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>Neon Terminus Evangelion
>Episode 06 - "The Abyss's Gaze"

***
Old threads - http://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/qstarchive.html?searchall=Neon+Terminus+Evangelion
Twitter - https://twitter.com/TimeKillerQM
My Discord - https://discord.gg/BnJeeu4
What's the deal with NTE? - https://pastebin.com/AXWHpqGp
>>
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>New York City
>2000

It's always the same.

You are Max Goldberg and you're just a kid sprinting down a street in New York. You're chasing your friend Mike though you can no longer remember why. He was always faster than you. Too fast to catch. He's laughing but you're just trying to keep up. It's just a game but you don't want to look weak. He's rounding the bend, headed for the waterfront near the Upper Bay.

You don't remember why you were running anymore, but you remember the sound of his laugh before it stopped.

The world went white, shadows became hard. It was as if an enormous flashbulb went off, a second sun birthed into existence a few hundred meters above Manhattan. It was for an instant, only an instant. In that moment the temperature of the air rose a hundred degrees. You can't breathe, it's too hot, it's too bright, you squeeze your eyes shut against it but the light comes through, streaming through your skin the way neutrons shoot through.

You don't hear Michael scream, but you can't. You couldn't, not over god roaring.

The blast wave comes a second later and throws you like a ragdoll. You roll across the pavement like an empty can, skidding and bouncing until you strike a lamp post hard enough to break your arm at the wrist.

God is still roaring and there is nothing but sound and light and heat. Your skin burns all over. It lasts for an eternity. Forever and ever, you're screaming, blind, and burning.

You were lucky. You didn't know it then but you were shielded from the blast by an building. Your skin felt like it was burning, but it didn't combust. Your eyes were full of light, but your corneas weren't seared away. You survived.

Eventually eternity ended and you found you could see. Everything was hazy, washed out, blurry. Your eyes ache, your skin feels raw, your arm hurts where you broke it. You sit up and try to blink away the after images. Tears stream down your cheeks. You can only faintly hear.

You look up and up and up at the towering pillar of smoke rising from where the city was. That carcinogenic cloud climbs toward the heavens, billowing over your head.

You remember that you weren't alone.

"Mike?" Your throat is hoarse from screaming. The world spins when you try to move. "Mike!?"

A chorus of car alarms sounds from nearby.

"Mike!?"

"Max!" You see Mike. He's crawling on the pavement, groping forward with his hands. He'd gone around the corner before you had. He was also ways faster than you. "Max! I can't see! *I can't see anything!*"

It's snowing now, only it's not snow. Soft flakes of white-grey ash rain down around you, beginning to cover everything.
>>
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>New Tampa
>2017

You open your eyes.

You are Max Goldberg and you are alone. A ceiling fan spins lazy circles over your bed room. It's dark. The curtains are pulled tight against the warm, sub-tropic sun which is only visible as a sliver of white light between the curtains.

It's time to start the day. Another day. One of your last.

Sitting up, you get out of bed, already feeling the first pangs of pain through your body. You dress quickly and go to the bathroom and snap on the light. You stare into your own sunken eyes in the unforgiving flicker of overhead fluorescents. Your body is decaying. Rotting from the bones out. You survived that day in New York. You survived long enough to see Mike die in an overcrowded hospital, scared and alone. His parents never came. Your parents never came. No one ever came for you. There was no one left.

But you didn't survive, not really. The person you were died then, that kid never left the city. The person carrying his name was someone else. Now, seventeen years later, a stray burst of neutrons or some ingested thorium was going to finish what that bomb started.

Your medicine bottles are lined up like soldiers awaiting inspection. You start popping tops and going down the ranks. Each one serves a purpose, each one makes your life longer and more bearable by degrees, but each one is destined to fail.

You swallow them by the handful.

You've lost weight to the point that you look dead already. Ribs protrude, your skin is pallid.

Your sidearm sits on your counter, unholstered. Bare black metal shines in the light. You've thought about ending it all of course. You know where to shoot to make it as near to instant as possible, but for that to be a viable option, you have to consider death preferable to this.

And truthfully, you're terrified of dying. It's the last thing that scares you.

You turn the lights out and turn away from your side arm. You have unfinished business. You haven't been working for Nerv since you confronted Rose about Sayid's death. You know now that Sayid had been murdered by Nerv and you couldn't simply look the other way.

You know Nerv could use your help, but it's not the only thing. Your charge and the closest thing you have to family now, Renton needs you. He went off the deep end. He killed people, civilians. Whether or not they were guilty of whatever crime Renton charged them with, you know he did what he felt he had to. But you also know he's a kid, a kid with the weight of the world on his shoulders.

You can't sit around this dingy apartment waiting to die anymore. You need to get out. You need to do something with the time you have left.


>Tell Rose you've got your shit together and ask to work for Nerv.
>Spend more time with Renton, help him cope with what he's done.
>Sayid was murdered and you're going to find out why. No matter what.
>>
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=41t7QgqC-Dw
>>
>>4995539
>Tell Rose you've got your shit together and ask to work for Nerv.
>>
>>4995539
>Sayid was murdered and you're going to find out why. No matter what.
>>
>>4995539
>>Spend more time with Renton, help him cope with what he's done.
>>
>>4995810
>>4995912
>>4996513

por que no los tres?

Writing
>>
>>4996624
Who are you
>>
>>4996624
Whoops, forgot my trip. It's me, your friend, Time Killer!
>>
Whether weeks, days, or hours left, you have a life to live. You're not dead yet and you're sick of feeling sorry for yourself. Nerv needs you. Renton needs you. Sayid needs you.

You pick the pistol up off your bathroom counter and slide it into your holster. "No rest for the wicked."

You pick up your cellphone next and dial. It rings twice before Rose answers.

"Holiday."

"Captain, it's Max."

"How are you feeling, Max?"

You ignore the question. The answer is obvious to anyone who looks at you. "I'm ready. I'm ready to come back." You expect her to ask you if you're going to let this business with Sayid go. You're surprised when she doesn't.

"That's good. Welcome aboard. We could use you."

You feel a wave of relief. A part of you was worried she might refuse. You joined Nerv to safeguard what was left of humanity. That's an obligation you want to see fulfilled, no matter the cost. You also know that it's the best way for you to remain close for Renton, and probably your best way to get answers about Sayid.

"I'll come by first thing in the morning."

"Why not right now?" Rose suggests.

"Now?"

"We have something. I think you'll find it . . . interesting."

"Interesting?"

"It's easier if you see it for yourself."

You hesitate, but only for a moment. "I'll be right there."

"Glad to have you back, Max. We need you." Rose hangs up.
>>
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You've only been gone a matter of days, but it feels longer. Returning to Nerv feels like coming home. The smell of recycled air, the echo of footsteps on bare cement, the hum of electronics, this is the life you're used to.

The tactical division office is just like you remember it, only it's crowded with staff. Rose, Mbaru, Yezhov, and associated technicians and staff from the tactical division. Also here is Dr. Roger Caswell and a few other representatives from the science branch, as well as Major Holiday, Rose's father and head of operations.

All are gathered around a central conference table and a large, singular monitor displaying an image of a map.

"Something interesting has come up," Rose says. "We've located an Angel."

"An Angel? Where?" You join the others around the table, your eyes glued to the monitor.

"Eleven degrees north, one hundred and forty one east," Mbaru says. The map flashes the approximate location.

"That's nowhere," you say.

"The edge of the Marianas trench, to be specific," Rose says, raising an eyebrow at Roger. "A team laying fiber optic cable in the area located an anomaly via side-scan sonar. After reporting it to the local authorities, that report was relayed to the UN and then to Nerv." Rose presses a key on a handheld remote and the image resolves again.
>>
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You and the others stare at it for a bit.

"It's approximately twenty meters in diameter," Rose says. "Unknown physical composition, but it's not a natural formation and it's not native wildlife."

"It's organic," you say, "That's the Angel?"

"The Magi are unanimous in that assessment," Caswell says. "This is an Angel. Just not a form we're familiar with."

"It looks embryonic," Yezhov says.

"What do we do about it?" Mbaru asks, all business.

Rose is content to take her time. "That remains to be determined. It's apparently inert. This may be some earlier form of Angelic life that we're unfamiliar with. Some kind of chrysalis stage. As far as we can determine, it's totally dormant. No movement, no energy readings. Really just dumb luck we stumbled across it."

An embryonic Angel. You stare at the strange, symmetrical form, trying to imagine this enormous, anomalous . . . thing resting on the abyssal ocean plain.

"Do not be deceived," Yezhov says. "Egg or not. Dormant or not, an Angel is an Angel. This is not the first dormant Angel found."

"Adam," Rose says, "and Severnaya."

"Neither situation is comparable in my estimation," Caswell says. "Adam was unprecedented. The Katsuragi Expedition had no idea of what they were dealing with. The Severnaya Angel revived and attacked before any cohesive plan could be made."

"One pilot was killed," Yezhov says, "the other blew his brains out with a handgun two weeks later. Both Evas were a complete loss. This would be considered bad, yes?"

Caswell ignores Yezhov's barb. "It's still not comparable. That Angel was frozen in the permafrost, this one appears to be . . . gestating."

"Fluke or not, we don't want a repeat of the past," Rose says. She turns to Mbaru. "What is the UN's recommendation?"

"They submitted a plan to attack the Angel with a spread of nuclear depth charges and torpedoes," Mbaru says before giving a toothy grin.

"Typical," Rose says.

"Science Division would like to submit an alternate plan," Caswell says.

"Let's hear it," Rose says.

Caswell hesitates, collecting his thoughts. "Capture."

Rose raises an eyebrow.

"Capture and study," Caswell says. "If we can secure and contain an intact, undeveloped Angel, there's no telling what we could learn from it. Imagine, we might even be able to harvest an intact S2 core. If we did, we would have a source of unlimited energy potential. The Evas would become independent of the power grid. The last hurdle in their development would be overcome. Not to mention the civilian applications which would be-" Roger catches Rose's eye and falls silent.
>>
"Suggestions?" Rose asks.

"Destroy it," Yezhov says, not even waiting. "There is nothing to be learned. Nothing worth the risk. Let the UN bomb it until it's nothing."

"Mbaru?"

Mbaru thinks for a moment. "I believe that Dr. Caswell's plan has merit. If we capture the Angel, imagine the possibilities. We could save many lives."

Rose looks at you. "What about you, Max?"


>It should be destroyed by any means necessary. This would be an easy victory.
>An S2 core will change the rules of the game. No power limitations would be huge. We should consider capturing it
>Write in
>>
>>4996699
>capture

we can make an omelet
>>
>>4996699
>>An S2 core will change the rules of the game. No power limitations would be huge. We should consider capturing it

Magma diver, anyone?
>>
>>4996699
>An S2 core will change the rules of the game. No power limitations would be huge. We should consider capturing it
What could possibly go wrong.
>>
>>4996705
Ocean diver now.

Dying by drowning seems preferable than burning alive.
>>
>>4996699
>An S2 core will change the rules of the game. No power limitations would be huge. We should consider capturing it.
>Write in
See how Renton is doing. Trying to capture an Angel is going to require multiple EVAs. I'm thinking Ethan, Katya, and Corinne. Even if Renton doesn't deploy for this mission we still need a pilot at our base.
>>
>>4996699
>It should be destroyed by any means necessary. This would be an easy victory.
Does anyone ever go for the somewhat safe option?
>>
>>4996699
>>It should be destroyed by any means necessary. This would be an easy victory.
What EVAs are made of is something of an open secret, it seems. I'd be worried about what putting an Angel's core into an EVA would do to it.
Also, I'd be worried about the core creating a new Angel around it.
>>
>An S2 core will change the rules of the game.
>>4996705
>>4996707
>>4997282


Writing


>>4997581
>What EVAs are made of is something of an open secret, it seem
It's open to Nerv, secret to the general public.
>>
>>4997796
and to the pilots themselves?
>>
>>4997813
The pilots know the Evas are made from Angel genetic material and enhanced with technology. Nothing more specific than that.
>>
You weigh the decision a moment, grateful that the final choice doesn't fall to you. "An intact S2 core would change the rules of the game. If we could eliminate our reliance on the power grid . . . yes. I'm in favor of capturing it."

Rose nods and starts to turn away before you speak again.

"But that's a bit of a blind spot for us, isn't it? The core is the heart of an Angel's power, what effect would it have on an Angel? Couldn't an Angel regenerate itself from only the core?"

"To your second question," Caswell says, "The short answer is 'no'. It's beyond the Hayflick limit. Apoptosis will set in before the Angel can regenerate to that extent I think. If the core were surgically removed, it would be like cutting your heart from your body. As far as implantation goes, well we would need to do some testing. Theoretically the connections are all there. The Angels and Evas are biologically compatible. We would have to act methodically."

Rose looks at the strange embryonic form on the monitor again. "I have my reservations about this, but capture should at least be considered. Major," she addresses her father. "It's the tactical division's recommendation that we pursue capture and retrieval as a strategy.

"Agreed," Major Holiday says. "This opportunity is simply too valuable to pass up but is the operation feasible?"

"The depth is about five thousand meters," Caswell says. "Deep, but still perfectly accessible for a Evangelion B-type diving suit. It would take some modification to rig the suit, a crane assembly, and a capture cage, but that should cover it."

"Where would we take it?" you ask. "I mean once we have the sucker."

Caswell looks at you like you asked the weirdest question imaginable. "It could be . . . anywhere really. Styx, Perdition, Tartarus, Elysium, even one of the main Nerv facilities. I think we have some old containment bays in the lower levels here that could be activated."

"Here?" Yezhov asks, alarmed.

"Of course."

"You don't see a problem bringing an angel to Nerv?" Yezhov says.

Caswell blinks, "Not particularly. I understand that it's dangerous, but where better to store an angel than close by our evas? Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer, yes?"

"We'll want to inspect them," you say. "I don't think they've been used since early Evangelion development."

"See to that," Rose says. "You and Yezhov go with Roger after the meeting and inspect our containment facilities."

You nod, Yezhov just shrugs.

"If everything is in order," Rose says, "Then I think we have our plan. Outfit an expedition to secure and retrieve the Angel then bring it to safe containment for dissection. I'll draw up an operational plan and get it on your desk by the end of the day, Major."

"See to it," Holiday says.

The meeting adjourns.
>>
You are Captain Rose Holiday and you have a dilemma.

You sigh aloud and lean back in your chair, glowering at the documents on your desk. Readiness reports, psych evals, personnel files. The problem is that for a job like this you can't trust it to a single pilot. The provisional diving rig will only support one B-type suit but it's better to have an auxiliary on hand in case things go awry. However, sending two Evas will leave only one left to cover New Tampa, and anywhere else that could have issues while your expedition is away.

You aren't going to leave your rookie pilot watching New Tampa, which means either Katya or Ethan will be staying behind. Renton is not longer a suitable pilot in your eyes. For better or worse, publicly outing him for the murder of those people isn't poltically viable. Instead you'll have to be content to sideline him indefinitely. The conclusion is clear. You need more pilots.

You scoop the handset up from your desk and dial an extension.

"Versetti."

"Colonel, it's Captain Holiday."

"Ah! Captain, good to hear from you. I understand we have quite an operation coming up. An S2 core is on the line, I expect good news."

"Yes, sir. There is something else sir. I wanted to discuss changes to the pilot roster."

"Changes?"

"Yes, sir."

There is a period of silence. "I'm just finishing a meeting with your father. Why don't you join us?"

You reach Versetti's office a short while later. Bizarrely, his office is located on the same floor as the Magi's primary processing and so is virtually deserted. Piping for coolant runs along the ceilings and moisture beads down steel walls. The only sound is the ceaseless whirring of ventilation fans. The office itself is expansive, the far wall behind his megalith of a desk is taken up entirely by a blue-lit aquarium packed to the brim with all manner of sea life. That blue glow permeates the room.

Versetti sits opposite you at his desk while your father leans against a wall nearby.

"Captain, please, come. Sit."

You enter the room, already feeling anxious. Versetti and your father track you with their eyes until you sit across from the colonel.

"You mentioned roster changes. You find the current situation untenable?"

You collect your thoughts before speaking. "Katya and Ethan have performed beyond our expectations. Korine shows promise but lacks experience and her psychological profile is less reliable."

Neither man speaks.

"I would like to remove Renton from the roster."

Versetti doesn't answer.

"What for?" Your father speaks for him.

"Sir, with respect, all indications are that Renton killed those people intentionally. We have neurological data to backup interrogation. It was a conscious thought. I feel that if I had access to the private communication logs-"

"I'm afraid to say that the logs were purged," Versetti says. "Routine maintenance. The IT department was not told to flag them for preservation."
>>
Covering it up. "I see. But the fact remains that Renton killed those people in cold blood. I can't rely on an Eva pilot who acts with such callous disregard for human life. I would like to see Renton transferred to Perdition proving grounds and have him replaced with a new pilot."

"Your top concern with Korine was that she was inexperienced, yes? Well what good would it do to bring in more rookie pilots?"

"I can work with inexperience. We have enough capable veteran pilots to train a rookie up."

"I'm afraid that transferring Renton away would be seen as us acknowledging his culpability for this unfortunate incident," Versetti says. "If we do that then we will tarnish the image of our pilots and this organization in the eyes of the general population. We can't have that." He smiles apologetically.

"Then I would like to request an additional pilot to bring our count up to five. I've seen the reports, all other Nerv pilots are listed as 'training' status. We're the only operational deployment. We should increase our numbers."

"That will be difficult," Versetti says. "From a budgetary perspective"

"Budgetary?" You fail to contain your confusion. "This is the bastion of mankind? Who gives a damn about the money?"

"Captain." Your father's eyes widen with anger.

"I do," Versetti says, still smiling. "It's a part of my job. Yes, New Tampa maintains the only combat ready Evangelions, a situation that's unlikely to change any time soon. I can't simply collect new pilots here on a whim. Even I have limitations."

"With respect, sir, I need another pilot."

"You have one," Holiday says. "Renton. Use him."

"Sir?" You blurt.

"Restore Fox Renton to active status."

"Renton's mental state is totally unpredictable, he-"

"That's not a request," Holiday says, "It's a direct order."

Conflicting emotions battle within you, rage, confusion. You bottle them up. "Sir."

"Restore Fox Renton to active status and make your pilot selection."

"Yes, sir." You stand and salute, refusing to look at your father. "Will there be more, sir?"

"No, that will be all, Captain. Thank you."

You turn and march out of the office, but you don't leave. You wait in the hallway, fuming. Your anger is barely in check when your father emerges, momentarily surprised to see you.

"Have you-"

You're alone here, you don't bother to hold back. "Just who the hell is really running Nerv's tactical division?"

"Excuse me?" Holiday is too taken aback to respond immediately with anger.

"You saddle me with an unstable and unreliable pilot, you tell me we can't get replacements. I thought I was the one calling the shots on these things."

"You're out of line, Captain."

"I'm trying to do my job, dad!" you shout. "But lately I feel like I am getting nothing but brick walls from command. What the hell is the reason we can't replace any of these pilots? What's the real reason?"
>>
Your father's face turns red with anger, you sense an explosion but he fights it down, glancing around to make sure the coast is clear before he takes a step closer to you. "Your mission, Captain is to destroy the Angels. And you will do that within the confines we set for you. No questions, no arguments. You either do your job the way we tell you or I find someone else who will."

The answer hits you like a slap in the face. Your rage is extinguished by something even more powerful. Hurt.

"Yes, Major."

For a moment, there's a flicker of something on his face, maybe concern. You turn away before he can speak, and start back for your office. You have a mission to plan and a pilot to assign.

Who will be the veteran pilot you assign to the expedition to retrieve the Angel?


>Katya
>Ethan
>>
>>4997833
>>Ethan
>>
>>4997829
>"You don't see a problem bringing an angel to Nerv?" Yezhov says.
For once, I agree, with him. Assuming we can get the thing, bringing it back here is a terrible idea. Stick it out in a remote facility, same as you would for any other hazardous research.

>>4997832
>"Budgetary?" You fail to contain your confusion. "This is the bastion of mankind? Who gives a damn about the money?"
Katya's father may have been wrong about a lot of things, but he wasn't wrong about the money. "Requisitioning" can only be done sparingly; damage to the economy isn't easily undone, and the economy is what lets you build and maintain all the shiny stuff you need to win the war.

>New Tampa maintains the only combat ready Evangelions, a situation that's unlikely to change any time soon.
...What? Really? I knew we had the most EVAs on station, but I'd assumed there were others scattered around the globe as watchdogs and stopgaps.

>"Restore Fox Renton to active status."
I personally think he's good for active duty, so no problems here.
There is another option Rose could take, if she is really that sure: Arrange for Renton to have an accident.

>"Just who the hell is really running Nerv's tactical division?"
She's not wrong. While I've not served, it seems like the upper brass have an awful not more micro control over Rose's command than they should. The EVAs aren't exactly a normal command though, so it's not entirely unreasonable.

On the other hand, Rose does seem to get rather wrapped up in personal opinions of the Pilots, unduly coloring her judgement of them. I think at one point or another, she's expressed doubts about all the active pilots.


>>4997833
>Ethan
I think Ethan can handle the stresses better running solo. Hell, he might operate best without fearing for the life of a partner.
>>
>>4997833
>Ethan
Clearly the most reliable and experienced pilot we have. Definitely. Absolutely.

I'm cracking up about them claiming budget reasons for not getting spare pilots. This is just higher ups making the strings they have very obvious.
>>
>>4997833
Actually, I will say
> Renton
There will be few nearby civilians, and Command wants him on the roster. Well, give them what they want. If things go pear-shaped, well, that may not be too bad, following the reasoning of
>>4997863
>>
>>4997833
>Ethan
We can trust him to do his best on his own, tactically and emotionally.

Plus, more mission time for the girls together I think is a good thing, mostly for Korine to learn from Katya.
>>
>>4997833
>Write in
Renton. This is his chance to redeem himself. If TK isn't cool with that write in I'll change to Ethan.
>>
>Ethan
>>4997841
>>4997863
>>4997981
>>4998947

>Renton
>>4998310
>>4998975


>I'd assumed there were others scattered around the globe as watchdogs and stopgaps.
To be clear their ARE Evas at other locations, major Nerv bases, but none which have any operational mobility. They can't be flown to meet Angels in the field.
>>
Ethan was the clear choice. Hothead or not, his skill as a pilot is indisputable. You also feel a little better keeping the more even-tempered Katya here to watch Nerv. You'll keep Renton here at Nerv still on standby. You won't deploy him unless you have no other choice. No sense taking the risk.

As for Korine, you'll send her with Ethan as a backup. They'll be out of contact for at least a few weeks. The Evas can be carried most of the way by air, but to be loaded onto the retrieval fleet they'll have to sail out.

The mission is planned, the die cast.
>>
You are Max and the elevator has finally arrived. The elevator doors roll aside noiselessly and the three of you step inside, Caswell coming last.


"Quite exciting stuff. The possibility of studying a living Angel up close. We know very little about them. Even less about their life cycle and how their energy is generated." He hits the down arrow on the elevator.

"Why try to extract core of the angel by force? Save all this effort of bringing it back."

"A combat extraction would bring its own risks. For instance, would a damage S2 core still function? Or function safely? Not to mention the potential damage to the pilot. Truthfully, we know little about the super solenoid. We know that it's the source of the Angels' power but little more. The popular theory-" Caswell stops to give you an awkward, apologetic smile, "-my theory: is that it somehow focuses and magnifies zero-point energy. Something like Maxwell's Demon-" he stops and looks at you and Yezhov. "It's a big question mark for us." He gives a friendly smile.

You're nowhere near on Caswell's level, but the details interest you all the same. "Clearly they can release catastrophic amounts of energy when they're destroyed."

"Yes, though not always!" Caswell says. They've been known ti simply leave behind dead shells. There's been talk of trying to reverse engineer an S2 core from the shards we've but . . . it's been deemed too risky thus far."

The elevator slows to a halt and the doors whoosh open. Caswell is the first one out of the car and you and Yezhov follow behind.

The Russian seems to be particularly sour today. Even his characteristic sneer is gone, he is quiet, subdued. You don't know him- or truthfully really care about him enough to ask about it though.

You enter a side door and are now in a large computer lab. On the far end is a narrow armored window, everything is covered in plastic sheeting.


"This is the place," Caswell says. "That window looks into the holding area."

You start making your way to the observation window. "It couldn't be any riskier than bringing a life Angel back here, right? I mean even if the core goes super critical, it just takes out some remote research base."

You approach and look out, Yezhov does the same beside you. It's a huge, red-lit, cubic area. The walls are all tiled with heavy armor plates and dotted with strange, almost occult markings. There are some loose, Eva-sized bones scattered at the bottom by a large drain.

"A live angel has other benefits."

You stare into the desolate containment area in awe. "Such as?"

"A live Angel can be kept stabilized indefinitely," Caswell says. "Theoretically. A lot of that science was done by my predecessor, Dr. Kaufman, so I can't say I understand it all, but I trust his work. A man-made super solenoid has potential . . . side effects. Dimensional tears and Dirac seas."
>>
"Dr. Caswell," Yezhov says, finally speaking. "What are those bones?"

"Hm?" Caswell approaches and looks. "Ah. Prototypes probably."

"Prototypes?"

Caswell nods. "A lot of early Eva development was done here. These walls were originally intended to contain the prototype Evangelions. That was primarily handled by the Gihern Group. Before my time."

The bones are massive, human in form but scaled to an Evangelion's size. It's hard to tell from this distance but it looks like the bones are etched with serial numbers and the same strange icons as the walls.

"Is quite unsettling," Yezhov says.

Roger shrugs. "I'd say the same thing to a surgeon at work. It's not pretty, but it's progress."

"Why would you need to contain something that won't move without a pilot?" You ask, confused.

Roger gives you a fixed smile. "Evas can move without a pilot, just not how you want them to."

You feel a momentary jolt of surprise. You'd been trained that an Eva without a pilot was inert, a brain dead body.

Caswell wipes some dust off a chair and sits before noting your surprise. "You don't know much about the Evas do you? Their development I mean."

"No," you say, "I guess not. Less than I thought, but I'm interested."

Roger's smile is a little distant.

"It started with Buenos Aires. That - coupled with the discovery that an Angel was behind Second Impact - was the first indication that we were facing more than a natural cataclysm. It was also the first indication that conventional weapons were not enough." He frowns. "What a shock that was, to see the atomic god toppled from his throne." Caswell pauses. "The first Evas were made using genetic material taken from the Angels, I'm sure you know that much."

You nod.

"They were grown and tested here," Max gestures to the holding tank. "It quickly became clear that we would need more control over them. Armor plates double as electro restraints and energy dampeners. This culminated with the decision - the need - to interface with a human pilot. The Marduk institute was formed to scour the globe for viable pilot candidates."

"How does this relate to bones?" Yezhov asks impatiently.

Caswell glances at him. "Lots of failures," he says. "But this was one experiment where failure was simply not an option. If the human race was to survive it needed this. Hundreds of gestations just to produce the paltry first wave. Construction methods have become more efficient, but it's always been a high-loss process."

"Energy dampeners?" You ask. "You mean the Evangelions would be stronger without their armor?"

Caswell considers this and shrugs. "They would certainly be more like the Angels - their genetic parents. The armor forces them to behave and follow the rules we set out for them. Birthed from the angels but controlled by man. Without that they're a lot less predictable."

You find yourself calling to mind Nerv's motto. He drove the Celestial team, and man was the Lord of the Fire.
>>
"If the Evangelions are really just descended from angels, then how come they don't have cores?"

"Who says they don't?" Caswell says. "Present but vestigial. Like a spleen. In our efforts to domesticate Angels we've also weakened them. We're playing with fire, you see. Tampering in God's domain." He smirks at this bit of sardonic humor. "We don't understand the S2 core well enough to grow one is the fact of the matter."

You nod. "Well, if this place was enough to contain unbound Evas then it stands good odds to contain a sleeping Angel. What sort of countermeasures are in place here, exactly? Armored and treated walls?"

Caswell smiles blandly. "This facility comes with three safeguards in addition to the obvious ones." He counts them off on his fingers. "Firstly, the ability to isolate select sections of the complex with explosive charges, emergency shutters, and blast doors. Secondly, the ability to flood most areas with a military-grade polymer, code named Bakelite. Lastly, this facility was constructed around fifteen, high-yield thermo-nuclear weapons. They can be triggered manually by us or automatically by the Magi in the right circumstances."

You let out a low whistle to cover the sudden unease you feel, knowing that this fortress might one day be your grave. "Who's in charge of pushing the button?" you ask, "Would you do it?"

"If it meant preventing a Third Impact, yes. In a heartbeat I would," Caswell says.

"I've seen what I wanted," You say. "I think this place is as good as any, and at least the Evas would be on hand in the event of trouble."

"I concur with Assad," Yezhov says, reluctantly.

"Then I'll make my final report to Captain Holiday," Caswell says.

"One more question, doctor?"

"Go ahead!"

"How could an Angel trigger a Third Impact? That's what this is all about, right? All these counter measures."

Caswell is silent a moment. "What we know- all we know about the Second Impact comes from just two sources," Caswell says. "The Katsuragai Expedition in 2000 which unearthed the being we now know as the First Angel. And the Versetti Expedition in 2001."
>>
"Versetti? The Colonel?" You ask.

Caswell nods. "Yes, the Colonel Versetti led a fact finding mission the year after Second Impact in order to determine what exactly had happened in the South Pole. We know that Dr. Katsuragai had unearthed the being we call Adam frozen in the ice. The team conducted an experiment to learn more about it. Details are sketchy but perhaps they were working at the S2 core. Whatever the case, the Angel exploded with enough force to permanently shift the earth's axial tilt and erase seasons. I'm not keen to find out how it happened exactly. All we know is that Angels must be destroyed as swiftly as we can manage." Caswell looks at you. "If that means that we keep one alive for now to learn how best to destroy the others then I am onboard."

"The question on my mind is, what it is about this place that bring the Angels here," Yezhov says.

Roger frowns a little, "Now that is a mystery. The Angels seem to pop up randomly, but they also seem to be focused on our little city. I'm sorry, bud, I can't answer that." He shakes his head.


>Letting them come to us just makes things easier
>What do we know about Angel intelligence? Is there any possibility they're smarter than we give them credit?
>Have we given any research into that? I think being able to lure the Angels would be incredibly valuable
>Write in
>>
>>4999103
>To be clear their ARE Evas at other locations,
Oh thank goodness.

>>4999182
>Have we given any research into that? I think being able to lure the Angels would be incredibly valuable
Unfortunately, the trick there will be figuring out what in the city is attracting them in the first place.
Pretty sure their intelligence is one of the most scrutinized topics going.
>>
>>4999182
>Have we given any research into that? I think being able to lure the Angels would be incredibly valuable
>>
>>4999182
>What do we know about Angel intelligence? Is there any possibility they're smarter than we give them credit?
>>
>Have we given any research into that? I think being able to lure the Angels would be incredibly valuable

Writing
>>
"Have we given any research into that?" You ask. "I think being able to lure the Angels would be incredibly valuable."

"No doubt," Caswell agrees. "But no, we haven't had much ability to delve into that. It would be hard to prove any theories and I don't think the Colonel would appreciate us spending time trying to lure Angels rather than just kill them."

"Or capturing," Yezhov says sourly.

"Ah, yes. I do have my own theory though."

"I'd like to hear it," you say.

"It's just a theory," Caswell says. "Untested, unproven. More like speculation really. And it doesn't explain everything."

You wait.

"Well, I wonder if the Angels are attracted to their own."

"Their own? You mean the Evas?"

"In part, yes. It seems most Angels have gravitated toward locations with Evangelions, especially New Tampa which has such a large concentration of them. But it leaves other gaps in the theory, like the attack on Buenos Aires. The Versetti Expedition didn't have any Evas with them of course at that time."

"Versetti?" You ask.

"Oh, yes. Colonel Versetti and his expedition were returning from Antarctica at the time of the Angel's attack. It was Versetti who ordered the nuclear bombardment of the city to destroy the Angel."

"I didn't know that," you say. The thought of Versetti ordering all those people vaporized sends a chill up your spine.

"It's not well advertised," Caswell says. "Not something Nerv is particularly proud of for obvious reasons."

"It couldn't be helped," you say.

"Yes, but 'necessary' and 'pleasant' don't always overlap."

"Right."

Caswell checks his watch. "I hate to run, but I'm afraid I have a meeting right after this one."

"Is it about the capture operation?" you ask.

Caswell gives you a sad smile. "Not exactly. I have an evaluation with Miss Skobeleva."
>>
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You are Katya Skobeleva and the nurse has just finished her basic physical exam and closes the door behind her. You're now alone in the examination room. It's sterile, cold, bare. Everything is stainless steel and featureless linoleum.

It reminds you of the hospital room.

You look down at your hairband. You took it off before the exam because it somehow felt improper. Now you can't bring yourself to put it back on.

"Was it real?" you ask yourself the question in Russian, a whisper. You see the hospital room in your mind, as clear as a photograph. You see your mother's form beneath the sheet which mercifully covers her face. You see your father crying, you see the baby. You.

You let them all down

"Shut up."

Someone knocks gently on the door, startling you. A moment later it opens.

"Hey, Katya," Caswell says, coming in with a grin. "Good to see you again."

"Yes," you say, although it's anything but.

Caswell sits in a rolling chair opposite where you sit on the exam table. He flips through sheets of paper on a clipboard, furrowing his brow from time to time as he reads. "Hm. Looks like you're fit as a fiddle! Hardly a scratch on you," he says. "You're lucky."

You are a waste

"Yes," you say.

"Ah, I guess it doesn't feel that way, huh? That was a rough spot for you."

Your hands curl to fists at your side. "Yes."

"I can't begin to imagine what you kids go through out there," Caswell says. "It hardly seems fair to put a burden like this on you."

"This is what I choose," you say. "This is what I am good at."

It does not matter if I die or not. It just matters that maybe I save someone else.

"Maybe," Caswell says, "But I bet if there were no Angels you would have chosen something else, hm?"

"No Angels?" Your mother would be alive. You wouldn't be blamed by your family as the one who killed her. You would be happy. "Maybe I be something else."

"But I guess so would I. I try not to think about that sort of thing to be honest. Thinking about what was or what could have been will drive you crazy. I try to focus on what can be done and what can happen."

You don't reply.
>>
"Can I ask you something, Katya?" Caswell asks.

"Yes."

"When that Angel immobilized you, right after Ethan saved you, you said something. Do you remember?"

It doesn't matter what happens to me.

"No," you lie.

Caswell stares blankly at you for a second. "You said 'it doesn't matter what happens to me'. Do you remember that?"

"No."

He's undeterred. "Do you know why you would have said that?"

"No."

He taps a pen on the clipboard rhythmically. "That's a pretty bleak thing to say, don't you think?"

"Yes."

"Forgive me if I'm being nosy, that just doesn't sound like the Katya I know."

You almost ask him which Katya he thinks he knows. It seems like no one knows you. Maybe Ethan, maybe Korine, but maybe not. The Katya he knows is the one you let him know. The one who does her job and never shies away.

"I think maybe I mean that I don't want Ethan to worry," you say. "Destroying the Angel is more important, yes?"

"Maybe," Caswell says. "I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm glad he did, but I'm not so sure I could just give up on my own life like that."

Caswell waits for an answer that doesn't come. You just look at your hairband.

"I've looked over your neurological data from the battle," Caswell says. "I know in your after action report you said that when the Angel neutralized your AT field, you blacked out. You said that you don't remember anything between then and when you were removed from the entry plug."


You're not sure you can ever forget those moments. The things you were shown.

"I'm wondering if anything came back to you," Caswell says. "Your brainwaves suggest activity. A lot of activity. From what I can tell, the Angel somehow interfaced with you and your Eva. Do you remember any of that?"

You don't answer. You see yourself standing across your mother's hospital bed. Your duplicate sneers at you. You see your family falling apart. Because of you.

"Did the Angel communicate with you?" Caswell asks.

How could an Angel communicate? The thought strikes you as absurd. They're animals. Barely animals. They're aliens without intellect. There is nothing to communicate with. It was purely your own mind reacting to whatever the Angel did to you.

Wasn't it?


>Tell Caswell the truth of what happened
>Tell Caswell you don't remember anything
>Write in
>>
>>5001051
>Tell Caswell you don't remember anything
So…..deny, deny, deny?
>>
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>>5001051
>>Tell Caswell the truth of what happened
>>
>>5001051
>>Tell Caswell the truth of what happened
>>
>>5001284
Reasoning is, Ethan told her his burden. Maybe she should learn from him and tell Caswell.
>>
>>5001051
Tell caswell we need time to gather our thoughts before we're ready to talk more.
>>
>>5001051
>>Tell Caswell you don't remember anything
Crazy people don't get to pilot god-machines.
>>
>>5001288
Maybe in time she'll tell Ethan, as her told her. But Ethan never told an authority figure either, for good reason.
>>
>>5001051
>Tell Caswell the truth of what happened
I think the science guy needs to hear this. This would be the first human Angel communication disregarding Ethan and Linda (I still don't know what Linda is, if she is an Angel why doesn't Nerv detect her?) This could be the thing that leads to a breakthrough with the Angels. New weapons, armor, and even engagement strategies could be developed. We don't know that telling the truth would result in ejection from the pilot program. Ethan's case is different and it makes sense that he wouldn't talk about it. Plus we're about to bring an infant Angel nearby and there's no telling how the two will effect each other.
>>
>Tell Caswell you don't remember anything
>>5001111
>>5001258
>>5001284

Writing
>>
You stare at the cat ear headband without speaking. A minute elapses before you give a light shake of your head. "I don't remember."

"Anything would help, Katya, any detail-"

You look at him. "There is nothing."

Caswell taps his clipboard twice. "Right. Right, well if anything occurs to you, just let me know, okay?"

You can't imagine doing that. You're a Skobeleva. You don't go running to others for help, especially not with your future on the line. You're an Eva pilot, that's all you are and all you can ever hope to be, and what good would you be without that? Without your Eva you're just another frightened, helpless child. If you're going to die, you'll die with a gun in your hand instead of hiding in a bunker.

Caswell can't help. What would he do? Prescribe you medicine to make you feel less at best. Remove you at worst. No. You won't tell him. There's nothing to tell. You had a bad experience, that's all there is to it.

"I do that." The lie comes easy.

Maybe Ethan would understand. He's been through worse, hasn't he?

Thinking of that strange eclectic jolt you felt makes you shiver. But . . . maybe he has enough to worry about without adding you to the list. The name alone makes you afraid. What is she? What does she want?

Linda...
>>
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QxHkLdQy5f0
The waltz. You recognize it at once. Tchaikovsky.

I'm kind of a dork about old music. Linda had said the words to you as the song played from fuzzy speakers in a barracks in Anchorage. You'd never heard anything like it, something soft, airy, free. It was almost hard to imagine that humans made it. It was hard to imagine a time that wasn't full of struggle, even harder to imagine a time that might inspire such music anyway.

You lose yourself in the sounds, the sweet hum of strings, the staccato melody of the dance and the accompaniment of horns. It's a song for revelry, a song for eternity, a song for tomorrow.

You are Ethan Chandler and this time the ballroom isn't empty. It's packed to the brim with swirling dancers, stepping in time to the music. Wall to wall is full of a swirling array of dancers, each partnered with another, moving as one, their faces indistinct. The ballroom doesn't merely contain the suggestion of a melody anymore, it surges and swells with the sounds of the song.

The men wear finely cut suits, as you do now.

The women wear pink pastel dresses that come just below their knees. All but one of them anyway.

The opposite end of the elegant ballroom is faced with enormous windows that look across the ocean. The waves flash in the light as the tide rolls endlessly in.

The entire dance floor is packed save for a small open space in the middle, like the eye of a hurricane. In the middle of it all is a teenage girl in a long white gown. Her back is to you but the carefully folded white-feathered wings make it impossible that she's anyone else.
>>
You move your way through the crowd, though they seem to part around you like waves on a rock. You don't have to slow or change course, every couple dances effortlessly around you, sailing by with a hint of laughter.

You stop behind the girl with wings and say her name. "Linda."

She turns around. Linda. You're awestruck by her. She's gorgeous, far more beautiful than you ever remembered or maybe noticed. She's not the strange, bubbly girl you knew in Anchorage, she's more.

"Ethan," She smiles warmly.

You embrace her without a second thought. The joy of being reunited is overwhelming.

She meets the embrace, putting her arms around you delicately. Linda unfurls her wings to wrap them around you as well, enveloping you in a soft, white cocoon.

"I missed you," she says.

Your answer is automatic. "I missed you too"

She gives you a last squeeze and release before taking your hand. "Dance with me, Dino." It's an invitation you can't refuse.

You take her hand and step off, letting your feet follow the carefully orchestrated rhythms of the waltz.

It's heady, exhilarating. The two of you hold one another as you sweep around the floor, moving through the storm of dancers. Linda smiles up at you. You see now that a golden halo floats above her head.

Your feet aren't touching the floor anymore, the two of you are literally dancing on air, moving higher above the others.

"I wish we could do this forever," Linda says wistfully.

"I was afraid," you say, "I thought I'd lost you again."

"Aw. No. I'm not going anywhere." She smiles up at you and gives you a soft kiss on the cheek that warms your skin and heart. Electric tingles run over your body.

"I heard the music," you say. "I hoped you were coming back."


"Always," she says.

The strings swell and you revolve together, circling around the ornate chandelier that hangs from a decorative plaster medallion on the ceiling.

"Is this a dream?" you ask.

"It's as real as you'll let it be, Ethan."
>Where did you go?
>Please don't leave again
>This can't go on forever
>Write in
>>
>>5003360
>"Dance with me, Dino."
...?

>Where did you go?
It's good to see her again, as subtly off as ever. Not gone as long as I thought she'd be.
>>
>>5003446
>>"Dance with me, Dino."
Weird. No idea. Pretend it says Ethan.
>>
>>5003360
>>Where did you go?

>>5003488
Watching dinosaur train huh?
>>
>>5003360
>Write in
Just enjoy the moment.
>>
>Where did you go?
>>5003446
>>5003643

Writing

>>5003643
>Watching dinosaur train huh?
I have no excuse.
>>
>>5004585
kek
>>
"Then it's real," you say, gripping her a little tighter.

"Things have been rough . . . since you've been gone."

Linda frowns. "I'm sorry, Ethan. Really. I just . . . I needed some time. I still do."

"Where did you go? Where have you been, Linda?"

She looks away, "I . . . I've been around. I needed to think about some things."

"Like what?" you ask.

"I'm not afraid anymore," Linda says.

"That's great," you say. "I didn't really know you were scared."

She nods. "Of my future of . . . of what will happen next. I've been afraid of everything, but I've been learning a lot about myself since I've been with you, Ethan."

"What have you learned?"

Linda looks shy. "I learned that . . . you didn't just save my life, Ethan." Linda looks away bashfully, as if suddenly embarrassed. When she looks back, you see the reflection of a strange, double-barred cross in her eyes. "You set me free."
>>
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You open your eyes.

You're lying in bed and early morning sunlight is just starting to come through the window of your apartment. You lift your hand to your face, and open it. The feather is gone, if it was ever there.

"Linda."

That image, of the shape in Linda's eyes lingers in your mind like the after image of a bright light.

You sit up and exhale, looking around your empty room. A dream?

It's as real as you'll let it be

"Then it's real," you say.

You dress and prepare for the day. Sync testing this afternoon. You know you've been assigned to this deep sea recovery mission, but you don't yet have all the details. It will be you and Korine alone. Katya and Renton will be staying here, and that has you nervous. You've always been able to count on the full team to some degree. This time, for the first time since Anchorage, it will be you and a partner with no one else.

And just like then, your partner will be counting on you.

You shake your head, trying to clear your mind. This will be nothing like Anchorage. You catch sight of yourself in the bathroom mirror. You look tired, hollow.

Nothing like Anchorage.
>>
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HOTFm1n3A9g

You are Katya Skobeleva and you have your eyes closed. The pressure of the Eva weighs on your mind, pressing in from all sides. It's like sinking into a deep, dark ocean, the weight of the water around you threatening to smash you to a pulp.

The ocean. Thinking about it only makes your mood dip lower. Ethan and Korine would be leaving soon for the Pacific. You don't want to dwell on it.

This sync test, you find that your thoughts have been troubled. Normally you have no trouble clearing your mind, drawing on that boundless well of inner tranquility you have within you. Only now it seems like that well is dry.

"Katya, it's Caswell." Caswell's voice interrupts your meditation. "Everything alright?"

"Is fine," you say.

"Try not to get distracted by anything. Remember, this is just a test. Nothing to worry about."

You see your doppelganger sneering back at you. You are a waste.

"I understand."

***

You are Captain Rose Holiday and you're watching the results of the sync test on the monitors in the control room.

Four entry plugs sit in the open room, each with a pilot, visible on monitors here. Renton, Ethan, Korine, and Katya. Each is deeply concentrated on the test.

"This is abysmal," you say, frowning at the results.

"It's not that bad," Caswell says. "Ethan's score is up by two points."

"And that puts him at number one," you say, "but only because Katya is down by fifteen. And Renton is down by ten. These are their lowest scores on record."

Caswell looks downcast. "Yes. Well . . . they've both gone through a lot."

"Do I need to remind you that Katya and Renton are the two we've selected to defend the city?"

"No," Caswell says, "You don't. But look at the bright side: these are the pilots who need the rest the most."

"Hm."


>Tell Ethan that he got the top score this round of testing
>Congratulate all the pilots on a good job but don't release the scores
>Lie and tell Katya that she got the top score again
>Write in
>>
>>5004685
>>Write in
Tell them all their scores in a neutral voice.
>>
>>5004685
>>Congratulate all the pilots on a good job but don't release the scores
Releasing the scores will either light a fire under them, or just depress them. Low scores are a bad thing, but I wouldn't be worried unless it becomes a trend.
>>
>>5004685
Changing from>>5004700
to
>>Congratulate all the pilots on a good job but don't release the scores
>>
>>5004685
>Write in
Say nothing.
>>
>>5005041
+1
>>
Rolled 2 (1d2)

>1 Congratulate all the pilots on a good job but don't release the scores

>2 Say nothing

Writing
>>
You sigh. "There's no reason to make them worry. They have enough on their plates, especially with the retrieval operation coming."

Caswell nods.

You sigh again. There's never an easy moment. "The test is over."

***

You are Ethan Chandler and the pressure on your mind lets up a moment before the entry plug door opens. The abrupt end takes you by surprise. Typically Rose would announce a top performer, and that would invariably be Katya.

You don't dwell on it long, your thoughts remain with Linda.

You set me free.

You don't know what she meant by that, but you don't think you like it. Since she spoke with you, you'd dwelled on it, turning it over in your mind. What she said, and the cross you saw. Did it mean something?

It felt like it did. It felt potent, it felt important. It felt like a premonition of things to come.

In the crushing dark depths of the secret sea. Standing on dead, sun-bleached rocks and ruins alone in the ocean. From the beginning to the end and everywhere at the end of time. It's always us.

"What will happen next." You mutter Linda's words. What will happen next?

"Looks like you broke it," Korine says.

"Broke it?"

"The test," she says, stretching her arms over her head and standing on tiptoe to relieve a crick in her back. "You broke the test. What did you do?"

"Maybe Miss Skobeleva shattered another record," Renton teases, joining the three of you.

Katya walks by everyone without stopping, without so much as a glance.

You all watch her go.
>>
"What's up with Katya?" Korine asks.

All eyes go to you. It's no secret that you're closer with her than anyone. You can only shrug. "I don't know."

The group breaks up to shower and change. You're briefly alone with Renton who says nothing to you. You say nothing back. You've done your very best not to think about what happened. Those people.

You could never had stopped me. No matter what you tried, I would have killed them all. You never had a choice, you see? I am sorry that I involved you, but you never would have saved them.

Renton's words haunt you. It was a lie, but a comforting one. Was that why he told you that? He'd said he would have killed you if you tried to stop him. Somehow you don't believe that. You look over your shoulder at Renton who is buttoning his shirt. Was he trying to insulate you from his choice? Shield you from the consequences? If so, did that make him any less of a bastard?

Renton speaks. "Ciao." The locker room door closes behind him.

You finish dressing and leave. The halls of Nerv feel emptier than before, as if something vital was missing from them, some critical element. Maybe it's just your own emptiness that you feel. It's a relief when you finally encounter Mbaru waiting in the parking garage.

He leans on the driver's side of the black sedan, looking as implacable and aloof as ever. "Ready?"

"Ready," you say.

It's not a long drive from Nerv 03 back to your apartment, but heavy traffic has slowed things down. Mbaru watches the road, eyes on the van in front of you. The city feels as alive as ever, maybe even more so with all the activity preparing two Evas for long range deployment.


>Ask Mbaru if he knows what's going on with Katya
>Tell Mbaru you're nervous about the Pacific operation
>Tell Mbaru that you're worried about Renton
>Ride in silence
>Write in
>>
>>5006811
>>Tell Mbaru you're nervous about the Pacific operation
>Ask Mbaru if he knows what's going on with Katya
>>
>>5006811
>Was that why he told you that?
Almost certainly. While it's possible Renton would win a fight between us and him, it would be hard-fought and NERV would have disabled one or both EVAs before any such fight really got going.


>Tell Mbaru that you're worried about Renton
If anything, I feel like Ethan would be looking forward to the Pacific op somewhat; can't lose a comrade-in-arms if you're running solo.
>>
>>5006811
>Tell Mbaru that you're worried about Renton
>>
>>5006811
>Tell Mbaru that you're worried about Renton
>>
>Tell Mbaru that you're worried about Renton
>>5006865
>>5007232
>>5008846

Sorry for the delay guys, real life has been a bitch. I'm going to try to resume one post a day.


Writing
>>
"Do you talk to Renton much?" you say.

Mbaru raises an eyebrow while keeping his eyes on the road. "Renton?"

"Yeah."

"No. Should I have?"

Stupid question. You feel stupid for having asked. "Ah, forget it." You turn away to watch the sidewalk slowly rolling past. The car is hardly moving, coming to frequent stops because of the traffic.

"Is this because of what happened?' Mbaru asks.

"I guess. Yeah. I'm worried about him."

"It was an accident," Mbaru says.

"Yeah but-" you have to proceed carefully. "That's a lot for someone to take in. All those people . . ."

"Just numbers," Mbaru says. The callousness of his response shocks you. "Those people died, yes. It was their time. There is no sense in dwelling on it."

"Maybe if things had been different-"

Mbnaru shakes his head. "There is no shortage of death in this world, Ethan. Renton is a warrior like you. He is a killer."

"He's not a killer," you say, but the words are weak.

Mbaru shrugs. "Maybe not of men. But a killer of monsters. Sometimes that line is blurred."

You want to argue with him, tell him he's wrong, tell him every human life is precious. But if you really believed that, then why didn't you stop him?

"Renton will have to cope with what has happened," Mbaru says. "He will do that or he won't."

"That's pretty fatalistic," you say. "You really think like that?"

Mbaru finally looks at you, just a glance. "If I was here to kill you, would you stop me?"

"What?"

"Would you kill me to save your own life?"

"I . . . I mean I would defend myself."

"You would do whatever you needed to to survive," Mbaru says, confident. "This is how all people are. We turn our nose up at killing until we must. Then the weak turn to people like me. People like you."

You study the scar on his face. Mbaru had said he was a pirate before. Had he killed back then? Before his life now? It's a frightening prospect. "But these people didn't need to die. Renton didn't mean to." You perpetuate the lie.

Mbaru shrugs. "A tragedy, yes. But it has happened and there's no sense dwelling on it any further.

"I guess."

"And you are bothered?"

"I wish I could have saved them," you say, turning away.

"You are a kind man, Ethan. Too kind I think. It will hurt you to be like this. It is like a wound that won't heal. Harden your heart. This war isn't over yet."

You nod and fall silent. Does Mbaru know Renton killed those people on purpose? Does he care? Either way the result is the same. Still, you can't agree completely with Mbaru's sentiments. You know you would fight to defend yourself and your species, but a warrior without a conscience is just a killer. You're not a killer.
>>
Your car door opens and someone unbuckles your seatbelt. "Out!" Hands grab you and pull you from the vehicle and onto the sidewalk. "Wh-what" You resist, pulling back, bewildered.

The car is stopped, the van you were following sits idle in front of you, the doors are open and men with guns and masks have weapons trained on Mbaru in the car. They're not in uniform, wearing only non-descript street clothes.

A bystander nearby screams. The man dragging you toward the van is gripping you by the wrist with one hand, the other holds a pistol. Despite your conscious mind telling you it's a bad idea, you resist, pulling back, still half-dazed, overwhelmed by the suddenness of this.

"Let me go!" you say, anger and fear replacing confusion.

"Ethan, please you have to trust me!" Your captor's voice is surprisingly soft, pleading.

"Come on we don't have time!" One of the other gunman from the van calls, glancing at the man holding you.

You look to Mbaru for help but see that he's frozen, under the watchful gaze of a gunman by the van, unable to move.

The man dragging you suddenly releases you, turning to look you in the eye. They're wide, afraid. He's sweating. "Ethan, we're not going to hurt you, we need to talk to you."

"Me? Who the fuck are you?"

"My name is Rakesh Bindra," he says. "I used to work for Nerv. They're lying to you. You need to know the truth of everything. We need to-"

"Let's go!" one of the other gunmen in the van calls, voice edged with panic. "There's no fucking time."

Rakesh looks back at you. "Ethan, please. Come with us. " He gestures toward the van.
>Go with Rakesh
>Do not go with Rakesh
>>
>>5010734
>>Go with Rakesh
>>
>>5010721
Was starting to get worried about you. You do what you need to, we'll be around.

>>5010733
>It will hurt you to be like this. It is like a wound that won't heal. Harden your heart. This war isn't over yet."
That sums it up pretty well, unfortunately. Our uncertainty in making that choice has left Ethan is a terrible sort of limbo.
It won't be easy, but he's going to have to put it behind him if he wants to stay sane.

>>5010734
>Do not go with Rakesh
Ethan isn't the sort to buy into anti-NERV propaganda.
>>
>>5010734
>Do not go with Rakesh
>>
>>5010734
>Go with Rakesh
I want to see what's up, and if we don't they'll probably kill Mbaru. And then we go with them anyways.