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Father Brother Lover Mother

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In the wake of the Sixteenth Angel’s destruction, the Research & Technology division has become unusually busy — and secretive. More than usual. The briefings that Misato received were full of omissions, but as least some details were made available to her.

The event has been, rather ominously, designated the Near Third Impact. When she was in the Command Center, watching it unfold, it honestly wasn’t clear what was happening, or why. A sense of both utter eeriness and total urgency comprise most of what Misato remembers. But the enormous growth that spontaneously erupted from Eva-00’s back, and was reabsorbed moments later — she remembers that. And she remembers the all-too-familiar shapes that were emerging from it.

Nobody acknowledged it then, and nobody wants to acknowledge it now, either. She’s starting to think maybe she imagined it. But the designation “Near Third Impact” implicitly admitting that the event had Impact potential — that suggests she didn’t.

And there is another important inference to be made: the body of Adam is not an essential ingredient. An Impact can be set off without it. But how, exactly? With her clearance level, she can’t get any answers. Someone in her position, high-ranking or no, just doesn’t need to know. (Complete bullshit, in her humble personal opinion.) All that matters is that everyone feel an appropriate sense of danger and keep their guard up for the final Angel’s appearance.

Even though they’ve appeared only one at a time, it’s been deduced that the Angels have some unknown mechanism by which they accumulate collective knowledge. The way they have gradually trended toward greater and greater sophistication and social intelligence does seem to support this idea. It’s for this reason that the Final Angel will, without fail, be the most dangerous, as its direct predecessor almost achieved an Impact using the very Evas meant to defeat it. And as far as anyone can see, the only reason it was thwarted was due to the will of a pilot. If that variable is accounted for by the next Angel… is there any way they can fight back at all?

Nerv’s entire anti-Angel machine is on the cusp of complete failure. Maybe it’s already there. But there’s nothing she can do about it.

And as if she doesn’t have enough shit to worry about, the intelligence division decides that this is a good morning to call her. She’s told that an unexpected anomaly has been detected over the inundated crater, a team is being sent up to investigate, and she’s expected to be there. Misato doesn’t need any convincing, really. She hastily finishes getting ready and hops into her car.

Once there, she, like everyone else, puts on the standard orange hazmat suit.

“This must be some ‘anomaly’,” she grouses to Hyuga. “What’s really going on?”

He finishes securing the head piece and activates his speaker system. “I basically just got here myself, but I’ve heard the science team throwing the term ‘psycho-hazard’ around.”

“What is that?” she asks, yanking the suit up past her waist. “Not related to psychic contamination, by any chance? ……Would be kind of fishy if it wasn’t.”

He shrugs. “Your guess is as good as mine, Major.”

Without a true director for Research & Technology to make on-the-fly judgments about what data to share with other departments, Misato and Hyuga are effectively forced to piece together whatever they can from eavesdropping. The concentrated layers of jargon make it nearly impossible, as always.

The members of the survey team are loaded with all sorts of bizarre instruments. Who the hell even knows what they’re measuring for. The personnel divide into two group, with one investigating a roughly ring-shaped area around the crater — from the shoreline out to a distance of 380m — and the other sweeping the crater-lake on boats. Hyuga goes with the former, Misato with the latter.

Misato pretends to be useful, like every other time they’ve deployed her with a science survey team. The situation honestly has no right to be this boring. Something very strange happened the day Rei Ayanami died; this mysterious ‘psycho-contamination’ proves it beyond all doubt. Rei was able to contain the Angel long enough to destroy it — but what if she didn’t destroy it completely? It’s no coincidence that Eva-00’s blast zone is what’s being checked. None at all.

Eventually, she bothers Lt. Ibuki, who’s on board the same vessel. “Do you guys more or less know what’s going on?”

“Well...” Ibuki seems to be combing her mind for what she’s allowed to actually say. “Major Katsuragi… Yes, I would say that some kind of picture is slowly coming together.”

“That’s good,” Misato says.

But... we’re really not equipped to deal with the problem properly. Not an occurrence of this magnitude. Not with the resource and time crunch we’re under.”

“That bad?”

“It’s the kind of problem where… like…” She fidgets with her pen. “…nothing will happen right away, but it has the potential to be devastating later.”

The side of the boat knocks into something, prompting Misato to look. At first she thinks it’s a weirdly-shaped rock, but, no — it seems to be a statue of a winged goddess. With the impact, more of it is crumbling into the water, so it’s hard to tell for sure.

The vessel quickly course corrects, and Misato returns her attentions to Ibuki. “I see,” she says.

“I’m sorry I can’t say more,” Ibuki says, genuinely apologetic. “I really wish Dr. Akagi were here.”

“Me too,” Misato admits.

***

Ultimately, the actual extent of the psycho-hazard area is identified, and the whole area is barricaded with fences along the shoreline and floating barriers in the water anchored to lake bottom. Trying to seal in a metaphysical phenomenon with physical objects feels extraordinarily foolhardy, but maybe there’s something about the material in the barriers that makes a difference. The survey team was perfectly okay with going out there in just the hazmat suits, so maybe there’s something to it. Misato has no real idea.

Afterward, Misato and Hyuga leave the psycho-hazard area separately and, following through with previously made plans, reconvene at the main station to the Geofront. The car train provides an ideal location for exchanging intel, something she’s sure the Intelligence Division knows, but they can’t stop her from trashing any planted bugs she finds, either. Looking for them on the regular has been ingrained habit for a long time and she’s quite good at it. Hyuga is even better.

Hyuga has always been an excellent kouhai , an honest and diligent worker with a seemingly unconditional willingness to please. His crush has always been obvious to Misato, though ever since Chief Inspector Kaji’s “disappearance”, he’s r eally been pulling out all the stops. His optimism is charming, in its way. Unlike many men, Hyuga would never do anything uncouth or make any unwanted moves; he just doesn’t have the disposition for it. That sense of security makes it all too easy to take advantage of his loyalties.

Misato feels kind of bad about stringing him along, giving him all sorts of shady tasks, knowing he won’t reject any of them… but the ends justify the means. He is really good at what he does, and not tapping into his talent would be foolish. Besides, how would she even reject him, without hurting him needlessly? He’s a good man; he doesn’t deserve to be hurt by someone like her.

The platform starts moving down. Misato cracks open a canned coffee. “So, what’s your take on all of that, Hyuga-kun?”

He laughs. “My honest assessment is so ridiculous I’m not sure I--”

“Try me.”

“I mean…” He scratches the back of his head. “From the stuff I was overhearing… It legitimately sounded like the place was haunted by ghosts. Crazy, like I said.”

Misato thinks. “Maybe that isn’t really so crazy, though.”

“Oh?” he says. “What are you thinking, Major?”

She taps her lip with an index finger thoughtfully. “The shapes of the defeated Angels were definitely emerging from Eva-00, so maybe…” But already she’s second-guessing herself. “No… That can’t be it. No additional A.T. Fields were detected, right?”

“Right,” Hyuga says with a sharp nod, “but that doesn’t necessarily tell us much. Like, say, what if the 16th’s own field was obstructing our instruments?”

“Is there any evidence for that, though?”

“Eva-00’s A.T. Field was completely neutralized,” Hyuga says. “It wasn’t able to cancel out the Angel’s field at all. Not only that, the Angel extended its ego threshold to the limits of Eva-00’s.”

Misato crinkles her brow trying to interpret that. “You mean...”

“Exactly,” Hyuga says, adorably optimistic about what Misato might have said next. “It means the Angel’s field would have completely encased that weird growth. If there were other A.T. Fields inside it, the Angel would have been able to contain them there. Prevent them from interacting with sensors.”

“But we still had visual confirmation that something was happening,” Misato says, frowning. “What would be the point?”

“Maybe…” Hyuga thinks. “You know that ‘accumulated memory’ theory that’s been bouncing around since way back? Maybe the 16th had the memories of the virus one.”

“The 11th, you mean?”

“Yeah. That Angel was right inside the Magi. It would have known all sorts of things about us, like how our primary means of detecting Angels is through their A.T. Fields.” He adjusts his glasses. “So, if its knowledge was somehow passed onto the 16th...”

“Then it would have already known of a way to conceal its activities from us. It could have been resurrecting the dead Angels, and we wouldn’t be able to confirm it until it was too late.” She strokes her chin. “Ghosts, indeed?”

Hyuga leans back, sighing. “Really horrifying if you think about it too much. The idea of dead Angels haunting the crater is the stuff of nightmares. And the way that day might have turned out if the 16th Angel wasn’t destroyed — even more so. But that’s the kind of world we’ve been living in, I guess.”

“It really is.” Misato taps the steering wheel, lost in thought. “That’s really fascinating, though. I never thought about it much. The whole ‘memory’ thing.”

This has her wondering, now, if the 11th has anything to do with the 14th’s mysterious decision to attack the command center. The moment was so terrifying Misato never much contemplated the “why” of it. But the Angel would have no reason, based purely on the information it could have gathered through its own means, to break away from its descent to Terminal Dogma — would it? It feels incredibly unlikely…

“They’re so mysterious,” Misato muses. “There’s so much about them we still don’t know. And now may never know, I suppose, with only one left...” She sounds remorseful. Even with her vendetta, a part of her has to admit that something incredible is about to be lost from the world forever. There’s something very sad about that.

“So much that you and I don’t know,” Hyuga jibes. “R&T know plenty, I’m sure.” He takes a look at his watch, prompting Misato to do the same. They’ve still got time, but budgeting it is important. “So, uh, not to change the subject or anything, but I have some new stuff...”

Misato practically bounces in her seat. “Oh? Let’s hear it!”

“Nothing too interesting… Mostly just a couple of things they haven’t bothered to share with us in Tactical yet. I know you’ll appreciate the first one. Apparently Intelligence Division 2 has the Second Children in their custody.”

“Asuka?!” Misato says. Immediately, she reins it in. “What took them so damn long?? It’s been over a week since they claimed they lost her!”

“A week exactly,” Hyuga corrects, “but, yeah, it’s lousy either way.”

Huh. It’s felt like so much longer than that. Misato’s getting her personal and professional lives mixed up again. Asuka started disappearing from the house intermittently right after the 15th Angel assaulted her. Those weeks were nothing short of a total shit show. Misato was way too fucked up herself to do anything for the girl. Not an excuse, by any means.

A tragedy, is what it is.

When Misato doesn’t say anything for a while, Hyuga adds, “They’re probably trying to spite us here in Tactical. It’s just like them.”

Misato jolts back into the moment. “So, what was the other thing?”

“The Marduk Report for the Fifth Children should be showing up at any time. It sounds like he’s in the process of being shipped here, too. That’s all I could find, though. The kid’s information is guarded like nobody’s business.”

“Being shipped? Are we talking about a pilot here?” Her eyes roll and she groans. “Oh, please don’t tell me it’s another Eva-02 situation… I could not deal with those smug assholes again.”

Hyuga shrugs. “You got me, Major. I am merely a messenger.”

***

Hyuga’s intel is substantiated, as it almost always is, when Misato arrives at her office, and a copy of the latest Marduk Report is waiting for her on the desk.

Just like Hyuga-kun said, she thinks. She sets her bag down, retrieves a canned coffee from it, and settles into her swivel chair. As she takes the first sip, she pulls the report closer.

What she sees is such a visceral shock that she only narrowly avoids complete disaster. She’s able to set the can back upright before too much can leak out, and not too much got spit onto the front page. Feeling desperate for the quickest fix possible, she uses a spare shirt she has stuffed away in a drawer to soak up the mess, and then she pulls that report right up to her face.

Her fingers are digging so hard into the pages that the bundle creaks.

As with all Marduk Reports, the pilot’s photo is clipped to the front page. Standard ID photo, taken from the front with the subject in formal dress. The Fifth Children… A fine-looking young man with delicate features and an impish grin, his unruly hair conveying an untamed heart… Right away, he emanates a sense of the uncanny. The feeling is so pervasive that Misato can’t even begin to place it. There’s a sort of angelic beauty to him, like he’s not quite human. His pigmentation is eerily similar to Rei’s, so maybe there’s something to that. But, no… This isn’t simply a matter of otherworldiness.

It’s also one of inexplicable yet overwhelming familiarity.

In haste, she flips through the pages, hoping for any kind of hint that would release this tension. Name: Kaworu Nagisa. Born and raised in Germany. No relations listed. As with Rei, his personal records deny him a past; aside from a couple of items, the little that’s there is recent.

The medical records are a complete joke, as well. He’s listed with a diagnosis of “Impact Syndrome” — same as Rei. This supposedly accounts for their strange outward characteristics, which aren’t medically albinism (Ritsuko has corrected her on this more than once!) and only happen to resemble that condition. Obviously, Impact Syndrome isn’t real; it’s nothing more than a smokescreen. Hyuga’s attempts to dig into it have only turned up dummy cases, false records with no correspondence to actual persons. Not beyond Rei Ayanami and, now, Kaworu Nagisa.

With the amount of secrecy surrounding Nagisa, there’s no way Misato could have ever seen him before. And yet… she knows she has. Somehow. Her intuition is screaming it on all frequencies.

She distracts herself with some other paperwork for a while, hoping the answer comes to her if she gives her mind room to breath. It works; she lights up with sudden epiphany.

“Kaji-kun??” She rushes back to the report and stares intently at the Fifth Children’s mug shot. There is certainly a Kaji-like quality to those beguiling eyes, that puckish smirk, the messy hair, but… no, that can’t be it, either.

One other possibility lay at the very edges of her consciousness, fuzzy yet insistent. Before it can even reach her waking mind, the scars upon her soul seize that inkling, and force it back down into the dark depths.