The sky over the East Coast of the United States was covered in clouds. As dawn came, the cloud blanket changed from grey to purple to gold; by the time the sun had fought its way above the horizon and the morning had begun, the clouds were their familiar heavenly white. Into the morning flew a JAL passenger airplane, tearing through the whiteness with its turbine roar. Its destination was New Amsterdam, what to the old New York City Tokyo-3 was to Tokyo itself. 70 kilometers from its ancestor, it was perched where the new beach of the Atlantic Ocean met the Hudson River and the Taconic Mountains. A mere 200,000 people lived in the city; still, for historic reasons, the governments of the United States and of New York itself met there, as well as General Assembly of the United Nations. A special envoy from the UN met the three at the gate and showed them to a chartered limousine. Touji, Hikari and Shinji rode in style through the streets of New Amsterdam. The city was crowded, like its predecessor, but well-organized and astonishingly short. Unlike Tokyo-3, New Amsterdam had grown horizontally rather than vertically. Buildings of two and three stories, of red brick and concrete, grew like different species of mushrooms across the foothills. The dominant buildings were the government buildings. At tremendous expense, the original White House, Congressional Rotunda and Justice Building had been salvaged and restored. Reflecting the shift in power in the 21st Century, the three Capitol buildings were dwarfed by the UN General Assembly hall. This was an identical reproduction of the original buildings that had been destroyed in the Second Impact. That morning, with the overcast sky hiding the sun, the black face of the main building and the white clouds in the sky combined to make the skyline look like an eye, all-seeing, never blinking. Touji, Hikari and Shinji were shown into an office on the second floor of the building. After only a moment or two of waiting, they were joined by a lanky fellow in a brown NERV uniform. His drab brown hair was cut close to his head with exacting precision. On the bridge of his nose was a pair of wire glasses. From behind them, his eyes shown with an almost maniac energy. "KENSUKE!" "Hi, everyone! Werucom ta Nyuu Ansatudam!" Hugs were exchanged all around. "Hikari, boy, you look wonderful. I guess I'm almost a decade too late to be using a line like that, huh? And I heard about your book, congratulations on all your hard work. It's going to be published in English, too, so I'll be able to read it both ways. Touji, I thought you were going to be studying your physical therapy. I suppose that can wait though, can't it? I'm glad you wanted to come out for a visit. Shinji, I'm so happy to see you after all of this time. I had just about given up hope that I'd ever see you." "I'm happy to see you also, Kensuke," Shinji replied. "The NERV uniform suits you well. It suits you better than me." "Don't try and be ironic, Shinji, or I'll hit you." Kensuke waved them into his office. Like the waiting room, it was paneled in real wood. The desk, filing cabinets, computer, window ledge and all other flat spaces were covered in models of science-fiction robots, EVAs and Angels. The visitors sat down in folding chairs. The room was large enough to accomodate four with ease. Kensuke walked to a credenza by the door and poured green tea into a mug from a thermos. "Would anyone else like something to drink?" he inquired. "Hikari? Touji?" "I'm fine." "I'll take a cup," said Touji. He was looking at a picture on Kensuke's desk. It was the class photo from their senior year in high school. He remarked, "I wish I'd thought to smile for the photo. You look like you're the only happy person in the picture, Kensuke." "Yeah!" he said. "And that's why I keep it. I like seeing how people react to it when they realize who's the only smiling boy. Actually, though, you can see that Shinji's got a little bit of a smile." Kensuke grinned and added loudly, "Like he's got right now." The smile melted off of Shinji's face, to be replaced with a blush. He was looking at a photo of EVA-01. Some photographer had caught the EVA in profile just as it was projecting its AT Field to catch the falling Tenth Angel. The picture had been published widely abroad. Kensuke had gotten a large glossy reprint of the photo. "What, ah, what ever happened to the Evangelions, anyway?" he asked Kensuke. "Even though I'm still supposed to be part of NERV, they never told me." "You want to know? And do you want some tea?" "Yes, I'd like some very much." Kensuke gave Shinji a Styrofoam cup filled with tea and gestured to the photo. "01 is still somewhere under the Geofront, we presume. Same with the leftovers of 00'. 02 was encased in Bakelite and buried when they dynamited the remains of the Geofront. Now that the Technology of God doesn't work anymore, all of the EVA units are just big bunches of machine and pseudo-organic crap. Nobody wants them. The Japanese government can't pay to get rid of them, and there's nowhere to take them to. So there they'll be. "Let me tell you a little more about my work. People still want the Technology of God. NERV scientists have demonstrated mathematically that there's no science behind it anymore--that is, there's no reproducibility. What's working for you one run-through will not work for you the second time, and there's no way of telling what kind of modifications you need to make to your experiment to get it working again. We know this. But there are a lot of stupid people in the world. They think--shut up, Hikari. As I was saying, they think that because the Technology of God worked for about 20 years, that it can work again. We can't tell them why not because that's a bunch of big dirty secrets. It wouldn't work anyway, telling them, because people believe what they want to believe. "The other problem is that nothing is truly random in nature. We've demonstrated that the collapse of the Technology of God is 99.9999% complete. There's no way to be sure it's fully complete, because our statistics isn't that good. But just that one chance in 1,000,000 drives the same kinds of people who want to square the circle or find patterns in pi to pursue the technology. "So you have people with dreams of ruling the world investing huge amounts of money they've made since the Second Impact in the Technology of God. There's less than 200 organizations in the world at any time that are even able to reproduce the basic experiments from '97 in the South Pole. Of these, 10 or so will reach '99 or 2K. These people present a threat to themselves and to the world, because if it WORKS--if their experiments succeed as would be predicted by Akagi's Laws--then their health, and that of those around them, is in extreme danger. "That's where NERV comes in. We monitor them, we stop them, we incarcerate the money-men and give the scientists new jobs. The truth is that we're supposed to kill them all, but nobody obeys that. We're human beings, we don't like to take more lives than necessary. " Kensuke paused to take a sip of his tea. Touji asked the question that was on everyone's minds. "So...have you...you know...had to kill anyone?" Kensuke nodded gently. "It's my job. It's a necessary evil. I'd always wondered if I could do it. But don't let's talk about that. Planning operations and seeing them out isn't even what I spend most of my time doing. Most of my time is administrative. I help Maya make sure NERV has enough liberty to do our job, that we have funding, that the UN is informed, blah blah blah. I do a lot of reports, actually, piecing together the information our operatives have gathered together. Costa Rica, Saudi Arabia, Angola...I have to know about all these countries, who's in power where, and how much of a threat they present." "A moment ago, you mentioned Maya," said Shinji. "Isn't she still with NERV?" "Yes," Kensuke replied, "in fact I'm under her command. But she and Major Thorgarssen have a report to give by the end of the week on...uh..." He leafed through a small pile of printouts on his desk and glanced across the top of one. "...on 'The Status of the Technology of God as a Threat to World Security in Europe'. So she's getting ready for that. But we'll see her this evening for dinner." He casually tossed the paper aside. "Honestly, guys, Maya doesn't have the stomach for the killing aspect of our job; but she has experience, and she is a good scientist. She's better off not trying to be the senior officer around here and we all know it. Captain is as high as she's going to go, and that's that." "Speaking of which," Hikari broke in, "is Asuka with NERV? Or do you know where she is?" "Who, the Demon?" Kensuke said. He thought about it for a moment, and concluded, "No, I don't know. I do know who you'd need to talk to in Germany about it, though. His name's Lieberman, and he's in charge of SSO in the German branch. He's also the man you'll need to have sign off when you visit your dad, Shinji." "SSO? What's that, Kensuke?" "'Special Security Operations'. It deals with keeping the users of the Technology of God under lock and key, looking after the former pilots, things like that." "Oh, I see," said Shinji. "In that case, would he know where Rei is?" Kensuke laughed. "I was going to ask you a very similar question, Shinji. There's been no record of her since the day the UN had the bright idea of invading Tokyo-3." Shinji flinched. "It..it wasn't the UN's fault, I'm the one who was responsible..." "Whatever." Kensuke finished off his tea and stood. "Nobody here at the UN points fingers anymore, if it makes you feel better. Now let's get out of this office! I'm sick and tired of being inside, and I haven't heard your stories yet. Come on. Maya's meeting us for dinner, but we're free until then. Are you jet-lagged? Have you checked into your hotel yet?" They went to the hotel, a five-story white building, and left their luggage in their rooms. Their entertainment for the afternoon was a glass-bottomed boat tour of the Statue of Liberty. It was perfect viewing weather: the afternoon sun had come through the clouds, and the water was placid and clear. There was a neap tide, bringing the tip of the torch almost out of the water. Below deck, the tourists were within 10 meters of the Statue's crown. Shinji looked as best as he could at the timeless face, turned black by the water's shadows. It occurred to him that after the boat left, the Atlantic around her head would be completely still. The bronze woman in the ocean wouldn't "hear" anything or anyone. She would be all alone. "Are we all the Statue of Liberty?" he asked that evening at dinner. They were eating at a beautiful restaurant outside of the downtown area. The prices were reasonable, but Kensuke told them that it was hard to get reservations if you weren't someone in the UN or the government. Dress was casual. Bay windows looked out onto roads with light evening traffic. "Struggling forever and ever to get our hopes up above the waterline, but never succeeding?" Shinji directed the question to Maya, across the table from him. She had grown her hair out long since he had last seen her. She was wearing a blue dress and a white blouse, and there were large hoop earrings in her ears. Considering the question, she set down her steak knife and fork and chewed thoughtfully. When she could talk again, she said, "I don't think so. People aren't statues, people can change and do different things. Take NERV as an example. First we designed and built the EVAs. When the Angels came, we switched from so much science to a defense-oriented program. Then the Angels went away and the Technology of God didn't work anymore. Now we're a sort of an anti-terrorist organization. So there was one NERV, but three purposes. "People like your father, Shinji, and all the old people who want their own nations and their own tribes to be the top dogs, they are the statues. And what's happened to them? Your father is being held for crimes against humanity, and those partisan fools are laughed out of the UN. Maybe it's divine retribution. Everyone who can't move on is doomed." Maya turned her attention back to her steak, but Shinji was replying to what she had said. "Shigeru and Makoto died because of me," he muttered darkly, "is that supposed to be divine retribution?" The other four people at the booth went silent as Shinji's words sunk in. "Shinji..." began Hikari, but Maya interrupted, "No, it's all right. Shinji, that's a very good point. I should have had more respect for them and been quiet." She drained her glass of wine and winced as she forced herself to continue the thought. "Only I came out of the Control Room alive, Shinji. I don't know about your father...but for me, it was only luck that kept me alive. I was so scared of the gunfire that was going on, I was hiding under one of the desks. I didn't have the courage to be up there shooting with everyone else, I hid. And Lillith spared me in her wake because I hid out of her path. It doesn't go any deeper than that." "Can we change the subject?" said Kensuke. "If it's all right with everyone else." "I don't like to think," murmured Hikari, "that it's only coincidence that keeps people alive. What if there was no meaning in who lives and who dies? Wouldn't that mean that there is no God?" "I suppose not," Touji said. "What if there is a meaning, and we just don't understand it?" countered Shinji. "Wouldn't that be proof that there is a God?" Maya shook her head sadly. "It's no different from the Technology of God. The Technology of God works entirely randomly, so we say it's not science. God seems to work randomly, so we call belief in God 'faith'. Where there's a meaning we can understand, it's no longer faith, it's something else. You realize what this means...that any meaning we find in our lives will be an illusion, or faith, depending on what you call it." Kensuke tried again. "So!" he asked energetically. "What are your plans between now and the time you guys leave for Germany?" Touji sighed contemplatively. "We didn't have that much. Maybe we can stay around on our way back. Shinji here wants to see his father, and we're all planning to visit Asuka. Once all that's done, we can have fun." "Don't make visiting Asuka sound like punishment, Touji dear," rebuked Hikari. Seeing that Touji had no real way to reply, Kensuke said to Shinji, "Well, be sure and stop by when you come back." "Please do, Shinji," added Maya. "I'm sorry that we haven't had more time to spend together, I really am." "I could try to be better myself, from now on, I suppose," said Shinji. "I'll e-mail you, or phone, now. I've written everything down. "And hey, thanks for coming to see us. I'm having fun travelling around like this." It seemed an amazing thing for him to say, on reflection.