Disclaimer: See Chapter 1.

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Ghost in the Shell/Evangelion: The Recruit

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Chapter 5: Can She Handle the Truth?

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Motoko checked her air mixture one more time.

"I still don't see why you don't want me to go down there with you," Batou grumbled, picking up his air tank and securing it to the side of the boat.

"Basically, its because I don't know what's down there, and if I do get into any trouble, I'd rather have you up here ready to come down and rescue me instead of us both needing to be saved and no one around to do the honors." The Major hoisted the tank to her back and secured it on.

"Well, since you put it that way." The gruff sounding cyborg grinned. "Just be sure to stay in constant contact or I'll be down there so fast it'll make your head spin." After a few moments of silence, Batou asked, "So what do you expect to find down there? Do you really think it has anything to do with Ayanami?"

Motoko looked down into the deep, dark waters. "Well, to answer your second question first, based on what everyone close to Ayanami before she went to Kyoto had to say, I'm certain it's directly related to her. As for what's actually down there, your guess is as good as mine; maybe the lost city of Atlantis."

"Well, be careful down there." He walked over to the sonar device. "According to sonar, this lake is over a hundred and forty meters deep. That's a long ways down."

"And, I'm not getting any closer to the bottom by standing here talking." The Major turned and sat at the side of the boat, then rolled backwards into the water. Bobbing to the surface, she adjusted her diving mask. "Go to a secured, encrypted channel."

"Done."

Motoko gave her subordinate a nod then dove down into the murky water.

"Turn on your headlamp." Batou reminded her.

She reached up and flicked on the light, which only gave her about five meters of visibility.

"I can't believe how murky it is down here. It's a good thing there aren't large predators in this lake. I'd never see them coming." She continued to make her way down.

"You're passing thirty meters. How do you feel?"

"Fine. I hardly notice the pressure." She continued down.

Batou checked the sonar settings and ran a quick self-test to make sure it was working properly, then checked the Major's position again.

"Still murky down here and there seems to be an awful lot of movement. There must be an underwater river or something," she reported.

"Maybe that's why it's so murky," Batou grinned.

"Very astute."

"You've just passed seventy meters. How do you feel?" He glanced over at his tank.

"I can definitely feel the pressure now, but I'm still all right."

"Okay, but keep talking; your brain case might be spec'ed for two hundred meters, but that doesn't mean the rest of you is," Batou warned.

"Yes… daddy."

"Wiseass," he mumbled.

"The current I mentioned before is getting stronger but it feels like it's coming up from beneath me."

"That's weird, according to the sonar you're practically in the middle of the lake. Maybe it's an underground hot spring?"

"I suppose that's a possibility, except for one thing."

"What's that?"

"It's ice cold down here." She altered her direction slightly. "I'm swimming towards the source of the current. Let me know if I stray to far off center."

"Will do."

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(000)

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"You've passed a hundred meters." Batou's concern was clearly etched on his face.

"The pressure is considerable, but still manageable. What's really odd is that visibility is improving while the current are getting stronger. It's getting harder to swim towards the source." The Major struggled on.

"You're probably using too much energy. You'll exhaust your oxygen supply too quickly," Batou warned.

"Good point. I'm altering my course. I'll try swimming next to the current." She continued on.

A few minutes later, Batou received the most disturbing transmission from the past half hour.

"What the fuck!"

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(000)

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Motoko ignored the calls from her subordinate as she drew closer to the giant vents that forced a steady stream of water out into the lake. It's the churn that's causing all the sediment in the lake. But why? Swimming over the angled vents she could clearly make out all her surroundings for the first time. Good lord!

She swam towards the ruined remains of what was once the headquarters of the most well kept secret in the world. Parts of what looked like fallen buildings lying on top of other building structures, and while a thin layer of alga covered most everything it was still clear enough to make out the form of the ruins. My God! What is this place? Is this Tokyo Three? She swam past the vents and towards the ruined remains. But what sort of explosion could have done this? Not even a fifty-megaton nuke would leave a crater this big.

After swimming over the ruins for about ten minutes, Motoko's attention was seized by a flashing yellow light. What could that be? She swam towards it. An entrance of some kind. She drew closer. It's big. Probably a loading dock. She ran her hand over the heavy metal doors. They probably haven't been opened in years.

Suddenly, the doors began to slide open. Air rushed out and bubbled towards the surface while Motoko was drawn in along with the rushing water. Her journey was short as the water filled a seven by thirteen meter compartment behind the doors, and as soon as the space was filled, the doors begin to close.

The Major struggled to gain her bearings and swim out but the doors closed too quickly. This is bad. She turned round and around, looking for a way out without success. She checked the gauge on her wrist. Just a little over thirty minutes of air left. "Batou! Batou! Do you read me? Batou! Damn it! Answer!" Her mind began evaluating all possibilities, most were not good. All of a sudden, the water in the compartment began to drain out. "Now what?" Within minutes it was completely dry with the exception of a few puddles on the floor.

"You may remove your mask now, Major." A monotone voice echoed.

Not entirely sure she could trust what she was told; Motoko nonetheless took off her diving mask. She hesitated a moment but eventually inhaled. "Breathable air… but how?"

Suddenly the interior doors began to slide open slowly and emerging from the shadows was a familiar young face with azure hair and crimson eyes wearing a skin tight mostly white jumpsuit.

"Welcome to NERV Headquarters Major… or at least what is left of it."

"Rei Ayanami… why am I not surprised?" The Major removed her tank and flippers. "So now what?"

"First, inform Mister Batou that you are safe and that he may return to shore." Rei handed Motoko a communicator.

The Major took the communicator and started at Rei a moment longer before pressing the transmit button. "Batou?"

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The burly cyborg lowered his air tank which he was holding over his shoulder. "Major! Where the hell are you!"

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Motoko sighed, "Relax Batou, I'm alright."

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"Relax?!" He shouted. "Like hell I'll relax! You said you'd stay in constant contact, then nothing for nearly fifteen minutes. I was about to go diving in after you when I heard from Rei." The silver-haired cyborg regained some measure of calm. "But I was still going nuts not hearing from you."

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"Sorry to worry you," Motoko gave Rei a suspicious glance. "But I'm alright now. Go on to shore and wait for me there."

"May I?" Rei extended her hand.

The Major pause for a moment then handed to communicator to the shorter woman. "Batou, yes, the Major and I will return later. If you will, I have a friend at the Kurata Inn. Her name is Maaya Sakamoto. Please keep her company until we return. Most likely you will find her enjoying the hot springs at the inn." She listened to his reply. "Yes," she looked over at the Major. "Be assured, I will guarantee her safety. We shall see you in a few hours. Good-bye."

"You came here in hopes of finding answers, did you not?" Rei turned her attention to the Major after terminating the connection, and then gestured for her to follow. "Come with me and I shall provide you with what you seek."

Picking up her flippers Motoko followed the recruit through a maze of corridors, patiently waiting for blue-hair woman to provide the answers she promised.

Stopping suddenly, Rei gestured towards an open door. "You can change out of your wetsuit in there. You should be able to find an outfit that will fit in one of the lockers." Taking a step back, the former Eva pilot leaned up against the wall, crossed her arms under her breasts, and staredngd up against the wall andk which he was in the process of putting on. sing the transmit button. off at the opposite wall.

Motoko raised a questioning eyebrow but only hesitated a moment before entering the room. Hmm, a locker room. She opened the closest locker and saw kaki colored uniform hanging with a set of boots on the floor. "Well, I guess anything's better than standing around soaking wet." She set her tank on the side along with her flippers. Then she took off the wetsuit.

A quick look around rewarded the Major with a small stack of towels. Picking up the top one, she gave it a whiff. "Musty." She tossed it aside and reached down into the pile to pull another one out. Taking another whiff she decided, "Little better at least." And proceeded to dry herself off. Returning from the shower area back to the lockers, she started searching for a uniform that would fit, finally giving up and settling on a long white lab coat and a pair of pumps.

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Rei gasped slightly when she saw the Major step out of the locker room.

"Something wrong?"

"No." The petite woman turned and started down the hall. "This way."

After walking down a long corridor, they started down an even longer escalator. The silence was killing Motoko, who had more questions then she could count for the prospective recruit. Having enough of silence, she asked, "So this is Tokyo Three?"

"No, this is NERV Headquarters. A top secret base funded by what was then the United Nations." Rei answered without turning. "Tokyo Three was the fortress city that concealed NERV from the surface."

"So this place was built under water and the city sat on top of the lake?"

"No. NERV sat at the bottom of a massive geo-front. The city acted as a cover over it."

"What happened to the city?"

"It was destroyed when the then JSDF dropped an N-Two mine on the city."

"An N-Two mine?"

"At the time, it was the strongest non-nuclear weapon available. It has since been outlawed and its very existence has been concealed, along with the existence of Tokyo Three and NERV."

The Major looked all around for a moment. "How is it that there is still power down here? Is this place still a functioning base?"

"NERV was abandoned over sixteen years ago. But its reserve generators are still functional. I powered them up in anticipation of your arrival."

Suddenly, the escalator stalled then stopped entirely.

"Of course, without regular maintenance, it can be assumed that things would break down eventually." Rei started walking down the escalator and Motoko followed.

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"This was the command center of NERV." Rei walked in a semi-circle. "The operations director would stand here and direct the battle. The technicians would sit there and there. They monitored the battle and made adjustments as needed." She turned around. "The commander would sit up there and oversaw each operation with his sub-commander by his side."

"Battles? What battles? Ayanami, what are you talking about? There were never any battles fought on Japanese soil. Were these long distance ops?"

"No. They were close, very close. Often right here in the streets of Tokyo Three." She walked up to one of the councils. "It will be easier simply to show you rather than attempting to explain it in words." Her fingers flew over the keyboard. "Amazing. The Magi are still operational. I was certain they would have taken them off-line." She continued to search. "Watch the monitor."

Motoko turned and waited.

Suddenly, the giant screen came to life.

A moment later the Major's jaw dropped. "What the hell is that?"

"That is an angel."

"Angel?"

The third angel, Sachiel, to be precise."

"Wait, wasn't Sachiel supposed to be an archangel of God?"

"A Cherub actually. Whether these creatures had any relation to Judaeo-Christian mythology, I do not know, but that is how they were designated, as angels."

"And what is that thing fighting the angel?"

"That is an Evangelion, Eva Unit One to be precise."

"And let me guess, you're the one inside piloting that giant robot."

"Technically speaking, the Eva was not a robot and no, I was not in Unit One. My Eva was Unit Zero. Hence the designation on my plug suit." Rei pointed at the number on her suit. "No, the person piloting Unit One was Shinji Ikari. I believe you met him the other day."

"That shell of a man is the pilot of that thing?" Motoko shook her head in disbelief.

A subtle hint of sadness crossed Ayanami's face but it was quickly replaced with her normally stoic expression. "There were a total of five of us. I was the first child. The first identified as a pilot candidate. I was the designated pilot of Eva Unit Zero. Ikari was the third child and designated pilot of Eva Unit One. I believe you also met Asuka Langley Soryu?"

Motoko nodded without taking her eyes of the monitor.

"She was the second child and the designated pilot of Eva Unit Two." Rei turned and watched the monitor along with the Major for a moment.

"And what about the other two pilots?"

"Toji Suzahara was the fourth child and the designated pilot of Eva Unit Four. Unfortunately, Unit Four was assimilated by an Angel during its activation test and Ikari was forced to destroy it, resulting in permanent injury to Suzahara. He died from complications do to his injuries two years later."

"Let me guess, Hikari Horaki was the fifth child." Motoko replied, unable to take her eyes of the carnage that was being shown on the screen.

"No, Horaki was Suzahara's girlfriend. She blamed Ikari and the rest of us for what happened to Suzahara. The fifth child was Kaworu Nagisa; though as it turned out, he was actually the Seventeenth Angel, Tabris."

"How could this all have happened without the world knowing about it? It's almost too much to believe."

"NERV was under the control of another secret organization; the true power behind the United Nations, Seele."

"Seele?"

Rei nodded. "In order to conceal what took place here, Seele needed an equally grand event to draw people's attention away from Japan."

Kusanagi nodded in understanding then went wide-eyed in disbelief. "You mean they started World War Three just so they could hide their dirty little secret?"

Rei gave a subtle nod. "Come, there is much more to see." The petite woman headed for the exit.

Motoko took a moment to stare up at the monitor one last time before she turned and followed. Leaving when she did, she missed seeing Eva Unit Zero destroyed in a devastating explosion.

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Standing in the middle of a catwalk, the two women looked out over the long rows of partially constructed Units.

"Are these Evas?"

"These were failed attempts to create Eva."

"So they were machines."

"Partially… but mostly organic. The mechanical portion served both as the armor needed to battle the angels as well as the means to control the Eva."

"So what exactly is the Eva?"

"The Evas were generated from angel DNA, caged in heavy plating to force it to our will."

"Become a devil in order to defeat the devil, is that it?" Motoko squeezed the guardrail so tightly it began to bend.

"There is more you must know." Rei turned and continued along the catwalk.

The Major continued staring at the remains of the failed experiments. "Monsters." Gradually, she released her grip on the guardrail and made her way towards her guide.

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The door slid open to reveal a dimly lit room. The two women walked in slowly. Ayanami walked over to the steel surgical table.

"An operating room?" Motoko scanned the entire room before continuing. "What is this place?"

"This is where I spent the first year of my existence." Rei ran her hand over the cold table.

"Of your existence?"

"Come." Rei walked to the door at the opposite end of the room.

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The room was dark save for the dull orange hue that emanated from the large glass containment. Rei gradually made her way over to the glass and placed her hand on it while gently leaning in and allowing her forehead to touch it as well.

"Where are we?" The Major looked about the room as was her custom but when Ayanami did not answer, she looked over at the girl and saw her staring intently into the bottom of the large tank. Motoko walked up to the tank and stared down into it. "My God!" She took a step back.

Rei's expression did not change. She simply continued to stare.

"Who were they?" The Major walked up to the glass again and studied the remains more carefully.

"They were my sisters."

"Your sisters?" The Major continued to study the remains. While the orange hue of the liquid in the tank made it impossible to tell what color the eyes and the hair of the bodies were, the Major managed to find a mostly intact head and she studied its features carefully. "What the…" The Major shot a look over at the new recruit then back into the tank from one mutilated face to another. "They're all you." She looked over at Rei again. "They're… they're clones."

"As am I," Rei replied.

"Who did this?" Motoko asked.

"The woman who once wore that lab coat."

Motoko looked down at the name embroidered on the breast pocket. "Doctor Ritsuko Akagi."

They stood in silence for several minutes as the Major tried to make sense out of all she was shown and told.

Turning and leaning up against the tank, the Major shook her head. "It doesn't make sense. Why did these creatures suddenly appear, sixteen years ago? Why did they target this place? What was their purpose for coming here? How did the people running this place know to build the Evas? And why did they stop coming?"

Rei continued to stare into the tank a moment longer before turning to face the Major. "In actuality, the first angel arrived over thirty years ago. Do you recall the incident called, the Second Impact?"

"The meteor that hit Antarctica? What about it?"

"It was not a meteor that struck and melted the polar icecap. It was the First Angel, Adam. His remains were discovered deep in the ice. Scientists attempted to recover him. Not only did they manage to recover Adam, they also revived him. However, being a creature of light, he emitted his energy against his captives and destroyed the Antarctic Continent, causing the dramatic rise in ocean levels that wiped out so many coastal cities and resulted in the global climate change. It was Adam's DNA that was used to create the Evas… and me."

"You?"

"I am a hybrid; created from both angel and human DNA. I was created for the express purpose of fighting and defeating the Angels as well as to bring about the fulfillment of the Human Instrumentality Project."

"Human Instrumentality?"

"More commonly referred to as Third Impact, it was my primary purpose, after the last angel was defeated; to combine with Lilith, the Second Angel and Unit One in order to bring about the Third Impact; the unification of all souls into one being."

"So how did you stop it?"

"I did not."

"What?"

"I carried out my function, though not for the commander, not as it was originally intended. I offered Human Instrumentality to Shinji Ikari, for him to do with it as he wished. I thought he would embrace the opportunity to end his loneliness forever, to end his separation. He did not." A hint of disappointment flashed across Ayanami's face for only a moment.

"So what exactly is this Human Instrumentality? You said it was the unification of all souls. Can you elaborate?"

"Human Instrumentality, the joining together of all human souls into one, an existence where all physical barriers are removed and thought can flow freely in a sea of consciousness. Not entirely different from the NET; the free flow of thought without barriers or limiters. Of course the analogy is not quite accurate since what is on the NET is purely data. Human emotion and self-awareness would still exist."

"But at the price of our individuality."

"Yes."

Hard to believe humanity owes its existance to that… that… man. Motoko suddenly turned her attention back to the Eva pilot. "And why all the secrecy?"

"Those in the positions of power, those who have the most to lose have gone to great lengths to see that these events and this place are never made known to the world. It is a fair assumption that if it were ever made known that we were here, our lives would not be worth the air we are currently breathing."

"Is that a warning?"

"No, simply a statement of fact, all of those who managed to survive the attack by the JSDF were given a sizable endowment along with the assurance that if we ever spoke of this place to anyone, even amongst ourselves, we would surely die a swift and painful death, along with those we shared it with."

"So you just sealed our fate?"

"I would have preferred not revealing this to you, but you were most persistent. The GSDF and the SIU merely looked as far back as my high school days in Kyoto. You insisted on digging even further." Rei walked up to the Major. "So what will you do with this knowledge, now that you have it?"

"It's not like I really have much of a choice, do I? I mean, not if I want to go on living."

"And what about me, and Section Nine?"

Motoko took a step back and turned away. "I don't know. The fact that you're a clone doesn't bother me." She lied. "Cloning is common place these days, but you're not even human and the fact that you were willing to bring about the end of mankind as we know it. It's kind of hard to ignore those facts."

"This life. This existence I was once part of," Rei gestured to the tank and round the room. "Is merely a part of my past. I was but one of many, created to fulfill a destiny. If I did not do as I was ordered, I would have been replaced, easily. The fact is I am the third Rei Ayanami."

"The third?"

"The first was murdered while still a small child. The second died in battle against the angels. Now, with the end of NERV and the angels, my life has become my own. I have done with it as I saw fit. I chose to attend the academy, to serve with the Airborne, to join the SIU, and it was my own decision to seek a position with Section Nine. I was not coerced, ordered or in any other way motivated other then by my own desire to test my own abilities; to push myself to my physical and intellectual limits and beyond. I am not normally one to speak of myself or to offer self-assessments, but if you chose not to enlist my services in your division, you will be making a grave miscalculation."

"Section Nine has survived this long without Rei Ayanami. I'm sure we'll be able to continue just fine without you, if we must." The Major stared sternly down at the new recruit.

Rei continued staring up at the Major several moments longer before turning towards the door. "We should leave now. I am sure Batou and Maaya must be quite concerned by now."

The Major took one last look inside the tank then made her way out of the room.

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(000)

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Motoko secured her air tank and lowered her face mask, making sure it was water tight. Looking over at the recruit she asked, "Don't you need a tank?"

Rei shock her head. "My cybernetic lungs are as efficient as a porpoise's." She pressed a button on the wrist of her plugsuit and the inner safety doors slid open slowly. They walked passed the doors and they began to close. Once the doors were closed the chamber began to fill with water. "When the outer doors open, follow me to the surface. I know a secure route that will lead us from the lake undetected."

Motoko nodded and flicked on her head lamp.

Once the chamber was full the outer doors opened and the two women made their way to the surface.

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(000)

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Batou filled Maaya's champagne flute, spilling some in the hot water and over the top of the woman's exposed portion of her breasts. The young woman laughed as her already red cheeks turned a brighter red.

"Oops," Batou laughed. "Let me get that." The burly cyborg set the bottle down and started reaching for the woman's chest.

"Batou, you pervert," she laughed, slipping just beyond his reach and dipping down into the water up to her neck then she settled back next to him.

"I see you're enjoying yourself Batou."

He looked up. "MAJOR! Rei! You're back. Come on in. The water's great." He scooped up a handful. "I never knew a hot spring could feel so good."

"You don't know what you've been missing Batou," Maaya replied. "The springs around here are great but the best hot springs are up north. Mountain springs are to die for."

"Well, you'll have to take me on a hot spring tour sometime soon." He leaned in and gave a leery grin to the young woman.

Maaya giggled and pressed her forehead against his while running her free hand over his cheek and along his jaw. "I'd like that."

"Maaya, may I introduce you to Major Kusanagi of Public Security, Section Nine." Rei gestured to the taller woman next to her. "Major, this is Maaya Sakamoto, an operative with the SIU and my friend."

The Major gave a nod. "It's a pleasure to meet you Miss Sakamoto."

The woman in the hot spring set her flute down, grabbed the towel next to her and held it to her chest as she stood up and bowed. "It is a great honor to meet you Ma'am, an honor and a privilege."

"Don't say that," Batou chimed in. "It'll go to her head."

"It looks like something's already gone to your head Batou," the Major replied.

"You think so?" He grabbed his flute and took a long drink. "Maybe you're right." He grabbed the bottle and filled his glass. "Come on ladies. Join us."

"Thanks but no thanks. I've had enough of water for one day. Did you check us in already?"

"Yup, just ask for your keycard at the front desk." Batou took another drink.

"Well, then I guess this is goodnight. It was nice meeting you, Miss Sakamoto." Motoko bowed.

"Goodnight Major Kusanagi. I hope we get to meet again sometime." Maaya returned the gesture, then sat down.

"Perhaps we will." The Major offered the young woman a faint smile then turned towards Rei and whispered. "One way or the other, I'll contact you when we get back to Tokyo." Then she turned and walked away.

Everyone watched as the Major left the private hot spring enclosure.

"Will you join us?" Maaya asked Rei.

"Yes, of course. Give me a moment." Rei walked into the changing room to get undress and shower.

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(000)

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"Batou sure is a cutie." Maaya giggled while pouring a drink for her and Rei in their hotel room.

Rei stepped out of the bathroom in a white terrycloth robe brushing her mildly damp hair. "I do not think, cute would be word I would use to describe Batou, but you have always preferred men of rugged appearance."

"Yeah…" Maaya smiled then turned and handed Rei a glass. "And you've always liked the younger, pretty boy types."

"Guilty as charged." Rei lowered her brush and took the drink her friend offered. "But you do know Batou is a full cyborg."

"Yeah…" Maaya held her glass to her mouth. "But he's also fully functional," she giggled.

Rei's eyes widened slightly. "You did not…"

Maaya laughed. "No, but I was tempted."

"Than how do you know?"

"I saw when he was getting in the hot spring and I saw his reaction when he got a good look at me." The dark-haired woman swirled her drink around in her glass. "So what do you want to do tonight? Watch a movie, talk, play cards? Oh, we can get dressed and go do some late night karaoke."

"I believe I will simply go to sleep. It has been a long day for me." Rei looked between the glass and the brush in her hands. Glancing up she saw Maaya had yet to sample her drink either. Raising the glass to her lips, the azure-haired woman took a long slow drink then headed to the bathroom and deposited her brush in her toiletry bag. Returning to the room, she looked over at her friend momentarily and observed her glass sitting on the dresser still full.

"Well, I'm not tired yet so I think I'm going to prowl around the hotel a bit. Maybe I can find Batou's room and convince him to go karaoke with me, if he's not too drunk that is." Maaya quickly got dressed.

"You are aware that cyborgs such as Batou are incapable of getting drunk?" Ayanami informed her friend.

"Really?" Sakamoto slipped on her heels. "Well then I guess karaoke it is."

"Very well. Do not forget you key." Rei took her robe off and got into bed.

"Do you always sleep in the nude, Rei?"

"Does it disturb you?"

"No, just curious."

"I see." Rei rolled away from her friend. "Yes," she whispered.

A few minutes later, she heard Maaya say, "Goodnight," and the door open then close.

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(000)

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The clock in the hotel room showed a time of 1:03 a.m.. Maaya softly whispered, "Rei… are you awake?" Receiving no response, she gently sat on the edge of her friend's bed and pulled out a comm cable from the back of her neck. Brushing Rei's hair aside she readied to plug the connector into Rei's comm port.

"What are you doing?" she heard her petite friend whisper.

Maaya gasped in shock and jumped off the bed, letting go of the cable which retracted automatically.

Rei rolled over to face the startled woman.

"H-how are you still awake. I saw you take a drink."

"You saw me pour the contents of the drink into my mouth, then go directly to the bathroom." Rei corrected.

"How did you know?"

"You have never been one to procrastinate once you have poured yourself a drink Maaya. Yet procrastinate is exactly what you did, as if you were waiting for me to drink first." Rei looked over at the desk where Maaya's still full glass sat.

"That's my Rei for you. Always on the ball." Maaya grinned.

"You have yet to answer my question. What were your intensions?"

Maaya sat down on her bed and crossed her arms over her chest. "Isn't it obvious?"

"You work for Seele." It wasn't a question. "For how long?"

"Since before I joined the SIU." Maaya answered truthfully.

"To keep an eye on me?"

"You're one of only twelve people who survived the attack on NERV. It's not like it takes that much to keep tabs on that many people. Besides only nine of you remain." The younger woman unfolded her arms, leaned back and placed her hands on the bed to support herself.

"Did Seele kill the other three?" Rei asked. "No, Suzahara was one of the twelve. He died of complications due to his injuries… did he not?" Now Rei wasn't so sure.

"That was before my time, but from what I was told, only one person had to be eliminated. That was Miss Maya Ibiki, three years ago when her conscience got the better of her and she decided to go to the press with her story. Unfortunately, for her the reporter she went to was a Seele agent as well."

Rei sat up. "So, now what?"

"That depends on you and what you told Major Kusanagi." Maaya replied.

"Everything, I told her everything. I also told her if she ever revealed any of what I told her to anyone, we would both most definitely be killed. Was I incorrect in my assessment?"

"Hardly."

"So, is it your intention to kill me now?"

Maaya smiled. "First of all, you're my friend Rei, and my mentor. That was always true. It's simply my job to report to Seele, that's all. They must decide what to do. But to be honest, Seele really isn't in the killing business. If they were, they would have simply eliminated all twelve of you years ago instead of continuing to provide an endowment. The real decision won't be made until they can determine what the Major will do with the information you gave her. If she tries to go public with it then both of you are as good as dead. If she's able to keep it a secret… well, I can't say for sure, but the most likely scenario will be, life goes on."

"I see."

"So, tell me something Rei, how long have you known?" Maaya leaned forward out of genuine curiosity.

"I suspected the day I interviewed you."

"Seriously?"

"You're qualifications were exactly what we were looking for. It was as if you had been tailor-made for the job. The same could not be said for any of the other positions we filled. There were always some areas of weakness that the other agents needed to work on in order to perform their duties. That was not the case with you. It made me suspicious, but I did not know for certain until tonight."

Maaya sighed

"Goodnight Maaya." Rei got back in bed and rolled over.

"So Rei… are we still friends?"

"I do not know. Were we ever friends?" the naked woman whispered.

"I always thought of you as a friend, my best friend. I know it probably doesn't seem like it to you now, since I was spying on you but to be honest I never had any doubts that you'd keep the truth a secret. And working under you, I've learned so much. I've become a better agent because of it, not just an SIU operative either. I owe you so much, even my life."

"So will you report what I did today?" Rei kept her back to her friend.

Maaya hung her head. "I have no choice. I have to. It's part of what I do." She looked up with tears in her eyes. "You have to understand, if I don't tell them and they find out later that I lied than I'll be as good as dead too."

"So you will forfeit my life to save yours. I suppose I am saving your life once again."

"Don't say it like that Rei." The dark-haired woman hung her head. "Don't say it like that. I love you. You're the closest thing I've ever had to a sister."

"Save your theatrics for your superiors at Seele."

"I'm not acting. It's true. I do love you." Maaya sobbed. "Anyway, it's your own fault. You could have taken out Kusanagi dozens of times but you let her get closer and closer to the truth. You knew the consequences but still you did nothing, then you go and tell her everything. You've got no qualms with taking their money each month but now you're going to blame me for doing my job. Well you might think I'm a hypocrite for doing my job and still calling myself your friend but who's the real hypocrite Rei?" She buried her face in her hands and cried.

Ayanami remained deathly still, listening to her friend's weak, sad sobs. Slowly, she rolled over and eased herself out of bed. Walking up to Maaya, he gently wrapped her arms around the girl and held her close. The dark-haired woman clung desperately to her friend and cried.

Placing her hands on either side of Maaya's head, Rei tilted the girl's face up and softly wiped away her tears.

Maaya gave a weak chuckle and smiled but her cautious relief turned to shock when Rei leaned down and kissed her on the lips. Sakamoto tried to push Rei away but ended up falling back onto the bed. "Rei, what are you doing?"

Rei grabbed the younger woman's wrists and pinned them over her head while lying on top of her. "You said you loved me." She kissed the taller but weaker woman again.

Maaya struggled to break free but to no avail. Eventually, Rei released her lips and made her way down the girl's neck. "Rei, stop! Please, stop! Rei!"

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(000)

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"So, she's a clone." Chief Aramaki leaned back on his chair as he finished reading the Major's report on the new recruit. "It seems everything else checks out… but Major, will you be able to work with her… considering you prejudice against clones."

Kusanagi stared off into space.

"Major!"

"Sorry Chief, what was that?" She got up from the sofa and walked over to her boss's desk.

"I asked if the fact that Miss Ayanami is a clone is going to pose a problem considering your prejudice against clones." He repeated himself.

"Well, the fact that her original is dead and any copies there might have been were destroyed a long time ago, along with the people who cloned her, sort of makes her an original, doesn't it?"

"Are you asking me or telling me?" Aramaki stood up, walked around to the front of his desk, and handed the file back to the Major.

"I guess I'm just looking for affirmation." She gave a sideways grin.

"Well, her qualifications are unquestionable and she easily passed your test. Unless there is something else in her past, something you're not telling me?" The old man cocked an eyebrow.

Motoko stared at him for a moment then shook her head. "No, nothing else."

"Well, it's your call Major. But I can honestly say, it would certainly brighten things up around here to have another attractive and capable woman on the team." He winked.

"Chief, you old wolf you." The Major tucked the file under her arm. "I'll bring her in and introduce her to you tomorrow."

"Make it Wednesday. I have a meeting with the Foreign Affairs Minister all day tomorrow." He looked at his watch. "And a meeting with the Prime Minister's Foreign Policy Advisor in forty minutes." They both turned and headed for the door. "But I'm looking forward to meeting Miss Ayanami. I'm sure she'll prove to be a valuable asset to the team. Batou, don't you have anything better to do then to be standing around snooping outside my office?"

The cyborg straightened up and ran his hand through his hair. "Aah, no, not really."

Motoko sighed and shook her head.

"Till Wednesday Major." The Chief continued down the wall to the elevator."

Motoko made her way down an adjacent hallway with Batou close behind.

"So, is she on the team?"

Motoko pulled the file out from under her arm and looked at it long and hard before answering. "Yes, she's on the team."

Batou smiled. "Great! I mean… that's good. I'm sure she'll go just fine."

"Yes, I'm sure."

They continued in silence for some time before Batou finally spoke. "So, are you finally going to tell me?"

"Tell you what?"

"What you found down at the bottom of the lake?" Batou clarified.

"I told you. All that was down there was the lab where Rei had been cloned."

"You're still sticking with that lame ass story?"

"Look, that's all that was down there. If you don't believe me, then go back there and dive down to the bottom of the lake yourself." Motoko snapped back.

Batou did a slow burn, letting his anger and frustrations gradually dissipate. After he calmed down some he added. "So, are you sure you're going to be able to work with her, even though she's a clone?"

"My personal prejudices are my problem. I won't let my feelings interfere with the team. Rei Ayanami is a topnotch recruit. It would be foolish of me to turn her down just because she's a clone." She stopped at the analysis lab. "I need to talk to Ishikawa. I'll catch up with you later Batou."

"Okay." He turned and started back down the wall, but paused just before the Major opened the door. "Major."

"Yeah?"

"Thanks. Really, I'm sure Rei will do great on the team."

Motoko nodded. "I'm sure she will." She walked into the room, and closed the door behind her.

"Ishikawa."

"Morning Major. What can I do you for?" He turned from his station.

"Here's the file on our newest recruit. You'll be her first instructor. Teach her everything you know, even the illegal stuff."

The senior member of the team took the file and started flipping through it. "When do I turn her over to Togusa?" He asked.

"Not until you're satisfied she knows everything you know."

"That could take years." He grinned.

"Take as long at it takes. I want her to know it all and then some."

"Roger that Major." He nodded then turned back to his work.

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(000)

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Aramaki ended the brain hack he did on Batou, then made a security level seven call. "Yes, it's me… No, she didn't say anything other than that Ayanami is a clone. No… no… no... I'm sure she'll take it with her to her grave." He paused again and listened. "That's not funny. She's a great asset to me and I don't intend to lose her… Don't worry, I'll keep an eye on both of them from now on. If anything happens, I know what to do… I may not like it but I know what must be done if it comes to that… Yes, I'm sure… Very well… good day." He ended the call and sighed.

"Anything wrong Chief?" He driver asked.

"No Togusa, just feeling my age is all." He sighed again and whispered to himself. "Just feeling very, very old all of a sudden."

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(The End)

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AN: I'm so very sorry it took me so long to get his last chapter out. I hope it was everything you had hoped it would be and more. While I'm sure it feels incomplete, it does finish the story of, The Recruit. The next story to follow will be, Training Days. I have quite a bit I'd like to incorporate in this new story but I haven't laid out the whole thing yet so it will probably be a while before the first chapter is posted, so please be patient.

A. Amishi

aaayad leave now. Batou and whould ued starting up at the Major several moments longer before releasing a subtle sigh and turning towards the door. "