|Summary: Haman Karn and Paptimus Scirocco butt heads. Haha. "Butt."|
THE DOGOSSE PEACESHIP
All things considered, it's weird to get an e-mail from Haman Karn.
All the weirder because she doesn't /send/ e-mails. She sends lowly Zeon soldiers in their lowly little Zakus to fly right into enemy territory bearing messages, knowing full well that they may not make it back alive. If it sounds theatrical and overly dramatic, that's because it is. But, well, welcome to Haman Karn.
The message passed along to Paptimus Scirocco: Haman Karn wants to meet. Aboard the Dogosse Peaceship, no less.
The message isn't a request. It's a notice.
And that's why Haman Karn rolls up to Paptimus Scirocco's badass flagship in her Qubeley, with no backup of any sort. As a show of her good graces, she only shot to /cripple/ the various mobile suits that got in her way, not to /kill/. And now she wants to come aboard!
The Qubeley waits. Its weapons remain powered up, if only because Haman fully expects the Dogosse to respond to her demands poorly.
And yet, distantly, she can feel the presence of the Man From Jupiter, and she knows that he can feel her presence, too. Her Newtype Aura broadcasts loud and clear, to the effect of:
'I come in peace, assholes.'
The Dogosse Gier may have been taken by Paptimus Scirocco, somewhat by force, but it's now a much less forceful presence. From the look of it now, floating near Neo-Riksent, it's actually somewhat of a tugboat now, simply floating there, the bulk of its multitude of cannons removed. They no doubt fire flowers now, and if one of those gets stuck in your brain, well.
The e-mail was a surprise, certainly. It didn't take long for the IT department to confirm that it was legitimate. And by the time that happened, reports were already coming in about the Qubeley crippling several of the peacekeeping mobile suits in the region.
"I suppose that means it's legit," the Man from Jupiter commented, floating away from the geeks and their online roleplaying games.
The feel of Scirocco's unique pressure, that foreboding sense of solitude and doom, grows greater; he's not actually on board the Dogosse Gier. Several A-LAWS vessels arrive out of space hyperspace spacedrive however, arriving almost dangerously close, and amidst them appears to be the Minerva.
"You're as bold as ever, Haman," that voice of the Man says by way of greeting, the communications array opened up to show the man there on the bridge. "But to say you've left yourself open would be a poor joke, now wouldn't it? I'll be aboard the Gier shortly. I'm forwarding through a command to allow you to dock at your leisure." He nods off-screen. The communication cuts off.
And soon, it's a shuttle that leaves the Minerva, rather than a mobile suit. The meet will happen on board, and to cut to the chase, a guarded escort of A-LAWS troopers are waiting to escort Haman through to one of the meeting rooms.
And somehow, Scirocco is already there, because they're going to take Haman the long, long way around the ship. Privately, he's somewhat breathless at having to rush here, but he's clearly a man who makes the impossible possible.
Haman Karn docks the Qubeley at her leisure, indeed. When the Man From Jupiter speaks to her over the communications array, she just smirks, but doesn't vocalize her response. Sure, it's kind of a dickish thing to do, but, well.
Able-eyed viewers with Asperger's will be able to note from the paint job that the Qubeley Haman docks is not her own. It's one of the ones they give out to various Purus -- as if Haman would trust her precious baby in the hands of the Federation. She fully expects to walk out of this meeting to find that the suit is in pieces, its hubcaps being sold to scrap metal dealers. But she's got plans for new ventures to keep the Federation on their toes, anyway.
There's also a self-destruct failsafe, but Haman decides not to mention /that/.
By the time she's finally swept into the meeting room, Haman Karn has lost none of her regal austerity. Even 'being led by armed guards' is an occasion for pomposity -- her cape billows dramatically behind her as she walks. Her outfit is... well, the whole black and gold "I'm a fairy princess" look, complete with crown, is in rather striking contrast to all of the teal uniforms going around.
"You've built up quite an impressive testament to the folly of man with this engine of oppression and fascism you've named 'A-LAWS,' Scirocco." Haman doesn't wait to be invited -- she sits down where she pleases, directly across from the admiral. Her mind is easy and yet hard to read -- broad strokes practically radiate off of her, although the finer details are kept locked away. She seems annoyed at the long walk, disgusted with the A-LAWS presence, and... burningly curious about something.
"But enough pleasantries, yes? Let's get down to business."
Alternatively they'll remodel the mobile suit for her, as LL Cool Spacejay comes out to show her how he pimped her ride. The dramatic entrance simply earns her a smile as she enters, the Man from Jupiter his typical smarmy self. He's already seated of course, and as she does the same with a speech, he softly chuckles.
"My, that forked tongue of yours," Scirocco murmurs, amused; he doesn't reply to it otherwise. Why give her any further ammunition? He knows precisely what the engine they've created is, and knows that in the future it may well come to a power struggle behind its shadowy benefactors.
But all of that he keeps neatly hidden. He is a closed book, wrapped in a chastity belt, and thrown to the bottom of a well. Attempts to penetrate his mind seem to go on forever; there is no penetrating the darkness that this Newtype emanates. The miasma probes outwards though, testing her defenses right off the bat.
"And what business would that be? It isn't every day that an enemy of the state requests a private meeting. Are you here to offer terms of surrender, I wonder?" Delivered again with that smile. He knows she's not here for that. She'll die before she bends over for the likes of Scirocco, at least politically.
"I'm afraid I'm a bit too old to throw myself down at your feet, like the small army of teenagers I imagine you're still amassing," Haman replies. She smiles, as well, a little too graciously for the venom that she uncontrollably spits; then again, she says such awful things in such a genteel, mannered voice -- albeit with a stuffy upper-class Zeonic accent -- that there's some degree of innate charm to the pink-haired despot.
"But I imagine you've already asked yourself what could /possibly/ be so important that I would risk my own personal safety to weave my way into your territory and demand to speak to you on your own ship." Haman Karn leans forward slightly, putting her elbow on the tabletop and her chin in her palm. A finger lazily rests across her lips in an almost mock-thoughtful expression. "Indeed, I wonder."
Haman doesn't even bother trying to get a read off of Paptimus. She's content to take in the psychic ambience of the room, noting the lacuna that is Paptimus. Her own defenses are quite formidable, though -- he's able to read what he can because she's letting him. If Paptimus is darkness, Haman is an ocean -- the deeper one goes, the easier it becomes to drown.
Or get eaten by a shark.
"Admiral Scirocco," Haman says, maintaining this thoughtful pose as her eyes focus on Paptimus' own, "who, pray tell, is Ribbons Almark?"
Again, the venom is simply met by that twitch of a smile from the Man. He is nothing if not unflappable, although that may change by the time the words are finished tumbling out of that mouth of Karn's. It's certainly seen a lot of action for one so relatively young. But when she drops that name...
Scirocco doesn't even bat an eyelash. "You came all this way, put yourself at such risk, for something so mundane...?" he finally asks, thin purple brows lifting in what may well be disbelief. With a shake of his head, he leans back. The act begins.
"Almark is at the forefront of GEE-EN based tech--he is very much like myself."
Complete truth, and in so many ways. That smile returns. Rather than elaborate, he takes the conversation in another direction completely.
"Really, I'm surprised you two have even crossed paths. Don't tell me you're taken by the man, Haman! It wouldn't do for love to blossom on the battlefield. I never would have expected him to be your type, too; he wears sleeves, unlike Aznable." That smile shows amusement at his own joke, always the sign of a professional comedian.
Haman Karn stays in her little pose, chin innocuously resting in her hand. Despite being too old to become a Sarah Zabiarov, she's still only a few months into her twenty-second year, and walks a careful line between the air of someone who has lives beyond their years, and the looks of someone too young for their station. She patiently waits out Paptimus' deflection, pursing her lips slightly as she indulges him.
And then, a beat after the comment about Char, Haman Karn's mind suddenly closes itself off. It's the psychic equivalent of a car door being slammed on someone's fingers, minus the potential for broken bones -- but it's sharp and loud and it happens so fast that it can't really be prepared for, like the flip of a switch.
"A man very much like yourself," Haman Karn says, nodding. Her tone is suddenly much colder, her small, bemused smile crueler and more plasticine.
Haman Karn sits up, straightening her posture and folding her hands on the tabletop. It is the picture of 'this person had formal training in table manners,' and Haman's smile disappears, replaced by a grave frown, as if Paptimus had said something offensive.
"Don't make me ask twice," the Regent coolly states. Even amidst the enemy, on their ship, with their armed guards nearby, and right in front of the face of their admiral -- Haman Karn still acts like she owns the joint.
Whether he hit a chord there with his mention of her former lover, Paptimus thinks he did. His smile grows as she closes herself off, and he leans forward again. Those large hands of his come together on the table top, gloved fingers lightly tapping against their ilk.
"What are you expecting me to say here? That he's some tank-born inhuman creation that thinks himself a god? Really, Haman. I've told you everything you need to know about the man already. He is like me. An arms dealer, a hired gun--
"If you want to know something more specific about him, then be more specific. Although truthfully I don't see why you didn't just direct the e-mail at him directly -- I'm sure he'd be more than willing to meet with you, when you've made this a very public affair with your usual lack of guile." His tone turns chiding, like a man talking to a misbehaving child.
And he doesn't mean the lack of foot-high hair and backflip kicks. He would love it if she were crafty enough to read through the lines, but he cannot spell it all out for her here, where they're clearly under watchful eyes. He leans back again, with another shake of his head.
Perhaps if the Regent of Neo-Zeon had never met Ribbons Almark before today, Paptimus' comments would be brushed off without a second thought. She's a fool in plenty of ways -- consider Neo-Zeon, perpetually in a state of arrested decay and squalor as it struggles to maintain its own coherence -- but she's not quite fool enough to believe that Paptimus Scirocco says anything he hasn't carefully arranged beforehand. She's also not quite fool enough to think that he would overestimate her.
But Haman Karn /has/ met Ribbons Almark, and more than that, their minds have touched. Haman has to exert willpower to resist the urge to bristle physically as she thinks back to the feeling of attempting to read the young man -- like reaching out in the dark, expecting to feel warm and yielding flesh, but finding nothing but solid chrome, ice-cold to the touch. Paptimus Scirocco's flippant comment earns particular notice, and Haman's smile begins to grow, like a cat who's just managed to corner a canary.
"I believe you're telling me plenty, /Admiral/," Haman Karn notes serenely -- still cold, but with a self-satisfied air. "Just as I believe that he and I have already met. I admit that I find him -- as a pilot -- rather fascinating. You might say that he's unnaturally capable." Of course, to Haman Karn, 'natural' involves 'being a psychic citizen of outer space.' But her word choice remains deliberate.
"Yes, and there is a limit to how much I will tell you, because there are some doors in this system of ours that are best left opened by others." Spreading his hands, Paptimus seems ready to offer no more information. "As I continue to say, he is like me. If you wish to know something more precise, you must cease with your ambiguities and cut to the chase."
He holds up a hand to cut her off though, if she decides to do as he has asked her. "But you must also offer up something of equal worth. Consider it a free trade agreement. You're not getting what you're after without paying a heavy price, I assure you."
For all her airs, the Admiral does not bend knee to her, just as the Regent won't to him. Of course, he may just be playing with her now, although that smile has left his face for perhaps the first time.
Haman Karn raises one pink eyebrow. "But to offer you something, Scirocco," she notes with detached amusement, "I'd have to know what you /want/. Forgive me for stating the obvious -- but it's not as if I can read your mind." Haman's smile tugs a little harder at the corner of her mouth, but only for a moment.
"What would you like, then, Admiral Scirocco? You've already taken so much -- although I'm sure ZAFT is much happier clutched to your bosom." Haman may or may not have said that with sarcasm; the amazing thing is that she somehow manages to perfectly position the statement such that it can't be definitively read one way or another. "But then, as you took from us, there have been things we've taken, as well, have there not? Things you might be eager to see again, for one reason or another. Things that made rather nasty messes when they left. Poor, poor Heaven's Base..."
Haman Karn's smile is a sinister thing indeed right now. How fortunate it is that no one in the entire universe likes Yazan Gable enough to stay loyal to him.
"But what I'm interested in, Admiral, is exactly how it is that a little man whose mind can be described as nothing less than 'a psychic obscenity' has managed to become so important that you feel the need to conduct yourself as you have. Surely, if Ribbons Almark were not a figure of some influence and power, we wouldn't be engaging in this extended tease, would we?" Haman leans forward again, chin hovering over the back of her hand without touching it. "Why is that, Admiral? You continue to say, he's like you. The problem with such a deflection is that I know what you're like -- you're an inhuman monster conniving to sell out his own people by choosing organizations like the Titans and A-LAWS over the interests of his fellow Newtypes. You're a man secure in his place at the top of the food chain. But if he's 'like you,' then, hmm. There really only can be /one/ alpha male in a pack, Scirocco. Does Ribbons Almark make you feel threatened?"
Haman's eyes seem to flash with a sharper intensity than she's let show thus far. "Who's really steering the good ship A-LAWS... Admiral?"
And that smile is back by the time she finishes. "My, you are full of questions today, aren't you," the Admiral replies initially, if simply to give himself a moment. "I do wonder at your persistence at Almark. Could it be that the great Regent herself has come away rattled from her encounter with the enemy pilot?"
His voice takes an edge for the first time in their impromptu, off-the-cuff meeting. "Didn't you enjoy what you /felt/ off the man, Haman?"
A derisive snort follows. "You think yourself clever, coming here with your questions. You think yourself a farmer, casting seeds into cracks, to crumble what has arisen right in front of your nose." His hand lifts, finger pointed across the table as he delivers another accusation. "You have sat and grown fat, Haman, as we have consolidated our gains."
That hand returns to the tabletop. "I have told you what I have told you with a deliberate care, young Regent. The likeness was clearly stated so you would draw that conclusion. You worry about this unknown element, this Ribbons Almark, and you fear what he must mean for your disintegrating empire. You no doubt secretly hope that by gaining some leverage, you may better position yourself against that which has set in amongst the Crusade. Men from another universe, geared to send this one into an even bloodier reality than we presently face. They've wormed their way in for some time now. Why do you question another deeply buried worm emerging from the soil?"
Another shake of his head follows. "You have come here to seek confirmation, to seek guidance, because your fondness for drama is as typical as your immaturity when linked with your age. Your intuition on Almark is no doubt on the mark. Why seek validation? Your Newtype senses are nearly as keen as my own.
"Why am I more concerned with Ribbons Almark than the likes of Gym Ghingnham, you ask?" Haman Karn weathers the abuse and accusations as only true royalty can. She occasionally lifts her chin to regard Scirocco down her nose, or teases a brow upward when one of his points risks hitting too close to home. Still, nothing provokes a reaction on the order of, say, the comment about Char earlier. That said, Haman remains closed off, mentally. "Well, it's quite simple, Admiral."
"Gym Ghingnham hasn't started trying to choke my people into submission and slavery yet."
Haman looks away for a moment, letting her eyes pan from one corner of the room to another, as if surveying the landscape of the Dogosse's meeting room. She does not seem particularly impressed. Her gaze settles back on the Admiral across from her. "I came to you, specifically, Scirocco, because overlooking the fact that you're something of a race-traitor, there is much I suspect we agree on. Perhaps a day will come when we might be able to discuss that more amiably -- but right here, right now... that remains quite impossible." Haman spreads her hands, as if to say, 'but then, that's life.'
"But the fact remains -- this war won't end anytime soon. You'll have to kill every last man, woman, and child in Zeon in order to achieve that. So I'm taking a more, shall we say, pragmatic view of the conflict. I must fight, therefore I must have an enemy. I would far prefer to be staring across the table, so to speak, at another Newtype..."
Haman's smile turn on a pin into a cutting sneer: "...than some manner of green-haired /abortion/."
With that, Haman Karn stands up, her cape sweeping when she does so. "I bid you good day, Admiral. Our talk has been quite enlightening, if not exactly pleasant. But... about that last bit that you said, just now." Haman raises a finger as if she were a mother reminding a son of some forgotten bit of advice.
"I trust no one /but/ myself, my dear man -- but I also quite enjoy stacking the deck in my own favor to back it up. Think about that, when next your thoughts turn to what enemies you must contend with. Better the devil you know without... than the one you don't pressed to your breast, mm?"
And then Haman turns on her heel and begins to march off. Her compulsive need to have the last word stops her from waiting to see if Paptimus has anything to say.
Who knows what alliances the shifting sands of the war will bring, in time. Perhaps one day Scirocco will be left with no choice but to don a mask and turn vigilante. It's unlikely, but then, as a simple Divine Crusader lieutenant--
"A pleasure as always," comes the reply as Haman -- no, AFTER she leaves the room, as she hurries out to ensure she gets the last word. He does not rise to follow her, or offer any further discussion to the woman. She has shed no new light, scattered no new seeds; the Man from Jupiter knows full well that he's in bed with a dangerous snake, but it's a coupling he has little choice but to stomach for the time being. And Ribbons doesn't hog the sheets, at least.
There will be no encounters on the way out. The armed escort is there, and they bring her directly back to her mobile suit this time, with no roundabout meandering. The path is clear, and there's no surprise bomb added to the seat. She will return to Axis, having had fifteen orgasms in the time she was present on the Dogosse Peaceship.
And Paptimus Scirocco will leave minutes after she does, to his own clandestine meeting. He may have to have words with Ribbons; he may keep this encounter to himself. Only time will tell.