It wasn't more than a day in their journey on foot before the three of them were picked up by a VTOL craft. Shinji boarded the craft and Asuka set him in a spot near the window. He didn't pay any attention to what was happening around him as he was still within his mind, reliving that awful moment again and again,seeing the detonation as clear as if it just happened, consumed by the shock and guilt of it all. He spent the trip staring out the window looking down at the wasteland that was once his home country. In the background, he could hear Asuka and other people talking with each other, but he didn't pay any attention to what they were talking about. Shinji was only brought back to the real world, and it wasn't by a large degree either, when the aircraft flew through a cloud and when it came out the other side, he found himself staring not at a red wasteland, but a city.
The metropolis was surrounded by a large circular wall as high as many of the skyscrapers that were contained within it. The buildings within were ringed by forest and greenery. Highways, rail lines, and aircraft in the air crisscrossed each other going from one ring to another. Shinji leaned closer to the window to get a better look at the city spread out under him. The aircraft descended as it approached the center on a landing strip at the base of a tower, the height of the building extending above the outer wall.
Shinji took no notice of either the sound of the engines cooling down or of the people on board getting up in order to disembark. His focus on what was happening outside his window was interrupted by Asuka grabbing his arm to bring him out of the craft. Asuka, Shinji, the one modeled after Rei Ayanami, as well as a few other people, stood on the tarmac as they were approached by a platoon of soldiers. At the head of the platoon was a man in a business suit. He was young, appearing no older than his late 20s. Compared to the more disciplined and assertive walking of the platoon, he walked in a more easygoing matter, his focus more on the computer tablet in his hand than on his surroundings. It was only when he was a few feet from the Children did he stop and look up at them.
"Welcome back to the world of the living, Captain," he said to Asuka in Japanese though his American accent could be discerned.
"I should thank you for rescuing us, Vice-Commander," Asuka replied. "Have you heard anything about the Wunder?"
"She's already here," the vice-commander stated. She's being put in dry dock as we speak. She took a bit of a beating in the engagement. Estimates for repairs are about three weeks or so." He tapped at the tablet.
"What about Unit 02?" she asked.
"Both it and Unit 08 have been retrieved. Unit 08 appears to have taken significant damage. As for Unit 02…" he took a second look at the data again. "We were surprised we retrieved as much as we did. I haven't heard yet from Dr. Akagi on what can be done to get them back in action, but we hope to hear from her soon." He glanced at both Shinji and the pilot of the Mark 9. He gestured with his fingers to the soldiers, who proceeded to take them to the tower.
"I have already arranged for the VTOL to take you back to the Wunder," he continued as he went back to concentrating on his tablet. "You are relieved Captain. Take it easy, okay?" Asuka stood there for a moment tilting her head a little to maintain her view of Shinji getting taken away.
"What's going to happen with the brat?" she asked. The Vice-Commander looked up from his tablet at her, his eyes narrowed to a glare.
"I said you're relieved." His tone was cold and direct. The two stared at each other for several seconds before Asuka turned around and marched back to the aircraft. The Vice-Commander watched the vessel fly off before he walked back to the tower.
Over the next couple of weeks, Shinji was questioned by several people about his time at Nerv headquarters. At first, he couldn't give them the answers they wanted; one reason was that he didn't know the answer, and the other reason was that he couldn't explain too well what he did know, the trauma he experienced was still affecting his mind. The best that they could get out of him were either one-word-only answers or the yes-and-no type. As time went on, he was able to come out of himself a little more and answer in greater detail. Even then, the information that he gave was limited. While they did glean some information on the workings of Nerv, it wasn't enough to form any sort of strategy to use against them. Even the knowledge obtained from the Ayanami type was not sufficient enough to be useful. During this time he was confined, but it was considered comfortable with his room including a bed, desk and a few books, though they weren't touched too often.
Several days after he arrived, Shinji was escorted to an office and told to wait there. When he was alone, he looked around noting the bare desk and the general emptiness of the room. But what caught his attention was the large window that looked out onto the city. He walked over to it and gazed at the scene that was in front of him. He took note of where the streets and buildings were and how they connected to each other. He also saw people, though they looked minute from where he was standing, in their comings and goings. Shinji began to wonder if the sight that was before him was even real. He thought that a place such as this shouldn't even exist. Any further thoughts that would have had on the matter were interrupted by a voice that came from behind him.
"You should see it from the top of the building here. The view is spectacular." Shinji turned around to see the Vice-Commander standing at the doorway, a pleasant smile on his face.
"What is the name of this place?" Shinji asked him.
"The official name is New Constantinople," the Vice-Commander replied. "I find it weird though since we are in what was once Japan, you would think that it should have a Japanese name. Hell, some were arguing during construction that it should be called New Atlantis; their argument being that the design is similar to what was described of the legendary city, but that would have been even more stupid. We're nowhere near the ocean, let alone the Atlantic."
"I see," Shinji responded, not knowing what to make of the man's story. "Thank you um…"
"Oh right," the Vice-Commander said. "How could I forget? Stanley Burke, Vice-Commander of the Wille branch here. A pleasure." He stretched out his hand in greeting. Shinji looked at him with a confused look on his face.
"Crap, I forgot the Japanese bow," Burke said retracting his hand and replacing it with a bow, which Shinji reciprocated. "Have a seat." Burke made his way to his desk chair while Shinji took a seat on the other side.
"So," Burke began, "are you comfortable? Is there anything that we forgot to provide to you during your time here?" Shinji shook his head. "I'm going to order some tea. I'll get a cup for you too." Shinji gave no answer as he made the order. Though he was looking at the Vice-Commander, his eyes were focused on the window and what lay outside.
"Um…how many more cities like this are there?" he asked.
"Well…there are several," Burke replied. "Some as nice as this one, others a bit smaller. There are even cities that survived both second and third impacts. I hear Zurich is nice this time of year. Why do you ask?"
"So…the world isn't destroyed?" Shinji asked.
"It's not as great as it once was, but there's still a decent amount left."
"Well, I…I was told that it was me who…" Shinji blurted out, but couldn't continue as Burke interrupted him.
"Wait, wait, time out. Who said you destroyed the world?"
"Kaworu," Shinji replied wincing at the memory that was still too strong and too painful. The Vice-Commander then leaned back in his chair and let out a breath.
"Nagisa," he muttered with a fair amount of venom in his voice. He leaned forward and looked straight as Shinji.
"Listen to me," Burke said. "Whatever you have been told about what happened during your time inside Unit 01, you did not receive a complete picture. Part of that, while unintentional, was done by some members of our organization. But it looks like now you were misled while you were at Nerv."
"But Dr. Akagi said that I was being punished." Shinji moved his around his neck where the DSS choker once was.
"Ritsuko Akagi. A brilliant mind, but she has a terrible bedside manner," Burke said more to himself than to Shinji. He put his head in his hands and took a deep breath before raising it up again to face him. He didn't want to have this conversation right now. It was too soon. He took another breath while he chose his words.
"Shinji, the offense that she was talking about is that you took the Eva's power for yourself. An Evangelion is an engine that can manifest the will of its pilot." Shinji looked at him in confusion.
"Engine? Manifest my will?"
"Maybe I didn't translate the right words," Burke said. He stopped when a Wille officer came into he office carrying a tray with two cups of tea, which he set on the table. Burke waited until he left before he started to speak again. "What I'm saying is that you have the ability to awaken an Eva, and it will grant what you desire the most. And you used that ability the wrong way. I will give you further details later on. Not because we want to keep you in the dark, but that you need more time before you are ready. For the moment, take in what I've told you now. To tell you the truth, we should be grateful you didn't awaken Unit 01 earlier than you did."
"I could have awakened it earlier?" Shinji asked.
"The way you handled yourself in the fights against the Angels could have allowed an awakening," Burke replied.
"I don't understand. I defeated the Angels," Shinji said. Burke then activated a keyboard that appeared on his desk and began typing. Within, thirty seconds, a holographic screen appeared between the two. On the screen, was a still image of Unit 01 stabbing the Fifth Angel.
"When you engaged the Fifth Angel, you ignored a direct order to retreat, placing not only yourself but two of your friends in immediate danger." He pressed a couple more keys bringing up a still of the Sixth Angel. "With the Sixth Angel, you initially refused to deploy, even though the operation was based around an extremely strict timetable." Shinji did not have anything to say in reply. Burke continued on, now bringing up a picture of Unit 03. "With the Ninth Angel, it was your refusal to engage that led to the injury of Captain Shikinami and—"
"That wasn't me!" Shinji yelled. "It was Father. He was the one who—"
"If you had fought, the dummy plug wouldn't have been activated and there might have been less damage all around," Burke countered. Shinji closed his mouth as the Vice-Commander hit the keys once more. "Of course, anyone would understand how you felt over what happened but," now the screen showed a video of Unit 01 on top of Nerv's pyramid stomping on it, "this was not the way to deal with it. By the time the Tenth Angel attacked, who would have been surprised that you would awaken Unit 01 then?" Shinji shrunk in his chair, head down, not looking at Burke.
"What…was I supposed to do?" he asked. Burke leaned back in his chair and let out a long breath.
"As the Bard put it kid, there's the rub," he replied. "At the time, no one outside of your father or sub-commander Fuyutsuki would have known what could have happened."
"This is why no one wants me the pilot the Eva?" Shinji looked up towards him. Burke nodded yes.
"You have a very great and very dangerous power," he added. "When it comes down to it, you're too unpredictable to pilot at this time. There is more to say, but like I said, it's best to wait for a while." Shinji remained silent for several minutes thinking over what Burke said to him, his tea growing cold. The Vice-Commander waited, sipping his tea, not doing or saying anything to disturb Shinji's contemplation. The boy then raised his head up again.
"What's going to happen to me now?" he asked. Burke was about to answer when he was interrupted.
"I'm glad you asked that Shinji," a voice that sounded familiar to him said. The two turned towards the source, with Burke standing up as well.
"Commander," he said. "I didn't hear you come in." As the Commander drew closer to him, Shinji's eyes widened at the man he was seeing. He had more than a few wrinkles on his face and there were streams of silver-gray in his hair, but Shinji could still recognize him.
"Kaji?" he said, not quite believing it.
"In the flesh," he replied. "It's good to see you again."
"You're in charge here?" Shinji asked him.
"I know. Some days, I have trouble believing it," Burke remarked. Kaji gave a slight smile.
"Indeed," he said. "By all rights, Katsuragi should be the one running the place, but you can't keep that woman off the field." At the mention of her name, Shinji appeared as if he was going to break down once again.
"I'm sorry," he said in a voice that while it was louder than a whisper, was still hard to hear him. "I couldn't do what you asked of me." Kaji did hear him.
"I know, but you did what you knew you could, and I do appreciate it." Shinji looked up towards him.
"Now," Kaji continued, "as for your future…" he looked towards Burke, who grabbed his tablet and began to bring up information. Shinji was growing afraid over what was going to happen to him and those few seconds of silence seemed to stretch into timelessness.
"Ah, here we are," Burke said more to himself than to the other people in the room. "The fact of the matter is we won't be able to get Shinji into school until the beginning of the new term which is about five months away. It's also a good idea to wait a little bit anyway because you still need to get up to speed with life here. So, we are giving you a tutor for the time being.
"School?" Shinji asked him.
"Yes," Burke replied. "Despite what it says on your birth certificate, you are for all intents and purposes 14 years old. Now as far as your living arrangements…" He began tapping at the tablet.
"I think it's a good idea that he should live with someone. A roommate," Kaji stated. Burke looked up from his tablet.
"If we could find someone who could be a good fit for him, it might be a matter worth pursuing," he replied.
"Excellent," Kaji declared. "I'm sure you and Shinji will get along great." Burke remained silent for a good thirty seconds as Kaji's words sunk into him.
"I'm sorry sir, could you repeat that?" was his only response.
"Shinji should stay with you," Kaji said. "It's not like you have anyone else at your place."
"That's because I've been so busy, I'm barely there to begin with," Burke countered. "No offense to Shinji, but outside of when he first arrived in the city, this is the first time he and I met."
"If I remember correctly, that didn't stop him moving in with a stranger before," Kaji said. Burke wasn't done yet.
"Certainly as you already know him, you could take him in Commander." Kaji just shook his head no.
"He wouldn't want to hang out with an old man like me," he said. "It's normal for two young bachelors to be roommates." Burke was starting to run out of arguments.
"Well, what if I wanted to bring a girl back to my apartment one night?"
"One, from what I know of your dating record, that doesn't appear to have happened yet. Two, even if you did, I'm sure the lady would be so impressed by what you're doing for Shinji it'll work out for you in the end." Burke could only shake his head in dumbfoundment, his face a little red at the slight insult.
"Commander's orders," Kaji continued. "Trust me, this will be good for the both of you."
"Very well sir," Burke replied not sounding enthusiastic. "I believe I can move him in as early as this evening. Is that all right with you Shinji?" The two adults turned to him.
"S…Sure," he answered not knowing if it was the correct answer.
"Great," Kaji stated. "I know you don't have many personal effects, but we'll pick them up in a little bit. Burke, can you see to it?" The Vice-Commander got on the line to make the request. Shinji then spoke up.
"What about the other pilot?" he asked them.
"Ah, the Ayanami type. She'll be remaining here," Burke said. "But she's not going to be confined like a prisoner. In fact, we can arrange for you to visit her when you want to. Do you wish to see her?" Shinji hesitated before he answered.
"No. Not right now."
"Oh..Okay, that's fine," Burke said. A female Wille officer had arrived by this point.
"Okay Shinji, just follow her and she'll get you all set up," Kaji said.
"Sure," Shinji bowed to them in farewell and the two watched him leave the office.
"Seriously?" Burke said to his superior. "He and I are going to be living together?" Kaji nodded yes in reply.
"I'll give it a try sir, but I can't guarantee things will work out," Burke carried on. "I just hope that we can do right by him after all he's been through."
"True," Kaji replied, "for he still may be mankind's best hope."
"But he has to agree to the plan," Burke said. "No lies, no manipulation. When the time comes, if it comes, we tell him the truth, and leave it to his judgment."
"Agreed," Kaji said, "but I have faith that if the worst come to worst, he'll make the right decision. Speaking of which, how is the Arbiter Program proceeding?"
"Ten percent behind schedule," Burke replied going back to his tablet. "With Shinji here, we might be able to start catching up."
"Good," Kaji said. "We just need the time to prepare."
"Can't count on it," Burke stated. "Based on the Wunder's report and what we were able to glean from Shinji and the Mark 09 pilot, Nerv might be closer to its goal than we are to ours."
"I know that, but we also have to hope that Katsuragi and her group are able to do something about it." Kaji paused for several seconds before speaking again as he stroked the stubble on his chin, as if he caught something in his words. "How do you think Katsuragi would react to our plan involving Shinji?"
"Not well," Burke replied. "The only unknown is whether she marches in the building to confront us or she saves herself the walk and crashes the Wunder into it."
"Do you want to place a bet on which option?" Kaji asked. The two of them chuckled over it, but Burke regained his previous composure.
"When should the Captain find out?" He asked. Kaji took a breath. He knew what the answer was, but he hated to say it out loud.
"When it's too late for her to do a damn thing about it."