This Too Shall Pass 3 2 6

[19:07] <Minaplo> [The force of the White Dove's jets set their clothes and hair billowing as though they'd been caught in a gale. There was little dust for the jets to kick up, though.-
[19:10] <Minaplo> [The helipad was on a Turkish military base on the outskirts of Istanbul. The atmosphere was tense and watchful between the three groups.-
[19:13] <Minaplo> [On the northern side were four individuals: Ezekiel and Albus Mortens, escorting Joan and Melodiana, her surviving Phantom.-
[19:14] <Minaplo> [Ezekiel wore his robe as normal, its loose material flapping about in the wash of the jets, his long blonde hair leaving a long trail behind him. Albus's hair did the same, as did the ermine cape around his armoured shoulders.-
[19:23] <Minaplo> [Joan was impassive, her face blank, marred with grime and dust and blood. She had refused bathing. Like her captors, her long violet hair flowed out behind her.-
[19:24] <Minaplo> [Melodiana was snuggled up next to Joan, her own dirty tear-streaked face lying against Joan's breast. Whenever anyone walked past, Melodiana flinched in fear.-
[19:26] <Minaplo> [The other group consisted of seven individuals. Standing at the front was Sarah Holt-Caine, wearing her uniform, her expression firm. Behind her were Frederick Ackerman and Eliphas Meir, wearing armour, weapons at their side. Fred looked cautious; Eliphas looked twitchy.-
[19:26] <Minaplo> [Twitchier.-
[19:28] <Minaplo> [The other four were Solomon Primes. it had taken thirteen hours and a collapsed Turkish diplomat for the two parties to agree on what consituted an acceptable 'equally dangerous' group. The UEF had consisted on sending Ezekiel to suppress Joan. The UN had demanded three Primes. The UEF had then began adding combinations of Ayanamis and Apostles, only leading to the UN to escalate to four Primes, six Adepts and three Marshal Magistrates.-
[19:29] <Minaplo> [Somewhere in that, cooler heads had prevailed and the agreement had de-escalated to four primes versus Albus and Ezekiel.-
[19:29] <Minaplo> [And so they stood, the four of them- Sophia, Augustine, Agatha and Scholastica.-
[19:30] <Minaplo> [They were in full garb bar their helmets, their expressions clear. Agatha and Scholastica were watching Ezekiel apprehensively. They'd both discovered first-hand what he could do when he shed his pretty handsome veneer.-
[19:33] <Minaplo> [Sophia was if anything looking even more unsettled. She kept eyeing the edges of the building with a critical eye, as though trying to fight off the temptation to run and hide beneath the lip of a building. Being outside in broad daylight near an enemy didn't suit her.-
[19:33] <Minaplo> [Only Augustine looked relaxed, smiling a little. He caught Albus's eye then, very deliberately, adjusted the Damaskite mantle around his own shoulders.-
[19:34] <Minaplo> [Albus's expression darkened.-
[19:34] <Minaplo> [Augustine's smile widened.-
[19:36] <Minaplo> [The third group consisted of eighty Turkish infantrymen, split into two groups, standing behind the UEF and UN parties.-
[19:37] <Minaplo> [Dotted amongst the infantrymen were a few Iron Guard apostles. Turkey hadn't received the huge windfall of LN ability that Brazil had, but as one of the nations closest to the Liberated Nations' sphere, it had absorbed some.-
[19:38] <Minaplo> [The Dove landed, the powerful whine of its jets ebbing away slowly to a low idling purr.-
[19:39] <Minaplo> [The ramp lowered, and the UEF party approached, Albus gently leading Joan on.-
[19:39] <Minaplo> [About ten metres from the UN line, they stopped.-
[19:39] <Minaplo> [For a few minutes, they waited.-
[19:40] <Minaplo> [Four hundred kilometres away, over the Mediterranean, Ayanami Go waited in an Eva.-
[19:40] <Minaplo> [A dirac portal opened in mid-air.-
[19:41] <Minaplo> [A long white Dys arm pushed through, holding the Philosopher's Stone outstretched in its hand.-
[19:41] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[19:41] <Minaplo> [Go gingerly took it.-
[19:41] <Minaplo> [She held it up to the light, like a banker might checking for a genuine banknote.-
[19:41] <Minaplo> [A small AT pulse.-
[19:42] <Minaplo> ["This is Go." She said. "Package is genuine and secure. I repeat, the package is real and it is ours"-
[19:42] <Minaplo> [Back in Istanbul, Ezekiel turned to Albus, and nodded.-
[19:42] <Minaplo> ["Go." Said Albus to Joan.-
[19:43] <Minaplo> [Joan didn't move for a minute or so, instead panning her gaze over the Solomons, then onto Sarah.-
[19:43] <Minaplo> [Sarah smiled.-
[19:43] <Minaplo> [Joan's expression remained impassive.-
[19:44] <Minaplo> [Eventually, Joan moved, walking across the helipad, over to the UN line.-
[19:44] <Minaplo> ["Will that be all?" Asked Ezekiel.-
[19:44] <Minaplo> ["Yes, thank you, Ezekiel." Said Sarah.-
[19:44] <Minaplo> ["Then our arrangement is complete." He said.-
[19:45] <Minaplo> [A second later, Ezekiel and Albus both vanished simultaneously.-
[19:45] <Minaplo> [Agatha and Scholastica instantly relaxed.-
[19:45] <Minaplo> ["Sup, Joan." Said Agatha.-
[19:45] <Minaplo> ["…" Joan just stared, her expression flat.-
[19:46] <Minaplo> ["Didn't miss us?" Said Scholastica, her voice dry.-
[19:47] <Minaplo> ["You abandoned me." Said Joan, her voice sounding rough. "You and Augustine."-
[19:47] <Minaplo> ["Don't take it personally." Said Scholastica. "I abandoned more than just you."-
[19:48] <Minaplo> [Eliphas was looking increasingly alarmed. After all, he and his charge were in the middle here.-
[19:50] <Minaplo> ["Let's get moving." Said Sarah. "Joan, I'm Sarah Holt-Caine, a UN Marshal. Please step onto the transport and we'll work on taking you back to the Synfront."-
[19:50] <Minaplo> ["Alright."-
[19:51] <Minaplo> [Joan turned, walking up the cargo ramp, Melodiana still clinging to her.-
[19:52] <Minaplo> ["Can I go now?" Said Scholastica.-
[19:52] <Minaplo> ["You're dismissed." Said Sarah.-
[19:52] <Minaplo> [Scholastica vanished.-
[19:53] <Minaplo> ["I can always rely on Scholastica to be the perfect wingman." Said Augustine dryly. "I apologise for her attitude, Marshal."-
[19:53] <Minaplo> [Sarah beamed. "You're fine, Augustine. You're not your sister's keeper."-
[19:54] <Minaplo> ["Oh, I'm not sure I like that association." Said Augustine with a small smile.-
[19:54] <Minaplo> ["But the family resemblance is obvious~"-
[19:57] <Minaplo> ["Marshal, please…" Augustine looked pained. "Just because my donor is her donor's genetic offspring hardly makes us family. And I assure you that if she were, she would at best be a most disagreeable cousin. The Ezra Caine of Solomons."-
[19:57] <Minaplo> [Sarah jabbed him in the ribs, and he flinched.-
[19:57] <Minaplo> ["Sorry, sorry…"-
[19:57] <Minaplo> ["Think you're so funny." She said with a smirk.-
[19:58] <Minaplo> ["I think I'm a little funny."-
[19:58] <Minaplo> [She poked her tongue out at him before continuing. "So you're off now too?"-
[19:59] <Minaplo> ["Yes. I'll take this one back first, then I need to go see a woman about an angelspawn." Said Augustine.-
[19:59] <Minaplo> ["Alright."-
[19:59] <Minaplo> [Sophia, realising they were talking about her, suddenly swivelled around.-
[19:59] <Minaplo> [Sarah's phone beeped. She took it out and checked the text message.-
[20:00] <Minaplo> ["Hey." Said Augustine. "Telepathy, Sophia… Remember what I said?"-
[20:00] <Minaplo> [Sophia shot him a ferocious scowl.-
[20:01] <Minaplo> [Augustine threw up his hands in a 'sorry' gesture. "Just a suggestion!"-
[20:02] <Minaplo> ["Ah…" Sarah looked up at Sophia with a sad smile. "I'm sorry, sweetheart. She had to leave…"-
[20:02] <Minaplo> [Sophia's face fell.-
[20:04] <Minaplo> ["I'm really sorry." Said Sarah gently. She spread open her arms to hug Sophia, who cautiously stepped back, pulling her head back, eyeing Sarah's arms with deep suspicion.-
[20:04] <Minaplo> ["It's ok." Said Sarah soothingly.-
[20:05] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[20:06] <Minaplo> [Shooting Augustine a mistrustful look, Sophia carefully stepped forward, letting Sarah embrace her.-
[20:07] <Minaplo> [It was a full embrace, a full tight hug and now Sophia couldn't escape it.-
[20:07] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[20:07] <Minaplo> [Sophia tentatively rested her head against Sarah's shoulder.-
[20:08] <Minaplo> [After a long few seconds of this, Sarah stepped back, ruffling Sophia's hair as she went.-
[20:08] <Minaplo> [Sophia reached up absent-mindedly to smooth it back down.-
[20:09] <Minaplo> ["Goodbye, Augustine. Bye, Sophia." Said Sarah. "Have a safe trip."-
[20:09] <Minaplo> ["We will." Said Augustine, taking ahold of Sophia's shoulder.-
[20:09] <Minaplo> [Sophia lifted her hand and gave Sarah a tiny wave. A second later they were gone.-
[20:09] <Minaplo> ["Welp." Said Agatha. "Time to load up, huh?"-
[20:10] <Minaplo> ["That's right. Thanks for agreeing to come along, Agatha. Ezra wasn't comfortable without another Prime to keep an eye on Joan."-
[20:10] <Minaplo> ["Yep, I can get that." Said Agatha.-
[20:12] <Minaplo> ["I could take her." Said Fred breezily.-
[20:12] <Minaplo> [Eli rolled his eyes.-
[20:12] <Minaplo> ["On a date, maybe." Said Sarah.-
[20:12] <Minaplo> ["What a grand idea!" Said Agatha, her eyes lighting up.-
[20:13] <Minaplo> ["… Er." Said Fred, a little wrong-footed.-
[20:14] <Minaplo> ["Busted." Said Eli, now smirking.-
[20:14] <Minaplo> ["Shut up!"-
[20:14] <Minaplo> ["Alright, you lot." Said Sarah. "Let's not leave everyone waiting. Up you go!"-
[20:14] <Minaplo> […-
[20:15] <Minaplo> [Ezra stood at the top of the ramp. To his left was Lachlan; to his right was Eli.-
[20:15] <Minaplo> [… That is to say, to his right was Eli Reid, his attendant.-
[20:17] <Minaplo> [Joan appeared at the foot of the ramp. She walked up, slowly, her Phantom next to her. A few seconds later, she drew level with Ezra.-
[20:18] <Minaplo> ["Hello, Joan." Said Ezra. "I'm Ezra Caine."-
[20:18] <Minaplo> [Joan cast her gaze around, starting on Lachlan, then to Ezra, then finally on Eli Reid.-
[20:18] <Minaplo> [Her gaze had a blank, hollow quality to it, but after a few seconds she blinked rapidly and turned back towards Ezra.-
[20:19] <Minaplo> ["Another Caine." She said, her tone bitter.-
[20:19] <Minaplo> ["… Heh."-
[20:20] <Minaplo> [Ezra smiled. "Food's been prepared for you and your daughter. You've also both been assigned a bedroom, together. And you have access to a bathroom if you need it."-
[20:20] <Minaplo> ["Don't eat much." Said Joan.-
[20:20] <Minaplo> [Melodiana shifted her head, looking up at Joan's face.-
[20:20] <Minaplo> ["But we will eat it." Said Joan.-
[20:21] <Minaplo> ["Great." Said Ezra. "Lachlan here will lead the way."-
[20:21] <Minaplo> [In a flash, Lachlan slipped into his sharp, spot-on valet persona, stepping over to the door with a quick snap of the feet. "Right this way, madame Joan. Through here…"-
[20:22] <Minaplo> [Joan and Melodiana walked off, deeper into the Dove. Only once they were gone, and the door closed behind them, did Ezra turn to Eli with raised eyebrows.]
[20:27] <Eli> "Brr," She muttered, glancing over at the door with a little trepidation. "Did you see those eyes? What the heck did they do to her over there? I knew she was meant to be creepy, but-"-
[20:27] <Eli> She paused, giving Agatha an awkward, nervous look. "Uh, sorry ma'am."
[20:30] <Minaplo> ["You're fine." Said Agatha brightly.-
[20:31] <Minaplo> [Sarah, Eli Meir and Fred were shortly behind up the ramp.-
[20:32] <Minaplo> ["Hi!" Said Ezra, stepping forward to pull Sarah close, giving her a kiss.-
[20:32] <Minaplo> ["Hi~"-
[20:32] <Minaplo> ["Mr. Caine, sir." Said Eli, before turning to… Eli. Reid.-
[20:32] <Minaplo> ["Sup, Lissabet."]
[20:34] <Eli> "Meir." The word was injected with as much venom as she could manage without incurring the wrath of Ezra, a threshold she'd established through careful practice.
[20:35] <Minaplo> ["Looking…" He looked her up and down, his keen gaze critical. "Well, I'll leave it at that."-
[20:36] <Minaplo> [On the other side of Ezra and Sarah, Fred made choking motions to Agatha, who tactfully turned her back to Eli and Eli, stifling her laughter.]
[20:39] * Eli smiled, but the expression stretched a little too wide. "Heard you're a dad now, by the way. Caught a few of the pictures - that family resemblance is pretty remarkable, huh?"
[20:41] <Minaplo> ["Oh, I don't know. His tongue reminds me of you." He said icily. "Speaking of which, why don't you come by and pay him a visit? I'm sure he's just love to say hello to dear auntie Lissabet."]
[20:43] <Eli> "Better get a look-in before we dissect him, I guess."
[20:45] <Minaplo> ["If we do, it's only because you'll be dissolving in his gut."-
[20:49] <Minaplo> ["Ooookay." Ezra pulled away from his kisses with Sarah- although he still had his arm around her waist- and turned to the Elis. "That's quite enough, you two. Unless you'd prefer to do what we did last time…?"]
[20:51] <Eli> "Nah, boss. I'd just win again, and where's the fun in that?" Eli said with a big, big smile Meir's way.
[20:52] <Minaplo> ["You'd be lucky to beat me in tic tac toe, Lissabet." Said Eli coolly.-
[20:53] <Minaplo> [Behind Ezra and Sarah, Agatha and Fred where whispering together, gigantic smirks on their faces.-
[20:53] <Minaplo> [Ezra stepped forward, gently pushing Eli and Eli away from each other. "You know what's even more fun?" Said Ezra brightly.-
[20:54] <Minaplo> ["… Is it fighting you?" Asked Eli cautiously.-
[20:54] <Minaplo> ["It is." Said Ezra, beaming warmly.]
[20:56] <Eli> "Yeah, yeah. I'm done," Eli muttered, rolling her eyes a little. She stepped away, flipping the bird at Fred good-naturedly as she moved.
[20:57] <Minaplo> [Fred blew her a kiss.-
[20:57] <Minaplo> ["Eli." Said Ezra, pointing at Reid. "Go up to the cockpit with Sarah and get us prepped."-
[20:59] <Minaplo> ["Eli." He continued, pointing at Eliphas. "Go look over the weapons, make sure they're all good, no problems with their systems."-
[20:59] <Minaplo> ["Yessir." Said Eli.]
[21:00] <Eli> "Sure thing, boss."
[21:00] <Minaplo> […-
[21:02] <Minaplo> [The Dove was heading on its way, straight as an arrow, the Mediterranean gleaming in the sun thousands of feet below.-
[21:03] <Minaplo> [They'd all split up. Eliphas had in fact gone to look over the weapons, something he was doing now.-
[21:03] <Minaplo> [Joan, speaking to no one, had sat down in the kitchen and eaten. She ate little herself, but mostly fed Melodiana.-
[21:04] <Minaplo> [Once that was done, the two had headed off into the shower.-
[21:04] <Minaplo> [Fred and Agatha had since moved into the mess room… Their raucous laughter could be heard throughout the Dove.-
[21:04] <Minaplo> [Including in the cockpit.-
[21:05] <Minaplo> [Sarah and Eli up front, in the seats, Sarah in Ezra's usual spot. Ezra himself was standing behind them, leaning on both of their chairs.-
[21:05] <Minaplo> ["Okay." Said Ezra. "Things look good. I'll leave you two to it. I'm gonna go see how things're going with the weapons check, let me know if anything goes wrong."-
[21:07] <Minaplo> [This left Sarah and Eli alone in the cockpit, quiet except for the hum of electronics and the laughter of the two in the mess.-
[21:07] <Minaplo> ["Hm." Sarah let out a sigh, leaning back in her chair a little.]
[21:10] <Eli> "Something the matter, Miss Holt?" Eli asked politely, her attention on one of the screens in front of her now that the VTOL was cruising. The screen seemed to be displaying corporate communications.
[21:11] <Minaplo> ["Any thoughts on our passenger?"]
[21:19] <Eli> She looked up, curious. "Not sure I like her being here, if I'm being honest with you." Sarah would spot the briefest of glances shot towards the door. "Everything I've been able to find says she's violent and crazy - like, wear-your-skin-for-a-suit crazy. Worse than Scholastica, maybe. Don't really like her being within stabbing distance of either you or Ezra."
[21:24] <Minaplo> ["Mmmhmm." Said Sarah. "I know what you mean. Theoretically, we should be safe, she shouldn't be able to attack us. But…"-
[21:24] <Minaplo> ["Well, that's what Agatha's for. At best, peace of mind, and at worst, our safety."]
[21:27] <Eli> "Sure. Helps I might be able to have a conversation with her without, uh," she gave a rough approximation of Joan's thousand-yard-stare.
[21:32] <Minaplo> ["Yeah… That… Seems to be new." Said Sarah delicately.]
[21:33] <Eli> "They torture her or something?"
[21:33] <Minaplo> ["I don't know…"-
[21:34] <Minaplo> ["It'd have to be some torture to leave a Prime like that though, I think." Said Sarah.-
[21:35] <Minaplo> ["Actually." She tapped the ship comm. "Agatha, could you come to the cockpit for a second?"-
[21:35] <Minaplo> [The door was opening even before Sarah finished.-
[21:36] <Minaplo> ["What's up?" Asked Agatha.-
[21:36] <Minaplo> ["We were just talking about Joan." Said Sarah, swivelling in her chair. "She looks…"-
[21:36] <Minaplo> ["Traumatised, right?" Said Agatha.-
[21:36] <Minaplo> ["Right. Was it torture?"-
[21:38] <Minaplo> ["Torture, huh." Said Agatha, walking over to them both. She leaned against Eli's chair. "Prime pain tolerances are… High." Said Agatha. "So with that in mind, how would you go about torturing a Prime?"-
[21:38] <Minaplo> [Sarah glanced at Eli, waiting for her idea first.]
[21:43] <Eli> "You'd have to be extreme about it. Cut off a limb, damage her brain, do everything short of cracking her core. Rely on her regeneration to fix the damage," Eli said clinically. "AT Interference, maybe, though that isn't my area…"
[21:50] <Minaplo> ["Hmm." Agatha fiddled with a loose lock of her fringe. "It's a nice try, but like I said, Prime pain tolerances are high. That high." Said Agatha. "It's extreme, and it's inefficient. Make a mistake and kill the body, like… Really screwing up the brain? That takes a long time to regenerate."-
[21:51] <Minaplo> ["If anything, Joan's likely to be even worse." Said Agatha. "Joan's the sort of Prime who's willing to jerk the wrong way in order to do the most damage possible to force a death state. She's kind of a jerk."]
[21:53] <Eli> "Admirable, in a way.
[21:53] <Eli> "Admirable, in a way." She seemed to mean it, too.
[21:54] <Minaplo> [Agatha gave a mostly agreeable little shrug.-
[21:54] <Minaplo> ["If direct methods won't work… Psychological?" Asked Sarah.-
[21:56] <Minaplo> ["We don't eat and we rarely sleep." Said Agatha. "So deprivation tactics are a no-go. We've got pretty good hearing and night vision too, and… Augustine, for example, has perfect perception of everything around him for about fifty metres."-
[21:56] <Minaplo> ["Perfect perception?" Asked Sarah.-
[22:00] <Minaplo> ["Heat, light, sound, radiation, full spectrum vision, AT Fields- anything within that sphere, he senses utterly and completely." Said Agatha. "No barriers. He can probably tell you the sex of your bubby within half a second."-
[22:01] <Minaplo> [Sarah's eyes widened, and she leaned back slightly. "… Um."]
[22:01] <Raphael> "… I knew he creeped me out for a reason."
[22:03] <Minaplo> ["Ahaha~"-
[22:03] <Minaplo> ["Wanna know the best thing about it?" Said Agatha brightly.]
[22:04] <Eli> "He can upload his Angel-perv vision to the internet?"
[22:05] <Minaplo> ["Hahahaha, no no no. Internet couldn't handle it anyway."-
[22:05] <Minaplo> ["No no, the best thing is that Scholly has it too!"]
[22:06] <Eli> "-Super-," Eli muttered.
[22:07] <Minaplo> [Agatha giggled. She reached over, putting her hands on Eli's shoulders reassuringly. "I wouldn't worry too much, though. You're cute, but Augustine… Let's say he prefers a quieter sort of girl."]
[22:11] <Eli> "Fine with me," she shrugged. "He's nice enough to look at, but you folks've got a little more baggage than I'm interested in, y'know?"-
[22:12] <Eli> "Anyway, we were discussing ways to torture your sister."
[22:14] <Minaplo> ["Yes, right." Said Agatha. "Anyway, the answer's basically like this. We all have our mental weak points, and Joan wears them on her sleeve. Or as you saw today, has one clinging to her side."-
[22:14] <Minaplo> ["Ah… The Phantoms." Said Sarah.-
[22:15] <Minaplo> ["Right." Said Agatha. "She loves them like uh… Basically nothing else. Dotes on them. Would die ten deaths for any one of them. And then she takes them en masse into battle."-
[22:15] <Minaplo> ["I think that's dumb as hell, personally, but my deal's time travel so my 20-20 hindsight's all part of what I do."]
[22:18] <Eli> "You won't find me disagreeing. So what, they got killed off during the Geofront battle? Or are you saying the UEF did it after…?"
[22:20] <Minaplo> ["I spoke to Augustine." Said Agatha. "Seems like they got killed off. All but one."-
[22:20] <Minaplo> ["How…?"-
[22:22] <Minaplo> ["Iron Guard." Said Agatha. "A whole squad of them, specced for close combat. It wasn't pretty."]
[22:24] <Eli> "Yeah, well, you'll have to excuse me if I'm not entirely sympathetic to her, bad as I feel for the Phantoms." She looked over at Sarah. "I figure you heard about Asgard, Miss Holt?"
[22:24] <Minaplo> ["Yeah…" Sarah closed her eyes, looking pale.-
[22:26] <Minaplo> ["I was actually in a Federation prison cell myself when that happened." Said Agatha. "They don't seem the torturey type, and I think Joan's just had a bad reaction because someone fucked her kids up this time instead of the other way round, but I can really see them applying hot wires to her for what she did in Asgard…"-
[22:26] <Minaplo> ["Mostly my stay with them all was just boring." Said Agatha.]
[22:31] * Eli nodded a little. "Sounds like if they wanted to put the screws to her she wouldn't have made it back with her kid."
[22:32] <Minaplo> ["Exactly." Said Agatha. "And Phantom regeneration is nowhere near as good as Solomon Prime regen…"-
[22:34] <Minaplo> ["They could probably hurt the daughter a lot more than they could hurt Joan." Said Sarah. "Do it to the daughter, make sure Joan watches…"-
[22:35] <Minaplo> ["Yeah." Said Agatha. "I guess we won't really know the full story until Joan talks."]
[22:37] <Eli> "Mmm. Sounds like Ezra's going to try debriefing her…" she said.
[22:39] <Minaplo> ["He will be." Said Sarah.-
[22:39] <Minaplo> ["Oh yeah, you said he wanted to know about the aliens, too." Said Agatha.]
[22:43] <Eli> "… The wha-"
[22:44] <Minaplo> […-
[22:51] <Minaplo> [In the end, Joan and Melodiana spent nearly 50 minutes in the shower. For much of that time, they simply laid passively on the floor, letting the hot water wash over and around them, staring off into space or closing their eyes. They let their focus drift in the heat of the shower and the warmth of each other. Only in the last six or seven minutes or so did Joan actually use the shower as it was supposed to, washing Melodiana's hair with shampoo. Melodiana nearly drifted off to sleep.-
[22:52] <Minaplo> [By any standards, and particularly by the strict standards of Promised Land, it was an egregious use of water. No one on the Dove was willing to tell Joan that, however.-
[22:54] <Minaplo> [They quickly dressed, ignoring the tracksuits that had been provided for them. Joan instead materialised a red, very simple silk robe from her chest gem. Melodiana did the same.-
[22:54] <Minaplo> [After that, they'd gone to their assigned dorm, with a simple if large bed and an empty metal footlocker.-
[22:55] <Minaplo> [Melodiana fell asleep quickly, resting in Joan's embrace, her hair being tenderly stroked over and over.-
[22:56] <Minaplo> [Joan herself eventually fell asleep too.-
[22:57] <Minaplo> [Strictly speaking, the Primes needed very little sleep, and they could go for months without rest. But that didn't mean they couldn't sleep, or that sleep held no value to them. Sleep passed the time. Sleep closed off the outside world. It healed wounds faster. Physical and mental.-
[22:57] <Minaplo> [Every half hour, Joan woke to make sure Melodiana was still there.-
[22:57] <Minaplo> [She was.-
[22:57] <Minaplo> […-
[22:58] <Minaplo> [The Dove had landed in the Synfront first, dropping Joan and Ezra off. It waited for fifteen minutes there.-
[23:04] <Minaplo> [During those fifteen minutes, Agatha had sprinted off the Dove back to her own residence, where she'd assembled her own band of Phantoms, told them to get ready, then proceeded to lead the horde of jabbering, hyperactive Ayanami clones back to the Dove, each of them dressed in eye-catching outfits which ranged from the tastefully alluring all the way to the disastrous mismatch one Phantom sported, which consisted of a bright neon yellow chemise worn under an ankle-long polkadot night dress along with a pair of woolly boots. Once back on board the Dove, the gang proceeded to innocently terrorise the denizens all the way back to the flight to the Damocles.-
[23:04] <Minaplo> [Apparently Ezra had permitted Fred to invite them to some sort of gathering without really understanding what that meant.-
[23:05] <Minaplo> [Ezra, Joan and Melodiana, meanwhile, would make their own slower pace towards the Primes' residential area, Ezra walking respectfully behind Joan by a metre or so.-
[23:08] <Minaplo> ["So you want a debriefing or something, huh." Said Joan. Her voice had more energy, more tone to it now.-
[23:09] <Minaplo> ["Yes, that's right." Said Ezra. "Not right now, of course."-
[23:10] <Minaplo> ["Then why're you still here?" Said Joan.-
[23:11] <Minaplo> ["I was hoping to help get you settled in, Joan."-
[23:11] <Minaplo> [Joan stopped.-
[23:11] <Minaplo> ["Problem?" Asked Ezra.-
[23:13] <Minaplo> ["Yeah. Look, I get it, Caine." Said Joan. "You swooped in, you rescued me from that shitfight or negotiated my release or whatever, and I should be all teary and thankful and get on my knees and suck your cock or whatever it is you want me to do for you." Her tone was bitter, and hard, and every word was laced with contempt and menace.-
[23:13] <Minaplo> ["I-"-
[23:13] <Minaplo> ["And now you want to play the nice guy by 'settling me in'." Said Joan. "I get it, I really do, but it's not going to happen. You're a Caine and a Lilim and you're as bad as any of them ever."-
[23:14] <Minaplo> ["I want to help, Joan." Said Ezra. "I want to help make your life better, easier."-
[23:14] <Minaplo> ["Can you free me?" Asked Joan. "From the Eternity Drive? From- this?"-
[23:14] <Minaplo> ["… Not yet."-
[23:14] <Minaplo> ["Then go fuck yourself." Said Joan. "You're nothing to me. Go home."-
[23:16] <Minaplo> ["As you wish." Said Ezra.-
[23:16] <Minaplo> ["But for the record, Joan, you're wrong." He said. "I don't expect you to thank me for anything. I know better than most that I didn't save you. I just negotiated for you to be moved from one prison to another."-
[23:17] <Minaplo> ["Fuck off." She spat the words at him. She didn't wait for a response, turning, grabbing Melodiana's hand and dragging her along.-
[23:19] <Minaplo> ["Meet me in the Tactical Sphere on the Damocles once you've sorted out your affairs." Said Ezra.-
[23:19] <Minaplo> ["Whatever."-
[23:20] <Minaplo> […-
[23:20] <Minaplo> [Joan's residence was quiet. Hollow. The life had gone out of it.-
[23:21] <Minaplo> [The spacious main room- where the furniture sat, such as the couches, the gaming table, the televisions, books and big communal bed- was a mess, Joan's children having stopped whatever they'd been doing instantly at the moment of muster.-
[23:25] <Minaplo> [Books lay disorderly on tables, couches and on the bed, many of them still open to a certain page. An assortment of clothes were scattered around the room, shed by her children to be replaced by angelic silk armour. The television was still on.-
[23:28] <Minaplo> [It was showing a DVD menu for Papillon White, a romantic epic that had for whatever reason captivated nearly all of her children. It had been their favourite movie. Joan hadn't particularly cared for it, although at this point she knew it back to front and had occasionally caught herself smiling at some of the movie's sweeter scenes.-
[23:30] <Minaplo> [Joan had been expecting all of this. Her eyes filled with tears.-
[23:30] <Minaplo> [… But something was new.-
[23:31] <Minaplo> [On the wall behind the communal bed, someone- multiple someones- had stuck two dozen pictures up on the wall. Very simple drawings, done in pencil and crayon. They featured… Joan.-
[23:31] <Minaplo> [In each one, something nice was happening to Joan. She was being hugged by someone. She was being given a big present. She was being swarmed by kittens. She was being snuggled by a dozen blue-haired Phantoms. She was being kissed…-
[23:32] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[23:32] <Minaplo> [Sophia. Sophia had done this, her and her Phantoms.-
[23:32] <Minaplo> [Were they trying to cheer her up? Trying to make her feel better?-
[23:33] <Minaplo> [What did this stupid little thing mean?-
[23:33] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[23:33] <Minaplo> [Joan shrieked, a howl of anger, of white-hot fury that literally ignited the air. Streaks of flame shot against the wall, the childlike drawings going up in flames.-
[23:34] <Minaplo> [Joan continued to shriek, the air around her shimmering with heat, until the pictures were nothing but ashes, the wall behind them marred with ugly black scars.-
[23:35] <Minaplo> [Silence.-
[23:36] <Minaplo> [Melodiana had shrunk away in fear, her hands wrapped around her chest protectively.-
[23:36] <Minaplo> [Joan stood still for a long time. The room around her was silent and still.-
[23:37] <Minaplo> [Eventually she turned towards Melodiana. "Baby…"-
[23:37] <Minaplo> [Melodiana burst into tears, running into Joan's arms. "I love mummy." She gasped out between the sobs.-
[23:38] <Minaplo> [Joan was crying too, stroking Melodiana's hair with a shaking hand. "I know, baby. I know."-
[23:38] <Minaplo> […-
[23:39] <Minaplo> [There was a bowl between them.-
[23:41] <Minaplo> [It was a heavy-looking bowl, about half a metre in diameter and 30cm deep. It was nearly full with a dark murky oozy substance. Joan didn't know what it was.-
[23:42] <Minaplo> ["Joan."-
[23:42] <Minaplo> ["Eh?"-
[23:42] <Minaplo> [Ezra was standing opposite her, his expression calm. "You didn't answer my question."-
[23:42] <Minaplo> [Joan shook her head. "I wasn't paying attention."-
[23:42] <Minaplo> ["Uh-huh. We were talking about your experiences with the Federation. Did they torture you?"-
[23:43] <Minaplo> ["No." Said Joan. "They separated me and Melodiana, but after a while they brought her into an adjacent room with a clear wall."-
[23:51] <Minaplo> ["They didn't try to interrogate you?"-
[23:51] <Minaplo> ["They might've asked questions, but I don't really remember them."-
[23:52] <Minaplo> ["I see." Said Ezra. "I'm sorry for your losses, Joan."-
[23:52] <Minaplo> ["Go fuck yourself."-
[23:53] <Minaplo> ["They should be rebodied within the week, though. I've made sure of it." Said Ezra calmly.-
[23:54] <Minaplo> ["I'm sure you'll wish your kid could do that once I tear it out of its mama's stomach."-
[23:54] <Minaplo> ["Nice try." Said Ezra. "But you're playing Augustine's game and you're not really doing it well."-
[23:54] <Minaplo> ["Fuck you. I'm out of here."-
[23:55] <Minaplo> ["I'm not done yet." Said Ezra, his tone firm.-
[23:55] <Minaplo> ["Don't care."-
[23:58] <Minaplo> ["Feel free to leave." Said Ezra.-
[23:59] <Minaplo> [And so she did, turning on her heel and walking away.-
[23:59] <Minaplo> ["But you will return here eventually. You found something out there, Joan, and we need to know about it."-
[23:59] <Minaplo> [She paused. "… You mean the aliens."-
[23:59] <Minaplo> ["I mean the aliens, yes." Said Ezra. "The ones you fought."-
[23:59] <Minaplo> ["Wasn't much of a fight."-
[00:00] <Minaplo> ["That doesn't fill me with confidence, if you of all people aren't much of a fight for them." Said Ezra.-
[00:00] <Minaplo> ["With any luck they're on their way to crater this fucking planet."-
[00:02] <Minaplo> ["They might very well be." Said Ezra. "Maybe they'll come, win and destroy all of us, and you become 'free'."-
[00:03] <Minaplo> ["Or maybe they come, Mary Caine crushes them and this- this here- continues for another thousand years, except this time it happens across a million different worlds." Said Ezra. "You fighting forever, not even having the freedom to die a proper death."-
[00:03] <Minaplo> ["And that's supposed to make me want to help you all defeat them?"-
[00:03] <Minaplo> ["No." Said Ezra. "It's supposed to make you want to help me defeat them. I'm not Mary Caine."-
[00:04] <Minaplo> ["So I have three choices." Said Joan. "Help Mary, wait for annihilation, or help you."-
[00:04] <Minaplo> ["Which is the least worst?" Asked Ezra. "I mean, I'll be honest, they're all terrible options."-
[00:05] <Minaplo> ["I don't feel like taking a gamble on you." Said Joan. "You make vague promises and suggestions, trying to imply that you might help me, but I don't see how."-
[00:06] <Minaplo> ["All I ask is that you help me help all of us. Including you." Said Ezra.-
[00:06] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[00:06] <Minaplo> ["Whatever." Joan turned back towards Ezra. "What do you even want me to do?"-
[00:06] <Minaplo> [Ezra smiled a little. He nudged the bowl. "Come over here, sit down."-
[00:07] <Minaplo> [Joan did, walking over to the bowl before sitting down next to it. She reached out to poke the substance.-
[00:07] <Minaplo> ["Nah-ah!" Said Ezra warningly. Joan reflexively pulled her hand away.-
[00:07] <Minaplo> ["What is it?" Asked Joan. "And could you sit the fuck down? Hovering over me…"-
[00:07] <Minaplo> [Ezra sat. "This is heated liquid sigillite."-
[00:07] <Minaplo> ["Liquid sigillite." Repeated Joan. "Like those obelisks."-
[00:08] <Minaplo> ["Right." He said. "It doesn't liquefy unless it's under immense circumstances… Or if subjected to a powerful AT Field. Sigillite is extremely reactive to AT Fields."-
[00:09] <Minaplo> ["Reactive?" Said Joan. "Like…"-
[00:09] <Minaplo> ["You run your AT Field through this, and it may as well be an extension of you." Said Ezra. "It even amplifies your power."-
[00:09] <Minaplo> ["Huh."-
[00:10] <Minaplo> ["I want you to do an exercise." Said Ezra. "I want you to picture something in your head. It can be 2D, 3D, as simple or as complex as you want."-
[00:10] <Minaplo> ["Ok."-
[00:10] <Minaplo> ["Now I want you to push that picture into the sigillite with your AT Field." Said Ezra.-
[00:10] <Minaplo> ["That sounds like some Augustine bullshit."-
[00:11] <Minaplo> ["Trust me." Said Ezra.-
[00:11] <Minaplo> [Joan huffed. She concentrated…-
[00:12] <Minaplo> [The liquid sigillite flowed all of a sudden, swirling about. A few seconds later, a shape emerged from the surface of the liquid. A perfect sphere.-
[00:12] <Minaplo> [Joan's eyes widened. "Holy fuck."-
[00:12] <Minaplo> ["Yeah, it's pretty cool." Said Ezra.-
[00:12] <Minaplo> [Joan stared at the sphere for a few seconds.-
[00:12] <Minaplo> [It changed, becoming a bear.-
[00:13] <Minaplo> [Joan opened her mouth for a second, laughing a little. "Oh, this is fucking sweet."-
[00:13] <Minaplo> ["Go nuts."-
[00:13] <Minaplo> [Over the next fifteen minutes, Joan experimented.-
[00:14] <Minaplo> [She moved onto other creatures. Lions, whales, squid… Then trees, hills, mountains. She expanded her work, creating diaramas. Mountains with trees on them. Mountains with trees and little lions. Then more specific things. The French Alps. The Synfront.-
[00:15] <Minaplo> [People. Ezra. Augustine. A nude Joan emerged from the mix, and she smirked when Ezra poltiely averted his eyes.-
[00:15] <Minaplo> [She went more complex after that. Before long, she was recreating entire battle scenes with nothing but her memory and imagination.-
[00:16] <Minaplo> ["What would you call this masterpiece?" Asked Ezra, squinting down at her latest work.-
[00:16] <Minaplo> ["'Fifteen AC Suits kick Iron Guard heads in until they explode'."-
[00:16] <Minaplo> [And indeed, it did in fact feature fifteen lifelike AC Suits kicking Iron Guard heads in, some of which had already exploded. Tiny, accurate crushed brains spilled over a sigillite floor.-
[00:18] <Minaplo> ["That's a good touch." Said Ezra, pointing down at one of the brains. "Very anatomically accurate."-
[00:18] <Minaplo> [Joan laughed. "Hey, do you reckon I could keep a bowl of this?"-
[00:18] <Minaplo> ["What, just keep it around your room for fun?"-
[00:18] <Minaplo> ["Yeah!"-
[00:19] <Minaplo> ["I should… probably be able to have a bowl of it delivered to your room." Said Ezra. "Make sure to follow the instructions- keeping it in liquid form like this for extended periods of time requires special directions."-
[00:19] <Minaplo> ["Fuck yeah."-
[00:19] <Minaplo> [Ezra smiled.-
[00:20] <Minaplo> ["Now there's a reason I wanted you to learn this." Said Ezra. "The aliens. Did they fight using craft like fighters or Superheavies, or did they have ships?"-
[00:21] <Minaplo> ["Ships mostly." She said. "Some… Uh, I don't know if they were Superheavies or fighters, but they deployed things. They hurt like a motherfucker."-
[00:21] <Minaplo> ["Hmm. Okay. What I want you to do is visualise one of their ships for me."-
[00:21] <Minaplo> ["I only got close enough to really get a read on one." Said Joan. "But…"-
[00:22] <Minaplo> [The sigillite took form.-
[00:24] <Minaplo> [A wide rectangular vessel, rounded and asymmetrical, with odd, seemingly random spherical attachments running across all of its surfaces. It didn't seem very aerodynamic, and in general it looked… A little shapeless. Despite this, Joan had copied its details exceptionally well, and had even added a scale to one side.-
[00:24] <Minaplo> ["Hmm. About seven and a half kilometres long." Said Ezra. "Can you do me a favour? Have the sigillite solidify for me."-
[00:25] <Minaplo> [And so she did. Ezra plucked it out of the air before it fell, and held it up.-
[00:25] <Minaplo> ["Heavy." He murmured. He ran his hands slowly over the surface.-
[00:26] <Minaplo> ["I think these are weapons." He said, tapping a tiny little nub no larger than half a milimetre. "Confirm?"-
[00:26] <Minaplo> ["Yep."-
[00:26] <Minaplo> ["If that's true, then this is a heavily armed vessel." Said Ezra. "Very long, but it feels… Curious."-
[00:26] <Minaplo> ["Eh?"-
[00:28] <Minaplo> ["It's not symmetrical and from what I understand, trying to move this thing into an atmosphere would tear it apart. The weapons are irregularly located. These attachments are exactly that- attachments. They don't flow into the superstructure as they would if it were built as planned. Yeah, see… If you were to remove these egregious parts-" he tapped some of the spherical attachments- "The ship would be a lot more standard-looking."-
[00:28] <Minaplo> ["Which means?"-
[00:28] <Minaplo> ["I'm not gonna lock in my answer." Said Ezra. "But if I had to hazard a guess, this… Pattern says two things. First, it's a vessel built in and designed for space travel and nothing else."-
[00:28] <Minaplo> ["And second?"-
[00:29] <Minaplo> ["Second is that it's ramshackle. Or, ramshackle might not be the best word." Said Ezra. "But it's ad hoc. Its been expanded and built on, its original design altered by circumstance. That in itself means two things."-
[00:29] <Minaplo> ["Don't leave me hanging."-
[00:31] <Minaplo> ["That sort of pattern is more associated with settlements." Said Ezra. "Cities that spring up and spread without any planning, everything being built as it's needed. That detail, and the size, makes me think it's a… For lack of a better term, a civilian or settlement ship. Somewhere where people live, permanently, not just as a transport point between A and B."-
[00:31] <Minaplo> ["Huh."-
[00:32] <Minaplo> ["The other alternative is that this is a military vessel, but it's a very, very old one. Instead of replacing or scrapping it, though, it's been upgraded consecutively for a very long time." Said Ezra.-
[00:32] <Minaplo> ["Got it." Said Joan. "What's that mean, then?"-
[00:32] <Minaplo> ["Hm?"-
[00:32] <Minaplo> ["I mean, why?" Said Joan. "Why bother upgrading it over all this time?"-
[00:33] <Minaplo> ["The biggest reason I can think of, Joan, for why a polity would keep a very old ship in a fight and just keep upgrading it is because they can't afford to scrap it." Said Ezra. "It's the sign of a culture fighting a very long, very desperate war."-
[00:34] <Minaplo> [That statement hung in the air with a dreadful, heavy weight.-
[00:34] <Minaplo> ["What's going on out there?" Muttered Joan.-
[00:34] <Minaplo> ["Hm?"-
[00:36] <Minaplo> ["I didn't think about it for the longest time. Didn't care." Said Joan. "But now I've gone, fucked up and made contact with a really hardcore civilian ship or a really desperate warship. I don't like either of those answers. I feel like I'm… Fuck, like I'm this kid who's just peeked out a keyhole, and the entire world is out there, but all I can see is this tiny little patch and I'm somehow supposed to… To extrapolate what's happening in the rest of it from this tiny goddamned patch."-
[00:36] <Minaplo> ["But I don't have any fucking idea." Said Joan roughly. "For all we know, I tussled with the last line of defense between us and a humongous ruthless space empire."-
[00:36] <Minaplo> ["Or it could not be." Said Ezra.-
[00:36] <Minaplo> ["Of course."-
[00:37] <Minaplo> ["But it's natural for us to, if we aren't sure, to default to assuming and planning for the worst." Said Ezra.-
[00:37] <Minaplo> ["Yeah…"-
[00:37] <Minaplo> ["Does it scare you, Joan?" Asked Ezra softly. "Not knowing what's happening beyond our little keyhole?"-
[00:37] <Minaplo> ["… Yes."-
[00:37] <Minaplo> ["Good."-
[00:37] <Minaplo> ["Good?"-
[00:38] <Minaplo> ["Yes." Said Ezra. "It means that you are at least a little sane."-
[00:38] <Minaplo> [Joan frowned. "Whatever."-
[00:38] <Minaplo> ["Do you mind if I keep this?" Said Ezra, pointing to the sigillite sculpture.-
[00:38] <Minaplo> ["Sure."-
[00:39] <Minaplo> ["Thank you, Joan." Said Ezra with a smile. "That's all I had for you."-
[00:40] <Minaplo> ["Huh." Joan stared at him for a few seconds, then got to her feet. "Well, I'm out then."-
[00:40] <Minaplo> ["Goodbye, Joan."-
[00:40] <Minaplo> [She quickly left, leaving Ezra alone with the sigillite sculpture.-
[00:40] <Minaplo> [Sighing a little, he got to his feet.-
[00:40] <Minaplo> [He knew exactly where to go.-
[00:40] <Minaplo> […-
[00:41] <Minaplo> ["… Will this do?" Asked Ezra, placing the sigillite sculpture down on Tokuro's coffee table.-
[00:42] <Minaplo> [Saruwatari Tokuro- a Japanese Apostle, a member of Promised Land, his head shaved to allow the ports of his cobra-hood like implants to interface with his mind- sat down and ran his hands over the sculpture. He gasped.-
[00:46] <Minaplo> ["Oh, yes. Her AT Field signature is extremely warm here." Said Tokuro. "The only way I could find hotter were if I performed the AT Psychograph on Joan herself."-
[00:49] <Minaplo> [Tokuro's room was simple and tasteful, yet comfortable. In reality, it was actually one of the 'group' rooms, similar to the sort the Aurvandil Squad or Walpurgis Night had. A central table. Several couches, a television, a few other gadgets and bobs. Several doors leading off- including to Eliphas's and Fred's room.-
[00:50] <Minaplo> [But the other occupants were currently out. Eliphas and Fred, at least, were in Room T4 on Deck 9, attending the 'get-together' between Promised Landers, Aurvandil Squad and Agatha's troop.-
[00:51] <Minaplo> ["Must be some get-together." Said Tokuro. "To get three noise complaints so quickly."-
[00:51] <Minaplo> ["Gah." Ezra instinctively ran a hand over his scalp.-
[00:51] <Minaplo> ["Sorry." Said Tokuro with a small, knowing smile. "Habit."-
[00:52] <Minaplo> ["Uh-huh." Muttered Ezra. "So you can use this. Good. Do you think this'll tell us what Joan's goddamned deal is?"-
[00:54] <Minaplo> ["Oh, I… Hesitate to say that." Said Tokuro. "But it should provide us with parameters. It will, rather, allow us to narrow down the field of goddamned deals. Where once we might face one million goddamned deals, now we will face…"-
[00:54] <Minaplo> ["Five? Ten?"-
[00:54] <Minaplo> ["A thousand…?" Said Tokuro.-
[00:54] <Minaplo> ["Oh. Well. Better than nothing."-
[00:55] <Minaplo> [They both stared at the sculpture for a few silent seconds.-
[00:56] <Minaplo> [Ezra rubbed his chin, a little nervously. He wasn't overly familiar with AT Field 'stuff'. In truth, that was the price he paid for being a Frankfurt Caine and not a Hamburg one. He'd gathered specialists for this, people who knew the field much better than he did. People like Macdonald or Tokuro.-
[00:58] <Minaplo> [He knew the very rudimentary basics of the psychograph… He thought. Four poles- logos, eros, thanatos and psyche. And people fell somewhere between those poles…-
[00:58] <Minaplo> ["No." Said Tokuro. "The poles aren't sliding continuums. They're separate elements of a separate system."-
[00:58] <Minaplo> ["Son of a bitch." Hissed Ezra. "This is why no one likes you."-
[00:59] <Minaplo> ["Nonsense." Said Tokuro, his knowing smile widening. "If you want me to refresh you on this, Ezra, you need but ask."-
[00:59] <Minaplo> ["Well… I mean, it's been awhile…"-
[01:00] <Minaplo> ["I understand." Said Tokuro. "No need to justify your lack of knowledge."-
[01:01] <Minaplo> ["Well I feel a need around you." Muttered Ezra. "In the future, they're gonna hire people like you for game shows, you know, as hosts, so other bastards like yourself can't just steal the goddamned answers from some biotypical's mind…"-
[01:01] <Minaplo> [Tokuro laughed. "I desperately hope my career trajectory does not end in 'game show host'."-
[01:02] <Minaplo> ["You sure? You always make me feel on the spot."-
[01:02] <Minaplo> ["Only because you cannot bullshit expertise you don't have around me." Said Tokuro. "Now, shall I?"-
[01:02] <Minaplo> ["Uh, yeah."-
[01:27] <Minaplo> ["Listen closely." Said Tokuro. "When I perform an AT psychograph, I map the… 'fingerprint' of an AT Field." Said Tokuro. "Every AT Field is unique, and what makes them unique are these signifiers. Every AT Field has millions of them, many of them are intrinsic to most AT Fields. However, every person differs in how strong these signifiers are and how they combine. Generally, each signifier can be- imprecisely- categorised into one of those four poles."-
[01:30] <Minaplo> ["The combination of signifiers determines an individual's pole threshold. The strength of the signifiers determines how much energy is being held in a pole."-
[01:30] <Minaplo> [Ezra stared at him blankly.-
[01:30] <Minaplo> ["I've lost you." Said Tokuro.-
[01:31] <Minaplo> ["I wouldn't say lost." Said Ezra. "Okay. I understand signifiers. What do you mean by poles 'holding' energy?"-
[01:32] <Minaplo> ["A difficult thing to describe. Give me a minute." Said Tokuro.-
[01:32] <Minaplo> ["Okay."-
[01:36] <Minaplo> ["A conscious soul… Produces… Energy." Said Tokuro slowly, unsure of the words. "Uh, let's say this energy is the will to live."-
[01:36] <Minaplo> ["With you so far."-
[01:36] <Minaplo> ["And the way this will to live manifests in the real world is by flowing through these poles." Said Tokuro. "Ah… Okay, imagine a river."-
[01:37] <Minaplo> ["River, got it."-
[01:37] <Minaplo> ["Now imagine a waterfall is flowing into the river." Said Tokuro.-
[01:37] <Minaplo> ["Alright."-
[01:38] <Minaplo> ["Now was the water flows, it picks up…" Tokuro paused. "… Red soils from the banks."-
[01:38] <Minaplo> ["Uh-huh."-
[01:38] <Minaplo> ["So in the end, as the river flows out, it flows out stained red." Said Tokuro. "Red water."-
[01:38] <Minaplo> ["Okay…"-
[01:40] <Minaplo> ["Imagine the waterfall is the will to live. And the poles are… Rivers, all fed by that waterfall, but each has a different colour of soil, so even though the water in each river comes from the same source, the end result is different because of the soils."-
[01:41] <Minaplo> ["Alright."-
[01:43] <Minaplo> ["So in this metaphor, when I talk about a pole holding strength, think of it as how much water's in a river."-
[01:43] <Minaplo> ["Yeah, I think I got it." Said Ezra.-
[01:44] <Minaplo> ["Good. Can I…?"-
[01:45] <Minaplo> ["Just to check." Said Ezra. "So in this metaphor, the pole's 'threshold' would be… The width and volume capacity of the river."-
[01:45] <Minaplo> ["Yes." Said Tokuro. "Bigger rivers can hold more water."-
[01:45] <Minaplo> ["And when there's more energy than the threshold…"-
[01:45] <Minaplo> ["It floods and causes a huge mess, yes." Said Tokuro.-
[01:46] <Minaplo> ["Alright, I'm good. Training wheels off."-
[01:46] <Minaplo> ["I'll decide that." Said Tokuro.-
[01:46] <Minaplo> ["Hmf."-
[01:49] <Minaplo> ["Now the things that categorize these signifiers together into poles are their similarity in kind." Said Tokuro. "Two similar signifiers are more likely to be 'discharged' in the same way. That's the main guiding principle: like signifiers are discharged alike."-
[01:51] <Minaplo> ["Alright." Said Ezra. "So the will to live flows into a pole, it builds up, and we discharge that energy through actions." Said Ezra.-
[01:51] <Minaplo> ["Yes, correct." Said Tokuro.-
[01:51] <Minaplo> ["Ok. Tell me about the poles."-
[01:52] <Minaplo> ["There are four of them." Said Tokuro. "Like you said-"-
[01:52] <Minaplo> ["Thought-"-
[01:53] <Minaplo> ["Thought earlier." Said Tokuro. "Logos, Eros, Thanatos and Psyche."-
[01:53] <Minaplo> ["Ok."-
[02:00] <Minaplo> ["Logos deals with logic, reason, critical thinking, experience, memory, learning, argument, planning." Said Tokuro.-
[02:00] <Minaplo> ["Thought." Said Ezra. "Higher thought at least. Rationalism."-
[02:00] <Minaplo> ["Yes." Said Tokuro.-
[02:04] <Minaplo> ["Eros deals with… Sensation, sensitivity, cooperative emotion." continued Tokuro. "Connections between people, imagination, sexuality, reproduction, inventiveness, love, friendship, compassion."-
[02:04] <Minaplo> ["I see."-
[02:09] <Minaplo> ["Thanatos deals with action, power, force, directive emotion." Said Tokuro. "Imposing your strength on the world around you, establishing control and power over your circumstances, pushing the power of others away. It also governs anger and fear both, and out of all the poles, is the one that is the most destructive and closest to death, but also one of the most direct in its impact on the world."-
[02:09] <Minaplo> ["Interesting. Go on."-
[02:16] <Minaplo> ["Then you have Psyche." Said Tokuro. "The core of the soul. Willpower. Free will, the ability to make decisions of your own choosing. The seat of consciousness."-
[02:16] <Minaplo> [Ezra nodded.-
[02:19] <Minaplo> ["In humans, where the 'will to live' flows seems to be an automatic or unconscious process." Said Tokuro. "All of my theory is based off that. However, there are indications that more powerful entities- Angels, for example- can actually direct where it flows, maybe because their Psyches are so much greater than our own."-
[02:21] <Minaplo> ["Curious." Said Ezra. "If greater beings can direct where it flows, that sounds like eros, thanatos and logos are subordinate to psyche… If that's the case, why do they flow energy anywhere except to Psyche? Why do they need anything but Psyche?"-
[02:21] <Minaplo> ["Find an Angel willing to do cheap lab experiments and I'll find out for you." Said Tokuro.-
[02:22] <Minaplo> ["Damnit."-
[02:22] <Minaplo> ["Yeah, sorry." Said Tokuro. "Don't expect many solid answers in this field."-
[02:23] <Minaplo> ["So can you even get a proper reading off Joan, then?"-
[02:23] <Minaplo> ["I'm hoping her human form will make her behave in ways that match our expectations." Said Tokuro.-
[02:23] <Minaplo> ["Okay."-
[02:24] <Minaplo> ["In humans at least, we function, psychologically, at our best when we have 'balanced' poles." Said Tokuro.-
[02:24] <Minaplo> ["Poles all at the same level of energy?" Said Ezra.-
[02:27] <Minaplo> ["No. Balanced as in a 'balanced diet'." Said Tokuro. "If you were to give a human being the same amount of salt per day as water or… Iron, you'd kill them eventually, I think. Balanced in this case means at a healthy level dependent on the individual."-
[02:27] <Minaplo> ["I see."-
[02:27] <Minaplo> ["So generally, you want a lot of energy in each pole, but not quite at your maximum." Said Tokuro. "That's your balanced state, the state in which your natural strengths flourish."-
[02:28] <Minaplo> ["So having too little or too much energy in a pole is bad." Said Ezra. "Right, that's simple. Homeostasis for the soul."-
[02:29] <Minaplo> ["Yes." Said Tokuro. "When energy in a pole is too low or exceeds a threshold, that's when you get problems." Said Tokuro. "Low energy levels lead to negative symptoms. Fatigue, tiredness, apathy, lack of will."-
[02:32] <Minaplo> ["And excess energy leads to positive symptoms." Said Ezra, following on. "Aggression, paranoia, hallucination, overanalysis, mania…"-
[02:32] <Minaplo> ["Yes." Said Tokuro. "Generally."-
[02:33] <Minaplo> ["Ok, I got it."-
[02:36] <Minaplo> ["Generally speaking, the greater your threshold, the faster your energy reserves in that pole build up." Said Tokuro. "Which is why, presumably, some people can perform discharge actions nigh-constantly without suffering from lowered reserves. Furthermore, in, uh, humans, our flow also seems to be reactive in some way. Reactive externally- being constantly under threat will see a human being develop their thanatos levels quickly, although if they have low thresholds this will tire them, for example."-
[02:36] <Minaplo> ["Alright." Said Ezra.-
[02:37] <Minaplo> ["These might all sound a little… Competitive." Said Tokuro. "But generally, the poles are supposed to complement each other."-
[02:37] <Minaplo> ["Oh?"-
[02:38] <Minaplo> ["Okay. Imagine someone with high eros but low thanatos." Said Tokuro. "This person might be constantly creative, their heads full of a thousand ideas, but they seem to never be able to translate those thoughts into physical results with any consistency. They might build up an excess of thanatos, and for a short while have an explosion of productivity, but then it runs out and their project grinds to a halt for six months until their thanatos builds up again."-
[02:39] <Minaplo> ["Ah, right. I got you."-
[02:39] <Minaplo> ["Now then." Said Tokuro. "I think I've explained enough. Shall we?"-
[02:39] <Minaplo> ["Yes, yes please."-
[02:40] <Minaplo> ["First." Tokuro held up a hand. "Based on what you know and your own experience, what would you say is Joan's problem?"-
[02:40] <Minaplo> ["Oh, I'd wager… Excess thanatos, surely…" Said Ezra.-
[02:40] <Minaplo> ["Uh-huh." Tokuro nodded. "Makes sense. Now then…"-
[02:40] <Minaplo> […-
[02:41] <Minaplo> [The actual process of creating an AT psychograph took about 35 minutes. Tokuro spent it in intense concentration, focused on the sigillite sculpture, the air flickering with the pulses of AT energy.-
[02:41] <Minaplo> [Eventually, however, Tokuro broke his concentration. "How fascinating."-
[02:42] <Minaplo> ["So?" Said Ezra "What'd you see?"-
[02:43] <Minaplo> ["Something very curious." Said Tokuro. "Joan's thanatos levels are high, but she has a very high threshold. Her levels are within healthy parameters."-
[02:43] <Minaplo> ["What, really?" Said Ezra.-
[02:44] <Minaplo> ["Really." Said Tokuro. "I can't, however, say the same for her eros. She has a naturally extreme eros threshold. And her current levels are -ridiculously- in excess of that level."-
[02:45] <Minaplo> ["So… But…" Ezra frowned. "That doesn't make sense. Joan's aggressive. Ridiculously, legendarily aggressive. She slaughtered children, for heaven's sake!"-
[02:46] <Minaplo> ["Quite so." Said Tokuro. "From what I can tell, though… Alright. Back to the rivers. Imagine the eros river has broken its banks and is now flooding."-
[02:46] <Minaplo> ["Alright."-
[02:47] <Minaplo> ["It's now flooding so much that it's bleeding into the other rivers. The red water of the eros river is flowing into the… blue water of the thanatos river." Said Tokuro.-
[02:47] <Minaplo> [Ezra squinted. "What?"-
[02:51] <Minaplo> ["In some cases," Said Tokuro, "When one's energy levels are hugely in excess of its limits, that energy will try to discharge itself by, ah… overpowering the other poles and discharging itself through the other poles' actions. In essence, those actions become 'tainted' by the energy of the excess pole, causing very strange divergent behaviour. I think what you've experienced is Joan's eros overriding her thanatos, leading to her indulging in aggressive thanatic behaviour to satisfy an erotic need."-
[02:52] <Minaplo> [Ezra opened his mouth to reply, then closed it.-
[02:52] <Minaplo> ["The problem," continued Tokuro, "is that this isn't efficient. The main cause of problems of this nature is that whatever method the person used to discharge their excess energy before is no longer available to them. Er… The dam gate is shut. But it's much easier to open the dam gate than to just let the river flood everywhere."-
[02:53] <Minaplo> ["I think I see where this is going." Said Ezra. "What sort of symptoms would you predict if Joan's excess eros was overriding her other poles?"-
[02:59] <Minaplo> ["Approaching forceful behaviours- combat, for example- with a sensual attitude. Taking pleasure from combat, for example, or finding the rush of combat addictive. At its worst, attacking her enemies in sensation-filled, dominating ways, such as rape or psychic control. Isolative emotions like hate might paradoxically mix with love, so she might start feeling intense love for someone she hates. Similarly, she might find intense sexual attraction or romantic attachment develop towards people she's hurting, injuring or seeing in pain around her. I'd expect her to become incredibly protective of the people she genuinely loves, to the point of psychosis. Ah… Sadism, but also 'creative' ways to kill or fight. Or an obsession with a particularly creative or emotionally expressive type of fighting style or combat aesthetic…"-
[03:00] <Minaplo> ["Like a girl who cloaks herself in the trappings of the reaper, but wears red silks and gilded capes." Muttered Ezra to himself. "Fuck. Fuck. That's exactly what's happening with Joan."-
[03:02] <Minaplo> ["And the first thing anyone sees is the violence." Said Tokuro.-
[03:02] <Minaplo> ["Then… How do we fix it?" Said Ezra.-
[03:02] <Minaplo> [They fell silent, staring down at the sigillite sculpture for a few minutes.-
[03:03] <Minaplo> [The door opened.-
[03:05] <Minaplo> ["Uhhhh, t-this is my room." Stammered a nervous Eliphas, stepping through the door. Behind him came a red-haired Phantom, one of Agatha's. She was wearing a black miniskirt with white thigh-high socks, red button-up vest, pink long-sleeved polo shirt and a silver cravat. She had bright eyes and a bright smile.-
[03:07] <Minaplo> ["Cool." She said. A second later she seemed to pounce, ensnaring Eliphas around the waist, pulling him into a sudden tongue-deep kiss. He let out a muffled cry of shock, his hands waving in the air, apparently not sure where to put them.-
[03:07] <Minaplo> [Ezra and Tokuro stared.-
[03:07] <Minaplo> [They'd been sitting in one of the corners, to the hard right of the door. Eliphas hadn't seen them…-
[03:08] <Minaplo> [But his gaze flitted around the room frantically as the kiss went on- and eventually it fell on Ezra.-
[03:08] <Minaplo> [Eliphas stared in shock.-
[03:08] <Minaplo> ["Ahem." Said Ezra clearly.-
[03:08] <Minaplo> [The Phantom started, pulling away from Eliphas as though he'd suddenly electrified.-
[03:09] <Minaplo> [There was a moment's pause.-
[03:10] <Minaplo> [Then at the same time, Phantom and Eliphas both bolted for the door, Eliphas managing to entangle the Phantom in his wild, clumsy flailings. She barely managed to disentangle herself before hitting the floor. Within a lightning flash she was gone.-
[03:10] <Minaplo> ["Damn, Eli." Said Ezra. "I had no idea you were such a smooth player."-
[03:11] <Minaplo> [Eli's face went a deep humiliated scarlet red. He pulled himself up and was quickly out of the room, leaving Tokuro and Eliphas alone.-
[03:12] <Minaplo> ["Not so sure letting those Phantoms on board was a good idea." Said Ezra darkly.-
[03:12] <Minaplo> ["What's the worse that could happen?" Said Tokuro. "Noise complaints, maybe a fight, a few humiliated Children…"-
[03:13] <Minaplo> ["Potential homocide, unplanned pregnancy…" Continued Ezra.-
[03:14] <Minaplo> ["Well, seems to me like you want to speak to their mother." Said Tokuro. "She's the one raising them, of course, so if you're truly that worried…"-
[03:14] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[03:14] <Minaplo> ["Ezra? Are you alright?"-
[03:14] <Minaplo> [Ezra grabbed Tokuro by the collar. "The Solomon Primes are Angels."-
[03:14] <Minaplo> ["Y-yes, I know-"-
[03:15] <Minaplo> ["I want you to operate under the hypothesis that the Primes, in their Angel form, were healthy, pole energy wise."-
[03:15] <Minaplo> ["Alright…"-
[03:16] <Minaplo> ["So let's say one of the Angels had an ability or a… Process in their old forms. One they used constantly, one that helped manage an extreme pole level." Said Ezra. "If that Angel were to lose that ability in the translation from Angel to Prime… The soul's energy output would remain the same, but their options to discharge it would be reduced, right?"-
[03:16] <Minaplo> ["Yes…"-
[03:20] <Minaplo> ["Damnit. It was obvious." Said Ezra. "Staring me right in the face. That's Joan's problem. That's her major problem. Her soul, it's been engineered to have a high eros. An extremely high eros. Why?"-
[03:20] <Minaplo> ["Because…"-
[03:21] <Minaplo> ["Because she's an Eve." Said Ezra. "Like, uh, Libido Effect and all that. Eves are juvenile Seeds, aren't they? I bet they're supposed to have high eros because they're designed to create life."-
[03:22] <Minaplo> ["I…"-
[03:22] <Minaplo> [Ezra slapped his forehead.-
[03:24] <Minaplo> ["If their natural, Angelic forms were intrinsically healthy, then they would've evolved to take advantage of that." Said Ezra. "No, not even take advantage… Find some way to discharge the excess eros. To create life in a miniature form."-
[03:24] <Minaplo> [Tokuro widened his eyes. "Malchediel, Ramliel…"-
[03:30] <Minaplo> ["Not just them. They all did it. They all had some way to discharge eros. Uriel spread life wherever he went." Said Ezra. "He was like a living volcano, he deposited nutrients wherever he went and radiated solar energy constantly. Raphael… Raphael could create new bodies for himself, and he could create whole worlds for the people he attacked."-
[03:31] <Minaplo> ["But Gabriel, Malchediel, Ramliel and Metatron all had a more simpler way of doing it." Said Ezra. "Angelspawn."-
[03:32] <Minaplo> ["It wasn't just a weapon. It was a way to manage the pressure." Said Ezra. "The pressure of being angelic Eves… That's why Joan's so fucked up. That's why she has excess eros up to here. She was relying on creating Angelspawn to be her release…"-
[03:33] <Minaplo> [Ezra shot to his feet. "Thanks, Tokuro, you're a champion."-
[03:33] <Minaplo> ["Well, thank you."-
[03:34] <Minaplo> [Ezra's holo beeped. He glanced down at it for a second. "Look, I've really got to go, but there's a fire that's broken out on Room T4 on Deck 9."-
[03:34] <Minaplo> ["Gosh, they're really having the time of their lives." Said Tokuro.-
[03:34] <Minaplo> ["Can you handle that for me? I need to go speak to some people." Said Ezra quickly.-
[03:34] <Minaplo> ["Not at all an issue." Said Tokuro.-
[03:34] <Minaplo> ["Thanks!"-
[03:34] <Minaplo> [And then he was off.-
[03:34] <Minaplo> […-
(13:59) <Minaplo> [Days passed.-
(13:59) <Minaplo> [Ezra spent those days preparing, organising. Putting in requests, sending orders, dealing with problems.-
(14:12) <Minaplo> [Eventually, the day came when two important notes crossed his table. The first one he read informed him that Joan had been reunited with her Phantoms.-
(14:18) <Minaplo> [On hearing that, Ezra left the Damocles, returning to the Synfront.-
(14:22) <Minaplo> […-
(14:22) <Minaplo> [The door opened.-
(14:27) <Minaplo> [A bustle of noise and chatter filled Ezra's ears.-
(14:29) <Minaplo> [Joan's room was a lot busier than it had been. Where once it had been empty, now it had been filled up, physically and in some sense, emotionally as well. Twenty odd young women, violet-haired Ayanamis all, were spread out over the room, engaged in a dozen different tasks.-
(14:30) * CakeyCake (~ten.nozirev.soif.apalhp.302-7-511-89-loop|ekaCyekaC#ten.nozirev.soif.apalhp.302-7-511-89-loop|ekaCyekaC) Quit (No route to host)
(14:31) * CakeyCake (~ten.nozirev.soif.apalhp.302-7-511-89-loop|ekaCyekaC#ten.nozirev.soif.apalhp.302-7-511-89-loop|ekaCyekaC) has joined #nervfrance
(14:48) <Minaplo> [In one corner, four of them were sitting around a fifth, who was sitting on a couch and reading a book to them. Three others were playing a board game in the middle of the room. Five were watching some sort of action movie and looked completely engrossed.-
(14:49) <Minaplo> [The others were off in pairs or alone… Some were play-fighting, others were reading quietly by themselves.-
(14:50) <Minaplo> [Joan was sitting on the bed, her back against the wall, wearing a silken nightgown. She looked calm, contented. At her sides were two Phantoms, snuggled up next to her, apparently asleep.-
(14:54) <Minaplo> [When Ezra entered, however, just about every head in the room swivelled to look at him.-
(14:54) <Minaplo> [Many of the Phantoms had cautious, curious expressions on their faces. They stared at him openly and frankly, watching his every movement.-
(14:57) <Minaplo> [Joan's eyes narrowed suspiciously, however. She didn't smile. "Oh, it's you."-
(15:07) <Minaplo> ["Sorry." Said Ezra with a smile. "Just me again, here to ruin your day."-
(15:09) <Minaplo> ["What do you want?" Said Joan.-
(15:10) <Minaplo> ["Well, I heard your daughters were here." Said Ezra. "I thought I'd swing by and say hello, see how everyone's doing, whether you needed or wanted anything."-
(15:10) <Minaplo> ["We're good." Said Joan bluntly.-
(15:11) <Minaplo> ["Great." Said Ezra. "Mind if I hang out for a bit?"-
(15:11) <Minaplo> ["Yes." Said Joan. But Ezra was already moving.-
(15:13) <Minaplo> [He approached the couch of Phantoms watching the movie. "Budge up, kiddo."-
(15:13) <Minaplo> [The nearest Phantom practically leapt away, her eyes wide. She watched him like a startled cat, the other Phantoms glancing at each other questioningly.-
(15:14) <Minaplo> ["The hell are you doing?" Snapped Joan.-
(15:14) <Minaplo> [But Ezra was already sitting on the couch. "What's this? Oh, wait, is this Chrono Vampire X?"-
(15:22) <Minaplo> ["Y-Yes." Blurted out the startled Phantom.-
(15:23) <Minaplo> ["Right, this is about the guy who goes back in time and finds out that at the same time, a part of him became a vampire and went forward in time…?" Said Ezra. "And he can't kill the vampire without him dying first?"-
(15:24) <Minaplo> ["Damnit, Caine, what're you doing?! Don't speak to my girls!"-
(15:24) <Minaplo> ["Y-Yeah." Said the Phantom, still staring dinner plates at Ezra.-
(15:26) <Minaplo> ["You know there's a sequel?" Said Ezra. "Chrono Vampire XX?"-
(15:26) <Minaplo> ["H-Huh?" Said the startled Phantom. "A sequel…?"-
(15:27) <Minaplo> ["Yeah. We have a copy of it. Actually, we have a lot of movies in Promised Land." Said Ezra. "I'd be happy to let you guys have a look if your mother says it's ok."-
(15:28) <Minaplo> [Joan was staring daggers at his back at this point, and it seemed that the only thing stopping her from leaping out of the bed was the risk that she'd wake her sleeping daughters.-
(15:32) <Minaplo> [All of the awake Phantoms were staring at Ezra now, and it looked as though their caution had given way to curiosity proper for now…-
(15:34) <Minaplo> ["Does Papillon White have a sequel?" Asked another Phantom, the one reading to her sisters.-
(15:34) <Minaplo> ["Hmm… I'm not sure. It might." Said Ezra. "I'm not very familiar with the movie at all… I haven't even seen it."-
(15:36) <Minaplo> ["Why not?" Said the reader. "It's the best movie ever."-
(15:37) <Minaplo> [Another Phantom was already raiding the DVD cabinet, pulling the movie in question out and, holding the case with both hands, shoving it at Ezra, her expression firm and determined.-
(15:38) <Minaplo> ["What's it about?" Asked Ezra.-
(15:39) <Minaplo> ["Grrrr." Joan was now slooowly extricating herself from her daughters.-
(15:50) <Minaplo> ["There's a man and a woman in love but war tears them apart but they have to find each other because they mean so much to each other and there's a waterfall." Said the surprised Phantom.-
(15:51) <Minaplo> ["A waterfall?"-
(15:51) <Minaplo> ["Niagara Falls." Said the reading Phantom. "It's a place in North America." She added with a hint of smugness.-
(15:53) <Minaplo> ["Oh." Ezra nodded. "I see. You know, that gives me an idea…"-
(15:54) <Minaplo> [Joan pulled herself free and was now leaping out of the bed. "Caine!"-
(15:57) <Minaplo> ["Have you heard of Victoria Falls? They're these huge waterfalls…" Said Ezra, waving his arms around in broad circles. "Very beautiful, very romantic. We should have a day trip there some time, all of us."-
(15:57) <Minaplo> [Joan clapped her hands on Ezra's shoulders. "You…"-
(15:59) <Minaplo> [But the Phantoms were already murmuring. "Mummy, can we?" Said one hopeful Phantom to Joan.-
(16:00) <Minaplo> ["…" Joan froze for a second. She looked around at her daughters. "A…Ahaha." She said lightly. "Of… Of course we can, baby. Soon."-
(16:01) <Minaplo> [There were excited gasps and chatter as the Phantoms began to talk.-
(16:01) <Minaplo> [Ezra stared up at Joan with a big innocent smile.-
(16:01) <Minaplo> [She glared at him from behind her own polite smile. "You. Outside." She said through gritted teeth.-
(16:07) <Minaplo> ["No worries~"-
(16:07) <Minaplo> […-
(16:08) <Minaplo> ["You cocksucking fucker." Swore Joan, her face a mask of rage.-
(16:08) <Minaplo> [Ezra stared back at her, his expression calm.-
(16:16) <Minaplo> ["The fuck did you think you were doing?! Fucking about with my girls!"-
(16:21) <Minaplo> ["I wasn't trying to mess with them." Said Ezra. "I wanted to bring these ideas to you, but I knew you'd reject them out of hand. But if I spoke to you via your girls…"-
(16:21) <Minaplo> ["That's still fucking with them!"-
[20:48] <Minaplo> ["Alright." Said Ezra. "It's true. Those girls are so guileless that for someone like me, twisting them around my finger isn't even a case of if, but when."-
[20:49] <Minaplo> [Joan snarled, her lip curling, revealing her white teeth. "I knew it-"-
[20:51] <Minaplo> ["I'm sorry. It was naturally presumptuous of me to assume that you'd need my help." Said Ezra. "Even worse, I probably fucked up your own plans, huh?"-
[20:51] <Minaplo> ["I don't need your help." Said Joan automatically.-
[20:51] <Minaplo> ["Wait, my plans-?"-
[20:53] <Minaplo> ["Your travel plans, I mean." Said Ezra. "It's your prerogative to choose where to take them, after all, isn't it? I didn't intend to transgress. I'll be going." He turned and briskly walked away.-
[20:55] <Minaplo> ["Huh…?" Joan stared at him for a few seconds- then her brow pulled together, her eyes narrowing, her hands balling into fists. "You know I didn't."-
[20:55] <Minaplo> [Ezra kept walking.-
[20:56] <Minaplo> ["You know I wasn't- allowed." Said Joan, her voice becoming louder. "Fuck you, Caine. Get back here!"-
[20:56] <Minaplo> [He didn't. He didn't even show any signs of listening to her.-
[20:56] <Minaplo> ["CAINE!"-
[20:57] <Minaplo> [She took a few steps forward, her eyes focused on the base of his skull. Yet the second she moved her hands unfurled of their own volition.-
[20:59] <Minaplo> [Joan closed her eyes, sucking her teeth- before throwing a punch at the nearest wall. It was a futile act, the wall made of reinforced surovite for obvious reasons. Nonetheless she threw another punch, then another, until the dull non-reflective surface was dented and twisted and her knuckled stained with blood.-
[20:59] <Minaplo> <Knuckles*>
[21:00] <Minaplo> [She stood there for a few seconds, the skin around her knuckles already shifting, warping, the wound vanishing as though time had reversed.-
[21:01] <Minaplo> [Then Joan went back inside. Back in with her daughters.-
[21:02] <Minaplo> [They were all energetically chatting now, throwing around ideas and off-the-mark stories about waterfalls and vacations; they didn't pay her any mind.-
[21:03] <Minaplo> [Joan let out a long, irritated sigh. She flopped down onto the couch, into where Ezra had been sitting. The nearest Phantoms instantly moved towards her, snuggling up against her, resting their heads against her own or laying on her lap.-
[21:04] <Minaplo> ["Sounds like you're all pretty excited about this 'trip' idea." Said Joan.-
[21:06] <Minaplo> ["Uh-huh!" Said the reading Phantom, Circelily.-
[21:07] <Minaplo> ["Why?" Said Joan. "Aren't there enough things to do around here?"-
[21:09] <Minaplo> [Circelily looked around the room, frowning slightly. She bit her lip thoughtfully.-
[21:09] <Minaplo> ["But we could go swimming." Said Circelily. "I like swimming."-
[21:09] <Minaplo> ["But we have pools here."-
[21:11] <Minaplo> [Circelily huffed. "But we're only allowed in there for training! I don't always want to swim fast. Sometimes I want to swim slow or under the water but if I swim slow, Mr. Instructor gets grumpy and I lose stars."-
[21:14] <Minaplo> ["And we'll be able to fish!" Said another Phantom, Carme. "Lots of yummy fish that we'll cook up and eat ourselves."-
[21:14] <Minaplo> ["Oh, so suddenly you know how to cook?" Said Joan.-
[21:14] <Minaplo> ["No, 'cuz I'm not allowed to try!"-
[21:15] <Minaplo> ["There could be animals." Said Melodiana. "We see lots of animal pictures, mummy, but I want to feel the fuzzy animals or the furry animals or the strong tough animals…"-
[21:24] <Minaplo> ["Hrmmm."-
[21:25] <Minaplo> ["Pretty skies!" Said Artemisia, a fourth Phantom. "And pretty wind! I want it to move my hair around!"-
[21:28] <Minaplo> ["Alright, alright." Said Joan, smiling a little. "I guess my hands are tied? I'll see what I can do…"-
[21:29] <Minaplo> [There were squeals of delight from around the room.-
[21:29] <Minaplo> […-
[21:43] <Minaplo> [Joan opened the door.-
[21:46] <Minaplo> [Scholastica was floating in the doorway, her eyes closed as usual, a small smirk on her face.-
[21:46] <Minaplo> ["Oh, it's you." Said Joan. "What do you want?"-
[21:47] <Minaplo> ["You ordered a bowl of liquid sigilite." Said Scholastica. "I'm here to bring it to you."-
[21:47] <Minaplo> ["Oh. Where is it?"-
[21:47] <Minaplo> [There was a small 'clunk' from within the empty room. Joan turned.-
[21:47] <Minaplo> [The bowl of sigilite was sitting on the dining table.-
[21:48] <Minaplo> ["Great. That all?" Said Joan, turning back towards Scholastica.-
[21:51] <Minaplo> ["Hm. Your Phantoms not in?" Said Scholastica.-
[21:51] <Minaplo> ["Vehicle combat training." Said Joan. "What's it to you?"-
[21:53] <Minaplo> ["Oh, nothing. I haven't received my replacements yet." Said Scholastica. "Did yours have any memory problems?"-
[21:53] <Minaplo> ["Not very many…"-
[21:54] <Minaplo> ["Good." Said Scholastica. "Teaching them not to ask questions once was enough work, can you imagine doing it twice?" She let out a little laugh.-
[21:54] <Minaplo> ["You must be enjoying the peace and quiet." Said Joan icily.-
[21:57] <Minaplo> ["Quite so." Said Scholastica. "Oh, I've noticed you've come under the augur of our new leader…"-
[21:57] <Minaplo> ["So what?"-
[22:03] <Minaplo> ["Well, I'd suggest you be careful." Said Scholastica. "He recently invited Agatha and her Phantoms back to the Damocles for a party. Apparently it caused quite the stir…"-
[22:04] <Minaplo> ["I don't need your help in looking out for my girls." Said Joan. "Besides, what does that have to do with me?"-
[22:05] <Minaplo> [Scholastica laughed softly. "In case it wasn't obvious to you, he has some interest in the Phantoms- and in us. I'm sure you find those things a fun enough diversion, but aren't you getting… Carried away?"-
[22:06] <Minaplo> ["The only thing getting carried away will be you if you don't piss off." Said Joan bluntly.-
[22:07] <Minaplo> ["Well, I'll leave you alone, then." Said Scholastica.-
[22:08] <Minaplo> [Scholastica began floating away, but not before saying one last thing.-
[22:10] <Minaplo> ["An Angel who lets herself be leashed by twenty bare lilim souls. How sad. He's holding that leash, just so you know…"-
[22:22] <Minaplo> ["Fuck off!" Joan snarled, her voice becoming a scream near the end.-
[22:22] <Minaplo> [Scholastica floated away, smirking to herself.-
[22:22] <Minaplo> […-
[22:35] <Minaplo> [The crowds were thick down here.-
[22:36] <Minaplo> [Joan, safe in a private parlour overlooking the Synfront Mall's main arcade and food court, watched Ezra navigate the press of people- many of them soldiers on break, although scientists were spread throughout the melee as well.-
[22:37] <Minaplo> [A few minutes later he returned, food in hand. "Pardon the delay."-
[22:38] <Minaplo> [Ezra sat. He was carrying a dish containing a grilled chicken salad as well as two ice cream sundaes, one of which- a double caramel sundae- he placed in front of Joan.-
[22:44] <Minaplo> ["What's this?" She said, her lip curling.-
[22:45] <Minaplo> ["Double caramel sundae. We only had 10,000." Said Ezra. "People're going mad for them. Eat up."-
[22:46] <Minaplo> ["I don't eat."-
[22:46] <Minaplo> ["You ate on the Dove." Said Ezra.-
[22:47] <Minaplo> [Joan shrugged. "Cuz Melodiana was there. My girls don't like it when I don't eat. They like it when we do things together."-
[22:47] <Minaplo> ["Well, I'd like it if you ate with me. How about that?"-
[22:47] <Minaplo> ["Meh."-
[22:48] <Minaplo> ["Fine, suit yourself." Said Ezra. "But you don't need to be hungry to eat. Sometimes people eat just for the pleasure of it. That's why you got a sundae- a luxury food if there ever was one- and not a protein shake or something."-
[09:16] <Minaplo> ["Hmmf." Joan took the sundae, dragging it towards her.-
[09:16] <Minaplo> ["So, Joan, what'd you want to see me about?" Said Ezra.-
[09:17] <Minaplo> [Joan ignored him, instead taking a small spoonful of her sundae.-
[09:20] <Minaplo> [Eventually, after a few spoonfuls, she spoke. "It's about my daughters. They're crazy excited about this vacation plan?"-
[09:26] <Minaplo> ["I see." Said Ezra.-
[09:27] <Minaplo> ["It never came up before." Said Joan. "I don't think they even thought about it like it was something we could do. This shithole's all they know."-
[09:29] <Minaplo> [Ezra was silent. He focused on eating.-
[09:29] <Minaplo> ["It never crossed my mind either." Said Joan. "We're tightly controlled here. The girls are expected to have leisure time in their own room."-
[09:29] <Minaplo> ["I know." Said Ezra.-
[09:30] <Minaplo> ["Uh-huh. That's why you did it, right?" Said Joan. "To signal that you were more 'open', that you'd be okay with it, that we could ask to go on a fucking day trip to some waterfalls a few countries over and you'd be cool with it."-
(13:36) <Mianplo> ["That was one of the reasons, yes." Said Ezra.-
(13:37) <Mianplo> ["Uh-huh." Said Joan. "Why else?"-
(14:05) <Mianplo> ["I wanted to see how open you were to the idea. And how open your Phantoms were." Said Ezra. "I'm glad that they liked the idea."-
(14:05) <Mianplo> ["I only care about it because they do. Don't get me wrong." Said Joan. "I know why you're doing this."-
(14:06) <Mianplo> ["Do you now?"-
(14:06) <Mianplo> ["You're only doing this because you're hoping to get something in return." She muttered.-
(15:36) * Noriko is now known as Zack
(15:38) <Mianplo> ["Entirely possible." Said Ezra. "But if that's true, is that really so wrong?"-
(15:38) <Mianplo> ["Of course it is. It's just fucking manipulation."-
(15:48) * Zack is now known as ZackSleep
(15:53) <Mianplo> ["Maybe." Said Ezra. "I don't think so. In our world- the Lilim world- that sort of attitude- only giving someone something because you expect something back- isn't always wrong. It happens all the time- commerce. I give you money, and you give me something in return. So long as everything's fair and above the board, it's perfectly acceptable and no one gets hurt. It's how equals operate."-
(15:54) <Mianplo> ["Fuck off." Said Joan. "You know as well as I do that that sort of bullshit doesn't work here. We're not equals. You have the power. You can just order me around if you wanted to."-
(15:55) <Mianplo> ["And besides, you aren't painting it as a transaction. Yes, I'm not a dumb fuck, I know the fucking word. You're painting it as generosity, just doin' me a favour out of the kindness of your heart. That's manipulative 'cuz it's not, you want something out of it."-
(15:58) <Mianplo> ["If you think I'm not doing this out of kindness, you're wrong." Said Ezra firmly. "I want to help the Phantoms. All of them. Including your daughters. I want to see them happy, I want to see them free. It's possible I might get something out of it, something from you, and that'd help me, but even if you had nothing to offer, I'd still do it."-
(16:36) <Mianplo> ["Uh-huh." Said Joan, her lips curling back to reveal her teeth. She ground them together and huffed.-
(16:37) <Mianplo> ["Still annoyed?"-
(16:39) <Mianplo> ["I hate that you think you need to help my phantoms." Said Joan. "I hate that you think I can't handle them myself."-
(16:40) <Mianplo> ["I hate that you're going to use them to use me or to get something out of it or whatever the fuck." Said Joan.-
(16:41) <Mianplo> ["Alright." Said Ezra. "Then let's reframe it. I'm going to trust you from now on, trust you to handle them. But you do have to understand that I'm different to my predecessor. I'm more willing to work with you. To give you resources if you ask for it. To be more flexible, to help."-
(16:41) <Mianplo> ["Would you prefer someone who gives you something in return for something?" He asked. "Or do you miss having things taken from you without recompense?"-
(16:41) <Mianplo> ["…"-
(16:42) <Mianplo> [Joan let out a long, frustrated sigh. "I hate having to- rely on you. On your power. Because you can revoke it at will? But… I have to to make my girls happy."-
(16:50) <Mianplo> ["You do." Said Ezra.-
(16:50) <Mianplo> ["But I hope that won't be the case forever." He added.-
(20:55) <Minaplo> ["Uh-huh." Said Joan. "Right. What you talked about earlier."-
(20:56) <Minaplo> ["And after that. And before now. And…"-
(20:57) <Minaplo> ["Yeah, alright." Said Joan snappily. "I get it? Anyway… Do whatever. I don't know how to handle this whole trip thing, so…"-
[21:40] <Minaplo> ["Sarah and I will be around to give you advice, but only if you ask for it." Said Ezra. "Ultimately, all the choices and details will be in your hands."-
[21:49] <Minaplo> ["Where'd I even start?" Joan muttered.-
[21:50] <Minaplo> ["Typically you decide on a location first." Said Ezra. "Usually you have to factor in things like free time, distance, ease of access, accomodation…"-
[21:50] <Minaplo> ["Well all my girls're pretty set on Victoria Falls." Said Joan.-
[21:54] <Minaplo> ["Good to hear." Said Ezra. "What do you think comes next?"-
[21:54] <Minaplo> ["…?" Joan shrugged.-
[22:00] <Minaplo> ["That's okay." Said Ezra. "We can figure it out as we go."-
[22:00] <Minaplo> ["Whatever."-
[22:00] <Minaplo> [With a small smile, Ezra worked at his chicken salad; Joan kept to her sundae.-
[22:01] <Minaplo> [Eventually Ezra spoke. "How're you finding your sundae?"-
[22:01] <Minaplo> [Joan frowned, looking up at him. "… Sweet topping."-
[22:09] <Minaplo> ["No kidding. I couldn't eat it every day." Said Ezra. "Sarah, though…"-
[22:10] <Minaplo> ["Sweet tooth?" Asked Joan.-
[22:10] <Minaplo> ["Quite. Doesn't like chocolate, but otherwise… Caramel sundaes are a favourite of her's."-
[22:12] <Minaplo> ["Hmf." Said Joan. "Circelly's big on sweets too? She loves these pancake things with syrup and stuff."-
[22:12] <Minaplo> ["Can't imagine those are easy to find around here."-
[22:12] <Minaplo> ["They're not? She always looks a little disappointed when she's told they're not available." Joan frowned.-
[22:13] <Minaplo> ["… Will I have to think about that, too? Make sure there's some pancake… Shop or something she can go to?"-
[22:13] <Minaplo> ["I wouldn't be that specific, but scouting local cuisine options is a wise idea." Said Ezra.-
[22:14] <Minaplo> [Joan grumbled. "This sounds like a lot of work."-
[22:14] <Minaplo> ["Vacations always are until you actually go on them." Said Ezra cheerfully.-
[22:14] <Minaplo> ["Mph. How's that salad crap?" She asked.-
[22:14] <Minaplo> ["It's fine, thanks. Want some?"-
[22:15] <Minaplo> [Joan's lip curled.-
[22:15] <Minaplo> ["I see." said Ezra, popping a forkful of grilled chicken and salad into his mouth.-
[22:29] <Minaplo> ["Must suck to have to eat every day." Said Joan.-
[22:29] <Minaplo> ["Hmm?"-
[22:29] <Minaplo> ["You and the others." She said, making a vague circular gesture with her hand. "You all have to eat a whole lot, you know? I don't get hungry."-
[22:43] <Minaplo> ["Hmm. Well, from a viewpoint of pure efficiency, having to eat isn't great." Said Ezra. "But it has its own benefits."-
[22:43] <Minaplo> ["Really?"-
[22:47] <Minaplo> ["Your Phantoms have to eat." Said Ezra. "What do they do when it's mealtime?"-
[22:47] <Minaplo> ["… They eat?"-
[22:48] <Minaplo> ["Besides that." Said Ezra.-
[22:50] <Minaplo> ["Well, they all get their food and crap, they sit down… Usually they use forks and stuff."-
[22:50] <Minaplo> ["Sit down where?" Said Ezra.-
[22:51] <Minaplo> ["I 'unno, at the table?" Said Joan irritably. "Or on the couch, or around the couch…"-
[22:51] <Minaplo> [Ezra nodded.-
[22:52] <Minaplo> ["… And I guess they all talk and gossip and all that." Said Joan. "They don't like it if I stay out of it, so they make me eat too…"-
[23:16] <Minaplo> ["Oh, I get it?" Said Joan, sighing. "So it's a social thing."-
[23:20] <Minaplo> ["That's right." Said Ezra. "There's also a level of direct pleasure to it as well… Then those things interact. It's pretty simple, but then again, most lilim grow up eating and sharing."-
[23:21] <Minaplo> ["Mph. Like what we're doing now?"-
[23:21] <Minaplo> ["Right, exactly."-
[23:21] <Minaplo> [Joan frowned, a sour curl to her lips.-
[23:21] <Minaplo> [… Nonetheless, after a few seconds she took another mouthful.-
[23:22] <Minaplo> ["Joan. Do you remember much about being an Angel?" Said Ezra.-
[23:22] <Minaplo> ["…" Joan froze. Her gaze narrowed. "… Why?"-
[23:25] <Minaplo> ["Curiosity." Said Ezra. "You might look like a Lilim, but not so long ago you were a demigod. The body you left and the body you gained- well, they're incomparable. Makes a man wonder."-
[23:35] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[23:35] <Minaplo> [Joan sighed. "I remember patches. It's… Very weird. A lot of the memories are hard to pin down? They keep changing or slipping out of focus."-
[23:41] <Mianplo> ["I remember… Sound." Said Joan, her voice quiet and thoughtful. "Music, I guess? I remember hearing- no, it's more like feeling it. All around me, coming in from every direction…"-
[23:50] <Mianplo> [Ezra nodded.-
[23:52] <Mianplo> ["Actually, I remember the music had- singers." She grinned. "All the little ones? The ones I made. They were everywhere, and I would sing to them, and they'd sing back, like little echoes."-
[23:56] <Mianplo> ["Heh. Sounds like it felt good." Said Ezra.-
[00:05] <Mianplo> ["It did? I don't really know how to explain it to you." Said Joan. "It felt… Nnnh. 'Warm'?" She frowned. "It makes me feel good even now, but… I dunno the words."-
[00:09] <Mianplo> [Ezra smiled.-
[00:09] <Mianplo> ["… What?" Snapped Joan.-
[00:09] <Mianplo> ["This is the first time I've seen your face light up." Said Ezra warmly.-
[00:09] <Mianplo> ["…"-
[00:10] <Mianplo> [Joan scowled, a deep and fierce furrowing of the eyebrows; her lips became thin, sharp lines. "Don't get used to it? I'm just explaining how I felt."-
[00:17] <Mianplo> ["Sorry."-
[00:17] <Mianplo> ["Mmf."-
[00:18] <Mianplo> [Joan continued. "Whatever it was I felt, I definitely didn't feel alone? In fact…"-
[00:23] <Mianplo> ["… Well, I guess it was my Adam." She said dully.-
[00:24] <Mianplo> [Ezra nodded.-
[00:24] <Mianplo> ["I felt them die." Said Joan. "Not only my Adam, but all the little ones. They killed them, and every time, things got quieter and lonelier and colder. Then I saw them."-
[00:24] <Mianplo> ["Them?"-
[00:26] <Mianplo> ["The Evas." Said Joan. "Yeah, I definitely remember them? So bright… They hurt me. A lot. Things become really fuzzy around then… I remember feeling cold and hurt. And I remember Yanmei. I remember feeling her, trying to surround her, not managing to do it… I fucked up, I think."-
[00:32] <Mianplo> ["You made a mistake?" Asked Ezra.-
[00:33] <Mianplo> ["Yeah… I don't know. It's hard to process. But I messed up. And she killed me for it." Said Joan bitterly. "Tore me apart."-
[00:33] <Mianplo> ["… Can we talk about something else?"-
[00:40] <Mianplo> ["… Joan." Said Ezra. "How unhappy are you right now?"-
[00:40] <Mianplo> ["… This is your idea of a change in subject?"-
[00:41] <Mianplo> [Ezra gave her a little smile. "Sorry."-
[00:49] <Mianplo> ["You should be? You know how unhappy I fucking am." Said Joan, her voice tight and harsh.-
[00:50] <Mianplo> ["I do. I'm sorry. I know you feel trapped, despairing- frustrated. Right?"-
[00:50] <Mianplo> ["What's your fucking point, Caine?"-
[00:50] <Mianplo> ["…"-
[00:50] <Mianplo> ["That music you felt? I think I can give it back to you." Said Ezra, his tone deadly calm.-
[00:53] <Mianplo> [Joan stared at him for a few long, silent seconds.-
[00:53] <Mianplo> [Then she snarled. "Don't fuck around with me on this, Caine."-
[00:53] <Mianplo> ["I'm not." Said Ezra. "Look me in the eye and tell me I'm fucking you around."-
[00:54] <Mianplo> [Joan met his eyes.-
[00:54] <Mianplo> [Ezra didn't waver.-
[00:54] <Mianplo> ["… How would you-?"-
[00:54] <Mianplo> ["I'll show you, if you let me." Said Ezra. "Are you willing to come to the Dysangelion pen with me?"-
[01:05] <Mianplo> […-
[01:21] <Mianplo> [The Dysangelion Pens were kept well away from the rest of the facilities.-
[01:23] <Mianplo> [There were a fair crowd of technicians and support crew in the pens, yet despite that the air felt heavy… Quiet. The techies were reluctant to speak too loudly…-
[01:47] <Mianplo> [The Dysangelions themselves- strange, alien hybrids, more obviously organic than the Eva, more bone and carapace- were kept here, bolted to the walls by massive restraining harnesses that locked in around their arms, legs and head.-
[01:48] <Mianplo> [As Ezra and Joan stepped off the elevator, Joan frowned. She spoke for the first time since they'd left the food court. "… Where's my Dys?"-
[01:48] <Mianplo> ["Testing bay. C'mon." Said Ezra.-
[01:52] <Mianplo> [They walked past the gantries and the pens and the crowds of technicians and into a whole new bay, separated from the pens. This was the testing bay; an enclosed research and observation lab overlooking a large, featureless square room.-
[01:52] <Mianplo> [Within was Joan's Dysangelion; its pen had been slowly rolled into the bay, where it now sat like a puppet nailed to a wall.-
[01:58] <Mianplo> [Ezra took up position within the middle of the observation lab; it was otherwise empty. "The external door's open, Joan. Go get comfortable and Mary will connect you in a moment."-
[01:59] <Mianplo> [Joan nodded; she headed over to a heavily reinforced door on the right side of the lab and smacked a button on the side. It slowly slid open.-
[02:00] <Mianplo> [She jumped out; instead of plummeting to a painful end, she instead flew through the air. Within a minute she'd landed on the Dys.-
[02:00] <Mianplo> [Joan made her way to the neck of the beast, then- seemed to vanish, merging with the flesh itself.-
[02:03] <Mianplo> [A minute passed. Then another.-
[02:19] <Mianplo> [… Then finally, the Dysangelion moved, lifting its head. A second later, the restraints unlocked, slowly pulling themselves away. The Dys was free.-
[02:20] <Mianplo> [A Sound-Only comm screen appeared on the window in front of Ezra. ("All good on my end. So what's the big deal, Caine?")-
[02:24] <Mianplo> ["I had them change your Dys." Said Ezra. "A new ability. One that I think you'll understand quite well."-
[02:33] <Mianplo> ["Just focus. Meditate a little." Said Ezra. "Think about what's the same; feel what's changed."-
[02:33] <Mianplo> [("You can't just tell me what you did?")-
[02:33] <Mianplo> ["I wouldn't want to ruin the surprise."-
[02:35] <Mianplo> [There was a sigh of frustration.-
[02:44] <Mianplo> [Ezra waited.-
[02:46] <Mianplo> [… The minutes began to tick by. He could see Joan- or rather, the Dysangelion- become frustrated, twitchy. It began to roll its shoulders, flex its hands… Eventually it began pacing.-
[02:47] <Mianplo> [("…")-
[02:48] <Mianplo> [("I feel itchy.")-
[02:48] <Mianplo> [Reflexively, the Dysangelion's right claw rose and began to dig at the carapace plates on its breast.-
[02:49] <Mianplo> [The claw caught the edge of the plate and, for a few seconds, pulled it free.-
[02:51] <Mianplo> [Nestled within the pink-grey matter beneath the plate were a dozen twisted ribbons of flesh. They pulsed slightly; each time they did, small bulges spontaneously sprouted on their surfaces before deflating.-
[02:51] <Mianplo> [… The Dysangelion paused.-
[02:52] <Mianplo> [("…")-
[02:52] <Mianplo> [("Wh… What are these?") Said Joan. There was a quaver in her voice.-
[02:53] <Mianplo> ["Don't quote me on the technical details, but they have something to do with the spawning process." Said Ezra casually. "Umbilicals by the bulk."-
[02:55] <Mianplo> [("S-Spawning…?")-
[02:55] <Mianplo> ["Now that you know they're there, why don't you try them out and see what happens?"-
[02:55] <Mianplo> [("…")-
[03:00] <Mianplo> [A minute later, the entire Dysangelion began to twitch.-
[03:01] <Mianplo> [At first it was only mild- a muscle here, a joint there. Soon, however, its twitches became more like spasms, its torso and arms starting to twist and bend in painful ways.-
[03:01] <Mianplo> [Its very hands seemed to be straining against its own bones.-
[03:05] <Mianplo> [Then all of a sudden, all across its body, the ossified plates were violently pushed out of alignment; from its wrists and waist all the way up to its neck, long, fat tendrils burst out in all directions. The Dysangelion looked, for a second, more like a tree than anything, sprouting a hundred small fleshy branches.-
[03:05] <Mianplo> [The tendrils bulged.-
[03:06] <Mianplo> [Then a few seconds later, they split and ruptured, spraying the walls with LCL and other fluids.-
[03:07] <Mianplo> [But that wasn't all that came forth.-
[03:08] <Mianplo> [Within each tendril were seeds: small and black and rather sharp-looking, packed tightly, perhaps a dozen to a tendril. As the tendrils had ruptured, the seeds had been scattered copiously around the testing bay. Most slammed into the ground, but a few had been hurled with such force as to embed themselves in the wall.-
[03:09] <Mianplo> [At the same time, Joan let out a long scream; Ezra winced and covered his ears.-
[03:09] <Mianplo> [He forced himself to approach the window, to look down…-
[03:09] <Mianplo> […-
[03:10] <Mianplo> [One seed had buried itself in the surovite wall about a metre beneath the window. Ezra stared at it with wide eyes.-
[03:11] <Mianplo> [It was long. Maybe about one and a half metres long, wide enough to fit a human inside if they were curled up. The surface was black and shimmered with wetness.-
[03:11] <Mianplo> [… It twitched.-
[03:12] <Mianplo> [The exposed tip began to shake. Then it began to crack.-
[03:12] <Mianplo> [A hand burst its way out of the seed- a human hand.-
[03:13] <Mianplo> [… Only, it was a deep dark purple, and the fingers were unusually long and thin.-
[03:13] <Mianplo> [The hand curled around another part of the shell. With a sharp snap! it tore a chunk away, widening the little gap it had made for itself.-
[03:14] <Mianplo> [Another hand emerged.-
[03:15] <Mianplo> [Then two other arms, these ones tipped with tridactyl claws, each several inches long. They vanished back into the shell for a second- before bursting outwards, shattering the thing entirely.-
[03:16] <Mianplo> [A banshee. A newly-birthed banshee, its mottled purple skin and dark bony carapace slick with black and grey ichor.-
[03:17] <Mianplo> [The banshee, of course, had burst out of its shell into mid air, and for a second it seemed as though it would fall and splat on the ground below.-
[03:20] <Mianplo> [But it twisted its body into a truly torturous-looking knot, a twist that reminded Ezra of a cat's righting reflex. It snapped its claws outwards and buried them into the surovite wall.-
[03:20] <Mianplo> [… It had torn into the surovite hull as though it were nothing.-
[03:24] <Mianplo> [Then it began to climb, swiftly, up the wall.-
[03:25] <Mianplo> [It was faster than any human being, even without a harness. Before Ezra could react it had clambered onto the transparent surovite window, its claws easily punching holes through it as it went.-
[03:27] <Mianplo> [It stared at Ezra. It had dark indigo pupils amidst milky whites. Its head was bulbous, its neck a twist of muscle; its teeth were an inch long.-
[03:29] <Mianplo> [It flicked out a bluish tongue that was as long as Ezra's forearm; it smeared a long trail of saliva across the surface of the window.-
[03:30] <Mianplo> [Almost instantly, the saliva began to bubble, potent acid eating away at the surface.-
[03:30] <Mianplo> [Ezra stared at it. He suppressed the instinct to back away.-
[03:30] <Mianplo> [It stared back.-
[03:30] <Mianplo> [("…Ahaha. Ahahahahaha.")-
[03:31] <Mianplo> [Joan's voice over the now-flickering comm window. She was laughing, a full and strong sound, her voice trilling with ecstatic delight.-
[03:32] <Mianplo> [… But as Ezra stared down her pet killing machine, he could hear something else as well besides the laughter: sobs.-
[03:32] <Mianplo> [Joan was sobbing to herself even as she laughed.-
[03:32] <Mianplo> [("My babies. My babies…") She crooned, sighing with pleasure.-
[03:33] <Mianplo> [The banshee suddenly fell, deliberately; it twisted in mid-air and began to race down the side of the wall.-
[03:33] <Mianplo> [All across the testing bay, several thousand more banshees were doing the same, all of them running back towards the Dysangelion at full sprint.-
[03:34] <Mianplo> [("Look at them all, Ezra. Look at my babies!") She cried. ("Oh, they're so beautiful, I can hear them, I can hear them…")-
[03:34] <Mianplo> [("Come to mama, babies.") Said Joan; instantly she began laughing again. ("Ooh, wait until I show you to your sisters…")-
[03:35] <Mianplo> [Ezra let out a breath he hadn't realised he'd been holding.-
[03:36] <Mianplo> [The sight was harrowing for sure. Joan's creatures were murder machines, designed purely for death and slaughter.-
[03:36] <Mianplo> [… Yet he could hear the laughter in her voice, the sobbing; the genuine tenderness to her tone as she called them close.-
[03:36] <Mianplo> [He shook his head. He'd let her have her moment.-
[03:37] <Mianplo> [There would be time to tell Joan about the safeguards, about the copious controls and restrictions she'd have to subject herself to if she wanted to maintain this ability.-
[03:37] <Mianplo> [But for now…-
[03:37] <Mianplo> [Ezra turned his back on the scene, and he walked away.]

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