Neon Genesis Evangelion: Legacy
Episode VII: Awakenings


Chapter 9 – Training Day
June 14, 2020 – NERV HQ

The day had finally come for the new pilots, Hikari, and Kensuke, and reactivated pilot Toji to take their positions with the other pilots. As they arrived separately from their friends, who were already waiting in the ward room for the briefing, they all exchanged causal hellos, while the newcomers were unsure of what to expect.

"Hey guys." Mari said. "Nice of you to finally join us."

"Hey, they made us take tests." Toji said. "Do you know how hard those tests were?"

"I don't know." Mari shrugged. "You're the ones that took it, you tell us."

"Harder than our trigonometry test from the other day." Kensuke said.

"That wasn't hard at all." Asuka said. "It was a breeze, wasn't it, baka?"

"Yeah, I thought it was easy." Shinji said. "I mean, the English test was hard…"

"How did you not find the trig test hard?" Toji asked.

"I'm good with math." Shinji said. "That's all… I don't get why."

"Cause you're Rain Man?" Toji suggested.

"He is not retarded!" Mari snapped.

"It's just a joke, Mari…" Toji quipped.

"And an inappropriate one at that…" Hikari muttered.

"What?" Toji asked.

"Yeah, you emotionally stunted retard." Asuka quipped.

"Hey!" Toji snapped.

"I believe this is getting out of hand…" Rei said.

"Maybe it is, maybe it isn't." Asuka said. "But maybe we should avoid the retard jokes."

"Ya think?" Mari asked sarcastically. "Whatever would give you that idea?"

"Yeah, there's no place for jokes like that you guys!" Hikari said. "No, apologize!"

"Look, I'm sorry, Shinji." Toji said. "I was out of line."

"Yeah, and I was too…" Asuka muttered.

"Now that that's out of the way…" Mari began.

"Why are we here?" Hikari asked. "They just said to show up."

"Well… we don't usually come here at all for anything." Rei said. "We usually just go and have our sync test."

"Then they must have something important to tell us." Shinji said. "Why else would they call us here?"

"Bad news?" Asuka suggested.

"An Angel?" Kensuke asked excitedly.

"No, things are way more urgent when one of those thinks rolls into town." Mari joked. "It's probably some run of the mill shit."

"Like what?" Hikari asked. "You already know we're the new pilots…"

"No idea, we just have to wait for them to show up…" Asuka muttered. "Sometimes it takes a while."

"I swear if it's just miso and scruffy in the elevator, they're just making out and forget the time…" Mari joked.

"Ah, Mari, it's so nice to see you still haven't pulled your mind out of the gutter." Kaji said as he, Misato, Maya, and Yuki walked in and sat down.

"About time…" Asuka muttered. "We do enjoy our free time, you know."

"Yes, yes." Misato said. "We were simply finalizing some things."

"Like what?" Mari asked.

"Wait and see…" Maya said.

"Well, we've been waiting long enough." Asuka said.

"Asuka, are you always like this in a meeting?" Hikari asked. "It's so…"

"Disrespectful?" Misato asked.

"Annoying?" Kaji suggested.

"It's effective is what it is." Asuka said. "I'm too old to deal with bullshit. Just tell us what you need to and let us go."

"Alright, hold your horses…" Misato said.

"Hang on…" Kensuke said. "I don't mean to be rude, but who are you?" Kensuke pointed at Yuki. "You weren't part of our orientation…"

"Oh, yeah…" Misato said. "She's…"

"Yuki Iwasawa, United Nations Observer and Liaison Officer." Yuki replied. "Nice to meet you all."

"Now that we have the introductions out of the way…" Misato said. "We can get to why you're here." Misato sighed. "So, you all know there are three new, and now fully qualified pilots." Misato smiled broadly. "The three of you have a clean bill of health and can begin training immediately."

"But before we get to that, there is something else we'd like to tell you." Kaji said.

"Which is?" Shinji asked.

"Well, you guys are no longer kids." Kaji said. "You're all over eighteen, so it's time for a change in your position here."

"What could possibly change?" Rei asked.

"Yeah, we're pilots!" Mari replied.

"Well, it's time you had more official positions here at NERV." Kaji said. "As part of the actual command structure."

"You've got to be kidding…" Asuka said.

"Unfortunately no." Misato said. "Even if I think it's a bad idea… it does have additional benefits."

"Like?" Mari asked.

"More pay for one thing." Misato replied. "And just more access to the facilities here than you already have, including medical care for everyone in your family."

"So, what are you making us all Lieutenants or something?" Kensuke asked.

"Well, not entirely." Kaji said. "We've decided to scale things around a bit based on everyone's experience."

"So… Kensuke, Hikari, you'll be given the rank and responsibilities of Second Lieutenants." Misato explained. "Toji, because you've had experience with an Angel, you're being given the rank and responsibilities of First Lieutenant." Misato paused. "Mari, Rei, because you two did a bit the last time around, you're being given the rank and responsibilities of Captain." Misato smiled broadly. "Asuka, Shinji… you two did so much fighting, putting yourselves at risk constantly… so we've decided that not only are you being given the rank and responsibility of Major, but also giving you joint field command when you're out on an operation."

"You're what?" Asuka asked.

"Yeah, what?" Shinji reiterated.

"You two are in command in the field." Kaji explained. "Joint command. You still report to me, but you now have the official authority to make any decisions you want in the field. You want an airstrike, or new weapons, or some kind of distraction, or whatever else you need, you tell me, and we'll get it done."

"They have full authority for all legal orders, Colonel." Yuki said.

"Yes, thank you, I'm sure they couldn't have figured that out themselves…" Misato muttered. "But you'll also have sole authority if you ever lose contact with us, that way we can't question anything you've ordered."

"Unless it's in violation of international law." Yuki reminded them.

"We know!" Misato snapped.

"It's fine, Misato." Shinji said. "We understand… I think… we can make decisions as needed, but… uh… we still clear them with you?" Shinji paused. "Asuka?"

"Yeah, we can make decisions that keep us alive." Asuka said. "Without having to ask for permission?"

"Yep." Kaji said.

"Bitchin." Asuka said.

"So, when is this effective?" Shinji asked.

"As of right now, actually." Misato said as Kaji got up and handed out official looking folders to all seven of them. "Just sign these, and you'll be official members of NERV."

"What about school?" Hikari asked.

"You'll have any notes you need for school for any absences you suffer due to… Angelic interference or anything of the like." Misato said.

"But nothing else will interfere with school." Maya said. "We'll work around your schedules."

"So what about us?" Toji asked before he signed.

"Yeah, what Evangelions are we assigned to?" Kensuke asked.

"Well, that's easy." Maya said. "Toji, you're still technically assigned to Unit–03 as the Fourth Child." Maya turned. "However, for you two, we… uh…"

"We flipped a coin." Kaji said.

"Why?" Kensuke asked.

"To assign you an Evangelion." Misato replied. "Seemed the fairest way to do it, really."

"So, Kensuke, you're the Sixth Child, and you've been assigned to the American made Unit–04." Maya said.

"Is that the one that like exploded or something?" Toji asked.

"It didn't explode… it was just lost to an interdimensional rift." Maya said. "But it's been thoroughly inspected, and is fully capable of being piloted in combat."

"I'm sure they said the same thing before the S2 Engine test…" Kensuke said. "But you're sure? You inspected it?"

"I wouldn't have cleared it if I didn't think it was perfectly safe." Maya said.

"That term's a bit relative considering what we're talking about here…" Mari quipped.

"Fair enough…" Maya replied. "It's as safe as any Evangelion can be."

"What about me?" Hikari asked.

"Hikari, as the Seventh Child, you've been assigned to the French built Unit–06." Maya said. "It was just completed a month or so ago, so it's still fairly new."

"It's new?" Hikari asked.

"Yeah, three more Evangelions were ordered after the Mark II's attacked." Misato said. "Then U.N. wanted to be better prepared or something…"

"They wanted the additional protection more Evangelions offered." Yuki corrected. "Though, it does seem a tad excessive…"

"Really, just a tad?" Kaji asked. "There were 13 originally planned to be built… this is just over half the order being built. I'm surprised they just didn't order the rest of them."

"Well… the U.N. deemed that to be excessive and a waste of a monumental amount of funds." Yuki said. "Do you have any idea how much those things cost to create, let alone maintain? It's ridiculous!"

"Well, yeah, we do know how much they cost to create…" Maya said. "And we have to maintain them too…"

"Yeah, it ain't cheap to keep these things up." Misato said.

"So, can we leave or something if you guys are gonna argue?" Asuka asked.

"Have you all signed the paperwork?" Kaji asked.

"Yeah, I think we all have." Shinji said.

"Ok then… Commander?" Kaji asked.

"To answer your question, Major Soryu… is no." Misato said. "Maya will take you downstairs and give you all a refresher on the sync test policies." Misato said as she heard a grown from Asuka and Mari. "For the benefit of everyone. Then you can go home."

"And the sync test itself will be short to set a baseline for the new pilots and compare their readings with the veteran pilots." Maya said. "And then we'll schedule activation tests for Unit–04, and Unit–06, and a re–activation test for Unit–03."

"And all other sync tests will be on hold until those are completed." Kaji said.

"Sounds good to me." Shinji said.

"Why are they on hold exactly?" Rei asked.

"We'd like all your subsequent sync tests to be all together." Kaji said. "No need to pull the rest of you in if these guys aren't ready yet."

"So, Colonel, if you don't mind, I'd like to get them down there to start." Maya said.

"That's fine." Misato replied. "Dismissed."


June 15, 2020 – NERV HQ

Kensuke sat excitedly in the locker room. He had finally been issued a plugsuit, identical in design to Shinji's. It was mainly olive green on the waist, lower torso, arms and hands. There was a goldenrod highlight on the collar, and the built up chest area and shoulder guards were a deeper shade of green than the rest of the plugsuit, and had the number "04" stenciled onto it. The plugsuit also had black lowlights on the underside of his arms and running down the sides of his legs coming down from where the chest armor met the rest of the plugsuit. Kensuke then looked down and grabbed the pair of A10 connectors he had been given, which were also olive green and put them gently in his hair, making sure they were secure.

Kensuke stood up and looked into one of the mirrors and smiled at himself proudly. He loved wearing the plugsuit, he felt important wearing it. As he looked himself over, Kensuke noticed the color reminded him of an army uniform, the irony of which was not lost on him.

"Looks like I finally got to join the military…" Kensuke said happily. "Glasses apparently can't keep me from piloting an Evangelion."

"All personnel be advised that the Activation Test for Unit–04 will begin in fifteen minutes in Test Cage. All non–essential personnel are asked to clear the area immediately." Sumire called over the intercom.

"I was so distracted by this awesome plugsuit, I forgot that I had an activation test!" Kensuke exclaimed, not realizing he still had time to get downstairs. "Oh… I can't believe I already forgot about Unit–04!"

Kensuke rushed out of the locker room, running for the elevators. He found one and got on it, taking it down to the Cage, where he saw a directory sign pointing him in the right direction. As he approached the Test Cage, he passed Maya in the hallway.

"Kensuke, slow down." Maya said. "We don't need you getting hurt before you step into Unit–04."

"I know, but they said…" Kensuke said quickly.

"Yes, well, you're not late… it was just a general reminder." Maya said. "But seeing as you have time… do you want to see Unit–04 before we begin?"

"Yeah I do!" Kensuke said excitedly.

"Follow me." Maya said as she led him to the Test Cage were Unit–04 was restrained to the wall. As Kensuke followed her in, he gasped in awe at his Evangelion. The vast majority of its body was olive green, like his plugsuit, with the collarbone area, knee guards, and the back of its head all being vermilion, with the fore arms, the middle section of the abdominal armor, and thighs being goldenrod.

"Who chose the color?" Kensuke asked.

"My girlfriend, Kotomi." Maya said. "It was painted before it shipped over."

"It's beautiful…" Kensuke muttered.

"I've never heard an Evangelion get described like that before." Maya said.

"Well… I've wanted to pilot for so long, ever since I first found out about them, I've wanted to pilot." Kensuke replied. "It's a dream come true for me. I can't wait to turn it on."

"Well, the Entry Plug is next to it." Maya said. "Do you want to get in and relax before we start?"

"I don't think I could relax!" Kensuke said excitedly. "I'm too happy!"

"Well, you need to, otherwise we may not get proper readings." Maya said sternly.

"Then I'll try to relax…" Kensuke said as he walked towards the awaiting Entry Plug. No one was there, but the pilot's seat had been removed from the Entry Plug and was on the transfer crane, waiting to move him inside. He sat in the seat, which felt like it was made for him and grasped the control yokes tightly.

"So this is what it's like…" Kensuke said.

"It's not even close kid." Kaji said over the intercom.

"Huh?" Kensuke asked. "Who said that?"

"I did." Kaji said. "I'm here with Sumire, Hideki, and Midori in the control room."

Kensuke looked up and saw them all in the window, peering out at him. "Oh… I see you."

"So, you're a few minutes early… and Maya's not here yet…" Kaji paused. "Never mind, she just walked in. Do you want to start the test now?"

"Yeah!" Kensuke said excitedly.

"Then buckle up." Kaji said as the crane turned on above Kensuke's head. "Transfer the pilot's seat to the Entry Plug."

"Beginning process now." Midori said as the crane picked up the seat and moved it gently to the Entry Plug.

Kensuke felt the seat get released from the crane and settle onto its track inside the Entry Plug. As the crane pulled away, the cover of the Entry Plug closed and bathed Kensuke in the soft orange glow of the ambient lighting installed inside the Entry Plug.

"Entry Plug has been sealed." Midori reported. "What's next?"

"Removing Signal Termination Plug." Hideki said. "Signal Termination Plug has been removed from Unit–04… ready to receive Entry Plug… transferring now."

Kensuke felt the Entry Plug get inserted into Unit–04 and screw itself into place. He heard a loud hiss and a faint thud as the hatch over the Entry Plug sealed itself.

"Entry Plug has been locked into place… outer hatch secure… connecting to Unit–04." Hideki reported. "Primary connections have been established… connection complete."

"Alright, nice job Midori. Nice job, Hideki." Kaji said encouragingly. "Now for the hard part… you're up, Sumire."

"Right." Sumire replied. "Connecting umbilical cables… opening all circuits… all circuits are open and static… internal batteries are fully charged and on standby… S2 Engine coming online… S2 Engine is online… power output is optimal and within normal operating parameters."

"Good." Kaji said. "Proceed."

"Flooding Entry Plug with LCL now… bringing primary systems online." Sumire said.

Kensuke looked and heard the rush of LCL coming towards him. It was warmer than he remembered when Shinji took him and Toji in during Shamshel's attack. He remained calm as the LCL covered his face and took a deep breath.

"LCL flooding is complete… LCL pressure and charge within normal parameters… primary systems are online." Sumire reported. "Life support is fully operational… internal data recorders are running and transmitting real time."

"Maya?" Kaji asked.

"Establishing secondary connections." Maya said. "Electrolyzing LCL… secondary connections established… A10 nerve connections online and nominal."

The Entry Plug was lit up in a dazzling array of colors, then it was lit up further by a brilliant flash of light, followed by a rainbow of swirling color, then more colors flashed on the walls around Kensuke until he could see the inside of the Test Cage displayed all around him. Kensuke looked around in amazement.

"This is so fucking awesome!" Kensuke said excitedly.

"Configuring language logic interface for Japanese… all preliminary contacts have now been established… performance is nominal… opening bi–directional circuits… communication with the Entry Plug is open on a two–way channel." Sumire reported. "The bi–directional circuits are now open and transmitting… transmission strength and modulation is within normal parameters… brain wave pattern and harmonics are normal… pilot life signs are optimal… pilot synchronization ratio is at 8.2%."

"Excellent." Kaji said. "Maya… nerve connections, right?"

"Right… establishing nerve connections now." Maya said. "Nerve connections are established through 1640… 1790… 1930… 2240… 2490… 2550… clear to 2790… 2910… 3160… absolute borderline in 70… 40… 30… 10… absolute borderline passed… nerve connections now connected through 3510 and active… Evangelion Unit–04 is now online."

"How you feel, Kensuke?" Kaji asked.

"Tingly…" Kensuke said. "Like I feel different, but I'm the same. It's so weird…"

"That's a normal sensation." Maya said. "So we know you're getting limited feedback."

"So is that it?" Kensuke asked.

"Not quite." Kaji said. "Sumire, run the diagnostics please."

"Checking all Evangelion mechanical systems… all mechanical systems green… now checking Evangelion bio–components… all bio–components check out… now checking S2 Engine components… all green." Sumire reported. "Evangelion Unit–04 is in the green … activation test complete."

"Now it's all over, Kensuke." Kaji said. "Nice work."

"You did great, Kensuke." Maya said. "We'll begin the shutdown sequence momentarily."

"So you have to start it right now?" Kensuke asked.

"Well…" Maya said.

"Oh, what's the harm?" Kaji asked. "He's enjoying himself, and I'm firmly against ruining a good time."

"Alright, you can stay for fifteen more minutes." Maya said. "I'm just not used to someone so… well happy to be in there."

"Why would someone be upset doing this?" Kensuke asked. "This is awesome!"

"Not everyone appreciates the Evangelions the way you do." Kaji said.

"We may as well collect more data while he's in there." Maya said.

"Yeah, I'll keep a close eye on everything…" Sumire replied.

"I have to go get Unit–03 prepped for Wednesday. Send me the raw data when the test is done." Maya said. "I don't want him in there too long though."

"I could stay in here forever!" Kensuke said happily.

"That's not really advisable." Kaji said. "But we will keep it at a reasonable time limit."

"That's all I ask." Maya said. "Have fun Kensuke!"

"Oh, I will Miss Ibuki!" Kensuke replied happily.

–––

Kaji went up to Misato's office after being urgently called there from the Test Cage. As he entered, Misato was sitting behind her desk, waiting for him.

"I'm so glad you called." Kaji said. "Gave me a reason to get Kensuke out of that thing… what's up?"

"So the test went well?" Misato asked.

"Nothing exploded, and we're still in our own reality, so I'd say, yeah, went pretty damn well." Kaji replied. "So, seeing as I'm here, do you have a minute?"

"Sure, I called you up here, but what do you want to talk about?" Misato asked.

"Well… the kids brought this to my attention almost two weeks ago." Kaji began. "Something about the Cores we're storing the excess souls in?"

"What excess Cores?" Misato asked.

"The ones NERV used to put all the murdered souls of mothers it gathered to increase the potential pilot pool." Kaji said flippantly.

"Sau what now?" Misato asked.

"Cores, lots of them." Kaji said.

"Look, I'm not worried about work right now, unless it's absolutely critical." Misato said.

"It's not life or death…" Kaji began. "But it's still an issue."

"Kaji, that is honestly the least of our problems." Misato said. "I called you up here for personal reasons, and I don't want to talk about work."

"But Misato, this is important!" Kaji protested.

"No work!" Misato snapped.

"Fine, but Misato, we can't do it on the desk again, the last time I pulled something in my back, and you bruised your shoulder blades…" Kaji protested.

"No… not that." Misato said with an eye roll. "I wanted to talk to you about our double date with Maya and Kotomi."

"No." Kaji said plainly.

"Wrong answer." Misato said.

"How is it the wrong answer?" Kaji asked.

"Because we were both invited." Misato replied. "And you're not ducking out of this either. I'd like you to be there."

"Why though?" Kaji asked.

"Kaji, we've gone out on three dates since you got back." Misato said. "And I'd like to go out with our friends. I'm a little bored of not being with our friends."

"Misato, I want to… but I just don't think I'm ready for that yet." Kaji said. "I'm sorry… I just don't feel up to that."

"Look, no one's going to shoot at you or anything." Misato said.

"It's not that, Misato." Kaji replied calmly. "I just don't want to make things awkward… I have been gone for three years… things do change… that's just… life."

"Suck it up, Kaji, you're coming with me on a date." Misato said. "Don't make me order you to go."

"Fine…" Kaji said reluctantly.

"Good… so be ready at eight, ok?" Misato asked.

"Yeah, sure." Kaji said. "I'll uh… see you later."

"Ok." Misato said. "Dress nice!"

"I will." Kaji replied as he left.

–––

Kaji was looking around nervously as he and Misato entered the restaurant. They saw Maya and Kotomi sitting happily a table for four, waiting for them to arrive.

"Hi guys!" Maya said happily.

"Nice of you to join us!" Kotomi said.

"Well someone was dragging his feet." Misato said as she pointed to Kaji. "So, how long have you two been here?"

"Oh, just a few minutes." Maya replied.

"They have unlimited fries." Kotomi said.

"How many baskets have you gone through?" Misato asked.

"Three or four." Kotomi said. "I lost count."

"She didn't have lunch." Maya said as she waived her hand up and down.

"I hope you're not overworking her, Maya." Kaji said.

"I would do no such thing!" Maya replied.

"Well anyway…" Misato interjected. "Thanks for inviting us."

"Well, it was high time that the four of us got together." Maya said. "It's much nicer having an even number come to dinner."

"Yeah, it just feels right." Kotomi added as she reached for more fries.

"Well, I'm glad to be back." Kaji said.

"It's good to have you back." Maya said. "Things just weren't right without you around."

"And we all missed you." Misato said.

"And I missed everyone too." Kaji said awkwardly.

"Hey, remember that time we went to dinner and those three guys thought we were all single?" Kotomi asked. "And they kept hitting on us?"

"Well, until Misato punched their lights out that is." Maya said.

"That wasn't a fun night…" Maya said.

"Yeah it was, those guys really regretted hitting on us after that!" Kotomi said.

"Knowing Misato's right hook, I would guess they did." Kaji said as he stood up. "I'll be right back… nature calls."

"Well don't be long." Misato said. "I'd like to order tonight."

"Just order without me…" Kaji muttered as he walked towards the bathroom.

"Wonder what's up with him." Maya said.

"Oh, he's been like this all day." Misato said. "He'll be fine."

"Are you sure, Misato?" Maya asked. "Cause he's not acting like himself."

"Things change after three years of being a super spy." Misato said. "HE's not the same person anymore… neither am I… people change."

"Yeah, cause I don't think he's coming back." Kotomi said.

"Why would you say that?" Misato asked.

"Cause I think I just saw him walk out the front door." Kotomi replied.

"That son of a bitch!" Misato shouted angrily as she stood up. "I'm gonna…"

May grabbed Misato's arm. "Sit down, Commander." Maya said harshly.

"Why should I?" Misato asked. "I have to go deal with this!"

"Not right now you don't." Maya retorted.

"Fine…" Misato grumbled as she sat back down gruffly.

"Misato, how much time did he have to prepare for tonight?" Maya asked. "Because he didn't mention knowing about anything earlier."

"Why does it matter?" Misato asked.

"Just answer the question." Maya said.

"This afternoon after the activation test." Misato reluctantly replied.

"Was that the best idea?" Maya asked.

"Yeah, he kept blowing you guys off." Misato replied. "It was unfair of him to do that!"

"I told you we'd all get together when he was ready." Maya said. "Not just when you wanted to."

"He's an adult." Misato said. "He can sit though dinner like a big boy."

"Yeah, but he's a changed adult." Kotomi said. "You said it yourself, people change… and maybe he's not ready to deal with it yet."

"He was gone for three years of his own free will!" Misato said. "Anything he missed is his problem, not mine!"

"Misato, he may have missed out on stuff, but maybe he's just not ready to do the double date thing, or even be out in public." Maya said. "Hiding away that long does things to a person. Look at Rei, she's much more open than she was five years ago. She smiles, she laughs, she's no longer the isolated and naïve girl she was. Kaji's been isolated for so long, maybe he's just got a lot to process."

"I don't know…" Misato said. "But he shouldn't have run off like a total jerk."

"I'm not saying what he did was right." Maya said. "But maybe you need to look at it from his side."

"I'm not doing that this time, once was enough." Misato said. "He can come apologize for running off when he's ready. Until then, I'm not talking to him." Misato looked up and saw the waitress approaching. "So, let's enjoy the rest of the night and eat our hearts out, ok?"

"You mean eat our feelings." Kotomi said.

"Whatever, I'm just hungry…" Misato retorted. "And upset."


June 17, 2020 – NERV HQ

Toji was sitting nervously in the locker room. He was dressed in a new plugsuit, identical to the one he wore that fateful day almost four years ago. It was colored a dark grey–blue on the waist, lower torso, arms and hands. The collar was colored red and contrasted nicely against the grey of the built up chest area and shoulder guards. The plugsuit also had black lowlights on the underside of his arms and running down the sides of his legs coming down from where the chest armor met the rest of the plugsuit. Toji absentmindedly rubbed the "03" stenciled on his chest as he looked woefully the pair of grey A10 connectors he had in front of him.

"I've got to be crazy to do this…" Toji muttered. "I almost died the last time… watching my friends get hurt trying their best not to kill me…" Toji took a deep breath. "I just have to remember that I'm doing this to save Sakura from the pain."

Toji put the A10 connectors in his hair and stood up nervously. "I guess I can't just wait around anymore… I've got to go do this… I have no choice."

Toji left the locker room and went to the Test Cage Maya told him his activation test would take place in. As he got off the elevator and walked towards the Test Cages, he saw Kaji standing in the hallway ahead of him. Kaji waived him over and Toji obliged.

"Hey kid, how ya feeling?" Kaji asked.

"I'm doing fine." Toji said.

"Your face isn't saying that." Kaji said. "I can see you're worried, and you're right to be."

"This isn't a great pep talk, Kaji." Toji said.

"Because it's not a pep talk." Kaji said. "Look, you went through hell four years ago when you tried to do this the last time, but Maya's been through the Evangelion, and you just have to trust her. You've got to face your fears and stare down the thing that almost got you killed. Can you do that?"

"That's funny you say that…" Toji quipped as he snickered. "Aren't you in trouble for running out on a date with Misato?"

"Do you kids talk about everything with each other?" Kaji asked.

"More or less." Toji replied. "So, it's ironic you're telling me to face up to my fears."

"It is, but that doesn't make it any less true." Kaji said. "And I know I fucked up, but that's not going to stop me from making things right… why am I even telling you this?"

"Guilt?" Toji asked.

"Not guilt, kid, regret." Kaji said. "Now stop changing the subject… are you still afraid to get in the Evangelion, or are you going to face down your fears?"

"Well… I guess I can do it…" Toji said. "For my sister if no one else…"

"Good answer, Toji." Kaji said. "Now don't you have an Evangelion to activate?"

"Probably." Toji replied as he walked off. "Good luck with Misato though, I hear she's pretty pissed."

"Yeah, I know she's pissed…" Kaji said as he walked the other direction, leaving Toji to face Unit–03 alone.

As Toji walked into the Test Cage, he looked at how similar it was to the one at Matsushiro. He looked up at Unit–03, it was exactly the same as it was the date of his first activation test. Unit–03 loomed over them with it's mainly obsidian coloring. It had a few highlights of white on the shoulder pylons, shoulders and forearms with a slate colored facemask and knee guards, and a maroon clavicle area. Seeing the Evangelion up close again made Toji extremely nervous, but he did his best to remember that he was doing this to avoid Sakura standing in his shoes.

"Just gotta suck it up Suzuhara…" Toji muttered as he climbed into the pilot's seat once again and was lowered into the Entry Plug, which sealed like a coffin as he settled in. "I'm not going to die in here… I'm not going to die in here…"

"Hey, you all buckled up in there?" Kaji asked.

"Yeah, I'm ready." Toji said. "Let's get this over with."

"Right then…" Kaji said. "Where were we?"

"Entry Plug is locked in place… outer hatch is secure… connecting to Unit–03." Hideki reported. "Primary connections have been established… connection complete."

"Connecting umbilical cables… opening all circuits… all circuits are open and static… internal batteries are fully charged and on standby." Sumire reported. "S2 Engine coming online… S2 Engine is online… power output is optimal and within normal operating parameters."

"Good." Kaji said. "Proceed."

"Flooding Entry Plug with LCL now… bringing primary systems online." Sumire said.

Toji remembered this from before and was ready for the onslaught of LCL as it began pouring into the Entry Plug. Toji took a deep breath and breathed the LCL in, sputtering a bit as the Entry Plug finished filling up.

"LCL flooding is complete… LCL pressure and charge within normal parameters… primary systems are online." Sumire reported. "Life support is fully operational… internal data recorders are running and transmitting real time."

"Establishing secondary connections." Maya said. "Electrolyzing LCL… secondary connections established… A10 nerve connections online and nominal."

The Entry Plug was lit up in a dazzling array of colors, then it was lit up further by a brilliant flash of light, followed by a rainbow of swirling color, then more colors flashed on the walls around Toji until he could see the inside of the Test Cage displayed all around him. Toji looked around in amazement.

"This is as far as we got last time I think…" Toji said apprehensively.

"We actually got a bit farther than this, but everything's going very well." Maya said. "Just stay calm, the test will be over shortly."

"Configuring language logic interface for Japanese… all preliminary contacts have now been established… performance is nominal… opening bi–directional circuits… communication with the Entry Plug is open on a two–way channel." Sumire reported. "The bi–directional circuits are now open and transmitting… transmission strength and modulation is within normal parameters… brain wave pattern and harmonics are normal… pilot life signs show increased heart rate and pulse, but are otherwise normal… pilot synchronization ratio is at 5.5%."

"Toji, are you ready for the part of this?" Kaji asked.

"Yes, I want to get out of here already." Toji replied snarkily.

"Establishing nerve connections now." Maya said. "Nerve connections are established through 1580… 1700… 1870… 2060… 2310… 2590… clear to 2750… 2940… 3180… absolute borderline in 70… 40… 30… 10… absolute borderline passed… nerve connections now connected through 3510 and active… Evangelion Unit–03 is now online."

"How you feel, Toji?" Kaji asked.

"Like something could go wrong at any second." Toji replied sarcastically. "So can we hurry this up?"

"We're almost there, Toji." Maya said kindly. "Sumire, run the diagnostics please."

"Checking all Evangelion mechanical systems… all mechanical systems green… now checking Evangelion bio–components… all bio–components check out… now checking S2 Engine components… all green." Sumire reported. "Evangelion Unit–03 is in the green … activation test complete."

"Now it's all over, Toji." Kaji said. "Nice work."

"You did really well, Toji." Maya said. "We'll begin the shutdown sequence momentarily."

"The sooner the better." Toji said. "I want to get the hell out of this thing."

–––

Misato was just coming home from work, and was both exhausted and upset. She was tired from the continuous mountain of paperwork that ended up no her desk, from requisition forms to information requests, everything went through her for approval at some point or another. But she was also upset because of Kaji.

As she pulled into the parking lot, she saw the kids were all home, which meant that her day would finish on a high note with one of Shinji and Asuka's home cooked meals. Misato got out of the car and went to the elevator and took the fast ride up to the apartment. As she stepped off the elevator, she heard a noise from down the hall, which only got louder the closer she got to the door.

I feel so unsure
As I take your hand and lead you to the dance floor
As the music dies, something in your eyes
Calls to mind the silver screen
And all its sad good-byes

I'm never gonna dance again
Guilty feet have got no rhythm
Though it's easy to pretend
I know you're not a fool

Should've known better than to cheat a friend
And waste the chance that I've been given
So I'm never gonna dance again
The way I danced with you

Time can never mend
The careless whispers of a good friend
To the heart and mind
Ignorance is kind
There's no comfort in the truth
Pain is all you'll find

I'm never gonna dance again
Guilty feet have got no rhythm
Though it's easy to pretend
I know you're not a fool

I should've known better than to cheat a friend
And waste the chance that I've been given
So I'm never gonna dance again
The way I danced with you

Never without your love

As Misato got to her door, her heart sank and her blood pressure skyrocketed as she saw Kaji standing there with his phone plugged into a set of portable speakers that looked like a boom box.

"Hey, Misato…" Kaji said nervously.

"What the hell are you doing here?" Misato asked. "I'm upset with you, you know."

"And I'm here to apologize." Kaji said.

"Sure you're not going to run off again like before." Misato asked sarcastically.

"I deserved that." Kaji said. "But I am sorry about the other night… I shouldn't have run off… but I told you I didn't want to go."

"And your best response was to run off like a total asshole?" Misato asked. "Kaji, if you keep running off like this, I don't want anything to do with you. My heart just can't take it."

"Misato, I just couldn't handle being out with you three." Kaji said. "So much has changed, and I felt like a third wheel."

"Even though there were four of us?" Misato asked.

"Misato, I felt like an outsider." Kaji said. "Three years is a lot of change to go through. I only had dinner with them the once before everything went down, but you had three years to build that relationship up… it was too damn awkward for me."

"Well, that's your problem isn't it?" Misato said. "For running off for three years to play super spy."

"Yes, but you can't force me to do something and then get mad when don't want to deal with it." Kaji said.

"This is some apology…" Misato muttered.

"Hey, I'm trying to explain why I left." Kaji said. "I think I'm allowed that much."

"You are." Misato said. "But I honestly don't care about what you did. You made your choices, and no you have to live with them. So if you want to continue this relationship, you just can't go and rush off like that. You have to either suck it up… because I don't want you becoming some perverted old hermit!"

"Misato, I'm not going to become some old hermit." Kaji said. "And I know it's my own fault, but I still need time to get comfortable again… work is one thing, but being in public still freaks me out a lot."

"Why didn't you say anything sooner?" Misato asked. "I would have understood that if you told me the other day."

"I was embarrassed." Kaji replied. "I didn't want you to think I'd changed and become a coward or something…"

"Idiot…" Misato said. "Why would I judge you for being honest?"

"I didn't say it made sense…" Kaji muttered.

"Fine, from here on out, no more secrets, no more lies, no more fibs." Misato said. "If we're going to make this work, then we have to be completely honest with each other."

"And we can't make other people keep secrets for us either." Kaji added.

"Fair enough." Misato said.

"So, am I forgiven?" Kaji asked.

"I'll let you know when you finish the song…" Misato said as she hugged him tightly.

Tonight the music seems so loud
I wish that we could lose this crowd
Maybe it's better this way
We'd hurt each other with the things we'd want to say

We could have been so good together
We could have lived this dance forever
But no one's gonna dance with me
Please stay

And I'm never gonna dance again
Guilty feet have got no rhythm
Though it's easy to pretend
I know you're not a fool

Should've known better than to cheat a friend
And waste the chance that I've been given
So I'm never gonna dance again
The way I danced with you

Now that you're gone
(Now that you're gone) What I did's so wrong, so wrong
That you had to leave me alone

"Never run away from me again, Kaji…" Misato said softly.

"I promise I won't do that again…" Kaji replied.

"I love you." Misato said as she kissed him.

"I know." Kaji replied. "And I'll always love you."


June 19, 2020 – Tokyo–3 Senior High School, Class 3–A

School was over for the day, and Hikari was stalling for time by staying late to clean up. She had an appointment at NERV with Unit–06 for its very first activation test. Hikari however was interrupted by her friends, who had an idea of what she was up to.

"Don't you have somewhere to be?" Mari asked.

"I have a few minutes before I need to leave." Hikari replied.

"No, you need to leave now." Mari replied. "Unless you're nervous or something."

"I'm not nervous." Hikari replied quickly.

"Then how are you feeling?" Rei asked.

"Yeah, what's the big deal?" Asuka asked. "Stop stalling."

"Yeah, staying here isn't going to solve the problem of Unit–06 being activated." Mari quipped. "Besides, Toji was apparently able to suck it up long enough to do it, so you shouldn't have problem."

"But what if I mess up and can't sync to it?" Hikari asked. "I don't want to fail."

"Hikari, this isn't school. There are no grades." Asuka explained. "You just have to do your best and work on improving, that's it."

"None of us were able to get a perfect sync score on the first try." Rei said. "I couldn't even move my Evangelion on my first try."

"So don't worry about messing up." Mari said. "Because you can't mess this up. You just have to put on a plugsuit, sit in the Entry Plug, and concentrate."

"And also not fall asleep." Asuka added. "But other than that, its full proof."

"So I can't fail?" Hikari asked.

"No." Mari repeated. "Is that what you were worried about?"

"Well, partially." Hikari replied.

"And what else are you worried about?" Rei asked.

"Everything that could go wrong." Hikari muttered.

"Don't think about that." Asuka said. "You're wasting your time thinking about that. Just go in there and focus on activating Unit–06, otherwise you'll drive yourself crazy."

"Yeah, there's literally a million things that could wrong when you get in an Evangelion." Mari said. "But that's the risk we take, so embrace it and ignore it."

"You guys are horrible at pep talks…" Hikari muttered.

"Well, we can't be great at everything." Asuka said.

"Pepe talks are more Shinji's thing I think." Mari said.

"He's not that great at them either." Asuka said.

"But you will be fine." Rei added. "I have faith that you can do this without a problem."

"Thanks, Rei." Hikari said calmly.

"So, are you ready to go then?" Mari asked. "Because you don't want to be late."

"Well… I do have one question." Hikari said.

"What about?" Mari asked.

"Will I be on my own, or will you guys be there?" Hikari asked.

"No, it'll just be you and whoever is in charge of the activation test." Rei said.

"Plus, we have to do the cleaning seeing as you're not gonna be here to do it." Mari said. "So get going already."

"Yeah, scram and go activate Unit–06." Asuka said playfully.

"I'll go." Hikari said. "But I have one more question…"

"Shoot." Asuka said.

"How does the plugsuit work exactly?" Hikari asked nervously.

"Ah… that's easy." Mari said. "Now listen carefully, otherwise you'll end up feeling very uncomfortable in that thing."

–––

Hikari was alone in the girl's locker room. It wasn't quite how she imagined her first day in the Evangelion to be, alone. She thought her friends would be there in the locker room with her, but just like Kensuke and Toji, this was a test she had to face alone.

Having listened to Mari and Asuka's instructions on the plugsuits had helped her a great deal. She had very little trouble pulling the plugsuit and once she activated it, she looked herself over, impressed about how it didn't even feel like she was wearing anything. From what Hikari could remember of seeing Asuka at NERV, her plugsuit was a duplicate of Asuka's, just with a different color layout.

Hikari's plugsuit was colored a beautiful teal to match her Evangelion, with a violet highlight along the collar bone, navy blue highlights on the collar, and dandelion highlights on her breasts that looked like pasties. There were also black lowlights on the underside of her arms and several black stripes wrapped around her thighs that accentuated her curves quite nicely. Hikari also had her A10 connectors in her hair, which were the same color as her plugsuit, teal.

"It doesn't even feel like I'm wearing it." Hikari said aloud. "And it actually looks kinda nice too, though the pasties are a bit much…" Hikari grinned. "I wonder how Toji looks in his plugsuit… I bet he looks hot…"

Hikari shook her head. "Can't think about that now… gotta focus." Hikari said to herself. "Now I just need to find this Test Cage, and then I can get this thing started."

Hikari exited the locker room confidently and found a sign pointing her in the right direction. A few minutes and a short elevator ride later, Hikari arrived at the Test Cage and entered. Inside, she saw what the believed to be the Entry Plug with a pilot seat assembly sitting next to it. She then looked up to see the massive Evangelion she was destined to pilot. Identical to Unit–03 and Unit–04 in design, it only differed in color. The vast majority of its body was teal, like her plugsuit, with the collarbone area, knee guards, and the back of its head all being dandelion, with the fore arms, the middle section of the abdominal armor, and thighs being navy blue.

"So pretty…" Hikari said. "The colors look so vibrant…"

"Wait to get into a fight with it." Kaji said. "The paint looks less vibrant after that."

"Mr. Kaji?" Hikari said aloud.

"IN the control room." Kaji said. "Just sit in the pilot seat when you're ready."

"Ok." Hikari said as she walked towards the pilot seat and sat down. As she found the restraints on the seat and fastened the, the crane above her moved and lifted the pilot seat into the Entry Plug. Instinctively, Hikari grabbed the control yokes as the crane released the seat and the hatch over her head closed, leaving her only the faint orange glow of the Entry Plug's ambient lighting.

"Entry Plug has been sealed." Midori reported. "Standing by."

"Removing Signal Termination Plug." Hideki said. "Signal Termination Plug has been removed from Unit–04… ready to receive Entry Plug… transferring now."

Hikari yelped as she felt the Entry Plug move and get heard a dull thud as she felt it get inserted into Unit–06.

"Oh my god, it's really happening now…" Hikari mumbled. "Why in the hell did I sign up for this again…?"

"Entry Plug has been locked into place… outer hatch secure… connecting to Unit–06." Hideki reported. "Primary connections have been established… connection complete."

"Good." Kaji said. "Sumire, Maya, are we ready for the fun part?"

"I'm ready, Colonel." Sumire replied.

"As am I, Kaji." Maya said.

"Proceed." Kaji said.

"Right." Sumire replied. "Connecting umbilical cables… opening all circuits… all circuits are open and static… internal batteries are fully charged and on standby… S2 Engine coming online… S2 Engine is online… power output is optimal and within normal operating parameters."

"Flooding Entry Plug with LCL now… bringing primary systems online." Sumire said. "Pumps active."

Hikari looked and heard the rush of LCL coming towards her. She felt a pang of panic as the liquid washed over her feet, giving her a comforting, yet disturbed sensation all at once. It was warmer than she expected, and it smelled faintly of blood.

"Just remember to inhale steadily." Maya said. "And just remain calm."

"Right." Hikari replied as the LCL washed over her face and she took a deep breath. Hikari coughed and sputtered as she felt the warm LCL fill her lungs, as the taste of blood lingered in her throat. She felt like she was drowning for a moment, but then began to breathe easy as her lungs adjusted to the oxygenated LCL.

"LCL flooding is complete… LCL pressure and charge within normal parameters… primary systems are online." Sumire reported. "Life support is fully operational… internal data recorders are running and transmitting real time."

"Ready, Maya?" Kaji asked.

"Establishing secondary connections." Maya said. "Electrolyzing LCL… secondary connections established… A10 nerve connections online and nominal."

The Entry Plug was lit up in a dazzling array of colors, then it was lit up further by a brilliant flash of light, followed by a rainbow of swirling color, then more colors flashed on the walls around Hikari until he could see the inside of the Test Cage displayed all around her. Hikari looked around in amazement at what she was seeing.

"So that's how they can pilot." Hikari said. "This is astounding…"

"Wait till you see the outside world from inside." Kaji said. "I'll bet the view is even more breathtaking."

"Configuring language logic interface for Japanese… all preliminary contacts have now been established… performance is nominal… opening bi–directional circuits… communication with the Entry Plug is open on a two–way channel." Sumire reported. "The bi–directional circuits are now open and transmitting… transmission strength and modulation is within normal parameters… brain wave pattern and harmonics are normal… pilot life signs are optimal… pilot synchronization ratio is at 7.6%."

"Excellent." Kaji said. "Maya… how are the nerve connections looking?"

"Ready to go… establishing nerve connections now." Maya said. "Nerve connections are established through 1580… 1710… 1920… 2180… 2470… 2560… clear to 2800… 2990… 3320… absolute borderline in 70… 40… 30… 10… absolute borderline passed… nerve connections now connected through 3510 and active… Evangelion Unit–06 is now online."

"Great work everyone." Kaji said. "How ya feeling, Hikari?"

"I'm doing ok." Hikari said. "I feel weird… but I can't quite describe it."

"Well, that's normal." Maya said. "But your readings are perfectly normal."

"So is that it then?" Hikari asked.

"No, we just have a few diagnostics to run, and then need you to focus for a few minutes for some baseline readings." Maya explained.

"Sumire, run the diagnostics please." Kaji ordered.

"Checking all Evangelion mechanical systems… all mechanical systems green… now checking Evangelion bio–components… all bio–components check out… now checking S2 Engine components… all green." Sumire reported. "Evangelion Unit–04 is in the green … activation test complete."

"Now it's all over, Hikari." Kaji said. "Great job."

"Nicely done, Hikari." Maya added. "As soon as the baseline readings are set, we'll begin the shutdown sequence, ok?"

"No problem." Hikari replied happily. "This was a lot easier than I thought."

"Well, don't get used to it." Kaji said scoldingly. "Things get more difficult form here on out, don't forget that."

"I won't, I know this isn't an easy job." Hikari replied. "I'm just really glad I was able to do this without messing it up."


June 21, 2020 – NERV HQ

Everyone was sitting patiently in the conference room. They were there for another round of sync tests, their first as a group of seven. As they were waiting for their bosses to show up, the kids decided to chat a bit, as they hadn't had the time this past week with all the Evangelion activations.

"So, how did your activation tests go?" Mari asked. "I mean, you're still alive, so they can't have gone too badly…"

"Mari, this isn't a joking matter." Rei said seriously.

"Oh, come on…" Mari said. "I'm trying to lighten the mood in here. It's a little depressing."

"Oh, ignore her." Asuka said. "But in all seriousness, how did it go?"

"It went fine." Hikari said. "I was nervous, but Unit–06 turned on just fine."

"What about you, Toji?" Shinji asked.

"It was nerve wracking considering the last time I tried this." Toji replied. "But I guess… I mean it went ok… but I'm not looking forward to this all that much."

"Isn't anyone going to ask me how it went?" Kensuke asked.

"We can guess that you had a lot of fun and really enjoyed it." Mari joked. "Correct me if I'm wrong though…"

"No, you're right…" Kensuke said sullenly.

"Mari, that's not nice." Shinji said scoldingly. "Kensuke, what did you think of Unit–04? Is it everything you ever dreamed of?"

"Everything and more." Kensuke replied happily. "I don't think I've ever been happier."

"You seem much happier." Rei said.

"Because my dreams are coming true." Kensuke said.

"Yeah, no all you need is a girlfriend, and you'll be fine." Toji said unknowingly.

"Yeah… a girlfriend." Kensuke chuckled nervously.

"Well, I still can't believe they're letting you two be in charge." Mari said as she pointed to Asuka and Shinji.

"Why is that such a problem?" Shinji asked. "We have the most combat experience."

"And the most kills." Asuka added. "Not to mention our sync scores are both over 100% and still climbing."

"It's not like we asked to be in charge." Shinji added.

"But we're going to make the best of it." Asuka finished.

"I'm actually glad it's them and not Mari." Toji said. "You're kinda reckless, Mari… I don't think that's a good quality in a leader."

"I never said I wanted to be in charge, jock." Mari quipped. "I'm just surprised it's them."

"Who would you rather see in charge of us all?"

"Rei." Mari replied. "She's mature, and always level headed."

"I would have refused the responsibility." Rei said. "Shinji and Asuka are far more qualified than I am to be in charge."

"You would have refused?" Mari asked.

"Yes." Rei said. "And I would have insisted it be anyone but me. I don't want that kind of responsibility… not for someone's life."

"Look, no one's going to die." Shinji said. "We're going to kill every Angel that comes at us, and then when they stop coming, we'll all be no worse off than when we started."

"Better yet… none of you have permission to die." Asuka ordered. "And I'm never giving you permission to die either, so you can't."

"That's very reassuring." Toji said as he rolled his eyes.

"You're joking right?" Hikari asked. "Because that's not how orders work…"

"It's how they work now." Asuka said. "We're in charge, and you're not allowed to die." Asuka turned to Shinji. "And that goes doubly to you, baka."

"Why are you looking at me?" Shinji asked.

"Because Mari may be reckless, but you're even worse if you have half a chance of playing hero." Asuka said.

"I'm not the only other reckless one here." Shinji replied.

"Are you implying that I'm reckless…?" Asuka began.

"I believe he is, princess." Mari purred.

"Baka…" Asuka began.

"Asuka, you have been reckless in the past, just as much as onii–chan has." Rei said. "So not point the finger if you cannot accept blame for what you've done."

"Whatever…" Asuka said as she crossed her arms in a huff.

"So, are they always this late to these things?" Hikari asked.

"Not generally." Shinji replied. "Unless something more important is going on."

"Or they have another meeting." Rei added.

"Yeah, we just have to be patient." Mari said as she glanced at Asuka. "Though some of us aren't exactly all that patient to begin with…"

"I am patient enough!" Asuka grumbled as the door opened.

"That's not always the case, Asuka." Kaji joked as he walked in with Maya leading the way, and Misato coming in behind Kaji. They all looked up and watched as they sat down on the other end of the table, away from them.

"Sorry for the wait, we were in the middle of another meeting." Misato said. "But… before you start your sync tests, we thought you should know how you did." Misato motioned to Hikari, Toji, and Kensuke. "Now… you were all able to adequately sync to your EVAs, but I'll leave Maya to explain the specifics."

"Right, so there's a hierarchy of scores that judge how well someone can control an Evangelion." Maya explained. "But there's a minimum threshold that must be met before any control can exercised."

"What's the minimum threshold?" Kensuke asked.

"And did we surpass it?" Hikari asked.

"The minimum threshold is 15.0%." Maya replied. "At that point, the bare minimum of synaptic control can function. Unfortunately, none of you me that threshold… yet."

"What were our exact scores?" Hikari asked.

"Well… Kensuke you did the best with an 8.2%… Hikari, you did nicely with a 7.6%… and Toji you got a 5.5%… well, it's not the best, but your past experiences in Unit–03 would have adversely affected the score…"

"So can we improve our scores?" Hikari asked.

"Yes, it's entirely possible with continued practice and focus." Maya said. "And then your scores could get as high as the others."

"How high are the others?" Toji asked.

"Rei and Mari are in the mid–90s and Shinji and Asuka are well over 100% if I have the numbers correct." Kaji said.

"That's accurate." Maya said. "Though their scores are still improving."

"Still?" Toji asked.

"Would we ever be able to catch up?" Kensuke asked.

"Probably not." Misato said. "But improving your scores is still very important, so don't let that discourage you. They've just had way more practice."

"Oh…" Hikari said sullenly.

"But, I do have news and it's the reason we were running late." Misato said.

"It's about the excess souls." Kaji said. "The Commander has ordered a team be set up to search out and destroy all the remaining Cores to free the souls still trapped in them. While it doesn't make up for what was done to them… or to your parents… the souls will at least be at rest."

"So they're all going to be destroyed?" Shinji asked.

"Save for the seven currently in use by the Evangelions, yes." Misato replied. "Everywhere we can search under the United Nation's authority, we're going to."

"Misato was able to get the U.N. to agree to assist given the… extraordinary circumstances regarding all this." Maya said. "It may take some time, but it will be done."

"Good." Asuka said.

"But what about our moms?" Hikari asked. "What will become of them?"

"Until the Angelic threat has been permanently neutralized, we can't release your mothers' souls." Misato said. "But as soon as any credible threat has been eliminated, they will be set free."

"And on that note, perhaps we should get your sync tests started so you can start to improve them." Maya said as she stood up.

"But uh, Shinji, Asuka, can you stay a minute?" Kaji asked as everyone started to get up. "I'll escort them down in a few minutes."

"Sure thing." Maya said. "Five minutes won't be a big issue."

As everyone left the room, Kaji and Misato looked at them proudly. "I just want to say we're really proud of how you two have handled yourselves the past few months." Kaji said. "You've really exceeded our expectations, which is saying something because they were already pretty high to begin with."

"But, the last few Angels have been tougher and more powerful than anything we've faced before." Misato explained. "And the next one, if there is one, is likely to be even more powerful if the trend continues."

"What we need you to start to do, considering your sync scores more than allow this is to begin training to actively manipulate you're A.T. Fields to attack the Angels." Kaji said.

"But that's not possible!" Asuka said. "We had a hard enough time making a barrier!"

"Yes, but we have some tech that Takao and Maya have been working on to assist with that." Misato said. "Sort of as a focal point for your power. We know that you possess it because Shinji has shown it off when he's extremely angry or otherwise emotionally unstable… but we want to be able to utilize that power to the fullest extent we can."

"When will we start doing this?" Asuka asked.

"During your sync test and also in place of some of your combat training, which, if we're being honest, you two certainly don't need." Kaji replied.

"When does this start?" Shinji asked.

"Today." Misato replied. "Maya will give you further instructions when you get downstairs."

"So let me bring you down so she's not kept waiting too long." Kaji said as he stood up.

"Yay… more work…" Asuka said sarcastically.

"Well, this is the responsibility of command, guys." Misato said as Kaji led them out. "You're always given more responsibility than anyone else."

–––

It had been a long day of tests, and Shinji and Asuka were both exhausted. When they got home, instead of changing or even washing up from their tough day of sync tests and trying to use their A.T. Fields like an Angel would, they simply collapsed onto their bed.

"That totally sucked." Shinji muttered.

"Yeah, no shit." Asuka said. "But we're in charge… so we have to be more responsible or some bullshit…"

"I don't care right now." Shinji replied. "I just want to sleep."

"What, we can't talk first?" Asuka asked.

"As long as it's not about work… we can talk about anything." Shinji replied.

"Well… I've been thinking a lot lately." Asuka said. "About life after this… like can we ever be normal again if we save the world?"

"Probably." Shinji said. "When the world forgets about the Angels and Instrumentality and everything… but this is work related…"

"Sorry." Asuka replied. "I just… I just want to be able to have a family someday and not be haunted by this. Is that too much to ask?"

"It's not." Shinji replied. "And when we have a family, we'll make sure we're the most normal people we can be." Shinji turned overly slowly and kissed Asuka on the cheek. "You'll be such a great mother that no one will remember how great of an Evangelion pilot you were."

"Suck up." Asuka joked as she kissed him back. "But do you really think I'll be a great mom or are you just saying so to shut me up?"

"Why would I lie to make you stop talking?" Shinji asked. "You're a very caring person who can also discipline people pretty well." Shinji smiled. "Just don't order our kids to not die without your permission… ok?"

"No promises." Asuka replied. "So… now that my worries are out of my system… are you in the mood for anything?"

"Well…" Shinji said coyly. "It'll be slow going… I'm a little sore."

"As long as we make it to the finish line, I don't give a shit how long it takes." Asuka replied as she pulled out a condom. "Let's just not start a family quite yet, ok?"

To Be Continued


A/N: I do not own Evangelion or any of the characters, GAINAX and the other distributors of NGE related material do. I am simply using them as a backdrop for my fanfic.

As for the songs used in this chapter, I don't own them either, and they're listed below in order of appearance:
George Michael – Careless Whisper (1984)

Sync Score Rankings!
Shinji – 155.0% (+5.0%)
Asuka – 145.0% (+10.0%)
Mari – 96.3% (+9.9%)
Rei – 90.4% (+12.0%)
Kensuke – 8.2% (New)
Hikari – 7.6% (New)
Toji – 5.5% (New)

This week's chapter title is derived from the movie of the same name, where a young LAPD officer is shown the ropes by a more experienced detective.

This is fairly cut and dry chapter, though it was supposed to be shorter, rushing though something for the sake of length isn't the smartest plan. Now that the new pilots have been selected, it's time for them to get in the Evangelions. I took a similar approach to how the other four were introduced with their Evangelions, activation tests. Yes, it was a bit repetitive with three in a row, but it had to be done as these characters deserved the best introduction possible with their reactions ranging from excitement to near contempt. Toji's was the most important for me to look at considering he never really would have had a chance in the show to ever pilot again with Unit–03 having been reduced to mush, but here, things weren't as bad, and his hesitancy to pilot (in a similar vein to Asuka's initial refusal after three years) is fully understandable.

So, with all the Evangelions now residing in Tokyo–3, and pilots to be assigned to each of them, here's a breakdown of some obvious and not so obvious information.
Unit–01: Uses the same color layout as Unit–01 in NGE (Shinji).
Unit–02: Uses the same color layout as Unit–02 in NGE (Asuka).
Unit–03: Uses the same color layout as Unit–03 in NGE (Toji).
Unit–04: Olive green as primary color with goldenrod and vermillion highlights.
Unit–05: Uses the same color layout as Unit–08 in NTE (Mari).
Unit–06: Teal as primary color with navy blue and dandelion yellow highlights.
Unit–07: Uses the same color layout as the refit Unit–00 in NGE (Rei).

Kensuke's remark about finally being able to join the military and his glasses not stopping him from piloting is a reference to real world militaries where certain things (such as poor eyesight) can keep you from joining. Kensuke's always wanted to join the military, but due to his poor eyesight, he knows from his extensive military knowledge, he will never be able to join. However, NERV doesn't have this restriction, and he is free to pilot the EVA. Now, I'm assuming that just because he has glasses, his eyesight is poor, like really poor. But considering he wears the glasses all the time, I doubt they're just for reading.

Kaji and Misato's arc is starting to get back to normal, with Kaji continuing with issues after his self–exile from normal human contact. This won't be a continuing theme with them arguing, now that the major things in their relationship have been addressed.

As I said before, and will always say at the end of chapter, please leave comments, as I would like to try to improve the story going forward any way I can. And, hell, constructive criticism is a good thing.


つづく