Cherry Blossom Procession 4 1 22

[18:43] <Minaplo> [Nightfall in Tokyo-2. The second day of Raphael's mission had come to an end, with its presenting objective safely completed… And yet, as was always the case it seemed when it came to NERV-adjacent matters, every completion, every answer, every step of the way generated yet more objectives, more questions and more paths, each more complex than the last, like a geometric pattern.-
[18:50] <Minaplo> [A rescue mission had now become a counter-insurgency operation on foreign soil. It had been Raphael's job to inform command of this. Marianne, the Chancellor and the Vice-Chancellor, each of them giving him their iciest looks…-
[18:50] <Minaplo> [Perhaps this is how the Soviet soldier felt with a commissar's pistol at his back?-
[18:57] <Minaplo> [They were back in the safehouse, now. Shinji and San were sitting at the kitchen table, at which Surov's laptop sat, displaying a video feed of Ikari Yutada, safe back on the Dory. Surov himself was sitting in a chair in the corner, chewing his way noisily through a rack of ribs that San had graciously purchased for him from a western-themed restaurant nearby. There were two new guests, however: Sanada Chisato, Dr. Ikari's wife, sat to San's right. She was a tall, slim woman with fair skin, black hair and dark green eyes. She possessed a sweet smile with which she was generous. She had discarded the jacket of her three-piece suit, but her positron pistol still hung from a vest holster.-
[18:58] <Minaplo> [Kozo Fuyutsuki, however- a tall, thin, rather gaunt man with a solid chin and grey hair that came down in thick sideburns, stood in the kitchen, humming tunelessly to himself as he made dinner.]
[19:16] <Raphael> Raphael paced back and forward past the laptop camera's field of view, his arms folded and his expression stormy. Whatever had been said in the report to Command - Raphael had been quiet on the specifics - had darkened his mood rather swiftly.-
[19:16] <Raphael> "Tomorrow's going to be a narrow escape in the best case scenario," he continued, relating the day's events to Yutada. "I think the odds are in our favour when it comes to completing our objectives, but without Jaunting available to us we still have to clear the city after we've finished kicking the hornet's nest."
[19:48] <Minaplo> [("The easiest way would be quick transport beyond the city limits.") Said Yutada. ("Manageable?")]
[19:49] <Raphael> "Manageable," he said.
[19:51] <Minaplo> [("Land, sea or air?")]
[19:57] <Raphael> "Could you secure a land route that avoids any checkpoints the government might set up?"
[20:01] <Minaplo> [("It won't be easy.") Said Yutada. ("I think I can manage it, so long as you move as quickly as possible, before the Honshu Defense Corps secures the city limits.")-
[20:01] <Minaplo> ["A watercraft escape would be fascinatingly stupid after a battle at the dockyards, too." Said Chisato with a small sigh.]
[20:09] <Raphael> "That was my logic, yes," he sad mildly.-
[20:13] <Raphael> Raphael finally stopped pacing, leaning against the table with his palms flat. "My largest concern, though, is with our loose ends. Kikkawa can tie us back to the bulk of the last few days, and from what was said during our first meeting it sounds as though he keeps records of the conversations. Once the attack at the docks goes forward the UN and Japan are likely to be looking at him to
[20:13] <Raphael> give them answers."
[20:17] <Minaplo> ["Can he prove it?" Said Shinji. "If the UN finds him and gets answers, then… Well, they're already at war with us, it doesn't really matter."-
[20:17] <Minaplo> ["But what happens when they show that evidence to the Japanese, or the Japanese find him first?" Asked San.-
[20:19] <Minaplo> [Shinji shrugged. "The only proof they have that Federation agents were on the field comes from records of us saying so, and looking like we're the people we say we are. That won't hold up to the Japanese after they root out a bunch of UN clone agents."]
[20:21] * Raphael looked to Yutada. "You agree, sir?"
[20:24] <Minaplo> [("… Mostly. I'll admit, I don't like having the loose end hang in the breeze.")-
[20:25] <Minaplo> ["Loose ends can either be cut with scissors, or sewn back in to be reused." Said Fuyutsuki slowly. "So if you aren't feeling like you can trust things to work out, either you eliminate Kikkawa's evidence, or you find a way to turn it to our advantage somehow."]
[20:31] <Raphael> "Does anyone have an idea on how to pursue the latter?" he asked the room.
[20:33] <Minaplo> [Silence, then…-
[20:35] <Minaplo> ["Holo-deception?" Offered Surov, breaking a silence that had lasted for hours; his voice was rough and tired. "Ask Kikkawa to erase the video, and restage the meetings replacing our side with holograms of known UN personages."]
[20:41] * Raphael frowned. "Is he likely to do that? He'd be giving up a piece of leverage, which doesn't exactly seem within the wheelhouse of a gangster."
[20:47] <Minaplo> ["Men like him are like farmers: they know how to give now so that they can harvest a bounty later. If he agrees, it'll be because he expects and will want future rewards and co-operation." Said Fuyutsuki.-
[20:47] <Minaplo> ["More pressingly, do we have the tech on hand to pull it off?" Asked Chisato.-
[20:48] <Minaplo> [Surov frowned. "No. We would need to ship it in from the Dorian Lachapelle."]
[20:54] * Raphael nodded. "If we had a better set of circumstances it might have been viable, but probably not as it stands."-
[20:54] <Raphael> "Most options simply don't fit within the timeline. Destroying the data or simply assassinating him might be valid, but I don't see it as likely that we could arrange either before the morning."-
[20:55] <Raphael> He sighed, glancing around the table. "Could we convince him to operate from outside of Japan until the pressure dies down? Perhaps put him under V Network custody? That would give us some extra time."
[20:55] <Minaplo> ["We'd need to find him first." Said Chisato.]
[20:57] * Raphael chewed his lip and said nothing.
[20:58] <Minaplo> ["It's a little annoying that people like us, who've fought Iron Guard and foiled field marshals, are now being hindered by some random yakuza." Said Shinji drily.-
[21:02] <Minaplo> [("Why do you think I made an ally of Kikkawa-kai and not another?") Asked Yutada. ("Kikkawa's clever…")-
[21:03] <Minaplo> ["You're very smart, hon, but that doesn't bring us any closer to a solution." Said Chisato gently.-
[21:03] <Minaplo> [("Haha, sorry…")-
[21:05] <Minaplo> ["Hrm." Shinji frowned. "I'd be happy to leave him alive if we had some leverage past just the promise of working together in the future. But as it stands I dunno how to get far with either approach."]
[21:14] <Raphael> "… we could call off the attack on the docks," he suggested. "Without that Kikkawa's role is deniable at best, and it'd slow down anyone tracing us back to the Yakuza. Once we're back on the Dorian we could set Director Simon to troubleshooting the problem."
[21:18] <Minaplo> ["Fair." Said Chisato.-
[21:19] <Minaplo> ["It'll complicate the job when it comes to Operation Rabbit, but it might be the best we can do." Said Shinji.-
[21:19] <Minaplo> [But San was frowning at the table, her eyes narrowed in thought.]
[21:24] <Tao> It took him a moment to notice, given how quiet she'd been. "… What do you think, San?" Raphael asked gently.
[21:29] * Tao is now known as Raphael
[21:35] <Minaplo> [She drummed her fingers on the tabletop.-
[21:36] <Minaplo> ["I think Kikkawa's careful." Said San. "Real careful. So he'd have contingency plans in place if the whole plan goes wrong. Right?"]
[21:36] <Raphael> "Right."
[21:37] <Minaplo> ["But he'd have to tell his lieutenants about these plans." Said San.]
[21:39] * Raphael nodded slowly. "That would seem logical."
[21:57] <Minaplo> ["Then all we need to do is either be there when he's giving the plans out, or get the info from one of the lieutenants."]
[13:13] <Raphael> Raphael's brow furrowed as he considered that. "… Alright," he said slowly, "How does that advance our objectives?"
[13:30] <@Minaplol> ["We need to know where Kikkawa and his stuff is to have a hope of tying up his loose end." Said San. "Kikkawa's gone to a lot of effort to make sure he doesn't end up in danger… Y'know, constantly speaking only from a tv screen, probably moving around a lot."-
[13:34] <@Minaplol> ["But he's also got a lot of ambition and guts to pull off something this brazen." Said San. "I get the feeling that means he won't be satisfied with his usual practices… He'll make sure that his safety is totally ensured. But his resources depend on his underlings, so he can't ensure his safety without basically telling them some element of his plans to protect himself. If we're
[13:34] <@Minaplol> there, we hear it, we can predict what he's going to do for his own sake… And if we work backwards from that, we can figure out where he'll be. Once we know where he is, we could do all kinds of things. Capture him, erase his data… Sell the info to a rival yakuza gang, and then rescue Kikkawa…"]
[13:40] * @Raphael was quiet for a few moments. "… That's clever thinking, San," he said eventually, with an approving nod and a smile. "If we were going to do it, though, it would likely require working through the night. Are we capable of that?"
[13:48] <@Minaplo> ["I can." Said San. "Ayanamis are great at catnapping."-
[13:48] <@Minaplo> ["Same here." Said Chisato; the two shared a smile.-
[13:48] <@Minaplo> ["I wasn't going to be sleeping tonight anyway." Said Shinji, glancing down at his right hand, the fingers of which were still over-long and far too red.-
[13:49] <@Minaplo> ["I may not be at my best, but I am capable of functioning adequately without sleep for two weeks." Said Surov.-
[13:50] <@Minaplo> ["Aren't you all lucky?" Said Fuyutsuki wryly. "The best I have is an extra large pot of coffee for Guillory and myself."]
[13:52] <Raphael> "Mmm. I'll buy some caffeine pills when we leave," he said. "Not ideal, but I've managed with worse."
[14:05] <@Minaplo> ["Given time and resources, I will be able to mass-produce implants that reduce the need for sleep." Said Surov, staring at Raphael. "I will inform you when those are ready."]
[14:13] <Raphael> "… helpful as always, Surov."-
[14:13] <Raphael> "Alright," he pressed on. "Before we get moving there's one more topic I needed to broach: San, I was hoping you could tell me whatever you could about the illusion you saw masking the Brother at the PSB listening post. Is there anything we're able to do to bypass it? Viewing through a proxy sometimes works, but it depends on the technique they're using."
[14:16] <@Minaplo> ["Gosh, I don't know." Said San. "It was a really good illusion. All things considered, I'd say it was on par with my own invisibility field."]
[14:17] <Raphael> "So probably something a little more concrete than a telepathic illusion?"
[14:20] <@Minaplo> ["Yeah." Said San. "About as convincing as you can get without, I dunno… Shapeshifting." Said San thoughtfully. "Enough to baffle cameras or recordings, that much is certain. It could probably be disrupted with neutralisation, but that still gives him time to get in close and cause some damage."]
[14:25] <Raphael> "Mmm, that's my concern. It probably means we need to shuffle Shinji onto the docks operation…" he said thoughtfully. "Which means you'd be the only person able to secure the Solomon agent when we're ready."
[14:27] <@Minaplo> [San frowned. "That sounds…"-
[14:28] <@Minaplo> [("Dangerous.") Said Yutada with concern.-
[14:30] <@Minaplo> ["Give San some credit." Muttered Shinji. "She's pulled off all kinds of difficult things since we got here. It'd take more than that to slow her down."-
[14:30] <@Minaplo> [San suddenly beamed, her cheeks filling with colour.-
[14:30] <@Minaplo> ["Who said kind words couldn't make the sun come out?" Murmured Fuyutsuki wryly.]
[14:36] * Raphael did a bad job of hiding his smile. "I agree with Shinji. It's not an easy assignment and there's danger involved, but so long as she's careful and clever - and she's no sign of being anything but - she's entirely capable of it."
[14:37] <@Minaplo> [San's blushing was matched only by her preening.-
[14:39] <@Minaplo> [Chisato grinned, but turned her gaze to Raphael. "I feel more confident about the dockside now that I know Shin-chan's with us."]
[14:44] <Raphael> "Likwise," he nodded. "I think we would have managed it, but the margin for error would've been much tighter."
[14:45] <@Minaplo> ["Mmm." Murmured Shinji.-
[14:46] <@Minaplo> ["Is there any role left for me?" Asked Fuyutsuki.]
[14:47] <Raphael> "Do you have much field experience, sir?" Raphael asked delicately.
[14:52] <@Minaplo> ["Well, I spent Second Impact putting my medical training to use in the ruins as an unregistered doctor." Said Fuyutsuki.]
[14:56] <Raphael> "Hmm. If you're willing, you could help San?" he suggested. "She'd still need to make the capture alone, but if you're willing to serve as a driver and a second set of hand the help would be appreciated."
[14:58] <@Minaplo> ["I can do that. Is anyone willing to help me plate up?"]
[15:02] * Raphael ran his hands through his hair - left increasingly scruffy from lack of care in the past two days - and nodded. "I can. I think we're done here for now."
[15:09] <@Minaplo> [("Give me a moment to fetch something to eat, and we can have a tele-dinner!") Said Yutada cheerfully.]
[15:19] <Raphael> "Certainly, sir," Raphael said distractedly, turning towards the kitchen bench. He wasn't about to argue with one final hour of peace before the sprint to the finish line…

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