A Neon Genesis Evangelion story
by Drakensis & Griever
Disclaimer: Characters and setting created and owned by Gainax. Mostly. The story is our fault, though.
It's a matter of prescience
If you stand to reason
You might not think it matters now
It's in the way
In your dreams
Oh, Kyoto now!
"Unidentified object in ocean sector!" yelled a technician in NERV's command centre.
"Confirmed on visual!" another responded. "Routing images to main monitor."
High above the technicians, a lean, dark man sat at the apex of the room, his glasses lit only by the image on the main display, his gloved hands locked in front of his chin. "It's been fifteen years, hasn't it?" came a voice from behind him.
He didn't turn around. "Yes There's no mistake — it's a Shito! The day has finally arrived . The time of trials that humanity cannot avoid ."
"This is the emergency broadcast system. Stand by for an important alert!" a tannoy system bellowed out over the deserted city. "Today at 12:30 p.m., a special state of emergency is being declared for the entire central Kanto region, with the Tokai District at the epicentre. All residents should quickly and calmly evacuate to their designated shelters.
"We repeat — At 12:30 today, special state of emergency is being declared "
The young man in the station was little more than a boy. Standing by one of the public telephones, he wore black pants and a white short-sleeved shirt over a T-shirt. Except for his isolation, he could have been any other ninth-grader.
There was a clang as he dumped the handset back onto the cradle. "Huh. All the phones are out, and the monorails aren't running either. Everything's stopped. So where do I go from here?" he pondered out loud.
Hefting a small carryall and a satchel in one hand, he wandered out of the station and down the deserted steps. "This sucks and naturally it has to happen when I've got an appointment. Jeez " Dropping his bags, he slumped down on the steps and fished into his pocket, pulling out a pair of wire-framed sunglasses with round lenses.
"'Shelter', huh?" Guess it's finally happened, he thought. I've been waiting long enough. Fishing through his pockets, he pulled out an envelope addressed to the suburb of Tokyo that had been his home for the last ten years. "Misato Katsuragi? Hmm." With a slight smile, he fished out a photo from the envelope and looked at the good-looking woman posing next to a blue sports car of some description. "Sheesh. I guess I'll know her chest when I see it. Dunno 'bout the rest of her."
He shrugged. Tucking the photo back into the envelope, he stuffed both haphazardly back into his shirt pocket. Shading his eyes with one hand, he reached for the satchel, adjusting the backpack straps. "Nothing for it . Nichevo, as they say in the Motherland. Guess I'm walkin' the rest of the way."
Trailing down the steps as he fumbled the satchel onto his back, juggling the carryall between his hands, he sighed. "Bummer."
Halfway to the next station, he stopped to look up at the jets streaking through the Tokyo sky. "Sheesh, fly a bit lower, why don't you ?" he muttered. "Poor suckers."
A missile flashed across the intersection right behind him, sending loose material flying. "Jeez Loo-eez," the boy yelped. "That's too damn close."
He broke into a jog away from whatever it was that the missile had been targeting. At the next intersection, he looked right to see the target over the next hill. "Holy shit!"
It was big and black, with bone-like white shoulders and face. And big meant big, at least a forty metres at a minimum. The missiles didn't seem to be doing all that much.
Oh crap. Even given that this was more or less what he'd expected, he froze for a minute. "This is worse than I thought."
Some sort of VSTOLs emptied rockets at the Angel, with the predictable lack of effect. The Angel's energy beam swatted one out of the sky right above the boy, finally convincing him to move.
The impact blew him nearly off his feet. Turning his head he saw the fuel tanks explode. Too shocked even to scream, he dived away, hoping to avoid the shrapnel.
Huh? That wasn't right, was it? He rolled over to see a slightly familiar blue car parked between him and the blast. The driver's door "kaChunked" open to reveal Misato in a short dress and designer shades. "Sorry to keep you waiting, Shinji!" she yelled. "C'mon — get in!"
"Shinji" shook his head to clear it. "Right." He dived for her and caught the frame above the door. With practiced ease, he swung up his feet and let momentum carry him across her and — mostly — into the passenger seat, quite a feat in the cramped quarters.
Misato looked down at Shinji's head, currently in her lap. He looked back through his sunglasses. "This thing move?"
The NERV officer's lips curled upwards as the boy scrambled into a more conventional seating position. "Oh yeah." The tires shrieked in protest as she flung the car into gear and released the brakes. "Hold on tight! Here we go !"
"Sorry I'm late!" Misato added as Shinji struggled with the seatbelt.
"Russian, sorry. Means 'things happen', well, sorta." Shinji gave a fair approximation of a Gallic shrug. Looking back over his shoulders he saw the giant shrug off a volley of missiles.
Misato seemed curiously unmoved by this turn of events. "The U.N. Army's Gulf Tank Force has been wiped out! No matter how many rounds they fire, the missiles don't cause it significant damage." She shot a look at her passenger. "You're awfully calm, given the circumstances."
Shinji's lips quirked. "Do you mean about that thing, or seeing my dad?"
She smiled back. "That thing is a 'Shito'."
"'Shito'?" Oh hell. The briefing screwed up. It was supposed to be 'Angel', wasn't it?
"No time right now to go into the details."
Ahead of them, a rogue missile punched through the corner of a building and Roboteched picturesquely towards them.
baBOOOM. The blast picked up the car and the pair felt a moment of nausea as it flipped onto its roof, several meters from the impact.
"Ungh " Misato groaned as she climbed out of the car and helped the rather more coherent Shinji to his feet. (Seatbelts help). "Jeez — are they shooting blind?! You all right, Shinji?"
"Nothing seems to be broken ." he started.
"Aieeeeee!" Misato was assessing the damage to her car. "Noooooooo! The body's riddled with shrapnel! And I've got thirty-three payments left on her! GODDAMN IT!"
"Um, Misato ." Shinji wiped the lenses of his sunglasses against his shirt.
"Oh no! This dress cost a fortune! These stains will never come out!" Misato wailed. "Yeeeek! My shades are pulverized!"
Misato cast a puzzled look at Shinji. "What?"
"Leg it!" the boy yelled, dragging her after him by one wrist as the Shito leapt down towards them.
There was an almighty KRANG as a second giant figure plunged out of nowhere to body-block the Shito into a building, dazing it for a moment.
Shinji looked up at a distinctly familiar figure silhouetted against the afternoon sun. "Is that ?"
"This one's on our side!" reassured Misato.
The EVA reached down and lifted Misato's car, setting it right side up. Getting a closer look, Shinji took in the forehead spike, paired yellow eyes and purple armour plating. "Bloody hell."
Misato waved off the EVA gratefully, and checked her wristwatch. "Oh hell! Just look at the time! We can't just stand around all day!" she told Shinji. "Get in the car, quick! No time to waste!"
Shinji didn't need to be told twice. "Wassup? Hot date?" he cracked as he bundled himself into the passenger seat.
"We've gotta get as far away from here as possible!" Misato slammed the car into gear. "Just pray we make it!"
Behind the speeding car, EVA-01 realized too late that the Shito had recovered.
One swing later, the purple defender of humanity got pile-driven into — and then through — a wall. The giant hunched over as it pulled itself upright, the EVA reacting to its pilot's reactions to the EVA's own injuries. To an observer it might have seemed as if the Evangelion was bowing to its unearthly opponent.
The Shito exploited its advantage ruthlessly, throwing the EVA almost a quarter mile and doing even more damage to the buildings of Tokyo-3.
Shinji looked over his shoulder and saw the EVA struggling.
"Don't look now, but I think we've got a problem," he told Misato.
Misato's concentration was centred on getting to a safe distance, but a quick look in the rear view mirror told her everything she needed to know.
'We knew this was going to happen ! It's just too heavy a burden for Rei right now '
In NERV's command centre, the mood was grim.
"Pilot's heart rate and blood pressure are dropping!" reported a technician. "A10 neural interface down to five percent!"
"Three minutes and counting until operation N2!" advised a second technician.
"She's haemorrhaging through the chest plate seams!"
At the back of the room, the dark man remained hunched over his desk like a sinister gargoyle. "It can't be helped," he decided flatly. "Commence Recovery at maximum speed through route 192!"
Out in the city, the EVA managed to crawl to a large hatch that covered the width of an entire street. With a whoosh, the hatch sank into the ground, engulfing the giant war machine in a second. The kaChunk of the portal closed echoed hollowly as the Shito stood triumphant over the city.
From far above, two bombers swooped down
and then away.
Shinji, who had been keeping a nervous eye on the Shito, gulped. "Um, Misato — I think they just used the big bomb ."
"Tuck your head into your lap and brace yourself for impact!" she screamed, making a sincere effort to drive the accelerator through the floor.
For a moment there was only an ominous silence, then the Shito was a silhouette against a light that shamed the sun's best efforts.
In a second, the Shito was engulfed, but the explosion continued, a globe of destruction rearing out of the ground, devastating the city around it.
Misato's car was sent skidding along the freeway by the blast, finally flipping over and landing on its roof beyond the main area of devastation. Misato and Shinji rode it out, the NERV officer catching hold of Shinji and doing her best to shield him from harm.
With the car once more at rest, they remained silent trying to come to grips with their position. In Shinji's case this meant hanging from his seatbelt in the car, above Misato, who had come to rest on the inside of the windshield.
"Ahhh, Misato? Are you all right?"
The woman eyed her trashed car. "I-I can't take this anymore," she wailed.
Inside NERV's control centre, there was laughter from the Generals as they regarded the work. Sitting behind Gendo Ikari and his staff, they gloated freely.
"Did you see that!?" one demanded. "That's the power of our N2 Mines! Do you know what this means!? The EVAs are no longer necessary!"
NERV's leaders didn't bother to dispute their claims.
Technician Makoto Hyuuga spoke from the console his attention was fixed upon. "Continuing radio-wave interference from the explosion! We're still standing by for target destruct confirmation."
"A blast of that force!? Can there be any doubt?"
On the main monitor, a schematic of the new crater spiked as reports fed into the giant MAGI supercomputers. "We're picking up energy readings from ground zero!" Hyuuga cried.
"Visuals are back online!"
"Whoa!" gasped one of Hyuuga's fellow technicians, Shigeru Aoba, as the visual showed the Shito still standing.
One of the Generals slumped into his seat. "Our trump card, for nothing!"
"We sacrificed a whole city !" one of his companions gasped. "It's a monster a Demon!!"
" Yes, we understand .Absolutely — Good day."
The general lowered his telephone into its cradle with an audible click.
NERV's Director rose from the folding chair he had been waiting on.
"We've just received word from HQ," the general told him. "Effective immediately, command authority for this operation has been transferred to you! Let's see what you're capable of!"
"We'll be frank. The U.N. Army admits that our weapons were ineffectual against the target. But — do you really think you have a better chance?"
Ikari adjusted his glasses, using the gesture to conceal his contemptuous smile. "Do not be concerned. After all, this is the purpose of NERV," he told the Army officers.
Finally within NERV's base, Misato's battered car moved through metal walled tunnels onto a strange, train-like conveyance, security doors closing behind them.
"Special Agency NERV?" mouthed Shinji eyeing the booklet Misato had given him.
"Uh-huh — an unpublicized organization under the direct control of the U.N.," Misato told him. "I work there too, you know, as an international civil servant. Same as your father."
Shinji smiled slightly. "'The admirable job of defending humanity'?" he quoted from the booklet.
"Hey What's with the sarcasm ?" asked Misato, slightly insulted. This was her job the boy was knocking.
"Let's just say I'm a natural sceptic," the boy sighed. "Anyway, I thought my dad worked for GEHIRN — at least, he did last time I remember."
Misato shrugged as the conveyer started moving, the car locked securely into place against the speed of movement. "Well, GEHIRN became NERV a few years back, before I joined," she explained.
Shinji nodded understandingly. Figures. GEHIRN was a scientific organization, NERV is more military. "So Any idea why my father wants me here? Frankly, I thought he'd forgotten about me."
Adjusting an earring, Misato turned her attention to him. "Perhaps it would be better to ask your father directly, eh?"
Shinji slumped lower in the bucket seat. "Meaning either you don't know or you don't want to be the one who tells me. Can't blame you for that, I guess."
"You're not comfortable with your father, are you?"
"It seems a lot of effort to drag me here when we'll probably have nothing to say to each other," the boy sighed. "I would have thought Oh, never mind. Spilled milk, I guess."
Suddenly they were out of the passages the conveyer had run through and the rails ahead seem suspended upon nothing. Shinji's eyes widened as they shot through an inverted city cling to the roof of a cave so vast that Shinji couldn't even begin to estimate its dimensions. Ahead he could see the rail descending to a pyramid on the heavily forested floor of the cavern.
"My God! I heard there was a GeoFront somewhere near Tokyo, but "
"That's right!" Misato told him. "Our secret base of operations — NERV HQ. The keystone for the resurrection of the world, and the stronghold of humanity!"
"The U.N. is beating a retreat," Fuyutsuki told Gendo.
"Commander Ikari," asked Dr. Ritsuko Akagi, "What are your intentions?"
Gendo rose to his feet, but did not turn to face them. "We'll just have to reinitialize Unit 01.
"But that's impossible — there are no pilots
left for it!"
"There's no need for concern," Gendo cut their protests off. He looked down at the monitor that showed Shinji following Misato into NERV's HQ building. "The reserve pilot has just arrived."
Shinji looked around, genuinely impressed by the sheer scale of NERV's HQ. He could hardly blame Misato for getting them lost — even if she did seem reluctant to admit the fact. He was a bit nervous about some of the moving walkways though. They didn't have safety rails and from some of them it was a long way down if you fell off.
"What is it?" she asked, focusing on an electronic notepad.
"Oh, never mind," he muttered as he saw an elevator closing on their floor. He paused by the door. Either this would be Ritsuko Akagi, here to find them, or it would be someone he could ask for directions. Misato was nice (and cute) and he didn't want to hurt her feelings, but his feet hurt and his patience was wearing thin.
That's funny, mused Misato, oblivious to the fact she'd lost Shinji. I was positive this was the right direction.
There was a ding as the elevator reached their floor and the door opened to reveal an attractive blonde in a lab coat and high heels. From his perspective, Shinji couldn't see much else for as she stepped out, she turned to face Misato. "Where are you going? You're late, Captain Katsuragi!"
"Oh Ritsuko " mumbled the embarrassed NERV officer.
"So late that I was sent to find you! We have neither the personnel nor the time for such nonsense!"
"S-sorry!" Misato scratched the back of her head nervously. "I got lost — still don't have the layout of this place down yet!"
"And you don't seem to have the Third Child either. Don't tell me you lost him," Ritsuko told her.
Shinji cleared his throat politely and Ritsuko spun surprised, almost swiping him with her elbow. He stepped backwards politely as he realized that her turn had left his face about two inches from her chest. "Oops. Sorry 'bout that."
Ritsuko gathered her composure. "So you're one of the Third Children?"
Shinji shrugged. "Dunno 'bout that. Name's Shinji Ikari, if that means anything to you."
Ritsuko smiled welcomingly. "I'm Ritsuko Akagi, from the first engineering division — the supervisor of Project E. Pleased to meet you." She turned to the lift again. "Come along, Shinji. There's something I want to show you before you see your father."
Shinji kept his face straight, with a slight effort. I have such a dirty mind, he thought ruefully. "Oh I just bet you have " the boy agreed out loud. "Giant robots and GeoFronts, what fun " he muttered under his breath.
In the NERV centre, the Director and his deputy were stood with the techs now, eyeing the main monitor.
"Commander!" came a warning. "The Shito is advancing! It's broken through the power mine final defence perimeter."
Gendo glared at the Shito, but said nothing.
"It's adjusted its progression vector by five degrees and is still approaching! The predicted target destination is our own city Tokyo-3!"
Gendo's arm swept out, commandingly. "All right, first wave personnel — to battle stations!"
"YES, SIR!" chorused the three techs on the platform with him.
"Fuyutsuki It's in your hands now," Gendo ordered as he turned away.
"Yes, sir," the older man responded.
NERV's director barely acknowledged the response as he boarded a one person lift leading to the ground floor of the room.
Behind him, the retired professor brooded for a moment.
His first encounter with his son in three years .
"First Wave personnel to battle stations!" echoed the tannoy as Ritsuko led Misato and Shinji onto a small hydrofoil launch, taking the controls (which seemed strangely like those of a motorcycle). "Repeat, First Wave personnel to battle stations! Prepare to initialize anti-ground attack Unit-01!"
"Wait — what do they mean?" demanded Misato as the hydrofoil pulled away into the canal-like waters that filled the cavernous chambers in this part of NERV's HQ. Shinji was eyeing the 'water' nervously. He was hardly surprised by the pinkish colouring, but it unnerved him nonetheless.
"Unit-01 is currently cooling down while in Defensive Formation B — it can be reinitialized at any time!" Ritsuko told her colleague, without turning.
"That's not what I'm worried about — it's Rei! If Rei can't go on, what will they do for a pilot?!"
Ritsuko's only response was to cast a look over her shoulder at Misato and uncoincidentally, at Shinji.
Misato's head followed the scientists gaze, then snapped forwards. "What the hell is the Commander thinking?!" She calmed herself; ranting at Ritsuko wouldn't gain her anything. "So, then the N2 mines didn't work against the Shito?"
"No It only suffered minor surface damage — and it's still advancing." Ritsuko answered. "It seems it possesses an A.T. Field. In addition, the Shito has artificial intelligence capacity! According to the MAGI system's analysis, it's not powered or manipulated by remote control. The Shito is a form of giant intelligent life. All its actions are determined by its programming."
Shinji spared a single glance upwards at where a bulkhead had been breached by a tremendous hand . EVA-00, he supposed. It was unlikely that any of the failed Units would be in so obvious a location. Besides, up ahead he could see a single purple shoulder retained by a wall. It seemed that they had almost reached their destination.
"You mean " Misato asked, Ritsuko's last statement percolating through her mind.
"Right! Just like the EVA "
The boy behind the two women opened his mouth for the first time since they had boarded the hydrofoil. "This EVA It's the robot I saw earlier? The one fighting the Shito?"
Ritsuko didn't spare him a glance, manoeuvring the hydrofoil against a small quay built into the wall ahead of them. "I'll explain when we get there," she said.
Climbing the steps to a large door, they had to wait for Ritsuko to key a security code before they could enter. "It's dark, so watch your step," she told the boy as he stepped inside, his nerves suddenly wound tight. Behind him, she reached for a panel by the door.
Even though he was expecting it, Shinji had to cover his eyes against the sudden bright lights. Fumbling with his other hand, he slipped on his sunglasses with a sense of relief. "Nice presentation," he observed dryly. "Can I keep my eyesight next time?"
They were stood on a floating gantry right in front of EVA-01's face. Shinji began to reappraise its size. This sucker was very, very big. "Shame about the paint job, but for that size you must'a had to economize," he finally wisecracked.
"Strictly speaking, she's not a robot," explained Ritsuko, oblivious to anything after the first couple of words. "She's a man-made all-purpose battle weapon!"
Bullshit, thought Shinji. I know a giant robot when I see one. Stupid scientists never read dictionaries.
"Artificial Human Evangelion!" the blonde scientist exclaimed. "It's the last chance for humanity. This is the first unit."
Shinji looked at the robot and then the scientist. Right. Whatever. "I take it this has something to do with why father sent for me?"
"That's correct," came a voice from above. Shinji looked up to see Gendo Ikari stood high above the EVA, at the mouth of an opening in the chamber wall. "It's been a while," the man said, his dark figure staring unreadably down at the boy.
There was a long moment as Shinji gathered himself, staring fixedly at the face of EVA-01 before raising his face once more. "You called me here for a purpose," he said finally.
Gendo nodded once, his face intense. "Shinji, listen carefully to what I am about to tell you. You're going to ride in her. You're going to battle the Shito."
Shinji looked up at his at Gendo. There was an eerily familiar expression on the boys face, Gendo realized. One he often saw in a mirror. "What are the chances of success?" the younger Ikari asked bluntly.
Before Gendo could answer, Misato seemed to explode. "Wait a moment, Commander! It took even Rei seven months to synchronize with the EVA — remember!? A boy who just arrived today? It's impossible!"
Gendo's face returned to its usual, stern formation. "He only needs to sit in her. I'm not expecting more at this point."
Ritsuko interrupted the Captain's protests. "Captain Katsuragi! Our overriding priority is to halt and repel the Shito! In order to accomplish that, it is imperative that we load someone, no matter who, into the unit — someone who may have the ability to synchronize to some extent with the EVA!" She paused. "Or do you have any alternatives you'd like to share!?"
Misato's anger seeped away as the words penetrated. Shinji looked at her and stepped over to her. "It's all right, Misato. I understand." He cast a gauging eye up at his father and then gently touched her sleeve, "Well I understand enough anyway." Looking her in the eye he saw the emotion there and squeezed her arm gently. "Thank you for caring."
Ritsuko tried to draw him away. "Now Shinji, come this way!"
The boy resisted after the first step, his eyes returning to Gendo. "I'd like my answer first."
"Just accept this explanation. You're the best candidate we have. No — you're the only candidate we have."
"That bad, then," the boy mused. "Very well." He took another step, following Ritsuko, towards the hatch before looking up again. "And if I don't, what did you call it synchronize ?"
"If you fail, all of humanity will perish. The very existence of the human race rests on your shoulders!" grated Gendo impatiently.
That's not what I asked, thought Shinji as he squared his shoulders and followed the scientist.
Ritsuko was all business as she led him towards the entry plug. "I'll give you a simple lecture on the operating systems."
Shinji looked over his shoulder, raising one hand in a half-hearted wave to Misato. She turned away, and Shinji closed his eyes wearily for a moment. Then he returned his attention to the Doctor's lecture.
Shinji shifted around within the seat of the 'entry plug' he was inside. It held him rather more securely than he was comfortable with, although he supposed that there was a safety reason for that. There were a couple of hand grips, but he wasn't entirely sure what they were for, so he kept his hands well clear of them, rested on the pedestal in front of him. He felt almost as if he was chained to a chair in some mad scientist's laboratory, right down to the little neural-whatsits tucked into his tangled hair above his forehead.
Outside the Evangelion, the pieces were moving into place.
"Cooling-down cycle complete! All internal cage systems in docking position!"
Fluid drained away from the canal lock-sized compartments surrounding the giant war machine.
"Pilot has reached the cockpit position within the Entry Plug!"
I could have told you that myself, sneered Shinji to himself.
"Roger! Inserting Entry Plug!"
From the outside, it looked like piston pressing the cylindrical entry plug into the back of EVA-01. To Shinji it felt like a poorly maintained elevator going down just a touch too fast almost out of control for a second.
"Plug lock-in procedure completed!"
"Initiating first level interface!"
"Flooding entry plug!"
Shinji blinked. "Flooding WHAT?!" he half screamed as a yellowish fluid rushed up the plug. Christ, it looks like urine, he thought in distaste.
"Don't be alarmed!" Ritsuko told him. "Once your lungs are saturated with the LCL, you'll be able to undergo direct oxygen exchange!"
"Calm down, Shinji! You'll get used to it in a minute!" reassured Misato.
"Easy for you to say," coughed the boy irritably, now completely submerged and regaining his composure. "You didn't just swallow a pint of this rat's piss."
The walls of the entry plug were covered for a moment by repetitions of the phrase 'start contact' only to be replaced with dozens of coloured blocks racing up the walls with vertigo-inducing speed. Shinji listened quietly as the technical staff ran through the start-up sequence: "Main power connected! All circuits fully functional! Initiating power-up sequence!" "Opening reciprocal circuits!" "A10 neural synapses operating within normal limits! First contact all clear!" There were three voices — two male, one female. As expected then.
"This is incredible!" Ritsuko exclaimed. "Synchro errors are within 0.3 percent!" She turned to Misato. "It's going to work!"
"Evangelion Unit-01!" the purple-haired officer shouted. "Prepare to launch."
In response to the order; the technical crew began opening up the layers of protection around the EVA. The lighter defences, mesh screens and the like, moved first. Then the massive clamps around the EVA disengaged one by one. "Releasing primary lock bolt." "Release confirmed! Releasing umbilical bridge!" "Releasing primary and secondary restraints!"
Even the walls that had locked around the EVAs arms, restraining it by the pauldrons, slid away, leaving the giant clamped only to a relatively small frame behind it.
"Releasing safety locks one through fifteen." "Internal battery fully charged! External power outlet nominal!" The female voice (Maya, Shinji guessed) gave the next report just as Misato finished ranting. "Transporting EVA Unit-01 to the launch elevator!"
With the low roar of precisely maintained heavy machinery, the entire platform that the EVA stood on slid slowly up and backwards towards the wall of the immense chamber.
"What was all that about external power source?" Shinji asked absently.
Ritsuko answered. "The Evangelion can only carry a five minute power supply on internal batteries. Therefore the main power source is in GeoFront, connected to the EVA by a power cord."
There was a moment of silence as Shinji thought that over. He already knew that of course, but it annoyed him nonetheless. "You mean I'm piloting a giant robot powered the same way as a lawnmower. What sort of budget did you get for this thing anyway?"
"Stop whining. You're a boy, aren't you?"
" I refuse to dignify that with a response."
Further 'repartee' was cut off as the EVA reached the wall. The platform locked into rails leading upwards and doors above it slid aside, revealing a vertical shift that reached up higher than Shinji could see.
"Gate Five, stand by!" "Launch path clear!" "All green!" "Launch preparations are complete."
"Roger!" Misato acknowledged. Standing in the middle of the command deck, she turned to look up and Gendo, overlooking the technical staff from his brooding perch. "Commander Ikari! Do we proceed?"
Ikari's clasped hands obscured most of his face but his glasses had slid down his nose just far enough to reveal eyes as dark and purposeful as agates. "Of course," he said calmly. "If we fail to defeat the Shito, humanity has no future."
Misato nodded and turned back to the techs. "Launch!" she ordered.
Power surged through the motors against the rails and hurled the EVA, platform and all, upwards and out of the GeoFront. Shinji yelped in surprise as gravity drove him down in the seat.
Far above, on a city street, warning lights flared around a square hatch set flush with the road. Panels slid away just barely in time for the EVA Unit-01 to emerge from it. The giant stood there, supported by twin beams reaching from the ground to its shoulders.
The city looked different from this perspective. Shinji was surprised to see that his viewpoint was higher than several of them.
"This is it, Shinji!" Misato told him.
"Ready as I'll ever be," he responded, clutching at the handgrips.
"Releasing final safety locks!" she shouted. "Evangelion Unit-01, lift off!"
With a series of clangs, clamp after clamp released as the EVA sagged slightly, no longer supported by the rails. Shinji felt the giant compensate for its shifting balance based on his own inner ear, and swallowed nervously. Welcome to the big time, he told himself.
He barely heard Misato's voice wish him good luck.
For a moment, Shinji just stood there, separated from the clamps that had restrained EVA-01, but holding his position, getting a feel for his robot? Partner? Alter-ego?
Facing the EVA, apparently watching impassively, the Shito stood and waited as the tension rose.
Hmm It seems to have gauged our course of action, even though we're underground, realized Misato. We're like wild game, smoked out of our lairs "Shinji!" she called over the radio.
"Yes?" came a distracted response.
"Just try walking," she ordered.
"Okaaay," the boy agreed, dubiously.
Focusing his concentration, Shinji screwed his eyes closed and tried to consciously think through the process of walking. Bending his right leg slightly, to take his no, the EVA's weight. Lifting the other leg slightly and swinging it forwards, until the balance shifts, tipping the giant forwards. Catching that weight on h— the EVA's left foot as it hit the ground. Adjust balance again to bring the right leg forwards
In the control room, Ritsuko looked on as Shinji slowly shuffled the EVA forward, bringing the arms into play helping balancing as his confidence grew. "He — he did it!"
"He's up and at 'em!" cheered Misato.
"Yes," Ritsuko agreed somewhat more cautiously. "But he's over-controlling, micro-managing details that the EVA can handle for itself if he'd let it."
Shinji brought the beast to a halt once he was happy with the progress he was making. "Okay, I'm mobile. Now what? Do I have any weapons here?"
Misato's voice came back over the radio. "You're doing fine, Shinji. You have a progression knife in the left pauldron."
Shinji blinked. "That's the bit above the shoulder, right? How do I get at it?"
"We'll open it remotely for now," Ritsuko told him. "You just have to reach up and take it."
With a deliberate effort, Shinji turned the EVA's head and saw the pauldron open and extend the knife hilt. "Right." He raised the EVA's hands and pulled it carefully out of the mounting. After a bit more fumbling, he managed to lock the EVA's right fist around the hilt, the blade jutting downwards. "Got it."
"Shinji, I think you want it the other way up."
"I think this is better, Misato. Now, what's next?"
"Stopping the Shito," Misato's voice was nervous. "You'll have to attack it."
"Thank you, Captain Obvious," he subvocalised.
Shinji looked up, down the street, and saw the black, hunched, spindly-limbed, giant humanoid thing that was the best way he could describe it if he were asked to. It was still about the ugliest thing he'd ever seen in his life though unlike the first time he'd seen it that position was now closely followed by Unit 01's colour scheme.
The sight jogged his memory, however, and he realized that he had to end this fast. For some reason he didn't feel as if it would be easy to make the EVA win the fight for him, as it was supposed to have happened. He was too different, too unlike the person who should have been sitting in the plug at that time.
"Any ideas on how I'm supposed to do this?" Shinji asked, his voice not showing the fact that he was feeling as if someone had tied his guts into knots and thrown him into ice-water. It was a nervous reaction, caused by stress, and he knew that if the LCL weren't there his nose would be picking up the faint tang of fear and anxiety from the cold sweat he'd be covered with. He might have started mumbling the Bene Gesserit litany against fear, if he weren't preoccupied with trying to find ways out of this situation that ended in his survival.
He was also well aware that the dinky little knife, subjectively speaking of course, wasn't really very much of a weapon against the Shito at anything but point-blank range. Crappy situation. Hell, why couldn't NERV send the EVA up with something useful as default weapons, like oh tacnuke-loaded howitzers for example.
I'm starting to feel a little inadequate here.
"Pulse and blood pressure topped out before dangerous levels were reached," Maya informed. It was a normal reaction to a stressful situation. Understandable. It's a wonder the poor boy isn't going into hysterics.
"Any ideas on how I'm supposed to do this?" Shinji's voice rang from the speaker.
"The core is what you need to be aiming for; at least that's what the analysts say," Misato replied. "It's the spherical object right underneath the head."
"Ah, that wasn't quite what I'd asked about," he said dryly. "I only know more about fighting than Dad does about parenting because I've read books about it."
Whatever answer was forthcoming was promptly shelved, because at that moment the Shito decided to stop standing around like a cheap and extremely ugly imitation landmark, and attacked.
The only warning Shinji got was the "tingle" that seemed to run through his body, making hairs stand on end, and the brief flash from the Shito's "eye sockets". The impact of whatever that energy-weapon the enemy had used was rocked EVA-01 back and the purple-and-green Evangelion tittered, unbalanced.
Shinji grunted as it toppled, barely managing to do as much as try and arrest the fall with one of the EVA's arms.
This was not good. Singularly bad was a better description for the situation, really.
"Shinji! You have to get up!" Misato's voice sounded over the com.
He wasn't listening, already concentrating instead on trying to do just that. The awkward position, half lying down on one side, with the left arm managing to keep it off the ground in a sort of half-slump, it seemed like an impossible ordeal. To get up, he'd have to move his hand like so, then shift the weight forward and bend the legs, get some purchase on the ground
Another shock went through the EVA, and Shinji cried out in pain as he felt something clamp down on his head like a vice. The loss of concentration was further aided by the fact that he suddenly experienced what it felt like to have your body hauled upwards by a hand holding onto the upper portion of your skull, swung through the air like a cheap dishrag, and slammed into a very solid object.
Had he bothered to notice, he'd have felt the metallic taste of blood in his mouth from where he'd bitten into his lower lip while trying to stifle a scream.
Then the pressure let off, or seemed to let off at least, becoming more of a insistent throb that started around one temple, one side of the jaw, and over one brow.
Shinji's head swam with the sudden release, and panic started to clutch at him as he realized exactly in what position the Shito had him.
No! Dammit, is there some sick sort of predestination going on with these things? He wanted to scream in frustration.
There was a pressure suddenly clamping down on his right forearm, a little before the wrist, and only an instant after he realized that the EVA's hand was still holding the knife in that hand another spasm of pain shot though him. The view-screens shifted towards it in sympathetic reaction, showing Unit 01's wrist being twisted outwards by the Shito's clawed hand. The loud crunch of breaking something he'd later swear that it sounded like his own bones cracking under the pressure, could be heard.
He could dimly hear someone's voice screaming in agony, a voice that he realized was his own, and another voice in the background saying something he couldn't make out over the noise.
The prog knife clattered to the ground as the EVA's right hand was wrenched and turned in a way it hadn't quite been intended to turn.
The scream came from the speakers, Shinji's face on what view-screens showed the cockpit of the EVA contorted in a pain-induced grimace and his skin pale.
"Right arm damaged!" Maya gasped. "Sync is fluctuating! Blood pressure and pulse are through the roof!"
"Ritsuko! Do something!" shouted Misato. "He can't fight in that condition!"
"I'm trying!" the blonde scientist replied, eyes frantic as they ran over Maya's console from over the younger tech's shoulder. "Can you sink the neural feedback regulator level?!"
"Y-yes," Maya replied, fingers already dancing over the keyboard.
"No!" Shinji's cry pierced the air again, but this time there was something different about it. The pain that had been there before was still present, perhaps even doubly so, but the cry wasn't one of denial or pleading. It was sheer, unadulterated determination.
"I will not lose!"
A deafening crack sounded even through the cockpit speakers as the head armour of the EVA was shattered.
The pain was more intense than anything else he'd felt over the span of his, admittedly, short life. It's one thing to know that broken bones and such will hurt, and quite another to experience the pain yourself.
Frankly, it sucked.
The young man's eyes were wide, muscles taut and straining against something that just plain wasn't there. He couldn't hear anything because of the blood rushing through his head with a sound you'd get sitting under a relatively low bridge in the centre of any metropolis, during rush hour. Almost all perception seemed to focus on the intense pain coming from his right forearm and hand, with what little there was left keeping itself occupied by taking in useless details. Like the smell of the LCL in his nostrils, the feeling of gentle pressure on his skin
And the pain muted from "hot-spikes-being-used-to-pry-your-arm-apart" to something slightly less intensive.
Eyes came back into focus, and the chest heaved in taking a breath that had been long overdue ever since the scream.
Pupils contracted as a smallish glow coming from the viewscreen intensified, drawing attention like a penlight during an eye-examination would.
The clawed arm clamed over the viewscreen, and somehow, over what felt like his own head. The pain. The glow coming from something that looked like a barrel in the middle of the monstrous "palm" across his field of view. Somehow he could feel the heat on his face.
Exactly what he had wanted to avoid, because he damn well knew that if this happened, then that was it. Over. Schluss. Finito. No more continues, my friend. His mother was safe, at home or at work, not bothered by things beyond taking care of his sister or getting annoyed by her husband This was the truth he knew, the truth the knowing of which was about on par with removing the safety net during a trapeze act, when the acrobats were in full swing and one had just slipped before he could make the switch.
The truth that would condemn this world
Which was not an option. Ever since he'd taken it upon himself to do this, he'd known that defeat was not an option. He had to win. Had to. It wasn't a choice, it wasn't an option, it wasn't something that was open for debate.
Loss was death, not only to him but to everyone else.
His left fist clenched, and he could feel that the EVA mirrored the motion. Crude, but it would have to do. It was an odd clarity, some detached corner of his mind noted, that came with the pain. It wasn't the how, he now knew, not the concept at all the concept was needed, all right, but the intent was the key, just like with moving his own body.
Right now, however, he could hardly think at all, so he had to be crude about it.
Just follow my lead, he seemed to say.
"I will not lose!"
And he rocked to the side in the pilot's seat, shutting his eyes as if to block out the pain, as his fist struck the side of his head.
From the outside, it looked like this:
The Evangelion's massive fist crashed into said mecha's head, the exaggerated armouring on the knuckles leading. Armour met armour, and in the end the weakened helmet lost that particular contest, cracking and shattering as the seals holding the upper part down broke and gave.
The Unit's head, free of the pressure of the Shito's hand for a moment, slipped downwards as the whole EVA let itself fall to the ground, coming down in a more or less controlled heap on its right side, back against the remains of the building it had been slammed into.
The Shito's left palm erupted in a flash of blinding light as a lance of energy vaporized the armour that had encased the Evangelion's head just a moment ago.
Several jaws hit bedrock. Figuratively speaking.
The viewpoint swivelled to the right, surroundings a blur with the speed of the motion. Eyes flickered, and a decision was made with the intent clear, the course of action that would lead to that intent's completion less so but still defined enough for the interface.
This happened in less time than it takes a person to blink, and Shinji could feel the disconcerting sensation of holding something in his left hand, yet knowing that his left hand was empty. Dual sensory input was a bitch to figure, but the pain that radiated out from the left side of his head was a motivator as good as no other when it came to learning how to deal with it.
Note. That was not something I want to repeat anytime soon. Ow.
The EVA lashed out with a double kick that caught the Shito in the abdomen, slightly below the core, and sent it staggering backwards, giving Shinji a moment to actually get Unit 01 back on its feet. The prog knife in the EVA's left hand was held with the blade down, as it had been in the right.
"Now would be the time to say 'fortunately, I am not right handed'," the pilot grunted through his teeth, still slightly wobbly in perception. "No such luck."
Heavy, thudding footfalls echoed in the dark canyons of Tokyo-3 as the purple and green Evangelion threw itself forward, left arm low and across the chest, crippled right arm shielding the unarmoured, grey-fleshed head. A good thing, too, because the Shito wasn't quite as defenceless as it appeared. The swing of a spindly arm was deflected, Shinji's eyes stinging from the tears the pain of using the EVA's right forearm to block it caused him, even with the dampened feedback.
It was a good decision through, and the hulking purple and green giant braced against the blow and brought the progressive knife around in a vicious, backhanded arc towards the enemy; one that would lead the glowing, humming blade through the Shito's core.
The hexagonal pattern that sprung up in the air, directly in front of the Shito, hadn't really been counted upon.
The sound of a blade snapping in half was almost as ugly, in this situation, as that of a breaking arm.
"An AT Field?!" Misato exclaimed.
"So, the Shito have them too." Ritsuko's voice was amazingly calm, given the situation. "As long as the field is active, he won't be able to reach it."
On the main screen, Unit 01 crashed into the AT Field, right elbow leading. Shinji's scream bore as much frustration at the ineffectiveness of the action with it as it did pain from the feedback. The left arm, still holding what was left of the progressive knife, slammed into the field moments later and again and again.
"Shinji! What are you doing?!" asked Misato. "You can't hurt it like that!"
"I'm trying to saturate the goddamn thing so I can get through!" replied Unit 01's pilot, voice strained. The pounding continued like a metronome, armoured fist coming against AT Field time and time again. "But I'll settle for keeping it on the defensive right now."
"He's right on that account," Ritsuko noted. "It seems to be too busy keeping up the field to attack. Shinji! You have to nullify the field before you can harm it! The EVA can deploy an AT Field as well, and that should do the trick!"
"How in hell am I supposed to do that?!"
"Concentrate! You need to try and concentrate on expanding yourself!"
"I'm having enough problems with moving this thing to have anything left to spare! You try to get your thoughts to be even vaguely coherent after you get your arm broken and see how well you can focus! Any other brilliant ideas before the big lug realizes he can do that! OH SHIT!"
Shinji just barely managed to get the EVA to duck before another of the Shito's energy lances speared past him, catching one of the shoulder pauldrons and blowing it to kingdom come.
Okay, there's a flaw there somewhere, besides the fact that the thing's slow in making combat decisions. It's just a matter of finding it before I get my ass fried.
He caught himself, or rather, the Evangelion did, in a crouch with the left hand flat on the ground in front of the body. Then he had the EVA push off and to the side as another blast made a neat furrow in the concrete and the ground below in the place he'd been crouched.
"Need time. Let's see if this thing is as much a high-mobility weapon as advertised." Shinji mumbled, vaulting over the wall of buildings on his left as the Shito continued to track him and let off the occasional shot. He hunkered down, trying to stay as much under cover as possible.
"Misato, I think I have an idea! I need a weapon! The fine art of fisticuffs isn't going to help me with this one."
"Left of you, a little over half a kilometre. The big building with the flashing red light on top," the answer came with little hesitation.
"Gotcha. Hope to the heavens this works."
He could see it, a bit off in the distance, the light flashing. The Evangelion moved, Shinji finding it easier to put himself in the state of mind that let him command the giant. The Shito fired again, the beam missing his EVA by a few metres and blowing another building apart instead.
Then he was there, not daring to slow down but going into a skid instead, letting the friction bleed of his speed as he passed the building. That had been the idea, at least, but unfortunately he'd misjudged and Unit 01 slammed into the depot's side.
"Well, that's one way of stopping I don't recommend," Shinji grunted shakily as he regained his balance, and the Evangelion raised itself from its half-sprawl, half-crouch.
His eyes scanned the contents of the now open sided building, he reached out, felt Unit 01's hand close on the weapon he'd chosen, and rolled aside again as the depot was hit. Apparently it was more sturdy than the average building, since it was still standing afterwards.
Shinji fell back, bringing the depot between himself and the Shito, leaned out a little to let his left arm come up — what looked like an EVA scale Glock clutched in it — and took aim. Then he ducked again before he got hit and called out:
"Okay, you have a ridiculously expensive war machine with electronics that look like they cost more than a small country's upkeep for a year, and you forget to put in something that gets a crosshair fire-assist up on the HUD?! Who's bright idea was that?! Skip it! How many shots in this thing?"
"Twenty rounds," answered Misato's voice.
He took a few deep breaths, grimacing at the LCL, the dull ache of his right arm and head, the creeping sensation of fatigue, and acted.
"What are you doing?!" Misato shouted as the Evangelion stepped from around the depot, hesitated for an instant and ran. Its remaining pauldron was nearly sheared off as Shinji managed to avoid another incoming energy lance and strafed a building with said pauldron in the process, causing it to hang awkwardly, bent back and half-crushed by the impact.
The EVA brought up its left arm and snapped off a shot, the bullet from the monster-sized handgun going wide and hitting the building next to the Shito. The next one clipped it on the arm, making the creature rear back. The third one, fired a moment later, would have struck the leg if the hexagonal pattern of the Shito's AT Field hadn't sprung up and deflected the shot.
The EVA stopped firing, and ran full tilt for its attacker.
"It can either attack or defend, not both at once!" said Shinji. "Or it takes a second or two to switch over every time at least! Since some genius didn't think about fire-assist, I need to get close enough not to need to aim!"
Another lance lashed out then, and Unit 01 barely managed to duck aside in time, nearly overbalancing again, but now it was close enough.
Shinji brought up the gun, sighted the target, and fired. And kept firing.
The first shot sailed past, going high, but the second struck the bony "mask" that had been the Shito's head before it was pushed aside by the current one after having been damaged by the N2 strike. The next struck lower, actually scuffing the core and making the creature flinch Its "eyes" glowed and Shinji knew that he was going too fast to just sidestep like he had before, so he did the only other thing he could think of. He jumped.
Another furrow was left in the street where the Shito's energy lance had struck, but the Evangelion wasn't there anymore.
It was an odd feeling for Shinji. He'd always prided himself on his self-control, but this sensation — the tail end of an immense adrenaline high, the stress, the odd dual sensory input that relayed a brief weightlessness — a sense of detachment came over him as he played out what he knew would be his last card. That he no longer felt the pain in his right arm, instead of which there was now a sense of pinpricks all over his skin, and everything seemed to be slightly delayed, were both signs he knew were anything but good.
It was all he could do to focus on the target, slightly below him and rapidly approaching; the jump had been a low one. He used the right arm as a brace, setting the barrel in the crook of the elbow, and emptied the clip.
The staccato sounded like thunder, shots ringing out so fast that it was nearly one constant sound rather than a fast succession of rapports. This time his aim was better, despite the motion and awkwardness of the position. The Shito was rocked back by the impacts, chips of the white bone-like substance that covered its shoulders, head and made up the bracing of the core flying as the bullets struck home. Red shards were clipped from the core's side by one shot, then another, and another and then the Evangelion's armoured knees slammed into the black mass that made up most of the Shito's body.
Two giants, one black and white, the other purple and green, were rocked by the impact. The former fell, crashing down onto its back, with the latter's knees planted in its abdomen.
Shinji shouted out, an incoherent scream, as he made the Evangelion bring it's left arm down, pressed the muzzle of the gun to the Shito's core, and pulled the trigger
Only to have the gun explode in his hand as the hexagonal pattern of the AT Field asserted itself right in front of the muzzle.
Eyes wide with momentary incomprehension, then with dread, the pilot of Unit 01 felt something begin to build, press against his chest and head, the force increasing at an alarming rate
"The Shito's unfolding its AT Field again!" Maya's voice said in a frantic tone.
On the screen, the EVA stiffened like a person touching a live-wire before being flung back by a muscle spasm
" no," said Misato. "Shinji! Watch out!"
He'd gambled and lost
He'd failed them, failed them all failed himself.
He could have done it differently. He could have been prepared more than he'd been.
A primal feeling directed at the thing before him.
An odd sense permeating his limbs.
A spike of pain that lanced through him, and the sound of something breaking could be heard.
His right arm was on fire.
His right arm was ice.
"Right wrist is restored!" Hyuuga's gasp rang out, cutting through the dread of the command bridge as the tech himself stared at both the image on screen and the status displays in sheer disbelief.
"Sync ratio spike! EVA-01 is unfolding its No! The Evangelion's AT Field is focusing!" Maya informed, eyes wide.
"What in the name of God ?!" Misato whispered as the view-screen showed Unit 01 punching downwards at the Shito.
The Evangelion's right fist struck the hexagonal pattern of an AT Field right above the core then the armoured gauntlet shattered at the first and second knuckle, the pattern parted before it. Fragments of the crimson core erupted upwards, and from the camera feed within the plug, on Shinji's screen, the occupants of the bridge saw that it looked as if someone had slammed a sharp spike right through the middle.
"Energy fluctuation from the Shito! It's going to !"
The screen went white.
" self-destruct," Maya finished, lamely.
There was silence, and the compensators came back online. The white dimmed down, flickered
" hey 'Sato-chan " said a gasping, weary voice over the speakers. " I think I figured out the AT Field thing."
On screen, at the edge of a rubble-strewn, charred crater, a blackened and burned looking EVA 01 was sprawled, arms akimbo, half-embedded in what remained of a building that had been half-consumed by the explosion. The Evangelion's umbilical cord just stopped after going a few meters away from the giant's back, the remains lying against the crater's edge opposite the Evangelion.
A glint of something metallic descended, spinning wildly, and embedding itself in the ground in front of the EVA the remaining, half-attached pauldron had been blown off and upwards by the explosion it seemed. It wasn't much more than a charred and twisted piece of metal now, half buried in the scorched ground.
Unit 01's mouth, the bottom still in what was left of the helmet's jaw guard, the top greyed flesh and actual teeth, was open as the head was laid back. Two wide, unearthly emerald eyes looked out from the grey flesh, primary and secondary pupils wide.
Looking at the stars.
"Aaaah!" Shinji woke with a scream, for a moment still rapt in his nightmare.
The dream faded and he realized he was laid in a hospital bed, curled on one side facing the windows. There was an old-fashioned radiator under one of them and the other was open, the light curtain blowing back into the room. Outside he could see the metal pyramid of Central Dogma and beyond it the incredible landscape of the GeoFront.
"Not a dream," he said slowly. "Not a dream."
He'd read somewhere that dreams were the means a brain used to assimilate each days experiences. If so then a nightmare or two wasn't too surprising. He'd probably have more before this was all over and done with.
Sitting up in the bed, he considered the hospital gown and pyjama trousers he was wearing. Good enough. He'd been kept in for observation after the battle but it was pretty clear he was okay. Good enough. He swung his legs out from under the blankets and padded barefoot towards the door, the chill from the floor brushing the last clouds of sleep from his mind.
He had a few things to do.
A darkened room, dominated by a huge table with seats and computer arrays for only six people.
All six seats were occupied, Gendo at the end. Or the head perhaps. It was merely a matter of perspective after all.
"Mr. Ikari," said the man facing him. "Surely NERV and the EVAs could be used a little more efficiently? First Unit-00 and now you've wrecked Unit-01 on her maiden campaign! Their repair bills, plus the reconstruction of the armoured building — why, it's going to cost as much as a small nation!"
"Your primary obligations are being forgotten — while these pet projects of yours bankrupt us!" criticized the man to Ikari's right.
"NERV and the EVAs are not your only concerns!" added one of the other men at the table.
"What about," the first man said, examining a report on the screen facing his seat. "The Instrumentality Project? Eh? To us, this project — above all others — represents our greatest hope in these desperate times! Where are your priorities?"
Gendo Ikari lowered his head and looked humbled. "I understand."
"In any case, I cannot and will not sanction any delay in the IP schedule that is attributable to the second coming of the Shito. I will consider your budget requests."
"And how is the intel op progressing?" asked a man who had not spoken yet.
"No need for concern," Gendo said coolly. "That matter has already been dealt with."
Shinji sat in one of the small hospital's waiting rooms and watched the news broadcast with interest. He'd only stopped for a breather — the fight had taken more out of him than he'd thought — but the words "Tokyo-3 explosion" had caught his attention. The media were either lying or hadn't been told anything — as usual, Shinji thought cynically. Probably the copy went straight from NERV or some related agency to the publishers and studios.
Nothing about the Shito, nothing about the evacuation or the gutted tanks and aerodynes, nothing about EVA-01 — just an explosion leaving a crater in the middle of the city. Word would get out of course, but would never be acknowledged officially. Nor would those who had died.
With a sigh, Shinji pushed himself to his feet and continued towards what he hoped was the administrative area. He needed to check out of here. Needed to do something before he went completely insane.
Of course, he thought with macabre humour, since I believe I piloted a giant robot against an alien invader, it may already be too late. Wasn't there a song, an English band in the seventies 'I'm Going Slightly Mad'? Something like that.
He pressed against the windows to let a nurse and a doctor wheel past a gurney. The girl on the gurney was about Well, about his own age, he supposed. The pale blue hair gave her an exotic look, even restrained by a bandage and it feathered around her face. As she passed, the one red eye not concealed by bandages turned and met his own gaze.
Something electric seemed to pass between them
and then she was gone.
Shinji remained pressed against the cold glass. The lines of her face seemed familiar. It was Rei, of course. But he had seen the face on someone else. He frowned. Change the colouring and Oh. "Shoan," he whispered. She'd worn her hair in a similar cut when she was younger. He remembered brushing it back from her face once, as she slept.
Shinji followed Rei's gurney with his eyes as it rolled down the hallway. Coming the other way, he saw his father pause to look down at the girl. The expression on the man's face was odd, almost compassionate, as he spoke to the other pilot.
As Gendo straightened, his eyes met Shinji's for a moment, before he turned, hiding behind the reflections of his spectacles. Shinji countered the grimmer look with a shrug and a weary grin, leaning himself against the window. His father looked away first, turning to accompany the gurney through the hospital halls.
Shinji felt suddenly tired and just stood there, resting his weight on the windowsill. He let his eyelids sag and his head was beginning to lean towards the window when a voice from behind him dragged him awake.
"Such a cold man!" said Misato in a puzzled voice. "Surely his soul-weary son deserves a kind word or two!"
Shinji sighed, half-turning to look at her. "Afternoon, Misato."
She grinned and waved one hand at him. "I came to pick you up! I heard you were feeling okay I'm glad, Shinji."
"Yeah well " Shinji sighed.
"I can take you to your place. HQ's taking care of you. You've rated private quarters."
"Oh wow. The excitement. Private quarters."
Misato frowned slightly at Shinji's back as he pushed off from the wall and started to shuffle back to his hospital room. "You okay living alone? If you submit a petition, you could arrange to live with your father "
The boy actually summoned the energy to snort at that suggestion. "What? Beside his desk? Or maybe in one of the high security areas under HQ. Gee, now there's a thought!"
"Oh, now come on! Don't be silly! Parents and children naturally live together!" she said hopefully. "Don't hold back — if there's something you want to say, just let it out."
Oh, yeah. Like I could do that, he thought mordantly. "I guess I don't think of him as a parent."
"Oh," Misato said quietly. She didn't quite understand that.
He turned and smiled at her suddenly. "Come to that, I guess I don't think of myself as a child either."
It was a rather nice smile, Misato thought, and a decision crystallized for her.
"There is another option, if you don't want to live alone," she offered.
He shrugged. "I've done it before, but what do you have in mind?"
"There's a spare room in my condo. You could stay with me."
Shinji blinked. That way she said that, low-key and offering, not insisting "That's Hmm, are you sure? To be honest, I wasn't looking forward to being on my own here, but I'm not always the best of company."
"Oh, don't worry about that," Misato grinned, pulling out her cell phone. "I was Ritsuko's roommate all through college — you can't be worse than her. Do you know she can't even cook a curry?" Without waiting for a response, she hit a speed-dial, "Oh, hello, Ritsuko? Yeah, it's me. It's about Shinji — he's going to be living with me in my condo for a while, so "
There was a muffled screech from the phone that Shinji couldn't quite make out.
"Don't be a worry-wart! I'm not so desperate that I'd jump a child " Misato broke off for a moment to tsk at Shinji, who'd snapped his fingers in mock disappointment. "Just get me the proper approval from upstairs, all right? See ya!" She snapped the phone shut over whatever response Ritsuko might have made. "There, that should do it! Shall we get going?"
There was a scream of tires as Misato's sports car blasted out of the parking garage. "Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!" she chortled. "Today we're gonna party!"
"Party?" asked Shinji, cringing as the car swerved violently across the deserted road and almost hammered into an embankment. "What's the occasion?"
"We're all alive, of course!" Misato grinned. "Besides, it can be a welcoming party for my new housemate too!"
Shinji looked at her and then sighed, rubbing his temples with the palms of his hands. "I'm not going to be able to talk you out of this, am I?" he asked rhetorically.
"Jeez," Misato complained, turning her head towards him.
"Watch the road!" Shinji yelled as he felt the car begin to slide out of the lane.
"Hey, I know how to drive!" Misato yelled, straightening up somewhat.
"Men wild and me insane!" Shinji shot back.
"What are you all huffy and sulky about now?"
Shinji sank back into the chair, muttering. The phrase: "muthering gurt battle" was the only part Misato could make out.
"So gloomy," she said. "Like some sort of mood disorder! I'll fix that personality of yours!"
"Huh?" Shinji asked, jolted out of his funk. She was glaring at him menacingly. Kowai he thought. Her eyes paralyzing me!
The car took a turn and headed out of the city again. "Just a small detour on the way," she said, suddenly cheerful again. "This'll cheer you up."
Shinji looked around the small plaza on the side of a mountain overlooking Tokyo-3. There was one of those pay-per-view binocular toys near the rail. "Why settle for a glimpse, Danno," he muttered to himself, "when you can see it all from Lookout Mountain?"
He looked at the sky for a moment but fortunately, no huge orange spacecraft flew over the city.
"Hey, com'on," called Misato. "What are you doing? It's almost time!"
"Just checking for Decepticons," he answered walking towards her. "So what's it almost ? Whoa!"
A klaxon moaned and across the city dozens of hatches that filled apparently empty lots slid open to reveal vertical shafts much like that used previously to launch Unit-01. Majestically rising out of them were high tech skyscrapers that turned Tokyo-3 from an urban sprawl to a giant metropolis, the metal and concrete shaded in oranges and reds by the evening sun.
"Wow, it really is Autobot City," Shinji chuckled.
"You're a weird kid, you know that?" Misato said with a grin. "This is Tokyo-3, the anti-Shito siege fortress our city. More than that, it's the city you defended!"
Shinji nodded and glanced across the city, picking out an area marked by the damage caused in his own battle. Tracing a path of devastation backwards he saw the line the Shito had followed from Tokyo-2, where the UN Army forces had been torn apart.
His shoulders slumped under the weight of that. Not fun and games, he reminded himself. This is a responsibility. Can I do this?
"Shinji?" Misato asked as she heard saw the boy lean his weight on the rail, a sorrowful look on his face. "Are you okay?"
Shinji choked back a wholly unfair choke of laughter. "I'll be okay," he answered quietly. "It's just " He exhaled and shook his head slightly to clear it. "Look, can I ask a favour? There's something I need to do "
You could never know what it's like
And did you think this fool could never win
Don't you know I'm still standing better than I ever did
I'm still standing yeah yeah yeah
Once I never could hope to win
To be continued.
Griever: I stumbled upon Drakensis' webpage and fanfic archive a good while back, and went through almost the entire thing. He picks 'em good, what can I say? 'Nyways, I'd first read what he'd done with In the Know back then, and thought it'd be interesting to see where it goes. Back then, I had yet to write anything and my writing skills themselves weren't anything to write home about (I still get a bit of a laugh going through my earliest published fic. How corny and cliché that was. Ah, sweet remembrance). The fact was, I wasn't sure I'd be ready to do a co-author sort of thing back then. A year or so ago a project called Shining Spiral was born, which, when we finally get something done and a page up, will be a multi-author SI mega-crossover. It's relevant for this matter inasmuch as the fact that it got me to get to know Drake a little better through his posts on the dedicated forum (and vice versa or something) is. I decided I liked his style and manner through those. I'd actually forgotten about In the Know by then, even if I checked up on his page ever so often to look for new stuff on the net. Well, I remembered a while ago, saw that nobody had actually called in to claim the co-author spot, went through what he had down, and decided — what the hell, it might be fun, and we ain't running on a schedule anyway so why not try? The fact that I had an urge to write an EVA-fic but no concrete idea regarding any sort of plot had a say in this. As it is, I wrote him. He wrote me. We put our heads together and got things rolling. We fleshed some stuff out, left some stuff to be considered later, and got working on getting the thing done. The first chapter at least. Personally, I'm very pleased with the results. As it is, we're working on the following parts, and bits and pieces are falling together even if it takes a while sometimes. Who knows, if we don't lose the momentum, we might actually get this thing done sometime in the coming years. And if not, well, it's a very fun writing exercise at least.
Drakensis: In the Know was originally just another clichéd start at a NGE self-insertion on my part. I'd been reading the manga and wondered how an insert character expecting the anime would do in that storyline. I wrote a few scenes, forgot about it and when I put together my website I posted it with a note that I would need some help to finish it, mostly with the fight scenes which were where I'd gotten bogged down in part. And then Griever, who I knew from the Shining Spiral and from the now defunct PBEM GURPS Undocumented Features game I'd GMed, contacted me and asked if I was still looking for a co-author. I dug out the old notes, which had been twisted around a couple of times for various reasons and pulled out the version on the site. I wasn't quite happy with the plot I had but the scenes still looked good to me. And I liked the idea of writing the story with the Shinji who appeared in those scenes so I reworked my plot ideas and sent an email saying 'Hell, yes!' So here's Part One. The game is afoot and it'll be a lot of fun finding out where this takes us.
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