Komm Susser Tod 2 3 6

[14:24] <Vera> » The heat of November had come into full swing, leading eventually to summer by the next month. For what it was worth, Vera and Sol were now in the 'true' FCB base, wandering through the halls. She had since deposited Sol in daycare… mostly because someone had told her VC Gabriel had wanted to speak to her, and /moreover/, that he was in the 'Danger Room'. A sharp lass like Sol might
[14:24] <Vera> get a bit /too/ curious about that kind of thing, so Vera politely ditched the tyke. A wise decision, as she approached the door to the… not-as-dangerous antechamber of the Danger Room.
[14:50] <Minaplo> [The Danger Room was just that- a room full of danger. It was an expansive steel-shod room of over 200 metres in length and width, and it was filled with all sorts what the scientists called 'interesting devices'. The room itself was designed to slope inwards like an inverted pyramid, so people on the outside perimeter could look in and watch those in training. The room was divided into four 'zones'. The first was the CQC Zone, where participants were assailed by mechanised rudimentary robots wielding axes and clubs. At low difficulty, it would be one-on-one against a slow drone; at the highest, participants could expect to be fighting dozens and dozens of lightning-fast bots every minute. The second zone was the Gun Zone, where participants were forced to navigate a confusing maze whilst dodging drones armed with machine guns, masers and at higher levels, bolters. The third zone was the ominously-named Gauntlet. It was a narrow 20m strip, 200m long, lined with endless traps and murderous contraptions. The final zone was the 'Arena', where Iron Guard fought the most dangerous opponents: other Iron Guard… Although word was that the designers had intended to populate it with captured Angelspawn instead, a plan which had probably been nixed. Probably.-
[14:51] <Minaplo> [The room was designed by scientists primarily with an LN background, and had been designed for use, obviously, by Iron Guard. However, it went against the FCB's 'waste not' procedures to have a 200 by 200 metre room given over solely to Iron Guard; so the various rooms could instead deploy non-lethal stun-only holograms instead for use by the regular soldiers.-
[14:57] <Minaplo> [She saw Gabriel Levin in the Gauntlet today, wearing only a pair of shorts (no sense wasting a good shirt). He glistened with oil and sweat as he dove and evaded his way through lethal chains of traps- one area saw him have to duck under -and- leap over a pair of buzzsaws, which would see him land squarely on a trap of spears. If Vera had ever spoken to a certain Raphael Guillory, however, she'd be told that one of the more alarming facets of the Guard was the fact that, despite being so -big-, they could move much faster than one would suspect. Gabriel evaded the buzzsaws, and landed on the spike trap for only a second, managing to land -just- in the right place to avoid the spears. Then he was off again… He didn't seem to know Vera was there. Time to call out?]
[15:00] * Vera considered that, and decided the /best/ course of action would be to, for now, wait for him to be in what counted as a 'safer' part of the course. Possibly at the denouement between the Gauntlet and the Arena, especially if she could get a message out to the system and/or the training partner
[15:04] <Minaplo> [Fortunately, there was an emergency shutoff button there, which would work… As well as a button that would just send a general 'Someone wants your attention' beep throughout the zone.]
[15:05] * Vera would opt for the attentionwant button. While she wasn't /quite/ up on Guard etiquette, just shutting shit off in the middle of thrilling live combat training sounded terribly gauche. Boop.
[15:11] <Minaplo> [He didn't seem to respond to it at first, but after he cleared the next trap he rolled off to the side and walked through a door separating the traps from the perimeter of the zone. He looked over at Vera- and nodded. He walked over to her. "Colonel Freitas. How are you today?"-
[15:20] <Minaplo> [The body of an Iron Guard could be a strange thing to see up close. Their bodies were huge, powerful, yet also oddly lean. There was a somewhat distorted, even twisted feel to it, the torso a little disproportionately large. Gabriel had strong, developed musculature, yet the body shape ran counter to what Vera would expect of a normal human being. As he took his breaths, she could see his body… -shifting- about, his lungs expanding, giving definition to the hardened subdermal plates of bone and artifice that had been attached to his rib cage and over his stomach.]
[15:22] * Vera did find it… rather odd, only so much resisting the urge to cant her head - the compromise was doing so slightly. "I'm ultimately doing fine, Vice-Commander. I was told you had something you wanted to talk to me about?"
[15:25] <Minaplo> ["Yes. Let's sit down on the sidelines for a moment."-
[15:29] <Minaplo> [A minute later they'd be sitting on the sidelines of the Danger Room, Gabriel having pulled a large white robe on, wrapping it around him. "You were a member of the Plato Directive and a tutor for the NeoAlexander project." Said Gabriel. "Did you ever have a real sense of comradeship with your fellows, Colonel?"]
[15:37] * Vera was subtly taken aback by the nature of the question. "…The… uh. The first one, not very much so. We were so young and so /confused/. It was… I've come to regard it as a fundamentally stupid project. But while tutoring… a, uh, number of students of mine did seem… well. I seemed to almost treat them like my own children. I'm… Not entirely sure if that counts as the kind
[15:37] * Vera of comradeship you're looking for, Vice-Commander Gabriel."
[15:41] <Minaplo> ["Maybe not." He said quietly, giving her a smile. "One of the things I miss the most about the Liberated Nations was the sense of cameraderie. The feeling of being part of a band of brothers, millions strong. Not just the Guard, but also the regular forces, the commanders… Propaganda sends a young man to war, but comradeship keeps him there."-
[15:47] <Minaplo> ["Do you think Operations and our young knight have such comradeship yet?"]
[15:50] * Vera slowly laned backwars in the seat she took. "…Not /quite/ yet. There've been a lot of things to hash out on that front. They're all experts with exquisite talents and their own seperate social benefits, but they need time to get /used/ to one another. Kader's wit and honestly smug behavior, Rosamund's softer personality that yet can and will get pushed to extremes, Ronaldo's strong
[15:50] * Vera adherence to rules and sometimes-too-overbearing seriousness… and of course, Eufie's own awkward-at-times emotional behavior. We need to put it all together."
[15:59] <Minaplo> ["I agree." He said. "In this case, Ops is to be as a wheel. A wheel without the axle is directionless, but a wheel where there is no rim to connect the spokes goes nowhere." He said.]
[16:01] * Vera smirked slightly at that little gem. "But, ah, Vice-Commander. What kind of wheelwrighting action do you have in mind for today?"
[16:03] <Minaplo> ["Have you heard of Bernardo Ferro? He's a popular musician, does a lot of rock, some metal."]
[16:11] * Vera was already getting a subtle inclination as to where this was going. "A concert! Now that could end up getting quite amusing. But a bonding exercise like that sounds great. …Though interesting choice of musician there. You haven't, by chance, been also looking at how strange she's been getting about friendships and romances?"
[16:13] <Minaplo> [Gabriel stared at her quietly, then laughed, reaching up to ruffle Vera's hair. He didn't hurt her, although he did end up pushing her head around a little roughly. "Kader's starting to rub off on you a little, isn't he, Colonel?"-
[16:18] <Minaplo> ["But you're right. Eufemia is diligent, and puts her heart and soul into work, and never complains, but when it comes to this project, the health, mental as well as physical, of our pilots is one of our top priorities. Ever since that delightful incident in Ops where she figuratively smacked the coffee out of Kader's mouth, she's been socially inactive. The Commander tells me that most of the time she's training, and when she isn't she's either playing games or listening to music."-
[16:18] <Minaplo> ["But more to the point, Eufemia requested that she be allowed to attend Ferro's concert in Rio."]
[16:23] <Vera> "…So in so doing, we'll be pleasing her, accepting one of her few meaningful social acts over a full month, and /maybe/ make some progress in cohesion and cameraderie." Vera smiled warmly. "I'd have to say that I approve."
[16:29] <Minaplo> ["I had thought you might." Said Gabriel. "However, we ought to take it one step further. Mutual journeys build lasting bonds. Why not make it a road trip?" He said. "Rio de Janeiro isn't that far by car, but it's far enough to make the trip a memorable one." He said. "And whilst you're at it, you can take along one of the Ops Staff. I'm sure whoever it was would enjoy a vacation."]
[16:32] * Vera squinted a little at that notion. She didn't bother to hide the initial incredulity, because it sent a message. Still, that look softened. "The potential for madness is relatively high, but I will use the opportunity… responsibly."
[16:35] <Minaplo> ["Good." He said. "You should be departing two days from now. That gives you time for you and your staffer to prepare themselves, so long as you tell them straight away."]
[16:44] * Vera nodded her head gently. "Of course, of course. Either way, it was good to talk." …Vera stood up, and began to leave the room thus hence!
[16:47] <Minaplo> [Ops was as Ops was. The three Officers sat at their posts, with de Franco sitting in her chair. Salazar wasn't here today.-
[16:47] <Minaplo> [De Franco stood as Vera entered. "Director at Ops!" She said, saluting, the three officers following suit.]
[16:53] * Vera smiled again, giving a salute back! "At ease! Before we begin anything serious, though… I'd like to make an announcement. With Command's blessing and at our dear Pilot's request, I am to join her at a concert in Rio de Janeiro in two day's time. But in addition to myself and her, there's room for one other member of Operations. …You can make your case if you particularly would
[16:53] * Vera like to participate, but I /do/ have my own ideas in mind."
[16:54] <Minaplo> [Pereira promptly sat back down.-
[16:57] <Minaplo> [But Kader made fists of his hands, holding them up to his shoulders. "C-Colonel, you gotta take me!"]
[17:01] * Vera …had to say that she'd expected this. "I'm on a rather interesting boundary-line there, Lieutenant. On the one hand, you certainly /would/ be made happiest of all the Ops crew by that…" A glance at Rosamund, though. "…But it's possible that it might quite accidentally undo progress towards making Pilot de Franco more comfortable in the unit." Beat. "If nothing else, anyone
[17:01] * Vera who feels 'jilted' can have the next… outing of this sort."
[17:02] <Minaplo> ["A-A-alright. Let me make my case. Okay?"]
[17:04] * Vera smiled broadly. "Go right ahead, Lieutenant~" …Now we're getting cheeky. But it's all in jest, right?
[17:04] <Minaplo> ["Listen, we're getting to the summer season, right? Temperatures are skyrocketing, the sun's shining constantly…"]
[17:07] * Vera squinted subtly. "…Go on…?" She had half a mind to ponder if Kader wasn't alluding to the thermodynamic control properties of an AT Field that ostensibly any user of one could tap. AT Air Conditioning?
[17:10] <Minaplo> ["… And Rio de Janeiro has some of the best beaches in the world!" He said, banging his hands together. "The sun, the sand, the Atlantic waves, the senhoritas in swimsuits, all of it as far as the eye can see!" Within a second, he'd changed tune, his eyes wide, his hands clasped together. "To see such a thing has been my dream, Colonel, ever since I was a little orphan boy growing up in the mean streets of Cairo. I never had a childhood… But now's your chance to let me make up for lost time!"-
[17:11] <Minaplo> [Prscott fell forward in her chair, head on her desk, hands pounding on her console as she laughed helplessly.]
[17:14] * Vera …smirked. Smirked broadly. "…Precondition, one." Vera said surprisingly swiftly. "Do try to be cautious about when Pilot de Franco has what we might consider a 'moment', and… sure." A glance at Lieutenant Prescott. "Surely, Lieutenant Prescott, you aren't as… aheh, drawn by the siren song of beach life in comparison? Just think of the /stories we could tell/."
[17:15] <Minaplo> [It took Prescott a moment to calm down, red-faced and belly-laughing as she was.-
[17:17] <Minaplo> [Major de Franco was sitting back in her chair, hand over her face as though shielding her eyes from the harsh sun. And Pereira was leaning back in his chair, arms folded, giving Kader the most critical of looks.-
[17:17] <Minaplo> ["Okay, okay." Said Prescott, taking a few breaths. "I do in fact have a case of my own, Colonel."]
[17:18] * Vera once again smiled. "Then make yours~" …Honestly, this was entertaining enough as it was.
[17:21] <Minaplo> ["Okay." She stood up. "Point the first? If it's you, me and Captain Salazar on this trip, then that's three girls, you know? There's no boys cluttering it up, getting in our way, making things weird. We can discuss things that we wouldn't be able to if we had certain cobra-headed jerks around. Point the second, this is about making Captain Salazar happy, right? Well, obviously I'm the one who'll make her most at ease, considering our similar ages and the fact that I didn't try to worm my way into her plugsuit minutes after her boyfriend dumped her."-
[17:22] <Minaplo> ["Hey!" Kader stamped his foot. "That is not how it happened. Geez, I just asked her out, y'know, all friendly like. It's not like I danced into the room, making pelvic thrusts in every direction with the backing of a jazz band."-
[17:22] <Minaplo> ["I never said that-"-
[17:22] <Minaplo> ["Well that's what you all make it sound like." Said Kader.-
[17:23] <Minaplo> ["Hmph. Anyway, point the third." She held three fingers up to Vera. "I can plan for you the perfect road trip. We'll use less fuel, take less time, find the best yet cheapest hotels and eat the most well-regarded food. It'll be like a well-oiled machine, I tell ya, colonel! Well-oiled!"]
[17:31] <Vera> "Well-oiled…" Vera briefly thought back to the Vice-Commander. Considered derailing the train of thought, but then remembered Kader was likely listening. A smile crossed her lips. "So the deal is, either we have girl's night out with more efficient and arguably-healthy behavior… or we satisfy someone's boyhood dream." The pose Vera took was about as close to a magnanimous queen weighing
[17:31] <Vera> the desires of her advisors as she could manage. "Ultimately, the /better-argued/ point goes to Lieutenant Prescott. Lieutenant Kader's major desires could be met in a leave trip more… suitable to his concerns with less… confounding factors. The offer for a consolation trip stands, and I'll make reasonable efforts to arrange it with command. BUT. Lieutenant Prescott, feel free to begin
[17:31] <Vera> planning the trip when best convenient for you in your off-duty hours~"
[17:35] <Minaplo> ["Yesssssss." Prescott akimbo-fistpumped, before holding a fist out to Pereira. "You get three days all to yourself with Kader. Enjoy."-
[17:38] <Minaplo> [Pereira seemed to accept his fate with grace, reaching out to stoically bump fists with Prescott. "Colonel, have you arranged for a babysitter for Sol yet? If you like, ma'am, you can leave her with me and Lucia. Jaime loved having her around last time as well, ma'am."-
[17:42] <Minaplo> [Kader pouted, his eyes closed, shaking his fist slowly in front of his face. Eventually he dropped the fist down by his side. "Fine. But I hold you to that, Colonel! You'd better keep your promise!"-
[17:43] <Minaplo> [He turned back around, falling back into his chair, mumbling something mournfully under his breath.]
[17:46] * Vera peered briefly at that. She /briefly/ considered saying something that implied she knew, but scattered the notion. That'd just be crass. And counterproductive. "But of course! The morale situation that usually surrounds you /does/ need even-handed effort, Lieutenant Kader. I wouldn't abandon you in that way." A nice, beaming smile.
[17:52] <Minaplo> ["Understood, Colonel." Said Kader, scratching his chin in an attempt to not look as mollified as he was.]
[18:05] <Vera> » As it stood, things would eventually /progress/ onwards in time. The two days would pass without much further event or ado. Sol would indeed go into the care of the Pereiras, and it was now that she was approaching the car to begin the road trip. She was in a lightweight coat, one that wouldn't get too much in the way with the rising temperatures (…you didn't have to be a genius to
[18:05] <Vera> conclude it was /probably/ somehow reinforced, if not outright Barzilite), and waiting near said car - which wasn't her own. …Really, while she was mostly being Properly Paranoid, she'd rather a 'company car' take the fall if something terrible happened.
[18:24] <Minaplo> [Rosamund was already there, of course, her luggage (a single bag containing her clothes, toiletries, laptop and firearm) packed away along with Vera's in the most efficient way she could find. Rosamund herself was wearing a white tank top under a transparent white blouse along with a creamy, ruffled skirt. She had a handbag hung across her body. "Now just to wait for the Captain herself, huh?"]
[18:29] * Vera leaned against the car at that, revealing the prim casual khakis and light green tank-top she herself wore. "Now indeed. Let's hope we don't have to track her down or something."
[18:35] <Minaplo> ["I'm here."-
[18:40] <Minaplo> [Eufemia exited from a nearby elevator, dragging an on-wheels luggage bag behind her. She was wearing an instantly recognisable outfit- a gold with green highlight football jersey, along with blue polyester knee-length shorts with white stripes down the side- it bore the emblem of the Brazilian Football Team, and indeed as she approached the car and began loading her luggage, Vera and Rosamund would see the large green '10' on the back, along with the name 'EUFEMIA' above. The jersey bore a number of signatures- many of which were names that Vera would recognise as sporting superstars. "I'm not too late, am I?"-
[18:41] <Minaplo> ["You're fine, Captain. Wow." Said Rosamund, peering closely at Eufemia's shirt. "Are you sure you should be wearing that?"-
[18:41] <Minaplo> ["It's fine. It's comfortable, and I like the colour." Said Eufemia, closing the boot.-
[18:41] <Minaplo> ["Yeah, but- those signatures. If they're real, the jersey must be worth thousands." Said Rosamund with a sparkle in her eyes.-
[18:43] <Minaplo> [Eufemia looked at Rosamund for a second, then smiled. "Yeah, they're real. I met them back in 2016, after the world cup. You can straighten it out if you like."-
[18:44] <Minaplo> [And so Rosamund did- then finally after that, re-opened the boot, re-sorted the luggage, then gave Vera the thumbs up.]
[18:48] * Vera considered the discussion almost… cautiously, like she was evaluating what was going on with great interest, before nodding. "Alright, let's get to the road, then." And just like that, she hopped into the car and eyed the wheel and other stuff, waiting for the others to get int!
[18:51] <Minaplo> [And in they got. Rosamund took the front passenger seat, whilst Eufemia hopped in the back, taking the seat behind Vera.-
[18:52] <Minaplo> ["Ok. I got our military passes." Said Rosamund. "In case we get pulled over. Aaaaand!" She opened her bag, whipping out a GPS, which she slapped onto the dashboard. "Tadadada! Do you want to get to Rio de Janeiro in 4 hours 50 minutes, without paying any tolls and ensuring easy access to toilet and food facilities? Because it's all in here, baby, all in here."]
[18:55] * Vera smirked. "So you got a /good/ one. Not that I should really be surprised! Heh." Though at that point, the car got fired up proper, and Vera put it into gear! Soon, The Great (south) American Roadtrip began. And much earlier than Yanmei and Isaiah's. TAKE THAT, OTHER PROTAGONISTS.
[18:57] <Minaplo> ["Whoa whoa whoa. 'Got'? I -programmed-."-
[18:57] <Minaplo> [But yes indeed, they were off.-
[19:01] <Minaplo> [After ten minutes or so, Rosamund spoke up. "So you been to Rio before, Colonel?"]
[19:04] * Vera waved her hand a little at that, before returning to the wheel. "Once, back when I was about… hm, 5? Vacation with family, all that. …But that does mean it was pre-Impact."
[19:08] <Minaplo> ["You remember much?"]
[19:13] * Vera resisted the urge to close her eyes, but instead did hum softly. "Some things. Warm sands… Being really excited about my new swimsuit… Dad being home for once - he had had more business trips that year - my big sister getting soooo self-conscious about all the college boys from the US down for their break. I thought she was being a goof, because what did I care about boys, I
[19:13] * Vera was 5 years old!"
[19:15] <Minaplo> ["I didn't know you had a big sister." Said Eufemia suddenly.]
[19:19] * Vera paused, mentally. "…Yeah, I do. She's still around somewhere in Sao Paolo-2 with my father. But, ah. She's got to be nearly 34 by now."
[19:26] <Minaplo> ["What's she do?" Asked Eufemia.]
[19:29] <Vera> "Ah, she's the owner of a small cafe downtown, it's quite popular with businessmen." Vera said levelly, belying /subtle/ curiosity.
[19:32] <Minaplo> ["Maybe we should pay a visit when we get back, what do you think Colonel?" Asked Eufemia, turning to look out the window.]
[19:34] * Vera mused it for a moment, before deciding it couldn't exactly /hurt/. The Freitas Kuromiyas trended towards being nice people. Only her little brother was all that… issue-laden, at least on the surface. "Sure, we could even time it for a meal at the cafe."
[19:36] <Minaplo> ["Maybe that's not all we could do." Said Rosamund, smirking, tapping her fingers together.]
[19:39] * Vera felt her head starting to whirl to the side to look at Rosamund, but stopped herself. Eyes on the road. "…Is that so."
[19:47] <Minaplo> ["Central location, easy access to businessmen? Oh, I see lots of opportunities, Colonel~"]
[19:51] * Vera sighed deeply. "If you intend to pull something, /try/ to keep the overall collateral damage in mind, Lieutenant. After all, there has to be something left that the military sees worth in fighting for…"
[19:57] <Minaplo> ["Oh, it's not anything serious, Colonel." Said Rosamund brightly. "In fact, I see it as exacting justice. Plenty of businessmen are up to their eyes in shady deals. Just a few well-placed waiters and waitresses, a few clever ears, and shazam! Persuasive materials."]
[21:21] * Vera seemed potentially nonplussed, or at least unconvinced. "…waiters and waitresses… I don't imagine she'll be too happy if it traces back to her…"
[21:22] <@Minaplo> ["So you're saying I need to buy your sister out, Colonel?" Said Rosamund with just enough playfulness to suggest that she was joking.]
[21:25] * Vera put on an intentional air of grumpy resignation. It, too, was a farce. "She has quite enough filthy lucre, so I'm sure that won't be necessary~"
[21:28] <@Minaplo> ["But does she have anyone special to share it with?"]
[21:31] * Vera scratched her chin. "There were a few boyfriends, but I don't recall anyone current…"
[21:31] <@Minaplo> ["Huh. Guess you two really are sisters, huh?"]
[21:33] * Vera narrowed her eyes slightly. "At least your wit is less /bricklike/ in its subtlety, Lieutenant."
[21:34] <@Minaplo> ["Heeheehee." She placed her hands in front of her placatingly. "Sorry, Colonel. That said- you wouldn't happen to have an eye on anyone, would you?"]
[21:52] * Vera pursed her lips subtly as she drove along. "I wouldn't quite say so, no. Not… not right now." She had a sort of dreamy, awkward look for a second…
[21:56] <@Minaplo> ["That makes three of us." Said Eufemia.-
[21:56] <@Minaplo> ["… Ouch." Said Rosamund, wincing a little. "Sniped from the back seat…"]
[21:58] <Vera> "The gun that fires hurtful truths into your heart, it seems." There was a certain air of 'false' philosophizing in Vera's tone, like she knew she expounded on things in that way often enough that she could afford to self-parody. "Nobody's perfect, though. It could be worse… We could be truly broken."
[21:58] <@Minaplo> ["Truly broken?" Asked Eufemia.]
[22:00] * Vera nodded, with a less put-upon sigh, more of a neutral one. "Yeah. Like… I was sort of going off on a tangent, but there's all sorts who've been scarred /very/ deeply. As good as it is to remember them and have sympathy… I /think/ it's okay to feel glad you yourself are 'okay'?"
[22:07] <@Minaplo> ["Instead of being bogged down in guilt, you mean?" Asked Rosamund.]
[22:10] <Vera> "Or your own pain. But guilt, yes.
[22:10] <Vera> *"
[22:29] <@Minaplo> [Eufemia was silent, still staring out the window.-
[22:30] <@Minaplo> ["Well…" Rosamund stroked her chin. "I think I've done okay on that front. Have I, Colonel?" She asked hopefully.]
[22:35] * Vera smiled, now. "I think so, yes. I mean… for all that you could be hurting, you have cheer and level-headedness." …Though Vera /did/ surreptitiously eye the rear-view mirror at Eufemia for a split second, before returning focus to the road.
[22:50] <@Minaplo> ["Hee hee…"-
[22:54] <@Minaplo> [The drive continued. Two hours later, the GPS led them into a rest stop- a group of tables and chairs built around an eater- so they could all get out, stretch their legs and give Vera a break from driving for awhile.-
[22:55] <@Minaplo> [Rosamund got out, stretching her arms high above her head. "Uuuuuuuuuuuuuuug. We're about half way there or so now." Said Rosamund.-
[22:55] <@Minaplo> [Eufemia, however, had actually fallen asleep, her head resting against the side of the car, her chest rising and falling steadily with her calm breaths.]
[23:03] * Vera actually let out a little "Awwww." at that, and peered briefly at Rosamund. "You think she'd be hungry by now? I'm not sure if I want to wake her…"#
#0[23:22] <@Minaplo> [Rosamund peered at her as well, her own face softening. "She looks pretty sweet when she's asleep. Here, why don't we buy something she can eat on the go, so if she wakes up hungry she won't be disappointed."]#
[21:16] * Vera nodded, smiling almost /magnanimously/. "Great idea. …Something good cool, just in case she's out for a while."
[21:32] <@Minaplo> [And so they got back into the car maybe 20 minutes later, with Rosamund putting aside a parcel of pork and mozzarella filled pastels for their sleepy pilot.-
[21:39] <@Minaplo> ["So I'm curious about something, Colonel." Said Rosamund.]
[21:41] * Vera thought about that, as she put the car into drive, the car radio softly playing peppy retro anime opening songs because Vera has every right to be eccentric. "Like what, Lieutenant?"
[21:42] <@Minaplo> ["Is there some sort of ulterior motive for you coming on this trip? Or for you to be the one taking the Captain at least?"]
[21:51] <Vera> "Well…" Vera began, as they pulled out of the rest stop and got driving again. "It was the Vice-Commander's idea for me to be the… chaperone. Better OD-pilot relationships was the /stated/ goal. As was Ops team cohesion." Vera subtly shifted, as if narrowing her eyes /and/ showing a subtle sign of such without looking away from the road. "Unless you had something /else/ in mind."
[21:57] <@Minaplo> ["Official goals can serve unofficial motivations." Said Rosamund. "You didn't, like… Have any problems you wanted to address?"]
[22:02] * Vera chuckled softly. "She has a very /odd/ sense of romance and relationships. I can't completely put my finger on all of what seems wrong, but it's like… her reports suggest it's like… she just treats it like a close friendship same as the first week she started it. Her partners have /invariably/ likely wanted more and quietly let the relationship go through crib death." A beat.
[22:02] * Vera "…The rock star in question is an old war buddy of hers."
[22:07] <@Minaplo> ["Huh. So you think that…?"]
[22:09] <Vera> "If nothing else it could be better than a 'cold open' relationship. She might even just want a platonic boyfriend for all I know." A shadow of a helpless shrug crossed Vera's shoulders. "Not like I'd know what that's like - but you already know that."
[22:13] <@Minaplo> ["Yep."-
[22:15] <@Minaplo> ["Still, at least it's a chance for us to collect data." Said Rosamund. "Maybe she acts differently around her war buddies, you know? Like how Kader acts like a horny teenager all day, but is… Ah, I shouldn't say.~ Point is made."]
[22:19] * Vera developed a rather significant smirk. "Lieutenant Prescott. You do realize I find psychoanalyzing my subordinates to absurd lengths to be a cherished pasttime, yes?" But she paused /just/ long enough to let some of the impact of the sentence defuse. "But definitely. And as a bonus, it gets you, arguably the not-me Operations member most expected to directly monitor her, similar
[22:19] * Vera relationship boosts with her to the ones I'm shooting for."
[22:26] <@Minaplo> ["Uh-huh."-
[22:27] <@Minaplo> ["… You're not gonna, like, try to get me to take her on a double date or something, though, right?"]
[22:29] <Vera> "Nnnnnno." Vera all-too-quickly pointed out. "That'd be unprofessional. Who do you think we are, NERV?"
[22:31] <@Minaplo> ["Don't be hard on NERV. They -try-, they're just all fruitcakes."]
[22:32] <Vera> "But it's so fun to mock them! They're asking for it!" …But a sort of relaxed little sigh. "But really, it'd make you uncomfortable. She's a friend, not a bosom buddy of a possibly-disturbingly-literal sort."
[22:33] <@Minaplo> ["Hhhn?" A groan from the backseat.]
[22:35] <Vera> Oh shit. Mode switch mode switch! "Hey, sleepyhead! …There's a little box of pastels for you to chow on - you kind of slept through the rest stop." A pause, as Vera debated whether or not to say it… aw hell, say it. "You're kind of adorable when you're asleep, you know. I just couldn't bear to wake you~"
[22:51] <@Minaplo> ["A-A-Adorable?" Asked Eufemia, not through a stammer, but through a yawn. She reached up and rubbed her eyes. "You say weird things s-s-sometimes, colonel. Sorry I fell asleep."]
[22:53] <Vera> "I try, even if I sometimes end up a fruitcake." Vera said, pausing briefly to make a turn and merge. "But it's fine. It wouldn't do for you to instead all asleep /in Rio/, no?"
[22:54] <@Minaplo> ["Probably not, colonel." Said Eufemia, stopping to yawn again. "Wow. I was really out of it… You guys brought me pastels?" She asked, a tone of hope creeping into her voice.-
[22:54] <@Minaplo> ["Yup. Here you go!" Said Rosamund, tossing the box to her. Eufemia caught it, grabbing the first pastel quickly and biting enthusiastically into it. "Mmf- mozzarella and pork!"]
[22:55] * Vera smiled warmly, if mostly to herself. "The least we could do~"
[23:00] <@Minaplo> ["Thank you very much." Said Eufemia, pausing for a moment in her eating. "What do I owe you…?"]
[23:04] * Vera had half a mind to say something flagrantly silly like 'your immortal soooooul', but she didn't need to be 'The Goofball OD', it just wasn't her. "Not all that much, really. I would've gotten you food you liked, awake or asleep, as much as I got some of the same for myself and the Lieutenant."
[23:06] <@Minaplo> ["I mean, money-wise."]
[23:15] <Vera> "Ohhhhh." Vera had her moment to look a bit sheepish. "I honestly am charging it to expenses, but if you /insist/… mmmm. Like, 18-20 real or so? It's a decent haul, because it had to be something that'd still taste alright after sitting."
[23:21] <@Minaplo> ["Oh, well if you're charging it to expenses, then it's fine."]
[23:21] <Vera> "Like I'd let an officially-sanctioned trip drain my /personal/ cash." Vera said with clear amusement.
[23:30] <@Minaplo> ["Understandable." Said Eufemia. "How long do we have…?"]
[23:36] * Vera tilted her head one way, then the other. "About 2, two and a half hours or so?"
[23:43] <@Minaplo> ["Okay."-
[23:58] <@Minaplo> ]
[23:59] <Vera> » And so they arrived. The new Rio de Janeiro wasn't… significantly different from the old, at least not to the extent of Sao Paolo-2. New buildings with new techology, gleaming in the fading sun, represented the true extent of what had changed. But yet much of the old remained, even lovely historic buildings. But… that wasn't Vera's destination. Instead, a modest (but respectable)
[23:59] <Vera> hotel downtown was where, eventually, the little borrowed sedan parked near. There were doubtless some surprised members of the hotel staff, yet… eventually the Colonel was able to reach the people that the FCB had booked the room with. Soon, they were whisked away with a handful of luggage to a room that was the very model of a compromise between good treatment and good financial sense.
[23:59] <Vera> Large enough to count as a suite, but understated in decor - no filligrees, facades, or other artistic frontispieces to boast opulence beyond reason here. Just space, comfort, and amenities. It'd easily fit all three guests without any fuss. So thus it was, that Vera put down some of her things brought with…
[00:07] <@Minaplo> ["So what do you think, Colonel? It's pretty perfect, am I right?" Said Rosamund, smirking.-
[00:08] <@Minaplo> ["It's not bad." Said Eufemia, walking in after them, setting her own bag down before walking over to the couch and flopping onto it. "Did it come with a gaming console?"-
[00:08] <@Minaplo> ["Afraid not." Said Rosamund.-
[00:08] <@Minaplo> ["Oh. No problem, I brought my own."]
[00:10] * Vera stoically resisted the urge to facepalm. Damnit, Eufie, we are trying to social engineer here! "…Here's hoping you brought at /least/ one multiplayer game."
[00:19] <@Minaplo> [Eufemia rolled over, head lying on the cushion, feet up on the armrest, hands behind her head. "You play?"]
[00:25] * Vera waved her hand subtly. "A little. …I sort of mostly know of ugly watered-down strategy game mockups though." But then an eye tilted towards Rosamund. "Though the handful of contraband /real games/ was very welcome."
[00:27] <@Minaplo> ["No kidding." Said Rosamund. "I made a killing back then."-
[00:28] <@Minaplo> ["Strategy, huh. I don't have anything like that for my console, but my laptop might." Said Eufemia.]
[00:29] * Vera quickly waved her hand! "It's no secret I was trained by /very singleminded people/. Honestly, platformers or fighting games or /whatever/ were an extremely refreshing change of pace."
[00:36] <@Minaplo> ["Man, everyone loved those old fighters." Said Rosamund fondly. "I had a few games, and everyone'd play 'em, organising big tournaments and everything… I used to run betting pools and take a cut." She said as an aside to Eufemia.-
[00:36] <@Minaplo> ["Of course, the winner was almost always the same."]
[00:40] * Vera chuckled openly at that. "…Poor Wellesely. The /look on his face/ when he realized he just couldn't actually translate his real fighting and real strategic acumen to that was… mmm, priceless~ It's almost sad that Cornie didn't 'pass' the program. A /fun/ commanding officer that still knows how to get serious is the best one you can have."
[13:49] <Minaplo> ["If only it flowed the other way 'round, huh?" Asked Rosamund. "I might've actually won a battle at some point…"-
[13:51] * @Vera considered reaching over to pat Rosamund on the shoulder, but… Just smiled. "But in a /way/, that's only bad because they expected you to when it isn't suiting to you."
[14:01] <Minaplo> ["Pretty much. Ah well, whatever, right?" Said Rosamund, spinning off to grab her bag and head off to claim a bed.-
[14:05] <Minaplo> ["We have about three hours until I want to go visit Bernardo." Said Eufemia. "What do you want to do until then, Colonel?"]
[14:09] * @Vera folded her arms gently. "I have some ideas… it could've been going and seeing the sights… Maybe we could subtly mock Kader - kindly - and hit the beach?"
[14:13] <Minaplo> ["We'd be mocking Kader by going to the beach?"]
[14:15] * @Vera chuckled~ "Because when we talked about which Ops member was coming with me, he had this /big/ thing about wanting to hit the beach." …But then Vera leaned in conspiratorily, only pausing to brush away a lock of hair that got in her face. "He even muttered about missing his chance to see me in my bikini, the lech."
[14:20] <Minaplo> [Eufemia rubbed at her eyes. "Seriously?" She muttered, slightly exasperated. "You know, Colonel, I'm not entirely sure Kader knows any other women than the ones he runs into at base…"]
[14:26] <@Vera> "…Yeah." Vera said, losing the 'amused thunder'. "There's probably a deeper story, even if he's fun to tease."
[14:34] <Minaplo> ["Deeper story?"]
[14:37] * @Vera waved her hands a bit as some kind of rhetorical device. "Like he's got some reason for playing it up on-base like that."
[14:42] <Minaplo> ["What if he isn't playing it up, though?" Asked Eufemia. "What if beneath that carefully-constructed veneer of a sex-hungry lech there lurks a sex-hungry lech?"]
[14:46] <@Vera> "Like a candy-coated lollipop." Vera said with a nod.
[14:49] <Minaplo> ["All about the licks, huh?" Said Rosamund, returning, now luggage-less. "I'd prefer the metaphor of a matryoshka myself. Just a big ol' telepathic perverted matryoshka."-
[14:50] <Minaplo> ["What's a…?" Began Eufemia.-
[14:50] <Minaplo> ["Russian dolls- you put the little ones inside the big ones?"-
[14:50] <Minaplo> ["Oh." Eufemia looked over at Vera. "Can we go to the beach tomorrow instead? I'd be happy to just take in the sights today."]
[14:51] <@Vera> "Sure thing! Besides, if you didn't bring a swimsuit, we could always get one. Or something." Vera smiled pretty wide, before starting to stand up!… if she sat down.
[14:53] <Minaplo> ["I brought a swimsuit, it's fine."-#
[14:55] <Minaplo> [Rosamund flipped a small palm-sized object into the air, catching it. "Oi, Colonel. Holomap with the city on it, responds to verbal directions." She flipped it towards Vera. "I'll let you lead us to wherever today."]
[14:57] * @Vera caught it, as well! "You have way too many useful toys, Lieutenant." She half-teased, and… then the woman strode towards the door to the suite, picking up the room card-key in one smooth gesture. "Shall we?"
[14:58] <Minaplo> ["Let's."]
[15:05] <@Vera> » A few hours were spent wandering around the city. Vera seemed almost casually amused by the holomap, and soon they were all over town! Shopping districts… a brief jaunt up to stand under the Cristo Redentor, and more besides! But with some careful conspiracy work with Rosamund, the trio just /happened/ to be near where Bernardo was going to play, at about the right time to get the
[15:05] <@Vera> seats they wanted…
[15:09] <@Vera> » …Or maybe even early.
[15:17] <Minaplo> [It was a fairly major concert hall, and people were already starting to arrive for it- apparently they'd had the same idea. Nonetheless, through some clever maneuvering they were able to enter the hall itself ahead of the pack.-
[15:18] <Minaplo> [Eufemia looked around carefully and quickly as they entered the antechamber, then into the hall itself, where the stage was being set up. "We need to get backstage…"]
[15:19] * @Vera nodded /firmly/, and started to… nigh-overconfidently march towards the stage's direction~ "Just follow along. You're probably our way in…"
[15:30] <Minaplo> [And so Eufemia did, as did Rosamund, right down the middle…]
[15:32] * @Vera made her way… was there a door? Or would she have to climb onto the stage? Either one… either one would be /made so/, number one.
[15:39] <Minaplo> [There were doors on the far sides.]
[15:41] * @Vera would take them, in the guise of knocking. "Hey, would the main act be here? I have a certain someone here who's just /dying/ to say hi again~" …At which point she /so graciously/ nudged Eufie right over to the door, whispering. "Just be yourself!"
[15:48] <Minaplo> [The door opened, with one of the stage hands and a security guard peering out. The guard looked ready to push them away, but the stage hand's eyes narrowed and he pushed the guard aside. "Come in, quick."]
[15:50] * @Vera gently pushed at Eufemia, and was swiftly behind the younger girl, hoping Rosamund was on her way as well! Though she /did/ have a little smirk on her face…
[15:59] <Minaplo> [They moved inside, heading deeper backstage. The area was a flurry of activity as stage hands moved equipment, decorations and props around. Indeed, Vera, Eufemia and Rosamund had to move at quite the brisk pace to avoid getting in someone's way.-#
[16:08] <Minaplo> [Bernardo was a tall man with a scruffy… Air about him. His black hair was untidy and he looked as though he hadn't shaved in a few days.-
[16:08] <Minaplo> [But Eufemia's eyes lit up as she saw him, and she even began to smile. "Bernardo!"-
[16:12] <Minaplo> [He looked over at her, squinting slightly at first, before he suddenly got to his feet. "No way… Captain, is that you?"-
[16:18] <Minaplo> [Eufemia sprinted across the distance, throwing her arms around Bernardo's shoulders. The musician was a little shorter than she was. He quickly embraced her in return, clapping his hands firmly on her back.-
[16:18] <Minaplo> [Rosamund was peering curiously over Vera's shoulder. "Hmmmm…"]
[16:19] * @Vera leaned back slightly. "Hmmmm?"
[16:23] <Minaplo> ["Just wondering what you were thinking." Said Rosamund.-
[16:25] <Minaplo> ["Look at you, Bernardo." Said Eufemia, leaning back, her voice warm. "You've forgotten how to shave, you cheeky son of a bitch."-
[16:26] <Minaplo> ["Don't be so mean, Captain." Said Bernardo ruefully. "It's all for the look. You know, makes me look hardcore…"-
[16:26] <Minaplo> ["Unfed homeless is hardcore chic now?"]
[16:30] * @Vera sedately whispered to Rosamund, hands in her pockets. "That this seems to be working okay so far~"
[16:31] <Minaplo> ["Should we leave them to catch up?"]
[16:32] * @Vera nodded a confirmation, firmly enough that the peering Rosamund would feel it even if her eyes had the wrong angle.#
[16:43] <Minaplo> [And so they headed out, the loud, nigh-raucous conversation between the musician and the pilot following them right out the door.-
[16:43] <Minaplo> ["Well." Said Rosamund, stretching her hands above her head. "Whaddya think of -that-?"]
[16:46] <@Vera> "It's /different/ to say the least." Vera said. "I have /no/ idea yet about romance, but the two are clearly good friends, and it's been a while since they've been together anyway." There was a soft smile. "He's probably the best influence on her we can ask for."
[16:55] <Minaplo> ["You don't say, but, she showed more emotion there than she has in the last few months put together…"]
[17:01] * @Vera considered that and considered it /hard/. "…A most curious thing… You think maybe there's something keeping her from feeling 'right' with the whole… FCB apparatus? Or at least, anyone she tends to see on-base."
[17:20] <Minaplo> ["I'd say there might be, but you could say that she's had trouble feeling right with her partners, too, huh?"]
[17:28] <@Vera> "True." Vera said, looking around briefly. "So it's /more than that/. …Maybe he's the only one she's shared some things with?"
[17:31] <Minaplo> ["So he's special…?"]
[17:33] * @Vera had a distinct no-nonsense 'really?' look. Something like Misato might give Shinji… or maybe ~Raffy-kun~. "As a war buddy, sure."
[17:39] <Minaplo> ["So you think it has something to do with their history."]
[17:39] <@Vera> "That I do." Vera said, turning around and sort of… wiggling her finger in the air lightly.
[17:43] <Minaplo> ["We should talk with her folks when we get home." Said Rosamund. "Maybe turn up a few more 'old buddies' and see how that goes."]
[17:50] * @Vera changed the wiggle into a snap. "Excellent idea~ If the pattern proves true we can slowly unravel this mystery."
[17:53] <Minaplo> ["The mystery of what Eufemia's tiny matryoshka looks like…"]
[17:55] * @Vera nodded. "Layers within layers… I wonder if her matryoshka is as savory as an onion…~" Cooking references… not a good sign.
[17:56] <Minaplo> ["Or as sweet as a lollipop?"]
[17:59] * @Vera furrowed her brow lightly. "Lieutenant Prescott, if you make a reference to required amounts of licks - read /one/ - I will strongly consider whether you need to be on Iron Guard Body Oil Replenishment Duty." …It was clearly a joke. The official tone was /too/ official.
[18:01] <Minaplo> ["… What's this about Guard oil now?"]
[18:02] <@Vera> "Have you ever noticed how /shiny/ the Vice-commander's upper body gets after a Danger Room run? It's uncanny." Vera said with the appropriate level of bizarre seriousness. "…but mostly it's just an amusing punishment duty."
[18:03] <Minaplo> ["… Uh-huh. But would you really consider it a punishment, Colonel~?"]#

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