And If That Don't Work?
A Neon Genesis Evangelion fic thingy.
By Josh Temple
Naturally, I do not own Neon Genesis Evangelion. So here's the disclaimer:
Neon Genesis Evangelion and its characters and settings belong Gainax and Hideaki Anno
Other works can be found at my fanfiction website.
Temporary Backup Site.
Other website Temple of Ranma's Senshi Seifuku
C&C as always is wanted.
Prologue: Use More Gun
A pillar of white light exploded over the ridge. The over pressure blast raced out. Shortly the airflow reversed, sucking air and debris towards the center of the explosion as air pressure tried to equalize. The hot air then rose over the blast center and eventually lost momentum rolling up into a tell-tale mushroom shape. Even projecting in gigantic proportions in an immense Command Center did not do the explosion's sheer power justice.
Atop the highest level of the room, three JSSDF generals watched the explosion. The one to the left jumped up and hit the console in front of him. "We did it!" General Ishikari looked back where Commander Ikari impassively sat. "Sorry, but there's nothing left for you to do, Ikari."
Various technicians looked up from their work to gaze at the diluted reflection of the immense destruction. Lieutenant Ibuki had stayed at her display. "Incoming shockwave." Her announcement heralded the displays cutting to static.
"It was such a massive explosion... It must have been destroyed." Hesitation colored the rightmost general's statement; he looked to the bank of red phones in front of him.
"Sensors online," a male technician announced.
"Energy reading in the middle of the crater," Lieutenant Ibuki stated.
"What!" General Ishikari's fist clenched.
"Visual image restored." The displays turned on. The valley where the N2 mine had been positioned was a fiery wasteland. The Angel's face was knocked up its body far out of position, but it had grown a replacement. Its body was torn and damaged, but it stood.
The leftmost general slumped in his seat. "That was our trump card..."
"Unbelievable..." General Yubari sighed, and briefly wondered if Ikari had caught Ishikari's emphasis... not that it mattered.
"Monster!" General Abukuma cried. He looked to Ishikari who gave a slight nod. The young general swiped his security pass and picked up one of the red phones. He spoke into it briefly before handing it to Yubari.
"It's regenerating as expected," Vice-Commander Fuyutsuki whispered into Gendo's ear.
"Of course, otherwise it would be useless as an independent weapon," Gendo noted from behind his steepled hands.
Fuyutsuki watched as Sachiel raised an arm and shot out a beam that destroyed the surveillance VSTOL rotorcraft. "Oh, impressive. It can enhance its own functions."
A few seconds passed. Fuyutsuki straightened up from his position behind Ikari and followed his student's gaze to the... generals. Ishikari was softly talking into the phone.
"Have you received the telemetry? Yes, the N2 mine hurt it. Good luck," Yubari placed the phone back into its cradle and looked at the screen. It seemed that his country's luck would not improve.
"Su-33's have entered Japanese airspace," a technician shouted. "Their vector is on approach to the Angel."
Behind his tinted glasses, Gendo's eyes narrowed slightly. "What is this?"
General Yubari sighed. "They're from the Admiral Kuznetsov. When the target made land they launched their jets. Just... in case."
Fuyutsuki's pocket vibrated. The elder man pulled out a PDA and looked at the display. He then leaned down and whispered to Gendo. " Captain Katsuragi has the Third Child. They are enroute, there was some... difficulty..."
Gendo waved him off with slightly more impatient dismissal than normal. His attention was at the trio of generals. "That carrier's not part of the UN detachment," Gendo noted.
General Ishikari had turned around and faced the Commander. "Quite correct. This is because of the UN's mandate against certain arms."
"I see." Gendo's gaze went to the squadron of fighters.
Captain Andrei Zel'dovich curved his plane in a wide arc. He had been carefully warned. Orientation was key. His weapon was already well within in range. Comparing his heading and the prevailing winds, the captain smiled. Amazingly, the target was actually visible. Though the fiery crater it sat in helped. "In position." His voice was smug, it was a near thing his wingman Yakov had almost beat him.
After receiving approval, he depressed the final release and the 8.4 meter long missile slung under his port wing dropped and shot off as its rocket ignited. The missile broke the sound barrier and its ramjet kicked on. An exotic engine with no moving parts, air was literally rammed into the annular intake in the missile's tip. Fuel was mixed and ignited. The jump in thrust doubled the missile's velocity and then doubled it again.
Hovering at just over Mach 4, the rocket crossed 1.3 kilometers every second. Sachiel had enough time to start turning towards the Moskva IIB. A bare fraction of a second before it impacted, the missile's proximity fuse triggered
Lavrentiyv Sudoplatov sat down on the battered chair. It grudgingly creaked under the large man's weight. He looked around the office. All the furniture was heavily worn, even by his country's standards. The only thing not pre-second impact was the computer terminal. A gross incongruity, the machine was a splash of technological triumph in a bleak room.
What depressed Lavrentiyv the most was that this was still the best furnished office in the complex. Getting supplies to the Institute was... difficult in even the best of times. The effort was worth it, but then the accountants had begun their purge. Stymied at the inability to cut research equipment, they took their rage on the things they could.
Lavrentiyv could see their point: moving desks and mattresses and fresh food was expensive, especially when there was "officially" serviceable equipment already in stock. At least the Institute still got enough money to maintain its technical skills. The expertise here had ensured his country's sovereignty for decades. He looked up at the stout balding man sitting behind the rickety desk. "I trust you've read the briefing."
Director Pavel Beria nodded and looked to his left. A large, faded poster of a wheat field stood in for a window. "I must say I'm disappointed; it's been four years since the Impact," he said in a faraway voice.
"There were complications with our assets," Lavrentiyv tersely said.
Beria waved it off. "I suspected. Manpower is short. Metaphysical Biology is an emergent field." He tapped his fingers on the peeling edge of the desk.
"You will need additional staff," Lavrentiyv noted.
"The physics is... murky at best." Beria's eyes wandered back to his poster. "So this is to be taken into production?"
"You saw the footage. Our satellites were able to capture it. A giant made out of light rising from the bottom of the earth. You've read Gehirn's theories."
"And I weep at their lack of rigor. Biologists," Pavel shook his head
"You know who I represent. Can it be done?"
Pavel shrugged. "This isn't like smashing through six-hundred meters of granite from another hemisphere. There's not going to be an elegant solution."
Lavrentiyv's chuckle died when he saw that the engineer was being serious. "Are you resting on your laurels then? This is more than decapitating-" he gave a wry grin. "- capitalists. This time we're facing a true threat. One that will exterminate all life, down to bacteria."
"And so the Motherland is faced with rumors of an enemy with an unyielding defense. You have come to the right place. We have not forgotten our duty."
"You have a solution?"
Director Beria smiled. "Force is always a solution, the question is how to apply it."
This time the explosion was larger, much larger, as was the incipient mushroom. Like the N2 mine the sensors were knocked down. The Generals sweated; Ishikari had already picked up one of the red phones. Gendo watched impassively. His curiosity was on how such a development had been concealed from him. He had underestimated the JSSDF and the Russians.
"Sensors online." Maya Ibuki stated. She blinked. "No energy reading."
Just before camera footage resumed. General Abukuma gave a silent prayer. The gigantic displays revealed a twice-ravaged crater and nothing else.
Ishikari held his composure. "Do we have confirmation? Make sure it didn't simply escape."
"No sign of Pattern Blue on sensors," one of the technicians said.
Yubari wiped his brow. "They did it. We won."
"Old Tokyo was attacked fifteen years ago. Before that, the spacing was sixty five years. I fear the next time will be sooner again," Abukuma sardonically noted.
"Even with the fallout. It had to be done" General Ishikari sighed. They had to prove that it was possible.
"Yes, now we just have to worry about the Russians," General Yubari noted shooting Ikari a glance. Frustratingly, the Commander was his normal impassive self. Doubtless this had somehow all been part of his plan.
Fuyutsuki leaned to Gendo. His hand clenched his PDA. At least things on that front were... stable. He would start with the more...variable news first. "What do you make of this?"
"You should be more concerned what the Old Men make of this," Gendo quietly muttered.
"You've said that 'Normal weapons would have no effect on angels.' " Fuyutsuki quoted.
"This was no normal weapon." Gendo's eyes went from Sachiel's empty grave to the older man.
Fuyutsuki nodded. Ikari wanted to find out exactly how this was not a normal weapon. "Understood. However, what do you think of all this?" He hesitated, wondering if Gendo would broach the subject.
"A convenient surprise. We were down a Pilot, and the replacement might not have agreed."
Fuyutsuki cleared his throat. "About that, there's been a complication."
Gendo's eyes widened slightly. "What happened?"
"They weren't killed in the second blast; they're very lucky. The Third Child and the Captain are alive. Unfortunately... " Fuyutsuki knew why the JSSDF had tried an N2 mine first.
For a fraction of a second Fuyutsuki saw Gendo's expression... shift. "Get Akagi, tell her to find a solution."
"Already have, Sir."
Gendo turned back to the view screen and stared at the crater. "Then you should just told me that."
Author's notes: I'd like to thank Pale Wolf for being the first sounding board on developing this idea. She and DCG were right there from the start. Also, I'd like to thank my pre-readers. They read through my most egregious mistakes so you don't have to. DGC, J St C Patrick, Pale Wolf, Wray, Kevin Hammel, Ikarus, and Jerry Starfire.
The Story Title comes from the "Meet the Engineer" promotional video for the computer game Team Fortress 2. In it the Engineer Class explains his views on life:
Hey look buddy, I'm an engineer, that means I solve problems. Not problems like 'What is beauty?', because that would fall within the purview of your conundrums of philosophy.
I solve practical problems.
Fr' instance, how am I going to stop some big mean mother-hubbard from tearing me a structurally superfluous new behind? The answer: Use a gun. And if that don't work? Use more gun.
And If That Don't Work?
A Neon Genesis Evangelion fic thingy.
By Josh Temple
Naturally, I do not own Neon Genesis Evangelion. So here's the disclaimer:
Neon Genesis Evangelion and its characters and settings belong Gainax and Hideaki Anno
Other works can be found at my fanfiction website.
Temporary Backup Site.
Other website Temple of Ranma's Senshi Seifuku
C&C as always is wanted.
Chapter One: Salvage Operations
Consciousness returned to Misato. She found that a headache was already there, waiting. Groaning, she opened her eyes. The too-bright walls of a barren Nerv hospital room filled her gaze. She was on a bed with her head and shoulder inclined. Blinking at the white walls, she looked down, past her blanketed body and to the side.
A large machine squatted next to her bed. The almost organic curves to the conduits and tubes that made up the machine's upper half reminded her of the interior of the magi supercomputers. Cables snaked under the blanket and she felt them... probe her body in various places. Thankfully, most were simply held onto her skin with what felt like adhesive bandages. Several thick braids of cables ran from the machine to various points on her body, though the bulk of them ran up to Misato's head.
She reached up and felt a skullcap over her head. The cables split apart into a fine grid that covered the cap. She winced as her memory conjured a brilliant flash. Even reflected in her rearview mirror, it was worse than the N2 mine. Much worse. She remembered the explosion, the pain, exhilaration at being rescued, and then-
The door to the room slid open and Ritsuko Akagi stepped in, worry etched her face. She walked up to the foot of the bed and Misato blinked at the... distant expression the doctor had. "Name?"
Misato paused. Ritsuko's voice seemed to anger her headache. "Ritsuko... what's going on?" Misato winced, even her own voice made the pain worse. Her throat felt dry too. "What happened to Shinji? Is he okay?"
Ritsuko's expression... warmed slightly. "Please, tell me your name."
Misato narrowed her eyes. "Katsuragi Misato. Captain. Nerv Tactical Branch. Identification number: 02013452897001. Code number: 02432 dash 16. Happy now?"
"So far. When did you lose your virginity?"
Misato blinked. "What's this about?"
Ritsuko sighed. "Please, time is of the essence."
"It was between the first and second year of university. It was a few hours after a party. You told me not to go. This was after we had some horrible white wine in that little bar a block from your apartment," Misato put a hand to her temple.
"Are you having trouble remembering?" Ritsuko asked.
"No, I've just got a splitting headache." She looked up. "What happened? What about the Angel?"
Ritsuko gave a bitter chuckle. "The second bomb killed it."
Misato blinked. "So the Evangelion..."
Ritsuko nodded. "Wasn't needed."
"They nuked it? They really nuked it?" Misato's stomach felt cold. "What happened to Shinji?"
Ritsuko frowned. "The same thing that happened to you. The radiation exposure... you both had only days to live."
"The Commander ordered me to find a solution. To save the Third Child," Ritsuko waved at the machine to Misato's side. "You're my guinea pig. Shinji is... we induced a coma and are keeping him stable, but... there's only so much time."
"So why the memory test? Why not actually see if your cure got rid of the radiation?"
"Because the machines can measure all of that." Ritsuko chuckled as she looked Misato over. "The only thing they can't do is give you a friendly face, and tell me that you're your normal obstinate self."
Misato leaned back. "Fine, I'm okay. Now go and work your magic on Shinji."
"Good..." The doctor frowned again. "I've got to oversee the procedure, but I'll be back."
Lying on the bed, Misato watched Ritsuko leave. She felt one of her tresses fall out from her skullcap. Thankful that Ritsuko didn't need to shave her head to make the... machine work. She pulled the lock of hair down, looked at it, and blinked.
The first thing Shinji heard was the chirping of cicadas. The teen's eyes opened and closed again. The room was too bright, too white. Haunted by memories of light, heat, electricity, and numbness, Shinji lay still. After several minutes a new sensation emerged.
It took almost a full minute before Shinji was able to figure out what it was and froze. A hand reached over and slipped under the hospital gown. The teen gave a perplexed squeak and withdrew... her hand.
As she sat up on the bed, Shinji noticed the weight on her head more than that on her chest. Long powder blue hair grew from her head and spilled down her back and pooled on the bed. At first, she held some of the long strands in her hand and looked at them quizzically.
Her examination shifted when she noticed how... small her hands and arms were. Further explorations revealed her limbs to be in proportion. Shinji was now a normal, if younger, girl, save the blue hair.
Stepping out of the bed, Shinji paused to look at the large... organic-looking machine that sat next to her bed. Several lengths of braided cables were carefully coiled and hung on hooks that stuck out of the lower half of the machine.
That exploration was cut short as she walked to the bathroom. She went straight to the toilet and took a moment to override the old automatic instinct. Afterwards she went to the sink. While her hands washed themselves she stared at her reflection.
She blinked and shook her head, causing some of her hair to fall over her shoulders. She had seen the face in the mirror before. "No... the girl in the street was different..." Shinji paused. Her voice was soft, quiet. Part of her was not surprised that it was only superficially different from before. It sounded like "his" voice, just coming out of a girl's body.
Frowning she went back to her reflection. Before... before all this strangeness she had seen a girl standing in the street, watching, and then vanish. Shinji chewed her lip and looked into red eyes. "That girl... why am I younger... will I grow up to look like her?"
She finished washing and stepped out into the hospital room. "The second bomb. Did it hurt me... am I who..." She continued to mutter as she made her way back to the bed.
The door opened and another woman stepped into the room. Shinji blinked and saw a another set of red eyes. This woman was somewhat different from the girl in the street. A broad smile adorned a very similar face, her hair was a pale lavender, and she was a few years older, old enough to be an adult.
She was wearing a red uniform and a matching beret. A small suitcase was in her left hand. After standing at the doorway for a second, she dropped the case and ran to the bed and hugged Shinji.
Blinking, Shinji let herself be embraced. "Excuse me, but... do I know you?" She then paused. "Er... for that matter... do you know me?"
The older woman frowned. "You don't remember who you are?"
"Well, I remember I'm Ikari Shinji, a guy, fourteen. My father had asked me to come to Tokyo 3, but..." She looked down. "It sounds crazy. There was this monster and this woman that saved me and this battle and these explosions." She looked up at the other woman. "You don't believe me?"
"I do" The woman's smile grew. "Don't you remember who said they would take full responsibility for you?"
Shinji blinked. Misato did say that into her car phone just before... "Misato-san?"
The older woman nodded and released the hug and went to retrieve the suitcase.
"What happened to us?"
Misato sat back down on the bed. "The bomb. Radiation. It was killing us. The cure was... unusual," she said looking at her arm. Her face brightened. "But it sure beats being dead!"
"At least they managed to kill the Angel." Misato opened the suitcase.
"Where's the doctor? Or nurses?"
Misato chuckled. "Ritsuko thought there would be less shock if I were the one to talk to you. I'd be the only person you'd recognize."
Shinji blinked. "But..."
Misato laughed. "Yes, there was a flaw in her plan."
"So why did the cure change us? What's going on?"
"That's what we're going to find out, once you get dressed." Misato tossed some underwear at Shinji.
Shinji looked at her medical gown and hesitated.
"You're complaining about girl's clothes?" Misato teased.
"Well no... it's not that. Not really."
Misato raised an eyebrow, and then noticed the hospital gown. "Oh, there's no reason to be shy. There's nothing you have that I haven't seen, believe me."
Questions dominated Shinji's mind as she stripped off the gown and got dressed. As that happened, Misato continued to unpack the suitcase. Some of the items were confusing, but after Misato saw her struggling with a training bra the older woman started helping in earnest.
It was only after she had finished, that Shinji realized what she was wearing. It was a school uniform. The blouse was white and the skirt and vest were teal. Her seifuku had a more nautical style than "the girl in the street's". Her skirting was pleated instead of a more smooth jumper-like configuration and she had a wider red bow adorning her chest. Still, the uniforms were of very similar style.
"Now Ritsuko was very specific on getting you a uniform, but..." Misato flashed another grin. "She didn't prohibit me from doing something for your hair."
Some of her hair had fallen in front of her face again, and Shinji frowned slightly.
"The length is a side effect of the process, but I don't think you need to cut it. Just keep it out of the way." Misato said as she unzipped a compartment in the top half of the suitcase.
She then withdrew a headband. It was dark purple with a bit of lacy edgework. On the sides it had two large silk bows with trailing ribbons in a slightly lighter shade of purple. Not seeing the younger girl offer any resistance, Misato combed Shinji's hair for over a minute.
When she was satisfied with the results, she slipped the headband behind Shinji's ears and adjusted it. Misato studied the girl. "There that'll keep most of your hair out of your eyes. Still, your bangs are pretty long, but if they're a problem we can trim them."
Misato then pulled Shinji off of the bed and pushed her to the bathroom. "Ooooh, very nice. Now don't worry. I told you, you're my responsibility and I'm going to take care of you. Besides, we're sisters now."
Shinji stared at her headband. Purple did seem to be her color. The whole thing was pretty, especially the headband. Part of her was uncomfortable, but mostly she didn't care. The clothes fit well and it was a school uniform. Even the shoes fit, and it made sense for them to be girl's shoes. The headband... She leaned her head forward. The headband did its job. "Sisters?" Shinji asked looking at the whole of the reflection. There was a eerily strong resemblance between them.
Misato grabbed Shinji's hand and pulled her along. "Come on, we've got to go," she said pulling Shinji into the hallway. Surprised at the lack of resistance, Misato looked down to find Shinji following at her side, calmly letting her hand be held.
After they went though a corridor, Misato felt Shinji pull towards the windows. "Awesome! A real Geo Front!" she gushed, looking out the windows. The vast subterranean facility sprawled beyond them. The inland lake was in the distance and above them was the armored roof and bottoms of the retractable buildings of Tokyo 3.
"That's Right. Nerv's Headquarters," Misato smiled and put her hand on Shinji's shoulder. "Come on, it'll all be explained in a moment."
Wondering what Nerv was, Shinji nodded and let herself be led through a few more corridors, until they came to a laboratory. Once inside the room, Shinji looked around. There were several medical beds and more of those organic, squat medical machines. The rest of the equipment was just as incomprehensible, though a pair of large vertically mounted grey tori dominated one corner of the room. One of the rings was two meters in diameter with the other a bit larger. Equally spaced on the circumference of the larger ring were four bulky cylinders.
Her attention then went to the two people already in the room. One was a blonde woman in a lab coat who was smiling thinly. The other... Shinji gasped. It was the same girl, down to the uniform.
The blonde chuckled. "Normally I'd think you'd have seen her before, but..." she paused. "Well I suppose that's true. Misato, how much did you tell her?"
"Nothing much. I'll leave that to you," Misato shrugged.
"Well, at least you didn't screw up getting her dressed. And what is this?" Ritsuko asked after walking over to Shinji.
"She needed something to keep all that hair out of her face."
Ritsuko sighed and started fussing with the headband. "We could just cut it shorter. That's what we did with her nails. It's just a side effect of the accelerated growth."
When Ritsuko had finished, Shinji swallowed and stepped back to be beside Misato.
Ritsuko frowned. "So did he transfer?"
"It sounds like Shinji," Misato shrugged.
"Transfer?" Shinji asked.
"Exactly." Ritsuko sat down on a stool in front of a lab bench, and pulled out a pack of cigarettes. "I'm doctor Ritsuko Akagi, I came up with the procedure. You were both exposed to a lethal dose of radiation. Your bodies were falling apart and would be dead within days."
Shinji simply looked at Ritsuko.
" The damage was too much, your body would die. There was no way around that. However, your father ordered me to find a way to save you."
"My father?" Shinji asked.
Ritsuko nodded. "Yes, he's the Commander here. Anyway, it was impossible - the best I could do was retard the damage and keep you two alive for a bit longer."
"This is a new body," Shinji stated. She knew her father was doing something... but this... What was he doing?
"Specifically, hers." Ritsuko turned to Rei and after a moment lit her cigarette.
Shinji tilted her head.
Ritsuko took a drag on the cigarette. "She's a clone. You're all clones. I'm the only one here who wasn't created in a lab."
Misato narrowed her eyes slightly.
"But..." Shinji looked down. "I remember."
"Well, yes. I was able to salvage your soul, Misato's too."
"It's okay." Misato put an arm around Shinji's shoulder. "You're still a human being." Misato glared at Ritsuko. "We all are."
"Why am I younger?"
Ritsuko shrugged. "You're whatever age the body I put you in was grown to. Now I felt that triplets would be a bit too suspicious, and Misato's job needs her to be an adult. So with her being the older sister, you ended up being the younger sister." Ritsuko decided to hold back the other reason for making Shinji younger.
Shinji frowned. "Oh."
"Now Rei-" Ritsuko gestured to the "middle sister". "-was made as a clone because we were not sure that normal humans could pilot an Evangelion. Now the Second Child proved that 'normal' humans could do it."
Wondering what an Evangelion was, Shinji absently nodded. She just noticed that both of Rei's forearms were bandaged and there was a fading bruise around her right eye.
Rei's eyes went between her two... sisters. The situation was unexpected, but she had her orders.
Ritsuko sighed. "You're taking this disturbingly well. Now I'm pretty sure you're
not another... Rei."
"Getting excited won't change anything," Shinji murmured. She then leaned onto Misato. She would just wait until things... calmed down.
Ritsuko turned to the still silent Rei and laughed a bit. "This will make your cover story easier then."
"We're all going to be sisters. The only people that know the truth about how..."
"How you were made," Ritsuko supplied.
"Yeah, the only people that can know that are us, and the Commander and the Vice-Commander. No one else can know that we're clones. Do you understand?" Misato asked.
"Not really but I'll keep the secret. No one would believe it otherwise."
"Perhaps." Ritsuko looked contemplatively at her cigarette. "Anyway, you're the Ayanami sisters now. Rei's fine since that's her name and she's kept her distance, so no one knows whether or not she has any family.
"You're okay. Only Misato met you, before, and only the senior officers knew that you were the Third Child," Ritsuko pulled out a large manila envelop and tossed it at Shinji. "You are Ayanami Shinju. We kept the name close to make it easy to remember. It'll also explain any slip ups... to some degree."
Stunned, the newly christened Shinju nodded; at this point, taking a new name seemed perfectly normal.
"Yes, I'm now Captain Ayanami Misako," the eldest, physically, Ayanami noted.
"You're the harder case; Katsuragi had been working here for a month, and was a close friend of mine."
"I'm still me!" Misako glared. "You still owe me that money!"
"I'll make it up to you later. While I was Misato's old friend from University, I became friends with you when I was at Nerv-01 on secondment. It was natural that we would meet; the First and Fourth Children are your younger sisters."
"Why'd you have to stick me in Massachusetts?" Misako asked. "Vegas would have been more fun."
"Still, we have to keep it a secret." Ritsuko continued to smoke. "Fortunately your duties are primarily involved with the Pilots, and they're family."
Misako arched an eyebrow. "Convenient."
Shinju again wondered what Evangelion were and why they thought people had to be specifically made in order to pilot them.
"Well, soon we'll formally introduce you to your 'new position'. Fortunately, it's normal for a deceased officer to be replaced," Ritsuko sighed. "The bridge crew will know something's up, but we can deal with them."
Misako nodded. She looked down to see her new sister at her side, still clutching the sealed envelop. "Is that it then? I don't know how much more... Shinju can take."
Ritsuko nodded. "Take Rei with you. The three of you have a new apartment to move into."
"I have an apartment," Rei stated, speaking for the first time.
"Which was acceptable when you were alone, but it's too small for three of you. It's best to have you living together, now," Ritsuko explained.
"Okay, but I kind of hate that I'll have to leave all my stuff and Pen-pen..."
"Maya's taking good care of him," Ritsuko explained. "Besides, use this as an excuse to go on a shopping spree. It's not like any of you really have any clothes now."
Misako looked at her younger, but identical, sisters and grinned. "Right, I'll stop off and get some identification made for- Shinju."
"I have sufficient clothes," Rei noted as she walked over to the newer clones.
Misako raised an eyebrow. "We'll see about that."
Ritsuko chuckled as she watched them leave. It was good that at least one of them was extroverted. She would have preferred if Shinju had dyed her hair too, but she did have to admit that the style was distinctive. Putting out her cigarette, she neatened up around the laboratory and then left locking it behind her.
She sighed as she walked out of the medical complex. What she told... Misako and... Shinju cut a bit too close to the truth. At least she was able to hold this and the earlier meetings with just Misako in that room. It served as a good prop, and even contained some actual Salvage equipment. It was ironic, the latest Ayanamis were still ignorant of exactly how and where they had been created.
Eventually she reached her destination and knocked on the door, which then opened. She strode into the large room. The pressing weight of the broad ceiling and the surreal symbols from particle physics painted on it and the floor had long ago become part of the background to Ritsuko. She had been in this room too many times for that to affect her. However, the person sitting at the desk was another matter.
Gendo looked past his steepled fingers and studied Ritsuko. "Was it a success?"
"It appears that way. Captain... Ayanami seems convinced it was, and she was the last person with Shinju... before." Ritsuko looked at Gendo and wondered if he could tell whether or not it was his son in that body. She did not know when they had met last.
"Impressive, maintaining commitment to the cover. Even here?" Fuyutsuki asked, from his position standing behind Gendo.
"It's a good habit to get into."
"Presuming we can trust Captain Ayanami's judgment, given that she was also Salvaged," Gendo stated.
Ritsuko managed to keep a straight face. It was not often that Gendo used his sense of humor, but it when he did... "I have spent two days with her. At the very least the majority of her personality and a sufficient quotient of her memories were transferred."
"But will the Fourth Child be able to pilot?"
"Rei is a Pilot. I would presume that a clone of her containing the soul of someone at the top of the Marduk Report would at least have the same probability of making a good Pilot as before," Ritsuko said wryly.
"Indeed, and Ayanami Shinju is now the Fourth on their Report," Fuyutsuki said.
"What's the soonest you can bring the Fourth in for a synchronization test?" Gendo asked.
"I was planning to later today, but I think Shinju needs some time to... stabilize." Ritsuko looked down. "I'll have Misako bring her in after school tomorrow."
"Test her as well."
"Yes, Sir." Ritsuko had planned on that. It would be a fascinating test, given the age of Misako's soul compared to the nature of her body.
"It's been a week since the Angel was dispatched," Gendo stated. "What is your evaluation?"
Ritsuko frowned. It was not enough that she had to develop a new means of using the Salvage equipment, but she was also forced to analyze incomplete reports, questionable data, and "educated' guesswork. "Obviously, it was a nuclear device."
"Our estimations said that it would require at least 180 million megawatts to pierce an AT Field," Fuyutsuki stated.
Ritsuko suppressed a sigh. " Energy is what counts; that wattage is assuming a one second absorption. Think of them as Joules. Now, the strength of a nuclear bomb is roughly scaled in kiloton and megaton equivalent of TNT. A one kiloton bomb would release about 4.184 million megajoules of energy. This converts to a 43 kiloton nuclear device being required, but that's assuming all the energy from the explosion goes into destroying the AT field."
"Explosions do not work that way," Gendo noted.
"Correct. The real problem is getting the energy on target. Unless you get it real close, almost all of the bomb's power will just go out and destroy things other than the angel. However, let's assume you actually put the bomb right on the AT field when you set it off. In that case, maybe as much as 10% of the bomb's power will go into the field."
"That's still about 450 kilotons."
"The Russians had that in stock. The Raduga Kh-22 has an explosive range between 350 and 1000 kilotons and could fly at twice the speed of sound, with a range of 400 kilometers."
"The explosion was smaller than that. So what did they use?" Gendo asked.
"The Moskva IIB's was originally a joint project with India, but they dropped out due to lack of funding, given the severe devastation of the Indian Ocean Tsunamis after the Second impact and the brief nuclear war they had with Pakistan.
"The missile's physics package deviated from that of normal nuclear weapons. In all such bombs, execution of proper supercriticality requires careful design. Most of this went into making the implosion as symmetrical as possible. Director Pavel Beria had experience in directing the blast for specific applications, such as blowing through hundreds of meters of armor and stone."
Fuyutsuki blinked but Gendo remained impassive.
"Thanks to Russian paranoia about the Angels' return, he had funding, computers capable of the calculations, and a mission. If you'll recall my earlier statement that at best 10% of the bomb's strength would go towards piercing the AT field... I'm not exactly sure how he did it. It seems he modified the geometries, tweaked the lensing, and dampened some of the reactions away from the 'target'."
"What percentage was he able to get?" Fuyutsuki asked.
Ritsuko looked up "Twenty-five."
"That's it?" Fuyutsuki paused.
Ritsuko pursed her lips, it was hard to explain exactly the level of scientific understanding and technological finesse required to get that level of... focus. "Keep in mind, nuclear weapons are very fast, very... messy. Beria's work is impressive. It reduced the needed power by over half. His... biased blast design meant they only needed 172 kilotons."
"They used a 200 kiloton device," Gendo stated.
"They wanted to be sure. They could have used a more powerful missile, or simply shot at it more than once. There was a fully loaded squadron up there for a reason. Thankfully the N2 mine gave them some idea of how strong of an AT field they were facing. The full fighter compliment launched from the Admiral Kuznetsov; that's twelve jets each carrying two missiles. Consider what they could have done."
Ritsuko allowed an inward smile at the shock on both of the men's faces. The hassles of the week almost made up for this moment.
"How was this option... overlooked," Gendo stated delicately.
"Ignoring the political factor... it was deemed absurd," Ritsuko wished she could have a smoke. "Gehirn's feasibility studies... they were laughable They always assumed that the angel would be at least a few hundred meters from the blast center. They were also ignorant of Beria's work."
"Still, it seems that if you fired enough, brute force would overcome." Fuyutsuki noted.
"The question is what the Russians plan to do with this Project Azazel," Fuyutsuki muttered.
"Fight Angels? Just like we are with Project E," Ritsuko stated with a trace of sarcasm.
"We need to determine to what extent Azazel can be a benefit and to what extent they will be a hindrance," Gendo stated.
"Yes, but the Evangelions do provide a more... refined solution. Less collateral damage for one."
"Indeed. Strictly speaking, the angels don't need to die at our hand. They just have to be stopped." Fuyutsuki glanced down at Gendo. "Thank you Doctor. Keep us appraised of the Ayanami sisters' status."
"Ahh! This is the life!" Misako cheered after she emptied the beer can and tossed it. "Nice food, clean apartment, and good roommates."
Rei's eyes followed the can and she frowned thinly where it landed. She lowered the spring roll she had on her chopsticks.
Why does she care about the mess? Her apartment was not exactly... clean. Shinju thought tilting her head.
"Come on, eat you two!" Misako urged, as she opened another beer. "Shinju... I know you've gotta be hungry. You haven't even eaten yet."
"We really should not ingest alcohol." Rei stated.
"Why? It doesn't have any meat in it? Besides, I asked Ritsuko, she said I could have beer."
"We can't eat meat?" Shinju softly asked.
Misako nodded as she stirred her soup. "It's a side effect. Ritsuko gave us a list of what we can and can't eat; it's in that folder she gave you."
"Including different drug tolerances." Rei mildly looked at the elder clone.
"You're no fun," Misako pouted as she got up and went to the kitchen to heat up a packet of dumplings. The apartment was in the same building as the former Katsuragi residence. However, it was a couple floors higher and was slightly larger, with three bedrooms. The Captain's old apartment only had two bedrooms and a storage room that could do the job if need be.
When Misako returned she frowned. The younger girls were quietly eating, each in their own world. She sat down and started eating. However, the silence began to press at her. Looking over she saw two mild, essentially identical, faces blandly consuming.
Misako twitched. "Oh come on!" She turned to Shinju. "Look, I know Rei's like this but I didn't think that you'd be a complete introvert too."
Shinju looked up and then quickly withdrew. Her headband loosened, it was even easier for her to hide behind her bangs.
Rei put down her utensils and looked between the other clones.
"Awww, I'm sorry." Misako went around the low table and used her hands to brush the hair out of Shinju's face. "I... I didn't mean to yell," she said sliding the headband back into place.
The pre-teen let Misako pull her. "This is all a bit much for me."
"We're in the same boat."
Shinju inhaled. "No. You... you get to go back to the same job. It's all new to me. Everything. I can't go back."
Rei tilted her head slightly and noted just dead and fatalistic her voice could be.
"I came here because my Father wants me to pilot some sort of robot to fight giant monsters, and I end up..." Shinju's complaints degenerated into confused half-hearted sobs.
"It's okay. It's okay," Misako repeated, as she hugged the girl. "We're here for you." She turned to the middle Ayanami. "Rei do you want to help? Give her a hug."
"It's what sisters do. We comfort each other when we're in pain."
"Shinju is not hurt." Rei noted as she itched one of the bandages on her forearm.
Misako reached out and grabbed Rei's hand and pulled her forward. "Hug. Now."
Awkwardly, Rei put her arms around the sobbing girl.
"We're here for you," Misako assured. Eventually the crying abated and the two larger sisters pulled away.
Shinju lowered her eyes, and put her arms around Rei, who stiffened. "Thank you."
Back at her side of the table, Rei nodded.
Silence grew over the sisters again. With a little sigh, Misako suffered through it. After they finished, Shinju started throwing away the empty instant packages and hunting down the beers Misako had emptied. After observing for a moment, Rei moved in to assist.
Misako went into her bedroom. She went past the unopened bedding to the desk that had been pushed against one corner. She leaned over to a pile of shopping bags and hunted around until she found the two she was looking for.
Shopping had been... surprising. She had expected Shinju to react poorly to buying clothes, especially girl's clothes, but the young girl had taken to the tasks with a quiet acceptance. Misako wondered how much of that was lingering shock from the transfer.
What Misako did not expect was Rei's difficulty. Rei's declaration that she had sufficient clothing... Remembering that tiny dingy apartment, Misako sighed. She never thought she would find someone who lived in worse conditions than she... had.
Misako opened the first package and withdrew a trio of silver frames. The problem with Rei... isn't that she' won't cooperate. She'll do anything if it's an order, and that's the problem. Misako thought to herself as she opened a folder. She froze at the contents.
Creepy eyes, Misako thought looking at the photographs. It did not help that she was the only one smiling. Rei was her normal bland self, and while Shinju was quite cute, her expression was more of terminal shyness than any kind of joy.
Misako shrugged and slipped three photos of the right size into their frames. She left one on her desk and went into Rei's bedroom.
Misako frowned. The room was bare. The only personal items were a pile of books on the dresser and a glasses case. There was a medical kit with drugs, bandages and other equipment, which was no surprise. Misako and Shinju had identical kits too.
Misako put a picture frame on the dresser and gave the room's bare walls a final look. She would have to make sure, Rei's room got a bit more... personality.
Going into Shinju's room, Misako found even fewer personal effects. The only thing on Shinju's dresser was the box to her new music player, Shinji's old player had been broken the second time Misato's car had been flipped, and a stack of mini-Discs. Looking over the titles, she shook her head. Shinju's taste in music...
Well, I'd say it's something you'd see some emotional little girl listening to but... Misako thought to herself as she placed the wide picture frame on Shinju's dresser. Sliding the door closed behind her, she went back into the living room.
"Not again," Misako sighed. "What's with you two?"
Rei's eyes briefly rose from her book before going back down.
On the other side of the couch, Shinju kept reading her "Welcome to Nerv" packet.
"I'm gonna have to get a movie player, maybe a Sega System," Misako sat down in n adjacent chair and turned on the television. "Maybe that will get you girls more active."
Rei's eyes narrowed slightly, but she kept at her reading. Shinju responded even less.
Misako blinked and stepped over to the smaller girl. She looked down to see the music player in Shinju's lap, just under her book. The headphone wires went up to a pair of small ear-bulbs, which were completely concealed by hair and fluffy bows. "Shinju," Misako gently said poking her in the shoulder.
Shinju snapped her head up, red eyes widening in shock, and her cheeks began to flush. "So- Sorry..."
Misako squeezed the girl's shoulder. "It's okay, I just wanted to get your attention," she finished lamely.
"Don't worry kiddo," Misako fluffed one of Shinju's bows. "You've got a big day tomorrow. First day of school, then we've got to checkout your Evangelion."
Shinju's blush rallied. "Okay."
Rei woke up to an unfamiliar ceiling. The momentary confusion abated as the previous day's memories grew. In the near-dawn light, she looked over to her dresser. The alarm clock showed she had plenty of time before school. She looked past the Commander's glasses case to the silver picture frame. Three sets of red eyes looked back at her.
Taking a moment to relish the lack of constant hammering, Rei considered there to be some improvements to her new residence. However, she soon realized there was another repetitive noise. She would have preferred to stay in bed, but she had her orders.
Going towards the noise, she got out of her bed and crossed the hall. She slid the door open and stood over Shinju's sleeping, whimpering form. Tilting her head, Rei knelt down over her sister.
Giving a quick blink, Rei continued to watch Shinju thrash and sob. Trying to hear Shinju's murmuring's, Rei leaned in closer. Unsure of what to do, Rei reached out, and found herself drawn in. Falling from a kneeling position, Rei ended up lying next to her little sister.
Dreams of fire and pain fading, Shinju woke up to a pair of red eyes staring at her. "R- Rei?" she hoarsely asked.
"You were having a nightmare?" Rei asked, as she awkwardly patted Shinju's shoulder.
Shinju nodded. "You, came in to comfort me?" she asked, amazement edging her voice.
Rei tilted her head and rose to her knees. "It seemed you were in pain."
Noticing Rei's state of dress, Shinju averted her eyes, which was easy given her hair length. Why isn't she wearing the pajamas that Misako-san bought her? Does she sleep nude? Shinju thought to herself as she turned to look at the clock.
Rei stood up and paused. "I'm sorry I woke you."
Shinju stared at the top of her dresser. "Don't apologize," she said, turning to the nude girl. Their bodies were almost identical, save a couple years. "I'm... happy. You and Misako-san are the first people to care about me."
Pondering the younger girl's words, Rei stared. "You should get ready for school."
"Thank you," Shinju whispered as her sister left. After turning on the lights, she then stripped out of her pajamas and put on her Tokyo 3 First Municipal Elementary School uniform. Looking at her dresser, she picked up a brush and walked over to a wall-mounted mirror. She was glad that Misako had given her grooming instructions.
When she finished brushing her hair out, she walked back to the dresser and put the brush down. Looking at the picture frame briefly, her eyes drifted to the violet Alice headband with its lavender bows. After a moment's consideration, she picked it up, and slid the headband on.
She then stepped into the living room and nearly ran into Misako. The elder Ayanami, in a pair of shorts and tank-top, gave Shinju a surprised once-over.
"Er... did I put it on right?" Shinju asked as she gave her pleated skirt a nervous tug.
"Yes, very good," Misako smiled, fluffing one of Shinju's bows.
Still looking down, Shinju nodded.
"Come on, we've got breakfast," Misako took Shinju's hand and pulled her the around the corner to the kitchen.
Rei, already sitting at the table, looked up from her meal before returning her attention to it.
"What's this?" Shinju asked, looking at a small dish filled with about a dozen pills.
"Rits didn't make us quite right," Misako sighed as she took her seat and poured a couple of pills from her dish into a cupped palm. "So the three of us have to take this stuff." After swallowing some, she turned back to Shinju. "So are you excited about your first day at school?"
Picking at her breakfast, Shinju shrugged.
The first morning in Class 6-A completed, Shinju got up. A small sigh of relief escaped her lips. The boredom had come as a welcome respite. Hesitantly, she pulled out a store-bought bento. She had put some thought into her lunch; it helped keep her mind off of what awaited her after school. After grabbing her music player and putting a history book under her lunch she turned around and saw two of her classmates.
"Hi, I'm Horaki Nozomi. I really like your headband," the freckled brunette chirped.
Her companion, another brunette, had her hair in a ponytail and was a bit shorter and wore thin glasses . "And I'm Suzuhara Shirane. It really does go well with your eyes. Very exotic."
"Where'd you get it?" Nozomi asked.
"Er... My... Misa... er.. Oneesan gave it to me," Shinju stammered as her cheeks tried to match her eyes' coloration.
"Aww, how nice, was it a birthday present?"
Shinju blinked. "Well... yes, you can say that."
"You want to have lunch with us?" Shirane asked. "It's a nice day and we were thinking of eating outside."
"Well... " Shinju looked at her text book, and then out the window. It looked out the pool and athletic fields that sprawled behind the school. In order to get more use out of those facilities, Tokyo 3 First Municipal Elementary school sat next to the Junior High.
Shinju looked out and had to agree. It was a nice day. Her gaze then spotted a girl with blue hair sitting at one of two benches under a tree. "Well... " Shinju repeated. "I was... planning on having lunch with... Oneechan."
"The one that gave you your headband? She's a student here?" Shirane asked.
Shinju shook her head. "Eldest sister gave me the headband. Oneechan's in Class 2-A of the Junior High.."
"Well, let's go out. Maybe she'll want to eat lunch with us too." Nozomi doubtfully ventured. Her sister was the Class Representative of 2-A and she had recalled Hikari mentioning an Ayanami classmate a lot like Shinju.
"Uh, okay," Shinju relented, and they left the classroom.
They exited the building and Shinju found herself leading the way. When they got within a few dozen meters of Rei. Shinju stopped. "I'll go and ask her myself; she's... shy."
"Runs in the family," Nozomi muttered.
Shinju gave a slight nod and walked over to Rei. The middle Ayanami put down her genetics book and met Shinju's gaze. "Hi... you want to have lunch? I brought a book to read," Shinju angled her textbook so Rei could get a better view.
Rei's eyes went to the two girls waiting behind Shinju.
"Uh... they wanted to eat with me. They're just being nice, but-" Shinju's voice lowered. "I really don't know if they'll be quiet, too. So... would you be okay with it?"
Rei paused in thought. Falling into her orders, she nodded and scooted over to one side of the bench. It things got too loud she could go back to the classroom early.
"Thanks," Shinju turned back to her classmates.
"Well?" Shirane asked.
"She doesn't mind, but... she's a bit particular," Shinju cautioned.
Nozomi nodded. "It's okay, my sister's in her class, and told me a bit about her. I'm just happy Rei actually has some family."
Her blush returning again, Shinju gave a small nod.
"Oneechan, this is Horaki Nozomi and Suzuhara Shirane," Shinju said to Rei.
Rei nodded to the two girls.
"So did you and your Oneesan just move in?" Shirane asked as she and Nozomi sat at one bench while Shinju sat next to her sister.
Before casting a glance back at Rei, Shinju nodded again and opened her bento.
"It must be nice living with your family again," Shirane told Rei.
Rei tilted her head. "Your brother is in my class."
"Oh, wow. Good point!" Shirane laughed. "You're right about that. The big jock has his moments. He got out of the shelter and tried to "save" me. Of course then the bomb got us both.
Shinju stopped her eating. "How... how bad?"
"We were pretty sick, but we didn't get a bad dosage," Shirane smiled at her lunch, having her appetite back was a good thing.
Shinju tilted her head. Clearly, Shirane had a different idea of what "pretty sick" was.
"You should have followed orders," Rei testily noted, not looking up from her book.
"Yeah, that was really, really stupid of you. What if the Angel had been closer?" Nozomi asked.
"I'm sorry. I'm not gonna do that again." Shirane pouted.
"That will get you killed," Shinju stated.
Silently eating her own lunch, Shirane nodded.
Nozomi looked at her friend and frowned. "Oh, you've got one of those Sony Mini-Discs," she said after seeing the player on top of Shinju's history book.
"What are you listening too?"
Shirane watched Shinju get up and handed the player over. It was interesting; physically, the Ayanamis were very alike, aside from the hair. Shinju's was nearly knee-length while Rei kept a pageboy with combed-in sides; clearly Shinju was the more feminine sister. Shirane idly wondered what Shinju would look like when she got old enough to start wearing makeup and got the curves that her older sister already had.
Nozomi put one of the speakers to her ear and hit play. "Oh... nice, classical music. You're into that stuff?"
"I like a lot of music," Shinju softly said.
Rei raised an eyebrow slightly but kept reading her book. Evidently, her younger "sister" was different, at least when it came to sociability.
Standing by the entrance to the Junior High, Shinju waited. Music abated her nervousness, somewhat. Eyes perking, she walked over to Rei, who was briskly walking through the gate.
Turning to see the younger clone running towards her, Rei stopped. Her face blank, she waited for Shinju to catch up to her. Giving the girl a slight nod, she turned and resumed walking down the street.
Turning her music player off, Shinju followed alongside the taller girl in relative silence for a block or so. "Um... thanks, for waiting."
"Thanks?" Rei flatly asked.
"Yeah," Shinju frowned and walked alongside Rei for a few more paces. "About, today..."
Rei's head tilted slightly.
"Any advice? I mean... I don't know what to expect."
"The Evangelion won't move unless you open your heart." Rei said, almost reverently.
Shinju blinked. "My heart is closed?" she asked, genuinely curious.
They approached one of the armored entrances that lead down to the Geo Front. The small building squatted on a street corner and looked like it could withstand an N2 blast, at the very least. Rei looked the smaller girl over. "You'll find out today."
"Oh," Shinju stated as they both swiped their ID cards to get through the first set of security doors, which were massive steel shutters several inches thick. They then went through a security checkpoint where they were examined by a set of Nerv guards, and then went through an even thicker set of gates.
After entering an elevator, Shinju fidgeted with her right hair bow. "Why does my heart matter? I thought they were robots."
"No, the Evangelions have souls," Rei stated, watching her sibling's reflection via the polished elevator doors.
"Oh, Oneesan didn't mention that."
"Captain Ayanami does not know."
"Oh," Shinju stated. Their descent continued in silence. The elevator doors opened and Shinju followed Rei as the older girl navigated the moving walkways and escalators that crisscrossed the gigantic facility.
Eventually, the pair came to a somewhat unassuming steel door. Ritsuko and Misako were waiting next to it.
"Did you have a good first day?" Misako asked as she gave one of Shinju's bows a playful flick.
Ritsuko looked up from her clipboard and stared at the clones. There was something... off.
"Uh... yes. I met some nice people and we all had lunch together," Shinju blushed.
"See! I told you you'd have a good day. You even made some friends," Misako cheered.
As Ritsuko digested the idea of Rei being social, she noticed what had got her attention.
"Oneesan... how was your first day?" Shinju asked, wondering why neither Oneechan or Oneesan had these problems. They had the same bodies; how come their cheeks never turned red?
"Onnesan?" Misako smirked. "Eh, it was fine. I was introduced to a bunch of people. I then had to do a bunch of paperwork. Normal stuff."
Ritsuko cleared her throat. "Rei, why are you holding hands with Shinju?"
"She kept being distracted on the way over here. It was the simplest way to keep her from wandering." Rei then let go of Shinju's hand
"Sorry, but this place is just so big and strange. There's all this giant machinery and weird rooms."
Ritsuko smirked. "Oh. You like that kind of stuff?"
Shinju shrugged. "It's impressive."
Swiping her security pass on the door, Ritsuko chuckled. "If you'll go in then."
After the four women entered a pitch-black room, the door closed behind them with a loud echo. Shinju could hear the sound of waves and wondered if they were near that underground lake. "It's pitch black," Shinju stated, just before the lights switched on.
The young girl gasped in surprise. A gigantic purple armored face, with solid white eyes stared back at her. Shinju looked down and saw that the rest of the... thing was immersed in pinkish fluid up to its shoulders.
"This is humanity's Multi-Purpose Humanoid Fighting Machine, Evangelion. This is Unit 01. It was build in secrecy. This is... was mankind's last chance," Ritsuko noted with a sigh at the end.
Shinju continued to stare as she tried to take in the vast war-machine. "This... this is for me?"
"Perhaps," Ritsuko admitted. "It took Rei seven months to synchronize, and we're not even sure you can do it yet, but... we might as well try."
"This is... my father's work?"
"Yes, that's why he sent for you." Ritsuko frowned. Shinju's paternity should be kept a better secret.
I need to open my heart... to this thing's... soul. Father must have thought I could do that. Shinju thought to herself He thought that before the bomb, before I... changed.
"Do you want to test this out?" Misako knelt down to Shinju's height. "We need more Pilots. We need a... better alternative to the Russian way of fighting angels."
"Compared to Azazel's methods, the Evangelion is a surgical weapon. It won't destroy an entire city whenever it's used."
"Oh," Shinju turned to Rei, who simply blinked blandly back at her.
"Well?" Misako asked.
Shinju bit her lower lip. "Yeah... I'll do it. I mean. I'll try."
"I'm surprised you didn't make her do it yourself," Fuyutsuki noted as he looked at the monitor.
"Why?" Gendo asked, sitting at his desk. "It would merely antagonize the girl. Without an angel attacking, there's no urgency. Better to let her... family-" He gave a slight grin. "push her into this."
"You want her cooperative?"
"Ideally. Given the competition, I would prefer our Pilots to be as... functional as possible," Gendo noted.
"You care what Azazel does?" Fuyutsuki asked. "Technically, it doesn't matter how the angels die."
"True, but they could become a threat to Nerv's budget. The UN might think that they don't need a 'Fortress City' if a pile of missiles can kill the angels."
"Surely the Old Men..."
Gendo turned to Fuyutsuki. "Azazel could be their creation. What better way to apply pressure and a check to keep us in line,"
"I would think them being independent is worse. What if an Angel makes it into the Geo Front and they feel that the Third Impact is imminent?"
"Indeed." Gendo nodded. "Our investigations must continue, but we must also make sure Nerv succeeds in its stated goal."
"Is this right? It feels kind of funny." Shinju asked as she stepped out of the Pilot's locker room.
Half expecting the plugsuit to be loose, Ritsuko turned and was about to reach for Shinju's wrist. The scientist then noted that the bodysuit was skin tight. "What's wrong?"
"It's just really tight. It feels weird." Shinju tugged at the suit's waist. It also made the changes to her chest more obvious. The bodysuit itself was solid purple with green accents, similar in coloration to Unit 01.
"It's supposed to be. It's been made specifically for you and is not too small," Ritsuko dryly noted, as she frowned at the girl's headwear
"I'm afraid you can't wear that in the Plug." Ritsuko pointed to Shinju's headband.
Shinju blinked and then stared at Ritsuko.
Looking at those red eyes, Ritsuko almost took a step back. "The bows are silk; the LCL will stain them. I don't want it to get ruined."
Shinju frowned. "LCL?"
"It's a fluid we pump into the Plug. Don't worry you can breathe it. It's required for the synchronization, but you'll get used to it," Ritsuko explained.
Giving the older woman a skeptical glance, Shinju pulled off her headband and went back to her locker. When she returned, Ritsuko was holding a pair of barrette-like purple Interface Headsets.
"For synchronization?" Shinju asked as she slipped them into her hair.
"Correct." Ritsuko then lead Shinju out of the locker room and down a corridor. They went down a set of stairs and entered a gantry way above the giant machine. Shinju looked down to see the vast lake of pink fluid begin to drain away, revealing more of Unit 01.
Reaching an inclined white cylinder, Ritsuko had Shinju enter the plug and helped her into the seat. The scientist then withdrew, leaving the Forth Child alone. The plug sealed and Shinju felt a jolt as the plug was inserted into Unit 01.
Shinju had a moment to look around the shiny walls of the plug's interior before amber fluid started to rise from the capsule's bottom. She squirmed as the LCL reached her chin.
"Don't worry, you can breath this. Once your lungs fill with LCL, it'll directly supply you with oxygen. You'll get used to it," Ritsuko's voice radioed in.
Totally immersed, Shinju was finally forces to let her breath go. Air escaped and liquid rushed in. Her sinuses and lungs filled as she tried, and succeeded, to breathe. "I feel sick." Her voice was quiet.
"You're doing great, Kiddo!" Misako reassured. "It's about to start."
Shinju nodded. Remembering Oneechan's advice she started chanting to herself. Open my heart. Open my heart. Open my heart. Open my heart.
"Charging LCL. Second Contact is made. The connection of the A10-nerve is operational," Maya said over the same communications channel.
The amber fluid suddenly turned clear, but Shinju gasped more at the lightshow on the inner surface of the Plug, first a rainbow ran up the length of the cylinder, then Shinju was immersed in darkness as the surface went black and lightning-like white lines ran up the length of the tube. The interior then turned a glossy ruby before shifting into a series of view screens. Keeping up her mental repetitions, she could feel... something. Her body felt restricted and anchored, especially in the shoulders.
"All Initial contacts are Alright," Maya said, as Shinju leaned forward to get a better... view. The vast room Unit 01 was stored in came up on the screens.
"Ratio of synchronization is... 62.4%." Maya said with a little gasp.
"Incredible," Ritsuko smiled as she watched the multitude of displays turn green. "It will work," she noted, with pride.
"How are you feeling Shinju?" Misako asked, appearing on a small display window superimposed over the Evangelion-eye-view.
"Okay. Feels kind weird, but okay."
"You're doing just great!" Misako gave a thumbs up.
"You're a natural. Ritsuko's this close to maniacal laughter."
"They did call my ideas mad, but I showed them," Ritsuko thinly smiled.
"If you're up to it. We're going to withdraw the Umbilical bridge, and the other safety locks. Then we'll move you to a training room and get you used to moving around. You wanna do that?"
Shinju looked around; she was already here. "Yes, why not?"
"My hair still smells funny." Shinju frowned as she slipped her headband back on.
"Aren't you glad I told you to take it off." Ritsuko's eyes went to Shinju's older sister, who had also stripped out of a plug suit.
Rei silently watched the exchange.
Shinju's hand went to one of her bows. "Yes," she softly said before turning to her sister. "I'm sorry your test didn't go so well."
The elder Ayanami blinked.
"Well, it's not like there's, currently, an Evangelion for her. Unit 00 is still being... checked." Ritsuko sighed and looked at Rei.
Shinju wondered what had happened with Unit 00, but could not quite muster the initiative to ask.
"That just leaves Unit 01. Still, I was curious. I wanted to see how she'd perform."
"Well you found out," Misako sighed.
"Yes, disappointing," Ritsuko and frowned between the sisters. Perhaps it was a bit much for her to assume the pilots could be interchangeable.
"Of course it didn't work." Misako put on her skirt and blouse. She would have preferred her normal miniskirt and top, but, for now, the Nerv Tactical uniform was safer. "Born pre-impact."
Ritsuko raised an eyebrow.
Misako frowned. "Fine. You've got a point. It still didn't work."
"5%," Ritsuko smirked. "Not that you can tell anyone about this, ever."
"Yes, it'd blow our cover." Misako rolled her eyes.
"You're training will be a continued challenge," Ritsuko mussed.
"What? I didn't even come close to the Border-line nerve link," Misako groused.
"It took Rei seven months to synchronize." Ritsuko shrugged, looking at her notes. "There's at least the capacity in you for it to work."
Misako looked between Shinju and Rei. "Yeah, I'll keep at it. I can't send you out there without trying to make sure I don't do my best too."
Behind her clipboard, Ritsuko smiled thinly. "Well, I guess that's it. You're free to go. I'll expect you in tomorrow for more training and tests"
Misako sighed, while Rei remained unresponsive. Meanwhile, Shinju looked down at her shiny new shoes. "Um... did I do good... today?"
The scientist's mouth opened and her arm dropped to her side, causing the papers clipped to the board to flutter about. "You... you broke 60% on your first time... I mean..." She stared at the young girl meekly hiding behind her bangs.
Marveling at the girl's... insecurity, Ritsuko bent at her knees and lifted Shinju's chin up. "Yes. You did amazingly well. You should be proud. Very proud for what you were able to do today."
"Really?" Shinju quietly asked.
"Yeah, you did great today!" Misako assured.
"Now go on, enjoy the rest of your evening," Ritsuko said as she led the three sisters out of the locker room.
Following Shinju and Misako, Rei blinked and gave a slight nod. The trio went down a corridor and came to a moving walkway. After riding it, they finally reached an elevator bank.
Midway through their ascent the elevator stopped. The doors opened and Gendo's stern face looked down at the Ayanamis. Glasses reflecting the light, he watched as Shinju hesitantly stepped forward.
Determination crossed the small girl's face. Open my heart. Open my heart, she thought as she looked at her father's stern face. Summoning her will, she spread her arms and wrapped them around Gendo's waist and hugged the tall man.
Gendo's eyebrows raised as he stared down at the juvenile clone. Inside the elevator, Misako stared in shock and Rei stared with a guarded expression. "Been a while hasn't it?" he eventually asked.
"Father..." Shinju softly said. "Father, why did you call me?"
Gendo pushed his glasses up. "For exactly the reason that you think."
Shinju tightened her grip. "Do you mean that I should pilot... Eva, and fight against things like what I saw?"
"Of course." Gendo's voice was bemused.
"No way..." Shinju whispered; she then tilted her head to look up at his face. "Why've you saying this now? I thought you didn't want me."
Misako winced at Shinju's pitiful tone.
Gendo stared into Shinju's eyes. "I only called for you because I need you now."
"Why me..." The clone finally loosened her grip.
"Because others cannot... or cannot do it well." Gendo said with a tinge of irony. Hesitantly, he put a hand on her shoulder.
Hitting the "Door Open" button again, Misako gaped. Not only had the Commander let himself be hugged, for an extended period no less, but he was now reciprocating in physical contact.
"Can I do it? I've only just seen it. How can I do it?" Shinju swallowed nervously.
"You have done it. You will do it. You cannot fail."
"I have?" Shinju unwrapped her arms and stepped back.
"Consider your performance today."
"62.4%" Shinju had lowered her head again, but her voice had a trace of pride.
Gendo allowed a slight smirk to grace his face.
"You're happy about her performance?" Misako asked, overcoming the shock of what she had seen.
"She exceeded all expectations. Yes Capitan, I have confidence in your sisters' performance." Gendo adjusting his glasses again. "The question is, will your tactical skills be able to meet their needs?"
"Yes Sir." Misako replied.
"Good." Gendo then looked to Rei and finally down to Shinju. "Captain, Pilots. If you'll go ahead, I'll take the next elevator."
Shinju nodded and stepped back into the elevator cab and silently watched as the doors closed. "Father, we won't fail you," she whispered.
Nozomi followed Shirane down a hallway. "Does anyone else live here?" the pony-tailed girl asked.
"Only a couple of the patios had any furniture on them," Nozomi shrugged.
"I guess the Ayanamis like their privacy."
"It's nicer than where Rei lived before her sisters arrived. My sister said it was over by Development District."
Shirane blinked. "With all that construction? Why'd she live there?"
"Why do they now live way out here," Nozomi shrugged as they reached their destination. "It's not like it's hard to find apartments in this city."
"Good point." Shirane rung the doorbell.
An electronic chime rang out in the hallway. After the door opened, the two elementary-school girls blinked at the person behind it. The woman was several years older than Shinju or Rei. While her eyes were the same shade of red the other two Ayanami had, her hair was more of powder lavender than powder blue. The biggest difference was the confident smile and excited eyes on an otherwise distinctly Ayanami face. A shiny black miniskirt and a skimpy red top showed off her adult but youthful body.
"You two must be Shinju's friends," the woman said as she almost physically drew them into the entrance corridor.
"Yes, I'm Horaki Nozomi and this is Suzuhara Shirane," she said removing her shoes with Nozomi.
The woman nodded. "Ayanami Misako."
"Thanks for having us over," Shirane said.
"Shinju told you?" Misako's eyebrow cocked. "Hah, poor girl. I'll bet she made it sound like I ordered her to invite you over."
"What? I was just being polite." Shirane tilted her head. Shinju had been very nervous when she asked them if they wanted to come over, but that was just the girl's style.
As they rounded a corner and entered the kitchen, Misako winced. "Oh... she didn't tell you..."
Nozomi and Shirane then saw the apartment. To their left was a kitchen area, to their right was the wash and bath room. Immediately in front of them was a dining section that led to a rather spacious living room and beyond that was a large veranda. Doors to what were likely bedrooms were on either side of the living room. Sparsely furnished, the apartment looked recently moved-in.
Sitting at one end of the living room couch was Rei, still in her school uniform, her nose in a book. However, the elementary school girls' attention was on the kitchen. Blushing furiously, Shinju stood in the kitchen holding a large mixing bowl. She was wearing an apron the same light purple as her bows over a white dress with ruffled sleeves and scalloping on the ankle-length skirt's hem.
"Nice dress." Shirane felt self conscious. In between Misako's under-dressing, Shinju's over-dressing, and Rei's formal-dressing her own sweater and skirt felt too... normal.
"It's very pretty," Nozomi's wondering if Shinju had said this was a dress-party and she had simply not heard it.
"I... I... Oneesan... said I should wear... something nice." Shinju stuttered out.
"And it is very nice," Shirane said as she helped Shinju put the large metal bowl down on the dining room table.
"You're cooking?" Nozomi asked. After spending a week around the younger Ayanami, she had found that the best way to get her fits of embarrassment under control was to change the subject.
Shinju nodded. "Oneesan... well..."
"You can say it," Misako laughed and turned to the two guests. "I can't cook. Even Rei's better than me, and she can only make the basics."
Looking up from her book, Rei gave an almost... interested glance at the conversation.
"The dress looks nice? I mean... I'm not sure it's... me." Shinju's cheeks had started to cool.
"You look adorable." Shirane's voice had shades of jealousy.
Shinju frowned. "It doesn't make me look too old?"
"A frilly party dress?" Nozomi chuckled. "Not really, though the apron and cute faux-pearl necklace, make you look like a little girl playing at homemaker."
Flushing furiously, Shinju went back to the kitchen. "Well..."
"Don't worry, you're not too old to play pretend," Shirane teased.
"It's not pretend; she does the majority of the household maintenance," Rei noted
"She doesn't do all the cleaning!" Misako's blush nearly rivaled Shinju's
Rei tilted her head. "Correct, I often help."
Snickering, Nozomi wondered why her sister never mentioned Rei's sense of humor. Though Hikari could be overly serious herself.
"Maybe I should have had you dress up too," Misako said to Rei.
Rei looked at Misako before returning to her book.
"So what are you cooking?" Nozomi asked. "It smells great."
Shinju beamed and started to explain what she was preparing for their dinner.
"How did the Human Instrumentality Committee take it?" Fuyutsuki asked as his eyes drifted over Gendo's desk.
"Fortunately, most of Lorenz's ire was directed at the Russian representative," Gendo stated.
"Do you believe he had foreknowledge of Azazel? Do the rest of the Old Men?"
Behind his steepled fingers, Gendo frowned. "I would not presume. Clearly, they intend to use Azazel as a check on us, but I am uncertain that they fully realize the implication of such action, and what Azazel could become against them."
"A check against Seele? Who would dare?" Fuyutsuki's eyebrow raised as he studied the silver picture frame propped on Gendo's desk.
Gendo raised an eyebrow. "Their secrecy is not perfect."
Fuyutsuki gave a nod. That Gendo was in the position he was in was proof of that.
"I am disappointed in Dr. Akagi. There was a glaring blind spot in her analysis of Azazel's technical knowledge."
"Information on AT fields and Angels. They knew what they were going to fight. How did the Russians get it?"
Gendo smirked. "Intriguing. Nerv, Marduk, the UN, and even JSSDF are being probed, but..."
"You suspect they penetrated Seele?"
"Would it be wise to underestimate the Russians? Consider what they accomplished with a bare fraction of our funding. How did we miss them? Their Nerv branch doesn't even have a Magi."
"Well, their goals are different."
"Oh? The public presumes that Nerv's mission is to fight the Angels. Are we to make the same assumption with Azazel?"
Fuyutsuki chuckled. "Third Impact? With nuclear weapons? Rather crude."
"The good doctor's apprehension with regard to Director Beria should be caution enough."
"I trust our own agents are at work, but what shall we do in the meantime?"
Gendo's eyes went to the corner of his desk. "Nerv has been challenged. We cannot lose our purpose or our funding."
"Worrying about something as pedestrian as money?" Fuyutsuki asked with a slight smirk.
"We can no longer claim a monopoly. As it stands, we are the unproven technology."
"You think Azazel's solution would be palatable. In the long run?"
"The people out there... if you told them that the Second Impact could have been avoided if you vaporized a city, ten cities, a country, would they?"
Fuyutsuki raised an eyebrow.
"Do not let the veneer of materialistic complacency fool you, old friend. These people have lived through the deaths of billions. Humanity recovered by will and science, and now..."
"The threat returns?"
"Have you seen the interviews the Russians have been giving? Their Captain Zel'dovich, he is not being seen as a hero, but a man doing what has to be done." Gendo sighed. "People, especially those not in Japan, found... comfort in the decisiveness of the Azazel's action. They don't really care how the Angels are destroyed, only that they are."
"So we must make the case for Evangelion as the preferred alternative."
"Indeed. Once we show that the Angels can be destroyed without fallout..."
"Instead of picking between nuclear wasteland and planetary extinction, the choice becomes wasteland versus Evangelion." Fuyutsuki rubbed his chin. "I presume we will be... allowed to sortie against the next angel."
"Do you think our influence with the UN has diminished that much?" Gendo idly asked. He adjusted his glasses. "The plan is for us to intercept the next angel, while Azazel provides cover, in case we fail."
Fuyutsuki's eyes went to the picture frame on the desk. "And so it comes to this."
"We have no other options."
The meal finished the three girls retreated to the apartment's terrace.
"Really nice dinner. I think you cook as good as my sister Hikari," Nozomi complimented while Shinju gave her normal reaction.
"Yeah, I didn't even really notice that there was no meat," Shirane said.
"So, why are we out here?" Shinju asked as she handed out some miniature ice cream containers.
"The view is very pretty," Nozomi said looking out at the mountains and the smattering of lights from the Tokyo 3 suburbs. Beyond the mountain however... it was best not to think of the destruction.
"Anyway, your sisters are nice, but I'm not sure we can talk about everything around them. Misako's almost an adult."
"She does work at Nerv," Shinju pointed out.
"So does everyone around here, but yeah, she's nice, if a bit... exuberant."
"I can see why Rei and Shinju are so quiet," Shirane smirked.
"Oh?" Nozomi asked.
"Misako took all the family's sociability."
To Shirane's surprise Shinju laughed with Nozomi.
"It... it has taken some getting used to." Shinju smiled slightly.
"Used to? She's your sister."
"Oneesan only recently got transferred over here. Before then she worked at Nerv's First Branch in America."
"Oh, you didn't live with her?"
Shinju shook her head. "I was with a Tutor at the time."
"Why'd Nerv split you three up?" Nozomi asked.
Shinju lowered her head and chewed her lip.
"Sorry," Nozomi sighed. Even children knew, with Nerv there were some questions that you could not get answers for.
An awkward silence grew between the trio. Eventually, Nozomi turned to Shirane and broke it. "I still can't believe you like him," Nozomi said.
"Who?" Shinju asked as she poked at the cup of ice cream she was still finishing for dessert.
"Some geek that's friends with her older brother," Nozomi teased.
"He's not a geek," Shirane pouted. "He's really smart, and into cool stuff."
"Military stuff, not girls. Besides you only like that stuff because he does," Nozomi explained.
Shinju quietly watched. It was interesting to see someone else get flustered.
"Like he'd want anything to do with some Elementary-schooler."
"Touji said he's not actually that popular with the girls," Shirane muttered.
"Oh, so you'd want to take some guy that can't get any girls his age?"
"It's only two grades, in a few years it won't make any difference."
"And by then you'll have grown up," Nozomi pointed out.
"At least you two have older sisters. You know how big you'll get."
"I hope I don't get Kodama's hips," Nozomi sighed.
"Well, what about you Shinji?"
The younger clone tilted her head.
"Misako's a pretty good guide on how you'll look when you get her age. What do you think about getting a figure like hers one day?"
Shinju blushed. "I... I guess it'll be... nice."
"Afraid of your cuteness wearing off?" Nozomi smirked.
"Right, like our Shinju-chan can be anything other than cute."
"Awww... she's blushing again!" Shirane teased.
"Of course she is," Nozomi put an arm around Shinju who seemed torn between crying and running away. "It's okay. We're not making fun of you."
"Yeah, we do like you. Most girls are pretty stuck up around here, a lot of them are 'Daddy's Little Princess'. Complete brats," Shirane said.
"But don't worry. A girl can be... big and still be cute," Nozomi stated.
"If anything that seems to make the guys melt faster," Shirane noted.
"So... you like any of the boys in our class?" Nozomi asked Shinju.
Shinju's stared blankly for a few seconds, and found herself mentally looking through her classmates. Most she only knew by name and had exchanged a few words with, some were even nice enough... She shook her head and stopped that line of thought. "No... not really."
"Oh? So no one's your taste?"
Shinju paused and decided to go with the safe answer. "No, none of them."
"So what do you like in a boy?" Nozomi asked.
Shinju winced at her blunder.
"Delicate little thing like you, I'm betting you'd like a big guy, strong. Athletic," Shirane guessed.
Feeling her cheeks and ears begin to burn, Shinju felt her sense of familiarity go adrift. She had never even considered romance, male or female. Part of her did wonder what it would be like to have someone strong, someone that could protect her...
"Are you trying to set Shinju-chan up with your brother?" Nozomi asked.
"Anyway, I think she'd want someone more sensitive. A guy that would write her poetry or maybe play music for her." Nozomi turned to Shinju.
Nervously swallowing, Shinju felt that the truth could not hurt. "Well... I do like music."
Nozomi smirked to Shirane. "See, she wants a sensitive guy."
"Nonsense. Come on Shinju-chan, I know you. You had fun tonight. You like cooking and cleaning, right?"
"Well... I don't mind it." Shinju hoped that her blush was not getting worse.
"What do you want to do when you grow up?"
Shinju froze. Thoughts of her future were as blank as those of... companionship. "I... I don't know. I'm just happy to have my sisters... back."
"Family's important to you," Shirane nodded. "So what would you rather do? Spend all your time at home with your family or deal with some kind of job?"
Shinju blinked. "What would I do then?"
"Well, what do you think housewives do all day?"
"This isn't proving your case," Nozomi reminded.
"I'm getting to that," Shirane glared. "Now Shinju, if we're imagining you as a homemaker you're going to need a husband. What kind of husband do you want? Some sappy sensitive wimp or someone strong that'll make sure you'll be provided for?"
"I have to pick?" Shinju innocently asked.
Shirane grinned. "Oh... so that's your game. You want it all!"
"No... that's..." Shinju's blush grew to where she had to lower her head. "I didn't mean it like that."
"So you don't want two husbands?" Shirane teased, while Shinju nervously shivered.
"Shirane! Don't be mean!" Nozomi scolded while she comforting the timid girl. "Shinju doesn't mean it like that. She just wants to have a nice husband, not some sort of... harem."
"Please... this is embarrassing. Can't we let it end?" Shinju managed to utter.
Her amusement abating, Shirane's face took a more serious tone. "Awww... I'm sorry. I'm just teasing you."
Shinju looked up at the ponytailed girl and Shirane almost winced at how the girl's crimson eyes reflected the city lights.
"I mean, we're just having fun. You know imagining the future," Shirane explained.
Shinju tilted her head. Between school and training in the Geo Front she had little time to thing about the... future. Though the concept now loomed over her mind. Doctor Akagi had not mentioned the possibility of going back for either Shinju or Misako. Shinju did wonder if clones of their old bodies could be made, or if the transfer process only worked with the "special" clone bodies.
"What are you thinking of, Shinju-chan?" Nozomi asked.
"The future," the young clone said with a little shrug. "It's kind of hard to think about."
"Yes, the war's not helping either," Shirane frowned. "We don't know what will happen in the next attack. Sure the government can kill the enemy but..."
"Maybe this time you'll stay in your shelter," Nozomi glared.
Shirane lowered her head.
Shinju chewed her lip. Evangelion was an alternative. Instead of breaking an AT field by brute force it – she – could neutralize it and then fight the angel herself. Fighting... scared her, she could do the simulations, but those felt like a fancy videogame. Shinju once again wished that her Onechan's Evangelion would get repaired faster. "Someone... someone has to do it though. We need to stop the Angels."
"What is Nerv doing here? I mean... why build a city to fight Angels if you're just going to nuke them?" Nozomi asked
Shinju turned away.
"Sorry. It'd be classified; it always is," Nozomi sighed.
"It's your sister right? She's an officer in Nerv. She told you something?" Shirane asked.
"I can't say." Shinju's ears burned at the sense of betrayal.
"You're just looking for something to tell Ken so he'll think you're cool." Nozomi teased.
"I... I can say this much. The people behind this... they're doing their best. They won't fail you..."
"You mean us?"
"Yes..." Shinju blushed.
Nozomi tried to be skeptical, but that had to be a slip of the tongue. She could see Shinju hearing tidbits about Nerv from her Oneesan, but why would a 12 year old girl be privy to secrets herself?
"Thanks." Shirane bowed her head a bit. "For telling us... what you could."
"So... what do you think about swim class starting up?" Shirane asked after trying to come up with a new subject.
"Should be fun." Nozomi turned to Shinju. "Do you know how to swim?"
Shinju shook her head. "No, but Oneechan says she'll teach me."
"That sounds nice."
"I guess, but I'm a bit worried."
"About not learning?" Shirane asked.
"No... getting a burn." Shinju frowned. "That's why Oneechan only swims in indoor pools."
"Yes, I can see that being a problem."
"On the plus side, if your face got burned no one would know," Shirane smirked.
"Not nice," Shinju pouted as the door to the terrace slid open.
"What's not nice?" Misako asked.
"Shirane made fun of Shinju's blushing," Nozomi said.
"She'll grow out of it."
"Really?" Shinju asked.
"You're meeting a lot of new people, a lot more than when you just had private tutors." Misako smiled as she affectingly played with one of the Shinju's bows.
"Were we being too loud?" Nozomi politely asked.
"No, I just came in to tell you that your sister Kodama called. She's driving over to pick you up, should be over in a few minutes.
"Awww... already?" Shirane whined.
"It's a school night." Misako leaned on the door frame and, looking at the view, regretted her decision to talk to the girls before getting another beer. "Don't worry, I'm sure you guys can have a sleepover soon enough. Won't that be fun?" Shinju's two friends brightened while Shinju tilted her head in a near state of incomprehension that tugged at the older clone's heart.
The door chime then went off, and Misako herded the three girls into the apartment. Rei, at her customary seat in the living room, looked up from her reading and watched the girls return.
"It was fun," Shinju said while Misako answered the door.
"I'm Misako; you must be Horaki Kodama," the tallest Ayanami greeted.
A woman about Misako's apparent age stepped into the entranceway. She had fewer freckles than her younger sisters and wore a pair of slim business-like glasses. Her hair was up in a prim bun and she was dressed in a Nerv uniform and carried a slim briefcase at her side. Entering the kitchen, she had a slight smile as she spotted Rei and Shinju. "So you've got two of the runts as well," Kodama noted.
"Yeah, but it helps that they're real quiet." Misako shrugged.
"Bookish little sisters do make things more convenient," Kodama gave a mock sigh. "I was very disappointed when Nozomi didn't follow in her big sisters' footsteps and become a Class Representative."
"Why would I volunteer to be a flunky for my teachers? The power you get isn't even enough to go tipsy with, let alone mad."
"It's better to build up politicking experience and backstabbing skills now. The business-world will eat you alive, if you're not prepared."
"I'm in elementary school!" Nozomi whined.
"Yes, and by the time you get to High School, it'll be too late."
"Don't you work for Nerv, not the business world?" Misako asked.
Kodama's eyes went to the red jacket on the back of a chair. "You're Tactical right?"
"Yes, you could say that. I'm Captain Ayanami, head of Tactical."
"I heard they had gotten a new chief. Congratulations." Kodama inclined her head.
"I head Section Four: Procurement."
Misako smiled. Nerv had a habit of hiring young geniuses. However, Misako's mind did go back to wondering exactly why she had been hired. There certainly was no shortage of people with actual tactical experience, especially after the Second Impact. "Ah yes, the accountants Nerv hired to browbeat our suppliers and contractors."
"Tokyo 3 is Nerv's city and it needs a constant stream of... equipment," Kodama thinly stated.
"Quite right." Misako noted that Kodama had to know about Project E or at least its current incarnation. It would be hard to keep Evangelions secret from the very people buying all their support equipment
"Well, I've gotta take these girls home," Kodama said as Shirane and Nozomi went over to her.
"Thanks for having us over. Your cooking was delicious, Shinju," Amazingly, Nozomi's statement only caused a slight blush in the younger Ayanami
"Yeah, it was fun," Shirane agreed. "We'll do a sleepover next time."
"Hopefully at your house, Suzuhara-chan," Kodama idly noted
"Thank you for coming over," Shinju said as they left.
Misako locked the door and turned around to face Shinju. "Well, you look happy."
"You're smiling." Misako exaggerated slightly. While the pre-teen was not outright grinning, there was a definite expression of contentment.
"It was... nice."
"Not much experience with friends?" Misako asked as they went back to the kitchen.
Shinju stared up at Misako.
"It's okay. I had some real problems when I was your age." Misako frowned when Shinju kept staring at her. It looked like Rei's conversational habits were rubbing off. "I was born in '86. I was fourteen during the Second Impact."
"I was... close to it. After I was... rescued I didn't speak for a while. It wasn't until university that I started to reach out to people. Do you understand?"
"No," Shinju softly stated.
"What I mean is that I know what it's like. To be in your own world, to be alone," Misako reached out and hugged the small girl. "But you don't have to be alone."
"But I'm not. I have you and Oneechan," Shinju blinked. "And I've got Shirane and Nozomi... and Akagi-san... and Father."
Misako raised an eyebrow slightly at the last part. "Well, I'm very happy that you've been settling in. I know this is hard for you. It's been hard for me, and I'm... not as bad off."
Leaning into the embrace, Shinju simply nodded.
"It's great that you have people you care about." Misako released the hug and went to the living room, where Rei had put her book down and was watching her sisters.
Shinju took her place next to Rei. "That's why it's so important that Oneechan and I do our best?"
"Shamshel has crossed final perimeter." Misako looked up to the upper tier of the command tower. It was somewhat jarring to see the three JSSDF generals sitting up front while the Vice-Commander and Commander sat behind them. Apparently, they had sat in this arrangement during the previous attack.
"Status of Unit 01?" Gendo flatly asked.
"It's being moved to the launching bays, will arrive in thirty seconds," Maya said from her counsel.
"Azazel fighter squadron is on station. Captain Zel'dovich reports having a clear shot," another Nerv technician flatly stated.
"Hopefully, we will not require his services." General Yubari noted.
In the shadow of his interlaced fingers, Gendo smirked. He had to cancel a meeting to be here, but being absent for Evangelion's first sortie would be unacceptable.
"Unit has reached the launch bay," Maya announced.
"Shinju, neutralize the enemy's AT field and fire the rifle just like you practiced," Misako ordered the Fourth Child. "Are you ready?"
Shinju's fingers gripped the controls. "Yes."
Shinju felt herself pressed into the cockpit as the Evangelion shot up. The armored doors to the lift-building dropped down and she motioned the Unit forward. "Aim at the center of the target, switch, aim at the center of the target," she chanted, cradling the immense rifle.
"Develop an AT-field according to the plan, okay?" Misako asked.
"Yes!" Shinju shouted as she rushed around the corner of the lift building and lowered her gun. Several blocks away, the large purple Angel rose up at her. It was longer than her Unit was tall and had two stubby arms that extended from a long roughly tubular body. Two long glowing purple tendrils extended from either arm.
Aiming at the Angel, she depressed the trigger, and then held it down. The explosions kicked up a large dust cloud that obscured the target.
"Idiot, the enemy is hidden by the explosions' smoke!" Misako cried while Shinju kept firing.
General Yubari raised an eyebrow. The tactical commander should be more concerned about giving orders than commentary.
Eventually, Shinju stopped and, panting, she waited for the smoke to clear.
As the seconds passed without any orders from Captain Ayanami, Yubari's ire grew. A purple whip then shot out and destroyed the rifle, sliced through the lift-building, and knocked the Unit to the ground.
"I'll send you a spare rifle!" Misako ordered, while Shinju sat stunned in the street. She looked up and saw the angel looming over her.
"Belay that!" Yubari barked. "Shinju! Get moving! Two steps back, then one step on your left! Get some cover"
Misako's mouth opened in shock
Shinju however got Unit 01 to its feet and jumped to the side and put a few buildings between itself and the angel.
"Good! They make lousy cover but they'll conceal you from it. Run down the street, keep it from knowing exactly where you are."
Shinju's heart pounded as she wheeled around the Angel. As it floated forward, Shamshel's whips razed a wide swath of buildings
"Shinju, there's a weapon building just behind you, get another rifle," Misako stated.
"Just don't spray mindlessly," Yubari cautioned as Unit 01 went up from its crouch and reaching back grabbed another pallet rifle.
However, Shamshel used this chance to close in on the Evangelion. Shinju fired three ineffective shots at the angel before its tendrils whipped in. Unit 01 used its gun to bat away one of the tendrils while the other one cut its power umbilical.
"Unit 01 is on internal batteries! Five minute capacity left" Makoto shouted from his console.
Misako's attention went from the battle screens to the giant countdown on the left display wall.
For the second time, Shinju's pallet rifle broke apart and she reached out and grabbed the thrashing tentacle. Thanks to Unit 01's AT field, it burned the hand armor instead of slicing it apart. The pain was intense. For the pilot it felt like it was her hand holding the burning chord.
General Yubari's blood boiled at her shocked, inactive face. "You've got it where you want it kid! Yank it forward and draw your knife. Kill the bastard!"
Shinju's eyes changed. A cool feeling washed over her as her eyes narrowed and the emotion drained from her face. Her left shoulder pylon opened and she cross drew her progressive knife. As this happened she yanked with Unit 01's left arm and leapt forward.
Shamshel twisted to one side and fell forward. Its free tentacle whipped over Unit 01's body burning and tearing the armor.
Open your heart Open your heart. Mentally chanting, Shinju focused her will on the enemy. The pain grew but it was her pain, her responsibility. Landing on the Angel's body the two tumbled to the ground.
Ignoring the urban devastation, Shinju released her burnt hand and grabbed one of the Angel's stubby arms. Tugging the Angel towards her with one arm she stabbed forward with the other, right at the core.
Sparking, her progressive blade hit Shamshel's AT-Field. Her teeth clenched as the Angel tried to flay Unit 01's back and limbs Her eyes however, remained flat and focused. Failure was unthinkable. Her AT field sprung forth and neutralized the Angel's and her blade shot forward. "Open your heart!" she screamed as the blade pierced the Angel's core.
Shamshel shuddered at the mortal wound, but Shinju was not done. She tightened her grip on the Angel's arm while drawing up with her progressive knife. The vibrating blade sliced through the rest of the core and through the top of the Angel's head. Fluid sprayed as Shamshel 's head was bisected, and its tentacles stopped their thrashing. Once free Shinju flipped around the Unit 01's knife hand and ran it across the angel's "shoulders". The Angel's head fell onto Unit 01 in two wet slabs of... meat.
Breathing heavily, Shinju rose Unit 01 to its feet. Never taking her eyes off of the corpse, she flicked some Angelic blood off her knife while she walked a block to the nearest power-station. She smiled thinly as she plugged into the Tokyo 3 power grid. She still had over two minutes left.
"Pilot Ayanami here. Enemy status?" she asked as she walked back to the Angel's corpse.
The Command Center staff stared at Unit 01. Bright red Angelic blood had splattered over the Evangelions body, save for two long streaks of blood on Unit 01's chest where Shamshel's head had landed and slid down. Knife still clutched in one hand, Unit 01 looked down at the angel's body.
"No trace of Pattern Blue, or enemy AT field." Maya eventually stated, once her stomach had settled back under control.
"You-" Misako swallowed. "You did very good, kiddo."
"Recall Azazel. Thankfully we won't be needing further assistance from them today," General Abukuma sighed with relief.
General Ishikari turned back to face Commander Ikari. "Fair enough Ikari. Your Evangelions are most impressive. Your Pilot as well. Impressive work on her part."
"However," General Yubari's gaze went down to the level below them and focused on Captain Ayanami. "There were severe deficiencies today."
"And not just your own reliance on ineffective weapons," Abukuma noted. "We would have though that previous experience would have shown Nerv which weapons could and could not harm the enemy."
Flushing slightly, Misako turned away from the top tier. "Shinju proceed to lift-building 23."
"Did I do okay?" Shinju asked as she slid her progressive knife back into the scabbard in her shoulder pylon.
"We'll have to hose off Unit 01, but yes."
Shinju winced at Misako's tone. "Oneesan, did I do something wrong?"
"No..." Misako lowered her head. "I did."
Shinju blinked. She tried to think of a response but none came to her. She though as she was lowered into the Geo Front and Unit 01 was moved back to the Evangelion cages. The battle was... intense. The Evangelion deactivated and the LCL darkened back to an amber color and the displays cut out. Sitting in the dark fluid, her lips formed into a slight smile. "Oneechan is right. To Pilot you have to open your heart," she said before the LCL drained, the plug ejected, and the hatch opened.
End Chapter 1
This is for the real nitpicky people that bristle at the 180 million megawatt figure. There is some confusion over megawatt versus kilowatt. The sub uses kilowatt and Japan's current electrical usage is at about 110 million kilowatts. While some other sources use megawatt. Now I can see a 70 million kilowatt energy increase but not a thousand fold energy increase. Really, any increase at all is amazing in light of the Second Impact.
However, if I were to use kilowatt figure instead of megawatt, that would reduce the energy needed by a factor of a thousand. So a bomb of half a kiloton TNT equivalent would do it. For reference, Little Boy was between 13 and 18 kilotons. Yes this will change how the Ramiel fight goes.
Another factor is my assumption on the Watts versus Joules front (saying that the blast energy will be on the AT field for a second). If we went with energy application time being a tenth of a second, then you'd need a bomb a tenth of the strength as before and so on. So this is me being very conservative here in required bomb strength.
I'd like to remind my readers that this is a story with Evangelions in it and while I will try to keep the physics as sane as possible, I can't make any promises.
I'd like to thank my pre-readers. They read through my most egregious mistakes so you don't have to. DGC, J St C Patrick, Pale Wolf, Wray, Kevin Hammel, Ikarus, and Jerry Starfire. Pale Wolf was particular help in coming up with the idea behind the battle.
Now that I've got a chapter under my belt I'd like to note a few NGE fics that I've particularly enjoyed.
"Children of an Elder God" by John Biles and Rod M
"Neo Genus Jusenkyo" by Kevin Hammel
"Shinji and Warhammer 40k" by Charles Bhepin
And of course "I was a Teenage Dummy Plug" by Foxboy