Chapter 14 – journey's end

To everyone,

I'm sorry to say goodbye in such a roundabout way, but I feel it is my only choice.

When you are reading this I will already be on my way to EVA together with master Happosai. Please do not follow us, it will only complicate things.

Spice, Pepper, Kaori and Nabiki,

I'm sorry that I did not give a relationship between us any real chance, but I have always felt that something like this would be inevitable.

Nonetheless I had a great time with all of you and will cherish your memory all my life. May all of you find a man worthy to be called husband.

I would like to thank the whole Tendo family for their hospitality. Without a doubt, your dojo was the only real home I ever had in my life, and it pains me to leave it behind.

Brother,

Make sure to keep father in line and use your head every once in a while. I'll stop worrying so much in return. Don't keep Shampoo and Kasumi waiting too long…or as Kuno would say: You must have them both!

To everyone else,

It was fun getting trained by you all and it was fun training with you. Sometimes I'm still surprised how I managed to stay relatively sane with all your crazy schemes. I'll do my best to introduce some people from my old world to a few of your more exotic techniques. Toji, for example, would probably kill to learn chopstick-fu.

Once again, thanks for everything and may all of you live long and fulfilling lives.

Love,

Shinji Saotome

Shinji looked at the letter in his hand one last time, making sure everything was exactly the way he wanted it. Not too sappy or corny, but not too light either. At least he could write a decent letter. Finding everything to his satisfaction he slipped the little piece of paper into an envelope and placed it on top of his neatly folded futon.

Taking in the snoring forms of his adopted brother and father, which were only barely visible in the dark guestroom, Shinji could not help but frown slightly. 'Damn your stubbornness. If you would just listen to me it wouldn't have to be like this.'

Forcing the negative thoughts back down Shinji stood up and shouldered his backpack, all in perfect silence. As he made his way to the open window, his chosen path of escape because the stairs made entirely too much noise when he used them, Shinji stepped carefully over Genma, who always slept directly in front of it.

Just as he was about to jump out into the night a strong arm wrapped itself around his right ankle. Shinji froze solid. 'I've been caught!'

"..No-chan…mmmh….Yes right there"

Shinji twitched. Genma was still asleep and was busy rubbing his cheek against Shinji's leg; obviously his dream was very ...uhm…involved 'Eeewwww'. Disgust guiding his actions Shinji quickly set about freeing himself from Genma's, being none too gentle.

"Why the hell is he still sleeping here anyway? Mother does have a house after all…almost like he's scared or something." Shinji said under his breath, accepting the fact that stealth really was not needed with Ranma and Gennma while they were sleeping. Once he was free he jumped out the window without hesitation….having his leg abused in such a disturbing manner once was more than enough for one day.

A second later he hit the ground outside silently and disappeared over the wall surrounding the property.

While he was running through the dark Nerimian streets, the moonlight bright enough so he could move at a comfortable jog, Shinji thought about his current situation.

It had all started when they got back from their training trip. By then Shinji had more or less accepted that, come hell of high water, Ranma and the other martial artists would help him get his Evangelion back; mainly because high martial artists were more stubborn than your average mule, probably a necessary trait to survive the training. It made talking them out of it an impossible task

While Shinji did not like that, he also knew that they could take care of themselves and would undoubtedly make getting his hands on his Unit a lot easier.

But then Kasumi and Nabiki dropped their bombshell upon his return to the dojo. They intended to come along!

Thinking about that episode Shinji clenched his hands tightly, a habit he rarely indulged in anymore.

After their declaration he had tried to talk them out of it. Considering they weren't even real fighters it should have been easy enough. Unfortunately for Shinji he soon found out the Tendo sisters could do stubborn with the best of them.

In the end the whole thing degenerated into a shouting match between Shinji and Nabiki and even now Shinji had to wonder why the thought of Nabiki in harms way had made him so angry. Where Kaori, Spice and Pepper not enough?

Nabiki had not said a word to him since then and even Kasumi was avoiding him to some degree. It made him sick to his stomach to leave them like this, but they were better of angry at him than dead somewhere inside a military base, thanks to a few doses of lead.

After the fight Shinji had fled the Tendo compound, only to run into Happosai on one of his panty-raids. At that moment his decision was made.

If Kasumi and Nabiki intended to tag along…well, then Shinji had to ditch everyone but the person he needed to get back to his own world. It was sneaky and despicable behaviour to leave everyone like that, but at that point Shinji thought it necessary.

Getting Happosai's cooperation took no more than being groped in various pieces of lingerie in female form, which brought him back to the present: Running towards the nearest train-station in the middle of the night to meet his grandmaster, who had assured him they could get into the military base by themselves.

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As was his routine over the last few months, the moment Genma woke up he reached out to his left, where Shinji was sleeping. Grabbing his adoptive son and throwing him out the window, all while still opening his eyes, Genma prepared to follow Shinji out a moment later, only to freeze when his mind finally made several connections:

Shinji was awfully light today

That was not Shinji sputtering in the Koi pond, but a sleeping roll

Frowning Genma turned around to give Shinji a lecture for moving from his normal sleeping place to find the room missing an occupant. Spying an envelope on Shinji's futon Genma quickly snatched it up and opened the letter within.

He stopped reading after the first few lines, his mind going into overdrive.

'Stupid boy! How could I ever think he was less trouble then Ranma?' the martial artist thought, before rudely kicking Ranma awake.

"Ouch. Goddammit pop, what was that for!?" Ranma ground out, while rubbing his abused head.

"Your brother did something stupid." Genma said, totally ignoring Ranma's protests, and held out the letter for Ranma to read. "Hurry up and get the Amazons here, I will get Ukyo."

Hearing the seriousness in Genma's voice Ranma quickly read the letter over, his eyes widening after the first few lines. "Shit. I never thought he would do somethin' like this!"

Giving his father a quick nod Ranma grabbed a shirt and some pants before quickly jumping out the window.

The moment Ranma was gone Genma set about waking up the other Tendo's before making his way to Ukyo's restaurant. Time was of essence this morning.

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Meanwhile Shinji and Happosai were disembarking their train, after travelling for a good two hours. Shinji glanced at his clock with worry, knowing that Genma would try to throw him out the window right about now.

"Which direction is…."

"Less talking, more running boy" said Happosai, cutting Shinji's question short before jumping onto the roof of the train station.

Not having quite that much power in his legs, Shinji had to take a running leap to make it to catch up with Happosai, who was already bounding away… along with the mirror Shinji needed.

Needless to say, 20 minutes of roof-hopping followed by 30 minutes running through the woods bordering the city-limits left Shinji exhausted and gulping for air.

Trying very hard not to collapse Shinji glared at Happosai. "Wouldn't it have been easier to hail a cab and ask for the way instead of randomly running into the wild?!"

Happosai bopped him over the head with his pipe. "Now now, don't be insolent boy. Do you think I got to reach my age by not checking out the terrain beforehand? I know the layout of that base better than the people working there."

"How do we get in?"

In response Happosai gave Shinji a piercing glance. "Unfortunately, there is no 'We'. I can get you in, but afterwards you will be on your own. Do you still want to do this?"

To Happosai's great satisfaction Shinji's gaze lost none of the determination it had held all morning. The boy has a chance.

Confident that he was not about to send the youngster to his death, Happosai outlined his plan

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Being the daughter of a rich and traditional family that raised her well Kaori was not in the habit of fidgeting. The fact that her fingers were drumming on the backrest of the seat before her fast enough to blur was therefore a clear indication of her emotional state.

She was on board of the train headed for Koschidu, along with the Amazons, Ranma and Genma and her drumming was annoying the hell out of the others passengers, but she couldn't care less.

When she had first gotten engaged to Shinji Saotome she was less then enthused, but in the weeks following their engagement she had learned quickly that her promised husband was a good friend.

She had gotten used to seeing him every day, and while the few dates they had where a bit awkward, she found that the thought of not going on another one, made her heart break.

And the letter she had read left no doubt in her mind, that Shinji did not plan on going out with her ever again; with her or any of the other girls for that matter.

She did not know why he had left so suddenly, but she needed to know for sure.

If he had left because of her, she would never be able to look into the mirror ever again.

"Hey Kaori, you ok?"

She jumped slightly in her seat, finding a concerned Ranma leaning on the seat next to her.

"Yeah…" she started, but stopped short. Ranma had a lot of his brother's good qualities; there was no reason to lie. "No….I'm wondering why he left me. Thinking about it makes me sick."

Ranma grasped her shoulder gently, giving it a light squeeze. "I don't know either, but I know without a shadow of doubt, that he had liked you, all of you. You're not the reason he left."

Ranme, clearly uncomfortable with such a situation straightend up and pumped a fist into the air. "The only thing I know is that I'll kick Happosai's ass for dragging Shinji up there on his own!"

Kaori could not help but smile faintly, her spirits lifted considerably.

Now we only have to get to him before he does something stupid, so I can tell him that I don't intend to leave him alone…ever!

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Akira Ishagi yawned for what must have been the tenth time in as many minutes as he leaned against the hard concrete of the wall behind him.

"I swear, next time you come up with such a harebrained prank I'll kill you, Anno."

Anno Hikeedi chuckled good-naturedly.

"What are you complaining about? I think it's nice out here and seeing Miss Karuna in the buff is worth a trip to hell!"

Akira glared at his partner, who was illuminated by the harsh artificial light streaming from the lamp protruding directly above the door the both of them were guarding.

"Speak for yourself! I mean, sure, watching that purple monstrosity all day wasn't my idea of fun, but it's ten times more interesting than standing in the middle of some god forsaken forest to guard some god forsaken maintenance tunnel. Nothing ever happens!"

In truth, Anno thought the same thing. The tunnel-entrance they were guarding was shrouded with foliage and the door they were guarding was a good 5 meters into the mountain, so it was impossible to see unless you were already standing right in front of it.

He was bored out of his mind

As such he was pleasantly surprised when his ear-piece came to life, requesting all non-essential personnel to backup the main entrance, where something seemed to be going very wrong.

Non-essential in their case meant, one had to stay as the minimal crew while the other could join the fun.

"Finally something to do!" Anno crowed, only to get a scathing look from his partner.

"I'm going. You're the one who got us here; you will be the one to stay here!"

"All right man, all right. No need to get all pissed of." Anno said, while raising his hands placating.

Akira grunted in response and turned around to enter the correct code into the pad that would open the heavy steel door. Obviously he was still plenty pissed off.

Deciding to give it one last try Anno turned around as well and patted his partners back.

"Give em hell, partner. I'll get you a beer for each kill"

All right, that ought to do it. Anno thought, knowing that free beer was a sure-fire way to get Akira back on his good side. As such he was pretty surprised when Akira's face registered surprise, instead of a grudging acceptance of his offer.

Following his partners line of sight right over his shoulder, the last thing he saw was a boot heading straight for his face.

While Anno Hideeki's body was still travelling down to earth, Shinji was already lunging towards the other soldier, who was bringing his rifle to bear on him. Using his speed to full effect Shinji knocked the rifle to the side with one hand, while delivering a hard blow to the man's sternum.

Akira Ishegi joined his partner on the floor approximately half a second later.

Above the soldiers Shinji blinked slightly. Taking the two of them out had been surprisingly easy. Maybe he had really….

Get a grip. This isn't a game! He scolded himself angrily and quickly dragged the unconscious men inside the tunnel, the door sliding shut with a silent his after the obstacles where removed.

He apologized silently to the first man he had kicked, whose nose was obviously broken.

Then he moved quickly down the darkened corridor, trying to ignore the wires and pipelines that seemed to writhe in the minimal lighting provided. He had to hurry, for Happosai had not known when the next shift would start, and running into someone in the long and narrow corridor would be the end. I hope the geezer is ok.

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Said Geezer was currently having a blast. While he was a pervert, he was never one for unneeded violence, as such even in his fights against Ranma he usually had to hold back a lot.

No one would mourn the passing of a few tanks and barracks though, which meant he was cutting loose.

He was jumping around the main entrance, which was surrounded by fully functional over ground base with tanks, houses, walls and even a few helicopters to play with.

Pulling out Happo-daikarins faster than most automatic weapons were firing bullets, he peppered the buildings with smaller bombs to keep the soldiers out of his way while throwing the biggest he had at the machinery.

What are the tanks build of today? He wondered when the first one vanished in a fiery explosion that couldn't have been from his bomb alone. Are their engineers really this bad?

WHIZ

Barely avoiding a bullet, Happosai brought his thoughts back to the task at hand.

WHIZ

The military could not see him, considering the speed he was currently going at, but it seemed peppering the whole camp with bullets was an accepted practice here.

WHIZWHIZ

Cursing his luck Happosai dived into the next building, knocking the inhabitants out with a few well placed bombs.

He had not expected this.

Buying time for Shinji had gotten a whole lot harder just now, because his opposition seemed prepared to hit each other in the hopes of nailing an unseen enemy.

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Shinji hurried through yet another steel grey corridor that looked just like the rest. After leaving the Service tunnel he had soon found out that these guys were even worse when it came to layout than NERV. All corridors looked the same, and unlike NERV, the military did not bother to hang maps and floor-layouts onto the walls.

"…..Wonder what all this ruckus is about?"

Hearing the voice and its companion getting louder Shinji panicked for a moment. He was standing right in the middle of a long stretch of corridor, the next intersection a good 10 meters behind him and no convenient door in sight.

Then he remembered that he actually stood a chance in a fight now and he had an idea.

The next moment he rushed towards the intersection in front of him, hoping to catch whoever would cross his path in close quarters.

Left or right? His mind feverishly asked, but it was impossible to make out where his newest friends would come from.

RIGHT! His instinct told him, and he listened, changing course to bounce of the opposite wall. Even while he was still travelling through the air his eyes aligned on his opponents.

A man and a woman, no weapons but uniforms. Not soldiers, but with the military.

The analytical part of his mind thought, while he was crossing the last meters of distance to them.

The man tried to say something, but lost his voice when Shinji barrelled into him full force.

Quickly catching the rest of his monument by stomping hard onto the ground Shinji let the man fall the rest of the way on his own and twisted around to stand behind the woman. Smothering the scream in her throat with a hand on her mouth he used the other to twist her arm backwards.

A few seconds everything was silent...he did not know whether he was waiting for her to calm down, or for himself.

"Don't worry, your companion is okay, I only knocked him out. If you do what I want, no one will be hurt." He told her, forcing his voice to stay level with every shred of his will, knowing full well that he wouldn't hurt her even if she did not do what he wanted. The trick was to make her believe otherwise.

Slowly he removed his hand from her mouth, but kept a firm grip on her arm.

"Now, show me the way to the giant robot."

His temporary prisoner stiffened slightly. "Will you let me go if I tell you the way?" She asked in return, her voice trembling.

Shinji's compassionate side tried to come to the surface, but he pushed it down forcefully. There was no doubt in his mind, that the woman he was holding fast, would forever think of him as the worst of human beings after all this was over. But that was a small price to pay, if it meant he could get back home. With that thought in mind he spoke again, a cold edge in his voice. "I don't trust you to tell me the truth. You will guide me. Scream for help, you will die. Mislead me, you will die. Understood?"

From the way she trembled, it was obvious she had.

"We have to take the right way up ahead" she said in a whisper, while pointing at the intersection she had been heading towards.

Shinji merely grunted and shoved her forward lightly.

Finally he was getting somewhere.

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Happosai waited with baited breath inside the ruined building. Sooner or later he had to go out again to cause even more havoc, otherwise they would call the added personal back into the underground-base, which would increase Shinji's chances of discovery immensely.

It had already been 5 minutes since he had jumped in here, but there was not a soul in sight...the fires he had helped to create were burning unhindered. Something was fishy here.

A tingle at the base of his neck was all the warning he got.

Then the wall to his right was blown inwards, toppling several bunks that were standing too close.

A split second later the building was utterly annihilated as several grenades, rockets and countless bullets found their mark.

But Happosai was long gone, a prodigious leap saving him from the worst of it.

Still….Whoever is in charge isn't worried about collateral damage; Crazy son of a bitch!

Moments later he was raining down bombs once again, determined to buy Shinji another few minutes.

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They had been walking in silence for a good ten minutes now, without meeting a soul.

She was walking barefoot now, her captor telling her in no uncertain terms that her shoes made too much noise.

The rustling of her uniform and her laboured breath were the only sounds around…he was silent as a ghost.

Finally she couldn't take it anymore. She needed to talk, no matter about what!

"You won't make it." She told him nervously. "I can get you to the cage, but all the entrances are guarded by a minimum of 4 people. There is no other way to get in."

"I will deal with that problem when we are there."

His voice was calm and confident. She wondered what a man that could be so self assured would look like, but did not try to glance backwards. He had twisted her arm badly the last time she had tried.

Another eternity of silent walking later, which was probably just a few minutes, they where at the last bend before the checkpoint. Voices reached her ears.

"Damn, that was one fine lady I tell ya!"

"Stop posturing man, we all know you got burned."

She couldn't help but roll her eyes. Typical men

All of a sudden she felt her captors' hot breath on her right ear. "Is the cage directly behind these doors?" He asked her in a whisper.

She nodded once, not trusting herself to speak without being heard.

"Good." He breathed, making her shudder. "I'll let you go now. I want you to stay here until I am finished with them. Do as I say and I promise no one will come to harm.."

Then the iron grip on her arm finally vanished, and she entertained the notion of running for the checkpoint. She resisted though, because he did not sound like she had a chance to make it. Instead she turned around to get a good look at him and her eyes widened.

A teenager?? What is going on?!

He read the question in her eyes and put a finger on her lips, to keep her silent.

"You wouldn't understand. I'm merely getting back what is mine. Thanks for guiding me and sorry for the trouble."

He walked out into plain sight of security while she stood still gaping like a fish.

"YO kid. What are you doing here?" She heard one of the men ask

"I'm sorry, my father took me along to visit the base today, but suddenly he had to leave. Do you know where the cafeteria is? He told me to wait there for him, and I think I lost my way."

The tone and manner in which he asked the question left her stumped. He sounds so…so real

"Not here. That's for sure. Come on over kid, I'll show you."

The sound of footsteps.

"Ok, look. We're here. You have to…urks"

"What the hell?!!"

She covered her ears when the first shot was fired, but the following bursts still made her ears ring. Then, there was silence.

Gathering what little courage she had left, she peeked around the corner. The security checkpoints where housed in very wide corridors. There was a cell on each side, made of bullet proof glass, which normally housed one guard. Both compartments could be entered through a small opening on the side. Another two stood right in the middle of the way normally. This way it was impossible to overwhelm all four guards without taking a few hits, because at least two of them where well protected and had time to react.

She took in the scene.

All four guards were down. Blood was running down on the inside of the left cell.

The teenager was leaning on the wall, breathing heavily. No doubt the angry red that was staining his white shirt right above his left elbow had something to do with that.

Suddenly his head snapped up, and he looked right at her with a gaze that froze her to the core, but his look softened instantly. "Look after him please." He said with real remorse in his voice, while gesturing to the guard that was laying half outside and half inside the right cell "I had to shoot him. There was not enough time to aim properly, make sure he survives."

Then he started walking into the cage that housed the robot.

"Who are you??" She asked, not knowing what she wanted to hear, but knowing that she had to ask.

He stopped for a moment, and looked at her over his shoulder, giving her a bittersweet smile.

"I'm its pilot."

He spoke the truth; she realized and found herself smiling all of a sudden. "Good luck"

His smile turned from bittersweet to thankful, like her opinion actually mattered to him.

As he turned around once again, breaking into a light jog before the hatch that led to the cage closed off her view, she realized one important fact:

The timid schoolboy that had asked the guards for the way was real, not the cold man that led her through the base in silence.

And it was good.

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Happosai sped through the forest, using the last dredges of his chi to get much needed distance between the military base and his person. After they had blown his hiding place to pieces staying alive while still doing damage had eaten up even his incredible reserves at a rapid pace.

Now, he could only hope that his distraction had been enough

Then he felt several familiar auras in the distance and grimaced. He was tired, dirty and he had not liberated any silky darlings today and he would have liked nothing more than to get as far way from the Nerimians as possible, but he had made a deal with Shinji, and even though he was a pervert and a general nuisance, Happosai was not in the habit of breaking his word.

Nonetheless, when adjusting his course slightly to intercept the small group of people that was headed to Shinji's position he could not help but grimace No rest for the wicked it seems

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When Ranma caught sight of Happosai, he charged him without thought; Cologne's warning to be cautious forgotten in his anger.

"This is the last straw, geezer. I'm gonna pound ya into PASTE!" he screamed, while levelling a kick at the grandmaster of his style.

Something flashed before his eyes and the next moment his body locked up. He landed on the ground painfully with his head taking the brunt of the impact. What the? The old geezer ain't that fast normally!

A wooden pipe was jabbed into his unprotected back. "I'm tired, boy. Cut the crap and listen."

Ranma grit his teeth, willing his body to move, but whatever Happosai had done seemed very effective. Not being able to pound the old man into paste he did the next best thing: he used his mouth. " Shut up, geezer. The only one who should cut the crap is you! Where the hell is Shinji? What where you thinking dragging him here alone??" the pigtailed boy said heatedly.

By now the others had also reached their position. A lot of glaring ensued, but no one tried to attack him.

"You have no reason to blame me for this mess." Happosai said finally. "I merely did what Shinji asked me to do."

"You could have declined!" Spice sounded ready to gut him.

"Yeah" "You got it, sugar" and various other exclamations followed. Only Cologne stayed silent.

In response Happosai snorted in disgust.

"The bunch of you didn't learn a single thing since meeting the lad."

"What the hell are you talking about?" Ranma asked, still prone on the ground. "We wanted to help him get his EVA back. Whats got learnin to do with anythin?"

"Any takers?" Happosai asked dryly, waiting for one of the various youths to make the connection.

By now the Amazons, Kaori had calmed down somewhat, mainly because seeing Happosai in anything approaching a serious mood was a big shock, but they could only looked at each other confusedly.

"They are too blinded by their need to help Shinji to see your point, Happi. " Cologne said with a hint of disappointment in her voice.

Shampoo looked at her wide eyed. "You are saying pervert is right?."

Cologne nodded slightly. "I am. While it is admirably, that you want to help one of your friends with all your might, you must understand, that nothing in life is straight forward.

By disregarding his wish to go alone, you have all taken a very important decision away from Shinji. No doubt that has hurt him, because from his perspective it would seem like you do not take his feelings into account."

"But it's insane for him to go alone!"

"Insane or not." Happosai interjected. "It was his decision to make, not yours or anyone else's. Nonetheless he was content to acquiesce to you all, because he knew you could take care of yourselves. When Nabiki and Kasumi Tendo asked to come along, it was no longer a matter of keeping everyone happy by doing as they said; it was a matter of keeping them safe."

"In the end, you were all ignoring his wishes, you were ignoring him. Protecting someone is not the same as being there for someone, remember that well, children. Otherwise you will be just as alone as Shinji is right now."

Happosai allowed a sad smile to disfigure his wrinkled face, when an overwhelming amount of magical power rolled over them. He may be alone, but he has the will of a hundred. He thought with a touch of pride, knowing that only one thing could have caused such an overwhelming discharge: the mirror.

From the way her eyes widened slightly, Happosai had no doubt that Cologne had also felt it.

"There is nothing to be done now." She said with a firm voice. "He is gone. Remember him well and keep the lessons you learned through him close to your hearts children. That will be enough."

No one was sure what she meant, but there was no doubt in their minds, that the youngest Saotome was now out their reach. A sombre mood sank over the group, and not even Ranma made a comment as Happosai lifted the pressure point so he could get up.

Yet, in the deeper parts of his mind, Ranma Saotome was already dead set on showing his adopted brother that he was, in fact, not alone.

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Shinji was running along the gangway, his goal in front of him. He did not doubt for a moment that his entering the cage was noticed. There was precious little time before more guards would try to stop him.

Ignoring the pain from his left shin and his arm was hard, but not impossible. Neither wound was very serious, but he would bleed to death if this did not work. Keeping that in mind, he gave the Evangelion only a cursory inspection.

Parts of the armor had been removed, revealing the artificial flesh underneath. Walkways were encircling the behemoth from all sides, one of them conveniently leading to the hatch that shielded the entry plug from the outside.

Assured that he could get up there, Shinji charged along full speed.

Questions such as "What are you doing here?" from various technicians were answered by shoving them out of the way

"ARGH, Son of a bitch; someone call security, this guy is crazy!" one of them screamed after spraining his hand in the fall.

You bet I am Shinji thought while quickly climbing the stairs to the Entry plug. Almost there

bang

Shinji flinched when a shot ricocheted of the armor. "Shit!" he cursed, seeing a squad of for guards standing a good 60 feet away, with guns drawn.

"You idiots. Don't shot from down here! If you hit the opening mechanism we may never get it open!"

Whoever said that seemed to have some authority, because the guards did as told and started following after him. Shinji could not help but snicker, despite the situation. Thanks, whoever the hell you are.

Another five steps brought Shinji before the code-pad, his fingers hammering in the 40 characters needed to open the door. The armoured hatch opened with a satisfying hiss, and a moment later the entry-plug appeared, winding its way out of the EVA's spine.

"He opened it!!?" he heard the disbelieving mechanic that had ordered the guards to stop shooting, shout. "Shoot him!!"

Thinking that catching 2 bullets with his body was enough for the day, Shinji unscrewed the second hatch to the entry plug with both arms, biting his lip when his bullet wound told him in no uncertain terms that it did not appreciate the sudden movement.

Come on, Come on. He thought feverishly with every revolution the hatch made.

pling

The first bullet hit when the hatch finally sprang open and he jumped in with a single leap, hitting his knee in the process and feeling another bullet bury itself in his tigh.

The pain was enough to turn his landing into a graceless stumble, earning him another bump on the head. Shinji clenched his teeth, willing the blackness that was hovering at the edge of his consciousness away.

He was only half successful, but he found enough strength to seal the plug and start the mechanism that would screw the plug back into its host.

Listening to the familiar whirring associated with the plug moving back into position he took a deep breath.

Gingerly pulling the mirror out of the pouch he had carried it in, Shinji thanked every deity he knew that it was still in one piece. Now there was only one thing left to do. Gripping the control yokes tightly with his free hand, Shinji forced himself to realize his current situation.

Here I am. Alone, wounded and feeling miserable because I had to hurt people once again and my only hope is a dumb mirror that I'm not even sure if it works. I'm just as pathetic as before.

The tears came surprisingly easy...maybe it was the pain?

The first tear left his check, and started its short journey to the mirrors' surface.

One thing is different though Shinji thought, a smile tugging at his lips. This time I have a goal!

Then, the world went white.

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Fin

Author's notes:

I realize the tone and pace in this chapter is decidedly different to previous parts, but it was time to bring the whole Nerima arc to an end. While writing this story was fun for the most part, I will end SS on this note.

I know most of you wanted to see all the chaos Shinji and co would cause in the Evaverse, but after all this time the Eva-setting does not inspire any ideas in me, so I will stop it here.

If somebody wants to write an "Evaverse-Ark" for SS , you can contact me per PM or E-Mail with a small sample of your writing. I don't expect much, but I refuse to give my blessings to continue this story if he doesn't even have a grasp of basic sentence structure 

For those who care : Currently I'm writing a new story for Claymore which is currently half finished. That means I'm not entirely done as a writer, but it will take another 3 or 4 months before I start posting, because I do not want a repeat of SS, where my readers had to wait a year between chapters at the end.