Chapter Six: Its . . . A Human Kind of Thing.
As usual I own nothing, and I apologize for the last chapter, wanted to get it out and I was distracted I would like to point out that I meant 2nd and 3rd degree burns, if Rei had first degree burns then she would be a rather toasty critter when they removed her from the plug. I apologize for that MASSIVE mistake.
I also apologize for Shinji's . . . Mary Sueness, I'm going to try and deconstruct that over the next few chapters. Think of it this way, Asuka is nearly as cocky, Shinji has his own reasons. As I hope this chapter will show without seeming to cheesy and messed up. As for the earlier remarks, I really don't know why I had Shinji hit Touji though I think I'll probably go back and change that eventually.
"File open, 002, Pilot Candidate Yumi Toyama." Doctor Toyama looked at the pictures of her adopted daughter. "Current age, eight years since initial activation, mental age of approximately fourteen, physical age of approximately fourteen. Selected as the Second Candidate and designated pilot of the Mark Ziel prototype precision weapons platform and designated Sniper for her paired team with Lieutenant Shinji Ikari, the teams close range fighter.
Her emotional state has shown great progress, in the last seven years especially, with the increase in the total number of people she has interacted with. As has been theorized an artificial soul has been proven to take on a consciousness and will of its own after no less then one years time after its initial activation. This would correlate with Candidate Toyoma's initial activation of the Mark Ziel's grid tap approximately four hundred and twelve days after her initial activation.
Greater research will need to be placed into the analysis of her internal systems if the project to reactivate the Mark Sol is to be completed as intended. However her interaction with both Lieutenant Ikari, despite my strong and well founded protests in the past to remove her from this paring, and NERV Pilot Rei Ayanami should be considered beneficial in both the long and short term."
Doctor Toyama leaned back in her chair . . . 'Kiroshi . . . You know I'd lover her all the same, but why did you leave such a black box in my hands . . .'
Rei shifted uncomfortably as she waited where she had been told outside the GeoFront. She pulled the wide brimmed straw hat Yumi had given her, down a little further to protect her tender skin from the sun. The burns were not major, third degree, at best. And her skin was far more resilient then her ghostly complexion let on. Even without most of the supporting characteristics that allowed the Angels their almost instantaneous regeneration her body did heal quickly, and like them, no permanent scaring would ever blemish her, they simply faded in a matter of months at most.
That didn't stop her skin from being very sensitive at the moment as she waited in the shade before the NERV entrance in the light weight white dress that Yumi had given her to wear. The soft material was admittedly much more comfortable then her uniform would have been. "Ayanami." Shinji shouted as he Yumi, and the other two boys of the group the class representative called 'the three stooges' came walking up.
"Told you we'd be here." Shinji said giving her a small smile, Rei nodded. This was something that friends were supposed to do . . . Spend time together, though she was curious what the point of doing so in a public place was. 'Perhaps it enhances the experience in some way.' She thought as she trailed beside Shinji. Shinji and Yumi were now her comrades and friends, perhaps that was the word.
Regardless she was being given an opportunity to consider these things and experience them, even if it had taken several days gentle prodding from Shinji at Yumi's request to pull her out into the light so to speak.
"You know Ayanami with your skin like that it looks like you finally got a sunburn." Kensuke Aida noted. "Though that is kind of odd, I'm surprised your not toasted more often Albino's aren't supposed to have much tolerance for direct sunlight.
'I am not albino.' Rei thought irritably. In fact she wasn't really, except for in mind and spirit, all that human either, not any more than Yumi was. Humans didn't have 24 chromosomes and an S2 core in their abdomen.
"I take precautions." Rei said simply. Yumi had told her it was sometimes best to respond to a question rather then ignore it totally.
Kensuke nodded, both he and Touji were starring, he knew, not that either of them cared. Rei in ANYTHING other than her normal school uniform was surprisingly beautiful, even with her skin a light pink from her recent experience with the Fifth Angel. 'That's odd', Kensuke noted her arms, they were as red as the rest of her skin, but there was something odd. 'Somebody burned that bad should have some bad skin peeling.' He just chalked it up to NERV's medical technology.
Rei was quiet the entire walk, observing but not speaking until they reached the mall where a rather irritated looking Hikari Horaki met them. Rei took in the fact that none of her companions wore there normal school uniforms, it felt strange to her. Uniforms promoted order, equality among those of similar rank, and structure for the different levels of hierarchy, yet it was obvious even now that Miss Horaki was in control and the 'stooges' were her subordinates.
She looked to Rei and smiled. "Its nice to see you finally decided to come along Miss Ayanami." Hikari said smiling. Rei did not reply, simply nodding politely.
'Well, its progress.' Hikari decided before she went back to berating Touji and Kensuke for starring at the girls during PE.
"Man we're out of school and she still torments us." Touji whined.
Shinji shrugged, "Told you, being a gentleman pays off, and makes you feel good about yourself."
Hikari nodded in agreement, Shinji really was the closest thing the class had to a gentleman and she even thought that after she'd found out about Touji's nose. The strangest thing had been that from that day on, Touji and Shinji had been friends. 'Boys' She though with amazement.
The group entered the mall, which to Rei was a disturbing, disordered mass of light and sound with little actual reason, Rei shifted a little bit closer to Yumi and Shinji, they both at least understood what they were doing here.
Rei glanced about, the light and sound was overwhelming for her first time in a place like this and she paused to take a breath. Shinji noted and led her to sit down. "You ok?"
"I am fine." Rei replied, "Simply . . . overwhelmed."
Shinji nodded, "Hikari and Yumi are going into one of the department stores, why don't you go with them for now it'll be less crowded there."
Rei nodded absently as she observed a group of young men walking by in black leather and chains. People called her appearance strange when there were others walking around dressed like that. How odd.
Ayanami was pulled along quickly by Hikari and Yumi leaving Shinji and his two friends to there own devices. Kensuke looked at the two of them, "We have at least an hour and a half before they get back . . ."
"Arcade." They said simultaneously.
"I see." Gendo Commented into his phone.
"No it won't be a problem." He said looking at the black and white picture showing a machine that looked like a cheap knockoff of an EVA. "Still it was good that you alerted me of this, it will be taken care of." Gendo closed his phone and hit a button on the intercom, "Doctor Akagi."
"Yes Sir, what do you need?"
"I have need of your professional services." Gendo said coldly, making it clear what he meant.
"Of course Sir." Ritsuko replied quickly.
Gendo decided to add a little temptation. "Do well and I may make use of your . . . Other services . . . In the near future."
"Yes Sir." The response this time was far more energetic.
Gendo closed the line glancing down at the still image of Jet Alone, 'This will be taken care of soon enough.' The only subordinates Gendo put more faith in then Ritsuko, were Fuyustuki, and Rei.
"Are you certain these are all . . . Necessary." Rei asked weakly as Hikari dragged her along in her wake, distress clear in her eyes.
"You don't need to get anything if you don't want Rei." Hikari reassured her, slowing her pace so that Rei could walk beside her. "You should only even consider buying something if you like it." She explained, it was odd trying to explain shopping to Rei.
The blue haired girl was busy taking in the environment, at the moment there wasn't much in the way of clothing that she could find comfortable considering the state of her skin but there were a few things that Yumi insisted she would look nice in. This was coming from a girl who considered boxers appropriate undergarments.
"Perhaps . . ." Rei replied honestly, not knowing what else to say. After a while she found that she was . . . Enjoying herself. Not in the sense that she found any of this fun, but she didn't feel like it was a wasteful use of otherwise free time.
Rei was a little confused when she was told to sit quietly and judge the various outfits that the class representative tried on, in general she would simply mimic Yumi's responses, not so much because she was lacking in opinion as much as that in general her own tastes in cloths she was fast discovering were what other students had called tomboyish, and perhaps more then a little conservative.
Thought things were made considerably more difficult when Rei was dragged up by Hikari to try on clothes, it was a rather painful experience for her as the class representative piled her down with a half dozen shirts, pants, skirts, and jackets, more then she would ever have cared for. The girl was then sent off to try them all on, not an entirely pleasant experience considering the abused state of her skin. Still the pain was not so great as to allay her curiosity.
It had ended up taking more time than Rei had expected, for herself at least, apparently Miss Horaki had believed she needed to consider clothes carefully with her unique hair and eye color. What her appearance had to do with the clothing she did not fully understand but apparently through some ancient wisdom known only to every other female on the planet the pig tailed girl had found the 'appropriate' clothing for her.
The double shopping bags that Hikari ended up with dwarfed the selections that Yumi had made of a pair of baggy camo pants and a couple of shirts, leaving Rei's own simple acquisition of a new blouse and some loose jeans look conservative in comparison never mind it was more then she had ever purchased for herself before in her life.
Payment was straight forward when they finally got to the register, Rei had a sizeable cost of living stipend saved up, she supposed the Commander had intended her to use the money at some point for her own enjoyment, but she had never really desired anything. Even at the moment she had no real intense desire to possess things and doubted she ever would. But that didn't mean she couldn't enjoy the concept.
The next thing Yumi did was take Rei to get an ice cream cone at one of the small stands ringing the main escalators at the center of the mall, Rei got a sherbet due to her metabolism's absolute intolerance for complex proteins while both of the other girls went with something a little more elaborate . . .
"Are you sure you can eat that?" Hikari asked, looking at the tapioca supreme that Yumi was digging into.
"Mmmmm, mmmm hmmmm." She said as she took another bite of whip cream, pudding, chocolate, and ice cream.
"That's . . . kind of gross." Hikari commented, feeling mildly ill.
Yumi pouted her lip a little which came to a messy conclusion with the ice cream in her mouth.
Hikari giggled at her friends sloppiness while Rei trailed behind absorbing it all, she felt . . . Less cold. She decided, yes this was not so bad a thing being with others. 'The commander said becoming close to others would cause me pain.' She thought wearily, but she knew . . . At least Yumi was like her to some degree, a construct. If she were to discover her true nature then at least she would be less likely to fear or hate Rei then any others.
'If I am to have a friend Miss Toyama is the logical choice . . .' Hikari poked Rei in the shoulder, catching her by surprise.
"Its good to see you finally coming out like this Ayanami." Hikari said smiling.
"What do you mean?" Rei asked.
Hikari cocked her head, "Well usually your so cold and distant, I tried to be your friend but you always just starred at me. If I had known that a little more patience would have broken through . . ."
Rei didn't say anything for a moment, "You . . . Were attempting to be my friend?" She asked curious.
Hikari nodded, "Of course Rei, why shouldn't I?"
"I am not . . . Normal, people do not usually take well to my presence." Rei said softly, only the Commander had ever wanted her close, of that she was certain.
Hikari looked at her strangely, "Well you are kind of odd, and the way you stare at people . . . Like that . . . Is kind of creepy but I've never seen you be mean to anyone. The way the other kids picked on you always ticked me off a little." Hikari growled.
Rei blinked, the Class Representative, had she ever joined in the teasing of the other? Rei did not recall it. Had she protected her? On occasion she had intervened.
'It is her job.' Rei thought as she stopped and stared at where they were heading. "But my appearance does not match with the norm." Rei insisted.
Hikari grinned, "Have you ever considered Yumi, those eyes of hers scare most guys right off the bat, not to mention she's the tallest girl in our class but she still manages to get along well with everyone. Even just being a little friendlier would get people to accept you." Hikari insisted.
Rei looked away deep in thought. 'Perhaps . . . Perhaps I should consider . . .' She gave herself a mental shake of the head. No such things were for other people, not for herself, she did not need companions this was simply an experiment that was all. She insisted to herself. A tiny piece of her soul, the part that truly knew her, and knew truly that Rei was her own being squeaked that she was lying.
Shinji stood beside Tanaka, Misato, and Ritsuko, as Commander Ikari spoke.
"Japan Industrial is unveiling an Anti Angel weapon known as Jet Alone at the Tokyo Convention in three days time. NERV and MESSIAH has been provided with four seats for representatives at the event, Lieutenant Ikari and Captain Tanaka will represent MESSIAH, Captain Katsuragi and Doctor Akagi will represent NERV." The Commander said calmly looking over the four representatives before him. He privately was hoping to get a laugh out of Shinji from this. His dressing down of a UN Colonel had struck Gendo's sense of humor spot on, even if he didn't show it.
Shinji took a look at one of the small brochure pamphlets that was handed out, he snorted as he saw the new machine. 'They call this a combat mech?' Truthfully it didn't look fit to change the oil on an EVA. That's when his eyes caught on something else. "A slow fissile reaction?" He noted.
"Its one of the main features." Ritsuko commented, "Jet Alone is equipped with a traditional fissile reaction system capable of generating enough power for continuous operation for up to 160 days."
Tanaka whistled, "That's impressive and all Doc but honestly something like this on a land based weapon is a bit more retarded then even using say, an extension cord."
Ritsuko winced, "Well maybe if you'd hand over one of your cold fusion reactors for us to use." She muttered.
Tanaka ignored her, continuing to stare at the Jet Alone unit.
"It looks like a wind up toy, how can anybody take it seriously?"
"Well, Unit-01 was heavily damaged in its debut battle, the Mark Ziel damaged the city in its first fight, oh and we nearly got our buts kicked by the last Angel, frankly there's lots of attention on our screw ups right now." Misato said.
"People always focusing on the negative."
"True, and have you seen how much money it takes to keep this facility functioning? Man cannot live on EVA alone." Ritsuko said poetically.
"Amen to that." Tanaka said dryly.
"Dress uniforms are of course required, you are to observe the field testing and then report back with your personnel opinions. Dismissed."
The four filed from the Commanders office finally starting to talk a little more freely as they left. "Ever get this feeling that the universe hates us and is trying to turn the entire human race into a giant sea of Tang?" Tanaka asked.
"Where did that come from?" Shinji said.
"No where, its just one of those days." Tanaka replied glancing back down at the brochure. "This things isn't much of a threat to us, but NERV is a government funded organization so you two have a lot to lose." Tanaka commented.
Misato and Ritsuko had to agree there, the UN may have increased their funding recently, but they could just as quickly withdraw said funding and stab them through the heart. Could and probably would if they were given half a chance.
"Well I'll have to break out my uniform then." Shinji commented.
"Don't forget you have synch testing with Unit-01 tomorrow." Ritsuko commented smiling sweetly, or not so sweetly. "Be sure to be well rested. I have to say you showed a remarkably good score for a first timer in your test yesterday."
"He's been talking to Rei about synchronization during her training with the Strife." Misato commented.
"Oh, Rei Ayanami, you've been spending time with her?" Ritsuko asked.
"Yeah, me and Yu." He replied.
"They seem to get along pretty well actually." Misato commented, "They went to the mall yesterday with a bunch of friends from school, Shinji said Rei seemed happy, or, as happy as she ever shows." Misato said.
"Rei just seems odd . . ." Shinji commented, "Although there's something beneath that ice maiden exterior, I think she's just never had a reason to come out."
Misato grinned, "I'm sure our young Lieutenant can lure her out." She teased.
"Hey, its not like that!" Shinji flushed a little.
"Ahhhh, has my little Shinji started to take an interest in certain . . . curves." Tanaka snickered as he scrubbed Shinji's hair. "Hey, cut that out!" Shinji snapped, shaking his head. "Why me god?"
"He's not listening." Tanaka replied and continued along with Misato to poke and tease Shinji.
"They are so immature." Ritsuko muttered.
The elevator stopped and Ritsuko got off as Shinji, Misato, and Tanaka headed up to the surface.
"Hey Shinji I've been meaning to ask you something." Misato asked.
"Ok Misato, shoot."
"Have you ever seen those scars on Yumi's arm and leg?"
"Scars?" He asked, voice suddenly sounding very brittle. "Yeah, she had a circular scar around her arm right before the shoulder, and another around her calf . . ."
"I don't know what your talking about." Shinji said firmly as the elevator stopped on the hangar level. "I just remembered I have to finish a calibration check, I'll see you at home for dinner Misato." Shinji said quickly.
The elevators closed again leaving Misato with Tanaka. "Is there something about that I should know about?" Misato asked Tanaka.
The tall, black haired man shrugged. "Shinji may act like fucking Mary-sue but he has some reasons for it, lets just say he has a few ghosts and you just go him into his brooding mode about one of them."
Misato frowned, 'I guess everyone has something like that.'
Shinji kept walking, his pace quickening slightly, he didn't want to think about those memories. He'd become stronger so he wouldn't have to think about them.
No don't, Strife, STOP PLEASE STOP!
WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON . . . SHIT Cut the power to the Strife's right hand now . . .
Get her to the emergency room, have every type O-blood pack we have on standby when we get there and prep a full life support unit . . .
The right arm is completely mangled were going to have to amputate it and the right leg and clone the limbs all over again, fortunately we can salvage most of the cybernetics . . .
Do you understand what you did Shinji, you could have killed her, you could have KILLED her!
Its not your fault Shinji, you just wanted to prove that you could do it too.
'I . . . Just wanted to prove . . . That I could pilot as good as Yumi.' His eyes started to sting as he stepped out on the hangar catwalk, the indirect milky glow of light strips warming his skin. He paused. Rei Ayanami stood staring into the Strife's eyes. The slightly shorter Mark Ziel stood to the side looking on with the same quiet and stoic air as the Strife.
"Miss Ayanami, Good afternoon." Rei turned to face him.
"Good afternoon, Lieutenant Ikari . . ."
"What are you doing here, we don't have training."
"I am required to have a reason?" She asked.
"Uhhmmm, no, no of course not." He said as he sat down.
Rei hesitated, she had been reading books on interaction recently. Now perhaps was the time to put that knowledge to use. "You seem troubled today Lieutenant."
"Does it show that bad?"
"Yes . . . It does." Rei confirmed.
Shinji shook his head starring over to the Strife. "If I tell you a little bit about what's bothering me, will you tell me what your doing here?" He asked.
Rei cocked her head slightly, "That would be acceptable."
Shinji closed his eyes. "Lets say . . . that I was just reminded about something really unpleasant that happened between Yumi and me when we were a lot younger."
"Friendship can be very difficult, correct?" Rei asked.
Shinji shifted a little, "This didn't just have to do with our friendship, it was an incident that almost got me expelled from MESSIAH."
"Were you reprimanded?" Rei asked.
"Yeah, pretty bad." Shinji admitted.
"Then there is no reason for you to dwell upon it."
"Its one of those things okay Rei." Shinji tried to explain, like his friendship with Touji it somehow felt . . . Strained, at the best of times though he didn't show it he really didn't feel he had a right to be so close to somebody he'd hurt now in more then one way. 'What made me hit him? Oh yeah, he asked for it . . .' Hopefully the boy wouldn't ask for it again, hitting someone wasn't Shinji's idea of great fun but Touji had told him later that he would not have taken no for an answer, especially after Kensuke had convinced Shinji had let him beat him up.
"So . . . Why did you come here?" He asked.
"I feel . . . like I am pulled here."
Rei was still starring at the Strife's eyes, "I feel like something very important can be seen from here, but I am not sure what."
Shinji looked at her and smiled, "Well, there's you." Shinji pointed out, "Your very important." He said simply.
Rei cocked her head looking at him, "You are wrong. I . . . Am not important, I am replaceable . . . Unremarkable."
Shinji shook his head, "That's where your wrong, you have to believe me when I say this Rei, there isn't much in this world that isn't remarkable even the earth beneath us and the sky above us manages to be something new and unique every second even if we never really notice it. A friend told me that once and I think he's right."
She blinked a few times cheeks heating slightly, to Rei of all people, those words were extremely kind.
The two children sat in that companionable silence for some time until the glow strips switched from there day time butter milk to the evenings soft blue. "I have to be going now, Rei. I'll see you tomorrow, okay?"
"I will be here as usual for my training." Rei said.
Shinji nodded and headed fro the hangar exit, "Oh . . . And goodnight Ayanami."
Rei turned towards Shinji as he headed out the door. "Good night to you as well Lieutenant Ikari."
Shinji sat breathing the LCL with a little discomfort, 'This stuff . . . Smells a lot like blood . . . Too much like blood.' He thought as he continued with the tests. 'But I feel . . . So comfortable here . . . Its like . . . Like the Strife . . . But different . . . Warmer . . . Just what is EVA truly anyways.' He pondered, the test lasted for an hour and then he was finally decanted and allowed to shower and change.
He came out of the locker room and headed down the hallway thinking that same question, 'Maybe ask Ayanami, no I shouldn't bother her with something like that.' He kept wondering about it as he got onto the elevator and headed towards the surface. 'Need to make something good for dinner tonight', Shinji thought as he proceeded up towards the surface.
On his was up he ran once more into Misato and Ritsuko. He looked to Misato who was wearing her favorite dress today, "Did you really have to wear that to our parent teacher conference?" He asked.
She looked at him eyebrow twitching, "Would you rather be living with Tanaka."
Shinji paled, the last thing he wanted was to live with Tanaka or Rico, despite them being almost father like figures to him, Tanaka couldn't cook, and Rico spent most of the time in his boxers at home. 'HEY WAIT A SECOND MISATO'S THE SAME WAY!' Well . . . At least she provided some eye candy for the trouble she put him through.
"You ready for the Jet Alone trials tomorrow?" Misato asked Shinji.
"Mmmm, yeah sure." He mumbled distantly.
"Shinji? What are you thinking about." Misato Asked.
"Oh, just wondering about the EVA's and the Angel you know, I really don't know much about them. For one, how did NERV know that they would need to fight them one day?"
"I can answer that." Ritsuko replied. "You see Shinji, Second Impact, which every child learns about in school wasn't caused by a meteorite."
Shinji nodded. "I actually already knew that part, but what did cause it then?"
"It was caused by mans first meeting with the Angels, the First Angel self destructed taking Antarctica with it . . . And doing massive damage to the environment, the energy yields involved were tremendous."
"So the EVA's and Tokyo-3 were built to stop . . ."
"A Probably Third Impact, yes. Though why the Angels are attempting to cause this nobody is truly certain."
Shinji glanced back to note Misato averting her gaze as if distracted by something herself.
'I guess that makes some sort of sense' Shinji thought to himself, this was a useful bit of information. 'Does this mean the Arcadian technology has something to do with the Angels?' He wasn't entirely sure all he knew was that the Mark Fear and one other artifact had been recovered from the Antarctic at literally the last instant before Second Impact, at something called the Beta site.
'It must . . .' He wondered if he could use that bit of information as a bargaining chip to get the whole story from the Colonel at a later date. 'I have to know now.' He thought to himself. 'I have to know.'
"Shinji, would you hand me the curry powder?" Misato asked.
"Your not supposed to put curry on bloody somen noodles!" He said in disbelief.
"How would you know, everything's better with a little curry." Misato said as she loaded the noodles down with the powder.
"Ok, you have officially ruined my dinner." Shinji said getting up and taking his dish to the sink. Yumi held out her own dish as Shinji came back to clean up, "Thank -" Yumi began before Shinji quickly yanked the dish from her hand not looking at her.
She looked at him sadly, he had been like this for the last two days, what had happened to make him hate her so suddenly.
He cleaned up the rest of the plates doing the dishes while Misato went to watch TV with PenPen leaving Yumi to deal with her own feeling about all of this. Shinji and her had always had an odd relation ships, a mix of brother and sister, mother and son, father and daughter, husband and wife, friend and friend, that always seemed to work out in the end. But now.
Shinji past be her without a word and headed for his room. Yumi followed him quickly stopping him in the hall. "Shinji Sama, why are you avoiding me?" She asked.
Shinji looked at her over his shoulder, "I'm, just troubled right now is all, Yu." He said weakly.
Yumi shook her head angrily, "No your not just troubled, what did I do wrong, please Shinji Sama, what did I do wrong!"
Shinji turned to her fully, placing a hand on her head and running it through her bubblegum hair. "You haven't done anything wrong Yu, nothing at all . . ." He breathed in slowly. "Good night."
He stepped into his room and slid the door shut.
Yumi starred at the closed door for a few moments before quietly heading to her own room.
She lay down on her futon and pulled the covers up to her chin, thinking to only herself. 'Shinji Sama, have I disappointed you somehow? Why aren't you talking to me . . . Maybe if . . . If I save everyone will you have words of praise for me?'
Yumi fell asleep considering these thing, one hand brushing softly against the fine hairline scar ringing her arm, never even thinking once that Shinji was quietly absorbed in a very old guilt.
Shinji starred distantly out the back window of the NERV VTOL as they headed in to land at the Old Tokyo Testing grounds built on a flat concrete expanse near the ruins of the old city. A huge dome and an equally massive second building sat at the center of this field.
"These guys have no sense of humility, do they." Tanaka noted with a little disgust.
"Its there base, they can waste there money as they want, they have to explain it to there stock holders not us." Misato said as she took her dress uniform cap and place it jauntily on her head.
"Now lets be on our best behavior children." Ritsuko said to both of them.
"Ah, but mommy I want a lollipop!" Tanaka said sarcastically. Misato laughed, and Ritsuko rolled here eyes. Shinji was being consumed by something else too much to care.
They were lead to a convention area, the main floor covered by large tables stacked high with appetizers as the Jet Along staff opened up with a Question and Answer session.
Ritsuko brought up a question immediately, "Is it true that Jet Alone is equipped with a nuclear reactor?" She asked.
"Why yes it is, it is one of our products distinguishing features allowing it to operate continuously for up to 160 days." The company spokesman said proudly.
"And have you not questioned the wisdom of placing a nuclear reactor in a land based weapons designed to engage in close combat?" Ritsuko asked.
"We think it's a better choice then a weapon that can only operate for five minutes, and in its first battle sustained heavy damage." The man countered holding up a picture of Unit-01's slagged carcass.
'How did they get that image?' Ritsuko wondered angrily, regardless.
"NERV and MESSIAH are the only ones who have developed weapons capable of stopping the Angels."
"You mean the Affectos and AT field . . . Those are just a matter of research, certainly if it can be done by others it can be done by us, with the funding from our stock holders Jet Alone will succeed where the EVA and Mark Units have staggered along." He said loudly to get the attention of everyone in the crowd.
"Besides the reactor is guarded by multiple software safeties, the thought that it could go out of control belongs in a delusional mind, like that of hysterical woman." He said.
Ritsuko's eye began to twitch as the crowd roared in laughter. 'Laugh it up you little prick.' She thought to herself darkly.
"You're all acting like children." Misato mumbled through a straw as Ritsuko walked back towards NERV's appointed waiting room. Shinji and Tanaka fallowed her close behind. They had had the wisdom to remain silent through the meeting.
Only when the door was closed did Misato show how deep her restraint had been. "Grrrrr, how did they get that picture, Section Two is dragging its ass again." She snarled.
"Arrogant little bastard I'll say that." Tanaka added in.
"That's not all, for what he said, I just want to take his head and put it in this locker, and then I want to kick it and kick it and kick it! Ooohhhh." She relieved the frustrating by doing just that, denting the small wall locker with her shoe, quite a feat in high heels.
"Don't be like that Misato, he's petty." Shinji said finally, "Just stroking his own ego over initial achievements." Shinji assured her as he sat next to Ritsuko.
"Shinji's right, he's not worth the effort." Ritsuko said as she took her Jet Alone brochure and burned it to ashes with a lighter.
They were called out of there waiting room twenty minutes later when the Jet Alone public test was set to begin . . . That was when everything went to hell.
'I wonder if they realize walking in a straight line isn't all that impressive', Shinji thought absently as he watched Jet Alone begin its march from its hangar building. Unfortunately it continued marching, and marching, and marching . . . Right into the main building, and then through it.
Tanaka sat with Misato beneath him inches from where the two Captains seats had been crushed by Jet Alones sudden rampage.
"I think its gone nuts." Misato commented.
"They're using Windows . . . I know it." Tanaka muttered. They both seemed surprisingly calm for having nearly been crushed by an EVA sized waste of taxpayer money. Even as the people around them ran in panic.
Shinji brushed his uniform off glancing back at the direction the machine had run he looked up to the technical crew that had supposedly been operating it. "So much for your fucking Super Robot, now can we please go and kill it?"
The man up at the Command station seemed shocked and dazed as the group advanced up to him. "Now what's happened?" Misato asked.
He shook his head starring at the main monitor, "This is . . . This is impossible, the system is refusing our overrides, we can't shut it down."
"How could this be, Jet Alone's central computer was programmed for every possible eventuality.
"Apparently it not going psycho." Tanaka noted.
"Look, Sir!" One of the technicians pointed to a monitor displaying the status of the units Reactor. "The safeties are deactivating, reactor temperature is rising!"
Shinji gritted his teeth tensing slightly, he prepared to summon the Strife, if needs must he could take the damn things arms and legs off. A hand shot out to restrain him, Tanaka said nothing but shook his head. "Its not our place to intervene in this." He glanced over to Misato, "Hay you're the ones who've been wronged by these bastards so we'll leave the honor of stopping this run away to you guys if you want it."
Misato frowned. "Couldn't we just have Shinji use the Strife?"
"No, he's right, NERV will handle this." Ritsuko said smiling coldly as she saw a way to not only completely dissinfranchise Japan Heavy Industries and make NERV look good in the process.
Misato sighed, "How can we stop that thing , there must be a manual override right?"
The Spokes person for the project paled, "We can't give you the override code, do you know what that would do to this company!"
"Jet Alone has locked in a course, its heading for the nearest population center!" One of the techs shouted. The Spokes person paled even more, "We . . . We can get you the access codes as soon as we get clearance from the Board . . . But it would take an act of God to stop it now." He said shaking his head.
"For a guy who's been promoting a machine designed to kill Angels you seem to put an awful lot of faith in the big guy." Tanaka growled.
"Besides which, acts of men are better than acts of God, NOW MOVE YOUR ASS" Misato Shouted.
It became apparent however, very quickly, that the systems bureaucracy was rearing its ugly head. Phone call after phone call went out as the technicians and Jet Alone crew tried desperately to get the appropriate clearance.
Misato shook her head in disgust. "They're their own worst enemy." She muttered.
The lead technician finally gave up and slammed the phone down once more. "The password is Hope." He said simply as the other techs began smashing the control terminals. "As soon as the system loses contact with us you will be able to open the maintenance hatch on Jet Alones back."
Misato nodded. "Thank you for your co-operation."
"So the basic plan is for Rei to stop Jet Alone long enough for a person in a rad-suit to get inside the Jet Alone unit and deactivate it." Tanaka reviewed.
They sat in the small passenger section of the EVA heavy lift transport reviewing the basic launch plan.
"That's about it." Misato said.
Rei sat quietly listening to the orders being handed out. She would of course fulfill her duty as expected of her. However she felt another obligation now, to fulfill her duty to keep her . . . Friend, safe.
"So who's the unlucky guy in the suit?" Shinji asked.
Answering his question the door leading to the aft section opened.
"Hey . . . Shinji Sama, how do I look?" Yumi asked as she stood in the doorway, radiation suit sealed tight.
Shinji stood starred darkly, then stood up. "Yumi . . . Get out of the suit now." He said with only a moments pause. His voice was calm but he spoke it like an order.
She frowned, "Shinji, somebody has to do . . ."
"Then I'll do it." Shinji cut in, "I'll be the one to go down there Yumi, not you."
"Shinji, Yumi is going to do it." Tanaka said grasping his young friend by the shoulders. Shinji tried to shake the bigger mans arms off, but he knew it would be futile, Tanaka was a phenomenally strong human being, his grip was like a well adjusted vice on his shoulder, tight but not painful.
"She's stronger then any of us, and has a higher tolerance to radiation and heat."
Shinji struggled to try and get out of Tanaka's grip. "Is that it! All you have to do is enter a pass code, let . . . Me . . . Do . . . It." He growled out.
Tanaka shook his head, "Can't Shinji your too valuable as a pilot."
"Ehhh, So is Yumi!" He shouted.
"Yes but she at least has a higher chance of survival than you do."
Shinji struggled for a few more moments before sliding back down into his seat defeated.
Yumi looked at him and smiled reassuringly, "I'll make you proud Shinji Sama." She said before turning and heading back down into the cargo bay. After a moment Rei quietly fallowed.
"Ayanami." Shinji said softly.
She paused and turned to look at him. "What is it Lieutenant?"
"Please . . . Keep her safe."
"I will protect her to the best of my abilities." Rei said, assuring him calmly.
Shinji didn't say anything as he turned inward upon his own thoughts.
"We're approaching Jet Alone." Hyugga reported as he poked his head out of the cockpit.
"Yumi and Rei are almost ready, we'll drop in thirty seconds." Misato announced.
The cargo plane was not the most maneuverable of craft, a massive delta shaped lifting body meant to carry the multi hundred ton bulk of an EVA at reasonable speeds . . . And not much else. The Plane was currently flying as close as it safely could to nape of earth, which was about two hundred meters. Unit-01 prepped to disengage.
Locking clamps released, and the seven hundred of fifty tons of armor, circuitry, and the flesh of Lilith that was Unit-01 dropped to the ground hitting solidly and going on the advance almost immediately. The EVA easily caught up with the ridiculous gate of Jet Alone as it marched in a fast forward fashion towards the distant city. Despite popular belief nuclear fission reactors DO NOT EXPLODE. Unfortunately their coolant could be heated sufficiently by an uncontrolled reaction to explosively breach the closed loop heat exchange sending fragments of radioactive materials and graphite dust tens of miles. No, Jet Alone wouldn't explode, it would just be Chernobyl all over again.
Rei grabbed the machine by an indentation in its back armor, taking a solid grip and digging her heels in. Jet Alones arms continued to wave helplessly as she extended her free hand to the entry hatch, Yumi cupped in her hand. The girl with a single well coordinated leap dropped onto the aft deck of the runaway machine and hit the release on the maintenance hatch.
Yumi dropped in quickly, the inner spaces of the machine were tightly confined but she had a good idea of where she was heading. 'Just follow the main path.' She thought, descending down deep into Jet Alones armored chest on hands and knees. These spaces were never designed to be entered easily, much less in a radiation suit.
As if to mock her the main control space was much more spacious, though obviously never designed to be entered after the machines initial activation. The graphite control rods sat extending out from the walls in the full release position. That meant the fission reaction was not being slowed at all by the neutron absorbing properties of the control rods. She grit her teeth as she glanced at the timer and radiation sensor on her wrist.
If a normal human being had been down here, even in the suit they would already have taken about three years off their life expectancy by now. There were days it was very good to be a synthetic life form.
She booted up the terminal and watched as it went through a short security sequence. She entered the first string of the override.
-SECURITY ACCESS CODE-1.51.15 REQUIRED-
The screen reported. Yumi typed in 'hope' and hit enter. The screen froze and then flashed system error. Her eyes widened as she entered the code carefully again. The same error message appeared. 'Somebody was prepared for this!' Yumi realized.
"Misato the system looks to have been rewritten I can't override it." Yumi reported over the radio.
"What! Grrrrr . . . Yumi there's nothing more you can do then, head back up for retrieval Unit-01 is going to take this things arms and legs off and then we're going to clear out." Misato said.
Yumi paused, "What about the people downwind of here?" She asked.
"The Magi are reporting high casualty rates due to exposure but there's nothing we can do. I'm sorry." Misato said gently. Yumi turned towards the row of internal control rods, face set in a determined mask.
"Now get out of there before the reactor goes critical, it may not be a nuke but it'll be enough to kill even you." Misato said sternly. "Yumi? Yumi!" Misato shouted into the radio.
Yumi took a few steps back and then charged slamming shoulder first into one of the control rods. It creaked slightly sliding in few inches. She pushed hard trying to get as much traction as she could from the wire mesh floor beneath her.
"Yumi . . . Get out of there, Yu!" Shinji shouted on the radio.
"I- I . . . Will . . . Not. Because . . . I a true defender of justice wouldn't give up, they would forfeit their life before letting this thing kill others." She shouted, "I cant let that happen Shinji Sama!"
"Damn it Yu, I know how you feel but this is YOUR life on the line down there not mine!"
Yumi cut the external com gritting as she pushed against the control rod which seemed to have gone as far back as it was willing to go, she pushed harder, locked her legs against a step near the fuel rods. Unfortunately there were certain tolerances to any machine, even a living machine, even one as well designed as a human being . . . Or Synthetic organism.
The flange embedded bones began to splinter as they were forced to take far more sheer force then they were ever designed to. It was her right arm and leg, they had never been as good as her left side, the bone began to shatter. Yumi hissed in pure agony as she kept pushing. 'Just a little father . . .'
Ritsuko watched it all from the Jet Alone dome, observing with a pair of high power binoculars the barely visible specs of Unit-01 and Jet Alone. 'Why hasn't it shut down yet?' She wondered, she'd loaded the computer with specific commands to shut down when the reactor reached the red line point.
"Oh god!" One of the technicians shouted. Ritsuko turned around, "What is it?" She asked sternly rushing to the monitor suspended high above, next to one of the huge holes Jet Alone has torn in the dome during its rampage. "The main computer in Jet Alone has critically overheated its losing system functionality, all of the reactors software safeties have been shut down."
"What about a mechanical back ups?" Ritsuko asked.
"We didn't think we'd need them." The spokesman said shaking his head.
"Wait . . . You didn't install a set of safeties that even SOVIET ERA RUSSIAN ENGINEERS WOULD HAVE USED!" Ritsuko screamed in the mans face. What kind of arrogant pricks had designed this thing?
(Someplace in Tokyo-2, the entire Japanese government bureaucracy sneezed simultaneously.)
"YUMI GIVE IT UP!" Shinji shouted begging on the com line. But she wasn't listening he was sure of that. 'Why do you have to be so FUCKING stubborn now.' He thought. 'Damn it Yu.'
Even Tanaka was starting to look like this had been a mistake as they watched from the safety of the cargo plane at thirty thousand feet. "Ma'am thermal radiation levels off Jet Alone have just spiked." Hyuga reported, "Reactor red line in fifty seven seconds!"
Rei slammed Unit-01's hand down firmly on Jet Alones shoulder blocking a gazer of superheated steam that had been obscuring her vision. It would not be for her if Jet Alone went into melt down, in all likeliness the Commander would be displeased with the extreme contamination of Unit-01's armor if nothing else. 'Please succeed Cadet Toyama.' Rei thought to herself as she continued to push against Jet Alone, she had only one hundred and six seconds of power remaining.
Yumi held back the tears as the pain threatened to knock her unconscious, her right leg would hold out much longer, she had to do it now. Just get one of the rods in that thought consumed her as she gave it everything she had. Bone broke, enhanced muscles snapped, flanges tore free. The control rods surface shattered at the end, but it inched inward. Finally something gave, the maintenance systems were still running and the uncontrolled insertion of one of the control rods was cause for immediate system shut down.
Yumi leg and arm gave out just as the rod began to slide back into place, the others followed in kind as the system shut down. Jet Alone stopped and slumped down. There was silence for several long moments before a pained voice came over the radio.
"Did I . . . Did I do it?" Yumi asked weakly.
Shinji slumped down in his seat in a caricature of Jet Alones own limp position, feeling very tired. "Are you alright Yu?" Misato asked worried.
"I'll . . . Survive, but I need someone to come . . . Get me." She said weakly, "I think I overdid it." She said trying to sound comforting to her friends and family.
Misato bit her lip, "Ok, me and Tanaka will head down as soon as we can get into radiation gear and head over from the testing facility, will you be alright until then."
"I'll be fine, the radiation levels have dropped down pretty low, still you should wear the suits." She said slowly, smiling as she lay eyes closed on the ground before the control rods. She didn't to move. As long as she was still the pain didn't shriek so badly that she would cry out, she could feel the muscle torn loose cramping up towards their remaining connection points on the bone pieces, that agonizing, pulsing pain was enough for her to deal with as it was.
Yumi smiled a little, 'Have I done good Shinji Sama?' She thought, before passing out.
Much later that evening, Misato watched Yumi start to come to behind the one way glass of the observation room window. Shinji was sitting beside Yumi's bed when she woke up. Misato couldn't hear anything through the thick glass, but she could see how relieved Shinji was he bent down and hugged Yumi around the waist, carefully avoiding the casts placed on her arm and leg, the NERV medical teams had helped the MESSIAH MD's as much as they could, refusing the bone fragments and muscles back in place but it would be weeks before Yumi could take off the castes or move about without a crutch.
"He really cares about her." Misato said to herself.
"You have no idea."
Misato turned to see Tanaka coming down the hall. "When did they become so close?" Misato asked.
Tanaka frowned, "That's actually an interesting story, but again I don't know if I should tell you, its something that those two have tried to forget and forgive about, they don't need to be reminded now."
"I have a feeling its important, so can you please tell me?"
Tanaka starred into the observation room, Yumi was already conversing cheerfully as Shinji talked to her, he knew they wouldn't be talking about what happened just yet. Most of the time . . . Those to understood each other, and this was one of those times.
"It doesn't cover any classified info so I guess I could tell you." Tanaka finally said. He didn't turn away from the window as he began to speak distantly, like someone telling a fairytale to their grandchildren.
"Six years ago there was an accident at our training facility. One of the pilot candidates, a young boy . . . Managed to get inside one of the Units during a maintenance period. He wanted to impress a little girl, the other candidate you see. She was much more skilled then him at the time though everyone was confident the boy would catch up very quickly.
Unfortunately he was still too young, and lacked the crucial fine manipulation skills needed to properly operate the machines fine motor controls. Well . . . The girl was badly hurt in the incident, they had to amputate her right arm and leg, both were crushed beyond any hope of repair. We almost lost the girl as well, the damage was so, so bad, she was in a coma for two months.
The boy was reprimanded fiercely by the Colonel and banned from the premises, he was furious that one of the candidates would do something so reckless. But . . . Several weeks later it was found that maintenance had left the arm operating on the Unit without securing the divers pod and had tried to cover it up. A more detailed search of the machines database by our intelligence section showed that a simple simulation had been the candidates intention, not taking control of the machines limb.
That is also when we found how close a bond had formed between the Unit and the candidate. By now the Colonel's anger had subsided somewhat, though he was still quite angry with the boy for being so reckless. He decided however that going to see the child was the best option to judge him for re-admittance. When he came to the child's home to speak to him however, the boy refused to speak, he said nothing to the Colonel as he asked him what his thoughts were on the incident.
When the Colonel finally asked him if he wished to come back the boy did not answer, he simply looked away ashamed. But you see it wasn't that the boy lacked the strength or courage, not in the least. He was frightened that he would hurt the little girl again, that he wouldn't be strong enough to hold back the power of the Unit.
Finally the Colonel gave up for a full year the boy was allowed to sulk. But this boy intrigued our Commander, the Colonel found it very noble that he did not try to take an easy rout out when it was provided to him. Especially when he was so young, such selfishness could easily be understood to get a second chance as a pilot.
The Colonel started to come again, and still the boy refused, until finally one day our Commander came with someone else.
It was the girl who had been injured in the accident, she had to use prosthetics at the time because of the long process of cloning healthy limbs to replace the ruined arm and leg. Yet despite that when she came she walked right up to the boy and smiled. The boy tried to ignore her, but she soon began to come everyday. The boy did not refuse to see her but for a long time he didn't say anything.
Yet the girl never once complained about her condition, which was doubtless difficult, learning to use prosthetics when soon she would have to get used to yet another new arm and leg. Yes she was cheerful and energetic child, she was never bitter over what had happened. When the boy finally spoke to her he asked if he should come back. The girl told him 'Of course, we are both defenders of justice and must do our best.'
When the boy asked her what she meant, she said the only thing that she would ever say about the accident. 'Its not your fault, you just wanted to prove you could do it too.' The girl did not come the next day, only the Colonel who asked him again if he wished to pilot.
This is what the boy said. 'It was my fault, I was a fool to think I could be a pilot. I'm not strong enough, but she is strong enough I'm sure, you have her, you should look for another pilot to replace me.' The Colonel just shook his head and smiled, this was the proof that this boy deserved the power held within a Unit. The Colonel left a card with a number for the boy to call if he changed his mind.
The next day . . . He returned to MESSIAH and started training as hard as he could, the girl watched him, and always congratulated him following him wherever he went. They became close friends and the boy even waited through the day long operation to attach the new limbs, helping his friend through the long rehabilitation program. Yes, they never spoke against about the accident, which seems very odd to me. Perhaps the boy still broods over it, and fears that the girl hasn't really forgiven him." Tanaka finished turning away from the window.
Shinji was holding Yumi's good hand close as he talked to her and laughed, they seemed to be having a good time. "I have to go, tell Yumi I'll be by tomorrow to visit her."
"Where are you going now?" Misato asked.
"Are you kidding, I'm the so called 'Commander' Of the maintenance Unit, do you know how much paper work I have to fill out?"
Misato laughed at the mans comment before he entered the elevator. Rei stepped out as he stepped in. Another visitor it seemed.
The girl walked quietly up to Misato and turned to look into the room as if mimicking Tanaka. "Is there something you need Rei?" Misato asked gently, she didn't know why, but talking to Rei for some reason caused her to speak as if to a particularly dim child. Frankly she had to admit, Rei didn't seem all that bright.
That perhaps was the essence of Rei's predicament, nobody ever looked into it, never looked at her eyes deeply enough to see the pain inside, they just assumed that they were glazed and stupid and thought nothing more of it. After all she spoke so little, barely acknowledged others and seemed to comprehend very little that others took for granted, she probably needed remedial classes, she probably couldn't string together more then a few words at a time. This is what people though, when they didn't just tease or avoid the girl for being a freak outright.
"Captain Katsuragi, what are the duties of . . . A friend in this situation?" Rei asked, fixing Misato with those red orbs.
Misato smiled, it was nice that Rei was starting to act, normal, a little. "Its easy enough you just need to go in there and sit down and talk with them. Ask them how they are, are they comfortable, if they don't want to talk about that talk about something else, or just sit quietly and be there for them." Misato said. Rei nodded, she now had clear instruction she entered the hospital room without another word.
Shinji and Yumi seemed to react positively to her presence. Misato shook her head as she watched, she'd have to go in eventually but for now those three needed some time together.
"The Jet Alone program has lost over ninety percent of its funding, I would say this was a great success." Gendo commented as he sat behind his desk. Ritsuko nodded, anticipating what might come next.
"I am however troubled by your failure."
"Failure, Sir?" Ritsuko asked surprised.
"Yes, the Jet Alone units melt down was only stopped by the valiant efforts of Cadet Toyama, if you had succeeded there would have been no need for MESSIAH intervention. More so this suggests that you may have failed to properly conceal the virus, in which case there may be evidence that may be traced back to NERV."
Ritsuko blanched, failures did not go unpunished, ones as significant as this dually so.
"Perhaps you should look at Rei's example and execute your orders with some competence, I have already had Melchior enter into the Jet Alone database, it has been totally deleted. They will know it was tampered with but at least no evidence will be found of by who. You are dismissed doctor.
Ritsuko blinked a few times in surprise.
Gendo looked back of from his paperwork after a moment. "You are dismissed." He said in a colder tone.
Ritsuko nodded weakly and rushed from the office, she had no doubt Gendo would kill her if he saw fit. In a perverse way that spiked her libido. 'Just perfect, I get blamed for those fuck ups in Japan Industrial.' She thought with disgust. 'And then . . . As if that's not enough . . . He has to tell me to be like his fucking doll!' She sneered at the thought, the second she got the chance she would rid herself of that filthy little half breed bitch.
She stomped up to the elevator still feeling frustrated, and now, more then a little alone. She'd cleared out her entire evening schedule, and for what? Going home to her cats and a instant dinner. She sighed shaking her head. 'At least Misato isn't cooking it.'
She was surprised when she found herself sharing the elevator with one of MESSIAH's men . . . Rico was the name he had given her when they had met some time before. He glanced at her as he leaned against the back wall. He wasn't a particularly attractive man, nor was he exactly ugly, his features were broad and firmly built. He had an odd mix of genes, African American, Latino, and a bit of Eskimo mixed in that all seemed to express itself. The affect was not entirely bad.
He looked at Ritsuko easily. "Long day, eh?"
"Hmmm, yeah, I have the rest of tonight off though at least, maybe I can get to bed early." She said, trying to cheer herself up.
The man grinned, "Hmmm, I'm off the clock myself . . . So, doesn't sound like you have anything to do tonight." He commented. Ritsuko glanced at him and smirked slightly.
"Are you trying to pick me up?" She asked giggling.
"Well that depends, do you like Italian?"
She blinked in surprise and then shrugged, "You mean Jappeto's?"
"Yeah that's the place." Rico agreed nodding, his head slightly, he hadn't expected to find such a good foreign restaurant in a place like this. But then again a sizeable portion of NERV employees and their families were foreign which kind of made Tokyo-3 a melting pot for different foods.
Ritsuko considered, she really didn't have anything better to do, and the thought of a good meal WAS tempting."
She smiled mischievously, "Your buying." She said as the elevator opened on the parking lot.
"Deal." The big man said as he followed her out.
Tanaka whistled to himself as he continued down the hallways of NERV towards he MESSIAH enclave in the warehouse district. He really did have a lot of paperwork, which probably meant he'd be staring in his office over night. Well them's the breaks. He staggered slightly feeling very weak, then the pain hit nearly knocking him to the floor, he let his shoulder hit the wall to absorb the impact a bit. He cursed as the pain made him start to pain, like thousands of rusty needles being driven into his body by hammers.
He pulled a small pre-dosed syringe from his pocket and rammed it into his shoulder. The painkiller started to work immediately, filling his body with a cool icy sensation as the pain was driven back. He sighed in relief as he slid back to a standing position slowly, still breathing heavily. He looked at the small syringe and slipped it back into its plastic carrying pocket. Three more just like it sat in their own pockets. He knew he was addicted to the painkillers but then the pain was literally never going to go away, the doctors considered it the best option.
He started to whistle again slowly as he continued on towards his office.
The usual R&R, damn these chapters are actually getting longer. Hmmmmm. . . Meh, if anyone can think of Omake's to add I wouldn't mind hearing them.