Disclaimer: Neon Genesis Evangelion belongs to the Gainax Company. The Darkness belongs to Top Cow Productions. I do not own either series in any way or form. I am not receiving any money for this project. This is something spawned from my fandom of two incredible series.

Antiheroes of Eva: Deepest Darkness
Chapter V

Shinji and Rei came walking through the main entrance within the next couple minutes and the albino dropped the umbrella in the threshold. The downpour was quick to turn the groomed courtyard into a miniature marsh, so there was no morning crowd to greet them en route. The students chose to gather and commune on the ground floor and it was a relief that their arrival did not garner much attention. The corridor was taken over by the same nonsensical white noise of pop culture, token concerns, current events and immodest gossip on the other students. The occasional utterance of a major event in the world did not do much to redeem the impertinence of it. Shinji Ikari could not thrive among the other children and it did not take three months in a hole to realize one would waste too much time there. He would not need to worry about it in a week, but it was nice to walk around and not be mobbed with inquiries on the newest tabloid with his picture on it. It was a nice change to be old news.

Shinji was not surprised when Ayanami made a beeline for the stairway, moving to take her seat in their homeroom in the minutes before the first bell. He moved through the crowd without much trouble, but could not avoid the occasional bump into someone not paying mind to him. The bored looks toward him and the references to him as the new kid made it quite obvious that some did not even know about him. He took note of the newcomers who came with the recent influx and how those who stuck it out in the beginning were outnumbered three times over. It was good to witness some life coming back to the drab metropolis. He knew it would not take much time for word to get around and the random mobs to come back into his shadow, but he could deal with it for one day. He did not intend to return tomorrow.

The weary yawning and boorish complaints of the crowd was a sign of the morning and none of them wanted to be there for it. It was not hard to imagine the dismal weather made it that much worse. Shinji's own weariness drew him to get a canned coffee from one of the vending machines with a minor tweak of the shadows within. He did not want to make waves using his powers to commit petty theft, but there was an exception to be made when a government agency took the money out of his wallet. The canned brew was like tobacco spit, but the caffeine and sugar would keep him lucid enough to take the next step in his own plot.

Shinji drank the vile potion and trashed the can with a sour expression. He took note of one voice among the white noise moronic chit chat. He was not sure if it was insomniatic weariness or a tender mind, but he did not know the voice until the owner came toward him shouting his name. He did not even recognize one of his truest friends until the other young man was right on top of him. A couple months spent in the dark without a kind voice can do that, but it was good to hear without a doubt.

"Shinji? Yo, Shinji!" Kensuke Aida came jogging down the corridor with an excitement typical of the gossip monger. His drive drew a couple curious gazes, but no one showed the same interest in the dripping ex-pilot. He did not miss the new camera at his hip, a compact upgrade from the vintage camcorder he had once favored. The round specs were gone too, phased out with a new pair with a more modern design. Kensuke had done some growing of his own over those three months. A tension came to one corner of his mind. Shinji did not want to deal with the shadows of his old life, but knew now that it was unavoidable and did not bother to turn away. Aida came running up with his typical curiosity, no doubt wanting to know where he had been and what was going on to bring him back out into the open.

"Shin-man, where have..." Indeed, Kensuke wanted to know more, but his voice failed him when he got close enough to pick up on the dark aura around his friend. The mild injuries and band-aids were enough to tease the imagination, but the malign gaze in his azure peepers gave much more away. The ex-pilot was in no mood to amuse dumb questions. "Whoa, Shinji... You look terrible, man."

"Give me a week to drop down to your level." Shinji gave a weak chuckle before stepping away from the vending machine, not wanting to block the crowd growing behind him. Kensuke blinked with mild surprise, but was good enough to see the humor in it. Shinji took another coffee from the machine and moved over to one of the nooks in the corridor, a side room often used to cram at the last minute.

"I don't mean to pry, but you look like you went a couple rounds with a lawnmower." Kensuke gave chase, pointing to one of the more prominent patches on his forehead. He was not about to be discouraged from pursuing his own curiosity. "You've been gone since the last angel got put down hard and some of us have been worried. Where in the world have you been?"

"Hell." Shinji replied.

The word just came out. Shinji did not know how to respond to the cameraman in that moment. He did not want to explain the ins and outs of the judgment and his termination to the gossiper. He would keep him in the dark, but it was for his own good and not just because he was a minor and a civilian.

Kensuke Aida could never know, but he had been monitored by the organization since his illicit footage appeared on the internet. NERV had an open case file on him and his online activities, most of it detailing his involvement in so much propaganda and paranoia about the agency. He had been warned him in the wake of the Fourth Angel to keep it to himself or there could be dire consequences. Shinji knew one dumb word would be enough to put someone in the stockade and the commander would not waive an opportunity to torment his son. Kensuke was one of his best friends too and their bond was mutual enough that he would not let it slide. Shinji did not need him trying to drop viruses in agency mailboxes or sending one of those protestor mobs to the commander's doorstep. It was part true in a way.

"Hell...?" Kensuke took a moment to take in the tension. "Uh... were there no good prices on one of the more traditional vacation spots? I hear good things about the moon and the crack house a couple miles down the road."

"I'll jot that down." Shinji smirked as the topic was allowed to slip away. Kensuke did not like to take the world around him too seriously and would revel in the humor and irony where most would look on with tense severity. He did know when to be serious, but did not have much desire to bring it out when it was unnecessary. Shinji knew it would allow him to survive in the real world and it was good to know some things were not about the change.

"Shinji." A serious voice came at his back. Shinji turned to see Toji Suzuhara standing in his shadow wearing a severe expression which contrasted the cameraman's melodramatic show. He wore a jacket similar to the one his guardian had made into her icon, but this one was made in the colors of Evangelion Unit 03. The unit number was there too, embroidered on the upper arm of the right sleeve over the organization's crimson emblem. Shinji remembered a couple discussions about casual uniforms and knew his own was likely tossed into the incinerator. The Fourth Child gave him a nod and it spoke volumes about his time within the agency. He was not corrupted in that time and was quick to show a warm smile.

"Toji." Shinji murmured in kind. He picked up on the outrage within the young man and knew at once that he stood someone who would prove a devoted companion. He'd known the jock was being blackmailed with his own sister, just one of the innocent citizens made a victim in the initial battle. He was a kindred spirit who did not bother to hide his disdain toward NERV. Shinji knew without a doubt that their rookie pilot would fight with him given good reason. The darkness within told him that war with the agency and an alliance with its own people was not just inevitable, it was a certainty. The moment just needed time to brew.

The tension of the moment was broken when Kensuke grabbed him up by the collar. "Shinji! The jock has come and you must mince your words in his presence! He must not know where you have returned from the pit of torment!"

Toji did not know what to make of it. "He was where now?"

"He's not gonna give it up." Kensuke confessed. "I mean, he did come in with Ayanami and that is suspicious in and of itself."

Toji was speechless for a moment. "Shinji, what is he going on about?"
"He's being himself." Shinji deadpanned.

"Humph. We'd be so unfortunate."

"Come on!" Kensuke shouted with mock insult. "We might have a traitor in our midst! She could have been holding him prisoner or something! Don't you know what they say about the quite ones?"

Shinji grew quite unnerved with that statement, but Toji just looked on in mild disbelief. The jock was quick to come to his protection. "Okay, we need to have him committed before you're spun into another one of his idiotic conspiracy theories."

"Give me some credit, Shinji!" Kensuke moaned out in mock pleading. "I mean, you've been missing and that girl has been even more withdrawn in recent months! It's gonna make people wonder if you two weren't shacking up somewhere in secret?"
"Goddamn it!" Toji groaned, raising one hand to smack the cameraman upside the head. "Can you possibly become any more annoying, Aida?"

"I dunno... Give me a week." Kensuke gave a cocky smirk and was quick to weave around the next slow swipe to come at his head. Shinji snickered at the immature antics of the cameraman and it did not take a minute for the jock to relent with a chuckle of his own. The trio took moronic mirth in the moment without mind to the onlookers and took to the twin couches occupying the side room.

Shinji dropped into one of the cushioned couches and broke into the next canned coffee. He gave it a sip and scowled at the rancid taste. "Kensuke, are you even aware that you're an idiot?"

"Kinda." Kensuke winced in mock pain. "The devil points it out around twenty times a week."

"Asuka?" Shinji did not bother to hide the concern in his voice.
"You got it good, Kensuke." Toji broke in on the conversation, sitting down across from Shinji with a coffee of his own. The weariness in his gaze made one sure he would need it just to keep from passing out. He popped the can open and downed part of it with a snort. "You should try working with her."

Shinji did not move in the moment and gave the jock a direct look. Toji took a moment to notice and nodded in kind. The two did not need to bother with the words.

"I guess you'd know." Shinji nodded at that. "You were the one made to room and train with her since she came into the program. I remember you caught crap whenever the world decided not to revolve around her. Believe it or not, the little bitch still wants to put the blame on you whenever something rubs her wrong."

"I believe it." Shinji tone was morose.

"I'm one to talk." the jock mused more to himself. "You could write a book on just how bad it can get."

"Yeah..." Shinji looked down his nose at one of the news magazines on the table. The bold text made mention of an interview with the pilot of Unit 02, if the girl posing in her crimson plug suit did not make it obvious enough. NERV was giving in to public exposure due to the puzzling scarcity of an angel attack. "You keep going on about it and the tabloids will beat me to it."

Toji leaned in toward his pal with a worrisome expression. "Shinji... be honest with me. The whole time you were with the program, did it ever once get easier to work with her?"

"No, it did not." Shinji winced at the memories which came to mind, visions of his vain desire to make a true companion out of the brazen foreigner. The memories did not do much to raise ones spirits and no gesture was worthy of her favour. The Second Child was suspicious of his intentions before she even met him and refused to believe that he did not want what she thought he did. There were no plots to worm into her heart or ulterior motives to outdo her. Shinji did not want her approval to the point he went without respect. Shinji just wanted someone to accept him, but now he knew it was the same desire which once made him a servant to the commander. In the end, he was not even a person to her, just one more opponent to be overcome in her battle against the world.

"Shit." the jock grunted.

Toji did not like the girl, but did not want her to be an enemy. He must have tried too and come away without much to show for it, now cooperation while on assignment would be hindered even more. It was like it was her mission to break down her own allies and go it alone. Ritsuko Akagi once claimed it was a survival instinct, but it was dangerous and would bring more harm in time. To Shinji Ikari, it was just one more problem he would make time to correct. The darkness did not want him worrying over loose ends.

"I know it sucks, man." Shinji murmured an instant before the morning bell rang out over the campus and the other students were soon on the move to their homerooms. The crowds thinned out within a minute and until there were no more than a dozen students occupying the corridor.

Toji discarded his coffee while Kensuke scooped up his bag and camera, but the pair took notice that the ex-pilot made no move to go with them. "Shinji, you gonna be in homeroom?"

Shinji looked up from the news magazine. "Gimme a couple minutes."

The two stooges did not pry and moved to the stairwell with the rest of the crowd and it was not long before the loner was alone on the ground floor. There was no one around to see the dark imp appear under the coffee table carrying a crimson laptop pilfered from an unused classroom, his old one to be more precise. Shinji took it without a word and the imp snuck away in a cloud of smoke and brimstone. Shinji went to work on it at once, opening a dozen browser windows and committing them to various inquiries. The next bell did not warrant his attention. He had come back into the world just two hours prior and was not concerned with the rigors put upon him by the school. He was more concerned with what went on in the outside world during his time in the stockade. A good dozen windows on news reports and media sites, but one window was peppered with queries that were much more abnormal. He was even more determined to come up with more about his birthright, The Darkness.

Shinji was quite disappointed to come away without much to go on. He discovered there was a severe lack of reliable data on the internet. The sources on the supernatural and the occult were without merit, and there was next to nothing in regards to the ancient chaotic inheritance. He tried the names and monikers used by his demonic minions to reference it, but not one gave him an inch. The most prominent result was a hard rock band who were quite famous out in the west and who just happened to share the same name. The runner-up was the typical pure evil antagonist from a hit video game series he was guilty of spending money on a couple years prior. It was just one more burden left by the second impact, which took out innumerable websites and the information contained within. Now, with a couple million porn sites clogging up the works, there was not much room on the internet to post obscure occult propaganda. The movie cliché about the hero needing to hunt down ancient tomes or wise men to know more about something strange sorta looked like a universal rule.

"You don't need to do that." Shinji looked up to see his demonic advisor sitting like a gargoyle in a dark corner of the alcove. Dante did not intend to give him a private moment.

"How about we just pretend I don't trust you to give me the whole truth?" Shinji did not bother to stop working the keyboard, determined to come across a rose among weeds. He did not want to make a move on the world with it without knowing more about it.

"Good instinct." Dante dropped to the ground and turned into an aerial summersault, touching down on one of the armrests. He looked at the screen with mild boredom. "We have kept nothing from you, Shinji. You're wise to know the dark gift comes with a bloody history, but it should not concern you at this time.

"I'd rather know more on it before I go around using it." The young sovereign declared.

"It is not the right way, Shinji!" the advisor roared in a fit of anger, one wicked talon snapping out to seize the chosen one's chin. It was a bold move for the little demon, whose unending existence could be snuffed out with a mere thought. "Listen to me! You will come to know more with use! The Darkness will call out to you while you slumber, but you must know it is an impatient spectre!"

Shinji took his minion's wrist in an iron grasp. "You need to tell me more, Dante."

"We are not permitted!" the advisor announced and jumped back onto the coffee table. "We have been patient, but your birthright was woken too soon and cannot be allowed to hibernate without use. You need to put it to work or it might reject you and choose a new master. We did not survive eons to be put on the back burner."

Shinji did not want that and nodded to the imp. "I do not intend to waste it, but just who should it be used on and how does someone go about deciding?"
"You have no true enemies, we know, but we cannot wait much longer." Dante knew it was a dire situation when the majority of his predecessors were bred to pursue conquest and prone to brutal violence. Shinji was a good kid dealt a terrible hand by the world. He had the rage to fuel him, but too many of his grudges were personal. He did not know how to treat it like business. "You need to be on the lookout for one, but do not look with your own interests in mind. You do not have it in you to wage war in your own name. You will need to find some kind of purpose to pursue with your power. Put some thought into it!"

Dante was gone in the next moment in a haze of smoke and brimstone, but left the young man with much to ponder in the quiet solace. Gendo Ikari was his one true enemy and the one man he sought to punish, but in the end there would be no greater purpose to it and that kept him on the outside. Shinji did not want to lose the dark gift to cowardice and procrastination. He took his advisors words to mind and kept working. He did not know where to begin looking or even how to do so. He did not know if he would have the will to go through with it when he did.

He would never have guessed he would have an answer before midnight.

Shinji Ikari poured over the internet queries for the next two hours, ignoring the other boys and girls who came and went from the comfy nook. He was soon caught up on recent news and major events going on the world, but got nowhere when it came to the more vital research. The third period bell was an omen to him, a whole hour without one shred of legitimate information. He conceded defeat when some of the students came in to use the microwave and gave him a new top priority. He had forgotten about his own groaning stomach in the wake of his surprise release and had not had a bite in the two days prior. He scooped up his pack and put the computer away over the aroma of fried rice and tomato soups. He stood and moved from the side room, intend on hitting up some of the other vending machines when his ravenous hunger was overruled by dread and regret.

Asuka Langley Soryu came out of nowhere to shove him back into the alcove and into one of the seats, like she'd been waiting to make her move. Shinji knew it was just good timing that she would notice him in the midst of his exodus. She did not change in the time he was buried, not one crimson hair was out of place and her disposition toward him had not mellowed. Shinji was quick to notice the jacket she wore over her school uniform, painted in the vibrant colors of Unit 02. The young pilots were now known to the public and did not bother to hide it. The girl was in one of her worst moods and it showed in that moment. Shinji did not doubt there would be trouble, but was quite surprised when she punched him across the face. He did not get a word out before her right hand came back to hit him in the mouth and split his lip. It took more than an ounce of restraint just to avoid returning the favor. He just narrowed his gaze at the girl and it was enough to put her off the assault.

"You've really got some nerve, idiot!" the brazen redhead was stoked on her own anger and grabbed him by the collar when he did not respond. There were some onlookers watching from the corridor and one or two picked up on the raw amounts of wrath and hatred hanging in the air. Asuka gave him a hard look, as if trying to decide whether to bark in his face or strike him in the nose. "You run away and think you can just come back like it was nothing?"

Shinji did not know what she was going on about and for a moment just looked on with a mind rapt with utter cluelessness. "I got out just now. It's not like I had much choice."

"Liar!" He took a sharp punch to the forehead. "The whole agency knows the tribunal was retarded and we do not doubt it was just more political crap. Hell, we stood up for you and you screwed us over. You just don't have what it takes to keep going when it gets tough!"

"I did not give up!" Shinji went rigid at the implication.

"Don't give me that!" The volatile girl roared, slamming her foot down into the couch cushion between his knees. He did not flinch, too livid on the inside to acknowledge the open threat. The demonic imps took point in air vents and dark nooks to watch, just waiting for their master to snap. "You walked out on us, Shinji! Do you think coming back now makes up for it?"

"You don't know what you're talking about." Shinji snarled.

"Shut up!" Asuka shouted back at him, "It's inevitable. You're just gonna quit a third time if the commander is dumb enough to let you come back. You just don't have what it takes."

Shinji knew in that moment that there was treachery afoot. He remembered one or two times his sneakier minions reported on the meetings of the pilots and how the transcripts of the tribunal came up once or twice. The agency would insist that the pilots did not need to know what occurred therein, but it did not keep the jock and the redhead from wanting to know. The sudden change in disposition was quite a surprise, but it took no effort to figure out. The whole situation was sensitive and the records would have likely been classified. One would require officer clearance or above to access documentation on the trial. Shinji did not need spies on the inside to know the commander took the opportunity to turn his temperamental roommate against him with a lie or two. The inkling that someone who was so confident could be so gullible made him want to hit her. He looked up with ire to see her turn her back to him about to leave, but he was much too provoked to let the insult slide.

"You are a fool." Shinji announced; his voice dark and even with malice. The fiery agitator froze at the words and could not keep walking with her pride on the line. Shinji got up as she turned and made a beeline for him, prepared to make it much harder for him to make use of his jaw. The redhead got one punch in on the once timid boy before she was put down by a slap to the face. It was not gentle or weak. It would take one or two weeks for the bruise to fade.

Asuka could not believe it and Shinji Ikari took advantage of her utter shock to grab her wrists and throw her down onto the couch. He slammed his own hands down on the armrests, pinning her to that spot. He took in the stunned look as he leaned in and got nose to nose with the violent girl. She took in the rage in his bloodshot gaze and knew he was prepared to do more than knock her around. He was close enough to kiss her, but one would think he was much more tempted to go nuts and take a bite out of her. Asuka did not dare move, but just sat there with one hand over her burning cheek.

Shinji found it was a major strain to contain his own rage in that moment. The whole world slowed to a crawl as he monitored her gentle breathing and knew she was quite scared of him. The proud pilot would snap out of it and be right back on his case within the week, but for now it was working out for him. He stood and moved to the window on the other side of the little room. The rainstorm outside gave a dire tone. "I don't want to hurt you, but I need you to get one or two truths through your thick skull before you continue to call me a coward."

The redhead had to force a soft nod.

"I did not quit." Shinji announced. "I did not run away."

"No... You just went and disappeared..." she tried to give her own argument, but a quick look from her former doormat was all it took to make her give in to him. The whole affair was mesmerizing and for once the foreigner was drawn to sit and listen to the tragic young man.

"I was disavowed in the wake of it." Shinji made the big reveal without the spark one might expect. The disgraced pilot did not rant and rave, instead his voice was quiet and somber. He did not get away without some small measure of regret. "NERV doesn't want me and it was their decision to put me away in the stockade for three months just to prove it. I cannot come back and was advised that approaching or trespassing on agency property is likely to get me shot."

Shinji shook his head. "I don't need it. I've been near death enough in my life."

The nervousness in her azure gaze got company as curiosity and confusion came to be. "You don't need it? So, what are you going to do now?"

"It should be obvious." Shinji looked out the window and shoved his hands into his pockets. "I am moving on in my life and washing my hands of the whole affair. NERV will just go on with its little war and work the world like a puppet. I want nothing more to do with it."

Shinji's announcement was an outright declaration of intent. He was not going to bother appealing to the commander or invoke public opinion to regain his pilot status. He intended to do the opposite and put more time and distance between himself and the project. Shinji met the firm gaze the girl gave him, the anger now overtaken by disappointment. "You didn't run away... you just gave up."

Shinji crossed his arms and the girl took note of the lean sinew honed over three months. The pair took one another on in a battle of willpower within those moments and it was the young man who conceded. He nodded at her accusation, but there was no regret in it.

"I'm not going to condemn myself to make a point." Shinji announced and the volatile girl knew there was no real counter argument. If he tried to discredit or blackmail the agency to regain pilot status, he would just disappear down the road with one of their security squads. "The commander cut me loose and threw me to the wolves, it was not my choice and the consequences will not be mine to bear. You and the others might come out winning the war, but make no mistake that he is the one to blame just in case you don't."

Shinji did not give her time to respond and moved from the side room with his pack thrown over one shoulder. Asuka did not even try to get up, despite how she would have chased him down under normal circumstances. The dark imps picked up on it and were quick to take new vantage points away from the awestruck young woman. Shinji gave her a reality check and hoped it would sink in before her temper got over it. The whole ordeal gave the two much to ponder.

His return was a major surprise to both her and the jock and it was enough to prove the pilots were kept in the dark with regards to his punishment. The firebrand did not know about the stockade, so it was good policy to assume the jock and the albino would be none the wiser. No. Ayanami must have known about it with how passive she was around him, but did not bother to show it on their walk just earlier in the morning. The blunette was not one to go without answers and her proximity to the commander would have allowed her to obtain such knowledge without much trouble. The agent's presence in the ordeal was enough to guarantee that his own guardian would have known too, but he feared their reunion would come on a sour note.

Shinji made a beeline for his old locker, wanting to rummage around in it before one of the commander's goons got there to box it up. He came to his locker around the rear entrance where the sixth grade homerooms were in session. It was out of the way, but that was the price to be paid for enrolling in the middle of the semester. Shinji grimaced at the combination lock on the door, its arm cut apart by a pair of bolt cutters. He tore the lock loose to find the majority of the contents were gone, but two remained and neither one were known to him.

The jacket in the back of the locker made him want to sob, out of his own sentimentality and out of woe that someone close would take the risk for him. The commander would have that someone fired or worse if he'd known the garment had been rescued from the incinerator. Like those worn by the other two pilots, it was a jacket made in the dominant colors of his one-time weapon and bore the unit number on the upper arm of the right sleeve. The opposite sleeve bore the visage of the battlemech and the obscure coloration was not as ridiculous as one might have thought. The tailor must have figured it and made the main color black while the pockets and trimming were the iconic purple. The vibrant green made up the number and the emblem. Shinji looked upon it and winced at a pang of regret, it was a shame he could never wear it without stirring up even more trouble.

The other object was a manila envelope taped to the inside of the door and it bore the school logo. He opened it and took out some official papers. He poured over them a brief moment and tore them in two before even getting to the bottom of the opening page. It was a dire notice, but did not give him the anxiety it was meant to. Gendo Ikari was a vindictive punk, but ordering the school to hit him with expulsion was juvenile when it came to tormenting him. He tore the papers thrice more down the middle and tossed the pieces away like it was nothing. He did not intend to bother with school and littering was not about to weigh much on his soul.

He just wanted to get out of the building and move on, but he did not get too far.

Shinji took the jacket, put it in his pack, closed the locker, and turned around to be punched in the nose.

He was not given time to react before he took a knee to the stomach and a shot to the side of the head. He went down in pain, but took note there were four shadows around him on the way. The other three kicked at him while the original attacker pinned him down with his boot. The voices in his mind were roaring for blood and bone. Shinji was about to ignore his own plan and let the horde out, but made them back down when the bombardment stopped and he was forced back to his feet. Shinji looked up and was surrounded not by agency operatives, but a quartet of teenagers wearing the uniform of the adjacent high school. It was evident the four were not true enemies, not for the moment anyway.

"Are we gonna have a problem cause I cut out of homeroom?" Shinji was thrown back into the lockers by the ringleader who was quick to regain composure and pull back his minions. Shinji took note of the door down the corridor if it went sour. "Or is there just some new rule on truancy to those in the know?"

The main man just smirked at that and took a photo of the bloodied young man with his phone. He was one of those stereotypical bad boys, the kind of egotistical punk blessed with good looks, too much of an allowance and the often masochistic naivety of young women. Shinji didn't want trouble, but he could tell those before him were adept at making it. The main man was worse, put a sick taste in the back of his mouth, putrid and rotten. He was smiling on the surface, but there was a vicious intent about him. "You can call it a down payment considering how much you owe me."

Shinji did not understand and it showed. "I owe you money... what?"

The head honcho did not look amused at that and glared down at him. "I'm Vincent."

"You have a cool name..." Shinji noticed one or two of his cronies looking to one another like there was some kind of screw up to be worked out. "Is that the point you're trying to make?"

Vincent did not look too pleased. "You should've gotten word we were gonna come over."

Shinji persisted in his confusion. "You gonna hit me if I don't know what you're talking about?"

Vincent growled and punched the locker right behind his head. Shinji did not move. The main man looked back at his cronies. "You idiots told me someone pointed him out!"

"It's him, Vince!" one of the thugs shouted with a crack of honest terror in his voice. "He broke into that locker! He has one of the jackets the other pilots are wearing!"

"Dammit..." Vincent took out his phone with a growl and browsed the albums until he came upon a popular internet photo of Evangelion Unit 01. "Are you the pilot or not?"

"Yes." the young man gave the answer calm and even, there was not much to fear while his identity was public knowledge. He could have lied about it, but one could have looked him up within one image search. "I am Shinji Ikari, but I haven't been around and have no idea who you are."

The other student put down his phone. "Does the name Takumaru mean anything to you?"

Vince Takamaru. He knew the name, but not by much more than the odious reputation attached to it. The middle school did not talk about him out of fear and were often tormented by him and the other troublemakers who came around with him. He was indeed the embodiment of the stereotypical bad boy, but was armed with political parents and a hefty trust fund to back him up and bail him out.

"The mayor?" Vince gave him a smug look and the sovereign of the shadows grew determined to wipe it off his face. "Oh, I get it. Your old man is the coward who took off in the wake of the second battle and tried running the government from the mainland while the whole city went to war."

Shinji took a punch to the face and spit blood, but it was worth it. "Look... if you're pissed that the agency commander is trying to boot your old man out of office, you need to take it up with someone who can work within the system. I was just a pilot."

Shinji did not get the most ideal reaction when the political brat took him by the collar and threw him back into the lockers. "You think I give a shit about his crappy job? The idiot made himself a scapegoat when he took off and knew how it would turn out!"

Shinji winced. "What is your problem then?"

"You have no idea how much you took from me, do you?" Vince was now roaring without an ounce of his initial composure and the shouting drew a crowd from just down the corridor. Shinji did not know how to react and allowed himself to be thrown to the ground. "You stomped on my grandparent's mansion when you went up against that rubic's cube monster and wrecked the entire estate! Your agency decided our claim was inconsequential and refused to pay for it."

Vincent's woes were an echo from recent memories, too similar to the way Sakura Suzuhara came into the care of the agency at the cost of her brother risking life and limb. NERV took care of the vital operations to keep her from the reaper, but refused to pay one red cent toward rehab, medication or the prosthetics which the poor girl would have needed otherwise. NERV did not plan to blackmail her big brother with her dire health, but were not squeamish about using it as a carrot to lure him into their service. Shinji knew how innocent people died in war and made it a point to be extremely careful while waging it within the metropolis, but he did not want to think there were others who were lost due to him.

"Please, don't tell me your grandparents were home." Shinji was on the edge now.

"Not quite." Vincent scoffed without a modicum of respect for the dead. "Grandpa is out of town and we found grandma right where we buried her a couple years ago. There were some junkies who broke into the guest house, but the coroner reported those losers must have overdosed a week before you stepped on them. There were some horses in the barn too, but we didn't bother to count them."

Shinji couldn't have been more relieved in that moment, but was at a loss for the reason the troublemaker wanted to take it out of his hide. He imagined the family home would have been important to him and pondered on some of the clauses he was made to memorize. "Uh... You need to go to your insurance provider with your claim if it involves personal belongings. You can go downtown and get one of the agency paralegals to write up a..."

Shinji took one more punch to the mouth and was thrown into the snake pit where the other thugs grabbed him by the arms and kept him from moving away. Vince Takamaru went back into his tirade. "My family kept our antique cars in the basement of that mansion, it was out own little museum and there were collectors around the world prepared to pay millions just to have one of them. Your robot brought the whole damn house down and ruined some of the rarest cars on the planet..."

Takamaru counted out the pieces in the ruined antique automobile collection, the majority of which indeed centered around some of the rarest cars on the planet. The whole scene was an exhibition of passion and outrage, but amidst the dizzying tornado of makes and models and price tags, the ex-pilot was too vexed to take it in at the same value. It was like someone poured acid on his brain.

Shinji Ikari did not regret the war or the part he had in it. He was in it to protect the innocent who did nothing to provoke the vile monsters coming to wipe them out. He was in it to be their protector even if the war took his life in the midst of it. He was in it to protect people and now here he was being accosted over a couple antique cars, trivial possessions which would just turn to rust and dust in time. The ranting mongrel would have had him strung up over the ruin of the cars, but did not show an iota of concern for the true victims. Shinji cared more for the miserable addicts who broke into the home or the old woman's putrid bones than the overpriced relics of the distant past. Shinji Ikari did not know what was wanted of him, but in that moment it took his entire resolve not to break open the skull of the fuckwit before him.

"...one or two were the last of their kind!" Shinji came out of it toward the end of the rant to discover the punk was out of breath and a crowd was growing around the snake pit. Vince took hold of his throat and the demonic voices began chanting that the next punch was to be an excuse given to him on a silver platter. Shinji could not wait for it. "I don't care who you are! You took a crap on me, kid, and now you're gonna pay for it!"

"Tell me," Shinji murmured in a dark voice. "Did you come out of the womb an idiot or did you need to work on it?"

The main man didn't know how to react. "You got a death wish, brat?"

Shinji spit out the blood in his mouth onto one of the punk's shoes. "You are alive in the midst of the war due in part to me taking it to genocidal monsters who want to wipe us out and you're giving me shit over some goddamn cars! How are you not an idiot?"

The moment was one of grave tension and the snake pit was just waiting for the order to resume the beat down, no mind went to the crowd who looked on. The hooligans knew the onlookers would not get involved and did not think their victim could get loose. It was a powder keg just waiting to go off when someone came out of the crowd and spoke up.

"Ikari is not to blame."

The monotones of the voice put ice on his spine.

Rei Ayanami moved in and out of the crowd like a rose among weeds, the girl's vibrant azure strands standing out in an ocean of black and brown and the occasional blonde. The albino soon popped into view at the head of the crowd and the other students were quick to move out of the way to give the conflict a wide berth. Ayanami wore her own unique jacket over the school uniform, made in the colors of dark blue and chalk white while the unit number was embroidered in the orange of the old armor. Ayanami stood with her hands cupped at her back, like a soldier at ease there to report her own mistakes. "Unit 01 was taken to the summit by vertical jet to use the positron sniper rifle while Unit 00 was positioned at the foot of the mountain. The neighborhood was wrecked when Unit 00 was knocked down by the Fifth Angel's energy beam."

Takamaru took one look at the blunette and smirked, the snake pit turning the ex-pilot loose with a simple wave of the hand. His toadies were quick to wander away while the egocentric punk walked right up to the bold pilot. Shinji stood there watching his back, like he was looking for a good place to plant a knife. He could take it on himself, but he would not tolerate violence against someone like her.

"So," Takamaru looked her up and down with a wanton gaze that made the dishonored pilot consider using his own shadow to craft that knife. He knew where it was going and would not tolerate it. "You're the one who stepped on our home?"

Rei gave a nod, undaunted in the shadow of the thug. "Correct. The whole neighborhood was deemed collateral damage. It would be wise to contact an agency rep or your insurance provided if it is a matter of the cost to repairing or replacing your property."

"You don't get it, doll." Takamaru closed in on the pilot with a grin, not noticing how the girl twitched at the pet name. The main man moved one hand to her waist and took one of her wrists without warning. "It's much more about the principle at this point, but I'm sure we can work it out in private."

Ayanami narrowed her gaze with a grimace and took back her hand. "I will do no such thing."

Takamaru moved one hand to her throat without warning and got a rise out of the girl. "I'll be the judge of that, doll, and I can be very convincing when it comes down to it."

Vince Takamaru did not get a minute into his conquest before he was grabbed by the arm and thrown back into one of the lockers rows. The punk tripped over his own feet and went in hard where his right shoulder put a dent in one of the doors. The sycophants came running to him as he got up with the opposite hand over the bruised arm and more anger than a mid-summer hornet. The doormat he was beating not two minutes ago now stood between him and the other pilot, who made it a point to move back into the crowd and out of the way. Shinji did not notice and starred the hood down with an intensity that could cut diamond. "You've done enough. Leave now or you and your buddies will need to be carried out on a stretcher."

Shinji Ikari stood without an ounce of the anxious dread most of the crowd would have shown in his position, but it just spurred the rich hoodlum to counter it. Takamaru did not back down and came at him with a haymaker which proved to be the breaking point for the once timid doormat to the world. The dark imps roared in jubilee as their sovereign took the blow to the cheek and quickly threw his own wild cross at the punk, hitting him in the jaw so hard it ripped the skin from his knuckles. The entire crowd jumped at the sound of the impact, a loud crack that gave voice to the true strength and fierce resolve of the young man. Shinji did not take the opening while the main man tried to get his footing, but his mercy did not go on once an uppercut was thrown at him. He moved around the wild punch and answered it with a shot to the ribcage and a kick to the left knee. Takamaru dropped down in pain, but got up the gumption to rush and tackle the young man in the abdomen for a throw or suplex. Shinji put that plot out of commission with a punch to one of his kidneys and an elbow to his spinal column. The crowd looked on with excitement as the notorious agitator was put on the ground and out of the fight by one of the most unlikely people, who proved just as vicious in the taunting. Shinji knelt down, took him by the hair and shoved his forehead into the cold linoleum. Shinji was irate to the outside world, but in one corner of his mind he was ecstatic. It felt so damn good to give it out for once. "You talk to her like that again, you're dead. Get me?"

Shinji tried to get back up, but was put back down by a terminal case of aluminum baseball bat to the cranium. He did not keep watch on the minions and paid for it when one came running up and hit him like his head was a screwball. He did not know how he was not knocked unconscious and was not delirious when the next blow came down hard on his right shoulder. The armed batboy did not hold back whatsoever and the situation grew much more severe, not due to his own pain but the dread over if it had been anyone else. Shinji Ikari would come away with a mild concussion at the worst due to one vital piece of his inheritance, a boosted healing factor to make him a scourge in war. An ordinary person would have been out cold, in a coma, or more likely dead in the wake of that blow to the head. The whole situation was made worse by how the lot of them did not even seem to care and that alone made him want to put them down before it was too late.

Shinji looked up at the swinger with the rawest hate and threw a quick punch into his crotch before he could make the third blow. The crowd went up in pained moans as the bat dropped to the ground and its wielder went down with it, holding his bits and pieces. Shinji did not bother to reconsider the quick kick to the stomach. It was not prudent with another one coming at him like a rabid mongrel and two more close behind.

The little nimrod came at the ex-prisoner with a jumping kick at the sternum and was quick to throw out a punch as he touched down. Shinji was too quick and while he did not get in a hit, this one proved he knew some moves and knew how to make use of them. Shinji did not get time to square off with the karate punk when the bruiser of the group careened into him from behind and knocked him to the floor. The gorilla of a young man then tired to come up to stomp on his head, not giving much time to roll out of the way. Shinji got to his feet just in time to catch the third attacker coming at him with the dropped metal bat and ducked it with a shot to the ribcage. Shinji could take it, but did not want it the onlookers to know he was just shrugging it off. However, it was hard to keep at the top when you were surrounded.

Winning in a three-on-one fight was not a good prospect, but whoever determined the course of the universe decided it was time to give him a break. Shinji was taken aback when someone jumped from the growing crowd to tackle the bruiser in the side and send him to the ground with a classic judo throw. He did not like where it was going when he took in the 03 on the arm of his jacket. Toji Suzuhara had the biggest one on the ground in a headlock and Shinji was given no time to argue when the other two came charging at him.

Shinji did not want to get the jock hurt and resolved to end it.

He did not want to avoid it out of timidity or anxiousness, but out of the knowing he was too powerful. To take on a mere mortal, he was aware there would be no sport in it even with the consequences of his inexperience. He could not train in the stockade, but his body built and his mind was refined. He dreamt of it and the darkness gave him access to memories not his own, allowing him to pick up on some of the best moves used by his more ancient predecessors. A trained soldier or contract killer would be given him major trouble, but he knew he could take it to these hoods without a problem. His advisor let him know that he would continue to improve once he was proficient enough in his powers to craft corporeal sparring partners.

The karate punk threw out another jumping kick with a war cry and the prisoner was quick to turn it against him. The one-time wimp moved up to capture the thrown kick in one hand and the other went to the torn waistband. The crowd moaned as the karate punk was slammed in the linoleum and the wind was knocked out of him, along with whatever resolve he had to get back in the fray. The audience just looked on like it was some kind of miracle. The students who came with the influx did not know about him, but those who were present throughout the war couldn't fathom how Shinji Ikari knew how to fight like that.

Shinji looked over to spy the jock down on the ground turning the headlock into a chokehold while the crew's biggest toadie tried in vain to throw him off. The growing crowd was on the verge of chanting to see some of the worst creeps in the district knocked off their thrones by someone like him. The fifth member of the crew with the metal bat was the youngest and wore the same uniform as the other middle school boys. He did not know how to react without his posse and held the bat up more like a wall than a weapon. Shinji walked right up to him, ripped the bat away and jabbed him in the gut with the tip. The weapon went down the corridor in the next moment and the boy went running into the crowd to disappear.

Shinji looked back to see the jock drop the crew's towering toadie and give a curt nod. The bruiser did not pass out in the chokehold but was in no position to get back up in the next couple minutes. Shinji went over and got the rookie pilot on his feet to see he was winded. "You okay?"

"I'm good." Toji removed his jacket and tossed it to join his pack near one of the lockers "You can take on the biggest guy next time."

"There won't be next time." Shinji declared and picked up his own pack. The ruckus was over and the crowd broke up to get back to their classrooms. It was quite suspicious that there was no one in charge came out to stop it, but no one tried to pursue it. "Look, I'm gonna get outta here before..."

Shinji did not get another word in before a bruised and bloody Vince Takamaru jumped on his back and threw his arms around his throat. The jock moved to get him off and took a boot to the stomach. The crowd was in a panic over it until Shinji threw back an elbow and cracked one of his ribs. Takamaru's grip loosed with a pained gasp and in the next moment the king cobra of the snake pit was thrown off to take a punch to the mouth courtesy of the jock. Takamaru fought to get back to his feet while Toji nursed his knuckles, bruised by the impact. Vince was out of breath and grew angrier and angrier with every move the kid made against him. He should have wiped the floor with him, but being three years older and much more imposing did not deter him.

"You are so dead..." Takamaru snorted as he got up on his feet.

Shinji looked at him like he was an insect to be stomped out before looking to the crowd and tossing his pack to the cameraman who was there to get it on tape. Shinji came up to him with his arms crossed and stood with the poise and tenacity of the stalwart protector the boy aspired to become. It made the jock proud, but it just made the creep angrier. Shinji spoke in that dark voice. "Are you not done yet?"

Takamaru got up at that and drew out a butterfly knife. The pointed blade came out in a quick succession of practiced drills and was aimed right at him. Toji was quick to reach down into his pack while Shinji went into stance and awaited him to make a move, but it did not come. A gunshot rang out and the entire crowd dispersed in a panic. In the next ten seconds the evac alarm was going off and just about everyone was moving out. Shinji and Toji went down to kneel while Vince Takamaru stood frozen over the bullet that cut the air near his head and struck one of the lockers. The three minions who were conscious took off running with the rest of the crowd, not willing to stick up against the shooter. Shinji looked up to discover the gunman was the First Child, who stood out holding the hoodlum at gunpoint with a chromed Walther PPK. Takamaru did not dare move, the phantom scorn in those crimson gems so much scarier than the compact pistol.

"Coward!" Shinji roared and tore the blade away without warning. Vince did not get the chance to strike back before he was thrown back in the lockers with a loud crash. Shinji scoffed and looked at the knife. It was a butterfly knife with gothic grips and a dragon painted on the titanium blade. A pricey purchase, he closed it and slipped it in his pocket. Takamaru did not like that. He did not care if it was bad form if it put him in his place.

"You...!" the creep jumped when another bullet hit right next to his head.

"Ayanami!" Toji shouted with hands cupped over his ears. "What in the crap is wrong with you?"

"Leave," Ayanami ignored him and her voice came with a drop of anger. "Now."

Takamaru got up to notice his minions were gone and he was alone against them. It was an ironic twist to be outnumbered when it was his way of taking care of people. The main man was beaten and he knew it. Takamaru sneered at the architect of his misery, who just kept looking at him like he was nothing. He pointed at Shinji as he backed toward the door. "You're gonna regret this."

"I look forward to it." Shinji dared him.

"You have ten seconds." Ayanami took aim with the pistol and it was more than enough incentive to speed the hood in his exodus. Toji carried his own pistol, but was quick to return it to his pack to avoid trouble with the police sirens closing in on the middle school campus. The nodded to the jock and put her own away in a concealed pocket at the small of her back. It was a good place to hide it. He did not even notice it during their walk. However, the child pilots carrying pistols; that was a new one.

Shinji knew the chromed pistols were issued sidearms too. The decorative grips on the weapons were typical biometric scanners, government tech made to confirm handprint within a microsecond of being drawn. The advanced tech was quite common among government agencies and police departments, but one could get it with the right paperwork. A person would not get them from some back room merchant however, so the guns were most definitely approved by the commander. Shinji could not fathom the pilots needing to carry while out among in the world. NERV might not have dealt with the next angel, but some major event within the last three months was causing some radical changes within the agency.

Shinji picked up his pack and moved to the rear door as the police sirens grew more prominent toward the main entrance and there was running in the corridors. Ayanami went into her own pack to dig out her agency card which prompted Toji to do the same. The metro police came around the corner with guns drawn and were quick to notice the assorted bloodstains on the linoleum. Ayanami turned over her sidearm and explained the situation in a direct report that the two officers must have deemed mildly unnerving. There would be no arrests or convictions while the agency kept the police clued in on their policies and in the end the police just wanted to question the victim of the ruckus, but it was not possible.

Shinji Ikari was gone.

Author's Commentary: I did not expect so much content to come out and what was planned out as one chapter will now require two. I underestimated the amount of content and extra time was spent on character reunions to get at the root of the relationships in the wake of the dark awakening. Kensuke just sorta came out in the moment and it just for one of the reunions to come without the serious note present in the others. I like to imagine Toji would be a bit more cynical as a pilot and would be the one to object to agency policy whenever possible. Toji owes a debt is not about to give up on Shinji. Shinji was going to run into Hikari, but it was cut out because their mild association with one another is not important enough.

Asuka tries to be an independent, but is a pawn in her own right. Asuka is the kind of person who would be tricked by the commander's report, due to her notion that being a pilot is her purpose in life. I will not lie. I got some pleasure out of giving the devil a reality check and it is the opening step in her revised character development within the project. Shinji will notice the major problems of the main characters and will take time to fix them in his own way. I will make minor tweaks, but promise not to rewrite the iconic characters. I am not going to give it away, but the darkness will need to interfere during a key moment when it comes to taming the red devil. I look forward to that with slight giddiness.

Vince Takamaru is a throwaway punk character who was made up to torment Shinji, but will be significant when it comes to showing him his purpose in the next chapter. He was made to be the kind of person a good kid like Shinji Ikari would utterly despise. Vince's reason to torment Shinji is a good example of his chronic avarice, but he is the kind of punk who would outright mock the downtrodden and go out of his way to make other people miserable. He is the kind of human garbage who often turns up dead due to screwing with the wrong person. You can think of him as that obscure one time antagonist who dies in the origin story.

Beyond that, there is not much more to talk about when it comes to this chapter so I will respond to a couple concerns from recent reviews.

Time Skip #1: The time skip will jump six years into the future which will put the pilots around twenty and show them moving on in their own lives in the post impact world. It will allow me to make them grow without taking too much away from their more iconic characteristics. It works as it is not too much for the adult characters who are not about to change much in the given time. I do it because the dark awakening occurs on its wielder's twenty-first birthday and it is when the enemies of the darkness would begin coming out of the woodwork once more. However, none will be aware it woke up due to the angelic contamination. I will tie up the original timeline, so you can expect some tweaks to vital events toward the end of the series. I might take liberties to make the darkness take on the angels, but our boy had three months to figure out how to make use of its powers. I do understand the concern with the six year jump and do not intend to make the mistakes others might have in the same situation. I write this as an origin piece to make way for a much broader event. I must take the time skip to do the darkness theme justice. I will give a good reason for the time skip. I do not intend to fix too much about the original cast as it would take away from their greatness.

ACCs: I know it might concern some readers, but NGE did not have a huge cast and it will become necessary to bring in ACCs to take certain roles. While there are two or three at the moment who might hold a modicum of the limelight, but none will be major characters. Shinji Ikari will have some companions of his own but will not be overshadowed (horrible pun!) by them. The majority of my own characters are likely to be going up against the darkness while the remainder will not have much to do with the action. Shinji does not need a mortal team with a demonic army awaiting his orders and I do not plan on writing situations that force him to bring in specialists. I spent the opening chapters trying to give tangible reasons to change Shinji Ikari without wrecking the tone of the series. I do not want a random nobody coming in out of nowhere making it a wasted effort.

13 Artifacts: The subject of the other artifacts has come up more than once in the reviews. The project is written to revolve around the Darkness, but one cannot have it without the other two parts of the trinity. I intend to have the Angelus and the Witchblade play tremendous roles in the future, but do not want to the other artifacts to show up until we are over the time skip. The committee will need to figure out how to counter their new opponent and a good chunk of time will be given to the everyone's lives six years later. I do have some plans for the other nine artifacts, at the moment the Blood Sword, the Rapture and the Spear of Destiny are written into my outline.

Eva Girls: A good question was if the grown up versions of the pilots would be next to human perfection with regards to their overall hotness. The comics are packed with beautiful women and it would be idiotic to make the pretty women from the animal go back on the hotness meter. ***Short version: The pilots will grow up to be damn hot***

Readers and Reviewers,

I must announce that this project will be on hiatus for the next three months. I am under contract to the USAF and will be shipping out to basic training and technical school within a week of posting this chapter. I had hoped to get the next chapter up beforehand, but it is not even half done and there is no time left to work on it. I do not expect to even have access to a computer for two months and tech school might take up a good deal of my free time until I have been granted an assignment. I do intend to work on it, but you can expect progress to be inconsistent and it would be unwise to expect the next update within the next three to four months. I am proud to have gotten two chapters pumped out in one month and hope it will be enough to tide you over. I do make one promise for the next update and it is that the origin story will be over in the next chapter. Shinji Ikari will spend much more time pursuing his purpose and making use of the dark gift against enemies both mortal and angelic. The darkness will take on the commander's scenario in a big way.


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