An Insider's Look

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

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

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

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


Thanks, that's great to know! I'm giving the finishing touches to another update that will very likely be going up next Sunday. I hope it will satisfy your cravings. ^_^
Author of a few decent Eva stories, which can be found here.

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

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Postby Gryphon117 » Sun May 12, 2019 3:17 am

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

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

Enjoy!

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

“Ace! What are you doing?!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But… But it sounded like you were-”

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

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

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

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

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

“H-How do you know that?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until his assistant made that decision for him again.

“Y-Yes.”

“Do you like Asuka?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But you know why-!”

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

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

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

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

‘If only it was so easy...’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that day, Shinji Ikari held Asuka Langley-Sohryu, too.
Author of a few decent Eva stories, which can be found here.

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

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Postby Gryphon117 » Mon Jul 08, 2019 5:46 am

Hiya people, been a while. Just dropping by to say that I'm free from my exams and work by now, and that updates should resume shortly. I'd actually been meaning to restart them last week, in fact, but I've been busy with refurbishing my new home in the hopes of moving in Soon(TM) and that kind of ate away at my writing time. My parents and me are painting the whole place as of right now, incidentally, but I should have enough room in the schedule to give you guys something to read this week. Look forward to it. ^_^
Author of a few decent Eva stories, which can be found here.

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

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Postby Gryphon117 » Sun Jul 14, 2019 8:43 am

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

Enjoy! ^_^

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

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

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

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

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

“I was investigating.”

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

“No, I do not.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘You totally weren’t.’

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

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

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

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


>-O]|[O-<​


“...Can I look yet?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“...P-Places.”

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

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

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

“Especially if what?”

But that choice was quickly taken from him.

“Especially if... you get angry.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And not a second later, the warnings stopped.
Author of a few decent Eva stories, which can be found here.

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

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Postby Gryphon117 » Wed Jul 17, 2019 3:35 am

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

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

“...Hmm? Princess? What’s wrong?”

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

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

“I-I did not!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I said I’m good. Let’s get moving.”

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

But unknown to Asuka, crimson eyes had been stuck to the back of her head the entire way.
Author of a few decent Eva stories, which can be found here.

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

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Postby Gryphon117 » Mon Jul 22, 2019 4:24 am

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

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

“Damn right!”

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes, ma’am~!”

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

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

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

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

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

“Hey, Ritz!”

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

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

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

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

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

“And what’s her objective here?”

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

“They’re keeping you in the dark?”

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

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

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

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

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

“...What.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“...Roger that.”

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

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

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

>-O]|[O-<​

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Through the wall?!’

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

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

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

And then, Unit-01 took out a detonator.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

>-O]|[O-<​

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

“Hm? You said something, Asuka?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Let’s rock.”
Author of a few decent Eva stories, which can be found here.

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

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Re: An Insider's Look

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Postby Gryphon117 » Tue Jul 30, 2019 3:22 am

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

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

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

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

‘Gee, thanks.’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Didn’t bring any.”

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

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

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

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

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

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



>-O]|[O-<



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

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

“What’s the plan?”

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

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

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

“...Ten seconds.”

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

Much to the frustration of a certain redheaded Pilot.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What do you mean?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Sure... you did?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Here’s to hoping I’ll catch her in a good mood if Misato’s test goes well today.’
Author of a few decent Eva stories, which can be found here.

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

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Re: An Insider's Look

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Postby Gryphon117 » Tue Aug 06, 2019 5:20 am

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

Enjoy! ^_^

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“By your will, Your Highness~!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Roger that~!”

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

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

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

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

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

...up until that stopped being the case.

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

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

Misato had taken off the kiddie gloves.

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

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

“I volunteer.”

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

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

“Crystal!”

“Then let’s get to it! GO!”

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

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

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

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

Thirty seconds.

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

“Not good enough. Cover me.”

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

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

‘Asuka, watch out!’

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

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

“HIYA!”

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

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

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

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

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

‘I guess she earned herself that one.’

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

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

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

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

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

It read zero seconds.

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

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

Gryphon117
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Re: An Insider's Look

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Postby Gryphon117 » Fri Aug 16, 2019 7:48 am

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

Enjoy! ^_^

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An answer that Asuka promptly shot down with a scoff.

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

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

“…Eh?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘EH?!’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’d shoot your other leg.”

“EEEH?!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Her silent plea was ignored, too.

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

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

‘We should tell her!’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So in the end, Asuka settled for the truth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


>-O]|[O-<​


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

And the reason why still baffled Mari quite a bit.

‘Seriously. What was that about?’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“...Whatever.”

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

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

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

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

sonichu
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Re: An Insider's Look

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

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

Gryphon117
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Re: An Insider's Look

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Postby Gryphon117 » Mon Aug 26, 2019 10:18 am

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


Thanks, the support is always appreciated! ^_^

Chapter 13  SPOILER: Show
November 30 2015, 21:35

It had been two days since her mistake, two full days since the Third Child had decided to give her the silent treatment as a show of his displeasure. They still continued to work together, nominally at least, but it was clear that Shinji wasn’t happy with her and the way in which he showed it had a way of forcing her attention towards him, like a moth to a flame. It was awkward and weird and distracting, and those were three out of three things that Ace really didn’t like. Plus, the presence of such an elephant in the room affecting her focus was bound to begin having an effect on her work sooner rather than later.

And so it was that Ace stood up from her station that day, fed up and with her mind made up to put an end to the distractions, and walked over to Shinji and her sister just as they were about to head back to their stupid farm.

“Okay, that’s enough!” she stated, grabbing the Third Child by the wrist. “You are coming with me!”

And before she could react, Ace moved Shinji and herself to a place far out of her reach, one that she had made sure to carefully prepare beforehand: a calming locale with green grass, healthy trees, a comfortable park bench and sights to a clear water lake. Letting go of the young man’s wrist, Ace sat down on the bench and wordlessly waited for the Third Child to do the same.

But her plan hit the first snag when he didn’t. Shinji looked bewildered at the change of scenery for a few seconds, but then put on the same mask of indifference that he had been wearing the last forty-eight hours whenever he had been forced to interact with her. It was infuriating! Even the stupid Doll had gotten more smiles than she had!

...

...Not that she wanted those silly gestures, of course. To Ace it was all a matter of returning to their previously established status quo, the one that worked and didn’t constantly make her feel like she had done something wrong.

Like right then. Shinji was looking expectantly in her direction, looking as stern as a teacher that had just caught a student breaking school rules. If the Third Child had just crossed his arms and begun to impatiently tap his foot he would have looked exactly the part, in fact.

‘...Okay, so maybe the case could be made that I’m not entirely in the right, even if the jump in logic from there to assuming that I’m wrong is monumental and...’ the Pilot nervously drummed her fingers, withering under the gaze of Ikari-sensei. ‘...Oh, screw it.’

“I’m sorry, alright? I did it without thinking,” Ace apologised and looked away, almost as if it physically pained her to utter the words. “I thought it would be a nice way to get back at her, but didn’t stop to think about how it affected you.”

The Pilot could feel Shinji’s eyes almost boring a hole into her and got herself ready for the yelling that was sure to follow. After all, he had a justified cause to be angry at her and she had just decided to make herself look submissive. There was but a single way that could possibly end:

With a sigh, the Third Child finally took a seat beside her.

“Apology accepted.”

“...What?!” Ace turned at breakneck speed, shock written all over her face. “Just like that?”

“What do I gain from staying angry at you? It’s not like that’s going to make Ayanami-san and Makinami-san believe us. Still, I have one condition,” Shinji raised a finger, the redhead almost hanging to his every word. “Try to get along with Asuka.”

And in a flash, Ace’s face morphed to look like she had just eaten a piece of raw garlic.

“...You can start yelling at me now.”

Shinji, in turn, failed to suppress a groan. His hopes for a swift reconciliation of the Aspects had just been shot down.

“...What is it with you two?”

“You know what the problem is!” the Pilot angrily jumped up to her feet, pointing her finger in what looked to be a random direction. “She. Is. A moron!”

“Why? Because she told you something you didn’t like?”

“Yes! But also because she’s a walking disaster! Did she tell you about the two times she almost got Asuka killed? The ones which I, the EVA Pilot, could do nothing to stop? Because of her meddling?”

“Yeah, she did,” Shinji nodded, trying to make it sound like he wasn’t picking sides. “She felt pretty bad about it, too.”

“Fat lot of good that does us!” The Pilot threw her arms up in the air. “Besides, you should know that those incidents are just the tip of the iceberg! If I really started talking there would be no end to it!”

“Okay, then I’ll take your word for it,” the Third Child conceded, redirecting the conversation. “But that’s not what I wanted to talk about.”

“What is it, then?”

“Why did you get so angry when Asuka argued with you about Piloting? When she mentioned maybe putting it aside a bit in the future?”

Shinji tried his best not to squirm under the heated glare that struck his person at that moment. Thankfully, though, Ace’s disapproval of his question didn’t escalate any more.

“Isn’t it obvious? EVA is the best thing that has ever happened to us,” the redhead eventually replied, taking her seat once again. “It makes us important, irreplaceable. We would just be another face among millions without it.”

“And that... would be bad?”

“Of course, no one would care about another random person in the world,” Ace elaborated as if her words were the most obvious concept in the world. “We would be right back where we started.”

‘She’s talking about that time in the graveyard, right? With her dad and... the little sister?’ Shinji recalled, comparing what he saw to his own experiences with the Commander of NERV. A flash of his father talking to a smiling Ayanami flew through his mind, an echo of the nastiness he had felt at the time manifesting in his gut. ‘...I think I understand.’

That didn’t mean the Pilot was right, however.

“So...” the Third Child began, bracing himself to ask another difficult question. “You mean that Horaki-san likes you because you’re a Pilot?”

An argument that appeared to take Ace off-guard, the redhead blinking and frowning before she grudgingly opened her mouth.

“…Fine, she’s an exception.”

“She doesn’t have to be the only one.”

Her frown then turned into another full-blown glare, informing the young man that he was walking a very fine line.

“Hey, Third,” Ace growled. “Are you trying to piss me off? Because you’re doing a great job.”

“I’m not trying to do that! It’s just-” Shinji put his hands up in surrender, re-thinking his strategy with a short sigh. “Okay, so you’re telling me that you have no other interests outside of EVA? None at all?”

Again, the redhead stared his way with suspicion but refrained from making good on her unspoken threat, likely because her recent attempt at making up with him was still fresh enough to grant Shinji some amount of protection.

And the Third Child couldn’t have been more thankful for that.

With a small grunt, Ace reclined against her seat and appeared to ponder Shinji’s question, falling silent for a few moments.

“...I guess I kinda like it when we do sports.” The Pilot eventually admitted, unaware of the triumphant smile that grew on Shinji’s face.

Finally, a breakthrough.

“Competitive sports?” the Third Child knowingly suggested, trying not to make himself too obvious.

“Of course! Although stuff like hiking or swimming isn’t bad, either,” Ace shrugged, appearing contemplative for some more time before a small smile adorned her face. “...I’ve always wanted to try my hand at riding a bike, too. A big one.”

“A red bike, right?”

“You bet! Feeling the engine roar between my legs, speeding through the roads and turning low to the ground while breaking the resistance of the air like a bullet, being as one with the machine!” Ace jumped up to her feet again, her voice growing more and more excited until she noticed Shinji staring curiously at her. “I mean... it doesn’t compare to my Unit-02, but I guess something like that would be nice, yeah.”

Ace quickly turned around to hide her embarrassment, staring at the nothing in the lake with extreme interest. A flustered look that made Ace look kind of cute, the Third Child wondered to himself, but just as he did so the redhead’s face fell.

“...But I don’t know if I’d be there to experience it.” The Pilot quietly finished, observing the surface of the water.

There it was, the destination Shinji had been wanting to get to. He slowly stood up from his seat and walked to Ace’s side.

“And why wouldn’t you?”

“Because it would mean leaving EVA behind, and I am the embodiment of Asuka’s pride as a Pilot, remember? If we’re not a Pilot anymore then there will no longer be a need for me to stick around and so I’ll just... stop existing, I guess.”

“I’m not so sure about that. Even if it happened, I can’t imagine Asuka completely forgetting about her Pilot years, just like that,” Shinji gently countered. “Won’t you just... transform or something?”

“Maybe I will, it’s not like there’s a written law on how stuff changes around here,” Ace shrugged, conceding the possibility. “But what if I turn into one of those lesser Asukas instead? One that exists only for short periods of time and is completely ignorant of its own nature? Like the one that trashed HQ a while back?”

“Couldn’t the same thing happen to Asuka or Maisie, then?”

“I don’t think so,” the redhead shook her head with an amused grunt. “For all of her idiocy, there is always a spot for optimism, dreams and wishful thinking, so that means that the brat is basically set for life no matter what we do. And with our history there’s no way the stupid Doll is going anywhere, either. She might become more or less relevant in the future, but she’s going nowhere either way.” Ace fell silent, her focus on the tranquil waters still unbroken. “...I’m the only one with a possible expiration date.”

The Third Child looked curiously at the Pilot, comparing her latest words to the conversation he’d shared with his assistant a few days ago. Their accounts were contradictory to say the least, but, to Shinji, it didn’t appear like either of them was lying. Could the both of them have been wrong on their assessment?

No matter the cause, however, Shinji did realise something about Ace that she herself seemed to have overlooked.

“...So they’re safe because they reflect important parts of Asuka’s personality?” Shinji considered for the both of them. “But... aren’t you the same?”

Ace blinked, foregoing her observation of the lake to stare at Shinji out of the corner of her eye.

“What do you mean?”

“Like... ambition, and competitiveness and pride. Stuff like that,” the Third Child elaborated. “You’re the one who has those, right? That’s what it always looked like to me, anyway. It’s why I never asked.”

In a flash, Ace had turned to face him. The redhead looked stunned, but it wasn’t long before her shock was replaced with a thoughtful frown, as if Shinji had just shaken some sort of well-cemented belief.

“I’d...” she stammered, completely off-balance. “I’d never thought about it like that.”

“Really?”

“Yeah,” Ace faced the lake again, putting a hand to her chest. “I mean, I’m the EVA Pilot. I’ve always been the EVA Pilot, and I wanted to be the best because... it was an important job, we are important, and a lot of people rely on us. You can’t half-ass the defence of the planet!

“...Or that’s what I thought. But I’m the one who got excited when we practiced sports in Phys. Ed. I’m the one who got angry when we failed exams we could have easily aced because of the stupid Kanji! I’m the one who gets pissed when Misato calls us a child! I’m the one who likes it when you give it your all!”

A smile began to tug at the girl’s mouth, slowly but steadily morphing into a euphoric grin. She looked at Shinji, the happiest that the Third Child had ever seen any Asuka Langley-Sohryu.

“I’m not going to disappear!”

And then she jumped forward, grabbing the unprepared young man in an unexpected and tight hug.

“Oh, thank you, Shinji! Thankyouthankyouthankyou!

They remained as such for a few seconds, Ace holding on to Shinji as if he was an oversized teddy bear, until the young man’s gasps brought the Pilot back to her senses. She quickly jumped away from him as if he had suddenly caught fire, blushing fiercely.

“...Say anything about that and I’ll kick your ass all the way to Mars.”

“W-Why not Jupiter?” the Third Child replied, his own face a strange mix of red and purple. “You have to be a-ambitious!”

The redhead blinked, caught off-guard by the young man’s playful remark.

“God, Third,” she chuckled, amused. “Who are you and what have you done with Shinji Ikari?”

“Huh?”

“...And the spell is gone. Guess I’ll have to very slowly explain it to you, then,” Ace sighed with a roll of her eyes, sitting back on the bench. The Third Child followed her with attention. “You’ve changed a lot this past week, Shinji. You wouldn’t have been half... no, a tenth this smooth when you first arrived.”

“Have I... really?”

“Oh, yeah. You sure have. I mean, you haven’t apologised once this entire time! Why do you think that is?”

“...I don’t know,” Shinji frowned, realising that his reflexive response had indeed not reared its ugly head through the entire conversation. “I... guess it’s easier to talk here. Knowing what I know.”

“Yeah, I suppose knowing others have embarrassing secrets too would help,” Ace shrugged in agreement, before raising a finger towards the young man. “In any case, save some of that newfound talent for when you’re out of here and maybe some good things will end up happening to you.”

“Sure...?”

“What’s with the look?” Ace demanded with a smirk, prompting the Third child to go very still. “Oh, I get it. You’re thinking ‘Why is Ace giving me advice?’, aren’t you?”

“I... Yeah?”

“Well, it’s obviously because you just helped me, so it’s only natural that I help you a bit in return. I’m not planning on owing you anything, understand?” the Pilot elaborated, failing to suppress a giggle when Shinji visibly relaxed. She then grabbed hold of his wrist. “But that’s enough talk for today, I think. We should probably head back to HQ now, or your guardian will have me for lunch.”

And before the young man could even speak, the both of them vanished. The stage that had been set up for their conversation remained behind, undisturbed, and would prevail as it was for still a few minutes more, until Ace remembered to tear it down and it returned to being an undeveloped area in the midst of Asuka’s mind.

But prior to that, the grass would be flattened one more time. A red woollen dress appeared from out of nowhere at the edge of the lake, the legs of its owner pressing the green blades of grass against the ground, one fleshy and the other made of cloth.

Without a sound, Maisie turned her attention to the park bench that had been occupied a moment ago, her expression a stony neutral.

The Aspect observed, and she pondered.
Author of a few decent Eva stories, which can be found here.

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

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Re: An Insider's Look

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Postby Gryphon117 » Thu Sep 12, 2019 8:40 am

Chapter 13-2  SPOILER: Show
December 1st 2015, 05:47

‘So! Are you ready for your big moment?’ the girl in the middle excitedly asked her. There were others, but they were shadowed, less defined, almost ethereal when compared to the definition of the young woman before her. Their forms were slumped forward, exhausted, defeated, while hers towered above them all, almost shining with confidence and determination.

‘Is now really the best time for this? What about what happened just-’

‘Of course it is! Now is the best time for it! Celebrations are the things that keep spirits flying!’ she interrupted, effortlessly grabbing everyone’s attention just like she always did. Slowly, a few of the slumped faces rose up to stare at her. ‘So now that we’ve all remembered that, why don’t you give us a big smile? You don’t turn sixteen every day!’

The central figure’s face turned to look in her direction as she asked the question and, through the haze, she could almost see her smile, kind and invigorating. Even then, however, her face remained enshrouded. A fact that had never changed in the hundreds of times that very scene had replayed within her dreams, and one that would remain as such for one more time as the Fifth Child slowly blinked awake from her slumber.

‘What’s up with that? That’s the seventh in three days,’ Mari frowned in thought, her eyes detachedly staring at the fairly familiar ceiling. ‘It’s never been this common.’

In the background, the Fifth Child could hear the all-too-common sound of fingers rapidly tapping against a keyboard at a speed that only a pair of people in NERV HQ could possibly pull off. The rapid typing remained a constant soundtrack to Mari’s contemplation, the girl remaining awake but unmoving until she realised that no clear answer to the constant question of three days was yet forthcoming. With a small sigh, the girl sat up on the couch and stretched her stiff limbs.

“Not getting enough rest, Fifth Child?” Ritsuko Akagi asked, the woman’s attention never slipping from the terminal.

“...Understatement of the century,” Mari replied at the same time that she failed to stifle a yawn. “I don’t need much sleep, but my current schedule is killing me.”

“So I hear. Still, I wish you would not catch up with said schedule on my couch.”

“Can’t be helped, Doc. I have to be ready if I’m needed and sneaking out of the room a second time would be a pain. Hell, sometimes I get the feeling that Ayanami is already wising up on me.”

“Those sleeping herbs I gave you should be more than enough to incapacitate most people but, even then, I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if she did,” Ritsuko concurred, focusing back on her work. “In any case, what was tonight’s emergency?”

“A false alarm. What we thought could have been Ikari making a move turned out to be just a janitor doing some business on the side,” Mari explained with a shrug. “We’re still monitoring him, just in case, but that’s probably going to be the end of that.”

“A relief, I gather?”

“Sort of but not really,” the Fifth Child grunted. “I mean, Ikari has not done much of anything to counter us so far, which is worrying in and of itself.”

“I seem to recall your superiors thinking the Commander completely harmless.”

“And we don’t think he could stop us, that much is true. We expected he would at least try to, though. There is no way he doesn’t know someone’s invaded his fortress by now.”

“Especially considering the current team building efforts involving the First Child,” Ritsuko concurred, giving Mari a curious look out of the corner of her eye. “How did you manage to get his agreement on that?”

“He didn’t agree. As far as he knows the First Child is just doing some extra simulation training to improve her combat performance. There is no mention of the shared quarters or the intent to improve the camaraderie in the squad,” Mari continued, a wide smirk appearing on her face. “And since his usual routine never brings him to the training exercises or Ayanami’s personal quarters we’re expecting that he will remain none the wiser for a loooong time to come.”

“I expected as much. Katsuragi agreed to help you, then?”

“Nah. She proposed her plan exactly as it’s working right now, and regularly reports back to Ikari, just as she’s been ordered to,” the Fifth Child replied with some distaste. “It’s just that the written reports that she sends out and the ones that appear before Ikari’s eyes are not exactly the same.”

The tapping of Ritsuko’s fingers against the keyboard slowed to a stop, and the blonde doctor visibly pondered the meaning of Mari’s words. She turned towards the Fifth Child after a few seconds, a frown decorating her features.

“What do you mean?”

“Curious, are we?” Mari teased, before quickly identifying Ritsuko’s look as one that didn’t care much for games. The girl made herself comfortable, her explanation starting soon after. “Well, I’m paraphrasing here, but the way I understand it, we’re modifying Katsuragi’s reports in the interval between her sending them out from her terminal and the files arriving at Ikari’s. A few seconds tops, with the timestamps also modified so that everything appears legit.”

“...You mean that you’re hacking into and tweaking files travelling within HQ’s Intranet? Travelling through the MAGI?” Ritsuko repeated, a look of sheer shock making it through her usual professionalism. “Even if you might have taken over a sizable part of the MAGI, that’s still... not even I could do something like that, and I know the system inside and out.”

“I don’t know, I’m not tech-savvy enough to say if you’re on the mark or not. I hear Arthur’s pretty proud of his handiwork, though,” Mari replied with a careless shrug. “As much as he can be, anyway.”

Ritsuko opened her mouth to ask another question, but her words were interrupted by a short jingle from the computer, indicating that whatever operations the Doctor had ordered the machine to carry out had just apparently finished. In a flash, Ritsuko swerved her chair around and began to pore over the information she had been presented with, their previous conversation apparently all but forgotten as the older woman’s scientific drive prompted her to try to find a solution to the day’s dilemma. Almost faster than Mari could see, Ritsuko read and analysed the results and discarded useless report after irrelevant bits of data.

Until she stopped. From her seat over at the couch, Mari could see the Head of Project-E suddenly begin to cycle through a handful of files, comparing data and specific reports as a thoughtful look began to grow on her face. She then opened a different program and ran the files she had chosen through it, the results soon coming out as some sort of images. A few more comparisons and Ritsuko’s mouth compressed into a thin line, before she beckoned to the Fifth Child with her free hand.

“Makinami, you should come see this.”

With another shrug, Mari stood up and did as she had been told. Whatever Ritsuko had found was bound to be less boring than sitting around and watching other people work, so in just a pair of seconds the Fifth Child was behind the Doctor and staring over her shoulder.

“...Okay. What am I looking at, Doc?”

“These are synch-test recordings from a few days back. They’re from what was supposed to be Sohryu’s final synchronisation with Unit-02,” Ritsuko leant back on her seat, allowing Mari a better look at the screen. “Tell me, what do you see?”

The screen showed a bunch of lines travelling from top to bottom, occasionally intersecting and swapping places with each other. Mari quickly noticed that they looked remarkably similar to the sonar readings on a submarine, only about ten times as cramped.

“I see plenty of squiggly lines.”

“Those lines measure the brain activity of the Pilot, they’re one of the tools we use to ensure that everything is going as it should during the tests,” Ritsuko tapped two fingers on the keyboard and a different image showed up. “Now, look at these readings, taken from a test two weeks ago.”

“I’d say it’s mostly the same, just a bit more clear.” The Fifth Child replied after a quick look.

“Very good,” Ritsuko complimented, reaching towards a third file with some more dramatic flourish than strictly necessary. “Now look at this last recording.”

The display shifted and Mari frowned, concentrating on the new image that Ritsuko had presented to her. It showed many more lines than either of its two cousins had, enough that they almost completely filled the entire screen, but the Fifth Child still managed to succeed at finding some common ground between the three.

“...I can identify the original lines in there, but there’s a lot more in this one. Did Asuka have a busy thought day or something, or is this the background noise I’ve heard so much about? When is this from?”

“The synch-test before you first activated Unit-01,” Ritsuko replied, using the cursor to fiddle with the display options at the top. “As for your other question, let me get Sohryu’s readings out of the picture for a second.”

The Doctor clicked on a few filtering options and a sizable chunk of the contents within the image disappeared. What remained were roughly half of the original lines, readings that were remarkably more tame than anything Mari had seen so far.

“Very neat and organised...” she mouthed to herself, putting the information together. “Asuka’s were a lot more chaotic in comparison.”

“The Second Child has a troubled history with keeping her focus during extended periods of time. She calls it boredom, but I’m more of the opinion of her suffering from a measure of Attention Deficit Disorder, an opinion that I’ve obviously kept to myself. As such, Maya did the sensible thing at the time and dismissed the extra information as background noise, all too common for Sohryu, especially given recent events,” Ritsuko turned her head, giving the Fifth Child a meaningful look. “Needless to say, however, there is actually much more to these readings than that.”

“And I’m going to go on a limb here and say that the reason you’re making me look at this is because those lines match up with someone we both know.”

“Correct,” Ritsuko very calmly confirmed. “It’s not a perfect match, but the ‘background distortions’ are strikingly similar to the mental wave-length of Shinji Ikari.”

And prompted the Fifth Child to stare at her like she had just grown a second head.

“...You’re kidding, right?”

“I am not. This isn’t nearly enough information to prove definite, but it does provide enough support for a believable hypothesis,” Ritsuko turned to look at the younger woman with no small degree of amusement, probably happy for being the one to dish out the important revelations for once. “Why are you so surprised? I’ll admit that what you described two days ago was nowhere near the top in my personal list of explanations, but we have seen the Angels do stranger things before.”

“Must be a lack of habit,” Mari grumbled back. “Anyway, you’re telling me that all those times that Asuka was spacing out she was actually talking to Ikari? Man, she must have been going at it for a while to make it look so normal from the outside,” the Fifth Child paused, her eyebrows shifting closer together. “…Which begs the question, why didn’t she come talk to you first thing, then? Putting aside the enormous help that would have been for diagnosing Ikari, I know I’d be freaking out if I started to hear voices in my head…”

Mari trailed off, eventually noticing the look that Ritsuko was giving her. It was somewhere between amused and annoyed.

“…Oh, right. She hates your guts.” The Fifth Child remembered, sheepishly bringing a hand to scratch at the back of her head.

“Not only that, considering her... family history, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Second Child dismissed whatever initial signs of her possible cohabitation with the Third as the same symptoms her mother showed after her failed contact experiment. That’s hardly information that she would be inclined to share,” Ritsuko elaborated, her expression turning distant for a second. Whatever thoughts she was having were quickly squashed under her professional mask, however. “Nevertheless, the possibility that the Second and Third Children might be communicating in some manner is not an assumption that we should jump to, we should instead gather more information in order to produce a proper assessment. I’ll get started on an extra battery of tests for the upcoming days that will focus on the both of them and hopefully give us some headway into that,” the Doctor turned her attention back to her terminal, speaking to Mari with half a mind as she got back to work. “On your end, you should try and see if you can surreptitiously trip Sohryu into admitting something.”

“Sure thing,” the Fifth Child scoffed at the idea. “‘Hey, Princess! Did you tell your Sleeping Beauty that you love him yet?’ Think that line will work, Doc?”

“It might be better to make it a bit less overt,” Ritsuko calmly replied, not taking the bait. “The Second Child’s birthday is coming up. You could use that event to our advantage.”

“Oh, right. December the fourth, wasn’t it?” Mari murmured to herself, recalling the reports before she remembered the quickly fading fragments of her dream. “...A birthday, huh?”

“Is something wrong?”

“...No, just thinking of how to best organise things,” the Fifth Child quickly deflected Ritsuko’s offhanded worry. She then took a quick look at her watch, turning towards the door with a grandiose wave. “But that’s all my time for tonight! Thanks for the idea, Doc. I’ll get back to you with what I learn.”

Shenanigans that were barely registered by the owner of the apartment. As the door closed, the lights stayed on in what would be yet another sleepless night for Ritsuko Akagi, but one that the Doctor actually didn’t mind that much, for a change. After all, the mystery that she had just decided to unravel was one worth pursuing.

For many different reasons.
Author of a few decent Eva stories, which can be found here.

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

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Re: An Insider's Look

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Postby Gryphon117 » Fri Oct 11, 2019 8:16 am

I'm back, sorry it took almost a month. General workload aside, this scene ended up turning bigger than I had initially expected, and the fact that I went through half of it a few times until I was satisfied with its general direction probably didn't help my lacking time, either. The next update will likely be faster (I hope).

Enjoy! ^_^

Chapter 13-3  SPOILER: Show
December 2nd​ 2015, 14:25

A finger restlessly tapped against the Plug’s armrest, the rubbery material of the pink plugsuit covering it dulling the sound of the rhythmic contacts into a series of dull thuds. Having her nail exposed would have likely produced a sound far more pleasing to the ears but, in any case, it wasn’t like Mari Makinami cared much for the lacking acoustics of the soundtrack she was absent-mindedly creating.

She was far too bored and annoyed for that, stuck in an Entry Plug as she had been for the better part of three hours, all for a test that wasn’t even meant for her to begin with. She was just along for the ride, offering a bit of plausible deniability to Asuka’s irritated demands while Akagi tried to figure out the Ikari dilemma, a situation that gave her plenty of time to busy herself with her own thoughts, and one that Mari had planned to use to lay the groundwork of her next important task for the coming days. Her efforts so far had been severely unrewarding, however, because the Fifth Child had a single, tiny problem hindering her progress:

She had never thrown a birthday party before. Or, at least, she could not recall having ever done so, especially for someone as picky and ambivalent as Asuka. Every idea she came up with had been swiftly discarded for one reason or another, and not even several combinations of the single ideas she had thought of had been deemed good enough. The Fifth Child was nearing the end of her wit, and all for a problem that, in the grand scheme of things, shouldn’t have mattered much at all.
But it did matter, at least to Mari. She couldn’t quite explain to herself just why it did, however.

“It’s probably due to the same reason why you have taken to calling her ‘Asuka’ instead of ‘Sohryu’ or ‘Second’, like you used to do.”

The Fifth Child blinked in surprise, not having expected the soul within Unit-01 to speak up. Yui Ikari usually kept to herself, allowing a modicum of synchronisation but limiting their uneasy alliance to that, and while Mari didn’t mind the sudden conversation, she did care quite a bit about Ikari reading into her mind.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to pry, but I can only do so much to avoid brushing against your thoughts when you’re being this loud about it,” Ikari continued, placating. “I understand you’re having trouble organising a birthday party? It’s not the busywork I’d expect of someone with your background, but I could help you, if you want.”

‘I must look really lost if the ghost of a person with only a few years of practical experience in birthday celebrations is taking pity on me.’ The girl thought with a quiet chuckle.

“You do look fairly miserable, yes. But in any case, some experience is better than no experience, wouldn’t you say?” Ikari calmly replied, Mari rolling her eyes at the verbal jab. “Besides, you just told me at the start of this farce of a test how Akagi the younger and yourself may have managed to identify my Shinji’s problem, unexpectedly intriguing as it may be. I just thought offering some advice on your current dilemma could be a way of repaying that favour.”

The girl considered Yui’s words for a few moments. She had already hinted that more support towards their joint operations could be a nice way of working out whatever debts that existed between them, but refrained from voicing that opinion again. Ikari surely remembered, and if she had not already jumped at the opportunity there was likely no point in reminding her.

Besides, Mari could really use her expertise with that damn party.

‘…Alright, fine. Pretty sure I’m way beyond the point where I could claim to do this on my own, anyway, and it’s not like Bluebird’s going to be much help,’ she admitted with a sigh. ‘What can you tell me?’

“Nothing concrete yet. I need to know what your friend is like before I can help you. I have a few flashbacks and memories from Shinji to do some guesswork with, but I wouldn’t be a good advocate of the sciences if I didn’t prefer to have all the information I can gather.”

‘That’s fine by me,’ Mari agreed, struggling to hide her amusement. ‘But I can’t help but think that what you’re asking for sounds a bit like a convenient excuse to scout your son’s crush.’

“…I’ll admit that I have some personal interest in her, yes.”


‘Well, then you better take some notes because there’s a ton of information to share.’

Mari took a moment to organise her information before telling the soul within Unit-01 everything that she had managed to learn about Asuka Langley-Sohryu, albeit without going too deeply into matters that could have been deemed too personal: she told Yui about the contact experiment that had followed her own and its consequences, particularly on the crippling effects that it had on the young Asuka’s development. From there, the rise of the Second Child’s issues with adequacy and the measures she had taken to try and remedy them over the years were a simple connection to make, although Mari did try to embellish the harsh truth a little bit by mentioning some of her teammate’s stronger points.

At the end of her explanation, however, the Fifth Child could tell that Yui Ikari was still less than impressed.

‘Yeah, I know how it sounds. I could barely stand her the first few days, too. The constant need to always let you know she should be up there is really grating, and I probably would have given her a piece of my mind if not for the fact that it would have sabotaged my job,’ Mari finished while she gave the smallest of shrugs, careful not to catch Ibuki’s attention. ‘But she’s a good kid at heart. I can tell by now. And let’s be fully truthful here, it’s not like your son is exactly well-adjusted either, you know?’

“None of that justifies some of the things I have seen and heard from Shinji.”

‘No, it doesn’t. I’m just saying we all have issues we have to come to terms with, that’s all,’ the girl continued, her voice growing a bit barbed. ‘Some of us desperately try to find our worth in whichever way we can and some others want to use all means necessary to become an undying monument to the memory of humanity.’

Mari paused for a second, until she noticed the feeling of Ikari almost growling at herself. She continued with a knowing smirk.

‘Besides, I’m not buying for a second that it was all bad.’

“True, it wasn’t. Like I said, she is pretty and obviously adept at leveraging that fact for her own gain. Even then, I’ll admit to having caught a few heart-warming scenes among the blot,” Ikari replied, clearly still cross. “But I don’t believe those make up for the amount of bias you seem to have. At all.”

‘Hey, I don’t care either way, honestly. I'd prefer it if the both of them got through this entire thing reasonably healthy because kids shouldn’t be dealing with the kind of crap that they’ve had to, but everything else is an extra,’ the Fifth Child countered. ‘Just because I’m a sucker for happy endings, you know?’

“Of the kind you didn’t get?”

Despite herself, Mari couldn’t help the sharp intake of air that followed Ikari’s question, the amicable smile that had been decorating her face up to that point freezing in place.

‘Careful there, Mrs. Ikari. You’re playing with fire,’ she warned. ‘I don’t know what you saw, but I don’t see how it could have anything to do with what we were talking about.’

“I just thought that there could have been some correlation with your recent endearment to Asuka Langley-Sohryu and the glimpses of ‘Saya’ I haven’t been able to avoid.”

‘It’s got nothing to do with that. And I thought I told you to stay the fuck out of my brain.’

“I also remember telling you that is something I can’t help, to some degree,” the soul within Unit-01 replied, ever coolly. “But that was an awfully defensive reaction you just showed. Are you certain you don’t want to share more? Psychology is one of my strong points, I’ll have you know.”

‘I’m as sure of that as what I would do to your neck if you weren’t a damn ghost.’ Mari snarled, giving Yui pause for a few moments.

“...Duly noted.” She replied, backing down.

‘Good,’ the Fifth Child continued, her speech easily shifting back to its usual casualness. ‘Let’s get back to the main topic, yeah?’

“Very well,” Ikari soberly accepted the olive branch. “As far as your problem goes, I would advise against throwing a lavish celebration. You might think it a good idea due to Sohryu’s tendency to aim high, but doing so would run the risk of triggering some of her insecurities. She might believe you are mocking her; a small, friendly celebration would likely work best, considering there is a high possibility she has never celebrated her birthday with friends, before.”

‘Yeah, I was already thinking of something along those lines. My issues are more in how to organise the entire thing. People, food, activities. That kind of stuff.’

“The former and latter I can’t help you with, you surely know far more about her social circle and the things she likes than I do. As for the food...” Yui trailed off, considering a few of the possibilities. “Do you know how to cook? Good enough to maybe bake a cake, or something similar?”

‘I know how to make practical stuff,’ Mari replied, a bit embarrassed. ‘But the fancier dishes don’t see much use in my line of work, and I don’t have a sweet tooth.’

“I see,” the phantom acknowledged, amused but not critical. A giggle that made the Fifth Child purse her lips followed before Yui’s speech took on an almost motherly tone, causing the girl to blink in surprise. “Then this is what you need to do.”

>-O]|[O-<​

Asuka stared at the feed from Unit-01 through a half-closed eye. She had opened the channel on a whim some ten minutes ago, intending to talk to the Fifth Child for a bit as a way to pass the time, but had stopped herself from talking when she noticed Mari with her eyes closed, at peace and looking almost as if she were asleep. The redhead had been about to close the channel again when the pilot of Unit-01 began to stir, the girl’s face shifting this and that way for a while, very little at first, but getting more and more noticeable during the last two minutes. Had it not been for her eyes opening, Asuka would have said that Mari was having some kind of bad dream, but since she was obviously not asleep the Second Child’s mind quickly jumped to different conjectures.

‘It almost looks like… she’s listening to someone talk?’ Asuka wondered to herself with a grunt. ‘Don’t tell me she has someone stuck in her head, too.’

“I... guess it could be possible?”

‘Yeah, but let’s not jinx it, Third. It’s probably just some comm from the bridge meant for her ears only.’

Snapping out of whatever thoughts she was having, Mari finally noticed the orange square with a redhead inside of it that was floating in her HUD and happily waved in her direction. Asuka found herself blinking in surprise, her own hand rising into an awkward greeting before she could put conscious thought into stopping it, an action that only made the Fifth Child grin wider.

“Sohryu-san, your mind is wandering a bit,” Ibuki’s voice suddenly broke the spell, startling the redhead into putting her hand back on the controls with more force than entirely necessary. “Please, focus.”

“Yeah, yeah...” Asuka sighed with a groan, cutting off the feed to Unit-01 and closing her eyes. “I’m focusing again, for another two hours... Gods. Why don’t you kill me, already?”

“There, there, Sohryu-san. I know it’s tiring, but keep it up and we will be finished before you know it!”

Asuka was very much doubtful of Ibuki’s optimism, but kept her scathing comeback to herself. She likely wouldn’t have done the same for the glasses-tech or the one who belonged in a rock band, but there was something about Akagi’s mousy assistant that made it hard to be angry at her. Probably the fact that she looked and acted sort of like Shinji.

“Who looks a bit like me?”

‘No one!’ Asuka quickly replied, cheeks flaring up. 'And be quiet! You’re ruining my focus!’

>-O]|[O-<​

‘Leave it to cool for some time, and that’s it,’ Mari repeated as she finished writing her mental checklist. ‘Okay, I got all of that. Thanks for the pointers, Mrs. Ikari.’

“It was my pleasure. And... I’m sorry, I was out of line, before,” Yui apologised, sounding genuinely remorseful. “Years of being inside the EVA have left me out of touch with social pleasantries and limits.”

‘It’s fine, it’s been years since I stopped giving a damn about social convention, too,’ Mari replied, waving her concern away. ‘Just don’t do that again. I don’t expect us to be friends, but I’d prefer it if I didn’t need to be constantly on guard around you.’

“That sort of agreement would probably suit us both best, yes,” the phantom promptly concurred, before she went silent for a moment. “...Can I ask you a question, however? Pertaining to this ‘Saya’?”

‘You have a funny way of sticking to your word, Mrs. Ikari.’

“It is simple curiosity. Feel free to not answer if you don’t want to,” Yui explained as a means of appeasement and, after a few seconds of silence, the soul within Unit-01 saw the lack of a reply as an invitation to go on. “I couldn’t help but notice that, in spite of the central spot that this person seems to hold in most of the scenes she is a part of, there is a remarkable lack of definition as far as how she looked like. I also have failed to notice any indicators that may have shed some light on who this person was to you which, for someone as important as she appears to be I find... strange, to say the least. I was wondering if you have the answer as to why that may be.”

A soft and very short chuckle escaped the backup Pilot.

‘Oh, I do have an answer for you, if you don’t mind it being disappointing,’ the Fifth Child replied. ‘The reason you can’t tell who she was, is because I have no clue who she was.’

“Truly?”

‘Truly,’ Mari assured her. 'Maybe she was family, or a friend or a lover or something, I don’t know. The only thing I remember... or actually, feel, is that ‘Saya’ was important to me.’

“...‘Was’?” Yui echoed, hesitantly. “You have reason to believe this person is gone?”

‘...Yeah, it’s likely,’ the girl tersely replied. ‘And let’s just leave it at that.’

“Oh. I’m sorry if I brought up painful memories.”

‘No worries, you couldn’t do that even if you tried your hardest,’ Mari calmed Yui down with a mental shrug, before an idea suddenly sprang to her mind. A small smirk grew on the Fifth Child’s face. ‘And, well, since I indulged your curiosity, as much as I could, anyway, why don’t you do the same? It’s only fair, isn’t it?’

“...I suppose, for a measure of ‘fair’,” Yui agreed, the sensations at the back of Mari’s mind letting her know that the spirit thought of her proposal as anything but. “Very well, what would you like to know? More about what happened with me and SEELE before my contact experiment, I presume?”

‘Actually, no. I’d like you to tell me a bit more about you and the Commander.’

“...About me and Gendo?” Yui echoed, surprise clear in her voice. “I don’t mind, but why?”

‘It is simple curiosity,’ Mari replied, quoting Yui word for word. ‘What did one of the greatest minds of the last two centuries see in a man like him?’

The sensation at the back of the Fifth Child’s mind quickly shifted into one of stern disapproval.

“I don’t think I like you talking about Gendo like he was a man far beneath me.”

‘Yeah, I guess I could have worded that better. But I’m not saying he didn’t have something going for him, you don’t just waltz into Kyoto U., after all,’ Mari half-apologised. ‘From what I’ve read, though, you can’t tell me that you’re not a pretty mismatched pair. You only need to look at the amount of people who yet affirm he married you only for your connections.’

“‘People’ will always talk without knowing, it’s a basic social defect tainting the entire human race,” Yui replied, the way she almost bit out the words making it clear that the Fifth Child’s claim wasn’t new to her ears. “But I knew Gendo Rokubungi, inside and out. I understood what made him who he was, good, bad and everything in between, and I chose to love him. Just as he chose to love me.”

‘A bit too much, I’d say.’

“A man cannot be faulted for refusing to give up the only scraps of love he believes to have ever received, even if that perception is entirely wrong,” the phantom continued, her words becoming melancholic. “He is, perhaps was now, quite a sweet person, even if barely anyone could tell. I wish I’d tried harder to teach him how to accept that lovely part of himself.”

‘...Yeah, a bit of a shame. Could have saved us and your son a lot of trouble.’

“For you, perhaps. But I don’t think it would have changed anything for Shinji. After all, I know that Gendo loves Shinji with all his heart. Of that, I’m certain.”

‘He has a funny way of showing it, then.’

“He was never the most gifted of parents, that much is true, but that was not due to a lack of trying on his part. I suppose the prospect of raising Shinji on his own, coupled with his apparent obsession with bringing me back, proved too much for him. Hence, why he did what he did.

“But perhaps that was for the best. If Gendo had decided to try and introduce a young Shinji to his plans for bringing me back, try and keep what remained of our family together and focused on a shared objective, it might not have worked entirely to our son’s benefit,” Yui elaborated, clinically analysing the actions of her own family. “Distancing himself from Shinji also kept SEELE from being tempted to use his own son as leverage against him. In truth, and while I realise it must be horrible for Shinji, I struggle to find fault with Gendo’s logic.”

‘Guess we’ll never know, then,’ Mari off-handedly acknowledged, finding herself not liking the direction the conversation had taken, for some reason. ‘What else can you tell me about the Gendo Rokubungi you knew?’

“I can tell you that he composed the most beautiful poems.”

‘Wait, what?’ Mari barely managed to keep her surprise from manifesting as a double-take. ‘Poetry? Gendo Ikari?’

“Yes, Gendo always had a way with words in writing. It was one of the few things he always took pride in, in fact,” the soul within Unit-01 replied, her clinical tone leaving room for nostalgic warmth. “He made it a point to compose a new poem for me each week, and he did so for about as long as I knew him.”

‘That’s a... hard thing to picture. I guess you really can’t judge a book by its cover,’ the Fifth Child blinked, still reeling from the shock. A new development for her previous idea then occurred to her. ‘...Hey, did you have a favourite?’

“Oh, yes, ‘I Promise’,” Yui’s answer was swift, not even needing a second to think about the question. “I made Gendo recite that one hundreds of times.”

‘Any special reason why?’

“Yes, it is the one that he composed for the day of our wedding,” Yui responded, the warmth at the back of Mari’s mind reaching a climax. “Do you want to hear it?”

‘Sure! Now I’m really curious.’

The Fifth Child made herself comfortable in her seat and patiently waited for Yui to begin speaking, and, while her own reasons for asking might have been selfish in nature and meaning little more than to advance her own mission, Mari soon found herself feeling a bit of sympathy towards the phantom as she listened to a lonely woman recite a poem that brought memories of better days past. In spite of how much pain the actions of Gendo Ikari and his wife had brought and could yet bring, it was as obvious as the sun that they loved each other dearly.

After all, and even after more than a decade of self-imposed solitary confinement that would have likely turned any lesser woman insane, Yui Ikari was still able to recite her husband’s dearest gift by heart.
Author of a few decent Eva stories, which can be found here.

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

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Re: An Insider's Look

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Postby Gryphon117 » Wed Oct 23, 2019 11:21 am

Hiya, it's me again. I'm a few days late to the Sunday meeting and I've only brought about half of the lunch, but I hope that the uplifting part of the birthday celebrations will make up for that.

Enjoy! ^_^

Chapter 13-4  SPOILER: Show
December 4th​ 2015, 15:33

It had come out of nowhere, Misato’s invitation to visit Shinji with her. The Major had basically whisked her away after their morning set of simulation training, barely allowing Asuka to get a word in edgewise before they had set foot in the cranial ward. Despite the forcefulness of it all, though, the Second Child didn’t mind that much, she sort of welcomed the respite from the day, in fact. Mari had been particularly hyper all morning and even Rei had been quieter and weirder than normal for some reason, and, while Asuka had begun to grow used to her teammates’ quirks by virtue of their cohabitation, the fourth of December had been different and chaotic enough from the usual routine that she had developed a bit of a headache.

In that sense, the silence of the hospital was a blessing, even if it meant dealing with the occasional warning looks of Shinji’s nurse whenever she entered to check on him. Above all, however, it had been an awkward experience, being able to talk to the boy inside her head while standing next to his sleeping body, a serious and contemplative Misato just a few steps away. Not for the first time, and likely not for the last, Asuka considered telling her superior all about her and Shinji’s shared situation, but chickened out in the end, much to the Third Child’s noticeable disappointment.

He tried not to make it obvious, of course, but Shinji was a pretty terrible actor. Not that she was much better, honestly, since she had already caught Misato stealing several glances in her direction. Obviously, she had noticed her brooding.

Not that being noticed had stopped Asuka from fretting even after the both of them finally finished their visit and resumed the trek back to the apartment. After all, Shinji did have a point: how much longer could they keep on existing as they were without any problems or side-effects? Humans were not designed with the possibility of having their awareness transplanted to another body in mind. Every single day, the likelihood that she could risk Shinji’s well-being due to her inaction nagged at the back of Asuka’s mind, but that fear never proved enough to overcome the fear of what could happen to her should she speak up.

“It’s fine,” Shinji quickly reassured her, noticing the direction of her thoughts. “Misato couldn’t help us, anyway.”

‘...I guess you’re right.’ Asuka found herself agreeing, despite really not wanting to. Then, with a deep sigh, and trying to keep herself from sulking at her own cowardice, she unlocked the door to the shared quarters...

“SURPRISE!!”

...and almost fell on her behind out of sheer shock.

“Hey, Bluebird! You lied!” Mari exclaimed, putting aside a banner that said ‘GO, PRINCESS!’ and turning to her partner. “You said you were going to surprise her with me!”

“I didn’t lie to you,” the bluenette calmly defended herself.

“Well, I sure didn’t hear you, and I’m right next to you!” the Fifth Child protested, hands on her hips. “Come on, once more! But with feeling!”

The First Child silently blinked a few times, looking as if she didn’t understand Mari’s criticism. Then, and with something resembling a minimalistic sigh, Rei faced Asuka once again.

“Surprise.” The bluenette ‘shouted’ in the most deadpan of voices. She then turned her attention to her partner in crime, Rei's usually non-expressive visage betraying some slight irritation.

“I... guess that will have to do,” Mari lamely acknowledged, her face and shoulders sagging a bit.

“What’s going on?” Asuka demanded when it became clear that no quick answer was forthcoming.

“What do you mean, what’s going on?” the Fifth Child then turned to Asuka, her mood doing one of its usual one-eighties. “And turn that frown upside down! Why don’t you give us a big smile, instead?”

“...Why?”

“Why?” Mari echoed, disbelieving. “Isn’t it obvious, Princess? You don’t turn fourteen every day!”

A second of stunned silence filled the room, the Second Child staring open-mouthed at her two teammates right as Misato quietly closed the apartment’s door behind them.

“Wait, today is your birthday?” Shinji asked, just as surprised.

‘I... guess?’ Asuka replied, giving her watch a quick glance. ‘Shit, I completely forgot.’

“H-Happy birthday, then! Sorry, I didn’t know!”

‘It’s fine, Third. It’s not like I remembered eith-’

“What are you doing just standing there like a stunned mullet?” Mari suddenly cheered, dragging Asuka by the wrist and towards the kitchen. “Come, come! It‘s time to ce-le-brate!”

“Hey, slow down!” the redhead protested, helplessly thrashing against the Fifth Child’s iron grip. “Misatooo! Put a leash on her, will you?!”

“Not this time, Asuka.”

“WHAT?!”

“She’s got the right idea,” Misato continued with a shrug. “We should all have fun today. It’s special.”

Reeling as she was from the betrayal, Mari had no further problems ‘inviting’ Asuka to sit in one of the kitchen chairs. A party hat was then produced from out of nowhere, neatly finding its way right between the Second Child’s trademark crimson A-10 connectors.

“B-But-” Asuka quickly patted her head, feeling the foreign object as she struggled to find a way out of the situation. “Oh! What about the training?!”

“The three of you are here, so I see no problems,” Misato swiftly shot down Asuka’s protest, clearly signalling that she was in on the whole thing, as well. Defeated, the Second Child’s allowed the latest of her objections to go without a follow-up, a somewhat anxious grimace spreading over her face.

“Why are you being so fussy, Princess?” Mari questioned, heading towards a carefully covered package in the kitchen. “It’s almost like you have never celebrated your birthday before, or something.”

“Of course I celebrate my birthdays! It’s just...” Asuka shot back, her anxious expression leaving way for a hint of sadness. “...not like... this. And not with so many people. Usually it was just-”

“Kaji...,” Misato finished for her, quickly catching on to the girl’s meaning. Asuka’s eyes then swiftly shot up, managing to catch a glimpse of pain on the Major’s face before she pushed it aside.

“That’s-…" Mari also paused with a frown, her hand hovering over the carefully wrapped package for a few moments before the Fifth Child forced her usual grin back to its rightful place, a shift that Asuka would have easily noticed had she only been facing the other way. “Well, look on the bright side, Princess! This year, you’re celebrating your birthday with three more people! Isn’t that amazing?!”

Having successfully grabbed everyone’s attention once more, Mari purposefully strode back to the table and placed the package on top of it, taking a seat across from Asuka for herself. Rei quickly joined her, having been previously briefed on what needed to be done at that junction, and took one of the seats next to the redhead, a thoughtful-looking Misato flanking the Second Child on the other side shortly after.

Then, after a quick glance to ensure that everyone was ready, Mari carefully put her fingers around the wrapping. With a teasing smirk she held her position for a few seconds, waiting until she could tell Asuka was about to let out an annoyed remark to pull up.

“TA-DAH!” the Fifth Child jingled, unveiling a small and circular chocolate cake. It was a simple thing, the brown tower topped with some fresh fruit in the form of strawberries and blackberries but, still, it looked tasty. The decorative red A-10 connectors on either side of it were more than enough customization, anyway.

“You did this?” Asuka inquired, failing to stop herself from blinking in some surprise.

“Well, me and Bluebird both, and sorry about the quality. I got a bit of help on the side, but I’m still not the best of bakers,” Mari replied with a shrug, before cocking her head in the First Child’s direction. “She isn’t, either, by the way.”

“...I successfully performed my assignment,” the bluenette promptly protested.

“Yeah, yeah, Bluebird, I didn’t say you did a bad job,” Mari quickly offered as appeasement. She then grinned in Asuka’s direction, passing the stunned girl a knife. “Actually, why don’t we let birthday girl be the judge of that? Have a taste!”

And with the way Mari was looking at her, it was clear to the Second Child that her tasting was not up for debate. After all, she wouldn’t put it past the crazy girl to pull out a funnel at the first sign of hesitation and force-feed her like a goose, or something. Asuka therefore chose to wisely, but carefully, take the crimson connectors out of the cake and cut a small piece for herself, before biting a tiny bit of chocolate.

“It’s...” she began, pushing the dessert around her mouth. It was sweet and actually tasted like chocolate which, while not amazing, probably earned the cake a passing grade. “...Pretty good.”

A happy cheer immediately erupted from the other side of the table.

“YAY! Got it in one!” the Fifth Child brought her hands back to the earth and reached out for the knife, cutting what was left of the cake into four similarly sized pieces. “Time for everyone else to dig in, then! And with an extra for the Princess because she liked it so much, of course!”

Asuka’s objections to the idea went predictably unheard, and the four women casually shared the chocolate goodness with some light conversation until there was not a crumb left to be found on the plate. Or rather, Mari talked about their trials with baking the cake while Rei and Asuka offered some comments from the side, Misato remaining surprisingly quiet throughout the whole ordeal.

And then, just as they had finished eating and were about to pick up the plates, the Fifth Child brought a finger to her head.

“Oh, by the way: since this was all set up on a bit of a short notice, I don’t have a present to give you. You know, because we haven’t been able to leave the base since I arrived, pretty much,” Mari said with an apologetic smile. “Sorry.”

“It’s fine. I don’t really care about presents, anyway,” Asuka easily replied, downplaying the Fifth Child’s worries. In spite of the girl’s strong words, however, there was a tiny twinge of disappointment welling inside her.

“Is that so?” Misato suddenly cut in, faking some surprise. “So you mean you don’t want what I have for you?”

“Eh?” Asuka promptly turned to face the older woman so fast that she almost left an after-image. “...You have a present for me?”

“Sure do! Just... don’t set your expectations too high, okay?” the Major elaborated with an evasive shrug. “This is just my way of trying to make up for... you know, all that stuff I’ve been doing wrong. Remind myself of what I need to improve on.”

Not looking Asuka in the eye, Misato put the wrapped package on top of the table. She did so quickly, almost as if it burnt her, and reclined back in her seat to inspect one of the room’s far walls.

Now curious, the Second Child reached out to the small present. It fit snugly inside her open palm, the colourful wrapping giving no hints whatsoever as to what could have been within. Peeking at Misato and finding that she was still doing her best not to look, Asuka gingerly grabbed one of the small bits of tape and pulled it free, repeating the process on all of the others until the wrapping came completely loose. When she was finished, a small brown box remained.

Asuka opened the little box and peeked inside. What greeted her were a pair of A-10 connectors, white with a black line each.

Shinji’s.

“They’re the ones he was wearing when… you know,” Misato explained, giving an awkward shrug as she tried not to look at her ward. “…And yeah, I’m aware it’s a bit of a lame one as far as exciting presents go, but I... thought you might want to have them on hand. For safekeeping. Until Shinji wakes up.”

A heavy silence settled over the kitchen, the Second Child trying to find Misato’s eyes even as the Major did her best to avoid them. A chase that continued for several seconds, Misato nervously fidgeting in place and seeming to prepare for a reaction that... never came.

Instead, Asuka turned her eyes back to the small pieces of plastic in her hand, piecing their story together bit by bit.

‘She must have been holding on to them all this time,’ the redhead ultimately deduced.

“You... think so?”

‘...Of course she did. You really are an idiot sometimes.’

“H-Hey!”

But Asuka's mind was already moving past Shinji’s protest. Slowly but resolutely, the Second Child stood up and walked over to her troubled guardian, putting her arms around her.

“...Thanks, Misato.”

“I… Eh... Anytime, Asuka,” Misato managed, somewhat stiffly returning the hug. “But hey, that’s enough of the downer talk! Did someone say karaoke?!”

A singular cheer came from the other side of the table and Mari dragged Rei to help her pick up and connect a strange contraption which Asuka figured was a karaoke machine. The Second Child watched them work with both curiosity and a bit of dread, but all throughout she remained joined with Misato. It was only when the other two pilots finished and the Major commented that they should go join them that Asuka allowed the older woman to break free.

And again, she felt a pang of guilt for failing to tell Misato the truth. But this time, there was also something else: a speck of courage that her guardian’s selfless gesture had awoken.

‘...Hey, Shinji,’ Asuka thought, startling the Third Child who appeared to have been pensive.

“Uh... Yeah?”

After all, if Misato could set aside her own pain to try and lessen hers, what sort of person would she be if she didn’t at least try to repay the favour?

‘We’ll talk with Akagi, I promise. Right after we’re done with this training.’
Author of a few decent Eva stories, which can be found here.

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

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Re: An Insider's Look

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Postby Gryphon117 » Wed Nov 06, 2019 6:26 am

Update time! I wanted this update to also include the next bit that will be the end of the birthday scenes, but RL has seen it fit to screw over my schedules and I think you guys have waited long enough for the next update as it is. If everything goes to plan, the next snippet should be shorter than the last few, but I'll still need to find the time to actually write the damn thing.

That's something of a Herculean task lately. :um:

Chapter 13-5  SPOILER: Show
“Thanks for the help.”

Misato looked up to see that the Fifth Child had stealthily approached her. She had retreated to the back of the room a few minutes ago when Asuka had finally caved in to peer pressure and picked up the microphone, leaving the girls to their fun while she, as the only adult, spent her time thinking circles of problems both past and present. An effort that had obviously taken a greater part of her focus than she had initially expected, considering her failure to notice the faux-affable girl until she was right next to her.

“I didn’t do it for you, but I can identify a good initiative when I see one,” Misato stiffly replied, trying to keep the surprise from showing in her words. She eyed the Fifth Child carefully, trying to discern if she, too, had a signal scrambler on her person, just like Ritsuko during their last talk. “I’m still keeping my eye on you.”

“Oh, Major,” Mari grinned, meaningfully putting a hand inside one of her pockets. “You’re going to make me blush!”

With an annoyed huff, Misato ignored the bait and focused her attention on the other two Pilots: they were struggling with a song that required two singers, some J-Pop remix of a very old Sinatra classic, and Asuka had her hands full trying to get Rei to properly cooperate. Still, it was clear that the Second Child was enjoying herself, and they were doing a fairly good job for two girls with no actual voice training, too.

But more importantly, they were getting along. Something completely unthinkable a mere two weeks ago and a sight that would have made Misato crack a smile at any other time. But her mind was far too busy thinking to truly appreciate it, especially now that the Fifth Child had joined her. Something about the girl’s recent actions and words had been bothering her for some time.

“Answer me something,” she finally decided to ask the girl beside her, breaking her from her own trance. “Before. Why did you say ‘three more people’?”

“Hmm?”

“You told Asuka that she would celebrate her birthday with three more people this year, but that’s not right,” Misato continued, conspiratorial. “It’s just Rei, you and me here. Minus Kaji that would be two more people, not three. Did you fail basic mathematics?”

For a brief second, Mari looked back at her, her eyes not betraying a single thing.

“Right, that must have been it,” the Fifth Child replied with her usual nonchalance. “I’ve always been a terrible student. You see, the teachers never liked me much, and my daddy and mommy always screamed at each other and made me feel very, very sad and unloved and-”

“This has something to do with what happened to Shinji, doesn’t it?” Misato insisted, smelling blood. “Ritsuko figured something out and then told you about it.”

“I really have no clue about what happened to the Third,” Mari promptly deflected, throwing all pretence out the window as she turned to face the Major. “Besides, I wouldn’t tell you even if I did. I don’t owe you shit. You don’t work with us, remember?”

Misato kept a stony face all throughout, not at all surprised by the girl’s hostility given their previous interactions. Its mere presence still left an important and yet unanswered question lingering about, however.

“What’s your problem with me?” the older woman demanded, her words bringing out a teasing smirk from Mari. “I’m sure that I’ve never met you before.”

“That’s for me to know and you to find out.”

“I could start doing that right now,” Misato confidently shot back, checking for body tells. “I caught how you reacted to Kaji’s name.”

The Major’s vigilance was rewarded when she caught a minor clench of Mari’s hand get through her façade of indifference at the name. A very small thing, but that was proof enough for her.

“...So that guy wasn’t lying. You really knew Kaji, didn’t you?” Misato concluded, pressing on. “Is that what this is about? You think it’s my fault that he’s dead?”

“I think our most promising rookie agent in decades wouldn’t have gotten himself cornered like he did if not for... extraneous circumstances,” the Fifth Child flippantly stated, leaning back against the wall. “Make of that what you will.”

“So that’s a yes.” Narrowing her eyes at the girl, Misato thought about arguing Mari’s claims for a moment, but quickly decided against it. A big argument within earshot of Asuka was certainly not a good idea, and she wasn’t certain that she could help herself while on the topic of Kaji. Instead, she mimicked the Fifth Child’s posture and allowed a few seconds of silence to pass them by. “...You knew him well?”

The lull in the conversation extended for a longer period, against the backdrop of two singing voices that were not quite in sync. Again, Misato lamented how she should have been enjoying that show far more than she was.

“...Well enough.” Mari ultimately replied, right when the older woman began to think that she wouldn’t.

“Where from? You’re a bit too young to be one of his lady friends.”

“I stumbled upon him while in an op in Germany, poking his nose into stuff better left alone. I followed him for a bit, liked what I saw and recommended him for recruitment, acting as the bridge that got him into our little family,” the girl elaborated, no nonsense in her voice. “That was a few years back.”

“A few years back?” Misato echoed, turning a quizzical eye towards her. “...How old are you, exactly?”

“Tsk, tsk, Major,” Mari deflected with a mocking smirk, “Were you never taught not to ask a lady her age? I could add that to the list of things I have to pay you back for, you know?”

“So it’s not just about Kaji, is it?”

Mari found herself blinking at the sudden question, her eyebrows coming together into a frown.

“...Damn, I’m full of holes today,” the Fifth Child chuckled to herself. “This whole situation is seriously affecting my focus.”

“Not something a spy should ever say, right? Are you going to hate me for that one too?”

“More than you can imagine.”

“Hey, why are you two back there?” the familiar voice of the Second Child suddenly intruded into their conversation. “You’re not trying to weasel out of singing, are you?”

Two pair of eyes turned to face the front of the room again, from where Asuka was kneeling on top of the couch and inquisitively looking back at them. The song she had been singing had already finished, its sounds replaced with the catchy tune of the song select menu.

“Never even crossed our minds, Princess,” the Fifth Child quickly denied as she seamlessly slipped back into character, her mask easily surviving the scrutiny of her team leader.

“Hmph. Whatever, I gotta use the toilet,” the redhead declared, pointing at the couch. “You come back here, Glasses. It’s your turn to sing.”

“Hai~!” Mari agreed with her usual flourish, watching Asuka as she went on her way and disappeared through the door to the bathroom. Rei then stood up from the couch not a second later, giving the Fifth Child a meaningful look before she walked in the same direction.

“...Guess she wants me to come, too. Diligent to a fault, that one,” Mari commented to herself, shaking her head in amusement. She then threw one last look over her shoulder at the Major. “Why don’t we leave the rest of this pleasant chat for another day?”

“Wait, one last question,” Misato stopped her. “Are your mechanical pests as dangerous as I think they are?”

“If you already suspect enough to ask me that question, you shouldn’t need to hear my answer,” the Fifth Child replied, amused. “Does your military sense tell you that they would be a sound investment otherwise?”

“No, far too costly for a fancy gadget that only spies on people,” the older woman agreed with a grim shake of her head. “I just find it curious that the people who think themselves our saviours are also willing to hold most of NERV HQ hostage.”

“I’m sure you know how the saying about the times and the measures goes, Katsuragi. Besides, you’re in a perfect position to ensure we never even need to consider that option.”

“Funny,” Misato scoffed, tapping the collar around her neck with a finger. “I don’t think I have much of a choice right now.”

“You will, and sooner than you think. Our preparations are almost complete.”

The new information gave Misato pause, her mind comparing the facts she had gathered about the foreign infiltration team within NERV with the lacking, although still fairly powerful, defensive capabilities that HQ possessed against an outside invasion. The numbers as they were gave an overwhelming advantage to the home team, which did very little to ease the Major’s worries.

“...ETA?”

“Sixty-five hours,” Mari provided with a wide, almost devilish, grin. “Then things will finally become fun around here.”

Misato couldn’t help the tightening of her jaw, the Fifth Child’s smile becoming even wider at the sight. Scenario after scenario passed through the Major’s imagination, each one increasingly chaotic and damaging, as a taut ambience filled the backside of the room...

...and then a tired and very loud groan sounded from the other side of the makeshift apartment.

“HEY, MARI! GET YOUR ASS OVER HERE ALREADY!” Asuka furiously yelled. “Ayanami WON’T LET ME GO INTO THE BATHROOM IF WE’RE NOT TOGETHER!”

Both women looked at each other and raised an eyebrow in unison, the spell of a thousand conspiracies broken like a twig by the shouting of an angry, half-teutonic teenager.

“And I believe that’s going to be everything from me, unless you feel like risking her fury?” Mari said with a knowing smile, visibly struggling to contain a chuckle. Misato, for her part, remained gravely silent, which the Fifth child took as her cue to leave. “Thought so. Ta-ta~!”

And with a casual wave, Mari Makinami stepped away to join her comrades, the Major’s eyes following her every step of the way while she wondered to herself if putting a bullet through the back of the spy’s head could possibly make their situation any worse than it already appeared to be. Misato swiftly squashed the thought, however, coinciding with Asuka’s indignant demands being masterfully turned against her, the Second Child’s miffed replies continuing soon after albeit for very different reasons.

No, she decided. Even if Misato Katsuragi had been the kind of person that would resort to murder as a way to fix her problems, the Fifth Child had wormed her way in far enough that doing so would do more harm than good. Whatever contingencies she tried to come up with would need to be deployed when all the cards were on the table, and most likely not a moment sooner.

Slowly and quietly, Misato made her way out of the apartment. She hated the idea of leaving what was probably one of Asuka’s most important days early, but time was no longer a luxury that she had.
Author of a few decent Eva stories, which can be found here.

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

Gryphon117
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Re: An Insider's Look

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Postby Gryphon117 » Wed Nov 20, 2019 5:45 am

Here's a bit of fluff to end things for the birthday arc. Don't expect this to last. :devil:

Enjoy! ^_^

Chapter 13-6  SPOILER: Show
“Hey Asuka, the day’s not over yet. Why don’t you give us a big smile?”

Asuka tiredly raised her eyes to look at the Fifth Child. The evening had quickly caught up to the group after nearly a full day of celebrations and the redhead was very much liking the idea of dinner and an early bed by that point. Mari looked no worse for wear, however, Asuka preferring not to think which pit of hell the tireless girl had to be borrowing her fountains of energy from.

“I’m starting to get tired of smiling for no reason, you know?” the Second Child snapped back, her exhaustion making the comeback sound more like a whimper. “And where did Misato go?”

“She said she had some important stuff to take care of,” Mari replied with a shrug. “Is it a big deal that she be here?”

“No, it’s just...” Asuka paused, keeping the rest of her thought to a whisper. “I wanted to thank her properly, too.”

“What was that?”

“Noooothing.” Asuka drawled, her head falling on top of the desk with a light thud. She then turned accusing eyes to her glasses-wearing teammate. “…And how are you still so damn cheery? Don’t you ever get tired?”

“Why, I’m just happy to count you among my friends! That gives me all the energy I could need!” Mari exclaimed with a teasing smirk, deflecting the glare with practised ease. “Maybe Piggy-chan will be mad that I stole you from her, huh?”

Slightly taken aback by the words, Asuka blinked in place for a spell. After all, and with Hikari not being the outgoing type, overt declarations of friendship weren’t something that the redhead could consider herself experienced with.

It felt… strange. Nice, but strange.

“…Yeah, right. I bet she’s too busy fawning over her boyfriend to remember little old me,” Asuka quickly half-complained to drop back into character. “I guess I should be happy with getting a message out of her.”

“Boyfriend? Horaki-san?” she heard Shinji ask with clear surprise. “When did that happen?”

A question that the Second Child had no energies left to address.

‘Shush, Third. Maybe tomorrow.’

“That’s not fair, it’s not like she could have made it all the way down here, anyway,” Mari chided, unaware of the conversation at the other end of the table. She brought a finger to her lips in thought. “Oh, and who’s the lucky guy? Do I know him?”

“Trust me. You’re better off not knowing Toji Suzuhara, moron extraordinaire.” The redhead blurted before she could stop herself.

“WAIT, WHAT?!”

“Suzuhara?” Mari echoed, ignoring Asuka’s scoff and subsequent wince. “Wasn’t he the test pilot for Unit-03? The one that got injured?”

“…Yeah, he was,” barely able to mumble her response, Asuka found herself wishing that she could plug her ears against the voice in her mind. Shinji’s immediate pleas for forgiveness didn’t help matters, either, as usual. “Why?”

“Oh, nothing. Just thought I should pay the guy a visit,” the Fifth Child replied with a wide grin. “Wish him a swift recovery and all that!”

“I sure bet he’ll want to recover quickly after five minutes with you.”

“HEY!” Mari protested, with Asuka kicking herself for failing to plug her ears a second time. “That was uncalled for, Princess! Is that how you honour our bonds of friendship and camaraderie?!

“Bluebird!” the Fifth Child continued, turning her authoritative attention to the silent Rei Ayanami. “Say something to her!”

“Why?”

“Because friendship demands action in times like these! Or are you going to tell me that you don’t enjoy our times together?”

“No. They are agreeable,” the bluenette answered with a minute shake of her head. “…For the most part.”

Of course they are!” Mari ignored the last quip, pointing her finger at the First Child. “And that’s why I need you to do as I will tell you!”

And all the while, a pair of blue eyes had followed the proceedings with wary attention.

“What the hell are you plotting now?”

The accusing finger shifted targets back to the miffed redhead.

“I am plotting your punishment! Retribution for the crimes of friendship dishonouring, name-calling and general moodiness during a good-vibe day! Your wrongdoings have been measured and judged, and the sentence has been decreed to be…” Asuka braced herself for anything during Mari’s pregnant pause, her body tensing to bolt out at the first hint of foul play. “Punishment by tickles!”

But nothing could have protected her from the Fifth Child’s feral pounce, Mari flying over the table and leaving the redhead no time to react. Asuka’s chair clattered to the floor and the two girls collapsed into a struggling pile, with the Fifth Child immediately getting to work on her so-called corrective measures.

“Hey, let go!” Asuka tried her hardest to defend her dignity, but Mari’s fingers always managed to pierce through her defences and find her sensitive spots, extorting chortles out of her. But it was also at that point, between giggles, that the Second Child realised something else that made matters even worse. “S-Shit! Your hands are freezing!”

“Oh shush, you big baby! My hands aren’t that cold!” Mari deflected, unrelenting. “I just have bad blood circulation!”

“Yeah! To your brain! Stop it, you idiot!”

“Oh, no, no! That won’t do! There’s still a lot of bad words coming out of that pretty mouth,” the Fifth Child sang, redoubling her attacks. “Clearly, the rehabilitation program is not complete yet~!

And so, Mari’s so-called ‘rehabilitation program’ continued to run for an entire minute, and then another, Asuka’s helpless laughter echoing throughout the apartment without an apparent end in sight. A fact that didn’t stop the redhead from trying her hardest to break free, even if the best of her efforts failed to achieve much of anything, pinned to the ground as she was.

“I… don’t think I should be watching this.” She felt her forced companion mutter to himself, clearly embarrassed.

‘I don’t care if you’re watching! Just help me, Stupid Shinji!’

“How? There isn’t much I can do from here!”

‘Then figure out something!’ Asuka demanded, caring little for how desperate she sounded. ‘I’m dying here, dammit!’

“…No, you’re not.”

‘I’m not?!’ the redhead ‘yelled’, feeling how the Third Child’s deadpan comments turned into a pained wince. ‘I’m so doing this to you when you get back! That will show you, smartass!’

“I have a question,” the First Child suddenly inquired from her position at the table, making Mari pause mid-tickling and giving the Second and Third Children a much needed respite.

“Yeah? Shoot, Bluebird.”

“Does your current activity fulfil Major Katsuragi’s orders for team building exercises?”

A second passed in which both girls shared a look. Then, a feral grin manifested on the Fifth Child’s face just as a look of sheer terror appeared on Asuka’s.

“Oh, yes! You should totally participate!” Mari cheerfully claimed. “What’s more, I order you to! In the name of friendship!”

“HELL NO!” came the loud objection from her victim right after. “Don’t listen to the crazy moron, Wondergirl! Get her off me!”

Shifting her eyes from one of her teammates to the other, Rei weighted both of the answers she had received within her mind. They were opposite to one another, contradictory, and since there was to be no outside interference in their training now that the Major was gone, deciding which of the orders she could trust would come down to her own analytical capabilities.

An analysis that barely took a second.

“What should I do, Fifth Child?” Rei purposefully rose from her seat, moving into position.

“You get the feet!”

“NOOOOOOOooooooo!!!” Asuka wailed as the bluenette expertly immobilised her legs, leaving her fully open for the nefarious Fifth Child to continue her torture. “L-Let me go, alreadyyy!”

“Not until you say the magic words~!” she teased as she made the redhead squirm in laughter with every touch of her fingers. “You just love having friends as good and supportive as us, don’t you~?”

“Y-Yeah! I do! And I’m sorry for… everything I said, alright?!” Asuka finally caved in. “S-So just stop tickling me!”

“But of course!” Mari agreed, stopping the torment. But it was then that Asuka noticed, just as she was about to let out a sigh of relief, that Rei’s pressure on her legs hadn’t loosened up in the slightest. The redhead opened her eyes to find a toothy grin being directed her way. “…In a bit.”

“WHAT?!”

And so the assault on the defenceless Second Child continued for what felt to her like an eternity, but in reality barely pushed past a few minutes before she was truly and finally released from her so-called punishment, the redhead taking a few deep breaths of the sweet oxygen her body was craving in order to calm her beating heart.

She then somewhat unsteadily sat up into an upright position and produced a murderous look that could have destroyed an Angel on the spot.

“Come on, Princess, don’t give me that look!” the receiver of said death-glare tried smiling widely to defuse the ticking time bomb before her. “It was fun! We all laughed a lot, right?”

“You’re. So. Dead,” Asuka ignored her, every syllable out of her mouth dripping with enmity. With a firm movement of her head, she motioned at the unsuspecting girl before her. “Ayanami.”

And before she could react, two pale arms had gently but firmly grabbed Mari by the shoulders, pinning her to the ground.

“Huh?!” she looked up at her captor, surprise evident in her eyes. “H-Hey… Bluebird? This wasn’t part of the plan!”

“All activities must be undertaken as a group for the duration of our training,” the First Child explained, in what sounded like a somewhat amused variation of her usual monotone. “Those are our orders.”

“Oh, I-I see,” the captive remembered, swallowing tightly. “Et tu, Blueb-?”

But before she could finish protesting, the Fifth Child’s eyes were brought to the front: Asuka had moved into position right in front of her, hands poised to strike and looking like the mirror image of a vengeful devil, if only her hair had been on fire. The helpless girl could swear she heard a low and unsettling growl coming out of the redhead, too.

“Uh… I surrender?” Mari tried one last time, hoping to escape the dangerous glint in Asuka’s eye.

A hope that was swiftly squashed when Asuka mirrored the same sort of smile that had tormented her not ten minutes ago, causing one Mari Makinami to question her life choices for the 4th​ of December, 2015.

“Not. Happening,” Judge, jury and executioner Sohryu put the final nail in the coffin of the Fifth Child’s punishment. “Payback time.”

And so ended the fourteenth birthday of Asuka Langley-Sohryu. With various pleas for help and forgiveness that continued well into the night.

It was still the best birthday celebration that the Second Child could remember.
Author of a few decent Eva stories, which can be found here.

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


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