I Marvel How Nature Could Ever Find Space For So Many Strang

[14:12] <Raphael> The headquarters of Paris’ Superheavy Regiment was a chaotic blur of activity as the numerous technical and support teams made their final adjustments for the Dreadnaught unit’s departure to Boston - a deadline that was only a few more hours away.-
[14:12] <Raphael> But Raphael Guillory’s crew had different orders. They’d each received word to meet in the main briefing room at promptly two o’clock… a request issued by Raphael himself, who the team hadn’t seen since the battle with Omniel.
[14:21] <Mana> [The crew were waiting there, as ordered. Their expressions were calm; some displayed disturbance or the like. They were all worried, but mostly they were experienced at hiding it.]
[14:39] <Raphael> And of course, they’d all be there on time. Raphael was known to be lenient about many things in the correct circumstances, but promptness was not one of them. So they’d all be waiting in the small, theatre-style meeting room when two figures appeared in the doorway at 2:01. One was instantly recognizable as Frederic Gosselin, but the other…-
[14:40] <Raphael> He’s wearing a child-sized uniform in typically immaculate style, and the perfect posture and sharp gaze are all unmistakeably Raphael Guillory… but everything else, from his frame and height to his features are all that of an idealized and - though he would cringe at the word - exceptionally beautiful Shinji Ikari.
[14:42] <Mana> [The squad turn and salute as Fred enters- then, as one, their eyes travel towards Raphael. Questions abound in their eyes… "New member, sir?" Asked Hugues.-
[14:43] <Mana> "Oho." Mana -beams-, leaning forward. "And who exactly might you be then, new boy, hmm~? Don't worry. If you have any questions I'll be happy to help you for as long as you need~ and more, of course~" There was a light in her eyes that Raphael, at first glance, might've associated with the same sort of look Rei gave to Alphonse.-
[14:43] <Mana> … At first.-
[14:43] <Mana> In reality, there was a gleam in those eyes that spoke of terrible, terrible things. It was the look of a tiger upon its prey.
[14:46] <Raphael> … That expression of Command falters for the briefest moment, even against his best efforts. For a moment there's a glimpse of horror there.-
[14:48] <Raphael> "… Sergeant Kirishima, please be mindful of how you speak to your superior officers."
[14:50] <Mana> "Superior officers?" She beamed. "Who exactly are you?"
[14:53] <Raphael> "…" This was it. The moment he'd been rehearsing in his mind since the night before. "… Group Captain Raphael Guillory, Mana."
[14:54] <Mana> "…"-
[14:54] <Mana> [The others looked at each other with confusion and a hint of amusement.-
[14:55] <Mana> ["That's not even a good lie, boy." Muttered Hugues, grinning. "Guillory isn't such a pretty boy."-
[14:55] <Mana> "Pretty boy indeed~ You know, it's a severe crime to impersonate an officer. I'd have to discipline you."-
[14:55] <Mana> ["Ahem." Frederic cleared his throat. "He really -is- Group Captain Raphael Guillory. Why don't you tell them the full story?"]
[15:02] <Raphael> And so he does. This retelling features more detail than the one he delivered to Suzanne the previous night, but still skips three important facts: The coins, that the initial shape was that of Gendo Ikari, and the fact that he’d been kept in the psych ward.-
[15:02] <Raphael> "… but as you can see, Aline’s experiment didn’t go as expected. It seems as though her control slipped, and this was the result. It was considered… ‘good enough’. At least for the moment."
[15:09] <Mana> "…"-
[15:10] <Mana> [In fact, the reaction to this is about as best as Raphael can accept.-
[15:10] <Mana> ["That's… Well, shit." Hugues muttered. "I had no idea, sir."-
[15:10] <Mana> ["How is something like that even possible?" Asked Euphrasie. "Biologically, it's-"-
[15:11] <Mana> ["Angels don't really care about that sort of thing." Said Henri.-
[15:11] <Mana> ["I do not envy you at all, sir." Said Blaise sympathetically, with the air of a man who had no wish to return to his own adolescence, let alone see someone else be forced to do so.-
[15:12] <Mana> [Marie was staring with open incredulity. She did, as a note, have a new nose that blended in well with her face.-
[15:12] * Mana on the other hand was sitting down, her expression one of horror. A deep red flush dominated her face. "I-I had no idea. Oh God…"
[15:17] * Raphael listens to all this without any real comment, although he does give Mana a sympathetic look. "I know I can rely on every one of you to treat me with the same respect you always have. This does not impede my ability to carry out my duties with the Superheavy regiment, nor does it change the fact that we all have a job to do tomorrow."
[15:20] <Mana> [They turned, snapping off their conversations, and nodded. "Yes, sir!" They said as one.]
[15:26] <Raphael> "Good." Raphael says, giving them all a small smile… of course, in this form even such a mild expression featured a flash of those dazzling eyes and perfect teeth. Not that he was quite aware of it yet - Perhaps he'd avoid smiling altogether if he was. "Now, which one of you would like to let me know what I've missed?"
[15:32] <Mana> "Ohh…" Mana let out a gentle sigh before she could catch herself.-
[15:33] <Mana> [To be entirely fair to her, however, Marie wasn't making eye contact, Euphrasie's expression was curiously soft, and Henri was looking a little dazzled as well.-
[15:34] <Mana> ["Well." Hugues, however, was immune to such outlandishness. "The Regiment's been outfitted with our new equipment in prep for the op. Those new auxiliary squads have been quartered here too- Martins and her boys, and Pai."]
[15:41] <Raphael> "Goo-" Raphael catches the sudden shift in the rest of the room and hesitates, looking suddenly unsettled. To his deepest horror he can feel a warm blush building in his cheeks. "… err, that's good, Chief Sergeant. Captain, was there any word about what we're doing with our Lieutenant Rurikovich?"
[15:46] <Mana> ["Rurikovich wants a more hands-on role in helping us. In his words, we're 'his sort of people'. Command is dubious, but we've received word from informants that Rurikovich has been declared to be damned by the LN, and to shoot on sight, so there might be something to that. For now, we've moved him into a quarters on base with heavy guard, but he's been well-behaved. He's been sparring with Hugues. Wooden swords."-
[15:46] <Mana> ["It's Kendo." Said Henri enthusiastically.-
[15:46] <Mana> ["S'fucking brutal is what it is." Muttered Hugues.]
[15:48] * Raphael grins. "He was quite cheered by the prospect of tutoring you, you know."
[15:57] <Mana> ["I bet he was. The worst thing? He has these… These -quips-, and they cut deep. That smug son of a bitch."]
[15:59] <Raphael> "I'm not surprised. Still, is he a good teacher?"
[16:07] <Mana> ["Yeah, I guess."]
[16:10] <Raphael> "Well then, Sergeant, you'd best learn to go along with it. There's hardly a wealth of swordsmen in this unit who can teach you." He says with a smirk, glancing over towards Mana. "Sergeant Kirishima, is there anything I need to see to before we move out?"
[16:12] <Mana> "Um…" She looked away, coughing sheepishly. "J-Just a few reports from Technical…"
[16:14] * Raphael glances over at Fred, looking suddenly uncertain. "That's… uh, fine, Sergeant. I'm sure those can wait."-
[16:15] <Raphael> "Sergeant Duval, have the Thruster team completed repairs and the installation of the jump packs we requested?"
[16:20] <Mana> ["Yessir! Oh, just you wait and see. It's pretty magnificent, sir. We're the deadliest flying bricks ever."]
[16:27] * Raphael coughs. "Excellent, Sergeant." He says, leaning gently against the central podium. It only really serves to show quite how short he is. "Thank you all for doing such a splendid job in my absence. It seems you've all kept this place running smoothly."
[16:30] <Mana> ["We try, sir." Said Hugues, grinning. "I have to say, it helps that Mana here signs the requisition forms anyway…"]
[16:32] <Raphael> "I'm sure." Raphael says, returning the smile. "I suspect she's better at replicating my signature than I am these days, as worrying as that might be."-
[16:32] <Raphael> "Now. I'm certain you've all been thoroughly briefed, but do we have any questions about our role in the Boston evac?"
[16:38] <Mana> ["Our role's to just bust a hole into the investment, right?" Asked Blaise.]
[16:48] <Raphael> "Essentially. Once we've breached the enemy lines it'll be our job to ensure that the escape route remains open during evac. Anything more than that is to be left to the Evangelions."
[16:50] <Mana> ["Right. Sounds simple enough, sir."]
[16:51] <Raphael> "Alright. If that's all, you're dismissed." He says, giving the assembled team a nod. "And on a more personal note, thank you all for your understanding."
[16:56] <Mana> ["Sir, with all due respect, I was thrown into Space." Said Marie seriously. "To -not- understand would be stupid of us."]
[16:59] <Raphael> "True enough, Sergeant." He says, grinning again. "Alright. Everyone go and take the chance to rest while you can."
[17:02] <Mana> ["Captain, if I could have a word in your office?" Asked Frederic.]
[17:03] <Raphael> "Ah. Certainly, sir." Raphael says, gesturing towards the door. "Follow me."
[17:06] <Mana> [Fred certainly does so! This fortunately gives Mana and the others time to scatter.-
[17:06] <Mana> [Raphael's office is just as he kept it…]
[17:13] <Raphael> … It’s a fact that blindsides him with a jolt of surprise and sadness, as though he’d expected this office to be as radically altered as every other element of his life had been. It had been a week since he’d found something so familiar - even something as basic as his own bed, or his own clothes - and the sight of it is almost painful.-
[17:13] <Raphael> It takes him a moment to notice the presence of Fred again… and a moment longer than that to realize he’s been standing frozen in the doorway. Raphael clears his throat and lets out an awkward chuckle and steps inside, moving around to his side of the desk. "What do you need, Captain?
[17:13] <Raphael> "*
[17:17] <Mana> ["It's about the mission. Command would like your… Opinion on something."]
[17:20] * Raphael nods slowly, taking his own seat. It takes a moment for his gaze to land on the desk's sole picture - a framed picture of Misato, Rei, Suzanne and Raphael together on Christmas day in Japan. He stares at it blankly for a moment before calmly setting it face down. "Of course, sir."
[17:25] <Mana> ["From what reports we've gathered from Boston, we can estimate that the besieging forces around the city equal around 80% of the Second Regiment's full strength."]
[17:40] * Raphael nods.
[17:42] <Mana> ["You've probably heard, but Gabriel-Wei was chosen as a pilot the other day. Assuming everything goes to plan, we'll have six Evangelion units, the Dreadnoughts and the Grendel against most of the Second Regiment."-
[17:43] <Mana> ["Linden is an exceptional leader, but she has a repetitive weakness: she surveys her forces by being present on the field, not safe in a bunker. That is, to say…"-
[17:43] <Mana> ["Command is considering that, instead of an evacuation, we should try a spearhead, straight for the throat, and take out the Second here and now."]
[17:53] <Raphael> "… It has potential. With that many Evas on the field we may have a chance…" He make a thoughtful noise. "It’s risky, though. In terms of pure firepower I’d put my faith in the Evangelion, but the LN have weight of numbers on their side. Massed fire has proven to be a problem for the pilots before, and that was without someone like Linden guiding the enemy."
[17:59] <Mana> ["Yes, that's what we're worried about." Said Frederic. "We won't win a shooting match. Melee is a good bet, but it's too easy for us to be pinned down…"-
[17:59] <Mana> ["But, the Dreadnoughts might be able to tip the balance."]
[18:11] <Raphael> "There’s a chance, yes. I’m confident that my people will commit themselves fully no matter which plan command decides to execute, sir. But, if I may say so, there’s a good deal of ways this could go wrong. And if it does, we stand to lose a good deal more than Boston."
[18:19] <Mana> [Fred nodded slowly. "Yes, you're right. For now, I think, Command will decide on the Evac- with the possibility of us launching a counter-attack if the opportunity arises." He rubbed his chin. "Even with the Dreads, it'll be rough. Rurikovich says that, according to procedure, Linden will commit heavy infantry into attacking the Minifront itself- which is why we're taking the strike squads."]
[18:24] <Raphael> "It makes sense. They're as keen to cut off the head of the snake as we are." Raphael murmurs, tapping a nail gently on the desk. "Do we have any estimates on the time it will take to perform the evac?"
[18:41] <Mana> ["For the command crew, the MAGI cores, the science team, the pilots, Evas and other essentials, it should take about five minutes, providing everyone is ready the moment we land."]
[18:44] <Raphael> "Mmm. Well, I assure you my team will do their best to keep our VIPs alive, sir."
[18:56] <Mana> ["Good." Fred nods. "One last thing. You probably know this, but… This isn't like fighting an Angel. In my experience, against these guys it's best to prioritise low-power weapons with high rates of fire, or area of effect weapons like missiles."]
[18:58] <Raphael> "Agreed, Captain. I'll make sure our loadouts are adjusted before we move out. The Thruster team has… uh, quite a selection of backup weapons." Raphael says with a sigh. "I think they get bored."
[19:09] <Mana> ["Yes, well…" Fred coughed. "When you have a team of genius developers who build state-of-the-art futuristic weapon systems because they're 'bored'…"-
[19:10] <Mana> ["… Well, everyone needs a hobby, and at least we're the ones benefitting, right?"]
[19:13] <Raphael> "Quite right, sir." Raphael says. "So was there anything more we needed to discuss?"
[19:15] <Mana> ["Not today. You get yourself settled back in." He nodded, and headed for the door. "Good day, Captain."]
[19:21] <Raphael> "Goodbye, sir." Raphael says, standing just long enough to give the man a salute before he vanishes through the door.-
[19:22] <Raphael> But then he’s left alone again, inside his little piece of stability in a wildly shifting world. Raphael sighs picks up the photograph again, staring at the man in the back doing his best to match the enthusiastic smiles of the rest of the group. He shows none of that now… the reflection in the photograph's glass - a face that's not his - is calm and still.
[19:27] <Mana> There was a knock on the door. It opened a fraction. "Sir?" Mana's voice, surprisingly meek.
[19:30] <Raphael> "… Ah." The photo disappears again, this time into one of his desk drawers. "Come in, Sergeant. Did you need me for something?"
[19:35] <Mana> ["Oh, um." She coughs, and slips into the room. She doesn't look at him. "Julien sent up another report, this time on the Grendel's status. He says it's ready to go, and he's fixed some of the- um- some of the flaws from last time. Apparently some techie messed up the schematics and the result was misplaced armor plates and underfortified construction in some areas."]
[19:40] <Raphael> "Is that so? The Thruster technicians are usually better than that." Raphael says, a frown creasing his brow. "Still I don't think it's to blame for…"-
[19:41] * Raphael coughs. "Still, it's been fixed. I'm sure Julien's spoken with the offending engineer."
[19:44] <Mana> "Oh, yes, sir. H-He just wanted to let you know. He, um, also… He sent a basket."
[19:45] <Raphael> "… A basket?"
[19:56] <Mana> "Yeah. It's got, um… Wine, some beer, fresh fruit of all kinds, a few boxes of chocolate… Oh! And a ham."
[20:08] * Raphael gives Mana a perplexed look. "Did he say why, Sergeant?"
[20:11] <Mana> "Um… He was worried, sir. The tech team wanted to show you, you know… Support."
[20:13] <Raphael> "… O-oh." Raphael said, his eyes widening in what seems to be genuine surprise. "That's… very kind of them. I'll need to thank them all before we leave."
[20:17] * Mana nods mutely, glancing back at Raphael, an unspoken question on her lips, before blushing and looking away.
[20:19] <Raphael> "…" Raphael watches her closely for a few seconds while she stares at the floor before letting out a quiet sigh and shaking his head. "… Sergeant Kirishima, I apologize if I'm making you uncomfortable."
[20:22] <Mana> "I-it's not that, it's just- I-I was impertinent earlier."
[20:25] <Raphael> "… Oh. That." Raphael says, letting out a gentle chuckle. "You were, and it's not something I would encourage in the future, but mistakes happen. I'm not going to take it personally, Mana."
[20:26] <Mana> "R-Right, sir. Thank you." She turned and bowed.-
[20:27] <Mana> "A-Also, sir… I was wondering. Um… You… -Probably- don't have many clothes in your size, do you?"
[20:32] <Raphael> "No. I bought some of the essentials yesterday, but I'm afraid there wasn't much time to get more than some underwear and a basic set of clothes."
[20:34] <Mana> "Right. Ah, because, I figured you might want some help buying… You know. More."
[20:39] <Raphael> "What for, Sergeant? As was the case with paperwork, I -have- shopped for my own clothes before."
[20:41] <Mana> "B-Because, w-with all due respect, sir, you- that is, to say, it would be a shame to let your new beauty go to waste by buying the wrong clothes!"
[20:43] * Raphael stares. "… I have no interest in my 'beauty', Sergeant."
[20:47] <Mana> "But… But others are!"-
[20:47] <Mana> "I-I mean, that is, wh-wholly academically."
[20:50] <Raphael> "Clearly." Raphael says dully.
[20:52] <Mana> "… Sorry, sir. I know this is hard for you." She said sympathetically. "Just… Look on the bright side. It could be worse."
[20:53] <Raphael> "… Oh, it certainly could." Raphael says, nodding a little more strongly than such a platitude should require.
[20:54] <Mana> "See? You know what I mean." She skipped over to his desk. "You know, that Eva movie came out whilst you were away. It featured Pilot Zhang's courtship with her boyfriend. You really have to see him, it's amazing." She said brightly. "If you look up a site called www.zaizaifans.com, you'll see what I mean…"
[20:58] <Raphael> "I… erm, I think I'll pass on that, ma'am." Raphael says, frowning ever so slightly at the skipping. "Did I really miss the premiere? I'd promised Suzie that I'd take her…"
[20:59] <Mana> "You did, sadly. Ah…" She winked. "It hasn't been to everyone's cup of tea. Actually, a lot of critics hate it."
[21:01] <Raphael> "I didn't really expect it to be one of the greater movies ever filmed, honestly."
[21:02] <Raphael> "… Or animated, I suppose."
[21:02] <Mana> Mana snickered. "Yeah, neither did I. There are times where it's ok. Offers kind of a good insight into the pilots… I had no idea Blanc was so…" She stared off into space, frowning. "'Langley-esque'. But there are also times where it just sort of panders, you know?"
[21:03] <Raphael> "Panders?"
[21:06] <Mana> "Yeah, you know…"-
[21:06] <Mana> "… You might not. Ahem. Let's just say there's one too many scenes featuring the pilots looking gorgeous and/or unclothed."
[21:09] * Raphael 's lips are drawn into a tight line, which lacks quite the same effect with those full, bow-shaped lips… in fact, it was a little too close to a pout. They'd try to feature Rei in these films, wouldn't they? And then…
[21:09] <Raphael> "Ah."
[21:10] <Mana> "Yeah."-
[21:10] <Mana> "… Oh yeah. By the way. You said you'd pass, but, ah…"-
[21:11] <Mana> "If you did try searching for that Gabriel-Wei fansite, don't take safe search off…"
[21:11] <Raphael> "… Noted."
[21:14] <Mana> "…" … "S-so, um. I'll be outside, if you need anything, sir."
[21:17] <Raphael> "Of course, Sergeant." Raphael nods, giving her a quick smile. "Thank you for your… uh, concern."
[21:17] <Mana> "No worries, sir. I'm just glad you're back."-
[21:17] <Mana> And a second later she's hastily extracted herself from the room.
[21:18] <Raphael> "…" Raphael stares at the closed door in thought for a moment before raising his voice slightly. "Mana? One more thing?"
[21:19] <Mana> "Ye-es?" Her head peeks back in.
[21:20] <Raphael> "I would suggest you're certain that you know who you're speaking to before you threaten a person with 'discipline' in the future, Sergeant." He says seriously, not even a hint of amusement on his face.
[21:20] <Mana> "… S-Sorry, sir." She blushes.-
[21:20] <Mana> "B-But to be perfectly honest, sir, I couldn't help myself. You're just so harmless and adorable and it's -really- easy seeing you as a sub a-"-
[21:21] <Mana> "ohgodivesaidtoomuch-" And the door is -closed-.
[21:21] <Raphael> "…"

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