Tumbling Down part 3


=][=

Kozo Fuyutsuki was a man uncomfortable with power. He had never once sought to amass influence, and to be NERV's supreme commander at this point was to be little more than a figurehead. A goat, tethered to tempt a man-eating tiger. It was amusing, in its own way, for it assumed that there would still be a chance to cast blame after this.

Odd, that. Even the politicians clung to the stubborn hope of survival against all odds.

Down below Maya Ibuki screamed and violently jerked about in helpless convulsions. Blood dribbled from her nose and mouth and out her ears, signs of traumatic brain damage.

"Medical team to the command tower!" Shigeru shouted in panic, while Makoto and Shigeru tried to restrain her.

Ritsuko turned back from the elevator and flipped back her lab coat to expose a belt of cartridges. She pulled out a hypodermic jet injector as she walked back, and stabbed it with nary a word straight into the fleshy part of Maya's neck.

The stricken NERV lieutenant relaxed immediately into the grip of insensibility. No one was surprised that Ritsuko now, at all times, carried enough sedatives on her to knock out an elephant if she so desired.

Completely unconcerned, despite the rumors regarding her and the young woman, Ritsuko turned away towards her self-appointed suicidal task. Her glasses glinted, a smile was on her lips.

The old man watched above and wondered, even as the figure of his adoration carved up the city while dancing to the music of an AT-field pulsating through spacetime, why it was that Ikari (either of them) seemed to draw surpassingly frightening women. Even he had to admit, as much as he had loved Yui – enough to help her die – he could not deny that her ideals were just as monstrous as SEELE's own.

The command center grew even more silent as more of the city fell to pieces. As bloody reports came in, the voices of those responding grew colder and more hateful.

"We are not cogs in the machine…" Fuyutsuki whispered. "To be a cog would imply that our removal would compromise the machine itself. Is this your plan, young Ikari? We are turned to fodder, burned as fuel for the great burning furnace that powers Man's apotheosis."

Up above, an old dead god dances to celebrate being lifted from slumber.

'Yui… how did it go so wrong? This can't be what you wanted, when you gave up your life for the sake of your child.'

When the first Contact Experiment was carried out, Unit-01 was still attached as mature specimen growing out of Lillith's womb. Bodily, perhaps already an equal to its mother, but did it yet have a soul of its own?

The dancing figure up on the main screen paused in mid-turn, and for a moment there it seemed as if she looked straight at him. A sultry smile was on her lips.

'I have created you to feel pain, that you might search for joy. I have created you to know fear, that you may seek shelter. I have created you to hunger, that you might sate yourself through eating my flesh.'

'Fuyutsuki-sensei…'her eyes were warm with longing.

'You were made broken, that you may seek to become one.'

'Become one with me…'

And Kozo Fuyutsuki smiled, feeling himself starting to break apart from the inside, and said with a whisper –

"No."

'Yui. I trusted you then, and even now… even as the madness consumes us, I believe that the world you wanted for your son, the world you thought worth giving up your own life, isn't this shallow dream of power. You wouldn't have traded the greed of madmen for the hunger of a mad god, or even the fever of a mad child.'

"I will see your plan to the end, Yui. Third Impact only on our terms."

'For I, too, have faith. Love is the stronger trust.'

=][=

The prayer wheels stopped clacking all at once. The temple's Abbess had everyone end their duties for the day. Everyone returned in silence to their homes, to gather with their friends and family around hearth-fires.

For most of her life, Jamyang had thought herself just one of the orphans being raised in the temple. Only recently did she come to know that Hasya Winter-Song, an absent-minded teacher who could raise any respect even from her own students, was actually her aunt. Hasya was the one to bring her into Javaal as an infant.

Jamyang regretted too late her disdainful thoughts, even though Hasya didn't hold it against those who were amused by her broken personality. For most of her life, Hasya had lived in an only barely-lucid state that kept her from forming familial bonds. Only now did people realize that the reason her behavior was so flaky was because her mental powers were so expansive that she could barely hold on to her own personality.

Why that was so was something she shouldn't worry over, she was told. The psyker genetic legacy was half-random. There was a good chance that a child born of both psyker parents would have strange mental abilities too, or - like with herself, whose parents were both normal people but with an aunt that wasn't.

"Why do soldiers love their great generals, the warrior-kings that send them to their deaths? Why, for good rations and watchful attention, do they march to war with no regret? Why is it that sometimes fear do not prison a heart?

Why is it, that lovers live forever in a moment? Why do discoverers struggle, unable to bear a world left unknown? Why is it that sometimes, mortality does not entrap a soul?"

She found herself standing in line with others in gray and blue, a rifle taller than she was at her shoulders.

She blinked, and the vision faded.

"Walk with me, niece." Hasya Mountain-Song had ordered, and Jamyang leapt to obey. The thin, mousy woman walked with unearthly grace. The teen was half-running just to keep up.

They walked in silence past the courtyard and out towards the border between warm Javaal and the Himalayan mountainside. Jamyang had never left the valley, for a good reason. It was damn cold out there and she had no idea where to go.

They stepped through a seemingly solid wall of rock and into the cold.

Jamyang winced as the sub-zero wind struck her. Then the cold went away. She felt her aunt's arm on her shoulder. She looked aside to see Hasya was glowing gold, and shivered again.

"Look." said Hasya. "These mountains are older than mankind, but even they are not forever. Ten thousand years ago, no one dared live on these slops. A hundred thousand years ago, men were exploring the limits of their world with stone tools. A million years ago, the mice that would become men lived without knowing anything like ambition or resignation. In the time when the thunder lizards walked, these mountains didn't even exist.

While the life you've lived isn't luxurious, it has been safe and comfortable. It's going to end soon. Look there. Can you stand firmer than the mountains?"

Jamyang winced. "I'm sorry."

"What are you apologizing for?" Hasya asked impishly. "You should. " She pinched at the side of Jamyang's neck, and the girl couldn't help a pained 'yow!' "The mountain, and we, are mostly empty space." Her face turned deadly serious. "Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter."

Yamyang rubbed at her neck mulishly, unwilling to raise the point on how the universe had mass, while the Abbess was nonchalantly defying thermodynamics.

The valley of Javaal was a miracle, a warm refuge deep in the barren snow-capped mountain of Tibet. So old and steeped were its rocks in psychic power that even mere borderline mind could find itself in possession of strange abilities.

It was a close to an earthly paradise that could be found, in terms of Tantric Buddhism at least (which didn't concern itself with physical comforts or monuments to ego anyway), and people who grew up within its walls were justifiably terrified of the uncontrolled chaos of the outside world.

Just a few months ago, Javaal's long peace was permanently broken. A boy had journeyed into the valley, in a few short weeks learned enough to surpass the powers of those who spent their lives training, and just as suddenly as he'd arrived had left without looking back. He took with him learned masters and disciplined warriors of the temple.

Who could shatter the peace they've so longed for, so thoroughly, but a demon in human form? Jamyang could only shiver at the memory. She'd thought that it would be exciting to know more of what was happening outside the unchanging walls, but her brush with an agent of unrelenting change just disrupted her sleeping patterns. Her dreams were filled with blood, screams, and death.

Her dreams were accurate visions of the present.

In a place full of telepaths, it was impossible to hide her distress. She was not unique, however. Others were experiencing similar dread.

"Right now, people are dying. How does this make you feel?"

Jamyang frowned. "I'm not sure. I feel afraid, of course. But I can't see who is dying. I feel that I should care more, but..." The girl hugged herself. In the distance she could feel as if a black sun, shining a light of despair across the world.

"Why does Javaal exist, niece?" asked

"Um... to preserve knowledge and teach those who have supernatural abilities how to responsibly use their powers."

"That is what we do. As the mental disciplines are separated into the inward and outward paths, so here in the roof of the world do we train and hide. Occasionally we set out to police those among humanity who possess psychic power. Here, so far from civilization, do we remove ourselves from the temptation to meddle with mankind's natural growth.

But that isn't why we exist."

"Why are we even here?' the girl asked piteously. "Just to get used up and thrown away..." She couldn't decide which was a worse fate - to be a helpless bystander caught up in the maelstrom, or to have enough power or awareness to see one's own inescapable destruction.

It was like a bright flash burst from behind her eyes, a high-pitched tone resounding within her skull.

"Why me...?" the girl asked. "Just we talked a little...? Or is because I'm related to you?"

"Haha... no, you have only yourself to blame for this, little one. Your curiosity compels you to understand. You're just slightly more sensitive to this sort of thing." Hasya looked at the shining snow and sighed. "Our faith... is old. The philosophies we've picked up through the many thousands of years, how we've changed as a people, all of it just to secure a moment of hope when everything comes tumbling down.

Nirvana is beyond us now. The barriers are eroding. People are finally beginning to understand each other. "

Jamyang put her hands over her ears. "They're dying! They're in so much pain!" She dropped to her knees and retched. "Him. Damn him. What sort of person would want this to happen?"

"Men may claim to understand war, but we women have always been the ones to feel it most." Hasya said.

"Those who remain suffer on, while the dead care no longer. No -one- wanted this to happen… but it is how it is. This is the pain of childbirth. The Star Child must take its first breath, or be aborted at the moment of its emergence."

=][=

They cowered in an alley. Shinji still carried Rei's decapitated head. His eyes were blank, and offered no resistance as he was dragged along. Agent Jiro grunted as he let go, stopping to rest.

Rika Izuna refrained from touching the boy any more than she needed to. Carrying around pieces of a corpse was creepy, but she had never really hated the boy. She could muster more anger towards Misato Katsuragi than Shinji Ikari. They might be kids with monstrous power, but they were still kids! The pilots... it was inevitable, she didn't want to be proven right like this - they would break.

Carrying the weight of the world, pretending they're monstrous enough to bear it all, until they finally slip and fall- and everything shatters. They shatter.

Shinji was shaking. He lifted Rei's head as if he wanted to kiss her cold lips. Tears tracked down his cheeks, but his eyes lacked all feeling. He pressed his forehead to hers and deep inside, he refused to say goodbye.

Rei was gone. He refused to acknowledge that. Asuka, when she returns, she too would cry and demand why he didn't try his best to bring her back.

Death was not supposed to be easy to defeat. He opened his eyes. All that remained of Rei exploded into a gout of blood in his hands. Brain, bone, skin and all - reduced to thick red LCL, dripping down to the dirty alley ground. Her soul was sucked into

He stared numbly at the ichor remaining in his cupped palms.

And then he raised his palms up to his lips and drank. Blood ran down his chin and stained the front of his white shirt. Rika shivered. Creepy children. NERV was entirely to blame for this.

The light from the end of the alley brightened considerably and a feminine silhouette blocked that exit. Agent Jiro grimaced. "Go!" he shouted to Rika and her cameraman. "Just get out of here! I'll hold it off!" And in a lower tone "... somehow."

They had all seen how the toughest armor and psychic power failed to even delay Yui, but the cameraman nodded. "Come on, Rika." He grabbed around one of the boy's armpits and pulled.

Rika made a face. With blood all over his face and down his neck, pale from shock, he looked like a vampire or something. This was everyone's last hope? It was too ridiculous. She rubbed at her eyes and bent over to help.

Suddenly, Shinji's arm shot out to the side. His fingers dug into plaster.

"Don't be stupid, kid!" the cameraman hissed. "We can't let you throw your life away." He grunted and tried to force Shinji to his feet. "Ayanami wouldn't like that, would she?"

Shinji's palms clenched into fists. Rei was dead. Even recovering a clone wouldn't bring her back, the memory download did not work like that. Rei's soul was stolen by Lillith. Her little smiles, the times they shared, the promise they made to Asuka... gone.

Shinji took a deep breath and failed in trying to stand up. He couldn't see the face of his mother, only a back of a man in a black suit barring the way. There was a piece of him that wanted to go out there and... what?

Hatred and longing smashed against his heart, and not all of those emotions were his own. It was like his resolve was being drained away.

He closed his eyes. "Ayanami..." he breathed.

He had one last promise, to make sure there was still a city for Asuka when she returned. It was like there was an echo in his heartbeat. He needed to see the sun. Being held up by the arms, he was just barely able to stagger forwards.

The three left the alley without look back.

Agent Jiro felt such pride in how three people who had just the barest fifteen minutes of contact had united their priorities.

Agent Jiro felt like a bug under a boot. The light at the end of the alley overwhelmed even his polarized sunglasses. The warmth was kind of pleasant, rolling off in waves like being inside a womb. He was starting to feel sleepy, but knew that closing his eyes would mean sleeping forever. So would looking up towards the brighter light.

He kept his eyes firmly on Yui's shoes. Saliva pooled in his mouth. He felt lethargic and hungry at the same time. Looking down he could see his hands. His fingers twitched. He couldn't explain why, but he had the idea that it would taste so good if he just raised his hand up and began to bite them off, chew up his own flesh and bones.

No! He refused to be distracted, to remove her from his direct observation. Still inexplicably she remained unmoving while she had his attention.

He didn't care why. If somehow this bought them a few more seconds to get away... then he chuckled. He was still young, and there was still so much he wanted to do. Being NERV Section 2 was more tedious than he'd expected, but it paid well. He wanted to get married someday, own a small toy or candy shop maybe. His kids would grow up and learn something useful, a doctor or dentist maybe.

And Agent Kentaro would have to be the godparent for them. All of them. He'd have to buy them expensive presents on their birthdays. Just to spite the old man he'd have, like, a dozen kids muahahaha.

"It's a social contract, you know that?" the older agent had said. "It has to be voluntary. If I'm under duress it doesn't count."

What the hell. Agent Jiro grit his teeth. They both knew the risks, just from living in Tokyo-3, but this city just kept on sucker-punching those who kept faith that things would get better.

"Do you believe in Hell, rookie?"

He flinched. It was Agent Kentaro's voice, exact with the bone-weariness the old man, who lived through post-Impact as a teenager, often displayed. He could almost smell the scent of cheap cigarettes stubbed out halfway from being burned through.

"Then you'd best be prepared to accept an eternity of pain. None of us here are good people."

Agent Jiro refused to look up. He focused on those slim feminine ankles. Huh. Yui Ikari wore short white socks. In the darkness behind his brain something with too many eyes and teeth laughed.

"Why would you want to go to the heaven built by a being that made us just to suffer? Why would you want to reincarnate back into a world which offers only fleeting peace? Enlightenment isn't that far off from dying. There's no one that answers when we call out, never has been, never will be. What's happened before will happen again. And again. And again.

It's not so bad, being like this. You don't have to be afraid of anything anymore."

The voice changed to a husky timbre. "Humanity is one being. All souls go to the same place. Great or small, they realize in the end how little they meant."

Lama Pagnor, born James Henry Brown in 1916, had in his death found the nirvana that individual souls had been grasping for through thousands of years. Having the memories now of the actual historical Buddha was rather... uninspiring. He was a good man, but even Gautama did not escape the karmic wheel. It was all just a delusion. Mankind was a germinate form of the Lillith life-form, and eventually they were meant to reach critical mass. The closer they reached for the power of an overmind or imposing will upon the laws that governed the universe, the more they fed their doom.

"Instrumentality is a release from this endless cycle." spoke Yui, but her voice seemed a composite of millions of different female voices. "But if we live in dreams of our own making we might as well have never existed.

But I can make it right again. I can bring it all back... the universe won't ever forget that we were here.

But first everyone should just DIE."

Agent Jiro grit his teeth. They'd followed a boy's stupidly simplistic views because they both believed there was worth in staying alive. Dislike for Gendo Ikari's agenda, weariness at how the government kept on trying to bleed out NERV, he'd followed the older agent's lead because it made sense to take the risks so that others wouldn't have to... if anyone had to suffer, let it be them who were prepared to endure.

This Angel was just trying to unsettle him. The pressure made his knees feel like little twigs and his body so heavy. Fear howled inside his heart.

But ah! What would be the point? He was one frail human? Why would it even bother? He shook his head and stood his ground.

"So what?! I remember what my partner said! There comes a time when it's the smart thing to just give up. There comes a time when life itself wants to push you down! What can you do in that time?

You make the shout!"

Those grueling days spent training again, crashing through the same course as the UNIG to prove their worth, learning about new weapons and techniques... they'd chosen to be more than just mere bodyguards.

Those who lived in the city didn't do it for pride or money. It was an oath they swore to themselves. The world will NOT fucking end, not on my fucking WATCH!

"To yourself!" He stomped at the ground and opened his arms out, presenting himself as a wall. "You get up! You get up! You get up! Can you hear me?! Old man! I watched your goddamn classics! I'm not moving!"

Agent Kentaro was shaking. His tanned skin was starting to turn red and break out in watery boils, as if being roasted over an open flame.

The wall beside him was smashed open, and a large yellow hand reached out. Agent Jiro's eyes widened as he met glowing red eyeports of a bear-like angular helmet. Yui moved. Captain Avirkupolous' right hand pushed at Agent Jiro's chest to force him to the ground. His left hand was held up, having just thrown something behind his back.

A Thought Bomb Grenade detonated in front of Yui's face. The shockwave sluiced forcefully through the alley, and the strong back of Terminator armor took the brunt of the blast.

With groaning servos, Captain Avrikupolous got up from his half-kneeling position. Despite how futile he felt this last charge would be, he never before had he felt so powerful. So full of flowing purpose.

"Move." the Custodian rumbled out.

Through the rear-view camera in his suit he watched Yui nonchalantly wave in front of her face to fan away the smoke. He had a wife and child. He didn't come to the city for mere money. He believed the self-important promises of a boy because he wanted a world where his son could grow up in without the fear of war or hunger.

He was a dam against the frightful torrent. His world extended outside of him and it would not end! He only had left the trust that the boy would somehow live up to his boasts. Even with Case Zero in shatters... to surrender, to lie down and die, what the hell would that accomplish?! Survival instincts rang for him to run, but here he decided to all but turn off his brain and just refuse to be budged.

Fire burned within his soul, beating back the cold despair that seeped in from the collective unconsciousness of humanity, every single one recognizing its progenitor. Man had not yet grown strong enough to fill the space left by its parent.

For some reason Yui remained locked in one place. She put her arms into her lab coat's pockets and her glow intensified. Shadows deepened and stretched out.

He smiled as a TAG signal on his HUD began blinking, and turned red. Compared to how much his powered armor cost, a targeting designator and an overpowered transponder was cheap. He had all-band signal ports both front and back.

Three ultra-thin LCD displays provided him with a view as if he wasn't wearing a helmet. A ghostly white hand slid out of the front screen and caressed his jaw.

"Too late, monster." he said with a fierce grin.

=][=

On distant hilltop, a cannon finished acquiring a targeting lock and fired. Air broke apart as the positron beam lanced through buildings and into the alley. Everything in its path simply ceased to be.

=][=

The trio had just cleared the alley. The Positron blast struck sideways through multiple buildings, and the shockwave it caused blew blew them out of the alley. A hot wind carried them out into the next avenue. Shinji felt boneless, and there was no pain when he landed flat on his back, and skidding to a stop. He felt as if he was looking at his body from the outside, it was a meat-puppet held together only because he had nothing else.

He looked up at the sky, and its blueness was pale and bleak. The moon was a barely-discernible white shard in the afternoon light.

Rika Izuna coughed and heaved for breath. He felt herself being lifted up. Her head was throbbing with pain and, dazily, the past few months flashing behind her eyes.

"Rika? Come on! Get ahold of yourself!"

She felt stinging pain on her cheek and woke up fully. "Wha... what happened?"

"We're outside. Come on, we've got to move." Her cameran got up and began to go over to where Shinji Ikari continued to lie as if lifeless. He paused, sensing that Rika remained sitting. The reporter had pulled her knees up in a fetal position. "Rika? Hey!"

"It's not fair..." Rika mumbled. "Why should we have die for something we don't understand?."

"Dammit, Rika! If you don't want to die, help me!"

Numbly the reporter started to get up, only to fall back to her knees. Tears were tracking down her cheeks. "I don't want to be here!" she sobbed. Slowly she crawled over to him. She sat back and looked at Shinji's distant, ashen expression. "Look at this... if even he's given up... what chance do we have? Just leave him behind."

The cameraman grimaced and began to pull the insensate boy away anyway. "And run where? Like it or not, this kid is our only hope."

Dimly he noticed one more strangeness. Back in the alley the boy's hair, normally cropped close at the back, was neck-length. Now it was rather girly locks flowing down past the boy's shoulders.

"He's broken. We're all broken." Rika looked down and trembled. "There's nothing left. We used it all up." Her hands clenched into fists. "I tried to tell them... I tried to make them listen... don't throw your life away chasing after the impossible. Don't make someone believe they have to be perfect. It's too cruel."

There was a loud bang from behind them. They turned to see Agent Jiro stagger out, gasping for breath, from the smoke and dust still billowing out the alley they just left.

And then there was light.

An empty suit of Terminator Armor came flying out in two halves.

Yui Ikari walked out, perfectly nonchalant. Her lab coat and the shoulders of her purple shirt had been blasted off, exposing the swell of a breast. They could see her garments starting to reform out of nothing, stitch by stitch, weave by weave.

Agent Jiro took off his glasses, and shook his head sadly. He looked at the pair frightened nearly out of their wits just by the feel of Yui's presence. Behind him was the perfect predator, and her sustenance was not mere flesh and gristle. Only souls would satisfy her. The gardener had come to reap the harvest from fields she had sowed. In front of him lay a boy trapped in his sorrow.

'Is this it?' he asked himself. 'Have we lost everything? No more plans. No more miracles.' Agent Jiro looked up to see a web of bright white contrails coming like claws. 'Everything except hope...'

"THERE WILL BE A NEW DAY!" he shouted. "I PRAY! All this sorrow, this endless sorrow! To all the dying we offer the peace we protect! We don't look back! We keep on trying to fight! We wreck our grief and anger as we strike! There will be a day after this! I believe!" He pointed to the sky. "We go up! We go up! We go up!"

He dropped his hand, exhaling heavily. He reached into his shoulder holster to take out a small service pistol. He could just hear his partner's gruff voice.

"Put your fear... in your gun... huh?" Agent Jiro touched the tip of his Beretta to his forehead and smiled. He turned around and aimed, baring his teeth. "Shoot them out! Shoot them out! Shoot them out!"

The cameraman stared up at the Section 2 Agent standing there, whose exposed skin was full of bleeding sores. His weapon was tiny, his stance was shaky. And yet, his expression was jubilant. As every bullet bounced harmlessly off Yui's head, his fear exhausted itself.

"I am not yours." he spat.

Agent Jiro burst into a shower of orange goo.

The cameraman bowed his head and exhaled.

A slight chuckle escaped his lips as he stood up.

Rika was shaking, numb with terror. She shouldn't be here, she shouldn't have to put herself between stupid broken kids and monsters and... "Toshiro! What are you doing?!"

Her cameraman stood up and looked around. He saw a piece of rebar nearby and went over to pick it up. "Sorry, Rika. I guess you'll have to manage things by yourself from now on." He stood with his back to hers, refusing to look back.

"You... stupid! I won't do it! There's no hope..." Rika's hands were shaking. "I'm not strong enough. I can't... don't leave me. Not now. What's this boy done to you?!"

"I'm not doing this for him. I'm doing it for you!" Toshiro Manabu shouted. It was like he was leaping right out of his own skin. The glowing figure of Yui Ikari pulled at him as much as it inspired primal terror.

"Rika... what an annoying woman you are." He turned his head aside and smiled. "You're selfish, you're loud, you're so full of yourself. You're so afraid of not being seen. The woman I love is stronger than this!

Dry your tears, Rika. You have to survive!"

Brave fools, but fools nonetheless. They knew there was nothing they could do that would give even semi-permanent harm to Yui Ikari. Rika Izuna bit her lip, still sobbing, and hesitantly began to drag away the still-insensate boy.

She stumbled, and dropped on her side. "Toshiro!"

"Survive, Rika!" the cameraman shouted while rushing forward, holding the metal pole two-handed like a baseball bat. "... goodbye, Rika."

It was mere seconds before the first wave of missiles would hit the city.

=][=

Ritsuko put in the master code for the self-destruct and waited as the MAGI began to purge itself. The three supercomputer cores were Naoko Akagi's crowning glory, and according to the scientist she'd put herself in it as a mother, a scientist, and a woman.

The MAGI's three core icons turned red on the console, but then the last, MAGI core Balthazar, blinked blue. It had rejected the order. Shortly, the other cores turned blue again.

"... what does this mean?" Ritsuko whispered to herself, while lying back completely exhausted. "Mother... what is it that you regret?"

=][=

The boy's paralysis was a hard shell of grief, true, but within it compressed to cold clarity was RAGE.

He had considered the possibility of loss, he had already long accepted that they might have to keep on fighting by walking on the bones of their loved ones. Ayanami, Sohryu, Kirishima... there were many times they could have died. That they survived for so long was just a testament to their forced growth as child-warriors. The power of the Eva could never protect, just allow hitting back the enemy with equal force.

He hated his body in all its weakness.

He hated the enemy who would not give them any peace.

He hated the world in all its filth.

He hated, because his heart had known love.

He hated that he wouldn't be allowed to rest.

He hated being a human being.

He hated being afraid of turning into a monster.

He hated that he wanted to return his mother's embrace, wanting to feel safe and protected.

He hated being himself, being asked by that little boy so long ago, just where did he stopbeing a good boy?

His strength drained away from his limbs and into his heart, just to contain that acid regret. Behind his plans was the animal howling against the inevitable. He was motionless, emotionless, because otherwise all he had was this unthinking beast that hid at the bottom of every human's psyche.

It clawed and raged and roared and cried in the emptiness of his mind, and in being trapped it was being punished. He was punishing himself for his weakness. The berserker had no room for grief, and he would not let go of that. It was all he had left of Ayanami.

Unit 01 roared and slammed against its cage, the crippled beast unable to add its power to break through the shell. In Lillith's presence, it was more a liability than a weapon.

When did he start to twist reality? Before Ayanami pledged herself to his purpose, before they split their souls into each other, he'd been just a strange boy with strange delusions. He was not made to rule. The world after the war, he'd always felt it was for someone else to inherit.

The gap within was a conduit for Lillith to enter, and he armored his being against the onslaught with his sorrow. The release was just a hand's reach away, a promise to be reunited with those whom he'd lost. And end to all the pain.

A quick, shattering release. Impact.

Suffering boiled under pressure. So much had already been given up. He wanted to scream, to escalate things, to burn this sinful world that demanded such sacrifice! It would take from him everything! He had given up pride. His own death was nothing to fear. He had only one last sacrifice to make, to throw away the capacity to love, and he screamed and screamed his refusal to let go of this last thing that he owned.

"You useless idiot!"

... Asuka?

"You can't let them do this! Haven't you satisfied your ego enough, Ikari? Too many people believe you can save them. Too many people have DIED for you! You coward! You moron!"

That voice, it wasn't Asuka. She was still half a world away. This voice was full of pain and fear, rather than the sheer burning defiance that was Sohryu.

But strangely, being insulted, it felt good. He felt distant pain, someone beating on his ribs. When did masochism start being a normal part of his daily experience? Huh. If he didn't like the feeling of being alive from his nerves on fire, he probably wouldn't have been able to power through physical pain in his fights.

"Wake up! You're supposed to be a hero! Act like it!" The voice broke down into unintelligible sobs. "... they're all dying."

There was a pulse, like a heartbeat.

"... Ikari-kun."the wind whispered.

"Raaarggh!" Toshiro yelled and charged, whomping the metal pole across Yui's back, uselessly bending the metal. The shock stung at his palms.

"Hey. Ikari." a gruff voice said, and Shinji could almost see a dark silhouette of a man in a black suit, spinning a unlit cigarette on his palm. "We're only dead when nobody's left to remember."

A taller but younger man dressed in the same way approached, and saying with an amused snort "This is too uncool a way to go, kid."

A silhouette of a giant of a man. "We gave it all to keep our loves ones safe. In them we still survive."

"With guts and effort, anything is possible." A girl with flaming red hair, her left eye covered by an eyepatch. "Even death can die!"

A man with a jacket, lounging back on an office chair. "I don't believe in the great man concept of history, but there are inestimable historical forces that shape our identity as a species. There are heroes in this world, young Ikari, and you are not one of them."

Shinji Ikari blinked. The light of intelligence returned to his gaze.

He grit his teeth. "No more death." He struggled to get back up. His hair flowed long behind his back. "No more heroes. No more..."

His consciousness burst. He remembered now his childhood days gone by, when all was warm and alive and fun. His mother, the wind, and the sun. He remembered Gendo's hand ruffling his hair, a tolerant half-smile on the man's face. He now remembered Yui's gentle tone, saying:

"Live forever, Shin-chan. Live forever and tell the universe - we will give it love and peace forever." Even the black holes would carry this message. Yui was a literalist that way.

Lillith was only able to emerge so fully… so soon, even without the Red Earth Ceremony, through the metaphysical that he had accidentally created returning from being absorbed by Unit 01. But that connection- it goes both ways!

"This is my fault." he whispered to Rika Izuna's teary and furious face. "I'm sorry." That was not enough. He had led so many to their deaths, he did not hope to be forgiven. "I'm going to fix thi-"

His field of view exploded into orange goo. Shinji woke up just in time to see white contrails dropping from the bluest heights.

=][=

The first salvo of strategic missiles launched from offshore ballistic missile submarines were just arriving. Sixteen of them.

Unlike conventional nuclear bombs, most of the bulk of an N2 warhead consisted of mechanisms to generate antimatter. This made their yield inferior to comparable nukes in missile weights, but had the benefit of their yields being adjustable. In this instance, they were set to maximum.

Each of those missiles would explode with equivalent of three hundred thousand tons of TNT. By comparison, the nuke that wiped out Hiroshima was only around fifteen thousand tons of TNT. The only fortunate thing about that was that the first one to blow would eliminate those other missile coming in too close in a fratricidal fireball. This was why missile launches were staggered fifteen second apart.

=][=

And time ceased to have meaning.

The sky seemed to turn inside-out, and a shadow moon slipped out of the unreal depths. A black pearl hung in the sky, and a dead soul shone. Petals of sunfire spread out. A deadly mushroom rose high, the white clouds darkening the valley.

Lillith stood alone.

There was the rattle of blue bolts from a Burst Cannon, and Yui raised her arm to shield her face from the bright blue glare.

A strange walking machine, with a broad blocky chest and feet ending in cloven feet landed with a thump near Shinji Ikari. It picked up the boy by the backplate of his plugsuit and jumped away, jets burning to fling it all the way across the city block, and to safety.

"no..." Shinji breathed. "No." he growled.

"Oh, that's fine." Kaworu said. "No need to thank me or anything. It's not like I just -saved your life- again."

"... haah." Shinji's breath misted out. A clump of his long, silken hair stretched out and twisted together, coiling into an screw-edged shaft, which began to spin. The improvised drill bit flipped around and bored straight through the armor of the Battlesuit's cockpit.

"GAH! Dammit, Ikari!" Kaworu gurgled out. "Just when I think you can't be any more of a thankless wretch, then you try to KILL ME WITH YOUR HAIR."

The Battlesuit jumped clear to a nearby building as Kaworu clutched the hole in his stomach. He reached out for a glob of sealant gel and applied it to the wound.

He looked to the main monitor inside his walker and saw that Yui's attention was on him. He felt as if something had sunk its claws into the back of his brain and yanked, hard. He grimaced and took quick, deep breaths.

The part of him that was made from Adam recoiled with 'I DON'T BELONG YOU!' He coughed, tasting blood at the back of his throat. 'I AM HE THAT REFUSES YOU.'

If Lillith... Yui Ikari(?)... just had access to a Lancea Longini, it would already been over. Not even the massed missile strike would have stopped Third Impact. He looked up at the sunlight filtering down the mushrooming cloud cover, the shards of light giving the blasted city a chapel-like air. Gendo was wise to remove the Lance from Tokyo-3.

Or was it intentional? The failure of Case Zero, Kaworu considered that it may be the success of someone else's scenario. Seeing Yui Ikari standing there, he could only rage in futility at Gendo's greed.

"Haaaaaahh...!" Shinji looked up, his eyes wild and unfocused. He shambled forward. One step. Faster. Faster. He was running. There was a sticky feeling in the air, just like before a thunderstorm.

"It's not going to work, Ikari..." Kaworu whispered with pity.

Shinji punched out, uncaring that his puny fist driven by a body still numb with shock wouldn't harm anything even vaguely solid. Yui looked mildly disappointed.

He slammed onto an AT-field barrier. Kaworu sighed. A human may resist and force through an Angel's AT-field because a human has his own sense of identity. The Ego Border, if it doesn't collapse, merges its outermost bondaries with the Angel. The human dies, mutates, goes insane... or with utter willpower remain untouched.

Not like this. The berserker can only try to force through.

"The power of the Eva is closed to you now, Ikari. It would like asking Lord Ruby-Eye, hey, lend me your power so I can kill you (with your own power)." Kaworu didn't want to see his chosen rival act throw aside the potency of his intellect and survival instincts. "Anger only gives the sensation of power. The delusion of being able to accomplish something meaningful."

Shinji's hammering on the AT-field slackened, until finally he slumped exhausted against the barrier. He dropped to his knees, his hair falling like waves of a black sea.

Kaworu stared with an unamused gaze. "Seriously, what is up with that, Ikari?' he muttered. "That was just too suspiciously stylish. And you dare talk smack to me about my being too effeminate?!" Focusing on the absurdity of his rival's follicles kept him from empathizing too much. This was not how he wanted to see Shinji be defeated.

This was his loss! In this humiliating and nerveless reality, Kaworu felt utterly overcome. As long as he could look outside at someone whom he could use to measure his existence, he could vicariously experience terrifying freedom.

He touched the puckered wound on his belly. Drill. Hair. "Mnggh." Kaworu ground out in irritation. It was as if the family Ikari existed just to piss him off in every way possible[1].

=][=

Down in the geofront and at UNIG Cerberus Base, people were coming out of their (quite and useless) duck and cover pose. "We're alive? Why the hell are we still alive?" Misato crowed. As the monitors cleared, she let out a long "Oooh...!" of awe and horror at the mushroom cloud rising over the city.

"Radiation levels are minimal." Shigeru reported. "We got hit by clean N2 bombs." He sagged on his chair. "For now."

Most of the strategic missiles still headed their way were megaton devices.

"Okay, so who pulled our fat out of the fire this time?"

The monitors slowly began to recover. A lot of Tokyo-3's communication and observation systems were hardened to the point of surviving near point-blank nuclear detonation. What if there was an Angel that attacked with some sort of super- EMP effect? For all that people knew back then when the city was still being built, the AT-field might end up creating new elementary particles that spontaneously arrange into lattice arrangements that messed with atomic charges.

Surprisingly, the combination of old and new technologies proved to be the most reliable. A series of camera lenses, within thick metal poles, fed a fiberoptic sensor. Views from all around the city flicked through the main screen as the operators searched for survivors.

The black ball impossibly hanging in the sky over the city made it obvious who was responsible for the physics-defying protective barrier.

The fireball and pressure wave bounced off the intense field saturating the region, and the skies shimmered with streamers of captured energy.

"It's Gendo." Misato mumbled, rubbing at her forehead as a groundside camera view expanded to show the reunion of the family Ikari. "Somehow it's like I'd feel better if I'd died instead. What's he up to, saving us now?"

Up at the command desk, Kozo Fuyutsuki laughed. "Yui. The one person with even stronger faith in you. Of course he would refuse even this fate."

=][=

Yui turned around to see Gendo emerged from the gray shroud of mist billowing through the streets. He was wearing his usual scowl, his orange glasses oddly reflective, his hands were wrapped in fresh white leather gloves. The wind tugged at his jacket and hair as he walked towards her.

Delight spread across Yui's face. She put her bloodied hands back into the pockets of her lab coat and murmured with dark pleasure. For the first time she spoke as herself. "Gen-chan..."

Gendo raised his right hand over to his right shoulder and swiftly swept it out. The back of his hand smacked hard against Yui's cheek, and despite her godlike state proofed against psychic power and antimatter her head jerked aside. She stumbled back, and fell.

=][=

Ritsuko Akagi had just out of the elevator back into the command tower. She looked up at the main screen and lifted her eyebrow. "Excuse me, everyone, but did I really just see Gendo Ikari bitch-slap Lillith?"

=][=

Yui touched her jaw. That... that hurt! She ran her thumb over the edge of her lips and wiped away blood. She looked up and there was only betrayal and confusion in her demeanor.

"Gen-chan... why?!"

"Stop. Wearing. Her face." Gendo ground out.

Yui got back up, her expression never faltering. "Gen-chan! It's me! Don't you remember? April Nineteenth! The trains!"

"You have her memories. That doesn't mean you are her. She is just one more mask that you wear."

"Stop talking to me as if you don't know me!" Yui replied angrily, the pressure of her presence blowing out the smoke around them. "I am not Lillith!"

Gendo was famous in certain circles for his ability to Not Give a Fuck. It may be written that the meek shall inherit the earth, but to be chosen to be the leader of the first and most important NERV sites, required more than just amiability and the ability to get along with people. His wife was one of the three geniuses that created Eva. He was no mere paper pusher.

Gendo Ikari was reliable in the way that, while he may lie or cheat or steal, he always keeps his promises. Even the promise to scoop out your eye with a spoon if you fail to meet the deadline.

It is this sheer lack of fear that attracted Kyoko Zepellin Sohryu in the first place. It was like he lived to cut through Gordion Knots. He may have been an abrasive bastard, but he was an abrasive bastard to everybody equally. Whatever the odds, whatever the challenge, whatever the gap in social levels or personal power, Gendo Ikari never failed to deliver on his word.

"No. Of course not." Gendo said in a tired tone. "Lillith is not a being. You are something more than your discarded old clothes. You are an ideal. A belief. The endless spiral, the Serpent rising out of Chaos."

Yui looked as if she might cry, her fists balling up. She looked down dejectedly, then after a few moments, looked up with a different emotion on her face. Now she carried only an imperious certainty.

Yui smiled. "For the name of the game is Entropy. The simplest structures of life are the most robust, but life tends towards more and more complexity. As the cells which do not have awareness form the human which claims to know, so do are worlds consumed to feed the galaxies that believe. Through each stage, there is less and less efficiency and more and more of the energy of the universe is consumed, but all to achieve that state free from the grasp of entropy.

The sower has the right to the harvest. The scythe has begun to move. It is too late for the grains to complain."

If one just removed Benevolence from the equation, the problem of theodicity was easily solved (or rather, bypassed entirely). The thoughts of a creator was inscrutable, as like those of a dog trying to understand the whims of its master. The maker was justified in doing whatever it wanted to its work, for the petty desires of its work was irrelevant. Lillith was a being beyond human morality, for humanity was created to feel pain for a purpose.

Gendo took a deep breath and sighed aside. He raised his hand to his nose, and belatedly realized he had lost his glasses. His face was much narrower, more weather-worn, without them. "I know Yui did not want this. Even the old men and their petty attempt at escape – Instrumentality – is not enough to prove her existence."

Yui's expression switched back into sorrow, her tone so vulnerable. "I'm still Yui Ikari. Gendo, why? Was it just a lie after all? Don't you love me?"

A look of pain flashed across Gendo's face. "You... have no idea just how much." He raised his hand to chest level. "Yui! Remember this!"

Gendo grimaced and clenched his hands into fists, holding them up near his face and hunching over as he looked to contain an overpowering rage. He then swiftly moved his left arm up straight over his face, then bringing it back down bent at waist level. His right arm in an eyeblink copied the motion and held it there, completing a 'V'.

Slowly he swept his right arm overhead from left to right, holding it again with his palm blade-straight. People assumed that Gendo Ikari also armored himself with grave dignity. The weight of that emotional defense could only have slowed him down

"I remember clearly." Yui tilted her head to the side. "Yui Ikari only makes you cosplay as a Kamen Rider."

Gendo kept the pose up. "You people just keep on falling for my diversions."

Honestly, it seemed that the greater the personal power one may possess, the easier it was to get distracted by something unexpected. The image of their universe that made sense in their mind, it was so swiftly coddled and protected in response.

"... wha-?"

WHAM!

There was a flash of gold, and Yui was knocked clear across the road by a fist as big as her head.

"Haah. Haah..." Shinji gulped for breath. His arms were comically huge, wrapped in the gauntlets of a Tactical Dreadnought's Power Fist. Somehow his long hair had woven thick enough to serve as artificial musculature, to support the heavy gauntlets without breaking the boy's spine. Technically, being rooted to his head, his hair should have broken his neck anyway... but it was no more ridiculous than Gendo still standing there holding the pose.

He had also repurposed a UNIG flag, with its falling star insignia, as a cape for some reason. His hair had stitched itself into the fibers.

Shinji glanced aside, his eye betraying a 'what the hell are you doing?' look. He then nodded, acknowledging his father's presence without wasting any more thought on it. He had to focus on the bigger threat. Gendo just nodded back, holding himself with quiet dignity.

"Ayanami..." Shinji whispered. He looked up at the disc of clouds in the sky and the sunlight streaming down, and asked "... is this all right? I have no power other than what others choose to give me. Their trust, their loyalty, love and friendship! SO I ACCEPT. Let's all burn away our lives together!"

He blinked away his tears and looked back at the ground. "Ayanami is gone." said Shinji, pointing with an oversized fist. "But in your heart she still survives. A lot of people died today. You ate them up!

You may wear my mother's face but you're just another monster to me!" he shouted with desperate exertion. "You ate them up AND I WILL HAVE THEM BACK!"

He rushed forwards. Shinji, at best, could only control someone else's AT-field. Lillith yanking out the split part of his soul that was Rei (and the small portion of Rei's soul that was Shinji) left a hole, a tiny conduit. His improvised cape stiffened out, like a glider wing.

Just before reaching Yui, he shifted his shoulder and the cape spun to the side, and counterbalance to the motion he tilted to the side and hooked a punch up to her ribs. Yui blocked with her elbow. There was a crunch as metal caved inwards.

Shinji, snarling, reached out with his left hand and grabbed her lab coat. "GIVE THEM BACK!" he screamed as he pulled, while pushing off the road. His forehead met her nose. Again. "GIVE HER BACK TO ME!" Pull. Headbutt. "GIVE HER BACK! GIVE HER BACK! GIVE HER BACK!"

Yui shook her head, dazed. Annoyed, and with that thought she pulsed her AT-field. A telekinetic wave spread out, and flinging Shinji all the way back across the street and crashing through a shop window. Not satisfied with that, she gestured and flung a car into it.

"What a dysfunctional family this is." Kaworu muttered as he fired away from his perch. A spread of homing lasers shot out from the sides of the Shadow Moon, and he directed the beams to strike at the awakened primordial creature. While he couldn't connect to the Hivemind for great accuracy, his battlesuit did have pretty good line-of-sight marking.

The cascading torrent of beams splashed against an AT-field.

Gendo dropped his right hand to shoulder level, forming a fist. Steam hissed out from under his sleeves.

"Toh." said Gendo. The AT-field shattered under his punch.

For the first time, fear showed on Yui's expression. Gendo raised his right hand, the glove burning away to expose Adam's veiny flesh and unblinking eye growing out the back of his hand.

Gendo smirked. "This hand of mine... glows with an awesome power."

=][=

Back at Cerberus Base someone screamed. "NO! NO! You of all people don't get to say that! YOU DON'T!"

=][=

"... its shine calls for me to defeat you."

=][=

"RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRGGG GGGGGGHHHHHHHHHH!"

"Aida's gone berserk! Run for your lives!"

=][=

"How… how can you do this?" Yui gasped, warily skipping away from Gendo. Only Adam's power could oppose Lillith. It should not be possible to be used by a being made out of Her own flesh.

Yet she could feel it – it was a dead power, but no less potent for that. She grimaced, feeling the pain from the hits on her body. Gendo had never hit her, never! Yui Ikari was certain that she'd been his entire world. She'd been certain that she held his one true loyalty.

"I will tell you a story, dead thing." said Gendo. "For the Fruit of the Tree of Life is Intelligence, but the Fruit is but a shell to be consumed for the Seed's growth into the next incarnation of the Tree. The Soul grows to fill the void.

When Yui Ikari made her contact experiment, Unit 01 was still connected to Lillith. As she sought to became one with the Child, the Mother also tasted of her soul. The flesh of Yui Ikari dissolved, because even when she was born, her soul was incomplete.

Always she sought to accept everything with equanimity. Always she sought not to be unnecessarily entangled, controlling herself before associating with others. She was well-liked and respected.

She was a functional psychopath.

She met a violent young man who seemed to resonate with her in a way she could not comprehend, and somehow his approval meant more to her than any amount of praise from powerful people."

Lilith blinked, bringing up the memory. "Who are you, Rokubungi?"

"There was once a foolish girl who died for the sake of a stupid ungrateful boy. Then, the boy refused his paradise in an even more idiotic attempt at going back to change it all.

Again and again, the world died, the girl died, the boy died, and everything kept getting worse and worse. Time was wounded, and healed. The world moved on, forgetting the name of the one who first made it possible.

In trying to cling to her, he only shattered her."

Gendo's left cheek bulged out, and bled, and from the break in the skin another eye opened. It blinked, and turned to look at Lillith.

"And the boy chased her shards through the pages of a dead book, all to put her back together again." Gendo stepped forward. Yui flinched. "Yui…" he crooned.

Gendo extended his left hand. "I've been looking for you for so long. Only I remember your name. How many times must you condemn the world for the same little ingrate? Come home, Yui. You have always been my anchor. I will bring you back."

There was gentleness in his eyes. His voice dropped to a plaintive whisper. "Come home, Ichijou."

Yui blinked. The bright red glow in her eyes faded, become confused brown eyes. She looked at Gendo and slowly recognition dawned. Hesitantly she reached out to touch his hand. Gendo grasped her fingers tightly.

"Come home." he said. "Come back, Yui."

He pulled.

And, strangely, Yui's flesh flowed as if liquid. Another set of slim fingers emerged out from the skin, pulled out and held within Gendo's scarred hand. Yui gasped, and Yui fell out. A girl, looking no more than fifteen years old, dressed in a white plugsuit eerily similar to Rei Ayanami's, stepped out into the sun. Her steps were wobbly as she was made to walk away from her former shell.

She looked up, amazed. "Ge… Gen-chan?' she whispered.

"Hello again. Yui."

She smiled hesitantly. "You… you came back." Her eyes showed such anguish and relief. "Like you promised…"

A young boy wearing a striped shirt, a young girl wearing a white sundress, on a hill overlooking the resort town of Hakone – a monstrous white face in the heavens – and a promise… time itself was no barrier to a person who went beyond monster and man, beyond demon and god. A man who trapped himself in the cycle of suffering, knowing only that only love could raise him higher than prayers.

Lillith blinked, red eyes confusedly looking down at the apparition that in front of Her. The confusion was replaced by unthinking hatred, and she reached out to -

Lillith fell over face-first into the concrete. A green blur screeched to a stop near Gendo.

"Battle Hopper!" Yui said excitedly. The green motorcycle blinked its bright red head-lamps on an insect-like chassis and revved in greeting.

"It's not just SEELE that I've had to contend against" said Gendo, gently touching Yui's cheek with the back of his index finger. "Sometimes it is GENOM, or SHOCKER, or CRONOS. It doesn't matter. I'll always bring you back."

"Gen-chan..." Tears misted her eyes and bawling, she hugged him. Gently Gendo patted her back.

"Every part of you that's missing, until we're both whole again."

"Oh that's IT! I HAVE -HAD- IT!"

Lillith remained unmoving on the road, still in the form of Yui Ikari, but everyone else turned to look at Kaworu stomping over in his Crisis Suit. The cockpit hatch was open and they could all see his expression of consummate frustration.

"Stop. Stop it right there. Hold it.

Let me see if I have this straight... SEELE uncovered Adam and caused Third Impact in an attempt to attain godhood. It failed. This released the Angels that, according to the Dead Sea Scrolls, must be defeated before they could try again. Yui Ikari opposed this and engineered her absorption into Unit 01 and the development of the human-Angel hybrids like me and Ayanami to sabotage the Red Earth Ceremony despite that we are the tools to make it possible."

He pointed to Gendo. "SEELE created NERV and put you in power to defeat the Angels. The Evangelions were created not just to defeat the Angels, but actually clear the way for Third Impact to happen.

I decided to act against the wishes of SEELE to ensure that the human race maintains its physical existence. With the same goal but different methodology, so did Shinji Ikari.

BUT! It turns out that the continued use of the Evangelion would inevitably release Lillith anyway, since the human race IS the but the larval stage of the Lillith lifeform. The Dead Sea Scrolls and the geofront were deliberately designed to tempt whoever uncovered them to make this happen."

"You should start at the beginning, with why the First Ancestral Race created two opposing philosophies on the development of life."

"SILENCE! I'm not finished. SEELE thought that you might want to start Third Impact on your terms and claim godhood. Yui Ikari wanted you to preserve the scenario she'd crafted, that would rely on Ayanami to trigger and control Third Impact and leave the final result to Shinji Ikari's choice.

But Shinji Ikari doesn't want Third Impact to happen and instead use the power of the Eva to settle the stars.

But inevitably, human struggle would force them into overusing the Eva or melting into a communal mind that would release Lillith anyway. Even my Hivemind would switch into this philosophy on encountering the Adam-life out there.

Yui Ikari knew this, and in my creation implanted in me the urge to continually test myself against her son, help him reach his potential, so that humanity would grow into a being that would not be overshadowed by Lillith's oversoul.

But you knew this. Damn it, you knew and you didn't care what weirdness your son was doing, as long as you got your wife back.

But then it turns out that it wasn't Yui Ikari that you wanted anyway, but... who is this anyway?"

The black-haired girl with the bob-cut haircut who, if Kaworu was inclined to recall... bore an uncanny resemblance to a certain Little Miss Death Star with a Silence Glaive, fearfully hid behind Gendo's arm. She did bear an astonishing resemblance to Shinji Ikari.

"Yui Ichijo. Pilot of Evangelion Prototype Unit Zero[2]." Gendo replied for her.

"... I am not going to go into that. But what the hell? Is it a time loop, huh? Have you been replaying this scenario over and over? I have received visions from my future self and none of this ever happens! No, you just made me think that was up with you. That was just a lie. We're just too predictable."

He breathed out his stunned realization. Of course Gendo wouldn't care about anyone. They might as well be meat-puppets to him. There was no indignity he couldn't shrug off, no enemy too terrible to overcome, no sacrifice too great to make. This overpowering purpose, this miserable man, was the measure that both Shinji and Kaworu both denied and wished to be like. To give of their entire being to one goal, to live sustained only by their willpower... they were still children who hoped to surpass someday their father.

Kaworu remembered Gendo standing impassively over the travel Core of the Shadow Moon to murmur 'The twentieth century was so long ago...'

And relayed through the gestalt genius of the Hivemind, they thought it meant something symbolic and deep and anything other than Gendo Ikari was a goddamn fanboy at heart.

Just like his son.

Oh. Oh gods that he didn't believe in. This explained. So much.

So much hate flooded Kaworu's veins.

"So this leaves me to conclude... you're a dimensional traveler, aren't you?"

"The proper term is 'Slider'." Gendo replied evenly.

Kaworu turned around and began to indiscriminately fire with his Burst Cannon. He roared and spat out a loud sequence of expletives. It took quite a while for him to calm down. "Was this one of your scenarios?"

"No, all these stupid plots have entangled and ended each other by accident." Gendo replied. His voice, while not warm, did convey a benign amusement.

"BURN EVERYTHING!" Kaworu let out a primal scream and, gulping for breath, brought his pallid face back into cool control. "So. Ghk. So. You needed Adam to neutralize Lillith."

Battle Hopper revved its engines as if to grumble 'I did that, thank you very much.' Kaworu ignored and repressed. Heavily.

"So. What now, Ikari?" he hissed. "What now?!"

"Now I leave." He looked up to the distance, seeing streaks of approaching missiles, then down to where Lillith was beginning to stir. "Are you going to ask to come along?"

"Hell no!"

"Then do not attempt to hinder me."

"You come along, mess with people, and just leave? How dare you, Ikari!" Kaworu could endure hatred, fear, or even cool contempt. This patronizing arrogance rankled in the way that even he had to admit was quite hypocritical of him. But for all his own arrogance at least he had a purpose that others could pick up and carry with him.

"Why not? You do and the boy do it, manipulating people into twisted reflections of what they should be, all to satisfy your own egoes."

"Because we LIVE HERE! Whatever the result, we have decided to live with our actions! This is our world! Why should we have to accept what bitter old men say about what we sort of people we should be?"

"You're no Prometheus, Nagisa." Gendo replied, patting the girl hugging his waist. "You're still trapped in the labyrinth, trying to outrun your minotaur." He looked at Lillith, starting to get back up. Then back to Kaworu.

"Do you think there is some outside observer who awards you points for character development? Changing everything around you to deny being controlled by anyone... why should I give a damn about yet another kid Icarus?"

A shard of metal crawled across the broken avenue, screeching as it scraped against the reinforced concrete.

"Prodigies burn out." Gendo sniffed. "I know that too well. Ideals mean nothing in the end. The world turns, the world ends, but those you love give meaning to your life. It is a childish desire to be acknowledged. The one who loves only oneself has never grown up."

"You don't get to judge me, you thieving piece of excrement."

"If the choices you made were actually your own, I would have so dared, Angel of Free Will."

"Rargh!" Kaworu punched at his own face again and again, as his Angel soul refused to contemplate even harming its creator, while his human half wanted to go wild. It was another thing which he envied Shinji: being able to go berserker.

His mind - ! A man could never be truly enslaved as long as his mind was his own. Kaworu could not claim that much. He snarled out "You arrogant assho-"

Kaworu glanced down at Yui, and glared. The glare gave out a frightened 'eep' and hid behind Gendo. This was the one thing that Gendo Ikari valued in any way. If- Hurk. He couldn't breathe. It was as if something was squeezing his heart.

Gendo put on his eyeglasses, and the glinting said keenly, 'Even contemplate bringing harm to her, and I will -end you-'

The Crisis Suit was forced to a half-kneel. Kaworu gasped for breath. "I have made my choice. I have my will." he whispered to himself. "I've given myself and others meaning in existence... it was all my decision, wasn't it? I saw a way through the bars. Even a wasted effort, as long as it was mine to make…?"

Gendo held up the hand with the large red eye on his palm. "You are concerned about Adam and its influence. Then I will oblige you." The eye closed and was sucked into his flesh, leaving a puckered pink scar.

Gendo then knelt down to one knee and faced Yui. "You know what to do..."

"But..."

"I've walked in the darkness for too long. Where we're going, we don't need to need to see the road. " Battle Hopper revved its agreement.

Kaworu Nagisa twitched. Again with the repression.

A car flung itself through the air behind him, as if attracted by powerful magnet, only to explode into its component parts. The stream of disassembled devices entered into the dark innards of a destroyed shopping mall. Suits of fallen Terminators tumbled across the road.

"O-okay." Yui put her hands up and fingers out and, after a few moments of hesitation, smoothly plucked out both of Gendo's eyes. The man didn't even flinch.

He stood up, staring at Kaworu through empty sockets. "Eat of my flesh, Nagisa, and claim your birthright."

"... this changes nothing. You're doing this because it doesn't matter." Kaworu looked up and glared.

"As you said, Nagisa, this is your world. Make of it what you wish."

The reinforced concrete of the pavement cracked as Lillith slapped her palms down to force herself back to her feet. She looked up, and her skin was starting to slough off. Yui Ikari's features were fading, hardening, turning into a distinctive bone mask. Bones of defeated Mass Production Evangelions began to stir.

And every human being's heartbeat skipped a beat.

"ENOUGH."

Thump. Thump. Metal-shod boots on concrete. A golden glow came from inside the mall. A clawed hand grasped at the edge of the broken wall. A giant clad in golden armor stepped out.

"PERISH, ENEMIES OF MAN. IN THEIR NAME, DIE, AND THREATEN THEIR PEACE NO MORE."

The armored giant opened its right palm out, and lightning danced over his hand. Blood from the fallen slicked through the streets and up into the air. Gathering over the hand, compressing, condensing into a ruby-red psychoreactive crystal sphere. Then, the giant slammed the sphere into the center of its chestplate.

The Eye of Terra blinked.

"What -are- you?" Lillith asked nonchalantly.

"Ikari… so you have fallen for the trap." Kaworu sighed. "To defeat Lillith, you have willingly embraced the existence of something exactly like Lillith."

Gendo smirked, blood dripping down the sides of his face. His hollow eye sockets managed a mocking stare at everyone anyway. He snapped his fingers. Kaworu looked down to see that Gendo had a helmet in his hand.

He put it on Yui's head. "Too tight?"

The girl shook her head. Gendo put his hands under her armpits and lifted her to Battle Hopper's back. Then, with practiced ease he mounted the motorcycle.

"If you wish to sate revenge, see if you can find me in the dark side of the sun." he spoke for the last time.

They exploded into a gout LCL, which then ignited, burning away into nothing. They were gone to a place beyond anyone's reach.

Lillith stared at the incoming missiles mere seconds away and dismissed them as inconsequential. She glanced at the floating Shadow Moon then towards Kaworu. She dismissed those too. She looked towards the white disc of the moon barely visible in the afternoon sky. She frowned.

The Ceremony was incomplete. She bent her knees and elbows, preparing to jump.

And jump she did. The pavement cracked beneath her, an earthquake rocked Tokyo-3 and a shockwave spread out. She was in space in an eyeblink.

A larger one toppled buildings, for Unit-01 followed, like a puppet being pulled by strings.

The shockwave did not move the golden giant or Kaworu. The white-haired hybrid snarled. He felt, through the golden light flooding out of the being's eyes, as if he was being judged, and again dismissed as unimportant.

Kaworu winced as the eyes in his palms grew roots that dug into his flesh, and burrowed into his hands. The globes bulged under his skin as the traveled up his arms and to his neck. He screamed. The cockpit hatch to his battlesuit slammed shut.

"Next time, Ikari. No more... of our friendly competition. I will… end you… and all… you hope for." His forehead burst open and his chest caved inwards. The Battlesuit vanished in a green flare, and above the Shadow Moon shimmered, spun, and was gone.

The ICBMs were seconds away.

"AND I SAY UNTO YOU, THIS CITY LIVES." Golden light burst forth. A shining dome grew to cover the city, and along the ground as the light touched blood and viscera the human remains burned to nothing. As the light touched destroyed machines, circuits sparked.

Down below, teeth grew around Unit-01's red core.

"HRAAAAAAGH!" he screamed, forcing the dome to expand further, the glittering golden motes in the air to thicken even more.

Shinji Ikari opened his eyes and his eyeballs boiled. Golden light burst out of his eyesockets.

The first of the nukes slammed against the shield and detonated.

"AND THE SPIRIT OF MAN WILL NOT BE BROKGNNGHh…" Blood flowed out of his mouth as his tongue liquefied, his innards gushing out. Golden light sprang out of his mouth.

The sky blossomed in flame. The shield grew stronger and larger with every hit. Fire licked against the edges, but heat and the shockwaves were deflected upwards. The cities around Tokyo-3 were not meant to suffer for its sake. They too held the innocent and the hopeful. Even radiation and fallout were absorbed and transformed. The warmth spread from the mountain slopes to the plains to coastlines.

'Please don't let this be the end.' so many screamed to themselves. 'I don't want this. Let me live, please!'

And someone answered 'Fall and I will catch you. Close your eyes and I will protect you.'

=][=

Kaji looked at the shining horizon and smirked. "The door has been forced open. Is it the lady or the tiger? Who dares to take the first look?"

"What's happening?" the Prime Minister snapped. "Damn it, Ryouji, what has NERV done now?!"

"What do you think? The final test has begun. Not whether mankind deserves to exist, but in what form it will exist. Congratulations. We won." Kaji smirked and put a cigarette to his lips. "Now we get graded for our efforts."

=][=

"No… no…." Misato clutched at the sides of her head. "I can hear him. He's burning up. He's dying."

Kozo Fuyutsuki leaned back on his chair and smiled. "Yui… we shall shout to the end of time of our existence. The child moves into the space left by its parents."

=][=

Minutes passed and the firestorms raged. Thick were the clouds above that folded valley. Lit from below, the golden glow could be seen almost all the way across the country.

Even the generals and world leaders who ordered the strike could feel it ringing inside their souls – once again, NERV had beaten the odds. Once again, the might of mankind's machines of war were rendered null against the sheer might of its own desire to survive. Mankind may be one soul, one mind, beneath it all – but as to be expected it was a disturbed, schizophrenic one.

Destroy parts of itself so the whole survives – that was the correct call, the one they chose, and their souls did not condemn them for it.

But it was the desire to make the enemy lose, not the desire to win. And now their souls rejoiced with the song of ultimate victory.

Mankind wakes.

And it is a wrathful being.

=][=

The afternoon leaked through overcast skies. Clouds shaped like overlapping discs hung around the core of Japan. Clouds that were still stained gold.

As if sliced out of time, the golden shield over Tokyo-3 remained. Impenetrable, imperturbable, even as the last of the oncoming city-killers had already exhausted in impotent fury. Even as the communication links returned, and the people could look up from their shelters to see how narrowly apocalypse was averted again.

Time passed by in a breathless hush. The golden shield stood strong, vibrating… screaming.

The sky broke apart.

A bladed prow emerged from silver-rimmed hole in the heavens.

A dark humanoid form leapt out, dropping from kilometers on high, towards the very center of the dome.

"… -ILL BREAKER!"

The golden barrier shattered.

Unit 02 slammed into the ground. The hammer-head of its weapon was destroyed, it was holding no more than a long pole now.

Underneath, between the red Evangelion's legs, Shinji Ikari fell down on his face, his armor falling apart around him.

Up above, one could almost hear a frantic "Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee eeeeeeee!" as Castle Strumbrand drifted, spinning on its axis, hoping for a survivable crash landing with its untrained pilot.

"You should have waited for me, you idiots…" Asuka whispered, her palms over her eyes to keep tears from flowing. "Damn it. I tried to get here in time… I should have been faster!"

Unit 02 opened its maw and roared its barren rage.

=][=


-End Tumbling down part 3 -

And it is done[3].

Sorry it took so long.

Since the whole thing started off as a one-shot crackfic, maybe going back to the roots is appropriate. Shouldn't take it too seriously - much of anything was because I thought it would be cool to put in, no matter how silly. Because it is silly and pointless is the whole point.

And eh, perhaps it's time to stop being ashamed of writing Shout-Outs, the Fanfic.

Damage Report:

- Most of the world's stockpile of nukes have been spent uselessly. No more MAD for you!

- NERV has again the world's only remaining fully-functional Evangelion. The one with an S2 Engine.

- China seems to have decided to declare war on the USA through ambushing a convoy, escorted by US warships, delivering the only other S2 Engine in the world.

- Ayanami is still dead.

- Ikari the younger has done something... weird... but too much for his mortal frame to contain.

- Ikari the elder not only got the very thing he wanted, but managed to get the last taunt in before moving out of stomping range.

- Lillith is loose, but 'she' seems to more concerned with what SEELE is doing on the moon.

- Kaworu's sanity has finally snapped apparently.

[1] Yes, Kaworu. The Ikari family exists just to troll you.

[2] Yui Ichijo is found in the Evangelion Der Mond artbook and is part of the Evangelion Proposal.

edit:

[3] Also, uh, sorry for the misconception. There's still two or three more chapters to go.