Aline 2 Phantoms

[23:14:48] <@Minaplo> ["It is time."-
[23:15:07] <@Minaplo> [That was the message Aline received half an hour ago. It was the message that led her… Here.-
[23:17:29] <@Minaplo> [It was deep in the bowels of the Synfront, deeper than any but the most important or crucial personnel were permitted to go. The area was cold and empty and quiet.-
[23:17:55] <@Minaplo> [No Stormtroopers. But there were guards. Invisible to the naked eye, armoured Phantoms stalked the corridors.-
[23:18:43] <@Minaplo> [It was only natural for Phantoms to be here, though.-
[23:19:24] <@Minaplo> [Because behind the sealed blast door, Aline knew, were the facilities where they were grown.-
[23:19:40] <@Minaplo> [When Aline was ready, all she would have to do was walk through the doors- and there she would be led to her own Phantoms.]
[23:22:48] * Blanc had been even keeping her field active, just to be able to /perceive/ all the phantoms wandering through the halls. They very likely were naturally moving out of her way, but she felt very self-conscious and without the gravitas due her station at the prospect of zigging where she should've zagged and walking smack into one! But of course… it didn't happen. Instead, the door was soon opening for her as she moved onwards, a heady breath in her gut. If the tour and other knowledge was any indication, she'd be like a mother to them (how appropriate). This could be… …interesting.
[23:27:37] <@Minaplo> [The first thing she would notice was the air.-
[23:31:34] <@Minaplo> [In contrast to the cold corridors, the air within was humid, thick, muggy and wet. Moisture clung to the walls, and before long it clung to Aline as well.-
[23:32:46] <@Minaplo> [Behind the door, the corridor gave way to what looked like a natural wall… Metal conceding to rock, stone and soil. A cave formation?-
[23:34:29] <@Minaplo> [There was someone waiting for her. About five and a half feet tall, wrapped in a white angel-silk robe over black boots, a long hood shielding the person's face. It gripped a six-foot tall metal pole in hands gloved in black.-
[23:34:43] <@Minaplo> ["Aline Blanc?"]
[23:37:09] * Blanc nodded her head, and… "Yes, Aline Blanc." She said calmly, even gently.
[23:42:34] <@Minaplo> ["I am… The Keeper." He said. His voice was quiet and clear, yet had an odd monotonal element to it.-
[23:42:55] <@Minaplo> [He turned and began to walk into the cavern. "Follow me… Please."]
[23:45:07] * Blanc considered that monotone quality for a moment, before sort of bowing her head a moment, and then following as asked!
[23:49:33] <@Minaplo> [The cavern curved westward gently, although it was apparently long enough that by the time they'd reached their destination, they'd turned a full ninety degrees.-
[23:51:02] <@Minaplo> [Before them, the cave opened up and gave way to a much larger, roughly round space. Whether carved by the forces of nature or by machine, Aline didn't know, but it was, like so much of the Synfront, an immense place.-
[23:51:24] <@Minaplo> [The Keeper paused at the mouth of the cave. "This is… The Garden." He said.-
[23:52:50] <@Minaplo> [Beneath them, the ground turned to soil, and gave root to… Trees.-
[23:54:30] <@Minaplo> [Only these were not trees of bark or wood, but of flesh, and they rose like massive pillars high into the air, tapering to a point. They were thick, easily ten feet in diameter, and others reached forty or fifty. Off each pillar were branches, thick fat pulsating tendrils of flesh, terminating in what looked like closed flower buds.-
[23:54:51] <@Minaplo> [The roots of the trees ran across the ground, often dully glowing with light that ran from the ground into the trunk.-
[23:56:39] <@Minaplo> [The air had a rich, powerful smell to it that for some reason reminded Aline of milk or cream…]
[23:58:48] * Blanc felt a vague pang at that. For as much as the lurid meaty trees planted in soil were maybe more than a bit disquieting, that odor of milk was… familiar in ways she couldn't even put her finger on. Like a dream. "…Such a Garden it is." She said, not dumbly, but with about as much fanfare /as/ something dumbly said.
[00:02:06] <@Minaplo> ["The trees… Are where they bud." Said the Keeper. "Keep your… Vats and glass tubes for… Smaller projects. To create… Thousands, you need the Garden."-
[00:02:25] <@Minaplo> [The Keeper walked forward, heading to the nearest tree.-
[00:03:23] <@Minaplo> ["Here, we can… Plant an S2 Organ and… Channel the power directly into… The growths." He said. "No need for… Machine interfaces. Just life and… Growth."-
[00:04:32] <@Minaplo> [He stopped at the base of the nearest tree. His staff suddenly expanded, smaller poles emerging from within the middle, tripling its height.-
[00:05:17] <@Minaplo> [He hooked the pole around the lowest-hanging branch, then pulled it low, until the bud on the end was level with their faces.-
[00:06:04] <@Minaplo> [He waited. An energy pulse ran through the tree, and the bud suddenly glowed with light, giving the walls of the bud a transparent quality for a few seconds.-
[00:07:38] <@Minaplo> [The surface of the bud were membraneous, criss-crossed with veiny structures, and indeed, Aline could see fleshy tubes running from the base of the bud into… What looked like a young girl, maybe four or five. Aline's Angelic sight could sense the being within, slumbering, still growing, eyes closed, arms and legs folded inwards against her stomach and chest.-
[00:08:12] <@Minaplo> ["Young buds." Said the Keeper. He pulled his pole away, and the branch slowly rose back to its original height. "These ones will be… Ready to harvest in a… week."-
[00:08:27] <@Minaplo> [He began to head deeper into the Garden.]
[00:12:47] * Blanc observed for at least a moment, taking in the sight. It was… while still rather surprising compared to technological grow projects, seemingly sensible. Even if the Keeper was being all too ominous with the pauses and monotone and vague boastfulness delivered flatly. She followed, eventually.
[00:14:44] <@Minaplo> [They came to a tree, seemingly identical to the rest, although this one was… Different. In some intangible way, Aline realised that this tree belonged to her.-
[00:17:33] <@Minaplo> ["We have … made the adaptations you… requested of us." Said the Keeper, staring up at the buds on the tree, which were a little swollen and dark-looking. "Are you ready?"]
[00:19:08] * Blanc nodded. "I thank you for accomodating…" A small breath, a small roll of her shoulders, and then! "I'm ready."
[00:19:41] <@Minaplo> ["Stay with the… Buds until they flower." Said the Keeper.-
[00:20:41] <@Minaplo> [He hooked the lowest bud with his pole, and lowered it like he had the other one. In one clean movement he pulled a long knife out of his robe and slashed it easily through the 'branch', right at the base of the bud.-
[00:21:09] <@Minaplo> [It fell to the ground and rolled over onto its side.-
[00:21:20] <@Minaplo> [The Keeper didn't wait, already moving onto the next buds.-
[00:21:34] <@Minaplo> [A few seconds later, the first one began to twitch…]
[00:23:20] * Blanc gathered closer to it, knowing the kind of thing to expect, knowing what was inside… and stood unafraid. Had she seen this when she began to pilot, she might've cringed or grimaced or thought strange thoughts, but now? It was a thing of anticipation, of a thing promised and awaited for.
[00:30:03] <@Minaplo> The twitching became more violent and energetic- until finally the bud… Flowered. Although in some ways, it reminded Aline of an egg hatching. Both were appropriate.-
[00:30:59] <@Minaplo> [The sides of the bud swelled, split and gave way, falling open in every direction.-
[00:31:01] <@Minaplo> [Within…-
[00:45:05] <@Minaplo> [The white milky fluid within flowed out over the ground, uncovering a girl. An Ayanami. A Phantom. She would've been about sixteen or seventeen years old, with red eyes and bright white hair, currently wet and clinging to her face.-
[00:45:36] <@Minaplo> [She half-opened her eyes… Looked up uncomprehendingly.-
[00:45:55] <@Minaplo> [A second later she shuddered, then jerked upright, coughing.-
[00:46:45] <@Minaplo> [A mouthful of the same milk-like fluid burst out of her mouth. She continued to cough- then started to breathe, far too quickly.-
[00:47:04] <@Minaplo> ["Don't… Let her hyperventilate." Said the Keeper, on his seventh pod already.]
[00:50:00] * Blanc settled close, touching her, the new Phantom, rubbing her forehead. "Slowly, take in air." was murmured to her, patting through that wet hair to clear it out a little bit.
[00:53:26] <@Minaplo> [The Phantom winced in pain and placed a hand on her chest. Slowly she forced her breathing to slow into deeper, shaky breaths. Her eyes widened fully, and stared up at Aline's hand. Her gaze travelled up Aline's arm before settling on Aline's face.]
[00:55:51] * Blanc smiled calmly at her, continuing to rub gently. "There… it must be confusing, to suddenly see, be born…"
[00:56:40] <@Minaplo> ["Ah…" She didn't seem to fully comprehend Aline's words. But she smiled in return just the same.-
[00:57:12] <@Minaplo> [The Keeper was cutting down the eleventh bud when the second began to flower…-
[01:06:09] <@Minaplo> [A few minutes later, the harvest would be done. Twenty-odd buds now lay dead on the ground, and in their place were twenty Phantoms. As Aline had travelled from bud to bud, the Phantoms she'd collected had followed on, until all twenty of them now stood as a group, staring at Aline.-
[01:07:34] <@Minaplo> ["It is… Done." Said the Keeper. "I must… Tend to the Garden. Take them out. You will find… Facilities on the metal side… Back the way you came."]
[01:16:13] * Blanc bowed her head at the Keeper. "Of course. I will attend to them. Thank you for your work." She said, before starting to march out, glancing to the Phantoms to encourage them to follow her with a warm smile~
[01:18:10] <@Minaplo> [They all smiled in return before following her like a gaggle of ducklings.-
[01:20:09] <@Minaplo> [Before long they were back in the metal part of the facility- the door to the Garden closed behind them. After being in the Garden for half an hour or more, the air here felt chill and icy on Aline's skin. It was much worse for the Phantoms, of course, and after only a few seconds they all began to shiver.-
[01:21:23] <@Minaplo> [Aline knew her way around well enough to lead them to the 'facilities' the Keeper had alluded to. A large group shower and stores of warm, simple clothes awaited them.-
[01:22:48] <@Minaplo> [The milky fluid and the chill both were washed away by hot steamy water and basic bars of soap, Aline no doubt having to instruct the Phantoms on the basics as they went. After they were dressed, it was time for Aline to lead them to wherever she wanted…]
[01:28:05] * Blanc had indeed instructed them, even showering with them just to demonstrate on herself and with coordinated actions. But soon, dressed again and on the move. She decided to keep the talking low for now, and… would take them to her-and-their room, moving through routes of the Synfront that would be a bit less stimulating or scary, at first, to keep things to baby steps~
[01:29:25] <@Minaplo> [It helped that this was also very late at night, when most of the Synfront was quiet.-
[01:29:31] <@Minaplo> [Speaking of quiet…-
[01:30:01] <@Minaplo> [The Phantoms had not been named in vain. They made utterly no noise as they moved, even though there were twenty of them. They didn't speak, and their footfalls were silent…-
[01:30:21] <@Minaplo> [They encountered no one on the way back to Aline's room.]
[01:36:50] * Blanc was soon opening the door, letting them stand far back enough to not be too startled by it opening without much contact or action. And when it did… The large family suite (AS IT WERE) was decorated in careful ways, artful ways. The overall plan was to have a bunch of 'activity zones'. Dividers were brought in, clear gauzy paper ones, for some rooms meant for more secluded action - like the reading room in a far corner near (naturally) the bookshelves. There were /two/ entertainment zones, both with game systems and just plain TVs, each on opposite ends of the room. Even the central expanse was divided, as near the corner kitchen was a series of almost modern-cafe-chic tables with chairs - slightly asymmetrical with one larger than the others for bigger group sessions… while not too far from, and with darker and more opaque divider walls, was the 'bedroom', a series of bunks and a central bed, the latter quite large. On entry, Aline spread her arms… and softly said. "And this is home."
[01:41:58] <@Minaplo> [The Phantoms began to slowly enter the room, still sticking close to Aline.-
[01:42:17] <@Minaplo> ["H-Home." Said one at the front.]
[01:45:32] * Blanc nodded. "Mmmhm…~" Aline for now went over to the larger table, about the most central she could get in the room. "…So. …How much do you already understand of the language anyway?" Bold attempt, but if they knew, they knew. She was still inexperienced as a Prime, after all…
[01:49:40] <@Minaplo> [The Phantoms were silent, shooting glances at each other… As though they weren't sure who should speak.]
[01:51:46] * Blanc understood that, examining them one by one. "Let's go by nearest first. And then you can start to ask any questions that come to you individually. If you /really/ want…" She looked at the nearest Phantom. "You could even consider yourself a 'representative'. But I think you all have your own unique souls and voices~"
[02:02:40] <@Minaplo> [The nearest Phantom glanced around at the others before looking back at Aline. She swallowed.-
[02:03:06] <@Minaplo> ["Home is… Where we live?" She asked carefully.]
[02:03:38] <Blanc> "Yes." Even tone, not too over-excited. "That's the arrangement from before you were born."
[02:07:25] <@Minaplo> ["Born… To live here?"]
[02:16:48] * Blanc chuckled. "More than that. You'll live with me, you'll help me out while I take care of you and watch over you." A bit of a stop, and she frowned subtly. "…There may be times where you'll forget yourselves - I do not know how to best explain it - and fight others in my name. But I will be there to protect you if that happens. It's part of the duty you and I have been bound to. As much as you are under my care, I too have someone who watches me. But as I must care for you and grow you as newborn, I am older and have been made to do." She smiled bittersweetly. "I'm sorry to say so much at once. This must be a lot to take in."
[02:35:50] <@Minaplo> ["We are in your care?" Said the Phantom. "You will look after us?"]
[02:38:08] <Blanc> "Yes!" A bit more enthusiastic now. "While I will try to teach you to take care of basic needs like food, how to look up entertainment… I could probably be similar to a 'mother figure' for you and yours."
[02:42:34] <@Minaplo> ["Mother…?" Her eyes widened slightly.]
[02:53:13] * Blanc nodded. "Yes. I didn't birth you, but… did you know, actually? That a part of the blood of all Phantoms and Solomons comes from me?"
[02:55:23] <@Minaplo> ["It does…?"]
[03:00:24] * Blanc nodded. "The other part, from one of the UEF pilots, Isaiah Gabriel-Wei. Your family line is a bit complicated, aheheh, so I think that's a story that might partially wait for when the lot of you have gotten into your routines~"
[03:03:25] <@Minaplo> ["Mother and father…" She stared down at her hand for a moment, then looked up at Aline. "Who is mother?"]
[03:05:01] * Blanc tapped her own chest. "I am. My name is Aline. Aline Blanc."
[03:12:18] <@Minaplo> ["Aline…"-
[03:12:24] <@Minaplo> ["Mother Aline?"]
[03:15:31] * Blanc giggled a little bit. "I'd personally prefer one or the other rather than both at once, but yes!" She put only one hand on a hip, leaning off to the side, just to change position a little.
[03:16:15] <@Minaplo> [The Phantom smiled, and tried to mimic the action. "Mother or Aline…?"]
[03:18:28] <Blanc> "Mother." She left a long pause. "Aline." And then flexed other way. "Think of which one sounds nicer to you and use it. You're a Phantom by type, but you're still a person, so you can have a preference."
[03:28:03] <@Minaplo> ["…"-
[03:28:20] <@Minaplo> [She frowned. The idea of making a choice seemed confronting to her.-
[03:28:29] <@Minaplo> [The others, meanwhile, were trying to emulate Aline's stance as well.]
[03:30:06] * Blanc nodded. "If it helps, 'mother' firmly sets you as young, and might be good now… while 'Aline' sounds more what you might say casually." She patiently looked on. "I know it'd be easier to just be told, but life is complicated and I want you to grow up to be good people~"
[03:45:06] <@Minaplo> [The Phantom seemed to consider this with a great deal of thought.-
[03:45:10] <@Minaplo> ["M-Mother…"]
[03:48:14] * Blanc knew to give a reward. So she pulled the Phantom into a soft little hug. "Nn~ The rest of you can have hugs too, but this is for having the courage to make your first choice!"
[03:52:27] <@Minaplo> ["Ah!"-
[04:02:21] <@Minaplo> [The Phantom stood there, pulled into the hug, not reacting, although her suprise was evident from her body language.-
[04:02:39] <@Minaplo> [The other Phantoms looked around at each other, then back to Aline. Another one stepped forward.-
[04:02:43] <@Minaplo> ["Are hugs good?"]
[04:03:33] * Blanc actually looked surprised, but then nodded. "Well, if you think the warmth of mother, wrapping around you, is good… then yes!"
[04:13:15] <@Minaplo> [After a few seconds of inaction… The other Phantoms began to crowd around Aline, pressing in!]
[04:15:13] * Blanc widened her arms. "Yes~ I guess we'll hug for a little while!" …it was good that she /knew/ she didn't actually need to breathe, as a Prime. Smothering might've been a real threat! And so it went for… probably even a minute maybe.

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