Okay, so I'm posting from a Burger King, because...DAY SEVEN WITHOUT THE NETZ! Kaworu Christ....
“The absolute latest in Evangelion fabrications,” Aoba said, flipping through item checklists on his tablet. “Look at that beast.”
“I’m looking,” Cooper said, leaning heavily on the rail. An insistent Klaxon was blaring, warning anyone with functioning ear drums that a large and moving object was on the loading bay floor. That large and moving mass was a massive, blackish-blue, man-shaped thing: it lay on its back, trundled along by a mass of caterpillar-crawlers. The flanking technicians were tiny dots moving along the hangar floor as they moved forward.
“You look, but you don’t see,” Aoba muttered. “Seriously, 20% more efficiency to the neural network and muscle tissue than Unit-02, a topnotch electronics package, an integrated VI to manage the whole thing. No other Eva in the world can match up to this one,” Aoba said.
“…What about that one?” Cooper asked, jerking a thumb to the right. Aoba followed the gesture, and saw the gargoyle face of Unit-o1, revealed momentarily in its temporary berthing. He had forgotten that it was being transferred from its containment paddock to a maintenance yard. It stood in the massive paddock morose and patient, glaring down on the strange procession that moved before it.
“Well, what about that one?” Aoba asked.
“I mean, it has an S2 engine, right? Which is, like, an infinite power source for infinite amounts of infinite energy.”
“Stop saying ‘infinite.’” Aoba ignored Cooper for a few moments, tapping on the tablet and feeling the steady heat of Cooper’s insistent gaze. “The S2 engine is irrelevant,” he finally hissed, feeling irritable. “I mean, that’s just an issue of power, okay? It’s not performance.”
“Our giant cyborg things hop around with power cables. Don’t you think that’s kind of a big performance issue?”
“No! Up to this point, it’s never been an issue!”
“It’s been an issue, like…four times, now.”
“Why are you making a big deal about this? Man, I thought you’d be going on about how great Grendel is or some crap.”
“Hey, I can call it like I see it. Unit-01 is kind of in a class of its own.” Aoba said nothing, and Cooper began creeping slowly towards him, pressing into Aoba’s personal space.
“…What, what, why are you doing that!?” Aoba spluttered, waving his tablet at Cooper as though he was an irritating swarm of flies.
“Dude, why do you dislike me so much?”
“Why should I not? You are obnoxious—”
“I am adorable.”
“It’s that. It’s stuff like that, I absolutely cannot work with a guy like that. You’re supposed to be an officer, how the hell did you get any authority?”
“Man, I’ve watched you work, you’re like…one of the most laid-back, indifferent guys I’ve ever seen,” Cooper said, smiling casually. “So that excuse is a load of crap.”
“Can I just not like you for the sake of not liking you?”
“…well, yeah, if you want to be especially hurtful….”
“I do. Very much.”
“Ouch,” Cooper said, in a tone that irritated Aoba even further if only for it’s sheer indifference. Cooper was no longer even involved in the conversation: he was leaning over the rail, squinting at Unit-03. “Seriously, though, what makes this Eva so much better than the others? I mean, think about the last Angel we faced.”
“What about it?”
“That was barely a victory. And it got through three Evangelions' defenses. What’s more, these things here are locked down and tied in the corporeal world, bound by physics. What physics defined that Angel? None that we know, that’s for sure.”
“What other option is there?” Aoba sighed in irritation, absorbed once more in the tablet. “N2 devices? Those don’t work. Inefficient as they are, the Evangelion are the only weapons that actually give us a chance, so…you know, what else can you do?”
“…Nothing, I guess,” Cooper murmured, rubbing his face. He didn’t sound satisfied with the answer.
Shinji stared at the monstrous Unit-03 from the Observation Deck. He swallowed nervously, and shifted uncomfortably. He had thought Unit-01 was a beast of a creature, with its snarling face and impossible size. This thing, though…it was bigger than Unit-01, noticeably so, and something about it just emphasized its purpose as a weapon more than Unit-01 could hope to be.
It made him uneasy.
The odd thing about Unit-01 was that he had, he realized, stop thinking of the monster as a weapon. It was, that was it’s form and function, but…somehow, it wasn’t a weapon to him. He didn’t know when or where the shift in his thinking had occurred, but it had, and it was very insistent in this moment. He swallowed again, and rubbed his mouth with the back of his hand. He regretted being so fast to volunteer, but pushed the thought out of his mind.
“So that’s Unit-03,” a voice murmured next to him. He jerked, glancing at the new arrival. Asuka had entered the room without making any noise. It disturbed him, because usually she found some way of announcing her presence. That, and the tone, the body language…he chewed his tongue in thought. There were dangerous waters here, but he couldn’t determine how.
“Uh…yeah,” he finally said. “It just got installed today.”
“And the test run?”
“Hmm.” The grunt was a sound of irritation more than understanding. Shinji squinted, and rocked left and right.
“…Okay, what’s up?”
“I feel like you’re irritated about something?”
“Oh, why should I be irritated about anything? I’m harmless, right?” Asuka snapped. Shinji glanced at her in surprise.
“Not…no, not really, if I had to be honest,” Shinji said. “I mean, you can be pretty lethal—”
“Shut up.” Shinji blinked at the venom in the voice, and turned fully towards Asuka. He was feeling hurt, but now he was frustrated. He had no idea what he did to deserve that.
“Wuh…wuh…What the hell?” His voice, lilting in a stammer of confusion and uncertainty, locked on the words and had a certain bite behind them. Asuka slowly and grandly turned her head towards him like a cat regarding a bird. Shinji refused to back down.
“Did you know that those pictures were going around?”
“What pictures?” Shinji blinked, and searched his mind for any sort of picture or image that….
“What, the pictures Misato took?”
“Yes, the pictures Misato took!” Asuka hissed. “Why didn’t you stop her?”
“She’d already taken a lot by the time I woke up. I was still half-asleep when she took the others.”
“Stupid, frigging—” Asuka trailed off into a long, muttered series of creative and filthy swear words, her voice slowly rising with each one. Shinji hadn’t seen her this angry in a long time.
“She didn’t mean anything by it,” he tried to reason. She gave him a dirty look.
“That wasn’t right!” she said. “It’s humiliating, and wrong, and…no one takes me seriously now! No one will! You didn’t!”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“At what point were you going to talk to me about Piloting Unit-03?”
“Wuh…I thought you wouldn’t want to. I mean, I thought I was doing you a favor!”
“You weren’t!” she snapped. “No, I don’t want to Pilot that stupid thing, but I would have liked to discuss it!”
“That’s dumb!” Shinji said, feeling trapped and uncertain of how to extricate himself. “If you didn’t want to Pilot, then why discuss it?”
“That is…the…STUPIDEST thing you’ve ever said to me, and you say a lot of stupid things!” she screamed, whirling and pushing into Shinji’s space. He stumbled backwards, and she followed, her face barely two inches from his own. “What makes you think I wouldn’t like the option, huh!? Are you just going to start making decisions for me!? Like everyone else!?”
“Why…why are you doing this?” Shinji pleaded, no longer angry but very confused. “I’m not trying to make any decisions for you. I just thought—”
“Well, don’t,” she hissed, stomping out of the room. “You do a crappy job of it. I hope your brain gets fried tomorrow when you sync!” she snarled. As the door opened, she almost bowled over Kaworu. She made angry noises at him, but nothing specific, and disappeared down the corridor. Kaworu watched her with mild interest, and then entered the room.
“The Second Child is exuberant,” he said, smiling.
“…uh, yeah, I guess…,” Shinji muttered, feeling shaken by the confrontation. It had caught him off-guard, and he was left reeling and unsteady. He turned back to Unit-03, trying to shake the encounter out of his head. He couldn’t: Asuka was so angry, so angry at him, and he couldn’t fathom what had happened. He tried to process the words, the fury, as he felt a gentle presence drift next to him.
“You are upset,” Kaworu noted. It wasn’t a question, just an observation. Shinji felt his lip curl in something not quite a smile: maybe a sneer of recognition, if such a thing existed? It was the kind of thing Rei would have once said. Except she wouldn’t have smiled when she said it. Kaworu was, though there seemed to be nothing behind the smile. Or…maybe there was. The eyes were warm, and curious. The smile, not. It was a strange contrast.
“Yeah. I, uh…yeah.”
“No…no, no reason. Just…yeah.”
“…You argued? With the Second Child?”
“Well, I wouldn’t exactly call it an argument….”
“What was it, then?”
“I….” He paused, and turned fully towards Kaworu. “I have the sense you wouldn’t know if I explained it. Does that make sense?” He squinted, surprised by his frankness. “Actually, that was sort of rude. Huh.”
“It wasn’t: I probably wouldn’t understand. I would like for you to try and explain it,” Kaworu said, edging slightly into Shinji’s space. Normally, the motion would have made him uncomfortable, and he recoiled slightly in reflex. With Kaworu, however, it felt more…inviting, perhaps? A promise of secrecy?
“She was…angry. About something. Uh…oh, pictures.”
“Yeah, we were…I mean, Rei, Asuka, and me…we were sleeping in the same place.”
“Yeah, I mean…nothing weird!” Shinji felt his cheeks heat up. “I mean, we just…all fell asleep, and kind of…I mean, we…it was…uh….” He stared at Kaworu. The boy had a serene and innocent expression. “…anyway…Misato took some pictures.”
“Misato? The Major?”
“Yes. And, when I got up, Rei…and Asuka…they…well, they….”
“They created a compromising position?”
“…yes. Yes, that….”
“I see. And these pictures are…embarrassing?”
“Yes, they are.”
“And what did the Major do with them?”
“Showed them around.”
“Well,” Shinji said, shrugging, “She liked them. She thought they were cute. She wasn’t trying to be mean, she just…I don’t know.”
“What did you think?”
“I think it was probably unfair to do. I mean, Misato didn’t—”
“I mean, of the pictures. Were they cute?”
“That…um…well, uh…yeah. I guess.” Kaworu nodded, as if this was very grave news. Shinji squinted at him, and swallowed. “…Asuka doesn’t.”
“Why was she angry with you? Because of the pictures?”
“Kind of? I…I honestly don’t know.”
“Did you ask?”
“Yeah, and she said she was mad at me for choosing to test Unit-03. She didn’t want to, but she said she wanted the choice. That’s dumb!”
“I don’t think so,” Kaworu said, scratching his chin. “Choice is an important part of being human: the ability to choose where you go, what you eat, who you love and how. Choice is what makes humans human, I find. At least, it is one of the things that do. Not having a choice could be dehumanizing, in that case.”
“…huh. I guess,” Shinji murmured. He scratched his head. “That’s actually…kind of a good point.”
“Maybe. I don’t know the full extent of this issue.”
“Still, that’s kind of sharp.”
“Oh. Well, I watch people. I’ve learned a lot from watching people. Humans are fascinating creatures.”
“Maybe. Sometimes, I think humans are just irritating.”
“Not all the time. Just sometimes.”
“Hmm…,” Kaworu said, and folded his hands in front of him. Shinji sighed.
“All of a sudden, I don’t want to Pilot tomorrow,” he mumbled.
“I’m sure nothing will go wrong,” Kaworu said, calmly.
“Yeah,” Shinji agreed.