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Rita Ma      It is now early morning. Behind you, medical staff and laborers from the Union Busan- as well as any aid workers you may have seen fit to dispatch- busily work to put Kachemak Island and its people back together.

     Ahead is the venerable city-ship itself. The Harpoonists' smaller vessel will get you close, but boarding is by a dangerous-looking metal ladder. (Bota goes first; Kana last.) That leads to the deck of one of the civilian ships, which itself feels more like 'street level' than anything, with how densely newer constructions are piled atop it. Heavy construction work is taking place, turning palatial rooms into more compact and utilitarian spaces. "The Union Busan. Afloat for nearly a century, with over ten thousand souls in residence. Welcome aboard." There's pride in Kana's voice.

     Here and there, those tentacles have pierced through the metal, branching and grasping like a tree's roots.

     Bota makes small talk on the way (to where?), picking up from Lilian's much earlier comment. "'Surprisingly upright', huh? Haha, I guess I'll take it! ... I'm surprised you know how low the bar is, but it's true. In a lot of places, Harpoonists just enforce the will of the ruling classes against the people. It wasn't all that long ago that the Union Busan was no different." He glances back at the tentacles. What is that expression? Longing? Melancholy?

     "A lot of things got shaken up in the last year or so."

     The path Bota forges takes you down hatches, across catwalks, and through maintenance tunnels, most lit with electric lights. Soon it opens up into a cavernous room that's set up like a bustling marketplace. From their stands, vendors hawk salvage (some of it surprisingly advanced, albeit corroded and obscure, technology; the rest just commonplace objects fished up from the sea), street food like salted kelp chips and roasted fish skewers, clothes, and other everyday necessities. People crowd around to buy or chatter, making up a vibrant public life.

     The citizens here are clearly poor by most standards. But they're healthy, and fed, and have a safe place to sleep; one can imagine they're better-off than most in this world. And the collective mood is happy, even optimistic.

     "Hey, Kana. What time is it?" "About six-thirty." "Huh. With the doctor's schedule, should we give him just a few more minutes? If you all don't mind." "No, we shouldn't." "Well, I didn't eat breakfast yet." "You... fine, then."

     Bota buys a skewer- roasted grouper, the sign says- with a couple of salvaged metal nuts, which seem to be the preferred medium of exchange. He offers to do the same for anybody else. Between bites: "Hey, Ishirou. What was that you were saying about the Moon?" "Bota." "Yeah?" "In most worlds, wouldn't it still be in one piece?" "... Oh. Haha, right."
Ishirou Ishirou is back after being given 'force rest'. To be fair, he needed the attention and was just pushing himself down the list because other people here were likely to not get good professional treatment very often. Though he's still limping a little (a lot) and needs some time (a lot of time) to catch up with the others, he's here.

Ishirou looks at those tentacles, taking more time to give them a more thorough scan. Trying to get a better feel for what happened based on just what analysis can give him. "Yeah, not going to lie...those things are a little weird," Ishirou plays dumb. "So what happened?" he asks.

Though hearing about 'the ruling class' and 'things changed recently' and someone who is obviously Rita's brother staring at what he might think as Rita's remains answers a lot of questions in general. Ishirou takes his own skewer, he's pretty hungry thinking about things.

"Uh...? Yeah what happened? I know of a few worlds where it's shattered like that, but what happened here?" he asks, deciding to keep up the pretense. "Those monsters are also part of some sort of...I guess hive mind? I was able to feel it when I caused the horde to turn on itself. It didn't do anything but watch though."
Candy      Candy is a new addition, although it's never been particularly hard for him to get around. Today, he's wearing a slightly more nautical version of his usual--the work shirt's been replaced with a classic red-and-white stripped tee, the longcoat swapped for a navy peacoat. His newsie cap, meanwhile, has been supplanted by a knit cap matching the peacoat, from which his dark hair spills.

    During the short trip to Union Busan, Bota and Kana are both offered handshakes, the usual full-name introduction, and, of course, his preferred nickname. The tentacles are decidedly a familiar sight, but, though it may be a surprise to know he's capable of it, Candy keeps his mouth shut.

    "Thanks, Bota," he says, accepting the proferred food. "I'd love to repay the favor sometime, ah?" His smile sets his eyes to gleaming. Talking with his mouth full (why is it not a surprise?) he opines on the Busan with a swipe of his non-skewer-occupied hand. "Some of the other ships out there could use a shake-up, you ask me. Calling those cop bastards 'Harpoonists...'" His brows twitch in agitation. "Well, I don't have to tell you, ah?"

    His free hand quickly finds its way around Ishirou's waist, and his warm smile bears gently down on the investigator. The finished skewer simply disappears. "Is that why there's so much water? They say the moon controls the tides," Candy offers, although it's clear from his tone this is only something he's heard, and never bothered to verify.
Hibiki Tachibana     The trip through the Union Busan's interior reminds Hibiki of the Union Santiago quite a bit, which shouldn't be too shocking - the marketplace they end up at is quite a bit different though. Mostly because of the lack of giant fish hung up--well, that and the atmosphere of the crowd. It's busy, and...surprisingly upbeat. Nice to just be around, even.

    At multiple times during the trip, from behind, Hibiki gives Bota an appraising look - as if trying to figure something out about him. He definitely does feel like 'Rita's brother', though, in more ways than one. It feels odd.

    Not in a bad way. But even she knows she shouldn't bring up Rita here, probably, and that's a little...

    "In most worlds, yeah," Hibiki says on the subject of the moon, which is currently perfectly normal in her world. Nothing weird about it. "I'm gonna guess that it being like...that here is part of why ocean is covering pretty much everything here, right?" Yes, Hibiki, tide dynamics are a thing.

    She's more than happy to take a skewer herself, and take a fairly huge bite out of it that'll be chewed and swallowed before she continues. When she does, her head tilts upwards as if looking back towards the top decks, even if it firmly puts her gaze on the ceiling. "...In the last year or so..." She repeats, before deciding to be the one to address the elephant in the room most visitors to the Busan would likely have immediate questions about. "The...tentacles and stuff we saw before. What's all that about? If you're talking about 'shake-ups'..." Her head tilts back down to Bota and Kana, and then Ishirou - remembering what he had said about them plugging up a 'ship-killing hole'.
Kale Hearthward Kale's awake again. The Breathlink system has a few flaws that need to be worked out (like that Kale has access to it) but he doesn't seem to be too bad off after a couple hours of rest. The East Wind crew empty out their medical supplies - mostly consisting of the sort of general all-in-one healthfulness kits that FPS heroes have been stepping on for decades. (Please do not attempt to actually step on one.) With those distributed, they split - the pilot staying with the craft while Kale and the medic take up Bota's invitation.

The medic gives Ishirou the side-eye when she sees him coming along, but doesn't give voice to her thoughts.

"It seems... solid enough," says Kale, looking over the Union Busan on approach. (He's on foot, and not flying, at least for the moment.) "I mean, I'm assuming you don't have... regular ports here for drydock, so - if you've managed to keep it going for a century, I doubt it'll keel over tomorrow."

The medic gives Hibiki another glance on the ride over, as if trying to figure something out about her.

On board, Kale glances at the citizenry they pass, giving a slight smile. Cities. Even out in the middle of an ocean full of sea monsters, you can find society. "Afloat for a full century - it definitely looks like it's thriving," he comments. He takes an offered skewer and snacks on it for a bit. "You get a lot of... trade? With other cities? On other boats, or other structures, I'm assuming?"
Cantio "It's amazing how something this large with so many people and shifting weights could remain above sea level like this. And to stay upright for so long..."

This certainly isn't the way Cantio had expected to see Rita's home firsthand. It's far more impressive than she had expected, and the sight of the tentacles holding the metal together along with the sheer size of the entire city-ship has her eyes sparkling. It's easy to tell that she's practically (not literally) salivating at the thought of just studying the whole thing from bottom to top, but her desire to see how it all works will have to wait until later.

That doesn't mean she isn't looking at stuff as long as she can while Bota leads the group through the marketplace, though, even pausing to look at what kinds of wares are on sale in this sea-based world.

"It almost sounds like Harpoonists are..." She pauses, picking her words carefully. "... They're not all like that, are they? I know of some places that have an elite warrior class that turns into something like that, but for the ruling class in most of these places not to fight on behalf of their own people..."

She still looks troubled by that notion. "I'm assuming that's not the case here, then. " She looks the pair over again. "You don't look like the types to sit back and let other people fight for you. Do you run into those sorts a lot while sailing around?"
Lilian Rook     "A century?" Lilian beholds Kana with the precise air of someone who has been lied to a whole lot in her life, and is already fact checking in her head. "The issue of what I can only imagine must be maintaining nuclear power for three ships aside, and the precocity of servicing a project of this size with every steel mill on Earth currently underwater, I'm astonished it's simply been that long for storms on a vessel of this size and sea monsters on such a density of population."

    Lilian laughs in a way that is totally fake, but doesn't sound like it, when Bota takes her probably half-truth the way he does. "I suppose that's not entirely fair of me. I've heard that the ostensible purpose of a Harpoonist is to protect people, and that should typically mean 'from sea monsters', but that it is seldom the case that it's actually true." she says. "Which made sense to me when I thought about it. After all, nobody really wants to fight man-eaters. If you can get a job 'protecting humans from humans', that's much safer and much less terrifying. Most of the people who'd fight the monster are either desperate, insane, or have something to prove."

    A while later of walking through the market, simply soaking in the sights, letting the mood penetrate her skin, Lilian thinks to add "This is a different atmosphere that I'm used to, from people living this close to the teeth and fangs." She hasn't bothered to dress down into casual clothes yet (really, even if she knows in her forebrain that nobody would see, that's one of the few behavioural hangups she still has), so she's left to meander around in her impractically precisely fitted armour and huge sword, but somehow it doesn't really seem to bother her like spending downtime in her combat skin does.

    "Breakfast . . ." Lilian looks to Tamamo. "Well, I am a tiny bit hungry. That call interrupted a meal, so . . ." She watches what Bota produces as currency and makes a noise of displeasure. "I can't say I'm given to carrying loose hardware though." She quickly checks herself over for what she'd actually brought, making a face, and then a little 'oh' noise when she thinks of something. A Paladins issue EMS kit is dropped on a stall counter. "Is this enough for her and myself?" she says, gesturing to Tamamo. "I don't suppose you take gold."
Tamamo     "What is it you have heard of ship-side harpoonists?" Tamamo asks, curious, before Bota answers. "Ah, I see... perhaps. They are the personal guards, of sorts, then." She doesn't mention anything about the history of Praetorians, though she does happen to be familiar with the broad strokes of such.

    Noticing the construction, "Has the city's population risen, of late?"

    With Lilian no longer covered in gore, and their present situation having switched from combat and rescue to sightseeing in foreign ~~lands~~ seas, Tamamo has, as if it were her natural place, gravitated to hanging off Lilian's arm. Keeping her left there, she gestures with a folded fan in her right at each thing they pass, unreasonably excited by street food she hasn't seen, whether 'ever' or 'since a prior era.' "Oh, are these crisps? Shall we sample some? Ah, I could have fish, perhap, whether roasted or grilled. Do they accept coins? Oh, I see they do not, how inconvenient. I had only thought to carry gold and silver, rather than steel. Thank you, Mr. Bota. I shall repay this favor."
Lilian Rook     Lilian, apparently hypocritcally, spares a while to stare at Candy and Ishirou. After about three minutes of silence, she finally says, "You know, I really thought you were fibbing out of wishful thinking, Ishirou. Congratulations and my condolences."
Ishirou Ishirou wraps his own hand around Candy, leaning on him a bit more to keep himself going and also enjoying the company. Lilian's stare doesn't go ignored, just not challenged. "You thought I was lying..? Why would you do that?" he asks, then just turns beet red, "Condolences for what!?"
Candy      "Wishful thinking! Hahahaha!" Candy bursts into laughter at Lilian's combination congratulation-and-condolence, eyes bright with mirth as he squeezes Ishirou playfully. A smug smile takes up residence when the laughter fades, and Candy tucks a lock of hair behind his ear. "I guess I *do* tick a lotta boxes for a lotta people," he says, chin held high that he might look down his nose at Ishirou with the most insufferable grin.
Lilian Rook     "Fibbing is different than lying you know." Lilian says. "And my condolences are being given in advance. You should know exactly why."
Ishirou Ishirou sighs, because of course now Candy is being insufferable. The squeeze only sightly helps. "You're ticking the wrong boxes right now," he says, grumpily. He gives Lilian a look, wondering just how she starts being right about everything.
Lilian Rook     "It's because I'm a genius." Lilian says, smugly, glancing down at Ishirou out of the corner of her eye, and answering his thoughts for him.
Ishirou "No I'm a genius. I know what, just going to stop while I'm only behind a head," Ishirou says, dejectedly.
Candy      Candy chuckles, removing his hand from 'round Ishirou's waist to pat him on the head. "That's smart, papito," he says with insufferable saccharine praise.
Rita Ma      "So what happened?" "A little over a year ago, we were attacked by one of the Seven Devils of the Sea," Bota says. He speaks slowly, more solemnly, like dredging up the memory is difficult. "It was horrible. That whole ship was going to sink. My sister killed the monster and... well, it's hard to explain." Less hard than he thinks. Sorrowfully, he adds: "I'll just say she's someone who can work miracles, too." There's not much Ishirou's scans can tell him that he doesn't already know, but they back up that story.

     (They can also tell him the fish skewers are pretty dang good.)

     Hibiki asks about the shake-up. Bota stops eating and looks thoughtful, but Kana answers before he can. "Until recently, the Union Busan was controlled by the shareholders: the families of those who'd paid for its construction. They ruled like nobility, and they were cruel. When their folly unleashed a monster on the lower decks, Bota's sister turned it against the upper decks instead. The shareholders were all but wiped out."

     "And their mother was a runaway member of a shareholder family, so-"
Bota looks a bit embarrassed, turning his face away and chewing harder on the skewer. "-there wasn't much resistance to Bota declaring the whole system over. Power rests with the parliament and the workers' council, now." "And now I'm just an ordinary Harpoonist, like I said," he insists. "Very ordinary." "Hey!"

     To Tamamo, Bota adds: "So that's the reason for the construction. We'd like to be able to support more people, and that means using all that luxury space better. There's not enough places for people to live in this world as it is."

     Candy and Hibiki ask about the world being submerged. Bota looks to Kana, who just crosses her arms and nods, delegating the explanation back to him. "A hundred and thirty years ago, the comet Vagabundus struck the Moon. Ice and debris rained down for sixty years, and the sea levels rose to what they are now. That's when the sea monsters first appeared. Actually, that's what we wanted to talk with you about- but the doctor will be better at explaining the big picture than me."

     He nods to Kale and Lilian afterwards. "The Union Busan was built in the middle of that flood, not the end. So it's only been about eighty years since it docked. But even so, I won't say the upkeep is easy. We do trade with other settlements, and there's plenty of salvage. That's the only way it's possible. Never been to Kachemak before, though."

     "As for the difference between concrete islands and ships... the first people on a concrete island are lucky. The first people on a ship are wealthy." In response to Cantio (and perhaps Tamamo), Kana adds: "Not all, but plenty. Depends on the place. You keep people subjugated by making them confuse their heroes and their oppressors. All the better if those are the same thing."

     The man with the food stand looks skeptical of the medical kit, until he pops it open. Then his eyes go wide. "All of this? You're sure?" He tries to return most of it, but if Lilian refuses, gives her a burdensome quantity of food to compensate and thanks her profusely. Bota, when Tamamo thanks him, smiles awkwardly and rubs the back of his head. "You're a guest here, aren't you? You don't have to."

     "But you'll have a chance to soon enough," Kana adds. She's looking up at a clock on the far side of the marketplace. "The doctor will be awake. Let's go."
Rita Ma      Kana leads the group down, down, down, along winding corridors and plunging stairs, through residential areas, and into maintenance corridors that are less and less populated. "Most of the people who'd fight the monster are either desperate, insane, or have something to prove," Lilian had said. In a moment of quiet, as feet clank against rusty flooring, Kana finally replies: "So they are. Which are you?"

     "I want to tell you, before anything else, that the doctor isn't trustworthy. He's done awful things. Endangered the whole ship. Hurt... someone close to me. But what he's about to tell you, about the comet and the leviathans, is true. We've verified it every way we can." "I wanted him thrown overboard. But the council thinks he's too useful. So..."

     The group enters into a prison. The number of cells shows its designer meant for it to see quite a bit of use, but there is only one prisoner here. The other cells are mostly filled with boxes; the place has been converted into a storage room.

     The middle-aged, sandy-blonde man in the cell at the back is an unkempt intellectual. His cell is filled with papers, printed readouts, books, samples of rocks and seawater, and stranger things besides. He is certainly thriving in captivity. When the group enters, he looks at Kana and smiles knowingly. She remains frigidly unresponsive.

     "Doctor Foid. We'll need you to tell these people what you told us. About Vagabundus, and the leviathan hive." He's slumped forward, his elbows on his knees. An ugly smile tugs at his lips. "Oh? And what is it to them?"

     His eyes sweep across the group, disregarding Bota and Kana now. "The Multiverse... I understand it's quite vast, isn't it? Humans in this world, as they are now, are utterly doomed. And this danger will spread. But that your worlds specifically, out of so many, would be overtaken within your lifetimes... quite unlikely."

     "You could ignore this peril. Go home. Sleep peacefully, and never think about it again! Or you could risk your lives in some futile attempt to stop it, only to save those of a doomed world anyway, and those whom you've never met. Why do you care? Do you really wish to do something so foolhardy? Tell me why I should enlighten you, before I waste more breath on you. Or I'll do you the favor of sparing you the burden."

     It's not hard to tell why this guy is in jail. What a creep.
Ishirou Ishirou, a bit grumpy (but not unhappy) eats his skewer and listens right now. The tentacles don't have any other secrets, and what he gets from Bota now gives him a bit more information. "What happened to her?" he asks, that is the thing they don't know about. What do they think happened to Rita.

Though the story that this thing is extraterrestrial starts filling in some holes he had. Where the source of the fish disease was, but it still doesn't answer what the connection between that and Rita's situation is. There are still a lot of holes here, but apparently, the doctor has the answers.

The doctor goes on for a moment, both in prison for endangering the entire ship, for hurting...

Ishirou's eyes narrow. He has a guess about something, and so he holds a hand up. Attempting to simply use remote hacking to get the information he wants out of him. Like, what specifically he did to this boat first.
Candy We'd like to be able to support more people, and that means using all that luxury space better. There's not enough places for people to live in this world as it is.

     By the time they reach Dr. Foid, Bota finds something slipped between his fingers. Candy winks at him. It's a note, promising material support, and listing fix-up jobs he's done before. 'Nuclear reactor' is on the list, although it's misspelled as 'nukular.'

     His reception of the doctor is notably less warm than that of Bota or Kana--he had, after all, been listening. Foid is regarded with crossed arms, one finger tapping expectantly against the arm upon which it rests.

     "I 'care' because that's the way people are supposed to be, ah?" His brow twitches in mild irritation. "We're supposed to help each other. Anybody that says otherwise has either had his brain shrunk by bullshit, or he's a bullshit salesman himself." Candy indulges in a single, silent shake of amusement, eyes briefly traveling upwards.

     "Bota told me you guys got rid of your bullshit salesmen. So congratulations on that," he offers to the imprisoned doctor. "It's not 'futile.' Or whatever other fancy book words you wanna use. There's always a point in helping people. Even if you fail. You understand, Doctor?"
Hibiki Tachibana     Huh. Is it just her, or was Kale's companion looking at her...? She's probably imagining it.

    It leaves her mind pretty quickly anyway, amongst all the news. "Someone who can work miracles..." She repeats quietly after Bota. Mm. She doesn't remain downcast for too long, though she does grimace at the story of exactly what happened in the Busan's past. Her arms fold across chest in thought, taking another giant bite out of her skewer. "Nobility living in luxury, and everyone else..."

    She learned quite a bit about her time back on the Santiago. Between that and this, plus the two times now she's seen a concrete island, there's plenty of firsthand experience to get a good idea of how she can imagine most of the seafaring ships in this world are. The Busan, at least, seems to be in good straits and even paying that luck it's experienced forward...even if it's had some troubled history.

    Hm. "The doctor...?" Well, if the doctors she knows are anything to go off of, he'll be a character.


    He's a character alright. "Yeah, he'd get along with Ms. Sakurai for sure..." Whatever those 'stranger things' are, she's not particularly interested in getting a closer look at them.

    The man himself though is a different story. Hibiki purses her lips and listens closely. The frown only deepens the more he goes on. "Yes," she opens up with without hesitation on the subject of being foolhardy, before posing a somewhat better argument. "If anyone here only cared about their worlds, they wouldn't be here in the first place. I could sit back home and only worry about my own problems, but I don't think I'd ever be happy with that. And I don't think that'd last forever in the Multiverse, either."

    She steps right up to the bars of the cell. "I don't know about anyone else, but I don't need a reason to help people. Whether I've met them or not." And it's not as if she doesn't want to do what she can for Rita's world, but that part is left out. For now. "...And you don't know if something is futile until you try." Her arms cross up again, and after a second, she adds on with a tilt of her head.

    "...I'm actually pretty surprised you'd ask in the first place. You're asking why we care, but what does that matter to you?"
Kale Hearthward "I see - would you mind if I took a look at your map of those other settlements?" asks Kale, when those are brought up.

"It sounds like a fascinating engineering challenge - using just what you have on hand or can find," says Kale's medic, trailing behind. She's bartered some bits of metal she had on hand for a bowl of kelp chips, which she's carrying with her. "And then dealing with the space and weight that spare parts take up."

> "So they are. Which are you?"

"Oh, insane, definitely," says Kale, without hesitation. "If I was in my right mind, I'd find a job that pays better," he adds, in a tone that's probably joking.

Down, down we go... "Noted," says Kale, in regards to Bota's warning. "Someone not trustworthy, but useful. I can understand hanging onto that."

The group arrives. The doctor gives his warning. Kale listens, nodding slightly.

Then he turns and steps closer to Bota and Kana, getting their attention.

"You should have thrown him overboard regardless," he says, with all seriousness.
Lilian Rook     Lilian wears a sympathetic frown as Bota recounts the past, but examines him very closely. 'Sister' rather cements what she'd already suspected, but what she wants to read from him is what he actually thinks of her; more precisely, what he thinks has become of her. A tic of unease shows only when Kana mentions 'turning a monster', currently one of the very few things Lilian hasn't totally mastered her reactions to.

    "A worker's council? I don't think I've ever heard of that sort of arrangement running any ship before. It's essentially a given that there's a captain and a chain of command beneath him." Lilian lets the thought roll around in her head some more. "Though, I suppose a ship of this size would be functionally impossible for a few people to keep track of. Especially with private residences, rather than bunks and messes." She runs her fingers through her hair apathetically at the remainder. "Well if they're dead, it's not as if they need the space. If you have an overpopulation crisis, it's common sense to build more housing."

    "The first people to safety are usually wealthy. That's sort of the whole point of stockpiling wealth, isn't it? The primitive part of the brain that still craves safety from the exigent and the unknown." says Lilian. She sounds like she meant it to be cynical and worldly, and hasn't realized she missed. She falls uncomfortably silent at 'if those are the same thing' instead.

    The food stall makes for a bit of comedy. Lilian clearly understands that these supplies are much more valuable than she thought on board a city ship, but must have simply been expecting a profuse thank-you for the exorbitant tip. She starts flustering (well, as much as Lilian can actually fluster) when he insists on trying to return it, then trying to pay her back. She even takes Tamamo aside and asks her in hurried whispers if this is a cultural thing and offensive to refuse. She looks a tiny bit red in the face when Bota opens his mouth, saying "Guest doesn't mean freeloader. You're a Harpoonist, aren't you? You made that money fighting monsters. I'm not taking it over breakfast. Especially since I haven't even agreed to whatever you're proposing yet!"

    She wanders away with approximately half the unwieldy quantity of seafood, insisting that the rest would go to waste, and she is 'donating' it to however many people of the stall operator's choice, to make certain it's 'efficiently utilized'. She walks on whispering to herself and looking sort of dazed.

    It's only interrupted when Kana asks that question.

    "Something to prove, I suppose." says Lilian.

    ". . . And insane." she says after a moment's thought.

    She bristles at Doctor Foid on sight. Before he's even said anything. She doesn't stop to elucidate anyone as to why. She kicks the bars, the loud metallic clang of toe on iron just to shut him up. "First, I don't take advice from people who don't have a will to live, much less people who don't have a will to continue humanity. Second, I plan to live a very long time, and even if I didn't, I plan to have children one day. Third, all monsters are worth killing, and all humans are worth protecting from them; even if only to be executed by their fellow man. Fourth, have you ever been struck for disrespect? Slapped for a lack of doing what you're told? Because you're going to do what you've been kept around for, or I'll gladly spend some of my unlimited time dragging it out of you myself. And last--"

    Lilian leans away from the bars, turning her back and pacing a few steps away. "'Thou art responsible to thy blood first above all else, both the blood of thy line, and the blood shed for thee'. That's rule number one."
Tamamo     'I'll just say she's someone who can work miracles, too.'

    "Hmmm, I see."

    'They ruled like nobility, and they were cruel.'

    "Ah, so they were the only ones permitted to own the 'land.' Yes, I can imagine what might develop from this. Little consolation may my sympathies provide, at this late stage. Bloody though it was... no, I suppose I cannot call it a silver lining, that some should die so that others might have more room in which to live. Still, I should applaud the effort to invite and provide for more within the space you may provide them." Tamamo just keeps to Lilian's side as they walk, and much the same while they eat.

    'You're a guest here, aren't you? You don't have to.'

    "Oh, but..." And then Lilian overpays. that works, too. Tamamo has (mysterious) space in which to store leftovers.

    'We'll need you to tell these people what you told us.'
    'Tell me why I should enlighten you, before I waste more breath on you.'

    "Oh, but then we would need to hear the same from those to whom you have already revealed these secrets. That would just be silly, would it not? I suppose we -- at least, those of us for whom such missions are optional, and who have not dedicated themselves to such things as the slaying of monsters and the search for, and rescue of, survivors of disaster -- could leave it well enough alone for some time. And yet, all of those here did arrive in response to such a call for emergency." With an exception, but she doesn't hold that against him, and it isn't worth pointing out. "Rather than making an emotional appeal, it is not enough to tell, by reason alone, that if we did not care, we would not be here, at all?"

    There's some sense of a trick when a fox says all that, but it's not as if anyone could tell her she's wrong, either.
Cantio Although Bota doesn't elaborate on what happened last year, Cantio has a few guesses based entirely on what she's already seen from Rita and the tentacle structure she's seen so recently. She gets a little more context on the situation here, meanwhile, when Kana explains the big shift in power following Rita's actions regarding the shareholders.

Despite her own status, Cantio actually lets out an approving noise. "It's alright to take credit for doing good things, Mister Ma. A sign of a good leader is knowing when to make sacrifices for their people instead of just clinging to power for themselves and nobody else." She gives him an encouraging smile, then listens a little more closely when Kana brings up the state of the Moon.

She mentions a doctor. Cantio's eyebrow raises slightly, but she doesn't comment on that just yet. Instead, she keeps on listening, finally making another thoughtful noise at keeping people subjugated. "That... I mean, if there's such a huge power gap between the ruler and the people, I guess that could work. But..."

She scratches her cheek lightly. "Maybe not in a place like this, and especially not with roaming monsters like what did them in. That's... Good to keep in mind, though." Cantio doesn't elaborate why, of course.

Further down the ship, Kana asks which category the Elites (or just Lilian? Cantio isn't sure) fall into. "Insane with something to prove." She answers easily, giggling briefly before looking mildly troubled. She's not sure how to feel about answering that so quickly, but it's definitely not a good feeling.

Doctor Foid, though... The way Bota describes him has Cantio furrowing her brow and remaining silent up to and including the time the group is brought to meet him. The way he speaks and the things he says visibly irk her, but the amount of STUFF in his cell...

It'd be a waste not to take advantage of it.

"With so many different worlds out there, it'd be careless to assume that the monsters here don't have some kind of distant relative somewhere else that might be a threat to us later. We can't unsee them, but we can learn more about them so we know how to handle them better in the future. Your knowledge could help speed that up a lot, but..."

She glances at the Doctor's paperwork and samples, still considering Bota's warning from before. It'd be too risky to trust him right off the bat, but there is another angle: IMPLIED DATA GATHERING (or lying). "... We already have access to them, and the power to fight them. It's up to you if you want to cooperate."
Rita Ma      "More complex than you'd believe," Bota answers Kale's companion. "But we've got good people on it. People who've been solving those puzzles their whole lives. That's part of why the worker's council is so important, right?" To Lilian, he adds: "A ship still needs a captain sometimes, of course. But he doesn't have the final say outside of an emergency. And the council picks him, not the other way around."

     "What happened to her?" As the others speak to Dr. Foid, Bota answers in a quiet voice off to the side: "Rita... left. She swam off into the ocean depths after killing Wormtooka and saving the ship. Never got to hear the people cheering for her." His expression is clearly pained, so Kana takes over, equally hushed:

     "She left to keep everyone safe. Wormtooka called her 'our Queen'. No matter where she went, monsters would hunt her down. She knew that, if she stayed with us, the Union Busan would surely be destroyed. Maybe someday, after we destroy the hive... she can come back to us." Kana pauses. She can't stop her expression from tinging with sorrow, too. "I worry about her. She must be lonely."

     That answers what Lilian's trying to discern, too. Even if they haven't said so out loud, they can't possibly be unaware that Rita, herself, is a monster. And yet they worry for her. They want her back.

     Ishirou pretty easily pries out some information from the doctor's brain: Foid kept a terrible monster, Kentrassi, as a research subject, and the ruling class allowed him to. It eventually broke free, causing horrible damage; this is the monster that Rita, in turn, used to massacre the shareholders in a twist of fate. That's what he's in prison for- or, at least, part of it.

     His relationship with Rita doesn't end there. But that'll take a little more digging.

     Bota notices Candy's note in his hand. He's briefly caught like a deer in the headlights, and then abruptly looks much less baffled when he actually reads what it says. The smile he gives Candy back is genuine, but a little embarrassed.
Rita Ma      Foid exhales sharply, and it might almost be a laugh. He stands up, runs a hand through his uncombed hair, and paces. "Appeals to humanity's benevolent nature. Baseless speculation. Ad hominem. Threats. Challenging the impossible, when you might as well leave it alone. Ah, this one says 'for the sake of her genetic line'- finally, something rational!"

     Even as he distorts the group's arguments, a light of unwholesome enthusiasm burns behind his eyes. He wants to spill his guts; this is what he lives for. He is just, as Lilian said, being pettily defiant. It's Tamamo's argument that tips him over into unpleasant laughter; he can't find a way to contradict her.

     "So you are here. And so you must care. Very well." He leans on his desk, rifling through papers. "Ah, but don't say I've given up on humanity. I said humanity as it is now, did I not? Tsk, tsk. But that's for later. For now..."

     Foid pulls a reinforced, thick-walled specimen jar out of a drawer. Inside is a stone egg with elaborate designs. He holds it out towards the group, practically eaten up with glee. "This," he says, "is the true form of the sea monsters."

     "When Vagabundus crashed into the Moon, and its ice drowned the Earth, these rained down too, all across the world's oceans. They leached a virus into the seawater. It is this virus that mutated marine life into monsters! But this is only part of their life cycle. For you see..."

     The stone egg is set down on his desk. Next he digs out a map, and seismological readings, of all things, practically thrusting them into your faces. "The greatest fragment of the comet landed near the Emperor Seamount Chain, in the Pacific ocean! And for the last several years, seismic and volcanic activity have been disturbed- unlike anything in the Earth's history. The epicenter? The Emperor Seamount Chain! You see??"

     The man is electrified now. "Think! How could an organism evolve to travel between worlds, without technology?! Where did that comet come from? Their hive is there! Even that child said as much! The hive is disturbing the Earth's mantle, somehow, to produce an artificial volcano! And when it explodes-"

     He hurls his papers, and they flutter to the floor around him. It's hard to tell if he's gleeful or despairing- probably both. "It'll spread to other worlds, just as it arrived at ours! Water and stone eggs flung into space by the explosion, becoming new comets! But many more will fall back down to Earth- more monsters, more hives, more supervolcanoes, another cycle! Again and again, until the oceans boil!"

     He's gripping the bars, now, and his expression is barely human. "And the tremors are building already!! It'll be less than a year! You, me, all of us- we'll live to see it happen!! And what are you going to do? Fight their entire species? Do you know how many billions- trillions- there are already? Do you have any idea-"
Rita Ma      His voice cracks. He's been nearly yelling for far too long. He coughs, walks to his desk, and downs a glass of water. "Well, no matter," he murmurs, brushing the hair out of his face. All the energy is gone from him suddenly. "As I said, stopping it is hopeless. Do with that what you will. I've found the path forward for humanity already. A way we can survive it!" He gestures at Bota and Kana. "They can jail me for it, but they can't undo what I've-"

     Up until now, the two of them haven't bothered to silence or correct him, tacitly agreeing with the substance if not the tone. Here, finally, Kana steps in: "That's *enough*." That brings even Foid's manic momentum to a freezing halt. He shrinks backwards instinctively, like an animal from flame.

     "... But it's true. We're trying to bring together the world's remaining fighting forces, now. Then we'll go to the Emperor Seamount Chain, where their hive lies, and cut the head off the serpent." Foid chuckles unpleasantly as he leans against the back wall of his cell, but doesn't retort.
Ishirou Ishirou listens to the story, frowning. Given everything, she's said, and what they've said, it makes sense. She can't return to this world because wherever she goes they'll follow her. It's...sad, and he understands how she feels about not being able to go home. Separated from her people. The story starts coming out of the doctor's head.

So he had the instrument of their destruction as a science pet, and Rita used it to kill them. Wait...

There is more to this. He pushes it, waiting for the moment he's dejected to push his hacking harder, using it to try and debilitate his resistance to be able to see the entirety of what happened. He wants to make sure he gets everything he won't say, everything he really knows, out into the open...and know what happened between him and Rita.

The Egg isn't going anywhere. He can study it in a minute.

"I'm sure she's not as lonely with you two in her heart, right? I think she wants to return home too, someday."
Candy I worry about her. She must be lonely.

    Candy's face doesn't betray a thing. But there is, however, a roll of his eyes, as he shifts in place listening to Foid's assertions.

    "'Rational' is spackling. You know what spackling is? It's shit you spread over holes in the wall to cover 'em up. Nobody's 'rational.' There's no such thing as a 'rational reason' to do something. 'Rational' comes in after you already did what you wanted to do, and you're looking for a way to explain it. The sooner people admit that, the happier we'd all be--" With an index finger raised, he opens his mouth to say more, stepping closer to the cell--but he hesitates, brow furrowed as he looks at Kale.

    "Fuck it. You know, it don't happen often, Hearthward. But I think I agree, you know? 'Words are wasted.'" Candy stuffs both hands into his pockets, and turns his back on Foid, to face Kana.

    "That," he says to her, with a confident, steely-eyed firmness, "I can help with, too. I got all the guns and explosives you guys could ever want for something like that. I got artillery. You give me enough time to make one, I could even whip something up for you guys to use, so you're not fighting in your houses." He shrugs his shoulders. "Just tell me what you need, and I'll get it to you, ah? I'm handy like that."

    There's a pause, his head tilting towards Ishirou. He nods. "I think so, too. And I bet wherever she is, she'd appreciate you two thinking of her."
Tamamo Earlier:

    Tamamo calmly comforts Lilian in her sudden state of semi-panic, promising to carry anything extra that might be inconvenient for her. "If he did not wish to give us this much food, in return, then surely, he would not do so? It was said that they have some trade with other vessels. I do not imagine he will hurt for either food or medicine, in the moment, nor will his own. Ah, but if you wish, we may certainly spread the feast. It is rather better without too much aging, when it comes to prepared meats, after all. Just after this, even, shall we take a tour of the other decks, perhaps? Or else, our guides might direct us to an appropriate place. To bring gifts and to receive and share a feast, in turn, is a fine and old tradition, itself."

A little later:

    Tamamo listens to Lilian's reasoning, not quite stopping herself from nodding, her serene expression shifting toward serious, at her second reason.
Kale Hearthward Kale glances over at Bota explains about Rita. "I... see." Some things swim into focus.

And then the doctor speaks. Kale listens, and doesn't respond or move till he's done.

"Antisocial personality disorder, maybe - I'm not professionally qualified to tell, but I wouldn't let him back out unmedicated even if he hadn't done things," notes Kale's medic. Kale's attention is elsewhere at that point, though - at Candy.

"Some people just won't take what you say, some can't take, and some just... aren't worth what you could say to them," he says, nodding to Candy.

Talking to Bota is probably more worthwhile than talking to the doctor. "Yeah. I can get behind that. We'll need to verify some of these readings, I think, but that shouldn't take too long, and then I'll make sure this gets on my unit's schedule..."

"... And - between you and me, I know that unifying forces can sometimes require some... extra actions. Not everyone may be on board, even facing a threat like this, and some people are impossible to convince with mere words." He reaches into his vest, pulls out a card, and starts writing a contact number down on it. "Officially I'm on shaky ground if I was to recommend someone, but luckily I'm not doing that, just passing on the number of a useful friend."
Cantio Everything about Foid is already rubbing Cantio the wrong way. She's doing an okay job at not grimacing at his enthusiasm, at least, and there's even some wavering in her expression when he starts giving them some rather useful information about the source of the monsters.

The discomfort never fades completely, though. If anything, she seems to be getting more uncomfortable the more he talks, and not just because of what he's saying.

"A widespread virus from the moon mutating sea life... How terrible. I wonder why it didn't affect the humans, though." She peers at that egg to keep herself from having to actually look at the doctor. "But if that comet... The hive is going to cause another explosion to launch even more of that virus everywhere else, then humanity's chances wherever it lands really might be..."

Before Foid can say what his path is, he's quieted down by Kana. Some small part of Cantio is still curious about what its effect would be on humans. Every other part of her already knows what needs to happen, and Kana confirms it audibly. Cantio glances over at Foid briefly once more, taking note of his chuckling and not quite forgetting that he was about to say something, then turns back to Kana and Bota with a slow nod.

"You have Cadenza's support in this. We can't spare any soldiers of our own-" since they don't exist "-but we have production facilities and technology that I think could be of great use for your own fighters. I'll just need our charging stations installed on your ships before and after everything's finished."
Hibiki Tachibana     Hibiki can, just barely, pick up on the conversation between Bota, Kana, and Ishirou off to the side. Enough that her grimace comes back in force. "...She's not." It's a very quiet thing, said only to herself and likely only heard by herself too, a hand at her side clenching. "--And she'll be even less lonely after all of this is over."

    That's only a part, but a very important one, of why her response to Doctor Foid comes simply and easily without needing to think about it. Now she knows what Kana and Bota meant when they mentioned 'less than a year'. But even with all the revelations on the source of the sea monsters, their hive, or their presumed plan...

    "You're wrong about one thing, Doctor," she says towards him even as the man slinks towards the back and out of the limelight. "Humans are a lot stronger than you think. They can make miracles happen...when they try as hard as they can. Even when it looks hopeless." Her hand comes up to her chest for a moment, for whatever reason and a side-glance is given to Bota before going back forward.

    "...Overall, seems like what we gotta do is as simple as it gets. Just do something about the hive." A hand punches into a palm for emphasis. "You might have given up hope, but I'm not going to let that be matter what."

    She can't help but have Rita come to mind when she says that. Afterwards, Hibiki joins in on some of the others in turning towards Kana. "Yeah, what Candy said. You're not only going to be fighting it alone. Especially if it's something that's gonna threaten a lot more worlds than just yours, you'll have all sorts of help. Mine included, for whatever that's worth."

    Her voice drops to a somewhat lower tone than 'resolved and polite'. "...I'm not gonna let what he said be true," she repeats, closer to a murmur. "And I think I want to see these things gone just as much as you do."
Tamamo Now:

    'I worry about her. She must be lonely.'

    Kana is given a sympathetic smile, just slightly sad, though something of Tamamo's usually present warmth carries into it, around the edges. "I hope that she shall become less so," she truthfully says.

    Though Foid was shushed, Tamamo can still guess. "'If humanity is to survive, it must change to a new form, capable of living in a new world,' is it?" She says that like she's familiar with it.

    "While some changes are unavoidable in a world lacking isolation, and not all transformation is to be feared, I am rather fond of humanity, myself. I might not so well like your own plans for it, as rational as your motive of survival may be." She doesn't even sound sarcastic. It's a calmly delivered opinion, and acknowledgment of his reasoning.

    It's not as if she'd gain anything by being impolite to an imprisoned man, no matter how horrible either his past actions or future intentions. She's not among the injured parties, and has no right to punish him.

    Not that she'd wish for him to ever be freed. Allowing him to remain is overly merciful, and yet... now that he is here, she can't find herself comfortable with the thought of him being made 'useful' and then discarded, either.

    All she really can do, as she'd decided to always do, is to leave human justice to humans, no matter how kind, cruel, deserved, or pragmatic it reveals itself to be.
Lilian Rook     Lilian makes an aggrieved, quarter-flustered noise at 'genetic line', simultaneously pissed off and also not sure whether to object or to what part. "People who shrug and say 'I'll be dead by then' shouldn't be making decisions for their own family, never mind the entire species." she says, icily. "I don't plan on dying heroically for the cause, but I don't plan on leaving it to someone else either."

    Lilian is, of course, utterly unsurprised that she is right. She didn't need to read his mind to know he's That Type Of Guy (though she did anyways). She absorbs his explanation with the attentive displeasure of someone who clearly wants to be skeptical, but has heard weirder and has no reason to think that they're being lied to. Lilian pinches the bridge of her nose, and gasps in exasperation, "Yes. I have an idea. And as much as I'd like to kill all trillion of them myself, I understand what is realistic. The people who survived to pass on their knowledge made sure I would. And if they could stand in the face of something like Mors Caelorum, I can stand up to this with a whole year to prepare."

    Lilian lowers her hand away from her face, her voice dropping to an unenthusiastic fry. "Apologies, but we appear to have different values, Doctor. I agree that the current idea of 'humanity' needs to change. But I won't accept humanity being changed just to survive its environment; tailored to the planet like mere animals. The thing that human beings might still become is important enough to be worth fighting for."

    A beat. "Why am I apologizing to you? You're scum."
Tamamo     Rousing from (largely invisible) introspection, and hearing Lilian's voice drop, Tamamo brushes an arm over the back of her shoulder, to make it less surprising when Tamamo's fingers reach the upper edge of her combat skin, gently massaging the back of her neck. Really, it's just to remind her that she's there.

    But Tamamo isn't looking at her, her attention still primarily on Foid. "It had occurred to me as strange, that the affected creatures would burn in the Sun's light. Further, that they seemed to fear it, and of this, I could not determine, to my satisfaction, whether it is only the burning that they fear, or if it is some aspect of the Sun itself that is their anathema, as a curse. Know you of this, from your research?"
Lilian Rook     Lilian makes a different sort of noise at the feeling of Tamamo's touch. Allowing herself to decompress and mull it over for quite a while, Lilian gently grips Tamamo's hand, turns to Bota and Kana, takes a deep, bracing breath, and says:

    "I apologize for not saying so earlier, but I wasn't entirely sure of your intentions or character. I know of Rita Ma. We've crossed paths a couple of times before, due to some unavoidable circumstances unique to the two of us." Two thirds of the truth. The fact that everyone else knows Rita, and Lilian could phone her up at any time, is left unsaid. "I'd be a liar to say that she's 'doing just fine'; she clearly has a lot to deal with, and a lot to work through, and I don't think the cutely reassuring platitude has any place here; but my professional opinion is that . . . she'll get through it. She has the fortitude for it. My feel of her is that she's responsible and kind and self-sacrificing to a fault, but I think being on her own is letting her grow up in ways she wasn't able to before."

    "Knowing that her home is waiting for her to return, and not the more likely state of affairs, is important to me. I . . . owe her a lot. So, when I come across her again, I'd like to be able to tell her that she has a place to go back to, when she's ready. And to that end, I want to make certain this place is still here when that time comes. So please don't think poorly of me when I say that with your current level of materiel, funding, manpower, equipment, and organization of scale, I don't see this course of action as anything other than suicidally desperate. I can't bring myself to stand by and watch you send Rita's home at this problem like a rusty battering ram and hope that a few hundred brave souls will be enough."

    "I'm asking for a place on the Union Busan. Residency, council, whatever. If you charge taxes then I'll pay them. You have no connections to the outside world and nothing to offer a Multiverse occupied with its own problems for help with this insanity. I do."
Kale Hearthward Kale looks over at Lilian, surprised.

"- If Rook's on the council, I'll see what else I can do, too," he decides, after half a moment's hesitation.

"I'm not rich, but I've got a housing allowance and enough to offer."
Lilian Rook     "I hear they don't particularly care for the rich here." says Lilian, attempting to affect offhanded wryness. She remains oblivious to the fact that she told on herself already; both about money and projecting her personal problems as normal to every rich person ever. "But . . ."

    "I don't know. Seeing the way that man reacted when I gave him that kit was . . . different. It wasn't like how it usualy is, when I deal with programs and funds and administrations."
Ishirou Ishirou sighs, giving Lilian a side eye, "You know they weren't platitudes," he says, a bit annoyed. "Also, I can actively scan and get information that is otherwise impossible to get through normal means. I can do it without putting civilians at risk too, unlike some people.." he says, staring at the doctor. I wonder who Ishirou is talking about? "I can likely help fill out your lack of ability to get knwoedge needed, without having to rely on..." he just stares at the doctor. "I really don't have a nice OR polite way to say I'll just let the implication sit."
Lilian Rook     "You're not killing him." says Lilian. "As much as it pains me to say it, even if you learn everything he knows now, there's still the very likely possibility that he'll be needed some time in the immediate future. And he's gleefully aware of it."
Ishirou "I'm not Ri-..." Ishirou pauses, rethinking what he was about to say, pauses. Reconsiders what he was GOING to say again looking at Candy and Hibiki and then... "I'm not a murderer. I'm just removing his leverage and ability to talk down to others like he's better than they are. Besides maybe we can still make him useful. I can get the data, but he's a specialist in the field still."
Rita Ma      Being asked a direct question rouses Foid, albeit temporarily, from his cowed state. "Tch. The supernatural? 'Curses'? How absurd. It's the retrovirus imperfectly integrating into the host's genetic code. A sunburn comes from damaged DNA, doesn't it? A creature with far more aggressive cells, yet far less effective self-repair... of course it burns. The stronger ones, less so."

     Rita, of course, does not burn at all.

     "Someday," Kana agrees. Her one eye meets Ishirou's. The determination in it is electrifying. Then it softens, and Bota interjects: "Having people you love doesn't make loneliness easier. It makes it harder. ... But thank you, Ishirou. I know you mean it."

     Foid is a brilliant scientist, but his mind isn't protected against Ishirou's reading. He discovers that Bota and Kana brought Rita to him, when she'd first become a monster, but wasn't yet as she is now. He said he'd cure her. Instead he injected her with mutagens derived from Kentrassi, the terrible monster he was studying. Those tentacles, that eye- she became something greater, and much much worse.

     Kana doesn't smile in response to Candy's offer- it's impossible to imagine her smiling- but she does incline her head, which feels like the closest thing. "We were planning to detach one of the ships for the final leg, and leave everyone else on the other two-thirds. But a brand new vessel..."

     Bota adds: "Bombs are called 'forbidden treasures' here. Every vessel that carries them sinks, sooner or later; they're just not worth it. But here... I feel like they might finally be needed. Thank you, Candy. I mean it." He smiles at Cantio next. "And you, too. As long as they're not more power draw than we can handle, I'll bring them to the council's attention. Thank you so much, Cantio."

     Bota takes the card from Kale with evident confusion. "Someone who can't be persuaded just with words... hey, what do you mean, 'extra actions'? Who's your useful friend? I don't get-" Kana reaches over and plucks the card from his fingers. "I do. Thank you, Kale. If they're needed, they'll be put to good use."

     Tamamo catches Kana's attention, too. That warmth of hers elicits... it's still not a smile. Probably, definitely, maybe not. But Kana's cheek twitches in an expression that's both relieved and sad. "Yeah." Her voice is just a little rough. The shared hope, Kana senses, is sincere.

     She lays her hand on Hibiki's shoulder next. Her severity isn't gone, but it's quite a bit diminished. "Aren't you a little young?" "Wasn't I younger than her when I started? Weren't you?" "Yes, and it was terrible for us, too. ... But you know what you're saying, Hibiki. I won't turn you away."
Rita Ma      Foid has recovered, just a little, from Kana's earlier paralyzing glare. He scoffs quietly at being called 'scum' before speaking up unbidden again. "I'm not the one underestimating 'humanity'," he says. That unwholesome enthusiasm lights up his eyes again. "You're putting artificial limitations on human potential. That child, Rita- she's the future. The apex predator of the seas! Who's to say she isn't human, just because she looks a little strange?!"

     "Silence," Kana says, and it is so. Foid tries to meet her gaze, but can't hold it. Her voice drips with venom. "How dare you? You made her a monster." "Kana-!" "She's still Rita. And she's still ours. But I won't let you call that being human. I remember the look on her face when everyone saw what she was. You can't make that pain go away by playing games with the words."

     The doctor withers. Kana's diving suit creaks audibly as she relaxes.

     When Lilian speaks up again, Bota and Kana both wheel to face her in shock. "You've met her out there?! So she's-" "Is she safe? Is everything alright??" "What did she look like? Has it gotten any worse?" "She doesn't need anything, does she? She's not going hungry?"

     They do, eventually, settle down and listen. Bota looks about halfway to crying, with relief and other things. Kana is more composed, but that's just Kana; it's hit her every bit as hard. "Neither of us... have any ability to promise something like that. I don't have any political authority. But it's true that we need the help. I'll talk to the council, and we'll work something out. I doubt they'll refuse. Thank you, Lilian."

     While Bota and Kana are distracted with wholesome feelings, Foid takes the chance to be a snake again, leaning up against the bars and smiling down at Ishirou. "My, my. Did 'talking down' about your intellectual rigor really upset you so? Perhaps I was wrong to. If you value such things so highly... why, you might even grow up to be as brilliant a scientist as I am. Keep it up, hmm?"

     Gross. It's impossible to tell if he actually thinks that's a compliment.
Ishirou "Hm, I see, so it's instability caused by UV rays...and given the earth's Ozone Layer was likely damaged with the moon falling to earth.." Ishirou says, trying to think. That might also explain a lot about how the Fish Disease was interacting with things. Why it was successful in some things, and not in others. Once again, humanity's greatest ally had saved them.

Genetic Mutations. Also probably being exposed to the plague repeatedly.

Ishirou gets to see what the man has done. What he did to Rita, what she had been exposed to in her moment of weakness after a traumatic event. He gets to see why she is the way she is now, and that he is the cause. That he violated gets him /angry/.

It also digs into his own traumas. The memories of knowing that he was a person built from the soul of another, put into a machine...told that he was...

He takes a breath, as Bota and Kana give him something else to focus on. Their care for Rita even after all this time and what happened to her warmed his heart a little. He edges away from doing something rash. Then the snake tries to whisper poison into his ear. He takes another steadying breath.

He turns, pointing a hand up and this time the biohacking is /very/ obvious. "First, don't speak anymore unless you're asked a direct question. Second...remember this memory of mine of what you created. Let it be all that you dream of."

The dream in question is the time he was pretty much torn in half by Rita. Just this is a dream that gets to live in his head rent-free.
Lilian Rook     Lilian was braced to take the flurry of questions the moment she opened her mouth.

    "She's safe as she's going to be. I can't say she's been living an ordinary lifestyle at home and staying out of trouble, but she doesn't take stupid risks, and she's strong. I'm not worried about her being in danger."

    "Even if she seems to believe she can't belong anywhere, she has some people she can trust."

    "I'm not a doctor, so I can't tell you how advanced it is; I've seen her in a variety of states that have gone back and forth. I've never known her to struggle with 'that' though, just . . . suffer through it, I suppose. I don't think you have to worry about things going 'that way'."

    "She was a bit of a wreck at first, but I think she's found her footing. She seemed healthy the last time we crossed paths. I don't know how she's managing, but she found enough time to share her cooking once."

    "I couldn't tell you for certain what she needs. She seems like the type you'd have to baby and take care of, but she really is deceptively resourceful. The only thing fragile or unstable about her is her feelings, and understandably so."

    "If I had to not make myself a hypocrite, though, I'd have to say that what I think she needs most is . . . People who can tell her that she isn't okay, and that they won't pretend, but that it's okay to not be okay. I think she needs to relieve some more of that irrational burden she feels, and to take back some of the dignity that was stolen from her, before she'll be ready to fully accept that her existence isn't an infliction or an imposition."

    "We're not best friends. We've had a couple of fights. I don't know where she lives or anything. But she was able to understand something very difficult about me, and was there when I needed someone, and I think I've done an adequate job of doing the same for her. I really do think she'll come home. It's just not something you can rush."

    "Even trying your very best, even surrounded by love, it takes a while to give yourself permission to exist, when the world has to first accept what you are."
Cantio "Rest assured, Mister Bota. The stations are designed to generate most of their own energy through sunlight and visibility, so the power draw should be negligible." Cantio explains without really elaborating on the visibility thing, sounding confident enough in the technology that it's probably not going to be an issue. "I'll get you a few of the earlier models, too, but the ones I'm working on should really give your people an edge here."


Foid's outburst about Rita catches Cantio's attention again, and so does Kana's sharp rebuke of his words. Although there's still quite a bit of personal context she isn't aware of, it's enough to convince Cantio not to push too hard on trying to get more information from him (for now). It's not the right time for it, anyway, as Lilian reveals what she actually knows about Rita to her family to their apparent relief.

It's kind of hard to follow up on all that. It's not for a lack of trying, although Cantio really only manages to open her mouth and close it a few more times before giving up and starting to head for the stairs leading back up. She lingers by Lilian for a moment, listening again and waiting until she's done before clapping a hand gently on her shoulder.

It's an incredibly awkward gesture. Genuine, but awkward as hell.
Hibiki Tachibana     'I won't turn you away.' "...Thanks, Kana." Hibiki manages a smile back up at both her, and Bota too. "Both of you. If I have the power to do something...and help, I wanna do it. That's all it is." More or less, anyway.

    And then Foid speaks up, and Kana claps back. Hard. Her mouth comes open to say something, but nothing does right away. No. It's hard to argue with that. Impossible, even. Rita is Rita. Nothing will change that. But she knows, very well by now, how she feels about being called 'human'. Regardless of how anybody else feels about it.

    ...Yeah. She doesn't blame her for it, either.

    Lilian chooses to break the news--which she's actually openly shocked about. A lot more than the request for a place on the ship. The raven-haired woman is given a slightly wide-eyed stare as she does so, which eventually settles down to something more neutral, yet still has her lips slightly parted in surprise while she listens. ". . ."

    A lot like Cantio, there's not much she can say that can adequately follow on that. In truth, she thinks Lilian said everything that's worth saying and more. About how she's doing. About how she is. More than a few memories go through her own head. Even recently, in a now-ruined office, at Wonderworld...and a certain sleepover.

    Part of her wants to leave it at that. The other part...

    "...She' a lot of people who care about her out there, too. I don't think you'll have to worry too much about her. Case in point," her head nudges Lilian-ward, the tiniest of tiny smiles on her face. "And even more than that...for everything that's happened to her, she's pretty strong. Stronger than me, for sure." There's the impression she's not talking about physical strength there.

    "...So I think she will, too. One day. And when she does, I'm glad it'll be to a home that loves her, no matter what. I think...that's a pretty important thing to have."
Rita Ma      Foid staggers backwards, visibly shocked by the mental intrusion. He slumps against the cell's back wall, covering his mouth with a hand. His eyes are wide in visible distress, and a choked noise forces its way out of his throat. There's no mistaking that it's had the desired effect. And yet, even though he's suffering, he manages to cough: "Magnificent."

     Neither Bota nor Kana have the faintest idea how that happened, yet their indifference to it beyond glancing over just to make sure Foid isn't dead speaks volumes. It's Multiversal stuff. He did totally deserve it.

     Bota, a little later, is much too distracted with wiping his eyes with the back of his forearm anyway. "She... haha. You really do know her, huh. Maybe a little better than you're saying. People who can tell her that she's not okay... for the longest time, I thought she needed me to pretend like nothing was wrong. But I guess that was hurting her too. Thank you, Lilian."

     "As long as she's alive, and still herself, then it'll be okay." Rather than getting emotional alongside Bota, Kana deliberately reels herself in to steady him- but there is still the atmosphere of a relieved smile about her, if not the actual expression. "We'll always be here, too. Whenever she's ready to come home. You can tell her so."

     "A little too strong," Kana says, nodding in Hibiki's direction. "I wish she were 'weaker' sometimes. That she'd let herself be loved more easily. But if she has friends like this out there, then I'm sure some of it's getting through." "She can't reject all of it, right?" Bota adds with a smile.

     "Thank you. 'One day'. I think I can believe in that."