In a suburban area of Tokyo-3 the streets were clogged with the mass congestion of cars, vans, buses and any number of moving vehicles now attempting to escape the city. Days earlier Tokyo-3 city center had been destroyed and while the official news reports all stated it was the result of a terrorist attack with an N2 bomb, the many who worked at and with NERV knew the truth: an Angel had penetrated into the Geo Front and then the ensuing battle destroyed the entire top layer of the fortress city, along with an EVA unit and the Angel itself. While many at NERV were veterans of the Angel battles before, the last few attacks were getting uncomfortably close to the center of NERV itself. What had started as a trickle of personnel resigning and leaving along with their families had now turned into a flood, with many now trying to get out of Tokyo-3 and the Kanto basin before something worse happened.
The Horaki family was one of the many who were now evacuating. A former shinkansen (bullet-train) project engineer, the father had worked with first GEHIRN and later NERV projects for twelve years designing the extensive, mostly underground train system used all along the fortress city and its environs. After the destruction of the city center however (and NERV’s lies about how it happened) Horaki-san decided that he had enough. He had made hurried plans to move himself and his three daughters out of the Tokyo-3 suburbs and as far away as possible. Now with a rented moving van parked outside their house, he quickly rushed his three girls to grab anything essential and leave as soon as possible.
“Dad!” whined Kodama, the older daughter, “why do we have to leave now?”
“You saw what happened!” the father scolded her. “Next thing you know they’ll be blowing up this place!” The seventeen-year old continued to protest but the engineer firmly held up a finger to her and looked for his other two girls, finding them coming out of the house.
“Come on, Nozomi-chan, we’ve got to get ready to go.” Hikari Horaki quickly walked out of the house carrying several boxes of kitchen wares. She was followed by 9-year old Nozomi, who had crammed as many toy stuffed animals into her arms as she could carry. Hikari unloaded her boxes in the van and then turned to look at her little sister, who was struggling with her load.
“Nozomi, don't bring all of those stuffed animals! We don't have space in the van!”
“But I need to bring all my friends with me,” Nozomi protested. “Otherwise they'll be all alone!”
Hikari tried to comfort her. “They'll be fine. They'll keep each other company.”
“No they won't!” the little girl argued. “They miss me already!”
“Just bring one then!” Hikari bargained.
Nozomi pouted. “No!”
“Okay. Then two.”
The middle sister could feel her nerves getting frayed. “Nozomi, this isn't the time!” Hikari was clearly stressed as she tried to organize whatever she could out of the chaos of moving their family all the way to Kansai on a moment’s notice. When is Katsuragi-san coming? She quickly checked her mobile phone again. The NERV officer had called her two hours earlier as they were packing, asking her for a huge favor. Hikari couldn’t refuse her, especially after what happened with Suzahara-kun, but she told Misato to hurry as they were leaving soon and she could sense her father’s desperation to go as soon as possible.
Horaki-san placed in another load of boxes in the back of the van. “Hikari-chan, is it all in?”
“What about your friend?”
“Um, she’s supposed to be here already,” Hikari nervously responded.
“If she doesn’t make it by the time we close that van door we leave it behind, understand?”
Nozomi tugged at her jumper but Hikari ignored her and jogged a few meters down the street trying to get a glimpse of where the Major might be. She could see the main highway below them: one side of the road was packed with slowly moving vehicles overloaded with passengers and cargo. The other side of the highway was empty – that was the side that led to NERV and the Geo Front, and where nobody wanted to go.
Hikari looked behind her and saw her father close the van doors as Nozomi continued to protest with her arms still full of stuffed animals. She sighed and determined that it was already too late, and was about to turn back until she spotted a blue sports car with a red flashing light racing down the opposite side of the road.
“Hikari!” her father called.
“She’s here!” she yelled back and waited impatiently on the curb for the blue car to skid alongside.
Misato stepped out of the car with a black and white furry mass cradled in her arms. “Phew! So glad I could make it in time!” Hikari's father avoided eye contact with Misato Katsuragi as she handed a large, overweight penguin to Hikari “All right. Here he is!”
“Hello again, Pen Pen!” Pen Pen put up a little bit of a fuss when Misato handed him over to Hikari, but Hikari quickly wrapped her arms around him and scratched his head a little.
Misato grabbed the back of her neck and smiled in embarrassment at Hikari. “I really hate to impose like this!”
“Oh, don't worry,” she said. “He's just a little mouth to feed. Besides, I think he'll give Nozomi-chan something to keep her distracted.”
“Thanks again, then!”
Hikari looked nervously at Misato. “Katsuragi-san?”
The girl looked around to see who was listening and then talked to Misato in hushed tones. “Um, what is going on? I've never seen my dad so scared! There were Angel attacks before but it wasn't like this. Everyone's so frightened!”
Misato put her hands on Hikari's shoulders. “Tell you a secret, I'm frightened too!”
“Really? Well, um, they said something happened to one of the pilots, something bad, and then I haven’t seen or heard from Asuka since…”
The officer looked straight at Hikari. “Hikari-chan, right now just worry about your family. The next few days are going to be very hard, harder than all of the previous times. You need to be strong for them.”
Hikari looked away while caressing Pen Pen, who had calmed down a bit. “I know. It's just that...”
“I heard that you're going to Osaka-2 and moving in with the Suzaharas,” Misato said.
“That's right. With Suzahara-kun still in a wheelchair and his little sister still really sick they need help with everything, so it makes sense if we can work things out together.”
The major smiled at her. “Then that's the spirit you'll need to pull ahead. Just focus on taking care of the family. Everything else will work itself out.”
Hikari took the encouragement and smiled back. “All right, then.”
“Here,” Misato reached into the back trunk of the blue Renault and pulled out a white box about a meter tall. “I've got a spare little refrigerator. He can use that for sleeping in. His cooling pack plugs into the wall. You need to recharge it every 72 hours.”
“Truthfully he eats just about anything but what he prefers are those canned sardines from the market. He'll eat about three tins a day. I brought a few to get you started.” Misato showed Hikari a plastic shopping bag filled with fish tins.
Misato smiled broadly. “Oh, and give him about half a can of beer before bedtime and he'll sleep really well!”
Hikari blushed. “Um, OK then!”
“There we go,” Misato handed Hikari the bag as her father grabbed the refrigerator and tried to squeeze it into the back of the van. “You'll be fine!” Misato continued. “And as soon as everything's over I'll come right back for him.”
“It's no trouble, really!”
“Right. Better go then. Thank you again, and please take care.”
Hikari's father closed the van's cargo doors again and called after her. “Hikari-chan! Time to go!”
“Bye, sweetheart! Mommy loves you!” Misato said as she hugged Pen Pen while Hikari held him tight. The penguin fussed again a little but Hikari carefully stroked his head and worked to calm him down. Misato then raised a finger at the bird. “Now you be good!” Pen Pen gave an approving squawk.
Pen Pen wriggled some more as Hikari took him with her into the waiting van. Her father was already behind the wheel while Hikari and her two sisters squeezed in the front cabin along with him.
Nozomi gasped when he saw the penguin seated in Hikari's lap. “Wow! A Real Penguin! Can I hold him?”
“Sure,” Hikari told her. “Hold him here while I feed him a little.” Hikari shifted Pen Pen to her little sister as she reached into the bag of fish tins and grabbed a case. Kodama groaned as Hikari opened up the tin and started to feed the bird. “Oh, God! Don't tell me this van is going to smell like fish all the way to Osaka, is it?” Hikari scowled at her as Nozomi excitedly squeezed the penguin enough for him to flap his arms and squawk loudly. “Keep it down! All of you!” her father yelled at them. “We have a long way to go!”
As her father drove the van down the street Hikari looked out the window and gave a nervous smile to Misato, who stood by her car and waived at them as they left. Misato watched as the van slowly merged in with the outgoing traffic on the main highway heading west and out of the area. Only after they were further down the highway did she allow herself to show emotion, folding her hands in front of her mouth and tearfully closing her eyes, praying for everyone's safe return. I will see you again, Pen Pen, won't I?
Patrick just sat there in the hot Australian desert and stared into the distance. There were some large red-colored rock formations visible but nothing much he could see beyond that, just lots of nothingness.
He had sat there perched on a small rock for nearly all of the day. After learning of Rei's death he had been taken back to the Pine Gap hospital and sedated. The next day he pulled out the IV in his arm, found some clothes that had been laid out in his hospital room and wondered outside. No one tried to stop him.
After several hours his hair and skin felt hot and he knew he was probably blistering from sun exposure, but he didn't care. He really didn't care about anything, anymore. He had no home or family. He had killed his best friend. He was sad about all of these things, but mostly he found himself running images of Rei Ayanami in his mind, over and over again, as if he was trying to soak up as much of her memory as he could before it faded away. As dangerous as it was to fight the Angels, he had hoped that somehow she would make it through. The image of her thrusting the spear-like weapon into the sky had given him such an elation, only to have his hopes smashed with the image of Unit 00 exploding in a massive fireball. It had been just one defeat too many for him and now here he was in the middle of nowhere, broken in spirit.
As Patrick thought about the blue-haired girl the tears had come and gone. In the days since his arrival, his mind had returned to him a bit more now and he had realized just what the EVA had done to him earlier during his father’s abortive S2 installation. Using the image of Rei to melt his heart, his body had somehow dissipated and was mixed with the LCL in the entry plug, his soul becoming intertwined with that of the EVA itself. What he had remembered of the experience was the fuzzy world of a make-believe Tokyo-3, with a make-believe Rei and make-believe friends, images taken from memories of what had been both the happiest and saddest time of his life.
Now It wasn't those memories that were flooding through his brain but rather the real ones. Meeting Rei for the first time in the school hallway. Escaping from the drunken pervert in the train and then walking with her to her dingy apartment. Talking with her during school. The date, eating ice cream, and seeing her smile and laugh. Holding her hand as they ran away from the prying eyes of the others. Trying, and failing, to kiss her later on. Maybe he couldn't have broken through to her, but he had just wanted to try one more time. Even just to see her once again would have been enough.
But now she was gone. His Angel had ascended to Heaven and he was stuck here all alone on Earth. Or perhaps, given the hot temperature and bleakness of where he was sitting at this moment, it was actually hell.
Patrick heard footsteps behind him but didn't bother to see who it was until a water jug was dropped down right next to his feet. A slender hand offered him a cup of water. He looked to see who it was and saw that it was Mari, with a broken smile on her face.
“Take it. You’ll dehydrate if you don’t.”
The boy grudgingly took the cup and drank it. “Thanks,” he said under his breath, his throat feeling painful when he spoke. She took the cup back, filled it with water and presented it to him again. Patrick again took it and drank it down, letting out a sigh afterward.
“How’s the nose?” she asked.
“Oh, it's better I guess. The nurse told me it will be okay in a couple of days.”
“Good. Sorry about that. I suppose both of us were a bit on edge then.”
“No, it was my fault,” Patrick said. “I shouldn’t have pushed you like that.”
Mari changed the topic as she pulled out a tube of ointment from her blouse pocket. “You knew the one who died, yeah?”
Patrick nodded as the girl knelt down and started to apply the burn ointment on his face. “Yeah.”
“Dangerous business, this is,” she said without looking directly at him. “I suppose it’s an occupational hazard of being a pilot. What was she like?”
Patrick let the memories of Rei again flood back into his mind. “She was…special. Really beautiful, very smart, but awkward at the same time. Like someone who’s both old and young.” They both said nothing for a moment as Mari continue to apply the ointment to his face and arms. “She had this certain mystery about her, she wasn’t like any of us but more like what everyone used to call angels.”
“You mean with wings and a harp?” Mari asked.
“And a halo. Always watching over you.”
“A guardian angel,” she mused. “All done!” She put back the ointment tube as Patrick felt that his face was much cooler. He smiled weakly at her. “Thanks.”
“Don’t mention it.” Mary then sat down next to him as he stared again into the distance for the next few minutes. She looked at him and saw his hard face and reddish eyes, knowing that his heart was broken. He’s human at least, she thought to herself.
After a while Mari asked him “So, how long do you intend to sit like this?”
Patrick didn’t look at her but scoffed and cursed under his breath. “I never should have left the EVA.”
“Don’t say that. You’ve come at just the right time.”
“Give me a break! I’m lucky Vance’s father hasn’t just blown me away already.”
Mari swiveled to face him. “Do you know what’s going on around here? What they’re up against? These people didn’t have hope until you showed up. Now you’ve given them a fighting chance!” Patrick just glared at her but she continued. “Look, until they fished you out of that plug it was just little old me and my half-built EVA. I still don’t know if she’ll even go. But you’ve got the whole deluxe set-up there, S2 and all, enough to give them an edge. All it needs is you.”
“I don’t want to do this again,” Patrick wearily said.
“And this isn’t exactly the way I planned on making my debut in the EVA either, but it’s what we’ve got in front of us.” Patrick turned away and just kept staring in front of him. Mari nudged closer to him. “What would your angel girl want?”
“What do you mean?”
“If she were here now,” she asked him, “what would she want?”
“I asked her that once and she didn’t know what she wanted.”
Mari picked up a pebble and threw it a few feet in front of them. “Oh, that can’t be true! We all know what we want but we’re usually just too afraid to say it.” Mari nudged even closer to him, almost with her mouth to Patrick’s ear. “If she knew you were here and couldn’t be here herself and needed to you to do something for her, what would it be?”
Patrick thought about what Mari was saying to her and his memories came down to how he watched Rei die. He remembered the video in the interrogation room and how the glowing, snake-like 16th Angel had taken control over Unit 00 and then used it to launch attacks on Shinji’s Unit 01. Rei had imploded the EVA to save him at the cost of her own life. He knew from before that it wasn’t the first time she had sacrificed herself for him, either.
Rei was a guardian angel, he realized, and it was Shinji that she was guarding. Now she was gone, but Shinji was still here and all alone.
“She’d…she’d want to protect Shinji….the Third Child.”
“And there’s your answer!” She smiled at him. A phone rang “Rule Britannia” and she picked it out of her pocket. “Hello…oh, we’re all right, just working out some issues here.” She listened to the voice on the other end describe something at length and then replied “I thought I was going to pilot, not be an errand girl!” The voice continued until she looked satisfied. “Fourth Child, huh? Well, okay, but I want your promise that I’ll get my chance!” The voice on the other end agreed. “Good. When are we leaving? Straightaway? Fine, I’ll be there,” and she hung up the phone.
“I’m afraid I’ve been called away. I’m popular, it seems. Now they need me to go find the Fourth Child.” Mari stood up to go. Patrick still sat there on the rock but he looked up at her.
“Pats, do remember what you said just now, yes?”
Patrick nodded. “Say hi to Toji for me.”
“I’ll do that. Don’t spend too much time out here, mate. They’ve got spiders here that can kill you with one bite!”
The boy smiled weakly. “I’ll be careful.”
She started to walk back to the base as Patrick turned around and said to her “Mari! Thank you!”
“Don’t mention it, Pats,” she called back. “And by the way, my friends all call me ‘Lusty.’”
Mary continued to walk off and then suddenly stopped and turned around again. “Say, Pats?”
She had an inquisitive look on her face. “How did you know my mum died? Did someone tell you?”
At that Patrick stood up, as memories of someone else now coming to his mind. “We’re sort of in an exclusive club and there’s a price of admission to get in. Vance wasn’t invited, but you and I were. I can’t explain it any better than that.”
Mari sighed. “I was afraid of that. Guess I’ll have to work out that one, won’t I?”
“We’ve all got to do it,” Patrick told her. “Sort of comes with the job.”
“Right. I’ll be off, then.” Mari continued walking back to the base as Patrick just watched her.
Go to Chapter Eight