Cherry Blossom Procession 4 1 36

[12:08] <Raphael> Walking towards Technical, Raphael wondered what it must be like to spend whole days this deep in the ship. Residing deep in the Dorian's belly it lacked the natural light you could find on the Promenade, or even the UV lamps and false "windows" you might find in the ship's social or living spaces; Down here it was all halogen brightness glaring down on metal, in sharp contrast to practically anywhere else on the vessel. He'd often criticised the gaudy aesthetics of Silas Caine, but even he had to admit that spending day after day here (As he knew many members of Technical did) without leaving would be trying.-
[12:08] <Raphael> All of which should have made it an easier proposition to drag Suzie home, as he was about to try. History had not proven this to be accurate.
[12:19] <Minaplo> [Yet before Raphael could settle into the mental mindset that called for a mix of cajoling, bribes and implied parental threats, something would catch his eye.-
[12:19] <Minaplo> [Standing outside Main Engineering's main doors were a motley assortment of technicians and Marines, all of them looking either frightened or grim.]
[12:22] <Raphael> That collection of expressions in the vicinity of positron reactors large enough to wipe out Paris was, at best, alarming. Raphael sped up his approach, pressing into the crowd.
[12:24] <Minaplo> [All work had stopped within Main Engineering.-
[12:29] <Minaplo> [The technicians and engineers within had either fled outside, as Raphael had seen, or had taken shelter in siderooms. Raphael would soon see why.-
[12:30] <Minaplo> [Empress Chiisana had pinned Surov against a wall.-
[12:31] <Minaplo> [He struggled, held three metres up by her AT Field. Chiisana stood below, hand at her sides, but her posture bristled with furious energy.-
[12:33] <Minaplo> [A ring of four Iron Guard stood around Chii, their stances low and threatening. One of them lunged at her; she twisted on her heel and slammed her knee into his chest. A meaty cracking sound resounded throughout the room as the blow knocked the Iron Guard away several metres; he landed on his back, next to three or four other downed Guard.]
[12:35] <Raphael> "Hell," he hissed. He glanced up at the ceiling. "Pilot Akagi, if you can hear this I need Ezekiel right away. Alert the Adeptus Marshal as well."-
[12:35] <Raphael> It was, in its way, a prayer for assistance - he had no way of knowing whether it had even been heard. He stepped out into the empty space between the frightened crowd and the Empress regardless.-
[12:35] <Raphael> "Chiisana."
[12:39] <Minaplo> [She didn't turn to face him. "Guillory."]
[12:40] <Raphael> "Is there a reason you're staging a fight club in the middle of Engineering, Empress?"
[12:41] <Minaplo> ["This worm has taken liberties with my Evangelion. For that, he will be punished." She said coldly.]
[12:43] * Raphael glanced up (And up) to meet Surov's eyes. He sighed and approached to stand beside one of the Iron Guard. "If you three would move back, please…?"
[12:44] <Minaplo> ["If you wanna." Said one of them, and as asked they moved back.-
[12:44] <Minaplo> ["I did no such thing." Snapped Surov. "It was SOP!"]
[12:46] <Raphael> "Why don't you let him down, ma'am? It's not as though he's going anywhere unless you want him to."
[12:50] <Minaplo> ["Don't-" Started Surov.-
[12:50] <Minaplo> [A moment later, Surov fell, landing heavily against the ground.]
[12:52] * Raphael huffed out a breath, restraining his own anger. "… Thank you, I suppose."
[12:58] <Minaplo> ["I'm going to make myself clear. To the both of you." Said the Empress. She walked over and placed her heel against Surov's throat. "You do not modify my Evangelion. It is not for you to study. Do exactly what I ask and nothing more."-
[12:58] <Minaplo> [At that moment, Ezekiel appeared to Raphael's right. Ezekiel stood there calmly, hands at his side.]
[13:50] <Raphael> "You've made your point. If he broke the terms we set, that was a mistake," Raphael said. He didn't turn to look at Ezekiel. "Please let him go before this becomes more complicated than it needs to be."
[13:59] <Minaplo> [Chiisana stood still for what felt like several minutes before she slowly shook her head.-
[13:59] <Minaplo> ["Once."-
[13:59] <Minaplo> [With that she turned and stalked away, the crowds hurriedly backing out of her way as she went.]
[14:02] <Raphael> Raphael waited until she was out of sight before he let out the breath he'd been holding, tucking his hands under his armpits "Thank you for coming, Ezekiel."
[14:03] <Minaplo> ["You're welcome. It appears that you defused the situation, however."-
[14:04] <Minaplo> [Surov pulled himself to his feet. "She's insane. Like I said, I did nothing but SOP!"]
[14:04] <Raphael> "Did she say precisely what she took offense to?"
[14:09] <Minaplo> ["Yes." Said Surov with a growl. "SOP calls for the Evangelion's onboard computer system data to be downloaded, then to have the data erased. If the system's OS has developed any irregularities, then it is to be wiped and reinstalled… She objected to both of those things."]
[14:13] * Raphael stared, then sighed. "… does that include the OTIS AI?"
[14:14] <Minaplo> ["Yes. She interrupted me before I could carry it out, however."]
[14:17] <Raphael> "I'm not surprised," he said, glancing in the direction the Empress had stalked off to. "It was the only thing from home she could talk to for two hundred years. If she's hasn't anthropomorphized it I'd be amazed."
[14:19] <Minaplo> ["That's what I thought," Came a new voice.-
[14:20] <Minaplo> [Sarasvati emerged from her office, followed closely by Suzie and Navah. "Hello, Raphael."-
[14:20] <Minaplo> ["Hi, Raffy." Said Suzie, giving him a little wave. "I'm okay."]
[14:24] * Raphael smiled, weakly returning both waves. "I knew you would be, hon. No Sarasvati here meant she was with you."-
[14:24] <Raphael> "But you agree, Colonel?"
[14:30] <Minaplo> ["I agree. The idea of being able to download detailed logs of everything she has been doing is tempting, but not worth it."]
[14:34] <Raphael> "Clearly," he said, giving the pile of twitching Iron Guards - now being seen to by a few of their comrades - a thoughtful look.
[14:36] <Minaplo> ["Let's move this elsewhere." Said Surov. "Guillory, you might as well look at some of the biological data we've gleaned from her herself."]
[14:40] <Raphael> "Alright," he nodded, breaking off to look at Suzie. "Do you want to wait here for me? If Navah wants to go with you you two could head home and play there - she's welcome to stay for dinner, if she'd like."
[14:47] <Minaplo> ["Sounds cool to me, Raffy." Said Suzie. "We can stay here."]
[14:47] <Raphael> "Thanks," he said, giving her hair a quick ruffle before leaving with the other adults.
[14:59] <Minaplo> [Surov, Ezekiel and Sarasvati had ended up in Sarasvati's office- as always, it was painfully cold within, although this didn't seem to bother Surov and Ezekiel.-
[14:59] <Minaplo> ["The Empress appears to be an Iron Guard-alike." Said Surov instantly.]
[15:07] * Raphael stood to one side of the desk, arms still tucked close to him to ward off the cold. His breath fogged in front of his face. "Using mechanical methods? Or just biological ones?"
[15:12] <Minaplo> [Sarasvati quickly crossed the distance to tuck Raphael into a cuddle.-
[15:13] <Minaplo> ["Biological." Said Surov. "She seems to have incorporated genetic enhancements and organs into her form… Only, from what little data I've found, the enhancements are Angelic-based, but they don't match to any template we currently possess."]
[15:20] * Raphael made a soft 'whump' noise as the air was knocked from his lungs, returned again a moment later. "Colonel," he said, by way of greeting.-
[15:20] <Raphael> "… would that be possible within the bounds of Marshal Amatore-deForest's theory that she used LCL collapse to extend her lifespan?"
[15:23] <Minaplo> ["Yes." Said Surov. "Depending on how strong her field was, and the degree of mastery she possessed, she could collapse herself, then reincorporise with the changes."]
[15:26] <Raphael> "How strong is her field?" he asked, glancing between Surov and Ezekiel. "If she'd wanted to press her advantage in Engineering could we have actually stopped her?"
[15:28] <Minaplo> ["I could have… Contested her." Said Ezekiel. "I do not know if I could have fully defeated her without resorting to my other form."]
[15:31] * Raphael offered a very visible double-take as he fully processed that. "… You have another form?"
[15:33] <Minaplo> ["Yes."]
[15:38] <Raphael> "…"-
[15:38] <Raphael> He waited long enough to confirm that no details were forthcoming, then shook his head. "Question for another time, I suppose."-
[15:39] <Raphael> "Even if you matched her, there's still her Eva to consider. Now that she's actually attacked someone the security situation's untenable. I'll speak to Command."
[15:40] <Minaplo> ["Agreed." Said Surov.-
[15:40] <Minaplo> ["We do have one thing working in our favour on that end, Raphael." Said Sarasvati.]
[15:41] <Raphael> "Ah?" he asked, trying to peer at her despite her being positioned somewhere below his chin.
[15:43] <Minaplo> ["Remote synch tests have been progressing well." Said Sarasvati warmly. "Tsubaki has not had to enter her unit for a week. Having people on hand with that permanent synchronisation to their units helps remove much of her threat."]
[16:14] <Raphael> "Hopefully so," he said, going quiet for a moment as he thought.-
[16:14] <Raphael> "Did we learn anything else?"
[16:14] <Minaplo> ["I was able to study the damage done to her unit." Said Surov.]
[16:15] <Raphael> "Ah?"
[16:25] <Minaplo> ["Judging by the state of the armour, it seems as though some of the damage is over a year old. And they were hits that would have done terrible damage to the unit."]
[16:40] <Raphael> "Do you have any idea what it might have been?"
[16:42] <Minaplo> ["… I have a suspicion." Said Surov. "The Empress gives off the impression that her reign was unchallenged and predominantly peaceful, but her armour suggests both conflict and challenge. The simplest explanation: Angels."]
[16:51] <Raphael> "Mmm, I thought the same thing. Which suggests Adam still woke up somehow…"
[16:52] <Minaplo> ["I can't imagine that they'd be able to slip that past her." Said Sarasvati. "Waking Adam up is something she would detect!"]
[17:04] <Raphael> "You'd think so."-
[17:04] <Raphael> He looked to Ezekiel. "One of the other FAR offshoots, maybe?"
[17:15] <Minaplo> ["Unexpected, but possible." Said Ezekiel. "Considering her power level, there is nothing preventing her from having explored the stellar region for centuries. That means it is possible she found one of the other peoples… I pray that she did not, however."]
[17:16] <Raphael> "Can you explain?"
[17:19] <Minaplo> ["If she did find them, and they are the explanation for her damage, then it becomes apparent that she was involved in a fight with one of the other peoples. Undesirable."]
[17:24] * Raphael nodded slowly.-
[17:24] <Raphael> "I suppose I'll ask her about it, for what little it's worth. There's nothing we could do now if we wanted to."
[17:35] <Minaplo> ["Are you making progress with speaking to her?" Asked Ezekiel.]
[17:45] * Raphael gave a half-hearted shrug. "Not meaningfully. I'm having more success than most, but she's quick to shut down any line of conversation she doesn't approve of."
[17:45] <Minaplo> ["… Perhaps I ought to speak with her." Said Ezekiel.]
[17:48] <Raphael> "If you're willing," he said cautiously. "We've had to put you at odds with her by necessity, and I feel like she would have noticed that. It might make the conversation difficult."
[17:49] <Minaplo> ["A fair point, but you also opposed her at first." Said Ezekiel. "Nonetheless, we should consider someone who has not been forced to do so yet. Someone she would be likely to trust."]
[17:54] * Raphael rolled his shoulders, forgetting he still had Sara barnacled to him. "… I don't like the idea of using Hyuga, for either of their sakes. It feels exploitative."
[18:00] <Minaplo> ["I agree." Said Sarasvati. "It should be someone who knows what it's been like to live through something grand, but have to give it up. Someone she doesn't have any disagreements with, and someone who knows how to commune with authority figures without causing offense. Someone who knows how to speak to someone who considers herself a holy empress."]
[18:04] <Minaplo> […-
[18:06] <Minaplo> [Michael shook his head. "No. No sir. Not at all. There has to be someone more qualified than me. What about Hyuga? Hmm?"]
[18:12] <Raphael> Raphael was seated across the table from him, toying with the cap of a bottle of water. "Emotionally manipulative, and as likely to blow up in our faces as it is to work. Hyuga's not reacting well to the whole situation."
[18:13] <Minaplo> ["Damn, I suppose that's true, huh?" Said Michael, pausing to pop some lime tofu pasta salad into his mouth. "What about Chiisana herself?"-
[18:14] <Minaplo> [Surov was staring mistrustfully down at Michael's salad. Suzie, Sarasvati and Navah meanwhile had ambushed Roku in the kitchen. From the sounds of it, it was a very noisy, cheery ambush.]
[18:16] <Raphael> "If anyone's liable to pick a fight with the Empress it's a past version of the Empress. She's already agreed to keep her distance from Chiisana, and I think that's for the best."
[18:18] <Minaplo> ["Mrph."-
[18:18] <Minaplo> [Michael took a moment to glance around the place.-
[18:33] <Minaplo> [It was a new restaurant, opened by Roku about a week ago. It was called Restful: a restaurant in the Promenade about 20 metres from Blue's. The restaurant was open, fresh and brightly lit, with the walls painted in light pastel blues with a white and green flower pattern running across the middle. The tables were square and made of bright white acrylic with the corners gently rounded off;
[18:33] <Minaplo> the legs curled outward like flower petals. The air smelt fresh and clean, and large windows let people look out onto the Promenade; there were even three external windows looking out onto the real world!-
[18:35] <Minaplo> [The place was busy, too; about three quarters of the tables housed people, relaxing and chatting over cups of tea or fruit smoothies, enjoying platefuls of fish, vegetables, salads and fruit.-
[18:35] <Minaplo> [Roku had opened the place to coincide with the first 'Dorian Fair'. The Ayanami had more business sense than most gave her credit for.-
[18:35] <Minaplo> ["What about Rei, though?" Offered Michael.]
[18:42] <Raphael> "I think there are some fundamental philosophical differences between the two, and neither side would even pretend to shift. The Empress would see Rei as naive, Rei would see the Empress as…" he paused and sighed, "I don't even know what she'd see her as. Nothing good."
[18:45] <Minaplo> ["That's a shame."-
[18:45] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[18:45] <Minaplo> ["Maya?"]
[18:47] <Raphael> "If it really came down to it, sir, I could just ask Medea to convince you," he said without looking at the Pilot, setting the bottle cap spinning on the table with one hand.
[19:40] <Minaplo> ["I think they call that 'emotionally manipulative'."]
[19:45] * Raphael grinned.
[19:46] <Minaplo> ["And then Blue would kick your butt all the way to Timbuktu." Said Michael. He took a forkful of salad.-
[19:47] <Minaplo> [Then he chuckled wryly. "Of course I'll do it."]
[19:50] <Raphael> "I thought you would, sir," he said, setting the cap aside and focusing his full attention on Michael.-
[19:50] <Raphael> "Don't think I can't see what an ask this is for you, Pilot Leon. I'd do it myself if I could, but consensus is that we need someone with a bit less baggage. There aren't a lot of great options when it comes to that."
[19:53] <Minaplo> ["I'd say something witty about me being your idea of someone with less baggage, but I understand what you mean. What's she been like so far?"]
[19:55] <Raphael> "… standoffish," Raphael hedged, unable to stop himself from glancing towards Surov.
[19:58] <Minaplo> ["Belligerent, violent, imperious and militant." Said Surov roughly.-
[19:59] <Minaplo> ["Good. Good." Said Michael. "How violent?"]
[20:01] <Raphael> "She threatened Surov's life while simultaneously crippling the Iron Guards trying to stop her," Raphael winced. No use letting him go in blind…
[20:02] <Minaplo> ["I see. Well, who hasn't at least wished they could do that, right?"]
[20:08] <Raphael> "She hasn't done damage to anyone biotypical enough that they can't heal from it, but I think she'd be perfectly willing to if she were pushed," Raphael said, pressing on to better mask his response.
[20:09] <Minaplo> [Surov frowned.-
[20:10] <Minaplo> ["I'll be careful." Said Michael. "I might speak to Isaiah about it; isn't he usually one of the ones they turn to when an Ayanami needs to cool down?"]
[20:14] <Raphael> "It is, but the Chancellor tried that when the Empress got here. Not much luck, it seems," he shrugged. "It's still probably worth talking to him."
[20:15] <Minaplo> ["Fair enough. And she hasn't warmed to you either…?"]
[20:20] <Raphael> "I think I at least have a measure of respect from her. I've had more success getting her to listen to an opinion other than her own than anyone else we've tried."
[20:21] <Minaplo> ["Mmm. What do you think you've been doing differently to everyone else, then?"]
[20:28] <Raphael> "Being respectful without kowtowing. Ru-… the Prime Minister asked me the same question, and in all honesty I think she's used to a certain level of respect, but to let her allow her to intimidate you into subservience just encourages her to act in the same way she did with her subjects."
[20:30] <Minaplo> ["It must be a truly miserable hellhole." Muttered Surov.-
[20:31] <Minaplo> ["Okay. That's good advice." Said Michael. "I'll keep it in mind."-
[20:31] <Minaplo> ["Did you have a timeframe in mind?"]
[20:37] <Raphael> "In your own time. The sooner the better, obviously, but I'm sincerely not trying to send you as a mission."-
[20:39] <Raphael> "Thanks to her Eva's presence on the ship," he began, his voice tightening a little at some past aggravation, "She probably knows you're coming, so I'll direct this to you both: I'm sending you in the hopes that you're a person who can talk to her as she is now, not coloured by the person she was before her time in the past. I can't do that. She's a long way from both of her homes, and she needs to speak to someone who isn't trying to talk to the person she was centuries ago."
[20:39] <Minaplo> ["Mmm. I see." Said Michael. "Alright. I'll do my best."]
[20:42] <Raphael> "Thank you, Michael," he said quietly. "Hopefully I can somehow return the favour in the future."
[20:42] <Minaplo> ["You could buy me another lunch for a start?" He said with a dry smile, even as he clapped Raphael on the shoulder.]
[20:44] * Raphael chuckled. "I think I can probably manage that."
[20:44] <Minaplo> ["Thanks. You're a good fellow, Raphael."]

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