An Insider's Look

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sonichu
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Postby sonichu » Sun May 05, 2019 9:35 pm

Just letting you know I'm still reading this story and still enjoying it. Each chapter is great and I can't wait for the next one.

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Postby Gryphon117 » Fri May 10, 2019 8:02 am

View Original Postsonichu wrote:Just letting you know I'm still reading this story and still enjoying it. Each chapter is great and I can't wait for the next one.


Thanks, that's great to know! I'm giving the finishing touches to another update that will very likely be going up next Sunday. I hope it will satisfy your cravings. ^_^
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 May 12, 2019 3:17 am

And here we are again with the end of the current chapter. I personally like how this ending turned out, but I'll let you guys be the judges of that. ^_^

But now, I'm going to need to focus on work again for a while, so the updates are going to be slowing down once more. Sorry about that, the better part of what I need to do be should be over by the end of June.

Enjoy!

Chapter 11-6  SPOILER: Show
“I… I’m not scared,” Ace then declared to her fallen opponent, in a voice that was as shaky as her extended fist. “And I’m not going anywhere.”

“Ace! What are you doing?!”

The Third Child immediately put himself between the two girls in order to bring an end to the fight, even if he knew full well that his best efforts would have meant absolutely nothing had Ace wanted to push past him. Fortunately for Shinji, however, the Pilot was content to stare at her counterpart with an expression that was steadily morphing into anger. She was so out of it, in fact, that the young man heavily suspected Ace hadn’t even noticed how he had stepped in her way.

A quick memory of how Ace had vaporized the knight decided to fly past his mind’s eye at just that moment, a reminder by his brain noting how she had not looked anywhere near as angry back then as she did now. It was almost funny how Ace always seemed to find some way to prove him wrong every single time that Shinji thought she had reached the ceiling of her anger levels.

But, although funny, that wasn’t really important at that moment in time. What was actually important was how he needed to fix that situation. And fast.

But before he could even begin to fathom how he was going to do so, the Third Child heard his assistant mumble weakly behind him. “…No. Stop, Shinji. Just let her be.”

And before Shinji could turn around completely for a second time, he noticed how he wasn’t in the control room anymore. He was instead back in his room at the farm, Asuka sitting on his bed as she forlornly stared at the wooden floor.

“Asuka!” the Third Child demanded. “Why did you-?!”

“Why did I bring us back?” the redhead finished for him, her voice barely rising over the dull hum of the rain outside. “What? Were you going to fight her, or something?”

It was then that Shinji noticed that Asuka’s glum disposition wasn’t the only thing that had changed about her. The girl was now wearing some more familiar clothes that he hadn’t seen on her yet, the short jeans and t-shirt combination that the real Asuka had worn around the apartment quite often in the past.

“N-No!” the young man replied, turning his attention from the clothing and back to the matter at hand. “But I wanted to speak with Ace, too!”

“Well, sorry for making that decision for you, but it wouldn’t have done us any good. We were already far too late to get through to her,” Asuka sighed deeply. “…And it was all my fault. I shouldn’t have said that.”

“But… But it sounded like you were-”

“Right?” the girl finished with a mirthless chuckle. “I was, but the fact that I was right is pointless. I should have said it in some other way, tried to calm her down before opening my big mouth, but I wasn’t thinking. I wasn’t thinking…” Asuka paused for a few seconds, eyes focused on a spot of the room that appeared to be infinitely far away. “…Just like I didn’t stop to think back then, when I believed I had it all figured out.”

Shinji stepped a bit closer to the bed’s edge but said nothing in return because, quite frankly, he didn’t know what to say. Words had never been the boy’s forte, especially during tense situations, and while he didn’t have to deal with the added difficulty of an Asuka that was primed to explode, it wasn’t like an Asuka that was going through a palpable crisis was really any better.

Luckily for him, Asuka continued talking on her own. Perhaps because she had figured out that words of comfort weren’t going to be forthcoming.

“Do you remember the last few Angels, Shinji? That was me in the Pilot’s seat, so to say. I think it showed,” the redhead explained, eyeing Shinji out of the corner of her eye. “That’s why no matter what we do, we can’t afford to lose Ace again. Asuka might not live through the experience a second time.

“And that’s what I was trying to tell her, too, right before she lost it,” Asuka continued. “She’s far too important, to Asuka and to all of us. Even if EVA were to become a secondary concern to her, Ace wouldn’t be ‘going anywhere’, as she put it.”

“H-How do you know that?”

“Because I’m still here,” Asuka replied, pointing a finger at herself. “I mean, compared to Ace, I’ve never been anywhere near as important to Asuka as she is, even at the best of times. But even at her lowest, when Asuka was cutting ties with everyone and just about ready to give up, I didn’t disappear. I was still important enough to warrant keeping around, my limited abilities and severed link with HQ notwithstanding.”

“Well... that’s good, right?” Shinji hesitated, wondering why Asuka was still looking so down if she had a solution to the problem. “We only need to tell Ace that her position is safe!”

“Sure, we can tell her. But we still need to convince her, too, and I just made that about a hundred times harder. Besides, you know how Ace is: it’s very likely that she will not take being second place with a smile, anyway.”

The sigh that came out of Asuka was long and drawn, and very descriptive of just how weary she was becoming of hitting her head against the wall. Her blue eyes then slowly refocused on the lines that were created by the small wooden floorboards.

“...But what if I’m really a moron like she says and I’m fixating far too much on this? What if I accused her of focusing too much on EVA and I’m no better? First it was Kaji and now it’s you. Maybe I should listen to Ace and wait until the war is over before putting even more pressure on Asuka. But what if it’s too late by then, and she gets into another downward spiral? Hnngggg…”

‘Think of something to say!’ Shinji panicked to himself in the meantime, watching the girl groan as she brought her hand to the bridge of her nose. ‘She needs help! She needs you to help her! So just say SOMETHING!’

But for as much as the Third Child beat himself up in the search of the right words to tell Asuka, his results were still completely lacking. He was afraid of making things worse, of saying the wrong thing and making Asuka angry at him or, even worse, making her even more depressed. Shinji found himself at a crossroads and refused to choose a path, instead staring at the signpost and trying to will it into making the choice for him.

“Hey, Shinji. Can I ask you something?”

Until his assistant made that decision for him again.

“Y-Yes.”

“Do you like Asuka?”

And while the young man had been a bit jumpy at how Asuka had intruded into his panicky thought process, Shinji was also a bit amused about how little the question she had posed had surprised him. A big part of him was surprised that it hadn’t come sooner after the big revelation of the day, honestly, but that, of course, still left the matter of answering it.

He did find Asuka attractive, that much was true. But he also found Ayanami attractive in a different way, or Misato, or what little he had seen of Makinami-san, or a lot of the girls he knew from school. That sort of attraction came with the territory of being a healthy teenage boy, but Shinji didn’t need a translator to know that Asuka wasn’t talking about that.

He really could have used a translator for figuring out what he thought of his roommate at that point in time, however.

“I...” the Third Child mumbled. “...I don’t know. Sorry.”

“You don’t know,” Asuka flatly replied, before another almost angry sigh escaped her. “Look Shinji, just tell me if you would have been fine with the whole thing had the kiss and everything after gone a bit more smoothly! It’s not rocket science!”

“And I said that I don’t know!” Shinji heatedly shot back. “Yes, maybe I would have been fine with it that day, but a lot of things have happened since then! A lot of things that have given me a much worse opinion of Asuka!”

“But you know why-!”

“Yes, I know!” the Third Child cut her off. “And that’s the problem! I’m starting to understand why all of that happened and it makes all of this A LOT MORE DIFFICULT!”

The sheer volume of Shinji’s proclamation made his words echo around the room and Asuka recoil back a little in fright, the sight bringing Shinji’s mind back to the time the red door had first appeared and how he had lashed out at Asuka back then for something that had not been her fault at all. The blame game was nowhere near as simple as it had been at that time, but seeing the same look on Asuka that he had seen that day was enough to knock almost all the anger out of Shinji, harder than any blow he had received while piloting the EVA.

“...Sorry. There I go, pushing without thinking again,” Asuka apologised with a strained smile, her eyes retreating back to the bottom of the room. “But we really make for a fine pair, don’t we? The infuriatingly wishy-washy guy and the unstoppable idiot girl. It’s almost like we’re part of some bad joke.”

And while Shinji narrowed his eyes a little bit at being called ‘wishy-washy’, he refrained from actually voicing his annoyance any further. Maybe because he knew that Asuka was right, and this entire mess could have been avoided one way or another if he’d just chosen to do something when he’d had the chance.

‘If only it was so easy...’

“So… no?” Asuka shakily continued before Shinji was fully done digesting her previous statement, and the tinge of fear in her voice was almost enough to break his heart.

“I don’t know. I just… don’t know,” Shinji replied, exhausted, as he gestured around him with his arms. “First I want to… No, I need to get out of here. Then… I can start thinking about what I want, and if I want to ask Asuka about what she wants.”

Asuka jumped up like a spring and seemed to want to say something in response but then stopped herself, thinking better of it. The crestfallen redhead then looked away and sighed once more, but this time it wasn’t a sigh of weariness or self-anger, but it rather sounded like one of acceptance.

“…Alright. That’s… alright,” Asuka spoke, clear and even. “Honestly, I can’t blame you if you wouldn’t go ahead with it. With all the terrible things you’ve had to go through because of our arguments, I really couldn’t hold it against you if you decide that keeping Asuka at arm’s length is the best thing for you. Hell, maybe Ace really is right and doing that will even be the best thing for her.” The redhead admitted with a light scoff. She then sat up straighter, looking like she was swallowing a lump in her throat before she sent a cautious and almost frightened look the Third Child’s way. “...But Shinji, whatever you choose, will you... still be Asuka’s friend? At least until she manages to find her footing? I know that we might not really deserve that at this point, but-”

“...I already said I would do that,” Shinji found himself responding, before he could even think of stopping himself. “And I still haven’t changed my mind.”

Finally, the words he had been looking for, and he hadn’t even tried to find them. And as a slightly surprised Third Child watched Asuka turn to look at him in overjoyed amazement, he briefly considered that, perhaps, acting on instinct rather than thought had been the key he had been missing all along.

Sporting that familiar bright smile that Shinji had missed so much, his assistant jumped off the bed and rushed towards him, wrapping her arms around the young man in a grateful, tight embrace.

“Thanks, Shinji,” Asuka spoke next to Shinji’s ear, sending ripples all over his body and freezing the young man up. “We’re really so lucky to have you.”

But pushing past the shock that had given him pause so many times before, the Third Child remembered his recent breakthrough, and it was so that he allowed his arms to do as they wished without stopping to think about it.

And that day, Shinji Ikari held Asuka Langley-Sohryu, too.
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 » Mon Jul 08, 2019 5:46 am

Hiya people, been a while. Just dropping by to say that I'm free from my exams and work by now, and that updates should resume shortly. I'd actually been meaning to restart them last week, in fact, but I've been busy with refurbishing my new home in the hopes of moving in Soon(TM) and that kind of ate away at my writing time. My parents and me are painting the whole place as of right now, incidentally, but I should have enough room in the schedule to give you guys something to read this week. Look forward to 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 Gryphon117 » Sun Jul 14, 2019 8:43 am

Okay, I'm back. And as promised, here's the start of the next chapter. There's a short bit with Asuka's reaction at the end there that I wanted to add into this update, but I ran out of time so I guess I'll be putting it into its next short update ASAP before I start writing the next major snippet.

Enjoy! ^_^

Chapter 12  SPOILER: Show
The following morning saw Asuka waking up from a dreamless sleep. It was a gradual process, with the first bits of consciousness beginning to return behind closed eyelids and some few, precious seconds of half-asleep rest being milked for all of their worth. Nevertheless, Asuka knew that neither the day nor Misato Katsuragi would wait to put them through the paces of their teamwork training, so it was with great sorrow that the Second Child decided to wake up for real.

And she was about to sit up when Asuka found a pair of crimson eyes staring straight at her own, far too close for comfort.

"Scheiße!!” the Second Child screamed, scrambling into a sitting position and pushing herself as far away as her bed sheet impaired legs would allow her. “Wondergirl! The heck are you doing?!”

But if Rei Ayanami was at all surprised by her housemate’s outburst, she didn’t allow herself to show it. Instead, the bluenette’s eyebrows drew together a micron and she stood up without a word, eyes lingering on Asuka for another short interval before Rei began to step towards the bathroom.

“Hey, hey! Wait just a damn second, Wondergirl!” Asuka rushed to place herself before the First Child, stopping her in her tracks with an accusing finger. “You don’t get to scare me half to death and then walk away as if nothing ever happened! What was that about?!”

“I was investigating.”

“Investigating? Investigating what?” the redhead demanded. “You do know what they call people who watch others while they’re sleeping, right?!”

“No, I do not.”

And Asuka’s finger fell, the wind that had been pushing the sails of her indignation dying off with just four simple words. Putting aside the annoyance she felt at Rei unintentionally leaving her without a comeback, Asuka couldn’t believe the fact that the bluenette apparently saw nothing wrong with being a complete creep.

‘...Then again, I don’t know what I was expecting. This is Wondergirl we’re talking about, you don’t get much weirder than her.’

“Can you move?” Rei continued, as clueless as ever. “I need to shower.”

And this time, Asuka didn’t bother resisting the bluenette’s wishes. Months of sharing a locker room with the First Child had taught Asuka not to press her when she was being her personal brand of mysterious, because the only things that always resulted in were either more non-answers or Ayanami spouting some more of her toilet philosophy. Neither outcome was particularly desirable at that point.

‘Bah, whatever,’ the redhead relented, putting the whole thing out of her mind. She then briefly brought a hand to tap at her cheeks. ‘...I should make sure she didn’t write anything on my face, though.’

Letting out a big yawn, Asuka sighed as she rubbed the last traces of sleep out of her eyes and surveyed the apartment’s living room. Despite having slept through the night in one of the Japanese sleeping mats she hated so much, the Second Child was surprised at just how well she had rested: her mind was fresh and attentive and the familiar morning itch behind her eyes was nowhere to be found. Yet another unusual development for that morning, to be sure, but one that was very welcome.

‘...Maybe getting all of that off your chest helped things, somehow,’ the Second Child wondered, her mind briefly going back to the previous night’s conversation. It was then that the implications of what she had confessed to in the spur of the moment caught up to the girl, Asuka bringing a hand to her forehead with a groan. ‘Shit, what was I thinking? Just you wait until Misato catches wind of what you admitted, Asuka. You’re never going to live that down.’

Asuka’s eyes then fell on the main instigator behind her unplanned confession: Mari Makinami, who was still sleeping soundly. How she hadn’t woken up with all the commotion of her own rising was beyond Asuka, but the redhead decided to remedy that by walking over and nudging the back of the softly snoring Fifth Child with her foot.

“Hnnggg....” Mari mumbled in response, shuffling her body away from the offending appendage. “F’ve mo’ m’nuts...”

And in two seconds flat, she was snoring again. Asuka barely resisted the urge to palm her face.

‘Great, so I’ve got Creepy Mc.Bluehair and Misato’s little sister in my squad. How the heck does she expect me to get anything done with these two?’ the Second Child lamented with a groan. ‘Even Shinji would be better!’

A sudden feeling of guilt crept up inside Asuka at her unplanned thoughts about the Third Child, but she quickly forced herself to push it aside. Still, there had been no contact whatsoever from Shinji since she had shouted at him the day before and Asuka would be lying if she claimed that she wasn’t starting to get a bit worried.

For a few moments, Asuka considered calling for Shinji but ultimately decided to put it off until breakfast. Rei was likely about to start showering, and by the stipulations of their training regime that meant that all three of the Pilots should at least be in the bathroom while she did. If Misato decided to come for an early morning visit and caught them not abiding to the rules because Makinami was still sleeping there would be hell to pay, and Asuka didn’t feel like finding out what the Major’s creative punishment would be all about.

Besides, she had now been officially recognized as the leader of the Pilot Corps, so the Fifth Child’s kind of irresponsible behaviour was now her responsibility to fix with whatever disciplinary measures she thought appropriate. No need to get Misato involved.

And so, Asuka’s second warning came in the form of a swift kick to Mari’s backside, the Fifth Child rolling over and mostly awake with a pained and slightly satisfying yelp.

“Ouchie...” Mari sat up and protested the harsh treatment with a pout, the girl’s free and messy bed hair making her look a lot different to how she usually did. “Princeeess! Why you so mean?”

Unfortunately, the more annoying parts of her personality were the same as always.

“Because it’s morning, Wondergirl already headed to the showers, and it’s time you got your lazy ass out of bed!” Asuka admonished in her best drill sergeant tone and motioned towards the bathroom with her head, from where the sounds of falling water could already be heard. “We’ve got plenty of stuff to do today, so move it!”

“Mmm...?” Mari groggily checked her watch, squinting hard to identify the numbers without her glasses. “Oh? Is it that time already?”

“Yes, it’s half past seven in the morning. I’m glad you can read.”

“But we have another two hours until we need to train with our EVAs, right?” the Fifth Child replied, ignoring the sarcasm. She then slowly began to lie down on her back again... “Doesn’t that mean that we have some more time to-”

“Don’t even think about going back to sleep!”

...and promptly sprang back up like a jack-in-the-box.

“Ehehehehe...” Mari put her hands up in surrender, a goofy grin trying to defend against Asuka’s glare. “Right, right! I was joking... Just joking!”

‘You totally weren’t.’

“See?” Mari quickly finished rising under the Second Child’s expectant gaze, squaring up like a soldier at attention. “I’m up and ready for orders! What next, Princess?”

“You have a minute to get your stuff and yourself into the bathroom before I come back and drag you there,” Asuka responded, somehow managing to keep the longest sigh in the history of the world from coming out. “Then we’ll have breakfast together and get ready to get on with Misato’s plans. Are we clear?”

“Yes, ma’am!” Mari enthusiastically replied, her hand flying to her forehead in an overly dramatic salute that went completely unnoticed by an Asuka that had already turned towards the bathroom.

Slightly deflated but not defeated, Mari quickly gathered her bathroom necessities and rushed to follow.


>-O]|[O-<​


“...Can I look yet?”

“No, not yet. We are in the kitchen area but Ayanami is still floating around without any clothes on.” Asuka replied to Shinji’s question, making sure that the boy’s eyes were still completely covered by his hands. “Why didn’t she bring a change of clothes into the bathroom, anyway? Isn’t that a lot easier than walking all over the place in the nude after you’re done? What would happen if someone entered while she’s naked?”

Unbeknownst to Asuka, the young man by her side had a very real answer to that possibility that he wisely kept to himself, preferring to keep on repeating the mantra that he’d been thinking for close to fifteen minutes by that point.

‘Don’t think about them showering, don’t think about them showering... Think of something you hate, like Canon in D and its eight stupid notes.’

Just as they had been when he and Asuka first entered the command room, Shinji’s mental stratagems proved effective at keeping the Third Child’s mind from replaying the scene that had been on display at the time of their late arrival. It had been little more than a glimpse of Ayanami’s and Makinami-san’s bare backs that his eyes had caught before Asuka had blinded him, but that was still more than enough material for a teenager’s hyper-active imagination to work with if left unchecked, especially considering the embarrassing but carefully preserved first-hand experience that Shinji had had with the former.

The other thing that helped Shinji keep his focus was Ace; or rather, the suspicion that Ace was acting very much unlike herself. He hadn’t had a chance to take a good look at Ace due to the circumstances of his arrival, but while he could feel that the hostile presence on his right side had multiplied by an order of magnitude when compared to the previous day, the fact that he hadn’t heard even a disdainful or grumpy grunt out of the Pilot in all that time was pretty worrying, considering her actions the previous day.

She was all business, the sound of fingers flying across the different instruments letting Shinji know that Ace was working at a blazing pace. Despite the professional facade, however, the young man couldn’t help but dread the moment her countdown reached zero.

“Okay, I think you’re free to use your eyes now.” Asuka suddenly announced, giving Shinji a pat on the shoulder. The Third Child then let his hands drop and allowed for light to reach his pupils once again, squinting for a short moment at the drastic change before he did the quick analysis of the situation that he had been denied before: Asuka was now sitting at a breakfast table, Makinami-san to her left and Ayanami approaching from what Shinji supposed was the direction of her room, clad in her usual clothes. The three of them sat and ate their morning meal, sharing some small talk while Asuka outlined their plan for the day.

The scene was innocent and simple enough that no input was necessary from their part, so Shinji took the opportunity to check his immediate surroundings as well, noticing with some relief that Maisie had returned to her post. She caught his eye for a second, sending him a small and cryptic smile before she focused back on her work. Just after that, Ace also noticed him staring, but her reaction was simply to turn away with an angry scoff.

‘Well, she’s the same as always. Maybe I was worrying over nothing,’ Shinji thought with a sigh. ‘Maisie, on the other hand... What was that about?’

“...Shinji?” Asuka’s voice suddenly called, making the young man jump a little. “Hey, Stupid Shinji! Are you there?”

Shinji happily turned to look at his assistant, who looked back at him every bit as excited.

“What are you waiting for?” Asuka urged, tossing him the headphones. “Answer her!”

“Y-Yeah!” Shinji quickly replied, scrambling to put the headphones in their proper place. “I’m here, Asuka!”

“About time you decided to speak up, you idiot!” Asuka scolded him, but the undertones of relief he could hear in her voice weren’t lost on Shinji. “Where the hell have you been?!”

The Third Child then looked to his left for support, but a shrug was all the assistance he received.

“...P-Places.”

“Places? What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Just that this place can get a bit confusing, and that sometimes I can’t speak to you. Especially if...”

Shinji trailed off, wondering somewhat belatedly if his next words were a smart thing to say.

“Especially if what?”

But that choice was quickly taken from him.

“Especially if... you get angry.”

A low and ominous alarm sound then began to sound throughout the room, promptly confirming Shinji’s fears. Off to his right side, he thought he heard Ace mutter ‘moron’ to herself before the movement of her fingers intensified.

“...Are you saying yesterday was my fault?” Asuka demanded, a hint of fire in her voice. She then left her breakfast plate in the sink with a bit more force than absolutely necessary. “Actually, don’t answer that. Who gives a damn?”

Afterwards, Shinji saw the Second Child beckon the other two Pilots with a terse command and the group leave together through the apartment’s door, Asuka leading them through the hallways while attempting conceal the angry stiffness in her movements. Quite poorly, at that.

But that wasn’t something Shinji was worried about, the misstep he had taken in the verbal minefield was far higher in his list of priorities. The young man quickly rummaged through his mind, thinking about what he could do next and, eventually, he stumbled upon a possibility.

A risky possibility in its own right, but one that maybe could go a ways towards fixing his mistake.

“Hey, umm... Asuka?” Shinji nervously began, recalling his conversation with Ace under the rain of the previous day. “I’m… sorry if I made you mad.”

“...Mad? Pfft. Who’s mad? I’m not mad, you idiot,” the Second Child very poorly deflected. “What are you on about now?”

“It’s not about today. I was talking about when... about when Ayanami got hurt in the sim battle, remember?”

The alarm noises in the background intensified. Shinji heard Maisie giggle to herself.

“…It’s fine,” Asuka let out through gritted teeth after a pause. “Stop apologising about everything.”

“No, it’s not- I...” The Third Child stumbled, wondering if it had truly been a good idea to speak up. Nevertheless, Shinji closed his eyes and forced the rest of his words through. “You… know I would have said the same thing if it had been you, right?”

And not a second later, the warnings stopped.
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 » Wed Jul 17, 2019 3:35 am

Here's the short blurb that was meant to finish off the last update. I'll start working on the next scene as soon as I can.

Chapter 12-2  SPOILER: Show
“S-Stupid Shinji!”

“...Hmm? Princess? What’s wrong?”

“Eh?!” Asuka jumped, frightened by the voice that had covertly materialised by her side. “W-What do you mean?! Nothing’s wrong!”

“Really? Your face is all red,” Mari smirked knowingly and pointed a finger at Asuka’s cheeks. “And I could have sworn you muttered Sleeping Beauty’s name, just now.”

“I-I did not!”

“I also heard you say Ikari-kun’s name, Second Child.”

Asuka’s defences faltered, and she glared at the First Child when she calmly passed by her other side. She always forgot just how keen Rei’s senses were, how much information the blue haired girl tended to grab from the people around her. Had she not known any better, Asuka could have sworn that Rei Ayanami possessed some sort of spy training, or something along those lines.

And it was so damn infuriating how the First Child always managed to catch her at her weakest.

“Oh, I know~!” Mari continued, her smile morphing into another shape. “I bet Princess was in fantasy land right now, imagining what it would feel like to kiss her one, true love! Or maybe you were thinking of taking things one step further! Gasp! So bold!”

“...What are you?” Asuka flatly replied, her eyes leaving no doubt of what she thought about Mari’s theatrics. “Some sort of perverted old man?”

“Hyuk, hyuk, hyuk!” the Fifth Child laughed, actually trying her best at conforming to the title she had just been given. A mask that was gone very quickly, but that to Asuka’s chagrin was exchanged with the shit-eating grin she had gotten to know so well. “But seriously, Princess: we’ve still got a bit of time to swing by the medical wing if your heart can’t bear the separation.”

“I said I’m good. Let’s get moving.”

And with those words, the Second Child pressed forward, setting a blistering pace that was completely unnecessary for anyone but herself but that her two companions still followed without complaint. With almost an hour to spare, the trio reached the laboratories.

But unknown to Asuka, crimson eyes had been stuck to the back of her head the entire way.
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 » Mon Jul 22, 2019 4:24 am

I'm a day late on this one but I think you guys will enjoy. ^_^

Chapter 12-3  SPOILER: Show
“Wow, you girls are early today,” Misato commented when she caught the trio make their way into the laboratories. “Itching to set the score straight, are we?”

“Damn right!”

“He, he! Princess is so enthusiastic!” Mari giggled after the fired-up Second Child. “You should try being like that at that other thing, too, you know? Might bring some results!”

“I don’t know! Shut up, already!” Asuka quickly bit back. She then turned to regard the Major with what she hoped was a stance befitting of her new position, the snickering behind her making it extra hard for Asuka to keep her composure. “Is everything ready for the tests, Misato?”

Before they shifted towards her, Asuka thought she saw Misato’s eyes linger on Mari for a second longer than necessary. She also looked sort of tired, like she’d had a bad night’s sleep, so chances were that the Major was finding Mari’s usual bullshit as entertaining as Asuka herself found it 99% of the time.

“We’ve still got some last minute adjustments to make, but you can start getting comfortable in your EVAs,” Misato replied, motioning with a hand towards the catwalks. “We’ll let you know when we’re ready to start.”

“Right,” Asuka nodded her head in agreement and turned to point a finger at her two underlings. She then commanded them, using a very specific tone that Misato hadn’t heard since quite a few weeks before, back in her apartment. “Alright, you two, follow me! We’re going to talk some strategy!”

“Yes, ma’am~!”

And with a tired roll of her eyes, Asuka began to lead the way towards the EVAs, the contrasting energies of the First and Fifth Children chasing her just a step behind. Misato followed the trio with her eyes, her brow furrowed as her mind furiously compared the Pilots from that morning to the ones she had said good night to the previous evening.

“Someone’s growing into the leadership position quite nicely.” Ritsuko commented from the side, nose deep into some reports.

“...Yeah. I honestly didn’t think our talk yesterday would work that well.”

“Maybe it didn’t,” the scientist replied, reinforcing Misato’s suspicions. “I also heard you had another interesting talk last night.”

Misato stiffened, panicked eyes turning towards the head of Project-E as she pointed a frantic finger at the collar around her neck. After all, and while the explosive charge within currently lay dormant, the monitoring devices were still in perfect condition.

“Hey, Ritz!”

“Oh, I haven’t forgotten, don’t you worry. But one of our friends handed me one of these this morning,” Ritsuko assured her as she motioned with her head to a small, circular device hidden within the folder in her hands. “It’s a signal scrambler, so we should be able to talk freely without fear of Ikari finding out, so long as we don’t use it too often or for too long.”

“...You almost gave me a heart attack, you know?” the Major grumbled with a glare. “Are you trying to make yourself as bad as they are?”

“Perhaps,” Ritsuko calmly replied with an unrepentant smirk. “I take it yesterday’s wasn’t an enjoyable midnight chat, then?”

“That’s one way of putting it,” Misato quietly scoffed, focusing her eyes on Mari’s distant figure. She was cheerfully chatting with Asuka as the Second Child got ready to enter Unit-02. “How long have you known?”

“About the Fifth? I was the one who made it possible for her to get in, but I’m sure you figured that much out, already,” Ritsuko explained with half her mind. “She was initially supposed to take Sohryu’s post, but then Sohryu got better and messed up our plans. We improvised and gave her Unit-01, and while I’m still surprised that she managed to get it moving, I’m not complaining.”

“And what’s her objective here?”

“Beats me,” Ritsuko shrugged. “She claims that she wants to make sure the Pilots are ready and willing to face off against SEELE when the time comes, but she hasn’t said much more to me outside of that.”

“They’re keeping you in the dark?”

“About a lot of things, yes, need to know basis and all that. It doesn’t help that the Fifth is probably fairly high on the pecking order of this operation and one cheeky brat, to boot,” the Doctor muttered in a voice that was very close to annoyed, raising her eyes from the folder long enough to stare at the girl in question in the distance. “She appears to have free hand for independent action.”

“Yeah, that’s the impression I got, too,” Misato agreed, her frown deepening. On the other side of the observation window, Asuka finished entering Unit-02 and Mari got ready to board her own EVA, but not before noticing the two women staring at her and sending them a happy wave. “There’s definitely something wrong about that girl.”

“I’d say. She’s too damn lax for a supposed secret agent, especially for someone who I’d expect came out on the wrong side of Second Impact,” with a shake of her head, Ritsuko brought her attention back to her documents. “Still, she gets the job done quite well. Her way of doing things even brings back memories of dealing with a certain someone.”

“If you meant that as a compliment, it wasn’t a very good one,” Misato grumbled back. “How many of them are there in HQ?”

“Less than you think. I don’t know the exact numbers, but I’d wager they aren’t more than fifty.”

“...What.”

“Crazy, right?” Ritsuko smirked at her friend’s stunned expression. “I thought the exact same thing when they first told me about the insertion numbers. I would think they have expanded on those a fair bit by now, but-”

“How can you be so calm?! They’re planning a damn coup of one of the most fortified places on Earth with not even a company’s worth of manpower!” Misato hissed, making doubly sure that they couldn’t be overheard. “How many people will die? And what’s to say that they won’t mess up their SEELE countermeasures and get us all killed? How would they even-”

Misato paused, her mind quickly putting together all the facts she’d been told about in the last forty-eight hours. A few of them were starting to link together quite nicely, but the picture they painted wasn’t a pretty one.

“...Shit, those things crawling all over HQ probably have something to do with this.”

“The spiders?” Ritsuko replied, implying she had reached a similar conclusion. “I don’t know much about them but, yes, it’s quite likely that those are their ace in the hole. It might be a myth that people unconsciously swallow small spiders in their sleep, but if the critters themselves have a directive to enter a person’s digestive system...”

“...Just put a tiny vial of poison somewhere inside the damn thing and you’ve got the perfect tool for an assassination. Fuck. And with the sheer amount of those things running lose they could probably wipe out most of the base personnel in a single night if they wanted to.”

“True, however that’s an unlikely scenario,” the Doctor continued. “Like you said, they don’t have the necessary manpower to keep NERV-HQ running without suspicion by themselves.”

“The idea that they could have the capacity to do something like that doesn’t exactly endear me to them, anyway.”

“Major Katsuragi, we’re ready to start running the sims,” Hyuga suddenly broke into their private conversation from his console. “Should I tell the Pilots?”

“...Yes, thank you Hyuga-kun,” Misato agreed, swiftly shifting into her commander persona and hoping nothing would make it through the cracks. “Brief them on what we talked about: they’ll do a series of one-vs-ones among themselves before we have them tackle yesterday’s scenario again.”

“...Roger that.”

An effort that wasn’t completely successful judging by the worried look that the young man cast at her, but it would have to do. Even without Misato’s current communicative handicaps, the situation was getting far too convoluted and volatile for the bridge crewman to get involved unless completely and absolutely necessary. Besides, Hyuga had already dodged a bullet for helping her during the last Angel, so chances were that he had some extra eyes on his person, as well. He had done more than enough to help already, as far as Misato was concerned.

With a shake of her head, Misato pushed aside all the conspiracies for the moment and focused on the there and then, telling Ritsuko to end the jamming with a flick of her fingers.

“I hope your people know what they’re doing, Ritz,” the Major warned as her parting line. “For all of our sakes.”

>-O]|[O-<​

Unit-00 peeked its rifle around the next corner and patiently waited for a few moments of no movement to fully step into the next hallway. The arena Major Katsuragi had chosen for the duels was filled with the same long and intersecting corridors and had a large area of open space in the middle that Rei had been making her way towards, slowly and carefully so as to not leave herself exposed to any attacks. Her choice of armaments had been the most versatile she could think of from among the myriad of options, with a pallet rifle for general combat and a progressive naginata for close quarters, and although the First Child rued the fact that the flat nature of the battlefield left her no choice but to forego her preference for sniper tactics, the bluenette had not dwelled on that problem too long.

“Sector I-7,” Rei whispered to herself, moving forward to start her methodical sweep of the next area. “No contact yet.”

And just as she was turning around from one of the corners...

...she caught a glimpse of a large rocket heading her way.

Unit-00 extended its AT-Field and the warhead harmlessly detonated on contact, releasing a ball of fire and filling the hallway with black smoke. Rei fired a retaliatory barrage through the dark wall and steadily began to retreat for breathing room, watching and listening for any signs of enemy movement indicated by her instruments. She made sure to stay far from any intersections, so that the only venues of approach would be either in front or behind her, and then she waited.

After all, Rei Ayanami was nothing if not patient, she would lie in wait for her opponent to make a mistake, rather than risk one of her own. She was confident about her chances of getting the upper hand on either of her more impatient teammates that way.

It took minutes, but finally her sensors caught the sound of movement to her eleven o’clock, running towards her. Getting ready on the trigger, the First Child listened closely, the heavy steps coming closer and closer until they veered into a different direction and began to run through the hallway to her left.
‘I see, she plans to circle around and strike at my back,’ the First Child deduced, scrambling to set her weapon’s sights in the other direction. ‘That won’t-’

The steps suddenly stopped, Unit-00’s sensors informing its pilot that their last known position was just to her right. Rei turned her eyes to look at the wall...

...and then, without warning, the demonic visage of Unit-01 burst from the surface.

‘Through the wall?!’

There you are! I’ve been looking for you, Bluebird!” Mari happily shouted, charging through the hole and missing with her progressive knife by a hair’s breadth. “I was starting to get bored, you know!”

Rei’s response came in the form of another retreating barrage that met Unit-01’s AT-Field, keeping it pinned for the second she needed to holster the pallet rifle and reach for her naginata. Not a moment too soon, sparks beginning to fly as Mari charged again and the two weapons clashed against one another.
“I’m getting the hang of this!” the Fifth Child cheered, deflecting a thrust and weaving past the following slash to answer with a strike of her own, cutting through Unit-00’s wrist armour.

But Rei didn’t allow the small sting in her left arm to deter her. Continuing to step back against her opponent’s furious charges in order to make the most of her weapon’s range advantage, the First Child continued to defend until the number of wounds she inflicted started to outnumber those she received. It was enough to eventually give the gleeful Fifth Child pause, her titan’s armour cracked and torn open in many places even if no critical damage had been inflicted.

And then, Unit-01 took out a detonator.

“Hehe...” Mari grinned, pushing the button in the device. “Gotcha!”

A high-pitched beeping noise brought Rei’s attention to the wall an instant before it exploded, the explosive charge that had been planted there doing minimal damage to her EVA but blinding the First Child and making her shield her face for just a few moments.

But a second’s opening was all the time the Fifth Child needed. In a flash, Mari had rushed over, snapped her naginata in half and punched the disoriented Unit-00 in the face.

“ATATATATATATATATATATA!” Mari yelled as Unit-01 continued its onslaught, tens of punches striking the blue titan all over its body. “HIYA!”

And finally, a powerful kick to the chest sent Unit-00 flying into the centre of the arena. It hit the ground with a heavy crash and slid to a full stop, its pilot fighting through the daze she was in and trying to regain her bearing with surprising efficiency.

Off in the distance, about two hundred metres away and through all the warning screens clogging her HUD, Rei saw Unit-01 slowly making its way towards her. The Fifth Child was taking her time, probably thinking that with all the damage it had sustained there was little, if anything, that the blue cyclops could do to oppose her. And she wasn’t wrong, for the most part.

But Rei Ayanami still had a pallet rifle, a working targeting computer and an iron will. Unit-00 held its weapon in a one-handed grip and aimed the barrel at the purple Evangelion...

...and it was then she noticed a second detonator in its other hand.

“Nice fight, Bluebird, but...” Mari’s face suddenly appeared in Rei’s vision, her voice then turning dramatically deep. “...You’re already dead.”

And with a final push, a hundred more beeps went off all around Unit-00.

>-O]|[O-<​

“...Ouch,” Asuka winced as she watched the smoke disappear, the training arena rebuilding for the second round. “Good thing the damage feedback is dampened.”

“Hm? You said something, Asuka?”

“I was... wondering why Wondergirl didn’t push up faster,” Asuka quickly lied to her CO with a shake of her head. “I mean, she has the better synch-ratio!”

“Rei has always been the cautious type. It’s not in her nature to charge forward.”

“I know that, but she gave Glasses all the time in the world to get ready! She even set up a bed of explosives and came up with a way to bring Unit-00 to it, for God’s sake!” the Second Child exclaimed, throwing her arms in the air. “What’s the use in being careful if you’re going to throw every other advantage away?”

“Agreed,” Misato nodded, making the young redhead blink in surprise. Asuka wasn’t used to having her criticisms of her teammates taken into account. “Guess someone will have to teach Rei about what she’s doing wrong, right?”

“I suppose I-” Asuka began to agree, before she caught herself with a frown. “...Wait, isn’t that your job?”

“Not since I grabbed myself a cute assistant!” the Major cheerfully replied, adding a wink for good measure. A report from her side then caught her attention. “Speaking of, Rei’s signalling that she’s ready for round two. What about you, Asuka?”

The Second Child grinned at the unnecessary question, she had been itching to get into the fight herself and the First Child being her first opponent only made things better. She would make sure to make the bluenette pay for wasting the better part of her last thirty minutes.

Yes, Wondergirl would be easy. If anything, it was Makinami’s newfound resourcefulness that could perhaps prove a challenge.

Asuka wasn’t worried, though. She didn’t plan on giving the Fifth Child half an hour to prepare, after all.

“Let’s rock.”
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 Gryphon117 » Tue Jul 30, 2019 3:22 am

A bit of a shorter update today. I've been sanding down doors and taking care of other matters for a large part of last week.

Chapter 12-4  SPOILER: Show
Just as the Second Child had expected, Rei Ayanami didn’t prove to be much of a test of her abilities. The bluenette had learned from her previous skirmish, admittedly, complementing her fancy for ambushes and long range combat with some of the explosive surprises that Mari had used against her, but the duel had been as good as over the moment Asuka managed to figure out a route through Rei’s traps and engage her in hand to hand combat, her superior experience and synch ratio carrying her through everything else.

But even when hopelessly outmatched, the First had fought until the bitter end against her, just as she had against Mari, and Asuka could respect that. While she was feeling generous the Second Child would also mention that Shinji’s extra eyes had maybe helped a little bit during the duel too.

Not too much, though; Asuka was sure she would have noticed the final trap Rei had set up for her before rushing into it, after all.

‘Gee, thanks.’

‘Shut it, Third. I need to focus here.’

Asuka heard a slightly miffed grunt come out of her ‘co-pilot’ but resolved to ignore it, preferring to keep her attention on the many corners of the arena. Her duel with Mari had barely started and the Fifth Child had already surprised her with an open communication telling her to meet in the middle of the arena to fight, no strings attached, probably knowing that Asuka wouldn’t be willing to back down from an official challenge.

And accepted it she had. Still, Asuka wasn’t foolish enough to take the girl at her word and leave her back exposed to a likely ambush, hence her caution as she made her way to the centre. It paid to be careful in the face of a possible trap, even if, admittedly, it wouldn’t have been nearly as elaborate as the one Makinami had pulled off on Rei.

But Asuka’s prudence proved ultimately pointless when she reached the clearing without incident: as promised, Unit-01 was there, in the middle of the central area, arms crossed and almost begging to be shot. She was making herself such an easy target, in fact, that the thought of teaching a lesson to the Fifth Child right then and there with a well-placed strike briefly passed through Asuka’s mind. Let Mari know in no uncertain terms that, while in the battlefield, her usual bullshit would have no place in her squad.

But in the end, Asuka’s pride as a Pilot triumphed over her still wanting leadership and the redhead stepped out into the open.

“Hey there, Princess!” the purple robot happily waved in Unit-02’s direction once she spotted her. “Took your sweet time getting here, didn’t you?”

Asuka’s finger itched over the trigger a second time.

“Excuse me for not being as blindly trusting as some others I could mention,” she shot back with a tired groan. “What’s with the stunt, anyway?”

“Eeeh? I thought you didn’t want to waste any time. You don’t like my idea?”

“Well, I am not against it, but...” Asuka opened up a second channel, Major Katsuragi’s serious face floating in the LCL. “You okay with this, Misato? We’re probably breaking a lot of unspoken rules, aren’t we?”

“I won’t say I’m happy with this approach, but it’s true that I didn’t say anything about what you could or couldn’t do in this exercise, so...” Misato shook her head with a sigh. “I guess it should still serve some of its purpose, anyway. You can have some fun if you want to.”

“Great!” her opponent’s cheer came from the other side of the HUD. “Thanks, Boss!”

Asuka saw the Major raise an eyebrow at Mari’s remark before she muttered something that sounded very much like ‘disciplinary actions’, her face vanishing from the entry-plug soon after.

“Alright! You ready, Princess?” the Fifth Child mouth twisted into a feral grin, unsuspecting of what would likely befall her in the future. “My moves are still a bit on the sluggish side, but I think I can make this fun for the both of us!”

“I sure hope you can back all that talk,” the Second shot back, switching her pistol for a far more menacing progressive axe. “Where is your weapon, for starters?”

“Didn’t bring any.”

“Say what?” Asuka’s eyes narrowed at the implication. “You think you can take me with just a prog-knife?”

“Nope!” Mari proudly replied, dropping into a fighting stance. “I’m going to fight you with my fists!”

Asuka found herself blinking in surprise at her opponent’s claim. Frowning, she looked at the massive axe in her grip, then at Unit-01, then at her weapon again.

“...And here I thought you couldn’t be any more stupid.”

“Hey! I’ll have you know that my martial arts trainer back in Beijing said I was his most prized and talented pupil!” the Fifth Child protested with a childish pout. “And you don’t get praise that easily from someone that’s been a cook, a detective and a race driver! He was a funny guy to boot!”

“You know what? Let’s just get this over with,” the Second Child concluded, getting her weapon ready. “You’re giving me a headache.”



>-O]|[O-<



“You can say that again,” Ace grumbled, focusing on the screen. Clearly, she wanted to be at the helm for the fight. “Would it kill her to shut up for two minutes?”

Shinji, wisely deciding to keep his remark about pots and kettles to himself, inclined his head like something that could have been taken as agreement, a move that served to conceal the roll of his eyes.

“What’s the plan?”

“Plan, what plan?” the Pilot replied with a scoff. “I’ve got a massive axe, she doesn’t. I’m going to have her on her back in five seconds flat!”

And so Unit-02’s weapon soared through the air into an overhead swing, Unit-01 easily sidestepping the strike only to find itself needing to dodge a thrust of the axe’s edge. A combination of slashes and strikes followed, Asuka dancing with the momentum of her weapon as she tried to land a solid hit on her opponent. But Mari always seemed to step away or parry at the last moment, turning what could have been a bloody mess of a strike into a glancing blow at best and even managing to fight back against Unit-02 at times, albeit with as lacking success as the crimson titan.

A well-timed kick from Unit-01 forced Ace to step back and reassess the situation.

“...Ten seconds.”

But ten seconds turned into thirty, then into a minute and so on, until the duel had continued for the better part of five minutes. Several blows were exchanged but none proved decisive, even if Unit-01 certainly suffered the worst part of the damage throughout the skirmish. Nevertheless, its movements were still almost as fluid as they had been at the beginning.

Much to the frustration of a certain redheaded Pilot.

“How the hell is she moving like that with her synch-ratio?!”

Shinji winced at the question. Having both Ace and Asuka roar the same question at the same time was far too much for his poor ears to take.

“I can help too, if you want?” he asked once the ringing had stopped.

“Pfft, as if I could need your help,” the Pilot growled through gritted teeth. “Fine, no more games! Watch and learn from a true professional, Third!”

Without warning, Unit-02 charged forward and shoulder tackled her opponent, Mari proving just a second too late on the controls to dodge. Taking the chance offered by the unbalanced Unit-01, Asuka spun her EVA around and caught the purple giant’s feet on the edge of her axe, lopping off the left and severely damaging the right. Without support, Unit-01 crashed on its back, the edge of Asuka’s axe following it until it came to rest harmlessly just on top of its chest.

Unit-01 raised its hand in surrender and one of Mari’s disappointed quips reached their ears. Just as she had claimed, Ace’s last move had indeed won the duel in five seconds flat, even if it had come a bit later than she had initially envisioned.

“You did it!” the Third Child exclaimed, failing to hide his shock. He was quick to realise his mistake, though, and braced himself for one of Ace’s usual tirades.

But it didn’t come. Shinji turned to find the Pilot frowning at the screen, something clearly on her mind.

“Is something the matter?” Maisie asked her from the other side, faster than the young man could.

“Yeah, that shouldn’t have been so easy.”

“What do you mean?”

“I wasn’t planning on the tackle to work. I mean, she’s been dodging harder stuff than that all this time so...” Ace trailed off, trying to find a reason one last time before she asked the obvious question. “Why didn’t she dodge that?”

“Perhaps the amount of damage she had already sustained made evading your strike harder than you imagine?”

Ace looked sideways at her other, her mouth a thin line. She was clearly not convinced.

“...Maybe,” she ultimately shrugged with a sigh. “Well, whatever, it’s probably not worth worrying about.

“So, what did you think of that?!” the redheaded Pilot then turned to Shinji. “Told you I would beat her without breaking a sweat!”

The young man didn’t know what to make of her grin. Ace was obviously ecstatic about her victory and willing to share it, but that very same person had also not given him the time of day during the entire morning, so Shinji felt his confusion was more than justified enough.

“Sure... you did?”

“‘Sure you did...’, he says. Wrong!” Ace mocked the Third Child’s answer before she corrected him with her usual method: a flick against Shinji’s forehead. “It’s ‘of course I did!’. Don’t forget who you’re talking to, Third! The one and only best damn EVA Pilot in the world! One that maybe will even let you help at some point, if she’s feeling generous! I mean, we don’t want you getting rusty yourself and-”

And it was at that point that Ace seemed to remember that she was still supposed to be angry at him. Or rather, not at him, but at Asuka. Shinji was just getting the silent treatment by association.

“Actually, forget that,” the Pilot sat back down and turned away from him with a scoff. “You’ll just screw up somehow.”

And so, Ace continued to busy herself with her console, getting ready for the big event of the day, the large scale simulation from the day before that was meant to improve the girls’ teamwork. Or so she made it appear, since Shinji knew that the reality of it was that he had been designated persona non grata once more.

The Third Child turned towards Asuka for support, but his assistant merely offered a careless shrug. Helpful as always, that one.

With a deep and tired groan, Shinji Ikari resolved to try his hand at getting Asuka to speak with Doctor Akagi about his condition.

‘Here’s to hoping I’ll catch her in a good mood if Misato’s test goes well today.’
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 Gryphon117 » Tue Aug 06, 2019 5:20 am

Another update for the week, with the last bit of combat for a little while. Next time we deal with the aftermath and prepare for a timeskip.

Enjoy! ^_^

Chapter 12-5  SPOILER: Show
‘Asuka! Another one coming from the left!’

‘I saw it already, Third!’ the Second Child growled as she cleaved the designated enemy in half. ‘Why don’t you just sit tight in there and stop back seating me?’

‘Because four eyes are better than two?’ Shinji replied with a faint hint of irritation. ‘Besides, I’ve been ‘just watching’ for two hours straight. It’s starting to get boring.’

‘Boring, eh? Not good enough for you, so you thought you’d lend a hand?’ Asuka growled back, checking the area for her next target. ‘Thank God the Invincible Shinji-sama decided to help us! Clearly, we’re too useless to beat Misato’s stupid test without him around.’

‘That’s not what I meant and you know it.’

The Second Child flinched slightly at the accusation, knowing in the back of her mind that the young man was right. In her defence, though, two hours and fifteen attempts at doing the same thing over and over with only minor improvements to show for it had left her somewhat irritable.

But again, and for once, that wasn’t Shinji’s fault. It was no one’s fault, really, just Misato’s training regime being plain unfair by design, which made the Second Child’s preferred method of stress relief somewhat ineffective.

‘Fine, whatever,’ Asuka eventually relented, offering something that vaguely resembled an olive branch. ‘Keep talking if you want, but don’t tell me what to do.’

Eyes then darting at an enemy lock signal that had just appeared in her HUD, Asuka quickly rushed forward and sought cover behind a ruined building, two large missiles impacting the other side and exploding in a blazing inferno not a second after. Unit-02 then reached for the pistol that served as its secondary weapon and aimed it at the crossroads to its right, just in time to greet an enemy charging around the corner with a bullet to the head, the robot immediately crumpling into a heap on the floor.

The attackers Misato had conjured for the simulation were akin to their EVAs, but far more artificial-looking in their design: their surfaces were flat and the edges of their armour full of angles, giving them an almost polygonal look that wouldn’t have been amiss on a mass-produced version of their robots that looked to minimize production costs. The truth of their design had nothing to do with money, however, their simplicity purely meant as a means to easily tell friend from foe and reduce the processing workload on the MAGI.

But despite their looks, they were still every bit as lethal as their own units, even if their approach to combat favoured the basics. A flaw that the trio had been forced to take full advantage of as a way of combating their numerical disadvantage, three-to-one odds at the best of times, and that had led them to a measure of success once they had learned how to properly exploit it.

But that all changed when the assaults began to be led by a copy of one of their EVAs, selected at random and with an AI tailor-made for them from the information the MAGI had on each Pilot’s fighting style. Unit-02 would recklessly lead the charge of its wave and be suicidally aggressive in its approach, looking to cause as much damage as possible before going down, while Unit-00 would be content to sit at the back of the pack and use the lesser troops as a shield while it shot at any exposed or engaged enemies. Unit-01, loaded with the combat data of Shinji Ikari, served as a middle ground between the two extremes, with the added possibility of the Evangelion randomly going berserk when heavily damaged.

All three of the ‘Elites’, as Asuka took to calling them, were a significant threat on their own and required different tactics to put down, but their real danger lay in how they altered the otherwise unremarkable strategies of the mob below them, making them far more cunning or violent to suit the situation and forcing the girls to adapt their nascent teamwork time and time again, to usually lacking results.

But they had persevered, and at the fifteenth attempt had made it farther than any other try before. Their EVAs were bloodied, battered, low on ammunition and Asuka would wring Mari’s neck if she made another one of her witty and out of place comments, but through all of that, the Second Child felt as if she could almost see the finish line.

“Enemy movement in my quadrant. I’m also receiving sniper fire from the enemy Unit-00,” Rei reported over the radio, tasked with defending the main objective, a virtual recreation of the NERV HQ pyramid, from any enemy flankers that slipped past Units 01 and 02. “Need support.”

“Gotcha, Wondergirl,” Asuka acknowledged, checking the updated positions of their foes on her tactical map. “Hold tight, I’m circling around to surround those assholes. Glasses, you find and neutralize that damn sniper.”

“By your will, Your Highness~!”

Asuka gritted her teeth but allowed the Fifth Child’s remark to go without reply, concentrating instead on getting through her waypoints as quickly as possible. Judging by their current timing, and if she was to trust Misato to honour the grace periods that she had been giving them in between waves thus far, it was likely that the enemies the First was engaging were the very last remnants in the operations area. Logic dictated that Asuka’s path should therefore be mostly clear, and the Second Child acted in accordance to that.

‘Asuka, have you forgotten what happened the last time you rushed like this?’

But of course, it would fall to Shinji to worry about the unlikely.

‘Stop being such a pessimist, Third, I know where the enemy is,’ the redhead replied, keeping her attention forward. ‘And besides, I’ve got another pair of eyes to warn me of incoming danger, right?’

‘Uh...’ the Third Child mumbled after a hesitant pause. ‘Yeah, sure.’

A pause that wasn’t lost on Asuka. Shinji sounded a bit surprised, for some reason, and the redhead couldn’t figure out why. The only thing she had done was repeat her previous offer/apology, after all.

‘...What?’ Asuka demanded when the silence finally turned awkward. ‘Did I say something we-’

But her unfinished question would go without answer. Suddenly, a gargantuan explosion rocked the entire area, almost knocking the crimson Evangelion off its feet. Bracing herself in order to maintain her balance, Asuka struggled to see through the glare that now invaded her sensors.

There was only one type of explosive ordnance in the world that could do both of those things.

“...What the f-? An N2 warhead?!” the Second Child exclaimed, the light winding down enough that she could spot a familiar cloud of smoke high in the air. The blast had come from the pyramid they were supposed to defend. “Wondergirl! Are you alright?! What happened?!”

“I’m... unsure. No enemy breached my perimeter,” the First Child reported, the same confusion Asuka felt audible beneath the bluenette’s usual stoicism. “I’m still combat capable, but the objective appears to have spontaneously exploded.”

“On its own?” Asuka echoed the unexpected information with a frown. “...Hey, Misato. Did you do that?”

“Primary target lost,” the Major’s face appeared in Asuka’s HUD, her neutral expression betraying no information. “Retreat from the combat area and head towards the extraction zone marked in your maps. You have three minutes to reach your destination. Anyone not in the area at the designated time will be left behind and considered missing in action for the purposes of this exercise.”

The sudden change in objectives told everything Misato’s poker face did not, however. Clearly, she must have thought that they were doing too well, or something.

‘Well, that’s... a good thing. Isn’t it?’

‘Maybe,’ Asuka agreed, keeping the sarcastic remark about the change in plans to herself. ‘Now let’s see what we have here...’

The Second Child fiddled with her HUD for a second and checked the coordinates to their objective, quickly learning that their destination was well over a hundred kilometres away, past the mountains surrounding Tokyo-3. A distance that a sprinting Evangelion wouldn’t have had an issue crossing in half their allotted time.

If only they weren’t in the middle of a battlefield.

“What?!” Asuka furiously exclaimed. “We have to clear a path all the way to there in three minutes?!”

“Those are your orders, indeed,” Misato acknowledged with a nod. “Time is ticking.”

The link with HQ went down with a foreboding beep and, for a moment, Asuka wondered just how Misato expected them to get out of that mess. They could just make a run for it, but at that point they might as well be carrying big, bright ‘SHOOT ME’ signs for the benefit of every single enemy in the area, which likely wouldn’t end well. Leave it to Misato to prepare an ambush or two for them along the way, too, for good measure.

‘No, we’ll need to pull off something a bit more fancy than that,’ the Second Child decided, even if, admittedly, she still had no plan. ‘But first, regroup.’

“Alright!” Asuka ordered. “Wondergirl, with me! Glasses, take out your target and hold position until we arrive! Be on the lookout for any other Elites that might get in our way!”

“Roger that~!”

The red and blue Evangelions reunited and all remaining stragglers taken care of, Asuka and Rei set a course towards Mari’s position and linked up with the last member of their team underneath the enemy Unit-00’s sniper nest. The Elite cyclops was silent, a grisly prog-knife inflicted wound running all around its neck; the effective, if somewhat crude handiwork of the Fifth Child.

Asuka wasted no time in offering pointers to Mari, though, grabbing a pallet rifle for herself and choosing to quickly agree on a route that would see them to safety. They decided to forego the most direct route and stay within the city limits for as long as possible, moving cover to cover, seeking and dispatching threats as necessary but also making sure to keep a brisk pace, a requirement that earned them a few nasty injuries despite their best efforts. By the time the trio had reached the edge of the city and their options for protection ran dry, Asuka would have been able to more quickly perform her status report by mentioning the parts of Unit-02 that weren’t damaged.

But the redhead didn’t allow such a thing as critical condition to deter her. All their preparations had left them with just a hundred seconds on the timer.

“Alright, this is what we’re going to do,” Asuka began, launching into a brief explanation that saw the girls covering three of the four sides of a square, leaving the one from which the least contacts had been detected unwatched. Back to back and AT-Fields extended, their formation looked akin to a Testudo from the ancient Roman legions, offering a good degree of protection and mobility so long as they remained well-coordinated.

A requirement that they could still improve upon, the errant bullet or beam still managing to make it through their defences, much to Asuka’s chagrin. But still, they were making good time and the Second Child had to admit that things were progressing rather well...

...up until that stopped being the case.

It started with a positron beam from their blind spot that Asuka wouldn’t have been able to block had it not been for Shinji’s timely warning. Following the energy particles back to their source revealed the enemy Unit-00 perched on one of its sniper nests, a sight that wouldn’t have been cause for too much concern had it only been alone.

But that wasn’t so. All three of the Elites were now coming after them at once, and while Units 01 and 02 were still a fair distance away, one armed with a heavy cannon and the other with a halberd, that would not remain true for long.

Misato had taken off the kiddie gloves.

“It was being too easy, alright,” Asuka growled, holding back the urge to swear as the pressure against their shielding quickly intensified. The riffraff was turning more aggressive, too. She turned a quick eye towards the crest of the mountain, their ticket to freedom. “And we were so close, too.”

“Well... We can still make it,” Mari offered. “Most of us, anyway. One could stay behind so the other two can escape.”

“I volunteer.”

Asuka narrowed her eyes at the First Child’s nigh-instant suggestion, but didn’t argue with her. She, however, couldn’t shake the feeling that they were playing straight into Misato’s hand, but it was true that sticking to their formation against their current odds wouldn’t work, either, and she honestly didn’t have any better ideas. Asuka glanced at the clock again: sixty seconds.

“...Fine. Wondergirl, you look after our backs. Take a shot when you can, but focus on delaying them and keeping your A.T. Field up. We’re not leaving you here,” the Second Child then turned towards Mari. “Okay, Glasses: on my mark we drop everything and make a run for the top, we then take out my doppelganger from cover and offer fire support to Unit-00. Clear?”

“Crystal!”

“Then let’s get to it! GO!”

In the span of a few seconds, the purple and red Evangelions had sprung from their positions and sprinted upwards, the bombardment of shells and energy weapons failing to catch up to their sudden dash until they were well behind the mountain’s protection. Then, as one, and with a coordination that briefly reminded Asuka of the successful attack on the Tenth Angel, Units 01 and 02 aimed their pallet rifles and launched their attack on the advancing enemies, dropping many and forcing the Elite Unit-02 to slow its charge or face crippling damage.

“Alright, Wondergirl, your turn!” Asuka commanded to the remaining EVA. “Move it!”

Rei Ayanami dropped her AT-Field and did as she had been told, using the supporting fire and the brief window offered by their enemies changing targets to charge up the mountain like Asuka and Mari had done before her. It took the bluenette barely two seconds to be within reach of the cusp and she was about to take her final step when a positron beam lanced through the air and struck Unit-00 on the right knee, severing the limb and bringing the titan down with a deafening crash.

The other two Evangelions stopped their fire long enough to watch as the fallen giant slid half the distance she had covered, the enemy army ignoring her in favour of resuming their slow march towards their position.

Thirty seconds.

“Wow, that was a good shot,” Mari commented on the sniper’s handiwork with a whistle of appreciation. “And, hey; things didn’t go exactly as planned, but... two out of three is still a good ratio, don’t you think?”

“Not good enough. Cover me.”

“What?” Unit-01 turned to look at its teammate, but Unit-02 had already jumped forward and was sliding down the slope. “Hey, Princess!”

If Asuka heard her she showed no signs of it, rushing while firing her pallet rifle at the enemy until she was at Unit-00’s side. The Second Child then threw down her weapon and tried to work her arms around the fallen Evangelion’s body, focusing her AT-Field into the largest barrier she could project while helping the blue titan to its remaining foot.

‘Asuka, watch out!’

Asuka snapped to attention at the warning and managed to refocus her barrier before disaster struck her like a freight train. The Second Child looked over Unit-00’s shoulder to find her doppelganger all over her, the edge of its halberd sparking against Unit-02’s AT-Field.

‘How did it get here so fast?!’ Asuka gawked, watching as the blade began to tear through her protection despite her best efforts. ‘Shit, no time to-!’

“HIYA!”

A purple foot suddenly appeared from out of nowhere and struck the charging Unit-02 square on the head, completely shifting its momentum and sending the Elite rolling down the mountain. Asuka watched it go for a moment, her mouth hanging open just a fraction as she turned to stare at the smug-looking Unit-01.

“What’s with the look?” Mari asked her, smirking widely. “You didn’t think I was just going to stand and watch, did you?”

“...As if,” Asuka recovered with a scoff, secretly grateful. “You never do as you’re told.”

“He-he! That’s an endearing character trait!”

Unit-01 dramatically tapped a fist against its chest and, despite herself, the Second Child found that she couldn’t help but smile a bit at Mari’s antics.

‘I guess she earned herself that one.’

“Further talk is unnecessary,” Rei suddenly interrupted the moment. “We should make our way to the evacuation point.”

Yours is not endearing,” Asuka rolled her eyes as she mumbled, before she began to push the injured Evangelion out of the fray. “Fine, shut up and hop, Wondergirl!”

Mari grabbed a hold of Unit-00 as well and the three Evangelions charged up the mountain, ignoring the bullets sinking into their backs and the warning signs in their HUDs in favour of reaching the top one second earlier. The moment they arrived at the crest and without saying a word, Units 01 and 02 jumped in unison with enough energy to carry the injured Unit-00 with them, soaring through the sky for the briefest of moments and resuming their mad dash to freedom the very instant the EVAs’ made touchdown on the other side of the mountain.

‘Just a little bit more!’ Asuka thought to herself, noting that they were just two kilometres away from their goal. A distance that they could cover in the blink of an eye with no enemies to bar their path.

But just as they were about to enter into their target zone, the girls hit a huge barrier that blocked them and made them land flat on their rears, a wall that the Second Child had seen form barely a tenth of a second before they slammed against it. While Mari moaned in pain and loudly asked the heavens just what it was that stood in their way now, Asuka shifted her eyes to look at the timer, fearing the worst.

It read zero seconds.

“...Goddammit.”
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 » Fri Aug 16, 2019 7:48 am

Update time! Today's scene finishes Chapter 12 and sets us up for the timeskip that I was talking about last week. In universe, it will be about two weeks before we see the girls again, so look forward to their progress (or lack there of, maybe)!

Enjoy! ^_^

Chapter 12-6  SPOILER: Show
Misato had not been amused.

Admittedly, she hadn’t been angry, either. More like a shade of disappointed, if even that, although the Major had made completely sure of deflecting whatever suspicions Asuka might have had behind a wall of stoicism for the entire hour of the debriefing. She had limited herself to mercilessly pointing out the tactical blunders, inefficient positioning and coordination mistakes of the last two hours, with the occasional praise for a good decision here and there thrown in to break the tedium. It had been a hellish experience to go through after the marathonian simulator session, and while Misato obviously knew that, that knowledge hadn’t stopped her from finishing the meeting with the one thing Asuka thought she had escaped by virtue of being cooped up inside the Geofront:

Homework. Specifically, written reports. On the topic of the last simulation battle, which they had already discussed at length during the debriefing.

‘Is it just me, or has Misato awakened to her sadist tendencies since she was let out of jail?’

Asuka’s observation was left without an answer from the resident of her mind, but she did feel a sensation that felt like Shinji offering sympathy for her woes. Slightly surprising, considering that the Third Child had been petulantly silent since the moment she had shot down his latest proposal. In Asuka’s defence, though, telling Ritsuko Akagi about their situation sounded like as terrible an idea as they came, but Shinji hadn’t exactly liked her promises of finding some other way.

‘Fat lot of good that’s going to do me when I’m falling asleep on the kitchen table, Third.’ Asuka snarked with a sigh, watching her words so as to not make things worse.

At least the Second Child wouldn’t suffer through her troubles alone, as her two teammates had been saddled with exactly the same task. It would be annoying to get through, but if the three of them worked together their extra-curricular activities would be done that much sooner. So long as Makinami didn’t go on one of her tangents, of course.

Asuka let out a drawn-out sigh. Being team leader was a lot more exhausting than she ever imagined.

“Retracing your steps to assist me made no tactical sense.”

...And Wondergirl wanting to get things started early didn’t make things any easier.

“This again?” Asuka replied, barely suppressing a groan. “I told you a hundred times already, I made the decisions that seemed appropriate given the circumstances, and I would take them again.”

“Your willingness to repeat them doesn’t change the fact that they were suboptimal decisions.”

“So, what?” the Second Child planted herself in front of Rei and narrowed her eyes at her, bringing the entire group to a halt. “If something like that happens in the sims again, or in a real battle, I should just leave you to die? Is that what you’re saying?”

“Yes,” the First Child immediately nodded. “I can be replaced.”

An answer that Asuka promptly shot down with a scoff.

“Bullshit, again with that? Whatever you say, and morals aside, doing that would make my leadership skills look bad,” the redhead then smirked, a thought coming to her mind. “But hey, why don’t we turn things around? What would you have done if you were in my shoes, Wondergirl?”

“If I were… ‘in your shoes’?” Rei wondered, tilting her head to the side. “I… question the possibility of something like that happening.”

“…Eh?”

“No, no, no, Bluebird. Don’t be so literal about it,” Mari jumped in to relieve Asuka from her confusion. She pointed with her thumb at the dumbfounded Second Child. “What Princess here is trying to ask you is what you would have done if you were leading the squad and she was the one needing help. Right?”

“Of course! How could that be taken as anything else?!”

“Apologies,” Rei bowed her head slightly forward, before she contemplated the problem for a few moments. “…If I were in your position, I would have tried to assist you.”

“What, all this bitching and now you tell me you’d have done the same?” Asuka rolled her eyes, almost throwing her arms up in frustration. “Why the change of heart?”

“Because Ikari-kun would be saddened if you died.”

The Second Child went very still and, try as she may, she couldn’t stop the hint of a blush that made it to her cheeks. Asuka thanked her lucky stars that this time at least Suzuhara wasn’t around to see her. Makinami’s giggles were easier to ignore.

“…You’re still going on about that, aren’t you?”

“Yes, I am,” an affirmative nod. “It was, and still is, a logical conclusion.”

“Right,” Asuka almost growled. “‘Logical conclusion’, she says.”

‘And all that logic can’t get her to see how monumentally stupid what she just said was,’ she continued to herself. ‘Gods, Third. What the hell do you see in this weirdo?’

‘EH?!’

Pressing past the bewildered cry from inside her head with nothing but a small wince, Asuka prepared to continue with her argument. In truth, somewhere during the conversation she had sort of forgotten that Shinji was there and listening to her every word, her question meant as rhetorical and only for her own ears.

Still, and with such a reaction, Shinji would need to be interrogated in the future. It served to further prove her point, too.

“Okay, fine. So the Third would mope if I wasn’t around to see him stop being lazy, we already established that,” the Second Child crossed her arms. “But what? Do you think he’d be jumping for joy if you kicked the bu-… died?”

“I…” Rei confidently began before she cut herself short, a flash of Shinji’s relieved face at the end of the battle with the Fifth Angel passing through her mind’s eye. The First Child frowned in reflection. “…suppose Ikari-kun would be saddened in that situation as well.”

“You bet your pale little ass he would, so maybe you should start thinking twice before keeping up with the self-sacrificing bullshit,” her point made, Asuka turned around with a scoff and began to head further down the hallway, Mari in tow. “Whatever you say about replacing, there can only be one Rei Ayanami, and I’m sure that the Third agrees with me on that. And I don’t want to see him sulking any more than he already does.”

Struck silent, the First Child stood still, mulling Asuka’s words. Having her individuality validated and appreciated was a sensation that felt surprisingly good, and one that brought the first few hints of doubt on her otherwise single-minded sense of purpose. In truth, however, such deep contemplations were not the only reason why Rei Ayanami had remained slightly behind, staring at the redhead’s fiery mane.

“Hey, hey, Princess!” she watched as the Fifth Child excitedly asked a question to the Second. “What would you do if I’m ever on the ground like that?!”

“I’d shoot your other leg.”

“EEEH?!”

It was an unrelated matter that occupied her, one that had remained at the forefront of her mind for some time by then. And, for just a moment during their argument, Rei could have sworn she had seen it again: something different about her redheaded companion that had only started to appear in recent days.

Ever since the fight with the Fifteenth, to be precise, the one that saw Shinji Ikari fall into an unexplainable slumber. And the one that had seen the Second Child almost collapse into herself only to resurge against all odds, with mannerisms and a positive state of mind that were a far cry from the crying and beaten teenager that had spent the first night at Shinji’s bedside.

Too far, in fact. And the Second Child’s recent tendency towards distraction and muttering to herself, both things that she had rarely done prior to the last battle, only made Rei even more suspicious.

Her mind made up, the First Child narrowed her eyes and hurried to catch up to the others.

“Just one more question, Second Child,” she called out, prompting the redhead to turn around in irritation again.

“What is it now?” Asuka demanded, some of her anger leaving her when she saw Rei’s serious expression. “Fine, ask away, Wondergirl.”

“When was the last time you spoke with Ikari-kun?”

The Second Child froze, a thousand thoughts invading her mind as the bluenette asked her the very last question she could have foreseen with unusual boldness.

“E-Excuse me...?” she stammered. “W-What… do you mean…?”

“I meant what I asked: when was the last time you spoke with Ikari-kun?”

“That’s a weird question to ask her, Bluebird,” Mari unwittingly came to the flustered redhead’s rescue. “I mean, it would have been at some point before the last battle, right?”

“I didn’t ask you, Fifth Child,” Rei bluntly replied, not even looking in her direction. Dramatically and with her usual flourish, Mari’s hand shot up to her heart and she stared at the First Child with a pout and almost teary eyes, wordlessly asking her why she was following in Asuka’s footsteps.

Her silent plea was ignored, too.

Fine,” Mari mumbled, her head hanging as she shuffled her feet to the side of the corridor. “Since I’m clearly not wanted, I’ll be over there. Sulking. By myself.”

The Fifth Child leant against the wall and gave Rei the evil eye over the rim of her glasses, quietly muttering about unfairness and killjoys but not interfering in any other way. A few steps away Rei still awaited Asuka’s reply, ever patient and adamant on anything that involved Shinji Ikari, much to the Second Child’s chagrin.

‘We should tell her!’

A boy that had wasted no time in making his opinion known.

‘Are you insane, Third?!’ Asuka anxiously protested. ‘How do you even want me to start?!’

‘It doesn’t matter! Ayanami will listen to us!’

‘What do you mean it doesn’t matter?! They’ll kick me out of the program for sure!’ the redhead continued, getting more and more angry by the second. ‘And why are you so damn sure that the stupid doll will solve your problem better than I ever could?!’

‘I’m not saying she can do better than you, but we can’t let this chance go, even if it ends up going nowhere! Asuka, please!’

The Second Child’s comeback died on her lips, an annoyed growl taking its place instead. Something about hearing Shinji beg for her assistance tugged at her heartstrings in a way she just couldn’t resist.

‘...Okay, fine! I’ll tell her!’ Asuka finally relented, her annoyance all but evaporating the moment she felt Shinji’s joy at her agreement. ‘But don’t start crying when this doesn’t work!’

But that left the Second Child with the problem of how to breach such an unbelievable subject. She quickly tried to come up with comparisons or metaphors or any examples of similar things happening in fiction, but didn’t come up with anything that would make the explanation easier to swallow.

So in the end, Asuka settled for the truth.

“...I last spoke with Shinji five seconds ago,” she began after taking a deep and calming breath, Rei’s ears visibly perking up the moment she mentioned the Third Child’s name. “Something happened to us after the last battle and he’s been stuck inside... my head ever since. That’s why he’s in that weird coma. He started talking to me a few days back, and we’re trying to figure out some way to put him in his own body again.” Asuka paused, noticing that she had the other two Children’s undivided attention. The redhead then felt a sudden mischievous urge take a hold of her, before she continued with a smirk. “...He can also see what I see and hear what I hear, so he has seen the two of you naked.”

‘I HAVE NOT!’ Shinji’s expected rebuttal loudly rang inside her head. ‘What the hell, Ace?!’

Barely managing to keep her wince from showing, Asuka blinked for a second at the moniker that Shinji had used to show his displeasure. It was a bit weird that he hadn’t used her name, but still, it was nice knowing he regarded her as the best.

Instead, she focused her attention on the First Child’s reaction, promptly noticing that Ayanami looked as surprised as she had seldom seen her. Obviously she didn’t believe their story.

‘Look at her, Third. Told you, she doesn’t buy it!’ Asuka told her passenger, barely resisting the urge to gloat. ‘And you still think speaking to Doctor McBitchface about your problem is a good idea?’

‘Maybe it would be if you don’t try to make it sound ridiculous!’

‘I don’t need to try! It’s already ridiculous, for God’s sake!’ the Second Child shot back, this time failing to keep her temper in check. ‘As if explaining it like you’re not a pervert would have changed anything!’

“Hey, Princess! What’s up with that?” Mari curiously asked from the side, failing to notice the danger. “The Third Child being a voyeur didn’t show up in any reports!”

That’s the part you stuck with?!” and Asuka exploded in her direction, prompting the Fifth Child to put her hands up in front of her for protection. The redhead then turned around with a sound akin to a dragon’s breath, charging down the hallway like an angry bull. “And why don’t you ask the one that’s asking the stupid questions?! I just gave a stupid answer to match! As if I could have spoken to stupid Shinji in the last three days!”

Mari followed her with her eyes, not daring to leave her defensive stance until a few seconds after the Second Child had turned around the next corner. Slowly, she detached herself from the wall, blinking at the complete one-eighty that Asuka’s disposition had done in the space of a minute.

‘...That was wild even by her standards,’ the Fifth Child mused, shifting to stare at Rei out of the corner of her eye. ‘I get that the Third Child is a sore topic for Sohryu, but why would that weird question affect her so much?’

“What’s up, Bluebird? You look serious,” Mari began, hoping that prodding the immobile bluenette would reward her with some information into her motives. “Oh! Are you in shock about Sleeping Beauty’s ogling tendencies, too? I know I am! I mean, he just looks so innocent that-”

“No, I’m not,” Rei cut her off, her crimson eyes never leaving the path Asuka had taken, a path that she herself began to tread not an instant later. “But it has been four days since Ikari-kun fell asleep, not three.”

One eyebrow rising above its twin, Mari re-checked her facts as she fell into step next to the First Child, quickly realising that Ayanami was right. The Second Child had subtracted one day out of Shinji Ikari’s coma, a silly mistake that Mari had come to realise was very unusual for the redhead to make, especially in regards to anything involving the ever-important Third Child.

‘I wonder,’ Mari considered, the cogs inside her mind beginning to turn. ‘Did that discrepancy come out of Sohryu blurting out the first number that came to mind in the heat of the moment, or could it really be something else?’

The Fifth Child resolved to think things through on the way back.


>-O]|[O-<​


Ten minutes later, Mari Makinami was no closer to an answer, and a glance to her left told her that she wasn’t alone in that predicament: Rei Ayanami continued to be deep in thought, her eyes even more intensely focused on the back of the Second Child than before. The latter did her best to ignore her but some annoyed remarks still found their way to the back of the group, even if the redhead had visibly simmered down during the trip to their shared apartment. She was still setting the blazing pace that screamed ‘I’m feeling moody’, though.

And the reason why still baffled Mari quite a bit.

‘Seriously. What was that about?’

Both the First and Second Children had been acting very out of character in recent days, for some reason, but while Sohryu’s divergence could have been attributed to the return of her piloting abilities, Ayanami’s sudden penchant for not taking her eyes off of the Second Child wasn’t quite as simple to explain.

Unless she had fallen madly in love, or something, which sounded about as likely as a visit by friendly aliens. Plus, that didn’t account for name-dropping the comatose Third Child like she had, and Sohryu’s bizarre reaction to it.

‘Yeah... Sohryu is one crappy liar and it’s obvious that she’s hiding something but, even then, that story she spun sounds... far too unlikely,’ Mari’s eyes flew to the bluenette a second time. ‘Hell, if not for Ayanami’s weird interest in it I would dismiss it outright.

‘...But maybe I should let the Doc know about what Sohryu said. See if she can stick in some subtle scans under some excuse or work a different type of magic, just in case... If her story has the slightest chance of helping us figure out a treatment for the Third Child, that would probably secure us Yui Ikari’s support, and help sway Sohryu and maybe even Ayanami to our side when the time comes. It’s probably worth a shot.’

Her mind made up to seek Akagi at the earliest convenience, Mari focused back on her surroundings only to notice that her musings had made her fall behind the other two by quite a distance. In fact, her return to awareness came just in time to see the Second Child turn around and look straight at her.

“Come on, slowpoke!” she called. “I want to get there before dinner!”

‘Come on, slowpoke! I want to get there before dinner!’

A similar but different echo of Sohryu’s words resonated inside Mari’s mind, just as a blurry vision flew in front of her eyes: a shadow beckoning from under the side of a ruined building, rubble and more debris littering the path forward.

Then the image disappeared as soon as it came, leaving a disoriented Fifth Child in its wake.

‘...Huh?’ she frowned, trying to identify the figure. ‘W-Was that...?’

“Hey, Earth to Glasses! Are you there?” a hand being waved in front of her face snapped Mari out of it, fingers that she could tell belonged to Sohryu even before she raised her eyes to look at her disgruntled face. The redhead then pointed her thumb at the First Child, staring curiously from the side. “Finally! Don’t tell me you’re coming down with Wondergirl’s stare-into-your-soul syndrome, too. Is there like a virus for that floating about, or something?”

“...Nah, I’m fine Princess,” Mari reassured her with the most convincing smile she could summon at the time. “Just a... long thought that came to mind.”

A grin that failed to be too persuasive, the Second Child narrowing her eyes at her for a second or two. She then shook her head and turned around, deciding to continue leading the pack as she had previously.

“...Whatever.”

And without further words between them, the trio rebuilt their formation and resumed the final stretch of their march to their shared quarters, Asuka charging ahead while blind to the fact that her back was now being observed by yet another pair of eyes.

And just below them, a small smile grew to decorate the Fifth Child’s face.

‘...Guess they could have some parallels.’
Author of a few decent Eva stories, which can be found here.

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

sonichu
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Re: An Insider's Look

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Postby sonichu » Fri Aug 16, 2019 8:29 pm

I'm really glad to see this is being updated again. So far I've enjoyed every chapter and I'm really looking forward to the timeskip.


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