|Summary: Rachel has a few tests done en route back to Merida Island.|
It took the de Danaan a full week to get to Gibraltar, even with its powerful engines, taking the long route - going around the entire South American continent, because going through Panama could have potentially given away the de Danaan's location.
Tessa said they'd be taking a shortcut back. What exactly that means she has been rather coy about.
The de Danaan's medical facilities are pretty typical for a ship, albeit quite nice for a /submarine/. Tessa has asked Rachel to come this way once most of the David's Sling pilots had scattered back to their ships, to have ship's medic Peggy Goldberry look her over and prepare for the operation. And...perhaps find out some other things, as well. Like just what all those GN particles did to her.
Peggy Goldberry is a plump black woman with a kind face, her black hair tied up in rows which are then tied up in a bun at the back of her head. Tessa waits inside the medical bay - to explain what exactly they're going to be doing. And to ask Rachel for her thoughts, one more time.
The feeling that they evoke is something that is still relatively foreign to her, something that she can't explain. It makes a cold, unfamiliar feeling swell through her chest. Or... perhaps 'swell' isn't the appropriate word. It crawls through every part of her, from her heart to her shoulders and hips, through her arms and legs, all the way to the tips of her fingers and toes. It crawls up her spine and puts a slight shiver through her body.
This feeling has only seemed to crop up in the last month, too. She knows that she doesn't have a full grasp on her emotions yet, even if she's made admirable leaps and bounds toward the goal. She knows that, and yet-- she still doesn't fully understand her emotions, but she's become more accepting of them. That chilling feeling that traces up and down her spine as though ice-cold fingers were running along the skin of her back-- that's fear.
The presence of Tessa and Dr. Goldberry are the reassurances of the girl sitting on one of the beds afforded to the infirmary, what keep her emotions in check yet still. In this state, hair clipped back from her face and wearing a hospital gown with scrub pants, her knees up to her chest and arms wrapped around her legs, Rachel Miu Athha hardly seems to be acting like the sixteen-year old seasoned combat pilot that she is-- in fact, this nervousness is more in line with a child.
She's just waiting to be told something.
Everyone's afraid of the doctor - but Rachel, perhaps has better reasons than most.
Tessa didn't show up soon enough - it is surprisingly difficult to navigate a magical cavern that leads to a parallel universe. So now Tessa is standing - in her tan officer's uniform - opposite a frightened Rachel Miu Athha, with Peggy Goldberry busily preparing various implements, /some/ of them involving needles, and at least one of which is a /razor/.
For the skin scraping, see. Can't clone a foot without some of the original foot. Tessa looks unnerved, murmuring, "I'm sorry, Rachel. I got caught up in navigation - I wanted to speak to you before you got dressed." She looks up, offering a timid smile. "Please forgive me. Doctor Goldberry is going to give you some simple tests and take some samples in preparation for the various things we've discussed. Since it sounds like you haven't had an opportunity to see a physician regarding your...exposure..." Tries hard not to frown, only kind of succeeds, "I thought it would be a good time to do that, as well."
She tries her best to keep up a brave front-- though it isn't very convincing. The nervousness written into her body language and features, the way she shifts... the white-haired girl takes a moment before she shakes her head, the corners of her mouth quirking upward in a way that the Captain of the Danaan is no doubt familiar with by now. "It's all right, Captain Tessa," she says.
Using her hands to scoot to the edge of the bed, Rachel allows her legs to dangle over the edge, hands coming to rest in her lap. She's taking a few deep breaths to get herself properly centered, trying to blast out that nervousness the best she can. "You also want to get potential research data from a fresh subject while you have the chance, too, I'm betting."
Then, she winces.
"Um. ... That ... that came out wrong."
Tessa's eyes fall away, unable to make contact. Ouch.
"I wouldn't put it that way myself," she murmurs. "..." A slow, unhappy breath, fingers twitching uneasily, but she does look back up, nodding slowly. "It's alright," she says. "Even though I'm sure you've had enough of such things for a lifetime...you're not mistaken. Everything we can learn can be used." She smiles. There's a sincerity there - even though she tries to keep a certain professional distance with most people, Tessa does what she can to be earnest. "At least," she admits, "that's the hope."
She takes another step forward, away from the edge of the room, but letting Rachel keep her personal space. She holds up a finger. "We'll be trying to see just how the GN exposure has affected your body. A-LAWS asserts that the orange particles are largely harmless, and we've managed to confirm that with our own Tau drive." Mithril has one!? "But, still...given the catastrophic effects of GN poisoning..." A sad smile. Better safe, she does not say, than sorry. "I may need to ask you to see some other specialists, eventually, depending on the results, but...for now, let's focus on the basics."
Another finger rises. "We'll also be taking measurements of your eye socket for the implant. There are...some choices, you'll need to make, on that front." Another finger, because that last one wasn't traumatic enough: "And...we will be taking skin scrapings and samples for that cloning project I told you about." That is to say, the one where they falsify Ralla's death. "But before we do that, I...thought I should talk to you about it one more time."
The moment those words leave her mouth, her gaze turns downward, as though she were expecting to be reprimanded by a parent for breaking something on the shelf. Rachel can't keep up that "not-frowning" expression, either, giving in instead to the desire to do so-- and letting one hand wring on the other a little in the process.
Still, at least Tessa isn't yelling.
"I'm ... I'm sorry."
Rachel doesn't make eye contact, at least not immediately. Still, she looks up-- and that's at least a small plus. "I understand, Captain Tessa. I just... how..." She brings one hand up to her lip as it draws in, as she chews on it a little bit. Her left hand seems to grip at the bed a little bit, as though she were pretending it was someone's hand. "I feel like, the more that I talk about it, the more that I think about it... the more that I feel nervous about it. With all things being equal, I would almost rather we... just get on with it."
She seems to smile for real now, albeit nervously. "I feel like if I don't move forward..."
Rachel shakes her head, putting things aside in her mind-- the fact that Mithril has a Tau drive (which honestly isn't that surprising to her considering what the organization does have), especially with the procedures they're about to engage in. Swallowing hard, she moves her hands to her lap again. Something's on her mind, of course, but she knows talking about it now would just make her upset-- and Dr. Goldberry probably doesn't need that.
Tessa doesn't need that.
"Please don't look like that," Tessa murmurs, helplessly. God, she looks like a whipped dog. Tessa just wants to hug her, forever. But Tessa endures as Cagalli somehow does, hands folded in front of her, properly. "That's...fine," she says, with a small nod. "I'm sorry, Rachel."
Another step forward - quieter, earnest, she explains herself: "I know...what goes on in a Cyber Newtype's head. Roughly, at least. I know the impulses they train them with. I know the effects of the drugs they use. I'm being cautious with this, because I want...I want to be absolutely certain that you are making this choice because it is your choice. And I'm so, so sorry..." Her eyes hood, but she does her best to look up again, right at Rachel - locking eyes, if she can. "I know it hurts. I'm sorry."
Her hands wring, momentarily, and she steps back, breaking off her gaze - not entirely certain what else to say.
Tessa explains herself.
Tessa looks her right in the eye.
Then, again, she looks unsure. She looks nervous. She looks down, away, away from Tessa, away from Dr. Goldberry, and away from the floor. She looks nervous, and then speaks after a few moments of hesitation. "I don't ... I don't know."
"I don't know why I get out of bed in the morning. I don't know why everyone is so nice to me despite who I am, and what I did to you all. I don't know why Amuro wants to help me, and I don't know why Cagalli didn't shoot me. I don't ... There is so much I don't know, Tessa. I don't know it, and all of it scares me half to death."
There's mist in her eye. "I don't know why I feel like this. Why I cry all the time. Why I have nightmares. I don't know why going against everything that I've ever been taught and felt feels like the right decision. I -- I don't know. I don't know if I'm defective or if I'm a real person. I don't know if anyone that's ever known me will look at me the same way again. I don't ... I don't know if Cagalli really does forgive me."
"I just. Don't. Know."
When she looks at Tessa again, there's determination in her eye. She doesn't want to cry, but that misty eye begins to well up anyway. Her hands curl up into small fists. "But I don't want to go back to being the way I was."
One of those small fists lifts up a little bit.
"I want to believe. I really do want to. In you, in Amuro, in Cagalli... and these feelings I have now."
Tessa takes this in, and then glances over at Peggy - who nods, patiently, and steps away. A few seconds later, the door to the medical bay seals with a soft chime, while Peggy goes to get coffee.
Tessa doesn't move closer - doesn't hug the somewhat broken girl in front of her, or make any motion toward her. If anything, she senses that fire in her heart, and feeds on it.
She doesn't forgive her, Tessa thinks, some distant, cynical part. Why do you think she did this? She needs to believe in you as much as you need to believe in her. And I...I have to keep you from destroying each other.
She doesn't say that. She can feel it - the curl of that instinctive newtype resonance trying to find its way into her heart, and she slaps it away like a snake, knowing the consequences if there is even a moment's connection. She doesn't look up - meditating, for a few moments, on the things she had heard, and what they mean to the things she knows.
"I can't help you with that," she says, eyes locked on some nebulous point in the middle distance which intersects her line of sight roughly with Rachel's feet. "But that determination will see you through."
Her eyes tick up, slowly, finally landing on Rachel, and earning her a nod and a smile. "It does get better," she says. "I know it doesn't seem like it ever will. But it does." Of course, that's provided...they don't notice. But Tessa has to keep one step ahead - she's promised.
Tessa doesn't know if anyone else will ever forgive this girl for the things she has done. Tessa cannot, really, be certain that she would be able to find it in her heart to forgive her if the downed battleship had been the de Danaan. She can only do what people of conviction have always done: Move forward, hoping to God they have not strayed.
The doctor leaves, and leaves the two of them alone. Part of her is worried, because it means Tessa wants to talk to her alone about something-- about something important. That one small fist still in her lap shifts a bit, getting a small grip of the material that makes up the scrub pants accompanying the hospital gown.
Rachel brings her fist up to her face, though her fingers unclench. The first thing she does is rub her eye to get that mist out of it; the effect ends up breaking up the watering in her eyes letting a few more tears roll down her face. Still, she seems to keep her composure. Still, she keeps her head on straight, and nods slowly.
Things get better.
"... I ... I want to believe," she repeats, voice quiet.
There's so much she has to do. There's so much she wants to make up for. Three hundred lives are irreplacable, and she knows that. Still...
"Let's... let's get this going, then." Her hand lifts to the patch that covers her left eye, as well as part of the scars on the left side of her face, as if she could feel her own touch through the synthetic fabrics and metal bindings. "... and one day I can ... try to find a way to repay you..."
In truth, Tessa just wanted Rachel to have time to break down in relative peace, if she needed it.
Tessa tactfully refrains from pointing out that Rachel is crying; she just waits, watching, her head spinning on a dozen tracks at once. She's worried - even if orange GN particles really are non-toxic, the levels of exposure Rachel had could very well have changed that; /many/ engines become lethal if they rupture, after all, and many chemicals that are normally benign become deadly in large enough doses. A catastrophic failure of the engine containment, dumping the entire supply of particles into Rachel's body...no, who knows what kind of effect that could have? She wants to know. For Rachel's sake, and for Cagalli's as well. Cagalli is trying so hard to have faith in her, and Tessa needs to make sure that that effort is not in vain. She wonders, though - dimly, thoughtfully, if Cagalli's efforts will falter. The girl is so hot blooded, so furious, and Rachel did something awful to Cagalli, as well.
But that is part of the symbolism of killing Ralla Traln Triald. There is a psychological effect beyond the simple desired effect of shaking the EFA's search for good. There is no turning back, for anyone.
Tessa hums, and nods. "Dana," she says. "Page Doctor Goldberry, tell her I need her back here after all."
A voice echoes - from everywhere, a neutral, feminine tone: "Yes, Captain."
Tessa takes a slow, deep breath, while waiting for Peggy to get back with her coffee, and then smiles. "You're already repaying me," she says. "I'm not sure you know how much."
The moment the scrapings are taken, the moment the wheels in Mithril's considerable scientific and intelligence networks begin making their moves. The moment that Peggy Goldberry returns to the room... that will be the point of no return. Even now, she's wanted to call Leo so many times to say that she's alive. That she's all right. She wants to tell him so badly, and she's had the comm in her hand and ready to punch up his personal line.
Once, she punched in the entirety of the number. Her thumb hovered over the small "call" icon. It hovered there, and she stared at it for a long and difficult moment.
Then, she shut the comm off and threw it across the room, falling to her knees and crying loudly, all by herself.
There's still so much she has to figure out, and she can't do it in the A-LAWS. They would never allow her to retain her free will. They would never allow her to resume her duties, shipped off to a lab if not locked away in the smallest concrete cell in the bottom of some underground hell-prison where no one would ever hear from her again.
If they even allowed her to live.
Her hand pulls away from her eye. She isn't wearing her contact lens today, meaning her eye appears blue. The look in her face suggests that she has no idea what Tessa means by this, right down to the cant of her head.
"Thank you, Tessa."
Tessa can't tell Rachel what the right thing to do is, because there is no such thing. If she continues the charade - stays in Katharon, but allows the ruse of Ralla being 'alive' to continue - then everyone is hurt. Her indecision hurts her ability to move forward. The lingering question of their loved one hurts those she has left behind. But if she lets them know...they'll want her back. They'll say Katharon has done to her what Katharon says A-LAWS did first. And who's to say? In the end, it's all a sick game of manipulation, after all. Tessa and Amuro and Cagalli want to relate to Rachel as a human being, but they also want her to think certain things...it's why, normally, rehab is handled by outside parties. Parties trained to encourage rehabilitation without the moral weight of those ex-soldiers then wondering who their new friends want them to kill to make up for it. And of course...
If they kill Ralla, everything changes. Rachel Miu Athha will never be able to return to what she was. The people she cared for in A-LAWS will mourn, but they'll also be able to move on. The people of Katharon...
Well, it will be a step, anyway.
She can't tell Rachel any of this. Rachel probably doesn't want to hear it. That's fine.
She gives that little smile, staying where she is, but happy just the same - for what it's worth, anyway. Tessa can't really tell her, anyway - the ways Rachel is returning Tessa's own favor. The knowledge of a job well done. The emotional stability she's brought to Tessa's rare friend, Cagalli.
Needing someone, and meeting a group of people who more than anything need to be needed.
A step forward, and Tessa dares to rest her hand on the back of Rachel's. "You're welcome, Rachel," she says, smiling.