Author's Note: This story is Aeon Natum Engel, a story which, as you can see, below, crosses Neon Genesis Evangelion with Cthulhutech. It was, however, more relevantly, my first ever major fic, and boy, does it show. After a while, the personal dissatisfaction with the earlier parts of the story grew and grew, to the point that I rebooted the fic, and began again, in a full (and, IMO, much better) rewrite. If you've only stumbled over this, I would recommend you go back to my user page, and go to the rewrite, Aeon Entelechy Evangelion, which is newer, shinier, better written, and generally something that I'm a lot happier with. On the other hand, ANE isn't terrible, by the standards of fan-fiction, and it is complete, so I'm not telling you to run away screaming. It's just that AEE is just, IMO... well, better.
Of course, if you have read AEE, you might want to check this out, to see what the fic's 'father' was like (or maybe frumpier older sister).
Aeon Natum Engel
A retelling of Neon Genesis Evangelion, set in the Cthulhutech universe.
The sea lapped at the remains of Old London. Those buildings which had survived the First Arcanotech War rose like macabre tombstones to those who had died under the Nazzadi bombardment, while between them, smothered by the devouring tide, were craters, burned into the ancient city by indiscriminate bombing from orbit and the lightning waves of mecha that had swept through the city, putting all to the sword. The flooded streets, grey channels between grey buildings, under a grey sky, seemed to tell a melancholy tale of the hubris of a city that had once considered itself centre of the universe. Once, Old London had sprawled over most of the South of England, a revocation of the anti-urbanisation laws of the twentieth century allowing a phase transition that had turned large amounts of the country into one massive metropolis. Now, Old London was split between the various enclaves, that were towns and even cities within the ruins, and the wastes, which were left to slow succumb to entropy. To the east, the London Arcology, capital of New Earth Government Europe, and Inner London, the domain of the Ashcroft Foundation, held thirty million people, human and Nazzadi; its order a stark contrast to the decay of Old London.
The gently lapping water was barely disturbed by the low passage of a wing of F-109 Komets. Their glowing A-Pods hummed the obsolescence of reaction-based engines, as they flew barely one hundred metres above the ground, the eleven-metre aircraft armed with smart missiles, and a blue-green (optimised to allow air-to-sea strikes) Laser Cannon. Fifty-four million Terranotes flew in that formation, a proud declaration of humanity's will to survive. Let the Migou and their bio-mechanical mechanoids come, they spoke; give us suitable air cover and they can not stand against us. Let the monsters of the Rapine Storm come to Europe; those degenerates and their unnatural allies shall be given a brief lesson in why charging at your opponent, screaming for blood and other bodily fluids, has been considered unwise for three hundred years. Let the abominable hybrids of the Esoteric Order of Dagon and their inhuman parents emerge from the seas where they have cowered for untold millennia; we shall fight them on the beaches, and turn those open plains into a killing field.
The eyes of First Lieutenant Cevy were drawn to a dark shape, swimming up the mouth of the Thames. Her on-board scanners had only just picked it up at all; a liability of modern days. So many of the creatures that emerged from the shadows with the start of the Aeon War were invisible to anything technological; a reason for the large canopy of the Komet. More importantly, this creature was massive, swimming up the blasted channel of the river.
First Lieutenant Cevy frowned. How the hell had that thing got past the battlegroup in the North Sea?
"HQ, this is Komet Mantis-One. Hostile target detected at 57 degrees 27'06.27 north, 0 degrees 25'26.77 East. Shape is bipedal, blackish in colour. It doesn't match with anything known. Target is Vee-Oh. Might be Eee Oh Dee; shape is wrong for a Migou weapon. Someone get a Sentinel over here!"
"Em Oh, Mantis-One. Target acknowledged and position updated. Reinforcements are five minutes out; do not engage until then. Be aware for hostile AA; target has multiple CB-type weapons and can use them against aerial targets."
"Em Oh, Command. Mantis-One out."
The wing, as one, pulled up and away, up to just below the clouds. When the reinforcements arrived, they would hit this monster with enough fire-power to flatten a village.
The land forces held up their positions around the enclaves in Old London. Rows of Vreta Main Battle Tanks, painted blue-grey and hidden under urban camo were placed to fill the killing grounds with 120mm railgun slugs, backed up with M-111A2 Jaeger Howitzers. A Jaeger could punch through a Migou Spider in a single shot, and start firing from twenty four kilometres away. The mecha made possible by Arcanotech were the poster-children of the New Earth Government, but the good old tankers were still around, and the wonders of non-euclidean technology served more traditional designs just as well, if not better.
In the rubble of Old London, the poster-children positioned themselves. Nine metre tall Broadswords were the main punch, backed up by Claymores and specialist Gladiuses were ready to let the monstrosities taste their white-hot flamethrowers. The lighter Nazzadi mecha were in reserve, their gaudy colours not really appropriate for an ambush. And while the final preparations were completed, the loudspeakers blared their warnings into the air.
"Today, at 12:30 pm, a special state of authority has been declared by the New Earth Government. All inhabitants with an arcology pass are to return immediately. All inhabitants of the enclaves within the Eastern Greater London Area are to head to their designated shelters. Temporary martial law is in full effect. Message repeats, today, at 12:30 pm, a special state of authority has been declared..."
By Old Waterloo Station, a teenager, clad in a white shirt and dark trousers, stood. The entire station, already merely a minor terminus for the maglev network, thanks to New Waterloo in the London Arcology, London-2, had emptied in what seemed like seconds. Shinji Ikari was only here because of his father, but the bastard hadn't even arranged for him to have an arcology pass. He looked down at the picture of the woman he was meant to meet. What kind of a person sent a what appeared to be a holiday picture as a first introduction? Especially, he added to himself, one of what appears to be a holiday to Nazza-Duhni, the world's first "clothing optional" city. She was actually decent by the standards of human beachwear, but quite a few figures in the background were most certainly not, something which the sixteen year-old had "appreciated". The words "Look here" and the attendant arrow just added to his initial wariness.
He flipped his mobile phone shut in irritation. The phone network had been shut down; all he was getting was the same message as the one blaring through the loudspeakers. He checked his watch, and yawned. He had had a two day stop-over in Chicago, after the plane had been diverted due to Migou activity under the flight path, which had left him less jet-lagged than he might have been, but his body was still screaming at him that it needed sleep and food. The Ashcroft Foundation had paid for the trip, which only added to his surprise; Shinji knew that his father was an important man in Ashcroft Europe, but that they would use a private jet just to carry him was... surprising.
"Where is she?" He paused, and looked around for a sign to a shelter. The speed at which the residents had evacuated indicated that they were used to it.
There was a figure, standing in the half-gloom of the entrance to the arrivals section, a strange, pale girl. An albino, maybe. No, he realised with a gut-clenching feeling. She wasn't pale, she was actively white, with both her skin and hair the colour of fresh milk.
A White xenomix.
A flock of pigeons flew straight towards him, and he ducked, shielding his eyes reflectively. When Shinji looked up again, she was gone. Brow crinkled in puzzlement, he stepped towards where he had seen her. She might be a White, but maybe he could find out where to go to get to safety.
A series of thudding explosions began, from behind him. Reflectively, he ducked back down again. The noise was joined by a chorus of tortured metal and a deep thrumming noise.
Shinji decided that getting out of there was perhaps the most sensible thing to do. He headed as fast as he could to where he had seen the girl, to find where she had gone. And if something really bad was happening, a parapsychic would be a fairly sensible person to be near. Unless they were Burning, of course, which would make them the source of the trouble.
The internal dialogue was shut down, as he ran. Looking up, he could see quite a lot of aircraft heading in towards were he way, tearing through the cloud cover as multiple sonic booms added themselves to the cacophony. Yet more shrieks and explosions filled the air as, unbeknownst to Shinji, large number of Jaegers opened fire.
For Shinji Ikari, it felt like the world was ending.
Inside the NEG military headquarters, the mood was sombre.
"The unknown entity is still approaching. It has left the Thames, and is moving as a biped."
"The Magi believe that this rules out it being Migou. Two-to-one certainty predicts that it belongs to the Esoteric Order of Dagon."
"A Sentinel Drone has visual. I'm putting it up on main screen."
At the back of the room stood two advisers from the Ashcroft Foundation. The elder, a white-haired man in a brown suit stood behind the younger, watching the NEG military, while the black haired man stared at the glowing orange Augmented Reality Feeds scrolling across his glasses. The military seemed to edge away from the pair, leaving Gendo Ikari, the local head of the Ashcroft Foundation, and Kozo Fuyutsuki, his second-in-command, in an invisible bubble.
"It's been seventeen years." Fuyutsuki spoke softly. "Since 2074 and the start of the Second War..."
The main scream filled up with the image of the beast that had shrugged off the best that the New Earth Government could throw at it.
It was horrifying.
It dwarfed the buildings below it, with them barely reaching its knees. The main, hunchbacked body was black, but the black of the void, and like the void, it had tiny speckles within it, that seemed to capture the gaze of those who stared at it too long. Ribs and viscera protruded from the front of the abomination, like someone had taken a human corpse, disembowelled it, then coated it in the essence of the night sky. A glowing red orb, like the eye of some creature that had walked the earth long before man and was merely waiting for the mammals to get over their tiresome delusions, glowed from the front, casting everything before it in a sick red light. A mask was worn upon its face, like the beak of some Stygian plague doctor, from ages past, who came not so much as to heal as to speed his victims to their final destination.
The entire room recoiled at it. Most were able to hold onto their sanity; though the beast was horrific, the children of the Strange Aeon were made of stronger stuff, and beings that would have driven their ancestors screaming into the arms of an asylum orderly could be tolerated. A female human with the stripes of a Second Lieutenant let out an involuntary shriek, and a male Nazzadi fell off his chair, huddled in a foetal ball weeping. As the unfortunate was dragged away to the Ashcroft medical facility outside, Gendo stared at the image of the entity, without any outwards sign of disturbance.
As Shinji watched, the Herald (though what dynasty would use such a messenger?), even as it strode inexorably towards London-2, raised its hands, covered with too many leech-like fingers. From the mouth of each of the wriggling appendages, vomited a sick, greenish yellow beam that lanced through the air. They each burned cleanly through the gunships strafing the monster, even cutting down the missiles that were volleyed against it. They couldn't seem to track the Jaeger shells that ripped down from over the horizon, but they didn't need to. The 155mm high explosive shells that the howitzers were throwing forth burst like harmless rain against the void-dark body of the Herald. Occasionally, one would knock it back, make it stumble, but something seemed to stop it being hurt.
Shinji glanced at it just once, and then flinched away even as he ran from it. An intense wave of nausea and a nagging headache struck him; that thing shouldn't exist, be allowed to exist. Nothing should be able to take that much fire-power; it was like watching a man run into a flying insect and go flying backwards. It just screamed, in a guttural tone that belonged to the monkey before man, that the world should not, and does not work like this. Even with his back turned to it, he faltered, almost tripping, as the world faded to black.
"...Area are to head to their designated shelters. Temporary martial law is in full effect. Message repeats, today, at 12:30 pm..."
The hum of an A-pod bought the world back to normal for him. A new, very nice looking aircar dropped from the sky and, in an incredible act of handling, pulled to a stop in front of him, the wheels deploying automatically as it shifted into ground mode. The door slid upwards and a dark-haired woman clad in military issue body armour and a pair of sun glasses, the woman who he was meant to meet, smiled at him.
"Sorry to keep you waiting," she smiled.
Shinji could only stare blankly back, the mixture of jet lag, the shock of the being and now this surprise addling his wits. After a second or two, her expression changed to a frown.
"That means, "get in!" This is a warzone! And put on your seatbelt"
Shinji could only clamber in, still dazed. The woman kicked at the throttle, and yanked the control-shaft downwards. The wheels folded back up, and the Zephyr Enforcer 2000 pulled a tight corkscrew upwards, accelerating to one hundred and eighty miles an hour in six seconds.
That was enough to make Shinji finally lose control of his stomach. Luckily, the woman, Misato Katsuragi, had anticipated the effect that such a manoeuvre might have on those not used to her... idiosyncratic driving style, and had activated the automated sick catcher. This miracle of modern technology had saved innumerable car interiors from the corrosive contents of the human stomach, and had made its inventor, a refugee from what had been China before the Rapine Storm happened, a very wealthy individual indeed.
The air in the command centre was turning to a type of professional panic. Glances were being surreptitiously directed against the two Field Marshals in charge of the NEG forces for the United Kingdom, the third currently organising strikes against Dagonite forces in the North Sea.
"All air units within range have been destroyed. Artillery bombardment is having no effect."
"Ground forces are engaged. Target has broken off attack to target Alpha Squadron. Their Auphan reports that it is jamming its extra-sensory equipment." The woman pauses. "Their Cherub has just been destroyed by the charge beams it is using. They are reporting that their..."
"Alpha Squadron's Auphan has been incapacitated. They are requesting permission to..."
Field Marshal Lehy leapt to her feet, and banged her coal-black hand into the table. An old school Nazzadi general, she had been one of the individuals responsible for the death of Old London, favouring cold, sterile strikes on anywhere where humanity could get food. She considered it somewhat appropriate, as her penance, that she would keep London-2 safe.
"Get those Engels out of there. It seems to be targeting them. Retreat away from London-2. Mobilise all conventional forces in the area, and prepare for a simultaneous strike."
Field Marshal Jameson glared at her.
"We'll get nowhere with that level of fire-power. It's already withstood three divisions worth of artillery."
"It's protected by an AT field, as we suspected." Fuyutsuki said softly, for the ears of Gendo only, in the hubbub of the command centre.
"Like Yog-Soggoth's Shield, conventional weapons will not harm it," was the reply.
The Field Marshalls were by now locked in a staring contest.
"Three nought point one kiloton pure fusion bombs set to airburst above it," stated Jameson, calmly. "They will not damage London-2, and they should at the very least hurt this Herald."
"And the enclaves? There are four within the kill-radius, and you will destroy Old Waterloo," hissed Lehy back.
"They knew the risks when they chose to live outside London-2. Anyway, if they are in the bunkers as they should be, they should be fine from an airburst. We have to do it now, before the Herald gets too close to the arcology." His calmness had by then become ice cold.
Field Marshal Lehy looked away first.
"Project the effects of a Clover-type tactical strike."
She stared at the three overlapping circles, and their positions relative to the marked populations.
"Rotate pi by twelve, then deploy."
She activated the implants in her left hand with a thought, the subdermal lights glowing blue beneath her night-coloured skin. Jameson's hand was already glowing.
"On the count of three, authorise."
Both hands were placed into the complex three-dimensional hologram before them, and they made the code gestures to authorise the use of pure fusion devices in a circumstance where there might be human fatalities.
"We're going to have to move the Sentinels away, commanders. We'll lose visuals on the Herald until we can move them back."
Lehy nodded her head. "Approved."
Jameson was heard by some to faintly mutter something about a desire that they still had satellites. The Nazzadi ignored him.
Shinji Ikari was a quiet boy. He was polite, fairly intelligent, a good chef, and good on the cello, if a little sarcastic at times. He would make a nice, somewhat submissive husband for someone someday. That comment had actually been written in his file by the school's councillor. The existence of widespread psychiatric counselling in the Strange Aeon had left him quite a lot more mentally stable than he might have been otherwise; he still preferred to be alone, but he was capable of more than he might have been.
And circumstances were much altered from what they had been one hundred years ago. The population of the Earth was 4.3 billion individuals. Only 2.5 billion of them were human, down from a peak of eight billion only a few decades ago. The definition of "mental stability" had undergone quite noticeable redefinition. Almost no-one over the age of twenty had not lost a close family member, to the First Arcanotech War, to the genocidal Migou, to the depredations of the Rapine Storm and the rape camps of the Esoteric Order of Dagon, and many of the younger ones were similarly bereaved. What was one more child with a dead mother and a father who would not care for him?
Shinji had been raised by a foster couple employed by the Ashcroft Foundation, by two women, Gany, an Ashcroft-employed sorceress, and Yuki, an FSB agent, both of whom refused the title of "mother". He was fluent in Japanese, English (the tongue of the New Earth Government), and the Nazzadi tongue, and Gany had insisted that he keep up the cello. He had also picked up enough German to swear, but Gany had not appreciated him repeating those words in front of Yuki. He was clear, though, as were they, that they were not his real parents, and since the twins were born, he had subtly retreated away from. He had thought that this summoning from his father, despite its brevity, might even be a chance to properly know him. Maybe Gendo had changed. Maybe it might be good.
Being in the car of this madwoman, with her mad driving and general madness was not his idea of a good time.
Not one bit. He had already thrown up twice more, especially since Misato (she insisted that he call her than, rather than Ms Katsuragi), seemed to like the idea of streets in general, but not the actual driving along the ground bit, which just resulted in too-fast jaunts at the high of the lamp-posts. And bent pieces of metal. And the occasional collapsed tenement. And the far-too-frequent barrel rolls, just for fun.
He was sure that she really needed a councillor. And, preferably, some kind of leash. He clamped down on the resulting thoughts after only a brief interlude, as while they were rather enjoyable thoughts, they were not quite appropriate when he was hurtling five metres of the ground in an entropic... my gods, did she just drive through that crater in the row of houses rather than take the corner? Yes, yes she did.
Shinji Ikari threw up again. As his stomach was empty by now, there was only bile left, and it was an unpleasant experience.
Misato looked at Shinji with a mixture of pity and contempt. He really didn't seem to be good with motion sickness, did he. Mind you, she'd heard from Ritsuko that his father was the same, which was always good for a smirk. Shinji and Gendo; they didn't really belong in the same picture, from what she could tell. The reports she'd read about Shinji generally said the same things; quiet, polite, somewhat forgettable. The Representative of Ashcroft Europe, and former second in command of Ashcroft Oceanasia, fit none of those boxes.
Her radio chattered. It was on the priority band, over-riding the classical musical channel.
"All units, evacuate. Sigma-Sigma-Gamma-Delta-Pi. All units, evacuate."
Her mind put the code together. A Clover strike!
Damn. She had to get out of the air. She checked the automap; there was the Hammersmith Enclave nearby. It'd be safer there, with modern buildings to shield them.
"Shinji, get down! Close your eyes! They're using nukes on the entity! In the city!"
The car twisted, and bumped gently as she pulled it to a stop that would be impossible without modern D-Engines, braking from one hundred and twenty miles an hour to still. As soon as she could release the steering column, she threw herself on top of him, pinning him down.
"...calling, see we ain't got no high/Except for that one with the yellowy eyes/ The ice age is coming, the sun's zooming in..." screamed the radio, until the wash of static cut it off.
Three new suns bloomed over London, as the earth pulsated. The fireball washed out, demolishing the already decaying buildings in a cleansing wave of atomic, while the blast wave tore age-softened concrete from steel frames like bread. The Old City earned itself another scar from Lehy the Butcher.
The blast was mostly spent by the time it reached Misato and Shinji. The car rocked a bit, but remained upright.
Then a lamp-post fell on it, crushing the back of the car.
Misato raised her palm to her forehead.
"Not the A-pods..."
Misato was somewhat aggrieved by the time she badgered the ill-looking Shinji to shift it. It was positively plastered with posters, all of a handsome Arabic male model. He really was attractive, she thought, as she strained. Almost a little pharonic-looking. Although the poster could be improved by the removal of the boxers...
The A-pods seemed to be intact, but the D-engine was damaged, and, frankly, the inclusion of non-euclidean technology in car engines made the repair liable to damage your sanity worse than the engine. Her eyes flicked to a nearby Tescorp shop. They wouldn't miss a few D-cells, would they...
"Detonation successful. The target exhibited anti-missile defences, but the dummy warheads served their role."
The main view screen was whited out.
"T-minus one minute before we can move the Sentinels back in position."
Field Marshal Jameson nodded his head.
"Move the units back in position. It should be destroyed, so have a collection team ready to salvage what we can."
Field Marshal Lehy's red eyes reflected the white screen back, like catseyes. She sat, silently, her face impassive.
"Sentinels back in position. Thermal bloom prevents IR, too much dust in the air for visuals. Switching to X-ray."
The screen protruded out, the Augmented Reality of modern holography giving a true three-dimensional image.
One single spike towered in the clover-shaped gap in Old London. As the resolution improved, the shape was confirmed.
The antediluvian monster had survived.
"Kokopy!" yelled Lehy, slamming her fist into the data-desk before her. "How is it still upright!"
"That was not expected by the Magi." Jameson looked over at Lehy, his cold blue eyes meeting her red ones. "I propose another Clover strike."
"What is the status of the target? Has it been damaged at all?" The comment was directed at the tactical officers.
"Unclear. The target has stopped moving." The Nazzadi officer, lit by the three-dimensional AR panel she was manipulating, paused. "The target's X-ray profile is changing. It's getting more dense, and protrusions are... growing. I can see the bones under the skin as a patch of density. They're more dense than lead!"
"Focus, Lieutenant," snapped Lehy. "What are growing?"
"Unknown. They appear to be appendages, and appear similar to the things upon its hands. Weapons, as a first degree projection."
"It's regenerating, as we expected," said Gendo softly, from the back of the room. "It is appropriate for its status as a target."
He pushed his glasses up, back onto his nose.
"And we will lose E-9 coverage within a matter of seconds."
"Energy pulse detected in the new appendages," yelled a tactical officer.
The main screen cut out, as the big red words "Signal Lost" lit up.
"Strike approved." The Nazzadi Field Marshal nodded at the human. "Let's nuke that thing until it... dies."
Gendo sat back in his chair.
"That is not dead which can eternal lie. And with strange aeons even death may die." These words were so soft that even his old teacher could only lip-read him.
"But Alhazred could not really see now. He was a primitive in a society that could not even solve the Ashcroft-Yi equations. Now is the Strange Aeon, and the Herald bears his message too late," Fuyutsuki mouthed back.
"The next missiles will not get through. The Herald can learn and change."
Gendo's words were proved right by yells of rage from the front of the room.
"Ah." Fuyutsuki frowned. "It has acquired intelligence."
"What will you do now?"
Gendo stood up, staring at the blank view screen. They were already re-routing as much informational coverage of the eldritch abomination. Even as he stared, a new visual lit up of the Herald, its ribcage extended and fused, and prehensile tentacles emerging from its shoulders, waving here and there in implausible, spasmodic fluctuations. The barrage of shells from the Jaeger artillery had already resumed, but these new tentacles were intercepting many of these.
He glanced back at his sensei.
"I will wait for them to come to me. They know about the project they ridiculed as a "primitive Engel". And then?"
He smiled faintly.
"I will activate Unit 01."
"Unit 01." A faint hint of disappointment crept into Fuyutsuki's voice. "But we don't have a pilot."
"One will arrive soon." The words were not so much stated as declaimed, written into reality as an irremovable statement.
It only took three minutes for the NEG Army's will to accede to what Gendo Ikari knew to be an inevitability. A few quiet words were all that was needed with the resident Field Marshals. They knew it already. They had the best arcanotechnicians outside the Ashcroft Foundation (excluding the Chrysalis Corporation, but Gendo knew that most of the NEG was not familiar with that) advising them, and they knew the damage which the creature had absorbed. Officially, the Evangelion Project had been subsumed by the Engel Project after Dr Anton Miyakame had worked around many of the issues with the Evangelions. But the Engels were conventional weapons of war, that used inhuman flesh twinned with the two branches of homo sapiens. They relied upon kinetic energy and human weaponry. The Evangelions may be seen as an obsolete white elephant, flawed in their control scheme, but Gendo had his trump card...
Shinji Ikari stood deep in the bowels of Inner London, the subterranean dome below London-2 that was the domain of the Ashcroft Foundation. London-2 had been amazing, an entire artificial ecosystem within a building, complete with animals and vegetation. They had been fast waved through the system, subjected to only three blood checks, and one neural scan, the latter to get into Inner London.
The Inner Sanctum.
Before him, immersed in fluid like an drowned idol belonging to a long dead civilisation, was a massive biped, its head glaring from the depths. Even from a distance, Shinji could feel a sort of ancient malevolence, like he was desecrating a tomb merely by being near the construct.
"A giant face," he blurted out. "It's... it's a massive Engel, isn't it."
A blond scientist standing in the middle of the gantry, holding a clipboard, glared at him.
"It's not an Engel," she snapped. "Engels are inferior copies of the technology invented for the Evangelion Project."
She tucked a loose hair behind her ear, and pointed somewhat dramatically at the Evangelion.
"Behold, Humanity's Original Synthorg, Evangelion!"
The Evangelion was painted in a mottled purple, blue and grey camouflage scheme; a classic urban pattern, despite its size. Its red eyes glowed a dull red, set as they were over a jaw shielded by thickened armour. One massive horn, hyper-edged, protruded from its forehead.
It was a creature of war, death, and fear.
"This is Unit 01, the Second Prototype Model. We believe that this is humanity's last chance."
"Excuse me, Doctor...?"
"Doctor Ritsuko Atagi."
"Doctor Atagi, but the Engels have been around for over ten years. How is this the prototype if the Engels have been around for so long, and I've never heard of them."
She narrowed her eyes. Evidently, she had a wonderful speech ready which he had disrupted, or this was a major raw nerve.
"After the construction of the first prototypes, funding was shifted to the cheaper, more... controllable Engels. We have suffered reduced funding for a long while because of Dr Miyakame and his defection."
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I didn't know."
A light flicked on, above the Evangelion, creating a backlit silhouette, and an amplified voice boomed out throughout the chamber.
"No, you didn't. And you wouldn't."
Gendo Ikari stared down at his son. Around him, camera feeds showed his progeny from every angle.
Shinji's eyes widened in shock. Father, he subvocalised. Memories threatened to overwhelm him, years of ambivalent hatred for the man who abandoned him after the worst day of his life. He restrained them, ignored them. He would not look away. He had the willpower, the tenacity to resist the urge.
He glared up at the light, putting on his coldest voice, the one that Gany had used to scold him.
"What am I doing here, Father. Why did you summon me to this place from Japan? Since I arrived I have been abandoned, nearly been killed by an entity, and been subjected to some of the least responsible driving I have ever experienced."
Gendo stared back down. Deep down, a tiny scab was knocked off his soul. That tone of voice; that sounded a lot like Yui when she had been in a mood. Even the facial proportions were similar.
He flexed his new hands, still sore from the transplant. The protective gloves covered the new, soft skin, and they ached.
None of the emotions showed on the Representative's face. Ashcroft had merely added to his natural skills in that area.
Behind Shinji, Misato and Ritsuko began to argue about the Evangelion. Shinji half ignored them, most of his his attention focussed upon staying calm in this war of wills with his father. A few phrases clicked together, though, and he felt a terrible prescience about what they would have him do.
"You want me to be an Engel pilot?" Shinji said, staring up at the shadow.
"Evangelion. It's an Evangelion, not an Engel," muttered Dr Atagi from behind him. "And, yes, we do."
"Impossible." Shinji stated, flatly. He raised his hand to forestall the doctor's objection. "You need a special implant to use one of these things, and I don't have it. So, unless you want..."
Shinji cut himself off, suddenly fearful about where this was going.
"And anyway, I won't. You can't make me, you can't conscript me; the NEGA and the NEGN are purely volunteer armies, and I don't want to go any closer to that creature."
He paused, and shook, involuntarily, as he saw it cut apart the air strikes and shrug off the artillery.
"I saw it this afternoon, far too close. I don't want to see it again."
He straightened up.
"You abandoned me. At age four. Go find some professional soldier to do it. Why would you need an untrained sixteen-year old, anyway?"
Gendo glared back down at him.
"Target has opened fire on London-2. Arcology wall breached by energy weapon."
Gendo Ikari nodded his head once at the message.
"The potential pilot is useless. A replacement will be obtained." He switched to Fuyutsuki, up in Command headquarters. "Prepare Rei. I don't care about her physical condition. We need to get Unit 01 working, to save the city."
This makes no sense, Shinji thought. Why would they go to all the effort of getting me from Japan if they could obtain a pilot here, in London-2. Thus, I am preferable to whoever the replacement is. Which means that the effort required to transport someone to the other side of the globe is considered less than the effort required to find a replacement. Who on earth would keep a potential pilot so far away from the vehicle, anyway? Or not give them any training?
The conditions in which an individual is raised can have drastic effects on their personality. Some Shinji Ikaris, in the tumultuous depths of the narrative universe, had been raised by uncaring foster parents, left to retreat inwards until their self-loathing reached approximately the same density as degenerate matter. One, via an exceedingly complex series of events that had involved time-travel, malevolent deities (on his side), and a very special tutor, had ended up as a Machiavellian genius who put his father to shame. The Shinji Ikari, though, which this tale concerns, was raised from age four by a Federal Bureau of Security (Behavioural Analysis Unit) agent, and an arcanotherapist (medicinal). A bright child cannot help but pick up a few things, especially when heritage is taken into account.
His internal questioning was broken by the humming of a A-pod equipped hospital bed being pushed into the hall. A girl, clad in what looked like a pilot's suit, was lying upon it. Shinji could not help raising his eyebrows, for she looked a lot like the White he had seen by the train station. Then again, Whites tended to look fairly similar, as the lack of normal pigmentation removed so many of the traces that humans and Nazzadi alike used to identify each other.
As she got closer, though, he could see that her skin looked wrong, far too fresh. She had the protective eyepiece that a newly regrown eye required on her right eye, and all the skin he could see was that disturbing, infant-like texture. Gany would have screamed and demanded to see who was in charge if she had seen that; patients shouldn't be out of a sterile environment when it was like that.
Shinji stared back up at his father.
"So, this is your pilot," he said calmly. He felt a sudden wave of anger, just from seeing her like that, as a petty affront to him. His father was right; they did need him.
He balled his fists in rage
"She shouldn't be out of a sterile environment," he shouted up at the glass. "She shouldn't be out of hospital!"
Gendo smiled, faintly. He had his son, now. "Your cowardice makes it necessary."
His moment of triumph of wills was cut short by the Herald firing a beam, down into the earth. Exhibiting more fire-power than a NEGN Battleship, it punched through the thick shielding of Inner London and left a three dimensional hole of death and destruction through the layers of the arcology. Debris rained down through the domain of the Ashcroft Foundation and a section of the ceiling in the Evangelion hall broke away, plummeting towards the White xenomix, who had herself been knocked from the bed as the A-pod gave out as the floor rocked.
Shinji grabbed her to haul her out of the way. Sadly, even the weakest of the four fundamental forces still provided more acceleration than he could provide, and too late he realised that all he had managed was to get himself into a position where he could be crushed. Surprisingly, the lethal debris was stopped short of crushing the two of them as the Evangelion-class Engel lifted its massive hand from the lake to shield them.
"Impossible!" yelled Dr Akagi, prone on the floor. "It broke free! It should even be able to move; the entry plug hasn't been inserted!" She paused in her rant, and checked the AR tool around her wrist. "The D-Engine isn't even enabled! I'm going to get to the bottom of how this could happen," she added, more softly. "Anyway, prepare Evangelion Unit 01 for a new pilot."
"Yes, Doctor. Preparing new profile," came the reply over the loudspeakers.
Within a few minutes, Shinji had been changed into a standard issue Engel Suit and loaded into their entry plug. Dr Akagi had been insisting on calling it a "plug suit", but he was beginning to suspect that, as an Ashcroft Foundation scientist who seemed to work regularly with arcanotechnology, her grasp on reality was a little bit looser than most.
He felt around the neck, feeling a rigid seal. It felt vaguely noose-like
"Hey," Shinji asked the floating head of Misato projected on the interior wall of the plug, "Isn't there meant to be a helmet for this?"
"Well, Engels need a helmet, but the control scheme of an Evangelion requires that you don't wear one," she replied. "The plug should start filling with fluid; you can breathe it it, as it's hyper-oxygenated."
Right on cue, a thick, viscous fluid started pooling and rising in the capsule at an alarming rate. It was a dark orange-red, he saw, and vaguely necrotic, like the colour of a scab. The entire plug stank of blood, with strange currents and undertones to the scent.
Shinji held his breath until it covered his head, feeling somewhat unclean just from its clinging contact with his skin, and then exhaled all the air in his lungs in one go.
The liquid (LCL, he heard the doctor's voice in his ear) tasted exactly as it smelt. That is to say, absolutely vile. Shinji began to gag; a difficult proposition when you have no air in your lungs, and an act that mostly results in pain.
"Don't worry, you'll get used to it soon," was the somewhat heartless comment over the radio.
Dr Akagi turned to her main assistant, Maya Ibuki, a short, cheerful, yet somewhat withdrawn woman, who was manning the main control desk.
"How is it?"
"The pilot's body remains intact. Vitals are elevated, likely from stress. No abnormal brain patterns." Maya looked up at her mentor. "He's still alive. Your predictions on the necessary qualities for a candidate were correct. Shall I connect the D-Engines?"
Ritsuko nodded once. "Do it." She paused. "Monitor the synchronisation ratio once the Evangelion boots up. If it goes above 90% or dS/dt exceeds 3 percent per second, abort immediately. We don't want another repeat."
"Yes, senpai. Acknowledged and logged" Maya moved her hands through the three-dimensional matrix before her.
A complex spiral appeared in the air before her. Consisting of two sin functions around a central axis, the projection resembled a double helix more than anything. As they watched, the two lines rotated around the axis, moving closer.
"Synchronisation is forty eight... no, fifty one, no, fifty two percent. Stabilising... fifty four." She snapped her fingers within the AR matrix. "dS/dt is constant, plus or minus 0.8%."
Ritsuko stared at the graph, almost hoping for it to be wrong.
"Harmonics are steady and strong. Vital signs are still strong. No mental contamination, as of yet."
"It took Rei seven months to achieve a stable connection, even with the shells. This is astonishing. If we can replicate this, we can beat Dr Miyakame and his damn Engel Synthesis Interface."
The mood within the Evangelion itself was somewhat less tranquil, as Misato briefed Shinji on what they expected him to do.
"... so, you don't exactly want me to fight the thing, even after all this," Shinji said in surprise.
"No, not at all. You'll be backed up by a squadron of Engels, which will be the ones which will kill the target. Your job is the most important, though."
She pulled up a projection within the capsule.
"You've seen the creature, and some of what it can shrug off. We believe it has a protective field which replicates a second-tier sorcery. It seems to naturally produce it, as the spell shorts out all machinery on the person if we use it. The Evangelion can produce a similar field; we call it an AT-field. Two fields, if put in proximity and set similarly, can cancel each other out. Phase, anti-phase, see."
"So, wait." Shinji frowned, even as the feeling of the LCL moving against skin made it feel like he was covered in bugs. "Why can't other Engels produce this "AT-field"? Or can't you just use the sorcery against a weapon, to put the field it, and then just give it to something else?"
"Because this is an Evangelion, not an Engel!" came the inevitable response from the good doctor. Shinji groaned. He'd hoped that she hadn't been listening. "And anyway," Ritsuko continued in a more normal tone of voice, "for your latter point, we have."
An image of Unit 01, certain areas highlighted in red appeared before Shinji, levitating in a messianic pose.
"Evangelion Unit 01 is more heavily armed than anything in the New Earth Government that isn't a naval unit. Note the Hyperedged Horn, Claws and the Spurs on the feet. All these objects have been enhanced with a weaponised variant of Dimensional Shield. We hope that the spell will replicate the effects of the AT field, allowing the weapons to stab through. You also have a Hyperedge Blade, mounted under your left forearm. There are also two, head-mounted XV4 heavy laser cannons, synchronised with the eyes, an LR-15 lightning cannon on your left arm, and twinned CB444/AA charge beams attached to the right arm. We've disabled the ranged weapons though; you aren't trained to use them."
Somewhat overwhelmed with the list, Shinji simply nodded his head once.
Within London-2, four more unnatural hybrids of man, Nazzadi, machine, and inhuman monstrosity stalked their target. James in Tabris, his Auphan (Codename: Tragedy), Sarah in Ramiel, her Malach (Codename: Mantis), Wera in Iruel, his Aral (Codename: Shadow), and Jenny in Lilith, her Shinnan (Codename: Bloodmare). They'd heard that Alpha Squadron had been completely destroyed by this thing, and so they were trying their very, very best to keep out of sight.
"Shadow, what's the status on the target?" First Lieutenant Jenny Intry, their CO asked their stealth specialist. Around her, Lilith snapped her claws reflectively.
"Target is still advancing through the arcology. It's firing repeatedly at the ground. It's headed somewhere, and that somewhere is down." He paused, hidden under his stealth field. "It's like it's digging. And it's going straight through the arcology levels."
The unspoken acknowledgement of all the casualties it must be causing passed between the quartet.
"Ashcroft better hurry with their secret project. I've seen it sniffing the air, and it's jamming most of my unconventional senses. I think it suspects something," added Tragedy. "And it's a lot more heavily armed that we are. And it shrugged off a Clover strike."
"Cut the chatter," ordered Jenny, from within the warm, uterine, control capsule. A panel, embedded in the fleshy wall lit up with a priority message. "Okay, the prototype is coming up through the mag-tunnels. Says it's an "Evangelion-class Engel", whatever that is. Haven't heard of it myself."
"But what good can one more of us do?" Wera whispered, in his rather attractive Nazzadi accent.
In front of the target, the ground opened up, with a hiss of supercooled magnets. Riding up on rails, a titanic figure, the same size as the target appeared, in the blues and greys of the NEG. It dwarfed the Engels; Lilith and Ramiel were only (only; it seemed like such a petty word) 13 metres tall, while Iruel and Tabris were shorter.
"Now that is a humongous mecha," stated Sarah. "If it's similar to the target, we might even be in with a chance."
"Ready up," ordered Jenny. "We hit the bastard when he's distracted by the prototype. Try to take out its legs, so it'll stop moving and we can hit it at will."
Shinji Ikari would have been less than reassured by their confidence. For one, they had disabled his ranged weapons. For seconds, they had also put him in a prototype war machine without any real training. He was able to move; the Operator Side Effect luckily worked even with the massive discrepancies in size, and so he knew instinctively how to make the Evangelion do as he wished.
The figure of the Herald loomed before him. Oddly, now that he was in the Evangelion, it didn't seem so horrifying. Of course, maybe the fact that he was now the same size as it played a role in that. He followed the instructions over the radio; it seemed that the movements of the giant Engel were controlled by his own thoughts, with the controls almost just a prop. He flexed his (the machine's?) clawed fingers reflexively, and took a few, slow steps towards the target.
"Good, Shinji!" Misato sounded delighted over the radio. "Now, try activating the AT field!"
Shinji frowned. Somehow, they had never got around to explaining how he did that.
"How? How do I do that?" he exclaimed.
Back down in Inner London, Misato looked helplessly at Ritsuko.
"Yes, how does the pilot use the AT Field?"
"We don't exactly know," the scientist hissed back. "We know that the Evangelion can do it, but we're unclear as to how it is performed."
Misato raised her palm to her forehead. There was a faint slapping sound.
"You mean we risked an Evangelion and an Engel squadron in the hope that the pilot would, in his first go, work out how to use a field that consists mostly of shredded spacetime which we don't understand ourselves."
"We had no other choice. And, anyway, it would be more accurate to say that no-one sane and still human understands AT theory," Ritsuko added, more thoughtfully. "Research into something that involves rotating a one dimensional object that curves through two higher dimensions outside the World of Elements has a very high attrition rate. It's predicted by an expansion of the Ashcroft-Yi equations into an n-dimensional chaotic system. I don't think I have to remind you about what happened to Ashcroft or Yi. Or notable amounts of my mother's team. Or Soryu. Or the other Ikari."
Misato shuddered. Arcane physics was a closed book to her, and Ritsuko, as an accomplished arcanophysicist, arcanobiologist and sorceress, was weird even as an old friend.
"Nevertheless, what should we do?"
Just a little closer, mouthed Jenny within her Engel, as the squadron snuck up on the Herald. The Evangelion-class didn't seem to be doing anything, but it had all the monster's attention. They just needed the field to go down, and they could kill the thing.
The Herald seem to come to a decision. All of its leech-like fingers and the appendages mounted on its shoulders, as one, swivelled to face Unit 01. And in perfect synchronisity, they vomited forth their yellow-green beams. The cutting light swivelled and cut scores across the plating of the Evangelion, knocking it down, onto its back.
Within Unit 01, Shinji screamed and clutched at his face, his body, his limbs. He could feel the monster cutting into him, like hot irons on his skin. His body started convulsing, racked by the pain. Most of the wounds on the Evangelion were cauterised, but some, such as the one punched through his left arm, began spraying blood all over the wrecked interior of this district of London-2. Even the LCL around him seemed to grow warmer, as heat was conducted through the body of the beast.
He slumped back in his pilot's chair, at the edge of unconsciousness. A faint sussuration filled his ears, the whispering of a thousand voices, in perfect harmony and peace. He rolled aside, trying desperately to get out of the way of the burning and pain, but only his body moved, not the Evangelion.
And then it clicked.
Pain is bad, yes.
Like a wire in the head.
But wires are small, thin.
So if you rotate the pain, it cancels itself out.
And if you rotate it again, it can be used as a stabbing tool, to give others pain.
Good, good, yes.
Normally, Shinji was sure that that sentence... chain of thoughts would make no sense.
And yet it did. Like the world itself had been rotated, and he had remained static.
He opened his eyes. A filigree network, like a cage of fractured glass, protruded over him. The beams of the Herald licked harmlessly at it, like a match held against a brick wall.
An observer who was not enthralled by the pyrotechnics would have noticed other things about the filigree cage, the AT field. Like the fact that the strands reflected light wrong, not always showing the same scene, or showing it at another time. Through one strange glimpse, Eva 01 lay against a building, blood pouring from its head; through another, a blue-gold Evangelion vomited multi-coloured fire which burned and coruscated. A thousand thousand tales of woe were reflected in that mesh, and a few would be soon enough.
Evangelion 01 picked itself up, off the ground, and roared. A mass of tendrils emerged from its mouth, hungry and scenting, from within its mammalian jaw.
The Aral pilot nodded.
"That's certainly an Engel. Permission to engage?"
Jenny, in her Shinnan, nodded.
"I think this is our best chance. Keep out the way of the Eva-class, though; we don't know what else that prototype can do."
The Herald was confused.
The Evangelion roared with glee, a dreadful sound, like the scream of a drowning man, a reptilian cry blocked and attenuated by the tentacles that filled its mouth. It grabbed the Herald by both arms, and lent in, a bright corona where the two AT fields met, as the tears in space and time, in the corpus of an great being, tore the air apart at the sub-nuclear level.
As the bubbles of shredded insanity breached and passed each other, Unit 01 vomited more tentacles forth, and affixed them to the glowing red core of the Herald. And the ancient scion of a race that pre-dated humanity knew fear. And pain. And endless suffering.
Fuyutsuki stared at the view screen, deep in Inner London.
The core dimmed, its radiance consumed by a great blackness. As the Evangelion squatted on the body of the Herald, its jaws locked, lamprey style, on the orb, the Engels were belatedly assisting. Twin charge beams from the Shinnan scored further gashes on the core, while the Auphan, its acid-covered manibles slathered, was locked onto the being's hand, consuming a leech-like finger like some alien lizard eating a worm. It consumed the entire finger, then stuck its plasma cannon into the wound, its white carapace soaked in blue blood, and fired, leaving the entire hand to convulse.
As the core began to splinter, as the tentacles of Unit 01 moved from place to place, devouring what they could, the Herald realised what danger it was in. Its mask protruded upwards from the blackness of its body, on a tendril of blackness, looking nothing as much as a primordial cobra.
"Get back, Tragedy!" yelled Wera.
As the Auphan jumped away, activating its A-Pods and soaring away into the sky, more appendages of void emerged from the fallen Herald, all wrapping themselves around Unit 01, while the parts of the Core that the Evangelion had not gotten to began to glow even brighter. The synthorg ignored it, mindlessly trying to consume all that it could.
A barrage of fire slammed into the core. Already damaged, and overloaded with power, it shattered, sending pseudo-crystalline shards tearing through the arcology. The Herald, by now nothing more than a mass of black pseudopodia trying to envelop Unit 01, slumped to the ground, flooding the area with its liquefying, unnatural flesh.
Looking to the artificial sky above it, coated in its own blood and the black, tar-like remains of the Herald, Evangelion Unit 01 raised its head and cried out. The gargling, dying scream shifted to a hideous roar, as the tentacles retracted into its jaw.
And the people throughout the land knew fear.
Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate
Deep in Inner London, Gendo Ikari steepled his fingers and smiled, faintly, in satisfaction.
"And thus it begins. The saving of the world."