Line by line, the computer screen drew out a green-colored wire-frame model of New Constantinople, with each line forming within seconds, all ten rings the skylines unique to each ring. When the model was complete, Lt. Matsu began to speak.
"This a basic layout of the city," he began. "Compared to what you had seen in Tokyo 3, it is a much more complicated defense system. You will need to learn all of the same things as Joanna in regards to Eva launch points, weapons caches, etc… Do you understand?"
"Yeah," Shinji replied.
"Good, let's begin with the power systems. This city has at its disposal," Matsu tapped a few keys, "forty fusion and N2 located several hundred meters below ground across the width of the city." The screen the showed forty yellow dots pop up on the map.
"How many of these power the city?" Shinji asked .
"When there is no emergency, two. One to power this base, and one to power this city."
"Then why so many reactors?"
"Well, aside from obvious things such having a backup in case the main reactor went down, these reactors are the main energy source for our defense systems when we have to go into battle. This system is composed of three primary features. The first is powering whatever Evas we have available, the second is for a shield system. It isn't as powerful a an AT Field, but it's pretty damn strong. As for the third-"
"That will have to wait until later," Aida said as he walked up to the two. "Joanna just arrived from school, and we need Shinji now."
"Then we'll pick up where we left off tomorrow, Matsu said.
"Thanks for what you told me," Shinji said.
"Until the next time." Matsu waved his hand in good bye. As Shinji and Aida made their way to elevator, Aida began to talk.
"How's it going so far?" he asked.
"I think it's going well," Shinji replied. "There's a lot to take in."
"Didn't you have to memorize a lot of stuff when you were a pilot?" Aida asked. Shinji nodded.
"But it's different this time. I never had to learn other things such as where all the missile batteries are and how many power reactors the city has. Back then, I just had to pilot. That was all."
"Well, because you are in a liaison position, you have to know both the stuff that the pilots need to know along with material usually reserved for those in higher command," Aida said as they entered the elevator. "It is meant for you to have access to the bigger picture. You get that?"
"I think so." The elevator opened and they walked down the corridor.
"Is this your first time down here?" Aida asked.
"Yeah, I didn't think that I would be allowed to come down here."
"From what I heard, it had to take some convincing by the Commander to the higher ups," Aida said. "I swear, some of them believe the tiniest thing involving you can set off an impact. The two approached a lift, and when they stepped on it, the lift began to descend at a forty-five degree angle.
"But in the end, they saw reason and allowed it," he continued. "I mean, it isn't as if you are going to pilot." The lift continued the descend to until it entered a large open space, and in that space they came upon two Evangelions secured in place next to each other. One of them was black with a purple trim on its arms and legs. It had a smooth head and both its eyes and jaw gave it a menacing appearance. Yet, what caught Shinji's attention was the unit's hands, but could he even call them hands? At the end of each arm were claws, three of them that came together at their tips. Seeing them made him wonder what this Eva was for? The second one a very dark green with a yellow trim. There were no eyes for it as there was only a visor, its head adorned with a headpiece that sloped to to the back of its head tapering at a point.
"Well, here they are," Aida says as the lift settled onto the floor and the two got off. "This one," he pointed to the black Eva, "is Unit 10 and this one," now pointing at the green Eva, "is Unit 11. That is the unit Joanna will be piloting."
"Don't we have a pilot for Unit 10?" Shinji asked.
"I don't think so," Aida replied. "There's supposed to be some sort of problem with that Unit."
"That problem is that Unit 10 is an experimental Eva that we can't get to work the way it was designed to." The two turned around to find Hood and Lt. Bertain walking towards them. "The biggest problem is that we can't get it to sync well to a pilot. We hope we can figure it out, but it could take a while. So, no pilot for the moment."
"Well that sucks," Aida remarked. As the two continued to talk, Shinji noticed that Joanna was in the chamber as well looking up a the Evas. He walked over to where she was, and joined her in looking up.
"Is this the first time you've seen them in person?" He asked after a minute of looking in silence.
"Yeah." Her eyes never left them.
"Better than my first time," he remarked. "I had to go into a dark room, and when the light was turned on, the face was right there looking at me Not the best way to get introduced."
"I—I can understand that," she said.
"But the weird thing about them is that they can seem completely normal at the same time," he added. "I mean, some days, you can look at them like you're looking at them now, and other days, you could look at them and think nothing of them, like they're pieces of furniture or something, at least that is how it feels to me."
"I don't think I can get used to them," Joanna said. By this time, both Aida and Hood had joined them.
"I'll be giving you both schematics of Unit 11 for your study. Now, we're going to begin with a synchronization test. Joanna," Aida gestured to Lt. Bertain, "She will escort you to the changing room so you can get into your plug suit. Shinji, you will need to follow Dr. Hood."
"Shinji, do you know if Joanna is ready?" Hood asked after fifteen minutes of waiting.
"She is still in the changing room," Shinji replied," so I don't dare go in there-" Joanna stepped into the testing room wearing a silver colored plug suit with blue trim.
"I'm…I'm here," she said, using her arms to cover her chest. Shinji took a good look at her in it, and while she did not compare to some of the other girls who have worn a plug suit, he had to admit that her figure was impressive in its own right.
"Okay Joanna, head over to the test plug and we'll begin the sync test," Hood said.
"Sure," Joanna replied as she went to where the plug is. Shinji went over and stood by Hood, taking notice of the main monitor, where he saw her getting settled inside the plug, along with several other monitors showing her vitals and several other sets of data.
"She's secured," Bertain said to Hood.
"Okay Joanna, we're going to flood the plug with LCL," Hood told her. Joanna responded by making a noise that conveyed disgust.
"It makes me want to throw up," she added. I gag every time I have to take it in…and it hurts when I gag."
"Damn it," Hood muttered to himself. Shinji then leaned forward so he could speak into the microphone.
"Try taking it through your nose."
"My nose?" she said.
"That's right. Shinji replied. "When the LCL comes up over your nose, take several sharp breathes in, like you're smelling something good, before you exhale. Doing that made things a lot easier for me."
"I'll…I'll try it," she said. Hood signaled for Bertain to to begin. They saw the liquid fill the plug, and when it subsumed her she did as Shinji told her to do. When they saw her exhale, Hood spoke to her again.
"How do you feel?"
"I still feel a little nauseous, but it is not as bad as it was before."
"Okay then. Stand by, and we'll start the in a minute or two. Hood switched off the microphone and turned to Shinji.
"That little trick. Did Akagi or someone else teach you that, or was it something you figured out yourself?" he asked.
"Something I figured out," Shinji answered. "It took me a while, but I got the hang of it."
"Interesting," Hood stated. "Your presence here is already giving us dividends."
"Oh, uh, thank you," Shinji replied.
"There is a gaseous form of LCL that can be used, which would be easier on her. In fact, it's used on the bridge of the Wunder when they go into combat. However, it doesn't provide as high of a synchronization as the liquid form plus the fact that the liquid can act a shock absorber during battle."
"I see," Shinji said. Hood then spoke into the microphone.
"Okay Joanna, we're about to begin the sync test. Now, I need you to relax and concentrate on syncing. Understand?"
"Yes." Joanna closed her eyes, and appeared to Shinji to be assuming a stature that he was more than familiar with. Looking back on his memories, he found these tests boring, and knew Asuka thought the same from how much she complained about them afterward. He then wondered if Rei ever thought the same as well, but was interrupted from his musings as a small alarm sounded. He could see on the monitors that Joanna's heart rate and blood pressure were beginning to rise and there was some disturbance in her brain waves, though he couldn't tell looking at them what was the matter.
"Joanna, you need to relax and focus on syncing," Hood said. "Now, try it again.
"Sure," she replied. Three minutes later, the exact same readings reappeared.
"What's happening?" Shinji asked.
"I don't know if you noticed, but Joanna can be a rather nervous person," Hood answered. "The problem is that her nervousness is preventing us from getting an accurate sync ratio. I don't believe she has a full blown disorder, but it is causing problems. And it's not a good idea either to give her medication either. That can mess with her sync just as easily."
"Is there anything I can do?" Shinji asked.
"I don't know what you can do," Hood said in an exasperated tone. "She needs to be able to remain calm for the time we need to test her." Shinji took a brief look at her, and then went to the microphone.
"Can you tell me what is wrong?" he asked Joanna.
"It's just…I don't know. I have these thoughts that go through my mind very fast. Some of them are good or I might have a good idea that I like to keep spinning around in my head. But sometimes, there is a bad thought going through and I keep going over it again and again."
"Were you having those kind of thoughts now?" Hood asked.
"Yeah," she replied. "I was trying to concentrate, but then I began to get worried that I won't be able to concentrate, so I tried harder, but that thought kept coming around and no matter what I try, I'm just not able to concentrate." She sunk in the plug seat, her head down.
"Shit…" Hood murmured to himself. Shinji spoke into the microphone again.
"Is there anything we can do to help you?" Joanna looked up and wiped the tears from her eyes.
"I don't know," she said. "I mean if I knew that someone else were with me, it might be easier. I don't know why, it just feels that way." Both Hood and Shinji looked at her through the screen. Hood then turned to Shinji.
"Shinji, would you be able to complete the test with her?"
"Me? What do you mean?" he half jumped out of his chair.
"What I said. Could you go take a sync test with her?"
"In the same plug?" Shinji asked.
"No, that will muddle the readings," Hood replied. "I mean get in the test plug right next to her."
"But wouldn't there be trouble if I-" Shinji didn't finish, but Hood understood his point.
"The system only measures your sync rate. You're not connected to any Eva," he said. "If we went by your logic, you would have started an impact by bumping your head or tripping over something."
"Okay then," Shinji said. "Is there a plug suit that I can use?"
"Unfortunately no," Hood replied, "but, we don't want to ruin your clothes either. You'll have to strip down to your underclothes. We do have a pair of neural clips that you can use. Head on over there."
"Sure," Shinji replied. Hood then turned to the microphone.
"Joanna, we're going to have Shinji be in the test plug next to you. Will that be all right?"
"Uh, yeah, sure," she answered. Shinji made his way to the plug, and proceeded to take off his Wille jacket and the slacks, shirt, and tie he wore as part of his school uniform; leaving him in his underwear and undershirt. Attaching the neural clips to his head, he got in the plug. A few seconds after it closed, he was submerged in LCL.
"Okay," he heard Hood over the com system. "Shinji, you know what to do. Joanna, keep in mind of what Shinji is doing. Please relax and concentrate, okay?"
"Sure," her voice came over the com.
"I'll open a direct channel between the two plugs, so you can see and talk to each other." A screen came to life on the plug's walls, which gave him a view of Joanna's profile.
"Are you okay?" he asked her.
"Yeah," she said, her voice sounding tired.
"All right, we're beginning the test," Hood said. Shinji began to concentrate, but at the same time, keeping one eye on Joanna. She appeared to be doing all right this time. Maybe just the fact that he was doing the test as well was enough to calm her down. He then saw her scrunch up her face a little.
"Just take it easy," he said to her. Her face relaxed and the test continued.
"It's working," Bertain said to Hood. We're getting stable readings from her."
"Excellent," Hood replied. What about Shinji?"
"We are getting readings, but they're not as clear. It's probably because he's focusing more on keeping her calm than on syncing."
"That would make sense considering no one is expecting him to pilot." Hood paced around the control room for a few minutes before he spoke again.
"Let's try a little experiment. Begin lowering the plug depth on Shinji."
"…All right." Bertain flipped a few switches and the readings began showing a descending plug depth. "How far do we lower it?"
"As far as it can go." The two saw Shinji through the monitor. Nothing appeared out of the ordinary.
"It's already slid into the equivalent of absolute depth stage and it would be approaching terminal at this point."
"Keep it sliding," was all Hood said. The scale kept descending. His brain waves, the only thing they were able to monitor, was showing no abnormalities.
"Sir, we would approaching the Great Beyond," On the monitor, the two could see Shinji wince a little bit, and his face scrunch up.
"Stop," Hood ordered. A few switches were pushed, and the test stopped. "Can we get a preliminary analysis?
"Give the computer a few seconds," Bertain tapped a few keys, and the results came on one of the monitors. Both sets of eyes widened at the results given.
"Sir, am I looking at this—"
"Everything you see here is classified top secret. I'll complete further analysis myself and will directly report this to the Commander. Understood?"
"Yes sir," Bertain replied, still shaken.
"Do we have what we need from Joanna?"
"We do sir," Bertain tapped a few more keys. "A 36% sync rate. Not too bad."
"Good." Hood went to the microphone. "Okay, both of you can come out. We got what we need."
Shinji stepped out of the men's changing room wearing a pair of sweatpants and a sweat shirt with the Wille logo emblazoned on it. Five minutes later, Joanna came out of the ladies changing room back in her normal clothes.
"Thank you for helping me," she said to him.
"No problem," Shinji replied. "I know you have some medical tests in a little while, which means you're free for the next hour or so. What do you want to do?"
"I don't know," Joanna said. "What is there to do?"
"I'm not sure," he answered. "To be honest, I don't really have a good idea what is in this building. Do…you want to go look around?"
"Okay," she said as the two began walking. Their journey for the most part consisted of either places that held no interest to them or had signs saying 'Restricted Access' or 'Authorized Personal Only.' In short order, they found the recreation area. The two looked around the place taking in the large TV and the various pinball and arcade games that were around as well as the people who were enjoying them.
"This is pretty interesting, huh?" When she didn't answer, Shinji turned to see her face encompassed by pure joy, her eyes shinning bright, her mouth in a huge smile. He had seen her smile before, but it was nothing compared to what he was seeing. She looked happy for lack of a better word.
"What's going on?" he asked. "What are you looking at?" Joanna responded with a mild squeeing sound as she ran over to a pool table, feeling the smoothness of the wood that covered the edge. Shinji approached the table with a look of amusement on his face.
"Pool huh?" he said.
"I know. This table looks fantastic," she replied. "Hey, the balls are already racked." She grabbed a nearby cue and took the triangle rack off the table.
"Do you know how to play?" Shinji asked.
"Uh, huh." Joanna set the cue ball, took aim with the cue, and struck it, sending the ball into the others, knocking them all around the table. She then took aim at the seven ball and knocked it into a side pocket. Joanna proceeded to stalk around the table looking for more shots.
"At the facility where I was first training, it was in the middle of nowhere, so there wasn't really much to do," she said as she sunk another ball, "but there was a pool table for everyone there to enjoy. Whenever there was free time, people would teach me the basics of the game and how to do particular shots." Ten ball in the corner pocket. "Some of the stuff was difficult at first, but I soon got the hang of it." Four ball in the side. "I even watched on-line videos and learned how to some specialty and trick shots."
"What kind of shots?" Shinji was amazed that she was so confident in herself at this moment where a couple of hours before, she was in tears. Does playing and talking about this help her do that?
"Hmm…let's see, oh, how about this?" With the cue, she pointed at the two balls that were almost touching each other right next to a corner pocket. "Let's say that I have to put this one in the pocket," she pointed to the inside ball. "However," she grabbed the cue ball and the six ball, which she set against the rail a short distance from the first two followed by setting the cue ball an equal distance from it. "This ball is in the way," she pointed at the six ball.
"If you have to make the shot from there, it's impossible." Shinji said.
"Not so," she replied, a little smirk forming on her face. She aimed the cue on the white ball and fired. The cue ball curved around the obstructing ball and struck the one she intended, putting it in the pocket. Joanna looked up thinking he would say something, but discovered that the sight of him with his mouth open said just as much.
"Do you want to see something else?" Shinji closed his mouth and nodded yes. She reset some of the balls.
"Let's say that you need to sink the ball here." She pointed at the eight ball, which had several balls between it and where she placed the cue ball. "That last trick I showed you could work, but you can also do this." She aimed the cue, except that this time, she raised the back end higher than she had on her previous shots. She struck the cue ball, and instead of of rolling, the ball jumped into the air and landed across the table, where it rolled and struck the eight ball rolling into a side pocket. Two seconds later, she heard hands clapping, but it sounded to her like it was from more than one person. She looked up and saw that the people she saw earlier in the room doing their own things had gathered around the table clapping their hands with some of them even giving an occasional whistle. She blushed and cast her eyes down to the floor.
"That was freaking badass," a guy in the crowd, who was standing next to Shinji, told her.
"It…it was nothing," she replied. Shinji couldn't say if her demeanor should be considered her old self or not. "I didn't do anything really spectacular." Her voice became really soft.
"What's with all the modesty?" the guy said before he turned to Shinji. "She just did a jump shot. Now, a lot of people have done jump shots as well, but those people use a cue specially designed to make those kind of shots. She used a regular cue to make that shot."
"I see," Shinji said.
"Believe me, when she gets old enough to go to a bar, she'll never have to pay for her own drink," the guy added.
"Okay…" Shinji noticed that Joanna was trembling a little bit. "Look, she and I have to get going," he said as he grabbed her arm and they begin to make their way out of the room.
"Come back anytime guys," a woman in the crowd yelled.
"Yeah, sure. Bye." Shinji said very fast as they continued on their way. The two walked down the corridor for about a minute before they stopped.
"Are you all right?" Shinji let go of her hand.
"I'm fine," she breathed, grabbing her hand that he was holding and rubbing it. "Thank you," she then said in a more normal voice. "I'll be okay. It's just that…all those people were looking at me…and I know that it wasn't because I did something wrong, but…just having them all looking at me like that, it freaks me out. I did nothing embarrassing, and yet I feel embarrassed. I don't get it."
"Well, you didn't do anything wrong," Shinji said. "But I think that you shouldn't be afraid to go back there."
"I know," she said. "But something like that feels scary to me."
"You're training to pilot an Eva against giant monstrosities, and yet you're afraid of playing pool in front of people? That really shouldn't be something you run…" Shinji stopped talking for a moment before chuckling to himself.
"Uh, is something wrong?" Joanna asked.
"No, it's nothing," Shinji replied. "I was just seeing the irony in the words I was saying to you. You wouldn't understand though."
"Okay…" Joanna tilted her head a little, trying to take in his confusing statement.
"It's just that I…don't want you make some of the same mistakes like I have or to deny yourself what is good in the world," Shinji continued. "I can't tell you that you have to go back, I don't have the right to. But keep in mind that those people who were watching you make those shots were impressed, and they would like to see you again, maybe even play a game with you. I don't think that's a bad thing." Joanna stood for a minute taking it all in before she spoke.
"That'll work," Shinji said. "Now, I don't think we have too much time before those test, so we should get going."
"Right." As they were walking down the corridor, an idea came into his mind.
"I was thinking," he said. "Maybe the next time you have a sync test, perhaps you could think about playing pool as your syncing. It might help."
"You think so?" she said. "I'll try it." She put her arm over his shoulder. Shinji flinched a little, but he relaxed and they continued on their way.
Hood walked into Kaji's office as both him and Burke were looking over paperwork.
"What's up?" Kaji asked.
"Well, we completed Joanna'a sync test," Hood replied. "They look pretty good. She'll have no problem syncing with Unit 11."
"I'm going to assume that particular piece of news is not the reason that you came up to see us," Kaji said.
"Right. You see, she was having difficulty at first performing the test, so Shinji agreed to take the test with her to calm her down. It worked." Both Kaji and Burke turned their heads towards him.
"You did take advantage of that situation?" Kaji asked.
"You're damn right I did. See for yourself," Hood replied as he laid a copy of the report on the desk. Kaji began to read it while Burke went to the other side of the desk to look over his shoulder.
"Son of a…" Burke began before he trailed off.
"Is this accurate?" Kaji asked.
"I had our computers run through the data several times, and they came to the same result, so I can assure you that it is."
"I still can't believe it," Burke declared as he returned to his seat. "Shinji can sync with any Eva without the need for a core swap."
"You know this raises an interesting question," Kaji said to Hood.
"Why did he get a zero percent sync rate with Unit 01?" Hood answered. "There are two good possibilities that I can think of off the top of my head. The first is that Unit 01's control system is actively refusing to let him sync. It is possible given the system's nature."
"And the second?" Kaji asked.
"That Akagi straight out lied to him."
"And by extension, us," Kaji added.
"After that stunt she pulled with Shinji a few months ago, I wouldn't put it past her," Burke said.
"I'm going to do some more detailed analysis with the data we have and the data that was given to us by the Wunder, see if something shows up," Hood said.
"It would be better the access the Wunder's systems directly the next time they come into port," Kaji stated.
"Does…that mean when they do…if it becomes necessary…to secure…" Hood didn't finish his question. Kaji could see that Burke shifted his eyes towards him.
"We'll cross that bridge when we get there," Kaji said.
"Very well," Hood replied. "If you excuse me." After the scientist had left the room, Burke turned to his superior.
"What are we going to do with this info?" he asked him.
"Officially, nothing." Kaji replied. "Technically, still nothing. He's no longer a pilot, nor are there active plans to make him one again. This info only confirms theories about him that we've had for a long time."
"Yes, but doesn't that he could-" Burke began.
"Yes, but it was always meant to be a backup plan. Let him be a kid for now…at least until the shit starts hitting the fan."
"So, how was your first full day on the job?" Asuka was in a pair of ripped jeans and a tee shirt, appearing to be comfortable where she was sitting, though the screen could only show so much of her quarters.
"It went better than I expected," Shinji replied. "I'm still getting used to the whole liaison thing. I…really hope I can do a good job here. I don't want to fail her."
"You can't think like that," Asuka declared. "You can only do what you can on that particular day. Jeez, there are some days where I miss witnessing your idiocy, but then I see it and wonder what was I thinking."
"Okay, okay, I'll do better next time," Shinji replied stifling a chuckle. Asuka looked at him for a few seconds before a thin smile formed on her face.
"What's she like?" She rested her chin on her elbow.
"Joanna is a nice person," Shinji said. "You would like her. She gets nervous a lot and has trouble talking to people sometimes, but I'm learning more about her every day, including some amazing things."
"So…she's kinda like you," Asuka leaned back in her chair. "I can't wait to meet her."
"You really think so?" Shinji decided to ignore the sarcasm. "I don't see how." Asuka was about the answer when Shinji heard a noise, like a door opening and closing, from Asuka's side of the screen. She noticed it too as her eye shifted to the source off screen and narrowing a little.
"Who are you talking to?" an off screen voice said. It was Mari.
"No one important. What's it to you?"
"Then it has to be our dear Shinji," Mari declared.
"Hey Mari," Shinji spoke up.
"Hey there," she said while remaining off screen. "Could I speak to him for a few minutes?" She asked Asuka.
"Hell no," she replied.
"Why? Do you want him all to yourself?" Mari countered.
"No." Her face began to blush. "You just came out of the shower. You're wearing nothing but a towel right now." Shinji's face began to blush as well.
"Well why didn't you say so?" Mari said. In less than a second, Shinji saw a towel land right over Asuka's head. "There that should be be better," she added while still off screen. "Well Shinji, do you want to talk to me?" Asuka whipped the towel off her head, and while the scowl on her face was not directed at him, Shinji could still feel it tearing through him. She came close to the screen while at the same time fighting off a bare arm that came into his line of sight.
"Talk to you later, okay? Bye." Asuka said fast before shifting her gaze from him. "Now you di-" The screen went off and Shinji laid down on his bed, trying to get some sleep. For a while though, he broke into fit of chuckling of not straight out laughter for a good while before he drifted off.