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File: Heaven's Servant.jpg (105 KB, 900x675)
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You are Ethan Chandler and you're in your Eva's cockpit, waiting anxiously as you listen to the radio chatter during the battle. Only a moment ago, the Sixth Angel was destroyed as it attacked New Tampa.

"Nice work, Princess! That's one more down!" The voice that buzzes over your radio belongs to Fox Renton. Renton to his friends. You don't know much about him, but you're both Eva pilots. It seems as good a reason as any to try to get to know one another better.

"Is just a bigger elk." Katya Skobeleva. Known to some as the Ice Princess. A pilot from Russia, less mysterious than Renton, but only just. You know she comes from a powerful family, she seems to be wealthy, and she's certainly attractive. She's also incredibly quiet, rarely interacting with anyone outside of her game console.

"Well done, Katya. Excellent shit. Evas, return to base." Captain Rose Holiday. Former Eva pilot and head of operations and Nerv's tactical division. She was like you in some ways, she'd survived a narrow victory against an Angel.

"Stand down from alert." The voice is calm, soothing. "The Sixth Angel has been destroyed."

You exhale and release the throttles.

"Ethan, Korine, you're clear to hit the showers," Rose says.

"Right," you reply.

>Neon Terminus Evangelion
>Episode 02 - "Heaven's Servant"

***

http://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/qstarchive.html?searchall=Neon+Terminus+Evangelion
https://twitter.com/TimeKillerQM
>>
The LCL drains from your entry plug, a rush of cold, dry air replacing it. The hatch of the plug opens and a gantry extends to dock and allow you out. You climb out carefully running your hands through your hair, grimacing at the smell of blood that lingers with you.

A Nerv tech stands nearby, carefully coupling a fiber optic cable into a socket in the outside of your entry plug. Once connected, he busies himself with downloading data and checking readouts. To him, you're just another part of this weapon. Interchangeable.

Your Eva, Hydra, is just that, a weapon. A massive one with god-like power, but a weapon all the same. It's a weapon that obeys your command, a weapon that is an extension of yourself. It's easy to forget that, easy to let all this feel normal. You turn and look back at your Eva. Its visored face stares implacably forward.

Despite your cool demeanor, you're inwardly exhausted. You'd faced an Angel once in combat. It had cost you your friend Linda's life. It wasn't an experience you were keen to repeat.

The cage where the Evas are stored is massive, tall enough for an Evangelion to stand, unbowed, with room left over. High up along the far wall is a bank of armored windows looking out from a monitoring and control room. Indistinct human shapes stand behind the glass, peering down on you. They're too far away to resolve, but whoever they are, they're part of Nerv's command structure. The men and women up there are the reason you have to act calm and collected.

If they knew how close you were to fraying they would never let you pilot again.

This battle humanity came out the clear winners. In previous engagements, survival was considered a victory. Katya and Renton destroyed the Angel with minimal loss of life. You want to be happy for them, you want to celebrate this win, but you only see it as a mirror reflecting back your own failure. Would Linda be alive if Katya had been in Anchorage instead of you?

On a neighboring gantry, a second Eva ejects its plug, egressing its pilot.

Korine gets out, jumping down onto the metal walkway before roughly removing the nerve clips from her head, shaking dark, messy hair free. Korine was your neighbor and the first pilot to really reach out to you here. That made it all the stranger that she suddenly seemed to want nothing to do with you.

Your paths converge as the walkways become one.

"How are you doing?" you ask. You say the words before you have a chance to think them through. It was an automatic impulse, an attempt to connect.

Korine looks up at you sharply. You don't see any camaraderie in her eyes. "Fantastic," she says. "I didn't even die." Her words drip sarcasm and she doesn't slow her stride, forcing you to follow along behind.

"Things could have been worse today," you say. "We're lucky Katya and Renton handled things well."

"Totally," she says.


>Is something wrong? You seem annoyed lately
>Don't be worried, we have a good team here. We'll be okay
>Let her go
>Write in
>>
>>4731370
>Write in
Bitch about the situation with her, who knows, it might help her having someone to confide in
>>
>>4731370
Well, someone seems disappointed that they didn’t get any action. A chip on her shoulder from something, maybe?
>Angry we weren’t called in? Don’t be.
>>
>>4731370
>>Is something wrong? You seem annoyed lately
This might not be the most tactful way to go about it, but I'd rather clear the air sooner rather than later.
Better to know where we stand, so we can better run damage control.

>>4731487
She was acting off before this fight. Something else is wrong.
>>
>>4731370
>Is something wrong? You seem annoyed lately
>>
>>4731370
>Let her go
>>
>>4731370
>Is something wrong? You seem annoyed lately
>>
>>4731370
>>Is something wrong? You seem annoyed lately
We're stuck with our own issues, no getting around it. But that's no reason to not try and help others.
>>
>Is something wrong? You seem annoyed lately

Writing
>>
You follow in silence a moment, weighing your next move. "Everything alright?" you ask.

She stops walking and looks at you.

"Seems like something's bother you," you say.

Irritation crosses Korine's features. "No kidding." She points back at the Evas, "That doesn't bother you? It doesn't bother you at all?" she sounds incredulous.

You look back at the Evas. "I mean . . . I'm sure we'll get a chance next time."

She rolls her eyes. "You are unreal."

"Look," you say, annoyed, "Can you just tell me what the problem is? You've been acting off since we went shopping. If I pissed you off or something can you just tell me?" You didn't intend to go off like this but once the words come, they don't stop.

Korine is taken aback, blinking in surprise.

Silence lapses long enough for you to regret going off.

Her eyes flash with sudden hurt. Her expression crumples into one of guilt. She looks away suddenly. "I'm, sorry," she says. The words are so soft that at first you're not even sure she really said them.

"You don't have to be sorry," you say, suddenly feeling bad. "I just didn't know-"

"I'm just . . ." she seems conflicted a moment. "Don't worry about it. You didn't do anything wrong.

You blink, confused. "I mean if something happened-"

"Seriously, don't sweat it okay?"

You're not really sure what to say. After a moment Korine gives you a half smile and starts walking away again. "Come over some time. I'll let you hear me play."

You blink. She disappears into the facilities, leaving you no more informed than before. Was it not you that annoyed her? Was something else bothering her? Maybe you were just the convenient victim of her anger. It might bear further exploration. Right now, you just want a shower.

The hot water is cleansing and helps to wash away your lingering worries.
>>
When you emerge from the locker room, showered and changed, you nearly run into Renton. He's still in his plugsuit but looks flushed with victory, beaming confidently.

"Another stunning victory for humanity!" he says, puffing his chest proudly. "My name forever enshrined the annals of human history-" He makes a sweeping, grandiose gesture and then grins at you. "-as a footnote under Miss Skobeleva's name."

"I think you had a pretty significant part in that," you say.

"Oh yes," he says, "Just as I'm sure the man who flew Neil Armstrong to the moon did. What was his name again?" He chuckles.

"Michael Collins," you reply with a smirk of your own.

Renton laughs, "Know-it-alls like you take the fun out of life, did you know that?"

"You know that I do," you reply. After Korine's icy treatment, Renton's warm attitude is a welcome change. You might even be getting used to him.

"Of course," Renton teases. "I am just happy to be alive. Let other people seek the glory. This is not a war to be won, this is an ordeal to be survived."

The sentiment catches you off guard. "What do you mean? You don't think we can win?"

"Ah," Renton says, tapping his chin in thought. "People more important than I worry about that question. I will only say this, Ethan: seventeen years and three billion deaths later. Do you see an end in sight?"

"It won't go on forever," you say. "It's a matter of time before we win. Our technology gets better every day."

"Is that what you believe? Or just what they tell you?"

"I believe it," you say firmly.

"And do you believe it because you think it's true? Or because you want it to be?" he delivers a Cheshire Cat grin. You don't have a satisfactory answer so Renton continues. "Oh, don't so dour. This is a win. An eternity of conflict or not, we won today, yes?"

"Yes," you agree.

"Then smile, my friend! Fortune has graced us with yet more life. No Third Impact today. I ask not for earthly riches or accolades. No, my reward: a shower. Hot and steamy. The height of luxury awaits."


>Were you serious about us going drinking? We should do that soon.
>Why don't you trust Nerv? I think you're being pessimistic.
>Go easy on Katya about the "Princess" thing. I don't think she likes it
>Write in
>>
>>4732858
>Were you serious about us going drinking? We should do that soon.

I don't even know what else could Ethan ask. Renton's riding his victory high, let him do that.
>>
>>4732858
>Were you serious about us going drinking? We should do that soon.
Ride the high while we can, I guess.
>>
>>4732858
>Were you serious about us going drinking? We should do that soon.

Drinking buddies for sure. We're wound so tight these days, it's good to let loose, even if only for a little bit.

If we're careful, maybe (eventually) we could confide in him.
>>
>>4732858
>Were you serious about us going drinking? We should do that soon.
>>
>>4732858
>>Were you serious about us going drinking? We should do that soon.
>>
>Were you serious about us going drinking? We should do that soon.

Writing
>>
File: Exit.jpg (35 KB, 586x495)
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"Hey, Renton."

"Yes?" He stops and looks back at you, eyebrow raised quizzically.

"Were you serious about going drinking?"

"Mr. Chandler, when have I ever not been serious with you?" he says it with stone-faced honesty.

"We should do that soon."

Renton cracks a grin. "I agree. I'll call you sometime. Give me your mobile."

You relay the number and Renton nods, apparently committing it to memory. "Watch your phone, I will let you know."

"Sounds good," you say. You feel good as you part ways with Renton. Just the other day you were on the verge of caving in his face with your fist. Now . . . now he doesn't seem so bad. Weird- no, that's rude. Eccentric. Yes, that's what you call weirdos that seem harmless. He's eccentric sure, but is he any worse than Korine? Katya? Or even you?

You walk through the blank, white paneled hallways of Nerv. Other Nerv personnel pass you, but no one dares to say anything to you. You really can't imagine what they must think of you and the other pilots. Part heroes, part victims, part soldiers, part children. Maybe they don't look at you because then they would have to face up to the reality of the situation.

You round a corner in a broad access hub. Soft, fluorescent light floods down from light panels in the ceiling which are meant to imitate the natural warmth of the sun. It's a poor effort to distract people from dozens of layers of earth and armor over your heads.

Katya is here, standing outside of the girl's locker room. She's still in her plugsuit but is in the act of delicately removing the nerve clips from her hair. First one, then the other. She unclips them and drops each in the palm of her hand before pulling the elastic hair tie free and shaking out her ponytail. She runs a hand through her hair, checking for tangles.

It's weird, she looks different without the cat ear hair band she normally wears. Not radically so, but it's like she's missing something.

Katya turns over and sees you.

You blink, and for a moment are frozen, caught staring.

She turns away just as quickly and stuffs the nerve clips in a gym bag at her feet.

There's no way you can let her think you were just being a creep. This would be a great time to congratulate her on the Angel kill.


>Also ask her what she meant by 'bigger elk' after the battle
>Also apologize for breaking the Nomad and offer to get it fixed
>Just congratulate her and leave before it gets weird
>Write in
>>
>>4733378
>Also ask her what she meant by 'bigger elk' after the battle
>>
>>4733378
>Just congratulate her and leave before it gets weird
>>
>>4733378
>>Also ask her what she meant by 'bigger elk' after the battle
We will tell her about the broken Nomad, but immediately after a very well executed victory feels like a bad time.

In fact, is there any reason we can't go get it fixed on our own?
>>
>>4733378
>Also ask her what she meant by 'bigger elk' after the battle
>>
>Also ask her what she meant by 'bigger elk' after the battle

Writing
>>
You move in. "Katya, good work. Congrats."

She blinks, registering what you just said. "Thank you."

"I didn't see it but it sounded tough."

"It was . . . a challenge. Yes."

"I heard you got hit. How was it?"

She looks at her left arm and rubs it like it's sore. "Hurt a bit. Mostly gone now."

"Yeah," You say. "Hurts like a bitch when it happens but it seems to fade quickly."

"Oh," she says.

"Well, congratulations, like I said. I'm sorry I wasn't there to back you up."

"Is okay," she says. "I know you be there if you could." As soon as she says the words she seems to regret them. Her lips tighten and her eyes widen slightly, going unfocused.

"Renton told me the other day that I was the veteran on the team and people would be looking to me for answers but-" you try to give a confident grin, "You're one too now I guess. And so is he."

"Yes," Katya says, seeming distracted.

A moment of silent passes and you feel like you have to say something to fill it. "You said something at the end. Uh, about a deer?"

"Elk," she says.

"Right. What did you mean?"

Katya looks you in the eye again for a moment before unfocusing, like she's recalling something. "I go hunting with my brother. Long time ago. He teach me to shoot."

"Wow," you say. "I used to go hunting, but it was more like landnav survival stuff."

Katya nods slowly.

"And it reminded you of hunting?"

"Yes," she says. "Angel is like an animal, yes? Not so different."

You hadn't really considered that before. They certainly don't seem particularly intelligent, or capable of abstract thought or planning. They don't conduct ambushes, or fighting retreats. They don't negotiate and they don't cooperate. They don't fight like humans.

"Huh," you say. "Maybe you're right."

You recall the empty-eyed stare of the Fifth Angel and shiver. Animal or not, they're not of this earth.

"I think so anyway," Katya says. "When I shoot, I feel like hunter. Eh- what they say? Shoot once to kill?" She winces.

"One shot one kill?" you ask.

"Ah! Yes, that. One shot and one kill."

"It clearly worked well for you," you say. "Stick with that mindset and we'll do alright."

She doesn't smile, but nods. "I do that."

More silence. Katya stands like she's waiting for more, or waiting to be dismissed.

"Well," you say, "I'll let you shower."

"Goodbye." Katya picks up her bag and goes.

"Elk," you say to yourself. "Whatever works I guess."
>>
File: NewTampa.jpg (783 KB, 1352x998)
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You are Aaliyah Sayid, Agent of Nerv, guardian of Korine and you're celebrating a win against the Angels. Your first, even if only indirectly.

Max returns a red telephone handset to its cradle before spinning around in his chair to face the rest of the Tactical division staff in the control room. "All conventional assets accounted for," he says. "Recovery teams are moving in to recover downed pilots and the Science Division field team is cordoning off the Sixth Angel's remains. That's one for the history books."

"All Evas have returned to the cage and returned to standby power," Mbaru adds.

"No further targets on scope. Sensor grid is clear," you say, reading the display from your station.

At the center of all this activity stands Captain Rose Holiday. Her left eye is fixed on the central monitor, her right eye hidden behind a black, silk eyepatch. Outwardly, she's stoic, calm. Inwardly- you don't have to be a master of body language to see how tense she is.

"Well done," Rose says. "Everyone."

The only one who doesn't look pleased about this win is Agent Yezhov. He's Katya's guardian, and the odd man out among the staff of the Tactical division. It's apparent to anyone that no one really seems to like Yezhov, and that feeling may well be mutual. He'd been late arriving to control and so had missed nearly the entire battle. While he has been here he's done little of value, only providing tactical insight when prompted.

"Still," Max says, frowning slightly, "Five years since the last Angel attack, now we have two inside a month. It doesn't bode well for the future."

"It's what this city was built for," Rose says. "New Tampa was made as an anti-Angel fortress."

"This is fortunate," Yezhov says. "But odd for Angels to attack same place twice, yes? They never have done this before."

You see Rose's eyebrow twitch before she addresses Yezhov.

"Agent Yezhov, Tampa was - and by extension - New Tampa is the lightning capital of the world. More lightning strikes happen here than anyplace else. Yet they say that lightning doesn't strike the same place twice."

The Russian grins mercilessly. "Captain, are you suggesting Angels operate like electricity?" There's no disguising the mockery in his tone.

Rose doesn't miss a beat, "I'm suggesting that you assume much. The Angel's origin, motives, and goals are all unknown to us. We don't know how they operate, much less why."

Yezhov is clearly unsatisfied by this answer, but bites off any further reply, answering only with silence.


>I agree with Agent Yezhov, it can't be a coincidence that they've come here twice.
>It's a mistake to think that the Angels operate with human intelligence, Yezhov
>Write in
>>
>>4733554
>I agree with Agent Yezhov, it can't be a coincidence that they've come here twice.
>>
>>4733554
>I agree with Agent Yezhov, it can't be a coincidence that they've come here twice.
Not sure if voicing it in this room is a great idea, but I’d believe this.
>>
>>4733657
>Not sure if voicing it in this room is a great idea
If you're not feeling it, you can do a write in if you'd like.
>>
>>4733554
>Of the six angels, four of them have come to us, and two were discovered. All four of those were in the western hemisphere, and two of them came to New Tampa. I don't feel comfortable drawing conclusions based off of limited data, but there does seem to be a pattern.
Our cover is a smart, capable, and successful NERV employee. Noticing this doesn't seem particularly out of character. Definitely shouldn't mention anything about how New Tampa has mysteriously received 4 new Evas right before an angel attack. We don't want to seem too smart
>>
>>4733554
>Write in
"Well, let's just hope they still appear one thing at a time, wherever that may be".

But give Rose a look. A look of "hope you know how to turn your angle magnet off before they collectively shove it up our ass". A very expressive look.
>>
>>4733554
>>4733794
>>
>>4733554
>>I agree with Agent Yezhov, it can't be a coincidence that they've come here twice.

Yeah we don't wanna blow our cover but also we'd have to be pretty damn stupid to not be suspicious of recent events. I think it's worth the risk at the moment.
>>
>>4733554
>write in
try to defuse the situation by giving a half-agreement in line with:
>>4733564
>>4733657
>>4734099
"It's certainly something to think about, but it may just be coincidence. When and where they strike next remains to be seen."
>>
>>4733554
>"But odd for Angels to attack same place twice, yes? They never have done this before."
The man's unpleasant, but he has a point.

>>4733794
This strikes a good balance.
>>
>>4733794
This
+
Write ins

Writing
>>
You don't really want to get into the middle of this pissing contest but you also are interested to explore this avenue of thought. You think Yezhov is an asshole, but you don't think he's wrong.

"Of the six angels," you say, "four of them have come to us and two were discovered. All four of the active ones were in the western hemisphere and two of those came to New Tampa. I don't feel comfortable drawing conclusions off of limited data," you pause a moment, glancing at Rose. "But there does seem to be a pattern."

Yezhov - surprisingly - smirks at you, almost proud, or maybe amused.

Rose looks less enthused. "I'll grant that it is statistically strange," she says. "And I don't want to suggest that I think the attacks are random, just that we don't know what compels them."

"I don't disagree," you say. You meet her gaze without wavering, searching her eye for . . . something. Some indication that she knows more than she lets on. All you get back is a solid stare. "At the same time, it's certainly something to consider. When and where they strike next remains to be seen."

"Timing is also strange," Mbaru says. "They have never appeared so soon together."

"Maybe something changed," Max suggests.

"Maybe," Rose agrees. "But I'm leaving that up to Roger and Science Division. Our job is to fight them where we see them. We won today, let's not forget that."
>>
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The staff clear from the command room, turning operation over to a skeleton watch crew. Captain Holiday hands out assignments to the dispersing agents before each is allowed to leave. "Aaliyah," Rose addresses you at last, "Roger is compiling the data we received from that battle. Can you stop by Science Division and collect it? Check on the repair status of the Evas while you're there. I know Corvus took a hit and I want to see if we have to pull Katya off active deployment."

"Not a problem," you say with a half salute.

You exit the office alongside Max.The second you're outside of the control room he starts patting down his shirt pockets. "What a rush, huh?"

"If you're into that sort of thing," you say.

He gives you a mock-tired expression. "Aaliyah, please. I'm a professional." Max finds his cigarettes and sticks one in his mouth. "What do you take me for?"

"Very professional," you agree, nodding exaggeratedly.

Max lights up.

The two of you stop by a set of elevator doors and you press the call button.

"Seeing Caswell, huh?" Max asks.

"Yes, you?"

"One floor above," he says. "I get the gift of talking with the UN military liaison and finding out why the fuck their task force commander decided to make a power play on an Angel." he sighs heavily. "Remind them that we're the ones in charge when the Angels show up. That sort of thing. Wanna trade?"

"No."

Yezhov walks past the both of you, not looking up.

Neither you or Max greet him and he walks on without slowing.

The elevator chimes and the doors crawl open.

"What a creep," Max says the moment the doors close behind you.

"Who?"

"Yezhov," he says. "The guy freaks me out. He's like some weird pre-impact spook"

You nod absently.

"When we were requisitioning Evas and pilots," Max says, "Nerv 08 suggested Yezhov. Top recommendations across the board. All categories."

"Really?" you ask, surprised.

Max nods. "Yup. Top tier tactical training, top security clearance, top marks on his psyche evals." He shakes his head sadly. "What a fucking joke."

"You think it's a sham?"

"Come on, Aaliyah," Max says, eyeing you. "Obviously it's a sham. The guy cares about one thing, and it wears a white plugsuit."

You raise an eyebrow. "Katya?"

Max points at you as if awarding a score on a laid back game show. "You got it."

"Sorry, I don't follow."

Max realizes he's completely lost you with his train of thought. "Right. Ever notice that Yezhov is always around her?"

"No? Isn't he her guardian?"

"Yeah but I mean, I don't shadow Renton. That dude follows her. He's always got an eye on her."

"Why?"

"Come on, Aaliyah," he teases. "You're a smart woman. Piece it together."

You return a predatory grin at the challenge. You recap the evidence: "Yezhov is a flake with top marks."

"Yup."

"Who seems particularly interested in his charge."

"Mhm."

You pause a moment in thought. "One who just happens to the daughter of a big time Russian Oligarch."

Max grins. "So you get it."
>>
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"You're suggesting that Mr. Skobelev - Katya's father - put one of his stooges up to looking after his daughter? And went so far as to rig Nerv's placement tests?"

Max's grin vanishes behind a façade of innocence. He shrugs. "Hey, you said it, not me." He looks over at the digital counter beside the doors and watches the floors tick by.

"We're not really that far gone, right?" you say, half for your own benefit. "This is bigger than whose kid someone is."

Max shrugs again, "Against the ropes or not: people are people, aren't they?"

The elevator car slides to a halt.

"Administration. United Nations Military," a computerized voice announces the stop.

Max nods at you. "This is me. Keep an eye on him, see if you agree."

"I have better things to do," you return playfully.

"Later." The doors close behind him, leaving you alone on the elevator. It continues downward. The movement is almost impossible to discern except for the drop in your stomach. The display panel beside the door shows a video loop of calm ocean waves racing up a sandy beach, one after another in an unceasing digital tide. A ticker at the bottom relays base-wide news and Nerv's apple logo sits front in center.

You see your own face reflected back to you in the gloss of the screen. Your eyes are hard, face frozen. It's not so different from the expression Yezhov normally carries. It's the face you don't let other people see.

Max's assessment of Yezhov's purpose and priorities seems apt to you. It doesn't change your mission, so it really shouldn't bother you and yet it does. You believe in a future for mankind, one free of this sort of narrow minded selfishness. The UN - and by extension Nerv - works because everyone pulls together and no one quits. It's the only way that hellholes like Dubai can have any hope of a future. The idea that some fat bureaucrat in Russia is pulling strings for his own comfort fills you with a bottled anger.

The elevator chimes.

"Science Division. Data computation."

When the doors open your pleasant, Mona Lisa smile is back in place. Science Division isn't visually much different than the rest of Nerv 03 but somehow it feels different. Maybe it feels quieter, like your footfalls don't echo as much. Maybe it feels brighter, like your dark suit is an ink stain on a polished white mirror. Whatever it is, you don't like it. You feel like a bug under a microscope.

Science Division's halls are even more empty than normal. A lot of the science teams is hard at work analyzing new data, collecting new samples, and doing whatever it is these science types get up to.
>>
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After stopping to consult a computerized directory for directions, you find Caswell in a darkened server room minutes later. The air is chilled, like a walk-in freezer. One wall is taken up with a bank of monitors cycling through images of the Sixth Angel, both photographic and otherwise.

"Agent Sayid!" His voice breaks the quiet hum of the computers in the room and the deathly silence hanging over it all. "Good to see you. Busy day for us here, but I guess it's busy for you guys too!"

"Not so much anymore," you say.

"Right! Of course," he laughs. "I guess your work is done and ours is only just beginning!"

"Something like that." You look around the room at the various depictions of the Angel.

Caswell follows your eye. "Strange isn't it?"

"What's that?" you ask.

"No two alike. Not a species on earth like that. Not to this degree I mean, but the Angels are undoubtedly related."

"Are we sure of that?"

He nods. "Genetic testing confirms they are all in the same ballpark at least. Children of Adam. Rose sent you for the data?"

You nod and he starts gathering printouts.

"Have you checked the status of Coruvs?"

"Looks like I'm a doctor of metaphysics playing mechanic today," he grins at his joke.

You don't find it particularly funny and his smile falters away awkwardly.

"Ah, yes." He taps a key on his computer and calls up some schematics. "Damage to the left arm. I've scheduled techs to re-install armor plates and repair some nerve connections. That sonic shock did some internal damage as well. Nothing too serious. We're lucky. We've got plenty of spare parts to pick from here. That, and Katya's high sync ratio has other benefits."
>>
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"What do you mean?"

He blinks, surprised. "Her AT Field. It's stronger, more responsive. If that shot had hit Renton he probably would have lost the arm. As it stands, we've got a few cracked bones to replace, and some ruptured organs in the head assembly."

Despite working for Nerv for so long, you know very little about the Evangelions themselves, or the Angels for that matter.

"How were the Evas made anyway?" you say. "I don't really know much about them. They're biomechanical?"

Caswell looks like you just asked if oxygen is breathable. "That's a bit simplistic, but in effect, yes. They're sort of augmented clones."

"Clones?"

The doctor nods as he prints out some more paperwork. "Genetic material collected from Adam in the aftermath of Second Impact."

"I didn't think anything survived the explosion."

"Common misconception. The Katsuragi expedition had the foresight to preserve the samples they'd taken by that point and a subsequent trip to the pole collected them."

"And we turned that into an Eva?"

"Through a bit of trial and error," he says. "We managed to cobble it together with our DNA and technology to create the miracles you see today."

"Human DNA?" you ask, the idea is sickening to you.

"Oh yes. Some anyway. It's all very complicated, a lot of that was work Dr. Kaufman undertook before I was here. We're far beyond the theoretical stage of course. They're not pretty outside of their armor, believe me."

You pause, letting that truth settle into your mind. "Are they . . . alive?"

Caswell stops and looks up at you, a neutral smile fixed in place. "A little."

A troubling half-answer, one you're not sure you want to pursue much further.


>Ask what he thinks about the most recent Angel attack
>Probe for his thoughts on Womack
>Probe for his thoughts on Kaufman
>Write in
>>
>>4734447
>Ask what he thinks about the most recent Angel attack
>>
>>4734447
>Probe for his thoughts on Kaufman
>Write in
"Do you research guys even get enough sleep? It looks like there's always something to check, test or analyze. Especially when you have to pick up someone else's work, must be very tough."

I dunno, try to bait him into spilling what particular complex stuff Kaufman was working on. Also it helps to know how much pressure they operate under.
>>
>>4734447
>>4734512
Supporting this
>>
>>4734447
>>Ask what he thinks about the most recent Angel attack
>Probe for his thoughts on Kaufman
>>
>>4734459
>>4734512
>>4734527
>>4734568

Writing
>>
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"Two attacks in a couple weeks," you say. "Hard to imagine."

"You can say that again! I know we've been preparing to deal with all contingencies, but preparing and experiencing are different."

"And two centralized on Tampa to boot."

"It is peculiar," Caswell agrees, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. "I hadn't anticipated this city's fortress nature to be so literal. The way the plan was explained to me by Major Holiday was that New Tampa was meant to be more of a logistical hub. A place to deploy the Evas world-wide with Snelson's ultra-heavy airlift capacity."

"Just a fluke do you think?"

Caswell smirks, "God doesn't play dice."

"Meaning?"

"Everything happens for a reason, even if we don't understand it."

"So what's your theory?"

Caswell hums a moment as he thinks. "I imagine it could be a quirk of the Angel's distribution over the globe. It's not inconceivable that whatever delivered them here favored this region."

"That sounds like rolling the dice but with extra steps."

Caswell laughs. "Maybe. I'm not satisfied by that explanation myself. I think maybe the Angels are attracted to human activity. Heat, electrical current, radio waves, there's many explanations. But Buenos Aires, Anchorage, and New Tampa, they seem to be focused on cities."

"For what purpose?"

Caswell spreads his hands. "I don't like to take guesses. But It's not Godzilla-type random destruction."
>>
"Didn't an Angel destroy Buenos Aires?"

His lip twitches slightly, the smile turning bitter. "No. We did that all on our own. Add it to the list of cities wiped off the map with nuclear weapons. Tokyo, Moscow, New York- and Buenos Aires at the bottom. Sure, it was necessary to stop the Angel but . . ." His smile fails completely. "I think about all the refugees there. People who were trying to escape the flooding, the chaos . . . trying to escape hell after Second Impact. And that's the protection we brought them . . . "

It's a bitter pill to swallow. Scorched earth is a victory almost worse than defeat. You have to consciously remind yourself that the alternative, a potential Third Impact, would make a one-city holocaust seem much more palatable. Still, to have been there in those flooded ruins when the bombs fell . . .

"We've come a long way since then," Caswell says confidently. "We have the Evas now. If the Sixth Angel had come here fifteen years ago- well, assuming this place even existed then- we would have turned it into a radioactive glass field too."

"We do what we have to," you say. It might as well be humanity's desperate motto at this point.

"Precisely. Here are the data summaries that Rose- ah, Captain Holiday requested."

You take the heavy stack of papers, now neatly wrapped in a blue file folder.

"Again," Caswell says, "that's the summary. The interpreted data will be sent to the relevant divisions electronically." he chuckles, "I swear, city of the future, organization of tomorrow and the data transfer methods of yesterday."

"If humanity has any lasting legacy, you can be assured it will include paperwork and bureaucracy, doctor." You turn as if you're about to leave and then take a second look around the room. "Seems like there's always something to check, test or analyze around here. Do you research guys even get enough sleep?"
>>
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Caswell puts on a brave face. "We sleep while you guys are fighting the Angels."

You laugh politely, a friendly façade still in place. "Still, it must be tough, especially when you have to pick up someone else's work."

He doesn't seem to immediately get what you're talking about.

"I'd heard Dr. Kaufman was Science Head for a long time. I'm sure he left a lot of work to catch up on."

"Ah," Caswell purses his lips, eyebrows furrowed in thought. "Yes, it was a hard hit. He basically built this team from the ground up. He's the one who brought me on board a few years back. I try not to dwell on it, but it is strange without him."

"I think you fill his shoes well," you say, "speaking as someone who never knew him of course."

"Thank you Agent Sayid. Dr. Kaufman was an amazing man. Working with him was like a dream for me. Going through school I'd read all his works. When the Angels arrived it opened a whole new realm of possibilities. Metaphysical science moved from fantasy into reality. Twenty years ago all of this would have been unimaginable." He looks excited and distant. "We're still learning. Imagine what we'll know in another twenty years."

"I'm sure a man of that ability left a lot of unfinished work for you to pick up."

Caswell thinks a moment, "No. Not really. By the time he- . . . he left mostly he just handled administration aside from the special R&D projects he did for Versetti, but that work fell more on Womack's shoulders."

"So Dr. Kaufman's old work was handled by Dr. Womack then?" you ask, trying to inject the right amount of casual interest into your tone.

"That's not really my department I'm afraid," Caswell says. "If you can get Womack to make the time for you I'm sure he could tell you more, something about the Magi I think. I understand that a lot of it is classified though. I'm not sure the particulars."

You sense a brick wall. "Of course. I'm sorry if I'm asking too much-"

"No no," he says quickly. "It's no trouble. I'd talk your head off if I thought you'd let me." He gives you a boyish grin. "I live and breathe for this sort of work. I know it's awful what happened in Second Impact but, some of the consequences-" he shakes his head. "We're pretty disgusting creatures at times aren't we?" he chuckles but it's not funny.

"You look for silver linings," you say. "There's nothing wrong with that. I know that this isn't the outcome you would have chosen if you had control."

Caswell looks grateful. "You're right of course." He's lost a moment in thought. "Ivan Turgenev- a writer - once said: 'we sit in the mud and reach for the stars'." He smiles to himself. "That's me alright. I'll keep reaching."

"You and me both, doctor."

"Roger," he corrects.

"Roger." You hold the folder up. "Thanks for the documents and your time."

"You're always welcome in my lair! Stop by my office sometime, we can talk theoretical physics."

You wave a short goodbye.
>>
You are Ethan Chandler and you're on your way home in the passenger seat of a Nerv staff car. Mbaru, your guardian is driving and - as usual - isn't saying much. You're busy recounting the day's events in your head so you don't dwell on his silence too much. The sun is falling in the west, the day spent, giving way to evening.

"You are a pilot again," Mbaru says.

His voice startles you. You weren't expecting anything, but you welcome it all the same. "Clean bill of health," you say. "Captain Holiday reinstated me."

Mbaru is silent again. Silent to the point where you start wondering why he spoke at all.

"There is something," he says at last. "You are a pilot but . . . Captain Holiday will not let you fight."

"What?" your confusion is followed at once by worry and dismay. "What do you mean?"

"You are on standby status. Captain Holiday feels you are not ready for combat."

You want to argue, it's your first instinct. That familiar spring of anger wells up within you. You can tell Mbaru he's wrong, Holiday is wrong, everyone is wrong. You're ready to fight again. You proved it in the simulator, you proved it by getting into the entry plug again when the Sixth Angel arrived. You'd shown you were ready.

You want to do those things but . . . the hate in your heart gives out. You can't muster it this time. You sag slightly. "Oh." It's all you can manage at first. You recover your wits as quickly as you can. "Why didn't- why didn't anyone tell me?"

"I am telling you," Mbaru says, his eyes never deviating from the road. "Captain Holiday did not want to worry you." He pauses. "But I think you need to know."

The gravity of what he's saying dawns on you. He's telling you against orders. Releasing what amounts to secret info. "Why?"

"Because as I said, you are a warrior. You are a fighter. I do not think you are one to crack or break. I saw you face the Angel in the simulator. I saw you destroy it."

You follow his thinking. "But, you also saw-"
>>
"I saw a man mourning. It is not something to be ashamed about. War is nasty business. It claims a piece of our souls." As he speaks, you look at the tight, pink scar across his cheek and wonder exactly how much he knows about war. "It is not a question of staying whole. It is a question of how much of your soul you will sacrifice."

"I'm . . . I don't know what you mean."

"You would not run away. You would pilot the Eva if you knew that you would die, yes?"

"Yes," the word surprises you as you say it. It comes from a dark, hollow place deep within you. An abyss you'd first discovered when you watched Linda die. "Yes," you repeat.

"I believe you are ready," Mbaru says. "Captain Holiday was a pilot- a fighter, like you. Long ago. It took a piece of her as well. I think she has made a mistake with you."

"Will you tell her to put me back on active duty?"

Mbaru shakes his head. "You will prove it to her. I understand the hurt you feel. But you cannot let Captain Holiday see it. In your training, you must pretend that you are whole. Understand?"


>I understand
>How am I supposed to do that? Pretend like nothing happened?
>You have to tell her I'm ready. Tell her to give me a chance.
>Write in
>>
>>4735150
>I understand
>>
>>4735150
>I understand
&
>Write in
"How do you know these these things? About being a warrior?"
>>
>>4735150
>>I understand
>>
>>4735150

supporting this write in too >>4735236
>>
>>4735150
>I understand
Pretend we are whole. Yes. Like a normal pilot.
>>
>>4734444
Elevators and Evangelion
name a more iconic duo


>>4735141
> It might as well be humanity's desperate motto at this point.
We do what we can, because we must.


>>4735150
>I understand, but
>How am I supposed to do that? Pretend like nothing happened?
>>
>I understand

Writing


>>4735436
Evangelion and suffering
>>
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>>4735436
I hope it makes the stupid little "ka-click" for each floor
>>
You feel numb. How are you supposed to suddenly act whole? How are you supposed to not let on that you're hurting? It only takes you a second to realize the answer. It doesn't matter how, but you have to.

You nod weakly. "I understand."

Mbaru nods in return. "It will not be easy. But I am here to help you."

You don't have a reply for him and stare down at your lap. How close were you to washing out completely? If your fate is decided by Rose's whims, you'll have to be even more careful. Mbaru's words about losing your soul haunt you. Was that really how things were going to be? Were you ever really going to recover?

"Mbaru?"

"Hm?"

"How do you know about this? About being a warrior?"

Mbaru finally looks from the road, meeting your eyes for a second. "Before Nerv," he says. "I was a soldier. As a child, a criminal. A pirate, understand?"

You don't, not at first.

"The Second Impact," he says, "it made life hard for many. My life was always hard, you see. I have killed and stolen to eat. I traded pieces of my soul so that I could live on. Hard choices in hard times." He pauses here. "Good? Bad? I don't know. But fighting I do know." He pauses again. "You have a hard life too, Ethan. But if you fight hard, it someday might become easy again. If you can live with yourself."

"I don't think that my life will ever be normal again," you say.

"No," he agrees. "Never. But better maybe. Yes?"

It's the slimmest margin of hope. A sliver of light shining around the obstacles in front of you. But it's all you have right now. "I hope so. Can I ask you something else?"

"Yes."

"No offense but . . . why do you care? If you've done all that stuff, what does it matter to you what my life is like?"

"I made a promise," he says. "When I work for Nerv I swear to do what they say. Captain Holiday asked me to look out for you. To protect you. I will do that until I cannot."

Now you really have no idea the correct way to respond to that. You answer with what comes to your heart first, the truth. "Thank you."

Mbaru doesn't answer, but somehow things feel a little lighter now.

Before long, you're back in your apartment building. You walk from the elevators to your apartment door, swipe your keycard and unlock it. Closing the door behind you, you sigh heavily, trying to shake the tension you'd picked up from your talk with Mbaru.
>>
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You're so preoccupied with it that you don't notice the sound of someone humming at first. Looking up, you're surprised to find that you are no longer in your apartment. At least not as you recognize it. The neutral carpet has been replaced with luxurious hardwood, polished to a mirror shine. The walls are decorated with delicate gold leaf designs, spiraling upward to twist and twirl in elaborate patterns.

You move forward in a trance, following the sound of the humming. It's a ballroom. You've never seen it before but you recognize it all the same. The tune is also familiar. You've heard it before, in a forgotten memory.

A series of arched windows are framed with red, velvet curtains. Through them you see the sparkling ocean far below. A trio of enormous chandeliers mark the ceiling, casting warm light, competing with the deep, rosy glow of the late afternoon sky.

A lone figure stands in the middle of the room, gazing out of the windows. Her wings, neatly folded behind her, make it impossible to misidentify her.

"Linda?"

She stops humming and turns. "Ethan. You're finally here." She's moved on from the black plugsuit, now wearing an elaborate, blue ball gown. You're momentarily dumbstruck by the sight of it. The cut accentuates her figure, the fabric of the dress chasing her movements playfully. It's exquisite, perfectly tailored. Seeing Linda in it you forget for a moment the bubbly, outgoing girl you'd known in Perdition. Before you now is someone far more sophisticated than you could have ever guessed. Despite that, her uncertain grin makes it clear that this is Linda.

She crosses to you and takes your hand in hers. She stares into your eyes expectantly, but you don't know what to say.

"Linda, what is this?"

"You forgot already?" she teases.

You hear faint classic music coming from somewhere.

"Maybe this will jog your memory." She rests your hand on the curve of her hip, taking your other hand in hers. Once she lays a hand on your shoulder, her intent becomes clear.

"A dance," you say.

"Yes!" her eyes sparkle like the ocean outside. Her wings stretch out behind her before coming back together. "You promised me a dance."
>>
https://youtu.be/qA8lEFIeglc

The distant strains of waltz music you'd only barely heard before becomes more clear, swelling in volume. It's the song you'd heard Linda humming before.

I'm kind of a dork about old music, Linda had said to you when you first heard her listen to it years ago.

Linda sways gently with you, guiding you slowly into the steps. You're nervous, clumsy, stiff. The moves are esoteric, coming to you only with patient guidance. Linda moves with the grace of someone who's done this a hundred times before. A thousand. As you learn the rhythms and steps, the waltz comes naturally to you. Like the flow of the tide you move as one, in and out. Round and around.

The entire time you're dancing, you're staring into Linda's eyes as she stares back.

"Linda," you say at last. "Where are we?"

"We're here," she says, "in your apartment. Home."

You tear your eyes away from her to look out the windows again. It's the view from your apartment alright. Everything else is different.

"How . . . how are you doing all this?"

"I just dream it," she says as if that explains everything. "That's what I've been doing while you're gone."

"What?"

"Dreaming!" she says excitedly.

"Dreaming?"

She nods. "Of the past and of the future. Of places I've been and places I will be. Places I've never seen before." Linda speaks like this is the most natural thing in the world.

" . . . Dreaming?" you say again, dubious.

"Yes."

This can't be just a delusion, can it? It's too perfect. Too strange. If your mind was this far gone, surely Dr. Caswell's tests would have found that.


>Linda, stop, this is strange.
>Can you show other people these dreams?
>This is perfect, Linda
>Write in
>>
>>4735500
>Write in
>Time to wake up

>What future did you dream about
>>
>>4735493
>Click
Fraid not. It's all digital now. They eliminated the rotary elevator ages ago.
>>
>>4735500
>Can you show other people these dreams?
>>
>>4735506
this
>>
>>4735506
+1
>>
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>>4735506
Supporting.
>>
>>4735494
I think I like this guy.

>>4735495
>You move forward in a trance, following the sound of the humming. It's a ballroom.
>"We're here," she says, "in your apartment. Home."
I. Uh. I'm now officially concerned.

>>4735500
>Write in
I'm glad you've found something to amusing yourself, but please ask me before pulling me into one of these dreams. The transition between normal and dream is...jarring.
>>
>>4735500
>This is perfect, Linda
>>
>>4735506
Supporting this
>>
>>4735506
>This write in

Writing
>>
You slowly circle the empty ballroom, hand in hand, the two of you stepping in time with melodic strings. Your shadows parallel your dance, cutting a dark swath across the rich red floor.

Lina said she was dreaming. Maybe this is a dream. You were pretty tired when you came in today. A lot has happened. It has to be a dream, right? What alternative is there?

"Tell me more about the dreams," you say, your voice almost alarmingly calm.

"What about them?"

"Where were you? What happened?"

"You're with me in most of them," she says. "Dreams are funny things aren't they?"

The two of you pass by the open windows and you see waves washing steadily in far below.

"What do you mean?" you ask.

"They're so vivid when you're there, and you forget them so quickly afterward."

"What about the future?" you ask, suddenly feeling more apprehensive than before. "What future did you dream about?"

Linda flicks her eyes up, trying to recall. "We were together," she says. "Of course." She smiles a little. "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." Her eyes return to yours and her cheeks glow with a slight blush. "It's always us."

You feel a cold chill. "What does that mean?" you ask.

She laughs softly and shakes her head, "I'm not sure yet."

It's all you can do just to keep up with the monotonic dance.

"The future will be here before long," Linda says reassuringly. "I just want to enjoy now." She spreads her wings behind her for one excited flap that gusts air around the two of you.

And so, you dance.
>>
You are Katya Skobeleva, elite Evangelion pilot and daughter of Anton Skobelev - one of the most powerful men in Russia if not the world.

You reach the door to your apartment. Your body aches from your fight. Your left arm is periodically wracked with a pins-and-needles sensation that crawls from your fingertips up to your elbow. You've been having sporadic nose bleeds. The first was in your Eva after you were hit with that sonic attack. The second was in the shower, the third while Dr. Caswell was examining you.

Residual shocks, nothing to worry about. Keep a tissue with you for now.

Yezhov watches as you swipe your door open. He blocks you from closing it behind you with a foot. "I am going out on business," he says. His voice is low, cold.

You don't meet his eyes.

"Stay here and be a good girl. Alright?"

It's what you've done almost your whole life. "Yes."

He allows you to close the door. You watch him through the peephole a moment. He stares at the door in thought for a second before proceeding away.

Your apartment is sparsely furnished. It's identical to Ethan's in every way except for the view. Your windows look out over the city itself. You see the glass towers of the downtown, central district protruding upward from the concrete bowl of the seawall.

You let your gaze wander over the pleasant but non-descript furnishings. It reminds you of a luxury hotel. Like one of the dozens, maybe hundreds of your life.

A beauty like you should smile. Give us a smile, girl.

You ignore your father's voice in your head and walk to the bedroom, stopping outside the bathroom door. You catch sight of your reflection in the mirror. Your gaze is blank, expression unreadable. Continuing on you enter the bedroom, and stop at the foot of the bed. Spinning on your tiptoes, you flop backward onto the bed, your hair spilling around you.
>>
Your Nomad is within reach. Clicking the console on you hold it above your face, hardly noticing the series of splash screens that comes up or the familiar chimes.

"I hate it here, papa," you say. The words are Russian, alien to everyone here except Yezhov. Pausing, you listen to the silence of the room return. Only the gibbering of your game sounds in response. "I don't know anywhere here, papa," you say. You select your save profile and start playing. Mind, eyes, and fingers acting as one. A concert of input and output, a contest of reaction time. "I don't know anyone anywhere, papa," you say bitterly.

Demons and monsters explode to giblets on your screen as your avatar cuts a bloody path through them.

"Let me pilot the Eva, papa. Let me be something that matters, papa." Your blank expression turns into a slight frown. You've lost the rhythm of the battle, you've lost control over the pace. You dance now to the tune of the programmed enemies. You watch as your enemies carve you up like soft butter. The game music turns shrill and then morose as you die.

"Let me . . ." you trail off, dropping the game beside you on the bed and staring at the ceiling. You were a hero. You'd slayed an Angel. It was what you'd trained to do for so long, your goal finally at hand. But . . . you feel nothing. The momentary rush of victory faded leaving you with nothing.

Katya, good work. Congrats. Ethan's voice. A welcome change from your father's. You run the words through your mind again. And again. The words are pleasant, but they aren't the problem. You see yourself and hear yourself. Your own choppy, non-committal responses. Your awkward replies. You review them over and over, like digging broken glass into a wound.

Your hand aches sympathetically with the pain you feel in your chest. You lift the hand to look at it. Externally it's perfect. No different than your right hand. Skin, flesh, bone. But it still hurts.

"Ethan," you say the name aloud, like a test to yourself.

I do not like your food for breakfast. The words sting in your mind. Your cold response to Ethan's invitation.

You sigh. Ethan. You play the exchanges you've had with him over in your mind. No matter what foolishness comes out of your mouth he seems to be understanding. "He's cute," you say it without thinking about it too much. Here, it's a safe thing to say.

Then, like that, you banish the thought. You exorcise it like a demon.

You feel alone in this place. You've always been alone to some degree, but you used to have your sister, Anna, and your brother, Dimitri. Anna had understood you more than anyone but . . . she wasn't around to help you now.


>Go visit Ethan and see if he wants to play some video games
>Ride the metro to clear your head
>Write in
>>
>>4736158
>Go visit Ethan and see if he wants to play some video games
>>
>>4736158
>>Go visit Ethan and see if he wants to play some video games
Time for the broken nomad reveal!
>>
>>4736158
>Ride the metro to clear your head
Give me more backstory or something.
>>
>>4736158
>Go visit Ethan and see if he wants to play some video games
>>
>Go visit Ethan and see if he wants to play some video games

Writing
>>
Visiting Ethan, the prospect fills you with dread, a tense fear of what you might say or not say. Still, you don't want to be alone here with your thoughts anymore. Also, if Yezhov told you to stay put, isn't that all the more reason to go out?

You roll out of bed with the grace of an acrobat and brush your clothes down, ensuring everything fits properly and lays well. The face that looks back at you in the mirror reminds you of photographs from your past. It reminds you of your mother.

You turn away, burying the frustration and guilt you feel. Hairband in place, you look more yourself again.

The door to your apartment clicks softly closed behind you. Your heart beats in your ears. Yezhov's door is between you and Ethan's room. He said he had business and so would be out but . . . the idea that you might run into him doesn't sit well. Steeling your nerves, you bow your head and walk the short distance, passing swiftly by Yezhov's door without incident.

Now, the next challenge. Ethan's door. You stop and stare at it for a moment. Maybe coming and knocking like this is a bad idea. You'd done it once before when you'd locked yourself out of your apartment but . . .

You go to ring the chime, and then hesitate again.

"Coward." You whisper the word to yourself, furrowing your eyebrows slightly. You ring the chime.

For a minute nothing happens. Maybe all your worrying was for nothing. Maybe Ethan isn't home.

Movement flickers behind the fisheye lens of the peephole. Then nothing. Is Ethan going to pretend that no one is home?

You hear the door unlock and Ethan pulls it open. He looks surprised to see you, alarmed almost.

His appearance makes you realize that you have no idea what you were planning to say to him.

"Uh, hey," he says.

"Hello," you say.

You finally recognize the look in his eyes, Ethan looks afraid.

"Is . . . bad time?" you ask, now even more self conscious.

"Bad? No. No. Everything's fine. Uh. Did you want to come in?" he steps aside and you enter. "Did you want a drink or something? I got soda."

You still haven't told him why you're here. Maybe this was a bad idea . . .

"Soda, no. Please."

Speak up Katya, your father says. Don't mutter, don't be shy. You be proud. Speak like your mother would have! You wince at his words. "I come to see if you want play more games with me."
>>
"Games?" Ethan asks. "Oh. The Nomad. Uh, listen I- I'm sorry but there was an accident and I cracked it."

"Cracked?" you ask.

"I dropped it by accident but . . . I'm going to get it fixed. I didn't want to tell you until then. Sorry." He picks up the game system from nearby and shows you, looking ashamed.

"Oh." It's all you can say, staring down at the damaged console. You inwardly berate yourself. "Is no problem," you say. "I get it fixed." You hold a hand out to take it.

"Really" Ethan says, "It was my fault. I can take care of it."

Your hand hangs awkwardly in the air, waiting to receive the console. You let it drop. "Thank you."

"Sorry again," Ethan says. "I know you said you have others but-"

You shake your head. "It is nothing. Please, do not worry." You force yourself on. "Was a gift, not meant to be a burden. All is okay. I came to see if you want to play other games with me. I have multiplayer games."

"You do?"

You nod. "Large collection." the words embarrass you as you say them and you can't help but smile slightly. "I bring from Russia. You come play with me?"

Ethan looks like he's about to object, opening his mouth and then stopping. His eyes flicker to your left to . . . you don't see anything. "That sounds good," Ethan says. "I could use some fun after today."
>>
Taking Ethan back to your apartment feels like the violation of a taboo. You can only imagine what your father would say, or Yezhov. Fortunately you always keep everything tidy and organized. There's no embarrassing mess to worry about.

"Holy shit," Ethan says, startling you.

"What?"

"That's your setup?"

He's staring at your collection. A large flat panel TV in the living room sits connected to a number of game consoles spread on the floor. Controller wires are neatly bunded beside their assorted systems. Stacks of disc and cartridge cases form blocks of pillars. Their covers and titles make a rainbow of assorted entertainment.

"Yes," you say. "PlayStation, Sega Lynx, 3D0, Dreamcast, Nintendo." You list the consoles in turn. "I have games for each." You're not really sure what Ethan is so amazed by.

"Wow," he says sitting on the couch opposite the TV.

"Where do you want to start?" you ask.

He shakes his head mutely, "I really couldn't say."

"Let us start on Lynx." you get on your hands and knees before the TV and meticulously connect the assorted cables and controllers. "We play Ultramorph." You carefully open the case and put the CD into the tray before closing it. Ethan's silence weighs on you, so you look back at him.

His eyes snap to yours. "Sounds good!" he smiles.

You nod, satisfied, and power on the system.

You and Ethan spend the next hour playing. Well, you spend it playing anyway. Ethan mostly loses. His hand-eye coordination and reflex time are good, but he has no feel for the controls, he does not anticipate the enemy actions, or know the pre-programmed enemy patterns. You swiftly give up on any competitive play, Ethan is no challenge for you. Cooperatively you mostly carry the game. Neither of you speak much, letting the game's driving techno soundtrack fill the silence.

The game only occupies some of your mind. It's harder to fall into your usual trance with Ethan here. Your mind roils with questions, conversations, and comments, but you keep them contained for fear of saying something strange.
>>
Eventually, Ethan breaks the uneasy silence. "Damn, you're really good."

The praise doesn't really mean much coming from him but you appreciate the sentiment. "Thank you. I play a lot. My sister, she-" you stop yourself and shake your head.

"Your sister?" Ethan asks.

His follow up question surprises you, you weren't expecting any interest.

"My sister, Karina travel a lot for work. She buy me games in Japan. Things I never see before. I spend a lot of time playing them. Not . . . " you hesitate again, but you're already talking, it's too late now. "Not so many friends," you say, embarrassed.

"Me neither," Ethan says, not missing a beat. "I didn't play many games though. I mostly did stuff outdoors. Hiking, hunting, fishing. Didn't you say you hunted?"

"Kamchatka," you say. "My brother take me."

"What's he like?"

"Dimitri?" you asked, confused. "Eh. Big. Strong. Dumb." you stifle a laugh.

"Dumb?" Ethan repeats, cracking a grin.

"A little," you say. "Big heart, small head. He busy with girls and drinks."

"I don't really have any family growing up," Ethan says. "My parents died in Second Impact when I was just a baby."

"I sorry," you say, the feeling genuine.

"It's okay," Ethan says. "I grew up without any parents so I guess I'm just used to it."

You can't help but feel like you're not so different.


>Let's play some more. I can teach you to be better.
>There's an arcade near here, maybe you'll be better at light gun games
>Would you like some food?
>Write in
>>
>>4736347
>Write in
Did I interrupt you?
>>
>>4736347
>>There's an arcade near here, maybe you'll be better at light gun games
I am a little curious as to Ethan's firearm ability. He picked a melee weapon for that fateful first fight.
I feel like there's a more tactful way to say this, but I doubt we've got the capability to find it.
Amusingly awkward is a go!
>>
>>4736347
>Karina
>>4736158
>Anna
Wait, does she have two sisters?

>Write in
"Do you think they will remember us? When we win?"
I'm making two assumptions here: names of the pilots are secret (doubly so for the dead), and being 'something that matters' is something she wants as expressed earlier.

As for the actions, let's go with
>There's an arcade near here, maybe you'll be better at light gun games
>>
>>4736400
>Wait, does she have two sisters?
Yes, two sisters and one brother. Katya is the youngest. Karina the oldest.
>>
>>4736153
>"They're so vivid when you're there, and you forget them so quickly afterward."
I don't like where this is going

>"From the beginning to the end and everywhere at the end of time."
I DON'T LIKE WHERE THIS IS GOING

>>4736351
>Did I interrupt you?
Support and also

>There's an arcade near here, maybe you'll be better at light gun games
Yezhov an asshole. Scary asshole, but asshole all the same.
>>
>There's an arcade near here, maybe you'll be better at light gun games

+

>Write ins

Writing
>>
There's something nagging at the back of your mind, something you can't let go. "I sorry," you say, wincing at the suddenness of the words. "I interrupt you?"

"Interrupt?" Ethan looks confused.

"You busy when I came?"

Recognition dawns on him. "Ah, no. Was- uh, why?"

Now you feel you've crossed a line. "No. Nothing. You just seem busy."

It seems like it was the wrong thing to say as Ethan just looks concerned.

"Is nothing," you repeat. "I sorry."

"For what?" Ethan asks.

You don't know the answer to that. This situation is now worse. You allow yourself a moment to compose your thoughts before you say something else stupid. "I do not mean to be nosy."

"No," Ethan says, "It's not nosy. I was just listening to some music and taking a nap. I must have fallen asleep. But It's okay," Ethan adds quickly.

"Okay," you say, feeling even worse somehow. You allow a moment of silence before speaking again. "You know arcade here?"

"No," Ethan says, "I haven't really gone exploring much."

"Me too," you agree. "But I look it up in directory in lobby. There is arcade not far. I think maybe you be better at a light gun game." The words sound harsh when you say them and you instantly regret it.

Ethan smirks, "Ouch."

"N-no," you blurt. "Not-" you switch to Russian - "My stupid brain," - before going back to English. "I think you need too much practice with this." That sounds even worse. You wince again.

Ethan laughs at your clumsy attempt at recovery. It's embarrassing at first and you feel your cheeks reddening. Still, you're relieved he's not insulted. "Hey, I'm just messing with you. Yeah, sounds fun. Let's go check it out."
>>
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The arcade you have in mind is just one metro stop away. The two of you board the train together. It's nearly empty after the late afternoon commuter rush.

"So you have a brother and a sister?" Ethan asks.

"Two sisters," you correct. "Karina is oldest. Dimitri next, then Anna, then me."

"The baby of the family, huh?" Ethan teases.

You frown slightly. "Yes." The last baby.

He notices your sudden shift in mood. "Sorry, did I-"

"No," you say quickly. "Is fine." You don't want to talk about it. "This place. So hot here, yes?"

"What, Tampa?"

"Yes."

"Well it's practically on the equator now," Ethan says. "You're more used to what I'm used to."

"Alaska? Yes. Vladivostok is quite cold," you say.

"You miss it?" he asks.

You have to think about the question for a bit. Your automatic reaction was to say 'yes'. You would have said as much earlier in the day. You still feel like a stranger in this place. But . . . here in this metrocar on your own, going where you want with who you want, you feel a taste of freedom. "I don't know," you say at last. "You?"

"There's nothing for me in Anchorage," Ethan says. "Home is where I lay my head."

You take a moment to parse the idiom in your mind. "I see," you say at last. "I know how this is."
>>
The train accelerates from the station with a hum of electric motors and squeak of steel on steel. You grip the hand bar as the G-forces press you sideways until inertia catches up with you. The other passengers on the train don't give you so much as a second glance. A pair of teenagers out for a little evening entertainment was nothing noteworthy. Back home there was at least a chance someone might recognize you. Here, you were practically no one.

"You think they will remember our names?" you ask. "When we win."

"Against the Angels?" Ethan asks.

"Yes."

It's clear the question had never occurred to him. "I think so. I mean, someone has to right?"

You look out the train car window, staring at the lights flashing back with frightening speed. "I don't think they will."

"Why?"

"In my country, two pilots fought the Fourth Angel years ago. You know their names?"

Ethan doesn't reply.

"Men and women die in space. From my country and yours. A sacrifice for progress. We know some maybe. But not all. People forget."

"Someone knows," Ethan says confidently. "When all this is over, we can make sure people remember."

The conviction in his voice surprises you. From what you've known of Ethan he seems remarkably relaxed. Maybe you don't know him that well. "You think so?"

Ethan nods. "No doubt. Once the angels are defeated we can celebrate the fallen and the living. We can stop living in fear."

He doesn't look at you as he talks. You'd heard Yezhov say something about a pilot dying in Anchorage. Maybe Ethan was closer to this than you realized.

"This stop: Gardner Station Gardner Station."

The train begins to slow a second after the automated PA announces the next stop.

You both exit the train and make your way back to street level. It's getting dark, the sky faded to a dim purple. The oppressive heat of the day has fallen away to be replaced with a gusty coolness. The arcade isn't far.
>>
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You're hit with an arctic blast of chilled air when you enter. The place is packed with teenagers and young adults. Children dart from cabinet to cabinet while clusters of onlookers knot around particularly popular or intense games.

All around you is a wall of sound: the crushed audio of fist-thuds, gunfire, and roars, the melodic chimes of power ups and rewards, the clink and clash of quarters.

The sheer sense of it all is initially overwhelming and for a moment you're frozen in place. Your eyes sweep the older back-lit marquees and newer animated digital signs. There, you spot the light gun section. "This way," you say.

Ethan follows along and you move through the crowd with liquid ease. Before long you find the cabinet. Invasion 51 "This one," you say.

It has two oversized plastic guns chained to its exterior. One orange, one blue. You draw the orange gun, leaving blue for Ethan.

"You have quarters?" he asks.

You simply, swipe your Nerv card beside the quarter slot.

The game reacts with an onslaught of light and sound. "I hope you ready," you say, assuming a shooter stance.

Ethan does the same.

The next few minutes pass as a blur of action and electronic gunfire. You sight and drop targets with mechanical efficiency. The rush of the game keeps you moving ever forward facing wave after wave of alien monsters.

Ethan starts out overzealous. He fires too quickly and too often, reacting from his gut rather than his head. He has good instincts, but a brawler's mentality. Before you write him off as hopeless however, he falls into a rhythm with you. You take point, dropping most of the central foes and the quick-time enemy attacks. Ethan contends with the periphery. He drops creatures that spring from the edges of the monitor, away from your central focus. He's sloppy, but improving.

By the time you complete the first stage, you find yourself smiling. Your heart races a little when you see Ethan smiling back at you.

"Next stage?" he asks.

"Yes," you say, doing your level best to hide your mounting giddiness.

It takes you nearly an hour to clear the entire game, beginning to end. You are blessed with a credit line with Nerv that doesn't seem to run dry. Continues are no object. When you do return the light gun to its clunky metal holster, you're startled to find a crowd of onlookers watching the game.

"So," Ethan says, smugly. "Did I do better this time?"

"Better, yes," you agree. "You not bad."

He laughs.


>Let's play again
>Let's go for food
>I should head home
>Write in
>>
>>4736663
>>Let's play again
Again again! This is the most fun we've had in ages, and Ethan looks to be improving steadily And it's good to have a sense of each other if we fight together for real.
>>
>>4736663
>>Let's go for food
Eternal hunger
>>
>>4736663
>>Let's play again
>>
>>4736663
>Let's go for food
Food place?
>>
>>4736739
Alright, I’ll switch to
>>Let's play again
>>
>>4736663
>>Let's go for food
>>
>Let's play again
>>4736666
>>4736678
>>4736893

>Let's go for food
>>4736667
>>4736940


>Play

Writing
>>
"Again?" you ask. Despite your best effort, an edge of hopefulness creeps into your voice.

"Definitely," Ethan agrees.

You can't remember the last time you had this much fun. Now that you've tasted joy, you don't want to let it go.

You swipe your Nerv card again triumphantly and draw your orange light gun as Ethan draws blue.

The game's main theme blares triumphantly from overworked speakers. In seconds you're both fighting for the survival of the human race. You have a good handle on the game's flow now and are operating within a degree of absolute perfection. Ethan's unfamiliarity has also melted away, replaced with calm professionalism.

"Left side," Ethan says, "Behind those crates."

"I see it," you reply, snapping rounds into the wooden boxes which explode into a shower of digital splinters, denying the alien fiends cover.

You and Ethan finish them off with volleys of fire, alternating reloads.

Seconds blur to minutes which soon drags into half an hour, racing by in a blur of cartoon blood and gunfire.

You only catch the barest glimpse of Yezhov in the crowd, but it's enough to freezer your blood. You gasp in fear and almost drop the light gun.

Ethan turns and looks at the Russian agent.

Yezhov steps forward from the ring of onlookers. He's completely out of place with his rumpled, cheap suit and the disgusted scowl on his face. His eyes go from you to Ethan, pinning him.

Nothing happens for a second, Ethan and Yezhov stare silently at one another and then Ethan takes a step back.

In that moment, your heart drops. You didn't even realize you'd put hope in Ethan saying something doing something until after that hope died. What could he have done?

"Come." Yezhov says, turning back to you. He switches to Russian, "You've been out too long."

You hesitate, looking to Ethan for support.

He looks confused, worried, helpless.

You're being unfair, unreasonable. What can Ethan do? This is your battle, your burden.

"Yes," you say. "Thank you for playing, Ethan."

"Sure," he says, "You have to go?"

"Yes." You can't bring yourself to say more. You turn and leave, eyes fixed ahead, refusing to show any hint of defeat.
>>
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The outside air feels warm and humid compared to the over-air conditioned arcade.

Yezhov makes a sound of disgust at the muggy atmosphere.

It's well and truly night now. The streets are dotted with scattered puddles. Water beads from windows. A rain shower passed through while you were playing it seems. Neon lights plays off the shiny, wet asphalt.

Yezhov opens the passenger door of his sedan for you. The car is parked with two tires up on the sidewalk in a fire lane. Flagrant disregard for the law seems the attitude of someone in your father's employ.

You get into the car, Yezhov closes the door behind you and circles around. You follow him with your eyes, starring a tight, angry circle into his back.

By the time he climbs in and starts the car you're staring blankly ahead at the road. He doesn't leave right away. He stares at you. It's not a veiled stare either. Yezhov doesn't care if you know, he doesn't care that you don't like it. His eyes are on you until he decides to take them off.

As usual, he speaks first. "I told you not to leave," he says, his anger unmistakable.

"How was it that you found me?" you ask, voice calm, refusing to look at him.

Yezhov laughs. It's a cold, mocking thing. "You go around swiping that little card everywhere. You don't even think about where that money must come from do you? Your little silver platter has conditions attached to it."

The Nerv card. How could you have been so foolish? Of course they monitored its use. It would be trivial for Yezhov to receive an alert when it gets swiped.

You say nothing. You won't give him the satisfaction.

"NervSec watches everything you do, girl. You can't wipe your ass without a report being filed. They watch you like a hawk."

"Isn't that your job to do?" you ask. You keep your expression neutral and pretend not to notice the furious way his hand tightens on the steering wheel. "I was attending to other matters," he replies. "I can't keep a watch on you all day unless maybe you want me to put little spy cameras to follow you everywhere?"

You get the impression that he'd like the excuse. Instead, you say, "I'm hungry."

Yezhov sighs and pulls the car back onto the road. "We will get food." For how much he was a chain around your neck, he was also someone your father expected to take care of you. You wish for a handheld console more than ever, anything to take your mind from the here and now.

"These people, Katya," he says at last. "Nerv. They are not to be trusted. Not Holiday, not Chandler, none of them."

The words strike you as unusual. You actually break your mask of contempt to respond. "Why?"
>>
Yezhov seems to consider answering before shaking his head. "Your father called for you."

No. Not now. Not today.

"What did you say?"

"I told him you were deployed to fight the Angel," Yezhov says plainly. "You should call him back."

The thought churns your stomach. This is the last thing you need. "I will call him later."

Yezhov procures a black cell phone from his suit jacket and holds it out to you. "Now."

You refuse to look at it. You refuse to take it. You say nothing.

Yezhov gives you another glance, his eyes alive with anger. "You will call him now or I will do it for you." His tone makes it clear that this is not an idle threat.

You set your jaw and clench your hands. In this moment you want nothing more than to crush Yezhov into pulp. If you could direct the power of your Eva against him you would. This slimy bastard is a constant reminder of exactly what you wanted to escape back home. You're like a glass figuring on a high shelf. Something to be admired from afar, something beautiful, something fragile.

Something useless.

You take the phone from him. Your fingers work the keys automatically.

The phone rings through to a gruff male voice. "Da?

"Hello, Papa."

“Katya!” the voice transforms like clouds being driven away by the sun. “My little darling. How is America?”

“It’s hot here. And humid.”

“To be expected. Makes you miss Russian weather, eh?” he laughs.

You say nothing.

“Yezhov said you were deployed. On a mission?”

“Yes. An intercept.”

A pause. “Was it dangerous?” the tone is casual, the reality of the question was anything but.

“Not really," you say. An obvious lie.

“I thought this was going to be a training station for you, little Katya. I thought I made that clear," he says.

“It was sudden,” you reply. “There was no warning. How were we to know?”

There was a long silence on the line. Your father is thinking, weighing choices. For all his flaws, your father was not a rash man. When things fell apart before you were born, during the collapse of the Soviet Union, that cunning intellect enabled Anton Skobelev to leverage his - at the time - minimum bureaucratic power and modest connections to seize control of a vast petrochemical empire. A few strategic strokes of a pen made an administrator into a king. It was that same cunning that let him carry this power on into the new United Nations and now it was directed at your future. A simple calculation, risk versus reward.

"You should not be the one to assume such dangers," your father says. "You are a Skobelev. We are not suited for that sort of thing."
>>
"Anna is." You say the words and regret them immediately. Anna, your closest sister, the only one in the family who truly understands you. She defied your father even before you did, leaving the Skobelev umbrella to become a combat pilot for the Russian air force. It was not a prestigious, safe, or well paying career, and so checked none of the boxes your father had left as qualifications for 'Skobelev work'.

Again, your father is silent a moment, long enough for your regret to bore an acid hold in your heart. “Anna,” your father says, voice cool, "is not a concern of mine. You are. I have indulged your desire to prove your skills. You’ve done so. I don’t see any reason to carry on this charade.”

Charade. That's what your father thought of all of this. Of your desire to be an Eva pilot, your desire to make a difference in the world, to truly do something that matters.

His tone leaves no room for debate. Emotions rise within you. Frustration, rage, fear, sadness. You want to scream. Just as your father decided the Skobelev family's fate, he is going to decide yours too. You're going to lose this, your modicum of freedom. No more a valuable pilot. You will become just another bauble. Shuttled around from party to party in Vladivostok or Saint Petersburg. Just a glass figurine on a high shelf.

You reach for anything that can stave off the inevitable. "We are in combat alert," you say, forcing yourself to be calm. "External transfer is impossible."

Your father chuckles. “I have the ear of the UN council. Don’t worry, dear Katya, Papa can do anything he sets his mind to.”

Devastation. Defeat. It's over. Emotion threatens to overwhelm your self-control. “I have to go, Papa. I will talk to you soon.”

“Alright. See you later, little Katya.”

“Goodbye.” You hand the phone back to Yezhov without looking. Brushing a strand of hair behind your ear, you turn and look out at the rain-soaked streets of the city. You don't dare face forward, you're determined not to let Yezhov see you crying.
>>
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You are Aaliyah Sayid and you're a double agent for the UN. You feel that more keenly now as you look over your carefully penned notes in your apartment. You know it's a bad habit for a spy, but you've never been able to shake the need to write down things to sort them out in your mind. You always burn what you write when you're done, but something about the act of drawing pen across paper solidifies things in your mind.

Something about Colonel Versetti is not what it seems. The old man at the helm of Nerv 03 is more like a secluded wizard than ever to you. He hardly ever gets involved in the day-to-day operation of the organization, and yet your overseers in the UN Intelligence Committee consider him a threat. You have several leads so far but the one you're chasing at the moment is Dr. Womack.

You've been monitoring him for only a day and haven't learned anything concrete. He's tired. Overworked? He's self-medicating. Popping enough pills to knock him into a stupor at the end of the day. He lives alone, no guests, no visitors.

You pause your writing to take a long drag of your cigarette before tapping the ash off and continuing.

Dr. Kaufman, the former head of Nerv's Science Division is on the run, accused of a murder that seems outside his character. If the old man is still alive he should be reaching out to you to make contact soon. Somehow. For now, there's Womack, and a question of how to proceed.

You can take advantage of his altered mental state to break into his apartment, steal and clone his phone and ID cards. It might grant you some more leads.

You can feign a personal interest in the man himself. You're an attractive woman, he's a lonely guy, it wouldn't be impossible to convince him that you'd like to get to know him better.

You could continue your passive stakeout and wait for something more damning before acting. You've only been watching him a short while. It's possible that if you're patient a break will come.


>Steal and clone Womack's phone and ID card
>Stop by to visit Womack
>Continue the stakeout
>Write in
>>
>>4737191
>Continue the stakeout
>>
>>4737191
>>Continue the stakeout
>>
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>>4737179
mfw your blood turns into freezers
>>
>>4737191
>>Steal and clone Womack's phone and ID card
>>
>>4737187
One step forward, three steps back.
EVA pilots are even rarer than EVAs themselves. Surely even someone as powerful as her father can't get her pulled off duty without a very good reason.

>>4737191
>>Continue the stakeout
>>
>>4737244
Doesn’t seem quite as rare as usual, considering how they have gone through a few already.
>>4737191

>Continue the stakeout
Breaking in seems too risky.
>>
>>4737244
>EVA pilots are even rarer than EVAs themselves
Not to be a naysayer, but Eva pilots aren't actually all that rare. In the anime it was revealed that everyone in Shinji's class was a potential eva pilot

In this timeline, there are other pilots outside of the ones in New Tampa. Not many, but enough that replacing a pilot would not be disastrous. The NTE timeline has a much more developed Nerv infrastructure than in the original NGE.
>>
>>4737333
Good to know
>>
>>4737191
>Continue the stakeout

>>4737301
All the more reason to retain combat experienced pilots. If pilots were mere consumables, Ethan would have been grounded already.
>>
>>4737191
>Steal and clone Womack's phone and ID card

It's worth a shot. What's the worst that could happen?
>>
>>4737191
>>Continue the stakeout
>>
>Continue the stakeout

Writing
>>
You keep thinking about what Pinion had told you, about your predecessor. A deep-cover engineer in the technical branch who turned up dead. You have no doubts in your mind that if Versetti discovers your true allegiance he won't be content to simply transfer you back to Portland, he'll be out for blood. You like to think that it's prudence and not mortal fear that keeps you from committing to bolder action.

You'll continue the stakeout tomorrow. Something has to come up soon.

A glance at the clock shows you that it's late. Late enough you should go to bed. But something teases the back of your mind.

Stubbing out your cigarette you leave your apartment and cross the hall to Korine's door. You listen carefully and - sure enough, piano music.

You knock lightly on the door and the music stops.

There is a pause.

"It's open."

Sure enough, it is.

"How did you know I wasn't a dangerous killer?" you ask as you enter.

Korine sits at the keyboard you'd bought for her, facing the window and the sleeping city. She's in sleep clothes but doesn't look particularly sleepy, just . . . tired. "I didn't."

"Bad answer," you say. You take the opportunity to do a quick look through of her place. It's messy, but not like it was. There are heaps of clothes on the bedroom floor, but piled out of apathy, not rage. You see the bathroom sink is cluttered with an assortment of pill bottles, some open, some half-full, some untouched.

The kitchen is bare.

"Can't sleep?" you ask.

Surprisingly, Korine looks, not defiant, but remorseful. "I just can't stop," she says.

"Stop what?"

"Hurting people," she says, hanging her head.

This isn't a side of Korine you were expecting. You came prepared for teenage rebellion, instead you got defeat.

"It takes more than a little sarcasm to hurt me," you say.

Korine gives you a look, angry, but it fades back to exhaustion. "Ethan keeps trying to talk to me."

"And that's bad?"

"It is when I don't want-" she struggles, "When he doesn't-" her frustration mounts and she shakes her head, tossing her hair. "You wouldn't understand."

"Oh?" you ask, "Why's that? You think I was never a teenager?"

Korine looks up at you, "Explain to me then how I hate when people are nice to me, and I'm afraid that people don't care. Explain how all these fucking pills they have me take just make me tired and confused, but when I don't I'm angry and afraid."


>You're a teenager. Your hormones are out of control, things get better
>You're afraid of people getting close to you because you don't want to hurt them
>You're afraid
>>
>>4737802
>You're a teenager. Your hormones are out of control, things get better
We may need to look into her medication in more detail to see if it is actually helping, or talk to a doctor to see if there are other options or adjustments that could be made that might help.
>>
>>4737802
>>4737812
support with
>You're afraid of people getting close to you because you don't want to hurt them
>>
>>4737802
>>You're a teenager. Your hormones are out of control, things get better
Mixed with
>>You're afraid of people getting close to you because you don't want to hurt them

+ medication check
>>
>>4737802
>>You're afraid of people getting close to you because you don't want to hurt them
We can glace at the meds, but we're no doctor. If she's being given prescriptions, though, as her guardian we should be aware of it.
>>
>>4737802
>>You're a teenager. Your hormones are out of control, things get better
>>You're afraid of people getting close to you because you don't want to hurt them
>>You're afraid

Forgot to include the

>Write in

option on here, but it's available.
>>
>>4737802
"That's a bit unfair. I can't know why exactly you feel this or that way. I can suggest, but only you can tell if that's true. Understanding your own thoughts and feelings and learning how to work with them is hard. People may grow up, but they don't always become adults in that regard, sometimes they never learn how to deal with themselves."

Straight up telling 'you feel X because Y' has a risk of not hitting the mark. And then you look like yet another asshole who doesn't know what they're talking about.
>>
>>4737802
>>You're afraid of people getting close to you because you don't want to hurt them
>>
>>4737802
>You're afraid of people getting close to you because you don't want to hurt them
>>
>>4737802
>>4737824
>>
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Actual image of Katya
>>
>You're a teenager. Your hormones are out of control, things get better
>>4737812
>>4737824
>>4737919
>>4738622


>You're afraid of people getting close to you because you don't want to hurt them
>>4737821
>>4737824
>>4737843
>>4738419
>>4738440
>>4738622


Writing
>>
"For starters," you say, "we should check your prescriptions and dosages. I'm no doctor, but Caswell might be able to help."

Korine adds nothing, but looks despondent.

"How long have you been taking medication? What's it all for?"

She shrugs. "Since . . . they selected me I guess. They tell me my mom was crazy too. It's her parting gift to me I guess."

You frown sympathetically. "Well whatever the case, it sounds like they aren't working they way they should."

"I don't want to be drugged up!" she protests.

"And I don't want that either," you say quickly. "I'm not going to let anyone do that to you. These should help you, not suppress you."

She looks uncertain, but hangs her head.

"Secondly," you say, "I'm no therapist-"

"Thank god," Korine says.

"-But," you continue. "It sounds to me like you're afraid of hurting people. You don't feel like you have any control over it so you're trying to protect other people. Protect people from yourself. That sound right?"

"I guess," Korine says.

"I had a brother," you say before sitting on the couch. "In Dubai."

Korine says nothing, but gives you her full attention.

"Asad. He was ten years old when he died," you say.

Korine's eyes widen in shock.

"Our parents were gone by then. I was supposed to be taking care of him but . . . I was just a kid. There was no way I could have. When we were living on our own, I left him alone. I didn't want to talk to him or see him. I stayed away from him as much as I could. At the time I thought I hated him," you say. "Later I realized that I was just afraid of letting him down. I was afraid of him seeing how powerless I really was. Later on- now, I regret it. It's my biggest regret. I should have held him close every second of every day. I just didn't know that I didn't have much time left with him."

Korine doesn't say anything for a minute, "That's fucked up."

"Yup."

"How . . . did he die?" she asks. The words are hesitant, innocent.

You can hear Asad's mournful wailing still in your head. His sharp, intense sobs. A hot splinter from a grenade tore his stomach open. You smell the acrid stink of burning plastic. A gut wound is a slow way to die.

"He was killed," you say. "Rogue militia thought we had something worth taking. They were barely older than we were." You shake your head, trying to clear the memory.

"Shit," Korine says.

"Yup." You take a moment to ensure your emotions are in check before continuing, "The point is that we shouldn't try to protect people we care about by staying away from them. Especially not if they're reaching out to us. Trust me when I say that keeping someone at arms length doesn't make things easier."

Korine hangs her head. "I'll . . . I'll try."

"I'll call Caswell, and we can set you an appointment to get your meds looked at too, okay?"

"Will you be there?" Korine blurts the question. You see fear in her eyes.

"Do you want me to be there?"

"Yes."

"Then I'll be there," you promise.
>>
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She relaxes, satisfied.

"Now, are you going to let me hear you play?"

Korine looks surprised and then laughs. "I mean if you want. It's all really dorky stuff."

"Sure," you say.

She turns to face the keyboard, positing herself in the middle, eyeing the keys like a general surveying a battlefield. She lays her hands with surgical precision, spreading and placing her fingers delicately. Korine hesitates. "And don't laugh or say anything weird."

"Shoot me dead if I do," you tease.

Korine starts to play.

https://youtu.be/vhspk4m_TRs

You're struck right away with her intense focus as she finds each key in turn, keeping a smooth tempo. The Korine you've seen, angsty, angry, depressed, bitter, is gone for these short minutes. As she plays she only has eyes for the piano, she seems centered.

You weren't expecting the delicate song she plays either, it's nothing like what she listens to ordinarily, that's for sure.

Once or twice she slows to avoid making a mistake, but otherwise stays on tempo until she completes the song.

"You're really good," you say.

"Please." She rolls her eyes.

"Where did you learn to play?"

"I did foster care for a bit," Korine says. "Some kooky old lady forced me to learn. Taught me old church music and shit. She was a bat but at least she kinda cared about me. I just sort of stuck with it, you know?"

You nod. "You know anything else?"

"Sure. Mostly old hymns and shit. I'm not really feeling any 'Onward Christian Soldier'. How about this." She turns back to the piano, this time with a cocky grin. She plays again.

https://youtu.be/HcStJpCuxLE

It's no less precise, but certainly more haunting. It feels potent, alive with potential and lingering uncertainty. This feels much more Korine. You lay your head back on the couch and stare up at the ceiling as she plays. Your thoughts inevitably drive to your past - Asad - and your work. As the tune becomes increasingly discordant, you feel unsettled.

Korine plays with conviction, raw passion. The melody becomes fractured, unbalanced, chaotic. At the crescendo of madness, just when you think it can't get anymore unhinged, it falls away, fading away like a sinking sun.

She stops playing.

"That was beautiful," you say.

"I'm tired," Korine says finally. "I want to sleep."

"Come on. I'll turn the light out for you. We have work tomorrow."
>>
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The city awakes the next morning like it has every day since its founding. The sound of construction equipment intermingles with morning traffic and the roar of aircraft taking off from the airbase.

Pneumatic jack hammers and buzz saws pound and whine as work begins on dismantling the remains of the Sixth Angel. From the high rises of downtown, you can just make out the bone-white sphere and the cranes surrounding it. Nerv science personnel in hazmat suits walk the perimeter, taking readings and collecting samples.

Further inside the city people go about their lives as normal. Metro cars fill with commuters. Buses ply the roadways above. Tidal generators ringing the city boom with the impact of waves. Windmills catch gusts of wind coming from the east, racing over the open Atlantic to spin massive blades.

Motorized solar panels rotate to catch the first rays of the sun and track its journey over the sky.

The dredging ships surrounding the city continue to expand New Tampa's land area. They pump a slurry of muck onto waiting cement pylons, building new land that will be dried, compacted, and paved over in time.

UN military forces patrol the seawall. Battle tanks rumble over the encircling causeway. The muzzles of their main guns remain trained out to sea as crew scan the horizon with binoculars. Air patrols take off regularly with screams of jet engines. Fighter-bombers orbit at a distance, deadly payloads ready to be unleashed in a moment's notice.

Inside Snelson Air Force Base stockpiles of bombs and missiles are inventories. Nuclear ordinance is inspected and certified ready for use. Procedures are followed, paperwork filed.

Deep underground, Nerv 03 classifies and catalogs, dissects and disseminates. Every scrap of information to be gleaned from the Sixth Angel is micro-analyzed. Its capabilities, its behavior, its dimensions, its actions. All are logged and stored. Nothing is left unexplored.

Humanity was caught off guard once. Seventeen years ago in Antarctica they'd come face to face with the unknown, the alien. Face to face with a god. Their ignorance had doomed half the population.

It was not a mistake they would make again.
>>
You take Korine to Nerv 03 for her daily training regimen. You meet with Rose and the other agents of the Tactical Division staff. You conduct yourself like normal, just an ordinary day. But as you do, you let your thoughts dwell on Womack.

You watch him at work every chance you get.

Womack fidgets with his glasses, yawns, brushes back messy, greasy hair, and checks his watch. He's a man on the edge.

What's got you so nervous? You think the question to yourself while you watch Womack struggle to correct a scripting error during a harmonics test. The frustration the rest of the science team feels, the contempt they have for the branch head, it's palpable. What work does this man do that qualifies him for such a lofty position when he can barely seem to keep his day-to-day duties straight.

"What are you doing after work today?" Max asks.

You tear your eyes away from Womack and to Max, who comes and sits on the edge of your desk.

"Today? Sleeping."

He bares his teeth at you. "Ha. Thanks. I get enough petulant sarcasm from Renton."

"Sorry," you say with a tone that makes it clear you're not. "Why, what's up?"

"Holiday wants me to work on plans for tactical training for the pilots that includes group bonding." He makes a face. "Like shit, I dunno, do I look like a fuckin boy scout?"

You laugh.

"Can you help me?"

"And you think I can do boy scout shit?"

"Girl scouts, maybe," Max suggests, eliciting another laugh from you.

"I just thought we could bounce some ideas off one another. Come on, my ass is hanging out on this. If I bring Rose shit, she's gonna tear me apart."

You still need to watch Womack's place today, but you have a little time right after work, or later tonight.

"Fine," you say, "Fine I'll help."


>Let's discuss it over dinner
>Stop by my place and we can go over some notes
>We can talk after work today
>write in
>>
>>4739083
>>Let's discuss it over dinner
>>
>>4739083
>write in
>We have a lunchtime here right? That seems like a good time if all we're doing is brainstorming and not actual details
>>
>>4739083
>>We can talk after work today
I'm not sure why this is being passed onto the guardians, but it's not a bad idea.
>>
>>4739083
>>We can talk after work today
>>
>>4739109
seconding this
>>
>>4739114
>I'm not sure why this is being passed onto the guardians

The guardians are more than just body guards. They also handle administrative work and tactical operations. For narrative simplicity
>>
>>4739083
>>4739109
>>
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Katya. Dibs in first good fanart in quest.
>>
>We have a lunchtime here right? That seems like a good time if all we're doing is brainstorming and not actual details
>>4739109
>>4739213
>>4739691

Writing
>>
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You glance at the time in the corner of your computer screen. "How about we grab lunch and go over it?"

"Sure," Max says. "Silver Bell Café is pretty good. Two levels up. I'll take you."

The Silver Bell is Nerv's attempt at bringing a touch of personality to the drag, minimalist passages of Nerv 03. It's only partially successful. A bank of high-resolution liquid crystal displays create a mosaic of nature scene. A cool, dense jungle glows from the LCD panels in an attempt to give the already large room more depth. Any possible illusion this could have created is thwarted by the Nerv logo displayed on other monitors around the room.

You grab food, just a toasted turkey sandwich and a coffee for you. Max gets nothing.

"Not hungry?" you ask.

Max smiles sadly, "Not feeling great today."

You return a sympathetic frown, "Sorry to hear it."


The both of you side beneath one of the Nerv monitors. You blow on your coffee and tear open a packet of potato chips. As you start to eat you watch Max carefully pop a few pills from a discrete container and swallow them down with a mouthful of coffee.

Now that you think of it, he does look pretty sick. He's paler than normal, his forehead sheened with sweat.

"Are you alright?"

He stops in the process of lighting a cigarette. "Hm? Oh. Yeah, about as well as can be expected." He chuckles.

It's a pretty transparent lie. "I hope you're not pushing yourself," you say. "We've got enough coverage to work without you for a couple days. Whatever you think of Yezhov, he can at least fill in."

Max laughs and puffs smoke. "Thoughtful," he says. "But I'm well enough to work."

You don't want to push the topic and so change gears, "Now what's this boy scout thing?"

"Rose wants to break the mold a little. We've been having the pilots run Angel simulations day in and out. We've done classroom training, we even did a few mental exercises and the like."

"Problem being that the Angels don't operate like we do."

"Right," Max says. "So we're preparing to deal with events that have already happened, not ready our minds for something new."
>>
"What if the tactical staff comes together and we brainstorm a new Angel, throw it at them in the sims?"

Max shrugs, "I thought of that but really it's just kicking the can down the road. So we teach them to kill Mothra or whatever, then what? Now they just know how to beat an Angel they'll never encounter. If we want to throw a battery of new angels at them then it's going to require cooperation with the Technical Branch to make the simulations."

"Which means dealing with Womack," you say.

"Which means dealing with Womack," Max agrees.

"We need something that will be outside the box," Max says, "Something that will teach team building and critical thinking. Something to really show these kids that they are a team and that they have to be ready for anything."

You take a bite of your sandwich and chew as you think.


>What about a MilSim exercise with paintballs? Staff vs pilots?
>We could try pilot vs pilot simulations maybe.
>I feel like we can talk the command staff into getting Womack to program some fresh simulations for us
>Write in
>>
>>4740163
Holy shit anon

Thanks for the art!! Looks great.
>>
>>4740163
Holy shit, anon. Thanks for the art! It looks awesome.
>>
>>4740481
>What about a MilSim exercise with paintballs? Staff vs pilots?
The Airforce base should have some MILES gear we could use, and a larger number of targets that can shoot back if we need more people to help out with planning since this is kind of what they are good at.
>>
>Ethan Chandler
I refuse to accept this name
>>
>>4740494
I leave you with no other option.
>>
>>4740481
>I feel like we can talk the command staff into getting Womack to program some fresh simulations for us
>What about a MilSim exercise with paintballs? Staff vs pilots?
>>
>>4740481
>We could try pilot vs pilot simulations maybe.
It might foster a spirit of competition, or it might lead to a very pissed off grudge match.
Either way, I’m interested
>>
>>4740481
>We could try pilot vs pilot simulations maybe.
>>
>>4740481
>What about a MilSim exercise with paintballs? Staff vs pilots?
Pilot vs pilot is interesting and still worth considering, but I'm afraid it will do more harm than good to their ability to work together.
>>
>>4740481
>What about a MilSim exercise with paintballs? Staff vs pilots?
>>
>>4740481
>>What about a MilSim exercise with paintballs? Staff vs pilots?
this or MILES gear (think laser tag, but military grade)
>>
>>4740481
>We could try pilot vs pilot simulations maybe.
Paintball is a bad idea. Everyone is going to try to gang up on Yezhov, even his teammates.
>>
>>4740931
Valid, team chemistry isn't exactly stable, but...

>>4740481
>We could try pilot vs pilot simulations maybe

Encourages viewing each other as adversaries - getting into your opponent's head and predicting their reactions. Builds teamwork. Could go wrong but at least we'd know what shortcomings to make up for when angels attack next.
>>
>>4740483
>>4740486
The post so nice I said it twice.

>MilSim exercise
>>4740492
>>4740513
>>4740931
>>4740953
>>4741029

>Versus Mode
>>4740522
>>4740782
>>4741071
>>4741120
>MilSim

Writing
>>
You mentally weigh options. Some pilot-versus-pilot combat in the simulators could prove enlightening. To your knowledge there has never been any inter-Evangelion combat wargaming. What would be the point really? The Eva's power cable really limits its usefulness as an offensive weapon against an opponent capable of abstract thought. Not to mention that with the Valentine Treaty international conflict has been virtually eliminated.

Besides that, you have lingering concerns that pitting the pilots against one another might only stroke egos and build rivalries. Still, it does have some merit, you might bring this up to Rose later.

"It's simple," you say. "We've been treating this whole thing as academic. That's the wrong approach."

"What do you mean?" Max asks.

"Classwork? Simulators? It's all theoretical. If I told you I had a group of soldiers and I needed to help them work as a team, what would you say?"

Max thinks. "I dunno. Put them through boot camp or something? A military exercise."

"Snelson Air Force Base no doubt has some kind of combat training gear or course. I'm sure they'd be happy to loan it to Nerv."

"But the kids aren't soldiers," Max says, confused.

"Maybe not, but the lessons of teamwork and high pressure decisions still apply. We make them put on some goofy uniforms and run around with toy guns for a bit. It might help."

Max sighs, "God, Renton is going to hate this."

"I don't think Korine will like it much more," you say, smiling sadly. "But theirs is not to ask why."

"Point," Max agrees. "Thanks Aaliyah."

"Any time." You finish your sandwich and wash it down with the last of your coffee. "Now I have a few more readiness reports to file before I get out of here." And you're planning on ducking out as early as you can."

"Hey," Max says quickly as you stand and gather your things. "Still free after work? There's this taco place down by Bayshore that does tequila too. I thought you might want to check it out."

"As much as I would enjoy getting my brains smashed out with a lime-flavored brick, I think I'll pass."

If the rejection of your invitation bothers Max, he doesn't show it. "Maybe another time."

You're already thinking of Womack and the stakeout. "Maybe."
>>
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Max and the pilots are far from your thoughts as you sit on the floor of the empty apartment above Womack's place. You're totally motionless, eyes fixed on the small, grainy monitor feeding video to you from his apartment. You smoke and watch, not daring to look away from a second.

Womack came home about twenty minutes after you arrived. He's disheveled, tired, moving like a zombie. His first stop is in his bathroom where he makes a mixed dinner from unlabeled pill bottles.

Your lip twitches in disdain. If anything, Womack is a creature of habit. His routine is the same every time you've watched him.

He stops into the kitchen and fills a glass of water. The counter tops are all taken up with old take out packaging. Pizza boxes and Chinese containers.

Womack down the pills one by one. Once sufficiently sedated, he goes to the living room and lays on the couch, staring up at the ceiling, practically making eye contact with you through the well-hidden fiber-optic cam.

You feel your blood race a little. When the phone rings you nearly jump out of your skin. But it's not your phone.

Womack scoops his cellphone from his pocket as you pull on heavy-duty earphones and press 'record' on your digital tape deck.

"Yeah?" he asks. The drugs haven't started taking effect yet, but he sounds tired all the same.

You toggle a switch on your wireless intercept set, powering it on. With a free hand, you slowly tune the dial, trying to pirate the signal he's getting. It takes getting used to, but you have the intercept set patched to one earphone and the mic but in Womack's place patched to the other.

You know you find the signal when a sharp squelch of static makes you wince. You switch off your intercept set. Encrypted. No surprise there.

No," Womack says, still laying on the couch. "No I-" he stops to listen to someone else. The resolution on your TV set is so poor that you can't make out much detail, but you think maybe he flinches. "Yes, it is but I told you that I delegated that." He pauses to listen more. "It doesn't matter. The Serpent is already within operating bounds. The effectiveness-" again he is interrupted.

Womack sits up, listening to the phone, eyes wide. He stands from the couch and starts to pace.

Glass shatters a second after you hear the sharp crack of a rifle report.
>>
You drop to your stomach before you even realize you're moving, jerking your headphones off in the process. Your eyes dart around, trying to make sense of the sound you heard. Some is shooting at something not far away. You look to the monitor in time to see Womack collapse to the ground behind his couch, curling into a ball as his living room window explodes in a shower of broken glass. A second gunshot.

Sitting up, you trace the shooter. You can just faintly make out a third muzzle flash from a window in the neighboring apartment building. Someone is trying to kill the doctor.

You realize that you've already drawn your sidearm on reflex but you're momentarily paralyzed by indecision. You're not supposed to be here. This little listening nest will be difficult or impossible to explain if you're caught here.

Initially, your gut instinct was to return fire at the shooter and drive them off, but that would guarantee this place is found by NervSec.

No more shots come after a moment. The shooter has either fled or gone silent waiting for their prey.

Womack.

You check the monitor again. Womack is motionless in a ball by his couch still. Alive or dead you're not sure, but you don't see any blood.

You have maybe a few minutes before NervSec gets here. You hastily gather your gear, shoving it into a plain duffel bag nearby. Lastly, you quickly reel in your fiber optic spy device and stow it in the bag, leaving nothing but a small drill hole. Hopefully too small to be noticed by NervSec.

You leave the apartment and stride down the hall swiftly. As you pass a freestanding garbage can, you tip the duffel and all your gear into it, hardly breaking your stride. Pinion or someone else can arrange to recover it when things have cooled down.

You flick your cigarette away and shove open the stairwell door.

Someone was trying to kill Womack, and the list of possible suspects isn't short. If the doctor is alive, you might be able to press him for more info in his present state. Panicked, afraid, drugs starting to kick in, maybe wounded, maybe dying. It may be your best and only chance to question him directly.

Of course, sticking around is also a great way to run into NervSec response teams. Fleeing could be in order.

You'd love to get over to try to determine who the shooter is, but there's no doubt they'll be long gone by the time you get out of this building and into that one, by which point it will be swarming with NervSec anyway.

You start down the stairs, taking two at a time.


>Stop at Womack's place to get some answers
>Flee the building before anyone arrives
>Write in
>>
>>4741327
>>Flee the building before anyone arrives
>>
>>4741327
>Stop at Womack's place to get some answers

I don't like the chances of us being seen fleeing the scene of the crime
>>
>>4741327
>>Flee the building before anyone arrives
Too much risk, too little gain.
>>
>>4741327
>Write in
Go down a floor and provide first aid, we need him alive if we are going to keep him talking. Call it in to NERV Security first and report the shooters position, if we get questioned we can say we were on the way to talk to him about the feasibility of obtaining new simulations for the pilots that Max mentioned if finding gear we need fell through.
>>
>>4741327
>>Flee the building before anyone arrives
Nope nope nope nope nope
>>
>>4741327
>Flee the building before anyone arrives
>>
>>4741325
>Flee the building before anyone arrives
Very tempting to check on Womack, but to add onto the risk of being caught by NervSec is also the fact that the shooter (or others who knew about this ahead of time) might still be watching. We’re a little fish right now, and we have no clue how big this pond is. Let’s try not to make waves
>>
>>4741562
It all boils down to whether NervSec have security footage of the building's entrance or not. If they have it, you'll have to explain what you've been doing there before he got home. If we're very unlucky, same for the previous stakeout. Same issue with fleeing the building now.

But if they don't, then fleeing sounds like the best way to not blow the cover. Maybe the assailant's team doesn't want to be found and blanket disabled security cameras or something.
>>
>>4742033
The answer would be that we came to discuss things and we missed him at work and don't have his contact details, so we came to see him.

Also they would probably have disabled the camera's in the building the shot came from, not this one, and if the strike team gets redirected they may catch the perpetrators before they can leave the scene entirely.
>>
>>4742060
Maybe you're right. I'll support this vote, in case it still matters
>>
>Flee the building before anyone arrives
>>4741332
>>4741436
>>4741665
>>4741683
>>4742014

>Stop at Womack's place to get some answers
>>4741374
>>4741562
>>4742694


>Flee

Writing
>>
Your feet hardly seem to touch the ground and you clear an entire flight of stairs in one bound. You have no idea what NervSec's response time to something like this would be like but you don't want to test it. Whatever it is, you're not going to be here to see what they think of your presence.

Serpent. That was what Womack had said. The name means nothing to you, but it sounds like a thread to tug. Find out what Serpent is and you can find out what Womack's been working on you guess.

You reach the ground floor peer through the slit window in the stairwell door.

The lobby is clear.

Holstering your gun, you take a steadying breath before pushing the door open and walking with a force casualness. Womack's lobby is minimalist and clean. A few potted plants line the windows that look out on the street and there's some tastefully modern furniture in a small common area.

There is also a small adjoining coffee shop that you walk for.

Screeching tires heralds NervSec's arrival. AS you walk toward the coffee shop with painful slowness you catch sight of the reflections of men in dark suits and sunglasses piling out of cars and storming into the building.

"-EMTs now!" one of them yells on entering.

"Do we even have his status? Active shooters?"

"Negative, Yankee team is securing the shooter site."

You step passed a small throng of astonished onlookers, not daring to turn around. The stairwell door slams open and a dozen security agents rush up.

With the shooter in another building, they'll be slower to lock this one down in their hurry to get to Womack.

Passing through a set of plate glass doors you enter the coffee shop. The staff and patrons are all standing, lining the bank of windows that looks into the lobby and watching the carnival unfold. None of them see you quickly circle the counter and enter the back room. You walk past racks of coffee bags and boxes of empty cups before reaching the rear service door.

Another push and you're outside.

You resist the urge to look up and around for cameras. You've done nothing wrong. You're not important. There's no reason they should even review this camera footage. Walking along the narrow cement alley, after a few turns you arrive in a small, flower-lined plaza.

Approaching sirens wail through the city and a moment later a pair of police cars and an ambulance tear by, circling around to the front of Womack's apartment.

You cross the plaza at a leisurely pace until reaching the shade of a magnolia tree on the other side. Turning, you look back toward Womack's building, your heart thundering in your chest like a runaway horse. Your sidearm feels impossibly heavy in its holster.

"What enemies do you have?" you ask Womack, listening to more approaching sirens. "And what secrets are you keeping?"
>>
You're Ethan Chandler and you're finished for the day. As much as you want to relax, you can't. You haven't seen Linda since your waltz the night before. The spell had been broken the moment Katya rang your door chime. You'd found yourself alone in your apartment. After that, nothing.

Spending time with Katya had been nice, she'd finally started to open up a bit and get more comfortable with you/ Of course that came crashing down when Agent Yezhov dragged her off in a hurry. You're really not sure you understand that guy's deal, but you can tell that others don't seem to like him.

At testing today Max kept giving Yezhov dirty looks and Rose seems to ignore him. Even Sayid who seems pleasant and agreeable basically avoids any interaction with him. It's easy to see why they don't like him.

What you can't understand is why you didn't stand up for Katya. When Yezhov arrived you could have told him to relax or . . . or something. Instead you'd just watched silently. Maybe that was why you hadn't seen Katya all day outside of training where she kept to herself for the most part.

You don't have the guts to go back over like nothing happened, but also don't want to be by yourself in your apartment. Your mind plays tricks on you here, background noise seems to become waltz music when you're not paying attention.

You check your phone for messages. Nothing. You were expecting Renton to reach out about going drinking but so far, nothing. There's one more potential respite from boredom and loneliness, and you've been putting it off too.

You can only avoid Korine for so long though. Something's been bothering her, something you don't understand in the slightest, but she was also the first person to reach out to you and try to be something like friends. It seems unjust to ignore her now. Plus she did offer to let you listen to her play.

Leaving your apartment behind you ring her door chime and are surprised when she answers quickly. She looks much more put together than the last time you saw her. She wears a dark dress with fishnets, and seems to have actually brushed her hair.
>>
"Here at last," she says with a grin. "What kept you?"

You step inside at her ushering. You want to tread carefully. "Fashionably late," you reply.

Korine snickers. "Sure. Come on in."

Her place is a mess. The furniture has been haphazardly rearranged, breaking up the well-crafted feng shui and introducing an element of chaos.

"Moving day?" you ask.

"Ha. I was trying to do something about the fucking awful acoustics in here. Everything is glass and carpet and shit so it's either dead or kinda buzzy."

She sits at the small keyboard set up by the window and starts playing without any preamble. It's a simple melody that sounds vaguely religious to you.

Unsure of what to do, you sit on a nearby couch and watch. She's pretty good, better than you would have expected.

"Thanks for coming," Korine says as she plays.

"Of course."

"Look, sorry about . . . how I've been."

"It's alright," you say.

"Nah, I was being an omega bitch. It wasn't right to take that all out on you." She doesn't look from her keys as she talks. "The other day, during the battle, I was really scared."

Her frank honesty shocks you to silence.

"Like . . . sitting in that fucking Eva and waiting is hell. It feels like dying or something. Like every second I'm dying and I just have to sit and wait."

"You'd rather be fighting?"

Korine misses a key and swears before starting again. "No. Yes? I don't know. I just don't want to wait to die. I don't want to die at all. You're pretty brave to get back in that thing after Anchorage."

You don't reply.

"Ethan, can I ask you something?"

"Sure."

"Why do you do this? Why do you pilot?"

"I made a commitment," you say. "A choice."

"What? As a kid?" she snorts. "Get real. Can't even vote but you can choose to fight in a war? What really keeps you fighting?"


>I don't know
>I want to defeat the Angels. I want to make the world safe
>Because if I don't do this, someone else will have to.
>Write in
>>
>>4742759
>>Because if I don't do this, someone else will have to.

And the part we don't say: "My life is already forfeit anyways."
>>
>>4742759
>>Because if I don't do this, someone else will have to.
>>
>>4742759
>>Because if I don't do this, someone else will have to.
>>
>>4742759
>Because if I don't do this, someone else will have to.
>>
>>4742759
>>Because if I don't do this, someone else will have to.
and for Linda, so nobody will end up like her
>>
>Because if I don't do this, someone else will have to.

Writing
>>
You fidget your hands and mull your words over before speaking. "We're in a war, Korine. Whether we like it or not we're in a war for survival. If I don't do this- if I turn my back on being a pilot and leave then . . . someone else will have to take my place."

Your thoughts turn to Linda- Linda as she was before. Bright-eyed, optimistic, outgoing. Linda who had a taste for classical music and old movies. Linda, the girl who had no business being a pilot.

"Someone who might belong here even less than I do. And even if it saved my life, I couldn't live with myself knowing that it cost someone else. If there's a price to pay, let me be the one to pay it." You say the words with as much conviction as you can muster.

Korine stops playing and looks at you. "Then you're a lot better than me."

"You don't agree?"

She shakes her head. "Every day I want to run. Every day I want to tell them that I've had enough, and I haven't even been in a battle yet." She looks ashamed.

"Then why haven't you?" you ask.

"I-" Korine thinks. "I don't know. Maybe I'm too scared to do that too."

"Or maybe you're tougher than you think," you suggest. "Being brave doesn't mean not being afraid." You hear Linda's last frantic screams in your head. "It just means doing what you need to even though you're afraid."

"Rather just not be afraid to be honest," Korine says with a sardonic smirk.

You want to get your mind off fear and duty. "Are those some of the clothes you bought?" you indicate her outfit.

"Hm? Oh yeah. It's about the only thing I've got to try to keep some semblance of sanity. Clothes and music and shit."
>>
It's a nice look for her. She certainly looks much more 'there' than when you first met her. You're not sure how much of that is mental and how much is just appearances.

"And by the way," she says, "Congratulations for ditching the 'stranded wilderness hiker' look."

You put a hand over your heart, wounded. "Not sure you're the one to be throwing stones about tired fashion trends."

Korine grins at your verbal sparring. "Alright. Touché. Forget I said anything."

She's definitely much more relaxed since you last saw her. You assume something happened between then and now, but you can't imagine what.

"Have you had a chance to spend any time with Katya or Renton?" you ask.

"Nah," Korine says. "Renton's okay, but he seems flighty."

"Flighty?"

"Yeah," she says. "One foot in the pool and one out, you know? I don't know what his deal is but he's not wholly invested in our little enterprise."

"That has a lot of weight coming from you," you say, tone light to indicate you're joking.

"Takes one to know what," she says. "And Katya is . . . I dunno, kinda stuck up I guess."

"She's really not so bad," you say. "I think she's . . . a little shy."

"Shy?" Korine looks dubious.

"Yeah. We hung out the other day, played games and stuff, it was nice."

"Hm," Korine doesn't really seem impressed. "If you say so. Did you want to hang out today? I've got nothing to do but bang keys."

"I've got time," you say. You don't think she'd understand if you told her you're too afraid to go back to your apartment.

"In that case, do you like monsters and boobs?" Korine asks.

You repeat the phrase twice in your head, sure you misheard. "What."

"Monsters: horrible creatures. Boobs: mammaries. Who am I kidding, you definitely do."

"What."

She gets up from the piano and rummages around in a bag by the TV before pulling out a few DVDs. "Babysitter Slaughter or Blood Wolf Curse?"

"What."

She sighs. "Movies? Videos? Hello? Do you like horror movies?"

"I . . . never really watched much."

She grins. It is a devilish smile. "Oh? Want to?"

You look back at the two features she holds. One portrays a vicious looking werewolf - or the costume equivalent, the other is a buxom blonde covered in blood and screaming in terror as a knife menaces her. "I'm game for anything," you say.

"So," Korine says, holding out the two titles. "Monsters or boobs?"
>Monsters
>Boobs
>Why don't you pick something?
>Write in
>>
>>4743124
>Boobs
>>
>>4743124
>>Why don't you pick something?
+Hey Korine want to ask Katya if she wants to watch with us the Movies?
>>
>>4743124
>>Boobs
>>
>>4743163
supporting
>>
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>>4743163
This

i need eva pilots to have fun for once.
>>
>>4743124
>Boobs
+ Write in
>>
>>4743163
Supporting
Is this it, will Ethan become dense enough to become a harem protagonist?
>>
>>4743227
Don't you dare say those words in this quest. Why would you put this evil on me?
>>
>>4743124
>Boobs
>>
>>4743163
This
>>
>>4743163
This
>>
>Boobs
>>4743136
>>4743165
>>4743201
>>4743242

>Write in
>>4743163
>>4743170
>>4743172
>>4743201
>>4743227
>>4743267
>>4743347


>>4743163
This

Writing
>>
You can't bring yourself to say 'boobs' to Korine.

"You're the expert, right? Maybe you'd better pick."

Korine looks smug, like somehow she's won something. "Mhm." She tosses the werewolf back in her bag. "Babysitters it is. I've got the second one too." She pops the disc in. "Popcorn? I've got a couple bags of the microwave stuff."

"Sure," you say. "Hey, what if we invite Katya to come watch?"

Korine reverses course out of the kitchen. "Princess? No offense, but not sure she's as much a fan of boobs and monsters as you are."

"Did you ask?"

"Nooo," Korine says, begrudgingly.

"So what's the harm in inviting her?"

Korine sighs. "You're like a shark or something. One bite and you can't let go, huh? Fine. You have her number?"

"No," you say, "But I can go get her. She literally lives less than a hundred feet from here."

Korine waves you away. "I'll make three bags but if she's not coming then two are for me. That's the price you pay."

"I accept the terms," you say monotonously before popping out to the hallway. As you said, Katya's room is only a short distance away. While walking, you start going over events in your head. Do you owe her an apology for your lack of support against Yezhov? Will that cranky bastard come intruding again?

You're nearing his door. You slow to a halt and eye it suspiciously. You're at an oblique enough angle that you don't think he could see you through the peephole if - theoretically - he was watching. Checking that the coast is clear, you walk along the wall, edging closer to his door. Once you're practically beside it you stop and listen.

Nothing. Silence. Just the hum of air conditioning.

You see no light coming through the peephole or beneath the door. Maybe he's not home? If so, it's a blessing.

You cross by quickly and continue on to Katya's door before knocking softly.

She answers. "Ethan?"

"Is this a bad time?" you ask.

"No." She looks around. "Are you here to play games?"

"Actually Korine invited us to watch scary movies with her. Did you want to come?"

"Scary?" Katya actually looks concerned. "I . . . not sure."

"Nah, not too scary," you say. It's a lie, you have no idea how scary it can possibly be. "It's just watching movies and popcorn. Korine said you should come."

Katya seems unswayed.

"You'll have fun," you promise, hoping it's not a lie.

She chews her lip a second before giving a slight nod of the head. Consent.

"Sweet, come on."
>>
Back to Korine's place. You tread lightly in front of Yezhovs door before re-entering Korine's apartment.

"We're here!" you announce. The place smells of popcorn and artificial butter.

Korine is placing bowls of popcorn. Two of them. She looks up and Sees you and Katya. "Oh. Let me get another bowl then." As she passes Katya, "Hope you like scary movies."

Katya's face indicates that she probably does not.

Within minutes the three of you pack onto the couch, Korine to your right, Katya to your left.

Korine presses play.

Babysitter Slaughter explodes onto the screen with film grain and oversaturated colors. Blood is a vivid red, night is a murky shade of blue, and the knife glints white in the dark. When the main lead - or any of her shapely friends scream, the sound peaks and buzzes the speakers a little.

Whenever this happens, Katya also visibly flinches and makes sounds of dismay and discomfort.

Korine seems endlessly amused. Laughing at the more outlandish kills, keenly watching as the killer pursues the barely clad soon-to-be victims through the weirdly deserted neighborhood.

During the climactic chase when the heroine is dramatically cornered protecting the children under her care, Korine leans in hungrily. "Watch this." she says.

Katya pulls her knees to her chest and puts her arms around her legs, forming a protective ball. She mutters something in Russian.

"Boom!" Korine exclaims as the killer's head explodes in a shower of fake blood.

Katya jumps and squeaks in surprise.

Korine cackles at the film's conclusion. "Adios, dickhead."

Your popcorn is finished, as is the film. You note that Katya has hardly touched her popcorn. Her eyes are a little wider than normal and she seems a little quieter than normal.

"What'd you think?" Korine asks you.

"Bloody," you reply.

"Gallons on gallons," Korine returns. "It's like a fucking donation day at the blood bank. What'd you think about it- Katya?" Korine audibly stops from calling her 'Princess'.

"Is interesting," Katya says meekly.

"So explain to me how there is a sequel when the main baddie is dead?" you say.

Korine looks at you mischievously. "Want to find out? I've got the next one in my bag."


>Let's do it!
>Maybe we could watch something less gory.
>I think I'm calling it a night for now, sorry.
>Write in
>>
>>4743529
>Maybe we could watch something less gory.
>>
>>4743529
>Maybe we could watch something less gory.
Yea......
>>
>>4743529
>>Maybe we could watch something less gory.
>>
>>4743529
>>Maybe we could watch something less gory.
>>
>>4743529
We have 2 decades of the best movies available to us and we're watching 80s horror schlock. Don't get me wrong schlock is fun and all but I don't think katya has seen many movies. Korine has to step it up

>write in
>have any good scifi
>>
>>4743529
I wouldn't be suprised if Katya vists us later because she can't sleep thanks to that movie
>>
>>4743529

>>4743643
This. Catering too much to either of them is bound to cause problems, but if we can ignite a competitive steak or something in her movie choose skills while steering her away from the gory stuff, I think we can thread the needle.
>>
>>4743529
>>4743643
Supporting.

I love scifi movies
>>
>>4743643
+1! If she jumps to something gore heavy, then drop the >Maybe we could watch something less gory.
>>
>>4743529
>>4743643
>>
You know,if Katya is scared we could alway hold her hand. As friends. This is in fact something friends do.
>>
>"Let us start on Lynx." you get on your hands and knees before the TV and meticulously connect the assorted cables and controllers. "We play Ultramorph." You carefully open the case and put the CD into the tray before closing it. Ethan's silence weighs on you, so you look back at him.
>His eyes snap to yours. "Sounds good!" he smiles.
>You nod, satisfied, and power on the system.

The fuck was Ethan looking at, TK? Answer us.
>>
>>4744586
Probably Linda fucking around via IRL shitposting in Katya's apartment.
>>
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>Maybe we could watch something less gory.
>>4743540
>>4743586
>>4743594
>>4743617

>have any good scifi?
>>4743643
>>4743781
>>4743805
>>4743839
>>4744299


>Sci fi
Writiting

>>4744586
>The fuck was Ethan looking at, TK? Answer us.
>>
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>>4744623
Kek
>>
"Maybe something else?" you suggest.

"Killswamp?" Korine asks, starting to go for the bag.

"We live in an age of some of the best cinema of all time and you're asking about Killswamp?"

Korine makes a face at you. "I like Killswamp. A dude gets drowned in a latrine."

Katya gasps.

"Don't you have anything . . . not murdery?" you ask.

"I travel with a duffel bag, okay? What do you want from me?"

"Come on, surely you have a little variety."

"Is okay," Katya says placatingly. "We can watch more."

Korine looks at her. "Did you not like the movie?"

Katya hesitates, not meeting Korine's gaze. "I . . . I think their clothes interesting."

"Oh lord," Korine says with mock exasperation. "Yeah, I guess we'd better watch something else."

"Any sci fi?" you ask.

Korine stares blankly at you. "The Neptune Incident."

"Sounds promising," you say.

Korine takes the movie out and reads the back. "The crew of a starship soon discovers they are gestating nightmarish creatures inside their bodies-"

Katya gasps again.

"Maybe not," you say.

"No, is okay. I just . . . not watch," Katya says, looking guilty.

"Well where's the fun in that?" Korine asks.

"Anything else?" you ask.

"I don't see you cracking out your movie collection!" Korine retorts.

"Is really okay," Katya continues. "We watch the swamp one."

"I'd really rather we watch something we all like," you say. "Korine and I can watch the splatter movies another time."

"What about you?" Korine turns her attention to Katya. "You have any movies along with those games you're always playing."

Katya looks like a deer in the headlights, pinned with Korine's sudden question. "I . . . have some."

"Perfect," Korine replies. "Go grab some and then we can get this show back on the road, okay?"

"Yes. Okay."

Katya stands and walks to the door and opens it before stopping. She stands by the door silently a moment or two. "Ethan, you help me?"

"Help? Sure. What do you need help with?"

"Help find the movie," Katya replies.
>>
You're really not sure how you can help her find her movie in her stuff, but you don't mind. "Yeah. We'll be right back," you tell Korine. You leave with Katya, walking silently back down the hall. You wonder if Katya would be able to better stomach a scary movie if somewhere were to hold her hand. As soon as the thought crosses your mind you shake your head to clear it. You're outside the bounds of reality now.

Katya unlocks her apartment door and pushes it open without entering. Her eyes search the dark ahead of her.

Realization dawns for you just a moment later. She's scared. It's so comical that you almost laugh out loud. The idea that an elite Eva pilot is afraid of the dark after a bad scary movie is so ludicrous that you're not even sure if that's the case or not.

You only have to see the apprehension on her face to know that you're right though. You casually walk past Katya and turn on the lights, not letting her see your stupid grin or letting on that you now understand why she needed help. "Any idea where it is?"

"By TV." she says, timidly following along behind you.

Everything is painstakingly organized, and true to her word, you find the DVD case by the TV. It's the only movie among the games. You pick it up and read the cover. Well, you try to read the cover.

It's Cyrillic. It features a smoothly paneled space station in orbit of a violet gas giant.

"Uh, is this in English?" you ask.

Katya's expression falls. She looks horrified. "No."

You turn the case over and try to find some hint of hope. "Subtitles?"

"Yes, I think."

It'll have to do. You secure the case and return with Katya.

"Got it," you tell her. "But get ready to read."

"Read? Ugh." Korine groans.

"What's it about?" you ask Katya as she puts the disc in.

"Eh," she thinks. "There is a man and his wife. They are on a space station and he starts having dreams about a child and . . . I think you watch."

"Does anyone die?" Korine asks.

"Yes," Katya says.
>>
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The movie starts with silence and darkness. If you were expecting 'fun space romp' you're sorely mistaken. This movie deals with grief, suicide, a fictional (you think?) miscarriage, or maybe it was an abortion. People spend a lot of time on this space station in stoic silence. There is a scene where the protagonist saws off his own thumb. Katya covers her eyes at this part.

Some of the translation work isn't great, at parts the dialog and action leaves you bewildered. Despite that, the special effects are good and the atmosphere is tense, despondent, hopeless. As the protagonist's dreams become increasingly inseparable from reality he alienates his wife and the others. Nothing good happens.

The final shot is a close up of the protagonist's eye, open wide and reflecting the gas giant as it looms ever larger.

"Holy shit," Korine says when it ends. "What the fuck."

"Is not good?" Katya asks, sounding hurt.

"That was bleak as hell," Korine says. "So that dude killed himself because he couldn't have a baby with his wife? Or was it because the other guy gave her an abortion?"

"What other guy?" you ask, bewildered.

"The dude with the mustache," Korine says.

"Resnekov," Katya corrects.

"He gave her an abortion?" you ask. "I thought that was like one of his dreams . . . "

Both you and Korine look to Katya for answers. The sudden attention flusters her. "I . . . yes I think he have baby with Gregori's wife."

"Really?" You're totally lost now. You thought you understood the movie and now your world view is shattered.

"But . . . you like?" Katya asks.

"It was pretty brutal," Korine allows. "I liked the part where the dude was cutting his hand apart.

"It was fun," you say, which is the opposite of what the movie was, but you are still thinking about some of the imagery. It was pretty far from what you were expecting all the same.

"And you like that movie?" Korine asks Katya, trying to clarify.

"Yes. Is good I think."

"Huh," Korine just blinks. "Holy shit it's late."

All three of you take notice of the time at once. It's well past midnight, not normally a big deal but you know that you have training tomorrow.

"I'm headed to bed," Korine says. "You two are welcome to sleep on the couch if you want."

"N-no I go home," Katya says.

Korine is clearly amused.

"Right," you say. "Well thanks for watching with me. We should watch some more."

"We need to get the Princess acclimated to a little slasher action," Korine says, grinning at Katya.

Katya doesn't grin back.

"Maybe," Korine says.

You bid farewells and leave Korine's place. You're feeling tired yourself, but you're still apprehensive about being alone.

"Good night, Ethan," Katya says, preparing to go to her place.


>Goodnight
>Did you want to play some more games?
>Text Renton and see if he wants to go drinking
>Write in
>>
>>4745026
>>Text Renton and see if he wants to go drinking
>>
>>4745026
>>Did you want to play some more games?
We need to break the ice so se can open to others
>>
>>4745026
>Goodnight
Why aren't they on a rotating schedule? Do angels sleep?
>>
>>4745086
>Why aren't they on a rotating schedule?
Angels usually only appear once every few years and the pilots are all on standby to deploy, they just do active training under normal business hours. But they can sortie for combat in minutes.
>>
>>4745023
> She's scared. It's so comical that you almost laugh out loud. The idea that an elite Eva pilot is afraid of the dark after a bad scary movie is so ludicrous that you're not even sure if that's the case or not.
Heh.

>and true to her word, you find the DVD case by the TV
>DVD
Shouldn't that be a VHS? Setting as we're rocking a cassette player for music? Or are we in an odd sort of mixed retro-future?


>>4745026
I'm not sure why the slasher films made her scared if she's been watching this sort of stuff.
Next time we go out with either of them we should do a little movie shopping, see what we can find.
And we still need to get that Nomad to a repair shop.

>Did you want to play some more games?
For like half an hour or so, to make sure she's going to get some actual sleep tonight after the slasher.
>>
>>4745190
>Mixed retro future

It's this one. I suggest you don't think about it too hard.
>>
>>4745026
>Goodnight
Gotta catch that sleep.
(And avoid the nightmares)
>>
>>4745023
>As soon as the thought crosses your mind you shake your head to clear it. You're outside the bounds of reality now.
A.T. FIELD, MAX POWER!

>>4745026
>Text Renton and see if he wants to go drinking
Where the hell has he been all this time...
>>
>>4745307
>Where the hell has he been all this time...
He doesn't live in this building with you and the girls. That's really all you know.
>>
>>4745026
>Did you want to play more games?
>>
>Goodnight
>>
>>4745026
>Text Renton and see if he wants to go drinking
>>
>>4745026
The fuck is with this tie.
>>
>>4745026
>Did you want to play some more games?
>>
>Text Renton and see if he wants to go drinking
>>4745034
>>4745307
>>4745717


>Did you want to play some more games?
>>4745069
>>4745190
>>4745709

>Goodnight
>>4745086
>>4745711
>>4745284

>>4745726
Most tense vote in the quest!
>>
>>4745729
Thank you

>Did you want to play some more games?

Writing
>>
"I'm actually not really tired," you say. A lie. "Were you up for more video games? I keep thinking about round two of Ultramorph."

Katya's expression doesn't change. "Yes, I think this good. Come. We play."

Being alone with Katya definitely feels less weird than it did just a few days ago. You're not really sure if she's opening up more exactly, but she doesn't look as visibly uncomfortable.

"I can't believe you like that movie though," you say as Katya hands you a controller.

"Movie? Why?"

The game boots and you start choosing weapon loadouts.

"It was . . . pretty gory and dark."

"I don't like that bloody part," she says. "But the movie is not scary."

"You thought the thing with the babysitters was scary?"

Katya tenses slightly. "Maybe. A little bit."

You chuckle but Katya turns on you.

"Is not funny!" she protests, red with embarrassment.

You only laugh harder. "It's a little funny."

"No," she protests.

"It's so corny and fake," you say.

Katya shoots you down in seconds. You sense that one was personal. "I don't like," she says, glowering at the TV.

"But some weird dude making a woman get an abortion is okay?"

"Is . . ." she's momentarily distracted as she searches for the right word.

You take this chance to swoop in and pepper her craft with gunfire.

Katya squeaks in surprise and launches into intense - but panicked - evasive techniques. You follower her down the ground, hemming her in with laser blasts. You have her. Or you did until you misjudge and plow your ship straight into a canyon.

"Shit," you say.
>>
Katya doesn't gloat, but you see the corner of her lip tug, the hint of a smile. "This movie is more about the mind to me," she says at last. "About being people and people knowing each other. Is not about blood and guts." She says the last part with a special distaste.

"Yeah but that's fun too," you say. "Monsters and boobs." You realize what you said after it's too late.

"The what?" Katya asks, clearly not sure she heard you right.

"Uh," you say. "Where the fuck are you hiding?" It would be too easy to look down up at her half of the screen. Truthfully, you've done it a few times on impulse, but it's definitely not sportsmanlike.

"No telling," she says, now definitely smiling.

Crisis defused, you revisit the movie discussion. "I think both have merits. I don't know I'd want to only watch one or the other. It was a good movie though."

"Thank you."

You die in a fireball as a homing missile catches you from behind. You sigh as Katya wiggles in her seat, supremacy unrivaled. "How about co-op?" you suggest.

"I think a good idea."

You quickly lose track of the time playing with Katya. She nestles into the arm of the couch as she plays and you sit on the floor beside her. Time blurs and you forget your worries. You don't forget your exhaustion however. It creeps into you, bit by bit. Your comfort becomes increasingly prioritized as you borrow first a few pillows from the couch, and then a blanket.

Ultramorph is still droning away endlessly when you fall asleep.
>>
Morning sunlight streams in through the broad windows behind the couch, finally rousing you. You're surprised by two things. Firstly that you fell asleep here at all. Secondly that Linda is lying beside you.

She notices you stirring and opens her eyes, smiling up at you. "Good morning, Ethan." She's returned to the more 'casual' black plugsuit rather than the ballgown.

"Linda," you say before snapping your mouth shut. You look back at the couch.

Katya sleeps in a small curled ball, buried under a blanket, her hair is a messy explosion.

"Who's she?" Linda asks, looking at Katya.

"That's-" you force yourself to whisper. "That's Katya. She's a pilot here." Your heart is pounding. Linda followed you here. Really, you should have expected that she wasn't constrained to your room. Now the question is what to do about it.

Linda stands and approaches Katya, pulling the blanket back slightly to see her face better. "She's pretty."

"Linda!" you hiss and pull her hand away from Katya. "She-"

Linda looks at you, puzzled.

"She's trying to sleep, okay. She can't know about you." You say the words and don't like how they feel. A secret feels a lot like a lie, and you don't want to lie to anyone, certainly not Katya.

"Why not?"

"If other people know about you then I don't think they'll let me pilot the Eva anymore. They might even try to take you away somehow."

Linda gasps. "No."

You nod. "So we have to be . . . we have to be quiet okay? We have to keep things private." As you talk, you move away from Katya so you don't wake her. Despite the sun rising it's still very early in the morning, fortunately Katya seems like a heavy sleeper.

"I can do that," Linda says. "No problem." She looks back at Katya and then at you. "Is she your friend?"

"Yes." Finally, you steer Linda into the narrow entry hall where your voice won't carry so much but you can still keep an eye on Katya to make sure she's not waking up. "Why don't you wait for me in the apartment, okay?"

"I did wait for you," Linda says, voice sad. "You didn't come over, so I came and found you."


>You can't do that. You have to stay put. It's not safe.
>How about we spend some time together this afternoon?
>I'm not really going to have much time, Linda. We have a lot of training coming up
>Write in
>>
>>4745831
>You can't do that. You have to stay put. It's not safe.
>>
>>4745831
>How about we spend some time together this afternoon?
>>
>>4745831
>Write in
Where did you come from exactly?
>>
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Linda reminds me of Fight Club.

An alter ego that encompasses someone you think want to be, or admire. Or in this case in love with. Maximum cope in a way. Unless she's actually there. Then it's just something.
>>
>>4745831
>Write in
"You didn't find anything. You're not really here."
>>
>>4745871
Suppport
>>
>>4745871
Last time we said something like this she reappeared in our bathroom crying and chopping off her wings. Let's not go through that again. For our own sanity
>>
>>4745831
>>4745856
>>
>>4745831
>Write in
"You didn't find anything. You're not really here."
>>
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>>4745914
>>>4745871
>Last time we said something like this she reappeared in our bathroom crying and chopping off her wings. Let's not go through that again. For our own sanity

We face it head on. Either way our sanity falls away. We have to figure this out and we won't figure it by pretending she's really here.

She was never really here.
>>
For real, the more Ethan dreams along, the harder and painful will the wake up call be.
We are well on our way to hurt ourselves and posible those around us.
>>
>>4745982
If you want to deal with it we could've easily told nerv and gotten grief counseling or somerhing.

I'm just saying we shouldn't take drastic action like telling the possibly very real emotional ghost she doesn't exist
>>
>>4746021
And what of it? She's been vague as fuck-she fucking melted-she doesn't even tell us where she comes from. Either she's 'real' or she's not, in the end we can't pussy foot around it anymore.
>>
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>>4746021
I'm not saying abuse the girl. But a ghost responding to "You're dead" by mutilating themselves almost solidifies the concept of it being a construct of our minds.
>>
>>4745831
>>How about we spend some time together this afternoon?
>>
>>4746043
>>4746051
If you say so. With any luck you're right and she's just a delusion. If not then I hope this doesn't bite us in the ass
>>
>>4746063
I change my vote to this on second thought.
>>
>>4745831
>>How about we spend some time together this afternoon?
>>
>>4745871
Supporting.
>>
>>4745871
Support
>>
>>4745871
>>4745886
>>4746584
>>4746632
Did you guys even watched Eva? In the fight with Linda against the Angel she was about to be Contamination/absorbed by the Angel, well at the same time tried that with us as well in that moment the Souls of Ethan and Linda where linked the sun set scene and since then we have atleast a part of Lindas Souls as a passenger with us. So lets not do that again so we can move forward and not have to deal with a Linda breakdown.
>>
>>4745831
>>You can't do that. You have to stay put. It's not safe.
>>How about we spend some time together this afternoon?
>>
>>4745831
Changing from >>4746632
to
>How about we spend some time together this afternoon?
>>
>>4745831
>>How about we spend some time together this afternoon?





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