These characters and situations belong to Gainax, Hideaki Anno, and Yoshiyuki Sadamoto.
Stupid Shinji. Asuka frowned as she washed the dishes. Why the hell had he dirtied so many to make dinner? It hadn't been necessary, and then having the nerve to hide behind Misato when she's told him to wash his share.
The wimp. Wuss. Pansy. She would have hit him if it weren't so easy. Stupid, spineless Shinji. And here she was up to her elbows in dirty water. "Damn it," she growled.
It wasn't just Shinji either. The others at school just thought she was a bitch; they didn't fear her any longer, and that was unacceptable.
But her techniques had always worked, always gotten her what she wanted. It wasn't so easy to just change like that.
Asuka's eyes suddenly lit up.
"Hey, Misato, can I go to the command center with you today?"
Misato grunted something that might have been "school".
Asuka waved it off. "Oh, it's one of those stupid career days. I thought it might be interesting to see what you do when you're not ordering me to kill angels."
Without lifting her head, Misato grunted in the affirmative, too tired to even care.
She had to admit, when there wasn't any sort of emergency, the command center was a really boring place. Currently, Asuka was watching one of the techs whose name she couldn't be bothered to remember play a huge game of minesweeper on the main screen. He still had a few thousand mines left to find.
Sighing, Asuka looked around with as much casualness as she could muster. Still as a grave... Even Misato was sitting, reading a magazine. "So where is everyone?"
"When there isn't an alert, everyone either goes on stand-by or maintenance." Misato looked up from her magazine. "I, of course, get maintenance," she said flatly.
Asuka looked around again. "So... what do the commanders do now?" she asked.
"Who knows?" Misato was once again involved in the magazine. "Do whatever it is commanders do... watch MTV, Play Nintendo..."
"I can assure you it is neither of those things, Major."
Misato's feet slipped off the desk she had them propped upon, and she practically threw her magazine on the floor. "Of course not, sir," she said crisply, cheeks reddening.
"The UN wishes to cut our budget once again," Commander Ikari said, standing behind his usual console. Fuyutsuki was, as ever, with him.
"Again? We're already operating with less than optimal resources!"
"Yes, Major. And that is what we have been doing. Not watching MTV or playing...." Gendo looked up at the main screen, adjusting his glasses. "Minesweeper."
Asuka heard the tech swallow loudly as she gazed up at the two commanders.
"Of course, sir." There was a tightness to Misato's voice, but that was the only indication that she had been horribly embarrassed.
For a brief moment, Commander Ikari's eyes met Asuka's, and the light was so that they weren't hidden by any glare or reflection off his glasses.
She felt like a bug being slowly dissected, even in such a short amount of time. Her body almost betrayed her, wanting to shrink back under that look, but she would not allow it. Asuka met the commander's gaze dead on.
"What is the second child doing here?"
Concise, to the point. No need to worry about whose toes were being stepped upon.
"She's here--" Misato began.
"Career day at school, sir," Asuka announced loudly so everyone would know she was addressing the commander. "I was curious what went on during a non-emergency state." Again, he looked at her, but the light reflected off his glasses, hiding his eyes.
"And the Third Child?"
"I don't think he cares much to follow in your footsteps. Sir." She gave the commander the tiniest of grins, still staring right where his eyes should have been. She glimpsed sub-commander Fuyutsuki raising an eyebrow.
Without another word, Commander Ikari turned and walked away with Fuyutsuki following.
There were audible releases of breaths as he disappeared, and even Asuka realized she had been holding her own.
"Well," she said loudly, laughing a little, "that was fun."
"Shinji, take out the trash."
"But it's your turn, Asuka."
She turned and leveled her gaze at him.
Somehow, he held it for a moment, then flinched away. "Fine."
When he left, Asuka smiled gleefully.
"You know, Misato, it's totally pointless for me to go to school. I know more than the teachers do, and all the kids are so immature."
Misato just looked at her.
"I'd be much more interested in getting familiar with the command center. After all, I'll have your position one day," she said, hands on hips.
With one eyebrow twitching, Misato drained her beer.
"She doesn't want to go to school."
"She doesn't really have to. She already has one degree."
"Yeah, Ritsuko, but--"
"You just don't want to have her around you all day."
Misato put her head down and groaned. "Sometimes I wonder how Shinji deals with her."
"As little as he has to probably. But if you really don't want her here, you have to tell her. I don't blame her actually; I wouldn't want to be in school either." She patted Misato on the shoulder. "You won't have to babysit her... Make Shigeru do it."
Misato lifted her head. "Why me?"
The sub-commander. Yeah. No need to bother the commander with it. "Sir, if I could talk to you for a moment?"
"I'm having a small... situation with Asuka. She doesn't want to go to school; she says she'd prefer to spend her days here."
That brought Fuyutsuki up short. The second child... every day? This was no time for personal biases though. "I... suppose it's not a... problem. We'll have to find something for her to do though."
"Of course, sir." Hoo boy. The shit was really going to hit the fan.
"Waha! Shinji, go do the dishes for me. I'm too important to do housework!"
"Asuka, it's your turn," Misato grumbled, holding her hand to her head. She was in a permanent hangover now.
"Shinji will do them."
"No, you'll do them."
Swearing to herself, Asuka realized Misato wasn't paying any attention. Misato didn't seem to realize that in the house, Asuka was the smartest one and should have been afforded a little more respect. As it was, she treated like just another fourteen year old. Unacceptable.
Misato watched Asuka march into the kitchen and knew work was going to be... living hell.
"Asuka, this is Shigeru."
Asuka eyed him like he was an alien.
"Give her something to do," Misato ordered, and then hurried away.
"You were the one playing minesweeper the other day," Asuka accused.
"Ah... er..." How had he been drafted into this? Shit.
"So give me something to do, dummkopf. I don't want to stand around here all day."
"Uh... you can...." Shigeru looked around to find the others studiously ignoring him. "I guess you... could... help Maya! She's doing... something. She'll be right back."
Snorting with disgust, Asuka walked off. She was a bit surprised that no one said anything, none of the techs apparently caring whether she actually did anything or not.
Well, if they didn't care, she'd just do what she felt like. Casting one look back at the lazing crew, she walked off down a hall, deeper into NERV, her footsteps echoing around her.
Another set of echoing footfalls reached her ears, and for a moment, she considered heading back to the command center. She stopped herself though; she had as much right to be at NERV as anyone else did.
Head held up high, eyes forward, back straight, she began striding in the direction the footsteps were coming from.
Asuka turned a corner and almost skidded to a halt. Walking toward her was Commander Ikari with one hand stuffed casually in his pocket. He was alone, they were alone in the hall.
Would he say something to her? Reprimand her? He almost had to for the way she had... shot her mouth off at him. Even if it had been fun. The situation was about to get unpleasant, Asuka figured.
Closer, only five feet away. She expected him to stop and give her a disappointed look before chewing her out.
Under the light, four feet away, there was only the glare and reflection coming off his glasses. Three feet away and the glare disappeared. Eyes visible, Asuka looked at them, expecting to find something.
They gazed straight ahead, never noting her presence.
Two feet, and his eyes were still visible, never taking note of her. For some irrational reason, Asuka wanted to block his path and make him notice her. And then she realized it. So subtle, and so effective.
Her presence was unimportant to him, and that annoyed her, made her want to do something pointless, something against her calm and reserved character.
The commander passed her by and continued on as if Asuka never even existed. She turned and watched him go as he rounded the corner. Then she smiled.
Asuka made a choice that night. "I want to go back to school."
Misato put her hand on her forehead and rubbed it. "What now, Asuka?"
"Part-time. Be at NERV three days and school three days. So I can interact with people my own age, even if they are intellectually inferior."
"I'm to the point where I don't care what you do, Asuka. I just need a beer."
"Let me get you one, Misato," Asuka offered sweetly. "Shinji! Get Misato a beer!"
The two idiots made comments, proving what she had suspected before: they were no longer afraid, they no longer respected her as their superior. Instead of yelling, she didn't even bother to look at them, and the puzzled expressions on their faces she glimpsed made her feel warm inside.
They didn't know what to do. She had power over the,. That was the real reason for coming back to school. To hell with interacting with the idiots; she just needed to start small and work her way up.
"Hey Shinji, what's up with Asuka?" Toji asked at lunch.
Shinji shrugged, frowning. "She's been really pushy at home. She made me take out the trash even though it was her turn. It's really starting to bug me."
Kensuke looked at Toji, and they shook their heads. "Shinji..."
"Why do you put up with her like that, man? She's a grade-A bitch," Toji said.
"She's not that bad. She's just... I don't know. She's just..."
Toji and Kensuke nodded at each other. "A bitch," they said in unison.
"You fixed it all by yourself?"
Ritsuko laughed. "Of course not. The repair crews did, though I had to oversee them."
Asuka nodded, feeling like a kid again. It was like the first time she had seen her Unit 02. This time though, she was actually going to get her hands on it, see what made it tick. "So what are you going to work on?"
"Last time, you said your HUD was a little fuzzy; I was going to look at that first." Ritsuko smiled at Asuka, surprised at the girl's perky attitude. She wasn't as easy to work with when she was piloting.
"Do you make all those changes on MAGI?"
Ritsuko shook her head. "Think of it like a big TV. Sometimes the signal is bad, and you need to adjust the antenna, but sometimes the picture tube isn't working properly and needs to be fixed."
"So MAGI is like the antenna, and my Eva is like the TV."
"Exactly. We can look first to see if there are any problems with MAGI, and then Unit 02. If that turns up empty, I'll have to open it up."
"Will I have to synch?"
"Maybe later if there's nothing obvious, but I don't think it'll be anything serious."
Asuka whistled as she carried the stack of papers. Maintenance records, test results, repair notes, Unit 02's activation logs... And they all had her name on it. Right under Dr. Akagi's.
Pilot clearance wasn't high enough when the doctor had wanted to do some testing on the biological components of Unit 02. Even though Asuka had complained mightily, the doctor hadn't budged. Security clearance, even if it was concerning a pilot and her own Eva, was not something to be trifled with.
For some reason, Asuka was beginning to like Dr. Akagi. Maybe it was from giving her actual work to do, but there was more as well. The papers for instance. She didn't really want to be a mail carrier, but this wasn't quite the same. They were to go to the commander, delivered personally, usually by Dr. Akagi herself.
But the doctor had instructed Asuka on what to say, what the commander would probably ask, and what to answer in return. The doctor must have done it a lot to be so familiar with the commander.
Asuka marched up to Commander Ikari's door, put on her most serious face and rapped sharply on it twice. She expected an almost immediate answer since that was the kind of man the commander seemed to be, but there was no such thing.
Staring at the door, Asuka waited. She tapped her foot a bit impatiently. Maybe he wasn't there. Maybe he hadn't heard her knock. She lifted her hand, ready to knock again.
"Enter," came the voice from the other side of the door.
Asuka froze in amazement, an appreciative grin slowly spreading across her face. Recovering quickly, banishing the grin, Asuka opened the door and entered the office.
When her eyes adjusted, she saw three stacks of paper already on the commander's desk, and his attention remained on them as Asuka crossed the dimly lit office. She stood across from him for a moment, waiting for some sort of acknowledgement, expecting it... until she remembered whom she was dealing with.
It took all her willpower not to start grinning again. "The report of this morning's level one diagnostic of Unit 02, sir," Asuka said, and set the papers on his desk.
It suddenly looked like a mess, and she got an intense urge to take the papers back so the desk would be tidy once more.
"Where is Dr. Akagi?" he asked, not looking up from his work.
A question she had expected. "Still running tests. My clearance was not high enough to assist her."
"Pilot, hand over your access card."
He was looking at her then, and even in the minimum of light, his glasses gave off a glare and made his eyes impossible to see. This question, asking for her access card, hadn't been expected at all. With her hand trembling ever so slightly, Asuka held out her card to him.
When the commander reached out to take it from her, Asuka couldn't remove her eyes from that white-gloved hand. Surely he wouldn't... She was the Second Child; she was needed! "Sir," she said weakly, and hated herself for it.
He took the card, almost gently, and turned to look at his console. No doubt he was deleting all of her records, and she'd soon find herself on the streets of Tokyo-3 with nowhere to go and....
"Clearance granted," Commander Ikari said and handed the card back.
Asuka accepted it with numb fingers.
"Inform the doctor that I would speak with her at her convenience. Dismissed." His attention was already back on the papers before him.
"Yes... sir." Asuka left the office, access card still held loosely in her hand.
Ritsuko looked back as she heard the door open. "Asuka, you--"
"Commander Ikari increased my clearance level," she said, still a bit shell-shocked. "And he said he wanted to talk to you at your convenience."
Ritsuko rolled her eyes a bit and nodded. "When I'm done here, I'll go see what he wants this time," she noted absently.
That brought Asuka back to attention. The commander never did anything at anyone's convenience except his own, so why would he let Dr. Akagi get away with it? And she seemed so... casual about it, even a little dismissive.
Whenever Misato had to talk to the commander, she was always a frazzled mess afterwards. Though it seemed she was usually being reprimanded for one thing or another...
The doctor though, she was... cool. That was something Asuka could appreciate. Nothing at all like Misato, always getting drunk, yelling, acting like a child... That didn't accomplish anything.
"What do you think the commander wants to talk to you about? Me?" Asuka asked.
Ritsuko looked at her curiously. "Probably not. It's most likely about... the budget. Nothing to concern yourself with."
Asuka nodded, but didn't really agree. She wanted to be a part of the entire process, and she sure didn't want her Eva to break down in the middle of a battle because they didn't have enough money to buy new batteries.
She'd just have to be sure to be a fly on the wall for their meeting. That was all.
"That's enough for today, Asuka. What'd you think of it all? Not nearly as interesting doing the dirty work, eh?"
"I don't need to get the taste of LCL out of my mouth so it's not that bad, Doctor."
"I have to admit," Ritsuko said, straightening up, "you were more helpful than I thought you'd be."
Asuka gave her a confident smile. "I'm used to being underestimated."
"Well, I need to meet with Commander Ikari now; you should be able to get a ride from Misato," the doctor said as they both left the lab, the door locking behind them. "I'll see you tomorrow for synch tests," she said, and walked away from Asuka.
Asuka waited a moment until the doctor was out of sight. No doubt she was heading back to Commander Ikari's office. After counting to thirty, Asuka went that way too.
"Because I'm not at your beck and call. I have things to do."
"They can wait."
"You are not my number one priority."
"I am aware of this. It does not please me."
"Damn it, Gendo..."
Asuka's eyes widened a little. So this was the secret. No wonder the doctor didn't want her around for it.
"I have more work to get done," Ritsuko said tersely.
Finding she had no place to hide, Asuka just flattened herself against the wall and hoped she wouldn't be caught when Dr. Akagi came out.
The door never opened any wider than it already was though, and after a few heart-pounding seconds, Asuka relaxed fractionally.
"You can't get your way every time," Ritsuko said softly, sounding out of breath.
"Yes, I can."
The door shut and Asuka almost collapsed. That had been too close for even her comfort. The next time the doctor wanted to speak to the commander in private, she would give them both a very wide berth.
"I wonder what Shinji would say about this?" she mused aloud as she walked away. "Or Wondergirl..."
There was something about the idea of Wondergirl, Miss Non-emotional, in Unit 00 very calmly stepping on the commander that made her laugh, though a bit guiltily.
Asuka couldn't help thinking about what she had heard though.
'You can't get your way every time.'
'Yes, I can.'
"Yes, I can," she breathed and continued to walk.
"I liked the way you handled that idiot this morning. Thanks."
Asuka flashed her a cocky grin. "No problem. I think Toji's finally learned not to mess with me." Or she had learned how to keep him easily in line. Maybe that was why NERV ran as well as it did with the bunch of clowns working there.
Suddenly disgusted, Asuka couldn't help but think about those idiots as her only technical assistance if something ever went wrong with her Eva.
"Just because he and that little worm Kensuke don't take class seriously doesn't mean other people don't want to." Hikari's hand clenched into a fist, a gesture not lost on Asuka. "Sometimes I'd like to take Toji and...." There were no words to express how she was feeling.
Asuka just looked at her.
That was enough to make Hikari turn away, a blush rising on her cheeks, fist no longer clenched. "Well, he's rude anyway. Boys are just immature."
"Ah." That was interesting. All she did was look at Hikari and the class rep had practically spilled her guts. Maybe it was just in the other girl's nature, but still...
Still looking embarrassed, Hikari took a step back. "That was all I wanted to say. Thanks, I mean."
"Hey, want to eat lunch together?" Asuka asked suddenly, catching Hikari by surprise.
"Shinji made lunch today. I hope he got it right this time."
"Is Shinji a good cook?"
"Pretty good. He needs some help, but he's getting better. He makes great streudel, just like back home. I could have him make you some."
"Oh, would you? That sounds great."
"Shinji'll do it if I say so."
"So how did your meeting go?"
"With the commander."
"Oh, it was fine. Your name never came up."
'Thank God,' Asuka thought. "So, what's today's schedule?"
"Synch tests. You can get a jump on Rei and Shinji."
Asuka grimaced a little. "When will you do something about the taste of LCL? This stupid tests wouldn't be so bad if I wasn't floating in a big puddle of whale backwash."
Ritsuko raised an eyebrow. "Backwash from a whale?"
"You've never tasted it, have you? Ah well. I suppose that's the price I have to pay for saving the city."
Ritsuko shook her head, smiling slightly. "Go get changed so we can start. Maybe you can help me with Shinji and Rei's synch tests later."
Asuka suffered through the synch test as she had all the other times. She obeyed instructions automatically, lost in thoughts of her own.
She had to be realistic. She couldn't get her way every time, no matter how hard she tried. Commander Ikari was so much more... prepared to get his way. He was older and had more experience, his rank alone was enough, and he was a complete cold-hearted bastard.
That was the key concept. Since everyone thought he was capable of killing his own son, there were only a few select people that would question him. And if no one questioned him, no one would refuse him. He always got what he wanted...
Asuka frowned. Everyone questioned her, as if she were still in grade school. Waiting twenty or thirty years was not an acceptable option.
"You just dropped a couple points, Asuka. Is there something wrong?" Ritsuko asked over the com.
"No, just... distracted," she answered, and then tried to relax. Still, it wasn't fair that no one trusted her, that everyone treated her like a child. Except for Dr. Akagi; she didn't as much as the others.
Or Commander Ikari.
An adult... That was what he expected her to act like. To him, she was an adult. When it suited him, otherwise she was non-existent.
That got Asuka' thoughts running in a completely different direction while she performed her synch tests.
End Part 1