Chapter XVI Aftershock
I'M BACK!!! For now anyways. I have no idea when the next chapter is going to be released, but after rereading my work, I just had this urge to release a new chapter, even if it is a short one. This is yet again one of my shorter chapters, but I do hope that this is one of the more heartfelt ones. So, without further ado, enjoy Unbreakable Bond, Chapter 16, Aftershock.
"Misato-san how is Asuka?" they quietly asked.
"They say she's alright," Misato answered back, staring at Unit 01's display, seeing only 'Audio Only' on the screen, however. "Why don't you come out, and we can try to deal with this…together?"
"No…not yet," they answered.
"Look…I know it hurts but…you guys just can't hide in there," Misato implored. "We're all feeling it as well. Don't cut us out from your pain. Let's…all feel the hurt, together."
"Unit 01 is reactivating!" Shigeru suddenly called out.
"Confirmed," Hyuga answered. "Unit 01 is fully operational, and is attempting to break all restraints."
"Shinji-kun, Rei-chan, what are you doing?!" Misato frantically screamed, watching the display immediately switch to the hangar bay where the massive behemoth known as Evangelion Unit 01 break its jaw restraints and unleashed an unearthly roar in utter rage as it starting to tear itself free from the bindings holding it in place.
"He will pay…"
"He will pay…he will pay…he will pay…he will pay…" they repeated, over and over, they declared he would pay. Pay for what? Who were they referring to? Everyone worked their consoles as they tried to cut the problem at the bud before things could go wrong.
"Shinji! Rei!" Misato called out again. "What are you doing?! Calm down!" However, they did not respond, except to continue their chant. Seeing that they weren't going to be reasoned with, she looked over towards Maya. "Turn up the LCL pressure. We need to knock them out!"
Receiving the command, she quickly entered the command, only for an error message to appear. "It's no good! The Eva is refusing all commands. It has cut itself from our controls."
"How is that possible?!" Ritsuko blurted out, taken aback from the statement. Even if the pilot could have the Eva refuse commands, only certain ones could be refused. Everything else could easily be overridden by the MAGI.
"Restraining locks are buckling," Shigeru reported. "They cannot hold the Eva in much longer!"
"Unit 01 has freed its right arm!" Hyuga suddenly called out. "Severe damage to the right restraints, along with the shoulder pylon. At this rate, Unit 01 will be free in less than 30 seconds!"
"What are they after," Misato asked herself, biting her thumbnail a bit. Then it hit her at the sight of her hand. Remembering how she felt that their blood was on their hands, it also occurred to her how just moments ago, they were claiming they would kill him. "ARE YOU TWO MAD?! YOU CAN'T KILL HIM! HE'S STILL THE LEADER OF THIS OPERATION!"
"HE KILLED TOUJI!" they suddenly bellowed out, as the display in the corner revealed their faces. Misato couldn't help but feel her throat dry at what she saw. Blood shot eyes, tearstained cheeks, they looked horrible. In their eyes, she saw a harsh storm of agony and pain. They, having been firsthand witnesses of the horror that Gendo had put them through, were utterly traumatised. Even Rei's powerful fortitude stood no chance against the horrors of watching a friend die, especially when it stood side-by-side with Shinji's more developed emotions and humanity. In that moment, Misato fell to her knees as tears dripped down her cheeks. She felt utterly helpless, unable to do anything to help alleviate their pain, even in a small way. She felt defeated, drained, exhausted by today's events.
"He killed Touji," they sobbed. "We could have saved him! We had the weapon to get him out of there! We had the power, the technology to save him! BUT HE KILLED HIM!" Even as they spoke, tears continuing to flow from their eyes, Eva Unit 01 continued to struggle freeing itself moments later. Its movement no longer impeded, it began to make a rapid ascent. How it knew where to go, no one knew, but they knew that it was heading straight for Gendo's office. And despite the shared sentiments, they would stop it. It wasn't because they wanted Gendo alive; it was because everyone shared the same sentiment: They would not let them stoop to his level.
"Stop them," Ritsuko ordered, helping Misato into a chair. Seeing how the shock was really settling in, Ritsuko stepped up and took command. So long as there was a situation at hand, she wouldn't mourn. She wouldn't let the shock, the emotions, and the pain to settle in until this matter was over. It would only be then would she let herself join them. "I'm sorry Shinji, Rei, but we can't let you do this.
"Evacuate all the areas in its path and start flooding the halls with Bakelite. We need to slow them down as much as possible!"
"Understood," Maya replied, giving an immediate evacuation order, while 'forgetting' to inform Gendo's office of the evacuation. Instead, only Sub-Commander Fuyutsuki was paged, asking for his presence in Central Dogma for a certain event that required his attention.
Ritsuko watched as the Evangelion hit the first wall of steel and Bakelite and began to pound at it. Despite the durability of steel and hard Bakelite, it would only be a matter of time before it got through and shattered it all and enter his office. They had to stop it before it go anywhere near the office. They could easily repair the damage, but they feared the emotional repercussions if they had Gendo's office stained on their hands, even if it was done via Unit 01.
"What's the status of the evacuation?" Ritsuko asked; her mind racing for wars to stop the Evangelion.
"All floors have been cleared from the affected areas," Shigeru reported, his fingers dancing across his keyboard. "The path has been sealed, and has been flooded in Bakelite."
"Unit 01 has broken into the 3rd layer," Hyuga called out. Ritsuko hissed at the report, realising that Shinji and Rei were advancing faster than she expected. Glancing over at the display, she her horror suddenly spiked to new levels. The two of them were curled up in their seats, holding one another. Neither of them seemed to be in control of the Eva which left her to one conclusion. Glancing down at the display in front of her, her fears were confirmed when she saw that they were at 150% synchronization. This was the worst thing that could have been on her display. Not only was the Eva in its berserker state, they were still conscious. Either they had brought it on themselves, or it was reacting to their emotions. This only made stopping the Evangelion more important.
"Stop flooding the other floors," Ritsuko called out. We will flood them as Unit 01 makes it way through. We'll trap it in the Bakelite. And someone PHYSICALLY cut that power line!"
"Teams are already attempted to disconnect the power cable from the main line," Maya reported. "They're doing everything they can: shutting whole fuse boxes down, cutting off electricity from reading the area, everything."
"Have a team head into the main power room and shut down ALL feeds for power cables," Ritsuko commanded, before turning her attention towards the main screen again. "Shinji, Rei, can you hear me? I know I know it hurts you. I can't imagine how much you are hurting, but I imagine it's a lot of pain, right? I know it's hurting you to know that it was Rei's old data that did that, but you are better than this. Don't do something rash. Don't do something that you will regret later!"
"He killed him. He will pay," Shinji darkly stated. "He will pay for taking his life in cold blood."
"DO WANT TO BECOME LIKE HIM?!" she shrieked. The reaction was immediate, as they looked up at her in horror. "Do you want to become like that man and kill others in cold blood? Do WANT to become like him?! You're Evangelion Pilots. You are soldiers. You are NOT murderers. You kill because it's for the betterment of mankind, of humanity. You don't kill because of petty things like revenge! You are BETTER than him. You, who shoulder the responsibility of fighting for humanity, are far better than what any of us could ever be. You five carrying something, NONE OF US could ever imagine in our lifetime. Don't throw that away!"
"Just…come home," she pleaded, silently cursing herself as the stain from everything began to take its hold on her. But she had to stand strong, and hold on for just a little longer. "Just end this…"
Everyone watched in bated breath as they waited for the next move. The moment, however, was broken as the full torrent of Shinji's and Rei's sorrow screamed through the speakers as the Evangelion drew to a halt.
"Bring them home," a new voice commanded. Everyone looked above to see Fuyutsuki stare at the screen sadly. "Let's…just bring them home and call it a day. We can get back to work and make any charges tomorrow. Today we grieve for those we lost today."
The following morning, Asuka let out a light groan as she slowly rose from her slumber. Her body ached, her throat hurt, and her heart was still throbing in unrelenting pain. Yesterday had been hell. When she had initially woken up after ejecting, she had been an absolute mess. She had been in utter denail over what had happened to Touji and Hikari. The whole thing had happened so quickly that her mind could not, and would not come to terms with what it had witnessed. She had continue on like this, until she had seen Shinji and Rei's pained expressions. One look from them had pushed her past her emotional limits and she had broken down right then and there, along with them.
In that instance, she had felt the world around the, the world that she knew crumble along with the walls of superiority, of pride, of the self love she had for herself. From behind that wall, everything flowed. All the pain, all the sadness, all the anguish, the suffering, it all poured from within her. Her mother's suicide, her feelings of abandonment, her mother's insanity, the pains she took to become a pilot of Evangelion, it all just poured from her that night.
What had come out from the other side of that floor was a beaten, battered, and emotionally exhausted girl who wanted nothing more than to sleep that night. The three of them were bathed by the med staff before being sent to sleep that night.
From her bed, Asuka looked over towards her neighbour. They were in no better shape than she was. If she listened, she could almost hear their pain, their sorrow, their anguish. They echoed of her pains. It was almost as if her mind was somehow joining theirs. She couldn't explain it, except like that. She couldn't hear them or sense much of them, but the raw emotions, the pain, she could feel. And by that same token, she could feel that they were carrying her pain as well. She took comfort in that. Somehow, she felt that they understood her, really understood her, and she them. And it was because of that, she got up, and slowly walked over to their bed, and sat down next to them.
The three of them shared a look at one another. Reflected in one another's eyes, their pain was the same. No words were needed. It was understandable that they were in a lot of pain, even if it was for varying reasons. However, to know that there were others that could understand their pain, to help build a foundation to put these feelings to rest, it gave the three of them a sense of peace, of restfulness. Lying down on the bed together, the three of them held onto one another, drawing onto one another for strength.
As she lay there, spooned into Shinji, while Rei's and Shinji's hand entwined with hers, Asuka felt something she hadn't felt in her life. Somehow, perhaps it was because this entire ordeal had just utterly thrown her mind for a loop, she could say with absolute clarity that they loved her, and that she loved them. They went through a lot together. That had built the foundations of what was their love. Saying that she loved them like sibling didn't sit right with them. As her mind rolled the idea over, she slowly came to the realization that she what she wanted was to be a part of the love they had. She didn't care who she was loved by. By this point in her life, she wasn't a 15 year old girl. She was a 25 year old woman who wanted to just settle down and find a love for life. And as that realization formed in her mind, she slowly realized that she loved them in that way. She was, however, unsure if she could ever get them to love her that way. But for now, it didn't matter. She was with them.
Glancing over at the door as she watched Misato walked in, she felt a swell within her that she hadn't felt for years. She immediately recognized it as the feeling she used to feel whenver her real mother walked in through the door from work. Thinking about it, Misato had become a bit of a surrogate mother for her. She had been there every step of the way since she first met her back in Germany all those years ago.
Despite the pain Evangelion had brought to her life, it had also brought a small light into this dark world she was living in. It gave her a new family.
Asuka's eyes swivelled upwards as Misato placed gentle kisses on the foreheads of the three of them. She watched as Misato sat down on the edge of their bed, and placed her hands atop their entwined hands. Squeezing it tightly, her other hand reached over and lightly brushed the bangs away from Asuka's face. Despite saying nothing, her eyes spoke more volumes of love, and sorrow she had towards the three of them than any mere words could ever.
"Maybe we can't hear each other's thoughts," Misato whispered to them, her voice carrying the smooth, gentle caressing tone of the mother within her. "But I guess in the end, we have our own bond, don't we?" Over the short time she had spent with them, she felt that she had grown up much more now, than she had over the course of her life. It came to the point that she loved the three of them as if they were own flesh and blood. Within her heart, when this was over she would take the three of them and leave. They would leave Tokyo-3 and move away. She would severe ties with NERV, but continue her work in the military. Wherever they went, they would start anew.
"I'm so sorry," she said bending down to kiss them across their foreheads again, a new action the four of them found extreme comfort in. "I'm so sorry that this happened…I didn't think that this would happen."
"What…what will happen to us?" Shinji and Rei asked.
"The Commander's been informed, sadly," Misato sighed, gently kissing Shinji and Rei again when she felt them tense. "You…will appear before him where he will reprimand and discipline you. And…your pilot statuses have been revoked; for all three of you." Misato saw the look of horror on their faces at the last part. Holding the trio of hands in both of hers, she gave it a tight squeeze. "I'm sorry…but…he feels that you are all…incompetent for what happened yesterday. Your units have being repaired but…I don't know when you will ride them again."
She could see their anger, but they could do nothing about it. The three of them were utterly exhausted. Fatigued from the emotional rollercoaster they were still no doubt riding, they couldn't do much to act on their feelings. Asuka was in tears and buried her head into Shinji's back. If it were any other time, she would've screamed in absolute anger and lashed out at everyone and anyone who tried to come to her. It would've done so much more damage to her ego, than it did now, as it was only another drop in the ocean that they were all in now. She watched as Rei shifted over to the other side of Asuka and spooned into her, hugging her tightly from behind, whispering quietly into her ear words of comfort that she could muster, hoping to help shoulder some of that pain. Shinji on his part pulled Asuka's arms around himself and held her hands in his.
"Asuka," Misato whispered, kissing the side of her head.
"Take them off," Asuka sobbed.
"The clips…take them off," she repeated. Misato nodded and gently unclipped them from the top of Asuka's head, freeing her hair from her usual hairstyle. Putting it aside, she gently threaded her fingers through Asuka's mane of red as best she could and straightened out as much as she could. There was only so much support she could give to the emotionally hurting German, and this was part of it. Sighing to her lucky stars, Ritsuko had found them unfit for any form of reprimanding or discipline for at least another day, giving them a little more time to prepare themselves for what was to come.
"You three…you've come a long way," Misato sighed. "Don't go anywhere, you hear? Don't go." The three of them said nothing to it, not that it mattered. They were all asking the same of one another. Despite the fact Shinji and Rei had their own bond to each other, it was nestled and entwined with the bond that they had with everyone else. It was part of the bond they had with their school mates due to the fact that's how they began to make friends. It was part of the bond they had with the various medical staff of NERV. It was part of the bond they had with Ritsuko, who began to open up to them. But most importantly, it was deeply engrained with the familiar bond they had with Misato and Asuka, their mother and sister respectively.
"We don't know…"
"If we could live…"
"Without you, okaa-chan…"
Misato couldn't help but stare at them. She was unsure, but somehow, for a fleeting instance, she could feel the four of them were one. It was as if somehow, she and Asuka had been added to the bond they all shared. She watched as Asuka had this look of confusion, especially since it was she who had finished the statement, after Shinji and Rei respectively. A sad, yet happy smile formed on her face. She realized that she felt the same way. She didn't know what she would do if any of them died.
"I love you guys," she whispered, tears falling down her eyes. The three of them stared back up at her, their eyes conveying their own love towards her. However, it only lasted a moment, as exhaustion began to settle down on them again. "Go to sleep," she whispered, walking over to Asuka's bed and grabbed the unused blanket. "I'll be here when you wake up." Draping it onto of them adding a second layer, she tucked the three of them in, kissing their temples. Despite they were fifteen years old they felt like they were only 5 years old, like the days before Evangelion became a part of their lives. It was their haven, if only for a while."