The giant of light now began to transform again. On her back several pairs of wings started to grow out. They were crystalline in appearance as if they were made out of delicate glass. The giant cupped her hands in front of her and a large glowing ball of energy started forming. Above her head a glowing halo appeared.
“What is that?” Hyuga said as the three controllers and their captors watched the giant on their monitors as it changed. He looked at Aoba and both of them motioned to the controller stations, knowing what the other was thinking. Then Aoba spoke to the squad leader who was pointing a rifle at him. “Would you mind?” he said in broken English. Before the sergeant could object the three controllers rushed to their seats and started to scan the giant.
“It’s magnifying an AT field into that sphere,” Aoba reported. “It’s condensing mass inside of it…like a black hole!”
“The electromagnetic resonance is unbelievable!” Maya said. “There’s never been a reading this high!”
“Is it the Second Angel?” Hyuga asked her.
“The Giant of Light. It must be the First Angel!” Aoba said.
Maya carefully studied at what was on her display. “No. It’s not an Angel at all,” she replied as they all looked up again at the giant. “Whatever it is…it’s human!”
The Giant began to arch her back as she took the sphere and raised it above her head. The halo expanded in size and then divided in two, the second halo growing even wider as it rotated around her body. The energy sphere in between her hands began to grow and pulse more and more rapidly. Suddenly the sphere condensed itself into a tiny black dot and then exploded in a massive wave of light that emanated in all directions.
Standing on Unit 01's shoulder and holding each other tightly as they watched, Shinji and Asuka both quickly shielded their eyes as the energy wave came to them. The light was so bright that for several seconds neither one could open their eyes. When they finally did open their eyes they looked at the sky and saw...nothing. The Giant had disappeared.
“AYANAMI! AYANAMI!” Shinji called out to no answer. He looked up in vain as nothing was left of the giant Rei had become.
“No...no,” Shinji whimpered as his tears flowed again. “She's gone! They're both gone!”
“Baka,” Asuka said quietly as they still held to each other. “It was what she wanted.”
As Shinji looked above to try to find any sign of Rei, Asuka lowered her gaze at the level of the GeoFront and saw a familiar white EVA kneeling on the ground some distance away. “Hey,” she shook Shinji as she pointed out Unit 04 in the distance. The boy saw it and nodded, giving her a weak smile.
Patrick woke up and found himself in the entry plug. He immediately noticed that the lighting was normal, and the video display in the plug wasn't cracked but was completely intact. He didn't hear any alarms sounding damage or alerts and in fact there was no noise at all inside.
He immediately grabbed at his chest and felt nothing, just his plug suit. He didn't have the burning sensation from before. Patrick shook his head and tried to orient himself. He remembered that he was hit in the back by one of the enemy lances. Then there was something about being lifted up in the sky but he couldn't quite piece it together, but the last memory he could recall was about seeing her face. What was that?
Working to figure out where he was Patrick looked at the video display and saw he was back inside the GeoFront. There were natural features here such as grass and trees that weren't as affected by the battle inside. In searching around for some landmark to determine exactly where he was, he noticed a body lying on the ground next to his EVA.
He increased the magnification of the video display and looked closely at the body. She was lying on her side unmoving, her head down on the grass. Her body was naked and he saw her porcelain white skin, her delicate hands and feet, and her azure blue hair. For a moment Patrick froze as he watched her. Then his heart began to race as fear and hope gripped him tightly together.
Patrick ejected the entry plug and raced to the doorway on the side of the plug, quickly pushing the door open. Hastily he reached at the side of the door and pulled out a First Aid Kit, ripping it open. He grabbed a silver-colored blanket out of the box as he climbed outside the plug and stumbled to find the mechanical rope that would lower him to the ground. Patrick found the rope but dropped the rest of the first aid kit on his way down. The box clanged down the side of the entry plug as bandages and medicines flew out in all directions. Over half-way to the ground he let go of the rope and jumped the ten feet to the bottom, landing hard and falling over on the grass, still with the blanket in his hand.
Picking himself up, he raced around the kneeling EVA and towards the girl lying on the ground. Patrick ran as fast as he could and in a few seconds he reached where she lay, sliding down on his knees next to her. He turned her over on her back and looked at her face and at that moment knew it was her, it was truly Rei Ayanami that he now saw in front of him.
“Rei! Rei!” he cried as he shook her to try to wake her up. He didn't think he could hear her breathing. Was she dead? “Rei, please! Wake up!” He anxiously waited several seconds to see if she would respond.
Slowly she opened her eyes and squinted as she looked at him, trying to get used to the light. Rei had a puzzled expression on her face. “Vinson-kun?” she asked him with a soft voice.
“No. No, I just borrowed this,” he said as he motioned to his black and red plug suit. A sudden fear crept into his head: maybe she forgot who I was. “You do remember me, don't you?”
She opened her eyes more and then she saw him clearly. “Forrestal-kun,” she replied in recognition.
“Yes, that's it!” he said. Patrick was choking up, and found himself crying as he kept looking at her face. Without even thinking about what he was doing he found himself caressing her hair as he smiled at her.
“Why are you crying?” she asked him.
“Because I'm happy you're still alive! They...they told me you were dead!”
She looked pensive. “There's not a word that can describe what happened to me.”
“Of course,” he replied as he kept touching her hair.
He’s like Ikari-kun, in a way. Rei just remained lying on the ground and then smiled a little as she looked at the boy. His smile brightened in response and then he realized how absolutely awkward they were as she was stark naked right next to him with only a small silver cross around her neck to cover her.
“Um, here. You should cover yourself up!” Patrick carefully lifted her off the grass and wrapped the silver blanket around her. He then picked her up off the ground and held her while he looked for a better place for her to sit down. Rei was apprehensive at first but she didn't struggle, letting the boy carry her in his arms. After a minute he found a collection of large rocks and gently sat her down on one of them, still wrapped in the silver blanket. He sat next to her.
Rei took a moment to collect herself and then spoke to him without looking at him. She was serious again. “You were able to open to your heart to your EVA, were you not?”
“I was, otherwise I wouldn't be here at all,” Patrick answered. “Thanks to you for showing me how.”
“I did very little really,” Rei told him. “You were already beginning to understand when you came here before.”
Patrick struggled to find the words he needed to say to her. In his mind he had imagined seeing her again so many times yet now nothing he had gone over seemed to fit this moment. “Rei, I...” She looked at him as he spoke but then they both felt the ground pounding and heard noises, and they turned to find the source: running up from the distance to where they were sitting was EVA-01.
Rei stood up off the rock, as did Patrick. “Ikari-kun,” she said softly as she watched it approach.
The violet EVA got to within fifty meters of both of them and knelt down. The entry plug twisted out of the back again and Shinji and Asuka both popped out the side door. As Shinji hit the ground Rei opened her eyes wider and became more emotional. “Ikari-kun?” she called out.
Once Shinji heard her voice he picked up speed and ran to them as fast as he could, with Asuka running just a couple of steps behind him. “Ayanami!” he called to her as he ran.
“IKARI-KUN!!!” Rei screamed as she bolted towards him, her silver blanket being left behind her. Patrick grabbed the blanket off the ground and through to run after her but held back. He knew right now she needed to see Shinji, and he knew why.
They both called out for each other until they collided, Shinji wrapping his arms around her and holding her tight. Rei didn’t hold back, throwing her arms around him and burying her head on his shoulder. Years of unspent emotion poured out as she began to sob uncontrollably. Asuka and Patrick both silently watched as the two held onto each other and cried. They remained that way for a very long time.
After a while Rei and Shinji calmed down and everyone sat back down on the rocks. Rei wrapped herself in the silver blanket that Patrick returned to her and sat next to Shinji, her head resting on his shoulder. Patrick sat close to Rei and Asuka sat on a different rock. They all silently looked at each other, speechless from fatigue that had set in after all that had happened before. They mostly just smiled at each other except for Asuka who kept glaring at Rei.
“I always knew she was weird,” she said again. Shinji sighed and looked at Rei. He was just glad to have her back.
After more awkward silence Asuka blurted out “Well, don't everyone talk at once!”
Shinji followed, looking at Patrick. “So...what happened to you? We though you were dead!”
“Maybe I was,” Patrick mused. “The whole thing is so screwed up...”
“They said you were a spy!” Asuka accused.
“Vance was the spy. I was along for the ride. What was supposed to happen was that he would steal the Angel's S2 organ along with Unit 03. Unfortunately,” Patrick spoke as he looked at Rei “it didn't work out that way.”
“You mean fortunately,” Asuka corrected.
“Actually Vance was set up. By my father.”
“Your father?” Shinji said.
“Yeah. He sold Vance and his father out to the UN, then took over the EVA program at NERV-2. Then somehow he got them to give him the S2 engine anyway. One he hooked that up with Unit 04 he was going to come back here and finish you guys off!”
“Why?” Shinji asked. “If they destroy us the Angels can just come right in and start Third Impact!”
“That was the whole idea,” Patrick explained. “Dad wasn't too great about humanity getting another chance.”
“So what happened, anyway?” Asuka asked. “I mean, you disappeared. How'd you get back?”
“They found the EVA in the desert about two weeks ago. When they found her they couldn't get me out of the plug at first. Apparently I had melted.” When Patrick said that, all of the other pilots looked at each other.
“What?” Patrick asked.
“400% Sync,” Shinji replied.
“What the hell is that?”
“It happened to me, too,” Shinji said. “It took them over a month to pull me out.”
Patrick was surprised at that. “Wow. I guess I wasn't the only one then. Anyway, there's a lot to tell. I'm sure we can all go back to Misato's place and trade stories,” he chucked. The expression on Shinji's face turned grim as he touched his lips with his hand. There was still blood on it.
“Misato's...she's gone,” Shinji said quietly.
Asuka gasped loudly. “But...I spoke to her during the battle!”
“It happened right after that. At the elevator on top of the EVA cages.”
The redhead was suddenly very quiet, her face becoming hard as she fought off tears. “Oh, no,” she said quietly to herself.
“Shinji, I'm so sorry,” Patrick told him. Shinji nodded, but Patrick noticed that Rei looked puzzled.
“What is it?”
“I'm not sure,” she replied. “It's possible Major Katsuragi might still be alive.”
Shinji hung his head. “I don't think so, otherwise she wouldn't have...”
“Wouldn't have what?” Asuka shot out.
“Oh, just forget it!” Shinji angrily responded, and then just hung his head again. Everyone was quiet for a while after that.
Asuka shook her head a few times to clear her mind. “So who was that other pilot?” she asked Patrick.
“Oh, that was Mari. EVA-05.”
“That was an Evangelion unit? It looked like something from outer space!”
“They had to kind of stitch it together,” Patrick said sadly. “Anyway, I don't think she made it either.”
Rei looked at something in the distance. “Do you mean her?”
Patrick looked where Rei was pointed and saw a solitary figure stumbling towards them, dressed in a green and white bodysuit. She was carrying a helmet in one hand while holding something over her eye with another. Her hair was worn long and not tied in braids but he knew who it was and without saying anything rushed out to the girl.
“Lusty!” he called out as he ran towards her.
“Pats!” Mari answered back. “When you said your girl was an angel, I didn’t think you meant it literally!”
Patrick reached her and without thinking immediately embraced her. “Ow!” she said and he let go right away.
“Oh, sorry! Does it hurt?”
She smirked at him, barely hiding the pain. “Only when I breathe.”
Quickly Patrick reached underneath her right shoulder and supported her weight. He saw the bloodstains on her right calf and knew she couldn’t walk for long. “Here, let me take you to the others.”
It took them a couple of minutes to hobble back as the other pilots stood up to watch the two approach them. When they made it back Patrick did the introductions in Japanese.
“Everyone, meet Mari Illustrious Makinami. Unit 05’s pilot.”
Mari was all smiles as the others were quite surprised. “Hello! Delightful morning we’re all having, eh?”
Asuka looked at the new girl and did a double-take in recognition. “It’s…it’s you!”
Mari’s eyes were also wide. “You’re the German pilot?”
Shinji looked at both of them. “Do you two actually know each other?”
Asuka crossed her arms and smiled as Patrick gently let Mari down on the larger rock. “We met once, a year ago, at the Junior All-European Karate championships. I faced her in the final round.”
Mari rubbed her wounded leg. “Quite a good show that was. I almost had you down on the mat then.”
Asuka smiled wider. “I’m unbeaten in competition. You nearly spoiled it for me.”
Shinji was a little overwhelmed at the new development and without thinking sat down on the rock next to Mari. The British girl looked at him closely, leaning over his face as if looking for something while Shinji had a worried expression on his face as she did so. She then turned to Asuka. “So, is this the Third Child?”
“Hard to believe, isn’t it?” she replied.
Mari looked at Shinji’s face closely again and then said to Asuka “He looks like a lost puppy!”
Rei looked skyward and then the others noticed the noise of a helicopter that was approaching.
“Is that from it NERV?” Shinji asked the others. “It doesn't look like one of their helicopters.”
Both Mari and Patrick saw the red phoenix markings on the gray-painted Blackhawk. “It's Alliance,” said Mary. “Here to pick us up, I suppose.”
“Who is the Alliance?” asked Asuka.
“They're Vance's father's men,” Patrick told her. Asuka and Shinji looked at each other and gulped nervously.
The helicopter rapidly dove in and landed within fifty feet of the group, with green and blue camouflaged soldiers jumping out even before it had landed. Several of the soldiers fanned out around the chopper with weapons pointing outward. Two of them ran towards the group of pilots while another two pulled out a stretcher as the helicopter touched down on the ground.
The lead solder took her helmet off as she ran towards the group, revealing long black hair and an ornamental tattoo on her chin.
“Wellie!” Mari cried out.
Wellington reached the group. “Oh, God! Mari, are you all right?” she said as she embraced her younger charge tightly.
“Hurts a bit, that's all.” Mari looked up at Wellington as the officer looked at her wounds. “I went and bombed the EVA,” she said mournfully.
“Damn the EVA! You're a mess! We need to get you back.” She then said to the others. “The lot of you! To the helicopter, now! This is still a combat zone.”
Mari tried to get up on her own but when the two medics arrived they forced her down into the stretcher and carried her to the chopper. Wellington escorted the others, watching behind them to ensure there weren’t any JSSDF or other unwanted guests around them. The officer pushed all of the pilots inside and as soon as Mary’s stretcher was locked on the floor she jumped on and the helicopter took off.
Go to Chapter Twenty-Four