For The Love Of Life 1 5f

[06:49] <Minaplo> [It was about half an hour after Vercingetorix's arrival. He had been infuriatingly cagey, requesting information more than giving it, but now the circumstances seemed right. He took Yanmei and Asuka into one of the conference rooms, with Sera able to hear (and speak) over their headsets. He hadn't allowed Marianne or any of the other bridge crew entry- just those two.-
[06:50] <Minaplo> [Asuka had taken the opportunity to try to wash and change out of her clingy, sticky plugsuit, only to be informed that most of the plumbing had been destroyed and that the current water was being prioritised for use for the wounded. So she had returned to the conference room wearing a huge blanket around herself to keep herself warm- for the temperature was still very cold.]
06[06:56] * Yanmei had toweled herself off at some point, but was still in a similiar miserable, sticky state, not even bothering to try to change out of the plugsuit after Asuka's experience. She slumped back in one of the chairs, clearly tired and a little grim now that there were fewer people around.
06[07:02] * Sept still wasn't quite at ease with Zeruel's presence. But that was a very minor issue. He kept scanning the surroundings regularly.
[07:04] <Minaplo> [Vercingetorix was sitting at one of the chairs at the table, swivelling around slightly. He seemed reluctant to begin…-
[07:04] <Minaplo> ["… Mary Caine attacked our bases after you began your operation." Said Vercingetorix eventually.]
06[07:06] * Yanmei shifted in her chair, but her face changed very little. "Which ones? How bad is it?"
[07:08] <Minaplo> ["All of them." Said Vercingetorix. "The Geofront, Beijing, Boston- Asgard."-
[07:09] <Minaplo> ["… She managed to infiltrate Asgard and bring down its concealment systems. Then she struck it with Joan, and sent elite soldiers into the base itself to- to kill the inhabitants."]
[07:10] <Sept> "The entire base..?"
[07:11] <Minaplo> ["Not everyone was killed. Many were, though."]
06[07:14] * Yanmei was staring as if she hadn't heard properly. Gradually she leaned back in her chair, gazing blankly at the cracked ceiling above them, clutching the armrests.
[07:15] <Sept> "What do you mean? Are there still people holed up in there? Or did a few manage to run away?"
[07:16] <Minaplo> ["I managed to bring reinforcements in and evacuate the survivors." Said Vercingetorix. "We put them on the Liberty Bell- that's the smaller cruiser above us."]
01[07:18] <Yanmei> "You brought them here," Yanmei said quietly. "So there are no bases, no hiding spots left on earth for them? We weren't able to repel any other of her attacks?"
[07:20] <Minaplo> ["Zeruel's strong enough to take on one Dysangelion, maybe hold off two." Said Vercingetorix. "But the Liberty Bell's not equipped with an Eva like the Dorian. It's a real risk to use it in combat."-
[07:20] <Minaplo> ["I tried to intervene at the Geofront, but- Mary Caine was there in person."]
[07:26] <Sept> "What does this mean for the… war, and the federation? Will it be dropped now that the bases are gone?"
01[07:30] <Yanmei> "Dropping a war or disbanding its faction after losing all of your bases is the same thing as surrendering. What you're asking is: 'Did we lose to her?'"
[07:32] <Minaplo> ["We didn't, 'cuz we're not dead." Said Asuka firmly.]
[07:34] <Sept> "The Federation has its own goals. -We'll- keep fighting."
[07:35] <Minaplo> ["It's not that simple." Said Vercingetorix. "Mary Caine's already launched conventional invasions of the major Federation states."]
01[07:38] <Yanmei> "It's our obligation to help them. But… we're also in no condition to fight. And once the survivors on this ship learn about Asgard, I don't think many of them will be sticking with us?"
[07:41] <Minaplo> ["That's… What I wanted to talk to you about." Said Vercingetorix.]
06[07:43] * Yanmei blinked over at him silently, waiting for him to go on.
[07:43] <Sept> "Hm?"
[07:43] <Minaplo> ["Mary not only targeted people in Asgard, but she also targeted safehouses, families of random soldiers- We don't have the full tally yet, but we're estimating that she may have killed more than ten thousand people in her purge."-
[07:44] <Minaplo> ["I- have the list of known victims here." He said, tapping his helmet. "I- I can tell you which ones pertain to you right now, Yanmei."]
06[07:47] * Yanmei hesitated. Slowly, she nodded.
[07:54] <Minaplo> ["Emma Rousseau." He began. "Lillian Durand. Emile Olivier. Niles Windsor-Yamato. Elina Vimes. Ryouji Kaji. Rosalie Paget." He let out a small breath. "Alonzo Amatore, Arianna Amatore, Pietro Amatore, Giuseppe Amatore, Benito Amatore, Lorenzo Amatore, Cristiana Amatore…"]
01[08:03] <Yanmei> "…" Yanmei stayed quiet for a little while longer, her eyes clouding over as the list went on. She seemed to temporarily shake herself out of it long enough for a response. "That's Marianne's entire family…"
[08:03] <Minaplo> ["Yeah." Said Vercingetorix quietly.]
01[08:07] <Yanmei> "I don't… know how to tell people about this."
[08:14] <Sept> "There's never a right way. But you can… give them a direction. Well. Someone has to."
[08:15] <Minaplo> ["Or you can try, at least." Murmured Asuka. "Like, some of these guys- Marianne, even- just had their entire lives wiped out…"-
[08:18] <Minaplo> ["It -does- fall to you to give direction, Yanmei, he's right." Said Vercingetorix. "But it's- a monumental task… The victim list is very long. The Simonides' mother. Orlov. Director Harken's only grandchild. Julien from the Thruster team. Nevermind that even amongst the living there's a lot of injuries. Isabelle- she's alive, but barely. We're trying to keep her alive with biogel but
[08:18] <Minaplo> those shurikens seem to somehow counteract the effect of biogel when there's enough of it."-
[08:20] <Minaplo> ["Mary tried deliberately to -hurt- us. Your people. On a personal level. And for many, I think the wounds she inflicted may be too deep…"]
01[08:24] <Yanmei> "That's what I was talking about with the Asgard attack? And the timing… they just saved the world, but now a lot of them don't have a world to go back to. It's too cruel…"
[08:25] <Minaplo> ["Fuck Mary Caine." Grumbled Asuka.-
[08:26] <Minaplo> [Outside, meanwhile, Zeruel began to slowly drop down towards the Battleship, towards 01, in leisurely circular patterns.-
[08:28] <Minaplo> ["They also captured the Blancs." Said Vercingetorix. "And- your friends in Beijing-2, and Liu Lin. They've vanished… We know they haven't been captured, because it looks like Liu Lin got the hell out early enough to rig up bombs for her attackers. We dunno where they are, but I've got people in the V Network trying to find out."]
06[08:31] * Yanmei relaxed ever so slightly. "It's all right. Maybe it's better if no one knows where they are for now? Liu Lin will probably send us a clue once we return. The Blancs, though… I can guess why Caine wanted them alive."
[08:35] <Minaplo> ["Yeah."-
[08:35] <Minaplo> ["Now… To the better news."]
[08:36] <Sept> "We killed Metatron."
[08:39] <Minaplo> ["Yes. We saved the world." Said Vercingetorix. "And truth be told, things could be worse."]
[08:42] <Sept> "Tempting to think we should've been the ones to die, but we're the ones who can do something about it. As long as we get people to believe that…"
01[08:45] <Yanmei> "Mm." Yanmei folded her arms. "That might be difficult at first."
[08:47] <Minaplo> ["More to the point…"-
[08:49] <Minaplo> ["Tsubaki did something tricky." Said Vercingetorix. "She actually performed two Dirac Jaunts at once. It's a little hard to explain, but she jaunted the Battleship away from the battle- and that Jaunt was tracked. Then just a second before that Jaunt 'resolved', she did it again… Sort of. The stress looks like it's damaged a bunch of things on the ship- like the engines- but she actually
[08:49] <Minaplo> tore those components off and jaunted them into hundreds and hundreds of locations. Sound familiar?"]
[08:51] <Sept> "I see. We have time. How long do we intend to sit on this rock recovering? Any estimates from the systems yet?"
01[08:57] <Yanmei> "We don't know yet? I'll ask the Bridge after this. And…wait…" Yanmei held up a hand. "I was under the impression that this was a failed jaunt. Are you saying that we now might have a method of moving from place to place that can't be traced by Caine?"
[09:01] <Minaplo> ["We -may- be able to, if Tsubaki can refine her technique. Do you remember what the Dysangelions did after your failed Jaunt from the Synfront?"]
01[09:03] <Yanmei> "They apparently searched all over the place, unable to find us until 08 had self-repaired enough to pose a threat to them."
[09:04] <Sept> "The only option was to look into each of the signatures by hand."
[09:07] <Minaplo> ["Exactly." Said Vercingetorix. "And Tsubaki, according to what she told me, sent some as far as Alpha Centauri and Sirius. Mary Caine wants to finish us off. She knows we're helpless right now. So she's going to be trying as hard as she can to look into each and every signature to find us."]
[09:09] <Sept> "Instead of consolidating her control of the entire planet? I wouldn't count on it."
01[09:11] <Yanmei> "Bumping us off goes in hand with that. We're the ones opposing her the most, and it would help to make an example of us."
[09:14] <Minaplo> ["She can consolidate her control without Dysangelions." Said Vercingetorix. "Remember, she's invading the Federation states now, but she's using E-Destroyers and tanks to do it."]
[09:17] <Sept> "That's… an easier way to gain control, but she can just as well make an example out of an entire country the same way she wiped out our bases."
01[09:24] <Yanmei> "Hmm. Yeah. Assuming she can conquer one before we return." Yanmei frowned deeply. "It doesn't seem like she'd leave loose ends lying around, though? Better to make sure we're dead than have us come back or influencing people from afar."
[09:25] <Minaplo> ["Eh." Asuka shook her head. "Y'know… The only force that can take on Mary Caine is -us-. She could sit on her ass for the next three weeks on Earth doing nothing, but so long as she destroys -us-, she wins. That's it. Checkmate. The Federation states are small fry compared to all the Evas and pilots on this warship."]
[09:29] <Sept> "Of course. She has plenty of reasons to take us down directly. But she does not… need to. -We- have to act. Yes?"
06[09:37] * Yanmei frowned. "I really don't think she'll leave us alone. But regardless, we're going to to try to get back on our feet so that we can do something about her."
[09:38] <Minaplo> ["01 and 04's damage should take care of itself." Said Vercingetorix. "The other units… Sho's unit can be restored relatively quickly, but the rest of them…?"]
01[09:40] <Yanmei> "We're in trouble." Yanmei muttered. "We would have trouble repairing them even without being stranded here."
[09:47] <Minaplo> ["We'll have to go without." Said Asuka, grumbling. "I'll just double up in your Plug from now on, Yanmei."]
[09:48] <Sept> "It just so happens mine has plenty of space."
[09:50] <Minaplo> ["Uggggh. No, no way. I'm not going to marinate in -you-. That sounds like the worst sort of creepy pervert movie."]
[09:51] <Sept> "If I'm floating around in there, something's gone terribly wrong."-
[09:51] <Sept> "Which is likely. I'll let you off the hook."
01[09:53] <Yanmei> "Well I'm not thrilled about having an extra pushy backseat pilot in my plug either?" Yanmei huffed, arms still folded. "You kick too much."
[09:56] <Minaplo> ["Hmph."-
[09:57] <Minaplo> ["I want to try evacuating as many people as possible to the Bell." Said V. "There won't be enough room, especially with the current refugees, but there should be enough to ensure that people on the Battleship aren't forced to sleep in wreckage. We really need to have a look at our resources, though- may be time to speak to people, Yanmei."]
01[09:59] <Yanmei> "Yeah. I'll fetch someone with some actual numbers." She stood. "Please give me a minute."
[10:00] <Minaplo> [V nodded.]
[10:06] <Sept> "Say she pulls it off, turns everyone's despair into hatred or hope. It'll only last for so long, and a single person on the ship deciding to end it for themselves could bring it all down. Our expedition has to bring something back."
[10:19] <Minaplo> ["What do you suggest, then?" Asked Vercingetorix.]
[10:24] <Sept> "Unless we can locate VIPs to recover, Brazil and Australia come to mind."
[10:26] <Minaplo> ["Why Australia?"]
[10:29] <Sept> "New army? It's not a job for an Evangelion, but we don't need all this manpower on the ship."
[10:30] <Minaplo> ["I see."]
06[10:32] * Yanmei would return a few minutes later, a certain grumpy scientist in tow.
[10:32] <Sept> "What was your plan A?"
[10:37] <Minaplo> ["Didn't really get that far." Admitted V, before he turned towards Yanmei and Surov. "Doctor Surov."-
[10:38] <Minaplo> [Surov, still clad in his thick Fortress Armour, looked as though he'd seen better days. His armour was damaged and scarred, covered in burn marks and gouges; his face was covered in grime and blood.-
[10:38] <Minaplo> ["What is it, Zhang?"]
01[10:42] <Yanmei> "We'd like an update on the damage assessment. Mainly, we're trying to figure out how much usable space is on the ship, whether or not the ship's self-repair features are online, and time estimates."
[10:49] <Minaplo> ["The damage is extensive." Said Surov. "If this were a normal ship, it would have to be abandoned."-
[11:00] <Minaplo> ["However, the ship can be repaired. The major problem is that the self-repair mechanisms are bottlenecked- there are so many things to repair, including some of its own facets. If we wished to repair every single iota of damage, it would take us an estimated, using early data, one and a half to two months."-
[11:05] <Minaplo> ["Large portions of the ship have become unusable, especially in the bow. It would take too long to tell you every single element, so here is the overview: residences capable of supporting between seven and seven and a half thousand crewmembers have been lost. The main hangar bay launchers are inoperable, as are most of our Evangelion support equipment. Fifteen heavy weapons turrets have
[11:05] <Minaplo> been destroyed, as well as six LRM launchers. The Positron Drill has been destroyed. Our Ablative Gel systems have been destroyed. Our anti-gravitational system has been destroyed, as have seventy percent of our positron energy generation apparatus. We've lost 80% of our main propulsion system functionality. Our underwater and space travel systems are inoperable. Our environmental control
[11:05] <Minaplo> systems have been heavily damaged, which is why it is so cold. We've lost between 75 to 90% of our food and supply stores."-
[11:05] <Minaplo> ["However, our Superheavy contingent is fully operational."]
01[11:11] <Yanmei> "At least there's that," said Yanmei distractedly. "We're trying to organize our resources… seeing what we can supplement using the space on board the Liberty Bell and its food supplies."
[11:12] <Minaplo> ["The Bell is a much smaller vessel." Said Surov. "And it has extra refugees. It may not amount to much."]
[11:15] <Sept> "We were discussing the way forward in the meantime. A base on Earth would solve some issues. Is there anything left that'd be suitably out of the way?"
01[11:19] <Yanmei> "Melbourne had a tiny structure. But Caine will have her eye on it, I'm sure." Yanmei frowned. "It doesn't even have to be a base. Just a clean spot in a less hostile environment with few inhabitants."
[11:22] <Sept> "They'd never expect us to flee to Australia twice."
[11:23] <Minaplo> ["Many of the well-developed bases would be under Caine's control." Said Surov. "The hidden ones I know of, she knows of as well- Nirvana Base in Tibet, Asgard now…"-
[11:24] <Minaplo> ["Australia has its uses." Admitted Surov. "Albeit it is more populated than I would like, even in its remote areas. Furthermore, so long as the environmental control systems are malfunctioning, any climate too naturally hot or cold poses problems."-
[11:25] <Minaplo> ["I have a suggested course of action." Said Surov.]
01[11:25] <Yanmei> "Let's hear it?"
[11:33] <Minaplo> ["We regroup here. Remain here for at least four days, using the resources we have on hand to do basic repairs to our propulsion, power and weapons systems. Give Ayanami Sho an opportunity to heal, so she may pilot again. Meanwhile, we place 01, 04 and 13 on the Bell and use it, with Zeruel, to conduct raiding strikes on Earth for materials."]
06[11:36] * Yanmei grinned for the first time in a while. "Interesting? Do we have our first target in mind?"
[11:39] <Minaplo> ["I have some possibilities in mind. I'll compile a list for you later."]
[11:42] <Sept> "Should keep us busy for a small while. Can we use the same scatter jaunt technique for our return trips? Sounds like the more raids we conduct, the higher the chances we'll be found."
[11:43] <Minaplo> ["This is true."-
[11:43] <Minaplo> ["I'll talk to Tsubaki and see if I can replicate it." Said Vercingetorix.]
[11:49] <Sept> "Right. Is 03 otherwise fully operational?"
[11:49] <Minaplo> ["Yes."]
[11:50] <Sept> "That's a comfort. No further questions."
01[11:53] <Yanmei> "In the meantime, we still have a space issue. Maybe even more so, if we're moving the Asgard survivors from the Bell to the Dorianwhile we're doing raids. We'll have to think of creative solutions for it?"
[11:55] <Minaplo> ["If we convert any and all open, unused spaces, such as empty storerooms, the cafeteria, the promenade- into living space, we should be capable of housing about 5,000 people." Said Surov. "The Dorian had a crew of 11,250 before the operation."]
[11:57] <Sept> "And now?"
[11:57] <Minaplo> ["Yeah, yeah. We haven't started the headcount properly yet." Said Asuka. "I've been here, yanno?"]
[12:00] <Sept> "Yes, a thousand, five thousand dead, who knows?"
01[12:01] <Yanmei> "… could we 'raid' more housing?" Yanmei was thoughtful. "A standard cargo ship, even if it was broken and otheriwse useless, would help us out a lot."
[12:03] <Minaplo> [At this point, Sera would notice that Zeruel had finished his lazy spiral and was now hovering about 300 metres away, staring at him.-
[12:03] <Minaplo> ["Then that sounds like a plan." Said Vercingetorix. "Yanmei?"]
01[12:04] <Yanmei> "Yes?"
[12:06] <Minaplo> ["I would like to bring you and Surov back to the Bell."]
06[12:07] * Yanmei seemed a touch disconcerted, but quickly brushed it off. "No problem~"
06[12:07] * Sept idly raised the Lance of Cassius towards the Angel. Whatchoo lookin't.
[12:08] <Minaplo> [Zeruel raised a ribbon in return. It fluttered like a flag in the wind.-
[12:08] <Minaplo> [Vercingetorix got to his feet, holding a hand out to them both. Surov took one.]
[12:10] <Sept> Bang, he thought, and lowered the Lance.
06[12:10] * Yanmei took the other. "Back soon? Marianne's in charge while I'm gone."
[12:11] <Minaplo> ["Got it." Said Asuka.-
[12:12] <Minaplo> [Zeruel seemed to take this as some sort of invitation. The ribbon stretched out all the way to 01's face where, unless 01 pulled back, it would start… 'patting' 01 on the head.-
[12:12] <Minaplo> [Yanmei, meanwhile, would experience a single disorientating moment, then…-
[12:13] <Minaplo> [… A different ship. Warmer. More stark and austere.-
[12:14] <Minaplo> [They were in some sort of officer's mess hall. Seated around a nearby table were a handful of people…-
[12:15] <Minaplo> [Minerva and Tobias Linden. Mortimer Mazarin. Ginevre Fontaine. Her mother. A beautiful girl with red, curly hair. And…-
[12:15] <Minaplo> ["Maaaaaaaaaaa!"-
[12:16] <Minaplo> [Lizzie bolted off of Mingzhu's lap, crossing the distance in leaps and bounds, before jumping up into Yanmei's arms. "Maamaamaamaamaa!"]
01[12:18] <Yanmei> "L-Lizzie!" Yanmei hugged her tightly, cuddling her close. She blinked rapidly, trying to clear the tears, barely managing a peek over at the other assembled, singling out her mother.
06[12:20] * Sept didn't know how to interpret this, so he erred on the side of benevolence. Like Shu. Those ribbons could be monomolecularly sharp, but how did they respond to touch normally..?
[12:22] <Minaplo> [The sharpness, it seemed, could be 'toned down' at Zeruel's will. If Sera touched the ribbon, the surface would mostly push away slightly, like rubber.-
[12:23] <Minaplo> [Lizzie snuggled into Yanmei's chest and started to sob loudly.-
[12:23] <Minaplo> ["Hello, Blossom." Said Mingzhu quietly.]
01[12:24] <Yanmei> "Mom." Yanmei went closer to her, arms full. She rubbed Lizzie's back. "I'm sorry…"
[14:13] <Minaplo> [Mingzhu reached out to pull back a chair, gesturing for Yanmei to fill it. "I know."-
[14:20] <Minaplo> [The red-haired girl, meanwhile, got to her feet, pushing her chair back as she did so. She walked past Yanmei without a second look, right over to Surov. She wrapped her arms around him, resting her head against his armoured chest. "Father."-
[14:20] <Minaplo> [Surov's eyes had widened, and he had gone very still, on seeing the girl there. It was only after she approached him that he responded, a giant power-armoured paw wrapping around her shoulders. He didn't say anything.]
[14:27] <Yanmei> Fath- Yanmei stopped at that, her own eyes widening and her mouth slightly ajar until a possible explanation slowly arrived to her. She sank down into the chair.
[14:34] <Minaplo> ["Have we received damage and casualty reports yet?" Asked Minerva.]
[14:38] <Yanmei> "Um. Um!" She literally shook her head. "Damage reports, anyway. We still need to take a headcount of the ship survivors? There are lots still missing or trapped."
[14:40] <Minaplo> ["Apart from the refugees, we managed to take on some reserve Battleship Marines and a few contingents of infantry." Said Tobias. "We can send them to help with your efforts."-
[14:40] <Minaplo> ["The faster, the better." Said Minerva. "The Bell is not a small ship by most standards, but between the refugees, the crew, and reinforcements we're currently at 345% of our maximum crew complement."]
[14:46] <Yanmei> "It'd be impossible for you to take in any of our injured, then." Yanmei deflated a little.
[14:48] <Minaplo> ["We can take the injured." Said Minerva. "To a certain extent- our medical facilities aren't as spacious as the Dory's. But we need to start transferring people to the Dory as soon as possible to make room."-
[14:50] <Minaplo> [Surov walked over to the table. Too large and too heavy for a normal chair, he simply kicked one out of the way and sat down cross-legged, the red-haired girl sitting on his shoulders as comfortably and naturally as though she were sitting in a comfortable sofa. She stared at Yanmei with large, unblinking, vibrant green eyes. "The Liberty Bell has resources we can use to maximise living and sleeping space. If we convert the Dorian Lachapelle's bedrooms into small dormitories, we can greatly increase its carrying capacity."]
[14:56] <Yanmei> "If it's not enough even with that, we'll have to bring in temporary housing from elsewhere. We're already planning to jaunt back and forth between here and Earth for supplies?" She was trying very hard not to stare back. It might have been the most difficult thing she'd ever done. She gave Lizzie one last pat on the back, trying to distract herself. -
[14:59] <Yanmei> "I can't promise it will be comfortable, but it will hopefully be something that's at least warmer than a battleship with broken climate controls. Anyway, the more space we clear today, and the more people we recover from the wrecked parts of the ship, the easier it will be to estimate whether or not that's necessary?"
[15:18] <Minaplo> [They all nodded in unison.-
[15:18] <Minaplo> ["It might be wise to introduce yourself." Said Mazarin quietly. He looked fatigued, his untidy clothes bloodflecked, but he seemed otherwise fine. He was sitting very close to Mingzhu, however, their hands almost touching.-
[15:19] <Minaplo> [The red-haired girl nodded, turning to Yanmei. "I am Sarasvati, the android daughter of Doctor Barzilai Surov. I recently escaped from the Synfront with the real Ayanami Roku."]
[15:23] <Yanmei> "A-ah. It's good to finally meet you? I'm Zhang Yanmei."
[15:29] <Minaplo> ["Thank you." Said Sarasvati.-
[15:32] <Minaplo> ["I must admit that I am to blame for much of our current predicament." Said Sarasvati. "I was manipulated by Mary Caine into escaping at the right moment. At the time when we were weakest, it seems that my actions led to a powerful, hidden cryptoprogram into the Asgard's computer systems, shuttingodwn its defenses. I am extremely sorry." She said, bowing her head for a moment. "And will try my best to prove my usefulness in spite of my great error."]
[15:49] * Yanmei stared at her long and hard, fighting back the anger. Then, she sighed, as exhaustion won out. "I'll hold you to that, Ms. Sarasvati," she said stiffly.
[15:53] <Minaplo> ["I was tricked into believing that Ayanami Roku may have had information to avert a catastrophe." Said Sarasvati. "Instead, I created the catastrophe I was trying to prevent."-
[15:55] <Minaplo> ["Caine did all she could to try to locate our hidden base." Said Minerva. "The false Roku, you… I would not be surprised if she used more than just those as well. You simply had the misfortune of being the one that got through, Sarasvati."-
[15:56] <Minaplo> ["Speaking of Ayanamis." Tobias looked over at her. "What is the status of the AE Corps?"]
[16:05] <Yanmei> "…not good," Yanmei muttered. "We're down to three functioning units? Metatron was brutal, and 00 was abducted afterward during an ambush."
[16:07] <Minaplo> [Murmurs of anger, horror, shock.-
[16:07] <Minaplo> ["Any casualties?" Asked Minerva.]
[16:10] <Yanmei> "Yes."
[16:11] <Minaplo> [They waited expectantly.]
[16:14] * Yanmei tried not to sigh. She'd hoped they would leave it at that. "Lots of bad injuries. Three of them. Juu, Julie… Nana," she was trying very hard to avoid looking at her mother, "they were killed in action."
[16:17] <Minaplo> [Mingzhu stared for a moment…-
[16:17] <Minaplo> [Took a deep breath, and closed her eyes. It was clear that the news was dreaded, if not… Entirely unexpected. She bowed her head.-
[16:17] <Minaplo> [She didn't cry.-
[16:18] <Minaplo> [Mazarin leaned over, placing an arm around her shoulders, and gripping one of her hands with his own.-
[16:18] <Minaplo> [A hand on Yanmei's shoulder. "We should be getting back." Said Vercingetorix.]
[16:22] <Yanmei> "W-what?" She looked up, startled. Why now?
[16:22] <Minaplo> ["I-I dunno, I just figured…"]
[16:34] <Yanmei> "Mmph." She reached for her mother's other hand, making a foggy note about Mazarin's in the back of her mind. There were more important things to worry about, though. "I'm sorry Mom. E-everyone."
[16:35] <Minaplo> [Mingzhu gripped it tightly.-
[16:36] <Minaplo> ["Yanmei." Minerva shifted in her seat, smoothing out a crinkle in her skirt. "You do not need to apologise. Our current situation is precarious, but you should not forget that we won a great victory today."]
[16:44] <Yanmei> With a little effort, she gave a small smile. "I haven't forgotten? And I haven't forgotten how grateful I am to see everyone in this room again."
[16:45] <Minaplo> [Minerva smiled. "The same is returned, I'm sure."]
[16:53] <Yanmei> "Thanks." She gave her mother's hand a small squeeze for lack of anything more suitable to say.
[16:55] <Minaplo> ["Do you want to wait awhile here, then?" Asked V.]
[14:34] * Yanmei redirected the question. "Mom?" she said softly. "Do you need me to stay?"
[14:36] <Minaplo> [Mingzhu took another deep breath.-
[14:36] <Minaplo> ["Only… I-If you can." She said, her voice small. "I know you have obligations…"]
[14:37] * Yanmei nodded. "I'll stay for thirty more minutes, okay?"
[14:39] <Minaplo> [A few tears- too heavy to stop- began to trickle down Mingzhu's cheeks. "Alright. Thank you, blossom."-
[14:40] <Minaplo> [V and Yanmei returned to the Dorian's conference room some 35 minutes later, where it stood empty- Asuka apparently having departed on her errand to count survivors. It was just V and Yanmei now.-
[14:40] <Minaplo> [He let Yanmei go, stepping away from her respectfully.-
[14:41] <Minaplo> ["So…" He began. "That Sarasvati- bit of a surprise, huh?"]
[14:45] <Yanmei> "Yeah." Yanmei said quietly, still feeling the heavy mood that came with leaving Lizzie and her mother behind. "If she hadn't escaped from Caine, everyone at Asgard would have stayed safe…"
[14:46] <Minaplo> ["Yeah." Said V.-
[14:46] <Minaplo> ["I… Uh."]
[14:47] <Yanmei> "Hm?"
[14:48] <Minaplo> ["That's -kind of- true, but there's more to it than that." Said V quickly. "I don't really feel like telling you, but I don't think it's fair to blame Sarasvati, so… Mmmg. Can you keep a secret?"]
[14:52] <Yanmei> "I'm pretty sure I can manage one or two?" she said dryly, pulling out a chair for herself.
[14:53] <Minaplo> ["You got the impression that Sarasvati was carrying some sort of computer virus, right?"]
[14:55] <Yanmei> "That's right?"
[14:58] <Minaplo> ["That's not what happened. Sarasvati escaped with the -real- Ayanami Roku, which we know." Said V. "But… It looks like Mary conditioned Roku. Roku seemed to be aware of it, telling Sarasvati that she found out info about some terrible plot, which Mary tried to hide with conditioning. Sarasvati was led to believe the plot'd be happening on the day where you'd be assaulting the egg, and broke out on that same day with Roku."-
[15:00] <Minaplo> ["They took her to mum, and mum 'cleaned off' some of the conditioning Caine did… But it turns out that was actually a conditioning program designed to shut down her Ayanami conditioning, which Caine -changed-. The moment they cleaned off the shut-down, the corrupted Ayanami conditioning kicked in and Roku was compelled to unleash a sort of… Weird Angelspawn into the computer system at Asgard. Remember Iruel? The virus-Angel that attacked with Malchediel? It was like that."-
[15:00] <Minaplo> [V paused.-
[15:01] <Minaplo> ["Roku doesn't remember any of it, and she's very dazed and confused right now, so Sarasvati told Roku it was Sarasvati's fault so she doesn't blame herself. Roku's… In a bad way." Muttered V.]
[15:04] <Yanmei> "What do you mean?" Her expression had darkened severely during the explanation. "Where -is- Roku? Is she being restrained?"
[15:06] <Minaplo> ["She's in the medical bay on the Bell. She doesn't seem hostile right now. When she woke up, she just asked to see Aksel- y'know, the Solomon Knight that Ayanami June kept talking about?- and when she was told he'd been rescued by Caine's forces, she just began to sob a lot."-
[15:08] <Minaplo> ["Mum- errrrr. Yui Ikari is going to try to work on… Removing or fixing some of her conditioning." Said V, catching himself far too late. "Sarasvati's also told us that apparently, the Director for the Synfront, Narendra, tried to apprehend Roku right after Guillory captured Aksel- that'd be just around the time of Operation Imperatrix." Said V. "When she resisted, he apparently beat her really, really hard. To the point where she's only just started to walk again. There were skull fractures, broken ribs…"]
[15:11] <Yanmei> Yanmei's brow furrowed. "You're sure…?"
[15:13] <Minaplo> ["Well, it's not hard to verify." Said V. "This helmet has a sort of layer-removal vision system, and a quick look -did- show a bunch of healing breaks. I asked MerrrYui Ikari about it, and she said they'd run health checks on her and verified that she'd been pretty bashed up."]
[15:20] <Yanmei> "I'm… concerned. Even if she's truly injured, it wouldn't take much to hurt us again? She could use the Bell's long-range comms to send a message to Caine and give away our position or something like that."
[15:21] <Minaplo> ["Relax. She's being guarded." Muttered V.]
[15:22] <Yanmei> "By who?"
[15:22] <Minaplo> ["Ardashir Charmchi. An Iron Guard Apostle."]
[15:26] <Yanmei> "…" Yanmei didn't look any less on edge. She folded her arms. "Has Sarasvati been checked as well? If they could re-condition Roku, maybe they did something to her as well. Hidden tampering? A tracking sensor?"
[15:28] <Minaplo> ["We couldn't find anything. Sarasvati said that she did her level best to stop them from doing anything like that." Said V. "It's not like they could open her up or anything, since apparently if they did, she'd fry herself as a self-defense measure."]
[15:33] <Yanmei> "She needs to be looked over by Surov himself before I'll let start working and interacting with people on the Dorian. Moreover, if we use her cover story to explain what happened at Asgard, she is going to be mauled by angry technicians and soldiers."
[15:46] <Minaplo> ["I believe Sarasvati's response when I mentioned that was 'better me than Roku'. Either way… You're right. We'll let the high-ranking officers hear the cover story. The rest can be told something vague."]
[15:54] * Yanmei nodded slowly. After a minute or two, she stood up, pushing her chair back. "I'll work on the details. It's… best to not delay the news much longer."
[15:55] <Minaplo> ["How're you intending to do this?"]
[16:01] <Yanmei> "By gathering the highest-ranking officers still onboard the Dorian and explaining what happened. Then… we work our way down." She paused, still frowning. "There's a big problem, though?"
[16:01] <Minaplo> ["What's that?"]
[16:02] <Yanmei> "To survive this, we need everyone to help out? But imagine expecting someone to work right after they've found out their entire family was killed…"
[16:06] <Minaplo> ["It's a big ask." Said V. "Some will, just to get away from the grief. Some will shut down. Some might try to… Take their own life." Said V.-
[16:09] <Minaplo> ["There's nothing else for it, though." Said V. "People will find out eventually, so right now what we need to focus on is letting people know, then ensuring that those who've been affected get all the help we can give them."-
[16:09] <Minaplo> ["Personally, I think it might be wiser to start off by giving out a general announcement to everyone about what happened, then going person-to-person to tell them about it, face-to-face."]
[16:19] <Yanmei> "General announcement," Yanmei echoed. She threw her shoulders back. "I can do that…"
[16:20] <Minaplo> [He nodded.-
[16:20] <Minaplo> ["Erm…"]
[16:21] <Yanmei> "Yeah?"
[16:21] <Minaplo> ["You're ok, right? I'll be happy to help you as best I can, but…" he looked awkward. He sort of reached a hand out to pat her on the shoulder, then pulled it back.]
[16:25] <Yanmei> "I can do it." She said simply, and gave a small hairtoss. "Don't worry? I just need a few minutes to get my words right."
[16:25] <Minaplo> ["Heh. Ok."]
[16:34] <Yanmei> "Thanks Vercingetorix." A small smile. "Could I ask you to wait on the Bridge for a minute? I'll be there shortly."
[16:34] <Minaplo> ["Alright." He nodded once, then turned and left.]
[16:37] * Yanmei waited until he was gone… and then slumped back down into her chair. She propped her elbows up on the table and rested her face in shaking hands. Deep breath. Lots of swearing in her head. -
[16:43] <Yanmei> She tried, desperately, to punch her thoughts into more managable pieces that didn't revolve around anxiety and despair. How many thousands of ears would be listening to her words? How many really would try to take their own lives? Face to face announcements… getting them all help… how much of this was even doable? -
[16:50] <Yanmei> Breathe, dammit. This was what kings did. She'd wanted the responsibility, hadn't she? Another deep breath. The movement in her hands slowed to a slight quiver. Eventually, she stood up again, her face grim and a little red as well. One step at a time, with deliberate effort, she crossed the room to the door.
[17:12] <Yanmei> It wasn't much further to the Bridge after that. Was it in the same chaotic state she had left it in?
[17:14] <Minaplo> [It was a little better. Marianne was still in the captain's chair, ignorant to the deaths of her family. Sophie manning her station, her swollen baby bump visible beneath her tight uniform. Ezekiel was gone, moved to another room presumably, and most of the debris had been cleared out of the pathways.]
[17:22] * Yanmei forced her hands into fists at her sides. Just kept moving forward. Soon, she was standing before Marianne's chair. "I… need to make an announcement. To everyone."
[17:30] <Minaplo> [Marianne turned to look her in the eye- and saw the grimness there. Her face fell.-
[17:30] <Minaplo> ["… Everyone in the room, or everyone in the ship?"]
[17:31] <Yanmei> "The entire ship," she said quietly.
[17:36] <Minaplo> [Marianne went still- then nodded once, gravely. She stood up, clearing the Captain's chair for Yanmei.]
[17:41] <Yanmei> Yanmei took it, gripping the armrests. There, she could imagine everyone stopping to listen… the Iron Guards and armored soldiers clawing at the debris clogging the bow. The injured lining the hallways, shivering in the cold. Frantic medical staff and listless technicians and engineers. -
[17:41] <Yanmei> For a split second, she almost backed down. -
[17:47] <Yanmei> Deep breath. She pressed the button to activate the ship's internal speakers. "Everyone," she began. "…everyone who can hear me. This is Chancellor Zhang Yanmei. I want to thank each and every one of you for holding on patiently, and - for those of you who can - helping as we all try to restore order during this crisis." -
[17:53] <Yanmei> "Your courage, tenacity and ingenuity are what have led us to today's victory over the Angel Metatron, and you have earned nothing but my deepest respect for enduring so much. It is in the spirit of that respect that I am compelled to be honest with you about our current situation." Another deep breath, a silent one. She focused on her hands as she spoke, trying to keep them still. -
[17:53] <Yanmei> "Everyone. Please listen…"

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