Fallen
A Neon Genesis Evangelion Fanfic
By: Aaron Nowack

Chapter 5: Quake

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Disclaimer: Neon Genesis Evangelion is not mine, but instead belongs to
Gainax and Hideako Anno. The text of this fanfic is mine, however, and
may not be used without permission. In the grim darkness of the far
future, there is only Gendo/Shinji slashfic.
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"Are you all right?" It was the first question that came to
Ikari Shinji's mind, but far from the last. His hand tightened around
Rei's shoulder, but he slowly relaxed it as the young girl nodded.

"I am unhurt."

Shinji breathed a sigh of relief, for the moment ignoring the
confusion that surrounded the two, trusting Asuka to deal with it. By
the sound of the orders she was barking, that trust was more than well
founded. Shinji released Rei, allowing her to stand.

She did so, and turned to face Shinji. He took a step back at
the sight. Even setting aside the oddness of seeing Rei holding a
bloody dagger - no, it was LCL, wasn't it? - there was something
unsettling about her. A strange light in her eyes, a feeling that...
something had changed inside of her. For just a moment, Shinji could
understand why Asuka was so unsettled by Rei.

"Don't just stand there gaping at Wondergirl, idiot!"

Shinji started at the sound of Asuka's voice, but after a moment
he nodded. He glanced down at Rei - it seemed unnatural to have to look
so far down to meet her eyes. "Rei, go over and wait by that
watchtower," he said, gesturing in the direction of one that was still
intact. "We need to talk."

"Yes, sir."

Even her quiet response somehow sent shivers down Shinji's
spine, and he gestured her away. She walked off, and Shinji soon found
himself with little time to consider her. One of the watchtowers was
still ablaze, and the effort to halt the fire needed to be organized.
Shinji could hear Tokyo-4 awakening, and runners needed to be sent to
inform people that the danger was passed and all would be explained in
the morning - at least if an explanation could be found. Worst of all,
there were wounded - and maybe dead - to deal with.

"Are there any runners left?" Shinji asked Touji - who had
easily settled into a role assisting him.

Touji shook his head. "I think everyone who's left is helping
with the fires."

"All right," Shinji said. "You, then. Go wake up Ibuki-san,
and get her down here. And have someone - no, I'll go make sure no
one's dead and find the most seriously hurt."

"Right," Touji said before racing off into the night.

Shinji busied himself counting casualties, which he was glad to
find were nowhere near as bad as they could have been. Just about all
the fighters had suffered a few scratches and minor wounds, but he could
only find six who were too hurt to move. One of those he thought he
recognized from Touji's squad, but he couldn't recall the name.

Unfortunately, those were not the worst. Two people were dead -
a guardswoman who had burned to death in one of the watchtowers, and one
man who seemed to have died of a broken spine. It was true that it
could have been far worse; indeed, had an Angel attack on Tokyo-3 killed
so few, he now knew it would have been a cause for celebration among the
Nerv staff. Still... two deaths was already far too many, and there was
no guarantee all the wounded would live.

The fires were soon under control, and well on their way to
being completely extinguished. Shinji and Asuka managed to steal away
for a moment to talk. "Not exactly the homecoming night I was hoping
for," Asuka commented, taking a long drink from a water bottle.

Shinji smiled weakly. "I don't think anyone was hoping for
something like this. We can't say there was no warning, though."

Asuka took another drink. "The dreams."

"And the Eva." Shinji barely repressed a shudder.

"That... thing had an AT Field." Asuka's eyes were hard.
"There's no other explanation."

"Do you think -"

"It's an Angel," Asuka stated flatly. "It has to be. What are
we going to do about it?" Shinji muttered a curse, and Asuka let out a
bark of forced laughter before continuing. "We need a plan."

"You think I don't know that?" Shinji asked. "I don't know what
to do. I wish I could say I thought this was going to be the only one,
but -"

"I know," Asuka said. She paused, seeming to think of something
new. "Where's Wondergirl?"

"Over there." Shinji gestured vaguely in the direction he'd sent
her. "Why?"

"If that thing had an AT Field, how the hell did Wondergirl get
through it? The only thing that can penetrate an AT Field is -"

"Another AT Field," Shinji finished.

"So where did she get one? Not even Wondergirl can carry an Eva
in her pocket."

Shinji glanced away from Asuka. "Everybody has an AT Field," he
whispered, half to himself.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Asuka asked.

"A... friend told me that, before the Impact."

Asuka blinked. "Who?"

"Nobody you would know." Shinji made his voice flat enough to
indicate that he had no desire to continue that particular conversation.

After a moment, Asuka nodded, but it was obvious that she
intended to raise the matter again later. Before she could speak, Touji
had arrived with Maya in tow, and soon the two were helping her see to
the seriously wounded. Of those six, half Maya determined were simply
unconscious, with no damage worse then a broken bone or two. The other
three's conditions, however, were more serious, and soon improvised
stretchers had been made to transport them to the infirmary.

The rest of the night passed in a confused blur, and the next
time Shinji had a moment to think, Asuka and he were standing near the
town hall, watching the rising sun. Rei had long ago been sent back to
Maya's house, told to get what rest she could and return to the town
hall in the morning. The buzz of hundreds of muted, fearful
conversations filled the air, and some small part of Shinji's mind was
busy pondering ways to control and calm the situation.

For now, though, he was content to just stand here with Asuka.
For the moment, he could ignore everything else, pretend there was
nothing more in the world than the two of them. His arm snaked around
her waist, drawing her closer. Their eyes met briefly, and Shinji saw
his own weariness reflected in hers.

"Sorry to interrupt, but you two look like you need this."

Shinji almost started as he turned to look at Touji, who simply
handed him a steaming mug of tea. Shinji disengaged himself from Asuka,
muttering a quick thanks. Asuka took the other mug from Touji and took
a quick sip. Her face twisted into a grimace. "Exactly how much sugar
did you put in this?" Shinji risked a sip of his own, and nearly gagged
at the almost syrupy sweetness.

Touji scratched the back of his head. "Actually, Katsuragi-san
made it," he said. "Is it really that sweet?"

"Of course it is!" All three looked up at the sound of Misato's
voice. She walked over, carrying another two mugs. She offered one to
Touji, who after a moment nervously accepted it. Misato took a big gulp
from her mug before continuing. "After a night like last night, what
you need is some of my patent-pending hyper-sweet tea! Or a beer.
Beer's good for anything, but I couldn't find any." She paused, gazing
thoughtfully into space. "I need to try mixing my sweet tea and beer."

Asuka glanced at Shinji. "Now I remember why you never let her
cook," she said dryly.

Shinji took another sip of his drink, and discovered that, now
that he was expecting it, the sweetness wasn't quite as overwhelming.
And he had to admit he probably could use the sugar rush he was already
feeling. He took another, longer sip, and decided that he could also
feel his teeth decaying.

"That thing last night," Misato said after a moment. "I didn't
see it, but I talked to some of the scouts who fought it. It sounded
like it had -"

"An AT Field," Shinji finished for her, and she nodded curtly.

"Was it what I think it was?" Misato asked, her face hard.

"Yes," Asuka answered flatly. "I don't see any other
possibility."

Misato glanced at Touji. "Suzuhara, yesterday you offered me a
place in the scouts. If you still want me, I'm there."

After a moment, Touji nodded. "All right. I could use ya in my
squad, at least until Nakamura gets out of the infirmary." His eyes
turned to Shinji. "That okay with you, Ikari?"

Shinji nodded. "That's fine. So one of the wounded was from
your squad? I thought I recognized one of them. Will he be all right?"

"Ibuki-san said he just had a concussion and some broken bones,
so he should be fine." Touji sighed after a moment. "This just isn't
fair, is it?"

"Life isn't fair, stooge," Asuka said dryly. "You should know
that by now."

"I know." Touji finished the rest of his drink in one gulp.
"What now?"

"I need to talk to Ayanami," Shinji said. "If anyone can tell
us anything about this, it will be her."

"There's lots of other people we need to talk to," Asuka said.
"Everyone has questions, and they're going to come to us for answers."

"We don't exactly have anything to tell them, do we?" Shinji
replied, and after a moment Asuka nodded in agreement. He continued,
"Maybe Ayanami will be able to give us something to work with."

Asuka nodded again. "I'll come with you then."

"All right." Shinji turned to Touji. "Suzuhara, get the scout
squads together, organize some patrols. Keep things calm; get people
working. Tell them we'll have a town meeting... at sundown tonight, I
guess. That sound good, Asuka?"

"If we don't have anything by then, we're not going to get any
answers at all," Asuka said.

"Right." Shinji glanced towards Misato. "Misato, I need you to
hold down the fort here. Tell people who ask about the meeting
tonight... have you met Arakawa-san?"

"Once or twice, I think."

"Good. When he shows up, tell him where we are. He'll probably
want to talk with us."

Misato nodded. "I'll do that."

"All right, then," Asuka said. "Let's get going."

Shinji nodded, and the two set off at a rapid pace toward the
infirmary and Maya's house. That pace quickly slowed as they found
themselves besieged by worried questions and pleas for explanations. It
took some effort for Shinji to remain calm, to keep his repeated answer
- that the incident was being investigated and that what was known would
be revealed at the meeting that evening - polite and smooth. Still, he
somehow succeeded, and it really didn't take all that long for Asuka and
him to reach the infirmary.

Maya was sitting in the front room, Shinji glanced around,
noticing that the perpetually untidy chamber was even worse than usual.
Countless medical textbooks and journals - all salvaged from the ruins
of Tokyo-3 - were strewn about, some opened to pages that seemed
incomprehensible to Shinji's untrained eye. Maya set a book she had
been studying onto her already crowded desk, exchanged brief greetings
with her two visitors. Then Shinji asked, "How are they?" There was
no need to state exactly who he referred to.

A dark silence lingered a few moments before Maya answered.
"One of them's awake again - just a concussion." She paused, suddenly
seeming even more weary than ever. "The other two are pretty bad. The
woman'll live, I think, but I don't know if she'll ever walk again. The
other man... I'm pretty sure he has some bad internal bleeding. I don't
know if even a good surgeon could save him now."

Shinji's fists tightened, and he resisted the urge to curse,
knowing it would do far more harm than good. He felt Asuka grasp one of
his hands, and after a moment he relaxed slightly.

"Keep us posted," Asuka said. "And let us know if there's
anything you need."

Maya blinked slowly. "I know what I need, but you can't give it
to me." She paused for a moment. "I'm not trained for this. I'm not a
doctor; I'm not even a biologist. Everything I know I picked up from
working with Ritsuko-sempai."

"We know," Asuka said, not unkindly. "But you're all we've
got."

"I know," Maya said, forcing herself to her feet. "I should go
check on them again."

"Is Rei here?" Shinji asked.

Maya shook her head. "She should still be at home with the
other girls."

"All right." Shinji paused. "Let us know if we can do anything
to help, okay?"

Maya nodded wearily, then turned away from Shinji and Asuka.
The two of them left the infirmary, pausing in the doorway. "I really
wish one of the scout squads would come back with a returned doctor or
two. For Ibuki-san's sake, as much as ours."

"I know," Shinji answered. "But unless that happens, there's
not much we can do."

"We should at least move some people with first aid skills from
the scouts to help her," Asuka said.

"You're right. I should have thought of that sooner so that I
could have Suzuhara send some down."

"You could run and catch up with him."

Shinji shook his head. "After this. We both need to talk to
Ayanami."

Asuka nodded. "Right." She glanced down the street, taking in
the nearest clusters of makeshift homes. "Which one is Ibuki-san's,
again?"

Shinji had to think a moment before pointing. "There."

The two hurried down to Maya's house and Shinji knocked on the
door. A few moments later, the door opened, revealing a young girl with
brown hair. She blinked rapidly. "G-good morning, Ikari-san,
Soryuu-san. I guess you're here to talk with Ayanami."

"That's right," Shinji said, hesitating a moment as he
remembered the girl's name, "Erika. Is she in?"

Erika nodded. "She is." She turned back into the small house,
calling for Ayanami. As she turned her attention back to the two
visitors, she said, "I don't think you want to talk here, since you
probably want to be alone."

"That's right," Asuka said.

Moments later, Rei replaced Erika at the door, still clad in the
now-dirty pale blue pajamas she had fought in the previous night. "I am
here," she said.

Asuka blinked. "Don't you want to change?"

"No."

Asuka looked like she was about to make some biting comment, but
Shinji stopped her with a slight, almost imperceptible motion of his
hand. "We don't have time to argue. Where can we talk and not be
overheard?"

""The infirmary... no, it's full, isn't it?" Asuka said.

"Unfortunately," Shinji replied. "I guess there's nothing for
it but to head back to the town hall and talk there."

"Then let's get moving," Asuka said, and the three set out with
no further delay.

They made much faster progress than they had on the way to meet
Rei, and it took Shinji several minutes to realize why. The same
throngs of people who had pressed him and Asuka for answers not so long
ago now gave them a wide berth, only glancing at them through the
corners of their eyes and muttering fearful comments under their breath.
Shinji half-glanced back at Rei, who seem unconcerned. After a moment,
he turned away again, repressing a slight shudder.

There was... something about Rei. There had always been
something about Rei, actually, but it seemed to be affecting him rather
more than it once had. Was it simply that he was no longer used to her?
Or had something changed in him... or in her? He risked another glance
back at her, who once again seemed not to notice his observation, though
he was certain she did. She just wasn't the type to care enough about
that sort of thing to show any recognition of it.

Asuka, on the other hand, certainly was that type. "What's
wrong?" she asked in a hissed undertone, perhaps low enough for Rei to
not be able to make out the words, if not fail to hear it.

Shinji shook his head. "Nothing." After a second, he continued
in a much quieter voice. "I think."

Now it was Asuka who glanced backwards. "Right," was all she
said, though.

Even though the people of Tokyo-4 still gave the trio a wide
berth, their progress slowed as they neared the town hall. An unusual
number of people crowded the area around the converted ruined parking
garage and the rough streets near it. Shinji wished that there was some
way to get them to go about their normal business, but he knew that
there was very little he could do to accomplish that. They were
worried, and they had every right to be.

Finally, they reached the town hall. As always, it took several
moments for Shinji's eyes to adjust to the sudden shift from bright
sunlight to half-lit gloom. As his eyes cleared, Shinji lead the trio
through the tangled maze of makeshift rooms and hallways towards the
back, where his office lay. They were a bit more than half-way there
when Shinji heard Misato's voice form over his shoulder.

"Shinji!" The three turned to the voice, and Shinji and Asuka
muttered greetings as Misato continued. "Did you already speak to
Arakawa-san, then? He left to meet up with you two a couple minutes
ago?"

Shinji shook his head. "I didn't see him." He glanced at
Asuka, who also gave a slight shake of her head.

"I believe I saw him." The other three people started at Rei's
unexpected interjection.

Shinji blinked. "I wonder why he didn't call to us."

"He was facing the other way," Rei replied, then paused a
moment. "I do not believe he was heading to the infirmary."

"Strange," Misato said. "I told him that you were going to pick
up Rei there."

"Arakawa's always strange," Asuka said irritably. "He'll show
up eventually. He always does."

Shinji nodded. "Has anything happened while we were out,
Misato?" he asked.

"Not really," Misato said. "You weren't gone that long."

"All right," Asuka said. "Tell Arakawa we'll be in Shinji's
office if he shows up."

"Right," Misato replied, and Asuka strode off in that direction,
Shinji and Rei following close behind her. When they arrived, Asuka
roughly pulled the tarp over the entrance and turned to Rei. "All
right, Wondergirl. Talk."

Shinji sighed, rubbing his eyes. "You could be a little more
diplomatic, Asuka."

"What?" Asuka asked. "She knows what we want to know." She
smirked slightly. "If it makes you feel better, you can play good cop
to my bad cop."

"There is no need." Both turned at Rei's quiet statement.
"That technique is for use on a hostile subject." She paused. "I will
tell you what I can."

Asuka smirked, before seating herself on top of Shinji's desk.
After a moment, she gestured to Shinji to ask the first question.

He sighed, then said, "I assume you've guessed what that thing
was."

"No," Rei said. "Not guessed. I... know. It was an Angel."

Asuka raised an eyebrow. "How do you know?"

"I... can not say."

"Can't or won't?" Asuka asked, a tiny bit of snarl in her
voice.

"Asuka!" Shinji protested, but Rei answered anyway.

"I can not," she said quietly, and Asuka sighed.

"Of course not," Asuka said. "It would be too convenient if
someone was able to tell us something useful!"

"Asuka!" Shinji said again, and the time she quieted. Shinji
turned back to Rei. "Do you know why it was here, where it came from?"

Rei shook her head. "No."

"Will there be more?" Shinji pressed.

The time Rei nodded. "Yes."

"How do you know that?" Asuka asked.

"I cannot say."

"Why not?"

"Because I do not know!" Shinji blinked at the frustration
evident in Rei's voice, and noticed that her hands were clenched into
fists. He glanced back at Asuka, a silent signal for her to back off,
and she complied. He turned back to Rei. "How did you know to come to
the fight? You had to have left before it began to get there that
quickly."

Rei glanced down, clearly considering her answer. "It... it
was... right."

Shinji sighed at that, resisting the urge to start pacing. He
glanced back at Asuka.

"How did you kill it?" Asuka said. "Nobody else was able to get
anything through its AT Field."

It took Rei a moment to answer. "I," she began, only to halt.
Shinji looked questioningly at her, but before he could say anything she
continued. "It was instinct."

"Instinct?" Asuka asked, but there was no rancor in her voice
this time. After a moment, she sighed. "I know you're trying to help,
Ayanami, but these aren't very useful answers."

Rei glanced downward.

"Is there anything else you can tell us that might be helpful?"
Shinji asked.

After a moment, Rei shook her head, not looking up as she did
so. Shinji sighed. "All right. What are the things we don't know?"

Asuka began to count them off on her fingers. "How we can kill
the next Angels. How many there are. When and if they will come. What
they're after. How we can stop them from coming again."

"Those are some interesting questions, indeed."

Shinji started at the new voice, spinning around to face the
doorway. "Arakawa-san," he stated. "I'm sorry we missed you."

His assistant nodded and stepped into the room, letting the tarp
fall back into place behind him. "Ikari-san, Soryuu-san." He glanced
toward Rei. "Ayanami-san." His eyes came back to Tokyo-4's two
leaders. "I apologize. I was briefly... sidetracked."

Shinji almost started at that. It was rather unusual of the man
to let himself be distracted. Though it had been a most unusual day.
"It's not a problem," he said.

"Thank you," was Arakawa's reply. "We must talk."

"Of course," Asuka said. She was not quite able to hide the
distaste in her voice from Shinji, and he was fairly sure from Arakawa
as well. Shinji simply nodded for the man to speak.

"I am sure you reached the same conclusions as to the identity
of the attacker as myself," Arakawa began, and Shinji nodded a second
time. "The Angels are back, and we must make plans to handle their
return."

Asuka rolled her eyes. "No, really. That must have taken a lot
of effort to figure out."

"Asuka," Shinji said quietly. He turned his attention back to
Arakawa. "That is what we are trying to do, Arakawa-san."

The man sighed. "Of course." He paused. "Have you decided
what you are to say at your speech tonight?"

Shinji shook his head. "Except to repeat the little we know,
no."

Arakawa nodded. "I suppose you cannot do more."

"Do you have any actual suggestions?" Asuka asked.

The man paused, obviously hesitating. After a moment, he said,
"Yes."

"What?" Asuka pressed.

"I am not sure, but I believe I know what the Angels are after,"
Arakawa replied after a moment.

It was Asuka who asked the obvious question first. "And what do
you think that is?"

The man turned toward Rei, who merely stared back at him.

"Wondergirl?" Asuka asked, disbelieving.

"You can't be serious," Shinji said. "Why?"

"It seems the only possible trigger," Arakawa said.

Shinji let out a rather obscene German curse he'd learned from
Asuka. "I know you better then that, Arakawa Okura. You're not the
type to jump to a conclusion on that type of shoddy thinking."

Arakawa hesitated, obviously weighing options in his mind. "You
are right," he finally said.

"Then why?"

Again, Arakawa paused before speaking. "There were many
organizations interested in Nerv. I had some contact with one, one that
provided much of your father's suppor -"

"Seele!" The quiet word was filled with hatred, uttered in a
low, almost inhuman growl. Shinji, shocked at the sudden outburst,
turned to Rei, and he was certain that the other two people in the room
did as well.

"I... I am surprised that you know that name," Arakawa said, a
little shakily.

Rei made no verbal reply, but her lips curled up into something
that was almost a snarl.

Shinji turned back to Arakawa. "I do not know the word, but I
suspect I know of the group. What does that have to do with anything?"

"In my... contacts with them, I learned some things about what
was going on. Since then, I have tried to learn more."

"And?" Shinji asked, beating Asuka to the question.

"And if half the things I've guessed about the abomination your
father made of Third Impact are correct, then she should not be here!"
Arakawa paused, gaining control of himself. "It should not be
possible."

"Enough," Shinji said. "I will take your opinion into
consideration, but that's not enough. Even if the Angels were somehow
after Ayanami, I wouldn't turn her over to them if they asked."

Arakawa lowered his head. "Very well." He paused. "I will
begin preparations for the meeting tonight. I assume that you will need
speakers set up, if you intend to address the whole city."

"Yes, of course," Shinji said.

Arakawa bowed slightly and turned toward the door.

"Wait just a minute," Asuka said. The man paused, and she
continued. "I have a feeling that we need to have a very long
conversation. I think there are many interesting things you could tell
us."

Arakawa did not turn around, but after a moment he answered.
"Not as much as you would expect, I think."

"But can you tell us what my father was planning?" Shinji asked,
a dangerous current in his voice.

"I was not exactly his confidant," Arakawa said. "Nor was I a
spy, to ferret out his doings. I suspect you may know more of him than
me."

"Somehow I doubt that," Asuka said dryly.

"I am sure that at some point we will have that long
conversation, and find out who is correct."

"Well," she said, "why not now?"

Before anyone could answer her, it happened. To Shinji, the
world seemed to... flex strangely. A titanic roar sounded in his ears,
a sound so overpowering he could not even hear it. Incomprehensible
colors flashed before his eyes. He felt dizzy, like he was quickly spun
around by some invisible hand. An undefinable force pushed at his mind,
an overwhelming force not even aware of his existence.

It was... indescribable. An incomprehensible, utterly alien
sensation filled his mind. Wrong was the only word that could describe
it. There was something in it, something that could almost be called
hatred. Almost, because to call it hatred would be to imply that there
was something human about the feeling, something that could be grasped
and understood. No such handhold existed, so the word hatred was
insufficient... but perhaps as close as could be reached.

As though Shinji's scattered thoughts had drawn it to him, the
pressure increased, the terrible presence no longer unaware. The thing
that was almost hatred redoubled, and Shinji could barely think under
the onslaught. He could feel himself falling to his knees, sense his
vision blurring and fading. He tried to open his mouth, but he found
that he could not move in the slightest. Time seemed to stretch and
twist, and he could not say how quickly it was passing.

"Shinji!"

The call cleared his head for a moment, but still could not
respond. The strange feeling... the attack was lesser now, a dull,
muted sensation. For a moment, he thought he had made his hand twitch,
but whatever control he had gained quickly faded away. A moment later,
he managed to force his eyes open for a second, and saw Asuka standing
over him.

The next he knew he was in a bed. His head was painfully
clear, the absence of confusion and turmoil somehow more disconcerting
than their presence would have been. He tried to sit up, but managed
only to weakly raise his arm, slightly disturbing the bedsheets. He
concentrated, and managed to push the sheets aside.

He heard the distinctive sound of a book closing, then of
someone rising and walking over to the bed. He managed to turn his head
in the appropriate direction and saw Touji half leaning over him. "Ya
awake?" the other man asked.

Shinji's throat was dry, and he had to swallow several times
before he could reply. "Yes," he said, and was surprised at how strong
his voice sounded. He raised his hand again, finding it much easier
this time, and offered it to Touji. "Help me up."

"You sure about that, Ikari?" Touji replied. "Shouldn't ya rest
some or something?"

"I'm sure," Shinji said.

"All right, but I want you taking the blame if Soryuu or
Ibuki-san go ballistic."

Shinji forced a weak smile, and after a few moments he managed
to get himself, with Touji's help, into a sitting position. He shook
his head slowly. "What happened?"

"I dunno," Touji said. "I had another one of those vision
things, so I raced back here to see what was up, and found you passed
out, and Soryuu not much better."

"Ayanami?" Shinji asked.

"Ayanami was... Ayanami."

A weak chuckle escaped Shinji throat, quickly turning into a
cough.

"Ya okay?"

Shinji nodded after a moment. "I'm fine. How long was I out?"

"It's about dinnertime."

Shinji let out a curse. "That long? It must be time for the
speech -"

"Don't worry, Soryuu's taking care of it. If you'll just stay
here, I'll go get ya some soup or something."

Shinji nodded, then let himself lie back down as Touji left.
For a long moment, he simply lay there, mind blank. He could not do
that for long, however; his thoughts quickly turned troublesome, no
matter how hard he tried to keep them calm. He took a long, deep breath
and forced himself to clear his head once again. If he could not think
over matters calmly, it would be far better to not think on them at all.

After a moment, he began to consider what had just happened to
him as unemotionally as he could. It seemed logical to connect the
series of strange... visions was what Touji had called them, though
Shinji was not sure that word quite fit, with the appearance of the
Angel the previous night. It also seemed reasonable that, despite its
far greater impact, the most recent occurrence was caused by much the
same thing.

There were therefore two possible conclusion Shinji thought
could be true. First, that the Angel of the previous night was dead.
Second, that, as they had feared, there not only were more Angels, and
that they were preparing their own attacks. There was very little
Shinji could do to determine which of these conclusions was the truth,
if not both, but he felt that in all honesty it would make little
difference. So far as they were concerned, there was probably little
difference between this being the previous Angel or another.

Still, he thought the second seemed somewhat more likely. It
was hard to compare one indescribable feeling with another, but even
setting aside his adverse reaction, he felt the most recent vision had
been somehow different. The strength of it was also of a totally
different magnitude, at least to him. He had to wonder whether the
others had felt it any stronger, or whether it had been just him. From
Touji's words, it seemed that he at least had felt little difference.

A loud yawn escaped Shinji's lips, and he realized that he was
suddenly far more tired than he had been a moment ago. Even as he
considered this, he yawned again. After a moment, he gave up the
struggle. He rolled over on his side, and his eyes closed almost of
their own volition.

And he dreamed. It was a dream of fragments, of visible sound
and audible color, of tangible smell and aromatic tastes. He was
somehow outside himself, seeing himself as others saw him. It was a
strange detachment, an inability to muster even the slightest emotion.
He was not alone; innumerable others swarmed about him, taking no notice
of him and attracting no notice from him. These were somehow...
indistinct, merging and separating faster than he could follow, had he
cared to attempt to. Still, there were some others like him, who,
though not apart from the swarm, were not fully one with it either.

There was a bundle of emotion and feeling that somehow meant
Mother. Even as he unthinkingly reached towards it, it vanished,
becoming just another one of the teeming swarm. Another presence
hovered on the horizons of his thoughts, this one even more distinct.
Some part of it seemed familiar, and Shinji reached toward it, seeking
something he could not name. Yet, as he drew near, he could feel an
alien wrongness at its heart. Rage and betrayal filled Shinji's mind.
He struck out, driving it away.

A third presence. He somehow knew it intimately, its every
nuance known and beloved. A name he could not voice in his non-existent
throat trembled inside him and he raced toward her. He ached to join
her, but still hesitated as he approached. She bridged the gap, and
somehow spoke.

"Do you want to become one with me, in body and soul?"

Shinji traced the familiar outline of her, then recoiled.
Threaded through her was a taint, an alien presence that could only be
called wrong. To join with this was abomination, a primal taboo he
could not break. He recoiled, a silent scream echoing in his mind. He
wrenched himself away, away from her, away from the swarm...

And woke.

For a moment he lay still, feeling at the same time burning and
frozen. He pushed the sweat-drenched sheets aside, sitting up. He saw
a small bowl of broth sitting on a table by the bedside, and he reached
for the spoon. He took a quick taste, but it was quite cold.

Shinji rose, and for the first time noticed that he had been
stripped to his underwear. He cast about and located his clothing
sitting neatly folded on top of a nearby chair. In a matter of moments,
he had dressed himself. He was ravenous, and quickly ate almost all of
the soup, cold though it was.

His body felt far stronger now, though his mind seemed strangely
feverish. He could not concentrate for long on any one thing, his
unruly thoughts scattering as he attempted to herd them. With a shake
of his head, he left the small room, and began to thread his way through
the empty, dark hallways of the town hall.

He had to guess that Asuka was giving her speech - in fact, now
that he thought of it he was fairly sure that he could hear the sound of
the crowd gathered in the square outside. He wondered briefly what
exactly she was telling them, but he was fairly sure he knew the gist of
it. That last night, an Angel had attacked, and that was really all
that was known. He couldn't imagine that it was going over very well.

He paused as he neared the town hall's kitchen. After a
moment's thought, he entered it and quickly cut himself a couple of
pieces of bread. He wolfed them down, and his hunger somewhat abated.
He was considering making a sandwich of some sort when the tone of the
noise from outside changed.

Before it had simply been the quiet noise of any large
gathering, but no3w it was far louder. He wads certain that he heard
screams, of both anger and terror. More distracting than that, though,
was the prickling sensation in the back of his head. It was...
familiar.

He raced to the town hall's entrance, and had to blink several
times as his eyes adjusted to the light of the great bonfires that lit
the square. Then his breath left him, and his eyes darted up... far up,
to gaze on the colossal form that towered over Tokyo-4 like a vengeful
god. There was no doubt as to its identity. An Angel - not some
strange, twisted imitation of human like the night before, but a
gargantuan form that, though it had four limbs arranged somewhat like
arms and legs, could never be mistaken for human. And it was not an
unfamiliar form, either, but one that had him thinking back to long ago,
not long after Asuka had arrived in Tokyo-3.

At its hands, the two of them had suffered a humiliating defeat,
one that had made even him desire vengeance. It had taken a week of
even more humiliating training for the two of them to be able to gain
that vengeance, but in the end they had succeeded, and, they had
thought, it had been vanquished.

The Seventh Angel.

***********************************************************************

Author's Random Ramblings

1) Nobody who follows my work should be surprised when I say this took
far too long to write.

2) Nor should they be surprised when I thank Angus MacSpon and Ryan Hupp
for prereading this chapter.

3) Any and all comments are, as always, welcome.

Started: December 25, 2003
Draft Completed: February 12, 2004
Draft Released: February 24, 2004
Final: February 27, 2004