Episode 13: The Forgotten
Part V: Interlude - I'm Not Angry Anymore
Two days prior.
Shinji heard a soft mechanical whir behind him. He put down his book and turned to see a robot staring at him.
It was the exact opposite of a giant robot, barely rising to the height of his knee. Two arms sprouted out from either side of a round head, which was in turn mounted over a low-slung body sporting a pair of tank treads. White plastic covered its visible surfaces. Its single eye glowed a calm blue. "Gerät gerät," it said.
Shinji smiled. Getting up from his desk, he picked up the tiny cyclops and walked out of his room into the hallway. For the first time in days, Asuka's door was open. He went to the side of the entryway and knocked on the frame.
"What?" Asuka said irritably. But not too irritably - maybe a two or a three on the Asuka scale, at most.
He stepped into the room and was immediately greeted by a whirl of activity. A small quadcopter flew in circles overhead. Over by the closet, another robot - this one more like a mechanical arm on wheels - stacked up a pile of books, while a metal ball tumbled back and forth over the various objects on the messy floor. Shinji held up the cyclops. "Um... missing something?"
"Huh?" Asuka looked up from her desk, pushing up the safety goggles over her eyes. "Oh. Did that thing wander off again? Stupid crap software... just put it by the others over there." She pointed her thumb at her bed.
He stepped over a discarded bra - it still amazed him sometimes just how quickly he'd adapted to the sight of lacey underthings - and went over to the bed. A number of open boxes marked International Electromatics lay at the foot of the mattress. He set the cyclops down next to an identical twin - in red, of course - and a one-wheeled contraption that looked something like a small motorized unicycle. "So what's all this about?"
"They're drones," Asuka said absentmindedly. On her desk, she had a much larger quadcopter - at least a meter in diameter - partially dismantled. Screwdrivers (of the non-sonic variety) and pliers lay scattered around her. "Got them out of storage the other day. I use them for practice sometimes."
"With these, dummy." She tapped one of the baubles in her hair. "They're all controlled through a neural interface, just like the Evas. It's a way of training myself to multitask."
"So you're doing all of this" - Shinji eyed the three different drones in motion - "at the same time? With your mind?"
"Yup." She slid the goggles back on and resumed attaching a wire to an exposed circuit board with a soldering iron.
"Awesome." He grinned and sat down on the bed next to the cyclopses. Looking into the boxes, he could see a few more drones, still swaddled in bubble wrap. "Where did you even get all of these from?"
"My mom's company. They've got a deal with the manufacturer."
Shinji raised his eyebrows. "Your mom has a company?"
"Had a company. And yeah, doy." She shot him a disbelieving glance over her shoulder. "She invented the neural interfaces we use on the Evas. The company licenses out her patents to the private sector. Seriously, how do you not know this? It's been months."
"You never told me any of this."
"I didn't?" She paused. "That can't be right. I'm sure I did at some point."
Shinji shook his head. "Nope."
"... eh." She shrugged. "It's been busy. You probably just forgot. There we go, that's more like it." She made a satisfied sound as one of the quadcopter's rotors began to spin up.
Shinji sat back against the wall. "So, uh..." He coughed. "How are you feeling?"
And somehow, that of all things was what set her off. "Okay, that is IT!" She tore off her goggles and swung around in her chair, her eyes flashing. "I've had ENOUGH of this crap!"
"I just -" He caught himself. Don't, Shinji thought. This is probably something she's been meaning to say for a while. She's just been looking for an excuse. Let her get it out of her system.
"I have had it up to HERE -" She held up a hand by her neck. "- with you and Misato tiptoeing around me like - like I'm made out of porcelain or something! Get it through your skulls: I. Am. Fine. I'm in perfect health, mentally and physically. I don't need to be treated like a baby, I don't need this stupid medical leave, and I especially don't need your pity! Not now, not ever! Got it?!"
Well, gee, sorry for trying to help, Shinji thought with a small twinge of resentment. He let it slide, though. "Didn't Ritsuko say the attack literally rewired parts of your brain?" he asked instead.
"Well, obviously, those were parts I don't need." Asuka turned back to her desk. "The point is - I'm fine. I'm not gonna let one stupid incident throw me off.
Now get out of here. I'm busy." She put the goggles back on and went back to soldering.
And straight back into the tough-girl routine. It's like I just can't get a good read on her, Shinji thought as he studied her back. One second, I feel like I've got a sense of her mood. The next, she goes in a completely different direction, and I don't have the slightest clue why. So much for the whole "psychic powers" idea...
On the other hand, though... maybe she can't get a good read on herself right now, either.
He shrugged and got up. "Okay. You know where to find me if you need anything."
"I won't," she snapped.
Shinji trudged towards the door.
"... but... thanks."
She spoke so softly he could barely hear her. He stopped and looked back. She hadn't budged from her work. Her expression hadn't changed. No sign at all that she'd just thanked him - actually said the words - for the first time ever.
He felt the edges of his mouth twitch upwards. He stepped out of the door and closed it behind him.
If this looks familiar to all of you, it's because it's what used to be Chapter 119, under the title "Deleted Scene: no one's the same as they used to be." I rethought this episode's structure a little after I came back to it, resulting in this getting "promoted" from an extra to its own part. (That's also why Chapter 119's been renamed "deleted." Even if it's the same content, I didn't want to screw up the existing reviews, which don't seem to update to reflect the new structure when you move chapters around.) Sorry for getting your hopes up. Did get some stuff done on Part 6 today, though. So... soon, maybe?