Aksel S Downfall

[16:21] <Minaplo> [Aksel woke up around 7:40 AM.-
[16:30] <Minaplo> [He spent a few minutes lying in Roku's bed, staring up at the featureless roof, before sighing and swinging himself off the side.-
[16:55] <Minaplo> [He hopped into the shower, spending ten minutes using as much soap, shampoo and lavender body wash as he dared, before hopping out and dressing himself in his uniform once again.-
[17:07] <Minaplo> [After that- grooming. He combed his hair whilst looking into Roku's dressing mirror- stooping slightly awkwardly so he could see himself-, allowing to pick out all the little background sounds now. The faint sound of shuffling feet. The sizzle of something frying. Quiet humming. He grinned to himself.-
[17:14] <Minaplo> [He walked out a few moments later, out into the main room. There she was- Roku, cooking several frying pans' worth of food on the stovetop, wearing a pair of jeans with a light red button-up t-shirt, the hems and collars decorated with lace patterns. Over all of this she wore a white cooking apron. "Oh, good morning." She said with a bright smile.-
[17:14] <Minaplo> ["Hey there." Said Aksel, feeling himself grin in response.-
[17:15] <Minaplo> ["You're up later than I thought you'd be." Said Roku, taking a pair of tongs and flipping some rashers of bacon.-
[17:15] <Minaplo> ["Really? What time is it? I'm not that late, am I?"-
[17:15] <Minaplo> ["It's just past eight." Said Roku.-
[17:17] <Minaplo> ["…" Aksel stared at her for a moment, then, eyes widening, alarm written all over his face, he whipped about to stare at the clock that sat over the stove. Roku was right. "Ohhhh, shit."-
[17:18] <Minaplo> ["Yeah, you're usually up-"-
[17:18] <Minaplo> ["Shit, muster. Shit." He slapped his forehead with the back of his hand. "I'm really sorry, hon. I need to be over there by half past, or I'll face disciplinary."-
[17:19] <Minaplo> ["Oh." Roku fell silent, a single flash of guilt crossing her face before she turned back to her cooking.-
[17:27] <Minaplo> ["Yeah, I know." Muttered Aksel. He walked over to Roku, peeking over her shoulder. Sizzling rashers of bacon, a dozen fat chipolatas, big fat buttered fried mushrooms, bright red tomatoes, four fried eggs, and a pot of baked beans. A Full English breakfast. A fry up. The full Monty. "Oh no. Please don't tell me some of this is for me."-
[17:27] <Minaplo> ["More like three quarters." Said Roku quietly.-
[18:03] <Minaplo> [He let out a sigh, putting his arms around her stomach. "Thank you. It looks really, -really- awesome- I'd love to stay. Like, just blow off that strutting little Magistrate and his bullshit tasks and this bullshit busywork escort nonsense. I'd do it all in a heartbeat if I could, sweetheart. Boom. Click of the fucking fingers, and suddenly, y'know, he's fired or on fire or whatever, and it ain't my problem anymore, and we can just get up and leave this honestly kinda shitty place, but…"-
[18:08] <Minaplo> [Roku paused, putting down her spatula- then turned around in one smooth action, grabbed his face and kissed him. Fiercely, passionately, hungrily- pulling him ever closer towards her, ever farther from leaving. It had honestly taken him by surprise.-
[18:08] <Minaplo> [He pulled away about a minute later, looking slightly shellshocked. "W-Wow. I need to say all that more often."-
[18:09] <Minaplo> [She stared at him for a second, then in spite of herself began to laugh. "-Idiot-."-
[18:09] <Minaplo> ["Ahaha. Made you laugh."-
[18:11] <Minaplo> ["Double-idiot." He earned a swat from Roku's oven mits for that.-
[18:12] <Minaplo> ["L-Look. The… It's not about the food." Said Roku gently, focusing now on straightening up his perplexingly crooked clothes. "I just- I hate it. I hate it, you having to run off, having to sneak away, going on missions… I hate how they treat you, Aksel."-
[18:13] <Minaplo> ["I hate it too." Said Aksel. "I can't even -quit-…"-
[18:13] <Minaplo> [A pause. They were both silent for a moment.-
[18:14] <Minaplo> ["I feel- scared. This mission- I think something terrible's going to happen. Just a bad feeling, but I can't shake it, and- please, please tell me you'll be careful. Promise me you won't do something stupid, like try to take on an Evangelion or something-"-
[18:14] <Minaplo> ["Whoa whoa whoa. I could take on an Eva, what're you saying, I could totally take an Eva-"-
[18:16] <Minaplo> [Another swat from the oven mitts. "Don't be silly, Aksel. Please, -please- just- just come back, okay? You skipped my breakfast, so I absolutely won't forgive you skipping my dinner either."-
[18:20] <Minaplo> ["My lady, hold me in dishonour should I trouble your heart so." Said Aksel loftily, his expression solemn. Then he grinned. took Roku's hands in his own, then wrapped them around her, pulling her closer. "I promise I'll be back. It'll be easy, no worries."-
[18:20] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[18:20] <Minaplo> ["Okay." Said Roku quietly.-
[18:20] <Minaplo> ["Okay. I love you." Said Aksel.-
[18:20] <Minaplo> ["I love you too."-
[18:21] <Minaplo> [They spent another precious minute in that embrace, before Roku suddenly pushed him back.-
[18:21] <Minaplo> ["Ow. Hey, what-?"-
[18:22] <Minaplo> ["I had an idea. Gimme a sec." Said Roku. She rubbed her hands together- and focused.-
[18:24] <Minaplo> [Her pantry shot open, two long hot-dog bread rolls flying out of a breadbin, a slash slicing them nearly in half on the way. The bacon and eggs leapt out of their pans, shooting into the open rolls, followed by the chipolatas, slicing in mid-air, and then finally the mushrooms finished it. Two napkins flew off the table, wrapping around the breakfast rolls…-
[18:25] <Minaplo> [Which stopped in mid-air in front of Aksel. "There you go."-
[18:25] <Minaplo> ["… I cannot really express how super jealous I am right now." Said Aksel sheepishly, taking the two breakfast rolls from mid-air.-
[18:27] <Minaplo> [Roku beamed. "Now go on, hurry. I'll see you for dinner. I will."-
[18:27] <Minaplo> ["Yep. I promise!" He gave her one final kiss- then another final kiss- then finally a third before he was out the door. "Seeya, sweetheart. I love you!"-
[18:27] <Minaplo> ["I love you too!"-
[18:29] <Minaplo> [And then Aksel was gone. Gone at a -run-, taking giant bites out of his dual-wielded breakfast rolls as he went. Out into a hallway, slipping and sliding through the crowds, knocking over some beleaguered stormtrooper at one point, doing a double-pirouettes through elevator doors… Experiencing a minute of being stared at dubiously by a crowd of scientists and interns and soldiers as he tore through his breakfast…-
[18:31] <Minaplo> [Then out, sprinting tirelessly as he reached the Solomon level, through the gunmetal corridors, jumping over a short Solomon…-
[18:32] <Minaplo> [Around a corridor, into the assembly hall, and…-
[18:32] <Minaplo> [It was nearly empty. It looked distinctly… -Un-mustery.-
[18:32] <Minaplo> ["Shit. Shit. Am I late? No, there'd still be dudes around…"-
[18:33] <Minaplo> ["Oh, it's you." Came a voice at his ear.-
[18:34] <Minaplo> ["Wh-?!" Aksel jumped, turning on his heel, staring into the face of a tall, well-built Solomon Knight. Young, but with tanned skin that shone like leather and a gruff, harsh voice… "Oh, Camille. Didn't see you there."-
[18:34] <Minaplo> [Camille's eyes narrowed.-
[18:34] <Minaplo> ["Sup?" Asked Aksel.-
[18:35] <Minaplo> ["Muster is postponed for half an hour." Said Camille.-
[18:36] <Minaplo> ["… Oh fuck off. Fuck off. Seriously? Look at this bullshit, Camille. I am eating two breakfast rolls at once. I had to ballet-dance onto an elevator. I leapt over a girl! I think she must be knew, I didn't recognise her… And you're telling me it's postponed? Son of a bitch. Why?"-
[18:37] <Minaplo> ["Because of -you-." Said Camille roughly. "Beatrix was scared you wouldn't make it, so she knocked Narendra's coffee onto his lap. He had to run off to the medical wing and he refuses to let assembly happen without him."-
[18:37] <Minaplo> ["Oh. Oh. Well. Damn. I guess I owe Beatrix one."-
[18:38] <Minaplo> ["So it seems." Said Camille gruffly. "See you around, Heiden."-
[18:40] <Minaplo> ["Yeah, seeya."-
[18:41] <Minaplo> [Muster came eventually, led by an -extra- angry Narendra and a sufficiently chastened Beatrix. By then, Aksel had finished one breakfast roll and had offered half of the other to Beatrix in thanks, which she took gratefully.-
[18:43] <Minaplo> [Muster finished, and after that, Aksel had an hour of time to himself before he had to head down to the E-Destroyer hangar. He spent it being slow and lazy, catching up with others, bitching about his assignment, and losing at cards to a smug Solomon Adept.-
[18:51] <Minaplo> [And then…-
[18:55] <Minaplo> [He headed down to the hangar. A huge (understandably) structure buried beneath the earth, attached to the main Synfront building by a kilometre-long monorail, it was a dedicated building, with huge hangar bays to store the E-Destroyers, repair facilities, a giant armory, a medical wing and an on-site locker room.-
[18:55] <Minaplo> [It'd be here that Aksel would find his crew.-
[19:00] <Minaplo> [There were four of them- three of them long-term veterans, one of them new. There was Valencia, a tall, well-built woman with long red hair and red-brown eyes, wearing a pair of tracksuit pants and a white t-shirt, sitting on a bench, drinking from a bottle of water. Next to her was Lysander, lying on the ground, his legs up on the chair, hands beneath his head, wearing a pair of shorts and a singlet. He had long, wavy brown hair and bright green eyes- a somewhat younger-looking clone of none other than Barzilai Surov.-
[19:04] <Minaplo> [The other two were sitting together as well, opposite of Valencia and Lysander. There was Aina, a slim, red-haired girl. The very same Langley-Soryu clone that had tried to steal some of his food unthinkingly a day before, Aina wore nothing but a white fluffy towel wrapped around her body, a slight dampness to her hair and skin that suggested she'd just emerged from the shower. Sitting behind her, also wearing nothing but a towel around his waist, was the oldest member of the squad after Aksel himself- Philippe, a lovely-faced man with perfect golden blonde hair, a clone of Alphonse Wellesley. He had a hair brush, and was running it skilfully through Aina's hair.-
[19:06] <Minaplo> ["Hey, guys." Said Aksel as he entered. They all looked up.-
[19:06] <Minaplo> ["Hey, Captain." Said Lysander, lifting his hand to give Aksel a dreamy little wave.-
[19:06] <Minaplo> ["Mornin', Aksel." Said Valencia.-
[19:07] <Minaplo> ["Aksel." Philippe gave him a friendly nod. "You're all ready to go?"-
[19:07] <Minaplo> ["Am I ever not?" Said Aksel, shrugging his shoulders. "You guys good?"-
[19:08] <Minaplo> ["Philippe's brushing my hair." Said Aina enthusiastically.-
[19:08] <Minaplo> ["I can see that." Said Aksel with a grin.-
[19:10] <Minaplo> ["He gave my hair a wash, to make it clean and shiny, too."-
[19:12] <Minaplo> ["Hair care's important." Said Philippe with a small smile. "It's such lovely hair, too. A little neglected in this environment, honestly."-
[19:13] <Minaplo> ["You need me to make more shampoo, Philippe?" Asked Lysander.-
[19:13] <Minaplo> ["Give it a week, Lys." Said Philippe gently. "I've enough here to teach Aina the basics."-
[19:15] <Minaplo> ["Enjoy it while it lasts, Aina." Said Valencia. "I remember when you used to brush -my- hair once…" She added fondly.-
[19:15] <Minaplo> ["Only newbies get brushes for free." Said Philippe loftily.-
[19:16] <Minaplo> ["S'right." Said Aksel, thumping down heavily on the bench next to Philippe. "I got some heads together working on makin' up a welcome basket for you, Aina. It'll tide you over for a bit."-
[19:17] <Minaplo> ["Oh, that's really cool." Said Aina with a huge smile. "All the stuff they gave me ran out…"-
[19:17] <Minaplo> ["Never seems quite like enough, does it?" Said Valencia.-
[19:18] <Minaplo> [But Philippe paused for a second, turning his head to stare at Aksel quizzically.-
[19:18] <Minaplo> ["What?" Asked Aksel, slightly defensively.-
[19:19] <Minaplo> [Philippe leaned forward for a moment, sniffing- before pulling back. "Good Lord, that is a… lot of lavender wash." He muttered. "How much did you use?"-
[19:19] <Minaplo> ["I dunno, half a bottle. Why?" Asked Aksel.-
[19:19] <Minaplo> ["Humph." Philippe sniffed again, before shaking his head. "I was looking for you last night. Didn't know you were with her."-
[19:20] <Minaplo> ["Her? Her who? What?"-
[19:20] <Minaplo> ["With Roku." Said Philippe.-
[19:20] <Minaplo> ["What, because I smell like lavender? Nawww, c'mon. Lots of people smell like lavender."-
[19:20] <Minaplo> ["They really don't." Said Philippe, turning back to focus on Aina's shiny hair.-
[19:21] <Minaplo> ["Well… I-I traded for it."-
[19:22] <Minaplo> ["You did not. I would know." Said Philippe darkly. "It would be a very, very stupid Solomon who traded body wash without offering me right of first refusal."-
[19:22] <Minaplo> ["You're still with her, Aksel?" Muttered Valencia.-
[19:23] <Minaplo> ["Of course I am. She's my special- my special lady, who else?"-
[19:23] <Minaplo> ["Anyone else!" Said Valencia. "Look, it's just asking for trouble. We're Solomons. We stick to our own. If we don't, things go wrong."-
[19:24] <Minaplo> ["Superstition." Said Aksel loftily.-
[19:24] <Minaplo> ["Not superstition! It's a thing!" Said Valencia irritably. "There was Jasmine's boyfriend, who got torn in half by the Unknown Angel-"-
[19:24] <Minaplo> ["Look, he was an E-Destroyer pilot, it was bound to happen-"-
[19:25] <Minaplo> ["Then there was that girl Hiro was with, the physicist who crash-landed in Namibia and got eaten by Armored Lions."-
[19:25] <Minaplo> [Aina let out a squeak of dismay.-
[19:25] <Minaplo> ["Oh come on, that's not fair-"-
[19:26] <Minaplo> ["Or," Valencia's voice became heavy with ominous foreboding. "Clarice's four boyfriends, who were all turned to tang by Aline Blanc."-
[19:27] <Minaplo> ["They were in the same unit! That doesn't count!"-
[19:27] <Minaplo> ["I'm just saying." Said Valencia. "It just- we're just worried, is all. We don't want you to be all fucked up."-
[19:28] <Minaplo> ["No one's fucking me up." Said Aksel patiently. "I am seven months old. I am an adult, ok? I can handle this."-
[19:28] <Minaplo> ["In some countries, you're not considered an adult until you turn eighteen years old." Said Lysander cheerfully.-
[19:29] <Minaplo> ["You shut up." Said Aksel. "Smartass. Look, look. Eye on the stupid prize. We've got a mission. We all know what that mission is?"-
[19:30] <Minaplo> ["We're escorting something to somewhere." Said Philippe.-
[19:30] <Minaplo> ["Oh, well done." Said Aksel.-
[19:30] <Minaplo> ["Shut up. It's not -that- important."-
[19:31] <Minaplo> ["Nope, with you there." Said Aksel. "We've been given some bullshit escort job, because apparently the guys upstairs forgot that we're Solomons and not like, I dunno, Red Arrow schmucks or something. Whatever. We depart in twenty."-
[19:35] <Minaplo> ["Got it." Said Valencia.-
[19:35] <Minaplo> ["Aaand done." Said Philippe, who had been putting Aina's hair up with blue ribbons. He picked up a hand mirror from a bag at his feet, holding it up to Aina. "What do you think?"-
[19:36] <Minaplo> [Aina looked at her reflection for a moment, before trilling in delight. "The ribbons! I really love the ribbons~ thank you, Philippe."-
[19:40] <Minaplo> [Philippe grinned, pulling Aina into a hug and giving her a peck on the cheek. "My pleasure. I'll see about finding some hair clips or something for you…"-
[19:41] <Minaplo> [Aina beamed at the affection, which in turn made Aksel smile. He liked seeing his crew happy.-
[19:42] <Minaplo> [But…-
[19:42] <Minaplo> [Aksel clapped his hands. "Ok guys, let's get ready."-
[19:43] <Minaplo> ["Right." Said Valencia, getting to her feet, starting to unzip her tracksuit. Lysander got to his feet, pulling off his shirt, whilst Philippe and Aina merely stood and shrugged off their towels. Aksel pulled off his jacket and stripped as well, throwing his messy pile of untidy clothes into his locker.-
[19:44] <Minaplo> [A minute later, the five of them, naked, now stood in a circle at Aksel's behest.-
[19:44] <Minaplo> ["Ok. Are we ready to say the oath?" Said Aksel seriously.-
[19:44] <Minaplo> ["What? No!" Said Valencia. "No no no. No. I am not saying that."-
[19:44] <Minaplo> ["You gotta say the oath, Valencia." Said Aksel solemnly.-
[19:45] <Minaplo> ["It is a -lame- oath. I feel lame every single time I say it." Said Valencia.-
[19:46] <Minaplo> ["Am I gonna have to lay down the authoritarial smackdown?" Said Aksel, tilting his head threateningly.-
[19:46] <Minaplo> [Valencia eyed him darkly.-
[19:46] <Minaplo> ["C'mon. C'mon. Say the oath. Captain's orders."-
[19:46] <Minaplo> ["Uggggggggh." Valencia sighed. "Fine."-
[19:50] <Minaplo> [They all placed one hand in the middle of the circle, the other over the shiny red gems in their chests. Then, as one, they began to speak.-
[19:51] <Minaplo> ["By shining day or pale moonlight,
[19:51] <Minaplo> I keep the foe within my sight,
[19:51] <Minaplo> Always forwards into the fight,
[19:51] <Minaplo> By my power, a Solomon Knight!"-
[19:52] <Minaplo> [They depressed their gems simultaneously, and within a second the thick silky shiny gel began to flow out, covering their bodies, hardening into bone-like ridges and carapaces and flowing robes around their legs and arms, finishing at least with their intimdiating mask-like helmets.-
[19:52] <Minaplo> ["Oh yeah." Said Aksel. "Feel that team spirit."-
[19:52] <Minaplo> ["I hate you so goddamn much." Said Valencia.-
[19:55] <Minaplo> ["I really love this team." Said Aina warmly.-
[19:55] <Minaplo> ["And we all love you." Said Philippe, patting her on the helmet.-
[19:56] <Minaplo> ["That we do. Alright! Solomon Knights: let's roll out and do… Boring military bullshit, I guess."-
[19:56] <Minaplo> ["I sure am inspired." Said Valencia.-
[19:56] <Minaplo> ["Shut up."-
[19:58] <Minaplo> [Ten minutes later, they'd all be powering up their AC Suits and entering their E-Destroyer.-
[19:58] <Minaplo> [Aksel was last, of course, since his AC Suit's voice recognition suite refused to identify him unless he sang a verse of Sweet Child of Mine. As he sang, he made sure everything was in order.-
[20:04] <Minaplo> ["… She takes me away to that special place…" Tilt controls, malleable but not loose. Left control bar, clean. Right control bar, clean.-
[20:05] <Minaplo> ["And if I stared too long…" Left and right leg thrust pedals, springy but not -broken-. Good.-
[20:05] <Minaplo> ["I'd probably break down and cry…" Computer speeds seemed good, emergency ejection lever wasn't jammed…-
[20:06] <Minaplo> ["Ohhh~ohhhh, sweet child of mine…" Photograph of Roku wedged lovingly onto the side of the main display. In sight, not blocking anything, and wouldn't shift or come loose. Perfect.-
[21:42] <Minaplo> ["||AUTHORIZATION ACCEPTED: HEIDEN, AKSEL, SOLOMON KNIGHT, CAPTAIN||"-
[21:48] <Minaplo> ["Alright, boys and girls. Let's up and away."-
[21:57] <Minaplo> [Several hours passed.-
[21:58] <Minaplo> [Several long, boring hours. And most painfully for Aksel, they were long, boring, Roku-less hours. He caught himself staring at her picture with an almost indecently hungry sense of yearning several times.-
[22:01] <Minaplo> [("This is Convoy T-24, making our radio check-in. All systems green, over.")-
[22:01] <Minaplo> [("Yep. This is, uh… This is Captain Heiden, good, good for you. Over.")-
[22:02] <Minaplo> [("I could really do with something to eat right now.") Said Philippe.-
[22:03] <Minaplo> [("Yeah, same.") Said Valencia.-
[22:03] <Minaplo> [There were only the sounds of chewing from Lysander's comms.-
[22:03] <Minaplo> [("Hey, wait, what the hell? Lys has food?!") Shouted Valencia.-
[22:03] <Minaplo> [("I packed a lunch!")-
[22:04] <Minaplo> [("Goddamnit. Chew -quietly- then.") Growled Valencia. ("Having to sit here listen to you…")-
[22:04] <Minaplo> [("It's -really good-, too.") Said Lysander.-
[22:05] <Minaplo> [("Grr…")-
[22:05] <Minaplo> [("Hey, that's Luanda-2!") Said Aina. ("I wish we could stop in…")-
[22:05] <Minaplo> [("Be lucky to find a drive-thru this big.") Said Aksel, chuckling at his own dumb joke.-
[22:22] <Minaplo> [("At least we're halfway there.") Said Philippe. ("Nearly done with this borefest.")]
[00:17] <Raphael> Looking back on it later, the attack may have well has been timed to come in synch with those words. The attack may as well have been invisible to their radar, but a few of them may have had time to pick up the hazy shape that streaked across the sky, smeared like grease on glass around the edges in the distinctive pattern of camoflauge holotech. The shape pulled around in a wide arc, a
[00:17] <Raphael> weapon firing once…-
[00:17] <Raphael> Behind them the VTOL's left engine exploded into flame, sending the aircraft spinning towards the ground.
[00:20] <Minaplo> [The conversation died all at once- as did, no doubt, the crew of the transport VTOL as it plunged into the woodland below, exploding in a great ball of flame and igniting an acre of what was national parkland.-
[00:24] <Minaplo> [A stunned silence hung in the air for a few precious seconds- until Aksel spoke. ("Shit! Attacked! Sight enemy, now!"-
[00:24] <Minaplo> [("I can't see it-") Started Philippe.]
[00:28] <Raphael> Another thunderous crack, this one more dimly heard. High-calibre bolter rounds would be the clinical response by the E-Destroyer systems.-
[00:31] <Raphael> This would all be background noise to the way startlingly huge sections of Philippe’s engines and chunks from a wing were sheared away from his superheavy a moment later, a veritable rain of shrapnel and electronics glinting in the morning sun.
[00:38] <Minaplo> [("Philippe!") Shrieked Aina, and even Aksel let out an involuntary gasp as the E-Destroyer fell out of the sky- Philippe managing to pull it into a controlled spin as it careened into the ground, smashing into an immobile lump.-
[00:40] <Minaplo> [Aksel's gaze flicked back towards the sea, where his sensors began picking out shapes in the distance.-
[00:40] <Minaplo> [Superheavies. Bulky, large ones, denser and stouter than an E-Destroyer, but not ones he recognised.-
[00:40] <Minaplo> [("Lys. ID.")-
[00:41] <Minaplo> [("Don't recognise it, sorry, Aksel-")-
[00:41] <Minaplo> [("No problem.") Said Aksel calmly.-
[00:41] <Minaplo> [("Valencia, mid-high attack, forward unit.") He said, gripping his controls. ("Go!")-
[00:42] <Minaplo> [Aksel's E-Destroyer rolled over in mid-air, its front facing the sky. It hurtled towards the ground at top speed-
[00:43] <Minaplo> [Before rolling over suddenly a few hundred metres above the ground, engaging its heavy thrusters. It -burst- through the air, a bright blue contrail streaking back behind it as it drove unerringly towards the sea.-
[00:43] <Minaplo> [("Tch. Got it.") Said Valencia curtly. ("Aina, up high! Lys, behind me! Go!")-
[00:44] <Minaplo> [And the three other E-Destroyers began streaking toward- Valencia's and Lys's turning towards the ground, Aina's streaking up into the air.]
[00:55] <Raphael> Even as they began their first maneuvers, all four remaining pilots - and even Philippe, though it was questionable whether he was in a position to hear it - would receive an open comms request for sound and voice.-
[01:00] <Raphael> Anyone who opened it would be given a look at a normal-looking superheavy cockpit, not all that different from their own when it came to practicalities, but that was barely a concern beyond the figure that sat in the pilot's seat. Dressed in an ornate, high-collared jacket all in deep red, with a face obscured by a distinctive and intimidating samurai-style helmet. The eyes beneath the mask
[01:00] <Raphael> glowed red in a colour matching the rest of his outfit.-
[01:04] <Raphael> "New World pilots, please stand down." The voice was modulated very slightly, whether by the mask or by comms. "Do so now and you will be unharmed. We would prefer to minimize further bloodshed if at all possible."
[01:10] <Minaplo> [("No.")-
[01:10] <Minaplo> [("You stand down.") Finished Aksel.]
[01:18] <Raphael> "Not an option. We will do our best to disable you non-lethally, but we cannot assure your safety or the safety of your soldiers." As if to underline the point, the most distant of the unknown superheavies fires once more - this time the shot clips past Lysander, the Solomon having to swerve sharply to avoid taking a hit to the wing like his teammate.
[01:23] <Minaplo> [("Convenient.") Said Aksel darkly. ("I'll try for the same, but this is a battlefield. You die, you die.")-
[01:27] <Minaplo> [Aksel leaned back, hitting his fist into a button built onto the side of the Suit. The air around his Destroyer became infused with a dozen light displays in all directions- within a second, it looked as though there were -twelve- of his Destroyer, not just one.-
[01:28] <Minaplo> [One of the superheavies was on the beach- it was bigger than the others, huge, really, its thick stumpy legs attached to the ground by giant pillars that dug into the earth. It lowered a heavy bolter at Aksel, and fired.-
[01:29] <Minaplo> [The shells tried to cover all of the holograms at once, but whenever it went close to actually hitting the real thing, a confusing maneuver would see the shells tear through a hologram instead, momentarily disrupting it, but not much more.-
[01:31] <Minaplo> [Aksel landed for a moment, just a moment, readying his stance- he tugged two blades out of the docks on his back- his right hand holding a long progressive sword, the other holding a plain-looking blade- until he jammed a massive armored finger into the hilt. The blade began to glow bright blue as errant particles struck the ion field, creating small annihilations.-
[01:40] <Minaplo> [But before he could finish his pounce, a shimmer appeared in the air out of nowhere. Another one of the damned Heavies, its stealth field disrupted by the rapid movement as it lunged forward, grabbing Aksel's arms with its own.-
[01:40] <Minaplo> [("-!!")-
[01:45] <Minaplo> [Aksel struggled, trying to pull away, the servos in his arms whining in protest at the blue Heavy's superior strength. The sudden drop in speed was already showing effects- the holograms were diminishing, become less clear, making it more obvious who the real Aksel was…!-
[01:56] <Minaplo> [("Incoming.") Said Valencia, watching as two of the unidentified units streaked up into the sky. ("Lys, we'll cover our thunderstrike. Let's go-")-
[02:01] <Minaplo> [But one of them, the smaller, was already streaking past, pulling a long double-bladed weapon from its back. It hurled itself at Lys, who barely deflected the attack off an ablative shell built into his torso.-
[02:01] <Minaplo> [("T-That's a Dynamic Blade!") Said Lys, eyes widening. ("Wow…")-
[02:01] <Minaplo> [("Talk to me, Lys!")-
[02:01] <Minaplo> [("That's NERV tech!") Said Lys in wonder.-
[02:01] <Minaplo> [("Son of a bitch.") Muttered Valencia.-
[02:03] <Minaplo> [("Val, cover-") Asked Lys, and Valencia was already moving.-
[02:03] <Minaplo> [Bracing her bolter on Lys's shoulder, Valencia opened fire, unleashing a barrage of bolt shells at the smaller one. It evaded easily-
[02:05] <Minaplo> [("Gotcha!") Said Lys with a grin as the front plate of his E-Destroyer slid open, revealing an array of lights and electrical probes. They flashed all at once, catching the stealth Heavy square in its path. It sezied up, reeling, its optical sensor shorting out instantly.-
[02:07] <Minaplo> [("Lining up my target. I'm coming, Aksel!") Shouted Aina, depressing the trigger of her long-range pulse rifle. The energy slug crossed nearly two kilometres to burst through the head of the Heavy pinning Aksel, an electrical surge causing it to surge up.-
[02:08] <Minaplo> [Aksel was out in an instant, thrusters pushing him around the back of the now beheaded Heavy. The holograms flared back to perfection again…-
[02:08] <Minaplo> [("Damnit, that shit slowed me down. My holofield emitter's nearly burned out.") Muttered Aksel as he elegantly glided his unit through a haze of more bolter fire.]
[03:34] <Raphael> And it really was a -haze-. The biggest of the Heavies seemed to be putting out an unceasing volley of heavy bolter fire, aimless but in such -volume- that moving around every shot took full concentration.-
[03:36] <Raphael> And it was this that the second of the long-range units took advantage of as a far more targeted shot skimmed past the water the sniper hovered over and tore apart Aksel's unit's leg.-
[03:40] <Raphael> And the artillery Heavy seemed to take this as its cue to release a bolt of shockingly hot white plasma from one of its shoulders, hitting one of Aksel's wings almost in time with the sniper round and nearly vaporising it outright. The combination of the two was enough to send the Destroyer's control vanishing all at once…
[03:41] <Minaplo> [The E-Destroyer slammed -hard- into the earth, its landing wiping out a good amount of trees as it did so, huge gouges left behind in its wake.-
[03:42] <Minaplo> [The force was strong enough to sent Aksel careening forward, smashing his head into his computer screen. The helmet protected him, but…-
[03:42] <Minaplo> [He shook his head. Tried to clear away the mists.-
[03:46] <Minaplo> [The beheaded Heavy was standing over him now. It bent down, a huge powerful servo-augmented hand plunging towards his armoured carapace, the fingers digging through the surface, tearing away whole layers as it went. In its other hand was a small metal cylinder.-
[03:48] <Minaplo> [The free hand shifted the Destroyer over, exposing its back. The tip of the cylinder glowed- before unleashing a powerful beam of near-blinding light that tore the entire back part of the Destroyer off, slicing through its main engine like it was nothing.-
[03:48] <Minaplo> [Fuck.-
[03:48] <Minaplo> [Aksel shook his head, grabbing his controls, pushing them forward. Nothing.-
[03:48] <Minaplo> [Fuck. Fuck.-
[03:49] <Minaplo> [His computer began to flicker, letting out a long low whine before blacking out. He slammed it, pressed the buttons- nothing.-
[03:52] <Minaplo> ["No no no no no no no no." He punched the console. Again. Again. Harder. Nothing.-
[03:52] <Minaplo> ["Fuck! Fuck fuck fuck! Goddamnit!"-
[03:59] <Minaplo> [In his anger, he pulled out a tray from under his console, on which there was a small red button protected under a molly-guard. He flipped it up, raised a hand to punch into it-
[03:59] <Minaplo> [Something fluttered over his hand. His wild punching had loosened the photo. Roku's photo.-
[03:59] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[04:00] <Minaplo> [He held it in his hand.-
[04:00] <Minaplo> ["Fuck. I'm sorry."-
[04:00] <Minaplo> [He closed the molly-guard, pushed the tray in- and tucked his knees up against his chest, his head bowed against them.-
[04:01] <Minaplo> [A second later, the fusion beam finished carving through the engine, clipping the AC Suit for a nanosecond.-
[04:01] <Minaplo> [The sheer heat from this tiniest of touches nearly flash-fried half the armour, sending the heat inside the cockpit into the stratosphere.-
[04:01] <Minaplo> [Too much even for his superhuman constitution.-
[04:02] <Minaplo> [He shorted out, slumping, the heat overwhelming his senses.-
[04:02] <Minaplo> [The photograph melted in his hand.]
-
[15:34] <Raphael> "This is everyone?"-
[15:34] <Raphael> The red armoured figure stood on the beach, shrouded in the long shadow of the depowered Titan standing behind him. A few paces away from him five Solomons - damaged but still armoured, though one of them was slumped in a way that suggested unconsciousness - were kneeling in the sand, their hands bound behind then with braided Surovite cables.-
[15:34] <Raphael> Three Titans loomed over them, still powered and with their weapons standing at the ready. The artillery unit was training its heavy bolter on the group with a speculative air. The red figure sighed, turning away from the prisoners to regard the other man alongside of him. "No survivors from the VTOL?"
[15:43] <Minaplo> [Aina flinched as the red figure spoke.-
[15:43] <Minaplo> [The man- tall, well-built, wearing a black and red piloting suit, with a thick moustache hidden behind an eye-covering helmet of his own, shook his head. "Most died on impact. We found this one-" He pointed towards Philippe- "Pulling one out of the wreckage, but the injuries were too severe."]
[15:48] <Raphael> The figure sighs. The modulation on the helmet - it turns out it /wasn't/ a trick of the comms - makes the sound strange and broken. "The cargo was recovered?"
[15:52] <Minaplo> [The Solomons all flinched at that. Lys shook his head vigorously and Aina began to shiver uncontrollably. Philippe began awkwardly shifting himself one knee at a time towards her.-
[15:52] <Minaplo> ["Aye. Amatsumara's got it now." Said the moustached man.]
[16:03] <Raphael> "Good." One word and his attention is back on the prisoners. His gaze lingers on Philippe for a moment, the helmet's cold red eyes watching his shuffling movements dispassionately. "At this point I am bound to inform you all that you are to be held prisoner in accordance with Universal Law. You will be afforded every right applicable to POWs under the UN's regulation, and we have no intention
[16:03] <Raphael> of harming you."
[16:08] <Minaplo> [Valencia let out a low growl, squaring her shoulders and lowering her head; Aina on the other hand began to sob in terror.-
[16:09] <Minaplo> [Philippe at this point was just close enough to rub shoulders with her, which he did as best he could. "Shh, shh. It'll be alright." He looked up at the red figure. "Yeah, we understand."]
[16:11] <Raphael> The man in armour stares at Phillipe and Aina for a moment longer,
[16:11] <Raphael> «retcon»
[16:12] <Raphael> The man in armour stares at Phillipe and Aina for a moment longer, but eventually he simply nods and retreats a pace or two further away to resume a low conversation with his partner.-
[16:13] <Raphael> There's nothing more to say, after all. All that was left to wait to be extracted…
[16:17] <Minaplo> [A stealth VTOL arrived to collect them, the five of them herded into a sealed cargo compartment in the back- once the door went up, they were plunged into a gloomy darkness.-
[16:18] <Minaplo> ["Shit." Muttered Valencia, her voice oddly muted in the gloom. "-Shit-."-
[16:20] <Minaplo> ["I'm sorry, Philippe." Mumbled Aina, having maneuvered so she could rest her head against his shoulder. "I couldn't help it-"-
[16:21] <Minaplo> ["Shhh. I know." He said soothingly. "You weren't alone in being scared."-
[16:21] <Minaplo> ["Infrasonic voice modulator built into the helmet." Said Lys dully. "Dirty trick."-
[16:22] <Minaplo> [There was a dull groan from the back of the compartment.-
[16:22] <Minaplo> ["That you, Aksel?"-
[16:22] <Minaplo> ["Ugh. Yeah." Aksel muttered. "Whzit dark?"-
[16:22] <Minaplo> ["We got captured." Said Valencia. "We're now in a flying paddy wagon."-
[16:23] <Minaplo> ["Fantastic." Said Aksel. "Shit. Everyone here?"-
[16:23] <Minaplo> ["All present and accounted for." Said Philippe.-
[16:23] <Minaplo> ["The VTOL crew?"-
[16:24] <Minaplo> ["No joy." Said Philippe quietly.-
[16:24] <Minaplo> [Aksel let out a long sigh.-
[16:25] <Minaplo> ["Well, Red was as good as his word, apparently, he just said it after he shot 'em down. Ass. Well, I guess this is what I get for complaining about boring missions."-
[16:26] <Minaplo> [There was a thud.-
[16:26] <Minaplo> ["Ow. What the fuck are these things on my hands?"-
[16:26] <Minaplo> ["Surovite cabling." Said Lys.-
[16:27] <Minaplo> ["Goddamn." Said Aksel. "My kingdom for a Prime."-
[16:27] <Minaplo> ["Amen to that." Said Valencia.-
[16:28] <Minaplo> ["Don't suppose anyone managed to send out a distress signal? Y'know, to bring the Dysangelion lightning down like the wrath of god unto our captors?"-
[16:28] <Minaplo> ["They jammed our long range comms." Said Lys.-
[16:30] <Minaplo> ["Fuck me. How the- what- fuck!" There was the loud -clang- as Aksel kicked a wall. "Giant unidentified superheavies, surovite cabling, jamming devices? Who are these guys, and how did they know we were coming?"-
[16:32] <Minaplo> ["They had NERV equipment." Said Lys. "Their units corresponded to a universal frame and chassis, but with expensive space for customisation…"-
[16:32] <Minaplo> ["… That could describe any E-Destroyer custom unit." Said Aksel.-
[16:32] <Minaplo> ["Yeah." Said Lys. "That's the scary part."-
[16:34] <Minaplo> ["They were biotypicals?" Asked Valencia.-
[16:34] <Minaplo> ["I have no idea." Said Lys. "They didn't look like any Iron Guard, that's for sure."-
[16:35] <Minaplo> [A long sigh.-
[16:35] <Minaplo> ["Ok, guys. What happened to your weapons?"-
[16:37] <Minaplo> ["Used my reaper sword to cut open the VTOL." Said Philippe. "When I realised the game was up I destroyed it and my shuriken pistol."-
[16:37] <Minaplo> ["Same here." Said Valencia.-
[16:37] <Minaplo> ["Mmmhm." Said Lys.-
[16:38] <Minaplo> ["I did, too." Said Aina.-
[16:38] <Minaplo> ["And I stored my equipment in the back of my AC Suit, so ninja fusion jackass probably melted it. Ok, good." Said Aksel.-
[16:39] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[16:39] <Minaplo> ["I don't suppose they left us anything to eat?" Asked Aksel hopefully.-
[16:40] <Minaplo> ["No joy." Said Philippe quietly.-
[16:40] <Minaplo> [Aksel let out a long sigh, again.-
[16:42] <Minaplo> ]
-
[17:12] <Raphael> The journey was fairly brief, all told. Not long after the stealth VTOL pulled away from the beach with the D-Titans flying in formation around it they would pass a number of heavier cargo VTOLs heading in the opposite direction, heading back towards the coast and the parklands beyond to recover what cargo and salvage they could…-
[17:12] <Raphael> But it would only be an hour until they reached their destination off the coast and watched the Liberty Bell breach the surface of the ocean like some sort of great sea monster, water streaming off its bulk as the battleship prepared to allow them entry.-
[17:12] <Raphael> The VTOL landed on the flight deck - ready to be hidden away in one of the waterproof silos built to hide away the vehicles when the warship was submerged - but the D-Titans took a different route. They entered through the side of the ship instead, pulling into one of the cramped garages given over to superheavy storage and maintenance.-
[17:12] <Raphael> The rest was routine. The titans were fitted into cages to prevent accidental movement in a combat situation, final checks were run and the power was cycled down. It wouldn't take long for the five pilots to be free from the confines of the cockpit. For one of them in particular, it would be an opportunity to finally remove that damnable helmet and take a long breath of unfiltered air.-
[17:13] <Raphael> In any other situation the next step for Raphael Guillory's SOS team would be a debrief, but in this case there was a higher priority.-
[17:14] <Raphael> The team of power-armoured Rangers that led the Solomons to the brig would seem like an overreaction to most, but those on the Liberty Bell knew better.-
[17:15] <Raphael> This was particularly true for the Raphael and the rest of the SOS unit - even Euphrasie and Henri - who stood waiting for them as they were led towards the cells. The kabuki helmet had been returned to its rightful place, hiding whatever expression Raphael might have worn underneath.
[17:18] <Raphael> <kabuto*>
[17:20] <Minaplo> ["They're inside." Said Euphrasie, her expression calm. "They're ready for questioning at your leisure, Captain."]
[17:30] * Raphael squares his shoulders a little and nods. He gives her a tight smile out of habit, but it doesn't translate well through a surovite helment. "Thank you, Sergeant." He nods. "This may take some time, so those of you who have other needs to attend to are free to do so, but I'd request that three of you are nearby at all times, just in case."
[17:31] <Minaplo> ["Mana, Blaise." Said Hugues. "You're with me." He turned to Raphael, giving him a curt nod.]
[17:32] <Raphael> "Thanks." Raphael says again, offering them a nod instead of a smile. And then he turns and heads towards the cells.-
[17:35] <Raphael> The Solomons have been separated, of course - the brig contains eight narrow cells constructed of thick surovite with transparent surovite along the wall facing the corridor. Phones on either side provide a line of communication. It is, all in all, a miniature version of the Dorian Lachapelle's brig.-
[17:41] <Raphael> Five cells now sat occupied.
[17:42] <Raphael> Raphael didn't seem to show any uncertainty in where to start, though. He strode towards the second-furthest cell from the door and pulled the handset from its cradle.
[17:46] <Minaplo> [The Solomon within is sitting on the ground, arms folded, face hidden behind that white, cold mask-like helmet. As Raphael approached, it looked up at him, before reaching over to take the handset on his side.]
[17:54] <Raphael> "Let me start," Raphael said, "By apologizing for the cramped conditions. When we have the opportunity, we intend to have you placed somewhere a little more comfortable. Are you injured?"
[17:59] <Minaplo> ["Despite your best efforts, no, fortunately enough.]
[17:59] <Minaplo> "]*
[18:03] * Raphael nods once, seeiming to ignore the little jab. "May have a name, sir?"
[18:04] <Minaplo> ["Will I get yours if I give mine?"]
[18:09] <Raphael> "I'm afraid not."
[18:10] <Minaplo> [He shrugged. "Philippe, then."]
[18:12] <Raphael> "Philippe. Thank you." Even through the modulation, something about the tone seemed -genuine-. "Are you the officer in charge of this unit, Philippe?"
[18:15] <Minaplo> ["No, sorry."]
[18:18] <Raphael> "No? Hmm. On the beach you seemed the most likely candidate."
[18:19] <Minaplo> ["You'll have to forgive me. We Solomon Knights avoid denoting rank by who has the brightest primary colour uniform."]
[18:25] * Raphael actually -laughs- a little at that, glancing up towards one of the security cameras mounted in the corner as if letting someone else in on a joke.-
[18:28] <Raphael> "Nevertheless, officer, I'd appreciate it if you /could/ point me in the direction of your CO. I'd rather this situation went smoothly for both parties if at all possible."
[18:36] <Minaplo> ["His name's Aksel."]
[14:02] <Raphael> "Is there any way I can tell him apart from your other male compatriot?" Raphael asked. "I'm afraid those helmets make it appropriately difficult to tell you apart."
[14:04] <Minaplo> ["Aksel's an inch taller."]
[14:05] * Raphael nods. "Thank you. I appreciate you not making this too difficult for me, Phillipe. Is there anything I can offer you in the short term?"
[14:05] <Minaplo> ["I have a list. May I?"]
[14:06] <Raphael> … A list? The metal faceplate of the helment showed nothing, but behind it Raphael allowed a small frown. "Go ahead."
[14:16] <Minaplo> ["First, and this is the foundation on which my list lies: access to hot water."]
[14:24] <Raphael> "That can be arranged."
[14:36] <Minaplo> ["Good. Alright." He cleared his throat. "Two bottles of shampoo, preferably one of the following brands: Crown Silk, Godiva, Popole. Two bottles of conditioner, same brands. Five bars of moisturising body soap, any brand will do, one bottle of scented bodywash, any scent, any type. Five hair brushes. Five pairs of the following: one-size trousers, one-size t-shirts, white wool socks, one-size pyjama bottoms, one-size pyjama tops. Three pairs of the following: Men's boxer shorts. Two pairs of the following: Women's underwear, panties and bras. One pair of hairclips, decorative preferentially. Five sandwiches, with the following: White bread, turkey, cheddar cheese and lettuce. Multigrain, ham and chicken, lettuce, spinach and tomato. Wholemeal, roast beef, gravy, swiss cheese, olives. Wholemeal, lettuce, olives, pickles, cheddar cheese, onions, tomatoes. White, chicken, bacon, capsicum, avocado."]
[14:44] * Raphael was suddenly frustrated by his current inability to perform an honest to goodness incredulous stare, but the pause at least seemed to -suggest- one. "I… can do my best, Philippe. I can't see a problem with most of that, although I'm afraid you might need to be somewhat flexible about a few of the specifics for the moment."
[14:45] <Minaplo> ["I'm used to it."]
[14:53] <Raphael> "Mmm. I'll see to collecting what I can once I've spoken to Aksel."
[15:00] <Minaplo> ["Okay."]
[15:03] <Raphael> "If there's nothing else, officer…" And providing there wasn't the man would receive a respectful nod before Raphael replaced the phone on its hook and went venturing down the cells in search of the figure Philippe had described.
[15:05] <Minaplo> [It would be hard to tell if he had the right person. One inch was hard to discern, especially when dealing with those helmets. Nevertheless, one of them did seem to be a little taller; less… gangly than the other.-
[15:07] <Minaplo> [This one was slouched against the small bed in his cell, his right knee pulled up to his chest, his left leg lying about. When Raphael approached, he looked up, then glanced over towards his phone.]
[15:08] <Raphael> A phone that would begin beeping urgently as Raphael picked up its opposite number on his side of the wall a moment later.
[15:10] <Minaplo> [The Knight stared at it, then, moving as little as he could help it, reached over and grabbed it, pulling it towards him, only to find that the cord didn't extend long enough to permit him to maintain his slouch. He reluctantly sat up, shimmying over towards the wall, holding the phone up to his helmet.]
[15:12] <Raphael> Raphael's posture may has well have been a mirror opposite - he stood straight-backed past the transparent barrier, not slouching or leaning. "You are Aksel?"
[15:12] <Minaplo> ["Yo."]
[15:13] <Raphael> "Philippe told me you're the commanding officer of the unit, is that right?"
[15:13] <Minaplo> ["Yep."]
[15:15] <Raphael> "Good." Raphael nods. "We've just had a short discussion over what he needed - I had originally taken him for being in command back at the beach, I'm afraid - but I was hoping the two of us might be able to hash out some more agreeable terms for the rest of your unit. Is that acceptable?"
[15:16] <Minaplo> ["Sure."]
[15:21] <Raphael> "Philippe already has me collecting some food, and clothing, obviously, as well as some luxury items - something we're happy to provide in the short term, although long-term usage may be subject to negotiation. Was there anything else you can imagine your unit needing urgently?"
[15:25] <Minaplo> ["Nothing comes to mind. Holiday home in Italy?"]
[15:26] * Raphael lets out a short sigh. "Sulking won't help your soldiers, Aksel."
[15:28] <Minaplo> ["And co-operating with you will, right? That's the narrative?"]
[15:29] <Raphael> "Typically."
[15:32] <Minaplo> ["Uh-huh. Well, Philippe probably listed everything we want. That's what he does. I can't think of anything he would've overlooked."]
[15:38] <Raphael> "Mmm." Raphael murmured, sounding rather curt. "Well then. Given your position, and ss I am -relatively- certain you are the Solomon who was unconscious back at the beach, I would like to reiterate that you and your unit are being held captive in accordance with Universal Law. We do not intend to breach the word or spirit of that law, or harm your people… whether or not you consider that
[15:38] <Raphael> to be the 'narrative."
[15:39] <Minaplo> ["Don't suppose you could swear by the Hague and Geneva Conventions instead? I'm not an idiot, I know Uni-Law's bullshit."]
[15:41] <Raphael> "If it would make you happier." Raphael said with a small shrug. "You're not wrong, of course."
[15:41] <Minaplo> ["Cool."]
[15:43] <Raphael> "… 'Cool'." Raphael agreed slowly. He found himself at an impasse, glancing back down the corridor as if considering moving on to a less surly and… monosyllabic Solomon.
[15:48] <Minaplo> ["So what's the plan, Bushido?"]
[15:51] * Raphael glanced back around. "You and your unit will be kept in the holding cells here until you can be moved to a more permanent location. You will likely be questioned. Anything beyond that will be determined by other parties."
[16:16] <Minaplo> ["And I suppose answers to questions will be an export for me, rather than an import?"]
[16:22] <Raphael> "Again, that's how this process typically works. Although if you had anything specific in mind I could at least try to provide an answer."
[16:23] <Minaplo> ["Who are you? Who do you work for? Where are we? Why did you attack us? Why did you shoot the VTOL first?"]
[16:27] * Raphael is silent for a moment. "The first three are no-gos, I'm afraid. You were attacked because I was tasked with recovering the cargo your convoy was transporting, and the VTOL was targeted first to ensure that you would not have a chance to buy it time to escape."
[16:42] <Minaplo> ["Heaven forbid, because if there's one thing cargo VTOLs are known for, its their wicked fast speeds." He said sarcastically. "You had us over a barrel from before the first shot fired. You could've disabled two of our Destroyers before we even realised you were there, and by the time we had a chance to muster a defense, take out another. You could've spared a unit to just grab the VTOL. But hey, you had a job to do." He shrugged. "Six guys without a fighting chance dead, but that's a small price to pay, am I right?"]
[16:49] <Raphael> "…" Raphael stares at the other man quiet for a while. "As you said, we had a job to do."
[16:50] <Minaplo> ["They had names." Said Aksel.-
[16:51] <Minaplo> ["Doesn't matter, I guess. Six more souls onto purgatory."]
[16:59] <Raphael> "It does matter," Raphael says, "But it's done."
[17:00] <Minaplo> ["Yep."]
[17:05] <Raphael> "…" Raphael lets out a sharp breath. "I'm going to go and collect the items your Philippe requested. If you come up with anything more while I'm gona, let me know."
[17:06] <Minaplo> ["I just speak into this phone here, then? Even if you're not around?"]
[17:07] <Raphael> "Someone will be listening."
[17:08] <Minaplo> ["Right."]
[17:22] * Raphael nods curtly and replaces the handset before turning on his heel and heading for the door.-
[17:22] <Raphael> It took him about two hours to scrounge up the necessary items. Considering the difficult environment he felt he had been fairly successful. The clothes were fairly easy, and by the time he had returned to the brig he had five sets of underwear and five pairs of coarse pyjamas in plain utilitarian blue.-
[17:22] <Raphael> The sandwich order required a bit more improvisation - it was largely to the letter, but the turkey had been impossible (Substituted with chicken), there was no wholemeal bread and after a number of weeks without resupplying any hope of there being bacon on the ship was long gone.-
[17:25] <Raphael> The luxury items, though… That was where things had become difficult. Three hair brushes of various shapes and sizes had been found, along with two combs to make up a full compliment. A single bar of moisturizing soap and a decent bottle of shampoo had been taken from Mana after considerable effort along with a set of hairclips, although the rest of the soaps seemed -distinctly- military
[17:25] <Raphael> fare…-
[17:25] <Raphael> … all except the body wash which he had been forced, red-faced, to request from a giggling Minerva Linden.-
[17:27] <Raphael> Back in the brig he places a cardboard box filled with all the general-purpose items down outside of Philippe's cell, the sandwhiches on a tray behind him being held by a helmeted marine. Raphael has the phone to his ear.
[17:39] <Minaplo> [Philippe had the phone up to his helmet. He was on his hands and knees, peering down at the goods. "Ok. Better than I was expecting. If I tell you where to put them, will you form them into piles?"]
[17:40] <Raphael> "Certainly."
[17:42] <Minaplo> ["Ok. Starting from your left: Aksel, me, Valencia, Lysander and Aina. One pair of trousers, t-shirt, pyjamas each. Men get the boxers. Aina gets the smaller cup bra."]
[17:44] * Raphael follows the directions silently, phone tucked between his shoulder and "ear" to allow his hands freedom. It was an oddly mundane look for a man in such outlandish attire.
[17:45] <Minaplo> [The soldier behind Raphael tried not to snicker.-
[17:47] <Minaplo> ["The hair brushes… Mmm. Aksel's terrible with hair, give him a comb. I'll take the other. Brushes for the rest. The shampoo and moisturising soap…"-
[17:47] <Minaplo> [There was a long pause for a moment as Philippe seemed to struggle to place it.-
[17:48] <Minaplo> [He sighed. "Place it with Aina. I'll manage for now. Those hairclips are for her as well."]
[17:49] <Raphael> "Alright. Sandwiches?"
[17:53] <Minaplo> ["White bread with chicken, cheese and lettuce is Valencia's. Multigrain, ham and chicken, lettuce, spinach and tomato is mine. The… White? With roast beef, gravy, that's Aksel's. The- other white with lettuce, olives, pickles, cheddar, onions, tomatos- Lysander's. And the baconless chicken and bacon one is Aina's."-
[17:53] <Minaplo> ["Bodywash to Aksel as well, now that I think about it."]
[17:59] * Raphael nods. After a moment's effort he opens a slot in the transparent wall and slides through the clothes and body care items through to Philippe. The sandwich follows it a moment later - it's resting on a simple paper plate.
[18:00] <Minaplo> [Philippe takes them as they come, putting them to one side. "One moment, please."-
[18:00] <Minaplo> [He hangs up the phone, picks up the boxer shorts, the trousers and the t-shirt. He lays them on the bed, and is still for a moment.-
[18:01] <Minaplo> [Quite sleekly and fluidly his armour begins to retract. From his extremities first, then before long its retracting up his torso. The helmet is one of the last to go. Before long it has been sucked into a small red gem-like object embedded in Philippe's now bare chest.-
[18:02] <Minaplo> [Raphael can see Philippe properly now. He is quite obviously Alphonse Wellesley, although his shiny, lovely blonde hair is shorter, and Philippe's body more toned and obviously muscular.-
[18:03] <Minaplo> [Without fuss, Philippe is pulling on the boxers, then the trousers, then finally the shirt, before he sits back down, grabs the phone, and takes a bite out of his sandwich.-
[18:03] <Minaplo> ["Not bad."]
[18:20] <Raphael> He'd read the reports, and he had an idea of what he should expect from the Solomons. It didn't help.-
[18:21] <Raphael> He lets out a sharp gasp of surprise, a sound again made strange by the modulation. He stares. The armour might have been enough to provoke it, but the -face- is something else entirely.
[18:24] <Minaplo> [Philippe glances up at him, then furrows his brow. "Not what you expected?"]
[18:27] * Raphael shakes his head slowly, trying to recover his balance. "It's… nothing."
[18:27] <Minaplo> ["I see."-
[18:28] <Minaplo> ["Is there something I can call you? A nickname, a sobriquet, a psuedonym?"]
[18:35] <Raphael> "…" For reasons that would not be clear to Philippe, Raphael sighed very gently. "The Red Shadow."
[18:36] <Minaplo> [Philippe squinted at him suspiciously.-
[18:38] <Minaplo> ["Well. Can I assume that you are a man of honour, Red Shadow?"]
[18:39] * Raphael winced slightly behind the mask. Apparently it sounded just as foolish when other people used it. He thought momentarily of the "Brofessor"…-
[18:40] <Raphael> "I work to be one, yes."
[18:40] <Minaplo> ["I see."-
[18:41] <Minaplo> ["You're dealing with people I consider family. Most of them can look after themselves, but Aina isn't even a month old yet. She's young, unsure, shaken up, and you terrify her. These are all things I know that you can use to your advantage."-
[18:41] <Minaplo> ["But I would consider it a point of honour if you refrained from exploiting those weaknesses, no matter what."]
[18:56] <Raphael> "Only a month…" Raphael muttered, shaking a head after the shock of that thought passed. "I see. I'll do my best to avoid that, Philippe."
[18:58] <Minaplo> [Philippe nodded shortly. "I appreciate that. I also appreciate the effort you've gone to in order to accomodate our needs."-
[18:58] <Minaplo> ["But if you to end up exploiting her and her weaknesses," He took a bite from his sandwich, "Then I'll kill you."]
[19:02] * Raphael studies that face - Alphonse's face - watching the familiar expressions play out in unfamiliar ways. Even with lengthy exposure to Rei and the Ayanamis - and that thought brings a brief moment of horror with the complications this could create - it's slightly unsettling.-
[19:02] <Raphael> The threat, meanwhile, he seems to almost take in stride. "I understand."
[19:03] <Minaplo> ["Ok, good." He takes a bite. "Valencia's a lot taller than Aina, you won't have a problem telling them apart, and Lysander's the other male. You shouldn't have any problem there."]
[19:06] <Raphael> "Thank you. If there's nothing more, I'll leave you to your meal?"
[19:08] <Minaplo> ["Yeah, thanks. See you, Red Shadow."]
[19:10] <Raphael> "You will." Raphael nods. Soon enough he'd be collecting the other piles of essentials and moving on to the next cell.
[19:19] <Minaplo> [Next was one of the women, taller than Raphael by about four inches. She stood by the door, leaning against the wall, arms folded, her stance radiating a martial readiness. Valencia, no doubt- and she looked as powerful as her namesake suggested.-
[19:22] <Minaplo> [Her tone was curt, short, but stopping just short of being outright rude. She took the clothes and sandwich as Raphael pushed them through the slot- she stood up and changed just as Philippe had, staring square into Raphael's mask as she did, her expression revealed as defiant as her mask vanished. She apparently had no issues with Raphael seeing her naked, and she dressed in an unhurried manner. She had long red hair, tied into a simple ponytail, and reddish-brown eyes. Raphael… did not recognise her, although a sense of very vague, almost deja-vu like familiarity tortured the back of his mind.-
[19:22] <Minaplo> [Valencia lifted the sandwich to her nose, sniffing it suspiciously before she took a gigantic bite out of it, lifting the phone up to her ear.-
[19:23] <Minaplo> ["Chicken's okay. Bread's a day old or so."]
[19:23] <Minaplo> [Words accompanied by copious chewing noises.]
[19:26] <Raphael> Raphael knew what was coming this time, at least. He saw the challenge in the other figure's stare for what it was, but seemed happy enough to ignore it by turning his head away first to give her apparently unsought privacy.-
[19:27] * Raphael has his own phone up to his ear by the time she replies, wincing slightly at the chewing. He was beginning to almost relish the way the mask allowed him to be a little more lax with his own expressions, much to his own annoyance.-
[19:27] <Raphael> "It is." Was the simple reply.
[19:31] <Minaplo> ["Send Philippe my thanks."]
[19:36] <Raphael> "I will. Do you need anything else? Your commander thinks Philippe would have covered everything."
[19:40] <Minaplo> ["Tell Lys and Aina to 'hang in there'. That is all.']
[19:57] <Raphael> "I can do that." Raphael nods. And then, sensing further interaction might be a mistake, it was on to the next cell…
[19:59] <Minaplo> [Next was Lysander, tall and thin. His introduction was polite, quiet, very slightly hesitant- he took the clothes and sandwiches, putting the sandwich aside and taking the clothes.-
[20:00] <Minaplo> [His armor retracted, and he put on his clothes, not seeming as bothered as Valencia had been. Raphael would recognise the face immediately- pale skin, that brown hair, the green eyes… Barzilai Surov.-
[20:01] <Minaplo> [But his hair wasn't in the immaculate ponytail that Surov kept his in seemingly permanently. Lys's hair was loose, wavy, falling about his face, softening it.-
[20:02] <Minaplo> [Once he was dressed, Lys sat in the corner next to the phone, the sandwich in front of him. He carefully lifted the top slice of bread, scrutinising the contents carefully. He looked up at Raphael, reddening slightly as he took the phone.-
[20:02] <Minaplo> ["I don't like hurting the animals." He said, a little defensively.]
[20:07] <Raphael> It had been difficult - very difficult - to restrain his startled reaction upon seeing that face, though at least he had been somewhat prepared for it. It didn't quite provoke the same teeth-clenched dislike that the real Surov's face did - something about the distant, almost dreamy eyes and the lack of the perpetual scowl. Even those two changes put a significant difference between Lysander
[20:07] <Raphael> and the real thing.-
[20:08] <Raphael> "… Oh." Said Raphael, sounding genuinely thrown by the statement. "That's… kind of you."
[20:08] <Minaplo> ["I think," Lys took the sandwich, took a tiny bite, swallowed it, then continued, "That I know who you are and where we are, too."]
[20:10] * Raphael frowns. "Is that so?"
[20:19] <Minaplo> ["Your superheavy units are advanced, but they're also all based on a frame that permits high customisation through a series of interchangeable modules, like our E-Destroyers, which were based off an old prototype Thruster unit called the Thruster Hero. That narrows it down to two reasonable options: that you're an LN faction, or you're affiliated with NERV somehow. One of your soldiers was wielding a Dynamic Glaive, which is NERV and New World tech, so that makes me think NERV. The time spent in the VTOL was far too short to be taken to a base, yet we're in cells with transparent surovite, which is pretty expensive- you don't really find it outside of NERV or New World facilities. You could have a secret base nearby, but every city from here to the Sahara is home to a New World outpost, so that seems a little unlikely. That suggests you came from the ocean somehow- there's no submarine that can store Superheavy units, but the Dorian can submerge, and if its been fully equipped then it's nearly impossible to predict where it'd be at any given time. If we assume that you're somehow affiliated with NERV…" He paused for a second to take a breath and a bite from his sandwich, "… Then you'd have to be someone trained in the operation of Superheavy units, or at least someone trained for Eva-scale combat. If that's true, you could be Raphael Guillory, but he pilots a T-RIDEN-T, and even if that thing's outdated, you can perch it on a mountain and use it as an artillery platform. He'd be too obvious anyway, so the only real alternative candidate, with the coordination you guys possess, means…"-
[20:19] <Minaplo> ["That you're Alexandre Fontaine, and we're on the Dorian Lachapelle!" Said Lys triumphantly.]
[20:31] * Raphael stared at the other man for a few seconds, struggling with the idea that he felt bad about wiping that look of honest, strangely childlike joy from that familiar, hated face. -
[20:31] <Raphael> "… Wrong on both counts, I'm afraid." Raphael said, and despite himself he sounded almost -apologetic-.
[20:32] <Minaplo> ["That's what Alexandre Fontaine would say though." Said Lys sagely.-
[20:33] <Minaplo> ["Thank you for the sandwich and clothes and things, Mr. Fontaine." Said Lys. "Did Philippe tell you what to get?"]
[20:34] <Raphael> "…" Raphael sighs again, but does not argue the point. "He did, yes."
[20:35] <Minaplo> ["I thought so." Said Lys quietly, nibbling on his sandwich.-
[20:35] <Minaplo> ["What's gonna happen to us?"]
[20:37] <Raphael> "You'll be transferred, when we're able. You'll likely be questioned. Beyond that I can't be sure."
[20:37] <Minaplo> ["Why can't we be transferred now?"]
[20:38] <Raphael> "Practical constraints."
[20:39] <Minaplo> ["Like being underwater?" He asked slyly.]
[20:44] <Raphael> "That could be a practical constraint, certainly."
[20:44] <Minaplo> [Lys grinned.-
[20:44] <Minaplo> ["Are you visiting everyone?"]
[20:45] <Raphael> "I am."
[20:45] <Minaplo> ["Ok." His grin faded. "You should apologise to Aina when you see her for using an infrasonic voice modulator. It's a dirty trick, and I don't like it, and it was unfair to use it on her, Mr. Fontaine."]
[20:46] * Raphael tilts his head slightly. "… I'm not sure I understand."
[20:49] <Minaplo> [He frowned. "Your helmet. It has an infrasonic voice modulator built into it. When you speak it takes your voice and copies it at infrasonic frequencies, which can cause sensations of fear and awe in people not protected from it. Aina's new. She's still trying to sort out her memories and her feelings and so she's super susceptible to it. Like I said, a dirty trick."]
[20:52] * Raphael sighs again, a little deeper this time. "Yes, it is. Thank you, Lysander, I was not aware that the modulation was working like that. I suppose I -will- apologise."
[20:52] <Minaplo> [Lys gives him a firm little nod.]
[20:55] <Raphael> "As I've told your commander, if you need to speak with someone you may use the phone. I imagine someone will be back to speak with you all before too long."
[20:55] <Minaplo> ["Ok."]
[21:14] <Raphael> And so it was time to… find a spot out of view of the cells and search for a way to shut off the infrasonic modulation! If he could keep the /regular/ modulation all the better.
[21:15] <Minaplo> [This ultimately requires the intervention of a technician- luckily, Henri is on call, and he quickly fiddles with the helmet, finds the right setting and hands it back. Infrasonic modulation gone, normal modulation: in.]
[21:17] <Raphael> Perfect. He offers his thanks to Henri, takes a few minutes to make smalltalk with the parts of the squad on standby, and then its back to the cells for his final two visits.
[21:26] <Minaplo> [Next is Aina, the 'kid' of the group. She was sitting at the back of the cell, her legs tucked up against her chest, as though trying to hide. When Raphael appeared, she began to tremble like a leaf. Even after Raphael picked up the phone, she didn't move until he pushed the clothes and food through the slot. Then she slowly began to crawl forward, like a tentative cat.-
[21:28] <Minaplo> [It was only after she sorted through the goods that she finally took the phone, grabbing it to tell Raphael to turn around. It was only after he was definitely facing away from her that she changed from her solomon armour into the civilian clothes provided.-
[21:29] <Minaplo> ["Ready." She mumbled into the phone. Raphael would turn around to see… Medium height, blue eyes (two of them!) and long red hair- Asuka Langley-Soryu, wearing a tremulous expression and rubbing the hairclips between her fingers uncertainly. The food remained untouched for now.]
[21:32] <Raphael> Only a moment's pause at the face this time; he's becoming more prepared for the surprise, and in all honesty if he was to expect -anyone- to receive Mary's attentions it would be the Pilots. If anything throws him off about the sight it's the utterly alien expression she's wearing.-
[21:33] <Raphael> "Miss Aina, was it?" Raphael says, waiting a moment after she'd taken up the phone. "I would like to start by apologising for earlier. I was not informed about the infrasonics."
[21:39] <Minaplo> ["…" She nods quickly, not quite meeting his eyes. "O-Okay."]
[21:42] <Raphael> "Okay." Raphael agrees. "You have nothing to fear from me, ma'am. Philippe was very certain about what would happen if any harm came to you. Those clips are a gift from him, by the way."
[21:43] <Minaplo> ["I know. He promised me he'd find me some before we left the Synfront…"]
[21:47] <Raphael> "… He tells me you are only a month old. Was this your first real mission?"
[21:48] <Minaplo> ["M-My first combat mission. I turn four weeks old in five days."]
[21:53] * Raphael sighs again. "Again, I'm sorry." He wants to add more than that - tries to - but everything he thinks of seems to ring false.
[22:05] <Minaplo> [She nodded quickly. "O-Okay. Thank you for turning off your helmet."]
[22:09] <Raphael> "Quite alright. Should I leave you to your food?"
[22:09] <Minaplo> ["Ye-es. Ah… Can I ask something?"]
[22:10] <Raphael> "If you'd like?"
[22:10] <Minaplo> ["Can I be moved into someone else's cell?"]
[22:11] <Raphael> "… you mean you'd like to share one?"
[22:11] <Minaplo> ["Yes."]
[22:12] <Raphael> "Whose?" He asked, already fairly sure of the answer.
[22:19] <Minaplo> ["A-Anyone's would be fine, but Philippe is the safest…"]
[22:19] <Raphael> "Safest for who?"
[22:20] <Minaplo> ["F-For me. As in, I feel safest around him."]
[22:21] <Raphael> "Oh. Well." Raphael shifts his weight a little. He /couldn't/ of course. It would be a breach of prisoner protocol, a security risk…-
[22:21] <Raphael> "I'll see what I can do. I can't promise you, though."
[22:22] <Minaplo> [Her shoulders slump a little. "Okay."]
[22:25] <Raphael> "…" Raphael eyes her silently for a moment. "Take care, Miss Aina."-
[22:25] <Raphael> He hangs up his phone and moves onto the final cell and its surly prisoner, glad for a change of pace.
[22:27] <Minaplo> [Aksel is still in his usual slouch. He eyes the bundle of goods in Raphael's hand and takes the phone. "My deed for that holiday house had better be in there, Bushido."]
[22:43] <Raphael> "Hard to collect one on short notice." Raphael asks, opening the slot in the surovite and gesturing for Aksel to get up and collect it.
[22:44] <Minaplo> [Aksel slouuuuches over, pulling the stuff through, again with as little effort as possible.-
[22:48] <Minaplo> [He places it in a pile on the floor. The first thing he looks at is the food- he makes a mild sound of approval, before putting it aside and focusing on the clothes.-
[22:48] <Minaplo> [He picks up the t-shirt and trousers, getting to his feet- the first time Raphael has seen that- and begins to retract his armour.-
[22:49] <Minaplo> [Aksel doesn't even need to finish dressing before Raphael realises who he is. His chin's slightly shadowed with stubbly growth, and his hair is a chaotic, untamed mess. But the eyes are the same. The skin is the same. The body is the same.-
[22:49] <Minaplo> [Raphael is staring at his own body- his old one. The one he had before Omniel changed him.-
[22:50] <Minaplo> [Aksel picks up the sandwich and bites into it.]
[22:56] <Raphael> "…"-
[22:59] <Raphael> Silence, both within and without. Every thought, every consideration seems to either die mid-stream or derail messily, leaving his mind as silent and still as everything else about him. Even prepared as he had been by the others… he hadn't considered this, not for a moment, and whether that was distraction or delusion he wouldn't be able to say. His hands beging to flex slowly - they'd
[22:59] <Raphael> form a fist, -clench-, and then relax before starting the whole pattern over again.-
[22:59] <Raphael> No real thought seems to go into this.-
[23:00] <Raphael> When he does break the silence, only a little, strangled choke seems to pass through the modulator.
[23:01] <Minaplo> [Aksel, remarkably, seems oblivious to this, focused on his food until Raphael lets out his little choke. Aksel looks up, staring at Raphael in mild puzzlement, before glancing back down at the sandwich. He takes another bite.-
[23:01] <Minaplo> ["Uh… Thanks? Yum yum." He says, a little baffled.]
[23:07] <Raphael> "Why… do you have…" The clenching fists were growing -tighter-, making the leather of the pilot suit beneath his gloves creak.
[23:10] <Minaplo> ["… Everything alright? Did I eat this wrong or something?"]
[23:37] <Raphael> Once more his hand balls into a fist… and this time it stays there, tensed like the rest of his body, the finger joints working as though they were clasped around his throat.-
[23:37] <Raphael> "Shut -up-." Raphael hisses, an unspoken threat behind the words. For a second he seems ready to do more - to tear off the helmet, to call out the imposter. And then a tremble runs through his whole body, and seems to break him out of his rage just long enough to turn on his feel and flee towards the door.-
[23:37] <Raphael> He needs to be -away-. Out of the brig, out of the too-warm air of his suit and helmet. Away from that face that should be his. Out of this mask and into a different one.


[23:42] <Minaplo> [8 o'clock and no word.-
[23:42] <Minaplo> [The sky above had turned dark. Or at least, Roku assumed it had. It was late, after all. Late, quiet, cold and empty.-
[23:43] <Minaplo> [She let out a sigh.-
[23:44] <Minaplo> [Around midday, Roku had started working on a labor-intensive, extravagant, but delicious dish- a full parmesan beef lasagna with a rich herb tomato sauce base. She'd finished preparation around 4 PM, put it in the freezer to set for another 3, then put it in the oven to cook.-
[23:44] <Minaplo> [It was still in there, put there to be warm as opposed to cooking. It was ready to be eaten.-
[23:44] <Minaplo> [Still no Aksel.-
[23:46] <Minaplo> [She'd expected him back four hours ago. At first she'd brushed it off, but for every hour that passed her concern grew and grew until it reached the point where she was now- tempted to march over to Command and demand an explanation, the 'secret' nature of their relationship be damned.-
[23:47] <Minaplo> [Roku sat on her couch, staring at the television, where the DVD menu for some spy thriller played. She'd muted it.-
[23:48] <Minaplo> [Roku had once loved spy thrillers… For some reason. She wasn't even sure how it started. Probably up late watching tv one night. She'd started collecting them and cooking show DVD sets both with the monomaniacal approach that all Ayanamis seemed to exhibit early in their development.-
[23:49] <Minaplo> [The cooking had stayed, but the spy thrillers had lost their ardour fast when she began spying for real.-
[23:50] <Minaplo> [But Aksel, dumb oblivious Aksel, loved them, loved the overblown action mixed in with the 'clever' ploys and tactics of the spies in the movies. And with him, Roku was able to enjoy them too - until the movie was over and Roku was squirrelling away some other little nugget of data.-
[23:50] <Minaplo> [Roku fidgeted.-
[23:51] <Minaplo> [And so, when the door chime rang, she nearly jumped out of her skin.-
[23:51] <Minaplo> [A sudden flood of relief flowed through her body. He's back.-
[23:52] <Minaplo> [The oven door burst open, the lasagna within flying out, slicing itself into six even pieces, two of which flew into the air and onto waiting dinner plates, which flew over to the waiting table. The table was set with a clean, soft pink linen table cloth, six tall candles, and a bottle of wine.-
[23:52] <Minaplo> ["Coming~" She cried out, heading towards the door. She put on her biggest smile and unlocked it.-
[23:53] <Minaplo> [It wasn't Aksel.-
[23:55] <Minaplo> [Magistrate Narendra, the thin Indian-South African OD of the Synfront, dressed sharply in his Magistrate overcoat, his short black hair perfectly combed and straight. Behind him were a squad of Stormtroopers.-
[23:55] <Minaplo> [Roku's heart leapt into her mouth.-
[23:56] <Minaplo> ["Pilot Ayanami." Said Narendra, his voice smooth and honeyed. "May I enter?"-
[23:56] <Minaplo> [She was lost for words for a moment, before nodding a little frantically. "Y-Yes, of course. Please come in."-
[23:57] <Minaplo> [And so Narendra did, flanked by three Stormtroopers.-
[23:58] <Minaplo> [Narendra approached the table, reaching into his coat to pull out a white book. It resembled a technical manual, but the cover was blank. He opened it and flicked through it, reached a certain page, then looked up. "Am I fine to sit?"-
[23:58] <Minaplo> ["Y-Yes." Said Roku, quickly taking a seat herself.-
[23:58] <Minaplo> [Narendra pulled out a chair and sat. He glanced over at the prepared table with a curious eye.-
[23:59] <Minaplo> [He flicked through the book, found what he was looking for, and looked up. "Expecting someone else?"-
[23:59] <Minaplo> ["Uh… Yes." Said Roku.-
[23:59] <Minaplo> [Flick, flick through the book. "A big date?"-
[00:00] <Minaplo> ["I-I suppose." Said Roku. "Uh, that book, what is it?"-
[00:00] <Minaplo> ["Oh, this?" Asked Narendra, holding it up. "Every Operations Director that enters NERV's service is issued with a copy of one of these. This is my Ayanami Pilot Instruction and Capability Manual."-
[00:01] <Minaplo> [Roku's blood went cold.-
[00:02] <Minaplo> [He flicked through the pages. "Who were you expecting?"-
[00:02] <Minaplo> ["A… A Solomon Knight."-
[00:02] <Minaplo> [Flick flick. "What was his name?"-
[00:02] <Minaplo> ["A-Aksel Heiden." Said Roku. Her hands were gripping the back of her chair tightly. "S-Stop that."-
[00:03] <Minaplo> [Flick, flick. "Stop what?"-
[00:03] <Minaplo> ["That. The flicking. You don't need a manual to speak to me. Please." She said quietly, gently. "I'm a human being just like you."-
[00:04] <Minaplo> ["Not just like me, are you?" Said Narendra immediately, flicking back to the near-back of the book. "I am… What was that word you people use? Biotypical. And you're the clone of a child shot in the head by terrorists."-
[00:05] <Minaplo> ["D-Don't." Said Roku, whispering.-
[00:07] <Minaplo> ["No, look here. Capabilities. Possesses a controllable AT Field. Stronger, faster and tougher than the typical human being. Capable of self-hypnotic suggestion. Able to regulate their sleep patterns, their diets, even their emotions with a single minute of focused meditation. No, Ayanami. You're not a human being like me at all."-
[00:09] <Minaplo> ["Let's see." He flicked back to the early part of the book. "Chapter 2: Ayanami and emotions. Let's see…" Flick, flick. "'Ayanamis experience grief as normal, although their reactions to it may involve entering a period of extreme emotional instability or conversely a period of emotionlessness. When explaining a grief-causing event to an Ayanami, be forthright and honest, but display sympathy to let her know that oyu are on her side.'" He looked up.-
[00:09] <Minaplo> ["Aksel Heiden and his entire squad were wiped out near Luanda-2. No survivors."-
[00:09] <Minaplo> [Roku froze.-
[00:09] <Minaplo> ["You have my condolences." Said Narendra.-
[00:11] <Minaplo> [The blunt shock of it all was enough to force the thoughts out of Roku's head for a good half minute.-
[00:11] <Minaplo> [Her heart felt as though it had stopped. When she finally spoke again, her words were shaky and broken. "Dead…?"-
[00:13] <Minaplo> ["Looks like." Said Narendra. "We analysed some of what little debris remained. Looks like fusion weaponry. He would've experienced a few seconds of incomparable agony before being completely vaporised. Unfortunately, not even a Knight is recoverable after a death like that. We'll have to boot up a new body without any of his memories."-
[00:14] <Minaplo> [If the first announcement was like a hammer blow, then this was the knife, cutting into her, twisting. The tears began to build in her eyes, and somewhere in her throat she could feel a wail building- but she choked it down. "P-Please. I don't want to hear…"-
[00:15] <Minaplo> ["Of course, it is interesting that he was ambushed at all." Said Narendra sleekly. "As though they knew he were coming! I wonder… I wonder how they might've gotten ahold of that information."-
[00:16] <Minaplo> ["Leave. Please, just leave me alone." Whispered Roku, the tears starting to pour down her face.-
[00:19] <Minaplo> ["Oh, wait. I have an idea." Said Narendra, his voice surprised. He flicked through the book. "Oh yes, here we go. 'Your typical Ayanami is trained in subterfuge, capable of hiding and shadowing targets, infiltration and exfiltration… To a flawless standard'. How interesting." Said Narendra quietly. "You seem pretty broken up. Assuming that's not an Ayanami trick, tell me, did you fall in love with him before or after you began using him as an information source?"-
[00:19] <Minaplo> [Roku's voice gave way to low, aching sobs.-
[00:20] <Minaplo> ["I asked you a question, Ayanami." Said Narendra. "Answer it."-
[00:20] <Minaplo> [She shook her head, the sobbing growing in intensity.-
[00:20] <Minaplo> ["ANSWER IT!"-
[00:21] <Minaplo> [She clapped her hands over her head, tucking into a ball, letting out that wail of anguish and pain. The Stormtroopers seem unnerved, glancing at each other. Narendra was unflappable, however.-
[00:21] <Minaplo> ["Fine. If you will not answer it, then I will force you to answer." He flipped the book to the very last few pages. "'Ayanami Conditioned Codewords'. Let's see…"-
[00:22] <Minaplo> [A shard of ice broke through Roku's pain.-
[00:22] <Minaplo> [Codewords.-
[00:22] <Minaplo> [She couldn't even hear him. He was speaking, but the words didn't make sense.-
[00:22] <Minaplo> [She wasn't sure why she acted the way she did, whether it was the cold logic of the situation, or just emotional turmoil.-
[00:23] <Minaplo> [She stood, reached a hand out towards Narendra and, with a single telekinetic thrust, slammed him into the wall.-
[00:23] <Minaplo> [With a single wave, Narendra's coat opened, and a magistrate pulse carbine hurtled out of its holster, right into Roku's hands.-
[00:23] <Minaplo> [Firearms. Her speciality.-
[00:24] <Minaplo> [Before the Stormtroopers could react, she'd fired a single burst, instantly wounding four of them and blasting through Narendra's shoulder. He let out an agonised scream of pain.-
[00:25] <Minaplo> [Roku was off. Leaping over the table and out the door- into another six Stormtroopers.-
[00:25] <Minaplo> [Her momentum guided her straight into one of them- a split second focus of her Field turned her into a moving bullet, slamming him out of her way.-
[00:26] <Minaplo> [The other five fumbled for their rifles, but either way, she didn't get far. There were more than just Troopers here.-
[00:27] <Minaplo> [An Adept appeared out of nowhere, its shimmering chameleon aura fading. It broke through Roku's field and, in a single fluid movement, disarmed her, tripped her and knocked her back towards the waiting troopers.-
[00:27] <Minaplo> [They discarded their rifles, instead rushing her all at once, tackling her to the ground. Even then she thrashed and kicked so hard that it took a Trooper per limb to pin her down.-
[00:29] <Minaplo> [A few seconds later, Narendra emerged. The blow to his shoulder, it seemed, had been mostly absorbed hy his coat- he still had movement in his arm. Such information seemed to have little effect on his temperament. He was livid, the air seeming to heat up around him, his face red, the veins on his neck and forehead sticking out, ugly and purple and pulsating.-
[00:29] <Minaplo> [Every step he took saw him take huge shuddering furious breaths. He walked over to Roku's side.-
[00:30] <Minaplo> [She stared up at him. There was -hate- in those eyes. Hate at him. Hate at what he'd just done. Hate at the leash he had over her lover. Over his friends. Over them all. Hated his master, who had created them all and had shackled them in the most awful way imaginable.-
[00:31] <Minaplo> ["How dare you." Said Narendra, his voice warping in anger.-
[00:31] <Minaplo> [He lifted his booted foot and brought it down as hard as he could on Roku's stomach.-
[00:31] <Minaplo> [She convulsed, her hateful expression interrupted by coughing.-
[00:31] <Minaplo> [He raised his boot. It came down again on her stomach.-
[00:32] <Minaplo> [And again.-
[00:32] <Minaplo> [And again. This time she began to cough up blood.-
[00:33] <Minaplo> ["You little Ayanami whore." He spat, slamming his boot into her groin. "You dare to raise a hand to me?" Again into her chest. "You dare to turn my own gun against me?" Stomach. "You dare to shoot me?!" Stomach.-
[00:34] <Minaplo> [Each blow accompanied by a shriek of pain and coughing.-
[00:35] <Minaplo> ["I should kill you." He raised his boot and stamped it into her face. "Kill you for your insolence." Again. "Kill you for your arrogance." Again. "Kill you for looking down on me." He pulled his boot back and slammed it into the side of her face. Her nose exploded in a shower of blood, and the strike seemed to genuinely knock her unconscious for a second.-
[00:35] <Minaplo> [He raised his boot once more, and-
[00:36] <Minaplo> [One of the stormtroopers grabbed it. "That's enough, sir."-
[00:36] <Minaplo> ["You dare to-"-
[00:36] <Minaplo> [The stormtrooper stood. He was not a small man, Narendra, but this trooper had a head of height on him. "That's enough. Sir."-
[00:37] <Minaplo> [Narendra stared up at the trooper with fury in his eyes. "I'll have your head for this, trooper."-
[00:37] <Minaplo> ["Aye, but you'll not have her's. Not today, sir." The trooper gently released Narendra's leg, and pushed him back away from her.-
[00:37] <Minaplo> [Narendra -steamed-.-
[00:38] <Minaplo> ["Fine. Fine. Take her to the cells." Said Narendra.-
[00:39] <Minaplo> [The stormtrooper looked down on Roku. She was a broken figure. The other Troopers had released her as well, and now she lay curled up, her limbs trembling with pain, not strong enough to lift them. Blood poured from her face and nose, staining her pretty pink blouse with her blood. She didn't even have the strength to cough. Her eyes had a glassy look to them.-
[00:40] <Minaplo> [The trooper knelt down, picking her up as gently as he could. Roku began to whimper- he made gentle, soothing humming noises.-
[00:40] <Minaplo> ["Squad, with me." Said the trooper, and he began to walk away, escorted by the troopers.-
[00:40] <Minaplo> [The adept turned to look at Narendra. She shook her head once, then turned and followed.-
[00:43] <Minaplo> [They did not end up taking her to the cells. they took her to the medical wing for treatment. He'd shattered her ribs, damaged her lungs, broken her nose, fractured a part of her skull. Doctor Stimms, the head of medical, declared her too injured for the cells. He placed her into intensive care.-
[00:43] <Minaplo> [Roku had been released just the morning before.-
[00:43] <Minaplo> [Narendra, however, re-entered Roku's apartment.-
[00:45] <Minaplo> [He sat down calmly at the table and proceeded to eat the cooling lasagna she'd set out for herself and Aksel. He then began to, calmly, trash the room, smashing the butt of his carbine into every screen, into every cabinet and into every picture frame. Pictures of Roku with her sisters, with friends, with refugee children, with Aksel- they littered the ground, torn and damaged.-
[00:45] <Minaplo> [He flipped the table over. The first thing he saw was Roku's secret laptop, strapped to the bottom of it.-
[00:50] <Minaplo> [It took Synfront Technical three days to break the encryption. After that, piecing together what they already knew, they were able to figure out every pathway, backdoor and tunnel Surov had created.-
[00:50] <Minaplo> [It was a goldmine.-
[00:51] <Minaplo> [Narendra wasn't reprimanded for his conduct. He went to bed that night.-
[00:51] <Minaplo> [But he wasn't -entirely- unpunished.-
[00:54] <Minaplo> [Captain Beatrix and many of the other Knights had been told about Aksel's apparent death before Roku had been. And it hadn't taken long for certain parties to inform her of what had transpired with Roku.-
[00:55] <Minaplo> [Beatrix had paid a visit to a certain secluded part of the Synfront- the part where the Adepts lived. Beatrix sought out the Adept who had witnessed the event, and asked for a favour.-
[00:55] <Minaplo> [Later that night, the Adept had mentioned something in passing to one of her Phantoms.-
[00:56] <Minaplo> [Before the morning sun had risen, Narendra would find himself stirring from sleep in the peace of his own bedroom, awoken by some unknown presence.-
[00:59] <Minaplo> [A single shuriken shard sat, an inch from his neck, impaled into the pillow. Within a few seconds it had dissolved into an impossibly fine dust.-
[00:59] <Minaplo> [Narendra, ultimately, did not sleep very well after all.]

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