Chapter 12: A Fighting Chance
Two weeks later…
In Commander Ikari's office it was Aoba who first broke the news. Vice Commander Futsuyuki held the phone as the commander silently listened from his desk.
"It vanished?!" Futsuyuki asked in astonishment. "You're sure the Second Branch just vanished?!"
"Yes, sir," said Aoba. "It's been confirmed. It vanished!"
In the operations analysis room adjacent to Central Dogma, Misato, Dr. Akagi, and the controller staff looked at the large floor monitor as the words "VANISHED" flashed across it. Misato rubbed her head "Oh, man!"
Hyuga was reporting the reaction by NERV to the catastrophe in Nevada. "The Administration and Investigation departments are going crazy, and Public Affairs is in a total panic!" Misato then turned to Ritsuko. "So what was the cause?"
"We still don't know," the scientist replied.
The monitor changed to an image of the remainder of the Nevada facility. It and the surrounding area was completely gone, even the mountains and valleys had disappeared, leaving nothing but a gigantic crater. Ritsuko went on. "Our only clues are these geosynchronous satellite photos. There's nothing else left."
The video monitor was blurry as the image was rewound to ten seconds prior to the incident. Maya counted down as the others observed the satellite image of NERV-2 just before. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. "…Contact!" Maya announced as the counter went to zero.
At the point of contact, what seemed like a large transparent cloud rapidly expanded from the center of NERV-2. As the cloud rapidly progressed the inside of it started to glow a bright red until the entire area was encompassed in a red globe. The satellite image then went static. Maya then turned the image off.
"That's horrible!" Misato exclaimed. The master display image changed to green with text stating the obvious: VANISHED NERV-02.
Maya gave the summarized report from her clipboard. "Evangelion Unit 04 and all related research facilities within an 89 kilometer radius have completely vanished."
"Along with several thousand people," Ritsuko added.
Aoba went on to his report. "Looking at the time schedule, we believe it to be an accident during the experimental installation of the S2 engine that was restored in Germany." Maya then continued. "Potential causes range from a lack of structural integrity to a preliminary design stage error. That's 32,768 possibilities right there!"
"And there's also the chance of sabotage," Misato added.
"But it didn't explode," said Lt. Hyuga. "It vanished, right? In other words, it disappeared."
"In all probability they were swallowed by a 'Dirac Sea,'" Dr. Akagi concluded. "Just like Unit 01 was." A Dirac Sea was basically a miniature black hole or singularity.
"And the S2 engine that we finally restored?" asked Misato.
"Gone." Ritsuko said simply. "Our dream's been shattered."
"That's what we get for trying to push ourselves into using something we don't understand," said Misato.
Ritsuko looked away. "That goes for the EVAs, too."
After the meeting Misato walked down the hall to her office, where Lt. Hyuga caught up with her. "Katsuragi-san?"
"Yes?" she answered wearily. It had not been a good day for her.
"There's something you should see," he said. He showed her a display on his clipboard terminal. "We did an after-action analysis after the incident with EVA-03 and the S2 engine. Immediately after the battle we had all thought that it was EVA-02 that had shot Unit 03 in the head and brought it down. However the Tactical Department traced back all of the rounds fired in the battle and came up with this." Hyuga changed the display on the clipboard and showed Misato a display of the battlespace with color codes for the locations of the EVAs and colored lines for their bullets. EVA-02 was red, EVA-03 was black, EVA-01 and 00 were purple and blue, respectively, and EVA-04 was orange. Hyuga forwarded the graphic to the moment when EVA-03 was hit.
Misato took a good look as Hyuga played the display in slow-motion. "Wait a minute," she said as she saw the display play. "Orange!"
"Yes," Hyuga confirmed. "One shot, AFTER Unit 04 was powered down."
"How?" She looked at him. Hyuga shook his head and said "Only EVA-01 had ever exhibited that type of activity before and even then it was on auxiliary power. EVA-04's was shut off by direct command and was not even on batteries: only the entry plug had power. There's one more thing." He changed the display again.
Misato saw a sync ratio display of all five pilots during the action. Vance Vinson's was non-existent because he blocked all transmissions during the battle, but the other four pilots' data was visible. Hyuga played back the combat graphic again and froze it to just before Unit 04's shot was fired. "Here."
The Major looked at the display as the clock ran and noticed the jump. Hyuga continued to explain. "It's very brief, just for one half-second, but it's there!"
"His Sync Ratio is 378%!" she exclaimed.
"And then back down all the way to 0," Hyuga said. "Whatever else they're saying about how the Americans controlled their EVAs, I don't think a pilot could do that using something artificial as a link."Misato just looked at the data. Patrick, she wondered, what did you do?
West Virginia, USA
Over ten thousand kilometers away, in a remote mountain region of eastern North America, staffers in a medical clinic watched their television as it reported the story the rest of the world population was told: an asteroid similar but smaller to the one that hit Antarctica in 1999 had struck southern Nevada, vaporizing a UN scientific research center and destroying everything for at least a fifty mile radius. The clinic the staff worked in was a psychiatric type, quietly operating with a low profile as it mostly served wealthy and powerful persons and their families as well as others not wanting public or media attention to their condition.
Four months earlier a fourteen-year old girl was admitted to the clinic under mysterious circumstances. She had unkempt blond collar-length hair and porcelain skin with a beautiful elfin face. However when she arrived she was in a completely catatonic state, not responding to any outside stimuli.
The party that contacted the clinic provided a phone number and e-mail address to use if the girl's condition should ever change. They also provided an astonishingly large sum of money, even by the clinic's standards, to ensure she was well looked after and done so very discretely. When asked for prior medical records the contracting party refused to provide them, stating only that her condition was considered by other physicians to be "irreversible." No other information was provided aside from the girl's first name.
Nevertheless, the clinic admitted her and in the four months since she had been received she had neither moved, spoke, nor even opened her eyes. The nurses and other staff at the clinic worked to simply make her feel comfortable, keeping her warm and her private room periodically filled with ambient light and soft music.
As the others watched the unfolding crisis on the television, one of the nurses walked into the girl's room and noticed that for the first time she had opened her eyes. The nurse quickly called for a physician and then rushed over to check on the girl. Her emerald green eyes were wide open and quivering in fear, as tears rushed down her cheeks. The nurse gently shook her body and spoke to her, but the girl did not respond in any other way.
"Erin? Erin? Are you alright?"
Shinji pushed open the door to Rei Ayanami's apartment. She was inside, folding her clothes. "Ayanami?"
Rei turned around and saw Shinji. He was holding a small box in his hand. "Did you hear about NERV-2?" he asked. Rei nodded silently.
"Um, they really don't know what happened," said Shinji. "Everything just disappeared! Anyway, I thought you might like this." He handed Rei the small box.
She opened the box and saw that it was a small video player that turned on as she opened the lid, which became a tiny screen. On the player there was a short video of her "date" with Patrick filmed by Kensuke. Shinji looked at her sadly. "I'll go now, Ayanami. I'm really sorry!" She turned away from Shinji and said, in her whisper-like voice: "Don't be."
After Shinji left the apartment, Rei walked to her dresser and watched the video again. Was that really me? she wondered, as she saw a girl that looked like her walking with the American pilot, eating ice cream, and laughing.
She had never had a dream before, but perhaps this was like what the others called a dream, where in your sleep you see yourself doing things you wouldn't have imagined otherwise.
Rei thought about the boy. What do you want? he had asked her. She hadn't thought much before about it, but now she wondered. What was possible? What was available? Could she choose?
But now the boy was gone, and her dream went with him.
Rei closed the video player and gently placed it on top of her "uniform" clothes, now neatly folded inside the dresser. Then she pushed the dresser shut. Rei reached on top and gently fingered the broken set of eyeglasses that sat on top of the dresser, memories of something else that had also seemed like a dream to her. She looked out the veranda window of the apartment and stared into the distance. Alone among the pilots, she knew the Evangelion's true secret: the dark, sad shadow that existed inside the core of the unit. Shinji had begun to realize what that secret was, while Asuka, using her overconfidence as a mask, was in fact terrified of what she experienced inside. But Patrick Forrestal, the boy from far away, had also begun to realize what lived inside the Eva. If he can just open his heart to her, Rei thought to herself, he might be safe.
The Day Before, at NERV-2…
The controller staff was busy with the preparations for the test. NERV-2s control center was smaller and simple in scale than the grand facilities in Japan, but it would have still seemed impressive to outsiders. A large holographic display was mounted on the ceiling, which itself was 100 meters underground. On the display, inside of a concrete silo a kilometer away from the control center, was the silver-white colored Unit 04.
The khaki-uniformed American controllers all reported in: "All systems report normal."
"S2 Engine attachment reports nominal, all links are secure."
"Power reservoir is ready for flow."
Dr. Forrestal, or now it was Commander Forrestal, stood on the operations deck of the control center. "Activate the Dummy Plug. Commence the test."
NERV-2's controllers turned on the Dummy Plug, an artificial pilot supplied by NERV Third Branch's laboratories in Germany. The plug had been inserted earlier into the Evangelion unit. On a secondary screen, the display showed DUMMY PLUG KAWORU SYNC and a series of status numbers. "Dummy plug is activated. Dummy plug is synching with the Unit."
Dr. Forrestal responded to the controllers. "As soon as the synch ratio reaches nominal level, activate the S2 engine on my count. "
At just before the synch threshold was crossed where the plug and the EVA would be on an equivalent neural wavelength, the control room displays flashed red warnings as alarm klaxons sounded. One of the controllers turned to Forrestal. "Sir, EVA-04 is rejecting the Dummy Plug! We can't get activation!
Another one spoke. "Confirmed. Evangelion Unit will not accept control of dummy plug."
Forrestal scoffed. "They gave me something that wasn't ready yet! Sloppy bastards, what do they think we're doing here? Go get the boy, now!"
Patrick was sulking inside of another prison cell. He was changed out of his clothes and into his plug suit. He couldn't hear the activity in the complex, but he could see the lights go dim and bright with the power fluxing. They were working on something big and important with Unit 04. He also knew the reason why he was dressed in his plug suit as sooner or later he was going to be forced into the EVA. He considered taking off his plug suit in resistance, but the cell was too cold and he wasn't going to humor the guards with his humiliation. Besides, the plug suit wouldn't greatly affect his ability to sync and that was all that was important.
In the last few days Patrick had nothing but time to himself to put the pieces together. While his body just sat there in the cell, his brain had gone into overdrive to determine just how he had come to this end.
When I was a little kid I used to think my father was the coolest guy on earth. He come up to see me in the cabin once a year, bringing lots of toys and gifts, and we'd talk all day about my life in the mountains and how he was working to save the entire world from destruction. Every time he came up I'd ask him when we could live together, and he'd always say "Maybe one day..." Then he'd go back down and I wouldn't hear from him for months on end.
What he kept hidden from me was that in the desert waiting for him to return was Erin, my twin. I can only guess, but she seemed like she was very close to him.
Erin, the me I could have been, living the life I thought I wanted.
How did she know where to find me? Did EVA tell her? What else did EVA say to her? It must have been so shocking to learn the truth that way…
For most of my life I hated my uncle: strict, secretive, and paranoid. Growing up in a remote area, I didn't go to regular school and wasn't even allowed to interact with the few other kids close by. I felt so alone and angry, and I just wanted to have a life like everyone else's.
And, I hated my mother for leaving me with him.
But Uncle knew about EVA: the mental training, the education, even learning Japanese. He knew. He couldn't tell me but he could still prepare me for what was coming. When it really mattered, the pieces of the puzzle came together and I was at the right place at the right time.
Now I'm sorry for the way I felt then. I seem to always hate the ones that care the most.
Vance, you tried to protect me, didn't you? You were the one I most looked up to, the one who taught me to be strong and daring. You were my first and best friend. I would have followed you anywhere, except…I couldn't let you hurt her no matter how strongly you believed in what you were doing. Not her. Not them.
It's ironic, really. It was the strength and courage you gave me that allowed me to stop you.
I guess somehow I did the right thing. Doesn't really feel like it, though.
Rei, I'm so glad I met you! Everyone else seems to find you so hard to fathom, but really you're not. Locked inside someone else's world, you're just trying to reach out and touch something that's real.
I remember back in your apartment, after our disaster of a date, and I asked you what you wanted. You didn't know, but you wanted to find out. And at that moment I wanted to help you find out too.
I wish we could be together so we could both help solve each other's puzzles. Unfortunately it's not to be. But I don't regret anything. I could at least hold your hand, and you touched me in a place so deep inside I didn't even know it existed. I woke up after that day and realized what was really important and what I really wanted for myself.
Now my father is doing something with EVA, something that can't possibly be good. "The world doesn't deserve to live!" he said on the plane. He means to end it all, for every one of us and especially for those in Tokyo-3. I won't let him do it.
Rei, I can't be with you now. But I can still protect you, so at least you can have hope and find out what it is that you really want for yourself.
I used to hate EVA until I found out what EVA really was. I have you to thank for that, Rei. You opened my eyes, and my heart. Now I'll fight to give you and the others a fighting chance.
The door opened, and several uniformed security guards came inside. A senior one said to him, "Come with us, please."
Patrick just sat there on the floor. "I'm not going anywhere. You can kill me if you like."
The leader motioned to the others. "Grab him." Patrick struggled with every ounce of strength he had left as the guards grabbed his arms and legs and carried him out of the cell.
Erin…I'm sorry… I'll never get to know you…
Still struggling, Patrick was placed into the entry plug for EVA-04. There was a new addition to the control throne in the plug as very heavy shackles were now attached to the arm actuators and to the leg pits. The pilot was bolted into the throne by his father's men and then the guards left and the door shut.
The lead controller reported back to Commander Forrestal. "Pilot is secure." Harrison Forrestal smiled. "Start the test again."
Within the plug the LCL began to flood inside. Patrick tried to escape the shackles but it was impossible. Please, please, don't let them do this...Rei…
The controllers re-initiated. Above them one video screen showed EVA-04 while another showed the pilot status with video feed to the pilot, who was still struggling. A third screen showed a satellite view of the NERV-2 facility. "Sync ratio is rising, interface with EVA unit reaching threshold. All systems are nominal."
It was going to work this time. "Good," answered Forrestal. "Start the S2 engine activation on my mark. Ten, Nine…"
Trapped inside the plug Patrick knew he had just one option left. He relaxed his muscles, closed his eyes and concentrated as hard as he could. He whispered quietly, as if it were a prayer."Please do something, please."
"What do you want with me?" a voice called out to him.
"What do you want with me?" It was Rei's voice inside his head.
"Just to be with you!" he said aloud.
Suddenly within the entry plug an apparition appeared. Cloudy at first, it took the form of a pure white, naked female figure that silently floated towards him. As he looked up at the figure, it transformed into an image of Rei Ayanami in her school uniform. She floated directly in front of him and gently caressed his face, smiling at him. The inside of the entry plug began to glow very, very brightly.
In the main control room one of the controllers jumped and swiveled around his seat. "Commander, there is a massively high energy reading coming from the Eva itself. "
Harrison Forrestal's eyebrows shot up in alarm. "What?!"
The controller pointed at the wall display. "It's coming from the entry plug!" The wall video display showing the inside of the entry plug was now filled with white light.
Peggy, no! Don't stop me! "Stop the activation!" Forrestal ordered.
Seen from the lens of a geosynchronous satellite orbiting above, a massive energy bubble rapidly expanded from the center of the facility. In only a few seconds the bubble rapidly expanded to all the surrounding area, changed to bright red and then black, and then disappeared. There was literally nothing left within the area, except a gigantic crater.