This Too Shall Pass 3 2 3

[18:12] <Minaplo> [The Dalmabahce Palace was ornate, sprawling and overaweing. Raphael was French, and a decorated war hero, so he had seen his fair share of palaces built to overawe others. Even so, the magnificence here was overwhelming. Gilded walls and marble pillars gave rooms an open, elegant space whilst still seeming opulent, even as giant chrystal chandeliers hung with seeming precarity over the heads of others.-
[18:13] <Minaplo> [Raphael had received an invitation, which had been carefully and cautiously cleared by his command. A member of the palace staff had been waiting for him at the entrance in order to guide him to the proper place… Always a risk in such a huge palace.-
[18:14] <Minaplo> [He passed garden spaces and ballrooms and parlours and courts, the haughty, judgmental gazes of five hundred years of Imperial history gazing down at him from the portraits and engravings and frescoes.-
[18:14] <Minaplo> [Eventually he'd be led to his location- a fairly nondescript, in all honesty, parlour. Or rather, the closed door to that parlour. The staff wished Raphael well then quickly left.]
[18:27] <Raphael> It was clear that Raphael wasn't quite sure why he was here. Coming here at all had been the source of some debate - both internal, after the security teams had caught wind of it, external - but in the end it was agreed that the given the limited risk they should do what they could do gain further information on the UN's new Supreme Commander.-
[18:27] <Raphael> Raphael, suffice to say, was less certain.-
[18:28] <Raphael> He was dressed in a standard UEF dress uniform, made just slightly bulkier by the barzilite vest he wore beneath the jacket - borrowed from the Bondsuit. No weapon, which had been yet another source of debate.-
[18:28] <Raphael> With a quick thank you to his guide, he turned and knocked on the door.
[18:32] <Minaplo> [The door opened.-
[18:33] <Minaplo> ["Hi. Raphael Guillory, right?" Said Ezra Caine, standing in the doorway. He was a tall man (much taller than Raphael was in his current form), wearing a casual white button-up shirt with the top two buttons undone along with a pair of blue jeans. He smiled, and held out a hand for Raphael to shake. "I'm Ezra."-
[18:35] <Minaplo> [This parlour, well-furnished with chaise lounges, sofa chairs, armoires, portraits, rugs, coffee tables and gilding, had one other lovely charm- its eastern wall looked out over the blue waters of the Bosphorus through several wide windows. The sun was high in the sky, a dazzling firmament spreading across the sea.-
[18:36] <Minaplo> [Standing by the window looking out, wearing a white sundress, was Sarah Holt. She turned as the door opened, giving Raphael a wave and a cheery smile.]
[18:43] * Raphael gave Ezra's hand a shake - a particularly firm one, perhaps to make up for the height difference - and gave Sarah a nod and a slightly more restrained smile once he caught sight of her. "Marshal Caine, Mrs. Holt. Thank you for inviting me."
[18:47] <Minaplo> ["Not at all, not at all. Come in." Said Ezra, stepping aside.-
[18:48] <Minaplo> ["I've heard a lot about you from Mana." Said Ezra with a smile. "Too much, I think. I thought you'd be taller. But she always was a petite little thing…"]
[18:51] <Raphael> "I was taller." Raphael said mildly, following Ezra a little further into the room.-
[18:51] <Raphael> "I've heard about you as well. Not as much, perhaps, but…"
[18:56] <Minaplo> ["Oh really? Do tell. What's she been saying about me?" Asked Ezra, his eyes narrowing.]
[19:00] <Raphael> Either he missed or ignored the change in Ezra's expression, because he continued on unperturbed. "That you helped her find her way to NERV, and found a place for her when she got there. She mentioned you a few times when she spoke about her training, but… well, as you can imagine she does not speak of that often."
[19:12] <Minaplo> ["Ahh… Absolutely." He nodded several times, closing the door behind Raphael. "Still. Good of her to stick to all the nice things instead of the terrible secrets she undoubtedly knows."-
[19:13] <Minaplo> ["When Mana was staying with us, we had her help out wherever she could." Said Sarah. "I took her on as a sort of secretary…"-
[19:15] <Minaplo> ["Every time the mail arrived it was a game to see if I'd be able to read it first or have it read to me by the little terror." Said Ezra grumpily. "It drove me up the wall. And I could not make her stop it."]
[19:19] * Raphael smiles - just slightly at first, growing wider as the story continued. "And here I thought that was just a joke she played on me."
[19:19] <Minaplo> [Sarah groaned.-
[19:20] <Minaplo> ["You're kidding." Said Ezra flatly. "I was sure it was something she only did to mess with me. I never thought she'd actually keep doing it."-
[19:22] <Minaplo> ["Well." Said Ezra, straightening up. "Thank you very much for accommodating her, at any rate. From what I've been told, she's far happier being part of your unit than in any other placement she's had, which is very good."-
[19:23] <Minaplo> ["Please, sit down, sit down." Said Ezra, quickly walking over to a central mess of chairs, sofas and chaise lounges. He gestured to a coffee table, laden with two bottles of wine, a jug of water and a platter of soft cheeses, meats and crackers. "I've prepared some refreshment if you're hungry…"-
[19:24] <Minaplo> ["I don't suppose Mana came along too, Mr. Guillory?" Asked Sarah, sitting down herself next to Ezra. "I'd love to see her again."]
[19:27] <Raphael> "I'm afraid not," he said, taking one of the empty chairs as the others began to sit, but not yet reaching for any of the refreshments. "She had duties elsewhere. If I was aware that the two of you were here I might have seen what I could do about that, but…"
[19:36] <Minaplo> ["Aw." Said Sarah. "Well, maybe we'll have a chance to catch up later…"-
[19:38] <Minaplo> [Ezra had poured himself a glass of wine and drunk it down whilst the others had talked. "How's she been holding up? Recently, I mean."]
[19:42] <Raphael> "She lost someone in Asgard."
[19:42] <Raphael> Any warmth is gone from his voice this time.
[19:47] <Minaplo> ["Oh no…" Said Sarah, her brows pulling together, her expression sorrowful. "Oh, that's awful. Mana…"-
[19:52] <Minaplo> [Ezra was already pouring himself another glass of wine. "It wouldn't be the first time my dear Hamburg cousins have managed to hurt her." He said, staring down at the clear flat surface of the red wine, a bitter expression in his eyes. "I'm sure the whole thing makes them feel nice and nostalgic."-
[19:52] <Minaplo> [He downed the wine in one go.]
[19:57] * Raphael just watched, his expression not betraying anything else. "Thousands dead. I'm certain it lost the personal touch, sir."
[19:58] <Minaplo> ["Yes, you have a point." Said Ezra. "Cousin Mary has a habit of treating her enemies' lives like a bookkeeper treats accounts, reconciling them one by one with not a spare thought."]
[20:02] <Raphael> "Mmm." He was still watching. He didn't seem to be blinking.
[20:07] <Minaplo> [There was a silence.-
[20:08] <Minaplo> [Finally, Ezra spoke with a sigh. "… In any case. Losing my train of thought entirely. Mr. Guillory, pardon me. Ah…" He rubbed his hands together, looking over at Sarah as though she'd help him remember.-
[20:09] <Minaplo> ["… Oh, right." He said suddenly, turning back to Raphael. "You're acquainted with Ayanami Rei?"]
[20:11] <Raphael> "I am." He said, the change of topic not triggering a shift in his demeanour. It certainly didn't /improve/ it.
[20:11] <Minaplo> ["Did you have a part in her becoming Eevi's caretaker?" Asked Ezra.]
[20:15] <Oat> "I was a factor."
[20:19] <Minaplo> ["Go on, please." Said Ezra.]
[20:27] <Raphael> … the first time he opened his mouth was followed by him quickly shutting it again. Then a deep breath. Muscles in his shoulders that he hadn't been aware of holding tense relaxed. The process only took a second, but when he spoke again it was without the marked coldness.-
[20:27] <Raphael> "I was one of the primary people involved in finding her a home after she was reconstituted. I would have taken her in myself, but I had personal concerns that wouldn't permit it," Raphael said. "There were several candidates that didn't pan out. Rei was another. We were concerned, given her age, but they took to one another immediately."
[20:34] <Minaplo> ["I see!" Said Ezra. "Little Eevi and Ayanami Rei, eh…?" He said, leaning back into his chair. He looked pensive.-
[20:35] <Minaplo> ["Promised Land took in a lot of the reincorporised NeoSpartan children." Said Sarah. "415, actually. The ones who missed out on the first few rounds of adoption. Some have since been adopted out, of course…"-
[20:37] <Minaplo> ["Eevi managed to be adopted, of course." Said Ezra. "One of the first, actually. I never even had a chance to catch up…"-
[20:39] <Minaplo> ["Still, I'm glad she's found someone." Said Ezra. "Maybe… Two someones? Ayanami's in a relationship, isn't she?" Asked Ezra, brow furrowed. "I mean, I'm not gonna pretend to know the book back to front on that topic, but it seems like a real stroke of luck for such a young couple to take to a unique little girl like Eevi so fully."]
[20:46] <Raphael> "Rei has never been known to let unique stop her," Raphael said. "She's done well with Eevi."
[20:49] <Minaplo> ["That's good. That's very, very good." Said Ezra. "Can I rely on you to deliver something to the two of them?"]
[20:49] <Raphael> "Of course."
[20:52] <Minaplo> [Ezra reached into a bag by the side of his chair, pulling out a plain white box, the sort you might store a board game in.-
[20:52] <Minaplo> ["Here, this is for Eevi. I didn't seal it, because you'll probably want to search it…" Said Ezra.-
[20:55] <Minaplo> ["We put a thumb drive in there." Said Sarah. "Just photos and letters from the other members of Promised Land, the ones she knew in the old days. Videos, too. Home movies if you like. There's also a letter from us, and a book. One of her favourites that we bought for her. Her original copy was probably destroyed, so…"]
[20:57] <Raphael> "…" Raphael nods slowly, "She'll appreciate that. I tried to give her contact with NeoSpartans during our time with NERV, but I suspect she'll get a good deal more out of it now."
[20:59] <Minaplo> ["One can hope. There aren't any other reincorporised Neos over there, are there?" Said Ezra.]
[21:06] <Raphael> "A few found homes there. Padma d'Orleans - I'm afraid I don't know her previous family name - is one I'm familiar with, but there are others scattered throughout the organisation. The particulars of Eevi's situation have just made social interaction exceedingly difficult until she started being cared for by Rei."
[21:12] <Minaplo> ["Oh, I see. Yeah, that makes sense." Said Ezra.-
[21:17] <Minaplo> [He reached into the bag again, pulling out an envelope, which he held out to Raphael. "And this is for Ayanami. It's a letter expressing my thanks for what she's done with some encouragement. I wanted to give her a thank-you gift, but uh…"-
[21:18] <Minaplo> ["We didn't have the foggiest." Said Sarah sheepishly. "So we've told her that if she needs Promised Land's help in the future, we'll do whatever we can."]
[21:23] <Raphael> "She'll appreciate a kind word just as much, believe me," Raphael said, accepting the letter as well. He set it to one side, on top of the box.
[21:32] <Minaplo> ["Great." Said Ezra.-
[21:32] <Minaplo> ["Would you like a glass?" He asked, pouring himself another serving of wine.]
[19:39] <Raphael> "No thank you, sir."
[19:43] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> ["Uh-huh." Said Ezra, downing his own glass quite quickly.-
[19:48] <Fullmetal`Lulu> ["Eevi, huh…" He said, almost to himself. "You know, I remember her quite a lot from the old days. It was hard not to, really. She always stood out. Loved to stand out. She was… Cheerful in some way that place wasn’t able to touch."-
[19:48] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> ["She used to hold parties." Said Ezra. "And the damned food would be the same crap we ate every bloody day, yet somehow she made it feel special."]
[20:00] * Raphael paid a little more attention to the way Ezra downed the drinks this time, filing it away for later consideration. "… Pilot Langley-Soryu told me that once. She said that at least one time she did it with food she’d stolen from your instructors."
[20:00] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> ["Yeah, I helped her steal it."]
[20:01] <Raphael> "That part I didn’t hear."
[20:04] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> ["Oh, yeah. See, I was sort of like the halfway." Said Ezra. "A NeoSpartan like the kids, but because I was older, stronger… You know how you had those student leaders in school? School president? Not high enough to be a teacher but enough to be trusted with the keys to the store room. Figuratively."-
[20:04] <Fullmetal`Lulu> ["Well, also, in this one example, literally."]
[20:07] * Raphael nodded slowly. "Silas Caine filled a similar role, from what I understand?"
[20:09] <Fullmetal`Lulu> ["In a sense." Said Ezra. "In the self-important style of the program, if I was the general, then Silas was the… Captain? The man intended to lead the soldiers in the field."-
[20:11] <Fullmetal`Lulu> ["I had a different education in a lot of ways." He said. "Top student Silas versus student teacher, I guess you could say."]
[20:14] <Raphael> "But still on the side of the students, it seems."
[20:14] <Fullmetal`Lulu> ["Quite right." Said Ezra. He grabbed a few loose cubes of soft cheese and began eating them one at a time.-
[20:17] <Fullmetal`Lulu> ["I might’ve rested my head a little higher than the rest, but I was still a student." Said Ezra. "I never got to miss out on all that wonderful education. I mean, why would I want to?"-
[20:17] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> ["Haha."-
[20:17] <Fullmetal`Lulu> [He nearly went for the wine again, only for Sarah to intercept his hand, entwining her fingers through his quickly.]
[20:23] <Raphael> The wine again. Raphael frowned, just a little. He almost seemed… apologetic? "There’s so need to talk about all of this on my account, Marshal."
[20:24] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> ["What, and spare you all the heart-warming stories…?"-
[20:25] <Fullmetal`Lulu> [Sarah squeezed his hand. Ezra paused, turning- they made eyes at each other for a few slightly uncomfortable seconds before Sarah broke off, turning back to Raphael.-
[20:25] <Fullmetal`Lulu> ["How is Langley-Soryu, anyway?" Said Sarah. "I’ve only met her a few times, but she seemed like a very vivacious young woman."-
[20:25] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> [Ezra snorted.]
[20:36] * Raphael limited himself to smiling.-
[20:36] <Raphael> "She’s well, ma'am. Keeping herself busy."
[20:38] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> ["I can imagine so." Said Ezra, a gleam in his eye. "And keeping Alexandre busier, no doubt."]
[20:38] <Raphael> "I couldn’t say, sir."
[20:41] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> ["I wouldn’t worry, Mr. Guillory." Said Sarah with a smile. "Remy's already let that cat out of the bag."]
[20:42] <Raphael> "… Has he now?" Raphael said, quirking an eyebrow slightly.
[20:44] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> ["Of course." Said Sarah. "He writes home once a week."-
[20:45] <Fullmetal`Lulu> ["Well, probably’ll be writing back less now." Said Ezra quietly.-
[20:45] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> ["…" Sarah frowned, looking down at her lap.]
[20:55] <Raphael> "… I’m sorry, sir," Raphael said, the mask of genial professionalism slipping for a moment to reveal some honest sympathy beneath. "All other differences aside, separating you from those you've helped is…" A pause.-
[20:55] <Raphael> "I'm sorry."
[21:01] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> ["… Ah, well." Said Ezra, offering Raphael a quick, if somewhat half-hearted smile. "Part of sending our children away means trusting them to do what’s right by themselves. To trust them to have the capacity to make their own decisions. Its painful, and I'd love for it to be different, but…"-
[23:01] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> ["…"-
[23:01] <Fullmetal`Lulu> [Ezra suddenly patted his breast pocket, frowning. "Angel, do you-"-
[23:02] <Fullmetal`Lulu> [Sarah stared at him in confusion for a second. "Oh, no, you left your holo at home, bunnybear."-
[23:02] <Fullmetal`Lulu> ["Son of a bitch."-
[23:02] <Fullmetal`Lulu> [Ezra glowered at the wine for a second, as though this had been its fault somehow.-
[23:04] <Fullmetal`Lulu> [He then turned to Raphael. "You don’t mind if I make a quick exit? I need to show you something, but.. Apparently I'm qualified to run a supranational military force, but I can't be trusted to remember a pocket computer."]
[23:12] <Raphael> "Of course not, sir," Raphael said, slipping back into formality now that the moment was passed.
[23:19] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> ["Thanks." Said Ezra with a smile. He and Sarah shared a quick kiss and a fond look before standing and leaving the room.-
[23:21] <Fullmetal`Lulu> [Sarah watched him leave before turning back to Raphael, a warm, encouraging smile on your face.-
[23:22] <Fullmetal`Lulu> ["You seem rather tense, Mr. Guillory." She said. "Is everything alright?"]
[23:32] <Raphael> … it was a smile with /inertia/, and Raphael was surprised to find himself responding a little in kind. "Quite alright, Marshal Holt-Caine. I’m simply aware of my place in this and I'm attempting to keep to it."
[23:40] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> ["Please, just Sarah’s fine." Said Sarah. "And do you mind telling me what you mean?"]
[23:48] <Raphael> "… I appreciate your invitation and your gifts for the girls, but I'm aware that I'm not a diplomat for my organisation. Given the situation, I'm unwilling to overstep my bounds," Raphael said.
Session Time: Mon Apr 27 00:00:00 2015
[00:06] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> [Sarah laughed. It was a heartening, happy sound. "Well I’m glad you're not a diplomat, because there's plenty of those around. We didn't want to speak to a diplomat. There aren't any bounds for you at all. As far as we're concerned this meeting may as well be off the record."-
[00:07] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> ["Ezra called you here because he wanted to thank you, because he, ah, hoped you’d give him a good conversation, and because he was hoping he might be able to rely on you for help with some things." She smiled, a little helplessly.-
[00:09] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> ["But, ah… You’re putting him a little on edge, I think."]
[00:14] * Raphael has the good grace to look a little chastised. "… It goes both ways, I admit."
[00:21] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> ["Mmhmm, I thought so." Said Sarah, chuckling. "It tells. Tell me what’s the matter, hm?"]
[00:38] * Raphael shakes his head a little. "You've been put into a position to take the blame for sins that - to my knowledge - were not yours, and I'm falling victim to it."
[00:42] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> ["Ah." Sarah nodded. "I see what you mean…"-
[00:43] <Fullmetal`Lulu> ["Ezra and I knew that was a risk. Actually, to be honest, Ezra’s used to it." She said, smiling sadly. "As you might imagine, he's keen to distance himself from the actions of the rest of his family, but others tend to be far less willing to let him."-
[00:44] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> ["It took a lot of courage and a lot of willpower on his behalf to accept this job."]
[00:45] <Raphael> "I don’t doubt it."
[00:47] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> ["Mmmhm. Do you think you might do me a favour? Actually, it’s more like a bit of advice as well."]
[00:47] * Raphael gave a cautious nod. "Of course, ma'am."
[00:56] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> ["Ezra’s a sensitive man." Said Sarah. "He tries to hide it, but he can become discomfitted easily, and it's hard for him to overlook when other people are hurt or unsettled themselves. Just… Try to give him the benefit of the doubt, alright? Relax a little. Ezra isn't trying to hurt you with his questions."-
[00:57] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> ["These people are very dear to his heart as well."]
[01:04] <Raphael> "Mmm. That much I don’t doubt, ma'am. I'll… do my best."
[01:07] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> ["Thanks." Said Sarah with a sweet smile.-
[01:09] <Fullmetal`Lulu> ["Heh. You know, Mana was one of the first NeoSpartans to join Promised Land."]
[01:10] <Raphael> "Really?" Raphael asked, raising an eyebrows. "She never mentioned that."
[01:13] <Fullmetal`Lulu> ["Promised Land was founded because of some Neos without a place in the world asking Ezra for help. Once we were up and running, we put the word out… I don’t know if you've really picked up on it, but Mana's spent a lot of her life feeling lost."]
[01:15] <Raphael> <eyebrow*>
[01:17] * Raphael nodded a little. "I can tell. She's shared some of her history with me, but even without knowing that…"
[01:18] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> ["Mmmhm." Said Sarah.-
[01:21] <Fullmetal`Lulu> ["When she came to us, she was having nightmares on a regular basis." Said Sarah. "She was only about ten or eleven at the time, but she was so small!… We let her sleep in with us. At first she’d stagger in at 3 in the morning, tears running down her face, and I'd bunch over and she'd nestle in next to me, but eventually she just stopped asking. I'd wake up in the morning to find her curled up asleep wedged in between me and Ezra, wrapped around our arms."-
[01:22] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> ["That continued for awhile. Years, in between the few placements she took. It got better with time, of course… I think around the time she joined you folks, she was doing it mostly to be close to us."-
[01:23] <Fullmetal`Lulu> ["Actually…" She tapped her chin. "Now that I think about it, it’s probably not a coincidence that I only ended up pregnant after she left, huh?"]
[01:25] * Raphael managed an awkward little chuckle. "Maybe not, ma'am. You two have a child?"
[01:26] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> [She patted her belly and beamed radiantly.]
[01:27] <Raphael> "Oh!" Raphael laughed again. "I see! Excuse me, Marshal. Congratulations to the both of you - is it recent news?"
[01:29] <Fullmetal`Lulu> ["Mmmhm. Been about two months since the announcement. We’re expecting in December."-
[01:29] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> ["And." She gave him a sweet smile. "Because ancient custom says gentlemen in uniform can’t refuse a pregnant lady, I'll remind you to call me Sarah, mmhmm?"]
[01:42] <Raphael> "Of course, Sarah. I assure you, you're just falling victim to an ongoing problem of mine."
[01:50] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> ["Ah. I know the type." Said Sarah with a twinkle in her eye. "There’s more than a few kids at home who're like that, trust me."-
[01:50] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> [The door opened- Ezra peeked his head in before walking through fully. "I’m back."-
[01:50] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> ["Hey~"-
[01:51] <Fullmetal`Lulu> [Ezra crossed the room, taking up his seat once more. He had a little holo-emitter in his left hand. "Hi. Yeah, it was there on the mantlepiece…"-
[01:51] <Fullmetal`Lulu> ["Tsk. Who’s fault's that?"-
[01:52] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> ["Pretty sure it was yours." Said Ezra archly. "I mean, you…"-
[01:52] <Fullmetal`Lulu> ["…"-
[01:52] <Fullmetal`Lulu> [Ezra turned to Raphael with a cough. "So, I was uh… Hoping you might have a look at some thing for me. A man with your background’s probably tangled with Angelspawn a dozen times, right?"]
[01:57] <Raphael> … To his credit, Raphael seemed to have made an effort to be a touch less stiff when Ezra made his return. Given it was still Raphael this was hardly a complete success, but the effort was there.-
[01:59] <Raphael> "More than I'd like, sir. Does this have something to do with what you were discussing during the talks?"
[02:00] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> ["Yes, potentially." Said Ezra. "Ah… You might not’ve seen the full details, huh?"-
[02:00] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> ["I can give you a quick run-down of what led to all this if you like." Said Sarah.]
[02:02] <Raphael> "If you wouldn’t mind, ma'am."
[02:03] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> ["I was in a town in western Kenya, part of the Great Rift Valley." She said. "The townspeople were saying that a massive snake, some sort of impact feral, had started to roost at the top of the mountain."-
[02:04] <Fullmetal`Lulu> ["I was off getting slightly drunk and swearing at Mary Caine at the time, by the way." Said Ezra.-
[02:04] <Fullmetal`Lulu> ["Shh." Said Sarah, swatting his shoulder.-
[02:05] <Fullmetal`Lulu> ["Anyway, I went with some of my bodyguards up the mountain. We found the snake. Forty metres long, maybe longer, enough to rear up and lick an Eva’s face if it wanted to."-
[02:06] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> ["But the snake was dead." Said Sarah. "And the ground was pocked with blackened gouges- from heat blasts. We realised that the snake had been killed by Annihilators- plural, working together, using coordinated tactics, maybe even ambush tactics. They’d taken this snake down without even losing any of their blood from what I'd seen."-
[02:07] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> ["But what was worse was that they’d filled the snake's body with bulging membraneous sacs, each filled with juvenile annihilators." Said Sarah grimly.]
[02:14] * Raphael is quiet for a moment, considering this. "… I couldn't hope to comment on the biology, but I will say I've never encountered Annihilators capable of anything approaching tactics without them being under the direct control of another entity."
[02:15] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> ["That’s been my experience as well." Said Ezra.-
[02:16] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> [Sarah nodded to the both of them. "The simplest explanation is that something really has taken control of them, and is forcing them to breed, but… Metatron, to my knowledge, is the only one that could do that, and she’s dead."-
[02:17] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> ["The next explanation we came up with was that it was a dead man’s switch." Said Ezra. "That the Annihilators always had the capacity to breed and to coordinate- maybe set up a sort of impromptu chantry- but the ability was suppressed by Metatron, designed so that if she died, the Annihilators would activate and become rabid."-
[02:19] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> ["Another theory is that the Angel besieging the Synfront, Nel, has somehow taken them over, but I have no way to prove that." Said Sarah.-
[02:20] <Fullmetal`Lulu> ["In any case, we bombed the mountain roost to bits and incinerated any remains of the juveniles and the incubator they’d made of the snake. But we couldn't find any trace of the Annihilators who put them there in the first place." Sarah continued. "Annihilators are not the nimblest things to grace the Earth, but they have size and don't need to break for rest, and they can cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time."-
[02:22] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> ["What’s worse, we captured one of the juveniles." She continued. "That was a week ago, and I've since been studying its biology. It seems like a normal Annihilator-type Angelspawn so far- and if I find out any more I promise that my findings'll find their way to you and yours."-
[02:24] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> ["However, it’s growing fast." She said. "It seems to require sustenance from outside sources whilst its S2 Organ develops- I assume those sacs were drawing nutrients from the snake to feed the juveniles. But it is growing fast. In the week I've had it, it's grown from about 20 centimetres to a metre and woken up. At the current speed rates I expect it'll reach full size within… A week or two."-
[02:25] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> ["We could have a plague on our hands." Said Ezra.]
[20:50] <Raphael> "A week or two," Raphael repeated blandly. He glanced towards the window as he collected his thoughts. "Have there been increased Annihilator sightings in the region? Anything that might suggest how recent a development this could be?"
[20:52] <Fullmetal`Lulu> ["There’s been something of an increase, yes." Said Ezra. "UN Command dismissed it though, claiming it was just paranoia brought on by Nel floating about, the war, refugee movements…"-
[20:53] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> ["The problem is that most Annihilators, after Metatron died- even before she died, honestly- acted like idiots." Said Sarah. "They’d stand in the middle of fields for days on end, or they'd get stuck in rivers or in forests. Either way, most people would see them and have a good deal of warning. They weren't hostile most of the time."-
[20:54] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> ["But these ones seem to be avoiding open spaces, sticking to mountains, ravines, valleys, forests as best as possible. Like a force trying to hide its strength."]
[20:56] <Raphael> "Are you still seeing Annihilators following the old patterns?"
[20:57] <Fullmetal`Lulu> ["Good thinking." Said Ezra. "Yes, we are. We figured that knowing if this behaviour was localised or not was a good way to begin ruling out possibilities. And so far we’re getting the usual sightings in a lot of places. West Africa around the Niger basin, Algeria, the Nile states, South Africa, Congo- all of them have dumb Annihilators still wandering around."-
[20:59] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> ["But we aren’t seeing any around Kenya, Ethiopia or Tanzania." Said Sarah. "Or around Morocco, Libya and Namibia."-
[21:00] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> ["That makes me want to rule out the dead angel’s switch theory, but there may be other factors involved…"-
[21:02] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> ["There are other Angelspawn hotspots." Said Ezra. "Wilderness Canada, Britain, Finland, eastern Siberia and western China and Mongolia, but all of these locations are in the UEF and I really doubt asking is going to do anything. Previously I’d just ask Remy to get me the data, but I suspect that's not much an option anymore. We'd have to rely on the treaty we signed, but I don't really know how forward your side will be. If you're facing an outbreak of organised Angelspawn in Britain, for example… I can see why you'd be tempted to hide that."]
[21:09] <Raphael> "Mmm."-
[21:09] <Raphael> "I still find myself coming back to the idea of some entity with the… command codes, for lack of a better term," he said. "I wouldn't rule out your theory, of course, but it would seem to make more sense given the way the behaviour is localised. I don't see what point it would serve."
[21:10] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> ["Agreed." Said Ezra.-
[21:14] <Fullmetal`Lulu> ["In that case, what sort of entity would have those ’command codes'?" Asked Sarah. "Metatron is dead, right? I'm sure she is. And if she weren't she could just enforce her will over all of them at once. So… Which is it? Vercingetorix attacked alongside Nel, which at least makes plausible the theory that Vercingetorix could at least communicate with Angels." Said Sarah. "And at the least, we're operating under the impression that Vercingetorix is on your side…"-
[21:14] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> ["I’m not going to accuse the Federation of indulging in Angel-wrangling black ops by setting Annihilators on a baby-making frenzy." Said Ezra. "I mean, if it does happen to be true, I'm going to be very hurt…"-
[21:15] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> ["… Can I raise a point?" Asked Sarah cautiously, looking at Raphael.]
[21:17] * Raphael was frowning a little now, though at least it didn’t seem to be a show of overt anger. "… Of course."
[21:18] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> ["Silas Caine- Big Brother Angel Silas Caine- is dead, right?" Asked Sarah, glancing for a second at Ezra before continuing. "Like, really really dead?"-
[21:18] <Fullmetal`Lulu> [Ezra’s expression remained impassive during this.]
[21:21] <Raphael> … the frown deepened. "You have my word that, to the best of my knowledge, we destroyed Silas Caine in Italy. Nothing I'm aware of suggests otherwise."
[21:22] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> ["Maybe he’s the one with the dead man's switch?" Offered Sarah. "Maybe he chose a successor, passed on what power or knowledge he could, and that successor's only just figured out how to control Angelspawn…"-
[21:22] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> [Ezra leaned forward and poured himself another glass of wine. This time, Sarah didn’t stop him.]
[21:26] <Raphael> "Potentially…" Raphael said. "I'm afraid that I lack the specialised knowledge you two might, but it seems as plausible to me as the other options."
#03[21:28] * Zack is now known as ZackSleep
[21:28] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> ["The Angel that Brother absorbed had been captured by the LN." Said Ezra. "It excelled in replication. Weapons, objects, itself. When Brother absorbed it he used its powers in a similar way. He replicated himself in miniature over and over again, then those replicas gained methods on replicating themselves. There must be hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Brothers hidden throughout the world, most of them completely baffled about that period of their lives…"-
[21:29] <Fullmetal`Lulu> ["It makes sense for Brother to do this." He said, draining his glass of wine before continuing. "But that doesn’t make it any easier to find the culprit if it is indeed a Brother."]
[21:36] <Raphael> "No, it doesn't," he sighed. "Would the Unknown Angel's powers even have any sway over the Annihilators, though? Forgive me if it's a foolish question, but I know they were Metatron's design and the only other time I'm aware of another entity controlling them was a -delegate- for Metatron."
[21:38] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> ["It’s possible Metatron set things up to allow a delegate." Said Sarah. "You're referring to the Children of Adam's assault on the Geofront?"]
[21:38] <Raphael> "Right."
[21:39] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> ["I wonder if it’s likely that one of her Weapons was left behind somewhere." Said Sarah. "To take over…"]
[21:42] <Raphael> "It would strike me as at least as likely as the idea of Silas Caine having done so, if I may say so. Metatron seems to have considered the possibility that it might fail," Raphael said.
[21:44] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> ["Ugh. This is the worst possible time for it." Said Sarah.-
[21:44] <Fullmetal`Lulu> ["…Which if anything supports the idea of it being a Brother." Said Ezra. "Waiting for the political situation to support him…"-
[21:45] <Fullmetal`Lulu> ["In any case, theories are all well and good, but we need data." Said Ezra. "We’ll wait and see whilst hunting down as many as we can."-
[21:45] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> [Ezra held out his holo and, after a few seconds of fiddling, brought up an image.-
[21:47] <Fullmetal`Lulu> [It was of a snake-like creature, with long wings unfolding from its back, from the upper third of its body.-
[21:49] <Fullmetal`Lulu> ["The snake, too, had a juvenile, which we took in." Said Ezra. "As it turns out, the snake was an Angelspawn, although not any type I’ve ever seen. The juvenile snakespawn- we named it Asiel- doesn't act like a smart or dumb Annihilator."-
[21:50] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> ["It kinda acts like a normal animal." Said Sarah. "Like a kitty-cat, actually. It’s very affectionate."-
[21:50] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> ["Hmf." Grunted Ezra dubiously.-
[21:50] <Fullmetal`Lulu> ["I don’t suppose you ran across this species during your battles somewhere…?" Asked Sarah.]
[21:52] * Raphael gave it a close look, before shaking his head slowly. "I'm afraid not. I haven't even seen anything that might resemble it, to be frank."
[21:53] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> ["Damn." Said Sarah. "Ah well."-
[21:56] <Fullmetal`Lulu> ["Shame." Ezra took his holo back. "There weren’t many Angels that had time to fight over Kenya. If anything I'd expect this creature to show up in France."]
[21:58] <Raphael> "Mmm. Is it showing any unusual traits, size and - I assume - core aside?"
[21:59] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> ["Apart from its affection towards some human beings, no." Said Ezra sourly.-
[21:59] <Fullmetal`Lulu> ["It eats and sleeps, but that might be due to its youth." Said sarah. "Waiting for its S2 Organ to mature…"]
[22:02] <Raphael> "I see."
[22:03] <Fullmetal`Lulu> ["Oh, one other thing to think about." Said Ezra. "Metatron apparently had copies of the other types of Angelspawn the other Angels used. Do you remember the Shadowmen?"]
[22:04] * Raphael ’s expression darkened a little. "I do."
[22:05] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> ["Apparently she created some." Said Ezra. "Leading up to her gambit on the Moon, she intercepted a UN convoy ship heading to the Taghba Base on the moon. Replaced the crew with Shadowmen. One of them got into Taghba Base."-
[22:06] <Fullmetal`Lulu> ["Apparently they have the ability to overwrite human AT Fields, so that’s what they did. Over and over until the base was nothing but Shadowmen."-
[22:06] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> ["You guys probably don’t know what Taghba Base was for." Said Ezra. "Apart from the obvious cool factor of having a base on the Moon, Taghba Base also contained the UN's 'Last resort trump card'."]
[22:19] <Raphael> "Overwrite-" Raphael paused, smoothing away the alarm on his face and leaving behind only impassivity. He sighed. "… I notice you're utilising the past tense, sir."
[22:21] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> ["Yeah." Said Ezra. "The UN created backups. Of the Evangelions, I mean. Empty backups, placed on the Moon, where in case the first one was destroyed, a second one could be subbed in. Or in extreme circumstances, the UN could put new souls into them and raise a 20-odd Eva Corps out of nowhere."-
[22:22] <Fullmetal`Lulu> ["But they were empty, and the base fell, so Metatron captured them."]
[22:24] <Raphael> "… which is where she found her Evangelion spawn," Raphael surmised.
[22:25] <Fullmetal`Lulu> ["Yep."-
[22:26] <Fullmetal`Lulu> ["In any case." Said Ezra. "The moral of that story is that there might be Shadowmen out there, and they might be a real danger."]
[22:32] <Raphael> "Right, point taken, sir," Raphael said. He looked troubled. "I’ll pass it on to the people who might be able to do more about it than I can. If we find anything… I can say I'll do my best to have the information shared. I have no wish for your people to fall to things like that."
[22:33] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> ["I appreciate that." Said Ezra.-
[22:33] <Fullmetal`Lulu> [He leaned forward, letting out a little sigh as he reached for the platter. "I’m free to take as much of this as I want?" He asked them both.-
[22:33] <Fullmetal‘Lulu> [Sarah gave him a little wave of permission.]
[22:34] * Raphael nodded in turn.
[22:37] <Fullmetal`Lulu> [Ezra grabbed a handful of goodies before sitting back.-
[22:37] <Fullmetal`Lulu> ["Well." He said with a small smile. "Grim stuff, but that’s the worst we have to tell you so far. Thanks for your time, Raphael."]
[22:40] <Raphael> "Not at all, sir. Thank you both for being frank with me."
[23:31] <Raphael> "… Though I did have one other question, if I may?"
[23:33] <@Minaplo> ["By all means."]
[23:35] <Raphael> "Thank you, sir. I was hoping to inquire about Solomon Sophia's status now that she has returned to the UN's hands…?"
[23:40] <@Minaplo> ["She's fine." Said Ezra. "She seems to miss Chancellor Zhang, but otherwise is doing well. She can rely on Augustine for friendship-"-
[23:40] <@Minaplo> ["And more if she wanted it…" Said Sarah.-
[23:40] <@Minaplo> ["Quite right. She's also come into the care of a group of very adorable little Phantoms, if I may say so myself."]
[23:47] <Raphael> "Phantoms…" Raphael mutters, sighing a little. "Well, I'm pleased she has company, at least."
[23:51] <@Minaplo> ["They're like kitty cats." Said Sarah. "Always rubbing up against you or leaning against you… She seems to turn to that cat of hers for advice."]
[23:55] <Raphael> "Not surprising. I get the strong impression that she has little-to-no experience with human contact, outside of Chancellor Zhang and one or two people we had deal with her during her time with us."
[00:01] <@Minaplo> ["I'm hoping to change that. Expose her to Promised Land's lot, encourage cameraderie."]
[00:02] <Raphael> "That would be good, I think," he said, nodding a little. "And the Phantoms with her?"
[00:03] <@Minaplo> ["Of course."]
[00:04] <Raphael> "Not that you could do it for all of them, of course," Raphael said, his tone kept carefully matter-of-fact.
[00:06] <@Minaplo> ["What do you mean?"]
[00:15] <Raphael> "Assessment of reports from Asgard suggest you have upwards of 150 of them. Likely triple that, once we've considered reserves. That would be before we counted the elite units for each Prime."-
[00:17] <Raphael> A pause. "Not that I'm trying to get troop numbers out of you, please understand. I'm just painfully aware of how much support and time it requires for one Ayanami to find herself."
[00:22] <@Minaplo> ["Say no more." Said Ezra, nodding several times. "I get you. Promised Land is, at its heart, a home for lost children, Mr. Guillory. First the NeoSpartans, but also the Companions, Dead Land refugees, Iron Guard, survivors of a dozen other secret projects and dozens of wars. I know from personal experience that I can't, for lack of a better term, 'fix' all of them. I might be lucky to fix half of them."-
[00:23] <@Minaplo> ["But I believe they can be fixed. I won't promise them happiness, because I can't guarantee that. But I can promise them a home. A safe home, a special space."-
[00:23] <@Minaplo> ["Why else would it be called Promised Land?"]
[00:33] <Raphael> "… I appreciate that," he said, sounding mollified even if he didn't seem entirely convinced. "I can hope that between that and the protections Brazil and Chancellor Zhang proposed that their situation might improve."
[00:36] <@Minaplo> ["I hope so. I'm glad Brazil brought it up." Said Ezra. "It gives me the opportunity to improve their lot whilst beating dissidents over the head with the treaty."]
[00:46] <Raphael> "Mmm. I wish you luck."
[00:53] <@Minaplo> ["Thanks." Said Ezra.-
[00:54] <@Minaplo> ["Did you have any other questions for us?" Asked Sarah.]
[00:56] <Raphael> "No, ma'am," he said, "I think I've taken up enough of your time. Thank you for being as frank with me as you have been."
[00:57] <@Minaplo> ["Least we could do."-
[00:57] <@Minaplo> [Sarah settled for giving Raphael a wide, cheery smile.]

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