Disclaimer: I don't own NGE. Or RadioShack. Or the Ram's Head Tavern—which, I might add, is a very good place to eat. And I don't own the band Ragnarok, or their song 'Recreation of an Angel' (no pun/reference intended. Heh). And if Psychiatric Monthly really is a magazine, I don't own that either.
Author's Note: Well, here it is. The (not-so) Grand Finale and the end of the week—the apex of this pointless story.
I'd like to thank RadioShack™ for coming up with the brilliantly worded and crafted layoff notices to the 400-some employees they blew away. If you followed the headlines on 8/30, you'll get the reference. I mean no disrespect to those who lost their jobs.
And yes, I know you can't mount Molotov on a belt. Just bear with me. It's cooler to say that then to say they've got their arms full of twenty glass bottles with soaked rags jammed in the tops of them.
Chapter 5: Friday
"Mmm, Shinji…" A mature, seductive, tired feminine voice cooed, "That was wonderful."
Tired chuckling accompanied it. "Yeah… it was pretty amazing." A pause. "You were amazing, Ritsuko."
A yawn. "Well deserved, tho'."
A brief silence fell about the disheveled room.
"I'll be sore in the morning, you know."
"Was it worth it?"
"No, Ritsuko right now, Shinji. Just Ritsuko."
"I never got an answer to my question."
"Oh that…" She tiredly sighed. "Sex. Or alcohol. Cover your emotional instability with something that society considers ugly, and make sure you feel good about it."
"When you're feeling depressed, go to a store, buy booze, and drink your troubles into submission. Or find a brothel and pay through the nose for a rough night of promiscuous activities. Or go to a bar, buy a couple drinks for a girl, and get both." Ritsuko sighed, cracking her neck by accident. "Look, it doesn't really matter." She said. "It was clinically proven that successfully lying to yourself through means most consider to be 'unsavory', you'll feel good."
"Would I?" A pause. "I thought that just masked the truth from myself… that's not good either, right?"
"Sure it is." She replied, ambivalently. "If you convolute your mind to the point that you can't see the truth anymore, you'll be so numb it won't make a difference. Ignorance can be bliss, you know."
"This is your professional opinion?"
"…Where'd you come up with it?"
She shrugged. "I read of the theory in Psychiatric Monthly—I've got a subscription. A bunch of snobbish shrinks think it's the answer to all of mankind's problems; self induced delirium." The sound of a Zippo heralded the lit cigarette she placed in her mouth. "They call the theory 'Instrumentality'."
"Sounds sort of… irresponsible." Shinji stated. "Like you're just turning your back to the truth."
Ritsuko shrugged again. "Yeah, yeah…" she said. "But hey, what makes you feel good… feels good. Why turn your back on that?"
She continued: "What's a little delusion when I'm happy?"
FRIDAY; 7:32 AM
Shinji stared at the stucco ceiling of his bedroom, stating the completely redundant statement to no one in particular.
"The virus should be ready today." He smirked as evilly as his groggy, pre-breakfast, pre-shower state would let him.
Then he got out of bed.
FRIDAY; 8:44 AM
"I'd hate to have that job." Kensuke stared at the construction workers by the side of the road.
Toji nodded in agreement. "Yeah, it's gotta suck. I don't think I could handle it, man."
"Neither could I." He replied. "The weather could be a pain, especially since they're working around really hot macadam and stuff. That's not even mentioning the crazy drivers on the roads these days."
They were silent for a while as the traffic continued to stay where it was.
Kensuke sighed as he shifted in the driver's seat. "Do you know what these guys are doing here?"
"Nah, man." Toji shrugged, shaking his head. "Jus' go with da flow, ya know?"
"I saw a movie last night." Makoto decided that the awkward silence in the car had gotten to the breaking point. The car wasn't moving, and the driver seemed to be growing more and more impatient with each passing second. Makoto figured it would be best to divert his mind for a while.
"Yep." Makoto continued. "It presented a very interesting question." Shigeru turned to him, but didn't respond. After a pause, Makoto continued. "There was this guy, and he told this other guy—this kid, really—he asked him, 'why do hot dogs come in packages of eight, while the buns come in packages of six?'"
Shigeru blinked, then shrugged. "Alright. So?"
"Well, it got me thinking. What if the hotdog companies and the hotdog bun companies were actually all part of one huge conglomerate that really managed them all? Then, with hotdogs coming in eights, and the buns coming in sixes, a guy wanting a decent cookout would need to buy a preposterous amount of each to get an even amount of both." A smile tugged at his lips. "It's like a monopoly—a conspiracy, even—against the public to buy more products than they really need. We're getting cheated out of cash because of the corporate world!"
Shigeru frowned. "I think you're looking at the question too literally." He scratched his neck as he stared back at the unmoving traffic. "I think the question was meant as a basic comment on society—a statement made to make the other guy realize something." He shrugged. "But I don't know. You took it out of context."
Makoto nodded. "That could be true," he started. "That could be true, but what if he was trying to make the guy realize that he was controlled by the corporate system of lies and deceit!"
Shigeru sighed and hung his head. "Was this movie Bulletproof Monk?"
"What?" Makoto scrunched his eyebrows. "Yeah, it was. Why?"
"Mak," started Shigeru, "The point to the statement was to show that life didn't work out as everyone hoped it would. But in the end, you get what you need."
"Yeah—he said so at the end of the film."
"Oh." Makoto looked down at his hands. "Maybe he did." He looked out the window, but turned back. "Regardless. My point still stands."
"Yeah, I know what you mean." Shigeru said. "We're all caught up in the corporate marketing trap—the same trap that forces all coffeemakers and toasters to be the same, and fail the same way. It's called commercialism, pal."
"Say, how was the coffeemaker this morning?" He looked back at him.
Shigeru shook his head and closed his eyes, breathing out an exhausted sigh.
FRIDAY; 9:33 AM
"You're here late, Shinji." Kaworu gazed at him as he approached the coffeemaker.
He shrugged. "Yeah, there was construction on the bridge—didn't you hit it?"
Kaworu shook his head. "No, I live on the other side of the bridge."
"Hey guys," Kensuke tiredly walked into the kitchen, and glared at the coffee machine before opening the refrigerator and pulling out a Dr. Pepper.
"What, no coffee this morning, Kensuke?"
"I'm done with that mechanical wreckage." He replied, twisting the top off of the can. "The only person it actually makes coffee for is Kaworu anyhow."
Shinji frowned. "Actually, I've gotten coffee out of it."
Toji walked in. "Yeah, me too." He paused, and thought as he leaned against the door frame. "And I'm pretty sure Ayanami's gotten coffee outta it, too."
Kensuke blinked. "Then—wait, so you're saying that it'll make coffee for everyone in the office except me?"
Everyone was silent for a moment, before they started nodding.
"Yeah, pretty much." Toji nodded.
"I give up." Kensuke threw his hands up in the air, and stalked out of the kitchen. "I'm done."
"According to this," the head supervisor glared down at the report in front of her. "You want me to lay off my entire engineering department in favor of vending machines."
"Actually, that's just a comparison." Gendo stood erect at the other end of the mahogany desk. "Vending machines would be more cost-efficient."
"Uh huh," Yui blinked, shifting the papers around on her desk. "But you still believe that it is necessary to fire them all?"
"That's correct." His gloved hand covered his face as he pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose. "We have done studies and believe that it would be most cost efficient for you to outsource your entire engineering department to India."
"But I thought you wanted to interview everyone before you made any decision."
"Judging from the fifty percent that we have interviewed," he took a briefly impatient breath. "We found the following results—if you turn to page fifty-three." She turned to page fifty-three as he said so. "We concluded that there was only one person who actually did the work that your company statement claimed."
"And he is…?"
Fuyutsuki cut in, "He's the only one qualified for database work."
"Then what do the rest of them do?"
Gendo shook his head as he approached the desk. "Mostly miscellaneous programming or secretarial tasks." He paused, taking another breath. "The problem, we believe, is in the management."
Yui looked back at the desk, and the papers. "So you're saying that my management his having my engineers do tasks that don't correspond to the company statement? We're not doing what the company is supposed to be doing?"
Gendo's face remained stoic. "Correct."
"Well," Fuyutsuki took a glance at his pupil as he interjected his own thoughts. "The company handbook is severely convoluted and almost five hundred pages long. It's a tome that you distribute to your employees, but not one of them has ever really read it. They know about as much about what the company does as you do."
Yui nodded, adding to herself, "Which is close to nothing."
Gendo nodded. "Precisely."
Fuyutsuki added, "Most of your employees are under the impression that Nerv Technologies, Incorporated is some sort of freelance programming conglomerate."
Yui sighed and sat back at her desk, shaking her head in disbelief. "So basically, I need to hire new managers, rewrite the company handbook, and lay off my engineering department in favor of a bunch of underpaid Indians."
"That would be the most efficient thing to do, yes."
She sighed again, then spotted a separate piece of paper on her desk. She picked it up. "What's this?"
"That's our bill." Gendo stated.
"…That's a lot of zeroes."
The layoff notices to the engineering staff were sent out almost immediately via e-mail. They looked like this:
THE WORK FORCE REDUCTION NOTIFICATION IS CURRENTLY IN PROCESS. UNFORTUNATELY, YOUR POSITION IS ONE THAT HAS BEEN ELIMINATED.
YOU ARE MORE EXPENSIVE THAN SOMEONE OVERSEAS.
"So that's it?" Kensuke stared at his screen for a few minutes. "We get a three-lined message telling us we're toast, and a fifty paragraph legal spiel about how we can't sue for compensation?"
Toji looked over his friend's shoulder as he read the message. "Looks dat way."
"Well ain't that a bitch."
FRIDAY; 12:14 PM
RAM'S HEAD TAVERN
"I don't believe I've ever eaten here before." Kaworu gazed up at the wooden trusses that bridged the open ceiling.
Shinji shrugged. "Yeah, neither have I." He scratched the back of his neck as he looked across the room toward the bar. "Nice place, though."
Toji and Kensuke remained silent, drawing the other two into an awkward pause.
Shinji tinkered with the salt shaker, starting to get uncomfortable with the heavy tension in the air. "So," he started. "Certainly is a hell of a way to go."
"What do you mean?" Kensuke glanced up from the tablecloth.
"Well, I don't know," he said. "Just the whole e-mail notification of layoff thing. It's like they don't feel the need to formally inform us of our job's termination, so they just make a bot hand out the digital pink slips. It's really insulting."
"Yeah… helluva way to go, alright." Toji repeated him. "Man, dis sucks. Now I need to really get my act together an' update my résumé."
"And that's bad?" Kensuke shot a glance at him, raising an eyebrow.
He shook his head. "Well, no, but it certainly is tedious." He said.
Shinji suddenly put his salt shaker down. "Hey guys, do we have our virus ready yet?"
Kaworu nodded quietly. "Rei's already got my plans, and I think she's been working on the invasion bug this morning."
"But her computer fried."
He shrugged. "I think she brought her personal laptop."
Shinji just went with it. "Alright," he looked over at Kensuke, "What about your anti-utility gizmo?"
"I ran into some kinks, but I'm sure it'll be fine." He said, waving a hand. "I just need to piggyback it on Rei's invasive program."
Toji just smirked; a clear sign that he was ready for the show.
"Well, since we've got nothing to loose, we may as well just go all the way." Shinji replied. "All we need to do is wait for Rei, and we've got all the pieces together."
"I have a bad feeling about today." Back at the office, Makoto stared at his computer screen.
"You have a bad feeling every day of the week." Shigeru stated.
"Yeah, but this is different."
"No," Makoto shook his head, wiping a droplet of sweat out of his left eye. "No, this is far more of a bad feeling. It feels as though we forgot about something important, so it's going to come back and haunt us today."
Shigeru shrugged. "I'm sure we'll be fine."
FRIDAY; 3:33 PM
Shinji stared at the disk in his hands. "So."
"So." Kensuke stared at it as well, just as Kaworu, Rei, and Toji arrived.
"This is it." Everyone nodded.
"This has got the music bug, right?"
"You've got the firewall breacher and invasive bug on here as well?"
"And it's designed off of your maps, Kaworu?"
"Indeed it is."
"And you've finished work on the utilities gizmo and uploaded it on here, right Kensuke?"
Shinji took a breath, never letting his eyes leave the small diskette in his hand. "Well," he started, "let's do this thing."
Everyone watched as he settled down behind the one of the few remaining operational computers on the floor, and slid the square of plastic into the appropriate slot.
INITIATE OPERATION ARMEGGEDON? Y/N
Shinji scrunched his eyebrows together, and looked up at Kensuke.
"Armageddon?" he asked, incredulously.
Kensuke shrugged indignantly. "We had to call it something, right?" he said. "I just thought the word 'Armageddon' sounded cool."
Shinji shrugged, and turned back to the screen.
They all blinked.
Kaworu sighed. "Yeah, sort of anti-climactic, isn't it?"
Rei didn't say anything.
Shinji looked back at the keyboard. "Oh wait; I need to press enter."
Just as Shinji's finger closed in on the return key, something happened which no one could have ever expected. Before he could initiate their anti-management revenge, the Gates of Hell literally flew off their hinges and careened several feet into the office. Flames leapt through the open doorway for a brief instant, signaling the explosives which had been used as the door breach. Three figures stood silhouetted against the light streaming in, their bodies and faces wreathed in the clearing smoke.
As the wispy strands of grey sight deterrent cleared, the assailants were immediately spotted. Two rather large and quite obviously powerful black men stood behind a smaller, otherwise demure young woman. Her deep brown, almost black hair had been tied back in a do rag, a black leather jacket covering most of her upper torso down to the skin-tight leather pants that came to her waist. Her eyes burned with an enflamed ambition that few could place.
She screamed: "BASTARDS!"
Everyone failed to notice the two Mac-11s she held in her hands until it was too late to do anything about it. Behind her, the cohorts started to light the first of an impressive stash of belt-mounted Molotov cocktails, tossing them toward the glass-lined offices in the back of the room. Fire streaked up the walls as the liquid embers flowed, quickly turning the seconds-prior peaceful office into an inferno of burning chaos and leaded death.
"Jezus H. Christ," Kensuke breathed. "It's that chick from Marketing. She's gone postal."
"Nah, I think she was transferred." Shinji whispered to him. "Tech division or something."
"Regardless," Kensuke replied quietly. "She's still gone postal.
Toji shook his head and sighed in mock contentment as he pulled his hands behind his neck to cradle his head. "Jus' like I figured."
Shinji looked down at the screen again.
INITIATE OPERATION ARMAGEDDON? Y/N
…And he hit the return key.
Immediately, music came blaring over the speakers, the insanely heavy beats of Ragnarok's "Recreation of the Angel" at 150 plus decibels, forcing everyone to cover their ears.
But that didn't stop the maelstrom of fiery death. If anything, it further encouraged the lethal trio, as they practically flew through the cubicle-walled corridors of the engineering department, burning and shooting everything and anything that moved.
Minutes later, the building violently shook as the boiler exploded in the basement, shooting a column of fire upwards into the first floor and taking out several key structural supports. The first floor was succinctly eliminated from existence in a fiery inferno, just as several key points in the second floor—notably the engineering department—swiftly collapsed downwards.
"Goddamn!" Shinji braced himself against the desk as the other side of the department fell through into the first floor, shaking the entire level. "Did we do that?"
Kensuke cringed. "I think… I think that may have been me."
"Well—I don't think it was, but it might've been." He said, haltingly. "It—the server—it's weird. I programmed the virus gizmo to just wreak havoc and tamper with everything it could touch—to basically just fuck up their system real bad." He scratched his neck as a neighboring cubicle dramatically caught fire and the music overhead changed to the next equally explosive track. He looked at the others rather sheepishly. "A bit much, huh?"
Then their cubicle wall was sent ablaze. It was wordlessly decided that between the growing office inferno, the collapsing and growingly unstable floor, and the enraged inner-city gangster trio, the best chances of survival were to escape through one of the various broken windows which lined the side of the building.
Shinji and his cohorts in conspiracy were only spared from a horrid death of intense heat and flame by the tree that grew right next to the office. Since several windows had been shot out by the deranged marketer and her friends in felony, it didn't take too much to jump into the branches of the middle aged maple. Granted, it didn't exactly accept these flying people with open branches, but getting a few dozen bruises and cuts on one's way downward was much more preferred than burning alive in the inferno that had engulfed the first floor.
It was only a matter of time before the firemen arrived. It took even less time for the SWAT to get there.
Miraculously, all of Shinji's coworkers had survived the trip through the Maple tree somewhat unscathed. A bunch of nasty cuts and bruises were clearly seen, but no one had any serious injuries.
As for the rest of the office…
"I feel sorry for the rest of them," Kaworu suddenly piped up.
"Yeah," Kensuke agreed. "I don't think they deserved to die, but… well, what could we do about it?"
Toji shrugged. "I remember overhearin' dose two marketing geeks say somethin' about dat Maya chick bein' in jail for somethin' or other."
"Hmm," Kaworu made a thoughtful noise. "Maybe she expected them to bail her out."
"And when they didn't, she went berserk and slaughtered everyone?" Shinji raised an unbelieving eyebrow. "I think it was more than that."
"She might have been on some sort of medication and just… not taken it or something." Kensuke offered.
"I dunno, man." Toji said. "I don' really care, either. We're here, dat company's finished, and we all need new jobs."
Kensuke chuckled a little. "I wouldn't worry about that, Toji. Jet Alone is looking for new employees anyhow. With résumés like ours, we could get jobs pretty much anywhere."
Toji was about to reply, but a knocking from the front door distracted everyone's thoughts.
Shinji stood to get the door.
"Hey man!" Kaji stood in the doorway, flanked by both Ritsuko and Misato. "I heard what happened up at the office. Sorry to hear that 'n all. But hey, let's mourn another time and party today!"
"Kaji?" Shinji stood back and let the newcomers enter. "What—"
He was cut off as the pony tailed man held up a cardboard box. "I've got Twister!"
Moments later, several pizza delivery boxes were strewn about the apartment, the heavy tunes of Opeth pouring out of the stereo, a dozen or so cans of numerous different beer and soft drink labels perched on the coffee table, and a mesh of entangled limbs and multicolored hair were all laughing and yelling in enjoyment on a plastic, dotted mat.
END (but not really).
Shinji stood in the doorway to the long-since condemned building of Nerv Technologies, Inc. There wasn't much left of it now, just the charred remains of a gutted structure, now just an open, leaky formation of concrete that once used to house another corporate enterprise.
The two ex-Marketers that Shinji had had a loose acquaintanceship with were eventually found by the authorities, but it seemed that the enraged, trigger-happy officemate's bullets had gotten to their bodies before the cops did. They were pronounced DOA by the time the paramedics had gotten to the building. Shinji had thought that Toji said it best when he heard the news; "Oh well. You win some, you loose some."
Most everyone who had survived the 'Nerv Incident', as it was now called, had been hired by their fiercest competitor, Jet Alone Services, Ltd.—the company whose building was literally a stone's throw away from where Nerv once stood in the business plaza. Their pay was still the same, and they still didn't know what the overall purpose to the company was, but they at least had running computers with functioning, compatible operating systems.
Kaworu had said that human beings despised change. It certainly seemed to be true, since there hadn't been much of a difference between Nerv Technologies and Jet Alone Services. The management technique was the same, the building's layout was essentially the same, and everyone still did the same work.
As Shinji surveyed the wreckage of a past life, he came to the same conclusion he always did: nothing had changed.
He shrugged. Well, one thing had changed. Soryu had moved to Germany, and had stopped bothering him when she realized it was a futile effort. Rei had eventually moved in with him, and they had formed a stable relationship which wasn't founded on sex or abuse or domination. Well, maybe it was founded partially on sex, but there was more to it than that.
Shinji sighed as he started to turn from the abandoned, condemned entryway. As he started to leave, his foot hit something on the ground, causing him to trip out of surprise. Looking down, he examined the piece of rubble, recognizing it only when he picked it up.
"Huh," he said to no one in particular. "I wondered where my stapler disappeared to."
Author's Note: I'd like to point out that this story was completely pointless. To summarize all eighty or ninety some pages: after four guys have their computer systems crash for good, they pass their time with pointless conversations and a rather mundane revenge conspiracy, only to have a random factor disrupt everything and destroy the company anyhow.
I'd like to thank my readers, my reviewers, and anyone else who think they deserve thanks—for whatever reason.