Maya Ibiki worked busily at her desk, monitoring several screens in front of her as well as typing instructions at her own workstation. As the Alliance hired new personnel at NERV, the survivors moved up in both rank and responsibility, For Maya, this meant being transferred from her old position on the EVA controller team and into a promotion with the new title of Manager of Information Operations. The change of job meant a new, private office, as well as greater responsibility not only for monitoring the MAGI but also across all aspects of computer and data operations at NERV.
By now being an experienced hand Maya kept her eye out for other things not necessarily related to her job. She was doing this as Hyuga quietly walked to her office. He knocked on the wall as he stood in front of the open threshold of her office doorway.
“Come in!” Maya called back, not looking to see who it was. Hyuga walked in and then stood just beside her at her workstation. Deep in concentration, it took a moment for Maya to notice who it was. “Oh, good afternoon!”
“Uh, hi!” Hyuga said a bit nervously. “Was everything okay with the First Child?”
Maya nodded without looking at him. “She was fine. Just drunk on champagne, no permanent damage. They let her out early this morning.”
“That's a relief,” he said, and then stood there silently as Maya continued. She paid him no mind, avoiding him as she shifted her attention between her station and the monitors.
Before Hyuga could say anything further a soft beep came from one of Maya’s terminals and she turned her attention away, reading what it said and then quickly typing on her keyboard. Hyuga looked at the screen and saw an image of the Moon. “What are you working on?”
“This morning I just realized that probably we’ve all been so busy with operations that no one’s thought to check on the Lance of Longinus, the original one I mean,” she said.
“It’s still stuck on the Moon, isn’t it?”
“That’s just it, I wanted to see if anything’s changed.” She continued to key instructions into the terminal as she watched the monitors. “I know this is really Intelligence’s area but with the war and all I just thought I’d step in a little.” On one of the monitors the view of the moon continued to focus on a particular spot, which still seemed like so much barren and cratered gray surface. “We don’t have the orbital telescope like we used to but some ground units are still functioning. I’m using those to try and locate the Lance again.” She finally issued one more set of instructions and checked the monitor. The magnification of the relay was at his highest, but at the last known location of the Lance of Longinus, thrust into orbit over three months ago by EVA-00 to strike the 15th Angel, was nowhere to be seen.
“Where it is?” Hyuga asked.
“This is confirmed as the last known location. It’s not here now, though.”
“Maybe it drifted off into space?”
Maya looked at Hyuga directly. “Do you really think that’s likely?” The other officer knew the truth of it. “No.”
She went again at the terminal, furiously typing in instructions. “There’s two logical possibilities: either it moved on its own or something else took it. Either way we need to locate it, but if it was taken…”
“…then we could be a in a lot of trouble,” Hyuga concluded, picking up his mobile phone and keying in a speed-dial code. It picked up after the first ring. “Colonel,” he said to Misato, “we have a problem.”
Drifting through space, the blue-colored Evangelion floated slowly towards the Earth. In its hands was a long grey piece of elaborately intertwined metal that was as tall as it was. Inside of the EVA, the pilot wore an oxygen mask along with his blue and black colored plug suit, and smiled to himself as he drifted along. A video screen opened in front of him, and on it was an image of Chairman Kiel.
“Have you retrieved it?” he asked him.
“Yes, I have it,” the boy replied, “Just where you said it would be.”
“With this all of the necessary elements are arranged,” the old man told him. “The trap will soon be set, and we will restore what was lost to us.”
“Do you want me to destroy EVA with this?” the boy asked.
“Your target is the one born of the Second Angel,” Kiel replied. “You must make an union with her to restore the balance. To do that you will overcome the one who directs her, and having this weapon will allow you to both subdue the pilot and the EVA he rides in. Then merging with her at the appropriate time you will set souls free of their cages and then all will be as it should. At the center of this exchange, you will be fully restored to your true self as well.”
The boy was still skeptical, and looked at the chairman with a narrow glance. “Given the images of what I’ve seen of him in battle, I shouldn’t think that would be so easy.”
Kiel was straightforward. “You will find once he sees you he will seek you out, to connect with you.”
“He will want to connect to me?”
“It is the weakness of humans to want this,” Kiel said, “you must play on his weaknesses so that your strengths will be at the fore. Otherwise there is no chance for us.”
“I will do it,” the boy replied. “It should be amusing to see what happens.” The video shut off.
Shinji Ikari, the boy wondered, what would you see in me that would draw you so? He scoffed at his own sentimental thoughts. None the matter. With this… He tightened his grip on the Lance of Longinus in his hands…You will know that there is one Angel that you cannot defeat.
In the pilot’s lounge the several of the children were hanging out waiting for their dinner to arrive. As usual Shinji and Asuka were pounding away on the dance game while Toji took shots on a basketball game that was just recently moved in. Rei sat on the couch by herself reading. The doors swung open and Kensuke entered, followed by Patrick. Both were wearing Alliance camouflage uniforms still with signs of paint on them from tactical training.
“Where’s dinner?” Kensuke called out. “We rushed to get back here!”
“Hasn’t shown up yet,” Toji called out as he continued to shoot hoops through the game. “Hikari-chan was working on getting it up here.”
“It’s not fried pork again tonight, is it?” shouted Asuka as she looked up from her own game. “That stuff tastes like plastic!”
Patrick slid on the couch as Rei scooted over and greeted him with a slight smile. He looked at her book. “Principles and Practice of Endocrinology and Metabolism,” he read out loud from the cover. “Do I even want to know what that’s about?”
“No,” Rei said to him.
He playfully smiled back and patted her on the head affectionately. “Remind me to get you a manga to read one of these days,” he said as he sat next to her on the couch.
“I read one once,” she replied.
“’Jewel of the Nile’. It was frustrating.”
Patrick cocked his head. “In what way?”
“It didn’t end at the end of the book. I had to find the second volume to continue the story. Later I found out that after forty-three volumes the story is still not finished.”
Shinji came over to the two of them. “Um, I read that too.”
“Is it any good?” Patrick asked him.
“I guess so,” Shinji replied. “It’s just a shojo manga. But the author died after Second Impact, the story was never finished.”
“Well, that sucks,” Patrick shrugged. Rei had a disappointed look on her face. “I wanted to know the ending,” she said flatly.
The double doors burst open to the pilot lounge and Hikari and Mari both entered, each carrying a set of boxes. “Dinner is served,” Mari declared.
“Finally! I’m freaking starved!” Toji said as he immediately went over to the serving table. The rest of the pilots all gathered around as the two girls sat down their boxes and started to unpack. Three larger boxes were set down and then Hikari carefully opened each one. Several of the pilots gasped with delight as the smell and sight of dinner become known. “Pizza!” Kensuke said in glee “Finally, decent food!”
Patrick looked at the two open pizza boxes as Hikari worked on the third. While he liked pizza when he was in America, this version seemed different to him. “Um, Hikari just what kind of flavor is that?”
“That one’s Eel and Squid with Mayo and the other is Vegetarian Curry,” she helpfully pointed out.
Hopes of a good meal were suddenly drained, although the others didn’t seem to mind as they started taking out slices. “Oh. Well, that’s different.”
“They don’t have flavors like that in America?” Hikari asked him.
Patrick winced a bit. “No, we usually put cheese and tomatoes on first, and then layer it with meat and stuff.”
“Cheese? On a Pizza?” Kensuke said. “That would taste weird.”
Asuka peeked at the third box Hikari was working on, then grabbed it and quickly snatched a slice. “Here, stupid,” she thrust the box at Patrick as she quickly chewed on her piece. “They didn’t forget you.”
He flipped open the box and saw what looked like an American-style pepperoni pizza, with cheese. Somewhat suspiciously he pulled out a slice and then took a bit. “Mmph,” Patrick said as he tasted it. “OK, that’s not too bad.” Patrick continued eating his own slice as he put down the third pizza box on the community table.
“Patrick, I thought you liked Japanese food,” Shinji asked him while unpacking a box of chicken wings.
“I do, but I like it when Japanese food is Japanese. When Japanese food tries to be American it gets a little spotty.”
“I’ll say,” Mari chimed in. “I’ve got the same problem. I tried something in the cafeteria that was called ‘Fish and Chips’ the other day and instead it was tempura-battered salmon with yam fries.”
“Hey, I had that too,” Kensuke said. “I thought that was pretty good.”
“Perhaps, but to make it more ‘English’ the cook put a tiny British flag on it before he served it.” Mari smiled politely. “I shan’t make that mistake again.”
Patrick pulled out another piece of the American-style pizza and carefully pulled off the pepperonis, then gave the slice to Rei.”You want to try this?”
Rei looked at the pizza, sniffing the piece. “This slice has more cheese on it then what I eat in a year,” she declared. She took the piece in her hands and carefully chewed on it as Patrick waited. After a few chews she nodded in approval and continued as Patrick grabbed another slice, adding the pepperonis he had removed earlier.
The pilots all gathered up food for themselves and continued eating, trading stories about their training with each other. Free from their intensive schedules and deployments, the time together was a rare moment to relax in each other’s company.
“Any deployments coming up,” Kensuke asked the others.
“Why, are you anxious to get yourself killed?” Asuka shot back.
Shinji ignored Asuka’s comment. “Nothing I’ve heard from Misato,” he said. “But I heard her talking with Captain Hyuga earlier that they might change the teams.”
Asuka reacted with shock. “What?!” she exclaimed. “She won’t dare break us up!”
“They were talking about a bigger operation coming up,” he tried to explain. “They might form up bigger teams of three or four units, now that they have enough EVAs.”
“Hmm,” Asuka purred as she stood up from her seat and moved behind Shinji. Throwing her arms around him she said in a playful manner “I don’t want to lose my teammate!”
“A bigger operation might mean the end is near,” Mari commented. “One big Battle Royale to finish everything.”
Kensuke’s hopes continued to rise. “That would be so cool…”
“So,” Mari said to Shinji, looking to change the topic. “Puppy-kun, would you miss EVA if it all ended tomorrow?”
“No,” Shinji said firmly, sitting in his chair as Asuka gently ran her fingers through his hair. “I wouldn’t miss any of this.”
“Including me?” said the redhead.
“It’s not that I mean,” Shinji went on, “I’d probably miss all of you, but not EVA, or deploying, or anything like that.”
“You’d go back to your old life, then?” the British girl asked.
He sat and thought about it for a moment. “I don’t really know. I guess I never thought about it much.”
Mari continued to pry. “Do you miss anything about your old life?”
“Not really,” he told her. “I was at my uncle’s house but it never really felt like my own. There was one thing I do miss, though. My cello.”
The taller girl raised her eyebrows in surprise. “Cello? Do you play?”
“He's quite good, actually,” Asuka defended as she squeezed Shinji a little tighter.
“I do, well, I did,” replied Shinji. “My own cello got destroyed when Misato's old apartment was damaged in the battle. I don't think I've picked one up in a few months anyway, but I miss playing it.”
“Perhaps you'll have plenty of time after all this is done,” Mari mused.
“Maybe,” Shinji smiled back weakly.
Illustrious looked up at Asuka, unfazed by her very outward affection with Shinji at the table. “What do you miss about the outside world, Valkyre girl?”
The redhead winced at hearing Mari's pet name for her but then gave in. “That's easy! I miss the food. I thought with all of the Europeans coming into NERV there'd be at least one good cook. Baka here could cook better German food than any one of those idiots!”
“Was the food better when NERV was just Japanese?” Patrick asked.
“No, it sucked just as much,” continued Asuka, “but then at least you could go outside and had all of Tokyo-3 to choose from. Now with most of the city gone you have to go all the way to Hakone to get something decent. Speaking of which,” she playfully pounded Shinji on the head, “when is Misato going to let us out there again?”
“Not for a while,” he replied, “for right now we're stuck to just around here.”
“Bitch,” Asuka pouted. “Doesn't she know being in such intensive training requires serious motivation?”
Mari continued to go around the table, as the others joined the conversation. “What about you, Mr. Pirate?” she spoke to Toji, “do you miss the food too?”
“Lusty, I've missed the food since I came to Tokyo-3. I don't get how you could have had this huge city and not one store has the right kind of soy sauce.”
“Toji,” Hikari chided, “you're so picky!”
He folded his arms, trying to look more serious. “Hey, Kansai cuisine is an important matter. It's the cradle of Japanese food!”
“You can grow up to be a food critic, then,” Hikari said with a deadpan voice.
“I bet you miss your family, don't you?” Mari said to the class representative.
“Well, yes, although Kodama-san seems to be doing okay. There's less panicked calls this week from her about how to do things than last week. I miss the school, though.” She turned to Toji, “are they going to put us in school again soon?”
The rest of the Japanese kids at the table immediately reacted. “No! Don't give them any ideas!” Toji told her. “I like it the way it is now!”
Hikari was insistent. “But we should still be in school, shouldn't we?”
Kensuke pounded on the table. “Isn't saving the world in EVAs more important than schoolwork?” He declared. “What we do is important to humanity's survival! I think we're entitled to a nice, loooong holiday as long as we're piloting.”
“So you don't miss school then,” Mari asked Kensuke, “and all of those skirts that you can point your cameras under?” That remark got a big laugh at the table but Kensuke took it in stride.
“I don't miss anything, my dear Lusty-chan,” he declared to Mari. “I'm piloting EVA, surrounded by either lots of soldiers and all of their hardware or alternatively lots of cute female crew members in their shapely uniforms.” He nudged Toji, “did you see the new controller team at Central Dogma? Those three girls who are taking over for Captain Aoba and the others?”
“I did!” said Toji. “They are smokin' HOTTT!” They both excitedly did high-fives. Toji turned around and saw Hikari scowling at him. “Well,” he said to her, suddenly embarrassed. “Not as hot at you are, of course.” His girlfriend just narrowed her glance. “Just remember you're here to support the other pilots, and nothing else.”
“That's fine,” he said, leaning back on his chair and trying to look cool. “Hey, just when do I see you in one of those plug suits?”
“That's not going to happen for a while,” Hikari told him, “if it happens at all.”
“They didn't start you as a pilot yet?” Shinji asked her.
Hikari brightened up a little. “No, they told me the EVA's not ready for a pilot yet. It's even possible they may not need me at all.”
“You'll miss out on all of the fun,” Mari said.
“Believe me,” Hikari said, quite relieved. “I don't mind.”
Mari turned to Patrick. “What about you, Pats? What do you miss?”
Patrick took a long sigh as memories of what seemed like an entirely different life entered his mind. “I miss the scenery. I not really that fond of living in a cabin most of my life but at least the mountain views were good, the air was fresh and cool. I kind of hate being stuck in a hole in the ground most of the day.” Patrick turned to Rei, her hand laying softly on his leg under the table as he spoke to her. “How about you, do you miss your old place?”
The blue-haired girl took a moment to answer. “I miss not being able to take a two-hour shower.”
“Two hours?!” Toji exclaimed. “You'd be a complete prune after that long!”
“I never noticed,” Rei replied simply.
“Your turn,” Patrick said to Mari. “What's your missing piece?”
Mari turned and smiled, a whimsical look on her face. “I miss the weather in the UK. In the mornings we'd get this fog that comes in, and it's nice and cool and mysterious. Then it rains a bit more than here, too. I'm told it used to rain nearly every day in England before Second Impact.”
Asuka gave her a cynical look, and motioned to Rei. “If you miss it you can always join her in the shower!”
The other girl ignored her. “I'm sure. Puppy-kun? Do you like it when it rains?” Before Shinji could answer Asuka, now a little more annoyed at Mari's intrusion into her “territory”, threw her arms around him in a protective mode and starred daggers at Mari. “He like the weather just like it is now,” she told her.
“Well,” Mari said, a wide smile on her face, “change can do anyone some good.”
“If weather's what you want there's a storm coming your way!”
The taller girl met the challenge. “It's okay,” she said, standing up out of her chair. “I can roll with the thunder if I need to.” The others looked on in shock as the two girls were about to get into something much more violent that a conversation then suddenly there was heard a loud “EERRRPP!!”
The entire group of children looked at the source of the eruption. From her seat, Rei’s face blushed completely red, her hand in front of her mouth in utter embarrassment. Patrick couldn’t help but smile at her. “Too much cheese?” he asked.
“Sorry,” she said, looking around the room nervously. After a long pause all of the other children burst into laughter, even Asuka and Mari joining in.
Rei looked up at Patrick, who just beamed at her. “Perfect timing,” he said in a whisper. Finally feeling right at home with the others, she just smiled and laughed along.
Continue to Chapter Thirty