The hums and whirrs of the MAGI coincided with the murmurs of the nightshift, weaving together a melody that could lull a person into a light doze in the dim lighting if they were not focused enough. In this languid atmosphere of Central Dogma Rei sat on the floor against Melchior with one leg drawn to her chest, the other resting on the tile. Rei refused a seat, finding herself unusually comfortable in that area.

But her focus was not on her location, but a small inset window in the lower right corner of Central Dogma's main view screen. It tracked the progress of a project that the MAGI were working on for Rei, and occasionally the completion bar grew by an increment. Maya warned Rei that it would take all night for the MAGI to complete the project, but it was a price that Rei was willing to pay.

After all, it was her gift; she should take responsibility for it.

So she remained in Central Dogma, completing the remaining class worksheets and researching with her laptop. Eventually she tired of the menial activity and for a while she simply looked at the project completion screen, until memories of what happened in the examination room wafted back to her.

About what Doctor Akagi said.

About what she herself said.

And then Rei could refrain from the notebook no longer…

People have been known to behave in unusual fashions under extreme duress. Our class learned of a woman who, upon learning that her son was trapped underneath a car, lifted the three thousand kilogram vehicle so that he was able to escape. Others release various and sundry information during torture or forms of pleasure.

My personal experience is unprecedented; none of the examples I know of have resulted in a self-discovery.

This duress emerged when I reported to the examination room in the morning, as ordered. The room was still permeated with the scent of brine and turpentine – acrid smells under the best of circumstances.

It was in this room that I waited for thirty minutes for Doctor Akagi to enter. I believe she knows of my discomfiture in this room; on occasions when she is particularly irritable she would be tardy for up to two hours.

When she did appear she said routinely, "I'm sorry, did you wait long?"

I replied "not very" in order to conceal my anxiety.

"Well, you know the drill," she ordered as she prepared the syringe. "Hold out your arm…"

I did not look away, even when the injection caused pain; it would have given Doctor Akagi satisfaction on some level.

For reasons unknown to me, I felt determined not to give her that satisfaction.

That was when Doctor Akagi deviated from routine. "You've changed a bit, haven't you Rei?."

I looked at her to find her expression inscrutable, but bemusement flowed from her like a stream. "Ma'am?"

She continued. "I saw you walking out with Shinji the other day. Is that why you've started to look more like a human being?"

The manner in which she asked that question implied that she never thought of me as human… nor that she considered this a positive development.

"Is that wrong, Dr. Akagi?"

She laughed mirthlessly as she turned away to replace the rubber tube and syringe. "Of course not. I'm just surprised, that's all. Walking out with the Commander's son," her eyes flickered to the notebook as she turned away, "getting little trinkets…"

Although Dr. Akagi's back was to me, I could sense menace radiating from her like a dry heat as she wondered aloud, "I thought you only had eyes for Commander Ikari…but now look at you. Here I was thinking I had you all figured out; just a little doll that does what it's told-that's all I thought. Now I'm actually rather impressed, both father and son, wrapped around your little finger…"

Perhaps it was due to the unbearable scent in the room. Perhaps it was the fact that this ordeal had occurred for over half an hour. Perhaps it was because I was preoccupied with preparations for the dance tomorrow. But I felt the irrepressible desire to refute her.

"I am not a doll," I heard myself say, "And I do not like the Commander."

I did not need to see her face to register her surprise. "You're lying," she said in what could be termed as a hiss.

Initially, I also did not believe my own words. But as I reflected upon them, the more I realized their validity.

Again, words came unbidden to my lips. "For the longest time, I felt so frail… like I was a false…thing made of straw. At first, I thought that by thinking of him, I would feel whole. But the Commander has only led me, not completed me. I have found others who help in that regard, and have realized that only I can complete myself. Shinji in particular has grown with me, and does not lead. He is my equal, and Commander Ikari is my Commander, nothing more."

At that, Doctor Akagi laughed to a twisted comedy. "That's because you are a false thing, Rei. No matter how many little friends you make at school, no matter how many times you hold the stupid boy's hand, you're still going to be a fake. You're Commander Ikari's little doll, Rei. Just another one of his playthings he can just as easily replace."

The thought left my lips before I could stop it: "I suppose we are quite alike then, Dr. Akagi."

On two occasions I slapped Shinji; the first in defense of Commander Ikari- before the notebook- the second in defense of it. If my blows had the same sting as Dr. Akagi's, I made a silent promise to myself never to strike him again.

As if shocked at the sight of her handprint bruising my cheek, Doctor Akagi's posture deflated as she sat heavily in a seat, never once turning her face toward me. I waited for her to respond, but no words came from those pursed lips. Because of this, I sensed an opportunity to implement a scenario that I had outlined before I was required to prepare for the dance.

But first, I had to ensure that I was in a proper mental state to make my proposal; I waited for my anger to subside before I approached her.

"Doctor, would it be possible to prepare a genetically modified plant within the constrained period of a day, utilizing the MAGI?"

She nodded, though I could not see her expression as she did so.

"May I use the MAGI for such an endeavor?"

Again she nodded, purportedly preoccupied with my declaration. "Have Maya help you with that. I have a headache."

The anger I held was swept away by relief as I said, "Thank you, Doctor." I departed, but not before seeing Doctor Akagi place her head in her hands.

Now that the scenario and the project are underway, I have taken steps to ensure that this will be a memento for the future. I am curious indeed to see what tomorrow will bring.


Authors notes: Two weeks ago I bought Manga Volume Ten. In four hours I must have read it about three times in a row. To be honest, it wasn't that bad; Chapter 9 of "'Touch" was more traumatic for me. In fact, I think the Akagi backstory propelled the Entry out of me and helped me characterize her here; if you read Volume Ten you will see a faint echo of her dialogue here.

In any case, this little scene takes place in Volume Eight, but has been pushed to Volume Six in this timeline – remember, Shinji and Rei did walk out with Misato to go to the cafeteria, and I don't think Akagi would miss a thing like that. As small as this scene is, it is important. I will refer to it later on… much later, believe me.

And so, we're due for another interlude. Cue the dance music , if you please!


Preread by ShonobiCyrus, by the way... almost forgot to include that.