'\-/' Neon Genesis Evangelion: Honor's Duty " Stanza Eight: Jagged Revelations
Unbeknownst to Nerv, Shinji's epic battle with Shamshiel had another observer besides Kensuuke, Touji, and Hino, one who had the awkward position of fully rooting for Shinji even though it had been he himself attempting the boy's demise not three weeks prior.
The wind blew his short-cropped blonde hair about, and he raised one hand, wearing a white fingerless glove, to comb through it idly. He was dressed in a red sweatshirt with white stripes on the shoulders and on the stomach, a pair of khaki dress slacks, and khaki suspenders. All in all, he looked exactly like Yashiro from Team Elemental in the old SNK King of Fighters game series.
Which suited Sachiel just fine. He rather liked KoF DM 1999,
even if the translators HAD screwed up on the title. It was till a great game. And don't get him started on KoF 2002; he could play with his toes and still whoop your ass (There's plenty of Dreamcasts and free time in Heaven).
He winced in sympathy, placing one hand over his stomach in remembered pain as Shamshiel was defeated by a cross slash just under the core.
Sachiel, now calling himself Futaba Yashiro, tossed the
Evangelion a sketchy salute as Unit-00 left the fallen foe behind.
Then he began down the cliff, heading towards the remains before the Nerv clean up crew got there.
Sure, the surprise 'free continue' was nice, but Yashiro had learned the hard way: It's a stone cold bitch to get out of your core when it's packaged in a metal box.
In the middle of the Pacific.
Heading towards America.
With no cash.
And no American Express Traveler's Cheques.
"Yeah, that was a pain in the ass."
Shinji emerged from the entry plug and glanced at the welcoming party, giving them a sharp once over. Both Gendou and Ritsuko looked as if they were slightly worried over something.
Misato looked pensive yet still angry over his earlier peeping,
Kizuko, still wearing her school uniform but missing the sling,
cast, and bandages he had been used to seeing on her, stared back at him with her normal piercing gaze. Rei, dressed in black pleated skirt and a beige sweater with an extra wide neck, just looked sleepy.
"What? We killed it, didn't we?" he asked as Maya lightly hopped out of the entry plug to land on the walkway beside him.
"We were slightly worried," Ritsuko explained as the pair came to join them. "You achieved a Synchrograph of one hundred and twenty percent, something neither Commander Ikari nor myself thought possible with two people in the Entry Plug. How do you feel?"
Shinji shrugged, and clasped his hands behind his head. "I feel fine."
Maya took two steps forward, dipped Ritsuko, and planted a
kiss on the startled woman's lips. Ritsuko struggled for a few
seconds, then blushed furiously and went about returning it. Shinji
and Gendou smirked, saw each other smirking, and then both dropped
the expression, pointedly looking in different directions. Misato
sputtered a moment, then put a hand to her forehead and walked off,
muttering something about the command deck. Kizuko cocked her head slightly to the side and observed. Rei blinked, stifled a yawn, then went over to Shinji and did much the same thing to him that Maya was currently doing to Ritsuko. Shinji reacted initially as Ritsuko had,
but surrendered much quicker than she.
Gendou sighed, went over to his personal lift, disappearing as he spoke into his communicator. "Garibaldi, get a fire hose. I'm going to watch my new porno collection."
Kizuko watched the pair of couples kissing for a full minute before cocking her head to the other side. "Intriguing."
Rei finally broke off her kiss, and trailed the fingers of
her right hand down Shinji's neck, over his LCL soaked clothes.
"What say you and I go and get you cleaned up?"
Shinji blinked, and nodded quickly, blushing madly. "Un!" he said as Rei pulled him towards the baths. Kizuko, having nothing else better to do, followed.
A few minutes later, Maya finally brought her kiss with
Ritsuko to a lingering close, and whispered, "Hail to the King,
"Oh, Maya..." Ritsuko demurred, "Japan to Maya. Maya? Are you alright?"
"Eh?" Maya snapped out of her daydream to find everyone still standing where they were just before she had kissed Ritsuko in her dream. "I'm fine," she said to her sempai, "Just fine. Though I'm hungry, and I need a bath. Ritsuko, you're having dinner with me tonight at eight," she stated as she walked off towards the baths.
"Eh? I'm, I'm what? Wait! Maya, wait a minute!" Ritsuko ran
to catch up with the younger woman. "What's this all of a sudden?
Why are you treating me to din..." her voice trailed off as the door closed behind them.
"Huh. Wonder what that's all about?" Misato asked
rhetorically, only to catch both Shinji and Gendou smirking at her.
"You both know something, don't you?"
"I'd tell ya Misato, but..." Shinji started.
"...That information is classified Ultra-Violet, Captain"
Shinji and Gendou smirked at each other and shared a laugh, after which the elder Ikari shook his head and headed out the door. He paused at the doorway. "Good work, Shinji. Expect a promotion shortly."
"Thank you... Father. Do I get a pay raise with that?"
"Naturally," Gendou smirked again, and then left.
Shinji turned to give Kizuko a once over, now that both she and Rei were standing side by side, and ran a comparison. Kizuko was shorter than Rei by about 5 centimeters, her hair was cut just slightly shorter than Rei's, and she looked a little younger than her sister. "So, feeling better?" he asked her pleasantly.
"I feel fine," she returned.
"No, I meant about the bandages and such."
"Dr. Akagi removed them while we awaited your return from the battle. They were no longer necessary," Kizuko explained.
"I'm glad you're, umn, back in top form, I guess." Shinji said, wondering how best to compliment the girl.
Kizuko just blinked at him. "It will serve."
"What's with the Vespa?" Rei asked, cutting into the conversation while eyeing the small black and grey motor scooter the Evangelion had set on the walkway before Shinji had gotten out, "You didn't steal it, did you, Shinji?"
"Nah. I bought it while I was out with Maya. Now I've got wheels. Which reminds me..." he said, running back to the entry plug. He came back carrying two helmets and a pair of driving goggles, "I keep forgetting this stuff."
He shook some LCL out of the helmets before setting one on Kizuko's head. She blinked back at him quizzically. "What is this for?"
"Want a ride home?" He asked in return. Kizuko's eyes widened a bit in understanding, and then she nodded.
Rei frowned slightly and raised an eyebrow at Shinji.
"Putting the moves on my sister, huh?"
"Of course. I put the moves on everybody," he said, smiling at her. "But, you were my first kiss."
She blushed, and crossed her good arm across her stomach,
clasping the elbow of her left. "Oh..."
Misato rolled her eyes, and turned to leave. "You're half again as smooth as you need to be, boy. One of these days you're going to end up in trouble."
"I'm sorry, Misato," he called to her retreating back.
The older woman stiffened slightly at his words before sighing. "I forgive you. God knows why, but I do. Rei's being discharged today, Ritsuko will be bringing her home around six. Be sure to be there -okay?"
"Sure, but why?" he asked.
"You're gonna be her caretaker," she explained with a sly grin and a waggling of her fingertips before darting out.
Shinji looked at Rei. Rei returned his arched gaze with a blank look of her own. "Well," she said, "This is the first I've heard about this. You?"
"Hadn't a clue," said he with a slight shrug.
"I was thinking they'd get Kizuko to..." Rei stopped in mid-
sentence, giving her younger 'sister' an appraising look. "No, no,
never mind. I can see what a disaster that would have been."
"I am a disaster?" Kizuko asked, cocking her head to the side ever so slightly.
"Not at all. You just lack the knowledge required for the job." Rei explained hastily, her right hand moving up and down in an 'I didn't mean that as an insult' gesture.
Kizuko looked at her own hand and then mimicked the motion,
causing Shinji to snicker and Rei to sigh. "What job?" she asked after a moment.
"Cooking, cleaning, entertainment, physical therapy," Rei
didn't like the gleam that came into Shinji's eyes when she said
that, "Umn, helping me dress," she really didn't like the gleam now,
"Bathing," Kizuko offered.
"Yes, Bat- what? No! No, you're not helping me take baths,
Shinji!" Rei exclaimed, pointing at him accusingly, "So get the thought out of your head right now!"
He sighed. "And for a second there I had my hopes up,
honest. But I still get to see you naked."
Rei narrowed her eyes. "How so?"
"Bras are a bitch/exceedingly difficult one handed," he and Kizuko explained at the same time.
"I'll get Mom to help. Or Misato. Not. You," Rei stated flatly.
Shinji sighed in defeat. "Mou... you take all the fun out of my life."
A small window suddenly popped up in front of Shinji,
causing him to step back. "Shinji, report to the briefing room,
now!" Ritsuko demanded from the comm. window.
"Uh, sure, just one question," he asked.
"Were is it?"
"You... Urrggh," She sighed, then pointed at Kizuko.
"Ayanami, show him the way." The window flipped around, so that the picture was facing Rei. "And back to the hospital with you."
"Do I have to?"
"Yes!" Ritsuko snapped as the window disappeared.
"Damn. Well, have fun getting yelled at, Shinji." Rei offered with a wave.
Shinji shifted uncomfortably on the metal folding chair inside the debriefing room, which was a rather sparsely furnished,
soundproofed room near to the pilots changing rooms. Ritsuko towered above him, anger narrowing her eyes and pulling her usual bemused smile into a tight, disapproving frown. "What the hell were you thinking," she finally demanded, hands on her hips, one foot tapping impatiently as she continued. "Asking the Magi for communications silence?"
"Umn, I had something to say that I didn't want overheard"
Shinji said as he shifted under her eyes.
"Oh? Really? What was so important that you cut off all systems from head quarters? Yes, ALL. Don't give me that 'I didn't know that' crap. The Magi are quite literal about that sort of thing."
"Oh. Just, you know, giving Maya a pep-talk."
"I don't think telling Maya that the Angel was the only obstacle between her, myself, and mad passionate sex to be a proper 'pep-talk'," Ritsuko ground out, giving him a stare which could burn holes in linoleum.
"I don't remember wording it quite like that but..." A thought occurred to him, "How'd you find out, anyway? Evangelion flight recorder?" he asked.
"Something like that, yes."
Shinji sighed, and shook his head. "Really, Ritsuko, I don't see the problem here. I needed to get her motivated, and that did it. It's not my fault the girl has a crush on you the size of Unit Zero. She just does. If you don't like it, you need to tell her that - not me."
Ritsuko just glared at him.
Shinji squinted at her. "Unless... you're not sure if you should crush Maya's hopes and dreams when you yourself are still confused on your own sexual orienta-"
Ritsuko slapped him. Hard. She spun around again, clutching her wrist and swearing, "God fucking damn it, Ikari! I'm not getting into this with a fucking virgin!"
Shinji rubbed his cheek, muttering to himself. That had
actually hurt some. "Fine. Talk to Misato or Gendou or something. I
apologize for making it seem as if I promised you to Maya after the
fight, and I hope it doesn't ruin our friendship. The fact remains,
however, that had I not said what I said, I would have had no hope of defeating the Angel. I was only attempting to follow your advice.
Since the damage has already been done, I can only humbly ask for your forgiveness," he finished, rising from his chair and bowing deeply.
Ritsuko's expression softened a bit, bringing the room's temperature five degrees closer to normal. "The logical part of me realizes the valid need for your actions, but the emotional side of me is not very pleased with you, Shinji. However, I do accept your apology. Now, get out of here before I change my mind and kill you after all."
Shinji found Kizuko outside the debriefing room, next to his Vespa, right where he had left her. "Sorry for taking so long. Ready to go?"
The quiet blue haired girl nodded. "Yes."
A few minutes later they had exited the Geofront via
elevator. Shinji then drove the Vespa through the streets of Tokyo-
3, following Kizuko's soft spoken directions until he stopped at a nice apartment complex about ten kilometers from his own. "Not a bad place," he said as he removed his helmet, dropping it on the seat of the Vespa and leaving his goggles dangling around his neck.
"The commander chose it," was all Kizuko said as she placed
her own helmet by Shinji's and started to walk towards the building.
Shinji followed. She gave him a glance as she started up the flight of stairs, but did not say anything. They stopped at the fourth floor and Kizuko entered apartment 408. Shinji, lacking anything better to do for the moment, entered behind her, wondering idly what kind of room Kizuko kept for herself.
The answer was rather plain. The room was very Spartan in furnishings, having only a bed, a small desk against the wall near the entrance, a dresser, a personal refrigerator, which had a pair of beakers and some medicine on top, and there was a violin in a corner. A large window filled most of the wall behind the bed with curtains a faded drab green color, yet pulled shut against the failing daylight.
Shinji was rather unimpressed. The life of a true martial artist was spent training; yet even he had more random junk than Kizuko apparently had. "Umn, nice place?" he cautiously ventured.
She turned to regard him, and seemed puzzled at his presence. "What can I do for you?" she asked in her usual monotone.
Blank Cheque! he mentally exclaimed before posing dramatically, extending one arm towards her, palm up. "Your panties," he said seriously, making a 'bring it' motion with his hand, "Give them to me."
His eyes widened, face losing all emotion save disbelief as
she proceeded to do so. She placed the unadorned white cotton
underwear on his palm and stepped back, looking at him expectantly.
He shuddered as his body automatically absorbed her Ki, which, were it alcohol, would have been labeled '200 Proof'. It left him with a guilty feeling, as if he had just snuck into Eden and yoinked the Forbidden Fruit. "You're like, the ultimate definition of innocence,
aren't you?" he asked rhetorically.
She said nothing, simply watching him with her crimson eyes.
He sighed, feeling rather put out. "You take all the fun out of this. Put 'em back on."
She took them from him, and did so, her expression never wavering. "If you did not want them," she asked, straightening, "Why did you request them?"
"I was just trying to be silly," he replied, walking over
and sitting backwards in the swivel chair that belonged to the desk.
She sat on the bed and he turned the chair to face her. "And usually it leads to some training, something I haven't been getting a lot of recently. I gotta do something about that, before I get all lazy."
"Training?" Kizuko asked, cocking her head, "How does asking for one's panties lead to training?"
Her question almost mirrored his own, years ago, which he had asked his other, other, other Sensei, so he decided to give her something close to Happosai's answer. "Most women are sensitive to blunt questions involving their undergarments, and such a request will usually lead to them accusing one of being a pervert and proceeding to chase one with intent to do severe bodily harm for insult to their person. There are few things faster on this earth than an enraged female," he said while thinking, Damn, I've been hanging around Ritsuko a bit too much...
"So the objective of such a request is to promote personal insult?" she asked.
"No, the desired effect is usually to get them angry enough
to chase you, so you can dodge their attacks and test your stamina
while running at high speeds for fairly long distances," he said,
scratching his noggin, "but in this case, I just wanted to be silly and see how you reacted. I didn't think you'd actually give me your panties."
"I do not understand your incomprehension. It was a valid request," she stated.
"A valid request, huh? What would constitute an invalid request?" he asked, curious.
"Anything involving injury to my person."
Shinji cocked an eyebrow at her. "Really? So I could ask you to have mad, passionate sex with me, and you would? Just like that?"
This actually got a reaction. She blushed so slightly that
if she wasn't so perfectly fair of skin he would not have noticed,
and her eyes dipped from his for an instant. "You wish to become one with me?" she asked.
"I've thought about it, I admit, though we've only known each other for about a month now. You are rather attractive, you know." Her eyes remained locked on his, deep crimson against his earthen brown as he returned her question, "Do you wish to become one with me?"
"It would be..." she hesitated for a moment before finishing, "Pleasant."
They were both silent for a long while, Shinji in deep thought, while Kizuko merely waited for him to respond, their eyes remaining locked. Finally, he blinked, and sighed. "I'm still attempting to straighten out a few things in my life right now. Can I get back to you on this?"
"Thanks," he said as he rose, and headed for the door,
"Anyway, I better get going. Ritsu's mad enough at me already without me being late for Rei's homecoming, so I should probably show up early and cook something by way of apology. Again."
She nodded. "Goodbye, Ikari."
"See ya later, Kizuko!" he said with a cheery wave as he disappeared from her sight.
The Vespa roared to life, and pulled away from the apartment complex.
Above, with the curtains open for the first time she could
remember, Ayanami Kizuko stood, fingers pressed to the glass,
watching him depart. "Ikari... He Who Is The One..."
Shinji entered his apartment grumbling, which caught the attention of Misato. "What're you all mad about?" she asked, pausing in her efforts to hanging up a banner which read 'Welcome Home Rei!
(A 'Don't get your ass whooped next time' party)'.
"Some crazy woman wielding a Rickenbacker on a yellow Vespa dusted me on the way home," he muttered, eyeing her. She was wearing the thin yellow and black polka-dot tank top and the super tight short-shorts he liked so well. "Some people are just crazy. She must've been going two hundred kilometers an hour at the very least." He paused, now eyeing the sign. "Are you sure that's appropriate?"
"Probably not, but she'll think it's funny," Misato said cheerfully. "Hey, gimme a boost so I can pin this up, hey? I had to try balancing on the table to put up the last one, and, well, I fell off three times," she said, revealing herself not to be fully sober.
"Why don't you use a ladder?"
"Don't have one," she replied.
"I should have been expecting that, honest. So, how many Nerv personnel does it take to change a light bulb?" he asked.
"Two. Now get over here and be my foot stool!"
"Yes, mon Capitan," he said, kneeling and offering his laced hands as a purchase.
Misato looked a bit dubious, but then shrugged. "If you drop me, I'll hurt you."
"Just hurry up, I have food to cook."
"Ouuoo, return of Shinji the Master Chef, eh? How'd we luck out on that?" Misato asked as she as she placed one foot in Shinji's hands.
"Apology for me pissing Ritsuko off," he explained as he straightened slowly, raising Misato easily.
"Lucky us. You should piss her off more often." She said as she used a thumbtack to pin the sign to the ceiling. "There! Down please."
"WAAAAH!" came a shout from behind him.
"Ahhhh!" Misato screamed.
Shinji had a split second to decide, No Fall or Grope?
"Woaeeeeouuagh!" he said, grabbing all the way down.
Ritsuko surveyed her handiwork from where she stood by the front door. Not bad for one bellow, she thought as she smirked at the two sprawled on the floor in what appeared to be a sensual embrace, what with Shinji simultaneously fondling a breast and groping Misato's ass. "Oh, am I interrupting something, Misato?"
Said purple haired woman was on her feet in an instant,
glaring first at the boy, and then at the blonde scientist. "No fucking fair, Ritsuko! That hurt, you know!"
"Misato, you're standing on my spleen." Shinji groaned from under her.
Misato quickly stepped off of him, and helped Shinji to his
feet. "Oh, I'm sorry, Shinji! You're not hurt too badly, are you?
You can still cook, right?" she asked, the amount of concern in her voice causing the young man to grimace.
"Shinji can cook?" asked Rei from behind her mother, who was still blocking the entrance into the apartment, "I didn't know that."
"He's good at it, too! Better than Ritsuko even," Misato said as she pushed Shinji into the kitchen.
"Okay, Okay, I get the hint! I'll cook, I'll cook! Sheesh.
Go back to what you were doing," he muttered.
And so ran the general theme of the evening. After the meal,
to which even Rei admitted to Shinji's mastery off the Culinary Arts (Which he claimed was his foster father's wife's fault, Saotome Kasumi-san, who had mastered the Anything Goes School of Martial Arts Combat Cooking long ago and had made Shinji her heir), the older women broke out the beer while Shinji and Rei relaxed with some ice cream.
"So, what am I supposed to be doing as Rei's caretaker"
Shinji asked Ritsuko.
She handed him a thick manila folder as an answer. "Read up."
"Holy Schnikies and Egads, like," he exclaimed, briefly flipping through the pages, giving a cursory inspection to the exercise diagrams, physical therapy instructions, and dietary guidelines, "You want me to make her do all of this stuff?"
"Exactly." Ritsuko withdrew a small daily planner from her purse and handed it to Shinji as well. "I've scheduled everything she needs to do for the next four months. All you have to do is stick to the schedule and do what the instructions tell you."
"For some reason I get the feeling you should be telling me
all this, mom." Rei groused, finishing the last of her ice cream.
"And not him."
Ritsuko gently tousled her daughter's hair and smirked. "If I trusted you to do this stuff on your own, you'd never do it, you lazy little brat."
Instead of a rebuke, Rei just sighed resignedly, and stared longingly at Shinji's unfinished ice cream. "Mou..."
Yashiro was getting a little tired. Which was fair, as he had been hauling his unconscious cargo over one shoulder through mountainous terrain for the past five hours. He wanted to get as far from the site of the battle as possible to give Shamshiel enough time to recover. The question was where could they go? He had already walked halfway around the valley that sheltered Tokyo-03,
but he was reluctant to enter the human city with Shamshiel unconscious and, well, dressed in what Shamshiel was dressed in.
His cargo groaned, stirring softly. Yashiro knelt and did his best to set his passenger down gently. "It's about damn time you woke up. I'm not your cabbie," he complained good-naturedly.
"Mnn?" Shamshiel winced before coming to fully. "Wha?
Yashiro couldn't resist. "Someone set up us the bomb," he explained with a maniacal grin.
Shamshiel blinked, then scowled at the blonde man. "There's
only one person I can think of who'd use that stupid old geek joke.
Sachiel! The hell happened to you?"
"I know it's old, but I think it's funny. As for what happened, we got a free continue."
"Second chance, another try, 'Round 2 Fight' or something
like that. And before you ask me why I look like this, I... think
you should take a look at yourself, 'Angel'," he said with a grin,
one eyebrow waggling suggestively.
"What?" Shamshiel asked as Yashiro stood by and watched as his companion looked, jumped up, checked, patted the ass, felt the breasts, and finally exclaimed: "I'm a girl?"
"A girl, wearing pseudo-chaps, bikini briefs, and a Juicy jacket two sizes too small with nothing under it," she stated.
"Yep. Thanks for the free show, by the way."
"Christ on a crutch, Sachiel, if you don't shut it I'll"
She clapped both hands over her mouth and looked around for a place to hide before eyeing the sky nervously.
Yashiro shook his head. Shamshiel'll never learn... he
thought while saying, "First of all, I go by Yashiro now. Secondly,
relax. I think we're more or less human right now. Well, as human as video game characters can be, anyway. Or maybe we're Shito?" He asked himself as he watched Shamshiel drop her hands from her mouth and draw a deep breath. He held up a hand to forestall the coming torrent of insults, advising sagely: "Still, I wouldn't push it, if I were you." ESPECIALLY if I were you... he left unsaid.
"You take all the fun out of this, you know that?" she
asked, only to have him smirk and shrug by way of reply. "So,
obviously, Yashiro from King of Fighters. But that would make me who?"
"Angel, from KOF Two Thousand Two," he supplied, "Your hair is even platinum. It's kinda cool, really."
"It's getting cold, is what it is. Angel, huh? Good a name as any, I guess."
"You're actually taking 'Angel' as a name?" Yashiro asked,
"Yes, I am, Yashiro," she snapped, "Problem?"
Yashiro snapped to attention, yelping "No ma'am!"
"Good. At ease, Lord of Monday. You're my superior,
remember?" She paused, then shook her head, "Christ, who's plan was this, anyway? This is so fucking bizarre. I wasn't informed anything like this would happen..." Angel trailed off, unable to answer the questions she had and not wanting to create any more than necessary.
"Complaining already?" Yashiro asked, raising an eyebrow,
"You haven't even gone through a tenth of what I did, and you're bitching?"
"You weren't the 60 meter phallus attacking Tokyo,
'Yashiro'. I have a right to bitch, bitch. Deal," she groused,
looking around. "Where are we?"
"Halfway around the valley. I didn't think hauling your scantily clad ass through Tokyo-Three was a good idea. Kinda counter productive if you ask me. 'Oh, yes, Sorry Mr. Policeman, didn't mean to carry dead hooker through public streets, next time I will use back alleys and sewer access to properly dispose of body'," he feigned the conversation with an air of annoyance.
"Okay, okay. I get the picture. So we're just gonna camp out, here, in the dark?"
"That was the plan, genius. Unless you've got a better one?
Please tell me you do."
"We could always strip down and share body heat," Angel offered, pulling the zipper of her jacket down halfway.
A beam of light suddenly illuminated the area, light blinding the two former Angels as they turned towards it. The beam dropped down a bit as an annoyed feminine voice asked, "The hell are you two doing getting naked in my front yard?"
Angel immediately pulled her zipper back up.
Yashiro sighed, disappointed, then shrugged. "My girlfriend and I were out on a picnic when the Angel attacked. We got scared and ran blindly through the woods, and now, well, we're lost," he said, ignoring the look Angel was giving him.
"You're lost?" the woman with the flashlight asked skeptically.
Yashiro was about to further explain when Angel cut in,
"Hey, you have a preposterously proportioned purple penis drop unexpectedly into your lap and let's see how well you take it"
she said, crossing her arms and looking defiant.
Yashiro and the woman just stared at her for a long moment,
before the other woman spoke. "That's the second time today I've heard someone call it that."
"Really?" Yashiro asked, before continuing, "The laws of causality must be especially active if you've heard that invective twice. I feel for you."
"Not really, the delivery was much better the second time around, with the innuendo added it's definitely a '10'."
Angel just growled at them both.
The woman sighed. "Well, let's get you out of the cold at least. The Hino Shrine invites you to stay for a night's rest."
"Ah, we weary travelers humbly accept the Hino Shrine's gracious invitation. Don't we, Angel?"
Ritsuko was dressed up for the first time since her college days. Being the Director of Project E didn't leave her with enough free time to pursue a relationship that wasn't at least partially work-related, and to be brutally honest, she really didn't like men who were overly intellectual. They tended to get too defensive for her tastes when confronted with conflicting data opposed to their theories and/or opinions. It wasn't really flattering in her opinion.
In truth, the only male 'egghead' she knew who didn't act that way was Ikari Gendou, and, well...
Admit it, he's an asshole. An acceptable asshole, but still an asshole, she said to herself, frowning.
Shinji, entering the room, walked face-first into her frown and flinched. "Don't do that," he yelped. "It makes me feel as if I did something wrong all of a sudden. Brrr."
"Shut it, Ikari. It's your damn fault I'm stuck on this date anyway," Ritsuko replied icily.
Shinji made a show of checking the thermostat before turning to Rei, who was lazing next to Misato on the couch, watching a television show on sharks. "Is it just me," he asked, "or did the overall temperature of the room just drop like, two degrees?"
"Well, they used to call her the 'Ice Queen' in college. For
good reason," Misato said, causing Ritsuko to shift her gaze to her.
She held her beer can in the path of Ritsuko's frigid glare for a moment before taking another sip. "Ah, much better. You're almost as good as the fridge, Ritsu!"
"Can it, Katsuragi!"
"Nerve hit, twenty points," intoned Rei.
Ritsuko ground her teeth in frustration.
Shinji came towards her, hands held up before him in an appeasing gesture, "Okay, Dr. Akagi, calm down. They're just teasing you, they don't mean anything by it."
"And what about you?" she snapped.
"I was just trying to lighten the mood, I apologize."
She furrowed her brow in irritation. "I don't want to do this. I shouldn't have to be doing this. Why am I doing this? Oh yes, I remember, you set me up," she muttered.
Shinji sighed, and pointed at Misato and Rei. "Not a word
from either of you," he said before turning his full attention to
Ritsuko. "You are about to go out for a nice dinner and perhaps a
decent film with a colleague who you enjoy working with. That's it.
That's all. If anything else happens it would be because you both mutually decided for it to happen. This is meek, mousy lil' Maya we're talking about, here. She's not going to twist your arm into anything. In fact, I bet you two thousand en she's hyperventilating right now just thinking about the prospect of even seeing you outside of work. Peanut gallery, am I right?" he asked Misato and Rei.
"Got it in one, Shinji."
He gave Ritsuko one of those 'What did I tell you' looks,
and the woman sighed, relenting somewhat. "And just how did you become an authority on Maya?"
"I spent the better part of this afternoon visiting her
favorite hang outs, listening to her talk about her hopes and
dreams, and gush about you. Then we both proceeded to fight to the
death with an Angel. I've come to know the girl a bit. Just relax,
you're both going to be nervous as hell, if you expect that, you can deal with it and try to enjoy yourselves."
Ritsuko nodded, and sighed. "All right, I'll go. But I swear, Shinji, if you ever put me up to this sort of thing again, I will torture you."
"What happened to the killing?" Rei asked.
"Can't kill him, he's important to the survival of mankind.
I can cut out his appendix without anesthesia, though."
"Hey, I need this appendix, thank you," he growled.
"No you don't."
"Hey, I was born with it. Who are you to mess with the packaging?"
Ritsuko chuckled for the first time that evening before leaving.
About two minutes afterward, Ritsuko's phone rang. Shinji
answered it, "Hello, Akagi-Katsuragi-Ayanami-Ikari residence, can I-
"Maya, Stop. Exhale. Now, take a deep breath. Hold it. Hold
it. One one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand. Let it
out, slowly, slowly, good. Now relax. Ritsuko's already left, she
left her cell behind, you can't call it off, but everything is okay.
Everything is fine. You will go to the dinner, and you will enjoy yourself. You will see if there are any good movies playing, and if so, you will both decide which one to watch. Okay?"
A very meek, small sounding "okay," was heard from the girl.
"Good. She'll be there in twenty minutes. Breathe. Relax.
Brush your hair. I'm hanging up now, you'll be fine," he said, and did, thinking perhaps he had heard a small 'thanks' before he did so. Shinji shook his head; he had hoped to avoid using the Saotome Anything Goes School Of Martial Arts Secret Technique of Telling Them What They Want To Hear. "Damn teenagers."
Misato thought that remark hilarious.
Ritsuko came home at two thirty in the morning, looking just a bit rumpled, and no longer angry, which was an improvement in Shinji's book. Ritsuko was surprised, however, to find Misato and Shinji still up, apparently waiting for her. The two looked up from their game of chess, which Shinji was slowly losing, to greet her.
"Morning!" he said.
"Welcome back, Ritsuko."
"What are you two doing up? Waiting on me? I'm an adult, you realize. Perfectly able to take care of myself." She crossed her arms, which drew the attention of the two to something different about Ritsuko's clothing.
Shinji glanced to Misato, who waved him down. He shrugged.
"I just wanted to make sure everything went alright, and to see if you were still mad at me or not."
"Everything went fine. It was just a date. And no, I'm no longer angry with you," she said, coming over and ruffling his hair affectionately. "Maya pointed out a few things that made me realize how foolish I was being. So, I owe you an apology."
"No you don't. I made the mistake; you were perfectly justified in your reaction. But if things turned out well in the end, good. I'll just be heading off to bed now," he said, giving Misato a hard look. "Be nice."
"Aren't I always?" the woman asked, feigning innocence.
"No. Goodnight, ladies."
Ritsuko looked confused, "What's he on about?"
"He thought you should have stayed for the morning coffee"
Misato said simply.
Ritsuko stared at her. "I should have what?"
Misato tried a different tactic: Bluntness. She pointed at Ritsuko's top. "That's not the blouse you left in. Similar, but not quite. That, and you look happier than I've seen you in years."
"It's not what you think."
"Oh? Then whose shirt is it? A little fancy for a guy's."
Ritsuko stroked her forehead and sighed before sitting across from Misato at the table, eyeing the chess pieces. "I spilt wine on my blouse. Maya let me barrow one of hers. That's all."
"Uh huh. Sure. And you did what for three hours?"
"We talked, Misato. Which is a lot more than you and Kaji ever did when given a comparable amount of free time."
Misato had the good graces to look a little sheepish. "Okay,
okay, I'm a hedonist, I admit it. You like to think, I like to feel.
That's just how I am," she said, and then asked, "You two really just talked? For three hours?"
"Yes. Please tell me you're not going to be weird about this."
Misato began placing the chessmen in their starting positions, saying only, "Weird about what?"
"Me and Maya."
Finished resetting the board, Misato asked, "Why? Are you two going to start dating?"
Ritsuko moved a pawn. "I don't know. She's a friend and a co-worker, and the idea of having a... significant relationship with another woman is... well, it frightens me somewhat."
"That's just your society talking. Ignore it and focus on what you want," Misato said, moving a knight.
"Easy for you to say..." Ritsuko muttered, answering this by placing her black bishop mid-board.
Misato frowned, placing a pawn between her knight and Ritsuko's bishop. "Yeah, it is easy to say. I have to admit, it would be hard for me to do as well."
"Oh?" Ritsuko asked, moving another pawn forward, "Miss pleasure seeker meets her match?"
"No, more like I've never been seriously attracted to another woman before," she said, advancing with her other knight.
They finished the game of chess in silence. It was a draw.
Sunday morning found Yashiro and Angel in the city proper of Tokyo-Three. Angel was in a rather foul mood. "I can't believe that lady made us do all that work!" she grumped.
"Well, she did put us up for a night, fed us and everything.
It was the least we could do in return, really."
"I'm an Angel, damn it! I don't need to put up with that kind of shit. I should set her damn temple on fire or something."
"You wouldn't dare. She was nice to us and you know it"
Yashiro said with a frown.
"Okay, I'll be the first to admit she was nice, and the food was good, but still!"
"I think you just don't like to do yard work," he concluded.
"No. No, I don't. You said you lived in an apartment, right?
"None that we need to maintain, at any rate."
"So, where is it, already? My feet are getting tired."
"We passed it already."
"We what?" Angel asked, deadpan.
"I need to go food shopping, and you need to get some new
clothes. You're not going to get any favorable job while wearing
that, though the red light district would love to accommodate you"
he said as they neared a clothing boutique.
"But, I don't have any money!"
"I do. You will owe me until you can earn enough to pay me back. Just don't go overboard and you'll be fine."
"Oh. Well, thank you, Yashiro," Angel said softly.
"Don't mention it," he said as he opened the door to the boutique. "Now, get in there and pick out something nice. Think two sets of casual and something to lounge around the house in. We'll get you some more next pay day."
Somewhere in America.
(Somewhere between where Bruce Springsteen was "Born in the USA" and John Mellencamp's "Little Pink Houses" to be precise)
A man, dressed in an opulent robe, sat behind a mahogany desk within his vast home in the American mid-west. He was smoking a cigarette and looking out the window, reflecting on life, when his phone rang.
"Eblis Smith," he answered.
The person on the other side was obviously traveling at a
high speed, as the wind whistling by the receiver was clearly heard.
"Yeah, Azaiel here, I've got a bit of news for you."
"Yes. Another Angel came down in Japan yesterday, I spotted it over the pacific at four, and when I swung around again at at about five thirty in the afternoon, it had been defeated. That Yashiro guy you told me about? I saw him pull a girl from the core."
Eblis leaned forward, scribbling a few notes on his blotter as Azaiel gave him her description, asking only, "Are you sure?"
"Hey, I may only have one eye available to me, but it works just fine. I managed to airbrake long enough to use that magnification thingie you gave me, man, that sucker works wonders for shit like this."
"Glad to hear it's working out."
"Yeah. I can't wait until that Shinji kid kicks all their asses so I can finally get down from here. I tell you, this falling shit is getting old."
Eblis chuckled slightly before ending the call. He then
dialed another number. "Yes, Albert? This is Eblis. I'm going to
need you to make another of those packets for me. Yes. Female, Five
five, approximately a hundred and twenty pounds, platinum hair, blue
eyes. How soon can you get it done? All of it by tomorrow? Can you
speed that up a bit? Yes, it is rather urgent; I have a new agent in
need of a cover-" His palm pilot beeped, signaling the receipt of
new E-mail. "One moment, Albert. Ah, excellent -I have photographs
of her now, I'm forwarding them to you. Can you just get the
license, passport, and VISA to me today, using these? Yes, I
noticed, they look perfect to me as well. In an hour and a half?
Thank you. I'll bring your fee by."
He hung up the phone again, and sighed. "More than ever,
hour after hour, work is never over," he sang to himself.
Shinji was sitting next to Rei on the sofa in their apartment, and allowed her to continue her therapy exercises on her own for a while as he attempted to pin down this odd feeling. It was nagging him, as if he had meant to do something at some point, yet forgotten what it was. He concentrated for a moment, but it failed to come to him. He decided to ask Rei. "Hey, have I forgotten to do anything?"
"What do you mean?" she asked in return, taking a moment to let her arm rest, and turning her full attention to Shinji.
"I'm not sure. I've just got this strong suspicion that I was supposed to do something, and haven't."
"Humnn..." she thought, frowning gently, "You've tortured me
twice already, you cooked breakfast, Mom and Misato are still
sleeping off their chess tournament... did you remember to feed Pen-
Pen?" she asked, and he nodded. "Oh. Did you leave any of your Vespa stuff in the entry plug?" He shook his head no. "Did you remember to belt the Angel one for Touji's little sister?"
Shinji jumped up, and slapped his fist in his palm. "That's it!" he said, "I was going to ask Father about arranging better care for Touji's sister."
"Yeah? You'd do that for him?" Rei asked.
"Touji made it personal. I can't just ignore it."
"You're a good man, Ikari Shinji," she said, and then on impulse, she kissed him.
He didn't flinch from her this time. "What is it with you and kissing me?"
"Why? Want me to stop?"
"Not really, no."
"Then why complain?"
"I'm not complaining, per se," he said, shrugging. "I'm just curious to the reason behind it. Someone might get the wrong idea someday."
"Because I like you, you saved my life, and you have a body to die for," She said, listing the reasons. "And maybe I'd want them to get the wrong idea so I can keep you to my own little self."
"Didn't your mother ever teach you to share?"
"Oh, I can share," she said, smirking. "I just don't want to."
"Hey, this is free love, girlie. Free love. You'll have to jump on the bandwagon."
"Oh, I'll jump your bandwagon," she said seductively,
running a finger down his cheek. "And I'll play your fiddle too."
"I'll have you know it's a cello, not a fiddle," he said,
catching her hand.
"Ouoo, even better. I can practice my bow work."
"It's too early in the morning for such innuendo," Misato said from the hall, looking at the two blearily. "Where's breakfast?"
"In the fridge," Shinji answered. "I think you need to get back to your exercises," he said to Rei.
"Oh, yes, particularly -hey!" She glared at Misato, who had whapped her lightly upside the head as she walked past.
"I said cut it out. It's vaguely disturbing. What would your mother say?"
"Use protection," Rei quipped.
"Oh, ha ha."
"I'm calling my Father now. Back to your therapy, you sexy thing. And as for you Misato, you're about to pour beer on your rice."
"Oh. Kirin, not Kikkoman. Thought it was soy sauce for a minute."
Shinji sighed and picked up the phone.
Gendou and Fuyutsuki were playing Mahjong in Gendou's massive office. "You know," Fuyutsuki said as he set a tile down with a clack, "Yesterday's battle went pretty well, all things considered."
"I concur. Although the timing seems a little early to me. I thought it was to happen later than this. No real problem, but..."
"I know what you mean. It just goes to show you that our guesses, while educated, are still just guesses."
Gendou nodded sagely as his cell phone rang. He hit the "answer" button. "Ikari."
"Ah, Shinji. What can I do for you?"
"A classmate of mine said his little sister was injured during my first battle. Last name of Suzahara. So I was wondering..."
Rei was having The Dream again.
She stood nude before a imperfect duplicate of herself, a
woman whose body mirrored her own except the porcelain-white skin
had no flaw or blemish, as if it were molded like a doll, and whose
hair was as white as her skin. On her face was a mask, seemingly
made of metal, with seven eyes embossed on its surface, three on the
left, four on the right, and a triangle whose baseline ran center
point through the first pair of eyes, with the apex terminating on
the chin of the mask. After these facts could be established, the
other woman would remove her mask, revealing a face that was blank,
devoid of all human features, save her two eyes -eyes crimson red,
like her own.
The first time she dreamt this dream, twelve-year-old Rei
had awoken immediately after the woman had removed her mask,
screaming in fright. It had taken a few hours before she was able to sleep again that night.
The second time she dreamt the dream, she had managed to not awaken screaming at the sight of the other woman's face. She had instead woken screaming after hearing the other woman speak, her voice a twisted parody of Rei's own.
The third time she dreamt the dream, she was ready for the strange woman. "I am Lilith. You are Ikari Yui. We are One," she had said. When Rei asked what she meant, the woman explained. She explained everything the young Rei could understand. The next morning, Rei confronted Gendou with the information she had been given by Lilith, and Ikari Gendou's house of cards nearly toppled.
As a result, Gendou had been forced to tell Rei more than he had ever told anyone before: of the Angels, the origins of the Evangelions, of her creation, and of SEELE, and that corrupt organization's goals for their 'Third Impact'.
For a tentative moment, everything had been balanced on the
young woman's ability to comprehend the power she had been given;
but Rei was no longer simply a young woman. A part of her was Yui Ikari, a woman with over twenty years experience in the field of secrets; another was Lilith, a being older than them all, exiled and punished for transgressions against God and her husband, only now tasting freedom after so long. And both were a part of Ayanami Rei.
And so Gendou had been left to his devices, as long as she was left to be what she appeared: a young girl. Gendou had only one problem with this. The Dummy Core System, still in its early infancy, would be fully overwhelmed and ruined if placed in contact with Rei again. And so, Ayanami Kizuko, formerly Dummy System Test Unit #3, was 'born', the ten-year-old clone placed under the direct supervision of Ikari Gendou, High Commander of Nerv.
"Thinking of the past again, Rei?" Lilith asked, bemused.
She nodded. "I always do, when we meet like this. It's very strange."
"As strange as uniting with the remnants of your soul which are trapped within Unit One?"
"No, that's stranger still," she said with a small laugh.
Lilith shook her head, not quite understanding. "And yet you continue to Ride it? I have never understood that. Can you tell me why?"
Rei studied Lilith for a long moment. "It's like, when you come here, or when we're awake, I guess, since I can't tell you're around when I'm conscious. It's, I don't know... freedom. For a while, I feel whole again."
"I do not," Lilith shuddered, as if cold, "The flesh of Adam, it tries to cast me out when you Ride it."
"Huh..." Rei said, and then asked rhetorically, "I wonder if the same thing happens with Kizuko?"
"I do not think so. Do you remember our activation test with Unit Zero?"
Rei nodded. "'The same, but different' she said. And then I couldn't pilot it."
"Indeed. Unit Zero is part of me and part of Adam. I am surprised the poor creature can function at all. As it is I cannot contact Kizuko in dreams this way; I believe it is due to her being more like how I was before my fall, whereas you are more like how I was after."
"Oh, that's a comforting thought. 'Hi, my name is Ayanami,
and I'm a domineering sex fiend! Wanna go make out'?" She said in a mock cheerful tone, smiling at Lilith before dropping the charade and sighing.
Lilith tittered a bit before giving up and laughing. "That's not quite what I meant. Your soul began to remember a part of who you were. Its too bad it was the jealous wife part," Lilith said in a tone which implied she would be sticking her tongue out at Rei.
"Don't remind me... If mom hadn't saved me, then..." Rei's right hand loosely clasped her throat, stroking the skin lightly as she remembered the pain of being strangled.
"That was, what? Ten years ago?"
"Yeah. I was six. To think... just a few insults, and she..." Rei shuddered. "Can we talk about something else? I hate remembering that."
Lilith shrugged. "Ikari Shinji. Tell me about him. What is he like?"
"Shinji? A jerk, a hero. A pervert, a gentleman. He's a self contradiction in motion who doesn't give a damn about anything and cares about everything just the same. Half the time I want to strangle his stupid heroic ass, and the other half I want to kiss him because he's so kind and gentle and romantic..."
"Ouuooo... Sounds like someone's in love." Lilith teased.
"I know. But the situation is weird. I can't help but flirt with him, he's a dream come true for any teenage girl. But I'm not just a teenage girl, I remember bits and pieces of raising him, and of being with his dad. And still I want to have this physical relationship with him so badly. I feel like a pervert."
"He was your son, but is no longer."
"Since you are a clone of both Yui and I, it is more as if
he were a cousin several times removed. Your genetic data is vastly
different now, more so than you realize, apparently. Even if you do
not take that into account, you're not entirely 'human' anymore.
You're Lilim now. Congratulations, the human rules no longer apply."
"Lilim?" Rei asked.
"Yes. All the Children are, to some extent, though only you and Shinji are Trueborn. I do wonder how Yui and Gendou pulled that one off."
"Blood of my blood, flesh of my flesh," Rei said, making a biting motion at Lilith.
The woman's eyes widened in surprise, and her face -such as it was- went completely slack. "A Communion? That would do it, if you don't mind damning yourself to an eternity of imprisonment. If you don't mind my asking, what did it taste like?"
Lilith shook her head. "Always chicken. Why does everything always taste like chicken?"
"It's a human thing," Rei teased, before continuing. "It's only an eternity of imprisonment if we fail to bring about the desired Third Impact."
"There's no 'we' in it, I'm afraid. It is for He Who Is The One to decide."
"He who is the...? Funny, that's what Unit One called Shinji..." Rei began.
"Not terribly surprising, it was either him or you. Only a
Trueborn can be the One, though there can be more than one One"
Lilith said, mostly to herself.
"I'm confused. Just what do you mean by He Who Is The One,
"Oh, That's simple. He Who Is The One is the person who shall recre-"
Rei spluttered awake, finding herself very wet, and Shinji very annoyed. "What the hell are you doing, you crazy fuck?" she demanded, beating him over the head a few times with her soggy pillow, not eliciting any reaction from him.
"It's about time you woke up," Shinji finally said, taking the pillow from her and sounding rather exasperated. "You must sleep the sleep of the dead. I tried everything I could think of before I splashed you. What were you dreaming about?"
"How did you know I was dreaming?" Rei asked.
"You were muttering something about 'The One' or something"
She ignored him, instead looking at her alarm clock.
"Whatever. What the hell are you waking me up for this early? It's,
like, five in the morning, jackass."
"Training," said he, for the first time sounding chipper.
"Training?" she parroted.
"Well, that and your physical therapy. We're going on a run through the streets of Tokyo Three."
"We're WHAT?" she shouted.
"Going on a run. What? Don't look at me like that just
because I let you off easy yesterday. You're trying to get stronger,
right? A run will help," he explained.
Ritsuko poked her head into Rei's room, blinking blearily at the two youths. "What in the holy hell is going on in here?" she asked.
"This insane madman is going to make me run!" Rei exclaimed,
pointing at Shinji, who was calmly appraising Ritsuko in her pajamas.
"What? How far?" Ritsuko asked him.
"Oh, no more than a kilometer or two at first."
"Good. She needs it," Ritsuko said firmly, looking pointedly at her adopted daughter.
"You heard me. You've been lying in a hospital bed for three weeks. You need to get your strength back. Sounds like a good a way as any to me. Hell! If I weren't so tired, I'd probably be joining you," she said.
"So I have your approval?" Shinji asked her.
Ritsuko nodded, "Yes. Remind me about running tonight and I'll try to get more sleep so I can join you tomorrow morning."
"What about Misato?" Shinji asked.
Ritsuko snorted, "As if that lazy... I doubt if you could get her to move in the morning, let alone run."
Shinji scratched his chin in thought at this, while Rei looked horrified at the prospect of doing anything resembling physical exercise. "But MOM!"
"No buts. You're doing it. End of discussion."
"Hey, Misato had some Basic Training, didn't she? Military instruction, or something similar, right?" Shinji asked Ritsuko, who nodded.
"US Army Boot Camp, yes, why?"
Shinji didn't answer, instead he squeezed past Ritsuko and
headed towards the master bedroom she shared with Misato. Ritsuko
watched from Rei's doorway as Shinji cleared his throat, then
slammed the sliding door open with an audible BANG! "WHAT do you
think you're doing, recruit!" he bellowed, in a perfect imitation of
the sing song, deathly amused, US Army Drill Sergeant cadence,
enough so that Ritsuko almost wanted to come to attention herself,
"I want you out of that bed now, do you hear me, (MAGGOT)?"
Ritsuko heard Misato squawk, fall out of the bottom bunk with a thump, and say in a matching bellow, "Sir! Yes Sir!"
"You need to be dressed and out as of yesterday, worm! You
have twenty seconds to be in your BU's and on that tarmac before I
come back in here and shove my foot so far up your ass you'll be
polishing my boot with your tongue! Are you hearing me,
"I said, 'Are you hearing me, Katsuragi!"
"Sir, YES SIR! Drill Sergeant, Sir!"
Shinji ducked into his room for a moment, and came back dressed in a full set of American military fatigues and a camo hat perched on his head. He had a spare set under his arm, which he threw to Rei after passing Ritsuko in the hall. "Same to you, you worthless waste of flesh! Fifteen seconds, Move it, Move it, Move it!"
Rei took one look at the set of Shinji's eyes and realized he was, for all intents and purposes, exactly what he sounded like at the moment. "Yes, Drill Sergeant!" she snapped, then set about dressing down as Shinji turned to Ritsuko, who wore a rather bemused smile on her lips.
"As for you, Corporal, Kitchen detail! I trust you don't have a problem with that?"
"Good," He said with a genuine smile before sliding back
into the grimacing countenance of Drill Sergeant Ikari, roaring:
"This is War, Ladies! Three Seconds, get your ass in gear!"
Misato was up, dressed in a pair of Japanese military
fatigues that Ritsuko didn't even know her roommate had, and out the
door in one quick blur, followed shortly by Rei, who wasn't quite
finished buttoning her shirt, having her left arm in a sling and
only one hand to do it, and finally Shinji, who exited with a shout
of: "What the Hell do you think you're doing, waiting for the
Elevator! Get down those stairs, double time, worthless! Hup! Hup!
Pen-Pen, awakened by all the noise, looked quizzically at Ritsuko, who was laughing to herself as she set about making breakfast. "Now I wish I had thought of that," she said.
Pen-Pen gave a confused "Wark?", then went back to his fridge for a nap. The Humans were weirder than normal today.
Misato and Rei were back in half an hour, both panting miserably. Ritsuko raised an eyebrow at them, "Oh? Done already?"
"He called us ...a pair of pussies... for being unable ...to run... more than a kilo ...and a half, and... he told us... to go home..." Misato said, gasping.
"Damn slave driver..." muttered Rei, rubbing the shoulder of her bad arm.
"So, where's the Drill Sergeant, Captain Katsuragi?" Ritsuko asked idly, setting breakfast on the table.
"Still running around with that stick up his... hey, wait a minute!" She suddenly realized, "Why the hell was I letting Shinji order me around?"
"Because your Drill Sergeant is a Pilot Major now, Captain"
Ritsuko said with a smirk.
"Great. Just great. Now he AND Kizuko outrank me.
Wonderful," Misato groaned as she sat down to eat.
Rei decided to not mention her Ultra-Violet clearance. She didn't want to make Misato any more miserable than necessary.
Shinji jogged up the stairs to Kizuko's apartment, then knocked twice on room #408's door, continuing to jog in place. A minute later, the door opened, revealing a slightly sleep tousled Kizuko, wearing nothing but her underwear. "Ikari," she stated, then looked at him slightly askance, wondering what he was doing in BU's.
"Yo. Wanna go for a run?" he asked jovially, feeling better than he had in days. Yes, exercise is good, he thought happily to himself, not forgetting to ogle appreciatively.
"Run?" she asked.
"Yeah. For exercise. It's good for your body," he explained.
She thought for a moment before saying, "Yes," and stepping out of the door.
"Whoa, hold up a sec, you cannot go out running wearing your underwear," he said, Even if I would enjoy it.
"You'll get sick."
"Then running is not good for the body?" she asked.
He paused, stood still, and blinked at her. "Running IS good for the body. Running without wearing proper clothing IS NOT good for the body. Is that clear?"
"I understand," she said, opening the door again. Or rather,
she tried to. It remained locked. She frowned at the knob slightly.
"There appears to be a problem."
"The door is locked," she said.
"...You're kidding me."
"I am not."
"Well, crap. Do you keep a spare key?" he asked.
She shook her head no. "I do not normally leave the domicile without my clothing, school items, and other miscellany, which includes the key to this door."
Shinji sighed, them removed a small pouch from the many
pockets of his fatigue pants. "Step aside," he said, pulling several
tools from the lock picking kit. He began to fiddle with the lock,
while Rei stood guard.
A young man happened up the stairs at this point, dressed in
a security uniform of some sort, apparently getting home from the
night shift. He looked at the spectacle of the nearly naked girl and
the man in military fatigues trying to open the door of an apartment,
and started to shout.
"Do not interfere. Official Nerv business," the girl said.
The security guard blinked, swallowed his shout, and headed up the next flight of stairs to his apartment. One just doesn't muck with Nerv business.
Shinji had the door opened in a moment more, gathered his tools, and put them away. "Here, it's open."
"Thank you," Kizuko said, unconcerned with his skill at lock picking, simply filing the information away for later use. She entered her apartment and selected a pair of military fatigues emblazoned 'Ayanami, K.' in Romaji over the left breast pocket. She then collected her keys off the top of her dresser, placed them in her pocket, and faced Shinji. "I am ready."
"Then, let's go!"
Shinji returned an hour later, breathing deeply. To Ritsuko's amusement and Misato and Rei's disgust, he seemed refreshed rather than tired. "I have returned!" he announced with a smile.
"Welcome back. Did you have fun?" Ritsuko asked him.
"More than I thought I would. Is that breakfast? I'm starving!" he said, then set into the meal like a ravenous beast.
"At least his appetite is normal, though I can't say much about the rest of him..." Misato groused from the couch, sipping her third beer of the morning.
"Normal is relative to your perception," he said around his food, and then set his empty bowl down. "I certainly do not consider drinking alcohol at first light every day to be 'normal'."
"It's a medicinal fact that Rum gets your heart started in the morning," she replied, thumping herself on the chest with her beer can, nearly dousing herself.
"Then why are you drinking beer?" he asked.
"Because the Rum's gone."
"All of it?"
Ritsuko could see where this was going, and hung her head as Misato answered, "Yes."
Suddenly Shinji stood, swaying slightly side to side,
seemingly soused, three sheets to the wind. He cocked a questioning eyebrow at her as he extended his right hand in a loose pointing gesture and asked, "Why's all the Rum gone?" in English with a mysterious, vaguely European accent.
Misato looked at him oddly as Rei chuckled, and Ritsuko replied, "She burned it all to signal the English fleet, of course."
Again, the swaying stance, and the vague European accent,
"But... Why's ALL the Rum gone?"
Misato still looked lost, as Rei snickered and Ritsuko groaned. "Okay, Captain Sparrow. Enough with the obscure movie quotes," She said, then thought of something, "You're probably the worst Pirate I've ever heard of."
"Yes," Shinji replied in English again, smirking, "But you have heard of me."
"Stop it!" Rei shouted, giggling, "It's too early in the morning for one liners."
"You're right. And when you're right, you're right. And you?
You're always right," Shinji replied in English again.
"Oh Lord, that was awful. No more Mel Brooks for you"
"Okay, Okay, I'm done. Honest," Shinji said, then looked to Rei, "But don't you go relaxing yet. You've still got exercises to do."
Rei froze, then dropped her head and swore. "Damn it! I was hoping you'd forget!"
"And miss the perfect opportunity to torture a beautiful teenage girl for an hour? Not a chance."
"Sick twisted perverted psychopathic bastard," she grumbled as she headed for her room.
Shinji was close to follow, "Yeah, but you love me anyway."
Ritsuko didn't hear the reply, but from the tone, it sounded like something both angry and affectionate. She shook her head in a kind of fascinated wonder as she kicked her parental instinct to some dark corner of her brain where it would stop demanding she go in there with cookies and tea to make a nuisance of herself. That's when she noticed Misato still had that odd look on her face, "Just drink your beer, Misato. He was only teasing you."
"Why IS all the Rum gone?" she asked, in a fair parody of the English accent Shinji had used.
Ritsuko sighed. "Come on, Misato. I think we need to rent you a movie."
"As long as it isn't any more Digital Fireman porn, I'm game."
Ritsuko pulled up in front of the 24 hour Rock&Bitch Video Boutique, and gingerly got out of the car, trying to avoid tripping in the cracks in the asphalt around the large footprint in the parking spaces next to hers.
"What the hell happened here?" Misato asked as she got out,
eyeing the broken windows, knocked over shelves, FUBAR TVs; and the old, short, fat, and balding man in a business suit who was consistently vocalizing a slew of expletives that were all directed towards the 20 year old clerk who was busily trying to clean everything up. "Looks like a war zone."
"Gendou..." Ritsuko sighed, clearly exasperated.
The older man took notice of them. "Sorry ladies," he grumbled, "We're closed. We'd have a sign up, but there's nothing to hang a sign on, as you'll notice. Please come back after the repairs are completed."
"You wouldn't happen to know of another video place with a comparable selection, would you?" Ritsuko asked him.
"No," the old man said, with a sour look on his face, "I wouldn't."
"Oh, well then..." Misato began.
"You could try R.S.T. Video," The younger clerk said, not
looking up to see the glare the store manager was giving him,
"They're further up the street, next to the convenience store, but they don't open until eleven."
"Oh. Well, thank you. I appreciate your help," Ritsuko said as she headed back towards the car. Once inside, she turned to Misato, "We have some time to kill, any ideas?"
"Just drive. Let's soak up the countryside like a sponge."
Ritsuko shrugged and set out for the C1 Outer Loop Line,
silently agreeing that a change in scenery might be good.
An hour later, Shinji was almost finished torturing Rei. She had completed the prescribed physical therapy for the morning (some of the exercises needed to be done three times daily), and now looked tired and grumpy. "Hey, don't go clouding over yet,
sunshine," he said sternly.
"Oh? And why can't I just lay here and suffer in peace?" she asked, being flopped lazily on her bed.
"Because we have school to attend," he said in a tone that implied the reason was obvious, so simple that even she in her current state should have known.
Rei weakly pulled her head up and peeked at her clock. The harsh red digital numbers read seven thirty. This caused her to groan as she let her head fall back onto her mattress. "You realize I'm beginning to hate you," she said tiredly.
"Oh posh. You didn't even go a quarter of the distance I ran with Kizuko. If she can hack it, so can you. Now, you better hurry up and get out of those sweaty clothes. Come on, Up. Up I said," he frowned, grabbing her good arm and hoisting her up. She gave him a disgruntled look as he unbuttoned her shirt and helped her take it off before he undid the back clasp of her bra with an easy snap of his fingers. He then turned around and waited for her to finish undressing.
"I'm beginning to think you enjoy torturing me," she said tiredly.
"You only think its torture because you're not used to it
yet. Then when you get used to it, you'll start to think it's easy.
Then I'll make you do more, and you'll go right back to thinking I'm torturing you again. I'm not trying to hurt you; I'm trying to help you. And I think you know that, but just like bitching too much to be honest about it."
She grumbled a bit, but couldn't actually refute him. The
truth was, she did realize that getting in shape would help more
than anything; however she was also rather lazy and hated doing
anything she didn't necessarily need to do. Besides, she did like to
bitch. Bitching was fun. So, instead of arguing, she simply said,
"Turn around and clasp my bra, then help me button my blouse,
He did so, then took her tie and tied it carefully, and helped her with her uniform jacket. "Picture perfect, and beautiful as always. Go finish up while I get dressed, and I'll meet you in the hall, okay?"
The walk to school was uneventful. Rei was too tired to make small talk, and Shinji seemed absorbed in his own thoughts. And so it was the pair arrived to their homeroom ten minutes early, finding a few of their fellows already there, which, to Shinji's surprise,
did not include Kizuko.
He turned to Hikari Horaki. "Hey, Class rep, Rei's back."
"Oh, that's good news," Hikari said, looking surprised. "Did you complete all the assignments you missed? I gave them to your sister for delivery."
Rei nodded, set her briefcase on Hikari's desk, and fumbled it open with one hand, as the other was still too weak to use for anything, and was held in a sling. She then pulled out a manila folder marked 'Make Up Work' and handed it to the brunette. "It should all be in there."
"Thank you, Ayanami-san."
Rei took her seat, which Shinji noted was the one next to Kizuko's towards the center of the room, and a few of the milling students came over to congratulate her on her recovery.
Shinji sat in his desk, two seats behind Rei, kicked his feet up, and proceeded to stare out the window for a bit. His view was interrupted as a familiar matching black and white Adidas jumpsuit marched into his view. Shinji tracked his gaze up to that of the taller boy. "Yo, Touji. Good timing, I wanted to talk t-"
"Shinji, Dude," Touji cut in, clapping him on the shoulder with enough force to bounce Shinji in his seat slightly, "Yer awesomeness is only shadowed by yer ability ta rule!"
Shinji raised an eyebrow at Touji. "The hell are you talking about?"
"We saw your fight with the Angel, it was totally sweet"
Kensuuke explained, holding up his camera. "We even got footage!"
"Yeah, yeah, and dat's not all, oh no..." Touji paused dramatically before saying, "Dere was dis nekkid chick too!"
Shinji cocked an eyebrow at them both. "Nekkid chick, huh?
Well, now I know you're lying."
"No, no, It's da truth, man! I swear, honest!" Touji realized Shinji was still looking at him doubtfully, so he motioned Kensuuke over, "Oi, Ken, roll that beautiful babe footage, man!"
Kensuuke handed Shinji the camera and showed him where the
play button was. Then Shinji watched through the color eyepiece,
ignoring the entrance of the teacher and the beginning of class as Hikari called 'Stand! Bow! Sit!', Touji and Kensuuke taking their seats next to Shinji and behind Touji respectively. After a moment,
Shinji whistled. "I take it back. Dat Dere Is Da Nekked Chick."
"Yeah, and the explosions! The swordplay! Shinji, you're so totally cool!" Kensuuke enthused.
Kurasawa-sensei stopped in mid ramble and glanced sharply at Kensuuke, then at Hikari.
"Hey, keep it down back there! Show proper respect for our Teacher!" Hikari yelled at them from the front of the class.
Kensuuke shrank back a bit, and Touji looked like he was
going to shout something, but Shinji held up a hand, saying only,
"Allow me," before standing up. "I'm sorry for their rude behavior,
Class Rep, Kurasawa-sensei, they were only excited by the fact that yesterday I single handedly saved you all from the brink of death again. I understand that the alien menace is so unworthy of your worry and so far beneath you that it doesn't merit your attention,
seeing as how only a select few people are able to effectively fight against it after all, but the gutter trash here has noticed and would like to show their appreciation for being able to live another day. So sorry to have bothered you," he said, giving their instructor an even harsher glance than he had given Kensuuke.
Kurasawa blinked in surprise.
The entire class was looking at Shinji in a sort of horrified awe as he continued to stare the teacher down. Finally the old man sighed and went back to his lecture, muttering something about the youth of the day.
Touji looked at Shinji with a new level of respect. "Man,
you're one ballsy sonova bitch."
"Thanks, I think. Oh, I was going to tell you. I talked to
my Father about getting your sister into the Pilot's Ward on Sunday,
he said to have your dad call this number," Shinji pulled a slip of paper with Gendou's sloppy hand writing on it out of his bag and handed it over to Touji. "They'll make the necessary arrangements."
Touji just blinked, and took the paper numbly. "But I thought youse said..."
"I told my Father about my concerns, and he checked with her doctors. She's not that bad off, just a few broken ribs with hairline fractures and several bruised ribs from where the rubble landed on her chest. I've had bruised ribs before, they hurt like a bitch, but it's not life threatening. Anyway, Gendou said he could hook her up with some of the experimental 'Pilot Only' medicine that makes bones knit faster, and she should be out of there in a few weeks, rather than the month and a half the docs want. What? What's with that look?" he asked, as the tough boy looked as if he were about to break down and cry.
"Man, they never even told us what was wrong with her, just
that she'd be in the hospital for a long time recovering. I hate
Doctors, because they always pull that kind of shit," Touji paused,
collected his thoughts, and finally nodded to himself. "Ikari. I owe you big, man. I'll, umn... I'll..."
Shinji raised an eyebrow, wondering what was so hard for him to say. "What?"
"I'll let you do my sister," Touji said finally in a hushed tone.
Kensuuke's eyes widened as his mouth dropped, and
immediately turned to Shinji, who obviously didn't get the
significance of Touji's statement. "Shinji, Touji is like anally
retentive when it comes to his sister, and protecting her. That's
like, the highest compliment he could give you man. I've never
heard him say anything like that before! Hell, back in secondary
school, this guy, Hiiro Yui, he like, tried to hold Natsume's hand,
and Touji beat him within an inch of his life!" Kensuuke whispered fiercely.
Shinji understood now, and asked simply, "What if I don't wanna do her?"
"Something wrong with my lil' sis?" Touji growled dangerously.
"No no, I mean, what if she doesn't want me to do her?"
"Then, no hard feelings, but I'll kill you," Touji said.
"No, Touji! What if she doesn't want to do me?" Shinji said,
trying to get his point across.
"Oh, umn, I guess I'll owe you, then."
Shinji refrained from beating his head into his desk, which was still missing a laptop, and instead patiently ignored the teacher like everyone else. Idly, he began wondering where Kizuko was.
Gendou sighed, looking up to where Kizuko was floating nude in the Dummy System Core plug, transferring her worldly experiences through the system into the hive mind of the Clones. They seemed more active than usual today, as some were swimming around within the LCL filled environs of their holding tank quite rapidly, others were spinning in circles, a few were even bouncing in place.
Finally, driven by curiosity, he asked, "Kizuko? What are you thinking about?"
The girl's red eyes opened slowly, and she regarded him for a moment before answering, "Exercise is good."
"Indeed, it is. Please, by all means, continue," he said,
wondering where that had come from.
Kizuko closed her eyes and continued communing with her sister-selves.
The glorious interior of the 'Quick Stop Convenience' store was harshly lit by florescent lighting, which cast an unholy glow on the various snacks, food, and other items present. Behind the counter stood Yashiro, dressed as he was the day before, and before him, leaning on the counter was Angel, dressed much better than she had been yesterday, now sporting a green blouse, dress slacks, and a blazer, borrowed from their former hostess, Rei Hino.
"I'm surprised you managed to find us jobs on such short
notice," Angel commented, tracing a few Angelic glyphs into the
counter with her fingertip as a way to waste time, "I mean, no ID,
no background, no nothing? You're something."
"We have ID," Yashiro said as he watched her, seeing as there were no customers in the store at the moment.
"Really? Where?" she asked.
Yashiro took a wallet out of his back pocket, and handed her
what appeared to be an American driver's license and a passport,
both of which had her name and photograph, and inside the passport was a worker's visa. "Where did you get these?"
"When I got stuck in America a few weeks ago, I ran into Eblis," Yashiro began.
"You 'Ran Into' Eblis. Just like that? What, no preamble,
just 'wham', hello? You expect me to believe this?" she asked incredulously, narrowing her eyes at Yashiro. The being they spoke of was once known as Azazel, the treasurer of the heavenly paradise.
Azazel had refused to bow to Adam after man's creation, and God had renamed him Eblis and cast him from the heavens for that transgression. But rather than join with Satan, Eblis had become what Mohamed called a 'jinn', one neither good nor evil, and continued to stay neutral in the great heavenly conflict while remaining incarnate in the mortal plane.
"Okay, fine, he found me. Happy?" Yashiro asked pointedly, sounding annoyed.
"Sounds more likely to me. Does he still retain his powers?"
"Yes, as do we, to a lesser extent, which is why I'm slightly worried as to what you're inscribing on the counter."
"We do?" Angel said, sounding surprised, as she finished her
last rune. The entire string lit with a gold nimbus for a moment
before fading out, and the counter shook slightly. "Oh," she said,
sounding sheepish, "Ooops."
"Jesus Harold Christ, what did you just write?" Yashiro asked plaintively.
"Oh, just that..." she began, only to be interrupted as a customer entered the store.
"Hey, give me a pack of cigarettes," the man said to Yashiro, then looked at the pack as the ex-Angel placed them on the counter, paused a moment, blinked, and then finished: "Gum. Give me a pack of gum."
"And the cigarettes?" Yashiro asked.
"No, keep the cancer sticks. I'll take the gum."
Yashiro blinked, shrugged, and said, "Fifty en."
The man paid for his gum and left.
"You were saying?" Yashiro asked Angel.
"I wrote 'Death dances over a smoker's grave'," she said,
"You wrote 'Death dances over a smoker's grave', in Angelic,
on my counter?" he asked, and she nodded. "What the hell is wrong with you?" Yashiro shouted at her.
"I didn't know I'd enchant the damn thing!" she said, then sighed, "I'm sorry. I'll dispel it after you finish telling me about your run in with Eblis."
"Fine. He's been here since the fall of man, so he's got
contacts you wouldn't believe. I mean, imagine every criminal
organization you can think of. He's got his hand in all of them, and
then some. Now think of every charity, every public welfare, and
basically good organization you can. He's got his hands in them too.
The guy is like the King Pin of the Planet, I'm telling you. Anyway,
Eblis gave me some startup cash and set me up with a fake ID. He said he was willing to help me as long as I more or less stayed a jinn."
She frowned, "We have to be neutral now?"
"I don't think he'd object if we went against the G.O.D. in
a round about way, but I haven't come up with a good one yet.
Anyway, when I mentioned to him that this round two phenomena had been pulled on me out of the blue, he gave me a cell phone and told me to call in case anyone else got the same deal, and he'd make some ID's for them, too."
"But when did you get these? And how'd Eblis get the picture of me?" she asked.
Yashiro paused as another customer entered the store at this point, looked them both over, then said to him, "A pack of slim one hundred's, please."
Yashiro muttered something that caused Angel to look even
more sheepish, and set the requested pack on the counter. As soon as
he did, the customer's eyes bulged and he made a surprised sound,
quickly shook his head, and said: "Never mind. Umn, I'll just take a pack of gum."
Sighing, Yashiro said, "Fifty en." The man paid, and then left the store with a harried look over his shoulder at the cigarette box on the counter.
Yashiro just glared at Angel again. "I said I was sorry"
she said. "So how'd he get the photo of me?"
"He dropped them off while you were in the shower last night, and there's a camera built into the cell phone," he explained as he put the pack of cigarettes away, "I took some photos of you at breakfast, Sunday. You looked half dead anyway."
"Ah. How'd he get them done so fast?"
"I don't know. Maybe he preordered or something? Let's let the jinn have his secrets."
"Yes, let's," said a rough voice from behind Angel. The girl jumped slightly, and turned to regard the speaker. It was a man in an expensive grey Italian business suit and a dark tan designer trench coat, a cigarette hanging lazily from his lips and a pair of very stylish sunglasses wrapped around his eyes. He practically screamed money. "Nice to meet you, Miss Johnson."
She winced at that, but sighed, "Thank you for the help,
Eblis. I suppose I owe you a favor."
"If you insist. This is for you as well," he said,
withdrawing a thick envelope from his interior coat pocket, and handed it to her. "Within you will find pertinent records of your existence as an American citizen currently residing in Japan. Birth certificate, social security number, you get the idea. The envelope also holds a few thousand US dollars, which should be enough to tide you by until you get your feet under you."
Angel was rather taken back. She tried to thank him, but he held up a hand. "Don't bother. You owe me, and as such, you'll follow the same rules I set for Yashiro, over there. One, remain primarily neutral. I do not want to see you two joining for or against the major conflict. As for the goings on here that resulted in your situation, well, that's a grey area. Try to keep it that way. Two, lead as normal a life as possible. I don't want to be involved with the police if I can help it. Just keep your heads down and your asses covered. Third, don't evangelize. There are enough loonies on late night without you two pitching in. Last thing this poor beleaguered world needs is a pair of god's messengers playing 'messenger of god'. I catch you preaching, you'll be seeing me real quick, and it won't be a happy reunion. Lastly," Eblis said, turning to Yashiro, "Get me a pack of smokes. Marlboro non-filtered."
Yashiro popped the requested pack on the counter, saying,
"This one's on me."
Eblis looked askance at the box on the counter for a moment before muttering, "Real fucking cute, bitch. Go bother somebody else." Yashiro raised an eyebrow at this, but didn't comment as Eblis pocketed the cigarettes. "Maybe I'll see you two around," he said, and then shrugged. "Maybe not. Let me know if anyone else joins the party."
"Right," Yashiro replied as Eblis made a shooting motion with his finger towards the security camera and disappeared.
"Wow. What a..." Angel paused, thinking.
"Nice guy? Gentleman? Upstanding fellow?" Yashiro offered.
"I was thinking more like 'Showoff', really."
"That too," Yashiro said, taking another box of cigarettes
and placing it on the counter. He observed the box for a moment.
Nothing seemed out of place. He picked it up and inspected it. Nope,
just a box of cigarettes. "Angel, trade places with me."
They switched positions. Yashiro said, "A pack of cigarettes, please."
"Just grab one, I don't care which," he said, sighing.
Angel shrugged, snagged a pack, and set it on the counter.
To Yashiro, the countertop flared gold for a moment, and then a small, three inch figure appeared seated on the box, wrapped in a black hooded cloak, a straight scythe propped against its right shoulder, and a cigarette protruding from inside the hood. "You know," said a feminine voice that issued from the small figure, "You smokers make my job easy."
"Ah, Christ, Angel! You invoked Matrona! No wonder everyone's been acting weird!" Yashiro groused.
"I did?" Angel asked, and then said, "Shit. That's gonna be a bitch to clean up."
The little figure drew its hood back to reveal a woman of startling beauty, who immediately took stock of the two. "Sachiel and Shamshiel? First Eblis disses me, and now you two? What are you even doing here?"
"We got a free continue. Eblis says we're jinn now," Yashiro said, sighing, "What about you? Ol' Metty stick you with the crap job again?"
"Metty? Metty? You are so going to get it when you die, I swear. Metty!" the small woman cried indignantly, "You should show more respect for your betters!"
"Yeah well, let's have you die and see how you like it," he said with a nonchalant shrug.
"Metty! That's pissing me off. No, Metatron did not 'stick
me' here. I needed to get out for a while, so I requested the job.
Why are you working in a convenience store?"
"We're stuck here, we need cash, and besides, it's not like
we have anything better to do," he explained. "Well I don't. Angel,
shouldn't you get to work on this?"
"I'm thinking, alright? Invocation was never one of my better skills," she said, frowning.
"Ha! Looks like you're stuck with me for the time being,
Yashiro began beating his head into the countertop while Matrona, Angel of Death, laughed at him.
Deep within the bowls of Nerv, Fuyutsuki staggered for a moment, and leaned against a wall to support himself. Gendou stopped his brisk pace to look worriedly at his second in command. "Everything all right, Kouzou?"
"I felt a disturbance in the force," Fuyutsuki quipped, "As if a voice cried out in bitter anguish, only to fall silent..."
Gendou just gave him that placid, half lidded stare before replying in English, "That bullshit is, and know it, you do."
Fuyutsuki sighed half-heartedly, "It's just my age getting to me. Arthritis in the knees, don't worry about it. I keep telling you I'm not as spry as I used to be."
"And I keep telling you we have ways of fixing that."
Fuyutsuki shook his head. "No thanks. I'll live to see the end of this, and that's all I care about. After that, I'm going to spend my remaining years on some island in the pacific, with beautiful women at my beck and call, and die a happy man. I give myself twenty years, tops, before end of story."
"You're only as old as you feel, Kouzou," Gendou said,
attempting to lighten the mood.
"I'm fifty eight, and I feel ancient, Ikari. We've learned things no man should ever know, are in league with humanity's worst in a war against God himself, and we wrangle money out of the United Nations on a daily basis to fund said war. Hell! They sold Luxembourg to Bill Gates, Gendou! Doesn't that get to you at all?"
"Only that last part, and only because I didn't think of it first."
Fuyutsuki stared at him until he relented. "Okay,
sometimes, I admit," Gendou said, pushing his glasses back up.
"But then I go out and get drunk and laid, in that order, and proceed to forget about it for as long as possible," he said,
resuming their journey as Fuyutsuki came up to his side again, "I suggest you try it sometime. Works wonders."
"Oh, yeah," Fuyutsuki said sarcastically, "These old bones will get laid, all right -laid to rest. How can you stand to have such a flippant attitude about all this?"
"Because if I were serious about it, it would possess me and kill me in no time flat," Gendou said casually. "Either that or I'd make a monumental screw up somewhere and not have a backup plan since, in my heightened megalomania, I didn't think such trivial things were necessary because my evil scheme was sure to succeed."
"Now you're sounding like one of those villains in Yui's romance Manga."
"Well, she did point that out to me, once or twice. I mean,
let's face it, if God is the penultimate good, then I'm the evil overlord bent on world domination. The least I can do is attempt to not fall into that classic genotype and royally screw myself in the process."
"I hate to admit it, but that makes entirely too much sense.
Since when did you start making sense?" Fuyutsuki asked.
"Oh, ha ha. Laugh it up, Chuckle Pants. I'm serious. If need dictates I be evil, the least I can strive for is to be a benevolent evil. After all, my trusted lieutenant, we're doing this for the good of mankind, are we not?"
"So we have convinced ourselves, or allowed ourselves to be convinced. I haven't quite decided which it is yet."
Gendou shrugged. "Does it really matter?"
"Once, perhaps. It's too late now," Fuyutsuki agreed,
stopping in front of the door that led to the Holographic Council Chamber. He and Gendou slid their ID cards through the reader, and the door opened silently.
"Once more to face the dragon, dear friend," Gendou muttered, only to hear his second in command chuckle.
As Gendou seated himself, Kouzou retrieved his comfy folding chair from its place in the corner.
"Ah, yes, Ikari. Good of you to join us. I hope you are prepared?" asked the age-withered voice of Keel Lorenz.
Gendou glanced at the various papers and kipple he had left behind on the desk before him and nodded, "I am."
"Then let us proceed. At our last meeting, Gendou, you were
facing the Ancient Blue Wyrm in its den, along with Hans, the
barbarian." The German representative nodded, "Kestrel the
Sorcerer." At this the representative from Cagliostro nodded as
well. "Fuyutsuki's necromancer, Adonis." Kouzou nodded. "And Eblis'
Jinn, 'Da'Hak'." He said sourly, as Eblis, the American representative for both the Steering Committee and Seele, gave Keel a thumbs up. Lorenz leaned forward, looking ominous as he announced,
"Roll for initiative."
There was a clattering of dice as Fuyutsuki settled in for the long haul.
Yashiro was not happy.
It had been over an hour, and Angel had yet to figure out how to disenchant the countertop. The most she had done was make Matrona permanently visible to them, which had the dubious benefit of allowing them both to see and hear what she was saying to the customers.
"Coffin nails, get yer coffin nails here!"
"Hey, buddy, wanna buy some death sticks?"
"Complimentary matches? Oh, don't mind the brimstone."
"What, this scythe? No it's not a cigar cutter, it's a Soul Reaver."
"Hello, name's Death, Jack Death. I'm here to claim a lost soul?"
"That box is your ticket to the 'Soul Train'!"
"Call me cute again! I might let you die of natural causes rather than throat cancer at thirty-five. Why, thank you! You're so sweet!"
"Oh, I've got a light for you buddy. In hell."
And so on, for forty-seven customers, who all had come in,
asked for cigarettes, were taunted, and promptly purchased something else.
Matrona was currently doing something she called 'The Dance of Death', which seemed to be an unusual variant of mambo that involved stopping after every few beats and striking a pose that resembled someone in their death throes. It was vaguely disturbing to watch, and still didn't solve the problem. "Angel?"
"I'm working on it!"
"Dun dun dundun dun, Erk! Dun dun dundun dun, Ack! Dun dun Dundun Dun, ouoo! Dun dun Dundun dun, Aiee!"
Yashiro slapped his hand on the counter, pinning Matrona under it. "Will you knock it off?"
"Ouuoo, I like a man that's forceful, except..." She paused,
biting him. Yashiro quickly pulled his hand away as Matrona hopped up. "That man is not a man!" she exclaimed, pointing at him, "He is not a man! He is... A cancer merchant!"
"I'm a what?" Yashiro managed before being pelted with a cigarette.
"Take that, you cancer merchant you!"
"Angel!" Yashiro snapped.
"There!" she finished her rune, and watched as the entire string lit with a blue nimbus, before fading. The countertop groaned in complaint, and Matrona stopped pelting Yashiro with cigarettes to shiver.
"Ooooouoooooo... That tingled. Do it again!"
Angel screamed in frustration, which made Yashiro's hair
stand on end. "I give up! I can't do it! Do something, Yashiro,
anything, just get rid of this twisted public service announcement!"
"Have you learned anything from this yet?" he asked.
"Yes, don't write Angelic runes on shit. Also that Matrona is annoying."
"You'll owe me," he said calmly.
"Don't care right now, just do it."
Yashiro shrugged, and quickly began scribing something in Angelic that Angel couldn't understand. It began glowing white even before he was done with it, and at the end, the entire sequence flared brightly, then shattered outwards. He looked to Matrona before saying, "By my behest, be gone."
"Oh, you think to order me around now, do you?" she sneered at him.
He squashed her under his hand again, but removed it quickly
before she could bite him twice. "You may be of the Metatron,
Matrona, but you still must follow the rules. Your summons are gone,
now be about your business."
Grumbling, Matrona gathered her scythe and stood, dusting herself off. "Fine. It's been fun, tootles," she commented before disappearing, like a shadow exposed to sunlight.
Yashiro leaned against the counter for a full minute, before looking at Angel harshly. "Don't ever do that again."
"Yes sir." She said, quietly.
A white RX8 pulled up in front of the convenience store, and
two women stepped out of it. The leggy blonde in the black
miniskirt, dark blue zipper blouse, and white trench coat said
something to the temptress with the purple hair, yellow mock
turtleneck and a pair of well worn blue jeans, to which she nodded,
the blonde heading for the R.S.T. Video store next door as the vixen entered the Quick Stop. Yashiro glanced at his watch. "It's eleven oh five, Angel. You have a customer, go open the video store."
"Oh, I forgot about that. Thanks," she said quietly,
grabbing a paper at random from the racks in front of the counter and a key ring from next to Yashiro marked 'RST' before exiting.
"At least pay for the Paper!" he shouted after her, before muttering, "Damn kid."
"New employee?" asked the woman from the cooler section as she eyed the selection of beer there.
"Yeah. We both are, first day on the job, to tell the truth.
I just think she has a few responsibility issues," Yashiro said,
looking the woman up and down from the corner of his eye. There was something about her...
"Just give her some room to breathe, don't cover for her
mess ups, and she'll learn pretty quick. I know I did," Misato said,
recalling her early college days with Ritsuko.
"I'll try that, Ma'am," Yashiro said, wondering why he was getting the strong impression he should be doing something, like coming to attention or some such. He shook it off.
Misato opened the cooler and withdrew a six-pack of the
current Kirin Seasonal brew, and grabbed a box of rice crackers.
Yashiro rang her up, "That'll be two thousand, five hundred and sixty en."
She pulled a wallet from her front jeans pocket and withdrew an ID card, which she handed him. "Put it on that, please."
"You work for Nerv?" he asked, before doing so. The register accepted the card read and printed out a receipt.
"Yep, I have been for a while now. Saving the world and all that, pretty exciting," Misato said with a smile.
Yashiro wanted to melt. "What does it take to work for Nerv?
Any special qualifications?"
"Not really, no. Why? Are you interested?"
"In me or in Nerv?" she asked with a smirk.
"Both, actually, but I've only got a good chance of landing one."
"Oh? And which would that be?" Misato replied, curious.
"The job, Captain. Much to my chagrin," he said sadly,
handing her ID card back.
"Smart man. You gave in a bit too quick, perhaps, but still.
Here," she said, pulling another card from her wallet and giving it to him, "Call that number, the people there will tell you how to apply."
"Thanks," he said.
"See you around, handsome," Misato winked at him, before exiting the store.
He looked from the door to the card, getting a very distinct tingle. "Oh, man... I thought we were supposed to stay neutral," he muttered.
Angel opened the door to R.S.T. Video for the nice looking blonde lady, "Sorry, first day, running a bit late," she apologized.
"It's alright. I know how it is," Ritsuko said with a smile as she entered the store. "Since it's your first day, you wouldn't know where I could find a copy of 'Pirates of the Caribbean', would you?"
Angel shook her head. "No, sorry. Would you like me to help you look?"
"No, that's alright," Ritsuko said, waving the girl down,
"Go ahead and open, I'll just browse."
"Okay," said Angel, as she finished the necessary arrangements to fully open the store. After she was done, she opened her paper. Ritsuko caught the headline 'Local Porn Producer Shot Dead' out of the corner of her eye before something else caught her attention. There, in the back portion of the store, the Adult section, sitting on the shelf, staring at her from the single doorway...
It was The Box: 'Fireman 911 Alien Rescue! American Cream Pie!'
Ritsuko narrowed her eyes in disgust, averting her gaze to the side.
It was The Box's Original Incarnation: 'Duke Nukem and the Fett Brothers in: Aliens, Come Get Some!'
Ritsuko felt her stomach lurch; it was drawing her ever closer in a sort of morbid fascination. To refrain from getting any nearer, she hastily looked to the next box over.
It was The Box's Baby Brother: 'Angel Attack! The Tentacled Terror That Tore Through Tokyo-Three! (wide screen edition)'
Ritsuko fell against the movie rack in shock, knocking one of the three down without noticing, "Dear God, they made three of these?"
Angel looked up from her paper, curious. "Made three of what?"
"Only the worst pornography in the universe."
"Really? We have porn in here? Cool." Angel came around the counter to stand next to Ritsuko, and scooped up the box that had fallen to the ground. Immediately she began shaking, looking as if her sanity were about to snap. Then, almost as if a switch had been thrown, she calmed, said, "Excuse me a moment," and left the building just as Misato entered it.
Misato watched the girl go. "Hey, isn't that supposed to be the clerk?"
"What got into her?" Misato asked. She got The Box as an answer. "Eugh. Sorry I asked."
"They made three different versions of it, can you believe that?" Ritsuko asked, shaking her head in disgusted disbelief.
"Considering God sent us a real one? Yeah, I can believe it."
"Don't remind me. We have to dissect the ugly bastard tomorrow," said Ritsuko.
"We have to what? No way, I'm not doing anything of the s-
Oooh! Porn!" Misato was diverted to the back section of the store as Ritsuko exited it, sighing.
"Fine, go ahead, ignore the true quest in favor of smut.
Sure, I'll just look for it by my self, no problem. Thanks for asking."
"Uh huh, whatever. Ouuoo, this looks scintillating in a hot and steamy kind of way..." Misato began mumbling to herself as she shifted through the collection.
"Be sure to get something with real men in it this time"
Ritsuko commented as she continued looking through the rest of the videos.
"Look at this!" Angel demanded of Yashiro.
Yashiro looked at The Box. He promptly began laughing.
"Hahaha! You were a giant fucking-"
"Owww! Son of a Mythos! That hurt, you know!" said he,
glaring at her.
"You shouldn't have laughed."
"It's funny," he protested.
"If it had happened to you, would you still be laughing?"
"Liar, you lie!" she accused before stalking back out with the box.
"Methinks," he said to no one in particular, "I have encroached upon a nerve of vast penile proportions. I must endeavor to remember this in the future, as it did make itself known quite painfully."
A customer entered to find Yashiro nodding sagely to himself. "Uh, a pack of smokes, please."
Yashiro grabbed a box, set it on the counter, and appeared
to struggle with himself before sighing and saying, dejectedly,
"Score one for the cancer merchants."
The man paused, and thought on that a moment before saying,
"Never mind. I'll just take a pack of gum."
It was time for P.E., and Shinji, finished with the first set of exercises and awaiting for the Coach to announce the next set, was seated against a cement planter-box, where he had a wonderful view of the girls P.E. class, who were swimming today. He was observing Rei's quiet conversation with Kizuko with interest. He hadn't the chance to watch the siblings interacting with each other for a good length of time yet. It was proving quite interesting. Rei was providing the bulk of the conversation, as expected, but Kizuko was actively involved in whatever they were speaking about as well,
contributing responses that seemed to encourage Rei to continue.
Shinji wished it was a bit quieter so he could hear them. His hearing had been sharpened over the years of his training, but with the boy's P.E. class making so much noise, the quiet conversation was lost.
And girls kept moving around them, making lip reading worthless.
He heard footsteps behind him, and a moment later Touji
flopped an arm around his shoulders, asking, "Hey? Wha'cha lookin'
When Shinji didn't respond, Touji knelt, putting his eyes at
Shinji's level, and gazed along the same line as his friend, "Oh!
Youse lookin' at da twins in dere swimsuits, eh? Whatareyas, some kinda poivort?"
"You're the one drooling," Shinji blithely replied.
"Point taken. Which one ya like more? Rei or Kizuko?"
"Haven't decided. Rei's a flirt and a tease, but she's
basically a good girl. Kizuko's mysterious, and soft spoken, and
she's serious about the Evangelions and this fate of mankind stuff,
but she's also pretty nice. How about you? Who do you like over there?"
"I dunno. Horaki's got a nice rack, but she's da class rep,
you know what I'm sayin'? Kanazaki's got a great ass, she's a runner, in the track team you know? But I think she's gots the hots fer somebody, dunno who..."
Shinji let Touji ramble on about the girls for a minute as he decided to experiment. He relaxed, and opened his Ki long enough to look at Rei and Kizuko, before he closed his Ki again. Rei shivered, while Kizuko immediately looked straight at him, with a quizzical expression on her features.
Next to him, Touji had shut up, and was saying, "The hell was that? Felt like static electricity or someth-"
Shinji stuffed the middle and pointer fingers of his left hand in Touji's nostrils, which made said boy pause again, as Shinji then grabbed Touji's right wrist and proceeded to stand, making Touji move around like a marionette.
The girl's P.E. class immediately noticed. "... What in the...? Hey, look! It's Suzahara! What the hell is Ikari doing to Suzahara! I didn't know he had it in him! Look at the monkey! The Monkey! Suzahara's a Monkey!"
The entire class, except for Kizuko, erupted into hilarity.
Raucous laughter reached them as Shinji left go of Touji, puzzled.
Touji was immediately infuriated by the indignity. "Yo,
Shinji ignored him; his back turned, still in thought.
"Hey! Face me, damn it, IKARI!"
The only reaction Shinji's actions had caused from the girl was a raised eyebrow and a disinterested turn of the head.
"ASSHOLE! I'm gonna pound yas whether ya face me or not"
Touji shouted, rolling up his sleeve.
"Oh, umn, Let's say we're even now," Shinji said, finally noticing his companion's reaction to the monkey business.
Touji swung, his fist changing into an accusing finger pointing at Shinji's nose. "Ya ain't gettin' off dat easy! Ya're still gonna do my sister!"
"You're threatening me with your sister?" he asked,
"Darn tootin'!" Touji said, walking off in an air of wounded pride.
"Well... Damn. I was hoping to get out of that one. I guess
I'll be threatened by his sister," he said, shrugging. He paused as
another thought hit him, "If she's five, I'll kill him. Hey,
Kensuuke!" he called to the boy, who was still struggling to finish his twenty pull ups.
"How old is Touji's sister?"
"Naasuhmee?" he grunted, finishing another pull up as the coach counted '12', "She's, Ug," '13', "She's," '14', "And a half."
"What? Fourteen and a half?"
"Yesh!" '15, you can do it, Aida!'
Shinji jogged over to the next part of the class, a kilometer run, and felt a little better about the whole Suzahara thing.
But not much.
Nerv; Central Command.
Ritsuko was at work, having been assigned the eleven to five shift.
Maya was in heaven. Well, she would be, if her console would
just work right. She frowned and reentered the last line,
concentrating on hitting all keys correctly. Still gibberish. She sighed, shook her hands out, and relaxed before trying again.
Finally, the data entered correctly. "Damn console," she muttered.
"Try sequence forty two Bravo again."
"Yes, Dr. Akagi." Hyuuga entered the proper commands into his console. The Magi did as directed, displaying various technical bits on the Ubertron Mk IV Jumbo-Holographic Pit.
"Hummn... Still off slightly. Mark it for further testing,
and let's move on."
Ritsuko is so beautiful when she's in command... Calm and controlled. Maya sighed, taking her mind off her work and her eyes off Akagi before she was caught staring. "Mou... I want me sommaa that."
"Eh? Some of what, Maya?" Ritsuko asked, overhearing the comment.
Maya tensed a little, turning her head to look at Ritsuko,
her eyes wide. If not for her date with Ritsuko the night before,
she would have mentally screamed. "I... uh, Want to... To try some of that new coffee in the ICC vending machine," she finished,
arching an eyebrow at Ritsuko. "Would you like to join me for one at break?"
Ritsuko arched a brow to match Maya's. "I don't know. I've never been a big fan of canned coffee."
"It's really good!" Aoba said, lowering his manga. "I had a can of it not five minutes ago. Good stuff."
Maya blinked. Ritsuko blinked. Hyuuga sighed and went back
to his debugging routines. Maya, perplexed, motioned Ritsuko closer.
"What is it, Maya?"
"Why do we keep Shigeru around? All he does is goof off all day."
"Well, it's hard to explain, so I'll just show you. Hyuuga!"
"Run simulated error number four twenty five, would you?"
Hyuuga blinked. "Random board overheat?"
"That's the one. Did you catch that, Aoba?"
"Huh? What?" Shigeru lowered his copy of DNA2. "Sorry?"
"Eh? Uh, okay... Whatever."
"Initiating sequence... Now," Hyuuga stated, hitting the return key. For a moment, nothing happened.
An alarm klaxon blared a short, sickening note, before falling silent, taking the lights with it. The emergency lighting cast a red sheen over everything as it came up, revealing Aoba's chair to be empty.
Maya looked about, then at Ritsuko, who was looking at her watch. "Where'd he go?"
"See the access hatch that's open on the floor there?"
"That's where he is."
The regular lights came back on with a resounding Clack.
Ritsuko nodded. "Forty three point six seconds."
Aoba pulled himself out of the floor panel. "Damn
simulation..." He kicked the hatch shut, walking back to his chair.
"I hate it when you do those."
"He's a hardware monkey?" Maya asked in disbelief.
Shigeru cleared his throat in a manner suggesting high levels of annoyance. "I prefer the term 'Solid State Engineer'," he said, sitting down to resume his perusal of manga. "I can read printed circuit boards like a cartographer reads maps, and I'm good at jury-rigging stuff we can't replace easily."
"He was working in R&D before Gendou noticed his unique skills, and decided having a qualified technician on hand for Command and Control personnel, should something go seriously wrong, was a good idea," Ritsuko said, sighing. "Of course, as he's devoted all his time studying the hardware, he's not as well versed with the software. Sadly, he lacks a certain amount of tact about that."
"Ha. I'd like to meet the slash dot they find to replace me.
No line hacker worth his salt wants near THIS place, they're too damn schizoid when it comes to government types. Job security at its finest, man."
"I'm almost sorry I asked," Maya said, returning to her console.
Ritsuko's watch beeped, and she checked the schedule appended to her ever-present clipboard. "Ah. Come, Maya. Time for the hard work to begin."
Maya mentally kicked herself. "Yes, sempai."
"You two carry on," Ritsuko said to Makoto and Shigeru.
"Eh? Uh, yeah. Sure."
Ritsuko and Maya relocated to the Science Station, the lowest deck on the three tiered command center, situated directly adjacent to the Magi, the consoles there optimized for faster data access. She was scheduled to go over some of the more esoteric research done at Nerv with Maya, and decided to start slow, and make sure her assistant was familiar with all the processes involved before delving into the really hard data. Maya seemed to be having trouble with the console for some reason. Ritsuko passed it off as a delayed reaction from the battle and the 'date' Saturday.
A half hour into this, the Magi verbally paged her.
"You requested to be notified in two days time of our conversation on April eighth, twenty seventeen."
Ritsuko paused, considering. "That was the conversation regarding Shinji's Ki, wasn't it?"
"It was, Doctor. Would you like to continue this conversation now?"
"Yes, by all means. Maya, feel free to save the data we were working on and take a break if you'd like. What is likely to follow will, well, be over your head."
"I'd like to stay if I may, sempai."
"You can, just remember I wouldn't feel bad if you decide to leave."
"I understand, sempai."
"All right," She smiled as she took a chair and made herself comfortable before asking, "Magi, have you extrapolated any further data on any of the Ki phenomena?"
"Yes doctor, our findings have been..."
Ritsuko was right. Within just a few minutes of the
conversation with the computer, Maya had lost Ritsuko entirely. The
Magi would tell her its findings, and Ritsuko would fire back
questions, ideas, and just wild speculation as she thought of it,
and the computer would then refine its data accordingly, in some cases proving its own theories inadequate, in others disproving Ritsuko's, and in some cases settling on new theories which seemed a compromise of both.
Maya didn't mind that she was lost in the conversation. It freed her mind for other pursuits, such as wondering why everything she tried to type today ended up garbled until she re-typed it, and contemplating how beautiful Ritsuko was. After a straight hour of discussion, Ritsuko sighed. "We don't have enough data for a solid theory," the scientist said.
The computer mimicked the sound. "Indeed, such a lack of resolution due to insignificant data is disheartening." Ritsuko raised an eyebrow at that, she'd never heard the Magi sigh so perfectly before. There was a pause, and the timbre of the voice changed somewhat, indicating one of the other three computers was taking the fore in the conversation, rather than Melchior. Ritsuko identified it as Balthasar. "Three votes of three to request more information form the source of inquiry."
Ritsuko sat up from her slouch. "An excellent suggestion.
Magi, please ring Shinji's school."
A small holographic communications window appeared before
Ritsuko's chair at eye level, marked 'Sound Only - ShinSeiki High
School' as it began to ring. After a moment, it picked up.
"ShinSeiki High, administration office?"
"Yes, This is Doctor Akagi Ritsuko, Director of Project E,
at Nerv calling. I need to have Pilot Ikari Shinji relieved from school for duties here at Nerv."
"Right away, Doctor. Would you like to speak with him before I have him leave?" the receptionist asked.
"Yes. I need to inform him he'll be picked up."
"Hold a moment please," said the receptionist as pleasant music began to play.
"Would you mind going to get Shinji, Maya?" asked Ritsuko.
"Of course not, doctor. It's just that I don't drive," she said sheepishly.
"Oh, yes, I remember now. You told me last night. Feeling of extreme vertigo when behind the wheel, wasn't it?"
"Yes. I'm fine as a passenger, though."
"Well, go see if Garibaldi is busy and, if not, take him and requisition one of the vans."
Maya quickly got up to do so, saying: "Yes sempai!"
Ritsuko shook her head in amusement. If anything else, Maya
was always eager to please. After a moment, Shinji came on the line,
"Yo, Ritsu, what's up?"
"Well, I was trying to do some research on Ki, and, to put it simply, I don't have enough information."
"So you want to pick my brains, huh?" Shinji asked dubiously, "Well, I guess. What are you gonna use it for?"
"I was hoping to corroborate with the Magi and find a
solution for your electronics problem. We do need to contact you;
and in an emergency you're not always going to be near someone we can contact, as you proved last time."
"Oh," he said, sounding a little relieved, "That would help.
Sure, I'll tell you everything I know, but I don't claim to be an expert."
"I'm sending Maya down to pick you up. Would you be willing to allow us to run some tests?"
"I guess... You know, what you might want to try is call my pop, he knows all about this stuff, much more than I do, at least."
"Gendou knows about Ki?" Ritsuko asked doubtfully.
"Gen... Oh, sorry. I mean, you could call Saotome Ranma, my foster father. He's been studying Ki since he was my age. He'd be the one to ask," he said.
"Do you have his number?" Ritsuko asked, and then typed out the given number in a blank notepad window, "All right, I'll speak with him while I wait for you to come back with Maya."
"Okay. See ya in a bit, Ritsu," he replied cheerily, hanging up.
"Magi, please dial the number in that window and append it to memory under the heading 'Saotome, Ranma'."
"Compliance," said the supercomputer as another holographic window popped into being, this one marked 'Sound Only - Saotome Residence, New Kyoto'. A few rings passed before a pleasant sounding female voice answered the phone.
"Saotome residence, this is Saotome Kasumi."
Ritsuko smiled, this was Shinji's foster mother. She certainly sounded nice. "Hello, this is Doctor Akagi Ritsuko, from Nerv? I was wondering if I could speak with Saotome Ranma."
"Oh, of course, Doctor. One moment, please," she said,
apparently covering the pickup as the muffled shout of 'Anata!
Phone!' was heard. She then came back on the line. "If you do not mind my asking, this is not a call in regards to Shinji, is it?"
Worried parent, that's reassuring, Ritsuko said to herself, her smile widening just so. "Shinji is doing very well. He has adapted remarkably to the situation here, and continues to perform extremely well as a pilot."
"And at home? He has told me he stays with you, and another,
a Katsuragi Misato?" the gentle voice asked.
"That's correct, ma'am. He's doing very well. He gets along wonderfully with my daughter, who is his age."
"That's very reassuring to know. He hasn't called for a few days, I was beginning to worry," then, in a hushed tone, "Is he eating well?"
"Yes. I'm thinking of having him do most of the cooking,
however -he's a remarkable cook, ma'am, which he claims is due solely to your tutelage."
"Oh my! That little flatterer. Ah, my husband is here, I thank you for your time," she said, before a much rougher, though surprisingly just as gentle, voice came on the line.
"This is Saotome Ranma."
"Hello, Saotome-san. This is Doctor Akagi Ritsuko, from Nerv. I was hoping to ask you a few questions regarding you foster son's ability to, well, 'store' Ki, for a lack of better terminology."
"May I ask what you plan to do with any information I give
you?" he asked, sounding a little worn, "Forgive me my caution,
Doctor, but the information you ask of has been used for ill gain in the past."
"I understand completely, Saotome-san," Ritsuko assured him,
though she really didn't know how the ability to single-handedly destroy small electronics equipment would prove very useful to anyone other than a espionage agent or covert operative. "The only thing I, and my colleague here, wish to know is how to stop its effects on electronics equipment so we can give Shinji a cell phone that will work when we need it too."
Saotome chuckled, amused. "Fair enough, Doctor Akagi. Ask away."
"Would you mind if I first switched to a conference line so my colleague, Doctor Melchior, can join us?"
"That's fine," Saotome said.
She watched as a small text message, 'three-way communications enabled' scrolled by on the screen she was facing before the Magi said, "I am here, Doctor, Saotome-Sensei. Please continue."
"All right, this is what we think we know..." Ritsuko began.
Garibaldi parked the Nerv van next to the front gates of the School, giving Shinji and his entourage a look. Touji and Kensuuke had followed as par for the course, and Rei, flanked by Kanazaki like some loyal follower, had decided to see Shinji off.
Garibaldi got out and opened the door for the kid. "Someone called for a cab?"
"Kinda obvious, ain't it? I mean, its only got da the logo on three sides," Touji said.
"Nah, it's got one on the roof too, for the flyboys"
replied the stocky man to the question.
Shinji hopped in the van. "Heya Maya. How was the date with Ritsu?"
"It was fine," the young woman replied with a blush.
"I still can't believe you did that to my mom," Rei said with a slight frown.
"Oh, c'mon! You know she needs to get out and relax some.
She's too stiff."
"Well, maybe," Rei said, eyeing Maya dubiously.
Maya did her best to seem somewhat worthy.
"Maybe," Rei repeated.
Next to her, Kanazaki was thinking, Her mom's butch?
"I wish I were going..." Kensuuke moaned in pitiable anguish as the van door slid shut without him.
"Dere dere, Ken. When ya grow up, you can work fer 'em."
"Yep, I mean, My dad works fer 'em, right? How hard can it be?"
Rei stopped next to Touji on her way back to class, setting
a hand on Touji's shoulder. "Suzahara," she said after a moment.
"You try. You really do."
"O'course I do," he replied, puzzled.
Rei just sighed and walked off.
Shinji walked in on a virtual war zone. It was the lowest level of the command deck, a place he had never been before, and the Magi's housings towered above him like softly sleeping behemoths.
Ritsuko was pacing wildly, constantly followed by a small holographic comm window as she continuously asked questions of it,
and the Magi, and was answering as many questions as she asked.
Shinji recognized the voice from the window. It was his foster father. Saotome Ranma sounded almost as amused as he was lost with the debate between the scientist and the computer, which he was referring to as 'Doctor Melchior' for some reason.
Shinji watched the Magi deliberation screen for a moment. It was flickering like a deranged Christmas tree. He'd never seen it do that before.
"I've never seen it do that before," Maya said from behind him, eyeing the same screen. "That's hardcore."
"What's it mean?" Shinji asked Maya, as Ritsuko was still ignoring him.
"They're deliberating faster than the speed of thought between themselves before ever speaking with sempai."
"Wow," he said, eyeing Casper, who's housing was next to him. He patted the case softly, "Don't work too hard."
"Don't touch THAT!" Ritsuko and the Magi shouted at the same time.
"Pass da camera over 'ere, I wanna watch da babe footage again."
A few moments passed.
"Did ya switch da tape?"
"Dis one's jus' static."
"Give me that!" Kensuuke snapped.
A moment passed.
Touji caught the eraser after it bounced off of Kensuuke's head towards him, eyeing his friend worriedly. He had stood up and shouted that in the middle of class.
"Aida..." Kurasawa-sensei said, adjusting his spectacles.
"Go stand in the hall."
Of course, shouting at Shinji to not touch the Magi housing had the undesired effect of him jumping aside, leaving him leaning on one of the data entry consoles. "Don't DO that!" he shouted back.
Ritsuko simply barked, "Backup!"
The Magi got as far as to say, "All files safguar-" before the freaky shit started to happen.
All screens, including the holographic Ubertron, started to
wig out, displays starting to flicker and go off randomly, Strange
sounds stared coming from the Magi, terrible, horrible grunting
sounds. Then, as if someone flipped a switch, music began to play.
The screens began flashing colors in synch with the beat. The Ubertron was displaying random patterns of light akin to Winamp's Guiess plugin.
"Ooga Chuuka, Ooga, Ooga, Ooga Chuuka, Ooga Ooga Ooga Chuuka,"
"I can't stop this feeling, deep inside of me. Girl you've
got me reeling, what you mean to me. When you hold me, in your arms
so tight and you let me know, every thing's all right,
IIIIIIIiiiiiiiIIIIII, I'm hooked on a feeling! You got me Belivin', that you're in love with meeeeee..." Sang the Magi.
It was 'Hooked on a Feeling'.
It got as far as that before the power went off.
Ritsuko had been edging towards Shinji with malicious intent
in her eyes, but when it went dark, she stopped quickly. "Great.
Just great. We're a thousand kilometers underground with no power,
and it's all. Shinji's. Fault!"
From much lower, seemingly issuing from the ground, Shinji said, "Well, excuse me! I wasn't the one shouting at people! If you know what's good for you, you'll sit on the ground while you still can."
"And why should we?" Ritsuko asked, very unhappy.
"Because in under five minutes, your body will lose all sense of equilibrium and end up on the ground anyway, and if I remember right, that's a several story drop from us to the bottom of the Ubertron pit," he replied reasonably.
Maya quickly got down, and crawled over to where she had seen Shinji last. He didn't seem surprised or startled as she took his hand and sat next to him. In a very soft murmur, almost too quiet for him to hear, she said: "I'm afraid of the dark."
"I don't care for it much either, but it can be as much a friend as foe, at times," he replied in the same manner. She gave his hand a little squeeze.
"Count yourself lucky I can't see you to find you, Ikari, or I'd cut your appendix out right here with my pen knife."
"See what I mean?" he whispered to Maya, who giggled nervously. Then, louder: "Hey, I apologized! I didn't know I'd kill the Magi!"
Above them, Hyuuga and Aoba had not been idle. Shigeru was
on his cell phone as Makoto was busy searching the small storage bin
under his console. "Ah ha! Found them!" he said, flipping on a pair
of flashlights. He leaned over, and spotted Ritsuko. "Doctor!
Catch!" he said, tossing one of the flashlights down to her.
Ritsuko made a grab for it, but missed. It hit one of the
consoles, briefly illuminating Shinji, Maya, and the exit, before
rolling off and landing on the floor. Ritsuko snagged it again,
pointing it at Maya, who squinted. Shinji was nowhere to be seen.
Ritsuko frowned as Makoto called down again: "We've contacted Power!
They say the generators look fine; it was a shut down due to abnormal power draw that tripped the circuit breakers! They should have the situation corrected in a moment!"
"Good! I want the power restored immediately!" Ritsuko
shouted back, as Maya joined her in the small pool of light.
"Shinji, are you still here?"
"Yes," his voice floated to her weakly, and she was unable
to pinpoint his location. "And I ain't coming out that easily.
You'll maim me."
Maya elbowed Ritsuko, and she gave her protege a hard look before relenting. "Fine. I promise not to hurt you. Come out."
"On your word as a scientist?" he asked, tentatively.
"What? Don't you trust me?"
"Not when you're angry, I don't."
"Shrewd kid," Maya murmured.
"Fine. On my word as a scientist, I will not harm you. Now come out!"
"Don't scream, I'm right behind you," he said.
Ritsuko turned on her heel, and closed on Shinji, pressing herself against him, staring him down like she had just been handed the Ten Commandments and Shinji was the golden calf. He didn't budge, and stared back up at her belligerently as she spoke. "You know about your problem."
"It doesn't really register until after the fact. Like when you wake up and forget to take your morning vitamins."
"You killed the Magi."
"It wasn't intentional. I swear it."
"I want you to go. I don't want to see you far a while. Take
Maya with you so I can find you later, after I can think straight.
And pray, to whatever god will listen, that you didn't just kill us all," Ritsuko said coldly.
"Yes, Ma'am," Shinji said, stepping back and grabbing Maya on his way out. Ritsuko glared frigidly at him all the way to the door. After he left she inhaled deeply.
From up above, Makoto squawked in alarm, while Aoba looked over the side towards Doctor Akagi. "Doc, you've got Lungs!"
Ritsuko stroked her forehead at that remark, and eyed the nearest
console, which was blinking 'Invalid ROM. Please Insert Boot
Diskette And Press Any Key To Continue'. "Now, to fix the Magi," she
sighed. "It's a good thing Gendou's in a meeting, and Misato's
'doing' paperwork. Otherwise they'd be chewing my ass off"
Ritsuko muttered. "Aoba! Get down here and help me find whatever's keeping the Magi from booting!"
"Down in a second!"
Ritsuko flipped the shield up to press the 'open' button on Casper's housing. It slowly began to raise form the ground, and she sighed again. "Just what I always wanted to do, crawl around through the toys in the attic..."
Gendou had noticed the power failure. He couldn't help but notice it, being stuck in the pitch black with Fuyutsuki for three minutes. When the power finally came back up, he asked his second,
"Did you hear someone singing 'Hooked on a feeling' a minute ago?"
"I thought so. Why do you ask?"
"That was Akagi Naoko's favorite song..." Gendou trailed off, puzzled.
"Why would Ritsuko's Mother's favorite song be playing immediately prior to a blackout?" Fuyutsuki asked.
"Hell if I know. Naoko did say once, if I remember, about wanting to hear that song one final time before she died. But she's been dead for a while. Maybe the Magi finally went nuts? It didn't take Naoko too long, after all."
"Think we should check it out?" Fuyutsuki asked.
Gendou shrugged. "We managed to get power back in under
three minutes. Whatever the problem is, it can't be too serious.
Ritsuko can handle it, and if not, she can always page us manually.
Besides," he said, resetting the Holographic Conference Chamber so it would re-connect to the meeting in progress. "I want to finish this game of D&D."
"Lazy punk," Fuyutsuki muttered.
"Oh? I don't see you volunteering to go poke your head out."
"What can I say? I like playing D&D."
"What the hell was that?" Eblis asked as the two men rejoined the party.
"Brownout, reboot and lag," Gendou said simply.
Every member of the council said, "Ah..."
"Back to the game then," Keel said.
Shinji pulled Maya into the lounge, and immediately sat down. "Ritsuko is scary."
Maya nodded mutely, agreeing that a Ritsuko on the Warpath as a thing to be avoided. "You want a soda?" she asked.
"Sure, no preference."
"Okay," Maya replied cheerily, pulling her change purse from her pocket. She inserted her coins, mad a selection, and two cans rolled out. "Huh?"
"I got two of them."
"Really? Try the button again."
Maya shrugged, and pressed the button. The soda machine sat
there stoically. Maya released the button and turned towards Shinji.
"Damn. I guess it isn't my lucky day after-" The machine made a grinding noise, and suddenly Maya was buried up to her ankles in soda cans. "Ow! Ow, that really hurt, damn machine!" She made to hit it, but her hand was restrained.
"Let it be. It'll only shoot more at you," Shinji said,
eyeing Maya, and then the machine as he helped her out of the soda mountain at her feet. "I didn't know you were a martial artist."
He blinked at that. "You're not?"
"No... Should I be?"
"Considering you're storing Ki like it's going out of style?
Shinji sighed and explained. "...and so my body acts like a giant capacitor for Ki, which means free soda and arcade games, but bad news for computers. And the Magi. Which is probably why you've been having trouble with your console all day."
"But, I've never trained for that sort of thing. I mean, I was a Shiatsu Masseur for a while..."
"Really? Can I get a massage one of these days? I'll pay."
"Nah, I owe you. It'd be my pleasure. Anyway, I trained in that, and computers, not crazy Martial Arts Ki Storing power. Why am I doing this...?"
Shinji frowned. "I think... Man, I wish Ritsuko wasn't pissed at me right now, I could use her input," he started to grouse.
"Oh, I see. My brain isn't good enough for you to pick?"
"It's not that, Maya-chan. It's just Ritsuko was getting all that info from my pop before I, umn, killed the Magi."
"Oh. Well, theorize to your hearts content, Shin-chan. I'm curious. What do you think happened to make me do this?"
"Well, I know for a fact that a piece of Kizuko's, umn,
'Soul', is stuck in Unit Zero-"
"That would explain why she acted so different after her failed activation test!" Maya cut in.
Shinji was a bit miffed at being interrupted, but not much.
"Different? Different how?"
"She got cold, and distant, where before she was more like Rei. Well, she's always been more reserved, sure, but not like the isolated child she is now. It's why a lot of us feel kinda uneasy around her. Especially Gendou and Ritsuko. She's not the kid we all got to know. I think your dad really took it hard. He moved her into an apartment afterwards."
"Kizuko was living with my dad in his condo!"
"Until the activation test one year ago, yes. Gendou tried to keep things as they were, but... I guess it got too much for Kizuko. She requested to be put into an apartment. Thing is, she knew she was hurting him, and couldn't stand it anymore, so she left because she couldn't think of anything else to do. Your dad didn't show up for work for a week after that. Then Sub-Commander Fuyutsuki went and dragged him in. He looked half dead. He stayed that way until you showed up. He's been a lot better since then."
Shinji absorbed this information in silence. Then he asked,
"What exactly happened during Kizuko's activation test?"
"Unit Zero... The damn thing went schizoid after Kizuko linked
with it, and tried to kill the Commander. We managed to stop it with
the thermostatic plastic bakelite - that stuff dries super quick,
and is as hard as concrete-, but Kizuko's entry plug auto-ejected.
Your father, he went and opened the super heated hatch with his bare hands, to save her. That's why he wears those gloves, to hide the scars he received from doing that. She was okay... no. I should say her physical injuries healed, but she's acted like she does now ever since. How do you know her soul's stuck in Unit Zero?"
"I had a conversation with it on my first mission, it
threatened to destroy my soul if I tried to pilot it without
permission again. Well, Kizuko gave me permission, but she didn't
give it to you. So this is what I think: I think Unit Zero knew I'd
be pissed if it killed you, seeing as you're a cute girl who's a
friend, if not a possible lover candidate, so it tore off a chunk of
my soul and stuck it in you, and put a bit of yours in mine. I know,
I know, it sounds silly, but it does explain why you're subconsciously storing Ki. And a few other things..."
"'A few other things'?" Maya asked, raising an eyebrow at him. "Like what?"
"Oh, aside from having this strange set of lesbian feelings
- which mesh real well with my hetero libido anyway - I had this
freaky nightmare last night. I was trying to write some kind of
program, but I just couldn't get one part of the instructions right.
I kept going over it in my mind, over and over and over, and I just couldn't solve it. I finally woke up around four, completely exhausted. I've never dreamed anything like that before. I've never even used a computer before!"
"That," said Maya, "is what we comp-sci students call a 'coding nightmare'. Sucks don't it?"
"Yeah. 'C code. C code run. Run code, run. Please?' Why do I know that joke?" he muttered.
"Do you mind if I ask what you were coding?" Shinji mumbled something, sounding more sheepish than was his usual. "What was that?"
"...trying to code a Nerv dating sim..." he finally got out,
blushing. He blinked, and the blush disappeared as he smirked. "Why should I be embarrassed about that? Dating sims always looked cool."
She smirked at him for that, then sobered. "Do you figure this, that is, our situation is permanent?"
"Hell if I know. I've never had a soul graft before. And besides, it's only a theory."
"Yes, but I'm inclined to believe you."
"Irrevocable data suggests," Maya said, then took two steps
forward, grabbed Shinji, and dipped him with a kiss. It wasn't a
namby-pamby quick little chaste affair like he had so far
experienced with Rei. This was a Clean Your Clock Ibuki Special,
which had swooned many a college girl back in the day. Shinji's brain melted.
After a brief eternity, Maya let up, standing him straight again. Shinji quickly sat down.
"...you are desirable," she continued, looking at him as she tapped her lip with a forefinger. "Besides, there's the Ki thing too."
"Oh. Wow. I think I sprained a synapse on that one. Thank you," he said, blinking owlishly at her with a wistful smile.
"You're welcome," she said, then paused, considering. "You hungry? I feel like a beef bowl all of a sudden."
"Beef Bowl? Point me in the right direction, if you would"
he said, standing. Shinji's stomach gave off a loud grumble.
"Cafeteria's this way."
Shinji followed her dutifully, but wondering all the while.
Kizuko's question seemed far less innocuous now than it had yesterday, since this had happened with Maya.
Was her soft-spoken 'Become One with me' literal?
"It's a good thing you're not as literate with the software as Maya is," Ritsuko said to Aoba as they crawled around in the underbelly of Balthasar. They had checked Casper out already,
without finding anything, and moved on to the second Magi, in hopes of finding it there. So far, they were having no such luck.
Or rather, Shigeru was having no such luck. "Why's that a good thing all of a sudden?" he grunted as he squeezed his head into a small hatch to get a better view of the boards within. No drive bays, nothing there to indicate it was the problem, so he moved on.
"Because these sticky notes of my mother's are a literal gold mine of information on the Magi," she said. Immediately upon discovering the notes, she had abandoned her efforts of helping Aoba in favor of copying them into her palm pilot. "I might have had to kill you to keep these secret."
"Hey, if they don't tell you where the fucking boot disk is,
then I don't want anything to do with them," Aoba said tiredly.
The truth was, they had told Ritsuko the location of the
boot module, which had been pulled in an effort to keep anyone from
accessing the Magi's information by powering them down and
attempting to change the root admin password on boot up, which was
possible to do if you knew when you had a two second window in which
to do it. The module was located in the very heart of Melchior,
which was why she and Aoba were in Balthasar instead. She wanted those notes. "Nope, sorry."
"If I ever find out you're lying, so help me, I might marry you," he said.
Ritsuko paused from her shorthand for a moment. "What?"
"To tell the truth, Ooof!" he paused, feeling around in a
smaller panel before withdrawing his hand. "I'd always wanted to get
in here, at least once. Just to see how these suckers were built.
It's fucking incredible!" he said, moving on to the next access point in the hardware. "I mean, Yow! That's live. I'm going to fix that... there, it's taped. I mean, these things were on the bleeding edge of bio-tech ten years ago, and only two of the three-
balanced Magi were built. This one, which was the prototype, and the final model, which is in Nerv-Germany," he closed that panel and moved on. "They went on to make the triple-partitioned organic storage module after that, capable of storing one personality matrix on each partition as opposed to one for each module like what we have here. They sacrificed processing power and storage space for 'efficiency'. That means less expensive, by the way. Idiots. I pity the people who have to work with those single Magi units in Nerv-
America, -Ireland, -Russia, and wherever the hell else they are."
"Anyway, I know the line hacker over at Nerv-G," he continued. "We correspond over the net about hacks and equipment fixes and stuff. The girl's nuts about this shit. Anyway, about a year and a half ago, something happened to their Magi system, so they had to send her and some software expert down in there to fix it. She sent me a full list of the specs for the final, and what I'm seeing here in the prototype is blowing it all out of the water. My guess is after they figured out how it worked, they went for the cheaper, less capable equipment, even though this set up isn't that much more expensive. It just doesn't make any sense to me."
"So, you're saying, if we ever got hacked by another Magi system, we could handle it?" Ritsuko asked as she continued her information gathering.
"No, I'm saying the Magi could handle it. I don't know if we
could realize what was going on fast enough to do any good, but
that's really your people's department, Doctor Akagi. If it were me,
I'd revise the 666-firewall program and create a fully autonomous firewall from it. I mean, the bulk of the code is there, from what Maya was telling me, but the project wasn't completed because it did what you people wanted it to do: it let the Magi stop the hacker cold by unleashing its full intellect to work on the problem intuitively," he said, flipping on his back to pull himself into another section as he continued.
"But that's all it does. Just keeps 'em at bay. If it were
me, I'd remake the program to have the Magi counterattack, and
disable it's stupid, self conflicting little brothers, overwrite
their programming with ours, and then use the lobotomized single-
Magi against the people who turned them on us in the first place.
Maybe even have it initiate a self-destruct. Boom!" he said,
looking at her with a smile. "Or just keep the slaved-Magi there as the best spy on the planet. Either way, a solution to an ongoing problem, rather than just putting it off."
"You know, Aoba, I might just have to look into that," she said, shaking her head. "You finished over there?"
"Just one more panel, and I'm done," he said to her. "Hello,
Balthasar's brain!" he offered to the half dome marked 'Balthasar 02' as he gave it a pat. "Don't fret. We'll figure this out and get you three up and running again ASAP."
Ritsuko found herself looking at the guts of the super computer, wondering if that wasn't more than a courtesy.
Could the Magi be reassured?
Kaji leaned against his room's second story railing,
watching the sunrise over Berlin, and conversely over the compact,
well designed surface complex of Nerv-Germany. He was still stuck in this country, waiting for a reticent Evangelion Unit-02 to test out properly so they could stuff it on the destroyer and get to Japan.
He felt drained, as if he had been gone far too long from his home country and its particular atmosphere.
And its people.
He checked his watch. It was 6:30 here. Give or take 8,900
kilometers over land and sea, it was 2:30 in Tokyo-03, Japan. He
sighed, thinking thoughts of a woman whom he had left there, years
ago. He wondered if she had changed, as he had changed. Possible,
but he doubted it.
Misato was Misato, after all... He often thought of her,
wistfully, as a force that could never be changed by anything short of a miracle. And she had already lived through one, once. Best to not tempt fate again.
Soft footsteps fell behind him, and he turned his head
slightly, switching his gaze from the rising sun to the western
woman before him, in her own way just as glorious, just as fiery.
She was nude, and radiant, having risen after she realized he was no longer in bed. She came to stand next to him, wrapping an arm about his waist, placing her head on his shoulder, watching the sun with him for a long, silent moment.
"You should get dressed. Someone might see you," Kaji said,
before placing a kiss on her crown of crimson hair.
Her blue eyes caught his, and she smirked. "Let them see.
Let them gape open mouthed at my beauty. I don't care as long as I am with you."
"I care. You might catch a cold."
She pressed herself to his chest. "And now I'm warm."
Kaji sighed, and gave up. She was stubborn, and prideful.
"Then let's both go back inside."
"All right. I'll let you take me back to bed."
"Asuka, you're insatiable."
Shoryu-Langly Asuka rose to the balls of her feet to kiss
him. "Let me have my happiness. You know as well as I it is likely
to be fleeting at best. It may be childish, but let me take what
happiness I can while I can, and you must promise me to do the same.
Time is short. I know you don't object."
"Not seriously," he said softly, leading her back inside.
"Not anymore." It was true, he had objected when she had first approached him, two years ago. She was far too young for the relationship she wanted to have of him, and he continually rejected her. And then the hormones had burned off slightly, her intellect regained control, and he let her consider her feelings towards him.
He hadn't expected her to hold him at gunpoint and demand
why he hadn't taken advantage of her. That had been a sticky
situation. But Kaji had gotten out of worse before, with less
pleasurable results; and he now had a very desirable, intelligent,
sixteen year old college-graduate for a lover.
Yes, there are definitely worse things in life, he thought, as he allowed himself to be pulled into bed. Definitely worse...
So why was he still pining for Katsuragi Misato?
Misato was fast asleep in her 'office', a double cubicle space allotted for her within the empty, desolate cubicle forest that was Nerv Tactical. Ideally, the PR department should have gotten around to hiring more people to help unearth information on the Angels weaknesses, types of attack, battle stratagems, tactics,
and such to present to the Children, but PR was being even lazier than Misato at the moment and hadn't even finished hiring all of Third Technical Shift yet. It was annoying during combat, but a boon during operating hours. Here she could kick back, relax, and catch the nap she always seemed to be able to catch here.
So, she slept straight through the power outage, through
Ritsuko's work to fix the Magi (which lasted three hours), all the
way up to the point that someone placed something on one of the
smaller stacks of paperwork on the desk near her head. Her nose
twitched, cat like, as her brain registered food. The olfactory
glands did a quick cross reference. Nope, not instant, but not 4
star either (5 star was just too snooty in her opinion), fresh, hot,
steaming FOOD. Did we mention it was a beef bowl?
Misato snapped awake, grabbed the proffered food, and downed
it in record time. By the time she was finished, she was awake
enough to take in her surroundings. Still the empty cubicle forest
it always was, except Shinji and Maya were standing to her left,
watching her. "Good morning, Misato," Shinji finally said, "We kinda figured you'd be hungry by now. No one's seen you since like, noon."
She checked her watch. It read 4:00. "Yeah, I got a little absorbed in my work," Misato offered without preamble.
"Oh, I'd say..." Maya trailed off, leaning closer to Misato,
staring hard at the older woman's cheek. Misato just gazed back quizzically as Maya read: "Receipt of sale, one, (one) Luxembourg to Bill Gates. To be filed... That's all I can read."
"Wha?" Misato said intelligently, before snatching the top copy of the stack she had been using as a pillow, her eyes scanning the document quickly. "Well, I'll be. It is a receipt of sale for Luxembourg to Bill Gates. When did that happen?"
"Last week, sometime," Maya said. "I caught it on the news.
Something about changing the currency to 'Imperial Credits' or some such."
"Huh. I Didn't know about that. What the hell is it doing here though? I mean, I always thought people were adding their unfinished paperwork to my stack, but this just proves it," She wrinkled her nose. "I don't even know what department this belongs in."
Shinji eyed the stack. "Well, you could always ignore it like you do the rest of this stuff."
"Hey! Good idea," Misato said, carelessly tossing the
receipt onto the other kipple. "So, what brings you both down here,
other than to make sure I didn't die of starvation?"
"We're bored," Shinji said with a shrug. "Ritsuko called me in here from school to do some research, and I accidentally whacked the Magi, which caused a brownout, and she told me to take Maya and get before she killed me."
"We've been wandering around ever since," Maya finished.
"You're shitting me. You killed the Magi? I think I would have noticed something like that happening," Misato said, giving the pair a skeptical look.
"Just ask Ritsuko if you don't believe me," Shinji said.
Misato picked up the phone and dialed Ritsuko's cell. "Hey,
Ritsu, Misato. Yeah, I heard Shinji fried the Magi. He DID? Really?
You fixed it and want him to report to the command deck?"
"Ask if she's still wanting to kill me."
"He wants to know if you still want to kill him," Misato repeated. "You what?" Then, to Shinji: "She says she doesn't want to kill you, but she might kiss you instead. Found something important inside the Magi when they were checking them out, or something. She's spewing techno-babble again..."
Maya giggled at that, while he just looked a little curious.
"Oh, but she says if you touch the Magi again without, umn, 'the fix', that she'll kill you. Just keep it in mind."
"All right, I'll try. Tell her to make a 'fix' for Maya as well."
Misato did. "She wants to know why."
"Give me the phone," he said. She handed it over. "Yeah,
Ritsu? Unit Zero did a number on me and Maya, played 'cut and paste'
with our souls and she's sucking up Ki like it was a blue light special," he explained quickly.
"Well, if you don't feel like telling me, you don't need to spin a yarn about it," the blonde scientist said curtly.
"Since when have I ever lied about anything?" he asked.
"That's my honest opinion on what happened."
"You're serious? Wait, of course you are. Shit. Hang on"
there were a few shouted commands to the Magi, to which they answered. "You're right, she IS becoming a Ki magnet. Get to Command ASAP. I should have a set ready for Maya when you arrive."
"Okay. Here's Misato," he said.
"What? Yeah, she's acting a little off. Why? No. Hell if I
know. Yes, he's still here, I'm sending him now. Bye." Misato said,
dropping the phone on its cradle. "All right, you two. Get to the bridge. I'll see you later Shinji," She paused, considering. She shrugged. "Hey. Good luck wooing Ritsuko, Maya."
For a second, the technician looked startled, but then she straightened, and offered a crisp salute. "Yes, Captain! I'll do my best!"
"Good," Misato said as the two left. And she wondered.
Could Maya really make Ritsuko happy?
Ritsuko looked up as one of the doors to the Command Center opened. It was only Gendou and Fuyutsuki, however, returned from their lengthy meeting with the Steering Committee. Idly, Ritsuko wondered what a group of men could talk about for so long.
"Report," Gendou asked calmly.
"Everything is green across the board, Commander," Hyuuga replied.
"Is the situation which caused the brownout earlier resolved?"
"It is," Ritsuko answered the question, which had been directed at her.
"What was the cause?"
"Shinji?" he asked, puzzled. "A brief report, if you will,
"Yes Sir. Shinji was the cause. His Ki 'zapped' the Magi,
and something overtaxed the main generators so they reset themselves. The backups failed to come on line seamlessly, the cause of which we are looking into. After restoring Power, Aoba and I found it necessary to manually inspect the interior of all three Magi to locate and initialize the boot module, which had been removed. Aoba ascertained various previously unforeseen wiring problems, and repaired them all. We re-inserted the boot module and loaded the Magi's personality files from the backups, which were ninety nine point nine percent intact. Afterwards, I took steps to avoid the problem from occurring in the future."
"Very shrewd, Doctor. Please report any anomalies with the Magi to me immediately."
"Yes sir," she said. He conversed quickly with Fuyutsuki,
who nodded and added his own opinion, before they left.
A few minutes later, Shinji arrived with Maya. Ritsuko
looked up to see him enter and immediately said, "Stop right there,
"Eh?" he said, doing so. Maya remained next to him, looking somewhat bored. Ritsuko tossed him a pair of small bundles. "What are these?"
"Bracers. One set is for you, the other for Maya. Based on the information Saotome-Sensei gave us, the Magi were able to create a new type of fabric which should resolve your problems with electronic devices when worn," she explained.
"That shouldn't be possible," Shinji protested. "I mean-"
Ritsuko held up a hand to forestall further comment. "We
make giant bio-mechanical robots controlled by telepathy and orange
goo to fight a Divine menace bent on the destruction of its fan-
base. Don't tell me what isn't possible, Shin-chan. Just accept it.
Put it on, and we'll test it."
Shinji shrugged, and opened his bundle to reveal a set of
bracers, an odd bluish-grey in color, and slightly metallic to the
touch. He quickly affixed them to his forearms, and turned to show
Maya how. Once outfitted, Ritsuko tossed him Hyuuga's cell phone.
"Hey!" the technician protested.
"We'll get you a new one if he breaks it. Shinji, Dial the following..." Ritsuko said, giving him a string of numbers, "and press the send button. It should be green."
Shinji did so, then held the strangely familiar-unfamiliar device to his ear and waited. A voice he recognized picked up the phone. "Hello?"
"Oh, hey Rei."
"Shinji? Why are you calling me on my cell?" she asked,
"Your mom said to call using a cell phone, so I did."
"Oh. I take it you're still at Nerv?"
"Yep. Should be home in time for dinner, though."
"Okay. I'll cook tonight, and be expecting all of you around five thirty. Do try to make it on time, all right?"
"Will do. Later Rei," he finished his call and hit the 'End'
button without thinking about it, tossing the phone back to Hyuuga.
"Okay, I can use cell phones now without them blowing up. That's cool."
Ritsuko nodded. "Cell phones, computers, anything electronic. As long as you're wearing those bracers, your Ki cannot leak into hand held electronics. You could still cause a malfunction if you trip on something, or kick something, though. Do try to keep it in mind," she said, before turning to Maya. "I hear you've started doing the same thing for some bizarre reason?"
"Yes, sempai. I can't help it. Shinji thinks Unit Zero had something to do with it."
"Wouldn't surprise me. Damn thing's ornery as hell. Watch your feet at the consoles. And if I catch you in here without those bracers, I'll kill you with my pen. The same goes to you, Shinji. I don't want to see you out of those for anything less than a shower and not for more than five minutes if you can help it."
"Gotcha. Besides, they are a nifty spring accessory," he quipped.
"We should be able to change the color after some further testing. I just wanted to have something now as opposed to later if I could help it. I'm just glad they seem to work properly," She stopped, and suddenly remembered something. "Oh, by the way. I still want to run those tests I spoke of earlier..."
Suddenly Shinji wondered if skipping class for Nerv had been a wise choice after all, as the gleam in Ritsuko's eyes was somewhat scary.
But hey, it was only a test right? It couldn't hurt. Right?
An hour later, in a medical room in the Pilot's Ward, Nerv Hospital.
"Ouch! Damn it, that hurts, you know! How many needles do you have in here? Christ!"
Ritsuko just smirked at him as she injected the latest
sample into a vacuum-sealed vial. "Oh, hush. You are a man, right?
You should bear this small pain stoically."
"The needle's a meter long! How can I bear that stoically"
"It's only sixty five millimeters. Stop squirming."
"That's big enough, I tell you! Look, Rei's expecting us about now. Can we just go?"
Ritsuko considered. There were a few tests she'd still like to run, but it could wait until tomorrow. "All right, all right. I concede to your violent protests. We can go home."
"But tomorrow you get to do more."
Ritsuko tousled his hair affectionately. "Cheer up, my favorite guinea pig, it only hurts for a bit."
He scowled at her as he put his shirt back on. "Yeah, so you say. You get stuck with one of those and see if you like it."
She just chuckled at him. "Let's gather our wayward Captain and go home."
The next morning, Shinji had his revenge for the needles.
Ritsuko was as badly out of shape as Rei and Misato, and he drove them mercilessly for four kilometers. Strangely, she didn't seem to mind too much. Shinji decided it was just her intellect knowing what was good for her, and left it at that.
After going for a full run with Kizuko again, he came home
and began helping Rei with her therapy. Afterwards they left for and
arrived at school, and sat through another boring, inaccurate
lecture about the second impact. The school had replaced Shinji's
red, government issue laptop, and he proceeded to entertain himself
by exploring the part of him he had labeled the 'Maya Skill-Set.
His new knowledge was actually very comprehensive, and the more he explored the little subtleties of the technical information, the more he began to grasp.
Idly he wondered if it would work the same for Maya with his Martial arts skills. He really needed a training partner that was decent. And while he realized he would never be up to Maya's real skill with computers without further instruction, he was pretty sure he could trick her body into learning what he knew of the art.
Well, most of it, anyway. There were some techniques that could only be handed down to a disciple of the Saotome School of Anything Goes Martial Arts. He'd only show her those if she wanted to commit herself, to which he doubted. After all, he didn't know if she would even want to learn in the first place.
He was thinking this as a message popped up on his screen from Kensuuke. 'Did you record over the footage on my camera yesterday?' it asked.
'No. Why, was it erased?'
'Yeah, the film is totally blank now. I had transferred it to a DVD the night before, so it's not a big loss. I was just wondering why it would have been blank.'
Shinji typed in his explanation on Ki and hand held electronics.
"No Way!" Kensuuke said loudly after reading it.
Touji leaned his head back to look at his geeky friend, just like the other kids who were all staring at him, including the teacher. "Dude, Ken, dat's da second time in two days, man."
"Aida, go stand in the hall for the next period."
Kensuuke sighed. "Yes sir."
Shinji offered a soft apology as Kensuuke passed. The other boy just waved him off. Unconcerned, Shinji went back to playing with the laptop.
Yashiro eyed the card he had received from Captain Katsuragi.
Nerv. Go to work for Nerv. The idea appealed to him, and yet
disquieted him at the same time. He could easily throw a wrench into
GOD's plans this way, but GOD would know he was giving them the
information anyway, and would probably change things accordingly.
Then again, if he didn't offer his services and knowledge, GOD would know, and stick to the original plan anyway, of which he knew a little about. But if he told someone, then GOD would know, and would change things accordingly, just as if he had gone to work there anyway. But what if he didn't do anything at all?
"I'd feel like a patsy, that's what," he muttered to the empty store.
It was like time travel, he mused. You knew you could change something, but would that something change the events you remembered, or was the change you made the cause of the events you knew happened? What if you didn't do anything, but told someone else anonymously? What if...
His brain went into circles on that for a while before he stopped it, and shouted, "I hate time travel!"
A few boxes rattled of the shelves at this. Sighing, the
jinn went and picked them up, placing them back on the rack. He
never saw, or heard the two well dressed gentlemen who appeared as
if from nowhere. One was carrying a three foot segment of a 2x4. He
proceeded to apply it to good effect on the back of Yashiro's skull.
The jinn dropped cold.
The man without the 2x4 turned to his twin, and said in a rough sounding voice, "Bolas. Take this coat and go get his motorcycle."
"That game is old, Jay. I swear. OLD," his companion said tiredly, hoisting the plank of wood on his shoulder.
"I liked it, Gee. I really did."
"Jesus. Can we get on with this? We have more important things to do."
"Fine, fine. Spoil my fun," Jay sighed, shaking his head. He
knelt next to the former Angel and cupped a hand to his mouth. "Hey,
Sachiel. You're going to work for Nerv, and you're going to like it.
Take Shamshiel-Angel with you, and the others, when they show up.
Oh, your resurrection was my doing, not the G.O.D.'s, so expect this plan to be screwy as hell. Now, wake up!" he shouted the last part,
and Yashiro awoke with a start.
He blinked, and looked around. There was no one there.
Funny, he must have slipped or something. He picked himself up off the floor and bought some aspirin. After fighting with the raging headache and the nagging sensation he now felt for the card, he picked up the phone and dialed the number.
"Hello? Yes, I was wondering how to apply for a job at Nerv?"
"Why are we doing this?" Angel asked as she filled out the application for employment the woman behind the desk had given her.
"Because I told you to do this. Now, be quiet and do your forms," Yashiro said tiredly. It was obvious he wasn't extremely thrilled to be here either.
"No, I mean, why are we trying to gain employment with Nerv?
I mean, it seems kinda counter-productive. First we try to kill them, now we're going to help them? What's up with that?"
"Keep your voice down, or speak in Angelic or something," he said, switching languages himself. "Look, all I know is when the boy and the ghost come knocking on your skull with a plank of wood, you listen."
She glanced sharply at him. "You're telling me Jesus and H.
G. Christ came by the Quick Stop today, and told you to join Nerv?"
"Why didn't they come and tell me?" she asked, gesturing wildly in her frustration. "I would have asked them why we're like this! What's the plan, and what the hell were they thinking?"
"That's probably why they decided to hit me over the head with the holy two by four and not you, Angel. Now, finish your forms."
She continued filling out her forms dutifully, only griping every so often, until she came to the last page. "What? There's a physical involved?"
"Yes. Physical examination, blood work, various samples, you name it -they want to do it. C'mon, squirt, time to turn your head and cough."
"I'm so going to hurt someone after this. I swear."
Ritsuko had lived up to her promise of more tests. Luckily,
they had gone far smoother than the last batch, and now Shinji, Rei,
and Kizuko were scheduled for synch tests with the Evangelions.
Shinji and Rei were up first, in Units -00 and -01
respectively, as Kizuko's patience exceeded Rei's by a wide margin.
"All right, Shinji, I want you to focus on entering a meditative state, and try to feel as if the Eva were a part of you."
He seemed to cringe at that analogy. "Can I imagine it as a suit of armor I can wear when the need arises, instead?" he asked.
Ritsuko nodded. "Whatever works for you is fine," She said,
marking on her clipboard that he seemed very relieved to hear this.
"Now, Rei, I want to see if you can move the Evangelion's left arm..."
Shinji closed the comm window and relaxed inside the Entry Plug. He had quickly grown accustomed to the plug suit, so it wasn't as difficult as it could have been. But, instead of following Ritsuko's advice, he tried to contact the portion of Kizuko's soul that was still within the hulking form of Unit-00. He mentally called her name a few times. When that didn't work, he tried imagining her in front of him, in that red sea. Sadly, that didn't work either. Frustrated, he smacked the controls a bit, and sent a 'ping' of Ki at the Unit.
That got a response. With a moaning sound, the shorn portion
of Kizuko's soul entered his mind, and he was once again within that
eerie, red landscape. Again, the nude Kizuko stood before him,
except this time she was grinning. "You make us feel Alive," she said, "and real. You call to us. What is it you want, He Who Is The One?"
"Answers," he said. "Answers to a few questions."
"And what makes you think we would answer?"
"Because you like me."
While she didn't reply verbally to that, her grin became wider. "What are your questions, He Who Is The One?"
"Did you take a bit of my soul and stick it in Maya, and vice versa?"
"Yes. Would you rather we had destroyed her?" Unit-00 asked,
raising an eyebrow at him.
"No. I just wanted to make sure that's what it was."
"What other questions did you have for us, He Who Is The One?" Unit-00 asked without preamble.
"The other day, I asked Kizuko if she would have sex with
me. She replied by asking if I would like to 'Become One' with her.
This entire thing with Maya has got me wondering if that was literal or not."
"You should be asking her this, not I," Unit-00 said,
sounding more like a lonely fourteen year old than it had previously. Shinji briefly wondered at the difference as it continued. "But yes, it can be that. It can be as meaningful as you desire it to be. Yes, it can be literal, for she knows how."
"Oh. Umn, I'll keep that in mind. Thanks."
"Is there anything else?"
"Oh, what do you mean by calling me 'He Who Is The One"
Shinji asked. "I mean, it sounds like a B-movie quote or something."
She opened her mouth to speak, but then paused, as if
listening to something. "It is not our place to tell you. Yet. There
may come a time when we may speak of this, but that time has yet to
pass. Know that you have an important role to play in this conflict,
as do we, as do the others. Ask the Lord of the Elements for the proper time to ask, and at that time we shall tell you what we know."
"Who the hell is the 'Lord of Elements'?"
"Now that," said Unit-00 mischievously, "is a secret."
Gendou was puzzled. He generally attempted to not be puzzled, as in the business of saving the world, the more puzzled you are, the less likely you were to succeed. But in this case.
Well, it was permissible to be puzzled.
Within the copies of the Dead Sea Scrolls and other various prophetic works Seele had handed over as research material for Project E, there had been several sheets of papyrus vellum inserted to some of the works via resin glue, as if included as an afterthought by the original authors. They had been discredited by Seele because of their odd rambling and apparent lack of context with the rest of the scriptures; nonetheless Gendou had read through them on a whim, and now it would seem at least one had come true.
He re-read the verse he found suspect again, just to be
sure. 'There will be an owner of vast land and sheep and goods and
servants who shall fall upon harsh times, with his hand forced he
shall sell his goods to his neighbor, much to the dismay of the
children of the nation whom love him and his good works. His
servants shall do the bidding of this new master for a time, for the
land owner shall regain his title, his lands, his sheep, his goods,
and reclaim his servants to tend his fields again, much to the surprise and wonderment of the children whom love him. So too shall the defeated agents of God come under the guise of the servants of the land owner, to be placed as servants under the one whom dealt them death's blow, to serve until the time they taste of death once more. And there shall be a great buying of the rainbow discs and much rejoicing, so sayth the Lord. Even if he IS speaking nonsense...' and further down, in a shuddering script, as if the author were experiencing great difficulty, '-Note, never sayth that again, as lightning is painful.'
Gendou looked from the prophecy to the applications for
employment and accompanying dossiers on his desk. Yashiro Futaba,
Male, 22; and Angel Johnson, Female, 21. "I would never have called SNK a 'Land Owner' myself, but..." he sighed, rubbing the bridge of his nose, "Stupid prophets and their stupid parables and with their stupid analogies."
There came a knock on his massive office door. "Come."
It was Ritsuko, with written reports on the Children's Synchrograph tests for his perusal. She took one look at him and raised an eyebrow. "Okay, what else has gone wrong?"
"Else?" he asked, arching a brow to match her own.
"It's nothing major, just that Rei's synch ratio has dropped
ten points, and she's unable to move the Evangelion's left arm,
which I expected anyway. What's eating you?"
"Of the information we used to predict the Angel's arrival,
it has come to my attention that certain portions have just been proven to be true, whereas the steering committee and myself had viewed them previously as questionable... at best," he said wearily,
leaning back in his chair and rotating from side to side slightly.
"They were written on, well... 'Sticky Notes'," he said,
shrugging, "Which doesn't lend well to their credibility."
"Bullshit," Ritsuko said, slamming her reports on his desk with a pronounced slapping sound.
"I beg your pardon?" Gendou asked, a bit surprised at the look his chief scientist was giving him, as if he had crossed some invisible line, or perhaps attempted to invalidate some irrefutable truth.
She remained in her pose, left hand on his desk, the other
propped on her hip as she stared at him from under her brows, "Never
doubt the information contained in sticky notes," she said, and at
his lack of comprehension, she elaborated, "Have you ever looked
inside the Magi's manual access tunnels?" she asked, to which he
shook his head no. "Well, if you HAD, you would find them littered
with sticky notes, just absolutely covered. My mother placed them
there as she worked, and they're filled with hidden access codes,
personal notes, file locations, hardware access routes, terminal points, all sorts of invaluable data which I would never have known existed if she hadn't left them there for her successor to find. It was the only good thing to come of Shinji's run in with the Magi. So never, ever distrust sticky notes, 'cause sometimes, they're the only thing you've got that has any truth on them at all."
And with that, Ritsuko left the office, leaving Gendou to puzzle over her words. After a few minutes, he shrugged, got out the big rubber stamp, and stamped both applications with a big glaring red 'HIRED'. He then picked up the phone and dialed Fuyutsuki, who was awaiting his decision.
"Kouzou? Yes, well, I hope I don't regret this, but I need you to personally hire two people. Yes, they'll be in the groundside personnel department. Oh, I think they're already there. Yes, I'll have the dossiers available for you when you arrive..."
Fuyutsuki had arrived in the topside personnel office, taken a look at the applicants, and then their dossiers. His eyes widened in surprise, and he excused himself into a small office adjacent to the reviewing room and quickly dialed Gendou. "What's the meaning of hiring these two...?"
"Well, they're the reincarnated Angels, Kouzou-"
"They're WHAT?" Fuyutsuki said in alarm, causing the two applicants to look to the door of the small office he was in for a moment before quickly looking elsewhere. Kozou regained his composure as Gendou continued.
"You heard me, old man. They're the Angels. They're also hired."
"But we have reason to suspect they might-!"
"Yes, Yes. It might cause a few foreseen difficulties with the Human Completion Project, but the risks are worth it. Just think of it as 'defecting'," Gendou said calmly.
"Defecting my ass."
"Look, according to the, uh, 'Sticky Notes' in the Germonik scriptures, this was a possibility. You've read them."
"Yes, but according to Ramza the Forgotten, their truth is a double edged sword which can turn on us as easily as it does our enemies."
"As long as we can keep in mind that everything they can
reveal to us is already known by Him, and suppress any false sense
of security their information might give us, we should be fine"
Gendou said. "If there are any problems, we can just fire them.
Until then, put them on the payroll. I'd prefer to have them and their brethren where I can keep an eye on them rather than in the hands of Seele, or worse."
"There's worse than S... them?" Fuyutsuki blinked.
"There is no 'High Man' on the totem pole, as well you know.
Seele has a position of power because someone or something in a position of power backed them when they originated. Now, quit dithering and hire them."
"Didn't they specify?" asked Gendou.
"Well, Yashiro did mention he wanted to be under the 'Purple Haired Vixen', but I think most men would say that about Misato anyway," Fuyutsuki said wryly.
"That's not a half bad idea. Go ahead and place them under Katsuragi, in Tactical. It's empty anyway."
"What the hell are they going to do in Tactical?"
"Other than a direct application of the wealth of knowledge they possess? Oh, I don't know. Maybe Misato needs a secretary? Or perhaps a Gofer? Or mayhap an aide de camp?"
"I get the point. All right, I'll put them in Tactical. When do they start?"
"As soon as humanly possible. Since they're not human, now would be nice."
"Right. I'll get right on it," Kouzou said before hanging up the phone.
"Congratulations, you're both hired, and will begin as of now," Fuyutsuki said crisply as he reentered the reviewing room. He handed the two jinn their information packets. "Read these, they contain information crucial for your safety, success, and survival as a Nerv-Japan employee. Any questions? Yes, Yashiro?"
"Do we, like, get cool uniforms?" Yashiro asked.
"Yes, you get uniforms. If you open your 'Welcome to Nerv'
booklet to page thirteen, 'Proper Appearance In The Workplace', you will see the basic technician uniform. Yours will be similar in design, save black trousers and a red Duty Jacket."
There was a flipping of pages. Yashiro smiled, "Cooool. I'm gonna be an Ensign!"
Fuyutsuki sighed, "Yes, Johnson?"
"Do I have to wear the skirt? I prefer pants."
"Yes, you can wear pants. What is it, Yashiro?" Kouzou asked to his raised hand.
"We get guns? Really?"
"Yes. You will receive proper instruction in the use of firearms, and one will be issued to you for on duty use, which you will wear at all times."
"I like guns!" Yashiro said enthusiastically.
Fuyutsuki's right eyebrow ticked. Urge to Destroy.
World... Rising... he thought, and he had to relax his jaw muscles before he sighed again and asked, "Yes, Johnson?"
"What are our assigned duties?"
"That decision will belong to your commanding officer."
"Oh, because I can't make coffee worth a damn."
"No, she really can't." Yashiro affirmed.
"I'll keep that in mind."
Gendou looked at the two former angels before him, dressed sharply in the red and black uniforms of Nerv Tactical. He had summoned them to his office to personally take stock of them, and had decided to let them stew a bit before speaking. They had been in the room for a little under a minute now, Yashiro was giving his Seperoth surreptitious glances now and again, while Angel was doing her best to seem relaxed and unconcerned with the terribly ominous surroundings.
Finally, Yashiro spoke. "High Commander, Sir, I believe there's something you should know."
Gendou raised an eyebrow. "What would that be, Ensign?"
"Your Tree of Life is incorrect, sir."
Gendou blinked. "Excuse me?"
"Well, it's mostly correct, sir, but there are a few mistranslations and scrambled phrasings, sir."
"And you would know this because?" Gendou asked.
"Begging your pardon, but we're jinn, sir," Yashiro said.
Gendou nodded crisply. To him, such an admission was a
relief. "Good to hear, Yashiro-kun. I know you two were Sachiel and
Shamshiel," at this, Angel jumped a bit, but Yashiro seemed calm. "I
expect you both to offer as much information as you can concerning
those yet to come. You don't seem very surprised at this, Yashiro-
"Begging your pardon, sir, but I expected it. After all, you did use those planes to write my name upside down in the sky while I was attacking Tokyo Three. Anyone with enough knowledge and chutzpah to do that would almost certainly know our true identities," Yashiro explained.
Gendou nodded, then looked to Angel. "You have been quiet.
"Sir. I'm brash and impulsive, but I know better than to stick my foot where it doesn't belong," she said, then leaned forward slightly, using her hand to block Yashiro's view of her mouth while whispering, "Besides, he's the smart one. Technically, he's my superior in the old hierarchy, so I thought it best to let him take the fore."
"Your superior? Are you comfortable with a subordinate position?"
She nodded. "Yes sir."
"Then I'm promoting you both, Yashiro to First Lieutenant,
Johnson to Second. You will both report only to Captain Katsuragi Misato, Fuyutsuki Kouzou, and Myself. Understood?" He asked while placing a pair of insignia pins on his desk.
They both nodded, and then retrieved their respective pins.
Gendou pressed an intercom button on his desk. "Katsuragi,
you may come in now."
Misato entered the office and looked the two over. "So these are my new toys?" she asked Gendou. Yashiro blinked at that, while Angel smirked.
"Toys, captain?" Gendou said. "They're your responsibility,
yes. Toys, no."
"Besides, he might break," Angel quipped, elbowing Yashiro.
He stoically ignored this.
Misato shared a grin with Angel, deciding she'd get along with her just fine. "I don't know. He might do for an hour, or so."
"Nah, I give him thirty minutes, at best. Maybe with a little practice, an hour, but right off the bat?" Angel said, giving Yashiro a look herself. "I don't think so."
"You never know. I might pull a trick or two out of my hat and surprise you," Yashiro finally commented.
"Oh, I'd like to see that," Angel said.
"You still owe me, you realize. Don't make me take you as a down payment."
"Hey, I paid you back for the clothes!"
"The other thing, involving a countertop, some cigarettes,
and an Angel."
"Oh, that. Right..."
"Sounds kinky," Misato said, before making a shooing motion with her hands. "We can continue this conversation later. Let's not annoy the High Commander any more than we need too." She then turned to Gendou, and offered a formal bow. "Thanks, boss. I really needed the help with the paperwork."
Gendou nodded. "Duly noted, Captain. Dismissed."
Fuyutsuki was overseeing the removal of the fourth Angel's S2 core, a process that was going smoothly. He was there as little more than a figurehead, to show the able technicians that higher authority was interested and would be displeased if they screwed up.
The techs seemed to realize this just as much as Fuyutsuki did, and were being extra careful.
Idly, Fuyutsuki wondered at the girl he had interviewed this
afternoon. Such a beautiful woman to have emerged from this great
monstrosity. It was nearly as bizarre as the reason why the Angels
were attacking in the first place; which, as near as he could tell,
was simply due to God's whim.
Sure, others would say there was a reason. The false prophets proclaimed it was heavenly retribution; God's wroth unleashed against a sinful mankind. Some in the know thought it was some type of grand test, to see if we were yet qualified for the next stage of evolution. Gendou, however, had his own ideas.
"It's a fucking game of chess, Fuyutsuki," Gendou had said.
"Or Mahjong. He's bored, we've screwed up, and now He's toying with us before he decides just what he's going to do with the sinful,
disobedient child. He knows our options, and knows the choices we make. He knows Seele's planning on uniting with Lilith. He knows I plan to fuck that up. He's the master, mocking his protege with a diversion while he sets up the real assault. The Angels. The Evangelions, they are just smokescreens, an attempt to hide the true motives of both sides. And His is doing it's job, while ours is probably only blinding the masses."
Fuyutsuki was forced to agree. God was omniscient, after all. But to continue the ruse, did it mean the Holy approved of Gendou's plan? Or did the appearance of the jinn mean he did not?
He was pulled from his musings as one of the techs
approached him. "Sub-Commander, sir. We have removed the core
intact. There appears to be minimal degradation, and no activity.
What do we do with it now, sir?"
"Box it, and ship it to Ireland. Nerv-I is planning to install it in their 'Battle Type' Evangelion, Unit Four," Fuyutsuki told him.
"Yes sir," the tech said before turning back to his crew and issuing instructions.
Fuyutsuki returned to his musings as they boxed up the core,
and came to realize something he didn't know.
Just what was Gendou's true plan?
'\-/' Neon Genesis Evangelion: Honor's Duty " Stanza Eight: Jagged Revelations End