|Summary: Katharon's confidence in Celestial Being evaporates.|
THE PTOLEMAIOS II
The massive boat known as the Ptolemaios II (see above) rumbles through space peacefully, gliding through the void, blocked from sensor readings via its powerful GN jamming field. Not everyone is forced to look away, though -- today, the Ptolemaios crew is having friends over for dinner.
Well, not dinner, really, but more an informal 'get to know you' kind of thing. Truth be told, Feldt Grace isn't really sure /what/ she's doing, and that's the whole problem, isn't it? For months, now, Celestial Being has functioned in relative isolation, always the most distant cousin on the Katharon family tree. But now, that period seems to have drawn to a close, as the pink-haired young woman has summoned various branches of the Katharon organization to the Celestial Being mothership.
Feldt's communique announcing it was kind of jumbled, kind of vague. It spoke mostly of 'enhancing diplomatic relations and strengthening core communicational values' another buzzwords that suggest it was written by a space alien who had maybe heard of corporate culture in a book once.
And now Feldt and Anew Returner are sitting in a meeting hall, waiting, in awkward silence. Representatives of the Orb Islands -- MITHRIL -- Katharon. They put out some snacks and drinks. It honestly looks kind of really extremely sad.
After her last trip to the Ptolemaios, Cagalli simultaneously feels exceptionally awkward coming to it and exceptionally obligated to help them out. The result, of course, is that she goes to this informal get-together and promptly finds herself feeling exceptionally awkward.
At first, she'd chalked Feldt's awkward message up to the fact that Feldt is kind of awkward; once she arrives, however, she gets the real picture, which is that Feldt kind of has no idea what she's doing. She awkwardly hangs in the doorway for a minute before stepping into the meeting hall proper, glancing over at the snacks and drinks.
"Uh..." she starts, glancing between the two. Then to the snacks. Then to just Anew. Then to just Feldt. "... hi," she finishes awkwardly.
"So this is Celestial Being's flagship..."
At last in space, at last in the hangar of the Ptolemaios II, she's taken the liberty of making sure their transport is properly secured for the purposes of this "mission;" part of her seemingly perpetual desire to be helpful to everyone at all times. After that, it doesn't take long for her to follow the verbal instructions Cagalli left her; pushing off and gliding into the halls.
A short time later, the white-haired Rachel Miu Athha makes it to the entrance of the meeting room by way of the automatic guide-rails. Releasing her grip early and touching down, she sticks her head in and looks around with all the nervousness and awkwardness of a teenager that has no idea what they're doing anywhere.
But, her sister is here?
Taking a careful step inside, Rachel moves to stand next to the elder Princess of Orb, hands folding in front of her a bit awkwardly-- and her left eye is still covered with a bit of gauze and a white medical-style eyepatch. Turning to Anew and Feldt, her hand lifts lightly. "H-Hello..."
Teletha Testarossa briefly considered the possibility that this is a trap of some kind. But while Sumeragi's competence has been at issue, lately, she's never shown anything like malfeasance - ignorance, perhaps, but even when Celestial Being spun the old Orb Union movement on its head, the problems did not come from this ship. Much. So when Feldt Grace submits the coordinates of Ptolemy for a meeting, Tessa decides she may as well attend.
When she shows up, floating down the halls of Ptolemy with the unease of a lifelong earthnoid, she is dressed in her usual tan Mithril's officer uniform. She appears behind Cagalli and Rachel, which is to say she actually pushes off the ground a little and floats above them like an evil ghost, because Tessa is really tiny. "Hello, everyone," she says, frowning because that really is kind of pathetic.
Where would a princess be without her knight errent? In a much better position then if Kurz Weber had tagged along instead. Hah, see what I did there? Bait and switch, baby, Alright.
Kurz moon walks in Tessa's wake, his steps shallow bounces rather then the strange shuffles and slides that share the same moniker. He can't help but love the combination of weak gravity and skirts.
"Eh, you're all crowding up in the door?" observes Kurz as he brings up the rear, hands stretched out to herd and usher them in, "What is this, some kind of junior high dance?" he chides with a smile, seeming to almost be ready to shove the sisters Attha in ahead and haul Tessa in like a thanksgiving day parade float.
A young blond haired man stood staring up at one of the Gundams that were housed in the hanger of the Ptolemaios. It was undergoing several engineering checks and rechecks before the next slated mission. The expression on the man's face was very recognisable. Recognisably pissed. His gaze was fixed on the machine's back, more specifically one of the GN Drives that powered it. His mouth twitched as if he wanted to spit, and instead spun on a heel to stalk right back out-- ignoring the similar treatment for now that was undergoing another Gundam...One outfitted with a GN Particle Tank.
"I do not understand why you are still sulking like a petulant child." A distinctly female voice enquired from a cosplayer's otaku heaven: Loli dressed in a gothic lacy cat-girl ensemble, down to a languidly swaying tail. The stoic expression varied none at all as she looked up at the still scowling Meister of Ferchete. "The GN Drive was never yours to begin with, and though nolonger having access to the TransAM mode, the level of your recent missions would not have required it." A pause as the man ignored her, looking straight on ahead. "Don't get any ideas to reprocure it for our duration here." Was that a brief grimace? "Your collar may nolonger be conneced to VEDA, but I and those of rank in Celestial Being still have access to it."
"Thanks for the useless reminder Hanayo." His voice dripped sarcasm. Atleast he didn't have to wear the cuffs. Probably had to do with some bruhaha aboard the ship, wouldn't look too good. Also no doubt why Hanayo was stuck on his ass like a bloodsucking mosquito for the last twenty four hours. A pair of persons infront of a door caught his attention as he glided through the hallway, and he narrowed his eyes.
And smiled a little. Cause for concern? Yes.
When people begin to appear, this is how the two women sitting in the meeting room react:
1. Anew Returner smiles. It's genuine and bright but also shy, conscious of the fact that the people receiving these smiles are, to her, more or less total strangers.
2. Feldt Grace does not smile. It's rare that she ever did, and moreso now. Instead, it's just kind of an adjustment to her frown.
The younger, pink-haired woman stands up and draws in a breath as subtly as she can. "Hello." Feldt gestures toward the table: "Please, come in. I... realize this is -- awkward, but..." But what? Feldt is not the best public speaker. That much is obvious. It's also obvious that she's trying. Anew watches her, not quite jumping in yet, but looking like maybe she wants to. "But I think that now is the time for Celestial Being to integrate itself more properly within the Katharon ranks. I know that simply /saying/ that won't make it so. So I wanted to bring you here and... address any concerns you may have."
By now, due to ~GM Fiat~, it can be assumed that the rest of the group has entered the room properly.
Feldt continues speaking, sounding less and less comfortable the longer she does. "I know that Celestial Being and Katharon have not had the best working relationship in the past, because oh no."
The 'oh no,' surprisingly, does not come from the entrance of Fon Spark and Hanayo. No, the 'oh no' is a good few moments later, when the door whishes open and Sumeragi Lee Noriega, dressed in her civilian clothes and clutching a bottle of triple-X space whiskey, sliiides through.
The obviously inebriated woman asks, loudly: "And what's going on in /here/, I /wonder/?"
When Rachel and Tessa show their faces, Cagalli scoots in a little closer to Rachel, settling into a somewhat more casual posture than her sister's; she glances back toward Tessa, first down and then up when she realizes that Tessa is a terrible floating ghost monster. "... hi, Tessa," Cagalli says, resisting the urge to laugh at Tessa floating like some kind of horrible spook.
Nodding to Feldt as she begins to talk, Cagalli tries her best to be supportive; after all, Feldt has to deal with --
-- that, she thinks to herself, as Sumeragi slides in through the door. Oh, for Haumea's sake, she thinks to herself as she turns to track Sumeragi, giving her an even more awkward "... hi," than she gave Feldt and Anew.
The words come from directly behind the intoxicated Sumeragi as her indignant words spill crudely from her lips. The voice is deep, booming, but muffled -- and at this point, the indentity of it is completely recognizable by any who has heard it before:
Seeming to have come out from no where, Zero slips out of his hiding space directly behind Sumeragi, the spindly, masked man saying nothing else for the moment. Like a ghost, he appears. But /how/?
SOME TIME BEFORE
"Uhhhh, you're a bit early there, kid," Ian Vashti says as he squints at the mask-wearing man before him.
"Is that so? Then perhaps you can direct me to your restrooms?"
A LITTLE BIT BEFORE
Lelouch sits, cramped, in one of the cabinets of the Ptolemaios. He brushes a bit of dust off his shoulders as his brows not together, tugging his cloth mask down as he stares pointedly at a bottle of 'SPACE ABSINTHE' in his grasp. "... Isn't this supposedly illegal in sp--"
'And what's going on in /here/, I /wonder/?"
"... When the would-be captain of this vessel does not even know about her formal meetings?" A simple pause later, and Zero tilts his masked head toward Cagalli.
"Princess Cagalli. And... Princess Rachel Miu Athha, wasn't it?" the masked man asks, politely, before his gaze shifts. "Colonel Testarossa." That faceless mask turns, pointedly, towards Sumeragi.
"... And you must be Sumeragi Lee Noriega.
"Perhaps some explanations are in order, hm?"
Kurz's job is to keep Tessa safe; he may be a sniper primarily, but as an SRT soldier, he's expected to have a certain minimum of hand-to-hand combat experience. Certainly Sanger Zonvolt might be able to wipe the floor with him, but for the people here? No sweat.
Or that's what Kurz's Christmas bonus is riding on, anwyay.
Tessa gives Kurz a brief frown...but nods, edging into the room proper and drifting slowly faaaar past the table, showing exactly how skilled she is at space (not very).
She manages to catch herself against the far wall when Sumeragi jiggles in, and her welcome to her two friends is aborted because now she has to be srstessa, scowling deeply at Sumeragi. Honestly, does that woman have /no/ shame? Apparently more than Zero, anyway, who appears out of nowhere. Tessa wonders just where he crawled out of, but she nods at him, less warily; he's proven his competence, if not his trustworthiness. "Zero. We meet face to face, at last." She'd give him one of her little professional smiles, but at the moment she is mostly scowling faintly at Sumeragi. "Yes...perhaps some explanations."
Like why you can call yourself a commander while showing that face to your subordinates, she thinks.
She's in front of new people! She's in front of (in)famous people. She's in ... well, friendly company, for lack of a better term, even if she does seem the awkward and skittish one among them all. At the sight of the Mithril representative, she seems to brighten up a little bit. "Colonel Tessa..."
The young man with the rather feral look to him catches her eye, as well as Zero. This thin, lanky twig of a man is the person responsible for David's Sling? Seriously? Still, she nods her head. "Yes... and your reputation preceeds you, Mister Zero," she says, attempting to sound as professional as possible-- and perhaps failing at it a little bit.
Her eyebrows run together, Rachel watching Sumeragi carefully. She looks at Feldt and Anew with a brief glance before leaning in to Cagalli and speaking in hushtone, "Is that really the captain? Is she ... drunk?"
Suprisingly, Fon did...nothing. Pushing the envelope of what he could get away with, Hanayo upon approach chose to 'disappear' into the little cat-haro device that was her source. He neither chose to introduce himself, nor stand out...mostly because, let's face it. The buxom woman that he could smell far beyond she came around the corner would provide all the entertainment he needed. All of it. That and he recognised most of those who mattered within the room. Sorry Kurz.
Yes, that was the official story of it, the uniformed man was meant to protect Teletha by hook, crook, or with his own corpse as a shield. It could also be that he just came by to see what kind of drunk this Sumeragi really was. He was getting his answer now, and not feeling so bad about serving on a dry ship after all.
He follows after Tessa like a obedient mutt, doing his best to keep his feet on the ground in general while also trying to keep a good eye on the crew of the ship. Fon looked like a rough customer... but Kurz was sure he just needed a hug.
At the sight of Zero, Kurz looked around expectantly, Zero never went anywhere without his witch or his queen, right, right? Of course, Red nore Green presented themselves, a fact that wounded Kurz to his very soul, "Eh, he's going stag today?" muttered Weber to himself mostly, "That sucks." Explanations. Sumeragi Lee Noriega turns around to face Zero, making a face at him while Tessa makes a face at her. She thumbs the release on the bottle of space whiskey, accidentally getting a bit in the low-g air before putting the bottle to her lips and taking a mighty swig. "Well," Sumeragi begins, only to be cut off.
"Sumeragi-sama did not call this meeting," Feldt says, trying to stay neutral of tone, her frown deepening. "I did. Because--"
Sumeragi cuts Feldt off: "--I'm--"
Anew Returner cuts Sumeragi off, suddenly: "--on leave."
Feldt cuts Anew off. "On extended leave."
Anew volleys back: "But remaining a part of operations."
Feldt doesn't miss a beat. "In a limited capacity."
Anew tries to soften that blow, jumping right back in: "Because tactical forecasting is a stressful..."
Feldt doesn't even let Anew finish. "Because tactical forecasters are susceptible to the effects of fatigue and stress."
Anew frowns, now, at Feldt: "...and we wouldn't want it to--"
Feldt, sharply: "--affect their ability to perform their duty."
There's a long, awkward silence. Sumeragi floats toward the back of the room, shrugging. "Well, there you have it, I guess. I'm on leave. Good to know." Sumeragi has another long drink, and Feldt's frown takes on a much sterner color. Anew just looks embarassed, her cheeks slightly pink.
"...ah, this is... Fon Spark," Feldt finally says, gesturing to the Meister and his cat-haro. "One of the Meisters from one of our sister ships. Perhaps you'd like to... introduce yourself to the group, Fon."
Sumeragi, back against the wall, just shakes her head at Feldt, already judging the girl's decisions. Letting Fon hold the floor at /anything/? /Really/?
Did you not trust in Fon's abillity to remain the genteel team-player Sumeragi? Her headshake of doubt and clear disagreement was obvious-- if you were paying attention. Why, it was enough to make him want to woo the hand of each and every leader here in the room-- with maybe the exception of the caped-crusader on the side there. He just wasn't into that kind of thing, even if he was a brilliant individual, he'd seen some of the reports when he was in the toilet. Can't deny that some of the best reading material could be found there.
The cat-haro chirped briefly, as if warning him, one that he brushed aside as he stepped forth with a respectful half-bow. "As sumarily introduced, my name is Fon Spark, a Meister not meant for the spotlight, but in support of our flagship and the other Meisters stationed here. Celestial Being's full of little secrets," He smiled in an almost friendly manner, "but then I expect don't we all. Don't worry though, it's not like if they're holding criminals as workers against their will with the threat of something as barberic like exploding collars should they step out of line."
Winking at Sumeragi, it was hard to miss the fact that he was...wearing a collar. "That's hardly something anyone in Katharon would condone." Why he was doing you a favour wasn't he... "And especially invite to an important meeting like this. Ignoring the fact that the blond guard there who's been too busy checking out your clothing sizes Feldt, Anew to pay attention-- such an item could be triggered...atleast one of you could be dead." He stepped back to his place, "A good thing they don't! A pleasure and honour to be here."
This is Anew: u_u
This is Feldt: o_o
This is Sumeragi: 9_9
And then over the PA system, PURELY by COINCIDENCE:
"Fon Spark, requesting your presence at the hanger, technical details require personal input." A brief pause. "Immeadiately." It was a familiar voice to those on the Celestial Being staff. And though it was bland, it wasn't...happy.
Oops. Time to go! Orange cat-haro was already moving for the door.
"... Zero, sir," Cagalli says, giving Zero, after a second or two, a respectful bow; he /is/ a Japanese, that's supposed to be how you do it, right? Unfortunately, the Princess is promptly left with a /cascade/ of awkward situations, starting from Sumeragi's entrance and only getting worse from there, courtesy Feldt and Fon.
Turning to Rachel, Cagalli tries for a moment to come up with some way to explain this that doesn't... make Celestial Being look like a bunch of retards. Unfortunately, this is statistically impossible, and all she can say is, "... mmhm. Definitely not the first time, either."
Looking at Fon, then at Sumeragi, then at Anew and Feldt, Cagalli says, "... this isn't going to work out." At least, not until Sumeragi gets her shit together. "Call me when your commander knows whether or not she's on leave. And when you figure out what 'On leave' even means." She almost immediately turns toward the door, murmuring, "God /damn/."
She does, at least, move slowly enough that it'd be possible to get her to stay, but...
Cagalli promptly stops, and gives the door a /very/ wide berth, when Fon Spark is requested elsewhere. Best to be as far away from that man's path as possible.
A moment passes. There is silence as Sumeragi, Feldt and Anew bandy about interchanging and confusingly muddled words. The thin Zero is completely impassive behind the protective wall of his mask. Inside?
Lelouch's expression reads nothing but disgust.
It does not, fortunately, carry through to his voice. "I see," speaks the leader of the Black Knights after a moment. Fon Spark's interjection receives yet more prolonged silence. What kind of fool operation is this?
Silence continues. It would seem as if Zero is at a loss for words --
"So is this how you seek to protect lives, Sumeragi Lee Noriega?"
The voice cuts in sharply, and yet so objectively commanding that it supercedes any notion of mockery in the slightest -- as if it were an honest, /pointed/ question.
"I have heard about you. You are quite the brilliant woman." Even perhaps as much as him, even if Lelouch would be loathe to admit it. In a way, her hindered cognitive abilities are beneficial. In another, though--
"Is this what failure brings to the proud?" He has heard about Orb, too, even if not Sumeragi's extremely cloudy past. This drinking problem, though -- he takes a stab where he can. A black hand sweeps outward, as if gesturing to the entire room as a whole before clenching into a powerful, indignant fist.
"Is this how you do honor to the dead?"
Slowly, the hand falls. That cape rustles back into place. Zero does not move, standing like a gaunt yet impossibly imposing statue.
"You are a brilliant woman Captain Noriega -- to destroy your body from the inside out with liquor and poison is as saddening as it is disgusting! To waste such talents that could be used to save lives -- you do not simply do injustice to yourself. You do injustice to every single life you have saved before -- and every life you have lost."
"Is that your justice, Sumeragi Lee Noriega?"
The Mithril Sergeant was oh so ready to have a pissing match with the collared man when he all but called him out as a slacker. Thankfully a meeting of machismo was averted by some unknown entity from on high. Now that he can lay the real or falsely precieved slight against his person, Kurz can actually digest what the man said. His yap flaps open only to have Zero lay it all out like dirty laundry. Not one to repeat a arguement, Kurz, surprisingly, remains quiet. A sour look passing oiver his features as he crosses his arms over his chest.
This is Rachel: o_x
The bandaged, medical eyepatch-wearing girl sitting next to Cagalli watches as things seem to melt down all at once. Fon's suggestive introduction. Feldt and Anew's attempts at explaining everything to them, and Sumeragi's position. Sumeragi's attitude, and the way she stands at the other side of the room.
She wants to say something, maybe.
Instead, Rachel is left in awe as Zero launches into a powerful speech against Celestial Being's renowned tactical forecaster. While he does make a powerful and logical point, she can't help but feel amazed at the condition of things not only on this ship, but in Katharon as a whole. Disjointed, dysfunctional people, groups that seem to barely hang together by a thread.
In her heart of hearts, she wants to speak up, to make a passionate announcement like the leader of the Black Knights. She wants to try to be that voice of reason in all of the chaos, but Rachel knows full well that she isn't the eloquent sort, nor the leader that her sister is.
Instead, her left hand, marred with thick and recent scars, closes into a fist on the arm of the chair. Her voice is considerably more quiet.
Fon's speech and its aftershocks are one thing, but on top of it, Cagalli's reaction hits Feldt like a slap. The normally intensely inexpressive young woman takes on a pained look, one hand lifting, as if she's going to try to reach out: "Cagalli, I--"
"Get the fuck off my ship."
That last bit is, naturally, Sumeragi Lee Noriega's steely response to Zero's speech. She weathers it with a patience that seems to come only by the grace of life-threatening intoxication, but her spacy drunkard stare turns into a laser-precise glare. It's a bit wasted, directed at a featureless mask, but the anger that the Black Knight has clearly provoked in Sumeragi is no passing moment.
And when Sumeragi does /that/, Feldt just drops into her chair, as if someone had taken the screws out of her joints. She closes her eyes and puts her face in her hands and sits very, very, very still.
Tessa frowns, watching. She doesn't sit, keeping hands at her sides. She doesn't fiddle her braid, either, because she is currently giving Sumeragi Lee Noriega a Look. It is the most disgusted look anyone has ever seen on her face.
Tessa allows drinking on her ship. This is because she has trust in her subordinates, and Cagalli has seen exactly how she gets about those who abuse that trust. Occasionally she...allows, Mao to slip her something to loosen her up - but she knows that showing that face to her crew would not be the sort of thing one should do. Let alone as often as has apparently happened...
And then there's Fon Spark - venting every little dirty secret Celestial Being might have. Forced servitude, is it? Given his attitude, she almost wonders if he's good for anything else. But no...no, he's right.
That is not something she can condone.
She opens her mouth to snap something brutalizing when Zero does the work for her, better than she can.
And Sumeragi cheerfully replies, so Tessa decides, perhaps it's time:
"Miss Feldt, Miss Anew," Tessa says, with surprising patience, as she pushes off for the door. "If you're going to perform a mutiny against a useless commander, at least have the courtesy to ask me for help when she's not in the room."
"Mister Weber, we're leaving."
"Yes, Ma'am." answers Mr. Weber, falling into step with Tessa.
As everything rapidly breaks down, with Zero dressing down Sumeragi so thoroughly, certainly better than Cagalli could ever /hope/ to (and promptly being told to get the fuck out for his trouble), Rachel begging for some kind of unity here, and Tessa just outright leaving, Cagalli decides that it's indeed time to go after all.
"... Ugghh..." she groans, under her breath. It's rare that she is actually made physically ill by a command meeting, but... well, there we have it. "Come on, Rachel. I guess she just wants all of us out," she says, misinterpreting Sumeragi (or, more accurately, mentally conflating her statement with Feldt's a little).
As she crosses the threshold, she gives one last sympathetic look back toward Feldt and Anew. Those poor girls.
She'll have to go over this with Zero, Tessa, and Rachel later. As it is, so many things have gone wrong that she's not even sure /entirely/ what just happened.
The rage is more than enough. After all--
"It seems you believe so as well."
The comment is delivered pointedly as Zero walks past Sumeragi, his voice and stride impeccable in its calmness and determination. The masked man does not immediately walk out, though; instead,he walks to Feldt Grace, placing a reassuringly gentle hand on her shoulder.
"Ms. Grace," the masked leader of the Black Knights begins, "I thank you for the effort you put forth here today. Your heart is in the right place, and your desires are commendable. I look forward to the day we -- all of us -- may work together peaceably."
As Tessa turns to leave, so too does Zero. He offers no apologies for the words he has spoken -- there is no need. "Colonel. Princesses," he says, respectfully to Tessa, Kurz, and both Rachel and Cagalli, inclining his head -- pointedly not the gesture of a Japanese. He only pauses at the door, not bothering to look back as he speaks again:
"Perhaps you should consider, Captain Noriega, who you are really punishing here -- yourself, or the ones who count on you.
"I am eager to see what the true captain of the Ptolemaios can do for the sake of the world. I hope I can one day see it first hand." With that, Zero leaves much less grandiosely than he arrived, cape flicking to the side as he goes.
"Please, e-everyone just--"
As she sits there, scarred hand clenched into a little fist, she finds herself staring at the table, her quiet voice unheard-- or ignored-- in the wake of all of this. Then, of course, Sumeragi makes the direct and bold statement. To all or to Zero, no one knows-- but then Tessa stands up and storms out. The leader of the Black Knights sashays in a way only he can sashay.
Cagalli suggests they leave.
Rachel's expression becomes a bit of an upset frown; all told the expression looks better on an eight-year old than a sixteen-year old-- let alone a Princess. Then again, she isn't the most emotionally stable person on this space boat-- if anyone is at all.
She looks to Feldt and Anew, then to Sumeragi, then to Cagalli.
The white-haired Athha allows her shoulders to sag with a sigh. Pushing away from the table, she rises to her feet and makes sure to push her own chair back in. She doesn't look at any of the crew from Celestial Being, instead looking at a neutral distance on the table, between the three. "... Please say hello to Mister Stratos for me..."
And then she lightly strides after her sister, apprehensively looking over her shoulder as she does. As she grips the glide-assist stick pointed in the direction of the hangar, she frowns again, in thought.
This ... is Celestial Being?