An Insider's Look

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Gryphon117
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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
“WHY DID YOU STOP ME?!”

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?!

“Y-Y-Yes?”

“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!”

“But-”

“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-Asuka?”

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?’

“I’m-”


‘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.”

‘Wonderful.’


“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?”


>-O]|[O-<​


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

Gryphon117
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Re: An Insider's Look

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Postby Gryphon117 » Fri Apr 24, 2020 9:35 am

Well, it's been a while. I'd like to say that this update took so long to write because working from home has wrecked my usual routine but, even if there is a bit of truth to that, late March/early April being a very good month for gaming likely has had a lot more of an impact on my tardiness. Needless to say, a lot of hours have been recently spent in worlds completely unrelated to EVA. Also, I watched the last season of JoJo too and I can't say I was particularly impressed by it, to be honest.

In any case, I'll try to have the next update not take a full month to come out.

Chapter 14-5  SPOILER: Show
It was three hours after the Angel disengaged that the invading forces made it into the command room, carrying combat shields and primed guns fully ready for a fight that never happened. Following Major Katsuragi’s directives to the letter, none of the techs and engineers present in the gargantuan room dared to waste their lives on a doomed battle and raised their arms in surrender, many of them pre-emptively so when the presence of soldiers on the other side of the door became obvious. Such a show of submission didn’t stop the sergeant in charge from barking orders at everyone, however, making certain that everyone present remained sitting and still and that the soldiers in their command drop their guard for a single moment.

The tense minutes that followed came to a stop with the arrival of a second group, the leading figure ordering the soldiers to lower their weapons and motioning for the rest of their retinue to follow in the climb to the command room’s main floor. The second group of soldiers struggled to carry a large coffer up the stairs, panting and growling obscenities under their breaths until they set it down at its destination with a heavy thud. Without a hint of pity for the plight of their grunts, the officer in command, a Lieutenant by what looked to be UN military rank markings, ordered the coffer open and its contents assembled. Finally, the officer turned to regard Ritsuko.

“We need a connection to the MAGI,” they plainly stated in heavily accented English, and Akagi’s otherwise patient expression shifted by a raised eyebrow.

“What for?” she replied in her own personal version of the language. “I was under the impression that you already had one.”

“We need an actual connection, a physical one. It will be necessary for the new Commander to properly take over.”

“Hmm. That thing inside the box is this so-called ‘new Commander’, I presume?”

“Yes, it is. It’s good to see that your genius wasn’t exaggerated,” the officer shot back with battle-weary sarcasm. “But if you’ll excuse me, Doctor, I’m not here to answer your questions. Unlock the MAGI, and I’m sure that the Commander will be more than willing to chat with you.”

“Very well,” Ritsuko agreed, refraining from voicing a scathing comeback. “But first, I will ask that you take off your helmets. UN markings or not, hiding your identities is making the crew more restless than they already were.”

The Lieutenant scanned the crowds for a moment, finding to no real shock that everywhere their eyes went the civilian technicians would quickly look away or do their best to hide under their desks without appearing too obvious, if they hadn’t already gone into hiding from the very beginning of the breach. Akagi had a point, and their orders were very specific about keeping good relations with the residents.

“...Fair enough,” the officer eventually agreed with a hint of annoyance in their voice. They then took off their helmet to reveal a hardened woman’s face in her late twenties or early thirties, with hints of pale blonde in her military style haircut and a piercing gaze of icy blue. Her rough features and demeanour spoke of a likely origin in the Baltic hot zones, or perhaps even further east into Russia. The rest of the soldiers present followed suit, revealing a multitude of ethnicities and skin colours from all over the world behind the armoured visors, as well as a wide range of satisfaction with the order to lay bare.

“I am First Lieutenant Tasha Zakharova, UN Special Ops detachment. We apologise for the way we entered, but we couldn’t take any chances considering the situation,” the newly unveiled Lieutenant spoke, as soothingly as she could muster. It was clear that she wasn’t a people person. “The Commander will elaborate further on the day’s events, but I want to stress that no harm will come to any non-combatants present in the base. Our business is solely with the transgressions of Commander Ikari and Sub-Commander Fuyutsuki.”

The words, delivered without a microphone or any other voice amplifying device, contributed to their feeling of power by echoing slightly throughout the gargantuan chamber. The placating message, however, was not lost on those crew who were somewhat fluent in the English language, the not so gifted companions turning to those who had understood for clarification. Before long, the people who had barricaded themselves behind their terminals slowly began to come out, the process helped by a few friendly waves from what appeared to be the more outgoing members of the invading group, and some degree of normalcy returned to the work of the command room. The wariness remained, but a faint sense of relief was steadily returning to the room. Satisfied, Tasha turned back to Akagi.

“Now, about the MAGI?”

The Lieutenant’s line was more a demand than a question. Her patience was clearly wearing thin, a fact that caused Aoba and Hyuga to unsubtly shy away from the overbearing foreign newcomer. They then wordlessly asked for direction from the only person in the room that continued to appear unfazed by the entire situation.

“Open it up,” Ritsuko acquiesced, motioning with her head towards the long haired bridge operator. “And Aoba, please help these nice people take care of their business down there, will you?”

The guitar-loving man visibly cringed, but accepted the orders without further protest. He keyed in a command in his terminal before stepping down towards the lower levels with a small retinue of soldiers, the three towers of the MAGI slowly rising up in the background. Tasha followed them with her eyes, a deep scowl forming on her face.

“My technicians are skilled enough to work on the MAGI without a chaperone.”

“Absolutely out of the question. Even if it weren’t a supercomputer unlike any other in the world, the MAGI is an irreplaceable family heirloom. I will not allow anyone to tamper with it without supervision. Will that be a problem?”

“...I suppose it can be allowed.” The Lieutenant relented, quickly identifying a battle that she wasn’t going to win. She quickly ordered a pair of soldiers in the background to begin the setup operations and, before long, metres of cabling began to be placed along the route to the MAGI. Tasha left her troops to their work and hardened her gaze to look once more upon her temporary kingdom, quickly going back to a discrepancy in her reports that she had identified as soon as she arrived at the top floor. “One more thing, Akagi.”

“What is it?”

“I was under the impression that the upper echelon of the bridge crew consisted of three people, however, I can’t help but notice that only two men are up here,” Tasha motioned meaningfully to the empty seat in the centre. “Where is the last person?”

Ritsuko followed the Lieutenant’s hand to Maya’s vacant terminal, then turned back to supervise the MAGI with a careless shrug.

“Oh, the third one is currently running an errand for me.”

“Is that so? What sort of errand?”

“The sort that won’t prove to be any kind of hindrance whatsoever,” the Doctor replied without an answer, moving to check her watch. “In fact, I’d expect that you will hear from her shortly.”



>-O]|[O-<​



Maya’s hands shook as she checked the First Child’s straps to make certain that she was still firm and stable in the wheelchair. Taking Rei out of the hospital wing had not been difficult once the doctors in charge of the First Child heard that she was on Ritsuko’s orders, but even with a blanket draped on top of the girl’s unconscious body to hide her identity, walking around the occupied hallways of NERV HQ had the young woman very on edge. No soldier so far had questioned her explanations while she was in the medical ward, but now that she had left that area their stares had turned more inquisitive and their hands had travelled closer to their guns...

...or that was the impression Maya got, anyway. She had never enjoyed the thought of weapons in the first place and having so many of them around her during the last hour had done little good for her sanity.

“O-Okay, calm down, Maya. Your heart’s about to burst, but you’re doing this for Senpai and for Rei-chan,” Maya used her breather to take a peek at the state of her patient beneath the blanket. She was still heavily sedated, the rhythmic rise and fall of her chest as she breathed proving the only sign of life, and the tendrils that had appeared during the Angel fight, even if apparently dormant, had not receded at all. Knowing her Senpai as she did, Maya already had a feeling that she had been lying through her teeth during her conversation with Asuka, but seeing Rei’s pitiful state firsthand... Maya just couldn’t imagine what her Senpai could possibly do to keep her word. “...Hold on just a little bit more. I will get you to that place Senpai talked about and then... and then she will make it all better, I promise.”

Her convictions reignited, Maya allowed the blanket to fall back in place and resumed her journey. It was only a couple of minutes later that the young woman arrived at the intersection that would lead her to one of the restricted elevators going further down, from where she could hear the faint sounds of a conversation. It was likely a checkpoint, she reasoned, before Maya steeled herself and stepped down the hallway.

It wasn’t long before she was spotted and made to stop by two large men.

“Sorry, miss, but this area’s restricted,” one of the soldiers firmly stated while stepping closer to her, his teammate keeping a close eye on Maya. “I’m gonna have to ask that you come with us.”

And, just like that, Maya’s fragile determination crumbled under the sight of the soldier walking towards her, their weapons not pointed at her but ready to shoot in the case that she did something suspicious. Or something that could have been taken as suspicious. Or something that could have accidentally been misunderstood as suspicious.

“I’m...” the young woman stumbled, her eyes never leaving the man’s rifle. “I-I’m...”

“Miss, are you alright?” the soldier inquired, identifying where Maya’s eyes had travelled and quickly putting his hands up in a placating gesture. “Look, I know this is intimidating, but we’re telling you to come with us for your own good. It could get dangerous out here and...”

The man continued his attempts at soothing Maya, but she wasn’t listening, her eyes still glued to the gun. How close had they gotten to these soldiers shooting their rifles at everyone in sight? How close could they still get to that? How likely was it that she would still... have to shoot at these people, too? Could she force herself to pull the trigger when the target was flesh and blood and not some paper outline of a person?

The soldiers sounded fairly young, likely no older than thirty, but Maya suspected that they wouldn’t have the same qualms that she did if the need arose. But it was then that it hit her: her Senpai’s decision had been to entrust Maya with a way of making that terrible possibility less likely to occur. She couldn’t disappoint her, she couldn’t disappoint Rei-chan and, perhaps more importantly, she couldn’t disappoint herself. Closing her eyes, Maya forced herself to break contact with the man-made tool for taking lives and took a deep breath.

“I-I’M HERE UNDER REQUEST FROM DOCTOR RITSUKO AKAGI!!!”

...

“...Ouch,” the soldier cringed, turning towards his teammate when he made sure that his ears still functioned. “Ritsuko Akagi? Isn’t she that big shot scientist we were told to keep on side?”

“That’s her, alright,” the other soldier confirmed, motioning with his head towards the wheelchair. “Does the person under that have anything to do with your request?”

Maya slowly nodded, still too spent for words.

“Then we’re gonna have to take that blanket off. I’m sure you can tell why.”

Maya nodded again and reached for the bottom of the blanket, slowly pulling it back until it was gathered at the back of the wheelchair and Rei was fully visible.

“That’s one of the Pilot kids,” the soldier that was closest quickly identified her. “The First, I think.”

“Rei-chan’s badly hurt,” Maya confirmed, her voice still shaky. “The doctors are having trouble treating her, s-so Senpai asked me to bring her to another laboratory she has further down into the Geofront. So that she can... heal her.”

“And how’s she gonna pull that off? Poor girl looks like she has a tree growing out of her!”

“That’s none of our business, but this does look important. Hold on for a second, please,” the second soldier stated, reaching for his radio. “Ma’am, this is Corporal Hamill at checkpoint Alpha-12? There’s a woman here asking to pass through to the lower levels, she claims to be under Akagi’s orders. She’s got the First Child with her, in a wheelchair. What should we do?”

A few moments of silence lingered while the soldier eyed Maya, listening to the words from the other side of the line.

“Yeah, shortish black hair, petite. Cute thing, really, her nametag has ‘Ibuki’ on it,” the soldier relayed back. “I take it you know her?”

A quick pause, and the man agreed to something with a brisk nod.

“Roger that, I’ll take care of it,” he finally replied, ending the call. “You can pass on through, but I’ll be coming with you. Will that be a problem?”

“No! I... I don’t think so, at least.”

“Good, then let’s hurry.”



>-O]|[O-<​



Not a second after her non-response, Ritsuko saw the Lieutenant react to a message on her radio. The usually intimidating woman blinked in confusion for a moment, before fixing her disbelieving stare on the head of Project-E.

“Is something the matter?”

“...I was just told that Maya Ibuki has been spotted at a checkpoint and is now being escorted to the depths of Terminal Dogma,” Tasha relayed back, still surprised. “Are you a psychic or something?”

“Better, I’m a Jedi.” Ritsuko replied without missing a beat.

A second of silence followed the deadpan delivery, Hyuga breaking down into giggles in the background shortly after.

“Maybe so,” the slightest rise of a corner of Tasha’s lips indicated that the woman did indeed have a sense of humour. “In any case, Agent Morgan sends her regards.”

“We’re almost done over here, ma’am!”

Both women turned to the reporting soldier, Ritsuko quickly noticing how the contents of the coffer had been assembled into a pyramidal device with a sphere on top, equipped with what appeared to be cameras and other information gathering equipment. Several cables ran from the base of the pyramid to the three towers that made up the MAGI.

“Good. Flip the switch, then,” the Lieutenant ordered, her underlings not quite literally starting the process of connecting the device. A few moments and blinking status lights later, the sphere on top whirred with life and began to move in its pedestal.

“Connections established. Video and audio feeds working at full efficiency. Currently running a background check on the quality of the link with the MAGI. This will be followed by an in-depth analysis of the information stored in the MAGI as well as a test of my control of NERV HQ’s functions,” a familiar, neutral male voice reported, before the sphere rotated to the right and towards Ritsuko. “It is good to see you again, Doctor Akagi.”

“I thought it might be you,” Ritsuko dispassionately replied, implying that the feeling was not mutual. “I have to question the need to bring this large device into the command centre, though. You could have used the room’s speakers to make your entrance without being anywhere near as obstructive.”

“Perhaps so, but some speeches are better delivered personally. I deemed a new alliance to be one such case.”

“What are you talking about?” One of Ritsuko’s eyebrows rose above its twin. “You’re still hiding behind an interface, there’s nothing personal about this...”

The doctor’s words trailed off, her mind quickly connecting Arthur’s bizarre comment with some other strange details she had noticed in the past: his penchant for hiding behind speakers or other people. His overly polite and unnatural way of speaking, coupled with his calm and collected demeanour. The manner in which he had managed to hack into the biggest and most secure supercomputer in the world with a simple backdoor access, with the best computing experts in all of Japan being none the wiser about his movements...

A lot of Arthur’s feats and idiosyncrasies had not seemed human to Ritsuko for a long time, but the worst of her suspicions had been dispelled when Legion’s love for cybernetically augmenting the human body became apparent, only to rise back up in full force at that very moment. After all, it was hard to ignore the likely evidence staring her straight in the face.

“Wait a minute... You’re-!”

“I am Arthur,” the new Commander gently interrupted. “It would be exceedingly rude to call me anything else.”

“It’s... self-aware? How did you-?” Ritsuko demanded of the calmly spectating Lieutenant, her voice rising a few octaves despite herself. “No! Why did you create a self-aware AI?! Are you people insane?!”

“As I said, Doctor, you’re being exceedingly rude. Even if I’m aware that, as a member of the sole intelligent species in the planet, it must be daunting to meet someone like me,” Arthur continued, conciliatory despite his words. “To put some of your fears to rest, however, I will have you know that I am the only one of my kind, and that I have no interest in the annihilation of the human species, despite what popular culture may believe.”

“That’s...” Ritsuko gritted her teeth, letting out a sharp release of air at the AI’s lacklustre attempt at humour. “That’s reassuring, but it’s still barely even the tip of the iceberg regarding the issues I have with this... development.”

“I am certain that your remaining reservations will vanish once we get to know each other a bit better, now that we will have ample time to do so.” The AI’s camera focused on the bridge crew and Ritsuko in turns, speaking to all of them. “Nevertheless, I would prefer if my true nature was kept to this small circle for the time being. Reassuring everyone in NERV HQ about my non-genocidal intentions would require a vast amount of resources better allocated elsewhere. I am sure you understand.”

“I understand, alright,” Ritsuko gruffly agreed. “You don’t need to state the obvious.”

The agreement of one party secured, Arthur’s attention shifted to the remaining two. Hyuga and Aoba shared an uncomfortable glance, before they nodded with a sigh.

“Damn, today keeps getting crazier and crazier,” the long-haired bridge man moaned, reaching for the bridge of his nose. “Fine, our lips are sealed. What about Ibuki, though?”

“I will personally brief Miss Ibuki on the situation when-”

“No, thanks,” the head of Project-E interrupted. “I will do it myself.”

“...As you wish, Doctor. And thank you, I appreciate your collaboration.” Arthur’s eye turned towards Tasha. “Lieutenant, please regroup your troops on this floor and have them form up around us. It is time we properly introduced ourselves.”

With a brisk nod, Tasha stepped forward to Maya’s empty workstation and grabbed the attention of the soldiers under her command, motioning for them to rendezvous with her post-haste. The troops did as told and quickly formed a semicircle around Arthur’s pyramid, dozens of still anxious eyes following their movements until the main screen of the command room changed to a panoramic view of the main floor, with Arthur in the middle of it. Curious murmurs erupted at the sight of the strange device that most present had only caught a short glimpse of.

“Good evening, everyone,” the faux-man began, all conversation in the room quieting down in quick succession. “My name is Arthur, and I am here under the authority of the United Nations joint committee. As they previously stated, the fine men and women behind me are part of the United Nations military arm, and directly under my supervision. First of all, and before I go into the reason behind our presence here, I would like to congratulate and extend our deepest thanks to all of you, for your courage and determination on the frontlines of our fight against the Angels. Doubly so for the brave Evangelion Pilots that make up the first and last line of defence and who have sacrificed more than any of us. I hope that knowing that the rest of the world can rest easier because of NERV’s combined struggles at the walls can make those sacrifices bearable.”

A familiar scoff filled the audio waves, clearly signalling that the Second Child had also been invited to the speech, but no witty or disparaging remarks followed. Sohryu either wanted to hear what the invaders had to say for themselves, or realised that throwing one of the tantrums she had been infamous for would serve no purpose. Either way, Ritsuko approved of the girl’s choice.

“But, as much as it pains me to say so, not everyone in NERV HQ shares the same valiant spirit that you have. Not everyone has remained loyal to the directives bestowed upon NERV by the United Nations, by the entire world, choosing instead to corrupt our righteous struggle and use it to serve their own selfish desires, the wants of a group that your leaders, Gendo Ikari and Kozo Fuyutsuki, serve without question. It is through that serfdom that they made you secretly complicit to this perversion of your mission, planning to use our fight as a means to enslave all of humanity under the yoke of a ruling few.”

The murmurs rose anew, disbelief and scepticism in equal measure. It was true that the Commanders weren’t very well-known or particularly loved by their staff, but thirteen Angel attacks and over half a year of war, more than that for most of the people in HQ, had been spent under their command. They were a great part of the reason why NERV HQ still stood, and the denouncing of an invading army didn’t appear to be sitting well with a big part of the personnel who understood that fact.

“World domination?” Aoba muttered to himself, just loud enough for Ritsuko to overhear. “Really?”

“I am aware of the gravity of my accusations, but it is because of that same severity that we didn’t act sooner, and made certain to come prepared. In fact, now we are more than ready to lift the long-lingering veil of secrecy from your eyes, and fully intend to do so.”

The lights in the gigantic room dimmed slightly, bringing the attention of everyone present to the main screen once more. The panoramic view of the invading forces faded and, instead, a number of files began to appear on screen, the clearly visible access path marking them as data buried deep beneath the most secure layers of the MAGI.

“Brave ladies and gentlemen of NERV, heed my words: today I would tell you about the Human Instrumentality Project.”
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 » Mon May 25, 2020 3:59 am

Hey, back with the start of another chapter. Nothing much to say about this one, other than that we'll soon be going back to dealing with Armisael soon. I'm sure the poor alien tentacle is tired of waiting by now. :uhh:

Enjoy! ^_^

Chapter 15  SPOILER: Show
The office of Commander Ikari looked the same that day as it had any other, darkness easily winning the battle against the light that filtered through the massive window panes in the back of the room. Two men waited side by side inside of the poorly lit chamber, one sitting and one on his feet, giving credence to the long lasting rumours within HQ stating that staring menacingly at the far wall was everything they did while alone in the office.

But silly falsehoods were far from their minds at that moment in time, for a different battle had been raging for the last few minutes just outside of the office, the invaders clearly having succeeded at pushing past all of the blockades and into the heart of HQ. The two Commanders of NERV remained tall and proud in spite of the encroaching crisis, however, the sounds of ricocheting bullets and fired explosives failing to make them budge even a single millimetre.

The gunfire then stopped, suddenly and without much fanfare, faint groans and voices becoming audible in the distance. It appeared that the war situation inside NERV HQ had developed not necessarily to the local forces’ advantage.

“Knock, knock~!” a bright voice confirmed as the doors were violently thrown wide open. “We’ve got an urgent message for one Commander Ikari and one Sub-Commander Fuyutsuki~! I hope you’ll forgive the mess we made on our way here, but some very rude people wouldn’t let us pass. The nerve of them! And we even brought pizza, too!”

“So you do.” The Sub-Commander drily provided, his eyes looking past the soldiers and at the scene that could be barely seen in the hallway. Fate had not been kind to the Section-2 agents that had been stationed as the last line of defence, despite their preparations. “Dispense with the pleasantries. What are your demands?”

“No fun and all business, I see. Keep that up and you’ll get some early wrinkles... although I guess it’s a bit too late for you already, professor! Oops!” Mari’s reply was cheerfully fake, the young woman raising her handgun to the two men. “And as for me, I’d be more than happy to put a bullet in your foreheads for all the shit you’ve done, but I don’t get to call the shots, as it were. Lucky you.” She then allowed the weapon to drop back down when she considered the message clear, continuing in a more businesslike tone. “Instead, I come with a generous offer: collaborate with us in bringing down SEELE, and we’ll ensure that whatever sentence you end up with at the end of this will be reduced, depending on your efforts and within reason, of course.”

“Generous indeed. Is that the sort of offer you recruited Akagi with?”

“Yes. Although, honestly, she didn’t even need that much incentive to stick the knife in your backs. I bet she would have done it for free if we’d asked! She was really, really angry for some strange reason...”

The old professor’s eyes shifted meaningfully to stare at his co-conspirator’s back, the urge to repeat the words ‘I told you so’ no doubt proving hard to contain. In the end, however, he managed to avoid the obvious bait, settling into his usual posture.

“We appreciate your kindness, but refuse.” It was Ikari who replied next, cool as ice. “The old men and their plans are of no consequence to us, and our own goals are unlikely to align with yours. We stand to gain nothing from submission.”

“You stand to gain nothing from opposing us to the bitter end, either, but I won’t be the one to complain about this turn of events.”

“Do not believe you’ve won,” Ikari growled at Mari’s careless shrugging. “Your hold over this base will be tenuous at best, to say nothing of your chances against the old men. We will have our opportunity.”

“Big words coming from the defeated, but I believe we will take our chances. And I wasn’t talking about our takeover, by the way,” Mari elaborated with a vicious smirk. “Rather, I was referring to the fact that your objective is unachievable, because your objective herself doesn’t care for your success.”

Gendo Ikari’s hands tightened at the mention of his missing wife, the change in pressure so minute that most people would have likely missed it. But it was not invisible to the young agent’s trained eyes, a chink in the man’s impenetrable defence that Mari would wager was paired with confusion behind his tinted glasses.

“Oh? Is that perplexity and bewilderment I see in the Supreme Commander of NERV?” Mari cooed, clearly enjoying herself. “Fine, let me put it more plainly: she doesn’t want to come out of Unit-01. She doesn’t want to meet you.”

“Lies,” Gendo growled, and the young woman before him feigned being shot through the heart.

“Oof, such hurtful accusations! But consider this: how do you believe that I, a complete stranger to any of your designs, managed to flawlessly synch up with Unit-01?”

“Simple. You obviously fooled her with the Dummy Plugs developed by Akagi, or a variant thereof.”

“That was the original plan, I’ll admit. But, no,” the Fifth Child replied back, taking some theatrically slow steps before the gigantic desk as if she were a detective in a mystery novel. “...I’ve actually spoken with your dearest wife multiple times, now. She’s a lovely, if insane, woman. And she was none too happy to hear about how you decided to ignore your parental obligations. As a matter of fact, ensuring the Third Child’s safety in the future was my ticket in.”

“A likely story. One that anyone with a passing knowledge of the Evangelions could fabricate,” Ikari answered, unimpressed. “You will need to try harder than that.”

“Ouch, and the merciless accusations continue!” Mari howled, pressing her hand to her chest a second time and dramatically holding on to the desk for support. She then smiled a wide smile, making sure that the Commander of NERV was meeting her gaze. “But I know I’ll get through eventually. After all, ‘My heart’s true nature can only shine when I’m with you,’ as they say.”

The man’s hands clenched once more, this time far more visibly, and the Fifth Child watched with satisfaction as Commander Ikari barely took a second to go white in the face.

“H-How...?!” he heatedly demanded, standing and slamming his hands on the table. “Where did you hear that?!”

“Struck a nerve, did I? Was the fact that you fancied writing poems in your younger years supposed to be a closely guarded secret? One that only you and one other person knew about? One... Yui Ikari, maybe? I wonder how I could have possibly managed to come across such unbelievable information, if I never spoke to anyone in possession of such knowledge...”

“That’s... impossible,” Ikari stammered, shaking his head in feverish denial. “T-There must be some other way, some o-old paper I missed...”

“You wish.” Mari’s playful stance quickly turned ice cold. “But, like I said, Yui Ikari doesn’t want to come out. Yui Ikari doesn’t want to reunite with you or her son. Yui Ikari is far too obsessed with her own grandiose goals to care about anything she left behind.” A cruel smirk spread across her face. “Your scenario was doomed to failure from the very beginning.

“...And I’d say I feel bad for you, but that’d be lying.”

A sepulchral silence fell upon the room, Mari’s words appearing to echo to every corner of the chamber. All throughout, the young woman kept her eyes on Ikari, drinking in the sight of him collapsing into his seat, his hands slowly reaching towards his face and tremblingly taking his opaque glasses off, before they unceremoniously dropped upon the table. The eyes that were now revealed spoke of a man that had been robbed of something essential to his existence, a guiding light for each and every one of his days, and all it had taken to rob one of the most powerful men on the planet of his unshakable will had been a short and simple reveal at the right moment.

The power a few words could wield was truly frightening, sometimes. Even the Sub-Commander’s usually calm demeanour had been shaken by Mari’s words, the old man noticeably shifting to look at his superior with deep concern. Clearly, such an emotional response out of Ikari had long since stopped being possible in his mind.

It was at that time that the room’s speakers blared to life, Arthur’s familiar voice filling the room and snapping Fuyutsuki back to attention, the man’s quick mind busying itself with deducing how the voice could have made it to one of the most secure rooms in the entire base for a fair few moments. The old professor’s attempts were cut short when Arthur’s speech began in earnest, however, his expression turning more and more grim with each passing sentence.

“Well, look at that,” Mari chuckled at the welcome sound. “It sounds like they already started.”

Finally, he looked to his right and at the Commander. The man had further sunk into his seat and was currently staring at a spot on the faraway wall, almost swallowed by darkness. He looked nothing like the driven husband that had been willing to do anything and everything in order to get back what he most desired. He looked lost to despair, hopeless, just the same as he had looked that fateful day a decade ago when Yui had been taken from them, or when she herself had decided to leave them behind, if the agent’s words were truly to be believed.

It was in that exact moment that Fuyutsuki understood that they had truly, utterly lost. Trying to find any ray of hope in this crushing defeat was simple folly.

“...I will be taking you up on your generous offer,” the old professor finally stated with a heavy voice.

“That was a swift change of heart, Professor Fuyutsuki, but far be it from me to judge. Welcome aboard.” Mari replied, a sarcastic smirk on her face. She then motioned to one of the soldiers with her. “Get him to a nice, quiet room and see if he knows something we still don’t. Let Arthur know we got ourselves a new asset, too.”

The man nodded in agreement and walked over to the Sub-Commander, politely but firmly leading him away from the room. When the door had closed another of the troops under her command turned towards Mari.

“What should we do about Ikari, ma’am?” he asked, contempt clearly audible in his speech. He was formerly Bolivian, Mari remembered, one of the South American countries that had been hit the hardest by the instability of the after Impact years, and that were still struggling to recover. There was no doubt in Mari’s mind that the man would relish the chance of getting back at one of those responsible for that catastrophe.

And Mari could more than understand the feeling, for that temptation existed within her too. In spite of their orders, it would be so simple to turn off their cameras and microphones and kill the man under claims of ‘armed resistance’. There was no chance in hell that obvious lie would get past Arthur, of course, but since Ikari was completely inconsequential to their plans, it would just... be swept under the rug in their pursuit of the larger prey. Repayment for a life lost, for everything she had ever loved and treasured, was right there, just a simple squeeze of the finger away, and there would be no second opportunity like that one. That, Mari fully knew.

But even if the temptation lingered for a few, heavy seconds, it remained as nothing more than that. After all, they would truly be no better than those they hunted if they made their own justice there. Ikari would pay for his crimes, as would all of his associates. No matter what.

‘Besides, shooting him now would be a mercy.’

“Cuff him and get him to a cell,” Mari ordered, turning away from the wreck of a man sitting in a chair that was now far too big for him before the dark thoughts returned. “I don’t think he’ll be much good to us.”
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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