This Too Shall Pass 3 2 9

[08:13] <@Minaplo> ["Uuuuuu."-
[08:16] <@Minaplo> [It was a quiet day in the Ops of the FCB base in Sao Paulo-2. Everything was routine as could be. Brazilian satellites provided information from around the world. Political and military events from the ongoing conflict were being displayed on the holoview. Vera and Rosamund had returned just last night from Istanbul…-
[08:17] <@Minaplo> [The latter of which now sat hunched over her console, her head lolling against its surface. She looked distinctly green around the gills, and exceptionally pale.-
[08:19] <@Minaplo> [Rosamund had been a terrible casualty, yet not the first, of the ongoing menace that was Raphael Guillory. Having drunken herself into a stupor around him, she hadn't had time before the closing of the summit to fully sleep off all the knock-off effects… Incredibly. Severely jet-lagged yet still nursing a raw, dull, slow-burn hangover, her main contribution today had been responding to
[08:19] <@Minaplo> questions and orders with vague droning sounds of woe.-
[08:19] <@Minaplo> [… Well, there was one other contribution. Rosamund's tiredness had meant her mental defenses were low as she replayed the horrible events over and over…-
[08:20] <@Minaplo> [… And Kader had picked up on this literally seconds before she came into the room this morning.-
[08:20] <@Minaplo> [He'd laughed. Oh, how he'd laughed. Long and hard until he'd been unable to breathe, until he became light-headed.-
[08:21] <@Minaplo> [Even now, whenever he glanced at her, he began to giggle again…]
[08:24] * Vera was impassively watching this, one leg folded over the other in a casually relaxed pose. This. This was an object lesson to Rosamund that she would not soon forget. Not that Vera was 100% sure what she was teaching her. Surely the girl was learning. Surely. But yet… Vera remained overall understanding, other than to sometimes complain firmly (but quietly) when Kader got /too/
[08:24] * Vera loud with the giggles.
[08:32] <@Minaplo> [The higher command staff- Director Salazar and Captain Silva particularly- were out visiting the Ministry of Defense, leaving Vera in charge.-
[08:33] <@Minaplo> [Or she had been in charge for the last few hours. Out of the rear elevator came Vice Commander Gabriel Levin…-
[08:33] <@Minaplo> [Just as Kader burst into giggles yet again.-
[08:34] <@Minaplo> ["What's this, Colonel?" Asked Gabriel. "Mandatory giggle session?"]
[08:37] <Vera> "It is Lieutenant Kader being prone to wandering minds." She gave Kader a significant glare and a general mindset of Displeasure, as if trying to do the 'burn a hole in your skull with my gaze' thing. "I've been lenient because you /keep doing it/, Lieutenant, but with the Vice Commander returned… do try more restraint." A sigh.
[08:40] <@Minaplo> ["Good gracious." Said Gabriel.-
[08:40] <@Minaplo> ["C-Commander, sir." Said Kader, wiping his eyes. "Rosamund g-got drunk and hit on Raphael Guillory-"-
[08:40] <@Minaplo> [Rosamund let out a pained scream, and clumsily threw her hands out towards him as though trying to stop the words from travelling through the air.-
[08:41] <@Minaplo> [Next to him, Pereira just rolled his eyes and sucked his teeth.-
[08:41] <@Minaplo> ["Ah." Said Gabriel. "A flirtatious liaison with the dreaded Vampire of Malta himself?"]
[08:42] <Vera> "She made the apparently-now-classic 'Pilot Ikari' mistake." Vera gently explained. "And hopefully has gotten the vice of drink out of her system for roughly the next year or five, sir."
[08:43] <@Minaplo> [Rosamund let out a long whine, her face beet red. "Not fair…"-
[08:44] <@Minaplo> ["Yes, I hear he wears a beguiling skin to seduce and tempt women." Said Gabriel solemnly. "You avoided his demonic lure, though, Colonel?"]
[08:49] * Vera nodded. "It takes an iron will and years of mistakes to harden oneself to such bald seduction, even if he barely even means it." Vera was a perfect mask of stoicism, though it was hard to tell how much she was 'playing along'. Which was the point. She counted on Gabriel being in on the joke.
[08:57] <@Minaplo> ["That's the danger of Raphael Guillory." Said Gabriel. "Consider the circles he moves in… The Federation's AEC, its top military leadership, even the leadership of the US President… All dominated by women."-
[08:57] <@Minaplo> ["Yes." Said Gabriel darkly. "I think it's safe to say that Guillory is the secret leader of the Federation. Ruling not by a puppet's strings…"-
[08:57] <@Minaplo> ["But by heartstrings."]
[09:01] * Vera stared. "He's a cipher, though. Seemingly nobody." Beat. "That's part of the mystique, though."
[09:05] <@Minaplo> ["Oh yes, Guillory likes to pretend he's nobody, but we know better." Said Gabriel. "The chaos of Malta was his Toulon. He later showed up to break the siege in Boston… Which is where he stole the heart of Minerva Linden, no doubt, turning her to their side!"-
[09:05] <@Minaplo> ["And of course, only a fool would forget that it was he who slew Azariah Caine…"-
[09:05] * SyntaxPhone (~if.elibom-asile.tan-491-611-67-58|xatnyS#if.elibom-asile.tan-491-611-67-58|xatnyS) has joined #nervfrance3
[09:08] <@Minaplo> ["Oh yes, I'd watch him very closely." Said Gabriel. "We're lucky Eufemia didn't go with you, or else we'd all be lost, like leaves in a hurricane."]
[09:10] * Vera let a small, cheshire grin form. "Considering how we were dancing around the subject of the Cavaliero Program with I-know-you-knows choreographed deeper than chamber dances, I think even without subversion threats, bringing along our Pilot would just be highlighting it too deeply, sir."
[09:11] <@Minaplo> ["Very true." Said Gabriel.-
[09:12] <@Minaplo> ["In any case, Prescott, you've learned an important lesson." Said Gabriel. "The darkest forces sometimes wear a lovely face…"-
[09:12] <@Minaplo> ["You're lucky he didn't eat your heart."-
[09:12] <@Minaplo> [Rosamund just shook her head furiously.-
[09:13] <@Minaplo> ["I'm not sure she would've minded that much." Said Kader.-
[09:13] <@Minaplo> ["You-!" Rosamund flew out of her chair, whacking at Kader around the head.-
[09:14] <@Minaplo> ["Hey- ow- those are sensitive!"-
[09:14] <@Minaplo> ["YOU IDIOT!"-
[09:14] <@Minaplo> ["I NEED THAT- DON'T TUG MY CABLES!"]
[09:17] <Vera> "…" CLANG. Small droplets of coffee flicked onto Vera's desk. "Enough. Wounding him will accomplish nothing but furthering your shame. Why do you think I gave you back the bottle…?"
[09:18] <@Minaplo> ["Uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu."-
[09:19] <@Minaplo> [Rosamund slumped back into her chair, looking dejected, whilst Kader gingerly prodded at the cables feeding into his skull.-
[09:19] <@Minaplo> [Pereira just sat to the side, looking completely unimpressed.]
[09:27] * Vera folded one arm, the other reaching to sip at the coffee. "At least she helped with logistics before The Hangover."
[09:37] <@Minaplo> ["Did she now?"]
[09:38] * Vera nodded! "Little things, even, like organizing notes and talking points, keeping records on the proceedings… to the Optimisation of the hotel room. Which I asked for as a bit of a sporting thing, but… ah~"
[13:02] <Mianplo> ["That's good to hear." Said Gabriel. "I-"-
[13:04] <Mianplo> [All of a sudden, a shrill klaxon sounded throughout Ops. Red lights began flashing from the walls, and the holoview began reconfiguring itself. The words COMBAT STATIONS began flashing at the top of the screen.]
[13:05] * Vera …deadpan stared at the holos. For about a second that's all she did, before… "Status report, everyone! What's going on?"
[13:07] <Mianplo> [The relaxed atmosphere vanished. The Ops Staff leapt to work. Vera could feel Gabriel's hand on the back of her seat.-
[13:08] <Mianplo> ["N2 Strike detected!" Said Kader.-
[13:08] <Mianplo> [He closed his eyes.-
[13:08] <Mianplo> ["Reports from Telepatica now…" His fingers worked deftly over the interface of his console, and the holoview changed to an image of Brazil.-
[13:09] <Mianplo> [A small red circle had been highlighted over the inland city of Campo Grande.-
[13:10] <Mianplo> ["We didn't detect any missile strike? Interception network? Nothing?" Snapped Gabriel.-
[13:10] <Mianplo> ["There was nothing to detect!" Cried Kader. "Ungh… All comms to Campo Grande dead. Nothing from the Telepatica station…"-
[13:11] <Mianplo> ["The city's gone?" Said Rosamund, looking horrified.-
[13:11] <Mianplo> [Pereira turned in his seat. "Colonel, if we didn't detect any missile strike, then it's likely that this was a terrorist attack."-
[13:11] <Mianplo> ["An N2 warhead?" Cried Rosamund.-
[13:12] <Mianplo> ["It's been known to happen." Said Pereira grimly.]
[13:13] * Vera shook her head. "This so close on the heels of the war talks…" She tapped her own console, looking at the holoview and back to the console to review data.
[13:17] <Mianplo> [Little information was yet available from any nearby bases, who were only barely getting the word and responding. The media had yet to pick up on it, but it wouldn't take long for them to realise that Campo Grande had gone silent.-
[13:17] <Mianplo> [Satellites were already moving into position over the city now. Vera began receiving images…-
[13:20] <Mianplo> [The city, its skyline rather low, yet quite sprawling- home to nearly a million people- had been disemboweled. The smoke was only just clearing…-
[13:23] <Mianplo> [The blast had been centred on the heart of the city. A massive crater had been gouged out of the land, whole portions of the city wiped clean. Outside of the crater, buildings had been flatted for miles around by the pressure wave.-
[13:23] <Mianplo> [Much of the remainder beyond that burned.-
[13:25] <Mianplo> [A river ran through the heart of the city- and it was now feeding water into what would soon be a lake.]
[13:27] * Vera clenched her fist around her coffee cup's handle, which shook and sometimes tapped her desk in its vibrations. Body tensing firmly, before… "We… Need names to pin on this. Eyes watching for claims of responsibility or other terrorist signatures."
[13:35] <Mianplo> ["Already on it." Said Kader. His face was hard and stony as he went to work.-
[13:36] <Mianplo> ["Your typical N2 warhead is cylinder over ten metres long and six metres wide and high." Said Gabriel. "Whoever planted the bomb in Campo Grande must've been exceptionally skilled in order to hide such a large device in the heart of the city."]
[13:38] * Vera thought. "There's two theories I can think of." Vera started, practically chewing her lips subtly whenever not talking. "Either concealment in a large container or or truck or similar… or perhaps some kind of Dirac Sea muckery."
[13:43] <Mianplo> ["N2 warheads are antimatter weapons." Said Gabriel. "They need magnetic containment fields to keep the antimatter in stasis and prevent premature annihilation. Satellite detection, most passive sensors would've been affected by that or picked up on it…"-
[13:44] <Mianplo> ["Road restrictions in Campo Grande limit trucks to 3 metres in width." Said Rosamund. "Any truck big enough to carry the bomb into the city heart would've needed special permissions."]
[13:47] * Vera furrowed her brow significantly. "Then if it was detectable normally… Have our satellites picked up any…" She clenched the coffee fist again. "…magnetic anomalies shortly before the blast? I mean, we were worried about AT-possessing foes before, and… surely even with a Jaunt, the weapon would have to be stored somewhere. And ostensibly the known N2 stockpiles are accounted
[13:47] * Vera for…?"
[13:48] <Mianplo> ["Strategic Command says all N2 Warheads are accounted for." Said Pereira.-
[13:51] <Mianplo> [Kader and Rosamund were already working on analysing the satellite data.-
[13:52] <Mianplo> [The elevator doors opened. Dr. Adler came rushing out. "Oh my God, I heard what happened." He said hurriedly. "I need a chair and a console!"]
[13:53] * Vera quickly gestured in the direction of a free console - HIS free console - and barked "There. Get going, we could use the help!"
[13:59] <Mianplo> [Adler hopped into the seat. "N2 Strike in the city, no warhead detected, so it must've been planted, but N2 warheads are hard to plant, let me see, there should've been something on the satellites…"-
[14:02] <Mianplo> ["Satellites detected signatures matching that of a standard N2 warhead magnetic containment field in the heart of the city, three seconds before it exploded." Said Adler. "It came out of nowhere, which suggests a dirac jaunt…"-
[14:02] <Mianplo> [Adler frowned. "No. Three seconds would not be enough for someone to jaunt in and then out."]
[14:06] * Vera shook her head. "And suicide doesn't seem very wise for such a valuable asset. Is it possible that there might be some kind of other mechanism involved? The containment can't have been turned off, the antimatter can't have been generated onsite, the timeframe's too short for an in-out jaunt… if you could 'send' things via Jaunt it'd make sense but I don't know if that's possible…
[14:06] * Vera And…" She started to slump. "I am missing some significant background here. I just know it."
[14:07] <Mianplo> ["Even an Iron Guard would vaporise at such range." Said Gabriel. "We're missing something…"-
[14:13] <Mianplo> ["Couldn't smuggle a bomb because it'd be detected." Said Pereira. "Why wouldn't they just jaunt the bomb in like… A minute before it was set to detonate, then jaunt out? They wouldn't have time to disarm it."]
[14:17] * Vera frowned. "… Wait." She thought about that. "…Couldn't you… theoretically… if you had the AT Field to do it, jaunt somewhere, but remain in an inverted pattern, hidden in your Dirac Sea? Then you could return your 'shadow' back to wherever you pleased." But then she furrowed her brow. "…But does a Paladin have the AT control to do that? It's a very intense maneuver if I
[14:17] * Vera recall from the NERV data."
[14:30] <Mianplo> ["I think so." Said Adler slowly. "If only barely."-
[14:34] <Mianplo> ["However, we have to keep in mind another thing." He said. "Jaunting is a rare ability, and for most users, including the Paladins- even the Apostle Prime, Mortens- performing it precisely is next to impossible. Wherever you intend to jaunt, you have to factor in the 'error margin': that is, a 200-metre zone around your intended point where you could end up accidentally. It's practically unavoidable."-
[14:34] <Mianplo> ["Yet this jaunt was pinpointed to the heart of the city." Said Gabriel.-
[14:35] <Mianplo> ["Would it really have mattered if the bomb were, say, 200 metres to the west?" Said Pereira.-
[14:39] <Mianplo> ["No. The city still would've been destroyed." Said Adler. "N2 mines devastate everything around them for 2 kilometres and cause damage to everything within 10 kilometres."-
[14:40] <Mianplo> ["So we can't rule out the idea that they just got lucky." Said Pereira.-
[14:41] <Mianplo> ["Quite so." Said Adler. "That said, Colonel, satellites haven't registered anything resembling a dirac shadow before or after the attack."]
[14:44] * Vera nodded. "So not that either, then. Too precise for a jaunt, too fast for a jaunt, no shadow for hiding after the fact… No evidence of conventional means… This is practically ludicrously refined, to the point that I'm questioning just who would be responsible."
[14:54] <Mianplo> ["Why Campo Grande?" Said Pereira. "If I had the abilities to pull this off, I would've targeted Sao Paulo-2."]
[14:57] * Vera wrinkled her brow. "Killing millions but not destroying us, not going for the stronger target…" She was clearly thinking of /something/. "It almost seems like a message to the government - and indirectly thus, us. A very grisly one, but that whomever did that is greatly displeased at Brazil and is trying to cow us with the sign that they /could/ annihilate us at their leisure."
[14:57] * Vera Beat. "…Unless it's like world war 2 and they don't even /have/ any more warheads."
[15:02] <Mianplo> ["N2 Warheads are extremely difficult to find." Said Gabriel. "I'd be astonished if there were even one available on the black market."-
[15:02] <Mianplo> ["When the Children of Adam planned to destroy the Geofront in Paris, they had to settle for positron warhead cores." Said Adler. "It's very possible that they don't have any more than one."-
[15:03] <Mianplo> ["But they could have more." Said Rosamund.-
[15:04] <Mianplo> ["And they'll be relying on that bluff." Said Gabriel. "The Colonel is right. This sounds like a message. Or an element in some greater plan."]
[15:13] * Vera stopped chewing her lips, finally. "We'll have to investigate more heavily. The city's been scoured, but… surely there has to be /some/ kind of place to look."
[15:17] <Mianplo> ["I'm going to see if there were any VIPs or special economic or political interests worth targeting in Campo Grande." Said Rosamund.-
[15:18] <Mianplo> ["I'll keep monitoring the airwaves." Said Kader.-
[15:19] <Mianplo> ["Coordinating the military response." Said Pereira.-
[15:21] <Mianplo> ["Colonel, I think it best if I create a brief about dirac powers." Said Adler. "Also, considering the yield of the explosion, we can assume that the N2 Warhead is a standard Val-3 Type. I'm going to look up the schematics and facts on it, run it through the MAGI and see what we get… Also, would it be out of the question to request that Strategic Command do a manual head-count of our warhead stores? It's easy to make computers lie."]
[15:27] * Vera slowly nodded. "I at least won't be opposed to such a manual recount. Millions died today, and it's in every part our duty to make sure this can't happen again, and that those responsible are stopped." But then a nod. "Brief on Dirac powers would work, and I think it's possible we may want to start spending political capital to ensure no /other/ nation's N2 stocks were used… just
[15:27] * Vera in case. Val-3s being described by you as standard-" Vera knew a lot of things, but N2 warhead designations wasn't one. "-means that an attacker this damnably precise wouldn't even be limited by Brazil's own stores."
[15:27] <Mianplo> ["Colombians?" Asked Pereira suspiciously.]
[15:28] <Vera> "Everyone. But possibly Colombians." Vera said grimly back.
[15:30] <Mianplo> ["That raises another question." Said Gabriel. "Whether they stole the warhead, or someone gave it to them."]
[15:36] * Vera didn't look pleased at that, but this was not a time for pleasure. "An important question given how hard it is to get one's hands on one. So… Maybe this little tip-toe game of each power courting Brazil has finally gone off the deep end…?"
[15:37] <Mianplo> ["In a big way, it seems." Said Gabriel. "Colonel, might I have a word with you in the conference room?"]
[15:37] * Vera nodded her head at the Vice Commander. "Of course you can, Vice Commander."
[15:39] <Mianplo> […-
[15:39] <Mianplo> [It was just them in the conference room. Gabriel didn't sit.-
[15:41] <Mianplo> ["The people will be horrified and outraged at this." Said Gabriel. "They'll expect the government to strike back, hard. To find whoever did this and wipe them off the face of the Earth. There hasn't been a terrorist attack of this scale since Second Impact."-
[15:42] <Mianplo> ["Whoever did this must've known the implications. They knew that once they pushed the button, there'd be no going back, no chance for negotiation or peace. Terrorist activity is usually caused by some grievance, real or perceived."-
[15:43] <Mianplo> ["But this doesn't feel like someone advancing a political agenda."]
[15:46] * Vera did stand too, not unaware of the gravity of the situation. "Then what is your feeling? Mine is that somebody is playing with lives like a toy. Too effortless. Too competent. Not enough effort made to even hide that it was too perfect. I have half a mind to think the FCB in particular is the target of this 'message'. They know we have the MAGI system, the experts, the means to go
[15:46] * Vera over this more finely than some country without a comparable program."
[15:47] <Mianplo> ["That's what I think, too." Said Gabriel. "It feels like the stereotypical serial killer, leaving messages to taunt a detective he respects, knowing the detective is smart enough to find them."-
[15:51] <Mianplo> ["Even the choice of target is a taunt." Said Gabriel. "Sao Paulo-2… They could've hit it. They wouldn't have destroyed this base, but they could've levelled the city if they chose."-
[15:52] <Mianplo> ["Alternatively… There's another possibility. What if this wasn't aimed at us, exactly? What if this was a demonstration for someone else? A potential buyer?" Said Gabriel.]
[15:55] * Vera thought. "…Some demonstration." It sounded vaguely incredulous. "I can't dismiss it out of hand no, but it sounds almost too violent and using a resource too valuable."
[15:56] <Mianplo> ["Then it stands to reason that the only power willing to pay that cost, that resource, is one that believes it can gain a greater one." Said Gabriel. "Something more powerful than an N2 Warhead."]
[15:59] <Vera> "…The only weapon that qualifies is an Evangelion, unless something very /unprecedented/ is going on." Vera said with clear frustration. "Still leaves much unanswered… but this whole situation is doing so."
15:59] <Mianplo> ["I can think of three powers, easily, that would want our Evangelion."]
[16:01] <Vera> "The UN, the UEF…" Beat. "…And the… …Colombians. If they know, which they likely already do given the kidnapping months back."
[16:08] <Mianplo> ["Quite right." Said Gabriel. "It makes sense. All three powers would want the Evangelion. They would also want Brazil's resources, one way or another. They wouldn't detonate an explosion in one of our power house cities, especially not one holding a functioning base."-
[16:11] <Mianplo> ["So if this is a demonstration, someone 'advertising' themselves, then we can expect more significant attacks against us specifically in the future. This may as well have been a declaration of war on the FCB itself."]

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