All properties are owned by their respective owners and no claim of ownership is intended or implied by this work.
Special thanks to Charles Bhepin and Crazy-88 for being Awesome and inspiring this work through their own wonderful fanfics, even if only one of them actually knows about it.
His name was Shinji Ikari, and he was a quiet, unassuming young man, who kept to himself, seemingly uninterested in the affairs of the world and the people in it around him. He often seemed to lack a spine, and would bend to the whims of anyone more powerful than he, lacking any self confidence or respect. He simply existed, ignorant of others, and they in turn ignorant of him.
It was a lie.
At best, Shinji found the mewling morons about him valuable only as clay in need of moulding at his whims, at worst he despised them for the way they looked down upon him, the way they refused to see beyond the superficial and acknowledge the obvious truth of his supremacy. Shinji only hid his passions and full intellect because it was useful to hide behind a mask. Useful in that the morons could not see that it was not the edge of the typhoon they should fear but the eye.
A word here, a subtle expression there, all little things, like the flapping of the wings of a butterfly, and Shinji would sow the wind so as to reap the whirlwind, cackling within over the destruction of the fools about him. Fortunes rose and fell at his whims, pathetic juvenile relationships engineered and demolished as he saw fit. He was the puppet master, and none saw the strings that bound their motions to him.
Still, his own antipathy for the children around him meant that he only indulged in such masterminding when he sought revenge… or practice. Despite the often long tracks of boredom as his teachers blathered on, he refused to indulge in such pettiness if it did not serve him, which it rarely would. Too much chaos and sooner or later some of the brighter of the idiots would notice that he was the one who always seemed unscathed by the drama swirling about him. Attention from these weak willed fools was not what he sought, was in fact the last thing he sought, for attention brought unwanted questions.
Questions his sensei would not want raised.
Aside from the utility of appearing weak that made others misjudge his true strengths, his carefully cultivated aura of weakness drove others from him, and let him spend large amounts of time "alone" without anyone, even his guardians, asking twice about it. His cello playing was a useful cover, allowing him to wander off into the wilderness of the hills to "practice" without "disturbing" others.
Had they actually known what he was doing they probably would have bombed the area with N2 mines until there was nothing left.
Still, for all his internal self-confidence, he was shaken by current developments, the most recent being the note he had received written by his father's hand bearing a single word: "Come."
The brusqueness of the letter infuriated Shinji, mostly because he knew that there were forces at work here that he had no knowledge of, and he suspected that this summons could not be refused. It was not a request, it was a demand. His father had the power at the moment, and Shinji was not foolish enough to defy such power. Yet. When he had greater understanding, greater power, then he would crush the bastard. Crush him for abandoning him, for finding him useless up until this moment.
But he would discuss this first with his sensei.
So he waited quietly at the entrance to an abandoned mining complex, his legs tucked beneath him in a lotus position, for his sensei to see fit to make an appearance. He did not have long to wait before he felt the old man's eyes upon him.
This was the other thing that had been troubling him of late, for he had come to know and understand that his sensei was dying, and had been since his arrival in this place. It had only been recently that it had become noticeable though, although once he realized this simple reflection on the time they had been together over the years made it clear that the one being he could be said to care about was slipping away and had been since before their first meeting.
Bitterly so, Shinji also knew that his sensei was dying for his benefit, although Shinji gladly would have reversed the roles if he could, although he knew that such things were not possible. If they were, his sensei would have already suggested it.
Thus neither one of them had broached the subject, seeing it as a waste of already precious and fleeting time.
Shinji turned his head and immediately hid his shock behind the masks he wore. Today would be the day to talk of such things. The acceleration of his sensei's condition had just taken a decided turn for the worse in the two days since they had last met.
Bowing his head respectfully, Shinji says, "Sensei, I came to you with news, but I can see that we both have things to share with the other."
"Indeed," his sensei rasped, his ancient voice having grown rough and ragged, the innate noble presence in it eroding away but still present.
"Would you prefer I report to you first, or tell your tale?" Shinji asks respectfully.
There is a long pause before his sensei hisses out, "There is little for me to tell. This lost, forgotten realm has sapped at my strength since my arrival here. With so few as talented as you, I have had little strength to draw upon, so I have been forced to burn my own just to survive."
"And to train me," Shinji replies coldly, knowing it is true.
"I have railed against my own doom for a long time, and I still refuse to accept it quietly, but when I found you I knew that even if you were not my salvation, then by imparting my wisdom and knowledge to you, a part of me would always live on. As would my brothers," his sensei says quietly before pulling out the deceptively fragile looking jars he carries on him at all times and placing them in front of Shinji.
Shinji regarded them coldly before saying, "They are…"
"Bound to you now," his sensei interrupts. "Whether my own declining strength or the fact that in your training they have latched on to you as a new source of sustenance, they will no longer hear my summons. They are yours and yours only to command now Shinji, to protect and be protected."
Bowing deeply in respect, Shinji says, "Then I shall ensure to take good care of them sensei."
"Then that is all that needs be said about this matter," the old man replies dismissively. "What news do you have to report?"
"My father has summoned for me. As much as I dislike him, it is wiser to bow to the wind when you know that it will topple you if you resist. So I must leave this place, for how long I do not know, but I can see now that this will probably be our last meeting," Shinji explains.
There is a short, comfortable pause before Shinji says almost happily, "There are no coincidences."
His sensei eyes him wearily for a moment before announcing too in an almost happy tone, "So this is the final part of the fate my Lord has seen fit for me. I am too old to feel bitter at this point, only the satisfaction at having played my part well. I hope."
Rising to his feet, his antediluvian joints creaking in protest, the old man says, "Then let this parting be a sweet one, the parting of a teacher who no longer has anything to teach a student."
Shaking his head ruefully, Shinji also rises and says, "That is a bald faced lie and I am disappointed in you sensei for making it so obvious."
Shrugging, the old man says, "I know," before unleashing a torrent of crackling blue lighting from his fingertips. Catching the blast of conjured energy with a flick of his own hand, Shinji grounds the blast and with a twitch of his other hand summons the "walking stick" to him.
Drawing his own weapon, his sensei thumbs it to life, filling the antechamber of the mines with a throaty growl. Raising an eyebrow, Shinji questions the wisdom of such an act while simultaneously swatting aside the mental constructs sent his way in the astral plane.
Shinji knew that even with his sensei in such a deteriorated state he was no match in physical or psychic combat. Absolute victory was impossible. Still they fought, for neither one of them would allow Shinji to use that as an excuse. For years they had relentlessly drilled, seeking a level of perfection that both knew it was impossible for Shinji to achieve.
But if a man could not grasp beyond his reach, then what good was life?
Lightning and telekinetic blasts ripped between the two of them as they feinted and parried, Shinji's solid metal staff clanging off his sensei's armour while he dodged the maiming sent his way. Already Shinji could have slain a dozen men a hundred times over each, but his blows were as a babe's wailings against his sensei.
Normally they would have stopped at this point, but as they continued, it sank in that his sensei had meant what he had said. Shinji would have to win this impossible fight to prove his worth.
Shrugging, Shinji spat forth a word that wasn't a word, wasn't even a proper sound, while telekinetically drawing the four jars to him. Their lids flew off and in an instant four whirlwinds of dust formed between him, solidifying into four armoured forms that towered as tall as his sensei, their blue and gold bulks forming an implacable, deadly wall between the two combatants, levelling their weapons at Shinji's sensei.
For just the briefest moments his sensei knew hurt before he burst out laughing and said, "Oh Shinji, I can see that you truly have taken my lessons to heart! Such exquisite treachery!"
Shrugging without dropping his guard, Shinji says, "If they are truly mine then they are my weapons to wield as I see fit, including against you."
Deactivating the whirring teeth of his axe, his sensei salutes and says, "Very good. Find another master now that our time is over."
Nodding, Shinji says, "It would shame your honour if I did not seek to better myself, to change for the better."
Bowing to one another, not another word was exchanged by the two as his sensei receded back into the mine, to make it his tomb. Shinji gathered his things and kept his guards with him until he was well away from the mine, knowing that treachery was part of his lessons. Only when there was a significant danger of someone seeing his otherworldly guardians did Shinji return them to their slumber within their jars.
Arriving at the home of his guardians, he sighed and wondered what exactly he would pack to take with him.
At the very depths of the mine, where the walls grew unstable, Khnemu, Sorcerer of the Thousand Sons, felt the last of his energy begin to slip away like the last grain of sand circling about the cusp of an hourglass. Ten years he had lasted in this gods-forsaken place where his brothers had been killed almost instantly upon arrival.
For ten thousand years he had kept his four brothers, brothers in blood and in battle, at his side, having modified the spell of Ahriman specifically for those four so that they would ever be with him. The cost had been that they drew energy from him, but with Chaos anything is possible.
Including for his ship to become lost in the Warp and actually end up outside the Warp. Upon re-entry into normal space, the other members of the Thousand Sons had dropped dead; their empty armour now truly empty, their souls torn from them as the power they fed on was nowhere to be found.
Khnemu calmly marched out of the disintegrating ship, his brothers at his side while the daemons bound to the machines screamed and thrashed as their essence began to evaporate into the void, the five of them gunning down any foolish enough to stand in their way. His was the only escape pod to make it away from the doomed ship.
The price he had paid had been significant though, having to draw upon his own reserves of strength instead of the Warp to fuel his brothers. It had been terrifying, but Khnemu was no follower of Nurgle to give into despair so readily. By the time he had managed to haul himself out of the wine-dark sea of this backwards world, he was nearly dead, his energy reserves depleted.
And in the days of quiet contemplation, he knew that wherever he was now, he was beyond the gods. This was a place where even the power of Tzeentch could not reach. And yet, in the still void where psykers and daemons should not, could not, exist, Khnemu had found a sad boy who shone brighter than the beacon of the accursed Corpse God, even when his powers were underdeveloped and locked away behind a thousand barriers. Perhaps he shone so bright because he was the only psychic being that could be found, but about his presence, Khnemu could draw power, if only weakly.
At first he attempted to ensorcell the boy, but he was still weak and the boy's mind was more resistant to such things than anticipated. He got far enough to convince the boy not to run, and instead chose to befriend the child, to share his secrets and pain. His mother dead and his father having abandoned him, he was ripe for taking under the wing.
As the years past, Khnemu trained the boy in the ways of sorcery and Chaos. As the boy's power grew, so too could Khnemu draw more strength from him, but it was not enough, never enough. Ten thousand years of service to Tzeentch had altered Khnemu, and without the Warp, his body was slowly deteriorating. The only way to draw enough power to sustain him was to teach the boy more potent and complex arts, which required training that sapped his reserves.
The boy would have made an incredible addition to the Thousand Sons, but Khnemu knew that in the race between the boy unlocking more power and Khnemu facing his death, he had long since known the outcome. Still, was Tzeentch not the God of Change, of hope? Khnemu refused to surrender quietly.
Slowly his breathing faded and his hearts slowed, the last grain of sand suspended like a fly caught in amber across a precipice as he slipped into a coma, a hibernation that might give Shinji enough time to fully awaken his true potential. Khnemu refused to believe he had been abandoned, and in fact suspected that he had been sent here to train Shinji.
So that one day he might lead Tzeentch to this dead zone to claim what was rightfully His. All would be His.
Shinji stood before a phone with an annoyed look on his face. Fat lot of good it did him to try and find a shelter when the damn emergency broadcast system refused to cooperate and actually tell him something useful, like where he could find a shelter. Whatever emergency had left this area had also evacuated the brains of whoever was in charge of organization.
Growling in frustration, he took out the only remotely useful communiqué he had received since his father had sent him his summons, a picture of a shameless woman drawing attention to her considerable feminine assets. What was she to think this would be appropriate for a boy his age, a follower of Slaanesh?
It was at that point that he felt a presence prickling at his senses. Turning his head about like a tank turret, he caught a glimpse of a strange girl with pale, almost luminescent white skin, blue hair, and red eyes staring at him, and he immediately knew that he was seeing an astral construct. Before he could formulate his own attack though, the phantom vanished to be replaced by an Earth-shaking tremor.
A presence so large that he had not noticed it up until this point made itself known in his mind, and Shinji knew fear for a moment before he quashed it. Fear was the mind killer, and the mind was the tool Shinji had honed for a decade to be his most potent weapon. His first instinct was to reach towards the sealed canopic jars sitting in his bag, but he quickly suppressed it. He still did not know what this enemy was, and it would not due to reveal his power unless it was truly necessary.
As the ground continued to shake, the roar of jets became apparent, several gunships backing into view with an enormous creature following behind almost childishly. Shinji's eyes immediately narrowed and he whispered, "Daemon" in a curse. Such a monstrosity was far too powerful for him, for even his sensei. To summon his guardians now would be futile.
As expected, as the missiles roared overhead and impacted, they failed to do anything to the plague-mask beast. An enormous glowing battering ram shot out from the thing's arm and swatted one of the ships out of the sky, causing it to crash hard near Shinji. With an unearthly glow the daemon took to the air and landed with both feet on the fallen craft, igniting its fuel and unexploded ordnance in an orange fireball. Shinji instinctively threw up a telekinetic barrier to shield himself from the concussion and shrapnel, but he quickly dropped it as a blue sports car screeched to a halt between him and the daemon.
"Get in!" A female voice shouted out, and Shinji immediately threw himself into the car, more concerned with getting away from the ongoing battle than his own humility at his awkward landing. Putting the pedal to the metal, the woman took off as quickly as she arrived.
Misato noted with a raised eyebrow the loud clank as the boy dumped his walking stick, although since it was nearly as tall as him it was probably better considered a staff, in the back so that he had some room to move to get into the seat properly and restrain himself.
"Ah, Katsuragi-san…" Shinji began.
"Call me Misato," she said with a smile that made Shinji wince as she had turned away from the road to look at him.
"Ah, Misato-san, I was going to say… you're late," Shinji said with some annoyance. If she had arrived on time the whole near death thing probably could have been avoided, and people who endangered his life tended to annoy him.
Misato returned his annoyed look before it broke down into something more sheepish and she said, "We weren't expecting the Angel to attack when we scheduled to pick you up, so I got stuck in evacuation traffic."
Taking this in, Shinji lightly probed the surface of her mind and found that she was more or less telling the truth. He got the niggling feeling that she might have been running late anyway, but if he probed deeper she would probably notice and comment. Plus distracting her from the road would be a bad thing.
Nodding, Shinji says, "Okay, apology accepted Misato-san."
For just a moment Misato wondered whether or not she should be the one asking for an apology over the whole matter, but she let it drop. Shinji was a bit of a weird kid; certainly different from the reports on him she had been forwarded about how he behaved in school. She had been expecting someone significantly meeker, more reserved, although after his annoyed outburst he seemed to quiet up considerably, lost in thought gazing out at the aerial battle taking place far too close for comfort even as they retreated away from the war zone.
Near death experiences had a way of bringing out unexpected character traits in people. Misato definitely knew that.
Of course, unbeknownst to her, Shinji was actually examining the battlefield with his mind, keeping his probes away from the daemon, which radiated malevolence. But it was… unrefined, almost childish in its emotions. With a snap of his head, Shinji suddenly felt a spike of fear rush through the pilots as they receive a very emphatic retreat order.
Misato had just stopped the car and pulled out a pair of binoculars to get a look at the battle when Shinji grabbed and hauled her down, crying out, "Get down!" just as the gunships started to fly away.
An instant before Misato could get out an indignant remark the sky flashed white with the dawning of a second sun, and she reversed her struggle so as to protect Shinji where before she had been trying to get out of his grip. He was actually surprisingly strong for his size, his muscles like tightly wound steel cables.
With Misato's view averted elsewhere, Shinji also managed to erect a telekinetic barrier against the onrushing shockwave threatening to crush them. The car rocked up on two wheels as Shinji's barrier failed after a second, but it did not roll, instead landing with a suspension punishing lurch.
"How did you…" Misato began questioningly.
Shrugging, Shinji said, "I saw the gunships start to pull away all at once. I figured that meant something big was coming."
It was a passable lie, and in the chaos of the moment, Misato bought it fully. He had been paying more attention to the battle than her, and he definitely had the look about him of a quiet, sensitive type likely to notice subtle things like that. He certainly had the lineage for the brains to put two and two together.
"Come on, we're going to meet your father," Misato said while starting the car back up.
Several hours later, Shinji could only stare in wonder at what was before him. A Titan. They had built a gods-damned Titan. A Daemon-Titan too by the feelings radiating off the soul… or was it souls… he felt trapped within. It was currently restrained and inert, requiring a princeps for activation. Shinji could tell from the surface thoughts of Dr. Akagi that they were expecting him to pilot this thing.
His probes also detected another mind watching from above.
He swivelled his head up and looked at a darkened observation window to say coldly, "Hello father," just a fraction of a second before the lights came on and his father could address him. Shinji realized he was in something of a precarious position. His carefully crafted mask of weakness would crumble if he pushed too hard, but he was loathe to give any more ground than was necessary to the man who thought him useless.
Gendo for his part was caught off-guard, but expertly suppressed the emotion. He had wanted to get the drop on his son, but the moment had been snatched from him before he could say anything. He might have the higher ground, but Shinji had the upper hand at the moment.
"Hello Shinji," Gendo replied just as coldly, the two women on the catwalk shivering slightly at the chill passing between the two. The slight temperature drop was also caused by Shinji drawing extra energy from his surroundings to throw a minor curse at his father. It was petty but worth it.
Gendo for his part showed incredible resolve not to show any weakness even as he was suddenly overcome by the feeling of thousands of ants crawling beneath his skin. He opened his mouth to speak only to be cut off again by Shinji saying, "I presume that reason I am here is to pilot this thing against the 'Angel' besieging the city above us."
"What?" Misato began only to see the looks on Gendo and Ritsuko's faces and realize that they meant it.
Cursing inwardly again at his son's almost prescient ability to usurp his words, Gendo replies, "Yes."
Shinji glared daggers at his father while the women next to him argued about whether or not he could pilot it. He was tempted to say yes, desperately wanting the power of this Titan, but he bit his tongue and refrained for the moment. His father's mind was a dense ball of thoughts and emotions tightly bundled away, and surface probes revealed nothing. But a mind honed on the plots of Chaos told him that he was expected to reject the offer.
It annoyed him greatly. His father thought him a weakling, either too pathetic to deny him or too scared to agree to go into combat with a machine he had never seen before, and he expected the latter. He had a card to play still.
Shinji wanted the card played now when it would be useless, rather than not knowing what kind of trump his father held and hope it was not something he could not resist when it mattered later.
"No," Shinji said simply. "No, I will not pilot this 'Evangelion' as you called it. You do not get to abandon me like that and then expect suicidal loyalty."
Gendo took this in and then said, "This pilot is useless. Begin preparations for Rei to enter Unit 01."
Shinji ignored the outbursts from Misato and Dr. Akagi protesting such a decision. If there was someone else who could pilot it but they had brought him here instead then…
He suppressed his desire to raise a curious eyebrow at the entrance of a heavily bandaged girl on a gurney being wheeled in; for she looked remarkably like the astral projection he had seen earlier in the day. He detected a significant psychic presence from her, but it was heavily restrained, similar to the state his sensei had found him in.
Shinji's head swivelled away from the girl like a gun turret acquiring a new target and he said to his father darkly, "So this is what you use, blackmail? Fine, I'll do it."
It wasn't that he cared for the wellbeing of the girl on the stretcher, although he did admit he was interested in learning more about her, it was that he needed to look like he actually had a shred of human sympathy in his body or they would lock him up in foolish, misguided terror of what he could do to him. That would be a mistake and an annoying snag in Shinji's plans.
His mask was sorely tested when high above the attacking Angel shot through the armour of the city and blew a suspended skyscraper from his mooring. Debris rained down on the Geofront and a section of the ceiling in the Eva cage was knocked free, falling directly for the girl, who had tumbled out of her gurney upon the initial impact.
Shinji grabbed her to haul her out of the way, having moved with speed just on the lower side of superhuman and intending to use his powers to hold the steel girders at bay for a split second to haul them both out of the way. It would do good to make everyone think that he was truly worried about her, and having a Daemon-Titan princeps in his debt was always a useful thing.
Surprisingly, the killer debris was stopped short of crushing the two of them by the Eva lifting its hand to shield them. And in the shadow of that hand, Shinji looked down at the girl he had intended to snatch away to safety, and he knew rage. There was only pain in her single uncovered eye, and he could feel that her spirit had been broken down again and again by forces beyond her control. It made him angry that this unique individual had been ground down, when she should have been worshipped as a goddess for her power.
Was this what his father intended to do to him? Grind him down until he was but an instrument of Gendo's will?
Putting the unique creature gingerly back on the gurney, Shinji told her, "Rest, regain your strength," before turning to the Eva and whispering, "Good… you know who your master is…"
A few minutes later and Shinji was sitting in the entry plug of the Evangelion, enjoying the A-10 clips in his hair, how they amplified his mind, although he had the sneaking suspicion that if he tried anything other than telepathy he would blow them apart. As an orange sludge began to fill the plug, he could feel its additional psychic amplification properties, but it wouldn't do to let them know that he knew that right away.
"Hey! What is this?" Shinji cried out in horror at the rising tide.
"Relax Shinji, its called LCL and its hyper-oxygenated so you can breathe it just fine. It helps with synchronizing with your Eva, and it provides a shock absorber. So just get over it," Ritsuko replied dismissively.
Shinji kept the frown off his face as he held his breath as the LCL rose over his head until he could expel all the air in his lungs explosively. The human gag reflex meant that he would have probably swallowed much of it if there was still air to be had, rather than actually breathe it in. The taste and smell was awful, somewhat like blood, but he quickly ignored it as inconsequential at the moment.
Power began to flow from the nuclear reactors buried within Central Dogma through the power cable, and a wild grin managed to escape to Shinji's face before he ruthlessly suppressed it. Power! Power! All the power in the world, to do with as he wished! It was a heady brew, and Shinji had to exert tremendous self-control in order to keep from drowning in the power he sought.
As the power flowed, it also awoke the savage daemon bound to this Titan, stirring it from its slumber. As he had suspected, it was a raging beast, certainly of the character of the god Khorne his sensei had described. Neither knew if such creatures could exist in this place, but if this beast were to have a god, it would certainly follow the mad deity of senseless slaughter and destruction.
Shinji ruthlessly clamped down on the beast, its soul restrained by the machines and… something else. Another soul perhaps? It was a distant presence, unwilling to share its identity readily, too occupied as it was holding down the daemon bound within. A powerful entity indeed then, one worthy of his respect.
You have my gratitude.
Shinji received back a rush of thanks and… pride? It was almost as if this presence knew him. He would have to learn more about the Evas, especially since from the discussion about him he doubted he was supposed to actually know about these other minds. Apparently they were worried about the way his sync ratio kept spiking up and down and that there was some danger of contamination.
Easing back on his communion with the bound spirits, Shinji waited until those monitoring him seemed satisfied that the situation was stable. And then Misato shouted "Eva launch!" and Shinji found his body pressed into his acceleration couch as the Eva was fired towards the surface on electromagnetic rails.
Shinji exited on the surface just behind the attacking Angel and cursed the stupidity of whoever had assigned this position; he didn't even know how to make this thing walk… yet…
He started to laugh, a sick, hysterical laugh that sounded more like terrified screaming than anything joyous. If this was how his father wanted to play this game then he would make him regret this course of action.
Down on the command bridge of Central Dogma the staff was frantic as everything started to go out of control, but not in any way they had ever experienced before.
"Sync ratio is climbing but we're losing the pattern!" Lieutenant Maya Ibuki cried out frantically.
"That's impossible! That doesn't even make sense!" Ritsuko cried back, but she could see it happening on the display screens. The signal was flowing backwards and forwards, nerve connections were forming and breaking at random, often crossing over, and through it all, Shinji's frantic screams could be heard over the link.
"Cut audio, the pilot is clearly out of his mind right now," Gendo orders coldly, to everyone's shock. They should be recalling the poor boy, but instead they were just going to ignore his cries. The audio line went dead.
Shinji was normally the eye of the hurricane, but there was Chaos within him too. So he inversed the situation and turned the barrier between him and Chaos into the barrier between him and the outside world. He was a tornado; fickle and picky, but infinitely more destructive to that which it was directed. Even the daemon quailed at this sudden burst of madness, although the other presence seemed more… disappointed at this behaviour than anything else.
Cackling with mad glee, he directed his thoughts at the approaching Angel and told them This is that which threatens US; that threatens all that WE are; that WE may do. It must DIE!
The Eva howled in mad glee as the berserker spirit was told to do its thing, to rip and tear at the offending Angel, while Shinji and the other presence held the leash and offered strategic advice. The Eva ducked beneath one of the glowing battering ram arms and slammed right into a glowing barrier put forth by the Angel to shield its body. The Eva simply tore the field apart and plunged forward, tackling the surprised Angel.
The Angel's eyes flashed and the helmet of Unit 01 was blown off in a purple blast that branched off into a giant cross shaped flare. Unit 01 bit into the Angel's plague-mask face while its hands dug into the flesh of its gut, spraying blue-purple blood and gore everywhere as the two gargantuan monstrosities fought. The Angel tried to get one of its hands around the Eva's exposed head, to batter it at point blank range. Still trailing ropes of something from the Angel's guts, Unit 01 intercepted the arm and savagely snapped it along an angle it should not have been at just before ripping the face off with its mouth.
The Angel, seeing its own demise approaching, obviously decided that it would take out its foe with it, and tried to wrap itself around the Eva as it self destructed, but Shinji and the spirits bound to the machine would have none of that, instead punching it in the core so hard the crystal cracked and forcing the Angel back down to the ground just as it went critical in a cross shaped flare that could be seen across much of Japan.
Standing at ground zero, the three souls within the Eva cried their triumph just as the internal batteries ran down, the cable having been severed shortly after it went berserk. Shinji felt that with the right application of will, he could force the machine to keep acting without an external supply, but the strain wasn't worth it. Their enemy was splattered across them, no need to overdo things.
Shinji woke shortly after he was put to bed in one of NERV's medical facilities, and spent the rest of the night and well into the morning re-centering his mind. A spot of madness now and then was rather cathartic, but he could not indulge too often, lest he lose the calm required to ride the storms of Chaos he created. There was nothing more embarrassing than being ensnared by your own plots because you failed to pay attention to what was happening.
As Shinji sat upon his bed, slowly breathing in and out, he began to sketch out the ties that bound these people together, the flow of power, and all the other bits of information he would need to gain control, even if it was from the shadows. He knew depressingly little, and had almost as much power in this situation.
His first step then would be to learn and build up his power base. That would require short term sacrifices of what power he had, and he would probably have to make some compromises. The bastard Gendo already had him under his thumb, but not as firmly as he thought. Better to play the fool and servant now than be the fool and servant later.
First he would have to begin the acquisition of resources and making contacts. He was quite good with money and had managed to set up a few difficult to trace accounts through which he had stashed away some valuable investments. Not exactly earth-shatteringly valuable, but significantly more than most children his age. With the resources flowing through NERV, he figured he could probably pull some out of his father one way or another. Money in turn would help with building contacts in various ways.
He had already, in his limited contact with them, begun building a friendly relationship with the maintenance crew of Unit 01. It was only sensible that the people you trusted with your life be treated well and taken care of. Shinji was also planning on furthering his relationship with Misato, as her position as tactical commander made her a useful ally to have, although he was rather curious about her personality. The dissonance between her seemingly air-headed natured and her position terrified him on several levels. And while he doubted he could gain Ritsuko as an ally, he would need to do something about her eventually. Her knowledge combined with the monitoring equipment in the Eva would make using his full abilities problematic.
Finally, there was Rei, an enigma to him for the most part, his brief brush with her mind revealing absolutely nothing, although the wall of pain at the time made things difficult to read. Still, there was a vast power beneath the surface, perhaps even greater than his. She was a pawn of Gendo's, she had enormous psychic potential, and she was a fellow pilot. Individually each of those items was worth further study; in sum total they demanded immediate attention and extensive long term planning.
It would not do to let Gendo control such power, especially when it could be his to command.
There were so many pieces to sort through, so many strings to gather and tug at. A lesser mind would have quailed at such things, but Shinji had been mentored by a sorcerer of the Thousand Sons. He had spent the past decade with plots and conspiracies as his food and drink. And loathsome as it was to admit, he was also his father's son. He would figure something out.
Feeling refreshed and rejuvenated, Shinji slipped out of his bed and picked up his staff, which despite outward appearances of being made from wood, was actually a ten kilo pole of metal that had some unusual modifications. Despite being a sorcerer, his sensei had still come from a martial tradition and believed that training the body was almost as important as training the mind.
A slow smile crept over Shinji's face as he went through a series of slowed down motions with his staff. This was actually more difficult than full speed because maintaining the heavy pole in the proper positions put serious strain on his muscles. It was not enough that he be able to use the staff, he had to master each movement. He still had a long way to go, but he managed to perfect a few patterns already.
This was why he smiled. Chaos was all things, including order. Break anything down, and there were laws that governed their actions. Take each individual piece and it could stand on its own, perfect and refined. It was the patterns they made when strung together that confused and terrified lesser minds. By mastering each movement, Shinji could create an infinite series of patterns at will. The next piece of an attack could not be predicted because every tiny twitch of his muscles had to stand alone, a perfect expression of form independent of previous and future states.
This was Chaos, utter perfection of the moment, allowing for action without regard for antecedent or subsequent action. It was freedom in its ultimate form. Despite their outward decay, the disciples of Nurgle were held in a stasis of the moment, able to simply shrug off perturbations to their brand of perfection. The berserkers that followed Khorne made the swirling mayhem of battle their sole focus of their attention, but still they sought perfection of the arts of war. Acolytes of Slaanesh sought perfection in all things, from battle to physical sensation; they pushed themselves to extremes to master anything they chose to pursue.
And then there was Tzeentch, the god Shinji would follow if he could. Tzeentch taught that the ultimate perfection was of the self, the evolution of the mind, body, and soul, and that in the end, such things were impossible, for there was always a way to change, to be better. In a way this limited the freedom of Chaos, for emphasis on the moment was lost, the component of the future added in, but if one controlled all the pieces of the moment, control of the future followed.
Finishing his final kata, his muscles aching pleasantly from the exertion, Shinji does a few stretches before setting his staff down next to the rest of his things and then leaving the hospital room to try and learn some more about his surroundings. It was midmorning already, and a wan, pale light was filtering down through a partly cloudy sky, rolling green hills visible in the distance, their colour washed grey by the diffuse sunshine. It was as if the whole world was numb from the arrival of the Angels.
Shinji felt a strange presence pricking at his mind, and he slowly turned his head down the corridor to find a large hospital bed being wheeled down the corridor. Even before the subject lying still on it came into view, he knew it was Rei. Other than himself and his sensei, she was the only other being he knew of with any psychic potential.
As she passed in the hallway, his eyes locked with her one good eye and for a brief instant their minds connected. She did indeed hold a vast power within her, but it was damned up behind dozens of layers. What little leaked out she did seem to understand, but her usage was mostly instinctive. Thus she was clearly surprised and confused to find another mind reaching out for her own.
What Shinji got through the link was a cold, emotionless blur, devoid of any true desires, her soul broken through unknown abuses. It was an identity without wants, without hopes, defined only by its lack of definition. As far as Shinji was concerned, Ayanami Rei was the most horrifying creature he had ever encountered, the antithesis of his being. He would have to change that.
From Rei's perspective, she was terrified by the vast mind lurking behind those dark eyes, a mind of frightful complexity that she could only glimpse at. He was a boiling sea of emotions that ran counter to everything she thought she knew about existence. He was strong and confident, and she felt lost in his vastness. And yet, she was also strangely drawn into those eyes, a resonance between the two of them, some deeper connection neither could understand.
And then the moment was over, contact broken as Rei's bed was wheeled past and turned down another corridor.
Shinji then spent the next few hours wandering the halls, crafting a new mask for himself. The old one, of a meek introvert, still had its uses, but that was unsuited to this task. This was war. War against the Angels. War against his father. He needed a new face for this task, a war face. The empathetic warrior, walking amongst the wounded in the aftermath of the battle, more concerned with the wounds of others than his own.
Inwardly he was laughing, for as with all the best lies, it was true. Shinji was incredibly empathetic, as he had cultivated more than one way to get into the skulls of others. He could quite easily place himself in another's shoes and see the world from their eyes. But like a good chess player, it was merely so that he could see what his opponents were thinking. He could feel and understand their pain and suffering, and simultaneously not care. They were not him; their problems were not his problems unless he chose to make them so. Shinji was overflowing with empathy, but he had but a few drops of sympathy.
Shinji was about ready to return to his assigned room, retrieve his things, and see if he could sign out of the hospital, when the doors to the elevator in front of him opened up and his father stepped out. Shinji caught a snatch of a thought, of Gendo remembering the path to Rei's room, and he knew why the bastard was here.
"Hello father," Shinji says icily, taking the initiative.
"Hello son," Gendo replies, his voice lacking any signs of paternal warmth.
"We need to talk father," Shinji states.
"Not now," Gendo says, attempting to brush Shinji off as if he were some sort of piece of dirt on his clothes.
"We need to talk about my demands for piloting Eva," Shinji states.
"'Demands'?" Gendo says, as if the word disgusted him in its basic form.
"Yes father, demands. I do not want you holding Rei's well-being over my head like the Sword of Damocles every time you want me to pilot. Eventually she will recover, and unless you intend to keep injuring her to ensure my compliance that means that my presence will no longer be so necessary. I feel that a more civilized arrangement must be made. I want a million yen a month as salary and hazard pay, I figure I deserve something to enjoy in life if I am going to rush out and try and end it every time an Angel shows up, and exchange I'll be the perfect little soldier. No need for threats and blackmail. Bribery will work just fine," Shinji explains in a simple and matter of fact tone.
There was a long pause as father and son glared at one another, neither quite knowing Gendo's glasses were blocking or enhancing the vitriol passing between their eyes, before finally Gendo said, "Fine. You'll have your first cheque tomorrow."
Before Gendo could leave, Shinji added on, "And it's poor professionalism to ask for such a significant raise and not request that my co-workers be given similar benefits, especially on the second day of the job."
Gendo paused for a moment and Shinji managed to steal a few, confusing thoughts that surfaced from his oceanic mind before saying dismissively, "Pilot Ayanami has no need of such things."
"Why?" Shinji pressed.
Gendo realized he had made a slight tactical blunder by revealing something like that before he said, "She is well taken care of already, and she, unlike you, is unconcerned with petty materialism."
Touché father, touché. Still, he had given up an important piece of information. Shinji wasn't quite sure what, but it was important.
"If she does not wish such a salary, then that is her concern, but if she asks for it, you would be obliged to accede to her demands, no?" Shinji recovers nicely.
Damn near everyone in the hospital shuddered at the frigid glare at passed between them before they both parted. Both hated the other's guts more than ever now, and both wanted to know what games the other was playing.
Shinji left with a smirk on his face. Had his father known his lust for power, he probably could have simply told Shinji to pilot it and Shinji would have complied. He wasn't about to let a Titan slip from his fingers. But now… now he had sold his obedience, something already free in this instance, for a million yen a month. He probably could have gone higher, but a million was a nice childishly large number and he didn't want to risk pushing his father too hard. The man was unlikely to haggle.
Upon his return to his room to collect the things that had been left there for him, Shinji found Misato looking for him in the nearby hallway. She looked tired, no doubt from working through much of the night and then getting up early to work some more. Alien attacks tended to create paperwork.
"Good afternoon Shinji-kun," Misato said to him warmly all the same.
Inclining his head in a respectful demi-bow, Shinji replies, "Good afternoon Misato-san."
Eyeing his staff and bags, she said, "Ready to get out of here I see."
Grinning sheepishly, Shinji says, "Well, I ah… don't particularly like hospitals." A true statement, although he had no great antipathy for them either, he just embellished his tone to let her fill in the blanks.
Smiling, Misato says, "Neither do I. Now come on, I'm here to take you to your new home."
"Oh?" Shinji asks. Just so long as it wasn't with his father, he would be fine, although wherever he went would inevitably be filled with bugs. That would be irritating and troublesome in the long run.
"Yup! Now come on, let's get you out of this depressing hospital," Misato says, taking Shinji by the hand and leading him out of the building to her still battered and dented blue sports car.
After Shinji had finished putting his stuff in the back seat, Misato asked him cheerfully but warily, "So why do you have such a heavy walking stick?"
Buckling in, Shinji quickly formulates his response. 'Because my psychic super soldier sensei demanded that I have a weapon capable of taking a few blows from a chainsaw axe' just wouldn't do really. He had an answer after a little less than a second, but he decided to play it out for a full three seconds, even summoning up a little flustered blush before he finally said slowly and haltingly, "Well… I liked to walk in the woods of my old town, and so I started bringing walking sticks… and I guess I wanted to be stronger… so that maybe people would notice me… so I started finding bigger and bigger sticks… until one day I found a metal pole… but I didn't want people to think I was weird… so I made it look like it was just another wooden one."
Misato looked at him passively for a little while before smiling and saying, "And did it work?"
"I… I suppose I did get stronger," Shinji says almost pathetically. Again, he didn't lie; he just understated just how strong he was. For whatever genetic reasons, he had yet to really have any growth spurts and his muscles were all of the ropey, scrawny kind, but he could just about bench press about half his own body mass. Of course, he could also throw this car across the block with telekinesis, but that was cheating.
Shinji liked to cheat. Or as his sensei had put it, "Win and you get to rewrite the rules so that it was fair retroactively. Then laugh at the fools who complain about this."
They drove in a comfortable silence for a time, before Misato spoke up again and asked, "So, you like to take walks in the woods?"
Nodding, Shinji says, "It lets me get away from others, enjoy the peace and silence."
Misato looked saddened by that, and asked, "Why do you enjoy being alone Shinji-kun?"
Shinji frowned for a moment as he formulated the perfect response to that, before saying, "People are always filled with pain and troubles, and it can hurt if I'm surrounded by that all the time… so I just like to escape from that when it becomes unbearable for me."
Another twisted truth, in that being surrounded by petty idiots who were too weak to confront their problems properly tended to drive him nuts with its obnoxiousness. It was always words like that left out that made people think he was more of a sensitive introvert than was actually true. The lack of words like that also deluded people into thinking that he actually cared for them and their problems.
Frowning at this for several silent moments, Misato finally replies, "Well, you know what they say: Shared pain is lessened, shared joy increased."
That's because ignorance is bliss and the intelligence of a group is inversely proportional to the number of people in it Shinji thought in annoyance at the inanity of that statement, but he just replied with a properly melancholy and insincere, "I suppose…"
"Well cheer up, you'll be at your new home soon," Misato says, suddenly cheerful, obviously trying to lighten the mood.
Looking out the window of the car to brood for a moment, Shinji says, "I doubt it will be with my father."
"Oh come now Shinji-kun, he's your father," Misato points out.
"Ever since mom died we haven't got along at all. The two of us couldn't live together," Shinji says bitterly and without fabrication or omission. The fact that the reason they couldn't live together was because they would probably attempt to kill one another the first day if forced to live together was a completely different subject. And as the one who could throw lightning from his finger tips and make heads explode with a thought, Shinji was mostly certain who would win. Only mostly because his father was a clever bastard and there was a small possibility he had some sort of counter to such attacks.
"Oh come on, it can't be that bad," Misato says somewhat dismissively, somewhat teasingly, and somewhat worriedly.
"Wait and see," Shinji says sourly.
By the Gods! How could this have happened? He was this close to living alone with just the expected eavesdropping bugs to contend with, when suddenly Misato got the bright idea to take him under her wing. Subtle psychic persuasion had been insufficient to steer her away from such a course of action, her indomitable will easily shoving aside his smaller probes, and he feared that nothing short of deep, and eye-glowingly obvious, attack would get the results he wanted.
Although he did at least admire the fact that she actually had that much willpower. It seemed that once she set her mind on something, she stuck to it, and damn near nothing could deter her from her chosen path.
Now they were on a highway outside of the city, a bag of groceries on Shinji's lap, and Shinji wondering exactly what sort of hell he had just been signed up for.
"Where are we going?" He asked quietly.
"Somewhere special," Misato replies before pulling off the highway to an observation area that overlooked Tokyo-3.
Getting out of the car, Shinji could not help but be unimpressed. The city was so desolate looking, hardly the great work it was often hailed as being.
Misato looked at her watch and said, "Here we go…"
The wail of dozens of sirens arose from the distant city, and with the sounds of great machines rumbling to life, huge covers began to open up and then skyscrapers began to rise from the Earth, the city that had been suspended from the top of the Geofront yesterday rising up into natural light today.
For one of the few times in his life, Shinji could not contain his glee. On one level he was thrilled to see that this city was practically a giant tribute to the God of Change, capable of altering its form so radically between combat and peace. On another level, the fourteen year old boy in him could only think about how cool something like this was.
"They're rising from the ground! That's awesome!" Shinji exclaimed excitedly.
Smiling at the sudden change from his often quiet and sullen moods, Misato says, "This city is a fortress designed to stand against the Angels. This is Tokyo-3. This is our city, and it's the city that you saved."
With the sun setting in the background, Shinji reached out as if to grasp it all. To Misato, it appeared that he was trying to embrace it all. What Shinji was actually doing was making a silent promise that one day this would all be his.
The rest of the car ride was pleasantly quiet, with Misato making a bit of small talk while Shinji found himself incapable of keeping up his mask of moping after seeing something like that, so he just smiled and made the occasional comment. By the time they arrived at her apartment block, it was night out.
"The rest of your stuff should have been delivered by now. I just moved in myself," Misato says as they walk to her apartment from the elevator. There were indeed the boxes Shinji had shipped out her waiting for them at the door.
"Come on inside Shinji, this is your home now," Misato says warmly.
Hesitating for just a second, Shinji steps over the threshold and says, "I'm home."
"Oh, if you wouldn't mind, could you put the groceries in the fridge?" Misato says while heading off to what Shinji presumed was either her room or the bathroom.
Stepping into the kitchen and main living area, Shinji had to fight the urge to drop the bags and fall to his knees in agonized screaming. There was Chaos, and then there was this! Bags of garbage on the floor, magazines scattered everywhere, and the crumpled beer cans probably outnumbered the inevitable vermin.
He revised his original thoughts of her being a follower of Slaanesh. She was a damned Slaaneshi daemon princess she was!
Examination of her fridge revealed nothing but beer and instant food packages. Shinji felt less healthy just looking at this stuff. He glanced over at the other refrigerator and asked, "What's in that refrigerator?"
"Oh, he's probably just sleeping," Misato answered back unhelpfully.
Groaning, Shinji wondered again just what he had been signed up for.
Within half an hour, Shinji was staring in mute awe of Misato in a sleeveless yellow shirt, tight denim shorts, and clearly no bra. He wasn't staring at her feminine assets though, just at the way she demolished yet another beer and laid into the feast of microwavable food laid out on the table.
Maybe if I seal the apartment with Symbols of Chaos I can control this daemon… damn it, sensei only skimmed over daemon summoning! And I don't know nearly enough about Slaanesh to hope to control this daemon princess!
Finishing off the beer she was chugging, Misato slams it down into the table and lets out a loud, enthusiastic bellow before saying, "Life doesn't get much better than this, does it Shinji?"
Shinji declined to comment on Genghis Khan's views on the subject, but rather he said, "Is all this really necessary?"
"Of course it is silly!" Misato exclaimed while cracking open another can of beer. What, did her body think ethanol was water? "This is your welcoming party!"
Sighing, Shinji just shakes his head and tries to find something Misato hadn't smothered in the thick, sludge-like hot sauce she slathered all over her food. It seemed to be a combination of crystalline capsaicin dissolved in sulphuric acid with raw wasabi added in for flavour. Shinji was fairly certain the stuff could overload the taste buds of an Emperor's Children space marine.
In his conversations with her, he quickly started to realize that her Slaaneshi traits ran from the obvious towards the subtle. Like with the Prince of Pleasure, Misato's drinking and party attitude was not solely for its own end, it was merely that once she set her heart towards something, she was going to push that aspect of her character to the limit. While he had been too busy going berserk the previous night to pay attention to what she was saying, the fact that she was the NERV tactical commander indicated that she was an exemplary soldier and commander.
And now she seemed to have set her sights on being a mother to him, although he doubted she truly understood that herself yet. Her attempts were ham-fisted and clumsy, but damn it if she wasn't going to give it her all. The thought of a Slaaneshi being motherly both intrigued and terrified Shinji, and he knew to his chagrin that he would experience such a thing first hand.
This also required him to further modify the nascent plans he had with Misato. She had pushed the soldier aspect of her personality already, so combining that with this newly awakened motherly facet was a recipe for instant mother bear action. The trick was to ensure that she always thought of him as her cub, which meant that he had to be careful when manipulating her. She could be a useful guardian, but she would demand that he remain loyal to her.
If he did ever find need to betray her, she would have to die instantly, hopefully before she even realized what had happened. That way on the off chance that 'instant death' turned into 'not quite dead', she wouldn't know it. Never forget back-up plans for the low probability eventualities. Those were the things that tended to bite you in the ass.
Of course, there was also the part of Shinji that was still four, crying on a beach, all alone in the world now that his mother had disappeared through the veil of mortality and his father had abandoned him, who could only stare in awe as the being that would become his sensei walked out the waves like some ancient god. Despite the plots, the pain, the frequent betrayals, his sensei had actually cared for him, his harsh teaching merely a method of expressing his fondness, such as it was. His sensei came from a harsh place, and he demanded strength. He had shown infinite patience in his tutoring of the young boy to grow him from the weakling he once was, and had never pushed Shinji harder than the boy could tolerate.
And Shinji missed that. A strange paternal bond had grown between the two of them in their secret studies, a twisted sort of love between two twisted individuals. They had accepted one another unconditionally, had known that even if one stabbed the other in the back they would still care for the other afterward.
Who was he to say that he could not care for this messed up woman, to develop a strange maternal bond between them, a twisted sort of love for two twisted individuals?
Oh, that was right, the student of a Thousand Sons sorcerer; a worshipper of the Scheming God Tzeentch.
He would not sell Misato's life and loyalty cheaply, but for the right price, everything could be sold. For Misato, the price was not monetary, or even necessarily for power, but he could think of a few offers that could be made that he would accept.
Once dinner was finished, Misato proceeded to demolish Shinji at rock-paper-scissors over who got to do what chores. Of course, Shinji was trying to lose and psychic powers made predicting what she was going to do very simple. Had he not tried to blow every single round, he still probably would have been demolished. Misato was terrifyingly good at reading him, and he had to increasingly close himself off to make sure she didn't pick up to the fact that he was plucking her moves right out of her brain.
Once he had been assigned everything but the laundry, a task that he didn't particularly care for, he feigned displeasure at having so much to do, and grumbling he began to clean up the table. Inwardly he was overjoyed. This apartment would never be clean if Misato had to do the chores, and the act of cleaning was to change one's environment, to act against decay and entropy, things that pleased Tzeentch. It was a small thing, but there were small things and big things in life, and the small ones came around more often.
Feeling the length of the day and the day before starting to weigh down on him, Shinji decided to take a bath before going to bed. No need to smell like a Nurgle worshipper, especially since the shower he got after climbing out of the entry plug was better described as a hosing down.
After striping down, he opened the door to the bathroom, only to discover a penguin on the other side. The two of them looked at one another for a moment before Shinji shrugged and they traded places.
He was either hallucinating from Misato's chilli sauce, or he had just seen a penguin exit the bathroom. Either one confirmed the fact that he was in a den of Chaos. Perhaps not the kind he would have preferred, but he could deal with Chaos.
After enjoying a good long soak in which to clear his mind, Shinji went to the room Misato had set aside for him. His stuff was all still in boxes, but he made sure that before he went to bed he set up a small shrine. Atop a small wooden table he laid out a blue cloth embroidered with the Star of Chaos and the Eye of Tzeentch, and then set down the canopic jars that held the dust of his undying guardians.
He was bowed down in silent prayer to a god that might only exist in the tales of his sensei when Misato stuck her head in to check in on him.
"What's that Shinji-kun?" She asked curiously.
Smiling sadly, Shinji said, "In my old town I was very good friends with an old man, the last member of his family. Just before I left, he gave me the ashes of his brothers to take care of, for he knew his time was coming soon and he did not want them to sit forgotten, no one to remember their names; who they were."
Misato nearly rushed Shinji to wrap him up in a bawling hug, to tell him that he didn't have to be so selfless and noble, that he was just a kid, but instead she just said, "I'm proud of you Shinji-kun," before turning away to hide the tears forming in her eyes.
When she was safely out of view, Shinji let a snake-like smirk cross his face.
Hot damn I'm good!