I do not own the rights to Neon Genesis Evangelion, or any of the characters, equipment, or locations written in this fanfiction. The purpose of this fanfiction is merely for the non-profit enjoyment of other readers. If requested by Gainax, Hideki Anno, or other parties which represent aforementioned objects in this story, I will remove it promptly.
Kensuke had just completed analyzing the noon hour polls and responses to his website. Through the convenience of both a majority of the students and the respective working professionals in Tokyo-3, if not all of Japan, taking the same lunch break each day, he could easily complete his daily assignments for the project while consuming his homemade sandwich. The latest addition to his analysis, using the IP addresses of all registered visitors to track their locations, added to the complexity of the final presentation. He could confirm without a doubt to his professor and his peers that the interests of the pilots' love lives were not restricted by any barrier, be it age, sex, race, or religion, within the nation of Japan.
Then he spat out a bit of meat which trapped itself in his meal, the half-chewed morsel staining the keys on his laptop. "To-ji?" the nerd squeaked. Suzahara looked up, Aida urging the jock to come closer. "You might want to take a look at this."
Toji squinted at the screen, his jaw tightening into a grin. "Hmm, looks like the local inmates have a thing for foreigners," the boy chuckled. "I thought that asylum was closed down years ago."
"It gets worse," Kensuke sighed, punching up more data, now displaying the results within a ten kilometer radius. "See all of these untraceable routes?" Aida's friend nodded. "Notice how they all branch out of the local government supercomputer?"
"Uhh, yeah..." Toji mumbled. "So?"
Maya Ibuki stared at the latest polls, each aspect of the pilot's personality mapped out in a numerical scale, compared to those of their chosen partners for the Lottery. "This is... quite detailed," she blushed, noticing the portion which considered compatibility by "physical characteristics." She still couldn't believe how a site this open to the private lives of the pilots was
allowed. It was, after all, the Magi's web search and blackout subroutines which brought her to this particular project.
Normally, Misato Katsuragi would have agreed to purge the server, using any variety of their digital warfare arsenal to exterminate any leaked information on NERV personnel. However, somehow the major already was informed about the site, and didn't even care. Whenever the brunette mentioned it to her superior, the operations director simply cackled, then went into a bout of cursing the redheaded pilot for setting up the commander's son in some sort of scheme. It had gone on like that for two days now, and nothing had resulted in the lieutenant's daily review of "all hostile information sabotage."
"Is something particularly amusing, Lieutenant?" a man's voice cracked the silence, causing Ibuki to jump. Maya found herself standing at attention, facing an unshaven face, and dark eyes. "Ah, I see you've found it already," Kaji began. "That is most fortunate."
"Mr. Ryouji?" she asked hesitantly, her hands clenched behind her back as she stood, giving the man her full respect.
"I'd like to discuss why this website has not been... dealt with," he explained. "Normally, standard procedure when the Magi have detected public information harmful to classified personnel is to erase all data, and reformat the offending server." His eyes widened as the woman cringed, awaiting the barking of orders. "Well?" he urged again.
"I'm...sorry, Mr. Ryouji!" she pleaded. "The Magi left this site for review by someone with a Level Three security clearance, and Major Katsuragi has not given me any orders on this."
Kaji sighed. "I spoke to her about this two days ago. Before, it was nothing too harmful. Most was just random facts mixed with rumors. But now, now it's gone too far." The spy side-stepped the lieutenant, planting his hands on Maya's terminal as he studied the displayed data. "Do you realize how many people within NERV know about this site?"
"It's... hard to say, Sir," Maya lied. Oh, she knew, all right. There were several mechanics within the Cages who started reacting differently to the Children over the last few days. Three of those were proud fathers of students who attended Tokyo-3 Junior High, and approached the Third Child with a few rather harsh words that involved protection, hurting their precious daughters' feelings, or informing him he was not welcome in their family.
In total, she could assume the entire Eva technical maintenance crew, along with the information systems support personnel were checking the updates daily.
"Permission to speak, Sir?" Maya asked, pivoting on her left foot to stand, facing Kaji's side. As he nodded, Ibuki made her case. "It is questionable data, but no addresses, relations, or sensitive information has been leaked." She was about to continue, but chose to bite her tongue. Too late, she considered, as the spy raised an eyebrow in anticipation.
"You were going to say something more?" he asked.
"Sir, with all due respect," she began, clearing her throat. "The performance of the pilots as of late has been... declining."
"Declining?" Kaji asked.
"This social interaction, while resulting from a questionable source, may offer an improvement in their performance." Maya knew she was pushing her luck, but continued regardless. "Remove all of the polls, the statistical sampling, the feedback, and this is simply three blind dates prepared by a close friend. There is no way NERV could possibly prevent fraternization with the pilots' peers."
Kaji sighed. Like it mattered, he thought. Everyone in that class were Eva qualifiers, anyway. "Lieutenant, is there any defined chain of command for a situation of this nature?"
Maya shook her head. "No existing orders were ever developed for this kind of situation, Sir. We never anticipated the pilots being this popular. Our only scenarios of a personal nature involve shielding the pilots from public retaliation."
Ryouji nodded quietly, thinking it was just another insult the Children had to suffer with. Of course they were not treated as normal teenagers. They were shielded like idols, but as expendable as a few measly bearings in a far more complex, unforgiving machine. "In that case, I will take the necessary steps to create such a protocol," he said. "As assistant to Doctor Akagi, you have both the rank and security clearance to deal with any consequences resulting from this information leak."
"Sir?" she asked. Maya did not like where this was going.
"Congratulations, Lieutenant," Kaji smiled. "You are officially my second in command for our new public relations branch." He stopped to watch Ibuki's hands begin to shake, her body's instincts telling her something was horribly wrong. "By the power invested in me through rank and privilege, I am charging you with monitoring all relationships of an intimate nature between the pilots and civilian elements."
"But, Sir!" she protested. "We can't possibly have the authority to do this!"
"Of course we do!" Kaji beamed a bright, used car salesman grin. "As an independent observer reporting directly to NERV's administrative branch and the intelligence officer present, I have full authority to implement any programs I deem effective in preventing potential calamity between authorized and civilian personnel. That includes any civilian authority which may choose to interfere, who I can ensure answer to the fullest extent of our executive powers."
"Please, Lieutenant," Kaji smiled, handing her a business card. "Contact me after your shift so we may discuss today's events, and further develop an operation plan. I expect you to have a report for me within the hour."
As Ryouji Kaji strode out of the command tier, Maya plopped down into her wheeled office chair. Taking a moment, she collected her thoughts, and summarized what had just happened. Apparently Mr. Ryouji had known all along about this website, but chose to use her as an indirect arm to take corrective action against it. Given this did not pass through normal channels, it was quite obvious this was an unauthorized action that could make NERV far more visible to the civilian population than her superiors would deem appropriate.
She effectively became NERV's illegal paparazzi, reporting to a man with questionable ethics.
Setting her head in the palms of her hands, she took a deep sigh before bookmarking Aida's website, and opening a secure path through a randomized course of servers. She would have to hide her tracks if she were to take the first, obvious course of action. A few keystrokes later, the selection of offending users were found, and targeted with the first of five severe level digital systems weapons at her disposal.
Was she really up to doing this?
Maya considered the consequences of her actions, and what could potentially happen if she refused. The decision, once she focused only on the rational aspects, was quite clear. To ensure the least damage to both the pilots' performance and leaks of more detailed information, the targeted offenders had to be stopped.
Pressing the enter key, she heard a chorus of shouts, screams, and crackling semiconductors as two thirds of the lower tiers of the command deck went dark.
"Are you sure about this?" Shinji whined. The formatted disc was ready for uploading, tucked in Hikari's book bag. Ikari checked the time on his watch again. He did not like this plan, not at all.
"Just stay in character, and everything will be fine," Hikari smirked.
"But we're going to look like idiots…" he grumbled.
Hikari rolled her eyes. "That's the point! Look, do you want this nonsense with the website to stop, or don't you?" Horaki had to remind herself for the fifth time that Shinji was a little more introverted than what her plan required. Even during the initial planning phases, he constantly argued with her about her approach to this dilemma. "It's my pride on the line, too, you know!"
"I know..." Ikari sighed again. The class representative was starting to understand what Asuka meant about this boy's attitude towards life. There was no drive in him to thrive. He simply wanted to exist, hiding beyond the scrutiny of the world as a ghost. It was not going to get him anywhere in life.
"What time is it?" the brunette asked for the twelfth time since they entered the building. Unlike Shinji, she was nervous with anticipation. She could see past the embarrassment their little scheme would involve, and picture the end results they would yield. Oh, how she was going to love this, she thought, an evil grin crossing her face.
"Lunch break starts in... ten seconds," Shinji answered.
Hikari let out a deep breath. "Ready?"
"No…" Shinji answered.
"Too bad!" the girl retorted, shoving the boy towards the now open classroom door. "Hi everybody!"
Toji's eyes went wide, his jaw hanging frozen in place. Exactly at noon, the Third Pairing barged through the door of Class 2-A, and with it, came the apocalypse. Suzahara nudged Aida's shoulder. "What is it, man?" Kensuke whined. "Hey, quit it! I have to finish this code." But Toji continued to jab at his friend, his brain frozen in fear. "Okay, what's so import-" Kensuke began.
Rei, the only one unmoved by the actions of the designated "Third Pairing", watched as Kensuke's glasses slid down his nose, and plummeted to the floor. "Again, Ikari?" she asked simply, before returning to her assignments.
Hikari, dressed identically to Shinji, forced the boy to march in lock-step with her to her desk. Each walked in perfect synchronization with the other, following a whispered cadence Hikari muttered under her breath. As they approached her desk, the class representative forced Ikari to mimic her actions exactly, taking a seat directly to her left. The student still occupying that seat, however, had something to say about it.
"This is my assigned desk, Class Rep-" the boy began.
"The name is Shinji Ikari," both she and Ikari answered in unison, their voices a mix of apathy and frustration.
None of the students could believe their eyes. Hikari, identical to her designated boyfriend, wore black slacks, a white, short-sleeved dress shirt, and carried the identical bookbag as her partner. Even her shoes were identical. Her girlish pigtails were gone, replaced by a single braid tucked under the collar of her uniform. Every feature which identified her as female, or characteristically as Hikari, was eliminated, thanks to a painful but clever use of masking tape.
As Shinji's face morphed into a saddened, embarrassed stupor, the former class representative grudgingly had to copy his actions. He was not staying in character. She would have to yell at him about that later. Furthermore, why should he be the one embarrassed? She was taking on all the work. All he had to do was be himself. Rather, he had to play an exaggerated, theatrical form of himself.
"But... my desk!" the student protested again.
"Oh..." both Shinji and his clone answered quietly. "…I... guess I understand." The pair shifted uncomfortably to their left foot, their right hands both clenching in time with the other. Each dejectedly marched, slumping as they went to the back of the classroom to two open desks in the furthest row.
At that moment, an intrigued Yuki overheard Ayanami mumble something about how Hikari was much better than Asuka.
Hiroshi groaned, applying ice to his lower back and head. The coach for gym did not buy his excuse for the recent injuries, which led to a very long, incredibly painful game of basketball. Fortunately his class was scheduled for gym at the end of the day, meaning he didn't have to shower with all of his purpling bruises, and he could take as long as he liked to crawl home.
At least he thought he would make it home... eventually.
The hard wood bench facing the basketball courts was not a forgiving surface, but stretched out on the improvised bedding, he refused to move until he could sit up without pain. That, he deduced, was going to take a while. Why had he gotten into a fight with Asuka again? He corrected himself, and remembered he should be asking why the girl always seemed to start fights. Then he cleared his throat, rephrasing the question. "Why did I get picked?" he groaned.
"You make it sound like a punishment, being paired with me, Second!" the redhead snapped. Hiroshi cringed for a moment, but forced himself not to move any further. The pain in his abdominal muscles forced him to remain flat as a board on the painted wooden surface. "Well?" Asuka snarled.
"What?" Hiroshi groaned, his eyes rolling limply in his head to face the girl.
"Move over!" the German shouted. Kato stared for a moment, his vision going hazy as he tried to maximize what little pleasure he could from not moving. Soryu was towering above him, the crutch and ankle wrap the only hints of the prior encounter. Then again, he could see standing on the limb was proving rather irritating. Asuka's face was a little more flush than usual, and her teeth were clenched ever so slightly. "I said... move over!"
"And if I refuse?"
"That wouldn't be very nice behavior for a date, would it?" the redhead muttered.
"What's not nice behavior," Kato countered, "is to show no sympathy for someone you injured last night."
"Hey!" Soryu snapped. "You were the one who put your back out, not me!" She then pointed to her ankle. "And if memory serves, I owe you for this."
"You tried to hit me first."
"And you counter-attacked!"
"When someone just wants to talk to you or show you some courtesy, violence isn't necessary."
"It was your fault!" Asuka answered, resorting to classic childhood tactics.
Asuka began to prod the boy with the padded foot of the crutch, jabbing Hiroshi mercilessly in his left side. "If this is your idea of a date, you have a lot to learn."
Hiroshi sighed. "Really? Because I have a good idea where you can put that crutch-"
The crack of splintering wood echoed through the courtyard.
End of Chapter V
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