Neon Genesis Evangelion Fan Fiction ❯ Pain, Rage, and Sorrow ❯ Listening ( Chapter 3 )
[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
Title: Pain, Rage, and Sorrow
Content: Mild Angst
Disclaimer: I do not own Neon Genesis Evangelion or Gainax. This fiction is a work of my imagination only, and has no official relation to the actual series.
A/N: Here you go, guys. Another revised chapter for my loyal readers. Again, please review when you're finished.
“Thank you, Commander Fuyutsuki,” said Minister Matsuo in an aging, gravelly voice, folding his wrinkled and liver-spotted hands behind his back. Matsuo, wearing a navy blue suit with a red tie, appeared to be in his late sixties. His ancient face was filled with crinkled age lines that would have made a raisin green with envy; flaps of skin hung loosely from beneath his jowls, automatically bringing the term `turkey neck' to mind; his back was hunched considerably from years of carrying around enormous stacks of paper or heavy briefcases for most of his life.
Obviously, this man had been around for quite some time.
The elderly minister raised a fist to his mouth as he prepared to speak, and began to clear his throat noisily. The sound that followed was not entirely unlike a bathtub being drained of muddy water, causing most of the people in the tent to cringe. The horrific sound continued for several seconds before he finally lowered his fist, and said, “Good afternoon everyone.”
Folding his hands behind his back, the ancient man began to speak. “As the sub-Commander has just told you all, my name is Kenichi Matsuo, and I am the Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Japanese government. I have come here today to inform you of other important events that have taken place these past few days.” At this point, his glassy brown eyes flicked briefly over the room's occupants, his gaze promising grim tidings. Asuka noticed that his eyes seemed to linger on her the longest out of anyone, causing something in the back of her mind to stir nervously. It wasn't a predatory look that he gave her, but one of concern and unease.
“Three days ago,” said the Minister, continuing his address, “one day after the events you just heard described to you, an emergency U.N. summit was called to discuss what had taken place. I attended the summit personally, representing Japan. Delegates from every other country on the planet were present as well. Commander Ikari accompanied me to speak on behalf of NERV.” He nodded in acknowledgement toward the man he had just spoken of, though the Commander gave no response, his expression hidden behind his folded hands and tinted glasses. Whether Minister Matsuo noticed that he was being ignored and took offense to it or not wasn't apparent, but he continued anyway.
“Things started off nicely enough, and Commander Ikari and I explained the events of that day to the other representatives. However, no sooner had we finished speaking when the accusations began to fly. Several other emissaries started making ridiculous claims that the Japanese government and NERV were conspiring against them. They believed that the entire event had been orchestrated, as part of an elaborate plot to turn these machines that you call Evangelion into instruments of war, and of planning to use them to spearhead a military takeover of other nations. Of course, we denied these claims vehemently, but they persisted with these outrageous charges, and the few representatives who sided with us were accused of being involved as well. Soon, the summit had dissolved into chaos, and it was actually on the verge of becoming violent until U.N. security officers finally dispersed us and requested that we return to our living arrangements. Shortly afterwards, we received word that U.N. officials had declared that the summit was over, refusing to risk any further aggression between the delegates.”
Matsuo paused for a few moments to let this information sink in, and said, “Since then, relations between Japan and a number of other countries around the world have dissolved. NERV has suffered as a result of this.”
Without a word, Commander Ikari suddenly stood, placing his gloved palms flat on the tabletop in front of him and picking up where the Minister had left off. “The day following the summit, we received word from our one of our minor branches located in Beijing that the Chinese government was demanding immediate access to their facilities, and threatened dire consequences if they failed to comply. We ordered the Beijing branch to deny them. Approximately an hour later, they reported that they had come under attack, and contact was lost a short time later. The next day, various global news sources reported that NERV Beijing had been captured, and had come under the control of the Chinese government. Though we cannot currently confirm this, reconnaissance by our satellite network shows that our Beijing facilities have sustained extensive damage. Repairs are being conducted . . . . but with equipment owned by the Chinese government.”
Asuka watched the Commander and listened intently, and though she could not see his eyes behind those orange glasses of his, she imagined that his gaze was probably capable of burning a hole right through the tent wall at the moment. She knew that if the Commander was anything like she thought he was, then he was not a very happy man at the moment. Well, `not happy' was probably a serious understatement.
“I'd guess it's more like `undeniably pissed'.”
The head of NERV continued his lecture, his brow furrowing noticeably above the tops of his glasses. “Then, earlier today at exactly 9:15 AM local time, our communications division received a transmission from an undetermined source. The transmission contained footage of the leaders of several major countries, each demanding that NERV and every one of its branches surrender our facilities, international privileges, and resources, including every Evangelion unit in our possession. They also stated that if we failed to comply, they would resort to military force. Commander Fuyutsuki and I have promptly refused these conditions.
“However,” he continued, “one by one, contact with each of our major branches was lost within a few hours of receiving the transmission, with no indication that any of them had come under assault. However, we did receive this,” he said, suddenly producing a sheet of plain white paper from a folder that rested in front of him. “The Base Commander of NERV's branch in Massachusetts did manage to shed a bit of light on the situation, sending a final message before communications with them were cut as well.” He proceeded to toss the paper into the center of the long table, causing several of the people sitting around it, including Asuka, to stand and crane towards the paper to read what it said.
Upon the paper were seven simple words:
“We will not die for you, Ikari.”
Asuka barely managed to contain her shock. “Does . . . does this mean that they've all turned against us?” She sank back into her chair, her eyes wide and disbelieving. “How did everything go to Hell so quickly?” she wondered. A thought occurred to her then, and she bit her lip anxiously as it passed through her head. “Did all of this happen . . . because I couldn't defeat the Angel?”
Asuka's body wilted and her head bowed, causing a curtain of auburn locks to fall in front of her face, hiding her expression of self-loathing. “Of course it is . . .”
Preoccupied with blaming herself for the entire fiasco, Asuka failed to see that Misato had taken notice of her behavior, and was watching the redhead out of the corner of her eye, lips pressed tightly together in concern.
Finally, the Commander sat back down, lacing his fingers together in front of his face once more. “We must assume that they have all sided with the enemy, and we cannot expect any support from them.”
“Enemy?” spoke Lieutenant Maya, voicing the thoughts of nearly everyone in the room. “You mean, we're -“
“Yes, Lieutenant,” interrupted Ikari, “We are at war.”
Total silence filled the tent, permeated only by the occasional sound that filtered in from outside. The tension in the air was thick enough to drive a snowplow through as everyone digested this new, troubling information.
“War?” said a quiet and timid voice, breaking the silence. In unison, nearly everyone turned their heads to look at the speaker: Shinji. The young boy's head was raised, revealing a grim, tightly-drawn face and a pair of sorrowful eyes. “You mean we're going to hurt people?”
His father, the Commander, didn't even hesitate as he replied, “If we have to, yes.”
For a moment, and a moment only, the two of them locked eyes. Asuka, who had also looked up in surprise at Shinji, could have almost sworn she saw sparks flying between them. Of course, it was Shinji who looked away first, turning his head to stare at the tent wall instead. Misato, sitting right next to him, was the only one who saw his fingers curl into a tight, quivering fist at his side.
A hand levitated into the air, belonging to Dr. Akagi. “If I may ask,” she said, “Who is fighting against whom? You haven't clarified who our allies or enemies are.”
Commander Ikari smirked humorlessly behind his hands. “For once, the Japanese government is on our side.” The Minister straightened stiffly at this remark.
“Now now, Commander, no need to let old disagreements get in the way,” the older man said haughtily. Gendo sneered.
“Tell that to your superiors,” he muttered. The Minister stiffened further, and there was a long, tense pause before the aging politician spoke once again.
“Let's move on.” Matsuo cleared his throat yet again (causing many of the tent's occupants to grimace unpleasantly), then said, “To answer your question, Doctor, our major allies are England, Russia, India, and Australia.”
At that point, a dark sense of foreboding struck Asuka like a sledgehammer. Matsuo's suspicious stares, the declaration that every major NERV branch around the world had defected, the list of their allies . . . . They were all clues. She felt an icy chill creeping up her spine, and a lump formed in her throat.
“As for our enemies . . . .” The Minister looked her way once again, his gaze cold and wary. Asuka stared right back at him, her eyes wide and disbelieving. She was a deer caught in the headlights: she could see what was coming, she knew she was in its way, but there was nothing she could do to avoid it.
“. . . . America, China, France . . . . and Germany.”
The face of nearly every person in the tent registered shock as the implications of this dawned on them, and as one, they turned to look at the young redhead with confusion and shock spreading across their features.
Suddenly, Asuka felt very small, very afraid, and very alone.
“On that subject,” continued the Minister, “the German president has ordered the immediate return of the Second Child and Evangelion Unit 02 to Germany. As of yet, we have not given them a reply.” Abruptly, the aging man placed his hands on the tabletop in front of him, and leaned menacingly towards Asuka who, even though she was sitting at the opposite end of the table, leaned back uneasily.
He fixed her with a stern look, and said, “Commander Ikari has informed me that we will not be relinquishing Unit-02 to Germany. However, whether you will stay with NERV, or return to your home country is entirely up to you, young lady. Whatever your decision . . . . I highly recommend you make it soon.” Asuka, her fiery personality temporarily subdued, could only look away to avoid his gaze.
As the Minister pulled away from the table and straightened up, the Commander spoke once more. “Now that that's settled, let's move on to the next issue.” His intimidating gaze fell upon the trio of Lieutenants first. “I am officially upgrading our alert status to Orange. I want the effectiveness of every single one of our security measures tested and improved. Second, all essential personnel must report to Headquarters immediately in order to receive updated conduct guidelines. You three are in charge of organizing this.”
“Major Katsuragi,” he said, looking towards the violet-haired woman, “I want you to set up daily, mandatory combat exercises for all employees. I am also placing you in charge of organizing a NERV militia. Inform the public relations division to begin a recruiting campaign for this militia.”
He settled on Ritsuko next. “Doctor, place all three Evangelion placed on indefinite standby, and reinforce the MAGI firewalls and defense systems. I want it done by tomorrow.”
His head turned to Rei and Shinji next. “You two will return to your homes tonight and gather whatever items you shall need. Tomorrow, you will be transported to new living quarters within Central Dogma to be placed on permanent standby.”
Finally, Ikari swiveled his head towards Asuka. She looked into those orange glasses of his, just able to make out the silhouette of his eyes behind the lenses as he began to speak once again, his tone flat and emotionless. “You will also return home to pack your belongings. Tomorrow, a NERV security officer will come to collect you. You will inform him of your intentions; whether you will remain in Japan, or return to Germany. Depending on your decision, you will either be transported to Central Dogma or the local train station.” Asuka, temporarily speechless, said nothing.
The Commander turned his head away, and spoke to the room in general. “Understood?” As one, every person that he had spoken to nodded. “Good.”
Commander Ikari stood one last time, along with Fuyutsuki, and folded his hands behind his back. “That concludes this briefing. You are all dismissed.” That said, the Supreme Commander of NERV exited briskly through the tent flap, followed closely by his second-in-command. Minister Matsuo was close behind, slipping on a coat and leaning heavily upon a mahogany as he left, but not before sending Asuka a final, stern glance.
Ritsuko and the three lieutenants quickly gathered up their notes, shuffling them into thin stacks and tucking them beneath their arms or into folders. The blonde doctor, with Ibuki, Hyuga, and Aoba in tow, waved briefly to Misato as she exited the briefing room. “See you tomorrow,” she said to her long-time friend as she disappeared into the sunlight beyond the tent walls.
“See ya,” the violet-haired Major replied. She looked around at the only other people left in the room - Asuka, Shinji, and Rei -- and sighed softly. A few moments later, she adopted a half-hearted smile. “Well, that was certainly . . . . ummm . . . . interesting,” she said, attempting to break the stifling silence that had settled after everyone else had left. However, her smile faded slowly as she saw she wasn't going to get a response from any of the three pilots.
Shinji was more morbid than usual and, with the exception of his brief question, hadn't said a thing during the entire briefing. Asuka was still trying to digest the fact that Germany, the very country that she had been born and raised in, had betrayed NERV and was now ready to start trading blows with the powerful organization, all because of gross misunderstanding. As for Rei . . . well, she was just being Rei.
Misato sighed a second time, and stood. “Well, I'd say it's time to get going.” Glancing at the First Child, she asked, “Do you need a ride home, Rei?”
The red-eyed girl fixed her with a calm gaze, and replied with a simple and quiet, “No thank you, Major Katsuragi. I will find my own way home.”
She shrugged, and fixed her gaze on Shinji and Asuka. “Well, let's get out of here you two,” she said to her two young charges, who proceeded to rise from their chairs slowly, as if in a trance, and walked towards the exit. Both were lost in thought. As they passed her, Misato smiled encouragingly at them, saying, “Hey, cheer up guys. We're finally going home.” However, her smile morphed into a concerned frown as they walked past her wordlessly, without sparing her a single glance.
“Well, maybe you guys will feel better once we actually get there,” she said as they slipped through the flaps. Following after them, she mentally added, “I hope . . . .”
A/N: Again, please review. YOUR GOD COMMANDS YOU.