The three pilots stood in front of Misato, each dressed in their plug suits including Hikari with her new yellow-colored suit, as she gave the assignments. They were all meeting in the pilot ready room with no one else around. When Misato explained that Hikari in the now-activated Unit 09 would be going with Asuka on the assault on SEELE's fortress the junior pilot broke into a panic. "I just started sync today!" she protested. "There's no way I can be ready enough for something like that!"
"You volunteered for this position," Misato told her sternly. "These are the circumstances that we face. All of us need to take risks. Shinji had to fight an Angel on his first day."
"I know, but," Hikari continued, "Asuka said there might be as many as eleven EVAs inside of that mountain!"
"We're going to give you every method of support possible," Misato told her. "You'll be heavily armed and there will be an orbital bombardment that comes with the attack. It'll be okay!"
Hikari wasn't comforted by anything that Misato was telling her. She turned to Asuka with a very worried expression. "Asuka? Is that true?"
"Military people always make these things look more scary than they are," she replied in a confident voice. "Why don't you go and let me talk to her?"
"Okay, then," she said sheepishly and then asked Misato, "Colonel, may I be excused?" The officer nodded. "Go ahead." The rest of them waited for Hikari to leave the room until they spoke again.
"If she goes on that mission she's not coming back," Asuka challenged Misato. "You know that!"
"Not my choice, it's the commander's direct order."
"Oh! So Miss Perfect here is now considered too valuable to risk in combat!" the redhead chided as she sneered at Rei. "Or maybe we're really just afraid that she won't shoot her traitor of a boyfriend if he shows up there!"
"That is not the issue," Rei said flatly. She stepped up to Misato. "Pilot Ayanami volunteering to attack the SEELE fortress."
"I understand why the commander doesn't want her go to," the colonel told both of them. "If SEELE is successful in trying to re-start Third Impact, Rei might be the only one who can stop them."
"Well they're not going to do that here in Tokyo-3," argued Asuka. "How can she stop them if she's not part of the attack?"
Misato was about to argue further until Rei interrupted both of them. "It doesn't matter," she said.
"Of course it matters!" said Asuka.
"Third Impact has already happened," replied Rei flatly. "It doesn't matter."
"Wait, what?" Misato asked Rei. "What do you mean by 'it's already happened'?"
"Third Impact has already occurred," Rei repeated. "They cannot go back and do what has already been done."
"But nothing happened then!" Asuka argued. "You just became this big…naked…ginormous thing and then blew up in all of this light! It wasn't like the whole world came to an end or anything."
"Third Impact is not about destruction," the blue-haired girl explained. "It's about the re-setting of the world. The world we live in now is the result of that."
Asuka blew her hair up in frustration. "Oh, great. Now you tell us!"
"Rei, forgive me for being skeptical," Misato said to her, "but it seems like everything is pretty much the same as before."
"That is not true," she said. "Misato-san, what was your desire before Third Impact?"
"My desire? I wanted all of the pilots to be safe!"
"Was there anything else?"
"Well," Misato went on, "I really just wanted Kaji to return. I had honestly thought that he was killed."
"Did you also want to become a mother?" Rei asked her.
Misato sighed and pondered, "that was sort of in the back of my mind, like 'wouldn't it be nice or something.' I can't say that it was a real desire!"
"Everything came true, did it not?"
"I guess so."
Rei then turned to Asuka. "What was your desire before Third Impact?"
"That I would be the best EVA pilot ever!"
"You defeated nine Mass Production units at once," Rei replied. "What else did you want?"
"Of course I wanted Kaji back! And Baka too, you know."
"You received all of that."
Misato tried to wrap her mind around what Rei was saying. "Rei, are you trying to tell me this is Instrumentality? What we're living in right now?"
"In some way, yes," she replied, "At that moment, all wishes and desires were folded together into the world, and everything was begun anew."
"So what happened?" argued Asuka. "If everyone got their wish why are we in such a shitty position right now?"
"Because everyone got their wish," Rei declared. "Aida-kun died in combat, piloting an Evangelion, after kissing Soryu-chan. Those were his desires. Ikari-kun wanted to see Kaworu-kun again, that was his wish. Forri-kun wanted to be with his sister, that was his wish. And Forri-kun's sister wanted to be with her EVA again, and wanted revenge for her father. Those were her desires."
"Then can someone please wish that everything would be better than it is now!" Asuka cried out.
"The world is in crisis because someone has wished for Third Impact, yet Third Impact has already occurred. The imbalance will continue until that desire is unmade."
"And it can't be unmade until the person who made it is also unmade," Misato concluded.
"Therefore I am the one who needs to go," Rei said to the others. "My desire is to be myself, but to be myself I must confront that which does not want me to be myself. I have confronted Commander Ikari already, now I must confront the Angel that pilots Unit 06. Somehow, he is the ultimate factor in all of this."
After their first real conversation together the figurative walls between Patrick and his sister rapidly came tumbling down. They spoke to each other for hours as each leaned against the one common wall between them, relating stores to the other about their own life and upbringing and finding much common ground between them.
The feeling of elation both of them had from re-discovering each other nearly made them forget that they were still in a prison, but now the air didn't quite seem as cold as it once was, the mood not quite so gloomy. After talking to exhaustion the pair of them rested and then took up again with each other nearly as soon as they woke up the next day.
"So how did you first meet Vance, then?" Patrick asked Erin. Each of them were now seated right at the corner between the common wall and the plexiglass front, allowing them to get at least a glimpse of each other through the very narrow portion of the plexiglass wall that showed into the adjoining cell.
"When was it?" Erin tried to recall. "It was early last year I guess. Dad called me into some meeting and then they introduced me to both him and his dad."
"What was he like then?"
"Oh, he was a complete asshole," Erin told him. "Super cocky, completely rude, very blunt."
"Sounds just like him. Did you guys go to school together?"
"Well, I didn't go to a regular school period, so…"
"Wait, you didn't go to school at all?"
"Did I mention that Dad was sort of paranoid?"
Patrick smirked to himself. "I sort of got that impression earlier. Anyway, what did you have instead?"
"All private lessons or on the computer, or tutors," she told him. "I had sports lessons, but even those were just with instructors."
"You must have not had many friends, then."
"No, and that was kind of annoying. It's no fun having no one to play with. Was it like that with you in the mountains?"
"It was. I always thought Uncle was just as paranoid as Dad was, I was completely taught either by him or by other adults in the town next to us. I don't think he wanted me telling someone else's kid about where we lived and stuff, but now I wonder if maybe Dad was just insisting on this."
"Yeah, well, it kinda sucked."
"Did you ever meet other kids at all?" Patrick asked her.
"I did, occasionally I guess, but not like real friends or anything. I think Vance was the first real friend I had that was my own age."
"But not at first."
"No, he's all like, 'I'm super-cool pilot' and everything the first few times I met him. Then they put us together for classes and training, which I really hated at first."
"Okay, but, it wasn't always like that, was it?"
Erin leaned back further into the wall, as more and more memories started to come to her. "One day he's still picking on me in the simulators and I tell him to shut up. I mean, I was really mad. Then he does it. Next day he's completely different, super polite, tries to be friendly. Still didn't pay any attention until a few days later when he challenges me to a sync rate match: If I can beat his sync he'd leave me alone for good."
"Did you take him up on it?"
"Heck, yeah. Smoked him by twenty percentage points!"
"Then what did he do?"
"He, um," Erin blushed, "he actually gave me flowers as a present. And he was a lot nicer after that."
"Wow," mused Patrick.
"Did he ever talk about me?" his twin asked him, her voice now more quiet. "I mean, did he ever say anything?"
"He didn't really talk too much about you. Said you were a good pilot, very sweet and active, but sometimes kind of sad. He also described you as kind of a 'mascot' for NERV-2."
"Mascot?! He makes it sound like I went around in a bunny outfit!"
"He said you were very popular among the NERV-2 staff," Patrick continued. "Everyone really took it hard when you had your accident."
"Like I said, I didn't have friends my own age and I have all of this time on my hands, so especially when I was little I just spent my time exploring the base. By the time I was a pilot I knew my way around pretty well, from the command center to Fabrication, where they were putting the units together. I even found out NERV-2 had a dungeon."
"Yes, that's where they kept me for a couple of weeks."
"No, that's the brig," Erin corrected. "The dungeon is where Dad kept people he didn't like who worked on EVA. There was this old French guy who worked way underground, used to give me butter cookies and tea when I came around."
"That's Dr. Foch!" Patrick exclaimed. "He's the guy that saved my face!"
"Really? Well, Dad absolutely hated that guy. The one time he got really mad at me was when I told him I visited him once. Even after that I still went down there."
"You were friends?"
"Not really," Erin shrugged. "I just wanted the free cookies." She shook her head in realization. "So Uncle Bernard's still alive then?"
"At the Geofront. He works in their dungeon now, and Rei's goes down there with him at lot."
Patrick paused, not sure of how much more he should tell her. "I mentioned Rei was a clone, right? Well, she's being studied by him. She spends a lot of time down there, actually."
The two of them paused for a bit, each thinking of what they wanted to ask the other of all of the thousands of remaining questions in their minds. Erin started again, but this time her mood was more melancholy, more sullen. "Patrick?"
"Yeah," he answered. From the tone of her voice he knew his sister would now be asking more difficult things of him.
"What really happened?"
"Yeah. I mean, are they really dead after all?"
The boy took a deep breath and concentrated on the one odd memory he had of his time while he was trapped within Unit 04, the one time he could fully contact that dark shadow which lived inside their EVA's core. "No. They're not dead. I'm sure of it. EVA would have told me if they were."
"But then where are they?"
Patrick tried to explain his theory. "Rei told me once about the EVA, how that when it's fully activated there's a piece of it that exists outside of what we call time. At the same time, she told me that where we are isn't the only world out there, there's lots of other universes besides us."
"So, EVA moved NERV-2 from one time to another, or to one universe to another. They're safe, but they're not here."
"And it was because of Dad, wasn't it?"
"Yes," Patrick said in a low voice. "Yes, it was."
Erin took a few deep breaths. "I'll never see him again, will I?"
"No way to tell," Patrick told her. "But Dad was dangerous. Anyone…anyone who would have done that to Vance was dangerous."
"Is it true?" she pried further, with uncertainty in her voice. "Did you really shoot Vance?"
Patrick was silent for a while as what was still his most unpleasant memory came to him from his first time at Tokyo-3. The thing he hated to do but yet the thing that had to be done, so many months ago.
"It went like this: Double-V had a mission to do, and Rei got in the way of it, and then I had to make a choice."
"Half of me still wishes maybe I didn't do what I did. He might still be alive and Rei, being a clone and all, they could have just brought her back anyway."
"I bet she probably wouldn't have gone out with you," Erin quipped, "if you just stood by and let her get killed like that, you know."
Patrick couldn't help but laugh out loud at Erin's reply. "Oh, God, no!" he said. "Of course not." Then he recovered himself further as a pall mood came over him. "Every day I wish I could go back there, Erin. I really do. Some nights I just play that in my mind again and again."
"Thank you for telling me."
"I'm so sorry."
"I'm really not surprised." Patrick was himself shocked by Erin's response. "No?"
"If..." her voice quivered, "if you really got to know Vance, you'd know that he had a dark side to him. Just like Dad had," she told Patrick. "I remember this one time we were out together in the desert and he saw these two rabbits, and he had a rifle with him and I begged him not to shoot them and he just didn't care. To him it was just his way of proving who he was. He killed both of them, even when I screamed at him to stop. I mean," she continued, her voice choking up, "I loved him, I really did, but that part of him was scary. I'm…I'm not surprised he didn't think of something else he could have done."
"Like I said before," Patrick said in a hush, "it was all messed up."
"It's okay," she replied. "I'm…I'm tired."
"Go to sleep, then."
"Okay." There was a long silence and then Erin spoke again. "Patrick?"
"I don't really blame you anymore, I don't. But, you just gotta give me some time on all of this."
Patrick smiled a little. "Do whatever you got to do, I'm right behind you whatever it is. Even if it's easier for you to just hate me in the end." Erin didn't reply, but just went promptly to sleep on the other side of the wall.
Go on to Chapter 49