When Shinji opens his eyes, he finds himself in a verdant field that stretches far past the horizon. Truth be told, he was not sure what the subconscious of a 200' tall engine of destruction looked like, but he honestly expected something with a bit more barren rock…maybe some fire.
Tentatively walking, he looks around, still in the loose shirt and pants Hadsiel gave him, feeling bare feet crunching blades of grass. Well, this is nice, he thinks, I should fall asleep in my Eva more often.
"It's not 'your' Eva."
He stops in mid step, narrowing an eye in confusion. He turns, slowly, and finds something he was not honestly expecting in the Eva's subconscious.
Another person. A girl, more precisely.
She looks to be about his age, with short red hair and blue eyes and dressed in a school uniform. She has a cheerful expression on her face and even standing still seems to sway, and it is reassuring to Shinji to find that even in the depths of a killing machine's subconscious, he can find someone with a sunny outlook.
"Uh…hi," he says, awkwardly waving.
"Hey," the girl says, "I know, I know. It looks different. I could say I redecorated since the last time I sucked you in here, but last time was a wee bit more urgent."
Shinji steps back, eyes wide.
"Oh! So, you're Unit 01?"
She nods, eyes closed and grinning.
"Okay. Riiiight," he says, looking around him, "So…let's go over that again. You're…"
"The core consciousness of Unit-01," she says with a wide smile, "You can call me Eva! And I'm here to help you."
He looks around, and turns back to her.
And she responds by punching him in the face.
"So you've been consulting with Naoko recently."
Sitting in the chair in front of Pieter's desk, Gendo allows himself a small, knowing smirk.
"No," he says, "I've been consulting with her for five years."
Grinding his teeth, Pieter sits back and glares at his third in command, pushing his glasses up his nose. He lets off a string of germanic swears, punching up a series of screens on his desk to reassure himself that Naoko Akagi is still sleeping off the drugs in a holding cell.
"You could have told me," he says, "I would have listened to her if-"
"No, you would have exiled her from Japan," Gendo interrupts, "Let's be honest, Pieter. You hate Naoko Akagi with a passion. You are entirely justified in doing so. This is not someone we can trust Project E with and her daughter is far more stable and a lot easier to work with. If it wasn't for the fact that she knows the MAGI far better than anyone here I wouldn't have kept her around."
"You've been sleeping with her."
Gendo stares at him.
"You slipped a couple of times. Heard mentioning a rendezvous with Akagi, and figured it wasn't Ritsuko, because Maya would have killed you otherwise."
"In all honesty, that's been going on far longer than her exile."
"Well, that's good to know," Pieter says with a small grin, "Hello, Ritsuko."
Gendo turns, standing up just as Ritsuko crosses the last distance from the doorway and slaps him hard enough to send his glasses flying.
"You son of a bitch," she screams, "Do you have any idea what you did?!"
"I honestly remember saying I needed Ikari to myself for a few more hours," Sohryu states.
"Rei went berserk," Ritsuko growls, poking Ikari in the chest with each word, "There is a bathroom on level B21 she ripped apart with her BARE HANDS! What in God's name got into you, bringing her here?!"
Ikari mutters something under his breath, walks over and picks up his glasses.
"The plan was simple," he says, "I brought Naoko here, was going to have her physically examine the MAGI, and go over her findings herself. I planned everything so that both Doctor Akagi and Rei would not be near Central Dogma when it happened. However, Doctor Akagi needed to console with Lieutenant Ibuki about an anomaly."
"And Rei went with her," Pieter mutters, "Sonuvabitch. Keep the senior Akagi on the base for now. Ikari, you're in charge of her. I'm concerned about the MAGI and she built the god damn thing. However, if she even gets within visual range of Rei, I'm giving Asuka permission to go to town. In Unit 02."
He turns to Ritsuko.
"Doctor, calm down. How is Rei?"
Ritsuko wrings the bottom of her lab coat, grinding her teeth.
"Kaworu calmed her down," she says, "Captain Katsuragi called me and told me she's up, and a little shaky, but not panicking anymore. She can pilot, if something comes up. Honestly, that may be the best thing to do with her. Get her back into her routine."
Pieter nods. And as if on cue, every alarm in the base goes off.
"Blue pattern detected," Maya's voice announces, "Blue Pattern detected! Angel spotted enroute to Tokyo-3. MAGI Designation: Matariel!"
Looking up and trying not to look up her skirt, Shinji groans as Eva stamps her foot onto his chest, pinning him down. Despite the fact that she just decked him, her cheerful demeanor has not left her. She is still smiling, and looking down on him with a grin, she folds her arms and raises an eyebrow.
"Only you can stop this, Shinji."
"I…wait, what," he asks.
"If you honestly think this is how the world treats you, then this is how you're going to be treated," she explains, "This is what you're here for. I didn't even notice you until Ramiel. I thought you were just another kid they put into a plug, just that you were lucky enough to think the right thoughts."
She presses down with her foot, chuckling.
"But then…but then…you impressed me. It wasn't Shamsiel. It wasn't Sachiel, where you quite frankly naturally freaked out. I can't blame you for that. When Ramiel came a knocking, you showed something that impressed me. What do you think it was? What possessed you to charge something you knew could melt mountains?"
"I…I don't know!"
"Bzzt! Wrong answer!"
She bends down, staring at him, her grin wider.
"What are you? A coward? Spineless? A soft little stupid worm who gets stepped on every day? That's what you've been ever since you Dad abandoned you! You weren't living, you were just there!"
Shinji grabs at her ankle, and with a yelp, Eva falls. Shinji stands, staring at her, hunched over for a moment before standing straight.
"Only you can change it," she says, sitting up, "Only you. You charged that thing, and believe me, it was going to kill you. Are you suicidal?"
"Are you stupid?"
"Well, fine," she says, "Then it's settled. You're just a lot braver than you think you are."
She offers her hand, and he takes it, helping her up.
"Someone tell me how a spider that big sneaks up on a city."
The Angel, displayed prominently upon the floating holographic screen in Central Dogma, is approximately twice as tall as an Evangelion and as wide as three city blocks, formed into a perfect circle with eight impossibly thin arms digging into the ground with every motion. No one bothers to answer Misato's question, knowing it more hypothetical, and Dr. Akagi is still too visibly agitated to verbally play around with her long time friend.
Many blame the incident with Rei, earlier today. It is no secret that when Rei panicked, so did she. It does make sense to the crew, although none of them voice it.
After all, she did save the girl's life.
Central Dogma is abuzz. The Bridge Bunnies, as Misato refers to them as, are already announcing numbers as the three Evangelions are prepped for combat. Screens pop up, displaying vital statistics, evacuation percentage of Tokyo-3, and stage activations for NERV's resources.
Misato turns as Sohryu walks onto the bridge, standing at his station on high.
"Angel is five miles outside of Tokyo-3 city limits," she says, "We're prepping the three Evas for combat."
On the big screen, the face of Unit 04 lights up.
"Unit 04 has activated," Maya announces, "Synchronization at 83%."
"Damn that thing's ugly," Sohryu mutters, "See how firepower works. Get weapon lockers prepped at city limits."
"Unit 02 has activated. Synchronization at 73%. Unit 00 has activated. Synchronization at 46%."
Sohryu allows himself a smirk…and nodding to Kozou, he takes the wired receiver on his station and presses a button. Every speaker in the base chirps, and bringing it up to his mouth, he starts.
"Ladies and gentlemen," he says, "This is Commander Sohryu. As you are no doubt aware, in a few minutes we will be engaging the Seventh Angel."
He pauses for a moment, scratching his chin, and presses the talk button again.
"It has been two months since an Angel appeared. Many of you have been wondering if they had given up. I'm sorry to disappoint you, but they have not. We do not know how many there are. What we do know, though, is that they are more intelligent than we believed. In particular, we know they can feel fear.
"You are all part of an organization without precedent. You are not fighting for a nation, for a belief, or even for anything as simple as revenge for Second Impact. You are fighting to give humanity a chance to survive. When you eventually die, either in battle or surrounded by your grandchildren, you will walk past the pearly gates, look God in the eye, and tell Him to get out of your seat. You will have earned that right for what you have done in your life.
"Doctor Akagi has told me the Angels are re-organizing. They are re-assessing. They are doing this because they are afraid. They should be.
"Today, we are going to remind them why. Pilots; bounce that thing's buggy ass all the way up the Stairway to Heaven.
Smart obsessive's eventually realize that their quirks will piss people off. To that extent, while the NERV Geofront base was being constructed, Naoko Akagi secretly paid off contractors to create a series of access ports to the ductwork of the base, especially from the holding cells.
She is vain, she is obsessed with minor things like her appearance, but in this case it is to her advantage, as Naoko lacks such things as a flabby ass that would prevent her from crawling around the ventilation system as she makes her way to the MAGI core with a utility kit she also had stowed away years ago.
Moving from memory, she climbs up the ladder access, the base too busy with the Angel to care that she is missing. The climb itself is only partially on her mind, her thoughts a mixture of elation and frustration, a chance to see her baby for the first time in five years.
The access locks on the hatch recognize her codes, or in particular the codes she programmed and never told anyone about. Again, as an obsessive and not generally nice person she knew she would be drummed out at some point.
The locks open, and the hatch slides open, and Naoko Akagi beholds the glory of the MAGI.
Most people are familiar with the outer interface shell, the three mounted displays by Central Dogma. Only a few have ever seen the actual cores, the three laced nodes of artificial neural tissue and silicon gray matter. She built them. She designed them. She nursed the system to life and mothered it like she never did her daughter.
And so it is with dawning horror that she realizes what has gone wrong with it, as she climbs to her feet in the central cavity, and the black mark upon the system stops its normal circulation through the wiring and gives her its attention.
"What are you?"
In Central Dogma, the entire staff stares at the MAGI display as the words flash, and every alarm in the base goes haywire.
"Pieter," Naoko's voice says over the speakers, "I think I found what your computer problem is."
The node of Balthasar turns black, the wires surrounding it expanding, a head resembling a praying mantis forming and snapping, hissing at Naoko as she calmly reaches into the utility case she brought with her and pulling out a spanner, padding it in her hand.
Matariel's advance is momentarily halted by a hail of gunfire, the spider-legged creature calling forth an AT field to stop the bullets. It turns as the Evas surround it, each one nearly half a mile apart from each other, orders coming out from Unit 02 to the others.
Then Matariel casually pulses the AT field and sends Unit 04 flying.
In truth, the Angels are learning. They have realized that the cost of single-mindedness is that they leave themselves vulnerable as they attempt to reach their goal. So, Matariel has come to a conclusion on how to do so, even if it takes it more time.
Kill the imitations first.
And far faster than a half mile long spider should, it leaps at Unit 00.
The Angel, which she more or less assumes it is at this point judging from the fact that it looks alien, is snapping at her, and its presence is causing random classical music to play, seems a little less imposing than its brethren. She figures this out from its hissing and screaming when she whacks it in the head with a spanner, yelling curses at is as she drives it back.
After all, this is her creation. This is her baby.
And Mama has to spank.
"What in God's name are you doing in there," Sohryu's voice booms.
She whacks the Angel in the face again, retreating as it rears up, dodging a pincer and grabbing her tool kit.
"Daughter, dear, I need you to disconnect Balthasar. The Angel's taken the form of a computer virus, but has apparently only infected that node."
She takes out a stungun, clicking the trigger and finding it still works.
"I have to wipe the system."
Unit 00 ended up on the other side of Tokyo-3. Its right leg, on the other hand, is still speared on Matariel's leg, so getting back to the battle is a little iffy. The batteries tick down and she sees Units 02 and 04 needling the thing with fire, but the problem is the AT field is up and it is just managing to piss it off.
"Fine," Rei says, climbing out of the entry plug, "I've had a very bad day. Now I get to take it out on you."
She taps the comm. button on her plug suit, an image of Katsuragi appearing in her right eyes field of view.
"Scramble the Angel alarms," Rei says, "I am engaging the Angel personally."
She cracks her knuckles, closing her eyes. Where her appendix should be, a small sphere begins to glow, liquid fire pumping through her veins. The ground around her glasses, the part of Unit 01's armor she is standing on shredding before being pulverized downward.
Rei rises into the air, her eyes now glowing red orbs. The corner of her mouth twitches into a smile as she feels fabric rip and her form fully transcending into her true nature.
And down the streets of Tokyo-3, there is a crack of thunder as a fifteen year old girl breaks the sound barrier.