Oh, where oh where can my baby be?
The Lord took her away from me
She's gone to heaven, so I got to be good
So I can see my baby when I leave this world.
- Wayne Cochran, Last Kiss
His eyes flew wide open at first, but everything looked like a blur; completely disoriented, he had no sense of time or space, but he tried to squint and focus slowly until the first conscious thought came to him: where are my glasses?
Instinctively his hands darted out, scrabbled over the bedside tables, trying to find them, but no, there weren't any bedside tables, or for that matter, he wasn't in his bedroom. His nose sniffed the air; it smelled dank and cold.
No, his bed was made out of hard foam encased in cotton fabric, and that he can now see the concrete-gray ceiling.
The shock of reality now came to him with the sudden intensity of a bomb dropped over his head.
He was in jail.
More precisely, inside the jail cell of Number One Stockade of NERV Security Forces Group, behind carbon-steel bars and reinforced concrete a foot thick on three sides.
Worse, he felt that his left hand was tightly wrapped in something, so he lifted it up to find bandage covering up much of his palm, where Adam was once used to reside.
Now all of his memories suddenly came back rushing with a vengeance, including the last scene he witnessed before blacking out.
Indeed, Fuyutsuki had Adam surgically removed from his hand, and it hit Gendo Ikari right in the gut that it made him stand up on the cot and look around his surroundings before focusing on his garments, which was nothing but a prisoner's cotton jumpsuit.
He was no longer the Commander but a powerless inmate stuck in the very same cell where less than 12 hours ago, here he consigned Fuyutsuki and many others for trying to conspire against him.
It made him furious, sick to the stomach that he had no choice except to vent his ire by repeatedly pounding his other functional hand, formed into a fist, on the mattress while muttering profanities in a display of rage he had never expressed in years.
Whatever hopes and dreams he had were finally dashed in this dark jail cell, even as the lone video camera installed on the ceiling monitored his angry fit.
END OF EVANGELION: BLOOD AND WATER
THE FINAL SEASON
CHAPTER 47: QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS / BETWEEN FATHER AND SON
An alternate path fanfiction by soulassassin547
Written on 9/26/2012 19:02 a9/p9
As they walked out of the communications room, after Fuyutsuki said that they'll have lunch, Shinji didn't know what else to say except an avalanche of questions came crashing upon him, as to how and why his mother came to assume prime importance in his father's life, and then he wondered, Did he intended to marry her? For what good?
He watched Fuyutsuki briefly converse with General Yamamoto and some others before they bid goodbye to work on their preparations for the eventual battle, before they walked on to the direction of the elevator doors.
I don't understand except… Was he really that mad? Was all of this worth the ambition?
Shinji sighed, but then his hand found itself clasping with Asuka's.
"I don't know what else to say," the girl said. "Either that old man's bullshitting or he's telling us the truth."
"Mother," Shinji said.
"All of what he said had occurred before, from what I heard about, with that old fart linking you with… Jesus. I mean, it's still far-fetched, there's no solid proof that He ever managed to survive after being crucified."
Shinji shook his head, the burden of information weighed against his mind. "I'll never know. It's too overwhelming."
Just a couple of meters abreast, Fuyutsuki and Misato were discussing about Lorenz's allegations. Though the hologram images looked authentic, both of them doubted the veracity of the old man's facts.
"Do you think all of that is possible?" Fuyutsuki asked.
"It's too unlikely," Misato said. "I mean, sir, anyone can make up a story on paper or parchment, even if it's a couple of millennia old."
"I believe that, thousands of years ago, the human mind, conditioned to superstition and the supernatural, will believe in anything presented as fact. Religious relics are one of several examples; these are highly venerated by the common folk as miraculous and coming from holy men, even if there's no definitive proof of their authenticity, and more likely manufactured by those in the know."
"Isn't there's some books that debate over the divinity of Christ?" Ritsuko said as she walked up.
Fuyutsuki nodded. "Of course, with some trying to prove or disprove, but it all comes down to a matter of faith."
"Ikari himself may have to explain as to how and why he came up with this in the first place," Misato said. "There has to be a motive, a reason for madness."
Just then Hamamoto came up to Fuyutsuki's side, with a phone in hand, said, "My boys got Ikari's room secured and the safe cracked open. I've ordered them to bring out anything that can be used as evidence."
Fuyutsuki and everyone else paused in mid-stride. "What?" he asked.
"They've got tons of documents," Hamamoto said. "The whole nine yards, everything from his journals, to memos… well, enough to implicate."
Again, Hamamoto's phone rang, cutting him off, prompting the director to converse with a subordinate on the line, before he returned to Fuyutsuki.
"Well?" he asked. "What else?"
"Ikari is awake now," Hamamoto said. "Unfortunately they had to restrain him down because he was throwing a serious fit in the cell. Anyway, if you wish to talk to Ikari, I'll give orders for them to bring him to the interrogation room."
Grimacing, Fuyutsuki turned to Misato and Ritsuko, but Shinji and the other Children looked surprised.
"Father's awake?" the boy asked.
Fuyutsuki nodded. "Yes."
"Can I speak to him?"
The former professor thought of this for a moment, before he made a decision.
"I think you have the right to listen as much as I do," he said, "because whatever he says could put your doubts to rest once and for all, and could also decide our fate, so come with us."
"Thank you, sir," Shinji said, nodding and then turned to Asuka. "I have to go."
"It's okay," Asuka said, watching him walk over to Fuyutsuki and Hamamoto.
"Are you ready for this?" Fuyutsuki asked.
"Yes," Shinji answered. "I regret nothing."
Fuyutsuki then focused his attention to the two women. "The rest of you," he said. "Go ahead and have lunch without us, then head to the testing room. We'll catch up later."
Misato saluted. "Yes, sir."
"And Akagi," Fuyutsuki added. "Put Nagisa through the wringer. You and your people know what to do."
Ritsuko nodded. "It'll be done, Professor."
Outside, while the rest of his tank squadron were busy setting up their firing positions, Sergeant Taro Miyazawa went about checking his Type-10's electronic fire control system, just a couple of feet away from the 120mm L44 smoothbore cannon.
He eyed the total loadout on the multifunction LED panel, which gave him a tally of thirty kinetic-energy HEAT rounds sitting in the loading bin; these were the same type of munitions used in the American M1A1 Abrams, but manufactured locally under license as part of the Mutual Defense Treaty.
The 48-ton Type-10 main battle tank was built as a stronger successor to the Type-90, with greater emphasis on selectable firepower, armored protection, speed (up to 70 kilometers per hour), automation and connectivity, all the while having to meet strict standards as not to ruin pavement.
The autoloader system also allowed for a smaller crew, and provides them greater freedom to concentrate on the fighting than worry about mechanical reliability and timing.
Miyazawa sighed in satisfaction, knowing that his tank was well-prepared for the task, but for the first time his unit would soon be engaged in battle.
Then he thought of the last thing he needed to do before lunch, so with his fingers Miyazawa reached in the insides of his left breast pocket, fished out a laminated picture of singer-actress Atsuko Maeda, which he kept for years after she graduated from AKB48, and using a roll of duct tape, he stuck the picture next to the MFD panel.
To her portrait he then whispered reverently, "Acchan… Watch over me, just as we'll have to fight soon on your behalf."
The interrogation room was bare, finished in non-gloss white and with one side of the wall faced with one-way glass – the observation mirror – save for a folding table and four seats; on the table, the obligatory pitcher of water and two stainless-steel tumblers, a pad and a pencil, and a telephone.
Sitting on a folding chair and facing Fuyutsuki, and with Hamamoto and Shinji watching behind the mirror inside the observation room, Gendo Ikari looked very much the defrocked prophet who once envisioned the inevitability of Instrumentality, now dressed in a jumpsuit, with his ankles cuffed with manacles, wearing a morose face with slatted eyes that stared at the white vinyl tiles beneath his slipper-sheathed feet.
Behind Gendo was a pair of BDU-garbed guards standing, parade-rest position; they were present to restrain him with strong-arm should Gendo decides to behave the wrong way.
However, in this situation Gendo looked bitterly defeated and thus accepted his fate.
"What do you want from me?" he asked.
"No, but how are you feeling?" Fuyutsuki questioned instead, with a tone that implied an attempt to understand than provoke hostility.
Gendo looked down at his left bandaged palm. "What have you done?" he asked.
"It is my prerogative, I'm afraid to say, that I must protect you from yourself."
Ikari sighed again. "This is my dream… and you took it away," he said.
"You may call Instrumentality a dream for you to achieve," Fuyutsuki said, "but what of this world? Do you even care if it could possibly jeopardize the balance of life and of this universe?"
Instead of a characteristic outburst, Gendo said nothing, so Fuyutsuki decided to tone down his voice.
"I'm sorry," he said. "This is the only way for me to save you from your madness, to bring you back to reality."
"What else?" Gendo asked, apparently wishing to change the subject.
"Let's be frank for the first time," Fuyutsuki said. "It's just you and me now."
In a seemingly sympathetic tone, Fuyutsuki said, "I haven't asked you about this for a very long time, but what made you decide to pursue Metabiology?"
The elder Ikari took a breath, and answered, "In the beginning, I had no interest in anything else, except trying to escape the mediocrity of family life."
And so he began to tell his untold story.
Back in the early 1980s, in the days when Japan rode on its economic success, with the bubble burst unforeseen and still far away, Gendo was the only son between a father who worked late and sometimes came home drunk, and a mother who kept on being faithful despite some nights when they bickered and she had to suffer the blows.
Yes, he could still remember the miasma of his father's alcoholic breath, the old man degenerating into a spiral of alcoholism, finding empty bottles in drawers, wastebaskets, the kitchen sink and even in the miniscule bathtub.
The old man was obsessed at trying to work hard, even to the point of dressing up with painstaking detail, but intentionally forgetting that he had a family to give more time. As Gendo grew up, he realized that his father married his mother out of convenience, that is, just to make her pay attention to his needs as he went to and came back from work: serve him beer, wash and iron his clothes, fix his bed, and even give him a blowjob without intercourse.
Yes, she did all of that, and then the occasional flare-up of domestic violence, their shouting filling up the house (and never a home) that Gendo, sickened by the chaos of flying pans and shattering dishes, obliged himself to escape through the door without them paying attention, and wander in the streets until everything was settled by the time he came back at two in the morning.
Alone on the streets, Gendo would find himself picking fights with other rival gangs, closed-fist white-knuckle battles, with him earning cuts and bruises, but sometimes he would lose in skirmishes and would be left lying unconscious on the concrete, but only Gendo had the animal brutality that instilled fear and respect among those who came across his path.
But violence and being feared weren't the only things that consisted of Gendo's personality, for instead of resorting to truancy, and to wean himself away from dysfunctional family life, he paid more time studying without needing anyone's help; at the local library he found himself buried in books until closing time, or hanging around at the bookstore, browsing every tome for anything that might be of interest for him.
Until Gendo came across a bunch of books concerning about ancient secrets and supposed secret societies, cabals who possessed absolute power to manipulate and shape the destinies of nations; the books painted pictures of secretive men presiding over councils, discussing and deciding the fate of any individual, group, society, even whole governments and militaries, twisting all of them according to their needs like sheep being herded to anywhere they wished.
Tantalized with the possibility of wielding unthinkable power, the books gave him an idea: Why I can't be somebody? Why I can't forge my own destiny?
"That was what I told myself," Gendo said, his hand placed over a tattered paperback Japanese copy of Holy Blood, Holy Grail. "That was when I began to search something that I can use, in order to show the world what I could do to utterly change it, the idea of power in my hands."
A guard had already carted in one of several boxes consisting of Gendo's personal papers and books, all of which became the basis of his personal drive to seize Instrumentality. On the table there was now a pot of steaming green tea, two small cups, and a pack of cigarettes, a lighter and an ashtray.
"Even if possessing that power means you tampering with the fabric of time and space?" Fuyutsuki asked, his hand cradling a cup full of tea.
Gendo nodded before he leaned forward.
"When the history of man comes to an end," he said. "I'm supposed to act as a savior from God… Yet, I don't need His salvation but I seek vengeance upon that deity, nor I wish to be reborn as His child."
"You wanted to be a demigod?"
"No," Gendo disagreed. "I want to become God; I want myself to replace God so that I will never lose anything again."
Fuyutsuki looked unconcerned. "It makes sense that you decided to become a geneticist."
"Exactly, for through the manipulation of genes there is greater power inherent in such an act than launching nuclear weapons; ultimate power is thus found in creation than destruction."
"You mean the power over life and death, and the possibility of conquering death?"
"That was what I sought for, the mythical Tree of Life, but then Lorenz had the means to make that possible."
Fuyutsuki took a sip of his tea, and then asked, "Is that why you decided to find Yui?"
"Yes," he said. "Her father had access to Lorenz."
"How did you know much about her?"
"The Dossiers Secrets provided me the answer, and from there I found a way to insinuate myself into the power structure."
The Dossiers Secrets, or more precisely Dossiers Secrets d'Henri Lobineau or Secret Files of Henri Lobineau, was a 27-page document compiled by Philippe Toscan du Plantier and deposited in the Bibliotheque nationale de France in the 1960s. Despite questionable authenticity, the document attempted to prove that the Plantards and the Saint-Clairs were the legitimate royal blood of France, and thus included genealogy diagrams to link the family back to Dagobert II, the Merovinginan king of France.*
While researching on the Internet, Gendo discovered scanned copies of the Dossiers, and then perused the translations to know where to find. To his surprise, he found that the eldest scion of the prominent Saint-Clair family had married a Japanese national, and produced a daughter named Yui. Gendo went about tracing the whereabouts of this young woman, and conveniently she was studying in Kyoto University.
Naturally, Gendo decided to wait for an opportunity, and then one day he found Yui struggling with the vending machine, trying to get her drink out. He offered help, took out the can and gave it to her, before introducing himself.
Despite his questionable, dangerous reputation, Gendo was personally astounded that a sophisticated, blue-blooded woman like Yui would fall for him, but even then he had to go through her gauntlet by coming clean, forswearing street brawling and drinking and turning his energies to further study, himself a ferocious beast tamed by a beautiful nymph.
Later, upon his graduation he found himself approached by one of Keel's representatives, offered him a lucrative job on the spot, and accepted it. Again, he was impressed by Yui's capacity to pull strings for his benefit.
From there, and as a geneticist, Gendo had to make a good impression on Keel, doing his best to integrate himself into the SEELE power structure on a step-by-step basis, until he came far into the nomenclature that sooon he came face to face with the enigmatic man who had the world in his pocket.
Inside the observation room, Shinji and Hamamoto were eating ramen as they watched and listened to the conversation at the other side of the one-way mirror.
"Definitely your father had planned all of this from the beginning," Hamamoto said as he put down his bowl on the table.
Shinji nodded as he slurped the noodles, but then noticed the video camera mounted on a tripod. "Sir, is that camera running?"
"Yes," Hamamoto said. "Everything he says will be used as evidence."
"I never thought he began all of this from an idea," Shinji said. "Heck, I haven't even met my grandparents."
Hamamoto sighed. "I personally checked your father's background, and from what I remember, regrettably both of his parents are now dead."
Shinji set down his now-empty bowl on the table. "I certainly wouldn't last long if I were in his place."
"I think you're lucky he wasn't your role model, and probably never will," Hamamoto said. "Living in a dysfunctional family can either make or break a man, to build character into a hero or create a monster. You see, in your father's case, he was trying to find an identity for himself, he wanted to run away, to turn a new leaf… except he was also driven by ambition, wanting to become what he couldn't be."
Shinji shrugged. "I simply wanted to live a normal life."
"Good," Hamamoto agreed. "Are you ambitious?"
"No, I'm not, sir."
"Then I hope you'll live a better life after this."
"What about you?" Shinji asked.
"Me?" Hamamoto replied. "When this is over, I'm retiring for good, and I mean, my doctor said that I have to check on my stress levels."
"You mean you're becoming tired?"
Hamamoto shook his head. "No, not like that, son," he said. "If I push myself too hard I could suffer myself a coronary or something, as I'm still trying to cut down my intake, like watching what I eat, drink or smoke."
"But, sir, you still look fine."
The older man looked up at the glass. "Tomorrow… I don't know what's going to happen to me, or to my family, or to all of us. Even with our best planning and preparations, anything can happen. We could win the day or lose altogether."
"Like being killed."
Hamamoto looked thoughtful. "This morning," he said. "I thought about my life and what fate I could be meeting soon. I've seen everything; I lived a life that I tried my best to make it worthwhile, all the while I fought my little wars, losing some, winning some, and yes, I've grown damn old enough that I don't think death should be feared."
"I see," Shinji said.
"Son," Hamamoto said. "The great beauty of life is that only if you're not ambitious or afraid or greedy or vain or having any of those defects of the material world, you realize that simplicity makes mortal life more meaningful while we exist on this planet. You have friends not because you have riches or power or strength, but because you seek companionship, warmth and trust, and that you prove your friendship by returning them with an equal favor."
"Another thing I'd like to ask."
"Sure, why not, sir?"
"You're steady with Asuka now?"
The young man chuckled. "Yes."
Hamamoto grinned. "You two study hard till you finish getting your degrees, and then get hitched and create a family. You certainly don't want to be like your old man."
"Nope, I'm not going to be."
"In case I die before we win," Hamamoto said. "You have the power to begin a new age, and tell the world that they should never forget this accursed folly of madmen, as a burning reminder to rebuild humanity and create a paradise on earth without the sins and cruelty of the past… without want, malice, fear, or hunger."
"But everyone can't depend on me," Shinji said. "I'm just a boy."
"Yeah, son, and I know you're not a god, except only after this," Hamamoto said. "You and Asuka, and your friends, or for that matter, your generation and the next, will have to start from scratch, without shitty self-destruction. However, all of that will not be possible unless if you, the Married Couple, must first win tomorrow's damned battle."
"…and so in order to pursue your agenda, you decided to sell yourself out to Keel, right?" Fuyutsuki questioned.
"I have to," Gendo answered. "He has the means, for after all he discovered the power that created life on this world. So I helped him unlock the mysteries to Adam, and whatever I found indelibly were linked to ancient texts that they kept for centuries, confirming those secrets as real than mythical."
"That explains why, in trying to bring back Yui, you decided to take Keel's plans and make them your own."
Gendo stared at Fuyutsuki right in the eye and said, "I say again, I never wanted to lose and I want her back. Instrumentality is the only way to make it possible."
Fuyutsuki shook his head. "Lorenz used us all for his ends, sold us out, and tomorrow he'll make his promise true."
"He said that?"
"Yes, and he shall bring Instrumentality right on our doorstep, which is why we're preparing for the worst, and if possible, stop him."
Gendo looked down and stared at his bandaged hand. "The initiative should have been mine…" He then looked up to Fuyutsuki and shouted, "WHERE'S ADAM?"
The elder Ikari slammed his right fist on the table, and the sudden outburst provoked the guards to step forward quickly, ready to grab Gendo. But their charge never rose from his seat, and seeing this, Fuyutsuki raised his hand, telling them to stand down.
It's OK, everything's under control.
"That creature has now been kept safe from you," Fuyutsuki said coolly, surprisingly unfazed by Gendo's explosion of anger, watching the guards step back and resume their positions.
Ikari was breathing heavily through his clenched teeth. "What?"
"You have to restrain yourself. Whether it's you or Lorenz, either both of you could hasten the end of human existence as we know it."
"I don't care. I want Yui back."
"But… Does bringing her back would make you or her happy, at the price of sacrificing humanity? Would it make your life more meaningful?"
Gendo said nothing, looking sullen without having anything to contradict.
"If I were you, I would've accepted her fate a long time ago, and move on with life."
"I just can't. She's the only one that matters much for me, even if I have to fight against the world."
Again, Fuyutsuki shook his head, finding Gendo's stubbornness a hard, brick wall where any attempts at persuasion ended in futility of hurled water-filled balloons exploding on that wall.
This now meant changing to a different tack.
"Yui isn't here anymore in this plane of existence, but Shinji is the only family you have right now," he said.
Gendo looked away, as if to ignore the former professor, before he slowly buried his face upon open palms.
"When I'm with Shinji, I only hurt him," he said in a bitter tone, almost a whisper but trying to make his words heard just enough for Fuyutsuki to hear. "So, for me now… it's better that I do nothing."
There was a moment of silence between the two men, before Fuyutsuki, for the first time in years since he left the waterfront slums at Gendo's behest, reached out for the pack of cigarettes and the lighter, shook out a stick and lit up. Trying to remember how to inhale, on the first puff he coughed loudly, prompting the guards to come to assist him, thinking that he could collapse from asphyxiation, but he waved them off as he got the routine right even as he was seeing stars.
"You want to smoke?" Fuyutsuki offered after a minute, pushing the pack and lighter across the table.
Gendo didn't move for a second or two, and then begrudgingly he turned around, tapped the pack for a stick and put the tip to the butane flame.
Soon the room was filled with wisps of smoke.
"What changed your mind?" Fuyutsuki asked, as he carefully puffed.
"I'm afraid of him," Gendo admitted, referring to Shinji.
"I'm not worthy of love because… I don't believe that I can be loved by others."
"Except you gave everything for Yui?"
The elder Ikari sighed. "Yes. She was what I cared for… she had everything that I didn't have, but no, not her wealth."
"You craved for her affection?"
"It's understandable now, as you've said your parents gave you nothing but misery."
"From what I heard, your son wanted your affection, attention… everything just to make him feel happy as if he's like any other kid in the world, with caring parents. But you decided not to, so all the time you shut away your heart."
Fuyutsuki pulled a drag, and added, "Instead we became his surrogate parents and siblings. We tried our best to provide him a substitute in your absence, but I understand he wanted you to be his only father."
"It's too late," Gendo said tersely. "I'll die anyway."
"No, it's never. Not while you're still living."
The old man decided that figuratively he'll have to transport both of them back to Kyoto, and so he took on a professorial tone.
"Listen to me," he said. "You'll always be my student, so you still have a chance to learn again."
Gendo said nothing.
"I teach everyone and grade them all," the old man said, snuffing out the cigarette into the ashtray. "I tried my best, but should they fail, I give them a fair chance by making up at the next semester, even if they repeat the course all over again."
"Why are you saying this?"
"I am not a god," Fuyutsuki said as he poured himself another cup of tea. "I'm just a fallible human being who understands how much it takes for someone to redeem himself. So, which is greater, a man born pure and holy, or a man who takes the hardest effort to cleanse himself of sin, to wean himself away from his dark upbringing and into enlightenment? Think about it."
Fuyutsuki then drank, before standing up from his seat.
"I'll give you a few minutes to reflect," he said, but paused and added, "Also… do you wish to talk to your son?"
Meanwhile, in the synchro test facility, Ritsuko was standing right behind her workstation, which was at the moment connected directly to the MAGI. Outside the control room, she could see Kaworu's Entry Plug, half-immersed in coolant, and the top of the Plug had hundreds of cables and hoses connected.
Below the surface of the coolant pool was one of three remaining simulation bodies that managed to escape unscathed by a microbial Angel attack months before, as they were stored separately at the time. The simulation bodies themselves were leftovers from early attempts at creating the Evas; biologically they resemble and function like the real thing, except they were all headless and limbless.
Standing besides her was Asuka, watching everything intently. She was hoping to learn much from Kaworu, as she hasn't seen him practice in the simulator.
Not far from them was Misato, sitting on a chair, right behind Maya, who was busy readjusting the system parameters; Rei likewise was sitting alongside the older woman, nursing her cup of tea and watching quietly.
There were also a dozen more technicians in the control room, all making final adjustments; their fingers clacking on the keyboards, eyes alternately looking down at the pool below and going back to their monitors.
On one of the displays providing a video feed from the Plug interior, Kaworu was clad in his black-and-blue Plug Suit, calmly sitting in the cockpit, breathing in the fresh infusion of oxygen in LCL that filled up the inside three minutes ago.
"Okay," Ritsuko said into the microphone. "Listen up."
"For now, you'll have to undergo a harmonics test, which means that we have to establish a initial baseline datum for an hour or so before you, Shinji and Asuka have to dance together on the floor."
"Sorry," Ritsuko apologized before she chuckled. "I mean, you'll go up against two of them, and that's when we'll start recording your combat data, and then use the data to create nine simulacrums of those MPs."
"I see," Kaworu said. "What about the data last time?"
Ritsuko shook her head. "Nope, I don't think they'll apply. Instead we'll have to make you go through a fine comb this time, with more data points to build up a clear and accurate picture of your fighting capacity so that the MAGI can use all of this to construct a near-exact replica of the Dummy Plug."
"What about you?"
"While you sit right there, we'll have to code the whole recording program from scratch, which should be able to obtain your brain waves while all three of you go through the practice session, mano-a-mano. By the way, for the dress rehearsal, we'll be using the initial build data from Unit Four, which was supposed to be your assigned Eva."
"Yes," Kaworu said. "And… How long that rehearsal would take?"
"Asides from sparring," Ritsuko said. "All three of you will also have to do some serious target practice with simulated Angels, which would take anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour, with five to ten minutes per round, and three minutes for a breather after five rounds. I'll have to throw every possible battle scenario that should be able to stimulate your brain hard enough and generate lots of neural activity. As if it's not enough, I'll set the enemy AI difficulty at the highest possible level. Is that clear?"
"Roger," Kaworu agreed as he softly tugged the butterfly controls and squirmed a bit in his seat for comfort.
"Only then you'll spar against that married couple, nine against two… Any further questions?"
Kaworu shook his head. "No."
"Okay, then," Ritsuko said, "Let's get started."
Shinji walked into the interrogation room, uncertainty and discomfort marked on the young man's face, as he was shivering inside, but steeling himself to prepare for their very first conversation since his father's arrest and detention.
The young man then sat down on the empty folding chair, facing Gendo, the former Commander looking glum and bitter.
Now father and son were trying to find the right words to initiate the exchange. The old man could also feel the tension in the air, and then Gendo was the first to speak.
"I've must failed, right?" he said, speaking in a low voice.
Shinji blinked. "What?"
"You don't want to follow me, but otherwise you get going by listening to someone else other than me," Gendo answered. "Words that trigger your impulses to fight on their behalf, like 'I beg you', 'pilot it', 'I believe in you'…"
There was a three-word sentence that made Gendo pause for a moment, and Shinji noticed the older man's discomfiture, before saying with his willpower, "…and 'I love you'."
Deciding that picking up the bat and stepping up to the batting plate was better than warming the bench throughout the whole game in the dugout, Shinji said, "What's wrong with me fighting for them?"
"I can't bring myself to love you as a son," he bitterly said. "Never felt love in my whole life."
"But what about Mother?" Shinji asked. "I thought you—"
"From the moment you came into this wretched world," Gendo said, interrupting, "your mother's affection for you made me jealous."
Shinji frowned. "What?"
Gendo leaned over the table, his eyes staring right at Shinji's, as if he wanted to make it damn clear and focused for him to understand the loss and the pain he had bottled up for years.
"Your mother was my salvation," Gendo said. "She was my support, my hope, the only person whom I can connect with after all the time I was denied affection but given hatred, chaos and pain, all the while I was then crawling on my knees in the darkness, so she's the only one I was able to thank God for that one piece of mercy given to me.
"I married her because… not because she was connected to SEELE and gave me everything I wanted, but yes, she also pulled me out of the quagmire of hell that was my old life."
Shinji was silent but listening, never taking his eyes off.
"Yet in a blink of the eye," Gendo went on, "she was taken away. Snuffed like a candle, which left me cursing God and asking why He had to give, but also to take away. So why? Why does He keep on doing this, the carrot-and-stick act? Is this a punishment for all mankind? Are we nothing but ants to be stepped on at His cruel leisure?"
"If I remember, we were taught that we came from dust, and soon will return to it," Shinji said, dimly recalling the words of a village priest not so long ago before coming to Tokyo-3.
"Nothing is permanent," Gendo said. "Everything in this world can be taken away. Soon Keel will have his victory and all mankind will be destroyed. That is why I have undertaken to create and build up this project, to seize that power to decide life and death, to beat God at His game."
Shinji shook his head.
"But I'm here," Gendo said. "I've lost that game. You're supposed to avenge your mother for me, to fight God, and yet—"
"God has nothing to do with this," Shinji said, cutting him off. "It began with a man, and so with this disaster coming tomorrow to destroy everything, we as humans will also have to stop it, right here."
"Keel is relentless," Gendo said, "which is why you have Unit One to control."
"You should be able to comprehend why I created Project E, and at the same time my feelings. You'll pilot soon, but I have no hope for this world, and I still have my contempt for it."
A moment of silence settled on both father and son, letting the words sink in.
"Father," Shinji said.
"I've learned many things," the young man said. "Kaworu was a good teacher to me, making me able to accept for what I am in this world, my purpose, and my reasons for living, and therefore I was also able to love myself, and to invest in hope."
Gendo said as if wounded. "Why do you have to put much of your faith in that Angel?"
"In the same way he was able to place his trust in humanity, rather than destroying them as he was supposed to do."
The older Ikari bitterly laughed. "Absurd," he chided. "He played you around like a fool. Even demons can quote the Bible if they wish to."
"I'm not bullshitting this," Shinji objected without humor. "What love he felt for Rei was real. Out of this love he chose to disobey Lorenz because of the hope he found in people, people who wish for a better world to live in than to escape from it."
"He could still betray you at the last minute," Gendo said, trying to contradict him.
"Kaworu was very sincere even to the point I almost killed him," Shinji said with conviction and clarity. "Now he willed himself to join the battle alongside us on our behalf, because I believe that unlike before he'll want humanity be given a fighting chance, and we have suffered enough for too long."
Internally, Gendo was shocked at Shinji's mature firmness and choice of words, something that he had not seen in him in years, leaving him to wonder if he had truly grown up, more than ever he could imagine.
"I understood my purpose in this world, and so you must," Shinji went on. "I'm not the son you used to look down. I used to hate myself, and think of running away; sometimes I wished to die just because I'm weak inside. I never wanted this being involved here and then, to pilot Eva, but now I have a reason to change, to think about life and its beauty all the while making it worthwhile."
"I want to live and to love, because there's more to life than just Eva," Shinji said. "That'll be my reason to fight and defeat not God but a lunatic's delusion. Now if you really love Mother, if you want to take a stand, then I'm sure she'll love you more if you could just…"
Gendo can only stare at Shinji with distraught eyes, eyes that once used to be hidden behind amber, those eyes that were once cold, harsh and unforgiving, and even able to pass cruel judgment without a word.
For a second, Shinji hesitated as if to taste the words before speaking them out, with his eyes expressing a pleading need:
"Father, you have to learn how to let go."
As Kaworu silently sat in the Entry Plug, getting his harmonics checked over through the data acquisition phase, and while Misato and Ritsuko were talking over coffee, discussing about how to create a mock-up version of the Mass-Production Evas, Rei and Asuka were conversing about the confrontation at the holographic communications room.
"I expected a James Bond villain," Asuka said. "But… I don't know, except he's more like Doctor Evil."
"Who are they?" Rei asked.
"Oops, sorry," Asuka apologized. "I didn't know you're hardly into movies or pop culture, but simply put, James Bond is a fictional British spy who's called in to save the world from a bunch of baddies, while Doctor Evil is a villain from a movie called Austin Powers, and… if my memory serves me right, Doctor Evil was based on a Bond arch-enemy named Blofeld."
Rei nodded. "I see."
"Anyway, he looks damn old, as if he really saw the last world war, fought in it, and even now he still keeps himself standing even at that age without having to rely on a crutch. You think it's a bit odd?"
Rei shrugged. "I did not notice anything out of the ordinary."
"Must be that, given the amount of influence he wields, Lorenz probably had an alloy spine stuck into him, and with the visor he's wearing, more likely Lorenz is a cyborg, which may explain why he's into the Instrumentality Project."
"It makes sense for him trying to seek out immortality," Rei said. "But at what price? If his manner of speech and how he expresses himself were to be gauged, then I suppose that he is clearly bent on accomplishing what he truly wants."
"Sounds more like Shinji's father," Asuka said, "except the old fart is definitely a plutocrat, so if he can't rule over mortals in the physical world, why not rule in eternity, like 'better reign in hell than serve in heaven'?"
"Who said that?"
Asuka looked up, as though she was thinking. "John Milton. The phrase came from Paradise Lost, and I heard it once in an English lecture back in college."
Rei nodded. "I see."
"In that phrase, there are those who feel they rather be in control, masters of everything no matter they'll do good or harm, than to be chafed and bound by rules imposed by a supposed omnipotent being who doesn't exist in the physical world; they prefer to rewrite everything to their whim, their rules or just plain anarchy."
"Yes, to be a demigod, if not God itself," Rei said. "It is an ultimate form of egomania and selfishness, hence very dangerous."
"Rules and laws exist because humanity is supposed to be on top of the food chain, and he should be bound by the difference between right and wrong, to differentiate himself from animals, and yet the more rules and laws are written and imposed, the more people choose to disregard them because they feel that too many laws makes their lives complicated and restrained; for those folks they would rather make profit and put the food on the dinner table."
"Laws were created to bring order from chaos," Rei said, "but never to cause burden. Yet through Instrumentality, it has become the intent of Lorenz to destroy God, by simplifying everything back to chaos, and thus promote devolution."
"Simply put," Asuka replied. "He's fucking power-mad that he thinks we should go down onto our knees and drink his Jonestown Kool-Aid, that is, hara-kiri with fruit punch."
His father still not uttering a word since Shinji told him to let go, so the young man rose from his seat, as if being moved to urgency.
"I'm sorry, but I'm supposed to leave now," Shinji said. "We need to do a lot of practice."
"Practice?" Gendo asked, thus breaking his self-imposed silence.
"Yeah, we have to learn how to fight off Lorenz's army, which includes those fake Evas they could launch against us, the Mass-Production types, as Kaworu and Doctor Akagi told us about. They're supposed to be more advanced than anything we have here, but those Evas should have a weak spot or two… and I don't think I'll look at this as easy."
Shinji looked at the wall clock, and thought, Still a few minutes to spare. He then sat down again.
Gendo blinked. "I thought you're leaving?"
"Not yet," Shinji said. "Just a question about Mom… I still wonder why she fell for you back then, despite your personality."
The elder Ikari frowned, apparently uncomfortable with the question aimed at him as he racked his brain for an answer.
I was an animal back then, a beast who longed to reach for the stars, Gendo thought. I was feared, hardly liked, never loved…
"I don't know," Gendo answered, distraught and unable to fathom any further. "I should have asked her a long time ago. Maybe she saw something in me that I couldn't understand."
"Or she should've told you the truth," Shinji said. "Mom fell in love with you for a very good reason."
"And what is it?" Gendo sounded skeptical.
"Since you said you had next to nothing, maybe Mom thought she saw the good inside your heart, and thus still worth saving as you were trying to swim but drowning instead, even if she might have been told everything to the contrary, like she didn't gave a damn but for you."
Shinji then stood up. "Call me wrong or naive," he said, "but there's enough time left to change your mind. Whatever crap you have done in the past, you're still my father."
The elder Ikari was instantly struck by those words. His arms suddenly sagged to the sides.
"But… You hate me," Gendo said in a pained tone, as if trying to punish himself. "Ritsuko hates me… everyone hates me. I am terrible, a monster!"
There was a momentary stillness as the last word echoed in their minds.
"No," Shinji disagreed calmly, head shaking. "Not this time, for I finally heard much about your story, knew the truth and everything fell into place. So I'm not running away from this, nor I'm closing my heart – soon I have to stand on this ground even if I could die trying."
Gendo sighed as he hung his head in dejection.
"You can go now," the older man said, voice almost cracking, cradling his face with palms, but not seeing Shinji walking up to the door.
"Thank you, Father," Shinji said, looking back but with a small, beatific smile. "I hope you'll understand this time as much as I did."
Once Shinji walked out of the room and closed the door, for the first time in years since twelve and brooding in his bedroom, the older Ikari was shedding tears for real, sobbing like a child now, as he didn't expect his son to be completely changed… and eloquent.
*in this manuscript, the origins and content of the controversial Dossiers Secret were slightly altered for the fictional storyline. For more information, you can search it but caveat emptor, what you get might give you a mixed reaction.
Peeps… Forgive me for being this damn late, as it took me months since the last upload, thinking about writing this, looking for ideas on how to open this chapter, visualizing it, and in between complete disruptions and distractions (it ain't fun writing when being disrupted several times in a day when you actually wanted enough quiet time to think about prose before committing them to the drive), gone through several revisions while trying not to go overboard.
Until a friend posted this on Facebook about three weeks ago:
"I have this feeling of dread that all the characters in my unfinished stories, all these characters I breathed life into but whose stories I never finished, they will one day come out to get me. So I must finish this one story. I must finish her story. So I would have at least one ally when the time comes that all my little darlings come out to kill me."
That kicker got me off my ass, and now, this is it and I've done Numero 47, helped along with several albums worth of Two Steps from Hell.
As usual, comments and criticisms are welcome, and I'll try to answer them if possible.
Thank you guys... Now I have to set my mind on writing the next chapter, the one where I have to pit the "married couple" against Kaworu.