Notes: NERV-LA participated in the recovery of the Pilots and Evangelions buried in the cave-in.
“Unacceptable,” the voice snapped. “Your clever plan to neutralize Makatiel has jeopardized everything — the pilots have made contact too soon. Events were already proceeding out of time with the plans laid out in the Scrolls, and you have simply served to widen the gyre.”
Director Lacroix merely sighed and leaned forward in her chair, concealing a frown under folded hands. This was easily the part of her job she hated the most. If one plotted her position on the chain of command in NERV, officially, she would report directly to the NERV High Commissioner’s office. What the world saw was clear and direct, an unbroken line of accountability from her, to NERV, to the UN, and from the UN to its constituent governments. The chain of command was almost beautiful in its simplicity.
Pity, then, that the beautiful lies were the most heartbreaking.
Sitting alone in a private conference room, the Director looked at who she really reported to: twelve holographic monoliths, jet black and engraved with a simple identification in red letters:
“You know — you all know — as well as I do that the contents of the Scrolls are oft vague at best,” Lacroix replied, calmly. SEELEE-05 had a tendency to wear on her rapidly — his voice was masked by a filter, but she had a feeling she knew who was behind that monolith, and they’d never gotten along well, not since they’d first met at Gehirn. “We are still in the early phases yet. Error can be corrected for later — I was presented with a plan that, had it succeeded, meant that she would be in the least danger. All we risked were the lives of the pilots, and those are replaceable anyways.”
“True,” 03 cut in. “But the risk is still outside of tolerance. We are able to put events back on track with careful manipulation, but that does not mean we should deviate from the plans laid out fifteen years ago — it has guided our actions so far, and we have reaped much benefit from them.”
Lacroix repressed a snort. If this was success, failure must truly be a terrible thing: much of Asia was in ruins, large parts of the globe were nearly unlivable, and the definition of ‘stable nation’ now had a great amount of wiggle room for internal disturbance, especially given the latest rumblings out of the American Southwest. She was privy to Seelee’s machinations, having gone from unwitting puppet during the Katsuragi expedition to one of the key players outside the Inner Circle and the Human Instrumentality Committee. Just as there is no one more zealous than the convert, however, there was no one who doubted more than one who had fallen from the faith.
“Very well,” she replied, nodding and swallowing her pride. “I shall encourage my subordinates to exercise… more caution. In any case, I doubt that after the last incident, the pilots will be willing to pull any stunts like that for a while. Being buried under a mountain for days tends to dampen one’s enthusiasm for heroics.”
“Good,” the voice of 01 boomed out. “It is settled, then. In truth, we cannot argue with success, but we must ensure that the cost of victory is not too high a price to pay. Monitor the children. Ensure there is no… cross-contamination, by any means necessary. We have come too far to risk our prize escaping from our grasp now, and you know what contact could do to our plans.”
The Director knew very well indeed. It might cause the course of future history to spiral out of the grasp of the old men with their ancient scrolls, ending in something that none of them, with their laser-like focus on their prophecies, could anticipate. What a terrible fate.
“We are finished here, then,” 01 concluded, the monoliths winking out, starting at 12 and moving downwards in order. “Do not fail us.” The last one to go was the first one in line, SEELEE-01. It remained for a moment, and Lacroix imagined whoever was behind it studying her. What did he see, she wondered? Did he see a tool, a cog in their giant machine, carrying out its predetermined role? Or did he see what actually existed?
Finally, the last monolith winked out, and the lights came on again. Pulling out a handkerchief, Adele Lacroix lifted it to her mouth, spitting out the mixture of blood and saliva that had collected in her mouth. Her teeth had dug into her lip as she forced herself to say what the Inner Circle wanted to hear, and not what she wanted to say — but one of these days…
Forcing those thoughts aside, she stood, retreating into the adjoining office. Taking a seat in her chair, she reaches down and opens a drawer, pulling out a bottle of cognac. This was the first time she’d seen the old men running scared. Those pilots shouldn’t be alive by any right — they should have suffocated hours before the rescue teams unearthed enough of the rubble to link fresh power supplies to the Evangelions. Yet, there they were, bruised and battered in mind and body, but alive. They had been saved, and if that was enough to send those old men into a panic… it was something to be celebrated. Sipping on the cognac for a while, she leaned back in her chair, contemplating her next move. Then, finishing her drink, she set the empty glass down, pressing a button on her phone.
“I would like to see the pilots and Captain Ward,” she stated into the intercom. “At their earliest convenience.”