An Insider's Look

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poBBpC
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Re: An Insider's Look

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Postby poBBpC » Sun Mar 21, 2021 7:10 am

I binged this story in a single day, and it was excellent. Keep up the great work!

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Re: An Insider's Look

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Postby Gryphon117 » Sun Mar 21, 2021 10:59 am

poBBpC wrote:I binged this story in a single day, and it was excellent. Keep up the great work!


Thanks, glad you guys enjoyed it. I've got a bit of time right now so I'll go ahead and post the two remaining scenes. I'm happy to anounce that I've been writing these past two days and that something workable has come out of my efforts. I'll probably have an actual update to share some time next week.

Chapter 16-1  SPOILER: Show
“Asuka!” Shinji shouted, his words failing to reach the Second Child as she twitched and groaned in her seat. Shinji insisted anyway, bending towards the redhead and shaking her by the shoulders, again to no avail. “Hey, Asuka! Answer me!”

“You may try as much as you want, but it’s obvious that you are not reaching her, you dolt.”

The Third Child turned towards the detached sounding voice, staring at Maisie with a look that was meant as accusing and irritated both, but that came out as panicky, instead.

“What happened?! Do you know?”

“Of course I know. She is currently under extreme duress and in no state to listen to your mewling words of encouragement, anyone with a functioning pair of eyes and ears could tell you,” the Doll neutrally replied, arms crossed. “In fact, I can imagine that my two others are running around like headless chickens trying to keep the situation under control, right now.”

“Then you do something! At least they are trying! Won’t you just… disappear if Asuka dies?!”

Completely unimpressed, Maisie looked back at Shinji with thoughtful eyes, appearing as if she was considering the consequences of that all-important question for the very first time.

“…Most likely,” she replied with a careless shrug. “But it is not my place to interfere.”

“And when do we get to that point?!” Shinji demanded, losing what bits of composure he had left. He balled his fists and stepped towards Maisie, failing to notice the half-girl’s surprise as she took two steps back in synch. “It’s always ‘not interfere’, or ‘just observe’ or ‘laugh at everyone else’ with you! You bitch and moan and say that everyone around you is so stupid, but when push comes to shove you never do anything! How is that any different from those you are always calling useless?!”

For the first time since Shinji had met her, Maisie was unable to match his gaze. The oft obnoxious and arrogant Aspect looked ready to reply for a second, but quickly focused her attention on the wooden boards of the floor and bit her lip with a displeased expression. She offered no witty comeback, no scathing remark, or otherwise demeaning one-liner. The entire scene gave Shinji pause for the briefest of moments.

“Fat lot of good that you are!” The Third Child finally spun around when he realised that no answer would be forthcoming. “Fine! Only one thing I can do, then.”

“…Oh? And what would that be?”

“I don’t know who they are but I’ve had it with them, too,” Shinji eyed the two seated women at the back with a sense of purpose. “They’re clearly important here and can help Asuka in some way, so I’m going to make them help. Don’t try to stop me.”

“How quaint of you to believe I would,” Maisie offered back, stronger, but still a far cry from her usual force. “Do what you will, I won’t interfere. As I said, I am here only to observe.”

Shinji ignored the half-girl’s words, walking towards the two seating women. “Hey! Talk to me! Why are you not talking anymore?!” he demanded when he got a bit closer. “Why are you all quiet?! I did what you wanted me to do! I’ve been helping Asuka all this time! But right now she needs more help than I can give her! Help that I bet you could give her! So just... talk to me!”

But the Third Child received nothing but silence and no sign that his words were reaching anyone. His hands beginning to clench into fists, Shinji strode further forward until he reached the point where Ace had identified the room’s barrier to be and, to no surprise, quickly found that he could advance no further. Shinji tried running, sidestepping, jumping, punching and clawing at the invisible wall, anger rising with each unsuccessful attempt at making it past until he could take it no more.

“HEY! I’M TALKING TO YOU! QUIT IT WITH THE SILENT TREATMENT, DAMMIT!” he yelled at the top of his lungs. “Asuka COULD BE ABOUT TO DIE OUT THERE! DON’T YOU TWO CARE ABOUT THAT?!”

The Third Child’s words echoed throughout the chamber, but the only response they received was a disapproving click of the tongue from the Aspect behind him, which Shinji promptly ignored. Squaring his shoulders and fighting down an angry growl, Shinji prepared for another doubtlessly useless sprint forward.

But the women suddenly spoke and gave the young man pause. “…She will hate us.”

“This again…?” Shinji frowned, relaxing and quickly recalling the most significant part of his one and only conversation with the two women. “Why? Why are you so sure that Asuka hates you, whoever you are? Did you ever ask her?”

“No. Never. We’re scared,” they continued, speaking at different tones and over each other. “She will not accept us. She will never accept us. Never forgive what we did. Can’t forgive what we did.”

“…What you did? So you are related to Asuka. Family, maybe?” Shinji thought about the implications for a second before he quickly shook his head. “No, now’s not the time for that; listen, I get being scared. I’m scared all the time. But sometimes you… you just need to push past the fear and do what needs to be done!”

A few moments of silence followed, before the strands of blonde hair that Shinji could spot swayed from left to right.

“No… we can’t. You don’t realise. You don’t know.”

“But I do know! I know because I’ve been in your position before!” Shinji protested. “I was afraid to hurt a friend when he needed me, and because of that he lost an arm and a leg! I was too scared to do anything, and because I did nothing I ruined his life! And I won’t ever forgive myself for that!

“…You can do what I didn’t. You can keep Asuka from ending up like Toji did. And she might hate you, she might never forgive you, just like you said she wouldn’t, but will you ever know for sure if you’re too scared to act? Hell, if Asuka dies you will never find out! And I’m damn sure that you don’t actually want her to die! So just… help her!”

Once more, Shinji’s plea echoed through the chamber, but this time appeared to garner more attention than the preceding and louder demand had managed. The young man watched as the visible strands of hair of the two women moved in opposite directions and their hands gripped the armrests a little bit tighter. They were listening this time, he realised, and was about to go on all fours and beg for their help again when the pair finally answered.

“No,” they replied, firmly but with a noticeable tinge of sadness. “She has you. She has others. She doesn’t need us. It’s better this way.”

“You can’t…” Shinji stammered in disbelief. For an instant, it had looked like he had managed to get through to them. “…You can’t be serious.”

“We will… give her more. Please… don’t ask more than that,” the women sombrely finished, their words appearing to fade into the distance as they returned to their usual positions. “You can help her. Please help her.”

And with that final request, Shinji felt the familiar probe of synchronisation at the back of his mind extend further and intensify as soon as the two women returned to being deathly quiet. This small victory was clearly everything his efforts were going to amount to.

“…Thanks for not trying, I guess,” the Third Child bitterly spat, turning on his heel and marching back to his redheaded host. Maisie followed him, her gaze unreadable.

“…I could have told you it was useless.”

“But you didn’t say anything. You didn’t bother trying to offer even the smallest bit of help because you’re only here to observe and be a pain in the ass. And really, at this point I’m beyond hoping that you will ever do anything else.” Shinji paused to scowl at the half-girl, pointing a finger at the back of the room. “You know what? Follow their example and shut up, too. I’m not in the mood to listen to anything you have to say.”

Maisie narrowed her eyes but offered no response, and Shinji continued on his way without another word. He sat down in front of Asuka and noticed with some relief that she appeared to have calmed down considerably, the pained frown that had adorned her face some time ago now replaced with solemn determination. Closing his own eyes, Shinji took a focusing breath and grabbed hold of the Second Child’s fingers.

“…Sorry, Asuka, this is everything I could get you. But don’t worry, I know you can do this.”
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 » Sun Mar 21, 2021 11:07 am

Chapter 16-2  SPOILER: Show
“What about the N2 warheads? Do we still have terminal guidance for them?”

Misato breathed out and crushed another empty cup of coffee, the traces of caffeine that had once resided in the plastic container doing little to help fan the flames of her working mind. The limit of what the fake substitute for actual coffee could do for her had been reached and surpassed long ago in the evening, but Misato continued to drink and ponder, hoping that the latest tribute from the coffee machine would also lead to a sudden solution to their situation that she had managed to miss until then.

So far, the Gods of fake coffee had not been generous. And all the while the slow but inexorable advance of the Angel continued in the background, consuming the remaining sand in NERV’s hourglass grain by grain.

“All our surface sensors and emitters are out, Katsuragi. There will be no guidance without those, outside of sending people out there with hand-held devices,” the equally haggard Ritsuko Akagi offered back, grabbing the bridge of her nose with a deep sigh. “And I don’t even know if these Russian missiles can be directed with a basic laser designator.”

“…What about Unit-02? It’s still properly transmitting, isn’t it?”

“Yes, the Evangelion’s electronics are properly shielded against interference, everything should be operational,” Arthur’s artificial voice chimed in from the background. “But if you intend to use it as a homing beacon in the simplest and most reliable of terms, Major, it will need to be right on top of the target when the bombs drop. Inherent risks aside, that is the exact same thing we’ve been trying to accomplish until now. Unsuccessfully, might I add.”

“Yeah, well... I hate to admit that I’m quickly running out of plans that don’t involve brute forcing this bastard in some way or another,” Misato bit back, happy to vent her frustrations on the unfeeling piece of plastic. “I don’t suppose you have any better ideas inside all your wiring?”

“You have me at a disadvantage, Major. My learning networks were not optimised towards battlefield tactics.”

“So you’re useless.” Misato rolled her eyes and turned to her unofficial second in command, instead. “Ritsuko?”

“I have no objections, myself,” the Doctor agreed before she motioned towards the main feed with her tablet. “But how do you intend to carry out your plan with an uncooperative Pilot?”

Misato followed Ritsuko’s hand with heavy eyes. In a corner of the main screen, minimised so as to not to draw too much attention to it, a crimson lump sat curled into a ball, face hidden behind her knees and shoulders rising and dropping to the rhythm of steady breathing. The feed had been muted for the benefit of the bridge crew, but Misato could still hear the ragged breaths and the hint of sobs that had made it through for some time after the deactivation of Unit-02.

Asuka’s agonising wails echoed through Misato’s mind again, and she winced.

It was probably taking all of the Second Child’s willpower not to break down crying from the pain, but never once did she ask for permission to retreat deeper into the Geofront. Any sane military man would have run for the hills long ago, but not Asuka. She was too headstrong to give up, too proud and ambitious to admit defeat even in the face of overwhelming odds, and Misato knew that, with just a few pointed words, she could still turn all of those traits into willingness to brave danger to the very end, all for the sake of the slimmest hope of victory.

The most pragmatic and logical approach to be sure, but the very thought made Misato sick to her stomach.

“…Honestly, I don’t know. My mind is telling me that I just need to get through to her, that if I can get her back in the fight we will find some way to turn this around,” the Major let out a deep and troubled sigh, the fingers of her right hand twitching and half-forming into a fist. “But my heart… my heart is asking me if maybe we haven’t already asked too much of her.

“But what other choice is there? I hate to do this to her but Unit-01 won’t last a minute out there. This is all we have.”

“That is very much the case, yes. But before you try speaking to her, I might actually happen to have another choice we could try.” Ritsuko’s words instantly brought Misato’s eyes back to her, urgent and demanding, and the doctor took a moment to think about how to best explain her proposal. Ultimately, she decided that brevity would be best. “…Unit-02 is currently equipped with a Dummy Plug. I propose we activate it.”

The Major’s gaze hardened, and another set of eyes trained themselves on Ritsuko. Maya’s look was one of horror and revolt, however, feelings that a part of Misato echoed as well. After all, mention of the Dummy system didn’t bring back fond memories for her, either, even if she had not been present to witness its rampage first-hand.

“…The thing that destroyed Unit-03?” Misato pressed, cautious but willing to hear more. “I thought they had been decommissioned because of reliability issues.”

“Yes, the Dummy Plug failed to activate during the Fourteenth’s attack, but the project was never scrapped, it was simply sidelined,” Ritsuko elaborated, bringing Misato’s attention to a diagram on her tablet that read ‘D. Plug 02’. “I decided to reinstate it after Asuka’s recovery, as a backup system in the case of another remission of her synch-rate. I realise this is not the exact scenario I was thinking of at the time, but I believe it could work just as well.”

“Fair enough. But why didn’t you mention this sooner?”

“I saw no reason to. Like you said, Unit-01’s state would have made it less than useless in hand to hand combat, the autopilot can’t make use of the jury-rigged weaponry the engineers came up with and the only other EVA that could have made proper use of the Dummy Plug still had its pilot.” Ritsuko paused and brought the tablet back to her own eyes, staring at the diagram for a few moments before she redirected her attention to the corner of the main feed. A hint of disappointment was clear. “Also…”

“Also?”

“…I was hoping she would be able to handle this situation on her own. Asuka’s psychological state has made great strides in the past few weeks, but I don’t need to remind you of just how brittle that tower is. Failing to stop another Angel, allowing it to do as much damage as it did, and ultimately being saved by a machine could very well send her into another spiral,” Ritsuko further emphasised her points by raising three fingers in succession, before she finished her speech with a tired shrug. “Then again, that is still preferable to being dead. For all of us, I might add. But I leave that decision in your hands.”

Her alternative proposed, Misato watched Ritsuko as she retreated back to Maya’s terminal, the young tech appearing torn between being angry at her Sempai, or grateful to her for offering a solution to their dilemma. But Misato quickly pushed that thought out of her mind, focusing back on the footage she had watched regarding the Thirteenth’s battle: the Dummy Plug had been brutally efficient in its purpose, perhaps a bit too much so. It had cared nothing about self-preservation during that single activation test, focusing on the destruction of the target with single-minded abandon. A simplistic nature that had not proven to be a detriment against the close ranged abilities of another Evangelion unit, but would those tactical limitations prove its downfall against a smarter and better prepared foe?

That obvious weakness and the danger that it could put Asuka in remained at the forefront of Misato’s mind as she made her decision, but Ritsuko was correct about the fact that they were quickly running out of both options and time.

“Get everything ready on your end, but wait on my command for activation of the Dummy system,” Misato commanded, waiting a second until she received an affirmative nod from Ritsuko to shift her attention towards Hyuga. “…Give me a line to-”

“What the-?!” Aoba suddenly interrupted. “Unit-01 has activated!”

Misato rushed over to Aoba’s side, inspecting the screen as the young man closed and opened different windows to arrive at a status report of Unit-01, reporting that the launch sequence had been started from inside the Entry Plug and leaving just one possible culprit behind the purple giant’s actions. Misato’s mouth pressed into a thin line and, without bothering with any commands, she personally fiddled with Aoba’s computer to set up communications with Unit-01. Mari Makinami’s face then popped up on the opposite corner of the tactical map, a large gash on the right side of her plugsuit evidencing how she had not bothered to change before climbing into the EVA. A few quiet murmurs sprang up in the room, first at the sight of the girl’s exposed skin, then at the sheet of metal that could be seen at certain spots below.

“What in blazes do you think you’re doing?!” Ritsuko promptly and loudly demanded, silencing all talk.

“What does it look like?” Mari shot back, not shifting her attention from the launch procedures. “I’m giving the Princess a hand, since it sure looks like she could use one.”

“Abort the sortie,” Misato commanded. “With Unit-01 in that state you’ll only be getting in the way and further endangering the both of you. You’re smart enough to know that you will not be helping.”

“Yeah well, I’m also stupid enough to know I don’t want to leave her on her own to be killed,” the girl flippantly responded, taking a second out of her work to narrow her eyes at Misato. “Guess that balances out.”

“Fifth Child,” Ritsuko insistently hissed. “Stand down or we’ll be forced to make you comply.”

“Go right ahead and try to raise the LCL pressure, Doc,” Mari kept up her dismissing attitude, making the Doctor bristle. “You can try to disable the catapults too if you want, but you aren’t stopping us if that’s the best you got.”

“We’re not going to stop you,” Misato replied in Ritsuko’s stead, earning herself a ‘What are you saying?!’ look from her second in command. Misato ignored it, however, walking to the equally stunned Hyuga’s terminal and inputting a command into it, the words ‘SOUND ONLY’ appearing in a corner of Unit-02’s feed. “I’m going to ask you again to stop this of your own volition.”

“And why would I do that, exactly? You seriously expect me to just sit on my hands and watch that girl march to her death?”

“She’s not going to die today,” Misato argued back, matching the Fifth Child’s calm intensity blow for blow. “You’ve seen her fight every single day of these past two weeks, and you’ve probably watched most of her sorties and training videos from long before that. You know she can do this.”

“Probably, but I also know that there’s no way she’s walking unscathed out of it. Didn’t the last few seconds of the ‘fight’ give enough hints for you?”

“Believe me, they gave plenty.”

“And you still want to send her to fight on her own!” the Fifth Child shot back with an angry scoff. “…You’ve got a real knack for getting people killed, you know? But I guess it’s always been victory at any cost for you.”

“I won’t deny that total victory is my main concern today,” Misato carefully replied, not rising up to the bait but filing Mari’s impulsive words for careful deliberation at a later time. “The stakes are far too high for anything else.”

“Then what does it matter if I’m the one to pay your price? Even in a worst case scenario, my chances of survival are far greater than Sohryu’s!”

“It matters because you’re failing to grasp the bigger picture: you charging the Angel head first with no arms is going to help us how? We can already offer a distraction with the city’s weaponry, further damaging an EVA and putting your own life on the line to try and do the same thing is both pointless and wasteful,” Misato pressed on. “Even after we win today, we don’t know when the next Angel will attack. It could be two months or two days, but if it catches us with our pants down because we allowed you to wreck the third of our fighting force we could still salvage, the only thing your self-serving initiative will do is put us in this very same situation again.”

“Bullshit! We’ve got fifteen other Angel attacks to speculate from, what are the chances that-!”

“Your probability is meaningless if you can’t assure me that it won’t happen. Because if you can’t do that, my job as the military commander of this entire operation is to take the worst case scenario and work my way from there. Surely you realise that.” Misato injected some fire into her words and, for an instant, she saw Mari’s conviction falter under her mask. The Major quickly pressed her advantage. “I will ask you again: stand down and disengage the systems of Unit-01. Trust in your leader. She will pull this off.”

“Agent Morgan,” Arthur reinforced her before Mari could offer a response, sounding as cross as ‘his’ artificial vocal chords likely allowed. “Follow Major Katsuragi’s directives to the letter. That is an order.”

The Fifth Child’s eyes widened slightly at the AI’s sudden demand and what remained of her neutral demeanour quickly crumbled to dust, Mari’s teeth pressing against each other as the girl weighed her options in a way that she clearly wasn’t enjoying. The argument had been won, Misato realised, and she paused in her observation of the Fifth Child long enough to look at the plastic shell behind her with different eyes. Had it been just a coincidence that it spoke up when it did, or had the AI carefully weighed that very moment to be the best time to make its move?

“…You have five minutes,” Mari finally announced, bringing Misato’s focus back to her. “I’m launching after that no matter what.”

And with an angry move, she killed the connection. Misato reined in her desire to breathe out a sigh of relief; that was one crisis averted but she still had another one on her hands, and a time limit attached to it, to boot. Misato walked over to Hyuga’s terminal and entered another command into it, enlarging Asuka’s tiny portrait at the corner and restoring full communications to the former one way channel. The Second Child didn’t look any better than she had at the time of Unit-02’s shutdown, much to Misato’s dismay.

“…You’re wrong, Misato. I-I can’t do it,” Asuka spoke in a shaky voice. “It’s too strong… I-I can’t… Not on my own.”

‘Shit, she’s sounding even worse than I expected. Maybe Makinami was right after all,’ a quiet voice at the back of Misato’s mind worried, before she mercilessly squashed it. ‘…No, we’re past the point of doubts. This is my choice of action.’

Rather than directly addressing Asuka’s concerns, Misato roamed the confines of the command room with her eyes, finding large parts of the personnel huddled together in whispering groups or restlessly pacing up and down the hallways. The bridge held for the time being, but morale in HQ was obviously lacking. Even without Mari’s time limit, Misato suspected that she didn’t have much longer until the most panicky of the crew spread their restlessness to the rest of their co-workers. Something needed to be done.

“You know, Asuka,” Misato began, still not looking directly towards the feed. “There are so many people with their hands together here that you’d think we are in a temple, but I don’t think I’m about to start praying to any gods, myself.”

“W-Well, duh. You’ve never been the religious type, remember?”

“I… I guess.” Asuka’s obvious reply seemed to unbalance the Major, the older woman bringing a finger to scratch at her cheek in embarrassment. Ritsuko’s piercing stare didn’t help matters, either. “I mean, praying is easy, you just put your hands together and hope that some invisible will makes everything better, but that wasn’t the point I was trying to make. I could throw a quick prayer for good luck to any gods listening, but I don’t think I need to. Do you know why, Asuka?

“Because I wasn’t saying all that stuff just to shut Makinami up, I meant every single word of it,” Misato stated, turning to look at the Second Child and hoping to get her meaning across. “I believe in you, Asuka. I know that you will win.”

Asuka’s eyes widened, surprise and elation at her abilities being praised pushing the girl’s doubts aside, just as Misato had expected. The effect, however, was only temporary.

“But Misato, that’s-”

“Don’t go telling me it’s impossible, after everything we’ve accomplished so far,” Misato quickly countered, resolving to use the Ace up her sleeve she had been holding on to all this time, even if she still didn’t feel proud about actually doing so. “You heard her, Makinami also knows that you can win. You also know that Rei thinks the same,” Misato paused for a second, pushing past the sudden lump in her throat. “And if Shinji were here, I bet he’d be saying the exact same thing.”

Another long pause followed, one in which Asuka appeared to withdraw a bit into herself, almost as if she were considering Misato’s claim word for word, a reaction that worried the Major a bit. She had expected some embarrassment or Asuka’s usual competitive annoyance out of bringing up the absent Third Child, not introspection. Misato’s concerns, however, soon proved unfounded.

“…Yeah well, everyone knows that moron would have killed this Angel with a flick of the wrist,” the Second Child scoffed with her usual fire before she half-playfully narrowed her eyes at Misato, managing to still come off as more intimidating than any fourteen year old had any right to be. “But you’re horrible, you know? Playing that card is cheating.”

Asuka had clearly caught up with what Misato was doing. Hardly surprising, the Second Child was not stupid, after all, but that knowledge made the Major feel even more ashamed of her actions. Still, the fact that the Second Child wasn’t screaming bloody murder at her also meant that Misato’s predictions had still been fairly on point: Asuka’s warrior spirit had gone dormant for a bit, but she wasn’t fully ready to give up just yet.

“I’m sorry, but all’s fair in love and war. And right now, we’ve got a war to win.” Misato briefly offered an apologetic smile before she transitioned back into her military mode. “What do you say, then? Are you up for one final push?”

Asuka offered no reply, but instead stretched out of the ball she had retreated into and winced as the phantom pain from Unit-02’s injuries travelled through her muscles. The Second Child’s arms shook as she drew a large breath, slowly settling into a sitting position with her hands on the butterfly controls. By the time the transition was over, Asuka’s displeased grimace had become her usual cocky smirk.

“…Bring it. I’ll show you that I don’t need that idiot around to deal with an Angel.”
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 » Sun Mar 21, 2021 11:09 am

Chapter 16-3  SPOILER: Show
“I know that we’ve unanimously decided on this and all that but…” Asuka’s eyes flicked from the ongoing combat preparations on the large screen to Ace’s focused expression as she oversaw those same tasks. The usually meek girl’s gaze then travelled further down her other’s arm, gulping hard to try and control her nerves. “Hey… do you mind if I grab your hand?”

“What, you scared?” Ace turned her way with a raised eyebrow, her words tinged with concern rather than the mockery they were usually associated with.

“Y-Yeah. I’m… terrified.”

“Good. Fear is good, if you don’t let it take over. It keeps you honest.” Ace gave the other redhead an encouraging pat on the back, her hand hovering in midair for a moment after as the Pilot debated what to do with it. In the end, she moved her hand closer for Asuka to grab, trying and failing not to make a big deal out of it when she tensed up at the contact. “I’ll be… I’ll be counting on you too to keep me from doing something stupid out there.”

“Alright, but we both know you’ll be fine. Unless this thing turns into a giant robotic penguin next, obviously.”

“Ha, not even Stupid Shinji would last against that.” Ace smirked at the memory of a silly duel that felt like it had been fought forever ago. She then raised her eyes and stared at the Angel in the screen, more composed and confident than she had felt all day. “But if this Angel stays as it is? This bastard doesn’t stand a chance!”

“Yeah. We can do this,” Asuka agreed, turning back to the monitor with the same fire. “We will do this.”

...Together.
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 Akomis » Mon Mar 22, 2021 2:45 pm

Wow, I didn't expect more updates so soon. Made my day. I loved them.

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Postby Gryphon117 » Tue Mar 30, 2021 10:49 am

Actual update coming up this time, thanks to Akomis and all the others who pushed me back into writing. I hope you like and look forward to next week, where I should be ending the Armisael arc. Enjoy! ^_^

Chapter 16-4  SPOILER: Show
“…Huh? …What was that?”

“What’s wrong, Asuka?”

“…It’s nothing,” the redhead began to shake her head, but stopped just short of attributing the sudden, weird feeling in her body to a by-product of her synch. “Actually, is everything alright with the plug? I just… feel a bit warmer all of a sudden.”

Misato’s eyes shifted to her right, Maya Ibuki yelping out a report without any need for orders.

“Her… Her synch-rate just went up by twenty points… but I can’t find anything wrong with any of the systems.”

“Must be your blood boiling, girl. You just want to show that bastard what you can do,” Misato forced her brow to relax, deciding to use the unexpected event as a morale booster and focus the Second Child back on task. She used her fingers to draw a few lines on Hyuga’s terminal, updating the tactical display with several vectors that converged on the Angel’s position: one for Unit-02 and several others coming in from the north. “Listen now: the Russians are going to fire fifty-three of their warheads at the Angel, and we expect impact within a two minute window from that. We will need you to be on top of the Angel and cancelling its AT-Field with everything you have at that exact time for the greatest chance at breaking through. There’s nothing fancy to it this time, just get in, nullify its defences and eliminate the target.”

“Sounds simple enough, just the way I like it,” Asuka acknowledged, even if she realised that the reality would likely be anything but. “…Just out of curiosity, how big a chance of success are we talking about?”

“You don’t want to know. But it is better than when we sent you to catch the Twelfth.”

“Then that’s good enough for me.” Asuka closed her eyes and hung her head lower, slowly drumming her fingers on the handles and focusing her mind little by little. She took a few deep breaths to help smooth the process and firmly nodded soon after. “Ready when you are, Misato.”

“I’m patching you to the AWACS coordinating the Russian bombers so that they can update you in real time. We also managed to restore our link to some of the city defences, enough to provide some smoke cover and light supporting fire to your advance. Stand by for the order to engage.”

Misato barked a command at Aoba and focused back on Hyuga’s terminal, the orange hexagon of an available radio link appearing at the edge of Unit-02’s HUD. Asuka stared at it for a second before she brought one of her fingers up to it.

‘Just a few seconds before we’re back in the fray. Might as well say hello while I can.’

A red finger slid the hexagon to the right and the voice of a man humming a happy song quickly filled the plug. One of Asuka’s eyebrows rose up a bit higher, the girl checking to see if she had somehow tapped into a different sort of radio frequency, but everything appeared to be in order.

“…Hmm? Oh!” the singing suddenly stopped, the man on the other side apparently noticing that he had an audience. “This is AWACS Oka Nieba to Pilot of Unit-02, it is...” the Russian operator cleared his throat and began in slightly broken English, looking for the right words. “It is… yes! Pleasure to meet you. I am… happy to report that the bomber squadron under our command already fired their… payload, and that the warheads will make impact in one hundred and… twelve seconds. We will keep you… informed of their progress. Sorry for my bad English.”

There was something inherently likable about this guy, Asuka quickly decided. She wasn’t sure if it was the affable sound of the northerner’s deep voice as he struggled with the language, or the overly lax manner in which he seemed to be dealing with a threat of world-ending proportions. In any case, a small smile soon found its way to the girl’s face.

“Don’t sweat it, buddy, you’re doing great,” the Second Child reassured him, beginning to feel the familiar prickling of the synchronisation start-up at her fingertips. “Appreciate the help.”

Asuka guided the synch process to the verge of activation, ready to launch forward with a single thought when commanded, and planned her route to the Angel. It brought her through much of the area she had flown past some minutes earlier, and her instruments let the girl know that her prog-glaive had embedded into a building within recovery range. She wouldn’t need to rely on her knife.

“A hundred seconds to warhead impact!”

The Second Child narrowed her eyes at the countdown and watched as several of the remaining defensive batteries in the city opened up with everything they had left.

“Asuka! That salvo will hit the Angel in three seconds! GO!”

The Second Child needed no confirmation, Misato’s barrage had been enough signal to fully awaken her crimson titan and put it into a mad charge forward. In an instant, Unit-02 had covered several hundred metres of ruined buildings and recovered its discarded weapon, rushing her target with single-minded fervour.

‘This is it. No mistakes. Remember the sims, remember your wealth of experience. Everything you’ve learned, everything you’ve been through, put it into this offensive. Make it both effective and elegant.’

Asuka’s eyes never wavered from her target, watching as the Angel slowed to a stop and brought its wings skywards, starting to rotate faster in place. The Second Child smiled and summoned forth her golden wall.

“Detected energy build-up within the target!” Maya’s voice came over the comms, a massive beam of energy striking Asuka’s defences and covering the entirety of her HUD in a whiteish-blue tint. But even when blinded Unit-02’s pace never let up for even an instant, the Second Child using her instruments to navigate and keep on quickly closing the gap.

‘Focus. Remember your training. Picture an unbreakable wall between you and the Angel, then make it even stronger. Curve it outwards, diffuse the energy from the centre and towards the sides. Make it more efficient.’

“Eighty seconds to impact!”

Unit-02 dashed behind, climbed and jumped off the top of a mountain, soaring through the air and manoeuvring her glaive to land blade first against the Angel, her target following her dive with its attack and making the crimson titan look like a shuttle re-entering the atmosphere. Not even heat could make it through Asuka’s defences. However, the Angel’s useless offensive came at an end at the last second and became an orange shield, instead. Sparks flew as Unit-02’s prog-glaive struck the wall and tried to penetrate it, gravity taking hold as the blade travelled downwards and towards the ground, the crimson titan returning to earth with a massive rumble.

But ultimately, the Second Child’s efforts were as fruitless as the Angel’s had been. Asuka wasted no time in following her first strike with many others, however.

‘Dodge, parry, slash, side-step, slash again. No mistakes. Attack the same spot over and over, push with your AT-Field at the same time. It must be weakening.’

“Asuka!” Misato broke into the re-enactment of her deadly dance, bringing the Second Child’s attention to the familiarly eerie humming of the Angel’s vibrating wings. Most of the pearly appendages remained high in the air even while the closest two attempted to skewer her. “It’s going to try to push you back again!”

“No you fucking don’t!” Asuka roared, accepting the challenge and planting her glaive, free hand and feet deep into the ground, like an American football player about to receive a charge. “AT-FIELD! MAX POWER!”

Wall struck wall and Unit-02 slid backwards, giving some ground despite its best efforts but remaining firm and within striking distance otherwise. The force that pushed against Unit-02’s AT-Field felt like an out of control freight train that she was trying to stop with her bare hands, one that attempted to shove her backwards with previously unmatched rage and fury. Proud, indignant, or perhaps desperate.

“Fifty-five seconds to impact!”

“Misato!” Asuka screamed into the comms, hanging on with everything she had. “Are you still there?!”

“Yes! Your EVA’s AT-Field appears to be shielding us from the EM wave!”

“Good, is the Angel’s field still expanding?!”

“It is, everywhere except where you’re directly stopping it,” Ritsuko quickly supplied. “Why?”

“I’ve got an idea, let me know when it reaches its previous apex!”

Asuka barely registered a squeak of confirmation as the force pushing against her boundary further intensified. The Angel’s humming had risen in pitch to become a shrill and irritating noise, a banshee’s wail against the living, and Asuka could feel Unit-02’s knees sinking beneath the ground. The glaive’s shaft, made from the strongest materials ever invented by mankind, began to bend ominously, as well.

“Thirty seconds to impact!”


The Angel was pissed, angry at the crimson nuisance that would not stop pestering it and doing everything in its power to rid itself of it. But in its anger, its likely limited capabilities had failed to account for one thing:

Its actions had made Asuka Langley Sohryu furious, as well, and no alien invader was going to defeat her in a battle of wills. Unit-02 would take no further steps back, no matter what. The Second Child grit her teeth and drove her resolve into Unit-02, pushing back against her foe with everything she had for what felt like an eternity.

But not a single inch was given.

“Maximum distance reached!” Maya’s voice finally announced, bringing a tired but toothy smile to Asuka’s lips. “The field’s expansion has stopped!”

And not even a second later, Asuka ordered Unit-02 to open its right shoulder pylon, aiming it squarely at the Angel.

“I’ve got a present for you,” the Second Child snarled with manic glee. “EAT THIS!”

The needle gun, Unit-02’s seldom used ace in the hole, fired its payload of tungsten darts point-blank and struck the opposing defences in a single point. They remained suspended in mid-air, held up by the two walls as they fought a hands-free tug of war: one side looking to push the rods away while the other tried to sink them deeper and deeper into the Angel’s AT-Field.

“How’s that, Arschloch?!” Asuka smirked confidently. “You’re not the only one with new tricks!”


>-O]|[O-<​


“She waited until the Angel’s defences were at its most extended to strike a single point with overwhelming force?” Ritsuko realised approvingly, threatening a small smile. “Clever girl.”

“But do AT-Fields even have a tensile strength?” Misato questioned from the side.

“Unit-01 ripped through the Third Angel’s AT-Field as if breaking through a wrapping, but AT-Fields are one of those many mysteries that have never been consistent,” the Doctor replied, focusing on the MAGI’s data for any scraps of information that could improve the success of this new offensive. “Asuka’s plan is solid, but we’ll have to see if it actually works out.”


>-O]|[O-<​


‘Focus! Focus on the stakes. Push them, will them forward a little bit at a time!

“Fifteen seconds to impact!”

Asuka could feel Shinji’s presence in the back of her mind, encouraging her, urging her forward. She embraced his strength and felt the stakes sink deeper, the clash of AT-Fields slowly taking on a concave shape in her favour. The Angel, sensing it was losing ground, began to reshrink its defences, but failed to do so quickly enough.

It was almost done, she just needed to keep pushing.

“Ten seconds to impact! Toropit'sya, Pilot of Unit-02!”


Cracks were beginning to show, the Second Child feeling how entire strands of the Angel’s barrier snapped against her wall’s advance. The stakes now almost touched the Angel’s body.

It was almost done, one final effort was everything that was left. Asuka crouched low and tensed every muscle in her chariot’s legs.

“Five seconds to impact!”


“BREAK THROUUUGH!” And with a roar, Asuka willed Unit-02 forward, smashing the titan’s knee against the leading stake. Sparks flew for an instant at the added pressure, burying the stakes further and leaving a single way out for all of their concentrated energy: they pierced through the orange barrier and buried themselves in the Angel’s fleshy body.

What remained of the Angel’s AT-Field soon followed, the small holes that had been created quickly expanding and starting to collapse the entire thing with satisfying cracks.

It was done. And the Second Child barely had enough time to land on all fours and will her shield to manifest before the force of fifty-three suns exploded right in front of her face, putting an end to what she had started. It took some effort for Asuka to ward away the blasts and keep them as far away from the city as she could, struggling to keep her eyes open even through the entry plug’s adaptive filters, but it wasn’t anything she couldn’t handle for the minute or so it took for the explosions and aftershocks to finally settle. What remained behind was a wall of smoke, dust and a thousand other things temporarily forced into the environment.

‘Near zero visibility.’


A quick look around the plug told Asuka that communications were out and her instruments were going haywire again, but both her and Unit-02 were perfectly fine, otherwise. She allowed a few, long moments to pass, AT-Field extended and ready, in which she slowly began to smirk at the thought of being the only human to ever tank an explosion of thermonuclear proportions and live to tell the tale, let alone fifty-three of them at the same time.

‘How about you top that, Stupid Shinji!’ Asuka boasted victoriously, her shoulders sagging a little as her physical and mental exhaustion caught up to her in unison. The rebooting of one of her systems caught her attention before she could do a little celebratory dance, however, the Second Child shifting her eyes to quickly skim through the report.

“No AT-Field detected in a ten kilometre radius,” Asuka deciphered, thinking to herself that there likely wasn’t anything at all to detect in that specific area by now. She sunk into her seat, finally allowing herself to relax and let go of her AT-Field. “…Is it… over?”

Just as a white shape flew out of the smoke and ashes and sunk itself into Unit-02’s abdomen.

“Urk!” Asuka grunted, grabbing hold of the attacker to hold it in place. “You BASTARD!”

It was just a tendril, she quickly identified, a small fraction of what the proud Angel had once been and likely not much of a threat anymore. With a single thought, Unit-02 opened up its shoulder pylon and reached out to grab its prog-knife, sinking it deep into the Angel and finding, much to Asuka’s relief, that its AT-Field was still gone. She raised the knife to stab at her almost defenceless enemy again, but then… stopped.

Asuka hoped that her mind had just played a trick on her.

“Asuka, ----- found it!” Misato’s voice reached through the broken communications, Asuka paying it no heed. “The ------! That remaining ---------- is the core!”

Because she had just heard a second grunt of pain, different from her own.

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

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Re: An Insider's Look

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Postby Gryphon117 » Thu Apr 01, 2021 10:19 am

I put in some extra hours of writing to finish what was left of this chapter. Sorry to say that it's not a funny April Fool's update. But please enjoy, anyway! ^_^

Chapter 16-5  SPOILER: Show
“What’s… What’s going on?!”

Shinji brought a hand to his stomach, from where strange tendrils had begun growing out of his abdomen. They spread outwards from his bellybutton, the root-like veins pulsing as they covered more and more of his body. Shinji stared at the growths with eyes full of fear, the sensation of something crawling around just beneath his skin feeling indescribably wrong.

“It appears that the Angel has made contact with Unit-02, in much the same way that it did with Unit-00 prior,” Maisie replied. “I would expect that it’s trying to contaminate Unit-02 as a last attempt to survive, even if I do not expect it to be enough.”

“What?! That’s what happened to Ayanami! B-B-t I’m not the one piloting!”

“You fool. At this moment in time we are entwined with the core of Unit-02 all the same, and I’ll remind you of how you have been acting as a medium for Asuka’s piloting efforts. From a practical standpoint, you are still a Pilot,” Maisie bitingly but calmly elaborated, shifting to look at the sitting Second Child. She appeared to be none the worse for wear from the experience. “From the lack of a reaction on Asuka’s body, however, I would expect that the Angel is more interested in you, a foreign element that shouldn’t be here. Perhaps it senses a way out for itself?”

“T-That’s…” Shinji coughed and heavily stepped closer, speaking quickly becoming more and more difficult as the tendrils spread over his chest. “W-What’s g-ing to h-pen to me…?”

“You will die, Shinji Ikari. Or perhaps you will become a host for an Angelic invader. Without the added protection of an Evangelion I would expect the contamination process to proceed far more apace than it previously did, at any rate,” Maisie continued, treating the topic of mortality as if she were speaking about the weather. She raised her ‘real’ hand and stared at it in deep thought. “…It is likely that I won’t escape unscathed, either.”

Shinji fell to his hands and knees as the tendrils spread over his thighs and sapped the strength out of them, his coughs becoming heavier and more serious as time marched on. He mustered his strength to raise his head and right arm, reaching out to Maisie just as he saw the tendrils begin to advance towards his elbow.

“H-Help… He-p m-!”

“Why should I? If I recall correctly, your paraphrased words were that ‘You didn’t want to listen to me’, and that ‘I looked out only for myself’. Why should I start to challenge your expectations now, of all times?” Maisie shook her head, but she did not sound amused despite her actions. She continued, accusing. “You are indeed a selfish creature, Shinji Ikari, crawling back to those you spurned in your time of need. But you are to be responsible for your own decisions. I have no obligation towards an outsider in our realm.”

But if the Third Child heard Maisie’s denouncing words, he showed no sign of it. He crawled further, unsteady on his limbs and hacking profoundly until he collapsed a short distance away from the Doll. Eyes beginning to glaze over, Shinji reached to touch Maisie’s foot with his hand.

“P-Please, I-I b-g you… Pl-s- he-p me!”

“…Pathetic. You can’t even be a man for once in your sad existence and face your demise with dignity,” Maisie coldly replied, her eye staring at the prone Third Child with clear disgust. She closed her eye and took a deep breath, struggling with her next move for a few seconds before she finally made a decision. “…Very well, I can at least make it a painless process for you. I suppose your trifling past efforts are worthy of such a minor boon.”

Maisie knelt down, grabbed the Third Child roughly by the neck and effortlessly lifted him with both hands, Shinji’s awareness returning as he felt how his feet left the ground and all the weight of his body came to rest in Maisie’s hold. He kept on coughing and sputtering, clawing at his captor’s stretched hands and failing to put a dent in her chokehold.

But it was then that Shinji made a chilling discovery: Maisie’s human half had begun to lose ground to the artificial side, felt and sutures quickly taking over flesh and blood. The process had likely been happening for some time by then, but hastened before the Third Child’s fearful gaze. Maisie noticed the young man’s discovery and narrowed her eyes, the quarter-girl’s attention shifting towards the sitting Asuka, her eye glazing for an instant before she blinked it away.

“I’ve always told you that you would not be able to accept her. That when the time came you would abandon her, hide behind your idealised and hopeful views and refuse to see the truth. The only thing your silly adventures have done is prove my point more often than not, even if it admittedly took you longer than I initially expected.”

Maisie stepped forward and pushed Shinji to the ground, hard, a part of the Third Child’s panicking mind noticing that even though the grip on his neck had now relaxed just the tiniest bit, the flare of pain along his back that he had braced himself for had never arrived. He could feel his backside against the floor, however, as well as his head and legs. But then he felt a different sensation throughout his body, one that quickly spread to the sides of his head, torso and thighs. It felt like water, like submerging back first into a swimming pool.

Shinji turned his eyes to the side and saw that he was sinking into the floor, and that Maisie was pushing him deeper and deeper. Shinji let out a panicked scream as his head fully sank, his voice coming out as underwater gurgles but none of the liquid-like substance coming into his mouth. The terror in his face didn’t stop Maisie from pushing him further down, however.

“You want to find Asuka, don’t you? You want to understand her, to know the life and pain that turned her into who she is? To find proof that will finally and conclusively deny me and my existence,” Maisie’s voice sounded slightly distorted through the barrier separating them, but the disdain in her words was still apparent. “Then you are in luck, because I’m about to offer you your chance. All the secrets, all the knowledge you craved will be at your fingertips, so reach out and drink your fill, drown in it for all I care.

Shinji tried to scream, claw and push back with all his might, but every one of his attempts proved as useless as the last. And as his final fingertip sunk under the floor, the last thing he saw was Maisie’s remaining eye being encircled by string and cloth, filled with anger, dejection and disappointment.

“This will be the last that we see of each other. Goodbye, Shinji Ikari.”

Then everything was black.


>-O]|[O-<​


Mari raced Unit-01 over the wreckage of the battlefield, following the shortest vector to the spot where the N2 warheads had fallen. Or at least, the shortest vector that had been available before all her instruments died on her, not even a few seconds after her self-imposed timer of five minutes elapsed and she had messily climbed out of the EVA elevator tunnels. Now, she relied on the old Mk.1 Eyeball and her own sense of direction for navigation in an environment full of dust, and tried to rendezvous with Asuka in record time. After all, while things were looking a lot better than they had ten minutes ago, the Fifth Child would be damned if she left anything up to chance at this point.

‘…Right. I should be heading thirty to thirty-five degrees north-east, by now, must be getting closer. Where are you, Princess?’

“---- UP, YOU GLOWING FREAK!! SHUT THE ------ UP!!” Asuka’s broken and struggling voice suddenly came over the radio, giving the Fifth Child pause. “EVERYTHING YOU DID TO ---, TO MARI, TO Rei, YOU’RE ------ TO PAY FOR ALL OF -----!! YOU’RE GOING TO ---- TENFOLD!!”

‘She must have been unknowingly transmitting over the channel all this time, and I just came close enough to pick it up,’ Mari reasoned, locking on and sprinting to the signal’s origin point. It was still a fair distance away. ‘She’s still fighting, better pick up the pace.’

“JUST. -----------. DIE ALREADY!”

Asuka roared with enough force to make Mari wince, and not even five seconds later the Fifth Child received an updated notification from MAGI to her combat log: it reported that the Pattern Blue had been eliminated and that no further threats were being detected in the area. Mari slowed Unit-01 to a halt, a bit surprised at the result of the skirmish.

‘Or… not. Wow, the Princess really pulled it off on her own. And she even dedicated the final blow to her team! I always knew she still loved us!’ Mari smiled in relief, her mind moving to the post-battle scenarios and thinking of the best way of announcing her presence. ‘Now, how and when should I best use this new ammo I just got?’

But just before she could congratulate (and maybe tease) Asuka over the radio, the Second Child’s voice came up again, sounding less angry and far more worried than she had been a second ago.

“Shinji…?” she spoke, and Mari’s eyes widened in surprise. “Hey, Shinji! Answer me, Shinji! Talk to me already!” Asuka was trying to put on a brave front, but her wall began to quickly collapse as more and more worry and fear made its way into her voice. “This is not funny anymore, you moron! The Angel is dead, I killed it! So you can stop it with the silent treatment! Shinji!!”

Asuka kept repeating the Third Child’s name time and time again, first demanding and then begging for the other Pilot to respond, her voice breaking down into sobs and steadily going down into downright hysterics.

Mari remained rooted in place, however. Her mind doubly busy first with blocking Yui’s sudden attempts at probing her mind for information on Shinji she was not aware of, and second with mixing all her knowledge and suspicions into a scenario that could explain Asuka’s ongoing outburst. The Fifth Child was successful on both accounts, her jolly expression at the dawn of victory quickly shadowed by yet another crisis that she would soon have to handle.

“…Oh, man,” Mari moaned, trying to tune out Asuka’s sobbing voice. “That can’t be good.”
Author of a few decent Eva stories, which can be found here.

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

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Postby Akomis » Thu Apr 01, 2021 11:37 am

OMG you madlad. I thought that you got some auto correct messing with the text. But I don't believe that it would choose just specific names. And it happened it April 1st, what a coincidence! "squeaky anchor", "converted collier", "copied tin-can", "Ol' Lusty", "Battleship-carrier hybrid"?! lol I'm dying xD

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Re: An Insider's Look

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Postby Gryphon117 » Thu Apr 01, 2021 12:10 pm

Akomis wrote:OMG you madlad. I thought that you got some auto correct messing with the text. But I don't believe that it would choose just specific names. And it happened it April 1st, what a coincidence! "squeaky anchor", "converted collier", "copied tin-can", "Ol' Lusty", "Battleship-carrier hybrid"?! lol I'm dying xD


It's probably something from the web, my document definitely doesn't have any of those. =P
Author of a few decent Eva stories, which can be found here.

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Postby BusterMachine4 » Thu Apr 01, 2021 12:12 pm

Yeah, this forum is pulling an April Fool's joke of its own, by changing all of the characters' names to different things. You can figure out what each name is supposed to be if you browse around here enough.

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Postby Akomis » Thu Apr 01, 2021 12:18 pm

Yeah, I tried to post the codenames and they all got converted back in the preview. But I was VERY suspicious with "I put in some extra hours of writing to finish what was left of this chapter." and the post date xD

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Postby Gryphon117 » Fri Apr 16, 2021 7:46 am

Hello again, here's a bit of a short update this time, mainly meant to set up for the next few scenes. Scenes that are going to take a while to come out because I'm currently really busy with Trails of Cold Steel IV, and I expect to remain like that for some more... tens of hours of gameplay.

...I'll try to update one more time in what's left of April. But if it doesn't happen, blame Falcom. ^_^

Chapter 17  SPOILER: Show
Three hours after the defeat of the Sixteenth Angel

Two women worked tirelessly within the bowels of Terminal Dogma, not because they were feeling fresh and active following NERV’s latest victory but rather because they didn’t have a choice in the matter. Ritsuko Akagi and Maya Ibuki both would have gladly passed out on any surface vaguely resembling of a bed, but while the inner chamber that they currently staffed did possess a side room specifically designed for that kind of break, the idea of rest was very far from their minds at the moment. They were on a timer, after all.

Maya also doubted that she could ever fall asleep in such a creepy atmosphere. The LCL filled tank that the First Child was floating in didn’t help matters, either. It brought to mind several disturbing scenarios from sci-fi books she had read over the years. Clones, androids or genetically enhanced humans and the like, all born from tubes such as this and rarely created with good intentions in mind.

‘And yet, that wouldn’t be the strangest thing you’ve heard today.’

Maya shook her head and focused back on her patient: the infection’s spread had completely halted and even began to die off and recede at certain ends, but all the vital functions within Rei’s body remained compromised and were expected to remain like that. The LCL treatment that Ritsuko had hastily put together was doing some good work, both at fighting the infection and keeping Rei alive, but it was clear in Maya’s mind that it would fall well short of actually healing the First Child.

“…Senpai, is this really going to help Rei-chan?”

Maya hated doubting her Senpai, she really did. But recent events and her mounting exhaustion made the question slip out of her lips before she had the opportunity to think better of it.

“The process won’t save her life, as I’m sure you already guessed,” if Ritsuko was offended by her slight, however, she didn’t show it. The doctor kept on working at her terminal as if speaking about the weather. “It is only meant to buy us time until night falls.”

“Why do we need to wait until night-time?”

“Because the EVA gantries will be understaffed at that time. Beyond that… it will be simpler for you to wait and see.”

Maya frowned, a non-answer was not what she had wanted to hear at that moment, but it was clear that no elaboration would be forthcoming. The young woman let out a heavy sigh and went back to poring through the constantly updating reports of Rei’s condition which, thankfully, were repetitive in nature. As the minutes passed, however, Maya noticed that she would lose focus and need to start reading all over again irritatingly often.

She couldn’t help it. Time and time again, her mind kept on going back to the conversation she’d had with her Senpai less than two hours ago. To say that Maya Ibuki struggled with the revelations would have been putting it lightly.

“And all those things that the machine, the… AI mentioned. Are they true, Senpai?” She finally asked, putting aside the reports for the moment.

“Yes. As I said, everything pertaining to NERV is, at the very least.”

“…It’s just so hard to believe,” Maya continued, struggling to find the right words. “That our work here was taken advantage of in such a way, that we would have… doomed mankind without even realising it. It still sounds like the plot of a movie to me. I still can’t believe that the commanders were involved in such a thing, either...

“…Or that you helped them.”

The accusation rolled out of Maya’s tongue with ease, but left a horrid aftertaste in the young tech’s mouth. The conflict between her sense of loyalty and the feeling of deep betrayal was raging inside her like a typhoon, one that perhaps Maya could have calmed if her Senpai’s own admissions made any sense to her.

The woman she looked up to had been plotting to end the human race? What for? Power? A sense of nihilism? A yearning for some sort of infinite knowledge? None of those had ever been factors to drive Ritsuko Akagi. In fact, Maya couldn’t think of any motivation that would make Ritsuko go down such a dark road, and she knew her Senpai like no other person in the world, outside of Major Katsuragi.

…Or at least, she thought she knew her. Perhaps the image of the driven and brilliant woman, harsh but patient at the same time, was just a front that Maya never managed to see through. Perhaps even one that Maya had built by herself.

“Why?” Maya half asked, half begged, hoping to allay the worst of her inner turmoil.

“…Why, indeed.”

But that, too, received no proper answer. Whatever the true reason for Ritsuko’s choices was, however, Maya could infer that her Senpai didn’t like it, that much she could tell from her face alone. Knowing that much would have to do, for now.

“…What about Asuka-chan?” Maya continued, changing the topic.

“Sohryu fled HQ seconds after confirming the Third Child’s condition. She’s likely outside with a token escort, putting her thoughts in order, no doubt,” Ritsuko elaborated, working her keyboard so quickly and so hard that the plastic might have given out at any moment. “I don’t envy her current predicament.”

Maya didn’t either. She couldn’t really understand the meaning behind the broken bits of communication that had reached HQ after the death of the Sixteenth Angel, but the fact alone that it had involved the comatose Third Child and that Major Katsuragi had been forced to raise the LCL pressure in Unit-02 to calm down a hysterical Asuka spoke volumes.

Asuka’s reaction was another thing that didn’t make sense to Maya, because Shinji-kun was exactly as he had last been, as far as Senpai and the rest of the doctors could tell. There had been no changes whatsoever to his condition. But then again, Asuka clearly knew something they didn’t, judging from her response. The girl wasn’t faking anything, that was for certain.

Shinji-kun, Asuka-chan, Rei-chan… even Makinami-san, to a certain extent. Those children just couldn’t catch a break. It was as if the world enjoyed kicking them while they were down.

“This is all so awful…”

“It is, yes. But we must continue moving forward,” Ritsuko half-agreed with her protégé’s assessment before she pushed a final key and began to head forward, earning herself a covert glare in the process. “The preparations here are finished. Let’s go to the next room.”

With a small sigh, Maya followed her Senpai to the gateway and waited for it to open, only to find that it wasn’t budging after a few seconds of waiting. Maya looked to the side and noticed that the security key card had yet to be passed through the reader, Ritsuko’s hand motionlessly hovering right above it.

“Senpai? What’s wrong?”

The Doctor closed her eyes and let out a deep breath, turning to look at her protégé through the corner of her eye. The look in the older woman’s eye was unlike anything Maya had ever seen on her before, full of shame and guilt.

“…I should warn you. The moment we step through this door your opinion of me will likely plummet,” Ritsuko spoke with a wry smile. “Even further, that is.”

The Doctor swiped the key card through the reader and the doors began to part, Maya heeding her Senpai’s advice and swallowing tightly, trying to make herself ready for anything. But the truth was that nothing could have prepared her for what she saw the moment she stepped into the following chamber, no matter how hard she tried.

A tablet that had once been tightly held loudly crashed against the floor.

“W-What…?” Maya mouthed as she slowly stared around her, expression caught in a look of sheer horror and a shaky finger extended outwards. “W-What… is t-this, Senpai…?”

The two of them were not alone in that circular room. Countless pale naked girls floated gleefully in a massive tank of LCL that surrounded the entire chamber. They looked at the two women curiously with eerie, toothy smiles and vacant red eyes, and giggled like babies looking for attention.

And they were all Rei Ayanami.

“This is the core of the Dummy Plug system,” Ritsuko replied, walking to one section of the tank with an unconcerned gait. “And also the First Child’s cradle.”

“The D-Dummy…! S-She’s…” Maya sputtered, recognizing the damnable name. Her hands clenched into tight fists as the young tech continued to look around her, her anger beginning to flare. She didn’t know the details, she didn’t care for the details, but it was clear that what she was witnessing was worse than anything Maya could have possibly imagined. “Senpai, why…?!”

“Maya. I know this is shocking, but if you want to save the First Child’s life, I need you to stay focused,” Ritsuko calmly and collectedly ordered, and just like that, Maya felt all of her boiling fury simmer down into a warm distaste. The young tech squared herself for instructions before she could even think better of it, old habits taking over. “Check that console and find the body with the best integrity available, the date when it was initiated shouldn’t matter. Find the one we need and flush it out of the tank, so I can take over from there.”

There it was, that sharp yet comforting tone of voice that was so familiar to her, but mixed with a new hint of resolve. Maya wondered why that could be for a second, before she realised that the answer was obvious: despite what Ritsuko’s statement claimed, she wasn’t the only one who wanted to save Rei. Her Senpai wanted to save her, too.

Maya took solace in that one positive fact among the tragedies of the day and did her best to block out all the other events of the afternoon from her mind, including the very present. She would be working on auto-pilot through the rest of the process.
Author of a few decent Eva stories, which can be found here.

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

tokareuv
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Re: An Insider's Look

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Postby tokareuv » Fri Apr 16, 2021 10:33 am

Thank you for the update! Even if I read it in one breath and still hungry, I'm glad that I had even this. Have a good day ^_^

Gryphon117
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Re: An Insider's Look

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Postby Gryphon117 » Tue May 11, 2021 8:58 am

Finally back. Like I said last time, blame Falcom for robbing me of so much of my time. ^_^

This update doesn't finish this scene in its entirety, but I wanted to take my time with the next conversation and make it as good as it can be. In the meantime, enjoy.

Chapter 17-2  SPOILER: Show
Misato Katsuragi and Mari Makinami walked side by side among the ruined buildings on the outskirts of Tokyo-3. No words had been exchanged between the two of them since their meet-up, the company of one another one born out of coincidence and a shared destination, and nothing more. They were both following the marker that Asuka’s security detail had left for them, indicating the spot were the Second Child had finally stopped after her flight from HQ. As they neared the location the two agents waved at them and fanned out in different directions, preparing for the possibility of Asuka running off again. Neither of the two women gave them any attention, however, their focus on the person some meters down the road, clad in a yellow jacket and a random assortment of other clothes that had been quickly thrown together without any care for fashion.

The road abruptly ended in the spot where the N2 blasts had gouged a massive crater into the ground. Asuka’s efforts had kept most of the city intact, but NERV’s offensive strategy against the Angel still meant that in a few weeks Tokyo-3 would likely have a new lake to build around, if the city council decided to keep it anyway. It could probably look natural enough with a few trees and some decorations, and God knew that the city could use some more green in it. That was Misato’s opinion, anyway.

But the Major knew that it was also not the time for that kind of idle thoughts. In silent agreement, both Misato and Mari stepped closer to the Second Child, near enough to let Asuka know they were there but also trying not to intrude.

“I’m not going to pilot Unit-02 anymore.” Asuka said when they approached, inching a bit further away from the crimson titan, which had still not been recovered. “I’m tired of it. I’ve only lost important things since I started to pilot EVA, and it’s not given me anything back.”

Misato closed her eyes and exhaled, long and deep, at the Second Child’s words. Owing to her prior experiences with Shinji and how closely Asuka had been mirroring a lot of his actions, Misato honestly could claim that she had expected this outcome, but she still didn’t like it. If Asuka refused to pilot, that left NERV with just Makinami in the active roster, and Misato didn’t need to go into detail as to why she didn’t find that state of affairs appealing.

But worrying about the future battles could wait for the time being. Misato had come to speak with Asuka, not with the Second Child.

“I take it Ikari is gone?” Mari began before Misato could think of a line of her own, the girl’s words making Asuka visibly tense up and the Major raise an eyebrow. “Sorry, I should rephrase that: I guess what I meant is that… you can’t talk to him anymore?”

“You’re here, too.” Asuka stated, looking over her shoulder and sending a nasty glare Mari’s way. “…Since when have you known?”

“Since a while ago. Akagi found some noise in your mental patterns that was pretty similar to that of the Third Child and the possibility came up, even if we didn’t really take it too seriously at the time. I’ve been paying special attention since then to confirm our suspicions,” Mari smiled a little, hoping that it would calm down the Second Child’s rising anger. She wasn’t successful. “I’m sure Bluebird figured it out, too. You weren’t very subtle.”

“And you didn’t say anything?!”

“It wasn’t my call to make. Besides, what would it have changed?” Mari replied, sounding somewhat apologetic despite her words, to her credit. “Akagi has been looking into the situation ever since we thought of the possibility, but as you can tell she hasn’t managed any breakthroughs that would help.

“What makes you think that he’s hurt, though?” she continued, curious. “His body at the hospital was fine, wasn’t it? And this can’t be the first time that you’ve lost contact, right?”

“Because it’s not the same! Sure, we weren’t connected 24/7 but from the moment I realised what was going on I could always tell that he was there, faintly, in the back of my mind! It’s not like that now! He’s just… gone!” Asuka ranted as she stood up, flailing wildly and putting a finger to her temple. “And nothing happened to me when the Angel struck, either! I wasn’t infected the way Rei was.”

“So you think that it went for Ikari, instead?”

“I don’t think so, I’m sure of it!”

“Okay, hold up,” Misato cut between the two girls, thinking that she had been patient for long enough. “You two clearly know what you’re talking about, but I think it’s time I got some more details on what’s going on with Shinji.”

“What, you’re still in the dark, Katsuragi?” Mari smirked knowingly at the older woman. “Even after all those hints I gave you?”

“Shut up. I wasn’t asking you.” Misato swiftly cut the Fifth Child off, before turning to her ex-ward with the need to know written in her eyes. “What’s going on, Asuka? Do you know where Shinji is?”

“…Was.” Asuka replied, staring at the ground. She remained in silence for a few moments before she brought her eyes back to look at Misato, and tapped the side of her head again with the same finger as before. “Shinji was here, inside my head. He’s been there ever since he went comatose, as far as I know. The bastard Angel that got into my head mixed him in there when he got in the way of its attack, somehow.”

To her credit, Misato’s show of surprise was limited to a tightening of her features.

“…Excuse me?”

Misato’s expression would have made Asuka laugh at any other time, but it didn’t prove enough at that moment. Instead, the Second Child explained the weird feelings she’d had during her early synch attempts with Unit-02, how she thought it was her imagination or guilty conscience playing tricks on her until the day that she woke up and Shinji straight up spoke to her. How they had been working together since then, awkwardly at first, but like a well-oiled machine before long. How hearing Shinji provide live commentary and useful input on her actions had slowly become a normal everyday occurrence.

By the end of Asuka’s explanation, Misato’s expression had lost all traces of bewilderment and returned to her usual composure.

“…That’s some story. Crazy enough that I would have brought you to a doctor by now if we didn’t work at NERV, and seen half the stuff we already have. But it does explain a few things, like the sudden climb in your synch-rate and all those times that you were lost in thought.

“But Asuka, if this has been going on for a while already…” Misato trailed off, taking a moment to think of how to continue. “Why didn’t you say anything?”

‘Why didn’t you tell me?’ was the actual question Misato was asking, and Asuka didn’t miss it. It made the feeling of guilt that she had felt when first deciding to conceal the truth from Misato return with a vengeance. The girl hugged herself without really meaning to and went back to her previous sitting spot, mournfully staring at the crater.

“I was going to… after the battle. I promised Shinji we would talk to Akagi and find a way out of this mess,” Asuka chuckled, a dark and hollow thing. “…But you can see how that turned out.”

“Sorry, I didn’t mean it to sound like an accusation.”

“I know. I know.” Asuka waved away Misato’s concern before she continued holding herself. “It’s just… I feel so alone all of a sudden. Rei is hospitalised, that bitch next to you is not who she claimed to be and now Shinji is… gone. I… I just don’t know what I should do.”

For a single second after hearing Asuka’s admission, sounding so vulnerable and on the verge of tears, Misato hesitated. She knew that she wanted to help her ward, that she wanted to comfort her, but Misato also knew that she had failed horribly at doing that sort of thing in the past, and the fear of failure, of saying the wrong thing, rooted her to the spot.

But that fear did not last. Misato quickly decided that doing something, anything, no matter how clumsy, would be better than doing nothing at all. She had just taken a single step forward, however, when a cell phone rang out. It took the Second Child a moment to recognise the stock tune as her own, fishing the device from the pocket of her jacket and putting it to her ear without even checking the call ID.

“Yeah?”

“Ohmygosh Asuka! I’m so glad you’re alright!” Hikari Horaki’s voice came from the phone, making Asuka smile a bit. Up until she noticed that her friend sounded both relieved and panicked at the same time. “I was afraid something could have happened to you, too!”

“Hey, Hikari, I’m glad to hear you. But calm down, what’s going on?”

“It’s Toji! He just… He just-” Hikari continued, flustered and tripping over her own words. “He just vanished without a trace!”

“What…?” Asuka stood up, flipping the phone in her hand and activating speaker mode. This caught the attention of the other two women. “Hikari, did you already speak with the doctors? Maybe he was moved to another wing?”

“Yes! And they don’t know where he is, either! They told me that… that some people came by after the battle and that they took Toji with them! That they were… transferring him to another medical institution!"

Asuka turned to give Mari her full attention. And if her eyes had been able to shoot flames, the Fifth Child would have been burnt to cinders right then and there.

“What. Did you do. To Suzuhara.”

“The Fourth? He’s gone?” Mari echoed, soundly genuinely surprised. “Sorry, I’m not in the loop about that.”

Two pairs of inquisitive eyes clearly let Mari know that they didn’t believe her.

“Look, I’m aware of my track record but I’m serious this time,” the Fifth Child insisted. “That’s already not the sort of thing that I would be usually told about, not in depth anyway, but to make matters worse I sort of pissed off my handler and made him doubt my focus just the teensiest little bit a short while ago. Keeping me in the dark is probably just his way of playing it safe.”

Better, but not good enough. Not good enough by a long shot.

“She can hear me, right?” Mari sighed, pointing at the cell phone in Asuka’s hand. At the Second Child’s tight nod, she continued. “Look, Horaki, I sort of know the people that took the Fourth Child. I don’t know where they took him or why they took him, though, but I can assure you that they didn’t force this Suzuhara boy into anything. Whatever they did, they did with his consent.”

“What makes you so sure?” Misato demanded from the side.

“The fact that he’s not an active EVA Pilot anymore. Suzuhara is a civilian as far as we are concerned, and we’ve got very clear and strict directives about civilian involvement that Arthur would never think about breaking. Remember when we made a point of making our takeover as bloodless as possible?”

“I remember, alright. But probably not for the same reasons you do.” Misato grunted, eyeing the Second Child out of the corner of her eye. “What do you think, Asuka?”

Misato’s ex-ward was meaningfully eyeing the Fifth Child, her mouth set in a grim line as she inspected her former teammate for any tells.

“She’s not lying. Not this time.” Asuka eventually decided, then spun around and brought the phone back to her ear. “Give me a few.”

The Second Child stepped a few paces away and resumed her conversation with Hikari, a few heated glances back at Mari hinting at how the class representative had not failed to recognise the voice and how the supposed Fifth Child's involvement had given her more questions than answers. In the end, however, Asuka succeeded at calming down her friend and ended the call with a deep sigh, sitting back down and staring down the crater like she had been when Misato and Mari first had arrived.

Both women stared at the Second Child’s back, recalling why they had come there but getting second thoughts now that additional worries had surfaced. This time, however, Mari was the first to push through that blockade.

“Hey, Katsuragi. Mind giving me a moment here?”

“What for?”

“I just want a word in private, that’s all,” Mari deflected Misato’s suspicions by motioning with her head to the back of the street. “But you can look from over there if you get a kick out of that.”
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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