What you feel like doing. It's not like you're getting paid to write, so if the body asks you to do something else, you should.
Here's the update, by the way. Enjoy, you guys.
“I’m here to interrogate the prisoner."
Ritsuko Akagi’s request echoed slightly down the long and mostly deserted corridor of detention cells. A place that struck fear in NERV employees and Tokyo-3 citizens alike, legends about the oversized brig of NERV HQ were a dime a dozen, often drawing inspiration from classic spy movie stories or so-called historical facts about the GESTAPO and KGB.
The most popular theory claimed the brig to be the final resting place of all those people who crossed Gendo Ikari and his personal army of Section-2 agents, or merely even looked at them funny. But the far more boring truth of the matter was that, like many things in NERV, its detention centre was simply unnecessarily large and unlikely to be highly efficient for reasons that Ritsuko wasn’t privy to, if there even were any.
The Commander was more than happy to exploit the urban legends for all they were worth, though. They were a simple and effortless way of furthering his control over HQ, after all.
“Understood, ma’am,” the agent on the right nodded, signalling to his teammate and turning to open the door. “If you’ll follow me...”
“Of course. But first, I’d ask that you disconnect the camera feed.”
“What? But Ma’am-“
“We’ll be discussing confidential matters, matters that are not to remain on tape.” Ritsuko elaborated, her voice dropping a few degrees. “I trust that the Commander requested the same thing?”
“Then think of this as an extension of his request. I’m but tackling the same set of issues.”
The two guards shared a brief look, showing a great example of unspoken communication before the same guard that had spoken began to shake his head.
“But still, ma’am, we need-“
“Confirmation from the Commander?” Ritsuko finished, pretending that her patience was wearing thin. “Should we interrupt his work just for that? I do not believe he would take kindly to that.”
A fairly audible gulp reached Ritsuko’s ears and the blonde had to fight down the urge to laugh when both guards shared a very different type of look. The urban legends were quite useful, indeed.
“...Tell Shinjiro to cut the feed.” The guard on the left nodded his agreement and went to do as he’d been told, disappearing through a side door a few steps away. The lead guard then turned to Ritsuko, finally opening the security door and leading the way forward. “This way, ma’am.”
The guard led her down a short corridor, before opening a second door and stepping inside. He then remained at the door side, allowing Ritsuko entry and unhindered view of the cell’s interior.
It was cold, dark and far from luxurious, but even in the darkness, it took Ritsuko no time to identify the figure of her former friend: lying on the mattress that barely passed for a bed and with her back facing towards the door, Ritsuko needed no extra guesses to figure out what Misato had been doing previous to her entry. It would appear that the Commander had made no effort whatsoever to soften the blow of the latest news, not that Ritsuko had really expected him to.
“Whenever you’re ready to leave, ma’am, or if anything happens, just press this button,” the guard explained, motioning to an intercom device right beside the door. “I’ll be waiting just outside.”
“Very well. Now leave us.”
With a nod, the guard did as told and the door to the outside closed behind Ritsuko soon after. Just to make sure, the scientist followed that with a glance towards the security camera in the corner of the room, quickly confirming that it was indeed offline.
Finally free of prying eyes, Ritsuko took her mask off, allowing her shoulders to drop and her body to relax. Slowly, the blonde moved further inside the room, grabbing hold of a forgotten chair next to the wall and sitting on it with a tired sigh.
And then she bided her time, silence enveloping the room as Ritsuko waited for her former friend to make the first move.
Unlike many others, Misato didn’t test her patience.
“Why are you here?”
Misato’s voice sounded coarse to Ritsuko’s ears, but the undertone of anger was still unmistakable.
“Am I not allowed to be worried?”
“You can do whatever you want, but I was honestly betting on you laughing at me.”
“What you did was reckless, I won’t deny it,” Ritsuko replied, keeping a witty comeback from slipping past her lips. “But I want to believe that you thought me a better person than that.”
Misato merely scoffed, her back not moving the slightest from its position.
“Why are you here?”
The Major repeated herself, in a tone that made it clear that she had no mind for fake pleasantries.
“I’m here because I’ve got things to discuss with you.” Ritsuko answered, slipping back into her mask. “Things related to your quest with Kaji.”
“Thought so,” Misato scoffed for a second time. “Well, I’m going to tell you the same thing I told Ikari: you can fuck right off.”
“I’m not here on his behalf.”
Her former friend stiffened for a brief instant at her comeback, the emphasis having the effect Ritsuko had been looking for. Over her shoulder, one of Misato’s puffy eyes finally made an appearance.
“A third party recently contacted me. A group that, by the sound of things, was... acquainted with Kaji,” Ritsuko reclined back on her chair with a sigh. “He was a really popular man.”
“Save the jokes,” Misato turned to sit up on the bed, now giving the blonde her full attention. “A third party? That’s the first I’ve heard of it. Where are you going with this, Ritz?”
“You don’t need me to tell you where I’m going, Misato. You’re smarter than that.”
“I still want to hear you say it.”
Ritsuko shook her head with a roll of her eyes at the Major’s insistence. She figured that humouring her was the fastest way forward, though.
“I’m going to pick up where Kaji left off, and do what he could not.” The Head of Project-E narrowed her eyes at her former friend. “Happy now?”
Misato, for her part, merely glared back. She spent several seconds intently watching for any signs of deception on Ritsuko’s face, her search turning up little in way of results.
“Fuck me, you’re serious.”
“Of course I’m serious. Since when have I been one to bluff, Misato?”
“You’re right, outright lies are more your style.” Misato spat, before standing up for what appeared to be the first time in hours. “And where does this sudden change of heart even come from?”
“I took a long, hard look at my life choices and didn’t like what I saw.” Ritsuko replied, eyes falling to the side. “This is my attempt at making things right.”
An explanation that only earned the doctor yet another scoff from her former friend.
“Very cute, Ritz. Too bad you’ve made it clear by now that you’re not exactly good Samaritan material. Why don’t you try again?”
“That obvious? And here I thought that all that was needed to get on your good side was to be foolishly idealistic.” Ritsuko didn’t fail to notice the way in which Misato’s hands clenched at her words, barely managing to stop a smirk from blossoming on her face. Two could play that game, after all; she then sat up straighter in her chair, returning to a more serious approach. “The situation has changed. It’s really as simple as that.”
“Because of this so-called third party?” The Major began to pace up and down the cell, her feet threatening to stomp a hole into the ground. “No, even if they’re really a thing, they’re just a convenient excuse. The truth is that you had a falling out with the two commanders and now you want out, isn’t it?
“What happened, Ritz? Did the goals of NERV stop aligning with your own?” Misato stomped back to the centre of the room, trying her utmost to glare answers out of the blonde. “Something to do with their Angels in the closet? Or is it more about the shadowy cabal in the background?”
Efforts that brought her little more than silence and a raised eyebrow for the longest of times. And even after that, it wasn’t Ritsuko’s words that broke through the blanket of silence, but rather a string of amused chuckles.
Laughter that only served to test the Major’s patience even further.
“What’s. So. Funny?”
“Watching you try to play the police interrogator with but a fraction of the facts,” Ritsuko casually answered, easily ignoring a glare that would have melted lesser women. “I suppose Kaji is to thank for you finding out about Lilith and SEELE? Not that it matters. You don’t have the foggiest idea of how deep the rabbit hole goes, Misato.”
“What do you know, Ritsuko?”
“A sizable chunk of the Truth Kaji was so obsessed with: Second Impact and why it happened, the Evas and Unit-01, the true purpose of NERV and SEELE as well as the plan that Ikari and Fuyutsuki hatched from it.” The Doctor stood up, responding to Misato’s withering look with a sharp one of her own. “All of that and much more, but those are Truths I’ll only tell you if you agree to help me. I don’t think this is a hard question.”
A sharp intake of breath answered her words and, unperturbed, Ritsuko watched as her former friend’s expression went through shock, sorrow, and all the way up to barely restrained rage, before finally settling back on a steely mask once again.
“Fuck you, Ritsuko,” Misato spat, slowly heading back to sit on the bed. “Only you would use Kaji like that.”
And Ritsuko’s eyes followed her, a slight pang of guilt resonating within her as Misato’s words replayed in her mind.
‘...You’re right about that, Misato,’ Ritsuko agreed, before mercilessly squashing the feeling. ‘But unfortunately, the means must be on the same level as the end.’
“I do what I have to, because the world I’m entering doesn’t allow for half measures. There will be time to pray for the dead later.” The doctor took a quick look at her watch, her eyes narrowing slightly. “Now, give me a straight answer, Misato. I can’t stay here forever.”
But in spite of Ritsuko’s warning, the Major offered no quick response. Instead, she spent several long moments staring at the floor, no doubt weighing her situation, Kaji’s legacy and the credibility of the Doctor’s words and how they could change the playing field.
“Fine, let’s assume for a second that I agree to join forces,” Misato eventually began, her eyes never rising up. “Why go to the effort of recruiting me?
“Because you’re the Operations Director of NERV, obviously. No one in the entire world could measure to your tactical knowledge of the EVAs, and I’m sure that my… supporters will also see it that way.”
“In case that they need to destroy them?”
“I’m not privy to that kind of details yet,” Ritsuko replied, for she honestly didn’t know. “But if it will serve to assuage your fears, they appear far more interested in Ikari and SEELE than in the Children.”
“That doesn’t help,” Misato tightly shook her head. “Your third party could simply consider them a non-issue to eliminate.”
“Perhaps. But that’s all I have.”
“...Fine, let’s continue: as you said, I’m the Operations Director of NERV. But have you forgotten that I’m also stuck here?” Misato motioned with her hand, indicating the room around them. She then rested her elbows on her knees, expression turning downcast. “Besides, the last time I tried to make a difference I only made things worse. Kaji was wrong about me.”
And Ritsuko had to keep an aggravated sigh from slipping past her lips at her former friend’s words. The conversation wasn’t going in a direction she liked.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” she countered. “The Third Child is alive.”
“Clinically so. I may not be a doctor but I still understand the reports, Ritsuko.”
“Then you’ve also understood the ones that mention the manner in which you saved Unit-02 and the Second Child, all while defeating the Angel? You won the day, Misato.”
The Major’s eyes suddenly rose to meet Ritsuko’s, caught somewhere between surprise and anger.
“You call that a victory?”
“Would you rather call the successful continuation of Mankind a failure?”
“For fuck’s sake, Ritsuko! You know what I mean!” Misato shot up to her feet, emphasising her next words with her fingers. “Kaji is dead. Shinji is gone. Asuka hates me. And after all this time I still can’t figure out what’s going on in Rei’s head!
“And not only that, now you come from out of nowhere! After being a willing instrument to most of the above since God knows how long, you suddenly come and tell me that you want my help?! That you want to do the complete opposite of everything you’ve been doing up until now?! And I’m expected to believe you?!”
“It’s never too late to start over. Isn’t that something Kaji would say?” Ritsuko’s words were as a calm sea to Misato’s raging typhoon, the blonde trying her hardest to claw for a positive outcome. “What will you do, otherwise? Stay here and wallow in your own self-pity? Cry about the Third Child’s condition? About the Second’s rapidly deteriorating stability?”
The Major’s eyes fell to the side, her hands clenching into tight fists.
“They…” Misato spoke, in barely more than a whisper. “They don’t deserve this...”
“...No one does. But this is a war, Misato, and they’re our soldiers,” Ritsuko pressed further forward, secretly wondering why she needed to remind a military commander of such a basic concept. “By the time that you started your little family project, you were fully aware of what could happen every time they were sent out to fight.”
“And that makes it right?!”
“That makes it necessary.”
Misato’s non-verbal response resounded throughout the entire cell, confirming Ritsuko’s fears: Misato Katsuragi would not be joining her.
“...You’re being childish, Misato.” The Head of Project-E backed away a step, a hand moving to caress her cheek. “Childish and short-sighted.”
“I’ll take that over heartless,” the Major spat, motioning towards the door with her head. “Now, if you’ve got nothing else to say, I’d like to be alone, friend.”
For a fleeting moment, a part of Ritsuko thought of clashing with Misato, of telling her about how her own revenge-driven motivations weren’t so different from the ones of the person she was calling ‘heartless’. Of how, for all of her moral manoeuvring, Misato had been equally as guilty and irresponsible on the treatment of the Children she suddenly seemed to care so much about.
But it was her professional side, logical as it always was, who told her that there was very little point to fighting that battle of wills. Her efforts and energy had no need to be wasted on misguided hypocrites, and it was because of that the Doctor forced her body to relax and return to its usual poise.
And with no further words, a disappointed Ritsuko Akagi turned to leave the prison cell.
She had hoped that Misato could be reasonable, that she could look past the inconsequential issues and work towards a greater good, but her belief had been clearly misplaced. The Operations Director of NERV wouldn’t prove to be the asset Ritsuko had been looking for, not in the immediate future, at least. But although her loss was a considerable blow, it was by no means a critical one.
“Ikari will get you out of here the moment the next Angel arrives. He doesn’t have a replacement for you, and he can’t afford to find one so late into the game.” Ritsuko briefly looked over her shoulder after she pressed the intercom button, regarding the sorry sight of someone she had once respected. “Try to get your head out of your ass before then, Katsuragi.”
The door then opened and closed with a slam, leaving Misato Katsuragi alone with her thoughts once more.