Cherry Blossom Procession 4 7 3

[15:29] <Raphael> You can do a lot in three days. This is an objective fact, and likely one Ezekiel had in mind when he'd offered his boon. This, however, discounts the strain involved in actually achieving all those possibilities with the limitations of a pitiful human body.-
[15:29] <Raphael> In short, Raphael was running himself ragged. In the eigh hours since the battle with Mortens and the Asterion he'd had three briefings, designed provisional new Superheavy squads with the aid of Sarah Holt-Caine, assigned members of Technical to refits for the Peacecraft, detoured to Medical to check on the wounded, and finally made a far-too-brief pit-stop to check on the various members
[15:29] <Raphael> of his family.-
[15:29] <Raphael> After all of that, he'd managed to find (Or, in reality, been given strict orders to find) twenty minutes to look after himself; To shower, eat, shave…-
[15:29] <Raphael> … but instead he found himself in the brig, on the way to meet one of their many new prisoners.
[15:43] <Minaplo> [The Gendo's brig was identical to the Dorian's own. He had no problem finding his way around.-
[15:44] <Minaplo> [Many of the cells were occupied by prisoners, a few of whom were Iron Guard prisoners, many more of whom were normal humans being held in quarantine until they could be proven to not be a threat.-
[15:45] <Minaplo> [Then there was Augustine, who fit into neither category.-
[15:47] <Minaplo> [He had disposed of his armour, and now wore nothing more than a pair of white trousers, leaving his torso bare. In the time since Raphael and Aline had literally carried Augustine out, he'd regained the ability to sit up. He did so now, a book in his hand- the only boon he'd been allowed before his powers were suppressed.-
[15:48] <Minaplo> [His body bore many, many wounds. The cuts had sealed and the bruises were fading, but only slowly; he looked like he'd been pushed head-first through a blender.]
[16:05] * Raphael gave the Prime a nod of acknowledgement as he approached. He was still in his flightsuit, but he'd managed to snag an (unironed) uniform jacket to wear over the top of it to provide a modicum of respectability. He picked up the phone on his side of the surovite and waited, hoping that Augustine was actually able to reach his.
[16:07] <Minaplo> [Someone forward-thinking had placed Augustine's receiver by his side. He picked it up.-
[16:07] <Minaplo> ["Hello, General." Said Augustine. He smiled, but judging by how the smile pushed a clearly broken nose up towards his eyes, it wasn't fun.]
[16:14] <Raphael> "Mr. Augustine," he bowed his head again. "It seemed to me that I owed you a thank you. I'm sorry that it's left you in a cell."
[16:15] <Minaplo> ["Oh, thank you." Said Augustine.-
[16:15] <Minaplo> ["Don't feel too bad, General. I understand the reasoning behind it."]
[16:26] <Tao> "Mm…"-
[16:26] <Tao> "Marshal Caine seemed to suggest that going after Mortens was your own choice?"
[16:27] <Minaplo> ["Yes." Said Augustine. "Mortens and I have a sort of history…"]
[16:36] <Raphael> "He seemed to have a lot of that," Raphael said as a look of distaste flickered across his face. "Well I appreciate it. Ms. Blanc and I wouldn't have been able to do it in time, and if we'd taken any longer…"-
[16:36] <Raphael> He waved his hand as if to encompass the vague and suitably apocalyptic events Ezekiel had promised.
[16:38] <Minaplo> ["Yes." Said Augustine.-
[16:39] <Minaplo> ["He and his allies have caused more than their fair share of misery. But with him dead and the Void Asterion destroyed, we've made the world a little safer."-
[16:40] <Minaplo> ["Sarah was the one who pieced it together in the end, you know."]
[16:41] <Raphael> "Which part?"
[16:46] <Minaplo> ["The relationship between the Angelspawn, the Virus Guard and Albus." Said Ezekiel. "She's been working on the question of the rogue Angelspawn for months now- you saw that at the Istanbul Conference. She started by looking for the major intelligence behind the Spawn, as they had suddenly became coordinated."-
[16:48] <Minaplo> ["She realised that the Virus Guard were being used to produce… Avatars of a kind, a sort of brain for the virus itself, but the avatars in turn seemed to burn themselves out in a matter of a week or two. She suspected that the virus was trying to find a host with enough power to survive the stress. She then started to link it to the appearances of the Asterion- although we didn't quite know what it was- such as its stunt with the Shadowmen."-
[16:49] <Minaplo> ["The Asterion was seeking out entities of power. It tried the Shadowlord, and then it tried the new Eva at Brazil, perhaps not realising what it was. Ultimately, it found Albus. Or he found it."]
[17:07] * Raphael blinked. "That's… impressive. Very impressive. I'm not sure if our side worked out some of that, and we had more access to the pieces of the puzzle."
[17:10] <Minaplo> ["Yes, I had the same reaction." Said Augustine. "So I've been working recently to try to prove her theories. Once we did, of course, we realised that we needed to help."-
[17:10] <Minaplo> ["And this is where I owe you my thanks- and my regrets."]
[17:19] <Raphael> He watched Augustine curiously, leaning one shoulder against the dividing wall the handset was fitted to. "How so, sir?"
[17:26] <Minaplo> ["One of the boons most true to my heart is the ability to shape my form." He said. "I have lived many lives and I remember them all, so changing my physical form is like changing clothes, in a sense. However, in my servitude to Mary Caine, I've had to take various forms in order to advance her directives. One of those was as the informant Monica Messina, which was me, and… I do apologise for the deception."]
[17:33] <Raphael> Raphael's expression snapped closed like a steel trap, and for several second he was utterly silent as he ran through every conversation he was able to recall. Eventually he relaxed a fraction.-
[17:33] <Raphael> "That's… disappointing," he muttered, massaging the bridge of his nose with one hand. "I'm fairly sure we didn't give you much actionable information. Not directly, at least."-
[17:33] <Raphael> "I'll have to tell Hirano you're not dead."
[17:36] <Minaplo> ["Thank you." Said Augustine. His smile faded with a sigh.-
[17:37] <Minaplo> ["I tried to do as much good as I could with it. Mary didn't realise it, but her ability to control me diminished to a degree when I was in other forms… I did my best with the wriggle room I had."]
[14:04] * Raphael managed an exhausted-looking smile. "That's about all any of us can do."
[14:12] <Mianplo> ["Indeed." He flicked his gaze down towards his hands for a moment, then back up at Raphael. "Still… Monica considers you, Hirano, the others- friends. I consider you all friends. I never wanted to harm anyone."-
[14:12] <Mianplo> ["Well. That's not entirely true. I wanted to harm Mortens quite a lot, but he was a sick creature through and through."]
[14:30] * Raphael let out a slow breath. "Yes. He was."-
[14:30] <Raphael> "I feel somewhat responsible. I mistrusted Mortens from the outset, I was aware of his… relationship with Tsubaki, but I still failed to stop him."-
[14:31] <Raphael> He glanced up, suddenly aware of himself again. "… I shouldn't be talking to you about this, hm? It's been a long few days."
[14:33] <Mianplo> ["If you think that out of concern for my wellbeing, don't worry. If you think that because I'm a security risk… Well, that's also fair enough, I suppose."-
[14:33] <Mianplo> ["I did want to discuss Mortens with you, though. Or rather, one of his victims."]
[14:35] * Raphael waved a hand. "Feel free, sir."
[15:03] <Mianplo> ["Gadhavi."]
[15:25] <Raphael> "Gadhavi," Raphael repeated, as if trying to assess a bad punchline.
[15:27] <Mianplo> ["I know that you hate him. That's understandable." Said Augustine. "But he is not the person you once knew. It isn't my place to tell you what happened to him, but you share a trait now: you have both been victims of Mortens, but what Mortens did to him…"-
[15:27] <Mianplo> [He shook his head. "I don't want you to forgive him, exactly. Just listen to him and see."]
[15:50] <Raphael> "We all have our traumas, Mr. Augustine," Raphael said crisply. He'd straightened up, looking imposing despite his ragged outfit and the bags under his eyes - not that it was likely to have an effect on the once-Angel on the other side of the glass. "I don't have much tolerance for people who treat them as shields."-
[15:50] <Raphael> "I suspect I'll be dead in three days, and I don't see much use in spending any of that remaining time absolving him."
[15:52] <Mianplo> ["Fair enough." Said Augustine.-
[15:56] <Mianplo> ["Regardless, he's- in a way- a friend of Monsieur Madeleine. He did his part in that underground railroad. It might be worth your time to pay him a visit regardless."]
[16:03] * Raphael huffed, giving Augustine a long look. "Committed to this, aren't you, sir?"
[16:11] <Mianplo> [Augustine gave Raphael a favouring smile. "I'm a healer at heart, Raphael. I've been a healer for a very long time." He gave Raphael a small nod. "I understand your reasons, of course, but… I think doing this favour for me will give you a degree of peace, too. We all want peace."]
[16:18] <Raphael> "…"-
[16:18] <Raphael> "Without your help, I imagine Mortens would've killed me," he admitted grudgingly, "So I won't deny you a favour."
[16:20] <Mianplo> ["Thank you, Raphael." He said, his expression warm and grateful.-
[16:22] <Mianplo> ["I expect you've rather had enough of me for now." Said Augustine. "But may I ask one personal question before you go?"]
[16:24] * Raphael bobbed his head. "You may."
[16:25] <Mianplo> ["Do you believe in God?"]
[16:39] * Raphael tilted his head, struck by a sudden, intense deja vu. "Funny," he said quietly, "That was the last thing Gendo Ikari ever asked me."
[17:40] <Minaplo> ["Wow. That's a rubbish omen for me, then." Said Augustine with a scowl.]
[17:50] <Raphael> "He lasted a few more weeks," Raphael said consolingly.
[17:53] <Minaplo> ["Joy."]
[18:00] * Raphael chuckled. "No, I don't. At least not in the human sense of the word."
[18:01] <Minaplo> ["Fair enough." Said Augustine, giving Raphael a respectful nod.]
[18:02] <Raphael> "May I ask why -you- ask, sir?"
[18:20] <Minaplo> [Augustine smiled. "I've seen many religions in my time. I always try to take an interest in what people believe or don't believe… Ezekiel can probably explain it better than I can."]
[18:25] <Raphael> "I see," Raphael said, nodding slowly. "Perhaps I'll ask him, if there's a chance."-
[18:25] <Raphael> "Well, I suppose I should see to your favour while there's still time to do so." With the phone still against his ear, he favoured Augustine with a small bow.-
[18:25] <Raphael> "I'll see you around, Madame Messina," he said, a faint smile on his face.
[18:26] <Minaplo> ["Cheeky. Take care, Raphael." Said Augustine, giving him a quick wink.]
[18:28] <Raphael> "Yessir." He set the receiver back into its cradle with a click and turned away.-
[18:29] <Raphael> So, Gadhavi. If there was any justice, perhaps he was being questioned elsewhere…
[11:53] <Minaplo> [Gadhavi was not being questioned. He was in a cell much like Augustine's, although for security reasons he was positioned at the far end of the brig complex away from Augustine.-
[11:56] <Minaplo> [He sat on his bed, arms resting on his knees; he looked pensive as he stared down at the floor. The armour he'd worn was gone, revealing a pair of trousers and a black singlet. His right arm, from the shoulder down, was now a shiny cybernetic prosthetic, as was his left hand from the wrist up.]
[12:02] * Raphael picked up the phone and waited, not bothering to see whether Gadhavi would notice him. His expression was stony, but his eyes couldn't help but trace the edges of the other man's cybernetics.
[12:07] <Minaplo> [Gadhavi looked smaller than Raphael remembered. It was hard to explain…-
[12:07] <Minaplo> [He turned toward Raphael, a hint of surprise in his eyes. Then he, too, took the phone.-
[12:08] <Minaplo> ["Hello, General Guillory." He said. His voice was quiet, a little tired.]
[12:15] * Raphael responded with a perfunctory nod. "Gadhavi."
[12:20] <Minaplo> ["How are you?"]
[12:24] <Raphael> "Fine."
[12:29] <Minaplo> ["That's good."]
[12:30] <Raphael> "…"
[12:30] <Minaplo> ["…"]
[12:35] * Raphael didn't seem inclined to break the silence. He was occupied with assessing how long he'd need to stare at Gadhavi before he could call his debt paid.
[12:47] <Minaplo> [Gadhavi sighed. "Why are you here?"]
[12:53] <Raphael> "Mr. Augustine was owed a favour," Raphael said blandly. "He spent it on you."
[12:58] <Minaplo> ["Oh."]
[13:01] <Raphael> "I suggested it was not a good idea. He persisted."
[13:01] <Minaplo> ["He's good at that."]
[13:02] <Raphael> "Mm."
[13:08] <Minaplo> ["…"]
[13:22] * Raphael rubbed his eye and sighed. "He was typically enigmatic when he told me there was a reason to speak to you, so if there's something to discuss…" He shrugged. "Otherwise tell me now and we can both end this."
[13:27] <Minaplo> ["He might've hoped that seeing me would help you understand that I'm not a threat." Said Gadhavi, his voice still tired and a little slow. "I don't really have anything special for you myself. I'm grateful that you killed Albus. I regret being crazy and cruel, like I was last time we met."]
[13:49] <Raphael> He stared at Gadhavi through the surovite without blinking, lips pressed into a thin white line. "Do you."
[14:02] <Minaplo> ["Yes."]
[14:05] <Raphael> "Well then," he said, "Problem solved."
[14:09] <Minaplo> [Gadhavi didn't reply. He simply sat there, rubbing his knee absently with his left hand, exhibiting little more than a kind of weary quiet.]
[14:20] <Raphael> "But if you really were involved with Madeline… well, that's something," he shrugged. "It doesn't absolve you, but it's something."
[14:21] <Minaplo> ["Is that what Augustine told you?"]
[14:22] <Raphael> "More or less."
[14:24] <Minaplo> [Gadhavi shook his head slowly. "Typical Augustine. I'm not 'involved' with Monsieur Madeline."-
[14:24] <Minaplo> ["I am Monsieur Madeline."]
[14:27] * Raphael was quiet for a moment, head cocked to one side as he peered at Gadhavi as though he were a bug under glass. "… Hm."
[14:27] <Raphael> "Why?"
[14:30] <Minaplo> ["I had the resources." Said Gadhavi. "The contacts, the background to go where my allies couldn't. They wouldn't be trusted enough to deal with the Solomons and the Phantoms, but I was already inside the system. More to the point, a ringleader would be condemned to execution, and I had a slightly better chance than my allies of escaping the firing squad."]
[14:34] <Raphael> "You misunderstand. What prompted this… Grinchian change of heart?"
[14:39] <Minaplo> ["Panama." Said Gadhavi. "I was fortress CO when the Federation attacked."-
[14:40] <Minaplo> [He shook his head. "What a slaughterhouse. Once the Iron Guard breached, it was all over bar the shouting. It started with Albus. He found Ops, broke in, took over my mind again, turned me on my comrades- I would've killed the woman I loved with my bare hands if Augustine hadn't arrived. He saved me, then duelled Albus whilst we escaped."-
[14:42] <Minaplo> ["I evacuated my command team whilst I tried to get my men to safety. You know as well as I do how the Guard exceed at fortress assault. I didn't do well."-
[14:45] <Minaplo> ["We had a Phantom contingent, but… I don't know if they even stood a chance." He sighed. "I was alone. I came across a fleeing Phantom- her Adept had been killed. Running, whilst the fight was still going… I tried to kill her. I felt his voice in my head, urging me to do it. But I didn't. I couldn't. I saw her face, and she was so… Scared."-
[14:54] <Minaplo> ["And then I saw myself. An utter wreck of a man, falling apart at the seams. I had an anger inside me, bigger than I was, really… I'd never been able to deal with it, or let it go. Everything came into focus- all my anger, all the things I've done…"-
[14:55] <Minaplo> ["I fell apart. I stayed like that until we were found by an Iron Guard. A swordswoman who intended to take me prisoner and execute the Phantom. Apparently the Phantoms like to play dead."-
[14:56] <Minaplo> ["I… Gave up. I didn't care. I was either captured and made a prisoner, or I retreated and was stripped of my rank for my failure. Thousands of my soldiers were dead…"-
[14:58] <Minaplo> ["It didn't really matter what I chose. Either way I was done." Said Gadhavi.-
[14:59] <Minaplo> [But then his voice became hushed. "… But I realised that it didn't matter to me, but there was only one outcome that saw that Phantom live. I felt something… Speak inside me. I stood up and I fought."-
[15:00] <Minaplo> ["I killed the Guard, but it took my arm and hand." He said, tapping on his right arm with his metal left hand. "I laid there, bleeding out…"-
[15:01] <Minaplo> ["I thought I was going to die, and it felt wonderful. It was like… Like the anger and misery was in my blood, and now I was bleeding it all out too."-
[15:02] <Minaplo> ["But I didn't die. The Phantom sealed my wounds with her silk." He shook his head. "So I returned to the Synfront. I was stripped of my rank- the last Director of NERV, in fact, since they scrapped the organisation a little while later."-
[15:02] <Minaplo> ["But I saw things more clearly now. Realised what was going on… I worked with an observer from the Church to establish an underground railroad."-
[15:04] <Minaplo> ["I haven't really felt angry much since that day. I haven't felt a lot of hate, either. Especially not for the Phantoms." He looked up at Raphael, a little shyly it seemed like. "They never did revive that Phantom's adept, so I kind of adopted her myself. Her name's Comet, like the space rock."]
[15:22] <Raphael> Raphael's expression hadn't shifted over the course of Gadhavi's story - that narrow, clinical stare persisted - but as he finished he gave a slow nod.-
[15:23] <Raphael> "A nice name," he said, a little of the ice gone from his voice.
[15:24] <Minaplo> ["It is. I didn't name her, mind."]
[15:25] <Raphael> "She was lucid enough to choose her own…?"
[15:40] <Minaplo> ["I don't know, honestly. Maybe it was a name her adept-mother gave her, maybe it was one she chose herself." Said Gadhavi.]
[16:01] <Raphael> "Mm," he murmured, watching the reflections play in the plating of Gadhavi's new arms.-
[16:03] <Raphael> "So what comes next, in your mind?" He asked, meeting the prisoner's eyes again. "You could've left, but chose capture. What are you hoping for?"
[16:04] <Minaplo> ["I don't know." Said Gadhavi. "I work with Augustine, now. In truth, I still don't care what happens to me, so long as Caine falls."]
[16:15] * Raphael gave a very neutral nod. "We'll see, I suppose."
[16:16] <Minaplo> [He nodded. "We'll see."]
[16:26] <Raphael> "…" He sighed and glanced away down the hall. "I'll be going now. Either I've fulfilled Augustine's intent by now, or we're not going to."-
[16:26] <Raphael> "… Comet is seen to, I hope?"
[16:30] <Minaplo> ["Of course."]
[16:45] <Raphael> "Good," he said matter-of-factly. "Goodbye, Gadhavi."-
[16:45] <Raphael> Raphael barely waited for a reply before he hung up his side of the phone and turned away from the cell. The surovite walls masked the sound of his quick, even steps as he vanished down the corridor.-
[16:45] <Raphael> He waited until he was out of sight to jam his hands into his pockets, a tired, frustrated frown settling in on his face. He remained that way as he travelled the long, curving corridor that made up the Gendo's brig, head down.-
[16:45] <Raphael> He was near the exit when a figure in his peripheral vision made him hesitate and glance around.
[17:24] <Minaplo> [Euphemia One sat in a cell. Stripped of her armour, she wore only a robe and sat with her back to the door. Yet it was still unmistakeably her.]
[17:29] <Raphael> For a moment it seemed as though he might stop and reach for the phone in the same way he'd done with the other prisoners. When he searched his feelings, though, he only felt a kind of weary, sickening disgust for the figure in the cell. He kept moving instead, his eyes on the ground as he left the brig.

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