Here we go again.
My father sat in his usual position. I'd seen it so many times that I didn't notice its individual components anymore. I'll list them anyway: glasses with a slight glint that had seemed ominous the first three times I'd returned. Steepled fingers. Gloves. A not-quite-there smirk that twitched in and out of existence before I could see it clearly.
"Well?" he said. "You wanted to see me?"
Oh yeah…the cold voice. You'd never guess that this man would commit mass murder the sake of lost love.
Mass murder? Yes.
The office felt like a tomb. I'm not referring to the shadowy walls or the Kabbalist tree on the ceiling, but to the chill. My father appeared unaffected. Another lie. I knew that he wore two layers of sweaters under his NERV jacket. As for me, I was done shivering.
"I know what you're planning," I said.
The Commander didn't even twitch. I knew what was running through his mind, though: the 70% synch score in my first battle. Impossible. How right he was.
I'd come back five times…six? No, five. I remembered each time from the way that Asuka had died:
1) In childbirth in a rotting world. We'd survived Instrumentality. Nobody else had emerged from Rei's sea of primeval goo.
2) In her EVA. I'd freed Unit 01 just in time to "save" Asuka from SEELE's Evangelions. We'd fought side by side, and died in battle.
3) By her own hand. I'd tried to help her after the Fifteenth Angel had invaded her mind, but I'm not good with people.
4) In her Evangelion again. This time, I'd revealed my father's plans to Kaji. SEELE had caught us, and Asuka went against the MP-EVAs alone. At least, I think so. They'd killed me before I knew for sure.
5) Against the Twelfth Angel. Luck of the draw; Asuka had slipped into the Sea of Dirac instead of me. She'd never returned.
And always, ALWAYS, my father had outplayed me. He controlled the EVAs, NERV, and the MAGI. He worked with a secret organization that had planned Instrumentality for decades. I'd never had a chance. Five resets had convinced me of that.
At least this time, I was surrendering on my own terms.
"What do you mean?" he said.
"Instrumentality," I said. "Mom in Unit 01. The clones…SEELE…Kiel Lorenz…your plan to merge with Adam. Everything. I can give you exact dates and descriptions of each Angel if you want."
He shifted in his seat. My own eyes stared back at me from the reflection in his glasses. Another parlor trick. When you've starved, burned, bled, and boiled for six lifetimes, you start to see parental intimidation a little differently.
My father stood up.
"I don't know how you found out about these things, but—"
"Save it," I said. "I'm here to help you."
Now, finally, I saw the mask crack. His brow furrowed, and he gaped. Like I cared anymore.
"Hook me up to Ritsuko's neuro-imaging machines if you don't believe me," I said.
My father nodded. He leaned forward, his torso resting on thick arms.
"I will," he said. "But why—"
"You'll become a god when you merge with Adam," I said. "And a god can grant requests."
I'd expected a smirk, but I was disappointed. I saw an odd expression on the Commander's face that disappeared when he drew back into the shadows.
"What do you want?" he said.
"You'd kill three billion people for Yui?" I said. "Fine. Just leave me Asuka."
Silence. He rested his forehead on his fingers and looked down. The chair creaked. When he spoke again, his voice seemed softer. Or not. Wishful thinking on my part, probably.
"I'll see what I can do," he said. "Report to Ritsuko immediately, Pilot Ikari. I'll be along shortly."
As I walked down the purple-black corridor, I told myself that this would be the last time.