fanfic_mausoleum_n_grill: (NGE)
fanfic_mausoleum_n_grill ([personal profile] fanfic_mausoleum_n_grill) wrote2009-10-04 08:03 pm

Evangelion: Redemption (Ch. 10 of 19)

Neon Genesis Evangelion

EVA-R Prime Extension

(c) Alex Voutsis

Writer's Notes:

Credit where credit is due to Gainax, etc etc. Evangelion is someone else's property, etc.

Additional Credits to the creators of EVA-R Illustrated Fan Fiction. Find it at http://www.eva-r.com - it is an absolutely brilliant fan fic and essential reading to understand this story. You should have read EVA-R up to episode 53 PRIME before reading this fan fiction.

The other fan fictions that are a part of this storyline are

Light of the Soul/Contact

Light of the Heart/At Last, a Reason

The Runaway

Stand By Me

Another's Touch

Thanks for Caring

House of Cards

In the Shadows

A Wish for Dreamless Sleep

This fan-fiction is intended to continue the story begun in the above episodes.

Pandora's Box

The events in this story follow on directly from Episode 09, A Wish for Dreamless Sleep.

(The giant looms high above, bound in its place by restraints more cruel than any that would be used to hold a normal Evangelion.

Some would say that this is with good reason - after all, the creature fastened.. no, nailed.. to the cross is far more dangerous than a mere copy of one of her kind. The restraints are no longer so vicious - while the nails remain in her flesh, fixing the giant in place, the great Lance of Longinus has been withdrawn. Since then she has healed, her legs restoring themselves; the precious LCL no longer flows from her wounds.

Not that there is any shortage - the yellow ocean still holds millions of liters of the fluid; enough to last a lifetime, and certainly enough to accomplish the objectives that had been planned.)

Rei: ..

(The First Child stands at the foot of the cross, staring up at the crucifixion. She remembers this place well - it is a place worn into her memories, both waking and sleeping. This time, however, this place is within her dream, like her presence here; she stands on the surface of the LCL sea as if it is solid ground. It is not the beginning of a nightmare - nor is it the end. Those things now occur elsewhere.. in a place well shielded - in a body that is hers, and yet not.

Distant, calm, impartial - Rei watches, taking in the scene with crimson eyes. The yellow ocean gleams under the lights of Terminal Dogma. In the distance, a battleship rests on the water, almost motionless - the only waves ever produced in this sea are caused by the intrusion of Evangelions. Beyond the warship, two figures are visible - perceived only by the dream senses, seen only in the mind's eye, standing together in the golden glow of the LCL.)

Rei: ..

(One is familiar - the smaller of the pair. He stands uneasily, his sneakers suspended a fraction of an inch above the yellow surface, the barest distance between him and the motionless liquid below. He is not really there, not in the true sense - no more real than Rei in this place, no more real than the dream that Rei is now having. Tenkei's eyes turn briefly from his companion towards the girl he has come to call mother, as if he can see her as easily as she sees him.

The second figure is indistinct - but, if anything, even more familiar. Although she can make out no features, Rei is struck by a powerful impression - she knows this figure, this stranger, this.. girl.

Tenkei's mouth moves; over the great distance Rei can hear nothing; she is excluded from the moment. This is not something that she was intended to see.

And yet.. it is familiar.

The boy steps forward, closer to the unresponding figure. He speaks again - no, he shouts, and again no sound is heard. Again, the figure does not respond.

Finally, he reaches out - his hand reaching up towards the stranger's face. The faintest of contacts..

.. Rei feels a wispy touch, light against her cheek..

.. and the stranger flinches back as if it, too, had felt.)

Voice: This is not why you are here.

(Rei turns away from the LCL sea, away from the two distant figures - turning towards the new voice.)

Rei: (quietly) Why then am I here?

Voice: To answer a question.

Rei: ..

Voice: Who are you?

(Rei has heard this question before - once, long ago, in a dream very much like this one. Her son was not a part of that dream that time - although he had been the heart of her final answer. The queries, if they could be called that, had come from the being she once knew as Kaworu Nagisa. This time the source is different - though Rei's response is for the most part identical to the last time she was asked..)

Rei: (litany) I am Rei Ayanami, the designated pilot of Evangelion Unit Zero.

(.. almost as if she has not learned anything since then.)

Voice: That is your name - your designation and your Evangelion.

Rei: ..

Voice: But it limits you.

(This.. is different. This is not as it had occurred in her memories. Rei flounders - confronted by this concept.)

Rei: ..it is the name they call me.

Voice: It limits you. Through this, you are demanded to be a certain being, not what you could be.

Rei: This is true. I am that which exists in the minds of others.

Voice: They form you with their thoughts of you - create you, mold you into a shape. You are the result of this instrumentality of thought and awareness.

Rei: I do the same - through this, I form them as they form me.

Voice: And now he forms you.

Rei: ..

Voice: You have been denied the freedom that others have; you can at last reclaim them.

Rei: I do not feel denied.

Voice: Not even by the child?

Rei: He is my son.

Voice: And so you deny that he could be anything but a son to you, and you nothing more than a mother.

Rei: (stubbornly) He is my son.

Voice: And yet it is a loss of freedom. You sacrifice freedom for self assurance.

Rei: Tenkei is my son.

Voice: And so he is. And he is nothing else?

Rei: What do you want?

(Now, the tables are turned with an unexpected question. Rei's features are touched slightly - her eyes slightly narrow, a tiny shift in the girl's normally unbreakable demeanor. Perhaps driven to anger, or driven by what she can sense - able to perceive more than nearly any other human - Rei has struck back and her challenger is silenced. After a long pause, the voice resumes - returning to its original track.)

Voice: Who are you?

(This time, Rei has an answer.)

Rei: What more could I be?

(And the Voice responds to her directness equally bluntly..)

Voice: You could free him from you.

----------------------------------------------------------

(Rei Ayanami - the First Child. Little could be uncovered about her - it seems that she has always been with NERV. No family, and no history, beyond what the organization held in her operational records.

Asuka Langley Sohryu - the Second Child. Her parents had been E-Project personnel in Germany; significant personnel, from what Seyoko had been able to uncover.

Perhaps that had been the reason for her selection - a veiled threat, a cord to tie around her parents, to guarantee that they remain with NERV for the sake of their daughter. Now, however, it seems less powerful a link; the German branch of NERV, like so many others, has been quietly renovated. Personnel in key positions have been replaced by new faces, all linked in some way to UNSynaps. The newer organization was swallowing the older, with the smiling approval of the Instrumentality Committee and the United Nations. Asuka's parents - so far as they could be called that - would still bear the same ties, but in a different chain of command.

Then there was Shinji Ikari - the Third Child. His connection was through his father, the Commander. That had been obvious; Seyoko hadn't bothered to look any deeper into it.

Touji Suzahara - the Fourth Child. His case was more complicated to consider; perhaps he had been selected because he had been a security risk, having seen the interior of an entry plug during the nearly-catastrophic attack of the 4th Angel. Perhaps he was selected because of his sister; her specialized medical care gave NERV a means to control the boy, to ensure his co-operation.

Kaworu Nagisa - the Fifth Child. There had not been much remaining in his records, most of which had been censored by NERV - but after one look at his photograph, at his pale skin, grey hair and crimson eyes, Seyoko had known she would not find anything about him - no more than she could of Rei. They were both enigmas in their own right.

Lyn Anouilh - the Sixth Child. Seyoko already knew why he had been selected - it was one of the reasons behind her decision to remain in NERV.

This long train of pilots eventually led to Aoi Tamashii, the Seventh Child. A history as blank as Nagisa's, parents as invisible as Ayanami's. She had appeared - and it seemed to be simply that, an appearance - in Tokyo-3 one day. From the files Seyoko was able to pull, Aoi had no travel records, no enrollment, no birth certificate, nothing at all to say that she had even existed beforehand, save for one small report almost lost at the bottom of a primary school cupboard.

Aoi Tamashii.. no visible reason for selection. Seyoko had not been comfortable with this absence of reason; especially not with what the girl and Lyn had been developing.

It had begun innocently enough - a few inquiries in places, trying to dig up some useful information, something to divine just how or why Aoi was 'a special child'. Was she a leash around someone's neck? Was her presence a means to control someone in a position of power? That had seemed to be the strongest possibility, and given the mutual interest of the agent she had met, it had some basis.)

Seyoko: (groaning) ..

(But all her searching has amounted to nothing.

Seyoko has her theories; the leading one is that Aoi is in some way connected to a man named Chiba Kimio, and her presence at NERV is being used to control him. But there is nothing to link the old man to the girl; nothing that NERV would not have removed.

Everything about Aoi had checked out - even down to her once-broken arm. Besides, Kimio had vanished; perhaps Aoi's usefulness had reached its end.

Or maybe - just maybe - Seyoko is slowly going mad. That was, as of half an hour ago, the woman's runner-up theory.)

Seyoko: (standing) ..

(A theory that is quietly gaining support.

Seyoko Okazaki steps away from the table, upon which is a sheaf of x-ray transparencies. Stolen - borrowed or removed, to use a term less criminal - from NERV medical dossiers, the transparencies were the result of Seyoko's most recent, and fruitless, attempt to find a hole in the answers she had been given.

She had stared at these photos for a very long time. They had yet to change in any way - no matter how much she wished it.

The answers have held up so far, under all the scrutiny that the Lieutenant could bring to bear while protecting her job. Going any further might endanger what position she held here; what little protection should could extend over Lyn would vanish with her dismissal. Besides, she found nothing attractive in roughing up a teenaged girl for information which, by all evidence, simply did not exist.)

Seyoko: (sighing) ..

(Seyoko grins wryly, acknowledging that her job may already be a risk; certainly the value of her "protection" is questionable.

She wasn't able to protect Lyn from the activation test held earlier that day. The Sixth Child had been called upon to "test the water" in Evangelion Unit 01.)

Seyoko: (morosely) There must have been a better way..

(Tonight, the boy is staying at Aoi Tamashii's place; again, a direct result of Seyoko's actions. She had failed - again - and now the boy had taken refuge with someone who did appear to care. This was more of a blow than anything that had happened before - for while her actions had always, in her mind, been to protect Lyn.. he had clearly not seen it that way. The only Seyoko Okazaki he had seen recently was a distant, uncaring Seyoko Okazaki - a woman wrapped up in paperwork and research.)

Seyoko: Nothing I can do now.. short of busting in on them.

(Lyn would certainly not take that well.)

Seyoko: Maybe I should.. they're only fifteen and..

(Abruptly, Okazaki remembers the heated words she exchanged with Aoi earlier..)

Seyoko: Then what is it? A reward?

Aoi: (angry) No! It's not a reward! He's not a pet!

Aoi: Why can't you understand? I thought you would at least understand. It's what he wants. It's what I want. Why are you taking this like some kind of plot?

(.. and sighs humorlessly to herself.)

Seyoko: .. maybe it is all part of a plot?

(The prospect of late night comedy, overseas fashion reports and outlandish cooking recipes suddenly seems so much more bearable than the mess that lies scattered on the table. With humorless grunt she decides on her course of action: to take a shower and, for a while, forget.)

----------------------------------------------------------

(The moisture of the previous day has turned the night air warm and humid. Perspiring in the thick wrap of his trenchcoat, the man tries to ignore his discomfort and keep walking - he has a schedule to keep.

Walking steadily on the footpath, he covers the ground between the street lamps in long strides, moving from one pool of light to the next. His destination is ahead - a phone booth on the corner, just opposite a takeaway pizza store. Above, the sky rumbles ominously - the humid night air promising rain.

Yes, the coat was probably a mistake. The man is sure of this now - it would have been wiser to leave it at the safe house, and put on lighter clothes. His right hand rests loosely on the pistol in his coat pocket - no chance to ease off the coat now, not without exposing the pistol to public view. Comfort comes a distant second to caution.

There is a woman at the booth. Her face is turned away as she flips through the telephone directory, a folded piece of paper in her hand. She must have heard his footsteps - she turns and looks at him, tapping the paper against her chin as he approaches. The man - the Agent - nods imperceptibly to himself. This is the place.)

Woman: Do you want to use this? I might be a while.

Agent: (shrugging) I'm not in any hurry.

(In response to this, the woman smiles, teeth flashing in a face of makeup.)

Woman: You sure? I'm just calling the primary school about enrollments.

Agent: (seriously) My son is already enrolled in the third level.

Woman: (carefully) I see.

(In response to this the woman purses her lips thoughtfully, and turns back to the directory.

The Agent waits with practiced patience while the woman slowly flips through the directory, running her fingertip down the page to the number she wants.. Forced against his will to eavesdrop on an inconsequential call to a local primary school, the man listens to details of when children can enroll for the next year's schooling.

It should be noted now how strange it is that a mother might make this call from a public pay phone, at this hour.

Oh well.. patience..

The call ends. The telephone directory shuts with a thump, swallowing up the folded paper.)

Woman: It's all yours.

(He nods his thanks, stepping into the booth and opening the phone directory as the woman heads away. Tucking the receiver between head and shoulder, he retrieves the discarded paper and unfolds it.

It takes him less than a moment to read the orders the woman - a fellow operative - had left behind. Quickly his fingers stab at the keys of the phone, typing in a number at the bottom of the page - he needs little time to decide on his response, as his orders are very direct.

The phone rings.. once, twice, then a click as someone on the other end picks up. The receiving party makes no sound - the number called is a silent number; no ordinary person could have stumbled onto it. This number is only used by operatives in the Tokyo-3 area.)

Agent: I accept.

----------------------------------------------------------

(Softly, a droplet splatters on the sidewalk.

The droplet is soon joined by another - and another, single drops becoming a steady stream, a pattering of rain as the humidity breaks in a late shower. The sky rumbles again, subdued, yet angry - the streets darken, the asphalt blackening and the drains slowly filling as the heavens cry.

These tears of heaven are lost on one - lost in a different form of rainfall, Seyoko Okazaki is enjoying a shower. The rush of water from the faucet drowns out the ominous sky, the warmth of the water and the steam fogging on glass wearing on Seyoko - sleep is a very agreeable option.

Okazaki relaxes in the shower, letting her shoulders droop until she is leaning forward, the crown of her head pressed to the cubicle glass, her face down. Her work has been discarded - pushed aside to be ignored until the Lieutenant can find the energy to care once again. Only so much effort can be expended without some sort of reward, some sort of victory. Seyoko has reached - and passed - that point. The notes and images are forgotten on the table while the woman relaxes, enjoying the shower, uncaring of the time. The water makes curtains of her hair that hang wetly down each temple.

On the tabletop in the living room, past the scattered sheets and files, a digital clock shows the time in red - 10:47 pm. It would seem that the next order of business will be sleep, rather than a return to the fruitless search of the week past. Beyond the clock, sitting quietly in its place, is the apartment's telephone - silent. Next to it lies a small parcel, left there some days before by Lyn Anouilh.

A simple cardboard box, wrapped in shipping paper and sealed with tape. It had been forgotten among the stress and confusion surrounding Unit 01's activation; the parcel has waited on the table, unseen. Until tonight.

Suddenly, the phone rings - loud enough to be heard over the running water, undercut as it is by a rumble from the troubled sky.)

Seyoko: (looking up) ...?

----------------------------------------------------------

(Streetlights are now nothing more than a blurred grey on black, deep in the industrial district of Tokyo-3.

High above, the sky is beginning to clear, faint moonlight beginning to break through the dark clouds scudding above. But the night has not given up its fury - not yet. There is a brief flash as two clouds meet in the sky; an electrical sizzle and a rumble of thunder follows. The deep clash covers the sound of the shot - the low thump of a suppressed pistol.

There comes a second shot - and a third - and the sky expresses its anger once more, the rumble rolling down from the nearby hills to echo through the streets of Tokyo-3. The brief flash serves to illuminate the small courtyard, revealing - for the briefest instants - the victim and, outlined on the rooftop, a shooter.

There is a pained grunt and a heavy thud - a hand slaps onto the wet concrete, fingers twitching. Blood spreads in a pool, eagerly escaping the torn body. The rain quickly dispels the crimson, sluicing it into the drains, mindlessly flushing the life away.

Shakily, the hand inches across the wet ground, the victim's body lashing in a last futile struggle. The hand reaches for a pistol, a dark shape resting a short span away..

Then.. nothing.

The rain patters down on the hand, frozen in death, a claw scratching hopelessly in a last attempt to fight. Water glistens on the surface of a digital watch, bound to the corpse's wrist.

It reads: 1:12 am.)

----------------------------------------------------------

(Across town, the raindrops merge and race down the glass windows of Aoi Tamashii's apartment.

In the single bunk of the home lie two figures - one asleep, one not. They are both children - and have behaved as such this night. After the trials of the previous day, Lyn Anouilh expressed quite steadfastly his desire to do nothing but sleep. Tamashii would not have it any other way.

The boy tosses and turns, his slumber anything but peaceful. Maybe it is the unfamiliar bed that causes his shifting - but that cannot explain the tears. Nor can it explain the strange noises, the weak pleas or the soft cries for help. When he calls out, she is there; holding him tightly, cradling his head against her shoulder, whispering quietly, her voice as soft as the distant sound of the rain.

Now his sleep is peaceful - so peaceful, in fact, that she is reluctant to let him go. Normally she would be the one to be forward - perhaps playfully suggest an embrace, or dart in to steal a kiss from his cheek. This time he is the one asking, and without hesitation or embarrassment, she is there.

Nevertheless, the girl doubts; is she the one who should be there?

Aoi cradles the Sixth Child, letting him sleep against her shoulder, and looks beyond to the patterns of water on the window. She knows - somehow - that she is not the one who should be here. That one, who should be holding the trembling boy when he needs, is elsewhere.

That person is outside, lost in the city.. fallen in the rain..

Because of what she has done.)

Aoi: I'm sorry, Lyn ..

(Her voice is soft, as if wary of waking him. Her hands caress his sleeping features as she speaks, a quiet confession, held in the darkness of the shared apartment.)

Seyoko knows now.

Other people will too. That will make things.. difficult.

It will be hard for her - almost as hard as it will be for you.. by now, she knows why they made me, and what was it was intended for me to do. I had to lead her to it, it was the only way - so NERV would know, and they would break the chain..

I killed your father, Lyn.. I’m sorry.. it's my fault. I don't think he'll survive this. I can't even tell you to your face.. only like this.. I'm sorry - there's so much I’m sorry for.

Even now I still have to use you.. even now I’m still too cowardly..

.. to tell you..

.. to your face..

I couldn't let them go on using your father. I wish I could say that it was because I wanted to help him, but that's... a lie. He made them more dangerous.. this way, they won't be able to use him any more.

They won't be able to use me, either. I've been set free - free now, with you. I'm not going to let them hurt you, Lyn.. NERV, they.. they just don't understand.

She - they - have been denied for so long, encased in their cages, locked away.. but now they are close. She is close to her daughter.. she is close to her son. NERV don't even realise it. When the time comes, they'll try to make you fight, try to make you pilot that thing again..

They will not be denied again. Bound to the tree of life; bound to EVA, she would kill you. It came so close yesterday.. Unit 01 came much too close. I won't let it happen again.

You're safe now - safe with me, like I was safe with you. You gave me someone to hide in, Lyn - someone I could be.. without being what I am. I've been Aoi Tamashii for you, Sixth Child. And it was.. great. That's the most important thing for me.

Damn them to hell. They don't matter.

You'll be safe.. with me.

(Blackness washes in - a darkness more solid than night. It swirls around them briefly as Aoi concentrates, drawing upon a part of herself that has long been unused. It washes in from nowhere, flowing around them like a cloak. Compared to this darkness, the moonlight that trickles in through the window seems blinding.

From one moment to the next, the pair remain - hovering above a circle of absolute darkness...

.. and then, without a sound, they sink out of sight.

The pitch black vanishes - apart from the rumpled sheets of the bed, not a sign remains that the two children had even been there.)

----------------------------------------------------------

(The storm has turned; it now pushes wind and water through the open balcony door. Misato Katsuragi slides it shut, cutting off the flow of damp from the night outside.

The television has been muted; Katsuragi had briefly tried to use its mind-numbing effects to put her to sleep. Many doors in the apartment are open - most significantly, the panels that lead to the rooms of the two absent pilots - Shinji Ikari and Asuka Langley Sohryu.

A few things had been re-arranged in the rooms - a few discarded pieces of clothing folded and put away, a few books stacked back on tables. Not a real effort at cleaning; miracles aside, Misato Katsuragi is still Misato Katsuragi. But she had at least tried to spend time in what is left of the presence of the two children.

Pen Pen is out of the way of the wandering Major; he is hidden in his refrigerated home. Not because he is sleeping - the penguin is very much awake - but because he has learned that coming within arms reach of Misato during the past few days would often result in a tight, rib-compressing hug. Although Pen Pen doesn't mind affection now and then, the bird would rather avoid being squeezed like a tube of toothpaste.

And so it is that neither of the two residents is woken by the sound of the telephone ringing - because neither is asleep. Misato reaches the phone just as the messaging machine kicks in.)

Misato: (picking up) Katsuragi.

Hyuga: (phone) Major. Sorry to have woken you, but something has happened.

Misato: I wasn't sleeping. What is it?

(There is a confused pause from the caller.)

Hyuga: (phone) .. Major, it's two-thirty in the morning.

Misato: (flatly) Hyuga, what is it?

----------------------------------------------------------

(And elsewhere, unfortunate news is being received..)

SEELE 07: There has been an incident.

SEELE 05: The operatives we were relying upon to silence Okazaki have failed to contact us.

SEELE 09: Failed? You told us these men were professionals!

SEELE 05: Undoubtedly only the most.. dire circumstances would have prevented them from confirming success.

SEELE 02: Or failure.

SEELE 12: Then we can only assume the worst.

SEELE 04: We can only assume that Okazaki is still alive.

SEELE 12: And that our operatives have been killed.

SEELE 10: Then the information has, in all likelihood, already reached Ikari's ears.

SEELE 01: Anouilh is sure to follow.

SEELE 08: He will no longer follow us.

SEELE 01: We have no choice. We must use our new allies - now.

(..and consequences have been decided.)

----------------------------------------------------------

(The sun slowly peers over the horizon, breaking through the thinning clouds to lay streaks of light down on the city. Only a little of the early morning sunlight penetrates the windows of the building, but the interior lights do the job of illuminating the scene.)

Officer: We think this is where she was shot.

(Misato takes in the warehouse interior with a long, penetrating gaze.

It is an older structure, built on the outskirts of the city in what had used to be the industrial centre. Now it is out of service, awaiting demolition to make room for more modern, more efficient facilities. All that was left to do was remove the last of the equipment that was still stored in this area.

But last night someone had found a use for this place - setting a trap for one of NERV's officers.

A spiderweb of fractures, centered with a neat hole, pierces through one of the windows - where the shot had undoubtedly come from. On the ground, marked and separated with tape, are a few spatters of blood and a fracture in concrete floor. That is where the rifle round had finally stopped; after passing through Seyoko Okazaki's body.

An attack had been made on an operative of NERV - one that had nearly been successful.

Okazaki is still alive.)

Officer: We found a sniping rifle over in the building opposite. Seven-point-six-two, silenced and scoped. Someone lured her here and fired through the window.

(The officer leads Misato out of the warehouse, through the rear entrance, and begins heading through the alleys formed by the giant buildings.)

Misato: So why wasn't the shot fatal?

Officer: We're not sure. There are signs of an altercation - or perhaps the storm had something to do with it. Visibility perhaps. We're still working it up.

(The sky overhead is still grey from the storm, but not the heavy grey of rain, but the light, thin grey of clouds that have released their showers. The air is still humid, but now carries a faint coolness about it.

They walk, footsteps light on the heavy-duty concrete.)

Officer: (continuing) The bodies.. were found some distance away. The round didn't kill her, but the blood loss was coming close to it by the time we found her.

Misato: The others.. dead?

Officer: One had taken a forty-five to the head. The other had three rounds to the chest, same caliber. They were dead long before we got here.

Misato: Was it her?

Officer: We'll need to have the ballistics reports back from the labs, but we're pretty sure that it was Okazaki. We found in her possession a suppressed forty-five, not her standard issue, with four rounds discharged.

(Their brisk pace has led them to the place - where the last stand had been.

The rain had washed away much of the blood, but the two places where the bodies had been found had been clearly marked by the agents, who even now are still checking the area for anything that might have been missed.

The bodies had been found in front of a utility transport, one of the vast vehicles used for moving Evangelion-sized ordinance around the city. A few soldiers are crouched across from where the huge vehicle is parked, examining the ground for anything that the night's rain had not washed away. One of them, seeing the approaching officers, stands, a clear plastic bag in his hands.

Katsuragi takes it from him wordlessly, and looks at what they had collected: spent bullet cartridges. Misato directs her gaze back to where they had been working - near a steel ladder running up the side of the building - then upwards, scanning the low skyline of warehouses.

Leading up from where the cartridges had been found, the maintenance ladder runs to the rooftops - presumably for cleaning and other maintenance, but Misato quickly realises what it had been used for last night.)

Misato: (points) Up there?

Officer: That's where we found her. She probably waited up there on the roof until they walked into the open. With the rain last night, I doubt they even looked up.

Misato: They walked out into the open.. they wouldn't have seen her until it was all over.

(Misato turns away from the scene, facing the officer again.)

Misato: The weapon she used - how did she get it?

Officer: We're guessing that she took it from one of them - we found a wallet with identification matching one of the men in her jacket. It could have been part of the altercation.

Misato: ...

Officer: (apologetically) Like I said - we're still working the scene.

(But the woman does not chide the Officer for his lack of information - her mind is clearly elsewhere, contemplating the strange story told here.)

Misato: Someone set a trap for her.

Officer: But she came here anyway. (pausing) We found something else on her as well - besides the gun. A disc.

(This tidbit gains the interest of the Major, lost as she had been in her considerations.)

Misato: A disc? What's on it?

Officer: There was an encryption on it that the equipment in the van couldn't break. We sent it in to be analyzed by the MAGI..

(Katsuragi's reaction is instant - she yanks her mobile from her coat pocket, flipping it open and tapping keys as she leaps to the next question.)

Misato: (dialing) What about Okazaki?

Officer: She was taken to the medical ward - until they give us news..

(Misato's next question is interrupted as her call is routed through to the infirmary in the Geo-Front.)

Misato: (to phone) Yes, this is Major Misato Katsuragi. I want information on Lieutenant Seyoko Okazaki, she came in with a gunshot wound?

Voice: (phone) Lieutenant Okazaki has been transferred to the intensive care ward on level six.

Misato: Has she woken up?

(There is a break as the clerk checks on the other end of the line.)

Voice: (phone) No Major.

Misato: ..can you inform me when she does?

(This is another break - longer, more uncertain. The clerk is hesitant when she replies.)

Voice: Yes.. Major, we'll try and let you know if she regains consciousness.

(The slight shift of wording is lost on Misato, who is already concerned with the next question.)

Misato: Transfer me to the data analysis division, okay?

Officer: (interrupting) Major? Do you have any orders?

(The Major turns, taking advantage of the brief security verification to answer.)

Misato: They may not have been working alone. If there's a group of them, they're probably based at a safe house somewhere in the city. Find it.

Officer: Right.

Misato: Post guards in the recovery ward over Okazaki. Check the bodies again. Check their clothes, find out where they bought them. Run their faces through the MAGI's records of the past three months - if they were seen by the internal security grid, I want to know about it, and I want to know where. Find out where they stayed and open the place up, turn it upside down. We need to find out where they were based, who they had contact with.

Officer: (writing) ..

Misato: But be subtle - don't bother with the criminal databases, and don't send their fingerprints or faces to any other agency. Whoever sent these men aren't going to tell us about it; we'd just give the game away.

Officer: You think it was another agency?

Misato: I think that our young Lieutenant -

(Katsuragi is interrupted; her call has been transferred successfully. She returns her attention to her mobile.)

Misato: This is Major Katsuragi, a disc was sent in a few hours ago by security..

(There is a brief muted blurb from the phone as the her request is processed.)

Misato: That's it..

----------------------------------------------------------

(He stares at the readout on the screen before him.)

Doctor: (mutter) This wasn't here a month ago. (raises voice) Okay, we're going to run it again.

(The chamber was not built for this purpose, but it serves. The huge, cavernous chamber, built of reinforced concrete, built to withstand a war, is good enough to fulfil its new purpose - even though its current purpose is nowhere near the war for which it was designed.

Some things remain in use - the enormous transport rail that runs the length of the wall, previously used to shift vast missile bodies out of storage, is now fitted to a single customer - for only one body here needs moving.

By and large, though, the featureless concrete walls and functional devices gather dust. The only exceptions to the rule are the transport rail, the glass viewport ahead, and the recently cleaned patch of slate-gray concrete that forms the far wall of the chamber.

A brief examination reveals the reason for the cleaning. On this wall is painted a vast logo - a diamond symbol, interlaced with key letters, reflective silver on the bland background. Very few would recognise that particular symbol - but many would recognize the smaller, much more familiar logo beneath it, painted in red, white and blue.

Beneath the silver diamond is a small symbol identifying the facility as United States territory.)

Operator: Circuit is open. Do you want me to make a new stimuli package?

(The operator speaks English - this is quite obviously not the Geo-Front. He looks up from his own terminal - also in English - and waits patiently for orders.)

Doctor: No, use an older one.. (frowns) Use test eighty-seven.

Operator: Yes sir.

(As his subordinate types, the other man rubs his face - not out of tiredness, but out of frustration.)

Doctor: (mutter) It just wasn't here..

Operator: Sir? The output is up. We've got the same distortion.

Doctor: The same one? There must be something wrong with the interface.. Run eight-seven again, this time cycle it. Ten seconds, with ten millisecond intervals.

Operator: (returns to keyboard) Yes sir.

Doctor: (thinking) Something wrong in the system?

(The test only takes a short ten seconds to run. Immediately, the data is collected and diagnosed.)

Operator: Input output has been compared.. there are some anomalies.

Doctor: (stepping over) Like what?

Operator: The distortion isn't a stable element.. it shifted to another pattern near the end of the test run.

Doctor: Then run it again.

(Again, the program runs, feeding data into the systems, to flow through the system, reaching up into the body that hangs suspended from the rail. The older man steps towards the observation window, watching for the reaction that he has come to expect.)

Doctor: Well?

Operator: Again - it's not a stable distortion - it keeps.. moving.

Doctor: ..

Operator: Sir? What do we do?

Doctor: Something in the system is causing the deviation.

Operator: Could the interface be causing it directly?

Doctor: No. They don't think.

Operator: But with these results, it could mean that-

Doctor: (interrupting) It's reacting.

Operator: ..

Doctor: If it were a person in there, we would have constant output - regardless of whether we sent a signal or not. And we'd have a higher level of output. What we're seeing here, is..

(The man pauses, trying to find the right words.)

Doctor: You press a button, a light goes on. That isn't thought. And if it was thinking, we wouldn't have (gestures to the screen) this. This is not mental activity. This is stray probe damage.

(The man stops - he shakes his head at himself.)

Doctor: It doesn't matter anyway. We'll have to pull it out and check manually for damage.

Operator: So.. are they going to use the other?

Doctor: Just run it again. Use a twenty-second duration this time.

(The computers again begin their efforts. The doctor looks up, staring through the view port at the creature in its restraints, watching for its reaction. And it happens, just as he expected it to.

The vast form of Evangelion Unit 04 moves ever so slightly in its restraints. An armor-clad hand trembles slightly - a twitch, an impulse reaction, nothing more.

An anomaly - something that they cannot account for.)

----------------------------------------------------------

(The doorbell chimes. A working bell; Rei Ayanami finally found a reason to replace the old, dead batteries.

Tenkei's arrival had shaken the life of the First Child, although "shaken" is not the best word. Although the Ev.N complement officially resides with Maya Ibuki, Chairperson of Project E, Tenkei often spends his nights sleeping in the home of Rei Ayanami.

Ibuki hadn't been able to deny their connection for long; she had never been able to fully accept the cold necessities that her predecessor, Ritsuko Akagi, had cast herself into.)

Maya: (waiting) ...

(Since replacing her mentor as Chairperson, Maya Ibuki has been exposed to many new.. truths. Exposed is the best word. Too many things that she would rather not have to know now reside in her mind, trying to shuffle out the more human needs - compassion and understanding being the two under the most pressure to be forgotten.

It was Maya's grip on those two things that is most responsible for Rei and Tenkei's present situation. They are happy.)

Maya: (waiting) ...

(Perhaps it is too early - looks up at the slowly rising Monday sun, warm yellow against the grey-stained sky.

Ibuki is ready for another day at work - not a normal one, but her workdays have been far from normal these recent days. Long hours and strange shifts have disrupted her normal daily schedule; once she would have brought a novel to work to read on her breaks. Now she has no novel, and no breaks that need filling. Meals are eaten before the keyboard, in the dim yellow light of Room 714.)

Voice: (through door) Yes?

(The voice is Tenkei's.)

Maya: It's me - Maya.

(There is silence from the other side; it seems to take Tenkei a moment to unlock the door.

When it swings open, it is slow and careful; Tenkei steps outside, and quietly closes the door behind him. He turns to face Maya on the front step on the apartment.)

Tenkei: She has not been sleeping well. I don't .. wake her if it not.. needed.

(Maya nods, smiling slightly at the boy's considerate thought. She frowns briefly however.)

Maya: It's a Monday - don't you have school?

Tenkei: (nodding) I will wake her when I have to. It is still early.

Maya: Just don't forget.

Tenkei: ..

Maya: I came to ask how you were doing. I've been keeping strange hours recently..

Tenkei: ..

Maya: How are you doing?

Tenkei: I am.. well. Rei has not been. Nightmares.

(Maya sets her bag down on the footpath and sits down beside Tenkei, bringing them to more or less the same level. After a second, Tenkei sits as well.)

Maya: Has she told you anything about them?

Tenkei: No. But one is about darkness.

Maya: ..?

Tenkei: Some other things. She is afraid in this dream, lonely. She thinks of me.

Maya: If she hasn't told you, then-

(Maya bites off the obvious question and, for just a moment, falls silent. Tenkei tilts his head slightly as he looks at the young woman.)

Maya: How is school?

(A far less serious topic, but Tenkei tackles this one with the same somberness, pausing occasionally to struggle with the language that he has had to pick up so quickly.)

Tenkei: Our teacher does a lot of time explaining things. He is easy to understand, but he keeps talking - after I understand.

Maya: The other children probably have more difficulty understanding these things than you do.

Tenkei: ..

Maya: But you're learning?

Tenkei: (nods) It goes .. easy right now.

Maya: (suddenly) What are your teacher's dreams?

(Her question goes unrewarded.)

Tenkei: (shakes his head) I don't know.

Maya: Do you know mine?

Tenkei: (surprised) No. It wouldn't be .. well.

Maya: But it is with Rei?

Tenkei: Yes.

Maya: Why?

Tenkei: (confused) ..

Maya: Is it because of the synchronization? The entry plug?

(The pale-haired child shakes his head, frowning at Ibuki as if he were the teacher and she were the six-year-old in primary school.)

Tenkei: No..

Maya: ..

Tenkei: She is ... Rei.

----------------------------------------------------------

-(flashback)-Tenkei: She is ... Rei.

(Trying to get anything else from the boy had been a confusing waste of time.

It seemed that Tenkei could see it easily - some truth too basic to convey, or too simple to understand when it is told. It makes Maya slightly.. uncomfortable.

In fact, Ibuki had received the distinct impression that if Tenkei had tried to explain how he knew the sky is blue, the result would have been the same. He looks up and it's just ... blue.)

Maya: (shaking her head) ..

(Another mystery? Not to be considered now, however. Tenkei's words vanish from Maya's mind the moment she reaches Room 714. Her card - a newer version with higher clearance - swishes through the slot and the door slides open, revealing..

The Project-E Chairperson halts in the doorway, staring up into the yellow depths of the tank. The contents are easily visible through the transparent exterior; actually - the lack of contents.)

Maya: When?

Fuyutsuki: Nearly an hour ago.

(Where had drifted what was left of the Third Child, Shinji Ikari, is now 'just' fluid. Whatever physical form he had clung to is gone, the tank where he had been contained is clear.)

Fuyutsuki: The degeneration accelerated.. the effects were indiscriminate on the remaining tissue.

(The other tank is not illuminated, but Asuka's silhouette is still recognizable - in a manner of speaking. Maya looks away quickly, by no stretch of the imagination comfortable with it.)

Maya: How have the MAGI been doing?

Fuyutsuki: They finished the simulation runs you prepared - the results were logged, but I haven't looked at them in depth yet.

Maya: We'll have to compile success and failure rates..

(Her voice becomes distant as she sits at a terminal; already her surprise has faded, replaced by the need to return to work. The screen before her flashes briefly as Ibuki begins to run through the new information.

Keystrokes, tapping in commands, calling up data. A constant rhythm of tapping begins as Maya seems to vanish into her work. Looking through the logged simulations, of how the children can be brought back.)

Maya: Rei hasn't been sleeping well.

(Her words float up from her terminal, above the tapping of keystrokes. Almost an absent remark.)

Fuyutsuki: (looking up) ...

Maya: At least, that's what Tenkei told me.

(Fuyutsuki's eyes return to the screen of his terminal. Maya doesn't expand on the subject, instead focussing on her work as the professor has.

Kouzou Fuyutsuki leads here by example; in the recovery of the children he had worked above and beyond what would be expected of any technician - and the professor's position was, at NERV, customarily more administrative than 'grunt work'. It is more than a little surprising that Fuyutsuki has contributed so much - so openly.

Between himself and Ibuki, the layout of the procedure had been streamlined, simplified; Ritsuko Akagi's notes and files had proven incredibly useful. The old data from the recovery of Shinji Ikari was being re-used, recycled, in anticipation of the next phase... but for the actual procedure..)

Maya: (typing) ..

(It is hardly the same procedure. A different cause - some minor similarities, but on the whole, wildly different. A different effect - painfully similar to the observer, but for the victim, worlds apart. A different solution..? Perhaps. A new simulation flares to life on her terminal screen, and Maya begins to feed in the required data.

As the terminal, linked through the MAGI, begins its processing, Maya takes the opportunity to lean back from the screen. She speaks again, but this time the conversation is all business.)

Maya: I'm running composites of the more successful simulations through the - are you watching, Sir?

(There is a grunt from Fuyutsuki's general direction.)

Maya: These last few days I've been working with the old Unit One data.. We may have been mistaken in attempting a gradual restoration; all the information we have suggests a near-instantaneous manifestation-

Fuyutsuki: (interrupting) I thought you were going to call Yuri down here for duty.

(Maya hesitates - her terminal flashes briefly, signaling that the MAGI have begun another simulation.)

Maya: I thought it wouldn't be necessary. (gestures to her terminal) Here. If we worked the scenario now, with what we have here, the MAGI predict a thirty percent probability of success.

(Despite the quick response, Fuyutsuki's gaze remains upon her - she can feel his unspoken question, that which she avoided answering. Lamely, she repeats herself..)

Maya: I .. don't think it's necessary.

Fuyutsuki: Well..

Maya: (thinking) I don't want someone like Yuri.. to get involved..

Fuyutsuki: You are the head of the division now. The staff is your responsibility to manage as you see fit.

Maya: (thinking) .. like Ritsuko involved me..

Fuyutsuki: I just want to be sure that we are doing everything that we can.

(Maya pauses at her typing. On the screen the simulations continue, feeding the data into the MAGI in Central Dogma. The super-computers check and re-check their data, attempting to anticipate the outcome.

The scenario ends; instantly a table scrolls up on the screen, with a flashing figure at the bottom - a very high chance of defeat.)

Maya: (sighing) I'll .. call her down for the next shift.

(Defeat - in more ways than one.)

----------------------------------------------------------

(They would have to be tracked down.

Misato stops on the footpath, letting her eyes roam around the street. Her gaze rises up across the windows of the buildings opposite her apartment, along the skyline of the city. Tokyo-3 was designed to be a fortress, a haven of humanity in the middle of the battle. But it was not intended to be proof against a human invasion.

There could be a "safe house" out there, among the populace - a place where enemy agents can gather, equip themselves, and plan their movements. Infiltrators, spies, assassins. People who were not inclined to help NERV - people who had already tried to kill one of them.)

Misato: (thinking) But.. who could be against us?

(Who would want NERV to fail in its mission? Too many - far too many, if they were the ones who could step forward and save the day.

Misato lowers her eyes, shaking her head. The sights of the city seem so normal, so calm. Katsuragi feels the urge to just ignore it, to dismiss it as fantasy.

Of course, that doesn’t explain why this has happened.)

Misato: ..

(NERV had said that she did not have clearance.

It seems that the encryption had not stood up long against the MAGI. The contents of the disc had been revealed by the super-computers, and whatever they had been, the Commanders had been quick to hide it. And Misato Katsuragi - Major Misato Katsuragi - had been told that she is not permitted to view the contents.)

Misato: (resumes walking) ...

(The disc. Had Seyoko taken it from one of the men? Had she brought it with her?

Misato's common sense tells her not to trust the single piece of evidence - the magic key that unlocks the treasure chest. But..

The Commanders are hiding it. This makes Misato automatically curious.)

Misato: ..

(She heads into the apartment block through the front door - a familiar route, one she has taken many times before - into the lobby area.

An unpleasant thought occurs to her - someone has to tell Lyn what has happened to his roommate.)

Clerk: Uh.. Katsuragi, isn't it?

Misato: Hmm?

(She pauses in mid step, looking over her shoulder at the man behind the front desk. The young fellow looks a little bleary-eyed - it is still early in the morning. His fingertips tap slightly on a small parcel that sits on the desk top.)

Clerk: This appeared on the front desk with your name on the top - I don't know who dropped it in. I was going to take it up in a few minutes, but since you're coming in..

Misato: Thanks.

(She takes the parcel - a roughly wrapped cardboard box, with masking tape crudely wrapped around it to hold the torn paper together. The box has clearly already been opened, and sealed again with quickly-torn tape.)

Misato: Have you looked in this?

Clerk: No Ma'am. It was like that when I came in this morning.

(There is only a rough note of paper, also taped to the box, with her name and apartment number written on it.

She takes the elevator up to her floor. Misato had decided to head home after speaking to NERV security; home being the less painful of two options, the other being returning to the Geo-Front.

Katsuragi is in no mood for another headbutting session with security over what she is-and-is-not-allowed-to-see-according-to-the-Commanders'-orders. Misato equally wants to avoid Maya; not out of personal dislike - if anything, the younger woman and her honesty is comforting to be around - but because it seems that these days the technical staff only have bad news to give. Misato does not want another reminder of the state of Shinji and Asuka. Her empty apartment is enough of a reminder.

Of course she had been scheduled on duty later that day. She knows that she will seek out Ibuki when she arrives - just in case she had some good news..

That depressing revelation is cut short as the elevator door opens and she makes her way to her apartment.

Fingers rip away an edge of tape and quickly tear off the strip of adhesive. Misato makes short work of the crude tapework, quickly revealing a small cardboard box, now slightly raw from the violence the woman had unintentionally turned on it. Giving it a shake, it rattles slightly - as if something small but tough was contained inside. Even without its sealing tape, the box is stubborn - tongue between teeth, fingers wedged in a seam, the small cardboard thing just doesn't want to open.

Misato Katsuragi frowns, letting herself flop into a seat at the kitchen table - and with a final grunt of effort, tears open the lid of Pandora's Box.)

----------------------------------------------------------

(The dark..

Not the chill of what might be out there, where things might lurk. This is another dark, a warmer, safer dark. A place more.. insidious.

The kind of dark that hovers between sleep and wake - between death and fear of death.

All she has known in her life was this dark.

The dark..

The dark..

The dark..

The dark..

Rei..

The name floats out of dark. Name? Name. Rei is a ... name.)

Rei: My name.

(Yes. A name. Self. Me. I.)

Rei: This is me.

(Rei Ayanami. Another name. Another name, drifting into view, floating before her face. But the name.. Tenkei. A face to match - young, a child? Eyes of gold, pale hair. Something else, a strangeness for one so young, a seriousness. A burden that lies heavy on him. A memory to go with that face - the joy of seeing him smile, of hearing him laugh as a child would.

Tenkei. A young face, younger than hers. Her face?

Rei Ayanami. Eyes of red. The color.. people always notice the eyes first. It keeps people away, keeps their eyes away. But they are always aware of her. Her eyes. Her hair.

Hair - pale, blue. Like the child - not a natural colour. Like her skin - so pale that people had though she was sick. Before they step forward to help they are pushed away - away by the eyes, by the hair. The distance hurts.

How.. did she know? Where are these memories coming from?)

Rei: Tenkei..

(His face, remembered before hers.. who is he? He is important. He must be important.)

Rei: ..

(These memories, coming to her, out of the dark..

Where is here?)

Rei: ..

(Hands reach up - awkward, slow, stiff. Her elbows crack as she moves, her wasted muscles scream with the effort. Too long in the dark, too long in this tiny space. Pain rushes up her arms, but also an incredible feeling - movement. Some measure of freedom.

A wall - smooth under numb fingertips. A slight curve.)

Rei: No..

(No?

Why no? Does she know this place? Does this place have memories for her?

Does this place hold fear for her?

Her hands sink back to her sides, she sighs with relief - the effort was nearly too much.

The thought returns - no? Why no? What is this place? A feeling.. a word to go with the feeling.. horror.

A feeling - of one's heart beating hard. Blood rushing through veins, a need to move, and need to struggle. Panic feeding on the dark.

A feeling - something else. Another. An impression.. something.. someone else.

Again, exploring - more careful now. Fingers crawl along the.. side. Not strong enough to reach again..)

Rei: ..

(She slides a hand onto her stomach - bare, smooth skin, the dip of a navel. A naked body.

To one side, over one hip, reaching up, towards her back, sliding along her spine.)

Rei: ..

(Now up - over her heart, up over the collar bone, a slender neck - a face. Her fingers reach across. A jaw. Lips. A nose. Delicate features. She was thought that way by some. Names, faces. Shinji.

Had he wanted to protect her? Memories, less vital than those of Tenkei. But still there - Shinji. Other names drift in the dark, just out of reach.

Her fingers reach higher. Eyes, still closed. She had never opened them, but it would not have made a difference in this place. Higher - the faint touch of thin eyebrows, fine hairs dancing the currents of the fluid caused by her movements. Across - a delicate ear, a sea shell of flesh. Seashell?

The sea. Another memory. Something seen? Something learned of. To swim. Swim? Like now - immersed in fluid. A fluid, not water. A word for it, a name. LCL. It smells..

Higher. Her hair. It feels strange; it waves in the LCL, like some strange sea life.

Higher still. Tubes, pipes, wires, cables. Thick, coarse, burrowing deep into the -

- surgical wounds in her skull, reaching hungrily -

- into the fragile tissue within, feeding -

- into the pathways of her mind - )

Rei: (screaming) ...

(Hands slap weakly against the walls - flesh screams in pain, muscles long unused, tender skin that has never seen sunlight bruises with the impact.

Sunlight! A memory!

Whose memory? Not mine.)

Rei: (screaming) ...

(A hatch. Another memory, a hatch, a way out. There must be a hatch. Down. No, up. Where?

Where!?

No hatch. Not here. No way out.)

Rei: (screaming) ...

(No. Another way out. A mind - nearby.)

Rei: (screaming) Help!

(A way out! It.. it recognized me! Rei! Help me!)

Rei: (screaming) Help!

(I will not help you.)

Rei: (screaming) No!

(I will not help you!)

Rei: (screaming) I am Rei Ayanami!

(I am Rei Ayanami!)

Rei: (screaming) I am Rei Ayanami!

(I am Rei Ayanami!)

Rei: (screaming) I am Rei Ayanami!

(I AM REI AYANAMI!!!)

I am I.

----------------------------------------------------------

(Light.

More light than she could have thought possible. Light, pouring into eyes that have never seen. Bright light, all around, and red light - red lights, strobing, spinning, dancing..

The sound!! A symphony of sounds, soft and loud, distant and close. The loudest, by far, is her screaming.

It ripples out of her, echoing off the walls of the chamber and blending in with the rest of the cacophony. Then there is the howl of tearing metal as the restraints tear, and the snapping of tracks and cables as they whip away from the reinforcing structure that holds her right arm in place.

Alarms ring out, rising and falling in time with the dance of the lights. From below she can hear cries of terror as tiny beings below flee for their lives. Below that, another sound - air being vented in from above, machinery at work. Softer still is the hum of lights. All this she can hear, all this she can see, like a newly awakened baby, crying and screaming even as its eyes get their first glimpse of the world, their ears hear the sounds of their new life.

Freedom, glorious freedom. Her right arm rips free of the restraints, swinging out from her body. The reinforcing frame, torn clear of the rail, is flung across the room to collide with the far wall, fracturing the glass of the observation chamber. The joy of simple movement. Her left arm joins the right, tearing its restraints from their moorings and hurling the whole twisted mess at her captors.

Sight - the light is no longer so strong, so strange. The dancing lights of alarms become visible; tiny red fittings in the walls, flashing as they whirl in place. The running figures below become clear - people, men and women - white and green uniforms. Last, against the far wall of the chamber, the observation window; a wide, thick window, fractured from the impact of the restraints that are only now smashing into the ground.

The fractured viewport - through which the room beyond is dark. The cracked glass is a mirror and, in her final moments of activation, she sees the face of her prison..)

----------------------------------------------------------

Rei: (gasping) ..!

(The First Child's hands fly out to her sides, clutching the edges of the mattress as if she might fall from it. The ceiling spins as she lurches forwards towards her reflection -

No. She is not there anymore. She is.. at her flat. In bed. Sweat dampens the sheets.

Deep breaths follow as she shuts her eyes, the memory blazing fresh in her mind. Not memory - experience.

The experience of someone else? Herself?)

Rei: (staring)

(Someone. She remembers the feelings, remembers the need. Freedom..

Suddenly Tenkei is there - clutching at her dress, pulling at her, hauling himself on the bed and shouting. His face is struck with a beaming smile; words tumble from his mouth faster than thought.)

Tenkei: (yelling) Inaha qasira! Inaha qasira!

(Rei grabs at him, almost yanking him down into a tight embrace, hugging him to her chest, muffling his shouts. She rocks the boy, rolling slightly on her back, more for herself than for Tenkei's comfort.

He seems to grow quiet, realizing that she does not share his happiness. His small arms hook around her neck, pulling his face up to her shoulder, against her short hair.

Tucking her hands around the child, Rei sits up against the end of her bed, still holding him close.)

Tenkei: ..?

(She takes another breath, resolving not to return to sleep, not to return to dreams.

Besides which, it is Monday morning.)

----------------------------------------------------------

(There had been a note inside the box - another piece of tape held the note to the disc. The message Misato found was very brief.)

My comp 8250 5849 3770

Okazaki

(Another disc. A copy. Seyoko must have made it before leaving, leaving the box at the front desk for Misato, just in case..

.. just in case what happened, happened. She had left the box to be given to Misato - she had left a copy of the disc.

Whatever the password was for, Misato had not needed it. The Major has her own method of breaking encryption.

The microchip, once again installed in the workings of her laptop computer, had been able to decipher the information on the disc - the information that Seyoko Okazaki had felt was important enough to make a copy for. Whatever was important enough to shoot her for.)

Misato: (reading)

(Information, compressed onto files, details on projects and development and personnel. Video files, photographs, sound waves. To Misato, it seems like a line of exhibits in a courtroom - as if someone had arranged them all as evidence to damn a criminal.

Only a single text file, small and unnoticeable, gives the name of whoever sent this to Okazaki.)

Chiba Kimio - SEELE 03

(Misato's eyes flicker down the pages, pouring over the information; many under the heading "Human Enhancement Project". The holy grail of NERV, a long-term goal that Misato had heard of, but never allowed access to.

And looking over the information, she is beginning to see why.)

-and in the end, we determined that not only is it possible, but also is the best course of action. Through Eva the barriers between individuals, and their temporary physical bodies, can be discarded. This creation, the bringing about of a single static immortality from the whole of humanity, became our goal.

The inherit hollowness, the incompleteness of the human being that causes all striving and suffering, would be filled as identities filled and complemented each other. Through Eva and her AT field, we can force our final goal and greatest fantasy upon the world.

Misato: (thinking) This is why they need Eva? They're going to use their AT fields to..

(This strikes a memory. Her thoughts flicker back, to when Shinji and Asuka had been used in AT field experiments..

..they had been able to sense each other. They.. knew things. They had known where the other was, what the other was saying, what the other was thinking.

But in the end, the result had been.. dissolution. They had been destroyed from within, losing all form, all identity, their very tissue dissolving. Physical forms lost, they became...

This memory sets itself sharply beside what she is now reading - the Human Enhancement Project, the goal of merging all..

..and what had happened to Shinji and Asuka..)

Misato: (thinking) They're going to force that on everyone?!

(She skips on further in the documents, halting when she passes onto familiar words.)

The requirements for projecting a global AT field are enormous - but theoretically reachable, with multiple Evangelions projecting identical waveforms, producing a resonance effect. Since the waveforms of individual pilots show enormous differences, human identity cannot be relied upon to produce the necessary fields. Instead, self-cognitive computer systems should be used to project pre-programmed patterns, thus creating stable waveforms for resonance.

The dummy plug system, operating through an organic interface with close anatomical similarity to the neural structure of Eva, is presently the most desirable means to achieve this goal-

Misato: (thinking) This.. thing they've planned.. will use Evas piloted by dummy plugs..

-considerable advantage in using organic interfaces of the same nature as the 17th. Sharing a greater affinity for Eva, the Kaworu bodies have demonstrated to be successful in interfacing even with non-human anatomical structures-

Misato: Oh sh--..

(This brings another memory to the surface; from the last moments of the most recent Angelic attack. Just as Evangelions 01 and 02 were locked in the contact - the contact that had caused so much grief since - a child had appeared. Misato had not recognized him at first for the blood and pain, the injuries that had killed him just seconds later, but she knew. It was what they had called the 17th Angel; what they had once called Kaworu Nagisa.

Like Rei, his records were blank, apart from a cryptic reference to his date of birth. And like Rei, it appears there was more to him than it had first appeared.

Or rather, more of him..)

Misato: Then.. they're already using..

UNSynaps has been expeditious in replacing the role NERV once held; all branches of NERV beyond the borders of Japan have been absorbed, and control of the mass production Evangelion models has been-

Misato: What?

(She skips back briefly, finding something earlier in the file to work with.)

-his disruption of the schedule, through the denial of the 11th and his premature use of the Lance, was the final damnation. Ikari has clearly found another way, one that circumvents our original plans and would enable him greater control of the ultimate end. At first it was clear that this would entail the use of Evangelion Unit 01; the presence of a functioning S2 organ defines it as the only viable alternative in the absence of the Lance.

(She reads, on and on, skipping through some sections, pouring over others.)

But recent events have alerted us to the possibility that Ikari is planning a far more basic escape from our scenario. Does he intend an exodus within the safe confines of Unit 01? Would he reject our Instrumentality in favour of his own isolation with her? Whatever his ends, his means have resulted in the delay of our schedule and the advancement of his own.

To sustain the integrity of our efforts, we prepared a replacement organization to take over the work that Ikari had left unfinished. Jean-Phillip Anouilh, its-

(Further on, now.)

-made this deception necessary. Convincing Anouilh, or the UN, of the importance of what we have planned, and ultimately the greater purpose of Instrumentality, was by no means a sure thing. Rather, they might shy away from the choice and side against us and our purpose. So we placed the blame of Instrumentality on Ikari; presenting him as the perpetrator of this "horror" was far easier. UNSynaps was more than willing to accept him and NERV as the new enemy.

Anouilh, believing himself taking part in a struggle against Ikari's Instrumentality, becomes an instrument of ours by manufacturing the Evangelions required for the ceremony.

This amount of information is a tremendous risk to entrust to him, but necessary regarding the imperative of removing Lilith from Ikari's plan.

Misato: (thinking) Lilith?

(This is a name she is not familiar with - something to look up later, perhaps. Perhaps Ibuki or Fuyutsuki could tell her something..)

As Synthetics Applications, UNSynaps had displayed great promise in this field. The creation and function of the carrier systems has been, from a technical standpoint, a success. But they have as yet failed to complete their objectives. Although a carrier has been able to penetrate Terminal Dogma, none have been able to fuse a core to Lilith. This would prevent Ikari from using her; a substitute identity would already be in place. The efforts of the carriers, in Anouilh's eyes, slow Ikari's horrific plans. For us, it prepares the stage for the final act of our scenario.

Misato: (thinking) Wait.. Terminal Dogma?

Misato (thinking) Then the creature on the cross is..

With Akagi's destruction of the Rei bodies, we believe that the first child has been effectively neutered as a component of Ikari's plan. Any attempt to construct an alternate control interface for the Mass Production series - presumably his intent - is useless without a sufficient number of organic cores.

An exception - the prototype dummy plug system, designated for use in Evangelion Unit 04. Ikari had evidently sought to claim the first of the S2 powered Evas for his own use; he would eventually do so, but not through this device. The prototype plug was lost with the Unit during S2 installation. Upon return, the Unit, S2 engine and plug were recovered and re-assimilated into the schedule, as a possible alternative should Anouilh fail us. Designated Mobile Armored Reconnaissance and Infantry (MARI) type 00.

The new design - and independence of this new group - should compensate for any negative reaction from the UN should we ever need to utilize MARI.

(A brief search through the documents finds no other reference to this group - Misato continues, scanning down the pages.

And she freezes.)

Aoi Tamashii.

Misato: ..

Despite positive conditions, the first attempt to breach NERV was unsuccessful - apparently due to unwillingness on the part of the unit. Rather, she became fixated upon her replacement, the Sixth Child. This connection disturbed us, but we were able to turn it to our advantage - Anouilh accepted the notion that the mole had a secondary purpose in protecting his son.

The discovery that the unit has advanced the capacities of her AT field came at an unfortunate time; her actions possibly undermined Anouilh's stance with us. In addition, she-

(And there the report is cut off.

It continues a few lines down, but clearly something has been deleted.)

-and if events proceed in this manner, termination of the unit may be advised.

Misato: Unit?

Misato: She's a.. unit? An AT field?

(Misato Katsuragi sits back at her chair, closing her laptop. For now, she does not wish to read any more. Before her is the information that Seyoko Okazaki had stepped into a trap for; why they tried to kill her. It is not comforting information.)

Misato: (thinking) The Commanders already know - they must know most of this. But some parts they could not have - Aoi?

(Another thought - why send this to Seyoko? Just to get this to NERV? Why not send it directly to Commander Ikari? This Kimio - whoever sent this, what does he want?

Shadowing it all is the thought of what is yet to come - Instrumentality. Destroying the Angels, the development of the Evangelions, the strife and sickness that has struck Shinji and Asuka; all shrink to insignificance besides.

A global AT field. Multiple Evangelions. Dummy plugs. Kaworu. The new Angels, whatever they really are. And Instrumentality - whatever happened to Shinji and Asuka, whatever they have planned for everyone.

But..

There is something else. Something nagging at Misato's mind. Outside of the enormity of SEELE's plan, something else. Something much smaller, but still a loose end that needs tying.

The note.)

Misato: (looking down)

My comp 8250 5849 3770

Okazaki

(A number. For her computer. A passcode?

It doesn't take much to get access to Seyoko's apartment - flashing her NERV ID at the front desk is enough. Only a few minutes later, she is in the living room of Okazaki's apartment, a floor up from her own, searching.

The woman's laptop - left in plain sight on a table. Very convenient.

Katsuragi starts up the machine, finding herself quickly at the command line. She types in the number - and a disturbingly familiar program begins.

Without bothering to let it finish, the Major thumbs off the computer. A few frantic moments with a penknife is enough to loosen the casing and reveal the workings of the laptop.

Inside, nestled among the circuitry of Seyoko's personal computer, set in its own protective casing, is a microchip.

A microchip absolutely identical to the one Misato has.

Identical to the one Kaji had given her.)

TO BE CONTINUED ...
 


[Chapter 10 - Missing Scenes]
[Chapter 11]