This Too Shall Pass 3 4a

[23:04] <@Minaplo> […-
[23:04] <@Minaplo> [It was cold, and it was dark, and Sera was lying on his stomach. The ground was hard and chill- it felt as though it may have been concrete.]
[23:06] <Sept> "Ngh…"-
[23:07] <Sept> "…expected better…" His nails rasped along the floor as he tried to get a solid enough sense of direction to push himself up off the floor.
[23:08] <@Minaplo> [Sera would notice that, about… Half a metre in front of him, the ground gave way steeply.]
[23:10] <Sept> Which made him immediately reconsider his unsteady rise to his feet. He stayed sitting on the floor and looked around, wary of the fall ahead. "Am I alone?" he asked.
[23:11] <@Minaplo> ["Yeah."]
[23:12] <Sept> "…you count, asshole." He continued looking around, crouching down on the rough, unidentified surface.
[23:13] <@Minaplo> [There was a burst of cold, white light, instantly blinding him.-
[23:13] <@Minaplo> [… About fifteen seconds later, after Sera's vision had cleared and the blinding pain behind his eyes and dulled to merely a headache, he'd realise where he was.-
[23:14] <@Minaplo> [The light had been a lightbulb- a very powerful one, that said.-
[23:14] <@Minaplo> [Behind him, against a wall, was standing- standing- Dorian Lachapelle, his eyes hidden behind black opaque sunglasses. He was toying with a cigarette.-
[23:15] <@Minaplo> [… In front of Sera were steps.-
[23:15] <@Minaplo> [He was at the top of a concrete flight of stairs. They had no visible end.]
[23:19] <Sept> "Goddamn, give me a -break-. What is this, an interrogation?" He turned around, and hesitated at that man's figure, so vivid against the unremarkable wall. "Nice to see you…?"
[23:20] <@Minaplo> [Dorian didn't reply. He stepped forward, grabbed Sera by the lapel, and lifted him a solid foot up off the ground.]
[23:23] <Sept> "HEY!" the younger of the men protested, struggling against the grip with less than his full strength.
[23:28] <@Minaplo> ["Figured I'd take you someplace safe." Said Dorian, his voice icy-cold. "No place safer than the top of a flight of stairs, right?"]
[23:31] <Sept> "What the fuck are you talking about?!" Sera's struggling increased slightly, and he grabbed onto Dorian's wrists so he could pry his hands off him for a moment.
[23:32] <@Minaplo> [It didn't work. Dorian's grip was firmer than rock.-
[23:33] <@Minaplo> [There was a split-second gleam of light from behind Dorian's glasses- and the air filled with whispers.-
[23:33] <@Minaplo> [("Do you know how many weapons this chair has?") Dorian's voice.-
[23:34] <@Minaplo> [("I… honestly would not know, Dorian. But maybe I'll just live out the rest of my days at the top of a flight of stairs..?") Sera's in response.]
[23:38] <Sept> "So w-what? You waited five years to g-get your comeback at a worthless little punk?!" Current!Sera's struggling came and went as his face grew redder.
[23:39] <@Minaplo> [Dorian grinned.-
[23:39] <@Minaplo> [A second later, Dorian threw Sera forward into the void.-
[23:39] <@Minaplo> […-
[23:39] <@Minaplo> [Sera slammed into the steps. They were unforgiving, hard and bruising.-
[23:40] <@Minaplo> [Sera tumbled.-
[23:40] <@Minaplo> [Every few seconds he would gain a slight arc of airtime before thudding back onto the steps- only to be propelled into the air yet again.-
[23:40] <@Minaplo> [The steps…-
[23:41] <@Minaplo> [Had no visible end.]
[23:45] <Sept> How symbolic. If there was one thing Sera knew, though, it was falling. And that waiting for the world to break your fall never ended well. You had to work your broken fingers into whatever handhold there was and be ready to climb right back up.
[23:49] <@Minaplo> […-
[23:49] <@Minaplo> [Eventually, Sera was able to start slowing his fall. Before long, his bruised, battered and thoroughly agonising body would come to a halt, slumped across four steps…-
[23:50] <@Minaplo> [… A second later, Sera would realise that the floor had revealed itself- only ten steps below.]
[23:55] <Sept> "Hhh," he retorted, starting to drag himself downwards towards solid ground.
[00:05] <@Minaplo> [Now that he was on terra firma, he could have a look around.-
[00:05] <@Minaplo> [… Oh, he was in an elevator.]
[00:09] * Sept found his glasses somewhere at the bottom, frame bent out of shape, but still fitting. He stood up with a slouched posture and wiped at his mouth with the back of his hand. "Just get to it… There's a line outside. For both of us."
[00:14] <@Minaplo> [The elevator moved, going down.-
[00:14] <@Minaplo> [Sometime later (it felt like hours), the elevator stopped, and the doors opened.-
[00:15] <@Minaplo> [… Geofront Ops, just as Sera remembered it.-
[00:15] <@Minaplo> [Dorian was the only individual in here, reclining lazily in his OD chair, hands behind his head. "Seein' you bounce like a ball was almost worth dying, heh heh."]
[00:19] * Sept stood there for a moment before stumbling in as the doors started to close. And again he paused, staring at Dorian, clutching a forearm.
[00:21] <@Minaplo> ["Go on, then. Take a seat. I got a buncha questions."]
[00:25] <Sept> "Feel better?" Sera asked venomously, limping to one of the bunnies' stations and commandeering their battle chair. "We were friends."
[00:28] <@Minaplo> ["I do feel better, actually." Said Dorian. He grinned.-
[00:28] <@Minaplo> ["Besides, you need to be punted down a flight of stairs every now and then. Good for the soul. Doing you a favour."]
[00:33] * Sept sat down heavily on the chair. "That's not a joke, or an insult."
[00:33] <@Minaplo> ["That makes it the truth."]
[00:35] <Sept> "It's always been the truth. But you've changed."
[00:35] <@Minaplo> ["I'm a little taller."]
[00:37] <Sept> "You lost hope or something stupid like that."
[00:39] <@Minaplo> ["Oh?"]
[00:41] <Sept> "But what do I know. What're your questions?" Sera turned to look out through the Ops window.
[00:41] <@Minaplo> [The holographic display was showing a map of Europe.-
[00:42] <@Minaplo> ["How're you goin'?"]
[00:44] <Sept> "Same as always. Life of a martyr. It's not all bad."
[00:46] <@Minaplo> ["So's the martyrdom what's making you act like an asshole or is that just Elisha Caine's deal?"]
[00:48] * Sept faced Dorian again, crossing his hands. "Look who's talking! I can't believe I was looking forward to seeing you!"
[00:49] <@Minaplo> ["Aww, did you miss me?"]
[00:53] <Sept> "Of- -why-? I thought you had your fill of jerking me around!"
[00:54] <@Minaplo> ["C'mon, Sept. You get all grumpy if you don't have someone jerkin' you around, and you've been jerkin' free for way too long."]
[00:58] * Sept grit his teeth. "I've got all the outside influence I need. And I thought you had the strength of will for this."
[01:00] <@Minaplo> ["What, being an Evangelion? Why does it have to be a matter of will?"]
[01:03] <Sept> "Then what is it? What's your problem, and how can I help?"
[01:03] <@Minaplo> ["What's what?"]
[01:04] <@Minaplo> ["What makes you think I have a problem anyway?"]
[01:05] <Sept> "A problem with you, a problem with me, fuck if I know, but this isn't the welcome of someone who's lonely and just asking for a social call!"-
[01:05] <Sept> "So did you ask for me for a reason back then, or was William just intentionally wasting our time?"
[01:07] <@Minaplo> ["I think he goes by 'Michael' now."]
[01:08] <Sept> "I know that!"
[01:08] <@Minaplo> ["Oh, so you just don't give a damn?"]
[01:11] <Sept> Another pause to recompose himself. "Of -course- I do. You're answering none of my questions. -Elisha- was more forthcoming than you."
[01:11] <@Minaplo> ["I did say I had a lot of questions. I even said it first."]
[01:14] <Sept> "Yes, Dorian," Sera snarled. "I missed you. Ops hasn't been the same since you died."
[01:15] <@Minaplo> ["Hey, was that so hard?"-
[01:15] <@Minaplo> [Dorian sat forward and held his arms out. "C'mere, Sept."]
[01:16] <Sept> "Different relationship. Next question."
[01:17] <@Minaplo> ["How'd you like my will? You handling those shares?"]
[01:18] <Sept> "Good idea. Kept me busy for a while. Even learned something. Freya has them."
[01:20] <@Minaplo> ["Figured she would."]
[01:22] <Sept> "Mhm."
[01:23] <@Minaplo> ["Been awhile since you've seen her, huh?"]
[01:24] <Sept> "You know it has."
[01:25] <@Minaplo> ["Missing her?"]
[01:26] <Sept> "Obviously."
[01:27] <@Minaplo> ["You should go find her."]
[01:28] <Sept> "I know. I'm needed here, too."
[01:29] <@Minaplo> ["Well when you've got the time, go find her."]
[01:30] <Sept> "You don't say."
[01:31] <@Minaplo> ["See? Look how grumpy you are."]
[01:31] <Sept> "…"
[01:32] <@Minaplo> ["I know, I know, I pranked you a little, but what's a metaphysical staircase punt between friends?"-
[01:32] <@Minaplo> ["… But in all seriousness, I know you've got goals, and you wanna pursue them, but there's nothing wrong with oiling the wheels."]
[01:37] <Sept> "I know. Nice sentiment. I'll figure it out."
[01:41] <@Minaplo> ["Uh-huh. Well, that'd be good. Hard to concentrate between the war and all, I know."]
[01:43] <Sept> "Any more questions?"
[01:44] <@Minaplo> ["Why're you in such a hurry, hm?"]
[01:46] <Sept> "You know all this. I'm synched with you, and you've berserked. For you, this is just an act."
[01:49] <@Minaplo> ["Not an act. A process!"]
[01:52] <Sept> "Your process is unrefined. I forgive you."
[01:53] <@Minaplo> ["For whatever reason, not many people visit me very often. Guess I'm not as cool as a trinity unit. Hnh."]
[01:55] <Sept> "No, they're no good either. A difference of three years doesn't make them masters. Divine lances have had more time, though."
[01:55] <@Minaplo> ["Oh yeah…?"]
[02:01] * Sept took hold of the Ops control desk and spun himself around lazily in his chair. "Very straightforward about what they want. As far as I know. Efficient, decisive. Pleasant to work with. Can't wait to get rid of them."
[02:10] <@Minaplo> [Dorian laughed. "Culture shock, eh?"]
[02:14] * Sept shook his head with a snort. "They're just as indecipherable as people. I just want out. And I know they're helping me get there."
[02:24] <@Minaplo> ["Well, I guess that's something."-
[02:27] <@Minaplo> [Dorian took a puff from his cigarette. At the same time, apparently on its own, the holographic display flickered; the map of Europe was replaced with a 3D board- a Chinese Chess board, all set up.-
[02:27] <@Minaplo> ["Let's play."]
[02:32] * Sept stopped his fidgety spinning. "This is what I mean. You know I don't know the rules, but you make me say it instead of moving on."
[02:32] <@Minaplo> ["Maybe teaching you's why you're here. Maybe I just enjoy teaching you shit, huh?"]
[02:34] <Sept> "Heh. Sure. It's basically chess, right?"
[02:35] <@Minaplo> ["Not exactly."-
[02:39] <@Minaplo> ["First thing to know is that pieces move on lines, not on squares." Said Dorian. "Nine lines wide, ten lines long. Intersections are called Points, and that's what a piece sits on. Compared to Chess, you have fewer 'pawns' but more special units, and their rules are more involved."]
[02:41] * Sept examined the illusory board in front of him. "Alright."
[02:52] <@Minaplo> ["The board's split down the middle by the River." He said- a large blank space splitting the map lit up. "Some units can't move across it."]
[02:55] <Sept> "Okay."
[21:31] <@Mianplo> ["Finally, there's a grid of three Points by three on each edge of the map. These are Palaces, and your King can't leave his palace."]
[21:35] <Sept> "Mm. Very meaningful."
[21:35] <@Mianplo> ["Oh?"]
[21:36] <Sept> "Nothing. Sounds like it's easier to end a game than in chess, if the King can't escape."
[21:45] <@Mianplo> ["Heh."-
[21:47] <@Mianplo> ["Let's talk about the pieces. There's seven types of pieces in Chinese Chess. The first is your King- he starts on the rearmost rank and the middle file. He moves and captures one square orthogonally."-
[21:48] <@Mianplo> <Point*>
[21:48] <@Mianplo> ["Your King also gets two Advisors, who start immediately to his left and right. They move and capture one point diagonally, but they can't leave the palace either- so you see, they're like bodyguards."]
[21:52] <Sept> "Right." Sera was tapping on the side of Frédéric's command center, eyes firmly fixed on the board up on the display.
[21:57] <@Mianplo> ["Then you have two Elephants, which set up next to the Advisors. Elephants move and capture exactly two points diagonally. They can't jump units in the way, either, nor can they cross the River, so they're strictly defensive units and finnicky ones at that."]
[21:59] <Sept> "Relying on the user to set up the field. Yeah." Tap tap.
[22:02] <@Mianplo> ["Next you have two Horses, which set up on the flanks of the Elephants. Horses move one point orthogonally, then another diagonally, in that order. They can't leap over other pieces in the way either."]
[22:05] * Sept nodded, still tapping.
[22:08] <@Mianplo> ["Then you have two Chariots, which start in the corners. They can move and capture any distance orthogonally and can't jump other pieces, just like rooks in Chess."]
[22:10] <Sept> ""Same roots, pro- nevermind. Go on.
[22:11] <Sept> <quotations are difficult*>
[22:16] <@Mianplo> ["You then get two Cannons, which start two points in front of the Horses. Cannons are tricky- they move as far as they want orthogonally, just like Chariots. To capture a piece, however, they must jump a single piece on the same path first- friend or foe. Once they've jumped that piece, they can take the next piece in line."]
[22:18] <Sept> "Got it."
[22:19] <@Mianplo> ["You can swap 'em for horses from their start positions if you prefer, too."]
[22:21] <Sept> "Uh huh. And if you're serious, you'll only ever use one of those options."
[22:26] <@Mianplo> ["Heh."-
[22:29] <@Mianplo> ["Finally you got the grunts: you get five Soldiers. They appear one rank behind the River, and appear in front of the Chariots, the Elephants and the Kings. They move and capture one point in front of them; once they cross the River they may also move horizontally, but never backwards."]
[22:31] <Sept> "Easier for an amateur than in chess. I see."
[22:33] <@Mianplo> ["Yep."-
[22:35] <@Mianplo> ["So. Red or black?"]
[22:38] <Sept> "Why?"
[22:44] <@Mianplo> ["So we can play, dumbass."]
[22:46] <Sept> "Why do you want to play Chinese Chess against me?"
[22:49] <@Mianplo> ["Maybe you need to play first before you can find out."]
[22:51] <Sept> "…you don't need to do this," Sera said. "Red."
[22:56] <@Mianplo> ["You go first."]
[23:00] <Sept> "I'll swap out my cannons," he said, moving the pieces around. Finally, he nudged a Chariot ahead out of its hiding place. "Your move."
[23:03] <@Mianplo> ["Uh-huh…"-
[23:03] <@Mianplo> [… All in all it wasn't shaping up to be a long game.-
[23:06] <@Mianplo> [Some minutes later, with Sera's horses all hopelessly trapped and his Elephants caught awkwardly by the horses, Dorian was able to trap Sera's King between a Chariot, a Soldier and a Cannon.-
[23:06] <@Mianplo> ["That was fun. Red or black?"]
[23:10] <Sept> "Red. What is this theater? 'I'm superior to you, why was I taken?'"
[23:10] <@Mianplo> ["On the topic of taking, I'm gonna teach you a new rule: the Flying General."-
[23:11] <@Mianplo> ["I ain't gonna tell you what that means yet, though. You go first."]
[23:12] <Sept> "It's the one where you pelt me with Chinese Chess pieces." Sera reached out to the board. Same opening.
[23:16] <@Mianplo> ["Hah."-
[23:17] <@Mianplo> [And so the game was played. Sera lasted a little longer this time, and avoided some of the obvious traps he'd fallen into previously, but by the end of it many of his forces were still locked into terrible positions.-
[23:17] <@Mianplo> [A chariot threatened Sera's King. Sera moved an Advisor to block it- and in doing so left a clear path between his King and Dorian's.-
[23:18] <@Mianplo> ["Flying General." Said Dorian, picking up his King and taking Sera's with it. "If one King faces another along the same file with no obstructions, they can fly across the board and take the other King."]
[23:20] <Sept> "Well played," Sera commented drily. "If only you could've challenged Ramliel to a game."
[23:21] <@Mianplo> ["Why would I have to? A dead Dorian beats a living Angel any day of the week."]
[23:23] <Sept> "Wouldn't be difficult to arrange. How is that different from the fun you're having now?"
[23:24] <@Mianplo> ["Less collateral."]
[23:25] <Sept> "I meant to a chess match."
[23:26] <@Mianplo> ["Yeah, you ever see an Evangelion try to play chess? I'm certain there's ways to kill someone in the process…"]
[23:28] * Sept shook his head in distaste and looked away through the Ops window.
[23:35] <@Mianplo> ["You know, it's damned strange, being an Eva."]
[23:37] <Sept> "I believe you." He glanced at Dorian warily out of the corner of his eye.
[23:42] <@Mianplo> [Dorian was still leaning back in his chair, one leg folded over the other; his hands were nestled behind his head.-
[23:42] <@Mianplo> ["I bet you do. Well. You'd know a little of that."]
[23:44] <Sept> "Sure. And less of the 'shoved in against my will and tortured by the UN' part," Sera said with a scornful look.
[23:47] <@Mianplo> ["I admit, if I had to be forced into an Eva I would've preferred a more kickass unit than an old mothball." Said Dorian. "And the brutal lobotomisation, the neverending surgeries, the armour grafted onto my body isn't great either."-
[23:48] <@Mianplo> ["But most of the time I'm caught in a horrible twilight between waking and sleeping. I dream, all the time, just aware enough to realise I'm in a fog but not enough to pull myself out of it."]
[23:51] <Sept> "Yeah. I get it."
[23:53] <@Mianplo> ["Do you really?"]
[23:59] <Sept> "Did I ever seem -coherent- to you?!" Sera yelled.-
[23:59] <Sept> "No, I don't know what that feels like, but can we establish I can appreciate you're in pain when you say you are?!"
[00:08] <@Mianplo> ["I'm not so sure. You're being very 'me me me' today." Said Dorian gruffly.]
[00:15] <Sept> "And you're being a putain de merde, yes. We've both seen this."
[00:19] <@Mianplo> ["Really now? What've I done exactly that would drive you to call me that, eh?"]
[00:25] <Sept> "This has been the first thing you've said to me that hasn't involved your childish display of beating me up and jerking me around, physically," — Sera nodded to say 'you know what I mean' — "and verbally."
[00:25] <@Mianplo> ["Bullshit."]
[00:26] <Sept> "Why did you respond violently to my greeting you?"
[00:29] <@Mianplo> ["How long have I been dead?"]
[00:30] <Sept> "Two years, give or take."
[00:34] <@Mianplo> ["Two years, give or take. So how much stupid shit have you said or done in two years, give or take, that deserves a solid kick up the arse? Probably a whole goddamn lot. A painful roll down a flight of steps that's entirely in your head and leaves no permanent damage seems like the perfect way to get my arse-kickin' out of the way nice and early."]
[00:38] <Sept> "Fuck you. You're in no position to mete out punishment. Why have you avoided every question I've asked you about why you asked me here?"
[00:40] <@Mianplo> ["Didn't I just answer one of your questions right then?" Said Dorian. He sighed and shook his head.-
[00:43] <@Mianplo> ["Let's get something straight. I am in every position to mete out punishment." Said Dorian. "Physically, metaphysically, and especially legally. Being dead doesn't stop me from being the Director of Operations and if and when I decide you need a punishment then you will get yourself a goddamned punishment come hell or high water. That's the rule and that's not going to change, Fifth Child."]
[00:50] * Sept furrowed his brow. "Then let's be straight. Threatening Sera de Pteres with punitive action never got anyone anywhere. Your position is taken by Marianne Amatore-DeForest, and what remains of your authority over me lies with Zhang Yanmei."-
[00:50] <Sept> "Your options are limited, Dorian. Review them carefully."
[01:15] <@Mianplo> ["Classic Sera de Pteres." Said Dorian, shaking his head. "When faced with a challenge, you try to dismiss it, minimise it, play it down, like a creature trying to make itself bigger to ward off predators. You make a show of being able to handle it regardless of the reality. It works sometimes, but too often in your situation it's merely a bluff."-
[01:15] <@Mianplo> ["You know a little about being an Eva." Said Dorian. "You know my options are not as limited as you say. They're definitely broad enough that I don't need to bluff."-
[01:16] <@Mianplo> ["So now that we're 3 for 0, Sept, why don't you drop your hackles and we can talk business?"]
[01:23] * Sept burst out laughing, covering his mouth with the back of his hand.-
[01:23] <Sept> "Yes, yes, I apologize for detracting from -business-! How could I forget?"
[01:30] <@Mianplo> ["You know, things would really be much easier if you weren't so given to grandstanding." Said Dorian calmly. "There's more to life than trying to piss everyone off."]
[01:35] <Sept> Sera's smile remained. "I grovel at plenty of people. Can I please hear about your proposed business, Dorian?"
[01:41] <@Mianplo> [Dorian gestured to the chess board.-
[01:41] <@Mianplo> ["Red or black?"]
[01:44] <Sept> "…ah."
[01:45] <@Mianplo> ["We could play a different game if you want. Western chess. Or poker?"]
[01:46] * Sept looked at the board again, his smile fading. "Yeah, it's pretty tough," he said.
[01:48] <@Mianplo> ["What'll it be?"]
[01:52] <Sept> He picked up and set down the king on the red side of the board. "I think you're lying. I think you're not having fun at all. Not like you used to."-
[01:54] <Sept> "The reason I seem like I'm bluffing is because I work backwards from the outcome. And if you ever want to feel that way again, this facsimile won't be enough."
[02:11] <@Mianplo> ["That's a pretty interesting assumption of the situation." Said Dorian. "Now if it were as simple as me wanting a pleasant challenge, then I could just tell you to go join 01 and we could play a real game, where you'd be able to use Elisha Caine's skill and it might not be such a rollover for me."]
[02:15] <Sept> "Well, in any case," Sera sighed. "I refuse."
[02:16] <@Mianplo> ["What do you do when you return to a once-familiar situation after a long absense?"]
[02:17] <Sept> "See what has changed?" he offered half-heartedly.
[02:17] <@Mianplo> ["Of course. What else?"]
[02:19] <Sept> "I don't know. What?"
[02:19] <@Mianplo> ["Well you see what hasn't changed, naturally."]
[02:20] <Sept> "Mmmm," Sera said, like the clouds had been parted.
[02:22] <@Mianplo> ["Most people unconsciously do this by trying to do the same things they've always done; any resistance to their pattern is evidence of change, or so it seems."-
[02:22] <@Mianplo> ["And so it seems here, too. More or less, you haven't changed at all."]
[02:26] <Sept> "You could also call it 'coming full circle', but that would be presumptuous. This is what works. It's not complete, and I know that. What else?"
[02:26] <@Mianplo> ["'What else?'"]
[02:29] * Sept stayed quiet, looking back at the lifelike Dorian with a tired expression.
[02:30] <@Mianplo> ["It's a little greedy to be asking for a 'what else'." Said Dorian. "We could and should spend hours just on this: you haven't changed."]
[02:33] <Sept> "I disagree. Would you like to hear my reasons?"
[02:34] <@Mianplo> ["Sure."]
[02:36] <Sept> "I'm more conscious of myself, and capable of suppressing impulses that would've ruled my life when you knew me. I have a healthier view towards the use of violence as a means, and I have the capacity to reason, doubt the reasoning behind my own and others' actions, as well as explain my reasoning to others."
[02:39] <@Mianplo> ["I see, so that's your answer…"-
[02:39] <@Mianplo> [Dorian scratched at his whiskery chin. "Then let's explore this. You say you're more conscious of yourself? In what ways?"]
[02:43] <Sept> "I recognize things like my own stubbornness, making it easier to stop myself from ruining someone's day with it. That doesn't mean it's a thing I should be rid of."-
[02:45] <Sept> "Alternatively, when my own values were compromised by Mary, I very clearly laid out rules for myself to find the best outcome possible. That is the quality, or skill, or whatever that allowed me to survive that particular round of conditioning."
[02:47] <@Mianplo> ["And what was the best outcome possible in that situation?"]
[02:49] <Sept> "The Crystal Massacre. And the survival of the Dorian Lachapelle and the Liberty Bell."
[02:54] <@Mianplo> ["Why was that the best outcome possible? Did conditioning prevent you from trying harder to prevent the Massacres? More to the point, what did your actions have to do with preserving the warships?"]
[02:59] <Sept> "Any deliberate action on my part would've been met with retaliation, by me or otherwise. What ideological ground Sera de Pteres gained I spent on making sure -Michael- wasn't an unknown factor, -directly preventing- the possibility of further sabotage at a critical moment."
[03:00] <@Mianplo> ["I see. So it's Yanmei's fault…" He said slowly.]
[03:02] <Sept> "Stupid," Sera said.
[03:03] <@Mianplo> ["What?"]
[03:04] <Sept> "You don't think the primary 'fault' should be placed on the ones who ordered or carried out the attack? It's a stupid concept."-
[03:05] <Sept> "Yanmei was in a position to have acted differently. No one can ever know if she 'could have'. It happened."
[03:10] <@Mianplo> ["This is war. Commanders in war know they will have to expend capital in the form of soldiers' lives to achieve their goals. It is their duty to minimise that cost. If a commander fails to do so, then yes, they are at fault, and 'it happened' is not enough. Their mistakes must be assayed and given due redress."-
[03:11] <@Mianplo> ["Yanmei could have and should have acted differently. Yanmei made a mistake. Yanmei was at fault and many people paid for it."]
[03:11] <Sept> "Why is that obvious?"
[03:18] <@Mianplo> ["Better courses of action would have been outlined to her, ones given by experienced people relied upon for their advice. If I can see what she 'should have' done, then so can other people, and I daresay there are many people that we both know who would've performed more ably in her shoes. That's why it's obvious."]
[03:20] <Sept> "Alright."
[03:22] <@Mianplo> ["Now then."-
[03:22] <@Mianplo> ["These impulses, what would they be, and how do you suppress them?"]
[03:23] <Sept> "Still not convinced this inquisition isn't because you're lonely."-
[03:24] <Sept> "Responding aggressively or violently to feeling slighted in one way or another would be important and topical, obviously."
[03:25] <@Mianplo> ["This is something you're working on, then?"]
[03:28] <Sept> "Good one. It takes energy. There's no need to do that when important relationships won't be damaged."
[03:29] <@Mianplo> ["I see. So you don't feel the urge to suppress it around people you don't consider to have important relationships with you."]
[03:32] <Sept> "Bluntly put. Yes. I also don't feel the urge to be everyone's friend."
[03:33] <@Mianplo> ["And the necessity?"]
[03:38] <Sept> "I couldn't forgive myself for not voicing my opinion on matters like war and how we should decide what happens to the Seeds. It helps to not at least look like a man off the street prophesizing the apocalypse."
[03:42] <@Mianplo> ["For sure. It's good to acknowledge that risk at least."-
[03:44] <@Mianplo> ["You aren't under any obligation to be everyone's friend, but you are obliged to minimise the amount of extra work you make for other people, especially Yanmei. If you're not willing to try for 'unimportant' relationships, then you should at least consider the impact it has on people you care about."-
[03:44] <@Mianplo> ["Besides, if those relationships aren't that important, then how important is it that they hear your views anyway?"]
[03:48] <Sept> "Well. I admit I justify it more as a stress release. Anger is a very important tool to me. That's one of the more frivolous uses of it. And I make mistakes. Like with Ni."-
[03:48] <Sept> "Though with your definition of 'fault', it was hers."
[03:51] <@Mianplo> ["Find better methods of stress release." Said Dorian bluntly.]
[03:53] <Sept> "Of course."-
[03:55] <Sept> "A lot of people wouldn't agree with this übermensch you seem to be building. Would see it as an encroachment on their identity."
[03:55] <@Mianplo> ["Unfortunately, that's my job." Said Dorian.-
[03:57] <@Mianplo> ["Besides, this isn't the first time I've had to rein a pilot in from being an asshole, overtly or covertly. Yanmei caused all kinds of problems by constantly using Elena Clement as 'stress release' and had to be taught a costly lesson."]
[03:57] <Sept> "…"-
[04:01] <Sept> "…still no. You know I have people giving me this exact advice in the real world. You're not the NERV Paris-2 forces OD, nor do I work for them anymore. You had your best chance already."
[04:03] <@Mianplo> ["Are you even attempting to follow that advice?" Said Dorian.]
[04:05] <Sept> "You know I am. My science projects and Freya, if we can find her, are the most important parts of it."
[04:09] <@Mianplo> ["Then why the repeated attempts to rile me up?" Said Dorian. "You don't give a damn for titles, and you know that describing a man turned into an Evangelion that he's already 'had his best chance' is hypocritical at the very least."]
[04:11] <Sept> "Because I believe you had more of a shot at making a difference in my life — not that you weren't helpful — when you were alive."
[04:16] <@Mianplo> ["It's true that I bear some of the shit." Said Dorian. "How you turned out was one of the great disappointments of my life. However, I'm not going to give up on that simply because my circumstances have changed. I wouldn't forgive myself if I didn't tap into my resources in order to improve the situation."-
[04:16] <@Mianplo> ["You saying my best chance has already passed by simply isn't an important consideration."]
[04:20] <Sept> "I can understand that. The real Ops might be getting worried."
[04:20] <@Mianplo> ["Oh?"]
[04:22] <Sept> "But if you want to keep them waiting, by all means."
[04:23] <@Mianplo> ["I'm going to ignore that silliness and move on."-
[04:24] <@Mianplo> ["A healthier view of violence as a means. Explain?"]
[04:31] <Sept> "Well, I don't view it as a tool to assert my identity on the world. Though the safety buffer of a more complete soul and the subsequent disappearance of my allegedly irrational fear of people means less of a -need- to recover from dents in the ego barrier."
[04:32] <@Mianplo> ["So you suspect that if those buffers disappeared, old patterns of violence might reemerge?"]
[04:37] <Sept> "I don't. But maybe they willl. I think Viviane's fate was the spark, made worse by the years in Raphael's prison. I don't consider it a misstep. Understanding 04 and 00 as much as 01 is important."
(14:12:54) @Minaplo: ["I see. Fair enough."]
(14:21:06) Sept: "Not like I can claim to -have- the same insight for 00, of course."
(14:21:25) @Minaplo: ["Oh?"]
(14:23:58) Sept: "Yeah," Sera said, looking impatient.
(14:28:32) @Minaplo: ["Bit of a problem, that."]
(14:30:18) Sept: "I'm sure you've got a helpful suggestion."
(14:33:08) @Minaplo: ["I might. You have any bright ideas around it?"]
(14:36:46) Sept: "Other than retrieving 00 and having a heart to heart? Nothing we haven't already talked about."
(14:37:31) @Minaplo: ["Fontaine?"]
(14:38:14) Sept: "Figuring out relationships, yes. Things normal people do."
(14:42:29) @Minaplo: ["Thought much about her Bond?"]
(14:44:06) Sept: "No. Trying to re-establish it would be… drastic."
(14:49:54) @Minaplo: ["I meant just ask her for her insight."]
(14:52:11) Sept: "…right, well. I suppose that comes naturally with more contact."
(14:56:15) @Minaplo: ["What insight did you glean from 04 anyway?"]
(14:58:07) Sept: "Insight into what?"
(14:58:26) @Minaplo: ["04."]
(15:00:19) Sept: "I can't quantify it for you, but I'm sure I understand it better after both dealing with it and seeing… what I'm capable of myself."
(15:00:57) @Minaplo: ["Uh-huh. Knowing what you know then, how do you reckon it's influenced Yanmei?"]
(15:03:34) Sept: "Yanmei and Aline weren't selected at random. That shouldn't be an issue."
(15:04:19) @Minaplo: ["So you don't know or don't care."]
(15:06:49) Sept: "Obviously! And it's completely unfeasible to find out!"
(15:10:12) @Minaplo: ["I expect a better answer from someone who's known her for most of her piloting career, has worked to protect her and furthermore knows what can happen to a pilot when an Eva wants to influence them, especially that one." Said Dorian gruffly.]
(15:12:18) Sept: "Sorry to disappoint."
(15:17:15) @Minaplo: [Dorian sighed.-
(15:21:26) @Minaplo: ["Then let's talk about your capacity to reason. How has that been developing?"]
(15:25:28) Sept: "Gh. Really?"-
(15:26:04) Sept: "Especially with Ezra showing up, keeping track of people's possible motivations has taken up a significant portion of my time…"
(15:26:43) @Minaplo: ["Yep, I can imagine it is. Is that how it ties into doubting your own and others' reasoning? Wondering what your own motivation is?"]
(15:27:20) Sept: "Sure. That works."
(15:29:55) @Minaplo: ["Now then. Two things I wanna explore. Firstly, your own motivations."]
(15:31:01) Sept: "What about them?"
(15:31:58) @Minaplo: ["What were they, what are they now?"]
(15:34:28) Sept: "…"-
(15:35:47) Sept: "See to it that something survives of the First Ancestral Race, of lilim, of Angels, and then retire. That order. Good enough?"
(15:37:44) @Minaplo: [Dorian chuckled ruefully.]
(15:41:25) * Sept looked back at him, unamused.
(15:44:50) @Minaplo: ["You didn't like it when Mr. Martin questioned you either." Said Dorian. "Old memories. S'funny."]
(15:45:48) Sept: "S'not. That was different. Talking about career plans would've been fucking silly."
(15:52:06) @Minaplo: ["Why?"]
(15:56:10) Sept: "Because I had no choice besides being the pilot of EVA-01, and even less of a chance to survive the job."
(16:02:13) @Minaplo: [Dorian took a pull of his cigarette. He held a pack out to Sera.]
(16:03:29) * Sept warily accepted the offer.
(16:06:49) @Minaplo: [There was a lighter there, too. Handy!-
(16:07:58) @Minaplo: ["Now in my own experience, I'd take those as reasons to think about future career plans, you see."]
(16:13:11) Sept: "What, for something to look forward to?"
(16:17:37) @Minaplo: ["Well that's one way of looking at it, but that sort of crap gives you the ability to try and define yourself, on your own terms. I chose Saint-Cyr, I chose the military route… I had a major hand in making myself who I am. For you it was an opportunity to define yourself separate from the Eva. The goal being in the future, hell, the goal being impossible doesn't even matter in that
(16:17:37) @Minaplo: case."]
(16:20:59) Sept: "…sure," Sera nodded. He stuck the cigarette in his mouth and clicked on the lighter a few times, trying to get a flame out of it.
(16:24:30) @Minaplo: [A flame appeared!]
(16:25:07) Sept: >Command?
(16:25:11) Sept: >Light cigarette
(16:29:25) @Minaplo: [:|-
(16:29:30) @Minaplo: [And so the cigarette lit.-
(16:29:57) @Minaplo: ["Then again, perhaps you have your own answer for that." Said Dorian. "Like this retirement of yours…"]
(16:31:08) Sept: "Yeah, well. It's close enough." He took a drag from the imaginarily unhealthy cigarette.
(16:33:09) @Minaplo: ["It's pretty."]
(16:35:42) Sept: "What is?"
(16:38:41) @Minaplo: ["Your retirement."]
(16:39:39) Sept: "Isn't that the point?"
(16:40:49) @Minaplo: ["Wasn't a criticism. I quite like it."]
(16:41:41) Sept: "Thanks. I don't take it for granted."
(16:43:13) @Minaplo: [Dorian was quiet at that, his eyes still hidden by his sunglasses. He nodded slowly.]
(16:44:31) * Sept enjoyed his tobacco for a bit longer. "So what happens now?"
(16:49:01) @Minaplo: ["Well, there's the other thing I wanna explore."-
(16:49:05) @Minaplo: ["You got questions for me?"]
(16:54:16) Sept: "Sure. Did you say I could do something about Viviane's kidnapping just to appease me?"
(16:55:41) @Minaplo: ["What, like you wanted to take action, and I'd hedge my bets and say you could and hope it'd blow over? That sort of appease?"]
(16:58:11) Sept: "Did you have enough intel to know we wouldn't be able to run any kind of raid after her or the other captives?"
(16:59:14) @Minaplo: ["Not that early on." Said Dorian. "And honestly I figured the chance would come sooner or later- there's always room for a side of black ops- but it sort of solved itself."-
(16:59:34) @Minaplo: ["… As it stands though, I wasn't trying to appease you." Said Dorian. "I figured you had the right."]
(17:03:55) * Sept shrugged, holding the cigarette up in front of him. "Alright. What's different about EVA-21?"
(17:05:53) @Minaplo: ["Different compared to what?"]
(17:09:08) Sept: "A Unit not built secretly. Doomsday devices, kill switches," Sera said, waving the cigarette around before returning it to between his lips. "Arrayfh connecting you to the Cfhantry and beaming all thifh back to them?"
(17:15:52) @Minaplo: ["It's worth a look-in considering the boy was a spy." Said Dorian, nodding his head. "The real basic history is that EVA-21 was actually a prototype production model built around the same time as unit 2, but the design was rejected and mothballed. When I died… Eh, I guess they just chose a fuckin' mothball unit for it. Assholes were desperate for a unit to send along with their boy, I
(17:15:53) @Minaplo: suppose."-
(17:16:47) @Minaplo: ["I couldn't tell you about any chantries, kill switches or doomsday devices though…"]
(17:19:17) Sept: "Uh huh." Sera exhaled smoke. "That's probably everything."
(17:19:56) @Minaplo: ["What, that it?"]
(17:22:40) Sept: "Why not?"
(17:25:14) @Minaplo: ["It's me." Said Dorian impatiently. "Think about all the enemies you have and what I could know about 'em. Or your allies for that matter. Or a dozen other situations that could be relevant to your shit."]
(17:30:30) Sept: "And I can take none of it at face value. Besides, Dysangelions and Solomons are our biggest problem right now."
(17:34:59) @Minaplo: [Dorian took a drag on his cigarette. Sera could see his own face reflected in those sunglasses.]
(17:37:50) Sept: "Whatever you say about Michael I can't ascertain," he continued. "But if you've got dirt on the current command staff or weaknesses in it, then yeah. We can investigate it and act accordingly, and that'd be really helpful."
(17:44:17) @Minaplo: ["That sort of thing I'd prefer to save for Yanmei when she comes." Said Dorian after a long. "She's probably going to ask anyway."-
(17:44:39) @Minaplo: ["I figured you'd want to ask more pointed questions. About Caines, or, yeah, about Michael."]
(17:45:55) Sept: "The hell'd you know about Caines?"
(17:48:53) @Minaplo: ["Boy, it was my job to know about Caines." Said Dorian.]
(17:50:03) Sept: "Hrmmh," Sera grumbled, rubbing his forehead. "Fine. There's nothing you know about the Eternity Drive, right?"
(17:53:32) @Minaplo: ["Heh. You're probably thinking it was before my time?"]
(17:54:52) Sept: "No, I'm not. But I don't think it was relevant to you, nor do I think it was possible for you to find out things we haven't yet figured out."
(17:55:39) @Minaplo: ["Heh heh heh. Well, here's a question for you. Did Azariah Caine know it existed?"]
(17:57:17) Sept: "Probably did. He would've been my next question, which you know."
(17:57:37) @Minaplo: ["Heh heh."-
(17:58:11) @Minaplo: ["So here's the question: he had his hands on Silas's soul. How'd he get it?"]
(18:01:06) Sept: "From his body, or from the Eternity Drive."
(18:02:21) @Minaplo: ["Exactly. Now the first one you can prove or disprove easily because he died at Eden Base, and his soul extraction would've been performed by assholes we know like Luna Riel."-
(18:02:39) @Minaplo: ["If you prove it happened, then fine. If you didn't, though, that raises a different kettle of hay."]
(18:04:43) * Sept shook his head, gritting his teeth. "Yes, and?"
(18:06:03) @Minaplo: ["… What's your problem this time?"]
(18:09:55) Sept: "You and your questions and clever turns of phrase. Can you not just talk to me?"-
(18:10:40) Sept: One more drag of his cigarette and he put it out on the command desk. "You mean Azariah was working with Mary, Jeremiah or both?"
(18:11:24) @Minaplo: [Dorian sighed.-
(18:14:36) @Minaplo: ["I don't. If Azariah did receive Silas's soul from the Eternity Drive, he was either given it or he retrieved it himself. Either way, he would've known of its existence and he would've known of its power. Just like you, he would've prioritised either occupying it or destroying it."-
(18:16:56) @Minaplo: ["What this means is analysing intelligence reports. Look at the patterns that emerge from the war. There may be locations where the LN attacked that were worth less than the resources spent on them- seemingly. On the flipside, there may be locations where the UN placed an excessive amount of forces."-
(18:18:04) @Minaplo: ["Of course, that assumes that Azariah had an idea of where the Eternity Drive was. Chances are he may have had only a few ideas and was trying to eliminate them one by one. Chances are that whatever intel he had on the Eternity Drive is likely to be of use to you, so it's worth hunting it."]
(18:19:54) * Sept crossed his arms in front of him and leaned back in his chair. "True. I'll make sure we have people on it."
(18:25:22) @Minaplo: ["You will also want to work backwards. It's difficult to ascertain exactly what form the Drive takes now, but at some point it required materials. So you go back and you catalogue all the materials or gadgets or doodads that Gehirn or Nerv created that could contain a soul or souls, then you research when they learned to manipulate it. That can give you a very basic timeframe of when
(18:25:23) @Minaplo: work began. That should narrow down your search some if you're looking to follow the trail of people who may have worked on it."]
(18:30:46) Sept: "Yeah. It'll still be mostly the same people on it, but it narrows it down."
(18:31:33) @Minaplo: ["Uh-huh."-
(18:31:57) @Minaplo: ["Dunno if it's worth much, but have a look at Angel patterns as well. Who knows, maybe they picked up something we missed…"]
(18:36:13) Sept: "Ones that showed up away from Paris-2, or abnormals. Sure."
(18:37:47) @Minaplo: ["You guys have all started looking at older bases, which is good. What about the moon?"]
(18:41:03) Sept: "Everything's tied up on the ground, as far as I understand. Of course, if we're gonna start combing the moon, we'll be looking at the rest of the solar system soon enough."
(18:41:49) @Minaplo: ["Yeah, start looking at the moons of Jupiter."]
(18:45:18) Sept: "I'm sure pilots will rush to that assignment. If they run into an interdiction field, they've got no chance of making it out alive."
(18:48:21) @Minaplo: ["Send Zeruel."]
(18:49:13) Sept: "Yep. Only other option."
(18:56:21) @Minaplo: ["You got other questions about Caines?"]
(19:01:51) Sept: "Nothing that could help."
(19:06:16) @Minaplo: ["If you say so."]
(19:09:10) Sept: "Michael, then. Anything else I could know about him? He's been forthcoming enough since he blew himself up."
(19:13:38) @Minaplo: ["Well. He wrapped himself in a web of lies, and has for longer than you've known him. He's pulled himself out and should walk straight from now on, but anything you learned from him before his turn… He's lied to everyone. You and Yanmei obviously. But I also mean Mary Caine and her lot too, although I doubt it stuck with them."-
(19:14:51) @Minaplo: ["Otherwise, it's nothing I feel like sharing or that you can't figure out yourself."]
(19:18:35) Sept: "You sound awfully confident about that."
(19:19:28) @Minaplo: ["I am awfully confident."]
(19:22:01) Sept: "Clever. That's all of my questions."
(19:22:35) @Minaplo: ["Huhn."-
(19:22:39) @Minaplo: [A puff on the cigarette.]
(19:23:55) Sept: "Still got something you're worried about?"
(19:29:59) @Minaplo: ["Nothing I'd bring up with you."]
(19:31:59) Sept: "And you expect me to convince Yanmei to pay you a visit, too?"
(19:35:19) @Minaplo: ["Nope. Don't need you for that."]
(19:37:15) Sept: "…I'm sure you don't."
(19:38:21) @Minaplo: [Dorian took a puff of his cigarette.]
(19:39:38) Sept: "That it, then?"
(19:40:48) @Minaplo: ["Almost. Wondering if I should crack down on you." Said Dorian casually. "Wondering how hard."]
(19:41:39) Sept: "Crack down how," Sera asked, equally casually.
(19:44:14) @Minaplo: [Dorian rubbed the stub of his cigarette into the arm of his chair before taking out another one. He lit that one and took a puff.]
(19:47:42) Sept: "…take your time." Sera lifted his feet onto the chair and started idly swivelling back and forth again.
(19:55:03) @Minaplo: [Dorian sat quietly for a few minutes longer. Unlike Sera, Dorian sat quite still and unruffled.-
(19:58:38) @Minaplo: ["You know, I'm almost convinced the experience of being you would be punishment enough." Said Dorian. "And I wouldn't want to make too much hassle for the boys and girls who have to deal with that fallout, sad though it is that they have to. I'll let you off easy for now."]
(20:01:40) Sept: "Magnanimous as ever. That much hasn't changed."
(20:03:16) @Minaplo: ["Yeah. On the topic, I'll send you off with this: despite your arguments you haven't changed nearly as much as you could or should've. Try harder."]
(20:05:20) Sept: "I'll keep that in mind," Sera said with a chilly tone.
(20:06:46) @Minaplo: ["Do try." Said Dorian. "Door's over there."]
(20:09:42) * Sept got up and glanced at the exit, unsure if he'd meant it literally. "Well, it was nice to see you again, for a moment."
(20:14:22) @Minaplo: [The exit was in fact over there.-
(20:14:46) @Minaplo: ["Uh-huh. Don't be a stranger. Maybe next time I can afford to be a little nicer." Said Dorian.]
(20:17:09) Sept: "Hah. I guess we'll see," he said, turned his back on Dorian, and left.

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