Cherry Blossom Procession 4 4

[15:09] <AdEvaGM> [END OF EVANGELION. 16th of November, 2018. Location: The Élysée Palace, official residence of the President of France. "Cherry Blossom Procession" 4.4-
[15:11] <AdEvaGM> [The sky outside Mazarin's window was clear and cloudless.-
[15:12] <AdEvaGM> [The Gendo floated outside, flanked by the Liberty Bell, Zeruel and Ramiel. Two Evangelions- that of the Empress and Eufemia- flew patrol outside, along with Eagle Squadron.-
[15:13] <AdEvaGM> [It was a massive concentration of power in one place. Not even a thousand nuclear weapons would have equaled it.-
[15:13] <AdEvaGM> [It was a sign of Federation alarm and fear, regardless.-
[15:14] <AdEvaGM> [It had taken over a day for the confusion to settle and for the VIPs to assemble here. Mazarin stood at the window, his left hand folded tightly behind his back, his right nursing a glass of brandy. His expression was tight.-
[15:15] <AdEvaGM> [Sitting in the office was a motley collection of people. Yanmei, Sera and Raphael were there, all of whom were present at the battle in Russia in an important capacity.-
[15:16] <AdEvaGM> [Then there were the world leaders- Mazarin, of course, but also Alphonse and Minerva. An Imperial Keeper from Japan was present as well- Libby had been on the Dorian, and had not been heard from since.-
[15:17] <AdEvaGM> [The Canadian Prime Minister sat in a corner, next to several mobile holoemitters displaying representatives from Germany, Brazil and China- the latter being Liu Lin, who hadn't been able to make it in time.-
[15:17] <AdEvaGM> [Two more holoemitters were put aside for Terry and Brown, on mission in Australia.-
[15:19] <AdEvaGM> [Misato was present as well, in her role as chief of the navy.-
[15:20] <AdEvaGM> [Sarasvati, Ritsuko, Surov, Maya and both Ikaris had been on the Dorian when it had vanished, leaving Luna Riel as the only notable technical division member available for the meeting.-
[15:22] <AdEvaGM> [Finally, standing at Sera's shoulder, was a grave-looking Armin.-
[15:22] <AdEvaGM> ["This is a blow." Said Mazarin, his voice cold. "We're preventing the leak of knowledge as best we can, but the world at large is starting to realise that something is wrong."-
[15:23] <AdEvaGM> [He turned back toward the congregation.-
[15:24] <AdEvaGM> ["The Dorian Lachapelle has been hijacked with all hands aboard. Many key members of our military forces have been abducted. Considering the use of AT jumps, it is assumed that Pilot Akagi is willingly or unwillingly aiding the perpetrators."-
[15:26] <AdEvaGM> ["We need information." Said Mazarin. "Who is behind the hijacking, what the hijackers want, and where the Dorian is now. So far, we have only speculation."-
[15:27] <AdEvaGM> ["Where do we go from here?" He asked, turning toward Raphael, Sera and Yanmei.]
[15:35] * Sept took a deep breath with his eyes closed and instinctively crossed his arms.-
[15:37] <Sept> "First things first, still no word on where it's hiding? A lot of the options require timely information, obviously."
[15:38] <Yanmei> "As for the culprits, we know that it was an inside job done in conjunction with the Soviets' Council of Sekhmet cult?" Yanmei began. She had dug up an old uniform somewhere. A standard infantry set, although the important thing at the moment was that it was warm and that it fit her properly. "The ringleader was our very own Albus Mortens. As for what they want… They have not made any
[15:38] <Yanmei> direct demands, aside from our lone prisoner. He wants things in exchange for his cooperation."
[15:43] <Raphael> "Mortens and Akagi had a link, though I'm not clear on the specifics," Raphael said flatly. He stood straight with hands folded behind his back, his expression blank. "It's possible he could be the source of her recent instability."
[15:44] <AdEvaGM> ["Mortens is powerful and kept a lot of his cards close to his chest." Said Terry, folding his own massive arms. "Even though Tsubaki swamps him in power, he could subvert her in a way we don't get."-
[15:45] <AdEvaGM> ["As for the Iron Guard on the ship, good chance they're following him with a degree of willingness. We're idiots like that. Sorry." Said Terry gruffly.]
[15:46] <Sept> "Right. And whatever the prisoner wants, I don't think he's got any reason to help us. Don't expect any great deals."
[15:47] <Raphael> "We have psychics," Raphael noted.
[15:48] <AdEvaGM> ["True." Said the Imperial Keeper, as the resident psychic. "I have been authorised to help your own forces on that front, but don't expect an easy go of things. He is powerful, and tainted by Angels. His mind will be like a trap."-
[15:49] <AdEvaGM> ["Honestly, I'd prefer someone stronger than myself."]
[15:51] <Yanmei> "The Empress might do the trick. If this is a trap or she was somehow corrupted, however, it would be a disaster for us."
[15:51] <AdEvaGM> ["Do we have other powerful psychics who have experience with Angelic corruption?" Asked Terry.]
[15:52] <Raphael> "Possibly. Most of our best were on the Dorian, but we can investigate…"
[15:57] <AdEvaGM> ["I know that feeling." Said the Keeper sympathetically.]
[16:01] <Sept> "And what do we do if the Dorian makes the first move — attacks us or goes for civilian targets?"
[16:03] <AdEvaGM> ["We outgun them, Tsucchin or no." Said Misato.]
[16:03] <Yanmei> "We shouldn't have all of our forces posed to attack in a single location like this. We need to stay spread out. Hover around our main cities, sound the alert if something strikes, and then have some of our remaining Evas teleport in."
[16:04] <Raphael> "The AT interception grid will trip the moment the Dorian jaunts within our territory, and we have Evangelions, Ramiel and Zeruel ready to sortie the moment we get a ping," Raphael said. "Regular radar installations should serve the same purpose if they try to move in the old-fashioned way."
[16:06] <AdEvaGM> ["Raphael is right." Said Minerva. "Our biggest worry are small-scale raids that might slip in under the AT grid…"-
[16:10] <AdEvaGM> [At that moment, the Empress began to broadcast into the office. "We've detected an incoming Superheavy. Lone D-Titan, bearing Federation markings and IFF tags. Moving to intercept."-
[16:11] <AdEvaGM> [The Imperial Eva vanished.-
[16:12] <AdEvaGM> [A few seconds later, the Empress spoke again. "I have the D-Titan secured. It's… Serafina Raskova, Little Eevi, and Freya Solheim."-
[16:13] <AdEvaGM> ["Escapees!" Said Misato.]
[16:15] <Yanmei> "With valuable information?" Yanmei half-rose out of her chair. "They aren't brainwashed, are they?"
[16:15] <Raphael> Raphael's eyes widened slightly at Eevi's name, but his posture didn't shift. "Empress, would you mind checking the three of them for psychic influenc-?" he smiled slightly as he glanced Yanmei's way as she spoke.
[16:16] <AdEvaGM> ["…" The Empress hummed.-
[16:17] <AdEvaGM> ["They're clean." Said the Empress. "Shall I put them through?"]
[16:17] <Sept> "Radio is quite enough. I'm sure some kind of decontamination would be wise."
[16:20] <AdEvaGM> [A radio appeared on the President's desk.-
[16:20] <AdEvaGM> ["H-Hello?" Came the slightly tinny, tired voice of Freya. "Who am I speaking to?"]
[16:23] <Yanmei> "Hi Freya," Yanmei spoke up. "I'm afraid there's a rather large crowd here? Every one of the UEF-affiliated nation leaders, military heads who aren't on the Dorian, and several other advisors."
[16:23] <AdEvaGM> ["O-Oh."]
[16:24] <Yanmei> "Sorry to put you on the spot. We're very curious about what happened up there."
[16:25] <AdEvaGM> ["Um, well. Albus Mortens threw a coup."]
[16:26] <Yanmei> "We're aware of that much? But how were the conditions on board the ship? How much do you know about his plans?"
[16:27] <AdEvaGM> ["Uh…"-
[16:28] <AdEvaGM> ["He has the ship under control, and he's very careful. He's put everyone in cells, except for some people- mostly marines- who seem to be under psychic control somehow."-
[16:29] <AdEvaGM> ["He, uh, he's known as Consul Mortens, now. Of the Greater Sol Co-Prosperity Sphere." Said Freya.-
[16:29] <AdEvaGM> [Misato shared a look with Raphael that was half incredulity and half anger.-
[16:30] <AdEvaGM> ["I know his plan. Do you remember how Azariah Caine had a 'god machine' plan? To control Lilith? Well, he's trying to do that, using Tsubaki as the interface. He says he inscribed some sort of mandala or something on her soul, which will let her control Lilith's power without being taken over by Lilith… Then he tried to use me to… To breach the Drive and pull the other half of Lilith
[16:30] <AdEvaGM> out of it."]
[16:31] <Sept> "Tried? What happened?"
[16:32] <AdEvaGM> ["Well, I, um. Escaped. Ezekiel helped, a little- Albus put one of those sigilite knockoff lances through the Stone, so he's weak…"]
[16:34] * Raphael 's gaze was fixed on the radio now, eyes narrowed as he processed this. "Is Pilot Akagi cooperating with him willingly, ma'am?"
[16:35] <AdEvaGM> ["I… I-I dunno…"]
[16:36] <Raphael> "I see…"-
[16:40] <Raphael> "Mortens is immune to Destiny," Raphael said matter-of-factly, barely looking towards the rest of the room. "He could safely manipulate Tsubaki and control Lilith by proxy."
[16:41] <Yanmei> "And use her to what? Doom us all? What is his end goal?"
[16:41] <Sept> "Doesn't matter. What about de Orleans and the others? Can he still do it?"
[16:42] <Raphael> "de Orleans is being held off-site. Standard protocol for combat missions."
[16:43] <AdEvaGM> ["That's right." Said Minerva. "And I don't know anyone else who could access the Drive… Although I'm no expert."-
[16:44] <AdEvaGM> ["Uh… He wanted to usher in his utopia." Said Freya. "He was going to use Tsubaki as a spiritual leader, using her power to change the world and keep people obedient… Whilst he controlled the political side of things. Basically, he's creating his own empire with himself in control, but positioning Tsubaki as a figurehead."]
[16:46] <Sept> "That's the stupidest thing I've heard all day."
[16:48] <Yanmei> "Seriously." Yanmei snorted. "It fits with the name of his little uprising, at least."
[16:49] <Raphael> "And yet he's the one with our flagship," Raphael said mildly.
[16:50] <AdEvaGM> ["That's true." Said Alphonse. "Yet if he'd pulled this stunt six months earlier, we'd all be hiding in a forest instead of discussing this in Paris under heavy military cover… His situation may be rather tenuous." Said Alphonse.-
[16:51] <AdEvaGM> ["Maybe it's a pride thing?" Offered the Imperial Keeper. "Iron Guard like fighting strong enemies?"-
[16:51] <AdEvaGM> ["Albus isn't that kind of guy." Said Terry. "He prefers winning, period."-
[16:52] <AdEvaGM> ["There's more." Said Freya. "He seems to be controlling Fox Squadron too, and Wolf Squadron are still up there, so if we fight them… We're probably going to be fighting our allies."-
[16:52] <AdEvaGM> [Misato's expression grew dark.-
[16:53] <AdEvaGM> ["Hello." Said Serafina. "If I can interject? Albus seems to be hiding in space. When we left, he was in orbit over Kenya. I tried to put a long-range bug down before I fled, but it's only given me a signal once since I left- for six minutes."]
[16:56] <Sept> "Does that mean they jaunted, or are obscured?"
[16:56] <AdEvaGM> ["I'm not sure. I'm going to give the details over to technical and see."]
[16:57] <Yanmei> "That was quick thinking. I'm sure we'll be able to get something out of it."
[17:01] <Raphael> Raphael's expression matched Misato's, but his voice remained level. "Are you two able to tell us anything about the rest of their deployment? We're working under the assumption that the Wizard Guards have turned, but you seem to suggest he might've corrupted the Marines as well…?"
[17:05] <AdEvaGM> ["Yeah. At least some. I had to take a few down on my way out." Said Serafina.-
[17:06] <AdEvaGM> ["So did I." Murmured Freya.-
[17:07] <AdEvaGM> ["That said, I saw some marines still in cells." Said Serafina. "Which suggests he either hasn't been able to control all of them, or is only able to indoctrinate limited numbers every day or so- or has a hard limit on how many people he can control."-
[17:07] <AdEvaGM> ["With all due respect." Said the Imperial Keeper. "My concern would be for the myriad AT Field users on that ship. Their turning would give us a great deal of trouble…"-
[17:08] <AdEvaGM> ["I didn't see any evidence of that." Said Serafina. "I have an AT Field user here with me, Eevi- they bound her and gagged her using some strange material that restricts her powers."]
[17:11] * Raphael 's hands tightened even further behind his back, but he pressed on. "And it sounds like they crippled Ezekiel instead of turning him, so there are limits. No evidence of active Evas there, Raskova?"
[17:13] <AdEvaGM> ["No. Little Owl's as high priority a target as you can get, but they sent nothing but Superheavies at me."-
[17:14] <AdEvaGM> ["I can't promise that'll still be the situation in a week or two, but for now, no Evas."]
[17:14] <AdEvaGM> ["Oh." She added.-
[17:14] <AdEvaGM> ["I had to steal your backup beam sabres. I hope that's okay."]
[17:17] <Raphael> Raphael fixed the radio with a dark look. "I'll manage."
[17:17] <AdEvaGM> ["Okay."-
[17:18] <AdEvaGM> ["Any other questions, guys?" Asked Freya.]
[17:22] <Raphael> "No pressing ones, though I'll be in touch once the three of you are cleared by security. Anything you can tell us about where they're keeping troops and prisoners will be helpful."
[17:22] * Sept made a gesture of empty hands as well.-
[17:22] <Sept> "Same here. We'll see you soon."
[17:23] <Raphael> "… we'll get you out of those binds soon, Eevi," Raphael added a little more gently.
[17:24] <AdEvaGM> ["She's nodding." Said Freya warmly. "… See you."-
[17:24] <AdEvaGM> [The radio vanished.-
[17:24] <AdEvaGM> ["Troubling stuff." Said the Canadian Prime Minister.]
[17:26] <Yanmei> "Yes," Yanmei agreed quietly. "But also incredible useful? At least now we can formulate an invasion plan."
[17:27] <AdEvaGM> ["The sooner the better." Said Mazarin. "The longer we wait, the more time we give the UN to rally-"-
[17:27] <AdEvaGM> ["New contact!" Shouted the Empress.-
[17:27] <AdEvaGM> ["… It's EVA-00!"-
[17:28] <AdEvaGM> ["Faster than I expected." Muttered Alphonse, who was already holding tightly onto the desk.]
[17:30] <Sept> "…right. Um." Sera stood up from his chair, fiddling with his whistle-pendant. "We should go."
[17:30] <Raphael> "It's alone?" Raphael asked, already moving towards the window without looking towards the others.
[17:31] <AdEvaGM> [Misato and the Keeper were doing the same thing.-
[17:32] <AdEvaGM> ["So it seems. It's not cloaked, either. Highly suspicious." Said the Empress. "I'll put her down, though, no problem."]
[17:33] <Raphael> "Thank you," he murmured, he turned towards the rest of the room. "Everyone non-essential should head for the bunkers. Being concentrated here is asking for a decapitation strike."
[17:33] * Yanmei stood, her eyes narrowing. "Please do. We'll send in some backup too? 02 and 08. Three on one are good odds, don't you think?"
[17:34] <AdEvaGM> ["Agreed." Said the Keeper, who was already gently shepherding Minerva, the Canadian PM, and Alphonse away.-
[17:34] <AdEvaGM> ["Four on one." Murmured Misato.-
[17:34] <AdEvaGM> [Up in the sky, Ramiel was transforming.-
[17:34] <AdEvaGM> […-]
[17:40] <Aline> Crimson. That was the color of the unit, pristine, done up sleek, with weapons… in standby, or held pointed down. Gossamer wings signature of many of the early ascendant Evas, but… larger, grander, somehow combining features of morphic flight wings in them, were glittering in the light, but Aline stopped at what she figured was a defensive perimiter of the UEF, and opened comms with video. No Solomon mask this time at least.
[17:40] <Aline> "…This is not an attack. I repeat, this is not an attack. If you need me to explain, I will, but… I'm here alone, I'm not under anyone's orders, and I'm trying to help!"
[17:44] <AdEvaGM> [There was a geometric scream, followed by a high-powered energy beam directed at 00's head.]
[17:47] * Aline pulled into a dodge, knowing much better than to trust her AT Field to block that, and while doing so…? …Dropped the weapons she had been carrying right then and there, leaving them on the ground near what, hopefully, was the beam's impact site. "H-hey! Since when did we… D-do I need an eva-size white flag now?!"
[17:47] <AdEvaGM> [The Imperial Eva appeared behind 00, lashing out with a hand encased in burning energy. "Enough with your tricks!"]
[17:48] <Sept> "Hm." Sera was still standing awkwardly behind his chair, gripping it fairly tightly. "Continue the evacuation of everyone else, I guess… If they want to make us hesitate, they're playing for time for… what?"
[17:50] <Raphael> "Centre our resources on Aline before hitting us with a long-ranged strike from Scholastica or the Damocles?" Raphael hedged, watching the scene from the window. "Possible."
[17:50] * Aline wove even further out of the way, maybe even showing that 00 had gotten rather intolerably nimble as of late - something it previously hadn't had to show. "Iron guard angel statue and the pope and a breach in the Drive and the chorus of singing blind souls in a Louvre mind palace with Pope Pius's warnings and Kaworu's last soul fragment, goddamnit!"
[17:51] <Raphael> "… what."
[17:51] <Sept> "Clone's lost her mind."-
[17:51] <Sept> "…"
[17:52] <Yanmei> Yanmei leaned over the radio. "Stop talking gibberish, idiot! If you're surrendering, then eject!"
[17:53] <AdEvaGM> ["W-Wait, maybe-" Started the Keeper, although his voice basically petered out.]
[17:57] * Aline grumbled at the controls softly. "Compromise, I stop here and set the plug out on disembark. Same effect, less shitty ejection rockets boiling me alive. Also get them to stop shooting at me please?!" …She hit a few buttons, and sure enough… 00 dropped into a crouch over an intersection, and its back opened up. …Entry plug popped out halfway. "And that was to make you realize I have a story to tell."
[17:58] <AdEvaGM> [The Empress paused.-
[17:58] <AdEvaGM> ["Ah! But she can remote synchronise!" Said the Empress a moment later. "I'm onto you!"-
[17:59] <AdEvaGM> [The Empress raised her hand, a long lance appearing within it. She angled it down, prepared to throw-
[17:59] <AdEvaGM> [Only to come to a sudden stop.-
[18:00] <AdEvaGM> [EVA-05 had appeared, sprinted to the intersection, and wrapped its arms around 00 in a grip that was both restrictive and protective.-
[18:00] <AdEvaGM> ["Wait!" Shouted Shinji over the comms. "Don't do something stupid-"-
[18:01] <AdEvaGM> ["Now's not the time to be all sentimental, you idiot!" Said the Empress. "Move out of the way before I spear you, too!"-
[18:02] <AdEvaGM> [Another geometric scream broke the air; a second later another intense energy beam rippled through the air between the Empress and Shinji.-
[18:02] <AdEvaGM> ["… I'm sticking to my guns this time." Said Shinji firmly. "If this is what it takes to make you all stop and listen, then come at me."]
[18:04] <Raphael> "… Empress, if you'd stand down, please? I don't know about the Chancellor, but I'd rather Paris-2 remained in one piece."
[18:05] * Aline shook her head. "Look, when I was conditioned and drive-controlled and so on - which is a /very recently ended condition let me tell you/ - I didn't even do wounded gazelle gambit psyops! I like, made lewd jokes! And sort of harassed Yanmei half-heartedly. And… like. …he'll…" Aline… sighed. "…Shinji you're awfully less depressed today. I… uh. I'd get all sappy but that'd look a bit more psyops than being frank."
[18:06] * Sept shot a nasty look at the Keeper and Raphael, grit his teeth in frustration and shoved his chair back in under the table.-
[18:07] <Sept> "We evacuated the Pope too, right? Where's he being kept?"
[18:07] <AdEvaGM> ["We didn't evacuate the Pope." Said Mazarin.]
[18:07] <Raphael> "He's an observer. Had to remain onboard."
[18:08] <Aline> "I met him right next to the statue, and he /told/ me that 'an Iron Guard' took over the Dorian and was trying to steal Lilith. They expected me to come. …So I broke… the… uh… metaphorical effigy of his extraction link."
[18:09] <AdEvaGM> ["I-I'm less depressed?" Mumbled Shinji.]
[18:09] <Raphael> "Misato?" he asked, looking to his left.
[18:09] * Sept mumbled a low but forceful litany of French swears.
[18:11] <Yanmei> "Oh my god." Yanmei rubbed her forehead. "Stop. Everyone stop! Empress and 05. Secure the entry plug quickly, and don't spear it. We aren't having a discussion on the battlefield. If something needs to be said, Blanc can say it from a cell."
[18:11] <AdEvaGM> [Misato looked back at Raphael, and shook her head. "It… Does sound like she knows something strange."-
[18:13] <AdEvaGM> ["Hold on, Aline, I'll be gentle…" Said Shinji. He carefully took Aline's plug, pulled it out the rest of the way and stowed it inside his wing.-
[18:16] <AdEvaGM> [Then EVA-05 vanished.-
[18:17] <AdEvaGM> [Ramiel quickly shifted back into its octohedron form.-
[18:17] <AdEvaGM> [The Empress shook her head… Then floated down and kicked EVA-00 over anyway, before vanishing herself.-
[18:17] <AdEvaGM> ["This is Ikari. I'm extracting the, uh, the… Uh, Aline, now…"-
[18:20] <AdEvaGM> ["If what Aline Blanc is saying is true, and not psyops, then that means Mortens found some other method to breach the Drive." Said the Keeper.]
[18:21] <Sept> "Sure. And if not, it means Mary's got her hands all over the cult."
[18:24] <Yanmei> "Either way it's not good for us. Let's keep our guests in the bunker a while longer, and keep an eye out for followup UN tricks until we can make sense of all this."
[18:25] * Aline was… indeed, ah, extracted. Stepping out warily, cautiously… She wasn't exactly dressed for the occasion though. A(n LCL-dripping) black tracksuit with white stripes, slightly bulging in the front with not just her, ah, post-reincarnative assets, but the tiny lump of a Solomon's core… and even a whistle on a small chain around her neck. She more or less stood with hands bridged in front of her waist, pensive. …Though
[18:25] * Aline her eyes WERE on Shinji, with a kind of… softness that may have been gone a long time without seeing.
[18:27] <AdEvaGM> [Shinji looked different, too.-
[18:29] <AdEvaGM> [He was wan and pale, a gauntness to his face that hadn't been there before. He was wearing imposing, dark red power armour with a heavy cloak that made him look much taller than he was.-
[18:30] <AdEvaGM> [He stared at her, with eyes that were darker than Aline remembered.-
[18:31] <AdEvaGM> [He raised a gauntleted hand, one that looked as though it could (and had) crush a skull if need be.-
[18:31] <AdEvaGM> [He clapped it over his face, sunk to his knees and cried.]
[18:37] * Aline …bit her lip. …Shook. …She didn't know what to do. Would… would a raving barely-explained adult Chiisana come in and stab her if she touched him? …Would there be armies of marines shooting her if she moved closer? … …What use was it to worry about that? Aline just knelt down, and put him into her own hug, breathing sharply, trying not to cry herself. Just… staying there. She didn't even say anything, just a
[18:37] * Aline soft whimper. Likely, this is how anyone else coming to escort her to a cell would see the room.
[18:38] <AdEvaGM> […]

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