New Perspective Evangelion.
I think, maybe it might've started as a dream, or did it end that way? Dammit, even now, years later, it's giving me a headache trying to figure it out. I suppose, the only conclusion I can draw is that it was indeed all a dream, but not what I thought would be.
I thought perhaps if I wrote this down somewhere, maybe I might understand it better. What's that called? I think it's 'Catharsis' or something, honestly I don't know. At the very least, I can clear my head.
One thing I do know however, is how, and when, it began.
'Where am I?' I wondered as, instantaneously, I became aware of my surroundings
"I don't want to die daddy. I don't want to die daddy," I whimpered in fear. But why?
What was happening to me?
I was sitting on a hard blue chair, a seatbelt tightly around my waist. I knew immediately that I was on a plane. I was confused. I was terrified. I hated flying. I'd never flown and I, God willing, never would again. I could see down the aisle ahead, other passengers frantically pushing themselves down into the brace position. The recirculated air was heavy with the smell of burning plastic, sweat and fear.
The plane bucked and shuddered sending luggage flying from the overhead storage bins, the flying tin can rearing back up as if it had been lifted by the king of winds himself.
"It's okay sweetie. I'll protect you," A tall, dark haired man sitting beside reassured me, running his hand through my hair. He pulled me close, threatening to crush the air from my lungs as he tried to protect me.
"Don't worry, I'll protect you. I'll protect you. I'll protect you," he repeated, trying desperately to hide his own panic. I gasped for breath as he closed his arms tightly around me.
The engine power tailed off, and for a moment, I thought maybe what might've been going on was over. I could see out my window the white cloud tops below the silver swept back wing. I could see one of the control surfaces jammed straight up, servo motors whining and straining.
With a dull, distant crump, it disintegrated into so much tinfoil, shimmering as it fell behind. Slowly, the aircraft began to roll over, dropping its injured wing.
Immediately, my stomach was thrown into my mouth as the crippled jet reached the top of its phugoid arc, pitching nose down, the engines screaming to full throttle once more. Or maybe it was a scream of terror. I knew now that whatever was happening was about to end, I could feel the plane begin to roll over, going belly up before it's final plunge, some baby nearby crying for it's mother as it shot past, heading to the tail of the plane.
"Brace! Brace! Brace!." One of the hostesses yelled above the panic. The man beside me forced my head down into my lap and against the seat in front, cracking my skull painfully off the plastic seat back tray. Around me, I saw an old couple hugging each other, and some lonely man hurriedly scribbling something on a square of paper, before it tumbled from his hands, floating back up the cabin towards the tail. The view out the window was almost completely inverted, full of dark green trees that were rapidly getting closer.
Whimpering, terrified and wet, I braced myself for some final, crunching impact.
I could hear someone yelling "This is it,"
The whine of the engines deepened as the aircraft completed its roll, and I felt myself thrown back hard into my seat as the nose began to rise back up slowly.
For a moment, I looked to the man beside me, wearing what seemed like a relived smile. Slowly, the aircraft levelled off, before beginning to climb to safety once more. Above the terrified din I could hear someone praying behind me.
I glanced out the square window, watching the forest beneath rush up to meet me, the occasional grey building flashing past. Powerlines lashed passed, sparking a bright atomic blue as the wing snapped through them.
A road, with some maintenance workers looking right back up at me.
Followed by more trees.
"Oh no," I said simply, dejectedly.
The wing began to clip the tops of the trees, shearing the tips off with a sound like hail pattering on a roof. I wanted to screw my eyes closed and hide, somehow, but I found myself compelled to watch out the porthole.
The screeching engine snapped off with a horrible crunch sending roaring orange flame shooting through the forest, feeling hot on my face through the glass.
The aircraft lurched forward with a screech of tearing metal as the tail struck the ground, sending luggage and debris flying through the cabin. A suitcase struck me painfully across the face bringing tears to my eyes. The man beside me just forced me down harder against the seat as the acrid sulphur smell of fire and jet fuel assaulted my nostrils
The plane began to roll onto its side, parts of the fuselage tearing wide open and taking screaming passengers to what I was sure was certain death. Bright orange fire flashed past the windows and through the shredded fuselage, burning into the cabin, destroying suitcases and suit jackets. The smell of raw jet fuel was overpowering.
The second impact dug the nose in, the fuselage flipping dizzyingly and tearing itself apart. Rows of seats shot past through the air, passengers still sitting in them. Some were on fire, I was sure of it. I could feel myself burning hot, the taste of vomit in my mouth.
I was surprised to see that there was tree standing tall in the centre isle for some reason.
All hell broke loose as the still relative order of the fuselage descended into a terrible chaos of screaming people and shrieking metal as the plane shattered into millions of pieces of aluminium and wire with an endless tumbling.
The fire roared hot on my face, arms and skin and pieces of debris stabbed at me. Something snapped at my waist sending me flying forward through thin air and hot fire once more before coming to a stop on something cold and soft, finally ending as something hot, heavy and metallic landed on top of me.
Strangely I was still looking out through a cracked window and I can remember the air conditioning blowing cool air on my face from an overhead fan.
"Please, I don't want to die..."
That was when I lost consciousness for the first time.
I was woken again by an incessant, rhythmic beeping. Groaning, still feeling groggy, I pulled whatever blanket I was lying under over my head and tried to tune the invading electronic note out.
"Fucking Alarm." I mumbled, reaching aimlessly out to silence the irritating siren.
Something stung painfully at my arm, biting deep into my flesh. Something else tickled on my nose, blowing cold air.
"What the?" I searched for the cause, being rewarded by something plastic, almost sellotaped into my arm.
Slowly, I opened my eyes, to be met first with a sterile white pillow, a few stray strands of black hair splashed across it. Beyond that, what looked like a television, or something, the source of the irritating alarm at any rate. Beyond that, a low, pale green wall, and a bright window, sunlight warm down my body. A pleasant smell of lemon disinfectant tingled at my nostrils. A clean, comforting smell.
I blinked slightly, waiting for the pieces to connect in my mind.
I jumped upright in my bed, instantly aware that something was very wrong. Apprehension twisted my gut as I tried to figure out where I was, and how I got there. My gaze darted around the room searching desperately for some reference to tell me where in hell I was.
What happened before I woke up was just a nightmare. Wasn't it?
A fire lance of pain shot through my stomach, burning it way through my chest. I grimaced and whimpered beneath the darting pain. It had to be a nightmare. It couldn't have been anything else. What else could it have been?
The room around me I recognised immediately as some sort of hospital ward. The pale green walls surrounded me, except for a brown wood veneer door, and an old television. I couldn't exactly say much for their decoration skills. On my right was the source of my wakeup alarm, a beeping cardiograph timing out my pulse. Slowly, I became aware of the cold prickle of the plastic sensor pads on my chest, alongside some strange weight that shifted as I turned. I was aware of cables running across my cheeks, taped down and a dry hoarseness in my throat that I couldn't place.
It hurt to swallow.
Other discomforts clamoured for my attention. An uncomfortable and strange pressure between my legs, that same pin prick in my arm, stabbing pains in my arms and legs and a tightness around my stomach making it hard to breath. Physically, I felt like I'd been run over by a truck.
'Or been in a plane crash.' My mind noted, remembering my dream disturbed sleep.
It had been just a bad dream, hadn't it?
Above my head was a plain card written in what looked like Chinese, or maybe Japanese characters spelling out some unknown word. Another mystery added to the pile then; and Forrest Gump me still being stuck for a reason why I was there in the first place.
I noticed the stand beside me, an I.V. line running from a bag filled with what looked clear water, down to the pinprick in my bandaged arm.
At least I'd found an answer to that question.
My arm was strange, different, hairless now, slender pale and delicate. Absent mindedly, I flexed my hand, gripping it into a fist and releasing repeatedly, proving to myself it was mine.
"Weird," I commented to whoever was listening. My voice cracked.
My gaze followed up my arm, onto the duck egg coloured hospital gown, then down onto my chest and the source of the strange weight. A sick feeling of shock and fear rose in my stomach as I noticed the reason for the extra weight on my chest. The extra weight was my chest. A gentle poke rewarded by an uncomfortable tingle told me that they weren't someone's idea of a sick joke.
Just to be sure I cautiously checked under my hospital gown.
A clear tube penetrating some bandages around my slender stomach down onto my wider hips and some more plastic tubing that led into…
A scream of combined terror and shock drew nearby hospital staff my room. A tall, gaunt doctor and a short, brunette nurse. As they ran through the door they were surprised to see me sitting up in bed repeating. "This can't be real," over and over to myself.
This had to be some sort of nightmare. Some sort of weird story. It couldn't be real. It was the stuff of a bad Twilight Zone episode, a delusion best left to a patient going batshit insane in a mental asylum. It was a simple scientific fact. One did not simply go to bed one night as a man and wake up as a girl.
Terrified, I looked right into the dark brown eyes of a doctor, approaching me like some devil with a stethoscope.
The doctors started talking at me, but I couldn't speak whatever language they were speaking. It was so fast and clipped, I couldn't understand what they were saying. It was Japanese, I knew that much. It seemed so immediate and so aggressive. It just terrified me even more.
A nurse picked up my right arm, probably to change my I.V line or check my pulse or something. I snatched it away fearfully. Whatever it was I didn't want her to do it. She scowled at me before trying to pull it away from my chest. I pulled back.
She said something to Doctor which got his attention. He tried to take my arm from me but I had decided that no one was going to touch it. He tugged at my arm to release it, accidentally hurting my stomach.
"Get away from me!" I yelled, causing him and the nurse to jump back surprised. "What the fuck did you do to me?"
The doctor and the nurse started talking to each other while I cradled my arm defensively. A single imperative entered my mind.
I had to get out of there. This was some sort of insane asylum, some sort of psychotic delusion, or something, nothing good in anyways. Whatever happened, I had to escape from this place of terror. I pushed myself almost fully upright in the bed and tried to stand up but the doctor spotted me and roughly pushed me down again.
"Get off me!" I shouted trying to get myself free from his arms.
"Get off me!" I began to scream, absolutely terrified, squirming and shaking, desperately trying to get away, to free myself from his evil grip.
He gave an order to the nurse who picked a syringe off of a tray they had wheeled in.
I had to get out now.
They were going to drug me, do bad things to me. I wasn't going to hang around in a fucking loony bin and let them pump me full of psychoactive God knows what drugs.
I clenched my right hand into a fist and punched the doctor as hard as I could, drawing blood from his nose and in the process tearing the I.V line from my arm, which hurt. A prick on my shoulder reminded me that the nurse had been preparing an injection but before I could smack the needle away I collapsed into a drug induced sleep.
Nightmares haunted my sleep, Memories of the crash disturbing my rest. And then these strange things that stuck in my memory, as if they were recorded on a video for my benefit.
I can remember myself, at least, my 'new' self sitting on some ageing diesel-reeking commuter train, opposite a grinning grey haired albino boy, humming 'ode to joy' to himself. The way he smiled at me, I knew immediately who he was.
"Nagisa Kawaoru," he introduced himself with a polite bow.
I looked at my own body, red faced embarrassed to see myself wearing what looked like the school uniform from Class 2-A, my class satchel packed neatly beside me. and a cup of steaming coffee on the table. The otherwise white carriage was floodlit a brilliant orange by the sun, setting behind some distant mountains, lending the air a strange haze.
"When an object is in motion," he started, his blood red eyes having a dark, infinite depth that made me feel as if he could read my very soul. "It will continue on course unless some, external, unbalanced force acts on it."
"Newton's First Law," I said, recognising the quote.
"Correct," the Angel nodded. "Remember that, and that will be all you will need to know."
"Know about what?" I demanded.
"You'll see," he responded, "But as long as you use the fruit of knowledge you've received, you will be fine, that is all you need to know."
There was something about his reassuring tone of voice that just bugged the hell out of me. A quick deduction and I understood immediately that he was responsible for what had happened to me.
And then I was woken once more.
"Goddamit," I mumbled, recognising the lemon smell of the disinfectant on the hospital bedsheets. My awareness slowly filtered back, every sensation and tingle from my body making itself known as I lay there on my back.
For some time, I found myself compelled to just lay there and stare at the foam tiled ceiling, contemplating what exactly was happening to me.
Then at my chest, two soft rounded bumps hidden beneath the light white bedsheet.
Then back to the ceiling.
Then down at my chest again.
Then forcing myself to stare at the ceiling once more.
Then slowly, curiously back down to my newly acquired chest.
Followed by a quick embarrassed snap back up to the uniform tiles above me.
This is stupid, I realised humourlessly.
If I was going to be stuck as a girl, there were some changes I was going to have to get used to. Slowly, I pushed myself upright in my bed, the light blankets dropping from around my body, pooling at my waist.
It was strange. I didn't hurt as much as the last time I'd woken up. Maybe whatever had been wrong with my new body had healed itself. An intrepid curiosity took hold as I inspected myself, gently squeezing the two new lumps.
It tingled and tickled and I was forced to stifle a perverted giggle. Already, I could feel a burning heat on my cheeks as I was sure I blushed a vivid red. And then an odd…discomfort building between my legs as I felt blood flood to my more sensitive areas. Slowly, I lifted my hospital gown to see what was beneath.
Tubing for a catheter, or something, whatever it was it was bloody uncomfortable. Had this body been in some sort of coma? That would explain more than a few things. Slowly parting the relatively innocent pipework I found what I was looking for.
Yup, definitely a girl, no doubt about it.100 percent double X chromosome female.
"How disgusting," I snapped at myself, quickly covering my shame, hiding it from my own eyes. It was obvious. Whoever's body this had been, had only been a teenager.
I dropped back onto my pillow, returning my gaze to the by now familiar ceiling above me, trying to get this in some sort of order in my head.
"I go to bed," I started explaining to the situation to myself. And trying my new voice out. "Have some nightmare about a plane crash. Then, I wake up in this hospital," I swallowed my embarrassment. "As a girl, go buggo because of said problem, get sedated, have a dream about Kawaoru Nagisa quoting Newton's laws, and now I'm here."
Silence, and then my final conclusion.
"That is such a load of bullshit,"
This couldn't be real. No fracking way. This had to be some sort of dream, or maybe a nightmare. So then, how do I wake up?
'Wake up.' I closed my eyes.
No such luck.
"Hello!" I called out to whatever power was running the place. "I'm ready to wake up now!"
I was answered only by the ring of my own voice of the walls, a distant rattle in the air-conditioning above me, and some mysterious announcements over the hospital PA system.
So what was my best choice now then?
I decided I'd just have to go with it for now, until hopefully, I found some way home. If this was just a dream, or me going nuts from being alone too much, I lost nothing by playing along with it. If this was real, then I could lose everything by assuming otherwise.
"Okay…Okay," I whispered on my exhaling breath.
The beat of a passing helicopter drew my attention out the window to my right, it's shadow rushing by and rattling the glass panes. Looking out through the window, I could see a large object silhouetted by morning sun. A massive dark diamond surrounded by a swaying steel forest of cranes.
It looked like the Fifth Angel… Ramiel… from Neon Genesis Evangelion. That would explain Kawaoru…
There really was no doubt now. Whatever was going on, to top it all off, I was in the world of Evangelion. I even knew when I was. It had to be sometime between episode six, and maybe ten. It was a small relief then that I wouldn't be 'tanged' the next day.
"Bollox," I dropped back down onto the bed.
I heard the door squeak open. I pushed myself upright to greet the nurse, the same brunette who'd earlier pumped me full of sedatives.
"Oh." she nearly dropped her tray with the shock of seeing me staring back at her.
I just grinned back at her, considering it adequate revenge for her drugging me asleep.
Quickly, she fumbled with a small black plastic object, a pager or a mobile phone, tapping out a message with one hand as she tried to balance the tray with the other. Silently, I willed it to fall to the ground, but again, no such luck.
Placing the tray on a small wooden table at the end of my bed, she quickly launched into what I could only guess where a series of questions.
"I don't understand," was the only answer I could offer her.
She gave me an odd look for a moment, perhaps wondering why a Japanese girl couldn't speak Japanese.
She answered me again in Japanese, raising her hands slightly, apologetically, followed by what I guessed was an order to wait. It wasn't as if I was going anywhere anyway. Every movement in my bed reminded me that I was still tethered to it by my most sensitive areas.
A new arrival rushed in, a European man wearing the white overcoat of a doctor.
"Good Morning Noriko," he said in a reassuringly cheerful English accent. "I'm Doctor James, I can act as an interpreter, if you'd like."
"Um….Morning." I answered rather sheepishly, still a little embarrassed that someone was seeing me like I was. And Noriko? That must be my name, or at least whoever I had been. Still half in shock, I was just glad to have someone I could understand.
"And how are feeling this morning?" he asked.
"Fine, I guess," I responded, my insecurities slowly fading away.
I suppose there was a reason Doctors are meant to have compassionate eyes, or maybe it was just that he was speaking in a language that I could actually understand.
"That's good," his smile broadened, as he clicked a pen against his clipboard. "Now then, I have some questions I need to ask, just to check a few things, you don't mind do you?"
I did actually. If they asked me who I was, or what I'd been doing then how could I answer him with anything except, 'I don't know'. I didn't even know my own name for Gods sakes. I could guess it was Noriko something, but for all I knew it could've been Noriko J Croft. Would they figure out then that maybe I wasn't really who I appeared to be, or just think I was psychologically damaged by whatever accident had put me in hospital in the first place.
So if this was NGE, at least I knew I'd fit in perfectly. I was already hanging into my sanity by a thread.
"No," I shook my head nervously. It wasn't as if I really had much of a choice in the matter anyway.
"Good, good," he smiled at me. "Now, can you tell me your name?"
Already failed the test at the first question. It was like my Maths finals all over again. Quickly, I searched for something, anything that could be a hit at what my last name might be. A small label, written in roman characters, was taped to the now silent cardiograph.
'Nagato, Noriko No. 513.' it read in bold black letters, along with a number of other little characters I couldn't place.
I turned to the doctor, still patiently waiting for my a response, and with the utmost confidence that I was right, I answered.
He frowned playfully at me.
"You read the machine, didn't you?"
"Em…kind of," I scratched the back of my head sheepishly. Caught cheating, it really was like my Maths finals all over again.
"Well," he cleared his throat dramatically, glancing at his clipboard "You did that the last time too,"
"Um…Last time?" I questioned.
His shoulders dropped with a loud sigh. Had I said something wrong? What did he mean by 'Last Time'? The last time I was awake, I'd been drugged asleep. I think. Another insecurity to gnaw at the back of my mind.
"Well, we don't need to worry about it," he obviously dodged the issue. "Can you tell me a little about yourself?"
I could already see him writing 'Severe Emotional Trauma', or something to that effect on his brown clipboard. Anyway, I had to at least attempt to find an answer. There was a chance I could be right.
"I am Japanese,"
It didn't exactly take Vulcan level logic to work that out. I had a Japanese name, and I was definitely in a Japanese hospital.
"Correct," the doctor nodded. "At least, you were born here," he corrected me. "Now, do you remember anything else?"
On a leap of faith I just closed my eyes, and hoped that perhaps, like deleted data on a disk, some of Noriko's memories might be left behind before they were overwritten.
Nope, nothing except an odd feeling that something was missing from my left arm. Other than that, nothing.
"No," I looked at my left arm, and a strange pink scar that suddenly seemed more important somehow.
"Your family, you're home, anything?" he nudged.
Choked up momentarily, it came as a kick to the teeth reminder of my own real family. Whatever the hell had just happened to me, they probably knew about it now. Christ I just wanted them to be with me. I didn't want to cry, I didn't want to suddenly break down like this. Events were finally catching up to me as it became clear that I was alone, and that nobody was going to come and take me home. Wet tears ran down my cheeks as I looked back up at the doctor, who was still waiting.
"I don't…" I sniffed. "I don't remember."
That was a lie. That just made me feel worse. Guilt for not even acknowledging their existence. I buried my face in my hands and tried to get some semblance of control of myself. Well, my mother had always been complaining about how she wished she'd had a daughter instead of two sons. My own fault for being a lazy ass sometimes I guess.
Whimpering, I looked to the Doctor. I couldn't ask him to just take me home. He probably didn't know where home was.
"In your own time," Dr. James said softly
"I'm okay," I sniffed, wiping my nose. "I'm okay, I'm okay,"
I could deal with this. Compared to the traditional EVA tragic past, this was a breeze. At least they were still alive. Or maybe killed during Second Impact. Fracking hormone driven emotions won't even give me a chance to calm down and get a level head.
I closed my eyes and took a long shivered breath, holding it, swallowing that lump in my throat and then just looking back up at the doctor. I wasn't going to curl up into some ball of despair over this. Worse things happened at sea, I could deal with it. I could deal with it.
Teary eyed and quaking slightly I looked to the doctor to continue. Someone said the truth hurts, so I wanted some golden anaesthetic first. But I was at least four years too young for that now.
"So you remember nothing then?"
"No," I answered in a small voice. "Nothing before waking up."
"Okay," he sighed. "Perhaps I could tell you a little about yourself then?"
Judging by his tone, this was a common thing.
"I'd like that,"
Anything to divert my train of thought from it's inevitable destination.
"Alright," he cleared his throat, leafing through the pages on his board. "You were born here, in Japan, on November 11th, 2000. You were registered at Usui refugee centre in Gunma, so that'd make you a Japanese citizen,"
Hence the probable mystery as to why a fourteen year old Japanese girl could only speak English. And fluent English at that. I just listened intently as the Doctor continued.
"You're parents names were Megumi Nagato, your mother, and Hiroki Nagato, your father."
The mention of 'my' mothers name had me looking again at my left wrist, as if something was missing.
"Anyway, sometime after the Valentine armistice, records are unclear on this, your family moved to Europe, taking you with them. Your Father's agency was transferring him back here when your flight came down,"
According to Doctor James, my mother was killed in a car accident about three years beforehand. That meant I had no living relatives left, that they could find anyway.
That's the way it continued really. I suppose the doctor expected each new sentence to be a hammer blow to me psyche but I honestly wasn't too bothered by it. To tell the truth I was strangely enthralled by this tale of my past. And, I finally had an explanation for that so called nightmare.
As it was, I was also one of only three survivors of the crash of Oceanic Flight 214. The Pilot who was a vegetable somewhere in the hospital, and a four year old girl that was found in a tree, having been thrown clear of the wreckage. I'd been found alive, but unconscious in the wreckage.
Suffice to say, with some diversion, I was beginning to feel better.
Although, had I actually known anyone involved at the time, I'd probably have been huddled in a ball on the floor crying for my mommy. As it was, I just wanted to hear more of this short, but interesting story that was 'my' life. I was meeting a new person, and I wanted to know everything about her.
"Of course, there are some matters that I'm hesitant to bring up right now," he paused and took a deep breath. I just watched him, waiting patiently for whatever he was going to tell me "Well, it'll have to come out eventually I suppose,"
I stared at him, impatiently waiting for whatever this might be.
"Your Father was also killed in the crash." he concluded solemnly.
That left me at a bit of a loss. I just wasn't sure how I was supposed to respond to that. I wasn't really too concerned about the death of someone I hadn't known. To me, Hiroki Nagato was just a name on a piece of paper.
"I understand." I answered flatly.
Saying 'Okay' with a bright smile would've probably had me being quickly sent for intensive psychotherapy sessions.
"How are you feeling now?" he asked.
"I'm okay," I responded. "Just a bit rattled. It's a lot to take in,"
"Take your time," The doctor said, his compassionate smile returning. "I have other patients to attend to Noriko, so, I'll have to see you tomorrow then. There should be a government official as well. Nurse Ibuki here will take care of your 'private' issues. Cheerio!"
"Em, Cheerio," I answered, more interested in the fifty year old, slightly overweight, brunette nurse that had been working unnoticed in my room the whole time. She was the same one who had drugged me before, and found me awake earlier.
What could the Doctor possibly mean by 'Private issues'?
The nurse snapped a pair of rubber gloves from a small cardboard box. She said something that sounded as if it was supposed to reassure me as she slowly approached. I shrank back into my pillow, still trying to figure out what she wanted to do.
When I did, I knew true fear.
What happened afterwards is best not mentioned. Suffice to say, twenty minutes later I was no longer tethered to my bed, though I'd gained a very sore spot between my legs for the privilege. They'd finally disconnected me from all the little electronics, I could move if I wanted.
But where could I go.
I was also eating my way through some soft strawberry jelly and ice cream, the first thing my body had eaten through the mouth in around seven months. I poked at a still-fresh scar that slashed across my stomach like a failed attempt at seppuku. It had partners on my right arm and leg, running parallel to the bone. I could feel the metal holding the bones together underneath when I squeezed.
My first full day inded with me lying back on my bed, staring once more at the ceiling. I was cranking the day's events over in my mind, trying to fill in certain blanks, and maybe get some small idea of what might be coming.
A government official, did that mean Foster care then?
I had the traditional EVA tragic past, so it was entirely possible that perhaps I could find myself behind the sticks of an Evangelion. The fanboy within stirred at the merest hint of that possibility, desperately searching for any and all possible scenarios that could put me at the controls of Unit 01, no matter how far-fetched.
And then, night fell, and the hospital fell silent. In the darkness, I was alone, lying there, listening to the rattle of the ventilation, with the silhouette of Ramiel against the moonlit sky as my only company.
Nuts to EVA, I really wanted to go home, just wake up in my own bed, realise this was a nightmare and live happily ever after.
Sometime after that, I fell into a peaceful and welcome sleep.
Morning came, and I was woken by the warmth of the sun shining on my face. The by now familiar smell of lemon told me exactly where I was. I was still in the hospital room. I was still Noriko Nagato.
Damn. It looked like I couldn't expect that to change anytime soon.
Breakfast arrived, a bowl of what appeared to be Corn Flakes and a cup of green tea. An unusual mix, but filling enough.
I was quickly finding though, that some things were common to both genders. Like the uncomfortable pressure of a full bladder.
Which meant I had to find a bathroom. There was no way in hell I was using the bed pan. Embarrasingly, I wasn't quite sure how it was supposed to work…
Slowly, I swung my creaking legs over the edge of the bed, pulling myself up onto my feet for the first time. My joints were stiff and painful, not having been used. Like a drunk who's had more than one too many I struggled on jelly legs to find something that resembled a centre of balance.
At least I didn't fall flat on my face.
It occurred to me that after seven months in a bed, I shouldn't have been able to walk. That was after I'd made it to the doorway, clinging tightly to the frame.
Still struggling to walk, concentrating on just putting one foot in front of the other, I staggered my way out the veneer door, and into the stark white corridor outside. Joints creaked and muscles ached, but my legs were working. Left…right…left…right. Not hard, I just had to concentrate.
A cute bottle blonde nurse smiled at me, before carrying on with whatever business she was taking care of. Using a wooden banister that ran along the wall for balance I stumbled forward on my intrepid search . My bare feet padded on the cold linoleum floor as tried to figure out where the nearest bathroom was.
I gave thanks that most signs were bilingual, but most only directed me to either 'Radiology' or 'Cardiology'. They may have been in English, but they weren't in any language I spoke. It was almost pure chance that found me standing outside the pastel pink doorway marked with the internationally recognised symbol for 'ladies'.
I swallowed, my hand stopping before it reached the metal push plate.
Twenty years of social conditioning told me that what was beyond that door was forbidden country. Only bad things could come of it. But I couldn't exactly go to the gents now, could I?
The choice was harder than I thought it'd be anyway.
"Well, to boldly go where no man has gone before,"
Somehow, Captain Kirk's famous quote seemed strangely appropriate. It also sounded just plain weird coming from a fourteen year old girl. A squeak of the door and I passed into a perfume smelling world of pastel colours, pink and pale blues. The air inside reeked of lavender, rose, apricot, and God knows what else.
I really didn't belong in there.
But nobody had yelled at me so I carried on my search for an empty stall. I barely noticed my reflection in the mirrors above the row of washbasins on my left as I closed the door behind me and took care of what I came to do.
Washing my hands I caught my first good look at myself in the mirror. My face was traditional oriental Japanese, with chestnut brown eyes and slightly pale, rounded cheeks. Of course, I was more than a little rough around the edges, with a few stray strands of long black hair across my face, the rest hanging haphazardly behind my shoulders.
"Well hello there Noriko," I smiled at myself, the doppelganger in the mirror matching my actions perfectly. "Nice to meet you Miss Nagato,"
I was a little thin and underfed, a little wiry in my arms and legs, but I still had an acceptable figure. An old lady who'd entered unheard gave me the strangest look, as if I was mad, but I just answered her with a smile
And so, I made my way back to my room. Already, I was beginning to adapt to my altered centre of gravity. I could walk without tripping over my own feet at least, though it was obvious to just about everyone I passed that it'd been a while since I'd been standing on my own two feet.
Returning to my bed, I sat and watched a few shows, even if I couldn't understand what was being said, one of the shows, I couldn't remember the title, seemed strangely familiar.
"Good Afternoon Noriko!" Dr James' cheerful voice interrupted my viewing pleasure.
"Afternoon," I responded, a little irritated.
"You remember yesterday?"
"Good." He smiled, looking almost relieved. "I've brought someone from the government to see you. Captain Misato Katsuragi from NERV,"
Really? The Misato Katsuragi. My mind spinlocked.
The Major…correction, Captain appeared with a smile on her face, standing in the doorway, carrying a grey folder under her arm. She was beautiful, with a bright smile that warmed the entire room. A short red jacket and a long skirt worn high made her seem taller than she actually was compared to the doctor, but she was still taller than myself.
A quick exchange between her and the Doctor and I guessed he explained my language difficulties to her. It just unnerved me that they were discussing what was likely my future, and I didn't have a say in it.
The fanboy within me remembered a Misato/Asuka fic I'd once read.
In reality, that was about as likely as Shinji falling from the cockpit of Unit 01 and me taking his place. Of course, in reality, this was all just some TV series, with two movies at the end. And Misato was speaking to me as she placed a grey folder on my bedside table.
"Your Father worked for an agency called NERV." the Doctor translated Misato's words for my benefit. "He was being transferred here, to Tokyo-3 when the plane crashed."
I just nodded, this being old news me.
"He worked on something called 'Evangelion', did he ever tell you about this?" the Captain/Doctor asked.
Technically, I didn't know the answer to that. He might've told Noriko, but I couldn't remember if he did. I did know what an EVA was, but there wasn't a way in hell I'd let anyone else know that. Inanyways, I'd have to keep my series knowledge secret, anything otherwise could be very dangerous.
That, and there really was only one reason she could be talking to a fourteen year old orphan child about a giant robot. I started to fizz inside with a giddy excitement.
"No." I answered meekly, nervously, expecting any moment for it either to be explained or offered to me.
She smiled and nodded.
"I'll leave these folders with you then tonight. They'll tell you everything you need to know."
Again, I could only nod my understanding, feeling nervously sick, like a kid climbing down the stairs on Christmas morning, waiting to see what was waiting for him under the tree.
"I'll see you tomorrow Noriko," Misato smiled at me. "There is something I need to discuss with you then,"
I already knew exactly what that was going to be.
My second full day as Noriko Nagato was ended by me reading through the grey leaflet, marked in English 'For your eyes only'
I think I fell asleep halfway through reading it.
By morning, the paper had bleached white, becoming illegible. They really did want to keep that stuff secret. There was nothing in the dossier I hadn't known already anyway, all it did was make it perfectly obvious to me that I was going to be a Pilot.
A real Evangelion pilot.
It was chilling. It was thrilling. Half of me screamed to just do it, while the rest reminded me of the horrible fate that awaited all EVA pilots.
Any worse a fate if I just said no?
I live for how long as a ward of the State, before Third Impact?
I knew what state care was like back home, and that was something I really wanted to avoid. I knew enough as any other person anyway, heard enough stories to know to bury my head in the sand like the rest of society.
Right. Anything would be better than what social services would do.
I had breakfast on that thought.
I didn't want to be an orphan left in an internet café overnight because the State couldn't find a place for me to stay.
I was pretty certain that if I agreed to pilot, I'd be well treated. Misato seemed kind and… in a moment of gallows humour… it was only going to be for a few months.
Besides, what sort of mecha fanboy would I be if I gave up on the chance to pilot my own Giant Robot? Well, scratch the 'boy' part now, I thought, patting myself on the chest.
The joke fell flat, and I suddenly started to feel horribly uncomfortable with myself. The shock of my little switcheroo was starting to fade. It was starting to hit home that yes, I really was in a different body.
And it really did feel alien.
I suppressed the thought, forcing it out of my mind with a huff. I had bigger things to worry about right now than the bits between my legs.
Which was a wonderful time to realise I needed to use the toilet again. Looking on the bright side of things, I was getting better at walking. I'd gone from being bedridden for seven months, to ambling around with a little difficulty, in three days.
That's got to be a record.
Wandering around a hospital in a light gown was starting to get a little embarrassing. People stared at me and I couldn't figure out why. I wasn't naked or dirty or anything. A little ragged, but there were other kids. There were worse injuries
I saw an old woman who'd been burned down one side of her body, like the most god-awful sunburn you could imagine. I passed a childrens ward where some teenage boy in a tracksuit was sitting beside a little girl in a bed. She was wearing some sort of gantry on her head.
I found some vending machines, then remembered that I had no money. I couldn't recognise anything that was for sale anyway. A television nearby was showing what looked like The Discovery Channel. It was a documentary following divers in some underwater city, pointing out corroded artifacts of the twentieth century. A crab crawled out of a seaweed-covered Corvette while the divers found their way around a ruined McDonalds. The Mythbusters would be on next, according to the banner.
I didn't have to read the Kanji to recognise them. Strange. I wonder what else is the same?
Stealing an English-language National Geographic with a picture of an abandoned city on the cover, I made my way back to my own private little room. After twenty minutes of not very fast walking, I was already feeling a little tired.
Doctor James was waiting for me, glaring.
"You were supposed to stay in your room,"
"I needed to go... y'know."
"That's what the bedpan was for." he held up the tray, pointing inside.
"It's embarrassing," I frowned, sitting down on a chair originally intended for visitors. I was up and about, and for some reason, I was determined to stay that way.
"You're still under observation. Most patients in your position are barely able to sit up in bed, let alone go for an easy stroll. Then again, you're not like most patients are you?"
He noticed my expression. "Get back in to bed and I'll tell you," he smiled.
I sighed. He was treating me like a child. Reluctantly, I climbed under the covers.
"Alright," he nodded. "Stop me if this gets a little much."
"Right, when you were found by the rescue teams, you were barely alive. You'd been well..." he looked for the right word "... the medical term would be smashed to pieces. Most people would've been dead, but you were extremely fit for a girl your age. Even so, you were barely alive when you got here. You lost a lot of blood you see, and when that happens, it causes all sorts of things to go wrong. Your heart stopped."
I was fascinated. And a little disturbed. I could hear my heartbeat thumping in my ear.
"We managed to resuscitate you, but it took too long. The brain was starved of oxygen and when that happens..." he was searching for the idiot's explanation, "it starts to shut down and die." He wore a grave expression "You were brain-dead Noriko, according to all our instruments anyway. You were declared legally dead."
"Isn't that normally... well... irreversible?" That's what I understood.
"Yes," he nodded again. "It used to be a much higher standard before the Impact, that's under review because you," he chuckled, "Obviously it was declared too soon. We kept your body alive under assumed consent laws, while we tested donor compatibility. You're a post-impact young woman you see."
For a moment, I thought of vultures tearing my body apart. Okay, it might not technically have been mine, but it still made me a little queasy.
"We found a few suitable recipients and well," he sighed, "I pulled the plug on you, turning off the life support machines. And you didn't stop breathing."
For some reason, that filled me with pride, "Sorry about that," I smiled at him.
"Plank of Carnaedes," he shrugged. "You stayed alive. You're entitled to that. When you didn't die, we switched over to making sure you wouldn't die. We did our best for your injuries."
I scratched the scar on my arm.
"It's all riveted and plated," he explained. "Your legs aswell. You surprised us again by healing up much faster than expected. We had a pool on when you'd wake up, especially when you started showing signs that you were dreaming. I lost,"
"Sorry," I giggled. "Dreaming?"
"Yes, quite a lot actually, especially in the month or so before you woke up for the first time."
The memory of that made me shudder.
"Your mind was extremely active, like you were constantly dreaming. And only a few days after you regain your full awareness, after seven months in bed, you're up and walking around with little difficulty.
There's something with you...I dunno." He ran his hand through his hair. "Maybe that's why the government are so interested in you. You're a really special young woman, Noriko."
And the 'young woman' part of that made me cringe. Special person... maybe I just got lucky. Or whatever force which decided to do this to me decided to give me a chance, rather than leaving me laying in a bed for months going through months of therapy.
And the dreaming... was that me being 'uploaded', for want of a better term?
"It's all a little much to take in. I'm just glad I can walk,"
"You should be," he said.
Lucky to be able to walk. Lucky to be able to pilot EVA. Lucky to get a second chance at life?
The Doctor had more tests to run. Memory tests especially... I think he suspected I was lying about not knowing anything about Noriko's past beyond what he could tell.
As far as my brain was concerned, I went to bed one night as myself... after staying up a little too long reading something about Shinji and Asuka being sent back in time... dropped into a sleep, had a God-awful nightmare about a plane crash that makes me shiver when I think about it, then woke up in a hospital bed with some extra weight on my chest.
A NERV recruitment ad was on television. It reminded me of Starship Troopers.
It was late afternoon and I was getting pretty tired when there was a knock on the door. Misato was back. Her and the Doctor had a long discussion, showing results on tests, charts and I didn't know what else. There was no more uncomfortable thing than knowing you were being talked about, in a language you couldn't understand.
She only had one simple question for me.
"Would you like to try and Pilot EVA?"
I wanted to say yes. But there was something I had to ask.
"Can I refuse?"
The Doctor translated my question. Misato smiled softly.
"It's best if you do this willingly,"
So, that would be a 'no' then
I nodded. "Right, I'll do it,"
I tried to hide how giddy I was inside.
Thank you to Arkiel and Jabberwok for their assistance working on this. Cattynebulart for comments that led to the revision.
A few edits to confirm Noriko's background, and modify a few details both to draw attention to the fact that she should not be doing so well fresh out of a 7 month coma. God this feels old when reading it. I did it in late 2006… it is now late 2010. That's a hell of a gap … for Noriko, those 4 years were about 5 weeks. Gunbuster effect?