Raphael S Team

[22:53] <@Asuka‘> [The office interior was well-lit, relatively speaking. A long, 8-metre wide corridor greeted them…-
[22:53] <@Asuka`> [… The tiles, however, were stained with periodic blotches of what was unmistakeably blood.]
[23:04] <Raphael> The APC is reversed in until it’s flush with the office's main door, leaving Raphael and the rest of the squad to disembark into the hall's halogen glow. The bloodstains get a long look from Raphael, but he doesn't comment further. "Right. We move in slowly. Duval and Herriot, I want you either side of Doctor Riel. She knows what we're looking for here. Everyone else, stay behind me."-
[23:05] <Raphael> He unslings a hefty looking new NERV-issue rifle from his shoulder and steps out to take point.
[23:05] <Raphael> «It's almost flush*»
[23:07] <@Asuka‘> [… "So did you hear about John and Amanda down in Testing? Bob says he walked in on them…" "No…!" Raphael and the others can hear faint murmurs from the walls. People… Office chatter? And the sound of a photocopier.-
[23:07] <@Asuka`> ["… Is that gossip?" Muttered Corporal Beringer.]
[23:12] <Raphael> "Some sort of AT disturbance, like whatever we saw out on the factory floor," Raphael mutters warily, not glancing back. "I don’t suppose you have any ideas on what we're dealing with, Doctor?"
[23:15] <@Asuka‘> ["Uh. Not really." Dr. Riel frowned. "It seems similar to the field Voriel used in Paris-2. It’s -certainly- not ghosts, though." A light sweat broke out. "But we should head towards that room. On the left."]
[23:20] <Raphael> "Right. Corporal Favager, please take the door. We'll cover you."
[23:22] <@Asuka‘> ["Yessir." Marie opened the door- and bit back a gasp.-
[23:23] <@Asuka`> [Phantom office workers walked back and forth between desks, computers. Some of them had coffee, even, but…-
[23:23] <@Asuka`> [The walls were coated in splashes of blood. More on the floor, and the -roof-.]
[23:28] * Raphael can see… enough through the gap that it takes a fair bit of effort to keep his breathing calm. "Everyone stay quiet. These… illusions /should/ remain nonviolent so long as we don’t aggravate them," he says, sounding far, far more confident than he felt. "You were chosen because you've dealt with Angels before, so let's get in and get out." And with that he gently pushes past
[23:28] * Raphael Marie and takes the lead.-
[23:28] <Raphael> He finds himself staring long and hard at a spectral woman pouring coffee at a blood-spattered desk as the others move in…
[23:29] <Raphael> "Any directions for us, Doctor?"
[23:30] <@Asuka‘> ["Uh." Dr. Riel stares at the roof, slightly shellshocked. "Uh. S-Straight ahead. I think? Erm, that’s the forum, it'll have all the directions I've forgotten. H-Heh. Ghosts. How dumb."]
[23:35] * Raphael bites back the tiniest hiss, his eyes flickering around to scan the room as if looking for something, but then… He straightens up and moves towards the door.
[23:41] <@Asuka‘> [The others follow. But the youngest in the group- Corporal Blaise Herriot- seems nervous. "C-Captain?"
[23:41] <@Asuka`> ]
[23:44] <Raphael> "I’m here, Corporal," he says, voice back to that carefully composed tone that almost seemed to suggest he was unaware of the ghosts surrounding him. Still, were anyone to get a good look at his eyes they might see the tiniest hint of shock buried there…-
[23:44] <Raphael> Not that he intended to let anyone see.
[23:51] * Raphael motions for the group to pause as they near the door, moving ahead to take on the duty of opening it for himself this time. He tightens his grip on the handle and slowly swings it open.
[23:52] <@Asuka‘> [… Suddenly, everything goes dark as the lights fizzle.-
[23:53] <@Asuka`> [… When the lights flicker on again, they’re not the comfortable halogen lights of the office, but instead… A lightbulb, swinging from a green canvas roof, back and forth. Below it… Is a room. More like a tent. A triage? No…-
[23:53] <@Asuka‘> [He feels different. He feels… Eighteen again. And tucked up on a ratty bed in this refugee camp is a girl, not looking at him…]
[23:57] * Raphael ’s breathing quickens. He knows this place… sometimes he still sees it in his dreams. He can feel himself losing whatever hope he had of remaining calm as he glances back the way he came, looking for the others…
[23:57] <@Asuka‘> [They’re not there…-
[23:59] <@Asuka‘> [Marie was hardly moving, her skin pale. A harried doctor stood over her, shaking his head. He pulled the bedsheet up and over his sister…]
[00:06] * Raphael ’s breath begins to hitch as things he'd buried long ago try to worm their way to the surface. Old wounds that never healed, that never would heal. But still something within him tries to get its bearings and… slowly his breathing begins to even out as his mind grasps onto one singular, crystalline truth.-
[00:06] <Raphael> "She… is /not yours/," he says, a whisper at first. Then louder. "She is not for this place!"
[00:07] <@Asuka‘> [… The lights go out, almost immediately.-
[00:07] <@Asuka`> ["Captain? Captain! Please!"-
[00:08] <@Asuka`> [… The forum. It is… Soaked in blood. Up to Raphael’s ankles. And in the blood, hunched over, and now rising…-
[00:09] <@Asuka‘> [A human being… Roughly plated in pieces of metal and jagged iron, oozing dark liquids between the gaps. Its hands end in gore-drenched steel claws. "Raphael…?" It murmurs hoarsely.]
[00:20] * Raphael says nothing. His mouth is a flat line masking gritted teeth as he raises his rifle and fires directly into the creature’s chest.
[00:21] <@Asuka‘> [The beast reels backwards, before it starts to lurch towards Raphael. "Raphael, sir… They’re moving down Kremlin Road, sir. I just saw Andre shoot himself, I-I think they're taking us over-" The beast smashes a lumbering claw into Raphael's chest!]
[00:21] <@Asuka‘> ["… No. Jean… No, but…" Corporal Duval’s horrified voice.]
[00:38] <@Asuka‘> ["Sir, get out of the way!" A burst of assault rifle fire cut past Raphael, and the armored monstrosity lumbered backwards- before convulsing and collapsing it on itself.]
[00:42] * Raphael springs aside just in time to dodge the bullets, but it takes him a few moments before he’s able to stand. There's a long gash in his chest armour, and blood is running freely beneath it. The Group Captain looks… almost furious when he turns to the others. "Thanks, Corporal," he mutters, shaking off the last of the vision before hurriedly addressing the group at large.-
[00:43] <@Asuka‘> [Dr. Riel is holding her pistol with a trained but certainly not confident hand…]
[00:44] <Raphael> "Mission parameters have changed, soldiers. A few of you have already guessed, but it looks like we’re dealing with the shades from Angel Ten's attack."
[00:45] <@Asuka‘> [Hugues nodded. "Aye, sir. I did indeed notice that. It… Looked like it did something to you, sir. Hypnotism or something."]
[00:49] <Raphael> "I’m sure you've heard about the kind of Angel that enjoys playing with minds, Hugues. Whatever's going on here seems to work a lot like that," he says, trying to wipe the anger from his face without much success. "It's just memories. If we all work to keep an eye on one another we'll get through it…"
[00:50] <@Asuka‘> ["Ah… Captain." Dr. Riel nodded towards a nearby wall, where a small control switch was located. "Exactly what the doctor ordered. That’s the elevator switch! I'm sure our pilot friends must be getting bored waiting for us."]
[00:52] <Raphael> "I'm sure," he murmurs. "Form up and move out."
[01:01] <@Asuka‘> [They entered…-
[01:01] <@Asuka`> ["…" Blaise… Was staring at the roof.-
[01:01] <@Asuka`> [A pool of blood, somehow still liquidic after all this time… Drip. Drip.-
[01:01] <@Asuka`> [A drop fell on his forehead. Another on his lips. He let out a low moan of pitiful horror.]
[01:07] <Raphael> "Corporal Blaise, why don’t you step back outside?" he says, giving Marie Favager a meaningful look as he takes the last few steps through the pooling blood to smack the button Riel indicated. He seems to put a bit more force into it than required.
[01:08] <@Asuka‘> ["Uh…" The Corporal scrambled out in a panic. "I-I can’t take it… S-Sir…"-
[01:09] <@Asuka‘> [A phantom walked past Raphael, talking to another. They gave him odd looks then turned back to each other. "Man, all this fuss about what’s happening down in the Pits." "I know. I'll be happy once they install the goddamned S2 Organ and get it over with…"]
[01:10] <@Asuka‘> [Dr. Riel stared at the phantoms with wide eyes…]
[01:12] * Raphael turns back towards the group, still frowning. The ghosts barely get a second glance, but that look on Riel’s face catches his eye. "What? What are they talking about, Doctor?"
[01:13] <@Asuka‘> ["The S2 Organ. Er…" She coughed. "It’s a project we were working on that was nearing completion. It's a special engine that can give limitless power to an Evangelion unit. No more cables."]
[01:14] <Raphael> "Mmm." He nods, but doesn't seem all that interested. "And what about that's got you spooked?"
[01:13] <@Asuka‘> ["The S2 Organ. Er…" She coughed. "It’s a project we were working on that was nearing completion. It's a special engine that can give limitless power to an Evangelion unit. No more cables."]
[01:14] <Raphael> "Mmm." He nods, but doesn't seem all that interested. "And what about that's got you spooked?"
[01:18] <@Asuka‘> ["The only Evangelion unit here that was finished was EVA-07, which is piloted by two pilots- Isabelle and Adrian Bellamy, a pair of Australian pilots who share a special bond known as the Libido Effect that lets them pilot a unit together." Said Dr. Riel, with the air of someone who was talking about their pet field and was liable to include -all- the little boring details. "This gives them control over their unit to a near-perfect degree, usually surpassing the energy outputs and combat abilities of the other units. Simply put, a dual plug Evangelion like EVA-07 is, fully-powered, quite capable of holding its own against two, even three Evangelion units." But she darkened. "… If EVA-07 was installed with the S2 Organ, however, and something went wrong- say it went berserk- you’d have an Evangelion unit that couldn't be controlled, followed its own will, had power rivalling that of the strongest Angels recorded so far, and limitless power with which to do whatever it wished."]
[01:22] * Raphael is silent at that, something subtle in his posture shifting. He clicks his tongue a few times in some odd tic of… nerves or thought, one couldn't really tell. "Right. Corporal Duval, see if you can raise the Colonel on comms. We've got to let him know about this ASAP."
[19:30] <Asuka‘> ["Yessir." Said Duval smartly, and he promptly crouched and pulled the headset of his sophisticated communication package to his ear. "Colonel Lachapelle, sir? Can you read me? Over."-
[19:31] <Asuka`> ["This is Colonel Lachapelle. What’s the situation? Over."]
[19:31] <Asuka‘> [Duval held out the headset to Raphael.]
[19:37] <Raphael> "Colonel, this is Group Captain Guillory, sir. Doctor Riel informs me we have something of a critical situation developing here. Are you able to get word to the Pilots?"
[19:38] <Asuka`> ["I am, yes."]
[19:40] <Raphael> "Right." He runs through all Riel told him in short: The S2 Organ, the possible berserk, the angel-level Eva. He doesn’t sound particularly pleased. "They don't know what they're walking into, sir. What the Doctor's saying makes sense to me, science aside."
[19:40] <Asuka‘> ["I see." Dorian sounds utterly displeased at this. "Good job, Captain. Keep at it. The Doctor should know where to go next. Over and out."]
[19:42] <Asuka`> ["… Did you say something, Hugues?" Asked Dr. Riel. The sergeant shook his head. "No, ma’am."-
[19:42] <Asuka‘> [… Meanwhile, Euphrasie was muscling her way through the small squad, staring squarely at Raphael and holding a medkit in hand. It was a very matter-of-fact look.]
[19:44] <Raphael> "Yessir." The handset goes back to Duval as he returns to the group. "The Corporal’s passing on word, Doctor," Eurphrasie gets a momentary look, but he's worked with her before and knows better than to argue. He removes enough of his body armour to let her get to his wounded chest. "He says you know our next targe-" He stops and glances around again, frowning.
[19:49] <Asuka‘> ["What’s wrong?" Asked Euphrasie, her firm look being tempered somewhat as she got to patching up that wound.]
[19:51] <Raphael> "More false noises, that's all," Raphael mutters. "It's nothing." He waits until the patch-up job is done before sealing up his armour and calling out towards the door. "Corporals Favager and Herriot! How are you feeling, Blaise?"
[19:51] <Asuka‘> ["Uh, better, sir." He calls out. "Sorry. Won’t happen again."-
[19:52] <Asuka‘> [Dr. Riel looked around… "Alright. We should probably keep moving. I need to know exactly what happened here, and we’ll need to go deeper for that."]
[20:00] <Raphael> "You're fine, soldier. Happens to the best of us," he says, actually smiling as Blaise moves back into formation. "Alright, people. We're moving out again, so stay on your toes and watch one another." And without further ado he moves to the nearest door with Hugues watching his back and pulls it open…
[20:01] <Asuka‘> [Hanging from the roof by tendrils of oily black was another Shadowman. "… Henri? Henri, is that you…? Oh, thank God, I thought- I thought the 3rd had gotten you…"]
[20:02] <Asuka`> ["E-Eleanor…" Henri -stared-, his eyes wide with horror.]
[20:09] <Asuka`> [… An oily substance started oozing from the other doors, sloshing onto the ground with a disgusting wet slap before stretching up, plates of metal emerging from the pools.-
[20:10] <Asuka`> [One at the western door… "Euphie. Goddamnit, Euphie, answer me." It croaked.-
[20:10] <Asuka`> ["Marie. I-I think… I think my rifle’s jammed. Uh…" At the northern door…]
[20:10] <Asuka‘> ["… Sir? Sir, what do we do?" Marie’s voice, measured, but bearing a tiny hint of fear.]
[20:14] <Raphael> "Form up around Riel and open fire, soldiers. What you're seeing are shades…" A ear-splitting crack as his own weapon fires at the nearest shade, only to be deftly dodged. "They're no more your comrades than any other ghost in this place. She's not Eleanor, Henri!"
[20:21] <Asuka‘> ["Yessir." Euphrasie opened fire, but… But at the last- she turned her head, clearly in shock as the… Thing cried her name. Dr. Riel, however, was cold and steady- but her bullets rang off her target’s carapace.]
[20:23] <Asuka‘> ["S-Sir…" Henri stared at the Shadowman, sweat beading on his forehead- but vigorously shook his head. "N-No. She’s gone…"]
[20:31] <Asuka‘> ["Sir!" Blaise. "That one Marie took down- it’s getting up again-!"-
[20:32] <Asuka‘> ["Raphael, a package came today. Says it’s from your brother, Lucas…"-
[20:32] <Asuka‘> ["Screw this." Hugues lifted the shotgun up, point blank, a mere half metre from the hanging Shadowman. Bam. Bam. Bam. The first cloud of shot rips off an arm, the other bursting its torso. The third shreds it into pieces and it falls to the ground.]
[20:35] <Asuka`> [… The sound of bolter fire, elsewhere in the offices… No one else had that kind of gun…!-
[20:36] <Asuka`> ["Not again…" Blaise held his pistol firmly, firing in rapid succession. Most of the shots go wide, but the last shreds the thing’s mechanical spine, and it snaps in half. "Downed, sir."]
[20:43] <Raphael> "Good shot corporal!" Raphael calls, giving Hugues a pat on the shoulder and sights his next target. Another explosive round to the chest sends the thing stumbling. "Keep calm and control your fire, soldiers!"
[21:00] <Asuka‘> [Marie ignored the feelings and thoughts that intruded into her mind. She brought the Heavy Machinegun up. "Henri! Help me here!" "Right-!"-
[21:01] <Asuka`> [A full burst of fire saw another of the things laid low. Whilst Hugues was already striding towards the other. "All tough and scary till ya see the barrel of my shotgun, you bastards, eh?" Bang! "Eh?" A metallic head clanged against a wall, and the thing collapsed.-
[21:01] <Asuka`> ["You bastards…" A faint cry. More bolter fire…-
[21:02] <Asuka`> [The phantom workers, however, continued to walk around, seemingly unphased by the existence of all these guns. Something else was bothering them. "Nnh… I feel weird…" "Yeah, no kidding…"]
[21:16] <Raphael> "Hmm. Personal scale weapons," Raphael mutters, but he shakes it off and checks his weapons. "Great work, everybody. Duval, Favager, let’s get that HMG packed up and fall in. I'm not keen to see how many times those shades can get back up." And once they did, Raphael kept his word and led the way…
[21:16] <Asuka‘> ["Yessir." "Yessir!" They worked quickly and efficiently…]
[21:22] <Asuka`> [… Another bark of Bolter fire. This time far louder, and… Something else. A crying baby…]
[21:27] * Raphael ’s brow creases at the sound, and he glances around at Hugues as if attempting to confirm this noise wasn't in his head, but he doesn't comment further. The group continues to move deeper into the corridors of the office…
[21:28] <Asuka‘> [Hugues gives Raphael a firm nod. All the confirmation he needs. They move on, Hugues’ shotgun at the ready…-
[21:29] <Asuka‘> [Bang! Two bolter rounds streak down the corridor in front of them and crater a nearby wall. The sound of a baby is louder now, and there’s other things- a cry of sudden pain.-
[21:29] <Asuka‘> ["A-Agh!" A different voice behind them. Blaise looks back to find a phantom worker suddenly be slammed bodily into a wall by some unseen force, before silvery blood pours out of the back of its neck. It slides down… He pales.]
[21:38] * Raphael gives the dying shade a hard look for a split second before his eyes return back to the corridor ahead. A few steps later he slows… an intersection is just up ahead. He motions for the group to hold and moves up in silence, gun raised and ready.
[21:39] <Asuka`> [There he sees…-
[21:39] <Asuka`> [Two Shadowmen, stalking towards a third person. A human being- a teenage boy, with glasses, dressed in full combat armor, wearing a labcoat over that, cradling a baby in his left arm and a bolter in the right. He’s covered with minor wounds. "Damnit- no-"-
[21:39] <Asuka‘> ["… Alex." Muttered Dr. Riel. "That voice…"]
[21:41] * Raphael doesn’t waste any time on words. He raises the gun and fires, the shot blasting a heavy crater inches to the left of the nearest Shadowman's head. "Hugues, with me! Everyone else form up!"
[21:42] <Asuka‘> ["Sergeant Monette!" Came a voice. One of the Shadowmen. "It’s me, Tomas! I-I've been looking everywhere for you…"-
[21:42] <Asuka‘> ["Yessir." Hugues doesn’t pay the voice any mind. "Sickos…"]
[21:54] * Raphael continues advancing down the hall, firing as he goes. "Duck, Mr. Fontain!" Blam! More impromptu renovations as a Shadow follows his advice as well, ducking under Raphael's shot.
[21:58] <Raphael> «Fontaine*»
[21:59] <Asuka‘> ["Right-" He lurches out of the way. One of the Shadowmen turns to stare at Raphael…-
[22:00] <Asuka`> [… Whilst another one raises a hand towards Hugues. Its eyes flare, and…-
[22:00] <Asuka`> ["…" Hugues struggles with himself. "Nngh… I… I… I missed you a lot, kid. Y-Y’know, most kids like you I don't bother to get close to, but I think you got that knack about you, you know?" He muttered mindlessly, heading towards the Shadowman dreamily.]
[22:21] <Raphael> "Hugues, no-!" Raphael lets out a furious growl and sights the Shadowman again… his breath evens out and he squeezes the trigger, landing two shots in the shade's chest in a perfect double tap. "… there."
[22:23] <Asuka‘> [The Shadow crumples, the metal collapsing onto a pool of inky oil.]
[22:25] <Raphael> "Bring down that last target before Hugues can get himself killed! Mr Fontaine, get clear of the line of fire!"
[22:26] <Asuka`> ["Alright!" Says Alex, sounding more than a little harried.]
[22:36] <Asuka`> [Hugues seemed to… Almost shake himself out of it as the Shadowman lurched forward, and he dodged awkwardly to the side- the claws bounced off of his thick armor.]
[22:45] <Asuka`> [Another hail of gunfire as the team opened up, but… It didn’t seem to come to much effect. "Reloading!" Cried Marie…-
[22:46] <Asuka‘> [Hugues reached out to clap his hands firmly on the Shadowman’s shoulders. "Oy, you, boy. Aren't I glad to see you-"-
[22:46] <Asuka‘> [Bang. Bang. The distinct retort of a bolter, and those same arms blew off suddenly. The Shadowman screeched, before collapsing into a bubble of tar.-
[22:47] <Asuka`> [Hugues stared forward, then… "Gah. Gahh." He stumbled backwards onto the ground, turning to look at Raphael. "Shit. What the hell, Captain? Did I… -Shit-."]
[22:52] * Raphael jogs up the hall to draw level with Hugues and claps him once on the shoulder, giving him a sympathetic look. His gun is still levelled straight at the puddles of tar out of… well, what /would/ be paranoia if he didn’t work for NERV. "It's alright, Sergeant. These things make it their business to play with human minds. It's not your fault." That said he glances further up the
[22:52] * Raphael hall. "Mr. Fontaine! Are you alright?"
[22:54] <Asuka‘> ["Heh… heh…" Alexandre nodded. "I’m fine. A little hurt. Elizabeth here's ok, too, but she's crying. I've been holding out here for… God, I don't even know. Two days, at least? It's all gone to shit."-
[22:54] <Asuka‘> [Euphasie approached. She was holding the medkit. "Let me look at your wounds."-
[22:54] <Asuka`> ["I’m fine-"-
[22:54] <Asuka‘> [Euphasie’s face darkened and her eyes sharpened in a way that suggested that saying that again would be a good way to make it untrue. he quickly aquiesced.]
[22:59] <Raphael> "Eliza-" ["She's a beautiful kid, Adrian. What's her name?" "Elizabeth. After me mum."] … he frowned, memories of the conversation at the bar flooding back in. Memories of who was here. "… Elizabeth. The daughter of the Pilots Bellamy?"
[23:02] <Asuka‘> ["That’s right. She's- ow!" Alex hissed as Euphasie began to medicate him.-
[23:02] <Asuka‘> ["Stop moving."-
[23:02] <Asuka`> ["Can’t you be a little-"
[23:02] <Asuka‘> ["Shut up already!"-
[23:03] <Asuka`> ["Oi, geez." Alex muttered. "Yeah, that’s right. She's the only baby on base, I couldn't let those monsters take her."]
[23:07] <Raphael> "Good man," Raphael murmurs, his frown deepening even as he completely ignores his medic's lack of bedside manner. "Any idea where her parents were when this whole situation developed, Mr Fontaine? Doctor Riel's got some… less than pleasant theories, but we've got nothing concrete."
[23:10] <Asuka‘> ["It… They were in EVA-07. I’m not sure what happened." He shook his head. "But this isn't just some berserk. It didn't start with the Evangelion."]
[23:11] <Raphael> "Then tell us where it did, if you can. From the beginning. We've been flying blind since we arrived."
[23:16] <Asuka‘> ["EVA-07 started up, and… It seemed fine. The engine worked fine. We ran it endlessly for 24 hours. No problems." He shook his head. "Then we had it spread its AT Field…"-
[23:16] <Asuka`> ["Yes? Go on."-
[23:19] <Asuka`> ["There was some sort of energy reaction from the old Plug Testing Centre, and… Then all hell broke loose. EVA-07 went berserk. The next thing we know it’s cut off comms, and the AT Field's swallowed the entire facility. These… Phantom things started appearing. They started hunting some of the older scientists at first, then… We started to see those weird ghost things. About 12 hours after the berserk, the Shadowmen broke out of their research pens."]
[23:24] * Raphael nods slowly, glancing back towards Riel. "Does this change anything for us, Doctor?"
[23:26] <Asuka‘> [Dr. Riel shook her head. "It gives us a location to head towards. Nothing else. Do you have the key, Alex?"-
[23:27] <Asuka`> ["Yes, doctor."-
[23:27] <Asuka`> ["Alright, good. Then let’s head back to the corridor, and we'll climb down to the old testing centre."]
[23:32] <Raphael> "Yes ma'am," Raphael says, nodding once before turning to the others. "You heard the doctor. Form up on me and we'll be out of here before too much longer."
[23:32] <Asuka‘> [A chorus of ’Sirs!' and the fussing of a baby.]
[23:34] * Raphael leads the way…
[23:42] <Asuka‘> [As he steps out into the halogen-lit corridor, he… Sees something flicker for a moment in his vision… But it passes.]
[23:46] * Raphael ’s breath catches for the briefest of moments as some phantom… (Memory? Construction?) whisper tries to invade his mind, but he shakes it off and leads the squad on into that first bloodstained hall. He's looking worse for wear since the last time they visited - both in uniform and expression.
[23:53] <Asuka‘> ["Everything ok, Captain?" Asked Euphasie.]
[23:56] <Raphael> "Fine, Corporal. I simply don’t like this place trying to dig up what I've long since buried."
[23:58] <Asuka‘> ["Yeah. It gets like that." She muttered. "Saw my firstborn son around here at some point. He’s been dead six years now. It's scummy."]
[00:00] <Raphael> "… I'm sorry, Euphasie," he says quietly. "We're going to deal with whatever's causing this, I promise you that." They're heading up to the stairwell now, with Raphael and Corporal Herriot in the lead. Most of the group has run plenty of operations with the Group Captain before, but they would likely never have seen him looking this /angry/.
[00:03] <Asuka‘> [The stairwell is a large pillar-like object with a thick, heavy metal door that could probably withstand a tank cannon blast. Alexandre held out a keycard to Dr. Riel, who swiped it- the door slid open. "After you, Captain."-
[00:03] <Asuka`> [An oppressively dark stairwell, leading up and down- "We need to go down."]
[00:07] * Raphael gives the staircase a long look before unclipping a flashlight from his belt and fixing it to the rail mount of his bolter. "Right. What are we looking at when we get down there?" He asks while he waits for the others to set up their own light.
[00:09] <Asuka`> ["We’ll have to dig our way through a few other rooms, but eventually we'll go to where we used to test the Entry Plugs for pilots…" She swallowed nervously. "Let's go."-
[00:09] <Asuka‘> [The others are quick in flashlighting.]
[00:11] * Raphael gives a short nod and, after a quick check over the rest of the team, leads the way down into the dark…
[00:14] <Asuka`> [… They emerge into a darkened room, lit only by the faded halogen strips. A light fog seems to sit on the area…]
[00:34] <Raphael> The fog seems to bother him more than anything else, even if his torch cut a swathe through it. This place was problematic enough without obscured visuals… "Alright. Let’s form up on the door. Marie, Hugues and Blaise in front. Mr. Fontaine and I will cover you." And soon enough, the great vaultlike door of the facility would begin to slide open, and…
[00:35] <Asuka‘> [… Fog. A heavy, thick fog would float out…]
[00:37] <Raphael> … he wobbled on his feet. The exhaustion seemed to roll over him in a wave, as if days, months… maybe all the years since Second Impact were hitting him at once. Raphael was struggling to keep his eyes open.
[00:37] <Asuka`> ["Hey. Hey, Raff."-
[00:38] <Asuka`> [Someone shook him.-
[00:39] <Asuka`> [… It was Lucas, the boy grinning like a loon. He was standing in Raphael’s doorway, leaning against the doorframe of Raphael's room- the room he had at his family's holiday house. "You -scamp-."]
[00:42] * Raphael looked shaken, as though woken from a very long and painful nightmare. He tries to shake it off… (This wasn't righ-) to make the nightmare fade in the daylight. "… h-hey, Lucas."
[00:44] <Asuka‘> ["Heeey." Lucas bounces onto Raphael’s bed, shaking him again. "God. Ok. Let me see it. C'mon. I know Dad gave it to you in secret. C'moooooon." A wink.]
[00:46] <Raphael> "Dunno if I should, Lucase. I mean he -did- make a point of it being a secret, right?" Despite his words Raphael's hand was still creeping towards the drawer of his bedside table and he was obviously fighting off a grin.
[00:46] <Raphael> «Lucas*»
[00:51] <Asuka‘> ["Yesss. There’s a good brother." Lucas leans forward eagerly. "God, I'm jealous. You get Grandpa's old watch just 'cause you were born first. If it were based on merit…"]
[00:55] * Raphael 's brow creased very slightly, but… younger brothers were meant to say dumb things like that sometimes, right? The drawer opens and Raphael pulls out an absolutely exquisite gold pocketwatch - obviously a family heirloom of some note. "Just be careful with it, right? Dad'd murder me if something were to happen to it…"
[01:01] <Asuka‘> [Lucas lets out a deeply impressed whistle. He takes it with awe, cradling it in his hand with respect and even trepidation. He opens it, reads the engraving. "… I’m really- damn. This is one hell of a thing, Raff." He holds it up to the light. "… Soooo." he leans towards Raphael with an utterly mischievious expression.]
[01:03] <Raphael> "… 'so' what, Lucas?" Raphael says flatly, his body tensing in that way a sibling's does when he knows a chase or a clobbering is about to be due…
[01:04] <Asuka‘> ["So you’re… Eighteen now. A real man, right?" He grins. "You gonna do some real man things? Eh? I -know- you've been flirting in your own special way with that waitress down at the bistro."]
[01:06] <Raphael> "… where in the hell do you even /hear/ these things? I've talked to Katie a handful of times, yeah, but that's sorta required when I need to order lunch."
[01:08] <Asuka‘> ["Uh-huh." Lucas stands up, grinning. "Come on."]
[01:13] <Raphael> "I’m telling the truth, you little gossip," Raphael says with a trace more irritation in his voice as he throws back the sheets and gets to his feet as well. "And if you've been telling everyone who'll listen about your little "scoop" again, there's going to be trouble."
[01:14] <Asuka‘> ["Hahaha. Yeah, right. Come on. Let’s ask her anyway, I bet she's-"-
[01:14] <Asuka‘> [… The ground suddenly shook with incredible violence.]
[01:16] <Raphael> "… shit," Raphael murmurs, the smile gone in an instant as he glances towards the window. "An earthquake? Lucas, go make sure the girls are safe! I’ll find mum."
[01:23] <Asuka‘> ["Ri-"-
[01:23] <Asuka`> ["Ri-i-i-i"-
[01:23] <Asuka`> [A scream. His mother’s scream…-
[01:24] <Asuka‘> [And suddenly the world exploded into pain, before… He found himself on his knees, surrounded by the fog… Back in Eden base.]
[01:29] <Raphael> He was crying, and for a moment he couldn’t even begin to wonder why. He felt… disconnected, and utterly sick to his stomach with fear. But slowly, ever so slowly, he came back to himself…-
[01:30] <Raphael> The tears still wouldn't quite stop.
[01:37] <Asuka‘> ["C-Captain? Hey, Captain!" He’d feel a hand on his shoulder, shaking him vigorously. Hugue's voice… "Come on now, sir, it's alright."-
[01:38] <Asuka‘> ["Is he- would morphine-?" Euphrasie’s voice…-
[01:38] <Asuka‘> ["Hey, Marie, Marie… Oh God, what -happened-?"-
[01:38] <Asuka`> [There was the sound of a baby wailing, and the sniffles of someone else crying…]
[01:42] * Raphael ’s hands are on the grip of the bolter again, hanging onto it like a talisman. He tries to wipe his eyes without the others - the people he was supposed to be leading - having to see, but there's no subtle way to do something like that. "R-…" Shaking voice. That wouldn't do. He takes a deep breath and wills it away. "Report, Sergeant."
[01:43] <Asuka‘> [… So he’d probably be pretty put out when Euphrasie dabbed at his face with a handkerchief, her face deeply concerned but clearly not suffering as much as he was.-
[01:44] <Asuka‘> ["Something happened, Captain. You, Marie, the kid and the boffin suddenly started freaking out." Said Hugues, his voice gruff. "Sounded like you were havin’ a bad nightmare."]
[01:46] <Raphael> "… something like that," he mutters, the fear slowly giving way to a much more respectable sort of rage. He gently moves Euphrasie's hand away, but the look he shoots her is almost thankful. "Marie? You alright?"
[01:48] <Asuka‘> [Marie looks like an awful mess. She’s on her knees, a pool of vomit at her knees. Unfortunately, the vomit seems to have… Something in it that's not the usual content. It looks almost as if she's vomited up fat or muscle or something, but… "I… It was…" She shook her head vividly. "I-I never ever…"]
[01:52] * Raphael bites off a little curse of horror at the sight, the sickness in his own stomach coming back with a vengeance. "… what the hell are you doing looking after me for, Corporal Beringer? See to this one and -fast-. We'll have to station her here with a guard - there's no way I'm bringing her in further in that state…"
[01:52] <Asuka‘> ["R-Right, sir-"-
[01:53] <Asuka`> ["Nnngh." Maria shoots Euphrasie a look that would terrify a small child into silence. "I’m -not- staying behind. Not again. Not again."]
[01:55] * Raphael gives Hugues a questioning, sidelong look, and the Sergeant would easily be able to see the Group Captain's own shock even if he was trying to mask it.
[01:56] <Asuka‘> [Hugues crouched down and muttered something in Raphael’s ear.]
[02:00] * Raphael nods very slightly at that. His attention goes back to Marie. "Alright, Corporal. But I'm going to make sure Duval's at your shoulder the whole time, and you're not to even -think- about leaving his. Are we clear?"
[02:01] <Asuka‘> ["That’s… Fine, sir. I trust Duval." She muttered under her breath, as if she'd lost the ability to internal monologue. "Damned fine man that Henri. Always knows which bit goes in which end, and he never leaves a man behind if he can help it…" She gets to her feet.-
[02:01] <Asuka‘> [Dr. Riel staggered to her feet as well. She wasn’t as bad off as the others, but she looked utterly worn out. "This place hates me."]
[02:04] <Raphael> "You're not alone in that category I think," Raphael says darkly… and then remembers himself, "Doctor Riel, ma'am." Still, has a sharp, furious edge to it that he can't quite blunt.
[02:04] <Asuka‘> ["… We’ll see, Captain." Mutters Riel with a grim sort of fatality.-
[02:05] <Asuka‘> [Alex walks over as well, looking shaky and somewhat panicky. He’s huddling Elizabeth close. "Captain. Pardon my weakness…"]
[02:09] * Raphael glances around. He eyes Alex closely for a moment. "I was affected too, Mr. Fontaine. As was Doctor Riel. Unless you want to lump the both of us in with your self-flagellation I'd suggest you not be so hard on yourself." It's certainly a little more… direct than his usual pep talks, but there a little pat on the shoulder to show he means no harm.
[02:10] <Asuka‘> ["Heh. That’s a fair point." He smirks.-
[02:10] <Asuka‘> ["… Only three more rooms left. Quarter of the way there." Says Dr. Riel.]
[02:14] <Raphael> "… that’s something, I guess," Raphael says, running his hand across his face one last time. He stands a little straighter. "Alright. Form up and move out, soldiers. Corporal Duval, you're with Favager." And so it goes. It takes a few minutes, but the group cleans itself up as best they can and moves on to the next blast door…
[02:15] <Asuka‘> [… The door creaks open to reveal what is, for Dr. Riel, a common site- a MAGI Supercomputer centre. The consoles are flickering…-
[02:16] <Asuka`> ["… Hm. The MAGI still seems to be half active, but none of the consoles here are functional. Still, a good sign."]
[02:25] <Raphael> "I’ll take your word for it, Doctor," he says, directing the bulk of the squad towards the northern blast door. "Favager and Duval, I'd like you to set up the HMG."
<Asuka‘> ["Yessir!" Marie moved to set the HMG down, struggling a little until Henri took a good part of the load. "Anywhere you want us to cover in particular, sir?"]
<Raphael> "Cover that second blast door, Corporal. And Duval, I’d like you to handle firing while Favager's recovering."
<Asuka‘> ["Sir, I can-" Began Marie.-
<Asuka`> [Henri gave her a nudge to the ribs. "Don’t quibble, Marie."-
<Asuka`> ["You just want to fire the big gun!"-
<Asuka`> ["Well, maybe… Either way, orders are orders." He grinned and took the helm.]

  • Raphael manages a very thin smile, and once everyone at the blast door was ready he gave Corporal Herriot, standing at the door's controls, a quick nod.

<Asuka‘> [Blaise nodded in return, and grabbed the lever. He -pulled-
<Asuka`> [… The doors opened… The light was dull and blank in the narrow tunnel, but eventually they could see…-
<Asuka`> [Lights. Lights in the gloom. Three pairs of pale green eyes staring out of thick tar, covered in armor-
<Asuka`> ["Oh, not again." Muttered Euphrasie, raising her gun without hesitation and snapping off a series of shots that didn’t seem to do much damage.-
<Asuka‘> ["So how -is- that boy of yours, Euph?" Asked the target casually. "Man, they grow up fast, huh? Before you know it he’ll be into the shelves-"-
<Asuka`> ["Shut -up." Hiss Euphrasie, paling.]

  • Raphael offers the one harassing Euphrasie a quick reply as two heavy shots shred its head and chest. "Open fire!" he calls, switching his aim to another of the shadowmen. "Keep an eye on the people to either side of you!"

<Asuka‘> [There’s a full hail of gunfire as they open, a mix- Raphael and Alex's bolters, the latter of which causes massive gouges in another Shadowman; the pistols; the distinct retort of Hugue's shotgun; but it isn't enough to keep them back, and the one Raphael downed slowly reassembles.-
<Asuka‘> [A second Shadowman stares at Hugues, its eyes flashing for a second- Hugues seems, for a moment, hypnotised, but he shakes it off. "Not this time…"-
<Asuka`> [… Whilst the third lumbers forward and swings a crude, violent claw at Blaise, who leaps back. "No, get back!"-
<Asuka`> ["C’mon, Blaise, let's goooo. If we keep waiting around we're going to be late"-
<Asuka‘> [Blaise let out a low groan, almost a whimper, at that horrible voice…-
<Asuka`> [… Whilst echoes elsewhere drew Marie’s attention to the room they'd just cleared. "Shit. Sir! We're being flanked, somehow… Henri, turn the damn gun around!"-
<Asuka`> ["Wh- oh crap-"]

  • Raphael grits his teeth as he glances back towards the other open blast door, the Shadowmen barely visible beyond it. "Turn that gun around! Corporal Herriot, I hope you still have that grenade launcher."

<Asuka‘> ["Y-Yessir-" Blaise lets out a covering blast of pistol fire- the bullets bounce off its patchy armor before it reaches out to grab him. A second later, a bolter round blasts through its head and the body collapses.-
<Asuka`> [Alex, still holding that bolter one-handed, opens fire again, taking down the Shadowman attacking Euphrasie. Elizabeth is crying again, the sound still loud in her ears even with the combat muffs.-
<Asuka`> [The loud whine of the Heavy Machinegun pierces the air as Henri opens fire with immense enthusiasm. One of the Shadowmen staggers backwards before the heavy wave of fire. "Henri! For crying out loud, stop fiddling with Guillory’s VTOL and get the hell over here-"-
<Asuka‘> ["Urgh. Their armor-" Grunts Marie as she lets loose again.-
<Asuka`> [The surviving Shadowman by the door lurches towards Hugues, claw striking towards his thigh. A second from impact he smacks it away with his shotgun, nearly causing it to jam. "Bah. Get back, you lousy tar-bodied bastards!"]
<Raphael> … and it does when another pair of shots from Raphael’s bolter strike it in the torso a second later, sending the creature stumbling backwards and leaking inky black fluid. "Rear ranks, fire on the two at the other door if you have a clean shot!""
<Asuka‘> ["I’ll try!" Dr. Riel fires yet again, and fails to leave her mark…-
<Asuka‘> [But Henri hasn’t stopped firing at all, and like most people somewhat unused to firing a HMG, lets out a roar that starts low and slowly builds to a loud crescendo. The two last Shadowmen are a crumpled mess- but he doesn't stop firing until Marie reaches over and grabs his hand, pulling it off the trigger. "There's a good lad, Henri."]

  • Raphael is breathing hard by the time the room is quiet again, scanning the room's three entrances with an unusually urgent motion. "… All clear?"

<Asuka‘> ["All clear, Captain." Says Hugues. He scornfully brings his foot down on a Shadowman’s head.]
<Raphael> "Alright." He seems to still a little at that, his normal composure returning in force. "Do we have any wounded?"
<Asuka`> ["No, sir!"]

  • Raphael nods, giving his gun a quick check before glancing towards the next blast door. "Glad to hear it. Hugues, are you able to help me with this next one?"

<Asuka‘> ["No doubt, sir."]
<Raphael> "How’s Miss Bellamy doing, Alexandre?" Raphael asks as he moves up to the next door, bolter ready to fire over Hugues' shoulder.
<Asuka‘> ["A few days with me have made her a little happier to see me." He says wryly. "She’s not liking all the fighting, though. No surprise there. She probably misses her mum."-
<Asuka‘> [Blaise headed over to the next door. "Open, sir?"]
<Raphael> "We’ll get her out of here soon, I promise. I don't think I'd last long if Pilot Bellamy found out I'd let something happen to his daughter." He tries to smile at that last note, but the attempt isn't particularly convincing. A moment later his attention is back on the issue at hand. "That's right, Corporal."
<Asuka‘> ["Who else is here?" Asks Alex. "I didn’t even bother to ask how you guys got here."-
<Asuka‘> ["Alright. Three, two, one-"-
<Asuka`> [The door opens to reveal… Well, it’s another room, but it's trashed. Half of it, at least. Consoles spark and litter the floor with their cables; the next door's control panel seems to have been ravaged; and there's a flickering light in the roof that keeps projecting flickering unstable holographic images. A single computer console, however, is fully lit…]
<Raphael> "Colonel Lachapelle deployed four of the Evangelion - Pilot Langley-Soryu and the three Parisian Pilots," Raphael says as Blaise works the door. "We're here for recon and recovery while they try and handle the source of whatever is going on in this plac-" His eyes scan the room in a hurry, taking in the damage and the ruined console and scowling. "… damn. Is there another way past this, Doctor?"
<Asuka‘> [Alex’s eyes widen a little at Raphael's news. He doesn't say anything, but a small smile appears on his face.-
<Asuka‘> ["Afraid not. We built the next room with the full intent that it’d be one way only." She says quietly.-
<Asuka‘> ["Nothing a few kilograms of plastic explosive can’t handle, sir." Says Blaise.-
<Asuka‘> ["I’ll want to have a look at the computer, if you don't mind, Captain." Added Dr. Riel.]
<Raphael> "Certainly, Doctor," he says with a curt nod. "Blaise, if you would take a look at that door I'd appreciate it. See if it's something you can deal with."
<Asuka‘> [Blaise nods, heading over to the door. He taps it with his fist, peering at it closely, looking about… "I think one kil should do it, sir. It feels like a solid door."-
<Asuka`> [Dr. Riel, however, headed over and busied herself with the computer. The data here was important…-
<Asuka`> ["Hm. Not as good as I thought. I’ve got some action reports and recordings about events over the last three weeks. Handy for figuring out what happened, but not what I'm looking for…"-
<Asuka‘> [… With a flicker, the holographic projector turns off… Then reactivates, now working perfectly. It projects a faded holographic image about a metre away from Raphael and Marie. It’s a little girl, looking nervous and afraid, clutching a teddy bear to her chest.]

  • Raphael 's gun snaps around and bears down on the girl out of sheer reflex… but then he recognizes what he's looking at as an errant flicker disturbs the picture. He frowns deeply. "… Doctor? Are you seeing this?"

<Asuka‘> ["Yes, I am." She mutters and taps the computer. "I didn’t select this. Why won't it listen to my orders…" Tap tap. The console doesn't respond.-
<Asuka‘> [Marie gives Raphael a concerned glance- not concerned about him, but more of a ’this is off' look.-
<Asuka‘> ["I don’t wanna go in the plug." Mumbled the holographic little girl, shaking her head fearfully. "I don't wanna."]

  • Raphael returns Marie's look with a similar one of his own and just nods. So young… "… these are base recordings, Doctor?"

<Asuka‘> ["Yes. But they’re old." Says Dr. Riel. "About eight years have passed since that girl was so little. Mr. Herriot, how are we going with those explosives?" She asks nervously.-
<Asuka‘> ["Er, fine." He glances over at Raphael, because he isn’t placing explosives unless ordered.-
<Asuka‘> [Another shape joined the little girl, now. A holographic Dr. Riel- looking a little younger, of course. She knelt down next to the girl. "Why don’t you want to get into the plug, Natasha? Don't you know there's a special treat for little pilots who behave?"-
<Asuka‘> [The girl shook her head again. "I-I’m not. No way." She mumbled, her voice ringing with fear. "M-Madison got in and she never come out again. Asuka said so."]
<Raphael> "… wire the charges, Corporal," Raphael says, his voice suddenly a little less controlled. Signs of anger flashing through. "What the hell are we watching, Doctor?"
<Asuka‘> ["It’s-"-
<Asuka‘> ["Recordings." Cut in Alex. His face was stone cold. "Recordings from the NeoSpartan project." He looked over at Raphael and elaborated. "The project that saw NERV and its predecessors ’adopt' a large number of orphaned or stray kids in an attempt to train them to be the perfect soldier. Specifically, to train someone capable of synchronising and piloting with an Evangelion. I was one of
<Asuka‘> them. So was Asuka."-
<Asuka`> ["Alex…" Muttered Dr. Riel.-
<Asuka`> ["Now, Asuka has been a bit of a bad girl lately. You can’t listen to her." Said holographic Dr. Riel. Her tone was becoming strained. "Come on, now, Natasha, enough silliness-"-
<Asuka‘> ["No! I refuse-" The little girl broke, trying to suddenly dash off, but Dr. Riel was faster, reaching out and grabbing her, pulling back. The girl screamed. "Let me go!"-
<Asuka`> [Holograhic Dr. Riel straightened up, holding something in her hand- the teddy bear. She was glowering down at Natasha firmly.-
<Asuka`> ["N-No! Give it back! Please- that’s mine…"]
<Raphael> "… how many?" Raphael asked quietly, voice not quite daring to rise above a whisper.
<Asuka‘> ["One thousand and twenty-five children were chosen for the Project at the beginning." Said Alex quietly.-
<Asuka`> [Dr. Riel- the real one- was silent, staring down at her console.-
<Asuka`> ["If you want this back, Natasha, then you’ll be a good girl and get into the plug." Said the holographic doctor.-
<Asuka‘> ["B-But I’m scared!" Natasha was starting to cry, reaching out for the bear. "Give me Vassa, please-"-
<Asuka‘> ["Will you get into the plug?"-
<Asuka`> ["No-!"-
<Asuka`> [The holographic doctor walked away, vanishing from the projection. The little girl screamed, a hysterical edge to her words. "NO! Please- fine- fine, I’ll do it-"-
<Asuka‘> ["There’s a good girl." The holographic doctor returned, kneeling down and bopping Natasha on the nose with the bear before giving it back.]
<Asuka`> [It had to be noted that the others in the squad had - perhaps with the exception of Blaise, who was strapping explosives to the door- been paying attention to this. Marie and Hugues looked disgusted, whilst Henri looked deeply disconcerted. Euphrasie was giving Dr. Riel a very dark look.]

  • Raphael turns to stare at Riel. -Through- her if her back was still turned. His expression was… utterly unreadable, but there was something dangeous in his eyes. It looked like he was weighing his options pretty heavily… "Blaise, may I get an ETA on those explosives?"

<Asuka‘> ["And…" He looks over at Raphael. "Should be all done now, Sir. We should probably stand well back though. Next room back, I mean."-
<Asuka`> [The hologram flickered and died. Dr. Riel let out a deep breath.]
<Raphael> "… Right. Let’s move." Without further comment he turned on his heel and headed for the previous room.
<Asuka‘> [The others followed out, Dr. Riel looking nervous and dismayed. Before long they assembled together in the other room, Blaise holding the remote detonator. "Say when, Captain."]
<Raphael> "Alright. On my mark, Corporal. 3… 2… 1… Blow it."
<Asuka`> [He pushed the button.-
<Asuka`> [Two kilograms of explosives… Well, exploded, utterly shredding the door and, well, honestly, half the room. It seemed a little bit like overkill, considering that Dr. Riel’s console was now in pieces and half the room was burned black.-
<Asuka‘> ["… Door destroyed, sir."]
<Raphael> "One less thing in our way, Mr. Herriot. Well done." He doesn’t waste any time, though, and as soon as the flames have passed and the dust has settled Raphael's leading the squad back into the hologram room. His face is a little less strained now, but it still seems… overcomposed, would perhaps be the right word.
<Asuka`> [As they head back in, Dr. Riel speaks up. "Captain, might I suggest that you, Alex and I go into the next room alone?"]

  • Raphael gives her a long, unblinking stare for a moment. "… not unless you have an exceedingly good reason for it, Doctor Riel," Raphael says flatly. "We've only come this far by staying together."

<Asuka‘> [She clears her throat. "The next room is… Sensitive. Both in nature as well as environment. The data I seek is important, but if my theories are correct, the room might… Not want to accept a full team."]
<Raphael> "…" His stare continues for a few moments longer, gaze boring a hole in Riel… but eventually he looks away. "Hugues, are you able to take command until we get back?"
<Asuka`> ["Not a problem, sir." Says Hugues. "I’ll set up a defensive perimeter just in case." He immediately turns to Henri and Marie. "Right. You lot, set up the HMG in the middle of the room. Herriot, you and I'll cover the door you so kindly blew."-
<Asuka`> ["Excuse me, Medic Euphrasie, if you could take Elizabeth for me?" Asked Alex seriously. The woman nodded. "Sure."]

  • Raphael snaps off a quick salute to Sergeant Monette before leaning in to mutter something in his ear.

<Asuka`> [Hugues frowns a little, but nods smartly. "Very well, sir." He cradles his shotgun a little more carefully.]

  • Raphael nods in return and turns back to Riel and Alex. "We'd better move. Make sure both of you have checked your weapons before we head in."

<Asuka‘> [Alex is already doing as such. Riel blinks, then with a faint ’oh' she checks her pistol.]

  • Raphael watches Riel's slightly more clumsy check in silence, but seems to find no fault with it. When all that's done he begins the trek towards the ruined door without a second thought, trusting the pair to follow.

<Asuka‘> [They follow on, Riel moving ahead slightly.]
<Asuka`> ["The door at the end will require a special passcode, so…" Dr. Riel trailed off.]
<Raphael> "I’ll leave it to you, then," Raphael says, lifting his gun a little as the blast door draws closer.
<Asuka‘> [Riel nods, sweeping by and quickly entering a code on the keypad. The doors slide open smoothly, revealing a perfectly undamaged room, the walls lined with computer consoles. Above the consoles are windows, gazing out- it’s an observation deck. She steps past, heading quickly over to one of the consoles. "Please hurry inside."]

  • Raphael does, only pausing to check that Alex is still keeping pace with them. He does a quick sweep of the room as he steps over the threshold, lowering his weapon ever so slightly as it turns out to be (apparently) clear. The consoles get a few curious looks as he moves to stand alongside Riel, but his real focus is on trying to get a look at what's beyond the wide glass windows.-

<Asuka‘> [Alex is keeping pace, but as he witnesses what’s beyond those windows he lets out a hiss of horror.-
<Asuka‘> [… it’s a field of glass-like boxes, about five metres high and two metres wide. There has to be at least a hundred. And within each box- an Entry Plug. Many of them are damaged, even mildly, cracked and leaking odd fluids- a viscous orange liquid that oozes down the sides and trickles into the floor… Except the floors are built with sloped grooves that all link into a single massive
<Asuka`> pool, full of the very same liquid. The pool itself seems to be built like a funnel.-
<Asuka`> [… The door slides shut behind them.]

  • Raphael doesn't make a sound, nor does he move. His expression is muted yet again as his eyes roam across the vast mechanism, taking it all in to try and build some sort of understanding…-

<Raphael> "… What am I looking at?" It's directed straight at Fontaine this time. He doesn't even bother with Riel.
<Asuka‘> ["I…" He glances over at Dr. Riel. "I don’t recognise this place…"-
<Asuka‘> ["It’s an observation deck." Said Dr. Riel, quickly working on a computer console. "An observation deck for observing the most secretive and the largest-scale of Eden Base's works: a gestalt consciousness." Something downloads onto her pad. "I've gathered the research data on all the projects they had running here. S2 Organs, the F Modules… Essentially everything worth salvaging." She
<Asuka‘> looked back up at the plugs. "Except for one more thing. Do you know what a gestalt consciousness means, Captain Guillory?"]
<Raphael> "Gestalt is… a loanword. Geman, I think," Raphael says neutrally, slowly turning to keep Riel in his peripheral vision without turning away from the strange pool visible below. "Refers to a unified whole. So I suppose that a gestalt consciousness would be-" He stops dead as his eyes fall on one of the entry plugs with their funnels. For a moment he seems at a loss for words. "… please don’t tell me you…"-
<Raphael> His voice is low and harsh now. Almost a growl.
<Asuka‘> ["I had no choice." She said quietly… Regretfully, even. She slowly took off her glasses, folded them up and placed them on the computer console. "It was eight years ago. Elisha Caine, the man in charge of this facility, had been ordered to create a gestalt consciousness from a great mass of the Neospartan recruits. He… He refused, and was transferred away. They put me in charge and
<Asuka`> made me do it instead." She shook her head. "They made threats. Scary, scary threats- against my family, friends… I could’ve chosen to refuse, but… I was too cowardly to do anything. But I made a plan. I… I knew that…" She looked back at Raphael. "I knew that with the right tools, the right people and actions, one day I'd be able to bring them all back."]

  • Raphael 's face actually pales a little as she admits it all, but he grits his teeth and waits it out. "… and that's how it works, is it? It's just fine to break things as long as you /swear/ you can put them back together again." He isn't raising his voice, but he only seems more imposing for it - there's barely-controlled fury dripping from every syllable. He actually seems to be shaking.

<Asuka‘> [Alex is a lot more openly angry, his eyes narrowing. "Those children. The ones that went to the plugs and never returned, or had ’accidents', or just vanished- it was all your doing?"-
<Asuka‘> ["…" Dr. Riel looked away again, flinching in fear. She was shaking- and when she looked back there were tears in her eyes. "I don’t expect you to understand. But… But this was the only thing I could do. I knew that… That if I kept the gestalt consciousness here, all the fragments of AT Fields that were destroyed would amalgamate together into a whole. The only thing that could put
<Asuka‘> them back together again would be… Something with immense power." She looked down at her feet. "I know you hate what I’ve done, but… But I only wanted to bring the children back. So many of them- they hated me. They hated and feared me. They gave me a nickname- 'The Piper'."-
<Asuka‘> ["But… but there was one little girl, who… She didn’t hate me. Her name was Amber, and she forgave me. She said she 'knew'. And forgave me." She shook her head wearily. "She was a little girl, but it didn't matter. I marched her off just like the others. I deserve your hatred. But I also deserve a chance to try to fix everything." She said. "… I knew that the moment they made an
<Asuka‘> Evangelion capable of using an S2 Organ, with the fully tapped power of the AT Field, and the -right- kind of soul- the one that misses her lost children-… The moment it activated its Field, the Gestalt Consciousness would wake, merge with it- and, and perhaps… Perhaps the Evangelion would bring them back for me."]
<Raphael> "An S2 Organ…?" That stops him. The anger doesn’t fade at all, but he seems to go very still all at once. His gun is coming up slowly. "Are you telling me… This base, the berseking 07… you /needed/ all of this. It was you."
<Asuka‘> ["I had to." She mumbled. "For the children…"]
<Asuka`> ["…" Alex was white in the face. Anger was building, but also… Horror. Grief. People had died here… "Everyone who is dead here- their blood lay on -your- hands, Riel."]
<Raphael> Smack!-
<Raphael> Luna wouldn’t have much of a chance to see the impact coming. Raphael's fist seems to cover the distance between the two of them in the space of a heartbeat.
<Asuka‘> ["Ungh-" She reeled backwards, falling clumsily onto the command panel, lifting a hand to her face. Her eyes were dazed…]
<Raphael> "It’s people like you who wrecked this world, Riel." Raphael says. He's calm again now, perfectly so, and he stares out towards the pool for a long moment. "Congratulations. You just killed hundreds in a failed attempt to salve your own guilt."
<Asuka‘> ["I deserve to die for my actions, but… The people who die here have a chance. They’ll be reborn. The ones in the gestalt have no other chance except to cease to exist for eternity…" She looked up at him. Pleading for him to understand.-
<Asuka‘> [… Suddenly, the floor started to vibrate and shake, the consoles sparking with energy. Raphael would suddenly see that the massive Gestalt Plug array… Was dry.-
<Asuka`> [… And without warning, a massive wave of -light- swept through the room. It didn’t hurt. It didn't even push him over- it just… Made him feel…]
<Raphael> It cleanses him, mind and soul. When it's passed… the look of calm on his face seems a lot less forced. It actually seems to make it to his eyes. "W-what…?"
<Asuka‘> ["… Dr. Riel. That force…"-
<Asuka`> [… Dr Riel closed her eyes and started to sob. "It happened. It -happened-. It worked. It… It reversed it. It broke the gestalt. It…"-
<Asuka`> ["Er, Captain?" A crackle over his radio. It was Hugues. "We have, er… An odd situation- Euphrasie, don’t -touch her-, goddamnit girl- developing out here."]

  • Raphael has regained his wits enough to respond, grabbing the radio from his belt without looking at Riel. "On my way, Hugues." A glance over at Alex. "We're needed back with the others. If she needs to do anything more here there'll be time for it later."

<Asuka`> ["Right." Alex picks Riel up and tosses her over his shoulder, carrying the sobbing scientist off as he follows Raphael.]

  • Raphael takes a moment to straighten up his uniform and collect himself, but before too long he's headed back down the corridor. The rearguard awaits.

<Asuka‘> [They’re in the same positions they had been when Raffy left them, except…-
<Asuka‘> [… There were children in the room. Three of them, to be exact- a girl and two boys, sitting on the floor, looking tired and drained, coated in LCL…]
<Raphael> "…" Raphael lets out a long sigh. He gives Hugues and little "All is well" nod and hands him his bolter before he moves towards the nearest, the young girl, and sits down alongside of her. Flops, really. The soldier looks -tired-. "Hi there, kiddo."
<Asuka`> [The girl had a dark complexion, with big brown eyes and black hair. She turned and stared up at him. "… Hi…"]
<Raphael> "It’s alright, hon. We're here to help. What's your name?"
<Asuka`> [Alex stared at the girl, and mouthed something. Something brought about by sheer surprise…-
<Asuka`> ["P-Padma…"]

  • Raphael looks between the two for a moment, blinking a little. "Alright, Padma. You just hang on for a moment, ok? We're going to get you out of here in a hurry. Alex, would you…?" He makes a vague 'sitting down' gesture towards the ground amongst the children.

<Asuka`> [Alex nods, and he sort of dumps Riel on the ground. Padma stares at her- shrinking back a little from the infamous Piper- before she stares up at Alex.-
<Asuka`> ["Alex…?"-
<Asuka`> ["Hiya, Padma." He flops down next to her, ruffling her sticky, LCLised hair. "Long time no see, huh?"]

  • Raphael manages to smile at that, if only a little. He pushes himself slowly to his feet and makes his way back across the room, switching the radio to Dorian's command channel with a flick of his thumb. "Colonel Lachapelle, this is Group Captain Guillory of Recon Squad Alpha reporting. We're going to need a few more soldiers down here…"
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