Two weeks after Third Impact…
Moira Wellington stood outside of a solitary, one-story building on the outskirts of the Alliance’s Pine Gap base. It was hot and dry, as it usually was this time of year. Standing along with her were two Alliance soldiers dressed as she was in tan desert-pattern camouflage uniforms.
A Land Rover drove up to the building and General Sheffield got out of the driver’s seat. He approached the building, holding an envelope in his left hand.
“G’Day, Sir John!” Wellington greeted.
“Good Day, Leftenant. How is our guest doing?”
“He just sits there all day and looks at the wall in deep thought. Hasn’t said a word since he got here.”
“I see. It’s the contemplative types I worry about most. Whatever they’re going over in their minds is usually not good. Let’s have a chat with him, shall we?” They both walked into the gray-painted building.
The small building was a holding facility originally used for “undeclared high-value intelligence assets,” which was a fancy way of saying “secret spy prison”. The old place now had only one permanent resident: Gendo Ikari.
The two Alliance officers passed by several security doors and reached a single cell at the end. A single guard stood at the front, and unlocked the door to allow them both in.
Sitting at a table was Gendo. He was dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit, with one sleeve dangling from his missing arm. He wore glasses but otherwise had no other items other than his shoes. As the two walked in and chairs were brought in for them to sit on the former NERV commander glared at them like a hungry wolf. Sheffield and Wellington sat down and the guards left, locking the door behind them.
Sheffield opened up the envelope and slid several photographs across the table to Ikari. They were mostly taken from the interior of the NERV facility, and were shots of the Evangelions walking about or being tended to by others. In addition to the EVAs there were also clear shots of the pilots, including Shinji and Asuka in their plug suits, accompanied by Alliance and former NERV personnel. Rei was also in one of the photos, dressed in her school uniform, and was staring directly at the camera. Patrick Forrestal stood beside her.
“As of now we have complete control over the NERV facility, as well as your two remaining Evangelion units. You can see in the photos here the pilots are cooperating with us at the moment. Also, we have worked out an arrangement with the new Japanese government for continued operations under joint control.”
Gendo studied the photos as Sheffield continued. “We’ve done an investigation into the death of Dr. Akagi and determined that you did shoot her in self-defense after she tried to self-destruct the GeoFront. Furthermore in the interests of further cooperation we are very willing to overlook many of your more…questionable activities in the pursuit of the EVA project’s goals. You can’t be completely absolved of responsibility, of course, but we can certainly put in a strong word in your favor against the investigation that has already been launched.”
The former commander was silent for a while as he considered what Sheffield had told him. Then looking at the general in a narrow glance he asked “What do you want?”
Sheffield matched Gendo’s glare with a serious one of his own. “Help us fill in the gaps of our knowledge. Inform us of how you constructed the Evangelion units themselves, and from what source of information, Secret Dead Sea Scrolls or otherwise, did you obtain the data necessary to put your project into being. In return you have a chance to be a free man again.” Sheffield paused to let it sink in, then said “all things considering that is quite a generous offer on our part, as not everyone in the Alliance is so appreciative of what it took to fight the Angels and may just be looking for scapegoats to hang.”
He looked at Sheffield again with dead eyes. “If not?”
Sir John leaned over the table. “Then I have the pleasure of avenging the untimely death of the mothers of over forty children.”
“You know nothing,” Gendo answered him, and leaned back in his chair. He pushed the photos back over to Sheffield. Without looking at him the general quickly gathered up the photos and put them back in the envelope. The two officers then stood up and Wellington banged on the door for it to be opened.
“We’re done here,” Sir John said simply to the guards and they were both let out. Gendo then continued to silently look at the wall in front of him. Inside of him though was a deep and burning rage.
You know NOTHING!
A couple of days after the children were reunited, the Suzaharas and Horakis returned to Osaka-2. This time they were lent a few agents from the Interior Ministry as protection. They all came back to the house the Suzaharas had rented and began again the process of unpacking and settling down to what they hoped would be a less exciting life.
In the evening Toji sat on a bench in the small backyard of the house as Hikari slid open the patio door, donned some wooden outdoor slippers, and walked out to see him. She was wearing a knit pattern sweater with a long skirt and as usual had her hair tied up in braids. Toji never seemed to take off his polyester track suit.
She sat down on the bench next to him, leaning back and relaxing a bit in the cool night air. “Everyone's finally settled down,” she told him. “Dad's still up in the TV room drinking sake with your dad.” Toji nodded and leaned back on the bench just a little closer to where Hikari sat.
“Your sister seems okay,” she said. “She's still doing well even after being moved around so much.”
“She's a fighter, she'll be alright,” he said. He was looking at the crescent moon in the sky.
Hikari breathed in the night air and let it out slowly. “I'm glad to be back. It's not really home yet but it still feels good to come back here.”
“Yeah,” Toji said quietly. Hikari could sense that he was holding something back. “What is it?” she asked.
“The moon's really beautiful tonight, isn't it?” he said.
“It sure is.” Hikari nestled herself right next to Toji, having a hunch about what his odd behavior was leading to.
“You know, I'm really no good at this stuff,” he started.
“What do you mean?”
“Like this boy-girl thing. I mean, we're not even really dating at all, we're just together and...”
“So,” Hikari said. “What's wrong with it?”
“Nothing. I just, well...if you asked me to shoot hoops from the 3-point line I can do it and all, but if you asked me to make a girl happy I really don't know where to start.”
She gave a little giggle. “What's funny?” Toji asked.
The Class Representative was direct with him. Smiling, she said “Toji Suzahara, would you like to kiss me?”
The boy was now very nervous. “Um, yeah, if that's alright with you. But I haven't done it before, you know, and I don't wanna, well...miss.”
“I haven't either, really, but,” she said a little bashfully “I don't think you'll miss.”
“Uh-uh,” she nodded, putting her finger to her lips. “Just put it right through the hoop!”
Toji raised his eyebrows in sudden awareness. Suddenly this all makes sense to me!
“Okay, then,” he said, leaning towards her. “I'm coming in for the shot.”
Hikari nodded and placed her hands in her lap, closing her eyes. In the next second she felt his warm lips touch hers. It was a sweet, mysterious sensation.
“How'd I do?” he asked.
She flashed two fingers at him. “Two points!”
Misato stood in the new graveyard as the final two plots were prepared. She had been released from the hospital three days earlier, and had spent the time since then she was out making arrangements with the many families of those from NERV killed in the assault. It had been an overwhelmingly draining experience, even with Kaji and the controllers to help, as many of the families were angry and wanted answers. She would simply say to as many as she could that things still were in flux and that the truth would get out and soon. She made a vow to herself that indeed it would get out.
She promised herself she wouldn't cry at Ritsuko's grave but upon reaching the site she promptly broke the promise. Dressed in black and accompanied by Kaji and the controllers, Misato sobbed as she clung to Kaji at the sight of the new grave marker, laying her head on his chest as he gently stroked her black hair.
Maya was there as well, also dressed like Misato in a black dress. A week earlier Hyuga had found Maya in her wrecked apartment, lying on the floor emaciated in a fetal position. Gently he coerced her outside and took her to recover in an onsen traditional spa in the Hakone countryside. Within a few days she had somehow found her strength again and she had returned to join the others in this most important of tasks.
While everyone else looked on Maya gently knelt down to the ground and placed lilies on Ritsuko's grave. She didn't cry anymore: perhaps it was because she was all spent out or perhaps she felt it was just better to be happy as she could. After placing the flowers she then reached into her pocket and pulled out two small ceramic cats, the same ones that once sat on to Dr. Akagi's desk in her lab. Maya then gently placed the two cats next to the grave marker.
“Farewell, Sempai,” she said quietly. “I'll carry on the work. Thank you for everything!” Maya then stood up and stepped back, and prayed over the grave site.
Misato was unable to bring herself closer to the grave and just watched as Maya did the honors. She knew she would be back later when no one else was around, with a bottle of sake in her hand and her memories and she would share then. Once out of the hospital Misato had received an offer from Ritsuko's grandmother to bring her back to their family grave in Sapporo but she refused it. She knew that Ritsuko wouldn't want to be buried next to her mother and besides, Misato was selfish and wanted her best friend close by.
Next to Ritsuko's site was the grave for Dr. Kozou Futsuyuki. Having no remaining family the Tokyo-3 grave site was the logical resting place for the old professor. Aoba and Hyuga walked to the grave marker and Aoba gently dropped lilies on the ground to the one who had saved their lives. “Sleep well, old man,” he said.
After it was finished the five of them walked back towards the main road where their vehicles were parked. Maya was in between the two other controllers, looking tired but otherwise smiling. Misato had recovered herself as well.
“So Maya are you staying?” she asked.
She shook her head. Hyuga spoke for her, with his arm around her shoulder. “We'll take her home to her grandparents in Aichi,” he said. “Let her rest for a while.”
“Okay, take care,” Misato promptly hugged all three controllers in turn and then they turned back to go. Misato and Kaji stood among the fresh graves.
“So what now?” he asked her.
“There's going to be payback for this,” she told him.
“Revenge is not always the best path,” Kaji replied in a gentle tone.
Misato stepped back from him a step. “I don't want revenge. Revenge is why I first joined NERV,” she told him. He knew why, as her father was killed in Second Impact when it had started in Antarctica.
“Then what do you want?”
“I want the truth to come out,” she said, now with determination. “All of us were lied to, and all of us were forced to take part in the lie. No more. I have a story and I want to tell it.”
“Then I'll help, and I'll tell my story too, and everyone's story as well. The best way to fight darkness is to illuminate it in light.”
She nodded as he closed the distance and put his arms around her waist, and then gently kissed her. A graveyard was perhaps not the most romantic setting, he thought, but it would do.
Together holding hands they walked back to their vehicle. “Too bad about your place,” he told her.
Misato shrugged. “It's just as well. At least I was able recover some things like photos. The kids were pretty disappointed, though.” She looked up to him. “Did Asuka and Shinji make it to Germany?”
Kaji nodded. “Kikuchi's with them. They just arrived a few hours ago. Asuka said that she was going to take Shinji to meet family.”
Half-way around the world another couple stood at another graveyard. In Germany it was seven hours behind Japan, making the clock time earlier in the morning on the same day. The sun was just starting to burn away the early morning fog.
They had taken an Alliance transport from Tokyo-3 to Berlin (the same Gulfstream that Mary and Kaji had flow before actually) and then traveled by taxi straight to Holy Trinity Cemetery in the city center. Now together they stood at a grave site that had been sitting peacefully under the elm trees there for over ten years.
“Danke, Mutter. Danke!” Asuka said cheerfully at she spoke to the grave. “You were with me all the time!” Shinji stood next to her, holding her hand as she spoke. Asuka wore a more conservative black dress with broad white collars, while Shinji had on a black sports jacket and pants.
“I never should have doubted you were there for me!” she continued. “Thank you so much!” She looked at Shinji and smiled. “I know it now, and I promise you, I'll never be lonely again!”
She visited with her for a little while longer as Shinji watched Asuka report to her mother on her doings these last few years. She was kind enough to mention Shinji to mother as well, which somehow made him feel very good inside.
After the visit the two of them went walking around the cemetery on their way to the city streets surrounding it. Kikuchi was following them from behind, shadowing them from about fifteen meters away.
“You realize that if everything they say about EVA is true, she's not actually dead, you know?” Shinji said.
“I know but this makes me feel better,” she responded, “and I like to think she can still hear me anyway.” Shinji nodded in acknowledgment.
Asuka stretched out her right arm as if waking up and then took a deep breath. “Ahhh! It feels really good to get back here. I forgot how much I missed Germany! Have you ever been here before?” she asked Shinji.
“No. Actually I've never been outside Japan.”
“Well then I'll have to show you around.” She put her hand to her chin in deep thought. “Hmm. Let's see. We'll, first you have to see Brandenberg Gate, and then we'll go down to the Rhine and see the castles. Oh, and the Black Forest, you have to go there, it's so pretty! And then we'll go see the Alps, and then...” Shinji laughed a little.
“What is it?”
“Shouldn't you see your family first?” he asked.
“Oh, God! They're the last thing I want to see. I'm not looking forward to that.”
“Still, though, They are family, aren't they?”
Asuka turned and stood in front of him. “After all this time we spent together are you still that dense?” she asked.
“What do you mean?”
She placed her hand on his shoulder and pointed her finger at him. “I only have one family and it's you. Okay?”
Shinji was taken aback. “Just me?”
“Well, Kaji and Misato too. And even the First, I guess. But EVA's my real family, always has been. I just didn't realize it until now.”
He nodded and smiled and she smiled too. She took his hand again and they walked out to the street.
“Did you visit me in the hospital when I was there?” Asuka asked.
“I wasn't asleep all the time, you know. I could hear stuff in my room.”
Shinji stopped in his tracks, suddenly very nervous. “Um, like what?”
“Like someone bawling their eyes out,” she said directly.
He breathed a sigh of relief. “Oh, that. I was pretty freaked out towards the end.”
She was sterner with him. “Do me a favor next time and please don't do that! You're lucky that you've got me instead of some other girl. Otherwise there's no way they could possibly deal with you.”
“Sorry,” Shinji said.
“Don't mention it.” She smiled at him again. “Come on, I know I really good place for sausages close to here, and right now I really need some German food. Can you live a few days without white rice and miso soup?”
He smiled. “I think I'll be alright.”
They kept walking until Asuka stopped again. “There was this other thing, though.”
“I had this weird dream that you once went to my room and jerked yourself off. You didn't do anything like that, did you?”
Shinji's face was as white as a sheet. “Uh, no! No, absolutely not!”
“Better not have,” she muttered. “If I ever found out that actually happened you are so dead! Disgusting!”
Shinji breathed a huge sigh of relief as they continued on.
Onboard the Liberator, in The Sea of Japan
Wearing a white sundress given to her by Misato, Rei stood on the fantail of the Liberator with her hands on the railing and looked out at the wide expanse in front of her. She could see the sea gently rolling in the wake of the giant ship as the sunlight reflected off the edge of the water. She heard the rush of the water and the sounds of the seagulls that gilded in the air. Rei closed her eyes and took in a deep breath, letting the refreshing scent of the ocean water linger in her lungs. The cool sea spray danced against her toes and she could taste the salt in the air. Letting go of her breath she opened her eyes again and smiled as she felt her muscles relax all over.
“Hi there!” a voice came from behind her. She turned around to see Patrick. He was wearing a gray and red vinyl jumpsuit, and carried a black and red duffel bag with him.
“I thought I might find you here,” he told her, putting the bag down and walking up to the railing with her. Patrick couldn’t resist taking in the sea air, closing his eyes and savoring the ocean with all of this senses.
“So, what do you think?” he asked her as he opened his eyes again.
“It’s beautiful,” she replied, looking out at the sea.
“It’s freedom,” he said. “It’s what everyone is entitled to.”
Rei turned her gaze from the sea to the bag that Patrick brought with him. It was a plug suit carrier, with the number 03 displayed prominently. He saw her looking at the bag and knew it was time.
Patrick walked back to the bag and took it by the shoulder strap. Careful to not get in Rei’s way, he then moved to the side of the railing and swung the bag in the air as hard as he could, letting go of it into the ocean below.
They both watched as the duffel bag hit the ocean with a plop and then floated in the wake of the ship. Over the next few minutes the black and red bag became a tiny speck in the distance, bobbing up and down in the waves until finally disappearing from sight. Once the bag was gone Patrick also felt a great weight lift from his shoulders.
“Goodbye, Double-V,” Patrick whispered as he watch the bag sink away. Rei stood at the railing alongside, close to him.
“What will you do now?” she asked.
“I’ve accepted that I’m bound with the EVA, so we’ll go where we’re needed,” he said to her. “But Erin is still out there somewhere. I hope that maybe with EVA, I can make the link to her again that we had once before.”
“She was able to find you once,” Rei said. “You should be able to do the same.”
“I hope so. How about you?”
Rei looked again out at the sea. “Surviving Third Impact was not a possibility that I had considered. Now that I’m here I need to explore things for a while, so that I can determine the path I need to take.”
“Do that,” Patrick told her. “Explore everything. Take all the time you need. If anyone in this world deserves that kind of freedom, it’s you.”
Rei turned to face him. “Thank you.”
“For reaching out to me. If you had not done so,” she told him, again facing away at the ocean. “I might not have made the choices I did.”
“You looked like you needed a friend,” Patrick replied softly. “And I’m so glad that I got to know you.” She turned to look at him with her deep red eyes and smiled softly, blushing a little.
Patrick tried to find something else to say to the beauty in front of him, but like so many times before he didn’t have the words. But at that moment he did know exactly what he wanted to do.
Without saying anything Patrick quickly reached out to Rei with both of his arms and wrapped them around her. At first she thought to struggle free, but he held her tightly and gently stroked her blue hair with his fingers. She put her head against his chest and felt the beating of his heart, the softness of the sea breeze, and the warmth of his body. Overwhelmed by all of the sensations around her Rei closed her eyes and let herself drift away as he continued to hold her close.
Every connection I make to others is one more part of me discovering myself.
Every experience, every sorrow, and every joy I have goes into the forming of my being.
Every chance I take is like a bird learning to fly in the wind. I may struggle and fall but I can get up and try again, until I learn to spread my wings and soar above the earth in freedom.
My name is Rei Ayanami, and I am me.
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