Shinji and Asuka woke up early the next morning and with Kikuchi again at the wheel drove to the main Berlin rail station. There the three of them hopped on a high-speed train that headed west. Shinji and Asuka sat on one row of seats, happily chatting about anything as they watched the scenery go by while Kikuchi stayed one row back and kept an eye out.
After making one train change they ended up in Koblenz, an old city that was built on the eastern side of the Rhine River. Koblenz was the complete opposite of Berlin, with cobblestone roads and old shops that decorated the narrow streets. A giant cathedral with triangular spires pointed up to the sky from the city square. Horse-drawn carriages and cars shared the roads as shoppers and others leisurely walked down little alleys.
Once they arrived they spent some time in the area immediately outside of the train station, peeking into shops and bakeries and seeing the sights. Shinji wore a wool sweater with black, white, and orange patterns that Asuka bought him in Berlin, while she wore the pink dress she picked out earlier accessorized with red mary janes and a red sweater. Her red A10s were back on today, tying her hair in long tails as she usually did. All the while Asuka pushed Shinji to use what little German he knew to speak with shop-keepers and others that they ran into and while he wasn’t confident at first, within an hour he was getting the hang of simple communication such as asking for directions and how much everything cost.
By noon they reached the river itself. They stood at the edge of the Rhine at a small riverside dock and watched ships large and small go by. The weather got warmer so they took off their sweaters and then Asuka spotted a place where they could rent a small rowboat. Both of the kids got in the boat and pushed off south, while Kikuchi followed in a second boat at some distance, with instructions to them to row slowly and close to the shoreline.
Naturally Asuka let Shinji do all the work, and after some initial struggles he got the rowboat moving smoothly down the river. The view from the river itself was breathtaking as the shorelines were dotted with old castles and buildings interspersed with lush trees and landscape. At mid-day the sunlight was gleaming off the river as a gentle breeze made quiet waves alongside the boat. Seagulls and ducks were heard as they dived in looking for food or floating idly inshore.
As they rowed down the river Asuka just sat on one bench of the rowboat, crossed her long legs and enjoyed the scenery. Despite his surroundings Shinji found his attention focused more and more on his passenger. To him she looked beautiful that day, more so than before. He watched her as the breeze gently swayed her hair, with the gleaming sunlight giving her locks a golden appearance. Her skin looked beautiful too, ivory colored and soft, and her face had an unusually peaceful look as she smiled slightly to herself while watching the larger boats pass them on the river. He found himself so entranced that at some point he forgot to keep rowing, something which didn't escape notice by her.
She turned her head to him and smiled, and he smiled back, and they sat there for a moment and just kept smiling at each other. Asuka then blinked her blue eyes and said to him “well, don't just sit there! Kiss me, you idiot!”
Shinji left the oars and quickly moved over to her side of the boat. She waited as he scooted up close, bringing his face next to hers, his heart beating in excitement. He went to close the distance until he hesitated only an inch from her lips.
“What is it?” she asked.
“You're not going plug my nose again, are you?”
Smiling broadly, she quickly held up her left hand and pulled him into a kiss. There on the little rowboat they both closed their eyes and let their lips touch each other gently and softly, as they felt the cool breeze and warm sunlight fall upon them on the river.
Alice Springs, Australia
The Alliance of Free Nations’ main military base was located literally in the center of Australia. Devastated by Second Impact, what remained of the continent was abandoned, but in the intervening years between Second and Third Impact that force that was to become known as the Alliance had slowly constructed their stronghold in the remains of an old American intelligence outpost named Pine Gap, located in the outback town of Alice Springs.
Among the old and remodeled buildings of the outpost was a lonely gray structure that stood off to one side of the base. Nondescript, without even signs on the road identifying it, a small team of desert-camouflaged soldiers guarded the prison and the one captive who was held inside it.
Lieutenant Moria Wellington made her way through the building to the steel cell door at the end. She had been given the job of a “welfare check” on their prisoner, to ensure he was at least in a healthy state of mind and body. Gendo Ikari was important to the Alliance, not only as their highest profile prisoner, but also as the possible key to understanding much of the Evangelion program that they had captured.
Wellington herself, however, was not interested in understanding. When she first entered the prison, like any other visitor she was asked to leave her firearm outside in case somehow a prisoner managed to grab the weapon and use it. But her being one of General Sheffield's most trusted officers allowed the guards to give her the benefit of the doubt, and they didn't search her further upon entering. Discretely she moved her right hand back and felt for the knife tucked inside her blouse and waistband, checking to be sure it was in place and out of sight.
“Let me see him,” she said to the guard in front of Ikari's cell door, and the guard quickly unfastened the series of locks and opened the door for her. Wellington walked inside and waited for the door to close. Spying though the front window, she waited until the guard turned his back to the door.
Gendo was sitting there at the table, dressed in orange prison fatigues, his beard grown out more since his capture two weeks earlier. A loose sleeve danged from the arm that he was missing. As she entered he didn't look up at her, but kept staring at the wall in front of him. When she was sure the guard had turned away Wellington quickly kicked his chair to the edge of the bed, leaving it standing on its back legs, while pulling her knife out of her waist and holding it at the prisoner's jugular.
“Say one word and it's your last,” she told him.
“They'll kill you for doing this,” Gendo replied.
“I don't care.”
They remained that way for a silent minute, the only sounds in the room were the officer's heavy breathing. Her eyes were bulging with rage.
“How may I help you?” Gendo asked calmly.
“Why'd you do it?” she asked angrily.
“Second Impact. Why did you do it?”
“What makes you think I had anything to do with that?”
“I saw the records,” Wellington told him. “You left Antarctica the day before it happened. No way that's a coincidence.” Gendo was still silent. She struck him in the face with her other hand.
“Answer me!” she said in a whisper, but Ikari still said nothing.
Now more frustrated Moira grabbed him out of the chair and pushed him against the wall. Gendo was still expressionless, and eerily calm. “Are you afraid to die?” she said to him.
“You won't kill me,” he told her. “I have what you need.”
“Just try me.” She traced the point of the knife along his face, and then again held it to his neck. Again, there was a long silence. Gendo studied her intently, looking at the black ornamental tattoos on her chin and face.
“You are Maori, are you not?”
“What's it to you?!”
“There can't be that many Maori left in the world, especially ones who keep up with the old ways,” he said.
“We're survivors,” she responded. “We'll never stop.”
“But you couldn't stop the waves, could you,” he said. “Such a proud people, wiped out in a matter of seconds. How did you survive?”
“I was in London at boarding school,” she said. “Imagine waking up and finding out your whole family, your whole world was wiped out in one day.”
“I know the feeling.”
She hit him across the face with the hilt of the knife. “The hell you do!”
“If you want revenge, go ahead and kill me,” Gendo answered. “But that's not what you really want, is it?”
“It's good enough! I'll drink your blood after I'm done!”
“But it still won't bring them back.”
Her patience was ending, and she quickly glanced at the door to see if the guard had heard anything. Knowing her time was running out she pushed for a resolution. “Just tell me why,” she told him, again holding the knife to his neck, and letting the blade sink in just a little.
Gendo looked at her with his black eyes. “What if you could bring them back?” he said to her.
“There's no point in wishing for such things,” she replied. “What's done is done.”
“You asked me why I did it,” he said to her calmly. “Do you really want the answer?” Moira backed away just a little. “Yeah, tell me you yellow prick!”
The former commander straightened himself out a little. “If you could bend reality and bring back what you loved, wouldn't you do it? No matter what the cost was?”
“We're humans, not gods.”
“Ah, but what if you could become a god? Wouldn't that be worth something to you?”
“Is it? You were there, weren't you?” Gendo asked her. “At Tokyo-3, when heaven and earth came together? Didn't you see it happen?”
“That thing was an Angel...”
“I assure you that she was human, and then she became as God was. At that moment the whole world was at her hands, to make and bend reality to her own will, as only God can.”
Wellington narrowed her glance at him. “You're talking about the blackest of magic!”
“I'm talking about the key to heaven,” he countered. “You want to know why? That's why!”
“You did all of this so you could become like God?”
“I did it because I loved someone and they were taken from me, but I found the means to get them back. Means that are available to even us mere mortals.” Moria backed off even further as Gendo continued to explain. “If you could get back that which you loved, wouldn't you do it? No matter what it took?”
The officer found herself taken aback by his answer. “I would, yeah. But not at the price of my people!”
Gendo stood there and continued to speak to her with a wry smile on his face. “You know, lieutenant, sooner or later the Alliance will find the answers to all of this, with or without me. When they do that, just what do you think they'll do then?”
“Blow it all to hell! Like we swore we'd do!”
“And just give up the powers of the universe like that? Don't be naive!” he said. “They'll become just like SEELE is, and then we'll having this conflict all over again, won't we.”
Wellington was now starting to have real doubts creeping up in her mind. “I don't think they'd do that,” she said softly.
“I wasn't trying to destroy the world,” Gendo told her, looking straight into her eyes. “I just wanted back what I had lost. The means are still there, all it takes is the will.”
Moria breathed hard as she considered all that she heard. Reaching a conclusion that she didn't expect to make, she shoved her knife back inside her waist band. She looked at him again and Gendo stared icily back at her.
“You fucker” she said under her breath, and then banged on the door to be let out.
In the early afternoon the marine squad leader asked the two children if they would like to visit the village on the other side of the island. They both agreed and within a few moments they were sitting in an SUV and being taken to see the village.
The little island's village looked old, with its small hand-built wood buildings with angled roofs sitting underneath tall palm trees. Most of the buildings were on wood struts, a necessity due to the frequency of storms that hit the island, as often the water would come flooding in without warning. The little town appeared quite rustic from outside, there were no streetlight or streetlamps and only a few automobiles present.
In the midst of the village was a boulevard that was the commercial heart of the community, and today it was bustling with activity. Many stores were open with booths in front, selling their wares to a noisy crowd. The streets were lined with people of all ages, many coming from other islands in the chain for the festival. At the far end was a large wooden shrine accompanied by men with blue and white cloth coats, which Patrick surmised would be part of the festivities later on.
The marines dropped off the two children in the middle of town and then as before started to take up positions that were out of sight but still watchful of their charges. Once they left, Patrick and Rei began to walk down the boulevard.
They spent the next thirty minutes going down the street and taking in the sights and sounds of the festival. It reminded Patrick somewhat of a country fair that took place on his mountain home in California, with lots of homely shops and stalls of hand-made food. For her part Rei just went from booth to booth to see what was at each one, quietly taking note of the contents of each.
Patrick noticed that many of the townspeople wore traditional clothing, with men and women both wearing cotton-made yugatas in a variety of colors. As they walked down the boulevard he saw two teenage girls walk past them, each wearing blue yugatas with colorful obis (waistbelts) and ornate designs as they happily chatted with each other. He looked at Rei, who was wearing her white mesh coverup with just sandals on. Seeing the two girls again gave him some inspiration and he stopped and looked around the boulevard. Rei noticed that he had stopped walking and stopped in place with him.
Seeing what he wanted, he turned to her. “Rei, if I asked you to do something for me, would you do it?”
“What is it?”
A few moments later Patrick stood outside one of the shops and waited for Rei to emerge. He was now wearing a brown yugata with a black and white belt, and shoes of local design in place of his beach flip-flops. He held onto his backpack that now contained his other clothes. He saw someone moving out of the store and tried to get a peek through the doors before they opened up. When they did finally open it brought a smile to his face.
Rei had come out of the store wearing a dark-blue yugata with intricate designs of cranes and swirl patterns, tied with a bright red and white obi. She now wore Japanese-style sandals instead of her beach flip-flops. As she emerged, the old shopkeeper fussed with the obi to be sure it was on straight. After the adjustment, Patrick thanked the woman and paid her and then the two of them walked down the boulevard again, with Rei's old clothes now also being carried in Patrick's backpack. Rei didn't seem either happy or unhappy with her new outfit, though Patrick admitted to himself that he liked it very much.
“Do you like this?” he asked her, motioning to her new outfit.
“The clothing is tight, so walking was difficult at first,” she said. “But the yugata itself is comfortable.”
“Well, you look really pretty,” Patrick commented. Rei said nothing but just kept walking.
They passed by a food stall and Patrick quickly purchased two ears of roasted corn that were mounted on chopsticks. Handing one to Rei he began to slowly eat his. She looked at hers curiously and then started to eat herself, nodding in approval after tasting it.
“Great. Now we're locals!” Patrick mused.
Rei looked at him in confusion, but Patrick just kept smiling at her. She thought about what he said for a moment, then a small smile appeared on her own face.
“How long did it take you to realize that was a joke,” he asked her.
“It's OK if you want to laugh,” he said with a straight face. “I promise not to tell anyone.”
“Why would you not...” she asked but again Patrick just kept smiling and finally burst out laughing. This time she let out a breath and her smiled broadened. Her face was relaxed again. That's more like it, he thought.
“Do you find my reactions funny?” Rei asked him.
“Quite. You're very cute, you know.”
“'Cute' is like humor: it is a difficult concept to define,” she replied.
“Let's just say you define it pretty well.”
Patrick was about to suggest they go across the street and look at a booth selling old books when from behind them a large crowd of people came rushing their way. Within a second Patrick suddenly found himself surrounded by dozens of villagers, all wearing cotton blue and white happi coats and headbands, and carrying the large wooden shrine that they had spotted when the first came into town.
The boy struggled to find his way through the noisy crowd as loud drumbeats pounded the air. He had lost sight of Rei and was trying to feel his way through the many bodies. To him it seemed like he was drowning in an ocean of humanity, as the others around him loudly chanted praises to the goddess of whose shrine they were carrying on their shoulders, oblivious to his struggle.
“Rei!” he cried out, unable to see her among the crowd and fearful he was that she was somehow trampled by the procession. Trying to work his way to what he thought was the edge of the crowd, Patrick could feel bodies press against him as they pushed him forward. Stumbling on his feet, he felt that he might fall down himself until something grabbed his hand and quickly pulled him out.
He found himself standing back on the boulevard again, the processing moving past them and carrying their precious cargo to the other end of town. He looked at his hand and found it was holding another small, delicate one. It was Rei that had pulled him out.
“Are you alright?” she asked.
Patrick breathed a big sigh of relief. “Yes, thank you.”
At that moment two marines, dressed in civilian clothes, immediately rushed next to the two pilots. One of them was the squad leader sergeant. Assuring the soldiers that everything was fine the soldiers left them alone again, only this time maintaining a much closer distance than before.
The two of them just watched the procession noisily go down the street. Patrick then turned to Rei.
“Would you like to go somewhere a bit more quiet?” She nodded and he pointed to the hill that was close by the village, the one with a large red Shinto torii (or gate) on top. They both started to make their way out of the village and towards the hill, which was not very far away. As they began to walk, Rei released her hand from Patrick and held her handbag with both hands, but still stayed close to him.
The shrine was maybe a kilometer away from the center of the village, and access was from a long flight of cement steps. The two pilots slowly made their way up the grey-colored steps and within a few minutes they were on top, a little winded from the climb but otherwise feeling fine.
Passing through the red-painted torii they wondered through the shrine grounds a little bit. It was old, with several small and medium-sized stone buildings capped with ornate angled roofs. The cobble-stone floor was strewn with fallen palm leaves all around, and there was no one else in sight.
Rei saw a bench off to one side of the larger stone pathway and gently sat down, Patrick sitting down next to her. Without saying anything she placed her hands in her lap and looked at their surroundings, and then, at least to Patrick, she seemed to lose herself as she stared straight ahead at nothing in particular.
For a few moments Patrick just watched her as she sat there. Eventually she noticed his gaze and turned to him.
“What are you doing?” he asked her.
“This place has its own sound,” Rei replied. “I wanted to listen to it.”
He remembered when she stood at the water's edge and just watched the ocean earlier that day. “It's like at the beach, isn't it?”
“Correct. The ocean has its own sound. So does the village, and Tokyo-3, and everywhere else.”
Patrick sat and listened, but didn't hear anything except the faint echo of the breeze against wind chimes in the shrine. “I don't hear much.”
“It's there, but you must become a part of it to listen to it.”
“Can you teach me how?” he asked.
She thought about the question at first. Ordinarily she would consider such a request useless: everyone had their own way to listen, so how could she instruct him to listen the way she did? But then she considered perhaps this bridge could be crossed after all.
“Sit still,” she instructed. “Let everything go from your hands.” Patrick dropped the bag that he was holding onto the ground.
“Breathe,” she then said. Patrick started taking deeper breaths.
“Shouldn't I close my eyes or something?”
“It is not necessary. Do nothing but breathe.” He continued to do as she said and spent what he thought were several minutes deeply inhaling. She watched him as he started to relax.
“You are not ready yet. Your heart must be quiet and free of distractions.”
“When will I know it's ready?”
“When you do not have to ask.”
Patrick thought he understood what she meant and then let everything go in his mind, closing his eyes loosely and trying to just forget everything that was rushing through his head at once. He forced his brain to stop wondering how long it all took and just sat there. It took a while, as thoughts about matters large and small attempted to stream though his mind. Instead he just focused on breathing and nothing else. Ultimately at some point the world went black around him. His shoulders slumped, relaxed. His hands loosened up, with his palms open.
He heard the wind chimes in the distance but now also heard the breeze, feeling it against his hair. Every few seconds the wind would gently blow and then be gone, and then come back again. In the distance he heard the rustle of fallen palms and further still a wooshing that sounded like waves crashing on the nearby beach. There was a pound-pound-pound sound coming from the nearby town and a faint din of crowds. His hairs came up on end as he felt the air and some drops of moisture carried by the wind land on his face. There were birds calling in the trees, and something else moving around them as well, some sort of small animal he didn't identify. Patrick sensed all off these different and diverse sensations, but yet all of them were put together in harmony and not in conflict with each other.
Coupled with all of that was the slight sound of his breath, going in and out. He could feel his own heartbeat pulsing throughout him. Next to him he heard another gentle breeze, but then realized what it was. He slowly opened his eyes and looked at her.
“It's...it's a bit like music,” he realized at he spoke to Rei. “It sort of has a harmony to it, a rhythm that you can pick up if you try.” She nodded at what he said.
“I could hear my own heartbeat and my breathing in all of that,” he said, “and for a moment it didn't seem like I was out of place at all. I was sort of a part of all this.”
Good. He's capable of understanding it. “What else did you feel?” Rei asked him.
“I sensed you were there. Even though you're so quiet you can still tell it's you. But there was something else...something...elusive. Like I could feel it there but I couldn't quite catch it, or even figure out what it was.” He looked at her with a more serious expression. “This is what you can sense, isn't it?”
“It's a part of it,” she said. “It goes much deeper, but every place has its own song. In this place, if we allow it we can become part of the song ourselves.”
“Is this what you think about all the time?”
“Not all the time. I think about many things.”
“I think about how the corn tasted. I think about what the moon will look like tonight. I think about the old woman who tied the obi of my yugata. I think about my first memories. I think about Ikari-kun...”
“What do you think about Ikari-kun?”
Rei was about to answer when Patrick's satellite phone started ringing inside his bag. As he pulled the bag up to take out the phone, he heard footsteps and saw three marines behind them on the steps. Two of them had their weapons out, startling him. What the heck? “Hello?”
“Patrick!” It was Admiral Vinson.
“There's been an emergency. I need you to get to EVA-04 now and get back to Tokyo-3.”
“What's going on?”
“I'll explain later. Just get going. My men will take you back to the carrier.” Overhead he heard the sound of a jet and saw a small fighter cruise over them that looked very close.
“We'll both get back right now,” Patrick replied. The two pilots looked at each other regretfully, as their holiday had abruptly come to an end.
A moment later another aircraft, this one a grey-painted helicopter, also appeared over the shrine. Once it landed the marines escorted both pilots inside and it then launched in the air towards the fleet offshore.
Go on to Chapter Five