The emergency surgery room at the NERV hospital was on the sixth floor. Standing in front of the elevator doors was Rei, who had quickly ran from Terminal Dogma to the hospital once she saw what had happened. There she waited until Patrick arrived.
The doors opened and out came a gurney being pushed by Wellington and a NERV Medic. Still wearing his plug suit, Patrick was lying on the gurney face up as another medic was running alongside and squeezed clear burn healing gel onto his face. Next to him was Mari, holding on to his left hand and trying to coax Patrick. “Come on, Pats, hang in there! You’re going to be alright.”
As the gurney rolled fast to the surgery room on the other end of the hall, Rei ran alongside of it. Looking at Patrick’s face she held her breath in shock: the entirety of his face was either red or black, and much it was black. He had suffered third-degree burn wounds as a result of the heat shock of the N2s moving through the entry plug.
“Forrestal-kun,” she said as she moved along side of him. Barely conscious, Patrick heard her voice and turned to the right side.
“Rei,” he said weakly. She didn’t say anything in return but instead took his hand as they approach the operating room.
“Rei, I’m sorry,” he mumbled, “I’m so sorry. I didn’t want…I didn’t mean for you to hate me.”
She didn’t know how to respond. “But I…I…I do not hate you! I...”
Delirious from the trauma and the painkillers he was already injected with, Patrick mumbled something else she couldn’t understand. They then reached the operating room and the medics pushed the gurney inside, forcing Rei and Mari to let go of him as he went into surgery. As the doors closed Rei could see a glimpse of a group of doctors waiting on the other side.
She stood at the doorway as Mari stood alongside of her. Turning to the other pilot, Rei’s face wore an expression of worry and desperation. She was as close to crying as Mari had ever seen her be. Mari put her arm around her shoulder and pulled Rei towards her, trying to be comforting.
“Don’t worry about him,” she told the other girl as she gave a broken smile. “He’ll pull through! He seems to have the devil’s own luck with this sort of thing.” Rei didn’t at feel reassured and just looked at the doors of the operating room in silence.
His face…it was the one thing I liked the most about him.
In the surgery the Alliance’s chief surgeon, a military doctor with decades of experience, looked over his new and most important subject.
“Third degree on the whole face,” he told the others in the room, observing the damage. “Much of it is radiation-induced. Infection’s already setting in. There’s a ton of necrotic tissue all over, we’re going to have to debride all of it quickly and get it cleaned up.”
By this point Patrick was completely unconscious, and his vital signs continued to drop. Nurses cut open his plug suit with specially-designed tools as others gave him an IV drip and continued to apply gel to his face.
Another door swung open and another man entered the room also dressed in a surgical gown, mask and gloves.
“Hey,” the senior physician called out to the unannounced entry, “we’ve got this room already!”
“I’m Foch,” the new doctor replied. In his right hand he carried a glass container filled with LCL and what looked like shreds of tissue.
Without further comment Dr. Foch approached the table and studied Patrick’s severely burned face. “How were you planning on doing the skin grafts?” he asked the other surgeon. Before he could answer an alarm sounded.
“He’s coding,” a nurse replied. “Going into cardiac arrest!”
“I’m not sure we’re even going to get that far,” the surgeon said. Other doctors and staff in the room started a defibulator on Patrick.
“Get him stable,” Foch challenged him, “I’m going to use these on the burned areas.” He pointed to the glass container with LCL.
“What are those?”
“It’s recovered skin tissue from the cadavers of the First Child downstairs,” Foch told him.
The Alliance’s chief surgeon was important enough to know what Foch was talking about. “Are you crazy? That’ll have phase-shifted matter. You don’t know what that will do him!”
The scientist brushed the criticism aside. “That boy spends nearly every day drenched in LCL. If that doesn’t harm him, then this sure won’t.”
The surgeon was still annoyed. “You’re experimenting on my patient,” he retorted. Foch looked on as the rest of the staff worked to get Patrick’s heartbeat back. “What other chance does he have, doctor?”
Patrick sensed himself floating in some sort of sea. He just seemed to drift along, feeling numb in all of his limbs. The boy could see above him and saw the nighttime sky, filled with stars. As he floated, he saw nothing else other than sea and sky. Time seemed to just stand still as he remained there under the water. His mind went blank, unsure of when he got here or where he had come from.
From underneath him something approached him in the water. Unable to move himself, he found his body slowly being drawn towards whoever it was that swam towards him.
He felt arms around his body and he looked up at the face of who was now holding him. A woman’s body, beautifully naked, now embraced him in her arms. For a moment he saw the face and thought of Rei, but then realized this wasn’t quite her. Similar, but not the same. He thought to say something but he couldn’t move his lips or make any sound.
The woman looked at him with soft eyes and a gentle smile. She said nothing but he heard a voice inside his head, speaking to him.
“So restless a spirit, yet despite all things you press forward in hope,” her voice said to him. “All is not lost. Come, let your spirit free. Rest here in my bosom.” Patrick felt himself let go of any other feelings and closed his eyes, as the lady in the lake gently pressed his face against her breasts.
Patrick slowly awoke later, lying in a hospital bed. Groggy from painkillers, he tilted his head to the side and tried to focus on what was in the room. Through the eyeholes of some sort of bandage it took him a minute to see the smiling face of Mari, wearing a green and lavender minidress, sitting next to him. The expression on her face looked greatly relieved.
“Welcome back!” she said.
Patrick couldn’t come up with words at first, but then let his mind fall in place for a bit and looked at Mari. “Lusty?” he said weakly, his voice muffled.
“Please promise me…promise me you won’t break my nose again, will you?”
She beamed with the answer. “Brilliant! You’ve still got your sense of humor!”
His energy coming back to him slowly, he looked at the chair next to Mari and saw a neat pile of three books sitting on it. Mari saw him focus on the empty seat and filled in the rest for him. “She’s been there for the last two days, ever since they brought you out of the LCL chamber,” Mari said of Rei. “She even slept in here last night. The only reason she’s not here now is that Shinji and Asuka just returned.”
“How long?” Patrick asked.
“Four days. You spent two of them in Terminal Dogma, in some sort of therapy Dr. Foch was doing. They brought you back up here afterward.”
“Did we win?” He asked. He had thought it was an obvious answer: they were still here.
“Yes,” she said. “Thanks to you nothing got through.”
“And my EVA?”
“Heavily damaged but nothing that can’t be fixed, I’m told.”
Well, that’s a relief. “What else?”
Mari looked a bit reluctant at first. “I think the doctors will tell you everything else,” she said. Patrick wondered what she meant by that but then he moved his hand to feel the bandage on his head and noticed that it covered his entire face and most of his head. The portion that covered his face was thick and compressed against his skin.
What happened? He wondered. He remembered being in the plug and there was a sudden sharp pain as his face twitched. There was this huge blast. The AT field could take most of it but then…
As Patrick was feeling the bandage on his face the other three pilots entered the room. Rei entered first, dressed in a white blouse and plaid skirt, and then Shinji and Asuka, both wearing t-shirts and shorts. They looked tired but happy.
“Patrick!” Shinji exclaimed on seeing him. “Are you alright?”
“I think so,” he said, trying to pull himself to sit up in bed. His entire body felt sore and out of energy. “I just woke up, actually.”
He noticed that the others looked at him with some trepidation. Rei stood by them with her serious expression, saying nothing. Patrick tried to make eye contact with her but she gave no reaction.
Shinji tried to smile but it looked forced, and uncomfortable. “Is it painful for you?” he finally asked. Asuka elbowed him after he said that and Shinji silently protested to her. His injury was clearly something she didn’t want to bring up.
“Uh, no, I’m pretty loaded with whatever meds they’ve got.” Patrick pointed to the IV plugged into his arm.
Before Shinji could say anything further Misato now stepped into the room. She was wearing her red NERV jacket along with a camouflage uniform. “Hello, Patrick!” she said cheerfully at first, then she too guarded herself once she saw Patrick’s bandages. Patrick was getting nervous with everyone’s reactions. “Hi, Misato.”
“I saw the action report about what happened. Good job! Both of you!” she motioned to Mari.
“I guess I wasn’t thinking,” Patrick murmured.
“A lot of people were saved because of what you two did. Maybe it wasn’t fighting Angels but it was good enough.”
“Thanks,” Mari said. “Now maybe they’ll give me real arms for my EVA.” Misato smiled at her humored response but no one laughed. The mood in the room was just too hesitant. “We’ll work out something for both of you,” Misato said. “In the meantime Patrick please get lots of rest.”
“OK,” he replied. He was trying to keep his spirit up but the worries about his injuries grew. Why are they so nervous when they look at me? What really happened?
Dr. Foch entered and promptly asked everyone to leave the room. Misato and all of the other children did so, wishing Patrick well but also still giving him worried looks. Rei was the last to leave, saying nothing to him but instead giving him a long, concerned glance. Patrick just waved at her with his hand as she walked slowly out.
After the group exited Foch closed the door and opened up a bag that contained surgical tools. He then took an educated look at Patrick’s bandages, peering inside to see the extent of his remaining wounds.
“Doctor,” Patrick asked hesitantly, “am I OK?”
“We’re about to find out,” Foch replied. “Do you feel anything from your face?”
“Uh, no, not really. It’s just kind of numb and icy.”
“There’s a cold compress on top, that’s probably where the iciness comes from. Now,” the doctor said while holding a pair of surgical scissors in his hand, “I’ll cut this open for a bit and let’s see how we did.”
As the doctor cut around the bandages Patrick was silent, trying to focus only on breathing and not panicking. Thoughts of the resulting injuries he might have suffered started parading in his mind. He had seen what third degree burns looked like and how it made a person’s face look like a Halloween mask, the discolorations and scars never really being healed like the way it was before. The boy felt his hand shaking, which was also noticed by Foch.
“Be brave, son. You’re lucky to even be alive, you should appreciate that.”
Patrick nodded and Foch continued to cut the bandages, loosening up the mummy-like swarm of cloth and fabric his head was tied up in. After the straps were cut, Foch pulled out the cold mask, which was painful as it stuck to his face a bit. Only then was Patrick’s face exposed. Upon taking off the final mask, Foch saw what was underneath and let out a small gasp. “Mon dieu!”
“What?” Patrick asked him, “How is it?” He was afraid of the answer.
The scientist studied his face, using another tool to poke around the skin of the face from forehead to chin. The boy waited anxiously, hoping for a sign, praying for a good one.
“Incredible,” Foch concluded. “It worked perfectly.”
“What did?!” Patrick asked, now practically shouting.
Foch didn’t reply just yet, but pulled out his data tablet and turned on the forward-facing camera. He pointed it at Patrick, who then saw in the screen a complete image of his whole, entire face.
“Oh my God!” Patrick said as he saw the image. He carefully touched his face, looking at the screen image as he did so.
“Complete resolution,” the doctor said. “Amazing, full regeneration of damaged tissue and integration with your existing skin as well.”
Patrick breathed a huge sigh of relief: he still looked like himself. “Are these skin grafts?” he asked Foch.
“You could say that,” he said. “Do you notice any differences?”
“Not really,” Patrick answered, still amazed at the recovery of his wounds. “It just seems a little pale, that’s all. Not to mention it’s really smooth!”
“Good,” Foch said. “You’ve made medical history, my boy. Now listen carefully, as there’s going to be some not small lifestyle changes for you…”
In the next few days Patrick spent the time in the hospital recovering from his injuries. While his face was completely healed, his body was still damaged from radiation and he needed medication to mend. After Dr. Foch cleared it, he was moved from an ICU ward to a private room and then spent the following time period catching up. To Patrick of course, that meant puzzling and at his request the hospital staff had provided him with several jigsaw and other types of puzzles to do while in the room, some of which proved quite challenging. With his mind taken up by his trivial pursuits and with ample rest Patrick felt quite refreshed after a few days.
He received a number of visitors while in the hospital. Not long after his face was uncovered Admiral Vinson came to see him, offering congratulations and otherwise checking on his condition. Mari dropped in several times, especially happy now as her leg cast was finally removed and even more so as EVA-05 had finally been fully rebuilt. The unit now had proper arms and soon would have an S2 engine of its own. Misato and the other pilots came as well during the next few days, keeping him updated on events outside. The others also told him that the Alliance had gone after the submarines that had launched the attack on Tokyo-3 with a vengeance, Admiral Gato and his fleet had hunted down each ship and destroyed it. With the last two Harpies gone and with the missile threat countered, the mood among the pilots was that things were moving along well, and that there probably wasn’t any threat that they couldn’t face.
Later in the evenings when it was quieter Patrick had another visitor. Rei would come every night at 7:30 bearing a teapot and two cups, and they would sit and talk for a while. Sometimes Patrick asked Rei to try her hand at one of his puzzles and found that she was quite good at solving any of them. She also brought books and offered them to Patrick to read, which he did in earnest. In between puzzling and reading together they would talk about small matters, neither one of them bringing up what had happened in Terminal Dogma the night before the attack.
After four days Dr. Foch released Patrick from the NERV hospital and he returned to the pilot suites. As the Alliance had made serious ground in the last few days against SEELE, Mari’s EVA was now fully operational, and the Alliance had further strengthened its’ defenses around Tokyo-3, Misato asked Commander Vinson if he would allow a couple of days leave for the children. While this was being discussed, a massive cold front arrived in central and eastern Japan, bringing unusually low temperatures to all of the surrounding areas. The weather pattern was significant: except for places of high altitude like Mt. Fuji, it had not widely snowed in Japan since Second Impact and now suddenly there was snow in many parts of the country.
Seeing snow in the mountains and hearing about a possible vacation got Asuka highly motivated, enough to beg Misato and other adults about a snowbound holiday. Persuaded it would be good for pilot morale (and increasingly annoyed by Asuka’s hounding), Commander Vinson allowed for four of the pilots to go on a trip to the other side of Mount Fuji with Misato and Kaji. Mari, by her own request, would remain at Tokyo-3 with the newly rebuilt EVA-05.
The blue Land Cruiser climbed up into the mountains, driving uphill along a windy road that was bordered by increasing amounts of snow. Sitting in the front passenger seat and taking in the scenery was Asuka, who had her hands to the glass as she watched the fir trees and patches of snow go by.
“It's so pretty!” Asuka exclaimed as she looked at their horizons. “Look, it's still coming down!” She pointed out the window as small snowflakes were seen falling all around them.
“Are we very high up?” Shinji asked, sitting in the back seat of the SUV along with Patrick and Rei. “I've never seen so much snow, and so close! Usually it's just high up in the mountains.”
“The snow altitude level has dropped significantly as of late ,” Kaji replied white driving. “We're only up 1200 meters above sea level. There will be much more than this where we're headed.”
Shinji turned to Rei, who was sitting next to him. “Have you ever seen snow before?”
“Never,” she replied.
“I’ve only seen it from the distance, never touched it at all. How about you, Patrick?”
Patrick was gazing out the other window. So much of the scenery here had reminded him of his childhood home in the California mountains. “We were high up enough to get some snow occasionally. Sometimes you could even play in it. But this!” he motioned out the window “this is NICE!”
Kaji was correct in that there was a lot more snow, so much so that the mountains were blanketed white when they got off the main road and traveled through a variety of side roads. On the way there he stopped a couple of times to speak into a hand-held communicator. At one crossroads he signaled a security officer with a flashlight and got several flashes in response, then took the SUV completely off the road and drove up part of an incline for several minutes through a forest before reaching another, much smaller trail. After another twenty minutes of driving only then did he reach a destination: a wooden cabin, with two other SUVs and two snowmobiles parked in front.
The Land Cruiser stopped next to the other vehicles, and Kaji got out to unload the children's luggage out of the back hatch. All four of them clamored out, dressed in new parkas, cold-weather pants, and snow boots bought just for the trip. Opening the cabin door was Misato, who had come ahead to prepare security at the mountain chalet. Like the pilots she too wore cold weather apparel.
“Hey, you made it!” she greeted the group as they all stood outside the cabin and looked around. All around them were the fir trees of a forest, all of them covered with beautiful white snow. It was like nothing they had ever seen. “Wow!” Shinji said, taking it all in.
Rei also took a deep breath and looked around, listening for the new and unique sounds of the forest. As the light snow flurry continued, she saw snowflakes floating down right in front of her. Curious, she stuck her tongue out and caught one on the tip. It tasted cool and watery as it splashed on her tongue.
“What are you sticking out your tongue for,” said Asuka, annoyed at her.
“I read about it in a book,” Rei replied calmly. “Children from ages ago would feel for the snowflakes with their tongue.”
Having watched Rei, Shinji also stuck his tongue out and caught a snowflake, nodding to her in approval.
“Stupid,” Asuka said. “It’s just water.” She wandered around the cabin as she took a further look at their surroundings. Patrick was already at the far edge of the chalet, and taping his feet in the fresh snow. “What’s with you?”
“Powder. This stuff is fresh, nice and thick.” Looking out beyond the cabin, they both saw it was on the upwards part of a slope, the forest continued to the downward right of the cabin. Right below the cabin was a wide, gentle bank of snow that went downward for over two hundred meters, with banks of snow that continued down the mountain. Perfect for going downhill, really fast. Patrick had a large grin on his face.
Both Asuka and Patrick ran back to the SUV where Kaji had just finished bringing out the rest of the luggage. “Misato! Misato!” Patrick exclaimed, “do you have snowboards in there?”
“I haven’t had time to look for that yet as we’re still trying to set everything up.” She then addressed all of the pilots. “Now, everyone go inside for now.”
“What?! We just got here!” cried Asuka, clearly disappointed. Everyone else had the same expression, as they wanted to explore their new surroundings.
“This place’s not fully secure yet,” Kaji explained. “We need to check the surrounding area for any possible threats. Once that’s done we’ll let you out.”
“Come on, kids, let’s get in!” Misato herded the pilots into the cabin as the boys grabbed the luggage and brought them inside. Kaji remained outside, speaking with other men that were part of the security detail.
Inside the cabin smelled old and musty, and felt nearly as cold as the outside. The furnishings looked like they hadn’t been used in decades, and there were cobwebs in some corners. The pilots stood in the living room, which had an old shabby couch and a fireplace in front.
“This place is a dump!” Asuka protested as she blew dust off the couch. “We’re going to stay here?!”
“Well, it needs a little fixing up,” Misato told her, “but it looks just nice and cozy to me.”
The redhead noticed the lack of electrical sockets in the cabin. “Please don’t tell me there isn’t any power in this place, either?”
“We have a generator, but no, there’s no TV or electric heaters.” The colonel grabbed a lamp and lit it with a match. “We do it the old fashioned way here.” Asuka was not impressed, as what she had hoped for in a fun-yet-comfortable holiday no longer seemed feasible. “You call this a vacation?! We’re going to freeze to death!”
“No, we’re not,” her superior answered, annoyed at the carping. “Now stop griping and let’s get cleaned up first. Shinji, kitchen! Rei, help him.”
“Yes, ma’am” Shinji said as they both moved into the kitchen next door. Misato turned to the other two. “Patrick?”
“Having lived in the mountains, you’re experienced in this sort of thing. Can you get that fireplace started?”
He smiled, finally feeling he was back in his element. “I can do better than that. I can get this whole cabin nice and warm.”
“Let’s see it then, get what you need. If you need firewood I saw a pile outside. Asuka, find a broom and help me clean up the bedrooms.”
“Hey! I’m a pilot, not a chambermaid!” Asuka protested.
Misato found a broom herself and quickly banged Asuka on the head with it. “I can’t spare the manpower to clean up for you, all the others are outside securing the area. Not another word. Go!” The officer threw the broom at Asuka, who caught it and spun it around like a weapon, still miffed at being assigned manual labor. Sneering at Misato, she nonetheless went to work cleaning up.
Patrick was good at his word and not only managed to get a rolling fire in the fireplace in short order, but through use of ventilation quickly brought warmth to the whole of the cabin. He thought the chalet was not unlike his uncle’s cabin on Big Bear, if perhaps the rooms were a little smaller.
Unfortunately the security team returned only after night fell, so the children were unable to get outside to play during the day. Shinji managed to get enough of the kitchen cleaned up to at least get a meal of instant ramen for everyone, and the group of them had sat in the now warm cabin slurping their noodles and talking about what tomorrow would hopefully would bring.
In the midst of cleaning up after dinner Patrick noticed that Rei had slipped away. After searching for a bit he found her: she had gone to the outside ledge of the chalet, where a wooden porch had afforded a very scenic view of the forest and snow-covered slopes around them.
Patrick opened the porch door and saw Rei sitting on the ledge, her feet dangling in the air. Like everyone else she had removed her snow outfit once the cabin had been warmed up, and now wore a white patterned sweater with a plaid skirt over black leggings and her boots. A blue parka kept her warm against the cold night air. He carefully closed the porch door and set down a tray next to her, on which was a thermos and two ceramic cups. Sitting down next to her he carefully filled each of the two cups with the contents of the thermos and handed one to Rei.
Rei slowly sipped from the cup and then tasted the drink in her mouth. “Instant green tea,” she correctly analyzed.
“It’s all they had up here.”
They both sat there for a while, observing the wilderness below them and listening to the wind as it blew through the trees. Patrick closed his eyes and let his mind go, feeling out the world around him. He was able to pick up that there were animals about, probably small ones that were scurrying to find better shelter against the sudden cold, or that were alert to the presence of humans. Thinking that somehow they were being watched, he opened his eyes again and saw in the far distance a very small pairs of eyes trained on them.
“Oh, a fox,” Patrick said softly.
“He’s been watching us for a while,” Rei said.
“This is his territory, we’re the intruders here,” he observed. “Need to be sure the trash is tied up, otherwise they get into it when you’re not looking.”
“Can they live with humans?” Rei asked him.
The boy was thoughtful about his reply. “They adapt to you and vice versa. If you get them when they’re little, you can try to train them as a pet. I saw a man once who had three raccoons in his cabin, all gotten when they were pups. But it’s not the same as having a dog or something, the instinct to run wild is just too strong with them.”
“They want to be free.”
“But they still like your food and your shelter,” Patrick said. “And, if you can make it work out they’ll hunt down smaller prey like mice around your place in return for it. If you respect them, you can work out a relationship.” Rei just nodded, sipping on her tea and watching the fox turn from them and jog back into the forest.
Patrick saw Rei in the moonlight, seeing how her face was illuminated against the shadows by the flickering of an oil lamp nearby. Steam escaped her small lips as she silently breathed in the night air. Put her in any environment, he thought, and she’s still just as beautiful, childlike and gentle.
“Did they tell you how they saved my face?” he asked her.
“It was a therapy from Dr. Foch,” she replied.
“There’s more to it. Here,” he motioned to her, “touch it.”
Rei removed her hand from her mitten and and gently brushed the right side of Patrick’s cheek. She blinked her eye several times, trying to make the connection he was hinting at.
“Is that skin familiar at all?”
Her eyebrows went up in discovery. “It feels like my own.”
“It is yours,” he said. “It’s from skin grafts from one of your…other selves downstairs.”
Rei mused as the answer. “I always wondered if the organs would be compatible with other humans.”
“It worked like a charm,” Patrick told her, “but not without a price,” He reached into his parka and pulled out a small black zipper case. The boy unzipped it and showed her the syringe inside. Rei looked inside the chamber of the syringe and saw the orange liquid seemed to glow in the lamplight. She recognized it as the same LCL stabilizer as her own.
“Unlike you I only need a small dose, like a single cc, but I still need it every week from now on or I don’t live.” The girl reacted in shock, her face becoming hard in regret.
“I’m sorry,” she told him.
“I’m not, because now I really can see things from your own point of view.” Patrick looked at her as he said that, but she turned away. To her, the unique burden of her life was her own: she had never anticipated anyone ever wanting to share it.
“Don’t ever think that you’re incompatible,” Patrick told her, suddenly gaining a confidence he hadn’t really felt with Rei before. “Don’t think that somehow, you’re so different that no one can understand you, no one can feel what you feel. I won’t say that I could ever totally know you, but if I really try, I can put myself in your shoes, I can be part of the same song that you are.”
He watched her in the moonlight as she thought about what he said. Rei pulled her legs up off the ledge and folded them in front of her, hugging her legs and placing her head against them as she looked at Patrick.
“Rei,” he asked, almost whispering, “do you really want to be lonely the rest of your life?”
Her eyes looked at him with sadness. “No,” she said softly.
“Then that’s all I need to know.”
Forrestal noticed that he had been moving closer to Rei as they had talked, and that their faces were now very close together. He could see the emotion in her eyes, the pervasive sense of loss she always seemed to carry with her, but also a feeling of longing, of hoping that there was something else for her besides what she knew. It’s not just that she’s my missing piece, Patrick thought to himself, but maybe I’m also hers.
The boy leaned in closer to her, feeling the warm air come out of her small lips. Rei met his glance. The moonlight seemed to fade, the wind became softer, and there was nothing left of the world except the two of them sitting on the wooden ledge. He leaned in just a little closer and she closed her eyes, not knowing what to expect next.
Both of the children turned suddenly towards the cabin door and saw Shinji in the doorway. He had a surprised look on his face, as he has just interrupted something important.
“Um, Misato’s worried that it’s getting too cold outside. Do you guys want to come in now?”
Both Patrick and Rei looked at each other. Patrick could feel his face flush. In the light of the doorway he could see Rei’s cheeks as they turned cherry red in embarrassment.
“Sure, we’ll be right in,” Patrick answered. Before he could do anything further Rei had already picked herself off the ledge and moved quickly through the door, nearly pushing Shinji out of the way in her haste to get back inside. Forrestal got up off the ledge himself and then walked inside as Shinji closed the door, also looking a little embarrassed for his intrusion. Once inside the cabin Patrick didn’t try to chase after Rei. He didn’t have to anymore.
Chairman Keel was wheeled down to a sub-level of the new SEELE fortress, along with several others of the committee who were now hiding out in the underground lair. Constructed with security in mind and not aesthetics, the deeper levels of the base were seen as layers and layers of dull grey concrete interlaced with steel. A mechanically clunky elevator took then the final distance to their destination.
Deep within the base a new laboratory was hastily constructed for SEELE’s ends. Its entire purpose was to contain a single body and soul upon whom the committee now wholly depended for their redoubt to succeed.
Dimly lit, the laboratory was partially filled with computers, sensors, and environmental equipment of all kinds. At the far end of it was a Plexiglas tube filled with glowing orange LCL, and inside of that tube was what appeared to be a teenaged boy, sleeping as he floated in the liquid. As the old men approached the tube the boy’s red eyes flicked open. He spoke to the man in the wheelchair.
“Why have you awoken me?”
“The time has come to fulfill your purpose,” Keel replied.
The boy looked at himself in the tube. “What is the meaning of placing me in this body?”
“A necessary element,” Keel told him. “This body is both human and Angel, and is the only way we can contain you.”
“I should hope the owner will not come looking for it!”
“He will not,” the older man said. “His soul was destroyed in the catastrophe that has brought us here.” He moved his wheel chair closer to the tube. “As for you, we can allow you to reach your destiny of reuniting with that from which you were split off long ago. We only ask that you fulfill the role in the trap that we are now constructing, and that you indulge yourself as a human for the time being.”
“What benefit do you receive if I do this?” the boy asked.
“The fulfillment of the dreams of millennia, of men who would become as God is.”
The boy scoffed. “You get the better end of this bargain, then.”
“If we fail then the world will disintegrate into nothing and all will be lost, including you. If we succeed, all will come together for a higher purpose.”
Looking around the room with a bemused look on this face, the boy considered the old man’s proposal. “It seems I have nothing better to do than this in any case,” he replied. “I should find the experience of being human humorous. I will agree to it.”
The chairman breathed a labored sigh. “Then release him,” he ordered others in the room, “and bring him to the sleeping giant that we have also labored to prepare.” The LCL emptied out from the bottom of the tube and it opened a moment later, as the body of a pale, naked teenaged boy with silver hair took his first steps.
Go on to Chapter Fourteen