Augustine S Trial

[23:47] <@Minaplo> ["… And most of the repairs to the aforementioned facilities are slightly ahead of schedule, madame Chairwoman. The automated facilities have been hard at work, and Industrial believes we'll be back to full capacity in six days."-
[23:50] <@Minaplo> ["Very well."-
[23:51] <@Minaplo> [Mary Caine's office was an imposing affair. This was not an accident.-
[23:52] <@Minaplo> [The office was wide and broadly rectangular, with the northern wall dominated by a massive tinted glass window looking out over the grey steel and cement world that was the Synfront. The rest of the walls were black like polished obsidian, with green malachite veins running horizontally beneath the surface.-
[23:53] <@Minaplo> [The main entrance elevator was built into the southern wall, but the top of the elevator sat a full two metres below and twenty metres away from Caine's desk. Between the desk and the elevator was a sloping ramp, hemmed in by sheer, vertical polished white walls.-
[23:54] <@Minaplo> [In fact, the rest of the room was made up of white marble floors, except for the area around Caine's desk, which was built in the dead centre of a six-metre wide octogon, made of the same material as the walls.-
[00:05] <@Minaplo> [The rest of the office between the western and eastern walls was dominated by various objects. tall, intimidatingly thick bookshelves filled with intimidatingly thick books; glass cabinets showed curios, such as a bronze Greek helm, a Chinese Guan Dao sword, a pair of stone tablets, a Frankish longsword, a miniature Chinese chariot with a stone figure sitting in the seat, facing the north; on one of the walls hung a baroque painting of Catherine the Great, the great Russian autocrat. A miniature model of the Synfront sat isolated, starkly dominating its space; little Evangelion and E-Destroyer figurines stood at attention before the tiny pyramid.-
[00:06] <@Minaplo> <facing the south*>-
[00:09] <@Minaplo> [Mary Caine was sitting at her desk, her hands clasped primly together on its surface. She was staring unblinkingly at her guest.-
[00:09] <@Minaplo> [Solomon Prime Agatha was standing at attention, wearing her black uniform; her hair was done up in a ponytail today. "And that concludes my report, madame." She clicked her heels and saluted.-
[00:10] <@Minaplo> ["Very well." Said Caine again.-
[00:10] <@Minaplo> [A brief silence fell on the room.-
[00:13] <@Minaplo> ["This is really quite a nice office, you know." Said Agatha conversationally. "I like all the little… Things. Like the chariot."-
[00:14] <@Minaplo> [Silence.-
[00:15] <@Minaplo> ["So this is how the Lilin store their history, right?" Said Agatha warmly. "Digging up old objects, preserving them, paintings…"-
[00:19] <@Minaplo> ["Yes." Said Caine, smiling a little. "Much of our history is lost, since literacy has been rare for much of it. Oral histories have been distorted and in many cases, exterminated. These artefacts give us a glimpse of the lives of our ancestors."-
[00:20] <@Minaplo> ["Makes sense. Everyone's curious about where they came from, I think." Said Agatha.-
[00:25] <@Minaplo> [Caine nodded. "I would have liked to have been an archaeologist." She said, a little trace of fondness in her voice. "I remember wanting to be one when I was a child. I loved museums. Books. Old tomes with old maps and old names… I felt more at ease with these than I ever did my peers."-
[00:28] <@Minaplo> ["You didn't end up becoming an archaeologist, though?" Asked Agatha.-
[00:28] <@Minaplo> ["No. Destiny had other plans." Said Caine, her voice becoming cold.-
[00:30] <@Minaplo> [Agatha didn't respond, her expression one of awkwardness. A heavy silence fell on the room.-
[00:30] <@Minaplo> ["…"-
[00:30] <@Minaplo> ["…"-
[00:31] <@Minaplo> ["Now that we have returned to the Synfront, we have access to our genetic laboratories once more." Said Caine. "Today, we will designate the fifth Solomon Prime."-
[00:33] <@Minaplo> ["Yes, madame." Said Agatha, saluting. "In that case, I will depart so you may deliberate-"-
[00:33] <@Minaplo> ["We." Said Caine sharply. "You will come with me."-
[00:34] <@Minaplo> ["…" Agatha was wrong-footed. "You're… Sure? N-Not that I have a problem with that, but it's…"-
[00:34] <@Minaplo> [Caine stared.-
[00:34] <@Minaplo> ["I-It's nothing. At your leisure, madame."-
[00:43] <@Minaplo> [Caine stood from her desk, and swiftly walked past it, down the ramp, and into the elevator; Agatha walked in-step with her.-
[00:58] <@Minaplo> [It was a long transit from Caine's office to the genetic labs. And for all of it, the two were silent.-
[01:01] <@Minaplo> [The laboratory district was a huge section of the Synfront. Employing over 10,000 scientists, doctors, engineers,
technicians and assistants, it was a scientific superpower, unrivalled by anything else on Earth.-
[01:20] <@Minaplo> [It was divided into six sections arrayed in a hexagon, with a single administration block in the centre. Each section dedicated to a specific pursuit: Superheavy R&D (color-coded blue), Weapons and Defenses R&D (Coded red), Computer Information and Electronics (coded yellow), Robotics and Industrial R&D (coded grey), Experimental Projects (coded black), and Biology and Genetics (coded green).-
[01:29] <@Minaplo> [These places looked very much the same. Chrome-plated floors with stark, sterile white walls- only a foot-wide strip of colour-coded paint differentiated the districts. By following a strip of paint, you could find your way through the maze to your destination easily.-
[01:31] <@Minaplo> [The elevator opened up in the administration block. Caine and Agatha stepped out and began to follow the green line.-
[01:36] <@Minaplo> [The corridors of the laboratory district were positively bustling. Technicians and assistants ran countless errands and carried a myriad of tools and equipment to their needed places. Scientists and doctors bustled past importantly, many wearing labcoats, some driving little buggies.-
[01:37] <@Minaplo> [And of course, everyone made space for the Worker Suits- large AC Suit-style robots reconfigured for menial labour.-
[01:41] <@Minaplo> [Agatha would notice that they made space for someone else too- Mary Caine. As she moved, the little people leapt to the side, throwing her hasty salutes and greetings.-
[01:48] <@Minaplo> [Ten minutes of walking would take them to the Biology and Genetics laboratory, which was itself made of five floors, each its own sub-department.-
[01:58] <@Minaplo> [Another elevator trip, this time to the very bottom floor, which was named, cryptically, "Temple of Solomon". It was security locked- but of course, Caine's biometric print gave them clearance.-
[02:19] <@Minaplo> [The elevator arrived, the doors sliding sleekly open. Caine and Agatha stepped out- Caine leading, of course. "Our first point of call is the Solomon Cloning Storage Facility." Said Caine.-
[02:19] <@Minaplo> ["That's where they keep our backup bodies, right?"-
[02:19] <@Minaplo> ["Yes."-
[13:53] <@Minaplo> [Their walking brought them to a huge, three-metre super-reinforced blast door.-
[13:54] <@Minaplo> [("Analysing biometric print.") Said an automated, monotone voice. A red light flashed over Caine for a few seconds.-
[13:58] <@Minaplo> [("Biometric analysis complete. Security Clearance White-3. Disengaging magnetic locks. Retracting surovite containment pins. Opening door…")-
[14:01] <@Minaplo> [The door took thirty seconds to open, the two halves separating vertically and receding into the walls. Caine entered the room beyond, followed by Agatha…-
[14:01] <@Minaplo> [… Who wasn't prepared for what she saw.-
[14:12] <@Minaplo> [They stood on a balcony, lined with a chrome railing. A small elevator-platform sat in the corner.-
[14:12] <@Minaplo> [But the room they were in was enormous, colossal; and it was full of cylindrical, thin, vertical tanks, each full of LCL.-
[14:13] <@Minaplo> [And within each tank was a person… A clone.-
[14:13] <@Minaplo> [Agatha gasped. "A… Amazing. There must be hundreds of bodies here."-
[14:13] <@Minaplo> ["Thousands." Said Caine impassively. "Drawn from dozens of donors."-
[14:17] <@Minaplo> ["Was this here before you took the Synfront, or did you create this?"-
[14:23] <@Minaplo> ["Some of it was here beforehand. This used to be part of the Iron Guard facility. Come. Let us choose our new Prime." Said Caine, briskly walking over to the small elevator. There wasn't enough room for Agatha- she'd have to jump.-
[14:29] <@Minaplo> [And so Agatha did just that, landing on the bottom floor at the same time that Caine arrived. Together they began to traverse the huge, surreal, lurid room.-
[14:38] <@Minaplo> [As they went, Agatha tried to keep track of the bodies. Dozens of Yanmeis, handfuls of Sera de Pteres, she counted at least eight Aline Blancs, several Raphael Guillories, Misato Katsuragis, Marianne Amatore-DeForests, Shinji Ikaris, -Gendo- Ikaris, Rei Ayanamis…-
[14:38] <@Minaplo> ["I don't even know some of these people." Said Agatha wonderingly. "Like this person. Who's this?"-
[14:44] <@Minaplo> [Agatha had stopped outside a specific tank. Within was a boy, not overly tall, but not short either. He was thin, with a wiry strength, and messy, straight white hair. His skin was pale.-
[15:32] <@Minaplo> [Caine stopped, and walked over. "This is a curious case. This is Nagisa Kaworu."-
[15:32] <@Minaplo> ["The name isn't familiar." Said Agatha.-
[15:32] <@Minaplo> ["Nagisa was the alter ego of Eugenia Ranvier. Specifically, Ranvier would shift her sex and appearance into this using her AT Field."-
[15:33] <@Minaplo> ["Huh! So Nagisa is sort of like me, but in reverse." Said Agatha warmly.-
[15:43] <@Minaplo> ["You could say that. We were lucky to get a blood sample." Said Caine. "Genetically, of course, Nagisa derives from Blanc and Gabriel-Wei, so he is unique in that sense as well."-
[15:45] <@Minaplo> ["That's pretty cool." Said Agatha. "Why don't we choose him?"-
[15:47] <@Minaplo> [Caine stared up at the floating boy for a minute. And then she nodded slowly. "Very well."-
[15:52] <@Minaplo> [Over the course of the next hour, a team of scientists arrived with a Cargo Suit. The entire tank was removed from its base by the Cargo Suit and taken into another, far smaller chamber.-
[15:54] <@Minaplo> [The chamber was white, stark clean white; the walls seemed to practically glow. At the centre of the room was a huge cylindrical contraption, like an Entry Plug, almost. At the present it was being held up by six robotic arms that had clasped onto the top and bottom.-
[16:00] <@Minaplo> [Beneath the cylinder, built into the ground, was an alcove, like a cavity; it was round, designed for the cylinder to fit in perfectly.-
[16:10] <@Minaplo> [Agatha watched the process. The cylinder's middle slid open, a space large enough for the LCL tank to fit in snugly. The Cargo Suit stomped over and shoved the tank in, heavy-duty clamps locking it firmly in place. The cylinder doors slid shut, and the entire thing was lowered into the alcove below.-
[16:10] <@Minaplo> [("Project Solomon Prime Number Five Soul Implantation Procedure, commence. Beginning preliminary tests.)"-
[16:17] <@Minaplo> [For the next two hours, the procedure went ahead, filled with the chatter of the scientists at their computers and machines. Agatha wasn't paying too much attention…-
[16:30] <@Minaplo> [She was focused on her memories. The more time she spent in this room, the more she realised that she had been here before. Her very first memory…-
[16:37] <@Minaplo> [She smiled a little. It had been waking up in that cylinder, and the first thing she'd seen was Mary Caine…-
[16:42] <@Minaplo> ["(… Implantation successful. Procedure complete. Removing subject's cerebral inhibitors.")-
[16:44] <@Minaplo> [The cylinder withdrew from the alcove; the doors slid open. The tank within had been drained of LCL- only the boy remained inside now.-
[16:57] <@Minaplo> [Mary Caine stood before the cylinder, her hands behind her back. The boy's eyes opened. Red, bright red eyes… He blinked, his expression uncomprehending…-
[18:29] <@Minaplo> [And then his eyes found Caine's face. He stared at her, blinking slowly, languidly, and he didn't look away.-
[19:42] <@Minaplo> [Mary kept his gaze. Unblinkingly, she kept it- until the boy's eyes eventually closed again.-
[19:43] <@Minaplo> [("Subject has succumbed to sedatives.")-
[19:46] <@Minaplo> [Mary nodded. "Then it is time to begin the Solomon Prime Education Programming Calibration Trials. Take the candidate to the first testing chamber."-
[19:48] <@Minaplo> [With a -shunt-, the LCL tank resealed itself, allowing the Cargo Suit to remove it from the Soul Implantation Device. The Suit then departed, followed by the posse of scientists.-
[19:48] <@Minaplo> [Agatha's voice was dry. She coughed, rubbing her throat a little. "Madame…"-
[19:48] <@Minaplo> [Caine turned. "Yes?"-
[19:48] <@Minaplo> ["… Do… Do you do that to every Solomon? Be there to greet them?"-
[19:51] <@Minaplo> ["The Primes? Yes." Said Caine. She swept past Agatha, out the door.-
[19:52] <@Minaplo> [Agatha shook for a second, then got to her feet and followed. An oddly empty, disheartening feeling was spreading through her chest. It was silly. But… That memory was important to her. That Caine did it for every one was… Cheapening.-
[19:53] <@Minaplo> [They were back into the clone farm, now, Caine heading toward some distant door. Agatha walked locked-in step next to her.-
[19:53] <@Minaplo> ["Madame, if you don't mind me asking, what soul did you use for the candidate?"-
[19:56] <@Minaplo> ["The soul of the Angel 'Codename: Elemiah'."-
[20:09] <@Minaplo> [Agatha tried to connect the name with the soul… And frowned.-
[20:11] <@Minaplo> ["But madame, didn't you use 'Codename: Ramliel' for our sister Sophia? An E-Type and her matching A-Type… What if they-"-
[20:11] <@Minaplo> ["It has been accounted for, Agatha."-
[20:16] <@Minaplo> ["Of course, madame." Said Agatha, abashed.-
[20:17] <@Minaplo> [Their journey took another ten minutes, and they passed through another blast door… And emerged onto an observation deck.-
[20:45] <@Minaplo> [The deck was large, mildly sloping. There was room for about one thousand people in here, standing shoulder-to-shoulder; probably more if you really squeezed them in.-
[20:56] <@Minaplo> [It was overlooking an area that was far, far larger, though. In fact, if Agatha had to guess, she'd say it was about twenty, thirty square kilometres in size.-
[21:12] <@Minaplo> [The area was all chrome plated flooring, of course- but about ninety percent of it was also dominated by two-metre tall steel walls, turning what would've been an open space into a labyrinth.-
[21:13] <@Minaplo> [At set times, some of the walls and corners rotated, creating new, confusing paths.-
[21:13] <@Minaplo> [Agatha walked over to the edge of the observation deck- which was hemmed in by tinted glass. Glass, Agatha noted, would also produce holographic images. "… I don't remember this place."-
[21:13] <@Minaplo> ["No Prime does, but all of them have traversed it."-
[21:14] <@Minaplo> ["What's the idea? Just a directional thing? They need to find their way out?"-
[21:26] <@Minaplo> ["No. They have to fight." Said Mary. "This is phase one of Physical Education and Assessment. The candidate is placed in the centre of the labyrinth with no clothes or equipment. Spread throughout the labyrinth are eighty criminals armed with knives and clubs. The candidate has six hours to kill at least forty criminals."-
[21:32] <@Minaplo> [Agatha went pale.-
[21:34] <@Minaplo> [Mary noticed. "Each criminal well deserves death. They are murderers, rapists, deserters, traitors and spies."-
[21:34] <@Minaplo> [("Candidate has been placed at the centre of the labyrinth. Cargo Suit disengaging.")-
[21:36] <@Minaplo> [Agatha looked up- a holographic screen appeared, now, displaying the candidate- the boy- lying on the floor, still unconscious.-
[21:38] <@Minaplo> ["The candidate's combat conditioning is enabled, and they will be able to regenerate." Said Caine. "However, their ability to use an AT Field is disabled. This is a physical examination."-
[21:38] <@Minaplo> ["Physical… But you know what they're capable of, madame."-
[21:50] <@Minaplo> ["Consider this a safety check." Said Caine. "This allows us to ensure that there were no flaws with the process or with the donor. Even so, not all products are equal, and it allows us to measure, for example, their ability to adapt and learn."-
[21:53] <@Minaplo> [Agatha would notice, now, Cargo Suits- dozens of them- carrying sleeping people- the criminal cattle, it seemed. She looked away as the Suits began placing them seemingly at random throughout the labyrinth.-
[21:53] <@Minaplo> ["If the candidate doesn't kill forty in 6 hours, then what happens to the candidate?" She asked.-
[21:59] <@Minaplo> ["The soul is removed and the body destroyed." Said Caine coldly. "I have no patience for weakness. Even amongst super-soldiers, there are the undeserving weak and the deserving strong."-
[21:59] <@Minaplo> [Agatha swallowed. "… And the criminals? What happens to the survivors?"-
[21:59] <@Minaplo> ["They are collected and placed back into their cells, to fight again in other tests."-
[21:59] <@Minaplo> ["So they fight just to fight again? Why do they keep fighting?"-
[22:01] <@Minaplo> ["Because it is human nature. Even men with nothing to fight for will fight just for one more breath." Caine turned to look at Agatha.-
[22:02] <@Minaplo> ["The strong know that so long as one lives, there is hope for something else, even if one cannot see it. The cowards and the weak are given only death and oblivion."-
[22:02] <@Minaplo> ["Y… Yes, madame." Said Agatha meekly. She turned her gaze back to the labyrinth.-
[22:03] <@Minaplo> [("Sedatives wearing off in sixty seconds time. Activating Phase One Timer and Target Counts.")-
[22:04] <@Minaplo> [Agatha looked up to see a giant white holographic clock had appeared at the top of the glass wall, reading 06:00:00. Beneath it were two numbers, stacked vertically: the first was 0, and labelled Target Count; beneath it was an 80 and labelled Targets Remaining.-
[22:11] <@Minaplo> [Agatha took a deep breath. "And I really did this? And I don't remember it?"-
[22:13] <@Minaplo> ["Successful candidates' memories are edited so that they are unable to consciously access any of their experiences in the Education Programming Calibration Trials, as they can prove to be extremely traumatic. Methods are employed to allow the memories to be returned should the correct codewords be said in the right way."-
[22:13] <@Minaplo> ["W… Why?"-
[22:14] <@Minaplo> ["A last-second failsafe in case a Solomon goes dangerously rogue, of course. In the space of a second they are overwhelmed with horrific memories- and during their inaction they can be destroyed."-
[22:18] <@Minaplo> ["…"-
[22:18] <@Minaplo> [Agatha looked away again. The empty, hollow and vaguely sick feeling inside of her intensified.-
[22:19] <@Minaplo> [("Candidate and targets are beginning to rouse. Commencing Phase One in ten seconds…")-
[22:19] <@Minaplo> [The candidate- the boy- got to his feet, confusion, fear and alarm all plainly evident on his face.-
[22:19] <@Minaplo> [("Phase One commence.")-
[22:20] <@Minaplo> [The clock began to count down. 05:59:59.-
[22:33] <@Minaplo> [A spark of fitful nervousness was lit in Agatha's stomach.-
[22:34] <@Minaplo> [The first confrontation between target and candidate came at 05:54:31. Agatha had seen it coming, her viewpoint lending her that advantage, of course.-
[22:34] <@Minaplo> [A target- a short, fretful man who had the look of terror around his eyes turned a corner just as the candidate did. They stared at each other for a second.-
[22:35] <@Minaplo> [And then the target shrieked and lunged at the candidate with his knife. In an instant the candidate dodged, grabbed the arm, smashed it against the wall- it was a hard blow, and Agatha heard the crack over the microphones embedded in the wall.-
[22:35] <@Minaplo> [Disarmed and in pain, the target began to scream, a blood-curdling scream- loud enough to start attracting other targets. Agatha could already count five of them converging on the candidate's position.-
[22:36] <@Minaplo> [The candidate reacted fast. A solid knee to the stomach, a chop to the throat, and then a forceful grab of the neck with a vicious twist- and then the target went limp.-
[22:36] <@Minaplo> [There was a bell-like chime, and the Target Count number became 1.-
[22:39] <@Minaplo> ["He's doing well." Said Agatha, turning to Caine, trying to gauge her expression.-
[22:40] <@Minaplo> [Caine's expression was unchanged- impassive, unmoving. Masklike.-
[22:40] <@Minaplo> [The candidate grabbed the dropped knife and began to run.-
[22:42] <@Minaplo> [Agatha saw it- three targets, grouped together, moving down a corridor- a corridor the candidate ran into. The response was instantaneous.-
[22:42] <@Minaplo> [The three targets began to charge down the corridor- and the candidate reacted with lightning speed. The knife was thrown, catching one of the targets square in the throat. He went down, gurgling blood.-
[22:48] <@Minaplo> [This was enough to give the other two targets pause- and the candidate capitalised on that. He hurtled down the corridor, leaping into the air and kicking out, his knee connecting directly under the middle target's jaw. There was a wince-inducing -Krsnap- sound as his jaw broke- the man fell backwards, clutching his face and groaning, starting to hyperventilate…-
[22:49] <@Minaplo> [The last target was not so easy. The candidate swung at him, two, three, four times- the target dodged most of the blows, only to be caught in the stomach on the third. He staggered backward- and the candidate pulled the knife from the first target's throat and plunged it into the survivor's chest.-
[22:50] <@Minaplo> [A final stomp crushed the jaw-broken man's windpipe… And the Target Count became 4.-
[23:38] <@Minaplo> [Agatha glanced up at the clock. 05:51:11.-
[23:39] <@Minaplo> [And then back to the labyrinth. "… Hey. Those targets there, they're forming a really big group." Said Agatha, pointing to a clump of targets- six of them together, gaining ground on the candidate. "That could be dangerous…"-
[23:50] <@Minaplo> ["Yes." Said Caine. "I recognise survivors of the last trials in that group. They know that any one target is no match for a candidate. Even a small group is no match. But a large group may score a lucky hit."-
[23:50] <@Minaplo> ["A lucky hit? That won't do much." Said Agatha.-
[23:50] <@Minaplo> ["Watch, Agatha, and learn." Caine pointed to the candidate, who was stalking a group of four targets, now…-
[23:55] <@Minaplo> [The candidate timed the approach- and struck, a pair of knives flying towards their targets. One caught a target in the eye; The other knife caught a target in the leg, sending him to the ground, screaming.-
[00:18] <@Minaplo> [The two remaining targets lunged forward with their knives. The candidate dodged, grabbed one of their arms and broke it-
[00:28] <@Minaplo> [But he was just a half-second too slow. The remaining unharmed target lashed out again, and this time he drew blood, his knife slashing across the candidate's left arm, leaving a bright trail of blood across the white skin.-
[00:29] <@Minaplo> [Much to Agatha's surprise, the candidate recoiled like a child being burned, letting out a sharp scream, releasing the target with the broken arm. He stared at the target- then leapt at him, tackling him to the ground and ending his life with a brutal rain of fists.-
[00:30] <@Minaplo> [The rest of the living targets were quickly executed, bringing the Target Count to 8…-
[00:30] <@Minaplo> [The candidate was cradling his arm, even as the wound began to close.-
[00:30] <@Minaplo> ["I don't understand." Said Agatha, frowning to herself. She turned to look at Caine. "That… That wasn't even that bad of a wound. Why's he making such a big deal…?"-
[00:34] <@Minaplo> [Caine turned to look at Agatha- then back to the spectacle.-
[00:37] <@Minaplo> ["The human body has evolved over millenia to be sensitive to pain." Said Caine. "We are not like Angels. Angels define their bodies, but many humans find their bodies define them."-
[00:40] <@Minaplo> ["Angels feel pain, but their bodies are recognised as tools. Humans have far more intimate, immediate connections with their bodies. When an infant is in pain, it screams because it does not know how to work beyond the pain. The candidate is reacting to his scratch like an infant." Caine said coldly.-
[00:40] <@Minaplo> ["But… But I thought- the tolerance for pain was programmed into us. W-When we were created." Said Agatha.-
[00:47] <@Minaplo> ["It is, to some extent. Ultimately, Angelic psychology is too different for our programming to take into account completely. Thus, the Physical Education and Assessment trials. It allows an Angel to truly understand a human body, in all its ways…" She turned to look at Agatha. "You do not consciously remember your own trial, but your body does, your unconscious does."-
[00:48] <@Minaplo> ["…" Agatha turned back to the labyrinth, her face troubled. This didn't sit well with her. How much had been done to her, that she'd been made to forget? Would she even be allowed to remember watching this after it was done?-
[00:51] <@Minaplo> [The trial continued. The candidate continued to make his way through the labyrinth, picking off isolated Targets, wisely trying to avoid the larger groups- several of which were starting to form now. The largest was twenty-five targets, but there were two others- one made of sixteen, another of eleven.-
[00:52] <@Minaplo> [Agatha looked up at the clock- 04:11:12. Almost two hours… And the Target Count was 19, with 61 remaining. Most of the targets had grouped up by now.-
[00:53] <@Minaplo> ["At this rate, he'll hit 40 targets with two hours to spare." Said Agatha, a trace of enthusiasm in her voice. She still wanted the candidate to win.-
[00:53] <@Minaplo> ["that rate is not sustainable. The first hours are always easiest, when targets are easy to find and isolated. By the halfway mark, the targets are forming large groups, and it is more difficult for a single candidate without an AT Field to handle."-
[00:55] <@Minaplo> [Agatha couldn't argue with that. "I see." She said, eventually.-
[01:00] <@Minaplo> [And Caine was right. 03:00:00 arrived, and the target count had only increased to 24. The candidate had been forced to stalk and raid the large groups, and had mostly succeeded due to their lack of guns.-
[01:24] <@Minaplo> [But the groups were learning, and becoming watchful. Now the candidate couldn't attack without risking being swarmed.-
[01:25] <@Minaplo> [And Agatha was noticing that the groups were starting to converge- and the candidate was only barely slipping past them.-
[01:26] <@Minaplo> ["Yes." Said Caine, picking up on what Agatha was seeing. "The groups are becoming hunters instead of the hunted. If they corner the candidate in an area of the labyrinth and move in, then the candidate will almost certainly fail."-
[01:27] <@Minaplo> ["He's so close. Only another sixteen. He's still more than halfway there…" Said Agatha, a hint of desperation in her voice.-
[01:30] <@Minaplo> ["If he is clever and fortunate, he will be able to take down his quota even if forced into a last stand situation. But ultimately, most candidates when cornered are unable to take that many down before they are swarmed." Said Caine coldly.-
[01:34] <@Minaplo> ["…" Agatha rubbed her arm uncomfortably, as though trying to get warm. "Can they kill a Solomon candidate?"-
[01:35] <@Minaplo> ["No, I doubt that very much. But the veteran targets know that the candidate regenerates. They will pin the candidate down and keep it continually disabled until the time is up."-
[01:35] <@Minaplo> ["…" Agatha looked up at the clock. 02:51:07. Nearly three hours of what amounted to constant torture…-
[01:35] <@Minaplo> [Horrible.-
[01:44] <@Minaplo> [Time passed. It was now 01:57:44. The Target Count had become 27.-
[01:46] <@Minaplo> [For the past forty minutes, the candidate had been raiding the enemy, with what seemed like far less success- only three kills. The last two attacks had been particularly bad, with a target throwing a knife into the candidate's chest- who had, it seemed, nearly blacked out from the pain, but had managed to barely escape.-
[01:48] <@Minaplo> [And the last attack had been a fiasco- the candidate had launched a raid, only to find themselves in an ambush. What looked like the 'leader' of the targets had managed to cut the candidate's throat, and the candidate had almost collapsed- during which another five or six knives had been embedded into the candidate's side. The escape here had been achieved only by the skin of the candidate's teeth- and the only reward the candidate here had been to fall into the targets' bigger trap- for now the candidate was trapped in a corner.-
[01:48] <@Minaplo> ["… So that's that, then." Said Agatha, who fell into a seat. She felt… Drained, just watching this… The urge to leap in and help had been almost overwhelming.-
[01:49] <@Minaplo> [It was humiliating- humiliating- and horrible to think that the candidate down there was being cornered by thugs and murderers, unable to truly fight back…-
[01:50] <@Minaplo> [When Agatha herself could've slaughtered them thanks to the benefit of her AT Field. That victory- survival! Was possible for the candidate, only for the candidate to be prevented from using that power…-
[01:50] <@Minaplo> [It was arbitrary. It was insulting.-
[02:13] <@Minaplo> [… It was teaching the candidate to fight, think… Like a human being. The realization hit Agatha, stunning her thoughts for a second. This wasn't just about physical testing or conditioning. Without the AT Field, all the candidate had to rely on was the human body. Caine was forcing bodily intimacy.-
[02:13] <@Minaplo> [Whether the soul liked it or not.-
[12:37] <@Idrilyn> [01:33:01.-
[12:41] <@Idrilyn> [The blockade was closing in. The candidate was sitting in a relatively wide square-shaped space, now…-
[12:42] <@Idrilyn> [He'd launched a few more raids and had been stabbed several more times, retreating rapidly each time- but now Agatha saw that the raids had a purpose beyond simply trying to pick off stray targets.-
[12:42] <@Idrilyn> [He retreated so quicky- and had taken deep wounds- that he was actually starting to collect a pile of knives, to the detriment of the targets. He was slowly disarming them- and arming himself. He had about fifteen so far…-
[12:46] <@Idrilyn> [There was a long corridor between the nearest surge of targets and the candidate- and the candidate knew it. He started picking up his knives and stabbing them into the wall to his right.-
[12:47] <@Idrilyn> [The knives didn't go in very far, but they went in enough so that he didn't need to hold them. The candidate was setting his own trap, and he was banking on the power of the bottleneck to balance it out.-
[12:57] <@Idrilyn> [And then they came. They stormed down the corridor, whooping and screaming…-
[13:05] <@Idrilyn> [The candidate grabbed two knives and hurled them down the corridor. Two hits- and two targets go down.-
[13:05] <@Idrilyn> [29.-
[13:05] <@Idrilyn> [Another two knifes- and another two go down. And now the numbers have become a weakness.-
[13:14] <@Idrilyn> [The narrow corridor, and the falling bodies are creating dangers for the ones behind. Otherwise unharmed targets were tripping over their fallen counterparts, and the stampede was causing a crush.-
[13:15] <@Idrilyn> [Targets were falling, being trampled to death…-
[13:15] <@Idrilyn> [The knives continued to fly.-
[13:15] <@Idrilyn> [33. 37.-
[13:30] <@Idrilyn> [The targets were starting to panic, now, and some of them were trying to run- even as some tried to advance. Complete chaos reigned, and it was here that the candidate ceased to be the hunted and became the hunter. With two last knives kept as personal weapons, he charged into the crush, executing the wounded, cutting down the healthy…-
[13:30] <@Idrilyn> [44.. 48.-
[13:31] <@Idrilyn> ["He did it! He passed forty!" Said Agatha, clapping. She wasn't aware she had stopped breathing. She watched as the targets broke and fled, and were chased down by the candidate…-
[13:34] <@Idrilyn> ["A good outcome." Said Caine, nodding. It was hard to see, but she was impressed- a little. "The candidate has learned the power of fear and panic when it comes to human beings. Outnumbered so significantly- and one choke point and sudden casualties and the entire rotten group falls apart."-
[13:37] <@Idrilyn> ["Do many candidates do that?" Asked Agatha.-
[13:38] <@Idrilyn> ["Some. But a reversal of this nature is rare." Said Caine. "This candidate is only ever the second to survive being cornered."-
[13:38] <@Idrilyn> ["Who was the first?" Asked Agatha.-
[13:38] <@Idrilyn> ["Sophia." Said Caine.-
[13:39] <@Idrilyn> ["What happened?" Asked Agatha, curious.-
[13:40] <@Idrilyn> ["Sophia's trial went very poorly. Within the first hour the targets had grouped together and had cornered her."-
[13:42] <@Idrilyn> [Agatha nodded slowly.-
[13:42] <@Idrilyn> ["Sophia attempted to break out, and failed. She was cut down, pinned. They kept her disabled with their knives."-
[13:43] <@Idrilyn> ["For four hours, she was completely at their mercy, and you can imagine that people such as this have no mercy to give." Said Caine coldly. "They made her suffer. In every way they could."-
[13:56] <@Idrilyn> ["At first she screamed. And then she begged and tried to plead for mercy. After that she sobbed."-
[13:56] <@Idrilyn> ["And then she made no noise, for they cut her throat- again and again."-
[13:56] <@Idrilyn> [Caine turned to Agatha. "I was very disappointed."-
[13:57] <@Idrilyn> ["And then after the fourth hour, of her throat being cut so often, she adapted. She developed a throat that could not be cut."-
[13:57] <@Idrilyn> ["And this time when she screamed, it shattered walls, and when she screamed it broke their minds and sent them fleeing in horror."-
[13:57] <@Idrilyn> ["And in that one hour left, Sophia found and killed every single target in the labyrinth. She is still the only one to have managed a perfect score."-
[13:59] <@Idrilyn> ["It was exactly what I expected from a Prime." Said Caine, turning back to watch the candidate hunt.-
[14:01] <@Idrilyn> ["Sophia does not remember what happened to her in the trials, but her subconscious does. That is why, when she was released on Paris-2, she busied herself so much with hunting the criminal element in the city. She hunted them- and hunts them- as she did in this room."-
[14:03] <@Idrilyn> [Agatha was shaking. She felt sick. Genuinely sick…-
[14:04] <@Idrilyn> [Now she only reluctantly looked up at the clock and the counter.-
[14:04] <@Idrilyn> [By the time the clock hit 00:00:00, the target counter had reached an impressive 62…-
[14:07] <@Idrilyn> [But Agatha hadn't been watching too closely. Most of the remaining hour or so had passed by in a blur- but Caine had never stopped watching.-
[14:09] <@Idrilyn> [("Phase One complete. Beginning Phase Two."-
[14:10] <@Idrilyn> [The walls all recessed into the ground- except for a ten-by-ten metre space around the candidate, in which the walls formed a perfect square that conveniently kept him cut off from the surviving, no-doubt traumatised targets.-
[14:12] <@Idrilyn> ["So…" Agatha looked up. "Phase Two. What's Phase Two about?"-
[15:06] <@Idrilyn> [Caine didn't respond.-
[15:06] <@Idrilyn> [Within the 'arena', two-metre wide panels suddenly slid open- gaping chasms in the ground.-
[15:06] <@Idrilyn> <two two-metre*>
[15:08] <@Idrilyn> [The candidate scuttled backwards from the sudden noise, clear alarm on his blood-strewn face. He raised a pair of knives…-
[15:08] <@Idrilyn> [Two platforms suddenly rose from the abyss.-
[15:14] <@Idrilyn> [On each platform were huge, hulking beasts. Black, with tridactyl claws, bent, powerful legs, glowing red cores…-
[15:15] <@Idrilyn> [They were Annihilators. Almost.-
[15:15] <@Idrilyn> [But instead of a head, growing from the upper torso was a grotesquely muscular human. Malformed, hairless, only a bare torso, head and arms. It had no mouth.-
[15:16] <@Idrilyn> [They were Abominations.-
[15:17] <@Idrilyn> [The candidate's expression became one of fear. His eyes began to pop- he stumbled backwards, tripping over his own feet.-
[15:17] <@Idrilyn> [With one bold, powerful step, the nearest Abomination moved towards him, reached out, grabbed him by the legs and slammed him into the wall.-
[15:18] <@Idrilyn> [The blow was hard enough to instantly break the candidate's ribs, right arm, spine… His shriek of absolute agony ripped through the entire chamber- and through Agatha's body. She went pale, clapping her hands over her mouth.-
[15:18] <@Idrilyn> [And now Caine answered. "Endurance."-
[15:20] <@Idrilyn> ["Your Solomon bodies are granted great potential, but it must be trained." Said Caine. "Like with Sophia and her throat, the greatest way to force your bodies to adapt to damage is to inflict that damage on you- again, and again, and again."-
[15:22] <@Idrilyn> ["For the next four hours, the Samsons will destroy that body, using every type of method they know. By the end of it, the candidate, if they live, will be stronger than ever."-
[15:22] <@Idrilyn> [Agatha shook her head fervently. "But… B-But what about his mind? Madame, it'll break him!"-
[15:23] <@Idrilyn> ["Break a mind and you may put it back together however you see fit."-
[15:27] <@Idrilyn> ["…"-
[15:27] <@Idrilyn> [Agatha turned back to the monitor- and looked away.-
[15:28] <@Idrilyn> [She couldn't block out the screaming, however, or the sounds of the Samsons unleashing their myriad cruelties. And whenever she looked back at the monitor, it was some -new- torture.-
[15:30] <@Idrilyn> [She saw a Samson fire an arm ram through the candidate, then retract the ram to slam him into the claws. She saw one of them tear apart his body, exposing his ribs, the human portion digging its arms into the exposed organs- and absorbing the flesh. She saw a Samson's human portion bow, bend, its head touching its stomach- revealing the Angel mask-head on its back, its eyes firing beams of energy that set the candidate aflame.-
[15:30] <@Idrilyn> ["Madame… Please."-
[15:30] <@Idrilyn> [Caine never stopped. She never turned away. Agatha saw the flames reflected in her glasses.-
[15:30] <@Idrilyn> ["Stop it."-
[15:30] <@Idrilyn> ["Stop it, please."-
[15:34] <@Idrilyn> ["STOP IT!"-
[15:37] <@Idrilyn> [Agatha leapt from her chair, crossed the room in a single step, and grabbed Caine by the arm.-
[15:40] <@Idrilyn> [Caine didn't even turn to look at her- but Agatha suddenly leapt backwards, stumbling- as though she'd burned her hand.-
[15:55] <@Idrilyn> ["Madame, i-it's torture. Why…? Why did you make me come here? What did I do wrong?"-
[15:57] <@Idrilyn> ["Wrong?" Caine turned to look at Agatha, frowning now, as though confused. "This is a reward."-
[15:57] <@Idrilyn> ["A… A -reward-?! This?!"-
[15:59] <@Idrilyn> ["This facility is secret, and the practices that happen within are kept secret for a reason. Everything that happens here is a necessity, but many would falter or become squeamish if they saw. I am showing you because I believe that not only are you strong enough to stand it, but that I trust you enough to think you worthy."-
[16:02] <@Idrilyn> ["…"-
[16:06] <@Idrilyn> [Agatha hated it. She hated that answer. She hated how it made her felt. She hated the feeling that spread through her chest and her stomach, the feeling of gratification, even -warmth- at that sign of approval from this woman.-
[16:11] <@Idrilyn> [Between Caine, her words, the screaming of the candidate, the warmth- It was too much.-
[16:11] <@Idrilyn> [Agatha broke. She covered her face with her hands and began to sob.-
[22:26] <Minaplo> [Eventually, however- the four hours would come to an end, and Caine would speak again. "Enough."-
[22:33] <Minaplo> [("Phase Two complete.")-
[22:35] <Minaplo> [Again, there was an elevator here- one that took Caine down to the arena level. Agatha, now sitting on the floor, looking empty-faced, roused herself enough to look on.-
[22:35] <Minaplo> [Caine walked resolutely to the square 'room' of the maze, with a portion of the wall facing her suddenly receding into the ground. Caine stepped into the arena, completely, perfectly calm.-
[22:36] <Minaplo> [The two Samsons looked up, prepared to attack- and then recoiled as though they'd been electrified. They backed away from her, so much so that they ran into the walls, whimpering like terrified dogs.-
[22:41] <Minaplo> [The candidate was lying on the ground, completely broken- if not physically, then mentally. Red eyes stared out, but did not see. The heart beat, the lungs breathed, but if they had not been automatic processes, then the candidate would've suffocated himself into unconsciousness.-
[22:49] <Minaplo> ["It is over now. You're safe." Said Caine, bending down and picking the broken candidate up. Without further ado, she turned and walked away, the candidate safe within her grasp.-
[22:52] <Minaplo> [Taken, thrown into a living hell, tortured, broken- and then plucked from the depths of despair.-
[22:53] <Minaplo> [The Physical Education and Assessment trial was nothing less than Caine's own proving ground, her tribulation chamber- a crucible on which souls were tested, and if not found wanting, then cleansed and purified- and then removed from it by their very own personal messiah.-
[22:54] <Minaplo> [In Caine's arms, amazingly, it seemed that the candidate found some measure of peace- and drifted to sleep.-
[22:56] <Minaplo> ["The Physical Education and Assessment trial is complete. Come, Agatha. It is time for the Mental Education and Assessment trial."-
[22:56] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[22:56] <Minaplo> [Agatha followed.-
[23:24] <Minaplo> ["The Mental Education and Assessment trial will take longer than the Physical." Said Caine. "But overall it is less strenuous. The first hand is last-stage conditioning, memory cleansing and the unlocking of the candidate's AT Field abilities. The following week will involve testing the candidate's mental abilities, including basic subjects such as mathematics and linguistics, but also their capacity for reason, logic, and problem-solving. There will also be practical use of the AT Field- and restoration of some Angelic memories as well."-
[23:24] <Minaplo> ["That doesn't… Sound so bad." Mumbled Agatha.-
[23:25] <Minaplo> ["Over half the candidates who pass the Physical also pass the Mental." Said Caine. "Whereas less than 10% of the candidates pass the physical. I have high hopes for this one."-
[23:28] <Minaplo> ["I expect you to attend the trials as I do, Agatha."-
[23:28] <Minaplo> [Agatha wasn't looking forward to it…-
[23:29] <Minaplo> [Yet, spread out over a week as it was, the mental trials were far less trying on Agatha than the ten horrific hours of the Physical had been. It gave Agatha a chance to rest and build up her strength.-
[23:30] <Minaplo> [Not to mention some of the trials were incredibly dull. Watching the candidate figuratively tear his way through exams for three hours? Agatha was sorely tempted to bring along one of Joan's video game handhelds.-
[23:30] <Minaplo> [But Caine watched the entire time, showing neither tiredness nor boredom… Her face implacable.-
[23:37] <Minaplo> [The AT Field trials were more interesting- from the outset, the candidate demonstrated a high degree of talent. In one challenge, he generated twenty daggers of compressed AT energy and guided them to their targets- a process that took only a second.-
[23:54] <Minaplo> [Over time, the candidate became… Healthier, whether due to growth or having been forced to forget his traumatic time in the labyrinth.-
[00:04] <Minaplo> [The mental tests came to an end, and finally, the third stage of the Trials began- the creation of a true Solomon Prime.-
[00:05] <Minaplo> [The first task was a type of surgical procedure. the Stone of Solomon- a small red diamond- was placed within the unconscious candidate's flesh, directly over- and attached- to their core.-
[00:05] <Minaplo> [And then would come the naming.-
[00:06] <Minaplo> [Their temple was a simple lab dorm, and their vestments were military uniforms. The candidate was naked, as he had always been.-
[00:06] <Minaplo> [Agatha didn't go. But she watched from a camera. She watched as Caine entered the room, and the candidate approached- and knelt down, smiling, happy to be accepted by the saviour.-
[00:07] <Minaplo> [And then Caine placed a large steel chest before him, and within it was a mighty greatsword, with a gold crossguard and a blade that sang as the candidate lifted it out of the box.-
[00:07] <Minaplo> [And then there was one final test. One last test.-
[00:08] <Minaplo> ["Accept your nature." Said Caine, simply.-
[00:08] <Minaplo> [The candidate nodded, and the Stone of Solomon shone. A blue gel spread from it, quickly enveloping the candidate's entire body. Within seconds, where he had been naked, he was now clothed in all-encompassing blue robes and bone-white ornate armour- the peerless Spirit Armour of a Solomon Prime.-
[00:09] <Minaplo> ["A candidate you are no longer." Said Caine.-
[00:13] <Minaplo> ["Now you are Augustine Aether Kaworu."-
[00:14] <Minaplo> [And beneath the helmet, Augustine smiled.-
[00:14] <Minaplo> [For within his thoughts he saw a face, a lovely face and a lovelier still spirit within.-
[00:14] <Minaplo> [And to return to that spirit he would do anything.]

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