This Too Shall Pass 3 3 5

[19:32] <Minaplo> ["… The basic concept is that LCL, when exposed to certain circumstances, is pressured into a more cohesive state." Said Surov. "Theoretically, this will make it easier for the soul to solidify its shape and reestablish its barrier; in essence, we're creating a situation of least resistance for the being within."-
[19:34] <Minaplo> [It was 9 AM. Raphael had been told the night before to come to Engineering at this time- to witness their attempt to reestablish June's form.-
[19:52] <Minaplo> [Raphael now sat within a conference room in Engineering; a room dominated by a long table which in itself acted as a holographic projector and computer system. Surov stood at the end of the room, but they weren't the only ones here- also sitting at the table were Sarasvati; Dr. Akagi; and both of the Riel siblings.-
[19:53] <Minaplo> ["Any questions, Guillory?" Said Surov.]
[20:00] * Raphael shook his head. He was seated a few steps away from the other Technical staff, whether by intention or happenstance, but it didn't help the impression of distance his hard, unreadable expression was projecting.-
[20:01] <Raphael> "No. I think I understand the necessary elements."
[20:03] <Minaplo> ["Very well. Would you prefer to oversee the process in the operations centre, watch from the observation deck, or wait elsewhere for news?"]
[20:06] <Raphael> "I would prefer the operations centre, if there are no objections," he cast a quick glance down both sides of the table to check for dissenting opinions. "I won't provide any distractions."
[20:07] <Minaplo> [There weren't any. Sarasvati gave him a tender smile.-
[20:08] <Minaplo> ["Very well." Said Surov.-
[20:08] <Minaplo> […-
[20:11] <Minaplo> [The Operations Centre was a wide room, a rectangle filled with rows of console banks; in the centre of the room was a long, heavy-looking table, the entire surface laced with computer touch displays and information. The far wall, the ones the consoles faced, was made of transparent surovite overlaid with holographic circuitry.-
[20:13] <Minaplo> [Through the window, Raphael would see the LCL Chamber; a grey box of a room. A square pool sat in the middle of the room, filled with LCL; hovering above it were several complex, heavy-looking machines.-
[20:15] <Minaplo> ["Everyone to their stations." Said Surov. James Riel took up a seat near the back left of the room, surrounded by computer displays; Luna on the back right with her own consoles. Sarasvati and Surov took up position around the central table; they now stood opposite each other.]
[20:21] <Raphael> Lacking a station of his own or a better idea, Raphael took position alongside the central table a short distance away from Sarasvati. He was making a very apparent effort to stay out of the way of the people who knew what they were doing.
[20:23] <Minaplo> ["Luna." Said Surov. "Status report on the 03 link."-
[20:23] <Minaplo> ["Connection with Evangelion Unit 03 functioning optimally. Nothing new to report."-
[20:24] <Minaplo> ["James, connect to the recovery team. Navah, status report?"-
[20:26] <Minaplo> [A video window appeared on the far wall- Navah, in a separate room, surrounded by what looked like some mix of a medical, techie and security team. "All good! Nothing to report!"-
[20:29] <Minaplo> [Surov took a deep breath; after a few seconds he exhaled.-
[20:29] <Minaplo> [He clapped his hands once. "Poyekhali!"-
[20:30] <Minaplo> [The atmosphere in the room changed subtly, like an electric current had run through the air. For a second, Raphael could swear he'd seen the lights dim.-
[20:31] <Minaplo> ["Phase One." Said Surov. "Luna, deploy electrical stimulation, start with ten percent."-
[20:31] <Minaplo> ["Alright!"-
[20:38] <Minaplo> [There was the dull hydraulic purr of one of the Chamber machines- a long crane-arm affixed to the roof- as it slowly moved into position directly over the LCL, the pointed tip just touching the surface. Not much seemed to happen…-
[20:44] <Minaplo> ["Tell Akagi to begin attuning 03's AT Field." Said Surov.-
[20:44] <Minaplo> ["Understood."-
[20:50] <Minaplo> [… Not much seemed to happen.-
[20:50] <Minaplo> [But Surov didn't seem daunted.-
[20:51] <Minaplo> ["LCL temperature now at 28 degrees." Said Sarasvati.-
[20:52] <Minaplo> ["Good. Stimulation up to twenty percent."-
[20:53] <Minaplo> ["Stimulation up."-
[20:53] <Minaplo> ["Tsubaki's finished attunement." Said Ritsuko, sitting at a console just in front of Luna's.-
[20:54] <Minaplo> ["Good. Tell Akagi, one pulse, strength six."-
[20:54] <Minaplo> [… Now Raphael saw something.-
[20:55] <Minaplo> [There was a shimmer in the air around the LCL; a second later one of the other crane-arms lit up, emitting a bright flash of prismatic light.-
[20:58] <Minaplo> [The surface of the LCL was disturbed, and became choppy. From the very middle of the pool came ripples of waves out toward the surface…]
[21:08] <Raphael> Raphael was watching the pool almost exclusively now after some early attempts to watch the more scientific business in the command centre had proven fruitless. His expression was calm, only betrayed by a slight whitening around his knuckles as he gripped the edge of the table.
[21:15] <Minaplo> ["… Hmm." Luna frowned. "The counter-pulse signal's weaker than estimates predicted."-
[21:24] <Minaplo> ["Could it be Eternity Drive interference?" Asked James.-
[21:24] <Minaplo> ["No, James." Said Luna, a little snappily.-
[21:24] <Minaplo> ["Alright, alright…"-
[21:25] <Minaplo> ["This soul is free of the Eternity Drive, James." Said Sarasvati, her tone gentle.-
[21:25] <Minaplo> ["How-"-
[21:25] <Minaplo> ["Later, James." Said Luna.-
[21:49] <Minaplo> ["Increase the pulse intensity?" offered Ritsuko.-
[21:50] <Minaplo> ["An increase too quickly could overwhelm the wave-psyche effect." Said Luna. "I recommend a gradual increase in both stimulation and pulse."-
[21:54] <Minaplo> ["Stimulation to thirty percent." Said Surov. "Strength seven pulse from Akagi."-
[21:55] <Minaplo> [Yet again there was a prismatic flash of light…-
[21:56] <Minaplo> ["Temperature up to 32 degrees." Said Sarasvati.-
[21:57] <Minaplo> [The LCL was rippling faster now, its consistency approaching water…-
[21:57] <Minaplo> [Surov tapped the edge of the table lightly a few times.-
[21:57] <Minaplo> ["Two pulses from Akagi, strength seven. This one needs a push."-
[21:58] <Minaplo> [The Chamber filled with light- before it could fade, the light burst again, dazzling Raphael's vision for a few seconds.-
[21:59] <Minaplo> [… For a second, Raphael would've sworn he'd seen the shape- just the outline- of someone above the surface of the LCL.-
[21:59] <Minaplo> [But it quickly faded.-
[22:00] <Minaplo> [The LCL, however, was acting strangely, at least to his eye. It was still rippling; but now it was rippling in reverse, the waves starting from the outer edges and coming inwards; when they met in the middle they created a small vertical splash.-
[22:00] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[22:01] <Minaplo> [Over the course of the next fifteen minutes, Surov and the team carefully monitored the LCL in tense silence, broken only by someone crying out a status report or commenting on some statistic.-
[22:01] <Minaplo> [… But once those minutes had passed…-
[22:02] <Minaplo> ["… Detecting a signal." Said Luna.-
[22:02] <Minaplo> ["Ego barrier?" Said Surov.-
[22:02] <Minaplo> ["Potential psuedo-ego barrier. It looks stable."-
[22:02] <Minaplo> [The tension seemed to flow from peoples' shoulders.-
[22:02] <Minaplo> ["Then now we enter Phase Two." Said Surov, turning towards Raphael. He walked over.-
[22:03] <Minaplo> ["We wait and see if the being reforms on their own."]
[22:24] <Raphael> Raphael kept his attention on Surov, ignoring the slight pop of his knuckles as he loosened his grip on the table. "How long has that taken in the past?"
[22:28] <Minaplo> ["Anywhere between half an hour to three days." Said Surov. "I expect it to take at least four hours."]
[22:29] <Raphael> "Am I able to wait here?"
[22:33] <Minaplo> ["Yes." Said Surov.]
[22:33] * Raphael nodded.
[22:34] <Minaplo> [And so he waited.-
[22:37] <Minaplo> [… And waited.-
[22:39] <Minaplo> [The hours seemed to tick by so very slowly, and there was no natural light by which to tell the time; all Raphael had was his watch and the passage of the crew.-
[22:40] <Minaplo> [James headed off first, replaced by Maya Ibuki; an hour later saw Ritsuko replaced with Yui Ikari. Luna Riel stayed, even though Raphael occasionally caught her nodding off every so often…-
[22:40] <Minaplo> [Only Sarasvati and Surov stayed firm.-
[22:40] <Minaplo> [They never grew tired…-
[22:40] <Minaplo> […-
[22:40] <Minaplo> [… Someone was nudging him gently.]
[23:13] <Raphael> One eye opened, followed quickly by another… and then he was bolt upright, his eyes trying to take in his surroundings as he brought himself back into the waking world. He turned to face his attacker, alert but bleary-eyed.
[23:15] <Minaplo> [His attacker was a red-haired, green-eyed Sarasvati.-
[23:15] <Minaplo> ["You're not in danger." Said Sarasvati warmly. "You fell asleep."]
[23:21] * Raphael relaxed, grinding the heel of one hand into his eye to try and adjust his focus. "Sorry, Colonel. Has there been any change?"
[23:23] <Minaplo> ["Increase in temperature to 39 degrees." Said Sarasvati. "Promising. More heat is better in this situation."-
[23:25] <Minaplo> [Sarasvati held something up close to his face. It would take Raphael a moment to realise he was looking at a cup of coffee and a bacon and egg wrap. "I brought food for you."]
[23:32] <Raphael> The smell earned a vociferous response of approval from his stomach, leaving Raphael smiling awkwardly as he accepted the items. "Thank you."
[23:39] <Minaplo> ["I brought a wrap because it means you can eat it with one hand and drink with the other."]
[17:18] <Raphael> Raphael was smiling without quite realizing it. "Very considerate of you, ma'am."-
[17:18] <Raphael> He tested the coffee's temperature before taking a long gulp.
[17:19] <Minaplo> [It was quite hot.-
[17:19] <Minaplo> ["How are you feeling?"]
[17:21] * Raphael gave a noncommittal grunt, wincing a little at the temperature even as he continued to sip it. "I'll be better in a moment, I'm sure."
[17:24] <Minaplo> ["Okay. It's 8:44 AM, in case you were wondering. It has been twenty-three hours, fourteen minutes since the process began."]
[17:26] <Raphael> "Does that have any bearing on how… successful it is?"
[17:34] <Minaplo> ["No." Said Sarasvati. "Chances of success are only negatively impacted by time once we pass the hundred-twenty hour mark."-
[17:34] <Minaplo> ["If you like, I can find you something to help pass the time. A book or a video game. Do you like strategy games?"]
[17:44] * Raphael chuckled. "Surely you have better things to do than entertain me."
[17:47] <Minaplo> ["I can do multiple things at once. It isn't an issue~"]
[17:55] <Raphael> "…" He was quiet for a moment, watching her over the lip of his coffee cup. If it weren't for the fatigue he may well have blown off the suggestion, but this time he shrugged. "It couldn't hurt, I suppose."
[17:56] <Minaplo> ["Then I will be back shortly."-
[17:57] <Minaplo> [With that, Sarasvati quickly walked away.-
[17:57] <Minaplo> ["…" Surov glanced over at Raphael, then back to his console.]
[18:05] <Raphael> If Raphael saw the look, he didn't pay it much mind. He wedged the coffee cup between his knees and started working on his breakfast wrap with one hand as he scrolled through his phone with the other.
[18:14] <Minaplo> ["You're quite dedicated." Said Surov.]
[18:15] <Raphael> "Everyone here seems to be."
[18:18] <Minaplo> ["Of course. This is a very difficult operation." Said Surov. "That's to be expected, considering we're trying to ape with machines what is usually done by Seeds."]
[18:19] * Raphael nodded, slipping the phone back into his pocket. His attention was on Surov now.-
[18:19] <Raphael> "… I appreciate it."
[18:22] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[18:26] <Minaplo> [Surov glanced toward Raphael. "You seem to be quite personable with my daughter."]
[18:33] <Raphael> You'd need a microscope to spot the way Raphael's eyebrows rose, but Surov undoubtedly had one somewhere in his skull. "She's been generous with her kindness and her time, it's only right for me to show her the same."
[18:37] <Minaplo> ["So you are impressed with her then?"]
[18:40] <Raphael> "If you want to put it that way, certainly."
[18:45] <Minaplo> ["Mm."-
[18:45] <Minaplo> ["I saw the recordings of your battles in Russia. You seem to be making a decent effort to support her."]
[18:51] <Raphael> "Of course."
[18:52] <Minaplo> ["Mm."-
[18:52] <Minaplo> [And after that, Surov fell quiet.-
[18:54] <Minaplo> [15 minutes later, Sarasvati returned, holding a computer tablet in her hand. She settled down next to Raphael and handed it to her. "This has ten thousand and forty books on it, including fictional novels, non-fictional biographies and technical manuals. It also has sixty-two games. I enjoy Mecha Commander the most."]
[19:05] <Raphael> Raphael smiled a little at that. He wiped his now-empty hands on the sides of his pants before accepting the tablet and beginning to examine the contents. "That's not much of an escape from your work, ma'am."
[19:08] <Minaplo> ["I primarily enjoy Mecha Commander for the charming interactions between the pilot characters you command."]
[19:10] <Raphael> "So it's more of a story?"
[19:11] <Minaplo> ["Yes. Although the tactical combat system is very well developed." Said Sarasvati. "The characters can build special relationships as they fight which affects the narrative arc."]
[19:15] * Raphael made a thoughtful noise. "Sounds more involved than the sort of thing Suzie plays."
[19:16] <Minaplo> ["Little Suzie prefers robot combat to romance."]
[19:18] <Raphael> "That she does."
[19:22] <Minaplo> ["If you enjoy it, I can put it on your own tablet later. We can even have a competitive game sometime."]
[19:26] <Raphael> "That sounds fun," he said, shooting her another smile as he prodded the Mecha Commander icon. It was represented by a robot silhouetted by a setting sun - Raphael noted the robot's design might have been fanciful before the arrival of the Peacecraft.-
[19:26] <Raphael> "Thank you very much, ma'am. I'm sure it will keep me busy."
[19:34] <Minaplo> [She beamed.-
[19:35] <Minaplo> [The time continued to pass. At least now Raphael had something he could focus on…-
[19:36] <Minaplo> [Sarasvati hadn't really warned him that Mecha Commander was a hard game, each battle having an almost puzzle-like quality to it at times as he was forced to maximise his advantages in terrain and abilities…-
[19:36] <Minaplo> […-
[19:37] <Minaplo> [The hours wore on with little change in the situation.-
[19:38] <Minaplo> [6 PM came and went, along with a plate of chicken tenders for Raphael, brought by Zhang Zhengsheng and Matthias Holmstrom direct from Blue's Bar, although they kept mum on who exactly had ordered it.-
[19:39] <Minaplo> [It would be around 8 PM when something- at all- really happened.-
[19:39] <Minaplo> [It wasn't much. Just Sarasvati and Surov murmuring each other, both wearing concerned expressions.]
[19:44] <Raphael> It didn't catch his attention immediately, but eventually Raphael glanced their way and frowned. He didn't move, but he was watching intently. Could he hear anything?
[19:46] <Minaplo> [He had to strain a little, but…-
[19:46] <Minaplo> [("Temperature…")-
[19:46] <Minaplo> [("… Destrudo levels?")]
[19:49] <Raphael> A term that meant nothing to him, but it made his frown deepen even further. Even so he remained where he was, making an effort to appear like he wasn't straining to eavesdrop.
[19:50] <Minaplo> [("… Balance-")-
[19:50] <Minaplo> [("No idea…")-
[19:51] <Minaplo> [Eventually their murmurs died out, yet Raphael would not be blind to the fact that within 30 minutes, Surov's 'core team' had been summoned back- Luna, James, Ritsuko…-
[19:51] <Minaplo> ["How did it go, Dr. Akagi?" Asked Sarasvati.-
[19:52] <Minaplo> ["Fine. Tsucchin wasn't happy about being woken up, but…" Ritsuko shrugged.-
[19:52] <Minaplo> ["She's all synched?" Asked James.-
[19:52] <Minaplo> ["Mmhm."]
[18:54] <Raphael> By this point Raphael had abandoned his chair and tablet along with any pretense of obliviousness. He was orbiting the proper scientists with a pensive expression. After all, even if he was to interrupt what could he do?
[19:01] <Minaplo> ["Progress has stalled." Said Surov curtly, addressing his team- although Raphael would notice that one of the mechadendrites was watching him closely. "The subject's destrudo levels have been rapidly increasing without a matching shift in libido, and the LCL's temperature is slowly dropping."-
[19:28] <Minaplo> ["Destrudo is needed to shape the LCL, but it also erodes the being's ego foundation before it can even be formed." Said Luna, speaking to both Raphael and James. "Libido helps buttress the ego against it."-
[19:28] <Minaplo> ["With Destrudo this high, however, not only is reincorporisation unlikely, but we run the high risk of ego death." She said darkly. "In that state, you'd need a higher power than what we've got."]
[19:33] * Raphael folded his arms and stared out towards the LCL pool with a guarded expression.
[19:35] <Minaplo> ["We, however, are not going to let that happen." Said Surov flatly. "In our current situation, beings reincorporise in one out of a hundred cases."-
[19:38] <Minaplo> ["I haven't let low odds stop me before, and I don't intend to make it a habit." Said Surov. "Our business is in making miracles. And we know our business better than anyone else."-
[19:39] <Minaplo> [He pulled a cable out of a pocket in his coat; one end he placed into a jack in the console. The other end he placed into a jack at the very base of his skull, hidden usually by his hairline.-
[19:41] <Minaplo> [On the other side of the console, Sarasvati did the same; albeit her cable originated at the back of her skull and was long, metallic and prehensile. It plugged itself in of its own accord.-
[19:41] <Minaplo> ["Luna, do you mind spotting for us?" Said Surov.-
[19:42] <Minaplo> ["N… No." Said Luna hesitantly.-
[19:42] <Minaplo> ["Excellent." Said Surov.-
[19:43] <Minaplo> [… A moment later, both he and Sarasvati stiffened for a second, the breath catching in Surov's chest.-
[19:43] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[19:44] <Minaplo> [He and Sarasvati locked gazes.-
[19:45] <Minaplo> ["… AT Pulse emitter attuned." Said Ritsuko. "We're ready when you are, Surov."]
[19:58] <Raphael> Raphael wasn't quite able to mask his growing uncertainty as he'd watched this back and forth, not helped by the distinctly un-Surovlike behaviour the scientist was exhibiting. He barely seemed to be moving as he watched the pair.
[20:07] <Minaplo> ["Emitter reconfiguration complete. Initiating constant stream, strength six, now." Said Ritsuko.-
[20:08] <Minaplo> [Raphael would've had half a second to look away before the light burst through the experiment room.-
[20:08] <Minaplo> [Unlike before, however, this one didn't fade. Instead it remained, a constant ribbon of prismatic light weaving through the room in long helical arcs, channelling into the LCL.-
[20:10] <Minaplo> [Almost instantly the LCL began to flicker and spark with what looked like tiny little rainbow embers. Just looking at the radiance hurt Raphael's eyes, but if he focused and shielded them he could almost see what was going on…-
[20:11] <Minaplo> ["Shift attunement six degrees clockwise." Said Luna.-
[20:11] <Minaplo> [The ribbon fluctuated, the pulsing light becoming, for a second, predominantly green.-
[20:12] <Minaplo> ["Temperature at 41 degrees." Said James.-
[20:12] <Minaplo> ["Attunement four clockwise." Said Luna.-
[20:12] <Minaplo> [The ribbon became green yet again- and electricity sparked throughout the LCL.-
[20:13] <Minaplo> [The LCL was starting to funnel upwards as it was drawn into the middle of the pool. Again, Raphael thought he saw an outline of a person- yet a second later it was gone, lost in the radiance of the beam.-
[20:13] <Minaplo> ["Increase to strength eight." Said Luna.-
[20:13] <Minaplo> [… The ribbon whipped across the room.-
[20:14] <Minaplo> [It bent outwards and, within a split second, had struck the transparent surovite window of the Ops room itself.-
[20:15] <Minaplo> [Raphael smelt something foul and acrid.-
[20:15] <Minaplo> [And indeed, as the ribbon stabilised he would see that it had left an ugly, random burn in the very wall- it had breached through in some cases. Smoke rose in ringlets from the surface.-
[20:16] <Minaplo> [Everyone had instinctively ducked for cover- everyone except Surov and Sarasvati.]
[20:25] <Raphael> … which Raphael had come within a hair's breadth of remedying. He'd dropped to one knee, covered by the console, and had been stretching his hand towards Sarasvati's when he'd realised the light was already fading.-
[20:30] <Minaplo> [Sarasvati didn't look at him. She didn't tear her gaze away from Surov's own.-
[20:31] <Minaplo> ["Temperature at 43 degrees!" Shouted James.-
[20:31] <Minaplo> ["Impossible! It should be boiling!" Snapped Ritsuko.-
[20:33] <Minaplo> ["Destrudo levels are still too high!" Said Luna. "The beam isn't having an effect!"-
[20:34] <Minaplo> ["Ten, Luna." Said Surov.-
[20:34] <Minaplo> ["Uhh-!" She froze for a second- then began to punch in commands.-
[20:35] <Minaplo> [The beam intensified; it whipped outwards four times, this time striking the far wall of the experiment room. It left deep gouges-
[20:35] <Minaplo> [But the LCL was barely unchanged.-
[20:46] <Minaplo> ["It's almost like it needs to be neutralised." Said James.-
[20:46] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[20:47] <Minaplo> ["Ten counter-clockwise!" Shouted Luna.-
[20:50] <Minaplo> [The beam became indigo for a few seconds-
[20:51] <Minaplo> [A scream rippled through the air, but… It didn't seem to be coming from the team.-
[20:51] <Minaplo> [The LCL funnel collapsed with enough force to send the LCL radiating outwards in waves. It struck the edges of the small pool and splashed across the ground.-
[20:55] <Minaplo> ["Now eighteen clockwise!"-
[20:56] <Minaplo> [The light flashed a blinding green.-
[20:56] <Minaplo> ["Temperature at 65 degrees and rising!" Shouted James.-
[20:56] <Minaplo> ["Destrudo levels dropping!" Said Luna. "It's working!"-
[20:56] <Minaplo> ["Disconnect at eighty-five degrees." Snapped Ritsuko.-
[20:57] <Minaplo> ["James-"-
[20:57] <Minaplo> ["Seventy-five!… Eighty-five!"-
[20:57] <Minaplo> ["Disconnecting now!" Shouted Luna.-
[20:57] <Minaplo> […-
[20:57] <Minaplo> [The beam didn't change.-
[20:57] <Minaplo> ["…?!" Luna froze- then instantly began punching in commands. "It isn't shutting off!"-
[20:57] <Minaplo> ["Temperature's over 110 degrees! It's boiling!" Said James.-
[20:58] <Minaplo> ["Destrudo's breaking down completely, we're losing definition-"-
[20:58] <Minaplo> ["SHUT IT OFF!" Roared Surov.-
[20:58] <Minaplo> ["Nothing's happening!" Cried Luna. "Power's increasing-"-
[20:58] <Minaplo> ["Disconnect 03-"-
[20:59] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[20:59] <Minaplo> [Luna gasped.-
[20:59] <Minaplo> ["RIEL!" Shouted Surov.-
[20:59] <Minaplo> [Luna had completely locked up. She was staring at the screen in shock.-
[21:00] <Minaplo> ["Fuck-" James leapt from his seat and ran across to her console.-
[21:00] <Minaplo> ["…" James looked up at Surov, his eyes wide. "Pattern- blue."]
[21:09] * Raphael had started moving before James had even finished speaking, dashing across the room to a hardline phone built into one wall and practically tearing it from its cradle.
[21:11] <Minaplo> [The hardline phone was still working, at least.-
[21:12] <Minaplo> ["Riel, what's going on?" Said Sarasvati.-
[21:12] <Minaplo> ["Uhh-"-
[21:12] <Minaplo> ["… It's inside the computer systems!"-
[21:12] <Minaplo> ["Ireul." Whispered Ritsuko.-
[21:13] <Minaplo> [Surov reacted first- he yanked his cable out of the computer port and his head at the same time, a little rim of fluid dripping from the neck-plug.-
[21:14] <Minaplo> [… But Sarasvati didn't disconnect.-
[21:14] <Minaplo> [Instead, she raised her right arm toward the AT emitter. Her fingertips crackled with energy-
[21:14] <Minaplo> [A second later, three concussive bursts struck the emitter. The beam cut off-
[21:15] <Minaplo> [Then the emitter exploded. The shock wave tore consoles from the ground and burst the surovite wall apart.-
[21:16] <Minaplo> [The wave was enough to send everyone toppling to the ground- except Sarasvati.-
[21:16] <Minaplo> ["Sarasvati! Disconnect!" Shouted Surov.-
[21:16] <Minaplo> ["N-no need." She said. She closed her eyes. "L-Let me- isolate it. Try to catch it… P-Please get to safety-"]
[21:23] * Raphael hadn't been toppled so much as thrown into the wall face-first. He blinked rapidly, a thin trail of blood running from above his left eye, but he still spoke urgently into the receiver even as he gripped the edge of the box for stability.
[21:25] <Minaplo> ["Sarasvati-" Hissed Surov in horror.-
[21:26] <Minaplo> ["It's f-fine! L-Luna-"-
[21:26] <Minaplo> ["Sis, c'mon! Snap out of it!" Shouted James.-
[21:26] <Minaplo> [There was the sharp slapping sound.-
[21:28] <Minaplo> ["Ungh-"-
[21:28] <Minaplo> ["You've done this before, right?!" Shouted James. "You need to do it again before it fries Sara-"-
[21:29] <Minaplo> ["It's invading the MAGI!" Cried Ritsuko. "Oh no-"-
[21:29] <Minaplo> [Raphael would feel Surov practically leap past him.-
[21:32] <Minaplo> [Surov grabbed Luna by the lapel and dragged her up out of her wheelchair; he met her eye to eye. "Luna. That thing is killing my little girl."-
[21:32] <Minaplo> ["… Get to work. Please. I'm begging you."-
[21:32] <Minaplo> [… He then shoved her lightly back into her chair.-
[21:34] <Minaplo> ["…" Luna stared back at him in a daze-
[21:42] <Minaplo> [Then she suddenly shook her head. "Uhh… Uhh! Okay- we need to- force it to change, into a dead end- once we do that, we can force a 666-firewall coded to block its specific form-"-
[21:43] <Minaplo> ["I can h-handle the f-forcing." Said Sarasvati.-
[21:44] <Minaplo> [… A second later her knees buckled and her eyes widened.-
[21:44] <Minaplo> ["I-It is w-w-working-"-
[21:44] <Minaplo> ["This terminal's clear!" Said James. "Good work, keep going-"-
[21:45] <Minaplo> [Sarasvati began to grip onto the edge of the console with enough force to crack and splinter the frame.-
[21:45] <Minaplo> ["The firewall will be ready in two minutes, Sarasvati-"-
[21:46] <Minaplo> [… Raphael couldn't see the struggle, not really. All he could see was Sarasvati.-
[21:47] <Minaplo> [Remarkably, he saw beads of sweat trickling down her face…-
[21:47] <Minaplo> ["P-Please be f-f-faster-"-
[21:47] <Minaplo> [Sarasvati suddenly bit the end off her words. She let out a short, sharp gasp.-
[21:48] <Minaplo> [Another gasp- then something else. A low scream, the sort of scream of someone who can't escape the pain.-
[21:48] <Minaplo> [It began to build in strength and tension, until for what seemed like forever it was all Raphael could hear.-
[21:48] <Minaplo> […-
[21:48] <Minaplo> ["Go-" Shouted Luna.-
[21:49] <Minaplo> [… The room went still.-
[21:49] <Minaplo> ["Firewall erected." Said Luna, her voice shaky and trembling.-
[21:49] <Minaplo> ["Oh." Said Sarasvati.-
[21:49] <Minaplo> […-
[21:50] <Minaplo> [Her head lolled against her chest; then she toppled like a puppet with its strings cut. She slumped onto the ground.-
[21:50] <Minaplo> ["No no-" Surov leapt to her side, falling to his knees. He froze for a moment- then bundled her up in his arms and held her to his chest.-
[21:51] <Minaplo> [Raphael didn't understand what Surov was saying- then it struck him.-
[21:51] <Minaplo> [Surov was sobbing.]
[21:59] <Raphael> Raphael had gone silent, even as a distant voice on the other end of the phone continued to speak. Something cold and hollow had taken shape in the pit of his stomach.-
[21:59] <Raphael> "Akagi." His voice was completely flat as he shoved the phone towards Ritsuko. He didn't seem particularly interested in whether she took it, already on his way to kneel alongside Surov.
[22:08] <Minaplo> [Sarasvati was unmoving, no matter how much her father sobbed or stroked her hair.-
[22:09] <Minaplo> [Surov barely acknowledged Raphael's presence.-
[22:09] <Minaplo> [… But eventually he turned to stare at Raphael for a few long seconds, his expression blank.-
[22:10] <Minaplo> [Then something lifted from Surov's eyes.-
[22:11] <Minaplo> ["I failed you, Guillory." Said Surov. "Forgive me."]
[22:16] * Raphael flinched as though he'd been slapped. For a moment that mask of an expression slipped and it looked as though he might be sick.-
[22:16] <Raphael> "Don't. It doesn't matter," he said. "What can we do?"
[22:17] <Minaplo> ["… We need to get her to her vault." Said Surov.]
[22:19] <Raphael> "Ok." He looked back towards Ritsuko. "We need Ezekiel down here now."
[22:19] <Minaplo> ["Got it. Ops, we need Ezekiel-"-
[22:19] <Minaplo> [A few seconds passed.-
[22:20] <Minaplo> [Ezekiel stood at Raphael's shoulder, simply appearing out of nowhere. "Where do we need to go?"]
[22:21] <Raphael> "Geofront vault. Take it from my head if you need to."
[22:21] <Minaplo> ["I see."-
[22:23] <Minaplo> [A second later, Raphael, Surov, Sarasvati and Ezekiel all vanished.-
[22:24] <Minaplo> [Events had moved too quickly.-
[22:24] <Minaplo> [Caught up in Sarasvati's fall and Surov's grief, no one had been paying attention to the experiment room.-
[22:24] <Minaplo> [A young girl lay on the floor, body soaked in LCL.-
[22:24] <Minaplo> [The doors opened; the recovery team went to work.-
[22:24] <Minaplo> […-
[22:25] <Minaplo> [Surov's vault was as eclectic as ever.-
[22:26] <Minaplo> [But the instant they appeared Surov acted. He tore across the room, knocking objects over carelessly as he went. He didn't stop until he stood before a heavy cargo blast door.-
[22:26] <Minaplo> [He stood still for a moment-
[22:26] <Minaplo> [The door rolled open. Surov didn't wait for it to finish. He pushed his way through the opening, Sarasvati still in his arms.-
[22:26] <Minaplo> [Within was…-
[22:29] <Minaplo> [It was a spacious room, carpeted a bright red, the walls painted light green. Dominating the wall opposite the door was a large vidscreen, currently blank. A console sat below it.-
[22:29] <Minaplo> [… Yet…-
[22:32] <Minaplo> [There were other touches too. He saw an odd mix of posters on one of the walls- they boldly proclaimed the names and faces of all kinds of people- an Irish folk trio, a Finnish heavy metal band, a Japanese idol group, an Ethiopian boy band. Along the walls were bookshelves, except only half of them were filled with books; the rest were filled with a dizzying array of knickknacks and odd
[22:32] <Minaplo> junk. A bizarrely spent screw here; a collection of haphazardly painted wargaming models there; a collection of kitsch painted plates, asking God to bless the house; a statue of what was unmistakeably the Slaughterdroid…-
[22:32] <Minaplo> [There was what looked like some kind of medical cot which put Raphael in the mind of an MRI machine.-
[22:32] <Minaplo> [… Yet there were blankets on it.-
[22:33] <Minaplo> [It didn't look like anything he'd seen before. Yet this was unmistakeably a bedroom.-
[22:34] <Minaplo> [Surov quickly placed her on the 'bed'. Instantly a round alcove opened up in the wall, and the bed slid smoothly inside. Raphael couldn't really see what was going on.-
[22:34] <Minaplo> [The vidscreen flickered to life, displaying a dizzying array of numbers and words that Raphael couldn't really parse- yet it seemed to make sense to Surov.-
[22:35] <Minaplo> [Surov sighed; then sagged at the knees. He looked thoroughly sick.-
[22:35] <Minaplo> ["… I need to stay with her." He said weakly.-
[22:35] <Minaplo> ["But… I think she will be okay."]
[22:45] * Raphael stood a few paces away, his arms folded to disguise the fretful way his hands were tightening and ticcing. Surov's proclamation drew a sigh of relief.-
[22:46] <Raphael> "Is there anything you need? Any help?"
[22:52] <Minaplo> ["Time to collect myself." Said Surov. "Otherwise I'm fine. Thank you."]
[22:57] * Raphael nodded slowly. "We'll get out of your way. If there's anything I can do…"-
[23:00] <Raphael> "I'm sorry, Surov." He didn't wait long enough to force Surov to respond, turning on his heel and walking quickly out the door.
[23:00] <Minaplo> [And indeed, Surov didn't say anything.-
[23:01] <Minaplo> [Ezekiel watched Raphael return; his expression was gentle. "Shall we return?"]
[23:07] <Raphael> "Y-yes-" Raphael winced, drew himself up a little taller and made an effort to limit his shaking. Then he tried again. "Yes. Thank you, Ezekiel, I'm sorry to have… interrupted."
[23:09] <Minaplo> ["Always happy to help when possible, Raphael." Said Ezekiel. He placed a hand on Raphael's shoulder.-
[23:09] <Minaplo> [… A second later, they were back in the lab.-
[23:09] <Minaplo> [Then Ezekiel vanished.-
[23:10] <Minaplo> ["Raphael!" Said James. "What happened? Is Sara ok?"]
[23:21] <Raphael> Raphael tried to assume something approaching his normal posture and composure, but the effect didn't seem to quite work. "Surov thinks she'll be fine. He's looking after her now."
[23:23] <Minaplo> [James let out a sigh of relief. "Well… Okay. That's good news at least."-
[23:23] <Minaplo> [Now that Raphael had a chance to look around the room, he'd notice the shocking devastation around him; consoles had been shredded, chairs torn apart, walls splintered and gouges torn out of the ground.-
[23:24] <Minaplo> [Ritsuko and Luna were gone as well, leaving James and a small assortment of techies and soldiers picking through the rubble.-
[23:25] <Minaplo> ["Luna had a bit of a breakdown." Said James, his tone quiet. "And Rits had to go check something out… Oh."-
[23:25] <Minaplo> ["I should let you know: someone came out of the LCL." Said James. "Navah's recovered her already, but we don't know who it is yet."]
[23:27] <Raphael> "… ok." Something about the reaction was muted and off, as if he was too tired for a proper response.-
[23:27] <Raphael> "Should you see to your sister?"
[23:29] <Minaplo> ["Yeah, I will. I just wanted to make sure someone told you." Said James. "They took her to the medical wing."]
[23:30] <Raphael> Raphael nodded. "Thank you, James. Are you alright?"
[23:32] <Minaplo> ["Yeah, I'm okay." He said, letting out a shaky laugh.]
[23:35] * Raphael gave him a very weak, humorless smile in return. "Go look after your own. I'll see what I can do about the rest."
[23:36] <Minaplo> ["No problem. See you around."-
[23:36] <Minaplo> [And with that, James left.]
[23:39] <Raphael> … and Raphael didn't, at least at first. He spent nearly twenty minutes helping the clean-up crew with grunt labour, his expression gradually hardening as he lifted and dragged and stacked the detritus that covered the room. Eventually the tremors in his hands began to fade.-
[23:40] <Raphael> … Even if the ugly feeling in his chest didn't.-
[23:41] <Raphael> When he finally left to find his way towards Medical, he could've fooled practically anyone. It was business as usual.
[23:43] <Minaplo> […-
[23:43] <Minaplo> [Some time ago…-
[23:44] <Minaplo> [("Nothing's happening!")-
[23:44] <Minaplo> [("Disconnect 03-")-
[23:44] <Minaplo> [("RIEL!")-
[23:45] <Minaplo> [Tsubaki's heart was hammering like a drum against her ribs.-
[23:46] <Minaplo> [She could hear the chaos in the lab, the signal becoming a chaotic distorted mess as the Angel began hijacking systems.-
[23:46] <Minaplo> [03… Was safe.-
[23:46] <Minaplo> [But…-
[23:46] <Minaplo> ["I can't do anything." Whispered Tsubaki. Tears suddenly filled her eyes. "I can't pull her out!"-
[23:47] <Minaplo> ["Not entirely true." Came a voice at her ear. Tsubaki nearly leapt out of her seat.-
[23:47] <Minaplo> [Sitting there, his arms folded, looking quite at ease was Albus Mortens.-
[23:47] <Minaplo> [… It wasn't really Albus, of course. He wouldn't fit inside the plug, not with her.-
[23:48] <Minaplo> [And indeed, this projection was one only she could see, something they'd devised to keep each other company when Albus couldn't visit her in person.-
[23:49] <Minaplo> ["Albus!" Squeaked Tsubaki. "W-What-"-
[23:49] <Minaplo> ["You have ways, Tsubaki." Said Albus. "Things only you can do. You know that better than I do."-
[23:49] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[23:50] <Minaplo> [Tsubaki looked away. "… I shouldn't."-
[23:50] <Minaplo> ["That may be true." Said Albus seriously. "It's not something to do lightly. But you can do it."-
[23:51] <Minaplo> ["Do you want me to do it?"-
[23:51] <Minaplo> ["I don't want you to do anything." Said Albus. "This is up to you. But if you did… I could help. Try to mitigate some of the risk, anchor you as best I could."-
[23:52] <Minaplo> ["… I'm scared."-
[23:53] <Minaplo> ["It's alright to be scared." Said Albus gently.-
[23:53] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[23:53] <Minaplo> ["I-If I don't… They won't be able to- right?" Said Tsubaki slowly.-
[23:54] <Minaplo> ["Surov is brilliant, but his reach exceeds his grasp here." Said Albus. "His chance has come and gone, spoiled by the Angel. It seems you're their only hope."-
[23:55] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[23:55] <Minaplo> [Tsubaki let out a long, rattling breath. A series of bubbles floated through the air.-
[23:55] <Minaplo> ["Don't go anywhere." She pleaded.-
[23:55] <Minaplo> ["I won't."-
[23:55] <Minaplo> ["…" Tsubaki gripped the controls as tightly as she could. She closed her eyes-
[23:55] <Minaplo> […-
[23:56] <Minaplo> ["Ah, Guillory."-
[23:56] <Minaplo> [Ignatenko looked up from the clipboard he was holding in his hand. "You are here to see new arrival? Young Jane Doe?"]
[23:59] * Raphael nodded once. "If that's possible. She's not quarantined?"
[23:59] <Minaplo> ["Yes, but you have special exception."]
[00:02] <Raphael> "Heh." Even if he looked composed that sound was only 'laughter' by the strictest definition.-
[00:02] <Raphael> "Has anyone else spoken to her yet?"
[00:03] <Minaplo> ["No. Jane Doe is asleep, and doctor think it best if she remain asleep for while."]
[00:04] <Raphael> "Right. Right, of course," he nodded again, rubbing his neck absently.-
[00:04] <Raphael> "Were there any injuries from the explosion?"
[00:05] <Minaplo> ["Ah, nothing major. Dr. Akagi and Dr. Riel took some scrapes, some cuts."]
[00:08] <Raphael> "Lighter than I expected. The recovery team was closer than we were, but I suppose they had heavier shielding…"
[00:08] <Minaplo> ["Yes. Little Navah pulled them back early, apparently."]
[00:10] <Raphael> "Mmm."-
[00:11] <Raphael> He sighed abruptly, returning his wandering attention back to the nurse. "Do you mind pointing me to the room, Ignatenko?"
[00:15] <Minaplo> ["Of course not. This way."-
[00:15] <Minaplo> [A quick walk took them to the more isolated rooms in the hospital section. These ones were partitioned from the hospital and indeed, the rest of the ship by thicker walls and blast doors.-
[00:16] <Minaplo> [Many of the rooms here did, in fact, have one-way transparent surovite windows, to allow for safe observation of their inhabitants.-
[00:16] <Minaplo> [Ignatenko swiftly took Raphael to a specific room- HW4A.-
[00:16] <Minaplo> ["Here you go."]
[00:19] <Raphael> "Thanks." He couldn't quite summon up the appropriate smile this time, so he didn't even try. Instead he just gave the man a nod and prepared to step inside. "I shouldn't be long."
[00:20] <Minaplo> ["Will wait here."]
[00:21] <Raphael> He stepped inside.
[00:26] <Minaplo> [The room was spartan: it contained a hospital bed, a bedside table, two chairs, hospital machines built into the wall and a drip. The walls were painted white.-
[00:26] <Minaplo> [Lying in bed was a girl of about sixteen, perhaps seventeen years old.-
[00:28] <Minaplo> [From the moment Raphael laid eyes on her, an astounding sense of strangeness began to fill his gut. The hair caught his eye first- it was straight, fell to the back of her neck, yet… Parts of it looked black, whilst other parts were deep burgundy red… Roku's hair colour.-
[00:28] <Minaplo> [But he'd soon begin to notice her face. She would've been of average height, quite slim… A little taller than an Ayanami. She was fair-skinned and her face had European features.-
[00:30] <Minaplo> [… Yet there was an edge to her features that looked uncannily familiar.-
[00:30] <Minaplo> [After a moment, it suddenly struck him like a thunderbolt.-
[00:30] <Minaplo> [She was older than he'd ever seen her be, yet… He couldn't mistake that face. Aged as she might be, this girl was unmistakeably…-
[00:30] <Minaplo> [Caitlin Guillory.]

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