For The Love Of Life 1 4 10

#0[18:03] <Minaplo> [Immediately after leaving Go to sleep, Raphael headed off to the medical wing, where he quickly talked to Dr. Castillo Delgado. After collecting the doctor, he headed off towards the bridge.-
[18:05] <Minaplo> [The Adeptus Marshal had been informed in advance, and Marianne was waiting for them. She quickly led them aside into the Captain's Ready Room, where she took a seat behind the desk and gestured to one of the other chairs (a couch, three armchairs) for them to use.-
[18:05] <Minaplo> ["What is this all about, General?" Asked Marianne.]#
[18:25] * Raphael had offered a quick salute as he met Marianne in the bridge, a noticeable bruise already blooming on one side of his face. In the ready room he ignores the chairs, seemingly preferring to stand.-
[18:26] <Raphael> "I apologize for taking up your time, ma'am. I'll be quick about it." He says, frowning a little as he considered how to proceed.-
[18:30] <Raphael> "I needed to voice my concerns about Pilot Roku. I believe her conditioning may be failing as happened with Pilot Rei, and I wanted you to be aware of it before we exposed her to combat conditions."
[18:34] <Minaplo> [Marianne glanced at Delgado before looking back at Raphael. Her expression was grave. "I see. What led you to this conclusion, General?"]#
[18:36] <Raphael> "She, uh…" For a moment it seems he's going to try and avoid the obvious cause, but he presses on. He indicates my cheek. "She struck me during a disagreement, ma'am."
[18:37] <Minaplo> [Marianne's eyebrows rose. "You had a disagreement with an Ayanami?"]
[18:40] * Raphael sighs. "Pilot Go will confirm the story. She quizzed me about the whereabouts of one of the Solomon prisoners my unit captured in Africa, and when I told her there was no way to let her see him before the battle she… lashed out."-
[18:42] <Raphael> "She was in obvious pain, but I couldn't get any further details out of her and neither Rei nor Go offered any insight."
[18:44] <Minaplo> ["Bring me back up to speed regarding the prisoner?"]
[18:50] <Raphael> "A Guillory-form Solomon Knight Captain, ma'am." Raphael says tonelessly. His expression is neutral, purely professional. "Captured during a raid on a convoy of RS Hoppers en route to New Saint Helena. We have him imprisoned in Asgard."
[18:54] <Minaplo> ["Hm." Marianne leaned back in her chair, frowning. "That's troubling."]
[19:07] <Raphael> "Very." Raphael says simply.
[19:07] <Minaplo> ["She gave no indication as to -why- she wanted to see him?"]
[19:11] <Raphael> "None. I asked her repeatedly - said it would be easier to convince you to allow it. All she told me was that it 'had to be soon'."
[19:13] <Minaplo> [Marianne frowned. "Did she give a timeframe beyond 'soon'?"]
[19:14] <Raphael> "I'm afraid not." Raphael says, matching her frown. "That was around the point she struck me."
[19:15] <Minaplo> ["What are your thoughts, Doctor?" Asked Marianne, turning towards Delgado.-
[19:20] <Minaplo> ["As General Guillory suggests, a breakdown of conditioning is a valid possibility." Said Delgado. "An increase in impulsive actions- such as striking a superior officer- or desires- such as this desire to see this captive- are both symptoms associated with the disintegration of conditioning. That said, the major example of this we've seen- Ayanami Rei's attack on a technician- was due to long-term stress, making her susceptible to being primed by the technician's remarks. I wouldn't be comfortable making a proper diagnosis unless we could verify some source of distress."-
[19:20] <Minaplo> [Marianne turned back towards Raphael. "What do you think?"]
[19:26] * Raphael chews his lip. "I'd say the Doctor's probably right. The capture would have happened… two months ago. Maybe three. If there was any-" For a moment he seems profoundly uncomfortable, "-Interaction between the two… well, we know how Rei reacted."
[19:28] <Minaplo> ["A connection, romantic or otherwise, would explain much, I think." Said Delgado.-
[19:29] <Minaplo> [Marianne folded her hands together, tapping her thumbs against one another. She frowned down at her table, silent for a few seconds.-
[19:30] <Minaplo> ["I am about to reveal secret information." Said Marianne. "It is not to leave this room."]
[19:34] * Raphael 's eyes narrow just a little, trying to glean some information from Marianne's expression, but he nods slowly. "Of course, Colonel."
[19:37] <Minaplo> ["For some time, we have been receiving strategic information from spies within the New World Army. Troop numbers, weapons programmes, convoy times… One of these spies, one of our best and most consistent, was Ayanami Roku. We based your ambush of the Solomon Knight on her data."]
[20:06] * Raphael 's expression is set by Marianne's second sentence, his mouth formed into a tight line. His hands have disappeared behind his back, either folder or just held carefully out of sight.-
[20:06] <Raphael> «folded*»
[20:06] <Raphael> He glances towards Delgado, if only to buy himself a moment longer to gather his thoughts.
[20:09] <Minaplo> [Delgado's expression was grim. "Then that would definitely explain everything." He said. "Guilt…"-
[20:11] <Minaplo> [Marianne turned back to Raphael. "You advise removing her from active combat duty?"]
[20:23] <Raphael> "Yes." He says. The word comes out a little clipped, before he manages to recover and correct himself. "Yes Colonel."-
[20:24] <Raphael> "… You had her involved with the clon- … with the Solomon to gain information. Putting all that pressure on herself - nevermind what we think might have happened." He says matter-of-factly. His words are coming a little faster now. "Rei seems to think she's been withdrawn and asocial since the Synfront. If we had this information and the signs were relatively clear, was she receiving
[20:24] <Raphael> counselling? Any help?"
[20:30] <Minaplo> [Marianne held up a hand. "Allow me to be clear- Roku was given no instruction beyond broad information-gathering objectives. How she went about her work was up to her. Nevertheless, I did put her in for mandatory counselling sessions. Doctor?"-
[20:34] <Minaplo> [He shifted in his chair. "Roku proved to be- elusive. Of the four sessions we had her scheduled in for, she never showed up for the last two, and trying to reschedule with her proved difficult. No real progress was made- we would need months, maybe more, before progress became concrete."-
[20:34] <Minaplo> ["However, during the sessions she did attend, she made no reference to any Solomon Knight, nor to her espionage activities. She mostly seemed apathetic."]
[20:42] * Raphael seems… at least slightly mollified by Marinne's statement, his shoulders relaxing slightly. "But you knew that's where she had been sourcing her information from?"
[20:44] <Minaplo> ["One of her sources, yes."]
[20:48] <Raphael> "…" Raphael is quiet, the expression on her face suggesting he is weighing something in his mind. "… I understand. Pardon me, ma'am."
[20:57] <Minaplo> [Marianne gives him a short nod. "Regardless, the current situation is how we deal with Roku. Removing her from combat duty for now seems wise, but the question is: where do we put her for the duration of the operation? Most non-essential personnel have been flagged for evacuation, yet a part of me suspects that letting her near the Solomon Knight could have some kind of unintended consequence. Thoughts?"]
[21:01] <Raphael> "I would recommend waiting to reintroduce her to the Solomon until we are more prepared, certainly." He frowns.-
[21:02] <Raphael> "… Assign her to the bridge for the duration, perhaps. VIP bodyguard duty, a final line of defense if necessary."
[21:04] <Minaplo> ["Very well." Said Marianne, nodding slowly. "General, Doctor. Is there anything else?"]
[21:27] <Raphael> "No, Captain." He salutes sharply. "Thank you again for your time."-
[21:28] * Raphael hesitates, and offers her a small, tight smile as he lowers his hand. "… And good luck today, Marianne. Be safe."
[21:30] <Minaplo> [Marianne smiled a little in return. "And the same to you, General."-
[21:30] <Minaplo> ["Before the two of you depart, I have one last favour to request."]
[21:32] <Raphael> "Of course, ma'am."
[21:33] <Minaplo> ["I would like for yourself and for the Doctor to go to Roku after leaving here and tell her about the decision we've made. Try to be gentle."]#
[21:42] * Raphael nods slowly. "I was going to suggest something similar, Captain. Although I'm not sure if she'll react well to my presence."
[21:43] <Minaplo> ["Wait outside if necessary if she becomes agitated." Said Marianne. "Dismissed."]#
[21:51] <Raphael> "Captain." Raphael says, turning and marching towards the door. He'd wait until Castillo was out before following him into the corridor.
[21:53] <Minaplo> [Delgado was out a few seconds after Raphael, the elderly man moving a little slower for obvious reasons. Nevertheless he'd start down the corridor.-
[21:53] <Minaplo> ["Everything alright, Raphael?"]
[21:55] <Raphael> "Alright is relative under these circumstances, Doctor." Raphael says, trying to get his bearings. He'd never been to Roku's quarters, but he'd likely know the general area she'd be kept in…
[21:57] <Minaplo> [Fortunately, Castillo did, so it was simply a case of following him.-
[21:57] <Minaplo> ["Fair. Everything alright in relation to your usual state then, Raphael?" Asked the old man wryly.]
[22:04] <Raphael> And follow Raphael did! "It's… varied." Raphael says, his tone suggesting that finding the correct word had required effort. "Too much is happening too quickly. Between the battle, evacuating Suzanne and Eevi, everything to do with the Ayanamis…"
[22:08] <Minaplo> ["Agreed." Said Castillo. "We can only hope that your situation calms down a little once we return…"]
[10:48] <Raphael> "Mmm…" Raphael says, and that's the extent of the conversation for a few corridors.-
[10:49] <Raphael> It's only as they wait for an elevator that Raphael speaks up again. "A question if you don't mind, Doctor?"
[10:49] <Minaplo> ["Go ahead."]
[10:50] <Raphael> "What does one do with good advice from a bad source?"
[10:51] <Minaplo> ["Oh no, why did you speak to von Brandt?"]
[10:51] <Raphael> "That obvious, hmm?"
[10:52] <Minaplo> ["You could say that." Muttered Castillo.-
[10:53] <Minaplo> ["I will be honest, I've requested to be told when von Brandt receives visitors, and from whom. I would be remiss in my duties if I did not, although I do not know what your conversation entailed…"-
[10:54] <Minaplo> [Castillo shrugged.-
[10:54] <Minaplo> ["My suggestion would be to give the good advice to a good source you trust and see if they agree."]
[10:56] <Raphael> "Valid." There's a gentle ping as the elevator opens up before then, Raphael stepping inside and holding a hand in front of the door for Castillo. "Would you mind playing the part for the moment?"
[10:59] <Minaplo> ["Not at all." Castillo gives him a thankful nod and walks out.
[10:59] <Minaplo> ]
[11:00] <Minaplo> <in*>
[11:14] <Raphael> "I was there only because he badly upset Pilot Chiisana, for context." Raphael says for a moment, trying to gather his thoughts. "And we squabbled over that for a time. Yet he finally managed to get the upper hand over a… misstep on my part. I suppose he found the leverage I knew he was looking for."
[11:16] <Minaplo> ["Go on."]
[11:19] <Raphael> "His advice… amounted to the idea that if I wanted to continue acting like I was some sort of guardian to the Ayanamis I should stop letting myself only take those responsibilities half-way."
[11:19] <Minaplo> ["Oh, I see."-
[11:22] <Minaplo> ["'The Devil can cite Scripture for his purpose, an evil soul producing holy witness Is like a villain with a smiling cheek.'" Quoted Castillo with a sigh.-
[11:23] <Minaplo> ["Ultimately, I would agree, albeit on different terms." Said Castillo slowly. "The Ayanamis -need- a figure like that in their lives. That much is true on a basic mental level."]
02[11:25] * Minaplo (ua.ten.tenii.nyd.84-59-051-421|olpaniM#ua.ten.tenii.nyd.84-59-051-421|olpaniM) Quit (Quit: )
03[11:30] * Minaplo (ua.moc.tentsew.aw.44-44-7-85-lsd|olpaniM#ua.moc.tentsew.aw.44-44-7-85-lsd|olpaniM) has joined #nervfrance3
06[11:30] * Raphael nods a little at the quote, following the idea even without knowing the source. "Right." Raphael sighs. "Which is the problem. I've been scrambling to imagine what he has to gain from that advice, or what harm I might be bringing if I follow it, but I can't say he's -wrong-. This has only proven it."-
[11:30] <Raphael> "I don't know that I could promise to be a father to every one of the Ayanamis and actually follow through on that. I understand that I have my own damages. And yet those girls need an… an -advocate-, at the very least, and maybe I could promise to be that much."
[11:31] <Minaplo> [Castillo nodded slowly.-
[11:40] <Minaplo> ["That seems fair enough." Said Castillo. "As you've said, you have your own problems to deal with, let alone trying to manage the myriad and complex ones of twelve Ayanamis. But an advocate would be welcomed greatly, I think. Even if you present yourself as more of a kind uncle than a father…"]
[11:41] <Raphael> "… Is that enough, though? Honestly?" He's frowning now, seeming genuinely concerned.
[11:43] <Minaplo> ["Probably not." Said Castillo quietly.-
[11:43] <Minaplo> [The elevator smoothly slowed, then stopped, the door opening with a quiet chime.]
[11:45] <Raphael> "Then maybe I need to try…" He says quietly, following Castillo into the hall.
[11:46] <Minaplo> [Castillo gave Raphael a gentle look, but didn't say anything.-
[11:47] <Minaplo> [It would be a quick walk, after that, to Roku's room (the elevators on the Battleship being the sort that moved horizontally as well as vertically). They arrived, Castillo staring at the door with an obvious sense of hesitation.-
[11:47] <Minaplo> [He sighed. "Shall we?"]
06[11:51] * Raphael just nods once, his shoulders squared as he leans forward to press the buzzer. "… Do you want me to lead, Doctor?"
[11:51] <Minaplo> ["You don't mind…?"]
[11:53] <Raphael> "I'll manage." He says, giving the older man a thin smile.
[11:53] <Minaplo> ["Then please."]
06[11:54] * Raphael nods again and thumbs the switch.
[11:56] <Minaplo> [There's a pause, before the light goes from red to green. The door slides open with a hydraulic hiss.-
[11:58] <Minaplo> [Ayanami Roku is sitting on her bed, staring at the television, although not really seeming to take much in (considering that the movie was some forgettable sexed-up cold war spy flick, she can hardly be blamed). She's wearing a long silken red dressing gown, wrapped tightly around her frame, and her hair has a sense of dampness to it that suggests a recent shower. Her knees are drawn up
[11:58] <Minaplo> against her chest.-
[11:58] <Minaplo> [As the door opens, she turns to look at Raphael and Castillo, her eyes narrowing slightly. "… Yes…?"]
[12:05] <Raphael> "I apologize for interrupting you again, ma'am." Raphael says carefully, only stepping a short way into the room for now - enough to allow Castillo past the threshold if he desired, but not much more than that. "I've just finished discussing your situation with the Colonel, and she's asked me to come and speak to you. Is that alright…?"
[12:06] <Minaplo> [Roku stared, before picking up the remote and turning the television off. She swivelled around so that she was facing Raphael. "Can I go see him?"]
[12:08] <Raphael> "…" He tenses slightly. It was a question he'd anticipated, but finding an answer she would accept was far from easy.-
[12:12] <Raphael> "I'm afraid I was telling the truth before. We have no way to let you see him until we've tied up the upcoming operation. He's not being kept on the battleship."
[12:13] <Minaplo> [The look… She had been harbouring a faint hope, a hope that had waxed irrationally when Raphael had entered, and he can see it break in her eyes.-
[12:13] <Minaplo> ["No. No. No. I. I have to."]
06[12:21] * Raphael feels the weight of that look settle on his chest, and he's forced to glance back at Castillo just to get a moment away from it. "… I'm sorry. I really am." He says gently, looking back towards Roku as he takes another step closer to the bed. "Are you sure you can't tell us why the timing is so important, Roku? If it's a matter of your safety - or his - maybe there's something
06[12:21] * Raphael we could…" He trails off, looking momentarily helpless.
[12:23] <Minaplo> ["Dying." Roku said. "Dead. I. I could die. In the battle. I need to see him now. Please."-
[12:24] <Minaplo> [She gave Raphael a truly pathetic look. "S-Strike. Or I strike. Ayanami strike…"]
[12:27] <Raphael> "I-I don't…" Raphael says uncertainly. He looks back at Castillo again, looking extremely concerned now.
[12:28] <Minaplo> [Castillo shakes his head gravely, but his eyes tell Raphael that he's clearly lost for words.-
[12:31] <Minaplo> [Roku looked from one to the other, before closing her eyes, shaking her head. Tears began to form, and she wiped them away with a trembling hand. "Why. Why won't you help me?"]
06[12:39] * Raphael has grown pale, looking a little shaken by how quickly the situation is growing out of control. "I want to Roku, but we -can't-. If there was anything I could do, I would. If we'd known earlier…"
[12:42] <Minaplo> ["Please." She stands up, now, her stance unsteady. "I. I can offer things. Information." She looks away for a second towards the wall, her eyes nearly glazing over for a second, before she looks back. "I can. Hurt people if you need it. Anything… Do. Do you want me to beg…?"]
[12:49] <Raphael> "No. I don't." Raphael says firmly. He steps closer again, reaching for her shoulder. "Come here, Roku. Sit down, breathe. We're going to work through this, I promise, but I need you to slow down for a moment and listen to me. Doctor, could you find her some water?"
[12:49] <Minaplo> ["I-"-
[12:49] <Minaplo> [But as Raphael approaches, his hand is stopped by the flaring plane of an AT Field. It flickers into life, blocking his hand completely… But within a few seconds his hand simply breaks through.-
[12:50] <Minaplo> [Castillo is rooted to the spot, his mouth a perfect 'o' for a second, before he steps forward, grabs Raphael's shoulder and pulls him back towards the door, jerking his head towards it, suggesting a quick private conversation.]
06[13:02] * Raphael seems ready to almost shrug off Castillo's hand - it would have been easy, barely an effort - still staring at the shattered AT field and Roku beyond it. It's only with a deep breath of his own and a clenching of his jaw that he allows himself to be pulled outside.
[13:08] <Minaplo> ["Sorry." Said Castillo quickly, his voice low.-
[13:09] <Minaplo> ["She's clearly sick." He said. "I thought it was simply psychosomatic, but now… No, this is wrong. Raphael, her AT Field, it's too weak- no Ayanami's Field should be that weak unless it had taken severe damage on an innate level. Her Field could be near collapse."]
[13:15] <Raphael> "I don't-" His expression shows alarm and confusion in equal measure. "What does that mean? How is it possible?"
[13:17] <Minaplo> ["It -shouldn't- be. There's something -wrong- here, Raphael…"-
[13:20] <Minaplo> [As if to underline that statement, Roku, who had sat back down on the bed, staring at the television, got back to her feet. She slowly began to walk towards the two of them.-
[13:20] <Minaplo> ["I need to. See him."-
[13:24] <Minaplo> [There was a dark look in Roku's eye. Desperation, or despair, or probably both. her shaky hands worked at the sashes of her nightgown, pulling them loose. Within a second it had fallen away, leaving her naked. "I… Need to." She said, her voice weak, clearly -terrified-. "I don't have. Anything else to offer right now… Except me. Do anything, ask anything, whatever, I. I won't stop
[13:24] <Minaplo> you, please, just take me to him now…"-
[13:24] <Minaplo> [There was a low, sharp hiss from Castillo. "Raphael. Do something."]
06[13:45] * Raphael doesn't even hear him, his eyes wide and horrified. He practically tears off his own jacket, two buttons ripping free, and tries to get it around Roku's shoulders. "No, Roku. That's enough. We're going to fix this, but not like that - -never- like that."-
[13:45] <Raphael> "Doctor, get help. Whoever is needed. Call Rei, too." His voice is like iron, leaving no room for argument or hesitation. "-Now-."
[13:46] <Minaplo> ["Y-Yes." Castillo is already reaching for his phone…-
[13:47] <Minaplo> [But Roku is stumbling away from Raphael. Her last offer has been rejected, and there's a look of utter -trapedness- in her eyes as she throws her arms up.-
[13:47] <Minaplo> [Her AT Field manifests again this time, and it's brighter, stronger- it reminds Raphael a little too much of the AT -explosion- Rei had suffered when pursuing Blue. Untrammelled power unleashed all at once…-
[13:48] <Minaplo> [… Except even -this- is barely matching the strength of a regular Ayanami AT Field. It's enough to slow Raphael down, however.-
[13:53] <Minaplo> [It gives her enough time to reach out towards her bedside table. The drawer automatically pulls itself out, and out of the messy pile of random pamphlets and papers flies a small gun- Raphael would recognise a railpistol. It flies into Roku's hand, and she levels it at Raphael's chest.-
[13:53] <Minaplo> ["Bridge." She says, her breath short. "Now. Please."]
[14:11] <Raphael> The AT burst sends him stumbling backwards, eliciting a low grunt, but it's barely a strong breeze compared to his other experiences with AT fields. He's recovered within a second, ready to move forward again… only to find himself staring at a railpistol.-
[14:11] <Raphael> He doesn't try to move away - she's a good shot, and the room is too small to allow any meaningful movement - but he does turn his body just slightly in order to better shield the Doctor still standing behind him.-
[14:11] <Raphael> "Out, Castillo." Raphael says flatly, his breath coming a little faster. His eyes are fixed on Roku's, the gun going ignored.
[14:15] <Minaplo> [Castillo nodded once, mouthing a small but sincere 'please' at Roku as he turned to go.-
[14:27] <Minaplo> [… And Roku reacted, turning her pistol towards him and firing twice in quick sucession towards his leg.]
[14:43] <Raphael> Raphael did not move faster than an Ayanami, he had no illusions about that; not even one visibly shaking from distress. The only advantage he had at that moment was some clarity of thought that Roku currently lacked.-
[14:43] <Raphael> That was the only way he was able to move at the same moment Roku did, putting himself in the path of Roku's shot.-
[14:44] <Raphael> The pain ripped through his body, his blood splattering against the doorframe. He felt his left leg give way, sending him to his knees as he let out a roar of pain.
[14:10] <Minaplo> [… But Castillo is gone, at least.-
[14:12] <Minaplo> [Roku stared at Raphael, her eyes wide, the gun trembling now as her hands find it harder and harder to remain steady. "I. Didn't want…"-
[14:13] <Minaplo> [She stops, and levels the pistol at him again. "Bridge. Now. Please."]
[14:20] * Raphael lets a breath hiss out through gritted teeth as he reaches out for the doorframe as he struggles back to his feet, his bloodied uniform warm and wet against his leg. "And then what?"
[14:21] <Minaplo> ["Someone lets me… See him."]
[14:24] <Raphael> "N-" Another hiss of pain and he's on his standing again, his brow furrowed from the effort as he leans one shoulder on the doorway - a block between Roku and the hall beyond. "No they don't. If dying is what you're afraid of, Roku, this is the best way to make it come true. Y-you have to put down the gun. Security will be on its way, and then I can't help you."
[14:25] <Minaplo> ["I have to try."]
[14:33] <Raphael> "This isn't the way!" He says snaps.-
[14:34] <Raphael> "… I know what happened, Roku." He manages to force a bit more calm into his voice. "What you did. You gave up something good - something precious - to try and do what you thought was right, and it's eating you up inside. I know what that's like. You shouldn't have been put in that situation. But if you ever want to see the Solomon- … to see -Aksel- again, this needs to stop here."
[14:39] <Minaplo> ["Will… You help me?"]
[14:43] * Raphael swallows hard, trying to get his breathing back under control. "I will." He says, reaching out towards her - towards the gun. "Come on, Roku. You can do this."
[14:44] <Minaplo> [Tears fill her eyes. "That's… All I wanted…"-
[14:45] <Minaplo> [She takes a step forward, but stumbles, falling to all fours. The gun drops feebly from her hand, landing at Raphael's feet.]
[14:48] * Raphael lets out a slow, shaky breath, his hands trembling a little. He lowers himself carefully back towards the ground, his eyes shut as he adjusts his wounded leg beneath him.-
[14:49] <Raphael> The first order of business is to swat away the gun, sending it skittering across the room to land halfway underneath Roku's dresser.-
[14:51] <Raphael> The second is to make a grab for his jacket again - it's been hurled against the wall by the AT blast - and lay it around her shoulders. He leaves his arm around her, doing his best to provide some comfort - some support.-
[14:51] <Raphael> And then all that's left to do is wait.
[14:52] <Minaplo> [The wait is probably shorter than he would expect.-
[14:52] <Minaplo> [Within a minute or so, the door slides open.-
[14:53] <Minaplo> [Castillo had, apparently, managed to contact Marianne, Rei, security and medical all at once, because when the door opens Raphael sees five Marines, two medics, Doctor Tenma, Rei -and- Ezekiel, all waiting.-
[14:54] <Minaplo> [Roku barely has the strength to look up at them, her body covered in a sheen of sweat.]
[14:55] <Raphael> There's no conscious thought in the way Raphael's arm tightens around Roku's shoulder, as if to shield her from the new arrivals. It's habit or instinct - something deeper.-
[14:59] <Raphael> "It's fine. She's fine." Raphael says, his voice calm and level with the application of serious effort. There's no way for him to bring the colour back to his face, though, or mask the beads of sweat on his brow. "Rei, come and help her. Everyone else… give her some space."
[15:01] <Minaplo> [Rei nods, quickly walking over to Roku's side. Rei's expression is grave and full of concern as she offers Roku a shoulder to stand on, but even this seems like too much- Roku is as weak as a kitten, and she nearly falls, Rei catching her just in time.-
[15:01] <Minaplo> [Roku began coughing at this point- once, twice, then a third awful gurgling cough, a splatter of blood pouring from her mouth, dripping down her chin.-
[15:02] <Minaplo> [Rei's eyes widen- but Tenma's narrow. "Sickbay." He says immediately.]
[15:04] * Raphael doesn't look as surprised as he ought to - everything about the situation is wrong by now, and his mind finds it almost easy to add one more thing to the list - but his expression is grave as he tries to struggle to his feet again. "She'll… need Surov."
[15:05] <Minaplo> ["Understood." Said Tenma.-
[15:06] <Minaplo> [Rei lifts Roku up in both arms now. "It's alright." Murmurs Rei. "It'll be ok…"-
[15:06] <Minaplo> [Rei walks over to Ezekiel's side. He gives Raphael a single nod- and then with a single faint flash of light, he, Roku, Rei and Tenma all vanish.-
[15:07] <Minaplo> [The two medics rush in to take care of Raphael however.]
[15:08] * Raphael tries to wave them off, looking almost annoyed by the attention. He makes a careful attempt to move towards the door. "I'm fine. I'm fine. Just help me get to sick bay."
[15:10] <Minaplo> [One of the medics tsks. "Big man." He mutters, his accent Slavic. "Biogel comes before trying to walk off gunshots."-
[15:13] <Minaplo> [Nevertheless, the medics support Raphael on the trip to the sickbay.-
[15:16] <Minaplo> [True enough, the railpistol rounds, despite being highly painful, are not too serious. It doesn't even warrant Dr. Tenma's personal attention- the medics tug the bullets out (after a bit of local anaesthetic) and pour a small amount of biogel into the holes. Within ten minutes, the pain is gone and the injury may as well have never existed outside of two mild reddish spots on his leg.-
[15:17] <Minaplo> [He's discharged after that, but…-
[15:19] <Minaplo> [Roku wasn't in any of the public rooms. Her actual location would not be hard to find, in one of the private rooms in the sickbay. Raphael would be strictly denied entry if he tried; however, through the window of the door he'd spy not only Tenma and Rei, but also Surov… And Isabelle Bellamy.-
[15:20] <Minaplo> [A full hour after Roku's breakdown, Raphael would be summoned to the Conference Room on the bridge deck.]
[15:34] <Raphael> The hour passed in a blur. He'd found a seat just beyond Roku's room and waited, watching the comings and goings of doctors and specialists from the room, none of whom would talk to him despite his regular efforts. He'd exchanged messages with a few alarmed friends - Misato, Euphrasie, Hugues - but his responses were short and broad.-
[15:36] <Raphael> And it was in this unsettled state that he arrived at the conference room. His jacket was gone, his shirt untucked and flecked with the same blood that had dried into his pants.
[15:37] <Minaplo> [Marianne was there, as was Castillo, Frederic and Jeanne Simon.-
[15:37] <Minaplo> [Shortly after Raphael arrived, Surov, Rei, Tenma and Isabelle would appear, Rei looking shaken and deeply disturbed- she fell into a seat next to Raphael.-
[15:37] <Minaplo> ["We have our findings." Said Surov.]
[15:42] * Raphael can't offer Rei a smile or a hug - he wasn't capable of either right at that moment. The best he can do is to find her hand and give it a tight squeeze.-
[15:42] <Raphael> "Go on, then." Raphael says, not quite able to maintain his normal politeness.
[15:43] <Minaplo> [Surov and Tenma look at each other.-
[15:43] <Minaplo> [Tenma nods, and Surov turns back to the assembly.-
[15:43] <Minaplo> ["She's a fake." He said. "We've been given an imposter Ayanami. The real Ayanami Roku is nowhere to be found."]
[15:55] * Raphael 's eyes widen, some mix of anger and shock showing on his face. "A Solomon?" Raphael asks.-
[15:55] <Raphael> "… No. She wouldn't bother. A waste of resources, if all she wanted was a decoy."
[15:59] <Minaplo> ["Not a Solomon." Said Surov. "One of Ayanami Roku's backup bodies."-
[15:59] <Minaplo> ["And not just a decoy." Surov's mechadendrite slithered out, placing a nearly miniscule item on the table- some sort of microchip, about one centimetre wide.-
[16:02] <Minaplo> ["In our area of expertise, we call it a Quantum Ultrawave Broadcaster." He said. "It uses encoded dirac waves to transmit information. I've never seen one this small, though- even I would have trouble creating something like this."-
[16:03] <Minaplo> ["It was implanted beneath one of her false ribs. Almost undetectable." Said Surov. "If she had been allowed to go to Asgard, it would've revealed the base's hidden location straight into Caine's lap."]
[16:11] <Raphael> "Christ." Raphael hisses, rubbing his face. "… have we tested Juu?"
[16:18] <Minaplo> ["We're doing that now." Said Surov.-
[16:19] <Minaplo> ["How did this get by us?" Asked Marianne. "There has to be a hundred different ways- synch tests?"-
[16:19] <Minaplo> ["We haven't been doing any. Her unit's been put in storage until we can repair it." Said Surov.-
[16:20] <Minaplo> ["Personality shifts…?" She looked at Castillo.-
[16:20] <Minaplo> ["We didn't have anything that could point specifically to being an impostor." Said Castillo wearily. "Everything personality-wise could be attributed to her tribulations."-
[16:21] <Minaplo> ["W-What about the soul? An AT Ping, surely-?"-
[16:21] <Minaplo> [Rei shook her head. Her hand around Raphael's squeezed tighter, and it looked like she was going to cry.-
[16:22] <Minaplo> [Surov looked at Isabelle. Isabelle nodded.-
[16:22] <Minaplo> ["A line has been crossed." Said Surov quietly.-
[16:23] <Minaplo> ["The spy's soul is a… It's hard to explain." Said Isabelle. "A soul has been placed in her body- not Roku's soul. However, it seems as though Caine has taken the time to split off a small part of the real Roku's soul. She tried to incorporate it into the spy's current soul… Sewing them together into a patchwork, so to speak."-
[16:25] <Minaplo> ["It is enough to dissuade all but the most sensitive of AT Pings." Said Surov. "But it is the AT Field equivalent of trying to sew a dead arm onto a body. It does not work- the only soul that can safely incorporate another into it is an E-Type, and this soul is not an E-Type. The soul is rejecting the Roku element of itself- or simply put, the spy's AT Field is tearing itself apart."-
[16:26] <Minaplo> [Tenma sank into a chair. He looked… Weary.-
[16:26] <Minaplo> ["Her body is being destroyed by it." He said. "Her organs are starting to shut down. At best she has a few days to live, but more realistically she won't live out the night."]
[16:37] <Raphael> "So." Raphael's voice is steady, one hand clenched around his knee while his other arm has found its way around Rei's shoulders. "What do we do? We've cloned, we've toyed with souls, we've reshaped the human body with AT fields. We've reconstituted human beings from nothing but LCL. How do we stabilize this?"
[16:40] <Minaplo> ["You want to save her?" Asked Surov, his tone thoughtful.]
[16:41] <Raphael> "I promised I'd help her." He says, as if that is all that needs to be explained.
[16:42] <Minaplo> [Surov nods.-
[16:43] <Minaplo> ["The optimal situation would rest on us allowing her body to survive as well as us removing Ayanami Roku's soul element from her own, so we may return it to her when we retrieve her," Surov turned to Rei, "Which we will."-
[16:43] <Minaplo> [Rei nodded once in return, then lowered her head again against Raphael's shoulder.-
[16:44] <Minaplo> ["To that end, the best hope we have is to dissolve the spy in LCL, try to separate the two elements, and then see if we can reconstitute her. There is no guarantee of success- reconstitution requires a strength her shattered psyche may not possess."]
[16:47] <Raphael> "But it's possible."
[16:51] <Minaplo> ["Twenty percent chance." Said Surov.]
[16:53] * Raphael nods once, chewing his lip. "Any other options worth discussing?"
[16:53] <Minaplo> [There was a quick glance around. Shakes of the head.-
[16:54] <Minaplo> ["Then do it." Said Marianne simply.]
[17:01] * Raphael nods once in response, his expression hard. "Can I… Is there anything I can do to assist?"
[17:03] <Minaplo> ["She's asked to see you." Said Tenma. "It might help a little if you went to her."]
[17:04] <Raphael> "Done.
[17:05] <Raphael> * "Done." Raphael says simply.-
[17:05] <Raphael> "… Does she know?"
[17:05] <Minaplo> ["She seems to know that she's dying." Said Tenma.-
[17:06] <Minaplo> ["She's received a mental imprinting from the real Roku." Said Surov. "It was an imperfect imprint from what I can tell, but as far as she knows, she -is- Ayanami Roku. She has no idea what her 'purpose' truly was."]
[17:09] <Raphael> "…" Raphael is silent for a few seconds, staring at nothing. "… Understood."-
[17:09] <Raphael> "Am I to tell her?"
[17:10] <Minaplo> ["It would be cruel." Said Tenma. "It… Might make her not want to come back."]
[17:11] <Raphael> "Would you blame her?" Raphael said, the words coming out harsher than he'd intended.
[17:12] <Minaplo> [There's a weary shake of the head from Tenma.-
[17:14] <Minaplo> ["I think it's obvious that any and all of the blame here belongs on someone else. This girl is innocent." Said Marianne.-
[17:14] <Minaplo> ["June." Said Rei quietly.]
[17:16] * Raphael glances down at Rei, but any attempt to see her face only earns him a look at the top of her head leaning against his shoulder..
[17:18] <Minaplo> ["I-It sounds like 'juuni'." She said softly. "'T-twelve'… The n-next Ayanami."-
[17:19] <Minaplo> [She bowed her head, her hands over her eyes as she began to cry.-
[17:20] <Minaplo> [Down on the other end of the table, Frederic bowed his head and took out his phone.-
[17:20] <Minaplo> ["D… Dismissed." Said Marianne, dabbing at her own eyes.]
[17:39] <Raphael> "…" For a moment his face can't seem to settle on a single expression - grief, horror and anger all seem to come and go in a heartbeat - but in the end they all give way, for the briefest moment, to naked hatred directed at some far-off source. He's forced to shut his eyes and take a long breath to try and bring his emotions under control, to make himself presentable. It only barely
[17:39] <Raphael> works.-
[17:39] <Raphael> He pulls Rei a little closer, shielding her and allowing her to bury her head in his shoulder. "Come on, sweetheart. Come on. Let's get you out of here."
[17:40] <Minaplo> [She nodded feebly, getting to her feet slowly so as to not break the contact.-
[17:41] <Minaplo> [Isabelle looked around the room, the visible part of her face pale and grim. "Time to go." She said to Surov. "Last flight can't leave without me."-
[17:41] <Minaplo> [And so she turned and walked out, slowly, but surely.-
[17:46] <Minaplo> [Surov turned to look at Raphael as he left. "Let me know when - June- is ready." He said. "I promise I'll do what I can."-
[17:47] <Minaplo> [He makes eye contact for a second, then also leaves.-
[17:54] <Minaplo> [Raphael and Rei are perhaps a minute or so out of the conference room when Alphonse appears from behind a corner. His appearance is so sudden that one might as well have thought he'd appeared out of nowhere.-
[17:57] <Minaplo> [The sight of him sees Rei's tears redouble, and before long she's wrapped herself around Alphonse, head nestled against his chest. Alphonse's arms envelop her protectively, and he gives Raphael a silent, short nod of thanks.]
[18:28] * Raphael returns the nod, giving Rei one last, long look before he turns and strides away, back towards the medical bay.-
[18:28] <Raphael> He's three corridors away and well out of sight of anyone from the meeting room before his shoulders begin to shake. With a low shout of anguish he turns and drives his fist into the metal wall hard enough to break the skin on his knuckles.
[18:31] <Minaplo> [The surovite bulkhead is cold and hard. It does not respond to Raphael's anger.]
[18:35] <Raphael> But it's the pain he's looking for. Something to bring some clarity to his thoughts. In that respect it's at least partially successful.-
[18:36] <Raphael> He lingers in the hall for a time - he's not really sure how long - but eventually his breathing comes back under control and the fury showing on his face is hidden from the world again. He seems, outwardly at least, calm.-
[18:37] <Raphael> And so he spends the rest of the walk to the medical bay in silence, his jaw clenched. Alone with his thoughts.
[18:44] <Minaplo> [The medical bay is quiet, somber, as though it somehow had a mind of its own and was aware of the gravity of the situation. There are several nurses and medics milling about, and one of them- the Russian medic from earlier- gave Raphael a nod and pointed the way. "Is ready for you."]
[18:51] * Raphael nods once, murmuring a small 'thank you' as he moves towards the indicated door. There's no hesitation as he enters this time.
[18:53] <Minaplo> [Ayanami Roku- or to use Rei's name, June- was lying in a hospital bed. Raphael's coat has been hung over a chair; June herself had been washed and dressed in a hospital gown, the sheets pulled up to her chest. Her head's lying on a pillow, not strong enough to lift itself off it. The only other thing she's wearing is a small bandaid around one of her fingers.-
[18:57] <Minaplo> [As Raphael enters, June turns her head slowly to look at him. Her trembling feverishness has been replaced with quiet exhaustion, but her gaze, though weak, is much more lucid.-
[18:57] <Minaplo> ["Sorry. For shooting you." She murmurs, her eyes fluttering tiredly for a moment.]
[19:00] * Raphael manages to smile, but it's a weak and fleeting expression. "That's alright. No lasting harm done, see?" He asks, indicating his leg and moving it a little to illustrate his point.-
[19:01] * Raphael takes the chair sitting alongside her bed, dropping into it and leaning forward with his arms resting on his knees. "How are you feeling?"
[19:03] <Minaplo> [She pauses for a moment, her eyes downcast as if thinking, before looking back up at him. "Scared." She said, her voice timid and soft.]
[19:05] * Raphael nods gently. "… Yeah. They told me what was happening."
[19:06] <Minaplo> ["I don't want to die, Mr. Guillory."]
[19:09] * Raphael shakes his head quickly. "There's still something we want to try. Surov is getting it prepared as we speak. Like I said, Roku-" the very slightest hesitation on the use of her name, but he moves on too quickly to dwell on it- "We're going to fix this, ok? You just need to be strong, like I know you can be."
[19:10] <Minaplo> ["C. Can you promise that?"]
[19:16] <Raphael> His first attempt at an answer is an automatic one - a lie, if a comforting one. He catches it at the last moment, pushing it away. "… No. It's not a guarantee, but this procedure… I think that your force of will means a lot to how successful it will be. You have to focus on the future, what you want when you come through this. Can you do that?"
[19:18] <Minaplo> ["I think so." She said, hesitantly. "Will. Will I be able to see Aksel again?" She asked. "Will I be able to… cook again? I. I forgot how, somehow."]
[19:24] <Raphael> A shadow passed over Raphael's face, but he manages to nod quickly. "Yes, of course. You get it through this and we'll make sure of it. I promised I'd help you, didn't I?"
[19:26] <Minaplo> [She nodded, slowly, wearily, several times.-
[19:27] <Minaplo> ["If I can make it through, I. I will cook for you and Aksel. Introduce you to him."]
[19:28] <Raphael> "I'd like that, ma'am." He says gently, glancing down at his feet.
[19:34] <Minaplo> ["I think you would like Aksel." June said softly. "He is charming and sweet and lively and fun, even though he… is untidy, and is always asking to take things I don't need, and…" She smiled. "He's something of a flirt…"]
[20:02] * Raphael gives her a tired smile. "How did you two meet?"
[20:02] <Minaplo> [She smiled, looking away for a moment, but the smile fades.-
[20:02] <Minaplo> ["I don't remember."]
[20:04] * Raphael 's own smile falters, remaining on his lips but no longer reaching his eyes. "… That's ok, Roku. You've been through a lot today, I think anyone's memory would be a little muddled." He says evenly. "Still, he sounds like a… a good man."
[20:10] <Minaplo> [June looks back at him, and the smile returns. "He is a. A." She pauses, frowning. "A Solomon Knight. He is strong, and powerful, but he also wishes he could live with me. He does not live very well where he is." She said. "They. Have to trade for lots of things, like good clothes or books or games. I want him to live with me too."-
[20:15] <Minaplo> ["He… Cooks. Well. I think I taught him. I don't remember. But he's always so. Amazed by things. The television. Or pictures of… Of something. Pictures. My body wash."-
[20:17] <Minaplo> ["I love him." Murmured June. "He. Loves me. So, so much. He idolises me, sees me as a goddess. When he touches me, he's so gentle and wondrous. He says sometimes that he's amazed that I exist."-
[20:18] <Minaplo> ["I miss him." Her eyes began to flutter again.]
[21:20] * Raphael shuts his own eyes, swallowing hard. "… Hold onto that." He manages. His voice is far from even now. "Sleep while you can."
[21:21] <Minaplo> ["Okay." She murmured, her eyes more shut then open now.-
[21:21] <Minaplo> ["Mr. Guillory?"]
[21:23] <Raphael> "Mmm?"
[21:24] <Minaplo> ["I… Can you kiss me goodnight? I just… I want to feel that…"]
[21:37] <Raphael> "… Yes." The word comes out quietly, carefully. "I can do that."-
[21:38] <Raphael> And he does, leaning over the edge of the bed to kiss her gently on the forehead, trying to ignore how fragile she feels. He brushes her hair away from her face. "Try to sleep, alright?"
[21:39] <Minaplo> ["… Okay." her eyes are closed properly now. She'll be asleep before he has time to leave.]
[21:45] <Raphael> Which is for the best. He doesn't flee - his footsteps are barely any faster than normal. Only those closest to him might now how badly he needs to be out of that room, how little he can afford to linger.-
[21:46] <Raphael> Outside, the medical ward barely registers.-
[21:48] <Raphael> It takes him minutes to find a space he deems safe - somewhere quiet, still and most of all empty - and by then he's trembling with some deep effort. Only when he's sealed himself away behind the door does he let himself slump against a wall, his face buried in his hands. His tears are silent.

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