Komm Susser Tod 2 2 3

[15:00] <Minaplo> ["… And anyway, once I threw that up, Doctor Kenzo decided that giving me food was just a waste of time. Not that I'm grieving. Americans couldn't make a tasty field ration if lives literally depended on it." Said Misato. "So now I'm mostly on deradiation treatment. And on a drip, of course."-
[15:04] <Minaplo> [Misato was lying in a hospital bed and, even better, was actually -in- the hospital wing. She was wearing a clean hospital gown, the sheets up to her waist, her arms wrapped in gauze and healing pads. She looked pale and sickly, and the way she waved her arms drunkenly as she spoke was cause for concern, but it didn't seem to be stopping her from talking or indeed, smiling.-
[15:04] <Minaplo> ["Someone needs to make radiation gear that doesn't take forever to get into."]
[15:27] <Raphael> "You never should have gone in there unprotected, Misato." Raphael murmurs, his hand resting on her knee protectively as if afraid to break contact with her.-
[15:27] <Raphael> He's perched in a battered chair by her bedside, still dressed in his Red Shadow gear, although the helmet has been discarded. His mood has been erratic ever since Yanmei's announcement over the PA. There have been extended, moody silences, but right now he is looking at her with faint but unmistakeable disapproval.
[15:31] <Minaplo> ["I shouldn't have. But I did. And I totally owned that power connector. It was awesome. I should get a medal."]
[15:32] <Raphael> "You probably will." He mutters, stroking her knee absently.-
[15:32] <Raphael> "… You could have died."
[15:34] <Minaplo> [Misato reaches for his hand. Her palm pats at his wrist encouragingly. "We all could've, hon. Didn't Mary Caine try to ram a regiment of Stormtroopers through your side of the ship? We've all gotta take risks now…"]
[15:42] <Raphael> "I know." He sighs. "I know, I do."-
[15:42] <Raphael> "… No lasting damage? Really?"
[15:42] <Minaplo> ["Doctors said there's a 25% chance I could grow 50 metres tall and destroy Tokyo."]
[15:43] <Raphael> "Good odds." He nods, managing to smile just a little.
[15:44] <Minaplo> [She beamed up at him.-
[15:44] <Minaplo> ["How does it feel to be on Mars?"]
[15:46] <Raphael> "Like Earth, but colder." He says. "I haven't even had a chance to look outside yet. It might feel more real when I do."
[15:47] <Minaplo> ["Yeah, I noticed how cold it was. I don't like it."]
[15:48] <Raphael> "You're too used to your tropical Japanese temperatures." He says dismissively.
[15:48] <Minaplo> ["Rude."]
[15:52] <Raphael> "Mmm." He murmurs, lapsing back into silence. He glances up at the roof after a moment, as if trying to stare through it. "… Still no word from the Bell."
[15:58] <Minaplo> [There was, at that moment, a knock at the door.]
[16:02] <Raphael> "…"-
[16:02] * Raphael blinks a little at that, eyeing the door speculatively for a moment before he moves to open it.
[16:02] <Minaplo> [Standing within the doorframe is… Vercingetorix. "Mind if I come in, Raphael?"-
[16:02] <Minaplo> ["Hi, Shinji!" Cries Misato cheerfully.]
[16:04] * Raphael winces a little, giving Shi-… Vercigentorix an apologetic look as he steps to one side. "Not at all, sir."
[16:05] <Minaplo> [Vercingetorix let out a very tiny sigh as Misato sees through his disguise. He steps over the threshold.-
[16:05] <Minaplo> ["How are we doing?" He asked.]
[16:09] <Raphael> "She's going to be ok, but she got a healthy dose of radiation from the reactor." He glances back, his expression showing equal parts relief and reproachfulness. “She's on some… extensive medications."
[16:13] <Minaplo> ["I'mma bleeding green, Shin-chan."-
[16:13] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[16:13] <Minaplo> [Vercingetorix turned to Raphael. "I came to tell you that I'm ready to take you to the Bell and fill you in on some details whenever you're ready. Should I wait outside?"]
[16:26] * Raphael pales a fraction. "… Yes please. I won't be a moment."
[16:28] <Minaplo> [He nodded, then stepped out.]
[16:29] * Raphael looks back at Misato again. He looks… terrified. "I need to-… will you be alright?"
[16:31] <Minaplo> ["I'll be fine." She said, trying to give him an encouraging smile. "Give me a kiss, then go, ok?"]
[16:36] * Raphael shuts his eyes for a moment, taking a deep breath. When he opens them again he seems a little more collected.-
[16:37] <Raphael> "Yeah." He murmurs, leaning down to give her a gentle kiss.
[16:37] <Minaplo> [She returns it, giving him a warm smile. "Love you."]
[16:43] <Raphael> "Love you too." He says, brushing her hair away from her face. He gives her a small, forced smile and then heads toward the door, collecting his helmet along the way.
[16:45] <Minaplo> [Vercingetorix is waiting outside. As Raphael closes the door, he puts a hand on Raphael's shoulder.-
[16:45] <Minaplo> ["First things first: Suzie's alive, your family's alive."]
[16:51] * Raphael visibly sags with relief as the dreadful, sickening certainty that has occupied the darker portions of his mind for the past few hours is forced away. He has to lean back on the door for support, bringing one hand up to his face. "… C-can I see them?"
[16:52] <Minaplo> ["Sure. That's why I'm taking you to the Bell. Hold on tight."]
[16:55] * Raphael grabs hold of Shinji's arm, barely even concerned about the immenent unpleasantness of a Jaunt.
[16:56] <Minaplo> [A moment of disorientation, then.-
[16:56] <Minaplo> [… He's on the Bell. Recognisably the Bell's mess hall.-
[16:56] <Minaplo> [There's a moment of head-spinning dizziness, but it quickly passes- all in all its much smoother than Gendo's jaunt.]
[17:00] * Raphael blinks rapidly, trying to get his bearings. The feeling is odd and unpleasant - it reminds him a little bit of a concussion, although it passes almost as soon as he makes the connection - but overall it's wildly preferable to Gendo's Jaunts.-
[17:03] <Raphael> He looks around, recognizing the hall and its wide Surovite window - a window that provides him with his first glimpse of an alien planet. It's a vista that's nearly as disorienting as the Jaunt; a landscape that he's seen so many times in pictures and movies and his imagination over the decades. "… We really are on Mars, aren't we?"
[17:09] <Minaplo> ["Peace Vallis, Aeolis Quadrangle." Said Vercingetorix. "Average day is about 24.5 hours long, and the gravity's a third of Earth's. You should try jumping around a bit and see how far you get."]
[17:17] <Raphael> "Maybe." He says, shaking his head a little as he turns away from the window.
[17:27] <Minaplo> ["Your family survived, but I have some bad news." Said V. "We're trying to ensure that people are told about their losses in a sensitive way, so I figured it'd be best to speak to you first about the losses some of your soldiers have suffered."]
[17:31] <Raphael> "…" Raphael shuts his eyes a sighs, nodding slowly. It didn't come as a surprise. After all, his own family's survival was unlikely enough. After what Zhang had said over the P.A., how likely was it that the rest of his team could have the same?-
[17:31] <Raphael> "Understood, sir."
[17:32] <Minaplo> [He nodded.-
[17:32] <Minaplo> ["Julien Lafabre and most of the Thruster Unity team perished in the attack."]
6[17:45] * Raphael stares at Shinji blankly for a second, disbelievingly. He had tried preparing for this in the last few hours, tried to imagine the names a list like this might contain. Julien's name… had not been on that list. It's unexpected enough to hit him like a physical blow.-
[17:45] <Raphael> "… Oh." He says dimly, grasping for a better response and finding nothing.
[17:50] <Minaplo> ["He saved Suzanne and Asuka Langley's father before that." Said V.]
[20:25] * Raphael blinks hard, one hand coming up to his mouth. "Oh. Jesus." He murmurs, a slight tremor in his voice.
[20:28] <Minaplo> ["H-Hey." V moves to support him, a hand on the shoulder, the other pulling out a chair. "Take a sec to sit down…"]
[20:34] <Raphael> "N-no. Sorry. I'm fine… I-" But he does sit… well, slumps, really. He suddenly feels the -reality- of it all, slipped through his defenses with one unexpected death.-
[20:35] <Raphael> "/Shit/." He mutters, his voice suddenly very small.
[20:42] <Minaplo> ["I-I'm sorry." Said V, his own voice small indeed.]
[20:44] <Raphael> "Who else?" Raphael asks quietly.
[20:45] <Minaplo> ["Angeline Monette."]
[20:48] * Raphael sighs, his eyes shut now. That name… it had been one of the expected ones, for what little good it did. He just nods.
[20:50] <Minaplo> ["Ryouji Kaji."]
[20:52] <Raphael> "…" That name draws no pain on a personal level, but a little wince suggests he understands who the name was -really- intended for.
[20:59] <Minaplo> [The next few minutes V spends telling Raphael the names of people related primarily to some of the soldiers under his permanent command- soldiers in Martins' unit, for example. Some of them died during the battle. Many didn't.-
[21:00] <Minaplo> [Then…-
[21:01] <Minaplo> ["There's also… Rosalie Paget. I know that she's not related to anyone in your unit, but Suzanne saw her die, and…"]
[21:20] <Raphael> Over the minutes Raphael has begun to put together a composed front again. This had been the part he was prepared for. That preparation allowed him some professional distance, and he clung to it.-
[21:20] <Raphael> But Rosalie… He'd had that girl over for dinner once a week for two years. He'd saved her life. He'd watched her grow up, recover from trauma. And now she was dead like so many others.-
[21:20] <Raphael> "… Has Marie been told?" He asks, glancing towards the window. The front is still up, but it's been struck another strong blow.
[21:21] <Minaplo> ["Not yet."]
[21:22] <Raphael> "I'll see to that."
[21:22] <Minaplo> [He nodded.-
[21:23] <Minaplo> ["Eevi tried to buy time for some of the kids." Said V. "They tore an arm and a leg off her and were apparently very close to blowing apart her core, but she's expected to make a full recovery in a week."-
[21:23] <Minaplo> ["Her tiger- Felix?- was killed, though."]
[21:27] <Raphael> "… Goddamnit." Raphael hisses. A little spark of anger is beginning to kindle in his chest, and he clings to it - it's easier than the hurt. "She'll be hearbroken. Felix was her best friend."
[21:29] <Minaplo> ["Yeah. Those two were never apart." Said V sadly. "I, er… Found a trio of lion cubs- Armored Lions, actually- belonging to Remy Fabien Awala. I was going to ask if maybe he'd consider parting with one for a little girl's sake…"]
[21:31] <Raphael> "… Yeah. Maybe." Raphael says, too tired to sound dubious.
[21:34] <Minaplo> ["We also lost Wilhelm Harken, Niles Windsor-Yamato and OD Orlov." Said V. "I know these guys probably don't mean much, but Wilhelm was OD Harken's last living relative, and Windsor-Yamato was almost Princess Alexandrina's last living relative too. So if you run into them, uh, keep that in mind, ok?"]
[21:36] * Raphael nods slowly. "Of course, sir."
[21:38] <Minaplo> ["O-Okay." V wrung his hands a little. "Should I take you to go see Suzanne?"]
[21:39] <Raphael> "Please." Raphael says gratefully, rising wearily to his feet.-
[21:40] <Raphael> "… Are you coping, sir?"
[21:41] <Minaplo> ["I dunno." Said V, his large pouldroned shoulders rising for a second before slumping back down. "Uh, I actually wanna talk to you about something, but that can wait for now. Follow me. We're going to the hangar."]
[21:42] <Raphael> "Right." And follow he would…
[21:44] <Minaplo> [The Bell had been a spartan vessel even before this battle. It had felt a little cramped and brutally utilitarian. Now, however, it felt -very- cramped. The sheer traffic through the corridors slowed their progress greatly, rooms were often crowded; some rooms had had spaces cleared for people to sleep or eat. Everywhere they went, the sound of crying children was never far away…-
[21:44] <Minaplo> [So many of the people weren't in uniform. Civilians. Refugees.-
[21:48] <Minaplo> [He saw men and women with distant expressions and empty eyes, arms wrapped weakly around crying children- or worse, children who simply stared into space, too damaged to think.-
[21:48] <Minaplo> [But eventually they would exit out into the hangar, which was a lot less crowded, if only because the need to be combat-ready outweighed the need to house refugees.-
[21:50] <Minaplo> [V guided Raphael up onto a lift, which lifted them up onto the top floor of the Superheavy Hangar. A short walk would bring them to a platform overlooked an odd red unit Raphael didn't recognise… Nor would he probably care to.-
[21:53] <Minaplo> [There were five people here. One was a tall brown-haired woman with long legs, wrapped in a black coat, a slight bump in her stomach suggesting that she may have been pregnant. She was rubbing the shoulder of a man in a wheelchair, a black-haired man with a small goatee, wearing what looked like several jumpers and a pair of jeans. Next to him was… Suzie.-
[22:02] <Minaplo> [There were a lot of details here that Raphael would notice, all of them important. The fact that she was standing, seemingly under her own power, with her armoured wheelchair nowhere to be seen. The fact that she was wearing some sort of flight suit- a skintight black suit worn under layers of thick fire-resistant barzilite, with a metal surovite chestplate. The fact that parts of the armour were flecked with blood.-
[22:02] <Minaplo> [Next to Suzie was Pen-Pen, the fat, cunning penguin standing next to her, perhaps as moral support.-
[22:03] <Minaplo> [And next to Pen-Pen was Isha Misra, his left arm wrapped in a healing mitten, held against his chest by bandages.-
[22:03] <Minaplo> [They were all facing away from him- they hadn't seen him yet.]
[22:18] <Raphael> Just seeing them… his stomach does a neat little flip. Suddenly he's unsure how to approach, what to say. As if there was some magic words that might wipe away the hurt the members of this little tableu were feeling.-
[22:19] <Raphael> Things weren't that simple, he knew.-
[22:19] <Raphael> "Suzie…?"
[22:20] <Minaplo> [They all turned their heads to look at him. Emma, Isha and Lucas- their faces all twist into expressions of surprise and relief.-
[22:21] <Minaplo> [Suzie, however, simply stares at him for a few seconds, unblinkingly- then she begins to shake, eyes filling with tears, before she -takes off- at him in an unsteady, awkward, flailing run that sees her stumble over the last few steps as she rushes into his arms. By then she's properly sobbing- loud pained cries of relief as much as of grief finally breaking.]
[22:26] * Raphael just holds her tightly, almost painfully, his own eyes shut to try and hide tears as he murmurs soothing words that hold no real meaning.
[22:34] <Minaplo> [And she, too, blubbers into his chest, letting out little more than a stream of unintelligible sounds. The only word he can pick out of the mess is 'dad'.]
[22:37] <Raphael> "Hey… hey, it's al-" No. If there were Magic Words, they were not them. "… I'm here, little one."
[22:40] <Minaplo> ["S-Scared- you- dad…"]
[22:43] <Raphael> "I'm here." He says, running a hand through her hair. "I'm safe."
[23:22] <Minaplo> [She continued to cry for another few minutes, before she shifted her position so as to lay her head on his shoulder. She wasn't clinging any less tightly, but she had quieted down for the most part, content to cling to Raphael.-
[23:22] <Minaplo> [At least she'd never been so light.]
[23:26] * Raphael wouldn't be letting her go any time soon, but he does turn his attention to their little audience, giving them all a tight, relieved smile. "… Can't tell you how glad I am to see you all."
[23:31] <Minaplo> ["Hey, Raphael." Said Emma, becoming teary-eyed herself. "You look like you've been busy."-
[23:32] <Minaplo> ["He's always busy." Said Lucas, who was torn between crying and laughing. "Come over here and let me hug you, bro."]
[23:39] * Raphael can't - or perhaps won't - peel himself way from Suzie, but he manages to get them both close enough for Raphael to set a hand on Lucas' shoulder, holding the man at arm's length and peering down at him fondly. "…"-
[23:40] <Raphael> "That goatee looks -ridiculous-."
[23:40] <Minaplo> ["That -uniform- looks ridiculous, you goddamned grognard."]
[23:42] <Raphael> "Fair play." He laughs, tears in his eyes as he pulls his brother into a hug. "It's damned good to see you."
[23:45] <Minaplo> [Lucas's arms are tight around Raphael's shoulders, with Suzie somewhere in the middle. "Right back at you, Raffy. Right back at you."]
[00:00] * Raphael gives him a slap on the back and pulls away, lest he choke the poor girl caught between them. He glances between Lucas and Emma. "You two weren't hurt…?"
[00:02] <Minaplo> ["No." Said Lucas. "Vercingetorix here made sure of it."-
[00:03] <Minaplo> ["We were never taken to the base." Said Emma. "We were taken here instead right at the beginning."]
[00:06] <Raphael> "You were?" He asks, looking back at Vercingetorix with open confusion.
[00:08] <Minaplo> ["You once asked Vercingetorix to protect your family." Said V. "And Vercingetorix promised to do so. That promise still remains. I did my best."]
[00:15] * Raphael stares at the masked figure disbelievingly for a moment.-
[00:15] <Raphael> "… Thank you." He manages. Two simple words, but the amount of sincerity and gratitude packed into them is palpable.
[00:18] <Minaplo> ["I am thankful as well." Said Isha. "Without Vercingetorix and his army of Iron Guard, we would have been done."-
[00:18] <Minaplo> ["And, of course." Isha smiled. "We couldn't have survived without Suzie's help."-
[00:18] <Minaplo> [Suzie squirmed a little in Raphael's grip.]
[18:14] * Raphael frowns, peering down at Suzie a little more closely… and at that flight suit, barely noticed during his initial arrival. He tried not to linger on the blood. "… I don't understand."
[18:16] <Minaplo> [Suzie pulled away so she could look Raphael in the face. Then she turned, pointing down at that red Superheavy…-
[18:16] <Minaplo> ["Julien p-put me in there." She said. "To get me away from the soldiers following us. It flew up to the ground and- and there was a battle…"-
[18:17] <Minaplo> ["Little Suzie and the new Superheavy ended up destroying a squadron of E-Destroyers before they ran into a Dysangelion. They managed to hold it off until Zeruel arrived." Said Isha.]
[18:38] <Raphael> "You-…" Raphael is wide-eyed, both in surprise and perhaps just the slightest hint of alarm. He gives Suzie's shoulders an absent squeeze as he eyes her critically. "Jesus."-
[18:39] <Raphael> That seems to have been an uncomfortably common response in the last few hours, but in his defense it has been a trying day.-
[18:39] <Raphael> "Are you…?"
[18:44] <Minaplo> ["I'm ok." Mumbled Suzie. "I stayed in the Peacecraft, and then they put us on the Bell, and then we came here. It's kind of- broken though…"]
[18:48] <Raphael> "That's… that's ok, sweetheart. You're fine, and that's all that matters." He says, struggling to keep his voice level. She needs him at his best, but he's struggling to find that space of calm within himself.
[18:50] <Minaplo> ["That Dysangelion was pretty beat up even before Zeruel got there." Said V encouragingly. "I actually dunno if Zeruel would've had it so easy if it weren't off-balance. We were really lucky…"-
[18:51] <Minaplo> [Suzie lowered her head back down on Raphael's shoulder. "I-It killed some of the pilots…" She whispered.]
[18:54] <Raphael> "…" Raphael squeezes her a little tighter, not saying anything for a few seconds. He just holds her, as if he could shut her out of all of this. "… That's not your fault."
[19:02] <Minaplo> [She, too, began squeezing him tighter, hiccups entering her voice. "T-They- Rosie…"]
[19:22] <Raphael> "I know, hon." He says, rubbing her back in a meaningless gesture of comfort. "I know."
[19:34] <Minaplo> [Pen-Pen shuffled over to Raphael's leg, placing one flipper on his knee sympathetically.-
[19:35] <Minaplo> ["W-Will I be going back with you?" Mumbled Suzie.]
[19:36] <Raphael> "Of course, hon. If you want. It's a mess over on the Dorian, though - you won't be very comfortable…" He murmurs, glancing over at Pen-Pen with a grateful look.
[19:38] <Minaplo> ["Don't care."]
[19:39] <Raphael> "Then I'll make it happen."
[19:51] <Minaplo> [Raphael would notice now that not even Pen-Pen was unscathed; one of his eyes had been bandaged greatly…-
[19:51] <Minaplo> ["Okay." Said Suzie, her voice growing quieter. "Do you want to s-say hello to the Peaceknight?"]
[20:02] * Raphael frowns a little at the bandages, freeing one hand just long enough to give Pen-Pen a gentle pat on the shoulder before he returns his attention to Suzie. "Sure, little one."
[20:08] <Minaplo> [Suzie leans away for a second, and raises her voice. "Peaceknight!" She cries out.-
[20:10] <Minaplo> [He heard the sound of an AC Suit's jet engines a second before it appeared, flying up over the edge of the ledge and landing gently. It was…-
[20:13] <Minaplo> [Well, compared to the embarrassingly blocky, square things that passed for AC Suits in the Federation armory, the Peaceknight looked like a n advanced and powerful sports car. It was six metres tall, slim, and sleek, its red paint gleaming in the light.-
[20:14] <Minaplo> ["Hi, Peaceknight." Said Suzie.-
[20:14] <Minaplo> [The Peaceknight bowed its head slightly in response.]
[20:22] * Raphael stares, eyes widening a little. It reminded him of the Lightnings he'd encountered, though it looked even further advanced than those. "Julien's prototype…" He murmurs, before lapsing back into silence.-
[20:23] <Raphael> He pulls away from Suzie for a moment, getting to his feet and bowing his head to the robot in response. "Thank you, Peaceknight. Thank you for saving my little girl."
[20:25] <Minaplo> [The Peaceknight reaches over and pats him on the head in response.]
[20:27] * Raphael blinks, before turning around to shoot a particularly weary, disbelieving look at Lucas.
[20:27] <Minaplo> [Lucas shrugs in response, a small smile on his face. "Least she likes you."]
[20:29] <Raphael> "Mmm." He murmurs, shaking his head. He looks down at Suzie again. "You two are friends?"
[20:29] <Raphael> This was not a concept Raphael found difficult to accept. He'd seen how close she'd become with the Raffybot.
[20:30] <Minaplo> [She nodded. In fact, she takes a few steps towards the Peaceknight, and it instantly sweeps onto one knee, its cockpit ramp sliding open for her. "See? I-It opens up for me and everything. And it listens to me. And it doesn't listen or open up for anyone else…"]
[20:34] * Raphael is more surprised at the walking than he is at the robot, and it's only in the silence of Suzie finishing speaking that he realizes he's staring. "O-oh. I see. It must be coded…"
[20:35] <Minaplo> ["J-Julien said I was the only person they'd keyed into it."]
[20:37] * Raphael nods slowly. "… And you two fought a -Dysangelion-?"
[20:42] <Minaplo> ["Only for a minute." Said Suzie. She paused, took a deep breath, and continued all at once. "When the Peacecraft saw the Dys, it-it went into Prom… Prom Mode, some sort of special thingy. The Dys threw some spears at us, but the Peacecraft dodged them and fired smoke all around it, then it flew out of the smoke and kicked the Dys really hard and sent it flying. T-The Dys pulled the spears back at us, but the Peacecraft knocked one away, caught the other and threw it even harder at the Dys, which got really mad and tried to pounce us with its big claws, but the Peacecraft smacked it out of the air with its horn-field thing, then we charge at it with our beam sword, but the Dys caught our arm and pinned it, but I had another beam sword so I got it out of my chest and tried to punch at the Dys, which caught my other arm, but I turned the beam sword on and burned a big hole through the Dys's chest, but then the Peacecraft broke down." She paused, took a breath, and finished. "Then before the Dys could finish us, Zeruel came out of nowhere and smacked it away and cut its arms off."-
[20:43] <Minaplo> ["Even through the tears, she has been dying to tell you this." Said Isha quietly with a smile.]
[20:50] * Raphael smiles a little in turn. He would have been happy enough just to see her looking a little more alive, but the story…-
[20:51] <Raphael> "That's incredible, Suzie." He says, and the look on his face suggests he very much means it. "Fighting one of those things alone… Mr. Isha's right, they probably wouldn't have been able to escape without you."
[20:55] <Minaplo> ["Lots of people didn't, though…"]
[20:59] <Raphael> "I know." He nods, glancing down at the floor for a moment. "A lot of -good- people, and nothing I can say can change that. Sometimes… all you can do is be grateful for the ones you could save, and this time a lot of those might owe their lives to you and the Peaceknight."
[21:02] <Minaplo> ["…" She stared at the Peaceknight for a moment, before looking back at him, a conflicted, scared look on her face.-
[21:02] <Minaplo> ["I… I dunno. I hope so." She mumbled, looking unsure. "R-Raffy?"]
[21:03] <Raphael> "Yeah?"
[21:05] <Minaplo> ["I lost the chair in the fight. Can I use the Peaceknight as my chair until my legs get better?"]
[21:13] * Raphael frowns a little at that, giving the Peaceknight a long look. "I'm not sure, hon. I'd have to ask some people." He says, looking uncertain. "… How -are- your legs?"
[21:17] <Minaplo> ["Hurt a little. It's getting really hard to stand and walk now." She said. "Really tiring…"-
[21:18] <Minaplo> ["It's the gravity." Said Isha. "The weak muscles don't quite have to work so hard, I think…"]
[21:22] * Raphael nods slowly. "The situation might be terrible, but seeing you walking… it's incredible." He says, giving the girl a very small smile he doesn't expect to be returned.
[21:23] <Minaplo> [To his surprise, then, she does return it- it's small, too, but it's there. "It feels incredible." She says. "Walking…"-
[21:24] <Minaplo> [She bows her head, swallowing back some sob or gasp. She lifts her head again. "You can see some of the other kids running around, seeing how high they can jump…"]
[21:27] <Raphael> "I bet you and the Peaceknight can show them how it's done."
[21:30] <Minaplo> ["Jetpacks are cheating." Said Lucas with a little grin.-
[21:31] <Minaplo> ["Yeah." Said Suzie, turning back to Raffy and trying to give him a bigger smile. "I'll just have to do it the hard way…"]
[22:22] <Raphael> It went that way for a while. They all tried - slowly and carefully - to bring Suzie out of her shell, at least a little. When her back was turned, often in quiet, one-sided conversation with the Peaceknight, the older members of the group would trade their stories: Raphael and Isha's respective defense efforts. Emma and Lucas' experiences with the refugees. V's rescue efforts at Asgard.-
[22:22] <Raphael> … but time passed quicker than any of them might have liked, and there was work to be done. Soon enough it was time for them to return to the Dorian.
[22:23] <Raphael> Suzie had refused to be moved back to the Dorian without the Peaceknight coming along too, so Raphael had been forced to leave her with Lucas and Emma for the time being. Pen-Pen, on the other hand, had been all too eager to return with them after hearing them talk of Misato's condition.-
[22:23] <Raphael> And so soon enough the three of them would say their goodbyes (And wark-based equivalents) and prepare for the Jaunt.
[22:39] <Minaplo> [And so after a second of disorientation, Raphael would find himself… Outside Misato's room. Out of lack of a better place to go, V had just chosen where they'd come from.]
[22:46] * Raphael rubs his face until the world stops spinning and then looks around.=
[22:46] <Raphael> "You're much better at that than your-" A pause. "… than you used to be, sir."
[22:47] <Minaplo> ["I've had a lot more practice than I… er. Used to." Said V awkwardly. "In AT Field manipulation."-
[22:48] <Minaplo> [Next to Raphael, Pen-Pen tottles groggily backwards, bumps into the wall and steadies himself, looking reproachful.]
[22:51] * Raphael smirks at Pen-Pen a little, gesturing towards the door. "Misato's through there. You might want to be careful, she's a little muddled."
[22:51] <Minaplo> ["Wark." He slaps the door control- it slides open, and he runs in fearlessly.-
[22:52] <Minaplo> [All Raphael hears is a "Gasp! Rambo Pen-Pen! Come to mama!" before the door slides shut.]
[22:57] * Raphael stares at the door for a moment before shaking his head bemusedly. "… In any case, you wanted to talk to me, sir?"
[22:58] <Minaplo> ["Yes. It's about- er, do you mind if we take this somewhere else? Would the observation deck be ok?"]
[22:59] <Raphael> "No, of course not." Raphael says, motioning for V to lead the way.
[23:02] <Minaplo> [V takes Raphael's hand, and after a second of unwelcome dizziness…-
[23:05] <Minaplo> [They're on the observation deck of the Dorian.-
[23:09] <Minaplo> [The alienness of it all hits Raphael in an instant. In every direction is reddish-brown dirt, much of it flat, with some sparse hills. No grass. No flowers. Not even scraggly little bushes. Just… Desolation as far as the eye can see. It goes all the way to the horizon, where it meets the alien sky of Mars- a dirty, dusky sky, growing increasingly dark. The sun is visible, a tiny, angry blue-white in the distance, just setting.-
[23:09] <Minaplo> [The air is -cold-. A little colder than the already cold Dorian and much colder than the warm interior of the Bell.-
[23:10] <Minaplo> [That said, there was -one- kind of life out here after all- the large amorphous shape of Zeruel, gently sailing around the Dory.-
[23:13] <Minaplo> [He can also see the devastation of the Dory up close here. The observation deck exited just in front of the bridge, and here Raphael can see the massive, unnaturally -straight- gouge that started at the bow and ended just about 200 metres away from where he stood, a gouge 150m wide and about a kilometre long. The rest of the ship is also pockmarked with bomb craters or rends from the fusion warheads they'd been struck with during the battle; Raphael can also see the jutting forms of the boarding torpedoes, still clinging to the hull like metal leeches.-
[23:13] <Minaplo> [Other parts of the ship, especially near the front, have been torn or ripped up due to the impact on Mars itself.]
[23:31] * Raphael lets out a little grunt of surprise as the Jaunt takes them both, having been (Perhaps naively) expecting them to walk. If he was particularly put-out by it, though, the view upon their arrival was more than enough to take his mind off it.-
[23:33] <Raphael> "What a mess." He mutters, trying to process the sheer -scale- of the damage. Fixing damage like that would be a gargantuan task even if they still had the full resources of NERV behind them, and those days were long gone.
[23:34] <Minaplo> ["Yeah." Said V. "We've actually barred the entrance to the observation deck, because seeing this would make some people believe our cause is hopeless."]
[23:44] <Raphael> "Imagine that." Raphael says mildly.
[23:45] <Minaplo> ["I'm afraid we really don't have a choice." Said V apologetically. "This is the sort of situation where people believing it's hopeless makes it hopeless."]
[23:47] * Raphael sighs and waves a hand. "Sorry, sir. I understand, really."
[23:55] <Minaplo> [V nodded, letting out a sigh.-
[23:56] <Minaplo> ["A-Anyway. Now that we're here alone, we can speak openly." V walked over to one of the still-present benches, and sagged down on one of the chairs with a sigh. "It's about my dad's will."]
[00:07] * Raphael remains standing, leaning on the railing that overlooks the brutalized bow. He frowns as Shinji speaks, turning back to face him. "I apologize for saying, sir, but this seems like an odd time to be worrying about that."
[00:08] <Minaplo> ["It's really not, because my dad bequeathd all the access codes and secret commands for EVA-05 to you on his death."]
[00:09] <Raphael> "… ah." He nods, sighing. "He mentioned as much."
[00:13] <Minaplo> ["05's one of the few functioning Evas we have. I think there'll be a time soon where we'll have to use her." Said V.-
[00:13] <Minaplo> ["Unfortunately I'm not sure if I can pilot it safely anymore, but that doesn't mean Isaiah can't use it."]
[00:29] <Raphael> "Of course."
[00:30] <Minaplo> ["You don't have any problems with us using 05, do you? I know you probably will let us, but it's really in your hands now, so…"]
[00:32] * Raphael pauses, giving Shinji a blank look. "… It's not like I could stop Command, sir."
[00:33] <Minaplo> ["W-What do you mean? Of course you could. You have the codes, we don't."]
[00:40] * Raphael stares. "Of course you do. Why would he give me the one set of access codes to an Evangelion? That would be patently insane."
[00:41] <Minaplo> [There was a long silence. Shinji looked around awkwardly, letting the silence grow heavier.]
[00:42] * Raphael continues to stare.-
[00:42] <Raphael> "… He gave me the only set of access codes to an Evangelion."
[00:43] <Raphael> "Son of a bitch."
[00:44] <Minaplo> ["B-By the actual word of the will too, he also gave you total ownership of the Eva, but it wasn't actually his to give, so we can safely ignore that, but the truth is that y-you are the only one with access to 05, so… Yeah." Said Shinji hastily.-
[00:44] <Minaplo> ["Sorry."]
[00:47] <Raphael> "Ugh. That spiteful -ass-." Raphael growls, smacking his palm against the railing with an alarming amount of force.-
[00:47] <Raphael> "Fine. I'll turn them over to Command and be done with it, the way -he- should have in the first place."
[00:48] <Minaplo> [There was a long silence… Again. Shinji looked around awkwardly, letting the silence grow heavier… Again.]
[00:48] <Minaplo> [He began timidly tapping the tips of his index fingers together.]
[00:49] * Raphael gives Shinji a narrow look. "What?"
[00:51] <Minaplo> ["The codes are hardcoded into your identity signifiers." Said Shinji. "You're required to activate them before we can deploy… And they can't be transferred until you die, or a year passes."-
[00:51] <Minaplo> ["Sorry."]
[01:05] * Raphael purses his lips, his face colouring with anger as he turns back towards the view. "…"
[01:08] <Minaplo> [Shinji does the same, looking out at the bleak Martian horizon, the only thing worthy of note being the hovering, slowly moving shape of Zeruel around the perimeter.-
[01:09] <Minaplo> ["S-Suzie seems pretty taken with Zeruel." Said Shinji, all of a sudden. Perhaps trying to move the conversation away from difficult terrain? "She thinks he's cool…"]
[01:23] * Raphael doesn't respond for maybe thirty seconds, but when he looks over at Shinji his expression has settled some. "… Is that right?"
[01:28] <Minaplo> ["Yeah. She spent a lot of time quiet, but one of the few times she really spoke up was to bombard me with questions about him." Said Shinji. "I-It's kind of cute. And it's better than… Well, y'know."]
[01:32] <Raphael> "Fear?" Raphael asks.
[01:33] <Minaplo> ["Fear, hostility." Said Shinji. "I dunno how people will like us having to rely on Zeruel's strength to save us."]
[01:43] <Raphael> "Mmm." He nods. "That was my reaction, the first time your father showed him to me. If I'm honest, that probably wouldn't have changed if he hadn't told me who the soul had belonged to."
[01:43] <Minaplo> ["That's right, you had a thing with Shoftiel, huh?"]
[01:44] <Raphael> "I don't know that I'd put it that way, but it did save my life."
[01:52] <Minaplo> [Shinji nodded slowly. "That's good, at least."-
[01:55] <Minaplo> ["I was thinking of making some trips back to Earth." Said V. "To get in contact with the V Network, try to find General Liu, maybe recruit some other allies, try to do what I can to help the Federation back there. Do you think you'd be able to come?"]
[02:03] * Raphael gives the boy a look, faintly surprised. "… Of course, sir. I can do that, so long as I'm cleared by Command."
[02:11] <Minaplo> ["Ok, good. Er… Do you think you'd be capable of undertaking missions in your current state?"]
[02:15] <Raphael> "My current state?"
[02:18] <Minaplo> ["W-Well, if you had to go on a mission in 24 hours, would you be able to honestly tell me you were up to it, or would you recommend a different team?"]
[02:22] <Raphael> "I could do it." Raphael says. In fact he seems almost… offended. "If you required all of SOS-1 or any of my other teams I may feel differently."
[02:23] <Minaplo> ["Er, sorry. Yeah, that's sort of what I mean. You and your team…"]
[02:33] <Raphael> "… ah." Raphael says, scratching his neck awkwardly. "Yes, that might be a different story. At the very worst I could pull together a team from some of the other teams in the SOS."
[02:33] <Minaplo> ["Ok. What would that look like?"]
[02:34] <Raphael> "Depends on what you wanted us for, sir."
[02:35] <Minaplo> ["Surgical strikes on New World forces besieging allied cities?"]
[15:24] * Raphael looks thoughtful. "… Difficult, but not impossible. Even with casualties and those likely to take personal leave, I'm confident we could put together three squads from the SOS units… maybe four if I can convince Command to loan some marines to fill the gaps. My personal squad would likely be short two to four people, depending on whether my medic and technician are considered
[15:24] * Raphael more useful on the Dorian."-
[15:24] <Raphael> "Alternatively we could look to deploying the D-Titans, although we may run into some of the same problems - Sergeants Monette and Kirishima will likely be unavailable. That said, we might be able to borrow some of the pilots from the Fox and Eagle Auxillaries."-
[15:24] <Raphael> He frowns a little, tapping the railing. "As I said, it's an imperfect solution. Even then I'd say it'd be one of the better ones you could find right now, given the circumstances. If it needs to be done, I'll make it work."
[15:28] <@Minaplo> ["I don't think we'll be using D-Titans for awhile, but that sounds reassuring, nevertheless."]
[15:34] <Raphael> "Ah. Understood, sir." Raphael nods.
[15:37] <@Minaplo> [Shinji was quiet for a moment. Then he slowly looked up at the sky.-
[15:39] <@Minaplo> ["Earth's up there, somewhere." He said quietly. "Millions of kilometres away. I dunno if it's really sunk in yet…"]
[15:48] <Raphael> "I know what you mean." He says, following Shinji's gaze. "It's hard to appreciate just how amazing that is right now, and yet…"
[15:58] <@Minaplo> ["Yeah."-
[16:01] <@Minaplo> [He bowled his head, resting his arms on his knees. "I don't know where he gets off, giving me so much responsibility." Muttered Shinji. "There's just- so much that needs to be done, and suddenly I'm right in the middle of it, and a lot of it gets put on my shoulders… I'm not ready for this."]
[16:24] * Raphael eyes Shinji silently for a while, still tapping gently on the railing as if keen to keep his hands busy.-
[16:27] <Raphael> "… For what little it's worth, sir, I don't believe he did it on a whim." He says, the words coming slowly as if defending Gendo even to this limited degree took some effort. "I didn't realize what his intentions were at the time, but the last time we spoke before he died he asked me to do what I could to help you, and to lighten that load where I could."
[16:39] <@Minaplo> ["I see." Said Shinji quietly. "He- relied on you too, didn't he?"]
[16:42] <@Minaplo> [16:39] <@Minaplo> ["I see." Said Shinji quietly. "He- relied on you too, didn't he?"]
[16:44] <Raphael> "Maybe. It's… hard to say." Raphael says. "We might have disliked one another, but we understood our goals intersected."
[16:45] <@Minaplo> ["You sound like Fuyutsuki when you say that."]
[16:48] * Raphael chuckles. "I think Gendo said something similar."
[16:51] <@Minaplo> ["Sounds like him."-
[16:51] <@Minaplo> ["… T-there was one other thing he wanted you to have."]
[16:52] * Raphael raises an eyebrow. "Oh…?"
[16:52] <@Minaplo> [Shinji's hand shimmers for a second. After the shimmer vanishes, he holds an object out to Raphael: a drinking mug with the words '#1 Dad' imprinted on the sides.]
[16:58] * Raphael stares. This seems to go on for a very long time, the odd hint of anger showing on his face from time to time… and then all at once he begins laughing, some of the tension bleeding out of him.-
[16:59] * Raphael tries to shake it off, managing it for just long enough to get out a sentence. "I hated him so much." He says, before letting out another gasp of laughter.
[17:23] <@Minaplo> [Shinji watched him bemusedly, reaching up to scratch the back of his neck. "I-I can tell."]
[17:26] <Raphael> "Still…" He shakes his head. "As always, he gets the last word."
[17:28] <@Minaplo> ["You have no idea." Said Shinji wearily. "You should've seen the message he left for me in his suit."]
[17:30] <Raphael> "Oh?"
[17:39] <@Minaplo> ["He told me I had big shoes to fill by putting on this suit, and that the moment I did I became Vercingetorix and stopped being Shinji, and so the world was slightly better off."]
[17:57] * Raphael makes a dismissive noise. "For what it's worth, I don't know that that's true."
[17:58] <@Minaplo> ["That's kind of you to say."]
[17:59] * Raphael shrugs, looking back up towards the sky again.-
[18:02] <Raphael> "… I've been too wrapped up in my own responsibilities to follow through on my promise so far." Raphael says mildly. "It still stands, though. I might not know you very well, sir, but if you ever need someone to talk to I'll be there. You weren't wrong about the responsibilities that have been forced onto you, but there's no need to bear them alone."
[18:08] <@Minaplo> ["T… Thank you." Shinji holds out his hand for Raphael to shake. "I really appreciate that coming from you."]
[18:10] <Raphael> "Not at all, sir." Raphael says, grasping Shinji's gauntleted hand.
[18:31] <@Minaplo> ["Ok. You ready to go back inside?"]
[18:33] <Raphael> "I think so. I've probably taken as much personal time as I can be afforded." He says, rubbing his eyes wearily.
[18:38] <@Minaplo> ["Ok. Three, two-"-
[18:39] <@Minaplo> [And so they vanished, leaving the observation deck empty. It remained unstill and unchanging, the only motion being that of Zeruel as he continued his slow patrol.]

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