Cherry Blossom Procession 4 2 29

[20:55] <Minaplo> [Delgado's office had been emptied within a day of him leaving Medical.-
[20:57] <Minaplo> [His departure had seen many wellwishers see him off, many of them with tears in their eyes- the old man had been beloved.-
[20:57] <Minaplo> [His replacement would have very large shoes to fill.-
[21:00] <Minaplo> [Raphael Guillory sat in that replacement's waiting room now, as he had been for nearly an hour. He wasn't here for himself; as it turned out, that replacement, Laurie Aherne, had seized his challenge with both hands. His first week had been spent touching base with many of the VIPs of the Corps- including Misato. It was for her benefit that Raphael was here, waiting as she saw Dr. Aherne.-
[21:04] <Minaplo> [And now she emerged, walking out of the hallway door and into the waiting room- and at a glance she seemed to be in higher spirits coming out than when she'd gone in. "I'm done!"]
[21:13] <Raphael> Shortly after Misato had entered the office, Raphael had vanished only to return several minutes later with a small bundle of flowers and an apology for the receptionist for his behaviour the last time he'd visited. After that he'd spent the hour with a laptop balanced on his knees, reading a number of reports regarding SOS operations and typing up a few of his own.-
[21:14] <Raphael> But when Misato exited, he was quick to shut the screen and stand up to greet her. Her smile seemed to make him smile in turn. "It went well?"
[21:17] <Minaplo> ["Yeah, it did." Said Misato lightly. "I think it was helpful- plus he's pretty cute, too~"]
[21:18] <Raphael> "Ah, the number one thing I look for in a healthcare provider."
[21:18] <Minaplo> ["Don't let Maya hear you say that."]
[21:21] <Raphael> "Ha ha," he muttered. "Ready to go? If we hurry we might be able to get lunch before they need me again…"
[21:22] <Minaplo> ["… Hmmm." Said Misato, eyeing Raphael speculatively. "Maybe. But I did have an idea…?"}
[21:23] <Raphael> "Mmm?"
[21:23] <Minaplo> ["Well, y'know… I found it pretty useful, today." She said. "And since you're here, maybe you might as well…?"]
[21:28] * Raphael stared at her for a moment and then let out a gentle sigh. "I'm sure he has other appointments."-
[21:28] <Raphael> "Besides, I'd find lunch useful…?" He ventured, giving her a lopsided grin that tried a bit too hard to be convincing.
[21:29] <Minaplo> ["We have a slot free now," Said the receptionist, who was either being helpful or passive-aggressive depending on whether you believed she was sour about the yelling-thing or not.]
[21:29] * Raphael shut his eyes for a moment, glad he was positioned with his back to the desk.
[21:31] <Minaplo> ["Hey." Said Misato gently. "I know you're not feeling very sure about this, but you saw me this morning, how reluctant I was… You encouraged me then too, right? So now…"]
[21:39] <Raphael> "… Mm. Shouldn't be a hypocrite, I suppose."
[21:41] <Minaplo> [She leaned over and gave him a very tender kiss. "I'll make sure they leave you a lunch spot for when you get back."]
[21:45] <Raphael> "Alright," he said with a resigned sigh.
[21:49] <Minaplo> […-
[21:53] <Minaplo> [After a few minutes, Doctor Aherne appeared in the doorway to the waiting room. He was a thin, slightly gangly, rather tall man with short, auburn hair and blue-grey eyes. "Hello, General? I'm ready to see you now, just come this way."-
[21:56] <Minaplo> [Aherne led him down the hall into the office, which had been Delgado's; but now it looked a lot different. There were still bookcases, although by and large fewer than there had been, and the liquor cabinet had been done away with. The desk was smaller and more modern and sleek than Delgado's grand old mahogany desk, and the seats, whilst still comfortable, were also newer and more elegant in design.-
[21:58] <Minaplo> ["Please, take a seat." Said Aherne, gesturing toward one of those comfortable chairs. They sat opposite- on an angle- to a single chair closer to the door. There were no desks or such between the chairs, although each chair had its own little table.]
[22:13] * Raphael sat and gave the room a careful once over for lack of anything better to focus on. He left his hands folded between his knees, seated a touch too far forward.
[22:14] <Minaplo> [Aherne sat in the chair closest the door, himself leaning a little forward.-
[22:16] <Minaplo> ["I'm Laurie Aherne, Dr. Delgado's replacement." Said Aherne. "If you have any questions about my experience or qualifications, you're welcome to ask."-
[22:20] <Minaplo> ["Now, as you know, I'm new here and I'm still getting used to the culture here and all the new faces." Said Aherne. "So if I seem to miss something obvious or the like, I'll trust you to pull me up on it. Sound good?"]
[22:20] <Raphael> "Of course, Doctor."
[22:32] <Minaplo> ["Good, good. Now, if it's okay, why don't you tell me a little bit about yourself, General?" Said Aherne. "Oh, is General okay? Is there a title or name you prefer…?"]
[22:42] <Raphael> "Er… just Raphael should be fine in these circumstances, sir," he said carefully.-
[22:42] <Raphael> "… is there a particular place you'd like me to start?"
[22:43] <Minaplo> ["Raphael, cracking. You can call me anything you like, by the way."-
[22:43] <Minaplo> ["And… Not particularly. Whatever comes to your mind first."}
[22:47] <Raphael> "Right. Yes," Raphael said, clearly not relishing the lack of direction. The first hurdle of therapy: Being capable of talking about yourself.-
[22:54] <Raphael> He sighed. "All of this will be in your reports, but I should try anyway. I work with both the SOS - Our extraordinary threat response unit - and the Superheavy crews here in the UEF. Previously I worked with NERV's expeditionary forces, and before that I served in the UN dating back to shortly after Impact."-
[22:56] <Raphael> "I have a daughter who lives with me here on the Battleship, and… well, I imagine my relationship with Admiral Katsuragi was at least touched upon in your last session," he said awkwardly.
[23:01] <Minaplo> ["Okay. So it sounds like you've had a long career in the armed forces." Said Aherne. "And now you're working on raising a daughter and you have a partner as well."-
[23:01] <Minaplo> ["You seem like a pretty busy fellow, Raphael, considering all that." He said with a small grin.]
[23:08] <Raphael> "Very, sir," he said seriously.
[23:09] <Minaplo> ["Well considering how busy you are, do you get much time to yourself? Time to do whatever you want?"]
[23:13] <Raphael> "… Purely to myself? No, sir. Not in a long time."
[23:15] <Minaplo> ["Purely to yourself, as in… What time you do have is spent with other people?"]
[23:18] <Raphael> Raphael nodded.
[23:18] <Minaplo> ["Is that okay?"]
[23:20] <Raphael> "I don't think it's bad, it's just a fact. I imagine my father reached a certain point in his own life."
[23:23] <Minaplo> ["Sure."-
[23:24] <Minaplo> ["So who do you usually spend this time with?"]
[23:35] <Raphael> "Aside from Misato and Suzanne, there's my younger siblings, at least when my brother happens to be on board the ship," he said. He'd sat back in his seat a little more now. "A lot of the Ayanamis - particularly Rei and her family - Marshal deForest and some friends in the SOS as well."
[23:38] <Minaplo> ["Right, okay. And Suzanne's your daughter, yes?"]
[23:38] <Raphael> He nodded, and even managed a small smile. "Sorry, I probably should've made that clear."
[23:39] <Minaplo> ["No no, you're alright."-
[23:39] <Minaplo> ["So you have Misato, Suzanne- a brother and another sibling… And you're friends with a lot of the Ayanami sisters, the Adeptus Marshal and some people in your unit as well."]
[23:40] <Raphael> "Yessir. The other sibling's my sister."
[23:41] <Minaplo> ["Right. And your siblings- what are their names, sorry?"]
[23:43] <Raphael> "Caitlin and Lucas. Caitlin lives with me here on the ship, while Lucas is with our at-risk civilians elsewhere."
[23:43] <Minaplo> [Aherne nodded. "Okay, great."-
[23:45] <Minaplo> ["What sort of things do you do with your friends and family when you do get together then?"]
[23:59] <Raphael> "To be honest with you the majority of the 'social' time on this ship tends to be centred around shared meals, just given how impossible it is to coordinate schedules with the hours we keep," he said.-
[00:05] <Raphael> "Suzie and Rei got into the habit of movie nights when we all first met, so I try to be a part of those as often as I can, especially now that Caitlin's a part of them," he said. "And Suzie's recovering from a long-term injury, so I try to be the one to take her to physical therapy whenever I possibly can. Which is… not as often as I'd like, these days."
[00:25] <Minaplo> [Aherne nodded. "Okay. It almost sounds like you've got a bit of a family tradition brewing there."]
[00:36] * Raphael smiled a little more honestly that time. "I guess so. I'd like to say I had more, but my schedule doesn't offer much elasticity. I was only really able to come here with Misato today by doing reports in the waiting room."-
[00:37] <Raphael> "… excuse me," he said, sitting up a little straighter as the smile disappeared. "I don't mean to sound as though I'm complaining, given the situation we're in. Plenty of other soldiers don't have the luxury of spending any time with their families right now."
[00:47] <Minaplo> ["But they'd want to, you think?"]
[00:47] <Raphael> "Of course."
[00:48] <Minaplo> ["Then I'm sure they'd understand you wanting to spend time with your family, too." Said Aherne.]
[00:49] <Raphael> "Mm. Maybe."
[00:58] <Minaplo> [Aherne shuffled slightly in his seat.-
[00:58] <Minaplo> ["So let's see. You spend a good deal of time with your family, you have a bit of a tradition going, and you find that time pretty relaxing it sounds like."]
[01:10] * Raphael nodded. "I'd say so, yes."
[01:13] <Minaplo> ["Well, that's good, then."-
[01:14] <Minaplo> ["I… Know you almost certainly don't have the time to pursue them, but if you did, do you have any hobbies you liked to engage in?"]
[01:21] <Raphael> "I like to cook," he said, scratching his neck a little. "I still find time to do that, at least on occasion."-
[01:23] <Raphael> "… otherwise there's not much."
[01:24] <Minaplo> [Aherne nodded. "Sure. Any music you like to follow?"]
[01:31] * Raphael shifted uncomfortably. "No."
[01:34] <Minaplo> ["… Is that okay? Sorry, I get the sense that you're a little worried about this…"]
[01:47] * Raphael took a deep breath and for a moment he just shut his eyes and gathered his thoughts.-
[01:47] <Raphael> "I don't really enjoy talking about myself," he said eventually. "Not just because I find it uncomfortable, but because there's very little to define me beyond my job. I find that unsettling."-
[01:47] <Raphael> "I wasn't really intending to come here today or, to be completely honest, in the near future, but Misato said it helped and she wanted to help me and I have a very difficult time saying no to that. So while this is not easy for me, believe me when I say I am trying." He took a deep breath, somewhat starved for oxygen.
[01:48] <Minaplo> [Aherne smiled; he leaned forward a little more. "Okay, Raphael. I know you're trying. And I'm speaking honestly when I say that you're doing an excellent job of doing it."]
[01:50] * Raphael opened his eyes again and nodded carefully. "Alright."
[01:54] <Minaplo> ["Do you mind if I just go over what we talked about?"]
[01:56] <Raphael> "Go ahead," he said.
[02:05] <Minaplo> ["Let's see. You're a career soldier." Said Aherne. "You have a partner- Misato- a daughter, Suzanne, a brother named Lucas and a sister named Caitlin. You're also very friendly with the Ayanamis, especially Ayanami Rei, and you're also friends with some colleagues in your unit as well as in the Corps."-
[02:06] <Minaplo> ["A lot of your spare time is spent with your family and friends, often eating, but you also make sure to engage in family traditions- like watching movies or doing a bit of your own cooking. You're also very busy, so you don't have much time with them… But you seem to enjoy it, although you're also empathic enough to worry about the soldiers who might be missing their own families."-
[02:06] <Minaplo> ["That all sound right to you?"]
[13:12] * Raphael nodded warily. "I think so."
[13:12] <Minaplo> ["Alright, great." Said Aherne.-
[13:13] <Minaplo> ["Now, I do have a question for you- you mentioned eating. Would… You happen to know the best places to find food here on the ship? I'm uh, still settling in, and so far I've been living off of my wife's packed lunches, but that's not gonna last forever."]
[13:24] <Raphael> Here he suddenly seemed to find himself on firmer ground. "Well, unless you're willing to source your own ingredients there's three main locations. The cafeteria here tends to be fairly good, and it's free."-
[13:24] <Raphael> "If you're willing to pay, there's two restaurants on the Promenade that see a lot of busines. There's Blue's - run by a man named Jesiah - which was the only option for a long time. The food's good, but it's all very heavy and it hasn't coped well with rationing. 'Restful' is run by Ayanami Roku - it's newer, and the food tends to be healthier. Roku's an excellent chef to boot."
[13:27] <Minaplo> ["Oh, that's perfect, thank you. And they're both on the promenade…"-
[13:27] <Minaplo> ["It seems pretty impressive that Ms. Ayanami is managing to run a whole restaurant as well as attend to her usual duties."]
[13:36] <Raphael> "Well, her Evangelion's been out of commission for some time. She enjoys the work, and to be honest with you she was in dire need of a structured outlet beyond her work with us."
[13:44] <Minaplo> ["Hmm, that's good to know. She's on my books, but I'm glad to see she's finding her own successes." Said Aherne.-
[13:44] <Minaplo> ["Now between Blue's and Restful, which one offers more privacy?" Said Aherne. "It's rather important."]
[13:49] <Raphael> "Blue's has a pair of private parlours in the back of the restaraunt, if that's what you need."
[13:50] <Minaplo> ["Yeah, that's cracking, thanks."-
[13:54] <Minaplo> ["Now, then." Said Aherne, clapping his hands lightly with a smile. "What would have to happen in the next fifty minutes we have together for you to feel like this was a worthwhile use of your time?"]
[14:00] <Raphael> "That's… difficult. I'm not really sure, sir," he admitted. "Most of my sessions with Doctor Delgado tended to have very specific reasons why I needed to be there, and without that I'm a bit lost."
[14:01] <Minaplo> ["Fair enough, Raphael." Said Aherne. "Might I ask you to just fill in a quick test for me?"]
[14:02] <Raphael> "Mm. Alright."
[14:03] <Minaplo> [Aherne reached into a bag by his side and took out a single piece of paper, which he handed to Raphael with a pen. "This is the Outcome Rating Scale- it's a quick test, only takes about thirty seconds, but it gives a good overview of where we might need to focus on for now. Just draw an X on the dotted lines where you feel is best."]
[14:14] * Raphael nodded, regarding the piece of paper very seriously. It took a good deal longer than thirty seconds, and every line made him pause to assess.
[14:14] <Raphael> But eventually he handed it back.
[14:17] <Minaplo> [Aherne took it, then took out a little ruler, measured each line- and the position of each x on the line- then took the pen and drew a line between each x, forming a sort of pointed shape.-
[14:21] <Minaplo> ["Alright, Raphael, let's take a look at this together." He said. "So it looks like you're feeling alright about your family and relationships and you're feeling good about your friendships and your worklife, which is great."-
[14:23] <Minaplo> ["You've marked your own personal well-being fairly left on the scale. Is it okay if we talk about what's got you feeling that way?"]
[14:29] * Raphael nodded stiffly, shooting the door a brief glance.-
[14:29] <Raphael> There was a moment's pause. "I suppose that would require me to start…?"
[14:30] <Minaplo> ["Please."]
[14:48] <Raphael> "Alright…"-
[14:48] <Raphael> "I've not been dealing with internal stresses as well as I'd like," he said finally. "Some of that's because of the war - I've operated in six countries in the last month - and some of that's because of pressures at home that I'm not quite sure how to deal with. It's left me a bit… ragged emotionally, and that's lead to some problems here on the ship that've only served to make me more burnt out."
[14:54] <Minaplo> ["Alright. So you've been given a lot of responsibilities with the war effort, but even when you come home there's some problems you have to deal with. Okay. Let's just take it one at a time- which of those problems do you want to focus on first?"]
[15:02] * Raphael gave him a critical look. "May I ask a question first?"
[15:03] <Minaplo> ["Of course."]
[15:03] <Raphael> "How many of our more classified problems as an organisation have you been briefed on, sir? I imagine you'd have to know most everything just to do your job."
[15:05] <Minaplo> ["I imagine most of them, yes. If I don't, then I don't know what I don't know. But as far as the nature of the Evangelions, the Ayanamis, Bioexotics in general, the Eternity Drive, Adam, Lilith, reincarnation… Yeah, that I know."-
[15:05] <Minaplo> ["It was something of an eye-opener for this little lad from Glasgow, let me tell you, but."]
[15:06] * Raphael gave him a sympathetic smile. "Did they force it on you in one massive briefing?"
[15:07] <Minaplo> ["Thankfully, no. I've served as Delgado's supervisor ever since he started working with NERV, and around two years ago he decided having someone aware of all this in case he needed replacing would be a good idea, so I've learned over time."]
[15:12] * Raphael nodded. "That's something, then."-
[15:13] <Raphael> "Alright. That makes things simpler for some of the matters I might need to discuss. Do you mind if I start with something less arcane, though…?"
[15:14] <Minaplo> ["Not at all."]
[15:32] <Raphael> "Alright. Then I suppose there's one problem I haven't been able to find much help with," he sighed, and pulled a little black box from inside his jacket pocket.-
[15:32] <Raphael> Inside it was a ring in white gold, with a series of diamonds set flat into the band. It was simple, elegant, and very obviously an engagement ring.-
[15:32] <Raphael> "I've been carrying this around. For Misato, obviously. I've-… er, been second-guessing myself for months, to be completely honest."
[15:41] <Minaplo> ["Hmm, okay." Said Aherne, giving the ring a frank appraisal. "So you want to propose to Misato, but you're having doubts…"]
[15:53] <Raphael> "Well. No. Not… quite," he said slowly, his voice quiet. "I know it's what I want, and it's something we've discussed as a couple, but I'm worried about… timing?"-
[15:53] <Raphael> "We both have our own hurdles when it comes to this, and we agreed there was no need to rush, but… with the war the way it is, I'm terrified that something might happen and I'd lose my chance."
[16:03] <Minaplo> ["So the two of you have been pretty open about your concerns before." Said Aherne. "Now you're worried that something might happen… Like one of you becoming hurt or worse?"]
[16:04] <Raphael> "Yessir. I tend to be the one who serves in direct combat, but she's had plenty of close calls herself…"
[16:11] <Raphael> He was quiet for a while. "The truth is I nearly proposed before we fought Metatron. If there was a right time it was that, but… I didn't want to complicate matters, with the situation as serious as it was. Then she went and ran into a positron reactor without the appropriate shielding and nearly died."
[16:11] <Raphael> «it was then*»
[16:13] <Minaplo> ["I see…"-
[16:14] <Minaplo> ["Might I ask what you think would happen if you were to ask soon?"]
[16:37] <Raphael> "… I don't really know. Probably nothing serious, but I would hate to make her feel pressured."-
[16:37] <Raphael> "In all honesty, what I need to do is talk to her about it properly. I'd intended to do that when she returned from Morrocco, but she wasn't feeling her best and… well, it was a matter or timing again."
[16:39] <Minaplo> ["Right, I see. So you felt she was already feeling pressured and didn't want to add to that burden right then and there."]
[16:40] <Raphael> "Right."
[16:42] <Minaplo> [Aherne nodded. "But you've got a plan in mind- to talk to her- and what you're looking for is the right time to go ahead."]
[16:45] * Raphael nodded again.
[16:47] <Minaplo> ["I imagine that's causing you a bit of concern considering you're worried about the danger the two of you are in…"]
[16:51] * Raphael smiled faintly. "More than a bit, sir."
[16:52] <Minaplo> [Aherne nodded and gave Raphael his own faint smile. "Of course."-
[16:53] <Minaplo> ["Alright. So what would the right time look like to you?"]
[16:59] <Raphael> "A time when we had more than an hour alone, and we were both collected enough to be capable of talking it over without external problems getting in the way."
[17:04] <Minaplo> ["Alright, that's good. What would need to happen to create that time?"]
[17:06] <Raphael> "Permanently restationing us to Alaska would be helpful, sir," he said mildly.
[17:06] <Minaplo> ["Anyone you could talk to in order to arrange that?"]
[17:08] <Raphael> "I'll ask around."-
[17:08] <Raphael> "… in all honesty, I can't say. Finding a time that the both of us are in the one place and together enough to approach that conversation honestly seems like a tough proposition right now."
[17:08] <Minaplo> ["I can imagine." Said Aherne sympathetically.-
[17:08] <Minaplo> ["Alright, why don't we try to break it down?"]
[17:09] <Raphael> "Alright."
[17:09] <Minaplo> ["Finding time and finding composure. Which one have you found easier to arrive by?"]
[17:10] <Raphael> "As a couple? Probably time, sir."
[17:13] <Minaplo> [He nodded. "Okay. So what sorts of things have you done in the past to find time?"]
[17:22] <Raphael> "Well… mostly we just take time where we can - an hour or two here and there whenever we can afford it," he said slowly. "In the past vacations were an option. These days to get more than two hours at a stretch we'd have to get ourselves sealed in an elevator."
[17:26] <Minaplo> ["I see." Said Aherne with a smile.-
[17:26] <Minaplo> ["If the elevators on this ship are anything like those in the Geofront then I see your point."]
[17:30] <Raphael> "Hah. There's no elevator like a Geofront elevator, sir, at least in my experience."
[17:30] <Minaplo> [Aherne chuckled.-
[17:31] <Minaplo> ["You mentioned before about workload cutting a lot into your time… What else cuts into your time?"]
[17:39] <Raphael> "There's a lot of people who need help on the ship beyond the bounds of my work. Beyond my family, the Ayanamis need a lot of individual support, and a lot of there's few people who seem to have the time or inclination offer that. I do what I can there."
[17:54] <Minaplo> ["Alright, so your workload and your family obligations. Anything else?"]
[16:19] <Raphael> "Well no, not really," he said. "I'm aware that doesn't sound like much, but nevertheless…"
[16:36] <Minaplo> ["Oh, it sounds like quite a lot to me, considering work involves travelling across continents." Said Aherne. "Considering that both you and Misato have to do that, I'm impressed the two of you manage to find what time you do have."]
[16:36] <Raphael> "Thank you."
[16:48] <Minaplo> ["Now, then. It sounds like one or both of these have to give in some way if we're gonna create some time for you and Misato- does that sound fair?"]
[16:49] * Raphael nodded. "Certainly."
[16:49] <Minaplo> ["Alright, good. Which one would you like to look at first?"]
[16:51] <Raphael> "… myself, I suppose."
[16:54] <Minaplo> ["Alright." Said Aherne, giving Raphael a reassuring smile. "You mentioned your time being taken up by family commitments and your work commitments, which do you want to focus on today?"]
[16:56] <Raphael> "My work with the UEF can't really be adjusted," he said seriously. "I suppose family commitments could be, at least for a short while."
[16:59] <Minaplo> ["Your work can't be- it can't be adjusted? Can you tell me some more about that?"]
[17:13] * Raphael frowned. "… I'm not sure what to say, sir. We're at war, and most operations I manage are high risk to both the people involved and the Federation itself if we fail. Most of the time I'm worried that I'm not working enough. Trading in time for personal matters would be irresponsible."
[17:18] <Minaplo> ["Irresponsible, right." Said Aherne. "I suppose I'm not really aware of how this works- you go on operations, military operations… Operations in the field, correct? Like the ones we just talked about, with you going across countries."]
[17:35] <Raphael> "Broadly…" He said slowly. "I suppose I should explain: SOS' mandate and my own role have shifted over time. When Director Hohenzollern created it we were primarily dealing in things like raids and retrievals in extraordinary conditions, but we've also become the ones to deal with bioexotics - Iron Guard and Phantoms particularly - and Angelspawn. It was our job to retake Asgard, for example."-
[17:35] <Raphael> "Then there's the Superheavy teams. I'm a pilot myself, and I tend to assist or oversee a lot of the work we do with the custom teams due to my job and experience."-
[17:36] <Raphael> "… And more recently I've been asked to manage a few covert missions in UN territory."-
[17:36] <Raphael> "It's complex," he finished.
[17:47] <Minaplo> ["Yeah, it sounds pretty complex." Said Aherne, looking a little taken aback. "Whew."-
[17:48] <Minaplo> ["You really pilot one of those superheavies? I don't suppose you guys have any surplus technical manuals or guides for them or anything?"]
[17:52] * Raphael looked surprised, but that brought a smile along with it. "You're curious, sir?"
[17:54] <Minaplo> ["Personally, I'm a little intrigued, but my youngest son Daniel, he's mad for them. When he learned I was moving here to work full time, well… Let's just say I wish the rest of my family were as thrilled as he was!"]
[18:02] <Raphael> "Oh, I can sympathise with that," he grinned. "Suzie's the same. I'm sure I could find you something, even if it's just manuals for the old Dreadnoughts. They're not exactly cutting-edge these days, but it should give him something to pore over."
[18:09] <Minaplo> ["Absolutely. Anything sounds good to me." Said Aherne with a laugh. "Has Suzanne gotten really into those robot cartoons the Japanese make, too?"]
[18:13] <Raphael> "Oh yes. That was mostly Rei's doing, but now it's self-sustaining," he sighed. "And I need to watch them, of course - For 'tips'. The two of them are very helpful like that."
[18:13] <Minaplo> ["Tips! What've you learned so far, then?"]
[18:20] <Raphael> "More shouting, sir," he said gravely. "Always more shouting."
[18:33] <Minaplo> [Aherne laughed. "I don't suppose you've started shouting more, have you…?"]
[18:44] <Raphael> "I'm afraid not, sir. People just mute your comms if you try."-
[18:44] <Raphael> "Regardless," he said, "Yes, I've been a superheavy pilot since their first deployments with NERV. I suppose that's only two years, but it feels like a good deal longer."
[18:47] <Minaplo> ["Right there at the very start, huh." Said Aherne. "And you're still here now- you must be quite the ace."]
[18:55] <Raphael> "I have my talents, sir," he said. "Although I'm pleased to say all of the original pilots are still with us. When it came to the Angels the Dreadnoughts were substantially safer for conventional soldiers than the methods we were using before that."
[18:57] <Minaplo> ["Well, I'm glad to hear that at least." Said Aherne warmly.-
[18:59] <Minaplo> ["Especially since, as you said, you're in pretty high demand by the Federation." Said Aherne. "Which we can't change. What about your work that you do when you're not on deployment?"]
[19:26] <Raphael> "… I don't really see a way to change that either, sir," he said helplessly. "Generally speaking the preparation to application ratio for the sort of work I specialise in approaches twenty-to-one. If Superheavies are not properly prepared when they are asked to stand toe-to-to with an Evangelion, the Superheavy loses. The same goes for a unit of biotypical soldiers versus a squad of Phantoms or a lone Iron Guard."
[19:46] <Minaplo> ["I see. What sort of things do you have to do as part of preparation?"]
[13:59] <Raphael> "That's not an easy question to answer succinctly," he said, "But I suppose I can try."-
[13:59] <Raphael> He took a deep breath.-
[13:59] <Raphael> "I'll give an example with the Superheavies, as the SOS deployments are a different level of complexity entirely. If we're deploying them with the expectation that they'll be engaging Evangelions, I have to cooperate with the ISF to try and ensure we have accurate information on which Evas they're likely to be facing, given how much variation they have in terms of threats posed."-
[13:59] <Raphael> "Then there's an extensive planning phase. Going over all available data regarding our opponents, then drafting preliminary lists of pilots, loadouts and strategies. Then we pull the teams together and brief them."-
[13:59] <Raphael> "At that point we begin running repeated simulation engagements based on the data we have. When that's done, we reevaluate all the previous planning we put together to see if it holds up. Then we run further simulations with the pilots, introducing increasing levels of variance to the sim to try and ensure our plans are flexible enough. That all needs to happen before the operation itself."-
[14:00] <Raphael> He stared down at his shoes, and for a moment the calm, professional mask he'd worn as he rattled off the list and he looked frustrated. "It's all necessary, I'm afraid."
[14:07] <Minaplo> ["It does sound like a lot, even though it also sounds like it's pretty important." Said Aherne sympathetically. "And you say it's all necessary. Has to be done. Right?"]
[14:20] <Raphael> "Right."-
[14:20] <Raphael> He looked up, smiling without a trace of humour. "There's a series of… well prophecies that those in the know put a good deal of faith in. They suggest the human race ends before the year is out - Forty to sixty days from now. If I had an ounce of sense I'd be spending every moment with the people I love."-
[14:20] <Raphael> "… but I won't. I'll spend nearly every waking moment working, because it's necessary."
[14:21] <Minaplo> [Aherne nodded sombrely. If the idea of the prophecies alarmed or stunned him, he didn't show it.-
[14:22] <Minaplo> ["I understand, especially with stakes that high." Said Aherne. He leaned forward a little more now. "I suppose the question is… Does it have to be done by you?"]
[14:32] <Raphael> "Every other qualified officer manages at least as much as I do."
[14:37] <Minaplo> ["Okay. But does it have to be done by you? If you were grievously injured tomorrow, and you couldn't do any work, none whatsoever… What happens to the work that needed to get done? It just waits for you to get better?"]
[14:42] * Raphael shifted in his chair, a frown forming on his face. "Well no, it'd fall to other people, but…"
[14:50] <Minaplo> [Aherne nodded, prompting Raphael to finish.]
[14:52] <Raphael> "It's my responsibility," he said lamely.
[14:56] <Minaplo> [Aherne nodded.-
[14:57] <Minaplo> ["It is. I think we both know you do it very well, too." Said Aherne. "But let's review what you said earlier. You said one of the things you needed to be able to speak to Misato about this was time. How much time do you think you'd need?"]
[14:58] <Raphael> "A couple of hours, maybe…"
[15:00] <Minaplo> ["A couple of hours. What do you think would happen if you put your work aside for… A couple of hours?"]
[15:08] <Raphael> "That… very much depends on the timing."
[15:09] <Minaplo> ["Sure. But are there times where it could be possible?"]
[15:09] * Raphael nodded begrudginly. "Maybe."
[15:11] <Minaplo> ["Alright. Then let's ignore the stuff we can't work with." Said Aherne. "Would you be happy to find an appropriate time to put aside work for a few hours to speak with Misato?"]
[15:19] <Raphael> "Yes," he said carefully. He didn't seem aware of the way his index finger had begun tapping restlessly against his knee.
[15:29] <Minaplo> ["Okay, good." Said Aherne with a smile.-
[15:30] <Minaplo> ["We've been working pretty well for the last half hour or so, so I think now's a good time to take a check." Said Aherne. "How are you feeling? Would you like any water or cheese-and-crackers?"]
[15:36] <Raphael> Only half an hour? He needed to look at the clock to confirm that, his hands suddenly stilled. "Some water would be helpful, actually."
[15:39] <Minaplo> ["Of course." Said Aherne, taking out a chilled thermos of water and a hard plastic cup from his bag, which he handed to Raphael.]
[15:54] <Raphael> The first cup he drank greedily, the whole thing downed in one long gulp. He then poured another and sipped it in silence, allowing himself a moment with his thoughts.
[16:04] <Minaplo> [Aherne busied himself with his own thermos as well as a small platter of crackers and soft cheese.-
[16:06] <Minaplo> ["You mentioned a few times that you know Ayanami Rei." Said Aherne lightly. "What an incredible young lady she is- my family and I were back in Glasgow for the election, we got to go to one of their rallies."]
[16:09] <Raphael> "Did you?" He asked with a smile, setting his half-full cup on the table. "I'm a little jealous, sir. I never got to attend one in person."
[16:10] <Minaplo> ["Heh. Well, they were a hell of a thing." Said Aherne warmly. "We had our doubts. I knew better than most what Wellesley could do, but he's just so young. But once he and Ayanami Rei were on that stage… Mmm. It was strange. I can't remember anything else like it."]
[16:12] <Raphael> "How so?"
[16:14] <Minaplo> ["It's hard to describe. It felt like… Anything was possible." Said Aherne. "That we- we, the people- could achieve anything we really wanted, anything we really believed in. And they stood there as guides- but also as examples. That we could trust our government to an eighteen year old youth and it wouldn't be a disaster- that it might actually be a genuinely good thing."]
[16:44] <Raphael> "They'll do that to you, sir," he said ruefully. "The two of them are incredible."
[16:47] <Minaplo> [Aherne chuckled. "That they are. It almost sounds like you've been a bit wonderstruck yourself."]
[16:52] <Raphael> He laughed. "I don't know about that. I know them a bit too well…"-
[16:52] <Raphael> "I'm curious, though. You suggested you were familiar with Alphonse?"
[16:59] <Minaplo> ["Not with him exactly." Said Aherne. "That is, we didn't know each other personally before I arrived… But Felix's practice in Bordeaux was established for the purpose of providing guidance to child soldiers. We worked- with the UN's permission and sponsorship- with a few NeoSpartans and some NeoAlexes… It behooved us to know details of their various programmes. It was impossible not
[16:59] <Minaplo> to learn about Wellesley considering that context."]
[17:03] <Raphael> "Mm, I see. Unpleasant work, but there's plenty of need for it…" he said quietly. "You'll find plenty of time to use that experience here, unfortunately. I can see why Doctor Delgado was so quick to turn things over to you."
[17:18] <Minaplo> ["Thank you." Said Aherne. "I know he was respected by a lot of people here- that means a lot."-
[17:19] <Minaplo> ["How're you feeling, Raphael? We good to keep working?"]
[17:24] <Raphael> "I think so."
[17:26] <Minaplo> ["Okay, good."-
[17:28] <Minaplo> ["Let's just review for a moment. We talked about you wanting to talk with Misato about your future, a possible engagement, you wanted to do it whilst you still had the chance. We decided that you'd need a few hours of spare time as well as having the two of you on balance. We looked at the need for time and decided that you'd be happy to make some time in your exhausting work schedule to
[17:28] <Minaplo> speak with Misato. All sound about right?"]
[17:30] * Raphael nodded as he went for another sip of water.
[17:42] <Minaplo> ["Okay. And we decided that there was some work that couldn't be put aside, not even for a few hours, but there was some work that could be. So let's talk about the work that could be delayed for a little while."]
[17:58] <Raphael> "I might be able to delegate some reports…"
[18:05] <Minaplo> ["Delegate some reports. That's a good start. Who do you have in mind to receive them?"-
[12:48] <Minaplo> [And so the two worked, in much the same way- they teased out opportunities and potential strategies for Raphael to pursue.-
[12:49] <Minaplo> [Before long, twenty minutes had passed, and the framework of a plan started to take form, both a long-term plan as well as a few short-term ones, something Raphael could do within the next week.-
[12:52] <Minaplo> ["Well then, Raphael." Said Aherne, who was rubbing his knees and swaying forward as though getting ready to stand up. "It looks like we have something to go on. Did you have any questions or comments for me before we wrapped up today?"]
[13:01] <Tao> Raphael looked tired as they finally moved to wrap up. It was difficult to say that he'd opened up, but he'd clearly gone to a good deal of effort to answer the questions honestly. "I don't believe so, sir. It seems there's a plan to go on…"
[13:21] <Minaplo> ["Alright, that's good. There's just one last thing I'll ask you to do, just another one of those forms." Said Aherne, taking out another form similar to the first one. "This one's for my benefit- it measures how you thought the session went and how I did."]
[13:55] * Raphael was quicker that time, and after a few quick scribbles he handed the sheet back.
[13:58] <Minaplo> [Aherne took the form back and took a look at it.-
[13:59] <Minaplo> ["Hmm."-
[14:01] <Minaplo> ["Alright, I see. So looking at this, it seems I have a bit of work to do." Said Aherne, looking up. "Can you tell me about your thoughts regarding my approach and methods?"]
[14:05] <Raphael> "I wouldn't say it's you, sir," he said awkwardly. "I appreciated your help. None of this has ever really felt natural - with you or Delgado - which I assumed was what the question was asking…"
[14:08] <Minaplo> ["Hmm, alright." Said Aherne. "That's fair enough. Nonetheless, I still think it's room for improvement… I'll leave it here for now, but the next time we meet, I'd like to hear your thoughts on what I might change or do differently to suit you more appropriately. What might work better."]
[14:09] <Raphael> "I'll do what I can. Next time I'll actually have time to prepare…"
[14:20] <Minaplo> [Aherne chuckled. "Yes. Not… Quite my preferred way to schedule an appointment, but I suppose Misato has her ways."]
[14:23] <Raphael> "She certainly does," he said with a small, fond smile. "Nevermind. I know where she's coming from."-
[14:24] <Raphael> He stood. "Until next time then, sir?"
[14:26] <Minaplo> [Aherne stood as well. "Until next time, Raphael." Said Aherne, extending his hand. "Remember those tech manuals for me, won't you?"]
[14:31] * Raphael laughed as he shook his hand. "Certainly. I'll see what we can spare."-
[14:31] <Raphael> A moment later Raphael was on his way, without the spring in his step Misato had possessed but at least with the beginnings of a plan.

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