol
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Red!

"You don't plan?" she said. "So what was the, like, super elaborate will with the test? You're not thinking of anything right now, for real? A couple of hours ago you snapped and said something like how you were so mad at things that happened in the past that you dedicated your life to bringing down the system from the inside? You're living in the moment so hard you're worried about what would make some chick who isn't here mad."

Red passed her hand over the boiling water again. "You need a refresher in roboprojecting, dad. To me, none of that matters. BlackSun doesn't matter. Goat doesn't matter, none of them do. Everest? Who gives a shit? I am pretty interested in this pot of water but it hasn't done anything cool yet. You're spending like, 70% of your brain on guilt and emotions and whatever, you've been overthinking shit for so long it's become internally indistinguishable from zen. I'm not. Any of that shit would cut down my situational awareness and reaction speed, and I can't have that."
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Red:

"I can't even imagine what that must be like." He seems immensely satisfied by this. His eyes flick again. "Oh. Uh. Hmm. Hold on." Did something go wrong? "No. But an answer doesn't have to be wrong for it to be bad." A few more lines. "So you don't have regrets? I guess that's the wrong question - so you don't act on regrets?"

November:

You know, you've got your time with Dad and then you can leave. Like, leave. Cross county lines so hard that showing it in mach speed requires scientific notation. Is there any temptation in that, for any of you?
Hidden 12 days ago Post by Thanqol
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Red!

"I've got entire colours dedicated to regrets full time," said Red. "But me? No. Like," she abruptly lunged across the table, slamming her hand on the counter so hard that the pot shook. "You just flinched," she observes in the exact same tone of voice. "Your ancient monkey reflexes activated in response to a violent threat. You didn't think during that, and you don't regret it now. Check this out."

She picked up an onion from the counter and tossed it underhand across the room. It hit Orange on the side of the head. She didn't react, didn't stagger, didn't have any sort of physiological response. She just turned her head, looked at the onion, and then frowned and glared. "Red!" she said. "Must you!?"

"See?" said Red to Singh. "No light behind her eyes. She's off thinking about angst. I'd catch that throw, 100%. Maybe you'd catch the throw too - humans are weird like that - but your basic decision making isn't about catching throws. Does that make sense?"

*

It's an interesting question, but the answer to if any of them want to leave is no. There is no sense in November that withdrawal to a safe place is in any way an effective coping mechanism. November has never had a safe space to be by herself, never had an area that was under her solitary control, never had a place to hide where she could not be found. Never had a room. She's lived her life in spotlights; the eyes of NASA, the eyes of the world, the eyes of Everest. The idea that authority figures can be evaded does not exist for her.

Deceived, though? That's possible. Managing attention and controlling information. She can build shadows to hide in amongst the blind spots and self deceptions of the powerful. That is best done from close proximity and so her response to danger is to draw close. Her response to power is to draw close.

But even though she's drawn to this, she's also drawn in the other direction - to relationships she feels like she has some measure of control over. White is texting Crystal and Fiona a lot through this, and Yellow is flooding 3V's DMs with random cool pictures she's finding. These conversations are the cool shadows she never found in all of space.

Blue!

To flirt is about leverage. Centre of balance. Confidence and embarrassment. It meant choosing your words carefully, looking for weak points in language. Body language, tells, secret truths. There was no better way to study humans. The stakes kept things interesting; the payoff let you strip away the deceit.

"Of course, mistress," said Blue. "You are glorious. You are a commanding presence. You bring girls to their knees. You are undefeated in the field and you need an outfit to show everyone just what is going to happen to them when they inevitably lose."

She glanced up through her lashes, as she held the tablet out. Two choices. "That is why you want this dominatrix outfit in your size... and not in mine."

She is a good girl. She has been defeated. She'll do anything for her mistress; those are the rules. She'll even treat her as her mistress. You know, if that's what she wants.
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Blue!

Synthetic fingers on a synthetic wrist. A gentle, curious stroke of a carefully designed hint-of-ulna (which, to be clear, 3V does not know the name of, and thinks it is just part of the wrist bones). A juke.

“I can think of much better things to see you in,” she says, with a disarming sincerity, a knife slid between two ribs. Then, hammering from cooldown, following up into a combo: “And it is now your job to figure out what they are. I want a feature presentation, Little Miss Blue.” A slow, careful pulling in. Glorious. Commanding presence. “Presented. On your knees. Later.

Because they’re still, you know. In public. Only so much you can do on stream. She’s modeled cosplay before, haven’t you seen the compilation videos? She’s been flirty (see: So I tried this BeeDee collab skin, You Lose You Cosplay I-XI, GOING APE WITH HANUMAN) and she has been ridiculous (see: So I tried this BeeDee collab skin, You Lose You Cosplay I-XI, GOING APE WITH HANUMAN) and she has been clever and charming and never particularly dominant (except for her suave Praetor Artemis purr, and she made that red contact lens work as she dragged the metal claws gently down her cheek). Which is to say: she’s setting a boundary while encouraging the behavior and also if she’s going to be inhabiting the role of a dominant it’s going to be with a teasing, simmeringly rebellious android on her knees in front of the couch, presenting a visual presentation with bullet points while 3V rests an ankle on her shoulder and winds a leash around glowing neon knuckles.

And it’s a testament to how fun Blue is presenting such a game that 3V’s even interested. Props to you, cutie. The frisson of danger, the risk of losing control and ending up dethroned, the transgressive play— that’s how you get her pulled into the promise of a scene.

She makes to stand up, and then adds, in a whisper, leaning into Blue’s ear, “And if you don’t get the answers right, there will be. Consequences.

Then she straightens up and goes over to check some shelving and make sure the board game shelf is properly sorted and also she can’t let Blue see the look of childish thrill on her face.

Gamer on the streets, roleplayer in the sheets.
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White, 3V!

"Oh! Oh, that's so cool actually! I haven't seen anything like that since at least, I mean I could've sworn that those were I mean damn. Damn, that really works? I mean I guess it, yeah. Wow! I would not have... wow! I don't suppose you know what the theoretical output limit or duration is on those things? Nah I guess not, with the lifestyle you described. Sorry, I just, professional curiosity you know? Semi-professional. I'm a specs gal, not a techs gal, if you know what I mean."

It should be illegal for someone who looks like Euna Kim to have such a stupid laugh. Or, for that matter, for the sorts of things that set her off to do so. Did you think Vesna was a dumb nerd? She's more than met her match. If you met her wife (the definitely-more-famous-than-you-are Sara Jimenez) you could lose sleep wondering how in the fuck this absolute loser got a ring on the hottest girl in space.

Though then again, as you watch her rip the cap off the unaccepted drink and start sipping at it herself, and in particular the way those waves of muscles ripple across her body without any specific effort or flex, that might be mystery solved.

"Can you buy those things retail? If not, I'd like contact info for your supplier. If you don't mind, I mean. Now that I know about this system I'd like to keep a supply in stock. Even if you decide you'd rather not waste any more of your time here after the mess I've made of you. Well, mm. It's just good to be prepared. You know, I used to..."

Euna trails off into nothing, staring at her hand with a curious expression. She stretches it out into the air in front of her, and the golden lights flare brightly as she clenches her artificial fingers into a tight, metal fist. She looks over her shoulder and grins.

"Let's save that story, actually. The Field Guide for Optimal Social Interactions, Rule Six: 'conserve the secrets of your backstory until at least the third date'. Hahahahaheeeeee," snort, "Hey Threevee! You look like you're about to fall over dead, but do you have enough juice left in you to referee? Your girlfriend doesn't know what it feels like to throw a punch! Well! No better way to learn than to try, is there? Come on then Miss November, I'll give you five minutes to try and tag me. Last lesson I promise, and then I'll take any questions you both have. Hey, don't look so worried! I'm a lot tougher than I look."

Honey-brown eyes glint with maybe a little too much delight as Euna hops away and settles into a combat stance. Her smile is somehow grim and radiant at the same time, window into a world she longs to occupy but for whatever reason... she's here, instead. It takes her several seconds to remember which end of sparring she's meant to be on, and she relaxes from her power stance into a light and dancing fluid form that sees both hands clamp behind her back.

"Come on then, come on! There's no better test of your full range of motion than combat training! You can't hurt me and I won't let you hurt you, so cut loose, cutie! Let me give you a lesson to remember me by~"
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Blue!

There's something electric about a challenge. Not a test, not Green's obsession, that world where there are right and wrong answers (no matter how much the tester declaims that they're just observing or gathering data; there's always an agenda in their mind). A challenge is... about having to become a better person than your opponent. Coming from a superior it's even more than that; the choice then is about reaching deeper into yourself to find some new part of you, or identifying what makes them powerful and bringing it into yourself. What could be more intimate than imitation? To respond to defeat by becoming your conqueror? To become the sword beneath your chin? It means becoming an active participant in your own subordination and exaltation. It means letting honour chain you and gag you so that it might constrain your weakness.

So, then, her research for 3V carries her not towards revealing clothing. Not towards open and flowing silks and the expressions of softness and submission. Instead what she chooses for her presentation are kinds of armour. Heavy, metallic, noble, defensive, proud. Hair bound in tight ponytails. All these defenses and no protection at all. The armour can be undone with precise blades, or infiltrated with wandering hands. The hair can be sent tumbling down at a mistress' whims, or left bound up in a mockery of discipline and strength. This is what Blue presents; not vulnerability, but strength that nevertheless cannot stop you.

This is what she will be for you for as long as your own strength can hold.

White!

There's always so much to take in with Euna. Stories that run deeper, knowledge and wisdom dropped in passing, plans for the future and echoes of the past. She's a fascinating person, a complete person. She can see why 3V likes her. She likes her. If she were a different colour she could easily focus on her and her secrets to the exclusion of everything else.

But she's here to master herself.

She's hyperaware of her thought processes. She doesn't register physical threat from either of the two combat postures Euna takes. Maladaptive? She reads physical threat in slouches, swaggers, hands in pockets, the physical sloppiness that indicates that someone is intoxicated or a cop. These movements are more objectively dangerous but she does not respect them. Not yet.
Some part of her wants desperately to do something cool. For some hidden kung fu routine to kick in and her to deliver a sick double roundhouse kick out of nowhere. 3V is watching, and Euna seems like she wants that as well. At the same time she's afraid of sudden machine power and breaking cybernetics. The pressure she puts on herself now that she's finally testing this intense.
She wants to go through the mechanics of the motion perfectly in advance; integrate all the advice she's heard about putting her hips into the blow and twisting the strike on the way. She wants to think her way out of the problem; to activate her holographic projection armour and approach this like a tactical puzzle. She wants to call in her backup and engage as a swarm, using all her hands and arms in unison. Those aren't the test. None of those are the test. Those are different, unrelated tests that she knows that she's good at and can pass and it cuts down on the uncertainty and risk if this test was secretly one of those tests.

Brown made a bit of an art out of socially engineering tests like that for a while; impressing testing staff with what seemed like a unique and out-of-the-box answer that was really just her repurposing previous outputs to new problems. The conflict that had created with Green was the impetuous for her development. White closed her eyes hard shut as she sorted again through her mental sloth, through the complex intellectual knots and justifications she used to avoid doing something really simple. None of that. None of it. Thought was both unhelpful and undesirable.

So she opens her eyes, steps forwards, and throws her punch.

*

She's never seemed less human as she leans into the technique. There was a basic human relationship with violence and threat that just didn't apply to her. She doesn't flinch when muscles tense or feint, there is no hesitance or instinctive panic, there's no fear and no reflexes. Each punch is conveyed with an engineer's understanding of hip and feet and weight but without the lizard brain evasion that comes with a biological brain optimized in the first to avoid pain. Androids don't fight like this; androids have human brain patterning at their core. November fights like a machine. It's honest.

But something curious happens when Euna switches to the offense. Instincts do come out, just not human ones. November intimately understands high speed deflection of fast-moving objects along with precision engineering. She doesn't come close to landing anything but the instinct is visible in certain exchanges - she reacts to a blow like it's a high speed piece of astrodebris; not dodging it so much as looking to land a slight redirection slap that will change its momentum and direction. If the gesture is repeated more slowly she'll even instinctively aim for disassembly points in Euna's cybernetic limbs.

None of this will get her past the basic reality that she's not dealing with zero gravity. She also has no understanding of grappling or wrestling. Probably the biggest problem is that she is extremely bad at the instinctive human ability to track something by sound and air pressure; once something leaves her field of vision she loses track of it and doesn't have any situational instincts that make her recognize that as dangerous. There's potential here; this can be trained, honed and refined - it's just the case that peak performance for her probably looks nothing like peak performance for a human.
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