"Dr. Foch, are you sure you're okay?" his assistant Beatrix asked him. Dr. Foch had just fallen asleep again in front of the EVA's diagnostic station. He had worked tirelessly for the last seventy-two hours directing technicians as well as doing his own programming, in his effort to free the pilot from the entry plug.
"I'm all right, dear," he said, annoyed as he shook himself awake.
"I've got some tea here," Beatrix gave him a cup and plopped in five sugars, his preferred measure. "The command staff is on their way here now."
"Did you tell them we're ready?"
"Well, by all means, let's not disappoint." Foch lifted himself out of the chair and cleaned his glasses.
Walking up to where Dr. Foch and his assistants were working were Admiral Vinson and General Sheffield, followed by several others that were senior Alliance commanders. Following them were Musashi, the Japanese "Technical expert," and Mary Illustrious.
"Well, Doctor Foch. Are you ready?" Admiral Vinson asked.
"We are. Gentlemen, lady," he said as he smiled at Mary. "Please have a seat." Everyone did so in folding metal chairs at a platform that was several meters from the Evangelion.
Evangelion Unit 04 was now lying face down. It had been moved that way by two giant cranes that were left in Alice Springs many years ago and refurbished by the Alliance for the purpose of maneuvering the EVA. One of the two cranes was now poised above EVA-04, in a position to harness the entry plug if and when it ejected.
"Sirs, allow me to briefly explain what we're about to do," Foch stood in front of the control unit. "What's happened is that the pilot within Unit 04's entry plug has been placed in a state of virtual limbo, his body absorbed directly into the plug's own LCL by the breakdown of his physical state that is the result of a very high synchronization with the Evangelion itself. How this came about we can't speculate on, but what we do know is that the pilot will continue within this state until we provide an adequate stimulus to force him out of the trance."
"To maintain the connection between EVA and pilot the EVA itself is generating a high-volume stimulus with what exists of the pilot's consciousness. That stimulus is holding the pilot's mind in a sort of stasis and from earlier experiences with the EVA in Japan we can also concur that the stimulus is something that the pilot would find some deep familiarity or comfort in. "
"So it's like a never-ending dream, then?" Mary asked.
"Yes, my dear, quite right," Foch answered. "Now the Japanese created a rather elaborate mental diffusion cycle program that took them a month to assemble and implement, in order to contact and free the pilot. We certainly don't have that sort of time here," Foch nodded to the commanders, "but we have the benefit of hindsight and we can study the earlier attempts and try to develop the best angle for approaching this."
Foch turned his attention to Unit 04 behind him. "To the matter at hand. To force the pilot out, we are going to induce a signal that will carry a series of images that will be directly injected into the pilot's conscious thought array. That should trigger the pilot to remove himself from the loop that the EVA's put him in and disrupt the sync, dramatically lowering it and recompiling his physical body in the process if all goes well. To do that, we'll need an image that the pilot would recognize and, given the exceedingly high sync rate with the EVA, I believe the identity of the pilot is very definitely either one of the two Forrestal children. It's highly unlikely any candidate using Dr. Forrestal's neural control serum would be able to do this. So the image used will be someone familiar to either pilot, and with deep apologies to the Admiral, there's only one real image to use." Dr. Foch meant Vance Vinson, of course.
"Do what you have to," said the Admiral sternly.
"Right. We don't have time to concoct some sort of logic-wrapping program like the Japanese did. Our signal will be much more basic in structure. But it will play on the pilot's own impressions and should be mentally shocking to an extent that the pilot would snap out of any loop the EVA's placed them in. "
Foch worked the console as he explained further. "Let me give you an example: as a young boy I once had a series of dreams where I imagined I was being chased by a marching army down a road. I didn't remember much about my surroundings, but I could hear the footsteps of the army following me clearly, bam-bam-bam. I ran as fast as I could but I couldn't put any distance between me and that army that was following me. I had the same dream for several nights and each night it became more terrifying, as the army was closing in on me faster each time, until I dreamed that they did catch up to me and trampled me under their boots. As I suddenly woke up I realized that I had been sleeping with my ear to the pillow. The sounds of the footsteps that were chasing me were in fact the sounds of my own heartbeat echoing from the pillow. Every night as I became more scared my heart would go faster and the sound of the footsteps would also be quicker. The already existing fears I had as a child of being trampled provided the mind with the subject matter of that encompassing nightmare. So in conclusion the power of suggestion is a powerful thing indeed, especially if you're in a dream-like state already." Foch sent the final signal to the EVA as he finished the explanation.
Patrick was lying down on a gently sloping hillside and enjoying the weather. It was a nice, warm day and the wind was just slightly breezy. In the distance he could see a river slowly snaking its way through the Japanese countryside and he listed as birds call each other while in flight. He wasn't alone on the hillside, as his head was cradled in the lap of another whose soft and delicate hands gently caressed his hair while he relaxed.
"It's such a nice day today," he said to the other.
"Yes, it is." she replied back in a whisper-like voice.
"Are the others coming?" he asked her.
"No. They went into town," she said. "We won't see them until tonight."
"So we can be alone then," he told her. She just smiled and looked at him through her bangs with deep red eyes.
"I really like spending time with you like this," he sighed. "I could stay here forever."
"I know." She gently patted him on the head. "But don't you ever want to go back someday?"
Patrick sighed. "Don't worry. I have no plans for leaving."
Patrick closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and just enjoyed the feeling he had right now. Since he had come to this place, he thought to himself that for perhaps the first time in his life he really had felt safe and comfortable. Admittedly he had very little memory of how he had gotten here or what he did while he was here, but he was happy nonetheless. Most importantly, she was there too.
He shifted his body a little as he felt the wind pick up slightly. Looking at the sky the boy noticed that there were more clouds than just a minute before. He thought that it might actually rain, something that hadn't happened since he had arrived.
"Do you notice it's getting colder?" he asked her. The girl didn't respond right away but stopped caressing his hair and started to look around. Her face changed expression as she sniffed the air and sensed something was happening.
"Is something wrong?" he asked her.
"Something is happening, something coming from outside," she said. She looked at the sky and saw the clouds forming and darkening. She heard footsteps in front of them and turned to see who it was, and then she gasped loudly.
"What is it?" Patrick asked, and then he too saw the boy and nearly screamed.
Standing in front of the two of them was Vance Vinson, the former pilot of Evangelion Unit 03. Vance was wearing his plug suit, black with red and gray stripes. He mostly looked like himself, tall and muscular, but a portion of his skull was missing. A large hole appeared in the right side of his head and oozed out blood and tissue that covered much of his face. Vance glared directly at the startled Patrick with an annoyed look on his face.
"Dude, you killed me for this?"
Patrick was too much in shock to say anything at first but backed up off the slope and stood up. Rei stood up as well, her face also in surprise at the living-dead boy standing there. Vance kept speaking to Patrick.
"I told you to keep out of the way," Vance said.
"I couldn't let you do it," Patrick replied. "That wasn't what we came there for."
"That wasn't what you came there for," the pilot retorted. "But I came for that thing. She just got in the way."
Patrick noticed that the clouds were now very dark and it was starting to rain. He moved himself so he would be positioned between Vance and Rei, as she stood there and silently observed the increasingly hostile weather.
"Why didn't you tell me what you were doing?" Patrick demanded.
"I was trying to protect you, " Vance said. "You should have just kept out of it like I asked you to, not shoot me in the head!"
Patrick clenched his fists. "But I couldn't let you kill her!" The rain began to fall harder, and he noticed that the rain had a red tint to it. The water pooling on the muddy slope looked red, too. "Well," Vance smiled, "I guess you know your priorities then, don't you? Good luck with her – if she's still around, that is."
"What do you mean?" Patrick asked.
Vance smiled at him. "You're not really here, dude! This is just a dream. Just ask her," Vance pointed to Rei.
Patrick turned around to look for Rei but instead saw another girl standing where she was before. The new girl was still wearing Rei's blue and white school jumper but it wasn't her. This girl was teenaged and Caucasian in appearance, with short blonde hair and glasses. The rain became heavier all around them as a red mist came out of the ground.
"Rei?" Patrick asked. The girl looked at him and silently shook her head. Patrick thought of his twin sister. "Erin?" he asked her again. The girl again shook her head and said to him "You know who I am." Patrick studied her in confusion.
'"This is what I looked like, when I was your age," the girl told him. One she said that Patrick realized just who it was that she meant. He just stood there in the torrent and looked at her for a moment, stunned.
"Why?" he finally asked.
The girl looked away. "Do you know what it's like to give up something you love? I could only keep one of you, and I thought you would be the stronger one."
"Dad said you didn't trust the others..."
"Your father was the real reason why I gave you up!" she cried. "It's him that I didn't trust!" She still looked away from him but Patrick stepped closer, still noticing that the figure of Vance was just standing and watching, barely visible to them in the red hue of the outpouring rain.
"I did all this," she motioned around them "so I could keep you safe with me inside...while I sent away the others."
"You asked me to stop him, so that's what I did," she said softly.
"What happened to him?"
"I put them all someplace far away...where they won't hurt anyone for a long while."
"What about Rei?" Patrick asked.
She turned her head away from him. "I knew you'd open your heart to her so I used her image to reach you. I'm sorry."
Too many questions, Patrick thought as his heart raced. The rain and wind was now becoming very strong, and he had a difficult time to stand on the muddy slope. He saw water race down the hillside to the river below.
"What's happening now?" he asked her, having to shout it over the howling wind.
"Someone wants you back," she shouted back, looking at him now with her emerald green eyes. "They sent Vance's image inside here to break the spell. Your mind's going back to reality now, I can't keep you here!"
"But I don't want to go back!" Patrick yelled.
"So you're just going to keep running away?" Vance said behind him. Patrick turned to look at him and then turned to the girl again. "I just want to be with you here!" he pleaded.
The girl hopped quickly to where Patrick stood on the hillside and took hold of his hand. For a short moment as she touched him the surrounding rain and wind seemed to quiet down around them and he felt as if time itself stopped.
She spoke to him with tears streaming down her cheeks mixed up with the red raindrops. "Go. Finish this." She then touched his cheek with her other hand. "I'll still be here for you. It'll be alright." Despite the tears in her eyes she smiled at him. For a brief moment he smiled back and reached to embrace her, but as soon as he wrapped his arms around her the ground below them gave way and he slid back into the hurricane, falling down the muddy slope into the now-red river. Patrick panicked and tried to jump out of the river but the water current moved too fast for him. He struggled to look at the hillside and saw the silhouette figures of the girl and Vance standing there and watching him, but he couldn't see their faces in the rain. Then the river overcame him and the last thing he could remember was the overwhelming smell of blood.
Outside the silver-colored EVA the observers looked in surprise as the entry plug pushed open. Technicians tried to hurriedly grab it with the crane but the plug rotated, the entry door opened up and LCL came gushing out. "Be careful!" Dr. Foch shouted other technicians who were running up to the EVA, "they might spill out!" Foch himself stepped down from his platform followed by Beatrix, and hobbled over to the EVA where the LCL was spilling out of the plug. By the time he got there he noticed that something else had indeed dropped out.
The others on the viewing platform had seen what happened too and stood up to get a better look. "Interesting," said Musashi calmly while Mary excitedly pointed out what she saw. "Look! A boy just dropped out of there!"
Admiral Vinson saw this as well as did the other commanders. "I'll be dammed," said Colonel Burke, his eyes wide open. Vinson said nothing but closed his eyes briefly and took a deep breath. The last person in the world he had wanted to see here was the one now sprawled on the ground next to Unit 04.
Dr. Foch arrived at where the boy was lying. He was unconscious and fully naked, his orange-colored plug suit washing up just next to him. A medic came next to him and with Dr. Foch's permission began to examine the new arrival. Dr. Foch just turned to the platform, put his hands in his coat pockets, smiled a little and said "Voila!"