Chapter 2, Operations Director: "We don't deal in Salvation down here."

Originally Posted by Fitz
"Is that so?"

"So there's a chance we'll meet the hand controlling this false bodies' marionette?
<Johann Fitz>

The Commander allowed himself a brief chuckle at Johann's analogy.

"I sure hope not, kid. Make no mistake; we don't deal in souls or salvation down here. When the puppet-master does come for us, he won't be kind on account of the things we've done to his creations. I didn't build this damned little pretty underwater basement just so we could herd around maladjusted teenagers and play Army on the UN's dime.

...I built it because people just aren't ready for this yet. Maybe they never will be. After Second Impact, there was a world out there full of families praying to their respective Gods in thanks that they survived. Sure we could go and tell them, Yeah, there's a God alright, and he's convinced that we're simply a big mistake which he's gonna sweep under the rug any day now. But no, that's not what the world leaders want to do. People might get all preoccupied with existential panic and forget to pay their taxes.

So they got me to do a little job for them. Just one more job, heh.

The Commander took a slow pull on his noxious-smelling cigarette and blew it out slowly from the side of his mouth. When he laughed again, it was a combination of mirth mixed with a dry sort of cancerous choke.

"Meg, go check on the tech-heads for me, make sure they're not doing anything I wouldn't want their mothers to see them up to. Thanks."

Saitō got the hint and nodded curtly, walking briskly over to the small personnel elevator off to the Commander's right and descending down to the bottom level of Hazardous Containment, where she disappeared among the white lab-coats there after donning some protective equipment. Veidt took a sidelong glance at you for the first time then shook his head in amusement.

"Hell... either I'm getting older or you're a lot taller since I last saw you."

"Hell we're all getting older, that's something none of us can escape. It's unfortunate that this war will turn out the same as any other, with old men talking and young people dying." He adds with an acknowledging nod to the commander. "Only thing that changes is the weapons and the reasons for the fight."

"Unfortunately, I seem to be in just such a position I could be remembered either way it seems." As if to say it depended both on his survival and whether humanity won or lost this extended war.

"And yes I am taller." He adds in a matter of fact tone with a slight smile.

"And you. I knew you had to be someone important to help my father arrange my initial assignment with the UN forces. But with what I know now about pilots, it truly makes me wonder if you simply exploited my fathers ambitions for something you would have worked hard to get anyway." Johann adds taking a breath and giving a partial sigh. "But in the long run, it looks like I wasn't destined to fight Eldritch space horrors from beyond the stars in a giant Cyborg after-all."

'And hey, the current positions still impressive enough to keep my brothers from rubbing my nose in their success at business and politics respectively.' Johann thinks to himself.

"Well Regardless, good to see you again sir." He adds with an extended hand, not even going to bother bringing up the fact that he was still smoking ; but then again, he should have known the odds were very challenging when he told him last time it was his third attempt at quitting then. "So one last job? Well as long as you enjoy what you do." Johann adds in a truly sincere tone with a slight hint of curiosity to the details but it doesn't seem like he'll press the commander if he doesn't want to or cant talk about the details.

<Johann Fitz>

The Nerv Commander looked at Johann's extended hand with a blank expression for a few moments before deliberately stubbing out his old cigarette on the railing and drawing another one from an inner coat pocket, then lighting it and taking a thoughtfully long drag.

"Best not to dwell on the past, kid. And better not to try and take too much pleasure in the things you do."

He extended one hand out into the chamber and indicated with a wave the view before you both; the shattered core of Zuriel.

"You got one thing right though. If I still had a soul worth selling at this point, the business with these junior jet-pilots in their freaky death machines would have been the final transaction. Like I said, taking pleasure in the job isn't a requirement to actually doing it. That's part of why I got tapped for a leading role in this happy little hell-hole in the first place. But this interview isn't about me son; it's about you.

Saitō picked you for this job because she respects hard work, intelligence, and perseverance. Frankly, I don't give a shit about any of that. Why do you think I approved her choice?

'Well that's a shame, those are some of my best features.' Johann thinks to himself with a slight smile drawing his hand back casually.

"Well if it wasn't any of that or my outstanding education and Eva research, I doubt my wellspring of experience from my years of service to the organization or the fact that as a test pilot myself for a time I at least have a slight idea of the issues these kids might face thus making me at least decently qualified to manage them. And when you compile all that together with my winning personality im someone who can understand and network with all the various people and departments making me more then qualified to lead." He adds lowering his smile and staring at him with utmost seriousness.

"But no, since it's you. It's because you know im a man who can and 'will' get the job done, no matter the cost."

<Johann Fitz>

Harlan Veidt waved his new cigarette in a small circle, scattering an ash or two into the void, as he laughed quietly to himself.

"Look at that: smart people can figure things out for themselves too sometimes."

The man's expression turned grave as he continued, the way a father might as he imparted a valuable life lesson to his progeny.

"That coordinated Naval barrage on Zuriel's position right in the middle of half the EVA team was damned risky, but it paid off. Footage indicates you scored a damaging railgun strike right before the bastard relocated. I know that last second deflection business was probably a hard pill for you to swallow, but just realize that for surviving this encounter the Oklahoma would have been no price at all.

I understand you attended the Navy's memorial service. That's a worthwhile elbow-rubbing stunt but don't forget what they're all here for.

Glancing down into the bottom level of Hazardous Containment as the final piece of Zuriel's split core was interred in a cryogenic vat, Veidt sighed.

"Dammit, I guess the show's over. You ready to come down to Terminal Dogma with me?"

Johann stands firm and will not deny the commanders critics, after all it's hard for a proud person to truly notice their most obvious flaws and feedback was important to building one's character.

"After you," Johann adds pulling one of his hands from behind his back as he had stood 'at ease' and gestures with a slight sweep to the commander as he falls in step behind. 'Finally, I can start collecting more then just the border of this puzzel.'

<Johann Fitz>

Veidt raises an eyebrow at Johann's carefully-chosen hand gestures and posture, while walking to the elevator.

"You ever turn that robot impersonation off kid? If I wanted to surround myself with UN Military Academy grads with sticks up their asses I could have had my pick of the best."

Veidt leads the way back to your elevator, and instead of pressing a floor button swipes a passcard from his wallet into the elevator's coded access reader. Soon you are descending towards the bottom of Nerv's excavation, the literal basement of this base. Veidt keys in a frequency on his radio.

"Hey Meg, meet us back down in Terminal. I might need your help translating some of this freak science baloney for the kid's sake.

...So Fitz, you've had a chance to look at the Children's profiles I hope. As you are in a good position to know they're the most important cog in this operation. The fact you managed to recover from what you went through just sitting in one of those damned things says a lot to me. Obviously it takes some loyalty to the project to want to continue on after what happened to you back then.

But it also tells me that you know better then any of us what goes through the mind of those Children when they commune with the machines.

Veidt pauses to snuff out his cigarette on a wall of the elevator, and thankfully seems content to not immediately light another one as a replacement. He lets his last line hang in the air, ignoring the fact that it was a statement and not exactly a question.

Johann chuckles slightly. "Oh? And here I thought you already had the best." He adds more then confidently referring to himself when he says that as he enters the elevator taking the way the commanders talking to him as an informal permission to speak his mind when it's just the two of them.

'He's the one man I could never fool... Or perhaps, he's the only person I never really tried to.'

"If you're asking for my input, the verdicts still out." Johann adds with a slight shrug of his shoulders. "Sure the reports are handy, but when you can afford to be thorough and temper the judgments of others with your own observations~"

'HA!' the sudden laughed exclamation in his mind made him realize that the commander was either trying to tell him the exact same thing, or he truly thought very little of him. And he couldn't tell which, so that irritated him. With what he knows now, this man probably has a folder on him as well and knows intricate 'data' about him - but his personality was so at odds with that, that it didn't really matter.

"However, if it's just based on the reports and my minimal interaction with the pilots - i'd say there's a lot of issues that need to be addressed. They dont have to be the best of friends, but for this kind of operation each needs to be an independent asset that is ready and capable of working a fight solo; or with any or all of the other pilots." He adds as if to clearly state he's uncertain if 'any' of the pilots are capable of such team work. "And unfortunately, as you said these kids and the Eva's are the most important factor - placing our foundation on shifting sands."

"And of course, I cant exclude myself or any of us from this mix since we have to function as a proper go between for our logistics and forces so that they better understand the battlefield in front of them."
With that he take's a deep breath.

"It'll be a long and perilous road but hopefully I~we, have the will to walk it."

<Johann Fitz>

As the elevator ground to a halt, Veidt's expression and tone of voice turned truly serious for the first time since you'd met him.

"'Logistics and forces'? Don't make me laugh. We have people to handle logistics. People to handle memorial funeral services, too. Put your past with them where it belongs, Johann. I need you looking at the bigger picture here. Consider for a moment why the Navy is so happy to give away an entire carrier combat group for our express use down here, why nobody up at UNN Fleet Command has yet batted an eye at the near-loss of Oklahoma. They're placing their cards down because they want a slice of the pie. When this whole Angel War boils over, if there's anything left worth having all bets are off.

The wolves come out to feast.

My recommendation is to figure out who your true friends are, and hold everyone else at arm's length. At the end of the day these children and the Evangelion program are our only bargaining chips. That, and some other little toys we've got stashed down in our basement.

After you, kid.

Veidt directs you out into a cavernous vault not dissimilar to the EVA holding and maintenance cages. You both step onto a moving walkway that begins leading you towards a massive shielded blast door. In the open space of this dark chamber Veidt sees fit to fire up a new cigarette, which provides just enough light for you to see the suggestively twisted shapes of dark objects in the gloom all around and beneath you. There's nothing that you can quite make out exactly, except when you pass a curious row of grisly trophies arranged on a giant holding rack, awaiting transport to.... Lord only knows where.

"Just... ignore all that stuff on the right. Old mistakes."

Johann exits the elevator and walks with his hand next to the railing, deciding it best not to argue to heatedly with the commander for the time being. His eye's gaze out into the darkness for a moment, that strange feeling you get when the darkness takes shape reminiscent of something that could be shadowing you from a distance.

"That armor..." He adds looking at the old school prototype armor that was no where near today's standards. "Nostalgic." He whispers to himself remembering his old prototype series Eva, back before they had numbers.

However as the commander chimes in, the hint of nostalgia fades and his face slowly frowns as he take's in the gruesome scene and faces forward again to continue towards the blast doors. So many thoughts rattled now in his head, he wondered if this was the fate of all failed evangelions, or at least something similar, to be chopped and dissected by scientists. Johann assumed these were simply specimens that failed to grow properly or had some kind of detectable defect and were therefore aborted, but he wasn't about to ask.

"All that... It seem's to have quirked a question in my mind, that I really cant think of a more appropriate time to ask. What happens to a unit when it can no longer properly synch with a pilot?"

'Do we keep it in store in case we need a spare quickly and dont have time to make repairs? Is it broken down into components and studied? Are it's spec's put back onto the search system and they try to find another pilot?' The possibilities continued to roll through his mind, but he figured the imposing bulkhead before him would probably soon change the priorities of his thoughts.


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