The Ghost of Evangelion – Layer 01
A Neon Genesis Evangelion/Ghost in the Shell crossover

AD 2030, Present day, present time

There was a tense silence in the air all over Odawara District, broken only by the humming of Jigabachi attack helicopters. Old, black, charred buildings poked crookedly out of greenish-brown water, a testament to long-dead engineers and architects. The lower districts of Odawara had once been populated, but the shifting seas has flooded the streets and displaced the citizens, spreading the urban sprawl towards Manazuru and Yugawara, almost touching to create a continuous urban wall stretching from Wakayama to Chiba, against the advancing waves of the Pacific Sea.

And in this sea, swam the messenger of an ancient civilization, all but forgotten since man had left the cradle of civilization; man cannot, after all, stay in the cradle forever.

This ancient god, the Rakbu, drifted further into the sunken city and set foot in the abandoned streets. It began its stride up, rising shoulder-first between the black skyscrapers. A Jigabachi hovered at the other end of the street, capturing the rising creature in all its horror; 40 meters tall, humanoid and black with a single white bird-like skull.

"OK, Sergeant," the helicopter-pilot heard in his audio implants "Pull out; we've got confirmation from ECCO; it's a match,"

The helicopter pilot, Kentarou Hayashida, pulled his Jigabachi out of the venetian streets and back towards the "Pacific Wall," a joint Japanese/US defensive line of rowed and columned Type 10 tanks brandishing 120mm high-velocity cannons, backed by brand new EW204 Multi-ped Tanks and lines of Type 21 Howitzers. The seas were patrolled by a mix of Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force destroyers and a US Carrier Group conveniently stationed in Yokosuka, Kanegawa.

Damn it! Misato thought. How could I miss him now of all days? She bit her lip and peered over the shoulder of the Operator android piloting the Botanachi DLCH tilt-rotor. She kept on making these stupid mistakes in front of JGSDF, who'd stood there waiting, with her own car already warm by the time she had found a clean dress. She looked over at the Special Forces-detachment she was working with; their commander, a female full-conversion cyborg, was loading her Seburo C25A.

"You can relax Major," Misato yelled over the thundering twin rotors "there won't be anyone to shoot at; it's only a pickup!"

"You never know…" Major Motoko Kusanagi replied. 'Overkill' decided Misato was the best work to describe the woman; half a platoon of heavily armed soldiers and a small one-man tank, all for a job Misato could have done alone with only her car – less intimidating that way, too.

"Today, a special state of emergency has been declared," the speakers sounded over Ashigrashimo: "throughout the Kanto and Chubu districts around the Tokai Area. Please take refuge in your designated shelter."

A teenager, dressed in a plain school uniform, sighed loudly to nobody in the abandoned streets outside Odawara Central Station. He's just travelled 8 hours by train, travelling the on both the Sanyo and Tokaido Shinkansen, because his father was too much of a bastard to pay for a plane ticket; Shinji was dead tired, and it was raining. He looked down at the picture of Ms Katsuragi; it was a picture of her, showing a V-sign with her hand and smiling at the camera in a very loose t-shirt and no bra; not hard to tell, considering she was leaning sharply forwards, giving Shinji an appealing view of her cleavage. The arrow labeled 'look here' helped. Still, who gave away pictures like that?

Shinji stuck the picture back in his pocket to protect it from the rain; the edges were well worn already and for some inexplicable reason he'd like to keep that picture. It was certainly a lot better than anything else he had been given; transfer papers (written by an android and signed by his father) and a note that said 'come,' the epitome of his father laconic writing, like those hastily written birthday cards that had stopped arriving in the mail many years ago; the entirety of his father correspondence with him could fit inside a thin envelope. Not that Shinji had tried.

Yet, it was from his father, asking him to come.

Shinji thought that he'd been alone on the streets, but in the distance, partly obscured by heavy rain, he could see a pale, blue haired girl; actual, faded blue hair, not electric blue like cyborgs had. What's she doing here, in the rain? A gust of wind threw water in Shinji's eyes. When he opened them, the girl was gone – disappeared – with no trace of where she had left to. What am I doing here? It's raining. Shinji reminded himself.

The thundering sound of a helicopter entered Shinji's ears; it was flying overhead at an atrocious height, throwing old newspapers and tissue papers around. It landed almost on top of Shinji, facing away from him. The heavy downwind almost threw Shinj off his legs, and he had to swat a newspaper out of his face. The rear hatch of the tilt-rotor folded down, and a woman in a short black dress jumped out, backlit by a pair of headlights.

"Shinji Ikari! the woman yelled and waved "Sorry to keep you waiting!" The tilt-rotor downwind rippled through her tight, clinging dress, though Shinji didn't notice that. Honestly.

The woman, who could only be Misato Katsuragi, was flanked by another woman; a military full-conversion Megatech cyborg with a plain (by modern standards, anyway) face Shinji had seen thousands of times before framed by purple hair, and standing next to Misato Katsuragi didn't help, even if both were wearing formfitting clothes. Shinji boarded the tilt-rotor.

"See?" Misato said to the purple-haired woman once they got inside "It went by smoothly. You didn't need the tank,"

An explosion shattered nearby windows, as if to prove Misato wrong. Shinji turned to face the mirrored façade falling to pieces. The purple-haired woman pushed him further into the tilt-rotor behind a small military Spider Tank facing out the rear hatch.

"Take us out of here!" she yelled. As the tilt-rotor rose above the skyscrapers, Shinji caught a glimpse of a black giant illuminated by explosions scattering against a snow crash. Another bright fire backlighted the impossible giant; something that big shouldn't exist, yet it did, so it must be real.

The sky lit up in a reddish hue once more. Another round of High-Explosive Anti-Tank missiles slammed into the Rakbu's face.

"HEAT-shells have no effect on the target!" Taku Tanikawa, a VTOL gunner, reported over the radio.

The slaved Jigabachis kept firing. Giant, grey wasps, each Jigabachi was part of an AI-controlled hive mind, both a genius and an idiot at the same time; they didn't have any concept of "nothing could survive that;" the enemy was either destroyed, or it wasn't; there was no room for probably. Their meter-long stingers kept firing, releasing a thick beam of 7.62mm bullets onto the pillar of smoke.

The smoke cleared, revealing that as each 7.62 NATO bullet hit, the air flickered like TV noise with the appropriate sound, scattering a pattern of static all over the Rakbu as rotary guns swept over it. The Rabku itself was unharmed; not even a scratch. To it, the Jigabachi were nothing more than bothersome wasps, and it went fly-swatting.

Taku Tanikawa's body was vaporized by a blooming purple bar of light. His Jigabachi was burnt to nothingness, fried by the photons. Rainwater steamed off the beam of light, misting up around the Rakbu. Metal shards dropped into the harbor, glowing white-hot and steaming.

"Get us out of here!" captain Katsuragi yelled. The Jigabachi and the Botanachi were somewhat similar, and she'd rather their fates didn't end up resembling each other. She looked over at Shinji, who was staring terrified out a window at the monstrosity. She – humanity – couldn't afford to lose him. She bit her lip and stared out the closing rear hatch while darkness turned to light and hell was unleashed.

Hell was an inferno. In a desperate last attempt to stop the Rakbu, the JASDF had tried to overwhelm the Rakbu by unleashing all remaining firepower at the Rakbu simultaneously. The Jigabachis fired their 105mm rifled cannons. Loud cracks sounded to the air, and any windows not already broken splintered and shattered from the shockwave of cannons firing.

There were no moments of silence, for as soon as the limited supply of 105mm shells was squandered, they'd unleash a barrage of all their remaining ATGMs, resulting in a sound much like celebrating with fireworks inside a metal barrel. Once the Rakbu was surrounded in a literal firewall, the whirring motor sound of spinning barrels, followed by the loud, saw-like sound of 3,000 rounds per minute cracking through the sound barrier, each crack before the old had gone quiet, like the Devil's own electric razor running along the flesh of the innocent.

Along the highway connecting Tokyo and Hakone, Japanese–owned M270 MLRS, loaded in all 12 tubes with solid fuel rockets, received orders from the JGSDF. Go-codes were given and barrages were greenlit. The M270 crews had already aimed and calibrated their guns to hit the Rakbu in centre of mass, and began firing immediately. Supporting them were division of heavy armor; Type 10 tanks and EW204 multi-peds fired their 120mm main cannons, supported by a hailstorm of 7.62x51 mm rounds. Suddenly, the Rakbu was covered in a burning firewall of artillery explosives and tank shells. A purple beam burst from the flames, vaporizing a platoon of tanks at once. Another beam burst forth and turned a column of EW204s to ashes. Faced with the gunboat diplomacy of this giant, the Blefuscu could only watch in despair.

There was a tense silence in the CIC-room provided by ECCO. The holographic map and the wall-sized projector screen only served to emphasize exactly how outgunned the JGSDF was. The JGSDF Chief of Staff Ground, Kii Kawamoto, looked over his folded hands as his forces were driven further and further back. JASDF jet fighters and US Navy fighter-bombers from the USS Philip Mead would cover the Rakbu in smoke and explosions, and they would fade only to reveal the black giant still standing – walking even – unfrazzled towards Yugawara.

In the uncomfortable moments that passed, only three men remained calm; the first two were Koto Fuyutsuki and Gendo Ikari:

"As we expected, it is protected by an A.T. Field," the old greying Deputy Commander said, a little too loudly

"Yes," his old student concurred "Conventional weapons will not harm it,"

The third was Daisuke Aramaki, an old man who'd never learnt when to quit playing with soldiers and battleships. He was at least as old as the Chief of Staff, Ground and losing his hair, letting the remaining whitish-grey strands hang down the back of his simian face, as off-colour as his worn, once navy-blue suit. He turned to Gen. Kawamoto

"Are you really this stupid?" he asked; Daisuke Aramaki was a shrewd man.

General Kawamoto stared down at the old man who had, quite rudely, interrupted his command of Operation Hashidate.

"Explain." he demanded.

"General Kawamoto, your aerial and ground forces have tried to engage the target without success. Right now it's advancing on the city. You need to slow it down to buy more time to find an effective solution. You must find some way to slow it down, and you might just get the time you need to find a way to destroy it," Aramaki continued.

Kawamoto paused for a moment – the old man was right, after all – they needed to buy more time, and Kawamot knew just the person for the job. He turned to an android secretary to open a line for him.

Cpt. Eiri commanded a small detachment of forces – an artillery battery, comprised mostly of old Type 96 Howtizers, supported by a platoon of mechanized infantry. His role during Operation Hashidate had been to provide fire support against the Rakbu by lobbing – to no avail – 155mm shells at it. Other than the Howitzers, the heaviest weapon around was the Sumitomo Type 18 7.62 mm Machine Gun, which had rather poor penetrative power when compared to the Type 96. He looked the Rakbu through his binoculars. Occasionally a barrage of time-on-target fire would approach Isimud. The shells would slam into a snow crash, hanging, bouncing, deflecting – The Rakbu was an implacable wall of walking destruction.

And Eiri had been given orders to take it down with what amounted to a fancy popgun.

Which was why he wasn't even going to aim at it.

Isimud took a step. There was a single loud 'crack' as 12 howitzers fired; their shells sailed through the air – a flotilla of 600 kg of steel - and struck the ground before the awakening alien god's feet. The asphalt was ripped to pieces. Flakes tore off and embedded themselves in old, abandoned buildings. Sand and soil scattered in all directions, leaving a giant hole in the ground. Isimud completed the step, found the ground no longer there, and became a victim of gravity. It fell.

For good measure, the howitzers cracked again.

A single B52, courtesy of the Japanese/American Defence Treaty, which actually did count in the case of alien invasion, flew towards a clearing among the ruins of old Odawara, guided both by GPS map and by a laser painted on the Rakbu by a JGSDF Forward Air Controller. The continued white noise and electric sparks that filled the air as artillery barrage met AT field made dropping the 20kt, laser guided, non-nuclear cruise missile considerably easier, even in the dark.

The CIC was bathed in white light as UAVs transmitted images of a detonating bomb. The non-nuclear bomb had been designed to wipe forests off the map. It carried nearly two tons of liquid ethylene oxide with evenly distributed aluminium nanoparticles, spread around by powerful magnetic fields in cyclotrons. The resulting explosion would cover an area over 3 kilometers in radius. The overpressure caused by the explosion could crush a human skull into itself and shatter buildings instantaneously, like matchstick houses in a hurricane. Then, like a matches, everything inside the blast radius would spontaneously self-ignite from the extreme heat; the white-hot intensity of a thousand suns. All of this would have happened after the bomb had sucked in every living being within a reasonable distance outside the blast radius, like a black hole on fire.

Ground zero had been wiped. There was nothing left. It was a gaping black crater surrounded by collapsing structures again surrounded by black monoliths (themselves previously nuked) covered in thick layers of old and new ashes, broken and deteriorating. A cloud of concrete dust swept through the ghost city, rolling over buildings and through the broken windows, shattered all at once so many years ago. A bright fireball rose upwards in an incandescent red glow and melted the asphalt on its way up. The old city had been toasted, leaving only the smell of oxides at noon: Victory.

Then a living shadow rose from the ground.

The Botanachi tilt-rotor flew into the crater that hollowed out the south-eastern part of Ashigarashimo District – there was an artificial island in the very middle, with a single bridge connecting it to the mainland. The island was almost flat now, rather than a towering Gaussian curve made from skyscrapers defying gravity, tectonic plates and common sense.

"What is ECCO?" Shinji asked Misato, breaking the monotone silence of thundering rotors.

"The Earth Coincidence Control Centre is a defence contractor for the JGSDF – we provide the JGSDF with the weapons and personnel to defeat monsters like that," Misato answered, pointing in the direction of the one-sided battle.

"You don't seem to being a very good job!" Shinji blurted out. He got a sharp stare in return.

Gendo Ikari faced a panel of Japanese Self-Defence Generals, himself backlit by the hideous Rakbu, its bird-like head wrung and crooked, revealing another skull. The generals, hard-faced old men still trying to fight the last war against enemies so ancient that nothing recognizable as a man had even seen them before; this was not a war won by an army; this war would be won by the born-again epic hero, and only he, Gendo Ikari, knew how the story went.

"You're now in command of the operation. We'll see how you deal with it," Kawamoto said. The implications of the latter sentence hanging in the air like thick cigarette smoke hangs in a closed room in a black-and-white film.

"Yes sir," Ikari said with a solemn face. In his mind, he smirked – he had proven to them, although it was as much their doing as his, that the JGSDF was useless against the Rakbu; he could expect their full, if reluctant, co-operation, rather than the constant inter-branch infighting between two groups thinking they are much better than each other – his metal smirk turned to a mental smile – Yui.

"Ikari, considering out available weapons… I have to admit we have no effective way to deal with the target. Are you confident you can defeat it?" Kawamoto asked, concerned rather than mockingly.

Gendo Ikari adjusted his glasses. Hyuga, Ibuki and Aoba turned their heads and waiter for his answer. Dozens of eyes rested on him, some real, som artificial; even androids had turned their heads to transcribe him perfectly. A simple "Yes" would not suffice.

"That is why ECCO exists,"

Then, a little later:

"Activate Unit-01"

Tensions rose among the ECCO staff. Fuyutsuki turned to Gendo once the Commander had sat down.

"Unit-01?" Fuyutsuki asked with a hint of surprise; the implication was carried across perfectly.

"A pilot will arrive shortly; he will pilot it," Gendo answered the statement-that-ended-in-a-question-mark. Unseen though his glasses, he looked up at his teacher and, in some sense of the word, friend. He paused, the continued "Have Dr Akagi prepare Unit-00 for deployment; shell only,"

Fuyutsuki smiled for a fraction of a second.

Had Misato not had a cyberbrain, she would have been overwhelmed by the beehive of passageways that were strewn across the GeoFront; the excavated shafts were hexagonal, but all the rooms had been constructed according to a square grid layout. That is to say, one square grid layout for each of the six walls, built by different engineers under the supervision of different architects with different ideas. Room and corridors met at bizarre sums of 90 and 70 degrees, as if someone had not yet realized they were working with Euclidian dimensions, or for that matter that they were limited to only three of them.

Automaps were a nice feature of both cyberbrains and PDAs, Dr Ritsuko Akagi reflected. Granted, some people, and we're not pointing any fingers here Captain Katsuragi, sometimes managed to get lost even with map software.

Luckily, though Ritsuko, today was not one of those days.

It might be attributed to Maj. Kusanagi's presence, but the doctor liked to think the best of her former roommate.

"…and he is the one?" she asked Misato, looking down at the quizzical, unsmiling boy she'd dragged along; there were some overall similarities in the facial structure with Gendo Ikari, but that didn't necessarily mean that it was Shinji Ikari, just someone with his Y-chromosome. As long as it's not any of my X'es…

"Yes," Misato answered, "according to the Marduk Report, he's the Third Child,"

"So I'm my father's third child?" Shinji spewed with genuine surprise. Really shouldn't have surprised me. How like my father – not that Shinji actually knew him that well. "I didn't know that,"

For a second, an uncomfortable silence filled the corridor.

"Not in that way. Your father would never…" Misato and Ritsuko said at once "It means you're number three on a list of applicants for ECCO," Ritsuko explained.

"Oh, by the way Maj. Kusanagi – are there anyone under your command who are experienced with ICE? I've tried to set up a defensive system but…"

"Well," the Major interrupted ""for a system this large, you'll want to set up a total-barrier with independent reverse probes arrays. However, I'd recommend investing in a hardline to make your main CPU a lead box to prevent infection using independent operators. You'll want to avoid barrier-fusion and polymorphic algorithms..."

Ritsuko heard and ignored the muttered utterance of "…hackers…" that came from her former roommate.

Ritsuko had brought Shinji, Misato and Maj. Kusanagi up to level B-20 and onto an artificial lake, towered by tall, pressing walls coated in water-proof pain that had occasionally flaked off, revealing rusty metal or grey concrete beneath. The water was clear, and Shinji could see all the way to the bottom; it was at least 20, give or take a few from refraction. Ritsuko steered to boat into a small channel and up to a small port. She tied it to a pier and motioned for her passengers to get out; Misato left first and helped held out a hand to help Shinji. Maj. Kusanagi, about seven times as dense as the equally sized-Cpt. Katsuragi, made sure to leave the boat in a safe manner; she didn't exactly float and her artificial lungs didn't take well to water.

Ritsuko led them through a door into a pitch black room. Shinji could hear the sloshing of small waves and smell the thick smell of chlorine from the water. A single lane was lit by blue cats-eye LEDs in front of Shinji. The door slammed shut, leaving nothing but himself and the badly illuminated trio of women. The darkness was uncomfortable; Shinji felt like he could suddenly step into a deep pool of water with each step he took. He heard the distinct slap of hand against face and turned to see Maj. Kusanagi let out an annoyed grunt.

"What, if I may ask, is that?" she said and pointed into the darkness. Shinji squinted in the direction of her arm, but couldn't see what she was pointing at. Ritsuko smiled and pushed a button on her PDA. The entire room was floodedlighted with bright fluorescent light; like a bleached picture, washing all the colours out.

Shinji faced a gigantic white, inhuman head. It was like a perversion of a samurai helmet, with giant red eyes staring at him from beneath protective plates. He glanced down to see the silhouette of a torso submerged in the greenish water, reaching down from the neck. Shinji knew exactly what he looked at, even though he'd only though they were fictional.

"This, to answer your question…" Ritsuko shouted "is the epitome of cybernetic engineering; the "Evangelion" Type 36 multi-purpose armed suit,"

The Evangelion was as tall as Isimud, 40 meters, 30 of them underwater. It weighted over 400 tons, most of it armor. The visible part of the Evangelion was its shoulders and head, both coloured in thick white paint to prevent corrosion. Under the helmet was an actual lower jaw, seemingly for no particular reason other than to give a monstrous look, as it had obviously been welded shut at some point. There even was a horn.

"…this would be Unit-01, the first combat-ready model, beating the predicted deadline of our European partners by several months,"

"My father built this?" Shinji asked, raising a single eyebrow while staring at the doctor.

"That's right!" a voice said, slightly tinted by the PA system, but clearly an adult male. Shinji didn't recognize the voice, he didn't need too. He knew the laconic way of speaking, he knew the subtle pride, as apparent in real life as on paper, he didn't even need to look up, although he did, to recognize the man standing in front of a massive window overlooking the Eva pen, still unchanged in appearance after 12 years. It was his father.

"Been a while, hasn't it?" the elder Ikari asked the younger.

The bastard, for that was only word Shinji could use in this situation, stared down at him. Shinji had brought many questions he wanted to ask his father, yet he had been afraid of the answers, and unsure which to ask – Why did you leave me, Father? Why didn't you ever visit me, Father? Why didn't we ever talk, Father? – and now he knew which question to ask, and he knew the answer.

And it was terrifying to know.

"Why am I here Father?" Shinji asked "You'd hardly have transferred me across half of Japan, by train in the middle of the night, no less, just so I could go to school here the next day," he dreaded the obvious answer "You want me –" Shinji continued "–to pilot that–" he pointed at Unit-01 "–against that thing I saw?"

"Precisely," Gendo replied.

"No way," Shinji said "That's an armed suit. They require training. Training I do not have," and going by the reaction of the purple-haired woman "Training nobody has."

Gendo looked dismissively down on the pilot – his son – before him, catching Shinji in the wall-mounted screens from a variety of angles in the corner of his eye; he could of course verbally push the Third Child until he complied, as usual, but the JGSDF would probably react very badly to say the least, to overt manipulative persuasion of minors, so Gendo Ikari would have to rely on less overt and more uncomfortable (to him as well) techniques of persuasion (which in itself, of course, was a backup plan) Gendo pressed a key.

"Fuyutsuki," he called over a private channel, to a stoic avatar of Fuyutsuki "wake up Rei."

"Why the hell does he have to pilot anyway?" Maj. Kusanagi asked Cpt. Katsuragi "he's a child!"

"Adult brains are less receptive to the surgery required;" Ritsuko answered "as the brain ages the neural plasticity is gradually lowered. Attempts at augmenting the neurons with nanite-capsids at a later age will increase the risk of exponential neural hardening…"

"Thank you! That's enough!" Misato yelled. Ritsuko mumbled "I'm sorry," at a just above audible level.

Ritsuko's earpiece beeped – she didn't have a cyberbrain; anyone with enough time and CPU resources could potentially read and control her mind; all her thoughts would become open, and her mind nothing but a complex system open to Class A 'WIZZARD' hackers, cyber-brainwashers, ghost-dubbing devices and dangerous viruses; she felt less… expendable… with a fully organic brain.

"Reconfigure Unit-01's systems for pilot Rei Ayanami! Restart!" she transmitted after playing the message.

Ritsuko walked away before she'd even received a reply. She knew Maya Ibuki well enough know that for all her minor quirks, she'd turned EVA-g2g-compability restarts from a computer science into a near art form. Maya and Ritsuko had spent an entire night in a secluded corner of the computer lab with obscene amounts of caffeine (and in Ritsuko's case, equally obscene amounts of nicotine) and converted the entire program from high-level code into hex, and therefore Maya knew just as well as Ritsuko how to configure Unit-01.

"Yes ma'am!" Maya answered Ritsuko, like a bright sun in the otherwise gloomy room, "I'll restart the loader,"

Maya Ibuki looked at the graphical user interface. It showed a node labeled "UNIT-01," compromised all the way to its ghost-barrier. Adjacent to the node was a list of currently running programs. She hit a few keys to change the criteria so that it would show only non-vital security programs, and quickly moved her mouse over to a drop-down menu with the option: "disable all" and clicked. She could have terminated them all with the command line window, but unlike the GUI it didn't differentiate between vital and non-vital security measures, and she would either have to type in each and every program name, or she would have to restart all the vital processes which would take much too long time. As soon as she'd typed her password to confirm the termination of all the non-vital security measures, she switched to the command line interface:




configure /p


load "pilots/ayanami"

PILOT NAME: Ayanami, Rei

So he had another pilot all along… Shinji though. Still, something was amiss – he'd been dragged from Kyosho all the way to Odawara on a day's notice, complete with transfer papers for a new school; he'd been airlifted from the train station by special forces, and yet he was, in one sense of the word, expendable, because his father already had someone else to pilot for him. So, in the end, he was losing sleep (how late was it anyways?) for no good reason; another day ruined by his father. Great.

Rei Ayanami could feel the adrenalin spread around her body, causing her cold, feverish body to shake even more than just minutes before. She could feel her lacerated left arm better now, though it was still numb from her high dose of painkillers. Her right arm was in a cast, and she had no idea if it was broken or a prosthetic. It didn't hurt, unless she moved it, but with her shivering and occasional involuntary trashing, that happened a lot. Breathing hurt, especially the rapid near-hyperventilation caused by the adrenalin cocktail she'd been given. She still had a concussion, so her head constantly hurt, only amplified by the stinging pain in her left eye. It was so tightly bandaged she had no idea whether the eye was just being protected from foreign objects, or actually gone. It mattered little to her now; she couldn't use it anyway. Her broken ribs shifted uncomfortably as the nurse carried her stretcher. She listened to the pneumatic hissing from the nurses' exoskeleton, to take her mind of the pain, a rhythmical air pulse as the nurse walked. Rei could only look into the roof, seeing each overhead lamp pass by, slightly out of focus as her head hurt whenever she tried to focus on anything. She tried as hard as she could not to fall asleep, knowing it would only make her a liability to wake up and make her concussion worse.

Maj. Kusanagi looked at the new arrival; it was a young blue-haired girl, not exactly surprising at this point, in a white flight suit and covered in bandages. The Major read off her bed's plaque that the girl was currently receiving cybernetic organ-replacements. Her artificial eyebrows furrowed and her lips tightened. She strode over to Cpt. Katsuragi and picked her off the ground.

"Why isn't she in the ICU? You're risking her life!" she demanded.

Misato swallowed and scooted down into the greenish water beneath her. "Uh…" she began "if that Rakbu – that monster – comes too close to the GeoFront, it'll wipe out most of Japan – it'll be like the Impact all over again, but on Earth; we're not…" Misato gasped for breath. The Major faked letting go of Misato and swept her back onto the walkway.

Shinji looked at the blue-haired girl trying to stand up from the bed. She was shaking and grit her teeth in pain. He could hear her heavy breathing, complemented by the hollow sound of lungs with too much liquid in them. She sat, for a while, on the edge of the stretcher, quivering in pain.

"I thought using me was preposterous, yet, Father, you have outdone yourself," Shinji mumbled, mostly to himself. So this was why his father needed him; because the other pilot was half dead – still in her flight suit; she'd been hospitalized recently; pieces started falling together, except that one non-Euclidean one as to why the bastard hadn't simply told him what was going on. Shinji silently cursed a horse-salesman and a tax collector under his breath. "OK, I'll do it. I'll pilot it.

Before anyone could reply, the entire building shook from the force of a concentrated beam of cuneiform light. Cables snapped and the chlorine-heavy water spat him in the face. Light fixtures swung and their fluorescent pipes splintered and sparked. The walkway swung heavily and Shinji lost his balance and almost fell into the water. Major Kusanagi somersaulted off the slanted walkway and stood straight like a nail on its edge before coiling back to prepare for another jump as the walkway slid back into a horizontal position; she'd rather not drown. She heard metal scream and bend as three heavy H-beams fell towards the walkway. Shinji tired to get back onto his legs and away, but 450 kg of person slammed into his stomach. A giant off-white hand reached out from beneath the water like a giant claw ready to crush him. The H-beams bounced off the hand and towards Gendo, but much to the chagrin of Cosmic Justice he was protected by 100 mm of armored plastic. Once Shinji regained his breath, he found himself in Maj. Kusanagi's one-armed bear-hug sprawled on the floor. The other hand carried the blue-haired girl.

Shinji watched in terrified shock as Maj. Kusanagi checked the girl for wounds needing immediate attention. The girl recoiled and coughed hard, covering both Shinji and Kusanagi in mucus and blood. She started screaming and crying in pain. Maj. Kusanagi ignored it and ripped up the girl's jumpsuit to fashion rudimentary bandages; she'd started bleeding from her ribs. Shinji touched his face and found his hand covered in tiny spots of blood. The world went out of focus and he had to genuflect on the walkway, breathing heavily.

"Maya!" Dr Akagi yelled, "Create a new profile for Unit-01,"

The room around Shinji was another shade of bleak white. Computer terminals stretched from one end of the room to the other and hummed quietly. Coloured ribbons and trails danced around the screens while lines upon lines of text scrolled past on the active computers; the inactive ones just glowed 'Ω'. In a corner, one machine went 'ping!'

"Ready for the second stage of the operation?" Ritsuko asked him, while standing somewhere outside his field of vision.

"You haven't told me what it is yet," Shinji replied. Blood was still creeping down his shirt from the first stage of the operation, and the part with the local anesthetic and the drill which had probably cut into his skull at several places had been terrifying, especially because his head was locked in place by a brace. He felt a prick on the back of his head.

"Ah. I'm injecting several clusters of micromachine B parts into the lateral and posterior aspects of your brain," she answered. "Impelled by Van der Waal's forces seventy percent of the B parts will undergo reversible absorption at the site where we injected the A parts earlier. Within microseconds, they will synthesize polymers, undergo ionic bonding and anchor themselves. Next we use a magnetic yoke to adjust the matrix settings so that the micromachines at each coordinate with the server grafted to your occipital…"

Ritsuko lowered a large box of some sort over his head, enveloping him in darkness. Only a small slit of light through which her feet could be seen was visible.

"…It takes time, since the number of scan lines increases relative to the size of the micromachines. This way, micromachines that have penetrated the brain can both send and receive signals on the brain condition and the distribution of electrical signals… Sensations are shared with the sensory nerves," she continued.

"That's a lot of…" whatever that science was called… "…invasive surgery for something that can be accomplished with Waldo's…" Shinji said with an acerbic tone of voice. There was brooding humming, and then Shinji had a headache.

Still with a headache, Shinji found himself inside the 'Entry Plug' of Unit-01; a large cylinder connected with a thick heap of cables to the Eva's neck. He'd been strapped down into a seat with two joysticks, and ECCO technicians had connected four jacks to his new neural interface. Occasionally a drop of blood would slide down the back of his shirt, paining a blood-red tribute to Dr Akagi's hurried work. It itched too.

"Hey, I told you not to scratch that!" Ritsuko's voice ran through his mind, complete with a hypercard avatar in his peripheral vision. Shinji removed his had from his neck. It still itched.

"Now, we're going to fill the Entry Plug with a liquid," Ritsuko said, still reverberating though his mind, not ears, which heard a gurgling sound as a cold, clear liquid crawled up his legs, "after your lungs fill with the liquid – it's called LCL – you should be able to breathe,"

Wait what?

"I have some doubts about this," Shinji noted. Could they actually hear him speaking, or would he have to use the cybercom?

"You'll get used to it," Ritsuko said. The liquid reached his mouth.

There was no way he was going to let himself drown. Reflexively, he held his breath, struggling against the cold, viscous fluid. It struck Shinji, straight before he drowned, that his lung capacity was really poor.

Asphyxiation-reflexes forced Shinji to inhale, filling his lungs slowly with the viscous fluid. As it poured down, Shinji's gagged and coughed while bubbles of air escaped his lungs and abdomen. He started to shiver.

"Don't worry about the heat," Ritsuko said, "or lack of it, as it may be. As soon as the environmental controls come online it will reach room temperature,"

Shinji gulped LCL in a flawed attempt to say something in return.

LCL contained proteins that synthesized perflurocarbons. Perfluodecalin, synthesized from carbon and fluorine found in the LCL would dissolve oxygen from Unit-01's NBC-filtered air supply into the LCL, allowing the membrane walls of the lungs to absorb oxygen from the hyper-oxygenated liquid.

Shinji suddenly gained an uncanny awareness of the CIC, as if it was projected on the inside of his mind, filled with homunculi of Dr Akagi, Misato (she'd insisted on that) and the rest of the command staff. His real eyes were filled with the blurry, hazed glow of awakening eyes, while his mind was further stuffed with a fruitful feeling of intrusion.

"Is it over ten percent?" Ritsuko asked as she strode over to Maya's full-immersion dive station.

"Uh, senpai…" Maya began as Ritsuko's hand clamped down on her shoulder "Alpha waves are already at forty…" she pointed to a pair of overlapping sinusoid waves, continuously graphed on her computer screen "Beta waves at forty-seven and rising – Theta waves are fluctuating but average at fifty" she isolated a frantic wave diagram and maximized the window to the benefit of Ritsuko. The good doctor's eyes shot wide open, and her breathing, faintly audible in Maya's ear, got more rapid for a second "The average level is 50%, plus-minus 2,"

"That's incredible!" Ritsuko said. "Ayanami took seven months to reach that level of synchronization, not seven seconds; that's better than the Second Child, even," Ritsuko's eyes darted around her skull, "Of course, this places an anomaly in hypothesis…" she said under her breath, so only Maya could hear it. She turned to Misato. "It's working! The Third Child is sufficiently synchronized with Unit-01,"

Misato smiled. She'd waited over half her life for this.

"Prepare for launch," she yelled through her mouth-piece "Awaiting launch authorization, Commander,"

"Granted," Gendo replied half-heartedly, as always.

Shinji was pushed down in his pilot's seat by five times his own weight. The rapid acceleration made him attempt to vomit, but his half-a-day-old ramen and sandwiches were held back by their own weight and the LCL that had seeped down his esophagus. His eyeballs hurt, like they were being forced out of his skull. The lightheadedness returned as blood escaped to his legs. Then everything suddenly became so light, and he drifted out his seat, only held back by a five-point safety belt; he slammed back into the seat.

His vision was blurred and unclear, filled with dark spots. He could vaguely make out the greenish silhouette of the Rakbu against the grey-black city. He blinked, twice, to clear his eyes. He still couldn't see any better. He was effectively blind.

In this situation, he did what any Shinji Ikari would have done.

He screamed.