2016-02-05 - A Deep Conspiracy! Questions and Answers Beneath Southern Cross Island!

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Title: A Deep Conspiracy! Questions and Answers Beneath Southern Cross Island!

The fugitive magical girls are brought before Headmistress Kazahana in a secret cavern underneath Southern Cross Island, and are given a plan to rescue all the students.


Nori Ankou, Mai Tokiha, Endo Naoki, Natsuki Kuga, Lera Camry, Garnet, Takeo Akamizu, Steven Universe, Kozue Kaoru, Fuu Hououji

GM: Honoka Yukishiro


The caverns underneath Ohtori Academy

OOC - IC Date:

02-05-2016 - 09-27-2014

<Pose Tracker> Honoka Yukishiro [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DpQQznyXl6k

It's probably afternoon on the second day since Alyssa Searrs' ultimatum that the HiME (a kind of magical girl) be turned over to her custody (where, she claims, they would not be harmed in their involvement in her plan to save the world from a dire threat), or she'd just nuke the school from space with her gigantic magical golden beam (since she can work with the HiME dead or alive).

It's only 'probably' afternoon, though, because any magical girl who is not in the custody of the paramilitary occupying Ohtori Academy (and some still are, having never transformed, laying low as ostensibly normal students among a populace that is increasingly distressed and despairing, even though they are unaware of their own hostage status) is, by now, underground. The forest used to be a viable hiding place, before Alyssa's warning shot burned it to the ground. Now only the labyrinthine cavern system remains, and there is little sense of the passage of time, nary a hint of sunlight for those girls in the deep dark below.

Well -- that's only half true. There is an enormously powerful sense of time down there, the immense burden, the pressure, that ancient places exert on tresspassers from the present, who dare disturb the thousand-year dust mandalas with every footstep of their passage. There are ruins upon ruins, of distinctly different styles.

Around one bend, an endless hallway of faceless statues, so crisp and perfect in the carvings of their silk drapery that no one can mistake their blank heads as having been worn away by the years.

Down some clumsily hewn steps, a vaulted space with archways and buttresses, filled everywhere with jagged edges that might have once been an incredible stained glass or crystal display -- lit by what distant sun, ever? -- and is now just shattered pieces of an incomprehensibly time-lost puzzle.

Past a pitch-black section that seems truly hungry for all light that enters it, a chamber with a single notched pillar of stone, filled strangely with little glowing rocks, very, very old and somehow seeming sleek and new in the way its design emulates circuitry. It draws the eye with the sort of sense of skewed wrongness of a particularly excellent Salvador Dali painting, and keeps it with a feeling of presence, as though it is watching. Or maybe just lonely. Or maybe nothing at all.

This is the /third/ day of the occupation, total, and those who have been on the run for very long at all are probably quite hungry. One can gauge the timeline of escape by clothing: a few bolted even as the Golden Age mercenaries were getting the kids from the after-Athletics Festival ball to the school, and they're in increasingly ragged formalwear. Others had a chance to change back into their school uniforms, spending some time under the brutal regime before departing.

Flora and fauna in the caves aren't zero; there are bats near the edges, other burrowing critters here and there, and various dubious-looking species of lichen, but all in all food is very thin on the ground. There are Orphans, all shadow and fangs, those otherworldly monsters summoned by Alyssa. They seem eager to force the girls to retreat ever more deeply into the caves, rather than trying to drive them towards the surface. They aren't edible even for the brave or desperate; upon defeat, they sink back into nothingness, perhaps returning to wherever it is they came from in the first place.

Fortunately, the presence of water is a constant, and while most of it is saltwater, there are obviously several springs which create a thin but vast system of trickles, streams, and even here and there, an underground river.

Of course, who knows what's in it? But it's better than nothing.


They come for you, all at the same time, everywhere, all at once. If you're alone, there's just one of them. If you're in a group, there's one for each of you. If you're at the school, they intercept you in the bathroom, or at the water fountain, just at the right moment when there are no soldiers looking.

They are not actually clones or anything of the sort; there is variation in their heights and builds and coloration. But in general they are all cut from the same cloth: all men, all wearing crisp black suits, all wearing mirrored shades.

All unarmed.

All make the same offer: "If you want to help save the school and its students, please come with me."

And all calmly point out, if they're asked how they knew how to find the girls, and why they should be trusted: "Since we've just shown that we could have found you at any time, but you're still not in a Golden Age holding cell, it's up to you to decide what you believe."

They don't answer questions about who they work for. They don't give their names, and they don't smile, but they are otherwise perfectly polite. They are, all in all, at least as sinister a bunch as the Golden Age mercenaries, but it does seem to be the case that they aren't working for them. And there's something oddly familiar about them at the same time -- something polished. Something pristine in the way that Ohtori Academy itself is pristine. If Ohtori had ever had its own private security company, they might have looked like this.

In the end, they effortlessly lead whoever's coming with them deeper into the dark. For magical girls still on campus, they somehow open secret passages, take mysterious staircases. For girls in the caves, of course, they simply lead onwards, apparently knowing the ancient landscape as well as most people know their own neighborhoods.

There is no convergence point before the very end: all the girls, and their men in black, arrive at their destination at roughly the same time.

The first impression of it is that it is a huge, open underground space, totally dwarfing all prior comparisons in the ruins. It is so massive that it's quite possible for two girls to have arrived in it at the same moment, and not be able to see each other, between the quickly-falling shadows, and the crowd.

The second impression is of water.

The third is of little wooden boats that wouldn't look at all out of place on the set of Phantom of the Opera. Another man in black waits at the prow of each boat, ready to steer the girls towards their destiny.

OOC: Please make sure that your sceneset both fills us in on where and how you've been, and, by the end of it, gets you in one of the boats (or not, in which case you can +observe after your pose, further attendance in this scene means attending the IC meeting).

<Pose Tracker> Lancelot [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Lancelot had sent Sparkles back to wherever she goes when she's not summoned. It was a quick hug and nuzzle from his best friend and then a flash of light as a bolt of lightning retreats into the sky. He considered transforming back into Takeo, but Merlin jsut shook his head stating, "You've lost a lot of blood. Lancelot can take these wounds. Takeo would pass out." He winced at that, but had nodded, strapping Arondight into it's little used sheathe, and then stalking.

He was searching for cover, or a way back inside, or into the nurse's office for ... well for a lot of band aids, when that man approached him. He had Arondight out in a pain filled instant, but the man calmly convinced him he wasn't the enemy.

Lancelot got the distinct impression that the Sun Glassed man left out the word: Today.

He also never said he wasn't the enemy. It was more implied as far as Lancelot's thought process went.

So it was with Rabbit on shoulder, (the unbloodied right shoulder. No white Rabbit wants to sit on a bleeding left shoulder. So Gouche.) that Lancelot found his way into the cavern with the boats and everyone else. He smiles slightly and says to those assembled, "I don't suppose anybody has any bacon? I could eat a whole cow of bacon right now."

Merlin just slowly turns to look at Lancelot and facepaws.

<Pose Tracker> Garnet [None] has posed.

Garnet looks at the man in black for a moment, and focuses her Future Vision on him.

Regardless of what she sees. She turns to Fuu, Endo, Ami and a sleeping Steven and speaks: "This is suspicious, but we need to know what we're dealing with, and if they can find us here, we aren't safe from whoever. Or whatever. They are.

"Take anything, or anyone you want to defend."

Garnet picks up a sleeping Steven and cradling him against her shoulder, begins to lead the way behind their "guide".

<Pose Tracker> Ami Mizuno [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Ami Mizuno has had what we'll describe as a rough go of it. She's been separated from both her fellow senshi and the person she's tried to work with in investigating the crisis; while she's found new acquaintances after a particularly dire Orphan run-in not all that long ago, she isn't feeling particularly great, and to tell the truth, she's really quite hungry.

She's stayed in henshin since the Orphan battle; she doesn't know her newfound acquaintances well enough to break the masquerade. For /her/ part, she's been quiet; she doesn't really like the smell of this -- but she doesn't have much of a choice in the matter, either.

<Pose Tracker> Endo Naoki [Juuban Public School (11)] has posed.

Endo had spent the previous day mostly running, after the initial blast from Alyssa's satellite and his separation from the initial group of escapees. He's spend the last few hours after that out cold, recovering from being torn and ripped through by the small army of Orhpan's that he'd faced down with the rest of the survivors he happened to very literally run in to in the burnt remains of the island's forests.

Thankfully, he awoke just in time to receive an exclusive invitation. One that he's still a bit skeptical about, but it was that or go charging back off to declare unconditional warfare on a small army by himself. Which he's assured Fallen Stern is still totally on the table if this doesn't pan out, if only to stop the Device's grumbling about his shameful display earlier.

"There's nothing else to be done, right?" So Endo goes along with Garnet's lead, and the others if they go too.

He moves a bit slowly, and wincing as he favors the parts of his body that haven't been bitten into by flytrap monsters. Once they hit the boat he flops down in to the aft, gazing around the massive cavern and pillar in muted, tired awe. "Wow, how'd they fit all this down here?"

<Pose Tracker> Lera Camry [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

Lera has had a little luck since she fled the Golden Age mercenaries. She ran into Cure Passion in the caves below. The reunion has been a bright spot on an otherwise trying three days.

When the men in black came, she didn't need to think very hard. They were suspicious, perhaps, but Lera's ideas were furtive; the eerie caves were full of uncertainties, but they didn't have much in the way of a suggestion on how to stop Alyssa Searrs. The chance, in the end, was worth the risk.

Now, she stands in a boat. Her Barrier Jacket is on; Broken Ground is out, as a shield, slung across her back. She looks out over the water; then she glances to the side at Endo, and shakes her head. "These ruins are... old, y'know?"

<Pose Tracker> La Sirene du Nord [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

La Sirene du Nord has eaten the following in the last twenty-four hours:

1. A turbot snail aka "sazae," recovered from a tidal pool by her otter friend (uncooked) back when they were higher in the situation

2. that's it

The ruins are a distraction, at least. She wishes perhaps that she had not found these places now in a moment of such great desperation, but perhaps, la Sirene admits to herself, it was better she didn't, because she might have stayed down here forever and a day.

La Sirene and Batiste sit and rest in the eye of that pillar, and it is there that they are found. When the man in black speaks, she startles, but her first question is -

"Are you here to take me home?"

But, as it turns out, things aren't quite that bad.

La Sirene du Nord and her black-suited escort, with Batiste in tow, emerge to this vast and open space. La Sirene does not seem displeased or afraid. She /does/ seem - well -

"You know, she has men like you - well, men and women both. They wear glasses like yours, in case the clouds should break. But their suits are a single piece, a little like my dress, but much simpler -"

A little bit out of it, perhaps. Her dress still has the cloying scent of murdered wood, dead by fire, lingering on it. Her hair has become a ragged mess thanks to a truly heroic case of split ends induced by Miyu Greer, though its natural straightness and weight has kept it from frizzing. Her cap remains firmly in place, however. (Batiste is his usual self, though his ribbon-bow could use re-tying.)

"I suppose this is where we board," la Sirene says. She curtsies to her escort, and moves to get in one of the boats. She is near enough to Endo Naoki to turn her head and look at him. Her eyes are very clear - if anything clearer and brighter than they typically are, even if her cheeks look a little drawn.

"They?" she asks him.

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

In a way, it was cruel of Alyssa to give everyone this long to decide. All the more time for Mai to be left to think herself into a total knot.

Since the ambush by Miyu at the gymnasium, and the second encounter at the site of Alyssa's 'demonstration', Mai has scarcely ventured above ground. Deeper into the caverns, in search of some kind of refuge - along with the other HiME, her sisters-in-arms outed by the same speech. Once, twice, she might have glimpsed someone else in those twisty tunnels...

But given the circumstances, she was wary of actually approaching them, lest they turn her in.

Could she blame them?

"Takumi..." There were wonders to behold - fleeting distractions from the cataclysm overhead, the looming threat that promises death for all those attendees of the Sister Schools. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of innocents - dozens of people she knows personally well enough to care about - and yet, here, in this chamber, her thoughts swing back to one person.

There were ancient crystals gleaming faintly with refractions of some forgotten legacy, statues with faces erased by vindictive history, dusty legacies that speak of stories she might never know...and this place. This chamber, this pillar, when she saw it...once again, Alyssa's offer tempts.

But she can glance to Mikoto - meet Natsuki's gaze - avert her gaze from Kozue - and endure. For now. Even as time runs out...

Bedraggled, school uniform darkened with the ashes of a once-great forest, face weary beyond even the most brutal diner shift, Mai lets out a sigh. And then - there's a light in the cavern, and men in shades and suits. Mai takes a step back, suspicious in an instant, and yet ready to hold back Mikoto if need be. "Who are..."


There was an explanation. It's suspicious in any number of ways...but the clock is ticking, they're distinctly not soldiers, and the HiME are rapidly running out of options. The chamber they're led to, in turn...it's breathtaking to say the least. Questions still unanswered, Mai heads for one of the boats.

The first thing she does is splash some of the water on her face - partly to clean up, partly to wake up, and partly to just feel that bit more human.

Then, once the boat begins to set into motion, she settles uneasily into her seat, glancing at her fellow renegades. Eventually, she turns fully to Natsuki, murmuring in (hopefully) hushed whispers. "I realize we don't have much choice, but...this is all mind-boggling. Ruins and caverns aside, these guys in suits...well, even I think they're suspicious. You're the conspiracy nut, Kuga, any clue who they are...or if we can trust them?"

<Pose Tracker> Kozue Kaoru [Ohtori Academy (8)] has posed.

"So. Rocks." Kozue passed the time amongst the HiME playing with errant pebbles and stones. Sometimes she tapped them in an impromptu rhythm to try to annoy Natsuki and Mai since she hadn't really gotten along with either. Break up the boredom. But really it was more just to settle her thoughts. She sighs. "So... many... rocks."

Not far from behind her is her Child, something that looks somewhat like a giant Swan bedecked with an armor of razors, fan like metal as a crest upon it's head. It was settled upon the ground, wings tucked in, but it was hardly passive, its neck turning as a vigilant guardian, watching for threats within the dark caverns.

Eventually she threw a large one in frustration, in the general direction of the other HiME but not at them glaring angry, "I'm sick and tired of all of this waiting! If we wait any longer then that little golden witch is going to..." There's a throaty sound of light warning, as her Child picks herself up onto her feet, glaring into the dark, as men in black suits emerge. She's up in a heartbeat, whirling around, curved blade held warily, "And just who the hell are you? I'm warning you, we've got no time and even less patience for..."

The offer was made clear. She gives them a suspicious look. "Why shouldn't we believe this is a trick...? Huh? You come in here dressed up like some pristine salarymen and we're supposed to just trust..."

Already they're pointing out the little hole of logic in the argument she hadn't finished making. Her face is marred with disgust, and for a moment her sense of control of the situation slips and she looks over to Mai and Natsuki... to gauge their own reaction. She's certainly not looking to her seniors for guidance. /Certainly not/. Except... maybe she is this time. This wasn't the usual situation she felt in control of.

She goes with them, of course she does. It was better than the interminable waiting and doing nothing. Her Child, however, does not, becoming a phantasmal image, before vanishing. Her Element however is held at the ready between both, just in case this was a trick. As she follows along in her PE uniform and shoes. She hadn't changed in days, she hadn't been able to, though she'd found opportunity to bathe at least.

And even she has to admit she's impressed at first glimpse of the wide open space, the underground lake, the boats. She doesn't think it's a trick any longer. But it is still creepy. "Surprised there isn't ominous organ music playing." She grumbles, a short hop and she's in one of the wooden boats. She sits on one side of hers, letting Natsuki and Mai have their little private chat, though that doesn't stop her from glaring, and rolling her eyes at what she thinks they're talking about.

<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

Since Fuu Hououji took her leave of the 'hospitality' of the Golden Age forces holding Ohtori, she's had very little opportunity to actually stop and rest. The forest offered some sanctuary for a little while, except for wandering monsters and roving patrols; when Alyssa Searrs killsat'd the forest as a demonstration of her power (and at the same instant, outed herself as the one REALLY responsible for destroying the bridge), she transformed into the Magic Knight of Wind and has remained in her armored form ever since, throughout meeting up with allies, attempting to hunt for food, and fleeing from another pack of Orphans.

Honestly? The fact that the men in suits were *unarmed* was the best possible decision they could have made for anything even vaguely reminiscent of a reassuring approach to the Wind Knight. Saving the school and the students - well, that certainly tallies with what *she* wants, particularly if there's an option that doesn't entail handing Mai-san and her fellow HiME over to the Golden Age group.

Not that Fuu/the Wind Knight doesn't have a lot of questions; she's especially curious about how the suited men FOUND the escaped magical girls, but the lack of answers just means she's going to hold onto those questions, until she hopefully gets a chance to ask them. Some of those answers might have to come from the leadership of Golden Age when all is said and done, and she's hoping a chance comes to question them properly.

In the meantime, she's familiar enough with international theatre productions that the sight of the boats has her remembering a particular song - and overhearing Kozue's comment about ominous organ music prompts a faint, almost smothered, giggle. "In sleep he sang to me, in dreams he came ..." she murmurs, not quite singing the lyrics.

... all told, though, that song would be terribly ominous in its own right, particularly given what that number was about in the first place. For now, the Wind Knight climbs into a boat - ideally the same one with Mercury, Garnet, Steven, and Endo; if they wind up in separate vessels, she'll just try to keep her eyes open generally for familiar and friendly faces. Keeping Garnet's advice close to her heart, she's also keeping the red-haired form of the Fire Knight as close as she can - and that might be the deciding factor on who they're in a boat with.

There isn't much else to do except possibly help to row, and other than that, wait for the boats to arrive at their destination.

<Pose Tracker> Natsuki Kuga [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

The last few days had been chaotic. Having to run from the soldiers, while also dealing with the stress of the deadly promise that Alyssa would attack the other schools if they didn't hand themselves over. Natsuki barely had time to think.

There was no where to run, and even if they could, none of them could leave knowing the other students would be killed. Mai would have killed Natsuki for even suggesting they leave her brother behind. Thus, they last couple of nights in the woods were spent pondering and worrying about the future.

Then, the men in black suits sprang up. Natsuki had whipped out her guns faster than an eye blink and would have shot them if Mai hadn't stopped. Follow them, they said, if they wished to save the school.

Natsuki was sketpical. This was clearly District one's attempt to regain control of the situation. Natsuki knows better than to blindly follow them, but they were out of options Just this one, Natsuki would comply and go along, but making it clear as day she shot the men if they pulled anything funny.

The walk was long, and even longer as Natsuki noticed the icy looks Mai and Kozue exchanged with each other. Seriously, what had happened between the moments of fleeing the fire and reuniting them afterwards? This really wasn't the time for arguments.

She noticed Kozue gives her a look. Anxious? She doesn't blame the girl as they're lead down the chambers and see nothing except rocks around them. The site with pillars arouses Natsuki's suspicions, but there was no time to interrogate the man what it meant. Natsuki tucked it away into her memory to investigate as the group is led to the boat.

Hearing Mai's question, Natsuki sighed. "These guys are District One, the group that run this whole HIME operation." She places a hand on her hip as they near a boat. "Frankly, I trust them as far as I can throw them, but we really got no choice right." She glances to both Mai and Kozue before entering the boat. "Just keep both your guards up, since we don't know what we're being lead into here."

For all Natsuki knew, District One wanted the HIME to save the school by performing as sacrificial maidens, although that could be pushing it, even with her conspiracy theories.

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (5)] has posed.

Noises heard. Unfamiliar men talking at the edge of consciousness. A caretaker responding, followed by slow but steady movement.


Suddenly, more voices. Many females. Loud echoing.

"I... What... is..."

Exhaustion. The running, the fighting, the lack of normal nourishment. Above all, the stress. It is all too much to keep going much longer.

"I... wait, where are we? Garnet?"

Steven awakes slowly, having fallen asleep not long after their escape from the corraling Orphans, and has been asleep since. A young Gem, fighting repeatedly completely wears on him. He still seems wobbly and tired as he climbs down from Garnet after giving a hug.

"Who are they?" he asks. Obviously not true badguys, otherwise there would surely be fighting. He turns and sees some sort of boats or rafts. "Guess we better go..." he says solemnly, climbing in a boat shortly after Fuu, or rather, her true form. Alternate form? What are thsoe suppsoed to be called anyway? "I hope this is over soon."

<Pose Tracker> Honoka Yukishiro [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

The boat ride is something of an escapably magical moment in the way that gondolas are in Venice and Disneyland and the world over, but the fun and wonder of being on a boat is quickly dwarfed by its destination.

Out in the middle of the lake juts a huge crest of stone, simply enormous. It flickers here and there with deep and ancient carvings, the signs of old gemstones left within, too. It is an altar and it is a dais, and the steps taken out of it, which lead up from the ancient dock, are carved so perfectly, so smoothly, that not a single chisel mark can be seen.

But almost more notable are the screens -- their sharp white glare, their soft electric hum, the sign of something foreign to this place, something quickly forgotten after a couple of days off the grid. Blinding to look at directly in the dark, they won't be yielding any images just yet, not until eyes adjust. They're connected by a tangle of wires and cords the envy of any Gordian, and there's a faint sense that further up in the shadows they might have caught prey, exotic objects the ensnared meal of an electronic spider.

At the top of the stairs, beneath the screens, two people wait. They're instantly recognizable to Sister Schools students, or at least the one in a wheelchair is: Mashiro Kazahana, Headmistress of Ohtori Middle and High Schools, is not a flamboyant executive, but her presence is still felt everywhere on campus, like a snatch of a flute song drifting on the wind. She wears her usual blue coat, purple tie, and white skirt, and seems, as ever, much too young to be Headmistress until someone looks at her eyes.

That soft blue could have belonged to any of two dozen magical girls, a notable hue for its sparkle, a notable pair of eyes for their size. But... within dwells the shadow of time. All at once, she is too professional and too desolate, too dignified and too heartbroken, to be some kind of little kid (or maybe, generously, teenager). She seems as ancient as the stone here, though that, too, is impossible.

Equally out of place is her omnipresent maid, a sensible and pristinely well-kempt young woman who wears a dark pink dress and a white apron. She stands behind the Headmistress, ready as ever to serve.

Kazahana speaks, and her voice carries. The acoustics in here are marvelous.

"Welcome, everyone, to the Obsidian Palace. For those who don't know me, I am Headmistress Mashiro Kazahana of Ohtori Academy. I have brought you here for one purpose: to save our school, and the students trapped within it, from Alyssa Searrs and the Golden Age."

The greatest wonder of all: they've set up a huge table, indeed conveniently directly between 'where people come up the stairs from the boats' and 'where the Headmistress is awaiting them', and piled it high with simple foods, good things to eat when you've been on an empty stomach for a day or two too long. There are bottles, too, of water and gentle tea.

"Please take refreshment while I explain the situation." The maid next to her bows in a welcoming and inviting way, the gesture of a proper hostess -- or urging mother.

<Pose Tracker> Lancelot [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Once the boats arrive at their destination, Lancelot notices people he knows. Well. One person. Merlin leans in conspiratorily and is rewarded with Lancelot shoo'ing a rabbit from his unwounded shoulder. He then straightens his bright blue cloak as he walks toward Mai. With a casual flight of his good arm, he sends the blood splattered part of the cloak behind and stops a respectful distance from the girl. Not wanting to interupt her conversation with the other HiME.

Or be blasted by one of them. He's really not certian which he's trying to be right now.

However his eys are drawn once again to the table and he has to wipe a bit of drool away before he takes the Headmistress up on the offer of food. There not be bacon, but food is food, and there is a hungry knight on the loose. He piles a plate high, and briefly considers just face diving into the table. He notices the HiME once more and sighs once, moving over and silently offering the plate of food to Mai. He gives her a slightly pained smile.

For Lancelot, this is the highest sign of friendship! He's offering SOMEBODY ELSE HIS FOOD!!

<Pose Tracker> Endo Naoki [Juuban Public School (11)] has posed.

Endo turns to wave his hand at Lera, considering her answer before he asks: "But how did they get here?" He continues to muse over this for a few moments more, as the boats coast on toward the destination. He scans over the table, and then the girl and her maid that greet him. A glance is made at the other mage and those in the boat, perhaps to see what they think, and then he begins to lift himself out of it.

The boy approaches the table, finger reaching out to begin poking dishes. Like they might be snakes. Eventually, he does reach out to find something to tentatively gnaw on as he awaits an explenation.

<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

Technically, the Wind Knight considers her *unpowered* state to be her 'true' form, but that's neither here nor there.

She's more preoccupied with the boat ride itself, first, and afterwards by the spectacle that awaits in the middle of the lake - the stone 'island' with its virtually inexplicable screens and computers. The Wind Knight actually has to pull her glasses *off* when she first makes the mistake of looking at one of those brightly-glowing screens; that's followed by several seconds of rubbing her eyes before she puts her glasses back on, and - belatedly - bows very politely and formally to Headmistress Kazahana. This is likely their first actual meeting, but the Wind Knight knows who she is nonetheless.

She's keeping her stomach from growling mainly by dint of willpower, but ... food. Real, genuine food. The Wind Knight returns the maid's bow, then moves towards the table, keeping her sense of decorum close about her and *walking*, then collecting a plate and picking out a relatively balanced selection of the available foods. Meat, fruit, maybe some bread or a rice ball if those are an option; a bottle of tea is selected to accompany her food, and the Wind Knight moves away from the table, settling down to kneel seiza-style on the stone 'floor' where she can face Mashiro.

It's going to be absolute screaming murder on her legs, given time, but unless somebody brought chairs or benches, where else would she sit? Or is she supposed to stand ... and that's the question which leaves her looking around at the other magical warriors, her fellow students and her fellow (presumed) champions of goodness.

She also, finally, spots Mai and Mikoto, and spares a wave and a smile in their direction.

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Mai snorts, briefly, at Kozue's comment on the atmosphere, and starts to retort aloud. "No, they're saving that for when..." She trails off, moments later - but this time her gaze flickers back to the blue-haired girl once or twice before finally shifting away.

As the HiME are conveyed by boat, she continues her hushed conversation with Natsuki Kuga - who for all her past ominous warnings is frankly one of the friendlier faces she's seen in the last few days. "District One, huh? That's...they're the reason we wound up at this school?" She's quiet for a moment, taking in the awe-worthy cavern, just listening to the flow of the water falling. ...it's not entirely a comforting sound, but it's not an echoing cavern. "...yeah. No sense starting a fight, but..."

She clenches one hand. If there's a flicker of flame, it vanishes quickly - but she's ready to call up her Element.

The magical moment ends, and becomes even more arcane. Hesitant steps carry her up the perfect stone path, towards the dais above - and while Mai is the last person to call herself a historian, even she can't deny the sheer weight of the ages. That legacy is betrayed at the top, however, by the glow of electronic screens - brilliant enough that she raises an arm to shield her eyes from their glare.

The moment passes, and she blinks - once, twice, and then sees the pair. The maid, first, catching her gaze as unacquainted but at least known...and Mai lowers her arm to stare openly at Headmistress Kazahana.

"Headmistress?! You're..." She glances back, to where those men in suits surely must be waiting. "You're the one who brought us all here?"

Kazahana speaks, and offers a meal, but for the first few moments all Mai can do is stare at the wheelchair-bound girl in wonder. "...I'm definitely for that, for a few hundred reasons, but...I certainly hope you have some sort of plan. Seeing what she did out there...there's no way she wouldn't go so far as to follow through on that threat..."

Fuu's wave catches her gaze for a fraction of a second - and then she's distracted by a plate, piled high with food. The offer has her...taken aback, to say the least, until she notices just who's offering...and then her eyes go wide. "A- Lancelot! Are you..." She looks over the knight, eyes snapping to those hidden traces of blood - and breathes a sigh of relief. She has nothing to offer in return but a warm smile, but he can at least receive that. "...you made it. At least there's that..."

She doesn't take the plate. She does take a bun off of the plate, though - even she can't ignore her stomach's anger - and turns back to the Headmistress. Her fellow HiME on one side, a knight on another, fellow magical girls all around...

It's an odd setting for a meal, but not an entirely unwelcome one.

<Pose Tracker> Garnet [None] has posed.

"I don't know Steven, we're going to find out."

Garnet is taking this all in moment by moment. Whether or not she recognizes any of this ancient architechture from her millennia on the Earth is a matter for her to mull upon later. But she recognizes the feeling of dark magic at hand. She looks into the eyes of her host and feels a sadness, but also caution. It is clear they're dealing with very old magic.

There is a sinister nature to this disarming opulence, it seethes like the memory of a dark heart, promising warmth but delivering only a shadow of what it feels it should be.

Still, Garnet knows she and the others don't have time for investigation, a fact which their hosts are doubtlessly well aware. Her eyes are drawn to the food, not to eat it herself necessarily, but to observe the future consequences of consuming it, in case it is not the earnest gift it appears to be.

She approaches the table with any others of her group that follow, and allows her host to seat her if they so desire.

<Pose Tracker> Kozue Kaoru [Ohtori Academy (8)] has posed.

Kozue rolls her eyes a little, leaning her elbow on the side of the boat. Most middle schoolers would find it magical or romantic but she had little patience for the latter. And the former... well today it made her tense, "At least sing a good barcarolle or something." She says grumpily to the man at the prow, wanting something to slice up this tension... but she straightens when they come closer to the palace.

When they're not far from the other side... she doesn't wait for the boat. She stands up and steps off the side and takes the last few steps on her own, her footsteps rippling on the water but not breaking the surface as she moves up onto the docks.

Up the stairs and... she'd like to say she wasn't surprised by Mashiro and the presence of the maid beside her, but she was. It caught her flat-footed.

And made her a little suspicious. The Kaoru twins shared a mutual distrust of adults. And despite how young Mashiro looked... her eyes... were unsettling. She looks sidelong to Mai, giving her a questioning look, like she was demanding her to clarify how she knew her.

She then looks back at the girl in the wheelchair and her pristinely dressed and composed maid, stating sharply, "Don't think you can win your way into our good graces with a meal. You can't buy us all as cheaply as..." She starts, trying to seem cool and aloof but as she sees many others rushing the table, she stops and frowns.

Her eyes are on the others who are already at the table. Her stomach rumbles suddenly. Her frown deepens, as she looks around, like she's daring someone to call her out on this. Only then does she moves over to the tables, hanging her Element over her arm as she picks out a plate of food, and leans over to Tokiha and Kuga, eyes flitting over to Mashiro as she whispers, "How well do you know her?"

<Pose Tracker> La Sirene du Nord [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Someone joins la Sirene's boat. She straightens upwards and takes a deep breath.

This... It's a subtle thing. Poise. Conversation. A list that was recited long ago, or so it seems, though it was less than two days ago. Strange feelings feud in the stomach of la Sirene du Nord, which is, conveniently, rather empty of other things at this time.

A part of her wants to reach out now, to connect. It is a part, though, which is currently hungry and scared and sad and weary. Not that long ago she told Fuu Hououji what she considers to be her REAL name, and for better or worse that's what she's sticking with, right now.

La Sirene answers Kozue. "Woodwinds would be better. Or violins. The water is like the muffle on a trumpet." She smiles after this, rather mournfully.

But then - "Ah! It's Kazahana-san," Batiste squeaks from his careful shelter under the back of la Sirene's legs. He hops up onto the seat, standing on his hind legs to peer. "... I've never seen her in person..."

La Sirene looks forwards as they debark, and she curtsies to the headmistress. (Batiste bows at the waist.) The two of them briefly gossip, enough for nearby people such as Kozue to possibly overhear - "doesn't she remind you of -" "not quite, but it's nice to see -" "yes, people do tend to be bright -" "mm -"

The two of them raise their head in unison when someone says "refreshment." Their heads swivel in similar unison towards that table.

SOON ENOUGH La Sirene is sitting cross-legged on the ground, a plate with a healthy spread of onigiri and the less adventurous sorts of sushi sitting on her knee, along with a large mug of clear soup and a grilled fish on a bamboo skewer. (Batiste got a sashimi set, of course.) Her attention is about evenly divided between the headmistress and Kozue, with some occasional remainders turned towards others.

<Pose Tracker> Natsuki Kuga [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Natsuki isn't the least bit surprise to see the headmistress standing there. She had her suspicions for months and now this was the final proof she needed. "You're really that surprise, Mai?" she asked as they climbed out of the boat. "Can you think of an easier way to lure all the HIME into one school by being the one in charge of it?"

She shoots a glare at Kazahana. There are SO MANY things she wishes to say to her, but atlas, they had more pressing matter to attend to. Besides, Natsuki knew getting the answers she wanted wouldn't be that easy.

Hearing the offer of food, Natsuki is dismissive. Could be poisoned for all she knew! Probably was. There was no way she was going to fall-

Her stomach than growls and promptly reminds her that the last time they had actually ate a proper meal was the ball two nights ago.

Growling like a wolf, Natsuki stomps over and snags a bun...and a slice of meat.

"Just to be clear, I don't trust any of you District One people." Chomp! Chomp! "But what exactly did you have in mind to solve this problem?" Chomp! Chomp! Natsuki was now very grateful her grandfather had insisted she build her body up to resist poisons.

<Pose Tracker> Lera Camry [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

Lera looks at Endo, and then... shrugs. "I... I got no clue, y'know?" she admits. She looks around the strange altar, as she walks up the stairs, and she takes a short breath. She recognizes Mashiro. She slows to a a halt, as she sees the food. Her stomach growls loudly.

<Giving yourself away, Camry,> Broken Ground informs her.

She sighs, then she picks up a bit of food, and takes a bit. There is a glance -- at Mai, at La Sirene du Nord, and then finally at Natsuki Kuga. Her stomach may be giving herself away too.

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (5)] has posed.

The boat ride is a welcome rest to an exhausted child. These men escorting them and piloting the ships are very unnerving, but do not seem hostile. He has never seen someone suited as them. What do they want with them? Are they more of the soldiers from the surface? A different division?

The boats begin approach of some sort of island inside of a cave lake. The din and aurora the tech gives off almost feels foreign after the past few days, causing Steven to look away until his eyes adjust.

The landing is rough, but nothing too terrible. The stairs are climbed, and they feel like the longest set of stairs ever to poor Steven. A person up top speaks that has an assistant beside her. "You sound really important," is stated as though by captain obvious.

And of course the food is noticed. Steven quickly scampers over to the table and obtains two fistfuls of whatever food can be held by fists, and begins to munch, walking over toward the lady in the wheelchair. "Hi! I'm Steven!" He holds out a hand covered in sticky food bits for a few seconds, before retracting it slowly, realizing the problem and dusting it off well. "Sorry. I uh, what use could you possibly have for me? I'm not all that good at Gem powers yet."

He says this as if everyone knows about Gem powers. He also does not realize just how revered this person is. Yet, anyway.

<Pose Tracker> Honoka Yukishiro [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OfX1US5pW_Y

The food is not snakes. It is delicious and nutritious. Kazana and her maid watch the students devour it with the friendly satisfaction of a job well done, and seem unfazed by the various suspicions (and introductions) laid their way. Indeed, they're almost preternaturally poised. Time is of the essence, though, and the Headmistress doesn't hesitate to continue while people eat.

"This is the final fortress, the last defense of the Land of Fuka," the Headmistress explains, which of course explains nothing. 'Land of Fuka'? That is not a familiar name to anyone here -- Ohtori Academy sits on Southern Cross Island and that's about it for the geography lesson. "I do apologize for the time it took to assemble food for you all. Now that you are here, we can begin to address the threat. For indeed," Kazahana's eyes darken, "They will most likely destroy the school, as they did the bridge and the forest. Observe."

She pushes a button on a remote, and one of the blinding white screens resolves into a grainy, low-resolution image. There's a big curved thing behind it which can, eventually, be recognized as THE EARTH. It's a bit blurry, not in focus; in front of it, also blurry but the target of this picture, is a strange object. It's hard to tell how large or small it is -- perspective is terrible to grasp in pictures taken from orbit, really.

But what it is for sure: high technology with sleekly metallic surfaces fused with ancient carvings and topped -- or perhaps bottomed, up and down is also hard to place -- with some kind of massive orb. Maybe it's a crystal.

"This is the satellite Eclipse 1, which was built to harness Alyssa's power and invoke her Child, Artemis. As long as they're threatening the academy, they're a threat to all of you -- one that must be stopped. The Sister Schools' students have suffered for long enough, and they will /not/ be sacrificed as pawns in a power play."

That's all said rather hotly, but then she sits back in her wheelchair, reclaiming her usual composure. "It will be overhead again in six hours, which is why Searrs set the deadline she did. If we can evacuate the school before then, while holding back Alyssa and her forces, then we will have succeeded."

"Mistress," gently interjects the maid, handing her a bottle of tea.

"Ah, thank you, Fumi-san." Closing her eyes, Kazahana takes a long but demure sip. It is a good time for interjections.

<Pose Tracker> Lancelot [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Lancelot smiles to Mai as she takes the bun off the plate and nods to her. "I survived." He comfirms and then looks to the plate. He blinks and begins to eat. Trying very hard not to make the food and the plate which he might be confusing WITH food dissapear.

In between nommings, he leans back to look behind Mai at Kuga, "Hey. Kuga. You realize you could be eating government drug laced food. Laced with trackers so the Grey's can find you easier. Or. Worse yet. Make it so you cna't eat bacon anymore." He gives Kuga a wink then straightens himself.

He does however scoop up Merlin and leans over to Mai to whisper, "You uh. Have a pocket I can stuff a Rabbit in?"

Merlin, trying not to blow his cover as anything other than a cute fluffy bunny fairly bristles in Lancelot's hands.

"Uh. Headmistress?" Lanceot asks demurely, trying to not look irectly at her. He's been in trouble a few times, and he doesn't want to be recognized. Somehting that would be easier done if he haadn't lost his helmet in the fight with Miyu and the PMC. "How... Exactly do you propose we do this? They have tanks, and while I know Arondight can cut a tank in half, they sort of have the technological advantage and numbers." He gestures. "We have a lot of power here, but we can't really stand up against that Satelite, and if we have six hours, I"m not sur ethat's enought ime to hunt down Searrs and kcik the PMC's as -" he clears his throat. "Butt. Rear end."

He blushes slightly.

<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

The Wind Knight peers at the screen which now displays Eclipse 1, frowning in thought. "You said 'evacuate the school,' but ... how is anybody supposed to leave Southern Cross Island? Unless you have enough of the boats that carried us to this 'fortress' for all of the students and others who need to be evacuated ... plus, Golden Age does have its own naval forces, and there are rumors of monsters that haunt the sea around the island on top of that."

It was really the most obvious question, wasn't it? But the Wind Knight looks at Mashiro again, smiling apologetically. "I'm also curious, do you have any idea what they took all of those blood samples for? Given that the entire terrorist story was a fabrication from the beginning, I'm fairly sure they weren't screening us for bioweapon infections ..."

  • That* was her big quesiton, and after asking it, the Wind Knight focuses on eating while listening for other questions, and whatever answers are forthcoming.
<Pose Tracker> Garnet [None] has posed.

Garnet is silent, Good questions have been asked, and she is a stranger here. Having vetted the food and finding it safe, she fixes herself a plate as a sign of goodwill and manners. She awaits the replies and takes a moment to relish seeing her friends enjoy a meal after such a long, stressful period of starvation.

She takes a bite of a steamed dumpling and a sip of gentle tea.

<Pose Tracker> Lera Camry [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

Lera watches the video screen, head tilted curiously; she frowns, though, as she gets a glimpse of the blurry footage of an orbital installation. She expected something like that -- after all, spaceships waging war was part of Midchildan history -- but it still rankles. She isn't sure what they can do about it, immediately.

Fortunately, it seems there might be an idea.

"Well, sign me up!" she declares, with a grin. "We gotta get our friends outta there, y'know?" She looks sideways at Lancelot -- and then she shakes her head. "If they've got a way to get them out, uh... we can hold an army off. It won't be easy, but... what else is new, y'know?"

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

...the food is, in fact, delicious. Mai hesitates after finishing her first bite - but winds up taking a curry bun to follow it up, and a bottle of tea. (Food is far, far too meagre in the caves...and she's willing to be trusting of pretty much anyone not sporting golden hair right now.)

She glances to Kozue at the question, and after a moment's hesitation, whispers back. "Not well. But she sponsored my and Takumi's scholarship here...and she assigned Mikoto to my dorm room personally."

She turns to Natsuki next, nodding seriously - the girl has a good point. One swiftly betrayed by her hunger - Mai doesn't hide her snort at the dark-haired girl's appetite. Though her own curry bun seems to be...eaten. Ahem. "...I know we've been living in a cave, Kuga, but we're not quite animals, are we?"

She glances at Fuu when the Wind Knight questions the headmistress, eyes narrowing in suspicion - though suspicion of what is a bit hard to say. Lera gets a glance and a nod of acknowledgement - but she doesn't move too far from Lancelot or her fellow HiME just yet.

The knight with the bunny, for all his gathering of food, gets a good-natured eyeroll. "Typical. You're just lucky I was able to change while in custody..." And she is, in fact, in her school uniform - complete with a pocket in the jacket that might hold a tiny bunny. If the tiny bunny wants to be held, that is... "And I'm fairly certain you're the only one for whom bacon is that big a concern."

It's easier - relaxing, almost, to have a hearty meal and some actual friends nearby. It's a shame the circumstances aren't better...and now, Mai can see just what they're up against. Eclipse 1, a fearsome-looking device whose existence screams 'weapon'. No prevarication, no quibbling, it's a tool of destruction...and Mai's hand falls slack as the reminder stands of just how much peril her brother is in.

How much peril everyone's in.

"Six hours...I'd hoped to figure out some kind of answer by now. But now..." She stares at the screen, not Kazahana, but answers the headmistress all the same. "...I have classmates, friends, family in danger. We all do. If we can get everyone out, then we've won, but..."

She lowers her gaze, meets Kazahana's eyes directly. She doesn't even glance to the friends around her, the other magical girls gathered. "With your school in danger...have you taken 'surrendering the HiME' off the table?"

<Pose Tracker> Endo Naoki [Juuban Public School (11)] has posed.

Endo squints up at the images being displayed, his lips pressing into a grim line as he takes in the shape of the sphere-thing being projected. "Aah-is that what it is?" Endo takes another big bite out of the potato he's selected, munching quietly while the headmistress expounds on the situation at hand.

"So, we have to evacuate the school, right? Does that mean you want us to go and set the students free?" The boy nods, firm in his conviction despite how beat-up his body might be. "We can do that. I mean, these guys are serious, but, we've fought lots of armies. Like, youma one, and a robot one, and then--ah, one on the moon actually--"$e$e<THOUSANDS.> Fallen Stern supplies helpfully.

Endo does, however, have the same concern as a few of the other voices raised. That being: "But what about the big weapon? That's in space. I can't jump that high."

<Pose Tracker> Kozue Kaoru [Ohtori Academy (8)] has posed.

La Sirene gets a look on the boat ride. She just gives a little shake of her head, though she does smile a little.

Kozue isn't eating quite yet. She's making certain none of the others are dropping, resisting temptation until then, while holding onto her plate to make certain there's something /left/ for her. She nods at Mai, giving Mashiro a long look. "So she has a personal interest in the two of you..." She says idly back at her, then cants her head at Kuga, "...what about Kuga? Is she part of her crackpot conspiracy theories?" They don't seem so crackpot /now/ though.

She glances sidelong to La Sirene again as she looks at her and gossips, and gives the girl a piercing look. She's /not/ very happy about being outted to the magical community, but she realizes exactly what it was a consequence of.

She perks up eyes focusing on her while Kazana continues her explanation. She squints when a screen brings up a curved shape and blackness. But then her eyes grow wide when she sees it. The plate nearly falls slack from her nerveless hand, but she recovers it with a rattle. Her mind assessed it. There was nothing in her arsenal that she could do to even have the slightest chance of affecting that, of even reaching it.

Her free hand rubs down her face as she goes over the possibilities of getting to Miki by herself, getting him out again. Maybe a few others as well, though her mind wouldn't admit their names. By sea... maybe... there's a... chance... no. They all ended in fire. Eternity is what she wanted, and what she's getting is just a few hours more. Her mind curses her own stupidity, how she should have taken the offer.

Lancelot asks the question on her mind, she perks up in an instant, though she gives him a look and arches an eyebrow as if to say, 'Seriously?' when he stops himself from cursing. Evacuation was the best option to take, but could they really pull it off in time?

The Wind Knight gets a dismissive wave at her question as she attempts to preempt even the Headmistress on answering, "Don't waste our time with questions like that. If you can't guess what it was from the announcements..." She shakes her head, then nods at Lancelot, acknowledging he asked it first as she looks at Mashiro, "So that's just it? Six hours to evacuate, to cut us a way out of here? There's no good way to deal with that thing if its in orbit."

Her jaw tenses up as Mai asks that question, and she tries to check exactly which eyes in the room are on Mai, on Natsuki, and on herself, trying to assess if suddenly they were going to be ambushed by students desperate to save their own loved ones.

<Pose Tracker> La Sirene du Nord [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

La Sirene sips her soup. (Batiste has his head in his bowl. This is going to take him a while.) After demolishing the fish and the rolls she is able to linger over the onigiri. She looks up as Kazahana-sensei speaks and presents these images. She feels calmer now at least, with something in her stomach.

"... A satellite... that's taking things a little far, isn't it," she muses aloud when it's revealed as to what's going on. Her eyes widen. How many secret satellites are there up there, watching them all as they go about their lives?

She finishes an onigiri and the last of her soup as she considers matters. Her eyes turn towards Mai with a flash of momentary resentment that her mouth can't give voice to, being full.

"Kazahana-sensei," la Sirene then says, "from what you say - the satellite is only a threat, because it will work with the Child Artemis, that Searrs-san has, yes? I only wish to be sure that I have understood."

Batiste rolls over, the sashimi all gone. He's asleep.

<Pose Tracker> Natsuki Kuga [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

"Manners don't mean much when you're trying not to die," Natsuki retorts to Mai as she swallows. "I'll use a napkin if that makes you feel better."

She glances to Kozue. "Doesn't take much to figure out the rest," she states simply. "If this whole operation doesn't seem strange to you, then I don't know what well."

Hearing Lancelot's comment she smirks. "Sure there's a risk, but hey that's what the tin foil hats are for. To keep the government rays from finding you." She's not certain if Lancelot knows if she's joking or not, but doesn't really care either way...at least her full stomach doesn't.

Seeing the satellite on the screen makes Natsuki grow quiet and she curses slightly. In range in six hours, of course. That would explain a few things. There was so much to do, and so little time to do it in.

She listens to the Headmistress and narrows her eyes as she sips some water. "Evacuating the schools would ensure no one got caught in the crossfire, but Lancelot's right. How do we do that when they got a ton of tanks?"

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (5)] has posed.

"I hope I can help," Steven says, still munching on food. After so long without food, well besides the helpful otter's contribution to survival. But jsut what does this strange individual have in store for everyone? A look around the room as others respond show that some know a good deal more than he does about this situation. This golden girl is someone some folks have encountered before in some time or place.

"I have blocked some crazy attacks before with my shield, but I doubt I can do anything against that," he says, pointing to the magical equivalent of an ion cannon. "There msut be something we can combine to do against it!"

Steven stands up on the table, suddenly rather inspired. "If we just evacuate, that thing is still up there! We can't just look away! It will just come back one day, and we might not have the option to get people out!"

"S-Sorry," The boy says shortly thereafter. "I don't know much about what goes on in Japan yet. But where I come from, we faced whatever came. We always found a way! I feel like..." He pauses, hopping back down. "I feel like there has to be something we can do to stop it."

<Pose Tracker> Honoka Yukishiro [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

Kazahana gives Fuu the patient look of a schoolteacher faced with an inane but otherwise inoffensive question -- but, for what it's worth, Kozue gets a gentle but quelling look of authority asking her to chill. Clearing her throat: "As Alyssa Searrs has already intimated, their true goal is the identification and capture -- or destruction -- of the true HiME. Thus, if it is not simply a distraction to occupy the students' attention, then the Searrs Foundation must believe they have developed technology that can detect HiME by blood. I do not know if it is truly the case."

The next question that she answers is la Sirene's, after a moment of consideration, the rather thoughtful tension of someone debating how much she ought to share. "It appears that Searrs has somehow united Artemis with Eclipse 1. I had thought that Child gone forever... they must have unearthed it somehow. But yes, it cannot be fired without Alyssa's consent. Unfortunately, I fear she is all too willing to follow through on her threats, and she is undoubtedly the most guarded, secure person on the island."

To Mai, her gaze softens further. "My highest priority is to protect the student body. All the bodies -- including yours. I would never ask you to /fight/, much less surrender, if I had any other options. But I do not... it will be the strength of magical girls that protects everyone, as it has... before."

She hits her remote and brings up another screen. This one has an image of snowy mountains -- Hokkaido, near the ski resort everyone went to on the school trip last winter -- and a blurred shot of a helicopter with some sort of bright light spilling out of its open hatch.

Then again for a third screen, and this one shows a group of girls, one with recognizably golden hair, holding hands in a ring around a portion of the World Tree near Infinity.

"You all have been fighting the machinations of the Searrs Foundation for longer than you may realize. It was they who stole the Star Shards last Christmas, and made a wish to enslave humanity through their very dreams. And they were behind the attacks on the World Tree, the theme park, the local shrine, and many other places, all part of a larger plan to wrest the massive magical power of the Tree for themselves. But their main goal lies on a path that goes straight through the HiME. They have simply poured too many resources into Alyssa and her guardian for it to be otherwise."

She leaves the screens up as she finally addresses the major question, asked by a number of students, and rightly so.

"As some of you have recognized, evacuation has a number of logistical challenges. We certainly cannot guarantee the students' safety on the island within six hours by hunting down every stray monster and soldier -- that is why most everyone's role will be as part of a decoy strategy. Success or failure depends on our ability to draw the enemy away from the school -- and from the back side of the island, where we can dock a ship large enough to hold everyone."

THOUSANDS of people? A cruise ship. It has to be. It /is/ Ohtori.

"Thus, we will organize into three teams. Team One, with flight capability, will target the warships, attempting to draw them away from our secret dock, and then occupying their attention until the students are away. We expect large enough explosions that this will draw some soldiers out of the school, as well, to attempt to flank Team One from land. Team Two, frontal assault, will draw the remaining, depleted forces in the school out on land, defeating as many as possible, then leading the rest away from the students' evacuation path. Team Three, oriented around stealth, will be the first to deploy: they will first contact the Student Council, who we'll need the help of to assemble and move the students quickly and precisely, and on the signal, assist them in first departing the Chairman's Tower, then evacuating everyone from the school."

Looking steadily at Steven, she finishes, "Only after the students are safe will it be feasible to consider handling the satellite in a more permanent fashion. Their immediate safety must take precedence over the possibility of a later threat."

Before anyone else can ask questions, she adds, "If you feel suited to Team One, please walk to the table with the drinks. Team Two, the table with the food. Team Three, onto the stairs. Our final tool is this: via the underground installation, we can sortie all of you, all over the island, simultaneously, releasing you at positions that maximize tactical advantage -- and surprise."

OOC: Teams One and Two will be on camera tomorrow. Team Three is for PCs/alts who can't attend the finale this weekend, so don't sign up for it!

<Pose Tracker> Lancelot [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Ground. Yupp, that's a Kngiht with a War Pony. He hands Merlin over to Mai who gratefully moves to a pocket. He's a soot covered, tired looking rabbit who looks up at Mai and says, "Thank you child. I cannot tell you how tiring it is to deal with that idiot." He'll then curl up in a pocket and go to sleep.

For Lancelot's part he gives Mai a look and a nod, before he says with a slight blush. "Hey. Tokiha-san." He clears his throat again. "Save a spot at the next dance for me? Okay?" Then he nods and takes a bite out of a meat bun.

He casually looks to Kuga and grins that roguish grin of his. "I don't know Kuga. You ina tin foil hat? Would that spoil the your riding gear on your second rate motor bike? I'd hate for you to loose some aero dynamic advantiage you might have." He takes a ite off the bun agian and just - Winks.

<Pose Tracker> Garnet [None] has posed.

Garnet listens intently to the replies, then gets up and walks to the table of food, placing herself in Team 2, the frontal assault.

She summons her gauntlets and smashes her fists together in a gesture of defiant determination, then crosses her arms over her chest.

<Pose Tracker> Lera Camry [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

Lera glances at Mai when she asks the question, before she looks ahead and frowns. She doesn't say anything, but she knows exactly how she feels about that particular idea.

She listens to the plans. In her case, the answer is simple. Individuals with flight capability. She knows where she stands there. She nods; then she heads towards the table with the drinks.

<Pose Tracker> Natsuki Kuga [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Natsuki strokes her chin. "Alright, I'll admit it's a solid plan." She gives a sigh. "I'll play along with you District One people," her eyes narrows, "but this doesn't mean I'm through with you guys yet." She gives a snort to Lancelot. "Let's continue this chat after we get these soldiers off school property, alright?"

Natsuki then moves towards the table with the food to show she was in team 2. She has the wolf with the guns, therefore it was the most logical place for her to be in.

<Pose Tracker> Endo Naoki [Juuban Public School (11)] has posed.

Endo digests this next bit as he digests his food, nodding his head slowly along with the explanations from the headmistress. He agrees, the people in the school are their top propriety. Even if he's still worried about Eclipse 1, there's nothing that can be done about it right now.

When the lines of battle are drawn, Endo begins to scoot toward the table with the food, splitting from his fellow Mage with a nod as he heads for Team 2.

"We're good at this sort of stuff." He hefts his sword, to indicate he speaks for both of them.

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Mai's jaw is tense as she stares down Mashiro Kazahana. Her question...it was a harsh one, but one she couldn't ignore. If there were a way to make sure that Takumi...that everyone else she cared about was safe...

And yet. Her shoulders relax just a fraction, her breath let out in a soft sigh, as Kazahana relieves her worries with a tenderness in her eyes. The option isn't necessarily -off- the table, but...it's not being considered. "...I'm glad to hear that."

That tension, left to drift away from the fiery-haired HiME, returns in an instant. Reminders of disasters past - the Hokkaido Incident and that would-be dreaming god, the World Tree and her first real glimpse into the actions of the Searrs Foundation...

If she squints at that picture of Alyssa, Mai can almost make out - in the corner - her own figure, some distance away, standing guard against the manufactured threat. Her hand, left loose, tightens into a trembling clenched fist.

It's a few slow breaths before she calms her anger at the reminder of that...that betrayal. Just in time, fortunately, to hear the beginnings of Mashiro's real plan. Hesitant to ask them all to fight, and rightly so, but for the sake of the school...

Mai looks to her friends here before answering. Lancelot....lancelot gets a faint blush and a small smile. Natsuki's gaze she meets directly, and there's just a slight nod. Lera a slightly more worried glance, Kozue a few moments' stare... She winds up looking around the entire area before taking a breath, returning her attention to the Headmistress.

"Promise me one thing." There's a hardness to her voice - an ardent heat to it that had been absent from all her worries. "Promise me that you'll make the evacuation of the students - evacuating all the innocents caught up in this mess - your first priority. Before any ancient secrets, before whatever plans...that you'll put getting the students to safety. Agree to that..."

She takes a few steps, standing prominently at the drinks table. "...and I'll fight for you."

<Pose Tracker> La Sirene du Nord [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

The plan develops. La Sirene has no objections she can see. The idea forming in her head, however loosely, was a darker one - and as she sees the others moving, she realizes perhaps it would have been poor tactics in its own right. To say nothing of the morality of going after a young girl.

Drawing herself up to her feet, la Sirene moves towards the second group. As she does, she has the chance to pluck up another onigiri.

And to pass near Kozue Kaoru. She doesn't look towards her even as she asks, quite clearly, "You'll be alright?" It's a strange and sudden thing to ask, but la Sirene is, in many ways, both strange /and/ sudden.

<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

The Wind Knight finishes eating (at least for now) while Mashiro elaborates on the situation. A blood test to identify HiME? That seems a little unlikely, but she won't rule out that it's impossible.

It's the images of the helicopter from Hokkaido and the singers from the World Tree that would put an untimely end to her appetite if she *hadn't* finished what food she'd selected first. Maybe not so much the latter - she did recognize Alyssa's image, after all - but the Star Shards scheme at Hokkaido ...

Searrs went THAT far?

To the extent that her wind magic represents her personality, normally Fuu would be characterized as a gentle breeze, perhaps a playful zephyr, sometimes a stronger wind that can support and propel others. When she has to fight, the Magic Knight of Wind comes to resemble more closely the fury of the storm - sometimes strong, sometimes lighter, never entirely letting up until the battle passes. But only rarely does her wrath become the bitter, biting cold of the winds which bring blizzards out of the frozen North, icy and unforgiving.

Between the Hokkaido gambit to control the whole world through dreams, and the present threat to wipe out three schools' worth of children, the Searrs Foundation has just planted itself in front of a winter storm, and that icy determination glints behind the Wind Knight's glasses as she rises to her feet, smoothly despite the awkward and uncomfortable seating, and she walks over to the food table.

Not for seconds - but to take her place with the gathering members of Team Two. The Wind Knight can only 'fly' a little bit, not enough for a protracted battle across the waters; she can sneak a little bit, but not effectively enough to help with Team Three's part of the plan. That makes the ground battle her ideal position.

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (5)] has posed.

Poor little Steven turns a shade of red after that little outburst of his. He didn't mean to make a scene, despite what he says being true. He looks even more unnerved with the woman in the wheelchair looks dead on at him. He shuffles his sandals on the ground.

Yes, he wore pink sandals to the ball.

"Yeah, that would be a uh, good idea to do that... first."

The gauntlet is laid before them, a three point tactical maneuver to hopefully turn the tables. Three teams, each with an important a role as the others. Obviously number one is out. He isn't Amethyst who can turn into a helicopter, or bird or something.

This leaves two and three. The boy looks at his arms, and looks to attempt something. Some pink light seems to flicker around his arm area, but nothing else happens. Another attempt, and the same result occurs. "I... I don't think I can go on," he says sadly.

For all the boastful talking in the world just seconds ago, it seems Steven may not have it in him to continue it through. The boy does look incredibly weary. A look to Garnet and Fuu is given, a sad smile if one was ever seen on him.

<Pose Tracker> Kozue Kaoru [Ohtori Academy (8)] has posed.

Kozue starts to eat finally, trusting that they're not intending to put one over on her. Her mouth is full when Kuga answers her. She swallows, "You'd be surprised by what I think is truly strange, Kuga." She doesn't care much for authority so she doesn't really seem all that quelled, giving Mashiro the look of an established campus delinquent when she unspokenly asks her to chill.

But her answer to Mai's question causes her to relax, more than a little. It seemed like a real plan that was coming together instead of a trap to be sprung. She gives Mai another look, then rubs at her nose with her free hand. "Well. That's a load off my shoulders."

Kozue recognizes the images from Hokkaido, even though she didn't participate in the fight. She doesn't recognize what happened at the world tree, but she does realize what happened. If she'd known that... their goal were the HiME all along, she might have taken an earlier hand in this.

... or taken measures to ensure she got a better deal.

She's startled by La Sirene's question, not really expecting anyone in the room to care about her well-being, she'd kind of burned that bridge with the HiME already, she's surprised she's on speaking terms, "Fine. You just worry about your own self."

Mashiro had given some interesting instructions, flyers to the drink table... ground assault to the other... but... eventually she walks over to the drink table. "Cassandra isn't much of a flyer." She technically /could/ but she didn't excel there, "But..." She smirks, "...you'll want me up against the warships anyhow."

She gives the people at team three's table a sharp look. "When you meet up with the student council... tell my brother..." The look softens just a little, "...tell Miki Kaoru, that his sister is safe or he's likely to make a fool of himself. Don't tell him what I'm actually doing."

<Pose Tracker> Honoka Yukishiro [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

The maid starts to protest Mai's tone, but Kazahana lifts her chin. She and the HiME have a long moment to gauge each other, but it's not a hostile one, at least not from the tiny Headmistress' direction. She's small, yes, but fierce. Fiercely protective of what's hers; fiercely defiant of those who get in her way.

"You have my word," she says with absolute sincerity.

After a moment of silence to let the deal seal properly, she turns to the three assembled groups. "We'll escort you to your launch sites. Or, if you prefer to remain here in safety before joining the evacuation, that choice is yours to make -- no one will be forced to fight. It will take some time to get everyone in place, so please eat, drink, and most importantly, rest while you can. No one need fear oversleeping the signal, I promise you that."

And this turns out to be true. The tunnels and trails that permeate the island are as remarkable for their maintenance and technology as the older ones were for their ruins and artifacts; a different kind of mystery. Ultimately, the girls are led to elevators of every shape, size and destination. The chief thing they have in common is a low siren and a flaring red light, once it becomes time for them to rise.

Once everyone is in position, there are about four hours left on the clock. Kazahana's voice is broadcast via intercom to every girl's chamber, but only her maid gets to see the fire in her eyes, an energy she hasn't shown since...

"Operation Recapture Ohtori Academy... commence!"