"What is a friend? A single soul dwelling in two bodies." - Aristotle
Rei and Maya got to the party at the same time. A moving truck had already pulled in, and two workers were pulling a bed out of it.
“Huh?” Maya stared. “I thought Anita was already all moved in?”
“I believe Rokubungi’s items are arriving as well,” Rei explained, not even stopping on her approach to the front doors.
“What? Rokubungi…” Maya couldn’t believe it. “Why is that?”
Rei stopped this time, but only to shoot Maya a glare that made it clear that Rei thought the girl was asking entirely too many questions. “It was a last minute request from the Commander. I don't know any more than that, so stop talking."
As they approached the apartment doors, Maya looking down, Gendo got out of the moving van and approached them. “I am home,” he announced to Rei, ignoring Maya.
“Hey Gendo-kun!” Maya exclaimed, trying to be nice.
“Doctor Ayanami…” Gendo bowed, still ignoring his co-pilot. "I'm very glad to see you here."
“Hello, Rokubungi,” Rei said. She sounded incredibly cold. Maya couldn’t believe it. She’d never heard her quite like that before. She decided not to ask though, and instead, all three of them went up to Asuka’s apartment and Rei knocked on the door.
Asuka answered. “Oh, hi! Gendo! Rei! Maya!” she grinned. “Come on in!” The ladies did, Gendo hesitated. Asuka sighed, and put her hand on Gendo's shoulder. “Look, I know this is a weird change, but the Commander asked me to take care of you, and that’s what I'm going to do.” It didn’t sound incredibly believable, but she was trying. Gendo responded with a look that was a mixture of innocence and coldness. “Can you give us a chance?”
“I will do my best,” he said, taking his suitcase and exploring the apartment until he found his new bedroom. It was small enough to be a large closet. His bed had been placed inside, but it was empty otherwise. He sat the suitcase on the bed, not taking care to open it and unpack. There wasn't much inside besides school supplies and clothes anyway.
Then he joined everyone else, who were dining happily on Chinese food Asuka had ordered for the occasion. It was an awkward table, Maya in her school uniform, Rei in her lab coat, Anita in simple-looking clothing, and Asuka in a ridiculously revealing (but comfy-looking) outfit. She opened up a beer and passed a second can to Rei.
“To us. We somehow managed to evolve into responsible adults.” She giggled slightly.
Rei drank, but afterwards corrected Asuka with, “Adults, at any rate.”
“So, what do you think of the place?” Anita asked Maya nervously, edging slightly away from Asuka, who was perhaps enjoying her alcohol a little too much."
“It’s great; Asuka's apartment looks pretty comfortable. And uh, I think we'll get along.”
Anita blushed. “Thank you,” she said. She sighed. “I’m not sure what I’ll do about… him… though,” she admitted quietly.
“You can always call me,” Maya offered. Then the two of them began to eat, and conversation stopped while everyone enjoyed the food. No one had bothered saying a word to Gendo.
When they were done, Asuka announced that it was time to watch a bad movie, and led everyone into the living room. Gendo followed reluctantly. The movie “Escape from Monster Island: Part VII: The Clones Attack from Outer Space” was not a movie that sounded like it could be interesting. Trying to avoid everyone, he sat in a corner.
“Come on over, Gendo-kun!” Asuka called. “Sit here!” She patted the sofa cushion next to her. After he moved, she leaned in to whisper to Rei on her other side. “See? All he needs is a little push.” Then they began to watch the movie, laughing their way through the poor costumes, dialogue, sets, and characterizations. Asuka did most of the laughing, actually. Rei seemed a little reserved, and all three children were a little uncomfortable. They did loosen up when Asuka put in the next movie, which was a sequel with even lower production values.
Still though, Asuka considered it a major success when she managed to get Gendo to mock part of the movie. Specifically, he mocked the cardboard rocks. Not the best joke, she thought, but it was a real start.
“See? Having fun is nice.”
“I fail to see the purpose it serves,” Gendo said coldly.
“Stress relief,” Rei suggested. Maya noted she sounded much nicer to Gendo now. She wondered if it was the alcohol, or if it was simply being around Asuka.
“Next time you feel awful, like the world is out to get you, just remember something silly or funny, and laugh. I promise you’ll feel much better, right Anita?” Asuka offered.
“I, um… Y-yeah.”
“I do not feel that way.” Gendo stood up and went to his room.
Asuka sighed, and realized that she should call Shinji and report on the way that things were going. “Hey, Rei? Can you cover for me for a second? I need to make a call.” She went to the veranda, pulling out her cell phone.
Rei, loudly and jokingly, made an announcement. “If either of you touch alcohol or make any other kind of trouble, I will break your pathetic legs and lock you in your Evangelion for at least thirty-six days.”
“Yes, Doctor,” Anita said.
“I wouldn’t think of it!” Maya answered quickly.
* * *
On the veranda, Asuka began rehearsing while the phone rang. “Oh, Commander, sorry! I was just calling to give you a status report, not to listen to the sound of your voice…” She giggled to herself. "I need to stop thinking about that," she said. "It's really silly."
Then he answered. “This is Commander Ikari. Who’s calling?”
“Oh! Uh… Commander…” She tried to calm herself down.
“Asu- Captain?” Even though he'd known that she would be calling him to tell him about Gendo, he still sounded a little surprised. Was he just surprised she was maybe a little drunk? He'd seen her like that before, but not since their college... thing... That had been so wrong.
What had he been thinking, asking the woman he could only remember as the drunken college girl to take care of some teen kid who needed help?
“Hey. Yeah… Sorry about calling you this late… Can you talk?”
“It…” Shinji gulped. “It’s fine.”
“I was calling to give you an update on Gendo’s status,” Asuka explained. And nothing else, she told herself again. That stuff needed to stop, and it needed to stop here. It wasn't even a deal, and besides... Something might be going on between herself and Kaworu. Even though they hadn't really talked since the dinner. Nothing except Angels.
“Yeah? How is he doing?”
Asuka paced back and forth nervously. “I think… I think you made a good choice sending him to me.” Okay in reality she'd just made him talk once, but that might be good. He didn't seem to do much socializing otherwise. She could get more out of the poor kid, she was sure of it.
“Hey uh… You think we could, like, get together sometime?" No! What was she doing? This was stupid. "T-to discuss battle plans!” she amended. "That's what I mean."
Shinji was silent for a moment. He was going to say no, wasn't he? He was remembering everything about everything and he was going to say- “Battle plans. Sure.”
“Yeah, right. Anyway, I think that living here is a good way to deal with Rokubungi’s antisocial low self-esteem. Uh… I was just calling to let you know this. So now that you do, I guess I should end this call, so…” Asuka trailed off.
“Uh, right. Goodbye.” Shinji sounded just as awkward as she felt. This was why they hadn't talked in forever.
“Yeah. See you tomorrow?”
Asuka smiled, even though Shinji couldn’t see her. “’Night, Commander Baka.”
“Night,” he responded. She hung up. That went well.
* * *
“You like it in there, don’t you?” Maya asked. She and Anita were in Anita’s new bedroom, sprawled out on the bed and both feeling quite comfortable. Things had gone quite well that evening, all things considered.
Anita didn't answer for a moment, and finally turned to Maya with confusion on her face. “Do I like it in where?” she asked.
“In that thing,” Maya said vaguely.
Another hesitation, but eventually the answer came. “I suppose so. I’ve been trained for it for six years,” Anita said, realizing what Maya meant.
“Six years… I can’t even imagine." Maya shook her head. She hoped she wouldn't be piloting in the year 2021. She'd be twenty by then. That was... old. "You turned out better than some, though. Growing up at Nerv, I mean.”
“If you're talking about Gendo... I guess I got lucky.” Anita was quiet for awhile, and then she asked, “Would you think I was crazy if I told you something?”
“You can tell me anything,” Maya said. It was heartfelt, even though they barely knew each other. Pilots, Maya decided, had to stick together no matter what. The Angels weren't going to kill themselves. And there were too many stories of what went wrong when soldiers couldn't work together, anyway.
It suddenly occured to Maya that she was thinking of herself as a soldier. And that was truly terrifying.
“I don’t mind being in the plug. I actually… I like it. I feel like the whole world accepts me, when I'm in there.” Anita rolled onto her back and stretched out a little.
Maya smiled. “That’s beautiful… I’m not surprised you don’t hate it like me if it makes you feel like that. I… I envy you.” She tried to decide how she felt inside of an Eva. She didn't know if she was entirely sure, though. Safe, maybe? Or just really nervous.
They were both tired, and as neither could think of anything more to say in that discussion, they settled down to sleep.
* * *
Asuka didn't go back in right away, deciding for quite awhile to just stare at the stars instead. She wasn't sure what she thought, and wasn't in the mood for a party. When she did come back, though, she was smiling broadly. “Hey kids, I’m ba- Huh?” Asuka looked around at the mostly empty living room. Only Rei remained.
“They left to sleep," the doctor explained.
“Already?” Asuka handed a beer to Rei and took another of her own. She looked around. “Remember that dingy old dorm room?”
Ayanami sighed, preferring not to think about the places she used to live. “I burned it to the ground after we left. There are no records,” Rei said, perfectly deadpan. Asuka giggled a little at that. “The apartment I have is quite comfortable for living alone,” she added.
“Don’t you miss me?” Asuka pouted.
“You’re right here.”
Asuka shut her eyes and thought back to those college days. “I missed having you grumble about me not picking up after myself, or Hikari making us stay up late to finish homework…”
“And you and Toji always fought during study sessions. I think he liked you.” Rei laughed a little, but Asuka just rolled her eyes in disbelief.
“That’s out of a manga. ‘I like you, but I’ll act like I hate you to hide it.’”
Rei glared. “Kaito and Kensuke liked you too. You could have had any boy in that school.” There was perhaps just the tiniest hint of jealousy and bitterness in her voice, but Asuka didn't notice. She was too in love with all the memories she had. They were the best she had.
“None of them worked out. They were all… idiots, and stuff. College boys, right?” A moment’s silence. They both reflected on the issue they were dancing around. “It’s good to be back, good to be with you.”
Rei looked out a window. “I wish Second Impact had never happened,” she said, changing the subject quickly.
“Yeah… Me too.” Asuka tried to block out the memories. “But, there’s nothing we can do about it.” They stared at the stars together, and then Asuka suddenly hugged Rei. “Thanks for coming by,” she said.
Rei shifted. “Sure,” she said.
“We should do this more often. Maybe next time I’ll cook us dinner. I got pretty good at it since we last saw each other. There won't be any more food poisonings, I promise.” Asuka tightened her hold on her old best friend.
“I will remember that,” Rei said, pulling away forcefully. “I should leave now. Good night.”
Rei waved goodbye and left, leaving Asuka alone. After a moment’s uncertainty, she went to the room where the girls were asleep, and opened it slightly.
“You did a great job during the fight,” she whispered. “I’m proud of you both.” They didn’t answer. They were asleep.
"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." - Profiles of the Future, by Arthur C. Clarke
August began. No one much noticed, except that Japan’s oppressive heat became even more unbearable. A few places received rain, but the clouds were the outmost edge of a large typhoon, so no one celebrated. In Tokyo-3, formerly Hakone, life went on as normal, mostly. A few buildings had been damaged, and two dozen “shipbergs” floated frozen off the coast. Attempts to melt them had been unsuccessful.
As the day began, Asuka attended to her personal needs, showering and then re-dyeing her hair, hiding the red. After breakfast, she drove Anita, Gendo, and Maya to Nerv for their morning synch tests. Maya, of course, could not use Eva-01 because of the immense pain she’d be in if she synched, so they had to set her up with a simulation of the Evangelion's undamaged body.
Then Asuka went to the Commander’s office, letting the Nerv technicians worry about the pilots. She knocked on the door several times. There was no answer. Hesitantly, she opened up the door and crept inside.
No one was in the office. Walking quietly, lest Shinji, who was in his apartments on the other side of the far wall, wake up and hear her, she approached his desk. She didn’t really know what had come over her.
On his desk was a single personal item, a photograph, framed in an ornate gold design. It always faced him. Asuka wouldn’t be surprised if he was the only one who knew what it showed. And today she was going to find out.
Her hand reached out, wrapping around the edge of the frame. She decided she’d hold it up to her face before looking at it, so she pulled it up. Then, and only then did she flip it around, ready to restrain any gasp that she might slip out.
It was a picture of Gendo.
When she considered that Gendo was apparently some sort of relative of Shinji, that didn’t seem so weird. The mystery… wasn’t. A little disappointing, really.
And then the door to Shinji’s apartment opened. Asuka put the picture down as quickly as possible. “Commander!” she exclaimed. “Hi!”
“Hello,” he said. “I… don’t think I remember letting you in,” he said. He didn't sound angry, not to Asuka, but he did sound hesitant, as if perhaps she might have seen something she shouldn't have. Like the photo, really, but did that actually count? It was just a photo in the open. She hadn't been snooping about in the desk or anything!
Asuka blushed. “Sorry, I… I shouldn’t have come in.”
Shinji shrugged. “What’s up?”
“I just was wondering about the S2 Engine. Did you manage to recover it?”
“Almost. The S2 Engine was found." Shinji glowered. "The attempt to recover it froze the submarine we were using solid. Then an independent camera recorded its complete disappearance.”
Asuka couldn’t believe that. “How… I thought…” She shut her eyes, took a deep breath, and tried to remember exactly how the Expedition fifteen years ago had explained it. Not an easy task, when she spent most of her day trying to ignore the memories of them. “I thought that the S2 Engine created energy out of the vacuum potential. To freeze something solid in a tropical sea… wouldn’t that require destroying energy?”
Shinji shrugged. “We still don’t know how S2 Engines function. Rei is beginning to think that they don’t operate in a quantum sense at all.”
“I don’t really understand physics,” Asuka admitted. “I’m just remembering everything my mom said about that kind of stuff.”
They sat in silence for awhile. Then Asuka sighed again. “I wish none of that stuff had happened. The… thing there, they say it attacked us, but really… Okay, I guess you probably already know this. Mom woke it up. The First Angel…”
Shinji sighed. “It wasn’t actually an Angel, you know. The Committee, they’re the ones who number everything, they didn’t designate it as the First. Not really. They just call it the First Angel for the sake of the public.”
Asuka’s eyebrow rose. “Then what the hell was the First Angel?” she asked. “I mean, as it is I still don’t understand why no one ever released any information about the attack of the Second Angel.” She looked at Shinji closely. “Do you know why that is?”
Shinji didn’t say anything.
Asuka sighed. “You really hate giving away information, don’t you?”
“You don’t wanna know this one, Asuka. Trust me. You’ll be happier with life if you don’t have the least clue about some of the things that Nerv and the Committee are aware of. It’s… nothing illegal. It’s just something people shouldn’t know.”
“Really nothing illegal?” she asked bitterly. “Are you sure? Because Kaito says that if we didn’t blow up Jet Alone, it has to be the JSSDF. And I don’t like either option.”
“Asuka, I won’t lie to you. I’m quite positive that the JSSDF is behind the assault on HCI property, and I will do something about it as soon as it’s possible.”
That would be good enough, Asuka decided. Every time he said that, he told the truth. Or at least, close enough to the truth, though he could use half-truths when it suited him. That though, sounded like something that no one could claim had a double meaning.
And she was right, of course.
* * *
The two female pilots were allowed to leave the building around lunchtime. “Why’d we stop training?” Anita asked as the two of them rode an elevator to the surface. “It’s only one o’clock.”
Maya rolled her eyes. “Am I the only one who doesn’t think we need to be training every minute of the day?” she asked, almost angry.
“If we don’t train, the next Angel might overwhelm us. That would not impress Nerv.” Maya knew that that was the understatement of the century. People would die if they failed to stop the Angels. Probably all the people, everywhere.
“No, but… I mean, surely we need time to be kids too?” Maya suggested.
Anita didn't seem particularly convinced. “Do we? My six years training for Nerv were focused simply on my synch ratio. We spent little time bothering with anything else, especially things that have no importance.”
“Socializing is important!”
Anita shrugged. “Now that I am with additional pilots, surely I can merely socialize with them?”
The elevator doors opened before Maya could counter, and she led Anita to the subway system. From there, they boarded a train heading to the north end of town where Ritsuko lived. Anita was amazed by the subway, which surprised Maya immensely, since she’d read in the news several times that a complete subway system now stretched across Europe and into southwest Asia.
They knocked on the door, and Ritsuko answered. “Hey!” she said. “Kyoko and Shigeru are already here!”
“Cool.” Maya grinned and walked into the apartment, kicking off her shoes beforehand. "Thanks for having us over," she added.
"Of course!" Ritsuko responed. "You're our friend. Oh, by the way, Makoto's feeling a little sick, so he won't be dropping by. Just so you know."
Anita hesitated at the doorway, then mimicked Maya and followed her in.
“You guys all know Anita, right?” Maya asked. “No one was absent?”
Ritsuko nodded. “Nice to see you again. We’re about to break out the video games. Ever played?”
Anita smiled. “A long time ago when I was little,” she said. “My brothers and I…” she trailed off. “Well, we had fun.” She sat down in front of the television set, and took the second controller. Ritsuko gladly sat by her, picking up first player.
Maya and Kyoko exchanged glances. “Looks like Anita-san’s going to be as competitive as the rest,” Kyoko joked. Neither she nor Maya were major video game fans. Kyoko had never had her own console, and Maya felt lately like the video games were a little too close to home.
Kyoko took a deck of cards out of her purse. “Ritsuko-san, I thought you wanted me for a band,” she joked, shuffling.
Shigeru joined Anita and Ritsuko. “We still don’t have a drummer,” he commented. “We can’t be a good band without a drummer.” He gave Maya a hopeful look, which she shot down with a glare. "Ouch," he said jokingly. "If looks could kill... You should try hanging out with Satsuki's group of bitches if you wanna act like that."
Maya couldn't help but laugh, but cut herself off as the door opened. Kaji walked into the apartment. Ritsuko turned to smile at him as he came in, and he waved in response. “Hey,” he said. “Oh! It’s the new girl!” He looked at Maya uncomfortably. “What’s her name again?” he whispered to her.
“It's Anita,” she replied.
“Hey, Anita.” Kaji joined the other video game players. “You’ll be happy to know that you’re in the tabloids.”
Anita stared at him. “The what?”
“The tabloids. Like a magazine. Ritsuko and I snuck out of the shelters and got some pictures of your Evas. I sold ‘em off.” He opened up a tabloid, revealing a large picture of Eva-02 parachuting down to Earth.
“You snuck out?” Maya said disbelievingly. “Why would you do something so stupid?!”
Kaji looked hurt and didn't say anything. Right, Maya remembered. Friends. Ritsuko covered for him, though. “It wasn’t any big deal," she said, distracted from the fact that her game character was being punched by Anita’s off the screen. “We opened up some doors, snuck by a guard or two, and went up to the surface. We got pictures of everything.”
“The Angel, the Evas… When you guys were about to kill it, we went back into the shelters. They’ve got lead shielding and all. We came back out awhile later and got this awesome parachuting picture.”
“Stupid,” Anita finished. “You two could have been irradiated or killed or worse.”
Ritsuko shrugged. “Nah. It’s no biggie. We’re thinking about doing it for the next Angel too.” She looked at Shigeru and Kyoko. “You two wanna come?”
“Um..." Shigeru looked away. "I think my family's had enough risks with the Angels, really."
Maya looked at him, confused. "Uh..."
Ryoji leaned in. "We didn't want to tell you, because it isn't really your fault... His little brother was injured by Angel that arrived the day you did."
The girl gasped. "Oh my gosh! Shigeru, I'm so-"
"Stop," he said. "Really. It's not your fault. I'm just not gonna go take some stupid pictures."
Ritsuko rolled her eyes. "There's good money in them..." she said, trying to make the prospect as appealing as possible, but Shigeru didn't say anything, and she didn't really push it after that.
"You're going to get in a lot of trouble," Maya pointed out angrily.
"Like anyone will find out. There's no cameras in the shelters or on the part of the surface we ended up on," Ryoji said. "We'll be fine, Maya. If you weren't a pilot you'd definitely be coming along, and loving every second of it."
Maya laughed. "I doubt it," she said. "Seeing them up close is more involved and it isn't fun at all." She turned back to the card game with Kyoko. "You guys just don't get it, do you?" They didn't say anything in response.
* * *
It was Kaito's turn to enter Shinji's office unannounced. Unlike Asuka, though, Shinji had no particular fears of Kaito entering the office. Kaito knew about the only secret truly worth keeping in the place. It was not in the desk, but in a secret, refrigerated compartment behind it.
Of course, another reason Shinji would not particularly mind Kaito's presence was that he was actually present as Kaito entered. He looked up from the papers he was working on and smiled. "Hey," he said. Like with Asuka, his voice was casual, though a particular tone was absent.
"Hello former Sensei," Kaito responded. "Just came by to check up on... you know." He frowned. "I will give you enough credit to assume that you didn't manage to destroy it in these past couple of days."
Shinji just grinned in response. "Of course not," he said. "Good job, by the way, of smuggling that out from under Seele's noses, and not giving it away to anyone. Even that intolerable Vice Commander doesn't have a clue of the real reason you took so long to get here. And now we've deprived them of one of the things they need for Third Impact."
Kaito crossed his arms. "Do you really think they'd do something like that?" he asked. "Destroy mankind, I mean..."
"They'd do whatever it takes," Shinji assured him. "They did start Second Impact too, you know. And they manipulated things to give themselves enough power to do whatever they want in the meantime."
The younger man sat down on the chair across from Shinji, still not convinced. "They could just have done that to guarantee their own power for as long as Seele lasts, but okay, they could be doing that. Except that's a long term goal, you said. Something about all the Angels having to be dead first." When Shinji nodded, he went on. "Which is why I thought I'd mention the fact that they've got another pilot training up."
Shinji raised an eyebrow. "I've heard nothing about her," he noted. "I know the Americans are training someone, but I didn't know anything about a second European pilot. That's a pretty odd secret to keep from me."
"And not particularly well-kept," Kaito noted. "Odds are they just didn't want to mention her until she gets her own Eva. Europe won't have another Eva of its own ready until mid-November."
"They're moving pretty quickly. Unless the Americans pick up the pace, they won't be done with both of their Evas until December."
"Probably not," Kaito agreed. "So this war's probably going to be dragging on quite some time." He sighed. "How will we even know when it's over?"
The commander laughed. "When Seele tells us, no doubt. At any rate, thanks for telling me about the pilot. I'll let them get away with not mentioning her for now; it's nothing important. There are much bigger secrets they're keeping."
Kaito almost asked what those secrets might entail, but stopped himself. Shinji wouldn't answer anyway. Instead, he excused himself, and left the room. Some secrets needed to be dug up.
"So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, 'It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.'" - Book of Genesis, Author Disputed
While Maya and Anita socialized, Gendo merely trained, remaining in the Evangelion for several additional hours. Eva-00 was not a safe machine. Unlike Eva-02, which had never presented a danger to anyone, or Eva-01, which merely entered Berserk Mode in battle when its pilot behaved incompetently, Eva-00 had a history.
He could still remember the first time it had gone berserk. He'd been in battle; his very first real one. More importantly, unlike Maya he'd been well-prepared. The Second Angel might have been truly hideous- a strange creature with oddly-angled legs, a spherical main body and a hideously long neck which stretched outwards to him- but Gendo had not been afraid. Gendo didn't have time for fear.
He’d plunged his knife towards the Second Angel, tearing off its flesh as easily as - no, easier than - skinning an apple. What a pathetic creature. It had been dragged, kicking and screaming into Nerv so that it could become his mark, that he could hunt it down, rip it to pieces. The entire situation was completely controlled, and to the amusement of Nerv workers the Angel was not even capable of tearing down the defensive walls that Nerv was lined with. They could keep it imprisoned down in the deeper layers of Nerv for the rest of time, and it would be trapped, immortal and useless.
Gendo might have laughed, if he'd ever felt like laughing. What a terrible fate. And yet at the same time, half that fate was his. The other half might still be avoided, though. That's what the battle had been about. Proving his worth once and for all. All he had to do was follow the routine that Doctor Ayanami had carefully laid out, and he always followed that routine.
But things hadn’t gone as planned. As the knife dug into the Angel, the Evangelion rebelled. It wasn’t supposed to be like that. Berserk mode had been known to be a possibility, even expected, but not like this. The knife pulled out, and Evangelion Unit-00 stopped attempting to kill the Angel. Instead, it ran away from the fight entirely. In a matter of minutes, the two giants were separated well enough that the Angel could be sealed away properly while Eva-00 raged.
And so it had, in the hallways of Nerv. The attempts to stop Eva-00’s raging had lasted an hour. Berserk mode rarely paid any attention to things like power limits. Their only success had been in ejected his Entry Plug. This naturally resulted in it exploding out of the Eva, careening and colliding down corridors until it finally came to a stop.
It had hurt like hell, and he had spent half a month recovering. That mistake, Gendo decided, was one that should never be repeated. And so far, the Eva had never fought him again in such a way. It had fought him, though.
The second time Eva-00 had gone berserk, things had gone better. The Fourth Angel had only too quickly fallen once he’d discovered its weakness.
After Maya had fallen unconscious, he’d doubled around the Angel, using the city streets to his advantage to confuse it. A few buildings had been demolished because of it, but that was a small price to pay for victory. He’d approached Eva-01’s form, uncaring of the pain the pilot had felt, and ripped a pylon off of its shoulder.
Inside had been the prog knife. Eva-00, designed and constructed before Nerv-Beijing had proposed the model, lacked them. Eva-01 did not. Progressive knives, which vibrated and were designed to withstand heats that could be found in the center of the Earth, might have a chance of cutting into the strange metallic Angel.
Gendo had approached it slowly, doubling around street corners and attempting to make sure that everything would be in his favor. Then, when the Angel had finally become confused enough, he’d run right at it, knife aimed at the Angel’s eyes. It seemed the best solution. They were red.
Sure enough, the knife rammed right into the eyes. What exactly happened to the Angel next, Gendo was uncertain, though obviously it had died in some fashion. He did know though, that once the progressive knife had been buried deep enough, Eva-00 went berserk again, running around the thankfully already demolished buildings, yelling and screaming. It turned off quicker this time, at less injury to him. He’d only had to spend a night in the observation room. When Ibuki asked him about the battle the next day, when they’d been driven to school, he saw no reason to mention things.
Especially since she’d been so useless in the actual fight.
Doctor Ayanami seemed absolutely convinced that the issues of berserkings could be dealt with simply by getting more training. Therefore Gendo knew that the berserker issues would be dealt with simply, by him getting more training. Unfortunately, Maya’s synch ratio was rising slightly faster than his was. This wasn’t a concern yet, but if it kept up…
He hoped that Doctor Ayanami wouldn’t be disappointed in him if things turned out that way. Her opinion meant the world to him.
* * *
A couple of hours after Asuka left the office, Shinji turned his attention to some videos that he’d been meaning to review since the 11th. They were the camera views of the battle that Maya had fought against the Third Angel. Clicking the remote to resume play, he settled in to watch.
Eva-01 came out from the Geofront. It did some baby steps, and then it tripped. Luckily, she pulled herself up without any difficulties. Then of course, the Angel appeared.
Video cameras had difficulties with Angels. A simple photograph could be taken, no problem. Attempting to put the frames together in a meaningful way? That had proven completely impossible. The Third Angel as designated by Seele, named Matarael, the Angel of Rain by the Dead Sea Scrolls, had been rendered simply as a red sphere surrounded by a white outline that designated the Angel body.
One of the “white” legs lifted up, and Eva-01 just stood there, thanks to Maya’s paralysis. Shinji knew he shouldn’t be overly critical, for obvious reasons, but it felt difficult. Perhaps it was because he’d known Mari, known the decisions she’d made. Where Maya was timid, Mari had charged forward. Ethically questionable decisions were her forte, but at least she was always ready to take the fall for them.
Eva-01 took a step back, but it wasn’t enough. The leg-outline stabbed through the robot, the forehead armor easily cracked. Eva-01 collapsed.
Shinji watched, concerned. He knew how everything turned out, but… he felt bad for Maya now. Apparently she’d passed out right at this point. Eva-01, however, did not know unconsciousness. As the leg retracted, Eva-01 pulled up. The same leg dived down to deal another hit, but Eva-01 dived out of the way.
It roared from a safe position, drawing the Angel towards it. Matarael followed angrily, probably unsure of what was about to happen. Compared to Eva-00’s berserk mode, Eva-01’s seemed calm, smooth. Eva-00 resembled a completely wild beast with no intelligence at all. Eva-01 was still bestial, but there was logic in its madness.
A couple city blocks into the chase, Eva-01 turned around and dived at the Angel. One front leg was several blocks away, another was currently lifted. The back legs, obviously, were no threat. Eva-01 ducked beneath the leg, ready to attack the bottom of the Angel’s body.
Things went horribly wrong at that point, of course. They so often did. Each eye of the Angel (according to a bit of data retrieved from Eva-01’s AI - the camera had been unable to form a picture of the eyes for reasons unknown) suddenly blasted an orange acid out. Eva-01 had been forced to retreat.
This, of course, led to the Evangelion being in the path of a falling leg, so it had to duck back again to protect itself and its child. The process repeated a few times, Eva-01 always getting a little closer to the main body before the acid was launched, but it was obvious that this attack was not going to work.
Eva-01 ducked back again. A leg raised up, ready to stab through the bleeding forehead again. Eva-01 jumped slightly back as the leg came down, letting it jab into the concrete. Then it grabbed the leg and began to shimmy up it. A few bits of acid were launched at the Eva.
Shinji couldn’t help but laugh as the acid collided with the leg. It didn’t actually do any damage, but the thought that it could have amused him greatly. Eva-01 pulled itself along anyways, and eventually met the upper joint and simply slid down to the upper body. There were no eyes there.
With a triumphant roar, it began to dig into Matarael, tearing out chunks of flesh from the top. It went, and went. The cameras recorded that the disconnected flesh simply melted away, occasionally damaging buildings if they connected. The Angel thrashed about underneath. A few stub legs formed, almost as if it was planning to pull Eva-01 away.
It wasn’t quick enough. Eva-01 dug in deep and pulled out a giant red sphere. It then leapt off the main body, holding the sphere up. Matarael, inexorably, inevitably, followed. How could it not? But it had clearly been wounded. Parts of the body rippled, as if they’d been converted to liquid. Perhaps they had. The cameras were worthless in this respect.
Eva-01 held out the sphere as another leg came down. The monomolecular limb stabbed right through the core, and the Angel melted away completely, even regrettably the sphere. Shinji had been quite irritated when he’d been told of that, but he couldn’t affect anything. If Eva-01 had found that form of destruction suitable, it was.
Shockingly, part of the liquid form of the Angel collided with the Evangelion’s neck, melting it. The Eva roared in pain, but Nerv had plans for that. Tranquilizers collided with small, almost imperceptible holes in the Eva’s armor. It was brought down.
They didn’t save it in time to keep the neck intact, but it was easy to regenerate and the head was soon attached safely. That was all that mattered there.
* * *
Kaworu was watching the camera logs too, with a smirk. When he finished with the Third Angel, he’d moved onto the Fourth. If he ever spoke to Gendo, he’d know that the boy’s memories of the events were perfect. But as the boy had been busy during the berserk sequence, he’d missed the death of the Angel.
The core, which had been in the head, had exploded in white light. The metal form of the Angel began to change rapidly, condensing itself into a simple cube, then a square, then a line, and then a single metal point. The cameras recorded that the buildings around it began to buckle, twisting inward.
Luckily for mankind, rather than collapsing into a black hole, the point simply disappeared. The buildings returned to normal as if they’d never been bent at all. The Fourth Angel as designated by Seele, named Raziel, the Angel of Mysteries by the Dead Sea Scrolls, died simply, unlike the Third Angel or the Fifth. It was probably for the best, that way. The less devastation, the better. After all, devastation meant people would die, and if there was one thing he wanted to avoid, it was death.
"Man there's so many times I don't know what I'm doing / Like I don't know now" - Her Diamonds, by Rob Thomas
“Thanks for walking with me, guys,” Kyoko said. She smiled at Maya and Anita, both of whom had left Ritsuko’s apartment with her.
Maya smiled back. “It’s no problem!” she said. “Anita-san lives only a few blocks away, with the Captain of Nerv.”
“That’s cool.” Kyoko walked in silence for a little while, and then she turned to Anita and asked. “Do you know how to play the drums? We’re still looking for someone for the band.”
“The band?” Anita asked.
Maya stared dumbfounded for a second before she realized that of course Anita wasn’t a native speaker and couldn’t know all the words yet. “You know,” she said. “A band. A group of people who play music together. Like the old bands, uh…” She tried to think of a German group, but failed miserably. She realized that she didn't know much of anything about Germany. She probably ought to talk to Anita more about that at some point.
“Oh,” Anita said. She didn’t actually sound any more understanding than she had been before, but if she was going to say she was fine, Maya wasn’t going to argue.
“So, can you play drums?” Kyoko made some motions with her hands and a couple of sound effects to demonstrate.
Anita shook her head. “Sorry, no. I never had time to learn to play any instruments because of piloting Evangelion. That was considered more important.”
Kyoko sighed. “Figures. You know, when Makoto told me about the band, I really did think we were going to practice more often. Not that I mind hanging out with you guys, but… I really like music, you know?”
Maya and Anita didn’t say anything to that. Kyoko gulped. “I… I do like you guys. Just, Makoto made it sound a lot more like practicing, a lot less like hanging out. I have other friends, and I haven’t been hanging out with them all that much.”
“Who?” Maya asked.
“Kids from 2-B. They’re kinda shy, but we generally hang out after school. I haven’t done that lately.” She shrugged.
Anita didn’t seem the least bit interested in the conversation, and said nothing. Maya wasn’t quite sure what to say. “You don’t have to hang out with us,” she suggested. “I mean… I’ll try to start drumming; it’s just that I don’t have a lot of time.”
“You don’t have to.” Kyoko gulped. “I don’t know what I was saying.”
They reached Kyoko’s apartment building. She hesitated at the front door, apparently not quite willing to leave the company of people her age. “If you guys want, I could see if you’re welcome to stay for dinner.”
“That could be cool. Anita, what do you think?”
“I’d still rather be training,” she said.
“The Angels have attacked roughly once every ten days,” Maya said. “It’s been two days since the last one. I think we’re fine.”
Anita grumbled but agreed to come inside. Kyoko’s apartment was conveniently placed on the ground floor, and was of the same design as Maya’s, Asuka’s, and Ritsuko’s. Clearly the people who had built this city had picked simple, repeatable designs. Maya guessed it was because such things were both easy to make once and easy to reconstruct as often as necessary. Tokyo-3 was a rather endagered city.
“I’m home!” Kyoko exclaimed brightly. There was no response. Her face fell slowly. “Mom? Dad?” She walked slowly towards the master bedroom, and opened the door a little. No one was there. She sighed. “Well, I’m not going to have to ask for permission, it seems.”
“I still will,” Anita said. “Aka-chan will be worried if I don’t come home without saying why.”
“Right! You can use the phone! It’s in the kitchen.”
Anita went to it and dialed in a number unfamiliarly. A minute later, someone answered and Anita announced her plans. Kyoko and Maya meanwhile, did some digging and pulled out the ingredients with which to make tekkadon. It was great actually doing proper cooking, Maya rarely had had time to do anything like that, and the kitchen soon filled to the brim with the delightful aroma of food.
They sat down together and devoured the food happily. When they were done, they helped Kyoko clean up. Her parents were still gone, and hadn’t called. Strangely, Kyoko wasn’t especially worried about them.
“They’re away a lot,” she explained. “They don’t leave notes or anything either.” She sighed. “You guys should probably go though. If they come back, I dunno how happy they’ll be about me having had guests over. They’re very weird like that.”
“It’s fine,” Anita said. “I should go see about spending more time training.”
‘Of course,’ Maya thought angrily. ‘It’s all you’ve talked about this entire time.’ What was training in Germany like? Did they just wake Anita up at five in the morning, throw her into an entry plug, and keep her there until midnight? Maya didn't need that much training and she was actually performing competently when it came to piloting. Maybe Anita found it more difficult than Maya did, but that also seemed unlikely.
“Thank you for having us over,” Maya said. “We should do it again. Soon, if possible.”
“Yeah, that would be great,” Kyoko said, seeing her guests out the front door.
* * *
“That wraps it up, Gendo.”
“Understood.” Gendo settled back in his seat as the Pribnow Box he'd been training in powered down. Each Pribnow Box existed to provide a holographic battle environment for an Evangelion, and he'd just practiced fighting all known Angels again. Once the shutdown finished, a wall retracted and Eva-00 was pulled back out of it and into the Cage. “Deactivate Eva-00. Synchronization concluded. Recycle LCL. End the movement…”
All of the power turned off, and the Entry Plug was pulled away. The process was long and irritating, but Gendo didn’t complain. Doctor Ayanami was listening. Besides, she always stood outside the Plug, waiting for him to come out.
The hatch opened, and there she was, not even looking at him but staring down at a little notebook. At first it looked like she was writing, but he realized she wasn't doing that. She was doodling something. She was smiling, which was strange. She never smiled where he could see her, not if she could help it. That was okay. He just needed to know that she was there for him. He crawled out of the Entry Plug, as close to smiling as he ever could be.
She merely nodded. “Your test went as expected,” she reported. “Eva-00’s artificial consciousness never approached more than two percent awareness. No backlash from the battles with the Second or Fourth Angels was detected.” The two of them began walking out of the Cage, towards the locker facilities.
“Good,” Gendo said. “Ma’am, if I might ask…”
He hesitated here. Doctor Ayanami had a way of randomly interjecting that he couldn’t ask if he simply assumed he’d be allowed to do so. When he’d finally managed to ask about that, she’d said it was her way of ensuring that he’d always follow orders.
“You may,” she responded coolly.
“Why does Eva-00 rebel?”
Doctor Ayanami walked in silence for awhile, and then said, “We believe we miscalculated in the design of your Evangelion. It was an unforeseeable consequence of the experiments.”
“Does this mean that her Evangelion is more stable?” he asked. He’d never been informed about the exact mechanics.
“Yes.” The doctor didn't need to ask which girl Gendo was referring to. The two had yet to discuss Anita with each other, and it was unlikely that they ever would. She was just an additional weapon, and didn't matter in the grand scheme of things. Not like Gendo or Maya did.
Gendo glowered. How did Maya get such a capable beast, while he, the one who actually showed expertise, was stuck with the broken one? “You should send the First Child home,” he muttered, “and let me pilot her Evangelion.”
Doctor Ayanami only said, “She performed at the Second Child’s level against the Fifth Angel. Besides, we’ll need more than two pilots.”
There was the unspoken realization that right now they didn’t even have that. Eva-01 was still damaged, and whatever Doctor Ayanami had expected out of the schedule, it was clear that it would be at least a day behind. If the Sixth Angel arrived when it was Seele told them it would, the ninth of August, Eva-01 wouldn’t be finished. If the Angel arrived even earlier, if the Dead Sea Scrolls were incorrect yet again…
An even worse thought was the possibility that the Sixth Angel would be more powerful than Nerv would be ready for. Gendo thought it was likely, but he didn’t mention it, and if Doctor Ayanami had considered the idea, she hadn’t said.
* * *
Asuka knocked on the door to Kaworu's office, and barely even waited for the reply before opening the door. "Sorry for scheduling this meeting on such short notice," she said. "Anita's having dinner somewhere else so I decided that we could have another little dinner dat- discussion." She laughed a little nervously.
"I'm always glad to work with you," Kaworu answered. "Besides, I don't have much of a social life, so I assure you it will be quite difficult to try to schedule a meeting with me I can't make. Well, except for Sunday nights, anyways. They have classical music concerts those nights, which I am always sure to attend." He laughed too, not nervous at all, and gestured to the seat opposite his desk. Asuka sat down comfortably.
"Now," Kaworu said, "we have quite a few things to report. Rei says that Eva-00 was deployed at one point to investigate Jet Alone, and that Type-A Armor was used. She says it worked perfectly. And of course, two days ago we deployed Eva-01 with Type-B Armor against the Fifth Angel. That was also a complete success, though of course the Eva was heavily damaged anyways." He paused, taking a few bites of the beef ramen he'd prepared. Asuka slowly poured herself a bowl and listened as he continued.
He did frown slightly though. "The commander has approved us using further armor models, but I am uncertain as to what you think would be the best ones to start work on right away."
Asuka considered. "Well," she said, opening a beer and drinking slowly, to let herself think. "A good start would be two armor modes that resist extreme temperatures. That last Angel had some... frost... issues, so Type-C should be cold resistant, and Type-D heat resistant." She thought. "And then maybe we should continue augmenting functionalities? Uh... Type-E could be about giving the Eva a speed boost, or something?" The captain shrugged. "I dunno. I'm sure that the R&D guys have some of their own ideas."
Then she frowned. "I don't remember approving a Type-A armor design, though..."
Kaworu's eyes widened, and he considered for a moment. "I don't either," he said. "Perhaps they were already in place before we arrived? I'm new here myself, after all..."
"Yes, that must be it," Asuka agreed. She was the only person who had the power to make new armor types, after all. Only two people who could possibly get around that were Shinji and Rei, and either of them could just talk to her. She was their friend, and would have approved a radioactive-proof suit in a second because it was a good idea. And neither of those two had anything to hide.
* * *
Toji knocked on the door of Hikari’s apartment. She didn’t answer.
He sighed. His girlfriend was obviously depressed about the death of her sister, and he understood that. What he didn’t understand was the way she went back and forth; one day pretending it didn’t matter, that everything was okay, the next locking herself away and hiding from the world. Women were so inconsistent.
He knocked again, giving her a chance to change her mind. She did, answering.
“Hey,” he said. “Do… D’ya…”
She stood to the side, and he kicked his shoes off and walked in. They didn’t say anything as he took his jacket off and placed it in the closet. They didn’t say anything when they walked into the living room. They didn’t say anything when she started to cry. He didn’t know what to say, so he just held her.
“S- she just wanted to help people, like me… She didn’t…”
She kept crying. Toji still couldn’t think of anything to say. Nothing could make it better, so he just held her on the off chance that that would make things better.
It hadn’t this past week, but… Maybe today would be the day that things worked out. It was all he could do for her.
"Exitus acta probat." - a Latin proverb meaning "the outcome justifies the deed"
Kimie sat at her desk in the command center, looking at the data they’d collected. All three pilots were under constant surveillance, and she noted with some disapproval that even basic privacy wasn’t respected. She tossed the shower photos away; they weren’t important, just highly disturbing.
Sighing, she picked up her phone and dialed Yamada.
“This is Idane... Do you know the kinds of photos that the agents have been collecting?” Kimie tried to keep the frustration out of her voice. Nerv seemed more intrusive every day.
“Just photos on the pilots, right?” Kaito sounded pretty disinterested, which frustrated Kimie. If he was going to be in charge of Section 2, he could at least care.
“No! Well, so far only photos of them, but the surveillance collected is slightly alarming.”
“Are the pilots in danger?” Kaito asked. Now he sounded concerned, but in completely the wrong way. This wasn’t about them, it was about the way they were being treated!
“No! It’s just the photographs. They take photos of the kids constantly. Everywhere! Even in the bathroom!”
“That is a little disturbing,” Kaito admitted. “But at least they’re being watched twenty-four/seven.”
Kimie frowned. “Really? You don’t care… What about their privacy?”
“Doctor Ayanami wants them watched constantly. Stopping for even a moment would put them at risk. I don’t like it especially, but it seems like it’s what we’re gonna have to do to keep them safe. All three of them, or their guardians, have signed forms giving us consent to do stuff like that.”
Kimie stared. "Their guardians?" she asked. Anita and Gendo didn't technically have legal guardians, as they'd been raised officially by Nerv. That meant that once again it was Maya, the one least aware of how things functioned, would be the one being kept in the dark about their motives. It didn't matter though. “Fine then. Never mind, sir. I just thought…”
“It’s fine, Kimie… And I mean… you don’t have to call me ‘sir’. We went out for how long back in college?”
“No, I really should call you 'sir'," Kimie argued. "Anwyay, I’ve got a shift to watch Maya soon, so I have to go now. Bye!” She hung up before he could respond. That idiot. Mentioning them going out… That was forever ago. She was single now and she had no intentions of getting a boyfriend any time soon.
* * *
“How’s it coming along?” Kensuke asked as soon as he entered Evangelion Unit-01’s Cage. Then his jaw dropped. One Evangelion leg was lying on the floor, lacking armor; another was being stitched carefully to the main body. “What’s this?!”
Takeru turned to Kensuke, grinning. “We used the storage of limbs area facility to get some spares.”
“The storage… area? There is no storage area for spare limbs!”
“Sure there is,” Michiko said. “We found it and everything. Very first day we were here, we got lost and Keita ended up leadings us there instead of here. It’s not marked, but that’s probably just an oversight.”
“The main map does contain over ten thousand marked areas, after all,” Takeru said cheerfully. “We moved this leg up here and should have all the nerves correctly set up tomorrow!”
“Then… if there is one…” Kensuke sighed. “Could you show it to me so I can correct the maps, please?”
“Of course!” Michiko said. She laughed a bit. “We probably should have reported it as soon as we realized it wasn’t on a regular map, but… Well, everyone gets lost on their first day here, we weren’t sure if anyone was supposed to know.”
“It wasn’t locked,” Keita commented. “If no one is supposed to know, security sure is shoddy around here.”
“Anyway, come on!” Michiko said. “I’ll take you!” She walked to an elevator. Kensuke hesitated, not sure if maybe the place was supposed to be locked and they’d be in trouble, but then like they’d said, if no one was allowed in, the security in the Geofront was incredibly useless, and he knew for a fact it wasn’t, having already gotten in trouble when he’d pressed a wrong button on an elevator.
When he joined Michiko, she pressed a button towards the bottom, and they began their descent. Even with Nerv’s high-tech rapid-speed elevators, the journey took several minutes. Kensuke suspected that they’d sunk beneath the pyramid at this point and were in some sort of basement. The basement of an underground structure. What a weird thought. The doors finally opened, revealing an empty corridor.
“No one is ever down here,” Michiko commented. “I don’t blame them. Look at these corridors.”
Kensuke stared in confusion. All of Nerv’s corridors were straight and flat, but this particular corridor had a curve to it, bending down in both directions. “Uh…” To avoid the strange feeling of the curved surface, he turned to Michiko. He'd never paid her much attention before; though she was much prettier than most other workers (due to liberal applications of make-up, he realized, and careful straightening of her long black hair). She even managed to make the uniform a little more attractive by not buttoning it according to regulations.
“Don’t worry, it’s this room.” The lieutenant walked across the hallway and opened the door opposite them. On its other side was an immense room, filled with things that looked like Evas without armor. Giant humanoid forms littered the room. Some were nothing more than framework, others were almost complete, but none quite so. Limbs and torsos were spread about haphazardly, as were metallic skeletal frameworks.
“I think these are failed prototypes,” Michiko explained. “All the ones over there are labeled Eva-00… the ones here are labeled Eva-01.”
“You’re using parts from failed Evangelion? Isn’t that risky?!”
“Of course not! We check each ‘limb’ before we take it, and besides, it’s pretty obvious all of these things failed the AI tests. Most are missing heads or torsos.”
“Gee… I guess that makes sense.” Kensuke looked around, his eyes wide. “I wonder why this room isn’t marked… There’s nothing suspicious about it…” He saw a particular cluster of Eva-00’s. “Er, okay, the spines are creepy, but…”
Michiko started leaving, shrugging. “It’s probably just a mistake. With ten thousand marked areas, it’s hard to keep track of them all. Now come on, we both have jobs to do.” She left the room silently. Kensuke hesitated, but then followed her. He’d never seen that many giant robots in his life.
He wasn’t sure if it was cool or horrifying.
* * *
Asuka, dozens of levels above Kensuke, walked down what seemed to be (but wasn't quite) a perfectly flat corridor. Even though she had been at Nerv HQ for over half a month, it was still all too easy to get lost, and she was beginning to wonder if this was the correct level, which was distressing because she’d been to Kaworu’s office just last night. He couldn’t have moved it. At least, the odds of him doing so were low.
Luckily, Asuka found one of the many maps that were beginning to be set up. Shinji had insisted on them around the time that he’d ended up in a janitorial closet twenty floors from his office. Kaworu’s office was on this floor, and she found it in no time.
Before she’d knocked twice, he said “Enter.” Prompt. She liked that.
“Hello, Vice-Commander,” she said brightly.
“Are you still calling me that? I thought I said it was okay for you to call me Kaworu.”
Asuka blushed lightly. “Sorry. Um, I just wanted to thank you for dinner last night, and uh, talk a bit.” That wasn't what she'd said last night, but it would do. She sat down in the chair opposite his desk, partly because Rei was tired of her using desks, partly because this particular skirt was a little too short. “So, what exactly is your job, anyways?” she asked. “I’ve heard you’re a second-in-command, that you’re supposed to monitor spending, or that you’re just the eyes-and-ears of the Committee.”
“This is what this meeting is about?” Kaworu asked. “I thought you had something important, like tactics to discuss.”
“I do, but…” Asuka frowned. “I don’t understand anything about Nerv lately.” The first Angel was just one thing. The second was also disconcerting, because Shinji refused to talk about it.
“Oh, well…” Kaworu smiled again. “Very well. I do all three, you know. Mostly, though, I’m here to make reports to the Committee.”
“Just in case. After all, imagine if Ikari went crazy and used the Evangelion to take over the world, or something like it. Just using one inappropriately would be a very bad sign.”
“And the Evangelion going berserk when we fight Angels isn’t a misuse?” Asuka countered.
“Of course it is. The good thing is that Ikari doesn’t have any actual control over those incidents, as far as we know. Therefore, the Committee isn’t planning to interfere. Besides, the only way to do so would be to remove Eva-00 and Eva-01 from active service, which would end poorly.” He laughed a little. "It's possible that when Eva-03 is completed, Eva-00 will be phased out of service, and then when Eva-04 is completed, Eva-01 will receive the same treatment."
Asuka took a deep breath, and then asked a question she thought might be a little too risky. “Does the Committee know anything about the Angels I don’t? Classified sort of stuff? Not just something like where they’re from,” she added at Kaworu’s sudden lack of a smile, “just, you know, something I could use for tactics. To keep us alive.”
Kaworu’s face revealed nothing. “Classified information is classified for a reason, Captain. I assure you, if there was something I thought useful for tactics, I’d find it.”
Asuka nodded. “All right then. I was just curious, especially after the weird stuff that went on in the last fight.”
Now Kaworu looked concerned. ‘The Dead Sea Scrolls warned that such things could happen in prolonged human/Angel interactions,’ he thought, ‘but we didn’t think that just a battle in the middle of a fleet of ships would cause that sort of thing.’
“I’m positive I can’t help you there,” he said. “Now, tell me about your ideas.” He leaned forward, and they set to work. And most importantly of all, Asuka didn't bring up anything about the committee again.
* * *
Eight days. It had been over a week since Hikari’s sister had died at a meeting that existed purely to protect people. Hikari remembered quite well all the things her sister had said. “I don’t mind Nerv, but we can’t use children,” Nozomi had said.
Hikari now agreed with her, and was sitting with several binders of classified Evangelion information at her desk. With nothing but that and pen and paper, she would create something. She would find a way to ensure Nerv could go down Heavy Chemical Industries’ path of avoiding pilots, especially child soldiers.
The plans consumed her, but she wasn’t going to show them until she knew they had a chance of working. Every time Toji dropped by, she pushed everything into a desk. Sometimes it was good to see him. Sometimes he just reminded her of Nozomi’s death and it was all she could do not to hate him for that.
No matter what though, she couldn’t help resenting him a little for distracting her from an idea that might save all of Nerv’s children. Every hour wasted increased the chance the children would have to pilot against an Angel. That was almost too much for her to bear.
“A flatterer is a secret enemy.” - Hungarian proverb
Daisuke heard the doorbell and rushed to the front door. His grandparents were in no particular hurry to get to it themselves, so he arrived first, and had the chance to open the door. There was his uncle, just as promised. “Hi!” Daisuke said happily, his face growing into a large smile. “My bag is in the living room, I’ll go grab it.”
Kaito sighed. “Don’t you even wanna say goodbye?” he asked.
Daisuke just stared at his uncle, not even bothering to answer.
“Are they really that bad?” he asked, sighing yet again.
Daisuke still didn’t say anything, but he moved out of the way, gesturing for Kaito to come in if he wanted to. Kaito decided he might as well say hello to his parents.
His mother (Daisuke's grandmother) was in the kitchen, working on a meal. The kitchen was as homey as she always kept it; different in design from their old one in Sapporo, but with the same affectations. A family portrait sat over the oven, the fridge was decorated with old pictures, a few doodads sat over the kitchen sink. Nothing of Daisuke was present, and some of his mother’s pictures were there as if she’d never died. It was eerie.
“Hello Mom,” he said.
“Hi Dear,” she said, not looking up. “How’s work?”
“It’s going pretty great.” Kaito looked at the pictures more closely. There was the family vacation to the Middle East; there was one in America… His own father had been a world traveler and loved taking his kids along. Mai had hated it, because of all the friends she kept in Japan. In the end she just ran out, and…
Kaito looked into the living room, where Daisuke stood with his backpack of stuff. “Well, I’m here to pick up Daisuke.”
“You don’t mind him living with you now?”
“Of course not,” Kaito said. He liked his nephew. “Anyways, I’ll probably be back tonight if it turns out he forgot something… Bye.” He left with Daisuke, sighing.
“Don’t take too much offense at it, Daisuke… They’re…”
“Horrible people?” Daisuke finished, looking straight ahead as they walked down the corridor. He ignored every door they passed, clearly uninterested in any part of the building. Kaito guessed he hadn't made any friends in this place.
Kaito sighed yet again. His parents hadn't been particularly welcoming of Daisuke, no, but it was about his mother. “Look, at least you’ll be living with me from now on, right?”
“Yeah… You won’t be going anywhere else?”
“Er… I will be, probably. But I’ll be staying in the country. The commander will just want me to be going to meetings and the like. It's getting a bit risky, travelling. The people around the world are sometimes frustrated with Nerv.After all, we expect a lot of out of them. Places like America are falling apart.”
Daisuke didn't particularly care for the political lesson. “Are you leaving soon?” he asked, focusing more on his uncle's activities.
“Not for awhile. My last big mission probably satisfied Ikari.” Daisuke wondered what it could have been, but didn't ask. He knew better.
* * *
The next day, Daisuke went to school and related his situation to the group of friends he did have; the two female Eva pilots and their associated group.
“You moved in with your uncle? Congratulations!” Maya exclaimed. “He seems like a really cool guy, not at all like your grandparents..." She frowned, remembering her own grandparents without much fondness, and then of course the apathetic treatment of Daisuke's own. She wondered what it was with those sorts of people.
“Yeah,” Shigeru said. “We can come visit him, right?”
“Your uncle…" Anita hesitated, trying to remember exactly who he was. "He works for Nerv?” she asked. “Right? Section Two?”
Daisuke nodded to both Shigeru and then turned to Anita. “He's head of Section Two, actually, not just working for it. Why do you ask?” he said.
“I… well, I was just curious.” Anita looked around at everyone. “I mean… don’t all of your parents work for Nerv in some capacity?”
“Mostly,” Kyoko said. “This is a company town. The people who don’t work for Nerv are like my parents, who run a service Nerv can’t provide.”
Ryoji snickered. The girls glared. “Sorry!”
“Your parents,” Anita said suddenly, turning to Kyoko. “Are they really your mother and father?”
“Anita!” Maya cried. “That’s rud-”
Kyoko shook her head sadly. “I’m adopted,” she admitted. “Why?”
Anita sighed. “You’re the only person here who even mentions her mother. No one else seems to have one.”
Maya thought about that for a minute. Her mother was dead. Kyoko’s was too, it seemed, and Daisuke’s, and apparently Anita’s too. Gendo didn’t seem to have parents. What was with that? Was it some sort of bizarre Nerv employment requirement? “Don’t have a wife, but have kids”? It didn’t make a lot of sense, even in the form of coincidence, and since everyone was born after Second Impact there wasn’t that for an excuse…
Kaede flounced over to the group. “Oh, Rii-chan!” she said brightly. “I have a message from your brother!”
“Don’t call me that,” Ritsuko muttered.
“He says that he’s not going to be getting home on time and that he wants you to tell your dad.” Kaede firmly ignored the rebuke.
“Can’t he just call?” Ritsuko asked.
Kaede shrugged. “He says he’ll be busy. You should take care of it yourself.”
Ritsuko sighed. “Fine, whatever.” Once Kaede had left, she leaned in to the circle of friends. “Like I will. I’m not his messenger.”
Anita looked over at Kaede and her two friends. “Why do you hate them so much?” she asked. “They seem nice…”
Ryoji stepped in for Ritsuko. “They’re not. One’s a slut, one’s an idiot, and one’s a follower.”
“A whore,” Ritsuko suggested. Anita shook her head.
“She wouldn’t know words like that. Someone who sleeps around,” Maya explained.
Anita shook her head again, confused. Maya realized then and there that this would take quite a bit of time to explain, and that the school was not the best place to do so, so the group moved back to criticizing the three girls.
"Anyway," Ritsuko started, "They only act nice as a shield. It's not what they're really like, they just behave that way so that the people who see them for what they really are can't fight back. You've probably seen social dynamics like that a lot, in movies..." She trailed off, remembering. Anita probably was exactly that sheltered. Maya wouldn't be surprised to learn that the movie Asuka had shown them had been the first the girl had seen.
Anita just shook her head again. "I don't know anyone who didn't act upfront," she said. "There wasn't any reason to behave that way in Nerv."
"Of course not," Makoto replied. "A military group wouldn't act like high schoolers."
"What's the point though?" Anita asked. "If they want to be nice, they can be, and if they don't, they don't have to be, do they? It's not like you can get in that much trouble for being rude."
Maya opened her mouth to answer, but stopped when Ritsuko pointed over to Satsuki's table, where a couple girls who didn't usually sit there had joined the trio. They both looked starstruck and so happy to be there. Maya thought Ritsuko probably had a better handle on things, and anyway she had a much nicer voice... A better way of putting things, really. "They get to be popular," she said. "That must be a nice distraction from the fact that they're horrible people."
Kyoko and Ryoji both laughed, but were cut off as the teacher, Strasberg, entered the room again. Lunch was over, and everyone had to push their desks back to their proper spots and get ready to learn again, which was a rather inconvenient approach to socializing.
Sometime later, walking to Nerv from school, Anita was shocked and horrified while Maya attempted to explain what sex was. Maya, for her part, found the whole thing very uncomfortable, and couldn’t believe Anita didn’t know what such a thing was at her age.
* * *
It was, Daisuke reflected, not at all unsurprising that Kaito's apartment was smaller than his grandparents'. Even though his grandparents were not employees of Nerv, they would of course get far better accommodations than the head of one of Nerv's seven departments. Money still bought some privilege, it seemed. He shook his head and started laid down on the bed.
Last night had been perfectly all right, really. His uncle was friendly, and had cooked dinner, which had surprised Daisuke. His grandfather had never cooked, and Daisuke had just assumed that Kaito, raised in a somewhat traditional family, wouldn't know either. But instead, he could make a good meal. The two had sat and had a good conversation too, and Daisuke had convinced himself that perhaps this would be a better family than the one he'd had before.
But today, Kaito had simply left a note.
I will be working late tonight. I have a few instant meals lying about, and have also left enough yen for you to order out if nothing here strikes your fancy. I can't say when I'll be back, so please don't wait for me or stay up late. Your schoolwork is more important and I will probably have tomorrow off.
Your loving uncle, Kaito
Probably. Daisuke had a pretty good idea that that meant, "I should have it off but Nerv will probably expect me to do things anyway." Really, Daisuke thought, it shouldn't bother him so much. Nerv was the most important thing in the world, and his uncle controlled a seventh of it. They'd spend time together, eventually, and of course he had friends.
In fact, his birthday was coming up, he realized. He should have a party. His uncle would be much more willing to put up with children than his grandparents had ever been. Having a social life would be the best improvement possible, really.
"Just go the hell away!" - Neku Sakuraba, It's a Wonderful World, directed by Tatsuya Kandop
Gendo floated in LCL, serene. Another synch test was in progress, and today he was leading in terms of rate of gain. This was, admittedly, not a fair competition. Maya’s Eva-01 was still locked up in repairs, and she was using a simulation based off of the real deal. This caused some damage to the synch ratio, according to Doctor Ayanami. Anita, however, was losing to him fairly, which felt good.
Captain Soryu oversaw the tests without much enthusiasm today. The instructions were simple, the tests they went through pathetically easy. A four-year old could have been put through these tests and not found them challenging in the least. Despite this, Maya complained over the radio.
“Maya, you’re not advancing as much as you could be,” Toji noted. “Is something wrong?”
“I’m tired,” she responded. A conversation between her and Toji began, but Gendo didn't choose to listen to the girl's foolishness, preferring his own thoughts.
‘Then go to sleep earlier,’ Gendo thought bitterly. ‘It’s not our fault you keep focusing on homework.’ They had three major assignments going on, one on geography, one on history, and one about some book. Gendo had yet to start any of them. He had not done one homework assignment in two years. His report card had come in with straight F’s.
All the report cards he’d ever received had come in with straight F’s, so he didn’t much care. If he was still alive in April, he’d pass on to third year middle school like everyone else, just like he’d moved on to second year this past string. The commander thought school would be good for him, but he didn’t think so. It would be much better to simply stay underground and train.
Besides, Doctor Ayanami was down here.
The test ended. Gendo climbed out of his Entry Plug happily and looked over at the other two. Anita was grumbling to herself about something, Maya looked weary. The two of them went out one door to the girls’ locker room, he went the other way. A quick shower to wash the LCL and its distinctive smell off, a quick change into his uniform, a quick exit.
He’d done it how many times now? He’d been a pilot for nearly sixty-two weeks now, but two of them had been spent in the infirmary because of the Second Angel. So nearly sixty weeks. That meant… four hundred times. Far too many to think about, even though they were all exactly the same.
Doctor Ayanami remained unimpressed, but someday, somehow, Gendo knew that he would make her care. The only question was how. Perhaps the Sixth Angel would attack sooner than expected and he could impress her by being ready even though they would all be caught unawares. It was always worth a shot.
After changing, he searched for her. She was the only person who understood him and was thus the only person worth talking to. Like always, she was about to go to the elevators to her apartments, and like always, she stopped as soon as she saw Gendo.
She nodded curtly. She was always tired of him.
He came up with the best lie he could. “I was curious about my te-”
And the doctor knew he was lying as soon as he opened his mouth. It wasn't like he hadn't lied like this before, though. “You know how your test went.”
“Yes,” he admitted. He just didn’t know what else to talk about.
Ayanami always hesitated here. When he’d asked, she said it was because she didn’t want him to be able to find out where she lived. She feared he’d follow her there and she’d have to put up with him for the rest of her life, as after all he certainly wouldn't stay away from her apartment.
That was wrong, of course. Gendo knew that sooner or later he would die, and that when that happened, the Doctor would still be alive. He would return to nothing, despite everything the commander was doing. It was the only neat thing to do. And he wanted it more than anything.
“May I escort you?” he asked. It never hurt to ask.
“No.” Doctor Ayanami pressed the “Close door” button on the elevator, and began her ascent. Today, though, Gendo was lucky. The other elevator was also right there (usually it was on one of the other eight hundred floors), and he joined the Doctor in her ascent to the surface. When the doors opened, she was leaving the building. He followed.
He followed her discreetly down the streets (she almost saw him twice), through the subway system (she went around the loop line twice, as if trying to make him lose her), and down a second set of straights (she didn’t look behind her, she must have thought she should have lost him by that point). Excellent.
She went up to the fourth floor, room twenty-six. Perfect. As soon as the door shut, he went up and knocked.
Doctor Ayanami opened up the door and nearly screamed. “What the hell?! What part of ‘Don’t follow me’ is so hard to understand?!” She looked angrier than he’d ever seen her before.
He stared a moment, shocked. Then he recovered and said, “I miss you when you’re away, Doctor.”
She glared. “Get away from me. Go away!”
Gendo sighed. “Please may I come in?”
She shut the door.
He knocked again. If Gendo watched movies or TV, he would have been surprised when she didn’t answer again right away. As he did not, he was denied the chance to realize the cruel fact that people on TV are idiots.
Gendo, however, thought people were idiots anyway, so he might not have lost much. He stood outside her door for some time, not knocking. Finally, angrily, he walked away.
* * *
Rei looked out the front door. Finally the boy was gone. What the fuck was he doing? What the hell had she done to ever give him the impression that she cared about him in anyway? She didn’t even think him worth the iron in his body.
Well, okay, he could pilot. She didn’t deny that. Hell, she trusted him to pilot more than she did Maya, who seemed like she was ready to quit at the drop of a hat, or Anita, who had been personally trained by Asuka. Personal attention from Asuka set off all kinds of alarm bells in Rei’s head.
First things first, she picked up the phone and called Nerv. "I have a problem I want removed promptly," she said coldly. "Sedate him painfully too, when you take him out. And tell his guardian that he's a fucking stalker." That was one bit. She hung up the phone and dialed a different extension. "I need a new apartment," she said. "A spare one on that end of town? Good. I'll start moving right away." She hung up. Two problems fixed.
She decided to pull out some beers to steady her nerves. Asuka swore by it, which was obviously a bad sign, but even she couldn’t be wrong all the time. One drink didn’t work, so clearly another was going to be required. Several drinks didn’t work. Stupid Asuka. Stupid, stupid, stupid, STUPID Asuka. That girl was the most annoying, self-centered…
She pulled out the sketchbook. There were several dozen pages left. This must have been the one she used in their last year. Her pencil began to sketch along the first empty page, drawing first a car, simple and generic. Then, under one of the tires (normally she hated drawing tires for some reason. Perhaps it was the texture of them) was a horrifically mangled body.
She wasn’t sure whose it would be at first. Eventually, it became Gendo.
She was okay with that.
* * *
Gendo found himself at “home,” shortly after. Asuka was trying (and failing) to cook dinner, but she was keeping herself in high spirits despite the horrible smells that were coming out of the pot. Anita was watching in something resembling terror, and Gendo decided then and there that he didn't really need to eat dinner that night.
Gendo tried to simply sneak to his room and maybe not eat for the day, but Asuka saw him and called him over. “Come on, Gendo-kun! Join us! It’s family time!”
“You’re not my family,” Gendo pointed out.
Asuka continued smiling. “Of course we are! We all live together and we all let each other see us for who we really are! That makes us family!”
Anita smiled, but Gendo suspected she was doing it to get along. Besides, it was obvious that Asuka was putting up a façade of some sort. No one could be that happy. Doctor Ayanami and Commander Ikari barely smiled, after all.
“So, how was school? I didn’t get a chance to ask during the tests,” Asuka asked, pouring one pot into another. Gendo cringed.
“I…” Anita hesitated. “I don’t know.” She was blushing slightly. Gendo wondered why.
“And you, Gendo?”
“I have no comment on school. It was pointless.”
Asuka refused to take Gendo's sullenness for an answer. “Oh, come on! What did you guys learn about?”
“Tiananmen Square.” Gendo wished he’d been there. It would be more pleasurable than being here.
“What about it?” Asuka asked, trying to force a conversation.
“Absolutely nothing interesting happened there ever,” Gendo responded quickly. “I’m going to my room now.” He walked away.
In which Asuka almost has a meal with Shinji twice
"'We will not quarrel for the greater share of blame annexed to that evening,' said Elizabeth. 'The conduct of neither, if strictly examined, will be irreproachable; but since then, we have both, I hope, improved in civility.'" - Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austin
Asuka lay back in bed, thinking. Shinji had asked her to let Gendo move in, and she’d agreed because at the time it had made some strange amount of sense. The boy was irritable or quiet, and he’d once asked her if he could just train all day. She’d said no, of course. That request was blatantly ridiculous.
Gendo needed help; in fact, he needed to be broken out of his shell. But Asuka had no idea how to arrange that. The person he seemed most interested in, Maya, didn't seem to want to be his friend (and really Gendo didn't seem to want to be her friend either; it was just an interest). She knew he was seeing a therapist, apparently her old friend Kotonoha, but how could Asuka do something that a professional couldn’t?
Why did Shinji want everyone from that old class there anyways? He’d said some things to her… She didn’t believe them now. Not with Rei and Toji and Hikari and Katsuko and Kaito… So many people. She was probably just the crown jewel in his collection. The proof that he could force anyone to come back to him or something like that.
Of course, it hadn't exactly been like that when he had invited her to join him at Nerv Command. And in all fairness, the increase in rank was something that Asuka had never dreamed of. But with all but one person from that one college class present now, it didn't seem likely that she actually had earned the position. If anyone else had been in charge, would she have been the top candidate, or would she still be toiling away in Germany, overseeing the construction of Eva-05?
How had that meeting gone, anyways?
* * *
Asuka walked into the restaurant, adjusting her uniform. It didn’t fit. Her rapid ascension through the ranks, all the way to a captain, had had one downside. The tailor was a monumental idiot who couldn’t measure his way out of a paper bag, and she hadn’t had time to adjust this uniform herself. Sometimes she wondered if it was just another thing the commander of Nerv-03 did to harass her. Bastard.
She looked at her watch briefly. It was eight-twenty. “Crap, I’m late,” she muttered. “Stupid shift changes…” She looked around. ‘I’m supposed to go to booth ten…’ She looked for it.
The restaurant she was instructed to go to was far too fancy for her liking. The staff were dressed in formal wear, as was nearly every customer present. She felt a little awkward, as her dress uniform, though fancy, was still a uniform, and that stood out against the dresses and skirts of the other women present. She decided not to let it get to her though. She had other things to worry about.
There it was. And there he was, too. What the hell? What the hell was he doing here, in Germany?!
“S- Shi…” She gulped as she stared into the man’s blue eyes again. She lov--- No. Not the time. “Ikari-sensei?”
He looked shocked to see her. Maybe he wasn’t who she was looking for? “You, uh… wow… I almost didn’t recognize you. The hair dye and all.” Oh right. She blushed and fiddled with her hair. She’d had red hair when he’d seen her last.
“Uh… I’m supposed to be meeting a high-ranking Nerv officer here,” she explained politely. “Something about a transfer.” He would understand that and hopefully just let her go and find the real officer. She wouldn’t have to talk to him.
“Yes. I’m the commander of Nerv Japan.”
Asuka gasped. “Nerv Japan?!” This had better be some kind of joke… Or maybe he was trying to make Nerv-Matsushiro sound cool. That must be it. If anything.
“Yes,” he said.
“I… you…” Asuka gave up and focused on adjusting her uniform.
“I…” Shinji took a deep breath. “This isn’t anything personal. It’s because you’re… well, you’re the best candidate.”
“You’re asking me to go back to Japan?”
“But… my position here! The Second Child!” The Commander here. That bastard needed to pay for everything he’d done.
“I can’t force you,” Shinji said calmly. “But you should be aware that the Second Child is going to be transferred to Japan soon. The Second Angel arrived in Tokyo-3 six days ago. The war has begun.”
“The second? But-” It occurred to her then that Second Impact had featured the First Angel. She was completely wrong of course, but it was a reasonable guess. “I did wonder why her training schedule was stepped up…”
Shinji nodded. “I want you for a position in Nerv-Japan. The head of tactical operations.”
“Me? But-” Asuka stared in shock. She wasn't low-ranking, but she didn't have a lot of experience either. Could she really be the person that was the best for the job?
“You’re the highest ranked Nerv employee who is both qualified for the position and fluent in Japanese," Shinji explained, as if he knew the very question she was asking in her head. "You also have accelerated through the ranks almost as quickly as I have. I need you for this, Asuka. I know you hate me, but this isn’t about me.”
Those were the wrong words to say, even if he was right. Asuka’s eyes narrowed. “You… Six years! Six years since I left, and this is the first thing you say to me?! You never even tried to make contact! And now you call me like this? Like--”
Like a servant.
“I know. It’s wrong, but this isn’t about you and me. This is about saving mankind.”
“Why should I give a crap about mankind?!” She didn’t mean to say that. She did care about mankind. It was Shinji she couldn’t bring herself about.
“Then, not mankind… Care about the Second Child.”
Asuka’s mouth hung open in disgust. “I never thought you’d stoop so low as to try and manipulate me,” she said angrily.
“I don’t want to,” he whispered.
“Funny way of showing it.”
Shinji just glared in return. “Three billion people, Asuka! Three billion people and I could have saved them. I have to do what it takes to save the rest.”
“I’m not talking about them! I’m talking about you and me! You… you can’t…”
She looked at him. If he hurt, he didn’t show it. She sighed. “I’ll think about it,” she said at last. It was just a job. Working under him couldn’t be so bad. Not as bad as working under her father.
“I understand, but please respond soon.”
Asuka nodded in response. “Did you ever miss me?”
“Yes, I did.” Shinji held out a card. “Take this. Call me when you decide.”
She took it. “I will,” she assured him. “Of course I will.” She left then, uninterested in having dinner with him. She’d had far too many dinners with Ikari Shinji. Having one with him in Germany wouldn’t be all that interesting.
* * *
That was what he had said. Asuka didn’t know if it any of it was real or not. It probably wasn’t, she decided eventually.
The next day, she got up early and left before either Anita or Gendo got up. They’d be able to make it to school just fine. She wished she could have been able to greet them with breakfast though. Perhaps Gendo could be more pleasant in the mornings. She’d have to find out tomorrow. Today, it was time for a breakfast meeting with Commander Baka.
She arrived in his office hesitantly. “What’s up?” she asked.
“Hello, Captain,” he said. “I wanted to have a meeting. That’s all.”
Meetings. That’s all he did lately.
“It’s about preparations for the Sixth Angel,” he explained.
“Oh, right…” Asuka tried to smile. “Eva-01 is still being repaired?”
“Unfortunately. They say the legs are working again, but not the arms. Ibuki couldn’t possibly pilot that thing without being in a lot of pain.” He looked down, apparently horrified at the mere thought. Asuka smiled a little. He had a good heart; that had to count for something. But unfortunately, it didn't count for enough, and the logic of the situation was all too clear to her.
“Then, why are we talking? Eva-00 and Eva-02 are fine, there’s not much I can do with them except what we’re already doing.”
“It’s not about them. It’s about a new prototype.”
“Eva-03?” Asuka was shocked. “But it’s not supposed to be finished for months!”
Shinji shook his head. “A while ago, we acquired what was left of the Jet Alone program. They had one prototype that wasn’t destroyed, and the UN recently gave us the approval to obtain it for use here in Tokyo-3.”
“It doesn’t have an AT Field, though,” the captain responded, completely unimpressed.
The commander grinned. It was... Asuka didn't know what emotion it was meant to convey. Not enthusiasm, nor bloodlust... Not even triumph. Just a smile. “But it does have weapons. Let someone else cancel out the AT Field, and it can do damage. At least, that’s the plan.”
“Why are you talking to me about this?” Asuka asked. “I mean, obviously you’d need to tell me, but we don’t need to have a full meeting about it.”
Shinji fidgeted uncomfortably. “Uh…”
She looked at the food on the table before them, and a horrific thought clicked in her head. “Is this just some stupid excuse to wine and dine me?”
“Forget it, Commander! I’m not some stupid college girl and I don’t have time for this anyways! Why should I stay here if all we’re doing is letting you pretend to have a girlfriend?” She stood up angrily. “No. If you want to have an actual relationship, you’re going to do it the right way. Is there any actual business we need to discuss?”
“I just thought…”
“I already had a non-work relationship with one commander. It just… it made everything all too screwed up.” She began to walk away. “And it’s not fair of you to be like this anyways. You broke everything off, remember?”
A door behind Shinji opened, and Rei stepped out. “I told you it wouldn’t work,” she said. Her eyes were bloodshot.
“What were you doing in there?” Shinji asked angrily.
“I needed a place to hide from Gendo this morning. He found out where I live. He stood outside my door for an hour. And I saw him board a subway on my way here.”
Shinji shook his head. “Wow,” he muttered. “That’s pretty…” He trailed off. Gendo's lack of understanding when it came to social structures was becoming a bit of a problem.
Rei smirked. “Clearly he’s becoming bolder though, if that’s what you’re after. But perhaps it’s a waste of time with him?”
“I can’t believe that, Rei. He can become more human. Without his cooperation, the world is going to end sooner or later.”
“Perhaps it should.”
There was a cold silence for a time after that.
Rei sighed. “I’ve selected an operator for Jet Alone, by the way. Just to give it the directions.” Shinji didn’t respond. “And there’re a few new weapon proposals that Asuka have approved that you might have to look over.” Again, silence. She sighed again. "Look, I’m sorry. The kid just gets to me, okay?”
“Setting an example is not the main means of influencing another, it is the only means.” - Albert Einstein
Again Maya was relieved when they got to lunch. Another stupid class had gone by where they hadn’t learned anything. The teacher felt like an incompetent half the time and he was… well, he was pretty clearly a liar of some sort. Ritsuko had said he was a foreigner and his name suggested German descent, but he had a Japanese accent and couldn’t pronounce Anita’s name.
Maybe he was just another Nerv employee. It would explain a lot about his incompetence, if he wasn't really a teacher, but just some goon who looked after the kids.
She looked around the classroom. Gendo was absent, which was unusual. Nothing had happened to him yesterday, as far as she knew… Anita had also decided not to show up. Had Maya forgotten some important announcement or something? She hoped not, it would be far too embarrassing.
Everyone was clustering around Ritsuko’s desk, pushing a few desks together so they could enjoy lunch. Maya joined them, taking up a bit of space between Shigeru and Ryoji. Daisuke sat on Shigeru’s other side, and beyond him was Ritsuko, then there was Kyoko, and finally Makoto completed the circle. It was great having friends like them.
“I don’t suppose you know when the next Angel is attacking?” Ritsuko asked. “I’m tired of bringing a camera back and forth.”
Maya glared. “Why are you still bothering with that kind of stuff, anyways? You’re going to get yourself killed!”
“Our shelter is up on a hill away from the city,” Ryoji explained. “Everyone in 2-A goes there. When we snuck outside last time, we were pretty far away from everything. My camera just has a really good zoom function!” He grinned.
Maya shook her head. “That battle was away from the city! The two-”
“Just stop bothering,” Kyoko interjected. “It’s not worth it. I don’t wanna have to listen to this fight every time the idea comes up.”
Maya sighed. “Fine. I have no clue when the Sixth Angel will show up, by the way. No one does. They just seem to be attacking at random.”
“So one could show up today?!” Ritsuko seemed excited.
“Yes, sure, why not?”
Makoto rolled his eyes at Ritsuko. “You are by far the worst Class Representative I’ve ever met. Are you actually encouraging people to sneak out of the shelters?”
Ritsuko blushed. “Well, at first I was just following Ryoji, yelling at him, but... Something about seeing that battle. It was amazing.”
“That’s not all that you’ve done that’s pretty pathetic for a Class Rep,” Makoto joked. “Do you ever actually enforce the cleaning rules?”
The class rep looked away. “Well…”
“Or anything else?”
Ritsuko fidgeted uncomfortably.
“Do you smoke after school, too?” he continued.
“Of course not!” Ritsuko protested. “It’s bad enough that Shiro smokes whenever he gets the chance! Hell, all my family does. Ugh… It smells disgusting.”
Makoto and Shigeru exchanged a doubting look. “Sure….” they said in synch.
Ritsuko glared at both. “Seriously! Naoko would kill me!”
Maya considered speaking up, but then Daisuke approached. “Oh, hi,” she said. “Uh… what’s up?”
“Uh… my birthday’s this weekend… Saturday… I’m turning fourteen and all. I was wondering if you guys were interested in coming…” He looked at the rest of the group. “All of you, of course. Even Gurrifisu-san and Rokubungi…”
“That sounds fun!” Maya said. “Uh, it’s in the afternoon, right?” The morning would probably have too much training for her or the other pilots to be able to show up.
Daisuke nodded and looked at everyone else. Most everyone agreed, except Shigeru, who had to visit his little brother. Maya agreed to inform the other two pilots as soon as possible, but pointed out that Gendo was highly unlikely to actually show up. "He's basically as anti-social as you can get."
“I don’t mind, I just thought it would be rude not to invite him.” Daisuke smiled at Maya and then went back to his own desk.
“I still think you like him, Maya,” Ritsuko joked.
Maya flushed. “I don’t!”
No one believed her.
“I don’t!” she said again, more vehemently. “Honestly! This is something elementary schoolers do, you know! Why can't you guys just grow up?”
“Do you have a boyfriend back home?” Kaji asked. “I’m sure the papers would love that!”
Maya opened her mouth to begin a tirade. “No, I…” And then she sighed, remembering what Kyoko had said earlier. “Let’s not talk about this, okay? It’s pointless. You won't believe me and it doesn't really matter what I say.”
Ritsuko shrugged. “Whatever you want,” she said.
"You shoulda tried that with the whole rumor that you were related to the commander of Nerv," Ryoji added jokingly. "Maybe it would have died a lot quicker instead of..." He shot a glance over towards Satsuki. "Blossoming..."
They ate in silence for awhile. Then, Ritsuko asked, “So what is it like piloting?”
Maya gulped. “Well... when I synch with an Evangelion, it’s... Honestly, it's really hard to describe." She sat in silence for a little while, trying to find the perfect words. The conversation almost picked up again, but she interrupted it. "It’s like I’m perfectly safe. Well, lately anyways. At first it was just scary, but I think that’s because I was kind of thrown at an Angel.”
Rei hated going into the level that held the Eva cages. The Evangelion, though she knew them better than anyone else, disturbed her on some level, and the workers here were of such low rankings she barely found them worth her time. But of course, everyone else was busy, so it was now her job to gather the status reports. And there was another, more secretive job that needed doing. One she couldn't trust to anyone else.
She had told Shinji she'd selected an operator, and that was true enough, but what she had neglected to mention was that she had not actually told the candidate that he had an additional job. That seemed important, especially as the Angel's attack was only five days away according to the Scrolls.
The elevator door opened, and she stepped out into the halls and navigated them calmly. She knew them by heart, and might very well have been the only human being to truly understand the layout of Nerv's HQ. She entered Eva-01's cage and approached the workers. “How do repairs go?” she asked, looking up at the Evangelion.
“As well as we could expect,” Keita muttered. “We expect to finish up sometime over the weekend, I think.” He turned to Takeru. “That right?”
“You,” Rei said, smiling softly. “Come with me. You have a new assignment.” She turned and began walking.
Takeru stared in shock. “But, ma’am, I…” He gulped. “Well… The Evangelion unit still needs-”
“Now,” Rei said coolly. “We need you trained as soon as possible. An Angel could attack tomorrow.” Not true, she reminded herself, but an effective threat all the same. Rei saw immediately the benefits of restricting access to the Dead Sea Scrolls, and why Seele did so. Information was power. She began to walk away. Hesitantly, Takeru followed, not at all understanding what sort of training an adult could receive that would help deal with the Angel problems.
* * *
Anita sat at home, watching television. Asuka hadn’t ever said she had to go school, so she didn’t see the need to bother. Maya might have been something like a friend, but she was really the only interesting one and had plenty of other friends. She wouldn't miss Anita one day. Besides, the teacher had failed to teach her anything at any point so far. Well, actually, he’d brought up a lot of things she’d never heard of before. She’d never heard of China until that class. But that wasn't the same as teaching, she though.
The problem was, all the information he wanted to impart on her was useless for being a pilot. China’s location was completely irrelevant because it was not within the five minute radius of an Evangelion that wasn’t plugged in. Tiananmen Square was also useless. She didn’t care who had died there once. Lots of people died all over the place. Today, over a hundred million people would die.
That information was useless too, but someone had told her how many people died a day. She was surprised that any human beings were left at that rate, let alone the idea that the population was slowly climbing. The amount of effort that would go into making over a hundred million children… It was unthinkable to her, even now that she knew exactly how one child could be made.
At any rate, today she had not been told to go to school, and while she knew that she was expected to go every day, she could at least get out of it today. It was the only day she'd be able to make this excuse, because Asuka would catch on and demand she go to school every day it was in session, whether she was told to in the morning or not, but one day was worth it. She’d turned on the television, and watched it disinterestedly. The news, the weather, sports… All stupid. Reality television, as it called itself? Disgusting. Not a single show managed to capture her attention.
The books Asuka kept failed to do anything helpful either, and all the radio stations in Tokyo-3 played a sickening kind of music that made Anita wish she could strangle the artists responsible for the travesty. Asuka kept a computer, but it was in her room and password protected besides.
Anita wished she could be piloting. That would be useful. The Sixth Angel might attack tomorrow, but not a single member of Nerv seemed to care. She’d explained to many of them that she might fall behind the Angels without the chance to improve herself. Not a one of them agreed that her point was relevant.
Even Asuka, the one person she trusted most, disagreed with her on this issue. This was disheartening, since Asuka had been the only sane man at Nerv-03. Perhaps she had lost her edge here. Her attempts the previous night to interact with the Third Child had been most pathetic. Who cared if he didn’t want to talk to people? Like her, he thought that training was the best thing to do.
It was the only thing to do.
* * *
Deep in the Sargasso Sea, the Sixth Angel awoke. It would arrive in Tokyo-3 the next day, regardless of the message of the Dead Sea Scrolls. They weren't true prophecies, after all. Just words.
"I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: 'Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.'" - Book of Isaiah, Author Disputed
“You’re going to school today. Both of you.” Asuka glared down at the two children sitting at her kitchen table, slowly working their way through their cereal. “Understand?”
Anita nodded slowly. Gendo just took another spoonful of food.
“Honestly, I go away for one morning and when I came back, Maya was coming by with all the homework you’d need to do. Just because I’m not around doesn’t mean you can skip!”
Neither child said anything. Asuka, still angry but without a fair target, forced herself to take revenge upon the dishes by scrubbing them extra hard. Stupid kids. If she had been in their shoes as a child, she would have protested a bit, even if only because she had an image to keep up. But she still expected better of them, especially Anita, who was usually so good about these things. That had been one of the reasons they'd gotten along so well, really.
Shortly after, both children finished their breakfast, washed up, gathered up their things, and left the apartment. Reluctantly, they went to the subway system, both knowing that it wouldn’t be worth it to have to listen to Asuka rant again.
“Besides,” Anita muttered, “what if she drives us somewhere?”
Gendo didn’t say anything in response.
Anita, curious if she could get the boy to speak at all, asked, “So why don’t you want to go to school?” She knew the answer, of course, but maybe the conversation would impress Asuka.
Gendo didn’t say anything in response though. He just kept walking on, barely making any noise at all. Anita had to look down just to make sure his shoes were actually touching the pavement below them, and she still couldn’t tell if he was breathing or not. He was an impressive kid.
They walked in silence for awhile, cutting through the throng of people. No one paid them any attention; Anita wondered if anyone in this city knew who the pilots were. In Germany she hadn’t been able to go out in public because everyone knew who she was. An armed guard couldn’t keep people who wanted to see their savior away.
She didn’t know if she liked it this way better. The sun was beautiful; she hadn’t been able to truly enjoy it in so long. It wasn’t like she’d been locked up, but…
Looking at Gendo’s pale skin, she wondered if he had been locked up all the years he’d been a pilot. Even on this cool summer day he looked uncomfortably warm, and he kept looking down, away from the sun. Anita had been allowed outside back in Germany, usually in Eva-02, but still. The sun was part of training. She had to know its motion through the sky, the best way to fire at a target in its general direction, things like that. If Gendo was unused to the sun, how did they expect him to perform similarly?
Her thoughts were interrupted as the sound of alarms rang through the city. Gendo and Anita turned to face each other. They both grinned.
* * *
Takeru sat at a computer console in the command center uncertainly. There were dozens of controls on this modified unit, and all of them were connected to a giant robot that was not of an Evangelion persusaion. “Are you sure I’m the one you want for this job?” he asked Rei, who stood over him.
“You’re the only one for it at this point. There’s not enough time to explain the controls to anyone else,” she explained. ‘Why did I lie and tell Shinji I already had an operator?’
Takeru continued to look at the console that had been set up, trying to remember everything that Rei had explained. Every command was labeled well enough, but the exact order of some operations continued to elude him. “And you say that this thing will be controlling that Jet Alone robot?” Stupid question, but one that would establish whether or not
“Geez, I thought you were just messing with me or something...”
“Well, you were wrong.” Rei looked up at the screens displaying the Sixth Angel as it approached. They weren’t real-time video, but a stream of pictures taken every two and a half seconds. Any faster and the pictures were useless, replaced with strange white silhouettes that discomforted. Perhaps it was the way the city itself seemed to twist in the background, like it was insubstantial. Like it wasn’t real at all.
The creature was… the first polite adjective that came to Ayanami’s mind was “red.” After that, she wasn’t sure if it was phallic or vaginal. One minute it was a solid body, the next it looked like a hollow shell. Rei looked away from the Angel. It was too disgusting to keep looking at. To be honest, she felt bad for the pilots.
Kensuke spoke up. “Ma’am?”
“Eva-01 still needs repairs, we can’t sortie it now.”
“I’m aware of that.” Rei looked around. “Where’s the cap-”
Asuka ran in. “Sorry! There was a bit of a jam in traffic. Whose idea was it to make every lane outgoing?”
Rei smirked slightly, and pointed up to the Sixth Angel. “Here is the Angel," she said, preferring to get right down to things now that Asuka was here. "We can’t detect any signs of weapons or offensive capabilities. Its form isn’t metallic, and none of its body parts seem to be capable of reacting the way the Third Angel’s did…”
“That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a few tricks up its sleeve. Are the Second and Third ready to launch?”
“Yes,” Rei said.
“Good. Move out!”
* * *
The road opened up and Eva-00 was lifted out from the underground. Eva-02 was brought up a few blocks away. The Sixth Angel was in sight now.
Gendo grinned. This fight was going to be pathetically easy. The Angel didn’t even give him a headache like the other ones had. Twenty seconds into the battle, he’d reached a gun tower and pulled out a pallet rifle. He frowned. Captain Soryu had mentioned that some new guns had been designed, but where were they?
No. It didn’t matter.
He swung around to face the Angel. Two hundred meters away. Excellent. He began to fire as it entered the range of the rifle. Some bullets fired at the Angel from the side suggested that Anita had found a gun.
“You have to cancel out the AT Field!” he heard Suzuhara shout over the radio.
He charged towards the Angel, holding Eva-00’s AT Field in front of him. Naturally, of course, things wouldn’t be that easy. As he charged, the Angel, which had been hovering horizontally above the ground, turned its body so it was shaped like a ‘Z. Then two whips made of plasma (or something similar) appeared, one on each side of the main body.
Gendo tried to slow Eva-00, but it was much too late for that, and the two AT Fields met, cancelling each other out, just in time for a whip to slap Eva-00 across the face. Gendo flinched. His cheek burned as if the skin had just melted away, leaving muscle underneath.
A few shots flew past Eva-00, no doubt from Eva-02, connecting with the Angel and pushing it back a little, but it seemed mostly undamaged. This thing was a rejection-type Angel through and through.
Gendo looked for the core. It hid under the creature’s head and was going to be impossible to get to in close combat as long as those whips were there. At least he still had his gu-
No, that changed, too. The whip rushed forward and tore the gun apart, singeing Eva-00’s hand. Gendo nearly cried out. Anita was still shooting, but it was accomplishing nothing. Dammit.
* * *
A group of students clustered on a hill overlooking Tokyo-3. Ritsuko was leading the way, holding a camera. Ryoji and Shigeru were also present, and Makoto had come along hesitantly.
None of them liked what they saw. The Angelic form seemed to twist and writhe; following any lines on the body was impossible, you just ended up looking at a building or a tree or something else put there by humanity or nature. Something safe. Even the plasma whips seemed less like whips and more like tangled bushes, and looking at one soon had you looking at the other as if it was an endless loop.
“Can we go inside now?” Shigeru whispered.
“Not yet!” Ritsuko cried. “There’s so many pictures to take!” She kept taking them, not even commenting on the battle.
Ryoji looked at it, wondering how Gendo and Anita were doing. It didn’t seem to be going well, but he wasn’t an expert by any means. In the battle against the Fifth Angel, it had seemed as if Nerv had kept the Angel distracted from the Evangelions by suicide attacks on the part of the planes and boats in the harbor.
This time, that option wasn’t even being considered. Tokyo-3’s airspace, usually abuzz with airplanes, was completely empty. The only things moving in the city were the two Evas and their enemy. At least, at first. But then something else appeared.
* * *
Jet Alone was launched. This was a desperate idea, even by Asuka’s standards. The unit was no different than the one used previously. Too much damage and it was very likely to go nuclear. But since Eva-00 had cancelled the AT-Field, it had a chance of getting in and doing some damage.
Unlike the Evangelion units, it had its own built-in weaponry. It was capable of using more, but today Asuka didn’t see the need to try that. Its goal was simple. Fire upon the Angel until it was distracted enough to let Anita go in for a kill.
Takeru nodded when he heard the directions, and pressed a few buttons. Chest plates on Jet Alone opened up, revealing guns. It began to fire heavily at the Angel.
Much to everyone’s surprise, it actually did some damage.
The Sixth Angel began to turn to it, but in doing so, it exposed its core properly to Anita’s fire. It swung the other way again, realizing its mistake, but Gendo began to fire too. Confused, it charged forward, hoping to swing between the two Evangelion and then turn around and destroy one.
Gendo got a lucky shot in and managed to shoot off one of the plasma whips. Immediately the wound began to heal, but Gendo didn’t care. It was the whip closer to Anita, so she now had a chance.
“Second Child!” he ordered. “Run in and stab the core!”
Eva-02 nodded and dived in, knife outstretched, ready to twist into the "heart" of the Angel. In five seconds the core of the Angel exploded.
Another successful battle.
* * *
Maya watched sadly as Gendo and Anita came out of their respective locker rooms. She was glad they’d been successful, of course, but she was a pilot too, and she should have been out there, just in case. She was also slightly disturbed to see her two co-pilots exchange a small grin. Neither seemed like the smiling type.
The two of them were then sent to debriefing, while Maya had to stay behind. She’d asked Doctor Ayanami if she could watch a visual replay of the battle, but was told that all information was highly classified from non-participants. It had just been a battle! What was the big deal?
"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." - Epistle to the Ephesians, by Paul
Shinji sat at a table in a dark room. Kaworu stood behind him. They were two minutes early, but were still surprised that the meeting hadn’t yet begun. The chairwoman was usually ten minutes ahead of schedule. They exchanged an awkward glance.
Shinji fidgeted uncomfortably, not saying anything, almost as if he was afraid that Kaworu would pull out a knife and stab him now that he had his back turned. He wondered why Kaworu didn't take a chair beside him; the holograms that were due for arrival would only be appearing on the other sides of the table so it wouldn't be impossible to make a little bit of room for the Vice-Commander. Of course Kaworu probably would refuse, coming up with a reason that sounded valid but didn't quite dismiss the irrational fear that someday he would attempt to kill Shinji for some inexplicable reason.
“So..." Kaworu stood there, smiling, but his attitude was also a little uncomfortable. He thought that Shinji was a good man, but was well aware that Shinji loathed him, which made conventional conversation impossible. Kaworu considered bringing up something related to business, the only safe topic, but of course everything worth saying about that would be covered in the upcoming meeting.
Shinji sighed, and decided to ask a single question. “Any idea why she-”
So naturally, he was cut off by the sudden arrival of one of the other people participating in the meeting. An image flicked into existence, of a chair and a Russian man sitting in it. The man was almost unfathomably old, and he squinted at Shinji and Kaworu despite his over-large glasses. “Mr. Pechalov reporting in.”
Kaworu nodded respectfully, Shinji as little as would he could get away with. “How go things at Nerv-04, sir?” Shinji asked.
Before Pechalov could answer, two more chairs on the other end of the table from him flickered into existence, each holding an old man. Both of them, and Pechalov, were in military uniform, though Shinji doubted any had ever actually served in a military capacity. Risking life and limb didn't exactly seem like it would appeal to either of them.
“Mr. Lache reporting in.” This man was clearly the oldest of them all. Shinji was amazed that his skin stayed on, it seemed so wrinkled that by all rights it should have torn on the simplest thing and then simply fallen away.
“Mr. Cochrane.” The Englishman didn’t even bother showing his true form, instead making a holographic of an old man who didn’t look like he was ten years dead. Occasionally he hadn't even bothered with that, and presented a geometric shape which spoke eerily.
Nods were exchanged all around. Before anyone could say anything else, an image of an old woman appeared in a chair opposite Shinji and Kaworu. Half of her face was covered in strange metal plating, to the extent that her hair had been shaved away except on the back half of her head. She didn’t say anything.
For the first time, Shinji nodded more respectfully. “Madam Chairman.”
“Ikari-san. Congratulations on the defeat of Shamshel yesterday.” Her accent, despite the fact that she was based in Germany, was perfectly Japanese. Shinji suspected that underneath all that hideous metal was a Japanese face, but he didn't know. He wasn't even entirely sure of her name. The chairman nodded at Kaworu.
“Is that what the Dead Sea Scrolls designate it as?” Shinj asked, knowing that only now that the danger was past would he be told the various secrets of the Dead Sea Scrolls. "I'm guessing it wasn't the Sixth Angel, by the way. It attacked too soon."
“Correct,” Mr. Pechalov said, his voice hideously rough because of his immense age. “And no, it was not the First Angel.”
Shinji frowned. “Are you ever going to reveal what the story behind that is, Pechalov? Madam Chairman?”
“We can’t say anything than we normally have,” she reported coldly. “You are to be ready for its appearance, and to accept any declarations of an XK-class scenario that might result.”
Shinji nodded. “I understand Kaworu’s real purpose here.” He frowned. “Where is Mr. Green?”
“Evangelion Unit 04 has recently been redesignated. It is no longer a Production Model, but now a Next Generational Test Bed. Its provisional German pilot has been reassigned as well, to Eva-05. We have assimilated as much data as possible from Kushiel and Shalgiel and are planning to replicate an S2 Engine. He is presumably busy making the alterations, because this is the most . I myself recently left the plant in Germany where replication just began.”
Shinji nodded. “Good. We need to be able fight the Angels on an equal footing.”
“And then we will use the S2 Engines for the betterment of mankind,” Kaworu said brightly.
“Of course,” the Chairman said. “The use of S2 Engines will be released to ‘public’ use as soon the war is concluded.” She smiled rapturously. "Who knows? All the damage of the past fifteen years might be undone. Perhaps every death that's ever happened," she added, looking knowingly at Shinji.
Shinji felt a tremor of sadness building up in him, but he pushed on. “Five Angels have been defeated,” he said. “Will you at least tell me how soon the Scrolls predict the resolution of the War?”
The Chairman shook her head. “All information pertaining to the Scrolls are classified until Volumes Three through Six are properly translated.”
“That’s what you said two years ago. Haven’t you made any progress?” Shinji asked, frustrated.
“Speaking of progress, how is Evangelion Unit-01 coming along?” Cochrane asked in a synthetic voice that made him sound almost young. Shinji liked him least of all. He seemed most fanatical of the four regular committee members that met him with the Chairman.
“Its repairing is on schedule. The last estimate I heard was that they wanted to synch the First Child with it on the tenth. Every committee member smiled at the news. Shinji hated that.
“You’ll be pleased to know that the JSSDF will be completing a Positron Rifle soon. Might I recommend collecting it by then?”
Shinji also hated it when the Chairman did that. Hoping to stave off the immediate commentaries, he tried changing the subject. “You’ll be glad to know that the mechas that we have under control all performed admirably in the last battle.”
“Including Jet Alone?”
Shinji gulped. “Yes.”
“The budget for that… Extraordinary. Between that and the repairs that seem to inevitably result from Angel battles… You’ve bankrupted entire countries, you know.”
“I thought it was necessary, Madam Chairman. How else will we defeat the Angels?”
“Perhaps necessary, Ikari, but that does not mean that we aren’t hurting thousands in the meantime. One of your previous officers..." she paused in recollection, "Um, the Ibuki woman, I believe, had a much better handle on the budget. Perhaps we were in error, giving full and unchecked control to you. The stirrings to remove Nerv and replace it with the JSSDF are continuing to grow. And the Angels aren’t your only concern.” She was perfectly cool, and Shinji knew she had a point, even if she didn’t ever intend to let the JSSDF take over.
“Instrumentality remains,” Lache noted coolly. Shinji struggled to understand him through his French accent. “Even when all the Angels have been defeated, much needs to be done for mankind.”
“I am aware,” Shinji said. “I have been working for that particular part of the project since Ibuki Mari died. The entirety of the Instrumentality Project weighs very heavily on me.”
“As it should,” the Chairman said. “Is there anything else to discuss? The future Evangelion units, perhaps?”
“Mr. Green would need to be here to comment on Evangelion Unit-03 or the training of its pilot. Your German bases are constructing Units Four and Five,” Mr. Cochrane said calmly. “Does the Marduk Institute have any new information on the potential candidates?”
“It is uninterested in making any new selections until Eva-05... Er, Eva-06 is closer to completion,” Kaworu explained. “It is still keeping an eye on the same number of children, however. And of course, if one is needed, it will find a good candidate for the Eva-04 project as well.”
“I suppose that will have to suffice,” the Chairman said. “Gentlemen, you’re dismissed.” The three old men disappeared, much to Shinji’s relief. All of them were absolutely horrifying. The Chairman took a long, hard look at Shinji. “We cannot turn back now, you know. Instrumentality is the inevitable conclusion to the Dead Sea Scroll Prophecies.”
“I am aware,” Shinji said. “Mankind is lost without it.”
“Goodbye, Ikari. My line is always open. Should the worst occur, you simply need to call. I trust your judgment on determining an XK-class scenario, but of course in the heat of the moment bad decisions can be made. I feel I can be a completely calm source of ideas in the event of a truly dangerous event.”
“Thank you, Madam Chairman. Goodbye." Shinji sighed a little, tired. 'Why don't you just admit you don't trust me to do this?' he thought. 'I know that you don't want me for this job...' Even a group like Seele wasn't united, and he had been selected for power despite her objections, because every other member had voted for him as a candidate. Even Kaworu.
Shinji sat back in his seat, weary. “I hate these holographic conversations…”
“It is rather inconvenient how we have to meet them so late at night,” Kaworu agreed. “But time zones are something we all must live with.”
“Wish I could change that.”
“Perhaps Instrumentality will,” Kaworu said happily. “Imagine all mankind in perfect unison. What would we care for the sun’s position, or the moon’s, or the stars’?”
“I can’t imagine,” Shinji said dryly.
“Neither can I. That’s what makes it so wonderful to contemplate. It will be all heavens wrapped into one, I think. Whatever that feels like.”
Shinji rose. “I don’t suppose you have access to the Dead Sea Scrolls?”
“Not the originals, but photo copies.”
Smiling falsely, he asked, “Might I borrow them? Volume I, at least?”
“Nice try, Commander, but the Scrolls are classified for a reason. We wouldn’t want anyone to get their hands on the prophecies before they were fulfilled. As it is, clearly there are a few translation errors. I mean, the Sixth Angel woke up a little to quickly and to be honest our obtaining Jet Alone wasn't mentioned anywhere in there either.”
Shinji’s smile disappeared. Human affairs were part of the Scrolls? “Anything about me in there?”
“Not so far.” Kaworu smiled.
“Then I suppose we’re done here, Nagisa. Please leave.”
“Of course, sir.” And so he did.
Shinji rose out of his chair, looking at the holographic projections. “Figures… They know what’s coming, but they won’t help.”
He left as well. Maybe he could get in a few good hours of sleep before the next day.
"I'm just going through a phase right now. Everybody goes through phases and all, don't they?" - Holden Caulfield, Catcher in the Rye, by J. D. Salinger
Gendo sat down on the couch angrily. “I don’t see why we have to be doing this? Can’t we just skip a week?” he demanded.
Katsuko sighed. “The Commander still wants these meetings to be weekly, and besides, Doctor Ayanami is greatly concerned about your recent behavior.” She fiddled with a pencil. She was kind of scared too. Gendo hadn’t shown any warning signs before stalking the doctor, at least as far as she knew. Was this a new thing? Was this another thing she’d been able to find because the information on his past was completely classified?
“I don’t care,” Gendo responded. “It is irrelevant.”
No point in beating around the bush. The truth was going to come out one way or another. “Why did you insist on following Doctor Ayanami to her home?”
“Because I wanted to.”
“But why did you want to?” she pressed on.
Gendo refused to respond.
Katsuko glared for a moment before regaining composure. Clearly, she told herself, it was just that she was uncomfortable in the chair. She rose and began to pace back and forth the room, looking at the walls. She knew every inch of this room, having placed the pictures and bookshelves herself to make it look as bright and inviting as possible without crossing into the zone where the patient would become irritated. It wasn’t helping her feel relaxed, though.
“Gendo, you do realize that the more you cooperate, the happier we’ll all be? The sooner these sessions will end for good?”
“I have been told that by you forty-nine times.”
Katsuko sighed. “Just checking.”
“You do realize that the less you bother, the sooner we can just decide to pretend we had these meetings, and you can stop worrying about them?”
That was new. He’d never said that before. Had he ever used a sentence that large before? Katsuko didn’t remember.
“Uh… right.” Time for a new approach. “What do you think of Maya? Or Anita?”
“Maya is still as foolish as ever, but I suppose she will be necessary to fight the Angels if Eva-00 or Eva-02 are damaged. Anita is… competent. Her dedication is useful. I hope to train and fight with her more often because of it.”
High praise. “Do you think Maya could get better?”
“It is possible.”
Katsuko bit her lip. “Well, why don’t you help her? Fight her-”
Gendo turned pale. He still freaked out every time she mentioned the idea of violence against other people. He’d been like that since Jet Alone. She hoped this was a sign of improvement, but feared it was just another sign that Gendo was incurable or worse.
“As a game or maybe a simulation. Not to actually harm her or anything drastic. She’d know about it too, obviously, and would be expecting any attacks you made.”
Gendo sat there, uncertainly. “I…”
“It can’t hurt. Besides, it’ll help increase our chances of being able to fight the Angels effectively. You’d be doing it to survive, not to be friendly.”
“Training exercises, I guess.”
“I suppose.” Gendo sighed. “This still… she is likely to refuse.”
“Well, you can always say you tried!” Katsuko smiled. “Perhaps extend the offer to Anita as well. That might make Maya more hesitant to refuse the offer.”
Gendo nodded. That made sense from what he’d seen of the stupid girl. “Thank you, Doctor. You’ve been useful. For once.” He rose and left.
Katsuko stared for a moment, before realizing he’d left without permission. Dammit. “At least I gave him some useful information for a change… Maybe he’ll start getting better now.”
She sat down at her desk and began to write up the next report. This one would be much brighter than the previous ones had been.
It was nice, how well the session had managed to conduct itself for once.
* * *
It was a late lunch that Katsuko went to, but she'd forgotten to eat earlier. It seemed she wasn't the only one either. Asuka approached Katsuko in the cafeteria, which was perhaps a little surprising. She and Asuka had been good friends in the college days, but they hadn't interacted much since then. She'd been assuming that Asuka just didn't have time for her old friendships. She did seem to be trying to make herself a different person, having dyed her hair brown.
“Hey, how’s it going?” Asuka asked.
“Not too bad,” Katsuko replied. “And that's despite the fact that I had that psych session with Gendo today. It went rather nicely, all things considered.”
“Oh?” Asuka was intrigued.
“Yes. I got him to be willing to socialize with people,” Katsuko said. “I can barely believe it, but he’s going to propose sparring with Maya and Anita at some point. He’ll be doing it to get Maya to fight better.”
Asuka seemed unbelieving. “Gendo said that? But he avoids talking to Anita at home..." She put her hands on her hips, sounding angry even though she was still smiling. "Were you drunk on the job, lieutenant?"
“No!" Katsuko hated alcohol. "I’m not kidding. One little session and I didn’t just crack his shell; I actually tore bits of it off! I’ve been more successful today than I was in over a year! Isn’t that great?!”
“I…” Asuka blinked. “Well… I guess we’ve all been talking to him lately,” she said. “Me and Anita live with him and must have changed something. Anita has brothers, it was probably mostly her.”
Katsuko had to finish chewing before she could respond. “In only six days?” she asked.
“Well, that’s hundreds of hours.”
Katsuko seemed disbelieving of Asuka's math. “If you say so, Asuka.” She reached the front of the line, grabbed some food, and waited for Asuka to get her own. Then she went to sit down at one of the many uniform gray tables.
“So, did anything else happen today?” Asuka asked. “Do you work with Maya?”
“No,” Katsuko said. “Shinji requested I work with Gendo and only Gendo unless the kids become far too unstable. The thing is, Gendo is plenty unstable already.”
Asuka pursed her lips. “Are you sure? He seems really normal to me… I mean, very introverted, yes, but that’s not at all the same thing.”
“Oh no,” Katsuko said, nearly staring in shock. “This kid is heavily messed up on a lot of fronts. He doesn’t remember his parents and is definitely using Rei as a surrogate mother of some sort. He stalked her, a couple of days ago. That’s not normal behavior on any front. I’m just not sure if I should prescribe pills or if he just needs a lot of therapy.”
“Perhaps both,” Asuka joked. “That’s disturbing… Poor Rei… I’ll be sure and keep them separate if I need to have Rei over at my apartment.” She smiled a little. "It's a bit like being friends with her again, though it's hard. She's pretty distant."
“Definitely a good idea,” Katsuko agreed. “I don’t want them mixing any more than absolutely necessary, and I don’t think there is such a condition. The commander has been informed, of course. He completely agrees with me.”
“He’s not a complete idiot, then,” Asuka remarked, digging into her noodles.
“He never was. Remember those classes? They were some of the best that they offered in that college. I’m very glad I took them. I would be completely hopeless in that subject without him.”
“Yeah,” Asuka said, sticking out her tongue, “but you don’t have to worry about that subject since you’re a psych.”
Katsuko took a drink. “It’s nice to be well-rounded, okay? And um, speaking about being a psych...” She gulped. "You that if you need to talk to someone about all that stuff..." She trailed off. There was a pause, and then she asked, “What was Germany like? We haven’t talked in so long; I want to know all about it.”
“A lot of it is just farmland,” Asuka said. “Hamburg is one of the last big cities left. It’s nothing special there, you know. Just a city. Buses, subways, planes going overhead… There’s museums and stuff, but that’s for rich foreigners, not for residents, and I never had time or money…”
Katsuko smiled. “I understand. There’s a big museum here about submarines, you know? Never been there.”
“Maybe we should go some time,” Asuka offered after a few bites of food. “You, me, Rei if she likes… Hikari…” Her face fell.
“It might distract her for a bit,” Katsuko offered. “Or let her see some old friends who knew her sister, if she wants that.”
Asuka shrugged. “We’ll see. I’ll need money, and with two kids to feed all of a sudden that isn't going to be easy to come by. Even Nerv-03 didn’t take things out of my salary, you know.”
They ate in silence after that, finishing their meals quickly and disposing of all the trash. Asuka looked at Katsuko uncertainly. “You don’t mind that I left like that, do you?”
“Huh?” She looked confused.
“How I just ran away from Japan to go to Germany.”
“Oh!” Katsuko immediately began smiling, trying to hide how nervous she felt. “It was sudden, but… I don’t really blame you. It was so long ago.”
“Yes, but that doesn’t excuse anything. I didn’t even stop to say goodbye, I just got on a train to get to a city with an airport.”
Katsuko stood up. “Yeah, well… It’s not like anyone around here is perfect. Just forget it and try not to worry too much. Just focus on the pilots and the Angels. That’s my advice. Too many skeletons if you look anywhere else." She smiled. "And we can talk about anything, you know, if you want to. Even if it's just dumb stuff like some worker who is making your life hellish."
Asuka laughed. "Well, Toji keeps questioning my orders about things, but it's not that bad. I think I'll let him live."
"All right then." Katsuko started walking away, waving. Asuka waved back. "See you!"
* * *
Of course, Asuka wasn't the only person Katsuko might have run into, and shortly after leaving the cafeteria she ran into a couple more people. One she knew well enough, Kaito. The other, Raidon, she wasn't sure about. He was just a worker, as far as she knew, not one of Shinji's special students. "Uh, hey Kaito," she said.
Both men turned. "Hey Katsuko!" Kaito said. "You know Watanabe, right?"
She shook her head. "I don't think we've ever formally met." She bowed politely. "I'm Kotonoha Katsuko. What are you guys up to?"
Raidon grinned. "Just hanging out because neither of us have a whole lot to do around here right now. My designs are submitted and Section Two is pretty quiet today, apparently."
"They are just watching the Children," Kaito explained. "Nothing hard about that." He didn't look quite right when he said that though, and Katsuko wasn't entirely sure what to think.
"Well, I'm not really interrogating or anything," Katsuko said. "Just trying to have a conversation is all."
Kaito shrugged. "You asked. And we wouldn't have to answer anyway, so..."
Both Katsuko and Raidon glared at that, Raidon elbowing Kaito slightly. "Don't act so suspicious," he said lightly, still smiling. "Like I said, we're both hanging out until we get more orders, so we're not doing anything wrong. Jeez." He turned to Katsuko. "He's a bit grumpy today," he offered.
"I'll let him be grumpy then," Katsuko said, turning around and leaving.
"Science is always wrong. It never solves a problem without creating ten more." - George Bernard Shaw
Hikari walked into Nerv hesitantly. Part of her just wanted to run away, to enjoy her indefinite leave of absence and never come back. She couldn’t do that, though. She knew she didn’t have that sort of choice at all. Not if she wanted to help anyone.
Gaining courage with each step, she made the long trek to Doctor Ayanami’s office. Clutched in her arms were all the proposals she’d made. Hikari didn’t have the least idea as to what Rei would say, but she had to do something. Make the suggestion known, at the very least. If she didn’t, the kids would have to keep suffering.
Rei was expecting her and had her enter immediately. “Are you ready to return to work?” she asked. “It’s not been very long.”
Hikari nodded. “I’m ready. I’ve been working on something while I was away.” She placed the various proposals on the desk. “I’ve come up with a way to reduce our dependency on living pilots without affecting the abilities of the Evangelion.”
Rei’s eyebrow rose. “Really?” she asked. “I would have thought that you of all people would know by now that we need a living pilot for the artificial intelligence of the Evangelion to work with.”
“No,” Hikari contradicted, “we don’t. We only need the AI to think it’s working with a pilot. The fact is, all we really need is a dummy for it to interact with. A convincing simulacrum.”
Rei didn’t say anything in response to this, which made Hikari falter for a second. When she’d rehearsed this in her mind, Rei would have said something here, some other objection, something!
“Uh… So, the point is, we need to design a second AI, one that’s similar enough to a pilot that the Evangelion unit accepts it. From there, the Dummy Plug, as I’ve taken to calling it, will handle the rest of the fight in the same manner of the pilot without any risk to a human being.”
“Huh.” Rei didn’t look especially impressed by this, but she pulled the papers closer to her and began to read them. “This is interesting, I’ll give you that. Hmm.” She shuffled through the papers, examining each diagram slowly.
Hikari wanted to say something, but knew better. When Rei was reading, she didn’t want to be disturbed. Sometimes she’d snap at people for walking too loudly. Instead, Hikari sat calmly and as still as possible, waiting patiently for Rei’s decision.
“I suppose,” Rei said after awhile, “that there are definite possibilities for this technology to help Nerv. Therefore, we will begin testing with it immediately. Do you have an estimate on how long it should take to construct?”
“Well, we’ll need a lot of data,” Hikari explained. “I’d like to perform a simple switch test between Gendo and Maya once Eva-01 is fully repaired, first. That’ll prove if the concept of the Dummy Plug is sound. After that… to be honest, ma’am, this’ll take a few months to prepare. Mid-October is the earliest I can offer, and I bet that that is too confident.”
“Yes,” Rei said. “That almost certainly is too confident. I can’t imagine us getting this done until November at the earliest.” She put the papers into one organized pile. “I’ll approve of your proposal, and transfer you to head of this project.” She smiles. “We’ll obviously need you in the Command Center in case of an Angel attack, of course, but otherwise this is your only task. If you need anything, let me know.”
“Of course, ma’am,” Hikari said brightly. For the first time since her sister died, she actually sounded happy about something. That immediately made her feel guilty, but she tried to push the feeling down. She’d work on helping the kids; that was her new priority. She was doing it for Nozomi, after all, not for herself.
“Is that all, Horaki-san?”
“Yeah, I think- Er. I am allowed to come back to duty, right?” Hikari asked uncertainly.
“Of course,” Rei said. “If you’re sure you’ll be capable. I don’t want to have to take you off the duty roster again for personal reasons if something related to this incident depresses you.” She looked down at the papers again, fiddling with them.
“No, of course not. Besides, being with Toji a little right now should help...”
Rei chose not to comment. Hikari's relationships were entirely her own business. “You should also be aware that we acquired the rights to the Jet Alone company, by the way,” Rei said, looking up from the stack of papers. Something about the way she said it seemed cold, as if she was trying to provoke Hikari, not help her.
“You what?!” Hikari asked.
“After it was blown up, HCI was in tatters, of course. So we paid them to refit Jet Alone for us and give it to us. I just thought you should know before the next Angel battle. If you saw that, you might freak out. Although, I’m surprised your sister Kodama didn’t mention it.”
“She quit HCI. She’s working for the JSSDF now, I believe,” Hikari explained. “She didn’t wanna keep working at HCI because of all the bad memories.”
“So she’s working on their robot project?” Rei smiled.
“Yes, I believe so. She and I haven’t talked in awhile, and from what I understand she’s mostly making it run obstacle courses at this point.”
“They’ve found their pilots?”
Hikari shrugged. “I have no idea. They might just be testing the robots at this point with anyone they can stick in. She works with the one they call Raiden.”
“I don’t suppose-” Rei began, leaning in conspiratorially.
“No. She isn’t going to help us on that front, Doctor. Kodama is highly professional.” Hikari looked colder than Rei ever had.
“Very well,” Rei said. “I was simply going to ask if she could arrange another purchase. Having all three kinds of mecha under one roof might make the Commander very happy.”
Hikari sighed. “I highly doubt that the JSSDF will be nearly so cooperative.”
“And since their machines are probably not nuclear-based, it’s highly unlikely that such an event like Jet Alone’s will occur to nearly bankrupt them.” Rei sighed and looked around the room for a moment. “Still, it’s a shame. Two competing groups will step on each other’s toes sooner or later.” She stood up. “I have business to attend to, Lieutenant Horaki. Goodbye.”
Hikari nodded and left the office, and Rei followed her, heading to the Command Center. There, she found Takeru.
“How was piloting Jet Alone?” she asked jokingly.
He sighed. He was sitting at the console where he’d done the controls, and looking at everything critically. “It’s confusing,” he admitted. “There’s a lot of typing to do. A button for practically every ‘muscle.’”
Rei chuckled. “Evangelion Units are a hell of a lot more efficient, don’t you think?”
Takeru stared up at her. “Why are we wasting time with Jet Alone, then?”
“Every machine helps,” Rei explained. “When Eva-03 arrives, I think I’ll have it decommissioned unless the Angel threat significantly increases in the meantime.”
“I sure hope not,” Toji interjected. Rei turned to him, and shrugged.
“It’s possible.” She walked away from Takeru’s console. “How are things on the research front, Suzuhara? Any new startling discoveries like the one that you presented us with after the Fourth Angel?”
Toji shook his head. “There’s an incredible lack of obtainable data,” he explained. “The blood types are all mostly the same, with only a few differences between the individual Angels. The camera views have all been useless, and the pictures can’t tell us anything we don’t already know.”
“Hmm… Well, the plasma whips survived a few hours after the fight,” Rei pointed out. “Did you guys get anything out of that?”
“The whips weren’t actually made of plasma,” Toji explained. He walked over to a console and had it generate a computer image. “They’re just made out of who the hell knows what…”
“Any analysis? Surely we at least figured out the composite elements?” Rei pressed, starting to become angry.
“Sure. We’re guessing right now, based on the way everything behaves, that there’s an element between lithium and beryllium.”
“Don’t be stupid,” Rei snapped. “Lithium has three protons, beryllium has four. There’s nothing you could put in between the two of them.” She looked at the displays. “There must be some sort of error. Or maybe…”
“Nope. It’s either that there’s some hidden element, or the Angel just ignored the laws of physics and created a form of matter that would behave in exactly the way it needed it to. At any rate, it wasn’t plasma, it was some sort of element that isn’t on the periodic table as we understand it.” Toji shook his head in disgust. “Clearly, we’ve got issues, but… They’re space aliens, right?”
Rei nodded hesitantly.
“Well, they must be all sorts of hyper-advanced. Oh, and whatever the element is, it’s the kind of particle-wave matter we’ve been talking about. You know, behaving like a wave and a particle at the same time, no matter how you measure it?”
“Right.” Rei sat down in a chair. “I need to take up smoking or something… This is just all ridiculous. We’re fighting things that just mock everything we know about science.”
“I don’t get it either,” Toji muttered. “I don’t understand any of this stuff, even how the Evas work.”
“Don’t worry about that bit.” Rei smiled again. “Just worry about the analysis. I’ll leave you to it, and I want to be informed if anything changes.”
Toji nodded and returned his attention to his personal console. So much information to analyze, so little time. And Toji was beginning to wonder if he was at all fit in this position. All the evidence suggested that he wasn’t good enough.
"But of course, Little Miss Perfect wouldn't want that story out there, would she?" - Rita Skeeter, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, by J. K. Rowling
Ritsuko stood up when her name was called. She had been waiting in a small room for fifteen minutes for her appointment with the editor of Ryoji’s favorite tabloid. It wasn’t especially big, and unlike most waiting rooms there was nothing designed to make any waiters comfortable. She didn’t mind.
‘I’ll sell the photos and still have plenty of time to meet Maya,’ she reminded herself. Ryoji had handled the last meeting, so she wasn’t quite sure how this one would turn out.
The editor turned out to be a kind-looking middle-aged man in a cheap suit. His desk had a fancy computer (the keyboard was nothing more than an outline of light in an empty space, the monitor was almost completely two-dimensional and not apparently connected to the actual computer), and a picture of his family, but was otherwise bare.
“You’re Kaji’s friend, aren’t you?” he asked politely. “He promised me more pictures the next time an Angel attacked.”
“Yes. I’m Akagi,” she explained. “We’ve got quite a lot of pictures for you this time. The battle was actually in the town.”
The man smiled happily. “That’s wonderful. And the robots? You got pictures of the robots?”
“Of course. The purple one wasn’t launched, but…” Ritsuko reached into her bag and produced a couple of samples. One was of them was the Angel, whose shape made the tabloid editor’s face flush before he gained control of himself. The other depicted Eva-02 after it had reached the surface. “These aren’t even the most dramatic bits,” she added.
“May I?” When Ritsuko nodded, the man reached forward and examined one of the photos. “If you kids are shopping these, I don’t think anyone would be able to tell.”
“We’re not shopping them!” Ritsuko protested. “These are authentic photographs! It was pretty risky to go up to the surface and take them, too!”
“All right, all right,” the man chuckled. “I’m sure you kids are telling the truth. I like these photos; I’ll give you the same amount for them I gave your friend.” He reached into a drawer and pulled out a large wad of yen notes.
Noticing Ritsuko’s look of surprise, he explained casually, “I don’t trust checks or cards… Too easy for someone to trace you.” He stuffed a sizable sum of the money into Ritsuko’s hands. She didn’t count it. She didn’t know what the price Kaji had got was. She’d have to ask him later.
She handed the rest of the photographs to the editor, bowed, and left quickly. After she was out of the building, she counted the money quickly and split in into two halves, one for her, one for Ryoji. It was a shame he wasn't coming to the mall with them; Maya had asked but he'd been too busy. Finished sorting, she called Maya.
“Hey. I finished up; shall we meet at the mall to see about buying Daisuke a gift?”
“Yeah,” Maya agreed. “We really should have done this a bit sooner. I mean, it’s not like the Angel did any damage yesterday.”
Ritsuko realized Maya had a point, but she hadn't really felt up to anything that day. Even though two Angels hadn't yet attacked on the same day, it wasn't like that couldn't happen. “Do you have any idea what Daisuke likes?” Ritsuko asked. “Because I didn’t really know him until you moved here.”
“Uh…” There was silence for a minute. “Well, no. But don’t worry! I’ll find something!”
“An engagement ring?” Ritsuko teased.
Maya sputtered for a few moments before answering. “No! Anyway, I’ll head over to the mall. Bye.” Maya hung up.
A short subway ride later, Ritsuko found Maya standing in front of the main entrance to the only active shopping mall in town. The rest had closed because of, in no particular order; recession, fires, angel attacks, and a malfunction in the defense system. This mall was clearly on its last legs, many potential shops were empty.
“Maybe he’ll like a video game?” Maya suggested, pointing at a video game retail store on the map.
“That shop’s not here anymore,” Ritsuko said. “They just haven’t updated the map yet.”
“Figures. How many shops are left? Fifty?” Maya kneeled down and looked at the list. “Hmm… a bookstore. We could buy him a book?”
“Might as well.”
After browsing the store for awhile, Maya grabbed a fancy-looking fantasy book that seemed to have an interesting plotline about a magical item. Hopefully that would be something he liked. She wasn't sure, but based on the size of the author's name on the cover, it was clearly written by someone who'd sold a lot of books. Then, she and Ritsuko found themselves looking at comics together.
“Do you like this series?” Ritsuko asked, holding up Revolutionary Girl. “It’s a bit old, but… It’s probably the only ‘girls’’ series I like.”
“I haven’t really had much chance to read comics. My grandparents thought that there were a little too immature.” Maya couldn’t believe how large this section of the store was. All sorts of graphic novels were displayed before her, aimed at just about every age group. Like Ritsuko, she didn’t feel very interested in the things aged at teenage girls, because anything named “Heart Princess Masks” couldn’t be the least bit interesting for anyone with a brain.
On the other hand, the most popular thing aimed at boys was mecha, and Maya had enough of that in her life.
Ritsuko noticed her staring at the books and sighed. “Giant robots were pretty popular before the Evangelion project went public. Nowadays it’s all that’s aimed at boys. Look at this one.” She reached to the top shelf and pulled down an issue depicting a rather masculine teenage boy, a girl in a uniform that made Maya’s plugsuit look conservative, and a giant robot that was painted blood red. It actually had “Evangelion” in the title. Specifically, it was “Evangelion Battles - Fierce Blood Unit 01”.
Maya couldn’t help but laugh.
“How many volumes are there for this thing?”
“Seven. They come out once a year,” Ritsuko explained.
“We’re buying all of them,” Maya said firmly, reaching up and pulling down one of each volume. “This should be fun to mock, at least.”
Ritsuko and Maya waited a little while longer, standing next to each other and looking at the comics. “There’s not a lot that’s all that good, is there?” Ritsuko asked.
“No,” Maya admitted. “I don’t think there is. Oh well. It’s fun hanging out, at least.”
Both girls stood there awkwardly. Maya was sure that there was something the two of them could talk about, but she couldn’t place it. Finally, there was no way they could pretend to be looking at books any longer.
“I guess we should go,” Maya said.
“Yeah…” Ritsuko muttered. “I guess we should just go.”
Another awkward pause, despite their decision. Maya wondered briefly if she should ask to come over and play video games, but.
No. She didn’t like video games and it would just lead to more awkward silences anyway.
They bought their things and separated, Ritsuko taking Daisuke’s gift because she had wrapping paper at home. “See you in school tomorrow!” each said as they left.
* * *
Ryoji was very grateful when the phone rang, because he managed to escape homework for a few minutes. He shoved it onto the tabloids on his desk and pulled his cell phone out of his pocket carelessly. He looked at the number. It was clearly not Maya's, so he didn't read it all the way through.
“Hello?” he said, answering.
It was Ritsuko. "I sold the photos. We got quite a bit of money from it too.”
“Awesome! I almost can’t wait for the next Angel to attack! We could get so rich if there are enough of them!”
Ritsuko laughed. “Yeah… I’m gonna save up for a better camera. Maybe we’ll get more money for better photographs.”
“How about a video camera? I think my dad’s got one.”
“Excellent,” she responded. "We can use it to film our band too, if that ever gets off the ground."
Ryoji looked at his desk, still covered in homework. “Hey Rits-chan? Do you understand any of the homework we got tonight?”
“I haven’t even looked at it. I think I’ll do it in the morning,” she said. “That’ll be more exciting. Unless you want me to help you?”
“Do you actually get 5’s when you put it off?” Ryoji asked.
There was quite a bit of hesitation before she answered. “Well, no…” she admitted. “Generally 3’s or 4’s lately. But I don’t do it that often any more, either. We get too much homework to do it in an hour.”
Ryoji laughed. “Stupid school. Two years ago they were all over us about studying hard to get into a good middle school, and now they’re already ranting about the tests we’ll be taking next year. It’s ridiculous!”
“Will we even be alive next year?” Ritsuko muttered.
Kaji sighed. “Of course we will. They’ve killed plenty of Angels, and there hasn’t been a single fatality since Second Impact. The Angels seem kind of weak, lately.”
“Yeah…” she said. “I wonder why they haven’t just been bombarding us with asteroids for the past fifteen years. That would kill us all in pretty short order.”
“There’s lots of weirdness there,” Kaji said.
* * *
When Maya arrived at her apartment, a Section 2 agent was waiting for her.
“Uh, hi,” she said uncomfortably.
“This is for your eyes only,” the agent said, holding out a palm pilot. “In about an hour, the data on here will be completely deleted.”
“It’s background information related to the Angel War. The commander recently decided to declassify it for pilots.”
“What?” Maya took the palm pilot uncertainly. “Why?”
“He didn’t say. It's not your business, or mine.”
Maya stepped past the agent and entered her apartment, holding the machine gingerly, as if it might explode at any time. It was already turned on, but the screen was blank. An assortment of buttons sat at the bottom. Maya pressed them randomly.
Eventually, an image of Nerv’s logo popped up: a fig leaf, surrounded by English letters. Anita had told her that it said “GOD’S IN HIS HEAVEN, ALL’S RIGHT WITH THE WORLD”, though she couldn’t understand all the words herself. Fitting. It scrolled away, replaced with a selection of text.
“In February 2000, radar investigations near the Showa Antarctic Research Station revealed a perfectly symmetrical anomaly under East Ongul Island. Over the next several months, Dr. Zeppelin and her associates assembled and created a temporary research facility. In July, excavations began in proper and revealed an alien entity tentatively designated ‘Adam’.
‘Investigations into its origins, specifically its biology and the materials found with it, began immediately. However, an attempt to recover a sample from the entity resulted in an explosion with the following consequences:
‘1. Second Impact, including the death of all but one individual present at the research site.
‘2. The release of gamma rays at an unprecedented rate, even in comparison to known hypernovae.
‘3. A faster-than-light signal directed at Polaris Australis. Because it is an F-type star and its location merely requires Angels to have an FTL drive slightly faster than 18c (as opposed to more excessive c-speed violations), government officials currently hypothesize that the Angels originate there.”
Maya stared at the data blankly. While it was interesting to know that there was a cover-up, it didn’t affect her job at all. Well, the parts she understood didn’t.
"There are secrets in this world too terrible for young people to know, even as those secrets get closer and closer." - Captain Widdershins, The Grim Grotto, by Lemony Snicket
Asuka walked into Kaworu’s office after lunch, relatively happy. “Hello Vice-Commander,” she said. “You wanted to talk?”
“Research and development proposed a new armor model and Entry Plug modification that they believe can be completed in a couple of days. They’re calling it G-Type armor.”
“What does it do?”
“It’s a long-range sniper modification. It also lets the Evangelion units extend their vision into the infrared, to help the pilots shoot at night.”
“Sounds like a pretty impressive armor-type,” Asuka said. “And it can be completed in a couple of days? I’ll approve it, that’s no big deal.”
Kaworu handed a piece of paper to Asuka. She looked over it quickly, and then signed it. Everything seemed to be in order, although it was surprising that the G-Type armor could be constructed so quickly. Still, perhaps this was just a sign that this was going to be a great day.
“Thank you, Captain,” Kaworu said. "Now, if you don't mind my asking, what do you know about Yamada Kaito?"
Asuka smiled. "He and I are college friends, like... everyone else. I don't really know what anyone was up to though before I got here. He's pretty nice, uh, he went out with Kimie a few times and I think he liked me at one point or another, but... That's pretty much it. He's head of Section Two now though, so he's obviously a good worker."
Kaworu nodded and opened his mouth to say something, but his computer beeped suddenly. “Excuse me,” he said, looking down at it. Then he frowned. “What the hell, Commander?” he muttered under his breath. “Look at this.”
He swung the computer screen around for her to see. She leaned in and began to read aloud, mostly because as she read it she became more and more outraged.
“I have decided to release information regarding Second Impact to all pilots and high-level personnel. Effective immediately, they will know the same information that was pretend on the official, and nearly completely classified, reports.”
She stared at the screen. “Wh... what?!”
“Why would he do that?” Kaworu asked her. “You know him a lot better than I do, I feel. Can you explain this at all?”
“No! Why would he even tell them? It doesn’t matter how Second Impact happened! The pilots just need to be able to fight.”
“Hang on a second…” Kaworu looked at the screen again, and then read out the information aloud. It was identical to the information Maya received. “Hmm. It was courteous of him not to mention that you’re the survivor.”
“Oh, yes, that’s totally great. That’s not what’s important here! That information was strongly classified for a reason!”
Kaworu nodded. “I think I will go and have a talk with the commander. Someone needs to rein him in, at the very least.”
“Should I come too?” Asuka asked, still looking furious. “I can ‘rein’ him in.”
Kaworu smiled. “That won’t be necessary,” he said politely. “If too many people confront him, he might feel cornered and then we’ll never get through to him.”
“Fine,” Asuka muttered. “But I get to yell at him next time,” she said.
“Of course,” Kaworu agreed. “I wouldn’t dream of depriving you of the opportunity to yell at Commander Ikari.” He stepped to the door of his office. “Goodbye, Captain. See you around? Perhaps another dinner meeting when there are more designs to approve?”
Asuka hesitated for a moment. “Well… okay,” she said. “I suppose.”
Kaworu nodded. “See you around,” he said. He began the long walk to Shinji’s office. Unlike most people, he didn’t bother knocking. Shinji would either be there, or he wouldn’t. There was no reason to wait.
This time, he was there, working on the steadily growing mountain of paperwork on his desk. He looked up, annoyed. “What is it, Kaworu?”
“I came to inform you of the complaints that both myself and Captain Soryu have in the declassification of the Second Impact incidents.”
“Commander, don’t blow us off. We work here for a reason, and I do believe that you selected her because you felt you could trust her.”
Shinji looked back at his papers.
Kaworu glared. “Is this something you’re doing because you want people to know the truth, or something you’re doing because you want revenge for something?”
Kaworu turned away. “Your declassifying things won’t get you any access to the Dead Sea Scrolls, you know. There’s a reason that those are classified, just as there’s a reason that we didn’t tell the pilots that Adam was under Antarctica.”
“Why didn’t we tell them, anyways? Why not tell the world?” Shinji didn’t look especially convinced by Kaworu’s claim.
“Because “a signal” isn’t anywhere near as threatening as the promise of immediate attack. We all knew that the Angels would come back, because even the signal is made-up. If they thought the signal might just have been a 'Whoops, accident at Science Station 3, send someone to see what happened,' we would never have gotten approval to build the Evangelions. They’re too expensive to build up when the people of the world wouldn’t even know that they’d be needed.”
“So we made up the idea of an asteroid attack.”
“Of course. It covers all of what happened in a way that makes sense, and creates a huge threat for mankind to have to scramble to deal with.”
“But why not just tell them the truth?” Shinji asked. “That the giant scattered however many eggs across the world and that they’re hatching, one by one.”
“That wouldn’t work either,” Kaworu countered. “Makes the Angels look like babies, not hideous beings from… from who knows where. Who is afraid of a baby? We’d get environmental groups or something protesting the fact that we have to kill them.”
Shinji smirked. He knew Kaworu well enough to tell when he was exaggerating, and the man always could make him laugh, somehow. Even though he hated him.
“So is that what this was all about? Just a way to get the truth out to find out why we hid it?”
“No. It’s to show the pilots we trust them,” Shinji said.
“But you don’t. They don’t know that it woke up when we pulled the lance out; they don’t know that the whole experiment was to pull out the S2 Engine. You didn’t tell them any of that.”
“It’s a start, though.”
“They’ll be less likely to believe you now that they know the truth has been hidden once,” Kaworu countered. "And that's only one secret? What about the fact that there's a reason none of their classmates have mo-"
“It's possible that it won't work," Shinji admitted, "but I think Maya will trust us all the more."
“You did it just for her?”
“She deserves honesty,” Shinji explained.
“Gendo and Anita don’t?” Kaworu seemed genuinely surprised here.
Shinji shook his head. “They do, but… They seem less likely to be betrayed by all of this than Maya would be if she ever found out everything.”
“It’s a shame we haven’t been training her from a young age like we did Gendo or Anita, then,” Kaworu pointed out.
“Mari didn’t want her involved until she was older. She thought that Maya wouldn’t adapt very well from a young age.”
“I’m sure a mother knows best,” Kaworu said.
Shinji gave Kaworu a curt nod. “Yes. Earlier, you mentioned the DS-”
“No, Commander. There is nothing you can do or say that will make me rethink Seele’s position. We keep it as classified as possible lest people start worrying again. There's all sorts of risks. Someone stole some of Seele's most valuable items, so we can't trust civilians or the governments. Even you are too much of a risk. Nerv only needs one person around in case of an XK-class scenario.”
“Why aren’t you in charge then?” Shinji asked.
“Because I can’t do the rest. Because you’re the best man for every other part of the job. I’m around so that Seele doesn’t have to tell another person. You’re around to stop me from ever being needed. The Angels must never initiate an XK-class scenario.”
“But Seele is allowed to?”
“Nonsense. That’s not our goal at all.”
“What’s the difference, then?” Shinji asked.
This time, Kaworu didn’t respond.
Shinji sighed. “Very well. I’ll just keep preparing for the Seventh Angel, no matter what happens. Even if we are doing this completely blind because the only hint we have is about that Positron Rifle.”
“Have you obtained it yet?”
“I can’t unless there’s an actual emergency, I’m afraid. The JSSDF will get suspicious if I say ‘We need your most powerful weapon just because we suspect we’ll need it,’ and they’ll get even more suspicious if I say we know we need it.”
Kaworu sighed. “True,” he admitted. “That is a bit of the problem with prophecies…” He smiled then. “Well, I’m sure we’ll have time to get it when the Seventh Angel arrives next week.”
“It arrives next week?”
Kaworu flushed. “I…” He gulped. “I didn’t mean to say that,” he said, and hurried away.
Shinji grinned to himself. Kaworu was proving to be an easy egg to crack.
* * *
It was Keita who approached Kensuke about the fact that the pilots had gained access to classified information. "You won't believe what they're telling the kids now," he remarked.
Kensuke glared up from his desk. "Does it matter?" he asked.
"It has to do with Second Imapct," Keita continued, "So I'd say, yeah; yeah it does." He related the story of the entity named "Adam" to Kensuke, who stared disbelievingly. "I know. Even we didn't get that information!"
"So how did you find out?" Kensuke asked, all the more convinced Keita was just making things up to mess with him for some stupid reason. "I'm guessing it wasn't while making sure that Eva-01 is still being fixed?"
Keita shrugged the second question off. "I just bumped into Idane while she was heading up to the surface. Saw the pad. Crazy stuff." He looked at Kensuke, concerned. "There's actually a lot of crazy stuff here in Nerv, don't you think? Antarctic expeditions, crazy robot skeletons..." He frowned. "I know that since we're a pseudo-military organization, secrets are to be expected, but don't you think this is a little much?"
Kensuke began typing away at his computer. "Those aren't real skeletons in the basement," he pointed out. "Evas aren't made out of bone. We just copied human design because it works so well. That's kind of obvious. And as for that crazy alien in the Antarctic story... if that's really how we met the Angels, that just tells us some backstory. It doesn't affect the fact that we're in battle for our lives."
"I guess not," Keita agreed. "It's just, it makes me wonder if there's more secrets. More things to find out. And I think I'm gonna start looking for them."
Kensuke raised an eyebrow. "That sounds like a good way to get fired," he remarked.
"I'm not gonna break any rules!" Keita explained. "Just... look around. There's plenty of rooms on the map that don't have an official purpose, and I'm gonna go look around at the ones that you don't need special access to get into. I might find something cool." He leaned in a bit. "Wanna come along?"
"No," Kensuke said. "I have a job to do. Can I get back to that?"
"That’s inhuman... You’re inhuman, Neku. No better than those Reapers!" Shiki Misaki, It's a Wonderful World, directed by Tatsuya Kando
Maya realized about five minutes before lunch that she shouldn’t have brought the Evangelion manga to school with her. Volume One was only infinitely more entertaining than anything that the teacher could talk about, and her desk was perfectly positioned for her to keep the book out of sight.
From what she’d gathered, the Evangelion Battles series was supposed to be ending that October with the eighth volume’s release. Each volume had fourteen chapters, and Maya had spent the entire day going through the first half of the first volume.
On the whole, she’d have much preferred to pilot Fierce Blood Unit 01. The world presented in the manga was completed unrealistic, to the point of having an absolute airhead in charge of the entire facilities. The main character had defeated two Angels (completely unrelated to the real deal) through sheer force of will alone, and all of the side characters were kind and happy. Almost a completely perfect world, Maya thought.
Ritsuko tapped her shoulder. “Are you just gonna keep reading those books, or do you actually want to hang out with us?” she asked.
“Kusaka-san might not be capable of anything but clichés, but he can write those clichés pretty well,” Ritsuko explained. “Now come on! You can’t just sit around every day reading books!”
Maya nodded, got her lunch, and joined the circle of desks. “Hey guys,” she said. “Sorry, I got a little distracted.”
“Which ones were you reading?” Makoto asked. “That new series with about the kid who finds a spaceship? The magic user?”
“Probably a girl’s series,” Ryoji pointed out. “Maya isn’t the type for violence.”
“Actually… it’s about giant robots. One of the comics based off of the real Evangelion series,” Maya explained. “I… I was just going to buy it to make fun of it, but… it’s not bad.”
“Can I see?” Anita asked. “I never really had the chance to read for fun…”
Maya went back to her desk, obtained the first volume, and handed it to Anita, who stared at it for a moment in confusion, and then opened up to the back page, flipping backwards through the book before remembering the Japanese style of writing. She flipped to the right side of the book and began to read slowly.
“This is strange,” she remarked.
She didn’t stop reading though, and was soon completed absorbed into the novel.
Ritsuko grinned a little. “I didn’t expect that I’d make addicts out of all of you pilots,” she joked. “Although… I guess I haven’t managed to get Gendo yet…” She looked over at him. “Hey Rokubungi!” she called. “You should come over here!”
The boy, much to everyone’s shock, rose slowly and joined them. “Yes?” he asked.
“I…” Ritsuko practically stuttered, for Gendo typically ignored everyone. “I wanted you to take a look at this book.” She pointed to the manga that Anita was reading.
Gendo quickly looked over Anita’s shoulder, and stared for a few moments. “I see. What is the point of this?” he asked.
“You don’t like it?” Ryoji asked. “Anita and Maya do.”
“It’s just a book,” Gendo remarked. “With pictures. That’s all. What’s so interesting about it?”
“It’s about Evangelion,” Ritsuko explained.
Gendo looked down again, staring intently at the picture of Fierce Blood Unit 01 being unveiled to Shichiro. “No,” he remarked. “That doesn’t look a thing like Evangelion.”
“It’s a fictional account about Eva,” Maya explained. “It’s just a fantasy. Nothing real or anything like that. That’s why none of the Eva Units look like the real deal.”
Gendo shrugged. “There’s no point to it, then.” He stood there silently for a moment, and then turned to Maya. “We need to train more often together,” he said. “Perhaps this afternoon we could spar in a simulation body?”
“Well… uh…” Maya considered. She’d had plans to catch up on some homework, but… Homework wasn’t important, according to Doctor Ayanami. Why should she really bother with it if she didn’t have to? Besides, there was always Sunday evening. “I guess so,” she said. “After school?”
“Yes.” He started to walk away, but Anita looked up at him.
“Please,” she said. “Stay and eat lunch with us.”
Gendo stood there, considering. Finally, he said, “Very well,” and went to his desk to get his own lunch. Everyone stared at Anita.
“How’d you do that?!” Ritsuko demanded.
“Do what?” Anita asked, not looking up from the book.
“You got him to sit with us…” Kyoko whispered. “He never sits with anyone.”
“I just asked,” Anita replied, shrugging her shoulders. She turned a page. “That’s no big deal, is it? Did anyone ever try?”
“I-” Shigeru began, but cut off when Gendo joined them. He sat down at an empty space, put his lunch down in front of him, and began to eat. At no point did he make eye contact, or any noise besides the chewing of his food. No one was even quite sure if he was truly aware of them, or if he’d blocked everyone out as soon as he’d begun eating.
“So, uh…” Kyoko chuckled a little as she faltered for a conversational topic. “I… I heard the funniest joke yesterday evening.” She related the joke, which she’d seen on TV, based on an untranslatable pun about the kanji of “mackerel” and “blue.” Everyone laughed except Anita, who didn’t quite follow, and Gendo, who continued ignoring them.
The conversation meandered after that, covering the band (still looking for a drummer), a scandal involving a celebrity and the husband of a famous politician, and the ever-present topic: the Angel War. Questions of when the next Angel would attack, and what forms it would take, and how much damage it would do were frequent.
Maya hated every minute of it. Gendo ignored it, like he’d ignored everything else. Anita didn’t seem to mind, but she never contributed.
Lunch ended, class began, and Maya got Evangelion Battles back. Naturally, of course, she spent the rest of the day finishing it off. Much more fun than classes.
* * *
Sparring in Evangelion. No big deal.
Okay, so Maya had never done it before, really. And Gendo was much more experienced than she was. Oh, and she sometimes panicked in battle simulations, forgetting controls or other minor details.
But none of that was important.
None of this was real. She wouldn’t get hurt or anything horrific like that.
A holographic image of Eva-00 appeared in the blank space of the Pribnow Box. It was a representation of Gendo, who was with a different simulation Eva somewhere else. Considering the size of the Geofront, Gendo could actually be kilometers away. It was a strange thought, that things could be projected over such huge distances.
“Are you ready, Maya?” Kensuke asked.
“In that case, you may begin.”
Maya nodded and pulled out a prog knife. Eva-00, despite not actually having shoulder pylons in the real world, produced one as well. That seemed fair.
Well, actually it wasn’t since he outclassed her in every other respect. But that wasn’t the point.
Maya was going to do this. She had a fair chance, no matter what common se-self-doubt told her. No matter what.
She charged with her knife outstretched. He dived out of the way, not even bothering to parry. This necessitated her having to swing around to watch him, lest he dive in from the side. He didn’t. He seemed to be waiting for her to make another move.
That was kind of like the Angels she’d seen. They didn’t exactly strike first and none of them had gone all out against her or any of the others. They just retaliated to direct threats.
She wondered briefly why.
Then she realized she needed to dive in again. So she did, hoping to fake Gendo out by initially striking one way but quickly veering off into a different direction.
Gendo wasn’t fooled, and deflected the knife handily. Then he grabbed her wrist and began to twist it. Maya flinched, but reached out to grab his knife arm and twist it. They stood like that for a few minutes, each twisting the other.
Finally Maya pulled free, and both backed away from each other.
Then, Gendo dived in with his knife. She deflected the first attack, but he was ready and spun about, coming in from a different direction. They danced across the simulation room, him attacking incessantly, each time her blocks becoming a little slower and a little more off. This couldn’t last forever; he seemed to have more stamina.
Maya decided to let her guard down, to let him get one shot in and then to retaliate quickly while he didn’t expect it. Victory was worth a cut on the arm.
I've read the first three chapters. I'm rather satisfied with what you've written and what I've read, and I suspect I'll come back later today to read chapters four and five. I have some feedback for you - I'll be quoting certain sections so I've included it in the spoiler below.
Feedback Chapters 01-03 Spoiler:
The train pulled into the station, and a lone girl got off of it. Any observer would have said for certain that she was the only one on the platform, let alone disembarking. But there were no observers. No one was present for several miles.
You might think me picky for having something to say about your first paragraph, however, the first paragraph is arguably the most important section of any written work as it will be what draws the reader in and intices them to continue reading. That said, you have a good scene - what I'm not sure about is how you've set it up.
First you say 'Any observer...' followed by 'But there were no observers.' I see what you're going for, but I think you can convey the same idea in fewer words, for instance: 'Alone on the platform, the girl looked around her. No-one was present for several miles.' It isn't a prime example, but I hope you consider the advantages of omitting needless words.
"Ibuki Maya, your presence in Tokyo-3 on the date of July 11th is requested by the Japanese government. Failure to appear will result in your arrest. Enclosed is a train ticket, with the time and station of boarding printed upon it. Transportation beyond the rail network will be arranged. Nerv Headquarters.”
I think this is a good paragraph as it clearly illustrates Maya's reason for being the place, while also establishing your fiction as having a more serious, cordial tone - in contrast to the original series, which used to have a service-y Misato photograph and letters that Shinji scribbled on.
The letter had arrived at five o'clock on the first of July, and though Maya didn't realize it, it was effectively a countdown until the end of the world. Two hundred and sixty-seven hours exactly until an Angel arrived. Four thousand, three hundred and ninety-nine hours remained before it was all over.
As this is a serial fiction, it's easier to justify including the clock at the end of each section. It's effective how you've used it in the first three chapters, however for later ones I feel you could tone it down a bit and maybe only use it in dramatic scenes... or are you intending for the entire fic to seem impendent? I'll see how it goes...
Rei smiled very slightly, though Maya noticed that none of her other expressions changed. The smile itself seemed thin and perhaps slightly forced. “I am well. I did not know you were transferred here.”
Asuka certainly feels grown up, although I think you've nailed grown-up Rei here.
Keita Asari, one such workedr, turned when the doors opened and a girl walked in, her mouth open in shock. He chuckled to himself, well aware that the Evangelion models surprised everyone the first time around. He almost turned back to the open hatch in Eva-01’s armor (Eva-01 being the designation of this particular model), but two more people walked out of the elevator.
Your use of brackets here is intrusive. I'd suggest leaving it as 'Evangelion Unit-01' and introduce the shortening for another time, e.g., in dialogue between Asuka/Rei/Maya.
"This is why you wanted me?" Maya couldn't believe it. Why would they want a fourteen-year old girl to pilot a giant robot? It didn't make any sense! "You... you didn't even ask!"
Maya shook her head. "I don't know how to pilot any kind of robots," she said. "You can't just put me in the cockpit and expect me to figure out how to make the thing work." She laughed nervously. "There's probably dozens of switches and buttons, aren't there?"
Shinji gulped, but he spoke calmly and firmly. "Welcome to Nerv," he said, almost brightly. Maya said nothing in response, preferring to glare instead. Commander Ikari sighed. “I’m not going to lie to you, Ibuki-san. We are asking a lot of you, asking for you to pilot," he said. "And for that I do apologize. But we're not going to force you."
I highlighted this section because I feel your dialogue here is superb. It comes across naturally, everything that is said contributes to character or sets/advances the storyline.
Shinji kept going. She hadn't left so far, so perhaps this was going to work. “Ibuki-san, if the Angel gets into the Geofront, we’ve lost. He’ll kill everyone here, and shortly thereafter everyone on planet Earth. You’re the only chance we have.”
The girl turned to Asuka, who tried to smile but failed. She just looked guilty, or perhaps regretful. “It’s true,” Asuka said sadly. “He isn’t lying. If you don’t do this, we’re all going to die.”
My only suggestion is that you avoid using adverbs frequently, e.g. 'calmly' and 'firmly' in dialogue attribution, reason being it is far better to say 'He said' or 'She said' and let the word speak for themselves - most of the time, the reader will be able to tell if a character is speaking calmly or rudely without you saying so.
“We’ll still be one person short,” Asuka said sadly. “You know who I mean.”
Unbidden, an image of Eva-01 lifting its right leg and stepping forward appeared in her mind. She focused on it as hard as she could, and felt the sudden shift as Eva-01’s leg really lifted and moved forward.
‘It would be really bad if I thought about this thing tripp-‘
The problem with unbidden images, Maya felt, was that they came and went as they pleased. Lifting her head up, she saw the holographic image of the captain and the doctor sighing in disbelief. And then they looked scared.
“The Angel is approaching!” she heard Horaki shout. “Get that Evangelion up, and get it up now!”
Maya imagined the Evangelion pushing itself up, and practically felt the resistance of the concrete roads below her in her own arms. Slowly, the Evangelion followed her mental picture into a standing position.
Your style here is good, but note the section in italics - for an event that should be exciting and frightening to Maya, it's too passive, too timid. Even a small change such as 'Suddenly, they looked scared.' would improve it a great deal.
It didn’t help that, shortly after that, one of the monomolecular blade-legs of the Angel stabbed right into the robot’s forehead, because the pain Maya felt in her own forehead rather distracted her from more pressing issues.
Everything up until this felt rushed, panicked, as it should be for someone in this situation. I suppose Maya is about to or is blacking out, I guess you need to ask yourself if 'rather distracted her from more pressing issues' is appropriate or if it sounds like it doesn't belong. I'm leaning towards the latter.
Asuka looked at her apartment despairingly. The entry hall was cramped, the living room was cramped, the kitchen was cramped, the bedrooms were cramped... It was cramped.
Ugh adverbs. Instead, consider: 'Asuka looked at her apartment in despair.'
Rei said nothing to that, instead just plugging in the cords to Asuka's small TV. She stuck around a little bit after that to help with the rest of the heavier lifting, but departed without much else said.
You shouldn't have to use the word 'said' at the start and end of a paragraph. Try starting with: 'Rei gave no reply...'
Also, as I read I came across two three spelling errors, and an instance where you forgot to include the word 'Angel' where it should have been. I'd point them out but I've forgotten where they were. Otherwise, everything is looking splendid.
_________________ Currently on A Slice of Acuity: ... Avatar: Teletha 'Tessa' Testarossa
"The primary aim of modern warfare... is to use up the products of the machine without raising the general standard of living." - Emmanuel Goldstein (nomme de plume of O'Brien and others), 1984, by George Orwell
Dinner was cooking. Asuka had left work early that day to try and prepare an actual meal. So far, so good. Nothing was burning, everything smelt nice, for the first time in a long time, she actually felt confident about serving people something. Anita and Gendo would love it; she wouldn’t have to go through the same old routine of making it worth their while to eat.
The TV blared in the background. On it, a man sat in a news station, reporting the events of the day.
“The Prime Minister responded to allegations of scandal this afternoon, claiming that the situation was misunderstood and that he will give a full explanation tomorrow evening. Those in the opposing party made a more complete statement this afternoon, criticizing the Prime Minister’s failure to respond promptly. At least one individual has accused him of stalling to come up with a valid excuse, and several are demanding a full investigation.
‘The claims, and the increasing likelihood that the JSSDF is being used for extra-legal purposes, have led to increased instability here in Japan. Several protest groups organized across the nations, and at least two such protests resulted in police action. On the scene, Inoue-san.”
The camera switched to a young woman standing a ways away from a mass of people fighting a much smaller mass of police officers.
“I’m here in front of Heiwa Street in the Core City of Asahikawa, where an hour ago riots broke out. The group that started it remains uncertain, but those interviewed agree that the crowds were peaceful until the police arrived. Despite the fast work on the part of the police, the crowd remains large in number.”
The girl turned to her left, and the camera panned to reveal a man standing next to her. “Can you relate what happened?”
“We were gathering to protest JSSDF actions, and the crowd got… well, I think it got bigger than intended.” The man seemed nervous, afraid of being on TV, of being a known participant in the affair. “The police showed up and asked everyone to disperse because we were blocking the roads, and some of us started leaving, but a few others shouted “No!” and… I dunno, I looked back after I was out of the crowd and people were fighting.”
“I see. And the fights have been going on for all this time?”
“I think so. Even as I was leaving other people were joining the crowd. I didn’t want trouble; I just wanted to speak out.”
The girl nodded. “Regardless of who started what, it’s becoming apparent that the tensions involving the JSSDF and some government workers is continuing to grow, and that something will need to be done soon. I’m Inoue-san, and we will continue reporting should new developments occur.”
The camera switched back to the original announcer.
“The two riots here in Japan, however, are not the only riots. The United States remains a hotspot, and at least five anti-Nerv demonstrations have descended into violence this past week. The complaint is a fair one: With so much of the US government’s resources going into Nerv, there is precious little left to help the starving. As America continues to become an immense desert, the problems will only get worse.
‘One of America’s two Nerv branches; Nerv-02, reports that damage was done to parts of the facility, and that their construction work on the prototype Evangelion weapon, Testbed Unit Four, has been slowed because of it. They remain confident, however, that their Evangelion, and the other American unit, Production Model Three, will be completed late November.”
The screen switched to a different announcer.
“In other Nerv-related news, a tabloid that claims to publish actual pictures from the Evangelion battles against the angels…”
Asuka stopped cooking. “What?” she whispered. She began focusing entirely on the television set, ignoring the food even as it became more and more apparent it needed her immediate attention.
“…pictures have been produced of a working Jet Alone unit. It was believed that Jet Alone was destroyed late last month, although rumors of Heavy Chemical Industries receiving a large donation and no longer being in danger of bankruptcy were reported here. It seems that this was the cause of HCI’s sudden acquisition of money.
‘Many are questioning Nerv’s choice to deploy Jet Alone against the Angels, especially since the danger involved is enormous. Others, especially politicians, are beginning to question the choice to give Nerv the emergency powers it has, and are calling to rein it in and force Nerv Headquarters and any temporary bases formed in Japan to reveal all activities to the Japanese public.
‘No Nerv officials could be reached for comment, and the tabloid remains steadfast in its refusal to reveal how it obtained the pictures. One skeptic has suggested that they have simply doctored an official release photo of Jet Alone and set in Tokyo-3, but the photos seem genuine and lack the telltale signs of a photoshop edit.
‘All evidence remains inconclusive, but one begins to wonder why trillions of dollars have been spent on the Evangelion project when a far less expensive robot like Jet Alone has been able to do the job.”
Shortly after, the show cut to a commercial break.
Asuka stared at the television screen in shock. How had anyone managed to take pictures during the battle? How had they missed the way that the Evangelion units had done all the actual work? Had the tabloids misrepresented things to discredit Nerv? Who would bother with such a thing?
Then she heard the smoke alarm go off, and realized that dinner was ruined.
* * *
It was two hours later, two hours that had been spent mock-fighting and synching and things that weren't any danger to Maya, but the knife kept running through her mind. She sat in the locker room, her plugsuit around her ankles. She kept staring at her stomach. Even though she knew better at this point, she couldn’t help looking for a wound, something to tell her that the pain she’d felt when the knife had sunk in had been real. If she squinted, she could convince herself that there was a slight redness where the knife had sunk in.
That was easy enough to rationalize away, though. Wound or no, her brain had been fooled and would have done something to address the injury. The redness was just some reaction, some uncontrollable action of the brain to heal a trauma that wasn’t there. The only reason it still hurt her was because she still subconsciously believed the pain was there.
There was nothing to worry about.
She stepped out of the plugsuit and went into the showers, washing off the last remnants of the LCL while trying to ignore her awkward form. She finished washing out her hair as quickly as possible and went back to the lockers, pulling out a clean set of clothing and donning it calmly. She considered leaving the purple plugsuit on the floor, just to see if anyone would end up putting it away for her later.
In the end, though, she ended up stuffing the plugsuit in the laundry chute and walking away. Little acts of rebellion danced in her head, like they did every time she got hurt. Paradoxically, at the same time she wanted to go back into Eva-01, to sleep in the Entry Plug as the LCL washed over her.
Was that normal?
Was she normal?
But really, when she considered Anita and Gendo, she wondered if there was any such thing as normal, or if it was just something people made up to reassure themselves.
* * *
Kaito hung up the phone. Another avenue of exploration into the JSSDF had been closed. His contact had refused to talk about anything.
The threat of the JSSDF’s robot project loomed over Nerv’s independence, especially with the rumors that they were designed to penetrate AT Fields through sheer force of weapons. One prototype that had been recently completed was the “Positron Rifle,” though it had never been tested. It would require all of the electrical output of Japan to function.
In short, the JSSDF project seemed to be a complete waste of Japan’s resources, and would do nothing to help the current recession. An economy couldn’t function if all the power could be cut at the slightest provocation.
He picked up the phone and dialed another number. Another old friend, another old favor that he was owed.
His friend answered. “Hello?”
“Hey, Horaki. It’s Yamada.”
“Yamada! It’s been ages! How's it going?”
“I need to call in an old favor… Can we meet up sometime?” Kaito asked. “I’ll buy the drinks.”
“Hmm… I can meet with you next Saturday, but I’m pretty busy until then. My new job is pretty demanding… I’ll be out of town Wednesday and Thursday.”
“I understand,” Kaito said. “Saturday at eight? Regular place?”
Kaito hung up. Finally, maybe that would be an inroad to what Shinji wanted him to find about. The man’s obsessions seemed to grow every day, and while Kaito hoped for the best, it was entirely possible that it was delusional as well.
Would Shinji be safe? Seele and the JSSDF had both suggested that Shinji might develop into a danger to mankind. Every time Kaito thought about his old teacher, he began to wonder. Something was different about Shinji, and if he was just as much of a danger as the Angels and other organizations, the fate of the world seemed a little less certain.
As Kaito began to prepare for his nephew’s party, he became all too aware that the world was slowly falling to bits, that someone somewhere was orchestrating a conspiracy for reasons Kaito couldn’t even begin to fathom.
Kaito did know, however, that he was going to save the world if he could. Between Nerv, Seele, the JSSDF, the remnants of data from Gehirn… He’d find something out. The pilots could save the world, and so could he.
HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. - Death, Hogfather, by Terry Pratchett
Maya met Anita and Gendo at Asuka’s apartment before they set off for Daisuke’s birthday party. Anita was surprised to see that she wasn’t holding a gift. She knew Gendo was callous, and was going to say that her gift was from both of them in an attempt to shame him, but somehow she doubted it would be successful.
“Did you forget your gift?” she asked. “We have enough time to go to your apartment…” Admittedly, she shouldn’t be judging the lack of gifting since she herself had only found out a few years back because of Asuka’s birthday, but she had been rather sheltered until then. Maya and Gendo shouldn’t have excuses.
“No,” Maya explained, “Ritsuko and I bought a gift together and she took it home to wrap it. Unless she doesn’t show up, my gift will be there.” She looked over at Gendo’s empty hands, concerned, but didn’t comment on the lack of a gift.
They walked together for awhile. Maya was on side of her, Gendo stood on the other. Neither of them seemed to be interested in talking, though Maya kept making wayward glances at Gendo. Apparently birthday gifts were more important than even Anita had figured, or something else had happened. Had their training led to a romantic interest on Maya’s part? The movies Anita watched with Asuka suggested that such things were very common.
If Anita was right, then perhaps this would make Gendo more well-adjusted like Asuka apparently wanted. Anita didn’t see the big deal, she wasn’t social either. But, then again, she was at least willing to be in the same room as other people, and if they wanted to talk, she could talk. She’d been doing it quite a bit to try to make Gendo respond, just to make Asuka happy, but it had failed so far. Gendo acted like noise was some abomination.
“What did you get Daisuke?” Anita asked as they boarded the train. “I go- Er, Gendo and I got him some old DVDs. Asuka asked his uncle about what he’d like.”
“That was a good idea,” Maya agreed, taking a seat. “I should have thought of that. Yamada-san is supposed to be a Nerv employee and it shouldn’t be too hard to get a hold of him.”
Anita shrugged. “According to Asuka, he’s out of town quite a lot, actually. It might be hard to get a hold of him, but… Well, I guess Daisuke-san only has one birthday a year.” She grinned.
“Yeah, and we’ll know him better next year anyways.”
“Hmm…” Anita didn’t think she’d still be in Tokyo-3 a whole year from now. It was such a long time, and the Angel War would probably be over by that point. Her employers would almost certainly transfer her to somewhere else when this was done. She hoped she’d get to keep Eva-02, though. It was the best thing she’d ever seen.
“Hmm?” Maya looked over at Anita.
“Oh, I was just thinking… I’ll probably be back in Germany with Asuka and the Vice Commander in a year’s time.”
“Oh, right.” Maya sighed. “Sorry, I… It’s only been a week, but already I guess I’m used to you being around. And, it’s hard to think about the war ending. I mean, we don’t have any clue when the Angels will arrive, or how many are coming, or any of that. What if we’re on call for the rest of our lives?”
“I doubt that will happen,” Gendo said, speaking for the first time. “Doctor Ayanami mentioned that one of the new Evangelion units is receiving upgrades. It’s likely that all three of us will eventually be obsolete.”
Anita hated to think of such a thing. Eva-02, obsolete? It was a production model. Admittedly only the first one, but it had spent huge periods of time being worked on and clearly there could only be minor alterations to make improvements.
Maya didn’t seem affected by the thought at all. Anita almost envied her ability to remain so unaffected by the threat of the loss of their job. She’d been so good fighting the Fifth Angel; it wasn’t her fault that it had exploded and that Eva-01 had been so heavily damaged. If the Seventh Angel held off until Monday or later, Maya would probably get to fight against it.
Anita realized that her personal project involving helping Asuka with Gendo wasn’t going to be her only project. Maya needed to learn the ropes of piloting effectively, she needed to be able to enjoy it the way Anita and Gendo did. As soon as that happened, she’d no doubt realize how important their job was. She’d learn to love it, and would understand the consequences of the test type, prototype, and initial production model being discontinued.
“I doubt that Eva-02 will ever be made obsolete,” Anita said confidently, but it was only to reassure herself.
“Didn’t you read the classified information that was given to us? If the Angels are from another star system, then we can’t stop them from here.”
Anita didn’t like that logic one bit. Eva-02 was purely defensive, not offensive. But maybe they could just hold out long enough to convince the Angels that war was unnecessary. Or maybe the Angels were an automated defense system and sooner or later they’d destroy all of them. But if they did, she realized, mankind would have no way of knowing and she’d still be here all her life.
Anita wondered if she wanted that.
It wasn’t that Asuka and Maya weren’t fun to be with, but Japan was so alien, so much louder than Germany. Well, no, that wasn’t true. Japan and Germany were both loud. The problem was that she’d spent so much time locked safely in Nerv-03, where nothing could touch her and the noises of the city were pure background. Here everything was different, yes, but that was because she left HQ. She went to school, she went shopping, she slept inside a building you didn’t need a dozen forms of clearance to get into.
It was new. Exciting, even. But enjoyable?
Anita didn’t know the answer to that at all.
“Uh… so you’re saying we’d need to go into outer space, or something?” Maya chuckled a little.
Gendo didn’t say anything in response.
“Well,” Maya continued. “That’s what light years mean, right?”
“Nerv doesn’t have space shuttles or anything like that,” Anita pointed out. “Right now, we couldn’t even get to the moon if we tried.”
She knew this from dozens of Angel simulations before she’d been transferred over. In them, Angels were detected somewhere inside the solar system but not even as close as Cis-Lunar space, the region contained in the moon’s orbit. Nearly all the scenarios resulted in complete failure on Anita’s part, except ones where the Angels attacked Tokyo-3 directly.
Even in those, however, Anita had relied on simulation versions of other Evangelion units. The message was clear. Space was not where Nerv could possibly fight and win. Any Angel that relied on space-based strategies would be absolutely undefeatable.
Maya was shaking her head in disgust. “We used to be capable of all sorts of things before Second Impact… America sent people to the moon, Russia launched space probes… It’s hard to believe we can’t do such things anymore.”
“I’m sure that once civilization recovers, we’ll go back to doing the things we were going to do,” Anita said. “There’s still so much in the universe to explore, there are so many planets out there…” She smiled. “You know, I always liked reading about what the future might have been like. There’s a lot of books out there that try to predict what would have happened without Second Impact.”
“Huh. I never saw any of those,” Maya admitted. “Maybe they’re more popular in Germany, I guess. Or the west in general.” She sighed. “There’s not a lot of cool entertainment that’s been made here since Second Impact. Fantastic plots about aliens or magic appeal a little bit less when they don’t seem so impossible, and a lot of the stuff that still bothers is full of clichés.”
“Like that Eva book?” Anita asked.
“It didn’t feel cliché to me,” Anita admitted. “But I haven’t read a lot of things like it.”
“I finished Volume One,” Maya said. “Do you want to borrow it? Maybe I could borrow some of your books in return?”
Anita smiled. “That sounds fun,” she said. “Trading back and forth… I did bring a lot of stuff from Germany with me. If you like aliens… you’ll love what’s there.”
Anita had read a science fiction book once at Nerv-03, when she first arrived, because it had just been sitting there. Later, she’d asked for more, and had been given them eagerly. She only read the novels that featured aliens, trying desperately to understand the psychology of non-humans.
By that process, she’d learned a lot of human psychology. Sadly, that was all she learned. Aliens and angels remained as inexplicable as ever. Motivations, desires, fears… the books couldn’t explain them. They were just stupid little stories.
As a child, nothing had frustrated her so much as that.
Stories weren’t real, and they’d never be real. The best they’d ever give you is an understanding of the human mind, which was useful if you were planning on being a psychologist, but not useful if you were going to spend a great deal of time fighting aliens. She’d told herself it might come in handy during other wars she might find herself in, wars against human beings, but even that wasn’t true.
War stories might reveal a lot about cowardice, a lot about not knowing if you were brave enough to fight, maybe even a lot about how easy it was to kill and how scarring it was, but to find out how they’d react in strategy, you’d need to read non-fiction.
Fiction wasn’t good enough.
Anita read the fictional stories for entertainment, because everyone needed downtime and she’d go mad if all she thought about was Evangelion. Gendo had mocked her for that last night, but she didn’t care, he was an idiot.
She read stories to deal with people like him.
If she didn’t bother with that sort of thing… she honestly thought she’d end up killing him.
I've also read the first three chapters. It's almost six AM, and I'm getting sleepy, so I'll read more tomorrow.
I'm not much of a fan-fic reader, but I see that you're trying to write the piece as a standalone, am I right? That is, it looks like you're trying to make the piece accessible to someone who hasn't seen Evangelion. Is that common is fan-fic circles, or is it generally understood that familiarity with a given piece is required? I admit, I find young Maya going through the motions of the first two episodes, to not be particularly interesting. I understand that it's necessary, but it just comes across as far too similar to what we've already seen in the TV series. Because of this, the most interesting parts, for me at least, where the scenes with the grown-up characters. Those sections feel like they're exploring new concepts within the Eva universe. Compared to the opening of the series, Maya's role, seems dramatically inert. Asuka isn't anywhere near as interesting in Misato's role as Misato is, and the lack of parental conflict with Shinji doesn't add any pathos. The piece feels, to an extent, like re-heated leftovers. Then again, I am interested in where this is going, and how much you'll diverge from the story, and what characters will take what roll. So, lukewarm opening aside, you've gotten my attention.
Looking over EvangelionFan's comments, there are things that I agree with him on, and things I don't. First of all, I think your opening paragraph is fine the way it is. The tapered-down alternative he suggests is minimal to the point of bloodlessness. It's a good idea to cut down extraneous words where necessary, but the excess of the opening paragraph is so constrained, it's basically just style, or narrative voice, which is essential for any writer. Do you know how dull the world would be if everyone wrote with the skeletal hand of Ernest Hemingway?
The clock really doesn't do anything for me. It's not a distraction, but it's not quite extraneous. Truth is, I've paid not attention to it all. I also don't find parenthetical asides to be distracting--although you might want to consider dashes as they're more professional looking--because parentheses were made for asides. They remind me of something that Burroughs once said. A novel is a dead thing. It's a fossil, a recording. The parenthesis indicates simultaneous activity, in the present, and thus shows an active life. Then again, some consider Burroughs to a maniac, so proceed with caution.
I do think your dialogue could be stronger. If you want to show firmness, imagine some speaking firmly, and alter your word choice to accommodate it. Maybe throw in something like "Do you understand?" Also, don't be afraid to let your characters make gestures, or show us physical cues, that signify emotion. If someone is sad, let them sigh, deeply and regretfully. If they're annoyed, let them roll their eyes, and blah, blah, blah. Now I feel pandering. I'll stop.
Be back tomorrow, Lege.
_________________ "I hate the abortion debate. I am not pro-life or pro-choice... how the fuck can you have two pros to a debate? Hell, I'm anti-life and anti-choice. All babies should be aborted and you have no choice in the matter" -Bomby
"At this point, we've stopped discussing Eva as a work of art in favor of discussing it as a work of autism." -Ran1
"...I finally succumbed to Muggy's honeydripping perversions and embraced my hidden gay self..." -Xard
"The real question is, when will the Goo Goo Dolls team up with Lady Gaga? Then we can have Goo Goo Gaga, and the baby-talk-ification of pop culture will be complete." -Seele00TextOnly
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