Veidt blinked over at Johann and considered the man behind the question for a second before giving his terse reply.
In the slowly-traversing gloomy light of Harlan's cigarette you see a slimmer human-sized figure approach you slowly, until she comes close enough to see that she's not actually approaching so much as standing still as your moving walkway approaches her. Something about Megumi Saitō's sudden appearance seems wrong for this chamber; she's the only shadowy revelation in this place that seems sized for your tiny scale, when in fact this whole place just looks like a giant's cellar overrun with neglect.
"And there's the wonder-girl herself. Hold up, I think I have to take this."
Veidt reaches to his belt and pulls free a small radio, which had begun paging him with an insistent beep. Veidt pressed a button on the side and read a brief message that looked heavy with unknown acronyms in the single-line display of the device. Snapping the device back to his belt Veidt took one last apologetic puff on his cigarette before stamping it out, leaving you all to gaze at each other's darkened silhouette in the incidental lighting that remained.
"Alright, my part of the tour's over kids. Try not to light anything on fire while I'm gone."
Turning away and stepping off of the walkway (which had reached your ending point anyway) brisquely, the Nerv Commander turned at a 90 degree angle to the mighty vaulted blast door ahead of you and walked off down a nearly-invisible gantryway which you can only assume lead to some other tertiary elevator system. Once Veidt's footfalls fell from hearing Saito pulled a penlight out of her pocket and lit it to show the small patch of steel deck plating you both stood on, directly before Terminal Dogma's final threshold.
"He can sometimes be a bit... intense. I hope your meeting went well?"
It is hard to judge her facial expression behind the question in this light.
The word kind of felt like drop of water to exposed skin in winter. Bitter, a slight sting, a worrisome shiver and then perhaps a false relief that would only truly be relieved when you found a warm place to strip off your outer layers of protection and to bask in the security and warmth. Unfortunately, despite the heat and humidity - this facility was nothing but a coat and possessed no warmth.
Johann barely noticed his commander talking and gazed at his own invisible movement forward on the walkway, flexing his fingers twice until they popped silently. It was then he heard his commander again, leaving them alone on an awful analogy that simply made him think.
'Oh dont worry sir, I wont try. But I will make sure to wait, until you're there to watch it with us.' Johann thought to himself as he prayed for the day such sins need not be committed to secure a lasting peace and security.
As Megumi queried him he looked up from the floor to meet her gaze.
"Hmm yes; As well as could be expected I suppose." He adds approaching casually. "So, you'll be handling the more 'technical' parts of my tour then?" He decides to use the phrase 'technical' in comparison to 'freak science' as the commander had put it.
To be honest, I'm not completely sure what my role in this trip is supposed to be. His desire to show you Terminal is frankly rather odd... there is little down here to perform as an emergency weapon, or change your approach to tactics of defending the HQ. And I certainly don't ever come down here just for fun myself."
The admission is accompanied by a rare ironic smirk as she retrieves some kind of keycard similar to the Commander's from her pocket. She swiped it through a reader surreptitiously hidden near the entrance and stood back as the doors grated open.
"Terminal Dogma..." Megumi stated flatly by way of introduction.
Inside Terminal Dogma, situated high above and before you atop a pinnacle of obscure mechanical frameworks, is a massive shapeless... you suppose it looks like a featureless blob of pale flesh. The grotesque trophy is frozen in stasis at the center of the illuminated chamber which seems to be the focal design point of the monstrous apparatus of steel and circuitry around it. Massive shielded tubes transmitting wiring and liquid coolant twist around the chamber as if a wreath of clicking steel, while mighty aluminum cylinders that contain pin-point containment devices stud the chamber in every direction like a halo of thorns. Every sinister angle of the containment chamber points at it's direct center, where the immobilized blob hovers, apparently in some sort of artifical zero-gravity vacuum.
As you take in the incredibly unusual sight, Megumi has been walking towards a control terminal located close to the entrance... a vast gulf of empty steel girders separates you two from the opposite end of the room where the vast apparatus and it's captive organic-seeming material dwell. "Watch."
Inputting a string of commands into the interface, Megumi steps back to observe the reaction. A distant vague buzzing noise that was on just the very edge of your awareness ceases abruptly. You realize that you only ever really noticed the far-away mechanical hum once it has surprised you with it's disappearance. Then the organic mass at the center of the chamber twitches... and reshapes itself.
It does not merely alter shape, but judging by the growing irregular rotation of the object, there are displacements of mass occurring that are throwing off the equilibrium of the object's hovering stasis. Likewise the blob of fleshy material is growing, at first imperceptibly. But shortly, it has begun to stretch exploratory tendrils towards the edges of the containment chamber, blindly groping for the boundaries of it's prison. It is already now definitely larger then when you first saw it, and judging from the sagging motion of it's hovering position is, somehow, gaining mass such that the artificial containment is having difficulty keeping up.
"Yes, I think that's enough." Megumi reached back to her terminal and rapidly input a countermanding order to the system. Very shortly, the distant whir of that indefinable noise has resumed, and the mutations of the blob (whose shape is beginning to resolve as... you're not sure. At one point you could have sworn it resembled an off-color humanoid arm, before switching to a new morphology) utterly cease. It shrinks to it's original shape and slowly regulates to it's stationary position in the absolute center of the containment chamber.
Saito coughed and looked back at you. "I presume you've remained current on your studies in Super-Solenoid Theory. What you've just witnessed is the only extant S2 Engine in human knowledge. What few classified studies of it that have leaked to the broader scientific community have driven every theory and breakthrough in the young field of Solenoid generation for the past 15 years, and it challenges... defies our understanding of Einsteinian physics in ways that would bring a heart attack to any modern professor of Physics or Mathematics able to directly study it."
Johann simply ponders to himself 'you never know' as Megumi state's her uncertainty of him being shown Terminal dogma. "Ah but you admit that 'fun' is a factor?" Johann adds with a slight joking smirk as he replies. "You'd be surprised where inspiration can come from though I suppose." He adds slowly approaching as the doors open and she introduces the next area.
Johann lets out a near silent whistle as his head slowly pans from side to side, in fact he may have stood there for quite a long time as his eyes moved from side to side and his fingers moved back and fourth as if counting - as if trying to break down the complexity of the engineering before him into mental blueprints. Johann didnt know to be thankful or not to have his attention drawn away as Megumi simply stated the simple word 'Watch'.
He leaned in, his face practically alight with a grin. The joy's of discovery were his most favorite memories and he knew that such happiness was usually coupled with it's own pains and disappointments, after all the universe had to balance itself again... At least that is the warped logic he'd come to accept.
'It's almost, like it's reaching out to us.' His right arm, elbow planted on the railing, his hand that had been extended for counting just moments prior slowly leveled downwards, his fingers extending slowly as if wishing to help someone who had fallen, a feeling of likely foolhardy fascination gripped him and he found himself slowly retracting his fingers before meshing them with his other hand as the demonstration came to a close.
"An interesting name for such a project..." Johann had a strange feeling that the name, implied something more then an experiments title - as if not personalizing it was somehow rude. "Then again, what about our enemies doesn't utterly wring our understanding of the universe like a sponge these days... Thankfully, we're ready to soak up brand new knowledge so long as we dont break it seems." Johann adds as he stops leaning on the railing.
"So, this may be an odd question... But, is it? Adam, I mean. Is it alive?" He adds thinking that it might somehow be a captured sample of some-kind. "How was it acquired?"
"Alive isn't how I would describe it, although maybe that's a subject for a philosopher and not a scientist. I should start from the beginning, your clearance was never properly high enough for much of this. 'Adam' is, appropriately enough, where this all began. Why we're here, why the Angels are coming for us. We found it fifteen years ago after Second Impact. I don't know all of the details really: the Commander was part of the expedition, I am told. He never speaks of it. I could talk further about the recovered security footage stills, and some theories as to how and more importantly when Adam arrived here on Earth, but I don't think that would be appropriate for you to worry about right now. I'll keep this basic.
Whatever Adam once was, this is all that's left: a congealed mass of his recovered former body and the S2 organ. If Adam possesses a core we have not been able to find it. The S2 organ, if it was allowed to run rampant, would re-create... something. We've never allowed it to progress very far, and the results are always worrying when we do. Whether it would resurrect Adam or degenerate into a decaying dead mass is unknown. Either result would certainly be catastrophic to our studies into the nature of the Engine, if not with deadly results for all of Ark.
The S2 engine represents limitless potential, the physical counterpart to the AT Field. Unlimited power, and combined with the will of an AT Field capable of bypassing the laws of thermodynamics to generate mass and energy with no visible end to the potential. If it could somehow be harnessed and controlled, well..."
The guise of the scientist disappears for a second and Megumi offers a wan smile before stating a line that has the sing-song flow of a mantra or a nursery rhyme.
"It's mankind's greatest hope, and also our worst fear." She dropped back into her usual rigid and informative tone for the rest of the speech.
"At any rate, we can't control it yet. If an Angel could reach Adam though... well, we're fairly certain that they're capable of the level of molecular self-control to consume the remnants of Adam and absorb the S2 organ. That level of power in the hands of an Angel would be catastrophic for civilization. I don't know if I can stress enough that I'm not just being poetic here: such a being would be a threat to humanity, globally.
"Yes I understand, and at least now I have a better understanding of the situation. I always assumed there would be a much better position for a base if we were looking for ease in global deployment to counter angel attacks and appearances world wide. But now I know why they're coming for and targeting us here specifically, well... Know might be fairly strong - it's still mostly the best theory we have with what evidence we have available." He adds rubbing the back of his head knowing this may change his strategies slightly while feeling akward about continuing down the next line of discussion.
"I can certainly see the value in this research, but just so im clear and I have to ask so I can better understand where I stand tactically so I don't have to take time to ask questions when lives are on the line if a battle ever breached this far into Nerve. Do you believe a similar result is also possible if Adam was introduced to one of the Eva units? Or would the Eva's first need to be upgraded, when or if this research was ever perfected to properly assimilate Adam? And im assuming the scenario will probably have a low chance of the Eva actually controlling this power and a high chance of it becoming another angel, I just wanted to know your opinion."
"The S2 engine has rejected every attempt at Eva integration so far. It's better if you don't hear about the exact results of those tests.... You might have known some of those people."
As she spoke Saitō tapped out a code on the control panel, causing sonically-dampened barriers to close over the transparent face of the containment chamber. At the same time the shielded blast doors behind you grind open once again, allowing you and her to walk back out to the converyor walkway, where you slide along back towards the elevator you arrived on.
"It's strange you know... I only saw that thing at the center of Terminal Dogma for the first time a few months ago. And I helped design the containment field. I suppose that the Commander must really trust you. Do you have any idea why that might be?"
"Good to know..." He adds in response to eva integration before sighing slightly thinking about his old associates, putting aside his own feelings before continuing on with the conversation.
"Well besides the obvious jokes about me being the so-called chosen one that only he and a secret society knows about or his ill-legitimate love child? Or that he probably see's a lot of himself in me for whatever reason I cant comprehend yet - then again I dont see that really affecting his decision in a positive manner." He adds scratching his cheek. "It'd probably be in worse taste to joke about the possibility of him having cancer and grooming me to be his replacement secretly, because really that'd just be awkward for you most likely if it was true since you're next in line." He continues trying to be mildly comical with a hint of charm before returning to business.
"Hmm?" He adds contemplating it in a serious manner. "Not particularly no, at least nothing i'd be proud to admit anyway. So, anything else to see down here?" He questions curiously. "Also, i'd be interested in your thoughts on expanded security down here, along with the possibility of installing anti-angel contingency weaponry. True if an angels gotten down this far, we're likely already doomed with our fingers on the button; but if we have available funds and Terminal dogma has the space and various capacities for it - it might not be bad to consider having a few measures ready to delay the enemy in case it ever breaks our front-lines or somehow gets down here before we can prep the pilots. Then again, that's all based on the assumption that this is a capture the flag objective mission for our enemy."
"Oh but if we dont have enough time, we can always delay such a discussion for later and I can make a few rough draft notes when I have time based on my observations and our available research, arsenals and resources and pass them along to you for review at a later point." He adds with a nervous laugh rubbing the back of his head.
"Oh yeah, I nearly forgot - I was inviting some people down the Pub tonight - for a sort of meet and greet, you know a non workplace get to know my coworkers a little better, celebrate the promotion. Would you like to join us? Assuming, you're not busy..." He adds, his eyes looking to the side for a moment.
'Oh gods, stop you idiot! You're making this sound way to weird! She's going to think you're asking her out...
Then again, would that be such a bad thing?
No, no, I swore I wouldnt touch co-workers when I joined.
Then again, there were like two women in the pit crew back then and no female test pilots in my group so it was kind of one of those promises one can make to make yourself feel better about sticking to those principles.'
Johann continued to have a mental discussion of Ethics with himself for the moment and it was probably evident he was thinking of something, but just what was uncertain.
Megumi Saitō allowed herself an ironic grin at Johann's weird attempts at humor on the topic of the Nerv Commander's behavior, whether at the joke or the Operations Director himself wasn't clear. When Johann changed the topic to Terminal Dogma's defenses she merely shrugged.
"We could certainly do more, but I worry that it would be money thrown after speculation at this point. Our defenses down here in Nerv are mostly passive: tons of rock and ocean floor and steel. Everything active is mobile and focused on the surface... the Navy and the EVAs themselves of course. But... Zuriel's ability to teleport was disturbing. Based on our theories about angel growth, the likelihood of encountering another Angel with identical abilities are unlikely. They are totally singular, completely unique beings, and we suspect programmed to diverge wildly in form and functions... it's part of what makes their AT Fields so strong. Could another teleport in the same manner, or have some other way to slip past our defenses and end up down here?
The Evangelions are able to maneuver in certain areas of the base down here if it became necessary but it would hardly be ideal, it's a very valid concern..." It strikes Johann suddenly that Megumi looks tired, as if she's had a few too many sleepless nights of endless worry about difficult-to-analyze problems just like this. "...I mean, of course, I'd look at any proposals you have. I just don't know what our funding will allow, every budget ends up tighter then the last..."
As you both end up on the elevator and ask her if she'd like to come along to the pub with the rest of the office Saitō blinked in surprise. "What, really? The last time I had time for something like that was... And uh, it's already been a long day but I still have a lot of personnel management items that I need to..." An expression almost close to anger flickered across the Executive Director's face before resolving itself into a coy smile.
"No, maybe that's a good idea after all. It's a Friday isn't it, this is the sort of thing that people with normal jobs do on Fridays right? It, uh... couldn't hurt to get to know some of the staff in a more informal manner, either."
She immediately adjusts her glasses and hammers fiercely at the notepad she carries everywhere with her digital stylus. Probably because she has a lot of work to get done if she's going to take off this evening. That's probably why.
"Ah there it is," Johann adds in response to Megumi's smile in a positive tone as if to congratulate her.
'It must be tough being middle management...' Johann thinks in a slightly ironic manner. 'The shit rolls down hill from those above you and everyone below always needs to come to you to implement their idea's. And you still have to get your own work done.'
"Good point, perhaps it would be better for me to think about such things when I have a few other Angels to compare and contrast to." He nods deciding not to push the issue much further as he presses the button for the elevator and they enter.
"Oh well if that's the case I ~" He pauses for a moment slightly surprised at the quick turn about. He continues thinking for a moment to himself listening to her decision as he contemplates other things. "Glad to hear it, but no need to push yourself. Unless maybe there's something that I can assist you with? I figure it's only proper to return the favor of you listening to some of my ideas for the future development of the facility and for taking the time to give me this fascinating tour. Besides, all my appointments for the rest of the afternoon got canceled." He adds as if to give her the reasoning that he's doing nothing at the moment anyway - while unknowingly trying to lean slightly to look at what she was working on.