(Silence. Near perfect, broken only by a single sound - a steady, quiet sound.. the squeal of metal - of a swing being pushed.
Rei pushes gently, sending Tenkei up into another arc. He swings back, Rei's hands making gentle contact with the boy's back, and she pushes again.
Sunlight shines gently down, warming Rei's face as she continues the activity.. almost a ceremony. Or more likely, it is a remedy - something to gently work at the walls that inevitably build between two unique people. A simple, mindless thing, the older pushing the younger child on a swing - something any ordinary family, with children of the right age, might be found doing.
Two pairs of shoes, one somewhat larger than the other, lie in a neat row to the right of the swings. Socks can be seen stuffed into them; Rei and Tenkei are barefoot, to enjoy - a strange thing for either of them - the feel of the lush green park grass. A sign in the distance faces away from them, but having passed it many times Rei automatically knows what it says..)
NO SHOES IN PARK
(Rei pushes again, and Tenkei arcs upwards, then back down. The quiet squeal of the links in the chain is heard with each motion.
A few short months before, the two of them would have been incredibly out of place here in this family setting - a boy and a girl, one perhaps six, the other in her teens - both with pale hair and strange eyes..
Now they are out of place no longer. Travelling to this spot almost every day to use the swings has lent them a familiarity with the locals that cannot be mistaken. At first, the few people they met - a jogger, an office worker using his lunch break to get some fresh air, or the children who live nearby and used the park in their spare time - avoided the duet.
Now, there are nods, and sometimes, a spoken greeting. Sometimes even a smile.
The security teams assigned to this particular sector of town have also become accustomed, gratefully, to the children's habits. They now know area by heart from their regular visits and the operatives have modified their positioning to taking advantage of the facilities. At the edge of the park, the shopkeeper of a stall responsible for an under-rated chili dog has found that his business has a small but devoted following of anonymous trenchcoats.
Today the trenchcoats are not out of place - there is no one around to see them. The park is empty, apart from the two children. Even the shopkeeper and his stall is gone.
This does not worry Rei; instead, the realization that her - and Tenkei's - guard has vanished seems, in some way, right.
This is how it is meant to be. This is how the moment is meant to be.)
Rei: (pushing) ..
(A flicker of movement at the edge of the park draws the First Child's attention for a brief moment - Rei's crimson eyes move to follow, but the figure is gone before she can focus upon it.
Yet she remains as unconcerned by the mysterious figure as she is by the disappearance of the security team. She continues pushing Tenkei on the swing, an almost mechanical motion, the boy rising and falling, seemingly oblivious to the presence that Rei had felt. As the girl gives him another push she realises what is truly out of place: Tenkei is not really there.
Like the missing security teams, like the shopkeeper and his hotdog stall, Tenkei is absent. His figure remains seated on the swing - solid to the touch, as Rei pushes his silent form up in another arc. He does not respond. The only sound penetrating the vast, empty park is the squeak of the chains of the swing.
Moments later the empty swing thumps into her thigh, then slackly falls down to the lowest point of its arc.
Rei has ceased pushing. There seemed to be little point; as she watches, arms by her sides, Tenkei fades into transparency before her, slipping into nothingness. As she turns away from the swing, realising at last what this all was - a lure, something to draw her to this place. Even as looks around, the shadows of her legacy - her curse - rise from the ground surrounding the First Child.
On her left, the shadowy figures of Fuyutsuki and Maya, working hard over their consoles - another all-nighter.
On the right, the translucent shape of Misato Katsuragi, seated at a blurry square - a table. She appears to be staring at a piece of paper; then moments later, another, both from a pair of manila folders. Somewhat behind her, the dim form of Seyoko Okazaki can be made out; as Rei does not know the officer well - if she had, the First Child would have noticed an unusual expression - something approaching panic - on her features.
Raising her head, Rei stares out to the front. Two figures stand, and although their faces are shrouded, the First Child knows exactly who they are. They stand apart from each other, clearly not recognizing each other's presence, or anything around them. But Rei can sense the link binding them together, even if neither Shinji nor Asuka can feel it. The link is fading fast now, dissolving, melting away..
Rei looks around her calmly, surveying the figures again - Commander Fuyutsuki and Chairperson Ibuki to her left, the two pilots in front, and to her right, Major Katsuragi and the distant Seyoko Okazaki.
Which leaves only one more place to look.)
Rei: (turning) ..
(Rei hears the wind picking up, but there is no accompanying sensation of breeze - no breath of air. As the figure appears again, barely more than an indistinct form moving between trees, she realizing it is not the wind, but something else - a distant sound, swelling..
The figure flickers faster, solidifying rapidly, darting in and out of Rei's vision too quickly to track. The sound grows louder, a rushing roar of something - rising to a crescendo..
The First Child watches calmly as the figure flashes into view again, and for the briefest tantalizing instant, she can make out its face..)
(Rei rolls slightly in her bed, a pale hand coming to rest on the sheets before her face. Her fingers stretch out slightly, feelings across the bed, searching for a familiar touch - but find nothing.
Her eyes open as she sits up, suddenly aware of the empty space on the bed, where normally Tenkei would be..
But her worries are brief, fading faster than the dream, as she sees the boy standing by the sink. Peels of orange rind curl beside a kitchen knife - the boy is chewing calmly on a freshly-skinned orange.
His yellow eyes, familiar with the girl, pick up her brief concern.)
(There is no point of telling him about the dream; but Rei also feels no inclination to not tell him.
It is not a matter of having secrets. It is a matter of living together.)
Rei: I was dreaming - of the park.
Rei: (looking at clock) It is late. Will you stay?
(Her son's face is lit by a sudden smile.)
Tenkei: (nodding) ..
(It is well past 10:00pm. Rei stands, smoothing out her wrinkled dress, and picks up her mobile phone from where it rests on a side table.)
Rei: (dialing) I will call the Chairperson. She should be told.
(The boy nods again; NERV security prefer to know the 'schedules' of the children, where they would be and when they would be there. The.. unusual relationship that Rei and Tenkei share has often disrupted that schedule - and caused some minor conflicts between the security department and Maya Ibuki, who holds the other share of the responsibility for the Ev.N complement.)
Voice: (phone) The Chairperson of Project-E cannot be contacted at this time.
(Rei seems to accept this - hanging up, she turns to Tenkei.)
Rei: The Chairperson must be busy with Ikari and Sohryu. She will be informed of our whereabouts.
(Night has fallen on Tokyo-3, and the darkness finds a voice, calling out to it's masters. It is not, as one might expect, the security guards who watch over the First Child, calling in to update the lack of movement on the part of the Ev.N. Complement. This caller, instead, has a different superior to report to - one who, presently, holds no interest in the meanderings of the pilots.
On the outskirts of the city, a secure line - a hardwire to an encoded transmitter - bursts into life. Precautions had been made to insure that the transmitter would not be discovered by NERV; the MAGI's systems, installed in Tokyo-3, would all be able to pick up the message if certain measures had not been taken.
Hidden from the eyes and ears of NERV and it's allies, the voice speaks in the darkness, launching a signal out to the ones that would hear; the ones called SEELE.
The voice echoes within the circle of twelve, and they listen to what their agent reports.)
Voice: Upon initial contact, it appear that Kimio might be in danger of exposure, but it quickly became apparent that her real intent was to question him about the Seventh.
(The Seventh Child. Seyoko had been cautious, understanding the possibility that what she had told the agent might filter to his superiors. She would not have believed that her words would reach those so high.)
Voice: Any attempt to divert her at that point was hampered by lack of preparation; this agent believed her interests lay with the man, not the child. Since then the officer appears to have gained no further information. With the planted documents, and the Seventh's own conditioning, this agent believes that the threat will be neutralized without the need for extreme measures.
(Gone - the voice vanishes in the darkness, the recording finished.)
SEELE 08: We are ready to take the necessary steps.
SEELE 02: They may not be necessary yet; this report, if anything, seems to suggest such action is excessive.
SEELE 01: But we cannot judge by just this one man's opinion. There are other factors to consider.
SEELE 02: They have been considered. We still have a chance to recover what may have been lost.
SEELE 12: If Anouilh ever doubted us.
SEELE 08: Our operatives have been hearing Kimio's name being mentioned in the most unusual places. Anouilh may already be beyond mere doubts.
SEELE 04: He cannot raise his hand against us. We have denied him the chance.
SEELE 11: Not without Ikari's help. The tools we let him built, in the hands of our former colleague..
SEELE 01: (seriously) We teeter on the cliff edge.
SEELE 02: A token to UNSynaps, something to reassure him, would sway Anouilh back to us.
SEELE 01: But meanwhile we have a matter to be taken care of. This operative.
SEELE 08: She represents a weak link in the chain.
SEELE 09: If this operative were to get word to Anouilh..
SEELE 05: He was her former employer - this presents an unacceptable scenario.
SEELE 02: Then she will be dealt with.
SEELE 01: (finality) Curiosity .. killed the cat.
Fuyutsuki: The recovery has been authorized.
(Maya listens as the glow from her terminal lights her face. Fuyutsuki speaks quietly as he leans over her shoulder, his gaze on the computer readouts, careful not to attract the attention of the rooms other occupants.)
Fuyutsuki: This will, of course, mean more people will have to be in on the "secret".. I'm trusting you to choose personnel carefully - only the people we can trust to remain quiet.
(The "other occupants" include Seyoko Okazaki and Aoi Tamashii, both being present to observe the synchronization test; a test with only two participants. Rei Ayanami and Lyn Anouilh are undergoing a recording of their personal data patterns, to allow for "fine tuning" of synchronization.
Over two hours has passed since Lyn and Rei entered the plugs - Hyuga, also present, runs the test through it's lengthy process as Maya overlooks the results.)
Maya: Most will be from the operation on the Test-Type.. they'll be the best prepared.
(On the screen before Ibuki and Fuyutsuki, a pair of patterns flash by - the waveform imprints of Rei and Lyn, as the Magi prepare to update their records. Although the two officers appear to be watching the flickering images intently, there is little they can do; the test is almost entirely dependant on the pilot's abilities.)
Maya: I won't need to call them in immediately.. most of the work that's being done is theory. I'm unwilling to tamper with anything until I'm absolutely sure that it will work.
(The larger viewscreen, at the front of the room, shows the faces of the pilots. Both appear calm, eyes closed, mouths set in lines of concentration. There is no sign in their expressions that they are preparing for what may become a fight between them..
..for if Unit 01 malfunctions, then Unit 00 will be required to take action.)
Fuyutsuki: Have you been able to work out anything so far?
Maya: Trying to force their old patterns onto their present states might be our best bet - but I don't want to risk using their Evas as the template.
Maya: (continues) The Units may also be "scarred" from the contact.. further synchronization could accelerate the degeneration.. or spread it to the Evas.
Fuyutsuki: (exhaling) Well, that's something we'll have to keep an eye on - the Evas still share the pilot's patterns..
Maya: I know. The Units are being observed for any deterioration.
(A flashing message on the screen alert Maya - a cycle has been recorded. Quickly she sets to filing the RAM sample within the Magi systems, nodding slightly to Fuyutsuki as he leaves. By the time the door has closed behind the Vice-Commander, Maya's work is done.)
Maya: Rei, Lyn - that's enough for today. You've done well.
(His clothes feel strange, now that he is free of the plugsuit, the last of the LCL scrubbed from his hair. Lyn Anouilh stands before his open locker, finishing on the last button of his shirt. There are only two male pilots - one now, with Shinji wherever he was - but an entire room had been set aside, probably in a time when NERV's plans had been far grander. Numbers are stenciled on the lockers in use - and on the ones that had once been.)
3 4 5 6
(Touji had never used his, but his number had been screwed into the face of a locker, and had not since been removed.
The Fifth Child - Kaworu Nagisa - traitor to his own, Angel in disguise. His, too, had not been removed - the reports listed the boy as KIA - "Killed In Action".)
Lyn: (thinking) Why do they leave these here? Nobody comes down here except pilots anyway.. or maybe a cleaner..
Lyn: (thinking) Is it to remind us? To make us more careful?
(The boy purses his lips as his mind meanders down an unpleasant path..)
Lyn: (thinking) To make us more afraid?
(Lyn deliberately pushed his thoughts away from that, away from the other pilots, away from what he would soon have to do. The synch test was over, and he could go home - that was enough, and for now, the most he could hope for. All that was left was to leave NERV-central, leave it behind for at least one more night.
Free again, certainly - but the activation would eventually come. He would pilot Unit 01, the beast would awaken, and he would be killed-
Lyn drops his head into his hands and shuts his eyes as it all pours back. He would be put within Unit 01, it would reject him, nothing would stop it, no one would let him back out. No one would listen to the fearful prattle of a child. Himself least of all..)
Lyn: I'm no..
(... no matter how much as he might want to.)
Lyn: (thinking) Take some deep breaths, shut your eyes and think of something else.
Finally the wave of fear recedes - it has not been the first this afternoon. For some reason the Chairperson had complemented the boy on his synchronization ratio; this baffled Lyn, as he had heard that mental state played a large part in piloting ability. How his anxiety had not shown up in the graphs was anyone's guess.)
Lyn: (thinking) I'm being a fool. Asuka piloted the damn thing, and so can I. The computers know that.
(But something feels wrong with that thought. Something very, very wrong.
The last of the shivering panic dies, the fear fading, leaving only words. Dangerous words, but just that - words. To reassure himself, Lyn speaks aloud.)
Lyn: I'm going to pilot Unit One.
(Thankfully, they seem to have lost their power - just words, once again, at least until the next time. The awful reality associated with the statement can be forgotten.)
Lyn: (thinking) I'm being foolish. That's all. Just foolish.
(It is time to go home. Away from NERV, and away from this - somewhere he can relax. The door to the locker room slides open with a keypress.)
(The First Child stands in the doorway opposite the entrance to the locker room. Her eyes briefly flicker over him, taking in his stance and the slightly clenched fists at his sides.)
Lyn: (thinking) This is the girl who will probably kill me. She'll kill me when it goes crazy..
(For a moment he thinks the attack, the surge of fear, may rise once more.. But no - not now.
Ayanami steps out into the corridor - Lyn hurriedly falls in stride with her as they head for the elevator. The thought runs through his mind again, the thought that Rei would have to kill him. It does not seem as disturbing a thought - less melodramatic, less certain.
It seems more likely that Unit 01 will kill him before the First is forced to.
Lyn quickly blocks out the thought by voicing another.)
Lyn: Ayanami? Have you... seen Shinji?
(She turns her head to look at him, closer this time. Lyn sees - or maybe imagines - that she narrows her eyes slightly. Yes.. No - maybe he did imagine it.)
(This answer surprises the Sixth Child; given that not even Seyoko was able - or perhaps willing - to answer his question, the straightforwardness of the first child is suddenly.. disturbing.)
Lyn: Then.. would I be able to see him? And Asuka?
Rei: Perhaps. If she lets you.
Lyn: She? You mean Major Katsuragi?
(Rei says nothing, neither confirming or denying Lyn's logical conclusion. The boy himself does not press the issue further - he has enough to worry about already without trying to clarify the cryptic answers of the First Child.)
Misato: (reading) ..
(Maya Ibuki can help; she can turn her scientific knowledge into something useful.)
Misato: (reading) ..
(Commander Fuyutsuki, even, has a professor's degree.
Misato Katsuragi, on the other hand, can do nothing but feel useless.
The feeling returns when she is at NERV, doing her shifts, constantly aware that Maya is always absent from her old place in the Central Dogma control room. The young woman is at work in the deeper laboratories of the Geo-Front, at work on the solution for the children's shared condition.
The feeling is strongest when Misato arrives at home - at the empty apartment.)
Misato: (reading) ..
(It seems all she can do is read - follow reports, skimming through research, keeping herself busy.
Now, two documents hold her attention. One is the production and operational history of Evangelion Unit 01 - the other is a twin report, detailing Unit 02.
Entire sections have been blanked out, hidden from the eyes of those who do not "need to know". Even the UN, the authority that NERV is answerable to, is unknowing of much of the workings of the Evas.
And so the histories are incomplete - any references to the AT fields have been censored, for example. Other sections - potential embarrassments, EVA-01's berserker rages, EVA-02's brief possession by the 17th Angel.. all missing.
Not willing to reveal weakness and instability, NERV instead paints a picture of solid success.
Leaving the most important events - the events that have defined what Misato knows about NERV - hidden. The apocrypha of Central Dogma, hidden from those who might judge NERV because of it.)
Misato: (thinking) I might be able to get more complete records from Maya..
Misato: (thinking) There isn't much left for them to hide from me.
(Her thoughts are interrupted by the buzz of the doorbell. Misato rises to answer.
She had not been expecting these visitors, but with a sinking heart, Misato realises that she should have.)
Hikari: Miss Katsuragi?
(Hikari Horaki, Touji Suzahara and Kensuke Aida are all present, clustered outside the door.)
Hikari: Can we come in?
(Misato nods, hiding the churning in her stomach behind an attempt at a happy smile.
The teenagers file in - Kensuke, the first through the door, looks about.)
Kensuke: Is Shinji in?
Hikari: That's why we're here.. they haven't been turning up for school-
Touji: (interrupts) And the teachers ain't telling us anything.
(She should have prepared for this earlier.
Misato takes a breath, her mind blurring through possible answers - any number of the explanations that she was sure had been prepared by Fuyutsuki, and probably already in use around NERV. But instead, she decides on the most simple answer - the only one she finds herself able to give them. The only answer that is not a lie.
Because she, Misato Katsuragi, will not let herself fall to that level.)
Misato: I can't tell you.
Misato: It's NERV business. I'm sorry.
Misato: (interrupting - gently) I barely got the clearance to find out myself. It's for your own good that you don't know.
(The words are thick in her mouth - pathetic, empty, unsatisfying. Sickening. Shock and disappointment is written across the children's faces - shock, disappointment and something else, something that Misato does not want to see. All too clearly they think that she is lying - that Misato will not tell them what had happened to their friends. What had happened to the children who had become her children.
It seems that it isn't her choice how far she falls - only who bears witness.
Touji, with his prosthetic limbs almost completely hidden under his tracksuit - the boy who had suffered so much because of NERV but had only struck back when his sister was injured. His expression turns aloof, anger and distrust showing.
Kensuke looks more downcast than his taller friend - he freezes in mid step, part way to the corridor that leads to Shinji and Asuka's bedrooms.
But the class representative, Hikari Horaki, has the strangest expression. Her brown eyes show some sympathy as she looks at Misato, a slight crimp to her mouth, a small nod of understanding. The Major almost sighs in relief - at least one of them has tried to understand.
Silently the children turn to leave - Hikari looks back as she reaches the door.)
Hikari: Miss? Misato?
Hikari: Will they be alright?
Misato: I hope so.
(A head bent over. Stray red locks, free of Seyoko's hair band, dip towards the paper.)
(She lets out a sound of discomfort and straightens, rubbing at her eyes. Again she directs her gaze at the report on the table, forcing her eyes to read despite the faint eyestrain.
It is a night not worth wasting on wasted effort, but Seyoko still works, pouring over the preparation analysis as she sits in the kitchen of her apartment.. their apartment. Ignoring Lyn has become impossible, and Seyoko had never wanted to try. The boy, and the efforts focused on him for tomorrow, are what is keeping her up this night.)
(Another small groan, and she pausing in her reading to take a sip of the coffee by her side. It can be seen from her clothes - a loose jumpsuit, yellow and comfortable - that sleep was the other option. It is not a night for wasted effort; tomorrow will need her to be fresh and alert, and sleep is something she sorely needs.
In another attempt to work off the eyestrain, Seyoko raises her head and fixes her gaze out a window. In the dark, the only things to see are the lights mounted on the buildings in the heart of the city. A few seconds to let her eyes relax, and she returns to her report.)
Seyoko: One more.
(That makes it the third time she has said that.
Reports - preparations for the activation tomorrow. The latest readings from the RAM samples made earlier, of the first and sixth child. The medical reports on those children, their physical exams and test results. Not the complete medical reports, but enough to confirm health or sickness.
There is more in the next few pages - Seyoko has made herself painfully familiar with them all. The status of the Evas, the crews on standby for duty...
All added to Seyoko's normal workload - which now seems much heavier, given that her immediate superior officer is Misato Katsuragi.)
Seyoko: (thinking) She may not look like 'brass', but deferring responsibility is something she's too good at.
Seyoko: (thinking) Paperwork. Not responsibility, paperwork.
(A cruel thought, and probably untrue. Seyoko knows from her experiences as a UN inspector, watching intrusively over Misato's shoulder, that she hasn't been burdened with an unusual amount of work - but she also sees Misato just another part of the problem, another hassle, another strain. Someone who might jump on her if she messes something up, just to catch her out.
And her efforts are not helping her.)
Seyoko: (disgust) This is useless.
(A half hour spent pouring over the sheets, looking for anything she might have missed. A half-hour is not that long, but weary and worried, in the quiet hours of the evening, Seyoko has felt every minute as if the had been hours.
And she has found nothing. Like her searches into Aoi, and the reasoning behind her selection as a pilot, Seyoko's night-before efforts have brought up nothing that might help tomorrow. Nothing.)
Seyoko: Why the hell do I even bother.
Seyoko: It's not like any of this matters.
(But she perseveres, turning back to earlier pages, looking over them once more. A muttered comment escapes her concentration.)
Seyoko: Damn kid..
(The sound of a throat clearing makes her raise her head - Lyn has entered the kitchen, padding softly on bare feet. Seeing that he has Seyoko's attention, the sixth child almost speaks. But Okazaki drops her head again, returning to her papers and effectively cutting off Lyn's words.)
(He pulls out a chair opposite Seyoko - careful, he sits down, trying to make as little noise as possible; the evening seems almost too quiet for unnecessary noise. Even Seyoko's mutterings have faded to silent mouthings as she reads her papers.
Seyoko glances up, a brief apologetic look on her face.)
Seyoko: (wry) I'm being turned into a desk jockey.
(Lyn gives a short grin back, but Seyoko misses it as she returns her attention to her papers.)
Lyn: (thinking) And me.. a guinea pig.
Lyn: (thinking) One of the 'great' Eva pilots.
(Seyoko, whose abilities are somewhat lacking in the area of telepathy, naturally fails to hear the child's thoughts.)
Lyn: (thinking) Why am I trying to talk to her?
(The thought is surprising to Lyn - as is the answer.
He doesn't have to. There's nothing she can say, nothing she can do.
Lyn Anouilh is the sixth child. He will pilot Unit 01, or at least, attempt to. Lyn himself is certain - it will reject him. But he cannot call off the activation - and even if he could, he is not sure if he would ask.
There is nothing that Seyoko can offer him except comforting words - words that wouldn't even be true. Something in that thought makes a tightness in his chest; Lyn slowly brings himself to stand. Seyoko seems to notice this and looks up.)
Seyoko: What is it?
Lyn: .. Nothing. Don't worry about it.
(Lyn turns and heads to his room, gripped by a sudden fear - that he might break down in front of the adult. The panel to his bedroom slides shut as he sits heavily on his mattress, rubbing his face with the palms of his hands, taking deep breaths to ease the tension in his chest.)
(A message in small red letters, flashing on a screen.)
The First Child has accessed Geo-Front entrance via lock 17. Boarding Linear Rail 57. Logging time of arrival...
(Hyuga reaches over to his console and touches in an acknowledgement. The message vanishes, the location of the first child stored in the MAGI's logs. Much of the day to day work within Central Dogma is handled that way - the long electronic arms of the MAGI reaching out, overseeing the vital functions of the city of Tokyo-3.
This renders the human element - the operators - down to the role of overseer, keeping an eye on the systems to insure that no major errors occur. Only in an emergency, such as an attack or system failure, is the real mettle of the operators tested.)
Shigeru: Have you noticed the work sheets?
(The two men are the only present in the vast control room of Central Dogma - their voices seem amplified by the enormous dimensions of the room; even the soft hum of lighting and hardware is made to seem louder.)
Hyuga: What about them?
Shigeru: Maya's been relocating a lot of man-hours - to classified stuff.
Hyuga: This is NERV.
(NERV - secrecy and security classification is not out of place within the organization. In their first few weeks on the job, the operators quickly adapt to the fact that more than half of their workplace is off-limits to them, and will remain that way - forever. If a new operator shows difficulty with this, they usually find themselves transferred to less vital roles..)
Hyuga: And she's the head of Project E now. She relocates who she wants, where she wants.
(Shigeru mutters an agreement, apparently not entirely satisfied.)
Shigeru: .. Right.
(The operator's mutterings are based on a new problem - a new sore point in working at NERV, that being Maya Ibuki.
Shigeru does not object to her new status as head of Project E; one look at the sleeplessness on the young woman's face deters anyone else from competing for the same office. The operator does not object to her inexperience, either - having worked with Ibuki, he knows that the former Lieutenant is heir apparent to all of Doctor Akagi's knowledge and skills, and so is vastly more qualified for the role than any other member of NERV's staff.
Rather, Shigeru has an objection to what Maya Ibuki now represents - a watchful eye.
Ritsuko Akagi, despite her brilliance, or perhaps because of it, trusted the operators to their duties, leaving them to do their jobs without her intruding presence. Maya Ibuki, however, has a habit of looking over their shoulders and often taking their problems - and their keyboards - into her own hands.
It was certainly faster when she contributed directly. They certainly learned from the tricks of the trade that Maya had learnt from her old teacher. It was also frustrating, at least to Shigeru. Hyuga, on the other hand, had an equally frustrating habit of not being bothered by it - certainly not to the extent that his long-haired colleague was.
Another update flashes on the screen - the estimated time of arrival of the First Child.
Elsewhere in the MAGI's systems, other updates are being made - the preparations for the activation of Unit-01, for which Rei has been summoned to stand guard over.)
(The train pulls slowly away from the station, passengers moving quietly to their seats.
Fellow commuters quietly move aside as Rei Ayanami leads her surrogate son, Tenkei, through the press. They have boarded this train bright and early, joining the populace moving towards their places of work. Blue hair easily recognizable in a crowd, and famous in her own right, the passengers quickly seem to find other places to be as Rei selects a seat facing the aisle.
Their discomfort at the prestigious Eva pilot will not last; Rei has travelled this route many a morning when, like this one, her presence was requested at NERV. The reason is not known to the First Child - and, indeed, unnecessary. Obedient as always, Rei is on her way to the Geo-Front, and, while she may not have been informed of why, the one thing she does know is that the nervous commuters will have departed many stops prior to the train's descent into the bowels of the earth; while some civilians are allowed beyond the entry locks, very few are permitted passage into NERV central.)
(Tenkei sits silently beside her, kicking his feet slightly. None of the passengers notice him; partly because of the natural human paranoia of "maybe offending" by staring, causing the commuters to simply avoid looking towards Rei - and partly because Tenkei simply does not wish to be noticed. The Ev.N complement's abilities border on the supernatural; he is well known for eluding security teams, and it seems that less professional attentions are no less impaired.
But today, Tenkei is not so inclined to hiding himself - a few commuters even manage to notice the child next to Rei. The boy, meanwhile, is busy watching his surrogate mother's face, searching it for a sign..)
(For he knows that Rei has not been sleeping well these nights past.)
Rei: (quietly) I'm alright.
(The pale-haired boy still worries, with a frown clearly visible on his young face, but he accepts Rei's answer, at least for now. Tenkei settles himself against the backrest as the train soothing motion calms him, lets him lose himself in the journey, for a moment forget what had been troubling him.)
(Commuters board the train, commuters exit the train. Stations pass by swiftly, the lube-line efficiently racing through its stops. Briefly darkness blankets the windows as the train speeds through a tunnel, the blackness broken by lights of subway stations and emergency telephones. The darkness is suddenly replaced with the white blaze of daylight as the train breaches the surface again, as if rising for air like a dolphin.
By the time the lube-line descends in the darkness for the second time, the other commuters are gone - regular passengers are not allowed to remain on the trains that service the Geo-Front, and the MAGI, linked into the security grid of cameras that lies across the city, insure that no unwelcome passengers remain. Bigger brother watches.)
(The lights within the cabin allow Tenkei to see Rei very well - the First Child sits calmly, her hands on her knees, her eyes facing forward. As the boy watches, he sees her lips move slightly, half forming words, but with no breath for sound behind them.
Tenkei looks across the cabin, at the empty seat opposite Rei. Setting himself, the boy begins to concentrate.
Her presence at his side - a familiar presence, with the familiar smell of the economy-priced soap she uses in her flat. But for Tenkei, there is something else - another way of seeing, of feeling that she is there.. and knowing what she is doing.
Very carefully, so as to not disturb her, he reaches out and lays a hand on her forearm - Rei doesn't so much as blink at the intrusion. The contact helps him; Tenkei smiles to himself as what Rei was doing slowly unfolds to his mind.)
(Her presence, her arm under his fingertips, the sharp contrast where he ends and she begins..
Her presence, spreading out through the traincar, flowing about the seats, splaying against the windows..
A relaxing of his barriers, a subtle shift in what he saw..)
(And for a moment he breaks free - for a fraction of a second, he sees through her eyes.
The train bursts into the Geo-Front cavern, golden light shining through the windows. Against that light, sitting opposite Rei Ayanami, a half-hunched figure sits. The boy - Tenkei instantly recognizes the presence - seems to be staring at the floor of the cabin.)
Shinji: (speaking) ..
(Tenkei pulls his hand away from Rei, breaking the contact. He takes a moment to breathe, to reinforce to himself what he was; even so, he is still cautious.
Laying his hand carefully on Rei's arm again, he lets his thoughts wander - Rei's presence is instantly felt. And with it, the same sharp differences, the same solid barrier between what she is and what he is.
Contact with the girl is still difficult, requiring physical contact, and willingness. For Tenkei, this is the best sign, that Rei is still distant. There is nothing of what he had feared - the sickness, the hollowness that he had felt emanating from the Test-Type, the incompleteness that had corrupted the two children, forcing a dangerous closeness upon them.
He is still Tenkei; she is still Rei. No damage is done. Even to one of his.. heritage, such things are dangerous. For ordinary Lilim - human beings - it is near-madness.)
(Rei continues her silent conversation, her crimson eyes directed towards the presence that only she can sense. Tenkei contents himself to wait; but does not have to wait long. He feels the train gently decelerate, finally stopping at the station in the Geo-Front. The first child doesn't seem to notice; Tenkei chooses not to intrude immediately, giving Rei another minute in trance before he wakens her.
His small hand gently takes hold of the girl's chin, turning her head - her eyes snap towards him, blinking and focusing. Her confusion is brief, quickly replaced by her usual calm.)
Tenkei: We're here.
(Rei Ayanami nods, rising out of her seat as Tenkei stands.
They have arrived - indeed, the day has arrived; the day of Unit 01's reactivation.)
Announcer: (speakers) The Sixth child, Lyn Anouilh. Report to the activation cage preparation chamber.
(Aoi Tamashii squeezes Lyn's hand in silent reassurance. As the plugsuit material shifts under her touch, it feels uneasily like a silent goodbye; or maybe it is just Lyn's imagination.)
Aoi: They're waiting for you, Lyn.
Aoi: You should go.
(The sixth child does not move. His right hand, cradled in Aoi's fingers, squeezes back slightly. Anouilh's eyes are lowered, his mouth touched with a faint smile. He seems not to have heard the announcement, instead staying in his seat beside Aoi, remaining in this moment for a little while longer, while he can.
They wait in one of they many corridors through the Geo-Front. This one, outside the pilot's locker room, is not as bare as the usual functional tunnels; a bench, a rubbish bin, and a vending machine greet anyone who uses the locker room door.
Opposite is the female locker room - but from the announcements, it appears that Rei has already arrived at the activation chamber. The First Child will not be interrupting them.)
Announcer: (speakers) The Sixth Child, Lyn Anouilh. Report to the activation cage preparation chamber.
(Aoi does not object to Lyn's touch - in the past, she has intruded on the boy far more rudely than the gentle contact the boy holds with her hand. But Aoi also does not ask him why he hasn't left yet - why he hasn't yet let go.)
(The seventh child turns her blue eyes to him, attentive. The attentive schoolgirl - the uniform she wears and the ponytail that catches her hair combine to make an image that, for a moment, makes Lyn stumble in his words.)
Lyn: .. I was thinking.. about what you said on the phone last night.
(Aoi feels the boy's grip tighten briefly on her hand, as if to steady himself. His grip relaxes again, but does not break contact.)
Lyn: I've been thinking. I'd like that. I really would.
(Her calm eyes consider him for a moment; then a careful, gentle smile forms on her face.)
Aoi: (softly) I knew you'd come around, Six.
Announcer: (speakers) The Sixth Child, Lyn Anouilh. Report to the activation cage preparation chamber.
Aoi: Are you frightened?
(The hand in her grip stiffens slightly - a world of words pass between them, through that small contact. The boy almost pulls back, then stops himself; Aoi is not someone who he takes offence from easily. The girl's question, her calm touch, was not meant to tease, or to attack, but was just a question.)
Lyn: Sort of. I feel.. calm. (grins) Which is weird, because being around you is anything but calm.
(This - from a young man who fights Angels. The two share hesitant grins, momentary respites from the tension and the worry.)
Lyn: But in the last few days.. sometimes, when I'd be lying in bed, or sitting in class..
Lyn: It would all just rush in on me. What was happening. Unit One. (shuddering) And now..
(Another squeeze from Aoi, a reassurance - but the touch is broken as the boy stands.)
Announcer: (speakers) The Sixth Child, Lyn Anouilh. Report to the activation cage preparation chamber.
(Aoi looks up at the sixth child as he takes a deep breath, his eyes closed. Perhaps, somewhere within, he is driving the thoughts away - the thoughts of what he must do. It seems an impossible task; when he opens his eyes, the worry and the.. fear.. are still there.)
Lyn: I should go now. (ruefully) They're probably getting really angry...
(He must do what he must do; the others are waiting, the technical staff, the officers - depending on him. The huge, silent figure of Evangelion Unit 01, waiting.. for a pilot.)
Aoi: I'll be waiting too.
(Seyoko Okazaki takes a quick look at her watch before approaching the desk. The man on duty takes a quick look at the badges on the woman's collar.)
(Seyoko sets down a folder - nearly empty - on the desk.)
Seyoko: I need the medical records of the pilots Anouilh and Ayanami - the First and Sixth Children.
(The clerk nods, since the request does not seem out of the ordinary. Especially considering the rumors that Seyoko is sure are floating about; at least some details of today's activation must have slipped out of the circuit and begun crawling through the grapevine of word of mouth.
The clerk is apparently on the vine as well - he does not ask for authorization, but picks up the phone to call down the documents.)
Seyoko: While you're at it, can you get the records of the other pilots as well? For comparison.
(A few moments later, Seyoko Okazaki is leafing through the medical records of the pilots. Another glance at her wrist watch confirms that she is running out of time - she has an activation to attend.
The folders vary in thickness - Shinji's and Asuka's are fairly heavy, both having been hospitalized for periods, where as Rei's is far more slender; almost all of her medical data has been removed, censored by those higher-up in the chain of command.
The folder of the fifth child, Kaworu Nagisa, is likewise thin. Touji Suzahara's medical reports, on the other hand, are disturbingly thick with reports, given that he was a pilot for only one activation.
A brief glance at them shows routine check-ups of his prosthetic limbs - NERV appears to be covering the former pilot's expenses.
The last two folders - Lyn Anouilh and Aoi Tamashii.
Seyoko checks her watch - she is almost out of time.)
Seyoko: (thinking) Not enough time to check them here...
(She casts her eyes over the desk, quickly thinking. The table top is bare, apart from the plain folder she had brought with her.)
Seyoko: Excuse me, do you have a pen? And something to write on?
(The clerk raps his fingers on the desk, quickly recognizing the lack of stationary. Seyoko flashes a quick smile at him, and a rueful look.)
Seyoko: Doesn't matter.
Clerk: Wait, I'll check the back.
(As the clerk slips out through the door behind the desk, Seyoko quickly scans the room, her eyes peering into the corners, searching for the prying eyes of cameras. Finding none, she slips a sheaf of x-ray transparencies from Aoi's folio into her own folder - Okazaki doesn't have the time to pick out the right one, and is unsure of whether she is actually allowed to take the reports.)
Seyoko: (thinking) Better to ask for forgiveness than permission..
(By the time the clerk returns, Seyoko is apparently immersed in the records of Touji Suzahara.)
Clerk: (hands over pen and paper) Here.
(Seyoko quickly scrabbles down a few words - almost unreadable scrawl, but it could be something from the Fourth Child's records.)
Seyoko: (hands back the pen) Thanks again.
(Stuffing the useless paper into one pocket and slipping her folder up under one arm, Seyoko strides away from the desk, heading for the activation chamber - what little time she had is about to run out.)
Misato: Glad you could turn up.
(The door closes behind Okazaki as the younger officer joins Aoi in the activation control room.
A thick, reinforced plexiglass screen separates the room from the activation chamber - where within, clasped in heavy restraints, is Evangelion Unit 01. The technical crew - Hyuga, Shigeru and a bandaged Yuri Furikawa, are all present, under the watchful eye of Maya Ibuki, who even now is looking over the shoulders of her team.
Seeing that Seyoko has arrived, Aoi heads for the front of the room, standing up against the plexiglass, as Okazaki quietly takes her place beside Misato.)
Seyoko: (quietly) I was hardly going to forget this, Major - despite anything you might think about my sense of duty.
(Her face is stiff and proper - Misato briefly fights to urge to take offence at it.)
(Of course, she was responsible for it. Her anger - redirected at the Lieutenant - has come around to find her again.
Misato takes a moment to work out what she wants to say.)
Misato: I'm sorry. He's your responsibility, yes. But he's also your kid.
Misato: .. sort of. I shouldn't have been short with you earlier.
(Misato fights another urge - one to smile in smug satisfaction as her words seem to catch Seyoko off-balance.)
Seyoko: .. It's okay..
Seyoko: When will they be ready to work again - Shinji and Asuka?
Misato: .. Uh..
Misato: (thinking) Of course.. she doesn't know.
Misato: I was wondering the same thing..
(Katsuragi turns to Maya, changing the subject quickly.)
Misato: Maya? How are the preparations?
Maya: Well, Major, (to Seyoko) Lieutenant..
(Ibuki looks down at her ever-present clipboard.)
Maya: We've done as much as we can to minimize the risks.. we eliminated the S2 engine and the internal battery from central power circuit, as well as disconnected the arms and legs from the system.
Maya: If something goes wrong, then it shouldn't be able to function - at least, not at a dangerous level.
Misato: What if the Eva moves independently?
Maya: Then we'll have to activate the balkelite suppression sys-
Aoi: (interrupting) What's that?
(Misato turns to the girl, taking her question for a child's curiosity - Aoi having spent very little time about the Evas.)
Misato: Balkalite? It's the substance-
Aoi: (pointing - voice flat) No, that.
(The girl's unwavering finger points to the left hand side of the activation chamber, when a dark blue shape waits, cradling something large and dangerous in it's arms.)
Misato: That's.. Unit Zero. Rei is piloting it today.
Aoi: It's got a gun.
Maya: (gently) That's one of the safety measures.
(Aoi looks at the young woman for a moment, her expression one of disbelief. Before anyone can add anything to Maya's statement, the girl turns back to the screen, her eyes back on the dormant form of EVA-01.
Misato watches Ibuki as the younger woman bites her lip - clearly wanting to say something comforting, but not finding the words.
Besides, there are more immediate matters to attend to.)
Maya: Alright. Status report.
Hyuga: The installation of the Sixth Child's RAM is complete.
Shigeru: The MAGI are confirming system uplinks..
Yuri: The entry plug is in position, ready for insertion.
Hyuga: Everything at this end is ready, Chairperson.
(Ibuki tucks her clipboard under one arm.)
Lyn: (speakers) Ready, Ma'am.
Maya: You'll be able to communicate with us at any time during the activation - and remember, the Eva does not need to synchronize to respond to your presence. If you see, hear or feel anything, you must tell us immediately.
Lyn: (speakers) Yes Ma'am.
Misato: (thinking) Why are they doing this? They know why Asuka was able to pilot it..
Misato: (thinking) Because of the contact. But Lyn.. he's normal.
Misato: (thinking) God, I hope we're not just dropping him in a meat grinder.
Rei: (speakers) Yes.
Maya: For the duration of the test, you must be ready to neutralize Unit One's AT field.
Rei: (speakers) Yes, Chairperson.
Seyoko: (to Misato, quietly) Neutralize its field - to attack it?
Misato: (quietly) Not just that. If Unit One expands its field, it could crush this chamber like a paper cup.
(Apart from this morbid warning, everything is ready - and so they begin.)
Maya: Commence the activation.
Yuri: Inserting the entry plug.
Hyuga: Activation cage power supply ready to connect.
Shigeru: External scan shows no activity in Unit 01.
Yuri: Insertion and flooding complete.
Maya: Establish preliminary nerve links.
Shigeru: Nerve links established.
(Yuri, who at her console watches over the readouts of data that returns from the entry plug, looks up.)
Yuri: No registered disturbances, no registered feedback.
Hyuga: Power connected, voltage is increasing.
Yuri: No response from the extraneous systems.
Shigeru: Beginning synchronization - linking the plug interface to Evangelion Unit One.
(And then, a tense moment falls on the team in the Activation Cage control room, as they wait to see the results - as the mind of Lyn Anouilh is linked to EVA-01.)
Hyuga: Voltage is steady - Unit One is just below the activation threshold.
Shigeru: Checklist has been completed to twenty-five fifty and holding.
Yuri: I'm not getting a rejection signal - the Eva appears to accept the pilot's presence.
Maya: Seems to be no disturbances.. (pauses) Lyn?
Lyn: (speakers) Yes Ma'am.
Maya: What's happening in there?
Lyn: (speakers) Nothing - I can't feel anything.. the plug is dark.
Yuri: Miss? Should we proceed?
(Misato casts a discrete glance at the Lieutenant beside her - but Seyoko's face reveals nothing. Another irrational surge of anger wells up in the Major - outrage at the woman's apparent lack of concern for "her kid".
And Seyoko speaks - and crushes Misato's brief anger.)
Seyoko: Is it safe?
Maya: We won't know unless something happens. (turns to the screen) Increase the voltage to activation threshold.
Hyuga: (reporting) New power level reached.
Shigeru: Final nerve connections have been completed. Checklist clear to three thousand.
Yuri: Absolute borderline will be reached in ten seconds..
Misato: (thinking) Unit One.
Misato: (thinking) Now it seems like an enemy.
Yuri: Five seconds.
Misato: (thinking) It may yet become one.
Yuri: Borderline cleared.
(And, for a moment, nothing happens.
Unit 01 remains motionless, head bowed, in the chamber beyond - Unit 00, standing far to one side with rifle in hand, is likewise frozen.
There is no rejection signal - no alert sirens.
After all the buildup, all the anticlimax. Nothing. Eva-01 is silent.)
Hyuga: (slowly) It.. worked.
Maya: Synchronization ratio?
Yuri: Synch ratio at (looking) zero!! Nothing.
Maya: (startled) What? If the Eva has activated then the pilot must have synchronized..!
Yuri: No Ma'am - nothing.
(The Chairperson heads over to the technician's terminal, folder in hand and a frown upon her face.)
Maya: Yuri, you've got to be receiving something.
Yuri: But I'm not - there's no data feedback from the Eva. There's no rejection in the plug - it appears as if the plug isn't involved in the control circuit.
Maya: This doesn't make sense. Our equipment in the chamber must be defective..
(A sudden, frantic voice, breaks the tension.)
Hyuga: (shouting) Registering an AT field, blood pattern orange!
(All eyes turn to the purple-armored giant beyond the screen - at the restraints that at any moment might be torn loose, at the plexiglass screen that might soon be shattered by a giant fist, and the rifle in EVA-00's hands - that might soon be firing.)
Maya: (shouting) Lyn!
Lyn: (speakers) I'm not doing anything!
(Yet nothing happens - the Evangelion is as motionless now as it was a moment before. The blue-armored Unit 00 is poised at the ready, rifle raised to shoulder, trained on the dormant Eva - but does not yet fire.
A thought occurs to Misato - this would all end very suddenly is Unit 01 moved - or if Rei's trigger finger slipped.
And still nothing happens - no roar of enraged beast, or screech of torn metal, or screaming death of a rifle firing.)
Hyuga: I'm receiving warnings from the Eva's systems - unknown activity in the core!
Shigeru: The Eva is bypassing the nerve links! The S2 unit is functioning!
Misato: (shouts) Rei! Get ready!
Maya: But we removed the S2 unit from the power circuit! Yuri?
Yuri: I'm still not getting any data on any of this!
Seyoko: (frightened) What's happening in there!?
Seyoko: (radio) What's happening in there!? Lyn, what's happening?
(The Sixth Child is pressed into the plugseat, his hands tight on the useless butterfly handles, as he mouths words soundlessly.
The plug wall around him are still opaque - despite the activation, the Eva's senses are still beyond the pilot. And so, where normally a pilot might see through the giant's eyes, Lyn can only see the smooth walls of the plug, walls tainted orange by LCL that refuses to electrolyze.
Seyoko's voice is a distant thing - muted by the hammering that echoes through the plug, sending a pulse through Lyn's body with every thud. The sound is familiar - a heartbeat, but louder, more powerful than any human heart.
The vast sound ripples through the LCL, muting Seyoko's voice as she desperately tries to contact the pilot. Without sight, without hearing, Lyn is left alone in the entry plug. Alone with it.
It looks at him.)
Lyn: Get me the hell out of here!!
(The shout comes without warning - despite the danger, despite the ever-present threat, none of them had expected it.)
Lyn: (speakers) Get me the hell out of here!!
(Misato's own orders, even as she shouts them out, are overcome by a more urgent, more heartfelt cry.)
Seyoko: (shouting) Get him out! Now!!
(The technical crew leap upon their tasks - consoles flicker as nerve connections are abruptly cut, the readouts on the screens quickly replaced by glowing red letters; ABORTED.
A frantic few seconds later and the armored casing on EVA-01's back slides open, allowing the slender entry plug to be reached by the mechanical recovery rig.
Lyn's shouts - which had continued during the fifteen seconds it had taken to eject the plug - are suddenly muted by a much louder sound; the roaring of the LCL discharge system. Yellow fluid sprays from sluices in the plug, rapidly preparing for release of the pilot.
Misato turns; at some point, she had taken a few steps towards the Eva, and now stands tense beside Aoi Tamashii. The Seventh Child's hands are pressed against the plexigalss - and image rises unbidden in Misato's mind, of a pressed butterfly in a glass display case.
The girl turns away from the screen, almost shoving past Misato.)
Aoi: (to Maya, almost shouting) Is he alright? What happened!?
Maya: I don't know! This has never happened before!
(Just as suddenly Aoi turns to the back of the room, her blue eyes seeing something that Misato had missed.)
Aoi: Seyoko! Where are you going?
(Major Katsuragi turns, just to see the Lieutenant vanishing through the open door to the chamber, with Aoi Tamashii sprinting after.)
(Seyoko's shoes bang on the metal walkway as the Lieutenant hauls herself up the last steps to the loading gantry.
The entry plug is already open, the last of its LCL dribbling fitfully from the emergency flush sluices. The primary hatch of the plug is open, and the control chair removed. A doctor and technical staff are already at the pilot.
The man reaches out, pushing up the boy's eyelids to examine him and Lyn almost leaps from the plug seat. The doctor jumps back as the boy convulses, his eyes wide and bulging. Seyoko leaps forward, laying an arm across Lyn's chest to hold him down as the doctor and his staff cluster around.
The eyes of the sixth child are wide, darting from face to face as his hands grip around Seyoko's forearm.)
Seyoko: Lyn? (shouting) Lyn!
(He almost takes a breath - then shudders, heaving LCL from his lungs.)
Doctor: He needs to clear his airways! Give him room!
(The sixth child lurches out of the plug seat, bent over as he empties his lungs of the yellow fluid. He follows with a breath, then another long heave.)
Seyoko: (urgent) Just get it out, Lyn.
(She holds the boy by his shoulders as he finally finishes. With another breath, this one clear of the sound of fluids, he straightens. He seems able to stand on his own - the doctor and his staff step back as he slowly trudges away from the entry plug, his head bowed, one arm pressed to his stomach as if ill.)
(He slowly raises his head, looking at Seyoko as he would look at a stranger.)
Lyn: I'm.. I'm okay.. I think.
(As the Sixth Child is led away for his 'debriefing' Seyoko Okazaki finds herself beside Aoi Tamashii - at some point in the last minute, she had caught up with the Lieutenant, but was held back by all the personnel swarming to the action.
Lyn is eased onto a stretcher to be wheeled to the infirmary. For now, the boy is off limits, leaving Aoi able to do little but watch as the boy is rolled away.
The rest of the control crew, however, watch something else - the immobile form of Evangelion Unit 01. Motionless in it's restraints, silent under their vigilant eyes, the creature remains inactive - at least, according to their sensors.
The activation was a failure. The Eva is.. silent.)
(They had not been allowed to see him - not yet. The doctors had been specific, and the security agents had been equally indirect. The Sixth Child was not to be seen, yet. They could not divulge where he was. They didn't know where he was.
But Seyoko had been able to find out something; Lyn was not quarantined, only being questioned. NERV was not going to sink its talons into him, not like it had done with the others.)
Aoi: I want him to go home with me.
(At this, Seyoko's eyes widen in disbelief.)
Seyoko: .. What?
Aoi: He's going to sleep at my place tonight.
(The girl is serious. Aoi's face is set, waiting resolutely for how Seyoko would respond.)
Seyoko: He would be safer at home-
Aoi: But he'd be more comfortable with me. (pauses) We talked about it on the phone a few nights ago - he agreed. Just to spend the night, nothing else.
Aoi: He's had a bad time. I'm not going to tiptoe around him as if he's an invalid, but I'm not going to ignore him, either.
Seyoko: What's that supposed to mean?
Aoi: Like I've said, we talked on the phone.
(Tamashii's gaze is cool, steady - Seyoko feels a silent accusation in her eyes.)
Seyoko: I've had work to do. Important work.
Aoi: Is that why you're ignoring him?
Seyoko: I haven't been ignoring him. I've been working!
(More than 'working' - but Seyoko can't tell Aoi that. She can't tell the girl that much of the time spent away from home and Lyn was spent discretely watching this same girl's apartment, or snooping her background. She has no way to explain that her work started with her concern for what Lyn had gotten himself into - or was forced into.
But the girl's expression - the quiet, angry words, hit a sensitive spot. The two are going to spend the night together - together. The last time she had checked, they had been deliberately avoiding each other. Since then, while her back was turned, the two of them had decided to come this far.)
Seyoko: I've been trying to protect him. It's only been a week! I didn't know you two would start planning slumber parties!
Aoi: It's not a slumber party.
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?
Seyoko: Most parents wouldn't allow something like this, no matter what their kids wanted.
(Aoi answers with a cold stare, and equally cold words.)
Aoi: You're not his mother.
Aoi: I'm not going to take advantage of him, if that's what you're afraid of. And he'll be in no state to try anything with me, either. Or in any state to care about what you think a parent would or wouldn't allow.
(How dare she.)
Seyoko: (angrily) What the hell is wrong with you?! I'm trying to protect him, and you're talking to me as if I did this to him!
Aoi: I'm trying to protect him too -
Seyoko: Then at least wait until he can talk to us before you start rearranging his life!
(The seventh child opens her mouth to speak and freezes. On the verge of words, she evidently changes her mind, and changes what follows.)
Aoi: Alright. We'll ask him what he wants.
Lyn: I'm not sure.
(Silence follows as the tape plays. The feed is of the highest quality, filtered and analyzed by the MAGI; not even static sound can be heard in the break in the boy's voice.)
Lyn: (tape playback) It was a woman.. I'm fairly sure of that. At least, it was at first.
(The recording plays for the two Commanders of NERV - Gendo Ikari and Kouzou Fuyutsuki. The two men wait in the dark of Ikari's office; waiting, listening for what they expect to hear from this debriefing.
Ikari already has a very good idea of what he wants to hear.)
Lyn: (tape playback) It changed.. as if it wasn't.. solid. It reached for me..
Maya: Do you remember hearing anything?
Lyn: I heard the Eva.. I could hear a beat, like a..
Maya: (interrupts) About the woman. Did she say anything?
Lyn: No - wait. She might have. It was loud in there..
(With the press of a button, Fuyutsuki pauses the recording.)
Fuyutsuki: The Chairperson found it more difficult to get details from the boy.. she insisted on speaking with him herself.
Gendo: And what she found supported the hypothesis?
Fuyutsuki: It supported it enough.
(The older man turns, his gaze locking Ikari's.)
Fuyutsuki: I showed him the picture. Hidden among some others, of course - I didn't want to coach the boy.
(Gendo Ikari waits, expressionless, impassive, unmovable - but Fuyutsuki knows him too well.)
Fuyutsuki: (leaning forward) He recognized her.
(A nod from Ikari, an acknowledgement. The Commander slowly pushes back his chair and stands, the eyes hidden by his glasses downcast, the faintest twitch about his mouth.
The twitch finally resolves itself into an unfamiliar expression - a smile. Not Gendo Ikari's usual smirk, which seems more of a grimace than a smile, but something else, something more genuine. The expression seems alien on his angular face; certainly his subordinates would be surprised - maybe even disturbed - to see it there.
It seems, to Fuyutsuki, that for a moment there is someone else in Ikari's body - or rather, someone Kouzou hasn't seen in eleven years.
The smile fades, Ikari's expression shifting back, hiding whoever it was that had crept out from under the man's skin.)
Gendo: Then we can proceed.
Fuyutsuki: Slowly - we mustn't draw attention to ourselves, not now, not when we're so close.
Gendo: I had no intention of it. Has the Chairperson developed anything useful?
Fuyutsuki: She - we - have been working on a solution. It may be viable for the.. problem.
Gendo: Then we can allow her to continue, to keep up the appearance of effort. But she must not interfere with Unit One.
(The Commander's voice suddenly grows hard, urgent.)
Gendo: She may toy as much as she wants with Unit Two and the Second Child, but Unit One must not be tampered with. If necessary, make something up to distract her.
Fuyutsuki: Ibuki knows nearly as much about the Evas as we do - anything I tell her -
Gendo: (interrupting) Then make it a direct order from me. I doubt she'll directly disobey me, not with other efforts to worry her.
Fuyutsuki: (thinking) So close.. and you'll wave your authority about and draw them all to you.
Fuyutsuki: I'll ensure that she doesn't attempt to alter Unit One's state.. but you'll create suspicion. We have no excuse for this!
Gendo: Don't let it concern you, old friend. They will suspect me, not you.
(This time, it is the far more familiar grimace of a smile that appears on Ikari's face.)
Gendo: And soon, that won't matter.
(The steering wheel is cool under Seyoko's hands. Apart from the sound of the engine, muffled in the interior of the car, all is quiet.
Lyn had decided the issue in the first ten seconds.
Aoi did not move from where she stood beside Seyoko - the Lieutenant had suspected that the girl might try something, fly into his arms, a clever smirk - or something equally influencing. But she just stood there as Lyn walked over to her and hugged her.
Seyoko had felt something - not jealousy, not by a long shot. She had been surprised, amazed even, at the strength of Lyn's response - he had not spoken, not said a word, but simply walked over to Aoi and put his arms around her, burying his face in her hair.
Aoi's look, her eyes turned towards Seyoko, had not been angry or smug. Just a hopeful look, hoping that she would understand. Seyoko had given her a slight nod, an admission.)
Seyoko: (thinking) You were right. I've been..
(And the silence. They hadn't spoken at all about the activation - barely ten words aloud from either of them. There was silence in the car, but Seyoko is very aware of the two of them in the back seat, sitting in silence, waiting for the car to arrive at Aoi's home.)
Seyoko: (thinking) I've never seen Lyn like this. Aoi was right - he couldn't try anything even if he wanted to. And Aoi won't be able to bring herself to, either.
(And they are there.
The doors open, then shut. A few words through an open window, a brief goodnight from Lyn - his voice sounds different to Seyoko - somehow.. more relaxed.
They walk away, heading into the apartment block, leaving the woman behind in her car. Seyoko waits, ignoring the pang until they are out of sight - then she reaches for the folder that rests on the passenger seat - the dossier of one of the Evangelion pilots. From within she withdraws a set of x-rays that do not match the name on the cover.
She quickly leafs through the transparencies, looking from x-ray to x-ray, through the very skeletal structure of Aoi Tamashii, recorded in her physical examination when she signed on at NERV, as part of the standard procedure for pilots.
Surely enough, there is what she has been looking for - twin images of Aoi's Tamashii's forearms, the bones green against the black of the x-rays. Twin images, except for one detail - a distortion on one of the x-rays, where the bone swells in a clump, fusing into a heavier mass around where a break had been.
Another dead end. Everything - everything fitted. It was all wrong.. it was always true.)
Seyoko: (devastated) I've been.. a fool.
(Seyoko drops her forehead onto the steering wheel, bringing a brief blast from the horn before she jerks herself upright again with embarrassment. Angrily hurling the transparency back onto the seat, she shifts the car back into gear and heads for home, done with her useless quest.)
TO BE CONTINUED..