Vinson and Sheffield walked into Central Dogma and took a good look around them they entered. All around them operators and technicians from the NERV staff monitored consoles and relayed communications back and forth in preparation for the day's activities. On the large holographic screen in front there was a live-cam of a section of the destroyed part of Tokyo-3 city that was topside of the GeoFront. On two adjoining displays were status readouts of NERV's active Evangelions. There were six units on the display, each color coded to the unit type. On the left display were Units 02 (in red), 05 (in green), and Rei's new Unit 07 (in blue). On the right side were Unit 01 (in purple), 04 (in orange), and Kensuke's now activated Unit 08 (in yellow). The remaining screens showed different tactical readouts or camera angles for the action that was about to begin.
The two commanders walked onto their platform at the top level and then looked down one level below them. Standing on the operations platform was Misato, wearing her old red NERV officer's jacket combined with the new uniform. The EVA controllers were all at their stations making final checks as the preparations were completed.
“Are we ready, Colonel?” Vinson called down to Misato. She looked up and nodded confidently. “Yes, sir. All six units are getting into position and we'll be ready to start the exercise soon,” she reported.
“What's the game,” Sir John asked the admiral.
“Three on three,” he replied. “This is our first chance to really see if our new force is ready for action.” Vinson and Sheffield both sat down on chairs and then the commander motioned to Misato. “Proceed when ready, colonel.”
Misato turned her attention to the controllers as they performed final checks on the exercise. “Everything ready?” she asked hopefully.
“All units are in position,” Hyuga reported. “Weapon simulation systems are all loaded and ready for action.”
Captain Aoba now chimed in. “The combat course is cleared and ready,” he said. Misato turned to Maya. “How about the new units?”
“The First has a steady 85% sync rate with Unit 07,” said Maya, “Unit 08 is only at 29% so far, with a wide fluctuation range.”
“It's his first real action so I'm not surprised he's nervous,” Misato commented. “He'll just have to roll with things.” Misato stood up and faced the display, as behind her Hikari and Toji now walked on the platform, both wearing NERV uniforms. “Sorry I couldn't get your EVA in for this too, “Misato told Hikari. “they're still working on getting her active.”
Hikari looked greatly relieved at not having to participate. “It's Okay, Misato-san,” she said.
“Still, you should study what's about to happen,” Misato told her. “At least this will give you an idea on what we can do with the EVAs.” Misato then turned her attention to the pilots, whose images were now on the main screen. All of them wore their plugsuits and were seated on their control thrones. Most of the pilots were calmly seated at attention, but Kensuke, wearing his new olive-colored plug suit, was giddy with excitement.
“Good morning! Today is our first combat training exercise with the newly rebuilt EVA force,” Misato announced to all of them. “As you can see it's kind of crowded today, as we have six units on the board.”
“This exercise,” Misato said as she changed the display to a tactical map of the ruined section of Tokyo-3, “ is simple elimination. Each side is on a team of three, which I've conveniently sorted into boys versus girls. You have the entire designated area to fight in, and all units have paint-loaded weapons including your prog knives, the last side with units still standing wins.”
“What do we get if we win?” Patrick asked out of curiosity.
“Oh, we'll all have a party, and the winning team will choose the outfits that the losing team will wear to the party.”
Oh, shit, Patrick thought to himself, if we lose they'll probably make us wear bunny outfits. A horrible image of himself, Shinji and Kensuke wearing bodysuits with rabbit ears, high heels, and fishnet pantyhose entered his mind.
Hyuga looked up at Misato. “Combat screens are all green. Ready to go.”
“Okay, kids,” Misato told everyone. “Let's go!”
Most of the EVA pilots were experienced and as such took everything in stride. Kensuke however was charged up with for what was going to be his first real action in the EVA. “Yes!” he shouted. “I'm going to kick ass!”
Shinji and Patrick both winced at the hubris while Mari gave him a polite smile and Rei just stared at the screen. Asuka replied back to Kensuke in a snarky voice “Aida! If you can actually get a shot on me I swear will kiss you.”
Invisible hearts danced on Kensuke's eyes. “REALLY!?!?” Asuka just said “hmpft” with a sly smile and then closed her video screen. The other pilots closed their video screens in quick succession.
Misato looked at the other controllers, all with smiles of their own. “Oh, this is going to get very interesting!” she said aloud.
The three girls moved their units into the combat area first. As they did so they opened private video screens to each other.
“So what’s the plan?” Mari asked Asuka.
“After what I just did Aida is going to spend all day hunting for me,” Asuka said with a smirk. “So expect him to go roaming around guns blazing like John Wayne. The First will get into a good firing position and then pick him off. Meanwhile we split off and hunt the others: you take the Yankee, I’ll get Baka.”
“You better hope that I don’t get to Shinji first,” Mari said. She smiled and winked and then closed off the screen before Asuka could vent off at her. That hussy! She wouldn’t dare! “Hey! First!” Rei looked up into the video screen. “You know what to do, right?”
“Don’t worry,” Rei said plainly. “I’ll cover you.” Rei then switched off the video, leaving Asuka to think up the best way to punish Shinji this time around.
A minute after the girls entered the combat zone, the boys entered from the opposite direction. Before Kensuke could join the conversation Patrick quickly opened up a channel to Shinji. “I got an idea,” he told him. “Why don’t we just let Kensuke go bezerker and draw their attention and then we sneak over to their rears and get them from behind.”
“Because that’s exactly what they want,” Shinji told him matter-of-factly. “Asuka’s baiting him.”
“Shinji,” Patrick told him, “General Kensuke is so hyper that there’s no way he’s going to be useful other than a target.”
“I’ll take care of him,” Shinji said calmly. “Asuka’s probable plan is to try and split us up, then shoot us one at a time. “
“Then what did you have in mind?”
Shinji pointed to two places on a tactical map that he brought up on the display. “Draw out Units 02 and 05 and bring them here,” he said, pointing to a section of the map. “I think I can get Kensuke to hold his fire until you get them over here.”
“You’re the boss,” Patrick told him. “How about Rei?”
“She’ll take the overwatch position and you already know how good she is that that,” said Shinji. “So just be careful and don’t make yourself a target. I’m still working out what to do next.”
Patrick nodded. “Got’ya. I’ll set up on the other side and try to smoke them out.” He then turned off the video channel. Shinji then opened up his own channel with Kensuke, hoping that his plan would work.
Patrick Forrestal took Unit 04 and carefully maneuvered through the city streets, bounding from wrecked building to wrecked building. He could see from the monitor that there was a high tower closer to the girls’ side of the battlefield, and knew that was the most likely place for Rei to set up her sniper position. He rolled on one side of a destroyed warehouse and then quickly peeked over the corner to see what was down the boulevard. There he waited until the signal was given.
“All EVA units are in starting position,” Hyuga reported to Misato. She smiled to herself. “Start now.”
Inside the entry plugs a loud beep was heard, as a clock display went up inside all of the pilots’ video display. The pilots were given five minutes to accomplish the mission, which Patrick knew in terms of battle could seem like a long time. With the clock starting, Patrick ordered Unit 04 to crouch down and then start racing towards the next road intersection in front of him.
He maneuvered carefully through several sections of the old city, searching for any one of the girl team’s EVAs. There weren’t any other sounds in the battlefield, as all of the other pilots were keeping as stealthy as possible. This went on for nearly two minutes until Patrick caught a glimpse of a green EVA several blocks in front of him.
There you are. Seeing that Unit 05 was headed east, Patrick moved back one block and dashed down a broken-up avenue to catch up with where Mari was headed, careful to move as close to the buildings as possible to keep from being seen. To make the ambush work he would need to get Mari to change direction and go south, where Units 01 and 08 would hopefully be waiting.
Within a few seconds EVA-04 made it to an electrical tower and Patrick crouched down again, waiting for Mari to walk into his sights. He felt footsteps from Unit 05 and then bided his time, trying to time the hit exactly right.
At the first glimpse of green Patrick let loose with a three-round burst from this pallet gun. When he saw EVA-05’s head turn around and see him, he then raced across the block and behind another building. He had wanted to be seen, hoping that Mari would take the pursuit.
As Unit 04 ran down the street he heard blasts behind him and saw multi-colored ink blots hit buildings in front of him. “Target in sight,” Mari called out on the common audio channel. “In pursuit!”
EVA-04 took a corner and started to race down another street. As Unit 05 turned the same corner, he quickly turned back and fired the EVA’s pallet gun at her, then jumped off and ran down another street. Mari closed the distance between them quickly, shouting “Tally ho!” as she started to catch up with Unit 04.
Almost there. Patrick swung EVA-04 around and shot the pallet gun one-handed at the green Evangelion. Unit 05 responed with a barrage of paint as Patrick took one more corner and raced as fast as he could.
“I’m going to get you, you bugger!” Mari yelled as she turned the corner. As soon as she did so she was faced with another EVA unit two blocks in front of her. Painted olive with yellow stripes, it had shoulder mounts like most of the other EVAs and a helmet with two red eyes and an oversized jaw. Mari quickly stopped Unit 05 in its tracks as EVA-08 opened fire on her.
Unit 05 dodged the other EVA’s paint pellets, slamming itself against a wall and bringing her own pallet gun to bear. She got off several shots as Unit 08 dodged behind the crumpled steel beams of a collapsed train station. Mari saw something out of the corner of her eye and swiveled around to react, but then felt four thumps on the EVA’s abdomen. Her screen flashed a bright red message, saying ELIMINATED. Standing a hundred meters from her position was the purple EVA-01.
Mari relaxed back in the throne, her playing time now over. “Oh, Puppy-kun! You shouldn’t have!”
“Sorry, Lusty,” Shinji replied on the common audio and then quickly moved EVA-01 out of sight.
Perched on the control throne inside EVA-02’s entry plug, Asuka saw the tactical display indicate Unit 05’s demise. “Stupid girl,” she said out loud. “You had that coming.” She pulled on her actuators and carefully studied the map as she moved Unit 02 forward. “Gotta do this myself, then.”
Patrick slid EVA-04 across from a ruined city park and waited a while, hidden by uprooted trees and power line towers. Unlike Mari, Asuka was more experienced and would be harder to entice into an ambush thought Patrick. That is, unless her ego was sufficiently bruised.
He felt vibrations on the ground and knew Unit 02 was moving in his direction. Trying to again time everything just right, he waited until the red-colored Evangelion was only two blocks away from him before making his move.
Asuka called to Rei. “First, you see anything?”
“Hmm. They’re not playing the usual game today. Better watch out this time.” Asuka moved Unit 02 around the corner and down the street, trying to keep as close to the buildings as possible. Looking down towards some wrecked power lines she saw a glimpse of something that shouldn’t be there, and brought down her pallet gun to fire.
Once Asuka spotted him hiding behind the towers, Patrick immediately jumped EVA-04 out of its position and ran full speed down the street, his own pallet gun firing forward as he did so.
EVA-02 sprayed the street with paint fire as Unit 04 charged her. Rather than try to duck the shots, Patrick put all emphasis on speed, aiming his Evangelion right for the middle of Unit 02. Asuka was very annoyed that Patrick was suddenly charging her.
“Forrestal, what the fu…”
Before she could finish the sentence Patrick leapt Unit 04 right over and in front of Unit 02, positioning himself in the air to drive in a kick with the legs as he came barreling down towards the red EVA. Asuka saw the move coming however and immediately blocked it with Unit 02’s left arm, pushing away the silver-white EVA-04 into the building across from her. Rather than try to continue the melee, Patrick swung Unit 04 around a corner and then down the avenue.
Racing down the street, he looked behind the EVA and saw Unit 02 following him at a full sprint. Now it really was a race, as he needed to push Unit 04 and keep just ahead of her until they made it to where Units 01 and 08 hopefully were.
After ten city blocks and the both of them leaping over a collapsed bridge Patrick swung around one more corner, and then swiveled around while he brought up his pallet gun. EVA-02 was very close behind, around two hundred meters, before Asuka saw Unit 04’s gun barrel around the corner and knew it was a trap.
“You’re going to have to do better than that!” she said as she put the brakes on Unit 02, sliding down the street so hard the EVA’s foot dug into the pavement. As Unit 01 popped out of another corner and opened fire, Asuka backflipped EVA-02, performing several somersaults until reaching the opposite end of the wide intersection.
Both Unit 01 and 04 kept up fire on Asuka's position as she dodged around, getting off several shots towards both of them. Finally she landed between two collapsed buildings and Patrick decided that he could take a chance.
“Shinji!” he called out, “cover me!”
“I'm going to take a chance at this.” Before hearing what else Shinji had to say Patrick cut the video screen off and checked his weapon. He waited another moment as Shinji increased his fire towards Unit 02's direction and then Patrick moved Unit 04 as stealthy as possible alongside another tower until he was within reach of the red EVA-02.
As EVA-02's head turned towards him Patrick pushed his own Evangelion towards her at full speed, running up the side of a collapsed building and then diving right into Unit 02. He pointed the pallet gun and let loose, trying to barrage the red EVA with as many shots as possible until he crashed into it.
Asuka was wise to the maneuver and just as Patrick was coming down from the dive he stepped aside and then grabbed EVA-04's arm, flipping it on it's back. The silver-white giant landed with a thud on the ruins they were fighting over and before Patrick could bring the pallet gun up to fire Asuka already had her Progressive Knife out. In a half second the simulated blade hit EVA-04's neck and dispersed red ink all over. Patrick let out a big sigh as the graphic ELIMINATED was shown on his visual display. “Damn it!” he shouted as he pounded on the actuators.
Still under fire from Shinji, the redhead didn't have time to celebrate the win and quickly bounded back behind another building. “Nice try, Baka,” she said to Shinji on the common audio, “but you knew I wouldn't just run into that, didn't you?”
Shinji rolled Unit 01 around and sought cover under another crashed-in train station while Asuka continue to fire on him with her pallet gun. “Then just get me then,” he said simply. He edged just a little more out in the open, enough for her to see his current position behind the debris.
“Have it your way,” she growled and then again unsheathed EVA-02's Prog Knife. Screaming a battle cry she then charged EVA-02 straight towards Unit 01, trying to pounce on the Evangelion before Shinji could pull it up out of cover and fire on her. Just as she began her jump towards Unit 01 Shinji shouted “EVA-08, NOW!”
Asuka twisted Unit 02 in mid-jump, turning around to see something behind her and saw the green-painted EVA now two hundred meters away with its pallet gun aimed right at her. She tried to somersault the EVA out of the way but she was still in mid-air. There was a blast and several thumps and then EVA-02 went down to the ground right in front of Unit 01.
She tried to push on her actuators but they wouldn't budge. On the forward display were the words ELIMINATED.
“WHAT?!?!? THAT'S IMPOSSIBLE!!!” Asuka cried out. “Who shot me?”
“YES!” Kensuke jumped for joy inside of his entry plug. “YES! YES! YES!”
Watching from the operations deck, Kensuke’s sudden hit on Asuka got everyone’s attention and approval. “I don’t freaking believe it!” Toji said to Misato. “What a lucky shot!”
“EVA-08 gets the kill,” Misato reported to Asuka, barely suppressing a laugh in doing so. “Good shot, Kensuke!”
“AAAGGHHH!” Asuka screamed as she opened up a visual screen with Misato in Central Dogma. “No fucking fair! He didn’t even start fighting until just now!”
“Doesn’t matter,” Misato told her. “At least he was patient enough to hold his fire until he got a good target.”
“And you owe him a big one!” Toji said from behind Misato, joyfully pointing at Asuka. The redhead just sneered at both of them and then shut off the video channel.
Kensuke was still elated, jumping his EVA all over the ruined city block where the battle was being fought. “Yes! That was so awesome! This totally..” At that moment Kensuke felt a heavy thud hit his EVA’s head and felt it fall backwards. On his screen were the words ELIMINATED.
Shocked, he shook his head and took another look on the screen. “What happened?!?”
“EVA-08 knocked out by EVA-07,” Misato announced. “Good shot, Rei.”
Kensuke just sat there on the throne, deflated. Shinji then opened up a video channel. “Sorry, Kensuke. It’s not a video game: there’s no pause between battles.”
“Oh well,” Kensuke replied, taking off his glasses and gently breathing into them. “I’m happy. Hope you don’t mind I’ll be kissing Miss Asuka tonight,” he said with a sly voice.
If only you knew the horrors that await you there, Shinji thought. “Be careful what you wish for,” he said in warning to Aida-kun, and quickly shut off the video channel. Kensuke paid him no mind as he cleaned his glasses, smiling smugly to himself.
Shinji knew that Rei would quickly find another firing position so he ran Unit 01 into the city center, looking for another likely hiding spot. While Rei was quite deliberate he also knew from experience that she wasn’t usually quick: she would take her time in adjusting into a new spot. Shinji hoped to catch her before she could do that.
Jogging through the center of the battlefield zone, he kept his eyes out on higher buildings, towers, or anything that would provide good cover for a sniper. On the northern side of the town he saw a pair of wrecked high-rises that looked like a suitable place, and skirted Unit 01 over in that direction. It was when he was nearly at the two towers that he noticed movement from above and turned his view upward. Just as he did so the giant blue and yellow frame of Unit 07 came crashing down on him from above.
Shinji immediately dove Unit 01 to the ground and rolled out from under Rei’s EVA. Unit 07 quickly stood up and drew its progressive knife, then charged at Unit 01 forcefully.
This isn’t like Rei at all, Shinji thought. The new EVA is more aggressive than Unit 00.
He pulled out his own knife and parried the attack, slamming Unit 07’s knife back and then making thrusts of his own. The blue EVA jumped back and then made another strike with its knife. For a few moments both EVA’s did parry combat with knives, and Shinji felt that they were equally matched.
“A melee attack, Ayanami?” he called out on the audio, grunting as he struggled with her. “This is new for you!” Rei didn’t respond but kept at the attacks, finally pushing Unit 01 into the side of a building. Shinji again rolled away and after seeing a large abandoned big-rig truck he grabbed it and threw it at Unit 07’s head. As REi batted away the flying vehicle Shinji was able to grab his pallet gun and quickly got off two shots before Rei could close the distance.
Rei looked up and saw ELIMINATED on her own display. Breathing a sigh of relief, she slumped back down in the throne, glad for the combat to be over. She had not wanted to directly fight Shinji.
On the main display in Central Dogma the score came up on the screen. “Three to Two,” Misato announced. “The Boys win this one!” There wasn’t cheering from the pilots, as most were tired from the experienced but many of the personnel in Central Dogma applauded at the end of the combat round, including the controllers.
“The boys worked very well together,” Misato said to Hyuga as he nodded in agreement. “I think I might shake up the teams after this.”
“Colonel Katsuragi,” the admiral’s voice called from above. Misato turned around and faced Vinson.
Admiral Vinson stood up and crossed his arms, giving no other indication of approval or displeasure. “Your pilots are still too used to one-on-one battles with Angels. Give your pilots more training in small-unit tactics. They need to improve there.”
“Yes, sir,” Misato acknowledged. “Anything else?”
“Start training them for an underground assault,” he concluded. He then left the command platform along with Sheffield.
A video channel opened up on Rei’s visual display and Shinji came on. “Ayanami!” he said to her, “You were very aggressive today!”
“It’s the new EVA,” she said to him. “This is his inner nature.”
“Fight a little better than what you did today and I don’t think anyone could get in your way,” he said with a smile. Rei didn’t’ smile back but just nodded. The video channel closed and Rei just sat there for the next few minutes as the other EVAs started to move back to the GeoFront cages. I never liked piloting much before but perhaps its more suitable to me now, she thought. Is it just the new EVA, or something else?
After the training battle the pilots began returning to the pilot ready room, met there by Toji and Hikari. Patrick waited for Rei to arrive, accompanied by Shinji. All of the current pilots were still wearing their plug suits.
“Hi there!” he said to her as she entered. Rei quickly left Shinji’s side and went to Patrick, who gently caressed her hair upon seeing her. “You did great today! Never seen you fight like that before.”
“You’ve also improved,” she said to him. “I had a difficult time locating you on the battlefield.”
“I guess my skills are up,” Patrick replied, trying to be modest. “Hey, are you free tomorrow?”
“Yes, from nine until evening. “
“Great. Misato gave us leave, we can go out of the city this time.” Rei’s curiosity was peaked. “Where?”
Patrick winked at her. “It’s a surprise.” They both heard the doors open again and turned to see who it was. Entering the ready room was Asuka, and the others went completely silent as she walked in.
Hikari turned to Toji and whispered. “You’re not going to make her go through with this, are you?”
“You better believe I’m going to,” Toji told her. “This is what she gets for being so freaking cocky.”
Patrick and Rei both turned to Shinji. “You OK with this?” Patrick whispered.
Shinji was somewhat embarrassed and sullen, as Asuka had given him a good yelling on the video channel on the way back to the cages. “Just let her play it out,” he told them. “This is how I got him to hold his fire during the match.” Shinji then moved closer to Patrick, whispering in his ear. “He’s never kissed any girl before,” Shinji told him.
Patrick gave him a wince. “So nice of you to do this.”
“Not really.” Shinji said, and then all of them turned their attention to the center of the ready room.
Standing in the middle, in front of the pilots’ chairs was Kensuke. He had a smug smile on his face, crossing his arms in expectation. Asuka stood on the other side of the room, her eyes quivering in anger as she was motionless. The others surrounded the two on both sides, but gave them plenty of space.
“Fair is fair,” Toji declared, looking straight at Asuka. “You made the bet, now pay up!” Asuka hastily turned around and looked at the door for a moment in silence. There was a tension in the room that kept all the others quiet.
Asuka shook her head to settle her hair, and then swiveled on her feet to face the others. Her angry face was erased, replaced with one with a pleasant smile and softer, warmer eyes. When Shinji saw her expression he held his breath, as he knew what was going to happen next.
The redhead started to slowly walk towards Kensuke. “Okay, okay,” she said aloud. “I’m not so stuck up that I can’t admit defeat. I can break his curse today.”
“Curse?” Mari asked Hikari.
“No one will go ‘B’ with him until today,” Hikari told her.
Asuka walked right up to Kensuke, looking slightly down on him as she was a few centimeters taller. She smiled sweetly, and spoke to him in soft tones as he waited in anticipation. “Alright, Aida-kun. I’m a girl of my word and I did make a promise to you, so prepare yourself.” Kensuke nodded in delight, taking off his glasses and standing close to her, his arms at his sides. Asuka carefully closed the distance, putting her face right in front of this. “You truly deserve this, okay?” Aida smiled widely, then closed his eyes and awkwardly puckered up his lips in front of Asuka.
Mari looked again at Hikari “She’s not actually going through with it, is she?” Hikari gulped down the reply, as along with Shinji and Rei she knew very well what Asuka was capable of. “Um, you’ll see,” she replied to Mari.
Taking her hands and gently holding his face, Asuka bent over and softly placed a kiss right on Kensuke’s lips. Several of the pilots cooed in shock as they watched. Kensuke’s face was in complete bliss, his hands gently flaying in the air. Asuka held the kiss for several seconds as everyone quietly watched.
Suddenly In one swift motion Asuka brought up her right knee and thrust it directly into Kensuke’s crotch. The shock reverberated across his body, as the level of pain inflicted was so great Kensuke forgot to scream. Only with a very high pitched yelp did the boy crumple to the floor, his hands between his legs as the other pilots gasped.
As the others looked on in stunned silence, Asuka dusted off her hands and then walked toward the girls’ locker room door. Without looking back she said “Hope that was worth it,” with a snide smile as she left the room.
Go on to Chapter Twenty-Four