|My Heart Shrinks to Barely a Pulse|
|Summary: Sarah Zabiarov redresses Rei Ayanami.|
Aboard the Minerva, Sarah Zabiarov has been carefully mulling over a problem.
That problem is named 'Rei Ayanami.'
Laid out before the young woman are several reports from the past few battles that the NERV 'donation' piloted had partaken in. Each one of them troubles the young woman. Her behavior is entirely erratic as far as Sarah is concerned, and it doesn't help the last time she was in front of her she reeked of Amuro's signature Newtype aura. What's worse, she threw herself into harm's way--specifically into the oncoming fire of several of her allies against the last Angel.
Resting a slender hand to her forehead, Sarah dwells. It's like the girl has some kind of death wish.
Then, on top of all that, there are /rumors/.
Rising from her small office chair, the Newtype girl makes her way to the electronic door of the room. She casts a light nod to several other soldiers before she moves along, drifting aimlessly as she thinks. Should she confront the girl? She certainly thinks she needs a talking to...but wouldn't that be best left to her commanding officers? Or even better, Master Paptimus?
With a furrow of her brow and a resolved look, Sarah does not consider bothering the Admiral with such 'trivial' matters. She has to do this herself, whether she wants to or not.
SEVERAL MINUTES LATER:
"Ayanami, please report to Lieutenant Zabiarov's office."
The message repeats a few times.
It's not long before Rei arrives at Sarah Zabiarov's doorstep. The message reached her wherever she was in the guts of the Minerva -- as it would happen, this would be the gym. That is why Ayanami, alias Lance-3, is wearing her Top Squadron uniform, which is about as appropriate as a swimsuit -- because it pretty much is one. Strangely, her pale body shows no sign of sweat, although she looks to be in much better health than when Sarah saw her last -- be it in person or having her Evangelion smashed to bits by her allies.
The blue-haired girl enters her superior's office and stops as the door whishes shut behind her, snapping her body into a rigid salute. Her eyes stare straight ahead, not even really focusing on Sarah, and her expression is so mute and neutral that it could barely be called such.
And still -- still -- there's that lingering, perverse sensation tickling the back of Sarah Zabiarov's cortex, the sensation that Amuro Ray is in the room, watching her. It emanates directly from Rei, who silently maintains the salute until given cause to stop.
Looking up the moment her door opens, Sarah...offers no real expression herself. Instead, the young woman's green eyes instantly fix on the blue-haired NERV girl, likely scrutinizing her in an instant before she rises from her chair quietly. She offers a salute in turn before she looks aside and shakes her head.
"At ease," she states in a flat tone.
Seating herself once more, the young woman's arm gestures toward a chair across from her small and slightly-worn hand-me-down desk. Still, there are no smiles from the cautious and wary young Zabiarov--it certainly doesn't help that the pervasive feeling that Amuro Ray is /somewhere/ in the room is still coming from Rei's presence.
Sarah had hoped by now it would have gone away, like a cold or something.
"Warrant Officer Ayanami," the young woman begins, her tone lacking in any compassion or genuine pleasantness. At best, it's the voice of a woman strictly speaking business. "I've called you here today because we need to discuss things..."
Pausing briefly, she lets the words sink in before she hoods her gaze slightly at the Top uniform.
"I apologize if I have...interrupted anything important. Do you have any idea why I called you?"
May as well access the situation first.
Rei is blank. Not just her expression, but... reading her is like trying to listen to a radio station when you're juuussst out of broadcast range. It's mostly static -- white noise, with the occasional snatch of something coherent. The sensation of... Amuro-ness that Rei provides is the most identifiable aspect, like a dull hum running under the current. But the more that this terrible psychic noise is listened to...
...really, the less /human/ it feels.
Meanwhile, in the physical world: Rei stands at ease. Her arms droop to rest by her sides. Her entire body seems to go slack -- if she still had the noodle-like physique she did when she was in the infirmary, she'd look like she was on the verge of dissolving into jelly. Her eyes fix on Sarah's.
"You interrupted nothing important, ma'am," Rei says. Her Japanese accent is much stronger than Sarah probably remembers. It's thick enough to be cut with a knife. There's a pause before Rei then answers the older girl's question: "No, ma'am," spoken quietly and as respectfully as someone so completely dull can manage.
Rei is blank--and this frustrates Sarah to no end. How can someone be so lifeless, yet exist?
Already, Sarah can feel annoyance bubbling in the back of her consciousness. She cannot comprehend how this girl is like some machine yet not. She's an enigma, some endlessly frustrating puzzle that fits neatly into whatever mold Rei feels necessary to fill. And how, she wonders, did Leo fall in love with this..?
That's when Sarah cuts her mental rampage short. Now isn't the time.
"Well, that's good," Sarah replies with a curt nod, her emotionless tone making the phrasing sound insincere and professional. "I wouldn't want to take you away from your extra-curricular activities aboard the Minerva. As I understand, you're fitting in quite well."
"However," That's bad.
"I brought you here because your behavior lately in the field has been..." Pausing, Sarah considers her words carefully, brows knitting slightly before she exhales and sags her thin shoulders.
"You've become reckless and a liability. Having you dispatched out there has become a test in patience and resources, Warrant Officer." Her tone has become terse, like a tightly-wound string. "Furthermore, I'm hearing 'rumors' around the Minerva that you've been sleeping with Agent Domino?"
Pausing, the young woman shakes her head softly.
"I am honestly afraid of you being out there in combat," Sarah confesses. "I worry when you deploy if you'll wind up getting yourself--or someone else--killed.
"...but that isn't what troubles me the most right now."
Glancing up, Sarah meets eyes with the red-eyed Japanese girl. Her expression is stern.
"Why the hell is it every time I'm around you I feel like I'm sitting in front of that bastard Amuro Ray?"
Sarah Zabiarov has raised a lot of points, but only really asked one question. The internal logic of Rei Ayanami -- no doubt Sarah could have coaxed her best pal Leo into writing her an Operator's Manual at some point before they stopped being friends and Leo went insane -- dictates, then, that only one thing needs to be responded to directly.
But in true Rei fashion, that response takes ages. Rei continues to make eye contact. It doesn't take a Newtype to see that she's still paying attention -- there is still mental activity happening. But she doesn't answer. She doesn't even flinch when the question is asked.
After about fifty seconds of /nothing/, Rei finally responds.
The catch with Rei is that she's so blank that she reflects whatever someone's imagination dictates, as far as emotional cues. If someone wants to think of her as angry, they can impose this on her blankness. Same with sad, same with jealous, same with passive-aggressive, blah blah blah, although most positive feelings are exempt. Still, she takes no tone when she talks -- what kind of answer this is depends entirely on the listener.
"I was not aware Amuro Ray and I shared a resemblance."
The enigma only continues to frustrate Sarah.
Watching carefully, it's like looking at two extremely different things at once. On one hand, Sarah can feel absolutely nothing from her, like some blank chalkboard. On the other hand, the girl's perception of Rei is that she just does not /care/, and that she's being callous to the concerns raised.
Beneath her gloves, Sarah's hands begin to tense.
"Not aware??" the girl wonders, her tone sounding mildly surprised. "You're not aware? How can you not be aware when all I'm getting from you most of the time is that bastard Amuro Ray?" Furrowing her pink brows lightly, the girl's nose wrinkles slightly.
"I don't even know /why/ or /how/ something like that is even possible."
Rising from her seat, the young woman steps around and toward Rei, moving to stand before the girl and meet her eye to eye. "Master Paptimus put me in charge of looking out for you and keeping you in line with the rest of Minerva's Lance," she explains in a calm tone. "But it is extremely difficult for me when you not only get out there and throw yourselves in front of friendlies' fire but also when there's something about your..." Moving her hands, the girl tries to think of a word.
It...doesn't really come.
"/Existence/ reminds me of the White Devil. Are you even aware that your actions against that Angel were reckless and far too extreme? Why did you even /do/ that?"
Rei doesn't move. That's another one of those weird, lifeless aspects to her -- her arms are limp by her sides and her posture is rather rigid, but most people tend to tense their hands, shift weight from foot to foot, unconsciously fidget even a /little/... Rei does none of these things. She is a statue.
The pause is less significant before Rei answers this time. Perhaps this is because she has two questions to get through now, like an obstacle course steadily increasing in difficulty. "Perhaps it is some sort of sub... sub... subconscious association," Rei says, notably stumbling over the four-dollar word in her sentence, as if it took her a couple attempts to come up with it. A flash of agitation creeps through her mental static as she stammers, like a snatch of a phrase coming through a busted AM radio when one is trying to tune into the Signs of Evil Countdown.
Another pause, and then Rei dives into the other question. Her breath momentarily deepens -- that her breathing even registers is a sign of this. Another flash of something comes across, cutting briefly through her ambient greyness before being subsumed again. "I don't know," Rei says, quietly and flatly.
"I do not recall much of the most recent Angel attack." Aside from that little taste of directionless anger -- maybe even frustration -- Rei displays no emotion in addressing the topic. "I assume I was attempting to get through to Agent Domino," Rei says after another momentary pause.
"To appeal to his humanity."
"Subconscious association?" is the first thing out of Sarah's mouth after a long pause.
"How is that /even/ possible? And why would you consider that?"
Finding herself growing steadily frustrated with Rei and her lifelessness, the girl's green eyes hood only slightly as she stares at the other young woman. Every subtle nuance is noted--rather, the lack thereof. That lack of movement, the way she seems to not even breathe...it's all so frustrating, Sarah thinks.
She fails, however, to take a step back and realize that, were Rei not reeking of Amuro, she would likely be genuinely concerned about this girl. That, and her calling the Admiral 'master.' She doesn't really /like/ other girls calling him that...
The flash of agitation is, however, an almost welcome gesture. It means she's less robot and more human in her behaviors. For a brief moment, Sarah finds mild relief. It seems nice to see the girl get worked up over something, however slight and barely-noticeable it may be. But that doesn't justify anything.
"You don't know..?" Parrots the Lieutenant. "You...don't know? You 'assume?'"
Sarah grows frustrated again.
"If you are not remembering your recklessness in combat, you are a liability, Warrant Officer," Sarah notes flatly. "You will only endanger your colleagues. I realize that, yes, you were probably trying to get through. But there were /other/ ways." Let us not mention what Sarah did--but at least it wasn't her teammates.
"What is your relationship to him, anyway?" Sarah asks bluntly.
Rei weathers Sarah's annoyance and judgment as passively as a tree endures a rainstorm. No physical response is engendered by the harsh notation, and minimal mental activity -- Rei again is so blank that her anti-response could easily be read as callousness, or boredom, or just plain not giving a shit.
Rei seems to ignore the questions about her previous responses. In the girl's mind, she's already said what she has to say on those matters; clearly, Sarah requesting her to repeat herself is just ridiculous and not worth attending to. There is a fine art to coaxing straight answers out of Rei. Sadly, it takes lots of practice, and probably more than a few instances of punching holes in the drywall in frustration.
Which Rei would no doubt stare at passively and without explicit judgment.
The blue-haired teen in the Top Squadron uniform does, however, answer the question about Johnny Domino: "We have become friends since my transfer to the Minerva. Recently, we have begun sharing a bed." This guileless explanation is completely true, but again, it's a fine art with Rei -- she and Johnny are sleeping in the same bed, but doing just that, nothing more. And yet, the colloquial interpretation that most would default to...
...is not helped by the hint of affection that surfaces in her mind, a rare positive feeling that dimly glows in the maelstrom of her mind while she talks about her relationship with Johnny.
Ayanami is the single-most frustrating creature Sarah has ever met.
Watching the girl's lack of any real emotion as she responds to the girl is a test of the young woman's patience. Despite the somewhat harsh tones the Newtype employs it hardly draws anything out of the NERV agent. Why the hell, Sarah wonders, was she even /loaned/ to them in the first place? And why would Admiral Scirocco even bother with someone as lifeless as this..?
Certainly she isn't a charity case for the man..?
Huffing lightly, Sarah's expression turns mildly annoyed. "Friends?" she wonders of the girl. But when she says 'sharing a bed'...that earns her a shocked expression. The feelings that follow definitely /do not/ help the girl's opinion of Rei any.
"T-that is fraternization!" exclaims Sarah who, upon realizing she actually raised her voice, blinks once before she clears her throat with the faintest of red in her face. "That such behavior is unacceptable, Warrant Officer. As a soldier, contract or no, you and Agent Domino are to sleep in separate quarters aboard this ship. I apologize if this offends you in any fashion, but we cannot have such behavior on the ship."
Frowning, Sarah's eyes hood slightly. "Do you understand?"
Sarah Zabiarov can probably treat herself to a nice dinner later as a reward for a job well done, because she has succeeded in gaining the 'Force Rei Ayanami Into Having a Meaningful Emotional Response' Achievement. Rei's face is completely emotionless, although her head does bow slightly -- without moving her eyes away from Sarah's. Underneath, though...
Well, it's a jumbled mess, as hard to read as Rei ever is, but the fact is that there's /something/ to read, rather than a blank page. It's not unlike what one might expect when lifting the hood to poke around at the psychic innards of a teenage girl who also happens to be a child soldier. She's angry. She's sad. She's heartbroken. She's seething. She's self-pitying. She's bitter. She's unimpressed. She's questioning. She's hostile. Imagine a radio dial being spun left and right -- half-coherent bursts of all kind of emotion flicker and sparkle through her mind, before she finally wills herself to calm, making the images settle into...
...a strange feeling to read. It's resignation, but a far more profound kind than this situation would really warrant. It could be that she's a teenager -- hormones flaring, causing her to exaggerate her feelings and responses. But the warmth that came when she spoke of Johnny is gone. It's as if Rei has sunken into an icy mental landscape and allowed herself to freeze to psychic death.
"Acknowledged," Rei says, without inflection.
In that one moment, Sarah actually feels a little regret.
The sudden wave of conflicting, flickering emotions that plague the NERV agent's mind upon hearing the words from the young lieutenant before her. Sarah's expression seems distantly perplexed in that moment, green eyes fixed on Rei's eerie red before finally she sighs. Rei's sudden flurry of emotions settle into one she's too familiar with at this point: nothingness.
Briefly, Sarah Zabiarov regrets it. But it was necessary.
"It's necessary," she parrots aloud, though her tone, the execution of her words almost makes it seem as if she's reassuring herself, not Rei. "The military does not look upon such behaviors, and it's best if I tell you now before...you know, the superiors--or your superiors--find out and punish you accordingly." Sarah offers a half-hearted, listless shrug of sorts.
"As for your performance on the field...please." Offering a tired look, Sarah asks with near-desperation, "Please don't throw yourself into the fire of friendlies? And please try not to be reckless. The repairs on your particular unit are, as I understand it, incredibly specific and not cheap...just throwing yourself about is dangerous not only to you, but everyone around you. You could have inadvertently killed Agent Domino."
With an exhale, Sarah's expression cracks SOME sort of a smile. It's likely forced.
"If you're comfortable with these requests, you have permission to return to your business."
Sarah is probably better off reassuring herself, because her words have zero effect on the teenager in front of her. Rei remains frigid -- as if a door has been shut and locked, and Rei refuses to reopen it, no matter the stimulus. She doesn't try to protest, and the overwhelming mental impression that accompanies this lack of reponse is just...
Rei listens to the rest with equally dispassionate gloom. Or -- gloom would take more emotion, and more effort. It's more like a gloaming, the sky too light to be dark, too dark to be light, unable or unwilling to exert itself one way or the other.
When Sarah gives her permission to leave, Rei immediately salutes. That she'd do anything immediately is rather strange, but there we are. The salute breaks, and Rei turns (dear god is that Top Squadron uniform another nightmare of 'appropriate conduct' in and of itself) and exits.
She doesn't utter a single word.
The moment Sarah's door hisses shut, she breathes a sigh of relief. Furrowing her brows instantly after, the young woman's face contorts into a look of disbelief before she lifts a gloved hand to her forehead and draws it down her face.
"What is /with/ her?" she wonders aloud to no one specific.
"And what did he ever see in her..?"
Sarah's opinion of Leo just keeps falling.