In Central Dogma, the spacious command center of NERV’s GeoFront, a large holographic screen projected images of destruction. Hyuga and Aoba both gasped as they saw the inflicted damage on the Alliance’s Pine Gap base.
A message appeared on Lieutenant Shigeru Aoba’s display, and he quickly read it back for the others. “Reports are that the destruction is widespread, with the command center and satellite control array completely destroyed. All three runways are out of commission.”
Admiral Vinson looked terse as he saw the videos. In the middle of the Australian Outback, Pine Gap was not just home to the Alliance’s largest base, but also home to many of the family members of Alliance soldiers. From the grainy images he saw on the main display he saw few buildings that were left standing. For a moment his thoughts went to his own loved one who was also there. Training and determination kept him focused. “How many casualties?”
“Estimated to be in the thousands,” Aoba reported, without looking at the others.
“My God, there were civilians on that base,” Lieutenant Makoto Hyuga exclaimed.
Vinson kept his focus on the screen. “Don’t expect them to play by any rulebook. Not after what happened here.” He kept scanning the images, trying to find anything familiar when Aoba again received a message and swung around in his chair.
“Encrypted transmission from OLYMPUS on HW frequency,” he said.
“Put him on,” Vinson ordered.
A moment later the image of General Sheffield, military chief of staff of the Alliance, appeared on the the larger holographic screen. He was wearing a bandage around his head, with blood appearing from the side. Despite that, he stood up firmly in an effort to keep up his appearance.
“Johnny, what the hell happened?”
“We here hit by a Mass Production EVA with no warning,” Sheffield reported in his crisp British accent. “They got all the good bits, I’m afraid. We’re done for here.”
“Bad enough. Our air power was knocked out in the attack, then the N2 finished off everything else. Only parts of the town outside are left.”
Vinson looked at his old friend directly, asking the one question that gave him the most pause. “Maria?” he asked simply.
“She’s safe, in one of the shelters. Colonel Burke’s family as well. But they were among the lucky few.”
Vinson allowed himself a sigh of relief, but then only for a bit. The meaning of General Sheffield’s words “lucky few” were clear: many civilians had died as well as Alliance soldiers. There was a heavy silence, as the gravity of the Englishman’s statement was understood to him and to the others, both Alliance and NERV, in the control room.
A moment afterward through the rear doors of the command center came both Misato and Kaji at a running pace. They both stopped on the operations deck, Misato gasping as she saw the burning wreckage on the holographic screen.
The Admiral thought for a moment, considering what had happened. Pine Gap was as well defended as any of the Alliance’s few outposts, but it was helpless against even a single, perhaps not even fully operational Evangelion. Worse, it had come completely without warning. He crossed his arms and considered his rather poor options at the moment. Addressing Misato and Kaji he said “It seems we have a serious problem.”
“If they can do that there,” Kaji observed, “then it could happen anywhere.”
“Correct,” Vinson replied. “With stealth aircraft as their delivery vehicles, SEELE has a global reach that we can’t match at the moment. Even if we had mounted our own EVA on an air transport it’d take hours to get to Australia from there.”
“Evangelion was intended as a defensive system,” Misato said. “At least, ours were.”
“We need to consider that fully,” the Admiral said. “We’re in a war against these old men, and wars are not won on the defensive.” He turned to the video screen. “Johnnie, evacuate the base. Get everyone out. We’ll get transports down there to pick you up.” Vinson then turned to Misato. “Congratulations,” he said. “You’re now in charge of EVA operations…again. Recall your pilots and get them back here pronto. “
“It’s already done,” Misato replied. “Agent Kikuchi has them on a plane back from Germany currently.”
“Good. And,” he pointed at her, “I want your plan for an offensive employment of EVA against these bastards. I’m not just going to sit here and let them pick away at us.”
“Yes, sir,” Misato said.
“Also,” Vinson said to Misato, “Colonel Katsuragi, regarding your proposal. I can agree to most of it but the details need to be worked out, and this is not the time.”
Misato nodded with due seriousness. “Understood, sir.”
The Admiral then faced Aoba. “Send a message to all Alliance units, have them evacuate their current posts and fall back on Tokyo-3.”
“All of them?” Aoba asked.
“Yes. They’ll be sitting ducks otherwise. This is the only place where we can defend them until we work something out. What’s EVA-04’s status?”
Hyuga answered that question. “On the way back to Tokyo-3. They’ll be at Shin-Yokosuka within a few hours.”
“Tell him to self-deploy the EVA and run it back here. Right now he’s the best defense we have until the other pilots come back. Make sure the First Child is with him.”
“She’s in the entry plug of the EVA along with Unit 04’s pilot,” Hyuga reported.
“Good. Also,” he directed Hyuga “Get the good Doctor Viraat to get up to speed with Unit 05 and whatever he’s doing to resurrect it. Those Harpies will be coming here next.”
Misato gave Kaji a broken smile as he then playfully saluted her, winking as he did so. The now colonel smirked back at him for a moment. She then straightened her hair and walked over to the two controllers, both of whom had relieved smiles on their faces.
“Together again,” Hyuga said to her quietly.
“Yes, but don’t expect a repeat of the last war. This is going to be something entirely different…and possibly quite worse.” She then started discussing with both of them the current situation. As Kaji watched this, Vinson tugged as his shoulder and pulled him back. “I need a word with you,” he said. The two men walked into an adjacent staff room and closed the door, speaking in quiet tones.
“I’m putting you in charge of intelligence and security for all of NERV, Mr. Kaji.”
“Are we still calling it NERV at this point, sir?”
“We are. I’m not stupid or arrogant enough to think the Alliance can run Evangelion. Unfortunately there’s not much NERV left at the moment.” Vinson looked away from Kaji as his eyes pondered the various monitors in the conference room they were in, many of which were displaying images of the still heavily damaged GeoFront. “I know that after Unit 00 self-destructed a lot of local NERV staff handed in their resignations.”
“We need them to come back here, but to do that we have to assure their protection. Those SEELE cocksuckers are going to try to kill as many of us as possible. I need you,” he pointed at Kaji’s chest, “to make sure we don’t have a repeat of what happened two weeks ago. If those bastards get people infiltrated in here we might not be so lucky this time.”
Kaji was thoughtful. “We’ll need to screen returning staff carefully, and I would exempt Section Two personnel from returning, apart from Kikuchi and a few others known to us. Their loyalties were to Ikari directly, for the most part. ” Section Two had been the security and intelligence side of NERV, something which the former commander had maintained very close control. Vinson nodded in agreement as Kaji continued. “Having sufficient ground defenses would also be critical.”
The admiral knew that issue as well. “Unfortunately the Alliance, even when consolidated here in Tokyo-3, won’t have the manpower to both protect the GeoFront and go after what type of military forces I expect that SEELE will be able to marshal against us. We’ll need local help for that. How do we stand with the new Japanese government?”
“There’s slow progress on an agreement at the moment,” the agent replied. “Too many are hesitant to taking additional risks, considering all that Japan has endured so far.”
“Then tell them that we’re coming here whether they like it or not,” Vinson snapped. “We need to wrap up a deal quickly. If money is what concerns them, then we’ll give them a big cut of what technology spinoff we can work out of this place after it’s all over. Hell, Doctor Foch was telling me that the bioengineering advances in the EVA program alone were worth one trillion dollars. That’ll give them some incentive.”
“It will go a long way,” Kaji said, “but some concerns are not about money.”
“I do understand the sovereignty issues,” the Admiral replied. “But possession’s nine-tenth’s of the law, and right now we got the GeoFront, and we got Three and a half EVAs and all of the pilots. Of course,” Vinson said more cynically, “they could take their chances with the other guys.”
The agent knew the admiral’s meaning: at the moment, the Alliance perceived that they had the better hand and could operate EVA without the Japanese government being able to do much about it.
“I’m sure I can make them an offer they couldn’t refuse.”
Vinson smiled at the response. “Then get it done, colonel, and then get your ass back here. We have a lot of work to do.”
When Wellington woke up the first thing she felt was heat, as the air itself seemed like an unbearable furnace. She opened her eyes slowly and saw that she was lying prone on the ground, with large chunks of concrete and steel cable surrounding her. Two meters away she saw another Alliance soldier also prone on the ground. She moved slowly, crawling on the ground to reach him and nudge the guard on the shoulder. His head turned around slightly towards here and showed open, empty eyes looking at nothing. He was dead.
Taking a few breaths to gather strength, she pushed her body upwards. Pain reared through her muscles as she tried standing up. She got up to her feet, and noticed the steel cable stuck in her right calf. Limping along, she looked for something that she could tie around it.
Before the N2 bomb hit she had been just about to leave the base prison. It was when she had opened the outside door that the massive white EVA landed and started all type of mayhem on the base. She had immediately ran outside and gone for her radio in the Land Rover, but then as she watched the Harpy swat down the Alliance’s aircraft like flies she knew the odds were not good for her own survival. It was a moment after she dove back inside the concrete prison that the N2 had exploded, blasting down the building in the wake of its shockwave.
She hobbled over the remaining wreckage, now looking around her and seeing smoke and flames in all directions. The lieutenant looked for anything moving that she could signal to for help, but nothing living was in immediate sight of her.
Wellington sensed movement and quickly turned to her right. Standing in front of her was a slender Japanese man in a prison uniform, the left arm of his tunic dangling at his side. She immediately pulled out the pistol in her holster and pointed it at Gendo Ikari.
Ikari didn’t react, but just stood there. Wistfully he said to her, “Lieutenant, I think you could shoot me now if you like.”
For a few moments she stared at the former NERV commander, her right hand gripping her pistol tightly. Not saying anything, she breathed deeply, keeping his head in the sights of her pistol.
It would be so easy, she thought. It’s not fair, all these blokes dead and this asshole standing in front of me without a scratch.
“Well,” Ikari asked her calmly. “What will it be?”
Moira Wellington let her finger pull on the trigger just slightly, feeling the tension. “I’ll give you one more chance, mate,” she said tersely. “Why did you do it?”
“I told you already,” Gendo said to her.
“No,” she replied, her finger still on the trigger. “Give me the real reason.” A long moment between the two followed.
Ikari looked around him and saw the destruction, and then calmly looked at the ground. Lifting his head up, he could see the mad emotion in the young New Zealander’s eyes. Gendo looked straight at her.
“For love,” he said simply.
Wellington stood there with the pistol for another minute, letting her finger move so slightly on the trigger. Thoughts of a hundred others filled her mind: family and friends, all of them now dead, killed in Second Impact, all except one. But it was thoughts of the one that pulled her out of the depths of her anger. She pulled up the pistol and then holstered it. Ikari didn’t react, but just stood there.
The officer hobbled over to where Ikari was standing and immediately grabbed him by his remaining arm, dragging him towards what remained of the Pine Gap base. The two of them slowly made their way across the desert floor.
“Don’t think this is mercy,” she said angrily in Gendo’s ear. “If Mari’s got any chance to beat these fuckers it’s better with you alive than dead!” The man said nothing, but just quietly went along with the woman as she pulled him alongside.
After disembarking Unit 04 from its transport at the naval base of Shin-Yokosuka, Patrick Forrestal began walking it through the Japanese countryside to get it back to NERV’s GeoFront base. Wearing his orange-colored plugsuit, he sat on the control throne and steadily pushed the EVA to move at a brisk, but not sprinting pace. He traveled in largely wilderness areas, careful to avoid any cities, highways or other infrastructure that could be damaged by the Evangelion’s massive weight.
As the safest and most expedient method of transport available, Rei was also carried inside the entry plug of Unit 04. Like Patrick she wore her own plug suit, which was white.
The throne seat inside the entry plug was only built for one however, so Rei had at first knelt tightly behind Patrick on the throne seat as he piloted the Evangelion. Even despite Rei’s small size it was slightly uncomfortable for both of them in that position so Patrick proposed that she sit in front of him instead of behind and she was agreeable. Now perched on his lap, Rei sat in silence as the boy tried to concentrate on piloting.
At one point along the journey the EVA ran into a short mountain range and started to climb it. To steady them both on the upward climb Patrick gently put his arm around Rei’s waist, pulling her closer to him. To his surprise she allowed him to hold her there. Once over the hills, Patrick conveniently forgot to remove his arm and they spent the rest of the journey in silence as he held her close enough to him that he could smell the sweet fragrance of her hair.
Avoiding populated areas didn’t stop the EVA from being seen, and as Patrick headed West towards Lake Ashii thousands of people came out to observe the swiftly moving silver-white giant. Some carried handheld cameras, standing on rooftops and perched on verandas to get a glimpse of the often rumored giants. Through the video monitors on the entry plug Patrick could see many people on the ground crane their necks upward, several waiving their hands or calling to him. Unlike the earlier training exercise with the fleet, he didn’t wave back as any good mood was dispelled by thoughts of the disaster at Pine Gap. He hoped to God what he had heard about the Harpy attack wasn’t nearly as horrible as it had sounded.
After thirty-five minutes of running Unit 04 reached Lake Ashii and they made their way north to the GeoFront. With much of the wreckage of Tokyo-3 city surrounding it and with the waters of the lake now receding from the opening at the top of the massive sphere, the GeoFront looked marred and ugly. Surrounding both the city ruins and the dome he could make out armored vehicles, missile launchers and other weapons of the Alliance. Standing on the far side of the dome’s opening was a familiar bright, giant red humanoid figure: Evangelion Unit 02, who was patrolling with a pallet gun held at the ready.
Patrick switched on a video link. “Hey, Asuka,” he called out, but the pilot image of the video link wasn’t of Asuka. Instead it was Mari Illustrious, Unit 05’s pilot.
“Mari?” Patrick said in surprise.
“Hello, you two,” she said cheerfully. Mari was wearing her green and white plugsuit, which looked quite different from the Japanese-made plugsuits that Patrick and Rei wore. She wore an eyepatch over her left eye from injuries she suffered two weeks earlier, her glasses placed over it. Her brown hair was held back by a white hair comb that also contained her A10 sensors, and tied in twin tails as it normally was. The British pilot smiled widened a bit when she noticed the two of them seated close together. “Have a nice time on holiday?”
“I think so,” Patrick said, now gently removing his arm around Rei’s waist as he piloted the EVA towards the elevators. “What are you doing with Asuka’s EVA?”
“While everyone was out Dr. Viraat did a core swipe with Unit 02, so at least we’d have one functional EVA around. Now with what happened in Australia they’ve had me out here in case those buggers show up.”
Nestled up against his co-pilot on the trip back to Tokyo-3, Patrick had almost forgotten the reason for their hasty return. “Before we left the fleet they told us it was pretty bad,” he said to Mari. Her expression became much more serious.
“The whole bloody base is gone,” she said. “Wellie got out of it somehow, but not many others did. They’re transporting all of the survivors back here to Tokyo-3.”
Patrick sighed. “I guess vacation’s over, then.” Mari just gave him a broken smile.
Being directed by the NERV controllers, Patrick maneuvered Unit 04 over to an elevator within the ruins of Tokyo-3 city. Standing on the platform, he heard a buzz as a large magnet took hold of the EVA by the feet and then the elevator platform shot down rapidly underground.
As the EVA was pulled underground to the cages Patrick looked at Rei, still sitting patiently on his lap.
“Sorry our holiday got cut short,” he said to her.
“It can’t be helped,” she replied quietly. He smiled at her but Rei didn’t return the smile as she looked at the monitors around them at nothing in particular. Patrick thought she looked disappointed to be returning to the GeoFront. They both stayed quiet until the EVA landed at the bottom of the elevator shaft, over a thousand meters below ground. Within a few minutes another large mechanical conveyor moved the EVA over to the cages where it was normally stored. Locking noises were heard along with warning signals in the entry plug, and then the plug itself was pulled out.
Both pilots excited the entry plug, shaking themselves to free up any LCL that didn’t get drained off in the plug removal process. Patrick handed Rei her travel bag and when he went to go for his own he heard a “farewell” and quickly turned around. Rei had taken her bag and had already quickly walked down the gangway to the pilot lockers.
I guess she’s not happy to be back. Neither am I, for the most part.
Patrick didn’t get much chance to rest once EVA-04 returned to the cage. After showering in the boy’s pilot locker room, Hyuga showed up to inform him that he needed to re-suit and re-deploy in Unit 04 to relieve Unit 02 in patrolling the outside. Grudgingly Patrick complied, and while exhausted from the non-stop journey from the Ryukyu Islands since the previous evening, he knew the importance of what the job was. Everyone who had seen the footage of what happened to Pine Gap was scared enough that such a thing could happen to Tokyo-3 as well. There was no need to debate the point.
The boy spent the next twelve hours in the EVA, slowly patrolling the above surface of the GeoFront and the remains of Tokyo-3 city. The entire period was uneventful, save for Misato contacting him once on the video link to welcome him back and keep him up to date on events. Walking past the city he could make out a Gulfstream VI landing on Airfield One that he knew to be the Alliance’s, and a few moments later he saw three figures walking out of the aircraft, one of which had flaming red hair. Just afterward Misato called him in and now completely exhausted he again went to the elevators.
Now with Shinji and Asuka back from Germany Misato called a meeting of all five active pilots. Patrick removed his plug suit and put on an Alliance camouflage top and pants. Even after nearly three weeks from the attack on Tokyo-3 he noticed that still hadn’t had time to get proper clothes.
An exhausted Patrick dragged himself down to to the pilot ready room. Waiting for him there was Mari, still wearing her plug suit. Patrick noticed that her lower right leg was still in a cast, with the bottom of her plugsuit pulled over the cast itself. Also waiting there was Rei, who wore an old school uniform.
“Hi!” he said to Rei.
“Hello,” she responded in a monotone voice. She had gone back to her unemotional side.
“Hello,” Mari also said. “Any trouble?”
“No, I about fell asleep out there a couple of times.” Before anyone could say anything further, Shinji and Asuka appeared with Misato behind them. All three were in an animated conversation when they entered.
“Hi, Guys!” Patrick greeted them. “How was Germany?”
Shinji and Asuka looked a bit tired, a sign of the jet lag, but also quite a bit relaxed. Looking at each other first, Shinji then replied “I guess it went okay.” They both smiled when he said that, and Patrick assumed things were probably a lot more than “okay” between the two of them.
Once Shinji walked into the room, Rei rose up and stood in front of him. Shinji’s smile brightened more.
“Hello, Ikari-kun” Rei’s own eyes brightened up a little as well. Asuka gave her a dirty look but otherwise continued in chit-chat with Misato.
“How was the cruise?” Shinji asked.
“It was interesting,” she said still in a monotone voice.
Before everyone could start trading stories Kaji entered the room, and Asuka excitedly broke free of Shinji and hugged him. He gently but quickly extracted himself from Asuka and stood in front of the ready room next to Misato, who asked everyone to sit down and listen. All of the pilots quickly complied.
Misato straightened up. She now wore a blue and green camouflage uniform akin to the Alliance troops, except that she kept her old NERV red officer’s jacket and beret. Kaji wore just a dress shirt and pants with a loose tie, as he nearly always seemed to wear. With him at her side, Misato cleared her throat and her facial expression became deadly serious.
“You all know what happened in Australia yesterday,” she started. “We had long feared that SEELE would strike back at us as soon as they could and yesterday they proved that they’re playing for keeps.”
“They won’t stop there,” she said. “As they can strike nearly everywhere on Earth with little or no warning they now present a grave threat to humanity’s attempt to rebuild.”
“So what happens now?” Mari asked.
“The Alliance is reforming NERV, only this time it’s not to fight Angels but to defeat SEELE and specifically any of their own remaining Evangelions.”
“So there’s still a NERV left, then,” Asuka commented.
“Not much of one,” Kaji interjected. “We’re still too few to really fully support the EVA program, and many of the personnel now here are from Third Branch or NERV UK in Europe. The organization is working to hire back many of its Japanese employees who quit after the 16th Angel,” everyone briefly turned to look at Rei as he said that. Rei for her part expressed no emotion. “But there will be a need to screen returning staff carefully, as there’s a significant fear of enemy infiltration.”
“We have a lot to do and not nearly enough time or resources to properly do the job,” Misato said. “This won’t be like before and the battles against the Angels. The UN is gone now, and so is the funding. The new NERV has to repair the EVAs we have, and then both defend the GeoFront here and also hunt down the SEELE EVAs and destroy them.
Shinji and Rei looked at each other, and then Shinji asked “What happens now?”
“First priority is to get the EVAs we have in fighting shape. Units 01 and 04 are OK, Unit 02 is functional but will need an upgrade in order to work outside of the Geofront.”
“Like what,” demanded Asuka as she narrowed her glance.
“You get one of the S2 engines that we recovered from the destroyed Mass Production series.”
“Yes!” the redhead exclaimed. “No more power cable!” Shinji and the others weren’t so excited. Wasn’t it the S2 that made Unit 04 disappear?” he asked Misato. Before she could answer Patrick closed his eyes and responded without looking. He had nearly forgotten the bad memories of that day. “That had nothing to do with the S2 itself,” he said.
“After we successfully mount the S2 into Unit 02,” said Misato, “priority will switch to getting Unit 05 reconstructed. The plan is to have four EVAs ready within the month and I’ve been told we might get at least one other.”
Mari's face turned a slight smile. “Does that mean we have another pilot coming?”
“No, “ Kaji answered this time. “Unit 06 was being constructed in China but was never completed. Like your Unit 05 it was partially built and then stripped for spare parts. The Alliance will take the existing portions and try to complete the assembly, providing us with a backup unit. To our knowledge there was no designated pilot.”
Misato continued. “If we’re successful in doing so, I’ll assign the unit to Rei. Otherwise Rei is the backup pilot for all four of the existing EVAs. There’s one last major issue to clear up.”
“What’s that?” asked Patrick.
“Where you’ll be living. The hospital is being cleared out to take on the casualties from the Australia attack, and it’s not considered easy to secure in any case. So you’re all being moved to other quarters inside the GeoFront.”
Asuka crossed her arms. “Do I still get my own room?”
Misato smiled at her just a little. “We’re still putting some things together so there will be a temporary arrangement. Just bear with us for the while.”
Kaji stood up from leaning on the wall and now spoke again. “All of you need to consider that you are high-priority targets for SEELE,” he said with an unusually serious expression. “As you’ve no doubt noticed we’ve put in very careful provisions for your protection. Your actual living quarters in the GeoFront will be kept secret, even from most within NERV itself. It may be cramped or inconvenient for the moment but it’s better than being in the open where you could possibly be in danger.”
“I’m OK with that,” Shinji said. Rei then spoke up. “Does that apply to me as well?”
“Yes, it does,” Misato answered. “We’ll work out the arrangements in a bit. In the meantime please try to relax here and we’ll get you moved in. Mari?” Misato asked.
“Give Asuka some chance to get rested. Go to the cages, you’re next on patrol with Unit 02. “
“WHAT!?!?” Asuka said in astonishment. “WHAT’S SHE DOING WITH MY EVA?”
“Well,” Misato started, “you were having so much fun in Germany we didn’t want to bother you just yet, so we just temporarily reprogrammed Unit 02 for Mari until you got back.”
The redhead stared daggers at Misato “How could you?” Misato just folded her arms and silently smiled back.
Mari playfully patted Asuka on the shoulder. “Oh, don’t worry old girl, she doesn’t mind one bit.” The redhead flung off Mari’s hand and thought of doing something else before the other pilot quickly moved out of range, rushing to leave the briefing room with a broad smile on her face. As Mari hobbled out quickly Asuka pointed to her out the door and shouted “You better not leave so much as a scratch on her, or you are so dead!!!”
The arrangements that Misato referred to were simple enough. Deep in one of the sub-layers of the GeoFront Alliance engineers had set aside a floor of what used to be junior officer’s quarters for NERV deep mechanical engineering staff. Like most other areas of the GeoFront, there was significant damage done by the JSSDF assault, and many of the rooms were unlivable in their current condition. Two sets of suites on the floor were reasonably better, and one was set aside for the girls and the other for the boys. Whatever engineers and maintenance technicians could be spared worked on the rest of the suites on the floor to eventually allow each pilot their own individual living space. The entire floor was covered by surveillance and there were several armed guards from the Alliance Marines as well posted at all times. Entry came from one elevator shaft (which required a special key) and a hidden emergency stairwell.
The boys suite currently consisted of just two small adjoining bedrooms and a kitchenette with a common living space: it was small by even Japanese standards. Living there were Shinji and Patrick, who shared one room, and Agent Kikuchi who had the other. There were other bedrooms in the suite that were in disrepair, and these were blocked off to await remodeling. As Units 01 and 04 traded patrol duties Shinji and Patrick were not usually in the suite at the same time, which lessened the crowding and suited both pilots just fine. The trouble began with the girls’ suite.
“Why can’t I get my own room?” Asuka shouted. “There’s like two dozen rooms on this floor and you’re squeezing all of us into one bedroom?!” Shinji and Rei both stood in the little living room and watched as Asuka clenched her fists and blew her frustrations out at her superior.
Misato patiently endured the tantrum as PenPen waddled around the new place. “Nothings ready for any of you to live in it yet,” she explained. “Besides, it’s possible the JSSDF left booby-traps behind. Even if it looks safe it might not be.”
“But there’s two bedrooms in this suite,” argued Asuka. “At least let me share the other one with you.”
“Sorry, but that’s just for me and PenPen.”
“Just the two of you?”
Misato didn’t immediately reply but just folded her arms and looked at her. “And who else I have in my bedroom is my business.”
Asuka’s eyes went wider. “You wouldn’t…not with us children present!”
“As I said, it’s not anyone’s concern including yours,” Misato said. “Now the arrangement is only temporary. Just deal with it, OK?”
“I’ll sleep on the couch, then” Asuka countered, still determined to have her way.
“It gets cold at night here, they still haven’t really fixed the heating and air yet,” Misato replied. “You’ll freeze if you’re out here.”
The redhead then tried a different tact. “Okay, if that’s the case,” she walked over to where Shinji was and put her arms around him. “I’ll just sleep in Shinji’s suite then.” This surprised Shinji as much as Misato, and while Shinji knew not to say anything Misato didn’t appreciate Asuka's childish challenge.
“You will do no such thing!”
“What are you, my mother?” Asuka sneered.
“What’s so wrong with sharing a bedroom with a couple of girls for a few nights! “I’m pretty sure she’s harmless,” Misato told her, looking at Rei. “Besides, Rei needs to learn how to adjust to this too.”
“Screw you!” Asuka looked back at Misato in outright anger. “I'm not going to share a room with her! No, No, NO!” Misato just stood there with her arms still folded. She seemed calm on the outside, but Shinji knew the look on her face, the one that appeared before a volcano usually erupted. He sighed quietly and glanced at Rei, who also quietly met his glance with a resigned look on her face. About a second later the eruption occurred and it shook the whole suite.
Kaji stood outside the front door, pausing for a moment as he listened to the heated shouting match between Asuka and Misato. He smiled to himself a little before opening the door. Things are going pretty much as I expected.
As Kaji opened the door he could see the two girls going at each other full-bore. Asuka’s fists were clenched and she stood a foot away from Misato as both of them loudly argued in each other’s faces in both Japanese and German. He glanced at Shinji, who gave him a worried look.
Without saying anything Kaji quickly inserted himself between the two girls. Misato thought to protest but Kaji held his hand up to her motioning to be quiet and then turned to Asuka. “What seems to be the trouble,” he asked her calmly, already knowing the answer.
“This whole thing sucks! I have to live here in the freaking dungeon, can’t go out, it’s freezing in here and I have to sleep in the same room as her!” Asuka pointed to Rei.
“What’s so bad about that?”
“Because she’s…she’s…” The redhead struggled to find the words she wanted. “She’s weird, that’s why!”
Rather than argue with her, Kaji gently set his hands on Asuka’s shoulders. “I understand the circumstances aren’t what you’d like, but you need to bear with us for the while. This situation was as difficult for us as it was for yourself.”
Asuka protested strongly. “But I shouldn’t be here at all! I should be with…”
“Your EVA?” Kaji got to the heart of the matter. Asuka thought to fight back but paused a bit. As she struggled Kaji looked at her with warm eyes, and gently brushed her hair with his hand. The girl managed to calm herself down a little bit as Misato stood next to them with arms folded, also trying to calm herself down.
“EVA pilots belong with their EVAs, it’s true, and I will rectify the situation as soon as I can. In the meantime, please show me your mettle and prove to me you can endure this.” Asuka looked down at the floor and then met his eyes reluctantly. Shinji watched the exchange and thought to himself In some ways she’s still in love with him, or maybe he’s just a substitute father. Maybe it’s both…
“OK,” she said to him, more calm this time. “But I want my own room!”
“Would you prefer Rei sleep in Shinji’s room, then?” He looked at the two of them, now sitting together on the couch.
“That’s the choice you have. I’m sure you can handle it if it’s a temporary arrangement.”
Seeing no victory, Asuka sighed, slumping her shoulders. “Fine.” She grabbed her suitcase next to the wall and dragged it over to the girls’ bedroom. “She’d better not snore!”
“That’s a good girl,” Kaji complimented.
“I think now’s a good time for everyone to go to bed,” Misato said. On hearing that the weary children all made their way to the bedrooms. Shinji left to go to his own suite (where Patrick was already sleeping, worn out from the day’s operations). Penpen waddled to Misato’s room to sleep in his cooler. Misato and Kaji saw to it that both girls were set up in their room and then closed the door. Kaji then spent a couple of minutes on the communicator with the security team outside, while Misato slipped in the common bathroom.
A few minutes later Kaji was waiting for her on the futon in her bedroom as she walked back in, carefully shutting the door behind her. She put out the light in the bedroom and then slipped inside the futon covers, snuggling next to Kaji and letting out a long sigh of relief.
“I hope things weren’t too unmanageable,” Kaji asked her.
“Asuka’s just anxious about being cut off from Unit 02, especially as Mari’s piloting her for now,” said Misato. “That’s to be expected. Everything’s changing for them right now, so they’re on edge.”
“How is the First Child handling things?”
“There’s going to be some major adjustments on her part. What I wonder is whether or not she’s capable of it after having spent so much time locked away by herself like she was.”
“I’m sure she’ll find ways to adapt. Her mind is very keen and perceptive but it will be interesting how she manages in an environment where she’s not being directed what to do for every step of her life.”
“Yeah,” Misato sighed. “I worry about what else might have gone on between her and Ikari.” She spoke of the former commander. “Some of the signs she shows could indicate abuse in some way, certainly emotional deprivation. I wish I was able to get her out of here and into some better environment. Actually I really wish I could give all the kids something better.”
“You took a risk by sending Asuka back to Germany with Shinji,” Kaji observed.
“I know, but they really needed the time off. Everyone did. Now we’re facing something that could be worse than the Angels and we need to get them focused on the current threat.” Misato gently brushed through Kaji’s hair with her fingers. “You certainly knew how to calm Asuka down, though. I think I’m a little jealous!”
“There were many times back in Germany where I needed that approach whenever she threw a tantrum. Seeing how she’s cut off from her own father, playing substitute was about the best way I could reach her.”
“How about me?” Misato asked him playfully. “Do I want my daddy to come home to me too?”
Kaji smiled and gently unwrapped the bath towel Misato was wearing with his hand. She breathed in deep as he glided his hand around her naked body, feeling from her waist up to her breasts. There were still bandages wrapped around her waist, but they were now smaller than before. Her wounds from being shot had almost healed. When Kaji touched her abdomen she recoiled just a little.
“Sorry,” he said. “If you’re still in pain maybe I should…” Misato shut him up with a kiss. “I’m just fine,” she said. The two of them looked at each other in the darkness for a long while.
“Sometimes, when I was out there this was all I could think of, just trying to find a way back home,” Kaji finally said at a whisper. Misato kept running her fingers through his hair, feeling for the ponytail that was no longer there. “I don’t know, I think I like you better with your hair short.”
“You’re kidding, right? I hate it being like this!”
“I could get used to it…”
“My hair being short?”
“The whole being at home thing was what I had in mind.” Misato moved her fingers from his hair to his chest, gently massaging him until he also breathed deep in arousal. He smiled at her.
“That works for me, too”
“Then welcome home.” Misato slid along the futon as Kaji slipped on top of her. It was colder in the room than she would have liked, but she didn’t care. With the two of them finally together it was plenty warm already. She gently slipped of Kaji’s remaining clothes as he began to kiss her on her lips and neck, letting her hands run all over his muscular body as he brought himself close to her in the dark.
In the next bedroom, Asuka lay in one futon as Rei lay in the other one meter apart. Both of them were silent as they settled in, but despite how tired they were neither one of them could sleep.
“You know this is just temporary, right?” Asuka told Rei. “After Kaji’s gone I’ll talk to Misato and rework the arrangement.”
“Sure,” Rei replied. Asuka said to her “you better not roll around or anything. Just sleep there far away, OK?” the other girl said nothing but just reclined again in the futon.
Another minute later Asuka rolled over and spoke to her. “Hey, First?” Rei opened her eyes and looked at Asuka.
“Can I ask you a question?” The blue-haired girl didn’t say anything in reply but just looked at Asuka.
“Just who is Kaworu anyway? He’s supposed to be an Angel but Shinji talks about him like he’s his best friend. What’s up with that?”
“When Ikari-kun was alone,” Rei said, “The one named Kaworu was there. Each was curious about the other, but like all Angels the one named Kaworu sought to make contact. In Ikari-kun’s case he reached his heart.”
Asuka made a frown. “All I can say is that it’s pretty creepy. On the other hand, the Angels were getting their asses kicked, I suppose it made sense for one of them to come in disguise as a person.”
“He had the body of a human,” Rei told her, “but he knew nothing of human things. Shinji presented to him the most human thing he had ever seen. The attraction was understandable.”
“The attraction?” Asuka asked, getting up out of the futon and sitting on top. “First! Tell me honestly, girl to girl…Is Shinji gay?”
Rei was firm. “He is not like that,” she replied. “Did you feel that he is?”
“Well, no!” Asuka protested. “I mean, in Germany he was like a different person almost. Kind of a nice change of pace from his usual self, actually. Anyway, sometimes he just kept talking about this Kaworu guy. It just bothered me, that’s all.” She let out a big yawn. “Anyway, don’t go keeping me up at night with all of this talk. I need to get some shut eye, OK?” With that Asuka slipped back under the futon and went quiet, and the Rei rolled back to sleep.
A noise in the night woke Rei up some time later. Sleepily she rolled over to see what it was and noticed that the futon next to her was now empty, the door to the bedroom left slightly open. Rei wasn't alarmed at Asuka's disappearance as to her it wasn't difficult to determine where she was headed. She rolled over again and went back to sleep.
Go On to Chapter Six