Chapter 5: Something In Common
Early that morning, Patrick found himself lying in bed somewhere between being asleep and being awake. Unable to fall back to sleep and unwilling to pull himself out of bed, his mind drifted to the one thing that he had mostly been thinking about since he had come to Tokyo-3.
In his mind, he pictured the two of them sitting together on a small wooden dock on the shore of Ashinoko, Lake Ashi. The sun was going down and a gentle breeze was swaying the water. Rei sat on the edge of the dock next to him. She was wearing a white sundress, along with a white hat with a blue ribbon. She let her bare feet gently skim the water beneath the landing they sat on.
"I'm glad you're here," she said to him as they watched the sun going down among the surrounding mountains.
"I'm glad I could come back," he replied. "I know how challenging it is to fight the Angels. Right now NERV needs all the help it can get."
He looked at her as she watched the reddening skyline. "You don't know how worried I was about you, that something might happen," he said.
"It has been difficult," she told him. "But I have Ikari-kun and the others to support me." She gently slipped her tiny, delicate hand into his." And now, I have you, too."
They looked at each other for a long moment, and Patrick found himself lost in her deep red eyes. He squeezed her hand a little. "Everything's going to be alright now."
Rei gave him a little smile. "I know, Patrick-kun." Feeling the magic in the air, she closed her eyes as he moved in to kiss her. Just as he reached her lips, Patrick felt something large and puffy hit his face.
"Good morning, Sunshine!" Vance called out, as Patrick pushed off the pillow from his face. Patrick growled, while Vance just leaned on the doorway. "Did I interrupt anything?" Vance asked.
"Not really" said the other pilot as he pulled himself out of bed.
"Hey, I know it's early," Vance said, "but I want to go over strategy with you. I don't intend to lose again tomorrow." Patrick stood up and started to put on his clothes. "Okay. What've you got in mind?"
Vance just smiled.
Later that afternoon at NERV, at his request Misato gave Vance an informal guided tour of the underground facilities. She was happy to show him around the GeoFront as to her he seemed like the first of any of the Evangelion pilots she'd met that seemed to take a semi-decent interest in what NERV was actually doing.
"And as you can see here," she motioned to the EVA cages around them, "we have a pretty modern setup, with all of the lab facilities and engineering necessary to run operations with the EVA. Vance, how does this compare to the NERV-2 facility. Vance?"
"What?" Vance was busy looking around the cages for the EVAs, and saw his own black-colored unit here, standing next to Asuka's Unit 02. "Oh, sorry, just a bit distracted. It looks about the same really. The scenery's much better here though, with the GeoFront and all, plus you guys get Lake Ashi and Hakone. We just have desert...lots and lots and lots of desert."
"That's true," said Misato, "Though we don't get much time to enjoy it."
"Major,"asked Vance, "is it true that NERV keeps captured angels in the facility?"
"Whatever we're able to keep at any rate," she replied. "Each time we've destroyed an angel the body decomposes rapidly, so it's difficult to keep them for further study."
"What about the S2 engines?"
"You know about those? Well..." Misato scratched her head. "I think we were only able to keep one and that's being packed for shipment to NERV Third Branch in Germany. "
"Sometime soon, I'm not quite sure." Actually she did know, but had enough common sense to not reveal such details to anyone not specifically authorized to get them, and she didn't trust the American boys quite that much yet. "Anyway, I'm not even sure I'm supposed to be talking to you about this!"
Vance smiled sheepishly. "I'm sorry to be nosy. I just like to know more of what's going on around me with the program, so I always have a habit of asking really annoying questions like that. I didn't mean to intrude or anything!"
"Oh, no. We're just one big happy family here at NERV," she laughed nervously. "Sometimes I wish our own pilots would take a bigger interest in what goes on around here, instead of being so…"
"Self-absorbed?" he finished for her.
"I'm too polite to say it myself!" She smiled and held her hand at the back of her neck, clearly embarrassed. "You know what, though? You do bring up an interesting point. Why don't we all have an outing? I mean, we never get to see the sights much and we're locals. Perhaps we can give you two a tour?"
"That sounds great," Vance replied. "I'm sure Patrick would go along, especially if the group included you-know-who."
"You mean?" Misato asked, already knowing the answer.
"The First," Vance said, almost at a whisper. Misato giggled a little. "Yes, I got the story from my roommates. He's certainly stuck on her, isn't he? Good luck!"
"Many have tried?"
Misato looked away from him and straight at Unit 00, which was now right in front of them. "Actually, I don't think any have tried."
As Misato and Vance turned a corner towards the pilot ready rooms unknown to them Kaji was watching them from the opposite end of the operations bay using a pair of handheld binocameras that included a long-range microphone. Clearly, Kaji thought, the Americans here were not all that they seemed to be, and he was determined to find out what else they might be up to while they were here at Tokyo-3.
Kaji was also not the only one to take a keen interest in the new pilots. High above the operations bay through the windows of her laboratory, in her seat Dr. Akagi also watched Misato and Vance walk and talk as they were moving to the Pilots' ready rooms. "Maya?"
Lt. Ibiki eagerly turned around in her chair. "Yes, sempai?"
"Is there any feedback on the question I gave to the MAGI earlier about spoofing the EVA?"
Maya read off the display and then reported to her. "The MAGI are still analyzing the data have come up with 97 plausible scenarios so far and have estimated that a complete answer will be available within 20 hours. Was there any other data you wanted to add to the analysis?"
Ritsuko thought for a moment and then got up out of her own chair. "Yes, plug in the pilot feedback from the last combat test with the Americans."
"All of the pilots?" Maya asked.
"No, just EVA 03 and 04," Ritsuko replied as she started to walk out of the lab. "I have a hunch and I need to play it."
Maya turned back to her terminal. "Yes, Ma'am."
Kaji quietly waited in the operations bay another thirty minutes until he saw Vance come back out of the pilot ready room, this time dressed in his black-colored plug suit. He watched Vinson walk over to his EVA's cage and speak with some of the American ground crew that had traveled with him and Patrick to NERV.
After seeing Vance climb up the maintenance scaffolding, Kaji then walked to the cage where the red Unit 02 was standing. Asuka was there too, dressed in her red plug suit standing on the scaffolding looking over different parts of her EVA. As Kaji walked over, Asuka noticed him and immediately bounded to the floor. "Hi, Kaji-san!"
"Hello, little Asuka!" Kaji spoke in German to her. She preened on him like a child, pushing herself against him in deep affection. "Do you have time to take me out this week?"
"I would love to!" he said, as she wrapped both of her arms around his waist. "YEAH!" she cheered excitedly.
"Awww! " Asuka cutely whined, knowing Kaji would yet again come up with another excuse to postpone her proposed date. "Can you please do me the slightest favor?" he asked.
"Of course!" she said eagerly, "IF I can get my date."
"I promise you that I will take you out next weekend if you can help me," the agent said. "Please find Mr. Vinson and take him today to the Spectro Arcade in Tokyo-3."
Asuka was incredulous. "What?!"
"I promised him earlier I'd show him a Japanese arcade," Kaji explained, "But unfortunately I don't have time right now. Given as you're the Queen of Video Games, I thought you'd take pleasure in taking him."
"Not unless I can kick his ass!" Asuka retorted.
Kaji had hit the target. "My sentiments exactly."
She brushed her hair through her hands and then put her hands on her hips. "Okay, then."
"He's just over there." Kaji helpfully pointed out to the adjacent EVA cage.
Asuka walked the five minutes it took to go from Cage 03 to Cage 05, where the black Unit 03 was kept. She saw Vance still on the scaffolding, carefully examining the optics on Unit 03's helmet. Asuka took an elevator to the top of the bay and leaned over the railing. She called to him in English in her best frau-frau voice. "Whatcha' doin?"
He turned to look at her. "Oh! Hi, Asuka!"
"Trying to grease up your EVA for the next match?" she teased.
Vance got down from the scaffolding and jumped onto the top platform where she was standing. "You know, I don't need really help for this sort of thing."
"Of course," she said smugly. "I know how you really feel."
"Oh, really?" Vance said with a smile.
Asuka turned and pranced around the platform. "You're embarrassed because a GIRL beat you!"
"You didn't really beat me, you know."
"That's not what I remember," she turned to him and replied with a smirk. "I seem to remember something much different."
"You got lucky!" Vance exclaimed.
"Luck has nothing to do with it." she said coolly as she folded her arms. "I am the genius of Evangelion Combat! But that's not why I'm here. Actually, Kaji told me you like video games."
"Yeah, he promised me a trip to a local arcade."
"Well," she proclaimed, "It just so happens that I am a VIP at the best arcade in Tokyo-3."
Well, this should be interesting, he thought. "Are you also the genius of Super Mecha War Combat?"
"I am indeed," she said proudly. "Level 50 with Stars! Final Match finish time at record of 1 minute, 34 seconds."
"1 minute, 12 seconds," Vance coolly stated. Asuka was genuinely shocked at his answer. "No way! That's impossible!"
"No it's not. I'll show you."
She stepped up and looked him right in the eye. "Loser buys dinner AND dessert!"
Vance calmly took the challenge with a determined voice. "You're on."
The doorbell to Misato's apartment rang and Shinji got out of his room to see who it was. He opened the door to find Patrick standing there in front. "Hi, there!"
"Can I come in?" Patrick asked.
"So, you went to Ayanami's apartment?" Shinji offered Patrick a drink while they both sat in his room. Patrick took the drink, which was a can of iced green tea. "Yes. I could not believe it. She actually lives like that."
"I know. I've seen it too."
"I always thought that the Japanese were more concerned about their appearance, or even cleanliness for that matter," Patrick commented. "Also, she said she didn't have a family at all, like she was 'made' just for Project EVA and nothing else. That certainly seemed dedicated."
"I don't know if its dedication," replied Shinji, "or maybe she just doesn't have anywhere else to go."
"You mean that she's an orphan?"
"Well, she has no family that anyone knows about. All we know is that Dad and the others at NERV help take care of her."
"But you weren't living at home with your family, either?" Patrick asked Shinji, trying to put the pieces together. Shinji paused for a moment. "No. My mom died when I was little."
"Hey, I'm really sorry for bringing that up, earlier."
"Oh, well, it's OK," Shinji shrugged. "If it's anything to you," offered Patrick, "my mom's gone too."
Shinji sat up from his bed as Patrick spoke further. "Really?"
"Yeah. Some sort of airplane accident. Happened when I was little." Patrick looked away a bit. "Actually, I didn't really know her all that well anyway." Patrick felt numb as he talked about his mother. "What happened after your mom died?"
"I went to go live with my Sensei after that," Shinji answered.
"Your Sensei? You mean you lived with your teacher?"
"Yes, well, he's my uncle actually. But he's a teacher for high school."
"What does he teach?"
"Music." Patrick noticed the cello case against the wall and motioned to it. "You play?"
"Yes. Sensei was the one who taught me."
"Did he teach you anything else?"
Deep below the surface of Tokyo-3, Rei waited patiently for Dr. Akagi to arrive. She sat in a folding chair in the middle of a cavernous, dimly lit room. Around her there were several banks of computer terminals and scanning equipment. In the center of the room was a narrow glass chamber that reached all the way to the high ceiling, which was covered by all sorts of tubes and machinery. Known only to the core command staff at NERV, the Dummy Plug Plant, as it was called, was one of the best kept secrets in a place full of them.
Dr. Akagi entered the room and began to switch on several of the terminals, as Rei waited patiently in the chair. "You can go in, now," the scientist said without facing her. Rei did as she was told, methodically taking off her school uniform and neatly folding it on the table beside her. She then took off her bra and panties and also laid them on the table. Fully naked, she stepped inside the glass chamber through a small opening.
Once she was inside, Dr. Akagi pressed a button and sealed the tube shut. The entryway sealed and a display in front of her lit green. Ritsuko pressed a second button that sent LCL flowing from the bottom of the tube.
Rei just stood there inside the tube, slowly floating upwards as the LCL filled the tube. It was not her first time inside and she had learned over the many sessions to let her mind drift during the hours she spent inside, as Dr. Akagi went about her work.
Within a couple of minutes the sensory tube had completely filled with LCL and she saw everything outside her through a reddish hue. Like inside the Evangelion plugs, the LCL used here was oxygenated for breathing yet felt lighter than water and allowed sound to carry well. The temperature of the liquid was a bit colder than she would have preferred, but Rei was content to spend time alone in the scanner processing and analyzing in her mind everything she had recently seen, heard or otherwise experienced. And since the time the Americans had come to Tokyo-3, there was a lot for her to process.
From inside the tube she saw Commander Ikari enter the room and speak with Dr. Akagi. The two of them were more familiar with each other here, away from the eyes of the others. Rei knew of the secret relationship they had, and thought very little of it. In any case, she was simply glad to have the Commander here with her in Terminal Dogma, as she did not feel she could fully trust Dr. Akagi and was not sure why.
Ritsuko carefully monitored the sensors that were recording every atom in Rei's body. It would take several more sessions with the scanner until this part of the project was completed. "Do you think the Americans are up to no good?" she asked Gendo.
"They're just a distraction, nothing more," the commander replied. He turned his attention to the girl in the tube. "Rei, are you comfortable?"
"Very well. We won't be too long this time."
Ritsuko noticed the response speed of the main terminal was just a few seconds slower than normal. That doesn't seem right. Then again, there's a lot more data too, this time. She ran a quick check with the MAGI SYSOP display but there were no detected threats, and all other functions seemed normal.
I'll have to check that out later, she noted to herself, and went back to the work on analyzing the data from the scanners. As she worked, Commander Ikari just sat with his arms crossed in the folding chair and looked at Rei as she closed her eyes and let her mind sift through all of the many questions she had. But there was one question that was foremost on her mind: Why does the American boy keep trying to talk to me?
Patrick heard a noise from the kitchen, and then saw a black and white shape cross the hallway and into the bathroom, burping loudly. I hated penguins already, now she's got an alcoholic one…"Actually, Rei did suggest I should speak to you," Patrick said to Shinji.
"She said we had a lot in common."
Shinji was taken aback by Rei's comment. "I don't know about that. I mean, you're American and you seem much more, well, outspoken, than people here. Are all Americans like that?"
"Not all. We're just like anybody else, really." Then Patrick changed the subject. "Hey, Shinji, I saw your combat footage back at NERV-2. You really fight like a demon out there!"
"Well," Shinji replied reluctantly, "a lot of that's the EVA itself." Patrick's eyes went wide. So maybe it IS true about the EVA! "What do you mean?"
"Sometimes, the EVA, well, it just seems to take over." Shinji then looked away from Patrick. He was reluctant to say much further. Seeing the sad look on his face, Patrick had to wonder what Shinji might have gone through, and perhaps what all the pilots when through, in fighting the Angels. A silence hung over both boys until Shinji tried to change the subject again. "Did you know about us before you came here?" Shinji asked.
"Just a little. We knew there were kids like us piloting these things. Vance had your names from some engineer guy he knew at NERV-2. Other than that and the video footage we saw before we came here, that's all we knew."
"Did you train to fight Angels yet?"
"No," Patrick said. "This training match with you guys must be really important to NERV-2 because I've only been trained to fight other EVAs since I got to Nevada."
"Yeah. We saw some of the battles you guys had. The Angels seem seriously freaky!"
"Uh, yeah. Sometimes I wish we had something more normal to fight."
"I bet. Hey, who was piloting that yellow EVA? He sure was brave!" Patrick referred to the battle against the Fifth Angel, which the Japanese called Operation Yashima. Fought in the area between Tokyo-3 and the nearby mountains, one of the EVA had used its own body to shield Shinji's Unit 01 from the massive angel's energy beam, allowing Shinji to destroy the angel with a heavy positron rifle. The yellow EVA however had been nearly destroyed in the process.
"Oh, that was Unit 00."
"Holy crap! That was Rei?" Patrick exclaimed. "Was she okay after that?"
"She was in the hospital a few days, that's all."
"So that's what Hikari-chan was telling me. She said Rei was hurt badly a couple of months ago, missed a lot of school."
"Oh, she probably meant right before I came here," Shinji clarified for him. "Ayanami was in an accident with Unit 00 when it first activated. She almost died then." Patrick silently paused as he realized that Rei's own life had been much more complicated and certainly more dangerous than he initially realized. "Wow. She's been through a lot."
"Yeah," Shinji said quietly.
"Asuka's fights pretty cool, too." Patrick said. "We saw her battle against that fish thing." He meant the Sixth Angel, and the battle fought between it and EVA-02 in the Sea of Japan.
"Right," answered Shinji. "That was pretty scary to go through."
"Was Unit 01 there, too?"
"No. I was inside the plug with Asuka." Patrick was quite surprised at Shinji's answer "What? That's, like, impossible!" Shinji just shrugged. "No, it's not. I've had Toji and Kensuke inside there too, and I was still able to pilot."
"Those two? When?"
"Are they also pilots?" Patrick asked.
"Uh, no, although Kensuke's been bugging Misato about becoming one since he met me." Patrick laughed at that. "He can have the job! Personally, I think this whole EVA thing sucks!"
Shinji laughed a little too. "I think that I agree with you."
"You don't like piloting?"
"Well...No. I do it because...well…"
Patrick said it plainly. "Your dad's the commander, isn't he?" Shinji looked sheepishly at the other boy. Does he actually understand? Maybe? "Yeah."
"Now I think I know what Rei might have meant," Patrick said, mostly to himself.
"What did you do before EVA, Forrestal?" Shinji asked him.
"Please call me Patrick."
"Okay...what did you do before EVA, Patrick?"
"I lived in California, up in the mountains. It's a place called Big Bear."
"Big Bear? Where there really bears there?"
"I never saw one. Anyway, it was in Humbolt Valley, which is really a remote place and I just lived in a cabin with my uncle. Nothing really exciting to report."
"What about your dad?"
"My dad lived in Nevada at the base. I'd see him maybe once every year. My uncle was okay, although he was really, really strict. Paranoid too. We lived out in a cabin on the mountain, just outside of town, spent lots of time in the outdoors. "
"Where did you go to school?""I didn't go to a school," Patrick replied. Shinji was surprised. "No?"
"No. I was entirely home schooled."
"You can do that in America?"
"Preferable, in my opinion," Patrick said. "It's sort of ironic, but Tokyo-3 is the first real school I've been to."
"So how did you get into EVA?" Shinji asked.
"The whole thing started about six months ago," said Patrick, shifting his weight towards he wall he was sitting against in Shinji's room. "I started to get these very strange dreams. I saw, or rather, I was, a girl in an entry plug, though I didn't know what an entry plug was then."
"You dreamed that you were a girl?" Shinji exclaimed.
"Yeah. For a little while there I thought I was becoming gay." Patrick laughed nervously. "About three months later, the dreams got…well, scary, like she was freaking out when she got inside the plug." Shinji sat up in his bed again, as finally he had run into someone who might have had some of the same experiences he did with the EVA. "And then?" he asked expectantly.
Patrick sighed. Wow, has it been that long? "And then in one evening my whole life changed."