[a / b / c / d / e / f / g / gif / h / hr / k / m / o / p / r / s / t / u / v / vg / w / wg] [i / ic] [r9k] [cm / hm / y] [3 / adv / an / cgl / ck / co / diy / fa / fit / hc / int / jp / lit / mlp / mu / n / po / pol / sci / soc / sp / tg / toy / trv / tv / vp / x] [rs] [status / ? / @] [Settings] [Home]
Settings   Home
/qst/ - Quests

File: The Great Below.jpg (102 KB, 900x675)
102 KB
102 KB JPG
The amniotic thrum of the entry plug envelops you completely. Your eyes are closed, your body relaxed. Outside the world is cruel, confusing, dangerous. Here, it is safe.

"You are a mountain. You are a god." You whisper the words to yourself. A mantra to still your heart and slow your blood. "You are one hundred miles high."

You feel the slight vibration of backwash as a UN VTOL craft races over your Eva's head, rushing west, for safety.

"You are invincible," you say. "Your enemies will all turn silent and bow down."

Voices buzz over the cockpit radio.

"Three minutes to detonation."

"Target closing in on zero point. All circuits are clear."

The cold reality outside cracks through your mental cocoon.

"You are a mountain," you repeat. "You are a god."

"Conventional forces all report green. We've cleared the blast radius."

"Copy. Korine, can you hear me?" Rose says

You lift your head and answer, "I copy."

"Are you ready?"

You're in the cockpit of your Evangelion, Lupus. You've trained for this moment nearly your whole life. It's the only purpose your life has been given. Kill Angels. You're not ready, you're terrified, but you have no choice.

"I'm ready."


>Neon Terminus Evangelion
>Episode 04 - "The Great Below"


Old threads - http://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/qstarchive.html?searchall=Neon+Terminus+Evangelion
Twitter - https://twitter.com/TimeKillerQM
My Discord - https://discord.gg/BnJeeu4
What's the deal with NTE? - https://pastebin.com/AXWHpqGp
"Target closing. Two minutes."

"Air units affirm. Standing by."

You stare fixedly ahead, the monitors of your entry plug cockpit relaying what your Eva sees. Rolling, broken, rocky desert. You're in the foothills of a mountain range, the last natural barrier between the true desert and the sun-scorched refugee camps west of here.

"Renton, ready?" Rose asks.

When he replies, he appears as a picture-in-picture window to your right.

"No, five more minutes please," she says, a cocky grin on his face.

Rose doesn't laugh. "The Eight Angel is entering the operational area now and conventional forces are drawing back. Remember, do not engage until after weapon detonation."

You and Renton acknowledge. You'd gone over the plan three times already on the way here, it's not even especially complicated. A cluster of five linked nuclear warheads have been buried in the dirt, directly in the path the Angel is burrowing along. Once triggered, they'll do what nukes do, exploding and destroying the Angel - or more likely exposing it for attack. All anyone knows of it is that it burrows through the earth and that it's fairly large.

"Maybe if you bury a few hundred more of those bombs then Korine and I will not have anything to do at all, hmm?" Renton suggests.

"You have your assignments. Your Evas will automatically shield you from the effects of the bombs, so as long as you don't enter the blast radius there won't be an issue. Standby for final countdown." Rose kills the channel.

Renton turns his attention to you. "What do you say, ready to throw our lives away in a nuclear inferno? Let us split the atom and take us away together."

"Shut up, Renton," you say, refusing to look at him as you meticulously check your system readouts again. Your Eva is kneeling behind a low earthen rise. It had once been a small hill but had since been turned into a redoubt by UN military engineers. Bulldozers and earth movers had scraped out a depression and piled sand high between you and the bomb, enough to shield you and your Eva, but more importantly, to shield the electric infrastructure your Eva needed.

Likewise is a mini armory. An Eva-sized, drum fed assault rifle with some kind of experimental, armor-piercing ammunition, multiple drums of spare ammo, an impact rifle and some spare magazines, a pair of machete-like progressive gladii, and a progressive glaive.

"Relax," Renton says, his tone still jovial. "I've done this before. I know it's your first time. I'll be gentle."

You have a limited tolerance for Renton's odd behavior at the best of times, but now with nerves frayed by fear- "Renton, if you don't shut the fuck up I'm taking you out first."
Renton only chuckles. "You have nothing to worry about. Nothing beyond a perfectly normal primal fear of death anyway."

You grind your teeth and choke back a retort. It's not worth getting angry about. Not when you have very real worries barreling down on you.

"Thirty seconds. Priming proximity fuses. All personnel brace for shock.

You squeeze your eyes closed again, listening to the rapid fire of your own heartbeat. "You are a mountain," you whisper. "You are a god. You are a mountain. You are a god."

"Fifteen seconds. Ten. Five."

Your eyes snap open, you're too scared to keep them closed anymore. The ground lurches underfoot. Even over the berm before you, you see the geyser of earth erupt from the simultaneous detonation.

"Weapon triggered, detonation confirmed.

You're in momentary awe of the power on display here. The raw force it took to physically throw that much dirt that high into the air leaves you stunned. A moment later it's raining back down.

"Evas, engage!"

You will your Eva to its feet and forward, ascending the berm one step at a time, assault rifle in hand. You reach the lip and stop. You're staring down into a vast shallow crater where the linked bombs detonated. A thin haze of dust clings to everything as it continues to settle.

Renton's Eva moves parallel to you, climbing the earthworks to reach the apex, his own rifle in hand.

"There!" Renton says.

It's unmistakably alien. The Angel looks like a lone, distended length of intestine. Pink, fleshy, ribbed, it twitches and writhes like an earthworm exposed, though of course that's what it is isn't it?

The fat body tapers down into a narrow, eyeless head. On closer inspection, it's less head and more proboscis. The fleshy tendril ends with a quivering maw, leaking thick, white fluid that drips into the sand below. The Angel sweeps its head back and forth, blindly. Steam rises off its body.

"Effect on target minimal.

Even those five nukes had next to no effect on it. Just how powerful is this thing's AT field?

You know high altitude UN air force craft are on standby ready to deliver a fresh nuclear barrage should you request it, but you're dubious what sort of effect it would have.

>Open fire, engage it at range with rifles
>Close in while it's stunned and engage with progressive weapons
>Signal the UN to continue the nuclear bombardment.
>Write in
>Suggest chemical asphyxiation and demobilize it.
>Open fire, engage it at range with rifles
>Open fire, engage it at range with rifles
>drum fed assault rifle with some kind of experimental, armor-piercing ammunition
AP rounds are good if they are better at wearing down AT fields. Experimental is less good; experimental equipment is experimental for a reason.

>"Weapon triggered, detonation confirmed.
>"Evas, engage!"
Oh. Hmm. Those EVAs will need to be decontaminated before being taken off-site. Ah well; so it goes.

>Even those five nukes had next to no effect on it. Just how powerful is this thing's AT field?
Holy hell. Didn't the second Angel go down with a single strike? This is very, very bad. Nukes are the costly but effective fallback weapon. If they are no longer effective...

>Open fire, engage it at range with rifles
Try to advance while firing, though that will hurt accuracy. We can't let it get underground again, and the best way to do that will be to get close enough to stop it if it tries to dig in.
Plus, I suspect an AT field this strong will have to be bypassed with progressive weapons, instead of battered down at range.

Let's get to work.

Welcome back.
>Open fire, engage it at range with rifles


>Welcome back.
It is good to be back!

>Didn't the second Angel go down with a single strike?
The second Angel took a battery of hits, not a single one. This Angel still displays impressive resilience.
"Light it up!" You shout. You shoulder the weapon and center your crosshairs on the Angel. It turns its blind, fleshy head toward you and you squeeze the trigger. The rifle kicks and jumps, rounds scattering across its AT field down range. Each shot leaves a glittering wake before sparking off the barrier. Spent shell casings the size of people spit from the gun in a steel rain, showering across the desert.

Renton fires from beside you. His heavy impact rifle bangs out shots, the muzzle blast kicking up dust storms. More explosions blossom across the Angel, dust rises and obscures your view.

In seconds, your drum runs dry. Your HUD trills an alert. Moving with the fluidity of training you eject the spent drum magazine and slap another in place. The ammunition counter on your display tallies back into the green.

"High energy reading from target!" The warning from command comes just a second before the Angel bursts from the dust cloud, propelled toward you by an invisible force. This nightmare worm flies through the air and you find you can't move.

You're frozen with shock and fear. Each second is an eternity. And then it hits you.

The weight of its body crashes into your Eva and throws you off your feet. Lupus lands on its back and rolls down the earthen embankment toward your power array. Shock dampening isn't enough and the kinetic force of the fall transfers into your entry plug, throwing your head back hard.

Once the roll stops, you look up where the worm lays draped over the earthwork, its oozing mouth staring down at you. Tiny, black burn-marks dot its pink hide, impacts from rifle rounds you think, though they're healing fast.

Somehow, miraculously, your power cable remains intact.

"Ranged fire appears ineffectual." You recognize the voice as Max.

Your rifle is still fully loaded, though you're at extremely close range. The plus side is that an AT field is unlikely to stop hits this close. You hope.

>Fire from close range, unload the magazine
>Fire and withdraw away from your power station
>Deploy progressive weaponry and attack
>Write in
>Fire from close range, unload the magazine
>Fire from close range, unload the magazine
>>Fire from close range, unload the magazine
Mag dump. This close, it's impossible to miss. Plus there's not enough time to go for the prog knife.
By the way, how many drums do we have? This action is going to put us down 2 total, and drums tend to be bulky and thus fewer are carried.
>Deploy progressive weaponry and attack
>how many drums do we have?
Plenty, you don't carry them physically with your Eva but they are scattered around the deployment site.

>Fire from close range, unload the magazine

You clench your jaw tight, fighting back your fear. "Fuck you." Your trigger depresses with a thick click and the rifle spits shells. They glance off the AT Field at first, but soon they start punching through.

The worm writhes as rounds stab into its hide. Thin, red fluid streams out of the holes, spattering the sands and your Eva.

Smoke curls from the barrel of your rifle, temperature gauges climb alarmingly, but you don't stop the onslaught. As long as this gun is firing, as long as the Angel is in pain, you can stave off fear. You can pretend you have a measure of control here.

"Lupus, draw back to safe distance, lay down suppressive fire. Orion will cover you."

You ignore Rose's command. You can't stop shooting this thing, not for an instant. You are a mountain, you are a god. You are here and she is not. You rise to a knee, pausing the volley for just a second, long enough to re-center your crosshair. The Angel is visibly wounded, wiggling back away from you.

Your face splits in a rictus grin of sadistic joy. It's afraid. It's afraid of you.

You squeeze the trigger again and sweep fire over the Angel.

"Korine, acknowledge," Rose says.

"We've got it, Rose," Renton replies quickly. "I'm moving into covering position. Korine, keep it busy."

The Angel reels back from another fresh barrage. Bullets stab through it and into the dune behind it cascading blood-caked sand down in waves.

"It's not going anywhere," you say, firing another volley

The Angel rears up onto its back half, its head rising into the air, lifting, mouth oozing. With a flick of that proboscis, it spews a torrent of thick mucus across your Eva.

At first, nothing happens, but then you see white smoke curling up from the body of your rifle where the ooze cascaded over it. The metal begins to warp and sag. Fear rises in your gut.

Numb warmth spreads over your body, corresponding to where this goo hit your Eva. The rifle slags out of your hands, splashing to the dirt. You see your Eva's hands, the bare skin beneath layers of ballistic fiber. Skin that is burning, peeling away from the acid bath.

"Oh god," you say. As realization dawns, so does panic. "Oh god!"

The pain hits a half second later. Burning agony courses through you as the acid eats through your Eva's armor and into its raw flesh.

You jerk and swat at yourself, trying to pull invisible strands of sticky filth from your hands and face. Your Eva's movements become erratic as pain overrides your conscious commands. Words fail you, and you can only scream as your Eva staggers back.
"Caustic agent!" Max shouts in alarm. "Molecular acid, it's burning through the armor."

Your vision is blurred by hot tears, you wrap your arms around yourself. You're going to die. Dissolved to nothing like Linda.

"Eject all contaminated armor plates. Drop nerve connections by fifty percent!" Rose shouts, her voice breaking over the radio. "Activate external fire suppression. At worst it will maybe dilute whatever that is."

The pain lessens right away. Explosive bolts fire across your Eva and the slime-covered armor plates shoot off around you. In a heartbeat, hidden suppressant canisters detonate in a cloud around you, white foam engulfing you. If it helps the burning, it's minor.

Your Eva falls to its knees as tingling numbness washes over you. You're not sure if your Eva's nerve endings burned out or yours did. Lupus holds up raw, blistered hands. The flesh sloughs off the bone from your left hand.

You can't look away. You want to throw up, you want to scream, or run. You can't do any of those. Your breath sticks, your eyes are locked open, your lip trembles. Your throat is thick and raw.

"Korine, do you copy? What's your status?" Rose asks.

You want to answer, but you can't.

The Angel stares sightlessly down at you, seeming to regard your Eva for a moment.

"I see her," Renton says, "Korine!"

You can't.

The Angel turns toward him and he shoulders his rifle.

Its wounds are already starting to close.

You have to act. But can you?


Roll 1d6. I need 3 rolls total.
Rolled 1 (1d6)

>Activate external fire suppression.
> In a heartbeat, hidden suppressant canisters detonate in a cloud around you, white foam engulfing you
We have inbuilt fire suppression? That acts as a low-grade smoke screen? That is good to know.

>Explosive bolts fire across your Eva and the slime-covered armor plates shoot off around you.
In the right circumstances, that could also make for a good distraction. More tools in the belt are always a good thing.

All those horror movies, and you still freeze up when the going gets tough? Maybe we should lend her Linda next time. I wonder if Linda would agree to something along those lines.
Rolled 6 (1d6)

[Rookie has panicked]



You move. Pushing against your paralyzing fear, you react from your gut. Your Eva's progressive knife deploys and you brandish it against the Angel. The blade hums silver, vibrating fast enough to cut virtually anything.

Renton fires twice, the first slug punches into the Angel's body and detonates, spewing a geyser of blood against the dune. The second shell misses narrowly, detonating harmlessly.

The Angel seems unphased by this blow and instead rises up again, swelling and bulging. You recognize now that it's preparing to spew acid at Renton.

"Renton, get back!" You shout the warning as you rush forward with the knife. Your mortal terror is forgotten, replaced with a burning need to act.

The Angel doesn't notice you until you're on top of it. You stab the knife into the Angel's disgustingly soft hide with a powerful blow.

It screams, you're not sure how, but the Angel screams, a sound that cuts through the armored hull of your entry plug to vibrate your teeth. The sound is as horrific as it is frightening, an alien cry that inspires nothing but revulsion in you. You jerk the knife free with a wicked pull, slicing more of its flesh into a sagging flap.

The Angel's next attack comes with no warning and no pre-amble. The monitors in your entry plug all flash white, then black. Your body convulses strong enough to wrench your hands from the control throttles. Your mind goes blank.

The next thing you know your Eva is flat on its back, having toppled back wards.

"-electrical pulse. Both Evas are down!"

"Korine, Renton! Respond!" Rose shouts.

Your muscles ache. This pain comes on top of the intense burn the acid left behind. It feels like every part of your body tensed up as hard as it could, well past the breaking point. You open your mouth and try to speak but no sound comes.

You see the Angel looms into your vision. Its wounds are starting to close and its slavering maw quivers with anticipation.

The battery timer on your HUD flickers on and off. The timer starts and stops as if power to your Eva is only coming intermittently.

You find your fingers and then your hands, fighting through your daze to grab the throttles.

"We have extensive sub-system damage, multiple circuits are completely fried. All computer-assisted functionality is severely limited." The voice is Aaliyah's. She sounds tense, nervous. Maybe she thinks she's going to watch you die.

You won't let today be that day. Lashing out with a foot, you kick the Angel in the face, staggering it. Using the momentum of that blow, you roll your Eva up, onto its back, and then over to land in a crouch.

You don't see Renton, it looks like the electrical shock got him too and sent him falling down the hill.

The Angel, while wounded, isn't nearly as damaged as you would hope. It coils up like a giant, animated intestine. Whatever alien intellect it possesses seems to regard you cautiously.
Far removed from the North African battleground and safely buried beneath the fortress city of New Tampa, the command staff of Nerv 03 stare with taut interest at their multitude of displays and readouts. Though they aren't in any immediate danger, they all share the same fear. The fear of defeat, the fear that they will let down the pilots who are putting their lives on the line.

You are the final link on the chain between pilot and command staff. You are Captain Rose Holiday and these pilot's lives are your responsibility.

"What the hell just happened?" you demand.

"The Angel emitted some kind of electrical pulse. A shock," Max says, frantically tabbing through computer reports. "It looks like it generated the charge in its body and then conducted it through the ground where it hit both Evas."

"How in the hell is that possible?" you ask.

Max can only shrug.

"Since when have the Angel's cared about possibility?" Aaliyah asks.

"So it can spew some kind of acid and it can dump enough electrical current into the ground to drop an Eva at close range," you say, watching as Renton struggles back to his feet. "Ranged weapons have limited effect and nukes seem even less so."

Everyone is looking to you for answers, a plan. Both of your pilots are under immediate threat, the Angel is practically right on top of them, and thus right on top of their logistic stations, power supplies and ammunition caches. The Evas have taken a beating, but the Angel is likewise injured. It falls to you to determine the next steps.

Do you attack now to maintain pressure on the Angel? Do you retreat to buy more time? Do you withdraw to a safe distance and let the Air Force glass the desert until nothing is left of the Angel?

You need a plan.

>Write in
>Its wounds are starting to close and its slavering maw quivers with anticipation.
This is bad. This is turning into a battle of attrition, and EVAs suck at long term combat.

>Write in
Withdraw is off the table; any damage we did (and the point-blank chained nukes failed to do) will be erased.
If we're going to keep the EVAs on the field, a radical shift in tactics will be needed: Damage over time isn't going to get us through this. We need alpha strike front-loaded damage, or we need some way to counter the regen.

Fire and acid are the traditional methods of countering regen, but I doubt we could get large amounts of acid on site any time soon. Have we got anything conventional with incendiary missiles or bombs nearby? Maybe some old WP shells still kicking around? Fallback options: direct fire star shells and fully loaded drop tanks.
side thought: Could an EVA flamethrower be created? What about EVA grenades?

We brought a whole armory, yeah? And we're right next to it? We need a new primary weapon anyway, what's on hand? A shotgun would be great; I'm not keen to get shocked again unless we really need to.

If we decide to glass it, how long will it take from decision to first detonation?
Another idea for counter-regen: With the armory right here, we could start picking up every melee weapon we can get our hands on, stabbing them into the Angel, leave them there. Repeat until we run out of pointy things or the Angel stops moving.
If we're really lucky, when it tries the electric attack again, the weapons will redirect the shock back into it.
Someone has to literally pin it to reduce its mobility, so it can't spit. It's hard to wager, because any angel is a cheating bastard, but just maybe it doesn't generate charge inside its body, but was rather generating a static charge on the surface (lots of tiny particles around). If that's the case, then it can't quite discharge when a metal rod is going through the fleshy bits.

The hardest part, of course, is doing it and I have no idea how does one pull that off.
>Have we got anything conventional with incendiary missiles or bombs nearby?
Whole bomber wings are on standby, incendiary bombs will be no challenge. It will take a few minutes for them to be delivered on target though.

>what's on hand?
Assault rifle is slag, but the impact rifle is still available. Renton has his impact rifle, but no assault rifle.

You also have knives, glaives, and short swords on hand.
>Whole bomber wings are on standby, incendiary bombs will be no challenge.
Great, get at least one wing of incendiary loads en route.

I'd rather a proper spear for this, but the army you have, eh?

Ok, gameplan:
Pin the Angel in place so it can be firebombed. Ideally, this will either take care of it or suppress it's regen enough for the EVAs to go cut it down.
The particulars:
Gather up multiple glaives (must be suitable for stabbing), then scatter them nearby, ready for use. The other EVA (whoever is in better position for it) will provide distraction. Once done, pick up the impact rifle and assist in suppressing the Angel's movement. Once the bombers are a short distance out, one EVA (Renton? he's in better shape) will pick up a glaive and attempt to physically pin the Angel to the ground, then retreat. The spare glaives will be for if the initial attempt fails or is pulled free too soon. Korine is only to close with the Angel during emergencies, due to lack of armor and fire suppression.
Once pinned, Renton should stay fairly close with a spare glaive nearby while firing to suppress. Korine should retreat to a safe distance and also fire to suppress. Make sure they stay nimble to avoid acid spit or other surprises.
If required, Renton can be within the firebomb area during or after bombing, as he still has his fire suppression charge and armor.
After the bombing, both EVAs are to fire for effect, optionally with Renton advancing to melee range to finish it off.

What's the point of firebombing if the angel is pinned? Just pin it some more and try to get the core asap.

>Write in
Perhaps luring the angel to a pit and sinking it in sand whilst it pusses out the acid would demobilize it?
File: unknown-8-1.png (643 KB, 589x678)
643 KB
643 KB PNG
The point of the fire would be to counter the regen, as so far we've been unable to do any lasting damage. The electric AOE attack means both EVAs should keep their distance as much as possible, removing melee as a workable option. I also don't expect it to stay pinned for long.

Also I figure the firebombs can be called off at any time if we get lucky beforehand. So as long as Renton is the only one that risks being on fire, there's no reason not to try burning the thing.

Don't forget we had to initially dig this thing up with nukes to even begin attacking it. I'd wager it would happily go back underground given the opportunity.
But I like your thinking. I wonder if it's own acid can hurt it?
Fair enough, sounds like a plan then.
>The plan
File: Glaive.jpg (141 KB, 818x664)
141 KB
141 KB JPG
A plan is developed and swiftly put into motion. Orders are issued to the standby Air Force wing which scrambles bombers laden with incendiary bombs.

"ETA six minutes!" Max declares after finishing the call.

Even as this is done, the Eva pilots are struggling against the Angel, peppering it with fire from a distances while avoiding its acid attacks. The Angel is more nimble than first appearances might suggest, occasionally launching itself through the air.

"We should pull them back," Yezhov suggests blandly.

"If we let up pressure on it, even for a second, it might burrow again," you say. "And if it digs in again we might not surface it again so easily."

Yezhov makes no argument, you take it as acceptance.

"Renton is going to have to pin that thing. How many glaives do we have?" you ask.

"Two on site," Aaliyah replies. "We're scrambling a transport with more."

"Two will have to be enough," you say. "Connect me to Renton."


You are Fox Renton and you're fighting for your life. The Angel is relentless in its attacks. It surges forward with its glistening body to deliver projectile streams of bile that hiss and bubble when they hit the sand. A glance at Korine's scorched Eva is all the proof you need of their deadly effect.

You trade shots for time, but this endless duel is taking its toll on you, physically straining your mind, and burning through your ammo.

"Renton, it's Rose."

"Please good news, Rose," you see through clenched teeth as you twirl away from a spray of acid.

"Fire bombers are on the way. We're going to bake this bastard and give you and Korine a solid chance to finish it off."


"But we need it stationary. You're going to have to pin it in place with the glaive."

You glance backward at the polearm wedged in the sand nearby. It will mean getting close and facing that electrical shock potentially. "I said 'good news', Rose."

"It's the only news I have."

"How long?"

"The bombers will be over the target in five minutes. Draw it out until then if you can."

"Right," you say. "Korine, did you hear that?"

"Loud and clear."

"Right," you say again, steeling yourself. You can't die here. You won't. There's still so much you have to do. You're not going to die without seeing justice done. "I can do it."

You and Korine play your dangerous dance with the Angel, keeping it aggressive and active, never giving it a chance to rest or retreat. The wounds your score are fleeting, but satisfying all the same. As the minutes creep by you edge closer to the glaive until finally, your rifle is dry.

With a flick of your elbow you toss the empty rifle into the desert and draw the glaive from the sand, flicking it on. The blade sings. The Angel turns to you, its body weeping blood. Now's the time.

You tense, and then spring in to attack


Roll 1d6. I need 3 rolls total.
Rolled 2 (1d6)

Rolled 6 (1d6)

Despite the initial first impressions, I'm growing to like Renton. For one, he's the only one that's relaxed enough to snark back during combat.
You got this, Renton.
Rolled 3 (1d6)



The glaive whistles deftly through the hot, dry air, straight for the Angel. A second later it stabs into the hard-packed earth, narrowly missing your target as it wriggles away from you.

"Bastard!" You snarl. With another exertion, you pull the polearm free and scythe it at the Angel as it recoils away from you. The blade carves a bloody half-crescent just below its mouth with boils with thin blood.

The Angel vomits out a thick stream of viscous acid, but it's too slow. You twirl away, spinning out of the splash zone, saving your Eva, but losing your power cable. The acid eats through it in seconds, bubbling the rubberized coating away and melting the ultra-conductive fibers.

"Orion switching to battery backup," control says.

You swear under your breath, this time in Spanish. You don't have the time to travel back for another power cable. You have to do this now.

The Angel draws back on itself, preparing to spew more acid when a trio of shots from Korine draws its attention.

"Renton, now!"

You're already moving. You leap in close, glaive raised overhead in both hands. "Stay still!" You drive the blade down, punching through soft flesh and into the ground. It's pinned.

The Angel mewls and writhes.

You release the shaft of the glaive a second before electrical current courses through it. Blue-white energy arcs off the glaive, connecting with everything nearby, which mercifully doesn't include your Eva.

"Rose, do it!" you shout.

"Commencing bombing run. Thirty seconds."

You see aircraft contrails dipping down from the soft sky, arrowing toward the Angel.

The Angel curls in on itself, bunching like loose muscle fibers around the glaive.

"Oh shit," Korine says.

With a single, powerful contraction, the weapon bends, buckles, and then splinters before being wrenched loose.

"God dammit," you say, jamming your throttles forward without thinking. You're running toward the Angel now.

The worm regurgitates a noxious spray down. The acid eats a circular hole into the earth and the Angel follows along behind, dipping its eyeless head into the soupy mess and beginning to burrow. If it gets underground you're going to lose it, maybe for good.

"Korine! Spear!" you say, holding a hand.

Lupus hauls the glaive back and hurls it toward you like a javelin. With superhuman speed, Orion catches the weapon, lands on the Angel, and drives the second spear through it again. "I said hold still!"

"Bombers, in ten seconds, Renton get clear!" Rose says.

The Angel screams again and pulls back to face you, struggling to release itself.

You swallow and tighten your grip on the glaive, watching the timer tick down to zero. You can't let go again. "Take care of this, Korine," you say.

The bombers release their payload, canisters drop in a ballistic arc before bursting open, spraying jellied fuel down which coats your Eva and the Angel in a fine spray. You wonder how much this is going to hurt a second before the fuel-air mixture ignites and explodes.
You are Korine McIntosh and all you can do is watch as Renton, his Eva, and the Angel all go up in a wall of flames. You're too stunned to speak, or to cry out.

The initial flash is blindingly bright, your monitors automatically dimming to protect your eyes before the flames die down enough to get a clear picture.

The Angel thrashes back and forth violently, like a worm on a hook. It screams as its pink flesh chars black and flakes away, layer by layer. Its blood boils away and a sickening foam bursts from its maw as the contents of its stomach cook.

The next thing you hear is Renton screaming, his own Eva is in flames. With their AT fields totally neutralized, Angel and Eva suffer alike.

Renton's last command echoes in your ears. Take care of this. You forget your fear and race in. Turning slightly, you scoop up a gladius and activate the vibrating blade.

Somehow, Renton holds onto his glaive, keeping the Angel in place as jellied fuel burns across his Eva's back.

On reaching them, the first thing you do is shove Orion free and away, pushing him as far from the Angel as you can. "Rose-!"

You don't finish the sentence before they activate Orion's fire suppression. Merciful clouds of white smoke smother the flames in an instant.

"Sever all nerve connections!" Rose says, her voice edging on panic. No sooner is the command given then Renton's anguished screams stop.

You don't have time to think about it, you have to finish this. You drive your Eva's foot down onto what passes as the Angel's neck, pinning it roughly in place as it continues to burn. Flames lick up at your Eva's own raw flesh and you can faintly feel the heat through your own frayed nerves. With a smooth flick of your wrist, you spin the short sword around to hold it underhanded. Your mind is clear, free of fear as you stab the sword into the heart of the beast, again and again, over and over until it's screams stop. The vibrating tip strikes the Angel's S2 core and you feel the orb fracture.

The Angel stops fighting back.

"Target is silent," Aaliyah says.

You step away from the smoldering carcass and drop the sword, your eyes on Renton's charred Eva.

"Begin recovery operations," Rose says. "Top priority is the pilot of Orion. Have trauma units on standby. Get him out of there."
File: Spoiler Image (1.77 MB, 1200x700)
1.77 MB
1.77 MB GIF
Rose slowly unclenches her hands as she watches the recovery operation begin. Renton is alive, but the extent of any injuries he may have is unclear. The Angel is dead, and that in itself is a victory, even if it's a bitter one. Activity in the central bridge has wound down as everyone now pivots to analysis and recovery.

The central monitor flickers for a moment, just a flash of static.

Rose raises an eyebrow and the image vanishes.

"What happened to the video feed?" Rose asks. The other tactical staff have dispersed aside from Max who is keying through data.

"Uh," he says, "Trying to find out now."

The main display flashes again and this time the Magi status appears.

"What's this?" Rose asks.

Max looks up, confusion evident on his face. "The Magi are deliberating."

"Deliberating? What for?"

He shakes his head dumbfounded.

A moment later, all the subsidiary monitors flicker, displaying rapid patterns of nonsense, corrupted video feed, and distorted data. Then main power fails, plunging the bridge into the red half-light of emergency battery backups.


You are Agent Aaliyah Sayid, and you're well on your way already. You waited as long as you could before deploying the UN-sourced virus to the Magi. You needed to make sure that Renton and Korine were both alive and in the process of being recovered before you slid the data disk home and let the worm do its work.

You're not exactly sure how long it will take Nerv to figure out this was a deliberate virus attack, but you doubt it will be long. The bigger question is how long it will take them to determine that the attack came from inside the base. The UN told you this virus would attempt to emulate a firewall attack in an effort to cover your tracks. It might fool even a determined investigation, but somehow you doubt Versetti will fall for it.

You're just going to have to make this little excursion count for something.

The lights flicker and go dark in the maintenance area you're hiding in. Go time.

You draw your pistol from its holster, pulling back the slide far enough to verify the gun is chambered and ready. Carefully, you re-seat the slide and re-holster the pistol. You've gone down as far as you can via legitimate means already. It was easy enough to avoid security stations and cameras, but now comes the true descent.

It's easy at first. You take ladderways, stairwells, anything you can, steadily moving deeper and deeper into the facility.
File: WARNING.jpg (123 KB, 1290x734)
123 KB
123 KB JPG
You stare at the sign on the security door. You've never seen a warning like this one anywhere else in Nerv 03.


The first line of the small text catches your eye.


From here on, the gloves are off. It's kill or be killed.

There's no sign of any human activity otherwise. You tug on a pair of latex gloves and try the door controls. Nothing. Swallowing any apprehension, you seize the door itself and carefully pull it open. It seems the virus has penetrated down even to this sub-level, disabling all security measures and lock mechanisms.

The door slides open easily enough and you continue in. The further you go, the more deserted this place feels. A thin layer of dust covers everything and it's silent save for the soft hum of electronics. Even if this were an active layer of the base, you're sticking to maintenance junctions and auxiliary corridors.

You pass through what seems like an airlock, again with no trouble.

The next sign you encounter gives you pause.


The name means nothing to you. You're here on a half-baked clue given to you by someone who everyone else claims is a mad man. Maybe he is crazy, but there' something down here. You continue.

At the end of a short, pipe and conduit-lined cement hallway is a small passenger elevator. Its doors are open and the lights are on inside. It seems to be in service.
You step inside, careful to check for cameras. The control panel has two buttons.


You press "Aquafront" and the doors hiss closed. There is hardly a pause before the elevator begins a meteoric descent. It travels downward so quickly that you feel lighter. Aside from the faint sensation of falling and the hum of electric motors, there's no indication of your speed or progress. After a minute that feels like eternity, the elevator slows and gravity presses you down for a second or two before it stops and the doors ding open.

A narrow rectangle of light is cast from the elevator interior out into a dark, empty lobby. You stand motionless, waiting. Your whole body is tense, tuned to every sound and every movement. You hear nothing, and you see nothing.

You step from the elevator and the doors close softly behind you. You're in what appears to be an office building's lobby. The overhead lights are out, everything is covered in a thin layer of dust. It's silent.

You start walking, moving away from the elevator and through the lobby. Each step is as quiet as you can make it, but they echo like gunshots in the silence. Eventually you enter a main concourse. One whole wall is taken up with thick, armored windows that look out into the night. The scene is so boggling to your mind that you stop a second, trying to reconcile the fact that there are windows this far down, and that somehow it's night outside.

You can see the faint lights of other nearby buildings in the dark as if you're looking out on a cityscape. You approach the window and look out. It takes a few seconds to realize that what you're seeing is not night, but actually the interior of a cavern, a cavern so mind-blowingly huge that you can scarcely make out the far ends of it. Looking up, you see the buildings around you, including the one you are in, hang from the rocky ceiling as inverted towers, man-made stalactites.

Beneath you . . .

You look down at a stygian sea, a vast underground ocean that expands out into the darkness. Its disturbed surface flashes with reflected light from the buildings above and . . . strange bioluminescence from below. You are overcome with momentary agoraphobia with the scale of it all.

Aquafront. The alien name suddenly makes sense. This must be the city underground, hanging above an enormous, secret sea that fills a gargantuan cavern beneath the foundations of New Tampa and Nerv 03.

You hardly have time to take this all in when you hear approaching voices.

>Hide nearby
>Draw your weapon and confront them
>Get back to the elevator and get out of here
>Write in
>Hide nearby

Not sure why would anyone come right here if the place is unused.
>The next thing you hear is Renton screaming,
Aw hell. I was hoping his armor would give him a little more grace before the pain kicked in.
Still, better the EVA with fire suppression than the one without.

>You're not exactly sure how long it will take Nerv to figure out this was a deliberate virus attack, but you doubt it will be long. The bigger question is how long it will take them to determine that the attack came from inside the base.
Not very long at all, methinks, seeing as no one else had left the command room yet. They're going to drop into crisis mode and almost immediately realize one of the 'bridge' crew is missing.

>Get back to the elevator and get out of here
>seeing as no one else had left the command room yet.
Actually everyone had already left except for Rose and Max. Aaliyah only left when the others did, she's not likely to be noticed as absent right away.
>Hide nearby
>>Hide nearby

You dart into the shadows of a remote security desk and duck down to hide.

"-surface activity?"

"Unknown, sir." It's Major Holiday's voice. "Some sort of computer virus affecting all base functions.."

"Troublesome." That's Versetti.

You catch a glimpse of the two men trailed closely by Womack.

"The dissenters?" Versetti asks.

"It's too sophisticated. I think it's the old men pulling our leash."" Holiday says. "This was an inside job."

"Unless we missed some," Versetti says. "Increase surveillance on them. After their clumsy attempt on the doctor here, I see no reason to take more chances. We were lucky Kaufman stumbled back into our control."

The footsteps stop by a closed security door nearby. You slow your breathing, trying to remain as silent as possible.

"Has Kaufman been processed?" Versetti says.

"NervSec reports the operation was completed this morning. Now we just have to see how much use he still is," Holiday says.

"What is the status of the Serpent?” Versetti asks, Womack.

You glance through a small utility hole in the desk and see the doctor flinch.

“Th-the nerve fluctuations are all within acceptable boundaries, feedback is steady and AT simulation continues," He says.

“I’ve heard another report,” Versetti says, his voice as cold as ice. “One about the psychoneural values.”

“Y-yes, fifteen percent of them remain dark to us. Unable to be monitored.”

“That’s to be expected,” Holiday says.

“It’s unacceptable,” Versetti replies. “The Serpent is what we are relying on to ensure the Veil of Eden remains unbreached until the prescribed time.”

“I-I’m doing what I can.”

“You’re slipping,” Versetti hisses, suddenly circling Womack. “We don’t keep you here to tinker with the Magi or the Evas, your primary goal is maintenance and development of the Serpent, do you understand?”

“I . . . well . . . yes," Womack says, sounding beaten.

“The Book of Cain is clear on these things," Versetti adds.

“Has the council realized that we're still operating off the Apocrypha yet?” Holiday asks.

“Irrelevant," Versetti waves him off and looks out over the stygian sea. "It won’t update our scenario. We have what we need. Almost all of what we need.”

"The Angels have become increasingly sophisticated in their attacks," Holiday says. "Do we have the time?"

"All the time we need," Versetti says. "Dr. Womack? Let us go see your child."

"Y-yes sir. Of course, sir," Womack says.
File: AquafrontBuilding.png (182 KB, 960x603)
182 KB
182 KB PNG
The security door hisses open and then closes behind them a moment later. You count off thirty, painfully long seconds before emerging from your hiding space. The lobby is silent. Crossing the floor, you check the security door that Versetti and the others passed through.


More mysteries.

Back at the security desk, you check the computer terminals and find they are all powered down. You don't know if that's a consequence of your virus or not. Most of the drawers are locked or empty, but you do find a reference card in one of them detailing the levels of this building.

It seems to be laid out like an ordinary office building, only inverted. The top floor, where you are, is the lobby. At the very bottom of the building is something labeled "Nod Elevator Column". It seems to connect to an elevator shaft that runs down to the depths of this underground ocean.

The other floors are less noteworthy. There are administrative areas, clerical facilities, all apparently unused. You take note of only two other areas of interest further down the building. Evangelion development labs and the archive server room. If there is any information to be found about this place, it will likely be in there.

You don't have time to exhaustively search this building, you're going to have to hit a target and then get out of here before the virus is contained and rolled back.

The only other thing you can think to do is to further follow Versetti, Holiday, and Womack, down to wherever they are headed. It's risky, but also the most direct approach.

>Follow Versetti and the others down
>Go to the Eva development labs
>Go to the archives server room
>Write in
>>Go to the Eva development labs
How good of a shot is our Aaliyah?

>Follow Versetti and the others down
>How good of a shot is our Aaliyah?
She's definitely proficient. Top marks in training.
>Follow Versetti and the others down
>Follow Versetti and the others down

File: aquafrontstrut.jpg (287 KB, 2072x1672)
287 KB
287 KB JPG
You have to know.

You activate the manual release on the security door which slides open and enter the hall. Inside is a sterile, white stairwell. You descend quietly, mindful of the distant voices below you. Periodically there are doors leading to other floors but these seem mostly sealed off with physical locks so you continue to follow the voices.

Before long you reach the bottom of the stairwell and find yourself at another set of doors. After listening for sound, you push these open too. There are windows here, banks of them to either side. The Aquafront. You marvel at it as you walk, peering into the aquatic darkness, catching glimpses of primordial sea life and pelagic worms darting in the dark. Something like this shouldn't be possible. From what you could see, this cavern was natural, not man made, yet it's impossibly large. Not only that, but it's situation beneath the surface ocean.

At the far end of this empty hall is an elevator bank. You see three sets of doors. One indicates it is in use. You press the call button of a waiting elevator and board. There's one way down it seems.

Like the elevator that took you to this subterranean facility, there is only a single pair of buttons. You push the one labeled Nod.

The car descends into the depths. Small portholes on the sides of the car give you glimpses of what you are coming to know as the Veil of Eden. Gargantuan struts and girders run from the surface of the water above, down into the inky depths. Schools of fish and other sea life congregate in the harsh, blue glow of lamps affixed to these struts. Everything is corroded and in poor repair.
File: TheVeil.jpg (693 KB, 2112x1584)
693 KB
693 KB JPG
As the car nears the bed of the sea, you see that much of the ground is covered in titanic blocks of steel-reinforced cement. Detritus covers all of them. Thick, black algae, mud, and construction debris litters the ground. Rusted rebar pokes from the ground, tangled girders are scattered about, and construction equipment lies abandoned and forgotten.

You draw your sidearm again and check it out of nervous habit.

The car begins to slow as it nears the ground, ultimately passing into an armored tunnel and leaving the sea behind. It stops.

The doors roll open soundlessly.

The room here looks nothing like the sterile offices above. You're in what seems to be a garden held in a large cavern. Fiber optic lines above feed meager light into this indoor vivarium. Strange, dull-red crystal formations jut from the ground, each one several meters in diameter. Stunted plant life grows in clumps. It's weirdly dark, almost twilight.

You step from the elevator and look around in amazement, following a cement path across this strange place. Despite being alive, it's oddly silent here.

At the far end of the space is a featureless, cement staircase spiraling down. You descend.

The stairs go a long way. Longer than you would have thought from their unassuming appearance. After minutes of walking, you feel your legs beginning to ache. Finally, you step free into an enormous, rectangular hall. The ceiling is meters above your head, the passage itself is wide enough to pass four lanes of traffic through. It's also utterly bare of all decoration.

You walk, following a strange thrumming sound that you're only now becoming aware of.
File: Windows.jpg (61 KB, 878x868)
61 KB
Scattered randomly along your path are large, circular windows. Some of them look out on the barren, blocky seascape of the Aquafront floor. Others on darkness. Some on strange, alien scenes. You see a massive, black room lit with spotlights from below. Suspended by a framework of steel and wires are many sets of pulsing organs on scale with an Evangelion. You see a heart twice as tall as a man beating where it hangs. Viscous purple blood circulates from attached plastic tubes into a large glass cylinder which seems to be collecting or filtering it.

Another room is empty aside from a large, crystalline tree stretching up until its branches are lost in the darkness above.

You are startled to suddenly discover yourself in front of a large door. This one is marked with Nerv's logo and a label.


You open it and step inside. Finally leaving behind the more esoteric and bizarre vistas, you arrive in somewhere familiar. A control room. It's not dissimilar from the Eva labs far above in Nerv 03 only it appears disused. Banks of computer terminals are covered in plastic sheeting. Each one faces a broad set of windows looking into a huge chamber lit with a sourceless red light. You're unable to look away, and walk closer to the glass until you're almost nose to nose with it.

Inside this chamber is . . . something. Something huge, and from the way it moves, alive.

Your mind struggles to parse out what you're seeing for a moment before it dawns on you. This is it. This is the Serpent.

It's enormous, easily the length of a half dozen Evas and bulky. It's dotted in armor plates and chitinous, skittering legs like a centipede. The thing - the Serpent is wrapped around . . . something. It's so tangled that it's difficult to make out heads or tails. Whatever it's encasing is glowing with ethereal light which strains weakly against the sickly red glow of the room.

It's familiar somehow, that white light. So familiar that you can't look away. It almost seems like it's moving but . . .

"No," you say, your heart racing.
You have seen this glow before. Not in person, but in footage and photographs. You press your face against the glass, trying to make it out more clearly. Whatever the Serpent has entangled is glowing and it is alive. There's only one thing on this planet that could meet those criteria.

"An Angel," you say. It seems impossible. An Angel here!? In the heart of Nerv? What could they possibly be doing with it? What was all this about?

You close your eyes and try to shake off this feeling of existential dread. Everything here feels wrong. The Aquafront, the Stygian Sea, the Serpent, the Angel, this Veil of Eden. It doesn't feel of this earth. You have to get out of here.

Turning away from the glass, you leave this place. The walk ahead doesn't seem as long as when you first came down.

"Agent Sayid."

Your gun comes out and you level it in the blink of an eye.

Versetti stands before you in the middle of the broad, rectangular hall. Backlit by the strange glow from a nearby window, his features are impossible to make out.

He's pinned in your sights, and alone. Your finger tightens on the trigger.

"What is all this?" you demand, your voice cut with rage. "What the fuck is this place?"

"Eden," Versetti says. "This, Agent Sayid, is where it all began."

"You kept an Angel here? Are you out of your fucking mind!?"

"In a way I'm glad you saw it," Versetti says. "The Seed of the future."

Your heart is pounding, sweat beads on your forehead. "Keep talking or I start shooting."

"The true Second Angel," Versetti says. "Adam's first son. Cain."

You lick dry lips. "You and I are leaving this place together. We're going to have a little chat about all of this."

"I don't think that we will."

You hear something behind you. Something quiet but growing louder, a leathery rustling. You spin around to target this new threat and freeze up.

It's a column, twice your height. A pillar carried on short metallic legs and covered in esoteric markings and sigils. Whatever it is isn't human and the speed at which it's advancing is frightening. It takes a half second for your brain to register all this, and another half second to register the forest of mechanical tendrils that unfurl from the top of the thing to thrash the air around it.

You lock eyes with a nest of cameras jutting from this central body. In the center of all those glass lenses is a single, very organic eye staring down at you.

You don't have time to scream. You pull the trigger and the report of the gun deafens you. The thing scuttles inexorably closer, racing at you with malign animal hunger. You don't stop firing. You pull the trigger again.

And again.

And again.
The power comes back online in Nerv.

"Magi backup deployed successfully. Subsystems online. All stations stand down from alert." The voice that comes over the PA system is Max's.

You breathe a sigh of relief. You are Ethan Chandler and you've been waiting uselessly on standby since Korine and Renton were deployed to Morocco. With your Eva undergoing repairs still, you weren't likely to see any action anyway.

You pull the earbuds from your ears and stretch your back before standing up from the chair you'd been lounging in near the Eva cages.

You could go straight home or check in with Mbaru, but you wait. There wasn't much reason to hang around the Eva cages when you don't have an Eva to pilot, but there is one.

Katya exits shortly afterward. She pulls out the hair tie holding her ponytail in place and shakes out her hair before noticing you.

"Hey," you say, "long deployment?"

"Very," She says, face betraying no emotion. "I need shower."

Things between you and her have been strange ever since the Angel fight that nearly killed you. You wanted to try to smooth things over so-

"Here," you say. You hold out the Nomad she'd let you borrow, screen repaired.

She looks at it, surprised before taking it from you.

"I got it fixed up, wanted to give it back to you before my clumsy ass breaks it again."

Katya stares down at the game device for a minute before holding it back to you. "Thank you. But it is a gift. For you. Please."

"I really don't want to put you out."

Katya just stares at you, holding the Nomad out.

You take it back with a sheepish grin. "Thanks. I'm going to have a lot of time to kill for a while. This'll help."

Katya nods and then stands awkwardly silent for a moment.

>I'll let you go, just wanted to let you know I got it fixed
>Did you want to play some more games tonight? Could be fun.
>So when are we all going to go clubbing? Were you serious about that?
>Write in
>Victory celebration with the pilots
>Did you want to play some more games tonight? Could be fun.
>Did you want to play some more games tonight? Could be fun.
>You don't have time to scream.

>>Did you want to play some more games tonight? Could be fun.
Getting comfortable with each other again will be easiest if we're both comfortable.
>Did you want to play some more games tonight? Could be fun.

"Before the others get back tonight, how about some games? I keep thinking about Gun Mage."

"Really?" Katyta seems surprised. "Yes, we can do that. I need to clean up first but then we can go back together, alright?"

"Sure, sounds good."

As Katya showers, you walk Nerv's halls as a tranquil traveler in a sea of activity. The virus had done a number on the base and it seems like people are still trying to collect all the pieces.

The virus.

You shake your head in disgust. How could someone be so utterly selfish as to attack Nerv? As far as you're concerned there is no better symbol of mankind's united commitment to the future than Nerv. To strike at that was pinnacle of madness.

"Ethan?" Max nearly runs into you. His forehead is sheened with sweat. "Hey, have you see Agent Sayid?"

You shake your head. "No?"

Max moves on without another word, marching down the passageway and glancing down the side junctions.

You watch him go.

"Ready?" Katya startles you.

"Yeah," you say, "Let's go."
Katya calls Yezhov on her cell a few times but doesn't seem to get through so the two of you ultimately take the metro back home.

Katya is quiet on the ride back and on the way up to her apartment, all the way until you start the game.

"I use to play this with my sister Anna," Katya says, her eyes fixed on the glowing screen.

"That's your . . . oldest sister?"

The two of you sit side by side on the couch, your knees nearly touching.

She shakes her head. "No. Anna is just older than me. Karina was my oldest sister."

"Karina," you repeat. You're not going to be able to keep all these names straight. "Right."

"Anna is air force pilot," Katya says. "Karina is a eh . . . a business person."

"She work for your dad?"


"Do you want to work for your dad?"

Katya tears her eyes from the screen long enough to give you a cold look. "No."

You mash buttons on your controller in a half-hearted attempt to match Katya's skill and precision in the game. "I'm really not trying to be a jerk, but why not? I mean, no offense but your family has a lot of money, right? Seems like it would be a good opportunity."

"My family," she repeats softly, frowning. "They do not see me like that. Not a business person."

"Why not?"

She doesn't speak for a minute. She chews her lip in thought. "They think I-" she stops. "My family does not like me very much."

"Oh wow, I'm sorry. I mean . . . I don't know why they wouldn't. I think you're cool."

Katya perks up a little. "Yes?"

"Yeah," you say, grinning. "Definitely."

An unmistakable blush spreads across her face and Katya looks away, back to her game. As she progresses further and further into the game, you begin to lag behind in skill, more baggage that ally. It doesn't seem to bother her, but you're not able to contribute much to the battles.

As she plays, you let your thoughts drift to thoughts of your own life and Linda. Maybe Katya is someone you can trust with your secret. Maybe she'll understand when you tell her what you're experiencing. If you can trust her at all.

>Tell her about Linda later
>Do not tell her anything
>Write in
>You're not going to be able to keep all these names straight.
You and me both; even more 'K' names.

>>Do not tell her anything
I like Katya, but 3 can keep a secret and all. If knowledge of Linda gets out, we'll end up at best pulled from EVA work, and at worst vivisected.

I would be willing to talk to Linda about trying to interact with other people, though, so long as it can't be linked back to us.
>Do not tell her anything
>Tell her about Linda later
Actively suppressing knowledge about Linda means that Ethan knows it's bad news, therefore he knows he is crazy. It's worse then to hide the knowledge, because his perception can not be trusted. It is unimaginably alienating not to be able to describe your experience with such a touchy topic to anyone. My point is, that this will make things worse in the long run. He is no longer the only one with experience, everyone got at least one angel kill.

>Tell her about Linda later
>Write in
"Have you ever seen, like, crazy people? Who see things that are not there?"
But it'd be nice to at least gauge the reaction, maybe she's allergic to the topic in general.
>Actively suppressing knowledge about Linda means that Ethan knows it's bad news, therefore he knows he is crazy.
No, it means that there are no good outcomes to people learning about her. Either: Ethan isn't believed, and is branded crazy. Or he is believed, and is branded contaminated by the Angels. I don't think he is crazy or contaminated, but there's no way NERV will take the chance of an unstable or contaminated pilot.
Which is ultimately better than being either one of that but having revealed it at the critical moment. For instance, he suffers trauma and starts babbling nonsense (for everyone else) into comms, becomes incoherent, while inside an Eva. Would you want to take chances as a commander with that? We both agree it's not good. Either you'd have to pacify Ethan using any of the Evas/pilots (not something you want to do to your friends) or you'd have to nuke him (not something you'd want for yourself). Alien contamination suggests even less options, when it's revealed inside of a unit.

I don't understand what is the third option. Ethan can't do any meaningful research on it on its own anyway, because attempts are shut down. The only that worked was to hunker down and keep pretending everything's fine. But how long can you do that while under constant stress? There are no good outcomes, but there are worse outcomes, which is my point. I consider not telling as a potentially worse outcome because it is so unpredictable.
>You and me both; even more 'K' names.

Who am I forgetting?

>Do not tell her anything

>Tell her about Linda later

>Tell her
>Would you want to take chances as a commander with that?
A leaked secret is at least as likely as a bad breakdown. At least if we spill under stress, it's something we did instead of someone else.
>I don't understand what is the third option.
Don't tell anyone. He hasn't shown any signs of long-term stress, so as yet there's no risk of a bad breakdown.

And anything said during a bad break would be taken with a grain of salt, because it was said under a bad break.
"Have you ever seen . . . crazy people?"

Katya looks at you, confused. "Crazy?"

"Yeah, like . . . people who talk to themselves or see things that aren't there."

She thinks for a second. "Yes? I think so. Why?"

"I saw a guy the other day carrying on a conversation with no one," you lie. "He was just wandering around the street and talking." You force a grin, "It was kind of funny."

Katya frowns, "Funny? No. I think not. That is sad."


She nods and looks back at her game. "Think about what life must be like for them. Either they are alone in their head or they know they are alone in the word. Not funny."

You frown a little yourself, "Yeah, I think you're right."

You notice Linda suddenly. She wasn't there a minute ago but she is now. She sits on a couch looking out the window into the night, but seems to notice when you look at her. She looks back and smiles.

You look away quickly. "If I were a guy like that, I wouldn't know what to do, even if I knew I was crazy."

Katya nods absently. "Not easy I think. Is hard to . . . be vulnerable."

You glance at Linda again who stares placidly back at you without a care on her face.

You swallow nervously, this is an uncomfortable topic to broach, especially with Linda watching you. It's a stupid fear to have, as far as you can tell she's always around in some form or another, even if you can't see her. Thought she seems less cognizant of events where she's not "present".

"Maybe people like him just need someone to listen to him," you say. "To open up to."

Katya looks at you, her expression worried. She opens her mouth and is stopped by a knock on the door which makes you both jump.

Katya swears softly and stands. She crosses the room and peers through the peephole.

The loud knocking comes again.

"Yezhov," Katya whispers hurriedly to you. "I think you hide."

You open your mouth to argue but you are swiftly stuffed into the bathroom and left staring at the door handle. This feels familiar.

You hear Katya unlock her door a moment before it opens forcefully. The conversation that follows is wholly in Russian. Yezhov sounds agitated, angry.

Katya for her part stands her ground. Protesting, questioning.

"-Sayid-" you catch the name as Yezhov blurts it. At first you think you're mistaken but Katya repeats it as a question.

There is a little more talking, and then you hear Yezhov leave, closing the door behind him. Sure the coast is clear, you open the bathroom door and see Katya looking puzzled.

"What the hell was that?" you ask.

She shakes her head. "Yezhov looking for Sayid."


She shrugs, but looks distant.

"He sounded pissed."

She shakes her head. "Not pissed. Scared."
You are Korine McIntosh.

"This is Sayid, leave a message."

You sigh. "Aaliyah, it's Korine. I'm very disappointed in you. Not even a 'congratulations kiddo'? I would have even been okay with the 'kiddo' part. Call me back. Bye." You press the red telephone button and end the call.

"You will drive that poor woman to drink," Renton says from beside you.

"Shut up, Renton," you say, but your heart isn't in it.

The two of you are seated in the passenger compartment of an Eva heavy lift plane as it cruises east toward home.

Home. That's a word you never expected to associate with New Tampa but somehow . . .

You glance at Renton again, trying not to look concerned.

He lays on a gurney on his side, his bare back swaddled in gauzy white bandages. They match the thick wrappings around some of your fingers. No piano for a while, at least until the nerve trauma wears off. Until then- You look at the fat pill bottle in your cupholder with disgust. More medicine was the last thing you wanted, but if it made the numb tingle in your hands go away, then fine.

Dr. Caswell had done a remote checkup for each of you. No lasting physical damage but some residual nerve sensitivity.

Like blowing a circuit breaker, he'd explained. No matter how much your hands ache, it doesn't feel as bad when you look at Renton.

He grins back, catching you staring.

You scowl and look back out the window at the featureless black outside the plane.

"You did good today," he says. "I give you congratulations instead."

"Thanks a lot."

"It should mean more coming from me. I was there. I have served alongside some of the greatest Eva pilots of all time you see."

You roll your eyes but Renton only laughs.

"In time you will see I am right, I think."

"Look, I'm just glad it's over."

"As am I. Still, it deserves to be said. Let no one call Korine a coward."

"They can call me whatever they want."

He laughs again, that infuriating laugh . . .

"Maybe they can," he agrees. "But better to be called a hero."

You can't stand it anymore. "What the fuck are you so chipper about anyway? You got barbecued. We wrecked our Evas. We're going to get benched as soon as we get back."

Renton shakes his head. "Ah Korine. A brave and beautiful pilot but not a strategist, hm?"

You make a face at him.
"Their magic weapons did not work, you see?"

"No," you say reluctantly.

"The nuclear bombs. It was not as effective as they thought. They say they destroyed the Buenos Aires Angel with only nuclear weapons but I am not sure they could do that again here."

"What are you saying?"

Renton's grin turns dark. "I am saying they don't have a choice about using us anymore. I am saying that I think we are now out of their depth."

"So what? We need them like they need us. Not like we can go off and make the Republic of Fucked Up Teenagers or something."

"Maybe not yet."

"Maybe not ever," you retort.


You let out a low growl of frustration and fold your arms.

"Is there no pleasing you?"

"I'll be happy when we're back on the ground in New Tampa. I want these stupid bandages off and I want to take a fucking shower."

"Soon," Renton promises."

The conversation lapses and you listen to the hum of the climate control and the squeak of plastic as the airframe shudders through turbulence.

You check your phone again for text messages. Nothing. Where the fuck could she be? Why hasn't she checked in on you yet? Worrying about this is going to drive you crazy, you need to take your mind off things, and the only way to do that is through Renton.

>Aren't you afraid of getting fired if you keep shitting on the UN?
>What happens when the Angels outgrow the Evas ability to deal with them too?
>You grew up on a boat or something right? What did you do for fun?
>Write in
>"I am saying they don't have a choice about using us anymore.
I mean, yeah, but there is a sort of cold comfort in knowing that you've got a nuclear backstop if things go tits up.

>What happens when the Angels outgrow the Evas ability to deal with them too?
This worries me. EVAs and horribly expensive and slow to build, operate, maintain, and repair. New Tampa likely has the most in the world, and it has all of 4. Hell, EVAs had to be shipped thousands of miles to fight this Angel. It's only a matter of time before we start losing units each fight, and then we'll be even further behind the curve.
I'm also worried that the already impotent non-NERV military groups have lost the only card they had left, and how that's going to cause them further internal and external problems.
>Write in
What happens when the UN becomes afraid of us?
No update today, I'll pick it up monday.
We'll be here when you get back.
Looking forward to it TK. Just finished with the archive and this has been a real rollercoaster. You make great characters too, I'm really digging the cast.


Thanks anon! I'm glad to know people are enjoying it.
"And what happens when the Angels outgrow the Evas? Hm? What happens when our one ace in the hole doesn't work anymore?"

Renton's face splits into a broad smile. "The next move in the great evolutionary game."


"We adapt or we die," he explains. "Don't believe the lies Versetti and Nerv spread. This is not a race to the finish, this is a competition of endurance. Either we outlast the Angels or we do not."

You want to argue with him, just to deny him the smug satisfaction of feeling right, but part of you agrees with him. You've seen an Angel in the flesh now. Your Eva makes you feel like a god, but today you saw a god falter. A win is a win, but it wasn't an easy one.

"We've made it this far," you say, instilling your voice with confidence. "We can deal with the Angels."

"Yes," Renton agrees. "Until . . . "


He just smiles cryptically back at you.

You piece together his thread of thought and realize it entwines with yours. "Until the UN becomes afraid of us."

He winks at you. "Mankind is many things. Contentious is one of them. You heard about the virus attack on Nerv?"

"I heard a rumor," you say.

"Take a wild guess if it's true or not."

You don't answer.

Renton eases himself up in bed, wincing, then checks the coast is clear. "Humanity's greatest enemy was never nature, or the Angels. It's always been each other."

You scoff, "You're so fucking pessimistic you make me sound like an optimist. Sure, we've done fucked up shit, but we've never had anything like the Angels to bring us together."

"And so what happens when they're gone?" Renton asks.

You don't have an answer.
You're Ethan Chandler, and you're tired. You rub at your eyes absently, trying to blink away dryness brought on by staring at a glowing screen.

At first you'd found Linda's presence here off-putting, distracting. She hadn't said anything and had done little. Even now she sits in an empty chair, watching you and Katya play, that absent smile on her face. In a way it was almost comforting to have her here, it was like she was part of your friend group.

"Demon, left side," Katya says.

You react, turning your character to pepper the hostile sprite with gunfire until it explodes into giblets. "Got it."

"Tired?" she asks.

"A little," you say. "It's pretty late."

Katya says nothing.

"Why the hell was Yezhov looking for Sayid?" you ask. "You said he seemed worried?"

"Afraid," Katya says. "I think. Is hard to say. And I do not know."

"Something about the virus?"

Katya shrugs.

You put it out of mind and focus on the game right up until you're killed by some witchfire. "Ah shit."

"Try again?" Katya asks.

"No, I'd better get back to my place before I pass out again." You stand and gently wind the controller's cable back into a loop before placing it by the console. "Thanks for playing."

"Yes, I enjoy."

You hesitate. You promised you would tell her. You can' back down now. "Um. Katya, can I tell you something?"

She cocks her head. "Yes. Tell me. What is?"

"I've been afraid to tell anyone because of what they might say but . . . you know about . . . my friend, Linda?"

Katya frowns sympathetically and nods. "Yes."

"Well . . . I . . ." You look over at Linda where she sits on the couch watching you. "I still see her. I mean I feel like I see her everywhere." You look away. "I hear her voice, she's with me. I can't forget about her."

You are enveloped into a hug. It's tight, and warm, and were it not so surprising, you might have melted into it. For a moment, your mind whirls in surprise, the smell of Katya's shampoo fills your nose, fragrant and clean. She maintains a tight grip around your body, her chin on your shoulder. A moment later it's over. She releases you and steps back to look into your eyes. "Ethan, you should have told me this! It is bad to keep secrets like this, yes?"


"We are friends."

"Yes," you say.

"So you must tell me such things. You poor thing." She frowns, he eyes full of sympathy. "It must be very hard for you. Is no wonder you see this girl. You no have time to grieve. No funeral?"

You shake your head.

Katya clicks her tongue in annoyance and mutters in Russian. "This is horrible. Poor dear." She strokes your cheek with a hand and you feel your skin flush. "I wish you tell me sooner. You need time to yourself? You maybe feel better with a memorial?" She looks into your eyes, any trace of her normal introversion is gone.

>A memorial would be wonderful
>I'll be alright, thank you
>You don't understand. She's in the room with us now. She's sitting right there
>Write in
Is QST eating my posts? Take two:
>You don't understand. She's in the room with us now. She's sitting right there
>You don't understand. She's in the room with us now. She's sitting right there

Oh shit we could ask things like how many fingers she's holding up while our eyes are closed. A definite answer to our doubts
>You don't understand. She's in the room with us now. She's sitting right there

Oh man, first Sayid taking the plunge and now Ethan. This is going to be interesting.
I'd support this as well. Experiment and try to figure this out. Maybe use a deck of cards to really push it.
>>I'll be alright, thank you
Outwardly crazy people don't get to pilot EVAs.
Quite the opposite, actually. Normies are not allowed. Piloting for NERV is like flying for Air America; only wackos need apply.
>You don't understand. She's in the room with us now. She's sitting right there

You swallow hard. Your throat is dry and you feel a little nauseous. You shake your head, softly at first, but then with conviction. "You don't understand."

Katya tilts her head.

"She's in the room with us now."

Katya stares at you, her eyes searching yours. She doesn't look alarmed, just confused. Over her shoulder you see Linda frown.

"She's . . . sitting there." You point to the chair.

Katya looks at the evidently empty chair and then back at you.

"Ethan," Linda says, "What are you doing?"

"I can see her, I can hear her. She talks to me."

"Talks?" Katya asks. "What does she say?"

"Ethan?" Linda asks.

"She tells me that . . . about her day and . . . that she's glad I saved her, she says all sorts of things. Things I couldn't know."

Katya lays a hand on your shoulder. "Maybe you just . . . overwhelmed."

"No." You say the word with conviction. "No. This is not . . . this isn't a hallucination."

"Ethan," Katya says soothingly.

Linda stands from the couch, looking concerned. "Ethan, you shouldn't do this. She won't understand."

You step back, away from her embrace and fish a trio of coins from your pocket, staring at them in your trembling hand. "It's real. She's real." You toss the coins to the floor where they skitter and spin. You turn your back on them right way, listening until they stop. "Linda," you say, "Tell me what they are."


"Linda, please. Tell me what the coins say."

"Ethan, you're making a mistake. You don't need-"

"I need to know," you blurt. There's more tension in the words than you meant. "I need to know, Linda. I . . . can't. Please, just tell me what they are."

Katya puts a hand on your shoulder, "Ethan, I think you need to sit maybe."

"Two heads and one tails," Linda says sadly.

"Two heads. Katya, go check. Two heads, one tails."

She hesitates a moment and moves away from you. You can't bring yourself to look, staring instead at the wall as seconds of silence tick by. Each moment is an eternity, dragging by with painful slowness until you can't bear it anymore and you turn around.

Katya kneels on the floor by the coins, looking up at you with astonishment, her eyes wide, mouth agape.

Linda stands beside her, her face a mask of sadness.

"How?" Katya asks.

You don't answer her. "Linda, let her see you."

Linda shakes her head.

Katya turns to try to focus on where you're looking.
"Linda, please."


"I want her to see that you're real."

Linda shakes her head again, tussling her hair. "No. I don't care if she sees me, I only care if you-"

"I need people to know that you're real," you say, anger inflecting your words. "That I'm not crazy, that this isn't in my head. I need her to see. Now show her!"

Now it's Linda's turn to look shocked. Her eyes shimmer in a way that reminds you of sunkissed ocean waves. A second later, shock collapses to hurt. She glances at Katya, reaches out and touches her arm.

A small sliver of blue - a spark of electricity - passes between the two of them and Katya yelps in surprise, jumping to her feet and grabbing her arm where she was shocked. She lets out a string of exclamations in Russian, her eyes darting around for this unseen voice.

"Now she knows," Linda says sadly and then she's gone.

It's your turn to look around in surprise. "Linda?" She doesn't answer. Your attention goes back to Katya who backs against a wall and wraps her arms protectively around herself.

"Katya," you say, approaching her carefully, "Are you alright?"

"What happen?" she demands. "What is this? How?"

"I don't know," you say. "She's gone, did she hurt you?"


"She touched you."

"Touch?" Katya looks at her arm and rubs it. "Ethan . . . she . . . how?"

You shake your head. "I don't know." Gently, you take Katya by the shoulders. "Just . . . relax, okay? She's gone. I can't explain it but . . . it's Linda."

"She's dead," Katya whispers timidly.

You shake your head slowly. "I don't think so."

A range of emotions pass over Katya's ordinarily stoic face, a strange mixture of wonder, fear, and confusion. She slides down the wall, out of your grasp and puts her arms around her knees, forming a fetal ball.

You kneel down beside her.
"I feel sick," Katya says.

"I'm sorry," you say. "Come on." You help her to her feet and into her bedroom. It occurs to you as you help her lay down that you've never been here before. It's as sterile as the rest of her house aside from a close bursting with outfits.

You sit at the foot of the bed and look at Katya who lays unresponsive, turned on her side staring at the wall.

"I . . . didn't want to scare you," you say. "I'm sorry. I needed to tell someone and . . . I . . . thought I could trust you."

She looks at you and nods slowly.

"Are you alright?"

She nods again.

"Do you want to be left alone?"

There is a pause. A long hesitation. She shakes her head and then turns away from you. You don't see any other way to read it.

You lay down behind her, resting your head on the same pillow. After a moment, you put your arm over her. She grabs your wrist and squeezes you tight against her.

Neither of you speaks, neither of you knows what to say. You're no longer facing the unknown alone, but you don't feel better about it. If anything, you feel afraid.

Afraid for what Linda might be and afraid for what she might do.

>Fall asleep with Katya
>Slip out once she's asleep
>Ask her what you should do
>Write in
>Fall asleep with Katya
Oh boy, I hope we didn't accidently terrify our closest friend too much
>>Slip out once she's asleep
Falling asleep with her is mildly invasive.
More importantly, we know her handler loves to make surprise visits. He's going to give her endless grief if he catches us sleeping in proximity.
>Slip out once she's asleep
Not worth the trouble yet.
>Ask her what you should do
>Write in
>"Is this okay? What should I do? I thought Nerv would kick me out or worse if I told them about Linda, but this is where I belong. Not here necessarily (motion to the current situation) but here with you guys, fighting the Angels. I just don't know what to do... I'm sorry for putting you through this."

I'm torn on staying or leaving. I'd like to know that she's alright but I don't think sleeping next to her is necessary. If she can't calm down enough without Ethan maybe stay until she falls asleep and then crash on the couch.
Ho - ly shit. Shivers from reading this update.
>Fall asleep with Katya
Fuck the outside world right now. Its mental healing time.
>Fall asleep with Katya

With your arms around Katya, you feel the steady rise and fall of her chest. After a few minutes it slows and softens as she slips to sleep. You pull her closer to you, her back against your chest, your face in her hair. There's a part of you that worries about Yezhov coming in and spoiling this, just as there is a part of you worried about Linda, but you silence fear. You need this moment of calm, the eye of the storm.

You close your eyes and savor this feeling, whatever it is. This feeling of completeness. The drumming of rain on glass starts up outside as a storm blows in. You fall asleep holding onto Katya.

When you open your eyes again it's morning and you're alone. You slide a hand under the sheets, searching for Katya but find nothing. A dream?

You sit up and see that you're definitely in her bedroom still. You look around, blinking away sleep. Sunlight is coming in under her bedroom door and you smell cooking food, the spicy aroma of meat.

On your feet and out the door, you squint into the morning light coming through her apartment's broad windows.

Katya is in the kitchen and looks up at you where she stands by the stove. There is a moment of hesitation before she speaks. "Morning."

"Morning," you say.

She returns to cooking. "I make you breakfast," she says.

You're taken aback by this simple but kind gesture. "I . . .thank you, I really don't need any-"

The warning look she gives you shuts off any thoughts of refusal. You're not sure how Russians are about hospitality, but it seems that Katya at least takes it very seriously.

"Breakfast give you energy for the day. You eat. Sit."

You take a seat at the dining room table. The smells wafting from the kitchen make your stomach rumble. You watch Katya as she cooks. Her long hair is tied back and she flits from one part of the kitchen to another, eyes locked on her task. She looks the same as when she plays video games - utterly concentrated, in the zone. It seems like everything she sets out to do she does so with absolute determination.

She looks up and catches you watching, but you quickly look away. A moment later it's served. Hearty slices of buttered bread, thick-cut sausage, smoked fish and a chunk of cheese.

"Wow," you say.

Katya lays the plate before you and pours a steaming mug of tea. Once you're served, she pours her own cup.

"This looks like a lot, you made all this?"

She nods. "Is not hard. I told you I do not like American breakfast. Too much candy and sweets." She makes a face. "This the best I can do here."
You dig in. Everything is excellently made, or maybe you're just very hungry. "It's really good!"

"Thank you," she says, not meeting your eyes.

The two of you eat in silence. You wash the sausage down with gulps of hot tea, wincing at the bitterness but not daring to complain. Katya doesn't look at you as she eats, focusing on her plate.

It's not until she finishes eating that she speaks again. "Linda . . . this was real last night, yes?"

You nod slowly.

"Not dead then."

You shake your head.

Katya hesitates, chewing her lip a moment before finally looking at you. "What does this mean, Ethan?"

"I . . . I really don't know."

"How can she be alive?"

"I don't know."

"You tell others?"

"Only you."

Katya thinks about this a bit. "Maybe you tell Dr. Caswell?"

"Caswell?" you ask.

She nods. "Maybe he can help you . . . help her. Or maybe . . . maybe you not tell him." She furrows her brow and things. "I do not know. I don't know who to trust."

"I trust you," you say.

Katya looks startled a moment before composing herself. "Is . . . she here?"

You look around. "No, I don't think so. She left after she touched you."

Katya rubs her arm absentmindedly. "She is upset?"

"I think so."

Katya nods. "Ethan, I . . . I don't know . . . how I can help you." The tone of her voice is heartbreaking, like she's let you down somehow, like she's failed you.

"Hey," you start to reach for her hand over the table before stopping yourself, your fingers curling back to your palm. "You believing me is enough, you listening to me is all I need."

Katya nods.

"I've got to talk to Linda at some point, explain why we did this, explain that we can trust you."

"Da." Katya looks lost in thought.

"The breakfast was delicious."

She makes eye contact again. "I am sorry if . . . I put you in uncomfortable situation last night. I . . . did not want to be alone. I very scared."

You give a reassuring smile. "No, there's no problem. I was happy to-" You stop short. "It was no trouble."

Katya's phone vibrates and she takes it out, reading a message before muttering in Russian. "Yezhov coming soon I think. Sync testing."

"I'll be gone," you say, finishing your tea and wiping your mouth.

"You be alright?"

"Yeah," you say, "You?"

"Yes. Fine," she says. "We keep this secret, yes?"


She nods again, as if sealing a deal. "Then we be fine. I must clean."

"I'll get going," You say.

An awkward moment passes, each of you feeling as though there should be something more to say or do. You spent the night with her in your arms after all. Eventually, you turn away and leave her apartment, careful to check that the coast is clear.

You swipe your keycard and your apartment door unlocks. You push it open and step into a gilded ballroom.
File: Ballroom.jpg (102 KB, 911x604)
102 KB
102 KB JPG
The door closes behind you as you marvel at the opulent decoration about you. There's no sound by the creak of polished hardwood as you cross the floor, yet you can feel the music here. The lacquered floor, the wall panels, even the air itself seems to vibrate to the unheard strains of a waltz without end.


You catch a flicker of movement beyond the French doors at the far end of the ballroom. Sunlight pours through them, silhouetting another flash of movement.

Pushing them open, you step outside and onto a marble colonnade, a balcony overlooking the glittering sea.

Linda stands at the edge of the balcony, her hands resting on the stone railing, her blue gown fluttering in the salty breeze.

"It's the same song every time," Linda says, not turning around.


"It's the same song that I always hear."

You come to stand beside her at the railing. She doesn't look at you, staring resolutely out to sea. "It swells and recedes like the tide, but it never goes away."

"Linda," you say again. "Are you alright?"

She faces you at last and smiles. It's a sad smile. "I don't know."

You reach out to lay a hand on her shoulder but she tenses, pulling subtly away so you stop short. "Linda, you understand why I did what I had to do, right? I had to know what was real."

"You couldn't just be happy with me? Not unless I was real?" A tear runs across her cheek.

"That's unreasonable," you say, voice soft. "Put yourself in my shoes. I . . . Linda, I wanted you back more than anything but-"

"-But not if it meant losing your mind, right?" Linda says.

"That doesn't make me wrong."

"No," Linda agrees, looking away. "No, it doesn't. I was being selfish."

"We can trust Katya. She wants to help. To figure this all out."

Linda shakes her head. "I don't want help. I don't want to figure this out. I have everything I want right here, right beside me. At least I thought I did."

>I'm still here, we can have each other, but things can't stay like this
>What has you so upset? Can you help me understand?
>Don't you think it's unfair to me to expect me to just take everything in stride?
>Write in
>What has you so upset? Can you help me understand?
>What has you so upset? Can you help me understand?
>What has you so upset? Can you help me understand?
>I'm still here, we can have each other, but things can't stay like this
>What has you so upset? Can you help me understand?

File: SunGlitter.gif (2.99 MB, 334x252)
2.99 MB
2.99 MB GIF
You run your hand along the bannister, feeling the smooth curve of polished marble beneath your fingertips. Despite the warmth of the sun, the stone is cold.

"In a relationship it's important for couples to talk things out to avoid misunderstandings . . . so they can reconcile. Can you help me understand why you're so upset?"

Linda pouts, hesitating before responding. "It's . . . it's you. It's people. It's all people." She lets out an exasperated sigh. "Everything with you is just . . . you can never accept things. You always need to know 'why'. Why. Why. Why. As if it's self-evident that it's important." She leans over the railing and looks down at the sea. "You could never just be happy with things as they are. You have to know. You can't just trust, you can't just have faith. You need proof."

"Of course," you say, "What do we have if nothing is real? If we can never know?"

Linda laughs. It's devoid of humor. "You could have anything you wanted. You could be happy. Imagine a world where your dreams are as 'real' as anything. Where this place-" she gestures around to the seaborne ballroom "- were as real as . . . as your bathroom."

"But . . . it's not," you say. "No matter how much we want it to be real, it's not real."

Another dry laugh. "You're creatures of reality, is that right?"

"That's right. The other way is . . . madness."

She shakes her head. "Wrong. It's total freedom." Linda sighs. "You're just too afraid to accept the unknown."

"What does that have to do with us? With you and me?"

She looks at you, eyes ringed with exhaustion, tears trailing down her face. "I'm the unknown, Ethan. What I am . . . I . . . I don't even know anymore. You kill Angels. How am I any different?"

You find yourself at a loss for words before the answer comes to you. "You're Linda."

Her smile is sad. "This is one dream I can't make come true, Ethan." Her wings spread into a graceful white arc behind her, dazzling in the sun.

"We'll work things out," you say, "It's different but . . . we can fix things."

She shakes her head. "As long as I'm here you're at war with yourself. You've chosen a side whether you know it or not." She turns and climbs up onto the railing.

"Linda," you say. Your tone is warning, but you have no follow up.

"It's better that I go away for a while," she says. "I've already seen our future, Ethan, I just need to understand how we get there." Her wings make one sudden flap, wind gusting across you. You shield your face.

"Linda!" You squint up into the sunny sky, faintly aware of the impression of Linda leaving you, rising into the clear blue. "Linda!"

You stand alone on your apartment's balcony. You don't feel the music anymore.

Staring up into the sun, a lone white feather drifts down and you catch it.
File: Aalyiah's card.jpg (126 KB, 1154x762)
126 KB
126 KB JPG
You are Captain Rose Holiday and you're staring up at your own twinned reflections. Your face is mirrored in duplicate in the lenses of the NervSec agent's sunglasses. There was obviously no practical reason to wear mirror shades so far below ground level. No reason at all aside from the sheer psychological impact. It's the exact kind of juvenile and coldblooded mindset you expect from NervSec.

You imagine that maybe that stony face twisted to a sneer as she slapped the paper report on your desk. NervSec had been even more pent up than usual in the aftermath of the virus attack. No matter how much they protested that this was a glitch from the Technology Division, you'd heard the rumors, and you knew they were true. Someone had planted the virus intentionally. Things like that made NervSec look bad and NervSec already had enough of a complex.

"What is this?" you ask, not breaking eye contact with your reflections as you slide the folder to yourself.

"Casualty report," he says.

"Casualty?" You open the folder and look inside. On top of the extensive paper report is a single plastic Nerv ID card. It's red, the color of blood.

Aaliyah Sayid

Your heart misses a beat. You quickly scan the report. The NervSec agent saves your time.

"Freak accident," he says. "A pneumatic blast door tripped on remote command. She was in the way. I think you know who won."

Sayid died? The virus had been a shock to everyone, but you'd thought you'd recovered with no long term harm.
"Her remains - what's left of them - are going to be returned to the tactical division," he says. "No family, no next of kin. State burial once you sign off." He taps on the requisite form.

"A blast door?" you say, still in shock.

He nods.

"Oh God." You close your good eye and take a deep breath. "Poor Sayid."

The NervSec agent doesn't react. "Sign please."

Your pen scratches on paper and you hand the slip back. It's in his hand a moment before vanishing into a coat pocket. There's no final formalities, he leaves.

You look down at the report again and pick up the ID card. You hadn't known her well, and now you never would. You're going to have to make arrangements for Korine to be watched by one of the other guardians. Max is already overworked, that leaves you Mbaru and Yezhov. You don't trust that Russian snake for shit, Mbaru will have to pick up the slack.

You start filling out transfer forms and then stop.


You look at the telephone on your desk. Korine's flight will be landing soon. She deserves to know, doesn't she? You could make a quick phone call and deal with the hard part so she knows before she lands, or you could make the trip to tell her in person.

Or . . .

You hate yourself for thinking it, but you force yourself to do it anyway. Korine is already emotionally unstable. You don't know how she'll react to this news. However she does could decide the future of her career as a pilot. It would be easy to concoct a lie. Sayid was transferred away without warning. It would be easy to keep the other guardians in line, they're professionals, they wouldn't break an order of silence. Who would tell her otherwise?

Maybe a lie is exactly what Korine needs to stay operational. Maybe the weight of the truth will destroy her.

>Call Korine and tell her before her flight lands
>Meet her at the airport and tell her in person
>She doesn't need to know. Concoct a lie.
>Write in
>Meet her at the airport and tell her in person
Holiday doesn't seem like the type to call or lie.
>Meet her at the airport and tell her in person
I wonder if Sayid was always meant to bite it, or if our curiosity killed the cat
I think we killed her with player curiosity. Personally I enjoyed her bits and part of me wonders if she isn't being held in Nod or something. I mean the doctor was able to hold out for quite a while until we showed up and Sayid is a trained operator.
Aw hell.

>Write in
Korine isn't terribly stable. Wait until she return to her apartment, then visit in person and tell her.
If this doesn't work for whatever reason, meet her at the airport.

Whatever the reason, I'm glad to see the back of her. Actively working against NERV while it is literally the only thing protecting humanity never felt right. She thought it was justified obviously, but all the more reason to dislike her.
>Korine isn't terribly stable. Wait until she return to her apartment, then visit in person and tell her.
>If this doesn't work for whatever reason, meet her at the airport.
File: blood on the dancefloor.png (998 KB, 1280x716)
998 KB
998 KB PNG
>Tell her in person

You are Ethan Chandler and you're excited. For all the strangeness and stress of the morning, you've been looking forward to this moment. Your friends are coming home.

The Floridian sun beats down on the tinted windows of the airport terminal, diffusing into a dull warmth that washes across the raucously patterned carpet. As when you arrived, the terminal is virtually deserted aside from a thin scattering of UN personnel going about their business.

Katya is here with you, and Mbaru as your guardian. Rose is also present, though even more subdued than usual. She spends a lot of time staring into space and looking grim.

You don't give it much thought, you have enough worries. Linda leaving left you feeling strangely empty, alone - truly alone for the first time since you'd arrived here. You might be more worried about it except for what she said to you.

I've already seen our future, Ethan, I just need to understand how we get there.

It was crazy to consider but, if Linda was real, then maybe her glimpses of the future were real too.

Her voice comes back to you with the clarity of a recording. You hear her explaining the future she dreamed about.

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

It's always us.

The anticipatory joy in your heart fades a little. She'd been so naively happy then, so joyfully ignorant of how uncomfortable she made you. But, if she was right then it seems to suggest to you one thing. The two of you will be together again.

You force the thought from your mind. The airliner is taxiing to the gate now, final docking procedures are being completed. Your friends are home.

It's strange considering how you've arrived here. From the snobby standoffishness Katya seemed to display, to Renton's bloody-mindedness, and Korine's 'hot and cold' attitude. You'd had every reason to hate the other pilots and yet now they were more than just comrades. They were friends without a doubt to you.

The gate door opens and Korine emerges. Her hands are wrapped in white bandages and she carries a duffel bag over her shoulder. Renton comes behind, the edges of a bandage peeking from his shirt collar.

Korine spots you and Katya. "Sup, nerds."

"Renton, Korine!" Katya shouts with glee, pulling them both into a surprise hug. "You both alright!"

Her exuberance shocks you and the others alike.

"Sort of alright," Korine says, wriggling free from Katya's grip. She looks around, searching for someone - Sayid you guess. Her shoulders slump when she doesn't see her.
"Nice gloves," you tease.

She looks at the bandages. "They come off soon. No piano for a while I guess. Blegh."

"I'm glad you are both safe," Renton says. "I was worried the boredom might get to you."

"We fine," Katya says, missing the sarcasm.

"Angel give you trouble?" you ask.

"Nothing a couple hundred gallons of napalm and some stabbing couldn't handle," Renton says. "More of the same."

Korine gives him a look that you can't decode. Skepticism? Irritation? "It's just good to be back," she says. "Even if it's fucking here."

Rose says nothing. It's striking to you that she stands back and watches the pilots catch up without so much as a smile. She continues to remain stoic on the drive back to the apartment, not speaking until she offers to take the three of you up to your floor.

You don't worry so much about it, you're just happy to have Korine and Renton back in one piece.


You are Captain Holiday and you count the agonizingly few minutes Korine has to remain unaware. You also count the minutes you have left before you have to break the news to her. She doesn't ask you about Sayid which is a blessing in and of itself. You wonder if she suspects something. You wonder if somehow you already know what you have to say.

You watch Katya and Ethan go off their their rooms. You watch as Korine turns to look at you with wary curiosity born from a life of being shuttled around in government agencies. "Korine, can we talk in your room for a minute?" you say.

"Sure," she says before unlocking her door.

The both of you enter and you close the door behind you.


You close the door behind yourself five minutes later. Korine's frustrated crying is loud enough to be heard even through the door. You'd hardly managed to tell her about Sayid before she'd broken down.

Your heart is breaking for her but . . .

You take out your phone as you walk for the elevators. "It's me," you say. "We're going to need to remove Korine from active pilot status. I know. Just do it. We'll hope it's temporary."

You hang up and press the elevator call button.


You are Ethan Chandler and you've been on a roller coaster of a day. As you pour yourself a drink in your kitchen you realize your day isn't over yet. Faintly, through the wall you hear an anguished scream.

It's Korine's room.

You listen more intently and hear something heavy hit the wall. It doesn't sound good over there at all. You saw that Rose hung back to talk to Korine before leaving. You have no idea what she said to her, but whatever it was . . .

You press your ear to the wall. Someone is definitely crying.


>Go over and check on Korine
>Ask Katya for advice
>Korine isn't going to listen to you anyway, best to let her get this out of her system
>Write in
>Go over and check on Korine
We just spilt our heart to one person, might as well take on the burden of someone else
>"Even if it's fucking here."
I think you a word. Hot or boring, I'm assuming.

>Korine's frustrated crying is loud enough to be heard even through the door.
In a terrible sort of way, I'm glad it appears to be restricted to normal grief. I hope this won't set her back too far.
And honestly, her death will have hit less hard than the otherwise inevitable spy reveal would have.

>You listen more intently and hear something heavy hit the wall.
Ah hell. So much for 'only normal grief'.

>>Go over and check on Korine
I don't believe Ethan is aware of her mental stability issues, so it seems reasonable to go check on her.
On the other hand, she is clearly throwing stuff, which suggests a deeper issue. Still, I think he would at least look in.
>I think you a word. Hot or boring, I'm assuming.
Nope, she means "Even if it's fucking here" as in "even if it's this fucking place."
>Go over and check on Korine
Ethan is easily the toughest pilot ever to pilot. He can handle this.

Idk man throwing stuff is pretty normal. Refusing to accept that someone important to you is gone strikes me as normal. Ethan can handle it.
File: 1280806971631.png (353 KB, 716x538)
353 KB
353 KB PNG
>Go over and check on Korine

>>You listen more intently and hear something heavy hit the wall.
>Ah hell. So much for 'only normal grief'.
Seems pretty normal. See exhibit A:
>Go over and check on Korine

Korine was the first person here to make any effort to be friendly with you. It would be wrong to turn your back on her, especially now. Whatever is bothering her would be better not dealt with alone.

A moment later you knock on her door.

No answer. You can still hear her sobbing.

"Korine? It's Ethan."


"I'm coming in."

You try the handle and find it unlocked. "Korine?" The door wings open.

A small sea of broken glass sparkles across the floor in the entryway like a constellation of fallen stars. The jagged stump of a drinking glass lies on its side in the center of this mess. You do your best to step around it, but still feel and hear the shards crunching underfoot. In the living room, things are worse. The upholstery of the couches has been stripped away and thrown about. The television is shattered, the screen displaying static.

There are video discs tossed around too, many snapped in half, folded over on themselves. You recognize a lot of the movies you all watched together, Korine's collection.

"Shit." The word slips out.

Furniture has been obviously hurled at the plate glass windows looking out over the sea, but they haven't broken.

A door slams and you turn, startled to face Korine standing in her bathroom doorway. Her hay is disheveled, her makeup streaked from tears.

You're paralyzed and unable to speak.

"They killed her," she blurts.

"What?" you say, finding your voice. "Who's killed?" The statement is so nonsensical that it takes a moment for it to register in your mind. Then it dawns on you, the only person she could possibly be talking about.
"Aaliyah!" she shouts at you like it's obvious. "They fucking killed her!"

"Korine, wait, what? Who killed her?"

"Are you fucking stupid?" Korine demands. "Who the fuck do you think, Ethan? Use your fucking head for something besides feeling fucking sorry for yourself over Linda!"

The attack is an emotional slap in the face and you're again left speechless.

Korine pushes past you and storms into the kitchen, throwing drawers open angrily and tossing the contents, apparently searching for something.

"Korine-" you step on something with crunches. You lift your foot to see broken white plastic chips. The keys of a keyboard left in pieces across the floor where it struck the wall.

"Those bastards at Nerv killed her!" Korine declares, dumping a tray of silverware on the floor and kicking a glass measuring cup into a drawer hard enough to chip the handle off which careens across the tile floor. "That bitch sat here and told me it was a fucking accident! But they fucking killed her."

"Korine, hey, sit down a second okay? Let's catch our breath."

She rounds on you now, her hunt abandoned. "Oh why? What the fuck are you you going to do about it, hm?" She crosses to you quickly, causing you to take an involuntary step back. She jabs you in the chest with a finger. "You don't give a fuck."

"I do," you say, "Korine, that's why I'm here."

"Aaliyah was the only person here who gave a shit about me. She bought me-" she looks down at the ruined keyboard and lets out a cry of frustration, kicking it as hard as she can, sending it skidding into the overturned coffee table. "She was the only one! I thought that maybe when this was over that she might . . . that maybe we would be-" She falters, her breath hitching before falling to her knees sobbing, like a puppet with its string cut. Her hoarse crying overwhelms anything she might have been about to say.

You kneel beside her and lay a hand on her shoulder. She doesn't pull away and instead just wipes at her eyes as tears continue to flow. Her sobbing trails off into sniffling.

"Korine, I care about you too. That's why I'm here, okay? I'm going to help you however I can." You say the words with as much sincerity as you can muster, burying her hurtful attack of you. Saying Korine is 'not herself right now' is a grievous understatement.

She curls her knees to her chest, hiding her face. Her head bobs slightly. A nod.

"I'm so sorry about what's happened to Aaliyah. That's awful. That's really fucked up."

She nods silently again. You feel like she could explode again at any moment, like she's just momentarily worked herself out.

You look over the carnage of her room, marveling at the speed and thoroughness of her destruction.

>Come here and sit down, I'm going to clean up a bit, okay?
>If you say Nerv killed her, I believe you, but why do you think that?
>Aaliyah wouldn't want to see you acting like this, right? Let's pick ourselves up and take a few breaths.
>Write in
>If you say Nerv killed her, I believe you, but why do you think that?
?If you say Nerv killed her, I believe you, but why do you think that?
>Come here and sit down, I'm going to clean up a bit, okay?
This while she explains why
>If you say Nerv killed her, I believe you, but why do you think that?

>Aaliyah wouldn't want to see you acting like this, right? Let's pick ourselves up and take a few breaths.
If she doesn't calm down I can see this option being used. Honestly I like all the options but that may be because I like the interactions between all the characters.
>>Come here and sit down, I'm going to clean up a bit, okay?
She's obviously hysterical. I wouldn't put any more stock into the NERV killing comment any more than the jab she took at us, especially considering Ethan's thoughts on NERV.
I'll switch
>Aaliyah wouldn't want to see you acting like this, right? Let's pick ourselves up and take a few breaths.
in case a tiebreaker is needed.
>If you say Nerv killed her, I believe you, but why do you think that?

>Come here and sit down, I'm going to clean up a bit, okay?

File: OIP.jpg (24 KB, 474x474)
24 KB
"Come on, let's sit down over here," you say, brushing aside some debris and sliding up a couch cushion.

Korine rises and sits on it without looking at you, her arms at her side. She stares into nothingness. This is almost worse than the tantrum.

"I'm going to do a little cleaning up, okay?"

She nods slowly, eyes not wavering from the invisible point she's staring at.

You take a broom out of the coat closet and begin to tidy up, taking a moment to try to come up with a plan here. You've always been a man of actions rather than words. Feelings are not easy for you. You'd almost rather face an Angel. "Wouldn't want Rose to see the place like this," you say with a little levity in your voice.

"It doesn't matter." Korine's voice is hollow, spiritless.

"Oh come on," you say softly. "We need to make a good impression."

"She saw."

"What?" you stop.

"She saw. Everything."

Oh no. You feel a chill. If Rose saw Korine like this . . . she took you off pilot status for less. IF Korine is no longer actively piloting . . .

"Well don't sweat it. You're going through a lot." You continue to sweep up broken glass and plastic, steadily carving out a clean path. You work your way into the kitchen and dump the shards into the trash. The contents of the drawers Korine dumped are still across the floor. You start scraping them together and putting everything back.

Somehow you feel it's important to keep Korine talking. "If you say Nerv killed Aaliyah, I believe you." It's a lie. You try to sound like you mean it, but it's utterly nonsensical. Nerv had no reason to murder anyone, least of all Sayid. "But why do you think that?"
Korine doesn't answer.



She's going catatonic. "Why do you think that?"

"She . . . always acted strange. She was different. I think she was keeping secrets."

"What kind of secrets?"

"I don't know."

Kitchen tidied, you slide the last drawer into place and stop. Your eyes catch a glint of metal. Sitting on the counter alone, perfectly perpendicular with the edge of the counter is a butcher's knife. The blade gleams in the light. Somehow it got knocked there in the disarray. Its perfect placement just surprised you a moment. You pick it up and slide it back into the block. Korine is lucky she didn't cut herself on it.

Knife stowed, you return to the living room and sit on the floor across from Korine. Somehow you feel like giving her a hug wouldn't help and it would make you feel strange. "Do you think we can trust the others? Mbaru?"

"I don't know."

"Mbaru's always been open with me. You know, he's kind of an outsider too in a way. I don't think he's really big on Nerv. I bet we can trust him."

Korine says nothing.

"I'll talk with him about Sayid, see what he has to say. Maybe he can find something out for us. Would that help?"

"I don't know." Her tone and inflection doesn't change, remaining perfectly level. She doesn't look at you. This is definitely worse than the outbursts.

"Korine, listen, I know this hurts. But I'm here for you, no matter what. Alright? Call me, text me, whatever you need okay?"


You look over the remaining mess, feeling useless. "You sit, I'm going to finish cleaning."


You stop.

"Don't bother," Korine says. "I'll just break everything again. Don't waste your time on me."

>It's not a bother, I want to help
>Alright, I'll let you have some time alone
>Knock it off. Would Aaliyah want to see you like this?
>Write in
>Knock it off. Would Aaliyah want to see you like this?
>Write in
"You say she was keeping secrets, right? Well let's find some. It's better than what you're doing now."
>Break into/ find a way into Sayids apartment

I'm the orange poster that enjoys the character interactions btw. Ethan says he's a man of action and we're a bunch of teenagers. Let's do some scooby doo shit.
>we don't even know where Sayid lived
She lived just down the hall actually. Same building as the pilots.
Orange poster again. Do any of the pilots have adjacent rooms to Sayids room? We could go through the balcony and bypass the key card. If we go this route that's how I think it could be done.
>Knock it off. Would Aaliyah want to see you like this?
Gonna vote against snooping. Besides the fact that that's not Ethan, intentionally dragging Korine through Sayid's stuff will do nothing but hurt her further.
>>It's not a bother, I want to help
>I just need to know how

Don't go digging into Aaliyah's stuff. NervSec probably already did and has her place under surveillance.
The rooms are not adjacent. The balconies don't connect like that.
NervSec is notoriously incompetent based on the previous events. And there's always the possibility they missed something. Plus this has all happened rather recently unless I'm missing something. 24 - 72 hours tops, at least that's the way I'm reading it. I just think that Korine is willing to go against the grain, she seems pretty anti authoritarian. In any case I think Korine will probably start snooping on her own cuz she isn't going to be piloting. Idk just exploring possible options.

Hmmm. Well shoot.
>Knock it off. Would Aaliyah want to see you like this?

>It's not a bother, I want to help

Anger at Korine's sudden apathy seethes within you. You grab her shoulder. "Knock it off," you say, giving her a shake. Her eyes go wide and she looks startled. "You're falling apart. Would Aaliyah want to see you like this?"

She stares back a moment before blinking away tears which streak her cheeks. She shakes her head a little.

"So pull it together. She wanted what's best for you, and that hasn't changed. You're strong, Korine, stronger even than this. So start acting like it."

"I'm . . . it's not-"

"Why the hell would you think this is a waste of time? That you're not worth the time?"

"I can only pilot." She whispers the words so faintly you hardly hear them, as if she's afraid to admit it. "That's all I'm good for. And they won't let me pilot again, not after this."

"So what, you're giving up?"

Korine turns, pulling free of your grip. "Just leave me alone."

"They took me off pilot status," you say. "When I broke down in the simulator, did you know that?"

She hunches her shoulders slightly but says nothing.

"I got it back. You can too. You're more than just a pilot Korine, but if that's what you want to do, we can help you get there."

"Why? I'll either die here or I'll die a pilot. It doesn't matter."

"Everyone dies!" you blurt. "Every person on this fucking planet is going to die one day. It's what we do with our lives that matters. You want to sit here feeling sorry for yourself or you want to show the world that you're tougher than that?"

No answer.

"I know what Sayid would want you to do," you say. "She sees in you what I do."

"A psycho?"

"Someone worth saving," you say. "Someone worth fighting for. Psycho or not, you're my friend, Korine. There's not a lot of people I can say that about."

She doesn't answer. You lost her. Your shoulders slump with defeat and you resist a sigh. You look around the mess again. "I'm not leaving until I get this place clean for you." You stand again and pick up the broom.

"There's garbage bags," Korine says. "Garbage bags in the bathroom. I'll get them."

As she stands and starts gathering up trash, you feel something like joy, but more subdued. Potential. A latent promise. Hope.

Whatever sort of peace you've carved out with Korine, it's fragile and you don't dare disturb it. The two of you clean together in silence until late into the night.
As darkness falls across New Tampa, the city settles into the warm, humid night to sleep.

On the deck of Salvación Renton stands alone. A soft breeze blows across the sea, tussling his hair. He watches the distant silhouette of another ship slinking into the harbor. Like Salvación it's a repurposed commercial freighter which now acts as a home to boat people, like him.

Maybe not exactly like him.

The outline of the ship's jutting bridge, radio aerials, and cargo cranes is burned into his memory. It's a ship he'd never forget. A ghost vessel from his terror-streaked past.

Renton squeezes the steel rail on the edge of the deck, willing the metal plate to crumple like it would in the grip of his Eva. He'd heard the rumors of its impending arrival, he'd heard that the New Tampa Refugee Authority had cleared them to berth. He'd never quite believed it till now.

Anesidora is here.


Katya lies alone in her bed, curled tight, holding a pillow to her chest and pressed to her mouth. Her stomach is in knots since Ethan's terrifying revelation. She'd been raised as a materialist. Nothing mattered but what could be seen and observed. We're born, we live, we die. There is nothing before and nothing after.

Her atheism is so ingrained into her being that she doesn't consider it a philosophy as much as reality. That reality has been shattered by one stunning, impossible truth. The dead can linger.

As terrifying and marvelous as that is, it doesn't occupy her mind fully, it can't.

She inhales deeply through her nose, closes her eyes and smiles to herself.

It still smells like Ethan.
Korine opens her eyes after Ethan has left, certain that she convinced him that she fell asleep. Moving aside the blanket he'd loosely draped over her, she sits up and surveys the now clean room with blank, dispassionate eyes. The TV she'd destroyed and several bags of garbage were neatly piled by the door. The ruin of Aaliyah's keyboard juts out of a bag like a compound fracture.

Rising from the couch, she crossed through the living room and into the kitchen, coming to stand before the knife she'd laid out on the counter.

Her reflection stares back at her in reverse. Her eyes are ringed with smudged black, glinting in the dark like the sharpened cutting edge of the knife. She picks it up and carefully slides it back into its slot in the knife block before turning and leaving for bed.


Next door, Ethan doesn't sleep. His mind is afire with the events of the past day. That strange sensation of emptiness persists. He feels as though he lost something. Reaching into his pocket, he carefully draws out the perfect feather he kept there.

It seems to glow in the moonlight, catching the pale light like the waves on the sea below. He closes his eyes and runs his fingers across the feather. As he does so he imagines a world where his dreams could be real.

The sea is too far away to be heard, drowned out by the whisper of air conditioning, but Ethan imagines he can hear it. He begins to hum. It's the opening bars of a waltz he's heard before.


In Nerv 03, Captain Rose Holiday sits alone in the pseudo-twilight of a half lit office. Her uniform is half-buttoned, her cap sitting on the desk facing her. She has a glass of bourbon in one hand and a slip of red plastic in the other.

She sips from the glass and turns the card over and over in her hand. On the face, she sees the Nerv logo and motto.

He harnessed the lightning for hire. He drove the celestial team, and man was the Lord of the Fire

Beneath it is a name.

Aaliyah Sayid

Rose takes a drink and turns the ID over to see the magnetic stripe on the back. She flips it over again to read the name. And again. And again.


In the cool darkness of the damp earth, a geometric chrysalis of fearful symmetry splits open and begins to unfold like a glass flower.
You are Ethan Chandler and it's been days since Linda left. Time enough for you to recover from her departure and time enough for you to fall back into a familiar routine.

"Test pattern is complete. Nice work guys."

You open your eyes to the familiar interior of Hydra's entry plug. The sync test is over, at last. LCL begins to drain from the plug just a moment after that strange pressure on your mind alleviates.

"How'd we do?" you say.

"Katya is up a point and a half," Max replies, his voice sounding thin over the speaker in the entry plug. "You're holding steady. Katya takes the gold this time. You'll have to settle for silver."

Your smirk falters when you look across the Eva cage. Hydra and Katya's Eva Corvus are the only two Evas involved in this test. Orion - Renton's Eva is mostly repaired, but not entirely. Crews actively fit armor plates back into place, the light of welders flickering where they seat heavy bolts and clamps. Beyond it, Lupus - Korine's - stands silent in a darkened bay. Draped with heavy, hermetic plastic seals it looks more like a corpse in a morgue than a weapon of war.

The damage to Orion had been worse, but Korine's current pilot status has placed lower priority on repairs.

"Silver's good enough for me," you say.

Your Entry plug ejects and the hatch levers open. You climb out and down onto the gantry which surrounds the Eva. Katya does the same and the two of you meet up on your way back to the control room.

"Better and better," you tease. "How am I gonna keep up?"

She shrugs. "I think you find a way."

You haven't let on, but internally you're worried. Linda has saved your life at least once, maybe twice. She'd always kept an eye on you, it had been a nice safety net. Without her around, you don't know how things will go for you in your next battle. You aren't keen to find out.

The two of you reach the security door which hisses open. Renton stands on the other side, grinning. With his injuries, he's still on medical standby, preventing him from doing much of anything on Dr. Caswell's orders.

He looks tired, you think. More tired than he should.

"You two make these tests look like so much fun. It's a shame that I cannot join you in sitting still and thinking about nothing for an hour."

"The only thing worse than being in a sync test," you say, "is watching one." You leave just enough time for the jibe to land before asking the question that's been lingering in your mind. "Is she out yet?"

"Not yet," Renton says. "But soon I think. Caswell is doing final tests, I think we can get there if we hurry."

The three of you act as one, the decision unspoken, moving with surety through Nerv's halls toward the medical wing.

"You have it?" Katya asks.

Renton pats the oversize duffel bag over his shoulder. "It barely fits, but I have it."
You reach the medical wing's waiting area, a desolate expanse of semi-comfortable chairs and tastefully bland decoration arrayed beneath a buzzing fluorescent sky. You sit together and wait alone anxiously. You don't have to wait long.

As the outpatient door opens, Korine steps out and the three of you get to your feet. There is an expectant silence before she holds up her hands and wiggles her fingers - bandage free. "All better," she says.

You all celebrate the diagnosis as Dr. Caswell follows behind Korine. His smile is impossible to miss. Behind him, lurking further back, is Rose. Her own smile is thin, forced.

"Does it hurt?" Katya asks.

Korine shakes her head and holds out her hands for inspection. "Doctor says there's no lasting nerve damage. I'm as healthy as he can make me."

Renton breathes an exaggerated sigh of relief. "This is good news, because otherwise we would look very foolish."

Korine looks confused a moment before Renton unzips the bag and you carefully slide out the keyboard within.

"I know your old one got broken," you say. "So we all thought you'd want something new to play when you could." The truth of that night is known only to you, Korine, and Rose, and you've kept it that way. If the others suspect anything about it, they haven't said so.

The look of shock and then glee that passes over Korine's face is all the reward you could want. "Holy shit, guys! This is so awesome!" She looks at each of you, and her smile fades. "But . . . I didn't get you anything."

Renton chuckles and you shake your head.

"So when's your turn, funny man?" Korine asks him. "When do the bandages come off?"

"When we're satisfied that Renton won't hurt himself worse going back to piloting," Caswell interjects from nearby. "Sorry, pal."

"No, I am enjoying my vacation," Renton says.

As the others catch up, your eyes keep going to Rose, watching from a distance. She's impossible to read, but what you see isn't celebratory. It's calculating.

"Which reminds me," Renton says. "I believe that some kind of celebration is in order. One more exciting than a piano recital."

Korine rolls her eyes.

"Through no small amount of negotiation on my part, I have managed to get Max to agree to chaperone an excursion to the beach. Just the four of us. And him. If that's agreeable to all of you?"

"The beach?" Korine makes a face. "There's easier ways to see girls in swimsuits, Renton."

"That may be so, but I have it on good authority that your lack of a tan is legendary, even when compared to our Russian friend."

Korine sticks her tongue out at him.

A day at the beach sounds nice to you, certainly a fun distraction from your life. There was also a previous discussion of taking everyone clubbing. That would certainly not be a Nerv approved activity and would have to be done with a little discretion, but it could be interesting.

>Beach day
>Go night clubbing
>Write in
>>Beach day
There's always a beach episode.
Plus, it contrasts the desert fight well.
>Write in
Both. The third person story telling caught me by surprise, something big is coming. Let our heroes and heroines enjoy it while they can.
I thought for sure this was going to be thread end or arc end or something.

>>Beach day
Clubbing will go wrong. There's too many ways for it to go wrong.
>The third person story telling caught me by surprise
>I thought for sure this was going to be thread end or arc end or something.

Episode pacing while also maintaining a thread for a reasonable amount of time is difficult for me.

This is basically a mini-arc end.
>In the cool darkness of the damp earth, a geometric chrysalis of fearful symmetry splits open and begins to unfold like a glass flower.
Oh boy, that's not good
>Beach day
Swimming and sand castles, what could go wrong?
>Beach day
>Beach day

>Beach Episode

"The beach would be nice," you say. "Especially to get away from this heat."

Katya claps her hands together. "Yes! I think beach would be nice. I have not gone here."

"Fine," Korine says. "Beach."

Renton closes his fist imperiously. "Ah, victory. Sweet victory."

"We've got to get ready first," Korine replies. "I don't even have a bathing suit or anything."

"Ah shit," you say, "Me neither."

"Then preparation is in order. Korine, you will go with Katya. Ethan, with me," Renton says. "We prepare, then we meet at the beach. Acceptable?"

"Acceptable," Korine agrees.

As you and Renton leave you speak up. "We you going to run this plan by me?"

"There was no need, my friend," Renton replies. "We're in one accord on this I think."

"How's that?"

"Do you want to shop alone?"


"Okay," Renton allows, "But do you want a second opinion on what you buy? I think maybe you want to look good, is that right?"

"I . . . sure."

Renton laughs. "Then we have an assignment. A mission. Operation Swim Trunks. I hope you have your summer body ready to deploy, my friend."

"No doubt."

Leaving Nerv 03 is trivial and the two of you catch a metro to the commercial district. Renton largely keeps quiet.

"Everything okay, man?" you ask.

"Never better," Renton says with a flash of teeth.

"You look tired."

"Throwing stones in glass houses, Ethan? I should think you'd know better."

"Oh come on," you say. "Don't juke me on this. What's up?"

Renton smiles knowingly. "This will sound strange, but I've been thinking about something you said to me."

"Go on."

"When I mentioned the right to life for all living things, you told me 'nothing has a right to live if it's a killer itself'."

You vaguely recall Renton asking you a hypothetical about sparing the life of the Angel that killed Linda if it no longer posed any threat. "Ah yeah. I remember."

"Well that statement applies to us too, you know."


"People," Renton explains. "Not you and I. We kill in self defense. No Angel would die if they did not try to kill us first. But mankind is a killer."

You shake your head, "that's different."


"We- I mean people- we kill because . . .we have to. It's survival, right? Cultures fighting for supremacy, wars over resources. I mean, pointless killing happens but . . . as a species we're generally good."

Renton frowns. "You think so?"

"If I didn't think humanity was worth saving I wouldn't be here."

Renton laughs. "Don't delude yourself, Ethan. You're a smart man, if a little misguided at times. You're not here out of some sort of moral calling. You're here because the people who control your life told you to be."
"I disagree," you say, not bothering to hide your annoyance.

"I'm sure you do," Renton says. "Make no mistake, Ethan-" he taps your chest. "People are brutal, merciless, selfish animals. We will as soon eat our own young if that's what we think we have to do. All that separates man from Angel is this-" he gestures to the half-empty metro car. "Technology. Culture. Science. Our goodness- our right to live- is not inherent. It can be lost. It can be thrown away or sacrificed."

The boldness, and ruthlessness of the statement surprises you. Renton's normally carefree attitude seems to be replaced by something else, something colder.

"I'm not so sure about that," you say.

He shrugs. "It's because you haven't seen it. You haven't seen people become animals."

"Can we talk about something not weird and dark?" you retort.

"Of course!" He throws an arm over your shoulder in a display of camaraderie. "How about this. In precious few minutes, you will get to see Katya Skobeleva, the Ice Princess herself in-" he gasps dramatically, looks around conspiratorially and continues in a low voice "-a bikini."

"Knock it off!" you push Renton away from you, already feeling your face heat.

He bursts into laughter. "Oh man, you have it bad. Very very bad."

"No, you're just gone from one kind of weird and creepy to another.."

"Sometimes I doubt you're a red-blooded male, Ethan. Perhaps buttoned up so tight you can't recognize your own good fortune."

"Yeah, please go on. This is definitely what I want to talk about."

Renton laughs harder at your expense.
The shopping itself is fine, even if it's dull. The end result is that you're now dressed for the occasion. Tropical-pattern swim trunks to fit the aesthetic. You and Renton make your way to District 01 on the west side of the city. Far from the urban canyons of District 00 and the densely packed commercial and residential blocks of 02 through 04, 01 is more sprawled, slightly. The southern half of the district is taken up with a press of town houses and smaller apartment buildings while the northern half - on the other side of the expressway that splits it - is almost suburban. Winding, palm-lined roads weave between modernist, white houses nestled in dense thickets of jungle-like landscaping.

The metro line you take terminates in one such neighborhood and you and Renton walk the remaining few blocks west, to the seawall. Here, lining a boulevard which runs in the shadow of the seawall, are the exact type of business you'd expect to operate by the beach side. Crab shacks, seafood restaurants, tourist shops, arcades, the works.

After ascending a switchback ramp, you reach the top of the and come into sight of the beach. Warm salt breeze rushes past you, bringing with it the smells and sounds of the ocean. Overhead, gulls whirl and cry to one another in search of scraps and carrion. Umbrellas snap and flutter in the gusty wind. The sand is sugar-white and blindingly bright in the sun.

Everything is deserted in the immediate vicinity, marked off by Nerv tape and distantly patrolling NervSec forces. A whole section of the beach is closed off for you and the other pilots.

You're so busy marveling at all this, that you missed Max approach you. "Hey guys. Welcome to the party." For once, his Hawaiian attire seems appropriate.

"Busy day!" Renton says, surveying the empty beach front.

"Hey, what good is authority if you're not gonna abuse it. You kids have fun." He lights a cigarette and goes to sit beneath the shade of a nearby umbrella.

Where the beach meets the waves, you see Korine and Katya enjoying the sun.

"Renton, how's Max holding up? With Sayid I mean."

"Ah," Renton says. "I am ashamed to say that I don't know. I haven't seen much of Max lately. I've been busy."

Max puts on some sunglasses and puffs clouds of smoke into the air before sprawling out in chair beneath the umbrella.

>Go to the girls
>Sit with Max for a bit
>Write in
>>Go to the girls
I missed that our plans were told to NERV proper. Or do we just not care that they snoop on us to this degree?

Anyone know what's up with the new captcha?
>>Go to the girls

Renton arranged it with Max here: >>4907904

The new captcha is garbage
Huh, sure enough. Completely missed that line apparently.

At least this captcha is better than the one that preceded the google one. I swear I had a less than 50% pass rate on it.
>Sit with Max for a bit

>Go to the girls

>Max Time

File: 3.png (5 KB, 640x480)
5 KB

>Max Time
"Coming?" Renton asks.

"I'll catch up," you say, heading for Max.

He looks up at your arrival, lowering his shades. "Hey, it's Ethan." He looks exhausted, his eyes are ringed by darkness. "Smoke?"

"I'm not old enough," you say, taken aback.

"Sure. Not old enough to drink either but that doesn't stop you kids." He puffs on his cigarette. "Good. That's good. This shit'll kill ya." He takes one last drag and stubs the butt out in a half-full ashtray. "What's up?"

"Can I sit?"

He gestures to a chair and you take it.

He's still lounged out, his feet propped up on the table, looking at you over his sunglasses. You don't know Max well. Or any of the guardians really.

"You were close to Sayid, weren't you?" you ask.

"Not really," he says. "Close enough to be sad that she's gone. Not close enough to tell you anything about her. How's Korine taking it?"

"Bad," you say.

"Yeah. I figured when Rose took her off active status. Real shame."

"She . . . she's acting out. I don't know what she's going through, but she's hurting badly."

"We all mourn our own way," Max says, apparently unconcerned. "I'm not in any shape to look after the poor kid. Rose was going to have Yezhov do it, but I put the kibosh on that. Mbaru's the guy. He'll help."

Max seems to be taking this in stride, maybe too well.

"Are you alright?" you ask, feeling odd for having to ask an adult that question.

Max chuckles, looking around to ensure you're both alone. "Pretty fucking far from it, bro. But I'll live. Ha. Or not." He takes out another cigarette and starts to put it between his lips before hesitating. Instead he sets it upright on the table, balancing it on the butt. "I've got a lot on my mind, Ethan. Nothing you need to worry about."

Suddenly you feel like you're intruding, for bringing your concerns to Max. You start to rise.

"You didn't sit down just to check on me. What's up?"

You hesitate and sit back down. "It's stupid."

Max shrugs.
"Honestly, it's probably nothing."

"Then say it."

"Korine thinks Nerv killed Sayid."

Max blinks, his balancing game forgotten. The cigarette topples onto its side and rolls. "What? Why?"

"I . . . it's crazy. I don't know."

He takes off his sunglasses and you see his eyes are bloodshot. "What did she say?"

"She said . . ." you try to recall her words. "That Sayid was keeping secrets. She wasn't sure what kind. She said Sayid acted strangely. That she was . . . different."

"Different," Max repeats.

"I said it was crazy."

"So why tell me?"

"You asked," you retort.

Max grins. "Sure. But you wanted to tell me before I asked."

"I don't know . . . do you think she's right?"

Max stares at you for a minute. He picks up his sunglasses from the table and puts them back on. "No."

You feel relieved. "I just wish I could get Korine to believe that."

"Korine's a smart kid," Max says. "And that doesn't do her any favors when she's got the problems she does. Smart kids see the worst parts of the world the clearest. Don't worry about her, okay? She'll be alright if we give her time. She's got plenty of that."

"Thanks. I know this was weird-"

He waves dismissively. "You're a kid. You're basically weird by design. Don't sweat it. Yeah, Sayid was different, but that's cause she was new here. Yezhov is different too and Nerv hasn't killed him."

"I guess that's true."

"What happened is . . . just life, man. Fucked up shit happens to random people. People die even when they did nothing wrong. Even when they survived everything life threw at them. People just die." He seems to suddenly realize that these aren't very comforting words and continues. "It's what she left behind you should focus on. She was good to Korine. She fought for all mankind, like we all do. She cared. We'll all miss her."

He falls silent and you listen to the steady churn of the waves for a minute. "Thank you."

"Any time. Now, go play."
File: Beach Waves.gif (993 KB, 500x322)
993 KB
993 KB GIF
You do. The hot sand works through your toes as you cross the beach for the promise of cool water. You feel better having talked with Max. Korine's concerns are nonsensical. Unfounded. There's no reason Nerv would kill one of its own.

You forget all about it once you reach the water's edge. Cool, crystal waves flecked with white foam rush over your feet. You sink into the wet sand slightly and feel the powerful tug of the tide as it erodes the sand from beneath you. You take a deep breath and savor it. Paradise.


You almost forgot for a moment that you're here to be with friends. Korine is ankle deep in the waves nearby watching you with an expression of amused bewilderment.

"What the hell are you doing?"

Seeing her like this is strange. There's no way around it, Korine is pretty. Normally she conceals that behind severe makeup and loose-fitting, body-hiding clothes. She's as pale as Renton had suggested she would be. Her skin practically glows. She also seems so slight, so small.

"Enjoying the beach," you say, not ogling her for too long. "Anchorage was near the coast but, it wasn't like this."

Korine snorts, "Yeah, I bet." She wades out of the water back toward you. Katya and Renton are further down the beach, leaving the two of you alone. She stops close. "Listen uh . . . I'm sorry about . . . about being me and all."

You shake your head, keeping your voice low. "It's not like that at all. We're friends."

"I know," she says. "And I appreciate that. I'm sorry about what I said . . . about Linda. That was fucked up."

"It's okay," you say.

Awkwardness blossoms between the two of you. "Uh, so . . . thanks for the keyboard too," she adds. "That's real awesome. I mean . . . I fucked up the other one and . . . well just thanks, okay?" She forces a smile. "I'll write you a little melody or something."

You laugh. "That's okay."

"More of an 'Amazing Grace' type? I can do that too."

>You're a lot like me, Korine. We're orphans, we lost someone close to us. We should look out for each other
>I'd better hear that piano playing every night
>We'll get you back in the cockpit, whatever it takes
>Write in
>>You're a lot like me, Korine. We're orphans, we lost someone close to us. We should look out for each other
>Write in
>We all gotta watch out for each other when the bad days roll around.

"You're a lot like me, Korine," you say.

"Somehow I doubt that."

"We're both orphans," you say. "We each lost someone close to us. We have more in common than you think."

"Well one of us seems to have taken that in stride a lot better," she says bitterly.

You want to tell her the truth about Linda. You want to tell her about the dark moments of your life that she hasn't seen. You don't think it would do any good. "You live life with an intensity I can't match," you say. "There's nothing wrong with that."

"Yeah well . . . "

"We've got to look out for each other," you say. "We all do. When the bad days roll around, we're going to be all we have."

"Bad days?"

You nod, looking out over the ocean. "Things are going to get rough."

"What makes you so sure?"

Linda's words echo in your mind. From the beginning to the end and everywhere at the end of time. It's always us.

"Just a feeling," you say.

"Riiiight," Korine says, not hiding her skepticism. "Look, I just wanted to thank you for the keyboard, don't get all weird on me. Now go talk with Katya. She's been waiting for you."

"She has?" You ask.

Korine waves goodbye as she wades further down the beach. "Bye, Ethan."

There's no more delaying. You continue down the beach toward Katya. Strangely, before you notice the bikini, you notice that Katya is still wearing her cat ears, even at the beach. While it's undeniably adorable, it's also a little strange. Come to think of it, the times you haven't seen her wearing them were generally related to piloting the Eva.

Secondly, of course, you notice how beautiful she is. It's impossible for you to not look. Lying on her back on a towel spread in the shade of an umbrella, your eyes wander. Up her legs, across her tummy, taking in every curve and swell along the way. Ultimately you end at her face, her eyes on yours.

"Katya, hey!" you blurt, startled to have gotten caught checking her out.

"Hello," she returns, sitting up and patting the towel beside her. "Come sit."

You do so. It's cooler in the shade here, but you only feel more uncomfortable. The fact that Katya doesn't say anything doesn't help.

"Having fun?" you ask. Stupid question.

"Yes," she says. "I love the beach."

"You do?"

She nods. "This is strange?"

"I just . . . "

Katya's face breaks into a smirk, "You think Russia does not have beaches?"

"Yeah," you say, laughing.

"Yes. Some where I live. But not like this," she gestures to the white sand before you. "We learn to make do with what we have. A little cold not bother us. But this much nicer. Maybe I work on a tan."

"Just don't burn yourself," you say.
Katya lowers her voice, "How things with . . . " she doesn't say 'Linda' but she doesn't have to.

"Ah. Well . . . she left."


You nod. "Yeah. She was unhappy about me telling you and . . . she left."

Katya lays her hand on your back. "I sorry, Ethan. Maybe she come back?"

Linda's words keep rolling through your mind. "Maybe."

Katya is quiet a moment. "I ruin it for you."

"No," you say quickly. "No. Linda is her own person. She made the decision herself. I just . . . don't understand why."

Katya doesn't reply, she has that distant look on her face.

"So we're at a beach, are you just going to sit in the shade? Let's go swimming, huh?" You stand up and offer her a hand. She looks at it uncertainly before taking it. After you help her to her feet there is a moment where you're holding hands. It's short, but it stands out in your mind. Katya doesn't let go, but you do.

Neither of your comments on the moment, but you feel it come and go.

The waves crash around your legs as the two of you wade in. On the horizon, you see dredging ships trawling along, sucking sand from the ocean floor to bolster the man-made islands that dot the artificial archipelago centered around the ruins of Old Tampa.

You and Katya stop chest deep in the water and spend a while in the waves, letting them lift your feet from the sandy ground, leaving you feeling momentarily weightless. Soon you're laughing and splashing one another with water. Katya squeals with surprise when you start the impromptu splash fight, but she's no slouch, she fights back with equal mock ferocity.

After some time both of you wade back in to shore, laughing and exhausted.

"You fight unfair," Katya says. "Surprise attack. No warning. Very dishonorable."

"All's fair in love and war," you say.

You notice Max setting up food on a picnic table. Looks like a late lunch or an early dinner. You hadn't noticed how hungry you are until you caught sight of the fast food bags.

"Hungry?" you ask Katya.

She hesitates. "Yes."

"-But?" you supply.

"But nothing," she says, turning away. "Just not now. Soon." She doesn't give you time to argue, sitting on the towel again to drip dry.

You find a towel for you nearby and lay it out next to hers. "Something wrong?"

"No. Is nothing."

"That means it's something."

"No," she says firmly. "I . . . I just like to spend time with you."

You are caught off guard, unsure of how to respond.

You see Korine and Renton further down the beach, building sand castles and digging moats to hold back the inevitability of the tide.

>Well we have plenty of time today
>Write in
>"I sorry, Ethan. Maybe she come back?"
Here's hoping.

>Write in
>It's great when we can all hang out together, isn't it? Wish we could do it more often.
>Well we have plenty of time today

Lets maybe not let ourselves be completely tied down by a dead girl.
>>Well we have plenty of time today
You savor the seconds of peace and tranquility. Katya doesn't speak, and the two of you listen the rhythmic crash of the surf. Each successive wave comes in marginally further than the first, blowing through Korine and Renton's moats, smashing their walls, and obliterating their silica kingdoms. Renton lets out a shout of dismay as he makes last ditch attempts to redirect and channel nature's destructive power away from their failing city.

Korine laughs as towers crumble to sandy mud and topple into the sea.

The tide is coming in and at least for now, you can forget that you're Eva pilots. You can forget the fate of the city and the world resting in your hands. You can just be kids.

"It's great when we all hang out together, isn't it?"

Katya makes a sound of approval.

"I wish we could do it more often," you say.

Katya doesn't respond.

Far off, past the sand dredging ships, you see a billowing column of dark blue clouds that seems to span the entire length of the sky. Thin ribbons of rain lashes the sea, but from this far away it just looks like gauzy veils drifting irregularly. For a moment, you feel a little less alone. You can almost imagine you feel a song in your heart, Linda's waltz.

You catch the smell of fast food in the air. Max is laying out places for each of you. "Alright! Bring it in! Food!" he calls.

You stand and brush the sand off yourself before offering a hand to Katya who stands beside you. "Ready?"

"Ready," she says, the ghost of a smile on her lips.
File: Return.gif (550 KB, 795x525)
550 KB
550 KB GIF
>Neon Terminus Evangelion
>/End Episode 04


Thanks for playing, everyone. Episode 05 is next after I take a short break to lay it out.


See you soon.
After this quest finishes up, please make a happy quest. This quest makes me hurt inside.
>/End Episode 04
I swear I can hear a VCR starting/stopping when you say that stuff.

Thanks for running.
>This quest makes me hurt inside.

>I swear I can hear a VCR starting/stopping when you say that stuff
That's perfect.

>Thanks for running.
Thanks for playing!
Thanks for running. This is an awesome quest and I can't wait to see where it goes from here.
Thanks man! You're in for a wild ride!

Delete Post: [File Only] Style:
[Disable Mobile View / Use Desktop Site]

[Enable Mobile View / Use Mobile Site]

All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective parties. Images uploaded are the responsibility of the Poster. Comments are owned by the Poster.