At the EVA cages Misato watched Rei from afar along with Admiral Vinson, Hyuga, Maya and Dr. Foch, all of them stood next to her on the observation platform above the steel gangway where Rei was. About three hours earlier the group of them had asked Rei if she was able to contact the Evangelions and if she was, would she mind asking them a very important question: what should become of them now that all of the apparent threats of Angels and SEELE were defeated. Without saying much else Rei had then made her way to Cage 02, where the giant purple Unit 01 was in silent repose.
When Misato asked if Rei if she needed to suit up and go through the entry plug, Rei told her it would not be necessary. She then stood in front of EVA-01 on the gangway, remaining their silently facing the EVA as the others watched from the observation platform.
Rei found herself in the outdoors, wearing a simple white sundress and walking barefoot through a grassy meadow. The sun was shining brightly and it was warm but not hot, with a cool breeze gently blowing and slightly brushing her hair. To Rei, the cool air felt good on her skin when it blew against her, and she felt very comfortable in the place that she was in now. Up ahead of her she saw a large tree next to the shore of a lake. She saw the shadow of someone standing by the tree and knew that was where she needed to go, and Rei then walked forward towards the shoreline.
When she reached the tree she saw the figure of a woman standing with her back to her, facing the lake that was in front. The woman was Japanese of about thirty years of age. with brown hair that went to her shoulders, and she was wearing a white sleeveless blouse and a short blue skirt with blue flats. The woman was petite in size, just slightly taller than Rei, and her skin was beautifully ivory in color. Upon hearing Rei's footsteps behind her, the woman turned around to face her. Rei saw into the purple haze of her eyes and the gentle and warm expression of her face and knew immediately who it was.
"Hello, Rei," said Yui Ikari as she smiled. "Long time, no see!"
Rei was apprehensive, but just for a moment. "Hello...mother."
"How long has she been standing there?"Hyuga asked as they continued to watch Rei out the window.
"Longer than an hour," answered Misato. She looked over at Maya, who was monitoring Unit 01 with an LCD tablet in her hands. "Is anything happening?"
Maya winced a little as she looked at what seemed like conflicting data coming from the EVA in front of them. "There's some sort of interfacing with the core but the data streams all look random," she told her. "Rei-chan's definitely doing something with her. Amazing that she can even do that without the A10s to neurally interface."
"The connection between them is spiritual, not just mental or physical," observed Foch. "The question is are these two beings really one and the same, or just how distinct are they from each other? However it is, Mademoiselle Rei is now able to bridge that gap between them completely on her own."
"She's growing up," said Vinson. "And we'd better learn to grow up with her." Misato noticed that Rei had finished whatever she was doing on the gantry, and was now walking towards the exit doors.
The group of them now moved to the staircase to see her downstairs. When they arrived, Rei was already waiting for them at the bottom.
"Well?" asked the Admiral. "Did she have anything to say?"
Rei looked at him with stoic seriousness. "I did ask the question," she told them.
"And?" The whole group waited with anticipation for Rei's response. She looked at all of them curiously. "She has a few...suggestions."
30,000 feet over the Arctic Circle
Patrick found that his flight to America was an easy one. Once departing from Japan he felt quite sleepy despite the strong emotions that ran through him and then knocked out on the airplane seat, not even bothering to go to the bedroom in the back of the G6. He woke up six hours later, as the small jet was crossing the Arctic Circle back into North America, as it had flown the shorter polar route between Japan and the USA.
He woke up to sunlight and glanced out the windows as the world underneath. The whole of the arctic below seemed to be one white sheet of ice and snow. As he looked out the windows his mind wondered again to events that happened before he boarded, to the feeling of Rei in his arms and her kiss on his lips, and wondering how he'd even get by another day without feeling her next to him.
It was a strange feeling going to another new place, although not entirely like his last journey to Japan. That time, when he had been just spilled out of his EVA after being trapped in it for three months, he had nothing to his name except perhaps a toothbrush, some spare clothes provided by others, and a lot of anger, fear, and frustration. Now he traveled with good memories to balance the bad, knowing that while he was distant from those he loved he was not alone, and he wouldn't be entirely alone at his destination either.
But returning to the USA was still a strange feeling for him. He had spent nearly all of his life either in the California mountains or in the Nevada desert, all under close supervision of someone and often in isolation. Now he was more on his own with a new set of strangers and a new environment in New England that was nearly as different from his earlier surroundings as Japan had been. How long would he have to stay to sort out matters with Erin? It was impossible for him to know, and he just hoped that things would work out somehow. But whatever happened he couldn't leave Erin alone, that he knew, and like a white knight he was flying to her rescue or at least to provide the familial comfort that he knew he alone could give her.
He leaned his head against the aircraft window and through of Rei again, imaging in his head all of the contacts and connections that they now had, and still feeling amazed that he had bridged the gap between him and her. It had somehow seemed by the time he left that she had always been there for him, and perhaps in some spiritual, out-of-the-timestream way she had been. For a little white longer he let his imagination go and thought about Rei and how he could come back to her, hoping that what they had in those brief moments between the two of them wasn't just for the last few months, but for all time. Patrick thought about her in the pools of the onsen, and remembered that night when they had touched underneath the warm water as they swam naked. He remembered seeing her body after that, just as a glimpse of her in the moonlight as she left the pool that night, and knowing how beautiful she was. He wanted to touch her a lot more after that, and really, really wished that one day he could. He had never wanted anything so badly as that, Patrick now realized.
It's going to take time, so try to deal with it. But I got the feeling that's going to be running in the back of my head from now on...
Patrick squeezed his fingers in to his palms to get himself fully awake and then decided now was a good enough moment to get up out of the seat. After going to the back bedroom and discovering there was also a shower, he quickly indulged himself and come out changed and refreshed. The aircrew had coffee and breakfast waiting for him at the galley.
Feeling famished, he wolfed all of the food and drink down and then went back to his seat to view the scenery as the jet approached the USA. Patches of fir trees were visible below, and the ice flows turned into rivers as the jet passed through Northern Canada. Patrick opened up Hikari's mochi and tried one of candied rice snacks, finding it enough to his liking to finish half of the box before closing it.
He drifted off to sleep again and was woken by the aircrew a few hours later. "Sir," the steward told him. "We'll be in Mass in about a half-hour."
"Oh, okay," he said, still somewhat sleepy. Patrick buckled his seatbelt and readied for landing, which didn't take very long at all and after gliding down the small jet arrived on the runway of Alliance Base North, previously known as NERV First Branch, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.
After the G6 taxied towards the edge of the tarmac Patrick looked and saw the reception that was waiting for them outside. Two black cars, one an American-made SUV and the other a large sedan, were parked. The sedan had blue flags with stars on the front, indicating that it belonged to a flag officer. Patrick thought to himself that at least that this was better than the first couple of times he had arrived at Tokyo-3. The door to the G6's cabin opened up and the outside sun shined brightly, with the wind being just a little bit cool and strong.
Patrick left his seat and after saying goodbye to the aircrew started down the stairs. He looked towards the black vehicles and saw four large American security men, dressed in casual clothes with dark sunglasses and jackets that probably obscured radios and weapons. Each of the four men were very muscular, and he wondered if they weren't people who Admiral Vinson knew personally.
There was another person waiting for him below and before he could say or do anything Patrick found himself nearly tackled to the ground. He looked next to him and saw Erin leaning close to him, her arms tightly wrapped around his waist. Dressed in a green polo shirt and a white pleaded skirt worn with white runners, Erin looked happy and radiant.
"Erin!" Patrick exclaimed. "You're out!?"
"Yes!" she said with a wide grin. "They got me out late last night! I'm free to go! Well, sort of..."
"There's all these conditions and stuff. They chipped me too. Anyway, I'll tell you everything on the way home."
Just seeing Erin there free and in his arms was a big relief to Patrick as well, and the smile on his face showed it as he put his arms around her. "Great. They gave me a place here on the base I can stay at, so I'm close by. Let's go there!"
"No, you don't!" she excitedly told him. "You're going with us!" Before Patrick could ask who she meant he saw Maria Vinson emerge from the rear of the sedan. "Mrs. Vinson!"
"Hello, Patrick and please, Maria is fine!"
He turned back to Erin. "What's going on?"
Erin held onto him tightly. "I'm living at the Vinson's house and now so are you!"
"What? Really?!" Strangely he first thought to object, if only to not to impose on the Vinsons. "Mrs. Vinson, I mean Maria, is that okay?"
The middle-aged woman nodded. "It is. I would be very glad to have both of you at the house on the lake." Patrick turned back to his sister. "In Maine?"
"Not far from here," she told him. They both paused for a moment and looked at each other as Erin's emerald green eyes met Patrick's. "We can be together then?"
"Yes!" said Erin and she embraced him again.
"And we can do all of that stupid stuff together, like go swimming and get lost in the woods and stay up all night and tell each other stories and drink root beer floats and play together and all of that?"
"Yes! Yes, yes, YES!"
All of Patrick's remaining feelings of gloom departed from him as he took Erin and swung her as high up in the air as he could, incredibly happy that he could finally have her in his life. They both laughed as she clung to him, she being as happy as he was to finally never have to feel alone. They had each other and they would have each other forever, and they both relished the joy of that.
"Okay," Patrick told her after setting her down on the ground. "Then let's go home."
Southern Maine, USA
The Vinson's home in Maine was a two-hour journey from where Patrick had landed, and along the way Erin had told Patrick everything that she had went through since she was taken from SEELE's captured fortress in Norway. In between Patrick had also told Erin about what he had went through in his own recovery, reassuring her many times that while things were bad for a while he had never felt better than at the moment.
The two of them spend the day settling into the Vinson's house, unpacking and arranging themselves as Maria Vinson worked with both of them to clean up bedrooms and get anything that they needed. At first she offered Patrick Vance's old bedroom but Patrick steadfastly refused, saying it would still be too much for him to stay there. She then agreed to let him sleep in a loft above in the attic that had been converted to another guest room, and after seeing how the attic gave him good privacy while also providing a great view of the lake and forest next to the house he couldn't agree more.
In between cleaning up and unpacking Patrick and Erin spent time in Vance's bedroom, both sitting on the bed and looking at the surroundings. The walls were covered with various posters that expressed his interests: boating, girls, and hunting. There were small photos on one wall that showed Vance posing with both of his parents, where him and both his father and mother were happy and smiling. In the room it felt like he was just another American teenaged boy and not the tragic figure that the twins both knew, in their own separate experiences with him.
Patrick looked over at Erin, who appeared just a little apprehensive while seated on the bed with Patrick as she looked at their surroundings. "How do you feel?"
"It's spooky being in here," she told him. "It feels like somehow he's still alive."
"That's why I didn't want to take the room. Call me selfish, but I couldn't do it. I guess I still wanted to feel the memories in some way, and this place is like a time capsule."
Erin reached for Patrick's hand, her eyes were quivering. "Do you…do you think he's okay?"
"Somehow," said Patrick. "I haven't dreamed about him since that one night in the cell. Maybe now that we're here and sort of taking his place, he's at rest."
Erin nodded, her feelings still gloomy. She then changed the subject. "Um, I know that you had to leave her there in order to come here."
"You mean Rei?"
"Yeah. Except for when she saved you I've never seen the two of you together, but I can tell even now she's always with you."
Patrick nodded. "She is."
"I'm sorry," said Erin. "You had to leave her on my account."
"You know," replied Patrick, "it's funny but Rei would always tell me that you were always on my mind when I was with her. It had to be one or the other, and I knew that you needed me here."
Erin nudged up closer to Patrick. "Then I owe you."
"No you don't," he protested. "You're family, and this is what I do for family."
She looked up at him. "After spending most of my live wondering why I always felt so alone, I'm happy to finally find the missing parts of me. But at the same time knowing that you've got pieces of you that are left out and far away from you, I don't ever want to feel like you have to choose between her and me." Patrick tried to protest but Erin continued. "I will make this up to you," she said to him as she looked straight into his eyes. "I promise. I just need time for this whole thing to sort out and you know I'm kinda grounded right now."
"I know it and it sucks but at least it's better being in…terrorist juvenile hall or whatever they were going to lock you up in."
Erin couldn't help but giggle at Patrick's quip. "I know. Anyway, what I mean to say is, whatever I can do to get you two back together I'll do it. Just give me time."
"Okay," Patrick replied, feeling somehow much better knowing he had his sister's support behind him. He smiled and Erin responded by surprising him with a kiss on the lips, after which he embraced her tightly while they sat together in Vance's bedroom.
Later that evening Patrick took his satellite phone and checked the time clock, He had set up the front screen to show two time zones, one for the Eastern US and one for Japan. Ten hours into tomorrow, it was 7 A.M. in that part of the world and Patrick knew this was probably the best time to call. Rei picked up on the first ring.
At they spoke, Patrick explained everything he had learned about his sister's circumstances. "What happened was that the Admiral's attorney friend had said to plea the charges down in order to avoid a trial, so this morning she pled guilty to something they called 'Conspiracy to Commit Mayhem' which I didn't know was even a crime! She got out, but it's a one year house arrest thing."
"Does she have to stay at the house all of the time?" Rei asked.
"House, school, and anything related. She can go other places with court permission and as long as Maria or the Admiral are with her. But, and this is the hard part, she's can't go within about fifty miles of any Evangelion."
Rei paused as she immediately realized what that meant. "She cannot come to Tokyo-3, or even Hakone."
"She actually can't even leave the USA, not until the one year is up." They were both quiet for a while. "I'm sorry."
"Don't be," she replied, "It's better than prison for her."
"But I was hoping to take her back with me to Japan once she was cleared to go. Now that won't happen for a while." He let out a long breath of frustration. "I've only been gone one day and I already miss you too much. How did things go yesterday?"
"Similar to yours," responded Rei. "I have a room now at Misato-san's new house, right next to Onii-chan's bedroom. We went shopping yesterday."
"More new clothes?"
"This time uniforms. We will start school this morning."
"School already? You're kidding?
"The school year in Japan starts in April," Rei explained. "Because it is a new school for us, Misato-san thought it would be best to start on the first day, as Onii-chan and myself are transferring in."
"Oh, jeez. That seems tough. Is anyone else transferring in from your old school?"
"Suzahara-kun and the Class Representative will be with us, and there are a few others from 2-A. They've arranged it so that we are in the same class, so it will not be as difficult."
"Well, that's good. Make some new friends this time, " Patrick encouraged. "Find stuff to do. Japanese schools have lots of clubs, right? Find something that's suitable for you."
"Onii-chan suggested the school orchestra. He purchased a new cello yesterday. He also purchased a viola for my own use."
"Then there you go, at least you'll have a start on something you're already trained on. Can I call you tonight?"
"Yes, but late," Rei told him "I will need to see Foch-sensei later tonight."
"No problem. Anything else?"
"The Second left for Germany yesterday." Patrick was initially surprised at the news. "They let Asuka out of the hospital already?"
"She escaped, leaving a note for Onii-chan. She will not return for a while."
"Oh, man," He commiserated. "How is Shinji taking it?"
"That was one of the reasons for the cello."
"Damn. Well, I guess after EVA was done no one was going to keep Asuka around for long." In a softer tone of voice Patrick asked Rei "How do you feel?"
Rei paused for a long moment on the phone, then spoke into it in a more quiet yet more emotional voice. "I feel cold," she told him. "I don't like to be cold."
"If I was there I'd have my arms wrapped around you right now," Patrick said softly.
"I know. I miss that very much."
"Then do your best today," Patrick encouraged, "and find something new to explore, and then tell me all about it tonight when you get back. Okay? And in the meantime if you still feel cold just think about warm sands on the beach and when we were there that day."
"I remember," she said to him, her emotions picking up. "I need to go, we need to walk to school."
"Okay. Take care and I'll call tonight." Rei didn't say anything else but simply hung up the phone. From that Patrick knew that her own emotional feelings were strong and she was hurting inside, but still unsure of what she should do to express them. Her own journey into being a normal teenager was far from over and so was his, but Patrick again promised himself to do whatever it took to help her, even from half the world away.
The Dead Sea, formerly Israel
The man stood at the shoreline of the barren lake as he looked into the distant horizon as the sun rose behind him. There was desolation everywhere in this place and even from where he stood, there were mounds of salt visible all around the shoreline and upon the nearby rocks and ground.
The lake itself shone a shimmering white reflection and seemed alive with energy when sunlight touched the surface, but the man knew that within the Dead Sea nothing was living at all. Apart from what was left of Antarctica this place was perhaps the most barren on Earth.
He heard footsteps on the rocky ground behind him and turned around. Standing alone, and dressed like him in a Khaki shirt and trousers, was Sir John Sheffield.
"Well," the old general said to him as he reached into his shirt pocket to dig out a pipe. "Interesting seeing you here."
"Celebrating your victory?" the Frenchman replied to him snidely.
"As much as I can salvage," said Sir John while he lit his pipe. "What is the old saying, 'the operation was a success but the patient died.' We defeated your foolish partners but have momentary lost control of that which is most important."
The Frenchmen rubbed the sweat off of his forehead in the heat. "I suppose if there's a lesson in all of this it's that one shouldn't underestimate children when presented with the opportunity to do mischief."
"It's the adults that are behind them that have me more worried," quipped Sheffield. He silently blew on his pipe as the two former adversaries sized up each other. "You have to know that your former master's plans were doomed from the beginning. He didn't read the fine print of the scrolls, it seems."
"Calculating but headstrong," the Frenchman reasoned, "and time finally caught up to the old man. Rather appropriate he died in the way that he did." He took a few steps and faced Sir John directly. "So, my once adversary, what happens now?"
"They're going to find out it's often much harder to win the peace after winning the war," was Shefield's reply. "EVA seems to destroy nearly everything it touches. Even in an attempt to be altruistic this will catch up to them as well. For now, we must watch and wait."
"They won't be building any more of them, now that the secret's out. That's for certain."
"I wouldn't be too sure about that, either" said Sir John, who then picked up a mobile phone and made a call while the other man watched. "Hello?" the voice replied.
"How are things?" Sir John asked the man on the phone. "Has everything been set up according to plan?"
"The project is in motion," the other voice replied. "The subject has agreed to the terms, and I've even received some assistance from Dr. Ikari on the matter, including notes on much of what the great professor Futsuyuki had worked on. While this will of course take some time as we need to tread carefully, I believe we can achieve the success that you seek."
"Very good," said Sheffield with a slight smile. "Please plow forward and keep us informed to your progress. We'll be seeing you." With that Sir John disconnected the call.
Deep in his laboratory in the former "Dummy Plug Plant" Dr. Foch put down his mobile phone and placed it back in his lab coat pocket. Across the room he saw Rei as she floated naked in the scanner tube, her eyes closed in relaxation, her mind drifting to subjects and persons pleasing to her as she waited patiently while Dr. Foch re-examined her cells bit by bit in the scanner.
He was playing his part in the never-ending game, he knew, and while there was the twinge of guilt to the secret goals of what he was working on as part of his efforts on Rei's behalf, he also knew that matters such as EVA were even bigger than men like Sir John or the Chairman. Foch felt satisfied in just having the opportunity to experiment with heaven itself, even if it was in the form of an introverted yet oddly beautiful teenaged girl.
Be careful what you wish for, Sir John, Foch thought as he looked on Rei's innocent face while her mind drifted on those things and people she most loved. Be very careful, for God is not through with us yet.
Go on to Chapter 67