Landing at a small airfield next to the abandoned base, Misato got out of the Thunderbolt VSTOL aircraft and walked on the tarmac. Taking a good look around in the dawn light she saw that not much had changed since the last time she was here. There was still a giant crater inside of the mountain complex that NERV had used for testing Evangelions, and where the activation of Unit 03 had gone horribly wrong.
Following her out of the aircraft was Asuka. Like Misato she was dressed in a pilot’s olive colored jumpsuit with helmet. As their pilot tended to their aircraft, Asuka took off her helmet and aired her long hair out. In the distance they could both see engineers, mostly from NERV, start to bring Unit 02 to an upright position using cranes they had transported by rail for the occasion.
“Why are we doing this here?” Asuka asked.
“It’s over 200 kilometers from Tokyo-3, so we have any problems with the activation it’s still a safe distance from the base. The S2 Sea of Dirac event with Unit 04 was at a range of 90 kilometers.”
“Isn’t the Japanese capital at Tokyo-2 within 90 kilometers from here?”
Misato looked at Asuka. “I won’t tell them we’re here if you won’t.”
As the technicians used cranes to pull Unit 02 from the giant train car it was transported in, the new NERV scientific director Dr. Raj Viraat quickly paced around the giant Evangelion, checking on whatever he saw was out of place and correcting it with staff.
“Be easy with it!” he warned one crane operator. “Just because we’re in a rush doesn’t give you an excuse to be sloppy!” A crackle was heard on his radio and he picked it up. “Yes, Colonel. We’ll be set up in a few hours. The commander was very clear that we’re to conduct the test immediately. Tell your pilot to get ready and we’ll let you know when she’s ready to board.”
Viraat, dimunitive in size but large in spirit, hyperactively pointed out to another crane operator how to handle the package he was lifting. “Watch that, you fool! Do you want to send us all to another dimension?” The operator had a panicked look at first then very carefully moved the crane carrying the S2 engine itself forward towards the test platform.
A few hours later Viraat signaled to the others that Unit 02 was in position and ready to receive both pilot and engine. The overworked NERV engineering staff was moving as quickly as they could, partially as they were under threat of attack by being so exposed, and partially as NERV had neglected to mention to the new Japanese government the nature of the test they were conducting.
The test in question was the installation of an S2, or Super Solenoid, engine inside of Evangelion Unit 02. Two other EVAs in NERV’s employ had such engines: Unit 01, who had literally ingested the S2 organ out of the 14th Angel, and Unit 04, who had another Angel-derived S2 installed and then on activation formed a black hole around itself, converting nearly everything within 89 kilometers into energy. Unit 04 and its pilot eventually reappeared none the worse for wear, but NERV was very concerned about a possible repeat of that instance.
The benefits of the S2 engine for the EVA, with its perpetual energy source and ability to regenerate damage nearly instantaneously, outweighed the risks. The S2 engine in this instance wasn’t from an Angel however, but from another Evangelion. When the Mass Production series were defeated in their attack on Tokyo-3, Dr. Viraat quickly ordered that their deactivated bodies (defeated with the destruction of their dummy plugs) be kept frozen until they could be disassembled by him and the other NERV engineers. Viraat had found that several of the “dead” units still had operational synthetic S2 engines, and he had chosen two of them to become the new powerplants for NERV’s existing EVAs.
Because of the immediate threat of an attack, the installation of the S2 in Unit 02 was rushed. The Matsushiro site was chosen because of its still-operational MAGI system, which could provide essential support of the complex operation. The rest of the base was mostly a ruin, destroyed in the re-activation of Unit 03 some months earlier.
As a safety precaution, NERV’s remaining EVAs were deployed out of the possible danger zone of the installation. Unit 01, with Shinji inside, was airlifted and kept airborne in the skies above Japan. It would be out of the 89 kilometer test range of Unit 02, but could also be dropped quickly if it was needed for any reason (including to defend the test site). Unit 05 was still under repair and so remained at the GeoFront but EVA-04 was deployed above the fortress, which at over 200 kilometers from Matsushiro was considered safe. As an extra safety precaution Rei Ayanami was placed inside EVA-04’s entry plug, along with its pilot.
Rei sat on Patrick’s lap as they both rested in Unit 04’s entry plug. The Evangelion had remained largely motionless for the last few hours as it faced west and towards Nagano and Matsushiro. As most of NERV concentrated on Unit 02’s activation test there was little other activity and the two pilots relaxed as much as they could. They said nothing to each other for a couple of hours until Patrick broke the silence.
“How is it going with your new roommates?” he asked Rei.
“It’s OK,” she replied. “I don’t mind sleeping in the same room as them.”
“So no arguments, or anything like that?”
“No, but they talk a lot at night.”
“Oh, really? What about?”
“Much of the subject matter is about relations with boys.”
Patrick chuckled a little. “Did you find out anything interesting about either of them?”
“The Second feels very connected to Ikari-kun, although she tries to hide it. I believe that Makanami-chan is attracted to him as well.” Patrick raised his eyebrows in surprise at that. “So you all talk about Shinji at night?”
“He is not the only subject. They will talk to each other about other boys they have encountered.”
“Do they ask you about this as well?”
“Yes,” Rei said. “I simply told them ‘A’”
“A?” Patrick asked.
“A,B or C,” Rei explained. “It is a code to signify progress in affection towards boys.” Patrick thought for a moment and then realized how it worked. “Oh, I get it. We do it a little different in America. There it’s like baseball.”
Rei gave Patrick a curious expression, tilting her head slightly. “Baseball?”
“That’s right. You hit the ball and run the bases, Each base tells how far you got. First, Second, Third or a Home Run. That’s, uh, if you go all the way, if you know my meaning.” Rei nodded, this time in understanding.
“Anyway, I think A would be the same as getting to First Base.”
“Did the others get anywhere else?”
“They both said ‘B’. Later Misato-san joined in the discussion and Asuka would not let her answer the question.”
“I think that’s a smart move,” Patrick said with a smirk. “Besides boys, did you girls talk about anything else?”
“They talk about clothes,” Rei answered. “They review their wardrobe choices in incredible detail, especially concerning shoes.”
Patrick rested his chin on his hand, interested in Rei’s reactions. “Did you learn anything?”
“Apparently you’re not supposed to wear the same outfit exactly the same way twice,” said Rei. “There’s also something about how your ‘colors’ are coordinated but there’s no specific guidance or pattern.”
“That’s all girls’ stuff,” the boy mused. “But I guess that’s not something that you’d just learn out of a book.”
“Incorrect,” Rei said, with a bewildered look on her face. “They both continually read magazines that contain trivial information about clothes, makeup, and diet. I didn’t realize it took that much study.” She looked up at Patrick. “Do boys do this sort of thing?”
“No,” Patrick replied, “Although there is a sort of thing about looking ‘cool.’”
“’Cool’ is like the boy version of ‘cute,’ he tried to explain. “It’s not based on study but you compare yourself to others and try to find a way to dress differently but not too differently or too awkward.” Patrick tried to explain further but he could tell from Rei’s now very puzzled explanation that it would get absolutely nowhere.
“Or you could just wear your school uniform every day,” he told her.
“At least it’s simpler that way,” she concluded.
She sat silently for a while with no particular expression, but Patrick just looked at her. Oh, you are so cute sometimes, very irresistible. He smiled at her, she glanced at him curiously and then went back into pondering how other girls could be so complicated.
I think it’s time to go to bat again. “Rei?”
“Yes?” she looked up again at him.
“Um, before she left for Mastushiro I spoke with Misato. She said they’ve secured Hakone City now. Anyway, I was thinking. Misato said we could go there. We’d have, like, lots of bodyguards and stuff like on the island bu, would you like to maybe have tea there?”
“Tea?” she asked.
“You know, go to a café and drink tea, have something to eat?”
“I’ll go if it’s necessary,” she said.
Patrick took a deep breath. “It’s not necessary,” he said, “but it would be nice if I could take you there. Again.”
“OK,” she said softly. The boy looked at her more seriously now. “Rei?”
More than a little nervous, he gulped hard. “Would you go out with me?”
“On a date.”
She was reserved. I should have expected this, she thought to herself. “It’s OK,” she answered him with a soft voice. “I will do it.”
Silent relief poured all over Patrick. “Great. Thanks.” He smiled at her again but she still didn’t return the smile , and instead gazed at the video images of the outside of the entry plug. Initially elated, Patrick was now at a loss as she didn’t seem all that happy to accept his offer.
“Um, I’ll work out the details and let you know when,” he told her, smiling nervously. Rei said nothing but just nodded without even facing him. The boy was about to say something else when a message came over the speakers that the S2 installation was about to begin, and with that both of them straightened up in the throne seat and focused on the monitor display in the entry plug.
In Central Dogma, the main video monitor came on and showed Unit 02 standing up in the outdoor test area at Matsushiro. Cables were attached to it to monitor the unit, as well as an axillary power coupling. The S2 engine had already been installed inside the unit, and various displays on secondary monitors showed Unit 02’s status.
Admiral Vinson stood on the command platform, along with General Sheffield. Controller Aoba received a communication from the test site and changed the video image. The main display now showed the inside of the mobile NERV command vehicle at the test site, where Misato, Hyuga, and Dr. Viraat were visible.
“The Synthetic S2 has been installed inside the unit,” Dr. Viraat reported. “You both should know that I strenuously object to the impossibly short schedule you’ve kept us to.”
“Not our idea,” Vinson replied, “Right now we’re very vulnerable to attack by the other side. The faster we can upgrade our units the better.”
“You do realize that there’s a better than 25 percent chance that we’ll get a repeat of the Sea of Dirac that happened to Unit 04, should something go wrong, and another 25 percent of ripping a complete dimensional hole. You military types never take the time to appreciate the engineering challenges on something at this scale, you just want the biggest weapon system you can lay your hands on.”
Vinson looked at Sheffield with a smile. “Does he always carp like that?”
“Somehow I think he tries to lower expectations,” the British general replied. “If he’s giving you 50% chance verbally my experience is that he’s quite confident of success.”
“Fine,” the new NERV commander agreed. Vinson then spoke on the monitor. “Colonel Katsuragi?”
Misato stood at attention, her serious face now on. “Yes, sir.”
“Is your pilot ready?”
“Her entry plug is already loaded inside. Once the status board is green we’ll give the go-ahead.”
“Very well. As soon as you’re ready, commence the test. We’ll monitor you from here in case there’s any trouble.”
“Thank you, sir.” She switched off the camera and then turned to another video monitor in the mobile command post. “Asuka? We’re almost ready to go. Are you ready?”
The video image on the screen showed Asuka sitting on the control throne. In place of her normal plugsuit she was wearing a special test version, with enlarged A10 nerve controllers attached to her hair and a semi-transparent orange mesh midsection over a mostly red bodysuit. “Would you please not put me on video? It’s embarrassing wearing this thing!”
“Sorry,” Misato said, but without switching off the video just yet. “The test plugsuit has better biofeedback that the combat version. We need it to monitor your reactions once the S2 is activated.”
“At least cover up things a little on this! The bra is too tight and you can see my butt crack through the back end!” Asuka looked at the video display in her own plug and noticed that controller Hyuga was smirking at the screen in the background. “Hey!” she shouted at him. “Would you stop staring at me? I’m practically a child, you pervert!” A startled Hyuga quickly turned away and tried to focus on his own display.
“All right, all right,” Misato said, shutting off the video monitor. “Next time we’ll just use the regular suit. Are you ready now?”
“Sure, fine, whatever. Just get this the hell over with!”
“Colonel Katsuragi,” Viraat instructed Misato. “Please be sure that the pilot maintains especially good emotional balance during the test. Based on the American boy’s experience I want to be sure the EVA doesn’t have any overreaction to the pilot’s condition.”
“Did you hear that, Asuka?” Misato asked. “Please try to have a good mood here, it’s critical for the test.”
The pilot was having nothing of it. “When am I going to get my own room?” she demanded. “It’s crowded living with those two brats. Also, when are you going to let us out of the GeoFront?”
“Hakone City just got secured, we can all go there after we’re done today. OK?”
“Better than just hanging out here!”
Misato saw the worried look on Dr. Viraat’s face and knew he was quite serious about the pilot’s emotional state. She opened up a second video channel to Shinji, who was currently in the entry plug of EVA 01, flying 50,000 feet above the Kanto region of Japan.
“Shinji, did you catch all of that?” she asked him.
“Yeah, I heard it.”
“Do you think that you can calm her down a bit? It’s kind of important.”
“I’ll try,” he replied. Shinji then opened up an audio-only channel to EVA-02. “Um, Asuka?”
“What?!” she shot back.
“What do you want to play at the arcade when we’re done?” he asked innocently. The girl’s mode switched instantly. “Oh. I saw that Super Mecha War 3 was out last month. I gotta try that one.”
Shinji encouraged the train of thought a little more. “What about Double Dance Mix Pro?”
“Pro?” she asked. “You can’t even manage on the regular version!”
“I don’t know, I kept up with you pretty good on that machine in Germany.”
“Well that doesn’t count, I mean, we had just got there and I was a little off my game.”
“You have to admit I’m getting better at keeping up with you,” he said nonchalantly.
“Only because I’m still getting over being in the hospital last month,” she excused herself. “Once I’m fully back to speed then we’ll see who’s the Queen!”
Shinji smiled to himself, as he changed the topic just so lightly. “That’s true. I liked that café outside of the arcade we went to in Berlin.”
“Oh yes!” Asuka reminisced. “They had the best tiramisu! And the chocolate fondue was crazy good! I must have gained about two kilos in there!”
Having her fully on the hook, Shinji led her on just a little bit more. “And do you remember the river?”
Asuka thought for a moment, letting out a deep sigh. “Oh, yeah,” she said, her voice now more soft. “That was nice.”
“I liked that dress you wore.”
“I knew you would. I lost the yellow one in the apartment, but I thought you’d like pink.”
“You looked pretty,” he complemented. “When we floated down the river on that boat, you know, past the bridge.”
“Baka Shinji!” said Asuka. “Don’t tell everyone!”
“It’s OK, this is a private audio,” he replied. “At least you didn’t plug my nose that time!”
Asuka thought to respond but then just giggled a little. “You were a bit better that time. Did you practice on someone else while I was out of it!”
“No, no, no!” Shini replied.
“You didn’t even try to put one on me when I was unconscious.”
“I thought about it,” he said, quite honestly.
“Why didn’t you then?”
He lied. “They had nurses in all the time, it would look weird if I was doing that!”
“So you never read Sleeping Beauty, then?”
The boy changed the subject. “So where are we going next time?”
“Next time? Oh, Black Forest. You have to go, it’s so pretty there!...”
Of course, the audio channel wasn’t actually all that private, as Misato stood in the mobile command post with a headseat to her ear, listening in on the entire conversation between the two. Shinji, you little devil! She thought to herself. She quietly turned to Hyuga and said in a whisper. “How is the pilot’s emotional state now?”
Hyuga whispered back. “Nominal. Ego and Anti-ego ratings are at optimal levels.” Misato looked at the vertically-challenged Indian scientist. ”She’s as good as we can get her. Can you do it now?” The man nodded and quickly flipped two switches on his display.
“I’ll start the countdown,”Hyuga said.
“No. we just do it now,” the scientist countered, and without anything further he hit one more switch.
As the pilots continued with their own little conversation, everyone else both in the mobile command post and in Central Dogma held their breath. Misato watched the display in the command post as the timer counted past zero. Earlier as they prepared the test, Viraat told everyone else that once the S2 was activated it would take sixty seconds for it to fully come on-line and sync with the EVA. After sixty seconds had passed, the EVA should fully adapt to the new power source, assuming everything went according to plan.
The colonel kept one hear to the headset as Shinji continued to keep Asuka distracted with pleasant conversation as she watched the timer. Once it hit “60” she released her breath, as everyone in the command post smiled in relief. She opened up an audio channel to EVA-02.
“...So anyway, I cannot wait to get my own room. Do you know how difficult that Mari girl is?”
“Asuka?” Misato called in.
“Look at your power timer,” Misato said calmly. The pilot turned over her left shoulder and saw the display. Instead of the usual numerical display, the timer now showed an “infinity” symbol where the clock normally was. Right below it the display read “S2 SUPER SOLENOID POWER NOMINAL.” She raised her eyes in surprise. “You conducted the test already?!”
“Well,” Misato told her, “you were so busy chatting that we decided not to bother you and just went ahead on our own.”
“Fine. Now that we’re done can we go back now?”
“Not yet. We still need to conduct a few more tests, and then we’ll go back tonight.”
“Tonight?! The arcade downtown closes at six!”
“Sorry, you’ll just have to go another day then.”
“Screw that!” Asuka said. A moment later all of the monitoring cables tied to EVA-02 were ejected.
“Asuka!” Misato shouted on the audio. “What are you doing?!”
“I’ve spent days being cooped up and not being able to go outside, and now you stick me in this peek-a-boo plug suit and have me just sit in here all day doing nothing. If it works, it works. Conduct your own tests, I’m getting out of here!” Asuka switched audio channels. “Hey, Baka!”
“Yeah?” Shinji asked.
“Race you home!”
Shinji paused for a moment, as Misato’s face appeared on another video screen in the plug display. She had the look of frustration on her face, but also knew Asuka needed the chance to blow out the pressure. Misato nodded at Shinji, whispering “just keep her out of trouble, OK?” He nodded back and then closed the channel.
“OK!” he said. “EVA-01 launching now!”
In another moment EVA-01 rolled out of the back of the giant aircraft, somersaulting as it went out high in the air. After dropping a few thousand meters Shinji activated the parachute system that was mounted to Unit 01’s back and then gently drifted downward towards central Japan. On his video monitor he could see below him and spotted the red figure of EVA-02 moving not so slowly east towards Mount Fuji, Lake Ashii, Hakone, and home.
For her part, once clear of the test center Asuka was ecstatic, jumping over mountains and running through valleys at top speed in the red giant. No more power cable meant freedom for her and the EVA, freedom without limits. This is what an Evangelion should be like, she thought.
Mama, we’re free now.
Looking up at the sky she saw the purple figure of Unit 01 floating down to where she was. Asuka stopped Unit 02 and waited for EVA-01 to plop down inside of a small lake. The purple EVA made a large splash in the remote lake, and then quickly ejected the parachute harness it was tied to.
“Took you long enough!” Asuka said to him.
“Misato said you’re OK to go, but just don’t cause too much damage!” he chided.
“Hmpth!” she replied. Then she cracked her knuckles and grabbed the actuators on her control throne. “Beat you there!” she told him and without waiting for a reply started to run her unit further south.
Shinji allowed himself a small smile. It’s because of things like this that I love you. He then put Unit 01 in motion and started chasing after her eastward.
Go on to Chapter Ten