Isabelle S Proclamation

[15:11] <Yanmei> The table was already set and the ingredients that the mess hall had sent up via Isha's request was heating up nicely on the stove in the tiny kitchenette provided for Yanmei's apartment. -
[15:13] <Yanmei> She had left Lizzie to her own devices, hoping that the ream of white computer paper and the box of crayons that she had been given to pass the time was enough to hold her attention until the guests arrived. -
[15:17] <Yanmei> There wasn't much in the way of party clothes. Lizzie was in the clean, casual play jumper that she had originally arrived to the base in, and Yanmei was in one of the two identical basic-training outfits that had been provided for her, hair worn loose, a thin layer of drugstore quality makeup on. She was keeping herself busy too, tiredly watching the stovetop.
[15:22] <Minaplo> [Lizzie was happily drawing a picture, humming to herself.-
[15:22] <Minaplo> [There was a knock at the door.]
[15:23] <Yanmei> They were this early?! Yanmei jerked slightly, placed her spoon aside, and then went for the door briskly. "Coming~"
[15:26] <Minaplo> [It wasn't her guests, however. It was Isha, carrying several grocery bags. "Hello! Some groceries for you."]
[15:31] <Yanmei> "More stuff?" she blinked at the bags filled with precious, precious undrugged supplies, and her face softened. "I feel like I owe you almost too much as it is? I don't suppose you got some stuff for dessert too?"
[15:40] <Minaplo> ["Of course!" He winked conspiratorily. "There's a young lady in requisitions who has a supposedly secret fondness for young men in uniform. I was able to procure a chocolate pudding. A rather expensive one."]
[15:43] <Yanmei> "Bravo!" She reached eagerly for one of the bags, helping him inside. "There's still time to wash up if you want. Lizzie and I already showered, so the bathroom's all free?"
[15:48] <Minaplo> ["If you don't mind." He settled the rest on the kitchen bench, stretching a little. Before long he was off to the bathroom.]
[15:52] <Yanmei> And Yanmei went back to kitchen. The glorious pudding and a bottle of wine was set aside, and she started on a second complementary sweet potato dish to the one she was already making.
[15:57] <Minaplo> [Isha would return in due time, looking properly freshened up.-
[15:57] <Minaplo> ["It smells good. You've had cooking experience?"]
[15:58] <Yanmei> "Some. I'm self taught."
[15:58] <Minaplo> ["Impressive."]
[15:59] <Yanmei> "Heh, thanks! What about you?"
[15:59] <Minaplo> ["I know some cooking." He said, sitting down. "My mother taught me."]
[16:00] <Yanmei> "Oh? When you were a little kid?"
[16:03] <Minaplo> [He nodded.]
[16:04] * Yanmei reflected that with her own nod. She seemed thoughtful about something.
[16:06] <Minaplo> [Isha seemed thoughtful as well, staring at one of the pots.-
[16:07] <Minaplo> ["… I was given the full list of the charges against you today."]
[16:08] <Yanmei> Her face shifted. She took in a deeper breath than usual. "How bad is it?"
[16:11] <Minaplo> ["Eight charges in total, and they're serious. They gave me a list of recommended sentences as well. We should go through them. Shall I recite them to you as you cook?"]
[16:12] * Yanmei hesitated, and then nodded slowly.
[16:18] <Minaplo> ["Two counts of excessive damage to military equipment and property. Recommended punishment: pilot credit allowance frozen for five months."]
[16:19] <Yanmei> F-five months! She bit her lip for a moment. "Go on…"
[16:20] <Minaplo> ["One count of misuse of UN Property, in this case, Evangelion unit 04. Recommended punishment: Two year travel ban and one hundred thousand franc fine."]
[16:24] <Yanmei> "Misuse!" She sounded somehow -offended- by that. The sound of that fine had made her go a little paler as well, but she stopped herself. "No, please continue."
[19:11] <Minaplo> ["Wilful and deliberate damage of an Evangelion Unit- EVA-22, of course. Recommended punishment: Demotion to Staff Sergeant, one year suspension of most privileges, including driving license, passports, credit cards, so on and so forth."]
[19:12] * Yanmei gripped her spoon tightly and stirred the pot in front of her. She held her tongue at that.
[19:27] <Minaplo> [He continued a little slower. "Misuse of Alien Artifacts, in this case, the Angel sword EVA-04 wields. Recommended punishment: Stripping of all national awards, including the Legion of Honour and Hero of the Chinese Federation decorations. Public condemnations by major world governments. Suspension of French citizenship."]
[19:29] <Yanmei> The reflection of her eyes narrowed on the surface of the liquid in the pot.
[19:37] <Minaplo> ["Wilful and unprovoked assault of a Super-Heavy unit, with considerable risk of harming the pilot. In this case, the E-Destroyer you attacked. Recommended punishment: Lifetime ban on possession or wielding of weapons, except within an Evangelion unit. A public apology to be demanded, and a five hundred thousand franc fine to be paid as compensation to the pilot in question."]
[19:39] <Yanmei> "Next one?"
[19:41] <Minaplo> ["The use of an Anti-AT Field without authorization by the commander of the theatre, leading to tremendous loss of life amongst civilian and allied forces. Recommended punishment: Revokation of status as an Evangelion pilot, life imprisonment, care of Elizabeth Bellamy to be handed over to the State."]
[19:43] <Yanmei> She froze completely, not making a sound or moving an inch. Whatever expression was in her eyes was hidden from view.
[19:44] <Minaplo> ["And finally… High Treason against the Human Race. Recommended punishment: public execution by firing squad."]
[19:45] <Yanmei> The silence and stillness persisted for a long time afterward.
[19:49] <Minaplo> ["I am sorry." He said quietly. "But I have good news. Some good news."]
[19:50] * Yanmei stared at him. She didn't look too hopeful.
[19:54] <Minaplo> ["The High Treason charge I can clear. It is nonsense." He said, hand firmly on the table. "Some of these other charges are nonsense too. Excessive damage? The Evangelion clause was -made- for you."-
[19:54] <Minaplo> ["I mean. The Evangelions." He blushed.]
[19:59] * Yanmei sighed, pretending to ignore the implications as her mind was on more important things. "Many of the charges can be swept away if you consider that EVA-22 was emitting a Pattern Blue AT Field, what with precedents and everything for similiar situations in the past? But it doesn't cover everything, does it?"
[20:05] <Minaplo> ["The big issues are the Anti-AT Field charge and the attack against the Super-Heavy. If we didn't have those, they wouldn't have a case, but with those in it makes every other action look more suspicious."]
[20:10] <Yanmei> "There are so many questions around them that can be attributed to a complete breakdown in communication. The Commander of the Theatre… was that Amatore-Deforest, or was it whoever sent in EVA-22? Why wasn't my squad issued a warning before the E-Destroyer fired on us? -
[20:11] <Yanmei> "Did the soldiers on the field recieve Blanc's warning about the Anti-AT Field, or were they just not given enough time to escape? Why didn't we hear anything from their command at all until after Eva-22 was spirted away?"
[20:16] <Minaplo> ["There are dozens of potential reasons." Said Isha. "But the Tribunal will push the version of events that paint you in the worst light. They are merciless. They will invent evidence. Tamper with recordings."]
[20:17] <Yanmei> "Of course they will." She reached over to turn off the stove very slowly and shut her eyes when she had. -
[20:23] <Yanmei> "I expect them to take whatever was recorded by the Evangelions' onboard computers and to make it unrecognizable. Would they be able to do the same with the logs on the Battleship's system? What about the MAGI's data on the events? The Parisian copy of the system must have been used for coordination purposes for that fight."
[20:28] <Minaplo> ["MAGI data can't be tampered with, or so I hear." Said Isha. "But how am I going to get my hands on it? The recordings are less of a problem. I could steal tapes, they won't have started downloading them yet…" He frowned. He tapped the table. He stared at Yanmei with a sudden strange look.]
[20:28] <Yanmei> "What?"
[20:29] <Minaplo> ["Hijack 04."]
[20:29] <Yanmei> "What?!"
[20:31] <Minaplo> ["What they're doing here is wrong. You could hijack 04, escape, find help, go to ground. You can hide an Eva in a lot of places if you look."]
[20:35] <Yanmei> "You think they'd just let me waltz up to the hangar and take off? And what about Lizzie? What about Isaiah? Please… if we could just get word to Colonel Amatore and the others, I'm sure we could get a recording from the MAGI before Caine's people strike."
[20:35] <Minaplo> ["But…" He seemed as though he'd argue on, but he rubbed his eyes.-
[20:36] <Minaplo> ["You are right. Asking you to leave Elizabeth and Isaiah here is wrong. Forgive me. I will do what I can."]
[20:39] <Yanmei> "I'll help too, of course! I have the most at stake, so…" She trailed off, and then leaned over to retrieve the sweet potato dish from the oven. -
[20:40] <Yanmei> For a moment, she just gazed down at it blankly, trying to collect her own thoughts some more. "I guess it's almost time."
[20:43] <Minaplo> [And so time passed as Isha and Yanmei prepared the meal…]
[20:46] <Sept> And there was a heavy knocking at the door.
[20:48] * Yanmei stopped what she was doing - which was basically setting out the food in big platters on the table - and whisked over to the door immediately. She took a deep breath to steady herself, and pulled the door open. "Welcome, welcome!"
[20:50] <Sept> "Hi," Sera half-said, half-muttered, briefly glancing at Yanmei's face. "And thank you." He wandered inside.
[20:52] <Minaplo> [Isha was standing by the table, looking immaculate in his uniform. Lizzie was sitting in her chair, drawing.]
[20:54] <Sept> "Hi," he repeated with a wave, sounding slightly more convincing.
[20:56] <Yanmei> "…" Yanmei followed him with her eyes a second before shutting the door again. "You know Lizzie already. This is Isha Misra, Junior Magistrate. I guess you could say he's been looking after me? Mr. Isha, this is Sera de Pteres."
[20:56] <Minaplo> ["Pilot de Pteres. It is a pleasure." Isha held out a hand.]
[20:59] * Sept hesitated with the hand, staring at it for a moment before looking up at Isha. "…Junior Magistrate."
[21:00] <Minaplo> [Isha smoothly retracted his hand.]
[21:02] <Sept> "No, I…" Sera straightened himself out the best he could and offered his hand. "My title, now. I was promoted, I guess."
[21:04] * Yanmei stared. Her eyes grew wider, just a bit, and her hand, which had not quite relaxed from the doorknob, gripped it harder.
[21:04] <Minaplo> ["That… Is unusual." Said Isha, taking the hand and shaking it vigorously. He had a strong grip. "But congratulations on your promotion, comrade."]
[21:07] <Sept> "Thank you. I hope…" He extricated himself from the handshake, glancing over at Yanmei. "I hope I can be of help."
[21:12] <Yanmei> "…Heh." She pulled away from the door at last, stepping back toward the center of the room. "Of course! And congratulations. It's a lot of responsibility. I hope they haven't been overworking you much yet?"
[21:14] * Sept shrugged, still looking guilty. "It's just a title. Don't worry about it."
[21:15] <Minaplo> [Isha's neat, thin eyebrows rose a little.]
[21:18] <Yanmei> "Yeah… well, you know, why don't you take a seat. We don't have to talk about work and titles as stuff? How have you been doing?"
[21:24] <Sept> "Recovering. It's good I thought to bring Natasha's bear. He's been… a comfort. Mary stopped by." Sera pulled up a chair and sat down, crossing his legs and resting his hands together on his lap. "I'm keeping it together. Not much to go until what happened with Raphael, but… I can still help. How are you, Yanmei?"
[21:33] <Yanmei> "Busy. And… Busy," she said again, and frowned to herself, eyebrows knitting slightly. "You're really that close to it?"
[21:37] <Sept> "I know myself," he said confidently. "You can't give up. I'll be there."
[21:37] <Minaplo> ["Bearbear?" Lizzie looked up.]
[21:38] * Sept looked over at her, blinking. "Yes..?"
[21:38] <Minaplo> ["Bearbear?"]
[21:39] <Sept> "Yeah. His name's Vassa. Little, glassy eyes. A bit worn out. But still soft."
[21:40] <Minaplo> ["Bear soft! Lizzie have bearbear, he strong and scare monsters, rarrr."]
[21:42] * Sept laughed. "Haha, that's right! Yanmei, you never told me about this! I bet I would've gotten along great with her."
[21:44] * Yanmei chuckled. She didn't really know what to make of this bear-centered conversation, but what the hell? "Lizzie, want to show him your drawings?"
[21:44] <Minaplo> ["Draw!" Lizzie leapt out of her chair and shoved a stack of drawings at Sera. The top one was a picture of a bird and a lion in crayon. The lion is chasing the bird.]
[21:46] <Sept> "Oh? …do I know these animals, Lizzie?"
[21:46] <Minaplo> ["Reggie and Fino! Reggie rarrrr, rarrr! Fino, minemineminemine!"]
[21:50] <Sept> "Oh, of course!" He smiled, tussling up her hair a bit. "It's nice to see kids in touch with nature."
[21:50] <Minaplo> [There was a knock on the door.]
[21:53] <Yanmei> "That'll be Isabelle…" Yanmei went for the door again. She passed by Lizzie with a glance that was difficult to read, but by the time she greeted the new arrival it was gone. "Welcome! Come in, come in!"
[22:00] <Minaplo> [She came face to face with a Handmaiden, dressed in sombre purples and lavenders, her blonde hair done in a complex knot. The Handmaiden stepped forward, revealing Isabelle behind.-
[22:02] <Minaplo> [She wore a voluminous pale lavender robe that fell to her ankles, revealing heeled shoes. Her sleeves continued beyond her wrists; the hood she wore fell to just above her mouth.]
[22:06] <Yanmei> "We're happy you could make it." She stepped aside to allow them entry. "Please have a seat. Ah, you remember de Pteres, don't you?"
[22:06] <Sept> "Hello," he waved from amid the drawings. The scene looked almost normal.
[22:07] <Minaplo> [Isabelle practically glided forward, like a nun.-
[22:07] <Minaplo> [She looked (or at least, turned her head) towards Sera. Her mouth instantly curled into a shape of disgust. "He hurts to look upon. What is done to him?"]
[22:09] * Yanmei opened her mouth, and then shut it, and then tried again. "You could try asking him directly? Politely?"
[22:09] * Sept sets the latest paper down, looking a bit apologetic. "Hmph. Figures. Can you hear me, or is it easier if Yanmei translates?"
[22:10] <Minaplo> ["I can hear you. But you are broken and shattered like a stained-glass window upon the rocks, and each edge cuts into my mind, whispering madness." She pointedly looked away.]
[22:12] <Sept> "Sorry about that. I'll try to keep them under control."
[22:15] * Yanmei had raised an eyebrow rather high by this point, but she kept whatever thoughts she was having to herself. "Mr. Isha? Why don't you introduce yourself?"
[22:17] <Minaplo> [Isha looked as though he'd rather continue going unnoticed. "Junior Magistrate Isha Misra, ma'am." He said, giving her a nervous smile.-
[22:17] <Minaplo> [Isabelle turned her head towards him, her disgusted mouth becoming neutral, then becoming a small smirk.]
[22:21] * Yanmei stared, not getting it. The strings of cryptic babbling had stopped? "You two haven't met before, have you…?"
[22:21] * Sept , meanwhile, quietly compliments Elizabeth's drawing skills and helps stack up the drawings out of the way again.
[22:22] <Minaplo> [There were drawings of Fino, of Reggie, of Marianne, drawings of a cat, drawings of William, drawings of maamaa and daadaa, holding hands and holding Lizzie too.-
[22:23] <Minaplo> ["Not that I am aware of." Said Isha.-
[22:23] <Minaplo> ["No, we have not." Said Isabelle. "But this one is terrified that I will strike him dead with a single look, and he fears that I know all his secrets and can pluck them from him as I would a page from a book." Her smirk broadened.]
[22:25] * Sept snickered. "He should be so lucky."
[22:26] <Yanmei> "One wonders what secrets he's so worried about hiding, anyway~"
[22:27] <Minaplo> ["All people have secrets." Isabelle looked at Yanmei now. "I would not be so light of making fun of others for their secrets, Zhang Yanmei, when you yourself bear an ark of them. Shall I tell the world of your worries and fears and dreams?"]
[22:28] <Yanmei> "Huh?! Y-you wouldn't dare!"
[22:31] <Minaplo> [Isabelle stepped forward and put a hand on Yanmei's cheek. Her fingernails were long and painted light blue. "You are terrified of Mary Caine, and hate her intensely. You fear that she will take Elizabeth from you, or take Isaiah, more than you fear for your own life. And you should be. She will do all of these things and more. The future you dread will soon come to pass and nothing you do will change that."-
[22:33] <Minaplo> [She turned to Isha. "You are a man without a home, a man of great fortune to live where billions died but one who curses himself for living every day, knowing you left your family in anger and dismay. And you cut and tear at yourself because there is no place for you to go where you can live as you once lived, and so a little piece of you dies every day. But you should not be so cruel to yourself, for you do not deserve your own hate."-
[22:33] <Minaplo> [And finally she turned to Sera. "And you still cut me with your edges, you avatar of chaos. I will not look on you." She turned away.]
[22:36] <Sept> "That's all that takes to keep you away, now? The godslayer is intimidated by a little transcendence?"
[22:37] <Minaplo> ["Taunt me and I will show you to fear the blind."]
[22:40] <Yanmei> "That's enough." Yanmei found her words again, even though they were tight with anger. "We're here to eat and enjoy each others' company. And I am -not- afraid."
[22:40] <Minaplo> ["You are, but I will comply and be peaceful, as I am hungry and I can smell sweet potato."]
[22:41] <Sept> "I've -been- worried, Isabelle. You are important," Sera finishes, turning expectantly towards the tasty smell, too.
[22:45] * Yanmei grumbled under breath. Much of what she said was lost, but it ended in something that sounded like 'face'. Dinner it was! She glanced briefly towards Isha, to make sure he was seated and ready before they began. -
[22:47] <Yanmei> Today's menu: Braised chicken with mushrooms, a chinese dish of sugar-glazed sweet-potatos, and the lovely pudding that had been brought home earlier. Also, lots of wine.
[22:49] <Minaplo> [Did Lizzie get wine?]
[22:50] <Yanmei> Lizzie would be given milk. Yanmei worked dilligently to make sure her portions were cut up for her as well, to prevent her from making a giant mess.
[22:51] <Minaplo> [And so before long they were seated around the table, Isabelle and Lizzie next to Yanmei, Isha next to Lizzie, Sera next to isha, and the Handmaiden sitting at Isabelle's side.]
[22:54] * Sept took his time staring at the various dishes before starting to pile some up on his plate. He looked content enough, and it didn't seem like his appetite was hampered by any of the circumstances.
[22:58] * Yanmei kept glancing around, at Lizzie and isabelle most notably, and Isha, who she was a little worried about after that revelation. "So! Isabelle. Have the other pilots told you much about the battle that happened here? The appearence of Metatron?"
[23:08] <Minaplo> ["I did not need to be told, I felt it myself." Isabelle had a great deal of food on her plate.]
[23:15] <Sept> "You didn't happen to find out what Metatron fears, did you?"
[23:21] <Minaplo> ["The heat of Metatron's fury was all I sensed. I cared not to look upon her, because she is the burning sun that brings only pain to those who gaze too deeply."]
[23:22] <Yanmei> "She was here for her Adam. -Someone- trapped its soul here. Did you sense that as well?"
[23:23] <Minaplo> ["I sensed a powerful light some time ago, yes. It came here from the sky, escorted by humans, I believe, and after a little time here it was snuffed out."]
[23:24] <Sept> Sera's gaze wandered off to the side, chewing on a mushroom with great concentration.
[06:41] * Yanmei irritably shifted her food around on her plate. "It was all just a big setup, and we walked right into it like we didn't know what we were doing."
[06:42] <Minaplo> ["You -didn't." Said Isabelle.]
[06:44] <Yanmei> "Maybe so," she conceded bitterly.
[06:45] <Sept> "What were our choices?" Sera asked, rhetorically.
[06:46] <Minaplo> ["The ignorant have no choices, they exist to be led."-
[06:47] <Minaplo> [There was the sound of a phone ringing. Isha frowned, his hand shooting to his pocket, taking out a small mobile. "I need to take this. Excuse me." Isha stood and rushed from the room.]
[06:49] * Yanmei blinked, watching him go, and then tried to make an effort to shake herself out of her funk. "It's not all hopeless? I'm sure they're doing everything they can back in Paris to get us out of here. We just need to be patient?"
[06:54] <Sept> "Difficult. Not hopeless. But you must have a plan for when you do get an opportunity."
[07:00] <Yanmei> "I'm working on it? It's hard. Caine will to use Lizzie and Isaiah as leverage for good behavior, I'm sure. I admit it's rather difficult to focus as it is with things the way they are…"
[07:01] <Yanmei> ^will want to use
[07:09] <Sept> "You have to think about yourself first, Yanmei. I'm sorry there has to be so much at stake…"
[07:11] <Minaplo> [Lizzie looked at them curiously, even as she clumsily put a spoonful of sweet potato into her mouth.]
[07:13] * Yanmei stared at him a moment, and then glanced at little Lizzie and shook her head. "There's no way I can abandon them to her! I can figure this out. I just need to be clever. Call in some favors. Something…"
[07:21] <Sept> "I don't know… If you have to go, you have William here. You have me." Sera slid his food around on the plate a bit. "You know we wouldn't let them do anything." He resumed eating, as if regretting this topic.
[07:27] * Yanmei didn't reply right away. She glanced to Isabelle, half-expecting her to be tottering on the verge of a motherly fit…
[07:28] <Minaplo> [… But Isabelle was merely smirking to herself as shea te.]
[07:28] <Minaplo> <ate*>
[07:31] <Yanmei> Yanmei kept a supicious eye on her, and returned to her own food. "Speaking of William, he's doing okay, all things considering. Have you seen him lately?"
[07:34] <Sept> Sera just nodded as he finished chewing. "Yeah. He's gotten pretty comfortable here. Probably to do with his past."
[07:34] <Minaplo> [At that moment, the was a sound from the doorway. Raised voices and shouts. Isha's amongst them.]
[07:36] <Sept> "..?" Sera pushed his chair back, getting to his feet. "Let me."
[07:38] * Yanmei was rising from her chair with a frown. Her hand went habitually to her side, but… of course, there was no gun or holster. Damn. "Alright, go ahead. Hope there's not a problem…"
[07:42] * Sept quickly crossed the distance to the door, pulling it open, fully expecting to be dodging bullets any moment now. It was good food, too…
[07:44] <Minaplo> ["No, I'm sorry, but no, this is ridiculous." Came Isha's voice, the softness gone- he was speaking purely in his hard, commanding tone. "What, do you think she's going to smuggle her onto a VTOL?"-
[07:45] <Minaplo> ["We cannot take any risks." Came an unknown voice, but Sera would see a Storm Trooper sergeant, flanked by a squad of privates.-
[07:47] <Minaplo> ["Where is she going to go? You tell the High Magistrate that I think this is absurd, and I am lodging a formal complaint." Said Isha. "I will have him brought before the Tribunal for overzealousness!" Isha turned back towards the door and walked back into the apartment, taking the door handle from Sera and closing it shut.]
[07:50] * Sept took a step back, confused. "What is it?" He asked sharply, with a very annoyed tone.
[07:50] * Yanmei watched silently, still standing at her spot at the table, eyes rigidly on Isha.
[07:52] <Minaplo> [Isha marched back to the dinner table, looking positively stormy. He sat down, drained his glass of wine and carefully erased the anger from his face. When he spoke again it was in his usual soft tones.-
[07:53] <Minaplo> ["Director Hohenzollern arrived fifteen minutes ago and apparently is in an apoplectic fit of rage. She's demanding you be immediately returned to Paris-2."]
[07:55] <Yanmei> "-Hohenzollern- did?!" Not Marianne or her mother? Dumbfounded, Yanmei continued staring.
[07:57] <Sept> "All of us?"
[08:00] <Minaplo> ["Yes, but apparently she most forcefully demanded Yanmei back in light of the accusations against her. Because of his, you are now under house arrest as it is feared that you might take advantage of this to escape."]
[08:01] <Sept> "Does that… actually change anything?"
[08:02] <Minaplo> ["It means until the house arrest is lifted, Yanmei won't be able to visit Isaiah or the twins or anyone else. She can't leave this apartment."]
[08:03] <Yanmei> "I can't…?" Yanmei seemed to be wrestling with something. She found some composure. "For how long? I mean, it'll just be for a few days, right?"
[08:03] <Minaplo> ["Indefinitely." Said Isha. "They did not give me a date."]
[08:06] <Yanmei> "…" Yanmei slowly sank back down into her chair.
[08:08] <Sept> "…we can get around this. It won't last long."
[08:08] <Minaplo> ["I am sorry." Said Isha sadly, staring down at his food and making a halfhearted attempt to continue.-
[08:10] <Minaplo> ["She came to save you but by doing so condemns you." Said Isabelle, a sardonic smile on her face.]
[08:11] <Yanmei> "It'll be all right." Yanmei gave a thin smile. "Sera's right. There must be a way to dispute this. It's just a little bad luck."
[08:20] * Sept walked back over to his chair, sitting down and attempting to put on a calmer face. "Is there anything I can do to help, Isha?"
[08:21] <Minaplo> ["Unless you can make Yanmei invisible, no, I don't think so."]
[08:24] <Yanmei> "It would make sense if…" she started, and then stopped herself with a frown. She tried it again with a sigh, "if we talked with Hohenzollern. Coordinated with her a little."
[08:24] <Sept> "You said the High Magistrate ordered this. He's clearly mistaken. I can take this to Caine."
[08:25] <Minaplo> ["Caine won't be likely to overturn the High Magistrate's order here." He said glumly.]
[08:27] <Sept> "…I see," he said, crossing his arms on his lap for a moment before lifting one of them to resume his meal.
[08:30] <Yanmei> Yanmei's eyes glazed over a little, and she went a little pale. She had raised a hand to muss with Lizzie's curls in an attempt to keep her spirits up, but she ended up grasping the edge of the table instead.
[08:42] <Minaplo> ["Yanmei? Are you alright?"]
[08:44] <Yanmei> No reply. Little beads of perspiration started to form across her forehead, and she concentrated on forcing in one long breath after the other.
[08:51] <Sept> "…Yanmei?" Sera raised his head again in alarm, already halfway to getting up.
[08:53] <Minaplo> ["Maamaa…?"]
[08:56] <Yanmei> "'m fine," she mumbled. She managed to pat Lizzie on the head comfortingly, albeit a little clumsily as well. "I've been a little tired during the past couple of days? It's probably all catching up to me."
[08:58] <Minaplo> ["You should…"-
[08:59] <Minaplo> [Isha's eyes narrowed, staring at Yanmei.]
[09:00] <Yanmei> "W-what? What's that look for?"
[09:01] <Minaplo> ["You're not fine." Said Isha significantly, standing up. "In fact, you're so ill you should be taken to the medical district…"]
[09:01] <Sept> "…" Sera looked down at his food again.
[09:05] <Yanmei> "I see…" Yanmei closed her eyes for a moment. "Shouldn't we finish dinner first?"
[09:13] <Sept> "Yeah. Think it over for a second." Slide, slide.-
[09:13] <Sept> "I mean, I'm not sure if that'd be safe."
[09:16] <Yanmei> "Why not? It's a reasonable argument, isn't it?"
[09:20] * Sept looked at her sharply. "Hohenzollern is -not- important to her, Yanmei. With anything less than an EVA, you're not safe. And even then…"
[09:29] <Yanmei> There was a more than a hint of uneasiness on her face now. She frowned down at her meal.
[09:31] <Minaplo> [Isha didn't say anything, but returned to his meal gloomily.]
[09:34] <Sept> "You have to both see that," he said slightly pleadingly. "It's too desperate."
[09:37] <Minaplo> ["Ah." Isabelle smirked, and took a sip of wine.-
[09:38] <Minaplo> ["So sure you were, weren't you, Yanmei? You were silently singing the wayward son's praises, and then the jagged mirror speaks and now suddenly you're not so sure. So insidious, he is."]
[09:38] <Sept> "Shut up."
[09:39] <Minaplo> ["Did I upset you, oh chaos-touched one? Is that all it takes to torment the mighty pilot of EVA-01 these days?"]
[09:41] <Sept> "-Look at me-. Look at me and tell me I don't mean it."
[09:46] <Minaplo> ["Oh but how can I? Even your own soul isn't sure anymore."]
[09:47] * Yanmei shot a Look in Isabelle's direction in particular. "What is it with you today? When did you start getting off on other people's problems?"
[09:49] <Minaplo> ["Because I see decay and defeat everywhere I look." Said Isabelle, her smirk vanishing. "What joy is left for me when I see the blade that hangs over every head? We are all doomed, and all I can do is laugh as this mad joke burns to death."]
[09:54] <Yanmei> "You keep saying that, but you've also admitted that you can't predict the future. We are -not- doomed. Not yet."
[09:55] <Minaplo> ["But I can see the present. I can see that we are already doomed."]
[09:56] <Sept> "You used to be a leader, Isabelle. I refuse to believe you can't make yourself moving forward."
[09:56] <Sept> <keep moving*>
[10:04] <Minaplo> ["You may believe whatever you wish." Isabelle turned back to Yanmei, smirking a little.]
[10:08] * Yanmei was not smiling back. "What exactly are you seeing these days? The thoughts and feelings of the living? Wouldn't that give you some insight on reversing this oncoming doom and gloom?"
[10:13] <Minaplo> ["I see patterns. I feel the thoughts of many. Do you forget that I am the one who must be strapped into the Astrotelepath Focuser."]
[10:13] <Minaplo> <?*?
[10:18] <Yanmei> "There's no way I could forget that," she said quietly. "But I'm disappointed. You really believe our chances of survival are so low that you won't even fight against the tide of what's coming?"
[10:21] <Minaplo> ["Of course I'll fight." Said Isabelle. "I am sure that humanity will be destroyed, but anything is possible, even the idea that I may be wrong."]
[10:24] <Yanmei> "Well that's better," Yanmei gave a small smile.
[10:25] <Minaplo> ["I can't believe you, though. You're so… Blind." She smiled a little wider and then turned back to her food.]
[10:27] <Sept> "And -we- try our best to be aware of it. You're still planning deicide?"
[10:28] <Minaplo> ["Of course."]
[10:31] <Sept> "You'll get to see him yet."
[10:34] <Minaplo> [And so they ate. It was probably not the calmest of dinners. Tension still hung in the air…-
[10:34] <Minaplo> [But the food was good, and not wasted.-
[10:35] <Minaplo> [Isha piled the cleaned plates up, heated the pudding, and served it.-
[10:35] <Minaplo> [It was delicious. Rich and creamy and hot, served with cream…-
[10:35] <Minaplo> [But shortly after this there was a heavy -thud thud thud- at the door.]
[10:36] * Yanmei huffed impatiently and stood up, letting her fork rest at the edge of her plate. "I'll get it."
[10:37] * Sept leaned back a little, relaxing after the meal and/or preparing to spring into action, considering the earlier interruption.
[10:42] <Yanmei> Another reflexive gun-grabbing motion on the way that failed to pay off for obvious reasons, and then she raised her voice to be heard through the door. "Who is it~?"
[10:43] <Minaplo> ["Security. Open the door!"]
[10:44] * Yanmei did so. "How can I help you?"
[10:45] <Minaplo> ["You and your escort are to come with us. You have been summoned by Chairwoman Caine."]
[10:47] <Sept> "So much for house arrest, huh." Sera wiped his hands on a napkin and stood up.
[10:50] * Yanmei stiffened slightly. She regarded her guests thoughtfully. "Isabelle, you'll stay with Lizzie, won't you?"
[10:50] <Minaplo> ["You don't trust de Pteres with her? Good idea, I wouldn't either."]
[10:53] <Yanmei> "De Pteres isn't her mother," said Yanmei pointedly. "Although honestly, leaving behind someone who knows self defense isn't a bad idea." She eyed him now, seriously. "You're a Junior Magistrate now too. If you think this will be relevent to your position, then come."
[10:54] <Minaplo> ["Pilot de Pteres' presence is not requested." Said the Sergeant.]
[10:55] <Yanmei> "I don't care."
[10:56] <Minaplo> ["Yanmei." Chided Isha gently as he walked over. "If you act the part of the bull here, they'll put you down."]
[10:59] * Sept glanced at Lizzie, then Yanmei. "They can send for me if they need me," he said quietly. He slumped back down on the chair.
[10:59] <Minaplo> ["Just you, me, and the child." Said Isabelle. "What fun."]
[10:59] <Minaplo> [She was looking directly at Elizabeth as she said this.]
[11:02] <Yanmei> "…" Yanmei gave the trio one last long look. "Thank you both. We'll be back soon, okay? Please excuse us." She stepped into the hallway.
[11:03] <Sept> "Yeah. Stay safe," he said with a smile.
[11:05] <Minaplo> [Isha closed the door behind him.-
[11:07] <Minaplo> [The Storm Troopers guided Yanmei through the corridors. They formed a box around her as they marched.-
[11:07] <Minaplo> [This place seemed to be even larger than NERV HQ if this walk was anything to go by. Eventually they entered an elevator, which swiftly carried them to their destination…-
[11:10] <Minaplo> [It looked like an office, but if it was, it was astoundingly small. By NERV standards, at least, in that it was smaller than several acres. There was a desk, organised with strict precision; bookshelves, a television built into the roof- Yanmei could see the hydraulic arm that would move the television around.-
[11:11] <Minaplo> [There was an elevator at the other end of the room. But the room, surprisingly, had occupants. Two of them.-
[11:12] <Minaplo> [One was Director Hohenzollern, looking angry and anxious and a host of other things. The other was Major Liu Lin, looking unruffled.-
[11:14] <Minaplo> [As the doors opened and the Storm Troopers dispersed, Hohenzollern turned and rushed Yanmei, sweeping her up in a huge and unexpected hug.]
[11:15] <Yanmei> Unexpected indeed! "H-Hannelore!" Yanmei peeked over her shoulder. "Major! I didn't know you were here too?"
[11:21] <Minaplo> ["I come representing the Federation, as well as France and NERV Beijing." Said Major Liu, turning to face Yanmei, smiling a little.-
[11:23] <Minaplo> [Hannelore released her, holding her at arm's length. "I'm just glad you're safe."-
[11:24] <Minaplo> ["Major Liu, Director Hohenzollern and Zhang Yanmei are to proceed to the next elevator. Junior Magistrate, you remain here." Said the Sergeant.]
[11:26] * Yanmei gave Isha a significant look and a nod. Of course, she would relay everything of note back to him.
[11:28] <Yanmei> - And then she faltered again, the same sweaty paleness from the dinner coming back over her swiftly.
[15:38] <Minaplo> [Hannelore grabbed her around the shoulders. "Yanmei? Yanmei! You're sick… What's going on here?" She snapped at the sergeant, who didn't respond.]
[15:42] <Yanmei> "Commander? Please calm down." She stepped back just a little, hastily. "It's not serious enough to broadcast, I assure you."
[15:45] <Minaplo> ["…" Hannelore's lips were tight and thin, but she nodded grimly.-
[15:45] <Minaplo> ["Her patience won't improve with time." Said Liu Lin, heading towards the elevator.]
[15:47] <Yanmei> "Right." Yanmei followed her soberly. "Afterward, maybe we could talk? None of us have heard much about what's been happening on the outside."
[15:56] <Minaplo> ["No surprise there." Said Hannelore bitterly as they stepped onto the elevator.
[15:56] <Minaplo> -
[15:56] <Minaplo> ["We should use this moment to calm down and get a bearing on our surroundings." Said Liu Lin.]
[16:01] * Yanmei nodded. Deep breath. She arranged her face into a neutral mask.
[16:14] <Minaplo> [The elevator doors opened, after a long- very long trip. Was the elevator just slower? Or…-
[16:14] <Minaplo> [How deep were they going?-
[16:15] <Minaplo> [The elevator doors opened into a nondescript steel waiting area, off which branched several corridors. There were no signs. Or people waiting for them.]
[16:19] * Yanmei stepped off slowly, peering around. She was in completely new territory here, and she couldn't help but glance to her companions for reactions. If there was anyone's lead she was following, it was theirs.
[16:29] <Minaplo> ["… I don't know where we're supposed to go." Said Hannelore.-
[16:29] <Minaplo> [Liu Lin didn't seem to know either.]
[16:37] <Yanmei> "Right." Yanmei marched up to one of the hallways, listening hard for signs of life. Voices or footsteps, or even rumbling machinery. "If she expects us to find our own way there? Then let's start by trying to find someone who does know the way."
[16:47] <Minaplo> [Lin looked down one of the other corridors…-
[16:47] <Minaplo> [Hohenzollern frowned and stayed where she was. "This doesn't feel right…"]
[16:50] <Yanmei> "No, it doesn't," she glanced back at her over her shoulder. "But what else are supposed to-" -
[16:51] <Yanmei> In an instant, her face changed, eyes growing wider. "Commander! Behind you!"
[16:51] <Minaplo> ["Eh?" Hannelore turned-
[16:53] <Minaplo> [A solid force slammed into her face, smashing her against the ground. She cried in pain and fear.-
[16:55] <Minaplo> [A heat shimmer hovered in the air, rapidly emerging into a shape. It was a person- five foot eight, maybe- clad head to toe in a sleek, agile-looking body armour that reminded Yanmei vaguely of the Evas. A smooth helmet covered the face. Red helmet lenses glared up at them as the soldier dropped a knee into Hannelore's stomach, then pinned her to the ground.-
[16:56] <Minaplo> [Liu Lin reached into her coat, ripping out a bolt pistol, only for another of the phantom soldiers to appear behind her and grab her in a choke hold.-
[16:56] <Minaplo> [Yanmei would feel a similar presence behind her, but…!]
[17:14] <Yanmei> She didn't give him the opportunity, instead springing deftly for Liu with a shout, finger stretching for the gun she was holding. -
[17:14] <Yanmei> ^fingers
[17:22] <Yanmei> She snagged it easily… and then turned it on the phantom soldier who dared to choke the struggling Tiger of Jinan. There was a bright flash of heat and light as the shell connected with his leg.
[17:34] <Minaplo> [But the phantom behind her was on her in an instant, materializing fully, letting loose a lightning-fast collection of punches and wide, fast kicks.-
[17:35] <Minaplo> [Lin's opponent was far more brutal and unsubtle, even as he staggered with pain- he smashed his helmeted forehead into Lin's nose, causing her to gasp and violent push him into a wall, breaking the grapple.-
[17:36] <Minaplo> [Hannelore rolled frantically away from her enemy, kicking out wildly, catching him in with a lucky hit in the throat with the stiletto of her heel. It was enough to buy her time.]
[17:44] <Yanmei> "R-" No time for words. Barely any time to slip out of the path of those punches. She slipped through an opening like a person bursting free of a tornado, and struck at the soldier Liu had tossed aside in wild desperation.
[17:55] <Minaplo> [But whatever hit she landed didn't seem to do much. Her enemy was on her in an instant, and Yanmei barely had time to react to him-
[17:55] <Minaplo> [So she didn't see the other enemy until it was too late. He appeared, grabbed her right arm and-
[17:55] <Minaplo> [The pain was tremendous, her hand immediately releasing the bolt pistol.
[17:55] <Minaplo> ]
[18:01] * Yanmei tried to bite back a sharp, shrill cry. She wasn't entirely successful at it, and she staggered, cluching her brand new injury.
[18:05] <Minaplo> [She saw a phantom smash Lin's head against the wall- her eyes glazed over as she slumped.-
[18:06] <Minaplo> [Hannelore scrambled up against a wall, clearly terrified. "Stop! Stop! We surrender!"]
[18:07] <Yanmei> "C-Commander!" Yanmei gasped, pain and astonishment both clear on her face.
[18:08] <Minaplo> ["We can't do anything, Yanmei." She said, slumping.-
[18:08] <Minaplo> [The phantom gripping Yanmei's arm looked to the others, then put an arm around Yanmei's throat. Not enough to choke her, but enough to keep her firm.-
[18:09] <Minaplo> [Another was gripping Lin. It took out a shapeless bag and stuffed it over her head.]
[18:13] * Yanmei struggled, more out of the discomfort from everything than in any real attempt to escape. It wasn't like the person holding her was making it all that easy to anyway? "Grrr…"
[18:15] <Minaplo> [A bag was shoved over her head, too. What a strange bag it was- it was soft, but totally enveloping. She couldn't see or hear at -all-.-
[18:15] <Minaplo> [And it smelled, not unpleasantly, of some sort of flowery perfume, which made it hard to concentrate.]
[18:18] <Yanmei> Perfume…? No… She tried to focus on the pain in her arm, on anything that would keep her grounded, but she was already starting to slip…
[15:16] <Minaplo> [The trip… It was so hazy. Yanmei didn't know if it took a minute or an hour or even a day.-
[15:16] <Minaplo> [But when the black bag was removed from her head, all she'd see were pinpricks of light and blurry blotches of colour. Her vision had yet to clear.]
[15:22] * Yanmei squeezed her eyes shut, flinching away from the intensity of it all. Groggily, experimentally, she tried moving her good hand to her face. "Major?" she mumbled. "Commander?"
[15:23] <Minaplo> [No response.-
[15:25] <Minaplo> ["They are gone." Said a cold voice in front of her. The voice of Mary Caine cut through her grogginess. Her vision cleared a little, enough to see that hated face. "Hohenzollern is being punished, and Liu Lin has been sent to be hypnoconditioned. You will have the opportunity to witness that."]
[15:30] * Yanmei abruptly froze. It was the voice that got to her. It took a second longer for the meaning behind the words and the cold dread they inspired to sink in. "You…" she breathed. She slowly lowered her hand.
[15:31] <Minaplo> ["You resisted." Said Caine. "Foolish."]
[15:37] <Yanmei> The men, the men who jumped them. She had to remember them first, hazy as they now seemed. "They… th-they attacked us! Why wouldn't we resist?"
[15:39] <Minaplo> ["Because there is no point in resisting." Said Caine. "That is a lesson that you must learn, and I will beat it into you if I must. There is never any point in resisting me. Whether it be a fist blow or an order, I will teach you to obey."]
[15:46] <Yanmei> "Why? You know I'm no threat to you. So why…?"
[15:47] <Minaplo> ["You do not pose much of a threat, no, but I am not the sort of person who lets even small threats abide. You have been lax, Zhang Yanmei. You have not served me as I demanded."-
[15:49] <Minaplo> [The lights -flared-. Yanmei- on her knees, hands tied behind her back- was perched upon a raised dais, sitting upon a circular platform. It sat in the centre of a huge spherical room- it had to be at least three kilometres across!-
[15:52] <Minaplo> [And it seemed the entire sphere was made of lights. At first only a few had been activated, but now they all shone at once, a blinding glare of whiteness. Some lights winked out- and the pattern formed was that of staring, open eyes.-
[15:52] <Minaplo> ["Zhang Yanmei" came a voice. It was an utterly unique and disturbing voice, the voice of billions of voices speaking at once, in unison, in monotones.]
[15:57] * Yanmei once again found herself struggling, blinking in lights that were too painful and intense for her. What it revealed made her sick with vertigo, and the sound that followed was -horrifying-. "No…" she whispered to herself.
[15:59] <Minaplo> ["How many did you slay in your fight with Big Brother?" Asked Mary quietly. "How many souls were added to the Eternity Drive by your slaughter? How many? One million? Two million?"]
[16:03] <Yanmei> A muscle along her jaw went tight. Feverishly, her gaze skipped from Caine to the impossible eye pattern looming over them.
[16:15] <Minaplo> ["Even the act of survival strengthens me. You kill in anger, you kill in defense- it does not matter. I grow stronger. Do you understand your fragility yet?"]
[16:19] <Yanmei> "If I stopped killing…" a confused, sluggish mumble. The Conquerer would have understood. She panned the dais frantically, too late remembering that this wasn't just some horrible dream.
[16:20] <Minaplo> ["Then you would die and join my Drive. At least you would not be alone." Said Caine coldly. "You never met your father, did you?"]
[16:25] <Yanmei> Her breath caught in her throat and her searching suddenly stopped, attention now completely on Mary once again, eyes narrowing.
[16:36] <Minaplo> [A voice reverberated around the room now, just a single voice. "Mingzhu? Mingzhu, where are you, blossom of my heart?" A man's voice, teasing and gentle. "Are you working again?"-
[16:37] <Minaplo> [The lights began to display an image. A house, a solid house with pictures on the walls and tables and furniture… She didn't recognise it…]
[16:41] <Yanmei> But she could guess what it was. A home in Southern China, close to the university her parents had attended. Or maybe it located further away from that. The place where he had grown up? A place he and her mother had made for themselves after graduation while they charted out their hopes and dreams together? -
[16:44] <Yanmei> "Stop…" her throat was tight, but once the word was out, more followed in a snarling torrent. "How DARE you! You-!! Stop it!!"
[16:45] <Minaplo> [Caine watched Yanmei impassively, the images flickering across her face.-
[16:45] <Minaplo> ["I'm in here!" Came a voice. Her mother…-
[16:46] <Minaplo> [Her father sang to himself as he ambled through the house, heading towards a certain room. He faux-sneakily opened the door a little, glancing in.-
[16:47] <Minaplo> [Mingzhu looked around, a playfully irritated expression on her face. She looked so much younger, far more relaxed, the way she held herself and everything… Yanmei ahd never seen her like this, so at ease. "It took you long enough."-
[16:48] <Minaplo> ["I was too busy dancing. I'm gonna be a father!" He clapped his hands, like a happy child…]
[16:51] <Yanmei> "You have no RIGHT! Those memories aren't for you, you sick-!" She was straining physically now, against the ropes that held her.
[16:55] <Minaplo> [Caine knelt down, so that she was eye to eye with Yanmei. She -stared-.-
[16:56] <Minaplo> [Yanmei's father danced into the room, sweeping his arms around Mingzhu and kissing her warmly.-
[16:56] <Minaplo> ["I was thinking of names today." Said Mingzhu.-
[16:56] <Minaplo> ["Oh really?"]
[17:05] <Yanmei> Caine's approach caught her off guard, and Yanmei stopped struggling suddenly, staring back. Fury blazed away in her own dark eyes, but now there was a rekindling of fear and uncertainty as well.
[17:06] <Minaplo> ["I was thinking something with 'Mei'." Said Mingzhu.-
[17:06] <Minaplo> ["Mei's cute." Said her father.-
[17:06] <Minaplo> [Caine leaned forward until she was mere inches from Yanmei's face.-
[17:07] <Minaplo> ["If they aren't for me, then why don't you stop me?" She asked softly. She never blinked.]
[17:12] <Yanmei> Yanmei swallowed. Her gaze swept past her, to the happy carefree dance of her parents and back again. She gave the ropes another sharp twist, but that ended up hurting her more than it did helping, and her mouth shook faintly.
[17:16] <Minaplo> ["You can't do anything. You sit there, bound and sealed, and you watch me plunder your parents' most secret, private moments… And you can't do a thing, can you?"-
[17:16] <Minaplo> ["Not a single thing."]
[17:19] * Yanmei swallowed again, harder this time, but it wasn't working. She couldn't get any more words out, and now her eyes were prickling as her disgust and frustration swelled beyond anything she'd ever felt before. -
[17:20] <Yanmei> To her horror, she felt something warm beginning to roll down her cheeks.
[17:22] <Minaplo> [Caine stared, grim satisfaction on her face. She stood up, turned to someone behind Yanmei.-
[17:27] <Minaplo> ["Order Bellamy back to the Astrotelepath quarters. You will take Zhang's clothes and return to her room. Posing as Zhang, you will take the child Bellamy and bring her to the interrogation room. If de Pteres gives you any trouble, disable him but do not kill or greatly injure him."-
[17:28] <Minaplo> [She turned to someone else. "Shepherd her."-
[17:28] <Minaplo> [And she'd feel hands on her neck, and the fragrant smell of the black bag as it went over her head, swallowing her world in darkness…]
[17:32] * Yanmei protested - a frantic cry that the bag likely absorbed, and another fruitless jerk against the rope. Lizzie… Lizzie, oh god! But everything was getting hazy. Her thoughts were slowing down again.
[17:37] <Minaplo> [… Cold.-
[17:37] <Minaplo> [It was cold, like she was having an ice bath. The air was cold. Something chilly and icy was touching her skin.-
[17:37] <Minaplo> [Someone whipped off the bag.-
[17:38] <Minaplo> [Yanmei's vision was groggy, but it sharpened soon enough. She was naked, strapped to a steel chair that bit her flesh with its chill. She was face to face with…-
[17:38] <Minaplo> [Herself. Zhang Yanmei was standing in front of her, wearing the clothes she'd been wearing, staring at her with… Curiosity, almost.]
[17:42] * Yanmei stared at herself blankly, shaking from the cold. Then Caine's orders slowly came back to her, and the trembling seemed to double. Her hands formed fists. "Don't… please don't…"
[17:44] <Minaplo> [The clone looked to her right.-
[17:44] <Minaplo> [If Yanmei were to look, she'd see a glass window. Through this she'd see Lizzie, looking very scared, clutching very tightly onto General Bear, staring at Yanmei with a soft, pleading expression.]
[17:51] <Yanmei> Yanmei's eyes widened, and her hands dropped uselessly. They were making Lizzie watch. After whatever they were planning here, they would probably do terrible things to her next. Yanmei gulped down a deep breath and tested the restraints desperately. "L-Lizzie… ngh… damn it!"
[17:55] <Minaplo> [Yanmei would see now that she was in a different room entirely. This was a room of steel and glass. It was akin to an operating room.-
[17:56] <Minaplo> [There was a phantom next to Lizzie. He held in his hand a contraption- it looked at first like a can opener, thought Yanmei, as silly as it might be. But then she'd notice that instead of the rotating blade, a straight, sharp, angled blade had been placed in.-
[17:56] <Minaplo> [It was a tool for severing fingers.-
[17:56] <Minaplo> [There were screams from somewhere. Screams and… Tears. Sobbing. Not from Yanmei, or from Lizzie.-
[17:57] <Minaplo> [It was Lin's voice.]
[18:02] * Yanmei was near tears herself by now. Her head swam. That tool, and the Riels… Major Liu… She could still feel the pleading green eyes on her, and she took another breath. No. She had to stay calm. H-her Lizzie w-was watching.
[18:06] <Minaplo> [Caine emerged from a door at the end of the room, approaching. She seemed to have a shadow far larger than she was, a tangible shadow…-
[18:07] <Minaplo> [She stood over Yanmei, staring down at her. She was just so much more powerful here…-
[18:07] <Minaplo> ["You aren't having a very good time, are you? You're cold. You're scared. Everyone here can see you weak and scarred and helpless. Your fiance is in hospital, and he needs you by his side, but you can't go. You see enemies in every shadow. You just want to go home."-
[18:08] <Minaplo> ["If you comply with everything, Zhang Yanmei, then you will be released and free to do as you wish. If not, then many will suffer because of you."]
[18:12] <Yanmei> "M-many?" Not just Lizzie and Isaiah? Her gaze fixed on Mary. What more was she capable of?
[18:13] <Minaplo> ["Everyone you love is in danger. But you can make them safe. If you obey me and answer my questions, then everything will be alright."]
[18:18] <Yanmei> "…" Yanmei thought. She tried to sit up a little straighter, but of course, there was no way that she could match Caine's dignity. Not like this. The old, dark burn scars twisting up the side of her torso were impossible to hide, and the metal she was pressed against was so cold she thought she would die. "I have your word?"
[18:20] <Minaplo> ["My word. I lie and I deceive, but I do not break my word. But you also have my word that if you betray this, then I -will- make them suffer."]
[14:46] * Yanmei was quiet for a long time after that, just weighing, thinking. "Tell me what you want," she said at last.
[14:49] <Minaplo> ["What do you know about Excalibur?"]
[14:56] * Yanmei briefly chewed her lip. That wasn't what she had expected. "Adam's weapon. I first had contact with it in Italy, when fighting your nephew? I'm sure you've seen the reports on how it was used and the effects. Later on? During the Dirac Sea incident at the Geofront, the avatar that the invading Angel took matched the same one that I encountered during the ordeal in Italy."
[14:57] <Minaplo> ["And you fought it in the Dirac Sea, didn't you?"]
[14:58] <Yanmei> "We had to? Beating it was the only way we could get an opening that we could use to best the Angel itself."
[15:01] <Minaplo> ["And the avatar gave you the sword it used, didn't it?"]
[15:02] <Yanmei> "Yes."
[15:03] <Minaplo> ["To what purpose? Does the blade possess any special qualities?"]
[15:05] <Yanmei> "To defend myself with. The blade is made out of this… this stuff that isn't found anywhere on earth. The scientists who examined it didn't find anything else of note about it."
[15:06] <Minaplo> [The Yanmei clone smirked.-
[15:07] <Minaplo> [Caine looked at her, then back at Yanmei, her expression growing colder. "I didn't ask about what the scientists found."]
[15:09] * Yanmei stared at the other her for a moment, brow crinkling. What the hell was that…? Moreover, who -was- she? Really? -
[15:14] <Yanmei> "One of our S2 agents went rogue recently," she relented. "He was being possessed by and Angelic force, and was doing all sorts of things against NERV? He was obsessed with it. So the sword may have properties that we weren't able to discern. A connection to the actual Excalibur?"-
[15:16] <Yanmei> "But thinking about it reasonably, that doesn't make sense because the avatar we fought was just a fake? So, um…" she trailed off uncertainly.
[15:21] <Minaplo> ["She's omitting information?" Said the clone, looking at Mary. Her voice was identical to Yanmei's.-
[15:21] <Minaplo> ["Very well." Caine turned to the phantom next to Elizabeth. "Left hand, little finger."-
[15:22] <Minaplo> [The Phantom nodded, and grabbed Lizzie's arm, pulling it away from her death grip on General Bear. Lizzie began to scream…]
[15:23] <Yanmei> "No! NO!" Yanmei jerked forward, but of course, she was held in place. "Don't! It was a… s-some sort of key!"
[15:24] <Minaplo> ["Go on."]
[15:25] * Yanmei kept her eyes on the glass. "A k-key… it let me control an Avatar just like the one we fought. Gamelin was after it for himself!"
[15:30] <Minaplo> ["That makes sense?" Said the clone Yanmei, turning to Mary. "It's not like they'd be able to destroy -the- Excalibur after all, but giving the key to an avatar matches up."-
[15:32] <Minaplo> [Caine nodded, but she stared at Yanmei. She knelt down until they were once again eye-to-eye. "You will not get any second chances. My companion can sense your deception. If you lie to me again, I will not be merciful. Do you understand me?"]
[15:34] * Yanmei was shaking. She finally tore her eyes from the glass and focused on Caine again - they were distressed and deeply baleful all at the same time. "Yes," she whispered.
[15:40] <Minaplo> ["Now then. Do you know what Elisha Caine intends for mankind?"]
[15:41] <Yanmei> "P-protect it from the Angels. Free it from Lilith."
[15:43] <Minaplo> ["Elaborate."]
[15:49] <Yanmei> "He'd change them." She hesitated, fumbling a little with the memories. "Their AT-Fields? Make everyone stronger, physically and mentally, and we wouldn't be influenced by by High Destiny anymore."
[15:49] <Minaplo> [Caine's eyes narrowed.-
[16:07] <Minaplo> ["Wait, how?" Asked Clone Yanmei, looking surprised, turning to Caine. "You can't just make someone immune to High Destiny! That isn't how it works? It's supposed to be hardwired into the Lilim AT Field!"-
[16:08] <Minaplo> ["There are a few ways." Said Caine coldly. "How does he do it? Speak! Does he intend to reunify Adam and Lilith? Does he intend to return humanity to its Ancestral form? Speak!"]
[16:18] <Yanmei> "I don't… think it'd be that drastic? He didn't say how."
[16:31] <Minaplo> ["There you have it." Said the clone. "He didn't tell her, he probably doesn't know how and he's making it up as he goes along?"-
[16:32] <Minaplo> ["Joan, there is more than one way to decouple offspring from a Seed. You should know that."-
[16:32] <Minaplo> ["… Huh?"]
[16:34] <Yanmei> "And that means what, exactly?" She was eying the clone - Joan? - with renewed dislike, thinking of all the ways her mere existance reflected badly on Caine's tastes.
[16:35] <Minaplo> [Caine mulled.-
[16:35] <Minaplo> ["Eggs."-
[16:36] <Minaplo> ["Eggs?" Asked Joan, baffled.]
[16:37] <Yanmei> "…"
[16:39] <Minaplo> ["How can you not know this?" Asked Caine, irritated. "There were seven Seeds. Four of Knowledge, three of Life. Lilith is one of Knowledge, Adam is one of Life."-
[16:40] <Minaplo> ["But the plan wasn't to create seven different species. The plan was to create hundreds. Thousands. To fill the entire galaxy with life. Each Seed had seven souls with it that could, either in an emergency or as needed, become Seeds themselves and spread life to other regions."-
[16:40] <Minaplo> ["The E-Types." Said Caine. "Such as yourself, Joan."-
[16:40] <Minaplo> ["But what does that have to do with Destiny?"]
[16:46] <Yanmei> Yanmei's mind was spinning fast. An E-type. But they were all… No, if they had died, it meant that Caine would have them. Which one…? Gina? She felt suddenly and inescapably ill.
[16:51] <Minaplo> ["For thousands of years, humanity was worthless. Not worth keeping." Said Caine. "But when we created the Evangelions, and that gave mankind something that made them worthwhile." She said it softly, as though reciting something.-
[16:52] <Minaplo> ["… That son of a bitch. He's going to turn himself into a Seed with EVA-00 and become the Mother of Mankind."]
[16:55] <Minaplo> [Joan frowned. "Oh."-
[16:57] <Minaplo> ["Yes. He'll be able to take humanity and remake it as he likes. And of course, he can stop himself from using Destiny. Damn him! This is exactly the sort of thing Elisha would do." Caine…-
[16:57] <Minaplo> [Laughed. It was a surprising sound, but it sent the hairs on Yanmei's neck rigid.-
[16:58] <Minaplo> ["It all makes sense. Three Evangelions, one for Lilith, one for the Angels, and one for mankind. He needed himself in EVA-01 to give himself a proper vessel."-
[16:58] <Minaplo> ["I need 00."]
[17:00] * Yanmei offered neither affirmations nor denials. Amid the bone-chilling laugh, she was gazing down, trying to get a hold of herself as she suddenly lost color in her face again.
[17:02] <Minaplo> [Caine stared at Yanmei.-
[17:02] <Minaplo> ["Where is Vercingetorix?"]
[17:03] <Yanmei> "What? She blinked slowly. "What's that?"
[17:04] <Minaplo> [Caine glowered, then looked at Joan.-
[17:04] <Minaplo> ["She doesn't know." Said Joan.-
[17:04] <Minaplo> [Caine paused, considering.-
[17:05] <Minaplo> ["Release the girl." She said eventually. "Joan, give her your clothes, then take her to the medical district and give her a proper room near Gabriel-Wei. Carry her yourself."-
[17:05] <Minaplo> ["Release Zhang. We're done here."-
[17:05] <Minaplo> [Yanmei's clasps broke off. She… She could get up! She wasn't locked into that icy cold chair anymore…]
[17:09] <Yanmei> She didn't seem particularly jubilant about this. She stood, slowly, swaying slightly.
[17:10] <Minaplo> [There was the sound of a door opening at the far end of the room. A Phantom emerged, carrying someone swaddled in blankets. It…-
[17:10] <Minaplo> [It was Liu Lin, and her eyes had a glassy look to them. She was mumbling to herself in Chinese. "I'm sorry, mother, I'm sorry, mother…"-
[17:10] <Minaplo> [Tears were leaking down her cheeks and she didn't even realise.-
[17:11] <Minaplo> [Joan paid no attention. She patted Yanmei on the arm. "See. That wasn't so hard, was it?"]
[17:13] * Yanmei grit her teeth and shut her eyes for a long moment. That was on -purpose-, she was sure of it! "Yeah. You can go straight to hell?" And she pushed forward toward Lin.
[17:20] <Minaplo> [Lin didn't even seem to see Yanmei, even when her eyes were staring directly at her…-
[17:21] <Minaplo> [Lin and the phantom walked right past without stopping, and went through a door at the end of the room.-
[17:21] <Minaplo> ["Wow. The great Liu Lin, huh? Looks like they broke her pretty hard?" Said Joan, clapping Yanmei on the arm again.]
[17:30] <Yanmei> Another long pause. "So, look. I know you're like, desperate to compensate for all the boot-licking you're apparently doing during your day job? But seriously. Step off. In fact? While don't you just keep the outfit now. It's kinda soiled now?"
[17:31] <Minaplo> ["You don't want it? Alright."-
[17:32] <Minaplo> [With a sort of casual savagery, Joan took the clothes and literally tore them off. Her body was- well, it was Yanmei's body, but there were no scars. No horrid burns or nasty surgery scars above her knee, or any of the other many scars Yanmei now bore.-
[17:32] <Minaplo> [A small red gemstone was embedded in her chest, and a split second later it flared. A reddish ooze quickly spilled from it, covering Joan from head to toe, forming-
[17:32] <Minaplo> [Armour. A robe. A long helmet with an ornate crest, and red glass-eyes.-
[17:32] <Minaplo> [It…-
[17:33] <Minaplo> [Was nearly identical to the Spectre's armour, except that it was red.]
[17:35] * Yanmei stared. She didn't say a word. Not one word.
[17:39] <Minaplo> [Joan moved- absurdly fast. A Shepherd was shoved over Yanmei's head. The world went black and silent…]
[17:42] * Yanmei stumbled back. It was a feeling she should have been used to, but all she felt was a rush of exhausted resentment as that scent filled her only remaining senses once again.
[17:43] <Minaplo> [That same confused, twisted sense of time… Was it an hour? A day?-
[17:43] <Minaplo> [But eventually the bag was removed. Yanmei was lying in a hospital bed.-
[17:43] <Minaplo> [It was quiet and warm…-
[17:44] <Minaplo> [She wasn't alone. Joan was sitting on the bed, one leg over the other, her helmet removed. She'd pulled the covers back and was running a hand over Yanmei's burn marks. "You have such beautiful scars."]
[17:47] * Yanmei twisted away, furious. The grogginess meant, however, that she couldn't do it as sharply as she'd wanted to. Her grab for the covers wasn't all that quick either.
[17:48] <Minaplo> [So Joan blocked them. One hand grabbed Yanmei's hand and kept it still. "What does Isaiah think of them?"]
[17:50] <Yanmei> "I doubt you'll ever know?" She knew she was on the Spectre's level, but that speed was just -ridiculous-. "Why are you even still here?"
[17:54] <Minaplo> [Joan smiled. "I want to be here. Isn't that enough?"]
[17:54] <Yanmei> "Get out."
[17:56] <Minaplo> ["I don't want to." Said Joan, smiling brighter. "I thought you'd be more welcoming of me this time, considering what I did to bring you and Isaiah together."]
[17:58] <Yanmei> That reply… gave her a horrible feeling. She made a hasty attempt to free herself. Isaiah… Where was Lizzie for that matter?
[18:00] <Minaplo> [But Joan was too strong.-
[18:00] <Minaplo> ["You don't remember me, do you, Yanmei? You don't remember the time the three of us spent together? Revealing our deepest, darkest secrets, the things we wanted to hide?" A hand brushed at her fringe. "Don't you remember -me-?"]
[18:06] <Yanmei> She did remember. The naked disbelief standing out in her eyes said so. "You can't be…" A mistake. She'd made a terrible mistake about her identity.
[18:07] <Minaplo> [Joan's eyes were bright. So unnaturally bright.-
[18:07] <Minaplo> [She leaned down until she was inches from Yanmei's face. "I learned something today." She whispered.-
[18:07] <Minaplo> ["I'm deeply in love with you. Do you know why?"]
[18:10] <Yanmei> Yanmei's breaths were coming in quick and panicky. She was fighting to get it under control.
[18:10] <Minaplo> [Joan's face was flushed and feverish. "It's because I hate you."-
[18:11] <Minaplo> ["I hate you so much. Every time I see your face I feel you and your beast killing me, slaying my children. I feel your hand behind my doom, my current fate. I hate you so much, you have no idea. Every single atom in this lilim body absolutely hates you."-
[18:12] <Minaplo> ["This lilim body is so tiny and frail, but it's so sensuous. It explains so much?" She sighed, brushing away Yanmei's fringe again. "Every time I see the fear and terror in your eyes I feel a shiver of delight. When I see you bowed and broken before Mary Caine, crying in terror and horror, I feel a trill of pleasure in every part of me. To see you like this, suffering and in pain, every day, in every way, fills me with a joy and delight that I don't even know how to handle."-
[18:13] <Minaplo> [Her hands fell around Yanmei's face, a gentle caress. It was a terrifying action.]
[18:19] <Yanmei> Control failure. -Massive- failure. Horror, but… a flicker of rage, too, recalling her gleeful smirks from the entire humiliating ordeal. She made one last attempt to wrench free. "Don't touch me!"
[18:20] <Minaplo> [But just to move hurt, considering how damaged her arm was. Joan laughed.-
[18:20] <Minaplo> [And then- she leaned in and, pressing her body to Yanmei's, kissed her deeply.]
[18:28] <Yanmei> For a second, she actually hesitated, either too stunned or unsure or confused. But then her eyes went wide, and she struggled, trying to wedge her good arm between them and failing.
[18:34] <Minaplo> [Eventually Joan pulled back, grinning. She licked her lips. "That felt nice." She said, laughing.-
[18:34] <Minaplo> ["I have to go now. You rest up. Lizzie's in the next room. I gave her all the ice cream she could eat?" She stood up. "I'll be back tomorrow. And the next. And the next. So don't miss me too much~"-
[18:35] <Minaplo> [Joan placed her helmet back on, and left swiftly.]
[18:38] * Yanmei was not sad to see her go, but she couldn't feel relief for it, not after that parting shot. She lay there for a long time, feeling the mortification from the day's events overtake her fully. -
[18:41] <Yanmei> A flood of hatred followed, thick and winding and hot. She scrubbed her face against her pillow to rid herself of the dampness there, and gingerly tried to get up. -
[18:43] <Yanmei> She was alive. Lizzie and Isaiah unharmed. Her allies… Lin. Hohenzollern. What the fuck had happened to Sera and Isabelle? -
[18:43] <Yanmei> Everyone else… she hesitated. Slowly, she lowered herself back down. -
[18:43] <Yanmei> Everyone else: Doomed.

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