|Things Fall Apart|
|Summary: Bad to worse.|
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Leo Stenbuck transmits, "Son of a bitch... of /course/ only these freq'sll update in flight. And it looks like I'm gonna miss dinner hour, too... hnnn. Ralla, you listening?"
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Soma Peries transmits, "Captain Stenbuck."
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Leo Stenbuck transmits, "Soma?"
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Soma Peries transmits, "It is good to hear that you have returned. I hope your trip ended pleasantly."
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Latooni Subota transmits, "...yes, welcome back."
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Revive Revival transmits, "The famous Leo Stenbuck. Ha ha."
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Leo Stenbuck transmits, sarcastically, "Oh, yeah, it was delightful."
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Revive Revival, totally sounding like a woman.
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Soma Peries transmits, "I must apologize, however. I was instructed to keep some information from you while you were gone."
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Leo Stenbuck transmits, "... ah, right, that. Listen, can that wait? I want to eat something and... take care of some stuff, first. Speaking of, Rallaaa... ugh, is she already asleep?"
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Soma Peries transmits, "I... do not think it is wise to delay giving you this information."
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Latooni Subota transmits, "..."
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Russel Bagman takes a deep breath, he knows what's comming.
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Revive Revival transmits, "Mmm."
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Leo Stenbuck sighs. "Alright, fine, let's have it. ... Naw, she /never/ goes to sleep this early..."
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Soma Peries transmits, "It is possible that she is asleep. Her current status is unknown."
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Soma Peries transmits, "Lieutenant Triald is currently MIA."
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Latooni Subota transmits, "...yes."
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Shine Hausen quietly, "Leo..."
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Leo Stenbuck transmits, "... sorry, say again? I think I lost some of that."
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Soma Peries transmits, "Lietenant Triald is currently MIA. Her whereabouts have been unknown for approximately six days."
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Michael Trinity transmits, "/Ooooooohhh./ No wonder my laundry's pilin' up."
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Fiona Gureden transmits, "...right. One of the casualties from that day, huh..."
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Revive Revival, quietly, aside-style: "...laundry...?"
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Leo Stenbuck transmits several seconds of silence, and then, slowly, "What the fuck do you mean 'her whereabouts are unknown?'"
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Michael Trinity transmits, "Hey Leo! Get someone to get my laundry, I don't wanna wear this shirt three times!"
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Latooni Subota transmits, "...we are looking for her. I have some leads..."
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Nenai Illan transmits, "Do it your self human."
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Soma Peries transmits, "I have been trying to locate the Lieutenant in my off-duty hours, but my efforts have not been successful."
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Michael Trinity transmits, "I don't know how to do /laundry,/ there's people for that!"
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Leo Stenbuck transmits, angrily, "WHAT, the FUCK, do you MEAN, 'HER WHEREABOUTS ARE UNKNOWN?!'"
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Michael Trinity transmits, "/Uh/ ohhhh!"
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Soma Peries transmits, "I do not think I can rephrase it in a better way, Captain."
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Latooni Subota transmits, "We are - still looking, Leo - I sent you an email..."
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Revive Revival mutters, mournfully, "My my my..."
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Soma Peries transmits, "We have found her disabled Ahead, but..."
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Leo Stenbuck snarls, "Tell me what happened. /Now./"
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Soma Peries says, "Yazan Gable," as if that explains everything.
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Latooni Subota transmits, "Gym Ghingnham activated a new machine. Several people deployed. She was one. And then... yes."
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Louise Halevy sounds like she has been awakened by abrupt loud noise from her radio, which she definitely forgot to turn off. "Uuhn, what's going on...? Leo? Is that you?"
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Michael Trinity transmits, "/Man,/ if Machinegirl's gone, that means I gotta fold my own pants."
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Leo Stenbuck, who was about to say something, makes a noise as if he has just been punched in the stomach.
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Revive Revival transmits, "Ah, Louise. I'll come fetch you. I get the feeling that... Mm, I'll come fetch you."
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Revive Revival, transmitting from aboard the Shirogane for some reason.
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Leo Stenbuck transmits a looong stretch of silence.
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Latooni Subota transmits, "Leo, I'm - I'm sorry, I assumed they told you, that's why I sent the email that I did."
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Shine Hausen quietly, "Leo, I am so sorry..."
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Michael Trinity transmits, "Hey, you guys going out? I'm all kinds of hungry, get me like... some chicken?"
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Soma Peries transmits, "The GN Tau Drive of the Lieutenant's Ahead was breached in multiple locations. She... I have not given up my efforts of searching."
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Latooni Subota transmits, "Nor have I. Excellen has also been helping."
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Latooni Subota transmits, "We found her cockpit."
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Leo Stenbuck eventually starts making noise. The bad news is, it sounds like he's laughing.
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Michael Trinity transmits, "Oh man, GN Drive breaches get nasty fast. Too bad about that!"
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Latooni Subota transmits, "...there was no body, so..."
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Fiona Gureden transmits, "Leo...Captain. C'mon, man, you've gotta..."
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Shine Hausen transmits, "Was the cockpit...?"
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Latooni Subota transmits, "...Leo?"
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Fiona Gureden transmits, "--are you...?"
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Soma Peries transmits, "I do not believe this is the right moment for laughter, Captain."
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Louise Halevy transmits, "... Leo?"
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Russel Bagman transmits, "...leo...?"
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Leo Stenbuck sounds terribly amused when he eventually transmits, "Two weeks. Two weeks! They kick me out, and I'm gone for /two weeks/..."
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Leo Stenbuck switches abruptly to rage. "... and you /fucking/ /incompetents/ can't keep /ONE GIRL ALIVE!/ /TWO FUCKING WEEKS!!/"
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Revive Revival transmits, "Captain."
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Revive Revival says nothing else, but his feminine voice says it very firmly. And rather darkly.
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Soma Peries transmits, "I was not present at the battle, Captain, but..."
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Latooni Subota transmits, "Leo...!"
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Soma Peries transmits, "As her immediate superior, I will take responsiblity."
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Revive Revival transmits, "Captain Stenbuck, Lieutenant Peries, I'm aboard the Shirogane now. When you dock here, /Captain Stenbuck/, we'll discuss this. Until then, spare these people who I really rather thought were your comrades, if not your friends, this completely undeserved abuse."
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Revive Revival transmits, "Lieutenant Peries, Warrant Officer Halevy. I'd like you to be present for this as well."
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Louise Halevy transmits, "S, sir, I'd like to be there as well. I'm aboard already, and --"
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Louise Halevy cut off by being told exactly what she wants to hear. "Thank you."
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Leo Stenbuck transmits, "Wasn't pre- /WASN'T PRESENT?!/ Well who the /FUCK/ /WAS/ PRESENT?! -- and /YOU/, whoever the fuck /YOU/ are, you mind your own /GOD DAMN BUSINESS/ or I'll fucking /T-/"
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Leo Stenbuck's transmission abruptly cuts off.
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Michael Trinity transmits, "Not my fault! I was totally busy."
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Michael Trinity transmits, "Had to do some test runs for 'that'. It was freakin' sweet."
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Shine Hausen says quietly, several seconds later, "I apologize for intervening. Captain Revival, yes?"
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Revive Revival transmits, "Indeed, Princess. Captain Revive Revival. GNZ Team. Paradigm-1. At your service. I'd like to apologize on behalf of my fellow team leader for his outburst. Before any decisions are made regarding his behavior tonight, I'd like a chance to speak to him and his men. Leader to leader. We'll see if we can't sort this whole mess out."
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Shine Hausen transmits, "It is not truly my place to interfere directly in such matters, and I apologize for interfering with your unit's discipline, but I felt I had to... I imagine... ... it is a very dreadful surprise to him. It is, I know, less common now than it was in the past, but not as rare as we might hope."
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Revive Revival transmits, "I certainly sympathize with how /dreadful/ the situation is, Princess. That said, I should like to think that Captain Stenbuck is, like myself, a reasonable man. If you'll excuse me, I must finish collecting Warrant Officer Halevy, and prepare myself for what I hope will be a productive, if not pleasant, discussion. Good day to you, Princess."
<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Shine Hausen transmits, "Good day to you as well, Captain."
It has been twenty minutes since Leo's arrival back on the Shirogane-
SOME TIME AGO
The 1 Gundam smashes into the landing catapult in the Shirogane's fourth hangar, little more than a red blur. The catapult wall is forced all the way down the track, and snaps when it hits the end, leaving the Gundam slumped over the slab of metal, still bright red from the GN particles suffusing it.
It's even still that color when the cockpit hatch snaps open and Leo storms out and drops down to the floor of the hangar via handy dandy zipline. He storms out of the hangar, his duster and headband whipping around him. As the door closes behind him, the color saturating the 1 Gundam fades... and then the GN-T Drive sputters and dies forever.
This stunt saved Leo maybe eight minutes, and cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.
-and, apparently heedless of any plans Revive Revival might have had, Leo has called the entirety of the GNX Team to one of the Shirogane's briefing rooms.
He's already there, awaiting the arrival of his team, stalking back and forth in the front of the room like a caged animal, muttering to himself like a mental patient. A device in his hand is still displaying a copy of the AAR from the engagement Ralla went missing in, but he isn't even looking at it anymore. Since he pulled it down, he's already read it end to end.
Revive Revival enters with Louise Halevy. Since the young woman came to visit him, they've been busy.
SOME TIME AGO
Revive and Louise are sitting in a cozy booth of a very nice restaurant in Neo-Riksent. They've just ordered. A waiter brings over drinks -- a bottle of pre-OYW vintage wine from Neo France for Revive, a Neo Manhattan (the vermouth kicked in the side with a pair of steel-toed boots) for Louise. Of course, Revive ordered for her. Just like he chose what food she'd be eating. Just like he picked out the dress she has on. Just like he gave it to her.
Out of his own closet, strangely. "Quite a strong drink order," Revive says cheerfully, as if Louise had selected the cocktail herself.
A little man with an adorable accent comes up to the table, swanning gleefully. "Meester Reevivah!"
"Tino!" Revive chirps. Pleasantries are exchanged, as well as a firm, masculine slap of a handshake.
"Awh! Jou lookin fantastic," Tino enthuses.
Revive just smiles and weathers the compliment. "Tino," he says, gesturing grandly to the woman with him, "Louise."
Tino takes Louise's hand gingerly. "Louise... awh, what a pretty girlfren, drinks are on Tino tonight!"
Revive laughs, "No, no, no, we're work associates. A-LAWS. She's a member of the rather /prestigious/ GNX Team."
"Ah, okay, okay," Tino nods. "He's a good guy," he says, gesturing at Revive.
Revive points back, smile gleaming. "He's the finest club owner in the colony."
Tino beams. "We have a saying in my home colony... about people like him. The coyote of the desert, ah, always likes to eat the heart of the young and the blood drips down to the children for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and only the ribs will be broken--"
Revive shushes Tino with a genial wave of his hand. "Tino..."
Tino catches himself quickly. "Meester Reevivah... will you play some, ah, yazz flute for us?"
Revive scoffs quietly, blushing a bit. "You play jazz flute?" Louise asks, leaning in.
"I dabble," Revive says demurely, a bit embarassed.
Tino turns to the assembled restaurant. "Would everybody like to hear Meester Reevive Reevivah play some /yazz flute/?" The whole restaurant whoops and cheers as spotlights, from out of nowhere, shine on Revive, who stands, laughing. "You," Tino says, "get on stage now."
"Okay," Revive says with a grin. "Maybe a little... I'm not even prepared," he says, as he pulls his flute out of the sleeve of his jacket and steps up on stage. "In E flat, boys," he says ably, "and take that bass line for a walk."
Revive Revive then plays a four-minute jazz flute solo that he has privately titled 'the Panty Melt.'
Because boy, does it ever.
Revive Revival is in A-LAWS casual, and it suits him perfectly. Somehow, the cut of the tight, tight teal t-shirt and the straight-leg trousers flatters his thin body in a puzzling way -- the style of a woman, the kiss of a man. He leads Louise by the hand down a corridor toward the designated meeting spot. This isn't the same as walking hand-in-hand, swinging arms and singing songs. No. He /leads/ her by the hand, one pace in front, his arm daintily bent and lifted, slim, womanly hand clutching Louise's in the gentlest trap there ever was. He's laughing. It's a soothing sound. It's pretty. He's been on the Shirogane all day, en route to a transfer back to the Blanc Rival, after his little jaunt with his little friend.
"So then -- no, no, I'm not even finished, so then this engineer, this stupid, /stupid/ engineer says, 'well, how in the hell can a human being pilot this thing?!' And, Louise, darling, I'm just about /losing/ it, I had to look out the window for a second and take a breath and-- ah." Revive's story terminates abruptly, as does his step, the second the doors open and present the pair to Leo Stenbuck and Leo Stenbuck's new best friend, the Wrath of Leo Stenbuck. Now it's time for business. Now it's time to be a leader of men. He keeps hold of Louise's hand for a moment, but then with a swishy little motion he releases her, giving her an intensely mild swat on the rear to send her forward.
Forward with all the /things/ she's been /learning/.
Thanks to good old Revive Revival.
"Captain Stenbuck," Revive says, nodding, hanging back for the moment. "I thought perhaps you'd like to discuss this affair with your teammates first. Please, do so. I'll be right here. Waiting for my turn. Leo."
There's a quiet glow in Revive Revival's red eyes. Everything about him is covered in signals invisible to most -- probably visible only to Louise and Leo, right now. Leo may not know who Revive Revival is. But he'd damn sure know /what/ he is. And /what/ he is... means who he's /with/.
A slow, easy smile. Revive Revival is great with smiles. They're the best place to hide hatred.
He smiles so much.
Louise always feels a little awkward and outmatched in social situations like the one Revive put her in -- something about big groups of people having fun just makes her skin crawl after a little bit. Then again, Revive certainly proves his talent by keeping her relatively calm and pleasant in spite of the whole thing -- by the time the two of them are walking to meet Leo, she's laughing and swapping stories, maybe even /enjoying herself/. Admittedly, maybe the nap just before then helped -- that drink really put her down for a while.
She turns back, considering a glare, as she's given that pat on the butt; however, all she can manage is that sort of teasing play-angry, at best. Could /anyone/ stay mad at Revive?
Turning her attention to Leo, she jogs toward him, trying her best to keep a positive face on. She can't quite manage it, though -- Leo's frustration, his anger... that's a little infectious, for her, and as such all she can manage is a somewhat awkward, almost confused-sounding, "Hello, Leo."
PRETTY MUCH RIGHT WHEN RALLA WAS EXPLODING OR WHATEVER
"AAAAHAHAHAHAHA THIS THING IS AWESOME, IT NEEDS MORE GUNS AND MORE SWORDS THOUGH!"
Michael Trinity has completely forgotten about the 'dress code' thing, which is immediately apparent when he shows up wearing a faintly food-stained bright yellow shirt and pajama pants. The pants say 'One Hot Dude', and have pictures of tiny flaming jalapenos.
The jalapenos are wearing sunglasses.
"Right behind ya," he chirps, brushing past Louise, hilariously unaware of both his significance to her and, apparently, Leo's total fury. He's never been good at... reading situations. His boots (he got ONE correct thing on) are thrown up on the back of the chair in front of him as he crashes down in a seat, arms thrown out to drape on the backs of the chairs to either side. He tilts his head back, looking over, past Louise... right at Revive.
He squints, as though trying to figure something out. A moment later, he grumbles, "Damn," and faces forward again.
Mere moments after Revive and Louise enter the briefing room, Soma is there at the doorway. Unlike a certain happy-go-lucky smiling so-called person, she is in her A-LAWS uniform. As soon as she heard Leo was inbound to the Shirogane, she had changed and prepared herself. She knows quite well how her Captain feels about Yazan Gable, but there was no point to delaying or hiding that information.
Soma is a Super Soldier. She fights. She does not know this tact thing. She does not know how to break something gently. She definitely does not know how to help someone feel better over a loss. Not when her own emotions, if you could call them that, are still churning around inside of her. Soma does not have anyone she would actually call a friend, but Ralla is one of maybe four people who are as close to that designation as she is able to feel.
"Captain." Soma's hand snaps up in a sharp salute as she enters the room. She turns slightly and brings up another salute to Revive. For a brief moment after she looks at him, there is a perplexed expression on her face. Her mind can read the Quantum Brainwaves of others. There are a few, such as Warrant Officer Louise Halevy, who come in much more clear than others. Yet there is something strange about the feeling she gets from Revive Revival. This thought is filed away for now, however. There are more urgent things to take care of.
Michael likewise gets a silent look, but Soma's expression is somewhat different. Rather than looking perplexed, her expression is best summed up as annoyance. However, now is not the time to speak to the last remaining Trinity about dress code. This was, after all, a last-minute meeting. He may have been preparing for sleep. Or a taco-eating contest or something. Who knows?
No words escape Soma's lips as she strides closer to Leo, steadily holding her gaze on the angry young man. She expects a lot of yelling. As the highest ranked member of GNX team beneath the Captain, she has taken responsibility for the loss of their member. Most of that yelling will be--should be--directed at her. Soma is prepared for it.
Leo whips his head around to stare at Revive when he enters with Louise... and when the Innovade slaps the blonde woman on the butt to usher her further into the room, he briefly looks - as if it were even possible - even angrier. The fact that his eyes are suddenly aglow with yellow light, tiny beams lancing outwards in all directionds from his shrunken pupils, does a lot to help him look furious.
Leo stops muttering and starts simply running his tongue along his teeth, but his eyes stay fixed on Revive as Louise takes a seat, and Michael and Soma filter in. It is very probable that the only thing that keeps Leo from going over and breaking Revive Revival's nose is the certainty in his mind that the purple-haired man is 'with' Ribbons.
Apparently, the answer to Louise's question is 'yes'.
Leo continues pacing and staring at Revive until all three of his remaining wingmen are arranged in front of him. Only then does he slow to a halt and turn his eyes onto his team, his mouth drawn into a grim line.
"Two weeks," he repeats. Apparently, he's in no mood for greetings. "/Two weeks./ I was sure you could keep your /shit/ together for /two weeks./" As he speaks, he looks from Soma to Louise to Michael, and then back again, sweeping his gaze back and forth like a Metal Gear Solid security camera.
"She was alone," he continues, gesturing angrily with the device in his hand. He's obviously furious, but at least he isn't screaming anymore. "None of you were there with her. YOU," he begins accusingly, turning to Soma, "... have an excuse."
"But you two," he continues, looking back to Louise and Michael. "We're supposed to be a team. Where the fuck were you while this was going on, Michael?" he demands. He fixes his gaze on Louise, and his tone softens... but only a little. "Louise... how could you let this happen?"
Revive Revival remains standing. He hovers past the edge of the conference, pacing quietly, listening. He doesn't chicken out of the staring contest with Leo -- in fact, from the way his lips gently part in that damned smile of his, he seems to be enjoying it a little bit. There's something about looking Revive Revival in the eyes -- if you've got the same kind of vision that he has.
It's a lot like touching something cold and wet and wriggling in the dark.
Revive hooks his thumbs in the pockets of his pants, continuing to pace. He's spent the whole weekend explaining to Louise how to... /let/ things happen, to use Leo's words. How it's not her job to help anyone. How people like her and Leo -- people like her and Revive -- they're /special/ because they made themselves special. And if other people aren't special... then nothing is going to come of them until they can make themselves that way. And nothing that happens to them really matters. Because they're not special.
Not special like 'us.'
Revive Revival dulls his smile, pursing his lips gently. He really wants to hear how much of what he's been preaching has soaked in. When he walks, it becomes clear that there's a very thin line between the strut of a supermodel and the swagger of a cowboy.
If any separation exists at all.
Michael notices something, in the back of his mind. An odd kind of... connection with most of the people in the room. He has a certain awareness of Louise, Leo, and Revive, something he hasn't felt in a long time, since the last time he was with his family. He's never had that connection put into words, doesn't even think of it as anything other than being with his family. Despite Leo raging, he's relaxed - perhaps /max/ relaxed.
When Leo finally targets him, Mike's hand darts into his pocket, pulling out his security blan---knife. He starts cleaning his nails, looking at Leo with cool copper eyes. "Field tests for 'that' thing, man. They needed me and the Zwei. Oh man, it's almost done, just wait until you see it. You're gonna /cream--/"
Leo moves on to Soma before he can finish. Michael harrumphs sullenly, shooting her a mild hooded glower.
Louise's expression goes from confusion at her mental conflict to sheer, white-hot rage for an instant at the appearance of the uncaring Michael Trinity; however, she manages to cut it down when she remembers that she promised Leo -- and right now that promise is worth more than anything else in the world. He's hurting, so she has to be there for him. She has to be the closest thing he has to a soul -- just like Revive said.
Her head is spinning from the sheer intensity of emotion in the room. It's hard for her to even focus on Leo's question at first just because her mind is a jumble. Eventually, however, she manages to find the place where words attach to other words to form ideas with periods on the end and starts using it.
"I couldn't sortie," Louise starts, trying to remember /why/ she couldn't. Was that the day that... She shakes her head, saying, "I was on La Vie En Rose for a while -- they thought there'd be an attack, and with -- him -- testing something, they wanted at least /one/ of us out there..." And to be fair, they were right, but on entirely the wrong day.
An excuse. Soma does not like having an excuse. She wanted to be there. Even though the crew of the Nadesico often fell all over themselves to try to make her feel welcome, Soma never really... fit there. Many of them pushed so hard that she was compelled to withdraw in order to function at anything close to her optimum performance.
But the GNX team was different. They didn't try to change her. They didn't try to make her into anything she wasn't. They didn't try to turn everything in her room pink while she was gone for a day. They accepted her as she was. This was comfortable... even though a tiny voice in the back of Soma's head said that she -shouldn't- be comfortable. A soldier should not be. Soma hasn't gone soft yet, though, so the situation seems to be fine.
Still, she has accepted the team as family. A strange, twisted sort of family, but family nonetheless. To Soma, Louise was the younger sister. Leo was the take-charge brother. Michael was the uncle everyone liked to pretend they didn't know. And Ralla... Ralla was always there, and without her there, things were very much just not -right-.
As Revive and Leo continue to focus on one another, Soma finds it harder and harder to concentrate. Under optimal conditions, her helmet is able to block out excessive brainwaves. This is all well and good when she's piloting, but much less useful here. Add to that the fact that she's been even more sensitive than usual since the accident with the GN particles the other day, and she's getting the mental equivalent of being run over by a steamroller. Still, she fights hard to keep her focus, to push back the Quantum brainwaves assaulting her. She is only slightly successful. "Captain, if I may."
Concentrate, Soma. The Super Soldier closes her eyes briefly and takes a breath. "I believe that it is less important who is to blame than how we can find the Lieutenant. I believe that there is a good possibility she is still alive, even if my--our--searches have not yet located her."
Leo goes quiet again while Michael and Louise relay their excuses. He does not seem impressed, but he doesn't say anything... at least not yet. Soma speaks up, and it's her turn to be stared at as she launches into her role as the voice of reason.
She's right, of course. Leo takes a deep breath, and agrees, as levelly as he can, "I know."
"/But,/" he continues, turning to look at Michael again. "I didn't approve funding for your new toy so you could neglect your duties, Michael." His gaze moves to Louise, and he continues, "You should have been there anyways. They /might/ have attacked La Vie En Rose. They /were/ attacking Ralla. /You should have been there./"
"The suits," he rants with increasing fervor, lifting one hand to point in a random direction, presumably the direction that he suspects 'the suits' are in. "Can go /fuck/ themselves. We're supposed to be a /team,/" he repeats, moving his hand to jab his finger down at the ground. "We're supposed to /protect/ each other. We're supposed to be a /whole./"
"You, of all people, should know that, Michael," he asides with a sneer towards the sole surviving Trinity sibling.
"And now," Leo continues, turning to pace a few steps away, "Ralla's gone. She might - /might/ - still be alive. And if she is, we're going to find her. But if she isn't..." He trails off, which is far more worrisome than if he had continued ranting about the consequences.
When Leo jumps into his speech, Revive Revival stops pacing. He turns, slowly, on his heels, and faces the boy leader directly. Revive Revival's quantum brainwaves are probably the most powerful in the entire room -- granted, Soma's a little dynamo, but Revive can actually /harness/ his. He can achieve. He's special.
The leader of the GNZ Team walks forward, placing a hand on the back of an empty chair. He's not saying anything. He's not even really obtrusive in the way he steps forward. It's as if he belongs there, like he and the scenery were both elements in a painting, inseparable.
There's an extra chair in this room for a reason.
Drawing in a quiet breath, Revive Revival doesn't do much else other than think. The problem is -- everyone in this room is at the mercy, to one degree or another, of his thoughts. Revive Revival is a powerful broadcaster: it's part of how he influences people. How he charms them. But right now, he's not really thinking about being charming. He's thinking about how stupid this boy leader must be, to get so worked up over some machine cog. That Ralla is, was, whatever, part machine actually doesn't figure into Revive's judgment -- her sin is just being human.
The contempt and boredom roll out of Revive like waves of warm water. The unprotected mind could get a bit wet in a situation like that. Could mistake thoughts for their own. Could lower the mood a bit.
Revive's still smiling.
Louise's head, still a jumble, tries to make sense of Leo's progressively more incoherent rambling; she doesn't manage it. Instead, she just finds herself getting frustrated -- why does /she/ have to be here? She asked, but now she regrets it -- Leo's being irrational and bitchy and /Michael's/ here and Soma is no Goddamn help whatsoever.
Groaning a little, she says, "I'm sorry, but after the dressing-down I got from you and everyone else /last/ time I didn't listen to the 'suits' I think I'm going to stick with following orders." Her teeth grind a little, subconsciously, for just a moment. That feeling of contempt rises in her more and more.
"We should just move on -- someone probably just dug her out of the cockpit and buried her. She's /gone/." Would he get this worked up about her, she wonders? Or is he just stringing her along? The question certainly rises in her mind.
"It's not a /toy/," Michael complains, frowning. Of course Leo can't grasp it, he doesn't know what it's /like./ Deride him for not fitting into some whole? These people are nothing like Johann and Nena! They /were/ one.
Michael looks to the empty seats to either side of him, and locks his eyes at Leo. "It's the machine that's holding all of our memories. It's the /machine/ that's gonna /fix/ what went wrong!" He starts spinning the knife in his hands, eyes slipping into the middle distance. "Whatever... whatever! If Machinegirl's gone she couldn't hack it anyway. Either she'll be fine or, well... oh well!"
This entire debriefing is getting more and more uncomfortable. Soma feels more and more pressure in her head, and it's starting to get to her. "A team..." Right. They're a team. And without Ralla, the team is incomplete. She'l just -have- to find Ralla. Things must be made complete again. It just didn't feel right without her there.
This entire thing was a waste of time. They should be out looking for Ralla, not talking about it. Not blaming each other. What was done is done, but they can still save their teammate. Soma shouldn't be here. She shouldn't be listening to Leo. She sho-- That perplexed look returns to Soma's face. Why was she thinking things like that? She has never in her entire -life- felt bored. Has never felt that a short debriefing was a waste of time. Why was she thinking this now? It must be some leftover GN particle radiation from her recent overexposure. That has to be it. For now, Soma attempts to push those thoughts out of her mind... and is instantly annoyed when she finds that she -can't-. Just what did those particles -do- to her?
If nothing else, the inability to control her own thoughts is making Soma more irritable. When Louise speaks up, the Super Soldier turns and snaps, much louder and angrier than she intended, "She isn't dead! Lieutenant Triald is still alive and I'm going to find her!" Her hands curl into fists, fingernails digging sharply into the palms. "She is -not- a machine." Says the Super Soldier with nearly the same issues as Ralla.
Only after her outburst does Soma register what she did. She forces her hands to relax and takes another breath. "I apologize, Warrant Officer Halevy. Captain Stenbuck." But not to Michael. Why should she? "I am merely concerned for Lieutenant Triald's well-being." Amber eyes look toward Leo, a determined focus in them as Soma tries to keep the correct thoughts in her head and continuously fails. But she keeps -trying-. "My Smultron is still undergoing repairs after the recent battle at La Vie en Rose, but I would like to continue searching nonetheless."
Revive Revival, Innovade at large, is spraying quantum brainwaves everywhere up in this biznitch. And, indeed, they appear to be working their magic on everyone in the room. Everyone... except for Leo.
Maybe this has something to do with how the quantum brainwaves that Leo, himself, is broadcasting, are barely even the equivalent of background static. It's like his brain is spewing the thoughtwave equivalent of a modem trying to call a nonexistent number over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and-
And then Louise starts complaining, and Leo's head rotates with the mechanical precision of something out of The Neo-Exorcist towards Louise. And he just... stares, mouth slightly agape. It's obvious he's furious; not just from his face, but from the rage pouring out of him. It's most obvious to Soma, thanks to her less... specific, let's say, abilities, but Louise gets a huge helping of it too, thanks to how close she and Leo are.
That fury just keeps building on itself as Soma and Michael speak; he doesn't even acknowledge them. This kind of anger has /momentum/. This is the kind of anger that made Amuro Ray see the fucking Devil at Solomon. This is the kind of anger that's making Newtypes awake on the other side of the ship start to panic and hyperventilate, for reasons totally unbeknownst to them.
And then, as Soma is finishing her comment about the Smultron's repairs, completely without warning Leo lifts his right hand and backhands Louise Halevy across the face.
Michael Trinity announces, a few scant seconds after the moment of impact, "Uh ohhhhh!"
The hostility toward Louise almost bowls her over right then and there. Having interacted the least with Triald, it's no surprise that she cares the least about her loss -- or at least, it likely shouldn't be that surprising. What is a little more surprising than that, however, is the result of that hostility.
If two days ago Louise had been told that Leo would strike her in anger she would have had a great laugh at someone's expense and then went and listened to Revive play the Panty Melt again. It's happening, though -- and because of that complete gap between the actual and the expected, Louise can't even process what's happening until she's already been struck across the face.
Her knees buckle in sheer shock -- Leo hit her. /Leo/ hit /her/. Leo, who had promised to destroy Gundam when she couldn't -- Leo, who was everything Saji had been but in a position where her wounds couldn't harm him, couldn't slow him down the way they would slow down Saji -- hit her. She drops to her knees, and once her mind fully processes what just happened, finds no option save to start sobbing.
A hand fumbles in her pocket for a moment -- but this isn't her uniform, she realizes, her pills aren't even here. With no other recourse, she just cries louder.
SOME TIME AGO
Revive Revival is herding Louise out of her room. "Come on, come on," he murmurs, not impatiently, but more as a gentle nag. As Louise gets dressed, he glances at one of the bottles of pills littering the room -- easy access no matter where Louise is.
Discreetly, Revive pockets the bottle. It's always good to have a backup plan, just in case things go south.
When Louise falls to her knees, blubbering, Revive Revival is just -- /there/. He moves forward so quickly it's like he didn't even have to take a step, let alone the few that he did. He positions himself directly between Leo and Louise. His thoughts aren't full of boredom and contempt now. He's not flooding the room with that anymore. Now, Revive Revival realizes, is the time for charm. For tact. For compassion.
He's so damn good at faking that human bullshit, he could kiss himself.
Standing there for a second to make it clear that Louise won't be struck again, Revive turns his back on Leo, kneeling to get in close to his young protege. "Louise. Louise. Louise. Don't cry," he says. "You're stronger than that, okay? Don't let this guy bully you." The other day, Revive Revival said that Leo was the closest thing Louise had to a soul. He can't help but think back to that, and how accurate it turned out to be. "Here. I've got your pills. Okay? Okay. Just... you have to stop crying if you want your pills." The display is grotesque. "There. There. There. Stop crying. Open your mouth. Tongue. Come on, let me see that tongue. Okay. Here. I'm gonna hold on to the bottle. Now, now, swallow."
Revive Revival sounds like a mother. He sounds like a friend. He sounds calm and serene and soothing. He's a tape of ocean noise. "There's a girl. There's a girl."
When Revive stands, he coaxes Louise to follow, but keeps one arm draped around her, protectively. "Well," Revive says, giving Leo an exasperated grin. "I thought we'd have ourselves a reasonable discussion, Leo!" There's almost a hint of a bitter laugh at the end, but that part never comes. "So, this leadership style, does it work for you?"
Revive looks down at Louise in his grasp, then over at Soma and Michael. Then back to Leo. That smile is still there, but it's brittle, weary. His tone is righteous. Indignant. He forces his thoughts to match. Who is Leo Stenbuck to do that? Who is this Jovian fucking punk kid to beat up his /family/?
"You come back from your leave and yes, I sympathize, this is a most unfortunate situation," Revive continues, "but your first move -- your /very first move/ -- was not to draft a plan of action, or to assess the situation, debrief your team members, get a plan in motion... No. It wasn't any of that. The first thing you did was blame them. Your Liutenant here -- she's been working like a dog, like a /dog/ for her /master/, trying to find the missing piece of your team. But you weren't interested in that, you're interested in your tantrum, in your stomping and shouting. And when faced with dissent? You /hit/ her, Leo. You struck her like she was an animal. Like she was nothing to you. But she's part of your /team/, Leo. Did you really think that would motivate her to go look for Ralla? Is that the kind of leader you are?"
Revive isn't finished. "I'll tell you what kind of leader you are. A bad one. Now. I'm a reasonable man. You might be, too. I'm not really /sure/ of that right now." Revive's grip stays tight around Louise, and tightens further when he says that. "But I'm willing to forget about this. On the condition that you get your shit together, and get it fast. Because until you do, Leo, you're not in charge of the GNX Team."
Wait for it.
Wait forrr iiit.
Revive Revival can't keep the cruel smile off his face when he says, "And if you've got a problem with that... talk to /him/."
That additional battering of static from Leo's mind is not helping Soma's concentration at all. She's fighting hard just to keep herself thinking straight. But it's like trying to hold back a flood with an umbrella. Her helmet... if only Soma had her flight helmet, she could put it on and be able to focus enough to block out those unwanted thoughts. She enjoyed the feeling of being able to sense everythingand not be overwhelmed by it.
But here, in this room, things were different. Her helmet wasn't here. There was just so much mental pressure that Soma's little umbrella was not nearly enough to keep anything off her. Slowly, her hands curl into fists again. This time, it isn't out of anger, but in an attempt to apply brute force to get those thoughts out of her head. If she could only focus enough...
Soma finally feels that she is making some headway. Her thoughts are her own. She can do this. And then the wave of aggression hits. With it comes pain, as Leo's emotions are forced into Soma's head. It's so forceful, pounding against her head. "Aa....a..." Then Leo lifts his hand, and several things happen. Soma's hands fly to the sides of her head, and the Super Soldier nearly doubles over, a wordless scream of pain tearing from her throat. She doesn't even recognize that she's doing it. When Leo's hand connects with Louise's face, Soma falls to her knees in a way that would be very painful if only she could feel anything but the pounding in her brain. Under ordinary circumstances, something would be done right away. Soma was rodered from above that part of her duties were to protect Louise. Make sure she is happy. Make sure she is safe. Let no harm come to her.
Soma has failed to uphold this. She opens her mouth, only to find that it is already open and still screaming. Then, just as suddenly as the pressure began... it begins to ease up. To Soma, it seems like that lasted for hours. In reality, it was more like a few seconds. It still hurts. There is still quite a lot of pressure. But without Revive leaning on the whole room, Soma is able to find the strength to fight back.
Amber eyes shift over toward Revive and Louise for an instant. The blonde is being taken care of... good. Shakily, Soma gets to her feet. "I was..." Her voice is rather soft. Not as strong or as forceful as it usually is. And yet, there is something behind it, like a lion preparing to pounce. Or perhaps like a panda preparing to devour bamboo... okay, so pandas aren't very ferocious. Just run with the analogy. "I was tasked to keep Ms. Louise safe. Leo Stenbuck..." No 'Captain' this time. No 'Warrant Officer Halevy.' Things have shifted. Now there is more rage, but this time, it's radiating out from Soma. She takes a single step forward and darts out one hand, straight for Leo's throat. "You will not strike her."
Michael's eyes slide to Revive. Who the hell is this dude, anyway? The boredom and listlessness are drifting away, but if Revive is trying to emit some kind of 'let's all be chill now bros' wave, well. Michael is way better at being a bored dick than a warm person. It's kind of his thing.
He spins the knife around his finger, jabbing it down into the empty seat in front of him where his feet just were. "Hey, hey, hey!" He starts. Michael stands up, his seat skidding loudly on the floor. "Who the hell do you think you are, sayin' shit like that? This ain't your team, you can't roll on in and--"
Soma screams, and that takes Michael completely off his momentum. Yakuzamouth transitions right to a wince, and he steps back, looking at Soma like you'd look at a cat totally losing its shit at some dust or something. That's right, Whitey, the one he's barely met. His hand instinctively goes to the knife embedded in the seat, yanking it out and twirling it once in his hand.
Soma swings for Leo, and like a collapsing Jenga tower of alliances, it's WWII time.
"Hey, HEY!" Michael charges right in, kicking the chair in front of him over, shoving another one aside, aiming to barrel shoulder-first into Soma. The oldest and tallest here, he packs a surprising amount of force in his body. Eyes alight, he flips his knife in the air in front of him, catches it in a backhand grip, and presents it forward. The sonic blade is on, the weapon vibrating and emitting a high, piercing buzz. "Get /your/ hand offa Leo!"
He did make a promise, after all.
The instant Louise starts crying, Leo's anger dissolves completely, and every Newtype on the Shirogane is left wondering if they were just raped by some sort of passing demon.
He never even consciously chose to do it. He just- he was just so /angry/, and- ... and now he's done something that he can never take back. Soma's screams of pain echo in his ears, but he barely even parses them; they're coming from somewhere else. They're not important. Because they're not Louise's.
Leo stares numbly down at Louise for a split second, and then suddenly Revive Revival is there, swooping in like a bird of prey, cramming those fucking /pills/, the pills that he wishes she'd stop taking, that she doesn't need, down her throat.
Leo opens his mouth to speak, desperate to fit a word in edgewise, and suddenly Soma's hand is closing around his throat. This little fact goes a great deal towards making sure Revive is allowed to keep talking, keep trying to work his influence on the GNX Team.
Leo doesn't struggle against Soma's grip. He's aware of her hand on his throat, and also aware - if more dimly - that she's furious with him. She should be. He fucked up, and bad. But she's choking him, and Revive won't /shut the fuck up/ and let him apologize, let him try to make things right--
-- and then Michael is tackling Soma off of him, and another wave of despair washes out of Leo's heart. Everything's falling to shit, and he doesn't even have a chance to fix it, because Revive keeps /talking/, keeps making things worse, which--
-- is... exactly the point, Leo realizes. He may only be sixteen, but he's been balls-deep in military politick for the last year and a half, most of it under the tutelage of Paptimus Scirocco, and for all of his faults, Leo is a very fast learner.
The young man's eyes harden, and he fixes them on Revive Revival's. His anger at Ralla's disappearance, at the perceived failure of his wingmen, is replaced by spite. Spite for Revive. It does an excellent job at focusing his thoughts.
For the first time, it works to Leo's benefit that the GNX Team is a collection of sociopaths and nutjobs; it's harder to mentally influence someone who is, frankly, psychotic. You want to play, cocksucker? Leo thinks.
"Both of you, stop it," Leo snaps, wheeling to face Michael and Soma, his tone laden with authority. "My fuckup does /not/ excuse your behavior. Soma... you're right. I shouldn't have done that, and I'm ashamed that I did. You have every right to be angry at me."
Leo turns back to Revive and Louise, and glides around the kneeling woman to the side of her opposite Revive. "Louise," he murmurs, lowering himself to a kneel next to her and wrapping one of his arms around her waist. "I'm so sorry... I just... what if it had been Soma? Or /you?/ If something happened to you, I'd..."
He trails off, and lifts his eyes back to Michael and Soma. "Both of you, leave us alone. It's late... get some sleep and calm down." He swings his gaze around to Revive, and says, simply, "If you would be so kind, Captain Revival...?"
He manages to keep the challenge off of his face... but not out of his eyes.
Revive Revival's eyebrows raise, and his tongue glides over his lower lip. To this beautiful, ageless creature, the game started as soon as he set foot on the ship. That Leo's taken this long to catch up means nothing more than the completeness of Revive's head start. A dry, disbelieving laugh sputters out of his lips. "Kind?" Revive asks, as if Leo were trying to tell him a joke.
"Kindness! You mean, like the kindness you just showed, to a woman who adores you. I can show you /that/ sort of kindness. I /would/ be so kind, Leo." Which is to say, Revive does not let go of Louise. He doesn't even make it seem like it's an option.
"Leo, you really don't seem to realize what kind of shit you're in." Revive shakes his head, as if Leo were someone to be pitied. "Kid... it's like there was a sword laying there and not only did you have to jump on it, you had to shove everyone else out of the way to do it. But like I said. I'm reasonable. I'm giving you a chance. Because we have a mutual friend, Leo. And he expects big things of you."
Revive's tone grows minutely colder. "And if you fuck that up with your schoolboy abusive-boyfriend 'oh I didn't really mean it' bullshit, then I'll put a bullet in your brain myself and give your body to Healing." Revive doesn't seem to care that everyone else just heard that. "Now. Warrant Officer Halevy. Lieutenant Peries. You're with me. We're going to look over the data regarding Lieutenant Triald's disappearance. You, Mister Trinity, can go back to your quarters and finish jerking off or whatever it is you do to get all that testosterone out. And you, Captain Stenbuck... I don't even know what to do with you yet. I think letting you think about what you've done is a fine start."
Revive Revival leaves. He motions for the women to follow. It's not really a request -- but somehow, some way, it doesn't really feel like an order, either. More like... an enticement.
"Like I said, Leo. Get your act together. When I can trust you, /he/ can trust you. And when he can trust you... you get to be a big boy again."
TO: A-LAWS / GENERAL
FROM: PARADIGM-1 (CAPT. REVIVAL, R.)
SUBJECT: UPDATE: GNX TEAM
Until further notice, the GNX Team (Captain Stenbuck, L.; First Lieutenant Peries, S.; Lieutenant Triald, R.; Warrant Officer Halevy, L.; Rank Unknown Trinity, M.) will be considered, for all administrative, organizational, and tactical intents and purposes, to be an adjunct of the GNZ Team, under the command of Captain Revive Revival, callsign Paradigm-1.
Captain Stenbuck, callsign Jinx-1, has been indefinitely relieved of duty as GNX Team Leader, pending resolution to ongoing disputes regarding team management and discipline.
Any questions should be directed to Captain Revival, callsign Paradigm-1.