Cherry Blossom Procession 4 1 15

(12:31) <Minaplo> [If people had been oblivious to the major events of the day, they would soon find an inkling. In the skies around Asgard, no less than five Federation Evangelions had been sortied.-
(12:33) <Minaplo> [Within Asgard itself, a coterie of leaders and heads had been jaunted there by Ezekiel himself. Among them were Zhang Yanmei and Raphael Guillory, as well as Marianne Amatore-DeForest and Barzilai Surov.-
(12:39) <Minaplo> [They congregated within Asgard's Eva hangar, where a new- or very old- unit had arrived.-
(12:40) <Minaplo> [It was a Master Model, bearing the number 13, Chiisana's unit. However Chiisana was presently on Mars, so this could not truly be her. And yet…-
(12:41) <Minaplo> [The unit's armour had been rent and damaged, hasty repairs giving it a ramshackle look. The unit itself was apparently undamaged.-
(12:41) <Minaplo> [It docked into the bay, and the entry plug slid out of its own volition. It discharged its LCL…-
(12:42) <Minaplo> [… Although was it LCL? It was of a much brighter, red colour.-
(12:42) <Minaplo> [The access hatch opened, and out stepped Chiisana Himesama.-
(12:45) <Minaplo> [She looked different. She was taller- an inch and a half taller- and she wore no Plugsuit, but instead a diaphanous white gown that clung to her. Her hair was longer, falling to past her waist in sheets, and some of the slight hints of puppy fat around the eyes and mouth, the signs of a youthful girl, had faded. This Chiisana looked to be in her early thirties.-
(12:45) <Minaplo> [This was the Chiisana who had emerged from the dirac portal.-
(12:45) <Minaplo> [She stepped out onto the platform and glanced over at a nearby security team.-
(12:46) <Minaplo> [She turned away. A moment later, she began to shine, so brightly that no one could look at her directly.-
(12:47) <Minaplo> [When the light had passed, she was completely dry of LCL and her thin white gown had been replaced more fully with a long-sleeved silk white dress with a high, narrow waist and a wide flowing hem.-
(12:48) <Minaplo> [She looked around at the hangar with an unreadable expression. Her emotional outburst in Ethiopia had apparently been forgotten.]
(12:53) * Yanmei had been watching all of this, her expression distant, troubled. Nevertheless, when their visitor was finished with her shining transformation, she approached her with long, deliberate steps, settling into a small, easy smile instead. "Welcome to Asgard, Miss."
(12:54) <Raphael> Raphael was quiet, his eyes moving quickly as he worked to pick out similarities and details. He was still on the back foot in trying to process the whole situation after Ezekiel's abrupt Jaunting, and his expression gave little away.
(13:02) <Minaplo> ["Asgard." Said Chiisana slowly. One thing that had changed sharply was her accent. It was… Difficult to place, but it sounded like no accent Yanmei or Raphael had ever heard. It gave her voice a seemingly contradictory tone, ethereal on one hand but sharp on the other.-
(13:02) <Minaplo> [She stared at Yanmei for a few long seconds.-
(13:04) <Minaplo> ["… Yanmei. Zhang Yanmei."]
(13:09) * Yanmei tried to stem any confusion from leaking out onto her face, and instead held the same smile steady. "That's me!"
(13:11) <Raphael> Behind Yanmei, Raphael's expression had twisted into a small frown as he processed that accent. His posture was a little too tense, as if ready for an attack.
(13:15) <Minaplo> ["You will be wanting my story, then." She said tersely.]
(13:17) <Yanmei> "Yes, please. Why don't we head to a meeting room first? You've probably come a long way, right?"
(13:19) <Minaplo> ["…"-
(13:19) <Minaplo> ["The meeting room is fine. Lead the way."]
(13:20) * Raphael gave Marianne a brief, worried look behind Yanmei's back before the group began to move, but he was quick to follow.
(13:24) <Minaplo> [Marianne couldn't help but share it.]
(13:29) <Yanmei> The meeting room in question was, in fact, more like a briefing room based on the size of the table taking up the center of it and obvious holoprojector protruding from above. It was otherwise a pretty basic setup. Yanmei pulled out a chair at random, sat in it, and faced their visitor politely.
(13:32) <Minaplo> [Chiisana took the seat at the head of the table.]
(13:34) <Raphael> And Raphael remained standing to one side of Chiisana's end of the table, back to the wall with his hands folded neatly in front of him.
(13:36) <Yanmei> "Now, then. Why don't we start at the basics? During that standoff, where did you teleport in from?"
(13:36) <Minaplo> [Marianne sat next to Yanmei, whilst Surov stood next to Raphael. Ezekiel sat opposite Chiisana.-
(13:37) <Minaplo> ["From Ethiopia. From that very same spot." Said Chiisana.]
(13:38) <Yanmei> "But you weren't there a moment before. Not from our perspective, anyway?"
(13:46) <Minaplo> ["No."-
(13:46) <Minaplo> ["…" Chiisana was silent for a few seconds, her gaze steady on Yanmei.-
(13:48) <Minaplo> ["You sent me on a mission to that place. Along with… Isaiah. And Sho." Said Chiisana, her voice remaining carefully even. "And we found the great meeting place of the Shadowmen. I approached the dirac portal. And the portal and I- interacted. It shifted me, but not through space."-
(13:48) <Minaplo> ["Rather, through time."]
(13:50) <Raphael> Another sidewards glance, this time towards Surov. He mouthed the word 'possible?'
(13:50) * Yanmei half-stood up, and then stopped herself, and lowered back down into her seat. "You… you really are Chiisana?"
(13:58) <Minaplo> [Surov turned to Raphael; he mouthed quietly "dunno".-
(13:58) <Minaplo> ["Yes." Said Chiisana solemnly.]
(14:01) <Yanmei> "But why…? Nothing like that has ever happened before."
(14:02) <Minaplo> ["I do not know why."]
(14:05) * Yanmei glanced to Ezekiel, but it was fleeting. "Then… let's focus on what you do know. Where did it send you? To the future?"
(14:11) <Minaplo> ["No."]
(14:12) <Yanmei> She paled slightly. "The past."
(14:14) <Minaplo> ["Yes." Said Chiisana. "Unfortunately, whilst the portal was two-way, it would not appear for me until the correct day- that is, since it appeared on the 18th of August 2018 here, it would appear on the 18th of August 2018 on the other side. So I had to wait."]
(14:17) <Raphael> Raphael's brow was furrowing again as he was watched this Chiisana with absolute concentration, any further questions of Surov delayed for the moment.
(14:22) <Yanmei> "Your unit's been patched up by hand. Did you get in a battle while you were waiting?"
(14:22) <Minaplo> [Chiisana's lip curled. "Yes."]
(14:23) * Raphael shook his head. It was the wrong question. "How long, ma'am?"
(14:33) <Minaplo> ["…"-
(14:33) <Minaplo> ["The portal threw me back to the 19th of February, 1795."]
(14:34) <Yanmei> "…"
(14:40) * Raphael chewed his lip as he processed this before letting out a long, sharp breath. "I… see."-
(14:41) <Raphael> "… I'm sorry to have interrupted, Chancellor."
(14:43) * Yanmei shook her head. "Don't worry about it. Um." -
(14:44) <Yanmei> She stared at Chiisana for a long moment and then eventually bowed her head slightly. "I am deeply sorry for the things you suffered while you were away."
(14:48) <Minaplo> [Chiisana did not speak. She sat there, hands resting on the arms of her chair, her expression rock-solid.]
(14:52) <Yanmei> "And. I think your reaction to the Shadowmen makes a lot more sense now."
(14:54) <Minaplo> ["It made sense even without that context." Said Chiisana sharply.]
(14:58) <Yanmei> "Maybe. You see no value in sparing them at all?"
(14:59) <Raphael> Raphael's frown deepened substantially.
(15:02) <Minaplo> ["They are a threat."]
(15:09) <Yanmei> "They may be sentient creatures attempting to create an isolated society of their own."
(15:09) <Minaplo> ["I have said my piece. Take it or leave it!"]
(15:11) * Yanmei sighed. Time to switch gears. "What do you intend to do now that you have returned?"
(15:20) <Minaplo> ["My duty."]
(15:25) <Yanmei> "You want to resume fighting with us?" Yanmei blinked. "Why?"
(15:26) <Minaplo> ["…"-
(15:27) <Minaplo> ["What did you expect I would want?"]
(15:33) <Yanmei> "To live in peace after your ordeal? Or, maybe more likely, to seek revenge against the people who put you in that situation to begin with?"
(15:34) <AdEvaGM> ["No."]
(15:34) * Raphael opened his mouth without thinking, before snapping it shut so sharply his teeth clicked together.
(15:36) * Yanmei scrutinized her carefully before pulling back and quietly regarding the rest of her advisors. "I see."
(15:43) <Raphael> "…"-
(15:46) <Raphael> Raphael took the opportunity to speak up, leaning forward. "From a purely practical perspective, there are security concerns. We can't take her story at face value - Sorry, Ma'am, but we can't - and we can't put her near an Evangelion until we know precisely what we're doing. I'd ask for a thorough examinations from our normal specialists, along with corroborating facts with the help of
(15:46) <Raphael> Ezekiel, if he'll allow it."-
(15:46) <Raphael> "I'd also ask that we subject her to Shadowman detection procedures."
(15:52) <Yanmei> "None of those are unreasonable requests. Ezekiel, would you be willing to cooperate?"
(15:54) <AdEvaGM> ["I would like to see you try keeping me away from my Evangelion." She said icily.]
(15:55) <AdEvaGM> [Ezekiel moved to speak, but paused, waiting to see how they responded.]
(15:57) * Raphael 's stare was flat. "If you are who you say you are you have my deepest possible sympathies, ma'am, but I hope you'd do the same in my position. Familiar faces have been used against us before."
(15:57) <AdEvaGM> [Chiisana rose from her seat and turned to face him.-
(15:58) <AdEvaGM> ["Yes, a Shadowman. I, who encouraged their destruction, am absolutely a Shadowman." She said coldly.-
(16:00) <AdEvaGM> ["'But that could be part of the ploy', you might say, and it is true, but you people are unable to decide if you want to be kind or ruthless. You aren't ruthless enough to destroy the Shadowmen, but you aren't kind enough to put them anywhere but Mars. You aren't kind enough to let me into suspicion, but you aren't ruthless enough to stop me before I and my Evangelion entered your base, with all of your commanders present?"-
(16:00) <AdEvaGM> ["I will submit to no tests. Direct me to my quarters or I will take some for my own. If you attempt to stop me, I will deal with you as I see fit."]
(16:01) <Raphael> And indeed Raphael's gun was drawn, but still held back at his side in a way that almost seemed relaxed.-
(16:05) <Raphael> "Whether I agree with you or not is a question for another day," he said gently, glancing at Marianne in an expectant fashion.
(16:11) <Yanmei> "That's enough!" Yanmei stood herself, pushing her own chair back. "Guillory, put it away. Chiisana, sit down. We're not finished talking yet."
(16:23) <AdEvaGM> [Marianne was quietly fiddling with her phone beneath the table.-
(16:23) <AdEvaGM> ["I say when we are finished!" Said Chiisana sternly. "We are finished."-
(16:23) <AdEvaGM> [And with that, she turned and walked toward the door.]
(16:25) <Raphael> "…" Raphael didn't seem particularly ruffled by the admonishment. He didn't holster the gun before she made it out the door, but he remained where he was.-
(16:27) <Raphael> "I'll follow her. Send the security teams after me, if you would. And give some thought to crippling her Evangelion?"
(16:27) <AdEvaGM> ["She has established remote synchronization." Said Ezekiel. "She will know, and furthermore the Evangelion will resist."-
(16:30) <AdEvaGM> ["I'll send the security teams anyway." Said Marianne. "I'm also calling Isaiah- hoping he'll be able to talk her down."]
(16:35) <Yanmei> "Well, at least he won't escalate the situation or put her even more on the defensive." She glared at Rapheal. "Sit down. There's no need for you to follow her when there are cameras literally all over the base that we can access from this room."
(16:39) <Raphael> "Oh please," Raphael snapped, the calm facade dropping out in an instant to reveal real anger beneath. "You were agreeing with me not a moment before. She opened hostilities and pressed for dominance, I was holding firm."-
(16:39) <Raphael> "The same way I would with the our Chiisana, for the record."
(16:49) <Yanmei> "She is not our Chiisana anymore," said Yanmei flatly. "And even if she was, why would you pull a gun on her right away? I don't recall hearing about you doing that to our Chii? Don't you normally just use words instead?"
(16:57) <Raphael> "…" Raphael shook his head, making a disgusted noise. "I drew my gun because - as she so astutely noted - she was a complete unknown standing in a room full of some of our most valued individuals and she'd begun to move aggressively. I did not aim it at her, I did not move to aim it at her and she had an active AT field. It was a reminder of the situation and we both knew it."-
(16:57) <Raphael> "You're not trusting me on this, of all people?"
(16:58) <AdEvaGM> [Just after Raphael had finished, an electronic tweet sounded through the room.-
(16:59) <AdEvaGM> [("Chancellor Zhang?") Came the voice of the comms officer of Asgard, Lieutenant Cassidy McCann. ("We've received an incoming message for you- it's Ezra Caine.")]
[12:18] * Yanmei glowered irritably. "Patch him through," she said between clenched teeth.
[12:19] * Raphael made a single sharp gesture as the call was connected, seemingly asking for permission to leave.
[12:20] * Yanmei shook her head at him and instead gestured to one of the chairs.
[12:22] * Raphael muttered something that the others couldn't catch, but he grabbed one of the chairs and sat with his arms folded. His face was a few shades redder than normal.
[12:25] <Hepburn> [The holoprojector resolved into a projection of Ezra Caine in a Superheavy cockpit.-
[12:25] <Hepburn> ["Good afternoon." Said Ezra.]
[12:26] <Yanmei> "Caine," said Yanmei evenly. "I trust this is an important call."
[12:27] <Hepburn> ["I had to concoct a reason to sneak out in my unit to use its private comms suite, so yes." Said Ezra. "Cousin Mary's already suspicious that I delayed to buy you all time back there. She's right, of course, but…"]
[12:31] <Yanmei> "All right. We'll try to keep this brief before you're discovered. What have you got for us?"
[12:31] <Hepburn> ["Questions." Said Ezra. "Did you take the Shadowmen somewhere?"]
[12:32] <Yanmei> "Yes. You'll understand if we're reluctant to disclose that location right now?"
[12:33] <Hepburn> ["Fair enough." He said with a shrug. "Look, I won't ask where. But they're still alive, right?"]
[12:34] <Yanmei> "Yes."
[12:36] <Hepburn> ["Mmm, ok." Said Ezra. "Look, I know how dangerous the Shadowmen are, but I think you did the right thing. But you absolutely have to let no one know that they're still alive, or Mary Caine will hold the Federation in breach of the Extinguishment Treaty."]
[12:38] <Raphael> Raphael's posture tightened a little, his lips pressed close together. He was focused almost entirely on his folded hands.
[12:43] <Yanmei> "Right," Yanmei sighed. "And why are you so sure that we 'did the right thing'?"
[12:50] <Hepburn> ["I'm not an idiot. I understand how dangerous even 100 Shadowmen are, let alone 100,000." Said Ezra. "A whole lot of me right now thinks that they're too dangerous to keep around…"-
[12:51] <Hepburn> ["… But being dangerous isn't enough to merit destruction." Said Ezra. "I'm dangerous, you're dangerous, those Evas are dangerous, your Angel is dangerous…"-
[12:56] <Hepburn> ["If these Shadowmen are truly sane, and truly want peace, to be left alone, to not cause trouble… Then that makes them a society, not just some random menace." Ezra was silent for a few moments before he continued.-
[12:59] <Hepburn> ["If there's even a little chance of that being true, then destroying them would be genocide. Could you bring yourself to do that?" Ezra shook his head. "Call it a romantic's folly, or call it my sad inheritance as a German Jew, but I'd not risk my soul in such an act."]
[13:02] <Yanmei> "Are you the reason our Evas got a warning about Mary Caine's incoming attack?"
[13:02] <Hepburn> ["Yeah. Mary wanted them dead, I told Aline to stall, and Aline sent you a warning."]
[13:05] <Yanmei> "…" Yanmei's expression didn't change, but she glanced aside for the briefest of moments before returning her gaze to the holograph. "I see. Did you have any other questions for us?"
[13:07] <Hepburn> ["Feel like telling me what was up with that… 4th Eva?"]
[13:09] <Yanmei> "We're in the process of determining that ourselves, I'm afraid. There's nothing to report yet beyond the fact that it indeed appears to be an Eva."
[13:11] <Hepburn> ["I see. Well then." He gave them a nod. "Ezra Caine out."-
[13:11] <Hepburn> [The projection cut.]
[13:18] <Yanmei> "Ugh." Yanmei rubbed her forehead. "Does anyone else have anything to bring up before we take a break here?"
[13:19] <Hepburn> ["You wanted me to see if I could corroborate Chiisana's claims." Said Ezekiel.]
[13:21] <Yanmei> "Yes, please. Anything you could verify would be a big help."
[13:23] <Hepburn> [Ezekiel nodded.-
[13:27] <Hepburn> ["The event of traversing unnaturally through time is rare." Said Ezekiel. "I have witnessed it during my lifetime, and it has been either dangerous, pointless, exhaustive or some combination of the three."-
[13:31] <Hepburn> ["When discussing traversing through time, there are, broadly, two categories to which we refer: transreality shifting and cisreality shifting. Transreality shifting involves an individual travelling through time, but in a way that shifts them into an alternative reality; their actions do not change the events of the timeline they stemmed from, only the events of their current timeline."-
[13:32] <Hepburn> ["Cisreality shifting involves moving back or forth along the same timeline in the same reality, with the risk of alterting the history of that timeline."-
[13:33] <Hepburn> ["Since our history does not record the appearance of an Evangelion in 1795, we can assume that Chiisana Himesama primarily underwent transreality shifting, moving into an alternate reality and timeline."]
[13:39] <Yanmei> "Is there something that would let us confirm whether she really did take a trip like that? Like any weird symptoms or abnormalities a time traveler might have?"
[13:06] <Hepburn> ["Possibly. Lilim may react to it differently than others. You must understand that this power was rare. I know of only one civilization who used it with some regularity, and they have long since hidden themselves away."-
[13:08] <Hepburn> ["I believe our efforts are best spent analysing the circumstances. Transreality shifting conserves, it does not create. That is, our Chiisana should have vanished, but she has not."]
[13:10] * Raphael blanched. "Could she have been protected by being within the Eva?"
[13:11] <Hepburn> ["It is not a case of protection. Transreality shifting only takes that which is put in. You may as well ask if being within an Eva protects you from walking through a door."]
[13:11] <Hepburn> ["… Nonetheless, your statement does mirror my thinking in another way."]
[13:12] <Yanmei> "Could you elaborate on that?"
[13:17] <Hepburn> ["Two Chiisanas now exist, a situation which transreality shifting does not create." Said Ezekiel. "The only solutions are that transreality shifting did not occur, and that one of the Chiisanas is a fake."-
[13:17] <Hepburn> ["Or, that cisreality shifting has occurred in the small scale."-
[13:17] <Hepburn> [Surov was frowning, and he wasn't the only one; Marianne was staring at Ezekiel with a mystified frown.-
[13:18] <Hepburn> ["Allow me to explain." Said Ezekiel. "Cisreality shifting involves moving back and forth along the same timeline. If one's actions alter that timeline, then the rest of the timeline is also changed. Allow me to demonstrate: if I went back one thousand years and killed Zhang Yanmei's ancestors as children, what would happen to Zhang Yanmei?"]
[13:20] <Raphael> "She would be… erased?" He hazarded, wary of the obvious answer.
[13:20] <Yanmei> "I wouldn't exist now, of course," she said quietly.
[13:20] <Hepburn> ["Logically." Said Surov.-
[13:24] <Hepburn> ["Yes, that is a safe answer, but it is also incorrect." Said Ezekiel. "When an action alters the timeline it produces ripples outwards. Individuals affected by these ripples may be altered, but they will know they are altered."-
[13:24] <Hepburn> ["The AT Field conserves consciousness and it conserves memory. From that moment on you would possess a memory of all that had changed plus all that had been."-
[13:25] <Hepburn> ["And if the person were erased?" Asked Marianne.-
[13:26] <Hepburn> ["The AT Field would still exist nonetheless. In my hypothetical scenario, Zhang Yanmei would be erased… But she would still exist nonetheless as a ghost in time, bounded by an AT Field, possessing a consciousness and all her memories. She would still be able to affect reality, but most importantly, she would be unstuck to the timeline and able to travel across those ripples."-
[13:27] <Hepburn> ["A time ghost is a strange thing. If it manages to undo the changes to its timeline, then it will be fully restored, but possess all its memories of being a ghost. Alternatively, if it travels into an alternate reality, it will be fully restored as well."-
[13:28] <Hepburn> ["So in essence, assuming I did kill Zhang Yanmei's ancestors, the very real probability is that all would happen is a billion time ghosts descending on me, undoing the changes, and I am back to square one."]
[13:29] <Raphael> … Raphael seemed alarmed by this entire conversation, almost to the point of forgetting his anger.
[13:31] * Yanmei for her part was handling this with the blank calmness of someone who was trying to not let on that she didn't understand something important. -
[13:34] <Yanmei> "So it's impossible to use time travel deliberately to wipe someone out of existance."
[13:39] <Hepburn> ["Yes." Said Ezekiel. "Fundamentally it is impossible to use cisreality shifting to change the timeline, since the time ghosts will soon put it back as it was. Even if the change is so massive as to alter the universe, the collective willpower of the time ghosts will undo anything… And the Princes of the Flow might be compelled to chastise whoever did it." Said Ezekiel, the last line seemingly to himself only.-
[13:40] <Hepburn> ["So no preventing Second Impact." Said Marianne.-
[13:40] <Hepburn> ["No preventing Impact." Said Ezekiel.-
[13:40] <Hepburn> ["What about travelling to the future?" Asked Surov.-
[13:41] <Hepburn> [Ezekiel shook his head. "You cannot travel past your own present. It is simply an impossibility- the future needs writing first."-
[13:42] <Hepburn> ["So you couldn't, say, go back in time and bring Yanmei's ancestors here to meet her." Said Marianne.-
[13:43] <Hepburn> [Ezekiel frowned. "That seems impossible, yes. You could bring her ancestors from a different reality here to meet her, but there are major problems involved with transreality shifting."]
[13:46] <Raphael> "So what you're saying," Raphael cut in, "Is that "Chiisana" is most likely a fake of some kind."
[13:46] <Yanmei> "I suppose… you could also bring back information? Like, if someone hid something important, you could travel back, find out where it was hidden, and then report back in the present so that your allies could blow it up."
[13:49] <Hepburn> ["Theoretically yes." He said toward Yanmei. "Using cisreality shifting to learn information is one of its few uses."-
[13:57] <Hepburn> [He turned toward Raphael. "No. Some of the major problems of transreality shifting are randomness in regards to where exactly on the timeline you fall and the bridge being based on your time of origin, not on your time of landing… Both of those traits were discussed by Chiisana, which leads me to conclude that she has indeed transreality shifted."-
[13:57] <Hepburn> ["But you said-"-
[13:58] <Hepburn> [Ezekiel raised a hand. "What I believe has happened is that the entity at the heart of the Mist performed both at the same time. It created a small cisreality shift, enough to only affect Chiisana, but enough to create a Time Ghost. Instead of restoring the original timeline, however, this Time Ghost moved through the portal, and was fully restored… And has spent over two centuries returning to us."]
[14:01] <Raphael> Raphael frowned, staring at Ezekiel for a long moment before glancing at his colleagues to see if anyone had grasped this better than he had.
[14:02] <Hepburn> [Surov seemed to be following along…]
[14:04] * Yanmei hadn't! She was blinking at Ezekiel as if expecting him to continue. When he didn't immediately… "So… for all intents and purposes, we should believe her story as true and treat her as such."
[14:05] <Hepburn> ["The witness reports of an 'echo' Chiisana suggest that a cisreality shift occurred, and her own story seems to match up." Said Ezekiel. "So I believe it is the best course of action to believe her for now."]
[14:15] <Raphael> "Alright," Raphael said, although he didn't seem particularly happy. "So we have an unknown entity willing to use vast amounts of power to destabilise Chiisana through time. Beyond the how, there's a question of why."
[14:18] * Yanmei was quiet, waiting to hear suggestions from the more eggheaded members of the group.
[14:18] <Hepburn> ["It could have been accidental." Said Ezekiel. "Or perhaps there is some motive, although I do not know what it is. Nonetheless, the signs seem to suggest an identity for this entity."]
[14:19] <Raphael> "Ah?"
[14:20] <Hepburn> ["It seems to be one of Metatron's most powerful ancient weapons- the Void Asterion."]
[14:21] <Raphael> "… Fantastic," Raphael muttered, propping one elbow up on the table and covering his eyes.
[14:21] <Yanmei> Yanmei's brow instantly creased. "But… we wreaked all of her weapons already! …Didn't we? Where was this one hiding?!"
[14:22] <Hepburn> ["She had fifteen of them." Said Ezekiel with a shrug. "Your records suggest you fought twelve total. She may have been hiding them on Earth…"]
[14:24] <Raphael> "So we have one of Metatron's most powerful weapons assisting Gamelin and an army of Shadowmen she's largely responsible for creating," Raphael said.
[14:27] <Hepburn> ["So it seems." Said Marianne bitterly. "An Angel should know when it's beaten."]
[14:27] <Yanmei> "What was it doing?" she peered at Ezekiel. "What was it trying to do with them before we showed up? We should bring Gamelin in and talk to him some more."
[14:28] <Hepburn> ["I believe it was intending to devour Gamelin and his Shadowmen." Said Ezekiel.]
[14:28] * Raphael sighed.
[14:31] * Yanmei looked uncomfortable. "So, um. If it's hungry it might be coming back for them. And I assume that when it does finish them off, it'll turn into some kind of threat."
[14:37] <Hepburn> ["More than that. I believe the entity controlling the Shadowmen in Sweden and the Asterion are one and the same. It may possibly be attempting to control the other Angelspawn as well. If that is true, then the Shadowmen we rescued may have been uniquely resistant to it… Or it held back out of some ploy. In any case, I suspect that the Asterion will attempt to absorb enough energy to take on a more potent physical form, then will work to find some way to restore Metatron."]
[14:41] <Raphael> "That form it took looked… unique. Is there any way to track its energy?"
[14:45] <Yanmei> Yanmei sat up a little straighter at that, suddenly focusing even harder.
[14:45] <Hepburn> ["Yes, although you may require the UN's assistance in doing so. If they can trace dirac events, they should be able to trace the Asterion."]
[14:46] <Raphael> "I believe we should be able to claim that under the banner of the Extinguishment Treaty, but it seems like it would give Mary an opportunity to press the point in regards to the Shadowmen," said Raphael.
[14:49] <Yanmei> "So we keep them in the dark about it. Figure out an alternative way to track it."
[14:50] <Hepburn> ["There is an easy solution." Said Surov.]
[14:51] <Yanmei> "Yes?"
[14:52] <Hepburn> ["Destroy the Shadowmen." Said Surov. "It lets us act openly and denies the Asterion a source of energy."]
[14:54] <Yanmei> "Or we use them as bait and kill the Asterion when it goes in for them. That works just as well?"
[14:56] * Raphael shook his head. "It leaves more opportunities for us to misjudge the opposition or make a mistake. Destroying them first is a certain gain, using them for bait is a hope - and for a benefit we could just as easily gain by working with the UN."
[14:57] <Hepburn> ["Agreed." Said Surov. "It could take it weeks, months or longer to pursue those Shadowmen."]
[14:58] <Yanmei> "But what if they really are sentient?"
[14:59] <Raphael> "Then they willingly condoned the deaths of thousands," Raphael said flatly.
[15:01] <Yanmei> "Marianne. Do you also think we should?"
[15:02] <Hepburn> ["I…" Marianne glanced around the table.-
[15:07] <Hepburn> [But it was Ezekiel who answered. "I disagree with your statement, Raphael Guillory. It is obvious that those lilim within the mist were destroyed by the Asterion, not by the Shadowmen. With 100,000 Shadowmen to several thousand lilim, it is apparent that large amounts of those Shadowmen might not have even seen a Lilim on the approach. You are assuming that the Shadowmen orchestrated this, when the indication lies that the power was concentrated with the Asterion, who may not have been willing to negotiate. Gamelin's people were in danger; could he risk arguing with his only potential ally over the location?"]
[15:16] <Raphael> "I don't think the Shadowmen orchestrated it, but I do think a not inconsequential portion were aware of it. Gamelin himself admitted as much, and regardless of his motivations that makes him culpable," He said firmly.-
[15:16] <Raphael> "We can't leave them where they are because they can't be effectively defended if the Asterion finds them. We can't bring them -here- because the few containment measures we do have - and Surov may tell me I'm wrong here, but I'm confident - will not scale to one-hundred-thousand individuals. One Shadowman was enough to completely turn Taghba Base and everyone on it, one-hundred-thousand
[15:16] <Raphael> is an existential threat closer to the scale of an Angel."-
[15:16] <Raphael> "And we have absolutely no evidence that anything they're saying is true. Their mouthpiece has been subverted by Metatron before."
[15:22] <Hepburn> ["Then punish the ones you deem culpable." Said Ezekiel calmly. "But take the time, at least, to separate the innocent from the guilty. If that means taking the time to verify their claims, so be it."]
[15:28] <Raphael> "You're proposing we divert our time to a Martian Nuremberg."
[15:28] <Hepburn> [Ezekiel took a moment to understand the context.-
[15:29] <Hepburn> ["Yes." He said. "Would you oppose such an action?"]
[15:34] * Raphael gave Ezekiel an odd look. "… I'd have to give it some thought. Is it a course of action that I believe we have time or capacity for? No."
[15:35] <Hepburn> ["It is true that when time is limited, it is easiest to make broad decisions- save them all or destroy them all?" Said Ezekiel.-
[15:36] <Hepburn> ["But if you were, restricted as you are by time, to destroy these people to remove a threat to yourself, and in doing so destroy innocents in the process, one must ask the question: who in turn will be the one to judge you?"]
[15:38] * Raphael didn't seem convinced… but he didn't elect to offer a counter-argument this time.
[15:40] <Yanmei> "We could try to speed it up somehow. It wouldn't be a pleasant experience for them, but if we're talking about mental contact with an Eva…"
[15:41] <Hepburn> [Marianne sighed. "I'm sorry, Yanmei, but I think right now I'd prefer to discuss what we're planning to do about the new Chiisana."]
[15:46] <Yanmei> "Ah… alright." She gave Marianne a worried look. "I mean. She's basically our guest for now. We can't detain her, but we don't have to give her information about what we're doing either. Maybe once she's been here a few weeks and has… settled back into things, we can deploy her properly."
[15:48] <Raphael> "If her Eva's senses are anything like our Chiisana's, then she's probably hearing everything we're saying now," Raphael said mildly.
[15:49] <Hepburn> ["Ayanami was right: admitting her into the base was a mistake." Said Surov drily.-
[15:49] <Raphael> "Quite."
[15:53] <Hepburn> ["Even so," Said Marianne, her face darkening with anger, "we're dealing with someone in need of our help. Someone who has been gone for 200 years, doing God knows what in that time, waiting for the moment to come back. Right now, she's probably furious at us all. We need to work out what to do in the short term. I mean the next few days."-
[15:53] <Hepburn> ["If you are all truly worried about her overhearing, then let me establish a telepathic chantry between all of us." Said Ezekiel calmly.]
[15:58] <Yanmei> "…" Yanmei folded her arms. "Fine. That's fine. Let's quickly sort it out, ok?"
[16:01] <Raphael> "Keeping it short is the best course. She'll see the secrecy as an affront."
[16:03] <Hepburn> [Ezekiel did not move.-
[16:03] <Hepburn> [Nonetheless a second later, they could all feel the imperceptible touch of each other's minds.-
[16:04] <Hepburn> [("I… I think the best thing would be to try to calm her down and figure out how to avoid setting her off.") Thought Marianne.]
[16:05] <Raphael> ("Agreed.")
[16:09] <Yanmei> ("She probably wants to feel like she's in control of something. But I can't condone having her join up on the front ranks just like that? Wouldn't it be better to just take a break?"]
[16:12] <Raphael> ("With respect, any decision like that hinges on what exactly she's been doing in the time she's been gone. She's…) there was an odd pause, with a noise like static ("… the resemblance to our Chii in the way she stands and talks is so faint. If she's somehow been fighting for two hundred years forcing her into civilian life might break her entirely.")
[16:18] <Hepburn> [("That she survived two hundred years at all is worthy of investigation.") Thought Surov.]
[16:18] <Yanmei> ("So maybe we get her to talk to us before figuring out where to put her. Who knows how many skills she might have in combat or outside of it.")
[16:19] <Hepburn> [("Sounds good, but how?") Asked Marianne.]
[16:20] <Raphael> ("I intend to talk to her anyway." Raphael said. "… Assuming Ezekiel is still confident in his assertion that she is who she claims to be.")
[16:21] <Hepburn> [("I am.")]
[16:22] <Yanmei> ("Rei would be ideal. But since she's not here… I have no objections to that. Just don't get into a fistfight with her or anything.")
[16:24] <Raphael> ("… Right.") The thought came across as more than a touch annoyed.
[16:31] <Yanmei> ("Unless she actually wants to. Punching is a good way to let off steam?")
[16:32] <Raphael> ("I do not intend to fistfight an Ayanami with two hundred years of combat experience, Madame Chancellor.")
[16:38] <Yanmei> ("Mmph. I guess that's what simulators are there for.")
[16:38] <Raphael> ("Yes ma'am.")
[13:13] <Minaplo> [("Did you want anyone to come with you, Raphael?") Asked Marianne.]
[13:17] <Raphael> ("… Until we understand her better, I think it's best to limit the variables in a situation. I'll get some security on call, but in the end if she wants to kill me she will.") There wasn't any fear to the thought, just flat practicality.
[13:18] <Yanmei> ("We'll have the cameras on, of course. If you want us to turn them off, just say it out loud?")
[13:19] <Raphael> ("Of course.")
[13:25] <Minaplo> [("Try to get her to submit to tests. Especially for her unit.") Said Surov.]
[13:26] <Yanmei> ("With the way she reacted earlier, that sounds pretty hard?")
[13:28] <Raphael> ("While it would be far better to have her approval, it really doesn't change anything. It needs to be done, and if she's unwilling to listen to reason I'm not sure we can allow the unit to remain operational.")
[13:28] <Minaplo> [("Don't make it a fight. We have no idea what she's capable of, and a rampaging powerful Eva behind our lines could be disastrous.") Said Marianne.]
[13:30] <Raphael> ("I'm not about to make it a fight, ma'am, but I'm saying this while we have some privacy because it's true. Hope for the best, plan for the worst.")
[13:32] <Minaplo> [("So long as we don't create a situation we can't fix.")]
[13:33] <Raphael> ("Agreed.")
[13:33] <Yanmei> (Well then. This is the part where we wish you good luck? Good luck, Guillory.")
[13:34] <Raphael> ("Thank you, Madame Chancellor. And… I apologise for losing my temper with you earlier. It was out of line.")
[13:37] <Yanmei> ("Thank you. I've actually had a lot worse lately, so don't worry about it?" That was followed by a deep swell of resentment toward parties not currently present at the table.)
[13:38] <Minaplo> [A moment later, the telepathic link was broken.]
[13:40] * Raphael winced as the line closed, rubbing at one eye as he moved to stand. "Well. I shouldn't waste any time, I suppose…"
[13:40] * Yanmei nodded. "Right. Come back when you finish. We'll be around for as long as it takes."
[13:42] <Minaplo> ["Don't die." Said Surov to Raphael.]
[13:42] <Raphael> "Yes ma'am." True to his word he didn't bother with further pleasantries before he hurried out the door.
[14:19] <Minaplo> [True to Yanmei's word, it would not be hard to find Chiisana's location. Fortunately, Chiisana's temper hadn't extended to trashing half the place on her way; cameras sufficed in this instance. Eventually they would guide Raphael to one of the quarters- specifically, the quarters of the commanding officer of Asgard, which had remained unoccupied.]
[14:25] <Raphael> … Raphael let out a gentle sigh as soon as he realised where he was headed, but it had hardly been the first since he'd left the meeting room. Chiisana's path had been as straight as the corridors would allow, clearly guided by either memory, her Eva's sense or both. There had been a few alarmed soldiers and technicians left in her wake, but overall it was more civil than he'd expected.-
[14:25] <Raphael> Standing outside the door, he took a moment to compose himself and draw his hands out of his pockets before he finally tapped the doorbell button.
[14:32] <Minaplo> [The voice carried clearly through. "Enter!"]
[14:37] <Raphael> "…" A tiny muscle in Raphael's jaw ticked and jerked for a moment as the door slid open and he made his entrance, glancing around the room.
[14:53] <Minaplo> [The last occupant of the room had been Andrey Orlov, and he had barely made his impression on the place. The door opened into the living room, to which a kitchen and dining table had been attached; it was here that Chiisana Himesama sat on a single-seat recliner with all the air of it being a throne.]
[14:58] <Raphael> Raphael didn't step into the room further than he had to - just enough to allow the door to close behind him while still giving him a view of the space. When that was done he stood tall, inclining his head towards the Pilot. "Ma'am. I see you found quarters."
[14:59] <Minaplo> ["They will do, yes."]
[15:00] <Raphael> "I'm correct in thinking you overheard everything that was said after your exit?"
[15:02] <Minaplo> ["Yes."]
[15:05] * Raphael nodded. "I'm sorry that we started things on the wrong foot, ma'am."
[15:14] <Minaplo> [Chiisana stared levelly at him. Eventually she said, "You are forgiven."]
[19:00] * Raphael gave a little gesture towards one of the lounges arranged opposite the recliner. "May I sit, ma'am? I was hoping we could talk, if you were willing."
[19:00] <Minaplo> ["You may sit."]
[19:03] <Raphael> "Mmm." His stride was different than normal, the motions more telegraphed as he took a seat. There were no sudden movements.-
[19:05] <Raphael> "So… to begin, is there anything you want in the short term? I imagine we can arrange most items for you."
[19:07] <Minaplo> ["Repairs for my unit will suffice." Said Chiisana evenly.]
[19:10] <Raphael> "Are there going to be issues if Technical examines it in the process?"
[19:13] <Minaplo> [Chiisana stared at him for a few moments.-
[19:14] <Minaplo> ["I permit them a cursory examination. Anything that would delay repairs by more than a day or is not required for repairs to proceed is not permitted."]
[19:16] <Raphael> "I'm not sure how strong your memories of this period are, ma'am, but the war's stripped most of our resources. Even with those terms, it could be some time before the Evangelion can be repaired."
[19:17] <Minaplo> ["I remember enough to know that armour amounts to a minority of the cost. The repairs will be completed in seven days." Said Chiisana.]
[19:27] * Raphael regarded her quietly. "May I ask an honest question?"
[19:29] <Minaplo> ["It is the only type of question worth my time."]
[19:30] <Raphael> "Why are you so eager to dictate terms, Chiisana? You must understand it does nothing but make the situation more difficult for both sides."
[19:34] <Minaplo> ["You require direction."]
[19:38] * Raphael leaned forward. "Would you care to explain?"
[19:40] <Minaplo> ["I arrive. I hear you debating about how to handle the Shadowmen, when the answer was immediate destruction. You escort me to Asgard, yet despite your suspicion you do not wait to question or contain me until I am in the place where I can do the most damage. You and your colleagues, as an organisational whole, react with muddled goals and vague purpose. It is unacceptable. You require firmer direction."]
[19:41] <Raphael> "I agree with you."
[19:45] <Minaplo> [She nodded at Raphael, as though this was to be expected. "Then you will assist me in my efforts to reshape Zhang Yanmei into a more effective leader."]
[19:48] <Raphael> "I'm assisting you when I say that the attitude you're taking will get you nowhere, for many, many reasons," he said. "If that's your goal then maybe I can help you, but right now even as a person who agrees with you I'm concerned."
[19:49] <Minaplo> ["They will bend or they will break." Said Chiisana mildly.]
[19:59] <Raphael> "Whatever course you took to end up here… I could not be more sorry for it, Chiisana. I hope you remember enough to understand how sincerely I mean that," he said calmly, "We-… I would like to understand and help you in any way I'm able."-
[19:59] <Raphael> "However walking in and making threats before we even understand what you represent is not going to get you what you want."
[20:06] <Minaplo> ["Order and salvation."]
[20:07] * Raphael blinked. "… sorry?"
[20:08] <Minaplo> ["That is what I represent. Order and salvation."]
[20:10] <Raphael> "… Alright."-
[20:10] <Raphael> "Can I ask about your story? What you've been through, what changed to bring you to this perspective…? Maybe that would help."
[20:18] <Minaplo> [Chiisana did not respond.-
[20:18] <Minaplo> [After a few minutes, Raphael might think that she did not intend to, and that he had been dismissed, but quite suddenly she spoke.-
[20:18] <Minaplo> ["Your ancestors lived in the most venal chaos."]
[20:19] * Raphael nodded. "So I understand."
[20:28] <Minaplo> ["You do not understand." Said Chiisana, but not harshly. "Oppression is cruel when it shows the lash, but this twisted society, permeated it so utterly that people were destroyed by each other in the most total of ways for the most banal of reasons… I saw women forced into worlds that left her no good choices, and punished her tenfold for each one…"]
[20:29] <Raphael> This time he did not respond but to nod.
[20:31] <Minaplo> ["In such a situation, to have power becomes an imperative to use it. To have power and to sit idle is to gravely sin and permit evil unchecked. The people fought and died, desperate day after day for salvation, screaming out for it."-
[20:31] <Minaplo> ["So I gave it to them."]
[20:37] <Raphael> Raphael's expression was like stone, but he swallowed a little too hard. "… You took control, then?"
[20:43] <Minaplo> ["More than that. I liberated them. Nourished them."]
[20:45] <Raphael> "How?"
[21:04] <Minaplo> ["Well, for example… Otis." And for the first time since her returned, she smiled; warmly and sweetly, it lit up the room. "A store of all of human knowledge in his reference banks… Every book, every scientific advance, right there at my fingertips."]
[12:40] <Raphael> "And you controlled it," he said.
[12:47] <Minaplo> ["Yes." Said Chiisana. "Or rather I controlled its propagation. As it stands, actually achieving total dominance over technology or information is nearly impossible."]
[12:49] <Raphael> "But you could prune unwanted avenues if you so desired."
[12:50] <Minaplo> ["Mostly." Said Chiisana. "Although banning them was ineffectual… The sort of people who become scientists do not really care for bans of that nature. Instead, technology was shaped by necessity. There were no wars- I made sure- so weapons were not a priority."]
[12:52] <Raphael> "So you ruled, then?"
[12:54] <Minaplo> ["Yes."]
[12:55] <Raphael> "Alone?"
[12:57] <Minaplo> ["I was the absolute authority." Said Chiisana. "There were others below me. Regional leaders."]
[12:59] <Raphael> "What happens now that you're back with us?" he asked.
[13:00] <Minaplo> ["I continue my duty. We defeat our enemies, bring salvation to the Earth."]
[13:01] * Raphael shook his head. "Not to us, ma'am. To the world where you were the absolute authority."
[13:02] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[13:02] <Minaplo> ["I made preparations."]
[13:02] <Raphael> "Ah?"
[13:12] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[13:12] <Minaplo> ["I left my children in charge."]
[13:14] <Raphael> "…" Raphael's expression was hard to read - it seemed to flicker through a dozen different emotions in an instant - but it ended with something like a smile. "… Congratulations, Chiisana. I would've liked the chance to meet them."
[13:20] <Minaplo> [Chiisana smiled, too. "They were hard to miss. By the time I left, I was grandmother to half of France."]
[13:22] * Raphael chuckled. "It must've been a very hard decision to leave, if you don't mind me saying so."
[13:27] <Minaplo> ["It had to be done."]
[13:31] <Raphael> "I'm curious what brought you to that conclusion. Not to suggest your presence is unwanted, but… you had family, power, and if what you're saying is right you had a world built to your specifications as well. Why come back to this?"
[13:34] <Minaplo> [Chiisana didn't answer for awhile.-
[13:36] <Minaplo> ["I had close to a hundred million descendants when I left." Said Chiisana. "But from the moment I appeared, I changed so much without realising it. In all my years I never saw anyone I knew again. You were all never born."-
[13:37] <Minaplo> ["But I knew you were all waiting for me to return." She said, and her tone became hard. "Would you have stayed, knowing that one day you left Suzanne behind and never returned?"]
[13:42] <Raphael> "No, ma'am," he said flatly.
[13:42] <Minaplo> ["Then I did not either."]
[13:43] * Raphael nodded. "I can understand that."
[13:44] <Minaplo> [She nodded, apparently satisfied.]
[13:48] <Raphael> "A difficult question, then…" He began.-
[13:48] <Raphael> "Where does that leave you and… I will not call her "our" Chiisana based on what you and Ezekiel have told me, but I'm struggling to find a suitable term."
[13:49] <Minaplo> ["Chiisana the Younger?" She said drily.]
[13:50] <Raphael> "… It works for the time being," he shrugged. "I think you see my point, though."
[13:50] <Minaplo> ["Yes."]
[13:51] <Raphael> "Do you care to share your opinions? If there are going to be problems between the two of you it would be good to know from the outset."
[13:53] <Minaplo> ["I will probably kill her and take her place." Said Chiisana.-
[13:53] <Minaplo> ["That was a joke."]
[13:54] <Raphael> "A position of authority has done wonders for your delivery, ma'am."
[13:55] <Minaplo> [Chiisana didn't respond.-
[13:56] <Minaplo> [When she did speak, it was as though he hadn't spoken his last at all. "It is possible there will be friction between myself and the Younger. I will handle it."]
[14:03] * Raphael looked ready to press the point, but he seemed to think better of it. "… Alright."-
[14:04] <Raphael> He sighed. "I'd like to ask a favour, ma'am."
[14:09] <Minaplo> ["Ask."]
[14:10] <Raphael> "The tests I discussed during the meeting… Ma'am, I would very much like to take you at your word, but as you've said yourself we're in dire need of a more rigorous approach to security. I intend to lead that."-
[14:10] <Raphael> "We've been fooled before, and you know it's done us great harm," he said. "I believe what you're saying, and Ezekiel seems to corroborate it, but ruling those possibilities out would be a gesture of good faith that could make it easier to accept your help."
[14:23] <Minaplo> ["NERV people and your tests." Said Chiisana bitterly. "If that is what you all truly need, then. But I will say when the tests end."]
[14:25] <Raphael> "If that's what it takes," he said. "Thank you."
[14:28] <Minaplo> [Chiisana nodded at him once.]
[14:47] <Raphael> Raphael's posture relaxed a bit, and he let himself lean back into the chair again. "There are a lot more questions, of course," he said thoughtfully. "It's hard to know the appropriate ones to ask."-
[14:47] <Raphael> "… one hundred million descendants, ma'am?"
[14:48] <Minaplo> [Chiisana smiled a little mischievously. "From what I remember of you, Raphael, this explanation may make you a little cross."]
[14:49] <Raphael> "It can't hurt for us to swap positions for a while."
[14:50] <Minaplo> ["Haha."-
[14:50] <Minaplo> ["Are you aware that Ayanami genetics are designed so that any offspring we bear possess all of the advantages and changes that separate us from normal humanity? Except the AT Field, of course."]
[14:53] <Raphael> "Yes ma'am."
[15:02] <Minaplo> ["One of those advantages, I learned, deals with fertility. That is to say, an Ayanami is greatly more fertile than your average human being, and we don't seem to grow infertile with age. I myself was predisposed to twins and triplets as well, although not all of my descendants share that trait." Said Chiisana. "We also physically mature much more quickly, heal more quickly and rarely die in childbirth…"-
[15:03] <Minaplo> ["We also seem to live for quite a long time." Said Chiisana. "But you see now the implications for us here in this timeline? There's every possibility that all of humanity will be Ayanami within the next 500, 600 years."]
[15:19] * Raphael frowned. "… that could cause problems."
[15:20] <Minaplo> ["It could. Which did you have in mind?"]
[15:22] <Raphael> "At first glance? We were already likely to have issues advancing the acceptance of bioexotic rights after the war, and the possibility of 'baseline' humanity being breeded out of existence is a strong rallying point."
[15:32] <Minaplo> ["True."]
[15:33] <Raphael> "Did you encounter problems?"
[15:37] <Minaplo> ["I did somewhat, but it was mitigated with society's own tools. As an example, take the rich." Said Chiisana. "Among the poor, you have those who want to kill and eat the rich, and those who want to be the rich. Of course, a normal human being cannot become an Ayanami… But their children can." Said Chiisana. "It took time and effort, but ultimately both being with an Ayanami and having Ayanami children became socially desirable."]
[13:45] <Raphael> Raphael's brow furrowed as he processed this, shifting a little in his seat.-
[13:46] <Raphael> "That seems very…" he hesitated, searching for a word and not seeming to find one that he was happy with, "Manipulative, I suppose. Unsettlingly so."
[13:58] <Minaplo> ["Why?" Said Chiisana. "Ayanamis are healthy. Ayanamis are strong. Ayanamis are resistant to diseases, quick-footed and agile, and we heal much faster than most. These are all desirable qualities in and of themselves, are they not? You make it sound like I tricked the population into believing something untrue. What I truly did, and what you will find yourself doing over the rest of your life, is the opposite: educating the prejudice out of the population."]
[14:03] <Raphael> "But why take such a radical step, especially when you were already changing so much? One hundred million descendants in the span of 200 years… I have to believe that was an undertaking, not something that simply came about and you moved to fix. You had a motivation."
[14:06] <Minaplo> [Chiisana shook her head slowly.-
[14:20] <Minaplo> ["The major checks on population growth are access to resources, death of existing members and high rates of infant mortality. I took care of the first and Ayanami biology took care of the rest. My last children, Joseph and Robert, was born in 1987, the youngest of 53. By the time I left, Joseph had four children and Robert three. Most of my children were good parents, most of them raised healthy children who grew up quickly…"-
[14:22] <Minaplo> ["I won't say it was entirely an accident. I encouraged it somewhat, but it was never some grand plan on my part. It's something I have thought about, though. Perhaps we Ayanamis were designed to rapidly replenish humanity's numbers in the case that the war went poorly? Or perhaps this was part of a grander plan, a way to ensure that humanity was 'improved' over time through intermingling with us."-
[14:23] <Minaplo> ["I have learned that Ayanamis are easier to care for on the grand scale. They don't eat quite as much, they work harder and are much less of a drain on medical resources." Said Chiisana. "I hesitate to tell you that in case you think poorly of it, but it is true."-
[14:25] <Minaplo> [And then Chiisana pulled a bottle of wine out of the air.-
[14:26] <Minaplo> [A moment later two glasses appeared; the wine bottle filled them apparently of its own volition. One of the glasses floated over to Raphael.-
[14:28] <Minaplo> ["You won't find that vintage in this reality. Savour it."]
[14:30] * Raphael looked a little wary as he accepted the wine glass from their spectral sommelier. "… This is an incredibly strange conversation, ma'am."
[14:30] <Raphael> "Even by my standards."
[14:39] <Minaplo> [Chiisana smiled a little at him as she took a mouthful from her wine.]
[14:43] * Raphael tried his own, momentarily lost.
[14:45] <Minaplo> [And it was a lovely vintage. A white wine with a sweet, nutty flavour to it.]
[15:01] * Raphael gave an appreciative nod. "French?"
[15:03] <Minaplo> ["No, actually; it comes from the Dominion of Persia."]
[15:04] <Raphael> "…"
[15:12] <Minaplo> ["If you have something to say, then say it."]
[15:15] <Raphael> "If I did I would," he replied, sipping his wine. "Surely you understand if it's taking me some time to map this all out in my brain?"
[15:16] <Minaplo> ["Understandable. There's no need to stay here on my account. If you feel you need to leave and digest this, then do so."]
[15:17] <Raphael> "It's a long way to travel for you to sit in a dead man's room alone, ma'am."
[15:17] <Minaplo> [For a moment, Chiisana looked genuinely panicked-stricken.-
[15:17] <Minaplo> ["Dead?"]
[15:20] * Raphael hesitated, raising a hand in a vague calming motion. "… Not Hyuga, ma'am. This was Orlov's room before the Massacre."
[15:22] <Minaplo> [And in an instant her calm mask has slipped back on. "Yes, of course. It has been some time."]
[15:24] <Raphael> "Of course, ma'am. It's understandable," he said.-
[15:24] <Raphael> "On that note, though… is there anyone you'd like to see?"
[15:26] <Minaplo> ["There will be time for that later." Said Chiisana. "For now I would prefer to drink and eat a little before my tests. The quicker this is over, the happier I will be."]
[15:27] <Raphael> "Mmm."-
[15:28] <Raphael> "Should I arrange some food for you, then? Or are you able to do that yourself as well…?" He made a little gesture towards where the cache had opened for the wine.
[15:30] <Minaplo> ["Yes." She said; and a small loaf of bread appeared in the air.]
[15:32] * Raphael smiled a little. "You were always a show-off with those caches. Some things don't change, I suppose."
[15:33] <Minaplo> [She paused as she began to break the bread.-
[15:33] <Minaplo> [But a moment later she smiled, a little mischievously, and she glanced down at her lap.-
[15:33] <Minaplo> [Her AT Field had caught the crumbs, which sat inert on an invisible plane of force.]
[15:34] <Raphael> For the first time since she'd arrived Raphael let out a proper laugh. "Naturally."
[15:36] <Minaplo> ["I've also learned how to scrape every last atom of peanut butter out of a jar."]
[15:38] <Raphael> "You are truly a master of your craft, Miss Chiisana," he said seriously.
[15:40] <Minaplo> ["Yes, I am."]
[15:42] <Raphael> "Well…" He drained the last of his wine and set it on the living room's table as he got to his feet. "I should probably go and make some arrangements. I imagine you'll see me again before too long, but if you need anything I should be here for the next twenty four hours at least."
[15:43] <Minaplo> ["Understood. I'll message you if needed."]
[15:51] <Raphael> He was silent for a moment… but then he extended his hand to her. "It's nice to meet you again, Chiisana. Thank you for the wine."
[15:57] <Minaplo> [She took his hand and shook it briefly. "You're welcome."]
[16:05] <Raphael> Raphael gave her a smile and something like a bow before exiting the room. There were reports to make and strange new facts to process…
[16:06] <Minaplo> [Chiisana watched him go. Once he'd left the room, she sat for a little while, eating her bread and drinking her wine.-
[16:10] <Minaplo> [Once she was done, Chiisana rose to her feet and held out a hand. A small gemstone appeared in her palm; gripping it tightly to her chest, she concentrated.-
[16:12] <Minaplo> [A light rainbow shimmer rippled throughout the room, then seemed to hang still in the air.-
[16:13] <Minaplo> [The captain's quarters had no cameras in it, but even anyone intending to peer within using unnatural abilities would find themselves stymied.-
[16:20] <Minaplo> [Chiisana looked around the room, her narrow eyes taking in every detail. She'd forgotten about Orlov; it wasn't hard considering he'd barely left a stamp on the place. Much of the furniture, the placement of that furniture- even some of the products in the fridge were all Hyuga's doing, left over from the hurried transfer from him to Orlov, and not changed since Orlov's death and the subsequent retaking of Asgard.-
[16:28] <Minaplo> [The last time she had been here, there had been pictures.-
[16:29] <Minaplo> [Hyuga didn't have many, and he'd taken them with him. A part of her had hoped he'd forgotten; another part was terrified of that same thing.-
[16:31] <Minaplo> [There had been one of her. A young girl, with a firm personality, yet warm and tender, happy to smile at the man she loved…-
[16:32] <Minaplo> [The rippling rainbow shimmer suddenly drew back into the gemstone. With a simple unobtrusiveness the gem vanished, leaving Chiisana's gripped fist empty.-
[16:33] <Minaplo> [Her expression was cold. There were tests to be done.]

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