|First Principle of Her Silence|
|Summary: Kai Shiden investigates Rei Ayanami's connection to Amuro Ray.|
Rei Ayanami brought home a stray. Of course, Amuro Ray went and did his own thing -- he didn't slavishly follow her back to the Minerva in a stolen Lion. Rei was able to get out of the ship to meet with Amuro in the first place by breaking character and volunteering for patrol duty, giving some terse, monotonous speech about needing experience in more standard mobile suit piloting and blah blah. So she took out a Galbaldy Beta, and now she's bringing it back, having completed the assigned patrol route.
The Galbaldy is docked, the hatch is open, and out comes Rei Ayanami, in a standard teal A-LAWS normal suit.
The girl doesn't look at the technicians that swoop in almost immediately (they're professionals), let alone speak to them. They might as well not even exist. Instead, she beelines right through the hangar, pushing herself in what is effectively a straight line from the Galbaldy's docked position to the portal leading to the pilots' locker rooms.
Rei unfastens her helmet when she touches down on solid ground, removing it and exposing shaggy hair rife with the threat of nearly being able to be called 'long.' A-LAWS logo hair clips keep her bangs parted and out of her eyes, but the hairstyle is still a messy, careless one -- in large part thanks to the phenomenon of Helmet Hair.
Rei enters the women's locker room. Empty but for her and the hum of fluorescent lights -- but then, you're never lonely when you have a fluorescent light. She steps to her locker, unzipping her flight suit to her waist, exposing the standard-issue teal tank top underneath. Dropping her helmet on a bench with an unimpressive 'thunk,' Rei stops when her hand moves toward her locker.
Rei turns her head in either direction, looking over her shoulder one way, then the other. Her face is blank except for a subtle, almost invisible tension in her brow. After a moment of consideration, she puts whatever she's thinking aside and takes the lock off of her locker.
Rei opens the door and--
BEHIND A SPACE ROCK NEAR THE MINERVA
The bright red D-Defenser is parked on a pitted chunk of stone, a cool big space tarp thrown over it which hides it from most standard sensors. Kai has left the forward lights on, and may need a jump later.
ABOUT TEN MINUTES AGO
A yawning man in an A-LAWS uniform pitches his half-eaten sloppy joe into a space garbage can, thinking about playing that crazy Zeon card game the old guy has with him on his break time. The garbage can, behind him, sprouts a pair of legs and slips into the women's locker room.
RIGHT THE HELL NOW
Kai Shiden, hero of the One Year War, is already in Rei's locker, having slipped in with a foolproof disguise, white jacket slung over his shoulder. His right hand is wrapped firmly around his rigid, fully loaded... revolver, the barrel of which is pointed right at Rei's eyes. He's in full on Serious Mode, his sunken eyes oddly penetrating.
"Don't scream," he frowns, "and I'll remain professional."
Rei doesn't scream. Of course she doesn't. Her eyes widen in surprise when a man is inside her locker, jamming a gun into her face. Her mouth remains a sullen line, though, lips tightly closed. Her breathing doesn't even appreciably quicken or deepen. Her own red eyes, for that matter, are just as odd as the reporter's.
"Kai Shiden," Rei says, after a tense, silent moment. Her voice is toneless and bored, although her wide-eyed, rather stunned expression remains. She doesn't know Kai Shiden from Adam. And yet she just blurted out his name like she knew him. It's not a hard mystery for Rei to solve, but it's still jarring to the girl, inasmuch as anything really jars her.
"Don't point a gun in my face," Rei asserts -- or, really, semi-asserts, the flat anti-affect of her voice making it come off as a bored complaint rather than an imperative. Rei steps backward, giving Kai room to emerge, should he so choose.
"Why are you here." The way Rei asks it, it doesn't have a question mark.
Kai obliges, lowering the revolver until it is, instead, pointed at Rei's heart. His expression is carefully controlled - obvious displeasure, like a wronged father, mixed with a note of... compassion? It's important that Kai not look like he actually /wants/ to shoot Rei through her organs.
Which, right now, he doesn't. That could change.
Kai drops from the locker with a degree of grace entirely inappropriate to the idea of 'stepping out of a locker', immediately stepping to the side, putting the door into the locker room in front of him. He tosses his jacket on the bench, revealing a big, red, meaty stain on it. "I was thinking that you could tell me." His eyes dart left and right for fractions of a second, before settling on Rei again.
Rei's arms droop at her sides as if they were useless and unconnected to the rest of her nervous system. She displays all of the tension and fear of someone waiting in line to buy ice cream. She doesn't particularly notice the jacket being thrown, although her nose twitches once -- then twice -- a silent sniff at the air.
It's when Rei turns to face Kai that she notices a garbage can pushed into one corner of the locker room. Her expression -- or what passes for one -- briefly becomes a bit of a squint.
Rei's attention returns to Kai, though, and she meets his sunken gaze with her own sallow, cryptic stare. For a few long beats, this silence continues. Perhaps Rei is considering what she wants to say. Perhaps Rei is considering how best to make a break for it.
"He knows what he's doing," Rei finally says, avoiding naming just who, but imagining that it must be fairly obvious. Rei's greatest failing is imagining that things must be obvious to people -- but then again, most of the time she's talking to teenagers, not investigative journalists. "Or, he thinks he does. I won't let anything happen to him. In any event, it is between us. It doesn't concern you."
"It concerns me," he replies sharply, taking a step forward, the cool demeanor slipping for just a moment. There's... fear, some anger, and most of all, frustration at his own helplessness. He gets a lock on it immediately, about to start talking about himself, /why/ it concerns him, but that's not how a freelance journalist rolls.
Kai turns it around. "Some time ago, you met him, and he went into a coma. This, on its own, can be explained by other means. It's a kind of thing that... happens to him." His brows lower, and Kai takes another step forward, this one a calculated motion to bring his height to bear, get a loom on - while trying to remain outside Rei's easy reach. "But then, while fighting one of those Angels, he behaved erratically. Just the other day, when A-LAWS broke into that colony, he shouted a name - Gendo." He needs no introduction.
Kai frowns down at Rei, the gun still at her heart. "It's my belief that you did something to him, and I need to find out what."
He weather's Rei's judgement of his infiltration methods stoically. If something works, /you stick by it./
The blue-haired girl has to work to maintain her neutral expression for a second, when Kai begins to talk about the effects of Amuro's acquaintance with her. This is what she was describing earlier to a T, when she and Amuro had their little heart to heart. It's the one thing that Rei can't escape, no matter how hard she tries to inure herself against the guilt and the shame.
Rei's actions have consequences. Not just to her. Not just to the direct recipients. If you throw a stone into a lake, it ripples outward and outward -- and the splash sends up drops that land, creating their own ripples in turn. Rei Ayanami has never felt so connected to the universe.
It's as inconvenient as it is troubling.
Still, this ongoing contemplation is blocked from view. Rei stares ahead, unafraid (or so it seems) of the gun pointed right at her chest. Her face tenses slightly when the word 'Gendo' is spoken. She buttons it instantly, but the damage of being seen has already been done.
"Perhaps he will tell you himself later," Rei suggests, her tone too bland to even be patronizing or sarcastic. "It will all be over soon, anyway. And then he will go home and continue his life as best he can. That is all you need to know."
Kai Shiden takes another step forward, even though this puts him in Rei's reach if she decides to lunge. He's losing his own control again, showing teeth. God damn it, he thinks. "I've made promises." He and Hayato finish a bottle of scotch together, watching a sports game neither of them care about - tomorrow, Kai takes his spot on the Argama as a Karaba 'consultant' to the AEUG, finally rejoining the military in all but rank. Keep an eye on Amuro, Hayato asks. You know he gets his head in the clouds sometimes. You gotta anchor him. "I'm not just walking away from this."
Once again, Kai inwardly rails against his... what do you even call it? His lack of enlightenment? His oldtype status? He's always been a realist, only content with things he can see or touch, but it's increasingly like there's a whole world he can't even fathom. His job has become to lurk in Amuro's shadow of his own volition, chronicle his life, his deeds, and beat back anything that would prevent him from taking his course.
But... he's falling behind, floundering in the wake of things he can't even fathom. He's getting a headache. Kai's jaw is tight as he takes another step, almost pressing the gun right up against Rei. "What did you /do/ to him?!" He nearly yells, eyes flicking toward the door. Shit, he's slipping...
Between the journalist and the teenager, somehow it's Rei who manages to retain her professional detachment as Kai gets increasingly agitated. She draws in a breath as the gun gets closer -- but that's it. She might not be scared of it. If she is, she's doing a damn fine job of being a soldier about it.
"We came to an understanding," Rei says, after a long pause, her eyes staring into Kai's and beyond, as if her gaze were fixed on some point well behind him, red irises boring through the back of his skull from the front. "He reached out to me. He understands me. I understand him."
It's the simplest explanation of what's happened, and yet it is also probably the most frustratingly vague non-answer Rei could give. "He believes that he's looking out for me. He's incorrect. Right now, I'm looking out for him. Just like I told you."
The five-foot-zero sixteen-year-old in a half-open flight suit manages to outdo herself in the disaffected apathy of her tone and expression: "Either trust me or shoot me."
So that's what it's like when he uses his Reporter Eye on people. Well, Kai is not going to be defeated by a piercing stare! Eyes so grey they're almost white because fuck you animators he does not just lack irises lock onto red as he finishes the last step, the rigid, loaded barrel of his gun pressing into Rei's soft, yielding teenage breast (now Solis hates this log).
Kai's finger twitches on the trigger, brushing against it. Any other person would have no idea what the fuck Rei just said.
Kai has, meanwhile, seen the likes of Amuro, Camille, and other Newtypes drunk on many occasions. There are just certain ways that they, and people like them, talk. His mouth pulls into a thinner and thinner line, jaw tightening and tightening until it seems like his teeth must shatter -
Explosion. The stink of gunpowder. An echo resounding across the walls. Surprised shouts from outside the room. Footsteps.
"Fucking Newtypes," Kai hisses under his breath, his wrist resting on Rei's shoulder, the barrel of his gun smoking. The wall immediately behind Rei is dented out.
The veteran takes a step back, opening his hand. The gun swings forward on his finger, and with a flick of his wrist, Kai flips it over and drops it into his shoulder holster. With his other hand, he shoves a card at Rei, containing contact info - likely difficult to trace, and not leading to anything obvious like 'the Argama' or 'his beautiful cabin in the Alps'. "He can be a handful," he manages through clenched teeth. God damn it, Amuro, why can't I keep up?
Rei doesn't even break eye contact as the barrel of the gun presses against her, meeting the thin space-weave cotton of her tanktop -- beneath it, the featureless cotton and neo lycra bra, and beneath that, soft skin so white that even the minimal impact of having room-temperature metal pressed to it causes a purplish welt to rise, not far from her nipple. (Now /everyone/ hates this log).
The gun goes off. Rei doesn't flinch. Her hair is a little jostled, but her arms are still at her sides. Rei's reaction to Kai nearly murdering her is the worst thing any investigative journalist could hear: no comment.
Rei lifts a hand to take the card, still without ceasing her stare at Kai's eyes. She hasn't blinked during the entire encounter, one of those little details that takes a while to sink in with most people. (Not to mention one of those details that, once noticed, can no longer go unnoticed.) The card is tucked into a flight suit pocket without even being looked at. "He'll be safe," Rei says. "I can't say the same for you unless you leave. You were foolish to fire." Indeed, Rei can also hear the footsteps getting closer.
Rei's lack of blinking has already been registered to Kai - it reminds him of someone he knew once, long ago.
ONE YEAR WAR, THE WHITE BASE
Kai leans against the wall, too cool for school, watching the irrationally bulbous chef wring his hands and whine about salt to Bright. He begins to snicker, the laugh dying in his throat as he realizes. The chef... he hasn't blinked for the last hour, and yet his eyes remain moist and shiny. Kai pushes off the wall and goes to sexually harrass Sayla, hoping her gentle touch (haymaker) will remove the knowledge from his mind. Later, on his back, bleeding profusely from the nose, he realizes it will always be with him.
BACK TO NOW
As Rei turns to face Kai after observing the flash back... he's gone, leaving the red-stained jacket on the bench. A few soldiers of mixed gender burst in the door, drawn by the gunfire.
The women immediately turn, frowning at the men.
A locker, detached from its fellows, carefully edges toward an exit hatch, white-clothed legs sticking from the bottom.