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Nothing Is True Everything Is Permitted
Summary: The beginning of the beginning of the end.
Who: Leo Stenbuck, Gendo Ikari, radio cameos from various others
When: 27 February NCA 120
Where: Giga Float, Space


<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Leo Stenbuck transmits, "Hey, the first new voice. You're, uh...?"

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Huang Qin Shi transmits, "Force of habit, I suppose. I don't want to lug a full kit around everywhere."

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Noriko Takaya transmits, "I still wear my Top uniform all the time, it never had any. -- Oh, right, not everyone knows...Takaya. Noriko Takaya."

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Leo Stenbuck transmits, "Oh! You're Gunbuster's pilot, right?"

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Noriko Takaya transmits, "Yeah! I'm the main pilot."

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Leo Stenbuck transmits, "Main? There's more than one?"

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Noriko Takaya transmits, "It's designed to be piloted by two, but I'm the only one right now. Buster Machine 2 isn't quite ready yet."

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Leo Stenbuck transmits, "Oh. Okay. ... hey, do you think one of these days I could...?"

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Noriko Takaya transmits, "Could...?"

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Leo Stenbuck transmits, "You know, take it out for a spin."

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Noriko Takaya transmits, "uhhhh, nnnnnnnnnno. Coach would kill us all."

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Leo Stenbuck sighs. "Oh."

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Noriko Takaya transmits, "Moreover, you probably couldn't. I trained for a couple years with the harness system."

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Ilyse Amsel transmits, "It didn't look /that/ hard."

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Ralla Traln Triald transmits, "I am sure you will have a chance to use a similar machine, Major."

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Ilyse Amsel transmits, "Haha, what similar machine?"

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Noriko Takaya laughs. "Well, I just make it look easy. It's hard! And it's a real workout, too."

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Ilyse Amsel transmits, "Yes, that's why /I'm/ skipping it. It's got a lot of advantages but I think it would kill me."

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Leo Stenbuck transmits, stubbornly, "I bet I could do it."

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Ilyse Amsel transmits, "Whichone are you?"

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Ilyse Amsel transmits, "Like who, I don't know everyone's voices."

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Huang Qin Shi transmits, "Leave it to the professionals - Takaya knows what she's talking about."

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Leo Stenbuck transmits, "Leo Stenbuck."

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Rei Ayanami, quietly. "Rei Ayanami. Reporting for duty, on transfer from NERV Geofront."

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Huang Qin Shi transmits, "Aya...hunh."

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Ilyse Amsel transmits, "Oh, /you're/ Stenbuck, okay. And that's Ayanami, and I know Qin Shi. At least by reputation."

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Leo Stenbuck, about to say something, suddenly sounds like he just got punched in the stomach.

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Noriko Takaya transmits, "It uses muscle tension wire bundles for reading motion data, so...I'm working out a lot just to make sure it won't give me any trouble. -- Oh, hello!"

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Rei Ayanami sounds like she's reading from a neo cue card unenthusiastically. "I have been instructed to inform you that NERV expresses the hope that this will be a smoothly operating and mutually beneficial partnership."

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Leo Stenbuck sounds furious. "Who's doing that? Do you think this is funny, or something?"

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Ralla Traln Triald transmits, "Sir?" Masaki Andoh has left.

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Huang Qin Shi transmits, "I...hm."

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Noriko Takaya transmits, "Huh?"

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Huang Qin Shi transmits, "Miss Ayanami, thank you for the message."

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Huang Qin Shi transmits, "Can I ask you to recite the first five prime numbers, please?"

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Ilyse Amsel transmits, "What kind of question is that? Who /can't/?"

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Rei Ayanami transmits, "Two, three, five, seven, eleven."

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Rei Ayanami doesn't even hesitate.

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Leo Stenbuck snarls, "Bullshit! Was this your idea, Huang? Huh?!"

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Huang Qin Shi transmits, "Excellent. Thank you...."

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Huang Qin Shi transmits, "Is what my idea?"

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Ilyse Amsel transmits, "Heck, I could do the first thousand without thinking. - What got you so pissed all of a sudden?"

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Noriko Takaya transmits, "F-first thousand!?"

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Leo Stenbuck transmits, "The, the fucking voice clips, or whatever! Turn it off!"

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Ilyse Amsel transmits, "Sure, the thousandth is 7919."

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Huang Qin Shi transmits, "Stenbuck, this is not a voice clip."

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Ralla Traln Triald transmits, "Sir?"

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Rei Ayanami transmits, "I apologize if my presence has been offensive. I will take this into consideration when making further radio communications."

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Rei Ayanami de-synchs.

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Huang Qin Shi transmits, "Well."

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Noriko Takaya transmits, "Man, what was that about? Uh. ...sir?"

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Leo Stenbuck shouts, "TUR-" He interrupts himself when someone obviously finally does, and instead transmits a second of labored breathing before he remembers to stop transmitting.

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Noriko Takaya tap tap tap

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Noriko Takaya transmits, "...sir, yes."

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Ilyse Amsel transmits, "God, I hope he's not actually crazy."

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Huang Qin Shi transmits, "I would have thought you'd be pleased to hear from her. According to the report NERV sent along, her injuries were quite severe."

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Ralla Traln Triald transmits, "He is not crazy."

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Leo Stenbuck transmits, through gritted teeth, "I'm still he- BULLSHIT, they were severe!!"

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Huang Qin Shi transmits, "Moderate your tone. I'm simply telling you what they report said - they recovered her, resuscitated her, and placed her in care. What the devil is your problem?"

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Leo Stenbuck starts to say something, but stops. After a moment of more ragged breathing, he transmits, "Listen very carefully. Whichever one of you is the one who thinks he's a God damn comedian, I'm gonna find you."

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Huang Qin Shi transmits, "Stenbuck, I am rapidly losing my patience."

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Ralla Traln Triald transmits, "... Sir..."

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Huang Qin Shi transmits, "You are an officer, aren't you? /Act/ like one. Don't threaten your subordinates."

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Huang Qin Shi transmits, "What. Is. The. Problem."

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Leo Stenbuck growls, "Don't you dare, Huang, you fuc- this, this kind of shit, this isn't going to fly here! I'm gonna find whoever did this and you're going right the shit back where you came from!!"

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Huang Qin Shi transmits, "Stenbuck, calm down and listen to me."

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Huang Qin Shi transmits, "On my father's memory, on my hope of rebirth and enlightenment, /we have no idea what you are talking about/."

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Huang Qin Shi transmits, "So stop acting like a madman, take a breath, and explain yourself."

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Leo Stenbuck shouts, "How many dead people do /you/ know who talk on the fucking radio, then?!"

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Ilyse Amsel transmits, "One."

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Huang Qin Shi blink.

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Huang Qin Shi transmits, "...she's not dead, though."

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Michael Trinity transmits, "Dude that thing /totally/ said she sur--"

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Leo Stenbuck further shouts, "BULLSHIT SHE ISN'T! I KNOW WHAT I SAW!"

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Michael Trinity waits for a full ten seconds.

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Michael Trinity transmits, "-vived. Hahahahah! Authorization!"

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Huang Qin Shi rubs his eyes.

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Huang Qin Shi transmits, "All right."

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Huang Qin Shi transmits, "Let's assume that what you say is true."

<Radio: C - Joint Chat> Michael Trinity transmits, "I'm authorized for radio now, b--hglrhlgahrhugagh"

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Huang Qin Shi transmits, "It is entirely possible that you believed she was dead, but NERV's doctors were able to resuscitate her."

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Huang Qin Shi transmits, "Or it could be that something odd is going on."

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Huang Qin Shi transmits, "But whichever one it is, you shouting at people is not going to uncover the truth."

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Leo Stenbuck transmits, "There wasn't anything /to/ resuscitate!! Just, just meat, and- oh, God..."

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Huang Qin Shi transmits, "Stenbuck, listen. Regardless of what happened, it is obvious you need help."

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Huang Qin Shi transmits, "Take some medical leave. Talk to a professional. You're just going to drive yourself crazy if you keep going on like this."

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Leo Stenbuck transmits, accusingly, "Help? HELP?!" Pause. "... you don't believe me. You, you think I'm crazy, or something."

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Ilyse Amsel transmits, "You're sounding pretty, uh... yeah. Sir."

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Huang Qin Shi transmits, "Stenbuck, one of the few friends I have pilots a robot that is also a ghost."

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Huang Qin Shi transmits, "I make it a point not to actively disbelieve anything."

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Huang Qin Shi transmits, "Even if what you say is true, then you need to talk with someone to deal with you /grief/, if nothing else."

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Leo Stenbuck says nothing for several seconds, and then, suddenly, "I have to go."

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Huang Qin Shi transmits, "As you wish. But for just a second, consider this."

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Huang Qin Shi transmits, "What if you are wrong, and she survived?"

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Huang Qin Shi transmits, "How do you think you are making her feel?"

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Leo Stenbuck transmits, "..."

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Huang Qin Shi transmits, "Think on it. /Then/ act."

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Leo Stenbuck abruptly desyncs.

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Huang Qin Shi transmits, "Well."

<Radio: A - A-LAWS Chat> Huang Qin Shi transmits, "That was unpleasant."


Sometimes in life there are things that a man just has to do. One of them is meeting with Gendo Ikari when the invitation comes. Because it's never an invitation, even if it's phrased as such. It's not quite an order, either, because orders can conceivably be defied.

But there the Commander of NERV is, sitting in a meeting room on the Giga Float. This is the worst kind of meeting with Gendo Ikari -- the kind where he feels the need to leave the Geofront. It doesn't happen often, and it usually ends with some sort of tragedy. The bearded doctor sits with his hands steepled, glasses arranged perfectly on the bridge of his nose. A small satchel, suitable for carrying documents, sits on the table in front of him. He doesn't have to look at the clock to keep track of time, and quietly ruminates on the chances that Leo Stenbuck will be late.


Leo Stenbuck's day keeps getting better and better. Hot off the heels of what was obviously being antagonized by some cocksucker with a bunch of voice recordings of Rei, all of a sudden Gendo Ikari himself has come out of nowhere for an... audience, let's say.

Part of Leo is nervous - he never got along with Gendo, after all. But part of him is relieved; Commander Ikari won't like someone parading around his dead voice's ward for 'laughs.' Leo will tell him what happened, and help him find whoever did it, and punish them.

The door to the meeting room slides open, and Leo steps into the meeting room, clad in his fancy shmancy new A-LAWS uniform. He looks... shaken up. There's no sign of tears, or anything like that; he just seems awfully tired for it being so early in the day, and his eyes seem haunted, somehow.

"Commander Ikari," Leo says carefully, coming to a halt in front of Gendo, on the other side of the table. Pointedly, he does not sit down.


Gendo's cold eyes -- sometimes it's hard to imagine he and Rei not sharing relation, considering they have the same stare -- regard Leo for a long moment, and only then does he speak. "Major." The tone is curt, clipped, as if formalities are just wasting his time. He lifts a hand and flattens it, canting it toward the seat at the other end.

"I'd like you to know that I've arranged surveillance of this room to be disabled for a time. No recordings will be made, let alone kept, of this talk. It may indeed have never happened." Gendo opens his satchel, looking down at it for a moment before returning his eyes to Leo. "I mention this so you know right now that I'm not here to play. We're to speak as men, not as man and boy. Understood?"

There's such a frosty air to that last question that icicles may well have formed in Gendo's beard.


Leo stares right back; he can't match Gendo's cold demeanor, especially shaken as he currently is, but he doesn't shy away from eye contact, a noticable difference from every time the pair have spoken before... with the exception, of course, of the recent masquerade.

He also doesn't sit down immediately, when Gendo gestures. No surveillance, huh? That's... unusual. All of a sudden, Leo's anxiety redoubles; Gendo is unnerving enough on his own, and now that he's acting like this...

Leo swallows his fear, and says, simply, "Yes, sir." Finally, he pulls out the indicated chair and takes a seat.


The Commander of NERV lets out a subtle noise from somewhere in the back of his throat. It's not quite pleased, not quite upset -- it's a grunt, but not a grunt. Much of Gendo's communication seems to come out in this way. Luckily for Leo, he also deigns to speak occasionally, too.

"We haven't gotten along," Gendo says, taking his hands off of the satchel and leaning forward somewhat. "Frankly, I viewed you as too much like my son. A disappointment. Someone who was more focused on weeping and self-pity than on acting and winning. I don't think it's hard to imagine why I would feel this way." Gendo just lets that one hang there for a second, as if to amplify the 'fuck you'-ness of it.

"But I see now that I was wrong, and that unlike my son, you've grown out of this tendency." Gendo's hands come together again, fingers steepling; his gaze never moves from Leo's eyes, as if watching for signs of weakness. "And I've come to re-evaluate you more favorably. Do you understand?"


The comparison to Shinji fills Leo with a surge of anger; to his credit, he keeps it off of his face almost entirely, although his left eye and the corner of his mouth do twitch slightly.

Fucking liar, he thinks. He was nothing like Shinji; Shinji the coward, Shinji the psychopath, Shinji the robo-cannibal. The only reason Gendo didn't - doesn't - like him is because he's a spacenoid.

/Obviously/.

"Yes, sir," Leo says, after a few heartbeats of silence. His eyes never move from Gendo's. "Thank you, sir." He'll play along. That much, at least, has been drilled into his head for the past two years; whatever your superior says, just agree, nod, say 'yes, sir'.

And people wonder why the Federation hasn't won all its wars yet.


For a brief moment, one corner of Gendo's mouth ticks upward, as if twitching. But the man is so still otherwise that it's likely not a tic. Perhaps he's amused. In any case, being serious and a professional, he lets it be known no more than that much. "It's fair to say that you've impressed quite a number of people in the same way," Gendo continues, finally breaking the gaze long enough to return his attention to his satchel.

He retrieves a thick folder from it, and flips through it idly. 'MARDUK' is printed on the front, an unfamiliar logo. "Including my old colleague, Paptimus Scirocco. In fact, he's told me much about you. I didn't take it seriously, at first, but now I see that I was wrong. It takes a lot for a man to admit he's wrong, Leo." Again, the statement just kind of hangs there, punctuated only by the soft noise of papers being leafed through.

Gendo still doesn't look up, although his voice projects right at Leo, as demanding and insistent as his stare. "You're part of the A-LAWS initiative. This is good. But when the time comes, I've decided that there is a place for you in NERV. Now, don't get the wrong impression. This isn't an offer. This isn't an invitation. Simply something to be aware of." The folder snaps shut, and Gendo returns his gaze to Leo. "When the time comes for you to take your place, you'll be made aware of it."


At the not-an-invitation, Leo's grim, serious expression finally falters. His eyebrows raise in surprise, and his mouth opens slightly. There are other surprising parts, of course; Leo had no idea Paptimus and Gendo had ever worked together, but...

Him, in NERV? It's a strange image. He's wanted to try out an Evangelion for ages, yes, but... if he did go there, someday, what would happen to Ralla? To Louise? Hell, even to Trinity?

And why's Gendo talking like he doesn't have a choice? Does he think he can just... cherry pick from the rest of the Federation, and no one will dare say 'no'? Does he think he can just... /leash/ him, and...

Several times, Leo opens his mouth to say something, but stops. The incident on the radio is not at the forefront of his thoughts any longer, but it's still taking its toll, and it combines with Gendo's innate aura of malice to make Leo second-guess himself.

He's just being paranoid, or oversensitive, he tries to convince himself. Commander Ikari is just trying to make him a generous offer, to extend an olive branch. "Thank you, sir," Leo manages after almost fifteen full seconds, further proving himself an excellent conversationalist.


Gendo waits patiently. He's taken dinner with Rei Ayanami on a weekly basis for years and years now. He's used to this sort of thing, if one wishes to make a profound understatement. "Good," is all he has to say in response.

The folder remains out on the satchel, and Gendo rests his hand on it, partially obscuring the logo. "The first thing to understand, then, is the value of secrecy. You've been close to Rei for a long time, and yet I'm certain you don't understand half of what NERV does, let alone why, let alone how. And that is a generous estimation." Gendo grunts again. "Simply put, we value our privacy. I shouldn't need to explain why I'm telling you this."

But then Gendo possibly does anyway, in a sideways sort of transition. Without breaking eye contact, he stands, and scoots in his chair. "I'm still not sure I can trust you, Leo. But I know the possibility is there. I've arranged for Rei to be loans to A-LAWS as a show of solidarity with the new group. She'll report personally to Paptimus Scirocco. I trust you have no objections to this." Gendo is standing, but makes no move to leave, as if waiting for a response.


Leo doesn't see what's not to understand, really. They fight aliens. Their budget is too big for the results they get, and they're probably embezzling for pet projects... but, then, most people of a certain status do that, it seems. They--

Leo's train of thought hits a penny on the rails and goes flying off them, and flattens like eight orphanages. He stares up at Gendo. Rei to be... loaned... what? He can buy some denial at first, even with the way her corpse was-- Leo grits his teeth, and pushes past that thought.

She was like Gendo's daughter. He must have been upset... maybe even as upset as Leo was. Still is, even if he's trying as hard as he can to swallow it, keep it inside. But this...

"What?" he asks after a few beats, his voice suddenly much quieter.


Gendo has begun placing the MARDUK folder back into his satchel. His attention refocuses on Leo when the small syllable emerges, and there's an ominous pause in the conversation before Gendo's voice comes out, calm and cold. "I believe you heard me."


"That's impossible," Leo insists, this time without hesitation. "You meant Shinji, right? Or the other one, the redhead. You can't have meant..." As he speaks, his voice slowly gains in volume. It plateaus, thankfully, at his normal speaking level; he doesn't start shouting.

Not yet, at least.


"As I said," Gendo replies, with the patience and chastened annoyance of a schoolteacher, "you understand precious little about NERV, Leo. Precious little." The satchel closes with two loud clicks, and Gendo lets it rest on the table. He walks over to Leo, standing over him, and puts a hand on his shoulder. For just a moment, but still.

"You'll understand when it's time for you to understand. I know what you're thinking. And I know how it feels." Gendo pulls his hand away, and reaches into his pocket. He opens his wallet -- is he going to bribe Leo? -- and removes a battered, dinged ID card. He looks at it for a moment while speaking. "I lost my wife. I thought I would go mad from it. But I simply could not afford myself that option." Gendo turns the card over, to let Leo see. Yui Ikari is the name on it -- part of an organization called GEHIRN, apparently. She has black hair and a somewhat dazed smile, like someone who's not quite sure what to do in front of a camera. She also looks like if Rei Ayanami were thirty years old.

Turning the card back over and putting it back into his wallet, Gendo's voice is grave, sounding older than his years. "We do what we must. This conversation never happened." Gendo begins to turn and walk back toward his satchel.


Leo doesn't flinch away from the touch, although he does stiffen underneath it. Obediently, he turns his gaze onto Yui Ikari's ID card when it's presented. It takes him a few moments to see it, but when he does, his eyes widen in sudden shock.

The (inexact) image of what Rei might have looked like in thirty years causes Leo's insides to churn. He feels, briefly, as if his stomach is trying to choke his heart to death, and his hands involuntarily ball into fists.

And then Gendo's walking away, going back to collecting his things. Leo doesn't know what to say. Part of him thinks he should try to help Gendo accept it. That's what Rei would have wanted, he thinks; she would have wanted him to get over his denial, and-

About then, it hits Leo like a hammer. Gendo isn't denying anything. There's no claims that she lived miraculously, that Leo's perceptions were mistaken. Gendo claims that he lost his wife, and thus knows how he feels... but how could he do that without acknowledging that Leo has lost something?

But he's still 'loaning' them Rei. But that's impossible. She died. He just admitted it. But- and-

Leo's heartbeat hammers in his ears, drowning out all other sound. A wave of nausea washes over him; he feels the sudden urge to cry, but tears don't come, much as they haven't since Rei's death.

"I have to go," Leo croaks abruptly, rising sharply out of his chair so quickly that it tips over, clattering on the ground. Before the falling piece of furniture has even come to a rest, Leo whirls towards the door, his headband and uniform skirts swirling around him.

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