This Too Shall Pass 3 2 18

[15:30] <@Minaplo> [Isha's cockpit flashed red for a few seconds- then the lights went dead.-
[15:31] <@Minaplo> [All that remained was his unit status display, the copious red splashing a harsh, exaggerated red glare across the angular walls of the simulator.-
[15:31] <@Minaplo> [Isha sighed.-
[15:32] <@Minaplo> [He wiped a hand across his brow. The slightly shaky hand came back wet and damp with sweat.-
[15:33] <@Minaplo> ["Damn."-
[15:33] <@Minaplo> […-
[15:34] <@Minaplo> [A few minutes later, Isha had clambered out of the cramped simulator.-
[15:36] <@Minaplo> [The Bell's simulator room was small and humid. The simulator booths themselves were built into the wall, with the main room- a drab box of a place- was dominated by a central control console beneath a large wall-mounted monitor, where the simulated battle was shown to any onlookers.-
[15:37] <@Minaplo> [Isha wasted no time in walking over to Raphael and holding out a hand. "Well done, Mr. Guillory." Said Isha with a small smile. "I'm not the world's best Superheavy pilot, but I was hoping I'd do a little better than 3-0 against your Peacecraft…"]
[16:00] <Raphael> "I had a slight technological advantage, General," Raphael said as he met Isha halfway, returning the handshake. He'd removed his uniform jacket while inside the simulator, revealing a plain white shirt over regulation pants. "It seemed to me that you were keeping pace."
[16:01] <@Minaplo> ["As best I could for a man who loses a leg twelve seconds in, at any rate." Said Isha with a smile. "Do me a favour and don't let Honey Badger know this happened…"]
[16:04] * Raphael chuckled as he collected his jacket from where it was draped over the central console. "Wouldn't dream of it, sir. I wouldn't want to make your life any more difficult in that respect than it already is."
[16:05] <@Minaplo> ["I appreciate it."-
[16:06] <@Minaplo> ["Well then, Mr. Guillory." Raphael patted him on the shoulder. "As they're so quick to remind me, loser buys lunch. Let's get going."]
[16:06] <@Minaplo> <Isha*>
[16:06] <@Minaplo> <ffs>
[16:07] <Raphael> <They're multiplying! The stoic is taking over! Eject, eject!>
[16:21] <Raphael> Raphael gave the man a smile as he fell into step alongside him. "As you wish, sir."-
[16:22] <Raphael> "… Does it strike you as odd that they make us pay for lunch?"
[16:26] <@Minaplo> […-
[16:32] <@Minaplo> [The cafeteria was crowded, the noise kept at a steady hubbub.-
[16:35] <@Minaplo> [The cafeteria was as much the same as Raphael had remembered. The tables were blunt metal squares bolted to the floor, as were the chairs. The room was rather warm and slightly muggy, probably due to all the people.-
[16:36] <@Minaplo> [One wall of the cafeteria was dedicated to a window of transparent surovite, looking over a huge stretch of forest.-
[16:36] <@Minaplo> [It was next to this window that Lilly and Matthias had managed to find seats, seats they kept for Isha and Raphael. They were coveted seats- any seat with a view was on the spartan Bell.-
[16:38] <@Minaplo> [And so Isha and Raphael headed for the table. The food was alright today- supplies had been taken on, and a rich, brothy Russian meat and vegetable stew with crusty bread was the main course.-
[16:38] <@Minaplo> [Lilly eyed Isha and Raphael as they approached. "So how bad did he kick your ass, Misra?"-
[16:38] <@Minaplo> ["What makes you think I lost?" Asked Isha as he sat.-
[16:39] <@Minaplo> ["You lose to Matthias all the time, why wouldn't you lose to my man Guillory here?" Asked Lilly, offering Raphael a fistbump out of nowhere.-
[16:40] <@Minaplo> [Matthias, meanwhile, was staring at the roof, squinting at a half-finished fresco of a man- face undetailled except for a moustache- punching a giant squid in the eye.]
[17:01] <Raphael> Raphael eyed the offered fist with unease for a second or two before awkwardly mimicking the gesture. "I've lost to Sergeant Holmstrom, ma'am. As have you."
[17:10] <@Minaplo> ["A few times!" Said Lilly, dunking her bread in her soup and going at it.-
[17:11] <@Minaplo> ["Less often than I prefer as of late, to be honest," Said Matthias, lowering his gaze. He took his own piece of bread and dunked it into his bowl.-
[17:12] <@Minaplo> ["…"-
[17:12] <@Minaplo> ["Beam Rifle's unfair." He said a second later.-
[17:12] <@Minaplo> ["So unfair." Said Isha with a sigh.-
[17:12] <@Minaplo> [Lilly rolled her eyes.-
[17:13] <@Minaplo> ["He has a battleship gun, but normal-sized." Said Matthias.-
[17:13] <@Minaplo> ["Unfair." Repeated Isha.-
[17:14] <@Minaplo> ["Ignore 'em." Said Lilly to Raphael. "Fuckers're jealous."-
[17:14] <@Minaplo> ["I'm not jealous." Said Isha defensively.-
[17:15] <@Minaplo> ["I'm a little jealous." Said Matthias. "I don't suppose that thing's going into production soon, Raphael…?"-
[17:16] <@Minaplo> [… There was a current of hope to his tone.]
[17:19] <Raphael> "Maybe if we retake Asgard," Raphael said, investigating his own bowl of stew, "Or if Surov and Colonel Sarasvati have some more luck reverse-engineering the ones we have."-
[17:21] <Raphael> "And I want to remind you both that I'd happily run those simulations in the Ilmarinen."
[17:24] <@Minaplo> [His stew was brown and meaty.-
[17:24] <@Minaplo> ["I'm in too deep now." Said Matthias seriously. "I won't be happy until I kill the Peacecraft dead."-
[17:26] <Raphael> "Kill the Peacecraft and you answer to its real pilot, I'm afraid," Raphael said. "She's far less forgiving."
[17:29] <@Minaplo> ["Hm. Suppose I can settle for disabling it, then." He mused.-
[17:30] <@Minaplo> ["I'll be honest," Said Isha. "I only agreed to fight your Peacecraft on a dare…"-
[17:30] <@Minaplo> [Lilly snickered.]
[17:32] <Raphael> "Lieutenant Norling's?"
[17:40] <@Minaplo> ["Yes, that's right." Said Isha darkly.-
[17:40] <@Minaplo> ["It's like a rite of passage." Said Lilly warmly.]
[17:43] <Raphael> "…" Raphael shook his head, scooping up some stew. "It gives you an idea on where you might need to improve, I suppose."
[17:52] <@Minaplo> ["Now all you need to do is challenge Sarasvati, and you'll have done the whole gauntlet." Said Matthias.-
[17:52] <@Minaplo> [Lilly scoffed.-
[17:53] <@Minaplo> [Isha gave Matthias a suspicious, narrow look before glancing at Raphael. "So what's the trick with Sarasvati? What humiliating trap's waiting for me there, Guillory?"]
[18:04] <Raphael> "As I hear it, her vector calculation and response times are equivalent to a MAGI. She also has full knowledge of all UEF-production Superheavies and most UN ones, and the ability to use that to maximise the effectiveness of every shot she fires," Raphael said mildly. "Makes her a better sniper than any of us. She'd almost certainly have similar proficiencies in close-quarters, but I
[18:04] <Raphael> haven't seen that happen."
[18:11] <@Minaplo> ["Oh, is that all." Said Isha sarcastically.-
[18:16] <@Minaplo> ["That's only if she's agreed not to use electronic attacks." Said Matthias. "The only pilot I've seen have half a hope of fending that off is Duval."-
[18:18] <@Minaplo> [There was a sour look on Lilly's face, quickly obscured by her biting deep into her bread.]
[18:27] <Raphael> "The Grendel plays to all her strengths. You could beat her, but I wouldn't favour your chances in a stand-up fight."
[18:29] <@Minaplo> ["Eh, I could take it." Said Lilly.]
[18:30] <Raphael> "Oh?"
[18:30] <@Minaplo> ["Yep. Big dumb ol' artillery unit. I'd be on it before it has time to even aim."]
[18:48] * Raphael smiled. "You might be underestimating her slightly."
[18:48] <@Minaplo> ["Oh?"]
[18:51] <Raphael> "Well, for a start I'm led to believe her aiming time measures in the milliseconds."
[18:54] <Minaplo> ["Meh! I've outrun computers plenty of times." She elbowed Matthias. "Tell him about how I've outrun computers."-
[18:54] <Minaplo> ["Mmf."]
[18:57] * Raphael nodded amicably. "Well, I'm not saying it's impossible, just difficult. Moreso for those of us who favour our guns."
[19:00] <Minaplo> ["And with your armour, one good hit would smack you to the ugly side of Ginnunnagap." Said Matthias.-
[19:00] <Minaplo> ["Wanna make a bet?" Said Lilly. "Let's make a bet."-
[19:00] <Minaplo> ["Oh?"-
[19:01] <Minaplo> ["A competition. We all chip in, and whoever conquers the pretty doll first takes the pot."]
[19:04] <Raphael> "Don't call her a doll," Raphael said reflexively, even as he kept his eyes on his food.
[19:07] <Minaplo> ["Sorry, the robot." Said Lilly off-handedly. "Anyway, what'll it be? 50 francs?"-
[19:08] <Minaplo> [Isha was frowning; Matthias had a curiously well-practiced look of unfocused blankness on his face.-
[19:10] <Minaplo> ["There's no need for rudeness." Said Isha, his voice firm, paternal.-
[19:10] <Minaplo> ["…?" Lilly stared at him.]
[19:11] <Raphael> Raphael sighed and waved his hand, glancing up from his food to watch the two of them. "Don't worry about it, General. Really."
[19:12] <Minaplo> ["… I'm just trying to organise some fun." Said Lilly quietly, sounding a little hurt.]
[19:14] * Raphael looked at Matthias.
[19:15] <Minaplo> [Matthias reluctantly lowered his spoonful of stew.-
[19:18] <Minaplo> ["She's not a robot, Lilly." Said Matthias slowly and patiently. "She's a self aware individual with a personality and feelings. People become uncomfortable when you… Say that stuff. Lilly."-
[19:21] <Minaplo> ["Oh geez." Muttered Lilly. "C'mon, guys. I wasn't- it's not a big deal." She (tried to, at least) punched Raphael's shoulder playfully. "It's not like I was gonna ship 'er off to the salt mines."]
[19:25] <Raphael> Raphael allowed it - he even offered a conciliatory smile. "I know, Lieutenant. I wasn't trying to turn it into a major topic of conversation, but I've seen how badly words like that have hurt the Ayanamis. It's important you're aware of it, that's all."
[19:57] <Mianplo> ["Oh yeaaaaaah. Right, you're kinda like their… Dad or something."]
[19:58] <Raphael> "Something like that."
[19:59] <Mianplo> ["Must be a bit weird, right?"]
[20:01] * Raphael chuckled, and seemed to relax a little. "Less so than you might think. It's a bit of a slow-boiling-frog situation."
[20:02] <Mianplo> ["Oh?"]
[20:07] <Raphael> "It's not as though somebody unloaded a trailer of Ayanamis at my house one day and told me they were my responsibility," Raphael said, pausing for a moment to take another bite of bread.-
[20:12] <Raphael> "At first Rei helped me with Suzanne, and when she needed help in turn it seemed a natural enough thing to do. And then as we got closer I met some of her sisters and found they had problems of their own that they often weren't being assisted with…" He shrugged. "It happened slowly, but here we are. I can hardly call myself a parent to them, but at least they know they have an advocate."
[20:12] <Raphael> «I can hardly decide to call myself a parent to them*»
[20:18] <Mianplo> ["Do they really need an advocate that badly?"]
[20:20] <Raphael> "Miss Noring, they didn't have the beginnings of codified legal rights until a few weeks ago," Raphael said gently.
[20:29] <Mianplo> ["I… Guess." Said Lilly. "That's good and all, but from where I'm sitting, it seems kind of like that… Maybe they had more unofficial power than you thought? Maybe? Like, beyond AT Field powers or genetic supremacy, you know, or piloting Evas, I mean… Influence and stuff. Zhang's ear. Military ranks… Didn't one of them have something going on with Arab royalty?"-
[20:30] <Mianplo> ["What's your point?" Said Isha.-
[20:32] <Mianplo> ["Well, I mean, okay." Lilly held up her hands as though trying to catch a ball. "I'm gonna sound like a bit of a bitch here, but… I'm trying. So. They went from creation to legal rights in what, three years? That's- that's great, I'm super happy, but it's like… What about the dalits? How long did it take for them?"-
[20:32] <Mianplo> [Isha's expression became ice-cold.-
[20:33] <Mianplo> ["Or the blacks in America?" Said Lilly. "Or same sex mar- okay, look, the point I'm trying to make is that they don't feel like an underclass. I'm sorry! That's just how it feels!"-
[20:33] <Mianplo> [Matthias was staring through the window with an expression approaching desperation.]
(21:22) <Tao> … Raphael bit has lip, examining Lilly closely. After a moment he slid his food to one side. "I appreciate that you're trying, ma'am, so I'll try in turn," Raphael said slowly.-
(21:22) <Tao> "For starters, I agree that the Ayanamis have been particularly lucky in their circumstances. A lot of that luck is down to the fact that they had those advocates and methods of influence that you mentioned."-
(21:22) <Tao> "On the other hand, they have had that luck inside a fairly insular organisation that saw it to be in their best interests to keep them happy. We have yet to see how wider society handles the integration of bioexotics once the threat of internal and external wars has passed, and I fear it will be substantially less polite than the treatment they have received so far."-
(21:23) <Tao> He paused for breath, leaning back in his chair. "Advocacy goes beyond issues of rights, as well. These were girls bred with unique biological and psychological issues that too little effort has gone into helping them understand. -Someone- needs to help them cope with those."
(21:23) * Tao is now known as Raphael
(21:23) <Raphael> <Imagine all that was with the right nick*>
(21:28) <Mianplo> ["He's right, Lils." Said Matthias gently. "The Ayanamis were created for a war they didn't have a choice in, with a lack of support systems in place. Besides, having advocates isn't the same as having real power…"-
(21:29) <Mianplo> [Lilly was trying to listen to them both at the same time. A red flush filled her cheeks as they spoke, and she closed her eyes for a few seconds.-
(21:30) <Mianplo> ["I'm not… I'm not trying to make an attack, or anything." She muttered. "I get it, Raphael. T-that's all… I didn't mean to make it sound like I was going after your girls."-
(21:30) <Mianplo> ["But…"-
(21:31) <Mianplo> ["Okay, let me try to say it right." Said Lilly. "Y'know the Iron Guard. For example. These laws are supposed to give them legal rights equal to the rest of us. Right?"]
(21:32) <Raphael> "Right."
(21:33) <Mianplo> ["So… Let's say an Iron Guard goes to the Olympics." Said Lilly. "It doesn't matter what sport. Any'll do… You know as well as I do that that Iron Guard's pretty much going to win. Right?"]
(21:34) <Raphael> "Seems reasonable."
(21:37) <Mianplo> ["So there's a biotypical weight-lifter who's spent most of their lives trying to be the best weight-lifter in the world. But the instant that Iron Guard signs up, his chances of winning are zero. He'd manage silver at best, and that's assuming that other teams don't pick Iron Guard too in order to compete. So that guy's effort is basically pointless, isn't it? No matter how hard he works, he'll never beat that Iron Guard."]
(21:45) <Raphael> "Alright…" Raphael said, clearly not quite seeing her point.
(21:47) <Mianplo> ["So that guy's only chance of ever winning gold is to become an Iron Guard too, so he can compete."]
(21:56) <Raphael> "Hmm," he muttered. "I suppose it comes down to expectations in that respect. Were I that weightlifter, would I expect to be capable of lifting the same weight as a Guard with nearly a ton of bioaugmentations surgically grafted to their body? Of course not. I'd be competing against other biotypicals."
(21:58) <Mianplo> ["So you'd argue for Iron Guard to have their own olympics?"]
(22:01) <Raphael> "That would seem like the reasonable choice."
(22:03) <Mianplo> ["So where do the Ayanamis fall?" Said Lilly. "They're not as augmented as an Iron Guard, but they do have augmentations that no one else has. If you put them in a biotypical olympics, they're probably gonna dominate. If you put them in an Iron Guard olympics, they're only gonna be able to realistically compete in a few fields."]
(22:13) <Raphael> "… alright. I know you have a point beyond this, but within this hypothetical consider that we've already implemented weight classes in plenty of sports to solve this exact problem," Raphael said. "Extending that out to bioexotics would expand that difference by an order of magnitude, but it's entirely solveable."
(22:21) <Mianplo> ["My point is that… It's not just gonna be constrained to sports." Said Lilly. "That was just an example. What about jobs? Here's the point I'm really trying to get to, and it's basically this: Iron Guard and Ayanamis have an innate edge. But it's not an edge that came about through hard work or just through the luck of genetics, it's an artificial one."-
(22:22) <Mianplo> ["Artifical edges can be bought." Said Lilly. "So how long before that starts creeping into the class structure, huh?"]
(22:31) <Raphael> "All very true," Raphael agreed. "It's something the world is going to be grappling with very shortly. But the flip side of what you're describing is exactly what I mentioned before: When this war is over, we'll almost certainly see a backlash against bioexotics for all the reasons you're describing - a great many of whom did not ask to be put in that position."
(22:42) <Mianplo> ["I know, that's bad, I'm not-" She sighed irritably. "People weren't thinking when they created these guys, and we're all gonna pay a price and it pisses me off is all…"-
(22:42) <Mianplo> [She sulkily jabbed at her stew with her last piece of bread.]
(22:47) <Raphael> After a few seconds of awkward silence, Lilly would feel a light jab to her shoulder courtesy of Raphael. "I see your point, don't worry."
(22:51) <Mianplo> ["Heh." She smiled a little at him.-
(22:51) <Mianplo> ["Sorry for makin' everything heavy, guys."-
(22:51) <Mianplo> [Isha waved his hand at her dismissively.]
(22:55) <Raphael> "So!" Raphael said brightly, digging back into his meal. "We were discussing bets."
(22:56) <Mianplo> ["50 francs each, full pot goes to whoever goes Beowulf on the Double Grendel." Said Lilly brightly.-
(22:58) <Mianplo> ["A weeks' worth of lunches for the winner as well and I'm in." Said Matthias.]
(22:58) <Mianplo> ["A weeks' worth of lunches for the winner as well and I'm in." Said Matthias.]
(22:58) <Raphael> "Isn't that what the money is for?"
(22:59) <Mianplo> ["The money's for money." Said Matthias.]
(23:02) <Raphael> "Mmm."
(23:03) <Mianplo> ["You in, Isha?" Asked Lilly.-
(23:04) <Mianplo> [Isha sighed. "I'm not big on gambling, but I think we can consider this to be charity on my part, so what the hell. I'm in."]
(23:04) <Raphael> "I'll give it a go, certainly," Raphael said.
(23:06) <Mianplo> ["Sweet."-
(23:08) <Mianplo> […-
(23:09) <Mianplo> [It wouldn't be long before their meals were finished, and the four of them were quick to get to their feet and free up the table for some other group.-
(23:09) <Mianplo> [Lilly was already raring to start trying some new tactics, and Matthias had little choice but to be dragged along.-
(23:13) <Mianplo> ["On the topic, belatedly, of Sarasvati." Said Isha. "She asked that I meet her in the machine lab by 1. Care to join me on the way?"]
(19:19) <Raphael> Having been a touch distracted during his meal, Raphael's meal had been shoveled away in the final portion of their break. Now he stood at the table, gathering the bowls and plates as the group began to disperse.-
(19:21) <Raphael> "… I think that should be fine, General," He said, hoisting the whole stack and heading for the cafeteria counter. "I have some time before my next meeting."
(19:30) <@Minaplo> ["Glad to hear it."-
(19:33) <@Minaplo> [Before long, they were out in the hall, making a brisk pace. "So. Menshikov seems to be making good progress along the Baltic states."]
(19:53) <Raphael> "He's liable to overextend himself if he continues," he said, frowning, "Which he almost certainly will. The main army can't keep pace with him right now."
(19:55) <@Minaplo> ["I hear that has something to do with a rather less than cordial relationship between him and our commanders."]
(19:58) <Raphael> "… Sad but true. And he's just representative of our… strained relationship with Russian High Command."
(20:13) <@Minaplo> ["What's that about?"]
(20:21) <Raphael> "Geopolitical scuffling, mostly. Worried that our presence will erode the supremacy they've enjoyed in Western Europe since Impact," Raphael said, his voice seeming to communicate an eyeroll even where one did not physically exist. "President Linden is trying to soothe them."
(20:25) <@Minaplo> <Eastern*>
(20:26) <@Minaplo> ["We're not attempting to erode their supremacy by any chance, are we?"]
(20:26) <Raphael> "… that would be for other people to decide."
(20:34) <@Minaplo> ["I see."-
(20:36) <@Minaplo> ["Well, it's something we'll need to come to terms with sooner or later." Said Isha. "The Soviets may resent us, but they're not the only Federation member to have reasons to keep meddlesome folk out."]
[15:03] <Raphael> "You're not wrong," he sighed. "The politicking isn't my domain, but I can't imagine it'll be an easy matter to resolve the two agendas."
[15:04] <@Minaplo> ["True on all counts."-
[15:05] <@Minaplo> [Isha sighed, clapping a hand on Raphael's shoulder. "Ah well. Not up to us soldiers to decide, I suppose."]
[15:05] * Raphael smiled faintly. "No, sir. Our part comes after."
[15:06] <@Minaplo> ["Does it ever."-
[15:07] <@Minaplo> ["Well." Isha gave Raphael his own rueful smile. "In other news… There's an ulterior motive or two at play here, Raphael, asking you to come with me."]
[15:12] <Raphael> "You are a master of intrigue, General."
[15:12] <@Minaplo> ["Oh, hush."-
[15:12] <@Minaplo> ["The first and obvious reason is that I'd like you to pretend that my simulated thrashing wasn't so one sided. I fear Ms. Surova's attention might not be so warm if she knew the truth."]
[15:15] <Raphael> "Happily, sir," Raphael said, giving Isha a sympathetic look.-
[15:15] <Raphael> "Of course, given her talents it's entirely possible she's already aware of the results…"
[15:16] <@Minaplo> ["Entirely possible." He said dubiously.-
[15:17] <@Minaplo> ["The other reason is Mr. Surova's own." Said Isha, more seriously. "She has an update for you regarding June Ayanami. In fact, she felt that I might be of help regarding Ms. Ayanami's case, so I suppose we're working together."]
[15:23] <Raphael> It wasn't hard to spot the way Raphael seemed to tense as the name was mentioned, nor the way he was suddenly avoiding Isha's face. "… I see. Any help would be appreciated, of course."
[15:34] <@Minaplo> ["…"-
[15:34] <@Minaplo> [Isha took Raphael's hand gently. "We'll make it right."]
[15:42] <Raphael> … it took a moment, but Raphael let out a (slightly awkward) chuckle, scratching his neck with his free hand. "I hope so, sir."
[15:42] <@Minaplo> […-
[15:43] <@Minaplo> [Isha's expression was grim. Before them was the door to Sarasvati's lab.-
[15:43] <@Minaplo> ["I don't know why I'm trying to psych myself up. She already knows we're here, doesn't she?" Said Isha darkly.]
[15:45] * Raphael had been watching this play out with a guarded kind of amusement. "… Almost certainly, yes."
[15:47] <@Minaplo> ["Damnit. Shall we?"]
[15:48] <Raphael> "I think so," Raphael said, reaching out to thumb the access panel without any further ado.
[15:50] <@Minaplo> [The first thing they felt was the chill. Much of the Bell was actually quite muggy, but inside this room, the temperature seemed to drop below freezing.-
[15:51] <@Minaplo> [The door shut behind them as they stepped inside.-
[15:52] <@Minaplo> [Sarasvati was standing at the far end of the room, in front of a large wall-mounted array of console displays. As they entered she turned, making a beeline for Isha and Raphael.-
[15:53] <@Minaplo> ["Mr. Misra." She said, her voice firm. "I witnessed your simulated battle with General Guillory. Your defeat was expected, but such a quick, decisive defeat was an improbable outcome."-
[15:56] <@Minaplo> [For a second, Isha looked taken aback, caught off guard; but only for a second. He left Raphael's side and took a few steps toward her. "You were watching that?"-
[15:57] <@Minaplo> ["One of my official roles is to review the battle data gained in simulations." Said Sarasvati.-
[15:58] <@Minaplo> ["Well." Said Isha grimly. "Don't worry too much, Commander. Disappointing you isn't a habit I intend to maintain."-
[16:01] <@Minaplo> [Sarasvati was quite tall; her natural tallness and sense of presence were both exacerbated when put alongside Isha, who was, by comparison, rather short and scrawny. Nonetheless he firmly locked eyes with her and stood his ground.-
[16:02] <@Minaplo> ["Yes." Said Sarasvati. "Mr. Misra, from now on you will attend extra training sessions with me and me alone in order to expedite your improvement."-
[16:02] <@Minaplo> [He scowled, taking yet another step closer. "That won't be necessary."-
[16:03] <@Minaplo> ["Forgive me for correcting you, but it is. I altered your monthly schedule a minute after your defeat. We will take extra sessions four times a week-"-
[16:03] <@Minaplo> ["Commander, you are exaggerating my lack of ability." Said Isha, his tone firm.-
[16:04] <@Minaplo> ["That isn't the point." Said Sarasvati. "You have a massive amount of potential, Mr. Misra, and I will not let anything stop me from extracting it. That includes your own reluctance. Understand?"-
[16:05] <@Minaplo> ["…"-
[16:05] <@Minaplo> ["…"-
[16:05] <@Minaplo> [The two were standing practically nose to nose, Isha striking an almost comical figure in his indignance.-
[16:06] <@Minaplo> ["Fine." Said Isha. "You want it like that? Then I'll do more than just practice. There's a bounty out for whoever can beat you first- and I won't rest until I claim it."-
[16:06] <@Minaplo> ["A bounty? Set up by-?"-
[16:06] <@Minaplo> ["That's right."-
[16:07] <@Minaplo> ["Then I hope for your sake that you're the one to defeat me, Mr. Misra, as you could stand to prove yourself in their eyes."-
[16:07] <@Minaplo> [They stared at each other for a few seconds more, faces set, neither intending to back down.-
[16:07] <@Minaplo> [… Then Sarasvati suddenly brushed past and, before Raphael could react, wrapped him up in a tight hug. "Hello, Raphael." She said with a song in her voice.]
[16:16] <Raphael> "Ghk."-
[16:16] <Raphael> Raphael had been tensed, clearly readying himself to intervene in their little battle for dominance, and the sudden lunge only served to make him jump a little - Not that he jumped particularly -far- considering Sarasvati's strength.-
[16:17] <Raphael> "… Erm, hello Colonel Surova." He said, making a vague attempt at returning the hug.
[16:22] <@Minaplo> ["Are you well? Not homesick?"]
[16:23] <Raphael> "Not overly so, ma'am. You got Suzie's email, I hope?"
[16:31] <@Minaplo> ["Yes." Said Sarasvati, finally pulling away; she held Raphael at arms-length nonetheless. "I've been saving some of the simulated Peacecraft battles for her viewing pleasure when we return home."]
[16:34] <Raphael> "Ah…" It took substantial effort to avoid turning his gaze towards Isha at that, "… very kind of you, Colonel."
[16:36] <@Minaplo> [Isha was looking at the two of them with a slightly unfocused expression. Perhaps he wasn't paying attention.-
[16:37] <@Minaplo> ["Suzanne is very love." Said Sarasvati with a wide smile. "I'm happy to do it."-
[16:37] <@Minaplo> ["Is your team prepared for combat?"]
[16:48] <Raphael> "Of course, ma'am. Briefed and ready to deploy whenever we give te word."
[16:54] <@Minaplo> ["That makes me happy."-
[16:54] <@Minaplo> [She let Raphael go now and returned to her console-wall.-
[16:55] <@Minaplo> ["This is to do with June. My father has updates on the situation."]
[17:00] * Raphael trailed a few steps behind, Isha (assumedly) in tow. "General Misra was telling me as much. Please, go on."
[17:22] <@Minaplo> ["We are nearly ready to begin the process of reincorporising June." Said Sarasvati. "This case is unique. There are unknowns. June may reincorporise as June the Ayanami, but her soul has only been 'June' for a short period of time. It may reincorporise into a previous identity."]
[18:10] <Raphael> "A previous identity…" Raphael's face was flat, watching the screen with unnerving intensity. "A soul from the Eternity Drive?"
[18:12] <@Minaplo> ["Yes."]
[18:14] <Raphael> "…"
[18:22] <@Minaplo> ["The identity of this soul is unknown to us." Said Sarasvati. "My father says he may be capable of assisting the soul's process into one form or another, but he wants to know what you think of this."]
[18:24] <Raphael> "… You're asking which direction I would prefer the soul to take? Or whether we should take any action at all?"
[18:25] <@Minaplo> ["Both. Or rather, the former presumes that you affirm the latter, so your views on the latter should come first."]
[18:38] <Raphael> "Right…"
[18:39] <Raphael> "… it would seem to be a bit of a questionable choice, from an ethical perspictive," Raphael said carefully, still staring at the screen.
[18:42] <@Minaplo> ["I agree, for what it's worth. It can't be our place to decide." Said Isha.-
[18:44] <@Minaplo> [Sarasvati looked at the two of them for a few seconds before turning back to Raphael. "My father told me not to bother passing it on because he didn't think it would matter, but I will tell you anyway. The possibility exists that assisting the soul into one form or another might lead to higher rates of success for the process as a whole than if we let things resolve normally."]
[18:47] <Raphael> That made him hesitate. "… It'd offer a lower chance of," he stumbled, looking for a valid point of reference, "rejection, or something close to it?"
[18:47] <@Minaplo> ["Yes."]
[18:49] <Raphael> "A significant one?"
[18:50] <@Minaplo> ["I imperfectly estimate a 15% increase in the chance of a successful procedure."]
[18:51] <Raphael> «"Would it lower it significantly?"»
[18:51] <Raphael> "But Surov didn't agree?"
[18:52] <@Minaplo> ["He did, but my father felt that matters of probability would matter little to you in the face of the ethical decision."]
[18:54] * Raphael made a sound that seemed to indicate grudging acceptance of this.-
[18:54] <Raphael> "So it doesn't matter which way the soul was nudged, just that it was?"
[18:55] <@Minaplo> ["You're correct." Said Sarasvati. "The details are technical, but in essence, it is easier to follow one path laid out for you than it is to decide between two paths."]
[19:04] * Raphael 's brow was furrowed now, his expression hard. "… it would seem to me - if this were a choice we were to actually make - that it would be better to give her a soul that was her own rather than force her into conflict with Roku."
[19:11] <@Minaplo> ["That sounds like it would solve a lot of problems." Said Isha slowly. "But why does it make me feel cold inside?"-
[19:14] <@Minaplo> ["I understand." Said Sarasvati quietly. "We knew June. Her dreams were borrowed, but no one who knew her could deny how strongly she wanted to fulfill them."-
[19:14] <@Minaplo> [Her powerful green eyes met Raphael's for a second.-
[19:17] <@Minaplo> ["We do not know what is going to happen if the original soul reforms." Said Sarasvati. "They could be recently dead, or someone dead for many years. We must take responsibility, but we do not know what that will entail…"]
[19:20] * Raphael sighed deeply, running both hands over his hair. "… Have we made a mistake? Would it would be better to let her rest peacefully?"
[19:24] <@Minaplo> ["do not know." Said Sarasvati. She gently extended a hand, palm-up, toward Raphael for him to take.-
[19:24] <@Minaplo> <I do not know*>
[19:30] <@Minaplo> ["This is… A new field for me." Muttered Isha. "Matters of souls and death- I don't know. You're our resident goddess, what do you truly think?"-
[19:31] <@Minaplo> ["I'm not your goddess just yet, Mr. Misra." Said Sarasvati. "But I wonder if the best thing we can do here is to just give our lost soul the choice. If we bring them back, and they want to return to rest, then that might be something we have to do."]
[19:36] <Raphael> Raphael had taken the offered hand, smiling a little. "… I think I agree. And if we are doing that, maybe it would be better to allow her to make the choice about what route her soul takes as she tries to reincorporise."-
[19:37] <Raphael> "… or if she does," Raphael corrected himself quietly.
[14:42] <@Minaplo> [Sarasvati squeezed his hand gently.-
[14:44] <@Minaplo> ["I will let him know." She said. "Any arrangements we make for June's reincorporised life will have to wait until we know who we will be dealing with. Is there anything else you want to pass on?"]
[14:50] <Raphael> "Just… tell him I said thank you," Raphael said carefully. "And to let me know if there's anything more I can do."
[14:55] <@Minaplo> ["I will."]
[14:57] <Raphael> "Is there anything else I can do now?"
[15:02] <@Minaplo> ["You could make feelers toward people you know who would be capable of taking someone in, at least temporarily."]
[15:05] <Raphael> "I've wondered whether Miss Finch - The Adept we brought in with the squad of Phantoms - might be willing to help, but I'm not sure that would be the right direction…"
[15:11] <@Minaplo> ["I agree." Said Sarasvati. "Would Lucas be much help?"]
[15:16] <Raphael> "… he probably would," he said, frowning. "It's a lot for the two of them to deal with, but I suspect they would if I asked."
[15:17] <@Minaplo> ["Do as you think is right."]
[15:17] <Raphael> "It's certainly worth a try."
[15:41] <@Minaplo> [She nodded. "That's all for now, Raphael."-
[15:41] <@Minaplo> [Sarasvati then turned towards Isha. "Mr. Misra, do you know that you are underweight?"-
[15:41] <@Minaplo> ["I- what?"]
[15:42] <Raphael> "… erm," Raphael managed. "Is that relevant, ma'am?"
[15:45] <@Minaplo> ["I expect the members of my squad to be at peak physical fitness. Mr. Misra being underweight is suboptimal." Said Sarasvati. "Mr. Misra, I am placing you on a special diet as of now."-
[15:46] <@Minaplo> ["You're kidding me." Said Isha flatly.-
[15:46] <@Minaplo> ["I am not kidding you." Said Sarasvati seriously. "I will oversee it myself."]
[15:50] * Raphael stares for a second, clearly stifling a smile. "With respect, Colonel, that seems excessive."
[15:52] <@Minaplo> ["Exactly." Said Isha. "I bet Raphael's never even dared to put his soldiers on 'special diets'…"-
[15:56] <@Minaplo> ["General Guillory has had no reason to, either." Said Sarasvati. She walked to Isha's side and took his arm, holding it up with a speculative look on her face; eyes narrowed, slight frown on her brow.-
[15:56] <@Minaplo> ["H-Hey-" began Isha.-
[15:58] <@Minaplo> ["Too lean." Said Sarasvati. "My regimen is intended to develop physical strength, Mr. Misra. General Guillory could overpower you easily. Don't you agree, Raphael?"]
[15:59] <Raphael> "… I couldn't say," he said carefully.
[15:59] <@Minaplo> ["Should we test it?" Offered Sarasvati.]
(14:10) <Raphael> "I don't think that's necessary…"
(14:14) <@Minaplo> ["I don't, either." Said Isha shortly.-
(14:14) <@Minaplo> ["Very well. Nonetheless a dedicated exercise regime is also in order, in its own time-"-
(14:15) <@Minaplo> [Isha jerked his arm out of Sarasvati's grip. "I can look after myself!" He snapped. "What next, are you going to organise my wardrobe?"-
(14:15) <@Minaplo> [Sarasvati's eyes lit up warmly.-
(14:15) <@Minaplo> ["…"]
(14:21) <Raphael> … caught between the two and looking visibly unhappy with this fact, Raphael let out a polite cough. "In… uh, in any case, ma'am, I have to oversee the refits for the D-Titans in the on C-Deck, and I was hoping General Misra might be able to assist? Perhaps you two could discuss this later?"
(14:23) <@Minaplo> ["Very well." Said Sarasvati. She hopped over to Raphael's side and once again caught him in a tight squeeze.]
(14:36) <Raphael> As if testing a different strategy against some new form of attack, this time he responded with a wary pat to the back of her shoulder as she gripped him. "… Thank you, ma'am."
(14:39) <Mianplo> [Sarasvati released him and stepped back; she favoured Raphael with a bright smile.-
(14:39) <Mianplo> ["A good day for the both of you." She said.]
(14:40) <Raphael> "And to you, Colonel," Raphael said, subtly taking hold of Isha's sleeve as he turned to tug him towards the door.
(14:43) <Mianplo> [Isha let himself be led out, leaving Sarasvati and her ice-cold laboratory behind.-
(14:44) <Mianplo> [Isha's expression was sour. "Damn her."]
(15:02) <Raphael> "You two need to learn to deal with each other," Raphael said coolly, cutting a path towards the elevators.
(15:11) <Mianplo> ["I haven't done anything." Said Isha lowly. "She's warm and cuddly with everyone but me. I've seen her and the President together and it's insufferably sweet. I've even seen her pull a smile from Linden's humourless bodyguard, but she treats me like I'm an a black sheep!"]
(15:12) <Raphael> "Have you asked her why?"
(15:22) <Mianplo> ["No, I haven't."]
(15:22) <Raphael> "It seems like that would be a good first step."
(15:26) <Mianplo> ["…"-
(15:26) <Mianplo> [Isha remained silent, and his expression remained sour, but he kept pace.]
(15:35) * Raphael sighed and pressed the call button, waiting to one side. "… Well, I'll help if you strictly need it. I just think it'd be better if the two of you could resolve it as professionals."
(15:38) <Mianplo> ["I see."-
(15:38) <Mianplo> ["You don't really need my help on C-Deck, do you?"]
(15:39) <Raphael> "You saw through my ruse, sir."
(15:48) <Mianplo> ["So it seems. I should be off, then." Said Isha. "Take care, Guillory."]
(15:50) <Raphael> "Likewise, General. I'll see you later." Behind him there was a gentle ping as the elevator doors parted. Raphael offered Isha a small smile before stepping inside.
(15:52) <Mianplo> [Isha returned a weak smile of his own before walking away.-
(15:52) <Mianplo> [The doors shut.]

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