Cherry Blossom Procession 4 7 5

[14:30] <Gerblo> [At first, Blue had been organised.-
[14:32] <Gerblo> [The surovite prison was well sound-proof, but they all felt it when the ship shuddered with the force of cannon impacts. A battle was raging.-
[14:33] <Gerblo> [Before long, the cell had suddenly opened, and where once it had been utterly quiet, now it was noisy beyond belief as Blue and his fellow prisoners streamed into the corridor.-
[14:36] <Gerblo> [They had been beckoned toward the middle, where they met the Empress, who divided them up, gave them orders, sent them to the beachhead. Blue had gone with them.-
[14:38] <Gerblo> [The ideal was that the prisoners would wait there, then be steadily transported back to the ship as quickly as was viable through beacon-augmented dirac jumps.-
[14:39] <Gerblo> [Reality was not forgiving. Within fifteen minutes, the Sol Sphere had counter-attacked, a spearhead right into the heart of the Federation beachhead.-
[14:40] <Gerblo> [The spearhead: the perfect Iron Guard strategy. It would have succeeded if not for how dangerous many of the prisoners were.-
[14:42] <Gerblo> [Even so, they left chaos in their wake. Parts of the room had caved in. Several beacons had been destroyed and replacements were slow to arrive.-
[14:43] <Gerblo> [Blue had helped.-
[14:44] <Gerblo> [He had fought the Guard in hand to hand combat. He cleared some of the debris and patched together some of the wounded. When none were looking, he cut his own flesh and let his blood mix with their own.-
[14:47] <Gerblo> [It was not a thing Blue liked to do. And he especially did not like doing it to the same person twice. Blue's blood could save a life.-
[14:48] <Gerblo> [But it was also grossly addictive. Yanmei had spent weeks shaking off the after-effects. Yanmei had never told him, namely because she didn't know that's what it was.-
[14:50] <Gerblo> [Sarasvati was the first to openly say what a lot of the prisoners were thinking.-
[14:50] <Gerblo> ["Many of us are capable of fighting." She said to Hirano. "We should be preparing to fight, not withdrawing."-
[14:53] <Gerblo> ["I'm sorry, but I have my orders." Said Hirano. "High Command wants you back. Security reasons, other ones-"-
[14:54] <Gerblo> [Blue watched them argue.-
[14:54] <Gerblo> [He wondered if Hirano knew he was arguing with an android? On reflection, Blue assumed that he did, that he would've been briefed on the high value targets like Sarasvati.-
[14:57] <Gerblo> [Sarasvati stopped arguing once it was clear that it distracted Hirano from other events. Blue watched her walked away, her expression flat and contemptuous.-
[14:59] <Gerblo> [But events, as it turned out, would hand Sarasvati the win.-
[15:01] <Gerblo> ["Command? The 'Demons' contingent of the Australian Irregulars have been ground to a halt on their way to the bridge." He said. Most people didn't hear him, but Blue- who had fine hearing- and Sarasvati- who had simply patched into the command channel- did.-
[15:01] <Gerblo> ["We don't have any forces to spare without breaking our line somewhere else." Said Hirano.-
[15:02] <Gerblo> ["The nearest units are the, er, 'Free Regiment', who are fighting their way to the infirmary."-
[15:03] <Gerblo> [At that point, Sarasvati had intervened. "This is ridiculous." She said, walking over to Hirano.-
[15:04] <Gerblo> ["I am organising a small strike team to relieve the Free Regiment. I will be taking volunteers from amongst the prisoners. I am informing you as a courtesy. That is all."-
[15:04] <Gerblo> [Before Hirano could respond in any sensible way, Sarasvati was already amongst the prisoners, asking for volunteers.-
[15:05] <Gerblo> [Blue had stood up the instant she'd confronted Hirano.-
[15:09] <Gerblo> [In the end, Sarasvati had plenty of volunteers, but she whittled it down to a group of five: herself, Blue, Ayanami Ni, Matthias Holmstrom, and Libby- the Japanese ambassador.-
[15:10] <Gerblo> [Blue had grumbled as he put on the power armour. "I hate armour."-
[15:11] <Gerblo> ["But it keeps you alive." Said Sarasvati.-
[15:11] <Gerblo> ["Yeah, but it hides my style." He said, patting the dirty, stained and ripped suit he'd always worn.-
[15:11] <Gerblo> [Sarasvati stared at him, her eyes narrow.-
[15:12] <Gerblo> ["Yeah, I know it's fuckin' dirty, you just gotta appreciate the suit beneath the muck is all." He muttered, stepping into the power harness. "Judgy eyeballin' rubbish-"-
[15:14] <Gerblo> [Libby smirked. His own armour appeared with a flick of his hands: the tight plated power armour of a Brother, wrapped in a cloak of red edged with gold, as was the armour itself.-
[15:15] <Gerblo> ["We get it." Said Blue. "Fuckin' AT user-"-
[15:15] <Gerblo> [Libby began floating a foot off the ground, his hands held out palm outwards like a statue of a god.-
[15:16] <Gerblo> [Blue had never sympathised with Raphael's spartan military tastes more.-
[15:18] <Gerblo> [Ni had not taken part in this banter. In fact, Ni had been almost utterly silent the entire time. She suited up, placing her helmet on- obscuring the still, cold mask that was her face. She took up a shield, a positron hammer, and a bolter.-
[15:21] <Gerblo> [Matthias had been given a spare AC Suit by Hirano, who figured by now that if he couldn't stop them (and he couldn't), he may as well make sure they were properly supported.-
[15:22] <Gerblo> [Saravati suited up in her own armour, a heavy bolter in one arm and a positron cannon in the other.-
[15:24] <Gerblo> ["We strike the infirmary and free up the Free Regiment, then we move to support Lucy and the Demons." Said Sarasvati.-
[15:25] <Gerblo> [At first, Blue had been organised.-
[15:25] <Gerblo> […-
[15:25] <Gerblo> [Blue's first moment of disorganisation came as they breached the infirmary.-
[15:28] <Gerblo> [Mohammed Walid Shire and his Free Regiment- made up of UN stormtrooper defectors- had not quite made it to the infirmary itself. Rather they had been ground to a halt a bare twenty metres from its entrance by three squads of Virus Guard, two annihilators and a lone Apostle.-
[15:28] <Gerblo> [Sarasvati's team broke their backs.-
[15:30] <Gerblo> [First, Libby had, with graceful, flowing movements, sliced a spear of surovite out of the ground with his AT Field. Layers of Field were then bound around it tightly, before it was propelled at supersonic speed down the hall, where it tore through the Apostle's head before pinning an Annihilator to the wall by its shoulder.-
[15:32] <Gerblo> [Ni had waded into the melee, brutally clubbing at Guard with her hammer. She parried their attacks with her AT Field and her shield, driving a dozen of them back into a tight clump. A moment later, Sarasvati fried the lot of them with a single blast of her positron cannon.-
[15:33] <Gerblo> [Blue threw himself into the fight as well, his two positron-edged daggers in hand. Blue was freakishly strong, but he didn't bother trying to cut through armour. He stabbed at the gaps behind the knee, in the small rubbery lining on the armpit, into the little chasm between helmet and gorget…-
[15:34] <Gerblo> [Those he didn't kill, he slowed down, enough to be torn apart by disciplined pulse blasts from the Regiment, or accurate headshots from Matthias's railcannon.-
[15:34] <Gerblo> [(Not that much head was left.)-
[15:35] <Gerblo> [The surviving annihilator lunged at Blue. Much, much faster than he'd expected- too fast for him to evade.-
[15:36] <Gerblo> [It caught him across the chest with its tridactyl claw. It pinned him to the ground. Its bony arm ram began to glow, ready to smash, piston-like into his chest.-
[15:37] <Gerblo> [Matthias hit his full burners and shoulder-checked the hulking Annihilator into the wall. Then he leapt backwards, levelled his cannon at its chest and fired. He reloaded, reaimed, and fired again.-
[15:37] <Gerblo> [The Annihilator was torn to pieces, the gore covering everyone nearby.-
[15:37] <Gerblo> ["Thanks." Said Blue, wincing at his bruised ribs. "Let the big fucker get the better of me- shameful, shameful…"-
[15:38] <Gerblo> ["It's not just you. These ones move much faster than they used to." Said Matthias.-
[15:38] <Gerblo> ["Y'reckon it's steroids?" Said Blue, leaping to his feet.-
[15:38] <Gerblo> ["Steroids?"-
[15:38] <Gerblo> ["Look at 'em. Big arms, little legs, it's kind of obvious…"-
[15:39] <Gerblo> ["They've always had those." Said Matthias. Blue could hear him frowning through his voice.-
[15:40] <Gerblo> ["If the image of a pill-poppin' angelspawn in yer audiovisual sketchpad ain't ticklin' your funnybone, then you're a goddamned lost cause." Muttered Blue. "I thought it was hilarious."-
[15:43] <Gerblo> ["I'm too used to Anita-Margaret." Said Matthias. "That just makes it sad."-
[15:43] <Gerblo> ["Yep, touché." Said Blue, helping to clean up the last of the scattered Guard by catching one in the throat with a well-thrown dagger.-
[15:46] <Gerblo> [The infirmary itself wasn't fortified. It was, however, occupied- patients had remained in here, those too sick or hurt to be taken to cells.-
[15:46] <Gerblo> [The Free Regiment began taking them away immediately.-
[15:52] <Gerblo> [Blue hadn't paid them much notice. Being in an infirmary, he had decided to take a minute to take out a cigarette he'd bummed off a soldier back at the beachhead.-
[15:53] <Gerblo> [A few seconds later, he tossed it to the ground, coughing irritably. He was too used to his e-cigarettes now. Modern technology had ruined smoking forever.-
[15:55] <Gerblo> [He looked up, grumbling to himself- and his eyes met with one of the patients' being carted away. An old man, an infirm one. His skin was pale, waxy, and he looked much older than Blue had remembered him looking a few weeks ago, but there he was: Max Heppenheimer. The Pope Pius XIII.-
[15:57] <Gerblo> [The man was like a father to Michael, and the spiritual father to millions, but Blue had gone out of his way to avoid him, back before the Sphere uprising.-
[15:58] <Gerblo> [It is hard for Blue to put into words what happens when he sees Max in the flesh. He knows Max is an innocent. That Max was unaware of the Templars, in the dark about what had been done to them to turn them into Mother Mary's silent, childlike warrior monks.-
[16:00] <Gerblo> [But Blue can smell it on Max. The man was close to Mary, close to Michael. In so many ways, he was so close to it all, but never quite made the connection.-
[16:01] <Gerblo> [That failure does not make him complicit.-
[16:01] <Gerblo> [But to Blue, it makes him negligent in some way. His ignorance, his hesitance, had deprived them of a saviour, of a guardian.-
[16:02] <Gerblo> [Blue resents him for not doing enough, and Blue hates him for being close to Michael without realising it.-
[16:02] <Gerblo> [When Blue sees him, hate is all he feels.-
[16:03] <Gerblo> [It is, again, difficult for Blue to describe, even to himself, what happens when he feels that hate.-
[16:05] <Gerblo> [It was said, long ago, that the universe made music that we all heard, a music that we never realised we heard because we filtered it out. We were so utterly used to hearing it that we would notice it only by its absense.-
[16:07] <Gerblo> [For Blue, it is as though everything else goes utterly silent, except this sound that he always, always hears, but has learned to filter and drown out. This sound is sticky, and sickly, and makes him think of the fake, jelly-like blood they use in movies and plays.-
[16:08] <Gerblo> [He does not want to hear it. The sound is much bigger than he is.-
[16:09] <Gerblo> [It affects what he sees, too. It is as though he is seeing things through a pinhole, a tunnel vision focused entirely around the object of his hate.-
[16:10] <Gerblo> [For a moment, Blue cannot remember the man's name. He can't even recall his own.-
[16:14] <Gerblo> [All he can think about is a little phrase, almost hypnotic in its quality. It sounds like the line of a song: I'm seeing red, but my eyes are blue.-
[16:15] <Gerblo> [It is stupid. But, it is hard for him to forget the name of colours.-
[16:15] <Gerblo> [It keeps him steady. It keeps him passive for the moment. Although truly, Blue does not know if it is a second or longer.-
[16:16] <Gerblo> [One's own demons do not care for time. They make everything feel like an eternity, until it is over. You do not know where you are or when. Keeping you off-kilter only helps. It is harder to ground yourself in reality when your perception of time loses its anchors.-
[16:17] <Gerblo> ["Blue?"-
[16:17] <Gerblo> [The world returns. The sound stops- or rather, is drowned out to an easily ignored whisper.-
[16:18] <Gerblo> [It is Matthias, and he is offering him a bar of chocolate. "You seemed a bit out at sea there."-
[16:19] <Gerblo> ["Oh yeah, y'know." Said Blue, taking the chocolate. "I ain't enjoyin' all the killing. I told Rei I wouldn't take another human life. These guys ain't human, but it still feels wrong."-
[16:20] <Gerblo> [Blue is suddenly aware of how painfully hungry he is. He wolfs down the chocolate. They have not fed any of them well in the cells, but Kou gave him most of his portion.-
[16:21] <Gerblo> [Being painfully hungry is not a metaphor for Blue. The machines in his blood demand he eat much, much more than other people.-
[16:22] <Gerblo> [In truth, he is weaker than he likes. He would not have been hit by that Annihilator if he had eaten.-
[16:22] <Gerblo> ["I understand." Said Matthias quietly. "I appreciate you coming along, regardless. I remember hearing about how you fought during the Metatron battle."-
[16:22] <Gerblo> ["Yeah…?"-
[16:23] <Gerblo> ["They said you were in the thick of it, but you didn't kill anyone. All subdual. Took prisoners and-"-
[16:23] <Gerblo> ["And wrapped 'em in sausages, yep." Said Blue, a grin spreading across his face. Max is long gone.-
[16:24] <Gerblo> ["That's seriously impressive. I've rarely seen Lilly so jealous." Said Matthias with his own smile. "You're like Batman or something."-
[16:41] <Gerblo> [Blue laughed. "You sweettalker. Get goin'."-
[16:42] <Gerblo> [Blue's grin lingered for a while after Matthias left, but eventually it fades. He feels anger- different from hate. This anger he reserves for himself.-
[16:43] <Gerblo> [It is easy enough to be angry at himself.-
[16:43] <Gerblo> [He is angry that the sight of an old, sick, dying man who didn't do anything to hurt him could drive him into a rage. That years of effort and work might start suddenly backsliding over a single incident lasting no longer than a few seconds.-
[16:49] <Gerblo> [He is angry that so much of his life has changed because of events like this. Or rather, avoiding events like this. The degree to which he has had to rebuild his life in specific ways to avoid these triggers. The way he practices his tailoring to keep his hands busy and constructive. The way he has to wear a hat, simply because it helps him keep in control. That he has to call himself by a different name because that name is easier to remember in the midst of a rage.-
[16:49] <Gerblo> [He feels as weak as he did in the desert, a lone, raging figure of madness.-
[16:50] <Gerblo> [The moment of disorganisation passes.-
[16:50] <Gerblo> [Blue pulls himself up from where he is sitting and goes to join Sarasvati and the others as they push towards the bridge.-
[16:50] <Gerblo> […-
[16:50] <Gerblo> [A titanic red fist pounds Libby against the wall.-
[16:51] <Gerblo> [A trio of Apocalypse Engines bar their way. It is an excessive degree of force.-
[16:52] <Gerblo> [Libby quickly recovers, and charges the same Engine, Ni in tow- together they break its AT Field and kneecaps both. But before a finishing blow can be struck, its two partners counter-attack. By the time Sarasvati's team can fight back, the first Engine has regenerated.-
[16:56] <Gerblo> [Matthias barely avoids an axe; Blue jumps onto the arm and rips at it with his knives. It slows the Engine down; it swats Blue off with its other hand.-
[16:56] <Gerblo> [Matthias takes the shot, putting a cannon shell between its eyes. It staggers backwards, and falls- but is not yet dead.-
[16:57] <Gerblo> [All of a sudden, the ground beneath the Engines breaks apart.-
[16:58] <Gerblo> [A hand breaks through. It is blue. It is EVA-03.-
[16:58] <Gerblo> [The hand curls around the nearest Engine, which roars in fear. It looks like a toy in the Evangelion's hand.-
[16:59] <Gerblo> [EVA-03 stuffs the Engine into its mouth and bites. A moment later, it throws all that remains- the lower torso- away.-
[17:00] <Gerblo> [The two other Engines flee, but not fast enough: the Eva vaporises one with a single burst of radiant light from its right eye. Matthias shoots the wings of the third and final one; it tumbles into the hole and slams onto the floor three decks below, where the Eva stomps it into jam.-
[17:01] <Gerblo> [Libby wrenches off his helmet; he is pale and sweaty. "Dear fucking me." He swears.-
[17:02] <Gerblo> ["Well now we gotta get past this big ol' hole courtesy of Tsubaki's dumb mother." Said Blue.-
[17:03] <Gerblo> [Without asking, Matthias picks Blue up in his AC arms. Libby does the same with Sarasvati. Ni flies herself.-
[17:04] <Gerblo> [Ni and Libby are much faster than Matthias, and are safely on the other side before Matthias can go halfway across the chasm.-
[17:18] <Gerblo> [At that moment, the battleship creaks and shakes. It has been struck hard, from within moreso than without. A moment later, rifts appear on both sides of the chasm; enemies pour out.-
[17:22] <Gerblo> [Blue is helpless.-
[17:22] <Gerblo> [In the ensuing firefight, Matthias takes a hit, not enough to kill, but enough to jolt him. Blue tries to hold on.-
[17:22] <Gerblo> [Another strike shakes Matthias's suit; Blue lets go. He falls.-
[17:22] <Gerblo> […-
[17:24] <Gerblo> [Blue wakes.-
[17:25] <Gerblo> [He is covered in dust, from head to toe. He does not know where he is.-
[17:25] <Gerblo> [Blue reaches up and wipes his face. He freezes. A moment later he rubs his hair.-
[17:25] <Gerblo> [His hat is gone.-
[17:26] <Gerblo> [Blue looks around, his actions frantic, his whole body shaking, vibrating with sudden panic. All he can see around him is dirt, debris, fires.-
[17:27] <Gerblo> [Blue has gone without his hat before. When NERV captured him, they took his hat.-
[17:27] <Gerblo> [He had not managed perfectly, but he had managed then. He had kept calm, reciting his litanies and remembering his humanity.-
[17:28] <Gerblo> [But that was in the quiet of a cell and the calm of a small city. Now he was in a warzone. Now he could smell smoke, feel the vibrations of cannon fire and taste the blood in his mouth.-
[17:28] <Gerblo> [It is becoming impossible for him to remain calm.-
[17:28] <Gerblo> [Movement. Blue jerks around.-
[17:29] <Gerblo> [A squad of Iron Guard. Not virus. Defectors. Wizard Guard.-
[17:29] <Gerblo> [The leader is wearing red armour. His name is Dominic.-
[17:30] <Gerblo> [Blue struggles to control the impulse. It is hard enough to control it in peacetime. Now, it is in its element, not his.-
[17:30] <Gerblo> [And then Blue sees the face of another Guard, who has taken off his helmet. The guard is trying to say something.-
[17:30] <Gerblo> [They are arguing about whether they can fight the bartender.-
[17:31] <Gerblo> [Blue recognises the Guard. It is a frequent customer to his bar. It is a Guard named Duncan. He is a sensible, rational Guard, friendly and playful.-
[17:32] <Gerblo> [Every artifice of humanity falls away. The sound becomes deafening.-
[17:35] <Gerblo> [Blue hates the Wizard Guard.-
[17:35] <Gerblo> [They have betrayed him and his friends. They have put his home- one of the only places in the world where he feels truly safe and human- in danger.-
[17:35] <Gerblo> [But Duncan…-
[17:35] <Gerblo> [Blue hates him even more than the others.-
[17:36] <Gerblo> [Many Iron Guard are idiots. They follow the pack and are happy to shed blood regardless. Duncan is wiser than them. He knows better. He knows that what he is doing is wrong.-
[17:36] <Gerblo> [He does it anyway. For Blue, this is an even greater treachery.-
[17:37] <Gerblo> [Before the Guard can resolve their argument, Blue leaps towards them. He kicks two of them away and smashes Duncan to the floor.-
[17:38] <Gerblo> [The machines in his blood unleash potent drugs, a strain not unlike Vasilisa's Potion. But Blue's physiology can take a purer, stronger dose, which is to say: his machines will keep him alive.-
[17:39] <Gerblo> [Blue has lost his knives. He does not need them. He cracks Duncan's breastplate open with a single blow. He pries it open like an oyster shell.-
[17:40] <Gerblo> [With his bare hands, Blue tears into Duncan's chest. Handfuls of raw meat come away, squishing through his fingers. Blood runs down his arms.-
[17:40] <Gerblo> [Blue shoves the meat into his mouth; he chews quickly, violently, and then swallows.-
[17:41] <Gerblo> [Instantly he feels warm, the machines in his blood singing at the sight of new sustenance.-
[17:41] <Gerblo> [Blue tears through Duncan's chest. Eventually he starts tearing flesh away with his teeth. He reaches into Duncan's chest cavity, grips his core, and crushes it into powder.-
[17:42] <Gerblo> [The Iron Guard have yet to react. The masters of shock tactics are, in turn, shocked.-
[17:43] <Gerblo> [Blue turns to one of them. He is armoured, his helmet missing, his face covered in blood. He is on all fours like an animal, panting, growling, roaring from his mouth.-
[17:43] <Gerblo> [His pupils are so dilated that you cannot see the blue in his eyes anymore.-
[17:43] <Gerblo> [An Iron Guard's nerve breaks. He runs, tries to put some space between himself and this monster. He does not make it.-
[17:45] <Gerblo> [There is a part of Blue who delights in the violence. That he has such power, that he can wield such raw savagery in such an effective way.-
[17:45] <Gerblo> [But most of Blue is numb. All he can hear is the sound.-
[17:45] <Gerblo> […-
[17:46] <Gerblo> [The battle is over, but Blue does not really know that.-
[17:47] <Gerblo> [Blue lies on the ground in the kitchen of his own restaurant. He has broken his power armour.-
[17:49] <Gerblo> [He does not remember how he got here. It is a blur of sound, motion, and sensation. He is only barely aware of the place he is in.-
[17:49] <Gerblo> [It gives him a degree of calm. Just enough. The sound is still overwhelming.-
[17:50] <Gerblo> [The kitchen has been damaged in the fighting. When Blue realises this, he flies into a rage.-
[17:51] <Gerblo> [But he cannot rise. His legs have been broken. He does not know who broke them. He does not remember that he broke them himself.-
[17:52] <Gerblo> [Blue collapses to the ground. He is exhausted. Exhausted at the effort of years, trying to rebuild his humanity.-
[17:53] <Gerblo> [In the end, it is for nothing. He broke his rules. He slaughtered the Iron Guard and consumed parts of them for energy, so he could kill yet more.-
[17:53] <Gerblo> [He pushed as hard and long as he could, but in the end, the Templars won out, and the monster they made is all that remains.-
[17:54] <Gerblo> [Blue's head sinks against the ground. No one knows he is there. No one is looking. He has been overlooked. Forgotten.-
[17:54] <Gerblo> […]

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