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File: NERVop1.png (498 KB, 900x700)
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It's Christmas time, and the world is ending.

Beneath the light of a low and swollen moon, you run through uncannily familiar streets as the ground trembles underneath you. Cracks spread across the asphalt with every step you take, as if the slap of your boots against the ground is enough to break it apart. Here and there, piles of broken glass mark where windows have shattered. Despite everything, despite the deathly tremor that grips the city, strings of festive lights still glint jauntily from the buildings and street lights. They flicker occasionally as the power fluctuates, but even that seems more like mocking winking.

The world is ending, and all you can do is run.

The moon is lower now, so low that you could almost reach up and touch it. Rounding the next corner, you see it – the giant of light. So bright that you can barely look at it, you flinch away from the wondrous, monstrous form and clench your eyes shut. Even then, the image of it has been burned into your mind. A humanoid shape, purest white and perfect yet somehow wrong. Forcing your eyes open again, you brace yourself against another tremor – the worst yet – and confront the giant. It stands tall, reaching up to embrace the descending moon, and then...

And then everything comes to an end.
>>
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>>3350410

Avalon City
April, 2021

“Hey, wake up!” a low voice whispers, and you feel someone shaking you awake. Slowly, the reality of your situation seeps back in and details return to you. The dull rumble of the bus, the warmth of the early spring sun, the sound of tinny music drifting across from somewhere behind you. All safe and normal, nothing apocalyptic here... although the music sounds awful enough that the end of the world doesn't seem so bad. Blinking away the last of your dream, you glance around and meet your friend's eyes.

“You look so dumb when you sleep,” Claire teases, nudging you with her elbow as the bus slows to a halt, “Sitting there with your mouth hanging open, like “aaarrrrgghhh” or something. Not cool!”

“Come on...” you grumble back, rubbing grit from your eyes, “You shouldn't watch people while they're sleeping. That shit is just straight-up weird.” Pausing here as the door clanks open, you watch as the only other passenger hurries out. A young girl, perhaps a year younger than you are, with long dark hair and a pair of cheap earbuds blasting out chirpy pop music. Shrugging to Claire, you follow her out and wince as an unfamiliar voice calls out your name.

Never a good sign, that.

“Reynolds?” the man calls out, glancing down at his clipboard before looking up again, “Holly Reynolds?”

“Right here!” you reply, glancing briefly around at Claire. She steps back, allowing you to hurry over to the man. He looks blandly anonymous, but you get the feeling that his crumbled suit is hiding a well-honed body. Not your usual office worker, this one. “You from NERV?” you ask him briskly, “They said someone would be here to meet us. That you?”

He nods, checking his notes one last time before tucking the clipboard under one arm. “We'll be continuing on shortly,” he replies, “I wanted to see you for myself. First impressions go a long way. I've read your file, but you're not quite what I expected.” His bland features shift lightly, a humourless smile allowing itself to be seen for a brief moment. “That's right, you have a file. Most people do, these days. Academic records, medical report, basic psych screening... but they don't tell us everything,” he pauses again, studying you for a second more, “Your school report said that you were a bit of a loner. Didn't have many friends.”

“I wouldn't put it quite like that, but...” you complain, glancing back around to where Claire is waiting. “I mean, so what?” you add, “Nothing wrong with that, is there?”

“I'm just curious,” he explains, “Was there a reason for that?”

You were hoping he wouldn't ask about that. After all...

>You've had some... minor anger issues in the past
>They said you were “cold” and “distant”. You never really cared what they thought
>You can't explain it. People just find you “weird”
>>
>>3350413
>You've had some... minor anger issues in the past
>>
>>3350413
>You've had some... minor anger issues in the past

I am ready for the despair Moloch
>>
>>3350413
>They said you were “cold” and “distant”. You never really cared what they thought
>>
>>3350413
>You've had some... minor anger issues in the past
>>
>>3350413
>They said you were “cold” and “distant”. You never really cared what they thought
>>
>Okay, I'm going to close this vote here and move on. Seems like our girl has a bit of a temper on her!
>>
>>3350448
Ah, late.
>>
>>3350413
>They said you were “cold” and “distant”. You never really cared what they thought
>>
“I had some minor... anger issues in the past,” you admit, scowling a little to yourself. “Nothing serious though!” you hastily add, “I never got in trouble with the police, never sent anyone to the hospital or anything like that.” Except for that one time, you recall, although that really wasn't your fault. It's not your fault if someone falls and hits their head off a locker, is it? Besides, they were only unconscious for a few moments, it was all a lot of fuss over nothing!

>Trait gained: Hot-Blooded – emerging victoriously from a fight or argument restores Ego, but facing defeat or backing down from a fight damages Ego.

Considering this for a moment, the man shrugs. “Just don't cause too much trouble,” the man warns, “You might not like it, but you're going to need to work with others here. Do you think you can do that?” He waits a moment as you nod, then he sticks out a hand for you to shake. “I'm Fletcher, chief of security here,” he explains, “There's not much else that I can tell you now, but you'll be briefed soon enough.”

“Chief!” another voice calls out, drawing your attention back to the waiting bus, “We've swept the bus. She's clear – no sign of any explosives!”

Did he just say what you think he just said?

-

As the bus continues on through the city streets, you flick through the “information booklet” you were given. Hardly worthy of the name, considering how little there is in it. NERV, the pamphlet explains, is an organisation operating under UN jurisdiction to fight against unorthodox threats... whatever that means. You dimly recall a story on the news, something about an emergency in Europe, but the details were vague at best. Until they decide to give you the full story, you're stuck with this useless pamphlet.

“You think we're going to get ID badges and stuff?” Claire wonders aloud, “That would be pretty cool. Someone starts to talk down to us, we can just flash our badges and threaten to set the UN on them.”

“You think anyone would take that threat seriously?” you joke back, watching as the bus enters the shade of a large warehouse. When the ground begins to sink underneath your vehicle, you realise that it's more like a giant cargo elevator. When you signed up for this, you hadn't been expecting... well, any of this. Thinking back to the thick stack of forms and the expressionless government officials carrying them, you feel doubts nagging at you.

They “urgently required your services”, they had told you. It was “a job only you can do”, apparently. Faced with the alternative, staying stuck in that damn boarding school for the immediate future, you had signed the release forms without hesitation. Maybe that was too rash.

“Are you nervous?” the younger girl speaks up suddenly, leaning around in her chair to stare at you with wide eyes, “I hear they have a monster here!”

[1/2]
>>
>>3350493
>I hear they have a monster here
and they've just recruited 2 more
>>
>>3350493

When the elevator grinds to a halt, you slowly file out of the bus. The young girl carelessly rips her earbuds out and grins at you. “I'm Natasha. Call me Nate, though,” she urges, introducing herself in a lively California voice, “I can't believe my folks gave me such a stuffy name. They called my brother “Victor”, if you can believe that. Like something out of a horror movie or whatever. Hey, what's your name?”

She's going to keep talking and talking, you realise, whether you answer her or not. “I'm Holly,” you reply, half turning to introduce Claire only to find her lagging behind. Not so good at meeting new people, Claire. Shrugging, you turn back only to see Natasha – or Nate, whatever – running on ahead. “Should've just stayed in bed...” you mutter to yourself, following on before your escorts can encourage you.

-

Fletcher leads you all through a tight warren of corridors before finally stopping at a pair of double doors. “Only NERV candidates are allowed past this point,” he warns, giving you and Claire a firm look, “Reynolds and Carlyle, you two head on inside. I'll be with you in a moment.”

“Hey!” Claire protests.

“Hey!” you repeat, “Where are you taking her?”

Silence for a moment. Fletcher, you realise, isn't the type who likes having his orders questioned. Forcing a polite expression, he gestures down another branch of the corridor. “I'll be showing your... friend to the dorms,” he explains, “Your luggage will be arriving shortly, after all.” Leaving the matter at that, he turns and marches away. Claire pouts before giving you a nervous wave and following after him.

“What was THAT all about?” Nate mutters to herself before entering the next room. When you see what awaits you, you almost laugh aloud. Perhaps two dozen chairs are scattered about, although only two other girls are sitting in the room. One wall is covered in a long mirror, and you feel tempted to wave at whoever is watching you from the other side. This must be some kind of test.

One of the girls looks serious, her hard face pointed down at the phone in her hands. The other one leans insolently back in her chair, tapping her foot as she impatiently waits. Neither of them seems particularly friendly, and a stiff kind of tension fills the air. You're all waiting, but for what?

Oblivious to the tension, Nate goes to sit in one of the front rows. You start to pick an isolated seat before recalling Fletcher's warning about teamwork. Maybe you should at least try to make an effort...

>Sit with Nate. She seems friendly enough, at least
>Sit with the serious looking girl
>Sit with the insolent looking girl
>Sit by yourself for now
>>
>>3350528
>Sit with Nate. She seems friendly enough, at least
>>
>>3350528
>Sit by yourself for now
fuck da polis

don't snap at the other girls or anything, though
>>
>>3350528
>Sit by yourself for now
No teamwork until we’re in a dance-off
>>
>>3350528
>>Sit by yourself for now
Awww shit, Moloch is alive.
>>
>>3350528
>>Sit with the insolent looking girl
>>
>>3350528
>Sit by yourself for now
>>
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Casting one last dirty look at the mirror, you sit down into a seat by yourself. You like to imagine a ripple of dismay spreading through whoever is watching you, maybe a few sirens going off, but you'd be lucky to get a disappointed sigh. Leaning your chin on one hand, you study the other girls for a moment more. Miss Serious doesn't seem very interesting, and you're not even sure if she can get phone reception down here. You must be pretty far underground, after all. Miss Insolent, on the other hand, she reminds you of a few girls you knew before. The serious troublemakers – the sort who would allow themselves to get caught just for the fun of it.

Not long after that, the test is apparently concluded and the door slides open. Fletcher enters along with a new friend, a perky looking woman with a spring in her step. “I'm sorry for the delay, everyone!” the new woman calls out, her accent giving you a cloying blast of the deep south, “Now that we're all here, we can get started right away. I'm Commander Monroe, but there's no need to be formal with me. Just call me Diane!”

You've got a bad feeling about this.

“Now I'm sure you've got a LOT of questions, and I'll try to get to them all in due time, but we've got a few basics to cover first. Just a few boring security matters,” Commander Monroe steps over to a desk and sits down at the computer, tapping a few keys as a projector begins to warm up. “Um, you've probably met Fletch... I mean Chief Fletcher already,” she continues, gesturing to her colleague, “He'll get us started, okay?”

“What we're doing here is top secret. Don't talk to anyone outside of NERV about what you learn here today. Some of you were allowed to bring a civilian contact, and they are the sole exception to this,” Fletcher announces, “Basically, assume that we're giving you the nuclear launch codes and act accordingly.”

An awkward pause here, and then Commander Monroe laughs. “Oh, don't be so dramatic!” she urges, flapping a hand at the security chief. Before she can say anything more, the projector flickers into life and displays a blurry image. At first, you think it shows a statue – something Greek, maybe, something carved out of white marble – but then you see the buildings around it. It's huge, whatever it is... and worse, it feels familiar to you. The serious girl shudders and turns away from the screen, while the other two stare in fascination.

“This is why you're here,” Commander Monroe continues, her voice growing grave, “This is the greatest threat currently facing mankind. We know very little about them, but... we're learning more with every passing day. These creatures...”

Staring up at the screen, you feel a word forming unspoken on your lips. It's an-

“These creatures,” the Commander concludes, “We call them Lilim.”

[1/2]
>>
>>3350528
>Sit by yourself for now
>>
>>3350586

“This picture was taken last year in Berlin, when the first Lilim revealed itself to us. It emerged from the ocean and approached the city, where it remained static for approximately thirty minutes before attacking. Fortunately, NERV forces were able to drive it back. Ah, Kaori, would you like to explain what...” Monroe pauses here, offering out her hand to the serious looking girl. Freezing in place for a moment, the girl – Kaori – finally shakes her head. “Ah, well, I suppose I can explain,” Monroe sighs, “Pilot Kaori was able to destroy the target using our next generation weapon – an ADM Unit.”

“Oh?” the insolent girl interrupts. Her accent is English – seriously English, like something out of a period drama – and her tone is faintly mocking. “And what,” she continues, “Does THAT stand for?”

“Advanced Defence Mechanised Unit,” Fletcher answers firmly, “We'll be answering questions at the end, Rainer. Hold your fire for just a little longer.”

Swallowing against a suddenly dry throat, you fidget in your seat. This isn't right, this isn't how it should be, but... what IS right? You don't know that, either. “The ADM Unit is the only weapon capable of practically defeating a Lilim,” Monroe continues, her voice seeming to come from the end of a long tunnel, “But it's not as simple as that. Only a very small fraction of the population is capable of piloting an ADM, and this ability diminishes with age. The science behind it is... well, I don't think I can really explain it properly. There might be two or three people on this entire planet who can explain it properly, and we don't have any of them here today!”

She sounds so damn perky, so damn cheerful about all this. Confusion sours and turns to anger, filling you with the violent urge to just... cut loose. To flip your desk, to kick your chair aside, to make as much noise and fuss as you can. Tiny needles of pain cause you to look down, and you see drops of blood dripping out from your tightly clenched fists. Opening them, you see cuts left by your nails. With your heart pounding in your ears, you look up to see the whole group staring at you in muted confusion.

“Reynolds, wasn't it?” Commander Monroe asks gently, “Are you feeling okay? You can go to the infirmary, if you're feeling unwell, or you could go back to the dorms if you'd prefer. We can finish this another time.”

>You're fine. Stay and finish the briefing
>Perhaps it would be best if you visited the infirmary...
>Head to the dorms. Claire should be there, and you need a friendly face right now
>Other
>>
>>3350628
>>You're fine. Stay and finish the briefing
>>
>>3350628
>You're fine. Stay and finish the briefing
Anons chose for us a serious mental problem
>>
>>3350628
>You're fine. Stay and finish the briefing

>>3350636
Anon, this is NERV. Any of them would have been “serious mental problems”, I think we just picked the one that’s more performance-graded.
>>
>>3350628
>You're fine. Stay and finish the briefing

>>3350636
This is EVA, if you don't have a serious mental problem you're doing something wrong.
>>
>>3350628
>You're fine. Stay and finish the briefing
"What month was the attack last year?"

>>3350636
I think we might have some subdued PTSD if the intro paragraph was a flashback and not just a dream
>>
>>3350628
>>You're fine. Stay and finish the briefing
>Lilim
Huh, so humans are children of Adam in Verse, eh?
>>
“I'm fine,” you croak, shaking your head, “I just felt light-headed for a moment.” Monroe looks uncertain, remaining silent for a moment more. Nobody speaks, but Nate hurriedly rummages about in her back and pulls out a small bottle of water. Flashing you a smile that is as confused as it is apologetic, she tosses the plastic bottle across the room. Catching it, you gulp down a few mouthfuls of the warm, flat-tasting water. “See? Totally fine now,” you assure them all, before searching for a way to change the subject. “When was that Berlin thing?” you ask, “I know we're supposed to hold our questions until the end, but...”

“December,” Kaori answers you, her voice taut and low, “It was December.”

A sick feeling settles into the pit of your stomach, but you hold your tongue for now. Slumping back in your chair, you gesture for the lecture to continue. “Where was I?” Monroe murmurs to herself, checking the computer before perking right back up again. “Ah yes! Piloting an ADM Unit is a very rare talent, and it diminishes with age. According to our research, piloting ability peaks at 14-16 in girls, and 11-13 in boys. That's why... well, you might have noticed a rather glaring gender disparity here.”

“We're asking that you fight our battles for us,” Fletcher interrupts, “It's a shameful thing to ask, I know, but mankind's future depends on it. The Lilim want nothing more than to exterminate mankind, to wipe out all life on Earth.”

No pressure, then. In a way, though, that kind of thing is strangely easy to accept. The scales are so high that you can't really grasp them – it feels no more real than the opening line to a videogame. Taking another sip of water, you barely listen as Fletcher reads off a list of dry statistics. With the lavish tone of a man reading out eroticism, he talks about armour density and weapon payloads, but the figures fly right over your head. One thing sticks in your mind – giant robots. He's asking you to pilot a giant robot. That's... pretty cool, actually.

“Thank you, everyone. We can end things a little early today, I think,” Commander Monroe decides, cutting Fletcher off before he can get too into his gun talk, “Reynolds, could you stay behind for a moment? The rest of you, go on back to your dorm – Kaori, you can show them the way.”

Nodding, the girl rises to her feet and marches out. The English girl, Rainer, follows close behind with Nate pausing long enough to give you a reassuring smile – something that she intended to be a reassuring smile, at least. Nodding your thanks, you slump back in your chair and wait for Monroe.

[1/2]
>>
>>3350410
kys
>>
>>3350697

“Hey kiddo,” the Commander begins, perching girlishly on the desk in front of you. Up close, you can see a few crow's feet wrinkles forming around her eyes. Not as young as she first appeared, it seems. “I want you to know that you can tell me anything you like. If there's something worrying you, I have a responsibility to know about it. If you don't tell me, I can't help you,” she continues, channelling every student councillor you've ever known, “So what do you say?”

“I'm not used to being so far underground,” you hear yourself answer. Why say THAT, of all things? You're not even sure yourself.

“Hey, I'm the same!” Monroe gasps, with an almost embarrassing degree of enthusiasm, “I'm a country gal, me, always have been. Avalon isn't such a bad place, but I'd take the countryside any day of the week. Still, duty calls!” Smiling proudly to herself, she claps you on the shoulder and hops off the desk. Before she can leave you alone, though, her hand tightens a little on your shoulder. “Oh!” she murmurs, “You asked about Berlin, before. I should warn you, that's still a sore subject with Kaori. The operation was... well, there was some collateral damage. Be sensitive, okay?”

You pause, fidgeting a little as Monroe gazes down at you with a motherly smile. “I...” you begin, only for her to interrupt you.

“In fact, it might be best if you left that matter well alone,” she advises, “What's done is done. I'm going to be your commanding officer, you know? I don't like to throw my weight around and give out orders, but...”

Her words hang in the air for a moment more, and you feel your temper beginning to darken again. She's talking down to you, treating you like a damn kid, and that sticks in your throat. Beneath the desk, you feel your hands clenching into fists.

>Back down. She IS your commanding officer, after all
>Protest. You're not going to take this lying down!
>Other
>>
>>3350754
>Back down. She IS your commanding officer, after all
>Ask if NERV has a base in Canada with handsome majors and badass fighter pilots
>>
>>3350754
>>Protest. You're not going to take this lying down!
"How the hell are you going to keep First Contact details away from your only fighters!?"
>>
>>3350754
>>Protest. You're not going to take this lying down!
Well, we are an angry shit.
>>
>>3350754
>Protest
Limiting my free speech? I'm sorry, I thought this was AMERICA
>>
You've barely been here for an hour, and you're already getting sick of the bullshit. With a violent shrug of your shoulder, you knock away her hand and stand up. “How the hell are you going to keep this from me?” you snap, “How do you expect me to fight if you're not going to tell me anything? I don't know what kind of shit you're trying to pull here, but I ain't-”

“Reynolds,” Commander Monroe interrupts gently, “I don't know if you read the release forms, but I could have you thrown in the brig for that kind of insubordination. I understand that you're frustrated, but this is for your own good.”

“I'll be the one to decide that,” you insist, folding your arms and glaring up at her. It's been a while since you really cut loose like this, and you've forgotten just how GOOD it feels. It's not quite as good as slamming someone's head into a locker, but... it's close. “So I don't give a damn about those forms. I can say what I like,” you hiss, holding your ground, “And maybe Kaori will be more willing to talk about this. I need to know what I'm doing, and-”

Raising a hand to cut you off, Monroe winces at the threat. “Don't. Please,” she murmurs, “Like I said, it's a bad subject for her. The whole incident is classified, but... how much do you know about it?”

“Nothing. Basically nothing,” you answer, thinking back, “You guys managed to hush it up pretty well, I'm guessing.”

With a wan smile, Monroe gestures for you to sit back down.

-

“NERV has... had an installation in Berlin. We have a lot of bases spread out across the world, although most of them are unused at the moment,” the commander begins, “When the Lilim appeared, we had no way of knowing what it would do. Even though ADM-01 wasn't totally ready, we were forced to deploy it with Kaori as the pilot. We gave her strict orders to hold her ground and observe while the city was being evacuated. She... disobeyed her orders.”

Holding your tongue now, you wait for Monroe to continue. “She charged in to attack the Lilim in close combat,” the older woman sighs, “We didn't have any ranged options at the time, you see. The fighting was brutal, and the evacuation columns weren't fully clear yet. Like I said, there was some collateral damage.”

“How many?” you ask, your mouth dry.

“A little over three hundred people died,” she answers, shaking her head sadly, “It's not clear how many were due to Kaori and how many were due to the Lilim, but... does it really matter? We were able to keep most of the details out of the media, but some information leaked online. The Monster of Berlin... that's what they called Kaori.”

Three hundred dead... and they're expecting you to work with this girl?

“And that's why I wanted to keep it buried,” Monroe sighs, reading your face like an open book, “I'm sorry.”

[1/2]
>>
>>3350754
>Back down. She IS your commanding officer, after all
Need that repression so we can really REEE in the “ABM”
>>
>>3350815
Lol, Holly, with your temper you'll beat her record in no time.
>>
>>3350843
Well hopefully NERV has better evacuation protocols now before Holly is thrown into the ring.

Hopefully.
>>
>>3350815

There's not much you can say to that, and so you allow yourself to be escorted out. As Commander Monroe is leading you through to the dorms, you search your memory for something to say. “So...” you begin, “Where are these other bases?”

“Hmm,” Monroe muses, “Why don't you try guessing? One of them is somewhere cold.”

“Canada?” you guess, “I bet you could hide a lot of stuff up there. Nobody cares enough about Canada to look for something top secret.”

The commander laughs, slapping you lightly on the shoulder. “How mean!” she giggles, “I'm sure it's a lovely place. You're wrong, though. Too bad!” You start to take another guess, only for her to cut you off with a gesture. You're here at the dorms, you realise, although it's hard to tell that straight away. These corridors all look the same, and they seem to junction off at random. “The dorms are nothing fancy, but I hope you'll find them comfortable,” Monroe tells you, “Twelve single rooms, paired off with adjoining doors. If you've got a friend staying with you, they can have the other room. There's a common room too, with some amusements, and a small kitchen if you prefer to fix your own meals.”

“Your luggage is here,” Fletcher calls from inside, “Take a look over it, make sure nothing is missing. Things are a little disorganised at the moment.”

“My fault!” Monroe yelps, trying desperately hard to sound cute.

-

Claire is lying on your bed when you enter the dorm – 1D – a number of bags have been left scattered about. “C'mon...” you groan, looking at the mess, “You could have helped out a little, you know?”

“What, and go raking about in your unmentionables? I'm not that kind of perv!” Claire jokes back, rolling over to look you in the eye, “Oh wow, you look like you got hit by a truck.”

“That's appropriate,” you mutter, kneeling down to rummage through the bags, “Since I feel like I'm in another world right now. Ah hell. Gimme a moment, I need to tell...” Rising, you march through to the common room. “Hey, Chief!” you call out to Fletcher, “My NiPad is missing. That wasn't cheap, you know!”

“What?” he grunts back, looking up from his magazine, “You've got a problem with your knee?”

“NiPad. Nippon Electronics tablet computer,” you explain, stressing each word, “It's not with the rest of my luggage. You better not have stolen it!”

Sighing, Fletcher folds his magazine away and rises from the brand new sofa. “I'll have one of my people look for it. It probably got sent for a security check,” he replies wearily, “We can't have something bugged in here. You'll get it back as soon as-”

A siren cuts him off, the shrill alarm hitting you like a punch, and his eyes go wide. “Lilim?” he whispers involuntarily to himself, “But the schedule...”

[2/3]
>>
>>3350871
It's time to get in the fucking robot!
>>
>>3350871
>NiPad
>using knockoff Apple over knockoff Microsoft

Shameful display
>>
>>3350871

With the alarm blaring around you, you hurry down another stretch of featureless corridor and try not to glance around at the girl, the monster, walking beside you. Her gaze is fixed straight ahead, her mouth set in a determined line. “I was hoping to run some simulated tests first, but we don't seem to have that luxury,” Fletcher announces grimly, glancing back over his shoulder at you, “The Lilim is outside of the city limits, so the risk of damage is relatively low... unless it tries to press deeper into our territory. God help us, it won't.”

“We find it hard to predict their movements,” Kaori adds, her voice crisp, “They're not always logical beings.”

One final door slides open, and the words die in your mouth as you step out into the hanger. Half submerged in some pungent liquid, the massive form of a humanoid machine towers over you. It's thinner than you expected, with a blocky muzzle clamped around the “face”. The sight of it is enough to strike you dumb... for a few moments, at least. “That's it, right?” you manage, “I'm going to be piloting that thing?”

“It's easy. We use an MIU, a mind-impulse unit, to control it. You just need to think clearly and it should be fine,” Fletcher explains, “Reynolds, I want you to lead this operation.”

“Me?” you yelp, taken by surprise, “But doesn't Kaori-”

“Kaori cannot be relied upon to lead an operation,” the man explains coldly, with Kaori's expression tightening faintly at the slight, “She will provide fire support for this operation. Rainer is unavailable at the moment – her ADM Unit is still being calibrated – so it's Kaori or nothing. Is that understood?”

Silent for a moment, you glance aside at the other girl. Her face is blank, carefully neutral. So you're going to be working with HER?

>Orders are orders. You'll work with Kaori on this operation
>No way. You'd rather go up there and fight that thing alone
>Other
>>
>>3350899
>Orders are orders. You'll work with Kaori on this operation
Hot blooded as we are after hearing what Kaori did with her running off I don't think even we want to repeat that.
>>
>>3350899
>Orders are orders. You'll work with Kaori on this operation.

Maybe she can learn how to not kill civilians by watching us.
>>
>>3350899
>>Orders are orders. You'll work with Kaori on this operation
>>
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>>3350899
>hanger
Seriously, man. You keep doing it.

>Orders are orders. You'll work with Kaori on this operation
>>
>>3350923
>next quest is medieval fantasy to avoid hangar typos
>>
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This time, orders are orders. If you're going out to fight that... whatever the hell that thing is, then you want to get every advantage you can on your side. Whatever else Kaori has done, she's got actual combat experience. You've got experience in NOT stepping on civilians, so maybe you can learn from each other.

“You heard the man,” you tell Kaori, “We've got a job to do. Are you ready for this?”

“I've been running simulated combat drills for the past month. I won't make any more mistakes,” Kaori replies firmly, her eyes locking onto yours for a moment before flitting away. Turning on her heel, she marches away to the adjacent hangar to get ready. Briefly watching her leave, you look back up to the ADM Unit.

“Well then...” you whisper, “How does this thing work?”

-

As you climb the ladder, you repeat Fletcher's hurried lecture to yourself. The core of an ADM Unit is the entry plug, where the pilot hangs suspended in... some kind of goop, you can't remember what he called it. Either way, these assholes had better take care of your laundry after this. Hauling yourself up the last few rungs, you peer inside the hollow tube. A chair to sit in, a pair of handles to hold onto, and a bulky helmet to wear. Apparently, they're still refining the process.

Sliding down into the chair, you pull the helmet into place and watch as the visor lights up with scrolling data. Letters and numbers race past, too fast for you to track, and then a radio crackles into life. “Comfortable?” Fletcher asks in a humourless tone, “Some messages should appear. Tell me what you see.”

Integrity: 50

“I see something that says “Integrity”,” you obediently report, “What does that mean?”

“An ADM Unit is very difficult to destroy, but any damage will make it progressively harder to control. So, try not to get damaged. Your AT Field should be able to deflect most of the damage, but... don't worry too much about that now,” he pauses for a moment, “We can go over that part later.”

“AT what?” you blurt out, shuddering as the helmet constricts around your head. It tightens into place, and a jolt of power – like some kind of electrical shock – runs through you. Before you can do any more than yelp, new words scroll across the visor.

Ego: 100

Orders are orders, you said, and Fletcher ordered you to report. “I'm seeing something that says “Ego” now,” you tell him, “What does-”

“Don't worry about that now,” Fletcher interrupts, “Just... keep it above zero. You'll be fine. Don't worry about it.”

This is totally not good.

[1/2]
>>
So looking at starting choices we had the option of
Berserker - Mad
Neo-spartan - Cold
At specialist - Weird

So we're the Shinji.
>>
>>3351000
Nice get, but we're gay autistic loli Asuka.
>>
>>3350975

As it turns out, there's no such thing as a situation that can't get worse. Just as you're starting to worry about your ego, liquid blasts into the plug. Syrupy and warm as piss, the LCL – it's remarkably easy to remember the name when you're immersed in the stuff – is just awful. Even with Fletcher's assurance that it's a perfect conduit for oxygen, there's a terrible moment when you're sure – dead certain – that you're drowning. It passes eventually, and you find yourself able to breath. It still stinks like the inside of a dead animal, though.

Then the launcher engages, and you find yourself hurtling towards the surface. All the while, you urge yourself not to throw up. This tube is bad enough without having a soup of vomit floating about in your face. A sudden halt signals your arrival on the surface, and the visor flickers into life once more. Stretching out before you is a concrete beach, studded with lumpen tank traps and bathed in the sluggish waters of the North Atlantic. The hellish journey from underground has taken you some distance from the city, and-

And there it is. The Lilim. Towering over the concrete beach, it looks like a crazed, Cubist rendition of a Greek statue – all flat planes and sharp edges. No head sits atop the broad wedge of a torso, but a beatific humanoid face is set deep in the Lilim's torso. It seems to carry a weapon – a tall staff that burns with a smokeless fire – but then you see that its arm is fused with the weapon. The other arm, by contrast, is shrunken and feeble.

A window opens up in your display, showing you a glimpse of Kaori. Her face is frozen, paralysis gripping her at the sight of the Lilim. So much for all that simulated training.

“Reynolds,” Monroe announces, her cheerful tone jolting you back to life, “Give us a report, won't you? What's it doing?”

“It's just... standing there,” you manage to stammer out, your tongue as numb as a slab of beef, “Menacingly!”

“Then you've got some time to learn the ropes, don't you?” the commander points out, “We sent up a rifle with you. Do you see it? Try and pick it up, that'll be a good test of your control. You should also have a knife stowed within your ADM's internal storage. That's just for emergencies, mind you. We don't want anyone to rush in and get hurt, do we? Just think about what you want to do, and do it!”

She makes it sound so simple. Still, you manage to get the ADM Unit to turn a little, just enough to see Kaori's unit bending down to pick up one of the ugly rifles. You might have far too much experience in school yard scuffles, but you've never used a proper gun before. Just point and click?

>Next post might be slightly delayed while I finish typing up the combat summary. Sorry about this, I wasn't able to get it all squared away before this
>>
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Combat resolution is relatively simple. It will usually involve a set of 3 D100s being rolled against a set target, with the results based off of how many rolls exceed the DC. The results are as follows:

0 successes: A calamity. The enemy target is able to attack with their full strength
1 success: A clash. The attack does half damage, and the enemy inflicts an attack with half damage
2 successes: A successful. This attack does full damage, as normal
3 successes: A potent success. This attack does extra damage equal to half the attack's base damage

Battle partners have their own skills that alter or influence our rolls, as listed on the character sheet.

Lilim attacks deal damage to Integrity, Ego, or sometimes both at once. Losing Integrity will increase the DC for attacks by 5 for every full 10 points of Integrity lost.

Finally, ranges are short/medium/long. Ranged attacks can be used in close quarters, but not vice versa. There will be more involved, but these elements will be introduced at a later stage.

Actual next post should be up shortly
>>
>>3351067
What does losing Ego do?
>>
>>3351087
Dissolve you into LCL obviously.
>>
>>3351087
Don't worry about that, just keep it up.
>>
>>3351087
Oh we'll find out sooner rather than later.
>>
“We've finished our analysis... what little analysis we can do, right now,” Fletcher announces, “The target has been designated as “Flauros”, the second Lilim. If it starts to attack, keep moving. Whatever you do, don't freeze up. Reynolds, are you able to move?”

“I can turn my head,” you grunt, trying to focus on... doing anything, really. When you were able to look aside to Kaori, it was more through reflex than conscious choice. Maybe you're overthinking this. Trying to forget everything – forget that you're floating in bloody goop, forget that you're piloting something with a budget capable of bankrupting a small country, forget all of that crap – you imagine reaching down to pick up something you dropped. There is a slight pause, and then the ADM Unit begins to obey. Reaching down, you close your – not “your”, but whatever – hand around the ungainly rifle. It feels awkward to hold, but you're pretty sure that you won't drop it.

Just as you're starting to rise, Kaori jolts in her view screen. “Evade!” she snaps, and you react on instinct alone. Clumsily throwing your body to the side, you feel the ADM Unit lurching away. The LCL helps to cushion you a little, to hold you steady despite the shuddering motion, but your stomach twists regardless. Where your ADM had been standing a moment before, a pillar of lurid fire explodes up from the ground. No sign of any missile or bomb, no conventional weapons, just...

Just the Lilim, Flauros, and that staff it carries. Lurching upright, you clumsily raise the rifle as new information scrolls across your vision.

Ammunition supply... fine.
Range... medium.
Fire restrictions... lifted.

“Awaiting your orders,” Kaori reports, her eyes narrowed to slits.

>Hold back and open fire on the Lilim
>Approach the Lilim and engage in close combat
>Other

>>3351087
>Ego reaching "0" could be considered a kind of fail state, but there are also some more general consequences for losing it. I wouldn't want to spoil the surprise, though!
>>
>>3351118
>>Hold back and open fire on the Lilim
>>
>>3351118
>Hold back and open fire on the Lilim
>>
>>3351118
>Hold back and open fire on the Lilim
>>
>>3351118
>Hold back and open fire.

With Kaori supporting the gun has equal damage to the knife.

Also I never watched NGE so I thought Ego might be a thing from the show but I guess not.
>>
>>3351118
>Hold back and open fire on the Lilim
Just point and click. How hard could it be?
>>
>Okay, so it looks like we're shooting. Calling for a D100 roll against a DC of 50, and I'll take the first three results we get!
>>
Rolled 57 (1d100)

>>3351150
>>
Rolled 90 (1d100)

>>3351150
>>
>>3351118
>Hold back and open fire on the Lilim
As much as I want to punch things, Saitou is no help at close range.
>>
Rolled 4 (1d100)

>>3351150
>>
>Okay, so that works out to two passes and a regular success. Writing now!
>>
>tutorial enemy is dc 50 with no integrity damage

(Nervous laughter)
>>
>Success!

“Just point and click, just point and click...” you mutter, pretending that you know what you're talking about. Whoever designed this rifle was smart enough to make it easy to handle, at least. No little fiddly bits or anything like that, nothing to slow you down. High speed low drag, or whatever a military type like Fletcher might call it. Bringing the gun up, you spot a crosshair appearing on your visor screen. Good, great, easy stuff.

When you actually fire the rifle, the recoil takes you by so much surprise that you almost drop the damn thing. Clinging onto it for dear life, you watch as the hail of shells chew their way up the surface of the Lilim. White stuff flies away like chipped stone, and soon Kaori begins to pour a second stream of gunfire onto the target. As more and more of the stone hide is blasted away, you see the pulsating redness that lay underneath. The shock of it, the realisation that you're shooting at a living thing, is enough to release the trigger.

>Total damage: 6

“Clean hit. Good work Reynolds,” Fletcher reports, “A few more volleys like that and-”

Flauros throws its imbalanced arms out, a colourless explosion blasting out from it and forcing you to turn away. Rising out of the fire, not jumping but hovering like some obscene balloon, the Lilim lifts out of reach before swooping down. Lurching aside, you see concrete exploding up from the ground as the Lilim lands right up in your face. This close to it, you can feel... something. A kind of pressure, a kind of dizziness, that only deepens your sense of nausea. Although your gunfire has knocked away bits of it, the Lilim's delicately carven face turns up to gaze into yours. Dimly, you see warnings flashing on your visor screen. Proximity warning, ego threat, intrusion attempt detected...

“Get out of there!” Kaori snaps, “You're too close, I can't get a clean shot. Disengage now, I'll distract it!”

Disengage? Why would you want to do that?

>Deploy your progressive knife and attack
>Disengage before the Lilim can do... something
>Hold the Lilim's gaze. Is it trying to communicate?
>Other
>>
>>3351255
>Disengage before the Lilim can do... something
Uh oh. We've pissed it off.
>>
>>3351255
>>Deploy your progressive knife and attack
>>
>>3351255
>Disengage before the Lilim can do... something
>>
>>3351255
>Deploy the knife
Those open wounds are a perfect target. What would Kaori even do as a distraction, pick civilians up and throw them at it?
>>
>>3351281
Probably just shoot it
>>
>>3351255
>Hold the Lilim's gaze. Is it trying to communicate?
This is bait. But I want to take it.
>>
Rolled 1 (1d2)

>Right, I'm going to roll off to break this tie and keep moving. Rolling 1 for the knife, 2 for disengaging. Sorry about the delay
>>
Rolled 64, 84, 56 = 204 (3d100)

You've never backed down from a fight and you're not about to start now, damn it!

“Knife!” you shout, the liquid LCL bubbling out of your mouth. The ADM Unit answers, a slight shudder running through the unit as the blade is released from its internal storage. Pulling it free, you see the blade extend to its full length before bringing it down onto the Lilim's shoulder, stabbing down at what you're pretty sure would be a vital point on a human being. There's meat inside this thing, that must mean something, right?

The knife glances off of the Lilim's unnatural hide, carving a sliver of the outer armour free but making no serious impact. Snarling, you bring the blade down and thrust up into the broken armour. This finds a softer target, cleaving through flesh and spilling out a thick stream of what might be blood. Barely seeming to notice, the Lilim flails out with its long staff and you're forced to throw your ADM away. As you're faltering, you see something caught up in the long staff – a long cable. Visible for just a moment before being torn away, you hear a warning chime.

“Reynolds, you've lost your power supply,” Fletcher announces, his voice deceptively calm, “Your ADM Unit has internal batteries, but they can only last so long. You'll need to finish this quickly, or find a way to replace the power supply. We can deploy a new one, but it'll be putting lives in danger. We'd rather not risk it.”

And what about your life, you think bitterly to yourself, isn't that in danger too? Out of the corner of your eye, you watch as a counter ticks down. Five minutes – they couldn't design a battery capable of lasting more than five minutes?

Then you'd better finish this quick, just like Fletcher says.

>Calling for another set of rolls. 1D100 again, this time with a +5 bonus for our close combat skill
>Additionally, I'll be rolling for a Lilim attack – rolling against DC 40 using the same rough system as we are.
>>
Rolled 74 + 5 (1d100 + 5)

>>3351407
What DC are we rolling against?
>>
Rolled 83 + 5 (1d100 + 5)

>>3351407
>>
>>3351418
>Welp, forgot that slightly important part. Same DC as before, 50 for us
>>
Rolled 72 + 5 (1d100 + 5)

>>3351407
>>
>Full successes on both sides
Some cross counter shit right here.
>>
Damn those rolls are crazy good.
>>
>Potent success from Flauros!
>Potent success!

With the shorn power cord distracting you, you barely see the attack coming. With an almost leisurely pace now, as compared with the previous flailing, Flauros grinds the burning tip of its staff into your ADM Unit's chest... but it feels just like your own flesh and blood is being burned. Pushing you down with a terrible strength, driving your ADM Unit to its knees, Flauros looms over you and drives the burning staff into you. Alarms scream warnings at you, and more text rips across your visor screen. Armour layers melting, muscle fibres burning, psychological damage imminent...

You certainly feel damaged. Screaming out, choking against the LCL, you clutch your chest as the Lilim sears your flesh. No, not your flesh. It can't be your flesh. It can't. It CAN'T.

>Integrity damage: 9
>Ego damage: 18

And then, all at once, the pain lifts. Forcing your eyes open, you see Kaori's ADM Unit wrestling with the Lilim, pulling it back and away from you. She seems clumsy in close combat, as if she can't bear to get so close to the Lilim, but it's enough to buy you some time, a few precious moments to launch your counter attack. Lunging up, you drive the progressive knife into the Lilim's flank and bury it deep into the red raw meat. This time, it isn't just a spurt of blood that you see – it's like a flood, a thick stream that rushes out to dirty the grey water lapping about your feet. Driving the blade even deeper in, you carve the wound wider in search of some vital organ.

You don't see anything recognisably human, but buried deep within the Lilim is a glossy black sphere. That's your target. It HAS to be.

>Total damage: 9

Without ever seeming to reel back from the brutal blow, the Lilim is somehow not there in front of you. In the blink of an eye, it seems to pull back to the ocean to wait, floating above the surface of the water. Reddish fluids still bubble out of the Lilim's wounded flank, the flesh bubbling as if growing unstable. “We have it,” Kaori hisses, “Hurry, press the attack before it can regenerate!”

“They can DO that?” you snap back, your voice still hoarse. Then, a new window open in your visor.

“Could you get a clear shot at the core? Our research team would love to know how it reacts to direct gunfire,” Commander Monroe asks politely, “Of course, disabling the target through whatever means necessary is your top priority. We'll be cheering you on from here!”

You'd argue, but you're on the clock here. Three minutes and counting, according to your unit clock. Not only that, but with the Lilim floating out of reach...

“Open fire!” you order, wearily shouldering your rifle as the Lilim raises its staff high.

>Calling for another round of rolling. This will be three sets of D100 with no bonuses, aiming to beat a DC of 50. Good luck, and I apologise for the delays today!
>>
Rolled 32 (1d100)

>>3351553
>>
Rolled 40 (1d100)

>>3351553
>>
Uh oh
>>
Rolled 93 (1d100)

>>3351553
Oh dear
>>
>>3351587
Saved us from calamity anon
>>
Rolled 50 (1d100)

>Clash!

Before you can bid your ADM Unit to pull the trigger, you feel a sudden rush of heat. Steam flashes as a line of fire explodes out from the water beneath Flauros, carving towards you and Kaori. Yelling a curse into the radio, you push her ADM Unit aside before lunging back yourself. You land heavily, and not quickly enough to avoid the flaring trail of fire. It's not as bad as feeling the burning brand in full force, but even so. Even so.

>Integrity damage: 3
>Ego damage: 6

The rifle spills from your grip as you land, the force of your impact shattering the concrete beneath you. For the first few seconds, all you can do is shudder at the terrible heat that washes over you. There's some small part of you that just wants to curl up, to give in. This was a terrible mistake – you're not a soldier, not a fighter. What were you thinking?

“No!” you rasp, reaching out with a shuddering hand to grasp at the rifle. Some of the ADM Unit's armour has been burned away by the explosive force, and what you see underneath is little different from the Lilim's reddish insides. Heavily grabbing at the rifle, you drag it closer and line up a shot on the core. From here, you've got a straight shot and this time, you're prepared for the bucking recoil. Holding the rifle on target, you pour fire into the Lilim's core.

The fires that crackle around you burn brighter, brighter still, and then something breaks. Like an empty vessel crushed by a change in pressure, the Lilim crumples in on itself and drops out of the sky. Plunging into the ocean, it vanishes from sight only for a massive explosion to follow a split second later. Filthy water showers you as a vast plume of the stuff is thrown out over the entire area. Slumping back in your seat, you watch as the counter continues on towards zero. You won, right?

>Integrity: 38/50
>Ego: 76/100

“Mission complete. All Lilim signs extinguished,” Fletcher reports, undisguised relief in his voice, “Well done Reynolds. We're sending a recovery team out now. Just hold tight for now and we'll pick you up. You've done your part, we'll handle the rest from here on. Take a well-earned rest.” He lingers on the channel for a moment more, then breaks the contact. A short while after that, the radio dies entirely as the batteries fail, and you're plunged into a cool darkness. Shivering against the sudden cold, you lean back and close your eyes. There's something... not quite right here.

You're cut off from the entire world in here, but it doesn't feel like you're alone. If you didn't know any better, you'd say that there was someone peering over your shoulder, but...

[1/2]
>>
>>3351666

The recovery team arrives, as promised, a short while later. The uneasy feeling left after a short while, leaving you unsure of whether it was ever real at all. Maybe it was just the feeling of losing your radio link so suddenly, combined with the workings of an overactive imagination. Either way, the moment passed and soon, you could hear the muffled sounds of machinery. With one final jolt, your entry plug is force-ejected from the ADM Unit, and you feel fresh air on your skin again.

Your clammy, sticky skin. You really hate that LCL stuff.

Later, as you're riding back into NERV headquarters with a thick towel wrapped around your shoulders, you catch Fletcher glancing out at the ocean. “That's another one down,” he mutters to himself, seemingly unaware that he's speaking aloud, “Still a long way to go though...”

“Still a long road until paradise,” someone replies. It takes you a moment to realise that you were the one who spoke.

>So I think I'm going to pause this here. However, I plan to continue this tomorrow at the same sort of start time
>Thank you all for playing along today, and I'm sorry for the long pauses. I'm pretty rusty at all this writing stuff!
>>
>>3351704
Hell of a first day

>“Still a long road until paradise,” someone replies. It takes you a moment to realise that you were the one who spoke.
Interesting

Thanks for running Moloch.
>>
>>3351704
Thanks for running! Qst was a dark and lonely place without you, and I don't even want to go into the effect on my weekends.
>>
>>3351704
since we won the fight should we get ego back?
>>
>>3351798
Given how Hot-Blooded works, I suspect Ego is going to be a persistent resource.

Time to get into a lot of fights to restore it!
>>
>>3351798
We'll get some Ego back, yes, although not everything. Ego can be restored by general social stuff as well as more "assertive" behaviour. Time to make some friends!

>>3351734
I'm glad to be running again, rusty moments and typos aside
>>
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Hot water pours down over you, washing away every last trace of the sickly LCL smell. You're still not sure what that even stands for, but that hardly seems important now. In fact, you'd rather not think about that stuff at all right now. You'd rather not think about anything at all. All you want to do right now is focus on the hot water pouring down your body. It's hard, though. Every time you look down at your chest, you keep expecting to see burned flesh. It's a little red, but maybe that's just the hot water.

Looking guiltily around, you steal another glance at Kaori showering in the next stall over. Maybe because you're all girls here, or maybe because some designer was a pervert, the pilot showers don't seem to place much value on little things like “privacy”. Either way, you've got a pretty clear view of your fellow pilot. Not that you're really interested in that kind of thing, of course.

“Are you done in there?” Claire calls out, her voice pitched low so you can just barely hear her over the rushing water. Sighing at the interruption, you step out of the shower and start towelling yourself dry. At least Claire waits until you're mostly dressed before entering, waving away the steam wafting out from the showers. “I heard what happened. Sort of. Not the top secret details or anything, but the standard stuff,” she explains, “Girl, I do not envy you right now. How much are they paying you for this stuff?”

“Ah, well,” you admit, laughing despite everything, “I don't remember seeing anything about payment in that contract I signed...”

“Damn,” Claire shakes in head in dismay, “You got screwed over. Gotta get yourself a lawyer or something, you know? Anyway, these showers are pilot only, so I gotta bolt. Probably breaking all kinds of laws just being in here. You be careful, okay? I overheard someone talking about, like... contamination or something.”

“Contamination?” you repeat, frowning hard.

“I gotta go!” Claire yelps as the shower behind you turns off, “Don't tell anyone I was in here!” Winking at you, she turns and slips out just as Kaori emerges.

“Who were you talking to?” she asks, looking about the changing room.

“Oh, nobody,” you reply innocently.

-

You'd struggle to describe your friendship with Claire Sutton in a simple way. When you moved out to boarding school, she was the first person to approach you. You had a few other friends at first, but in time you drifted away from all of them – all of them except for Claire, and you can't really say why. You're not all that alike, and you come from totally different backgrounds, but somehow it all just worked. Your temper never seemed to bother her, and she could come out of her shell around you. Around anyone else, she would be as shy as anyone you've ever known.

Whatever you've been through, she's had your back. A little thing like a giant monster won't change that.

Right?

[1/2]
>>
>>3353255

“You did great out there, just great,” Commander Monroe assures you, smiling proudly at you from across her desk. Her office looks like an explosion in a soft furnishings store, with all kinds of rugs and pillows scattered about to soften the otherwise austere decoration. She's even hung woven tapestries on the walls, all kinds of faux Native American patterns that mean precisely nothing. It's... well, she's trying her best. “I know you're probably tired, but I need to ask you a few questions. I wouldn't call it a debriefing, it's nothing as formal as that,” she continues, “Call it, um... product feedback, maybe?”

“Customer satisfaction?” you suggest, unsure how serious she is.

“Exactly!” Monroe agrees, clapping her hands together before picking up a clipboard. “Let me see...” she murmurs, “Did you have any trouble with the radio?”

“No,” you answer, “Not until the battery ran out, at least.”

“Mm, we're working on that,” she murmurs, “Did the ADM Unit respond when you wanted it to respond?”

“More or less.”

“Did your weapons seem effective?” Monroe pauses, checking something on her clipboard, “We'll be working on developing new technology, and you should be able to select your own equipment on future operations. We're still preparing a lot of things here, so we're rather... limited in our options. That aside, the equipment...”

“I mean, the thing died,” you decide with a shrug, “If you can give me something that kills it, like, ten times faster then sure, hook me up.”

“Nothing like that just yet, I'm afraid,” the commander laughs, setting her clipboard aside. “One last question, and then you can pop off to bed,” she tells you, leaning forwards a little, “Did the Lilim attempt to make any kind of... contact with you? Did it communicate at all, or did you experience any kind of external influence during the operation?”

This gives you a moment's pause. “That wasn't just one question,” you venture, hoping to stall her while you think your answer over, “That was like, three at least.”

“Humour me,” she insists, offering you an imploring smile, “We need to ask these things. Come on, help me out here Holly - I have my own orders, you know!”

She's probably telling the truth about that, but... contamination?

>Tell her the truth. The Lilim tried something, but you fought against it
>Deny everything. There was never any kind of contact
>Tell her something else... (Write in)
>Other
>>
>>3353259
>Tell her the truth. The Lilim tried something, but you fought against it
Can't really start keeping important secrets that could help the fight without coming off as a massive hypocrite after we complained earlier.
>>
>>3353259
>Tell her the truth. The Lilim tried something, but you fought against it
>>
>>3353259
>>Other
>I'll cut you a deal. I'll answer those three if you can tell me what this 'schedule' Fletcher was mumbling about when the Lilim showed up is. He made it sound like it came early.
>>
>>3353259
>Tell her the truth. The Lilim tried something, but you fought against it
>>
After scolding the commander for keeping secrets, you'd be kind of a hypocrite if you started holding back now. Besides, you're hardly qualified to decide what is or isn't important right now. Maybe contact with a Lilim is dangerous, and you might have been exposed to some kind of disease. If that's the case, you don't want to fuck around with being coy. So, as Monroe continues to wait eagerly for your answer, you clear your throat.

Was that an urgent glint in her eyes, or was that just your imagination?

“There was something. I don't know exactly what it was,” you grudgingly begin, “It kind of... looked at me. That's all it was, really. It looked at me for a moment, and my head felt kinda funny. It didn't last long. I got my knife out and... well, I guess you saw what happened after that.”

“I see...” Commander Monroe checks something on her clipboard, “Yes, okay. I don't think you have anything to worry about, but I'd like you to visit the infirmary tomorrow. A quick examination won't do you any harm. Is that okay with you?”

“You're the boss,” you tell her with a shrug, “What happens next?”

“We'll need to get you signed up to a school, I suppose. We have a local facility in mind, I'm sure you'll be very happy there. Won't it be nice to have a bit of normality to fall back on?” Monroe smiles sweetly at you, “In the long term... I'm not sure. We're playing the waiting game at the moment, so you see...”

“Waiting for the next part of the schedule?” you ask, watching as Monroe frowns. “Fletcher mumbled something about it. He seemed to think that the Lilim came ahead of schedule,” you explain, “I've been honest with you, Commander Monroe-”

“Diane, please,” she interrupts. This time, she's the one stalling for time.

“I've been honest with you,” you press, “Will you be honest with me? What was he talking about?”

Commander Monroe bites her lip as she thinks for a few moments more before a small sigh escapes her. “I wouldn't call it anything like a schedule, but we believe we have identified some warning signs that occur before a Lilim appears,” she admits, “That's our current theory, at least. It's awfully hard to say anything for certain at this stage, with what little information we have. We did think a Lilim was due to appear soon, which is why we brought you in, but not quite THIS soon. Oh!” Holding up a finger here, she shakes her head. “Before you ask, we don't know when the next one – if there even is another one – will appear,” she concludes, “As soon as we have solid information, we'll make sure you're briefed and ready.”

Before you can ask about those “warning signs”, a small telephone set into Monroe's desk begins to ring. Picking up the phone and listening for a moment, she dismisses you with an apologetic wave. You'll have to save those questions for another day.

[1/2]
>>
>>3353361

When you arrive back at the dorms, everyone else seems to be in bed or otherwise elsewhere. Taking advantage of the quiet, you take a brief wander about to familiarise yourself with... well, with your new home. It's not much to look at, but you're used to that. The boarding school wasn't spectacular either, and before that...

The kitchen is sparsely decorated and mostly empty, with just a few sundries kept in store. A scribbled note from Commander Monroe urges you to write a shopping list, any food or drink you'd like them to acquire. She even reminds you to eat your fruit and veg, warning against too much fatty foods. Rolling your eyes, you take a can of soda from the refrigerator and continue your exploration. The common room has a television and plenty of seating, but nothing else, while a smaller room in the back is labelled the “leisure room”. Pausing at the door, you hear the faint whisper of footsteps coming from inside.

Hesitating for a moment more, you push the door open and look inside. A pool table dominates the room, and Rainer – you think that was her name – paces restlessly around it as she plans out her next shot. You've got no idea what they feed kids over in England, but she's pretty top heavy for a girl your age. Glancing around at the sound of your entrance, Rainer gives you a disinterested wave.

“There was a delivery for you,” she announces, “A computer, I think. One of those ghastly little things. They left it in your room.”

“Thanks,” you reply, “Rainer, wasn't it? I'm Holly.”

“Claudia Rainer,” she corrects you, already leaning down to line up her next shot, “Of the Rainer family, although you probably guessed that already.” There is a hard clack as she strikes the cue ball and sends it flying across the pool table into a group of balls. When her intended target skirts against the pot without dropping, she lets out an irritated hiss and shoots you a dirty look, as if to blame you for distracting her. “Was there something else?” she concludes, “The others are in their quarters, if you were wondering. Kaori and the other one.”

The other one. “Natasha,” you tell her, but Claudia makes no sign of noticing your correction. Frowning at the snub, you linger a moment more as you decide what to do before bed. At least you've got your tablet back. Maybe you can get wi-fi in here...

>Head back to your dorm to rest up
>Talk with Claudia some more
>Visit Kaori in her dorm
>Check up on Natasha
>Other
>>
>>3353451
>Check up on Natasha
>>
>>3353451
>>Check up on Natasha
Claudia is going to be fun to work with.
>>
>>3353451
>Check up on Natasha
>>
>>3353451
>Talk more with Claudia

Top heavy description but no pic? :(
>>
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Muttering a goodbye, you leave the leisure room and head back to the common room. Monroe has left another note there, listing off who is in each room. Natasha is listed as being in 1F, with someone named “VC” in the next room. Her brother was Victor, wasn't he? Apparently he's going to be moving in here. It's going to be strange, having a guy around. You'd better start sleeping with one eye open. Smirking a little to yourself, you head over to Natasha's room and knock lightly at the door.

“Nate,” you mutter, reminding yourself of her chosen name. The door opens a moment later, revealing a cluttered mess of a room. It's impressive, really, that someone could make such a terrible mess in a short space of time.

“Oh hey, Holly!” Nate squeals, holding up a hand for a high-five. Feeling vaguely absurd, you clap your palm against hers. “I thought you'd be, like, in hospital or something. I heard you got hurt out there today,” she continues, flapping her hands at you as she invites you inside, “Um, sit... wherever you can. You caught me in the middle of unpacking. Are you really okay? You don't need any help to move or anything, do you?”

You very clearly don't need any help, but she tries to steer you down onto the bed regardless. Either she's seriously concerned for your help, or she's got a serious thirst. “Hey, look, knock it off. I'm fine,” you chide, wincing a little at the harshness of your tone. Claudia might have left a bad taste in your mouth, but that's no reason to take it out on Nate. “Look, I'll help you unpack. Maybe clear this place up a little,” you offer, pointing to one of the larger cardboard boxes, “How are you settling in?”

“Oh, I'm... I'm fine,” Nate frowns a little despite this, “I'm starting to wonder why I'm here, though. I was talking to Kaori earlier – she said that there are three of those machine things stored here. One for her, one for you, and one for Claudia. So, I'm sorta wondering... when do I get a turn?”

“I think it's a work in progress. Like, they don't even have Claudia's unit ready yet,” you point out, opening one carton to reveal a number of soft toys. Yelping, Nate snatches the box away from you and shoves it into the corner. “Point is, it's a little early to start worrying,” you conclude, smiling a little at Nate's panic, “Besides, you shouldn't be so eager to get in one of those things. It takes ages to wash the smell out.”

“Eww,” Nate's face wrinkles with disgust, “You know, when you put it that way, maybe-” The chirp of her phone interrupts her here, and Nate's face lights up as she reads the message. “Hey, it looks like Vic is going to be arriving tomorrow!” she announces, “I'll introduce you. He's kinda boring but like, some people really go for the serious type, you know?”

She's getting a little ahead of herself here...

[1/2]
>>
>>3353579

Nate continues to chat about her brother as you help her unpack, talking so much that by the time she's finished you feel like you've known the guy for years. At least her room looks a little more organised when you're finished – the walls might be covered in gaudy J-pop posters, but that's a minor sin in the grand scheme of things. Standing back to admire your hard work, Nate lets out a satisfied sigh.

“Hey... thanks for stopping by,” she tells you, “Kaori seems okay, but she's super not into meeting new people, and Claudia... I don't know, I don't think she really likes me. Maybe it's like an English thing, you know?”

“Maybe she's just a bitch,” you suggest with a yawn. Nate giggles despite herself, covering her mouth with one small hand. “Anyway, I need to bail. All this hard work tired me right out,” you add, “See you tomorrow, Nate.”

“See you tomorrow, Holly,” Nate replies, offering you an earnest smile as you leave.

>Ego: 91/100

-

Back in your own dorm, you spot your tablet sitting on the desk. As you're turning it on, there's a knock at the adjoining door and Claire lets herself in a moment later. “Stylish place, huh?” she jokes, sitting down on your bed and gesturing around her, “I guess it's nice enough, but it gives me this “seedy motel” sort of vibe.”

“What do you know about seedy motels?” you ask, raising an eyebrow. Claire just laughs, trying very hard to look innocent. Shaking your head, you look down at your tablet and frown. There's a new icon waiting for you. “Labyrinth,” you murmur, “What the...”

“Labyrinth?” Claire repeats, “Oh, hey, I remember that. It's like a chat program, it was supposed to be, like, super encrypted. It never really got popular though, except with like... drug dealers.” Looking up from the NiPad, she gives you a wicked grin. “Wow Holly, no wonder you always had spare money for snacks,” she jokes, nudging you with her elbow, “I knew I kept you around for a reason. Hook me up, will you?”

“C'mon...” you groan. All jokes aside, this doesn't sit well with you. First, your tablet goes missing, and then it shows up with THIS on it?

“Well?” Claire presses, her eyes bright and eager, “Aren't you going to try it out?”

>Definitely. No buying drugs, though
>Not a chance. This is bad news
>Other
>>
>>3353721
>Definitely. No buying drugs, though
I'm having suspicions that Claire might be imaginary but I'm not sure yet.
>>
>>3353721
>>Definitely. No buying drugs, though

>Claire just laughs, trying very hard to look innocent.
I can't believe Claire pleasures old men for money.
>>
>>3353721
>>Definitely. No buying drugs, though
>>
>>3353721
>Definitely. We're Jane Bond now
>>
“Definitely,” you decide after a moment, boldly tapping the icon with your thumb, “No buying drugs, though.”

“Aww...” Claire groans, leaning in to watch as an endlessly spinning icon appears on the screen, “It's taking awfully long, isn't it? Imagine waiting for this thing to load while you're desperate for a fix. Awful!”

Before you can answer this, a dark grey chat window appears on screen. There are only two people in the room – HLLY06, which you assume is you, and someone calling themselves “Phantom.” As you watch, a message pops up on screen.

Phantom: Don't talk.
Phantom: You're being monitored.

You glance up and meet Claire's eyes, but she presses her finger to her lips to hush you. Frowning, you return your attention to the NiPad and start to tap out a reply.

HLLY06: Who are you?
Phantom: A friend
HLLY06: I'm not friends with any drug dealers
Phantom: What?
HLLY06: Forget it. Start from the top. Who are you?
Phantom: I'm with NERV. You need to be careful. They're not who they say they are. I want to help you.
HLLY06: Why?
Phantom: I don't approve of child soldiers.

Child soldiers? Well, they might have a point there. Despite yourself, you glance around your dorm for anything that might contain a listening device. These days, that could be anything. The smoke detector, perhaps, or maybe something hidden inside the desk lamp? Any one of the power outlets could have some kind of microphone tucked away inside the wiring. What are you supposed to do, just never talk while you're here? Swallowing down the urge to kick your chair across the room, you look back down to the screen. A few new messages have appeared.

Phantom: And I have ears too, across most of the facility. Not Fletcher's office. He swept his quarters on day one. Not the lower levels either. Those are top secret.
HLLY06: Prove it.

There is another pause, and then an audio file appears. Diving down into your bag, you drag out a pair of headphones and plug them in. Passing one end to Claire, you click on the link and listen. The muffled sound of footsteps reaches you, and then you hear voices. “That was cute,” Fletcher's voice growls, “Those helmets in the entry plugs, I mean.”

“I know, I know,” Monroe replies, “I thought it might help them. I mean, it might make it seem more like a game. Anything to make it easier on the girls. It's not fair on them, they're still so young...”

The file ends there. Leaving you with an empty chat window. Phantom – or whatever they want to call themselves – is gone now, leaving you to think on these new discoveries.

[1/2]
>>
>>3353870

They're talking about you. Sitting in the cafeteria, staring down at the dented tin tray, you listen to the shrill, giggling voices.

“Who does she think she is? I mean, she's just some dumb hick...”
“I hear her parents own like, half the state. My mom skips meals, but she...”
“Shameless. People like that are the worst.”

Enough is enough. Standing bolt upright, you sweep the last of your lunch off the tray and march over. The girls are too involved in their gossiping to notice your approach until the last moment, and by then it's too late. One of them gasps in alarm and the ringleader of their whole sorry gang begins to turn. You catch just a glimpse of her widening eyes before you slam the tin tray into the back of her head and knock her to the ground.

“Say that again!” you yell, throwing the even more dented tray aside and turning to face the rest of the cafeteria. A dead silence hangs over the entire room, all eyes locked on you. “Anyone else want to talk shit about me?” you demand, “About my folks?” Nobody dares to speak, and you feel a raw triumph welling up within you. Turning one last time, you see the teacher standing in the doorway. He watches you for a moment, disappointment darkening his eyes.

“Do you feel proud of yourself now?” he asks softly.

-

Jolting awake, you sit bolt upright in the unfamiliar bed and look about the dorm room. As the old, painfully familiar dream fades away, you try to recall what happened last night. There was the Lilim, of course, and then the messages from Phantom. After that, you... what DID happen? Fumbling for your NiPad, you open Labyrinth and check for any new messages. Nothing. Slowly, you realise that you had been hoping for it to have been a dream. No such luck, unfortunately.

There's a smell of frying bacon hanging over the kitchen when you leave your room, and when you glance inside... well, then you're left wondering if this is a dream too.

There's a maid in your kitchen. An actual maid, with the uniform and everything. Humming sweetly to herself, the maid pays you no mind and continues with her cooking. As the smell of breakfast sinks in, you hear yourself speaking up. “That smells good,” you rasp, “Is there enough for everyone?”

The maid jumps a little, her concentration broken, but she avoids making any kind of mess. “Miss Rainer asked me to prepare breakfast for one,” she apologises, glancing around at you with a serene smile, “But I thought to make extra just in case. My name is Hester. It's a pleasure to meet you, Miss...”

>Introduce yourself as Miss Reynolds, of course
>Introduce yourself as Holly. No need for the formality
>Introduce yourself as “Master”. That's a maid thing, right?
>Other
>>
>>3353963
>Introduce yourself as Holly. No need for the formality
We got rich parents from the countryside?
>>
>>3353963
>Introduce yourself as Holly. No need for the formality
>>
>>3353963
>>Introduce yourself as Holly. No need for the formality
>>
>>3353963
>>Introduce yourself as Holly. No need for the formality
>>
>>3353963
"Minor anger issues"
I can't wait till we start enjoying war
>>
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“Just Holly,” you assure her, “There's no need for any of that formality.”

Hester looks faintly alarmed by the prospect, which you're going to put down to what Nate might all “some English thing”. Regardless, she accepts your answer with a gentle nod and returns to her cooking. “It's only imitation bacon, I'm afraid. Miss Rainer requested the genuine thing, but it would seem that our hosts were unable, or unwilling, to provide. I'm told that there's really no difference. You won't tell her, will you?” Hester explains, “Now then... Holly, was it? Wash your hands and sit down, this should be finished in a moment.”

As you wash your hands in the sink, you glance aside at Hester. More of a young woman than a girl, she has a patient air about her. Reassuring, in a way. “So I guess Claudia is like, nobility or something?” you ask, “Do they still have nobility in England?”

“Well... it's complicated. The Rainer family has a long noble tradition, however, so... yes, I suppose Miss Rainer would be nobility,” Hester answers, “I've been her assistant for, oh, about five years now. Her father took me in, and so now I'm repaying him for that kindness. Ah, but you needn't listen to me prattle on. Tell me a little about yourself, Holly.”

Your recent dream jabs at you, and you feel yourself wince. “Not much to tell you, really. I'm from the midwest originally. Nebraska. These last few years, though, I was in a boarding school just outside of Chicago. The big city,” you hear yourself answer, “I'd never call myself noble, but my folks were pretty well off. Industrial farming, you know? With the food shortages after Second Impact...”

“Ah yes,” Hester sighs, “We had a lot of starvation in England for a long while. My parents...”

You and your big mouth. Before the conversation can grow even more awkward, Claudia emerges from her dorm and runs a hand through her tangled hair. Squinting her eyes, she sniffs the air. “I asked for genuine bacon,” she mutters to herself, slumping down at the dinner table, “This insult shall not stand. I'll have someone's head for this...” Rubbing her eyes, she notices that you're watching her and her entire demeanour changes. “A joke, of course,” the young noblewoman assures you, “If you start the day with a joke, good things will happen to you. That's what father always told me.”

It's starting to seem like you're the only sane one here. Excusing yourself, you return to the bedrooms and check on Claire. “You awake?” you whisper, peering into her room, “We're having breakfast if you... ah.” Your words trail off here as you hear snoring, spotting Claire sprawled out in a tangle of blankets. You really pity the man who ends up sleeping beside her – she always looks like she's been wrestling in her sleep. Closing the door behind you, you return to the breakfast table.

[1/2]
>>
>>3354056
>imitation bacon
I'm with Claudia, I can not accept this.
>>
>>3354056
>It's starting to seem like you're the only sane one here.

Hah. I don't think so Holly.
>>
>>3354042
>>
People keep saying "folks" plural, but not parents. Really makes you think.
>>
>>3354056

You can learn a lot by watching people sharing a meal. Kaori eats quickly and precisely, with little sign of actually appreciating the food she's eating, while Nate is surprisingly picky. You're almost hypnotised by the way she methodically cuts her imitation bacon up into small pieces and smooths a precise layer of button over her toast. Considering how messy her room is, you expected her to be a horror at the dinner table. Despite her initial sulk, Claudia polishes off her breakfast without hesitation or complaint.

For what it's worth, it really does taste like real bacon.

“So, when did you get in?” Nate asks Hester, sipping from a cup of soda. You had coffee like everyone else, but apparently she has a sweet tooth.

“Early this morning. I arrived just in time to start work on breakfast,” the maid answers, “Once the dishes are all washed and stored away, I'll get to work on cleaning the dorms. Would any of you like your rooms dusted? It won't be much trouble, I'm sure.”

“Hester...” Claudia warns, only to reconsider and grandly shrug her shoulders, “Well, I don't see the harm in it. The devil makes work for idle hands, after all!”

“Hey,” Nate whispers, leaning across the table to you, “Is she talking about, like, jerking-”

“I can keep my own room tidy,” Kaori declares, mercifully drowning out the rest of Nate's question. Finishing off the last of her coffee, she stands and bows her head in restrained gratitude. “I'm going to be training today,” the veteran pilot continues, “There are facilities in the lower level. A firing range and a gymnasium, along with the simulated training units. Rainer, I suggest you join me there later. I've seen your performance reports, and they could use some work.”

Claudia scowls hard at this, and you sense peril. “I gotta go to the infirmary this morning,” you hastily announce, “Just a check up, but it's still a pain. I hope it doesn't take too long.”

“Ah, I'm sure it'll be okay. You're looking totally fine this morning,” Nate assures you, “Hey, I'm going to be heading out into the city to meet up with Vic this afternoon. If you're not, like, dying then you could come with me. I'd like to see some of the city, but it's no fun doing that stuff on my own. Plus, I don't want to wander into the wrong part of town on my own, you know?”

Kaori lets out a short laugh. “You won't BE on your own,” she points out, “You'll have an escort. We're VIPs now, remember? We're not allowed to be in any danger, except when we're out in the ADM Units.”

“Aww...” Nate sighs, “That's no fun either...”

So much for getting some private time outside of headquarters. In either case, you've got to head to the infirmary. After that, though...

>You'd best join Kaori and Claudia on their training
>Seeing the city with Nate might be nice
>You'd rather take a look around NERV headquarters by yourself
>You'll try... (Write in)
>Other
>>
>>3354151
>You'd rather take a look around NERV headquarters by yourself

Keep an eye out for Phantom bugs
>>
>>3354151
>>You'd best join Kaori and Claudia on their training
>>
>>3354151
>>You'd rather take a look around NERV headquarters by yourself
We gotta find our Pen-Pen
>>
>>3354151
>a precise layer of button over her toas
I love it when my toast is formal.

>You'd rather take a look around NERV headquarters by yourself
>>
“I think I'd rather take some time out. I need some alone time, you know?” you decide, shrugging deliberately, “I want to go for a walk about the base, learn where everything is. If there's an emergency, then it would be a real disaster if I got lost.” A murmur of agreement answers this, although Nate looks faintly disappointed. A gang of burly NERV security guards probably won't be very good company. Well, too bad. “Anyway, I should get going,” you conclude, “But, uh, where is the infirmary, anyway?”

Sighing, Kaori gestures for you to follow her.

-

“I never got the chance to thank you,” Kaori says suddenly as she leads you through the bland corridors, “You did well yesterday. How many simulated missions have you completed?”

“None,” you answer, “That was my first time yesterday, real or simulated.”

Kaori stops dead in her tracks, turning to stare at you in surprise. “You're kidding, right?” she breathes, “...You're not kidding. Your first time.” Mulling over this fact for a moment more, she shakes her head and utters a humourless laugh. “Commander Monroe did tell me that there was a degree of... variance. I never imagined the difference would be this great,” she thinks aloud to herself, “You've got natural talent, Reynolds, but that can only take you so far. You need training to-”

“I know, I know,” you sigh, waving away her nagging, “I'll try and find the time, okay?”

“Good enough for me,” Kaori decides, “The infirmary is just at the end of this corridor. Be patient with the doctor here, he's easily distracted.” With that, she turns on her heel and marches off down the corridor you came from. Watching her leave, you wander into the infirmary. The ward seems deserted at first, but then you see a silhouette sitting at a desk behind a veil of clean paper curtains.

The figure pauses at the sound of your footsteps, straightening up a little. “Is that you, Zero?” he asks, his voice thin and tired.

Zero?

“Uh, no. I'm supposed to be getting a check-up here. This IS the infirmary, right?” you call out, watching as the man pokes his head out from the curtains. A pallid, drawn looking man with thinning hair and small spectacles, the doctor has a sparse stubble still clinging to his cheeks. He looks more like an alcoholic university lecturer than a doctor, but... he wouldn't be here if he was messed up, right? “Holly Reynolds. I'm new here,” you add as you hurry over, involuntarily adding: “Who's Zero?”

“Oh,” the doctor pauses for a long while, “A friend of mine, that's all. I usually get a call in advance when it's official business, so when I heard your footsteps... well, no matter. I'm Doctor Wilson. You were here for...?”

Easily distracted, just like Kaori said.

[1/2]
>>
>>3354253

Once he starts doing doctor stuff, Doctor Wilson thankfully sharpens up. He runs though a basic physical exam in quick order, nodding in satisfaction at every positive result. So far, so good. Then, he escorts you into a small side room for the real test. Most of the room is filled up by a bulky machine, sort of a drum that you lie back and stick your head inside. You've seen something like it on hospital shows before. An MRI machine, was it?

“This shouldn't take long,” Wilson assures you, “Just hop down on the table. You don't have any metal in your head, do you? Uh, piercings should be fine – they're not magnetic. No shrapnel, nothing like that?” Shaking your head, you hesitantly lie back on the table and wait as it retracts into the drum. A dull bass thud begins to fill your ears, and you soon realise that it's your own heartbeat. “Just hold still,” the doctor continues, his voice crackling over an intercom, “This should be over in a moment. You might want to close your eyes, though. There's going to be a bright flash of light soon.”

Obediently closing your eyes, you have barely a second to prepare yourself before something hits you like a slap. You see light flaring from behind your eyelids, you smell pungent medicinal alcohol, you hear a clap like thunder, and-

Standing in a white void, you see a circle of empty chairs facing you. You count eleven chairs, and-

“How do you feel?” Doctor Wilson is asking, peering in your eyes with a small penlight, “The machines can cause some disorientation. I'm sorry, I should have warned you.” Clicking off the light, he gives you a brisk nod. “The good news is, you've got a clean bill of health. No signs of... well, of anything you should be worried about,” he continues, “Now go and do something fun.”

“What's the bad news?” you hear yourself ask, “I mean, if that's the good news...”

“Oh. Oh, I didn't mean to imply... ah,” Wilson winces, giving you an embarrassed smile, “No bad news today, Holly. Let's do our best to keep it that way, okay?”

Nodding dully, you wander back into the main part of the infirmary and then pause. Something seems off, something that nags at the corner of your mind. Looking the clean room up and down, you finally notice the anomaly. One of the fluorescent light strips set into the ceiling is slightly dimmer than the others, and the edge of a wire pokes out the side. Evidence of tampering, perhaps? As you linger, Wilson glances up at you.

“Was there something else?” he asks, apparently oblivious to the anomaly.

>Leave without saying anything
>There was something else... (Write in)
>Other
>>
>>3354355
>There was something else... (Write in)
"So what does the machine measure Doc?"
>>
>>3354355
Backing this >>3354365

Not that we'll get an answer.
>>
>>3354355
>There was something else... (Write in)

>"I saw an empty room, eleven chairs. That normal?"
>>
>>3354397
Not a real answer anyways, but it's good to keep these spooks on their toes.
>>
“Hey doc,” you ask, forcing your gaze away from the faulty light and looking back around, “What was that machine measuring, anyway?”

“It's... uh. It wasn't quite measuring, but...” Wilson scratches at his thinning hair as he searches for a way to answer that question in words you're capable of understanding. It seems to be quite a struggle, and you're not sure if you should feel insulted by that. “It's like pouring water into a bucket to see if it leaks,” he offers at last, looking from side to side before grabbing a stained coffee cup from his desk, “Leaks are bad, in this case.”

“I guessed that much,” you reply weakly, “So... you were checking to see if I had any cracks in my armour, something like that?”

“Er, yes, that might be a better way to put it,” the doctor agrees, nodding at your suggestion, “And like I said, it was good news. You're all clear.”

Hesitating for a moment more, you ask another question. “I saw something,” you offer slowly, “A room. Eleven chairs, sitting in a circle. Does that mean anything?”

“Not to me,” Wilson shakes his head, “But in terms of side-effects, hallucinations aren't unheard of. Think of it as being like, um, like a dream. Something dredged up from your memory, your imagination, anything like that. Did the image mean anything to YOU?”

Searching your memory, you shrug and shake your head. Certainly, there's nothing that you can think of. With nothing more to add, Wilson offers you an apologetic smile and turns away. Swallowing down your misgivings, you turn and flee into the corridors outside. When you hit a junction, you pick a direction at random and keep moving. Keeping this up for two, three more changes in direction, you only stop moving when you're good and lost. That's a good start.

-

It seems like your mad, aimless dash has brought you to the staff offices. Commander Monroe's door is open, and the woman herself is sitting at her desk, but you're careful to avoid alerting her. You're not sure if you could stomach her attempts at friendship right now. Fletcher's office is the next door down, but the door is sealed shut. It figures that the chief of security would keep his door locked. The next few doors are unmarked and sealed too, as if waiting for their intended owners. At the far end of the hall is a group of vending machines and a few plastic seats.

Sitting down with a cold can of Mad Bull in your hand, you dig out your NiPad and check Labyrinth again. When you see that a new message is waiting for you, the breath catches in your throat. Glancing up to make sure that you're alone, you open the chat window.

[1/2]
>>
>>3354465
>armour
Holly is American.
>>
>>3354465

Phantom: I didn't want to scare you.

Despite yourself, you let out a humourless scoff. According to the timestamp on the message, it was sent in the early hours of the morning. 3AM, apparently. Your brand new internet friend is a night owl, it would seem.

HLLY06: It's a little late for that.
Phantom: Take it as a warning. Stay on your guard.
Phantom: You're in the admin section now. Why?
HLLY06: Taking a walk. You know where I am?
Phantom: Of course.
HLLY06: I shouldn't even be surprised. Tell me about them. Fletcher first.
Phantom: Ex-military. Then mercenary work. NERV hired him to provide security.
Phantom: Most of the guards here are his people.
HLLY06: What about Monroe?
Phantom: Airhead. Irrelevant to the bigger picture
HLLY06: And what IS the bigger picture?
Phantom: When I find out, I'll tell you.
Phantom: I have to go.

“You son of a...” you hiss, crushing the can in your hand as Phantom vanishes offline. Drawing in a deep breath, you slip the tablet back into your bag and scowl down at the floor for a moment. So far, you're still not sure how far you can trust this “Phantom” character. They have some way to monitor your movements, and some way to eavesdrop on people, but can you trust what they're telling you? This is a fundamentally unbalanced relationship – they hold all the cards here.

Two question, then. What do they want from you, and why are they-

You're not alone.

Looking sharply up, you see Fletcher coming around the corner. When he notices you, he gives a firm nod and marches over. “Reynolds,” he announces briskly as he reaches you, “Is there something we can help you with?”

Searching your mind for a convenient excuse, you grab onto the first thing that comes to mind. “I've been to the infirmary,” you explain, “Clean bill of health. Doctor Wilson didn't find any problems.”

Maybe it's because you drop the doctor's name into conversation, but Fletcher accepts the excuse with a simple nod. “That's good to hear,” he decides, “I can pass the word along to Commander Monroe if you want, or you can tell her yourself. I know how these medical things can be. Womanly things.” Clearing his throat, the man gestures back towards his office. “Unless you wanted to talk with me about something?” he adds, “I can be a good listener... when I'm in a good mood.”

Raising an eyebrow in an attempt at humour, Fletcher awaits your answer.

>Let Fletcher pass along the news and head back to the dorms
>Give Commander Monroe the news yourself
>Talk with Fletcher for a while
>Other
>>
>>3354587
>Other
Say we'll tell Monroe, but we won't go tell her. We can tell her next we see her.
>>
>>3354587
>Talk with Fletcher for a while

>>3354598
Why?
>>
>>3354587
>>Give Commander Monroe the news yourself
>>
>>3354614
Because we don't like Monroe.
>>
>>3354587
>Talk with Fletcher for a while
>>
>>3354587
>Let Fletcher pass along the news and head back to the dorms

Kinda wanna snitch on phantom
>>
>>3354645
Even if we can't completely trust what they say the feeds and wiretaps alone are worth keeping him around
>>
>>3354684
Or he's a test of our loyalty.
>>
“I guess I'll give her the news myself,” you sigh, “Gotta face her sooner or later. Maybe later though. Can I talk with you about something?”

“Nothing serious, I hope,” Fletcher replies, pressing his ID badge to the door and stepping inside. His office is utterly blank, offering nothing that might hint at personality or preferences. Just standard issue furnishings and blank wall space. Noticing the look on your face, Fletcher shakes his head. “I'm not used to having a permanent office,” he admits, “I'm more of a wandering type. Was, at least. I'm not as young as I used to be. Maybe it's time for me to settle down and put down roots. Still, we're not here about me. What did you want to ask about?”

“Kaori said that we're going to have guards from now on,” you ask, saying the first thing that comes to mind, “I mean like, when we go out into the city. Is that right?”

“Discrete guards, yes. We're professionals, Reynolds. Most of the time, you won't even know that we're there. We'll only step in if there's a serious need. Your safety is our top priority, that's true, but I understand that kids like you need their privacy,” Fletcher explains, “It's an impossible situation. Work with me on this, and we should be able to reach a compromise that keeps everyone happy.”

Considering this, you nod slowly. It's not like you're going to get a better deal out of this – either way, you've been playing by their rules ever since you signed those release forms. Accepting the matter and moving on, you change the subject. “So...” you ask, “Why did you start working for NERV?”

“Why did you?” Fletcher counters. The question hits you like a slap, leaves you reeling. You signed those forms because... why? Not out of any lofty aspiration, certainly. You had no idea what kind of work you'd be doing. It just seemed like a way out, a way to get away from everything. A huge decision, taken on a whim. A stupid, stupid whim. “Never mind. Forget I asked,” Fletcher decides suddenly, waving the question away, “To be blunt, the pay was good. I'm used to private security, and this just seemed like another job. Does that bother you?”

If you wanted to list off all of the things that were bothering you, you consider, you'd both be here all day.

>I'm sorry for the abrupt end, but I think I'm going to have to pause things here for today. I should be able to continue this tomorrow, though
>Thank you for your contributions today!
>>
>>3354724
Thanks for running!

This whole phantom situation is giving me big attack on titan vibes.
>>
>>3354694
I don't get that impression. Or rather it would be weird of NERV to organize wiretaps on itself and go through this convoluted Phantom business to test the loyalty of a 15 year old girl that has no reason yet to be loyal to them and understandably regards them with suspicion.

>>3354724
Thanks for running Moloch.
>>
>>3354803
>that has no reason yet to be loyal to them and understandably regards them with suspicion.
That's exactly why they would do it.

>>3354724
Thanks for running Moloch, I can't wait for Nate to get boiled alive.
>>
>>3350410
>Holly rn
I WILL KILL YOU
>Holly in a few sessions
BLOOD BLOOD BLOOD
BLOOOOOOOD
>>
Moloch, I have to say that I really appreciate the joke you used in the filename for the MC's sheet.

"HollySheet".
>>
It should be fine to share this here, right?
https://imgur.com/a/LBMW976
>>
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Natural talent can only get you so far, and then training needs to take over. That's fine, you can accept that... but where does this “natural talent” even come from? What is it that allows you to pilot an ADM Unit where others cannot? These are questions with no easy answer, and they gnaw at you as you step into the elevator. Fletcher was able to give you a map of the base, so hopefully you should have no more trouble with finding your way.

A heavily redacted map. Large parts of it are simply marked “Do Not Enter” and left blank. According to Fletcher, some of the laboratories down in the lower levels contain fragile or even dangerous materials. They can't have people wandering about and poking at whatever they like. For what it's worth, they probably DO have fragile and dangerous experiments going on down there. You're just curious about what else they might have hidden away.

Saving the dangerous exploration for another day, you follow Fletcher's map until you reach the gymnasium. Along the way, you take note of the sealed doors blocking off the “dangerous” parts of the facility. Even if you wanted to be sneaking about, you'd have a hard job doing it. Maybe with that ID card Fletcher has...

Not that you'd ever get up to that kind of trouble, of course. Not ever.

The gymnasium is simple, but well-equipped with a variety of equipment. Everything from exercise bikes to weight lifting stuff. You'll... probably stay away from that latter end of the scale. Claudia and Kaori are standing facing each other on a large mat in the centre of the room, sizing each other up. Right away, you can tell that Kaori is the better fighter. She looks casual, light on her feet, but there's a lot of energy stored up there and she's just waiting for a chance to let it out. Claudia, by contrast, doesn't seem to have much combat experience. That doesn't really surprise you – what's she going to do, wrestle her maids?

Claudia moves first, lunging forwards in a doomed charge. With barely any effort at all, Kaori steps forwards and grabs her opponent by the arm, hooking one foot behind Claudia's leg and shoving her back. With a startled cry, the noble girl falls backwards and hits the mat with a heavy thud.

“I keep telling you, you're telegraphing your attacks,” Kaori lectures, reaching down to help Claudia up, “I saw that coming before you even started moving.”

“Oh, and I suppose I should have just stood there like an idiot, should I?” Claudia snaps back, slapping away the offer of help and struggling to her feet, “Besides, I don't see the point in any of this. Why do we need to brawl like thugs when we have those fighting machines on our side?”

“They're only as capable as we are,” Kaori corrects her, “And we need to be better. Otherwise, we won't survive what's coming.”

[1/2]
>>
>>3357566

The pair break up and slink away from each other. Claudia stalks across to a vending machine and aggressively stabs at it with one finger, while Kaori sits down on a low bench. Sitting beside her, you catch a faint smell of sweat on her skin. “And what is coming?” you ask quietly, “More Lilim?”

Kaori nods. “After Berlin, they let something slip. Maybe they thought I was asleep, I don't know. They mentioned that there would be more,” she pauses, “Maybe sixteen in total. They didn't seem quite sure of that, but-”

“Fuck me!” you hiss, the curse causing Kaori to recoil a little. “No, I mean, I wasn't asking you to...” you stammer quickly, “What I mean is, fourteen more of these things? FourTEEN? That's bullshit, that's got to be... that can't be right!” Lapsing into silence, you stare into space as you think. “Maybe if they're all the same as the first two, we can do it,” you venture, “We learn how to fight them, get really good at it, and... I mean, that could work, right?”

Kaori remains silent. Before she can answer this, Claudia marches over to you and plants her hands on her hips. “Right then!” she demands, “We're going for another round. I won't hold back this time!”

“Bit of advice,” you tell her, your tongue moving faster than your brain, “Get yourself a proper sports bra first. You're jiggling all over the place.”

High splotches of colour rise up in Claudia's cheeks as she flushes red with anger. “You!” she hisses, pointing an accusing finger at you, “I'll make you regret those words!”

And deep down, there is a part of you that rejoices at this challenge. Leaping to your feet, you square up and meet her burning glare. Before you can take her up on the offer, though, Kaori pushes between you. “Stop this!” she barks, “Look, we're not here to screw around like this. We're supposed to be learning, not beating each other senseless. We just need to slow down and take things easy, cover the basics. If that means going easy on each other, then so be it. Just... let's all just calm down.”

Calm down, some dark voice howl within you, what if you don't WANT to calm down?

>Take Claudia up on her challenge and fight her
>Kaori has a point. Maybe you should go easy on Claudia...
>There's no point in fighting Claudia. You'd just be wasting your time
>You'd rather fight Kaori. At least that might be a fair fight
>Other
>>
>>3357569
>Take Claudia up on her challenge and fight her
The fuck? Who does this prissy bitch think she is!
RIP her top off Holly!
>>
>>3357569
>You'd rather fight Kaori. At least that might be a fair fight
>>
>>3357569
>Take Claudia up on her challenge and fight her
take her down a peg. Underestimating her with Holly's temper would just be worse.
>>
>>3357569
>>Take Claudia up on her challenge and fight her
>>
>>3357624
>ywn be a Khornate womanlet who beats the pulp put of teenage girls
Feelsbadman
>>
Holding Claudia's gaze for a moment more, you turn away with a quiet scoff. “I think I'd rather go a few rounds with Kaori. At least that would be a fair fight,” you sneer, briefly meeting the other girl's eyes as you turn away from the spoiled noble girl, “What do you say? We could-”

A hand falls on your shoulder, cutting off this offer in an instant. Spinning around on your heel, you throw a quick punch into Claudia's face. Her grimace of rage twists into panic as she throws up a hand to protect herself, the desperate move just barely managing to deflect your blow. Rather than flattening her nose against that smug face, your fist glances off her temple and forces her to stumble back. She isn't nearly so lucky the next time, your follow-up attack coming in low and slamming into her gut.

“What's the matter?” you demand, pausing as Claudia doubles over and retches, “You're not holding back on me, are you? Come on and fight me! Come ON!”

Snarling like a wild dog, Claudia forces herself up and lunges at you with her hands forming harsh claws. You meet the attack with a straight punch, your fist crashing right into her face. This time, there's nothing to stop you from bloodying her nose and she drops like a rock. Hitting the mat hard, all the fight seems to seep out of her. Breathing hard, you stand over Claudia and revel in the easy win. She never really had a chance, did she?

>Ego increased to 96/100

Slowly, wordlessly, Claudia picks herself and stiffly walks away. She doesn't even look at you as she slinks out of the gymnasium, and a heavy silence settles in once she departs. After a moment, Kaori tosses you a towel. Accepting it with a nod, you mop the blood from your hand. Your knuckles feel a little grazed, but it's all Claudia's blood. “Let me guess,” you mutter, “I should have gone easy on her?”

“Maybe,” Kaori replies, “Or maybe this was exactly what she needed. A wake-up call, something to make her take this seriously. She wouldn't listen to anything I told her, but she'll have a hard time ignoring that.” Sighing, the veteran pilot sits back down on the bench and drinks from a bottle of water. “I just hope she comes to see it that way,” she sighs, “It won't help anyone if she keeps nursing a grudge.”

“Yeah, well...” you shrug, “Offer's still open, you know. Want to go a few rounds?”

Blinking in amazement, Kaori considers your offer before shaking her head. “Maybe some other time,” she decides, “I think we've both had enough fighting for one day.”

Enough fighting? What a strange concept...

[1/2]
>>
>>3357659
Btw what color is our mech?
>>
>>3357672
Bloodthirster Red
>>
>>3357672
>At the moment, they're all a fairly uniform grey. In time, we might be able to change that!
>>
>>3357682
Assuming we get a moniker later on our color needs to be distinctive. Scarlet or Crimson sounds ideal and matches our personality
>Holly Reynolds, the Crimson Queen
>>
>>3357659

Getting a drink of your own from the vending machines, you sit in a cautious silence with Kaori for a while more. There's no clock here, and being so far underground gives the impression of being utterly cut off from the real world. You've got your NiPad, of course, but... checking the time would ruin the moment. Glancing around at your fellow pilot, you voice a question that's been on your mind for a while. “So I guess Nate is going to be moving her brother in later,” you venture, “And Claudia has her pet maid. I've got Claire staying with me, so... have you met?”

“We've not spoken, but...” Kaori tilts her head as she says this, “What's your point?”

“Well,” you pause, “We're allowed a companion, I guess. A civilian. Have you got anyone coming to join you?”

Kaori is silent for so long that you almost give up on getting an answer. Then, finally, she shakes her head. “It's just me,” she answers, “I still keep in touch with my parents, of course, but there's no need for them to be here in person. I prefer it this way.” Tossing her bloodied towel over one shoulder, she rises from the bench and starts to leave. Then, pausing at the gym exit, she looks back around at you. “You're okay, Reynolds,” Kaori decides, “I think this might actually work.”

With that, she slips out and leaves you to sit by yourself. “Wow,” you mutter to yourself, “Thanks for the vote of confidence.”

-

As you're riding the elevator back up to the dorms, you check your tablet and wince. There's a new audio file waiting for you in Labyrinth, but you left your headphones back in your room. You'll have to check it later. Thankfully, Claudia is nowhere to be found when you return to the dorm. You've got no idea where she is, but she's not HERE and that's good enough for you. Hester is washing some dishes in the kitchen, and you lightly clear your throat to get her attention.

“Miss Rainer is presently elsewhere,” the maid announces delicately, guessing what you were about to ask, “I believe she wanted to go for a walk outside. There was a rather nice public park nearby, and I assume she went there to calm down a little.”

Followed by some of Fletcher's people, of course. Well, she's English – she should be used to surveillance. Cutting off any reply to this, Nate bursts into the dorm with a young man trailing behind her. “We're home!” she announces boldly, “Hey Holly, look who's here!”

“Victor Carlyle,” the young man adds, his voice soft and faintly strained. The stress of travel, perhaps. “I prefer Vic, though,” he adds, “We were going to have some coffee, actually. Do you want to join us? Nate has told me a lot about you...”

Normally that would concern you, but you've got bigger things to worry about these days.

>Join Nate and Vic for their coffee. Paranoia can wait
>Make your excuses and check on Phantom's message
>Head up to the surface and go looking for Claudia
>Other
>>
>>3357771
>Join Nate and Vic for their coffee. Paranoia can wait
The message will be there when we get back and Claudia still probably needs time to cool off and think.
>>
>>3357771
>>Head up to the surface and go looking for Claudia
>>
>>3357771
>>Join Nate and Vic for their coffee. Paranoia can wait
Try not to stare his muscles.
>>
>>3357771
>Join Nate and Vic for their coffee. Paranoia can wait
Claudia can sulk.
Besides Nate is pleasant enough.
>>
>>3357771
>Join Nate and Vic for their coffee. Paranoia can wait
It's free coffee, how can we choose anything else?
>>
>>3357786
I'm also not sure how much I trust Phantom either.
>>
>>3357771
>Join Nate and Vic for their coffee. Paranoia can wait
>>
>>3357801
I'd say take everything we get from him with a grain of salt
>>
>>3357807
Also he says he doesn't approve of child soldiers. Would he rather the Lilim win? Seems kind of obtuse tbqh
>>
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Shoving the thought of Phantom's message from your mind, you nod at Nate and Vic. “Sure, I'll join you,” you tell them, sitting down at the table, “I mean, I can't just let Nate get away with telling you whatever she likes.” Vic laughs softly at this – his voice barely above a whisper – and Nate's cheeks darken a little. “Plus, I won't refuse some free coffee,” you joke, “You look like you could use a few cups as well. Long journey?”

“The journey was the easy part. They certainly take their security seriously around here, don't they? I don't think I've ever been frisked so thoroughly. I'm ruined for marriage now...” Vic sighs ruefully, perking up a little as Hester crosses over with a tray of cups and a steaming pot of coffee. “Why don't you sit and join us?” he offers, gesturing to the empty seat, “That coffee smells delicious. It would be a real shame if it went to waste.”

Hester looks taken aback by the offer, but she sits regardless and gives him a gentle smile. You watch the exchange with both curiosity and amusement. “So,” you begin, taking the cup that Hester passes across to you, “Exactly what has Nate been telling you?”

“She says that you're a very... passionate person,” Vic muses slowly, “But you seem to have a good heart. Would you say that's an accurate assessment?”

“Uh...” you mumble. More than ever, you're glad that Claudia isn't here to hear that.

“I'm glad, though,” the young man continues, politely glossing over your hesitation, “I'll be a lot happier, knowing that my sister is in good hands. Security is all well and good, but it's not the same as having a proper friend by her side.” Sipping his coffee, he looks around the dorm with a dubious eye. Not a fan of the decorations, apparently, or the lack thereof. Taking advantage of the pause, Nate rises from the table and takes a can of soda from the kitchen. Her coffee cup sits untouched as she pop it open and takes a sip. “You're supposed to be watching your diet,” Vic sighs at his sister, turning to give you a weary smile, “Sweets are her greatest weakness. I keep telling her that she'll lose all her teeth, but...”

“You worry too much!” Nate giggles, flapping a hand at him, “Girls can eat as many sweet things as they like, isn't that right Holly?”

“Uh uh, I'm not taking a side here,” you insist, shaking your head quickly, “Leave me out of your family feud.”

“That may be true, Natasha, but you won't be a girl forever,” Hester adds, smiling softly down into her coffee cup, “You'll become a woman soon, and then you'll have no choice but to watch what you eat. It's no fun at all, growing up...” Sighing wistfully, she takes a tiny sip of her coffee before adding the tiniest sprinkle of sugar.

[1/2]
>>
>>3357876
CRUSH HER SPIRIT
>>
>>3357885
TEAR THEM APART
DEVOUR THEIR HEARTS
>>
>>3357876

“...And the cake exploded! Honestly, I have no idea how she managed it,” Vic concludes, bringing his reminiscing to an end, “So I ended up spending my birthday teaching Nate here how to cook. Trying to, at least. In the end, it was more a case of damage control than anything else. She still can't really cook, but at least she doesn't make a mess in the kitchen.”

“Hey, I can cook a mean plate of scrambled eggs!” Nate protests, punching her brother lightly on the arm, “That's like, all you really need to know. Everything else, I can just eat out.” Hester sighs as she gathers together the dirty dishes, pausing for a moment as a knock sounds at the door. Letting herself in a moment later, Commander Monroe looks inside and gives you all a big, forced smile.

“Well, ain't this a cozy little scene?” she calls out, “I'm real sorry for breaking it up, but I need to borrow Natasha for a few hours. We need to run a few medical tests, just some routine matters. Holly, you can keep Mister Carlyle from getting bored, can't you? It's a pain, I know, but I can't let you come along. You know how it is, top secret AND doctor/patient confidentiality – the pincer movement of privacy!”

She laughs at her own joke, so at least one person finds it funny. Flashing you a smile that is excited, nervous, and apologetic all at once, Nate rises from the table and allows Monroe to lead her out of the dorms.

-

“So,” Vic thinks aloud as he watches his sister leave, “Does this sort of thing happen often?”

“Hell if I know,” you admit with a shrug, “I just got here yesterday, so I barely know what's normal around here.” Leaning back, you look Vic up and down and weigh up what you're looking at. Not really the assertive sort, but he doesn't seem like the type to just lie down and die either. When push comes to shove, he seems like someone that could be relied upon to do the right thing. He's studying you with a curiosity that rivals your own, and not really trying to hide it either. That IS interesting.

Before you can think more on that, the door to Kaori's dorm opens and she pokes her head out. “I heard a lame joke,” she announces, “Was Commander Monroe here?”

“Yeah, she just needed to borrow Nate,” you answer, gesturing across to Vic, “This is her brother, by the way. He-”

“Okay then,” Kaori interrupts, retreating back into her dorm. Vic blinks in surprise, then looks around at you with a question in his eyes.

“That's Kaori,” you explain, “We're working with her. Don't mind her, she's just a bit...”

A bit what? There's no easy way to really describe her. You're not especially close, for one thing, and then there was that whole... Berlin thing. You can't exactly slip that into casual conversation, can you?

>She's not really a people person, that's all
>She's quiet, but I think I like her
>Just forget about her. You're better off that way
>She's just a bit... (Write in)
>Other
>>
>>3357993
>She's not really a people person, that's all. I think. We've only known each other for a day.
>>
>>3357993
>>She's quiet, but I think I like her
>>
>>3357993
>>She's quiet, but I think I like her
>>
>>3357993
>She's not really a people person, that's all
Also this >>3357998
>>
>>3357993
>Commander Monroe looks inside and gives you all a big, forced smile.
So wait is she faking being bubbly all the time? Or is that just our cynicism seeping through
>>
>>3358044
Maybe she knows that her being bubbly only distances us from her.
>>
>>3357993
>She's just a bit.. single-minded.
>>
>>3358044
Bit of column A, bit of column B. I think she's trying to maintain perkiness for the girl's sake but is really pretty exhausted and stressed.
>>
“She's quiet. Not really a people person, you know?” you offer eventually, “It's hard to really say. I mean, I've only known her for like a day. I think I like her, though. Maybe.”

“You don't sound so sure,” Vic points out, raising an amused eyebrow.

“Yeah, well, like I said. I've only known her for a short while,” you reply with a shrug, “What I'm trying to say is, don't take it personally. I bet she's like this with all the boys.” Smiling suddenly, you lean forwards and meet Vic's gaze. “So why are you so interested in her, huh?” you tease, “Is she your type?”

Taken aback by your direct attack, Vic hides a nervous laugh behind a cough. “I don't think I've quite figured out what my “type” is yet,” he answers, nimbly evading the question in more ways than one – he rocks back on his chair's back legs, tilting away from you and gazing up at the ceiling. “I'm a pretty busy guy, I'll have you know,” he muses, “Our parents work long hours, so I've always had to look after Nate. When I wasn't busy with that, I had my hands full with studying. You guys are still going to school, right? You'd better not be slacking off!”

“There's talk of attending a school here. I don't know how serious it is, though,” you answer, accepting his attempt to change the subject, “We've got more important stuff to be worrying about, you know?”

Tutting in disapproval, Vic shakes his head. “Not good enough, Holly,” he scolds, “You need to have goals and aspirations, something to work towards. I'm aiming to become a teacher, but that won't happen if I don't put in the hard work now. If you don't study well, you won't have any future prospects.”

It's all you can do not to laugh aloud. He's talking about future prospects, and you're looking at fourteen more Lilim to fight. Maybe you won't have to fight them all, but still...

-

Conversation peters off here, and Vic retreats off to his dorm to unpack. You offered to help – to keep busy, if nothing else – but he refused, pleading privacy. Leaving him be, you go back to your own dorm and check on Claire. Her room is empty, with a scrawled note left on the pillow. Gone shopping. She even put a little smiley face at the end, as if to put your mind at ease.

Flopping down on bed, you consider Vic. He'd make a good teacher, you think to yourself, and good teachers are not common. He reminds you of one man who you knew back at the boarding school – the sort of guy who saw the best in everyone, who never gave up on a child under his care. Banishing that unwelcome memory, you check on your tablet again. Phantom's first message is still waiting for you, but there's nothing new. You'd give it a listen, but your headphones are on the other side of the room, and...

Before you know it, you're dozing off. Hester must have served decaff.

[1/2]

>Having some internet issues today. Sorry for the delays.
>>
>>3357993
>She's a huge fuckin nerd. Super antisocial.
>>
>>3358142

No dreams this time, but maybe you're not asleep long enough for any dreams. Only a few hours, judging by your clock. Rubbing a fine crust of grit from your eyes, you glance back into the common room. The television is tuned to a news report with the sound turned down to a murmur, and you watch transfixed as Commander Monroe appears on screen. She looks serious for once, and you turn up the sound just in time to catch the end of her speech.

“...Incident was resolved without loss of life,” she recites, “NERV will remain vigilant for any future threats, and we ask that the public assist us in this matter. Remember – panic helps nobody. Remain calm, and let us do our job.”

The news cuts away there, and you realise that it was just old footage. A whole day old at the most. Ancient history, really. Still, it's pretty weird to imagine your antics getting media attention. Glancing away from the TV screen as the door opens, you see Vic returning with a pensive look on his face. When he notices the television, a more mundane kind of irritation ghosts across his features. “Did I leave that on? I'm sorry, I must have forgotten. I'm a little distracted at the moment,” he tells you, “I was expecting Nate to get back before now. I even went to check the cafeteria, just in case she went for something to eat, but...”

“I've not seen her,” you reply slowly, “But I took a nap, so maybe I missed her?”

“I know we should just stay calm and wait, but this feels abnormal to me,” Vic shakes his head, “I'm responsible for her, you know? It doesn't feel right, just sitting about and waiting. I don't really know what else I CAN do, though.”

And he's come to you for advice, of course. As if you've got any better ideas. Well, maybe you do...

>You're best off just waiting here until Nate returns
>Maybe you could try... (Write in)
>Other
>>
>>3358238
>Maybe you could try... (Write in)
Could try Doc Wilson's. Nate was going to get tested and the Doc could point us in the right direction. He also seems a bit less secretive than Monroe or Fletch.
>>
>>3358238
>Maybe you could try... (Write in)
>a few rounds of sparring
Fighting is relaxing :)
>>
>>3358238
>>You're best off just waiting here until Nate returns
>>
>>3358238
>Maybe you could try... (Write in)
Go to the doctor, he might have looser lips.
>>
“We could go and talk with the doctor here. Doc Wilson, he seems pretty okay,” you suggest, “I was just talking with him this morning, actually. Come on, I'll show you the way.” Relief fills Vic's face, and he nods for you to lead on. “He never mentioned anything about any tests this morning, though,” you continue, thinking aloud, “I guess he wouldn't, though. Doctor/patient confidentiality and all that. If you ask real nicely, he might be willing to bend the rules a little.”

“I am a relative, after all,” Vic agrees, fiddling with his collar as he follows you down one corridor after another. He looks concerned, and for good reason, but his expression changes when he thinks you're not looking. A darker look of frustration, maybe even anger, replace the concern. It's no fun feeling helpless, feeling at the mercy of a secretive system. You know that feeling all too well. Noticing your gaze, the young man forces a smile that doesn't quite reach as far as his eyes.

-

“Natasha? Yes, I saw her. She was in here a few hours ago, but she didn't stay for very long. The commander wanted me to give her a check over,” Doctor Wilson scratches his unshaven cheek as he thinks, “She's perfectly healthy, although...”

“Although?” Vic presses, “Doctor, if there's something wrong then I need to know about it. Her parents are on the other side of the country, and they-”

“No no, her health is fine. That was the strange thing. When I gave her the news, Commander Monroe seemed... disappointed,” Wilson pauses for a long moment before giving you a helpless shrug. Vic starts to say something more, but the doctor holds up a hand to silence him. “I'm sorry, but that's all I can tell you. Actually, it's a little more than I should be telling you,” he concedes, “If you're feeling stressed, I suggest you take a lie down. Here, you can use the beds here if you want. Separate beds, though. This is still an infirmary...”

The flippant suggestion causes Vic to gasp, his brow furrowing with anger, but you silence him with a touch to the shoulder. It takes him another second to realise what Wilson is saying, and then his eyes light up. Eagerly nodding, he sits down on one of the closest beds and waits. You sit opposite him, watching as Wilson picks up his phone and dials a number.

[1/2]
>>
>>3358350

“Hello, Fletch?” the doctor begins, needlessly gesturing for you to stay silent, “I forgot to tell Natasha something, and she's not back in the dorms yet. Can you find her for me?”

Another pause.

“Right then. Right, I see. No, I'd rather tell her in person. Just send her to the infirmary as soon as you can, thank you,” ending the call, Doctor Wilson gives you both a wan smile, “She's still busy, I'm afraid, but I can't say what's keeping her. Um, you can wait here if you want. It's not the most comfortable place, but...”

“We'll wait,” Vic replies immediately, before glancing around at you, “I mean, I'll wait. Holly, you don't need to...”

>I don't mind waiting with you
>I'll head back to the dorm, then
>Other
>>
>>3358353
>>I'll head back to the dorm, then
>>
>>3358353
>I don't mind waiting with you
>>
>>3358353
>>I'll head back to the dorm, then
>>
>>3358353
>I'll head back to the dorm, then
"Let me know if everything is okay when you guys get back. Thanks again Doc."
>>
>>3358350
>The flippant suggestion causes Vic to gasp, his brow furrowing with anger, but you silence him with a touch to the shoulder.
He's awfully prudish for a guy who just hit on his sister's maid
>>
>>3358353
>I'll head back to the dorm, then

Holly Sheet does not wait around for god damn SECONDARIES
>>
“I'll head back to the dorm, then,” you tell him, “Just in case she ends up going there instead, you know? Let me know how things work out though, okay? And hey, doc? Thanks for this!”

“Happy I could help,” Doctor Wilson replies, a distant expression settling over his face as his attention begins to wander. Nodding your goodbyes to Vic, you hurry back in the direction of the dorms. As you walk, you ponder on what he told you. Why would Commander Monroe be disappointed to hear about Nate's good health? It takes you a while, but a theory starts to take shape in your mind. In a way, this is like being back at school again.

If you're too sick, you can't take the test.

-

Claire is waiting for you back in the dorms, slumped across the table with a sleepy look on her face. Looking up at the sound of your arrival, she pulls a sickly face. “The shops around here are so lame,” she complains, “It's all super modern stuff here. Like, how many phone shops does one city need? I walked all over, but I couldn't find a single antique store. Like, what even is UP with that?”

“Collecting antiques is an old man's hobby anyway,” you tell her, “You can't even afford anything that's a real antique.”

“Looking is free!” she protests, pouting at you for a moment before gesturing at your bag, “Hey, are there any more... you know.”

Of course, the message from Phantom. Between Nate and Vic, the dynamic duo, you straight up forgot to check the audio file you were sent. Nodding silently, you lead Claire back into your dorm and start up Labyrinth. Passing one end of the earphones to her, you listen as the audio file begins to play. It's another conversation between Fletcher and Monroe, but this one has a completely different tone to the first. They speak in low, hard voices, and you find yourself imagining their grim expressions.

“We've got orders from head management,” Fletcher's digital voice announces, “They want us to resume the contact experiments.”

“No,” Monroe replies immediately.

A pause. “This isn't the kind of order that we can just refuse,” the man points out eventually.

“I don't care,” Monroe argues, “My job is to ensure the safety of our pilots, and that's what I'm doing. I'm not going to risk them on reckless experiments.” Another long pause, the silence broken only by the sound of footsteps as someone paces back and forth. “We'll do things my way. We'll take it slowly and carefully,” the commander continues eventually, “If they don't like that, they can fire me.”

“You're just stalling for time,” Fletcher points out, “That's not a long term plan, is it?”

“Well, it'll buy me some extra time to think, won't it?” Monroe snaps. More footsteps, and then the swish of the door as someone leaves. Monroe sighs once more, and then the recording ends.

[1/2]
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>>3358422
Hester is Claudia's maid tho
>>
>>3358456

HLLY06: Explain this bullshit.

Your message hangs, unanswered, in the void for a long while before you toss the NiPad aside in disgust. You almost complain aloud about it before Claire covers your mouth with one hand and frantically shakes her head. The listening devices, of course. Scowling and shaking her off, you shoot a dirty look up at the ceiling before restlessly marching out of the dorm. Your mood doesn't improve when you see Claudia standing by the table, making a few last tiny adjustments to a vase of flowers.

“Flower arrangement is an ancient and noble art,” Claudia murmurs, the gravitas of her words only slightly ruined by the stuffy caused by her swollen nose, “A far more appropriate use of my talents.”

“What talents?” you ask, before you can stop yourself. Sometimes, it feels like you TRY and get into fights. This time, though, Claudia takes no notice of your jib.

“The elegant manipulation of living things, of course,” she muses, leaning closer in to examine the flowers. Finally satisfied with their arrangement, the noble girl steps back and meets your gaze. Then, she offers out her hand to you. “I still have a lot to learn,” Claudia announces, “But I hope that I can contribute something to this mission. We're all in this together, after all, and it's still a long road until paradise.”

Slowly, wordlessly, you see yourself accepting her offer of a handshake.

>Okay, I think I'm going to pause things here for today, and for this week. I'm going to try and continue this next Friday, and I may have an interlude episode ready for sometime midweek
>Also, updates will be posted to my twitter: https://twitter.com/MolochQM
>Thank you for your contributions today!
>>
>>3358537
Thanks for running!

Is long road until paradise a common saying in this setting, or do we need to worry about something invading all our minds?
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>>3358537
>contact experiments
Oh I'm sure those will be fun.

Thanks for running Moloch
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>>3358537
>“The elegant manipulation of living things, of course,” she muses


Welp she either gotten so much Ego damage she’s been possessed or she’s going to be our AT specialist. Maybe even both.
>>
>>3358546
I wonder. It sounds like a pretty innocent saying to me, though. Who could argue with paradise?
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>>3358686
So what you decide to do EVA of all things? Did you read NBS and get tired of the hiatus?
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>>3358537
Thanks for running!
>>
>>3358688
I like Evangelion, which is as good a reason as I can think of. Although I wouldn't really say I'm a passionate fan of the series, it left a very strong impression on me when I first watched it. I've been wanting to try and capture that feeling for some time now, but I could never really get a solid idea until now. So, I suppose the time just felt "right" to run this.

And I mean no disrespect to NBS by running this. Real life, and hiatuses, happen to everyone.
>>
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>>3358846
I'm quite fond of our little fireball.
Hopefully we can lead her down an appropriately self destructive path.
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>>3358860
As long you don't flanderize her too hard into your 40kids meme. I prefer multidimensional characters, not one note rage machines.

Like I'm all about the 'Talk shit, get hit' mentality or a potential berserker fighting style, but not have it be her *only* thing.
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>>3358869
Yeh yeh I know. Just having my fun.
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>>3358846
You mean no disrespect to NBS, but the disrespect to Cegremo was 100% intentional.
>>
>>3358888
Fill me in
>>
>>3358892
Joke. Ceg talked about running an Evangelion quest but never would have actually done it.



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