The doors to the massive office open, and Katsuragi walks in, folder under her arm and silent. She walks to the front of the desk, folding her hands, and waits. The back of the chair is turned to her, and the mood in the office solemn, and after a minute, he speaks.
"I explained to Asuka that the Fifth Child's the best qualified candidate to pilot Unit-03," Sohryu says, "She's still angry. She's pissed."
"That you didn't tell her, or that it's her best friend?"
"I don't like this, Katsuragi. I don't like that we're sending teenagers to die."
"Sir, if any officer at NERV could activate an Evangelion, we would."
She chides herself, mentally. She's starting to sound like Ritsuko when she justifies what they do.
"The Chancellor of Germany is not very happy that we wrecked much of downtown Berlin. I calmly explained that if we didn't, the Angel would have wrecked all of Berlin."
"Have you talked with Mr. Horaki yet, Commander?"
Sohryu groans, rubbing the bridge of his nose.
"Take Rei off of training duty for Shinji. Asuka and Kaworu will continue his training. Rei will focus on the Fifth. Have Ikari schedule synchronization tests for her. Until Unit-03 arrives, see if she can train as a backup pilot for one of the other Evas…maybe try Unit 01, first."
Katsuragi sharply salutes.
She turns and walks out, as Pieter turns to his desk and takes out a clipboard. Popping open the draw with the office phone, he dials the number, holding the receiver to his ear as the dial tone rings.
"Hello, Mr. Horaki?"
The voice on the other end answers affirmatively.
"This is Commander Sohryu. I need to talk to you about your daughter…"
Mother is already home. She'll deal with her when and if she leaves the office tonight. It's already five o'clock, and sitting in her office, deep within the base, a few floors above the Dummy Plug room and the entrance to Terminal Dogma, Ritsuko looks up from reports and diagrams and at the single picture decorating her desk.
It was taken six years ago, right after she came aboard. Right after she took her mother's job after that one decision that changed…everything.
The nine year old Asuka, despite being quite prominently in a frilled dress, is standing as tall as any boy her age, with her father behind her. Rei is standing next to her, dressed the same, the faded colors of the photo losing the distinction of Asuka in red and Rei in white. Behind Rei is her. Her hands are on the girl's shoulders, gazing into the camera, only a thin smile on her lips.
It was five words that changed her life.
"Do you have any kids?"
She smiles, faintly. At that point, she was quickly falling into the same hole as her mother. If she was just wandering around, not looking in particular for Rei, she could have just watched. If she was not there to stop her, her mother would have killed Rei. If she had, well, the doctors said she was addled at that point, maybe suicidal.
Maybe she wouldn't hate her mother like she does now, if she had just died that day and taken her sins with her.
She turns her chair, finding Maya standing in the doorway.
"Sorry to disturb you, but all the analysis on NERV-Germany's end is done. It'll take all night to download, so we're heading out to celebrate. Do you want to come?"
Ritsuko checks the clock on her desk and grimaces, shaking her head.
"No, I still have things here. Thank you for offering, Maya."
Maya nods, smiling, and looks past her at the picture. She says nothing, beaming, and walks out. Of course, Ritsuko knew what she would say. That they look like a little family in the picture. Parents and kids, with her definitely looking like Rei's mother.
Leaning on her elbow as she takes another folder out of the pile, she thoughtfully chews the end of her pen, her thumb wandering on the picture to Sohryu's face.
Well, yes. Maybe she does flirt with Sohryu. Maybe she does, indeed. But he is taken, and more importantly, he has been a friend. Anything else would destroy that friendship, and end their professionalism, just like her mother did.
If anything else, Ritsuko Akagi, PhD, prides herself in not being her mother.
Two hours later.
Kicking off his shoes and placing them carefully at the main doorway, Kaworu Nagisa finds himself the first person home. Asuka ran off to NERV after lunch, Shinji joined his friends first in comforting the Class Representative and later helping her home, and Rei...well, he's not sure exactly where Rei is, himself. And, because there was that Angel attack, Misato is most likely at NERV. He looks down at the sound of the slapping footsteps, to find Pen Pen standing in front of him and not especially pleased.
"Ah, yes. You wish to be fed."
"Really? Well, I never thought of your relationship with them that way. He'll be home later, but I know how to feed you, to."
Scratching the back of his head, Kaworu walks to the fridge and takes out a tray of grilled anchovies Shinji made the night before. Taking Pen Pen's dish from the drying rack, he warms the food in the microwave, humming classical music to himself.
Popping the tray out, he places the dish before Pen Pen with a smile.
With an approving nod of his beak, the penguin picks up the dish and walks into his freezer. Kaworu shrugs, walking to the refrigerator. Taking a can of soda for himself, he walks to the futon, idly pulling off his school bag and taking out his notebook. His father, for lack of a better term, made sure he had the finest education money could buy, but he never actually enrolled him in a school. Understanding the subject matter is easy enough. But what he was never educated in was socializing, and that truly fascinates him.
He clicks the remote, turning on the television as he begins his routine of clicking through every channel Misato subscribes to. Or at least, until the doorbell rings.
Sighing, he climbs to his feet. Opening the door, he smiles, and looks up at the imposing bodyguards in black suits. He recognizes them from his earlier years, and looks past them to the aged, black robed figure standing in front of him.
"Hello, Kaworu," Kihl Lorenz says, his voice less a greeting and more growl and spittle.
"Good afternoon, Chairman," Kaworu responds, "I was just about to make popcorn. Would you like to join me?"
There is a crash, and the two guards turn, both father and clone turning to look past them. Misato stares at them, and quickly collects her groceries.
"It appears we have company," Kaworu says, "I do warn you, Chairman. My guardian's cooking has something of an odd texture to it. Some believe it may be inedible."
Kihl Lorenz grins. It is a thoroughly unpleasant sight.
"I've had worse."
"I'm sorry, repeat that again. WHO is in your apartment?"
Standing out of his desk's chair, Sohryu's eyes go wide as saucers as he listens to his ops commander. Standing in front of his desk, Kozou raises an eyebrow in question as Sohryu nods, mutters something in German, and grabs papers and folders, stuffing them into his carry bag.
"On my way," he says, and slams the phone down.
"Not good?" Kozou asks.
"Chairman Kihl is sitting in Katsuragi's apartment and making small talk with Nagisa," Sohryu says as Kozou's eyes go wide in shock, "This is very, very far from not good."
He walks past Kozou, tucking his bag under his arm.
"You're in charge!"
And he runs out.
The guards have disappeared. They aren't outside the front door and nowhere in the apartment, so Misato wonders exactly how this old man, this old blind man with a visor and pressed suit and robe/overcoat is going to defend himself from any attackers, but then again, he probably has snipers on all the nearby buildings.
Kaworu is currently talking to him about his date with Rei. Misato wraps that idea around her head for a few moment. Her ward, her second ward, is giving date details to the most powerful man in the world.
She needs a beer.
The door bursts open. Misato palms her face and mutters to herself, standing in the kitchen. Next to Kaworu, Pen Pen looks at the doorway as Asuka storms in.
"Of course, I had a doorbell installed for a reason," Misato says.
"How long did you know?" Asuka demands.
Asuka whirls, ready to give the visitor a piece of her mind…and freezes, eyes going wide. On the easy chair, Kihl smiles and gives off a small, playful wave.
"Sohryu's daughter," he says, "You've grown up well."
Shinji skids to a stop in the doorway, running past the living room. Misato stares at him, Asuka not even turning to him, and panting, hands on his knees, Shinji looks up and catches his breath.
"Misato, I can't find-"
He stops, looking up at his guardian. She points to the living room, and Shinji turns, staring at the old man. Quickly, he bows respectfully.
"I'm sorry for interrupting."
He then grabs Asuka by the arm and pulls her out. They go quiet, Misato watching them leave, and she slowly turns back to the Chairman.
"Ah, yes," Kihl says, "That was Ikari's son, wasn't it, Kaworu?"
"It was. He's been a good friend to me these past months."
"Yes. He's definitely more respectful than his father."
After Asuka stopped screaming, she started hyperventilating. Breathing into a paper bag and sitting on the bench on the roof, he stares at her as the normally unflappable fellow pilot shakes and shudders. Slowly, carefully to avoid setting her off, he sits down. He doesn't remember the old man, but figures if he knows Kaworu, he can't be all bad.
"That," Asuka finally says, "Was Lorenz Kihl. He's my father's boss."
Shinji stares at her for a moment. Seeing her like this, frightened, is a new experience for him. Not knowing why is also new.
"Kaworu…didn't seem to have a problem with him."
"That is because he's technically my father."
They both turn to find Kaworu standing at the roof's entrance. His face has a new element to it. There is no ever-present smile. Instead, he is looking pensive, almost brooding as he walks towards and past them.
"The Commander arrived. He and the Chairman are talking," Kaworu continues, "I was created the same way Ayanami was. A mixture of the Chairman's cells and an angel, and to his disappointment I was no more special than any human."
He calmly, very calmly, hops onto the roof's railing, walking along it as if it were a sidewalk, despite it being the only barrier between him and a significant drop.
"Oh, don't worry," he says, "I'm not suicidal. And I'll get to the point soon enough. You see, my 'father' made me for a reason, and when that reason turned false, he was at a loss of what to do. So, he had me raised. As you can see, he is quite old. I am told my childhood was charming, but at the same time I do not know if it was."
Sighing, he tips back and forth, eyes looking upward, skyward.
"He found a purpose for me, later. That I could pilot Unit 04. Of course, there is a problem with that. You see, my 'father' is one of the most capable liars on the planet."
He hops off the railing, and smiles.
"And so am I. Asuka is afraid of him for a reason. Shinji, I assure you that your act of respect towards him would have saved Asuka's life if he was in a sour mood."
Shinji stares at his room mate as Asuka finally puts away the paper bag. Continuing to smile, Kaworu begins to walk towards the stairs.
"We should go."
"Go…where?" Shinji asks.
"To the base, of course."
Shinji looks at Asuka, then at Kaworu.
Kaworu smiles wider, turning to them.
"Well…because of the Angel, of course."
"Some on the Committee do not appreciate your method of interacting with the Children, Commander. They use the old phrase, 'Spare the rod, spoil the child.' From experience, that is because their own parents did not spare the rod and left them in the state where they have no legitimate children of their own."
For all Sohryu knows, his bodyguards are hiding in trees. That is the only reason he can think of for him and Kihl walking in the part near Katsuragi's apartment building. To the outside observer, it is two men walking and discussing matters. Sure, one is more than a little old and walking with a decorated walking stick which probably cost more than an Evangelion, but it is nothing that calls attention.
"I take it you disagree," Pieter says.
"I am not of thse members of the Committee. Your method of dealing with the pilots has produced results I am pleased with. You provide a firm hand, and you have earned their trust. The last Angel to attack Tokyo-3 did not get within a dozen miles of the city. As long as you are on my side, I know the Children will not turn against me."
"As long as the Committee keeps the best interests of NERV at heart, I am on your side," Sohryu responds.
"The Scenario is changing," Kihl says, his face unreadable, "The…source material…is proving inaccurate. You will adapt. The Scenario will adapt. Changes may be imminent."
"And the Project?"
The words leave Kihl's mouth like a curse. The Project. Or, as Akagi referred to it as, Instrumentality. Any explanation to Pieter goes in one ear and out the other. Something about completing people. Making God.
"As such, there shall be adjustments," Kihl says, "Timetable has been sped up for Evangelion construction. The Ninth Angel's attack on Berlin has shown us the Angels are not as predictable as we believed. And that your approach should be emulated."
He stops, turning to Sohryu. Pieter adjusts his jacket, making sure not to flinch or fidget. The old man in front of him could have him killed and all records of his existence erased if he displeased him. More than anyone else on the planet, this is a person to be afraid of.
"What's your idea?" Pieter asks.
"In two weeks time, the Children will join me for a week at my estate in Germany. I believe it is time for them to know who they report to."
Sohryu folds his arms, staring at the old man.
"The logistics involved in transporting my four pilots and support staff will take more than two weeks-"
"The arrangements have been made, Commander. This is the point where you say, 'Yes, Chairman.'"
Pieter stares at him, and finally thrusts his hands into his pockets.
"Yes. Chairman," he says, "The Pilots would enjoy a week away from Tokyo-3. As would I."
Kihl stares at him.
"You are the Commander of NERV."
"And we both agree my being parted from my daughters would hamper my ability to efficiently run NERV. This is why my second would be happy to take over for a week. Besides, I don't think I've ever taken a vacation."
Kihl stares at him, hands leaning on his cane.
"Very well. The pilots, and you-"
"And Captain Katsuragi."
Kihl snaps his head at him.
"Sorry to interrupt," Pieter says, "But I am planning on promoting her soon. This would give us an opportunity to discuss such matters in a relaxed atmosphere. Besides which, she is Shinji and Kaworu's legal guardian."
"Yes, yes. Anyone else?"
"Doctor Akagi. Someone does have to take care of Rei."
There is a sound coming from Kihl. It sounds like grinding wheels and escaping gas, and considering how much of the man has to be mechanical it may as well be.
"Is there anything else, Commander. Perhaps you would like to ship an Evangelion while I'm in a good mood?"
"Of course not. That would be ridiculous. You already have one in Berlin. How is Mari, nowadays?"
Stamping his cane, Kihl continues walking, Pieter by his side.
And as if on cue, every alarm in Tokyo-3 goes off.
Screens in Central Dogma blink into existence, showing an area fifty miles outside of the city limits. It is a grassy plane and covered in hills, and in it is standing a two hundred and fifty foot tall, thin human-like monster with a skull face and two red cores at its chest.
"Blue Pattern Detected!" Maya's voice shouts, "Angel is on approach to Tokyo-3! All hands to alert stations!"
Screens pop up, centering on the Angel, showing it from different angles as it begins to lazily walk.
"Tenth Angel is confirmed! MAGI designation: Israfel!"