Neon Genesis Evangelion: Nobody Dies - Ichi's Birthday Party
Episode 01 – Preparations for the Special Girl
Those familiar with Gendo Ikari would be able to tell that he was not happy. It might have been the way that he was closed in on himself, expression held rigid. It might have been the cold, clipped manner in which he spoke. It might have even been the way that he had begun the conversation with the phrase, "Yui, I am not happy with you doing this. Not one bit," although that was surely madness, to extrapolate such emotions from what he had said.
It didn't really matter. He was going to lose anyway, he knew, which was why the conversation was happening in his spacious office, with no-one else present, so, at least if he was going to lose, no-one would see him do so. Of course, Deputy Commander Fuyutsuki would know that he had lost, and would probably make a few remarks about it, but both of them knew about the power dynamics at NERV, and so such things could easily be ignored.
"Nonsense," the Head Scientist of NERV responded to her husband, with a roll of her eyes. "You know I'm going to do this, Gendo, just as I did last year, and the year before that. And just like then, you are going to try to dissuade me, fail, and decide not to push the issue, unless you want to be sleeping on the couch for the next month."
That was, unfortunately, true. But this year, Gendo had a reason to be more assertive than usual. "You couldn't hold to that," he said, tilting his head slightly.
Yui narrowed her eyes. "I think you overestimate your chances." She shook her head. "And your prowess."
Gendo winced. "Ouch. But... you know I don't like you going into the VR world."
"And as I've told you many times before, it's perfectly safe. I am going nowhere near the entry plug. I am not even going to be going in full-immersion; this will be goggles and motion sensors. There is no neural connection, or anything at all which be used as an attack vector."
"But you still shouldn't expose yourself to the monster in there more than is necessary at all," the man protested, his words measured. "I know your weaknesses, and I'm afraid you're letting your instincts overwhelm your rationality... instincts and guilt alike. Just because it acts human doesn't mean that it really is at all."
"Talkin' about me?" asked a voice from right beside his left ear.
Gendo remained remarkably calm. The sigh he let out was one of frustration, not fear. "No, Rei," he said, turning to look at his 12-year old adopted daughter, and noting the open vent hatch in the roof. And the new lock he had installed which had been torn out, and was clutched in her hand. Silently, he held out his palm, for Rei to give it to him. The lock was filed in his desk drawer.
"That's good," she said cheerfully, before turning to Yui. "Come on, Mommy," she said. "We're going to be late for the trip, and none of us want that! 'Cause there's going to be ice-cream and waffles and sugar... lots and lots and lots and lots of sugar and 'cause it's not ree~aallly real, it means you don't get fat or anything!"
Yui and Gendo shared a look. With a glance, the silent words 'We somehow need to stop Lieutenant Ibuki from lending Rei those magazines written for teenage girls, but which she still reads. They're a bad influence. But, wait, isn't it normal for an almost teenage girl to worry about this kind of thing? Don't we want to be encouraging her normalcy? On the other hand, she's Rei, and brings a whole host of problems which the parents of normal teenage girls don't have to put up with. And she might get ideas. God, parenting is hard work,' were exchanged.
It was a remarkably verbose glance.
"Come on, stop staring at each other!" Rei interrupted. "We gotta go! Go! Go! Go! Go! Go! Go! Go! I like the word 'Go'! Go! Go! Go! My favourite word is 'Go'! Go! G..."
"... that... that's enough, Rei," Yui managed. "Just go..."
"... yes, okay. Just... wait outside, while your father and I finish discussing something."
Rei grinned, her lips splitting open a little wider than might be viewed as conventionally attractive, or, indeed, human. "I'll 'Go!' make up the couch," she said, as she disappeared into the vents again.
Gendo sighed. "And that's my other objection," he added, in a softer voice. "You've shown, over the last few years, that you can handle yourself. But... last year was bad. This year will be worse. Do you think you're really up to handling eight... eight! I'd just like to emphasise it again... eight... of them, when they'll all be hyped up on sugar." He paused, and glanced directly behind him. "I mean... do we really want the controlling intelligence to end up like that?"
He noticed the slight shudder from his wife; that, at least, was a slight moral victory. Which wasn't to say that he wasn't going to lose, however. "It's not that bad," Yui managed. "I mean, I was difficult when I was that age..."
Gendo fixed her with a level stare. "Yui," he said, firmly. "Whatever you were like, I can guarantee that, despite what your father might say, you were not as bad as eight Nephilim all going through puberty at the same time."
"And that's why it's important that I do this kind of thing!" Yui retorted. "We need to keep them interested, and give them at least some normal family experiences. We do some things together, and they seem to look forwards to it for at least a month in advance, and that's important. And... well, it's a way to spend more time with them, and I know I can't. It's a treat for all of them. Not just for Ichi." She stared at him. "Of course, it would be easier for me if you would come along..." she added, a hint of menace in her voice.
"Morituri nolumus mori," muttered her husband.
"What was that?"
"Nothing, dear," Gendo replied instantly. "Just have a tendency to slip into Latin when I know you're right."
Yui narrowed her eyes, but let it pass.
"I'm still not doing it, though," he added.
The servos of the crane shrieked, as they hoisted their vast, yet surprisingly fragile cargo into the air. There were entire teams working on this project. The Magi staff were carefully micromanaging the precise stresses of the machinery, even as men and women in fluorescent jackets, unwilling to leave a project of this magnitude exclusively up to machines, glowsticks in hands, carefully observed the motion, willing to call a stop to it at any time.
"Papa Hotel has been elevated! I repeat, Papa Hotel is elevated! We are ready to commence lateral motion at your commands, before we begin Operation Descent!"
The brown-haired senior scientist at Project Evangelion ran her hands through her hair, and sighed. This was an incredibly stressful procedure, and she was glad that this maintenance work only had to be done once a year. "Okay!" called out Ritsuko, then realised that she still had the radio clutched in her hand, and mentally shook her head at her own stupidity. As if anyone would be able to heard her when they were all having to wear ear protection. She depressed the button, and spoke, "Itsuko, how are we going with the feed?"
The maintenance engineer shook her head unconsciously, as she answered on her own radio. "We're having problems, Dr Akagi! We've got the feeding tubes in, but the viscosity issues from last time are still there! It doesn't make sense. They were working fine in all the tests!"
Ritsuko paled. "This is a problem. Keep on trying, and when Papa Hotel is in place, we'll see if we can get to the route of the problem. Get anyone who knows anything about fluid dynamics and shock physics on the case in the meantime."
"Understood, Dr Akagi. Over and out."
One of the key problems with the Evangelions, as a general fact of their existence, was the nature of physical, Euclidean reality. Although they had a certain... laxity from their nature (and Dr Ikari still refused to explain to anyone how on Earth they didn't simply sink into the ground from ground pressure; the betting pool currently had "The ground is too afraid of them to let them enter it" as the favoured explanation), there were still some nasty physical constraints. In this case, the problems came from the simple law that, as scale increased by a factor of r, tensile strength increased by r squared, while volume, and thus mass, increased by r cubed. Which caused certain engineering problems.
As a result, the orange-and-red party hat that they were lowering onto Evangelion Unit 01, carefully fitting it over the horn, was high-grade laminar steel, reinforced by strategically-placed interior buttresses. Questions over whether it was really necessary to conduct this massive engineering project every single year had been directed to Deputy Director Fuyutsuki, who had passed them to Commander Ikari, who had immediately redirected them to Dr Ikari. And then the questions had stopped, and the apologies had started.
And what of the cake? What, indeed, of the cake? The cake... was a issue. A six-year old girl, to name a completely-arbitary-and-not-at-all-associated-with-the-self-image-of-a-certain-sixty-metre-tall-war-machine example, was approximately one metre tall. To scale an appropriate cake, when metabolic differences were taken into account, required a baked good eighty-four times larger dimensionally. Which required five hundred and ninety two thousand, seven hundred and four times the ingredients.
The ingredients for Unit 01's birthday cake were listed as a separate budgetary item on NERV's expenses (under "Miscellaneous Annual Unit Pacification And Control Items", incidentally). They included things such as 104 metric tonnes of butter, and again of brown castor sugar, the zest from 2.4 million oranges and the same number of eggs, 60 tonnes of self-raising flour, six-hundred thousand tablespoons of baking powder, and 180 tonnes of white chocolate.
And, this year, eight candles.
Things were made worse by the fact that the Evangelion was not actually permitted to eat the cake, and instead had it piped in through its nutrient feeds. Which were designed for nice, simple, bland protein and carbohydrate mixtures, and not a rich white-chocolate-and-orange cake which had been personally chosen by Dr Ikari. They had been forced to go to NERV Germany to ask for help on solving the fluid intake issues, and Dr Soryu had not appreciated the, from her point of view, waste of her time in having to solve the issue on how to feed an Evangelion an appropriately-scaled cake.
She had been... caustic. One might even say vitriolic.
Ritsuko could, for once, understand exactly how the other scientist felt.
There had to be better ways of doing this.
A lone house stood on a grassy plain, the rolling acres stretching out as far as the eye could see, until they melted away into the blue of the horizon. Small deciduous copses and lone trees (some of which had rope or tire swings hanging from them) broke up the monotony of the green, notably clustered around a lake. Birds sang, crickets and cicadas chirruped, and the fish in the water... well, they bubbled, or whatever fish do when not observed. In this particular case, they decreased in texture detail and model resolution, to save on processing capacity, but the inhabitant of this space wasn't meant to know that.
It was, in fact, the very image of rural tranquili...
The lone dissenter was glared at by the other blue-haired girls. "You're breakin' the pattern," muttered one of her sisters. "And being booo~ooring."
"I don't see how not being precisely the same, baring slight intonational variance, as everyone else makes me bo..." the other one managed, before a stare from Yui (her figure slightly translucent, and wavery, for she alone was not in full immersion) silenced the blue-haired, red-eyed gaggle. Although, in truth, that was probably not the most appropriate collective noun. They were certainly not a parliament, because they lacked the decorum and sense of propriety for such a thing. 'A culture', 'an intrusion', 'a troupe', 'a murder' (although that one had been rejected on the grounds that it was probably a bad idea to give them bad ideas); all of these had been considered by people with too much free time on their hands. In truth, they were simply, "The Ree". Eight, pubescent, physiologically and biologically (mentally was a completely different question, as was, come to mention it, chronologically) twelve-year old, human-Angel hybrids. Yes.
"Now, I don't think I need to discuss the Rules again, do I?" asked Yui, with a hint of menace in her voice. "Because this is Ichi's birthday, and I am not going to have any of you ruin it for her, understand. Or I will be very disappointed in you."
"Oh, come on!" squeaked Kiko, her cheeks flushed. "Like we'd do that. Ichi is cuuu~uuute! That means we want to make our Little Sister happy!"
Yui pursed her lips slightly. Kiko was not, in truth, the one she was worried about (and she was one of the easy ones, anyway). And, technically speaking, as a mother, she wasn't meant to approve of a hierarchy of logic which put adorableness as a higher quality than personality or blood-relation, but... well, Ichi was going to stay cute for a very long time, she thought, with a twinge of guilt.
Yes. That was the other thing about these family incursions with her daughters. They were bittersweet blends of self-loathing and joy. But she wasn't going to think about that, or tell it to them. It would only upset them with things that they couldn't change, or be blamed for.
She shook her head, almost immeasurably, and looked at her daughters. "Okay," Yui said, the same maternal tone in her voice. "Now, I'm going to issue the presents now. I have locked them, so only Ichi can open them; that means that I want them to stay sealed, until you can give them to her. That is not a challenge that they should be opened. You chose them, so you know what's inside. You don't need to open them to find out."
"... was going to get her a draa~aagon," muttered Zyuu, loud enough to be audible. "And it was going to be green and purple and everything, to match her armour."
"Yes, and dragons aren't suitable pets for eight year old girls."
"But I had one when I was eight."
Her mother sighed. "You coded one when you were seven. And," her expression softened, "remember, Ichi is... immature for her age."
"Cu~uute and snugly and adorable," confirmed Kiko. "Even if, if she ree~eeeally wanted to, she could be like 'graaaw' and stompstompstomp rip-rip."
"Yes, and we don't mention that to her, Kiko," said Yui. "And neither do you, Nana, for all you think that it would be 'pretty cool' to be an Evangelion Unit."
The blue-haired girl, black hairband holding it back from her face, nodded. "'Kay."
"Now, come on, Mommy," said Rei, bouncing up and down in front of Yui. "We doo~oooo know the Rules, and we know what to do, and we know that we won't be allowed to come any more if we upset Ichi."
"Yeah!" added Iti. "And we've got the presents, and stuff, and so we can go give them to her!"
Yui Ikari's image flickered as, outside in the real world, she flipped up her visor, and checked the current position of the controlling intellect of Unit 01. "She's in the house," she said, returning her attention back into the simulation, "probably waiting for us."
"She does that," said Kei, softly. "Every year."
"Yes." There was a blink of an eye, and the group was suddenly relocated, to the outside of the square brick house. "Okay," said Yui, lowering her voice, and smiling. "On the count of three, we'll open the door, and start singing." She paused, and checked that the synch-counter, for the teams out in the Eva bay was working. The green light reassured her that the music was ready there, too, along with the technical staff (who were now wearing party-hats over the top of their regulation hard hats). "Using the proper words to the song," she added, producing a few slightly guilty looks. "One. Two. Three!"
The door swung open, and the sheer look of childish delight in the eyes of the brown-haired girl sitting calmly on the sofa in the living room really made it all worthwhile.
"Happy birthday to yooo~ooouuuu..."