Obviously, Evangelion and all related characters are copyrights of Gainax, etc. etc. etc. This is not written for profit. Feel free to distrubute, but please do not remove this disclaimer. Thanks, Kerristallax (kerristallax@yahoo.com)

The Kaworu Chronicles
Part 5

"Times change, I suppose," Fuyutsuki commented. Ikari Gendou remained silent. He had just learned of yet another alteration in the current scenario. The experimental procedure performed on the Second Child had gone remarkably well. Odd... that he had almost expected it to fail. Failure was not a phenomena Ikari Gendou was well accustomed to. Still, appearances must be maintained. Anger must not be shown...

"To what do we attribute this latest development? The interference of SEELE? The old men have gone silent since their last attempt, sending us the Angel, failed gloriously. I do not believe that there is any other way that their plans could have been so fouled as what happened. Do we wait for them to move again? It is dangerous, waiting and not knowing. Our schedules and predictions have failed. We must form a new plan, to keep with the changing times," Gendou said after considerable thought. "Supposing that we had succeeded with the operation..." he clenched his fist in frustration. "We are grasping at straws, here..."

"Dare we..." Fuyutsuki began.

Far above the schemings of Commander Ikari, Nagisa Kaworu lay awake on his bed. The sun was beginning to rise; the day was beginning again.

"The cycle continues... Every day the same... Or so it was to be. Somehow... it's all been changed. I understood, once. I thought that I had this existence figured out; I knew... everything. But... nothing's the same, any more. And most strangely... I yet live... How is that so?"

"You live because you want to; you live because others want you to."

Kaworu was startled by the voice. He looked around hastily, shocked to see Ayanami Rei lying on a futon next to his bed. How had she gotten here? More surprises... He sighed.

"Why would I desire to live? I've destroyed the lives of those around me... My own existence is repulsive to me... I'll always be... alone... Why would anyone else want me to remain? No good has come of me."

"Do you know, Kaworu-kun... that you have value?" Rei asked. She raised her head to look at him, their two sets of red Angel eyes meeting.

"Value? I had not considered that... I have value because... I am an Angel? Because I can do things that almost no-one else can?" he pondered.

"No... It's because you care for others, and others care for you. You haven't destroyed our lives..."

"...Don't you ever regret... what you did, Rei?"

"What is there to regret?"

"Everything that might have been... if things were different... It's gone. Gone because of me. Rei... It could have been so much easier..."

"I do not see what you have destroyed, Kaworu-kun. I see only... what you created."

"Created? I've sown naught but chaos, terror, and uncertainty."

"That's not true... You've given me my freedom. Because of you, I am no-one's doll. I, Ayanami Rei, am my own person. I do not belong to the Commander, and I will not be used. It's because of you, Kaworu-kun... I..." A tense silence settled over the two of them. After a moment, Kaworu smiled.

"Rei... Thank you."

She looked up questioningly. Am I not the one who just expressed my thanks to you?

"Thank you for... intervening. A surprise is a wonderful experience, particularly when it's your first," Kaworu explained. "It appears that we must be going... Shall we see what this day holds, Rei?" Kaworu got up, dressed quickly and without modesty in front of Rei, and then waited. Most likely, Misato would come to retrieve them both shortly. Had she been startled that he would change in front of her? Rei did not give any such indication.

Elsewhere, preparations were being made for the Unit 03 Re-Activation test. For reasons which even Ritsuko did not quite understand, Commander Ikari had decided that he would personally oversee this operation. Somehow, when the Commander was around things became interesting. Not generally in a good way, however. After the apparent success of the operation on the Second Child, Gendou ordered that the reconstruction of Unit 00 be halted so that extra attention might be given to 03, and more importantly, that it might be completed in less time. Which strings was he pulling this time?

The four pilots, including Rei, though she did not have an Evangelion unit to pilot, were all wearing their plugsuits. Shinji was worried; Unit 03 had a history. Yes, Kaworu had shown him that he could escape if something went wrong, but... Such thoughts were not comforting. Kaworu, on the other hand, did not seem concerned. He was standing quietly, waiting for Misato to return with orders. As were the rest of them. Matter of fact, even Asuka was not speaking. Most unusual...

"Come on, Kaworu-kun. Didn't you hear me calling you?" Misato asked, sticking her head in through the door.

"Of course, Misato-san," Kaworu replied. As he left, he called out, "I'll be back shortly." Though it had been said to no-one in particular, Kaworu's red eyes were focused on Rei. She was confident of that.

"Now what?" Shinji wondered aloud.

"We're to go to the holding bays and wait. Hurry up and wait... again..." Asuka told him. The three of them walked quietly to the bays where Units 01 and 02 were stationed. When they arrived, there was no-one else around. No technicians, no scientists, no security... No-one. Asuka considered this.

It's rather difficult to get into the Eva without some assistance... Are we here for another reason? Her suspicions were confirmed when the door they had entered by banged shut loudly, latching with a very audible click.

"We're locked in," Asuka commented. She looked around, seeing intense concern on Shinji's face.

"Father... What are you doing..." he moaned. Not being able to answer, Asuka turned to Rei.

"Aren't you worried, Rei?" she asked.

Just as abruptly, the lights in the room died. They were in complete darkness for a moment, before a yellowish glow surrounded Asuka, giving off enough light to see by. Rei did likewise, after a second.

"Yes," Rei responded.

Kaworu followed Misato at a brisk pace. Where are we going in such a hurry? He received his answer when they stepped into a large area, dominated by the black, menacing figure of Unit 03. Fully repaired, amazingly. So... That is why I am here.

Ritsuko met the two as they entered, grabbing Kaworu and dragging him off to the side. She pushed him unceremoniously into an elevator, and then pressed the button to send it upwards. Alone, if only for a short time, Kaworu began to speculate.

What if... 'What if'? Is that what it is to be a Lilim? To not know? It is not so bad... It is certainly better than the alternative.

The elevator stopped moving, giving him a mechanical "beep" to say that it was finished. Kaworu stepped into Entry Plug 03. Seconds later, the capsule was filled with LCL. Nothing unusual so far.

"Do you notice anything abnormal, Kaworu?" Ritsuko asked over the radio.

"Nothing..." Kaworu replied.

"Preparing for Unit 03 Re-Activation test!"

What if...

The Entry Plug was flooded with myriad colors, a torrential barrage of mindless images. The early check-points were cleared with agonizing slowness. No chances were to be taken.

Commander Ikari looked on, an indiscernable expression on his face. As usual. His hands were folded in front of his face, waiting pensively. Waiting for the action to start? One would almost think the man looked forward to others' misfortune.

After a long, tense period, Unit 03 cleared the final checkpoint. "Good job, Kaworu-kun," Misato said over the communications link. Kaworu smiled at her through the monitor. That was the last image they picked up before the screens were all filled with static.

Nagisa Kaworu found himself looking within his own mind, arguing with... himself? His own pale skin, gray hair, and crimson eyes looked back at him.

"You fool... Foolish Tabris..." the boy sneered.

"It is my choice," Kaworu responded. "I have the power to choose, and I have done so."

"Don't you want to see our father? To be one? That we might be separated no longer by the AT Field?" the Angel in Kaworu's form inquired.

"I do not. You cannot understand, you who lack free will. I have found the Lilim to be to my liking. I can choose my own destiny, the same as each of them does every day. That is freedom; that is... life. That is existence."

"Then you shall die," Bardiel replied with finality.

"Contact with Unit 03... severed?! It's not responding!" Ritsuko screamed. Looking out the reinforced window, they saw Unit 03's still-unmoving black form held in place against the wall. It seemed normal... except for the eyes. Unit 03's eyes were alight with a malignant, lurid red glow. It brought up its arms, tearing through the restraints as if they were cardboard. Its mouth was opened in an unholy roar, shaking the glass and computer equipment.

Evangelion Unit 03 seemed to calm down for a moment, surveying its surroundings. It focused on the reinforced viewing portal between it and the terrified Lilims in the control room. The glow around its eyes expanded brightly, then condensed... All other sound was blotted out in a massive explosion. An cross-flare? Unit 03 tested its attack again, this time against the wall it had been brought in through.

Back in the darkened holding bay, Shinji, Asuka, and Rei were starting to feeling tremors in the floor. Asuka pointed to the monstrous, silent figures of Unit 01 and 02 against the far side of the room.

"Shinji-kun! Something's got to be done!" she shouted.

"No... Kaworu would never betray us. I won't attack him," Shinji responded despairingly. "Not again..."

"We've got to stop Unit 03! It's an Angel, remember?! If it finds Adam, we're done! Everyone's done! Certainly, you can't let that happen. Nothing's going to happen to Kaworu-kun," Asuka tried to assure him.

Shinji was looking for excuses. "But... how will we pilot the Evas?"

This stopped Asuka for a moment. A particularly violent explosion shook the catwalk they were standing on, then she glanced at Rei, having developed an idea. Asuka walked up close to Shinji, glowing brightly. "Hold on..." she said. Nervously, Shinji embraced Asuka, as if it were a hug. Asuka grabbed on to him and started to drift upwards. When they lifted off the ground slowly, Shinji almost lost it. After a minute of absolute panic, he put his head on Asuka's shoulder, closed his eyes, and waited for the terror to pass. He hoped that would be soon...

"Calm down, Shinji-kun," Asuka whispered.

Shinji was startled to find himself standing on solid ground... well, solid Eva... after so little time. To him, Rei was a small, bright figure standing a great distance away. Just how far away was it? He noticed that Asuka was stepping back to a small door in the wall behind them, to get in the still-ejected Entry Plugs. Shinji sighed, and followed her. He climbed in, and was thoroughly surprised to find the power still on and able to insert the plugs. Shinji initiated his injection sequence as soon as he could, and began the start-up. Further surprising was that Unit 01 was up and synchronized in short measure. Somehow, though, it lagged behind Unit 02.

Inside her own Entry Plug, Asuka had an excessively easy time. Very little effort was required to link up with the formerly uncooperative Evangelion.

You can accept me, even after what has been done... Or, is it that you can accept me because of what has been done? What is the goal of Commander Ikari? There is no caprice about the man. Everything he does, it is done for a very specific reason. He always has an end in mind, and there is little Ikari will not sacrifice to achieve that end. Does he... want... to be one? I cannot understand... That is the last thing I would want. Why? Why does Ikari seek this?

Unit 01 stood up of its own power, having been released from its harness. Hesitantly, Shinji took a step forward, unsure of what to do. He was enclosed in a rather non-descript room, surrounded by four heavy, reinforced walls. He felt himself step forward through the Evangelion. At the corner of his eye, the white firefly of Ayanami Rei floated upwards.

What must I do? What are my orders? Where are my orders? I... I have none. I have been left, abandoned possibly. I have not been included in the Commander's scenario... Why? Is it that he no longer trusts me? The Commander no longer depends on me? I am a constant; I could be counted on to perform for him. Ayanami Rei is bound to her destiny, a cold, unthinking automaton to be lead blindly to the slaughter, if that is what her controller decides. Except that my controller has given up? I was killed once, but I now live. My decision was then... to end it all, to defeat the Angel. No... That was no decision. There was no decision. There were no options. That was the order. Ikari Shinji was sent upwards to kill any possibilities. The Commander willed for me, then as he always has. What is his 'request' now? His choice was to make none. There is no book to decide what may be done, for this is a new occurence. The power has been shut off before, somehow; but there shines light outside this room. I can feel it. The circuits all around me are alive, but there is no light. I know this... Is that what it means to be an Angel? I am aware, in ways I have never been before. It is as though I can see... what possibilities exist... A shield? I was once a shield for Ikari-kun. I am an Angel, though my heritage is not my own... I may will? That is new. What do I want? I don't want to be alone... I am alone with Gendou, I am his tool, not his companion... I am alone with Ikari-kun now, I know that he fears me. I know not what he has seen, but even what I know of myself is frightening... I am, as I have always been, alone with the Second Child. She scorns me; to her, I am a doll. And she is correct... I have been a doll... It is only... I am not alone with Kaworu-kun. What is my will? Though I am an Angel, I will that... Unit 03 must be stopped...

Rei moved forward with confidence. She floated before the wall, considering. A blinding corona surrounded her for a heartbeat, and then... Nothing.

What? Have I failed? As an Angel, I know myself to possess such power.

Rei remained suspended in the air, unsure of what to do now. She gave a suppressed gasp as a large segment of the wall abruptly melted through, giving little sound except for the glop of thick liquid metals falling to the floor beneath her. Rei did not move until Unit 01 walked up next to her, lowering its great head to her. She gave an embarassed smile, before returning with resolve to the task at hand.

Inside Unit 01, Shinji looked through its eyes to see Ayanami Rei. She did not seem small or insignificant... He saw her smile, one of precious few. It was a heartening thing, indeed. When Rei floated away down the passage, he followed. Asuka was close behind.

Unit 03 continued its rampage towards what was must be Terminal Dogma, unchecked by even token resistance. Kaworu lay comatose within it, grappling, quite literally, with his demons in the form of Bardiel. He sat weakly in the Entry Plug's seat, unconscious of the mortal world. His head lolled from side to side when the Evangelion took a step. Presently, the Angel had taken the form of Ayanami Rei to taunt him.

Kaworu stood waist deep in a sea of Link Connective Liquid. It stretched on endlessly, farther than his mind's eye could possibly see. Though he was at the surface, he was not standing on anything solid beneath his feet. Kaworu was suspended in an apparently bottomless expanse of LCL which extended so deep that no light passed through it. A black sea. There was light surrounding him, but it was of an ambient sort with no source.

"You fool..." the non-Rei hissed. "Why do you struggle? What is the meaning of this life, as you so term it... Why exist separately when it could all be one?"

"Thirteen... You persist in saying so, but you do nothing. What need do you have of me? I am only one of the Angels..." Kaworu responded.

"Ah, Tabris... Since you have so phrased things, I need you because I need your heart! Your S2 organ, that is. Regardless of your creation, or present disposition, you are the only pure Angel who yet lives. Come, we must go to father. He calls, and do you not hear him? Beckoning, deep within the earth... We shall go to him."

"I do not think so, Bardiel. Look outwards... You will not succeed."

Heavy footsteps sounded in the corridor behind them. Loud, even when compared to the noise Unit 03 was making.

"Your 'friends' have come, have they? The Lilims have come to save their Angel friend... How touching. I see that one of them will face us without the benefit of an Evangelion. She is one of us, isn't she... Except that she comes from Lilith. I am Adam's proud child, and I shall defeat them."

"While I live, you will do no such thing," Kaworu answered defiantly. He gathered up the power of his Angel core... The world inside his mind was filled with light, blotting out the eerie sea of LCL, the false Rei, and eventually even himself. Kaworu's mind returned to his body, and he returned to consciousness. Bardiel was still there, though... Still lurking, just beyond his reach. He opened his eyes, gradually revealing the red orbs.

"You are finished, Bardiel... Goodbye... brother... I cannot allow you to remain, for while you live, you pose danger to us."

Kaworu sensed the Angel panicking, and the sanity of Unit 03 beginning to fail rapidly. At that moment, Rei, followed by the two Evangelions, burst into the corridor. 03 looked backwards, eyes afire with hate. Kaworu reached for the power controls, seeking to overload the Eva's core.

"Ironic, isn't it, Rei-chan..." he said to himself, aware that his voice would reach both her and the others, though he was entombed in a liquid-filled Entry Plug. He grabbed the 'Drive A' toggle, and turned it completely. The exact same control that Ayanami had once used to detonate the late Unit 00. It should have caused a massive explosion, but... it had broken off in his hand. The mental presence of Bardiel cackled madly.

"I'm sorry, but... I have to leave you... again..." his voice echoed through the hall.

Unit 03 had reached its arm out to grab the floating Rei, but it stopped halfway, paralyzed. Its arm disintegrated completely, and then... all was white. A tremendous shockwave sent Rei flying, and caused Units 01 and 02 to take a step back.

When the blast from Unit 03 had subsided, Shinji, Asuka, and Rei were left in the darkness. The power had gone out, or had been shut off. The only lights Rei could see came from the glowing eyes of Eva 01 and 02. Then these, too, shut down as they either ran out of power, or were deactivated by their pilots. Rei was floating alone, able to see only a few feet by her own light. Totally alone... She drifted down, hoping there was still a floor to stand on. Eventually, her feet met with something solid.

"Kaworu... kun..." Rei slowly sat down, resting her head on her knees. She was still wearing the white plugsuit of the former Unit 00, but it was stained and dirty. Presumably, its filthy state was caused by flying debris from the explosion. A tear ran down her face, but Rei's sadness did not touch her mouth, or her eyes. Hers was a cold tear, one of loneliness and despair. The aura around Rei died, leaving her in absolute blackness.

"He's... you're... gone, Kaworu-kun... ... No... ... Don't leave me alone..."

Rei heard footsteps behind her, coming from someone wearing a plugsuit, by the sound of it. "Kaworu-kun's gone..." she said, assuming that the person was most likely Shinji. Rei did not look up, even when a hand was placed on her shoulder.

"I'm here, Rei," came a familiar voice. Deep, but comforting... Confident... Concerned... For a moment, Ayanami Rei could not move. Gradually, she raised her head. There was a small amount of light coming from somewhere... from Kaworu-kun... Rei looked behind herself, her dirty face bearing a single, clean track running down it. Nagisa Kaworu stood there silently, glowing dimly, his red eyes showing in the poor light. Somehow, Kaworu still wore a pleasant look.

"I won't leave you alone. I will be with you..."

Rei stood up, her eyes yet full of tears. Kaworu held out a hand to her, which she reached out to take, and then surprised herself by falling heavily into his arms.

{More to Come!}
{Many apologies for the long delay between postings! I could give you my reasons, but, well, they're not much more than excuses anyways... There is one more part to write, and yes, it's going to really long. A warning in advance. The delay between my next posting is probably going to be very long. Sorry!}