Raphael At The Surprise Party

[16:17] <Minaplo> [American Intelligence had a presence in Paris-2, and without going into detail, it was the sort of presence that was both clandestine and made up of many shades of grey. To cut to the heart of the matter- procuring invitations to the 'Grand Introduction Ball' proved to be rather easy.-
[16:19] <Minaplo> [And so now the pair of them stood inside Doctor Surov's Rare Equipment Vault, Surov's mechadendrites swarming around Raphael, taking his measurements. Minerva was standing beside him, pretending to watch but mostly finding her gaze drifting back towards the Slaughterdroid in its pod. Its eyes were staring at her.-
[16:19] <Minaplo> [It was two hours until the start of the mission. Surov took a step back.-
[16:20] <Minaplo> ["Suit D-3."-
[16:20] <Minaplo> [A Mechadendrite opened a nearby closet and took out a perfect tuxedo and a small, hard bag. Both were shoved towards Raphael.-
[16:20] <Minaplo> ["Changing rooms are over there."]
[16:30] * Raphael grunts as the bag is shoved against his chest, but otherwise accepts both items without comment. Slinging the tuxedo over one arm and ducking a flailing mechadendrite he heads towards the changing room, already working on unfastening the buttons of his uniform coat.
[16:32] <Minaplo> ["The Bondsuit is quite resistant to most normal small arms." Said Surov, trailing off after Raphael with his own unerring steps. "It won't serve as a proper suit of armour, but it does give you more survival. Your own extreme talents at mayhem should permit you to survive should it come to that."]
[16:35] * Raphael gives Surov a sour look as he pulls off his shirt, nudging the door shut to permit himself some privacy - for what little good that would do when one of the two other people in the room could see through walls.-
[16:35] <Raphael> "I'm hoping to avoid anything so drastic." He replies.
[16:36] <Minaplo> ["No doubt. In any case, that bag contains a specially made rail pistol. It's silenced, and it folds up into a shape reminiscent of a large cigarette lighter. It can be hidden in one of the pockets of your suit."]
[16:38] <Raphael> "Why thank you, Q."
[16:39] <Minaplo> [There was a giggle from outside.-
[16:40] <Minaplo> [There was a pause from Surov, then a sigh of irritation. "Don't flatter yourself, Guillory. I fully expect you to return with all of my projects completely destroyed- I won't even bother asking you to avoid their destruction."]
[16:51] <Raphael> "I've brought the last handful back entirely unharmed, Doctor." Raphael says irritably.
[16:53] <Minaplo> ["Luck. The cufflinks are also explosive- keep that in mind."]
[16:55] <Raphael> "… I'm assuming one would need to go to some effort to make them explode, though." Raphael says, a little more hopefully than he'd intended.
[16:59] <Minaplo> [There was another giggle from Minerva.-
[16:59] <Minaplo> ["There is a mechanism built into the cufflinks that activates the explosive when it is twisted by a full rotation."]
[17:05] <Raphael> "Noted." The rustle of fabric on the other side of the door grows louder as Raphael begins straightening out the suit.
[17:06] <Minaplo> ["How's it coming? Does it fit ok?" Asked Minerva.]
[17:15] <Raphael> "Surprisingly well, actually." Comes the response.-
[17:15] <Raphael> … And sure enough a moment later the door opens again to reveal the Captain in a rather handsome black tuxedo. Indeed, the cut is perfect enough that it seemed tailored specifically for him.
[17:19] <Minaplo> ["Surprisingly nothing." Muttered Surov.-
[17:20] <Minaplo> [But Minerva, blushing slightly, glided over. "You look very dashing." She said, giving him a wide, warm smile. "Do you -feel- dashing, Mr. Zachary Roulle?"]
[17:31] * Raphael gives the outfit a thoughtful look before nodding once. "I think it will do, ma'am."
[17:31] <Minaplo> ["Good." She offered him her arm.]
[17:38] * Raphael is still for a moment, hesitating, before gingerly hooking accepting her arm. "We're ready, then?"
[17:43] <Minaplo> ["Indeed."-
[17:47] <Minaplo> [From there, it was a relatively quick walk out into an elevator and up to a secret surface carpark, where they were loaded into a limousine by a grim-faced CIA man and a laid back S2 fellow.-
[17:48] <Minaplo> ["Now remember." Said Minerva. "My name is Amelie Levesque, and we belong to a rogue international espionage mercenary group. Our goal is to find the location of Alphonse Wellesley- everything else is secondary."]
[18:04] <Raphael> "Of course." Raphael nods, examining the lighter-pistol with a professional eye. "That said, if there is an opportunity to eliminate Blue…"-
[18:04] <Raphael> His voice is worryingly cold as he trails off, flicking the pistol back into its lighter form.
[18:05] <Minaplo> ["Don't go looking for said opportunities." Said Minerva. "We need to be able to exfiltrate as well."]
[18:07] <Raphael> "… Mmm. Don't worry, ma'am. I won't allow personal feelings to interfere."
[18:11] <Minaplo> ["Good." Said Minerva, nodding firmly.-
[18:19] <Minaplo> [The next half hour passed peacefully enough. The roads were, as usual, only moderately busy and they made good time. Eventually they'd come to a place on the inner outskirts of Paris-2.-
[18:20] <Minaplo> [It was a manor, a large, rather lavish three-storey building with an elaborate courtyard and garden. Shiny cars lined the road leading to the manor, guests and partygoers making their way in.]
[12:25] <Raphael> "Hardly making an effort to conceal himself, is he?" Raphael murmurs, shaking his head as he allows the limo to pull to a stop. He seems increasingly restless, toying with his lapels as he waits for the all clear from the driver.
[12:46] <Minaplo> ["He hardly has to, really." Said Minerva. The car stops, and after a few seconds the door on Raphael's side opens.-
[12:46] <Minaplo> ["After you, Mr. Roulle."-
[12:47] <Minaplo> [It's a short process to leave the car and show themselves to security, presenting an invitation to the tuxedo-clad scowling security guard, then entering the manor's grand hall.-
[12:50] <Minaplo> [The hall was truly lavish, with floors of polished, shimmering malachite in Greek patterns beneath tall pillars of white granite. The walls were solid stone with a faux-marble finish. It was, simply put, a massive display of largesse.-
[12:54] <Minaplo> [The 'party area' was made up of three main areas. The central grand hall itself; and two wings to the left and right, the Left Wing and Right Wing respectively. The central hall connected to each of these wings in three ways; a normal corridor, but also two interior rooms with doors and walls on each side.-
[12:55] <Minaplo> [The central hall also had a grand staircase leading to the upper floor.-
[12:57] <Minaplo> [The 'ball' part of the gathering hadn't started yet; instead the partygoers lined the outer wall, socialising and partaking of hors d'oeuvres, amuse-bouches, cocktails and aperitifs from the platters and tables.]
[13:16] * Raphael shifts his grip on Minerva's arm uncomfortably, reminding himself too late to relax. It had taken some work to convince him that an infiltration of this… elaborate nature was necessary. "What first, Miss Levesque?" He asks quietly, even as he scans the room for familiar faces and exit routes.
[13:23] <Minaplo> ["We ought to socialise. I'm thinking we split up, and we'll canvass the crowd, try to gain a few friends, learn about our host and what they think of him."]
[13:53] <Raphael> He stifles the urge to argue. While it might have seemed roundabout to him, he had to remember that this was, for now, Minerva's world. It was her instincts he needed to trust right now, not his own. "… Mmm. I'll see what I can do."
[13:54] <Minaplo> ["Very good." She patted his hand as she disengaged from his arm. "If you're nervous, target the women first." She said, and although her advice was perfectly valid, it nevertheless carried the hint of playful teasing.]
[13:56] <Raphael> "Not funny, miss." He mutters… But yes, perfectly valid.
[13:57] <Minaplo> [She flashes him a lovely smile before she heads off towards a clump of people near the staircase.-
[14:07] <Minaplo> [Raphael would find himself drifting off towards the drinks. Sparkling wine, beer from Germany, the Czech Republic, Polish and Russian vodka… It was all very European, very expensive, very free.-
[14:11] <Minaplo> [Nearby was a group of four guests; an older male and female couple, along with a man of Raphael's age, and a girl just a little older than Minerva. They were talking…]
[14:16] * Raphael scans the labels on the alcohol, finally settling on a particularly expensive red wine from one of the surviving pre-Impact vineyards. Even as he took his first sip, though, his focus was on the voices carrying over to him from the nearby guests…
[14:19] <Minaplo> ["… I don't think much of Gio." Said the older man, a red-haired fellow with a hard face and an even harder body. He was akin to a rock given legs. "He's always been a weak milksop of a boy, Roberto always was too fucking soft on him…"-
[14:20] <Minaplo> ["He haid to be soft on someone, mai main." Said the middle-aged man, a blonde, nasally, gangly, pale fellow. "He was ever so haird on his mein…"-
[14:21] <Minaplo> ["Still, it's a shame about Roberto. Soft or no, hard or no for that matter-" The older woman spoke, shooting the nasally fellow a stern look, "He did good by us."]
[14:38] <Raphael> Another sip. He couldn't linger too long at the table, not without making his intentions obvious, but it was easy enough to wander towards the staircase to allow himself a little more time to overhear the conversation.
[14:42] <Minaplo> ["I'm sorry," Said the youngest, the girl. "I've been a bit out of the loop, what -is- happening now that old Bertie's bit the bucket?"-
[14:42] <Minaplo> ["Kicked thah bucket." Corrected the nasally fellow.-
[14:43] <Minaplo> ["Well normally, Gio'd be in charge, but no one wants that limp-wristed fucker in charge and the capos know it." Said the red-haired brickhouse. "… Not that I'm much sold on their solution."-
[14:43] <Minaplo> ["Their solution?"-
[14:44] <Minaplo> ["Well, we're here for that Mr. Blue hockey puck motherfucker takin' over for the Parrinos, but it turns out the Costas want him lookin' out for them until Gio's pair drop."]
[15:01] * Raphael allows himself to drift a little closer, leaning against the staircase railing. He's not /quite/ joining the circle of guests but settling close enough to be well within the red-head's field of view as he seems to direct his attention out towards the crowd.
[15:05] <Minaplo> ["A bit weird to give an outsider that much power, isn't it?" Asked the girl.-
[15:06] <Minaplo> ["It -is- very strange, but this Mr. Blue seems to know what he's doing." Said the older woman.-
[15:06] <Minaplo> ["I hair he's a spy. Or he used to be a spy for the LN." Said the nasally man.-
[15:06] <Minaplo> ["… Is it safe for us and ours to be around someone like that?" Replied the girl.-
[15:07] <Minaplo> ["It's never safe." Said the red-haired man. "With or without strange ratbastards, so just get over it."]
[15:33] <Raphael> "He's right, I'm afraid." Raphael says, finally speaking up. He takes a sip of wine. "And at least this new boss of yours isn't pissing off NERV for kicks, right?"
[15:36] <Minaplo> ["Who're you?" Asks the red-haired man suspiciously, although considering his demeanor, 'suspiciously' is probably how he does everything.]
[15:43] * Raphael smiles, a business card appearing in his hand - drawn from one pocket or another - to be offered to the man. "Zachary Roulle." He says, by way of greeting; The business card offers more, though, embossed with both his name, an international phone number and the words 'Allingham Risk Assessment'.
[15:43] <Minaplo> ["Allingham Risk-?"-
[15:44] <Minaplo> [The man snorts, although whether it's a snort of derision or- er- respect- is difficult to gauge. "I didn't know your lot'd be invited."]
[15:48] * Raphael shrugs, finally pushing away from the wall to join the group and giving the other three a broad smile. "Simple professional courtesy, I'm sure."
[15:54] <Minaplo> ["Hmph." The man hands the card back.-
[15:55] <Minaplo> [But the older woman takes Raphael's hand in both of her own. They are warm hands, but they are hard and leathery and calloused, and despite looking like she was in her fifties, there was considerable strength in them. "It's lovely to meet you, Mr. Roulle. My, but you're handsome."]
[16:01] * Raphael meets her eyes, still smiling even as he quietly gauges that strength. "You're very kind, ma'am, very kind. It's excellent to meet you as well, although I'm not sure I got your name…?"
[16:08] <Minaplo> ["Cynthia. Cynthia de Vries. No doubt you've heard of us?"]
[16:24] <Raphael> "Of course, of course." The lie comes out smoothly enough, but inside his head he can feel himself cringe. "A pleasure, Mrs. de Vries. Enjoying the party, I hope?"
[16:24] <Minaplo> [The redheaded man narrows his eyes a little, but Cynthia takes no notice.-
[16:25] <Minaplo> ["Oh, at this point I've been to far too many to really enjoy the party. Watching the people is fun though, no? It's a bit of a hobby of mine. Not surprising considering-"-
[16:26] <Minaplo> ["Allingham Risk?" Asked the nasally man. "Is that some kainda troubleshootair group?"]
[16:37] <Raphael> "More or less." Raphael says, swivelling to face the other man and managing to remove his hand from de Vries' grip in the process. "We… 'provide the tools our contractors need to ensure success' is the company line, I believe."
[16:40] <Minaplo> ["Are you one of those tools, Mr. Roulle?" Asked the young lady.]
[16:41] * Raphael glances at the red-headed man and grins. "Some would say so."
[16:42] <Minaplo> ["Humph."-
[16:46] <Minaplo> ["And what sort of nails have you hit, Mr. Roulle?"]
[16:52] <Raphael> "Oh, it's all quite confidential I'm afraid." Raphael says soberly, even as his eyes glitter over the top of the wine glass.
[16:53] <Minaplo> [She chuckled to herself. "What a pity."-
[16:54] <Minaplo> ["I dairsay he hasn't hit mainy nails at all." Murmured Nasally Fellow. "I've never haird of you."]
[16:59] <Raphael> "Only a fool pursues notoreity and espionage at the same time, my friend." Raphael says politely, straightening one of his lapels.
[17:03] <Minaplo> [The nasally man huffed at that, and turned on his heel, stalking off.]
[17:06] * Raphael sips his wine and watches him go, looking altogether unconcerned. "… So have any of you met this new boss?"
[17:07] <Minaplo> ["No." Said the red-haired man brusquely.-
[17:08] <Minaplo> ["I hear he's a strange fellow." Said Cynthia.]
[17:08] <Raphael> "How so?"
[17:10] <Minaplo> ["I was speaking to one of the capos-" Began Cynthia, before shaking her head. "No, I really shouldn't."]
[17:15] <Raphael> "Ah." Raphael nods, looking faintly disappointed. "Of course, Mrs. de Vries, I understand."
[17:17] <Minaplo> ["… Well, I suppose it couldn't hurt." She mumbled. "It's really just a bit of a silly story, he was probably making it up, you see…"]
[17:19] * Raphael just smiles encouragingly as he finishes off the wine, waiting for her to continue.
[17:23] <Minaplo> ["Well, one of the capos said that after the kerfuffle with Roberto, they found the new man carving Roberto's name into his own chest."]
[17:27] <Raphael> "… Into Roberto's chest? Or Blue's?"
[17:27] <Minaplo> ["Into Blue's."-
[17:27] <Minaplo> ["Hah. Like there's much of Roberto left to carve anything into." Muttered the Red-Haired Brickhouse.]
[17:30] <Raphael> "Huh." Raphael mutters, looking thoughtful. "Might be true, might not. You certainly have to be an odd one to inspire stories like that, though…"
[17:53] <Minaplo> ["Mebbe he feels responsible somehow." Said Red-Haired Brickhouse.]
[17:54] <Raphael> "Any reason to?"
[17:56] <Minaplo> ["He's takin' over from Roberto. It could be a way of remindin' him of his duties."]
[17:57] <Raphael> "Maybe." Raphael nods.
[18:02] <Minaplo> ["Maybe you can ask him later." Said the young girl. "I'm sure he'll let you inspect his body."]
[18:05] * Raphael glances at the girl, raising an eyebrow. He hoped the makeup portion of his disguise would hide the heat he was feeling in the tips of his ears. "Do you think so, ma'am?"
[18:06] <Minaplo> ["I definitely hope so."]
[18:11] * Raphael squints a little, but shakes his head. He's managed to retain his smile. "I see."
[18:13] <Minaplo> ["Ah, we should be getting on." Said Cynthia. "I've just seen young Mr. Alves in the crowd, I think I ought to say hello…"]
[18:21] <Raphael> "Of course. So nice to meet you all." He nods, offering what handshakes and goodbyes were required before letting the trio slip back into the crowd.
[23:01] <@Raphael> Alves. Raphael looks towards the figure Cynthia had indicated and spares the man a look of guarded curiosity. He would need to seek that one out when he had the chance, given the reports he'd read regarding his involvement with Pilot Zhang.-
[23:02] <@Raphael> Still, it was better to let that wait until some of the attention had been turned away from him. For now he drifts back towards the tables as the group departs, refilling his wine as he searches the crowd for Minerva.
[23:15] <Minaplo> [Minerva- or rather, Miss Levesque- was mingling flawlessly with a small group of guests, being generally graceful and pretty as a picture. The group was mostly men, with one woman that reminded him strangely of Dr. Riel.-
[23:15] <Minaplo> [Perhaps it was the cheekbones?]
[23:18] <@Raphael> He ignored the reflexive shudder of dislike. Perhaps it couldn't hurt to check in on her, if only for a moment…
[23:25] <Minaplo> [… "And of course, Allingham Risk Assessment has been keeping very busy recently. We took out a contract with- ah, you know I can't say." She chuckled coyly at one of the guests- an older, strong-looking man with blonde hair and thick sideburns. "In any case, I'd be happy to take your details down and I'll let you know when we're free."-
[23:33] <Minaplo> ["You won't say?" Asked one of the other men skeptically. "Sounds dangerous. I pray you know what you're doing…"]
[23:43] * @Raphael appears at Minerva's shoulder, giving respectful nods to anyone who glanced his way and doing his best to play the role of quiet bodyguard until acknowledged.
[23:47] <Minaplo> ["Ah, Mr. Roulle. Everyone, this is Mr. Roulle, one of my best employees." Said Minerva warmly, gesturing towards him.-
[23:49] <Minaplo> [There were general murmurs of neutral greeting and welcome.-
[23:50] <Minaplo> ["Mr. Roselle here-" She gestured towards the youngest of them- "Says that there's going to be a speech very soon."]
[23:56] * @Raphael returns the greetings where necessary, remaining similarly neutral. "Ah. Our generous host, I assume?"
[00:17] <Minaplo> ["Indeed." Said Minerva.-
[00:17] <Minaplo> ["There's going to be a dance." Said Mr. Roselle.-
[00:18] <Minaplo> ["Mr. Roselle has already offered to lead me onto the dance floor." Said Minerva sweetly, patting Raphael's arm.-
[00:18] <Minaplo> ["You ought to hurry, Mr. Roulle." Said the Riel-esque woman. "Or else all the eligible women will be taken."]
[00:29] <@Raphael> "I'll keep my eyes open." Raphael says, giving her a smile.
[00:34] <Minaplo> ["Picked up any interesting tidbits from your end, Mr. Roulle?" Asked Minerva.]
[00:39] <@Raphael> "Just finished speaking with Mrs. de Vries, actually." Raphael says mildly, careful to speak the last name as if he understand its importance.
[00:42] <Minaplo> ["Oh really? How is she these days?"]
[16:22] <Raphael> "Well enough. As interested to learn more about our host as the rest of us, I suspect."
[16:29] <Minaplo> ["He's a bit of a mystery, heh heh." Said Mr. Roselle. "Did the old bat tell you anything worth hearing?"]
[16:33] <Raphael> "Not really, I'm afraid." He sighs. "Even having a little gossip floating about would make me feel more comfortable about this. It's all too secretive, don't you think?"
[16:36] <Minaplo> ["Oh indeed, heh heh. I wonder what he's got to hide?"-
[16:37] <Minaplo> ["Oh, Mr. Roselle." Minerva giggled. She turned to Raphael. "Mr. Roselle knows a little more than he lets on. He's very good at that sort of thing, you know… Finding things out."-
[16:37] <Minaplo> [Mr. Roselle preened.]
[16:37] <Raphael> "Is that right?"
[16:42] <Minaplo> ["Oh, well, I don't like to brag…" He said, puffing out his chest. "I do know a few people with their fingers on the pulse, of course…"]
[16:49] <Raphael> "Then you're a lucky man. It can be damned hard to find decent sources in this city."
[16:55] <Minaplo> ["Yes." Agreed Minerva. "We've been trying for a while to find out a little more about all of this…"-
[16:55] <Minaplo> ["Oh? Is that so?" Asked Mr. Roselle, looking between them. "Well…"]
[16:58] * Raphael glances at Minerva out of the corner of his eye, trying to get a read on her expression even as he remains silent and waits to see if Roselle will continue.
[17:00] <Minaplo> [Minerva is looking on politely, her eyes straying towards other parts of the room, other groups, looking just ever a little bored…-
[17:00] <Minaplo> ["Perhaps I could introduce you to someone, Mr. Roulle!"]
[17:01] <Raphael> His focus is immediately back on the other man, a faint smile coming to his lips. "Very generous of you, Mr. Roselle."
[17:15] <Minaplo> [He points to a distant group in the western corridor, made of an older man, a boy of around eleven or twelve, and an Asian woman of about eighteen or nineteen.-
[17:15] <Minaplo> ["Speak to Liang Xiaomei- she has a few, aha, insights you might find interesting."]
[17:19] <Raphael> "I see…" He considers the pair in silence for a long moment, nodding slowly. "I appreciate the tip, sir."
[17:27] <Minaplo> ["Good. I'm- I'm glad you appreciate it." Said Mr. Roselle firmly.]
[17:33] * Raphael eyes Roselle for a moment longer, allowing the faintest of smirks to show through. "Keep an eye on Miss Levesque for me, would you?" He says to the other man, reaching down to lightly touch his hand to Minerva's wrist, still smiling.-
[17:33] <Raphael> Without another word he sets off through the crowd, making a beeline to the trio Roselle had pointed to.
[17:47] <Minaplo> ["… At your age, but if you're not careful you'll still snap your wrist." Said Xiaomei to the boy, who looked slightly crestfallen.]
[18:22] * Raphael 's eyebrow rises as he closes the last metre or so, but he doesn't break his stride. Confidence was the thing. "Miss Liang?"
[18:35] <Minaplo> [She turns. "… Yeah?"]
[18:38] * Raphael offers a hand, trying to let his instincts take over. "Zachary Roulle. I apologize for interrupting, but a certain Mr. Roselle suggested I speak to you…"
[18:39] <Minaplo> [She took his hand and shook it. She had a firm grip, but a sour expression. "Oh shit, really?"]
[18:40] * Raphael smiles at that. "I'm afraid so."
[18:43] <Minaplo> ["Tch." She turns about and ruffles the boy's hair. "We'll talk later, Peter. Care for a drink, Mr. Zachary?"]
[18:44] * Raphael makes a thoughtful noise. "… One more couldn't hurt." He says finally.
[18:46] <Minaplo> [It's important at this point to note that Liang Xiaomei is about 5'4", petite, with short brown hair, going against the grain by wearing striped black trousers, dress shoes, a frilly white silk shirt and a black vest.-
[18:46] <Minaplo> [She reaches into a pocket and takes out a drinking flask, offering it to Raphael wordlessly.]
[18:52] * Raphael accepts the flask without comment, and though he brings it up to his mouth he's careful not to let any past his lips. Paranoia, perhaps, but tonight that sort of thing could be useful.
[18:58] <Minaplo> [She leads him a little ways away from the boy and his guardian.-
[18:58] <Minaplo> ["So what did old Piss-Pants Roselle want?"]
[18:59] <Raphael> "You don't care for him, then?" Raphael asks mildly.
[19:02] <Minaplo> ["He's a peacock." Said Xiaomei huffily. "He comes into my store, fondles up my guns for a few hours, then runs off and buys some gold-plated piece of crap that he can't use properly… He's just embarrassing to everyone who knows him?"]
[19:04] * Raphael grins. "Ah. The Desert Eagle fan. Unfortunate."
[19:05] <Minaplo> ["Right. That's how he got the name Piss-Pants? He was scuffling somewhere, his gun jammed…"]
[19:07] <Raphael> "… Oh dear."
[19:07] <Minaplo> ["I laughed so hard when I heard it? He bought a gun from me the day after~"-
[19:08] <Minaplo> ["… He probably didn't want you to know that story, but that's his fault?"]
[19:12] <Raphael> "Well, he did tell me to speak to you if I happened to be looking for information…"
[19:18] <Minaplo> ["Info?"]
[15:34] * Raphael chuckles. "You know what he's like, from what I can tell." He says with a shrug. "He made a lot of fuss about how much he knew about this Mr. Blue, only to tell me that he apparently found it out through you."
[15:37] <Minaplo> ["Sounds about right. You're looking to know about Mr. Blue, then?"]
[15:38] <Raphael> "If there's info to be had, certainly."
[15:46] <Minaplo> ["Hm, ok. I know he's come into my shop looking for a few things. Usually small explosives. He actually seems to know what he's doing- he's pretty talkative, at least."]
[15:59] <Raphael> "Is that right?"#
[16:04] <Minaplo> ["Yeah. Actually, I did a bit of digging and found that he used some of my bombs for that big ol' mess a while back. Did you hear about that? Gio Costa went and did a stupid by pickin' on a NERVite."]
[16:06] <Raphael> "… Oh, in the restaurant?" He grins, shaking his head. "Yeah, I think just about everyone heard about that."
[16:07] <Minaplo> ["… No?" She frowned, folding her arms. "That was Parrino. I meant the mess awhile back when Rob Costa bit it."]#
[16:57] * Raphael winces, having the good sense to look sheepish. "Sorry. I guess I'm getting my wires crossed."
[16:58] <Minaplo> ["Hah. Camorra and Mafia hate being confused for one another. You lucked out. I won't tell anyone."-
[16:59] <Minaplo> ["But yeah. It looks like Gio Costa went out and attacked some NERV folks, and that started this huge clusterfuck right off. Rob had to get involved, and that's where this Mr. Blue fellow comes in, because it looks like he tried to stop the attack."]
[16:05] <Raphael> "Why the attack in the first place, though? It never made sense to me that the Comorra would attack NERV that openly, and nothing I've found has been able to explain it."
[16:06] <Minaplo> ["Mm… We're starting to get into territory I'm not too wise on? I -think- it was a mistake. I think I remember someone saying that Gio Costa fucked up somewhere and they weren't supposed to do anything."]
[16:11] * Raphael nods slowly, glancing back over the crowd. "I see…" he says mildly, not bothering to mask the doubt in his voice. "But you were saying Mr. Blue attempted to stop it?"
[16:18] <Minaplo> ["Yeah, and that's where I come in. See, Mr. Blue tried to stop it by using these knives of his- I dunno what he does, but they explode? He wanted to take out Rob Costa's car, since Rob was takin' goons to help Gio. But there was something wrong with this one knife and the explosion was bigger than Blue expected, and Rob died."-
[16:19] <Minaplo> ["As it turns out, he bought the explosives from me, but the batch he used- the supplier cheaped out and used the wrong materials? It was totally volatile."]
[16:29] <Raphael> "… That's some poor luck."
[16:34] <Minaplo> ["Seriously?" She sighed. "He was pretty angry with me after all that. Like it's my fault my suppliers are cheap sons of bitches."]
[16:45] * Raphael chuckles. "Does he still buy from you?"
[16:47] <Minaplo> ["Less than he used to? Ugh.."-
[16:47] <Minaplo> ["You got your info, then?"]
[16:50] <Raphael> "I think so." He says, offering his hand. "Thanks for your time, Miss Liang. Enjoy the rest of your evening."
[16:50] <Minaplo> ["You too." She took his hand and shook it.-
[16:52] <Minaplo> [There was a murmur across the crowd, now. Something had caught it's attention. Some loud tapping was coming from the grand staircase…-
[16:53] <Minaplo> ["Ahem. Tap tap tap. Speech time, bitches!"]
[17:39] <Raphael> "…" Raphael feels his fists clench before his higher brain even registers the identity of the voice that's now echoing through the hall, and by that point it takes a concerted effort to fight back the anger he feels rising in his chest. The man who had caused so much pain to so many of his friends… and to Rei.-
[17:40] <Raphael> Forcing his expression back to a state of calm, he turns to face the stairway and waits.
[17:47] <Minaplo> [The other guests have also turned to face him as well, and are listening. Love him or hate him, they were all, to a man and woman, interested in what he had to say.-
[17:47] <Minaplo> ["Ok, everyone's eyes over here? Ok? Good."-
[17:48] <Minaplo> ["I am Mr. Blue. I am your host, and I guess I'm like your leader now or something too, because hot damn, the Criminal Underground elections came in and what a surprise, they chose someone with -style-."-
[17:49] <Minaplo> ["No, really, it is a surprise, I've seen the people you guys call leaders and really it's only by the grace of God that you're all still alive right now. Your leaders suck."]
[17:50] <Raphael> … An interesting way to make a first impression, certainly. Raphael cast a few discreet glances towards the crowd around him, trying to read the mood.
[17:51] <Minaplo> [Some of them were laughing, but a fair few were giving him suspect looks. Clearly they were not used to being mocked, and right now they weren't sure if he was just a joker or actively mocking them.-
[17:52] <Minaplo> ["Alright, first thing on the agenda for tonight, let's see, let's see- oh -right-. I wanted to congratulate everyone in this room on their solid psychological fortitude. C'mon, let's get an applause going."-
[17:52] <Minaplo> [He clapped his hands together. Few people joined in, and they quickly died away.-
[17:54] <Minaplo> ["C'mon, c'mon, you guys deserve it, really! Don't be shy. I mean, I'm really impressed! This morning, after I got over my absinthe hangover, I said to myself, 'You know, these guys aren't too bad. Their entire lives are built around killing and plundering the weak, but they've wrapped it up in their own intricate system of ethical justifications and codes so they can pretend they're not all pieces of shit to a man'."-
[17:54] <Minaplo> [There was a lot of angry muttering at this. A lot of the older guests looked positively murderous, ironically enough.]
[17:59] <Raphael> By the time Blue had finished with his final sentence Raphael was already begin to carefully make his way back through the crowd towards where he'd left Minerva, doing his best not to gain too much notice.
[18:02] <Minaplo> ["Alright, then, you fuckin' vultures. The music's rrrrrready to go! I just got a new kickass sound system put in, oh man, you should check this shit out. Who's up for some Autograph?"-
[18:02] <Minaplo> ["No? Salieri it is, then, you boring dicks."-
[18:02] <Minaplo> [Minerva was watching all of this with her head tilted distinctly to the left. Raphael caught her eye and she looked over at him curiously.]
[18:08] * Raphael leans in alongside her, almost whispering in her ear. "Whatever we're doing, ma'am, we need to begin soon. I don't like where this is going."
[18:09] <Minaplo> ["Not a fan of Italian Classical?"-
[18:09] <Minaplo> ["No, sorry, you're right. Think we should try to corner him?"]
[18:12] * Raphael frowns a little at the joke as he looks towards the stairs. "… Not now. Too many ways it could go wrong, and I don't like my chances against him on my own. We need another way to get to the Major."
[18:13] <Minaplo> ["He can't be the only person who knows where Wellesley is. He has to have an aide or something…"-
[18:14] <Minaplo> [People were starting to stream onto the dance floor, now. Mr. Roselle was beelining towards them.-
[18:14] <Minaplo> ["Ah, crap. Guillory, do your best to find that out. Ask if he has a secretary, an aide, whatever you can."]
[18:28] <Raphael> "Of course." He says seriously… only to let a tiny, tiny smirk peek through. "Have fun, ma'am."
[18:28] <Minaplo> ["Mm." She gives him a truly dark look.-
[18:29] <Minaplo> [The crowd is dancing in earnest now, and Mr. Blue has left the staircase. There are a few people who aren't dancing, either the very old or the very young, or people who don't feel like dancing. Perhaps Raphael could take a word in from them?-
[18:29] <Minaplo> [Or he could poke around of course…]
[18:34] <Raphael> Valid options, but Raphael had different priorities. His eyes turned back towards Mr. Blue's crew as Raphael himself drifted back towards one of the tables. He would spend a few silent minutes watching those moving in and out of the new mafia boss' orbit, with a particular eye on those who seemed like important figures…
[18:38] <Minaplo> [It seemed that in some ways the Mafia followed Waagh rules of leadership, as the most important figures seemed (to Raphael's eye) to be the biggest or tallest fellows. Some of them had huge deep voices that Raphael could hear even above the din, although he could rarely make the words out properly. None of them looked light-hearted; in fact they all had serious faces.-
[18:43] <Minaplo> [There were about three or four that were either talking directly to Mr. Blue or remained in his 'orbit'; a huge man with a mighty frame that, to Raphael's eye, looked as though he would've done well in the Iron Guard program; a tall, thin old man with an ornamental cane and grey-black hair; a woman with long red hair that wore her black dress and heels with all the ferocious confidence of a knight in his harness; and an impressively overweight man in a luxurious gold-red coat.]
[18:55] * Raphael sips on the newest drink to find its way into his hands as he examines the group, eyes narrowing slightly at some private thought as he settles down to wait.
[19:00] <Minaplo> [And so waiting occurs.-
[19:01] <Minaplo> [It takes fifteen minutes for an appreciable change to occur. Slowly the bosses seem to disperse a little, or at least widen their orbit. The redheaded woman disenages, striking up a conversation with a thin redheaded young man who had been hanging about the meeting. Before long, they too separate and the woman strides off out of the dancing area.]
[19:02] <Raphael> … And a moment later, Raphael follows.
[19:12] <Minaplo> [The woman doesn't look at him or even show a sign of noticing him as she parks herself next to the food table. Raphael would notice that other people were giving her something of a wide berth…]
[19:51] * Raphael concentrates on ignoring the crowd as he arrives at the table a moment later, finding himself a plate from the stack and beginning to pick over the plates of food without any obvious hurry.
[19:55] <Minaplo> [The woman pauses very briefly, glancing over towards him. She doesn't have ice blue cold eyes, as the trope demands, but rather quiet grey ones. She seems fond of pastries, as she demonstrates a moment later by returning to gathering a great deal of them onto her plate.]
[07:32] <Raphael> "Are they any good?" Raphael asks eventually, not turning towards her as he deliberates over the options arrayed across the table, finally loading a couple of tiny chicken pies onto his plate as he speaks.
[07:41] * Sept has joined #nervfrance3
[07:46] <Minaplo> ["Good enough. Better than B Rations."]
[07:49] <Raphael> "Mmm." He murmurs thoughtfully, snagging on from the table and popping it easily into his mouth and chewing.-
[07:49] <Raphael> "… They are that, at least."
[07:54] <Minaplo> [She turns to look at him.-
[07:55] <Minaplo> ["… You know the difference?" She asks suspiciously. She clearly thinks he's just trying to peacock.]
[08:05] * Raphael shows just the hint of a smile as he seizes one of the pies this time, unruffled by the her suspicion. "A man can look good in a suit and still have served, ma'am."
[08:14] <Minaplo> ["True, but you barely look like a man at all."]
[08:23] <Raphael> "Surely you know not everyone cares about how old the people holding their guns are?"
[08:29] <Minaplo> ["… Yeah." She turned to face him fully now, her eyes narrowing, not from hostility… But from scrutiny.-
[08:29] <Minaplo> ["Where've you served?"]
[08:45] <Raphael> "Formally?" He asks lightly, tearing at another piece of pastry. "Spent a lot of years in the Balkans, back when they were still getting themselves together after Impact. My parents were Albanian, but the borders weren't exactly clear for a few years there." He shrugs.
[09:22] <Minaplo> ["The Balkans?" She refocuses on him even more sharply now. "… I see."-
[09:25] <Minaplo> [There's a sort of… Respect there, it seems, grudgingly given. "I don't know who you are…?"]
[09:31] <Raphael> Another of those business cards comes to his hand, his food quickly set aside. "Zachary Roulle. Just one of those here to keep business ties alive."
[09:37] <Minaplo> ["I see." She closes her eyes, as if to try to remember if she's seen or heard of the content before… Before opening her eyes again. "How do you feel, Zachary? Like a minnow in a lake of sharks?"]
[09:43] <Raphael> "Oh, nothing so dramatic. These events aren't my speciality, but if it's where I'm required…" He trails off with another shrug. "How about you?"
[09:44] <Minaplo> ["Feeling like one of the sharks in a lake of minnows." To demonstrate that she isn't boasting, she flicks her eyes towards the other people, who are still giving her a wide berth.]
[09:55] <Raphael> "Ah." He grins knowingly, eyeing the crowd. "I… had noticed that, yes."
[10:01] <Minaplo> ["A reputation can be dangerous." She said stiffly, looking slightly annoyed by it all. "Although at least at these parties, I am not the largest shark, no?"]
[10:19] <Raphael> "That's one advantage, certainly."
[10:20] <Minaplo> [She didn't reply- not with words. Her eyes fell on Mr. Blue, who was trying to coax the hapless thin redheaded man (the one Raphael's current companion had been talking to earlier) into disco-dancing on the dance floor.]
[10:28] <Raphael> "Not one for subtlety, is he?" He manages after a few seconds of disbelieving silence finally came to an end.
[10:29] <Minaplo> ["Perhaps appearing to be unsubtle is his way of being subtle."]
[10:31] <Raphael> "A valid observation."
[10:32] <Minaplo> ["Or perhaps he is mad."]
[10:34] <Raphael> "Not necessarily mutually exclusive options."
[10:36] <Minaplo> ["Mad and subtle like a fox, then."]
[10:37] <Raphael> "Perhaps so, Miss Kovac." He says thoughtfully.
[10:39] <Minaplo> [She didn't respond to that, simply feeding on a pastry and watching him out of the corner of her eye.]
[10:44] * Raphael looks faintly apologetic, but there's amusement dancing in his eyes. "It's hard not to notice a shark." He says, keeping most of his attention on the crowd.
[10:53] <Minaplo> ["Hmmf. Did some harebrained friend of yours put you up to this?"]
[10:54] <Raphael> "To what?"
[10:55] <Minaplo> ["To speaking to me."]
[10:57] <Raphael> "I don't need a dare to speak to you just because I happen to know who you are." He says, looking slightly put-out. "You seemed interesting."
[11:02] <Minaplo> ["You aren't afraid of me?"]
[11:02] <Raphael> "Not particularly."
[11:04] <Minaplo> ["Perhaps I should be afraid of you, then. Perhaps your boyish face hides a murderer's mind."]
[11:06] <Raphael> "For a contract killer you're surprisingly defensive."
[11:10] <Minaplo> ["How defensive should a contract killer be?"]
[11:14] <Raphael> "… Less defensive than you?" Raphael attempts, more than a little awkwardly. "I'm not sure if there is a metric for that, ma'am."
[11:17] <Minaplo> ["Perhaps you should be more defensive."]
[11:18] <Raphael> "Do you think so?"
[11:21] <Minaplo> ["Not yet."]
[11:22] <Raphael> "Ah."
[11:25] <Minaplo> [She fell back into silence, her eyes straying back towards Mr. Blue and his attempts to make the lamentable redhead dance.]
[14:19] <Raphael> "…" Raphael's mouth presses into a fine line. "Yes. Mad and subtle like a fox."
[14:40] <Minaplo> ["Here, if you want to do me a favor, I know what you can do."]
[14:53] <Raphael> "Oh really?"
[14:55] <Minaplo> [She held out the plate of pastries. "Seeing the red-haired man harassed so annoys me. Take these and rescue him."]
[15:04] * Raphael raises an eyebrow, letting a playful smile sneak onto his lips. "Ah, but what would be in it for me, hmm?"
[15:05] <Minaplo> ["My gratitude."]
[15:06] * Raphael tilts his head back and forth at that, humming thoughtfully. "… That will do, I suppose."
[15:12] <Minaplo> ["Gratitude is the first step to greater rewards." Replied the Shark, before she promptly turned around and walked back to the table…-
[15:12] <Minaplo> [Was she getting more pastries? Ah, well.]
[15:17] * Raphael 's smirk fades quickly the moment her back is turned, his attention turning back Mr. Blue toying with his victim in the distance. He'd intended to keep his distance, at least until he'd recovered Major Wellesley, but his choices were few and far between by this point.-
[15:18] <Raphael> With a silent sigh he begins working his way through the crowd, making his way towards Blue with one hand on the lighter in his pocket.
[15:21] <Minaplo> [Either through the vagaries of fate or through design, the crowd thinned as Raphael approached Mr. Blue. Presumably it was hard to liaise with mafioso if one had to weave around dancers.-
[15:22] <Minaplo> ["Bull, you didn't even drink that much." Said Mr. Blue, yanking on the redhead's arm. "I drank like, a thousand bottles. I drank so many I am like the Hitler of fairypeople. And I'm -fine-."-
[15:22] <Minaplo> ["No, I really don't want to-"]
[15:56] <@Raphael> "Excuse me, sir." Raphael cuts in smoothly, appearing just off the redhead's shoulder with a tray of pastries balanced in one hand. He nods twice, once towards the tray itself and a second time back to the woman he'd just left behind. "Pardon me for interrupting, but these are compliments of Miss Kovac."
[16:00] <Minaplo> [The redhead turns to stare at Raphael, as does Mr. Blue. They both look at him for a moment.-
[16:03] <Minaplo> ["… Oho!" Mr. Blue promptly lets go of the Redhead. "Now, my dear Bro, remember to conduct yourself as befitting a gentleman." He says, his voice dignified and solemn as he straightens up, a hand on his chest. "Just because you have caught the dear Shark's eye does not mean that you can take advantage of such a sweet, innocent, harmless… Barely-tamed contract killer." He claps the Bro hard on the shoulder. "Just remember, she really -won't- take no for an answer, hm-hm~? Ah…" He spots someone in the crowd, and with a tip of the hat and a 'toodloo' he spins off to harass someone else.-
[16:05] <Minaplo> ["…" The Bro stares sullenly at Mr. Blue's back before he turns to look at Raphael. Raphael can tell- somehow, perhaps from experience, perhaps from associating with people like Misato- that this fellow is nursing a murderous hangover. "… Thanks." He says eventually, with a sigh of relief, his shoulders sagging.]
[16:19] <@Raphael> … The Brofessor's more obvious relief is mirrored more subtly in Raphael's own posture - a barely perceptible relaxation of the muscles around his neck and shoulders as Blue disappears into the crowd. His expression, meanwhile, remains unchanged. "Not a problem. Miss Kovac seemed to think you could use a hand.
[16:23] <Minaplo> ["Miss Kovac is right on the money. What I could actually use is a ticket out of here." He snatches some of the pastries and gobbles them up.]
[16:24] <@Raphael> "Not enjoying the party, then?"
[16:26] <Minaplo> ["Nope. Are you?"]
[16:28] * @Raphael makes a see-sawing motion with his hand. "I'm not made for mingling, I'm afraid."
[16:43] <Minaplo> ["Ah!"-
[16:43] <Minaplo> [Raphael would soon realise the irony of two people 'not made for mingling' mingling, but in any case…-
[16:44] <Minaplo> ["Well, misery does love company. If you like, I'm sure I could find me- us- someplace quiet away from it all."]
[16:49] * @Raphael considers it. "… I'm not sure security would be fond of the idea." He suggests, all to easily picking out the numerous guards scattered around the room despite their best attempts at remaining innocuous.
[16:49] <Minaplo> ["I outrank 'em."]
[16:51] <@Raphael> "Is that right?" Raphael asks, raising an eyebrow.
[16:58] <Minaplo> ["Oh, yes." He said smugly, tilting his glasses. "I'm the Brofessor. You probably haven't heard of me. But I've probably heard of you… Is my motto. I'm right up there with Parrino and Alves, even if they hate it."]
[17:15] <@Raphael> "I see…" He nods once, as if coming to a decision. "Well, I suppose I'll take you up on the offer, then."
[17:24] <Minaplo> ["Jolly good."-
[17:25] <Minaplo> [Raphael is led up the grand staircase up onto the second floor, past a small group of guards. They eye Raphael suspiciously, but respectfully step aside to let the Brofessor and his guest pass.-
[17:30] <Minaplo> [Raphael is let into a lovely, spacious room with a large window overlooking the well-tended back fields of the manor. It was the sort of room that was given over entirely to people who wanted to sit in classy surroundings and be classy- it had soft plush chairs with high-quality, incredibly smooth burgundy upholstery; large books with imposing, impressive titles like 'A History of Landowners in Lower Loire Valley 1700-1800' and 'Ballistics: A Major General's History'. A small crystal chandelier lit the room, whilst an empty fireplace sat against one wall, which had, Raphael would note, been prudently cleared of books. A large tiger skin had been hung on the wall above the mantelpiece, however.-
[17:32] <Minaplo> [The hubbub of the crowd and the classical music was now dim and quiet, barely audible, more a relaxing background ambience. The Brofessor flopped gracelessly onto a sofa.]
[17:47] * @Raphael scans the room curiously, running a finger over the books displayed along a nearby shelf. "Interesting decor."
[17:57] <Minaplo> ["I prefer computers." Said the Brofessor, taking off his gold-rimmed glasses and wiping the lenses. "Pass me the pastries, will you?"]
[17:58] <@Raphael> "The tiger skin is a bit much." Raphael adds, shaking his head at the thing as he hands over the tray.
[18:07] <Minaplo> ["Ta. I didn't catch your name…"]
[18:11] <@Raphael> "Zachary Roulle." He says idly, returning to his exploration of the room.
[18:13] <Minaplo> ["Roulle… Who do you work for?"]
[18:18] * @Raphael continues drifting along the bookshelves, scanning the titles intently as he disappears behind the Brofessor's seat. "Allingham."
[18:20] <Minaplo> ["Allingham, huh." The Brofessor takes out a smartphone and begins searching through its files…]
[18:26] <@Raphael> … only to be interrupted a split-second later by a faint - but very deliberate - click as something cold and metallic pressed against the back of his skull.-
[18:27] <@Raphael> "Phone down, please." Raphael murmurs, his tone remaining polite and pleasant despite the compact railpistol he was holding just behind the Brofessor's head.
[18:30] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[18:30] <Minaplo> [The Brofessor lifted his hands, dropping the phone onto the floor.]
[18:34] <@Raphael> "I appreciate your co-operation, Mr…" Guillory pauses. The press of metal is gone from the back of the Brofessor's head now, his initial point made. "Actually, do you have another name? I feel foolish using that nickname of yours."
[18:56] <Minaplo> ["…" He let out a sigh. "Arthur will do for now."]
[18:59] <@Raphael> "Arthur." Unseen behind the information broker, Raphael seems to consider this before nodding to himself. "I see. I do apologize for the ruse, but if you give me what I need I assure you this will go smoothly for both of us."
[19:00] <Minaplo> ["Who sent you?"]
[19:03] <@Raphael> "Unimportant." He says mildly. "What -is- important right now is the location of Major Wellesley."
[19:04] <Minaplo> ["Ah."-
[19:04] <Minaplo> ["So NERV, SEELE or the US Government, then."]
[19:09] * @Raphael bristles slightly at the mention of SEELE, but his voice remains steady. "Answer the question, Arthur." Raphael murmurs. "It would be a mistake to push the limits of my patience, and I would prefer to avoid it."
[19:10] <Minaplo> ["If I don't mention the location of Wellesley, will you kill me?"]
[19:18] * @Raphael makes a thoughtful noise. "Yes. But I imagine you've prepared yourself for situations like that, given your line of work." The Brofessor would hear the faint rustle of fabric as Raphael shrugs. "So pain would come first."
[19:20] <Minaplo> ["Mm, Risky. The longer I take, the longer the chance you get discovered. Of course, the party is at its height right now. But on the other hand, what's stopping me from giving you a false location?"]
[19:31] <@Raphael> "… You know, you're right."
[19:34] <Minaplo> ["Let's make a deal, then."]
[19:37] <@Raphael> "And what would that be?"
[19:39] <Minaplo> ["What you need is something that -proves- his location. What you need are documents or hard evidence. I can provide you with those documents, and in return, I go free, completely unharmed or diminished."]
[19:43] <@Raphael> "…" Raphael stares blankly down at the back of the Brofessor's head for a long, quiet moment. "… You're aware that was what I was already offering you before you had your little moment of defiance, right Arthur?"
[20:17] <Minaplo> ["Mm, but I don't trust you."]
[13:43] <Raphael> "… But now you do."
[13:44] <@Minaplo> ["No, I still don't trust you, but as the only way to veritably prove -my- end of the deal requires you to prove -your- end of the deal, the situation is now much more safer. Sorry, but I don't like putting my trust in 'maybes'. In situations like this there's only two cold proven outcomes, no matter the probabilities."]
[13:46] <Raphael> "…" He shakes his head, sighing quietly. "As you wish. Shall we get this over with?"
[13:47] <@Minaplo> ["Let's." He stood up, slowly. "I'll need my phone."]
[13:50] <Raphael> "Mmm." Raphael considers this for a moment, nodding to himself. "Go ahead. Please don't try anything foolish, Mr. Professor."
[13:56] <@Minaplo> [He bent down slowly, picking up the phone. "It's Brofessor."]
[13:56] <Raphael> "Mmm."
[13:59] <@Minaplo> [Phone secured in hand, the Brofesor wasn't silly enough to try to put it into his jacket. Instead he began to slowly head for the door, phone in his right hand.]
[14:02] * Raphael clicks his tongue sharply. "What are you doing, Arthur?"
[14:04] <@Minaplo> ["You seriously don't think the evidence is in -here-, do you?" Asked the Brofessor.]
[14:06] * Raphael sighs. "I'd assumed you intended to reach it from your phone." The Brofessor would hear a few short, sharp steps, and would get the feeling that Raphael was now standing much closer behind him. "Carry on, then."
[14:07] <@Minaplo> ["Heh. We keep it on a computer, yes, but nothing wired up to the internet." Said the Brofessor smugly. "I live on the internet. I know the safest way to proof a computer from external tampering is to disconnect it. If you -are- SEELE or NERV, then you know what a MAGI system can do. And if you're American, well, write to your local congressman and ask what he can do. Heh heh."-
[14:07] <@Minaplo> [He continues to walk slowly to the door, opening it with his free hand. "So I'll just download the information onto my phone and give it to you like that."]
[14:08] <Raphael> "Acceptable."
[14:09] <@Minaplo> [Out into the hallway. There had been a shift in the guard since they'd entered the room. The same amount of guards, but now in different locations- to Raphael's right instead of his left, which is where the grand staircase was.-
[14:09] <@Minaplo> ["Mm, that's unfortunate." Said the Brofessor quietly. "I'd been hoping to head that way, but we should probably avoid getting too close to guards. We'll need to detour."]
[14:12] <Raphael> "You know a way?" Raphael asks, glancing at the the guards. The gun has moved out of sight now, held carefully inside one of his jacket pockets.
[14:15] <@Minaplo> ["A place like this always has a few spare hallways we can use."-
[14:15] <@Minaplo> [They walked past the grand staircase. Raphael would see Minerva, distinctive in her beautiful disguise, looking around for something…-
[14:16] <@Minaplo> [And then they were past it, taking a left to avoid another guard patrol…-
[14:16] <@Minaplo> ["Tch, mafia goons. They're pretty sloppy." Muttered the Brofessor. "The place we're heading for is a basement."]
[14:18] * Raphael gives another unseen nod, his own eyes darting from doorway to darkened doorway. "So Arthur, a question…"
[14:23] <@Minaplo> ["Mm?"]
[14:23] <Raphael> "The attack on Major Wellesley and Rei Ayanami." He says quietly. "Was it really a mistake?"
[14:27] <@Minaplo> ["That's a tricky question. Even I'm not sure myself." Said the Brofessor. "Here's the thing: it's definitely possible that Mr. Blue intended for the Costa boy to launch an attack on Wellesley and make it look like a mistake just so he could remove the Costa leadership. But even if that's intended, I definitely know that what -did- happen infuriated Blue. There were a -lot- of mistakes made in the actual execution that he hated."]
[14:30] <Raphael> "Mm." So, similar to what their intel had reported. Raphael supposed that wasn't too surprising - If Blue had a secret to keep, he doubted it would get far. "Did you have a part in it?"
[14:38] <@Minaplo> ["My role's information, not execution. I didn't even have to tell him about locations- the mafia can trail fellows well enough, especially when they're as distinctive as those two were. The biggest part I played in the whole thing was telling Mr. Blue that the Children of Adam had started their uprising. It really worried him, that."]
[14:39] <Raphael> "Did he say why?"
[14:42] <@Minaplo> ["He didn't like the Children of Adam. He said they weren't interested in saving the world or something like that. Can't say he's much wrong there."]
[14:44] <Raphael> "No, I suppose not." He murmurs. "… An odd thing for him to be concerned about though - whether or not they were interested in saving the world, I mean."
[14:44] <@Minaplo> ["Heh." The Brofessor smirks. "Odd for you, maybe…"]
[14:45] <Raphael> "How do you mean?"
[14:50] <@Minaplo> ["Mm, I dunno if he'd be too happy if I just told you his life story. You can go ask him about it." They come to a door- with no lock. It opens easily, and the room within is rather dark and bare. "Servants' staircase."]
[14:51] <Raphael> "We're not on good terms, I'm afraid." Raphael murmurs, a cold edge slipping into his voice before he can stop it.
[14:55] <@Minaplo> ["Shame."-
[14:57] <@Minaplo> [The Brofessor heads down the staircase slowly, the backlight of the phone becoming more distinctive as the light gets dimmer. Once they're at the bottom, the Brofessor opens another door- and the smell of food immediately wafts towards them.-
[14:57] <@Minaplo> ["The kitchens. We should be able to reach the basement pretty easily from here."]
[15:01] * Raphael nods. "Lead the way."
[15:09] <@Minaplo> [And so he did, through the bustling kitchens. And they really were bustling- Raphael hadn't seen more than a handful of waiters walking about offering drinks and food, and it was seemingly because they were all in here, doubling as either cooks or assistants.-
[15:10] <@Minaplo> ["Coming through!" Snapped an irritable man in a chef's hat, carrying a tray of parfaits. He smacked against Raphael's shoulder as he passed. "Out of my way!"-
[15:12] <@Minaplo> [A cook/waiter, clearly recognising them as guests, decided to show off- as he placed a tray of pastries in an oven he smoothly swivelled about and held out a tray of freshly cooked ones to Raphael and the Brofessor. "Pastries, sirs?"]
[15:53] * Raphael gives the man a pleasant smile as he shakes his head. "No thank you."
[15:55] <Minaplo> ["Very good, sir." The waiter takes the tray and promptly marches out into the main hall.-
[16:01] <Minaplo> [The Brofessor led Raphael out of the kitchens, into one of the many quiet hallways in this enormous house.-
[16:01] <Minaplo> ["Not long now."]
[16:04] <Raphael> Silence is Raphael's only response. He's tense now, and it takes careful effort to keep his breathing steady and calm.
[16:06] <Minaplo> [Another door, and this time it leads into a dull, imposing concrete staircase. Their footsteps are leaden and quiet.-
[16:08] <Minaplo> [Down, down… To a door with a sophisticated electonic lock. A quick number code was punched in- and the door unlocked.-
[16:09] <Minaplo> [Within were a series of computers, very plain computers, very… Very beige. It was hard to really tell them apart, and Raphael would find himself being reminded of some of the old high school computer labs.-
[16:10] <Minaplo> [The Brofessor marched straight over to one computer, on the very left, and sat down in the chair, his hands flying over the keyboard as he logged in.]
[16:39] * Raphael stands guard behind the chair, his attention split between watching the Brofessor's progress and shooting tense glances back towards the door.
[16:43] <Minaplo> [He took out a cable, plugging it into a port in his phone.-
[16:43] <Minaplo> ["It'll take about ten minutes to finish this. Did you come alone?"]
[16:44] <Raphael> "Why?"
[16:47] <Minaplo> ["Consider me curious."]
[16:56] <Raphael> "It's not really in my best interests to indulge that curiosity, I'm afraid."
[16:58] <Minaplo> ["Mmm."-
[16:59] <Minaplo> [Eventually, reading off some arcane sign (or so it seemed), the Brofessor nodded, unplugged the phone and stood up. "There. The file has been transferred."]
[17:04] * Raphael nods once, offering out his free hand to take the device. "This will be everything I need?"
[17:09] <Minaplo> [He handed the phone over reluctantly. "Y-"-
[17:09] <Minaplo> [A sudden loud burst of music cut through the silence, causing the Brofessor to leap out of his skin.-
[17:09] <Minaplo> […-
[17:09] <Minaplo> [It was the phone ringing, some incomprehensible pop song bellowing from it.]
[17:11] * Raphael 's pistol moves like lightning, the barrel hovering above the screen to stop the Brofessor answering just yet. He glances down at the caller ID.
[17:15] <Minaplo> ['Mr. Blue']
[17:19] <Raphael> The pistol moves away again. Slowly.-
[17:19] <Raphael> "Answer it." The calm, genial attitude he's been presenting so far is gone in an instant, replaced by cold professionalism and a pistol barrel aimed squarely at the Brofessor's sternum.
[17:20] <Minaplo> ["Want it on speaker?"]
[17:21] <Raphael> "Please."
[17:24] <Minaplo> [The Brofessor answers the phone, hitting the speaker button. "This is the Brofessor."-
[17:24] <Minaplo> ["Heeey! Hey, Bro, we've got a funny problem."-
[17:25] <Minaplo> ["… W-What?" Asked the Brofessor, his voice cracking.-
[17:25] <Minaplo> ["Weeeell, I just went out the back and found three of our guards knocked unconscious. Stunned by the look of it…"]
[17:28] <Raphael> "…" Raphael goes stock still. His face barely moves, but the way his eyes widen slightly would provide enough of a hint that he was just as surprised as the Brofessor.
[17:29] <Minaplo> ["That… That's bad, Blue." Said the Brofessor, starting to sweat profusely down his face. "W-Who is it, do you think? S2?"-
[17:31] <Minaplo> ["I only have one clue. I, of course, being -the- modern Sherlock, have deduced the identity of our attacker just from this one teensy weensy tiny clue."-
[17:31] <Minaplo> [The Brofessor looked up at Raphael nervously, then back down to the phone. "… What clue?"-
[17:31] <Minaplo> ["Couple of little straight blue hairs."]
[17:35] * Raphael 's free hand clamps down like a vice, forming a white-knuckled fist around the phone. There's the first hint of panic in his eyes now - real, honest-to-god fear.
[17:46] <Minaplo> [The Brofessor's eyes are popping something fierce. His shaky free hand moves to wipe his forehead. "W… What do we do?"-
[17:47] <Minaplo> ["Ehh, it's me she'll want. And that's fine, because I'm quite lookin' forward to meeting our guest face to face. You should go and hide somewhere, bro."]
[17:48] <Raphael> Raphael's lip curls up in an unconscious snarl as he looks Arthur in the eye, anger building.-
[17:48] <Raphael> "Hang up," he mouths.
[17:50] <Minaplo> [Trembling, the Brofessor does so.]
[17:52] * Raphael snatches up the phone. "On the ground." He says, his tone leaving no room for argument.
[17:57] <Minaplo> [The Brofessor meekly lowers himself to the ground.]
[18:01] <Raphael> Brofessor would hear a series of electric hisses and catch a shifting of the light behind him, and then his hands and feet were being roughly seized and bound with the aid of some hastily repurposed computer cabling.
[18:02] <Minaplo> ["…" The Brofessor doesn't argue.]
[18:05] <Raphael> In the end, the Brofessor may not be left in a particularly comfortable position - hogtying is rarely that - but it was certainly better than a beating or a bullet. Somewhere above him, Raphael is going through the data left from the phone. "Wellesley. Is he on site?"
[18:07] <Minaplo> ["No. He's in a safehouse."]
[18:07] <Raphael> "Thank you."-
[18:09] <Raphael> This is immediately followed by the sound of footsteps, growing dimmer and dimmer as the unseen figure moves towards the door. For a second it seems as though he's going to leave it at that, but just before he passes through the door the footsteps stop.-
[18:09] <Raphael> "Your help is appreciated, Arthur."-
[18:09] <Raphael> And then, with the slam of a door and the beep of an electronic lock, he's gone.
[18:15] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[18:16] <Minaplo> ["Damnit, that was my good phone… Urgh."-
[18:18] <Minaplo> [The primary objective had been completed- they knew where Alphonse was. But the situation had changed. Volatile situation, volatile personalities- the damage here could be immense, and now Raphael had to decide what to do…]
[18:26] <Raphael> He was moving quickly down the halls now, slipping the phone and unfolded pistol into the deeper pockets of his jacket as he retraces his steps back through the basement. Priorities… they were clear enough when he forced his emotions away. And those priorities were leading him back towards the main hall.
[18:28] <Minaplo> [The hubbub of the main hall was as it had always been. Tough guys postured, deals were made, socialites… Socialised. The musicians continued to play Salieri…]
[18:31] * Raphael casts a glance around the hall, doing his best to smooth away the worry and anger on his face. It shouldn't be -too- hard to spot Minerva…
[18:34] <Minaplo> [And there she is, trying to shake off that annoying fellow from earlier…]
[18:41] * Raphael picks his way through the crowd, eventually arriving to rest a hand on Minerva's shoulder as he forces on his best smile. "I hope I'm not interrupting, Amelie."
[18:44] <Minaplo> ["Hm? Oh, no, not at all. In fact, your timing is impeccable. Please excuse us." Says Minerva to her 'suitor', sharply turning her back on him and heading away.]
[15:24] <@Raphael> "Progress." Raphael says under his breath as rushes to catch up with Minerva's escape, taking her by the hand and leading her towards the part of the floor already occupied by other dancing couples.
[15:30] <Minaplo> ["!?"-
[15:31] <Minaplo> [Minerva, to her credit, takes it in stride as best she can, moving seamlessly from "Ditch-annoying-suitor" mode to "Dance-mode". But her face is serious. "What did you find?"]
[15:42] * @Raphael 's first, stumbling moment following the more graceful movements of his partner even out remarkably quickly as he grasps the rhythm, and soon enough he manages to settle into a suitable attempt at leading.-
[15:42] <@Raphael> "I have Wellesley's location." Raphael says quietly. "I need you to make sure it gets to SOS. You'll need to organize the strike team immediately."
[15:43] <Minaplo> ["Understood. We ought to exfiltrate as soon as possible, then." She said, casting a sidelong glance to the grand entrance.]
[15:44] * @Raphael shakes his head. "I need to stay."
[15:47] <Minaplo> ["What? Why?"]
[15:48] <@Raphael> "…" He frowns. "… Rei's here."
[15:50] <Minaplo> [… Her eyes widen in sudden horror at that. "How? How did she know where to-? Oh, it doesn't matter. Silly girl… You have to find her, then."]
[15:53] * @Raphael nods once, grim and determined. Their dance picks up slightly as the music draws towards a close. "The data is on a phone in my jacket pocket. You need to leave now before security clamps down - Blue knows she's here."
[15:58] <Minaplo2> ["Alright." She bit her lip.-
[15:58] <Minaplo2> ["Don't do anything stupid." She muttered. "Find Rei, get her out of here. Don't go looking for Blue." She leaned forward, simultaneously kissing him on the cheek and reaching into his jacket with the same movement.]
[16:03] <@Raphael> "I wo-mmgh." Raphael manages, finding himself leaning into the kiss more than subterfuge strictly required… but leaning back just as quickly, red-faced.-
[16:03] <@Raphael> "Minerva…"
[16:12] <Minaplo> [She looks up at him with expectant eyes, even though her face, her body is set for decisive action…]
[16:14] * @Raphael shakes his head, the earlier, grimmer expression reasserting itself. "… Nevermind. Stay safe, Madame Levesque."
[16:14] <Minaplo> ["That's my line." She gives him a smile, and then she dances out of his hands and loses herself in the crowd.]
[16:24] * @Raphael lets out a sharp breath, taking a moment to self-consciously straighten out the lapels of his jacket. Then, his composure back in place, he turns on his heel and moves purposefully through the crowd.
[16:27] <Minaplo> [It wouldn't be easy to notice, but if Raphael had to guess, he'd say the number of 'enforcers' around had thickened. There were suddenly more grim-faced men in suits around the grand staircase now…]
[16:42] * @Raphael 's path takes him, seemingly almost by accident, back to the refreshments table at the far end of the room from the grand staircase. He pauses here a moment to secure himself another glass of champagne even as his spare hand slips underneath the table for just a moment.-
[16:42] <@Raphael> But it's only a quick diversion, and soon enough he's cutting back across the room towards the servant's entrance he arrived through a few minutes earlier, one hand toying absently with the loose cuff of his jacket sleeve where a cufflink has suddenly gone missing.
[16:51] <Minaplo> [… The table explodes upwards with a sudden and explosive force, a shockwave snatching the legs of the other tables free and sending them careening to the ground, whilst the original table simultaneously shatters and rains upwards into the air.-
[16:54] <Minaplo> [Numerous bottles and flutes of wine smash against the walls and the floor, joined by beers and spirits of many stripes, creating a complete, slippery and alcoholic mess dozens of metres across. A fragment of table smashes through one of the front windows, setting off a motion alarm that screeches throughout the entire building.-
[16:59] <Minaplo> [Trays of canapes, snacks, aperatifs, digestifs and hors d'ouerves are transformed into flying French gastronomic missiles, some thousands of francs' worth of food being wiped out in seconds as some even go so far as to impact against the ceiling, whilst others scatter into the crowd, causing minor harm and, in one case, pelting a small child squarely in the face with a small triangle of toasted white bread with a Beurre d'Isigny base topped off with caviar and a sprig of rosemary. The boy is immediately knocked off of his feet, partly out of shock.-
[17:01] <Minaplo> [The reaction from the crowd is instantaneous. There are screams, shouts of alarm and panic; several people throw themselves to the ground and pull out guns, answering some well-honed instinct. The enforcers bark to each other, and suddenly there's twenty men sweeping through the room bearing railguns, shotguns and pistols, trying to fight through the crowd in order to secure the area.]
[17:07] <@Raphael> And somehow, through all of this, Raphael's course doesn't shift. Soon enough he's at the door, ready to slip inside out of the chaos…
[17:16] <Minaplo> [… And in the kitchens, things are more… 'controlled'. Being isolated from the events and being very busy has made the staff- and, Raphael would notice, a few odd guests who'd ducked in here for whatever reason- here more inquisitive than panicky. They immediately head for the door. ("Hey, what's going on?!") ("is it an attack?") ("Did someone knock over the sound system?") ("That shit took forever to set up, they'd better not!") ("You stole my girlfriend!") ("I hope the fools don't damage my canapes, that butter cost the household far too much…") ("Is everyone alright?!") ("I bet someone just screwed up the wiring…")]
[17:32] <@Raphael> And in an atmosphere like that someone who clearly knew what they were doing was always going to draw some attention, and Raphael had no wish to draw that for too long. He worked his way through the crowd by the door as quickly as he could, trying to head towards the servants stairwell leading up to the next floor that he'd spotted earlier.
[17:33] <Minaplo> [It wasn't too hard. His current form was slight, and he was fast and strong, and quickly got lost in the crowd.-
[17:33] <Minaplo> [Before long he'd emerge by the servant's staircase, unguarded.]
[17:34] <@Raphael> And he didn't waste any time in heading up, moving cautiously with one hand resting in the pocket hiding his weapon.
[17:35] <Minaplo> [And now he was on the second floor. It was a huge manor, and he didn't know where Rei would be… Nor would he know exactly where Mr. Blue would be either.-
[17:36] <Minaplo> [But it was quiet up here- even the alarm seemed to be subdued. It was a little surreal to be so disconnected from the crowd in the main hall.-
[17:36] <Minaplo> [There was only a single guard in this hall, walking away quickly from Raphael- although apparently having not seen him.]
[17:39] * @Raphael waited there for a moment, watching the guard's retreating back with narrowed eyes. It takes a second or two for him to feel sure, but soon enough he steps out into the hall and begins walking deeper into the house, keeping his footsteps light in the hopes of avoiding unnecessary attention.
[17:42] <Minaplo> [There's a bit of familiarity with the surroundings here. Raphael would guess that he was in the southern wing of the manor, moving steading northwards to the centre. He could probably retrace his steps to the 'tiger skin room' easily, although doing so would bring him worryingly close to the great hall and to the mass of guards there.-
[17:45] <Minaplo> [In the middle of his thought process, a loud, distinctive sound- the sound of an explosion heralded by the tell-tale sound of a split-second phasing of space- hits his ears, and simultaneously the manor shakes suddenly, almost sending Raphael to the floor. The sound comes somewhere from the west…]
[17:51] <@Raphael> … and that spells the end of any hope Raphael has of proceeding carefully or quietly. He throws himself into a sprint, picking his way through the mazelike hallways as fast as he can in a desperate attempt to reach the source of the noise.
[17:56] <Minaplo> [And so he runs, and at this point 'getting lost' is less of a problem when he can move freely. But eventually, he comes to something odd.-
[17:56] <Minaplo> [Turning a corner, he sees down a western hall- a room with an open door, a thin trail of smoke coming from it, barely discernible.]
[18:00] * @Raphael forces himself to slow down as he creeps towards the door, flattening his back against the wall next to it to allow himself a quick peek into the smoking room.
[18:03] <Minaplo> [The room clearly used to be some sort of trophy room- trophies of all kinds, as sports trophies sit beneath the mounted heads of slain animals, which must share their wall with things such as a Japanese sword. However, the most distinctive thing in the room is the rather large hole in the floor- the source of the smoke- through which a dark room can be barely glimpsed.-
[18:04] <Minaplo> [A man has clearly just climbed up out of the hole. "Shit be close." He mutters to himself. His suit is sooty, his brown hair a mess, and his distinctive hat is askew.-
[18:04] <Minaplo> [Mr. Blue takes a deep breath for a second, before he reaches into his coat pocket, takes out a cigar, lights it, and takes a drag.]
[18:10] <@Raphael> From below him there's a faint clinking sound as something comes to rest in the dust and debris at Blue's feet.
[18:18] <Minaplo> ["?"-
[18:23] <Minaplo> [To his credit, Mr. Blue is halfway to leaping to safety when it explodes. The localised explosive is enough to cave in more of the floor, sending a glass cabinet tumbling into the dark room below, followed shortly by Mr. Blue himself.]
[18:24] <@Raphael> And followed a moment after -that- by Guillory himself, leaping into the newly-opened wound in the floor with his pistol drawn.
[18:46] <Minaplo> [Raphael lands perfectly on a tiled floor. It's a little easier to see now that he's down here, and judging by the flashes of light around him it seems that he's in some sort of Versailles-esque hall of mirrors.-
[18:47] <Minaplo> ["Ugh." Mr. Blue landed hard, but nevertheless is quick to get back onto his feet, now cigarless. He readjusts his hat, and then quick as lightning, a pair of vicious knives are in his hand.-
[18:48] <Minaplo> ["Are you for -real-? There's an Ayanami with an uncontrollable AT Field around and now you try to kill me?!"]
[18:56] * @Raphael trains his gun on Blue's chest, steadying himself a short distance away after a decidedly softer landing. He seems rather unsurprised to see Blue still standing. "Easier to let me take you in than let her have you, I would think." Raphael murmurs coldly. He's measuring the distance between them in the lull before whatever's to come, wondering if he should shoot first.
[18:57] <Minaplo> ["… Take me in?"-
[18:58] <Minaplo> [There's a microsecond pause as Mr. Blue stares at Raphael, his eyes narrowing. "Guillory. Ahaha. Here to take me down like the mad dog I am?"]
[19:01] <@Raphael> "You were secondary, but I'm exceedingly happy to take the opportunity."
[19:02] <Minaplo> ["Ah, well. Guess I can't expect much from one of Caine's lot."]
[19:05] * @Raphael spits. "Don't." He snarls, finger now actually easing down onto the trigger. "After what you've done, I refuse to listen to you try to moralize."
[19:09] <Minaplo> ["Welp, you should probably go home then. I'm not going with you, but I really don't feel like fighting you today when I need to go have a word with Miss Rei."]
[19:21] <@Raphael> The reaction from Guillory is instant: A fractional readjustment of his aim - from Blue's chest to his head - followed by the explosive whipcrack sound of a railgun being fired.
[19:21] <Minaplo> [But now they're on equal footing, and Raphael would remember the last time he fought Blue…-
[19:22] <Minaplo> [The man's speed here is preternatural, and a second later he closes the gap between them.-
[19:31] <Minaplo> [The first is a sweeping kick at Raphael's legs that the man barely dodged.-
[19:32] <Minaplo> [But Mr. Blue's dagger lashes out now, cutting across Raphael's arm and drawing blood, whilst a second powerful kick connects hard with Raphael's left leg, almost staggering him. The man is fast, and whilst Raphael had taken harder blows before (Wolfgang came to mind), the man was no lightweight either.-
[19:32] <Minaplo> ["Christ, this is stupid." Shouts Mr. Blue as he fights. "I don't want to fight, you wanker!"]
[19:38] <@Raphael> "And I don't want you anywhere near Rei!" Raphael growls back, lashing out with a quick headbutt - more designed to give him breathing room than to actually wound - as the railpistol snaps off barely aimed shots somewhere in the direction of Blue's stomach.
[19:45] <Minaplo> ["You're- such a-"-
[19:47] <Minaplo> [Mr. Blue contorts his body unbelievably to dodge the shots, and converts his save into a sweeping slap across Raphael's face before he lashes out and grabs Raphael's arms in a vice-like pin.-
[19:47] <Minaplo> ["Helicopter dad! Fuck me. You make it sound like I'm gonna kill her or something."]
[19:52] * @Raphael strains against the pin to a shocking degree - far, far past the point of pain, certainly, and near outright damage - but he finds no real give. "Don't make it sound like you give a shit about her best interests!" He screams, straining again. "I've spent weeks helping repair what you did to her!"
[19:55] <Minaplo> ["I never said that! Ugh." Mr. Blue moves to consolidate his grasp. "Her interests are -my- interests, why would I wanna hurt her? Since you turned out to be such a raging dickhead, she's the only hope I've got left."]
[19:58] <@Raphael> "Well excuse me for not being more willing to believe you after what you tried to do to my team."
[19:59] <Minaplo> ["After what I did to your team?"-
[20:00] <Minaplo> ["Dude, how many of -my- team did you leave alive on your fucking rampage? You butchered your way through three floors to get to me, and I only lived because I was useful. You set the other building on fire!"-
[20:00] <Minaplo> ["All things considered, you're lucky you got off with -only- a guy in the hospital instead of your whole team in the morgue."]
[20:02] * @Raphael stiffens a little at that, but shakes his head. "You were due to kill the pilots."
[20:07] <Minaplo> ["Could've like, a hundred times. Didn't. Fuck, my sniper had Misato Katsuragi in his sights and I told him nope, don't do that."]
[20:09] <@Raphael> "…" There's no response to that, but Blue would feel Raphael's attempts to press against his pin freeze all at once.
[20:16] <Minaplo> ["I'm a fucking Cerealbox, got voices in my head telling me to kill every fucking day and I keep my shit together- somehow- and then you rush in like a raging bull and make everything way worse… What a joke." He shook his head, clearly frustrated.]
[20:23] <@Raphael> "What the fuck do you want, Blue?"
[20:31] <Minaplo> ["Here's what I want, and what I would've gotten if you had just gone your way- I want to speak to Miss Rei. A person like me was fed the same bullshit you were. At some point they get that little worm into your head, that somehow, killing's ok in some circumstances. That you need to kill to save the world, to get rid of all the bad people."-
[20:34] <Minaplo> ["I don't like that, Guillory! I became a Cerealbox 'cuz I wanted to save the world, not 'cuz I wanted to kill. That's Mary Caine Logic. It's bullshit logic, but it just keeps happenin'. That's why I need to speak to Miss Rei. She's different. She doesn't kill. She doesn't. She could. But she doesn't. And if there's any hope in the entire fucking world that -something- can beat Mary Caine Logic it's in that girl right there, even though she was trained and programmed to do Mary Caine Logic. She's my only fucking hope, dude."]
[20:37] <@Raphael> "…"
[20:37] <@Raphael> "She's not likely to listen to you. Not after Wellesley."
[20:40] <Minaplo> ["Yeah, I know that. It's better that way. She has to be able to beat Mary Caine Logic even though she hates me so fuckin' much, dude. I made a little deal with myself. If she can look me in the eye and see me as more than a mad dog, even through all that, then I'd do anything she wanted. Protect her, fight for her, do her laundry, anything. But if she can't, then I'll just finish myself off then."-
[20:41] <Minaplo> ["Wellesley's fine, by the way. I nursed him back to health. He drinks harder than I do. Just figured you should know that."]
[20:49] * @Raphael lets out a little sigh of relief. Even with the data recovered, he hadn't been sure. "… So's your Professor friend." Raphael said - his voice is still markedly cold, but there's none of the uncharacteristic rage that had filled it only moments before.
[20:49] <Minaplo> ["Oh, good. He's not a bad sort, he's just young and stupid."-
[20:54] <Minaplo> [Mr. Blue lets go of Raphael, tosses his knives aside and leaps backwards. The reason why instantly becomes obvious as something streaks in through one of the doors, which breaks open on impact.-
[20:55] <Minaplo> [The pink and blue blur solidifies into a shape that barely misses Mr. Blue as he leaps. Covered in a sheen of sweat, clutching a staff in her hands, wearing a pink long dress coated in loose plates of silvery armour- was Rei.-
[20:57] <Minaplo> [She was breathing painfully, and the air around her crackled as she moved, like a thunderstorm on the verge of breaking and barely holding together. Her expression was nothing like what Raphael had ever seen. The red eyes were full of malice, and her face was contorted into such a mask of angry, vengeful hatred that for a second, it wouldn't have been outlandish for Raphael to mistake her for the Spectre.-
[20:57] <Minaplo> ["You…" She spits out, coming to a stop. She barely even seems to register Raphael.]
[21:03] * @Raphael is frozen by the sight of her - by the sight of those eyes. To see her wearing an expression like that was enough to tie his stomach into knots of fear and worry. "Rei…" he says weakly, the pistol hanging by one side - as forgotten as the screaming pain in his shoulders and arms.
[21:06] <Minaplo> [She glances at him, looks away- and then back, a split second of comprehension cutting through her anger. "… What are you still here for…? You should be gone! Please, go! I'm going to kill him, so you shouldn't be here…"]
[21:09] * @Raphael raises his hands up in front of him, like someone trying to calm a wild animal. "Sweetheart, I need you to slow down. Please." He says, desperate to say anything that might ward away that expression of hurt and rage. "Alphonse is fine - he's safe. We're retreiving him right now, just like I promised."
[21:12] <Minaplo> ["He… He is?" Her eyes widen…-
[21:16] <Minaplo> ["He's lying! C'mon!" Said Mr. Blue, stepping towards them. "What the hell would he know?! He's only going off what I've told him. He doesn't know shit any better than you do. Is that all you wanna base that on? I'm the guy who had him shot, you know. I'm the guy who sent in the goons to drag him off! He'll say anything to calm you down, but you know I'm a bad guy. You know I do bad shit, right? It's better to finish me off. It's what your dear Raphael would do…"]
[21:20] <@Raphael> "I stole the files, Rei. They told me everything. I need you to trust me, /please/."
[21:21] <Minaplo> ["Trust your gut." Said Mr. Blue. "Your gut says to kill me, right? Finish me off! I'm unarmed, I can't escape if you really try- vaporise me right here and now!"]
[21:27] <@Raphael> "That's not you, Rei, no matter how badly you're hurting." Raphael says, reaching out to carefully touch her armoured shoulder. "Let's just… let's go home. We can just go home."
[21:28] <Minaplo> ["…" She was shaking, violently.-
[21:32] <Minaplo> ["That's what you don't get, Guillory!" Shouted Mr. Blue. "This is the world you and I made! So long as there's people like us, it'll never fucking stop! You can't kill the bad guys without turning innocents like her into killers like us! The moment you think you're justified in killing, you become just as bad as those you try to kill!"-
[21:34] <Minaplo> ["He's just a hypocrite, girl! Ignore it all! Think of the facts! I took Alphonse Wellesley! I hurt him! I made him suffer and I made you suffer! And do you know why I did it? Because it was fun! I fucking loved thinking of how much pain you were in! Someone as sick as I am can't be allowed to live! Do it! Kill me already! Just ignore everything and do it!"-
[21:39] <Minaplo> [It happens in an instant. The air around Rei -explodes- outwards, sending everything- Raphael, Mr. Blue, the debris in the room, the glass cabinet, a couch, tables, shelves- hurtling backwards into the walls. The air around her burns a fierce, blinding blue, as though she is enveloped in pure flame.]
[21:47] <@Raphael> The push leaves him tumbling end over end, striking the floor -hard- on one turn and leaving the world spinning and frayed even once he's come to a stop. Still, his eyes manage to zero back in on Rei again… even if he's forced to look away again. "Rei, no!"
[21:52] <Minaplo> [She ignores him as she steps forward, her staff gone, a shimmering long sword held in her hands now. The light illuminates the room, and Raphael can see Mr. Blue, lying against the floor, staring up at Rei with a dazed look in his eyes.-
[21:53] <Minaplo> [She stands over him, placing the sword above Mr. Blue, ready to fall and strike a final killing blow.-
[21:54] <Minaplo> [She stares at him, eye to eye.-
[21:55] <Minaplo> [… And now the words reach her, all of them, each and every one spoken by both Raphael and Mr. Blue. The sword falls, slowly, vanishing into the ether. The flaming aura dissolves.-
[21:55] <Minaplo> [She turns to look at Raphael, her eyes filling with tears. "I-I don't want to k-kill anyone." She gasps. "I just- I just want…"-
[21:56] <Minaplo> [She falls to her knees, covers her face with her hands, and starts to sob.]
[22:00] * @Raphael somehow manages to force himself back up to his feet and over to where Rei's fallen, scooping her up in a fiercely protective hug. "I know, sweeheart, I know. You did the right thing." … Even if the looks he was shooting Mr. Blue over the girl's shoulder clearly communicated how he felt about the man's continued survival.
[22:01] <Minaplo> [Mr. Blue is presently breathing rather hard. "That was a lot closer than I like." He mumbled to himself as he got to his feet. "I wanna tell her about my promise, but now ain't the time. Get her out of here, find Wellesley, and I'll handle it when I can."]
[22:05] * @Raphael lets out a short grunt that -might- have passed for an affirmative, but frankly at that moment he's too worried about Rei to do any different.
[22:08] <@Raphael> Without another word he picks up Rei, ignoring his protesting limbs, and cradles her head against his shoulder as he makes his way towards one of the smoking holes in the walls and - hopefully - an exit not long after.
[22:10] <Minaplo> [It isn't hard to find the same way Rei came, and with that he's out into the backyard.-
[22:14] <Minaplo> [With all the attention drawn elsewhere and- possibly, subtle help from Mr. Blue- Raphael is able to leave the mansion behind him, and find himself in relative safety. It isn't long before he's met by a squad of S2 Agents, along with a member of SOS itself- Leon Thomas.-
[22:14] <Minaplo> ["Ah, you found her. Good job, sir." Growled Thomas as Raphael approached. His tone was warm, but there was urgency in Thomas's eyes. Something was on his mind.]
[22:16] <@Raphael> "What is it?" Raphael murmurs, wishing he could get Rei out of earshot despite still being unwilling to let her go.
[22:17] <Minaplo> ["Might be best if we get missy here somewhere out of the way first."]
[22:19] * @Raphael sucks his teeth, hurriedly beginning the process of passing off Rei to the two-person medical team lingering behind the other agents.
[22:20] <Minaplo> [Rei was calmer, now, still distraught, but not crying. She didn't resist being passed off.-
[22:20] <Minaplo> [Thomas puts an arm around Raphal's shoulders, drawing him in so as to make it easier for Raphael to hear.-
[22:20] <Minaplo> ["SOS teams have found the coordinates given to us. However, the building is on fire."]
[22:23] <@Raphael> "… no. No!" Raphael snaps. "That can't be-… Even Blue seemed definite on him being alive!"
[22:24] <Minaplo> ["No guarantees on that either way yet." Said Thomas gruffly. "The teams are calling in firefighters to halt the blaze, but there's still time for you to get involved."]
[22:27] <@Raphael> "… Yeah. Do you have a vehicle?"
[22:29] <Minaplo> ["An APC with equipment inside for you."]
[22:31] * @Raphael nods once, hurrying away down the street towards the waiting truck.
[22:53] <Minaplo> [The equipment inside was much more along the lines of what Raphael was used to, and after his recent close shave, would probably make him feel much safer.-
[22:54] <Minaplo> [The APC had clearly doubled as some sort of command post, as it had open feeds to the squads on the ground trying to deal with the burning building problem.]
[22:57] * @Raphael took in the burning building for a long, long moment before reaching up both hands to slowly massage his face. After some time in blessed silence, he began feeling composed enough to begin fighting his way out of Surov's suit and into some more conventional body armour.
[23:12] <Minaplo> [The drive seemed to be agonisingly long, although in reality it was about fifteen, twenty minutes tops. The APC would arrive outside the location- a squat, two-floor mansion with high walls around a narrow yard. The blaze lit up the night, the air acrid and full of the tang of burning wood.-
[23:12] <Minaplo> [Isidor was waiting at the front gate, his men kicking in the front doors, their helmets on. Macnair was present as well, and Pai's men had taken up position in neighbouring buildings, sniper rifles ready.]
[23:25] * @Raphael rushes to the front, and while he lacked the power armour to deal with the heat of approaching the front door with Isidor's lot, he was quick to join up with Macnair a few steps further back. "What's the situation?"
[23:27] <Minaplo> ["The building's on fire." Said Macnair, nodding. "It's making it hard to see, but it's drawn off any attention inside and I'd wager we could bust in without too much resistance. The problem is that the fire's much more widespread on the inside than it is on the out, and there's a chance anyone who goes in might get cut off."]
[23:36] <@Raphael> "Then we need to stop wasting time." Raphael says flatly, bringing up his comms. "Lieutenant Rurikovich, breach that entrance."
[23:36] <Minaplo> [He nodded, barking orders…-
[23:38] <Minaplo> [One of his men nodded in response, picking up a breaching hammer- and with an augmented swing, smashed the door in, sending it flying loosely open. Gouts of filthy black smoke poured out in response.-
[23:39] <Minaplo> ["Go go go!"]
[23:41] * @Raphael brings down the faceplate of his helmet and, wincing slightly at the heat, follows the power armoured soldiers in, bolter raised.
[23:42] <Minaplo> [Immediately, he'd hear the sound of gunfire.-
[23:42] <Minaplo> [Some even directed at him.-
[23:43] <Minaplo> [As best he could take stock of the situation, it seemed that a handful of goons still remained in the burning deathtrap, wearing gas masks and toting railguns. There were several- two, maybe three or four- on the bottom, but two on the top, with one of them…-
[23:43] <Minaplo> [He was fighting Alphonse. Raphael had time to see Alphonse toss an alcohol bottle into the man's chest before plunging a lighter into it, setting the man ablaze, before the next wave of bullets came.]
[23:48] <@Raphael> "…" If the bullets hadn't already been flying, Raphael might have let his face fall into his hands, but that was not the hand he had been dealt. Perhaps he would save it for later, but for now he simply snapped a quick shot up into the second goon on the top floor.
[23:51] <Minaplo> [Alphonse had been taking care of these guys with home-made booze bombs, so the elite technology of modern warfare made for absurd overkill. The bolter tears the man in half, splashing blood across the wall.-
[23:54] <Minaplo> [The top floor now lacking mostly in threats, but quickly being engulfed in more flame, Alphonse makes a break for the railing of the top floor, jumping onto it and then - down. It's a straight four metre drop, and carries more than a little risk of injury, but Alphonse lands with a perfectly-timed roll and is up onto his feet, dashing for the door, even as the goons now spitefully focus their gunfire on him.]
[23:59] * @Raphael just shakes his head and allows the Major to dash past him, concentrating on finishing off the last of the safehouse crew with the others from Isidor's squad before they abandon the building to the fire.
[00:01] <Minaplo> [There's the sound of collapsing timbers inside as the squad leave the building to its fate. The wail of fire engine sirens can be heard in the distance.-
[00:01] <Minaplo> [Alphonse is out, out, out to sweet freedom- he falls to his knees by the gate and starts coughing horribly, and for good reason.]
[00:04] * @Raphael crouches alongside of him, patting him on the back as he summons over another team of medics. "Major, as pleased as I am to see you safe, we are going to have strong, strong words about the correct use of fire in a tactical environment." He says flatly.
[00:05] <Minaplo> ["I'd say- -hack- it worked pretty -cough- well, myself…"]
[00:07] <@Raphael> "The first lesson," he continued, as though he hadn't heard, "Will be 'do not set the building you are in on fire without a clear escape route'."
[00:08] <Minaplo> [Behind them, the roof caved in, coming down in a shower of tiles and masonry and wood rafters.-
[00:08] <Minaplo> [Macnair stood nearby, grinning at Raphael.]
[00:11] <@Raphael> "There are more lessons - and in greater depth - but I will elaborate tomorrow. For now let's get you to a hospital for all that smoke inhalation," Raphael says.-
[00:11] <@Raphael> "… sir."
[00:11] <Minaplo> [Alphonse let out a cough that sounded suspiciously like a harrumph.-
[00:12] <Minaplo> ["Should I inform Thomas, sir?" Asked Macnair, the unsaid implication hanging in the air.]
[00:15] * @Raphael nods gently. "Please do. He'll know what to do - I'll accompany the Major to the hospital."
[00:17] <Minaplo> [Macnair nodded, heading off to do exactly that.-
[00:17] <Minaplo> [Alphonse slowly got to his feet, still coughing a little. "… Good to see you, though. To -cough- witness my -hack- victory."]
[00:18] * @Raphael puts an arm around him - to offer some support, obviously. "Likewise, Alphonse."
[00:19] <Minaplo> ["It'll… Take me days to get the -hack- smell of absinthe out of my skin. Take me away, Captain."]
[00:26] <@Raphael> And as the sound of sirens and flames mixed in the Parisian night, that was something Raphael Guillory was all too happy to do.

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