Neon Genesis Evangelion
EVA-R Prime Extension
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
Stand By Me
This fan-fiction is intended to continue the story begun in the above episodes.
Thanks For Caring
(Sunlight breaks through the windows at a shallow angle, touching the room with the warmth of morning. The small world that the light reveals is a sparsely furnished - yet recently cleaned - apartment. That the resident of the flat, Rei Ayanami, is still asleep, is confirmed by a sound that is strangely out of place in the calm morning splendour.)
Rei: (snoring) ..
(Tenkei shifts slightly under his blankets, comfortable in the warmth that radiates from Rei's body. Her snores do not trouble him - after many nights spent at her residence, Tenkei has endured far more disruptive sounds - like the dull metal clanging, the deep rumble of the machinery. Among these sounds, Rei's snoring seems to mesh together into the early morning rumble.)
Rei: (snoring) ..
(The boy's eyelids flick open - yellow irises drift up, focusing on the ceiling, then slowly slide down the pale, scoured grey concrete of the opposite wall, working their towards the source of the snoring.)
Rei: (snoring) ..
(The boy sits up, looking across the bed at Rei. The two children are at opposite ends of her single bed, the blue-haired girl fast asleep, her head pillowed on a bundle of clothing; since she lent her own pillot to Tenkei for the night. The boy watches - and listens to - the phenomena, as if wondering how such a sound could emanate from Rei's delicate features.)
Rei: (snoring) ..
(Tenkei smiles a child's smile as he settles back under the bedsheets. Once he is again comfortable, he closes his eyes and listens.)
Rei: (snoring) ..
Rei: (snoring) ..
Rei: (snoring) ..
Tenkei: (holding back a giggle) Mmmphhhh..!
(The boy's mirth is cut short by the sound of knocking on the flat's door. For the second time he sits up, this time pushing off his blankets and swinging his small legs off the bed. Quickly, Tenkei leans forward, shaking Rei awake, the girl's eyes slowly opening at his insistant shaking of her shoulder.)
Rei: mmm... wha-?
Tenkei: Door. Someone's here.
(The first child rises to her feet and, still dressed in her pyjamas, pads barefoot in the direction of the door. Without any hesitation, she reaches forth, touching the door lightly as she speaks hears the voice of the visitor on the other side.)
Maya: (through door) Rei? It's me - Maya.
(Rei reaches out and slides back the lock - like the uncharacteristic cleanliness of her flat, the new dead-bolt on the door is a recent change to her home.
The door swings aside, revealing a nervous Maya Ibuki. Rei steps to one side, silently allowing the Project-E chairperson to enter the small flat. The short-haired scientist smiles gratefully at Rei, then steps over the threshold, looking from side to side, examining the new appearance of the flat.)
Maya: (surprised) You're keeping this place quite clean, Rei.
Rei: (nodding) It seems.. appropriate.
(Maya takes another step into the flat, still startled, casting her eyes over the freshly scrubbed floor, the clean, pale grey of the walls and the ceiling - the apartment is next to immaculate. While she expresses her astonishment, Rei silently closes the door before returning to the bedside and taking up position beside the smaller child.)
Maya: (with a smile) Good morning, Tenkei.
Tenkei: (sombre politeness) Good morning, Maya.
Maya: You gave security section four a scare when you didn't head home last night..
(Tenkei manages to look slightly embarrased. One of NERV's most prized.. assets, he is, like all Evangelion pilots, the centre of extreme security measures. Several agents maintain a 24 hour watch on his whereabouts, insuring that his surroundings are safe and calling for assistance if the boy's life is threatened in any way - especially in the form of threats that they cannot handle.
But of late, the security teams' assignment has been one of frustration. The boy has an uncanny ability to 'slip' free of his 'tail' - causing several men with previously flawless surveillance records to achieve demotions in the line of duty. Each time the child slips his tether he is inevitably drawn here, to the apartment of Rei Ayanami, and frequently it is Maya's duty to visit the apartment, to tell the teams whether or not they should call off their frantic searching.)
Rei: (quietly) He is safe with me.
(Maya looks up at the girl's quiet statement. On cue, Rei slips an arm around the pale boy, hugging him close. After a moment of watching the pair, Ibuki surrenders with another smile, nodding her agreement.)
Maya: I'm sure he is. But they had to divert some of the security teams to find you, Tenkei. You caused quite a stir - again.
Tenkei: I'm sorry.
Maya: (sighing) It's alright. But next time, call me and tell me where you are - I can take care of it, and save those agents most of their night's sleep.
Maya: (thinking) And save myself being chewed out by an irate Section-6 man twice my size each morning..
Tenkei: Thank you. (looking down) Do I have to go now?
Maya: (absently) No.. it's alright. I explained everything to Security. You can stay as long as you like.
(All three share a brief moment of relief; Tenkei relaxing into Rei's embrace at the good news; Rei relieved that her surrogate son is not drawn from her once more. Maya watches the pair, a slight smile still on her face, and draws a chair in from the kitchen, taking a seat before the bed.
The next news is more.. difficult.)
Maya: (to Rei) I've also been asked to inform you..
Maya: Commander Ikari has ordered an Eva activation. At the moment, they've been scheduled for tomorrow - Sunday.
(Tenkei turns in his surrogate mother's embrace, looking up at her with wide yellow eyes.)
Maya: (hastily) Its alright.. Tenkei.. you won't be needed... the tests are quite routine, and Rei is needed simply to walk around a little.
Rei: (softly) More AT field experiments?
Maya: Yes.. projection. (regretfully) It's the Commander's orders, I'm afraid.. I hate to disturb your weekend.. I know it's the only time you two can get together with school and such..
(There is the briefest of pauses before Tenkei speaks, asking a startling question.)
Tenkei: Can I come?
(Both Maya and Rei fall silent, startled at the boy's unusual request. Ibuki herself nearly lost her job, and her livelihood, when she discovered the true extent of Tenkei's painful reactions to piloting. Since then, the young child has been shy of NERV activities, especially anything involving the giant Evangelions; and so his question comes as a surprise. Maya ponders this silently while Rei glances down at her child, meeting his gaze with her own, curiousity and uncertainty clearly showing in her red eyes.)
Maya: You won't be allowed near the Evangelions, Tenkei.. they are off-limits to you now.
Tenkei: I want.. to watch..
(After a moment, Rei shrugs slightly; barely a lift of the shoulders, anyone who had not spent a great deal of time with the pilots might not have noticed the gesture at all. Maya takes this as a sign of her acceptance of the boy's motives, whatever they may be - and gives in to his wishes.)
Maya: Alright.. you can watch from the Control Room with me.
(Across town, the morning has begun differently for the guardian of another Evangelion pilot. Like Maya Ibuki, Seyoko Okazaki begins her morning with more than a little apprehension.
Seyoko is, for those who do not recall, the now-official NERV guardian of the 6th child. Much like the plainclothes officers assigned to the Ev.N Complement, she has had a nearly sleepless night..
.. for her ward, Lyn Anouilh, never returned home after the catastrophic 'dinner'.
While the news is indeed cause for concern, Seyoko is not yet at the point of panic.. she continues to hold a confidence in the abilities of the teams covering the 6th child - a confidence that Maya cannot hold in those covering the complement. Seyoko, however, is sure that she would be informed were Lyn to come to any harm - and that his 'shadows' would be more than capable of stepping in to protect the boy from any threat - including himself.
But for the redhaired NERV officer, knowing he is 'probably safe' is not quite good enough. This has led to her morning of tension - which now culminates in her pacing the floor, watching the clock like a hawk. It is early morning; too early for her to be calling headquarters, but as she has not yet been given a direct number for contacting the Security teams, it is her only option.
She reaches for the phone, at last, with a curse under her breath. Much to her relief, the NERV Control Room is staffed at this early hour - Shigeru answers the phone in a sleepy tone of voice.)
Seyoko: (thinking) He must have just arrived - he's still half asleep.
(The fact is not all that surprising - train travel in the city is both safe, consistent and amazingly monotonous, and has been known to put many a passenger to sleep.)
Seyoko: Shigeru? Can you patch me through to the security teams?
Shigeru: (phone - weary) Is there a problem, Lieutenant?
Seyoko: Yeah, Lyn - the sixth child.
(At these words, Shigeru suddenly becomes alert.)
Shigeru: (phone) Is it urgent? Should I inform the Commanders?
Seyoko: No, it's not necessary - Lyn just needed some space.. it's a teenage thing.
Shigeru: Uh huh.
Seyoko: (pausing) But I'd like to know where he's got to.. Major Katsuragi hasn't yet given me Security's number, and I was wondering if..
Shigeru: (phone) Alright, Lieutenant.. I'm transferring you to a line to security.
(There is a click and a brief ring - after a moment a new voice intrudes as the call is answered.)
Voice: (phone) Security branch seven.
Seyoko: Yes. This is Lieutenant Seyoko Okazaki. I'm requesting data on the present location of the sixth child, Lyn Anouilh.
Voice: (phone) One moment. We have to verify your identity before we can give you that information, ma'am.
(Seyoko waits as the necessary measures are taken; after a moment she can hear voices speaking softly in the background as remote team is contacted. Eventually, the deep voice of the security officer returns, bringing her requested information.)
Voice: (phone) The sixth child is in the central shopping district, southern complex, in a games arcade on the ground floor. He has not left there since twenty-one hundred hours yesterday evening.
(The young woman closes her eyes.)
Seyoko: (thinking) The whole night..
(After a moment, there is a second click and a buzz as the security officer disconnects. A brief pause then a crackle signals that she has been passed back to Shigeru in the Control Room.)
Shigeru: Ah, Lieutenant.. did Security help you out?
Shigeru: .. hello?
(The only reward for his patience is the steady double-beep from the speaker; the disconnection signal.
Seyoko, far away in her apartment, gently places the phone back on its handset and slumps forward, letting her face fall into her folded arms, hoping for the sleep that the night has denied her.)
(A floor below the troubled Seyoko, life stirs in the Katsuragi apartment. Unlike the First Child, Shinji Ikari and Asuka Langely Sohryu do not recieve an early-morning visit; the individual responsible for their care is less prompt than the efficient Maya Ibuki, and at times seems to display more concern for her early morning beer than ensuring that her charges are on time and ready for their schooling.
Major Misato Katsuragi, NERV's head of operations, awakens in the expected manner.
Fortunately for the children under her care, it is the weekend.)
Misato: (groaning) Gnnnh..
(From a distance, one could be forgiven for mistaking her for a large lump beneath a sheet; the lump moves slightly, enough to afford a peek out at the world and the blindingly bright light of the room.
Or at least, too bright for Misato's liking.)
Misato: (mumbling) ..time is it..?
(Seeing that she has a few more minutes before her alarm-clock rings, the Major settles back into a comfortable tangle of limbs, bedsheets and spare pillows.
It seems to her only a few seconds later that a strident ringing peirces the air - a hand gropes out from the bed and finds the offending clock, silencing the alarm.)
(She struggles out of her slumber, rising to her feet in preparation for the day ahead, the bedsheets slipping off as she slowly rises from her mattress, more out of habit than out of a real need to get up.
After a few moments struggling in the bathroom, a substantially more alert Misato finds her way to the kitchen. At this early hour, the room is empty - the children have not yet risen, since it is the weekend; even Shinji, who is normally up well before Misato, remains in his bed.
And so there are no obsticles for the dark-haired woman who makes a beeline for the fridge, her hands automatically finding a can of lager before the door has swung fully open. Shutting the door again, she pops the seal on the can and raises it to her mouth as she slumps into a seat at the table.)
-(flashback)-Shinji: What's wrong with coffee?
(Misato tips the can back and drains the contents, swallowing the liquid in large, practiced gulps. Cupping one hand, she shakes the last few drops free of the can and sucks them out of her palm.)
(The empty can soon finds itself perched precariously atop two of it's fellows, stacked one atop the other on the bench beside the sink - Misato's own work from some time earlier. She steps back, observing the three-can-high tower of aluminum with a faint sense of satisfaction.
The sound of feet padding down the corridor makes Misato look up - Shinji and Asuka enter the kitchen.
Shinji Ikari, the third child, scratches his head absently.)
Shinji: Yeah okay.
(He turns to the fridge, opening it and leaning forwards, beginning to rummage through its contents. The second child simply continues walking - wordlessly departing of the room - and a few seconds later, Misato hears the panel door of the bathroom slide open, then shut.)
(Shinji carries a small bundle of foodstuffs - eggs, instant meal mixes, and some vegetables - to the stove and begins to cook.)
Misato: (blearily) Good morning..
(In stark contrast to Misato's mood of sleepy awareness, Shinji's voice is bright and full of vigor..)
Shinji: (brightly) 'Morning Misato.
(In the distance, the sound of the shower running can be heard. Misato, meanwhile, feels her stomach call out for attention - probably a result of Shinji's own efforts. She takes her turn at rummaging through the fridge, eventually opting bravely for leftovers from the previous night's dinner. There are leftovers aplenty - after all, she was responsible for the.. meal.)
Misato: A few minutes in the microwave and I'll be set.
(She dumps the leftovers into a bowl - then stops. Looking over at Shinji, Misato frowns, something in the back of her mind nagging at her, insistently tickling her awareness. Ikari's lips are moving soundlessly, almost singing in a low monotone as he works away at the stove, a slight smile on his lips.)
Shinji: (looks over from cooking) Hmm?
Misato: Are you feeling okay?
Shinji: I feel fine.
(Before she can put her meal into the microwave, Misato efforts at breakfast are interrupted by the phone. By virtue of being closer to it than Shinji, the Major happens to be the one to pick it up.)
Misato: (to phone) Katsuragi here.
(Misato smiles suddenly as the caller identifies herself.)
Misato: (to phone) Oh, good morning Hikari!
Misato: (to phone) No, it's not too early. I'm fine, thanks for asking. And you?
Misato: (to phone) What? Asuka's in the shower.
Misato: (to phone) I could ask her.. (listens) yeah.. yeah.. okay.
(Misato covers the reciever with her hand and shouts down the hallway.)
Misato: (yelling) Asuka! Can you hear me?!
Asuka: (distant, muffled) What is it, Misato?
Misato: (yelling) Hikari wants to meet you at the movies in.. (to phone) When? Thanks. (yelling) About forty minutes!
(The sound of running water stops.)
Asuka: (from bathroom) Hikari? Tell her I'll be there! I'll call her back once I get out!
Misato: (yelling) Okay! (to phone) Yeah, she says she'll make it.. she'll give you a call back soon, okay?
Misato: (to phone) Anytime. Seeya!
(The Major hangs up the phone and returns to salvaging last night's dinner to produce her breakfast. By the time Misato has re-heated her meal and added instant curry to taste, Shinji has finished cooking at the stove. Splitting the hot food onto two plates, he sets the meals down on the table.
Asuka emerges from the bathroom, hair still damp, dressed in a casual set of shirt and shorts. She sits at the table, pulling a plate towards her and rotating the meal around until she is happy with the arrangement.)
Asuka: Hikari said forty minutes, right Misato?
Misato: (frowning) Yeah.
(Asuka begins to eat - beside her, Shinji is likewise consuming his breakfast.)
Misato: (cracks open another can) ..
Misato: We'll have to go in again tomorrow. More AT field experiments have been scheduled.
Misato: (shifting her food around) And there's going to be an activation on Monday - for the seventh child.
Shinji: (quietly, eyes lowered) I wonder how Lyn is taking this..
Asuka: (dismissively) Oh, he's fine. You know how boys are. (to Misato) So Misato, which Eva is Aoi going to use? (muttering) Probably my Unit Two, as usual..
(Misato, in the middle of munching on a mouthful of re-heated slush of intant curry and microwaved noodles - her speciality - has to answer awkwardly around the mix.)
Misato: (slightly muffled) I heard that she was going to back up Rei (swallows) that means Unit Zero. Unless the new Eva is going to be involved.
Asuka: (surprised) A new Eva?
Misato: I don't really know anything about it yet - but I'll find out.
(Shinji's expression darkens as he considers the result of the last two 'new eva' ventures..
Evangelion Unit 03, infested by an Angel, killed by his hands..
Evangelion Unit 06, berserker rages followed by a bloody death, harbinger of an Angel's birth..)
Misato: (pausing) About the seventh child.. I don't want Lyn to stand guard during the activation.. and since Aoi will be using Unit Zero.. that means one of you will have to do it.
(Asuka passes Shinji the salt shaker wordlessly.)
Misato: (pausing) Are you two feeling alright?
(The two children look at each other, a little confused. After a cursory inspection, Asuka turns to Misato.)
Asuka: Well, I feel fine. (taking in Shinji's dark expression..) Shinji obviously has something under his skin, as usual (brightly) but I'm fine!
Shinji: (salting food) Why are you asking, Misato?
Misato: (frowning) I'm not sure.. something doesn't feel right..
(The third child turns a sceptical eye on the beer can at Misato's elbow.)
Shinji: How many have you had?
(Even as Shinji and Asuka are making their awakenings, another child is beginning her day.
Although, it would more accurately described as the end of a very long night.)
(She still wears the same dress she was wearing the previous evening - when she told him. The fabric is marred with grass stains around the hem, and a leaf clings precariously to the locks of her hair, a stowaway from a midnight walk through the park - oddly enough, the park itself is situated not very far away from a certain shopping mall, the ground floor of which contains a popular all night games arcade. Aoi Tamashii is curled up on one of the park benches, looking for all the world like a vagabond, her eyes clenched shut as if to sleep..
..Or to block out the reality to which she has had her eyes closed for far too long.
A small sound escapes her as the girl speaks. Her words are soft and indistinct, only half-shaped as she curls herself up tighter on the bench.)
Aoi: (softly) Why did..?
(Her feet are bare - her shoes rest, side by side, beneath the bench, removed in the early hours of the morning when Aoi finally accepted that she was not going to return home.)
Aoi: (miserable) Why can't he see?
(Her mind returns, as always, to the memory of his face.)
-(flashback)-Lyn: (whispering) How could they?
(It seems strange to her now, that she never once doubted his feelings. It had never been a question to her that he would want this - his need, so clear to her, had always been enough justification for her sacrifice. But if she had ever wondered, ever for a second doubted his acceptance of that sacrifice, regardless of the good and worthy reasons she held, she was now certain.)
-(flashback)- Lyn's eyes, wide and staring, as the helpless rage and pain that had filled him a moment before froze at the sight of Aoi's face. His mouth moves soundlessly as he tries to speak..
(At first, Aoi is unaware that the voice is directed at her.)
Voice: Miss? Are you awake?
(Her eyes open slowly, taking in the world around her. Directly before the bench is a two-lane road, bare of traffic in the early hour. Beyond it, the buildings of Tokyo-3 ominously rise into the sky, nearly shadowing the park.
The bench is suddenly uncomfortable; Aoi pulls herself upright with arms weary with stiffness, a result of the hard wooden slats of the seat itself. It is still too early for the sun's rays to strike the park - the city surrounds rise high enough to shelter the greenery effectively, blocking any light until the sun reaches a high angle. Aoi looks about herself, noting for the first time the world, bathed in the grey tones of a false twilight.)
Aoi: I'm sorry sir. Have I done something wrong?
(The man looks down at the girl. He stands off to one side of the bench, neat and tidy in his uniform, his face set in an expression of concern as he looks at the girl whose manner and state of dress are at such a contrast to his own.)
Policeman: How old are you?
(As Aoi looks up at the brown-clothed figure, the few birds that still cling to the little patch of green among the towers of steel and concrete begin their day. The shrill sounds of their calls begins to ring out across the park.)
Policeman: Too young to deserve a trip to the station, then.
Aoi: (looking down) Yeah.
Policeman: You'd better get home, Miss.
Policeman: Otherwise, for your own good I'll have to escort-
Aoi: (interrupting) Don't worry about it. I'm going.
(The girl gets up, stepping into her shoes. Without even offering a smile of thanks, she turns and heads down the pathways that lead away from the park.)
(Far away from the newly-appointed seventh child, far away from the city of Tokyo-3, a gathering has been called to order.
The participants of this meeting are not present - not in the flesh, but instead the faceless obelisks that represent them are projected across vast distances - each rectangular block bears the number of the member present and the inscription 'Sound Only.'
Once again, SEELE holds conference.)
SEELE 01: The latest matter.
(The voice booms out in the darkness, easily heard by the other eleven members of SEELE - the group that sometimes shows a public face, a face known to many as the Instrumentality Commitee. The public would be shocked, no, horrified to learn that the Commitee that guided so many actions and was responsible for so much of humanity's welfare was, in the greater part, hidden in shadow..
.. with an agenda all of its own.)
SEELE 02: We have to assume he no longer requires the.. child.
SEELE 09: At least, not at this time.
(There is a long pause while the SEELE members consider their conclusion.
The subject of this meeting - as is the subject of nearly every meeting - is the agenda, the schedule to which events must follow, in order to fulfil SEELE's greater purpose. The majority of their discussions concern the things which may interrupt their schedule, their grand plan.. and in this case..)
SEELE 01: Ikari will not remain in a defensive posture indefinitely. It is not his way.
(.. the topic of their discussion is one that is well known to them; Gendo Ikari, the Commander of NERV - One of their own, for a time.)
SEELE 02: Quite true. Our wayward colleague has always been an advocate of proactive momentum..
(The SEELE member's voices follow one another quickly as each draws a conclusion in turn..)
SEELE 11: He will push forward.
SEELE 07: We must assume he will gather for a strike.
SEELE 01: Only if he has sufficient strength. Ikari has goals beyond a physical victory, and will not move until he is assured of such.
(Again the darkened chamber grows silent, the pause marking a turning point in the focus of SEELE's attention..)
SEELE 11: On that matter, the Americans.
SEELE 07: It is proceeding as expected. They have recieved the plugs, and will begin their testing.
SEELE 04: And the third of their number has nearly been completed. The new production far excells the capabilities of the original.
SEELE 06: The violence of their nation shall be bent to a new purpose.
SEELE 09: How ironic.
SEELE 06: How appropriate.
SEELE 03: ..
SEELE 12: And yet - a third Evangelion. How long until they turn against us?
SEELE 10: It is inevitable. We cannot trust them.
SEELE 01: They have too much to fear, from too many quarters. They will secure their position first, then look to ridding themselves of their.. benefactors.. later.
SEELE 12: By then, it must be too late for them - the final scenario must have reached completion.
SEELE 08: It was dangerous enough to allow Ikari to still possess Eva. But allowing the Americans to do so as well?
SEELE 04: They had already retrieved Unit Four. We had no choice in this matter.
SEELE 01: Rather do this, than introduce an uncertain element to the scenario.
SEELE 08: And Jean-Phillipe?
SEELE 05: He requests assistance in the completion of the existing Eva series.
SEELE 01: The S2 units?
SEELE 04: Completed, but not yet installed.
SEELE 01: Then let them remain that way.. for now.
SEELE 02: But how long will UNSynaps continue to follow our lead?
SEELE 12: Anouilh was.. disturbed.. by her actions.
SEELE 06: (angrily) She was never to have shown herself in this place!
(The rising note of anger, near panic, is swiftly cut across by the steady tone of SEELE 01.)
SEELE 01: The damage is repairable. What we told him is.. accepted.
SEELE 09: Are we to depend upon his faith?
SEELE 01: It has ensured his loyalty thus far.
SEELE 04: Better to silence UNSynaps now, and be rid of the neccessity of the child.
SEELE 10: She has become more of a burden than an asset.
SEELE 08: The weak link in the chain..
SEELE 03: ..
SEELE 01: True, but as long as we have need of the donkey, we still require the carrot to lead him. Anouilh follows the promise we gave him. As long as he does not question it, the situation is acceptable.
SEELE 06: And we always have the Americans to fall back on.
SEELE 09: But what of the departed member? We maintain the illusion..
SEELE 03: ..
SEELE 09: .. yet if someone were to discover this..
SEELE 01: Our response to such an occurance is detailed in the scenario. The contact is in place. All is prepared.
(With that statemet, the SEELE members disperse, satisfied with the discussions that have taken place. One by one, the monoliths vanish, the higher numbers first, slowly fading one at a time with a hollow booming noise. The numbers dwindle until at last, in the darkness only two remain.
The great black monoliths of SEELE 01 and SEELE 03. SOUND ONLY.
There is barely a flicker of movement - somewhere, in a distant room, Keel Lorenz leans over his desk and presses a button. Far away in an entirely different - yet startlingly similar - holographic chamber, the suite switches itself off, the remotely controlled illusion ordered to disperse by the press of a button..
.. and the third member of the secret organisation disappears from the meeting place.
In the darkness of the holographic chamber belonging to SEELE member 01, Keel Lorenz reaches forth once more and powers down his own projecting suite; a smile of satisfaction is evident on his aged face.)
(Far away from Aoi and the gloom which surrounds her, and the plotting in the darkened SEELE meeting chamber, there is still a little bit of light in the lives of the children of Tokyo-3..
One of those children is actually looking forward to his day. He is also slightly nervous.. a nervousness related to the reason he is presently waiting in the centre of a bustling shopping mall.
Touji Suzahara briefly raises himself up on his toes, straining to see over the heads of the shoppers.)
(Dropping back down, he scratches his head with shaking fingers. He looks down at his white sneakers, which lead up to black trousers, buckled by a dark belt, the ensemble completed with a simple, long sleeved white shirt he had borrowed from his father.)
Touji: Is she..?
(The boy stands in the foyer of a cinema complex, one of several in the Tokyo-3 central district shopping mall. Touji has been waiting for the last twenty minutes for the arrival of a certain girl from his class..)
Touji: ..She hasn't forgotten?
(Shoppers pass by him - some heading for the ticket booths to buy, others leaving the complex, laden with groceries, to begin the search for their cars. Children are very common around the foyer; the arcades are virtually next door to the cinema.)
Touji: Has she?
(A glance of a familiar face, visible for a split second through the shifting mass of shopper, makes Touji step forward hopefully. The tall boy threads his way through the crowd until he is close enough to make out the face.
Unfortunately, he is disappointed.)
Touji: (to himself) Oh, it's Anouilh.
(The sixth child is standing before one of many arcade consoles. He holds a oversized plastic pistol in both hands, levelling it at the targets as they appear on the game's screen. The electronic sounds of gunfire and death are muted among the general background noise of the arcade.
Touji moves to speak, but something stops him; the dark shadows beneath Lyn's eyes, the blank expression on his face..)
(A few younger kids are clustered around Lyn's sides as he plays, waiting for their turn. But the sixth child doesn't budge; when finally the game is over, when his character is finally blasted from the face of the simulated world, he simply reaches into his pocket and pulls out another coin. With moans of disappointment, the children shuffle away, looking for more convenient ways to spend their money.
Lyn continues to fire ceaselessly. Almost academically, Touji notices the expertise of the shots and the repetitive reloading that the boy makes as he methodically mows down the computerized opposition.
Touji steps back, deciding not to intrude on the English boy. Eventually, he heads out of the arcade and takes up his usual post in the foyer - and once more, he waits.
Soon, his worries about the sixth child are replaced by fears about another child - one he knows very well..
Unfortunately, he isn't lucky enough see her until her ambush is nearly complete.)
Hikari: (pouncing) Touji!
Touji: Hikari! Uh.. hi.
(The class representative gives a short grin, her freckled cheeks flushed slightly from running in. Brushing back a lock of brown hair, Hikari checks her watch.)
Hikari: Well, we're in time.
Touji: (grins) Yeah, great. For a while I'd thought you might have forgotten.
Voice: Shut up, Touji. If anyone is thick enough to forget something this important, then it's you.
Touji: What's she doing here?
("She" is Asuka Langely Sohryu. The second child and friend to Hikari Horaki stands off to one side as Touji and the class representative exchange greetings, but as usual, Asuka is more than eager to answer for herself.)
Asuka: She is here to stop you from trying to put the moves on Hikari.
Hikari: (apologetically) It's not actually like that, Touji..
Asuka: It's just like that, Touji. I'm gonna be watching you, and if you try anything clever..
(As Asuka eyes Touji with an angry gaze, the boy fights a brief urge to rise to the arguement. He glances at Hikari, who is standing uneasily, waiting for the two teenagers to ruin the date for her. The expression on her face decides the issue for the tall boy rather quickly.)
Touji: Okay Sohryu, I'm not gonna do anything to set you off. (smiles at Hikari) Let's just get the tickets and enjoy the movie.
(Hikari smiles in response, gladened that Touji at least doesn't want to spoil the movie. Asuka, however, watches Hikari's reaction and comes to a completely different conclusion.)
Asuka: (thinking) He's doing it already!
(The children head for the ticket booths, Touji checking his pockets for his wallet. Darting in, Asuka inserts herself between Hikari and the boy, almost shouldering him away from the class representative; Touji glares.)
Asuka: (loudly) Touji, you said you weren't going to do anything!
Hikari: What? Are you two fighting already? (looks at Touji) Touji, what happened to your face?
(The boy grits his teeth and stares straight ahead, determined to ignore the self-satisfied smirk that Asuka wears.
Then the smirk wavers.)
Asuka: (blinking) ..
(The girl reaches upwards, as if to brush back her hair, but instead presses her palm against her forehead.)
Hikari: Asuka? Are you alright?
Asuka: (nods) Yeah.. I guess I just should have taken some aspirin. (glares at Touji) I should have taken some serious painkillers before coming to see this stooge..
Misato: Hey Shinji!
(The Major's floats through the apartment, searching for the third child.)
Misato: Shinji! You still here?
Shinji: (from kitchen) Yeah.
(His SDAT walkman left on the kitchen table, Shinji kneels at the refrigerator door. Something appears to be bothering the youth - a strange urge which he is trying to drive away with food. The third child now kneels at the door, eyeing the instant meal sachets and beer packs contained within, debating his chances of finding something healthy against the chance he has of withstanding the odd ache in his gut..)
Misato: Shinji, what are you looking for?
Shinji: I'm not really sure. I'm just.. hungry, that's all.
(Faced with depressing-looking instant meal mixes, the boy eventually resigns himself to a defeat. Forced to accept the dull ache in his abdomen, Shinji pulls his head back out of the fridge, stands, and closes the door with a defeated look on his face.)
Misato: You've managed to do nothing for over an hour now, Shinji.. what's gotten into you?
Misato: If you're restless, why not go out?
Shinji: (confused) Huh?
Misato: (gesturing) Go out - get out of the place, explore the city, visit Rei and Tenkei, check out the Geo-Front.. there's got to be million things for you to do. This city isn't boring you know!!
Misato: (thinking) Provided there's a handy source of beer, that is..
Shinji: (thoughtfully) Misato..
Shinji: Are you trying to get me out of the house?
Misato: No, Shinji, it's just -
Shinji: (interrupting) A boyfriend coming over?
Misato: (scowling) Oh, don't even try it, Shinji!
Misato: (thinking) Where the heck did THAT come from?
Shinji: Well, I just thought, since you were being so insistent..
Misato: (shaking her head) Just call your friends, or something.
(At least one of Shinji's friends, however, is unreachable - and beginning to regret it.)
Touji: (thinking) Did she have to sit between us?!
(The expression on Touji Suzahara's face has been darkened by the seating arrangement chosen by Asuka - that is, the red-haired girl planted herself firmly between Hikari and the boy and has refused to budge.)
Touji: (thinking) What does she think I'm gonna do?
(And now, an hour into the movie, it is all Touji can do to even see Hikari. He leans forwards, peering past Asuka to be sure that the class representative is still there.)
Asuka: What are you looking at, Suzahara?
Touji: I was trying to look at Hikari, Sohryu. It's just you've got a big head.
Asuka: I've what?!
(Touji knows he shouldn't, but cannot resist baiting Asuka. He feels that he owes her that much at least.)
Touji: Your head, Sohryu, is big. You know, like a melon. Or a basketball. A fat, orange basketball. With red hair.
(Asuka's low growl draws a smirk from the tall dark boy, permitting him some small measure of repayment for the intrusive behaviour of the second child.)
Asuka: (growling) Suzahara, you are going to-
Hikari: (interrupting) Shhh! I can't hear the movie!
(Instantly cowed by the command of the class representative, Touji and Asuka shut their mouths and glare at each other.
Touji eventually returns his attention to the movie, determined to salvage as much of the date as possible. A glance past Asuka rewards him with a brief image of Hikari, looking up at the cinema screen with wide eyes - Touji smiles to himself and settles back to watch.
Asuka, however, is unable to do the same.)
(The girl shuts her eyes; suddenly the light of the screen seems too bright to look at. The voices of the actors and the sound of the subdued chatter around the cinema fade in her ears, replaced by a low, steady throb.)
(A pounding, steady pulse, a pain that flares up with every heartbeat, begins hammering within Asuka's head. A feeling, a ball of warm agony building in her forhead, makes the girl hunch down in her seat, putting her forehead in her hands.)
Asuka: (under breath) Gnnnnnnn..
(The warmth builds up to a searing heat, the pounding relentlessly pushing on her skull. The world vanishes, leaving just the heat and the pain, pulsating endlessly..)
Hikari: Asuka? Are you alright?
Asuka: (holding head) Rrrrrrrrgh...
Touji: Hey Sohryu, what's the matter?
Asuka: (panting) I've.. got to go... I'm sorry..
Hikari: (concerned) What do you mean?
Asuka: (standing unsteadily) Don't.. worry... I'll be..
(She almost shoves her way out into the aisle, stumbling out of the cinema as fast as the throbbing pain in her head will allow.)
Kensuke: (phone) Hello?
(Shinji Ikari holds the phone at arms length, his eyes tightly clenched against the pulsing throb of the headache.)
Kensuke: (phone) Hello? Is there anyone on this line?
(The boy slowly opens his eyes, his free hand pressed to his temple as the pain slowly receeds..)
Kensuke: (phone - bored) Come on, someone called..
Kensuke: (phone) Aw Jeez..
(There is a click on the line - then the familiar, steady double-beep of a disconnection.)
(After a long moment of anguish, the headache seems to pass. Shinji blinks several times as his vision returns, the agonising throbbing in his head slowly subsiding to an ache.. then, startlingly - nothing.)
Shinji: (slowly) Kensuke?
(Shaking his head slightly, Shinji realises what has happened.. In but a moment, his fingers move over the keypad, pressing the buttons in sequence once more, dialling his friend again.
This time, Kensuke answers in a more wary tone.)
Kensuke: (phone) I'm tracing this call, whoever you are..
Shinji: Sorry about that..
Kensuke: (phone) Hey Shinji, that was you? .. How you doing?
Shinji: I'm okay, Kensuke. Um.. I was wondering if you wanted to arrange something..
Kensuke: (phone) Arrange something? Like what?
Kensuke: (phone) We could go camping - properly, this time.
Shinji: I was wondering if we could go -
(The boy stops, shutting his eyes as, for a moment, the pain returns in a wave that sends his vision swimming.)
Shinji: (struggling) ..go to the movies.
(Abruptly, his vision clears once more..)
Kensuke: (phone) You know, Shinji, that's funny. Touji called me a while ago saying that he was going to the movies.
Shinji: He did? Why didn't he call for us to go together?
Kensuke: (phone) Oh no, it wasn't a guy thing. He was going with Hikari.
Shinji: Hikari? But..
Shinji: But I heard that Hikari was going to the movies with Asuka. Asuka left over an hour ago to meet her at the mall!
Kensuke: (phone) What? Hikari went with Touji.. and Asuka?
Shinji: (slowly) Asuka ... and Touji...
(Between the two friends there is a moment of grim silence.)
Kensuke: (phone) We've got to save him.
(Asuka makes her way out of the theatre with a slight frown on her forehead. The headache has passed; almost as quick in its departure as it was in its arrival. She presses a hand to her forehead as she steps into the bright foyer light, half-expecting the after effects of the remembered pain - yet strangely, there are none.
Digging in her pocket for loose change, she manages to scrounge up the necessary cash to buy a small soda. The second child wanders through the plush, carpetted foyer of the cinema, absently sipping at her drink, stepping around fellow moviegoers as she makes her way to the revolving door and exits the complex.
The mall is bustling with activity - and why not? The most recent Angel attack was merely a strange fog which seemed to do little but confuse most people, and the attack before it, in Old Tokyo, almost seemed to suggest that the Angels have lost interest in Tokyo-3; for whatever alien reason.
The lack of recent angel attacks has brought life back to the city, and the buisness districts have recieved the greatest benifits. Children and shoppers compete equally for space as Asuka finds herself drawn through the crowd, barely noticing the people she bumps into as she walks, drawn in a specific direction as if by a thin cord.
There is no real concious choice in her actions; since leaving the cinema the young Eva pilot has simply walked in silence, her drink almost forgotten in her hand. Minutes and people pass her with equal indifference - she spends a long time wandering the various shops, eyeing the various wares on display. Eventually her wandering brings her back to her starting point, or near it - she reaches a revolving door just opposite the cinema at which the movie is showing. From within, loud, synthesised explosions and fake gunfire reveal the establishment to be the arcade parlour.
Asuka spends a few moments eyeing the children inside; the rich and the.. not-so-rich. Both seem equally eager to spend their money in on distractions - ususally involving violent simulations or shoot-em-ups. At the moment, the parlour holds little appeal; The girl finds herself, oddly enough, seeking solitude instead of the company of others - and certainly not the company of strangers bent on computerized destruction. Instead of entering the parlour, Asuka meanders over to the polished wooden benches just outside and takes a seat quietly beside another child, also seeking to get away from the noise of the games.
Neither is particularly surprised at the other's presence.)
Asuka: Why are you here?
(Beside the redhaired pilot sits a boy; his features as familiar as the posture he slouches in. It is Shinji Ikari, sitting with his head bowed, staring into the soft drink he recently purchased. For once the boy has left his walkman at home; victim of a strange restlessness, he has been drawn to this location in exactly the same manner Asuka was drawn from the cinema, having arrived while the girl travelled from store to store, window-shopping.)
Shinji: (looking at his soda) Waiting for Touji. I called Kensuke from home and he said Touji came here to catch a movie.
Asuka: (sipping) Suzahara's still up in the cinema, him and Hikari. (looks around) So Kensuke's here too?
Shinji: (nods) He's trying to get a game with Lyn - in the arcades. I don't think he's having much luck.
(Asuka nods and tries to fill in the silence by taking another sip from her soda. Shinji has a troubled look on his face; it is clear he has something to say, yet appears to be having trouble getting the words out. The third child fidgets restlessly, rolling the disposable soft-drink cup between the palms of his hands.)
(After a moment of nervous fidgeting and watching Asuka sip from hers, his unusual restlessness finally overcomes his natural urge to remain silent.)
Shinji: I don't think Lyn is feeling very good about.. the new pilot.
Asuka: It's disgusting, isn't it?
Asuka: You've seen them around, haven't you? Some lunchtimes they get together and just sit in a corner and act coy and cute and all that pathetic childish stuff. But they still manage to screw up, somehow.
Asuka: You would think that they'd be happy, but the first chance they get, guess what?
Asuka: It's so immature! And now, they're going to be Eva pilots together!
(In response, the boy pulls himself from his slouch, sitting up with the faintest of smiles on his face - but it is enough to pique the curiosity of his companion.)
Shinji: I was just thinking..
Asuka: (irritably) That's a first!
Shinji: .. maybe you were jealous.
Asuka: Jealous? Of Aoi!?
Shinji: Not like that, but.. jealous of.. what they have.
Asuka: Oh, so you think I want to act like them? All giggles and drool, like a pair of kids playing doctor?
Shinji: I'm not talking about that, Asuka..
Asuka: Or is this your problem? (smiles and nudges Shinji) Got something for Aoi, hey? I'm not surprised. She's such flirt, always toying with Lyn like that..
Asuka: That long, flowing hair, and big blue eyes..
Shinji: At least she's honest.
Shinji: Yeah.. she's honest.
Asuka: Obviously, this idea is so dumb it slipped right under me and went right to you. Well, third child - explain yourself!
(As if struggling under some great weight, the boy slowly slumps in his chair once more, his gaze falling to his feet.)
Shinji: (repeating) She's honest.
Asuka: (feigned stupidity) Uh huh?
Shinji: If she wants to say something -
(Shinji's words cut off there as the boy struggles with himself, closing his eyes. He draws a deep breath, taking another sip from his drink to steady himself, and does his best to speak what has really been on his mind for some time..)
Shinji: At least she says it.. so that.. Lyn can understand it.
(Ikari's sentence comes slowly, not blurted out, but soft, almost uncertain. His voice shakes slightly as he speaks - Asuka easily hears the slight shudder in his voice, his nervous gulp, hastily trying to wet a suddenly dry throat. She realises, with shock, how important this is to him - and how close he is to tears - here, in a public place, in front of her.)
Asuka: (thinking) Is he.. crying?
(For a boy who normally hides himself, who backs away from conflict, Shinji's sudden openness sets the girl back, making her pause to re-evaluate what the boy is really trying to say - it is no longer a casual conversation.)
Asuka: (gently) What do you mean, Shinji?
(The third child keeps his eyes shut for a long moment, finally opens them again - but keeps his gaze on the floor. Shinji takes another, hasty gulp from his soda, struggling to control his voice, and bravely continues.)
Shinji: It means - it means that she never had to say..
Shinji: (pausing) Ich.. leiben.. dich.
(Shinji falls silent, waiting wordlessly for the Asuka's response, his honesty leaving him totally vulnerable. The second child looks away, her gaze lost in the passing crowds, quietly considering her response which - when she at last gives it - is almost typical of her.
She buries the desired response beneath - albeit gentle - teasing.)
Asuka: You didn't pronounce it right.
Shinji: (giving up) You know what I mean!
Shinji: But I can't.. understand it. It doesn't seem real..
(Shinji's eyes stay fixed on the ground between his feet.)
Shinji: Like it's something you'll never really mean.
(And at last, the two pilots finally fall into a prolonged silence - Shinji's gaze characteristically locked on the pavement between his feet while Asuka steadfastly acts ignorant, staring at the passing shoppers as if they interested her. Neither speaks for a long time; the silence stretches out as shoppers come and go, some children rushing into the arcade to enjoy a game, and couples begin to emerge from the theatre, signalling the end of the movie.
As shoppers head in clumps out the automatic doors, a gust of wind to blows into the mall; kicking up the occasional used movie ticket and making a few discarded soda cups roll helter-skelter across the mall tiling, struck by the bright sun through the skylight. The breeze blows Asuka's hair around, and catches the lapels of Shinji's shirt as it passes... it is indeed a familiar feeling for both children.
The casual observer would be confused if he had watched the pair on the bench; neither has spoken or really shifted in position for some time - except for a playful nudge from the girl. In fact, if someone had been watching since the start of the 'conversation', the silence that has fallen over the pair has not changed anything.
Neither child has actually spoken a single word since they sat down.
The third child's head suddenly lifts. With a gasp of astonishment - or perhaps disbelief - escaping his lips he turns a pair of wide blue eyes to regard his companion. The look Asuka returns is steady; she now eyes the boy with a slight smile on her lips, having somehow communicated something of great importance - yet in a way that no-one else could possibly hear.)
Asuka: Was that gooey enough for you?
Asuka: (smiling gently) ..
Shinji: ..Thank you.. Asuka.
(With a soft smile, Asuka takes Shinji's hand in her own, pleased by the so-obvious reaction of Ikari to her simple admission. After a short moment she lets out a giggle, bringing a blush from the second child; as Shinji bows his head, his face flaming. She leans over and nudges him playfully in the ribs with an elbow, and communicating further, which draws a slight chuckle from her companion- her sudden playful mood shifts have recently been a source of equal amounts of frustration and amusement. This time, they cause a grin to spring to life on Ikari's features as he readies his retort.
Yet before he can speak up, Shinji's face disappears from view as 'something' deposits itself between the two children. A well-placed body breaks the gentle contact of their hands and forces the children shuffle to the sides of the bench to avoid being sat on by the intruder.)
Touji: (grunting as he sits down) Sorry, Sohryu, but I had to stop you from making the moves on my buddy here.
Asuka: (staring) ..
Shinji: (staring) ..
Shinji: (stammering) It's - it's not like that!
Touji: 'Never is, Shinji. But the red demon here is full of tricks.
(Shinji covers his face with his hands and groans loudly. The sound is filled with frustration and growing anger - unusual in the quiet third child, but now all too appropriate.
But Shinji's rage is nothing compared to the fireball growing on Touji's other side.)
(Hikari, standing before the trio, can only look on helplessly as a low growl grows..
Asuka: (shouting) Du.. Du SCHIESSEKOPF! Müssen Du so unempfindlich immer sein??!? Ich kann nicht glauben, daß Du solch ein ernstes Gespräch unterbrechen würden! IDIOT!
(Her tirade finished, Asuka stands abruptly. The three children watch as she directs a burning glare at Touji, filled with a wrath of biblical proportions. Then she is off and striding into the crowd, gesticluating in her holy rage.)
Asuka: Ach! Mein Gott..
(Adrift in the wake of Asuka's rage, the three children sit quietly for a second, lost for words.)
Touji: (eventually) Wow.
Shinji: (standing) Asuka, wait!
(Shinji moves without hesitation, almost leaping into the crowds on the trail of the vanished girl. As Shinji's voice fades into the background noise, a few words find their way back to the ears of Hikari and Touji.)
Shinji: (fading) Please wait, Asuka..
(Touji moves to stand up, intent to follow - but Hikari blocks his way, her arms folded, anger plainly written on her features.)
Hikari: (commanding) Sit down, Mr Suzahara!
Touji: Whaaaat? They weren't saying anything! You saw them!
Hikari: (angrily) SIT! STAY!
Touji: What'd I do?
Shinji: (running) Asuka, wait up!
(The girl slows to a walk, now well outside the shopping mall, in the underground carpark complex. Only a dozen metres ahead of her is a rectangle of light - where the dimly lit carpark opens up to the outside world. Breathless from his pursuit, the boy takes a moment to come within hearing of her muttered, angry words - or at least to him they are muttered angry words. To the casual observer the conversation is somehow carried out in complete silence, with nothing but sparse gestures to accent the strange communication which the two pilots now seem to be able to perform almost at will - indeed, without even realising what they are doing.)
Asuka: (quiet, angry) Damn it.
Shinji: (catches up) Asuka?
Asuka: (shouts) Damn it! Damn him!
Shinji: Asuka, I'm sure he didn't-
Asuka: (interrupting) What kind of bastard does something like that?
Shinji: Touji wasn't-
Asuka: How can you stand that jock!?
Shinji: Um.. Asuka? Did you... do anything to him recently? Like..
(Shinji's voice falters as Asuka turns her angry gaze at him. The boy gathers himself and continues.)
Shinji: (slightly nervous) I don't mean to say that you're that kind of person, but Touji wouldn't.. I mean, not without some sort of..
Shinji: (hesitating) You know, unless you had done something like.. like that to him.
(Finally he stops, apology written all over his face. Asuka stares at him - then lowers her eyes and takes a breath.)
Asuka: (quiet) Alright, so I might have done something like that to him. (raising her chin) But it was completely different!
Asuka: Well, it was!
Asuka: To me.
(Asuka remains like that for a moment - her chin up, expression resolute, daring Shinji to say something - anything - that would allow her to turn her vengeance on him. But the third child is either to scared, to tired, or too wise to give Asuka the opportunity.)
Shinji: (sighs) Can we just go home now?
(Asuka watches Shinji's downcast expression for a moment before bursting out in anger.)
Asuka: Can't you get over that kicked puppy expression!?
Shinji: .. Huh?
Asuka: It's so pathetic!
Shinji: I'm sor-
(He cuts his own sentence off abruptly, almost angry with himself.)
(After a moment, Asuka's expression shifts, her irritability shifting into a kind of.. gentleness. She smiles to herself, almost absently, and corrects him in a soft tone..)
Asuka: (quietly) No.. I'm sorry. Don't get over the kicked puppy expression. I was just angry at.. that jerk for interrupting.. a special time..
Asuka. Please.. don't..
(Asuka reaches out, almost grabbing at Shinji's hand in desperation. Her hand slips down until their fingers meet - finally clasping it tightly, not letting the third child back away as he now, instinctively, seeks to do.)
Asuka: (fondly) .. idiot.
(And just like that, they begin the long walk towards home.)
Asuka: Maybe next weekend we can take up Kensuke on that camping offer.
(Shinji appears unsurprised by the suggestion - although there was no way that Asuka could have heard of it.)
Asuka: (muttering) Anything to get away from Touji..
(Far away, a very different conversation is about to take place.
This conversation is being held by the guardian of the Sixth Child - Seyoko Ozakazi What marks this conversation as unusual is that for the first short period of time, it is conducted with no other participants - in fact, Seyoko appears to be arguing with herself.
The source of her argument? On the second shelf of the refridgerator, a squat chocolate cake sits, a few peices already cut out. In her hand, Seyoko carries a small plate, just the right size to catch a slice of the moist, chocolate covered mass.)
Seyoko: I really shouldn't..
(Seyoko frowns, turning over the pro's and cons in her mind.)
Seyoko: But it tastes so good..
(The woman struggles with herself, seeking another way to halt her own devastating argument..)
Seyoko: It'll make me fat.. me.. they'd laugh if they knew I was sitting around eating cake for a living!
Seyoko: (picking up a nearby knife) But they gave me training.. in knives.. if any of them laugh, I'll..
(Before she can make her choice, however, the strident buzz of the apartment's doorbell interrupts her argument with herself.)
Seyoko: (sighing) I guess that settles it.
(She stands, tapping the fridge door shut with her foor and leaving the plate and knife on the sink.
A touch of the keypad by the steel plate makes the door slide open easily. Seyoko's playful expression vanishes as she catches sight of the young girl who waits on the other side, head bowed, gaze locked on her feet.)
Seyoko: (seriously) He's not here.
(The girl stands in the doorway, her posture somehow sinking lower as she hears Seyoko's words.)
Seyoko: I'm sorry..
Seyoko: (sympathetically) Why don't you come inside for a minute?
(Without waiting for a reply, Seyoko turns and heads back towards the kitchen. She has seen that sort of expression on faces before and knows, without being told, that to push will simply make the newest Evangelion pilot turn and leave.
The woman's choice is rewarded - after a short pause, Aoi follows silently Seyoko into the apartment, wordlessly taking a seat in the living room. More out of a need to appear busy than anything else, Seyoko heads for the kitchen once more.)
Seyoko: (calling out) Can I get you something? Water, soda?
Seyoko: (flatly) Vodka?
Aoi: (quietly) No, thank you.
(The Lieutenant fills a glass of water anyway, setting it down on the coffee table in front of the girl. Aoi herself is sitting somewhat uncomfortably, dwarfed by the cushions on the sofa, knees together, hands folded demurely in her lap. Seyoko takes in the girl's expression as she straightens, taking a seat in a similarly padded sofa chair.)
Seyoko: (eventually) Do you want to talk about it?
(Aoi's response is utter silence. The girl appears to have simply nothing to say. Suddenly, Seyoko puts on a smile as she remembers a tasty item which may work to cheer up the despondant figure before her..)
Seyoko: (grinning) Wait, I just remembered.
(She heads back to the kitchen - there is a slight hiss as she pulls the 'fridge door open, then closes it again. A moment later, Seyoko returns, plate in hand. On it, a generously large piece of chocolate is impaled by a fork.)
Seyoko: For you.
Aoi: (repeating herself) No, thank you.
(Her expression unchanging, Seyoko places the dish on the table, trying not to lick her lips as the fork wobbles, then topples to one side, splitting the soft slice in two.)
Seyoko: I insist.
Aoi: (sinking deeper into her chair) Okay.
(The silence begins to grate on both parties. Aoi is slumped listlessly, her posture almost indistinguishble from the soft shapeless cusions of the couch in which she resides. Seyoko is seated on the edge of her own seat, trying desperately to appear patient, struggling to hold back from grabbing the offered piece of cake herself.. or from reaching out and strangling Aoi in an effort to make her speak.
Eventually, Aoi does just that - her tone flat, her words very soft.)
Aoi: Why does he act like that?
Seyoko: (relaxing slightly) Like what?
Aoi: Why does he think I'm doing this? (stronger) It's for him! Can't he realise that?
Seyoko: I don't think he sees it that way.
Aoi: I'm the one who got him into this.. I'm responsible.. can't he understand that? It's my fault!
Aoi: (trailing off) I'm doing it for him..
Seyoko: It still hurts, you know..
Aoi: (disbelief) But why? Why can't he just accept it? Why does he have to do this.. why does he have to be this way?
(She trails off, staring off at a wall. Seyoko waits for the girl to continue, but after a silent moment, realises that the girl will not - in fact, can not. She has spoken her mind and now waits; hoping, desperately seeking an answer..)
Seyoko: I don't think he knows. (pausing) About you being the Sixth chosen..
Aoi: (slowly) He.. doesn't?
Seyoko: You should talk to him - both of you are reasonable people, more or less. It's not as if he's going to hate you if you explain it reasonably..
Seyoko: Can't you trust him to listen? .. to understand?
Seyoko: Or are you afraid..?
Aoi: I don't want to hurt him.
Seyoko: You really love him, don't you?
(The girl looks up sharply, as if amazed at the simple fact that Seyoko may have guessed the depth of her feeling.)
Seyoko: (shrugging) Of course I know. Don't look so surprised..
Aoi: (embarrassed) Well..
Seyoko: It's alright - it's not as if I had any plans for Lyn myself.
(Aoi smiles shyly, as for the first time, the lieutenant has her off balance. The seventh child, lost for words, simply sinks deeper in the upholstery of her chair, but this time her cheeks are slightly pink, a healthy flush of embarrasment. While the problem hasn't been 'fixed', Seyoko feels a slight relief, knowing the girl has at least begun to open up.
A moment of enjoyable silence follows, in which Aoi leans forward, carefully picking up the plate before her. The redhaired woman watches regretfully as the girl downs her first tasty bite..)
Seyoko: Were you worried? What I think of you, I mean..
Aoi: (nodding) A little. I mean, you and he live together.. which is more than I can say..
Seyoko: You shouldn't compare yourself with others like that.. Why were you chosen in the first place?
Aoi: (surprised) What?
Seyoko: As a pilot.
(Seyoko's sudden shift in topic again leaves Aoi at a loss about what to say.)
Aoi: What.. what do you mean?
Seyoko: (sitting forward) Well, from what I've gathered, Rei has always been with the program. Asuka's parents were involved, and so were Shinji's. Even Touji Suzahara's father and grandfather both have backgrounds in the sciences.. and the fifth child was, well, a special case from everything I was told..
Seyoko: It makes me wonder, Aoi, why did they pick you? Has it ever occured to you that you might be special.. worth something to some people around here.. without having to try to be someone you aren't?
Aoi: (stunned) .. I don't.. I don't know.. I was raised in a special way, I guess..
(Seyoko's eyebrows raise at this odd statement and her brow furrows as she thinks it over. Mentally, she files the comment away for later pondering and turns her mind back to the present and the girl to whom she is now trying to reassure.)
Seyoko: Really? What do your parents do?
Seyoko: Your father, for instance.
Aoi: (quietly) I haven't seen him for a long time.
(Seyoko takes a moment to study the girl's expression.)
Seyoko: Is it like that?
Aoi: (eventually) Yeah.. it's like that.
Seyoko: What about your mom?
Aoi: She's gone.
Seyoko: (looking down) I'm sorry.
Aoi: .. why did you ask?
Seyoko: (sighing) Because.. you shouldn't worry about not being good enough..
Seyoko: I've noticed people around me who are brought up.. special.. seem to feel it the most. They worry about not living up to expectations, about failing their elders, or whoever - and that ends up with them trying too hard - or never really trying at all.. both is just lying to yourself..
Aoi: (thoughtfully) to try.. risk failure... you really think so?
(Seyoko simply smiles, looking away, failing to notice the piercing regard that the Seventh child now tosses in her direction..)
Seyoko: (sadly) It sure as heck beats living a lie..
Seyoko: (eventually) Hey, are you going to eat your cake or should I do it for you?
(After a moment, the older woman - if that term is truly applicable - rises, a smile on her face as she turns in the direction of the kitchen. She vanishes momentariy, her voice drifting back loudly through the apartment..)
Seyoko: (distantly) I can't stand it anymore! I'm getting a peice of my own!
(There is a sharp rasping noise, then the joyous yell as in the kitchen, Seyoko falls upon the remainder of the cake with a vengance. Out in the living room, Aoi sits on the couch, a slightly bemused expression on her face, crumbs falling from the plate to scatter on the cushions and her skirt-covered knees. The girl ignores them, still thoughtfully turning over the guardian's words, pondering some truth that has been suddenly, clearly deliniated..)
Aoi: (whispering) Fear... of failure.. is that what has brought this about?
Aoi: (thinking) Is it all simply trying to live a lie?
Seyoko: (distantly) Aoi? Did you say you wanted another peice?
Aoi: (raising her voice) No thanks..
(In the kitchen, the redhaired woman grins wolfishly..)
Seyoko: (chewing) mmm.. Good..!
(The clock chimed twelve times, signalling midnight. Hours have passed since Aoi left the apartment.
Seyoko barely noticed as she sat at the kitchen table, engrossed as she was in her work on the laptop before her. All-nighters were not her speciality; in fact it had been some time since she had been forced to pull long hours such as this - the most recent being by the bedside of an Eva pilot who broken his arm just over a month ago.
But here she was; and it was with a slight frown that she tapped away at her notebook, perusing through the folders and documents that she was still able to access, courtesy of some fast talking with some old friends at the agency. Fast talking indeed - most of the people she was once associated with now shunned her, a side effect of her new employer and the method by which she had departed from her last 'line of work'.
Nobody wanted to know a disavowed operative.
To be disavowed was rare; most D-06 operatives whose real 'profession' was discovered ended up dead. That Seyoko was lucky was undisputed - she herself knew it was only because of her target that she had emerged unscathed, rather than any skill of her own.. and as for exactly how she ended up a disavowed agent, tapping away at a notebook at midnight.. Seyoko reflected bitterly on the events of the past, not speaking until the second hand performed a full rotation.)
Seyoko: (quietly) You were right, Ryouji.. I ask too many questions.
(But when it came to answering questions, she was one of the more.. recitient people. Seyoko grinned briefly when she remembered how easily Kaji had believed taken in by her lie - A-04 was simply a convenient cover. Dispite never having slept with the instructor, Seyoko had indeed gotten what she always hoped for: she had been assigned to an D-06 position, one of a deep cover operative.
Of course, it didn't help her if people knew just what it was that she did - so she had lied. And she had played the part of disgruntled babysitter well.
Her mark had been Jean-Phillipe Anouilh. Back when she had been first assigned, her target was a disapointment - a reasonably religeous man with a strong moral background. As the head of a UN watchdog agency, the relatively new and under-funded organizaiton UNSynaps, his work was typically boring to observe.
The very political powers that UNSynaps watched over were almost as eager to associate with a moral watchdog as they were to donate life savings to charity - UNSynaps was never given any information, and had neither the power nor ability to take the information themselves.
But Okazaki had done her job - to the letter - and had managed to gain the man's trust through careful placement as the guardian of his son. Over the time she watched the father, she slowly grew to know his son, Lyn Anouilh, and of his wife, of her life before the tragic illness that had struck her down. To fill in the time, she told herself, she had become friends with the boy. Wasn't that the truth? Seyoko frowned.
And then, almost overnight, her 'job' became a lot more interesting - not because of the boy or the family tragedy; but for the father. Jean-Phillipe, once a moderately religeous man, was, in the space of a few days, transformed into the image of righteousness - and a small UN watchdog organisation suddenly recieved a massive increase in funding. In a diplomatic turnaround, the very political groups that had shunned the group earlier suddenly began clamouring for its attention. As UNSynaps spread its wings, more and more of the United Nations foundations were drawn into its fold - and Seyoko could not shake the odd feeling that it all somehow had to do with the death of an old friend..
Word had drifted down through the grapevine that one of her former colleagues had been lost. Ryouji Kaji, one of her 'associates' [and the bane of every female at the academy] had 'gone missing'. Since it was usual practice for deep cover operatives like herself to go missing, nearly everyone knew what had really happened when an agent went missing for an extended time. He was dead. Being in a high risk situation herself, Seyoko had barely managed to get any information at all - a whispered word from a like-minded associate in a bar one evening. But it was more than enough.
Lyn, she remembered suddenly, had asked her that night why she was crying.)
Seyoko: (whispering) Lyn..
(The clock chimed once; 1am.)
(The redhaired woman shifted in her seat. Blood flowed back into tensed muscles in response, rewarding her with the strange tingling of pins and needles as she slowly flexed one leg, then the other, stretching out in the wooden chair, yawning widely. The lack of sleep was catching up on her - after all, allnighters were simply not her specialty. Or did she think that before?
The memories came easier now.
First there was the transfer to NERV. As the sixth child's guardian, she simply had to go. There was no reasonable excuse, no way to remain close to Jean-Phillipe. So she had left, grudingly - or at least, what she thought at the time was grudgingly, and with no other recourse, had set her goal to be the best possible guardian of the boy, to stand herself in the highest possible stead with his father when she could return.
Then there was Lyn's second activation - when his Evangelion went berserk - and for the first time, the woman felt pain, real pain for the child to which she was assigned. Since she had resigned herself to being the best guardian for him, she had done what any good person would do when shown to be a complete and utter failure - she had left. Less than 48 hours after the accident, she had returned to France and was making a full report to UNSynaps - specifically, the boy's father. As an employee of the organisation, she was allowed to remain in service, and used the opportunity to catch up on her real profession..
The final memory is of when she was disavowed. When her cover had been 'blown'. When, by almost every rule in the book, she should have been shot as a traitor to her organisation.
It began casually - a conversation with Jean-Phillipe, Lyn's father. Such conversations were a rare occurance for most UNSYNAPS staff, but as the boy's guardian, she was often in contact with both his father and the sixth child's former tutor, a man named Arnold.)
Jean Phillipe: Ms Okazaki, do you read the Bible?
Seyoko: (shaking her head) I'm sorry.. I'm not very religeous.
Jean Phillipe: Ah.. I'm sorry to hear that. Perhaps though, this will ring a bell.. it is one of the ten commandments.. it reads.. "Love thy Neighbour.."
Jean Phillipe: ".. even if their Love for you is merely feigned."
(Seyoko distinctly recalled her shock at the man's simple statement. He had been staring at her at the time; looking her straight in the eye. To her credit, she had been able to meet his gaze, but did not attempt to protest her innocence. After a long moment she had been dismissed, and without being asked, had taken the first flight back to Tokyo-3.
Something in his gaze had spoken to her. She could have, no, should have been executed - or at least arrested for her deception. But instead, she had been allowed to leave - and went to where she felt she had been trusted to go. She returned to the sixth child, this time truly commited to his safety.
Her 'reassignment' came shortly after. Attached at the bottom was a small note, signed in the hand of Jean-Phillipe.)
I have also notified your other employer.
(The clock chimed twice; it was now 2 O'Clock.)
Seyoko: (muttering) Only fools or drunkards are awake this late..
(Unfortunately, Seyoko had done all of her drinking when she recieved her reassignment. She knew exactly why - she had said as much to Aoi just a few hours earlier.)
Seyoko: (sadly) There was no point in living a lie any longer..
(After a long moment, the woman ruefully amends her own observation..)
Seyoko: I guess that makes me the fool.
(The still of the dark night is her only answer; her apartment pitch black, the only illumination coming from the LCD screen of the portable computer on her desk.)
Seyoko: (typing) ..
(Fool she may be - or perhaps some would view her actions this night as determination. A single minded strength of purpose brought to her as she works now, not for herself, not for the intrigue, but for the Sixth Child - the child she now cares for, trusted by his father even when he had known her true purpose. The Sixth Child, who at that very moment was engaged in a life and death struggle with various arcade machine threats. The Sixth Child - or should that be the Seventh? Clued in by a remark of Aoi's, Seyoko now directs her energies towards the investigation of the Marduke Institute and their Evangelion pilot selection criteria.
Cast free of the shroud that hung around her, she works with clear mind and honest heart as the night wears on - yet she is not alone in her search; unconciously following in the footsteps of Ryouji Kaji, her diligent work uncovers annotations and highlighted 'points of interest' as she examines each of the affiliated companies. One after the other, with the help of the notes of the previous investigator, each company is proven to be a fake, its board of directors no more substantial than air - and Seyoko's anger grows at the lie that has been perpetrated before the world - the lie that led to the original selection for the sixth child, and how the manipulations of politics - instead of parents - led to Lyn's appointment. For every peice of information she can recover on the Marduke, another deception is exposed, another bit of reasoning goes unexplained - so far, the woman has found absolutely no justification for Aoi's selection as the sixth child, other than an obscure reference to the recommendation of one Kozou Fuyutuski, the Vice-Commander of NERV who for some unknown reason has associated his name with this enigma.
The three chimes of the clock are lost on Seyoko, so deeply is she buried in her work. The hour comes and goes peacefully as the glowing letters begin to blur before her eyes, and before the fourth hour of the morning arrives, dispite having traced through to a final listing of the Marduke board of directors, the woman's head has rolled forwards onto the keyboard, as she succumbs finally to sleep.
Beside Seyoko's slumbering form, her small portable printer hums once and slowly disgorges out a peice of paper far more valuable than the one that was fed in.
It is not long after that there is, at last, activity in the night. A young boy, finally tiring of relentless simulated killing, departs a 24-hour arcade and begins the long trek home. Several weary secuirty agents openly follow - the hour is too late for concealment to be necessary, the agents no longer have the energy to care about that the sixth child knows.
Lyn reaches his apartment as dawn begins to lighten the sky to a pale yellow. The sun has not yet risen, but the reflection of light off the few clouds on the horizon promise for a clear, crisp morning and hopefully a fine, warm day. The Sixth Child is beyond caring; with dark shadows under his eyes he presses the button and steps into the lift, turning to stab at the appropriate floor switch, impatient to lose himself in the dreamless state of sleep.
The electronic tune of keypresses as he unlocks the front door fails to wake the redhaired woman, who by now is snoring peacefully, her head resting on the pillow of her folded arms. The faint light from the LCD screen reflects in her hair as Lyn trudges wearily past the living room, heading for the hallway and his long-ignored bedroom. He pauses briefly, looking in on the visage of the sleeping woman, an expression somewhere between anger and contempt written on his face.)
Lyn: (flatly) Thanks for caring.
(He couldn't be more wrong.)
(Floors below the young, angry child who is even now slipping into his bed, four eyes look upwards, carefully studying the building as the sun rises slowly over the city of Tokyo-3.
Rei gave her surrogate son, Tenkei, a grateful glance. Dispite the early hour, both had moved with the same, sure purpose and had come to the apartment as the sun rose to watch the morning's events unfold. In time they would be expected to report to NERV; But for now, the security teams let the children have weekend to themselves - and for that, she was grateful
Rei tilted her head back, casting her eyes back up at the building, her expression changing to one none present had ever seen before. If Shinji - or even her 'father' Gendo Ikari - had been present, they would have been terrified. Anyone who had known her would be at best made to pause by the look, and not a few would turn and leave, their expressions matching hers.
Rei Ayanami looked worried.
She knew without being told that one - if not both - of the pilots several floors above would wake with a splitting headache. She had felt - even if she was not present to see - what had happened at the shopping mall the previous day between the second and third child.
The symptoms were more than evident to those who knew where to look.
Rei Ayanami was worried..
.. not for the security teams that had tailed the pair to their unusual stakeout..
.. not for the children above, whose strange contact had passed beyond some intangible threshold yesterday..
.. but because she knew she and Tenkei were not the only ones who saw the symptoms.)
(The child's silence communicates to Rei that he shares an equal concern. Since Maya's visit that morning, the young boy has been recitient - unwilling to really speak of what it was that prompted his desire to 'watch' the activation tests.
Rei knows that is not the whole truth and yet, with her usual acceptance, has not pressed her surrogate son on the issue. She would be told in time, if it was appropriate; she knows all too well that every person, no matter how close to another, must retain some measure of privacy, some measure of individuality.)
Rei: We cannot stay much longer.
(And yet, they do. Standing outside the apartment complex like two pale ghosts, the pair seem unable to leave - as if bound to the tragedy only they know is unfolding; drawn to watch the delicate construction that is sure to collapse like a house of cards upon its builders..)
To Be Continued...