Misato Katsuragi sat outside the conference room, nervously twitching her legs like a five-year-old waiting for her mother. It was a habit that had since she was young and while she tried to keep herself from being nervous sometimes her legs just seemed to have a mind of their own.
She sat there at the end of a row of chairs in front of the conference room wall, located in the middle levels of the underground GeoFront fortress in Tokyo-3. Dressed in a khaki NERV officer's uniform with a red leather jacket and beret, Misato worked at maintaining decorum for what she knew would be one of the most important meetings in her life.
A dark-skinned woman dressed in blue and green camouflage came out of the conference room. “Major,” she said in English, “you can come in now.” Misato stood up and straightened out her uniform, and then promptly walked inside.
The conference room was small and relatively plain, with no windows but instead large photos of the Japanese landscape on the walls. A large table stood in the center with a polished black marble surface, a NERV fig-leaf logo engraved in the middle with Robert Browning's memorable motto inscribed next to it: “God's in His Heaven. All's Right with the World.” How wrong that had been, she thought to herself.
On one side of the conference room were six chairs, in five of which were seated senior officers of the Alliance of Free Nations, the current “custodian” of the GeoFront. In the sixth chair sat the woman who had called her in, who now pulled out a laptop and started to type. Misato sat alone on the opposite side of the table from the officers. Looking around the room she saw that despite attempts to clean the room up there were still large black stains on the walls, the result of the recent battle between NERV, the Japanese Strategic Self-Defense Force (or JSSDF), and the Alliance. During the battle several unarmed NERV staff members had tried to take shelter inside the room, only to be killed by JSSDF commandos with orders to execute all NERV staff they found. All of those now in the room were well aware of that fact, and that tempered their thoughts as they began the interview.
Seated in the middle of the group of officers was Admiral William Vinson, the military commander of the Alliance forces in Tokyo-3 and a former US Navy SEAL. Broad-shouldered and muscular, he looked like he could still play American football even at his fifty years of age. On Vinson's left side was Colonel Adam Burke, dark-skinned and himself nearly the size of a Sumo wrestler. The two commanders and the other officers all wore blue and green camouflage uniforms. Burke started the meeting by paging through a manila folder that contained Misato's professional records.
The colonel addressed Misato politely in English. “Good Afternoon, Major Katsuragi.”
“Good Afternoon, Colonel.” The NERV officer stood up straight and smiled slightly, transforming herself into the professional side of her personality.
“We've read through your records and I have to say it's quite impressive, even before your time here at Tokyo-3.”
“Thank you, sir,” she replied in slightly accented English.
“Graduate of Tokyo-2 University with High Honors. Bachelor's Degree in Child Psychology. Then you took a position at NERV immediately afterward.”
“After initial military training, where you were at the top of your class, you were assigned first to NERV tactical operations and then to Germany, where you were a pilot controller for two years.”
Memories of her first time living with Asuka came to mind, mostly happy ones. “Yes, I was.”
“Then after taking the Command Officer's course, where again you were on top, you were assigned here to run EVA operations.” Misato nodded politely, still with a slight smile.
“Why did you join NERV?” Burke asked her.
Misato was direct. “I wanted revenge for my father. He was killed during Second Impact.”
“I wasn't going to mention it, but you were there with the Katsuragi Expedition, correct.”
She blinked back less pleasant memories. “I was.”
Burke was nonchalant. “That certainly gives you a unique perspective on things, doesn't it?” Misato again nodded. “Do you feel as you got the revenge you were seeking?” he asked her.
Misato paused for a moment. “No. My perspective changed as a part of my experience here. Once I found the truth about what happened, revenge ceased to be my motive.”
“Then what became your motive?” the colonel asked her.
“I needed to protect the pilots,” she replied. “That became my overriding goal.”
“Beyond fighting the Angels?”
“I knew if I presented the truth to anyone on the outside, it was highly unlikely it would see the light of day, such was the control over the program that both Commander Ikari and SEELE had. But in working with EVA and seeing how they functioned and interacted with the pilots, I knew that EVA had a mind and a heart of its own. If I just made sure that the pilot and EVA were together at the right time, somehow things would work out.”
“That's quite a gamble,” Burke commented.
“It's more like faith,” Misato replied. “I think at that low point it was all I had left.”
Everyone on the room was quiet for a while, except for the stenographer who was busy typing in everything at the far end of the room. Misato sat there silently at attention as Burke thumbed through the rest of her file, then closed the folder and nodded to Admiral Vinson. Vinson then folded his hands in front of him and leaned forward on the table towards Misato.
“Major Katsuragi,” he began, “I'll be direct. Since the Alliance has taken over operations with the EVA in cooperation with the new Japanese government, we are in need of personnel who have experience in working with the Evangelions. Certainly none has come to us with a more qualified background than yourself.” Misato allowed herself a small smile as Vinson continued. “We are prepared to offer you a very generous compensation in exchange for your services, if that's alright with you.”
“Actually, Admiral,” Misato said, “I had something additional in mind.”
Burke raised his eyebrows as he and Vinson looked at each other. Vinson took a deep breath. “Alright, what is it that you're proposing?”
Misato's smiled broadened.
After the meeting Misato sat at a nearby waiting room, an iced coffee in her hand. Walking up to her from down the hallway was Ryoji Kaji, dressed in a black business suit. As part of his earlier escape from NERV to alter his appearance and identity Kaji had to cut his hair, losing his coveted ponytail. Despite that Misato thought he still looked quite handsome, and it wasn't every day she got to see him suited up like he was now. The agent stopped and sat down next to Misato.
“So, how did it go?” he asked her.
“I don't know yet. They're still considering my proposal.”
“In relative terms you're not asking for that much,” Kaji told her. “But some of the conditions you've given might be difficult for them to fulfill.”
“If they're going to be responsible for EVA from this point forward, it's in their benefit to be more open about what happened,” she told him. “I'm only looking for a way to facilitate that.”
Kaji leaned his head back on the chair. “Are you suggesting that they give guided tours of Terminal Dogma?”
Misato chuckled. ”I'm suggesting that it would be better to be upfront about what EVA was and why everything happened. Everyone's scared right now, and people are hungry for more information. If the Alliance is willing they can be the heroes in this.”
The agent placed his chin in his hand in deep thought. “From working with them,” he told her, “I've no doubt that the Alliance sees the value in what you're proposing. The difficulty is that SEELE is still out there and their resources are no doubt quite vast, their determination equally so. The Alliance has to carefully balance its own needs for operational security with the need to grow popular support for their new regime.”
“Why are you taking their side?” Misato asked, slightly annoyed. “I thought you were on board with me asking for this?”
Kaji smiled and waved her off in protest. ”I'm not disagreeing with you! But just expect they may not give you everything that you want.”
“I'm not naïve,” Misato said and she looked around them to see if anyone else was listening. “Even I understand there are certain things, especially regarding the children, that we can't put out there. But billions of people died in Second Impact and what happened afterward, and all just so some old men could try and play God. If the Alliance plays things too close to the vest we'll be back in the same place again we were before.”
They both sighed and Misato reached over and grabbed Kaji's hand. “I didn't think this would be easy,” she told him with a broken smile. “By the way, you look cute today!”
“Cute isn't the word I'd use,” Kaji said, clearly uncomfortable with his appearance. He loosened up his tie in frustration.
“How did it go with the Japanese government?”
“Difficult. There's still a lot of mistrust of the Alliance and their intentions. Even with the offer of joint control and benefiting from what is likely to be a cornucopia of technological advances from NERV's research, many are concerned that the Alliance will just use EVA as a military platform. They're worried about the consequences of having Japan as the base for their operations.”
“Meaning we're target #1 for SEELE.”
“Exactly.” Kaji reached for his cigarettes.
“Given what happened nothing would change that, even if the Alliance hadn't have taken over the GeoFront,” Misato said.
“That is also true,” Kaji remarked as he looked around for a place he could smoke. “But there's fear about how far SEELE would go to gain back control, especially as Evangelion is now out in the open. The greatest concern is that the Alliance's actions would provoke a SEELE attack on Japan and then the Alliance would abandon it, taking the EVAs with them. There's also difficulty in reaching agreement between the Alliance and the government on political terms. To win this upcoming conflict both Japan and the Alliance will have to go 'all-in' on the partnership, but bridging that trust gap will be a significant challenge. As the Americans would say, it's a shotgun marriage.”
“True,” Misato mused. “But the consequences for not doing this are even worse.”
“Correct. And while we're squabbling the other side is no doubt preparing something quite foul.”
The chairman was pivoted into place by his long-time assistant, a thin, older man of Slavic descent who had been his manservant for decades. Piotr snapped his motorized wheelchair into place on the floor and then left without being asked. The lights were adjusted and the chairman could see around the room. It was not his usual office, that place had been evacuated in an unduly rush as the Alliance had found the SEELE Chairman’s hidden lair in the German Alps and were on the way to assault it when his subordinates had moved him out. Long being the one to foresee things, the Chairman had provided for an escape route and an alternate hiding place from any intruders and now a fortnight later and after thousands of miles of travel he sat inside of the deep underground chambers that SEELE now occupied, and put his full mind to his next move.
Keel knew his body was dying. He had been able to keep it alive through innumerable interventions of all kinds but finally it was reaching the end of the line. To achieve the dream he was given, to climb the ladder from humanity into godhood he would not have much time, and this latest setback was unforeseen as there had been treachery within as well as without. Still there was hope let to him, and time to prove to his enemies that he had plenty of life left in his crumbling body. He pushed a series of buttons on his desk and the lights in the room went out. The faces of the other remaining members of SEELE, now numbering only five, appeared to him projected on beams of light.
“We have awakened,” he said to the others. “They have bled us but not killed us. Let us again take the path that we started on so long ago, and this time let nothing stop us!”
Shinji looked out the windows of their taxicab as it pulled through the large iron gates as they opened. The gates to Asuka's family's house were ornate, with intricate designs incorporated with the letter “L”, and gold leaf spread throughout. He looked in amazement as they drove slowly on what appeared to be a very long driveway. The driveway itself was lined with tall fir trees on both sides and went on for over half a kilometer to the mansion in front.
“Wow,” Shinji said to Asuka. “I didn't know you lived in a place like this?” For her part Asuka was not herself impressed, but instead had a very uncomfortable look on her face.
“It's their house,” she said with a frown. “I haven't really lived her for years!”
“Still,” he said, “It's awfully nice.” The redhead just went “humph” and crossed her legs again.
The Mercedes taxi pulled up to the front of the house. The mansion was built in an older, classic style three stories high, and accented by gray marble columns. To Shinji it looked like something built for a prince or duke and he began to wonder just how rich Asuka's family actually was.
Standing in front of the house was a brown-haired middle-aged woman dressed in a purple, fashionable yet conservative dress. Around her were a small group of house servants, dressed in black and white uniforms. As the car approached the front steps, Asuka turned to Shinji. “Whatever you do,” she told him sternly, “don't do or say anything more stupid than usual!”
“Uh, Got it!” Shinji replied.
The taxi stopped at the foot of the front steps, which were built of marble with a red carpet laid along the middle. First to exit the taxi was Hideyoshi Kikuchi, the pilots' bodyguard for this trip and a childhood friend of Kaji's. Wearing a black suit with dark sunglasses, the tall, unemotional Kikuchi walked to the trunk of the taxi and started to remove luggage. Asuka was next to get out, wearing a conservative black dress with broad white collars, and red mary jane shoes with frilly white ankle socks. Her flaming red hair was done in the usual way with long tails, held by her red-colored A10 nerve sensors.
Asuka stepped out onto the red carpet and her scowl immediately transformed into a broad smile. “Mama!” She cried, holding out her arms for the older woman. Asuka's stepmother walked forward to embrace her.
“Asuka!” the woman said, giving her an embracing but loose hug. “We're so glad you're back!” she said in German. The two of them kissed each other on the cheeks.
“I'm glad to be back!” Asuka replied cheerfully, also in German. Asuka noticed that behind her Shinji had exited from the taxi. He was wearing a black sport coat with a collared shirt and slacks, and looked very uncomfortable in them. She paid his expression no mind and quickly grabbed his arm. “Mama,” she said to the woman, “let me introduce Shinji.”
The woman's eyes went wide when they saw the boy. “Oh, Asuka!” the woman exclaimed, “He's so cute!” The woman then stepped forward in front of Shinji.
“Hello!” she said in very badly-pronounced Japanese. “How are you?”
“I'm fine, thank you,” Shinji said in equally bad German. “It's nice to meet you!”
“Ah! You speak German?” the woman said.
Shinji blushed with embarrassment. “Well, only a little!” In the previous week before their trip Asuka had actually been trying to give him a crash course in the language.
“Excellent! You must be tired after such a long journey!” the woman said. “Please let's all go inside.”
Asuka's stepmother led the pilots through the front door and into the foyer. Shinji looked around and saw that the inside of the mansion looked just as ornate as the outside, with black and white marble floors and high ceilings accented with columns. Old paintings that looked like they belonged in museums lined the walls, and a large crystal chandelier hung above them.
“Fraulein Langley” one of the servants said to the woman, “the rooms for the two Japanese are prepared.”
“Ah, very good. Asuka, dear, would you please show them to their rooms upstairs? It's the guest bedrooms on the eastern wing.”
“Yes, Mama,” she replied. “Come on,” she said and started up a large spiral staircase next to the foyer. Asuka took Shinji by the hand and led him upstairs. A manservant offered to their luggage, but Kikuchi politely refused, pretending that he spoke no German. The bodyguard promptly followed the two, carrying three suitcases with him.
The two of them reached the third floor and walked down a hallway with several rooms. Like the rest of the mansion, the guest rooms were luxurious with an Old World flavor. Shinji's guest room was larger than Misato's entire apartment, furnished with dressers, chairs and tables made of polished wood, and with a huge poster bed in the middle. Red-colored drapes covered the windows, while long mirrors decorated the walls.
“You look like you're about to keel over,” Asuka whispered to Shinji, the frown back on her face. “Here, take a breather for a while. I'll come get you in a bit.”
Shinji had to admit to himself he was tired from the jet lag. “OK. Asuka?”
“What?” she replied, clearly still on edge.
“Why do you call her 'Mama'?”
Her face hardened even further. “It's for show. Don't think it's anything personal.” Without another word she turned around and left the room.
Shinji took off his jacket and looked around the room a bit, and then went to the bathroom to refresh himself. Like the rest of the guest room the bathroom was ornate, with gold inlaid hardware and fixtures and marble tile underneath. He felt afraid just to use anything in it, but managed to wash up and then loosen up his shirt. Within another minute he slipped off his shoes and plopped on the bed, falling fast asleep in the comfortable goose down mattress.
Sea of Japan
Evangelion Unit 04 stood on the ocean-going platform as it was towed by the ship in front of her. Five hundred yards ahead of the EVA an Alliance amphibious ship dragged a set of steel cables behind it that were hooked on to the edge of the platform, pulling the Evangelion through the water in a way that reminded the pilot of slow-motion water skiing.
Patrick Forrestal sat in the entry plug and looked out the video display at his surroundings. They were in the South Japan Sea, among a group of Alliance military vessels as part of a training exercise. It was the third day of the maneuvers, designed to get the Alliance conventional military units familiar with operating with their new EVAs, and vice-versa. As he looked around, he saw that the sea was calm and the sun shining, the wind blew gently on the ocean waves and Patrick thought to himself that it was completely inappropriate weather for war training. Nonetheless his part in the exercises was nearly complete, which made him look forward to spending more time later with his fellow pilot.
A voice came through the plug speakers. “Unit 04, this is Task Force command. Exercise will commence in sixty seconds.”
“Roger that, command.” Patrick moved the EVA forward on the floating platform as the ship towing it cut off its cables and veered sharply to the right. Turning behind him, he saw the rest of the fleet behind him as klaxons begin to sound.
In this last exercise, EVA-04's task was to defend the fleet behind him from a missile barrage fired from another ship fifty nautical miles away. The job seemed simple enough, as the incoming missiles would just be training dummies and not armed with live warheads. His orders were, however, to ensure that there were no “leakers” that got by him. Success would be indicated by a perfect score, anything else was considered failure.
Unit 04 reached over and grabbed a giant rotary cannon from the platform deck, cradling it in its arms and preparing to fire on the incoming missile wave. “Unit 04 ready!” he called out. “Test begins now,” the voice came back.
For a few seconds there was no sign of any activity and Patrick just scanned the skies looking for targets. But then he saw a smoke trail and then another, and soon after he spotted about twelve missiles coming into to the group and moving very, very fast.
“Engaging now,” he said, and he promptly started firing the rotary cannon at each missile as it came in.
Watching the faux combat from a control center inside the flagship was the Alliance's naval commander, Admiral Gato. The older man studied the computer and video displays as Unit 04 worked to deal with the new threat, as the Evangelion knocked out missile after missile that sped towards the fleet.
“How's he doing, sir?” a younger officer asked him.
“He's only knocked down twelve targets and used up half his ammo already,” Gato replied. “I think he has a surprise coming.”
Patrick worked to engage each target in turn, giving each missile a lengthy blast from the rotary cannon. By his own track he had cut down sixteen so far, but then his eyes went to the display and instead of seeing just a few smoke trails he now saw dozens more. Oh-oh.
Faced with the larger missile wave oncoming, Patrick tried to concentrate his fire more accurately, to quickly blast each one and then move to the next target. After a few seconds he noticed the change in tactics was effective, but he was quickly running out of ammo on his cannon. After scoring forty kills the display in front of him indicated “AMMO LOW' and he still saw more and more smoke trails coming in fast.”
My God, does the Alliance have this many targets to just throw at me? The pilot quickly worked out an alternate strategy and used up the rest of his ammo on as many targets as he could spot. After fifty hits his rotary cannon gave out and he promptly tossed it aside and grabbed the Pallet Gun that was lying on the ocean platform.
Focusing as much as he could, Patrick hit as many missiles with the Pallet Gun as he was able to. Even the pallet gun was trouble as he reached sixty-five and there were still more missiles coming towards them. Dropping it after he reached the end of two clips, he grabbed the CAWS and quickly hunted for more targets. The missiles were coming in closer now, he could see the stove-pipe like flyers speeding dangerously close.
The CAWS functioned like a shotgun spreading its bullets over a wide area, which Patrick used to good effect. Within a few seconds he had made gains on the missile wave and found that he could even use a single burst from the CAWS to knock out two or three. He could feel his confidence surging as he quickly dispatched the rest of the incoming targets.
“Wow,” the junior officer observed in the command room, “he's taken them all out, over a hundred in all!”
“Not all, “ the admiral pointed at the screen. “Looks like we have a leaker.”
Patrick saw the stray missile too, speeding towards the platform at supersonic speed. He carefully took aim and fired, then saw the video display in the plug flash “AMMO OUT.” Oh, shit, he thought, I lost track!
He watched as the missile veered to the right and aimed towards the Liberator, the largest ship in the group. With all three of his guns out of ammo, he had nothing left to shoot with and quickly tried to work up a plan on how to stop the missile. Can't let it get through, she's on board that ship.
Without hesitating further as the missile flew by, Patrick leaped the EVA off the platform and threw himself in front of it. The missile still veered away from him and continued towards its target. Seeing that he couldn't physically block the missile Patrick concentrated hard and turned on his EVA's AT Field. The invisible field extended from the Evangelion and reached the missile, exploding it a half-second later. A large wave of water splashed around him as the AT field receded back and a second later EVA-04 plopped into the ocean.
Applause was heard in the command room from the crew as they along with Admiral Gato saw the action on the screen. Gato smiled silently to himself. Vinson was right about these things. This will do very nicely.
Patrick swam EVA-04 over to the Liberator and poked her head above the ocean as he watched the ship sail by him. Sailors and crew lined up on the railings to see the EVA, many waving to him. He waved in return as he floated in the ocean and waited for the amphibious ship to pick him up. Using his visual display he focused on the carrier's conning tower, looking for something on the top. He increased the magnification twenty-fold and found what he was looking for: a small white hat poking out of the ship. The hat covered a head that had hair of azure blue and eyes of red, and a small, round face with skin that was porcelain white. For a moment the girl looked over to where he was and he gently waived. She looked back at him and then returned to her reading. Patrick smiled as well, and started to think of better things than Evangelions and war.