That afternoon Rei again went down to Terminal Dogma, where she had intermittently spent the last month being scanned by Dr. Foch. Today was to be only a brief session, as the old scientist was only filling in any data that showed anomalies in previous scans. After an hour of the process she came out of the scan tube, taking a bathrobe that Foch had laid out for her and tying it around her wet, naked body.
She was about to leave the room until Foch motioned for her to sit down at a table instead. Rei did as she was instructed and the doctor poured two cups of tea for the both of them. She immediately drank the tea, tasting it carefully first as had become her habit.
“Do you like it,” Foch asked her.
“It’s Darjeeling,” she replied. The scientist’s eyebrows went up in acknowledgment. “Very good, you know it. It’s a rare tea now, as it used to be grown in India until Second Impact.”
“This is synthetic,” Rei commented further.
“Also correct. Have you had real Darjeeling tea?”
“The commander served it occasionally,” said Rei.
“So you can differentiate between both versions, then?”
“Correct,” she replied, sipping her tea further.
For the next minute as Rei drank the tea, Foch stared quietly at her. Unsure of what else she should say or do, she eventually finished the tea and gently placed it back on the tea cup. After she did so Foch took out a small envelope and pulled out a photograph. He slid it towards her on the table.
“Look at that photograph,” he instructed, “and tell me what you see.”
Rei studied the photograph. After a moment she placed it on the table, face up.
“Who is in that photo?” Foch asked her. She answered back without expression. “It is Ikari-kun's mother.”
“That,” the doctor motioned to the photo on the table, “was difficult to find. The schools Miss Ikari attended no longer exist, as they were destroyed in old Tokyo during the war. Fortunately she was in the newspaper once after winning a science contest as a middle school student, and there was still a record of it.” Foch looked sternly at her. “What else do you see when you see that photograph?”
If Rei was uncomfortable she didn't show it. She studied the photo further, the girl in the picture was holding a medal, indicating a victory in a local science fair. Wearing a blue and white school uniform, Yui Ikari had the same face as Rei, but with darker eyes and hair, and a relaxed, wide smile that didn’t seem like Rei’s own smile. “Nothing else,” Rei told him, placing the photo back on the table.
“You don't feel like that’s you looking at yourself?”
“I am not her,” she replied. “My body may come from hers but she is not myself. I am me.”
“But you do have to admit that it might cause confusion for you at times, does it not?”
Rei was silent for a while as she considered where Foch was directing the conversation, and she didn’t at all like the feeling she had at the moment. “Yes.”
“In what way?”
“I am not sure,” she replied, “but there are times when I feel that there is a path I can follow that leads to her.”
The doctor pried further. “You can identify with her then.”
“I can accept the part of me that was once part of her. I can accept that my connection to Ikari-kun is because of his connection to her. But what that part is and what that connection actually is I still do not know.”
“Do you feel like that is destiny for you?”
She found herself startled at the question and realized that she was actually trembling a little, such was the directness of it. “I am at conflict with it,” Rei finally said. “I am always at conflict with it.”
Foch folded his hands in front of himself, in way that reminded Rei of the former commander. “I can scan your body all day long,” he told her, “and study every atom in you but that still won’t tell me what you’re thinking. I find it intriguing that you see such a conflict within yourself, which would indicate that there’s a large part of you that would like to just be Yui Ikari again which, being a clone, would be logical.”
Rei’s reply came with just the slightest tone of determination. “I am myself,” she said, “and I am myself because I decide to be myself, and not be decided by someone else.”
The old doctor tried to pry just a little bit further. “Was it that someone tried to define you as something other than yourself?” he queried.
“I was meant to be a placeholder for someone else,” Rei said stoically, “but my identity is my own. That was the choice I made.”
He took a sip from his teacup. “Then far be it from me to interfere with that. I apologize for my abruptness. Sometimes as a scientist we push our way to answers we don’t always expect, in our quest for knowledge. If I pry a little into the workings of your mind, that is my reason why. I hope that it wasn’t too unsettling for you, mademoiselle.”
“No,” Rei said, feeling relieved.
Foch’s mouth smiled behind his bushy moustache. “Then I’m honored that you are so direct with me,” he told her. Standing up from the table, he then said. “I give you a choice, Miss Rei. I am complete with my task for the moment, you need not come down here again if you so wish it. But if having your own identity is what’s most important to you and it seems that it is, then you must want to know more about yourself, yes? I don’t possibly think that someone with such an observant and keen mind as yourself doesn’t have questions about who or what you are. True?”
Rei didn’t answer back but nodded instead. Her expression was emotionless, or at least it appeared to be that way to Foch.
“I can give you that chance to discover yourself, to find out what the parts are that make up the one known as Rei Ayanami. Work with me to fully understand yourself, body, mind, and soul, and I promise you I that I will share everything I find with you. You’ll have knowing, hopefully understanding, and perhaps can even find a purpose in this examination for yourself.”
“What do you receive in return?” Rei asked Foch. He removed his round glassed and looked straight at her, saying with the utmost seriousness. “I want to know how a young girl can become a god.”
After rinsing off and putting on her uniform again, Rei travelled back up to the main operations deck in the GeoFront. Patrick had promised to meet here close to the command center so they could have a quick meal in between other training and operations-related appointments. It was only for thirty minutes, but the two of them had learned since they started dating to make the most of whatever time they had together.
Meeting Rei at the top of the elevator shaft was a security guard that Kaji had assigned to her, a Japanese woman in her twenties. Rei paid her no attention and simply started walking down the hallway towards Central Dogma, with the guard in tow.
As they walked down the hallway they passed the commander’s former office, which was now taped off. The floor inside had been ripped open and Admiral Vinson had since moved to a new, temporary office closer to Central Dogma. Standing in front of the doorway as they passed by was a short Caucasian woman, perhaps about forty years of age with black hair and eyes, wearing a denim jacket and skirt, and who definitely looked like she didn’t work at NERV.
“Um,” she asked the two of them in English as they passed by, “is this the commander’s office?” The security guard tried to answer the woman’s question first, but her spoken English was actually somewhat limited and in the next minutes engaged in a very confusing conversation as Rei stood by and listened as the foreign woman spoke in an accent that was not familiar to her. As she watched, Rei also noticed the visitor’s badge attached to the woman’s jacket.
Unable to understand what the woman was asking for, the security guard thought to pick up her communicator. Rei then stepped forward herself to the unknown woman. The guard at first tried to waive her off, but Rei simply brushed off her warnings and spoke to her in better English.
“The commander has a new office that is a hundred and twelve meters from here,” Rei explained.
“Oh, you speak English,” the woman answered. “Thank you, young lady. Can you tell me how to get there?”
“Walk down accessway 34B and then make two right turns. There will be two guards in front. ”
“Thank you very much, senorita,” the woman replied. “Are you Japanese?”
Rei hesitated for just a moment. “Officially, yes.”
“Oh,” she said, “well, it’s just that your hair is so unusual. How do you get it that way?”
As she was about to answer, Rei heard footsteps behind them and turned around to see Patrick Forrestal quickly walking behind them. “Hi, there!” he exclaimed as he reached out to Rei. As Patrick stopped to see who else was there he took a glance at the woman and stopped in his tracks. The foreign woman also saw Patrick in recognition, gasping silently. Both of their expressions became much more serious.
“Hello, Mrs. Vinson,” Patrick said to the woman.
“Hello, Patrick,” she replied back. Unsure of how to handle the situation, neither of them offered a hand to the other. The boy turned to Rei. “This is the commander’s wife,” he explained, and then after a moment “and Vance’s mother. Mrs. Vinson,” Patrick said to the woman as he gently held Rei by the shoulder, “this is Rei Ayanami. She’s one of us.”
Mrs. Vinson took a long look at Rei, who didn’t say anything in return. Swallowing hard, she asked Patrick “Was this the girl who Vance…almost…” unable to help herself, the woman touched Rei’s cheek. Still saying nothing, Rei looked pensive as the woman gently ran her fingers down the side of Rei’s face. “So beautiful,” she said to her softly, “to think that my Vance almost….killed…” her voice tapered off.
“Mrs. Vinson, you should know that…” Patrick started to say but the woman quickly turned away. “I’m sorry,” she said to him. “I must go.” Turning around, she quickly made her way down the hallway in the direction that Rei had pointed to her earlier. The two of them and the security guard watched her march down the hallway and out of sight.
“I’m sorry about that,” Patrick told Rei.
“No need to apologize,” she said. “You had met her before?”
“No. I saw her in Australia before the big raid on this place,” he explained, “but I hadn’t actually met her until today.” Looking down the hallway where the Vance’s mother had just hurried down he said “I guess that wound is still fresh.”
“Parents shouldn’t survive their children,” Rei replied quietly. “That wound will never heal.”
The commander’s new office was perhaps fifteen minutes from the old one, and was largely a mess of desks, records and video monitors that staff officers had hastily put together. Standing above one of the desks was Admiral Vinson, now also wearing the new NERV uniform, and speaking to several others including Misato Katsuragi. As they were going over operational matters on the EVA’s next deployment, Mrs. Vinson was seen standing in the doorway. It only took a moment for the admiral to turn around and see her there.
“Maria!” he said. “You found your way around okay?” She calmed herself down somewhat as she slowly walked towards him. “I had some help getting here. They sent me to your old office first.”
“Sorry about that,” the commander told her, “the new staff is still getting adjusted to things.” To the staff around him he ordered, “Let’s adjourn until 1400 hours.” Released from the meeting the other officers started to leave while Vinson motioned to Misato. “Please stay for a bit, colonel,” he asked. “I’d like you to meet my wife.”
“Oh,” Misato said as Mrs. Vinson stood close by to Admiral Vinson. The height difference between the two of them was at least 25 centimeters. “Pleased to meet you,” she said in accented English.
Maria Vinson greeted Misato and then turned to her husband. “I bumped into the Forrestal boy just before getting here,” she told him. The admiral’s eyebrows arched as he heard that. “I see. Anyway, Colonel Katsuragi is in charge of pilot operations here,” he explained. “All of the pilots are her responsibility.”
“Mrs. Vinson,” Misato started, speaking solemnly. “I just want you to know how sorry I am regarding your son.” The woman nodded quietly. “Thank you,” she replied.
“Please just know that the situation was very difficult on all sides,” Misato told her, “and I wish very much things didn’t turn out the way that they did.”
Ignoring the issue, Mrs. Vinson asked Misato “Is it true that none of the other pilots have a mother?” The officer was reluctant to respond but the admiral then told her, “since what happened to my son I’ve informed my wife much of what we know about EVA. Please don’t worry, she’s very trustworthy.”
“It’s true,” Misato told her, not entirely sure of how far she should go to explain further.
“That must be very difficult for all of them,” Maria said. “Doing what they do seems next to impossible already, but I can’t imagine how they can go on like that without a family to support them.”
“Each pilot comes from a different background and home situation,” Misato tried to explain. “Part of the challenge of working with them is to create an environment that is supportive of them as possible, while still trying to build them into a team that can work together. Given their very unique personalities it can get difficult at times.”
“Children shouldn’t have to do this sort of thing,” the woman told her.
“I fully agree,” the colonel replied. “Admiral, I’ll have the deployment plan for Units 04 and 05 ready by 1800 hours,” Misato said to Commander Vinson.
“What about the new pilot recruits?” the Commander asked.
“I’ll be meeting with both of them later tonight.”
Vinson nodded. “Tread carefully with them, colonel. I don’t envy you having to do this.”
Before leaving the room Misato asked Maria “Mrs. Vinson, will you be staying here with us from now on then?”
“No,” Mrs. Vinson replied, “I’m just visiting.”
“Then please take care. Thank you,” she said and left the room.
After everyone else was gone and the door closed, Maria collapsed into Vinson’s strong arms as he held her close to him. “I’m sorry,” she told him, “you must think me weak.”
“Not at all,” the commander said.
“I saw the girl,” she continued. “The one called the First Child.”
Vinson sighed. “I had hoped you hadn’t just run into them like that.”
“It’s okay,” Maria told him, burying her head in his chest. “I’m glad I did. After meeting her I could see why things happened the way they did.”
“Things happened that way because we were lied to,” Vinson gently corrected, caressing Maria’s black hair as he spoke. “Now I’m after the ones that are behind everything. And I won’t stop until they’re gone.” The commander looked down at his wife. “Are you sure you won’t stay here?” he asked her. “It’s beautiful here, especially by the lake.”
“No,” she said, “I think that might be too much. Besides, I’ve known you long enough not to get in your way when you’re like this. I just want to go back home, to Maine, to the house on the lake.”
“I know it,” Vinson said. “Johnny’s really busy but he has been working on getting things secure stateside. Just bear with it a few more weeks, all right?” His wife nodded, and placed her head back on his chest. “Does Patrick know about his sister,” she asked him.
“I haven’t told him yet,” the admiral replied, tightening his grip on her. “But maybe now would be a good time.”
In the pilot lounge Toji sat at one of the tables as Hikari reached into a box with a toothpick and brought out one of the takoyaki balls that were inside. She showed it to him. “What do you think?” she asked with an expectant smile.
“Hmm,” Toji pondered, “it looks like the same, but did you use the seaweed powder this time?”
“I did,” she said, “this batch should be perfect.” Toji opened up his mouth and Hikari gently took the takoyaki ball and popped it inside. He chewed it for a moment and said, “the dough’s slightly off…”
“Oh, Toji!” Hikari scolded, “I brought these from home this morning! Don’t expect it to be fresh off the griddle!”
“Alright! Alright!” he defended, “it’s just fine. Really, you got the sauce down and the octopus is nice and chewy.”
“Better be,” she pouted slightly. Her mood recovered when Toji motioned for another ball, which she again happily popped in his mouth. He chewed and ate it and smiled wide, and Hikari answered with a big smile of her own, and dabbed his mouth with a napkin. She was about to kiss him when they were interrupted by the voice of Asuka, who along with Shinji had just entered the lounge.
“Oh for crying out loud,” she said, “don’t tell me he’s got you feeding him by mouth now!” Hikari and Toji both blushed in embarrassment. “I…I was just testing the takoyaki she cooked,” Toji protested, his arms folding as he tried to look serious.
“Well, it beats the food we have here,” Shinji commented. As he spoke Mari came in from behind them through the lounge doors. “Hello, everyone!” she said cheerfully. The others greeted her as all of them sat down at the table while Hikari opened up another box of takoyaki. The rest of the children promptly fed on the goodies in the box as well as snacks and drinks that were already on the table.
“Did Pats come by here already?” Mari asked.
“The lovebirds won’t be coming,” Asuka replied. “I saw them both headed towards the elevators.”
Mari stabbed a takoyaki and popped it in her mouth. “Well, I won’t bother them. It’s just we have a deployment scheduled and I wanted to get in one more training session with the two of us.”
“Hmm. You think Ayanami-chan actually kisses him?” Toji pondered. Hikari sharply elbowed him in the ribs, forcing him to cough up a ball. “That’s a question for another time,” she said smugly as he tried to recover himself.
“Where’s Kensuke?” asked Shinji, “he was supposed to meet us here.”
“You know what probably happened,” chided Asuka. “They probably caught him with that camera and hung him out by the lake.”
Toji finally coughed everything out and took a deep swig of tea. “The colonel took him from here about a half an hour ago,” he said to the group. “He’s probably trying to get the pilot job again.”
“But you said that Misato took him,” remarked Mari. “You don’t think she’s actually considering him for one of the new EVAs, do you?” Asuka scowled at Mari when she heard that. “Oh, God! Please ANYONE but him!” Just as the group was about to get into further discussion Misato entered the lounge. “Hello, everyone,” she greeted the group.
Toji asked about the important subjects. “Are we getting dinner soon?”
Misato’s expression was quite serious and not playful as she sometimes was. “Dinner will come later, Toji. Hikari?”
The girl raised her head, “Yes, Colonel?”
“May I see you for a few minutes?” Misato asked. “There’s something I’d like to discuss with you.”
“Uh, sure!” Hikari carefully put away her settings and then went out the door with Misato, leaving the rest of the group to speculate why she had been called out. It didn’t take them long at all to come up with the reason.
“They wouldn’t be thinking of her for a pilot too, would they?” Toji asked Shinji. The boy and Asuka looked at each other and mentally agreed on the same thought. “At this point,” Asuka replied, “anything is possible.”
“I wouldn’t mind if it was her,” Mari seconded, “she’d be pretty good, I think.”
The thought of Hikari possibly being an Evangelion pilot was enough to concern Toji deeply. “Please, not her,” he said as he felt his leg twitch.
Into the room then bounded Kensuke. He was wearing a broad smile on his face. Toji looked up at him. “What the hell’s with you?”
Kensuke Aida happily replied “It’s not official yet so I can’t say anything but…YES! YES! YES!” He pumped his fists in the air as he did a strange happy dance in front of the others.
Auska stood out of her chair, infuriated. “No, no, NO!!” she shouted in return. “It was bad enough when he got picked,” she motioned to Toji, “but not you!” She pointed directly at Kensuke. “A letch such as you is undeserving of membership in the Grand Fraternity of Evangelion Pilots!”
Kensuke put his hands on his hips in a proud manner. “Apparently the colonel disagrees,” he told her. “She asked me first if I wanted to volunteer.” Asuka gasped. “She didn’t! Are we so desperate for talent that we have to stoop this low to find it?”
The other pilots looked at each other in surprise. Shinji, knowing better than anyone what it meant to pilot EVA, asked Kensuke. “What did Misato-san tell you about EVA, exactly?”
Aida’s good mood deflated once Shinji asked him the question. “Oh, that part” he said with a twinge of sadness in his voice. “I kind of get all of that. I guess it’s okay,” he told all of them. “It’s worth it.”
Toji was more surprised than the others, who all seemed to have some secret knowledge that he didn’t. “What is? What are they talking about?”
“Dude,” Kensuke said to him in a more serious tone. “EVA’s really fucked up.”
“Tell me something I don’t know already!”
“More than you know.”
The other boy was now getting a bit irritated. “Such as?”
“Hey, Toji?” Kensuke asked, “Do you remember what I told you about Class 2-A? Why it was different?” Toji strained his memory: “Remind me.”
“Why did only fathers and guardians show up on Parent’s Day?” asked the newest pilot. “Why is everyone’s mom…gone?”
“Oh, not the no mother thing! You can’t be serious about that, can you?” Toji looked around, expecting support from the others in the room. Instead, however, were just pensive and serious looks from Asuka, Shinji, and even from the normally jovial Mari. “What the hell’s that got to do with the EVA? You think too much, all of that military stuff in your head. Isn’t that right, Shinji?” Shinji however gave Toji a very serious glance, and Toji noticed that Shinji’s hands were silently clenching into fists. Seeing the reactions from the other pilots Toji was left to consider what exactly Kensuke’s clues meant, and at first he tried to laugh it off. “Dude, you’re scaring me here!”
“You should be,” Asuka replied to him with an unusually quiet and direct tone. “You got off lucky as far as we're concerned.” The boy though to scoff at her statement but the memory of his own experience held him back. Toji Suzahara had not been an Evangelion pilot for very long: after only a very brief orientation he was inserted into the American-made Unit 03 and then at the moment of sync he had blacked out. When he had awoken in a hospital bed days later his leg was gone and he had no memory of the incident, only being told the story later than an Angel had processed his unit and then launched an attack on Tokyo-3. In the weeks that followed and he recovered, there was something that just bothered him about the entire experience with the EVA, however short that was, and Kensuke's statement had brought that up to the forefront of his mind again. There was something elusive about the EVA, he realized, something familiar.
It took another long moment of silence for him to realize what is was, and after getting it Toji just exclaimed “Holy Fuck!”
Before they could continue further the sound of screaming came from the hallway outside the lounge. Toji knew the voice. “Hikari?” He quickly pulled himself out of the chair and moved as fast as he could towards the double doors. Going through he saw Hikari running out of Misato's office down and down the hallway. “No, no!” she cried as she ran blindly towards the other end of the hall. Standing in the doorway of her own office Misato looked after Hikari with regret in her eyes, sighing deeply.
“Hikari-chan!” Toji called out to her and before he could rush towards her both Asuka and Mari bolted out of the lounge. “Stay here. We'll take care of it, idiot,” said Asuka as she rushed to catch up with Hikari. Mari also ran after Hikari but was stopped by Miasto.
“I've never really gotten a chance to talk to you about everything,” Misato told her. “I wasn't sure how much you knew.”
Mari bit her lower lip in discomfort. “Let's just say it worked out on my own,” she replied cautiously.
“If you ever need to talk to someone...” offered Misato.
The tall girl shrugged it off. “Maybe one day,” she said, and then she turned to run down the hallway to catch up with the distraught Hikari. Misato watched her run down and out of sight, and then leaned against her office door in relief, blowing out a deep breath. A moment later footsteps were heard moving slowly down the hallway as Kaji appeared from around a corner.
“How did it go?” he asked her.
Misato shook her head. “About what I expected. One of them jumped at the chance, the other couldn't bear to hear what I had to say.” She closed her eyes in discomfort. “I swore if I could help it there'd never been another child having to pilot EVA, but now here I am recruiting them myself.”
“A necessary evil,” Kaji commented. “But if duty requires it, it's certainly better for them to know everything up front. True?”
“That doesn't make it any less terrifying,” she replied, looking down the hallway. “We can't force them, but if they're going to take on this it's better if they know as much as they can in the beginning. I don't want them to be lost souls like the others were.”
Go on to Chapter Nineteen