A/N: A few things on Akio, before we begin. I had originally conceived the character as an arc villain in another story (which I might still make one day). In this scenario, he would have been an alternate future version of Shinji, who became embittered from the events of 3.0, and ultimately fell to evil, becoming an omnicidal sociopath.
Later, while I was writing Part 1, I thought to make Project Gemini a major villain in a hypothetical Part 3, after the main story had concluded. Originally, I had meant for Part 2 to mostly focus on Shinji's growth as a person, with him remaining a non-action character until the climax. But I quickly realised that would be a huge letdown after everything that happened in Part 1, so I gave Shinji soneone to fight against and had the character debut in Gemini Rising and made him an example of what Shinji could become. Not another Gendo, but a similar person, with all of Shinji's worst traits, taken to the extreme.
One more little fun fact, while I was doing my research for Gemini Rising, I found that Shinji Ikari was born on the 6th of June in 2001, meaning he was born under the constellation of Gemini. I wish I could say that was on purpose, but it's just a lucky coincidence.
Anyway I've rambled for long enough, so I'll just let you guys read the chapter already. Enjoy.
Take Care Of Yourself
"What happened?" asked Gendo as his latest project sat on the streets of Babylon. Akio had taken refuge in one of the alleyways, and was currently stitching up his wound with the help of some stolen medical supplies.
"I don't know." Akio replied, wincing as the needle pierced his skin, "Everything was going fine, but then I just ran into this weird girl." He bit into the thread, severing it as he finished binding the hole in his side. "She looked, she looked like me." he said, "Pale skin, red eyes... Who is she, dad? Why does she look like me?"
"Don't worry about her." the commander said, "Leave her be. All that matters is retrieving your brother. Anything else is either secondary, or unimportant. Is that understood?"
"Yeah," Akio whispered, "I get you."
"Good, return to HQ when possible, and we'll prepare you for your next mission.
NERV severed the connection, giving Ikari and Fuyutsuki the freedom to speak in private. "One mission and he's already starting to ask inconvenient questions." Kozo said, "I fear this bodes poorly for us."
"It matters little." said Gendo, "We knew he was unstable, and there was always a risk of him encountering the Ayanami Type." He adjusted his glasses, thinking of plans for the future. He still has some use to us, for now. We'll allow him to exist until a more, refined clone is produced, then we'll dispose of him. I trust the killswitch is still functioning?"
"It is." said Fuyutsuki. He still felt slightly nauseous at the idea of taking a life, even an artificial ine, but he had learned to cope with it. One had to when they worked for Gendo Ikari.
"Excellent." said Gendo, "I shall retire to my study for the evening. In the morning we shall begin work on a new Ikari Type."
"Very well." Fuyutsuki said, bowing politely, "Have a good night, old friend."
And when the Commander was safely out of sight, Kozo took out a pen and paper, and began to write a note.
"You really want to stay here, be a prisoner all your life?"
Those words echoed in Shinji's mind, over and over as he dreamt. He'd been pondering that question ever since he left Elysium. He wasn't treated horribly. He'd been given his own room, as opposed to a cell, been given a job, and most of the crew treated him decently (the ones that mattered anyway). But he was still a prisoner here.
"No," he said, "But I'm not going to be here forever. I'm going to leave one day, and then I'll go find my family again."
"You really think they'll just let you go?" said Akio, smirking at him, "They'll never let you go."
Shinji remained silent. He didn't want to think about it but he didn't doubt it either. Even if his friends wanted to let him go, would they really let someone as dangerous as him walk free?
"Better that, than go back to NERV." he said. "At least here, I'm among friends."
The 10th Angel whispered to him next. "Friends or not, you are still nothing but a slave." It said, "In the end, you are prisoner, to your father, or your adopted mother." Shinji refused to look at the thing. "As long as you are tied to NERV, or WILLE, you will never truly be free."
"In a way, even the Hamasaki family have made you their slave, by relying on them. Your dependence on others makes you weak."
"I can't help but rely on them." said Shinji, "The Hamasakis, Mari, Asuka, Misato, I'm nothing without them."
"It doesn't have to be that way." Zeruel replied, "You can take what is rightfully yours, hone yourself until you stand above all others, the mightiest entity in all creation."
"Why?" Shinji asked, "So I can be a slave to you instead?"
The Angel fell silent, retreating back into the shadows, to be replaced by Akio's smug face. "I see now. You will never be truly free."
Shinji bowed his head in shame. "That's fine. I don't deserve it."
"Then you have made the worst choice of all."
"Oh yeah?" the boy asked, "And what's that?"
The nightmare took on it's final form. a single human body, half Rei Ayanami, half Kaworu Nagisa. It spoke coldly, judging him, like so many others had done before.
"You've chosen, to be a slave of your own guilt."
A few months earlier
"I refuse!" Misato yelled, storming into her office with fury in her eyes.
"Listen to me, Captain!" Ritsuko insisted, forcing the door open, "I know how you feel but..."
"You know nothing!" Misato snapped. Ritsuko jumped back. She hadn't seen the Colonel this angry in quite some time. The woman collapsed in her chair, overwhelmed by the unfairness of the situation. "I understand." she said, "I know I can't treat him the way I did before. I know I have to be cold to him. I know I have to keep him locked away for the safety of my crew. But you come in here, and tell me to put a killswitch on a boy I haven't seen in 14 years? How am I supposed to react?" She reached into her draw, pulling out a flask of whisky. She'd been sober for more than a decade but this news, it could drove her back to alcoholism.
"I know." Ritsuko said, "It's a horrible thing to do, especially to someone his age. But he's already shown he can awaken Unit-01 subconsciously, even with a sync rate of 0.00. What do we do if another awakening occurs? Sit here and wait for death?"
"He's just a boy..." Misato said, desperately.
Ritsuko nodded, solemnly. "Yes," she said, "He is. But a boy with the power to end the world with a thought. We have to think about humanity as a whole."
Misato stayed silent.
"On top of that, several of our crew have expressed resentment or even hatred towards the Third Child." Ritsuko explained, "Our crew, for better or worse, is what keeps us alive. If they turn on us, then we're doomed."
"To hell with them!" Misato said, "What do they know? They never met him."
"But we still need them." Ritsuko told her, "We have to maintain the trust of our crew."
Misato took a big swig of her whisky. She wasn't a child, she knew her duty, she knew she had to loosen her morals for the greater good. But Shinji Ikari was practically family. And now she was expected to treat him like a criminal, to execute him if he disobeyed them? Was the world really that messed up?
"If it makes you feel better," Ritsuko said, "This is just as much for his safety as ours. There are people on board who wish harm on the boy. But the choker may deter them from attacking the Third Child."
Misato set the bottle on her desk, and a heavy sigh escaped her lips. Never had her duty felt like such a misery before. She wished she could just disregard the crew, tell them to go to hell if they didn't accept the boy. But it wasn't that simple. She could jail those who made an attempt on his life, but it would mean little if they killed him first. "Will it hurt him?"
"No." Ritsuko assured her, "The choker has a special procedure, designed to mitigate any pain the wearer might feel." She showed the woman a diagram, depicting a number of red, spear-like prisms, circling the choker. "Before detonation, these spears will generate a tiny Anti-A.T Field inside the wearers body, spreading through the nervous system and converting it to LCL. Should the worst happen, Shinji Ikari's will be ended without an ounce of pain."
Misato sat there, trying to delay her decision for as long as she could. As cruel as it sounded, all of Ritsuko's arguments made sense. WILLE was the last hope of the human race, and as Colonel, she had a duty to put them before the life of one boy, even if that boy was someone she loved. "God forgive us..." She whispered, "Do it."
"Yes Colonel." Ritsuko said, "I'll tell Shinji that I'm responsible for the choker. You shouldn't have to bear the blame for this."
"No." Misato said firmly, "It was my choice to make. I must take responsibility for this, even if Shinji hates me for it."
The Colonel gazed at the security feed, showing the Containment Chamber, where Shinji Ikari lay sleeping. The coffin-like design of the chamber was not lost on her. "He looks so peaceful..." She said, choking back tears as she tried to block out the memories of their time together.
"I'm sorry, Shinji."
Shinji awoke in clean, white room, with the bright ceiling lights shining in his eyes. He tried to move, but stopped when he felt a sharp pain in his left arm. It was broken, held in place by a plaster cast. "What happened?" He wondered allowed, "Where am I?"
"The AAA Wunder's medical facility, Ward 3." Shinji looked up to see Sakura Suzuhara gazing down at him. "You received some serious injuries." She told him, "Nothing potentially fatal, but you'll be here for a while."
Shinji looked around. The ward was mostly empty, save for a few soldiers, nursing their wounds. He expected that was on purpose, to keep him safe. "I remember," he said, "There was this weird boy, who tried to take me back to NERV. Said he was my brother and..."
"I heard." said the Lieutenant, "We tried to capture him, but he escaped, reopening a hole in the ship."
Shinji lay back, deep in thought. He dearly hoped he'd seen the last of Akio Ikari, but he doubted it. The boy seemed to be obsessed with his "big brother". Shinji was certain he'd see Akio again. "How are the others?"
"I won't sugar coat it." she said, "We've taken quite a few casualties, and even more people injured. It's good we stayed to recruit some extra men in Babylon, otherwise we'd be in a lot of trouble."
Shinji rolled over in bed. He didn't want Sakura to see him. "It's my fault." he whispered, "He came here for me. If it wasn't for me, they'd still be alive."
"That's ridiculous." said Sakura, "We planned to keep you in our custody from the very beginning. And besides, the UN insisted that you stay with us. You had literally no agency in this." Shinji said nothing. He didn't buy it, but he didn't feel like talking back. Arguing was exhausting. Sakura shook her head at the boy. "It's like Captain Shikinami says, you really do think like a child sometimes."
"I'm sorry." the boy grumbled, "I don't mean to."
The young woman sighed. "Well, maybe this will cheer you up a bit: you have visitors."
Shinji perked up a little. "Who?"
The doors slid open, and in stepped Asuka Shikinami, Mari Makinami, and Misato Katsuragi. Shinji jolted up in bed, but he felt a stinging pain in his arm, and fell back against the mattress. "Mi- Misa- I mean, Captain Katsuragi." he said.
The Captain nodded politely as she approached. "How are you feeling?"
"Pretty terrible." Shinji said, bluntly, "I basically took the worst beating I've ever had, at least outside of an Eva."
Misato looked the boy over as the pilots took their seats at Shinji's side. "How's recovery going?"
"As well as it can." Sakura told her, "It looks far worse than it is. As far as we can tell, the assailant wasn't trying to kill him."
"He wasn't." Shinji said, "He said he had orders to take me back to NERV, alive."
"That reminds me," said Misato, "We'd like to ask you some questions about the attacker."
"Not much to tell you." Shinji replied, "He was, crazy. He said his name was Akio. He claimed he was my younger brother, and that my memories of him were erased."
"You believe that?"
"No." Shinji said, "I mean, it's not impossible; I've had my memory wiped before, like what happened to my Mother. But Akio, I don't think he's my brother. He's not like me he... he looked like Kaworu."
"Yes." The boy closed his eyes. It still hurt to think about his fallen friend. "He looked normal at first but, it was just a disguise. Silver hair, pale skin, red eyes. It was like a weird mash-up of me and Kaworu." From there, he described their fight in detail. How he'd struggled to pierce the clones A.T Field, how he'd finally managed to get one over on the kid, blasting him across the room, and how Akio had gone berserk and beat the living hell out of him. "Last thing I remember, he stomped on me and knocked me threw the floor. After that I passed out."
"You're one lucky kid." Mari said, "If it wasn't for Suzu, you'd be back in Tokyo 3 right now."
"Suzu?" Shinji asked, "Who's Suzu?"
"That's the name the Ayanami type chose for herself." Misato explained. In a way it made sense. Rei and Suzu, in essence different words for the same thing. Similar yet dissimilar, just like her. "Apparently your fa- Gendo, didn't tell Akio about her, and it confused him. Gave me just enough time to put a bullet in him."
"As far as we know."
Shinji's hands curled into fists. He felt bad, fighting again after what happened in Elysium. Still, being defeated so thoroughly felt wrong, in a way he couldn't quite describe. "He was like me but, stronger." The words left a bad taste in his mouth.
"I see." Misato said, "Is there anything else you can tell us."
"I don't think so." He averted his gaze, and Sakura knew something was up.
"There is one small thing ma'am." she said, "He's been blaming himself for what happened with Akio." Shinji winced. He knew she meant well, but why did she have to tell her that.
"Is this true?" Misato asked. Shinji nodded, yes. The woman crouched down at the foot of his bed, staring right into his eyes. "Ikari," she said, using his surname in front of her crew, for the sake of decorum, "I want you to listen to me, and listen very closely." The boy felt a sinking feeling in his stomach. He sense one hell of a telling off, coming his way.
"It wasn't your fault." She said.
Shinji nearly felt his heart jump. "What?"
"No body could have predicted an attack from somebody like Akio." Said Misato, "We knew we were painting a target on our back, keeping you aboard, in fact we've been targeted by NERV for the past 14 years. I place no blame on you for what happened today." The boy couldn't believe whar he was hearing. It was one thing to hear those words from Sakura, or Mari, or even Asuka. But to hear them from Misato, in front of her crew, no-less. It felt like it really meant something.
"How long will it take for him to recover?" Asuka asked.
"A couple of months." Sakura replied, "He'll be discharged in a couple of days, but he won't be able to return to work for at least a month."
"I'll return to work when I'm discharged."
"Don't be stupid!" Asuka snapped, "You need to give that arm time to heal. If you go put pressure on it it's just gonna get worse."
"I'll be fine." Shinji lied, "I'm just a lab assistant, it's no big deal. Besides, I need to get back to work."
"What you need is to get better." Misato told him. One of the crew scoffed at that. She ignored him. "I know what you do at your job, and I'm told it involves a lot of heavy lifting. Just do what your Medical Officer tells you, and let yourself heal. The people in RD will be fine." The boy sighed. She'd meant to reassure him, but instead she ended up reminding him that he wasn't really needed.
"One month," he said, "And no longer."
"Good." The colonel said, "Now get some rest, alright? That's an order."
Mari ruffled the boys hair as she got to her feet. "See you later, Puppy Boy!"
Her partner followed after the girl. "We'll see you when you get out. Ok, shrimp?"
Shinji kept up his smile as Asuka left, but something was stirring within him, something dark. He kept thinking of Gendo, the father who'd abandoned him. He'd drafted Shinji into his war, made him hurt his friends, tricked him into murdering countless innocents, and now, he'd sent some freakish copy after him, trying to drag him back to the hell he'd escaped from.
Shinji's right arm twitched as he grabbed at the air, as if squeezing at something that wasn't there, until it curled into a fist, and his knuckles turned white.
'Father...' He thought, 'If I ever see you again, I'll murder you!'
"So, did you enjoy your time with the Puppy boy?" Mari teased as she and Asuka headed back to the dorms.
"Will you stop that?" Asuka said, "I told you, I don't think of him like that."
The Fourth Child sniggered. "Come on Princess," she said, "You couldn't be more obvious if you tried." She scrunched her face up, and did her best impression of Asuka's voice. "'It's not like I like him or anything, baaaaaka.'"
"That's a terrible impression." Asuka said, "Besides, even if I was into him, which I'm not by the way, it wouldn't work. I'm different from then, I've changed too much."
"Oh yeah, huge change." Said Mari, "You've gone from a grumpy showoff with a chip on her shoulder, to an even grumpier showoff with a chip on her shoulder." Asuka had no answer for that. "Really, Princess, I don't know where you get off calling him a brat."
The Second Child took offense to that. "Well I'm not wrong, am I?"
"Never said that," Mari replied, "Just think you should look in the mirror once in a while."
"Thanks a lot..."
"You're welcome." Mari said, "Speaking of the Puppy, I heard they're going to move him to another room, once he gets discharged."
"Makes sense." Asuka said, "I mean he can't stay in his old room after what he and psycho boy did to the place. Any idea where they'll put him next?"
"Well there's no official word," said Mari, "But looking at it, the rest of the rooms are co-ed. Most of the crew is still on edge around Shinji, so that narrows it down a lot. Obviously he can't stay with the Captain or Doctor Akagi."
"What about Suzuhara?"
"Nah " Mari said, "Things still seem kinda tense between those two."
"He's had to share with Reynolds." Said the Fourth Child, "Buuuut, there is one more room that should suit him. Two of our crew who might be happy to take him in."
"Oh, who?" And then it hit Asuka. "Oh no." She said, "Oh no..."
Mrs Cheng sat in her office, going through a small mountain of paperwork. It was the usual stuff: permits, complaints, legal and economical documents, nothing she wasn't used to. But there was more than usual this time. She also had to deal with the fallout of Shinji Ikari's trial.
When the question of putting the boy on trial had first come up, Cheng had resisted it, along with most of the council. He was still underage of course, and couldn't be held to the same standards of legal responsibility as an adult could. Falkenrath, on the other hand, had insisted that Ikari be held accountable. He argued that the boy was now 28 years old, which made him an adult, an thus legally responsible and fully autonomous, at least in regards to Fourth Impact. This was flawed thinking, for a number of reasons (his chronological age was debatable and his mental and emotional age was, as far as they could tell, still 14), but it was enough to just barely swing the majority of representatives in Falkenrath's favor.
The end result was, more or less, the same. Cheng still had the power to sentence him as she wished, and since there was no mandatory minimum on mass genocide, she was able to let the boy off with a slap on the wrist. But, although Falkenrath was an arrogant, blustering man, he wasn't a stupid one, and this was exactly what he'd planned for. By sticking to her morals she'd hurt her standing as world leader. Their were people amongst the UN, and the public, who felt that Cheng was too soft, and to them, the trial had confirmed that belief. She had gambled her reputation as a leader on that boy. If he messed up again, she would suffer dearly for it, but if it payed off, she would earn the trust and respect of the entire planet.
A young man stepped into the room, clad in a navy blue uniform, with a white flak jacket and sky blue armband. The man was from WILLE. "Can I help you?"
"I bring news from Colonel Katsuragi." He said, "We were attacked by an artificial human from NERV. It killed several of our crew, injuring many others."
"My condolences." Said the chairwoman, "We'll send some new recruits their way, when they reach the next outpost."
"That's not all." The man, "The assailant was a clone of the Third Child, bearing a near perfect resemblance, save for pale hair and skin, as well as a pair of red eyes. It displayed evidence of superhuman strength, and the ability to project an Absolute Territory Field."
"I see..." Cheng said, "And where is this clone now?"
"It fled the Wunder." He explained, "Highjacking an escape pod. It landed somewhere in Babylon, but its exact location is unknown."
"Nothing yet." The man said, "But we'll keep you informed."
"Thank you." Said Cheng. "You may go now."
This was disturbing news indeed. They effectively had a human killing machine on the streets, and one that, with the proper precautions, could hide in plain sight amongst the population. She could only guess at it's next move. Perhaps it would return to NERV to report sensative information from the Wunder, or it could return to the ship in an attempt on Katsuragi's life. Maybe it was here to bring down the city from the inside. Or maybe, worst of all, it was here for something far, far more important: the great red spear, hidden beneath the tower.