For Recovering From An Ordeal

[19:43] <Raphael> [Aline had fallen unconscious at the very end of the battle, and it was no wonder, after the horrid mess of emotion and psychological damage she'd been exposed to. The long recovery process of EVA-00 and EVA-04 now begun in earnest. EVA-00's pilot had been the first thing to be recovered, placing her in a field hospital to recover for now- far away from where the climax of the battle had taken place. When she woke up, she'd find herself lying on a stretcher.]
[19:46] * Aline stared up into the… tent ceiling, clearly wondering where she was. A few glances here and there, though, were mostly done to establish the area. It didn't… look particularly confusing. She must've been in a tent, they used to do this for the other Angel battles too, especially to get Sera stabilized after what seems to be /every damn battle/ nowadays. But for her to be a patient
[19:46] * Aline there… very interesting, in a most morbid sense of the word.
[20:03] <Raphael> ["Hey." Said a partly-familiar voice. Aline would find herself being greeted by none other than Dr. Clement. "You're awake, Aline?"]
[20:04] * Aline rolled her head over to face the voice's source. "Yeah. So… uh, what kind of stuff do you have on this?"
[20:12] <Raphael> ["On what happened to you? It looks like sensory overload- albeit on a scale I've never seen before. Your teammates are suffering from a similar thing…" He walked over to her, putting a hand on her shoulder, which was still coated in LCL. "From what I've seen of the scans, your mind's a mess. I know that's sometimes to be expected from Synchronisation, but this is more than just the usual Evangelion nonsense."]
[20:18] * Aline slowly nodded, though even just the hand contact made her recoil slightly in fear. "I know all too well. It's… some kind of power the second Angel that turned up was capable of. Though… Pretty… disturbing, what it did. I'm sure if you really want to know, someone could give you the explanation for how it worked. Maybe." Aline's tone was rather flattened, as if she was trying
[20:18] * Aline to fight through a thick fog of loneliness and despair.
[20:29] <Raphael> [Dr. Clement was no stranger to having to comfort the hurt and despairing, but he was at something of a loss here. He knew that the girl had just lost her partner, and who knows what else had happened in there? He pulled a chair over and sat down. "Would you like to talk about it?"]
[20:36] <Aline> "I…" Aline looked at Dr. Clement for a long while. "…Yeah, I think I should. Where did you want me to start?"
[20:41] <Raphael> ["Let's start from wherever you're most comfortable. Why not at the beginning?"]
[20:49] * Aline stretched a little, and… "Okay." A bit of a forced smile. "For the first while, everything was routine. The first one that turned up seemed to be good at imitation, but in other ways was very… very incompetent at what it was doing. It looked like we had some chance of winning. I only briefly heard the comms chatter about the second one before that… /stuff/ appeared. I think
[20:49] * Aline you've heard by now. World turned a grim purple, can hardly see more than 50 meters from an EVA, and illusionary /things/ floating about. That gave me an idea that something bad was afoot, but yet… in a way I could deal with that. I don't know how Sera and Yanmei first reacted to it, though. I got separated from them early on." Aline paused to let Dr. Clement absorb it, though.
[20:55] <Raphael> [Dr. Clement nodded solemnly. "That's right. It blocked communications… You must've felt isolated."]
[21:03] <Aline> "Yeah. A little, anyway. I tried to rush back to them, and got lost. After stumbling around, I managed to come up with a way to get my bearings, and I made it back there… By then I had figured out that I could use one of my own AT powers to protect myself from the field, but only if I was facing it, or…" Aline sighed heavily at this. "…or if the Angel didn't try to neutralize it.
[21:03] <Aline> Eventually, I think sometime before… wait." The girl shook her head. "I got the timeline wrong. I got my bearings after this. The first attack on me in that way. Sensory overload, to the…" Aline blushed, and it wasn't some cute shy blush. It was one of immense shame. "…pleasure centers of the brain."
[21:10] <Raphael> ["I see." Said Dr. Clement, and it's a credit to the man's professionalism that he didn't laugh or degrade the situation. "That probably was very hard to control, wasn't it?"]
[21:19] * Aline nodded quickly. "Extremely. I… the first time through I couldn't even see for about a minute or so. Anyway, I then headed back to where the others were - I was able to get my senses back enough to come up with a trick to keep from getting lost - and was about to join the engagement when a… some kind of construct made by the Angel showed up. A 'dark' version of myself and 00.
[21:19] * Aline Identical, but somehow 'other'. She called me on the comms, though I guess it was just in my mind. I don't know if I actually spoke up but I know I was sorta muttering in response or… I don't know. But she was angry at first, trying to claim I was the illusion. I'll get to what I did, but… Well this is getting far into that place where everything starts looking like magic, so I'll give
[21:19] * Aline you a moment."
[21:22] <Raphael> ["No, I understand. Considering the psychological effects on other people who were in the illusory fog, I'm not surprised. I've had reports of men seeing their dead relatives, or shades of themselves… Wing Commander Guillory could say a few things about that, but, please proceed."]
[21:23] <Aline> "Alright then. Maybe I was just being paranoid, but…
[21:28] <Aline> "…I didn't want to just kill it right away. I sort of have… more… uh, insight into Angels than almost anyone else on the planet, so I was worried that either the illusion had some kind of trap inherent, or that it was actually somehow generated from my personality and just vaguely aimed at hurting me. So I…" Aline looked away embarassedly. "I tried to be careful. To communicate. It
[21:28] <Aline> was… compelled to do something to me, not sure what. I think I actually confused it at one point by mistakenly thinking that, since it was sort of resembling me, I should at least extend a truce attempt. Of course… that was when the other stuff hit - this time, I was cut short by suddenly seeing horrible bloody stuff that I really don't want to talk about."
[21:31] <Raphael> ["It's alright. Take your time."]
[21:38] * Aline waved a hand to the side. "No, I mean, it was just shock value. Trying to use images of Shinji and other fear triggers to get at me. Unfortunately that overload thing it did made that… easier than it should've been." She looked pretty upset about that. "What's even worse is that I… I don't actually remember doing something, but I must have unloaded a positron shot at 04. And I
[21:38] * Aline mean /04/, not Yanmei. It had already gone berserk by then. And! God, right after 04 turned around to start tearing into me, it sent another damn pleasure spike! And I could feel limbs being torn apart and then that and it it it…" Aline was hyperventilating now!
[21:42] <Raphael> ["Shh. Relax, Aline. Relax. You're safe now." Said Dr. Clement, putting a hand on Aline's stomach. "Take deep breaths. In and out, nice and slow." His tone was comforting and gentle, his eyes full of sympathy.]
[21:54] * Aline breathed, like he said, "…Right… uh… the other-me was still there afterwards, and attacked me - but it never did physical damage, it… I don't know how to describe it. It made me feel less 'me'. It's like dissociation but feels… somehow worse. More powerful. I think it might be AT-related rather than just purely… uh… mental. But… Eventually, eventually I realized it
[21:54] * Aline was against me, and even when it told me it wanted to replace me and all that I… snapped. I yelled at it about some things that had bugged me about this entire war and the recent events with Shinji - I don't know what your clearance is so I'm not sure how much to say. It protested weakly, but when I finally got my field power back, and starting doing that 'scanning' thing looking for the
[21:54] * Aline Angel… once the double had been thrown out of the fog by my 'shadow' of normal space, it… just disintegrated. By then I was frustrated, but hopeful. I could find it and get out alive, I thought."
[21:58] <Raphael> ["You were keeping your head despite everything that'd happened. Admirable."]
[22:03] <Aline> "Well… it's also just being sick of it. Wanting it to end. I… at least I wasn't freaking out, but…" Aline sighed heavily, and that sigh had a definitely quality of /dejectedness/ to it. "While there was a final - out of four - emotion spike, it was relatively minor, just a sudden surge of rage… and it must have been a copied technique used by that first Angel. No, no, the… /third/
[22:03] <Aline> one, that's… probably the real last straw. It… Have you ever heard about what happens to Tsubaki - 03's pilot in Tokyo-2 - whenever she synchronizes? Like a feeling of intense love and peace and belonging that she clings to desperately after?" She shuddered, and was sort of… 'puffing up' in that way that someone who's teetering at the edge of breaking out into tears would. -
[22:06] * Aline sputtered out her next sentences with clear strain and loss… "It… it /did that/ to me. I was so worn out by the constant barrage that I was wrapped in the feeling and then it took it away from me and… I can't get my mind out of it. It hurts, and it hurts more when I think that… Intellectually it was just trying to distract me. Disable the Eva by attacking the weaker human
[22:06] * Aline inside it. But yet it… does… sexual… things to me and… forces me to feel loved, and I… I…" Aline's face was practically quivering, and she was also already crying. "I… you have to know what I'm getting at…"
[22:18] <Raphael> [Dr. Clement patted Aline's hand gently. He honestly wasn't sure what to say here, because he wasn't Dr. Castillo-Delgado. "It's sickening to think that something we hold so dear and valued is nothing more than a weapon to it…"]
[22:24] <Aline> "Y-y-yeah." Aline weakly added afterwards. "That's why I said Delgado was going to be busy. I… definitely need something more to help me through it. At least…" A similarly-weak smile. "At least it was only psychological. Sera hurting himself mysteriously was the only physical damage we took. I don't even think Yanmei was conscious for the berserk event - I hear that it was pretty
[22:24] <Aline> traumatic when it hit while she was still aware."
[22:26] <Raphael> ["She's still unconscious." Said Dr. Clement. He frowned slightly. "And yes, I've had to patch up de Pteres again… That worries me, that does."]
[22:29] * Aline frowned too, looking to the side for at least a second. "Even though I'm a junior meta-bio student, or so it seems… I don't have an explanation either. I know it has to do with the Eva but for the life of me I can't figure out what." Another stretch, the first in a number of minutes. "I guess that's just what we have to deal with."
[22:30] <Raphael> ["Mmm." Said Dr. Clement worriedly. "… Listen, Aline, uh…"]
[22:34] * Aline turned back to face the doctor. "…What is it?"
[22:35] <Raphael> ["I have some other patients I need to attend to." He said apologetically. "I'm really sorry to leave you like this… But I know someone who might be able to speak to you about what he experienced. Maybe he can help."]
[22:38] * Aline nodded. "It's fine. You don't have infinite time, after all. I can talk to him, I guess."
[22:39] <Raphael> ["Alright." he patted Aline's hand once more, before hurrying away.-
[22:43] <Raphael> A men stepped into Aline's 'room'. He was tall- 6 feet at least- with black-grey hair and amber eyes. He wore the battle uniform of a VTOL pilot, and it was stained and muddied, nevertheless. He wore a grim look on his face, like a man who was dead tired but absolutely refused to admit it. He gave her a nod. "Pilot Blanc?"
[22:46] * Aline finally sat up on her stretched, and stared towards the man. "Yeah, that'd be me."
[22:49] <Raphael> The man took the seat recently vacated by Dr. Clement. "I'm Wing Commander Raphael Guillory of the First VTOL Wing. The Doctor said we might have a few things to share."
[22:55] * Aline smiled a little, but then nodded. "Ah. So you were out there, then." She drummed her fingers together a little. "I can't begin to even guess what it must've been like outside. Evas… protect their pilots from a lot of that sort of mess just automatically."
[23:02] <Raphael> "Yes. That's what the Doctor said, anyway." Said Raphael. "Would you like me to tell you what happened with my lot?"
[23:06] * Aline leaned back - and quickly stopped doing that when she realized there was no 'back' to a stretcher. "Yeah, sure. I can… well, try to give some context of my end in return."
[23:11] * Raphael nodded, a curt action typical to soldiers. "First and foremost, after the field set in, I started receiving reports from other VTOL craft. Some of the reports were panicky and terrified, others were very short. Some of my boys were convinced that there were intruders on their craft. Some crashed." Said Raphael darkly.
[23:17] * Aline bit her lip. "That… sounds pretty grim, but… none of that lines up with my experience. I saw stuff out there, don't get me wrong, but…" She put her hands behind herself and sort of sat up supported on them. "While that sort of 'background noise' didn't do much other than make it impossible to see past arm's length… We all /did/ get more… 'personal' attention. I mean, stuff
[23:17] * Aline like… sensory overloads so severe that there'd be whole minutes of inactivity, the most terrifying things we could imagine -and- some strange AT Field magic to try to make sure we didn't even begin to get enough courage to look away… doppelgangers that I really think were eating away at our sense of self, and…" She frowned deeply, and her tone shifted to sound more regretful. There
[23:17] * Aline was this sort of air of her knowing this probably sounded like the worst thing to him. "I blacked out and attacked one of the other Evas. I think it /made/ me do it. And it was the /berserk one/ so all that did was set it on me. Little… …Er, you get it."
[23:19] <Raphael> "Mmm." Said Raphael. "I remember the berserking." He leaned forward, a shadow crossing his face. "But your experiences -are- familiar to my own, in their own way, because I haven't told you about what happened on the ground."
[23:26] * Aline tilted her head at that. "Oh?
[23:31] * Raphael glowered. "I decided to land, because I needed to link up with other grounded forces. At that point we were next to useless anyway. So myself and my copilot were sweeping through the streets, calling for allied forces. We encountered elements from the 2nd Tank Squadron." His left hand balled into a fist. "I saw one of them raise his gun and shoot a comrade, straight in the back, before turning his gun on himself."
[23:37] * Aline …shuddered. "Eep… That must've been… horrifying. Or at least would've been. Er…" She shook her head. "Sorry. Morale and what we're used to seeing are different things for the Pilots, mostly just from age and inexperience." But Aline stared on ahead to Raphael. "Other than the double, it didn't talk to me. I find that odd, but… I suppose that might as well be news to you.
[23:37] * Aline It seemed aloof and cold, nothing like the other Angels, which were halfway to animal-like."
[23:43] <Raphael> "More intelligent, you mean?"
[23:50] * Aline raised a finger. "Soooorta. Some of them probably really were dumb, but… at least one actually did talk to me, and… well just… It's…" Aline got a helpless expression on her face, clearly accessing some memories. "It's hard to explain, but at least some of them would be decent people if they weren't giant monsters driven to their objective. This one just seemed like a…
[23:50] * Aline well… a jerk, even if highly oblivious of one. I mean…" She gestured widely with both hands, and expressed surprise in her voice. "The one that made that fog did something to piss off the /other/ Angel. I seriously saw them slugging it out before the big crazy berserker barged back into action."
[23:55] <Raphael> "Really? They were fighting?" Asked Raphael with surprise. "It's almost as if you can read the Angel's personalities…" His eyes narrowed.
[23:59] <Aline> "Yeah, like I said. stabbing it with its arm spike thing, or trying to." Aline smiled a little. "Maybe not quite exact, but… you're more right than you think. I think by now, with that fog, you should be fairly convinced that AT Field weirdness can get pretty psychic-like, no?" The smile didn't last, mostly just out of sheer emotional wear, simply becoming a neutral expression. "They
[23:59] <Aline> /can/ try to initiate contact that way. And having spoke to one and being more observant - I think my reputation between the three Paris-2 pilots for how well I could put two and two together precedes me - I can guess it pretty well now. In a way, I know more about how Angels think than anyone else in the organization, because of that."
[00:07] <Raphael> "I see." Said Raphael neutrally. He wasn't sure how to take that. How -did- you take that? "We heard whispers in our minds, but they didn't seem to be from any alien force. More like our own mind…" He frowned. "You mentioned doppelgangers."
[00:25] * Aline looked back, and… took that evenly. She wasn't surprised that he sorta reacted strangely. "Yeah. I assume, from Sera's weird chatter, and the fact that 04 suddenly spent a minute tearing apart something I couldn't see, that all three of us had one, but… Basically a perfectly identical in most ways, but very flimsy, copy of the Eva and its pilot. They spoke to us, dunno if it
[00:25] * Aline was through our minds or what, but mine… She called me, and immediately claimed I was the illusion, not her. We argued. I think you know now that I react uh… differently, but…" Aline looked a bit sheepish. "I tried to convince her we were both real to get her to shut up. Then that didn't work so I just explained why I wasn't shooting her - thought some kind of trap was involved and
[00:25] * Aline that attacking her would hurt me. But… by the time I woke up from the blackout, the whole thing was attacking me, and it…" She shivered. "It didn't do damage. It… it ate at me. I felt like I wasn't me. I felt like my soul was being taken apart. And she came on with this whole thing about how she was the dark reflection and and would replace me and make me the mirror image instead and
[00:25] * Aline I sorta snapped and ranted at her about injustice and I… I…" Aline stretched again from sitting up - she was so /sore/ from the stretcher. "I confused the thing, but I couldn't get anything else because doing that weird scanning-umbrella shield thing with the AT Barrier killed it instantly when I cast a 'shadow' that stopped the fog where it stood. Did you see me doing any of that? That
[00:25] * Aline is, the big barrier or the gaps in the fog."
[00:31] <Raphael> "Occasionally." Said Raphael. "Your barrier's rather… Unpleasant to be around on the ground."
[00:34] * Aline raised a brow. "Huh, really? I've… absolutely never experienced that."
[00:36] <Raphael> "If you've ever felt a tingle on the back of your neck, like you're being watched, take that feeling and expand it- now you're being watched by something very big, except it's not even watching you. Now imagine the force of its gaze is strong enough to propel a man into a wall- that's what it's like."
[00:38] * Aline looked… pretty surprised at that. "…Damn. That's… well, I guess being more careful with that would be a good idea if I ever end up close to a ground forces column! I suppose something capable of what that thing is, though, has to be a bit /too/ intense to be around."
[00:39] * Raphael nodded. "I'd appreciate that. However, that isn't what I wanted to talk about. Men on the ground encountered Doppelgangers of their own, from reports, and I've seen the results first hand."
[00:41] * Aline looked rather glum, and her face contorted as she brought up memories of her brush with the idea of oblivion. That's what it'd be like, right? "…I'm guessing 'not pretty' is an understatement."
[00:52] <Raphael> "The average age of the soldier in France is 24." Said Raphael. "That means a majority of soldiers have memories about Second Impact. Ways they acted, or things they saw. Things they didn't want to remember. A doppelganger attacked me. It said 'Why won't you remember me?' I shot it dead." He said briskly. "Others weren't so lucky. I saw men empty their guns at… Nothing. Their own Doppelgangers. Some failed e failed to kill it, and they melted." Said Raphael, a mite uncertainly. "Melted into a tar-black ooze, before reforming, but… Different. Many of them were violent to us. Some Have been retained in custody. To think that something would try to make me turn my gun on another- to betray my -loyalty- to my fellow man…-!"
[01:01] * Aline …now looked honestly distraught. "I know what happened to them. It's… it's probably more… more horrible than if they just died or killed themselves. You're a soldier, so… I imagine you haven't taken much in the way of courses on crazy modern science, like… metaphysical biology?" The girl stared at the ground raptly. "Because that, believe it or not, is a science that covers
[01:01] * Aline AT fields - …Covers souls. The two are related. I really mean it. And… What must have happened is that that 'eating at me' thing?… They must've felt it all the way. The thing /ate their souls/ and spit out some kind of mirror image of them." Aline started to curl up a little, cradling her knees with her arms - having thus lifted them up from where they were behind her. "Destruction
[01:01] * Aline of the soul is death beyond death. Have you ever imagined what nothing felt like? Like… being nothing. No longer existing. Not even asleep, just… no more. I think, at least for the people you knew, that's what happened to them. They were /erased/."
[01:12] <Raphael> "I can't say I have." Said Raphael honestly, staring at Aline. "I've spent most of my life imagining how to avoid just every day, ordinary death. But." He frowned. "The Doppelganger which attacked you disappeared once you wiped away the field. These ones have not. Are they separate of the 'mother'?"
[01:13] * Aline nodded. "…It seems so. It might be that… it needs to 'eat' the original to be more permanent. Until then it's just… half-real. A literal inner demon. That's my guess, anyway."
[01:14] <Raphael> "If it's an 'inner demon', then isn't it more like eating yourself?"
[01:19] <Aline> "Mmmn. I guess my analogies need work. It's like… like…" Aline leaned forward from her little curled-up position. "It's like the… mother Angel creates these images with its illusion field thing. They're, at first, just parasites - a little bit of malice that grabs onto a sort of mirror of yourself, and uses that to take form. Now that it has an identity, it can attack. Except your
[01:19] <Aline> identity is wrapped up in your soul, and it's not going to just fold like a house of cards. So the thing eats at you, preying on your insecurities and your emotions and by doing so trying to make you feel less grip on 'you'. Your own soul is realer than that ghost, so it basically hijacks that reality, it just has to beat down everything that makes you a person to get in there. Does that
[01:19] <Aline> make more sense?"
[01:20] <Raphael> "I understand." Said Raphael. He leaned back in his chair. "What should be done with the ones we have in custody, then?"
[01:24] * Aline shook her head. "It's… I don't have any equipment to judge it. I guess the best option would be to get science department to take a look and uh… see if it…" She drooped. "See if they 'read' human. AT scanning works by telling certain 'frequencies'. Humans and Angels are on opposite ends of the spectrum, and Evas read as if they were human. So if they could use the detection
[01:24] * Aline hardware… if they don't read as human, then my original guess might…" Aline got even more upset as she realized just what she meant. "…be… right… In which case they'd… I don't know if we'd be able to… salvage the… original personality or not. I… guess I guess they should be held until we can figure that out."
[01:25] <Raphael> "Understood. I'll have Riel and her boffins look into it." He frowned. "If they do read as 'human', what does that mean?"
[01:26] * Aline was able to be a lot more certain about that. "Then that'd mean they're /definitely/ still mostly themselves. Evas might be giant monsters too but they show up as human because we were able to copy human souls into them. So that'd mean they'd have a human soul - that I was wrong and they weren't erased, just… twisted. There'd be more hope."
[01:27] <Raphael> "And if they read Angel?"
[01:28] <Aline> "Then that'd… mean that… it replaced them. Then we'd have a bunch of long and hard questions about who the hell is actually in those cells."
[01:29] <Raphael> "Mmm…" Raphael cracked his knuckles. "This all seems very… Weird. Science-becomes-religion or some such nonsense. I can't imagine you guys being wrong, but that doesn't mean it's easy to wrap my head around." He stood up. "This miserable war has us fighting enemies with tactics and tricks we've never ever encountered before, on levels we can't comprehend."
[01:38] * Aline nodded. "Yeah. You /said it/. Just a year or two ago, I was just a schoolgirl reading about the kind of science that involves stars and hurricanes and that kind of thing. But I live this stuff now. It's true because I've been there." She sighed very, very wearily. "I know it's by now kinda trite to quote this, but… I've seen things you wouldn't believe. The fury of an N2 mine
[01:38] * Aline exploding in my face but doing nothing to hurt me. Things that stalk me in my dreams and tear at my mind when I'm awake. Signs and clues that cast doubt onto not just who I am but /what/ I am. And… oblivion, which needs no further introduction." While Aline hadn't broken, it was now /very/ obvious that she was exerting a lot of effort to hold herself together and just be grim rather than
[01:38] * Aline out-and-out distraught. "That's what we're up against."
[01:43] <Raphael> "That's encouraging." Said Raphael, and surprisingly he didn't seem to be saying it sarcastically. "I know who I am, and I know no oblivion, and my dreams are my own no matter what damned beast might think. I invite them to try to erode that and see where that gets them." He straightened his combat vest, heading for the 'door'. He stopped just before it.-
[01:43] <Raphael> "You are what you are, and if you don't know what that is, then find someone who does. To us, you seem like an intelligent, capable young lady. We have faith in you."
[01:46] * Aline stared far over to him. "…Thank you. Stay safe as your duty will let you, and you'll stay that way. I'll do my best there, too. But really…" She shot one last smile, which itself was enough of a shift for her expression to start quivering and barriers to start weakening. "…Thanks. In any other world, we wouldn't be having this conversation, but I'm… glad we did, at least."
[01:48] <Raphael> "I have the feeling it'll be the first of many. Get some rest, Pilot Blanc." … And with a final nod, he left her in peace.
[01:50] * Aline laid back on the stretcher, and stared up at the tent roof. For the next hour or two that she spent there, forced, choked-up noises would slowly filter out through the thin canvas of the medical tent, interrupted only by gasps, and the rare muffled sob. She had held it in long enough.

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