To boost morale and to also serve a way to better unify the highly diverse staff at the new NERV, Commander Vinson had ordered that near the end of February there would be an officer's ball, which would serve as a formal dinner for NERV's senior staff and critical employees. In addition to the NERV officers the Evangelion pilots were also invited to participate.
“So, do you think this one is sexy enough?” Asuka asked Hikari as they were looking through the redhead's closet in her bedroom at the Girls' Suite. It was packed with outfits that somehow in her short time back at Tokyo-3 she had still managed to acquire. Asuka pulled out a red satin dress that was strapless, with a very short hemline.
Hikari looked at the dress. “Isn't it going to be cold wearing that?”
“Hey, if good skin is my best asset far be it for me to hide it,” said Asuka. “How about you? What are you going to wear?”
“I got something back on Osaka-2 last month,” said Hikari. “I bought it in case there was ever a fancy dinner with Toji's family.”
“Do they ever actually go out?”
“They haven't yet,” replied Hikari. “But you know, it looked good and Toji-liked it and all, and it was on discount.” At that moment Misato barged into the room. “Girls, I've got hair appointments made for all of us. They're bringing in people from Hakone over here so that should save some time.”
“This is such a big deal,” Hikari commented. “I never thought the Alliance would care so much about just a dinner.”
“This sort of thing is important,” Misato told her. “NERV right now is full of staff from so many different countries, some are from the old Tokyo-3 staff, and others are from the Japanese military. There needs to be some way to help people tie the ends together so we can work better as a team.”
“By putting on makeup, dressing up in expensive outfits and listening to long, boring speeches,” Mari quipped from outside the room.
“Something like that,” replied Misato with a grin. “It'll be fun, and I know the boys will love to see you all pretty. Anyway, you girls go out and get done up, I'll join you in a bit.”
“Where's the First?” Asuka asked. “It's time to work another miracle on her.”
“Maya's got her tonight,” answered the officer. “Too bad. I was looking forward to dressing her up again.”
The other girls quickly left, chatting away as they went out the front door and Misato was left alone in the Girls’ suite. Once she was by herself she quickly went to her own room and into the tiny private bathroom that was inside.
We've sort of let it go since Kaji's been back, she thought to herself. I'd better check myself just to be sure. Brushing by Penpen as he waddled out of her bathroom, she pulled open her bathroom mirror and ripped open a long-plastic package, revealing a pregnancy test. Misato pulled down her skirt and panties and then sat down on the small toilet and held the white plastic test in place while she fulfilled her biological needs.
She pulled up the test and saw the display. A single red line was shown on the open window, along with a tiny cartoon rabbit that gave a “thumbs down” sign. Misato blew a big sigh of relief.
Thanks. Can't be too careful these days.
She put down the test on the edge of the sink, pulled up her panties and skirt, and then casually looked at the test again. As she saw the display, a second red line slowly began to appear. The cartoon rabbit then changed his sign from “thumbs down” to “thumbs up.” Startled, Misato dropped the test in the sink in surprise.
Don't panic! Don't panic! These things fail, right? Just do another one and everything will be okay. She grabbed a second test and quickly drank a cup of water, thinking it would help her to pee better. She again went on the toilet and repeated the process with the new test. This time the rabbit quickly gave her the “thumbs up” symbol, winking as he did so.
Misato leaned against the door in anguish, biting into her fist as she considered what she just found out. She could only blame herself, she knew, although of course not entirely as it obviously took the participation of two humans to get this result. She took a deep breath as she registered the facts and then tried to work out what would happen next. I actually don't mind so much but not now, oh please not now...
Despite the lack of resources, NERV engineers had worked on remodeling what was formerly Commander Ikari's office, replacing the now destroyed obsidian floor with conventional tile and otherwise converting it into a makeshift ballroom. One major change that was made from the old commander's décor was that the interior lighting was substantially increased, giving the cavernous former office a much warmer feel than before.
At six-thirty that evening NERV’s newly christened ballroom began to slowly fill up as officers and other VIPs entered and made greetings and introductions with the others that they saw inside. An open bar was set to one side of the room and in front of it quickly formed a long line of people waiting for drinks as they engaged in casual conversation.
The re-organized NERV didn’t have time to issue dress uniforms, so personnel were encouraged to wear what they wanted provided it was formal. Many of the men wore dress uniforms from service in prior assignments, a few who were assigned to NERV before the Alliance takeover still had the previous dress uniform and wore them. Female staff for the most part wore dresses and gowns in lieu of a uniform.
Among the first to arrive, Captains Hyuga and Aoba stood in the middle of the ballroom each holding drinks as they greeted others who were coming in. Both had on the dark blue prior NERV formal uniform. They were soon found by Sir John Sheffield, who wore a bright red ornamented jacket and black slacks of British design along with a khaki beret. Upon seeing the junior officers Sheffield approached both of them, scotch in hand.
“Good evening, sir,” they replied in accented English.
Sheffield took a good look around as more people came into the room, some now getting placed at tables that were spread throughout. “Seems like a good turnout so far. Tell me, did the former Commander ever do anything like this?”
“No, sir,” Hyuga said to him. “Commander Ikari was never much for a social life.”
“Then let’s re-set the tone accordingly,” replied Sheffield who then took a big swig from his scotch. Both of the Japanese officers seemed a bit nervous at the general’s more relaxed behavior, something that didn’t go unnoticed by Sir John.
“A word of advice to both of you,” the general said to them. “Liven up a bit: that’s an order. If you’re going to be around Snake Eaters like the Admiral and myself you need to know when to relax and when to focus. The admiral may not be quite who you think he is.”
“Snake Eaters?” Aoba asked the general.
“We’re both from the Special Operations community,” Sheffield explained. “I was Special Air Service at first. As I’m sure you know Bill was with the US Navy SEALs. That side of the military’s not as formal as you see in conventional units, but our prowess speaks for itself.”
“We’ll try to adjust,” Hyuga said nervously. Before the conversation could continue they were joined by a young lady with black hair and a dark complexion wearing a lavender night gown. At first the two junior officers only saw the back of her head as she waived to someone at a distance, but then when she turned to them they saw a face that had its bottom half covered in ornamental black tattoos.
“Ah, Miss Wellington,” Sir John greeted Moria. “I’m afraid I haven’t seen you much lately. You look absolutely smashing tonight. You’re doing well?”
“Keeping a stiff upper lip, Sir John,” Moria said with a swagger. Like him she had a scotch in her hand and immediately chugged it down in front of everyone.
“That’s the spirit!” Sheffield said to her. “Who knows? You might just find a husband tonight!”
Wellington playfully pointed to her face. “With this mug? If they can get past that then they deserve me!”
“Truly spoken, Leftenant,” replied Sir John as he chinked glasses with the lieutenant.
“Ah, how are we all doing tonight?” The group turned around and saw Admiral Vinson walking towards the group. Vinson also wore the prior NERV officer’s dress, his uniform having flag rank symbols embroidered on the lapels. The two men noticed that Vinson’s attitude was not the hard-charging commander they had come to expect, but he also was more relaxed and friendly. In one hand he held a glass and in the other he had a bottle of aged American whiskey.
“Good evening, sir,” said the two Japanese officers, trying to keep their tone more casual.
“G’evening.” Vinson pointed at the converted ballroom. “Like our little remodel?”
“Definitely a change of pace, sir!” Hyuga replied.
“Let’s just say I have a little more taste than the previous occupant, but we won’t judge too harshly,” Vinson looked at Sheffield with a knowing glance. “I’m sure back then you guys had more on your minds then what was written on the flooring.”
Aoba decided being direct might be a better course of action tonight. “Perhaps sir, if we had read it more carefully we would have known better what we were getting into.”
Vinson nodded. “Don’t be hard on yourself, Captain. Ikari kept his cards close the vest. Just count yourself lucky we got dealt another hand.” Without being asked Vinson then poured the whiskey into Aoba’s glass. “By the way I heard you play in the recreation lounge the other day. Was that a Gibson guitar you had?”
The younger officer’s eyes brightened. “Yes, sir! It’s a Tak DC Custom! You know it?”
The Admiral took a swig at his glass. “Believe it or not when I was fourteen I had a sort of ‘rebel’ phase where I took all my savings and bought a second-hand Firebird. I played that freaking thing in the garage every night for a month until my old man took it and smashed it on my speakers.”
Shigeru Aoba winced, as he knew how much such a guitar cost. “Oh, no!”
“Oh, yes. He ordered me to cut my hair and get a life, so to speak. At that age it scared the crap out of me and two years later I had an appointment to the Academy. Everything mostly went up from there.”
“Begging the Admiral’s pardon,” Hyuga interjected, “but can I ask you a question?”
Vinson poured whiskey in Hyuga’s glass. “Shoot away, son.”
“Your spoken Japanese is better than any of the other Americans here, except perhaps for the Forrestal boy. Did you live in Japan before?”
Vinson grew a wider smile. “I did in fact.” He pointed directly downward. “Right here.”
“Before it was Tokyo-3,” the admiral corrected. “Twenty years ago this was Camp Fuji, the US Marines had it then. I did an eighteen-month stint as a trainer for Japanese special operations forces. The city wasn’t here then, it was just a few buildings and a bunch of training ranges.”
“Prior to that it was the Imperial Army Academy, wasn’t it?” Sheffield asked.
“Correct, set up by the Meiji Emperor. Before that it was some sort of Edo shrine. Someone knew this place was important,” Vinson mused. “Boy, if they only knew what the hell was down below.”
“As you said, sir,” replied Aoba in a more serious tone, “Someone knew it was important.” The little group was silent for a moment in reflection, all taking a drink in unison.
On the opposite side of the room the pilots had their own reserved table, and standing by it were Kensuke and Toji. Somehow Toji was put into a suit and tie and continually pulled at the collar.
“Can’t stand this thing,” he said as tried to loosen up. “Why the hell do we have to wear getups like this?”
“I don’t mind so much,” Kensuke said as he tucked at his bow tie. He was wearing a black tuxedo along with an oversized, multi-colored bow. “I just wished they had real dress uniforms for us instead of this monkey suit!”
“Hey, guys,” Forrestal-kun said to both of them as he arrived. Patrick wore a black suit with a bolo tie, and was wearing black cowboy boots that he had earlier managed to find in one of the nearby shops. His hair was combed neatly and gelled tonight, giving him an unusually clean appearance. Behind him was Shinji, who wore a khaki two-piece suit with tie. “They get started yet?”
“It’s still early,” Kensuke told them. “The girls haven’t even showed up.”
Patrick looked over at Shinji who seemed apprehensive about being there. “Dude, you okay?”
Shinji didn’t immediately reply but carefully looked over what used to be his father’s office. The memory of him standing in front of Commander Ikari’s desk wearing handcuffs after his attempt using the EVA to destroy Central Dogma after the incident with Unit 03 was still strong in his mind. “Yeah, it’s just the last time I was in this room it didn’t go very well.”
“Hello, Ikari-kun!” Shinji heard a voice and turned to his right. Standing in front of him was a young Japanese girl with black hair done in French curls, wearing a long yellow evening gown. Shinji thought the girl looked familiar. “Um, have we been introduced?”
“Shinji, it’s me!” He blinked for a second and then matched the voice. “Class Representative?”
It was Hikari, who wearing the gown with matching low heels and full makeup looked nothing like she normally did, as even her freckles were now covered by foundation. Patrick and Kensuke also did double-takes as Toji came right up to her. “Wow!” said Shinji. “You look good!”
“I’ll say!” Toji said as he arrived at her side. “You finally wore the gown!” Hikari nodded and then frowned as she saw Toji’s messed-up collar, sighing heavily. “Toji!” she scolded as she tried to fix the collar. “You can’t manage for a couple of hours?!”
“I hate this shit, you know that!”
Hikari poked hard at his chest. “Don’t embarrass yourself! It’ll be over before you know it.” She continued to work on his collar as Toji drew her closer and started to gently run his fingers down her arm. Getting wind of the coupling and not wanting to interfere, the other three boys moved aside to another part of the room.
As Shinji and Kensuke spoke to each other, Patrick heard a noise from behind and swiveled around. “Psst!” He looked and saw a silhouette of a girl at a far corner of the room, hiding behind a tall post. Without telling the others Patrick quickly walked over to the post to discover who it was.
“Hello, Pats!” Mari whispered to him. Patrick took a good look at Mari as she stood behind the post, giving her a long, playful wolf whistle. “Looking pretty good, Lusty!” he complimented.
Mari motioned to her own outfit. “You think this will do the trick?”
Patrick shrugged. “If not Prince Charming might show up instead, with you looking like that.”
“I’m sort of hoping they’re one and the same,” she told them. “Anyway, remember earlier I asked if you can sort of help out a bit.”
Patrick drew a breath, not really wanting to get involved but feeling obligated anyway. “Sure. What do you need?”
“When she comes just distract the Valkyrie, I’ll do the rest.”
“For how long?”
“Ten minutes ought to do it.” Patrick nodded in agreement.
“Oh, and by the way,” Mari told him, “I saw her by the elevators earlier. You’ve got a real treat coming tonight!”
Patrick knew what she meant. “Rei?”
Mari pointed across the room behind them. “There they come. Now remember what to do!”
He looked across the ballroom and saw the two of them enter through the front doors. Maya Ibiki, herself wearing a simple but elegant black cocktail dress along with black pumps and patterned stockings, led Rei as they moved towards the center and where Shinji and Kensuke had now positioned themselves. The two boys turned around as the ladies approached and from the distance Patrick saw that both were near-frozen as they saw their fellow pilot. He could completely understand why.
Just when I think it can’t get any better she does something like this. Patrick began to slowly make his way to the others.
“Ikari-kun,” Rei said as she stood there, her hands clasped in front of her in silent expectation as Shinji and Kensuke’s eyes both opened as wide as whirlpools.
“A-A-Ayanami!” Shinji just said to her, unable to say anything else.
“Woah! You look really cute, Ayanami-chan!” Kensuke exclaimed, quickly grabbing a small camera and shooting a picture of her. Rei was wearing a midnight blue party dress that Maya had picked out for her that was elegant while being flirty. The dress had shoulder straps but also blue mesh fabric that covered the arms and décolletage, with an embroidered bodice and a high collar that was also embroidered in blue lace. It fit her figure well, with a small waistline and the hem of the skirt ending just above her knees. The look was completed with polished black low-heeled, open-toe pumps and lavender hose that accentuated her shapely legs. On her face she wore light makeup including red lipstick and lavender eye shadow.
“It’s not too much, is it?” Rei asked Shinji.
“No,” he told her with complete honestly. “Just perfect.”
“You look very good, too.” She told him, her eyes brightening a little.
Shinji felt embarrassed at the compliment. “Uh, thanks!” he said. “I never really get used to wearing stuff like this.”
“Rei-chan?” Maya asked her. “Are you okay?”
“I’ll be fine, thank you. I’ll return the clothes to you tomorrow.”
“No need,” the officer said with a smile as she saw the reactions of the two boys. “They’re yours. I’ll see you later, take care!” Before Rei could protest Maya then hurried off to see others that she knew in the ballroom. Rei turned around to face the two boys again and found someone else standing in front of her.
“Forri-kun!” she said, somewhat startled by Patrick’s sudden appearance.
Patrick didn’t say anything but just took a deep breath. His wide smile and the expression of his face told her all she really needed to know. “Does it look all right?” she asked him, blushing a bit more.
“You look a lot more than all right,” he said, stepping right up to her. Rei smiled and nodded. Patrick looked right into her deep red eyes. “I’m almost afraid to even touch you!”
“Forri!” Rei said in dismay. “I won’t break apart!”
“Of course,” he said with a wink. Patrick gently took her hand and brought it to his lips, kissing it like he would a princess’.
“Damn,” Kensuke whispered to Shinji, “American boys are such insufferable romantics!”
As Patrick was playing prince to Rei’s princess out of the corner of his eye he saw both Asuka and Misato enter through the front door. Misato wore a black dress with red and white sashing while Asuka wore a Chinese-style QiPao, her dress designed like the others but colored in bright red. Auska’s hair was still worn long with red A10s holding it back.
Time to pay off the favor. “Oh, there’s someone we need to see!” he suddenly exclaimed, taking Rei’s hand he quickly dragged the both of them towards the door. “Later, Shinji!” he said as they hurried off. Rei looked at Shinji worriedly as Patrick dragged her towards Asuka and Misato.
Shinji just waved bye, surprised by the sudden interruption. He turned around to go back to the pilot table when he noticed someone else in his way.
“Well hello, Puppy-kun!”
The boy took a long look at the tall girl as she presented herself in front of him. Gone were Mari’s glasses and her twin-tail braids, as her hair now flowed behind her in loose, luxurious curls. She wore a strapless cocktail dress with a metallic bronze appearance, a large blue bow tied in front. Her long legs were covered in stockings decorated with tiny holographic patterns that actually moved and changed color, and she wore transparent glass slippers with high heels. A bronze wrap covered her shoulders, accentuating the look.
Shinji gasped in shock. “Lusty-chan!”
“So,” she said to him, casually peering behind Shinji first to see where both Asuka and Patrick were located, “you look quite handsome tonight!”
“Uh, thanks!” Shinji said, still with his eyes fixated at Mari’s legs.
“You don’t go to these sort of things often, do you?”
“I don’t think I’ve ever been to anything this formal before,” he said to her, finally looking up at her face. “Everyone really looks good tonight!”
Mari smiled. “One does try to look their best for this sort of thing. I’m honestly not much for parties myself but one of things about being British is that you have to keep up with society. I’m a bit surprised that you don’t do this more often yourself, good looking as you are!”
Shinji could feel the blush begin on his face. “Well, I….”
The tall girl turned to Kensuke, who had been completely ignored in the exchange between her and Shinji. “General Aida,” she said to him sweetly, “could you be a dear and go get me a punch?”
Kensuke was dreamily staring at Mari in all her gorgeousness, unable to comprehend what she had just said to him.
“General?” she gently prodded him.
The shorter boy shook out of the dream. “Oh, what?”
“Could I get a punch, please?”
“Oh! Of course!! Right on it!” In the haste to curry favor with Mari, Kensuke quickly ran over to the bar on the edge of the increasingly crowded ballroom.
“Splendid!” she said as Kensuke ran off, and then turned her attention back to Shinji, her smile widening and her blue eyes twinkling as she spoke to him. “Now we’re alone!”
Patrick dragged Rei all across the ballroom and to the front door where he saw Asuka and Misato standing together and talking. Rei was taken aback by Patrick’s suddenly brisk behavior, as to her this was not like his personality at all. “Forri-kun, what is going on?”
“I’ll explain it all later,” he said to her, “just please follow along. Hi, Asuka! Hi, Misato!” he called out as they nearly reached the door.
“Where the heck is baka? I told him to meet me by the door,” Asuka told Misato.
“Oh, he’s probably roped into something,” the older girl replied. Just then Patrick and Rei arrived right in front of them.
“Hi, guys!” Patrick said, winded by the rush to get to the door. Rei was also catching her breath.
“Hello, you two,” Misato said. “Rei! You look absolutely lovely! Did Maya give you that dress?”
“Well it looks darling on you. Don’t you think so too, Asuka?” The redhead gave Rei a cold glare. “It would have looked good thirty years ago,” she said snidely.
“Well both of you guys look really good too!” Patrick said somewhat nervously. “Asuka, that’s a really cute dress!”
What’s with this idiot? He’s never said anything like this to me before, Asuka noted mentally. “Sure, it's just like everyone else's, except I make it a lot better.”
Misato quickly interrupted. “I need to make some arrangements for our table, so I’ll catch up with you all later,” she said and then quickly left into the crowd.
“I was wondering,” Patrick asked her, again trying to make conversation out of thin air, “maybe you could take Rei shopping with you sometime. You know, get her something else that would look good on her.”
Asuka narrowed her glance at the two of them as Rei stood there bewildered. “Sorry, Tried that once already. She’s damn near impossible to please!” As Patrick continued on the topic Asuka leaned up on her high heels and saw Shinji in the center of the ballroom. He was standing alone with Mari, speaking to her as she began to flirt with him by playing with his necktie. Oh, no! She’s moving in on him already!
The redhead sought to break free from the ambush. “Excuse me, I have to…” Before Asuka could break off, Patrick quickly sidestepped in her path, Rei still in tow.
“Actually,” he told her, “there’s something else I need to talk to you tonight about. I really want to try and be a better pilot and I figured you’re the expert, so I just ask you: what’s your secret?”
WTF?? “My secret?!”
Go on to Chapter Twenty-Six