Admiral Vinson was in his office at the Pine Gap command complex, sipping on coffee and reading over a variety of reports. Without knocking on the door his British counterpart walked in.
"She'll go," the general said, referring to Mari. "She's ruddy anxious to pilot, that girl is."
"Good. Did you hear what just happened in Japan?" Sheffield shook his head. "Lost another one today," Vinson told him and handed him an LCD tablet display.
The British commander studied the display, playing back the footage taken by the Alliance's agent inside Tokyo-3 as well as a number of other reports. "Did it self-destruct?" he asked Vinson.
"Looks that way," the admiral said. "They're down to two units and only one pilot."
"And if you believe Musashi there's but one Angel left," added Sheffield. "Things could come to a head quite fast."
"We need to see if we can get Unit 04 going for us. Hopefully Dr. Foch can get its Dummy Plug to function properly."
General Sheffield handed back the LCD tablet back to the Admiral. "A pity we don't have our own pilot to run it."
Vinson sighed deeply. The death of his son was an open wound, one he knew would not heal. No one around him talked about it except for Sir John, whose friendship with Vinson went back thirty years. "I should have been there, Johnny. It might have turned out differently if I had gone."
"If you had gone we would have lost both of you, and that was a loss we could not have afforded. You can't blame yourself. You were once a special operator, you know that."
"It's different when it's your own flesh and blood, especially so young," Vinson replied remorsefully.
Sheffield took a sip from his own teacup which he had brought in with him. "You were set up from the beginning. Considering the circumstances it's beyond luck you're still alive."
"But at a price," Vinson replied.
"Agreed. Doing all this won't get them back," Sir John said calmly.
Vinson put down his coffee. "I know it better than anyone. But I still think Vance would be alive if it hadn't been for that damned Forrestal kid." The communicator on Vinson's desk buzzed and he read the incoming ID and picked it up. "That's Foch. Hopefully he's got good news for us." He spoke into the communicator. "Doctor, what's our situation?"
As Dr. Foch spoke into his own communicator, Musashi ran over to the group and then read the display on the diagnostic unit. What he saw gave him a great deal of concern. Musashi took a deep breath and listened in as the scientist spoke to Vinson. "I ran a brief diagnostic on Unit 04," Foch began. "Given the equipment I have to work with, I can't provide too much detail but I can give you a good summary of the EVA's condition."
"Is it employable to us?" Vinson asked, somewhat impatient.
"Perhaps, but I'll explain it. The good news is that the Super Solenoid power source is installed and working perfectly. The EVA has a functional perpetual power source and I don't see anything that's structurally wrong with it at this point."
Vinson and Sheffield were relieved. "Excellent," Vinson called out. "That's good news." Indeed it was, as having the S2 engine would allow the Evangelion full range of movement and unlimited operations. Unit 04 was freed from the need to employ power cables or rely on internal battery power that lasted no longer than five minutes. Considering that their plan rested on transporting the Evangelion several thousand miles with them in their assault, enabling the EVA to be completely self-contained and continually active gave them a definite advantage in combat.
"What about the dummy plug?" asked General Sheffield.
Foch paused for a moment as he looked at Musashi, who gave him a stern look. "That's just it. There isn't one."
Both of the commanders reacted in disbelief. "What?" Admiral Vinson said. "NERV's own report says the test was conducted with a dummy plug."
"It's not a dummy plug. There's an actual pilot in there," Foch calmly replied.
"Then why haven't they done anything?" Vinson asked.
Musashi then picked up the communicator from Foch. "There's been no communication or activity because the pilot has achieved a 400% sync with the EVA." Sheffield raised his eyebrows high as
Vinson just sat there in his chair trying to think. "What the hell does that mean?"
Foch grabbed the communicator back from Musashi. "It means that the pilot's physical essence has been broken down and has…homogenized with the LCL inside the entry plug into something resembling amniotic fluid."
Sheffield crossed his arms. "Do you mean that the pilot has become liquid?"
"Precisely," Foch said.
"So then he's dead," said Vinson.
"Not quite. There is a massive stream of activity between the entry plug and the EVA itself, indicating that the pilot's essence is interfacing with the EVA."
"How is he able to 'interface' if he doesn't have a body?" Vinson demanded.
Foch struggled to be patient with his military benefactors. "You have to understand that when it comes to Evangelion, conventional definitions of life and death go right out the window. EVA works on its own paradigm. For whatever reason, if it was initiated by the pilot or the EVA itself we don't know, the pilot's soul is blended with the EVA itself."
Rather than overreact both of the commanders took a moment to contemplate the meaning of all of this. Sheffield then said "would it be possible to eject the entry plug and replace it with another?"
Foch sighed. "I did signal an eject to the EVA after I discovered this. The EVA refused the order. I'd say that it's protecting the pilot. It may have been the only way to survive the Sea of Dirac that encompassed Second Branch."
Admiral Vinson folded his hands in front of him and stared into his computer display. This certainly complicates matters, especially if the pilot is…"Any way to tell who the pilot is as this point?" He asked Foch.
"Negative. There's no way to identify the pilot and the pilot ID data file in the EVA's diagnostics are corrupted, perhaps intentionally."
Vinson sighed. "Doctor, we need to recover this thing if possible. What's your suggested course of action?"
Dr. Foch turned to Musashi and let him have the communicator again. "Admiral, this has occurred before with Unit 01 and the pilot was still able to be recovered. I have data on that experience and will forward it to Dr. Foch. If he's as good as he says he is, he should be able to duplicate the process." Musashi smirked at the scientist, who scowled at him.
"Get it done. We may only have a few days to put all this together," Vinson ordered and then hung up the communicator.
"I'll get the data I have to you within the hour," Musashi said to Foch. "You realize though that even with the full resources of NERV at their disposal it took the Japanese over a month to recover their pilot. "
Foch scoffed at that. "Surprising, considering that the probable reasons are quite obvious."
"What do you mean?"
"The pilot just doesn't want to come out!" Foch said.
That evening Shinji and Misato returned to their apartment in Misato's car. Neither one of them spoke a word on the way back from NERV. Once Shinji entered the apartment he went straight for his bedroom and closed the door, while Misato went for a bottle of saki in the kitchen and just sat there for a while and drank. Asuka had still not returned after several days and her door remained left open.
Misato left the boy alone for a few hours and then around midnight she knocked on his door. There was no response from the darkened room. Trying to sound warm she said "Shinji-kun, I'm coming in," and then gently slid open the door.
Shinji was lying there on his bed without moving, his SDAT player was the only thing making any kind of motion or noise. Misato came and sat on the bed next to him and noticed that his eyes were still wide open, staring listlessly at the ceiling.
"Misato-san, the tears just won't come," he told her, his voice wavering as he thought of Rei. "I'm so sad. I want to cry but I just can't do it."
Misato searched her feelings for what she should do. She felt bad for it, but she knew there was one way that might comfort them both. Perhaps at this low point she thought he might be open to it.
"Shinji-kun, all I can do for you is this." She gently moved her hand to his and caressed it. Shinji quickly pulled his hand back in revulsion and rolled on the bed facing away from Misato. "Dame yo! No, Misato-san!"
Misato just sat there on the bed as Shinji's whole body began to shake with emotion. "I'm sorry, then." She stood up and walked out of the room, leaving the boy alone.
Continue to Chapter Five