Within an hour after Omega's alert aircraft bearing Evangelion Units 04 and 05 lifted off from Tokyo-3 and raced towards Alaska to intercept the incoming Harpy attack. The flight itself took several hours, during which Patrick just remained inside the entry plug and tried to let his mind go of everything that happened at the party. After seeing Rei wearing the blue dress he had really wanted it to be a special night with her and felt he had only himself to blame for it being ruined.
Once over the intended target the extra-large C-5 transport carrying Unit 04 flew low and dropped her overland, close to the Alliance's base on the Alaskan mainland. Mari, who's EVA-05 was equipped with the Evangelion Reconnaissance System, was flown at 30,000 feet above the ground and then launched airborne as they reached the target area.
The Recon system was an experimental set of equipment consisting of wings and four giant jet engines designed to keep an Evangelion airborne (i.e. flying) while operating. Only intended to keep an EVA flying for a few minutes at a time, the system was constructed by NERV’s European branch but never actually used in operations with the Angels. The Alliance had managed to find the prototype and brought it to Tokyo-3 and had now equipped EVA-05 with it much to Mari’s excited glee.
As Unit 05 detached from its carrier aircraft, from the ground Patrick watched on his tactical display as Mari began to hunt for the intruders.
“Unit 05, any sign on visual?” Misato called out on the speakers.
“Negative,” Mari replied.
“Keep on it. Your operational time is limited in Recon.”
“I’ll make the best of it,” quipped the pilot.
Patrick also watched his own display for any visual sign of the two Harpies that were supposed to arrive. The plan was that once they were found Mari would attack them while still connected to their airborne carriers, shooting them down before they could launch. Once on the ground Patrick would then overrun whatever was left and finish it off.
“Got them on visual!” Mari suddenly called out. On Patrick’s tactical display a pair of targets suddenly appeared high above his own EVA was standing.
“Attack! Now!” ordered Misato.
Mari put the Recon’s engines into full power and came diving down on two gray bat-wing aircraft that she saw in front of her. A lance in her EVA’s right arm, she called out a battle cry as she came upon the two enemy aircraft by surprise in the dawn light. Before either of the two bombers could react EVA-05 hit one of them dead-center with the lance, breaking up the bomber into pieces and sending its cargo, the attached Mass-Production EVA slug under its belly, pummeling towards the earth. The second bomber veered out of its way and quickly ejected the white EVA it was carrying.
“One target downward,” shouted Mari, “one to go.”
Inside EVA-04 Patrick watched the display and saw a target rectal form over the falling Harpy. He could see that had sprouted its wings and was trying to get control over its flight. Equipped with a high-powered rail gun, Patrick quickly placed his aim-point on the rectal and watched as the color of the circular rectal change from blue to red. “Fire!” he shouted, commanding the EVA to attack the enemy and a half-second later he could feel the recoil from the giant cannon mounted on the EVA's right arm. A giant flash appeared where the Harpy was and a moment later it dove to the ground below.
High above him Mari swung EVA-05 around and faced the second Harpy. It had flown clear of its carrier bomber and spread its wings fully, bearing a sword in its hands. The Harpy gnashed its giant teeth as flapped its wings, spittle oozing out from the edges of its oversized mouth.
Mari charged EVA-05 at full speed towards the Harpy, charging up the power lance in her EVA's right arm. She throttled the engines at full power and flew straight towards the white giant, her lance's aim centered at the Harpy's chest. Just as she reached it the Harpy pushed back with its wings and swung its sword down on the lance, cutting it in half. It then swung at Unit 05 and just narrowly missed slicing off her leg.
“Playing rough, are we?” Mari chided as she swung Unit 05 back around for another attack.
“Unit 05,” Misato called on the speakers, “it's got a limited battery life, don't push the engagement if you don't have a clear shot at it!”
Mari ignored the colonel. “I'll get him this time!” she said in return and then throttled the engines again.
On the ground Patrick had reached where the first Harpy had fallen. Lying on its back in twenty-meter deep recession in the snow, the white monster had spread out its arms wide bizarrely looking like it was making snow angels in the white powder. Patrick didn't waste any time and quickly pulled out the lance strapped to EVA-04's back, then swung it in front of him and bounded on the Harpy's stomach. The Harpy spit out fluid and blood as it tried to regenerate but Patrick quickly stabbed it in the chest several times, enough to penetrated deep through its rib cage and all the way to the entry plug. After a few plunges he was rewarded with a geyser of LCL.
Not wanting to stick around, Patrick searched the skies and saw the airborne battle far above, as the green Unit 05 and the white Harpy continued to parry overhead. He lifted the EVA's rail gun and tried to focus on the target rectal, hoping to get a clear shot at the Harpy when suddenly a stream of images filled his brain. He started to feel chills all over his body and he could feel his emotions suddenly boiling.
Not again, he thought as he saw the images. He saw an elevator, there were people and things around him, an underground base, giants that looked like other Evangelions, and then a giant sign of...
Patrick closed his eyes and concentrated Not this time, gotta push it all back!
“EVA-04,” Misato called out, “are you alright?”
The boy tried to focus and into the center of his mind a young girl appeared. Her hair short, her figure petite, her face beautiful as an angel's. Her dazzling red eyes stared at him in determination. Yes, that's what I'm really fighting for! “EVA-04 ready!” Patrick shouted into the speaker.
“Use the railgun and shoot that thing down,” Misato ordered. “EVA-05, back off and let him have a clear shot!”
Mari tried to maneuver Unit 05 out of the way of the Harpy but found that it was now flying above her, a position that did not put her to any advantage. She quickly banked left and tried to climb above it, but found that the Harpy was just a bit quicker, its powerful wings able to maneuver it directly in front of her. As she tried to evade the Harpy's sword came swinging down hard and metal shattered all around them.
“Mari!” Patrick shouted as he watched the melee.
“Unit 05, respond!” Misato called out. A moment later Mari's voice came on. “Wing's gone,” she said, “I'm losing altitude!”
“Try to get over to that glacier to the north,” Misato instructed, then to Patrick she shouted “EVA-04, do you have a clear shot?”
Patrick put the rectal in the red as he heard Misato on the speakers. “Got it.” he said and triggered the rail gun. A bold of energy ripped towards the skies and caught the Harpy on its outstretched ring. Falling and screaming as it went down, Patrick took a second shot and put it into the Harpy's abdomen. It plunged and landed a kilometer in front of him, a wave of snow splashing all around it. In another minute Patrick bounded EVA-04 through the snow-covered ground and with all of his mental energy ordered the EVA to toss her spear at the Harpy as it tried to get up off the ground. He watched as a plumb of LCL splashed out of it's chest. The white monster wriggled with its remaining energy and then went limp.
“I'm still falling!” Mari called out as her EVA now dove towards the ground, her voice showing strong emotion.
Kaji's voice came on the speakers. “Ditch the Recon equipment,” he ordered, “then full power to your AT field!”
“Acknowledged.” The leftover portion of wings and engines of the recon kit was ejected from the green EVA and Mari spread out the EVA's arms, concentrating its AT field in front of it as it fell to the Earth. A minute later it hit the glacier. From the distance he was standing at Patrick could see the steam and ice explode as EVA-05 hit going several hundred miles an hour.
Ouch, that's got to hurt. Patrick ran Unit 04 to the glacier at full speed, running until they reached the spot. Up on the top of the glacier he could see where the ice had melted a rough humanoid shape cut into the icy glacier. “Mari, Mari!” Patrick called to her. “Are you okay?” There was an anxious minute of silence before he heard anything.
“They really should equip this Recon thing with parachutes before they send you out there,” Mari quipped in good spirits. Patrick breathed a heavy sigh of relief.
“You always wanted to find how to skydive without a 'chute,” he replied to her. “Now was your chance.” He climbed Unit 04 to the top of the glacier and looked down at the EVA-shaped hole at the top. He could see the green Unit 04 deep at the bottom of it, still looking intact.
“Holy shit, Mari! How fast were you going when you hit this?”
“Did I make a mark?”
“I'll say, you can see a cutout in this thing for miles.”
“A monument to my efforts,” Mari smirked. “Now go and get me out of this icebox!”
Patrick was about to move EVA-04 off the glacier when thoughts bubbled up in his mind again: memories playing in fast forward. He closed his eyes and tried to concentrate this time, focusing on what the images were showing him. On the speakers Misato's voice came on.
“Good work, both of you,” she said. “Mari, we'll get you out of the glacier in a bit.”
“Do hurry,” Mari replied, “the entry plug's starting to ice over.”
“Colonel Kaji!” Patrick shouted. “Are you there?”
“Yes, Patrick,” he responded. “What is it?”
“I've got another set of visions or whatever. It happened while I was fighting those two Harpies.”
“Can you tell me what you saw?”
“I think so,” said Patrick. “I should sort of write this down.”
“No,” answered Kaji. “Tell me now while it's still fresh.”
“Okay. Here goes.” Patrick concentrated, wanting to get the memories but also wanting to finish and help get Unit 05 out of the ice. He took a couple of deep breaths and then let his mind go into neutral. A moment later the images came to him again. “There's a long corridor, lots of soldiers and stuff around. She's walking around, going around corners and into some sort of atrium.”
“Can you describe your surroundings a bit more,” Kaji asked him, his attention focused.
“Not sure. See people around wearing uniforms, but not ones I know.”
Inside the cockpit of their Thunderbolt Kaji and Misato looked at each other as they listened to Patrick. Kaji had landed the aircraft a minute earlier next to the glacier and was now sitting upright as Misato sat alongside him listening to Patrick on the communicator. “Patrick, what else?” asked Kaji.
“There's an elevator, and we're getting inside. On the wall there's something painted there, but faded. Like a big logo.”
“What does it look like?”
“That SEELE logo, the one with the seven eyes? Like that but there's also something like a giant head...or a skull, painted right on top of it, and then something that looks like either a cross or a Nazi symbol.”
Kaji's eyebrows shot up. “Are you sure?”
“I don't know,” Patrick said, “it was just for a moment but that's what it looked like.”
“Just the elevator and the feeling that it was getting colder. Like this place” Patrick motioned to the Alaska wilderness. He closed his eyes and tried to catch whatever else he could, but the images were now gone from his mind. “Sorry, that's all I can see.”
“This is interesting,” Kaji told him. “Do you hear or feel anything else?”
“I couldn't make out much, someone was speaking in English right next to her, someone kind of old. Then there's all this noise around, machinery, the elevator and stuff.”
“Good,” the agent told him.
“One more thing, Mr Kaji. It's what I felt,” Patrick said. “That feeling of chills, it's not just the temperature. It's also the feeling inside her, her emotions. I could feel what she was feeling!”
“And what was that, Patrick?”
“She was angry, like raging angry,” said the boy. “Does this help at all?”
Kaji was honest. “It does but I need to research this further,” he told him, “There's an Alliance base ten kilometers to the North of here. Go there and get a Type K equipment set and bring it back, it will include flame units that can melt the glacier to remove Unit 05.”
“Okay, thanks!” Patrick then slid EVA-04 off the side of the glacier and immediately started running north as fast as he could push the EVA to go.
As Kaji and Misato watched the silver-white EVA sprint towards the horizon, Misato contacted Mari again to ensure if she was alright. Mari assured her that she was alright and in good spirits, although just a bit colder and Misato reassured her help was on the way. After ensuring Mari was in good condition, Misato then closed the channel and nudged closer to Kaji as he was in deep thought. “Do you think you know where Erin Forrestal is?” she asked him.
“There's one possibility that matches what he's describing, but I need to confirm for sure,” he said. “If she's there and if SEELE's also there it may explain everything.”
The two of them sat there in the parked aircraft breathing in the cold air from the open canopy, watching steam coming out of the large hole in the glacier. They both wore parkas over their flight suits, but could still feel the cold chill of Alaskan air as they looked at the dawning horizon. “These are good kids, all of them,” Kaji commented as they stared out on the snowy wilderness. “They deserve better than to have to be pawns in this sort of game.”
“The best we can do is make sure they're never just by themselves,” Misato encouraged. “There's always someone behind them in support. We make the family they've mostly never had.”
“Speaking of which...” Kaji said slyly. “I've never known you to ever, ever, refuse a drink.” He looked at her knowingly, and Misato knew the time to reveal her secret was now. She sighed in resignation, without answering his implied question. “How long did you know?” he asked.
“Right before last night, actually,” she said. “It's just the home test, but...”
“Clearly we've been busy.”
“Clearly,” she agreed, chuckling a little. Misato smiled at him but then changed her expression to something more serious. “Its not that I don't want it, but just right now it's the worst possible time. I can't bring anything in the world if it's all still like this, the war and EVA, and everything.”
“Have some faith,” Kaji told her, now he was the one being encouraging. “Things like this happen on their own schedule. The timing is meaningful.”
“I can't do this alone,” she said.
“Then don't. As you say we're in the family-building business, correct?”
“So then I'd better make an honest woman out of you,” said Kaji. He pulled out a small box from his flight suit. Misato's widening eyes went straight to the tiny black velvet box. “How long have you been carrying that around?”
“A few weeks,” he said, “a promise made...” He popped open the box, showing the diamond ring inside of it.
“...a promise kept!” she finished as she took the box, gently lifting off the ring and placing it on her finger. Misato looked at Kaji with a widening grin, her eyes misty. “Just don't expect me to go and cook for you every night!”
“Oh, please dear God, no!” he replied in mock horror. “As far as the other benefits go....”
“Ready, willing, and able!” Misato told him, and immediately threw her arms around Kaji, kissing him full on the lips and then holding him tightly against her. “We're going to make it, right?” she asked him, as she squeezed him as hard as she could.
“We are. I swear it,” said Kaji, with as much determination has he had ever said anything before.
Alliance Base Aries, Alaska
From the small bed in his cell, Gendo Ikari lay facing upright and watched the clouds go by out the sole window on the wall. Since being moved from Australia, the former commander had been placed alone in a small concrete and steel cage at the Alliance's Alaska base. Barely warm enough to keep a human alive, it was there he had spent the weeks following the Harpy attack at Alice Springs.
With no one to visit him save the guards Gendo just spent the time sitting or lying in his cell, allowing his mind to go overdrive in analyzing all aspects of his current situation and any possible way that he could either evade or capitalize on them.
Still, in two months since his capture the Alliance leadership had made very few attempts to communicate with him. They had also kept him isolated from the outside world, giving him no news of any of the Alliance's exploits versus SEELE or their efforts in rebuilding the world at large. Despite that, the lack of contact and his current circumstances informed Gendo enough about their progress: they were capable of operating EVA, but not at its full capacity. If they had truly mastered the program he would still not be alive, or at least he would be moved and put on a show trial for his eventual execution. Provided what Ikari knew about EVA's true nature and complex engineering, and the fierce determination of the old men of SEELE to have their final say, a crisis would no doubt soon come running his way. Plans were already being assembled in his mind on how to best exploit this.
Somewhere at the core of him Gendo was still a scientist, and all scientists craved new information and the chance to experiment on it. While the splendid isolation of the prison cell gave him ample time and opportunity to lay down intricate plans for his future, it also ate away at his need for discovery. There was no envelope to push in the prison, except for pushing himself. Somewhere as he calculated and analyzed and schemed, there were echoes that entered his brain, memories that evoked sounds and sights he had barely remembered. As he lay there on the bed, he saw through the clouds and memories of a cool, moonlight night many years ago bled into his mind.
Tokyo, Japan, 1996.
Underneath the bright moonlight the two of them walked together on the sidewalk. The two of them had spent the evening dining and then afterwards went out for a stroll in the tony Tokyo suburb of Minato, where the woman lived in a family-owned townhouse. Dr. Gendo Rokubungi has first seen Dr. Yui Ikari at his work some three months earlier and had found himself immediately smitten by her. At the time he didn't quite know himself why he was drawn to her but somehow the petit young scientist seemed both incredibly graceful and delicate and yet quietly sure of herself in a way unlike any other woman he had ever met.
After persistent efforts on his part for over three months Yui finally accepted his request for a date. That evening he had taken her to an expensive French restaurant in Minato not far from her family’s townhouse, and had a relatively quiet dinner where they had talked mostly about their work at the GEHIRN Artificial Evolution Laboratory. In spending the time with Yui dining and conversing Gendo himself felt increasingly captivated by the beauty that sat across the table, but yet was unable to determine what, if any, real interest she had in him.
Once they finished dinner he took her for a walk through the streets of Minato, strolling on the sidewalk lit by streetlamps and lined with shops for expensive clothes and goods and other restaurants. They didn’t say much to each other on the way, but Gendo kept his eyes fixed on her the entire way. For the date Yui had worn a simple yet elegant lavender dress under a white jacket accentuated with fashionable heels and ivory-colored hose, clutching an expensive handbag as she walked along side. To Gendo, her poise had given her a sense of something like royalty to him and he, who had worn his only good sports coat and slacks of no recognizable brand, had felt so out of place in her surroundings.
They arrived finally at her townhouse after their stroll. The wind blew gently, as autumn leaves flew down the sidewalk next to her gate. Her face was illuminated by the moonlight as she turned to face him. “Thank you, Rokubungi-sensei,” she said, smiling at him. “It was a very enjoyable evening.”
“You’re very welcome, Ikari-sensei.”
An awkward moment hung between the two of them, as Gendo has wanted to say more but simply couldn’t find the way. So close, he thought, and still so incredibly out of reach.
“Good night, then. I’ll see you at the laboratory on Monday.”
Missed the moment. “Good night,” Gendo replied, and Yui slowly walked up the steps to her townhouse front patio, then opened the front door and entered.
As Yui closed the door a thousand thoughts rushed Gendo’s brain, most of them attacks on himself. What a coward I was, he accused himself, I had all of these feeling for her for so long yet I couldn’t say anything to her. I deserve to be left here. She’s unattainable, definitely above my standing. Gendo resigned himself to failure yet as he stood there in front of the doorway he still found himself drawn to the spot. Something inside of him didn’t want to give up no matter what the obstacle was, even if the obstacle was himself.
He remained that way for more than thirty minutes, standing in front of her doorway and contemplating every angle of every moment that had happened in the last ninety days to bring him to this place and time. It was while he was caught up in this bullet train of thought that the door to Yui’s house opened.
“Rokubungi-sensei?” she said to him, surprised to still see him there. “You haven’t gone home yet?”
Gendo found himself embarrassed, a condition he had always tried to avoid. “No, I’m afraid,” he said to her.
Still wearing her lavender dress, Yui came down the steps to where he was standing on the sidewalk. “Where is home for you, Rokubungi-sensei?”
He thought to lie to her and give her some more well-to-do location such as Saitama or Kichijoji, but he had a feeling that somehow, someway, he could trust her after all. It was an odd feeling for him. Reluctantly, he told her. “It’s Ueno, actually.”
Yui didn’t flinch at the answer. “Ueno’s not much of a home for a scientist.”
Gendo gave a broken smile. “Ueno’s not much of a home for anyone,” he said. “It’s the older part of the city, but whenever I have time off I do like to go to the zoo, and to the museums.”
“Well, I like the zoo,” Yui told him, “so that’s at least something we have in common.” There was a silence between the two of them as the woman sized Gendo up with her eyes.
“You know,” she then said, “we spent the entire evening together but yet for all that we talked I felt I never really got to know you.”
Gendo’s embarrassment deepened. “I’m sorry you feel so.”
“Don’t be,” she replied. “I think I can understand some of your reluctance.” Yui walked a little closer to him, just in hand’s reach. “I find you intriguingly charming, really.”
“A bit like a little boy trying to play an older man’s role.”
She’s very direct with her opinions, Gendo thought to himself, practically fearless. “I like to think I have a unique perspective on things.”
“I think that you would,” Yui continued, “and I’d like to know that side of you a bit more.” She looked up at him and into his dark eyes and asked “would you like to come inside?”
“Oh,” Gendo stammered, “I couldn’t be so rude!”
“It wouldn’t be rude at all.”
“Your family is here?” he asked her.
“This townhouse is owned by my father, but they don’t live here. It’s just me.”
“Seems like a large house for one woman,” Gendo said as he looked at the three-story building.
“Perhaps one day it won’t be just for me,” she mused. “Come inside. We can sit and talk a bit more.” Gendo thought to object again, suddenly fearful of being entrapped by her, but Yui gently took him by the hand, and then led him to the door. The touch of her hand was warm and soft, and Gendo breathed deeply in trepidation as she brought him inside.
“Thank you,” he said to her as they entered the house, and then “do you drink coffee?”
Yui smiled gently at him. ”I drink tea.”
The memory broke free of his mind and Gendo lay there as it floated away. He remembered that night, how they spoke until two in the morning, and in the process he laid bare much of his dark past to her. It was the first time he touched her, and he recalled as she gently pried into his own tragic history and then comforted him when his own recollections became too much. That combination of grace, beauty, and gentle strength was what made him love Yui so, the love that then became a searing pain when she was suddenly stripped away. Losing the moment again, Gendo gritted his teeth and pushed his mind harder than before. I will have you back, he thought, if I have to move heaven and earth again I will have you back!
Deep within the caverns of SEELE's base, Omega once again made his way to the giant shaft. It was his fifth trip inside the dark, abandoned ventilation chamber and every time before he had entered and left undetected, the last time being just a few hours before this moment. Now something had come up that needed immediate action and he had to risk another attempt at communication with the outside world.
Leaning alongside a concrete ledge, Omega opened up a small case that contained another balloon and signal carrier and started to prepare it when a noise in front caught his attention. He quickly moved to the side of the wall and pulled out a small pistol with an attached silencer. Waiting in the dark, he watched as the silhouette moved towards him. It came closer and in the dimly-lit chamber he saw who it was. He kept his pistol at the ready and very slowly moved out onto the ledge.
“Piotr,” he said upon recognizing the shadow, “what are you doing here?”
The older man also held a pistol. “I'm afraid I need to convince you to go back inside, my friend” he told Omega. “They found your last balloon an hour ago. The chairman is furious and is ordering a complete clean sweep of the interior of the base again. If you do this,” Piotr motioned to the box with the new message balloon, “you will be caught.”
“Are you here to hand me in?” Omega asked.
“No,” Piotr replied. “But you cannot do this again.”
Omega tried to be convincing. “I need to contact them, now,” he told Piotr. “I've discovered something that's critical if we are to succeed, but I have to get the word out.”
“That is no longer possible,” Piotr told him, still keeping his own pistol at the ready. “If you do this they will discover it, and then they will trace this back to you, and then to me. I will not allow that to happen.”
“Risks are part of the job,” said Omega.
“Part of your work, perhaps,” replied the other. “But not part of mine. I've done enough for you at the moment, and I cannot risk my position any further.”
The deep-cover agent thought about the additional hazards if he were to overpower Chairman Kiel's manservant. Unfortunately he needed him to be around, trusted, and cooperative should the end game present itself, and Omega knew that the end was indeed coming soon.
“Very well,” he said, taking back the box with the message balloon. It would have to be disposed of later Omega thought, somewhere down the deeper levels of the base close to the lava flows. “But be ready for me to come calling for you. The hour of reckoning will be upon us soon.”
“I will be there at the appropriate time,” Pitor told him, “this I have promised you. Now go before you jeopardize all of us!” Omega then moved down the walkway towards the door he came in and out of Piotr's sight. As he left Piotr sighed deeply and looked at his pistol. A small, Russian model he had picked up long ago the pistol held only two bullets, one of which was intended for himself. God have mercy on all of us wretches, he thought.
Outside the girls' suite Shinji stood and waited for someone to open the front door. He ran the doorbell a second time and then it opened. Asuka was standing in front of him, wearing just her nightgown and a scowl on her face that looked the same way that Shinji felt.
“Good morning,” he said to her, trying to act friendly. Asuka was having none of it. “Get in here,” she growled and then whisked Shinji inside.
Shinji slowly made his way to the kitchen. He could feel a dull throbbing in his head and nauseous in his stomach. When he arrived at the kitchen he plopped down into one of the seats. Asuka herself plopped down into the adjacent seat. Hikari, dressed in yellow pajamas that resembled a Chinese outfit, was standing by the counter as she prepared something for the others. Penpen waddled into the kitchen and walked by Hikari, who quickly bent over to pet him and feed him a bowl full of sardines.
After feeding PenPen Hikari took two glasses and placed them on a tray, carrying them over to the other two. She placed the glasses on the table. Shinji looked at his glass and saw something that vaguely looked like tomato juice.
“Drink it,” Hikari instructed the other two teenagers. “It's what I give my dad when he drinks too much sake the night before.”
Still in a dazed mood Shinji took the glass without thinking and started to drink it. It tasted salty and sharp. He made a frown as he tried to drink from the glass. “What is this?”
“Please don't ask,” Hikari said. She then offered a glass to Asuka who promptly downed it in one gulp. The redhead sat there for a moment and said “that's not so bad.” A few seconds later her face went purple in color as the after-effects of the drink became known. “Oh, shit!” she grumbled as she ran to the girls' bathroom. A wide variety of gastrointestinal sounds were heard beyond the closed door as Hikari and Shinji watched.
“Is Ayanami-chan alright?” Hikari asked Shinji as they turned their attention back to each other.
“I think so,” he told her. “They admitted her to the hospital and then Dr. Foch told me to not worry. I got back last night around midnight. Patrick went on deployment.”
“So did Lusty-chan,” said Hikari. “I hope they're alright.” She moved back to the counter and picked up a box filled with other food items and closed the top. “I need to go to the Boys’ suite and take care of the other two,” she said. “Please tell Asuka 'bye' for me.”
“I'll do that,” Shinji said softly.
“Shinji,” Hikari said, “I'm glad you could be Toji's friend. You're really good at being that, you know.”
“Asuka knows it too. See you later, then.” Hikari then took the box and then left the kitchen, making her way out of the suite.
A moment after Hikari walked out of the front door, Rei shuffled in. She was wearing hospital pajamas and walked straight to the kitchen.
“Ayanami!” Shinji exclaimed on seeing her. “Are you feeling better?”
Rei sat down at the kitchen table. Her expression was completely emotionless, reminding Shinji of the way she used to be when he first met her. “I am fine,” she replied in a monotone voice.
“The way you passed out scared everyone,” Shinji told her, pouring hot water from a kettle into a teacup that was sitting in front of her.
“There is no permanent damage,” Rei replied, sullenly staring straight at him.
The two of them heard loud gurgling noises from the girls’ bathroom as Asuka tried to flush out any remaining taste in her mouth from Hikari’s hangover cure. She then left the bathroom and returned to the kitchen, looking decidedly more refreshed.
“Ah, that’s better,” Asuka said as she sat down again. For a couple of minutes the three pilots all sat there at the kitchen table in an awkward silence, as PenPen loudly slurped the last of his sardines and drank out of his beverage bowl.
“Look, if you’re not going to…” Asuka started at Shinji.
“I’m sorry,” he blurted out.
“I thought you were all over that daddy stuff,” she chided. “They’ve got him locked up at least. Better than my dad. When we went to Germany I had to sit there and have that asshole treat me like crap.”
“I remember,” Shinji said.
“Exactly! But at least I don’t bring it up here. He’s there and that’s that. Better to just focus on piloting.”
“It was that room,” he told her. “It just brought back what happened after the 13th Angel.”
“You’re still here, aren’t you?” Asuka shot back at him. “And so is Toji. He’s even walking again. So what the hell’s the problem?” She narrowed her glance at him. “Grow up, will you?”
“I guess I should wait a few years for my next drink,” Shinji wondered aloud.
“You were honest,” Rei told him from across the table as she sipped her tea.
“I can’t let it go,” the boy told the others in resignation. “I’m sorry, Ayanami.” Rei said nothing in return, but just sat there. All three of them stared at each other in silence for a while as Rei sipped her tea and Shinji just looked downcast at the table.
Impatient with his attitude, Asuka slid her chair over to Shinji’s side. As she moved close to him, he didn’t look up but kept staring downward. Asuka then pounded the top of his head hard.
As Shinji reacted to Asuka’s strike she quickly grabbed both of his cheeks and kissed him square on the lips as Rei silently looked on. Pain converted to relief as Shinji’s arms went limp and he closed his eyes until she finished. Asuka then pulled herself away, giving him a stern look as Shinji opened his eyes and looked at her.
“Don’t think I’m not capable of mercy,” she admonished, “but don’t ever embarrass me or yourself like that again.”
“Okay,” Shinji said, not really in full agreement but enough to get out of the argument with Asuka.
“Don’t just sit there,” she said to him. “Go clean something. You’ll feel better.” Shinji nodded in agreement and then got out of his chair, hurriedly grabbed an apron hanging from the kitchen door, and then left the room. Asuka let out a long sigh and turned around to face the still very stoic Rei.
“I swear I have to do all of the thinking for him,” she said aloud. “Idiot. I wouldn’t even date him if it’s wasn’t for the good of the project.”
“That’s incorrect,” Rei corrected.
“Who asked you?” Asuka scowled. “Go fix your own boyfriend problems!” Rei didn’t react but just continued to sit and stare at the redhead.
The two girls just sat there silently at the table for the next few minutes until Shinji’s voice was heard from outside. “Uh, Asuka?”
“I think you’d better see this!”
Asuka rolled her eyes, wondering what Shinji could have found that would have gotten him so excited while cleaning up. When he came running back into the kitchen she found out the reason why.
Shinji handed Asuka a white plastic rod with bunny logos and a display window with two red lines in ink. The look on his face was pale. “Is this what I think it is?” he asked Asuka.
Her eyes went wide in recognition as she gasped. “It’s a pregnancy test!” she blurted out. Asuka immediately looked over to Rei’s side of the table. “You’re pregnant!” she accused.
That remark finally got an emotional response out of Rei. “It is not mine!” she said with a sudden firmness to her monotone voice.
“Well,” Asuka chuckled nervously, “it’s obviously not mine! Oh, God, not Hikari! I always thought she was such a goody two-shoes!”
Shinji nearly bit his tongue in frustration, realizing that he had left out an important part of information. “I found it in Misato’s bathroom!” he corrected.
“Oh, no!” Asuka exclaimed. “She’s carrying his baby?” The three of them looked around at the kitchen, suddenly noticing the wide variety of alcoholic beverages that were stocked all around them.
“She’s so irresponsible,” cried the redhead. “There’s no possible way we can let her carry a child in such a dangerous environment.” Asuka stood up from her chair and pounded on the table. “We have to do something!”
“Agreed!” Shinji said with a conviction that was the equal of Asuka’s. She looked at him with steely determination. “If that child is going to have any chance at a normal life we must intervene!” All disagreements between the two were suddenly put behind them and they clasped their hands together with unified purpose. Asuka looked over to Rei. “Are you in on this?” she asked her. Rei stood up from the table and nodded firmly.
“Very well,” replied Asuka, who then crossed her arms in a commanding pose. “Operation Stork will now commence.” She pointed to the cases of sake and beer on the kitchen floor. “Baka Shinji!” she ordered, “dispose of those bottles immediately!”
Shinji looked at the alcohol. “Some of those are pretty pricy,” he commented.
“I don’t care! I’m not going to risk Kaji’s baby no matter what the cost. First,” she commanded Rei. “Clean out the refrigerator! Eliminate anything in there that’s a threat!”
“Hai” Rei said in agreement.
“I’ll clean up the cigarettes she hides in her bedroom,” Asuka, “and whatever other garbage I can find.” She clapped her hands loudly to get everyone else rolling. “Hurry, both of you! She’ll be back from deployment before you know it!” Shinji and Rei nodded in agreement and then everyone quickly went to their tasks.
Go on to Chapter Twenty-Eight