Mari Illustrious Makinami was uncharacteristically worried. For the last three days she had been waiting at St. James Exemplary School for Girls but had not heard any word, phone call or otherwise, from her controller. It wasn’t like the NERV officer to be so out of touch with her and now after so much time without word she was becoming very concerned.
It had all started two months earlier. Mari was the designated pilot for Evangelion Unit 05, a 40-meter tall green-painted bio-mechanical behemoth that was still in the process of being assembled. She had been the EVA’s designated pilot for several years but up until the last two months she had only been trained to pilot the EVA through simulators while the EVA was slowly being constructed in a secret facility in the United Kingdom. Then in October enough of the Evangelion unit was completed for her to begin harmonics testing with the unit. Finally, she had thought to herself, I’ll get my chance to pilot! Shortly thereafter, her controller Captain Wellington asked her to prepare to leave for Japan within a few weeks. Mari’s thoughts were abuzz with excitement at the prospect of being in action against the Angels as well as the opportunity to return to Japan, where she had not lived since she was a small child.
Disappointment then came some weeks later when NERV in Japan requisitioned parts from EVA-05 to repair one of their own units. Unit 05 had just been completed and Mari was working with her on initial trials when NERV UK engineers reluctantly detached all four of EVA-05’s limbs and packed them for shipment to Japan, to later re-attach to another of NERV’s operational EVAs. Mary was told she would have to wait her turn and the lab frenetically began work to re-complete the EVA unit.
While the pilot-to-be was initially frustrated, Wellington suggested to Mari that the opportunity was there to have a break from constant training and she sent her back to Saint Jim’s, located in the Scottish highlands. There she was told to wait for her EVA unit to get back into fighting trim and that she would be contacted when they were ready for her. Over the next few days Mari and Wellington traded text messages and phone calls, and the young pilot otherwise tried to settle back into her studies at the boarding school.
Three days ago Mari was awakened at 2 AM by a phone text message from Wellington. The message had cryptically said “UR IN DANGER. B CAREFUL. TRUST NO ONE!!! WILL XPLN SOON.” Mary immediately replied to the controller but received no response. Quickly she first called Wellington’s mobile phone (which had now become an inactive number) and then NERV UK operations, whose operator said Capt. Wellington was unavailable. When Mari asked to speak to the director the operator put her in touch with someone from Section 2, the security and intelligence unit. The Section 2 woman, who she wasn’t familiar with, had asked her to come back to NERV immediately as they were preparing for EVA operations and they would need her there. Considering that Section 2 was never involved in EVA operations Mary immediately sensed danger, hung up the phone and both switched it off and removed the battery.
Now she waited at Saint Jim’s for Wellington to contact her and was unsure of what else she should do. Mari had briefly considered bringing the matter up with the school's Headmistress. Mrs. Hermes was the only one at Saint Jim’s who knew of Mari’s secret as an EVA pilot, but the text from the captain had said “trust no one” and Mari inferred that meant the headmistress as well. With nowhere else to go Mari had little choice but to wait for Wellie to contact her.
That morning she walked to her classes in the main school building, dubbed “the Castle” for its old brick exterior and parapets. The Castle, like the rest of the school, was quite old, overlaid with ivy and badly in need of a modern heating system. Along the way Mari greeted the many other girls going to class or their morning activities, most of them dressed as she was in the school’s burgundy uniform.
“Hello, Lusty!” called out one girl in the hallway. Mari greeted her with a broad smile. “Hello, Mac!” The blond teenager named Lauren MacOwen smiled equally back.
“How is your aunt Gertrude doing?” Mac asked.
“Oh, she’s quite chipper as of late,” Mari replied. Mari’s lengthy absences from school were often covered as visits to her sickly relative.
“Figured. You’ve been around for a while this time, eh?” Lauren twirled her French curls with her fingers as she spoke.
“Yes, she seems to have turned a bit of a corner. We haven’t needed to tend to her quite as much.”
“Well good, then,” the other girl replied. “We’ll see you on the grounds this afternoon. Field Hockey is playing Oxbury at the pitch.”
“Oh, well I can’t miss that, can I?”
“Right then, we’ll be seeing you.” With that Lauren turned around and walked away, greeting others as she went.
Up on the second floor Mari filed into her first class along with about twenty other students. The class itself was classical literature and today featured their droning lecturer Miss Vickers going on about John Milton’s Paradise Lost. All of the girls had their computer notebooks open during the class and while they were supposed to be taking notes most were using them for chatting and passing messages.
Underneath her desk Mari fingered her cellphone. She had not replaced the battery but was contemplating snapping it back in to try to call Wellington again, despite the risk it carried. As she was nervously squeezing the phone, in front of her on her notebook a private chat box appeared.
[email protected]: R U MARI ILLUSTRIOUS?
Mari didn’t recognize the user name but for a moment still considered replying. Then again, she thought, it might be those pranksters from the boy’s school at Middebough. After a few seconds the message appeared again.
[email protected]: R U MARI ILLUSTRIOUS?
At that she was annoyed and replied back:
MILLUS: WHO WANTS TO KNOW? IS THIS JACK HAWKINS FROM MIDDIE?
Annoyance turned to shock at the response:
[email protected]: U R PILOT OF EVA-05?
It’s not Wellie, she would have said something. Mari quickly exchanged messages with the mystery sender.
MILLUS: WHO R U?
[email protected]: U R IN DANGER. LEAVE NOW. SEE ME IN LR3 IN FRONT.
MILLUS: NOT GOING ANYWHERE. WHO BLOODYHELL R U?
[email protected]: WELLIE SENT ME. GO NOW!
MILLUS: WHY SHE NOT HERE HERSELF?
[email protected]: SHES WITH UR EVA. NO TIME EXPLN. GO NOW!!!
MILLUS: NOT GOING UNTIL YOU SAY WHO YOU ARE
[email protected]: I'M MUSASHI YOUR JAPANESE RELATIVE
MILLUS: SCREW YOU - I DON'T HAVE ANY!
[email protected]: 2 MEN IN HALL. DO NO GO WITH THEM!!! THEY WILL KILL YOU!!!
Mari was just about to reply when she saw the small head and torso of Mrs. Hermes lean through the doorway. “Ms. Vickers, would it be possible if I borrow Miss Illustrious for a moment?” she asked the lecturer. The younger woman gave her a quick nod and motioned to Mari, who was already putting away her notebook computer in her school bag. Mari got up out of her chair and left the classroom with the headmistress.
Waiting ten steps down the hall were two tall men in black suits and black sunglasses. Mari could see each had an earpiece in one year. She thought about the warning she had just received and tightened her grip on her school bag.
Mrs. Hermes spoke to her in understanding tones. “Mari, these two men were sent by your Aunt Gertrude. They say that your aunt’s taken a turn for the worse and they’d like to take you back to tend to her.”
Section Two, no doubt, Mari thought. But this doesn’t at all seem right. “Oh, really? Well, I was speaking with Aunt Gertrude just a moment ago and she seemed rather in good spirits!”
The headmistress was about to say something when one of the security men interrupted her. “Please come with us, Miss Illustrious. It’s extremely important that you do so.” Mari saw that the second agent was fingering something in his waist belt and she slowly swung her school bag from her shoulder.
“I think not,” she said and started to slowly walk backwards, her school bag now being held in front of her by both hands. Both agents took a step towards her and the first swung his hand inside his jacket. “Let’s not make this messy, shall we dear?” the agent said to her with a wide, toothy smile.
Time to run. Mari quickly swung her school bag a full revolution in the air and slammed it into the first man’s crotch. The security man grimaced in pain as the other one pulled out a pistol with a silencer from his waist. Mari let go of the bag and ran the opposite way down the hall as fast as she could.
“Wait a minute!” Mrs. Hermes yelled at the two men with eyes wide in surprise. “What’s all this about then?” Still in pain, the first agent reached into this jacket and grabbed his own pistol while calling into his microphone. “Rabbit is loose! Rabbit is loose!” Mrs. Hermes saw the two guns and immediately tried to turn and run, but the first agent shot her in the back as the second one fired several shots at Mari. Mrs. Hermes fell down to the floor.
Mari didn’t look back as she saw a glass window next to her shatter from the impact of bullets. She turned the corner and ran full speed towards the library, hearing more gunshots behind her as well as screams from many of the classrooms. There was the sound of an explosion coming from somewhere outside the building. Mary burst through the double doors of the library and headed straight for a large stained-glass window.
A stern, prim-looking librarian stood up from her desk as Mari rushed in. “Oh, no! Not you again! No roughhousing, Miss Illustrious!” Mari ignored the woman and kept running toward the large window at the other end of the library, ripping a tapestry off the wall with her right hand as she went.
A second later the two men in black ran through the double doors. “What the devil? Would you mind…” the librarian said, but one of the men shot her in the forehead and she crumpled down on her desk. The other shot at Mari again as she wrapped herself in the tapestry and rushed towards the window.
Mari quickly threw the tapestry over her head and with all of her strength flung herself out of the window. The delicate glass shattered as she flew through it and plunged downward, praying as she went.
Oh, God please don’t let today be the day they clean the awning!
She felt herself bounce on the awning below the window and roll over, and then heard tearing sounds as the fabric was unable to support her weight. She plummeted the three meters to the ground.
Mary threw off the tapestry and shook her head, quickly checking her glasses to see if they were damaged. As she noticed the crack in one of the lenses a green Land Rover LR3 pulled up alongside her.
“Lusty! Get in!” a man’s voice shouted. Without thinking, Mari opened the passenger door and climbed inside. Before she was even in her seat the man accelerated the LR3 towards the school gates. Another car pulled up along side them, but the driver shot at them with a sub-machine gun in his right hand and then sped through the open school gates. Mari looked back behind them and saw smoke and fire coming from one SUV in front of the school, while another was following them down the road.
“We've got one behind us still!” she told the driver. Without looking back he replied “Our friends will take care of that one.” Mari ducked as gunfire came from the vehicle behind them, putting holes in the back window. She heard another loud boom and looked back again and saw that the SUV following them was now on fire, and it stumbled off the road and exploded. The EVA pilot heard a buzzing sound, looked up to her left and saw a small white unpiloted airplane fly past them. It was a combat drone, she observed. Mari settled back in her seat and looked at the driver, who appeared to be an Asian man in his late twenties with short-cut hair. He didn't look back at her.
“Musashi, I presume?”
“Yes. Are you OK, Makinami-chan?” He spoke to her in perfect Japanese.
“I think so,” she replied back, also in Japanese. Mari looked at her glasses again and noticed the crack was small. She pulled out the visor and checked herself in the mirror, seeing a small bruise on her cheek. Otherwise she looked like her 14-year old normal self, blue eyes and all. The man spoke again. “You handled yourself quite well back there.”
“Thanks. It seems I’ve done just about everything but actually pilot. Where’s Wellie?”
“Captain Wellington is with your Evangelion. They needed someone who was familiar with its operation to be sure it shipped intact. We apologize for the abruptness of this: you were under surveillance and we couldn’t contact you another way.”
“Why would Section 2 want to kill me?”
“Section 2 is just their cover. They’re working for someone else that wants to eliminate all traces of the EVA program and especially the pilots.”
“Who are you?”
“My group is the Alliance, a group of ex-UN military officers and scientists who are trying to stop Third Impact from happening.”
“I thought that was NERV’s job?”
“NERV is being used to facilitate Third Impact, not stop it,” the man said tersely. “The whole Evangelion project is not what it appears to be.”
Mari looked around them, noticing that Musashi turned a corner into a dirt road and was driving them into a forest. She crossed her legs and felt a hole in her stockings. She calmly asked the driver “Why should I believe any of this?”
Musashi looked at her and grinned. “Because they’re trying to kill you, and we’re not.”
They drove into a clearing and Mari saw a VSTOL aircraft landed on the ground, with soldiers dressed in camouflage surrounding it. One soldier was packing up the white drone that she had seen flying by earlier. Musashi got out of the car and spoke with the pilot of the aircraft, who then gave him two helmets. As she got out of the car, Musashi handed one of the helmets to her. “They’ll be looking for us. We need to get going.”
“Where are we going?”
“First Greenland, then Australia, and then on to Japan. I’ll fully explain everything on the way.” Seeing no options other than to go with the Alliance people, Mari shrugged her shoulders, put on the helmet, and walked to the awaiting aircraft.
Misato Katsuragi sat at her desk working on a variety of reports and tried to concentrate on getting routine work done, pushing out all else from her mind. While she normally hated paperwork she was thankful for any escape that would allow her to remain distant from the others at NERV, as recently there was just too much drama for even her to deal with.
“Hello!” a young male voice cheerfully called out. Misato swiveled her chair to face the door and saw her assistant, Lt. Makoto Hyuga, standing in the doorway holding a red binder in his hand. “Hi” she wearily replied.
Hyuga placed the red binder in her in-box on top of about 10 centimeters of paperwork. “Just dropping this off.” Misato picked up the binder without looking at it. “What's this?”
“Final report on the EVA-03/S2 Incident,” Hyuga informed her.
Misato sighed as she opened up the binder and flipped through the pages. “With so much happening I had forgotten about this. Anything new in here?”
“Without proper evidence there wasn't much else they could conclude how the Americans were able to accelerate their EVA program or what their true aims were,” Hyuga reported. “Dr. Akagi did do a complete scan of the MAGI's core system and found a number of script anomalies that were promptly removed. She contends that Dr. Forrestal was behind the whole thing but the evidence was...”
“...wiped out with Second Branch,” Misato finished for him.
The major frowned. “Convenient. What about the pilots?”
“The report's conclusion was that both pilots were using help in the form of a control serum to pilot the EVAs. With EVA-03 that's confirmed given the pilot's death. It's assumed that the pilot of Unit 04 was doing the same.”
Hyuga hesitated. “It's not in the report but...”
Hyuga carefully looked out the doorway and then lowered his voice. “Whoever planned this had the balls to take on both the UN and NERV. Either they're very stupid or very cunning, and they very nearly succeeded. The UN never did catch their leader or even find out from where the attack was launched. They're still out there.”
Misato looked directly at him, her facial expression exuding complete seriousness. “Right now that's not our problem. We stay focused on defeating the Angels. Let the UN worry about the rest.”
“Yes, Major,” Hyuga answered and then left the room.
Misato looked again at the contents of the binder and saw the two photographs of Vance Vinson and Patrick Forrestal. Both were good EVA pilots, and had circumstances been different either of them would have made a good addition to NERV. Unfortunately one of them was now dead and probably the other one as well, both pawns in a darkly obscured plot which true goal could only be grasped at.
It's a damn shame it came to this: we could have used both of you right about now, but there's nothing more to be said. Misato silently closed the binder and tossed it on top of a pile of paperwork on her desk.
Commander Gendo Ikari stood in the Dummy Plug Plant room and silently observed Rei Ayanami as she floated in the scan tube. He held a bathrobe in his hands as Dr. Akagi worked with several consoles that controlled the Plant operations.
“We’re done,” Dr Akagi told the commander as she finished the scan program. Ritsuko confirmed the data obtained was saved and backed up, then hit a button to drain the tube of LCL. Rei floated silently downward to the bottom of the tube and then took a deep breath as air again filled the tube. The tube lifted slightly upward, revealing an opening in the clear plexiglass through which Rei then bent over and crawled out of.
The young girl walked over to where the commander was standing. She was completely naked, necessary for the function of the scanner. Without any inhibition she stopped in front of Commander Ikari, the LCL still dripping from her hair and skin. Dr. Akagi looked up from her station at the commander, telling him “It’s all there.” Ikari nodded to her and then looked down at Rei, smiling slightly. “We’re finished. We have all of the data we need from you now.” Rei nodded silently as Gendo slowly pulled the bathrobe over Rei’s wet body.
“When will you release Unit 01?” she asked him in her whisper-like voice.
“Not right now. It will be needed for Instrumentality.”
“How long will it be?” she asked him, moving her hands through her hair as he tied the robe around her waist.
“It won’t be much longer,” he replied in a quiet voice. For a moment they both stood there as their eyes met. Rei looked at the commander inquisitively, as his expression seemed different this time. To her, his breathing seemed harder and he was perspiring despite the coldness of the chamber they were in.
Without saying anything, Gendo took a gloved hand and placed it on her cheek. Her eyes went wide in surprise as he slowly caressed her face.
Why…why does he look at me like that?
Rei began to tremble as she suddenly felt fearful. In all of her existence she had never felt the need to be afraid of Gendo Ikari. Never until now.
As Gendo moved his hand to touch her hair, Rei moved her own hand up and gently brushed his aside. Her eyes quivering, she broke her gaze of the commander. “I’m sorry. I must go now.” Rei quickly took her uniform that was folded neatly on the table next to them, slipped on her shoes and hurried out of the room. Gendo watched her as she left.
He turned around and saw that Ritsuko was standing there at the console staring at him, and realized that she had seen the entire exchange. He narrowed his glance at her and the scientist quickly turned away and pretended to be busy. Gendo then looked up at the empty scan tube.
It won’t be much longer, will it…Yui.
Go to Chapter Two