In 2016, information about a worldwide conspiracy referred to as SEELE and its role in Second Impact was leaked to the media. Either because of NERV's connection to SEELE, or perhaps as retaliation by SEELE, the European Union deployed a joint German and Austrian task force to seize control of NERV-2, located in Berlin.
It was a massacre.
NERV personnel at the time did not receive more than cursory firearms and tactics training. Against an army, they were cut down and forced to seal off the base. Following three days of the siege, during which hundreds of casualties mounted on both sides, a plan was hatched. Break through the EU lines and escape to France or Poland. To do so, the single most powerful thing in their arsenal was to be deployed. Something they held back out of fear of collateral damage.
Like a red giant, the Devil given physical form, Evangelion Unit 02, Zweigoki, was unleashed.
The result was called the Berlin Massacre. Conventional armed forces were no match for the biomechanical giant and its ability to project a wall of impenetrable force. Its opening act was to grab a VTOL aircraft firing at the hangar and swing it like a bat into another one. As much firepower as they could bring to bare, none were enough to counter it.
It was like someone deployed God. It was unstoppable, merciless, a beast of legend.
Unedited audio of the battle released in 2018 revealed the voice of a fifteen year old girl, crying for them to stop.
The battle ended when the EU dropped six N2 mines on the base, wiping out it and much of Berlin. There were a handful of survivors. One of them, the Special Inspector to the UN, was given the order of summary execution. He refused, on the grounds that the pilot was a minor. There are unconfirmed reports that Agent Kaji Ryoji escaped to Bethany Island in the Black Sea. It is on paper than Asuka Langely Sohryu was given asylum by Russia.
No one has seen either since. In the two years between the battle and the release of the tapes, the UN passed a declaration that use of an Evangelion outside of an Angel was a War Crime. Sohryu became the most hated person in the word. Following the release of the tapes, she became the propped up symbol for many charities about the plight of the Impact orphans.
Rei, on the other hand, did meet her.
She spent a year in an institution at Bethany, screaming in a padded cell. Katsuragi made sure she received therapy. The Commander believes she is as far gone as her mother and is seeking a method to die as spectacularly, and perhaps in a redeemable manner, as possible.
Kicking against the floor, Rei holds onto the ladder as it skims along the rails, making a near complete circumference of her tile floor apartment before stopping at the section of the library she has converted her wall into that she wants. Tapping the spines of the books, she retracts a leather bound, first edition hardcover, gold lettering etched on it. A religious tome, to put things in perspective.
Tossing it onto the bed with the other six books, she hops on, sitting cross legged on the sheets and reaching for her first selection, a science fiction novel.
And Rei Ayanami begins her nightly reading.
Chapter 2: Welcome to Tokyo-3
The basic problem with putting people into a situation they all know will be unpleasant is that eventually, that unpleasantness reaches a critical mass. This is one such situation. The clicking camera light isn't doing much to improve his mood, much with the mind screw last night was. After he stopped screaming and bolted the bathroom door shut, he managed to crawl back into his bedroom. Problem is, there was a mirror there, and she still wanted to talk.
The mirror was turned around.
He didn't get much sleep, partially from him being freaked out, partially from her muffled demands that he turn that mirror around and listen to what she has to say, young man.
He would say he's going crazy, but when your benchmark of insanity is Gendo Ikari, anything less than table dancing with a polar bear is perfectly sane.
"So," the bespectacled, fair haired man with the video camera says, in some sort of bizarre cross of a suit and a beige NERV uniform, "We're here with Pilot Ikari, the young man who piloted Evangelion Shogoki to defeat the Angel in a knock-down, drag-out brawl last night! What do you have to say for your fans, Pilot?"
"I was drugged by my father and stuffed into an Entry Plug," Shinji responds, rolling his eyes, "Then tossed at the Angel. It wasn't exactly my choice."
The man sighs, lowering the camera.
"Not exactly a heroic story, man."
"I'm not exactly heroic," Shinji sighs, scratching the back of his head.
He didn't make it more than five steps onto the campus of Tokyo-3 Community College before being ambushed like this. It seems his father leaked his identity to the student population, but in fact it was more a 2+2 thing. Everyone knew he was the son of the Commander, and that meant it was more than likely the Commander had him pilot, with the Commander being who he is. This guy was the first to get his attention long enough to stick the camera in his face.
"Kensuke Aida," the young man says, extending a hand, "I'm training in NERV to take over for Lieutenant Colonel Ibuki, now that she's heading up Medical."
"Okay," Shinji says, shaking the hand, "How much do you know about NERV?"
"Enough to blackmail him on."
They two turn. White blouse, gray sweater vest and a black, knee length skirt, her glasses resting on her nose and her face otherwise expressionless, Shinji wonders exactly how an albino has this ability to sneak up on people. Kensuke, on the other hand, is grinning.
"Rei," Shinji says, "What did you-"
"Mr. Aida," Rei explains, "Has a habit of trying to hack the MAGI mainframes. He works for NERV because we believe we can use his talents. You should know better than to harass pilots, Aida."
"You didn't mind the harassment yourself, Ayanami."
"I had a use for you," Rei responds, folding her arms, "Shinji does not. If you continue to pursue him if he does not wish you to, I will be forced to take action."
Kensuke grins, ear to ear. He calmly pushes up his glasses, staring down the girl.
"In all honesty, Ayanami, this is the first guy to kill an Angel," he responds, "And not use an Eva for leveling a city. You'd have to chase me down and tie me to a chair to keep me away from this story."
Rei raises an eyebrow. Shinji could swear there was a bit of...red...to her cheeks.
"Kinky," she says, the tone sending chills down Shinji's spine.
Which is all the incentive, Shinji needs to break away, walking further into the campus. He saw that, didn't he? He just saw Rei flirt with that Aida kid, right? It's not just that Rei is profoundly, incredibly creepy, giving off an air that could be summed up as "All sorts of sexy, sexy wrong," it was that she just didn't seem interested in anything.
Except she looked interested there.
He really doesn't want to ask those sorts of questions.
Of course, he has other questions, now. Because right now his path is blocked by the largest japanese man he's ever seen, a behemoth of a guy with spikey black hair, sharp, piercing eyes, and a black and green plug suit which thankfully, is not tight in all the wrong places.
"Buh?" Shinji asks.
"Touji Suzuhara," he responds, "You and me need to have a chat."
"Well, that went well. As in, we're not all dead."
There is a bar half a mile from one of the less used Geofront entrances. It is not a very well known one, relatively seedy and serving the strongest alcohol legal in the Fortress City limits. That is the main appeal of this place, as the two patrons in the dank corner of the bar have some of the highest alcoholic tolerances of the population of 1.5 million.
Kozou Fuyutsuki, retired Sub Commander of NERV, slams back another shot of vodka, pounding his chest and coughing as Gendo Ikari drains his own glass with almost serene grace and ease.
"You're getting old," Gendo says.
"So are you. Probably why you have the beard instead of the pedophile frame you used to have," Fuyutsuki responds, "So, let me get this straight. Shinji killed the Angel by himself?"
"Well, mazel tov," Kozou grins, "Your boy finally grew a pair. Of course, putting him in the thought controlled biological stomp bot after drugging him was probably not the best thought out plan. At least he isn't afraid of you, anymore."
"Which is the problem, because he doesn't strictly respect me, either," Gendo says, and sighs, "This is taking longer than we expected. First the utter disaster in Berlin, now this."
Kozou shrugs, pouring himself another glass.
"We adapted admirably," he responds, "At very least the Old Men are out of power. I'm just glad you had the self control to not urinate on Kihl's grave."
Checking her PDA for the time and the appointment with the new student, she adjusts her glasses and turns the corner, humming to herself as she shifts tracks on the PDA's MP3 player function. She dressed sharply today, in the gray dress suit, black blouse, her normal pigtails pulled into a braid going past her shoulders. She does know the appointment is with the new pilot who is also the Commander's son, so Ms. Horaki does know that first impressions are important.
"...Then where the Hell WERE YOU!"
Of course, she didn't expect to find him in a screaming match with her fiance.
"I was on vacation, jackass!"
"Great! I nearly get my head ripped off by the giant monster while you go surfing! Your dedication inspires me!"
Touji, a good head taller than the other guy, jabs his finger into his chest. For some reason, he showed up in his Plug Suit. She doesn't know why, pinching the bridge of her nose, and doesn't really care at this point.
"Yeah, and your half assed job makes me really think you don't need training," Touji growls, "I have seen a lot of things, kid, but I've never seen someone make their Evangelion hide. I don't know what went through the Commander's head when he gave you Shogoki, jackass, but I am going to whip you into shape if it kills you!"
"My Dad is fucking insane, pal. That was his plan, not mine. And right now, I've got more Angel kills than you."
Hikari clears her throat. The two turn.
"Babe?" Touji asks.
"Babe," Shinji responds.
Touji turns, glaring at him, Shinji stepping back.
"Did you just hit on my fiance?"
"You said 'Babe.' I thought it was a question. You know, like rating her."
"Oh, just whip it out and measure, already!" she screams, tapping off her PDA and scratching the screen with a curse, "Great. Beautiful. Ikari?"
"Come with me. I'm Hikari Horaki, your student advisor. Touji, go change into something that doesn't hug your ass."
Touji shifts in place, nodding, as Hikari walks out and grabs Shinji by the wrist and drags him away. With a snort, he watches her go, turning and walking towards the campus gym.
"...better not be hitting on my girl..."
A click and the lights turn on, revealing a domed room lined with a gold grid. Following the whole thing with SEELE, or more particular its utter dissolution, NERV adapted the holograph technology they employed for their meetings to their own means. There are a total of eight official NERV bases. Simple phone conversations are only so easy. This is more thorough.
"Connecting to NERV-Bethany, Connection established."
The image materializes, forming slowly, steadily, into a man going into middle age. His ponytail is showing signs of gray. He has a bit of a paunch now, to. If the reports are true, it's probably from the drinking, but not anywhere as bad as hers. Helps him cope. Helps her cope.
"Katsuragi," Kaji Ryoji says, lips twisting in the same, roguish smile she knows so well, "To what do I owe the honor of gazing upon you?"
"Cut the sweet talk, flatterer," she responds, grinning despite herself, "You know why I'm calling. It's not for a booty call."
"Holographic technology has, sadly, not reached that point anyway."
"Yeah, yeah. How is she?"
His face turns solemn. The grin disappears.
"Not as good as I hoped," he says, arms folding, "Today's her dad's birthday."
"Yeah. Angel has a great sense of timing, I know. Anyway, she's not her best. But give her a day and she'll have full operational analysis of your pilot. He really the Commander's son?"
"As much as Shinji tries to deny the fact, yes. I must say, I'm glad he's not as...eccentric...as his father. He might be easier to work with, if he ever gets over us drugging him to put him in the Eva."
"Glad to see six years don't change a man that much. Yeah, she's been better. Like I said, though, give her a day or two."
She nods. He does in return, stepping back as the image begins to pixelate.
"Be seeing you."
The problem was a very simple one. The moment his mind honed in on it, even as it was protesting from the mild hangover, he began formulating a solution. One which, hopefully, would work better than the rest of his attempts at fixing things between him and his son.
Gendo Ikari has admitted he is a shitty father. He admits that well, with gusto. No one could possibly screw up fatherhood with the regularity and enthusiasm he has, but he has managed, partially due to the fact that his son is a stronger will than he gives himself credit for.
He didn't relish the thought of shoving Shinji into Shogoki and making him fight the Angel...
No, that would be lying. He actually did enjoy it. Shinji has a habit of disrespecting him. He earned it.
Part of him is chomping at the bit to toss Shinji at another god like horror and see what happens. He was disappointed that Shinji killed the Angel himself. He was expecting Shogoki to go berserk, but he can live without the collateral damage. For now.
"What is it?"
He glances to his side. Which one is she?
Right. One of the back up Bridge Bunnies. Aoi, he thinks her name is. Glasses, short cut hair. Nice ass.
Possibly a lesbian.
He's still got it. Except that now she's cuddling, and he honestly can't remember how he ended up in her bed, naked, with her. Well, it wouldn't be the first time. Not with her, it is. But it wouldn't be the first time he ended up in bed with a female staffer at NERV.
Good. She's sleeping.
Flipping out his PDA, he switches over to the channel he has set to piggyback security cameras to watch Shinji.
"Honestly, I think my father's insane. Sometimes in a good way, but a lot of times in a very bad sort of crazy way. He doesn't think...no. No, he thinks these things through but I can't see how any of the ideas he has can possibly end well."
Sitting across from her in the corner office of the main administrative building, he lets off a long kept in breath. Most everyone else he knows in this city treats his father reverently. A couple of years ago, he tried to rant about his Dad to Rei. Rei put him in a chokehold until he passed out. His father's a hero to many people. That this person is neutral towards him, well, at least gives him someone to vent to.
"I'm never really met the Commander," Hikari says, pen still hovering over the admission forms, the simple laminar table between them, "Touji has. I'm not cleared to go to the Eva cages. He has a high opinion of him, but probably because the Commander gives him a good amount of leeway."
"How long has he piloted?"
He mutters a swear, rubbing his temples.
"Great. And he's going to train me."
She reaches out, patting his shoulder. A warm smile crosses her features, the faint remnants of childhood freckles around her nose and cheeks.
"Don't worry," she says, "He looks like he's a jerk, but he's really just serious about what he does. He took the job of a pilot so he could protect people, and he sees that if you're going to be a pilot, he has to make sure you're as good as him."
"She's got a point. That's why I asked her to marry me."
The two turn. He sees the plug suit still under his beige NERV officer's uniform, mainly in the collar peaking up over the jacket and the weird way the shoulders set. He coughs, cracking his knuckles, glancing between Hikari and Shinji.
"A'right," Touji says, "We got off on the wrong foot. I've gotta train ya so you don't screw up when an Angel arrives, okay?"
"Does this mean I'll have backup next time?" Shinji asks, glancing between the two.
Touji nods, raising his hand.
"Pilot's honor, Ikari," he says, "You pull your weight, I pull mine. Unless somethin' happens to either of us, you ain't fighting the next Angel alone. Got it?"
Shinji sighs, nodding. Reaching out, he takes Touji's extended hand and shakes it.
"Good enough for me."
Knocking on the door, Kaji leans against it, the door opening with a slight creak. The television is still playing, its volume lowered. Looking down as he enters, he spots the living room of the small apartment next to his. He spots the beer cans on the table, counting around seven more than when he left for the meeting with Bethany Administration.
Walking in, he pulls the keys out of the door, where she left them, and places them on the key ring next to the half wall mirror at the entrance. Slipping off his shoes, partially out of habit and partially so he doesn't wake her, he enters the apartment and sighs when he sees her on the couch. Curled into a ball, hands curled into fists.
Her red hair is partially matted, falling over her face. Now, of all times, she actually looks peaceful. Then he sees the twitch around her eyes, the stupor she puts herself into giving way to actual dreams and memories.
He places his hand on her shoulder, giving her a gentle, firm shake. Blue, bloodshot eyes open. He can see bags under her eyes. The sleep gets worse around the anniversary.
"Hey," he says.
"Hey," she croaks back, "Wh...time is it?"
"Late enough," he says, "Get to bed."
She sits up, shakily. Bare feet on the carpet, she tries to stand, thinking better of it before reaching behind the couch pillows and pulling out a remote.
"Cant," she slurrs, "Gotta...Katsuragi needs an analysis..."
"She'll need it in a couple days," Kaji says, rubbing her shoulders, "You do it now, you'll miss something. Get some rest. Clear your head. The videos will still be there tomorrow, okay?"
She stares at the screen. Long and hard, her fingers trembling on the remote. Finally, she hands it to him, Kaji smiling as he helps her stand. She leans on him, like she has for the last five years, letting him walk her to her bedroom.
None of the childish flirtations during the old days. She values him more, now. Needs him more than she ever did.
The lights flicker on. He grimaces. Needs to have the cleaning staff come in here tomorrow. Walking her to the bed, he lays her on her side, so if she does throw up she doesn't choke. She's asleep when she hits the pillow, a small moan when he pulls the covers over her.
"Sleep tight, Asuka," he says, pressing his lips on her forehead, "You earned it."
He clicks the lights off as he leaves.
Two feet scrape along the gray dirt, the sand compacting into show prints. He likes these sneakers very much. He finds them comfortable, even in this environment. Given, it is the Light of His Soul which allows him to walk freely here, but the little comforts he took from home are still essential. It was not an easy decision to make, leaving like he did. He did owe that man much.
But, if he was to be Free Will, he could not be so easily shackled.
The pale boy with ash hair hum to himself, the only sound in this forbidden environment. It is a sound, a song, heard only by him. Another hill on his daily walk, and he sighs, extending a hand out and up. A mound of the gray sand rises, forming into a stool.
Silently, he walks over, and sits down.
Red eyes peer up, over the horizon, and stares down upon Earth.
"So," he says, "You wish to go now, Brother?"
A smile. Warm and inviting, turning to the great behemoth rising.
"Go, then. It is your choice. And I redefined this scenario so we all had a choice."
Wandering back into the mausoleum, he whistles as he walks, black shoes clicking on the metal floor. Sitting on his chair, he clicks the console on with a snap of his fingers, holographic screens showing the location of the three Pilots in Tokyo-3.
Rei is in the campus library. Technically, she has a true photographic memory, and peruses the library for books she has not read or can add to her substantial collection, and also to socialize. And by 'socialize', one would mean 'see how many people she can terrify.' Her personality has developed in ways that honestly trouble him, but he keeps that in line with his Scenario.
Suzuhara is at one of the satellite bases on the surface, rewatching footage of the battle with Sachiel.
He encourages him to take his responsibilities seriously, and when he explained to him on recruitment that his status as pilot would allow him to protect those close to him, he jumped at the chance. Out of all of the pilots, he is the easiest to work with. He takes his tasks the most seriously, even if he is borderline useless in the Scenario.
He switches to Shinji. A grimace crosses Ikari's face. Still at the campus, signing up for courses. Flirting with Horaki, even if not overt about it. Much like Gendo has almost preternatural luck with women, a glance at his son's romantic history shows the opposite. Mostly, attempts to flirt with him falling over his words and saying something remarkably stupid, but at the current stage he has not yet said such. This is a record for his son.
Unfortunately, said woman is the fiance of one of his other pilots. He will have to keep an eye on this.
"...just wanted to say, right out, I'm not flirting with you."
Finishing signing the paperwork, he wonders if it is possibly to reach around and kick himself in the face. He has no idea where that came from. From the puzzled look on Hikari's face, neither does she.
"No," Shinji says, hands up defensively, "Your fiance was under the impression I was. I wasn't. Not trying to, at least. My Dad has all this luck with women, and I think he probably expects me to be like him, but all the women I meet fall into four categories: Related, attached, insane, or lesbians. You fall into the second category, and everyone else I meet falls into the others."
She smirks. He grimaces, scratching his head.
"Well, at least you're honest," she sighs, taking the pen from his hand, "Okay, so your classes start tomorrow, assuming another giant monster doesn't stomp through the city."
He nods, standing up. She does, as well, smoothing out her skirt.
"A pleasure meeting you, Mr. Ikari. Welcome to Tokyo-3."
She extends his hand. He shakes it, smiling, before shuffling out. Filing the papers, arranging them and popping open the scanner next to her desk, she smirks.
Well, at least he was honest. She doesn't mind that he wasn't flirting with her. That that she would mind if he did...
The doors to the mausoleum open. He glances over, doesn't turn off the screens.
"So, with Aoi, I think you've officially slept with every woman at NERV save for Rei and Maya," Misato says, walks across the office and standing in front of the desk, "Rei because, well, she's pretty much your daughter, but I'm not sure about why you haven't gotten your charms to work on Maya, yet."
"Not for lack of effort on my part," Gendo responds, attention turning to the screen with Rei as the class ends and she exits, "It is a puzzle."
"You are aware Maya doesn't bat for your team."
"I've seduced lesbians before," Gendo responds, "Sub Commander, increase surveillance on Horaki. I think Shinji might be interested in her, and if he is it could cause friction between him and Suzuhara. Has Project E returned results on the Angel autopsy?"
"They said they'd have major results by tomorrow, but everything's in line with your theory," Misato says, and sighs, "Seriously, Commander. Is there a reason you've made it your calling to get as much tail as possible?"
"You didn't complain when you slept with me."
"Yes, but we were also completely hammered," Misato says, folding her arms, "You're easily the most eccentric commanding officer I've had."
"Very generous," Gendo says, zooming in on the screen for Shinji, "Shinji thinks I'm fucking insane."
The lights turn red. Alarms blare.
"All systems alert! Angel detected!"
"Great," Misato deadpans, "Makoto! Status!"
"Early warning satellite systems have detected an Angel," Hyuga Makoto's voice booms over the speakers, Gendo rising from his desk, "MAGI has calculated trajectory!"
"ETA to time of arrival in NERV?" Gendo asks, pushing his glasses up his nose.
"Commander, the MAGI predicts the Angel is not heading towards NERV! It's heading towards Bethany Island!"
Rei showed up first. No one knew how she managed to get from the campus to Central Dogma that fast, but it was presumed there was an access port to the Geofront on the campus. Nonetheless, she is the first on the bridge, standing behind the glasses wearing operations Lieutenant as the Big Screen turns to status, pixelating as the multiple satellite angles home in on the descending object.
"Odd," Rei says.
"The Angel," Rei explains, "The Angel is not the one we were expecting. It seems...off, somehow. Can we get a clearer picture?"
Makoto nods, hands tapping on the keyboard as Misato enters, the platform rising with Ikari at his seat.
"Send a message to Bethany Island," Misato says, "Prepare for a full evacuation. Have Pilot Sohryu prepped and ready for combat in 05."
"Message sent," the long haired lieutenant at the far left of the bridge chimes off, "Satellites have transmitted clear image of the Angel! Putting on screen!"
The screen flashes. A clear image of the Angel appears. Silence hangs over the bridge for a long moment, as the crew takes in the dimensions of the approaching creature.
They turn to Rei. A grimace is on her face, rare for her. If they knew the Angels as she does, they would know why. They would know that the creature approaching Bethany is a being of terrible wrath and power, not slated to appear well into the Angel attacks, or Trials as it is known to her.
They would know that the creature enroute is a being of mass destruction and devastation, a force of nature and power with no peer, even amongst the Angels.
They would know that a base in the middle of the Black Sea, equipped for research and containment, would be completely at this creature's mercy.
"Rei," Misato says, hand on her shoulder, "What is that? Do you know what the Angel is?"
The image sits on the screen. Black tendrils fall from a main body, like the wings of a great Angel of Death. Its form is like a falling leaf, a mass of wings, a Seraphim in its glory descending to the Earth.
Its eyes are recessed deep into the face, a great metal grimace set upon the mound that is the head. The dimensions reading off of the visual analysis tell them it is one and a half times the size of an Evangelion. That the power readings are high, even for an S2 organ.
That this thing dwarfs the Third Angel in terms of power.
"It is the Angel of Might," Rei says, "It is named Zeruel. NERV-Bethany is completely, and utterly, screwed."