Eyes opened. The echo of that maddening whisper flared around him, scraping at the edges of his mind with it's wicked tendrils, the tone akin to that of a thousand sultry whispers.
Alone in a world gone mad, where the very foundations of the human soul poured out across the ruined landscape of dead gray and the oceans of orange sediment, did that singular word tickle the wisps of his mind. In it promised the salvation of eternity, and the damnation of one. Like the whispers of a dark goddess, or a devil of light, did it touch the core of his very soul.
Like the caress of a lover did it come, licking at his bare, exposed flesh, leaving a trail of pleasure and pain, as if liquid fire had been poured over his entire body all at once. It was unlike anything he had ever felt before, beyond any earthly, natural experience.
A sense of self returned, a sense of wholeness in a place in which all were one, and yet, they were none. In a world kissed by a crimson sky and the crucified bodies of ashen giants standing from the great orange ocean, like an amalgamation of twisted trees amongst the ruins.
The world came into focus, and then out, into a maddening array or colors that existed both within and without, beyond the perceptions of the mind and therefore inconceivable, in a madness of flashes and hues.
A body, melded with his, a woman of unearthly beauty, of unnatural horror, in which all of the most terrible, most wonderful experiences could be shared. Her arms were his, as she towered over him, her legs and waist vanishing into his, melting into his, seamlessly, perfectly, as if the two had always been fused. Flesh ran to flesh, their heartbeats as one.
In her eyes, in his eyes, reflected a the existence of all, of none, a thousand screaming souls trapped within that singular being that was they, and of them, one, and all, and none.
A whisper, her lips moving, her mouth opening, to reveal a loving smile a fanged grin and forming words of love of lies reaching down, slowly, with those great, glimmering eyes, those crimson orbs that desired to drink him in swallow him and accept him consume him.
Wait. The thought seemed so foreign, so incongruent, so… and she smiled, her face contorting with her glistening lips wicked fangs in order to kiss him consume him and she said, with the softness of a lover's whisper…
And in her caring eyes, did he see it. Blood, rivers of it, the contorted faces of those he knew, wrapped in eternal torment as their flesh lie flayed from their bones, all born under a great eye of blackened gold, watching them burn and laughingcrying gleefully in a hell of his own making, where their bodies lie raped and violated, and hung aloft by the whole of their own being, faces contorted into the most maddening of masks.
And his own eyes lie watching, ripped from their sockets as rusted hooks tore the very fabric of his soul asunder, leaving tattered strips of his flesh to hang from his muscles.
Bleached crimson, he saw, lost in the hell that was he and which was all an amalgamation of his very being. Impossible angles and incongruent shapes, warping the very space they reside in, with numbers beyond comprehension burning into his still beating heart, engraving those dark symbols into his bodymindsoul.
And her lips met his… and the whole of that hell, of all hells, came pouring into his body, his mind, and his soul, his flesh rottinggrowingburning as his eyes saw the very essence of that incongruent, impossible shape, rending asunder what little innocence still resided within.
And then, he saw, what couldn'twouldn'tshouldn't exist. An abomination of all that he knew, torn asunder and left ravaged and left to consume him.
Warped, that wicked creature of hellish beauty ripping the flesh from his lips and consuming him with it's crimson eyes, stealing his mind and rending his soul.
And like in a moment of eternity, did he glance up, past the wicked veneer of the one who sought to consume himHERitTHEYweUS. And he saw the most beautiful flowers, drifting down from heaven, their petals falling like the virgin snowflakes of his childhood, bringing him to peace, stealing away the horrors of his hell and resting against his naked skin.
And he glanced forth, the world melting away into absolute nothingness, into a world of black walls and white ceilings. And in that world of pure contrast, his eyes finally opened.
Is my name. Who are you?
Then who, are you?
And with that, the eyes of He Who Had Forgotten opened.
Is my name.
And with that, the eyes of She Who Had Remembered opened.
In that instant, all became clear, all became one, and then, one became many.
For the first time, for the last time, Shinji opened his eyes. Before him, a world, twisted into an enchanting, haunting beauty, the grass beneath his feet both soft and sharp at the same time, digging, caressing his bare feet. The sky above hung over him with a mix of rich blues and dead grays, drifting, swirling, together into an almost artistic rendition of clouds, the wisps of white intermingling with the bleeding of blue. And before him, the world stretched out, its inky tendrils coveting the endless plains, framed by the great mountains in the distance.
And as he marveled, he saw it. From all directions, in all lights and shadows, a child. With crimson eyes and silky blue hair, she stood before him, naked, exposed, her gaze burning into his. And with this, did he realize that he too, stood naked, stripped of all that hid and covered him, leaving him exposed, alive, in a world where nothing but truth resided.
And when he met her eyes, when he finally found it in himself to gaze back into those endless depths, did she speak.
And with that, he realized that he was Shinji.
His mouth opened, allowing a single word to escape.
And the child nodded, smiling at him with a most innocent grin. Her crimson eyes sparkled with unfettered joy, meeting those of the wary Shinji, the child who held all in his hands, the Third, the one whom had been chosen as the God of this new world.
In that instant, the boy, the One Who Had Forgotten, began to understand the circumstances behind just where he was, just what had happened. In that moment, it all began to rush back to him, the images of all that had come into being, all that had culminated into his christening. He saw the great titans of man, those known as Evangelions, and what they meant to the whole of the human race. He remembered those ghastly creatures known as Angels, all seeking to unite with the presence known as Adam, the Destroyer, and Lillith, the Creator. He remembered the faces of all of those who fought beside him, those whom he had called friend and ally. He remembered the faces of his enemies, those darkened beings known as SEELE and his twisted, deluded father.
And he remembered the End.
And at those words, with his beckoning, he watched, again, from the Eyes of God, just what had lead up to his rebirth, to the rebirth of Lillith and the end of his people, his race, as a culminated whole. And from it, was born a world where all stood as one, and one as all, each held by the God known as Shinji.
With all of his phenomenal power, all of his unending strength and omnipotence, he could but fall to his knees and look out over all he had wrought, eyes wide with unshed tears. His home, his Earth, was a wasteland, a dead world where nothing but the oceans of LCL and the grey, broken ground lay. Nothing existed, from the smallest bacteria to the largest mammal, nothing stood, nothing, for an eternity and beyond.
And for this fact, he wept. It was not beyond him to realize that this Hell, for it was a Hell, existed because of him. It wasn't beyond him to know that all those he cared for, all those he loved, were gone and dead, because of his own inability, his own failure. He had taken it all and dashed it against the ground, burning the earth and butchering it's people.
He knew of her fate, of her pain and her suffering, and her life, lost in trying to buy him the time he needed to end the nightmare and save them all. And he had tossed it away. Her ultimate sacrifice had been in vain, wasted, like so much of his life. Bound by his cowardice and lost in his grief, he had let all of this happen.
This world was his. And he couldn't stand it.
As he wept, the creature known as Lillith drew close to him, and wrapped her arms around him from behind. It did nothing to assuage his tears, but that familial comfort drained away the tension and despair in his soul. She whispered to him words that were impossible that couldn't, shouldn't exist, that could not be understood by mortal ears, but still understood, and as impossible as it was, he began to calm.
What felt like hours passed, the two immortal beings sat entwined in a most silent embrace, one weeping for his failure, and the other comforting him as a mother would a small child.
"How did I let this happen?" he finally whispered, after an eternity had come and gone.
Lillith answered with silence, only wrapping her arms around Shinji tighter. The boy, lost, pondered his own question, and for a time. He pondered and thought, lost in the culmination of what he knew to be truth, in what his own actions were, how he had failed, and how he had run. He thought for many hours, his mind clouded with the thoughts of what he had done, and what he had failed to do, and slowly, but surely, he began to realize something.
"I was afraid." he uttered, his tone a whisper on a nonexistent wind.
At that, Lillith spoke, finally, in a most caring tone.
"Was?" Like thunder, the word echoed through the vast nothingness that was the Earth. It took Shinji some time, but he eventually nodded.
"I am afraid."
And Lillith smiled, her warm embrace encompassing him wholly. One of her hands drifted to his head, and proceeded to stroke his brown hair gently as they sat.
"Of what?" She wondered aloud. Shinji did not move, did not speak, for but a moment.
"I am afraid, of being hurt." He said, his tone tired.
"Yes. You are. But now, nothing exists that can hurt you." She said in her hauntingly innocent tone. The boy in her arms sobbed at this revelation. It was everything he had ever wanted. Everything he had ever feared.
"I wanted this." His tone was one of betrayal. He had betrayed himself, and sown this nightmare. Now he was trapped in it.
"Yes. You did." Lillith said back, her hand still drifting through Shinji's hair.
"I… I let everyone down, didn't I?" He asked sadly. Lillith didn't answer. She didn't need to. Shinji already knew the truth.
"I let her down." It wasn't a question as to who Shinji referred to. A girl with crimson hair flashed in his mind, so beautiful, so radiant, so alive and unafraid. He loved her, he knew. He loved her in a way that had left him so terrified that he was unable to even comprehend it. And he hated himself for it, for that weakness. She hated him too, he knew, for that weakness.
And now it was too late, far too late, to fix things.
"But it's not." The voice of Lillith came into his mind, invading it, encompassing it. For the first time, he let his head drift up, to meet her gaze with his, and ask that which he could scarcely find the words for.
"What… what do you mean?" He stammered out, his eyes full of fear, and full of hope. As impossible a hope as it was, he was compelled, driven by his pain and his regret, driven by his absolute failure, to wonder how he could fix it all.
Lillith's mouth opened, but the words echoed through his head as each soundless vowel left her ashen lips.
"This is does not have to be the end, Shinji." That hauntingly childish voice echoed, "For this is but one path that you have taken, one road in thousands. It did not have to end this way."
"Then how? How do I fix this?" He croaked out, his voice already tired from speaking in such harsh tongues. The hope in his heart and in his eyes grew, if only so slightly, as he brought his hands to rest upon the shoulders of the Creator.
"Tell me, please… tell me how I can make this better!" His voice pleaded, his eyes awash with unshed tears. Lillith smiled at him with all the love o a mother to her child.
"You alone have the power, to go back, back to the beginning of things, to walk a new path as assuredly as you have the old. As one of my Children, as one born of Lillith, you may if you so wish it. Do you?" Her words rang through his ears, through his heart, his body and his mind. In him came an impossible hope, an impossible joy. The chance to fix things, to set things right.
"Yes." Was all he could say, and her eyes shifted to glance at something so very far away, as if she were looking at the very future itself. And there was a great sorrow in those eyes, a great and wrenching sense of loss.
In that instant, the world that was ceased to be, and as if someone had hit the great Rewind button, the decay of the land began to slowly recede. The grey earth became green and supple once more, as the orange of LCL and human sediment faded from it's seas and replaced it with the placid blue of water. Rubble became buildings again, and the fire in the sky faded away, leaving nothing but an endless, cloudy horizon as far as the eye could see.
And Shinji, the once-God became mortal again, the world around him born anew. He shut his eyes, one last time, the memories of what was to come firmly engrained within his mind, and a new sense of hope, of desire, filling his heart. From that, he drew strength and confidence, and in one fell motion, he found himself garbed as he was that first day, fresh off of the train and awaiting the good Major, who was still but a Captain.
In the distance he could hear the warning sirens, announcing that first harbinger, framed by the explosions of countless munitions as the United Nations combined military fought to stave of the beast that was known to him as Sachiel, the Price of God. To all others, he would be known as the Third Angel, and the first of the monsters that spelled the Apocalypse of Man's World.
Around the farthest hill did it emerge, that massive amalgamation of flesh and bone. Thirty stories tall, it's top-heavy body was the first thing Shinji saw, surrounded by VTOL Fighters that were pounding it with their machineguns and rockets, all to no avail. The boy would have laughed at the scene, if it wasn't so terrible. Sachiel stood against the onslaught, it's proud form all but ignoring the massive volley of bullets and missiles pounding on it's frame, it's spherical crimson core standing out in against the black of it's stomach, four massive ribs poking out around it, as if trying to encase it within their bony structure. It's mask, so bird-like, stared out at the U.N. forces before it raised a singular, three-fingered arm and letting loose with a beam of pure energy, lancing through one of the jets and exploding out into a wicked cross.
Shinji could only sigh. He remembered how afraid he'd been when he'd first seen that terrible creature, that thing called an Angel. He remembered the fear, the panic, the loss of self and confidence. Now… now he couldn't help but feel a sense of nostalgia. These early incidents had been nothing compared to the nightmares that had unfolded during their later bouts. They had caught them all unawares, then.
But not this time. Never again. The boy thought grimly, his face settling into a cold frown. Never.
Ah, but what if you can't fix things, Ikari? What if it all falls apart? What will you do then? A voice egged at him, from the back of his head, it's voice dark and foreboding and full of lies and cowardice. It's tone was mocking, doubting and cruel. Shinji blocked it from his mind and squared himself.
Those few nagging words were brushed away. He didn't, couldn't listen to them, not when there was so much at stake. Instead, he focused himself, and opened his mind to the events that would so shortly follow his arrival. Though patches were blurry, he could remember the bigger events.
And he had to figure out how to work around the worst of them. The dropping of the N2 mine was doubtlessly unavoidable, and he was still at a loss for how he would handle his father, but one fact stood out above all others. Unit-01 went berserk last time, and nearly killed Toji's sister, Kana. He would not let that happen.
Lost in his thoughts, the boy barely registered the fact that the VTOL Fighters, those which were currently (and ineffectively) battling Sachiel, began to near. It wasn't until one crashed nearly in front of him that he began to take notice. For a moment, just a moment, Shinji's throat caught, and he felt a pang of fear. A moment of doubt.
What if Misato doesn't get here in time? Shinji silently wondered.
Then you fail, and die, and then everyone else dies, of course. Came that wicked uttering again, and again, Shinji crushed it under an overwhelming sense of guilt.
His fears were for but naught, however. Misato's car screeched to a halt before him, and he didn't even have to wait for her cry before almost diving in through the open door. As he caught his breath, he took a second to glance back, only to see the great Angel's foot come crashing down onto the gunship, causing it to detonate and sprinkle the area the boy had resided in only moments before in razor-sharp flaming shrapnel.
He sighed, relieved. Things were happening according to his memories, all but one thing. In a moment of cold realization, he found that, where as that first time, he had seen Lillith watching him, her astral projection taking on the shape of Rei, this time, she had been nowhere. It shook him a bit, to have missed that crucial instance, but he crushed those fears under that same sense of guilt that dominated his mind.
In a moment of shock, he realized that he had missed what his wayward guardian had said to him. He shook his head, and looked to her. A stray thought noted that she looked so happy, so alive, and he smiled at her for it.
She smiled like that when she bled out all over you, too, Ikari.
That thought shook him, and the smile fell from his lips, but was quickly lost as Misato waved her hand in front of his face.
"I'm sorry, Miss Katsuragi, what did you say? I was… lost… in my own little world for a minute there." He recovered, dully, noting her grin and knowing that he would be hearing all kinds of daydreaming cracks from her in the near future.
"Chyeah, no kidding, kiddo!" The older woman chuckled, her voice so light. "I said, Hi, I'm Misato Katsuragi, and you must be Shinji Ikari. I'm right about that, right? I didn't pick up the wrong person, did I? I'd hate to have to toss you out now." Shinji chuckled at that, and waved his hand in a dismissive gesture.
"Um, yeah… I'm Shinji. It's a pleasure to meet you, Miss Katsuragi." He smiled, knowing that she hated being called that.
As if on cue, she replied with an airy tone, saying, "Please, call me Misato. 'Miss Katsuragi' makes me feel so old! I don't look old, do I Mister Ikari?" She threw in, digging at the boy and making him offer her a slight grin.
"Of course not, Misato. Please, you can call me Shinji." His tone was light and soft, genteel in a way, but steady. Such a shot would have left him a stuttering mess the first time around.
Misato looked at the boy, really looked, as it were. He was the right kid, at least as far as she knew. He was the same person in the picture in his file, but his personality, his attitude… it was strange. He should have been meek, at least from what she had read, and painfully shy. But this boy… he was… aloof, almost. His face reflected very little, outside of his small grins and frowns as thoughts passed through his mind.
He had smiled at her, and frowned, all in the passing of a few moments, before both expressions faded into nothingness and he became unreadable again. It was most… disconcerting for the young captain. In so many ways, he reminded her of his father. And then he would smile, and that image would be shattered.
They drove in silence, which was odd, considering her own (admittedly) psychotic driving. If he was anything like what her file had said, he would have been gripping the Jesus bar for all it was worth. Hell, she admitted to herself, even a normal person would be hugging that handgrip like it was their last lifeline.
But this boy didn't. He didn't even look bothered, really. He just sat there, swerving with her turns, yes, but for the most part simply looking out the window, looking almost mystified at the early afternoon.
She couldn't understand it, but that was exactly what the boy saw. A world of absolute beauty as seen from a perspective that had been subjected to a land of the dead. He remembered most vividly the post-Third Impact earth, with it's orange seas and grey, parched land. He drank up those rich colors.
They drove through the streets, Misato navigating the maze of buildings and pavement with an expert's hand. The trip wasn't long, no, but Shinji enjoyed every moment of it, every moment of the world before him, of being with a woman he had come to truly love, as both a friend and a surrogate mother, though many of those binding events had yet to happen.
He knew Misato was watching him. She was far more observant than they gave her credit for, really. And he saw her make her call, asking for her car-train and making arrangements of their arrival.
And then, they entered the tunnel. It wasn't a long tunnel, no, but one that Shinji clearly remembered. He remembered the N2 mine that would come to follow shortly thereafter, and how Misato had stopped to watch the battle shortly before. Events did indeed proceed as expected, and while Misato was indeed his surrogate mother, there was a very real part of his adolescent mind that took no small joy out of having those rather sizable assets of hers stacked on top of him.
In the distance he could see the massive Angel towering over the mountains, the VTOL Fighters slowly backing away from it, before clearing out. Shinji knew what was coming, and braced himself for it, for that inevitable shock. The blast was massive, the heat alone burning away the clouds in the upper atmosphere. Had Shinji been looking at it, he had no doubt that he would have been blinded from the iridescent light that washed over the car's windows not moments before.
There was a pause, as if the world stood still, and then the rumbling came, washing over the cliffside where Misato's car resided. The vehicle jolted, for only a moment, and then, began to lift, regardless of Shinji's or Misato's wishes. It fought valiantly to stay on the ground, but, alas, it was far from enough. Shinji gasped at the sudden loss of weight that being lifted up and tossed through the air brought with it, but could have done without the sudden, jolting stop that came with the car hitting the ground and rolling to a stop. Somewhere along the way, he had jammed his shoulder badly, and as soon as they stopped, it quickly made itself known.
"You alright?" Came a voice above him, his brain thoroughly scrambled as he tried to ignore the throbbing ache in the left side of his body. At a glance, he saw Misato's concerned face above him, looking down upon him with a worried frown. He groaned, but started to shift himself out of his rather uncomfortable position. Misato, whom had already exited the car, offered him a helping hand up, of which he accepted with a smile and a nod.
"Yeah, I'm okay." He confirmed, rubbing his shoulder a but to try and massage some of the ache out. Misato nodded, and looked to her car. Shinji could only offer a small smile as he visibly saw his caretaker deflate at the sight of her (fairly) new car being reduced to a dinged up heap. But she recovered quickly, as Shinji knew she would, and, with a bit of duct tape, improvised mechanics and a bit of petty theft, Misato managed to get her vehicle up and running.
Shinji's eyes, not for the first time, drifted out over the open landscape. They would be at the Geofront soon, he knew. He still had no idea how as to how to deal with his father. How could he look into that man's eyes, knowing just what his grand ambition was, knowing that he'd been one of the deciding factors in what was tantamount to a holocaust that made those of Hitler, Stalin and Mao look like rough patches in an otherwise calm ocean.
And to be honest, Shinji was absolutely terrified of the man.
Then why don't you run away, Ikari? Nobody would blame you, you know. Whispered the phantom in he back of his mind, it's voice full of dark promise and lies. Shinji knew he couldn't run. That simply wasn't an option. Too many people were counting on him, and he wasn't going to make the same mistakes he made last time.
Oh? Do you really believe that? It pondered back, and he shook his head. Instead, he focused back onto Misato, noticing that she was making the call for their car-train and throwing him glances. He returned her look with a smile and a nod, and she smiled back before they both looked away.
What a beautiful smile she has. She was smiling then, too. An image of Misato bleeding in his arms, her smile soft and caring even as the sweet flavor of her lips left his.
"Shut up." he said in a hushed tone, his voice barely more than a whisper. This, of course, got Misato's attention, not so much as what he'd said, as that he'd said anything at all. She had been lost in her woes about her car (still thirty-three down payments left) and her favorite dress (which was ruined beyond repair) and even the ever silent Third Child (whom was nothing like she'd imagined). Really, she'd expected someone more… introverted.
"What was that, Shinji?" She asked in a friendly tone as the Geofront entrance began to grow in the distance.
"Hm? What was what, Misato?" he asked back, his tone so perfectly innocent. For a moment, she really did see a lot of his father in him, as creepy as it was. Though Gendo was cold as opposed to Shinji's… not exactly friendliness, but he was more talkative than his father, it's just that he was so seemingly distant, as if he were lost in thought. She'd seen Gendo get that same kind of look, that same attitude.
It was… unsettling.
It wasn't long before the two of them found themselves coming up on the entrance to NERV, the doors looking so small as compared to the size of the entry tunnel. It was then that Shinji's eyes focused.
"NERV." He said, though it was more the tone of a statement, not a question. Misato took no notice, however, and gave him a grin.
"Yup! NERV. It's a secret organization run by the U.N." She quipped happily, and Shinji looked at her before nodding.
"My father works here." The boy's tone was resigned, and Misato did take notice of that. She wanted to push, but the boy was so tight-lipped most of the time and she didn't want to make him uncomfortable.
"Shinji, did your father send you an I.D. card?" Misato asked, and Shinji nodded. He dug into his pocket and pulled out a letter that mostly consisted of blacked out information, a NERV access pass and three words.
It was cold, much like the man who wrote them. Misato shuddered, wondering just what kind of rift made Gendo so cruel. It was a good word, considering the man's demeanor and attitude towards others. She knew that he hadn't seen his son in years, and she doubted he had any desire to now.
She handed him the official NERV information packet, map and guide, all of which he took without opening.
"So, I guess this is my father's organization." The words were empty of emotion, "I guess he finally has a use for me." At that, Misato gawked. Surely Shinji was just talking out of spite, something all teenagers were known to have. He couldn't really mean that, right? She was certain of it.
"Maybe he just missed you?" She pondered aloud, and was surprised when Shinji have a barking laugh.
"My father doesn't "miss" people, Misato. He uses them and then throws them away. You'll see." And Shinji knew he was right. His father was a cold bastard right up to the bitter end. But… he didn't find himself hating his old man. It was strange, really. He felt pity for his father, who was so absolutely dedicated to his mother that he was ready to give up everything to be with her again, while at the same time couldn't stand being reminded of her. He had burned everything, thrown away any reminder, even his own son, and claimed to keep everything in his heart. It was true, his father was quite the enigma, and yet, so very two-dimensional.
Misato, on the other hand, shuddered at the cold words coming from Shinji. She couldn't really argue with him though, considering her experiences with the illusive Commander. He set her on edge, and, now, so was his son.
The two sat in silence for a time, Misato thinking about Shinji, and Shinji about both his father and about things soon to come.
It wasn't until the full glory of the Geofront was revealed that the thick silence was broken. Unfolding like a rose, did he see the massive, cavernous body that was the Geofront, it's whole standing several kilometers high and more than two dozen kilometers long, from wall to wall, it was a stunning thing to behold. Bathed in a golden light, the massive retractable buildings hung from the roof of the superstructure, looking like a mirror image of the city above, locked into place by powerful magnets and reinforced rails. And below, a sprawling artificial forest, standing next to a massive man-made lake, and framed by the immense NERV Central pyramid standing in it's center, covered by the body of what was the whole of the command and control tower, which stood proudly over the central pyramid and connected NERV to the rest of the world.
Shinji gasped, as he had the first time, but unlike then, in which he had been impressed with the construct itself, this time, he was awed by the majesty of it all. This was the first, the most glorious, of sights. The Geofront, full of untapped potential and possibility. His memories of this place, towards the end, had seen it as a ruin, a world of lost chance, of lose possibility. But this…
"The Geofront…" He whispered, his tone full of impressed shock and awe.
"Yeah, this is our secret, underground base. NERV Central and the fortress built to repel the Angels." Misato said, her tone light ad confident, as compared to the bubbling nervousness that had wormed it's way into her stomach.
"I see." Shinji uttered, clearly not paying attention to Misato, much to her annoyance. In a moment of impulsiveness, she reached over and hooked her arm around the boy's neck, dragging him over and proceeding to noogie him until he cried uncle. The boy in question was laughing almost as hard as Misato was, in the end, and just like that, the tense moment that had been choking them lifted.
Some time later, the two found themselves wandering through the corridors and byways of NERV Central. On Shinji's face, a myriad of emotions played out. His last, and most vivid memories of this place were something out of a nightmare, where the walls were plastered in blood, and the bodies of both soldiers and NERV personnel littered the ground.
Because you were too weak, Ikari. They died because of you. He heard in the back of his head, causing his sense of guilt to rip into him, because it was true. He couldn't deny it. He had the power to stop it, and he didn't.
Misato saw none of this, nor did she see the dark and perturbed look that had etched it's way onto the boy's face. She was too busy trying to figure out how to get to the bays. Eventually, the older woman gave up and fished out her cell phone, calling upon the powers that be to send someone who knew how to get her to where she needed to be.
"Come on, Shinji." Misato said, grabbing onto the boy's hand and jerking him out of his increasingly dark thoughts. The two made their way to an elevator, of which opened up to reveal the face of Ritsuko Akagi, head of the Science Division.
Shinji shuddered a bit, and backed away. His memories of the bleach-blond woman weren't exactly… pleasant. Neither woman took notice as Ritsuko berated the poor, young Captain for her incompetence.
"Come on, Shinji! Hello?" Misato asked, bending over and waving her hand in front of the face of the boy lost in his own hubris. After a moment, she put her hand on the boy's shoulder, and that seemed to knock him out of his thoughts. He looked at her, and for a moment, just a moment, Misato saw something that would, in foresight, leave her shivering and unable to sleep that night.
But in less than a blink, his eyes cleared, and he focused on her again, before offering up a small smile.
"Sorry Misato. I was… thinking… about something." he muttered. The pauses were brief, but Misato caught them. Whatever it was, it was eating at him, and she doubted that he would talk to her about it if she asked.
After a moment, the older woman nodded, and the three began wandering the halls of NERV Central, up unto what Shinji had come to call the gantry lifts. Suspended not ten meters away was the control tank for Unit-01, filled with the blood of Lillith, LCL (of which Shinji figured stood for Liquid Concentrate of Lillith), keeping it passive, while nourishing it and, when hurt, allowing it to regenerate.
Mmm. It's made of people, Ikari. Liquid people, concentrated into a primordial soup. Friends, family, her. Everyone, but you, and Lillith. Remember that, Ikari? The voice in the back of Shinji's head was taunting him, filling his mind with the memories that accompanied that ocean of LCL, and viciously, Shinji crushed them. At the end of this ride would be his father, and he needed everything in order to face him again without breaking.
Just remember, you made Mommy bite Daddy in half. Just think about that. And the voice fell silent once again, it's cruel, mocking laughter echoing in his thoughts long after the voice itself went away. Shinji shuddered slightly, all but ignoring Ritsuko's description on just how likely it was for Unit-01 to activate. Shinji knew it would.
Mother had never stopped loving him.
Over the PA, he could hear the announcement, that they were entering General Quarters. Shinji drew himself up. Sachiel was active again. He remembered just what was entailed there, what would happen.
With a jerk, the elevator stopped. A short walk brought him to the sealed doors of the Eva gantry. He was minutes away from meeting his father again for the first time. He didn't know what he would say, or how he would say it, but he would make it through this.
The doors shut. The lights went out. Shinji braced himself, and in that singular second, the lights came on again. He found himself staring into the eyes of Evangelion Unit-01, and the sight of it, of that culmination of ma's hand and an Angels body stood before him. And in that singular second, he could feel her, inside of that machine, calling out to him, arms wide and eyes full of joyous tears.
Hello, Mother. I missed you. Was all he could think in that moment, and he swore, he was absolutely certain, that he could feel her arms around him.
That was when the gantry above flickered to life, exposing the plug control center and his father, looking down upon him like God unto man. And of all the things Shinji could have said, all of the responses, both carefully thought of and impulsively driven, what came out of his mouth was something neither he nor Gendo could have possibly predicted.
"I don't hate you, Father."
The silence was deafening. Gendo's mouth actually hung open for a split second, and everyone on both the bridge and the command booth were silent, stunned by the unprovoked statement.
"That… that's good, Shinji." Was all Gendo managed to squeeze out. Shinji knew his father didn't actually care about what he thought, nor did Gendo believe that his son didn't already know this. Still… it was disconcerting for both parties. It took the rattling blast of the Angel to shake the lot of them out of their shock, and for a moment, Gendo glanced up at the ceiling, a frown on his face.
"It has been a while, hasn't it, Shinji?" Gendo's voice was cold, booming, like an echo from days gone by. Many of the techs and command staff shuddered at his dark inflection, and Shinji barely managed to suppress his desire to flee.
"Yes. It really has, hasn't it, Father?" The boy replied, proud of the fact that he didn't let his voice quiver, despite the fact that he was absolutely terrified of the man before him.
"I have use of you." The older Ikari said, his voice icy. His gaze, hidden behind his ever present sunglasses. His lips turned up into a cold smirk. He saw the slight trembling of the boy. He knew that, regardless of this bit of spine he'd managed to accrue, it wasn't anywhere near enough to be able to stand against him.
Yes… he finally has a use for you. He wants you to kill for him. How poetic is that? The voice of his doubts echoed through his mind, causing him to shudder involuntarily. For a moment, just a moment, wondered what would happen if he just… walked away.
Everyone would die. Was the silent, unwavering thought. And just like that, the weight of such a realization hit him. If he walked away now, everyone would die. He would throw all their lives away. Especially… Asuka…
"Tell me." He said, finally, his voice hard, harder than he'd ever spoken before. It was filled with the kind of command most associated with his father, rather than his meek and mild son. He would not let her suffer for his weakness. Not now. Not again.
Gendo's smile grew wider, his eyes glistening at the sight of Shinji. There was a confidence in his eyes that shouldn't have been there, not according to his psyche evaluations, but it was. Gendo could see it.
And, deep down, in a place where he would never openly acknowledge such a feeling, he was proud of the boy.
"You were brought here to pilot Unit-01." Ritsuko said from the side. Misato looked to her, as if in shock, but she knew why he'd been brought in as well. It wasn't a secret that he was the Third Child, selected by the Marduk Institute as a possible pilot.
"But it took Rei nearly eight weeks to synchronize with Unit-00! What chance does he have to synch up with Unit-01!? He's had no prior training and we don't even have a Plug Suit for him yet!" The raven-haired woman cried, her face fit into a mask of… not exactly rage, but abject concern. Shinji's heart fluttered with the knowledge that Misato was the same no matter what time you came from.
"We don't expect him to synch up. At this point, all we're expecting is for him to sit in the seat and try. It's better than nothing." The blond snapped back, her eyes narrowing at the Captain's demeanor. "Do you understand me, Captain?"
Misato's eyes narrowed. She could scarcely believe her friend had just pulled rank on her, but, unfortunately, there was nothing she could do.
"Yes Ma'am." Misato snapped out, sharply. Her eyes were on fire, and Ritsuko could only look away, over to Shinji. After a moment, so did Misato.
"Shinji…" She began, only to be halted by the boy's up-raised hand.
"You don't have to say it, Misato." he said, not looking at her, before speaking to his father, "You want me to pilot it, right?"
"Yes." The reply was sharp.
"Even knowing what it did to my mother?" Came the boy's answer. Had Gendo been any less of the man he was, he would have been gasped. He hadn't thought the boy remembered that incident, in which Yui was taken from them. When she was absorbed into Unit-01's entry plug, never to be seen again.
"Yes." Came Gendo's reply, his face frozen in a mask of neutrality.
"This is her legacy. Her hope for the future." The boy's voice wavered, his eyes shimmering and his small frame shaking. Moments passed, while another explosion railed the world above, shaking the suspended buildings in their casings. The boy looked up, towards the ceiling above him, and sighed.
There was no going back from this course.
But there was, was there? He could only move forward, and maybe, just maybe, he would succeed.
"I'll do it. I'll pilot the Eva."
It was all that needed to be said, all that he would say, before the whole of the pit crews and technicians began prepping Unit-01 for launch. Ritsuko offered up Shinji's A-10 sensor clips, painted the familiar white that he remembered them to be. He accepted them gracefully, and slipped them in without hesitation or error.
It was a short walk down to the Plug Center, in which he smoothly slid into the command throne, from which he had full access to all of the Eva's functions. As soon as the hatch closed, he found himself alone. The startup would take a few minutes, and until then, he had to wait.
So, you're really going to do it, hm? I hope you don't… mess up. An image of Toji's sister came to mind, her lower body crushed under the massive weight of a hunk of rubble, knocked down by his Unit-01 after it went berserk. Shinji narrowed his eyes, and gripped the arm controls tightly.
I won't let that happen this time. He swore it to himself.
A moment later, the systems began their bootup. It was only moments before Misato's voice could be heard from inside the cockpit.
"Shinji! Can you hear me alright?" The Captain asked into the mic, her voice coming through slightly distorted.
"Yeah, I can hear you Misato." The boy confirmed. A moment later, the image of the Captain appeared in one of his HUD monitors. She looked slightly frazzled, but otherwise fine.
"Alright, look, all we need you to do is focus on walking. If you can do that, the rest should come naturally. If you can do even that much, then we'll be in business. Got that?" She asked, her tone holding a level of command authority that he only heard during these kinds of encounters.
"I understand Misato." The words were hard, focused. He didn't even feel the jolt of the gantry as it locked him into the Entry Plug slot on the back of the Eva. He didn't utter a peep when the plug itself began to fill with orange LCL, thought he couldn't quite down the sense of revulsion that accompanied the almost slimy feel of Lillith's blood, now knowing what it was.
"How are you doing in there Shinji?" Misato asked into her head mic, the technicians and bridge bunnies all working around her as she stood on the Command Bridge of NERV Central. Above her, on an elevated platform sat both Commanders Ikari and Fuyutsuki, silently watching the procession as Misato lead the startup operations. Each were lost in their own thoughts. Fuyutsuki stood pondering the fate of this ill-thought venture, and, not for the first time, questioning his student's mental state as to what had brought them to that end. Gendo, on the other hand, was lost in his thoughts of his son. The boy was so very different than how the reports said he would be. In the brief week between his sending of the letter and Shinji's arrival in Tokyo-3, there had been no reported deviations from his normal activities or routine, no sudden changes in attitude or demeanor. Nothing. But then, as if some great epiphany had taken hold of him, he had arrived in Tokyo-3 sporting an attitude that defied logic.
Gendo had seen the fear in him, but it was smothered under a kind of courage he'd only seen in Yui, a kind of will that defied logic or reasoning. It was madness, in all senses of the word, but it was there, having taken hold of his boy and changing him. And while some fathers would have been pleased at this development, Gendo was anything but. Something had changed in the child, and Gendo had a distinct feeling that it would be anything but good for his plans. He would have to watch the boy carefully. Something had happened, and he wanted to know what.
These thoughts, of course, were lost on the boy in question. Shinji sat in the LCL filled entry plug, not having made a sound since the liquid covered is mouth. He was breathing normally, of course, thanks to the hyper-oxygenated liquid, but it still had the coppery taste of blood, something that still made him ill despite his experience.
"Still with us, Shinji?" Misato asked over the intercom, and Shinji responded with a short "Yes." before closing his eyes to the darkness.
"Alright, Shinji. We're going to start up the initial synchronization procedure. If you feel anything out of the ordinary, please, tell us immediately so we can terminate the procedure. Do you understand?" This was Ritsuko's voice, her tone cold and businesslike, much like how he remembered her. Always the professional, right up until Gendo shot her at the end. Even then, mad as she was, she still managed to hold on to her air of superiority.
"Yes, Miss Akagi." He replied, tonelessly. He knew that nothing would go wrong. He had such absolute confidence. Only a moment passed, and his world became a rainbow of bright colors, the first, red, then yellow, and finally, blue. The three each represented a stage in Eva synchronization, connecting his mind, his body and his soul to the machine.
And in that moment, when the world cleared, he felt… warmth. It was as if he had been enveloped in an ever-expanding hug, where he could feel nothing but the light of his mother's soul around him, whispering to him.
I missed you, Mom.
And in the Command Bridge, Dr. Ritsuko Akagi could only stare at the numbers being presented before her. The boy had reached an ninety percent synch ratio and rising, slowly but surely, towards the absolute barrier limit. There was a part of her, a large part of her, screaming about how it wasn't possible, how it couldn't be happening, and yet, knowing the truth behind how synchronization worked, she couldn't help but feel a sense of understanding. How wasn't important. She knew WHY.
"Doctor? Doctor! RITSUKO!" The shout shocked her out of her stupor, and she glanced over at Misato.
"Yes, Captain?" She asked, her voice full of abject shock. He had broken the absolute border in seconds, the connection lancing through at a rate that left her unable to even utter a word about the linkup, and then proceeded to shoot up into the high nineties, before settling at a solid ninety-eight point eight percent synch ratio.
"Has he achieved synchronization?" Asked Misato, her voice betraying her anxiety. The Third Angel was fast approaching, and had already started trying to punch through the twenty-seven layers of dirt and armor plating that made up the roof of the Geofront. She needed to know whether Unit-01 was good to go, or if they needed to N2 the bastard up above again.
"Y-yes. Yes, he's reached synchronization. He's… his synch ratio has leveled off at ninety-eight point eight percent, as impossible as it may seem." Misato stared at her friend and counterpart with abject surprise. Rei had been at it for months and had barely reached a third of what Shinji had achieved. It was… unprecedented. Even the Second, who'd had years of training had just broken her sixties recently.
"How…?" The raven-haired Captain could only whisper. Ritsuko shrugged.
"I don't know. Perhaps he's a prodigy, perhaps it's something else. I'll need to run more tests later." Her point was emphasized when one of Sachiel's energy beams punched through the body of one of the buildings, causing the suspended end of it to plummet down into the Geofront, barely missing the NERV pyramid, but still causing the whole of the structure to shudder.
"Regardless, we must begin launch procedure. Shinji has synched up with Unit-01. The matters as to how or why are irrelevant at this time. Captain, is the Evangelion prepped for launch?" Gendo's cool voice came down from above, his eyes locked onto the frontal command screen. Below it, an orange wireframe hologram of the city proper stood, with a single blue creature moving about it, heading towards an aboveground residential district.
"Hm." Misato frowned, before looking towards Aoba, the bunny in charge of the Gantry Launch command council. "Lt. Aoba, is Unit-01 in position?" She asked, her tone slightly subdued.
"Yes, Ma'am, Unit-01 is secured and ready for launch." The man replied, his face a mask of concentration. A moment passed, quickly, before Misato said the two words that spelled out the remainder of her career with NERV.
In the boom tube, Shinji sat, peacefully awaiting the sensation of moving at mach two. It was strange, really. He knew he should feel nervous, apprehensive, something… but he didn't. He felt… oddly relaxed. He was where he needed to be, where all was right with the world.
That was when he felt the gantry kick, propelling the massive robot at nearly mach two, launching him up the four kilometers of bracing and up into the world above. Even at the speed he was moving, the trip lasted for several seconds before he felt the drag of the lift launcher slowing. The doors at the end of the boom tube opened, and up a set of rails came up, allowing for Unit-01's control gantry to slide up and out of the launcher, supporting it.
"Just try to focus on walking, Shinji!" He heard Misato through the COM link. Her voice was so familiar, so calming, so focusing. The boy grit his teeth, and braced himself. It was time. It was the beginning. A new beginning. A second chance. He would not fail this time.
Shinji's eyes opened, his mind clear of all distraction. His HUD display notified him of the gantry's release, the final locking mechanisms letting go, and finally releasing the great, purple titan from it's clutches. Before him stood the massive body of Sachiel, it's twin-masked face staring right at him, it's one exposed eye staring at him.
Shinji willed Unit-01 to step forward, the sensation of doing so no different than if he himself were taking the step. The Evangelion's leg rose in unison to his. Shinji let out a small smile. Nothing had changed, everything was as he remembered it.
In his first life, he had stumbled on that second step, allowing for the Angel to garner a decided tactical advantage. This time, he didn't fall. Sachiel didn't get the chance to ram him through a building, causing debris to fall from the sky and crush Toji's sister. This time Unit-01's second step was sure, solid, and confident.
It was then that the Angel raised it's arm, it's three fingers wide and a buildup of energy gathering in it's palm, aiming to lance Unit-01 cleanly through the chest.
"Not this time." Shinji whispered, and willed his Eva to crouch down, before forcing it to dive across he space between the two giants. The impact was deafening as the two hit one another, Unit-01 tackling the Angel, causing it to release it's stored energy in a wild shot that blasted harmlessly into the air.
The two slammed into the ground hard, the concrete cracking and shattering out from the point of impact and spiraling out. For a moment, the two were still, before one of Sachiel's massive hands wrapped around the whole of the back of the Eva, tossing it off. Unit-01, hit the pavement on it's shoulder, causing a lance of pain to shoot through Shinji's already abused right arm.
"Damn it!" Shinji cried out at the sudden ache, his focus lost for but a second. It was all Sachiel needed. Rolling up and straddling the purple titan, Sachiel tried to pin the machine, it's right grappling Unit-01's chest while it's left aimed to lance the Eva right through it's head armor.
Just as the beam had charged, Shinji regained enough of himself to force his Eva's legs to wrap around the Angel's waist, and using a trick Asuka had taught him in a previous life (by using it to pin him) he rolled forward hard. With it's grip on Unit-01 broken, Sachiel's beam went off balance, and instead of punching through Shinji's Eva's head, it only grazed it's cheek.
To Shinji, linked to Unit-01, it felt like his cheek was being melted off. He forced himself to cut off his strangled cry, and proceeded to punch the Angel clean in the mask. Sachiel responded in kind, and proceeded to lift Unit-01 off of it in a feat of absolute strength, it's left tri-clawed hand still locked onto the Eva's torso, and then tossed it into the air, forcibly. A sense of weightlessness greeted the boy, before he felt a searing shock of pain cross his chest. His eyes opened to see Sachiel's right arm, fully extended, with a charged beam lance lining it's way strait into Unit-01's chest.
The blast sent the Eva flying through the air, over the nearest set of above-ground apartments and into the hills beyond. The roar of the impact thundered through the valley as the Eva carved a trench through the foliage, forcibly ripping out it's power cord and causing the HUD in Shinji's plug to light up, announcing that he only had five minutes of power in his battery packs, and counting.
Misato screamed something through the radio, but it was lost on the boy as his eyes widened, seeing Sachiel propelling himself through the air, twin lances of energy in both of it's hands, coming down upon him like the hammer of God himself. In a tremendous push of his physical will, the Third Child barely managed to push down the wicked ache in his back and force his Eva to roll off to the side.
The move was just barely enough, as the Eva rolled out of the firing line of the beams just and they cleaved through the earth where he'd previously resided. When he angel hit the ground, mete meters from where Unit-01 had rolled, Shinji pushed, and pushed hard. The Eva's leg shot out in a ground roundhouse, catching the Angel in the back and sending it into the ground, face first.
"Bastard!" The boy cried as he moved his Evan to try and pin the beast. Unfortunately, the Angel was faster than Shinji realized, and rolled over just enough to let it get a solid grip on the Eva's head. It pushed, hard, nearly snapping the head off in a fit of rage, but the Eva had just enough leverage to hook it's hand on the lesser of the creature's two masks, and as he was pushed off, he took that mast with him.
A wet, ripping sound shook the ruined hills in which they fought, and the mask covering Sachiel's face was ripped clean from it's person, taking it's one exposed eye with it and leaving a ragged, gaping wound where it's face had been.
The screech was something of nightmares, like a culmination of a billion nails on chalkboards all resounding at once, as the creature's two hands shot to it's face, gripping it while it writhed on the ground.
Unit-01 slammed onto it's back and slid down the hill and back into the residential area, the severed face of Sachiel still in it's grip while it's pilot spasmed in his control throne, his back screaming in pain as he felt his skin being flayed from his back much like the armor on Unit-01's back was being torn off by the friction.
Tears streaming down his face, Shinji barely made out the things Misato screamed at him through the COM link. It took him precious seconds to recover, massive amounts of adrenaline pumping through his veins and leaving him numb, exhausted, but still driven.
"…use the Prog Knife! The Prog Knife, Shinji! Get it while it's down!" Came the screeching voice of the Captain as it cut through the blood sloshing through his ears.
The timer on his HUD kept flashing, telling him that he had a paltry minute and thirty seconds of power left, and, with a sharp cry of pain, he forced both himself and his Eva into action. A press of he trigger button caused his Progressive Knife to activate, the Bowie-like blade sliding into his Eva's hand as the cutting edge began to hum with the whine of the blade's hypersonic vibration.
"DIE!" The boy screamed, something primal taking hold of him as the endorphins and adrenaline that pumped through his veins took hold. "DIE, YOU BASTARD!"
Unit-01 leapt up, the whole of the hill flying beneath the biomachine's feet, the blade held tip down in it's plated hands. There was a moment of sheer silence as the titan sailed through the air, blade poised for the killing blow, and Sachiel's one remaining eye opened wide with fear.
With a shuddering crash, did the two meet, the Prog Knife slamming into the Angel's core, letting loose with the whine of a massive power saw as it burned through the crimson orb. The Angel struggled, it's arms trying to push the Eva off, but to no avail. As the blade slowly began to sink deeper, the creature wrapped one of it's hands around the head case of Unit-01, and a beam of pure energy slid out of it's elbow.
The beam shot forth, like a jackhammer, and slammed into one of the eye cases of Shinji's Eva. Te pain was unimaginable, but Shinji kept pushing, kept screaming, as if he were some kind of berserker. The blade shot into the eye case again, and small droplets of blood began leaking from the pilot's right eye. He ignored it, driving the pain away under an ocean of adrenaline and rage.
The Prog Knife began to dig into the center of the creature, and the energy beam pulled back once more, before slamming into, and then through the right eye of Unit-01 just as the blade punched through the core, shattering it and causing the Angel to self-destruct, vaporizing it's form and marking it's passing with a massive cross of pure energy.
At that instant, Unit-01 was tossed away, through the air, and landing on one of the (thankfully) empty munitions buildings, it's power drained. It looked on, as if seated on a great throne of ruin, over the fallen form of it's enemy, it's armor broken and scorched, it's eye gone, the hole dripping with purple blood, but the great titan still victorious.
And in the entry plug, a small boy sat curled up, his hands gripping his face as his blood slowly drained into the orange LCL, his cries of pain echoing through NERV Central as he slowly lost consciousness, Misato calling for him over the open COM.
~End Chapter One~
Author's Note: Hey all, how are you? Good, I hope. I must admit, it has been a WHILE since I've written or posted anything fanficish, especially in the area of NGE, despite being my first dedicated peice of fiction being an NGE fanfic. It really has been a few years, and for that, I am regretful, but, I found that the best way to deal with said regrets are to put the past behind me and move on, into a new and exciting story that (I hope) is somewhat better than my last few written works.
I spent a lot of time learning and relearning how to write, and after reading Crazy-88's Once More with Feeling I found myself with new direction and new inspiriation, so here we are, at the end of the first chapter of my new piece, Through the Eyes of God and I hope you all enjoyed reading! I'm aiming to have the next installment out sometime in the next two weeks, so until then!
Oh, and P.S.
If you didn't catch the hint, and you've yet to do so, go read Once More with Feeling. You won't regret it.
In a State/God Moving Over the Open Waters ft. Moby --UNKLE
Paid in Full --Sonata Arctica
Out for Blood --Arch Enemy