Cherry Blossom Procession 4 2 17

[13:23] <Eli> "All I'm saying is that it's an evil name." Eli insisted.-
[13:23] <Eli> The rec rooms had been the bright idea of Ezra Caine upon taking command of the Damocles - space cleared on the dormitory deck shared by the Promised Land, Walpurgis Night and Aurvandil Squad as pleasant, shared living areas for those without full suites of their own.-
[13:23] <Eli> That was the theory, at least. Unfortunately many Promisedlanders - Particularly Lost Children - were unused to being given space to spread out in, and given the opportunity seemed tended to react like excitable children who'd never had a proper room to keep clean. Because they were.
[13:24] <Eli> Which was why Eli Reid had picked up the habit of intruding on those much cleaner, nicer, quieter suites whenever possible. People seemed to have mixed feelings about this, though this didn't seem to bother her.-
[13:24] <Eli> Right now she occupied one of the plush, comfortable lounge suites, positioned upside down so that her head dangled near the floor as she tossed a tennis ball into the air incessantly.-
[13:24] <Eli> "Nobody's happy to look up and see the sword of Damocles. You look at that name and wonder whether the people flying around in something named for a story that's mostly about dread might be the bad guys."-
[13:25] <Raphael> "I mean we're not named Dionysius," she said, gesturing broadly while the ball was on the upward arc. "We're named for a representation of fear that just happens to keep the little people from questioning their place.."
[13:34] <Minaplo> [Philippe Joffre was seated on the dining table, his feet planted idly on the backrest of a chair. His hair, as usual, was splendid.-
[13:36] <Minaplo> ["In my limited understanding of things, people are really not that concerned about the deeper meaning of the myths they crib from." Said Philippe. "Did you know the Americans tried to develop an orbital kinetic bombardment delivery system called the Sword of Damocles? And the French equip a Damocles-type targeting pod on their fighter craft."-
[15:32] <Minaplo> ["My favourite," Said Philippe, "Is Icarus. So many flying vehicles named Icarus. Lysander tells me that the Greeks had an 'Icarus Flight School' for its air force, an Icarus airline, and an Icarus fighter craft which they imported from Yugoslavia, suggesting that somewhere out there is an Icarus-trained pilot on his way home from holiday, taking an Icarus liner, so he can pilot his Icarus
[15:32] <Minaplo> fighter, armed with a Damocles targeting pod."-
[15:33] <Minaplo> ["… But considering that you're here instead of in the delightful rec rooms, you're of the mind that whilst we're not named Dionysius, perhaps we should be?"]
[15:46] * Eli snickered. "One of the bosses'll kick them into line when they realize. Or Lachlan will get sick of it, one or the other."
[15:54] <Minaplo> ["The question is, before or after they start a fire again?"]
[15:55] <Eli> "It wasn't that much of a fire," she said dismissively.
[15:56] <Minaplo> ["I've seen Knights take 50 lashes for the same thing." Said Philippe. "Since you're here, I may as well play host properly. Are you hungry?"]
[16:09] <Eli> "If you're offering, sure," she shrugged, pushing herself upright as the ball arced back down to the floor. It landed where her head had been, and then bounced and rolled under the entertainment centre while she brushed the hair from her eyes.
[16:16] <Mianplo> ["Very good." Said Philippe. He leapt off the table, and returned ten minutes later with two bowls of pork and rice.-
[16:17] <Mianplo> [The pork smelled delicious, having a sort of musky honey scent that somehow accentuated the meatiness. "Aksel made these. Here you go."]
[16:39] <Eli> "Huh, this looks good," she said, loading some rice and meat onto her fork. "Aina said he was pretty decent in the kitchen…"
[16:57] <Mianplo> ["He's the best cook we've got. Maybe the best in the entire Knight corps." Said Philippe. "Definitely the best Aina knows."]
[16:59] <Eli> "Ah, so she's just easily impressed," Eli said knowingly, immediately before taking her first bite.-
[16:59] <Eli> "… Or not."
[17:03] <Mianplo> ["She has surprisingly good tastes for one so young." Said Philippe. "Alas, they grow up so young. You haven't seen her around Ezra Caine. It's a little embarrassing…"-
[17:03] <Mianplo> ["I thought the phrase 'undress with one's eyes' was an overblown poetic exaggeration, but I suppose I learned something that day."]
[17:07] <Eli> "Haven't seen it," she said between bites, "But what do you think we spoke about?"
[17:28] <Mianplo> ["Ah. I hope that wasn't too… Awkward."]
[17:35] <Eli> She paused and offered a wolfish grin. "Please. There were plenty of girls in the Neos - that age, with a cute older boy right there? I've been surrounded by that talk as long as I can remember."-
[17:36] <Eli> "I gave her a few tidbits to feed the fire. It's fun in its way."
[17:36] <Mianplo> [Philippe winced.-
[17:37] <Mianplo> ["I was under the impression that Mr. Caine was like a paternal figure to the Promisedlanders." Said Philippe. "I suppose that was naive of me."-
[17:38] <Mianplo> [He took a mouthful of rice, then frowned thoughtfully.-
[17:38] <Mianplo> ["What kind of tidbits?"]
[17:47] <Eli> "Yeah, less of it since the program wrapped up. Ezra met Sarah - and was ruled so very out of bounds by anyone with working eyes - and roles changed with Promised Land. Still, we pick up newbies and get the odd Aina in amongst them. It happens often enough."-
[17:48] <Eli> "As for stories," she shrugged. "What passes for 'cute' stories from the Program, his best moments of dashing heroism. Build up the pedestal she's putting him on a little."
[17:53] <Mianplo> ["I see…" Said Philippe thoughtfully.-
[17:54] <Mianplo> ["It wasn't strange, then?" Said Philippe. "Talking to her, I mean. Aina's donor is a NeoSpartan herself, after all."]
[18:10] * Eli had to wait until she was finished chewing to answer. "Yeah, that took some getting used to. I mean, I haven't had much to do with Langley-Soryu since the Program ended, when she would've been about… ten? Yeah. That and the fact that Aina's Asuka's polar opposite in a lot of ways helped."-
[18:11] <Eli> "Valencia's more difficult. Not her fault."
[18:16] <Mianplo> [Philippe let out a small sigh. "Yeah. Thank you for saying so."-
[18:17] <Mianplo> ["Still. It makes me happy to confirm that Aina and Langley are polar opposites." Said Philippe, brightening a little. "I always consider that a small victory for us. Take Lysander for example. Apparently his donor is a mad scientist sociopath who finds computers arousing, according to Director Gadhavi."]
[18:19] * Eli made a face. "Agreeing with him puts a bad taste in my mouth, but that's what the reports say."
[18:22] <Mianplo> ["Delightful." Said Philippe, taking another bite of food. "Just delightful."-
[18:23] <Mianplo> ["I don't suppose Lysander at some point told you about Dr. Surov's android daughter…?"]
[18:27] <Eli> "Oh yeah, the one in the robot dinosaur."
[18:36] <Mianplo> ["That's the one." Said Philippe. "We sure do live in interesting times, Ms. Reid."]
[18:48] <Eli> "Sure do!" She said cheerfully, digging back into her food.-
[18:48] <Eli> A couple of mouthfuls later she paused again. "I have a question, though."
[18:52] <Minaplo> ["Go ahead."]
[18:53] <Eli> "You value distance from your donors, fair enough. Why hang on to Wellesley's hair?"
[19:03] <Minaplo> ["Hmm." He took another bite of pork, then put the bowl aside. He chewed thoughtfully for a few moments, then swallowed. "I also value being clean and looking my best. I just look best like this."]
[19:15] <Eli> "I dunno. A nice crew cut might suit you."
[19:18] <Minaplo> ["Hmhm." Philippe ran a hand through it. "Thanks for the interest, but I'll pass. Besides, now that I'm on the Sword of Dionysius I have proper access to haircare products… Be a shame to waste them."]
[19:29] <Eli> "Fair enough, fair enough."-
[19:29] <Eli> "It is very nice hair," she said, then returned to her food.
[13:25] <Minaplo> ["Well, thank you." Said Philippe.-
[13:27] <Minaplo> ["If you're ever dissatisfied with your own 'do, don't hesitate to call, either." Said Philippe.-
[13:33] <Minaplo> ["So who else has had the pleasure of your unannounced company recently? And which of them tried to kill you for it?"]
[13:37] <Eli> "Excuse me, I'm the esteemed Marshal Ezra Caine's aide-de-campe. This is an inspection. Extremely official, not to be questioned."-
[13:37] <Eli> "… That's what I tried to tell a couple of angry Witches. They're prickly."
[13:38] <Minaplo> ["You're lucky." Said Philippe. "The prickliest was captured about two weeks ago. Admittedly it makes the rest of them angry, but the one who was captured was…"-
[13:38] <Minaplo> [Philippe frowned thoughtfully for a moment.-
[13:39] <Minaplo> ["… Concerning."]
[13:39] <Eli> "Oh yeah? You met her?"
[13:43] <Minaplo> ["I did." Said Philippe. "Her name is Florence, which is a pretty name, makes you think of nurses and art, but she's what happens when you teach a honey badger swordplay. Aksel offered to do wargames with the Witches once, so we had the opportunity to experience it all first hand."]
[13:46] * Eli looked a little wistful. "Would've loved to see that…"
[13:47] <Minaplo> ["I'm sure." Said Philippe. "It was an ugly fight. We lost fairly handily, too. At one point, Florence broke through a wall."]
[13:51] * Eli raised an eyebrow. "… she's baseline, right? Biotypical? The dossiers don't mention wall-breaking strength."
[13:52] <Minaplo> ["Assuming no radiation effects, yes, she's biotypical." Said Philippe. "She just becomes… Very… Very angry."]
[13:54] <Eli> "Huuuh," Eli said, grinning again. "Gonna have to meet her whenever she gets back from her luxury vacation, I think."
[13:57] <Minaplo> ["…I don't care what you do so long as it doesn't harm anyone else." Said Philippe. "But I should warn you, she doesn't lose control when she's angry. She actually becomes smarter and more focused."]
[13:58] <Eli> "Not exactly dissuading me."
[13:59] <Minaplo> ["Alright." Said Philippe. "If you had to, then, how would you fight her?"]
[14:10] <Eli> "Just fighting her would be boring," she said with an oddly dainty wave of one hand. "I'm not one of those NeoSpartans, and the boss would be mad."-
[14:10] <Eli> "If I had to do it I'd have poisons - probably something lightly paralytic. The UN has some good ones. She's probably able to shrug off more than normal, but she's still baseline."
[14:15] <Minaplo> ["Delivered how?"]
[14:16] <Eli> "Knives."
[14:18] <Minaplo> [Philippe smiled. "I see…"]
[14:19] <Eli> "Happy to listen if you know something I don't," she said lightly, spearing a slice of pork
[14:22] <Minaplo> ["You'd be better off using a bane rifle." Said Philippe. "From a concealed location she can't reach."]
[14:24] <Eli> "Oh that'd be preferable," she said idly. "I thought we were talking… I dunno, cage match rules or something."
[14:25] <Minaplo> ["Well, you see, that would be you making the mistake we made." Said Philippe. "Enclosed space, rather harsh lack of firing angles…"-
[14:27] <Minaplo> ["The thing with Walpurgis Night is that they excel at short-range combat." He said, taking another mouthful of food. "They have a sniper in their number, but they're strongest at close range when they can deny you shooting angles and disorient you with their grenades and mind bombs."-
[14:32] <Minaplo> ["Do you know Ephraim von Brandt?" Said Philippe. "The UEF captured him when they stormed the Geofront before the downfall of Metatron. But the actual story is a little more complex. Augustine told me that he was with the Witches, and that they ambushed a party made up of four Ayanamis and Zhang Yanmei herself. Apparently the Witches had them all laid out within a minute, then von Brandt
[14:32] <Minaplo> stayed behind with the rebels whilst the Witches left."-
[14:33] <Minaplo> ["So of course Aksel's fine with a close-range wargame. Considering what they pulled off in the Geofront, we didn't really have a chance."]
[14:39] <Eli> Eli's smile flickered and died for the first time since she arrived, only to be resuscitated with partial success. "Uh, no, apparently not."-
[14:39] <Eli> She focused on her food. "Reports said they were good."
[14:40] <Minaplo> ["I suppose they wouldn't be given expensive Evangelions if they weren't…"-
[14:40] <Minaplo> ["I wouldn't mind seeing Ezra Caine fight them, though." Said Philippe cheerfully.]
[14:42] <Eli> "I'd give him good odds."
[14:45] <Minaplo> ["Mm, so would I." Said Philippe. "He fought and beat Aksel once, so. Aksel was deeply depressed at the time, of course, but…"]
[14:51] <Eli> "Probably didn't matter much," When she looked up the smile was back on her face as though it'd never left. "Ezra's the best of the Program, and I know for a fact that the better Neos have fought Knights on even terms."
[14:52] <Minaplo> ["Oh yeah. Do you know a, what was it, Asari Keita?"]
[14:58] <Eli> "Only in passing, but I saw the footage from Belgium. Pretty embarrassing for us, but it was hard not to feel a bit of the old team spirit," she said, then smirked at some private joke. "Anyway, the kid's good."
[15:06] <Minaplo> ["He is at that. Did you see the footage from the Caribbean? He took down a Rakshasa too…"-
[15:06] <Minaplo> ["Surprised they didn't make him an Evangelion pilot if he's so good."]
[15:12] <Eli> "I asked the boss about that, actually. Apparently he makes Langley-Soryu look calm and moderate by comparison."-
[15:12] <Eli> "Bit of a Napoleon complex," she said brightly.
[15:13] <Minaplo> ["Ah, yes."-
[15:13] <Minaplo> ["… I don't know what that means."]
[15:22] <Eli> Her laugh was like the sound of breaking glass: Brittle and sharp. "It means he's short and bitter about it. Feels the need to prove himself, so on and so forth."
[15:23] <Minaplo> ["Weird."-
[15:26] <Minaplo> ["Still, I can't say I'm too surprised. It sounds like your programme was the sort to take that competitive streak and amplify it."]
[15:54] <Eli> "What, no. It was a very clinical program, we're all very well-adjusted."-
[15:54] <Eli> She gestured towards herself with a flourish. "Can't you tell?"
[16:00] <Minaplo> [Philippe snorted. "Very funny."]
[16:01] <Eli> "I aim to please," she said around another mouthful of food.
[16:19] <Minaplo> ["Sure you do."-
[16:19] <Minaplo> [Philippe focused for the next few minutes on eating in silence. Before long his bowl was nearly empty.-
[16:23] <Minaplo> ["Alright." Said Philippe, putting his bowl aside. "I'm scheduled to do a consultation on my E-Destroyer in five minutes or so, and I can't leave you in here by yourself. You're welcome to walk with me if you want, but I don't care either way."]
[13:47] <Eli> "Tsk. You know how to make a lady feel special," she said, setting her now empty bowl on the table and stretching both hands over her head.
[13:49] <Minaplo> ["I didn't kick you out." Said Philippe. "That has to count for something. Besides, I don't date Typicals."-
[13:52] <Minaplo> [He put the bowls in the sink, rinsed them off, popped them in the dishwasher and locked the door behind him and Eli.]
[13:59] <Eli> "Just putting it right out there, huh?" Eli asked, hands in her pockets as she strolled out behind him. "I mean you're safe from me, but give it a few decades and that sorta sentiment's going to make for some pretty awkward moments."
[14:03] <Minaplo> ["That'd be a good thing." Said Philippe.-
[14:08] <Minaplo> ["Let me be clear." He said, turning toward her slightly as he walked. "I don't date typicals, but I also wouldn't date an Iron Guard or an Ayanami either. I wouldn't date anyone except a fellow Solomon. This isn't because I think we're better than everyone else. It's because bad things happen to non-Solomons who date Solomons."-
[14:08] <Minaplo> ["Some call that superstition, and maybe it is, but even beyond that, if you think about it, any long-term relationship with a Solomon is going to be hell for anyone else, especially a Typical."]
[14:11] <Eli> "Yeah?"
[14:18] <Minaplo> ["Here's a few things about Solomon Knights." Said Philippe. "Firstly, we're all literally 100% infertile, so if a partner's interested in having children, too bad. Secondly, We're all clones of someone else, which can be highly awkward for some people. Thirdly, we're immune or highly resistant to old age; we'll outlive any Typical partner, unless we've been designed with deliberate
[14:18] <Minaplo> obselescence triggers, which is not impossible… But considering that we're designed as soldiers, those triggers are likely to fire in a fraction of a normal lifespan. Fourthly, all of us are soul-bound to Mary Caine, meaning that so long as she's alive, we're nothing more than her puppets- we can never truly give ourselves to anyone fully because it's not our lives to give- and who knows,
[14:18] <Minaplo> if she dies maybe those hypothetical triggers kick in anyway, because she's a mad dog. Fifthly, we've all been raised in controlled environments, and at least some of us will go to pieces if exposed to normal Typical society. Sixthly, the thing we're best at doing is fighting, so even if, best case scenario, Mary Caine is defeated and nothing bad happens to us, the easiest thing we
[14:18] <Minaplo> can do is find jobs that are dangerous."-
[14:18] <Minaplo> ["To be blunt, we suck."]
[14:39] <Eli> "Caines finally got the process right," Eli said. "You're pretty much everything they wanted the Neos to be but were to incompetent to manage on the first pass."-
[14:39] <Eli> "I should be trying to talk you out of it, but we've got a fraction of your problems and we're still mostly fuck-ups years after the fact." She gave a brief, matter-of-fact shrug. "Self-pity's valid."
[14:46] <Minaplo> ["Glad you agree." Said Philippe.-
[14:46] <Minaplo> ["I'm not like Aksel…"-
[14:47] <Minaplo> [Philippe sighed, and turned back toward Eli. He put on a smile. "Look on the bright side."]
[14:54] <Eli> "Oh, this should be good," Eli said cheerfully.
[14:56] <Minaplo> ["If you're ever looking for a one night stand, at least a Knight can't knock you up." Said Philippe, giving her a victory sign and a wink.]
[14:59] * Eli gave him a sunny smile. "Every cloud…"
[15:01] <Minaplo> ["Hahaha."-
[15:09] <Minaplo> [They came to an intersection in the corridor- Philippe automatically picked the right-hand side.-
[15:10] <Minaplo> [Down the left-hand corridor, Eli would spot Eliphas Meir turn the corner, his long black hair whipping out behind him.]
[15:20] <Eli> … it was a small bit of motion, but Eli caught it. She brightened.-
[15:20] <Eli> "Just remembered I have another appointment," she announced suddenly, skipping back a few steps from Philippe's side and walking backwards to the opposite side of the intersection. Her grin was suddenly showing a few more teeth. "I'll see you around, eh?"
[15:21] <Minaplo> ["'Bye." Said Philippe, waving a hand over his shoulder.]
[15:23] <Eli> She spun neatly on her heel without breaking her stride and pursued her new target.
[15:26] <Minaplo> [She spotted Eliphas waiting outside an elevator. Just as she turned, the doors opened and he disappeared inside- but there was still time for her to slip in.]
[15:31] <Eli> And slip she did, sliding between the closing doors without any apparent concern. She hummed quietly as she righted herself, peering at the button panel with rapt attention.
[15:36] <Minaplo> [The current button highlighted- marking that Eliphas had hit it- was for a deck four decks below, largely given over to residential spaces.-
[15:37] <Minaplo> [Eliphas didn't say anything as she came in; he kept his gaze down on a datapad he held in his hands.]
[15:38] * Eli placed her finger on the button just above the level Eliphas had selected, then slid her finger upwards to select every level between them and his destination.
[15:40] <Minaplo> ["… Really?"]
[15:41] <Eli> Eli's humming cut off abruptly and she jumped, one hand going to her mouth. "… Meir? I didn't see you there!"
[15:42] <Minaplo> ["Some of us have shit to do, Bet."]
[15:43] <Eli> "I need to inspect all of those floors. Boss' orders."-
[15:44] <Eli> Behind her the doors opened again. She glanced back over her shoulder. "That one's fine."
[15:50] <Minaplo> ["Still surprised he doesn't pitch you out the nearest window." Said Eliphas distastefully.]
[15:57] <Eli> "I know!" she agreed. "Such hard work holding my job by actually being good at it rather than through personality. Or pity."
[16:06] <Minaplo> ["He trusted you with a sense of authority, and here you are abusing that trust." Said Eliphas, bristling. "The only reason he overlooks it is because he pities you more than most."]
[16:10] <Eli> "Oooh," she grinned with real, savage amusement. "I'll tell you what, when he spends as much time managing me as Sarah spends managing you we can talk."-
[16:11] <Eli> "Do you think she'll have time for that when there's a real child to mind…?"
[16:20] <Minaplo> ["Hopefully. It sure would help if you did them the favour of getting over Ezra sometime before then, though."]
[16:30] <Eli> "…" Her smile became fixed and plasticky, and for a few unsettling moments she didn't move or breathe or blink.-
[16:31] <Eli> Then she turned back to the door. "You don't know anything, Meir."
[16:41] <Minaplo> ["I know it must be hard." Said Eliphas quietly. "I also know that you only sleep-talk in English if it's about him. It's actually kind of an open secret. But no, you have my condolences. I bet it hurts a lot, seeing him every day, working your butt off for him, knowing that he'll never ever look at you the way you dream he would."]
[17:00] <Eli> "What a load of crap," she said, but the playfulness in her voice was stripped down to nothing and it only served to reveal something bare and cold.-
[17:00] <Eli> "Like I'd love a damn Caine."
[17:36] <Mianplo> ["No, but you'd love that Caine." Said Eliphas mildly. "He's not like the others. He's warm and compassionate and skilled… He really cares about you, understands you, but alas, at the end of the day, no matter how much you try, you're still just trash like the rest of us. Ah, well. It's not too bad down here."]
[17:53] <Eli> Eli was on him like lightning, slamming him into the back wall with a forearm to his throat. She pressed the tip of a knife to the soft flesh beneath his jaw with enough force that a droplet of bright blood formed and ran down the edge of the blade.-
[17:53] <Eli> "Keep talking," she whispered, her face twisted into a rictus of loathing. "Keep fucking talking if you really think being Holt's favourite will save you."
[17:58] <Mianplo> [He struck the wall hard, and instinctively lifted his neck as she flicked out her knife.-
[17:59] <Mianplo> [But when he stared at her, his eyes were focused and full of hatred; not even a second after she'd drawn blood, she'd feel the barrel of a bolt pistol press against her stomach.-
[17:59] <Mianplo> [He opened his mouth, preparing to absolutely keep fucking talking, but the words died on his lips. His detesting eyes suddenly widened- with fear.-
[18:00] <Mianplo> [But they weren't looking at Eli anymore. They were gazing over her shoulder.-
[18:00] <Mianplo> [For the elevator doors had opened, and someone had stepped in.-
[18:00] <Mianplo> ["Oh, my goodness no no no." Said Ephraim Siskin von Brandt, his voice a mild mixture of distress and disapproval. "What the devil is going on here?"]
[18:20] <Eli> Eli reacted as though she'd been electrocuted. That could've been a very fatal mistake given the circumstances, but luckily only left a long, thin scratch across Eliphas' neck as the blade skipped across flesh. She stepped away, and for a moment it seemed as though she was trying to hide her weapon behind her back.-
[18:20] <Eli> "M-Mr von Brandt," she stammered. "I don't— I didn't…"-
[18:20] <Eli> Wide eyes estimated the ways to reach the door, but it had already nearly closed… and then it was just the three of them. The elevator had begun to move again and she retreated a few steps to the left-hand wall, breath coming a little too fast.
[18:22] <Mianplo> [There was a dull -clunk- as Eliphas's bolt pistol hit the floor, the fingers of his hand slackening. His eyes were popping now, and he still didn't speak.-
[18:26] <Mianplo> [von Brandt tutted, shaking his head slowly; but the smile did not shift from his face. "It's not good to lie, Elisabet." He said warmly. "And it's not good to row with a fellow NeoSpartan like this, either…"-
[18:27] <Mianplo> [He reached into his coat and took out a packet of small tissues. He slowly unwrapped the foil, pulled out a single tissue and used it to wipe away the blood on Eliphas's chin.-
[18:29] <Mianplo> ["You're lucky I found you and not someone else. You two would be in very deep trouble." He said, frowning slightly; but the moment passed. "But we'll just keep this our little secret for now, hm? Here." He held the bloodied tissue out to Eli. "To clean off your blade, Elisabet."]
[18:35] <Eli> She took the tissue as though it might bite her, then did as she was told with trembling hands. She was careful not to touch him.
[19:07] <Mianplo> ["Thank you very much." Said von Brandt. "Now, Elisabet, please put your blade away… Eliphas, if you could holster your firearm…"-
[19:07] <Mianplo> [Eliphas did as he was told, his hand shaking violently.-
[19:11] <Mianplo> ["Now remember this, you two." Said von Brandt. "We all have our differences, and that is alright. But when the moment's passed, we remember that we should love each other, and be kind to one another, because…"-
[19:12] <Mianplo> ["We're family." Said von Brandt cheerfully. "And of course families disagree and have fallings out- it's a tale as old as time, but when the moment's passed we remember to make up, to make the other understand that there are-" he shook his head slowly in time with the words, "no hard feelings."-
[19:12] <Mianplo> ["So I would like you two to apologise to each other and promise that this will never happen again."]
[19:18] <Eli> The knife stayed in Eli's hand, though it didn't seem to be a gesture of rebellion. Eli's attention was switching rapidly between three points: Her knife, von Brandt and the door. She was breathing fast enough to be in danger of hyperventilating.
[19:18] <Eli> Knife. von Brandt. Door.
[19:21] <Mianplo> [von Brandt smoothly reached out and pressed the Elevator Stop button.-
[19:22] <Mianplo> ["Elisabet, I know apologies can be difficult sometimes, but trust me, this is for your benefit as well as Eliphas's. When we apologise to someone we've hurt, we open up a little to them, expose our selves as a sign of trust and understanding. Why, there isn't a loving couple in history who avoided apologies sooner or later. I promise he'll forgive you, just as you forgive him."]
[19:26] * Eli let out a low, piteous whimper as von Brandt stopped the elevator.-
[19:26] <Eli> "P-please let me out. Please."
[19:27] <Mianplo> ["Not until you say sorry." Said von Brandt, a little edge of paternal sternness entering his voice. "That's all you need to do…"-
[19:28] <Mianplo> [Eliphas croaked something that von Brandt couldn't quite catch; and so he ignored it.]
[19:31] <Eli> Knife. von Brandt. Knife. von Brandt.-
[19:31] <Eli> "You're not—," mumble mumble. "Could…"-
[19:32] <Eli> "couldmakeyou"-
[19:33] <Eli> There was no strength in it.
[19:34] <Mianplo> [von Brandt sighed. "I see…"-
[19:34] <Mianplo> [He reached out a hand, ready to gently take Eli's arm and remove the knife himself.-
[19:36] <Mianplo> [But at that moment, the elevator lurched suddenly back into motion. von Brandt paused, looking around with a frown. He jabbed the Elevator Stop button a few times, but nothing happened.-
[19:37] <Mianplo> [There was a 'ding!'. The elevator doors opened.-
[19:37] <Mianplo> [Standing there, looking mightily put out, was Ezra Caine. He held his left hand out and began jabbing into his palm with his right hand. "Hey. Elevator stop is for emergencies. Could you fucking not?"]
[19:41] <Eli> At the sound of his voice Eli began to silently sob, curling in on herself.
[19:41] <Mianplo> ["Oh dear." Said von Brandt. "Elisabet-"-
[19:41] <Mianplo> ["Leave her alone already." Mumbled Eliphas; the effort to say those words forced him to his knees.-
[19:41] <Mianplo> [Ezra stared.-
[19:43] <Mianplo> ["Step aside, Brandt." He said once, his tone firm. von Brandt looked at Ezra with a frown, but the latter was already moving. He brushed von Brandt out of the way- a little too roughly.-
[19:44] <Mianplo> [The next thing Eli knew, she was being wrapped up in a strangely warm cloak of some kind. The next second, she'd been lifted up by a pair of firm, strong arms that didn't at all falter under her weight.-
[19:44] <Mianplo> ["Up you get, Eliphas." Said Ezra. "Come on, up."-
[19:45] <Mianplo> [Eliphas shakily rose to his feet, but grabbed out and latched onto Ezra's shoulder.-
[19:45] <Mianplo> [In this manner the three of them left the elevator, leaving von Brandt alone.-
[19:45] <Mianplo> ["You." Said Ezra, looking back at him. "You stay in there and think about what you've done."-
[19:45] <Mianplo> [The elevator doors closed.-
[19:46] <Mianplo> ["I'm gonna pay for that one later." Said Ezra lightly. "… He really did a number on you folks, huh?"]
[19:48] * Eli just continued to shake, a knife and a bloodied tissue thoughtlessly cradled against her chest like talismans.
[19:51] <Mianplo> [Eliphas had sunk back to his knees the moment the doors had closed.-
[19:52] <Mianplo> ["…" Ezra glanced between the two of them, frowning; then he sighed. "Geez, okay. Where can I put you guys? Hey, Eliphas. Where's your room?"-
[19:52] <Mianplo> ["Uh…"-
[19:52] <Mianplo> ["Good enough." Said Ezra.-
[19:52] <Mianplo> [Eli probably wouldn't have registered the actual journey.-
[19:56] <Mianplo> [Another Damocles suite. Another couch. Ezra lowered Eli onto the couch, pulled the cloak up to her shoulders, then took a seat at the central table.-
[19:56] <Mianplo> [He waited. At one point he left and returned a minute later with a bowl of ice cream. But mostly, he waited for Eli to regain her senses.]
[20:18] <Eli> It took time, long enough that the ice cream was half-melted before she moved again. She'd been positioned in such a way that her head was hanging, and so when she'd begun to shake again it wasn't clear entirely what had happened - whether it was more tears or something else.-
[20:19] <Eli> The vicious, raw-throated swearing that followed seemed to rule out tears. She plunged her knife point-first into the side-table in a sudden blur of movement, hard that the grip wobbled, then seemed to realize the tissue was still in her other hand.-
[20:19] <Eli> She made a noise of absolute disgust and flung it away, where it came to rest in the ice-cream bowl.
[20:22] <Mianplo> ["Eugh." Ezra plucked the tissue out and gingerly set it aside. "Was that deliberate? Good aim either way."-
[20:24] <Mianplo> ["Bad scene, huh?" He said a little more gently, looking back up at Eli. He rested his head on his left hand, and with his right he spooned the remaining ice cream into his mouth, blood or no.]
[20:26] <Eli> "That was all I needed to do!" She jabbed a finger in the direction of the knife, still vibrating in the wood. "All I needed to do!"
[20:27] <Mianplo> ["What, stab him a good one with your knife?" Said Ezra, sounding just a little amused.]
[20:30] <Eli> Eli gave him a flinty look and tore the knife from the table, gouging out more wood in the process. "Don't you laugh at me, Ezra."
[20:31] <Mianplo> ["I'm just saying, wouldn't he have some sort of coded conditioning phrase?" Said Ezra.-
[20:31] <Mianplo> ["Also, sorry. I'm not actually Ezra." Said Ezra.]
[20:34] <Eli> Eli turned sheet white.-
[20:35] <Eli> The shock lasted for a heartbeat before she whipped the knife at Ezra's chair in a single, effortless motion.
[20:36] <Mianplo> [Ezra caught it out of the air with his right hand almost lazily.-
[20:39] <Mianplo> ["Poor form on my part." Said Ezra gently. "Still, I probably wouldn't have been able to get away with it at the time if I didn't look like this. Don't worry, though! Your secret's safe with me."]
[20:47] <Eli> Two more knives found their way to her hands as if by magic. Her face was still practically bloodless, her eyes wide, but she was on her feet. A useless gesture.-
[20:47] <Eli> "Nightmare." Still enough anger running through her to keep her voice steady. Wouldn't last long.
[20:53] <Mianplo> ["Nightmare," agreed Ezra. "Is there anything you usually do to recover from these kinds of experiences that I can get you? A stiff drink or… Something else?"]
[20:55] <Eli> She hurled another knife at his head and bolted for the door. Pointless pointless pointless.
[20:59] <Mianplo> [Ezra caught the knife mid-air around the blade between two fingers.-
[21:01] <Mianplo> [He watched Eli go without moving. The door wasn't locked; Eli was free to leave, and leave she did. "No point chasing her." Said Ezra to himself.-
[21:03] <Mianplo> [Once Eli was gone, Ezra sighed. He held up Eli's knives.-
[21:03] <Mianplo> ["… Does she want these back? Do I leave these with the shrimp, or what?"-
[21:03] <Mianplo> ["… Maybe I should just give her nice new ones as a sorry present."-
[21:04] <Mianplo> ["… Sorry present? Man, I saved her butt." Ezra let out a huff. "Fucking -rude-."-
[21:06] <Mianplo> ["Best not to repeat this with Eliphas. Ugh."-
[21:06] <Mianplo> [Ezra closed his eyes and leaned back.-
[21:10] <Mianplo> [His flesh became liquid-like, and his hair reverted back into his skull. For about nine or ten seconds his flesh bulged and twisted and shifted and flowed before finally settling back into a different face and body. A young adult's face with red eyes and grey-white hair.-
[21:11] <Mianplo> ["Hmm. Mr. Caine has a fine form." Said Augustine. "Need a little more practice with just about everything…"-
[21:13] <Mianplo> [Augustine folded one leg over the over, pushed the ice cream bowl away, and plucked Dream of the Red Chamber out of the air.-
[21:18] <Mianplo> [He settled in and waited for Eliphas to awaken.]
[21:47] <Eli> …
[21:50] <Eli> It was a day later before Eli picked up any of Ezra's calls. She tried to make him prove they weren't in one of the Nightmare's worlds, probably knowing as well as Ezra did that it was an impossible request. Still, he tried. When he started asking questions she hung up on him.-
[21:52] <Eli> Then it was back to radio silence. In-person visits to her room would show that she'd found some way to manually jam the door, and all reports said she hadn't left her room since locking herself in the day before.
[21:59] <Mianplo> [But the outside world would not remain still for long. Eventually a sound would come- a series of firm knocks on her door.-
[22:00] <Mianplo> ["Miss Reid." Came a soft yet clear voice. "It's Augustine, the Prime. May I have a word?"]
[22:01] <Eli> There was a long pause. "Suppose so."
[22:03] <Mianplo> ["May I enter? You need not unjam the door."]
[22:04] <Eli> "I can hear you fine."
[22:07] <Mianplo> ["Of course."-
[22:10] <Mianplo> ["I wished to- apologise." He said. "I was the one who took you from the elevator, in the form of Ezra Caine. However, I neglected to alter my form before you were roused, and in retrospect, I understand that I- did some damage."]
[22:14] <Eli> "…" There was a heavy thunk on the other side of the door, followed by the clatter of metal. "… sure, why not? Makes about as much sense as anything."
[22:16] <Mianplo> ["…"-
[22:19] <Mianplo> ["Mr. Caine was inquiring about what happened. Meir didn't say anything, and I didn't either. All things considered, it'll probably stay that way as long as you want."]
[22:26] <Eli> There was the sound of shuffling followed by some scraping amongst the internals of the doorframe, then finally it opened in a rush to a darkened room. Eli looked haggard and sleepless in the light of the hall, her hair hanging limply in front of one eye. She was wearing a tank top and the pants he'd seen her in the day before.-
[22:26] <Eli> "Come on. I know you don't need the door, but…" she shrugged a bare shoulder.
[22:31] <Mianplo> [Augustine, it seemed, had taken pains to ensure he wouldn't be mistaken for another. He wore a long silken white robe, over which he wore the damaskite mantle he'd wrapped Eli in the day before. In his pale hands he held a box, about three foot square.-
[22:35] <Mianplo> ["I appreciate it." Said Augustine. He walked slowly into the room; his white robes seemed to catch and slightly amplify what little light the room had.-
[22:39] <Mianplo> ["Are you hungry? Would you like me to bring you something to eat or drink?" He asked. He looked around the room, but did not sit.]
[22:45] <Eli> She flicked on the light, more for her sake than for his.-
[22:45] <Eli> It wasn't a pristine, military-neat room - There were a few clothes piled by the desk, a bag half-unpacked in one corner, and Augustine needed to step over the uniform jacket she'd left puddled a step inside the door - but by the standards of a personal room it was quite presentable.-
[22:45] <Eli> It was devoid of almost all personalization, though. The only unique touch was a thick cork board in the shape of a human head and torso hanging on one wall, three knives still buried in it while a dozen more lay on the floor beneath it.-
[22:47] <Eli> She was holding another in her left hand, and she tossed it idly to her right as she flopped back down onto her rumpled bed. "I'm fine. Stop being so nice."
[22:49] <Mianplo> ["No." Said Augustine lightly.-
[22:55] <Mianplo> ["Of course, I'd expect you to have some food and drink stashed away in here somewhere just in case." Said Augustine. "It's comforting to have hidden things kept to yourself, isn't it?"]
[22:59] * Eli raised an eyebrow. "You really believe there's anything secret on this ship? Ezra said you were the smart Prime."
[23:05] <Mianplo> [Augustine laughed. "I would argue that something can be hidden and not be a secret. But here's the thing, Miss Reid." He sat down on the floor, his knees half-bent, the box resting atop them. "This place is warmer and homelier than the Synfront, but they are cut from the same cloth. Anything to do with the Caines is riddled with secrets, deceptions, plots and conspiracies dating back
[23:05] <Mianplo> to before we were even born."]
[23:10] <Eli> "Guaranteed," she said. With a snap of her wrist she threw the knife over and past his head, and this one found the dead centre of the target. "Only the secrets they want to keep, though. They don't give us the same courtesy."
[23:14] <Mianplo> ["Quite true." Said Augustine. "But soon, they will all be dead, and then their secrets will mean nothing."]
[23:18] <Eli> Eli gave him a pitying look. "Ok."
[23:19] <Mianplo> [Augustine returned her look with a quiet smile. "You don't believe me?"]
[23:23] <Eli> "I don't believe anyone who smiles like that." Her hand reached into the duffel bag nearly camouflaged among her covers and pulled out yet another knife. She tested the edge on her thumb.
[23:24] <Mianplo> ["Fair enough. Allow me to adjust." He said. His smile vanished, and his face fell into a deep, exaggerated frown.-
[23:24] <Mianplo> ["Why don't I share you one of my secrets whilst I'm at it?"]
[23:27] * Eli stared at him, her brow creasing in unvarnished perplexity.-
[23:27] <Eli> "… what are you doing?"
[23:28] <Mianplo> ["Establishing an economy backed by a secret-based currency?"]
[23:30] <Eli> "No. This," she gestured from him to the door and back again. "What is this? I mean, thanks for admitting you fucked up, but you're absolved. You can go. I don't need to be handled or whatever this is, and if you'd asked Ezra you'd know better than to try."
[23:34] <Mianplo> ["Yes, I'm well aware of my ability to 'can go', but I'm here because I want to be here, not because I want to handle you." Said Augustine. "As you now know, I wear many forms. One of my duties is to use those myriad forms to advance the goals of my master. As a result a good portion of my time is pretending to be other people, doing what their lives dictate I should do, all in pursuit
[23:34] <Mianplo> of an objective."-
[23:35] <Mianplo> ["So I have a rule. When I'm in this form, I do what I want. Well, as best as I can." Said Augustine. "And right now I want to be in here, talking with you."]
[23:41] * Eli continued to squint at him, and for some reason in that moment her exhaustion was clearest.-
[23:41] <Eli> "… sure, whatever," she sighed, and turned her attention back to her weapon.
[23:43] <Mianplo> [The grand frown had not shifted from Augustine's face.-
[23:44] <Mianplo> [Something flicked onto Eli's bed- a small lapel pin of an American flag. "That's the secret I meant."]
[23:48] <Eli> She picked it up and gave it a halfhearted once-over, holding it up to the ceiling light. "Things are worse for you lot than I thought if you've gotta hide your tacky jewellery."
[23:48] <Mianplo> [He laughed.-
[23:50] <Mianplo> ["I took that from the body of Theodore Washington, the Seele overseer of the United States. He was… Not the first person I killed, but he was the first I was explicitly required to kill, as opposed to killing out of self defense."]
[23:51] <Eli> "Alright…"
[23:53] <Mianplo> ["Ever since, I've taken little memorials of those I've been ordered to kill. No one knows I do it except for you, now. May I borrow one of your knives?"]
[23:56] <Eli> "Pretty sure that's one of the markers of a serial killer," she said, but tossed the knife to him in a lazy arc anyway.
[23:57] <Mianplo> ["Well, I am a serial killer." He said, grabbing the knife out of the air. He hurled it at the corkboard behind him, where it thudded square in the middle of the torso. After a moment, the knife pulled itself out and whipped back into his hand, where he repeated the act.-
[23:59] <Mianplo> ["I'm sure we even have the same reasons: remembering the kill, the scene." Said Augustine. "Although admittedly it isn't a thing of enjoyment for me. It simply… Keeps my thoughts honest. It reminds me of the true goal."-
[00:00] <Mianplo> [All throughout this, he kept up the act of throwing the knife.]
[00:07] <Eli> "The true goal, huh?" Eli followed the knife more than she did Augustine.
[00:16] <Mianplo> ["I am an Angel." Said Augustine. The knife continued to thud away. "So I am not expected to take responsibility for the lives of lilim."-
[00:18] <Mianplo> ["And in truth I do not feel any especial love for your kind." He said. "But I have, regardless of will or not, contributed to your malaise. I will not abandon you now."]
[00:23] <Eli> "Really? I'm actually human and I'd still let us burn."
[00:25] <Mianplo> ["If so, are there any that you would prefer be spared?"]
[00:27] <Eli> "Nope. Clear-cut the whole thing, hope something better grows."-
[00:28] <Eli> She stared as the little cork facsimile of a man as he was stabbed over and over and over again. "It would've been better if your siblings had won."
[00:36] <Mianplo> ["Do you believe the Angels to be greater than the Lilim, then?"]
[00:37] <Eli> "No idea." There was the soft sound of rustling fabric as she shrugged. "Probably not."
[00:39] <Mianplo> ["Do you want to see what it means to be an Angel?" He said quietly.]
[00:40] <Eli> "…"-
[00:41] <Eli> She propped herself up on her elbows. "What does that mean?"
[00:44] <Mianplo> ["It means I bring you into my world." Said Augustine. "So that you feel what I have felt and am feeling. Your consciousness within mine. A moment of illumination."]
[00:48] <Eli> She was quiet for a long time, the silence punctuated by the steady sound of knife meeting cork.-
[00:48] <Eli> "Alright."
[00:51] <Mianplo> [Augustine stood up. The knife continued to throw itself into the cork.-
[00:51] <Mianplo> [He stepped toward her and stretched out his hands; now the knife was simply throwing itself into the cork, pulling itself out, and throwing itself back in.-
[00:51] <Mianplo> ["When you are ready, take my hands and look into my eyes. I will do the rest."]
[00:56] <Eli> She was sat up properly now, cross-legged at the edge of the bed. She studied him, took one unconscious, deep breath and then grabbed both hands without further thought.
[00:59] <Mianplo> [The knife, hovering in the air, flung itself away from Augustine's shoulder…-
[01:00] <Mianplo> [But all Eli saw were the eyes. The bright red eyes. They grew larger and larger, her room warping around them like a reflection in a hall of mirrors. Before long, all she could see was the one eye, larger than her, impossibly large- but then when she realised it, it wasn't an eye at all, but a perfectly round red sphere- a core.-
[01:02] <Mianplo> [She saw herself- dishevelled, grim, grubby- reflected in the sheen of its curved surface. A moment later, cracks tore across the reflection, across the entire core; it split open.-
[01:03] <Mianplo> [Light flooded from the crack, engulfing her; she heard something cry out, but she didn't know what.-
[01:06] <Mianplo> [The light was… Warm. Not hot. Warm, a clean and fulfilling warm that was extraordinarily comforting. And it flowed around her, touching every part of her with that splendid comfort.-
[01:07] <Mianplo> [Now she saw the light was bounded, and she within it, by a great red wall all around her. It went for miles in every direction, wrapping around, forming circles around her in every direction.-
[01:07] <Mianplo> [Although it seemed so far away, she could feel the weight of those walls pressing firmly, yet not harmfully, on her.-
[01:09] <Mianplo> [She saw shapes in the red glass wall, indistinct at first, but quickly coming into focus- people. One person became so focused that they literally walked right out into the light, just like Eli was.-
[01:09] <Mianplo> [It was Philippe.-
[01:10] <Mianplo> ["To be Angel is to be freedom." He said, his voice soft and clear. "To be freedom is to be fighting for freedom."-
[01:18] <Mianplo> [Another reflection emerged; Sarah Holt. "To be Angel is to be life." She said lovingly. "To be life is to choose life between life and death."-
[01:18] <Mianplo> [But Philippe was still speaking, the same line over and over; yet somehow Eli heard them both clearly.-
[01:20] <Mianplo> [A third reflection, this one of Asuka- or Aina? It was impossible to tell. This one emerged behind Eli, yet she could see Aina and the others all at once. "To be Angel is to be the dream of men." Said Asuka. "To tire never, to hunger never."-
[01:20] <Mianplo> ["To be Angel is to make loneliness your food." Came a voice from Eliphas.-
[01:21] <Mianplo> [More reflections emerged, faster and faster now, their phrases starting to blur together- yet somehow remaining clear and distinct in Eli's mind.-
[01:21] <Mianplo> ["To be Angel is to deny entropy."-
[01:24] <Mianplo> ["To be Angel is to be… Filled, so others may fill from you."-
[01:27] <Mianplo> ["To be Angel is to fulfill an old promise."-
[01:28] <Mianplo> [Ezra Caine appeared now, between Sarah and Eliphas. "To be Angel is to see what is, and what might be, and to make what might be what is."-
[01:30] <Mianplo> [And now appearing next to her was a blue-haired girl, a Phantom…? She wasn't sure. "To be Angel is to be change, to see from a million shards."-
[01:34] <Mianplo> [And now to her other side appeared a young girl with long blonde hair and shimmering blue eyes. Penelope… A NeoSpartan like her. Dead, unlike her. Betrayed. "To be Angel is to be love, love of even the lilim."-
[01:34] <Mianplo> [The voices grew in number, a thousand thousand voices telling her what it was to be Angel.-
[01:35] <Mianplo> [They continued to merge together into a serene choir, singing a lullaby that soothed the rough edges. The only words of the lullaby: "To be Angel is to be."-
[01:36] <Mianplo> [One last reflection appeared now, right in front of Eli. It was a little girl of maybe four or five. She had Eli's eyes, and she had Eli's hair, worn in childish pigtails. She looked up at Eli with bright eyes and a bright smile that never really existed; her eyes filled with tears. "To be Angel is to never be allowed to hide from yourself."-
[01:37] <Mianplo> [All around Eli now was humanity, the great mass of people, two and a half billion across six continents, some irrevocably shattered.-
[01:37] <Mianplo> [They spread out around her like a web of light.-
[01:37] <Mianplo> [A pair of hands clasped her own.-
[01:38] <Mianplo> ["To be Angel, for me," Said Augustine, "Is to know that so many of you are unworthy. Yet some of you shine like stars. Do you know know that for the sake of those stars, even the unworthy will be spared?"-
[01:39] <Mianplo> [There was a burst of seeing.-
[01:41] <Mianplo> [From the cheery Liliya working on the engines to Ezra, alone in his office, to Frederick, texting with one hand whilst telling stupid jokes to a gaggle of NeoSpartans, to Eliphas in his bed, a Phantom snuggled up next to him, to even von Brandt, alone in a room, his head in his hands, tears dripping through his fingers, to the rats in the galley and the cockroaches in the warehouses to
[01:41] <Mianplo> every bolt casing and round of ammo and power battery to the very cells of the surovite armour-
[01:41] <Mianplo> [Eli, for a moment, saw it all.-
[01:41] <Mianplo> [And then the image faded.-
[01:42] <Mianplo> [The knife buried itself into the cork. Eli was back in her room, holding Augustine's hands.]
[01:47] <Eli> "… oh." Nothing more than that. Her voice sounded very small in her ears, and she couldn't tell how much of that was the sudden, deafening silence.-
[01:48] <Eli> She pulled one hand away to swipe hurriedly at her eyes.
[01:49] <Mianplo> [Augustine gave her a tender smile. The box he had been carrying opened behind him.-
[01:49] <Mianplo> [Within were the knives she had thrown at him, but on top of that another pair of knives, their blades like obsidian glass. But on top of that…-
[01:50] <Mianplo> [Augustine took it and placed it into the hand he still held.-
[01:52] <Mianplo> [It was an amulet. A golden circle, bounding a silver triangle, in which sat, in pearl, the outline of an eye shedding a tear. It hung off a golden chain. "This is yours."]
[02:02] <Eli> Examining that eye was easier than meeting his. "Uh, thank you."
[02:02] <Mianplo> ["You're welcome." Said Augustine.-
[02:07] <Mianplo> ["The weeping eye is my sign." He said; he let go of her hand now, and took a step back. "So it doesn't really mean anything- except as a reminder of what you saw today. If you wish, you may make it into something more than that- a covenant of sorts. It cannot shield you from the terrible fear you felt, Miss Reid, but perhaps it might help you see illusions for what they are if you conquer
[02:07] <Mianplo> that fear."-
[02:08] <Mianplo> [He let out a small sigh. "I don't ask anything from you, Miss Reid, or expect anything either. I will be on my way."-
[02:11] <Mianplo> [He made for the door, but stopped just before the threshold. "… I admit, however, that seeing the Eli Reid who can use those knives properly, well- that would make me happy." He turned and gave her an exaggerated frown.]
[02:14] <Eli> It wasn't much more than a shadow of a thing, but for a moment she actually smiled.
[02:15] <Mianplo> ["Hm~"-
[02:15] <Mianplo> ["I'll see you around, Miss Reid."-
[02:15] <Mianplo> [With that he left, closing the door behind him.]

[12:51] <Mianplo> ["I hate fusion weaponry." Muttered Eliphas.-
[12:51] <Mianplo> [Fusion weaponry: for when you didn't have enough bolters.-
[12:51] <Mianplo> [That was generally Eliphas's outlook on fusion weaponry. Admittedly it was his outlook for masers, railguns and positron tech also.-
[12:57] <Mianplo> [Just last night, he had spent three hours debating with Ami-Anne the relative strengths and weaknesses of the bolter when compared to the shuriken rifle.-
[12:57] <Mianplo> [One was brutal and unsubtle, the other sleek and agile. Three hours had not resulted in anything close to a consensus.-
[12:57] <Mianplo> [Still.-
[12:57] <Mianplo> [Bolters ruled.-
[12:58] <Mianplo> [Fusion weapons, however, combined the worst of nearly every possible world in Eliphas's eyes. They were highly technical weapons, meaning that field-stripping them was a fascinatingly difficult chore. Their components were extremely difficult to replicate, their fuel cells short-lived when in active use and more to the point, incredibly volatile.-
[13:00] <Mianplo> [The result of all that hard work was an achingly short-ranged weapon that made an absolute mess of armour and was good for absolutely nothing else.-
[13:02] <Mianplo> [By and large, anyone wielding a fusion weapon on the open battlefield was going to be shot in the head a hundred metres before they could be useful. The only times they came in handy was close-range assaults, especially in buildings or fortresses where they could double as breach weaponry, or if the wielder was also heavily armoured.-
[13:03] <Mianplo> [This, then, posed a philosophical quandary for Eliphas once you began looking at weaponry on the macro scale.-
[13:04] <Mianplo> [Macro-scale combat did not hurt for heavy, penetrative weaponry with solid range. A well-placed bolt round could ruin an Evangelion or Superheavy's day.-
[13:06] <Mianplo> [However, an Evangelion's AT Field was extremely effective at dispersing the immense thermal energy of a fusion weapon. For whatever reason, thermodynamics was easy for an AT Field. Tokuro, Eliphas's roommate, would prove this easily in many creative ways.-
[13:08] <Mianplo> [Which meant that if a unit had to kit itself out for anti-Eva warfare, they would almost always prioritise positron weaponry. It was harder to deflect an antimatter charge, after all. It was simply more practical to stick with a positron weapon.-
[13:08] <Mianplo> [Which meant that the fusion weapon excelled at destroying Superheavy units.-
[13:09] <Mianplo> [The problem, Eliphas mused to himself, was that 90% of Superheavy units were absolutely not worth the hassle of a good fusion weapon. The other 10% were too fast to hit.-
[13:10] * CakeyCake is now known as Yanmei
[13:10] <Mianplo> [Which meant that fusion weapons were primarily used against a massively armoured Eva assuming someone else could neutralise it first… Or against very large, armoured targets that could not evade.-
[13:11] <Mianplo> [Which meant capital ships.-
[13:12] <Mianplo> [The problem there however was that all it really took was one Superheavy to melt a battleship or two before every side began panicking and shooting the fusion gunner first. And of course that fusion gunner didn't usually have the armour to handle it.-
[13:13] <Mianplo> [Which meant that one of the safest units to tote a fusion weapon was a capital ship.-
[13:13] <Mianplo> [In essence, capital ships mounted capital-scale fusion weapons to destroy other capital ships.-
[13:13] <Mianplo> [There probably would not be a reason for them to exist if capital ships did not exist. The two were locked in a circle of perpetuating the other.-
[13:13] <Mianplo> [Which came first: the fusion striker or the battleship?-
[13:14] <Mianplo> [A good question, but unfortunately what really came first was Eliphas's job.-
[13:17] <Mianplo> [One of the fusion strikers the Sword of Damocles carried had broken down. Readings reported that the weapon would charge up, but its containment field would quickly break down leading to an uncontrolled dispersal of energy. Fortunately testing these weapons was done with only a modicum of the full charge, so it could be found before anything catastrophic had happened.-
[13:23] <Mianplo> [There was a protocol for things like this, however. If a component on the ship broke down, it was fixed. When a weapon broke down, however, then that was a potential sabotage situation and so the weapon itself was cordoned off until Intelligence could arrive to case the joint.-
[13:24] <Mianplo> [And so Eliphas waited for Intelligence to arrive, walking around the perimeter of the weapon carriage, bands of slightly agitated or bored technicians nearby, watching him and the gun.]
[13:46] <Eli> The muttering of the technicians disguised the low, pneumatic hiss of the door opening, and so when Eli Reid began shouldering her way through the crowd a few people jumped.-
[13:46] <Eli> It'd been nearly a week since the encounter in the elevator, and as far as anyone else was concerned it may as well have never happened. She was bright, she was energetic and she was infuriating. All seemed to be normal.-
[13:46] <Eli> … but miracle of miracles, she'd barely looked at Eliphas since. She wasn't avoiding him so much as she was outright ignoring him. It was a first, and a little unnerving in its own way.-
[13:47] <Eli> So when she elbowed her way to the computer display mounted on the side of the fusion generator, it wasn't a surprise that she directed her question to one of the faceless techies crowding behind her. "Amanda, start me off by getting this access panel open."
[13:51] <Minaplo> [Eliphas had turned on her arrival, his brow furrowing ever so slightly when 'Intelligence' turned out to be Reid of all people.-
[13:52] <Minaplo> [He very nearly said something to her as she ignored him. After all, this was his jurisdiction.-
[13:53] <Minaplo> [But Eliphas had decided by now that a life without Reid's jibes was overall a better one, and so he avoided talking with her, as though the 'ignorance' act were a souffle that might at any moment collapse should he so much as think of disturbing it.-
[13:53] <Minaplo> [So he passed the datapad off to a nearby techie. As Amanda began unsealing the access panel, the techie handed it over. "Here are the readouts and logs from earlier, ma'am."]
[14:09] * Eli accepted it without looking up. She'd run a retractable cable from her hologlove to the display panel on the side of the reactor, busying herself with diagnostics.-
[14:10] <Eli> "This shouldn't be long," she addressed the room at large. "Doubt the problem's part of my wheelhouse, but rules are rules…"
[14:13] <Minaplo> ["Fusion weapons can often break down, ma'am." Said Amanda; she finished unsealing the access panel, placing it against the side of the carriage. "There you go."]
[14:18] <Eli> "It's a poor target for sabotage," she shrugged, and let the cabling snap back into her glove. A moment later she'd half disappeared into the guts of the weapon.-
[14:18] <Eli> "Hey, Meir!"
[14:20] <Minaplo> ["W-what?"]
[14:25] <Eli> "The logs say you replaced the power cabling to the magnetic shielding before we deployed in the last battle," she said, her voice echoing slightly. "That true?"
[14:30] <Minaplo> ["Yeah." He said. "SOP."]
[14:31] <Eli> "So it's probably a short somewhere down that line?"
[14:31] <Minaplo> ["Likely."]
[14:34] <Eli> "Yeah, I figured," she said, but didn't extract herself. "If they wanted to go to the trouble of manually sabotaging our battleship weaponry they'd hit the Graviton Cannon. This'd be a waste of time."
[14:37] <Minaplo> ["Agreed. If this striker overloaded it could do a lot of damage, but the Graviton Cannon would rip the ship apart."]
[14:39] <Eli> "Yep."-
[14:42] <Eli> Then silence. She pulled a miniature flashlight from her belt and wiggled deeper into the hatch, swallowed up almost to the knees.
[14:45] <Minaplo> [The access tunnel here now widened to the point that Eli could stand up fully, albeit at a crouch.-
[14:46] <Minaplo> [It was no Graviton Cannon, but a fusion striker was still a ten metre wide cannon turret a hundred metres long. It was enormous. There could be people living in it for all Eli knew.-
[14:52] * Tao is now known as Eli
[14:57] <Minaplo> [The power cabling itself was thick enough that she would only barely be able to wrap her arms around it and have her hands meet.-
[14:57] <Minaplo> [Someone tapped her on the knee; a second later they shoved a headset in after her. "Lieutenant Meir will use this to communicate with you if you go deeper, ma'am."]
[15:06] <Eli> "Oh, uh… thanks," she called back, stretching down to grab the headset and fit it over her ear. The passage was tight even for her fairly small frame and it was stiflingly hot, but with a firm press she stuck the flashlight to an overhead piece of plating and began checking the cabling.-
[15:06] <Eli> The comm line was left open, and she whistled softly as she worked.
[15:08] <Minaplo> [The cabling here seemed fine, at least.]
[15:13] <Eli> Over a mile of cabling and several tons of fragile equipment left a lot of weak links in the chain, though. She moved on to the next one, working methodically.-
[15:13] <Eli> "You didn't narc," she said eventually.
[15:21] <Minaplo> [The cabling remained fine.-
[15:21] <Minaplo> [("… No.") Said Eliphas quietly.]
[15:22] <Eli> "Didn't really expect that."
[15:23] <Minaplo> [("Not really worth it.")]
[15:23] <Eli> "You think?"
[15:30] <Minaplo> [("If I said anything, what would've happened differently? Ezra would've understood, but he understands anyway. It doesn't help in the moment. It would've just been "we're Neos and we're fucked up" over and over. The specifics don't really matter, so saying anything wouldn't have helped. Better to let us just get on with it.")]
[15:39] <Eli> "Nah, it was a waste of good card. You could've done some damage to me if you wanted to."-
[15:40] <Eli> "Doesn't really matter. You won anyway," she said. "Congrats."
[15:44] <Minaplo> [("I don't care about damaging you like that.")]
[15:47] <Eli> "Immune to a childhood of heavy conditioning, huh? Good for you."
[15:48] <Minaplo> [She could practically hear the shrug over the comms.-
[15:49] <Minaplo> [The cabling continued to be fine. The service tube, however, was starting to accumulate what appeared to be errant spider-webs the further Eli went on.]
[15:59] <Eli> "Hey, help me out here. What was the name of that kid from the program- uh, big, Irish, one of the older ones? He had a wonky eye."
[16:04] <Minaplo> [("Now you're asking. Urhm, oh, the one you- Martin, Enda Martin. Blackjack Martin, after you, y'know, blackjacked him.")]
[16:08] <Eli> "Shit, that's it. That was driving me crazy," she huffed. Now deep in the guts of the chamber she reached up past the cabling to find a sealed black box, and set about plugging in her glove again and letting the information decrypt.-
[16:10] <Eli> "Seemed like I should've been able to remember that."
[16:12] <Minaplo> [("That so?")]
[16:23] <Eli> "Basic recall would be nice, that's all. I'm not about to tattoo every name on my back and weep into my shawl or anything," she said.
[16:26] <Minaplo> [("You'd need a bigger back anyway.")-
[16:27] <Minaplo> [("Oh, and Martin died. Rumour was that Fournier killed and ate him, in case you forgot that too.")]
[16:30] <Eli> "Fournier-" The comms carried the sound of a soft grunt as she shifted more cabling "- got all the fun rumours."
[16:31] <Minaplo> [("Guess so. Wonder what she's doing now.")]
[16:35] <Eli> "Pretty sure the UEF has her, so she's probably free as a bird and hunting humans for sport. Bunch of softies."
[16:39] <Minaplo> [("Heh.")-
[16:39] <Minaplo> [There was a three-tone beep as the decryption finished.]
[16:50] <Eli> Eli used her hologlove to scan through a set of logs and diagnostics suspiciously similar to the one she'd accessed from the main controls. "Alright. Readout from the black box matches the logs from the main system, no signs of intrusion or damage that I can see. I'm ruling it a mechanical fault, surprise surprise."
[16:57] <Minaplo> [("Understood. We can take it from here.")]
[17:04] <Eli> "It'd be nice if I didn't have to waste my time pointing out that enemy agents don't need to sabotage a willfully overdesigned piece of shit. Breaks all on its own," Eli muttered, beginning the excruciating process of reversing out.
[17:13] <Minaplo> [("I've said as much more than once. I'm going to ask- again- that we replace them with standard impact cannons after this.")]
[17:25] <Eli> "Uh-huh."
[17:27] <Minaplo> [About ten minutes later she was back out into the refreshingly cool gunnery room.-
[17:28] <Minaplo> [The technicians were already gearing themselves up to work, waiting readily in a group as she emerged.]
[17:31] * Eli was coated in a thin layer of dust, a spiderweb clinging tenaciously to one shoulder. She didn't pay much mind to either as she stepped out of the way to let the techies approach, summoning up a job log on the hologlove and making a quick report.
[17:35] <Minaplo> [Eliphas glanced up at her as she emerged, then looked away.-
[17:35] <Minaplo> [Then he looked back up, staring. "Is that a spiderweb?"]
[17:44] * Eli glanced to her shoulder and made a halfhearted dusting motion that solved nothing, then turned back to her work. "Always wanted a pet."
[17:48] <Minaplo> ["Mmm." Said Eliphas.-
[17:49] <Minaplo> ["Well, thanks for all that." He said, walking past her to join the technicians. The looks they gave him were of surprise.]
[17:57] <Eli> "Yeah," she replied, and even though she didn't look up she tracked him out of the corner of her eye as he passed.-
[17:57] <Eli> The report didn't take long, but by the time she was done the technical crew was solely focused on the repairs, which suited her just fine. She tucked her hands in her pockets and exited as silently as she'd arrived.

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