An Insider's Look

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Re: An Insider's Look

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Postby Gryphon117 » Mon Mar 16, 2020 4:29 pm

Sorry these last couple of updates are taking so long to come out, people. Busy days and all that. :uhh:

Chapter 14-3  SPOILER: Show

The Third Child cringed at the sheer volume of the question, wishing that he had been able to plug his ears and keep the strident screech away. His hands were far too busy to do something like that, though, trying to both calm down and covertly push away the angry Pilot with a vice grip on the neck of his shirt.

“Because it wouldn’t have solved anything, probably.” Asuka tried to support him from the side, even if Shinji couldn’t help but notice that his self-appointed assistant wasn’t rushing to his help like she usually did. Perhaps she wasn’t in complete agreement with his actions, either.

“You stay out of this! I want to hear the reason coming out of his mouth!”

“I-It’s as she said. I... don’t like what Makinami did, either, whatever it is, but those people were carrying guns,” Shinji did as requested, fighting back his urge to swallow when Ace’s blue eyes went back to fixating on him. Her hold on the immediate area around his neck didn’t tighten, however, so the Third Child took that as a vague invitation to continue. “Besides, there’s also the problem that we don’t know what’s going on, so... I think we should hear her side of the story, first?”

“Sure. But why not listen to her explanations after I’d punched the stupid glasses off her stupid face?!” Ace demanded, her irritation growing ever worse when Shinji’s look turned doubtful. “What? You got something to say?!"

“C-Calm down, Ace. You weren’t going to punch her.”

“O-Oh yeah?! And why’s that, you smartass? You didn’t look half as sure when you grabbed my arm before!”

“Well, yeah, but... that’s exactly it,” the Third Child elaborated, as carefully as if he were talking to a hungry lion. “We both know that you could have sent me flying across the room if you had really wanted to.”

Ace blinked in contemplation before one of her eyebrows rose above the other, not taking long to realise that the boy had a point. Without a vote that he could influence, there was close to nothing that Shinji could do to stop any of her own initiatives.

‘Which means that I basically exposed myself, didn’t I?’ the redhead thought with a frown, letting go of Shinji’s shirt. Ace then turned around and scurried off to the front of the bridge, mumbling to herself about ‘stupid Third Children that thought they knew her so well’ as she stared at the data on display with rapt attention. Arms crossed and a childish scowl on her face, the Pilot would occasionally throw a covert glance back at Shinji and get caught every time, her comically overblown anger getting worse and worse each time.

The Third Child couldn’t help a small smile at the sight. For all of her bravado, Ace truly was a caring girl.

‘If only these cute moments weren’t overshadowed by her temper...’ the Third Child then thought with a sigh.

“Well, well, that wasn’t half bad. I might have to start calling you ‘Fix-It Shinji’ or something along those lines,” Asuka praised him from the side, a bright smile paired to her sing-song voice. “‘For when you need a problem to just go away!’”

“Haha... I think you’re giving me far too much credit.”

“I don’t think so, you handled that beautifully.” Asuka’s assurances were brief before her tone turned meaningful. “Unless you believe that you’re to blame in any way, shape or form for what happened with Mari?”

Shinji’s smile became hollow, the young man’s eyes turning to look at the same reports that Ace was scanning. Even if the speed at which they scrolled past made it so that he could not tell the specifics of most of them, the negative trend was both obvious and very worrying.

“...I did push for Asuka to become friendly with her. In a way, this whole situation is my-”

“Stop that thought. What you did was perfectly natural and exactly the thing that Asuka needed at the time,” Asuka cut him off, gentle but firm. “Mari just blindsided all of us, no one could have seen that coming. If anything, she should be to blame for taking advantage of your kindness.”

“...I guess,” Shinji admitted, sounding like he didn’t fully believe his own words.

“Don’t guess, be damn sure of it. Buuut I bet there’s something else on your mind, too.”

“Yeah. I’m also worried about Ayanami.”

This time, it was his assistant who couldn’t help herself from flinching.

“...Right, me too,” Asuka replied, all cheer gone from her voice. “I don’t know what that Angel was doing to her, but it sounded horrible. And her EVA...”

The redhead trailed off, both because she didn’t want to finish her sentence and the sound of approaching stomps had caught her attention.

“Hey, what are you two looking all down for?” Ace demanded, hands on her hips. “The First will be fine! She looks frail, but she has survived a lot of stuff already, hasn’t she? Besides, there’s no way one of my Valkyries is biting the dust that easily!”

A sigh escaped Asuka. The girl’s eyes then shifted to the side and noticed that, despite Ace’s best intentions, Shinji wasn’t feeling particularly encouraged, either.

“You could learn how to use a bit of tact every so often, you know?”

“But nothing’s going to happen to her! I’m sure of it! Why waste time worrying about the First when we could be thinking about how to kick that Angel’s ass, instead? I want my revenge, dammit!” A sudden alarm tone brought Ace’s attention to back to the main screen, the Pilot quickly producing a tablet-like device out of thin air. “Oh, wonder what’s... Oh, come on!”

“Something wrong?” Shinji inquired.

“Many somethings! Argh, when it rains it pours!” the redhead grumbled, stomping towards her workstation. “I’ll see you two later.”

“You’re... leaving?”

“Yeah, there are a lot of problems right now, which means that I’ve got a lot of problems right now,” Ace responded, grabbing a few assorted tools from her work area before she noticed Shinji’s curious stare. The Pilot elaborated with a sigh: “Most of the rifts that we patched up immediately after you... vanished, have opened up again. I can’t leave them like that, so I’m going to be plenty busy until we need to sortie again.” The redhead brought a hand up to her head in frustration. “Argh! They’re going to be a pain to fix even with the cynical moron doing rounds, too!”

“Anything I can help with?”

Ace paused, judging Asuka’s unexpected proposal with cynical eyes. It was clear by the Pilot’s face alone and their previous history what she thought of the idea but, eventually, Ace motioned forward with her hand, her mouth set in a serious line.

“...Well, beggars can’t be choosers, I guess. Come with me, but don’t you leave my sight.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Asuka acknowledged, deadpan. “Your massive amounts of trust are humbling.”

“Zip it, brat,” the Pilot shot back. She then pointed an accusing finger back at Shinji. “And you, make yourself useful and talk to us. See if you can bring this whole crisis down a notch.”

“Eh... okay? I don’t mind, but...” the Third Child half-agreed, in a mousy tone that implied he very much did mind. “I’m... not sure Asuka wants to talk with me, right now. She was pretty angry, remember?”

Ace paused in her preparations and turned back around to face Shinji, eyes narrowed into slits. A dangerous smile then appeared on her face, prompting the Third Child to swallow heavily. He already knew where this was going.

Slowly, Ace stepped forward. Quickly, Shinji stepped back.

“You bet she was pissed. But, you know what? I am sure that she will absolutely, definitely and without a doubt not want to speak to the only remaining pillar of stability she has at the moment.” In the blink of an eye, Ace was right in front of the Third Child, re-grabbing him by the neck of his shirt and shaking him like a rag doll. “ARE YOU STUPID OR WHAT?!


“Good answer! Now grow that spine of yours and start encouraging!” Ace demanded, turning Shinji towards the front of the bridge and strengthening his resolve with a swift and loving kick to the rear. “And look a little bit more confident, for God’s sake! There’s no way she’ll believe you if you don’t believe in what you’re saying!”


“No buts! Ayanami will be fine. You’ve known her the longest so just... believe in her!”

“Wow, I never thought I’d hear you saying the word ‘believe’ this many times in quick succession.”

“I said zip it, brat!” Ace swiftly bit out at her other’s cheery quip, before she threw the toolbox in her direction, Asuka barely managing to catch the projectile while keeping her balance. Whatever objections Shinji’s assistant could have had were then promptly squashed by the grumpy Pilot grabbing her by the arm and forcefully dragging her away. “We’re going, Third! Hold the fort until we return.”

“Eep!” Asuka barely had the time to turn around and wave goodbye with her free appendage, her voice quickly fading away from the bridge. “Y-You can do it, Shinji! Just remember, think before you taaaaaalk!”

“Easy for you to say,” Shinji half-complained with a deep sigh when the voice was no longer audible. Still, he knew that, in a way, Ace was right. He had promised to help Asuka in her times of need and nothing would come out of running away from the inevitable, anyway.

With a slow and thoughtful gait, Shinji walked back to his terminal and sat down in his chair. He stared at the mess of reports on the main screen, continuing to scroll past far too quickly for his eyes to truly follow, and propped his elbows on top of the desk, his hands joining together in front of his face. For a few minutes, and as he tried to control the anxiousness that threatened to take over, Shinji thought hard about what his choice of words should be...

...But, as usual, his contemplations were rewarded with no actual ideas about how to deal with a dangerously irritable Asuka Langley-Sohryu.

“...Well, here goes nothing,” the Third Child ultimately decided, running against every warning that his mind was throwing at him. The young man relaxed in his seat, prodded for the now familiar connection, and put on the bravest face he could muster. “A-Asuka?”
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 » Mon Mar 16, 2020 4:40 pm

Chapter 14-4  SPOILER: Show
Asuka Langley-Sohryu scanned the area around Unit-02 with an angry frown on her face, noting for the umpteenth time how nothing seemed to have changed since her last check: technicians scurried all about the gantry fixing the battle damage that the EVAs had received, engineers made sure that those below them in the pecking order didn’t get a moment’s rest, and Mr. Monotone and Mr. Casual continued to stand guard outside of Unit-02, chatting about stupid stuff like they always did in a thinly-veiled attempt to make the Second Child feel like nothing was wrong.

It wasn’t working. She still felt like punching the grin off every single one of their faces. Starting with the Stupid Four-Eyes.


A sudden voice broke the girl out of her bitter musings, a large part of her happy to hear the voice of Unit-01’s former pilot. Asuka got comfortable in her seat and made ready to gladly accept any opportunity to both stave off her boredom and keep her thoughts away from her other teammate, but it was at that time that the redhead recalled why things had been so quiet between her and Shinji for the last hour.

The angry mask returned in full force.

‘What do you want?’


‘Goddammit, Third!’ Asuka cut him off with a snarl. ‘If you say you’re sorry, I swear I’ll find some way to ram my foot up your ass so hard you’ll taste my soles!’

“I’m… glad you sound better?” Shinji finished, perplexed, and the Second Child felt like kicking herself in the brief silence that ensued. Had she really just pre-emptively snapped at the one time the boy hadn’t needlessly apologised? “Since… you know. Earlier you sounded like you were about to-”

‘A-About to what?!’ once again, the redhead didn’t allow him to finish. ‘About to come up with the best way to give that idiot a piece of my mind! That’s what you’re implying, right?’

“…I guess,” Shinji eventually agreed, correctly guessing that the elephant in the room shouldn’t be mentioned. “You do have a good reason to be angry with her.”

‘Ah, so now you’re agreeing with me. Where was all that understanding earlier?’

“It didn’t go anywhere. Do I really have to tell you why what you were thinking wasn’t a smart idea?”

‘And why the hell not?’ Asuka scoffed back. ‘What can they do to me?’

“Lock you in the EVA until further notice, probably…?” Shinji confidently began, before promptly he realised that his hypothetical threat was exactly what had happened, anyway. “Look, I’m not arguing that Makinami probably deserves a… talk at some point. It’s just that…”

The Third Child’s sentence trailed off, causing his host to narrow her eyes at a nondescript point of the plug.

‘It’s just that… what?’

“It’s just that… you know. If you want to… talk about it before actually punching anyone, remember that… y-you can tell me,” Shinji eventually elaborated, stumbling all the way through. At the end, his words took on a blatantly fake cheery tone. “I-I mean, it’s not like I’m going anywhere, eh?”

Something that earned him a raised eyebrow and an almost incredulous remark.

‘…Was that supposed to be a joke?’

“I… y-yeah,” the young man lamely replied, failing to hide his embarrassment. “It was a bad joke, wasn’t it? I-I’m s-”

‘No! It wasn’t…’ Asuka hurriedly half-corrected herself, cutting off the Third Child’s actual apology in the process. ‘Well, actually it was a pretty bad attempt, but it’s just that… I think that’s the first time I’ve ever heard you tell a joke.’

The other side of the connection went silent for a few seconds following the misunderstanding. It was now Shinji’s turn to be incredulous.

“…No way.”

‘Yes way!’
the redhead insisted, almost starting to count with her fingers before she realised it could look suspicious from the outside. ‘I’ve heard you being a doormat, or whiny, or annoying, and more recently a bit sarcastic, but attempts at terrible humour are something new!’

“I… Maybe you’re right,” Shinji agreed, just as surprised himself, before his words began to go down a more sombre path that the Second Child didn’t fail to notice. “It’s just that Kensuke and… Toji always joke around like that when they think I’m having a bad day. It just felt like the right thing to do.”

‘So you decided to bring out the old joke book because I was looking depressed?’ Asuka ventured with a smirk. ‘Wow, I must have been in a really deep dump if you had to take that kind of drastic measures.’

“Not deep enough if you’re laughing at me like that,” the young man grumbled back, the hints of sadness that had been in his voice swiftly overriden.

‘You’re right, I am feeling a bit better now,’ Asuka’s smirk morphed into a wide grin. ‘So how about another terrible joke to make me feel even better, eh, Third?’

And the groan that reached her from the other side only made said grin become even larger.

“…I knew I shouldn’t have opened my mouth.”

‘What’s wrong? Is the wittle Shinji angwy?’

“I’m not angry, Asuka,” Shinji shot back, doing an awful job of not sounding indignant. “And I’m older than you are.”

‘Not where it matters you aren’t!’

“…Whatever.” The young man finally sighed, in a way that made it very clear he was absolutely done with the topic. His voice sounded hard enough that it even gave Asuka pause, the redhead suddenly fearful that she might have taken things a bit too far in her attempts to lighten the mood.

‘Hey, Shinji…’ she began, uncaring for how insecure she sounded. ‘You’re... not really angry at me, are you?’

The two seconds of silence that followed felt like an eternity.

“...No, I’m not angry at you, Asuka.”

‘Good!’ Asuka replied, relief washing over her. The girl’s tongue then continued to work before she could think of stopping it. ‘…I mean, I still haven’t told you… you know...


‘...Thank you. For cheering me up.’

“I... A-Anytime, Asuka.” The Third Child quickly mumbled, before he went quiet for a moment. A few chuckles reached the redhead shortly after.

‘Hey, what’s so damn funny?’

“Nothing. It’s just... I remembered how you said that I’ve never told you a joke, and I just noticed that this is the first time I’ve heard you say... thanks. I just thought it was funny...”

The Third Child’s words gave Asuka pause once more. Was this really the first time she had thanked Shinji? For anything? Sure, they’d had their ups and downs over the months, but there had been some good times in their relationship when the occasional ‘thank you’ wouldn’t have been unwarranted. It was perplexing to realise that it had never happened.

A bit sad, too.

‘...and kinda cute, too.’

Asuka Langley-Sohryu went very still, wondering whether her ears, her mind or whatever part of her body was responsible for letting her interact with the Third Child was betraying her. Had she just heard Shinji Ikari call her ‘cute’? In that weird and wobbly tone that she had since learned meant he had been thinking it? The both of them had grown accustomed enough to their situation that unintended messages going through wasn’t a thing that happened often anymore but, rash implications aside, it was still pretty obvious to Asuka that she had not been supposed to hear that.

“Asuka? Is something wrong?” Shinji’s somewhat startled words at her reaction did nothing but reinforce that notion.

‘No! Nothing’s wrong! H-Hey, so tell you what!’ Asuka banished any further thought on the topic with a shake of her head. ‘Since it looks like we’re going to be stuck here for a long, long time, how about I share with you a few jokes from my repertoi-’

“Unit-02, do you read me?” a voice suddenly intruded into the proposal and Asuka’s expression curled up in disgust, briefly glad that the channel that had just opened was sound only. Ritsuko Akagi wasn’t the person she had been looking forward to hearing from the most, let alone be the one to interrupt her… enjoyable time with the Third Child.

...At least she wouldn’t be able to tell that her face didn’t currently sport its natural colour.

“…I read you. Where’s Misato?”

“Major Katsuragi is occupied elsewhere at the moment, and I’m in charge of bridge operations.”


“That’s great to know,” Asuka replied, quickly throwing all pretence out the window. “And what’s this about? You want to know my status? If so, I’m currently engaged in being bored out of my brain.”

“I see. Hopefully, my request will put a stop to that,” the Doctor continued, unflappable as always. “I wanted to get your insight into the last engagement.”

Asuka’s eyes zeroed in on the floating square, which would have certainly combusted into ashes had it been flammable.

“…What? You’re going to tell me I fucked up?”

“Far from it. The successful retrieval of Unit-00 was not something I had envisioned following the Angel’s invasion attempt. If anything, you surpassed my expectations,” Ritsuko’s praise sounded earnest, a fact that threw the Second Child somewhat off balance. “That is precisely why I wanted to speak with you. I have all the information the MAGI have collected at my disposal, but its usefulness towards forming our next strategy is limited without the input of someone with experience in our brand of military affairs. Usually, the Major would fill that role but, as I mentioned, she is currently busy. Hence, why I turn to you.”

Asuka fell silent, checking the proffered explanation through her Bullshit-o-Meter and not really certain about what she could make of the results. On the one hand, this was her one remaining nemesis in HQ speaking but, on the other, she had received the ever-elusive commendation of her efforts. That wasn’t something that could just be ignored.

“Alright, fine. Sounds important enough, I guess,” the redhead ultimately relented. “Can I get a bathroom break before we start, though?”

“No need. The Entry Plug’s filtering systems will make quick work of any waste within,” Ritsuko’s explaining tone turned somewhat curious towards the end. “You know that.”

“Yeah, I know that,” Asuka echoed in annoyance. “But I also know that the waste I need to let go of isn’t just of the liquid variety, and I’m not going to be breathing LCL that’s been smeared in… that.”

An uncomfortable silence followed, the Second Child imagining Ritsuko’s expression and taking a small amount of pride in knowing that she had finally managed to leave the good Doctor speechless. Granted, doing so with the equivalent of a kindergarten dirty joke wasn’t the most prestigious thing ever, but Asuka would still happily take every victory she could take.

“...Denied. I am sorry, but HQ is not currently in a state that would allow us to send our lone remaining Pilot out of the EVA gantries unescorted,” Ritsuko mercilessly shot the request down but, again, the Second Child was surprised to notice how uncharacteristically cordial she sounded. “After all, it is exceedingly likely that the next time you go up to fight the Angel you will do so on your own. We cannot take any further risks at this point, minute as they may seem.”

The Second Child found herself blinking in silence. Her mind had been so saturated in trying to keep up with all the events of the last hour, that the more direct consequences of said events still had not managed to make it to the forefront of her thoughts. At that moment Asuka couldn’t stop her mind from going back to the last two times that she had faced an Angel by herself and the girl barely managed to suppress a shudder, her need for a bathroom break quickly all but forgotten.

“I’m... really going back by myself?” the redhead’s query, made with a sliver of voice, sounded more like pleading than a request for confirmation.

“As I said, it’s exceedingly likely,” Ritsuko tactfully supplied. “The First Child is in the medical ward and the Fifth Child has gone rogue. Not that the latter’s current state would change anything, considering that the repairs to Unit-01’s arms have an optimistic completion estimate of several hours and...”

The Doctor trailed off into a deep sigh that spoke volumes of her own workload at the time, realising that the direction of her explanation was going nowhere useful.

“...that is precisely why we need you at full combat capacity, Second-” Ritsuko paused for an instant, her following words eliciting a raised eyebrow from Asuka. “...Miss Sohryu. It is no exaggeration to say that the fates of everyone both present and not rest squarely on your shoulders.”

“...Way to pile on the pressure.”

“I am aware of that,” Ritsuko calmly replied to the redhead’s half-hearted snark attempt. “But ignoring the issue at hand would help no one.”

“It really wouldn’t, yeah.” Try as she might, Asuka couldn’t dispute the logic. Instead, she decided to pursue another line of questioning. “…How is Ayanami? Will she recover?”


Doctor Akagi mulled her response for a few moments, excusing herself with a made-up report that needed to be checked. Sohryu’s question was a tricky one to answer; after all, the First Child’s importance to all the parties involved in the great game was far more critical than she could ever imagine, in one way or another. Before any decisions could be made, however, the facts needed to be properly arranged and analysed:

Due in no small part to the swift decisions of her two teammates during the battle, the First Child’s eventual recovery was possible, almost a certainty, even. But not even NERV’s medical advances could waive the extended hospitalisation that such an effort would require, a period of time that, knowing the alternatives, would surely prove far too long for the Commander’s precious scenario. In fact, had he not been holed up in his own office, Ritsuko was certain that Ikari would have already taken steps towards making a new Rei, a copy of the First Child whose last memory backup was nearing its thirty day anniversary.

‘...Far before any of the most recent events,’ the Doctor quickly realised. ‘She would have no knowledge of the Third being missing, no insight as to the changes happening in HQ and... no recollection of ever having interacted with the Second or Fifth in any meaningful way.’

Ritsuko did some quick calculations on what Ayanami’s possible substitution using her current backup could mean for the future, finding little to no positive outcomes that would come from it. After all, Ikari would have his ace in the hole back in pristine condition, ready to do his bidding just as she was designed to. Granted, that specific line of speculation relied on the Commander still being in a position of power when the entire fiasco was over, but even if he wasn’t in Command of NERV and merely a prisoner, there would be little that could stop Rei from taking him to Terminal Dogma when the day came, if she so wished.

On the other hand, the possibility of backing up the First Child’s consciousness before the body swap was also open. Ritsuko was confident that said plan would do no favours to the Commander’s position, but it was hard to tell if the development would be helpful to the plans of her benefactors, either. It was true that the girl had appeared livelier following Makinami’s influences and her self-designated ‘Power of Friendship’, but the First Child was still nowhere near what Ritsuko would call autonomous and a decision to carry on with her purpose when the time came was still a very real possibility.

‘In that light, the elimination of the variable makes the most pragmatic sense,’ Ritsuko considered, her mind going back to the first time she had properly spoken to her benefactors. ‘Destroy all the clones and either keep the First Child under heavy sedation for as long as necessary or... kill her under the guise of a worsening medical situation.’

And it wasn’t difficult for the Doctor to predict what course of action Legion would likely decide on: Unit-00 had been damaged to the point that repairs made no practical sense, turning its former Pilot into little more than a liability for them. Makinami would likely object to her elimination, but whether her opinion would be influential enough, especially after the day’s events, was a difficult variable to ascertain.

‘But, perhaps, if Makinami’s position could be reinforced in some manner...’

Ritsuko’s eyes came to rest on the psychograph of Asuka Langley-Sohryu. The chaos within had barely subsided in the last few minutes and it was very unlikely that it would do so on its own before the Sixteenth resumed its advance. Even if it did, news of the First Child’s demise would be very likely to worsen their only active Pilot’s mental stability, leaving her open for another downward spiral in the future and headquarters defenceless against the Seventeenth’s eventual arrival.

‘That alone should be a fairly compelling, if risky, argument in favour of sparing Ayanami’s life,’ the Doctor determined, somewhat amused at the contrarian conclusion that she had reached. It wasn’t one that she would have even remotely considered two months ago. ‘...Good grief, Ritsuko. When did you become so damn sentimental? Did Sohryu’s struggles get to you that much, or was it Makinami’s silly team building exercise, the reminder that these are kids we’re dealing with that finally did it?

‘In any case, whatever you decide to do, the window of opportunity to act is now.’

“...The diagnosis has been positive,” Ritsuko finally replied into the open channel, startling the Second Child if her gasp was to be any indication. “The First Child will make a full recovery.”

“Eh?! That’s... great! Yeah, great!” Sohryu happily exclaimed, prompting the Doctor to raise an eyebrow in slight surprise. The young Pilot then continued to herself, in a volume of voice that she probably thought inaudible to those on the other end of the line. “...Fine, then. I just have to kick that asshole Angel’s non-existent butt so that Ayanami can take her time to recover. Then we can both go and kick that other idiot’s butt. Teach her a lesson she won’t forget.”

Ritsuko pretended to not hear Sohryu’s more confident sounding mutterings, choosing to instead take another look at the psychograph readings: they appeared a bit more stable. The variation hadn’t been massive and likely wouldn’t have a great effect in the coming battle, but looking at the situation they found themselves in, Ritsuko was more than willing to skew their odds by even the most marginal of amounts. Anything to see another day.

Satisfied, the Doctor left the Second Child to her own devices for the moment. There was still one more thing that needed to be done, and only one person she trusted to properly take care of it.

“Maya,” Ritsuko whispered into the ear of her protégé, making her jump a little bit. “There is something I need you to do.”
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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