That night as she slept in her bedroom behind her on the futon Rei felt a thump and she glanced back to see who it was. Another girl's body now took the other side of her futon and in a moment Asuka's arms went around her, clutching her tight.
Rei said nothing but let her be held by Asuka in the dark of the room. The redhead spoke to her in whispers. "Don't go thinking this means we're not rivals anymore, got it?"
"I understand it," Rei replied simply, and then she said. "You miss him?"
"I do too. I miss both of them."
"It's not going to end well, is it?" Asuka asked.
"There is no way to tell. It will ends as it needs to."
Asuka said nothing in reply but instead just squeezed her tighter, and Rei then put her own hands on top of Asuka's, doing what little she could to comfort her as they both tried to sleep.
Some time later that night Rei again awoke to noises outside the door. As she heard the sound of the refrigerator door slamming Rei concluded it was Misato who was now in the kitchen and that greatly concerned her.
Leaving a sleeping Asuka on her futon Rei went from her bedroom to the kitchen wearing just her nightshirt. She opened the door and saw Misato sitting at the table. She was dressed in a sports jersey and sleep shorts and in front of her was a bottle of cold sake, and a single sake glass that was full. Misato just stared at the glass, her brown eyes quivering from withheld emotions. The expression on her face was one of weariness.
"Misato-san," Rei said to her, and the woman gave her a quick glance. Her attention then went back to the small glass, her right hand fondling the container.
"Misato-san," Rei repeated. "You should not do this. For the child's sake."
The officer sighed. "You're right, of course." She removed her hand from the glass. Without saying anything Rei took the sake glass and bottle, and poured both into sink as Misato watched. Katsuragi didn't protest, instead just watching as Rei then placed the empty glass on the dish strainer and threw the sake bottle into a trash can. She then took two packets of instant green tea from the pantry and proceeded to heat a kettle of water, and within a few minutes handed Misato a warm cup of tea while he kept one for herself as she sat down at the table.
The two girls drank the tea for a minute without speaking further until Misato broke the silence. "You couldn't sleep either, huh?"
"I don't usually wake up in the middle of the night," replied Rei, "but I knew I should come here to help."
"Thanks," said Misato with a forced grin. "I guess I needed a little reinforcement."
Rei changed the subject. "The not knowing is the most difficult part, isn't it?"
"It is." Misato let out a long breath. "I tell myself that things will work out. Kaji knows what he's doing, and Shinji's protected by Unit 01. The truth is I just feel that this time our luck's finally run out."
There was a long silence between the two as each of them continued to sip their tea. Rei then spoke. "Misato-san?"
"What is it like?"
Misato knew what Rei had meant. "You mean being pregnant?"
"Well," she chuckled, "now I can throw up without having to get drunk first!" Misato smiled at Rei who didn't return the expression. "Really, it's still very small inside. Sometimes I think I can feel it moving, or I might have a moment of being light-headed, or I just seem just a little too tired or even too hungry. I think right now everything's mental: so many thoughts and emotions running through my head. Fear, uncertainty, anxiety, worry, but also hope too. Something new is coming into the world, and maybe this way I get a chance to do my life better with this."
Misato looked at Rei as the other girl considered what she had said. "You're thinking to have one of your own someday?"
"I have considered it," Rei replied, "but I will be unable to in my current physical state."
The older girl smiled at her. "Things have a strange way of working out. I remember when I first went to college and they asked me what I wanted to major in. I said 'Child Psychology' without even thinking about it. I don't really know why I picked it, as I didn't have any real strong interest before school. When I came to NERV and EVA afterward, was I so glad I chose that."
"It was suitable for you," commented Rei.
"Yes, but I had no idea how or why until years later. I just had to trust that I made the right choice and it would work out. The same might be true for you. You've got a role to play in life beyond just being an EVA pilot, and I think in your case it's going to be something pretty important. The choices you make now will affect that, but you won't know how or why until you get there."
"It takes faith."
"That it does," Misato agreed as she finished off her tea, "and sometimes, such as right now, faith is all you got."
Rei nodded in acknowledgment, feeling encouraged by Misato's words. She had woken up and come to the kitchen to help support Misato in her momentary weakness but had also received the same support in return. "You'll make a good mother," she told her.
Misato smiled at Rei and affectionately patted her on the head. "So will you."
Still dressed in his service uniform and not prison clothes Sir John Sheffield sat in one of the dimly-lit NERV holding cells as Wellington, now standing a few feet from him, updated him on conditions outside. "Ikari's been back for three days now and they've got both the MAGI now fully operational as well as Unit 09 activated and running. "
"They're still intending to carrying out a full-scale attack?"
"Yes, sir, using space catapults to throw two EVAs into orbit and then down right on top of them. "
"Well," Sheffield shrugged, "that's a better plan then just fixing bayonets and then parading right towards them. What else?"
"Unit 04 was spotted by a recon drone flying over SEELE-2. The EVA promptly dropped the drone but it confirmed SEELE-2's location in Norway without any doubt."
"So the other side will now know we're coming." The general parsed his lips. "They'll try to speed things up on their end, it will be a race against time if Omega can reach the chairman before the Admiral's attack upsets the cart."
"The attack wouldn't work in Omega's favor?"
"The point of the whole exercise was to make the dragon comfortable within his own lair, then strike at him from within. Time is of the essence now. If Omega succeeds then things won't be so bad off, but if Omega fails the Dragon will be fully awake. We may now be at our most vulnerable." Sheffield looked up at Moria. "I trust you didn't kill the guards to get in here?"
"Of course not, sir," she responded flatly. "I've managed to buy off two of my own and then re-wire the video. No one's been the wiser, and I've got Vinson's and Katsuragi's complete trust. Do you want me to spring you out of here?"
"No, there's no need to be a distraction at the moment," confirmed the general. "If the attack fails then the rest of the Alliance will seek me out soon enough, and if they're lucky enough to pull it off I've got other measures that can be taken."
"I see, sir." Wellington was going to ask something else and hesitated, but from his bed Sir John noticed her facial expression. "Is there anything else, leftenant?"
"I just got to thinking earlier, sir, about what happens to EVA after everything is all done. I mean, if Omega succeeds and SEELE is destroyed from within, what happens to the program?"
"Given everything you've seen since you've been here what do you think, Lieutenant?"
"I signed up with the Alliance because at the end of the game we'd blow these things to hell and then be done with it all."
"You're asking the proverbial question: can Pandora's Box be closed again?"
"If the EVA program is shut down no one's going to try to resurrect EVA again after all this, are they?" she argued, trying convince herself she believed what she was saying. "Heaven and Earth had to be moved for these things, over half the bloody planet's been wasted! Once the threat's gone no one's got the power or the wealth to keep EVA going for another round."
Sheffield sat up straight on the bed and folded his arms, giving the younger officer a serious glance. "EVA IS power," he told her. "Most of the remaining ones have S2 engines by now, they're no longer bio-mechanical creatures to do man's bidding, they're literally gods walking among us. You can't just flip an 'OFF' switch on them anymore. Whoever is in control of the program at the end won't need wealth or power because they'll already have it."
"And then what?"
"And then humanity will finally have the lasting peace it's sought," continued Sheffield, "because anyone's whose going to spoil it will have to contend with EVA. That's the end game."
"So this whole thing was about who controls EVA in the end?"
"It was, Lieutenant. Sorry to disappoint you but I'm sure even through your own idealism you can see the realities that EVA has brought upon us." He raised his eyebrows as he spoke to her. "There's no going back to the world that was, I'm afraid."
"So why mess all this up?" Wellington asked Sir John with an accusing tone. "Mari nearly got killed because of this game you played with Omega and the Forrestal twins."
"In my defense I didn't have any notice that SEELE would send Unit 06 here," he replied, "Omega either failed to warn us of that or thought it suitable that we weren't to be prepared."
"Suitable?! We lost dozens of good people in that attack! You seem quite willing to trust a phantom with all our remaining lives."
Sheffield was undisturbed by Wellington's criticisms. "Trust me, leftenant, there is a whole story to this that you don't want to know. Is there anything else?" he asked her, narrowing his glance. "I want to be sure you're completely on board here. I understand you've got personal reluctance but we can't afford such things in the future that we'll face after this. You need to put that aside and carry on. Got it?"
Moria Wellington nodded. "Affirmative, sir."
A half an hour later Wellington was in the crawlspace that Kaji had used for his secret meetings. Also in the same crawlspace were both Misato and Admiral Vinson himself, who's large body was uncomfortably crammed into the tiny room as the three of them spoke privately. Wellington reported all that Sheffield had said to her as the other two listened.
"Basically his whole plan was to allow SEELE to have Unit 04 whereupon Omega would do something with it," Wellington concluded. "He claims that he had no prior knowledge of Unit 06's raking of the GeoFront, but didn't seem too disturbed by it either, says Omega might have deliberately withheld a warning in order for his plan to succeed."
"Mother Mary on a crutch," Vinson sighed. "It could also be true that Omega didn't warn him because he's captured or dead. Which means the plan had failed and SEELE got an extra EVA out of it."
"Anyway," Wellington finished, "that's the lot of it. He seemed confident that he's going to be let out of there, the general didn't even ask me to release him."
Misato thought about that and turned to the commander. "How much pull does Sheffield have with the member nations of the Alliance?"
"Lots," Vinson answered. "He's the ranking military officer for a start, and he's been there at the beginning to organize things. So far I been stalling on reporting his whereabouts until we know more on what's going on. I can imagine that some of the member states are going to be upset that he's been held."
"If he promised them EVA after the war was over I could see why. Moira?" Misato asked Wellington. "Why did you come forward to us with this?"
Wellington showed an unusual expression of reluctance and not her confident self as she spoke. "Well, Colonel, the way I see it...I got into NERV on the basis that this was all about protecting the Earth, first from killer asteroids, which was a lie, then from the Angels. When I found out the whole Angel thing was also a lie, I jumped ship to the Alliance and took Mari with me when I did it. Now she's living one inch short of death. Dr. Foch says she might never walk again if she recovers. I..." Tears started to well up in her eyes as she spoke in stuttered tones. "...She's maimed because she trusted in me that I could find who was telling the truth. Now I find out that the Alliance is just after the EVA, they're not going to end this. No one is, and I don't want Mari have gone through all of that just for nothing! Someone has to end this," she told the others. "Someone has to put a stop to it."
"Do you trust us?" asked Misato.
"I've...I've seen you with the other pilots," replied Moria. "I mean, you really treat them like a family. I supposed that's what they all needed, having lost their parents and all. If there's anyone I can trust to do the right thing, Colonel, it's you."
"Thank you," Misato said softly, "although even I'm not so sure I'm the one who should decide this in the end." She turned back to Vinson. "She's got a point: what's the endgame for EVA, should we succeed?"
Vinson sat in his cramped corner of the little room and put his hand to his chin in deep thought, considering all that was said. "If Evangelion is God's ultimate test for man, then what we do in the end about EVA is the real final exam, not defeating SEELE. Does mankind use the strength and power EVA as a stepping stone to eventually reach God himself? Or instead does man cast off power and glory and live humbly?"
"Considering all that mankind has gone through recently, living humbly sounds pretty good right about now," Misato said.
"I don't disagree, but EVA's going to provide a temptation to others that can't be ignored," added the admiral. "Johnnie might be right: it might be impossible to close Pandora's Box once it's opened."
"Then there's the part about how you can't switch them off anymore," said Misato. "Like it or not they're alive."
"Maybe we should just ask them?" quipped Wellington. Both the admiral and Misato looked at each other with the realization of what the solution to the problem of EVA might actually be.
Continue to Chapter 50