Evangelion 2.0 (Game Thread)

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"So does D get, like, its own sterilization chamber during scrub down? Cuz I gotta say that's just a little unfair. Though, truth be told, and not to sound weird or nothin' but I figure a group shower's the only way to settle the bet. I mean I got twenty-five dollars at stake here and my stipend keeps gettin' garnished as it is so I could-," Iggy chattered on, yapping up at the ear of whatever poor soul had been unfortunate enough to stumble across him in the halls on the way to debriefing. Iggy didn't quite know this one's name, though in truth, he hardly knew anyone's name, his transfer from Nerv's North American HQ only a few days old. Normally, Iggy would've done his best to be polite, give the fellow a proper introduction and whatnot, but at the moment he was preoccupied with scratching every portion of his body he could reach. The doctors weren't entirely sure why the nervous system desynchronization hadn't gone as smoothly as usual, but they assured him the sensations would fade in a few hours. For now it was chicken pox hell all over again, his body itching like a fiend wherever Kushiel's swarm had gone to town on Unit-77.

Iggy and his captive audience reached the debriefing room in a matter of moments, the icy silence washing over them like the tide of a cruel sort of ocean. Iggy chuckled nervously and shifted from foot to foot. He hoped he wasn't underdressed... he just thrown on an old, grey shirt, a pair of shorts, and some sandals. He fidgeted slightly in the rather oppressive silence, the storm of chatter building up in his lungs threatening to burst him at the seams. Right at the bleeding edge came sweet relief.

"I'm Tammy O'Neal. I'm 17, I'm from Limerick (the city, not the poem), and when I grow up I want to be a certified public accountant."

"Oh thank god! Someone else went first! Huzzah! I was worried it was gonna have to be me and I talk too much already. Hey Tammy person! I'm Iggy! We should be buddies! Limerick's in Ireland, right? That's pretty awesome. You're real pretty and it's great that you want to grow up and count things in public, I'm sure that's needed, who knows all the things that need counting and someone's got to do it," Iggy bounced on over a bit closer to Tammy, who he'd decided was currently his favorite person, though to be fair, she was also the first audition for the position of Iggy's favorite person, so nothing was conclusive just yet. Iggy promptly set about waggling is back at the other pilot and pointing furiously, "You know what would be really awesome, new buddy! Normally a hug, but hugs are gonna have to wait. If you could help Iggy out and scratch my back, I'd be really really grateful. No, no not metaphorically, actually scratch, I itch and itch and itch and I think I might explode...."

Gale had taken his time changing out of his plug-suit, the black and grays of the suit blending in well to match the colors of his unit, along with the two red rib pieces on either side of his chest. Gale sighed, looking at the suit for a moment before hanging it up in his locker and taking a quick shower before redressing in his normal attire. The silence in the locker room was nice, it allowed him time to think that he knew he wouldn't be getting later. The debriefing had taken a little while, all about nothing as far as he was concerned. The angel was dead and that's what mattered. Gale shook his head, water dripping down from the still-wet hair, as he tried to clear his head. Goosebumps still ran down his body even after the shower from his time in Reaper.

"God, all the times I've been in that thing and I still get this same feeling..." Gale said to the empty locker room, closing his locker a bit more forcefully than he had originally intended.

It took Gale only a few minutes to return to the debriefing room where the other pilots were located. He barely walked in the door before one of the female pilots stood up and announced herself to the room:

"I'm Tammy O'Neal. I'm 17, I'm from Limerick (the city, not the poem), and when I grow up I want to be a certified public accountant."

Gale looked over to the girl, her sandy hair falling about her face as she spoke and her eyes shining brightly at the rest of the table. Gale decided to take a seat on one of the chairs near the back of the group so that he wouldn't have to contribute much to the conversation. It was then that another younger pilot entered the room and began to bounce back and forth, his voice almost frantic as he spoke with exhilaration. Gale shook his head, glancing around the table to examine the other pilots before he turned and looked back at the sandy-haired girl to see how she would react to the newcomer.

D-18 stepped out of the final sterilization chamber and tried to dressed without fuss. Emphasis on try. Though she knew she was fine, when the angel had squeezed her she'd felt her ribs crack. Consciously, she knew it was the Eva that had been damaged and she was just experiencing residual memories, but her unconscious mind wasn't so easy to convince. As such, she hesitated when it came to anything involving her torso.

None the less, she dressed (with some small delay) and made her way to the debriefing room. She was still among the first to arrive; sitting in silence until the others arrived. It was a long comfortable silence, but was inevitably broken by one of the other pilots. "I'm Tammy O'Neal. I'm 17, I'm from Limerick (the city, not the poem), and when I grow up I want to be a certified public accountant." the pilot said, introducing herself. She wasn't going to say anything until she remembered that there were Prodigies and Neo-Spartans in the room who were, in all likelihood, unaware of NERV cloning programs.

"Objective 3 Engaged" she thought to herself before speaking up. "Daria Al-Fayed. 16. Dubai. Evangelion pilot" she said, answering the same questions as briefly as possible. Most of what she said however was cut off by another of the pilots - something which benefited her greatly. She returned to silence, watching the others and listening to the conversation about itch induced explosions.

"Oh thank god! Someone else went first! Huzzah! I was worried it was gonna have to be me and I talk too much already. Hey Tammy person! I'm Iggy! We should be buddies! Limerick's in Ireland, right? That's pretty awesome. You're real pretty and it's great that you want to grow up and count things in public, I'm sure that's needed, who knows all the things that need counting and someone's got to do it."

The verbal deluge washed over Tammy with impressive force, washing away most of the exhaustion that had clung to her. Blinking in a mixture of shock, surprise, and confusion, the girl reflexively leaned back in her chair, trying to get as much distance between herself and this Iggy as she could without actually leaving her seat. Frantically, she looked for something, anything to say in reply to the other pilot, hopefully something that would convince him to back off a bit.

"I... What?"

Well. That wasn't exactly the most eloquent phrase she'd ever turned. Undaunted, she resolved to try again.

"...What?"

Today really wasn't her day, it would seem. Wait, she recognized that voice. Wasn't this the guy who had been in Unit-77? The one that had gone berserk and ripped the Angel's tentacle out all on his own? Should she really be so close to such an unstable-

"You know what would be really awesome, new buddy! Normally a hug, but hugs are gonna have to wait. If you could help Iggy out and scratch my back, I'd be really really grateful. No, no not metaphorically, actually scratch, I itch and itch and itch and I think I might explode..."

...And Tammy had thought her little brothers were weird.

The request, though certainly odd, was simple enough. While shaking hands, or even a hug, probably would've been less awkward, the girl supposed that scratching somebody's back was an alternative method of introducing oneself. And, honestly, she didn't want to know to know what would happen if she refused the request.

Tentatively, she reached out and began to drag her curled fingertips across her compatriot's back. She didn't worry too much about scratching the poor guy; her bad habit of biting her nails off kept her effectively declawed.

"I, uh... Nice to meet you? Iggy?"

Furtively, Tammy glanced around the room, her eyes falling across the other pilots at random. Spread wide with unease (and just a hint of unabashed terror), they carried an obvious, if silent, message: "Help. Please."

Stepping out of just a plain shower, she rubbed he still sore tattoo, before pulling on a pair of yoga pants, and a tank top. She'd already gone through decontamination earlier, but as was her habit, she'd immediately headed for the base's gym. She'd found that the best way to 'de-stress' was a little dance practice...which always worked up a sweat, hence the second shower.

Stepping into the debriefing room where the other pilots were, she looked about. They all seemed so damned young...though Lillian would freely admit, she wasn't that old herself. The thing that really caught her eye was a girl about her own age, scratching a young boy's back while silently pleading for help. Sorry babe, you're on your own there. Gliding across the room with a dancers smoothness, she folded herself into a lotus position against the back wall, and closed her eyes. With deep slow breaths she attempted to calm her mind; even hours after the battle, seeing the sheer 'wrongness' of an Angel threatened to put her to panic. The adrenalin quashed that in the moment, but afterwards...it had always been a problem.

The clean-up after the attack was always more messy than the actual attack. Papers and papers had to be signed, read, retorted and exchanged. NERV was still a company after all and business was business. As the Operations Director, she reviewed the damages caused by EVA and angel alike with an emphasis on the Angel. Its carcass was stripped clean then broken down and transported to secret facilities for research. The remnants of the swarm were burned and disposed off but some were shipped alongside the Angel's dead body.

Next was damages to the city. Most of the damage was centered around the breeches caused by the swarm and Kushiel but for the most part, it was superficial. London had recovered from worst and they would have no problem fixing some holes in the ground or broken buildings here and there. Some turrets needed fixing, some barriers needed repairing but otherwise it wasn't so bad.

Then pilot evaluations. Teams of officers and scientists come forward and give their observations of each pilot that had seen combat. Unit-77 had been noted as decisive in the effort in bringing down Kushiel and also had good control of his EVA despite it going berserk. She expected as much with his Neo-Spartan training. The next few notes were for the clones. She was well aware there were clones in the strike team but as long as she did their job, she saw no problem in having them along for the ride. What she worried for was the prodigies who had never seen real combat. She respected their raw talent but Amira needed that talent fine-tuned for any situation. She didn't want to end up pulling the plug on the prodigies that lose their focus.

After all that was said and done, Amira went for a run around the Geofront several times to finish what had been interrupted. She continued her running and once she was done, she headed off to the gym. She was told that the pilots would be at some sort of orientation or get together as to get a better feel for each other. Amira made a note to stop by once her workout was finished.

Iggy sighed as his new buddy vanquished the last of the persistent itches. He moved this way an that to guide her hand to just the right spot (just because someone was doing you a solid, didn't mean you couldn't still be helpful), sighing and offering a sound not unlike a little purr. The itch faded in a few moments and Iggy sprang up from his crouch, beaming. He hopped, caught the edge of the briefing table with one hand, and flipped himself into a fine hand stand, because hand stands were fun. He walked about on the heels of his palms, stopped beside Tammy, cocked a gun shaped hand at her, and winked, "It was nice meeting you too! You are a good person, Tammy. I was gonna make a poem, but it's really hard to think up when upside-down, so here is an invisible voucher for one free Iggy hug and poem. Not cash refundable."

The young pilot continued his inverted journey around the conference table. None of the other pilots seemed content to introduce themselves just yet, so Iggy took the initiative, still upside down, he made his way to the center of the table and saluted, "Okay, I'll go next! Igander Gauthier a.k.a Iggy! a.k.a Sir Captain Badass of Awesomington, age... 15 I think, from NERV base REDACTED, Canada! I ride the Wendigo! I look forward to many, many more glorious battle with you all!"

The boy jumped from the table to the floor, and proceeded to shadowbox, as though any prolonged period of stillness might just kill him. Iggy couldn't really fathom the apparent sluggishness of the other pilots, riding 77 always left him energetic, or in a coma, but more often than not, energetic. This bunch looked in need of a nap, but naps were for later, now there should be playing, much playing! Iggy spoke in happy pants as he lashed out and beat into submission his oldest opponent, gravity, "Hey! Know what! We should play... volleyball! Oooo! Or basketball! Iggy got maaaaad moves on the court. Or kickball! Anything with a ball really, even fetch! Even though 'fetch is a demeaning activity and inappropriate for an officer in the employ of any civilized military force!' Pfft, what does any CO know? See so long as you take turns, Fetch is just Catch! And Catch is okay!"

"Hey! Know what! We should play... volleyball! Oooo! Or basketball! Iggy got maaaaad moves on the court. Or kickball! Anything with a ball really, even fetch! Even though 'fetch is a demeaning activity and inappropriate for an officer in the employ of any civilized military force!' Pfft, what does any CO know? See so long as you take turns, Fetch is just Catch! And Catch is okay!" the talkative pilot known as Iggy said, taking center stage. D-18 wasn't quite sure what to think of him until she caught sight of his ID card. He was an Ensign and therefor of higher rank.

She looked at him for a moment and said "Is that an order Ensign Gauthier?" she questioned.

Water dripped from the shower, a shape rose of the mist, and grabbed a towel.

V-3 was done in the shower, and quickly dried himself off and got dressed. While doing so, he cradled his head. V-3 told himself that was just a leftover sensation from the battle. Unit-39 had decided to headbutt the little bugs in the battle, and V-3 still felt that. It was just a desperate attempt to shield Unit-77 from those hostiles, at least it would have been if Todestrieb had steered itself towards a self-destructive path of slowly trying to crack its skull with the bugs' tough shells. The roar of disappointment still echoed in his mind, but for the clone, that roar marked mission success - one Angel dead.

It took a certain pilot to steer an armoured, death-seeking monster. One that didn't mind the prospect of death, or dying and could face all aspects of Thanatos with a smile. V-3 was such a pilot. He knew he was replaceable, he knew the others weren't, and he took comfort in the fact that he would probably die protecting the others. At least the fight was over and no pilots had been killed. At least all he had to concern himself with was the prospect of playing ball games. The private turned towards the one that had asked the question, wondering whether she was like him. V-3 would have replied in the same way, in the same serious tone.

Instead, he chose to ask a different question, "Debrief is still in progress; would such a thing be allowed during this time?"

Karl walked with a happy grin on his face as he made his way towards the debriefing room. The battle with the angel had been an overall success and damage done to the city of London had been relatively light. This was quite an achievement for the team especially since for some, it was their first time piloting their Eva in an actual combat situation. Karl hadn't read the after action evaluations of the pilots; so he could only assume, that for the new bloods of the team, their experience at fighting their first angel wasn't too damaging. Although you could never be sure with kids; Karl had heard a few stories that after a few combat runs with their Eva, pilots would begin showing signs of combat fatigue or Posttraumatic stress which was a common mental health problem for soldiers which had seen several tours of combat.

However Karl put that thought to the back of his mind when he reached the door of the debriefing room.

As soon as he entered the debriefing room; Karl was met with the unusual site of Unit-77 or Iggy as he was called shadow boxing around the room and shouting about wanting to play sport. Karl stood there in the doorway slightly baffled at the site, but then he broke his silence by chuckling and finally speaking:

"So is this some sort of post angel combat ritual then" Karl chucked scratching his chin "I have to admit it's...unique but if you're so desperate to play sport, I guess we could play some football. I used to be pretty good in my early years".

That went well, right? And I did okay, I didn't mess up or hurt anyone I wasn't supposed to. Jamie was mostly in a world of his own in the showers. This had been his first piece of combat experience and he just wanted to beleve that he'd helped in some way. It had all been over so fast and it seemed like everyone knew what they were doing except him. He shot up a few bugs though, that was good.

He kept quiet for the most part, trying to stay out of sight during critical parts of the changing process. Once he was dried off and dressed he joined the others in the walk to the debriefing room. Well he followed them anyway, everywhere looked the same in NERV; Jamie had no idea how anyone could find their way around this place.

Jamie took his seat off at the side of the conference room and wrapped the sleeves of his jumber around his hands in an attempt to keep warm. he was still kinda damp from the shower and the air conditioning wasn't helping. Of course neither were his nerves. This was like first day at school but a million times worse, he wondered if 67 would get a laugh out of this too. One of the pilots seemed to be doing their best to liven up the place but for Jamie the most amazing thing aboutt hem was that they were an older kid who was somehow shorter than him. That wasn't ho things were supposed to work. At least they started people talking and breaking the awkward silence.

He tried to listen to what Iggy said but it was a lot to take in and he was talking so fast. Iggy seemed funny at least, none of the others had tried to crack a joke when he'd heard them talk and some of whatt he pilot said could bring a tentative smile to Jamie's face. he was kind of like a cartoon character. Which made it all the more surprising when the girl from Dubai took him so seriously.

"Um, I'm Jamie, I'm thirteen and I'm from London... here." He gave a little wave to the nearby pilots. Jamie never had been great at meeting new people and these ones were all practically grown ups.

Gale managed to tear his gaze away from the sandy-haired girl in time to see the colonel walk in, followed by a timid looking child who followed him in and sat on the left side of the room. The kid couldn't have been older than fourteen, and his pale green eyes seemed to dart around the room before he spoke up.

"Um, I'm Jamie, I'm thirteen and I'm from London... here."

A small wave followed the comment, and Gale nodded making sure to memorize the names and ages of all the pilots who had already spoken. It appeared that they were all trying to get to know each other, something that Gale didn't particularly care for, especially when it would come his turn to tell the others his name. Gale sighed and stretched back in his chair, his head tilting to one side as he stretched. A small yawn came to his face which he managed to contain with some difficulty, and he looked around once again at the other pilots as his mind wandered.

I haven't managed to go and complete my daily workout... I wonder if there'll still be time after this meeting is over? I suppose I should introduce myself, but will it really matter?

Gale mentally smacked himself for thinking such a thought, the cold chill that had crept up his spine slowly sinking back down into his chest. Gale slouched back in his chair, his shoulders slumped somewhat yet his blue eyes still glowing their same icy color. He glanced once again around the table, his eyes stopping on a few of the members before turning back to look at the girl who spoke first and the colonel.

"It was nice meeting you too! You are a good person, Tammy. I was gonna make a poem, but it's really hard to think up when upside-down, so here is an invisible voucher for one free Iggy hug and poem. Not cash refundable."

"Um... Okay?"

Tammy could only stare at Iggy as he flipped and hand-walked away, not quite processing the strange boy's actions. He was certainly an oddball, but at least the pilot seemed to friendly. Though she felt perturbed just listening to his ramblings, Tammy didn't feel particularly threatened. Maybe he was alright after all?

"Is that an order Ensign Gauthier?"

"Debrief is still in progress; would such a thing be allowed during this time?"

"I have to admit it's...unique but if you're so desperate to play sport, I guess we could play some football. I used to be pretty good in my early years."

Somehow the conversation had turned towards sports, specifically football. A topic that Tammy didn't particularly care for, and one she couldn't find the energy to participate in. Let the kids with enough power go tucker themselves out if they wanted to; she had no interest in kicking a ball around with them, at least not now.

Wearily shaking her head, the girl turned her attention back to a few of the other pilots, the ones that hadn't introduced themselves yet. It looked like the younger one was speaking up, and Tammy strained to hear him over the other conversation.

"Um, I'm Jamie, I'm thirteen and I'm from London... here."

Huh... Was that why he looked kind of familiar? Tammy had heard about the pilot for the UK's other Eva unit, but had no idea that he was this young. Well, if Nerv thought he was old enough to climb into an entry plug, then who was she to say otherwise? "Hey Jamie," she replied, matching his wave with one of her own, "nice to meetcha."

As she lowered her hand once again, the girl noted that the other silent guy was staring at her. Gazing back at him, she cocked one of her eyebrows, waiting for him to say something or look away.

Mark leaned back in his chair as he quietly sighed. I thought that this was going to be a debriefing, not some circlejerk with a bunch of socially-retarded pilots. People were talking, introducing themselves, but it all flowed into one ear and automatically sorted into some metaphorical file in the back of Mark's head. The only thing he actively noted was the obvious mental state of the Eva pilot he saturated with positrons...he was clearly nuts.

Wet feet made strange noises as they walked across the cold floor. A contented sigh told the others that another pilot had joined them. D. Waters smiled, saying "There's nothing to match a hot shower, is there?" Though its arrival might have been disappointing for some. Its manner of dress did nothing to solve the ongoing debate of its gender. Waters wore a long-sleeved gray shirt, and over it a bright pink vest of some sheer fabric. Tight blue jeans, stained wet from being pulled on right over a shower were covered by a lopsided miniskirt. This garish getup would have looked terrible on any other human being, yet the barefooted pilot pulled it off disturbingly well. Waters carried a juice box in its hand and sucked on the straw before waving to the others.

"It's a pleasure to be working with you all!" it said with a kind smile. "My name is D. Waters. I grew up in Copenhagen, but I guess my new home is here in London."

Another sip from the box.

"Anyway, I'm just really excited to be here. You were all fantastic to see in action."

The clone's thoughts went back to the purpose of the debriefing - introductions. He mentally scolded himself for being somewhat inefficient in carrying out that order. Then again, V-3 thought that the whole thing was unnecessary. NERV staff and pilots had ID cards for a reason. He briefly inspected his own. Underneath text and a barcode was his 'name' placed in small rectangle of sorts. It read: Ortwin Fromm-Coenders. A joke of name chosen to conceal his true nature. Someone, somewhere had fun choosing it for him. Anyone with knowledge of Germanic names could see the joke.

However, it wasn't like any of the other pilots or the NERV staff had such knowledge and the whole pretence was just for those that didn't know about the cloning program. V-3 was happy just being V-3. He accepted what he was. V-3 caught himself trailing off and pulled his gaze from his ID card. His train of thought was derailed by the entrance of a very strangely dressed pilot. The clone was puzzled by the choice of attire. Not practical at all. Nevertheless, the objective had to be accomplished and V-3 introduced himself, partially replying to Waters, "Ortwin Fromm-Coenders; Germany."

"Is that an order Ensign Gauthier?"

Iggy very nearly tripped over himself at the sound of rank and last name strung together. That usually only happened when Iggy was in trouble for something (or many things, many things was a distinct possibility), but to hear those words in conjunction with a request for orders? When not in the heat of battle? Oh dear sweet god, the prospect was horrifying! Iggy paused his routine for a moment scuttled over to where Daria sat, peering into that somber, vacant face for a long moment, looking for sarcasm, looking for the joke. He found none.

"Umm... well, no. I'm not gonna order you to play, just... you know, if you want to. Ooohh! But... ah, I do have one order!" Iggy chuckled for one moment and stroked his chin pensively the next, he brightened up and invaded the placid pilots personal space once more, "I order you... to have fun! For at least one hour before lights out, do something you like to do! Best. Order. Ever!"

His job as a responsible officer complete, Iggy continued his shadowboxing once more. One of the other pilots expressed concern about ball playing during debriefing. This was of course incredibly silly, all good military personnel should know how to multitask!

"So is this some sort of post angel combat ritual then. I have to admit it's...unique but if you're so desperate to play sport, I guess we could play some football. I used to be pretty good in my early years."

"Officer on deck!" Iggy straightened immediately and snapped a sharp salute. This man was familiar enough. Iggy knew his picture from the debrief files he'd received as part of his transfer, and begrudgingly read through when the plane ride across the pond grew intolerably boring. He relaxed after a moment and offered the man a grin. The colonel seemed a friendly enough sort, which was great, high-ranking officers without large sticks up their collective bung holes was always cause for rejoicing, "With respect, sir, I never needed no angel attack to put the play in me. And football is awesome! Oh that'd be great! But first debriefing, yes? Gotta see what we did good, what we did bad, what to expect from the next one, and like such.

It seemed most of the pilots has arrived, a few even willing to surrender names and birthplaces. That was good, good to get folks talking at least, though a few remained stubbornly silent. Ah well, they'd break eventually, they always did. Iggy noted with some despair that even though at least one of the pilots was younger than he was... all of them were taller. The lad heaved a sigh, puberty was a cruel and terrible mistress, though Iggy was sure he'd triumph in the end! Ah... and then there was D. Oh dear, D. It was sort've like it fell into a clothes hamper and stumbled back out content, which was an okay way to choose and outfit, but certainly put Iggy's few funds in all the more precarious a situation. He muttered off hand to no one in particular, "Skinny dipping, that's definitely gonna have to be a thing at some point."

Gale looked away as the sandy-haired girl finally glanced at him, his eyes finding their way back to some of the other pilots who had introduced themselves. His thoughts roamed to some of the other pilots, his mind wondering how some of them could have come into piloting Eva.

That girl can't be trained for it, after all she barely did anything during the fight. Come to think of it, most of these pilots couldn't have been trained for this. The young child must have been just brought in as well, there was no way the HQ would allow such a small child to have already completed his neo-spartan training.

It was then that a strangely dressed, well Gale didn't know what to call it exactly, walked in the room dressed in the oddest set of clothing Gale had ever seen put on another human being.

"My name is D. Waters. I grew up in Copenhagen, but I guess my new home is here in London."

"Anyway, I'm just really excited to be here. You were all fantastic to see in action."

What a strange person...

Gale sighed to himself and looked back at the girl whom he now assumed a prodigy. He glanced at her a few more seconds before turning back at the others and finally spoke up, his voice coming out curt and crisp, yet with a softness not expected from someone with his background.

"Gale Edwards - America. Pilot of Evangelion unit-75 or 'Reaper'." Gale gave a small half-wave to the other at the table and settled back down to observe the other pilots and their antics.

Days later:

image

The Evangelions had defeated an Angel. The destruction was being rebuilt. Humanity had won another victory.

But many of the Pilots were new arrivals, unused to each other. Watching their interactions, it was determined at the highest levels of NERV that the Pilots were in dire need of more unison. So one day, after their morning routines, they were called out to the field around NERV HQ.

Their superiors watched on, and spoke:

"This lesson is based on the pilots being unable to work together because they cannot work toward a common goal. This will be a grueling exercised designed to force you to work together to succeed. You will be given a number of plastic shields that can be used to defend yourselves. The goal of the exercise is to reach the flag.

One shield is a piece of metal. Two shields is a wall."

The flag is at the end of a narrow passage with only one exit. A modified water cannon, the same kind used by riot police, is positioned between the pilots and the flag. However, the pressure of the water cannon is such that even a physically fit pilot is not strong enough to prevent themselves from being pushed to the ground by it. Simply remaining standing under the brunt of the cannon requires strength, and moving forward even more so. If the pilot falls down,the pressure of the water likely pushes them back and negates any progress they have made.

The test begins. A torrent of water crashes into the pilots, knocking them backwards and sprawling them on the ground.

"This lesson is based on the pilots being unable to work together because they cannot work toward a common goal. This will be a gruelling exercised designed to force you to work together to succeed. You will be given a number of plastic shields that can be used to defend yourselves. The goal of the exercise is to reach the flag.
One shield is a piece of metal. Two shields is a wall."

As fast as she was knocked down, Lillian was up. Dashing forwards, she snatched up a shield as she ran; she twisted and turned as best she could to avoid the brunt of the cannon when it swung towards her, and used the shield to defect it as best she could when it hit.

At about 10 meters from where she'd started, she slammed the bottom of the shield to the ground and braced herself behind it. "C'mon people!" She shouted. "MOVE! I can't win this on my own!"

V-3 groaned as he got knocked down by the water. He dug his hand into the ground and pulled himself back up on his feet. After that, he made a dash for the shields and grabbed one. V-3 made another dash and bunkered down next to Lillian. He made sure that he was close enough so that the shields overlapped around the sides. "In position." He stated and waited for the other pilots to do the same. Part of him wondered about how many litres of water they were wasting for the sake of teaching the important of teamwork to the pilots. As a Pointman, he didn't need the lecture and so he simply worked towards getting the whole thing over and done with. The objective was simple, the method of reaching the objective was simple... The only thing that complicated matters was the matter of whether the other pilots would work together or not.

"This lesson is based on the pilots being unable to work together because they cannot work toward a common goal. This will be a grueling exercised designed to force you to work together to succeed. You will be given a number of plastic shields that can be used to defend yourselves. The goal of the exercise is to reach the flag.

One shield is a piece of metal. Two shields is a wall."

Gale barely had time to register those orders before he was thrown back by the torrent of water that blasted out of the water cannon at the end of the passageway. Gale landed hard, his left shoulder smashing into the ground before the rest of his body landed. Gale managed to duck and roll with the force of the water, landing on his feet and his good arm. Gale looked ahead to see one of the girls had already recovered and planted her shield a few meters ahead.

"MOVE! I can't win this on my own!"

Gale nodded mostly to himself as another of the pilots sprung into action, grabbing a shield and planting it beside the girls. Gale darted forward, keeping low and the strain off his left shoulder that was throbbing. Gale ducked underneath a blast of the water, and managed to pick up a shield and plant it on the other side of the girls, making sure to overlap it the same as the other boy had done.

"Shield planted." Gale said through slightly gritted teeth, moving his arm around to discover that it wasn't broken, yet it was sore as all hell.

*Flashback*

"Umm... well, no. I'm not gonna order you to play, just... you know, if you want to. Ooohh! But... ah, I do have one order!" the Ensign said, taking a long pause, and finishing with "I order you... to have fun! For at least one hour before lights out, do something you like to do! Best. Order. Ever!"

For her part, D-18 wasn't sure what was fun and how to have it, but she would try.

*End Flashback*

She was still thinking about "fun" to some degree when the test began. Sure, she'd been listening to her new orders as well - Objective: get flag. Purpose: learn teamwork. It seemed simple enough; not like this "fun" order which had thus far eluded her. To date, she'd had not chance to speak with the Ensign regarding more details that would allow her to complete the mission.

It was because of her aberrant thoughts that she failed to notice the gushing water until it smashed into the side of her head, knocking her over and sending her a few feet back. She was fairly certain she'd injured her head in the tumble, but couldn't tell with all the water.

Avoiding the direct stream, she got back up into a crouching position and moved behind Ortwin, pushing on the same shield from below to try and push it ahead. Where they couldn't move the shield's by themselves, they might be able to as a team.

Amira smiled from cheek to cheek as the pilots were tossed into their test. These pilots needed to act as one if they had to defeat the Angels. The better the coordination, the better the chances they had in defeating another angel and prolonging humanity for another sliver of time. There was a downside to all this bonding and it is the event of one or more of them dying at the hands of the Angel menace. Casualties are expected even with the best odds and Amira feared that just one of them dying could have a dire effect on the entire team. Having them rely on one another exacerbated that problem. But there were perks to teamwork.

"Come on, this is nothing compared to IDF training! Humanity is at stake and you are not going to let a few water canons get in the way. How do you think the next angel is going to act?!" Amira blared on the microphones. She leaned to Jaeger who was also close at hand, observing the pilots. "They had machine guns instead of water canons."

The first spray of water pounded Iggy square in the chest and took him clean off his feet. He landed face first on the turf, struggling to find a bit of breath and using what little he found to cackle like a madman. Oh that was a bit of a dick move, their handlers could've at least allowed them to get the shields first. Meh, at least they were kind enough to use water and not live ammunition and that put them leagues above the handlers back home. Iggy clawed at the ground for purchase, found it and lunged towards the pile of plastic shields. He plucked up the first one he could reach. He tossed the shield along the ground towards the growing cluster of young pilots already dug in. He dashed after the shield, counted off the seconds and threw himself to the ground, knees first, landing atop the shield and sliding across the lawn. He could feel a fine mist from the spray of the water cannon as it surged over head, streaming past the spot where his skull had been a few moments before. His impromptu slip and slide kept him going for a few more meters, and a haphazard dash found him safe behind the growing wall of pilots.

Iggy's blood sang to him, sang of motion and violence, as the familiar battle frenzy took hold. He reigned the worst of it in as best he could, this was not a true battle after all, the target didn't bleed. The frenzy still sounded on the edges of his voice, as though he'd burst into laughter at a moment's notice, "Alright, people! Who remembers their military history?! Phalanx! Synaspismos! Left arm bears the shield, right arm lock with neighbor's shield arm and brace shield interlock point. Three men wide, three men deep. Shields front, press your front runner forward, unified march! FORWARD! Spartans represent and show 'em how it's done! Someone give us a marching count and let's get this parade moving!"

That was an awful lot of shouting, and Iggy honestly wondered if would pay off. Not all of these folk were military, and even the other Neo-Spartans came from different forces, different methodologies and ideologies. Iggy's answer to this was simple. Scream enough sense and somebody was bound to either comply, or come up with something better.

More and more pilots grabbed the shields and soon there stood three pilots at the front. Others still were recovering from the initial water blast. V-3 acknowledged the green-eyed girl's help but shook his head in response to the pushing as he said, "Hold position and wait for the others." They had to stick together in this exercise, the exercise was designed to punish vainglorious characters who just pushed ahead and ahead without thought of the consequences. In this case, if the duo charged ahead, a blast from the water cannon would just sent them back to the start. At the moment, V-3, Lillian, Gale formed a three-shield front and with a total of nine pilots they could form a formation like a three-by-three grid (like the one used in tic-tac-toe.) with the three holding the shields at the front and the ones in the middle and the back pushing the shields forward.

Of course, there was room for other possibilities as well. For example, four pilots in the front and middle and one pilot in the back. Or even five at the front and four in the middle, with no third row. Then again, there were downsides to those formations and the clone would rather have shields with an equal number of pilots behind them, just so the force being applied to the shields would be roughly equal. In short, it was the neater option. Iggy seemed to agree as well, his words echoed V-3's thoughts. Though, Iggy was being too impatient. "The formation has to assemble before advancement is possible..." V-3 muttered as he switched his arms 'round to match Iggy's description of how it should be. Good thing he had another person nearby to bear the brunt for a sec.

So it's like a water party? that could be fun! Jamie thought, images of that game where people get strapped to bungee cords on boucy castles but he only ever saw them on the TV channel that showed all those weird Japanese TV shows. They looked like a lot of fun though and he was sure he could do it.

If this is with water though then shouldn't we wear swimming trunks or-

"BLUGHGHHURULUGH!!!" Jamie could only make a noise somewhere between a yelp and a gargle as a spray of water hit him full on in the front and sent him splaying out with the others. It felt like getting punched in the chest... only worse cus it was everywhere! And now he was wet!

"...Three men wide, three men deep. Shields front, press your front runner forward, unified march! FORWARD!"

"I know hat those are!" Jamie yelled without thinking, apparently buzzed up on high water preassure energy.

Quick as can be he took up a position by Iggy the confidence giving cartoon boy and linked their shields together while placing his free hand on Iggy's shoulder for support. Jamie put on his bes fighter face and braced himelf for what was to come. All he knew right now was that he was going to be brave and prove that he could do this, that he could be a pilot!

"One shield is a piece of metal. Two shields is a wall."

"...Well what the hell is that- Bleghk!"

Tammy's question was washed away by the veritable deluge of water slamming into her face, knocking her off her feet and sending her flying back a good three meters. When the cannon finally switched targets, the girl took the opportunity to spit up most of the fluid that had been sent down her unprepared gullet, and drew a few harsh, ragged breaths as soon as her lungs were cleared. Christ, Nerv wasn't pulling any punches here; if she and the other pilots didn't finish this soon, they were going to be black and blue for a week.

Struggling through her soaking wet clothes, the girl more or less squelched her way across the training field, her waterlogged shoes and socks sticking uncomfortably to her feet. Scooping up one of the shields strewn around, she immediately planted it in front of her, a preemptive defense in case the cannon swung her way again.

Now to just stand here, and wait for somebody else to come up with a plan...

"Alright, people! Who remembers their military history?! Phalanx! Synaspismos! Left arm bears the shield, right arm lock with neighbor's shield arm and brace shield interlock point. Three men wide, three men deep. Shields front, press your front runner forward, unified march! FORWARD! Spartans represent and show 'em how it's done! Someone give us a marching count and let's get this parade moving!"

...Well, that'd probably work. Iggy was undoubtedly one of the more deranged pilots around, but there was no denying the kid's smarts and head for strategy. In a situation like this, Tammy supposed that she could do worse than listen to him.

So, gritting her teeth and tucking her shoulder into the shield, she picked up the hunk of plastic a few centimeters and charged forward as fast as her heavy clothes would let her. Though it took her a few seconds, she eventually reached the rest of the slowly growing formation, and took her place in the center of the second row, right next to Daria and behind Lillian. After a few desperate moments of pointless flailing, Tammy realized that Daria didn't have a shield to lock onto, and simply leaned into Lillian's back.

Of course, Tammy knew that the position must have been uncomfortable for the Canadian, but there really wasn't anything for it. The group needed to advance, and that meant pushing. It didn't stop her from trying to shout out an apology though.

"Sorry about this, Lillian!" she cried out, hoping that the older pilot would be able to hear her over the crashing sound of the water cannon.

"They had machine guns instead of water cannons."

"In the case of the IDF, it doesn't surprise me Ma'am; you Israelis are a hard bunch and you have the record to prove it. However, the IDF never had to train and prepare for a war...against the dreaded forces of communism" Karl responded jokingly

He then returned his attention to watching the young pilots and after a short moment of watching their efforts Karl was unimpressed.

"Pick up the pace team" Karl shouted into the microphone his joking nature being replaced with anger "This is not a fucking game; lives will be saved and lost because of your decision as a team. One slow and uncalculated mistake could lead to half of you in the fucking dirt and then I would have to explain to your families about how you failed in your duties. Move and operate as a team and do it quickly".

Amira smirked at Karl's joke as she watched the pilots form themselves into a little phalanx to battle the incoming water. It was commendable and she noted Iggy as well with hatching the plan. It seemed the loud one was the one getting all the attention which was both good and bad.

"Now let's see who's going to be the hero..." Amira said as she drew out a deactivated M67 grenade. To the naked eye, it looked like any other grenade which was good for what Amira had in mind. She pulled the pin and threw the grenade in the middle of their little phalanx. With perfect aim, the grenade sailed gracefully towards the formation.

"Watch your spacing!" Amira yelled as her lobbed grenade landed at their feet.

Mark, who hung at the back of formation to provide support, his usual role, disliked the exercise from the start. It was his duty to fight with these people to protect all of humanity, he wasn't petty enough to let his utter distaste for them compromise that. Regardless, he was flying more-or-less on autopilot during the exercise, bringing up the rear and keeping the others from being pushed back...then the grenade fell in front of him.

As his eyes saw it drop into the center of the formation, Mark's mind was drawn back to the first of the games, before they trained him to pilot the Eva. It was because of those games that the next action he took was practically reflex, as Mark grabbed the grenade and lobbed it towards the "enemy", over the group and at the water cannon.

However, the reflex cost him. While he was careful enough not to push anyone out of their position, he was no longer in the right place to keep them steady if they were pushed back.

Jacoline watched from beside the Operations Director at standing rest, watching the pilots below struggle against the strength of the water cannon. The woman in charge of this facility then threw a grenade, not loaded with anything actually dangerous by the way she threw it and it fell into the midst of the children below.

One of the pilots, Neo-Spartan by the way he had reacted, promptly picked the grenade back up and threw it back at the water cannon. A foolish move if ever there was one, seeing as the explosive was not packed with anything, little more than a hollow shell, fell short of the mark and into the water stream. He had only succeeded in creating an actual weapon where there had not been one before. Luckily, it didn't cause any damage to them besides possibly bruising one through the force of the blow against the shield and shattering. However, there was always a downside to good news, that she had learned all too well, and it was two-fold. One, the grenade had shattered, spraying bits of metal all around the area, not only making the all-too slippery floor even more treacherous, but the force of the impact coupled with the water behind it, had caused a crack in the shield of one. Not to mention he was now out of position as well.

"Are you certain that some of these children have had actual combat training, Colonel Uli? It did not seem to cross that one's mind that the explosive would be better suited being thrown elsewhere than directly at his enemy."

Idiot!

Mark cursed himself as he quickly backed up and braced to keep the others from paying for his mistake. He didn't figure that the water cannon would suddenly track a simply grenade over the mass of people right in front of the damn thing. Then again, he didn't really think about the consequences of his actions in an instinctive move like that at all. He was sure that someone was going to have choice words about that compulsive reflex later, but he had to drop his distractions and focus on the now.

Turning his shield sideways, Mark kept up a strong rear at the cost of protection. Letting the spray scratch at his face, Mark decided it was better sufficient penance to keep the group pushing forward while getting nicked by the water.

Seeing the incoming projectiles, D-18 jumped out from cover, pushing the most vulnerable member Mark (due to his having thrown the grenade) - as well as any other person caught in the line of fire - back into their own cover. The action wasn't without cost however as a single shard passed into and through her lower thigh as she rolled back into cover. It was an acceptable sacrifice.

"Suggestion: three pilots to a shield; where one cannot push forward, three can." she offered, getting to her feet.

"Alright, people! Who remembers their military history?! Phalanx! Synaspismos! Left arm bears the shield, right arm lock with neighbor's shield arm and brace shield interlock point. Three men wide, three men deep. Shields front, press your front runner forward, unified march! FORWARD! Spartans represent and show 'em how it's done! Someone give us a marching count and let's get this parade moving!"

Locking shields, the pilots slowly advanced against the oncoming spray. Working together as a group to press forward, combining their shields into a shield wall and moving as one. Water crashed against them, but the pressure from behind drove the phalanx of pilots further down the passage.

If the Evangelions intend to survive this fight, they are going to need to defend each other.

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