An Insider's Look

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sonichu
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Re: An Insider's Look

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Postby sonichu » Mon Jul 30, 2018 7:36 pm

Was looking forward to this. Great chapter man.

Gryphon117
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Re: An Insider's Look

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Postby Gryphon117 » Sun Aug 05, 2018 3:37 am

Nothing much to say here, other than that we pick up where we left off and that the next scene will probably be the end of the chapter. Now, back to writing with me.

Enjoy! ^_^

Chapter 8-4  SPOILER: Show
“...Where are we now?”

Shinji looked all around him, taking a few exploratory steps of his surroundings just as soon as Ace took her hand off his shoulder. Not that there was much to actually discover, since the latest jump had taken them to an empty and grassy expanse bordered by an elaborate metallic fence that had little else in the way of eye-catching traits, making the Third Child wonder not for the first time what he was doing in such a place.

“Patience, Third. It’s just not done forming yet.”

“Forming?” Shinji echoed, turning back towards his guides. “Something’s going to appear here?”

“Precisely. I told you that this realm is constantly in flux, remember? Well, that’s even truer for this area we’re in,” Asuka elaborated, motioning around her with her arms. “These are the outer layers, where Asuka’s memories and recollections reside.”

“So you want to show me one of her memories? Something linked to the mountain from before?”

“Sort of,” Asuka replied with a nonchalant shrug, only to become the target of a pointed and tired look.

“...Can’t you be a little more specific?”

“There’s no need,” Ace added, indicating the expanse before the group with her head. “Turn around, it’s starting to come into focus.”

Shinji did as commanded and watched as, just like Ace had said, the scene before him began to take shape little by little: first, at the edges, where row upon row of tiny stone monoliths slowly began to appear along the ground. Then, towards the middle, a small congregation of people clad in black clothes phased into existence. Finally, their murmurs and soft, mourning cries added sound to the memory.

He was in a graveyard, Shinji quickly realised. One where a funeral was being held.

...

It didn’t bring the most pleasant of memories. In fact, the only thing that kept the Third Child from believing that the scene was a product of his own mind was the sight of a tiny, redheaded girl, holding onto the hand of an older woman with a serious expression.

“Who... died?”

“Why don’t you go on ahead and find out?” Asuka softly responded.

“You’re not coming?”

“We can’t. I’m already bending the rules as it is by guiding you here,” the Pilot explained, pointing a finger to her other. “Telling you any more about the circumstances of this area would land me in the same kind of trouble as the brat here, and I don’t really feel like dealing with that.”

Asuka answered Ace’s rude comment with a dirty look, but didn’t move any closer to the obvious bait than that.

“Like this blockhead said, it’s not the same situation if you’re the one that figures it out,” she further elaborated, smiling encouragingly at Shinji. “How far you want to go with that is up to you, as well.”

“...Alright then.”

After some hesitation, the Third Child followed the counsel of his two guides and walked closer to the group of grievers, stopping only when he came close enough to notice the lack of features on the faces of most of the people gathered. Save for the little Asuka herself and a pair of others, a man and a woman, the visage of everyone present was little more than a swirling mass the colour of flesh occupying the spot where their heads would be. The ‘heads’ lagged slightly behind the movements of their necks, as well, letting out a trail as they moved that did nothing if not further emphasize the freakiness of the sight.

It was a spectacle so unnatural that it sent a shiver down Shinji’s spine, even if he figured that their bizarre blurriness was just probably due to something as innocent as Asuka not remembering much of their identities. Still, that knowledge didn’t make their appearance, coupled with their crying and moaning, any less disturbing.

Nevertheless, the Third Child forced himself to close the remaining gap and step next to the little Asuka, the redheaded memory not even acknowledging his presence. Shinji then examined the recently carved tombstone that was before him, stopping only for a second to decipher the Latin characters within.

“Kyoko Zeppelin Sohryu...” the young Ikari read, his eyes gathering all the information present. He turned eyes towards the two redheads. “Is that... Asuka’s mom?”

“Was,” Ace corrected. “In case you couldn’t tell by the end date, Third.”

“...Yeah, I figured,” Shinji agreed with a sigh, not glad about being right in that instance. He then frowned, recalling a scene from the past. “Now that I think about it, she did mention something about a ‘real mom’ when she got that call from Germany.”

“That’s because it was our stepmother calling,” the Pilot elaborated, crossing her arms as her eyes fell to the side. “Although with how little we see of her she might as well not be one.”

Seeing the sad expression on Ace’s face, Shinji debated for a few moments whether he should follow with the obvious question and enter the metaphorical minefield or not. Because it was a minefield, of that there was no doubt. Of the same kind as those he had had to deal with a few times in the past, on the rare occasions when Asuka had been... ‘open’ with him.

Nevertheless, and fully knowing the risks that he was facing, the Third Child decided to go ahead and ask. He had been told to try and gather as much information on Asuka as he could, after all, and he figured that he would continue to gain little on that front unless he ventured forward at some point.

“...Not a good relationship?”

“I wouldn’t say it’s bad, just... distant. Because of NERV and stuff,” Ace explained with a nonchalant shrug that looked very fake to Shinji’s eyes. “Even then... she tries, I guess.”

“She’s not a bad woman, we actually get along sort of fine,” Asuka added, before struggling for words as well. “It’s just...”

The two girls shared a brief look, clearly hesitant about whether they should say something more on the topic. And then, they replied in unison.

“...She’s not mom.”

“Besides, I’ve been hearing even less out of them ever since they finally had their child. That call was the first one in weeks.” Ace continued, putting on an annoyed expression that lacked as much power as her previous attempt had.

But that was not the detail that Shinji noticed, or at least not the one that he devoted his attention to. That honour went to the newest and most striking nugget of information that his efforts had rewarded him with:

“Asuka has a sibling?”

“A half-sister. In fact, half the call that day was for Erika to gush about how healthy and smart her baby was. It was actually kinda funny,” Ace further explained with a chuckle. “Though we haven’t even met her yet so it’s not like it’s really that important to us.”

Out of the corner of his eye, Shinji saw Asuka pout and frown in a way that implied she was very much in disagreement.

“...How old is she now?”

“The baby?” Asuka responded, making some quick calculations. “About two years old or so, I’d say.”

“And what’s it to you, Third?” the Pilot joined in, her tone turning dangerous.

The Third Child swallowed tightly. Obviously, whatever leeway Shinji had been graciously offered was quickly reaching its end. From that point onward, he would have been a wrong word away from pissing Asuka off and making her storm off like she usually did, and previous experience had quickly taught him that Ace wasn’t that much different from his Asuka in that regard.

Still, the young Ikari pressed on.

“I don’t know, isn’t it... weird?” Shinji continued, nervously scratching the back of his head. “I-I mean, if I suddenly found out that I have a brother or a sister... I’d like to meet them, I guess.”

“We should, right?!” Asuka suddenly exploded, rushing to support his idea. “I’ve been saying exactly that for a long time now, but they just won’t listen to me!”

“Because what would the point in that be? We plain don’t have a place in that family anymore,” Ace snarled back at her other. “And I don’t even like kids, anyway. They just moan and cry about everything, like someone else I could mention.”

She threw a pointed look at Shinji, which the Third Child just frowned at.

“Well, you are sounding like someone else I could mention, too.”

“Maybe. I’m just a realist, that’s all,” the Pilot deflected with a casual shrug. “And while that nihilist idiot might be full of shit for the most part, even a broken clock is right twice a day.

“But we’re getting sidetracked. Family talk is not what we brought you here for.”

“Then why am I here?”

Ace indicated forward with her head, to the little Asuka and the elderly woman that she had joined her hand with.

“Listen.”

Shinji shifted his attention and quickly noticed that, little by little, the people closest to Asuka began to take on a more defined shape, and the mix of mourning sounds faded into the background in favour of more understandable comments and murmurs.

“...It’s just so terrible, leaving behind such a young girl...”

“And after barely paying attention to her for the longest time, too. I hear that she would spend days on end tucked away in her laboratory, working double or even triple shifts! That’s hardly a proper way to raise a child!”

“And that... lecher of a man, too. I know that he was a step away from filing a divorce, but marrying his wife’s doctor? He didn’t even wait for the body to grow cold!”

The words then began to mount on top of one another, slowly rising in a painful crescendo as more and more people joined the conversation and detachedly threw in their two cents, like bystanders at a car crash.

It reminded the Third Child of a time long past, when his own mother’s funeral had been held, although all the disparaging comments at the time had been directed at his father, rather than the recently deceased. The similarities still made him clench his jaw tightly, however.

But unlike him, the little Asuka remained stoic through it all, only showing her displeasure by squeezing her free hand into a tiny fist. Not failing to notice, the elderly woman comfortingly tightened her hold on Asuka’s other hand, but the scowl that had taken hold of the child’s face, one that Shinji had grown extremely familiar with, never went away.

And it was then that a slightly distorted conversation played out between the two:

“You’re a strong girl, Asuka,” the older woman spoke comfortingly, bit with a hint of concern beneath her words. “But it’s alright if you have to cry.”

Concern that the young Asuka responded to with an ice-cold tone completely unbefitting of someone so young.

“I’ll never cry, grandmother. I have to take care of myself now.”

Shinji felt his eyes widen and his breath hitch, hearing a line that would not have been out of place in Maisie’s mouth come out of Asuka’s five-year-old self. After all, and in spite of the Aspect’s bold claims and many reminders, he had from the very beginning been reticent to accept that something like... her could have possibly been a part of the girl he had shared an apartment with and fought beside (and against) for many months.

But the Third Child had just witnessed the structure that could have held his case crumble into a million pieces, and it felt as if the most groundbreaking of evidence had just slapped him across the face.

...

Thinking back, he had never seen Asuka cry outside of that unconscious one time during their synch training, or show anything that could have been even remotely taken as a sign of weakness. And while not five seconds ago, Shinji would have been more than happy to attribute Asuka’s characteristic lack of willingness to accept her own mistakes or cooperate with others as part of the girl’s competitive streak, he was quickly coming to suspect that the cause might not have been nearly as innocent as he had initially assumed.

In short, he had more than likely completely failed to get a read on Asuka. Again.

“Thinking hard, huh, Third?”

Shinji blinked himself out of his stupor when the Pilot’s words reached him, and found both of his companions just within arm’s range, staring at the tombstone, pondering. The young man hadn’t noticed them move, absorbed in his reflection as he had been.

“...Yes. I guess now I do understand a bit more about why Asuka is always so independent. But still...” the Third Child sighed with a mix of tiredness and frustration, wondering whether there was even a point in asking the question that had briefly passed through his mind. Then again it wasn’t like he had anything to lose by doing so. “You know what happened to make her like that, right?...Was it really that bad?”

The Pilot met his questioning eyes unflinchingly and seemed to consider his words for a few moments. It wasn’t long before she denied him with a shake of her head, however.

“Sorry, no hints. Like we said, figuring that out is part of your homework for the near future, Third,” Ace replied tersely, but it was clear to Shinji that she did want to say something more. “Although if there’s something that should go without saying, it’s that you should make sure to remember the words she said.”

“O-Okay.”

“Good. In any case, now we should-”

Ace stopped talking all of a sudden, brow furrowing and expression going distant for a few moments in the same manner that Shinji had seen her do a couple of times before in the not too distant past. This time, however, whatever news the redhead had received seemed to be more surprising than good or bad, at least if the way her eyes widened was to be any indication.

“...Damn, already? Wow, she must be really tired.”

“What’s wrong?”

“Asuka just fell asleep,” Ace clarified, still sounding like she didn’t completely believe her own words. “Knowing how it usually goes I thought we still had a bit more time, but she really fell like a log, tonight.

“Oh, well, no big deal. That’s just our signal for moving the timeline forwards a little bit, I guess,” the Pilot paused for a second, grinning ferally and giving the young Ikari an equally unsettling look. “...And do you know what that means, Third?”

“Uh... no?” Shinji replied, covertly asking Asuka for help with his eyes. But his efforts proved to be too little, too late, when Ace pounced on him and seized his head as if she wanted to give him a noogie.

“It means that you’re coming with me!”

“H-Hey! Don’t be so rough!” Asuka protested on the trapped boy’s behalf. “And what about me?!”

“You can go back to your baby farmstead. Don’t worry, I’ll drop him by before curfew!” Ace called back with half a care, waving a short goodbye with her free hand. “Ta-ta!”

“Wait! That’s not what I-” but Asuka’s protests fell on deaf ears, Shinji and Ace vanishing before she could even finish her demands. Groaning in irritation, the normally optimistic redhead loudly stomped her feet and yelled at the empty expanse. “HEY! STOP LEAVING ME ON MY OWN!”
Author of a few decent Eva stories, which can be found here.

Currently working on a new project: An Insider's Look

Gryphon117
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Re: An Insider's Look

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Postby Gryphon117 » Sun Aug 12, 2018 5:13 am

And here we are again with an end to the current chapter. Big update once again, sort of meant to make up for the next one which will probably be on the short-ish side of things.

Enjoy and comment, if you want! Those are the lifeblood of any content creator! ^_^

Chapter 8-5  SPOILER: Show
“Pretty sure this is the place...” Ace mumbled to herself, scouting the surrounding area with her eyes.

“Let. Me. Go!”

“Huh?” the Pilot paused, following the voice down to her right elbow. A mop of black hair was stuck between her arm and her right side and struggling to get free. “Oh. Sorry, Third. Forgot about you for a sec.”

Ace loosened her hold and the young Ikari quickly pushed himself away from her and to his freedom, rubbing his aching ears.

‘Hey, Shinji, remember what I asked you to do earlier? It’s time to take care of it. Can you please come with me?’” the Third Child growled, imitating Asuka’s voice. “Was that really so hard to do, you brute?”

“Oh, come on! Stop being such a drama queen,” Ace rolled her eyes in response, bringing her fist up. “I didn’t even give you a noogie!”

Shinji’s glare intensified at the girl’s dismissive tone. He was really supposed to be grateful that there had been no pain to go along with the humiliation?

“Where are we now?” he decided to grumble, instead.

“A bit closer to HQ.”

“That doesn’t answer my question.”

“Neither would the actual answer,” Ace shrugged, continuing to taunt him. “We are where we need to be.

“And here,” the Pilot continued, moving her hand first up and then in the opposite direction, as if she were pulling down a screen. “I can do this.”

And just like that, a screen did pop up before Shinji’s eyes. A screen of the weird and intangible kind, like the ones that usually popped whenever he received communications within his EVA.

‘...Actually, it looks exactly like it. Down to the golden border. Figures.’

Ace followed her trick by making as if she were opening a curtain, causing the floating screen to widen up, its edges curving towards them until it looked akin to the inflated sail of a ship. One, two and three motions more, looking like she was pressing buttons, and the screen slowly began to transmit an image, blurry at first, but coming into focus little by little.

“What is that for?” Shinji asked, looking at the device in amazement, his displeasure all but forgotten.

“Asuka just went to sleep, remember?” Ace half-responded. “What do you do when you’re sleeping?”

“...Dream? Are we going to watch Asuka’s dream?”

“Right-o!” the Pilot cheered, slugging Shinji in the shoulder and making him stumble back a bit. “But that’s actually not the important part of what we’re doing. You’ll need to wait just a little bit more to find that out.”

The redhead then eagerly continued with her work, touching and sliding this and that in the gigantic screen to the rhythm of a happy tune, looking for all intents and purposes like she was having the time of her life not five seconds after she had been grumbling at him.

Yet another one of her usual mood swings, Shinji figured. He was still glad for her high spirits, though, if only because Ace was that much less likely to visit violence upon him when she was feeling positive. On the other hand, the young Ikari had a few doubts clouding his face as he rubbed the second aching part in his body.

“I’m... not sure how comfortable I am doing that.”

“Doing what?”

“Watching Asuka’s dreams,” Shinji elaborated. “Isn’t that an invasion of privacy?”

The redhead paused, giving him a raised eyebrow.

“A bit late to be having that kind of doubts, Third. Haven’t you learned a lot of stuff already that you wouldn’t have learned otherwise?”

“Well, yeah. But I wasn’t the one who thought of that idea, remember? You two just brought me along for the ride.”

“...Touché,” Ace admitted, bringing a finger to her lips in thought. “Still, you’re somewhat right about the whole privacy thing. A teenage girl has plenty of secrets that have nothing to do with what we’re helping you achieve, after all,” she then shrugged, casually playing the whole thing down. “But that can be easily fixed: I’ll just censor out whatever irrelevant bits you’re not supposed to see, in the unlikely case that something like that actually does pop up. Deal?”

Ace extended her hand to him and fixed him with a look, the kind of look that meant she wanted a straight answer out of him. Meanwhile, the Third Child eyed the extended appendage with the same reservation one would a scary-looking dog, fully knowing that this was a decision that could come back to bite him in the ass later on, and that more than likely would come back to bite him, knowing his luck.

...

Still, making Ace mad wasn’t something he wanted to do, either. Leaving aside her more than likely decision to not help him anymore should he decide not to help her, the whole dream idea was obviously important to her, for whatever reason. Dashing the girl’s hopes like that didn’t sit well with him, to be honest.

Finally, and after a few seconds of consideration, Shinji locked his own hand with Ace’s. He still had his misgivings about the whole thing, of course, but he figured that the Pilot’s censoring proposal was the best middle ground he was going to get.

“Okay. That’s better, I guess.”

“Great!” Ace gave him one of her rare, wide smiles and quickly turned to hit one final button. “Let’s get down to business, then!”

And from the great screen, a thousand cheers suddenly erupted with a blast of colours. The Third Child blinked, taken aback, and took a second to refocus and identify the chromatic mess that was on display: rows upon rows of people standing along a gentle incline, jumping and dancing and waving humongous flags from left to right. The view then panned to the side, and Shinji saw a green and brownish pitch off in the distance, one that he found more than recognizable in less than an instant.

“Is that a... baseball stadium?” the young man asked, finding trouble with keeping his mouth shut.

Not that his companion was much better off.

“Well... that’s unexpected.”

“Something wrong?”

“...Nah, it’s nothing. Nothing too huge, anyway. It works just as well for what we’re trying to do, I’m just... a little surprised,” Ace elaborated, frowning in thought. “...Guess the readings I was getting before weren’t all bull, after all.”

The sound of firework explosions brought Shinji’s attention back to the screen, just in time to see the camera focus on a group of people coming out onto the pitch. They were all dressed for a proper game of baseball with all the assorted knick-knacks needed to play, and Shinji quickly identified familiar faces like Horaki’s and Ayanami’s among the players dressed in red and white. The strange girl that had passed him by earlier that ‘day’ was also among them, jumping up, down, left and right as she waved in every direction, looking for all intents and purposes like a hyperactive bunny.

Second came the opposing team, mostly composed of boys and girls with which Asuka had had some trouble in the past. He could see Ebihara and Iori from 2-B, as well as some upperclassmen and underclassmen both, all sporting the same blue and white uniform. To the surprise of no one, Shinji was also quick to find his friends Kensuke and Toji in their fatigues.

‘...Of course.’

And lastly, to the sound of thunderous fanfare, the screen closed in on the image of Asuka making it onto the field, followed by another figure dressed in the colours of the opposing side. Sporting a big, red ‘C’ on the chest of her uniform, the redhead confidently strode to the pitcher’s mound and pointed her orange and green bat to the crowds, making them go even wilder.

But Shinji’s attention wasn’t on Asuka or her Captain shenanigans, but rather on the second person that had quietly followed her to the centre of the field: the young man stoically awaited for Asuka to finish basking in the glory of her entrance, arms crossed and radiating an aura of confidence and raw power that effortlessly allowed him to stand by as Asuka’s equal.

And to make matters even more bizarre for Shinji, the confident young man sported his own face...

...with the exception of one tiny, little detail:

“W-Why-” the Third Child stuttered, eyes wide and pointing a shaky finger at the sheer wrongness his eyes were being subjected to. “WHY DOES HE HAVE SIDEBURNS?!”

“Hmm?” Ace broke out of her reflections, raising an eyebrow at the horrified young man before she turned eyes towards the source. “Oh, he’s probably just one of the Pilot Shinjis.”

“That doesn’t answer my question!”

“Of course it does! Haven’t you watched any of those old mecha classics?” Ace shot back, as if she were speaking of something as obvious as the sky being blue. “Every hot-blooded ace pilot had sideburns!”

“But I’m not hot-blooded!”

“Tell me about it,” Ace muttered to herself with a roll of her eyes. She then pointed a thumb at the screen. “Anyway, you’re missing the point, Third, and we’ve been over this, already. He’s not you, just one of the pieces that make up Shinji Ikari within Asuka’s mind.”

“I do remember that, but still...”

“Basically, he’s not so much Shinji Ikari, the ‘Unrivalled Doormat’, but more ‘The Invincible Third Child, EVA Pilot Extraordinaire’,” Ace interrupted him, her face saying everything about where her personal preferences laid. “Fitting that an ace Pilot and protector of the human race would look like that, don’t you think?”

“...’Fitting’ my ass...” the young Ikari disagreed, suppressing a shiver. “...Wait, I thought Asuka didn’t like anime. I’ve heard her call the ones on TV ‘stupid cartoons’ more than once.”

Ace took in a sharp breath when Shinji’s curious eyes landed on her, and the young man noticed her cheeks quickly change colour and grow slightly closer to that of her hair’s. Looking away, the girl coughed into one hand before throwing an annoyed look the Third Child’s way.

“That’s... because they are, especially those romantic ones that Hikari goes through like water on a hot day,” the Pilot explained, crossing her arms defensively. “...Far removed from the very few ones I might have watched when I was younger and ignorant. And explicitly for research purposes.”

Shinji raised an eyebrow at the way Ace was fidgeting in her spot, recognizing it as something he had seen Asuka do in the past. Needless to say, it was a rare sight, and one that he hadn’t expected to come up with such a topic, since the Third Child didn’t understand what was so terrible about enjoying a series or two, no matter the medium. Then again, Asuka had a habit of getting embarrassed at the strangest of things.

...

...She always managed to look cute in those moments, though.

“Whatever you say,” Shinji let out a short chuckle with a shake of his head, allowing for the topic and the direction of his thoughts to both drop. “I guess that’s one of those things I shouldn’t mention to Asuka whenever I manage to get out?”

“If you value your life,” Ace warned/threatened. “Don’t think I’ll go easy on you just because of your stay here.”

“I’ll... make a note of that.”

Following their exchange, the two focused on watching the baseball match side by side, as Asuka’s team and the opposition led by the... outrageous Shinji vied for victory. To no one’s surprise (much less Shinji’s), Asuka herself proved the most important player in her team, hitting ball after ball and netting a nice amount of the runs in the match, but, what really did surprise him was how well everyone else played, with special mention going to Asuka’s rivals:

The scores were tied well into the fifth inning, a far cry from the landslide victory that Shinji would have expected out of one of his roommate’s dreams. And better yet, his own avatar was responsible for quite a bit of the opposing team’s runs.

Funny, considering that Asuka was fully aware of how terribly he had done the last time the boys had played baseball in P.E.

With a sigh, the Third Child took his eyes off the strange match and threw a quick look Ace’s way: she was fully engrossed in the screen, cheering and celebrating as loud as any of the spectators whenever something important happened...

...but she had apparently forgotten the reason why the both of them were there to begin with.

“So... when do we start?” Shinji eventually reminded her.

“Start...?” the Pilot repeated with a frown, confirming Shinji’s suspicions. “...Oh. Actually...”

A hint of doubt crossed Ace’s face as she took turns looking between Shinji and the screen.

“What?”

“Um... Do you mind if we wait for a little while longer?”

“...Not really, but why?” the Third Child replied, somewhat taken aback at both the answer and Ace’s suddenly subdued demeanour. “Didn’t you say that it was urgent? Whatever ‘it’ was?”

“Well, yeah...” the Pilot sighed long and deep, before she turned to look at the tense match in the screen with something akin to longing. “But the last few nights haven’t been kind to Asuka, you know? And looking at this... I guess I’d feel kinda bad for interrupting such a nice dream.”

The young man followed Ace’s eyes back to the screen. Exaggeration and weird interpretations of his person aside, he had to admit that what he was looking at was indeed a very good dream.

Then again, he barely ever remembered his own dreams, so it wasn’t like he had a very good basis for comparison.

“...So this really isn’t the norm?”

“You know it isn’t. Have you forgotten how and where we first met?”

“How could I?” Shinji snarked back. “I mean, being pinned to a wall and having someone threaten to pop my teeth was such a memorable experience...”

“Yeah, yeah, I wasn’t having the best of times at that point, alright?” Ace admitted, still adhering to her ‘no apology’ policy. “Stupid brat wasn’t helping, either.

“...But anyway, nice dreams aside, I’ve been thinking that putting the plan into motion right as Asuka’s about to wake up might actually make it work better, too,” the Pilot further elaborated. “I mean, if we don’t and you actually succeed in talking to Asuka right now, she might just end up dismissing it as a freak dream or her mind playing tricks on her. Like the time in Unit-02.”

With a shrug and a nod, Shinji decided that deferring to Ace’s theory was probably the best thing to do.

And so they waited some more, watching as what had started as a baseball match quickly turned into some sort of baseball war game: baseballs that had been fast pitches at the start of the game suddenly began to fly in all sorts of strange and impossible patterns, before catching fire or leaving electric aftershocks after being struck by the bat. Catchers all over the pitch jumped absurd distances to grab the elemental missiles, even building up a human tower to prevent a homerun at the very last possible moment.

And then Angels showed up out of nowhere and the stadium’s pitch opened up to reveal an EVA catapult, Units 01 and 02 appearing ready to receive their Pilots a second later. Shinji watched as Unit-02 grabbed a giant progressive axe from a second armoury elevator, and then raised an eyebrow when Unit-01 pulled a giant katana out of some sort of spatial distortion, too.

Because reasons.

With a whole lot of shouting and manly roaring the two robots promptly went to town on the invading Angels, and it was roughly at that point when Shinji began to further suspect that Asuka might have ended covertly watching a bit more anime than she let on, for some strange reason he couldn’t quite put a finger on.

At least the whole dream had ended up looking a lot more like something Shinji would have expected his roommate to come up with.

“Okay, I think we’re nearing time, now,” Ace finally spoke right as Asuka split a copy of the Fourth Angel in half with Unit-02’s axe. “Listen, I want you to call out to Asuka as hard as you can.”

“You... want me to shout?” Shinji tore his eyes off the hot-blooded spectacle to stare at the girl in confusion. “I don’t know, that sounds a bit-”

“Stupid?” the Pilot interrupted, reading the young man’s thoughts. “Yeah, I’m aware. But I’m hoping that the bits of newfound insight on Asuka you just got might strengthen the connection... somehow. Like it was when she synched with Unit-02.”

‘Somehow’?” Shinji echoed, his words making way for some reluctance. “That... doesn’t sound like you’ve put a lot of thought into this.”

“I have put a lot of thought into this! But this whole situation is all news for us, too, remember? Of course I’ve got no idea if it will actually work!” Ace protested with a pout. “But it’s not like we lose anything by trying, right?”

Ace then poked the hesitant young man in the chest, narrowing her eyes at him.

“Now, if you’re done with your silly objections, how about we get right to it? Get over there and give me a big shout.”

Shinji followed Ace’s outstretched finger to the spot it was aiming at and then back at her, only to find a look that was very clear in its meaning: whatever his opinions or reservations on the matter, the Third Child wasn’t going to talk his way out of doing what the redhead wanted him to do.

Which made the young Ikari kind of mad, to be completely honest. He had at no point said that he wasn’t going to cooperate with her, after all, so Ace’s forceful nagging was completely out of place, as far as he was concerned. Just like his Asuka’s had been so many times in the past.

So much prior experience had made the young man fully aware of the fact that nothing good would come out of crossing Asuka out of spite, though.

‘...Might as well get it over with,’ Shinji decided with a sigh, walking to the spot Ace had indicated and drawing in a big breath.

“And don’t even think about half-assing it!” the girl added at the last moment.

“Alright, alright!” Shinji shot back, starting to get annoyed himself. “Jeez...”

Ace recoiled back slightly at the young man’s tone, but didn’t let it deter her. She crossed her arms before her and pinned him with her eyes, silently urging Shinji forward until the Third Child drew in some more air and put his hands around his mouth.

ASUKAAA!!” he yelled, as loud and hard as his lungs and vocal cords allowed him to.

The name echoed down the foggy plains time and time again as one second passed another, but other than Shinji’s voice getting lost in the distance nothing else seemed to happen. Shinji then threw a quick look at Ace, silently asking him what he should do next, to which the redhead just gave him a repeating motion with her hand.

“Do it again. I certainly got something out of...” the Pilot frowned and trailed off, her eyes slowly widening in sheer shock soon after. “What in the world...?”

And it was at that moment that Shinji felt a familiar wave of nausea wash over him and saw his vision blur at the edges, a combination that forced him to lean on his knees for support. His hearing was abruptly assaulted by another cacophony of unpleasant sounds, too, and weakly raised his head in order to plea for Ace to help him.

He found the Pilot staring back with anxious eyes, shouting words at him that didn’t make it past the jumbled dissonance assaulting his ears. Shinji then tried calling back to her...

...but then he blinked, and Ace was no more. And neither were the screen they had been watching or his immediate surroundings, for that matter.

But more importantly, gone were the ailments that had suddenly assailed him, too.

Shinji was quick to notice as soon as he recovered that he was... somewhere else. In what looked like a bare room with no windows or doors, the only thing it contained being a small, but steadily growing swirling vortex right in front of him.

“Where am I...?” the Third Child swallowed, looking all around him as he slowly straightened back up. “...Ace?! ACE?!”

But no one answered the young man’s calls, the vortex growing larger and more ominous at his panicked words until finally, and with surprisingly little fanfare, it seemed to stabilize into a big and wide black mass that curved into a concave right in front of the Third Child.

Shinji took a few steps back from the dark matter and turned around, but the mass followed his movements, always keeping in front of him no matter how he turned and twisted. It always seemed to keep its distance, as well, staying close but out of arm’s reach no matter how hard the Third Child tried to distance himself from it.

And then, just as suddenly, the mass parted horizontally through the middle like a pair of eyelids, and allowed a burst of white to flow through. The light then began to change into some sort of image, gaining focus on the edges and slowly becoming less and less blurry until, finally, it became completely clear to Shinji:

What he was seeing was not an image, but rather some sort of live broadcast. The broadcast of an unfamiliar ceiling.

“...Shinji?”
Author of a few decent Eva stories, which can be found here.

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Postby sonichu » Sun Aug 12, 2018 10:42 am

This was definitely one of the best chapters so far. I'm really looking forward to Shinji finally getting to speak to Asuka.

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Postby Gryphon117 » Sun Aug 12, 2018 3:28 pm

View Original Postsonichu wrote:This was definitely one of the best chapters so far. I'm really looking forward to Shinji finally getting to speak to Asuka.


Thanks, glad you liked it! :D
Author of a few decent Eva stories, which can be found here.

Currently working on a new project: An Insider's Look

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Postby Gryphon117 » Sun Aug 19, 2018 6:19 am

Sunday update time, which I didn't almost forget about. At all. :blush:

In any case, this one's a bit shorter than the previous one, although not nearly as short as I first thought it would be. Turns out you can get quite a bit of mileage out of embarrassing situations, who'd have thought?

In any case, enjoy! ^_^

Chapter 9-1  SPOILER: Show
Asuka Langley-Sohryu stared with wide eyes at the unremarkable surface of her room’s ceiling, a drab, and exceptionally ordinary white area that not even the soft, ethereal glow that shone on it, courtesy of the small lamp she had just turned on, could salvage.

But that was fine. The Second Child wasn’t interested in the lacking beauty of the upper part of her room, after all. She was far more concerned about the unexpected words to which she had just fully woken up.

‘...No way,’ the young woman refused, wondering why she had even bothered answering to the clear remnant of her dream. ‘Don’t be stupid, the voice from yesterday was just your imagination speaking...’

“...Asuka?”

The Second Child messily jumped from her bed and rushed towards her bathroom just as clumsily, managing to almost knock over four pieces of furniture in three seconds flat. But, once again, the girl didn’t much care for her room appearing as if a raging rhinoceros had just rushed through, preferring to instead throw the toilet’s door wide open and look into the biggest mirror that was at hand.

The frenzied eyes that stared back were akin to those of a demon out of hell, the effect further amplified by her dishevelled bed hair.

But for a third time, the Second Child didn’t care.

“Fuck, fuck, FUCK!” Asuka breathed wildly, quickly checking that there was nothing wrong with her face, particularly with her eyes. “I was kidding about going schizo!”

“Asuka!” the voice inside her head insisted, as happy as if they’d just found a treasure. “You can hear me?!”

“No! No, I can’t!” the redhead plugged her ears, shaking her head wildly. “GO AWAY!”

But Asuka’s efforts to block the sounds proved useless, the voice appearing to bypass her hands to go straight into her brain.

“Asuka, listen! It’s me, Shinji!”

“No, no, NO! You can’t be! Shinji Ikari is in a coma! A freaking weird coma that no one knows anything about! I know what I saw!”

“Asuka, that’s what I’m trying to explain! If you will just listen-”

But the Second Child didn’t comply with the voice’s request, actually going even further against its wishes by shutting her eyes tightly and pressing her hands against her ears so hard that it actually hurt.

‘Goddamit! Voices in my head, stupid voices in my head... But why does it always sound like...?’ the girl wondered for an instant, before she redoubled her efforts to ignore the hallucination. ‘No! Don’t listen to him! Don’t listen to him!’

“A-Asuka?” the boy’s suddenly nervous voice rang inside her mind. “C-Can you stop that? Things are getting a bit weird here...”

‘You can’t end up like-‘ Asuka ignored it, an image of a hospital bed flying through her mind’s eye. ‘No, I won’t end up like her, talking to dolls like they’re people! I WON’T!’

“Asuka! LISTEN TO ME, DAMMIT!”

The thunderous yell snapped the Second Child out of her flashback, the young woman staring at her own reflection in sheer shock.

Had she just... heard Shinji Ikari swear?

“Wha-?”

“I am Shinji! Stupid Shinji, alright?!” the voice roared a second time, a hint of anxiousness now clearly audible behind its words. “You’re really not imagining things, so you can stop freaking out now!”

“But that... doesn’t make any...”

“I know, it doesn’t make any sense! But you have to trust me! Please!”

Asuka paused, struck silent by both the sheer anger the voice had displayed at first and the almost desperate pleading that had come right after. That alone already made the voice sound eerily close to the two extremes Shinji Ikari had exhibited in the past, one during most of his interactions with others and the other in the one or two instances in which she herself had succeeded in pissing him off.

Her sudden doubts were further exacerbated by the fact that she could hear the sound of heavy breathing on the ‘other side’, which made zero sense if the voice really was some sort of illusory and intangible projection of her own fabrication. Unless it was a really authentic auditory hallucination, of course. After all, Asuka had no real prior experience in the realm of disembodied voices to be able to tell what was possible and what wasn’t.

...Or so she hoped.

On the other hand, and assuming that it indeed was Shinji talking to her at that time, how could he possibly be breathing if his body was down in the cranial ward? That made no sense at all, either.

“...I can’t believe I’m even considering this...” the redhead finally whispered hesitantly, grabbing onto the sides of the sink for support. “Is that... really you?”

“Yes! Yes, it is me!” the voice confirmed, suddenly jubilant. “Something happened when I helped you during the last Angel attack and I’ve ended up like this!”

“But that was days ago!” Asuka protested. “Why haven’t you said anything until now?! Do you have any idea how... much you pissed me off with that stunt?!”

“I’m... I’m sorry,” the Third Child promptly apologised, further sounding like his actual self. “I-I tried to, but it wasn’t that easy! Until now I’ve only managed to talk to you for a moment at a time, like during your last synch-test with Unit-02!”

“...I didn’t imagine that?” Asuka unconsciously brought a hand to her forehead with a frown. She then swallowed tightly, looking all around her. “So... a-are you like... a ghost, now? Where are you?”

“I’m not a ghost... I think,” Shinji replied, the Second Child starting to feel some very familiar annoyance at the boy’s constant uncertainty. “And as far as I know, I’m... inside your head?”

Asuka slowly turned to stare back at her own reflection, second guessing her sanity again for a fleeting instant.

“...What.”

“I-I’m serious!” Shinji quickly insisted. “That’s what I’ve been told and... pretty much the only thing that makes even a lick of sense at this point.”

“Told? Told by who?”

“It’s... complicated.”

“Have you forgotten who’s the genius here, Third?” Asuka grumbled threateningly. “Start talking-”

“Did you know that they say speaking to yourself is among the first few signs of madness?”

Asuka paused and blinked at her image in the mirror, before she let out a deep, annoyed sigh and stomped towards the bathroom door. From the other side Mari Makinami waved back with a big smile, clad in her usual clothing and sitting on the edge of her bed.

“Oh!” Shinji gasped, recognizing the twin-tailed girl. “That’s-!”

“How did you get in here?” But Asuka ignored him in favour of glaring at the new arrival with the force of a thousand suns.

Which only made the other young woman grin wider.

“Oho! I’m as silent as the finest of ninjas, just so you know!” Mari boasted, mimicking a mask with her fingers and covertly looking to the sides. “And as skilful as the greatest of thieves, too! Not to say-“

“Those two morons just let you through, didn’t they?”

“...Actually, that might have helped a little, too. But I’m still an awesome ninja!” the Fifth Child enthusiastically exclaimed, giggling and dropping down onto her back. She then casually continued with her tale, blissfully ignorant of Asuka’s eyes almost going supernova. “Anyway, they heard some crashing noises a short while ago, you see. They were discussing how to handle it when I came out of my room, so they asked me if I could lend them a hand.”

“...And why couldn’t they do it themselves? That’s pretty much their job.”

“They figured that it couldn’t be anything dangerous with the way the room layout works and their own guard schedule, but still didn’t want to barge into a lady’s room uninvited, from what I gathered. Especially yours,” Mari then raised an arm and lazily motioned at her surroundings. “I wondered why that was for a little while but it all became clear the moment I put a foot inside this place. I mean, you’d need a lot more than their puny pistols to survive in this jungle of an apartment.”

“It’s not always like this, for your information,” Asuka protested, grimacing at the mess her strange awakening had caused. “Maybe getting a tiger in here will stop people from just waltzing in whenever they like, though.”

“Ha, as if a big kitty could stop me! I’m a ninja!” the Fifth Child cheered again, her other arm shooting upwards to meet the first. But they remained as such only for the briefest of periods, falling back to the girl’s lap when she sat back up once again, seeming to recall something. “...Oh, but shouldn’t you be ready for the synch-test already? We’re going to be late at this rate, you know?”

The Second Child’s eyes widened at Mari’s words. With all the chaos of the last ten minutes, she had completely managed to forget about her Pilot obligations for that morning.

“The... crap, that’s right,” Asuka groaned again, palming her face. She then grabbed a lock of red hair and played with it between her fingers for a second, before quickly letting go of it in disgust. “...And I still need to shower.”

“Shower? What for?” Mari echoed with a raised eyebrow. “We’re going to be sitting in LCL, remember?”

“I didn’t shower yesterday, and I’m not showing up at the test all smelly-like,” the Second Child replied, quickly grabbing some fresh clothes and running some calculations in her head, “I’ll be out in ten... no, five minutes,” Asuka then paused at the door, prior to pointing a threatening finger at the apartment’s other occupant. “Don’t. Touch. Anything.”

And the bathroom’s door slammed shut without waiting for a response, the Second Child focusing all of her attention into cleaning herself up as quickly and efficiently as humanly possible. She began by turning the shower’s faucet on so that it could start heating up, before hurriedly taking off the baggy t-shirt and short pants that she normally used as her pyjamas. Asuka then swiftly began to take off her undergarments when...

“I-I’m not looking! I’m not looking!”

...Shinji Ikari’s flustered voice scared her out of her wits.

“Shit, Third! Don’t scare me like-” Asuka angrily chided the young man before she cut herself off, her eyes slowly travelling to her own reflection as she ran Shinji’s actual words through her mind. “...Wait, you can see what I can see?”

“L-Looks that way.”

“And you didn’t say anything?!” the redhead hissed indignantly as she quickly covered herself, cheeks flaming up at the implication of what she’d been about to do. “At least turn around, you pervert!”

“I can’t!”

“What do you mean you can’t?! Are you so dense that the concept of turning around is foreign to you!?”

“Ehm...” Mari’s concerned voice suddenly came from the outside, startling them both, “...Is everything alright in there?”

“Yeah! Yeah, it’s fine!” Asuka yelled back, quickly thinking of an excuse. “I just... couldn’t find my shampoo!”

Explanation that was followed by a few seconds of silence, Mari obviously judging just how believable it actually was.

“Okay, then, take it easy! But not too easy, eh?” the twin-tailed girl ultimately accepted the lie, her voice growing softer in the distance. “In the meantime, I’ll just be playing some Punch-Out over here!”

“...And what part of ‘don’t touch anything’ didn’t you understand, you idiot?” the Second Child muttered, glaring at the spot where Mari’s head would have been, had Asuka been capable of staring through walls.

With a deep sigh, Asuka then resigned herself to letting her newest teammate do as she willed. After all, if there was one thing that the Fifth Child had proven the day before, it was that there was precious little that could stop her from doing something, anything, once she had taken a special interest in it.

Asuka’s somewhat aching shoulders were a testament to that.

“...Goddammit, this is shaping up to be such a shit day, already,” the redheaded Pilot softly whined, barely resisting the urge to tear at her hair. Not that there was anything she could do to prevent it, so Asuka instead dangerously narrowed her eyes as she reached backwards for the strap of her bra, focusing the entirety of her self on making a specific message and image combination very clear to the young man that was apparently residing within her mind. “And so help me, Third: if I so much as suspect you peeping on me I’ll find a way of ramming my foot up your ass so hard you’ll taste the dirt on my soles!”

Efforts that yielded her an actual answer, much to the girl’s surprise. Or actually, not so much an answer, but rather the sensation of Shinji Ikari meekly nodding his head at her, in that submissive and immensely infuriating way of his.

Curious as it may have been to communicate without words, however, Asuka found herself scowling at the more than predictable response as she readied herself to practise the art of showering while staring at the ceiling.
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Postby Gryphon117 » Sun Aug 26, 2018 7:54 am

Chapter 9-2  SPOILER: Show
Following twenty minutes of traversing the absurdly large hallways of NERV while Mari complained about how some ‘Pizza Pasta’ guy was really unfair, both Pilots made it to the labs, buzzing with activity in preparation for the day’s tests. Asuka was quick to spot Akagi among the workers in the room, poring over screens and data with her mousy assistant in tow and apparently completely oblivious to their entrance which, if previous experience was to be trusted, meant that there was still a bit of time left until the actual tests started.

‘...Figures that hurrying over here would be all for nothing.’ The redhead mentally grumbled, propping against an out of the way wall to watch over the preparations that remained. Meanwhile, Mari wasted no time in gallivanting around the entire room, exploring like a child at a theme park as she went from terminal to technician to scientist, asking them about their work or even about things completely unrelated to it.

The Second Child’s eyes followed the other girl in her quest for information that was basically useless for her job as a Pilot, something that Asuka was fairly certain the Fifth Child was already aware of, but that Mari didn’t seem to particularly care about. She was far more interested in leaving whatever unlucky sod she was talking to stuttering in confusion with her out of place questions and weird actions, helplessly begging for assistance that rarely came because all the other people in the room were too busy with getting the test started in something approaching schedule.

But what really ticked Asuka off, rather than watching a fellow EVA Pilot make a fool of themselves and ridicule the entire Pilot corps with their failure to show pride and a proper dignity in their station, was the fact that no one, not a single stupid technician or egghead ever blew the girl off, no matter how ridiculous the question or how... ‘unjapanese’ the approach. On the contrary, almost all of the people that Mari interrogated in the short interval had left the conversation with a small smile on their faces, as if having some random moron waste their time with inane inquiries about nothing and everything were something to be happy about.

“Idiots, the lot of them,” the redhead brooded, narrowing her eyes at the sight. “How different it would be if I was the one asking stupid questions.”

“Did you ever try asking nicely?”

Asuka jumped slightly when she heard Shinji’s voice. Mari had gotten her so distracted with her stories and later antics that she hadn’t even noticed just how silent the young man had been the entire time after she had left the shower. In fact, she’d almost completely forgotten about the recently self-proclaimed resident of her mind.

Which was quite the feat considering just how bizarre and uncomfortable the entire thing was.

“What was that, Third?” Asuka hissed, feeling her irritation at the indecisive pervert rise up again.

“I said that maybe people would be friendlier to you if you were nicer to them from time to time.” Shinji shot back, ignoring the dangerous tone on the Second Child’s voice.

“What’s this? Lessons from Shinji Ikari, the social animal?” Asuka mocked with a roll of her eyes. “Oh, but I’m not sure if I’m worthy of receiving such enlightenment, Great and Almighty Shinji-sama.”

The girl’s words were only met with silence for quite some time, and Asuka found herself filling the void by gritting her teeth in equal parts annoyance and self-beration. After all, here she was, finally given the chance to speak once more with the person that she had spend days hoping would wake up and answer her, and what was the first thing she did?

Rip him a new one over some stupid criticism, of course. She wouldn’t be herself, otherwise.

Hell, it was no wonder that the Third Child seemed stunned, really. No, the sensation was different than that: it felt like a slight twinge of exasperation, wrapped in a layer of disappointment.

“Why do you always have to be like that...?” Shinji eventually replied, his aggravated sigh filling most of Asuka’s awareness. “Fine, do what you want. I was only trying to help.”

“R-Right, and who said I needed your help?”

Once again, the words escaped almost without permission, and Asuka regretted them just as quickly when the feedback she was receiving turned even sourer. Why did she always do that, react in the worst way possible? Sure, the Third Child had an innate gift for pissing her off, but this wasn’t how Asuka had wanted things to go before she opened her mouth.

It was amazing just how easily they could get into their usual dynamics, really, a cycle that not even being stuck inside the other’s head could apparently improve upon.

It would have been funny if it wasn’t so sad.

‘...Damn. Not even an hour since you found out that he’s mostly fine and you’ve already managed to make him mad,’ the young redhead inwardly chastised herself. ‘Good going, Asuka.’

“...Actually, I’m not mad,” said young man unexpectedly dismissed. “But there’s nothing wrong with saying ‘sorry’ from time to time if you’re that worried about it.”

And the Second Child felt a heat spread all throughout her face in response. She had not planned for that private observation to be public property.

“Wh-What the hell?!” Asuka blurted, barely remembering to keep her voice low. “Stop reading my thoughts, you idiot!”

“I can’t, they just... sort of pop up in my mind!” the young man defended himself. “...Guess it’s got something to do with this place.”

‘...Well, that’s just great. So I can’t even have some privacy, anymore.’ Asuka was the one to sigh this time, grabbing the bridge of her nose in exasperation. Her eyes then landed on Mari, who was still busy doing her meet and greet. ‘Gott in Himmel, this is going to be worse than dealing with the idiot greenhorn...’

“Why do you keep calling her an idiot, anyway?” Shinji asked, sounding genuinely curious. “She seems really nice from what I’ve seen.”

‘Are you stupid? Because she is one, obviously.’

“And... why?”

‘Do I really have to go into simple, simple terms, Third? Fine, where do I even start?’ Asuka continued to grumble, mentally ticking the items off one by one. ‘She is nosy, loud, hyperactive, way too chummy with everyone and she has no combat experience with her EVA, to boot! Her so-called sense of humour absolutely sucks, too!’

“...Still don’t see where the ‘idiot’ part comes in,” Shinji replied, now thoroughly confused. “I mean, with the way you describe her, she sounds exactly like she’s half Misato and half you, honestly.”

“SAY WHAT?!”

Asuka felt Shinji instantly flinch back at her indignant exclamation, clearly having realised the error of his ways a second too late to pull back, not that such awareness was going to save the boy from receiving the earful of the century, of course. How dare he compare her to-

‘Huh...?’

The redhead stopped in her planned rebuttal of the Third Child, owing to the fact that she could hear the distinct sound of a dozen chairs and twice that many feet swivelling around to turn her way, for some reason. Asuka then raised her eyes, being quick to notice that she had become the laboratory’s centre of attention.

...

It was only a second later that Asuka realised she had yelled her last thought out loud.

“I said that the routine nerve check-ups of areas Beta-12 to Delta-97 have come up with no issues that would impede the test,” Doctor Akagi promptly spoke, staring at the redhead with a raised eyebrow. “I fail to see what was so surprising about that.”

“I...” The girl swallowed tightly in response, feeling every single eye in the room staring straight at her and wishing she could turn invisible. “...Don’t mind me, I just... had a bad night. I guess I fell half-asleep on my feet.”

“...I see.” Ritsuko turned back to the monitors after a few moments of intently staring at the girl, a smirk growing on her face. “Well, all preparations are finished on our end, so if the Second Child is quite done catching up on her beauty sleep, I propose that we all get started.”

A round of chuckles filled the room following Ritsuko’s words, the gathered technicians and scientists focusing back on their work after sending encouraging looks and smiles at the hard-working child. A completely innocent gesture that followed a completely innocent joke for most of the workers, more than thankful for the brief break from their monotonous, everyday tasks.

The same couldn’t be said of the veiled criticism that had laid hidden behind Akagi’s words, however, not that Asuka could call her out on it without coming across as little more than a brat, something that would only succeed in giving the accursed doctor even more ammunition against her.

Seething with impotent fury at the entire situation, Asuka therefore turned her attention back to bringing rightful retribution on the one directly responsible for the entire embarrassing mess.

‘Do you see what you made me do, stupid?!’

“I... sorry.” The Third Child quickly and quietly apologised. After all, even if completely unintentional, the whole situation had been his fault, no two ways about it.

‘As if that’s going to fix anything, you dimwit!’ the Second Child angrily replied, although Shinji could tell that the sheer enmity on display wasn’t entirely, or even mostly, directed at him. ‘Argh! That goddamn-‘

“Don’t be so harsh on Asuka, Akagi,” another female voice suddenly intruded into the room, bringing the hearty snickers to an abrupt end. “You know perfectly well she’s been having a few rough days.”

Asuka turned in the voice’s direction so quick that her neck almost popped. And then she gaped.

She was dressed as she always had been, in her black and white clothes and red jacket, and entered the room with the same commanding presence that invariably followed her around during work hours. To Asuka, it was like she had gone back in time, her guardian looking as if nothing at all had happened during the last four days...

...as if she had never been forced into a prison cell because her ward just hadn’t been good enough.

“That’s-!“

“M-“ Asuka breathed out, still not believing her eyes. “...Misato?”

“It was just an innocent joke, Katsuragi,” Ritsuko shot back without even bothering to turn around. “You used to like those.”

“...I used to like many things about you,” Misato muttered to herself before she turned towards Asuka with a warm smile... “Hey, kiddo. Good to see you’re doing-”

...and the breath was almost entirely knocked out of her lungs.

“Misato!”

“H-Hey!” Misato blinked, staring in shock at the red missile that had just impacted her midsection. “...Where did that come from?”

“Misato, I...” the young redhead stuttered, struggling for words. “I’m...”

“...You what?”

“I’m... glad you’re okay,” Asuka half-finished. “After how badly I... screwed up in the last fight, and after I heard that you had been taken away because of it, I...”

“Hey, hey, hey. You didn’t mess up in that fight,” Misato reassured her, putting a finger under Asuka’s chin and raising the Second Child’s head so that she could look directly into her eyes. “That bastard would have caught any of you off-guard, so I don’t want to hear you beating yourself up over that, alright?

“On the other hand, the one thing I do want you to think long and hard about is the part where you disregarded my orders,” her guardian continued, her voice morphing into the dreaded Major Katsuragi pitch. “Granted, I don’t know if it would have changed anything in the long run for that specific scenario, but that shouldn’t serve as a precedent. It will not happen again, alright?”

“Y-Yeah...”

“Good... Good.” Misato’s voice turned softer once more and she pressed Asuka’s frame tighter against hers, hand now reaching to comfortingly pat the back of the girl’s head. “Are you... dealing well with the memories?”

“I’m... managing. Somehow.”

“That’s good. But if you want to talk about it, you just let me know, alright?”

“I...” the Second Child carefully extracted herself from the embrace a little bit, just enough to be capable of gauging her guardian’s sincerity. Once more, Misato appeared earnest, and Asuka couldn’t help the small smile that tugged at the edge of her lips. “...Thanks.”

She then looked upwards, frowning when she caught sight of a recent addition to Misato’s apparel that the redhead had failed to notice at first glance:

It was a black leather choker around her neck, with a red plastic cover on the front and a tiny, red light blinking from time to time beneath the surface. It looked to be on far too tight for it to be a normal accessory and, besides, Misato’s usual cross was still hanging from its usual spot, too.

“...What’s that?” Asuka asked, the girl hearing Shinji’s voice ask a similar question at the same time.

“Oh, it’s... a gift.”

“You suck at lying, Misato,” Asuka admonished, turning her head to the side just enough to peek at what lay beyond her guardian. A pair of stone-faced Section-2 agents appeared to meet her eyes, having come in right behind the Major.

“You think they’re...”

‘Her watchdogs?’ Asuka finished for Shinji, quickly joining the dots. ‘Yeah, I’d bet they are, Third.’

“And you didn’t give me much time to prepare,” Misato protested with a small sigh, bringing the girl’s attention back to her. “Look, it’s nothing big. I’ll explain-”

“That was so cute!” a young voice suddenly interrupted from the side and, much to the Major’s continued awe, Asuka promptly jumped a metre away as if Misato had caught on fire, looking all sorts of embarrassed.

Which while a funny sight in and of itself, of course, had left Misato honestly missing the warmth of the girl’s unexpected embrace. It wasn’t that often that Asuka had allowed the older woman to hold her, after all.

Or ever, to be more precise.

Nevertheless, bygones would be bygones until the next time a similar chance presented itself, Misato figured. The Major then followed the direction of the voice, finding herself face to face with an unfamiliar face.

“And... who are you?”

“Oh, silly me! I’m the Fifth Child, Mari Makinami!” the surprisingly sociable girl greeted, extending her hand forwards. “Nice to meetcha!”

A gesture that Misato quickly reciprocated, still reeling a bit from the sheer amount of extroversion on display.

“Fifth-?”

She then suddenly cut herself off, briefly staring at her intertwined hand before she looked up at the girl before her. Mari’s smile remained unchanging, still plastered to her face and looking like something straight out of a comic book...

...but the vibe Misato was getting was no longer a carefree one.

“The Fifth Child, yes,” Ritsuko impatiently interrupted, still focused on her work. “Haven’t you been briefed about her?”

Mari quickly let go of Misato’s hand with a nod of her head and made a beeline towards Asuka, taking great delight in teasing her further as the Major looked on with narrowed eyes, to the Second Child’s mounting embarrassment. Misato kept on watching the pair for a few more seconds, eyes drilling a hole into the back of the Fifth Child’s head, before she finally turned to regard her former friend.

“...I was let out not thirty minutes ago, and I had to shower away the muck from days of jail time. There hasn’t been much time for pleasantries, let alone briefings.”

“Well then, just know that she’ll be working under you from now on,” Ritsuko’s explanation was quick, the doctor throwing a brief stare at Asuka. “But we really need to get started at this point. Are you ready now, Second Child?”

“Yeah, sure,” Asuka crossed her arms and looked away, miffed at what jokes the new Pilot had made and was in the process of doing, all at her expense. “Whatever.”

“Good. I will expect a performance on the same level as yesterday’s,” Ritsuko then turned towards Mari. “Fifth Child?”

“Ready and itching to go, Doc!” the twin-tailed girl pumped a fist into the air, all while making sure she was always standing next to her teammate, no matter what Asuka tried.

“...Well, at least someone’s enthusiastic,” the Head of Project-E muttered, ordering the two Pilots forward with a hand. “Get into your Entry Plugs, you two.”

And so the two girls complied with their orders with varying levels of enthusiasm, Mari setting a blazing pace as she led Asuka by the hand and towards the gangway, much to the redhead’s continued protests.

Yet another scene that Misato would have certainly cracked a smile at, seeing Asuka be dragged around in just the same manner she always dragged Shinji, had it not been for the weird feeling that she had gotten off the Fifth Child.

‘Shinji...’ the Major’s thoughts then turned to her other ward, the sweet young man that her actions and decisions had ended up hospitalizing for an indeterminate amount of time, if Ikari’s reports were to be believed. A casualty of war that had been avoided one too many times, the military part of her mind tried to rationalize, but it was in far too crushing of a minority to ease the heartache that came with that knowledge.

...

A visit to his hospital room was in order after the day’s obligations were done, Misato quickly decided, since that shouldn’t break any of the stipulations of her conditional freedom. And she should probably offer Asuka to join her, too. Try to ease the girl’s mind on things a little.

...

Asuka’s presence in the same room might keep her from breaking down again, too.

“That’s a nice fashion accessory,” Ritsuko suddenly commented, taking a second to look at Misato out of the corner of her eye and breaking her out of her thoughts. “It suits you.”

“Thanks,” Misato replied, walking closer to the main consoles. “I thought that the usual wardrobe needed a bit of a shakeup.”

“And the Commander graciously offered to help?” the doctor scoffed. “It is an effective way of ensuring your loyalty, or at least your non-interference, I’ll give him that. I suppose it has all the bells and whistles?”

“It’s probably a safe assumption,” Misato agreed, figuring that Ritsuko was referring to monitoring devices such as a microphone. “How come you don’t sound surprised about all this, by the way?”

“Because the only thing I’m surprised about is that he didn’t put another one around the Second’s neck for extra insurance,” Ritsuko muttered, low enough that only Misato should have been able to hear her. “Must have been the only one he had on hand.”

The Major merely grunted, offering no response that could end up landing her in trouble. She had two more pressing issues on her mind, anyway.

“Has there...”

“There’s been no change whatsoever in the Third Child’s condition, I’m afraid,” Ritsuko replied, allowing just the smallest hint of sympathy to seep through her professionalism.

“...I see,” Misato sighed, thankful that she hadn’t gotten her hopes up. “And what was that you mentioned earlier? Something about Asuka’s results?”

“I’d rather not say anything on that yet, since we’re still not clear on whether it will actually happen a second time. Trying to recreate the same situation once more is basically the entire reason why the Second Child is even here today, actually,” the doctor elaborated, refocusing on her instruments with a shrug. “Because of that, it will probably be far easier to show you if and when the results are repeated, rather than try to explain the issue beforehand.”

“Right,” Misato acknowledged without much enthusiasm, crossing her arms as her eyes watched the two Pilots quickly make their way towards their Entry Plugs. “So, just sit tight and wait?”

“Basically. Oh, and...” Ritsuko trailed off for a second, Misato spotting a small, teasing smirk on her former friend when she turned to look. “...try not to lose your head while doing so, eh, Misato?”

“...Zip it, Ritz.”
Author of a few decent Eva stories, which can be found here.

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Postby sonichu » Sun Aug 26, 2018 3:46 pm

Both chapters were great. I really like where this story is going. Haven't read many like it.

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Postby Gryphon117 » Sun Aug 26, 2018 4:28 pm

View Original Postsonichu wrote:Both chapters were great. I really like where this story is going. Haven't read many like it.


Doesn't appear to be the general consensus by the sheer lack of faces around these parts, but what can you do. Always appreciate the support.

As for the story idea, I'll admit that it was heavily inspired from an Eva fic that lived and died something like a decade ago called 'Mind Games', a mostly comedy-centric story from what I remember of it. 'An Insider's Look' has sort of expanded into being far more than that by now, though. Which knowing my track record I'm certain plenty of folks don't like, but that's just how I work. :tongue:
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Postby sonichu » Sun Aug 26, 2018 4:49 pm

I thought it might be influenced by 'Mind Games'. It was a pretty good story and I'm glad to see one of my favorite authors is doing their own version of it. Maybe someday someone will do their own take on 'Deus Ex Evangelion'. Also you might get more feedback if you post this on FFN or SV. They seem a bit more active in my opinion.

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Postby Gryphon117 » Sun Aug 26, 2018 4:53 pm

View Original Postsonichu wrote:I thought it might be influenced by 'Mind Games'. It was a pretty good story and I'm glad to see one of my favorite authors is doing their own version of it. Maybe someday someone will do their own take on 'Deus Ex Evangelion'. Also you might get more feedback if you post this on FFN or SV. They seem a bit more active in my opinion.


It's already up on SV and doing decently well for a story with my name, but I don't want to put it up on FFN until it's either done or very close to done. There are many things that could go wrong between now and then, and I'd hate to post a second story that goes unfinished.
Author of a few decent Eva stories, which can be found here.

Currently working on a new project: An Insider's Look

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Postby sonichu » Sun Aug 26, 2018 5:28 pm

That's understandable. It's always sucks when you find a great story only to find out it wasn't finished. Also don't worry about not getting that many views. Your stories might not be the most well known, but they're easily some of the best. 'Legacy of the Forgotten' is in my top 5, and I've read a lot of Eva fics, so keep up the good work, friend! This story deserves to be finished.

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Postby Gryphon117 » Sun Aug 26, 2018 5:39 pm

View Original Postsonichu wrote:That's understandable. It's always sucks when you find a great story only to find out it wasn't finished. Also don't worry about not getting that many views. Your stories might not be the most well known, but they're easily some of the best. 'Legacy of the Forgotten' is in my top 5, and I've read a lot of Eva fics, so keep up the good work, friend! This story deserves to be finished.


Thanks, I'll indeed try my best to finish it. Quite a long way to go still. ^_^
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Postby Gryphon117 » Sun Sep 02, 2018 4:51 am

Preparations for the new schoolyear begin in earnest tomorrow, so I might be quite busy for a couple of days on top of the usual writing time loss that work brings with it. I've got another scene in the chamber already (or half of one, since it's a pretty large one I'll probably split), but just be aware that I might have to skip an update at some point in the future depending on the workload I end up receiving.

In any case, enjoy! ^_^

Chapter 9-3  SPOILER: Show
“You know, about that necklace thingy the Major was wearing...”

The Second Child pointed her eyes at the back of her teammate’s head, trying her best to ignore the giggles that followed their passing among the maintenance crew of the EVAs. By this point, Asuka had long since given up on trying to untangle her hand from Mari’s, instead settling for allowing the whole shameful display to be done as quickly as humanly possible.

“What about it?”

“It kinda reminds me of that one movie, ‘Battle Royale’?” Mari continued. “It looks just like one of those collars that had a bomb in them. The ones that would go off if someone broke the rules?”

Asuka narrowed her eyes at the Fifth Child. She had never heard about any movies with such a title, but it wasn’t hard to picture what Mari was talking about.

What was hard to picture was anyone putting such a thing on another person for any reason.

“And why would Commander Asshole put something like that on Misato? Because she went against orders?” Asuka replied, rolling her eyes at the absurdity of the idea. “Isn’t that going just a bit overboard? It would probably break a ton of international humanitarian agreements, too. Isn’t it far more reasonable for it to be just some monitoring device?”

“I don’t know, I’m just saying what it reminded me of,” Mari shrugged, turning around just enough to give the other girl a nonchalant smile. “But hey, I guess if her head goes ‘splat’ at some point, now we know why.”

The Fifth Child then stopped at the part where the gangway split, each segment leading towards the waiting Entry Plug of a resting Evangelion. Mari, however, did not stop because it was time to part ways with the Second Child for the time being, but rather because her companion had quite forcefully extricated her hand from Mari’s grip at the same time that the twin-tailed girl had finished speaking.

When she turned around, Asuka was frowning at her. And while that was nothing completely extraordinary, granted, the redhead seemed to radiate a bit more anger than usual.

“...Don’t say that.”

“Hmm?” Mari blinked for a fleeting moment, but was quick to catch on to what the redhead meant. The Fifth Child waved her hand dismissingly. “Oh, don’t take it so seriously. It was just a bad joke.”

“Well, don’t joke with shit like that!” Asuka roared back, prompting the other girl to take a step back. The redhead’s voice brought all eyes to them again, but for very different reasons this time.

“Oookay, fair enough. Sorry,” Mari admitted, putting her hands up in surrender. She then smiled and offered her hand up for a fist bump. “Hey, let’s forget about it and knock this one out of the park, alright?”

The Second Child stared at the extended appendage for a second and then back at Mari’s amiable expression, seeming to consider what to do for a moment or two. Ultimately, Asuka scowled and turned around without a word, stomping her way towards Unit-02’s Entry Plug while Mari’s eyes followed her all the way until the Second Child slipped into the long cylinder.

“...That was pretty bad, and kinda stupid now that I think about it. Damn Katsuragi making me mess up...” the twin-tailed girl muttered with a sigh, scratching at the back of her head. “Oh well, she’ll get over it. Might make it up to her later, somehow.”

Mari’s eyes then turned towards the horned visage of Unit-01, a feral grin spreading across her face.

“...But now I have more important things to focus on.”


>-O]|[O-<​


“Stupid four-eyes and her stupid jokes,” Asuka grumbled, fingers flying all over the cockpit as she managed to combine her complaints and her side of the EVA start-up procedure with startling efficiency. And a fair share more force than absolutely necessary. “Always the same damn deal with her, I tell you.”

“Umm, Asuka?” Shinji suggested, warily looking at how the colours on the walls of the otherwise featureless room he currently resided in steadily began to take on a bright, orangish hue. “Shouldn’t you calm down a little?”

‘I am calm, Third!’

‘I really don’t think the buttons on the butterfly controls share that opinion,’ Shinji snarked to himself. ‘Neither do the poor technicians you nearly ran over, I’d bet.’

‘What was that?!’

And then he jumped in his own skin when Asuka’s roar was suddenly directed his way. Scrambling for a quick answer, preferably a placating one, the young man kicked himself for forgetting that the thought reading between himself and his host went both ways.

“L-Look, Asuka, I agree that it was in bad taste, but I don’t think Makinami-san meant it as more than a bad joke, like she said. I mean, she didn’t even know Misato, right?”

‘But that’s just the thing! I can never tell when she’s being serious and when she isn’t!’ Asuka shot back. ‘Argh! It drives me nuts!’

“...Now where have I heard that before?” Shinji muttered before he could stop himself, deadpanning at the sheer hypocrisy on display. How many hours had he spent asking himself just that very question in regards to the actions of a certain redhead who shouldn’t be named, after all?

And just as quickly, the young man felt Asuka’s attention shift towards him, none too pleased about his implications. But his salvation came in the form of Lieutenant Ibuki’s voice coming from the other side, going over the usual steps of the Evangelion’s start-up procedure. A few of the lines were directed at Asuka herself, the need to reply finally succeeding in breaking the redhead away from the topic of the Fifth Child and Shinji ill-received comparison.

‘Bah, whatever. I should just focus on the test...’ Asuka sighed, not sounding at all thrilled about her obligations for the near future. But it was then that Shinji heard a sudden gasp, as if the Second Child had just realised something. ‘That’s right! I’ve got a little something to show you, Third!’

“Really? What’s that?”

‘You’ll have to wait until the results are in,’ the redhead continued, an image of a toothy grin coming to Shinji’s mind. ‘But it’s going to absolutely floor you!’

The young man had to fight hard not to roll his eyes at Asuka’s words, the sheer pride and haughtiness in her voice being as hard to miss as an elephant in a small room. He had to admit that it was nice to hear Ace’s signature traits shining through the ‘real’ Second Child, though, and while Shinji had a very clear idea about what it was that Asuka wanted to show him, he made a point of keeping his thoughts as far away from the topic of synch-scores as he possible could. After all, it wouldn’t do to ruin Asuka’s ‘surprise’ and get her all grumbly and moody again.

A few moments of comfortable silence passed between the two of them, Asuka busy while she coordinated with lieutenant Ibuki on the final few steps of the activation process and Shinji content to quietly watch the whole thing unfold. But it was when the first few neural links finally began to be formed that the Third Child saw a sudden flash go off in the corner of his vision. Curious, he turned just in time to watch a familiar door materialize at hand’s reach.

“Oh,” the Third Child blinked, quickly recognizing the red and orange gateway. “So it appears here, too.”

‘Appear? What does?’

“The... thing that helped me talk to you during the last synch-test,” Shinji explained in very vague terms, but with no real idea of how to better put it. “Guess it’s telling me that I should go in?”

“How should I know?” Asuka grumbled offhandedly. “Now be quiet, Third, I need to focus.”

His host going silent for a second time, Shinji shrugged, reaching out for the door and opening it. He stepped through a second later to find that everything on the other side was exactly as it had been the last time.

Walking over to stand next to Asuka’s seat, Shinji spoke chidingly at the women on the other side of the room.

“You two still have no intention of talking to her, right?”

Silence was the only answer he received, the young man turning around to face Asuka with a sigh. And it was then that a realisation hit him: Asuka had not reacted at all to his question. Granted, it had not been directed at her, but considering the interest she had shown when he had blurted out Ace’s and everyone else’s involvement earlier that day...

...

Incidentally, Shinji was still hoping he wouldn’t need to explain himself on that front. Telling Asuka that he had been interacting with the manifestations of various aspects of her personality would make for one very awkward conversation.

Shaking his head and focusing back on the task at hand, Shinji decided to test his latest finding further, thinking hard about his previous discussion with Asuka and keeping a watchful eye for any reactions. Which, as it turned out, were very lacking.

‘...Weird, she can’t hear me talk or think now? Why the difference?’

A few moments and theories later, the Third Child quickly decided that there were some things he was probably better off not trying to figure out. Unless he was physically touching her representation in the weird European style hall, like Ace had so gracefully pushed for the day prior, Asuka couldn’t hear him talk or think and that was fact. Shinji would gratefully embrace the convenience of it if doing so would mean less confusing explanations in his near future.

“...Fine,” the young man plopped down on the floor next to Asuka and closed his own eyes, concentrating on his task. “Let’s get this synch-test going.”


>-O]|[O-<​


“Senpai, the strange readings for Unit-02 are back.”

“As expected,” Ritsuko muttered, walking over to take a look for herself at the data Maya was poring over. “Guess it was too much to ask for a one time occurrence.

“At least we’ve got the chance to take it nice and slow this time,” the Doctor put a hand on her aide’s shoulder, the young woman stiffening a bit at the contact. “Keep it monitored, Maya. And check the readings with the history of blue and orange patterns in the database for similarities, while you’re at it.”

“Y-Yes, Senpai.”

“Wow, that’s...” the blonde doctor heard Misato mouth, a quick check revealing that she barely trusted her eyes. “...That’s a very big spike on her scores.”

“Even bigger than the last one, in fact, she’s at eighty-nine percent today. That’s a whole two points higher than yesterday’s test, and a new record synch-score among all the Children. Barring the Third’s four-hundred percent ratio against the Fourteenth, of course,” Ritsuko sighed, grabbing the bridge of her nose. “...And it still doesn’t make any damn sense.”

Misato raised an eyebrow at her former friend’s stumped expression before narrowing her eyes at the data Maya was flying through. It didn’t take her long at all to figure out what Ritsuko was trying to investigate.

“...Are you thinking it could be contamination from the last Angel?”

“It’s too early to tell, and I fail to understand how such a thing could bring about this kind of drastic change in the Second’s abilities as a Pilot, but that’s a possibility we’re keeping open.”

“Is there... something weird with Asuka’s telemetry? Something that wasn’t there before?”

“Do you really believe we haven’t checked that, Katsuragi? The readings are completely normal, as far as we can tell. Which is to say, in very deep detail,” Ritsuko shook her head with a sigh. “There’s nothing there. All signs seem to point that, in a matter of days, the Second Child went from barely staying over the EVA activation threshold to holding the highest synch-rate within the Pilot corps, for no apparent reason whatsoever. I shouldn’t need to tell you how ridiculously low the chances of something like that happening are, especially for someone with her... mental attitude.”

“But you’re saying it’s not impossible. Maybe you’re overthinking this.”

“It wouldn’t be the first time the odds have slapped me in the face, I’ll admit. But I find it hard to believe that this situation will follow that trend.”

‘Is that so? And why are you so sure of that, Ritz? Because it’s not Shinji?’ Misato speculated with a raised eyebrow, her eyes slowly travelling to the purple giant on display, next to its crimson counterpart. ‘...Or because it’s not Unit-01?’

Not that trying to get any extra information out of the Head of Project-E was going to net her any results, Misato was willing to bet. With a sigh, she decided to leave Ritsuko to her own devices and check on the data that Unit-02 was transmitting as a way to pass the time, on the very, very unlikely possibility that she managed to come upon something everyone else had overlooked.

...

A possibility that was further complicated by the fact that Misato couldn’t make heads or tails of most of the info the instruments were transmitting.

“What’s that, Maya?” the Major questioned, indicating two cascades of green lines on one of the monitors that had caught her eye. They looked like sonar readings of sorts, and half of the screen was labelled as ‘Second Child’, while the other belonged to the Fifth.

“That’s a reading of the Pilots mental activity, Katsuragi-san.”

Misato took a closer look at the readings. The lines on Asuka’s feed appeared to travel from north to south in a fairly stable manner but with some small fluctuations and criss-crossing, while the new Pilot’s were all over the place.

‘Probably because Asuka is focused on the synch test and the test for Unit-01 hasn’t started yet,’ the woman figured, before pointing at some more transparent lines and splotches in the readings. “And what are those?”

“That’s background noise.”

“Do you mind elaborating?”

“Of course not! Putting it into words is a bit difficult, though...” Maya paused her investigations for a second, thinking of how to best explain herself. “In layman’s terms, it could be said that a human’s brain is not designed to remain in complete stillness. While we practice something like meditation or... a synch test in the case of the Children, where we focus, relax and try not to think of anything else, stray thoughts always interfere for most people. The small deviations from the main focus of the brain are what’s indicated by those transparent readings.”

“I see,” Misato nodded, inwardly snickering at how Maya could have made a nice career as a teacher. “And that amount of ‘noise’ is normal for Asuka?”

“It’s a greater amount than usual but... well, among the Children, Asuka’s always been the one to generate more noise. These values fall roughly in line with the ones from the synch tests following the Fourteenth, so I’m inclined to think that they’re due to her having a lot of stuff on her...” The petite Lieutenant trailed off, her eyes falling on the appendage Misato had used to indicate her questions. “K-Katsuragi-san! Your hand’s all red!”

“Hmm?” the Major blinked, bringing the hand up for a close inspection. It stung a little, she suddenly realised. “Oh, it’s nothing much.”

“N-Nothing much?! That looks painful!” Maya protested, and Misato found herself unable to suppress a smile at how the young woman was making a mountain out of a molehill. “How did you hurt yourself like that?!”

“Just... got caught on something earlier,” Misato waved away Maya’s concern. “But it’s not a big deal, really. Can you give me a line with Asuka, please?”

The bridge bunny then looked at her superior with concern for a few more moments, more than suspecting a fair share of foul play being afoot, but ultimately decided to humour her with a sigh. Her worried look quickly morphed into a troubled one when the young woman felt her senpai take a spot on her other side, however.

“...I trust you don’t intend to tell her anything she doesn’t need to know?” Ritsuko asked with an undertone of warning.

“Your concern is touching,” Misato scoffed. “But you can rest easy, Akagi. Your hypotheses will remain a secret until you confirm them. If you confirm them,” the Major’s concerned eyes then travelled to the live feed from the inside of Unit-02, with the Second Child fully focused on her task. “Asuka already has enough things on her mind without worrying about whether that bastard Angel did something even worse to her.

“Congratulations, Asuka,” Misato complimented her. “You’re number one!”

And a step next to the Major, Ritsuko watched as the look that had lamented the fate of her teammate and her own part in it not two days ago vanished without a trace with just five straightforward words, the Second’s expression becoming a perfect picture of what contented ego-stroking looked like. Despite her knowledge of the Second being such a simple child, Ritsuko couldn’t help but be a bit amazed at what she was witnessing.

The change in Sohryu’s attitude hadn’t been lost on Misato, either.

Still, putting the sheer coldness of the gesture aside, it was better and far more useful to their efforts than the Second wallowing in self-pity, the Doctor figured.

“Fifth Child, it is time to begin with your own test,” she then spoke into a second channel, ignoring Misato’s frown. “Are you prepared?”

“I was born ready, Doc.” Mari replied, sounding exceedingly fervent about the prospect of a synch-test, much more than any of her fellow Pilots had ever been in the past.

‘Let’s see if all that bravado will actually avail you something...’

“Fill the plug,” Ritsuko ordered. “Begin Unit-01’s activation checklist.”
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Postby Gryphon117 » Sun Sep 09, 2018 6:36 am

Update time! With a split up scene, as previously mentioned. The remaining bit and the end of the chapter will come next week, since I'm starting to believe that Chapter 9 will get too massive for its own good unless I split it up, as well.

In any case, enjoy! ^_^

Chapter 9-4  SPOILER: Show
“Mmm... the smell of LCL...” the Fifth Child mouthed with a small smile, the golden-coloured liquid climbing along her legs as it was poured into the plug. “Brings back so many memories...”

The LCL reaching up to her nose, Mari willed herself to breathe the amber liquid and allowed it to fill her lungs despite the protests of every single one of her instincts, finding very quickly that it indeed worked exactly as Akagi had advertised it. It was a strange feeling, not needing to breathe, and the sensation of the foreign substance tickling the inside of her lungs was fairly distracting to her neophyte mind.

She did her best to keep her mind from thinking too much about what she was breathing, lest it distract her, too.

“Connecting main power...”

“First neural connections established...”

“All circuits transmitting...”

“Good, continue the activation sequence for Unit-01,” Ritsuko’s voice broke through the reports of her subordinates. “We don’t have an Angel on our doorstep to worry about like during the Third Child’s first activation, so let’s keep this nice and slow.”

Mari raised an eyebrow at the woman’s words. Clearly, the doctor had been absolutely serious about the Unit-02 alternative plan being a pain to implement if she was going the extra mile for her.

She should try her best not to disappoint.

“How are you holding up, rookie?” Asuka’s face suddenly appeared in Mari’s field of vision, looking very satisfied with herself. A result of the Major’s recent words, no doubt.

“I’m doing fine,” the Fifth Child replied. “Congratulations on your top spot, by the way.”

“Oh, it’s nothing.” The Second Child’s tone could have been taken as a downplay of her efforts if not for the grin that threatened to split her face in half. “Things just going back to the way they should be, that’s all.”

‘Damn,’ Mari thought to herself, barely managing to keep her laughter in check. ‘Throw a little more smug in there and you’ll burst, girl. Why are you telling me all that, anyway?’

“I’m sure that’s right,” the Fifth Child continued in stride. “Got any pointers for me, Senpai?”

And she promptly felt a pointed stare spear her through the comm channel.

“...I thought I told you not to call me that.”

“Why not? It’s cute!”

“Just don’t, alright?” Asuka retorted, foregoing her usual rants for a tired sigh. “And there’s not a big secret to synching or anything, at least not to doing it at a base level anyway. Just clear your mind and concentrate as hard as you can on controlling the EVA.”

“Okay, guess I’ll try that,” Mari nodded in agreement, before an impish smile appeared on her face. “And I’ll come up with something even cuter than ‘Senpai’ as a show of thanks, deal?”

“Cut the chatter, Children. This is an important test,” Ritsuko ill-humoredly cut into their conversation before Asuka could protest. The doctor then very meaningfully narrowed her eyes in Mari’s direction, and the young woman felt a second stab fly through the waves. “Especially you, Fifth Child. Concentrate on the test and on achieving a successful activation.”

This time, it was Mari’s turn to sigh.

“...Yeah, yeah, Doc.”

‘Nothing wrong with living a little, you know?’

Watching as Asuka’s face blinked out of her HUD, Mari heard the technicians mention something about small and steady steps towards an ‘Absolute Borderline’, right as she felt her arms and legs begin to tingle and the ghost of a strange and almost imperceptible presence settle at the back of her mind, one that she would most likely have pegged as a fabrication of her own imagination had she not already been aware of the secrets behind the EVAs.

A few, small bubbles of LCL escaped her mouth as Mari made herself comfortable and closed her eyes like Asuka had instructed her, the Fifth Child focusing the entirety of her attention on the person she knew to be with her.

‘Good morning, Mrs. Ikari,’ the girl greeted cordially. ‘How’s the day treating you?’

Shock and confusion in equal measures, those were the two feelings that the presence’s curiosity suddenly morphed into.

‘Mrs. Ikari? Please don’t be startled,’ she continued reassuringly. ‘I just want to have a chat.’

The presence then went eerily silent for a prolonged stretch of time, to the point where Mari would have considered it having abandoned the EVA had Akagi not insisted on the impossibility of such an event during their previous talks. Still, the girl continued to wait patiently, exuding goodwill and her usual extroversion until...

“...Who are you?”

...a voice spoke to her. Almost as if it was speaking from within her, in fact.

‘My name’s Mari Makinami, ma’am, and I wanted to-‘

“No, it’s not.”

Mari blinked in confusion. She had not foreseen a correction at that point in the conversation.

‘...Excuse me?’

“‘Mari’,” the phantom elaborated. “That’s not your name.”

The Fifth Child frowned, trying to figure out how to deal with such a strange development. Clearly, the spirit within the EVA was getting some sort of first-hand look at her memories, or something? Akagi had certainly not mentioned anything of the sort being possible, but she supposed that it wasn’t a stretch for the doctor’s expertise to not be completely infallible.

‘...Huh. Well, that’s... unexpected,’ Mari recovered, quickly trying to wrestle back control over the conversation. ‘What else can you-?’

“This ‘Saya’, on the other hand...” but Ikari continued, ignoring the girl. “Now that is a pretty name.”

And it was then that the young woman suddenly gripped the control yokes of the Evangelion tighter, making the hardened plastic strain and squeak under the pressure. Gritting her teeth, Mari threw all pretence of cordiality out of the window.

‘Get out of my head, Mrs. Ikari.’

“...Very well. But let me ask again,” the presence replied, staying a hair’s breadth away from open hostility as well. “Who are you, and where is my son?”

‘I suppose the second question is more pressing for you, so I’ll start with that,’ the Fifth Child took a heavy breath to calm herself down and refocus. ‘I gather you’re perfectly aware of the direction the last battle took?’

“I recall Shinji’s feelings being in turmoil for a long time the last time he entered Unit-01. Something was happening that he could do nothing about and he hated it. Then we engaged the enemy, and... I remember little else. I believe he screamed a name, ‘Asuka’, at some point. A redheaded fellow Pilot, from what I gather?”

‘That would be right, the Second Child got into some real trouble in that fight,’ the twin-tailed girl confirmed, before a small smile appeared on her lips. ‘And what you just said pretty much confirms that there’s some unresolved tension of the teenage kind between those two.’

“...I see,” Yui answered after a brief silence, an evident backdrop of disappointment in her voice. “She has a pretty smile, if nothing else.”

‘Not popular with the in-laws, huh?’

“I have seen little to like from the bits I could gather.”

‘Not defending her, but she had her reasons for turning out the way she did, I guess. Plus, Asuka was an absolutely pitiful sight the first time I saw her standing by your boy’s bed, so I’d say that if she isn’t carrying a massive torch, she’s at the very least feeling very responsible about what happened. Maybe she never got past the kindergarten stage of courting?’ Mari added with a small mental shrug. ‘In any case, I thought that you would be a lot more aware of what was going on around you, Mrs. Ikari. Especially considering how you invaded my privacy?’

“I’m only aware of the most prominent images in Shinji’s mind. To try and see more would be... unwise,” the Fifth Child then felt the atmosphere in the EVA become far more oppressive. “But I want you to stop beating around the bush. Where. Is. Shinji?

‘Way to spoil the mood, Mrs. Ikari. And we were having such a nice conversation, too...’ Mari sighed dramatically, before her voice turned factual. ‘Your son’s in the cranial ward, room 303. He’s in a coma. The last Angel did something to him after he rushed to shield Asuka and he’s been like that since. I’m his backup.’

The plug went silent once more, the indignant feeling Mari had been receiving slowly turning into one of utter heartbreak as realisation dawned on the phantom inside Unit-01. And the Fifth Child, for her part, couldn’t help but feel somewhat sorry alongside her.

Regardless of the accuracy of the reports and second-hand comments that she had received on Yui Ikari, and of the negative light in which she was painted in most of them, it was painfully obvious that the woman cared about her son.

‘...For what they’re worth, you have my condolences, Mrs. Ikari.’

“And they even sound sincere,” the presence scoffed, struggling to push past her feelings. “...Thank you for telling me. Now, who are you?”

‘I told you already, I’m the Fifth Child. Shinji Ikari’s backup.’

“No simple ‘replacement’ would know to find and contact me.”

‘I guess not, huh?’ Mari conceded. ‘Okay then, I’ll come clean as a show of good faith: I work for a... certain organisation. One that’s currently at odds with those old farts at SEELE because we don’t believe in their plans for mankind.’

The line to Unit-01 went quiet for a third time and the Fifth Child felt the presence brush up against her consciousness. It was a feeling that would have been very hard to put into words, and one that was somewhat uncomfortable, but the young woman managed to stay relaxed through its entirety, nevertheless. It was probably just Ikari taking a second look into her brain, anyway.

The fact that she could grow dismissive of something as bizarre as someone reading her mind so quickly wasn’t lost on the mischievous part of Mari’s mind.

“That’s... I don’t believe I’ve ever heard of your people,” Ikari eventually spoke up with a hint of interest. “But you’re fools if you believe that you can fight SEELE.”

‘And you’re a bigger fool if you believe that rolling on your back and accepting their one path for humanity was the right thing to do.’

“I never rolled on my back, but my personal situation was not tenable without a modicum of cooperation,” Ikari shot back, somewhat indignant. “Nevertheless, I made sure to lay the groundwork for a resistance effort against the worst of SEELE’s ambitions.”

‘...Right, about that,’ Mari couldn’t help a sarcastic chuckle. ‘You might want to know that your husband’s priorities have probably shifted from whatever it was that you expected him to do. He’s more interested in getting you back out of this giant robot than in whatever fate may befall humanity in the process.’

A pang of surprise, followed by a twinge of disappointment. Mari could make out a joyous backdrop to the wave of emotion, as well.

“Oh, Gendo...

“Admittedly, that was one of the parts of the plan I feared could go wrong. I suppose I underestimated his... reliance on me. I truly believed Gendo had gained enough confidence in himself to move on without me, however.” Ikari let out a deep sigh, her mood turning sombre. “Troubling, especially considering that I have no intention of ever leaving Unit-01.”

‘Wait,’ Mari blinked in surprise. ‘You... want to stay here?’

“That is exactly what I said. Is there a problem with that?”

‘Not really, I guess...? But...’ the young woman had to fight the urge to scratch her head at Ikari’s strange statement. ‘I mean, don’t get me wrong. Being a giant robot sounds freaking awesome, but don’t you... you know, miss your family and stuff?’

“Of course I do. There’s not a single moment I don’t wish I could hold Shinji and Gendo in my arms again,” the phantom elaborated. “But what I aim to do is greater and far more important than my selfish wishes.”

‘And that is...?’

“To be a lasting testament to the existence of mankind until the heat-death of the universe,” Ikari elaborated. “Humans can only live on this planet, but the Evangelion can live forever, together with the human soul that dwells within it. Even after 5 billion years, when the Earth, the Moon and even the Sun have disappeared, it will still exist as long as even one person still lives. It will be very lonely, but as long as I remain...”

Ikari trailed off meaningfully and somewhat dramatically, unknowingly offering an answer to some of the question marks that remained within her incomplete psych profile. This time, however, Mari could not help herself from opening her eyes and raising a disbelieving eyebrow.

‘...So you want to become a giant space-faring ‘Humanity was here’ marker.’

“...That’s an incredibly shallow way of putting it.”

‘...I think it’s pretty darn accurate, but who am I to judge? We all have our dreams. Do you really need to assist in fucking up humanity in order to become one, though?’ the Fifth Child argued, ignoring the disgruntled impression behind Ikari’s response. ‘I mean, we could just strap some rockets on Unit-01 and send you on your way once everything’s done and dusted, you know?’

“Nonsense. There is no rocket that would be able to launch something as massive as an Evangelion.”

‘Yet. Nobody would have bet on mankind putting a man on the moon a hundred years ago, either. Didn’t stop us from doing it,’ Mari promptly replied, applying some seldom used sobriety to her argument. ‘Don’t underestimate human ingenuity, Mrs. Ikari. If I say that we can send you into space within ten years to become another, giant Voyager, you better believe it.’
Author of a few decent Eva stories, which can be found here.

Currently working on a new project: An Insider's Look

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Re: An Insider's Look

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Postby sonichu » Sun Sep 09, 2018 1:55 pm

So it seems this organization knows quiet a bit about the nature of the Evas. I'm looking forward to learning more about them. I also wasn't expecting Yui to be conscious enough to actually carry on a conversation with someone. Anyway, great job with the chapter. Each one has definitely been worth the wait.

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Re: An Insider's Look

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Postby Gryphon117 » Sun Sep 09, 2018 2:31 pm

View Original Postsonichu wrote:So it seems this organization knows quiet a bit about the nature of the Evas. I'm looking forward to learning more about them. I also wasn't expecting Yui to be conscious enough to actually carry on a conversation with someone. Anyway, great job with the chapter. Each one has definitely been worth the wait.


And next is the meat of the conversation, in which some fun stuff is going to happen. Look forward to it. ^_^

Thanks for the support, as always.
Author of a few decent Eva stories, which can be found here.

Currently working on a new project: An Insider's Look

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Postby Gryphon117 » Sun Sep 16, 2018 5:34 am

Today we continue where we left off, with the finishing touches to Chapter 9. Let me know what you guys think. ^_^

Chapter 9-5  SPOILER: Show
‘Yet. Nobody would have bet on mankind putting a man on the moon a hundred years ago, either. Didn’t stop us from doing it,’ Mari promptly replied, applying some seldom used sobriety to her argument. ‘Don’t underestimate human ingenuity, Mrs. Ikari. If I say that we can send you into space within ten years to become another, giant Voyager, you better believe it.’

“Fair enough,” Ikari admitted, her voice making it perfectly clear that she still had some qualms to herself. “Although that still doesn’t address the issue of humanity’s evolutionary rut. Something that SEELE’s plan, for all of its shortcomings, does.”

‘You call throwing all of humanity into a mixer and hoping for the best ‘evolution’?’ Mari deadpanned, not bothering to hide just how ridiculous she found the idea.

“I call it what it is: an open door. A door that has a small, yet remarkable chance of becoming the vital step that the returning humanity would need to move forward in a constructive way,” Yui argued back. “And even if they should decide against returning to a physical existence, there’s a beauty of its own to the Gestalt consciousness, at least once SEELE’s hold over the collective of humanity inevitably broke. Given enough time, humans would no doubt use the freedom obtained from shedding our physical form and evolve further along our newfound path, eventually becoming one with the Universe itself, or something equally as wondrous.”

Ikari’s words steadily rose in volume and intensity as the woman continued with her explanation, quickly giving Mari another insightful look at the sorts of people that were attracted to a Doctorate in something like Metaphysical Biology. Obviously, the pretentiousness came with the territory.

“Imagine, if you would, exploring the cosmos and all of its secrets as a transcendent being of pure energy, and seeding human life in different worlds, only for they themselves to follow suit and join the cycle of their ancestors many millennia later. Wouldn’t something like that be a lofty goal for any living being to aspire to?”

‘No thanks, I’ll stick to exploring the cosmos with my own two hands,’ the Fifth Child quickly rejected the idea, pulling the phantom Doctor back to reality. ‘And who’s to say that something like Instrumentality should be the only door forward, anyway? Rather than bank on world-wide lessons that will be forgotten in a generation or two, or a romantic take on evolution that we cannot even begin to predict at this point, I’d rather bet on furthering the human body in different ways. There are plenty of potential unexplored avenues at the reach of our fingers, already.’

“Potential avenues that won’t arrive before the last breath of our dying planet.” Ikari scoffed.

‘Then we will return to the stars, and we won’t use silly ethereal forms to do it,’ Mari argued back. ‘Where there is a will, there is a way.’

“You would still require for the rest of the planet to follow said will, and I don’t believe I need to go into why such a thing would be severely unlikely to happen. I’ll admit that the possibility, improbable as it may be, is intriguing, however,” Ikari half-conceded. “But again, I fail to see why your employers would be so confident that they can succeed where the UN, and many others before it, have failed…

“…If they actually have designs beyond their own self-preservation, that is.”

‘I’m afraid that I can’t tell how far the planning goes, Mrs. Ikari. But if there’s one thing I know for certain, it is that my employers do have the best interests of humanity in mind.’

“So do SEELE, my dear, or at least so would they claim,” the phantom shot back, as if it were schooling her. “And it would be a true exercise in naïveté to believe that the same could not easily be said about your own benefactors.”

‘…Duly noted, Mrs. Ikari,’ the Fifth Child allowed, voice neutral. ‘Now then, I believe it’s time for us to-’

“The activation process has stalled for a few minutes now, Fifth Child,” Doctor Akagi suddenly reported from the observation area, sounding somewhat tense. “Should we cancel the test?”

“Nah. It’s alright, Doc, I got this,” and Mari promptly reassured her, quickly shifting gears. “Just give me a bit more time.”

The Fifth Child heard Asuka deliver a sarcastic remark over the channel to Unit-02 but barely paid any attention to it in favour of resuming her debate with the Ikari matriarch. Yet another move that could come back to bite her in the ass considering the sheer volatility of the Second Child, but one that the rookie Pilot was willing to risk considering that the redhead was already somewhat miffed with her in the first place.

‘Trust Doctor Akagi to always be as impatient as she is on point, I guess.’ Mari thought to herself with a sigh.

“Akagi?” Ikari echoed, sounding surprised. “So she still works for GEHIRN, even after all these years?”

‘…GEHIRN? Wow, you’re really out of the loop, aren’t you?’ the Fifth Child shot back, amused. ‘First of all, it’s NERV now, not GEHIRN. And the serious woman on the line wasn’t Naoko Akagi, but her daughter, Ritsuko. Naoko Akagi passed away a few years back.’

“Is… that so…?” Ikari’s words took on a sullen note, the atmosphere within the plug darkening just as much. “…A shame. I may not have personally liked the woman much, but it’s undeniable that she is… was brilliant. Losing a mind like hers is a blow to all of humanity.”

‘Yeah, I guess she was pretty great from what I’ve heard. And her kid’s not bad at all, either. Just a bit on the uptight side, is all.

‘But anyway, I believe it is time for our discussion to end, Mrs. Ikari. Ritsuko won’t give us much more time, at least, that’s for sure,’ the Fifth Child gravely posed to the phantom inside Unit-01, making it perfectly clear that the time for small talk was truly over and done with, as far as she was concerned. ‘And so again it is that I ask for your cooperation in toppling SEELE’s schemes. I believe I have pushed my case very well, of course, but it’s up to you to make the final call.

‘What do you say, Doctor? Will you assist us in giving humanity a second chance?’

And Ikari’s reply was as definite as it was immediate.

“No, I won’t. I have no reason to, at this point.”

Hearing the words, the Fifth Child reclined into her seat and allowed a few more bubbles of LCL to escape her mouth. The closest thing to a disappointed sigh that she could muster, considering the conditions.

‘...I see. Is that your final answer, Mrs. Ikari?’

“Indeed it is.”

‘…Then…’



‘…Then I’m afraid that you’re forcing my hand.’

The words that came out of the Fifth Child’s mouth were more akin to a growl than a phrase, their sheer ferocity and aura of menace managing to completely catch Yui Ikari off-guard. Once again, Mari felt a few, quick strikes probe at the back of her mind in response, and the young woman allowed them, invited them, even, by focusing her thoughts on recalling the room she had first met Asuka in...

...and it was then that a feeling of anxiousness suddenly invaded the plug, much to the Fifth Child’s satisfaction. It would appear that Doctorates in Metaphysical Biology were also quick on the uptake.

“What… What do you… mean...?”

‘Shinji Ikari currently slumbers in cranial ward room 303, and while he receives frequent visits from many sources, he spends hours upon hours in the sole care of his nurses. This is one such time, incidentally,’ Mari coolly elaborated, allowing her words to further sink in with some well-practised flourishes. ‘Now, everyone knows how stressful some of those hospital shifts can be and how some... unfortunate accidents have come to pass in the past...’

“YOU WOULDN’T DARE!”

‘I would. I wouldn’t be proud of it, mind you, but the mission comes first. And since you’ve peeked into my head you probably have seen enough to know I’m not bluffing,’ the Fifth Child continued, even-tempered even in the face of a giant’s wrath. ‘After all, what’s a single life in the grand scope of saving what’s left of humanity?’

An ominous rumbling from the outside and a million frenzied reports reached Mari’s ears, just as she noticed a very slight lighting make its way through her closed eyelids. A million alarm notices going off at once in her HUD, she guessed.

‘And don’t even think about locking me in here, or trying to do any of the funny stuff that Unit-01 is known for, by the way,’ the Fifth Child stated, completely ignoring the warnings. ‘Should you cause my... permanent leave from this mission, your son’s life will be forfeit within the minute. Arrangements are already in place for that.’

Just as quickly as it had started the clamour came to an end, both outside and within, baffling many a technician within the observation deck and throwing the whole place into a flurry of activity. Reports and orders flew from one end to the other, and while some of those were probably aimed at her, Mari figured, the twin-tailed girl paid them no heed.

The beast was contained. And while its leash was little more than a thin piece of string at the moment, it was also more than enough.

“…What do you want?” the phantom growled, making it perfectly clear that it would love nothing more than to do to Mari what she had done to the Fourteenth.

‘You know what I want, Doctor. And now you’re also fully aware of the extents that I’m willing to go to in order to get it, even if I certainly didn’t want to resort to such threats. Nevertheless, the ball, as they say, is in your court, Mrs. Ikari,’ the Fifth Child casually replied. ‘Now, what will it be?’

The answer, if wary, did not take at all long, much to Mari’s satisfaction.

“What... What guarantee do I have that you will keep your word?”

‘The knowledge that your cute little boy passing away would leave many broken hearts in its wake, and be a lot more trouble than it’s worth to fix. Also, that I’m not a completely amoral monster,’ the twin-tailed girl relaxed within the Entry Plug, clearing her mind and focusing her thoughts away from the pit of nastiness that had been her latest necessary evil. ‘The moment I have your cooperation, I’ll have no reason to betray your trust, Mrs. Ikari.’

Mari tried her best to appear earnest and project an image of goodwill, one that, in truth, wasn’t even a mere fabrication. For if there had been a compromise that the Fifth Child was and had been more than willing to reach, it was the progression towards a scenario in which everyone came out a winner.

Hopefully Yui Ikari would see past her sadly necessary attempts at blackmail and come around to seeing it that way, too. But, then again, one could never tell whenever they were dealing with omnicidal maniacs.

“...I swear,” the doctor eventually snarled. “If anything happens to Shinji, I’ll-”

‘You’ll murder me, bring me back, slaughter me again and generally make the last moments of my pathetic existence the kind of torture that the people who wrote the old Greek myths would blanch at, right? Then go on a roaring rampage of revenge against everyone involved, and a fair few uninvolved, as well?’ Mari finished for her. ‘You don’t have to worry. I’m the first person that stands to lose from backing off of our agreement, in more ways than one.’

“I’m not merely referring to this moment,” Ikari continued, not at all amused by the Fifth Child’s attempt at humour. “Should I agree, I want you to promise me that Shinji will not suffer anymore than he already has.”

‘Of course. We are already in a similar agreement with Ritsuko Akagi, so it’s not a problem for us to extend our network and cover for your son, as well. Shinji Ikari will be protected to the very best of our ability, now and until the ceasing of hostilities between all involved factions. You have my word.’

And right on time with her promise, Mari felt the doctor begin to probe her mind once again, and she allowed her to do so to her heart’s content. She had nothing to hide, after all.

...

A conclusion that Yui Ikari clearly reached as well, before long, if the yielding tone of her final words were anything to go by.

“...Very well.”

“A-Absolute Borderline breached!” Akagi’s mousy assistant then suddenly yelled over the comm. line, incredulous. “Unit-01 is active! Synchronisation’s at… thirty-three point seven percent!”

And right as she did, Mari felt a surge of energy go through her entire body for a split second, before it settled on a faint, phantom feeling of raw power that she could feel crawling through her whole self, completely unlike anything she had ever felt. Feeling investigative, the Fifth Child brought the Evangelion’s right hand as high as its restraints would allow and tightened it into a fist, the second taste of the bio-mechanical giant’s might making her more than a bit envious of the fact her fellow Pilots had been doing that and far more for years, by then.

Mari could hardly wait to get started, herself.

‘…You have my thanks, Yui-san,’ the Fifth Child offered to her newfound ally, a wide grin growing across her features. ‘Here’s to a long and fulfilling relationship.’

For everything was going according to schedule.


>-O]|[O-<​


“What the hell was that, Doctor?”

Misato’s heated demand echoed throughout the chamber for a few moments, a sentiment felt as well by over half the people within the observation deck, most of which looked like they had soiled their pants following Unit-01’s latest episode.

Not that Misato could blame them for it. A human’s frail body wasn’t made to stand in the presence of something as unimaginably powerful as an Evangelion, and the armoured walls and glass that served as their only protection had proven themselves to be lacking in the past. Knowledge that had made it so that the warning sirens were enough to send most every tech and scientist present into a panic, never mind the fact that the purple giant had never even appeared to struggle against its restraints.

“It looks like it was a standard and very brief feedback pulse through the nerve connections, not unlike that one time in which Unit-00 went berserk with the Third Child as the pilot,” Ritsuko explained, eyes flying over the data on the event that the instruments had collected. “Thankfully, though, we won’t need to rebuild half the cage this time. You can thank my team’s foresight for that, Major.”

‘...And you look awfully calm considering that this whole thing just came a hair’s breadth away from turning out just like that time, Ritz. With the added caveat that there’s no way we could have stopped Unit-01 short of having Asuka fight and restrain it.’

“...Of course,” Misato stopped her eyes from boring a hole into the Doctor’s head to turn a wary look towards the active Evangelion. “Status report?”

“The Fifth Child is perfectly healthy, all the readings are in the clear, and Unit-01 appears to be completely stable now.”

“‘Appears’?”

“I’m a scientist, not a diviner, Major. Even if I’ll admit that my talents make me look like the latter, sometimes,” Ritsuko jeered back. “Unit-01 seems to be perfectly fit for service, but that’s about all I can tell you at this time.”

“…Right,” Misato replied, shifting her attention to the pilot’s telemetry and motioning for Maya to give her a line with the Fifth Child. “Low thirties is not a great synch-rate, though. Rei did better during her time in Unit-01.”

“Indeed,” the Doctor agreed, although she didn’t sound at all disappointed by the results. “We can only hope that she will improve as time goes by.”

For the second time in a short time, Major Katsuragi glanced long and hard at her former friend, her mind working furiously to piece together the bits and pieces that she had been gathering ever since she had set foot in the observation deck not forty minutes ago. There was a lot of time and missed information that she had to make up for, after all, and it wasn’t until Maya reported that communications with the new Pilot had been established that Misato allowed herself to stop reading into the schemes that were certainly going about and focused back on the task at hand.

Although considering that there was obviously much more to the new girl than met the eye, how much this task differed from her unofficial duties was up for debate.

“How are you feeling, Fifth Child?”

“This. Is. AWESOME!

...

...Then again, some of the stuff the Makinami girl did had Misato constantly second guessing said suspicions, too.

“...I’ll take that as ‘fine’,” the Major sighed, deadpan. At least, the Fifth Child’s sheer enthusiasm had served to lighten the mood within the observation deck, somewhat, if the chuckles that were reaching Misato’s ears were any indication. “Anyway, what do you say? Are you good enough to jump straight into some training exercises?”

“Right-o!” came the immediate and ardent answer, just as basically everyone at this point had learned to expect.

What turned to be an unexpected development as far as the Major was concerned, however, was the way in which Asuka jumped into the conversation from a second channel, sounding somewhat uneasy.

“Is that a good idea, Misato? She’s barely managed to get it active.”

“Oh-hoo~” and Makinami replied without missing a beat, hiding a coy smile behind a hand. “You worried about me?”

“The only thing I’m worried about is you making me look like an idiot out there.” The redhead shot back with a deep sigh.

“Eh. If it happens, it happens. There’s no better teacher than the battlefield, anyway,” the Fifth Child shrugged nonchalantly, before grinning back at her teammate. “I’ll be yielding to your leadership, Princess!”

“At least you got that ri-” Asuka paused, blinking once, and then once more before she dangerously narrowed her eyes at the smiling Fifth Child. “...Wait, Princess? The hell’s up with that?”

Princess Charming, of course~!” the twin-tailed girl replied, injecting industrial amounts of tease into her words. Misato then watched in stunned silence as Makinami’s smile morphed into the perfect example of a shit-eating grin. “You know, the one who will wake Sleeping Beauty with a magical kiss~?”

And it was then, that all Hell broke loose.


>-O]|[O-<​


Reclining back in her seat, Mari sighed in contentment as she watched her handiwork explode into a red-faced shower of denying stuttering, and the entirety of the bridge crew burst into laughter. She also watched Katsuragi palm her face after a few moments of quiet disbelief and Akagi send her one of her patented very serious looks over the Major’s shoulder, but the Fifth Child didn’t allow those to dampen her spirits.

Of course, it was plain obvious that she was going to be paying for that joke later down the line in some way, shape or form, but still, it was more than worth it. After all, how was a girl supposed to resist when Asuka always gave her the best reactions?

“...I’ll admit, that was adorable.”

And Mari somehow smiled even wider at the words that suddenly sprang within her mind.

‘I know, right?’

Double worth it.
Author of a few decent Eva stories, which can be found here.

Currently working on a new project: An Insider's Look

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Postby sonichu » Thu Sep 20, 2018 6:19 pm

Well, you weren't lying about the "fun stuff" happening in this chapter. I certainly wasn't expecting Mari to blackmail Yui by threatening her son's life. Very risky. She had just better hope Asuka doesn't find out about this.

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Postby Gryphon117 » Sun Sep 23, 2018 11:10 am

Update time, bringing in the opening of Chapter 10. This one will probably be shorter than most since there isn't a whole lot of stuff left to cover in the day, but I've been known to prove that line wrong in the past already so we'll see how things turn out.

In other news, the start of the schoolyear is leeching quite a bit more time out of my hands than I expected, now that I'm working almost full-time, so I might have to skip an update week if not next time, then almost surely the one after. The amount of preemptive writing I could do has proven to be less than was required, apparently. :(

In any case, enjoy the day's update! ^_^

Chapter 10-1  SPOILER: Show
With a wide swing of its progressive axe, Unit-02 crippled three of the Fourth Angel’s smaller clones and prepared to engage another one, pivoting on its foot far enough to clear the ruined building that barely stood between them as a show of the massive amount of damage that the city had sustained. To make matters worse, communications with HQ were compromised, resupply points were scarce and outside support was basically nil, a trio of problems that no modern soldier wanted to singularly deal with, let alone suffer all at once.

But the Second Child did not allow any of that to deter her.

Leveraging the axe’s momentum into a vertical swing, the crimson robot struck and almost split the next phallic angel in two, the Pilot quickly untangling the weapon from the dead carcass and choosing to devote her attention to looking over her shoulder, rather than inspecting her newest kill: at her back, Unit-01 had sustained some heavy damage to its right arm in a previous skirmish and was still struggling to finish off the mini-Angel it was currently facing. It was much too busy to pay attention to the other two mini-Angels that were converging on its position.

And that had been roughly the time when Asuka had decided to momentarily forego her side of the battlefield and move to bail Makinami out. Again.

“I told you that a frontal attack was a bad idea…”

Asuka’s face scrunched up in annoyance, the Second Child taking her eyes off the screen for a second to mentally snarl at the young man that had deigned to bless her with his wisdom.

‘And what else is new? You think everything that doesn’t involve listening to your SDAT is a bad idea, stupid.’

A deep sigh was all the reply Asuka received, but the redhead reined in the urge for a scathing follow-up remark. She had been on shaky ground with the latest resident of her mind ever since she had woken up, after all, and considering that there had been no signs so far of the situation being temporary, the Second Child had decided that a modicum of temper control was in order until she could figure out the specifics behind the entire thing.

Besides, regardless of how wrong his opinion had been, the fact remained that she could put very little blame to Shinji’s name this time. Irritatingly enough.

The screen then flickered to a view of Unit-00 manoeuvring over giant pieces of rubble on its own, and Asuka closed her eyes with a sigh. She knew what was coming next: standing on top of a fallen skyscraper and with no cover to speak of, the cyclopean robot appeared to identify a threat in the distance at the worst of times, one that it tried to respond to by quickly reaching towards its back. But before Unit-00 could bring its rifle to bear, a huge cross-shaped explosion tore through its AT-Field and hastily erected resistance with no effort at all. When the dust settled, the blue Evangelion lay a broken wreck a thousand metres away from its last position.

“At least this was all a simulation battle,” the Third Child commented once more, relieved but cringing at the sight, nonetheless. “I don’t want to think how badly Ayanami might have been hurt by that hit if it had been a real fight.”

A completely innocent observation that, unknown to him, caused a loathsome feeling to grow within his host’s body.

‘...Of course you’d be worried about the damn Doll.’ Asuka thought to herself, quickly starting to forget all about her temper control resolutions.

“Huh?”

‘Nothing. Just... shut up already, Stupid Shinji!’ the redhead finally snapped. ‘I don’t want to hear you right now, alright?!’

At that point, Asuka had expected the irritating boy to fight back with a snappy comeback of the sort he had recently taken a liking to, or to otherwise break his usually non-confrontational character in some other form, like he had been doing all day. But instead what she heard was just a passably masculine yelp and then... nothing.

Asuka blinked, the main screen shifting back to show the red and purple titans just before a second cross-shaped blast engulfed the area and the two Evangelions inside of it, effortlessly laying waste to the entirety of it. The words ‘Operation Failure’ then flashed in the screen, Angels, buildings and wrecked Evangelions alike disintegrating into blocks of bluish data as the simulation ended.

But the Second Child had stopped paying attention to the video by that point. She felt... odd. Like something that had been ‘there’ before suddenly wasn’t, leaving a strange-feeling void behind that was incredibly difficult to put into words. Hard descriptions aside, however, figuring out what a major candidate for that ‘something’ could be, considering the circumstances, didn’t exactly require much use of Asuka’s frequently vaunted intellect.

‘Shinji? Oi, Third!’ the Second Child quickly contradicted herself, no small measure of worry seeping into her voice. ‘Shinji?!’

But none of Asuka’s demands received any answer.


>-O]|[O-<​


“W-WOAH! WOOAAAAAHH!”

With a heavy thud, Shinji Ikari skidded to a halt on his back after experiencing the joys of free-flight for an entire two seconds, the muscles and bones of his body feeling very grateful that he had landed on a grassy patch rather than on the wooden or tiled surfaces that he had also known to exist within Asuka’s mind. The impact still hurt quite a bit, of course, but the Third Child would thank his lucky stars for small blessings, nonetheless.

“...What did I say this time?” the young man wondered as he narrowed his eyes at the grey sky, trying to figure out what it was that had angered Asuka so much to literally spit him out from the strange room he had been in until then. Sure, she had been very crabby and tense ever since he had first decided to talk with her during the test (after taking a well-deserved break for himself, of course), but she had never gone into details as to why.

Shinji heavily suspected that the new girl had something to do with it, though. Makinami-san appeared to be really good at getting under Asuka’s skin, after all, so it was probably just some silly thing that Asuka had blown out of proportion.

As usual.

“...If I ever get out of here, I should ask Makinami-san to teach me her ways.” The Third Child grumbled, and it was then that a drop of water hit him on the forehead, followed by many others striking the rest of his body and all the surrounding area.

It looked like the rain was back, so the Asuka of this side was probably going to be a bit disappointed, but Shinji was looking forward to meeting her again, all the same. It was nice to have an Asuka that didn’t want to bite his head off for every little thing, after all.

‘Why did she have to be the powerless one, seriously?’

With a tired sigh, Shinji sat up and began to plan his next move: clearly, he’d need to get into contact with his Asuka again, since he had not gotten the chance to convince the redhead of letting Doctor Akagi know of his plight. It was likely that he wouldn’t be able to do so in the immediate future, however; at least until his host stopped being mad at him.

Or the more likely possibility, became angrier with someone else.

‘...Nothing I can do about it right now, anyway, so I should probably try to get back to the farm,’ the young man decided. ‘Angry Asuka aside, Ace and the others might be worried with how suddenly I vanished. I should-‘

A sudden, heavy rustle caught Shinji’s attention and the young man looked to his right, quickly noticing a familiar figure hunched against a tree a few steps away. One whose metallic sheen reflected what scraps of light made it through the cloud cover, and that hugged a weapon to itself.

A weapon of the needlessly large and bladed sort.


>-O]|[O-<​


‘Hey, Stupid Shinji! Stop giving me the silent treatment, you hear?!’

The lights suddenly turned on in the conference room of NERV HQ and Asuka blinked herself back to attention. The room was a large place that Asuka had only been to once, following the catastrophic first strike against the Seventh Angel that had ended up with her and the Third Child stuck head-first into the ground, and that had basically made a mockery of what should have been her grand debut battle in Japan. The first of many disappointments to follow.

Needless to say, the redhead had not been thrilled about the idea of setting foot in it again. Just about as thrilled as she was about the flak that she was expecting to receive within the four walls that had already seen her humbled once.

The fact that the possibility she could have expunged Shinji from her mind with a bad choice of words was steadily looking less and less on the absurd side of things didn’t help matters, either.

“What we just saw was footage from the last training exercise,” Misato put down the remote control for the main screen and looked down on the rows before her from her position at the back of the room. “I don’t need to remind you that it ended in failure, but what were the critical junctures that led to such a result, in your eyes?”

“The three deployed Evangelion units were in a significant numerical disadvantage. This disadvantage became even more pronounced once reinforcements arrived for the enemy, in the form of modified versions of previously fought Angels,” Rei quietly replied. “The combat scenario’s particulars of zero fire support from Tokyo-3’s defensive emplacements and the simulation of a failure within the city’s Battle Mode conversion systems, as well as several other logistical and tactical complications also contributed towards making the scenario a very unlikely one to succeed in.”

“I’m well aware of that. Do you have any other observations to make, First Child?”

The First Child’s eyes flickered for an instant towards her crimson clad teammate. A girl that was staring at the ground with a faraway expression.

“…Evangelion Unit-02-”

“At the two minute mark Evangelion Unit-02 charges into a cluster of smaller Angels and engages them in melee, intending to eliminate the enemy before they spread out and make the most out of their numerical advantage. Evangelion Unit-01 follows, and Unit-00 remains behind to provide ranged cover,” Asuka unexpectedly continued in a dull tone. “At three minutes and forty-two seconds, and after eliminating most of the enemies on the western side of the operations area, Evangelion Unit-02 moves to support an overwhelmed Unit-01, expecting Unit-00 to watch over the now exposed left flank.

“But unknown to Units 01 and 02, the resulting smoke, various debris and other line-of-sight blockers have made it so that Unit-00 is forced into repositioning to offer any sort of meaningful fire support, a move that is further hindered by logistical issues with the power cables.

“Unit-00 therefore takes longer than initially expected to reach a new position, leaving our entire left flank exposed at the five minutes and twenty-four seconds mark. Without any eyes to run overwatch over that area and no information from the city’s early warning system, a full strength copy of the Third Angel sneaks up on and takes out Unit-00 from long range during its transit, eliminating fire support for Units 01 and 02. Already engaged in hand to hand combat and with no way to close the gap against the Third Angel without exposing ourselves to our attackers, Units 01 and 02 are overwhelmed and disabled soon after.

“Is that a good enough recap?” Asuka finished her explanation, not having moved an inch throughout its entirety.

Major Katsuragi had to keep her right eyebrow from rising above her other. After all, while she could understand and expect the Second Child being eager to offer explanations for her performance, her doing so in a monotone did not conform to the same expectations quite as much.

“Anything to add, First Child?” Misato questioned, her gaze never leaving the redhead’s hunched over form.

“No, Major,” Rei replied, her eyes travelling to the Second Child as well with something that could have been taken as surprise. “Pilot Sohryu’s analysis was accurate.”

“Except for the part where she didn’t mention the crippling lack of any sort of coordination between the three EVA units, of course,” the Major corrected, her tone denoting that absence of proper organisation had been the biggest blunder, as far as she was concerned. “But I agree that everything else was worthy of a passing grade, indeed.”

Disappointed as it may have been, though, it wasn’t lost to Asuka that Misato’s voice lacked the bite that it had had the day of the Seventh Angel’s fiasco. Such a small boon didn’t make her military persona any less intimidating, though.

“We will be dedicating the next training sessions towards correcting those issues post-haste, understood?”

“…Yes, ma’am.”

“Good,” satisfied, Misato turned her eyes away from the two Pilots and towards Mari, who had been eagerly following the entire exchange with her ever-present smile. “Fifth Child.”

“Hai~!” The twin-tailed girl replied, snapping to attention with a goofy salute that got her zero points with her commanding officer.

“How do you think you did out there?”

“...Sorry, sorry!” Mari promptly began scratching the back of her head and offered an apologetic smile, quickly realising that the Major wasn’t up for jokes. “I guess my EVA doesn’t like me very much…”

“I’m fully aware of the limitations brought about by your low synch-rate, but your performance was still nothing short of appalling,” Misato shot back, chastising tone reinforced by the narrowing of her eyes. “To the point that I’m tempted to say you weren’t even trying out there.”

“That’s... what it looked like, huh? Okay, I’ll try harder next session!”

“That’s what I expect, and the only reason why I’m letting you off with a warning, this time. Should you fail to take the training seriously a second time, you can be certain that we will take measures to ensure that you do so in the future,” Misato’s stare tripled in intensity. “Have I made myself clear?”

A fact that the Fifth Child shrugged off with a nonchalant smile.

“Crystal clear, ma’am.”

“Make sure that you show it, then. Dismissed,” her features softening in half a second flat, Misato then turned to regard the Second Child. “I’ll be heading to the cranial ward next, Asuka. I’ll wait for you in this floor’s cafeteria.”

With a nod towards the redhead, Misato picked up her things and left through the door a few moments later, her Section-2 escort following close behind. Then, and in unison, almost as if the Major leaving their line of sight had been a silent starting signal, all the techs, analysts and assorted manpower in the room began to file out as well in an orderly manner.

Mari Makinami made a show of letting out a relieved sigh, as her two teammates began preparations for their own departure, too.

“Ouch, harsh…” the twin-tailed girl lamented with a grimace, before turning to smile at the Second Child. “Hey, Princess! That was way too harsh, wasn’t it?”

A smile that froze in place when Asuka sent her an absolutely incensed look, before turning around with a huff and zero words, heading towards the locker rooms.

“...Oookay. Anger levels might have risen a fair bit above expected parameters. Will need to come up with a proper response,” Mari mumbled to herself, watching the redhead charge through the door and past a startled techie. She then put her grin back in place before turning towards the other Pilot. “What about you, Bluebird? You understand me, right?”

But whether the First Child understood or not was quickly condemned to the abyss of unanswered questions, when she promptly walked past the Fifth Child without offering a response, as well. Quickly following on Asuka’s footsteps, the bluenette headed straight for the locker rooms, too, her narrowed crimson eyes never leaving the form of the redheaded girl a few steps before her.

And the twin-tailed girl watched her go, her mouth twisting into a small pout.

“Jeez... Tough crowd.”

And it was then that Mari heard the unmistakable sound of a throat being meaningfully cleared somewhere to her right. A throat that quick investigation revealed as belonging to one Ritsuko Akagi, who was currently giving her an equally meaningful look.

Fully aware of where this was going, Mari’s shoulders slumped forward as a deep groan filled the conference room.

“Oh, boy…”
Author of a few decent Eva stories, which can be found here.

Currently working on a new project: An Insider's Look


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