EVANGELION: The Mark of Cain
A fanfic tribute to NGE written by Ender.
Evangelion and all its characters are owned by Gainax. Everything else you don't find in the show or the manga is mine.
Intro Note: Regardless of appearances, neither Kensuke nor Kaji is the protagonist of this fic. :) Shinji's still the main character - it's just that since my divergence starts during the month he spends absorbed in Unit 01, I can't give him that much screen time. (It'd just be a rehash of episode 20 if I did.)Yes there will be new characters (no sixth child though) but I have no interest in stealing the spotlight from Shinji and the rest of the main cast.
Many, many thanks to Dan Snyder for the pre-read :)

Prologue: Transistasis

=The Present=

~Kaoru Nagisa~

Red eyes opened - quick enough to indicate wakefulness but slow enough to show calm. The gray haired boy suspended in yellow liquid turned his gaze towards one of the lilim who were standing around the transparent cylinder which encased his form. A young, female human was currently staring at him with intensity, so the boy figured her to be the originator of the voice.

"Yes?"

The lilim jerked in surprise, then scuttled towards the back of the room with wide eyes, while the other humans exchanged meaningful looks amongst themselves. The boy watched them for a moment more, then closed his eyes again.

~Kaoru Nagisa~

The bearded scientist looked up, blinked twice behind octagonal glasses, then after looking around to make sure he was the object of the question, answered in a wary voice.

"Uhm... what is it Nagisa?"

"You called my name?"

The scientist blinked once more, then looked to those nearby who merely answered his gaze with a shrug.
"Ah, you were probably mistaken - I didn't call you. Just return to your rest Kaoru."

The boy did not think he had been mistaken, but he closed his eyes once more in acquiescence. Moments later he heard the voice again, one unfamiliar to him.

~Kaoru Nagisa~

Once more the boy opened his eyes. This time he turned to a silver haired man on his left side.

"You called me, and here I am."

The older man scowled in response and stared hard at the boy before turning to one of his companions. "Why is he doing that?" At his companions baffled look, the silver haired man turned to the boy once more. "I did not call you Nagisa - return to your rest."

The boy resumed his silence, but this time he did not close his eyes. Instead he watched the nervous faces of the lilim around him. The voice had not been one he recognized - in fact it had seemed somehow different from a normal voice, one that seemed to bypass his senses and enter instead directly into his mind. When next the voice called, the boy was ready - and even had the boy had not observed that none of the lilim had moved their lips when the voice was heard, the name it called him alone would have been enough to confirm his suspicions.

~Tabris~ called the voice in his mind. ~Tabiris...~

The boy raised his head in answer to the call.

"Speak lord. I am listening"

With his answer came a dull roaring in his ears, and the boy felt himself descend into the floor. He saw the astonished, panicked expressions of the lilim, but none of the scientists of the 5th Branch of SEELE could do anything to halt the last Angel as he disappeared into a Dirac Sea...


* * * * *

=The Past: 33 days previously=

~A little more here, a little more there... or did I water that one already? Ah forget it...~

It was hard to concentrate on gardening when there was a giant robot - or humanoid - going berserk not a kilometer away.

Kaji Ryouji looked up as Unit 01 reared its head and roared into the night. To the casual observer, the spy would seem to be taking everything pretty well. Shinji's EVA had just defeated the latest angel in the most horrifying manner possible - it had eaten it, taking the Angels S^2 engine into itself. The Evangelion had already freed its arms of its restraints, and the arms that had emerged looked disturbingly, frighteningly, human. Perhaps if Kaji had not known of the EVA's nature beforehand, he would have been as mightily shocked as the rest - then again, maybe not. A spy didn't survive for very long if he was easily surprised, and Kaji had quite a talent for flippancy in the face of danger. As things stood, the sight merely brought a lazy smile to the spy's face.

"Unit 01 is awake and has been set free... SEELE sure won't stay quiet for this. Was this part of your scenario Commander Ikari?"

As the words left his mouth, Kaji glimpsed a flash of movement to his left. As he turned his attention to the wooded area before him, a uniformed NERV security agent came into view for a moment, moving away from Kaji. The spy clearly saw the glint of a gun in the agents' hand before the man disappeared from view.

~This really is none of my business~ Kaji thought to himself. ~I have my hands full already keeping an eye on Shinji's EVA - no need to go looking for trouble~

Even as he thought this however, Kaji was already drawing his pistol from his shoulder harness and running stealthily towards the forest.

~One of these days my 'nose for trouble' is going to get the rest of my head removed from my body~ Kaji sighed, then grinned. ~Ah, so I might as well enjoy it while I have it then eh?~

As he entered the forest, he quickly spotted the security agent crouched behind a tree, gun at the ready. Kaji had to wonder what kind of security threat could exist that could distract an agent from the horror of Unit 01's awakening. Soon enough, the spy had his answer. As the agent switched his position, Kaji could see further ahead a small rise, and atop it, a brown haired youngster with thick glasses, the lenses of which were pressed to the eyepiece of a handy, portable camcorder - which in turn was pointed at the looming form of Unit 01.

Kaji cursed. What was Kensuke doing out here? And with his camera... suddenly the Agent's presence became clear. Cameras and recording devices were banned from NERV and its vicinity - images of the EVA's and the Angels was just too sensitive to allow for the possibility of the general public getting a hold of them. None of the NERV staff were allowed to own recording devices - Kaji himself had yet to acquire a hidden camera that could fool the periodic sweeps routinely made by NERV Security. How Kensuke had managed to get this far Kaji didn't know, but it was clear the boy's life was in danger... a film of Unit 01 in its present state would be a dangerous weapon in the hands of NERV's many enemies...

That more than anything tipped Kaji's hand as he raised his own gun as the agent was taking aim at Kensuke's head.

*CRACK *

Unit 01's roars masked the sound of his pistol firing, so Kaji wasn't surprised that the boy remained oblivious to the sound it made - and the sound of the agents body hitting the ground. After firing twice more into the body just to be sure, Kaji walked up behind Kensuke, who was so engrossed in the scene that he failed to notice the older man until he spoke into the boys ear.

"Make sure you get her good side," Kaji whispered, smiling slightly at the yelp Kensuke let out as he jumped, then turned to look at Kaji.

"Mr... Mr.Kaji! What- what are you dong here?"

Kaji tilted his head and gave the boy an odd look. "That seems to be the line of the day... and again it's really more applicable to you than to me eh Kensuke?"

Kensuke gulped and ducked his head. "I -well, uhm, I wasn't able to get into the shelter in time and I-"

Kaji held up a hand. "Kensuke, I'm not your old sensei. 'My dog ate it' type excuses don't hold water with me." Before the boy could stammer out something else, another burst of movement caught Kaji's eye. Without hesitation he threw himself at the boy, and the two of them crashed into the ground a few meters away just as bullets shot by them. Kaji recovered quickly and rose, pistol in hand, firing indiscriminately at first, but luckily one of his shots entered the agents throat and he died before he could get a bead on Kaji.

The spy grinned. ~Looks like Shinji isn't the only one who has luck as a part of his talent~ he thought as he helped a shaky Kensuke up.

"That- that was a NERV security agent! I saw them when they took Shinji back after he ran away... why were they shooting at you Mr. Kaji?"

Kaji shook his head. "They weren't gunning for me Kensuke. Those shots were meant for you."

The boy looked shocked. "N... no WAY!"

Silently the older man turned and pointed towards the corpse of the first agent he had killed. "I shot that one just as he was aiming for your head Kensuke - trust me, in my business, you sort of learn to recognize when someone wants to kill you. You my friend, are in a whole lot of trouble..."

"But -but why? All I did was take a few shots with my video cam-"

"And that's more than enough to sign your death warrant. You're a smart kid Aida... tell me, if you were NERV would you want images of that," Kaji said, waving towards EVA 01, "to have any chance of becoming public knowledge?"
Kensuke paled as he looked at Unit 01 once more. "I can't believe that - that Shinji's in that thing..."

"Right now we should worry more about you than Shinji."

Kensuke gulped once more and turned towards Kaji with a pleading look in his eyes.
"I _ just wanted to see Shinji fight, to see the EVA and the Angel...I didn't think-"

"Exactly right, you didn't think," Kaji interrupted. "Otherwise you would have known how dangerous this would be. Searching out the truth is a dangerous game Kensuke, and one best left to professionals. But with that curiosity of yours - and that video - you've just become a player, whether you like it or not. Curiosity can kill grown cats - its even more dangerous for kittens."

The boy began to shake a little as Kaji's words sunk in. The spy shook his head, Kensuke had sentenced himself to a life in hiding, and had blown Kaji's cover, because the boy had too little common sense and too much curiosity. As he looked at the miserable boy however his expression softened. Who was he to judge really? Kaji himself had done more foolish things in the name of 'truth'. The boy at least had not dirtied his hands as Kaji had, had not yet followed truth into the dark and stinking alleys where it most often hid - only to emerge tainted by the darkness... With a mental shake the spy shook such morbid thoughts aside. His sins would come back to haunt him someday - but until then he had best deal with the here and now.

Kaji took a closer look at Kensuke, at the earnestness and fear, innocence and desire etched on his face - and it was then that Kaji made his decision. Even if his own days were numbered, even if he had done many acts which he was not proud of, this child, at least, could be saved - that, if nothing else, was within his power. Besides... that video had the potential of being very useful...

The older man knelt before the shaking boy and looked him in the eye, one hand brushing aside an errant lock of hair.

"Don't worry Kensuke, I'll see what I can do for you. For now let's just get out of here while everyone else is focused on Shinji."

The boy nodded. "Uhm... ok Mr. Kaji... but uhm, one last thing?"

Kaji gave the boy his most dazzling smile. "What is it Kensuke?"

"Just remember - I'm a boy ok?"

Kaji grimaced. He hated it when that happened...

* * * * *

= The Past: 30 days previously =

Rei Ayanami stared up at the bandaged form of Unit 01 as the NERV workmen nervously began attaching all manner of restraints around 'her' body. Earlier she had overheard the staff saying that the Eva was totally inert, registering no energy emissions of any kind from within. Even the S^2 engine which she had incorporated into herself was silent. The Eva seemed to be totally inoperative... and yet somewhere within herself, bereft of physical form was Ikari Shinji. This fact alone was the cause of a new experience for Rei Ayanami: she found herself strangely restless. While normally content to be alone with her thoughts, she found those thought to eventually and unerringly return to the predicament of Unit 01 and its pilot. She found it more difficult than usual to concentrate - and although those around her did not notice anything as amiss, Rei knew that this was not her normal self. It had taken Rei awhile to put a name to her current state, but the fact that she had felt it once before made it easier to pin down.

Rei Ayanami was worried.

For most of her life she had been ignorant of such a state of being. She had no concerns about her own welfare... her absence could quickly be filled by another. And until recently she had not allowed herself to interact with people enough for her to develop anymore than a superficial bond with them. Ikari-kun however had been different. When she had first seen him, without any words or actions as yet between them, she had already felt the bond. Almost as if it had been there even before they had met...

Since then that bond had enabled him to place her in states of mind she had never before experienced. Rei did not know if this was a favorable or unfavorable development - but she did know that she did not wish to be deprived of that bond before she knew its cause and its extent. And Ikari... she did not wish to be deprived of him either.

Rei Ayanami looked up at the being that, not long ago, had been her only link with the world, and for the first time... she saw an enemy.

* * * * *

"Well, this should be it."

Kaji turned a critical eye from the strip of paper in his hand to the rather decrepit looking corridor of the 'Burgundy Place' apartment building, and then finally to the bronze placard bearing the number '106' on the wooden door before him. He knew that the occupant of that room had a reason for choosing such surroundings, but he still found it a bit unnerving that the sister to one of the most powerful men in Japan had to live in this state.

Kaji grinned then. Knowing her, the inside would more than make up for the outside. He turned to a nervous Kensuke standing beside him before knocking loudly on the door.

It took awhile for the door to open, and Kaji knew he had been subjected to all sorts of surveillance devices before she decided to open the door. Thus he was hardly surprised when the occupant was already hissing his name even before she opened the door.

"Ryouji, what are you DOING here? How did you find - "

"We need to talk Ume," the spy said, calmly stepping into the room as he gestured for the boy to follow.

Ume was still ranting. "There's a reason we have pre-arranged drop points to schedule our meetings... if you were followed - and who's this? Why did you bring a child here?"

Kensuke bobbed his head and introduced himself while Kaji closed the door behind him.

"In the order of your concerns: No, I'm a pro, I made sure we weren't followed, Kensuke already answered the second and as to the third - have you swept this place for bugs lately?"

The woman merely scowled at him. She had a plump, wrinkled face, thick, curly brown hair and smiling eyes with plenty of laugh lines that gave her an overall look of a doting grandmother instead of a psychiatrist/philosopher and part time spy. The last time Kaji had seen Dr. Umeko Takahashi, she had been feeding kittens near a deserted warehouse in the Kyoto district, while giving him the inside story on the Marduke Institute. Right now the look on her face told him that she'd rather be disemboweling kittens rather than feeding them.

"Ryouji - if you have managed to compromise this operation for anything less than an event of monumental importance I'll..."

"Now now," Kaji interrupted, a smile on his face. "Not in front of the child. Kensuke why don't you put the disk into one of the players in the next room and we'll be along shortly."

Kensuke took one look at Ume, gulped, then complied. Almost as soon as he had stepped into the next room Kaji heard his exclamation of surprised joy.

"Wow! Look at all this neat stuff! Recording equipment, maxed out sensor P-comp, digital tracking, mini-cams - Aw man! I'm in heaven!"

"Hope we didn't disturb you in the middle of anything important Dr. Takahashi," Kaji remarked innocently as he motioned for Ume to lead the way.

The doctor just sighed. "What are you up to Kaji?" she asked as they proceeded from the foyer into the main living room.

As Kaji had expected, while the outside had by necessity been left in chaos, once past the foyer, the apartment was immaculately clean, everything in order and neatly arranged. And there was a lot to be arranged - recording, hacking, data storage equipment was all over the room, as well as a huge - if orderly - stack of printed files. There were half a dozen viewing monitors as well, probably blanked the moment he had knocked on the door, as well as some more esoteric appearing devices. Kensuke was apparently trying to take apart one of them when the two adults entered, the doctor clearing her throat noisily.

Kaji just smiled as Kensuke jerked and dropped the machine like a hot potato. The boy grinned apologetically and ran his fingers through his hair. "Uhm sorry ma'am! It's just that I've never seen a Mitch-Intel 9.2 Focused Wave Sensor before!

Ume blinked once and turned a shade paler at the boys words and she leaned towards Kaji. "Ryouji... would you mind explaining to me how this teen-aged civilian recognized and named one of our most top-secret military prototypes?"

The unshaven man just grinned at her innocently. "I _told_ you he reminded me of myself... Okay, Kensuke. Let's show the nice doctor lady your masterpiece..."

Kensuke dutifully plopped the disc into the player. The screen was blank for a moment more, then an image of the latest angel appeared on the screen. At Kaji's instruction the boy skipped most of the initial footage, only resuming normal speed after Unit 01 lost power. Still a good amount of footage remained. It took twenty minutes before the entire film was viewed.

It was another fifteen before anybody spoke.

"My God... does NERV know that we have...?"

"I'm not certain. I killed two of their agents who were about to kill him but I'm not sure if they reported anything to HQ. Regardless if I was compromised before, now I probably fall under the realm of 'security risk - shoot on sight.' It might be best if I take the boy and lie low for awhile. "

As Umeko pondered this however, a slow smile began to spread across her face.

"Maybe not Mr. Ryouji... with this in our hands, along with the rest of the evidence we have managed to dig up, the government just might have enough to throw a wrench into the plans of the old men..."

Kaji caught her eyes and grinned. "Tired of working in the shadows Dr. Takahashi?"
This time the woman matched his smile. "Let's just say I think I'm in need of a tan..."

* * * * *

= The Past: 19 days previously =

"How could this have been concealed from us for so long? We demand an answer!"

The voice of the French Ambassador was merely the loudest amongst the hundred or so voices raised in indignant anger after viewing the video of Unit 01's 'awakening'. Even before it was completely back in its case, the shouting had already begun. Many of the ambassadors to the UN were not there to decide on a unified international policy so much as to ferret out secrets on an international scale. And none of them was very enamored of being surprised.

"That - that thing is a monster!"

"This is ludicrous! Who else knew this?"

The outrage was not solely directed towards the Evangelions however. Each member of the assembly also had a copies of the documents enclosed with the original videodisc, among them the psychological profiles of the Children.

"Did you see these profiles?"

"My God... the survival of our race lies at the mercy of these..."

"...psychotic..."

"...unstable..."

"...children?!? This is unacceptable!"

"This was your plan all along!"

"Ours!?! It's you Germans who - "

"We demand that these - these Evangelions, and their pilots, be put out of commission immediately!"

The Secretary - General raised his hand, and with some help from the members of security, a semblance of order was restored to the room.

"Please, before we jump to any conclusions, I believe it would be wise to hear from the representative of the nation most directly concerned with these incidents - the ambassador from Japan Mr. Akira Okazawa."

There were numerous shouted accusations and epithets hurled as a diminutive balding man stood up and approached the podium. However, Akira Okazawa's first words once he had taken his place at the podium caused a grudging silence to come over the assembly. His voice did not posses the smooth, polished cadence of a practiced diplomat, but instead the tired voice of a man in anguish.

"Does anyone here believe I relish the thought that these monsters are housed in the heart of my country? That it is the Japanese governments wish that because of these battles, thousands have been killed and not one but two more of those abominable N^2 bombs have been deployed? Would you wish these upon your own country?"

A grudging silence descended upon the room at his words. Okazawa was a distinguished member of the assembly, and it was his reputation as much as his words that subdued the ambassadors enough to listen to him.

"My nation has long been wary of housing NERV and the Evangelions on our soil. It may be recalled that we did not threaten this body in anyway if a NERV branch was not built on our territory... unlike some others," he paused for a moment as a few of the less discrete members of the assembly directed scowls at the U.S. ambassador. "We have been constantly trying to find alternatives to the Evangelion units - due to our lack of funds this search has been conducted through supporting private organizations with both the means and knowledge to propose possible solutions. Companies such as GERMPLUS and Nippon Heavy Industry Solidarity. However as you may remember, Nippon's Jet Alone model suffered a- "

"We know all this Okazawa," a voice broke in. It was the U.S. ambassador, who was now standing and pointing an accusatory finger at Okazawa. "Your government has long used the Jet Alone fracas as an excuse in your lack of enthusiasm when it comes to aiding other efforts to replace the Evangelions. However I have in my hand," the man paused for dramatic effect, waving a data disk in his fingers. "Proof that your government has been secretly working on a mechanoid weapon of your own. Or do the words 'Project: Keeper' mean nothing to you?"

Okazawa blanched at the name. Before he could react further however, the U.S. ambassador had already jammed the disc into his local computer and with the push of a button, the contents were displayed on the large monitor behind the podium. On the left side was a column of streaming data, detailing statistics, production cost, technical specifications of some sort. On the right side was a rotating 3D-frame model of what appeared to be a humanoid robot. It appeared similar in build to an EVA, though the data showed it to be slightly smaller, with the notable exception of an additional four arms crossed at the front of its torso. The filename blinked at the bottom of the screen:
Project Completion Report: N^2 Powered Keeper Close Combat Mechanoid

The U.S. ambassador grinned. "It is hereby recommended by the United States that this so-called Keeper Mecha be immediately commissioned to replace the NERV Evangelion Units as the first line of defense against the angels.

At once another round of chaotic protests and accusations burst forth, with some nations agreeing with the U.S., while others, led by Japan cried for caution.

"The Keeper mecha has not yet been fully tested," Okazawa insisted. "It's internal N^2 Engine must be subjected to more rigorous tests before it passes safety regulations. Besides the Evangelions have proven capable at their job."

"Anything would be safer than those Evangelions," the U.S. ambassador insisted. "If you were truly concerned for your nation - and mankind - you would be delighted to deploy your little robot!"

"Silence!" The chaos ceased for a moment as the assembly turned to the Secretary - General, who was currently standing at the top of his desk and screaming at the top of his lungs.

"This behavior humiliates this august body! We are now in recess until you have all learned to respect your place and your office - you two," he growled, pointing towards the U.S. and Japanese advisors. "I will see you in my office where we will resolve this - civilly."

Two hours later the three men faced a subdued assembly and announced their compromise.

"It has been agreed," the Secretary - General began. "That Evangelion Unit 01 will be decommissioned for the time being, and replaced with the Keeper mecha. The remaining two Evangelion units will remain on active duty."

"And what about the pilots?" the Swedish ambassador asked. "These psychological profiles remain a matter of grave concern..."

The Secretary - General waved the issue away. "I have talked to Mr. Okazawa and he has agreed to have one of the more renowned Psychologists in Japan transferred to NERV to oversee the psychological development of the children. This matter is now closed for discussion until the next session... we have many more issues to discuss..."
As the dialogue moved towards more mundane topics, Akira Okazawa sighed with relief. Releasing the video of Unit 01 at the same time they leaked information on the Keeper mecha to the U.S. had borne the fruit that the Japanese government desired. They would finally have the means to balance out NERV's excesses.

As he settled back into his seat the aged ambassador thought ruefully, ~I've paid my debts Ume-san. The rest is up to you...~

* * * * *

= The Past: 18 days previously =

Somewhere dark and secluded, a monolith was angered.

"This... is unacceptable."

"Indeed," a second monolith intoned. "In addition to the Unit 01 debacle, and the damage to the two remaining Evangelions, you have managed to allow footage of the incident to leak to the United Nations."

"And now an outside factor is being forced into the equations."

"One we cannot easily remove because it was sanctioned by the entire assembly."

"Your incompetence has cost us dearly Ikari..." said a sixth. "How do you plead before the committee?"

Gendo Ikari remained at ease, his fingers twined before the bridge of his nose.

"No need for concern," he began. "This will not interfere with our plans. In the worst case, the robot can still be used as an extra target."

"Ikari - you do know that one of the reasons for the Keeper's existence is to give mankind a weapon that can stand against an Eva?"

"It would hardly pose a threat," Ikari answered calmly. "It cannot even project an AT field."

"You would be wise to be cautious Ikari - there are forces operating here not foreseen in our scenario."

The first monolith interrupted again at this point. "Quite so. The more immediate threat would come from the influx of new, non-NERV personnel into the headquarters."

"Indeed. How do you plan to keep our secrets Ikari?"

The man smirked. "A child psychologist and a skeleton crew ... hardly a force to threaten your plans."

The monoliths were silent for a moment before the first spoke once again.

"Be sure that your actions match the confidence of your tone Gendo Ikari."

With that the monoliths winked out and the Supreme Commander of NERV was plunged into darkness.

* * * * *
~15, 16, 17... well that makes 17 JSSDF cruisers and 3 Super Carriers today...~

Kensuke Aida leaned on the railing and sighed. He'd never have thought the day would come when he got tired of watching the most advanced battleships ever created slip in and out of a dock... then again, he'd never thought he would ever be kidnapped and taken to a secret facility at the edge of the world either. After handing his video over to Dr. Takahashi, he and Kaji had taken an 18 hour trip in a military plane to this island complex at - wee, the boy was never told exactly where. Kensuke had spent the last week in the complex, alternately gaping at the awesome military hardware and worrying about his situation. The past few days, it had been almost exclusively the latter... it was hard to concentrate on the wonders of modern military technology when one remembered that those self-same gadgets were being used right now to hunt _you_.

"Why the glum face?"

Kensuke looked up to see Kaji smiling down at him. The boy pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose then sighed noisily.

"Oh... it's just you Kaji..."

"Now there's a way to greet a friend and guardian... I came by to check how you were doing. You seem pretty down for the man who's first film brought the house down - at the U.N. no less," Kaji said with a lopsided grin on his face.

"What good does that do me?" Kensuke whined. "I haven't seen my friends, my family - heck the outside world for the last two weeks, some of the most well trained, professional killers in the world are after my head and to top it off I have absolutely no idea what's going on here! No one will even tell me what you showed the tape to the U.N. for..."

Kaji blinked at the boys' tirade, then scratched his chin thoughtfully.

"Well then, that's a tale that might take awhile - but there is one thing I can show you. I was going to wait a while before I told you ... but it wouldn't hurt to give you a little peak now and it would do wonders for your mood..."

The spy seemed lost in thought for a moment more but then seemed to come to a decision. He gripped the boys arm and pulled him along.

"Wha - where are you taking me?"

"I have a surprise for you - just come along, Kensuke, I know you won't be able to resist anyway."

Curiosity piqued, Kensuke followed obediently behind the older man as they entered an elevator and began to steadily descend into the complex. The place where Kaji had brought him was huge, and full of military and non-military equipment that was like nothing Kensuke had ever seen. The complex alone had been enough to distract him during the first few days... but not even his obsession with military tech could make up for his fear and loneliness.

Still, this 'surprise' thing had him curious. "So what is this surprise Kaji? Unless it's some sort of mega-bulletproof second skin, I doubt it'd help me any."
The older man just grinned mysteriously.

"Tell me Kensuke," Kaji asked. "Did I hear Shinji right when he told me that you were dying to pilot an Eva? You actually begged Katsuragi to pilot from what I hear..."

The mention of Shinji and the Eva brought a frown to the boys' face. "Well... I used to, but not anymore. Who'd want to get in that monster?"

Kaji nodded. "Understandable... but what if it wasn't a monster? What if it were just like any other piece of military technology... would you change your mind then?"

Kensuke nodded enthusiastically. "Mr.Kaji, I'd give my left arm to be able to pilot something like an Eva, but what does it -"

* ding *

The boy was interrupted by the elevator halting its descent. Kensuke blinked. He'd lost track of time... just how far below ground were they?

All calculations of depth and speed however, were lost the minute the elevator doors opened. Immediately, Kensuke found his gaze resting on a metallic foot. As his jaw gaped in amazement, his eyes followed the form up and up, beyond metallic legs and six metallic arms, finally resting on a head that reminded him of nothing else but a medieval war hammer.

"Keep the arm Kensuke. As you can see you'll more than need it to pilot that little beauty..."

Before Kaji could say anything else, Kensuke was out of the elevator, practically levitating in his haste to examine the robot more closely. As it was he didn't even hear it when Umeko Takahashi came up behind Kaji with a motherly smile on her face.


"I almost hate to tell him that he won't be the Keepers sole pilot. He might think that like the Evangelions, it requires only one."

The spy let out a smooth chuckle. "Let him have his moment Ume. It's rare you see a dream come true."

"I thought you might like to know that his two other co-pilots have arrived..."
Kaji nodded. "I see. How are Nyoko and Cho?"

"Nyoko is fine, though there's yet been no progress in improving her condition. As for
Cho... he's excited to see you of course. It's been eight years after all... it's almost eerie how much he reminds me of you."

Kaji laughed. "Stands to reason... besides what better role model eh?" he finished as he walked back into the elevator.

Dr. Takahashi shook her head as she watched him go.

"God help us all if we have to handle two of you..."

=The Past: Two days previously=

"It's not working!" Maya screamed, "The plug is being ejected!"

With a sick flushing noise, the entry plug of Unit 01 opened, discharging its contents of LCL fluid into the cage, taking whatever remained of its pilot along with it. Misato felt her chest constrict as she saw Shinji's empty plug suit carried out of the Eva and dragged to the floor by the rushing fluid.

"Shinji-kun!"

Before she knew what she was doing she was rushing out of the observation deck. A part of her mind knew that it could not have been more than 3 minutes before she was kneeling in the LCL, arms convulsively wrapped around Shinji's plug suit, but to Misato it seemed like an eternity. Pain ripped into her as she rocked back and forth, cradling all that remained of her Shinji.

"What use is your goddamn science," she whimpered brokenly between sobs. "It can't even save one small life..."

He was gone. Just like that. She'd never see him again. He'd never get that chance for happiness that he deserved. She'd never be able to make it up to him - make up for the fact that she had brought him into this mess.

"Give me back my Shinji!" Misato screamed. At the Eva... at Ritsuko... at God... "Give him back!!!"

In the midst of her grief she almost didn't hear the slurping, sucking sound from a few meters before her. As she turned to look up however, she saw Shinji's naked body lying face down just within reach. It had not been there before, it was impossible that it be there now... but none of that mattered.

"Shinji?"

He was back.

"Shinji!!!"

=The Present=

~Where is this? Nothing exists here.~ Kaoru Nagisa thought to himself.

~But I exist. I am not nothing~

~THAT IS SO~

A new voice. The voice he had heard. The voice that had called his true name.

~Is there nothing else?~

~YOU HAVE NO NEED FOR ANYTHING ELSE. YOU EXIST. THAT IS SUFFICIENT FOR YOU~

~Unlike the lilim?~

~UNLIKE THE LILIM. THERE IS NO NEED FOR 'SENSE'. NO NEED FOR 'WORLD'. THAT IS WHY THERE IS NOTHING~

~There is no need~

Kaoru sensed approval.

~YES~

Kaoru paused and pondered these thoughts for a moment.

~You exist. Do I need you?~

~YOU ARE MISTAKEN. I AM NOTHING~

~That is ...a strange statement.~

Slowly the void around Kaoru began to stir. Shapes returned, as well as sound, sensations on the skin, scents of the air.

Kaoru found himself in a large, dark room. It was similar to the Commanders office of the 3rd SEELE branch. Above and below him was etched the Tree of Sephiroth, glowing with a faint inner light. Before him was the Commanders desk, and on top of it was a placard with a name. 'Carl Senaca' it said. 'Commander NERV 2nd Branch.'
A man stood behind the Commanders desk, his back turned to Kaoru. Moments later he slowly turned, revealing an unshaven face framed by dark, almost purplish hair. The face however had a complete lack of expression that no lilim could ever affect, and there seemed to be nothing behind the man's dark eyes. On his forehead was a vivid red circle, flanked by two horn-like slashes. He wore a ripped coat more suitable to a winter climate, with stains that looked like blood, long dried.

"I am here," Kaoru said softly.

The man replied with both human voice and mind thought:

"Welcome Tabris."

"You do not seem to be nothing..."

The mans face did not move, but Kaoru received a sense from him. Amusement. A smile. Kaoru smiled in return.

"The present is not the past, nor the future," the man replied. "For now, I am who I am. "

Kaoru bowed. "You are the Second."

The man - no, the Angel - nodded.

"You may call me Cain."


Authors Notes: Well Shinji's back so expect him to actually have speaking lines next chapter :) And yes, definitely his red-headed room mate as well. Apologies if anyone was bored with the segment in the UN... 'twas necessary to show how Kensuke's video and sneaky manuevers resulted in the new element being introduced into NERV.