Cherry Blossom Procession 4 2 21

[11:39] <Yanmei> The Eva hangar onboard the Dorian was a bit quieter than usual, but that didn't mean it was empty. The hangar was never empty. Besides the regular occupants, there were usually at least a handful of technicians roaming around at any given time of day or night. -
[11:45] <Yanmei> Tonight there was also a Yanmei wandering about on some of the highest catwalks, surveying some of the empty spots that had previously been occupied by some of the Master Models. She was chewing absently on her lower lip as unpleasant thoughts about them whizzed through her mind. Eventually she leaned against the handrail and peered down a dizzying distance to find out who else was around.
[11:45] <Yanmei> If only Surov or one of the other top scientists just happened to be taking a walk within shouting distance…
[11:53] <Minaplo> [There weren't any top scientists around at this time. She did, however, spot something out of the corner of her eye…-
[11:54] <Minaplo> [An tall, gaunt old man with a long black cane- Romanov- walking along a catwalk. Through the gaps in the floor's links she could see him walk, at his unhurried pace, over to a small alcove in a wall, where he sat.]
[11:56] <Yanmei> "…" -
[12:03] <Yanmei> Yanmei felt the old fight or flight instincts kick up again. He hadn't spotted her yet, so there was still time to run away. On the other hand, she could pick a fight too. It wouldn't be difficult, and it would distract them both from some troublesome truths. -
[12:05] <Yanmei> A few minutes passed with her just watching him and drumming her fingers lightly against the rail. Then she heaved a deep sigh and slowly made her way down to his level.
[12:08] <Minaplo> [There was a small lift she could take down.-
[12:09] <Minaplo> [Romanov eyed her as Yanmei lowered herself, but his eye turned casually away; she was just part of the scenery.]
[12:12] * Yanmei blinked and then glared at him! She'd show him who was boss! "You there!" She approached swiftly. "What are you even doing? Loitering?"
[12:12] <Minaplo> ["Go away, Zhang."]
[12:15] <Yanmei> "Why? This is practically my hangar, after all?"
[12:20] <Minaplo> ["Do you think you're the first strutting peacock of a world leader I've run into? It all gets very old after awhile, having you people try to boss me around."]
[12:22] <Yanmei> "Hah. Like you've never done it yourself?"
[12:23] <Minaplo> [Romanov rubbed at his eyes vigorously.-
[12:24] <Minaplo> ["Surely you have something better to do than to stand there, taunting me with your infuriating youngness."]
[12:28] <Yanmei> "It just so happens that I don't have any other official duties for today." She tossed her hair primly. "It's pretty late after all? I'm surprised you're not heading to bed yourself."
[12:31] <Minaplo> ["I'm not surprised that you're surprised. You seem to drift through life permanently surprised, if your expression is anything to go by."]
[12:35] <Yanmei> "How weird? It's the first time I've heard of someone confusing a 'surprised' expression with a charming one." Yanmei tossed her hair once again and flashed him a grin to drive home the point.
[12:45] <Minaplo> [Romanov sighed. "Yes, yes, you're very charming, everyone loves you, now go away."]
[12:48] <Yanmei> "Tch. And to think, I was going to help you."
[12:49] <Minaplo> ["Oh, I shudder to think of what you consider 'help'."]
[12:53] <Yanmei> "Well we all know that your idea of helping is snarking at important meetings while eating desserts. Don't you know that we're in the middle of a food shortage?"
[12:55] <Minaplo> ["Don't talk to me about food shortages, girl. I grew up in the Soviet Union. The original Soviet Union."]
[13:02] <Yanmei> "E-even so, you could stand to eat less chocolate and to pay more attention is what I'm saying."
[13:03] <Minaplo> ["I pay as much attention as I need to. Daresay I pay more attention than you."]
[13:04] <Yanmei> "How so?"
[13:05] <Minaplo> [Romanov let out a long suffering sigh. "What do you want?"]
[13:05] <Yanmei> "To help you. Anyone with eyes in their head can see that you're searching for something?"
[13:14] <Minaplo> ["Really."]
[13:17] <Yanmei> "Yes. Security has been keeping an eye on you because of your history? You've been looking at information about Russian orphanages and stuff. Why is that?"
[13:21] <Minaplo> ["Private research."]
[13:22] <Yanmei> "Ugh. Are you looking for someone?"
[13:22] <Minaplo> ["No."]
[13:22] * Yanmei frowned at him.
[13:25] <Minaplo> ["What?"]
[13:26] <Yanmei> "Nothing. I just thought you might have been researching long-lost relatives, that's all."
[13:31] <Minaplo> ["Why do you want to know, Zhang?" Snapped Romanov. "So you can gossip about it to all your sad friends? All sit around in a circle and harp on about sad Romanov and his missing family?"]
[13:38] <Yanmei> "Please. The Romanov family is hardly unique in that respect? Everyone here either has dead or missing family. And anyway, I do have some respectability. How long have you been with us? A few months, right?"
[13:38] <Minaplo> ["It feels like much longer." Said Romanov.]
[13:44] <Yanmei> "To you and me both," Yanmei muttered. "But this place is still standing? You haven't made any moves against the Federation's leadership as far as I can tell, and you've even been kind to some of the crew here."
[13:55] <Minaplo> ["Have I?"]
[14:02] <Yanmei> "That's what the word around here is saying. I won't say that we should be friends? Or that we trust each other? But I think that under these circumstances we could be considered non-enemies."
[14:04] <Minaplo> ["Yes." Said Romanov. "Allies of convenience is, I believe, the entire raison d'etre of me being here at all."]
[14:10] <Yanmei> "Then consider this one of the unforseen perks of that. I have a lead on one of your relatives."
[14:12] <Minaplo> ["Yes?" He said.]
[14:12] <Yanmei> "It's not pleasant? You should brace yourself."
[14:22] <Minaplo> ["Get on with it, Zhang."]
[14:24] * Yanmei sighed. "Natasha Volkova's mother was related to you, right? As your daughter? But she passed away."
[14:25] <Minaplo> ["Yes." Said Romanov archly.]
[14:29] <Yanmei> "That's not all that happened to her, though. Um." She paused as if uncertain of how to proceed, and then simply gestured over to where Eva Unit 07 stood silently.
[14:32] <Minaplo> [Romanov glanced over at the Eva.-
[14:32] <Minaplo> ["Are you saying she's in the Eva?" He said quietly.]
[14:32] <Yanmei> "Yes."
[14:33] <Minaplo> [He scoffed. "I'd know if she were."]
[14:35] <Yanmei> "I don't think you would, because it was deliberately concealed from you. I have documents on the matter that used to belong to de Orleans. My secretary gave them to me."
[14:36] <Minaplo> ["I'm not amused, Zhang."]
[14:38] <Yanmei> "I'm not trying to be amusing. I'm telling you the truth!"
[14:50] <Minaplo> ["Then produce your evidence, and we'll see."]
[14:57] <Yanmei> "The documents are in my office? We could head there now and I'll show them to you."
[15:00] <Minaplo> ["Very well."-
[15:00] <Minaplo> […]
[13:40] <Yanmei> There was no one else around at Yanmei's office. Lucille herself had gone home hours ago. Nevertheless, it was an easy matter for Yanmei to lead the old man through the waiting area with the secretary's desk and to her own office proper. The documents in question were on a mini usb drive. Casting a wary look at Romanov, Yanmei retrieved it from a locked desk drawer and inserted it into a
[13:40] <Yanmei> datapad, and brought up the information for his convienience. "Here." She thrust it at him.
[13:41] <Minaplo> [Romanov shot her a dismissive look as he took the datapad. "Now let's have a look at this 'evidence'."-
[13:42] <Minaplo> [He was halfway through the first document when he stopped cold. What little colour was in Romanov's cheeks drained away; his eyes widened, and his grip on the datapad tightened until his knuckles shone white.-
[13:42] <Minaplo> [He skipped to the next document. Then to the next. Then the next, ever faster, until eventually he roughly thrust the datapad back into Yanmei's hands.-
[13:42] <Minaplo> ["I… I see." He said, his voice tight.]
[13:45] <Yanmei> "…" Yanmei took it back, of course, glancing down at the last document he'd looked at. "Sorry," she mumbled.
[13:49] <Minaplo> ["No, girl." Said Romanov shortly. "You have shown me the truth. In so doing you have treated me kinder than I have you. You should not be the one feeling sorry."-
[13:50] <Minaplo> [But Romanov turned on his heel and stalked out the door with surprising speed. "But there is one who should. But he will not have very long to feel regret."]
[14:00] <Yanmei> "Huh? Wait. Wait a minute!" She darted after him, datapad still in hand. "While I can sympathize with your feelings, I have to ask you to refrain from violence or inciting violence while on my ship, please!"
[14:02] <Minaplo> [Romanov ignored her. He was making a beeline for the dormitories…]
[14:06] * Yanmei followed, of course. For a second she considered calling security but… he was a frail old man. Surely if things got serious, she could step in and break up a fight by herself.
[14:07] <Minaplo> [Romanov continued to ignore her, all the way to the door of Shardlake's apartment.-
[14:07] <Minaplo> [It was locked. Romanov buzzed the door.-
[14:07] <Minaplo> [("Go away, I'm busy.") Came Shardlake's voice.-
[14:09] <Minaplo> [Romanov stared at the door for a second. Then he stepped back and held up his cane.-
[14:09] <Minaplo> [He grabbed the handle, twisted it and pulled- it came free!-
[14:09] <Minaplo> [And now Yanmei would see that the cane itself was hollow. The handle terminated in a six-inch nib of surovite…-
[14:10] <Minaplo> [Romanov dropped the sheath and held the handle up to the door.-
[14:10] <Minaplo> [A bright flash of light near-blinded Yanmei as a beam of fusion heat burst forth. Romanov quickly slashed around the edge of the door, the metal melting within miliseconds.-
[14:13] <Minaplo> [The door's edges glowed red-hot for a moment… Before the door itself fell into the apartment, revealing a stupefied Shardlake staring at the door.-
[14:14] <Minaplo> [Romanov glided inside, levelling the fusion lance at Shardlake.]
[14:27] <Yanmei> For a split second, after the laser cane had been revealed, Yanmei merely gaped at it, too confused and disbelieving to process the scene playing out before her eyes. The crash of the door falling was what spurred her into action. She lunged at Romanov's unprotected back, trying to get her arms around him. "Goddamnit! Stop this!"
[14:33] <Minaplo> [And Romanov wasn't able to move fast enough- Yanmei pinned his arms back!-
[14:33] <Minaplo> ["No! Leave me-"-
[14:35] <Minaplo> [But Shardlake had time to react, and react he did. He leapt to his feet, launched two quick punches into Romanov's stomach. Romanov gasped-
[14:35] <Minaplo> [And so Shardlake swept the leg, causing Romanov to to topple- but with Yanmei holding him, he couldn't quite fall properly.-
[14:36] <Minaplo> [Shardlake then swept in, pinned Romanov's right arm with his elbow, grabbed his thumb and index finger- and twisted.-
[14:37] <Minaplo> [There was a ghastly crack, and Romanov let out a shuddering gasp of agony… But the fusion lance did not fall from his hand.]
[14:42] <Minaplo> [His body went slack… And then he slipped from Yanmei's grasp, falling to the ground- almost- before rising back to his full height. He raised the lance…]
[14:56] <Yanmei> And the taletell glimmer of an active AT Field suddenly materialized between him and his target, effectively bisecting the room. "You assholes," Yanmei growled. "How dare you keep fighting when I've told you to stop?!"
[14:58] <Minaplo> [Romanov struck the AT Field several times with his lance, to no avail. "Zhang…" He said threateningly.]
[15:07] <Yanmei> "No! Shut up! You both are just the worst! You strut around like you own the place, bitch and moan constantly, and now you're trying to kill each other when I specifically asked you not to! What makes you think I have to put up with your crap for one second longer?!" She yanked out a cell phone and pressed a button on it. "Simon!" she barked into it.
[15:11] <Minaplo> [The old men were staring at her now in shock.-
[15:11] <Minaplo> ["(This is Simon.)" Came the voice from the phone.]
[15:13] <Yanmei> "I have two gentlemen here who need to be escorted to the brig at once? Don't keep me waiting."
[15:13] <Minaplo> [("Understood. Security team is on its way.")]
[15:14] <Minaplo> ["You can't just throw us into the brig, schoolgirl!" Snapped Shardlake.]
[15:14] <Minaplo> [Although his voice cracked slightly as he said it.]
[15:14] <Yanmei> "The hell I can't!"
[15:15] <Minaplo> ["But…"]
[15:18] <Yanmei> "You have a few minutes before they arrive. I suggest you both get out what you have to say to each other quickly?"
[15:18] <Minaplo> ["This isn't my fault!" Protested Shardlake. "I was just defending myself! Trust a Chinese to consider that a crime-"-
[15:19] <Minaplo> ["Why did you do it?" Said Romanov, his voice icy cold. "Why did you put my daughter into 07?"-
[15:19] <Minaplo> [Shardlake froze.]
[15:20] * Yanmei held her tongue, simply watching this play out.
[16:50] <Minaplo> ["…" Shardlake turned back toward Romanov. "If you know of Seele's hand in it, then you know why already. Why waste your time asking me?"-
[16:51] <Minaplo> ["I want to hear you say it." Said Romanov.-
[16:51] <Minaplo> [Shardlake sighed.-
[16:53] <Minaplo> ["She was the only A-Type soul we had who mothered twins." Said Shardlake. "We needed a mother like that in order to make the Dual Plug System function. We also knew that, considering how close the two of you were, she'd be inclined to listen to you if she went out of control. It was simply practicality."-
[16:53] <Minaplo> ["Simple practicality." Said Romanov. "So you don't regret it?"-
[16:54] <Minaplo> ["Don't be a fool!" Snapped Shardlake, his face awakening with anger. "You're smarter than this, Vladimir. Of course I regret it!"-
[16:55] <Minaplo> [Romanov was silent.-
[16:56] <Minaplo> [Shardlake paused for a few seconds, his expression faltering- before he continued. "You're Seele, same as me. We're supposed to regret everything. That's what we live for! That's why you and I didn't give up and die! Because we are regret, you and me, knowing that if we had any other choice, even once, across those thirty, fourty, fifty years, we would do something else, but we
[16:56] <Minaplo> never once did!"-
[16:57] <Minaplo> [Shardlake's voice was taut with raw anger. "Every single time our hands were tied, doing things we had to do, even though we hated them, regretted them-! Because that's why Seele was created. That's why we were chosen. Because we were strong enough to bear that regret and never let it go, to bear the regrets that normal people never could."-
[16:59] <Minaplo> ["… I am sorry for your daughter. I am sorry for keeping the truth from you." Said Shardlake. "I know you did your best to keep her from this life, from… Us."-
[17:00] <Minaplo> ["But we never had a choice. This role we play will consume us whole from end to end. By the time we are done, everything we've ever loved, everything we've treasured, will be turned to ash as a sacrifice."-
[17:00] <Minaplo> ["That was… The risk we all took." Said Shardlake quietly. "The price we would play for challenging God."]
[17:02] * Yanmei remained silent, scowling a little now, seemingly waiting for security to arrive.
[17:05] <Minaplo> ["Was it worth it, Shardlake?" Said Romanov. "What have we won with our lifes' sacrifices?"-
[17:05] <Minaplo> ["…" Shardlake broke eye contact and looked away.-
[17:06] <Minaplo> [Romanov's back, so tall and straight, for the first time Yanmei could remember, sagged and bowed.-
[17:07] <Minaplo> [The fusion lance fell from his grasp; Romanov's hands were trying to hold back the tears.-
[17:07] <Minaplo> [It was a wretched, awful sound, his gasps and groans, fifty years of regrets and sacrifices held back coming forth all at once.-
[17:07] <Minaplo> [Shardlake kept his eyes averted, his own expression neutral and glassy.-
[17:08] <Minaplo> [By the time Vimes arrived with a squad of marines, Vladimir Romanov was on his knees.]
[17:16] * Yanmei had averted her eyes too until then. At the approaching troops, however, she lifted them and the AT Field quietly died away. She stepped quickly toward Vimes, voice lowering to a murmur shared between the two of them. -
[17:18] <Yanmei> "Formerly, this would count as a case of disorderly conduct? But really, I think they each need a cell until they've cooled their heads a bit."
[17:19] <Minaplo> ["Understood." Said Vimes quietly. Two marines grabbed Romanov by the arms and escorted him away.-
[17:20] <Minaplo> [Another two grabbed Shardlake, but he pulled his arms free. "Don't dare." He hissed. "I can walk myself."-
[17:20] <Minaplo> [Vimes sighed. Nonetheless, his marines were quick to take the two away.-
[17:20] <Minaplo> [But Vimes himself stayed. "Trouble, ma'am?"]
[17:28] <Yanmei> "It's a long story? One of them attacked the other over past wrongs that just came to light." She glanced around the room tiredly, and then began to edge away as if realizing that they were still standing in Shardlake's private space. "Ugh. Playing referee to those two? I thought I'd never see the day."
[17:30] <Mianplo> ["I can't think of anyone better for the job, ma'am." Said Vimes sincerely.]
[17:33] <Yanmei> "Thank you Vimes, but I think starting fights is a whole lot easier than settling them."
[17:48] <Mianplo> [At that moment, Yanmei's phone rang.]
[17:49] <Yanmei> She started slightly, and then quickly answered. "Hello? Zhang here?"
[17:49] <Mianplo> [("Lady Zhang, this is Kourosh. We've just received word and confirmation- the Red Army is launching a coup d'etat.")]
[17:50] <Yanmei> "They're… they're what?! Right now? They can't wait until morning?"
[17:51] <Mianplo> [("Not everyone has your sense of decorum.")]
[17:53] <Yanmei> "Clearly not," said Yanmei disapprovingly. "Are you already in one of the conference rooms? I'll come find you."
[17:54] <Mianplo> [("I'll be there in a second, I'm just finishing my bath.")]
[17:55] <Yanmei> "Oh-" she blinked a few times. "Oh. Well done."
[17:56] <Mianplo> [("Yes, thank you. I'll see you soon, Lady.)"-
[17:56] <Mianplo> [She heard the faint sound of Kourosh shouting at Go before the phone cut out.-
[17:56] <Mianplo> ["More bad news, ma'am?" Asked Vimes.]
[17:59] <Yanmei> "The jerk Soviets have decided to be jerks and have thrown themselves into political chaos on tonight of all nights probably just to spite me. On the other hand, though, our Prime Minister is in the middle of taking a bath!"
[18:00] <Mianplo> ["…"-
[18:01] <Mianplo> ["Are my- the- the civilians alright, ma'am?" Asked Vimes, his expression becoming tight.]
[18:04] <Yanmei> "The civilians are not their target. It's Kuzmin." Yanmei pocketed her phone, and then looked him firmly in the eye. "Absolutely none of them will be harmed. We've prepared for this event."
[18:04] <Mianplo> ["Oh. Well, that's good…"]
[18:07] * Yanmei relaxed into a slight grin. "Let's get out of here, shall we? There's a lot to get done before sunrise."
[18:09] <Mianplo> ["Yes, ma'am."]

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