Cherry Blossom Procession 4 2 32

[13:14] <Raphael> "- so Surov has agreed to route any excess Sigilite to Yutada to allow him to work on his device, but given the time constraints we've put the priority on the sigilite bomb we hope to use on Mary. We've assigned Surov, Fuyutsuki and Ezekiel to oversee the technical side, while both Chiisanas and Sophia Simonides have been developing the charge."-
[13:16] <Raphael> Raphael had spoken for nearly half an hour by that point, only pausing when Yanmei had a question. The Chancellor had been provided an extensive series of notes and reports detailing the… surprisingly extensive work that had been achieved with Raphael's secret team - the one Tsubaki had insisted on referring to as 'XCAINE'.-
[13:18] <Raphael> "We're not sure precisely how long it'll take to produce the appropriate charge. It's delicate work - anywhere between a few weeks to two months, according to estimates."
[13:25] <Yanmei> "Anything else we can do to speed up the project?" Yanmei was shifting through said notes, frowning slightly. "Two months is a pretty long time in our situation."
[13:28] <Raphael> "I agree. The hope is that it'll speed up as Fuyutsuki and Surov get more acquainted with the science in play - Ezekiel is helping, but I suspect it's only due to the fact that charging it too fast or without the proper focus could, uh," he frowned, "Blow a hole clear through the Earth, ma'am."-
[13:28] <Raphael> "So we're being careful."
[13:35] <Yanmei> "Er… Yes. Being careful is prudent," Yanmei agreed quickly. "If we can't speed the production up, is there at least anything we can do to prevent any possible setbacks? Special equipment or environments or such?"
[13:39] <Raphael> "Extra sigilite's the only thing they've suggested. Maybe diverting additional time to focus on the project if we can afford it," he said. "As far as the sigilite goes, we might have to arrange capturing additional MP-Evas."
[13:46] <Yanmei> "Heh. We can certainly try capturing more of them? It will be tricky with our reduced number of EVA units, but I bet we can pull it off."
[13:49] <Raphael> "I'm sure, Chancellor," he said agreeably.-
[13:50] <Raphael> "As far as deploying the bomb goes, we have a preliminary plan, but… putting it into action would require your approval."
[13:50] <Yanmei> "Go on…"
[13:53] <Raphael> "I would like permission to contact Ezra Caine," he said calmly, "Secretly, of course. We need his assistance if we want any hope of killing Mary."
[13:54] <Yanmei> "…" -
[13:55] <Yanmei> Yanmei stared at him. "You actually think we can trust him for something this critical?"
[13:58] <Raphael> "Trust is relative, ma'am," said Raphael. "Do I think he sincerely wants Caine removed? Yes I do. We also have leverage: I think we both understand that the Marshals Caine are alive at Mary's mercy, and that mercy is liable to be running out after losses in Germany. He'll understand that too."-
[13:58] <Raphael> "We can move to ensure Sarah lives."
[14:04] <Yanmei> "Mary Caine is also ridiculously paranoid and is probably aware that Marshal Caine wants her gone? If we are going to approach him, we must be absolutely certain that she doesn't have any spies looming around him."
[14:07] <Raphael> "… I have good news and bad news on that front, ma'am."
[14:08] <Yanmei> "Oh no." She groaned a little. "Tell the bad news first, okay?"
[14:09] <Raphael> "The bad news is that at least one of our Neos has been secretly communicating with the Promised land," he said awkwardly.-
[14:10] <Raphael> "The good news is that I now have access to their comms relay. So that's… uh, something."
[14:11] <Yanmei> "Who was it?" Her voice was quite a bit tighter now.
[14:14] * Raphael sighed. "Sergeant Awala, ma'am. He hasn't been feeding them information - I interrogated him fairly thoroughly - but he did smuggle them a handful of Eternity Tears when he was acquiring that Annihilator in Africa."
[14:15] <Yanmei> "That Awala… What could he be thinking?! He's always doing dangerous things!"
[14:20] <Raphael> "We need to be sure nothing like this happens again, but I wouldn't say that instance is too damning," Raphael said. "It's a good reminder of just who Ezra and Sarah are to a lot of our people, I think."
[14:28] <Yanmei> "He probably needs to spend some more time behind bars?" Yanmei scowled. "Uggh. Regardless of who they were in the past, everyone working here should know better!"
[14:33] <Raphael> "Agreed, ma'am," he nodded.-
[14:33] <Raphael> "Regardless, it's a fairly secure method of reaching him, if you'll allow it."
[14:38] <Yanmei> "How do you know it's so secure?"
[14:52] <Raphael> "The Promised Land have a series of secret safehouses with heavily encrypted communication channels. They can only speak to other safehouses, and it's not the fastest method of communication, but Director Simon thinks it's about as secure as we can hope to find," Raphael said. "Unless they have a hidden Quantum Broadcaster they're not telling us about."
[15:00] <Yanmei> "Mmph. She still might find out and set a trap at one of them? Make sure that whoever uses it is properly protected. I'd prefer using outright telepathy, but this might be fine too."
[15:04] * Raphael nodded. "Our intent is to use the comms to request his coordinates, and then use those to set up a telepathy network to discuss the actual details."
[15:07] <Yanmei> "Even better! You have my permission to proceed, but please be very very careful."
[15:08] <Raphael> "Yes ma'am. Should I outline the plan itself?"
[15:09] <Yanmei> "Yes, please."
[15:17] <Raphael> "There are a few reasons we need Ezra's assistance: When we're ready to destroy the Pillars, we need to strike Mary almost simultaneously. Ezra can provide accurate information about where she is, and we may be able to use him to time our strike effectively," Raphael said.-
[15:17] <Raphael> "When the Pillars are destroyed, I propose we have Ezra ready to disable the Dirac Jammers in the Synfront, and give us camera feeds of her location. An Eva with remote synch can then open a portal and detonate the sigilite bomb with enough control to destroy her without annihilating the surrounding area."
[15:28] <Yanmei> "She might have additional defenses up close? That is, we might need more than one Eva on this to be safe."
[15:30] <Raphael> "Agreed. We'd need the Battleship within range of the primary Eva - I've proposed 07 - to maintain remote synch, and we'd need extra Evas on site in case she jaunts in Evangelions of her own."
[15:35] <Yanmei> "Do you have anyone in mind for the extra Evas?"
[15:38] <Raphael> "I'd avoid the Master Models. Pilot Gabriel-Wei, de Pteres and yourself perhaps, Chancellor. Perhaps Pilot Leon for fire support."
[15:40] <Yanmei> "I would be happy to participate. This is an extremely important mission, after all…"
[15:41] * Raphael nodded.-
[15:44] <Raphael> "Even assuming we can put all the pieces in place, there's far too many places where the plan could break down," he said, frowning at the table. "Unfortunately it still seems to be the best shot we have."
[15:48] <Yanmei> "There is one part in particular that still worries me," she admitted. "The destruction of the Pillars."
[15:48] <Raphael> "Oh?"
[15:58] * Yanmei scrutinized him for a moment, curiously. "I've been warned against it already? But to be honest, I'd prefer it if this plan hinged on us destroying the three Devas instead of people we actually knew."
[16:05] * Raphael folded his hands on the table - his fingertips digging deeply into the backs of his hands - and took a deep breath.-
[16:05] <Raphael> "… I am certain we all would, ma'am," he said, voice deliberately even. "I respect that it's a difficult decision. That said, I would strongly advise that we not give up the only chance we've ever had at destroying Mary due to a moral quandry."
[13:03] <Yanmei> "That's not what I'm saying? I simply want to explore alternatives. Think about the person who's trying to force us into this decision. Why should we just accept the situation and follow her stupid gameplan without trying out other options?"
[13:04] <Raphael> "Maybe her stupid gameplan is to trust us to waste time looking for alternatives, Chancellor."
[13:10] <Yanmei> "It's not a waste. We're going to be waiting on the construction of that bomb anyway, right? We have some battles to deal with between now and then? We could get lucky and snag another Deva or two in addition to some of those MPs."
[13:13] <Raphael> "We could," he agreed tonelessly, "But we won't. Unless we are fundamentally mistaken about the Pillars, Mary will keep the remaining DEVAs from the field to avoid giving us an even easier decision."-
[13:13] <Raphael> "You're aware of my history with the Expeditionary Force VTOLs, correct Chancellor? At least broadly?"
[13:16] <Yanmei> "Yes, of course."
[13:26] <Raphael> "Do you know how many people in the VTOL wings died during the battle with the Sixth, ma'am?" He asked quietly, his eyes locked on hers "I do. 239 during the Evangelion engagement in Paris alone - 67 of those were under my command. Not as bad as the Eighth, where the time field knocked whole wings out of the sky. I wasn't deployed for that, which is why I'm here talking to you now."-
[13:26] <Raphael> "I was there for the Ninth and Tenth. Highest loss of life for the Expeditionary Forces in Paris aside from the Twelfth itself. The Shadowpeople manifested right inside vehicles to assimilate and replace their originals."-
[13:26] <Raphael> "All of that, and how many instances of a VTOL actually damaging an Angel do you think we have on record?"
[13:34] <Yanmei> "…" Yanmei was frowning deeply. "What are you trying to say, Guillory? That I shouldn't unfairly risk any more lives? I already know that!"
[13:36] <Raphael> Raphael didn't blink. "How many?"
[13:39] <Yanmei> Yanmei was still frowning, and she was starting to look slightly more unsettled as well. "… Just one," she muttered.
[13:42] <Raphael> "Three, actually" Raphael said, his voice matter-of-fact. "Sergeant Serge Cordier with the Third Angel, Captain Violette Sharpe with the Fifth, and a pilot with the Tenth. The first two were killed in the process."-
[13:43] <Raphael> "So, given that I was intimately familiar with these facts, why do you think I gave the orders that saw many, many people I knew killed in the line of duty?"
[13:52] <Yanmei> "Because the stakes of our fights were so high? Because the support from those people could only aid us in the war, even if there was a small chance of damaging the Angels themselves?"
[14:01] <Raphael> "Correct. Sometimes ten lives bought you one of you Pilots a chance to land a blow, and on more than one occasion we spent hundreds across the whole of the NEF just to let you sortie," he said, his hands still pressed tightly together. "Steep, hard sacrifices just to eke out the slightest advantage, because the alternative was unthinkable."-
[14:01] <Raphael> "Tell me that if it came down to it you would kill them both to save everything. Even if Sera de Pteres walked through that door to beg and plead."
[14:08] <Yanmei> "Yes," she said through gritted teeth. "If I had no other choice, I would."
[14:13] <Raphael> He offered a single, curt nod, and relaxed enough that Yanmei saw him blink again. "Thank you, Chancellor Zhang."
[14:18] <Yanmei> But Yanmei did not relax. Not right away, anyway. "How were you able to stand it?"
[14:41] <Raphael> "What other option was there?" He said quietly. "I couldn't let the world burn again, and I couldn't let anyone else take the burden in my place."
[14:49] <Yanmei> "Yeah, but… after all that it'd be normal if you hated us at least a little, I guess."
[15:00] * Raphael shook his head. "Really? Even before I knew you, I would've taken your place if I could have. A lot of us would've. Not because we thought you had it easier, but because even putting the responsibility on you was unfair."-
[15:01] <Raphael> "Yet you all fought as hard as anyone, and I know you made plenty of sacrifices of your own. It was worthy of respect then and it's worthy of respect now."
[15:16] <Yanmei> "Thank you," she said simply. She fidgetted just a little in a slightly embarassed manner, and then shook her head. "Um. Was there anything else you wanted to bring up about your plan?"
[15:25] <Raphael> "No ma'am. I'm sure Prime Minister Rustami forwarded on my proposals regarding the security of the Pillars, and every other proposal from the project should be covered by my reports," he said. He finally let his hands slip apart, a movement that revealed a momentary flash of deep, crescent imprints from his fingernails before he moved them out of sight.-
[15:25] <Raphael> "I can leave you to read them in your own time, though if you could sign off on them within the next few days that would be ideal."
[15:32] <Yanmei> "Certainly, that would be fine. On a personal level, do you think everyone will work together without trouble? The two Chiisanas, for example…"
[15:37] <Raphael> "The younger Chiisana was actually… uh, surprisingly relaxed about the entire mess when I spoke to her," he frowned. "The Empress is a more complex problem, but I'm going to try to speak with her and clear the air. Pilot Leon's been spending time with her when he can, and that seems to be helping to a degree."
[15:39] <Yanmei> "Hmph. Leon's been helping a bunch of girls lately. And by 'helping' I mean that he's totally flirting with them. Have you heard about him and Ibuki?"
[15:46] <Raphael> "You and Misato, Chancellor," he shook his head, which didn't entirely mask his small smile. "Incorrigible."
[15:49] <Yanmei> "Don't you start making comparisons between us! We're both completely different in all aspects of our personalities?"
[15:56] <Raphael> "Of course you are, ma'am."
[16:09] <Yanmei> "I'm glad you understand," she said primly. "Now, then. I have another meeting later this afternoon with Rustami. I'm sure that we're going to discuss those security measures of yours then."
[16:12] <Raphael> "I'm sure, Chancellor," he nodded. "I hope you'll take them under advisement - feel free to contact me later if need be."-
[16:12] <Raphael> "Should I leave you to it for the time being, ma'am?"
[16:16] <Yanmei> "If you don't mind. I'm sure you have a lot to get done too?" Yanmei rose politely to see him out.
[16:20] * Raphael stood as well. He offered a salute. "Good luck with the rest of your work, Yanmei."-
[16:21] <Raphael> A moment later he was on his way.

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