This World of Ours...
Shaun awakened to the sight of an unfamiliar ceiling. Unpleasant smells filled his nostril: the stench of disease and death and decaying flesh broke through the smothering antiseptic sprayed every few hours. He wrinkled his nose and tried to think of something else, but could only return his mind to the Entry Capsule of the Evangelion, and so laid, body and mind, in the hospital ward of NERVE headquarters.
He was dressed only in a simple hospital gown, so somewhere along the way someone must have undressed him. For some reason that thought made him uncomfortable and embarrassed. The bed was far beneath the quality he was accustomed to, being the son of a lord, but he was so exhausted from the fight with Sachiel that he was glad to have a bed at all to lie in. Daylight streamed in through the curtains that covered the only window. He suspected it was artificial sunlight generated in the Geofront and not the real light from the sun. That made it difficult to know what time it was since no chronometer was present in his room.
Shaun laid there for several hours, nibbled on the tray of food left on the table beside his bed, and eventually got dressed. No one came to check on him during the whole time, so guessed there were orders to let him be. Just like father, he thought mildly and began pacing the sterile-white room.
When he could stand it no longer, he left. He passed a handful of nurses and orderlies in the hallway, but was otherwise alone. After a few minutes of wandering the corridors, he became lost. Every new hall looked exactly the same as the one before. The large identification painted on the wall might have been in German for all he could understand it.
Shaun shoved his hands into his pockets irritably and felt something. He produced a piece of folded paper from his pocket - one he was sure hadn't been there the previous night. Upon opening it, he found it to be a map of NERVE. Quickly he located his location and began to trace a path outward from there. His eyes stopped like a fly in amber when he was the designation CAGE 7.
That's where Eva is.
The Eva was just as Shaun remembered it from his last visit here. The walkway was roughly level with the Eva's head; the span of the walkway was about equal to that of the Eva's shoulder width. Leaning over the rail, Shaun could see the torso, arms, and legs of the Eva extend down to the base of the cage. Although he didn't experience vertigo from heights, the sheer size of the automaton made his head spin. Humans made this, a machine that dwarfed cities and could defeat advanced alien societies single-handedly.
Shaun sat against the far rail, pulled his legs to his chest, and studied Evangelion Unit-01. Lifeless eyes and the lack of a visible mouth created the illusion of a completely mechanical automaton, but Shaun knew that was false. He had been inside Eva. He knew it was alive beneath that bronze and brass armor.
"But that's impossible," he whispered to himself. "Machines can't be alive. It was just my imagination." Alive or not, it felt alive when he fought the Angel; it unsettled Shaun to know (or think) that the machine he piloted might have a mind of its own.
Lord Gendo stepped cautiously onto the walkway where his son sat, feeling the structure shake slightly under his feet. He adjusted his monocle and continued on. "There you are, Shaun," he said. "No one was sure where you'd gone off to." As he approached – again cautiously – he noticed his son studying the Eva. Misreading the situation, he said, "Marvelous isn't it?"
Shaun shrugged his shoulder just so.
"You know, the Eva's revolver is actually a modified artillery cannon; the design is basically the same, and very little modification was necessary to let it become a giant handgun. When we asked the engineers to do it, thought, the thought we were crazy." He laughed nervously. "I suppose it's a good thing they listened to us, eh?"
Shaun responded by burying his head farther into his knees.
"You did a good thing, Shaun," Lord Gendo tried desperately. "You defeated the Angel and saved the city. You should be proud; I am."
Shaun said something but it was muffled.
"I said I don't think I can do it again." Shaun lifted his head up, still staring at the Eva. "Piloting it, I mean. I can't do it again."
"What? Why not?"
"Because!" He let that word hang between them long enough to make his father shift nervously. "I don't…think I can control it. When I was fighting with it…I don't like to fight, father, but when I was in the Eva, that didn't matter. I did want to fight. I wanted to kill the Angel, even thought I knew I didn't like fighting."
Lord Gendo feared mental contamination of his son by the Eva, but quickly dismissed it because if that were so, Shaun would not be expressing such reluctance to pilot the Eva now. If it were true, he would be chomping at the bit to be back in the pilot seat, to fight something – anything. Thankful for that, he still had to convince his son to return to the Entry Capsule the next time there was an Angel attack – and there would be more.
"Look, Shaun," Lord Gendo began, but his son cut him off.
"Remember when you asked me if I was in control?"
When the Eva went berserk, Lord Gendo remembered. "Yes. You answered that you were."
"Well, I lied. Or I think I did. I'm not sure now, but at the time I thought I was in control because I could get it to move the way I wanted it to, even though it was out of fuel. Now, though, I'm not sure who was in control. It responded more to my thoughts than my controls, and even then I can't be sure that they were even my thoughts; like I said, I don't normally like fighting."
Lord Gendo sighed and dropped wont to his son's level. "I think it was the heat of the moment, Shaun. If you hadn't fought, Sachiel would have killed you. Even those who dislike fighting will defend themselves in threatened."
"Maybe." Shaun seemed to relax at the admission.
Lord Gendo placed a hand on Shaun's shoulder. "Son, I hate to ask this of you, but I need you to keep piloting Unit-01. There are going to be more Angels, and also the Germans to defend against."
"Dad – "
"You might not like it, but London-III needs you. All of England needs you. And besides, you won't be alone, not for long at least. Once the other pilot has recovered, she'll be out there fighting alongside you."
"Okay," Shaun said after what seemed like an eternity of silence. "I'll do it, I'll defend the city in the Eva."
"Thank you, Shaun," Lord Gendo sighed. "I'm sorry but it has to be you; you're the only one who can pilot Unit-01." He glanced up at Unit-01, but quickly turned away; the memories were too painful. "Would you like to meet her?"
"Who?" Shuan looked up at his father in a way that reminded Lord Gendo of when he was just a child, before the Martians came.
But he still is just a child, he reminded himself.
"Meet who, father?"
"The other pilot."
Rachel Adams slumbered beneath a thin hospital sheet in a room much like the one Shaun had awoken in. Her forehead was wrapped in bandages and one eye was covered by gauze. Nothing was bloody, but Shaun suspected that was because her wrappings had been changed recently. Her breathing was labored, as thought each time she inhaled, she caused herself pain.
"What happened to her?" Shaun asked in a whisper.
"She was injured in the latest German attack on London-III, only a short two weeks ago." Lord Gendo explained. "Rachel was our only pilot at the time, so we sent her out. She performed beautifully, just like she'd been trained to do, but the Germans… She repelled the attack, but she and Unit-00 were severely damaged in the process."
Rachel turned in her sleep, revealing a bandaged arm in a sling beneath the sheets. Her breathing quickened and became more painful; to Shaun it appeared as though she were having a nightmare. His father calmly stroked her faded blond hair until she quieted and returned to a peaceful sleep.
"What did this?" Shaun asked finally. "What kind of weapon has the power to damage an Eva this much? Even fighting the Angel, I didn't receive this much damage."
Perhaps, Lord Gendo thought, but Rachel doesn't have the luxury of activating a berserker mode if all of her Eva's fuel is consumed.
"Shaun, you know how Unit-00 was used by the British in the war?"
"Well, it wasn't the only one there was, it was simply the only unit owned by the crown."
"Father, what are you – what do you mean?"
Lord Gendo inhaled deeply before continuing. "When the Martians arrived, Britain and Germany were already locked in a war of dominance over Europe, had been for years. When the aliens came, we had to reluctantly unite to face this new threat – or there wouldn't be a Europe to conquer afterward.
"So we, Germany, America, and Russia fought the Martians' tripods with everything we had. At first we managed to stall their advance; entire nations became battlefields. It was…horrible. And then they initiated Second Impact by launching a meteorite at the South Pole."
"Why the South Pole," Shaun asked. "Wouldn't it have made more sense to hit one of us, one of their enemies?"
"Perhaps, but they weren't simply invading for the hell of it, son; they wanted a world to live on after it was over. Hitting Antarctica was a demonstration of their power intended to frighten us into submission. But they didn't count on good old human determination and ingenuity, Shaun.
"Myself and handful of other stole some of the Martians' technology, a good bit of which is in use here in NERVE. Most importantly was the manipulation of life-threads to create artificial life. You see, at that point, we had the capacity to built giant fighting robots, much like the Evangelions, except that's what we got: giant automatons. You know how flimsy they are, Shaun: a good whack and it breaks apart.
"That's where the life-threads came in. A large automaton with biological components would be both more durable and more flexible in combat."
"So why hadn't the Martians used that technology for themselves?"
"You know, that's a very good question. Rheetsko and the others working here refuse to answer the question. My guess? They simply hadn't thought of it, and are embarrassed to admit it.
"In any case, Shaun, we created Evangelion Unit-00 to combat the tripods. But so did the Germans. They were part of the team that stole the technology, and so possessed the capacity to make Evas. They made two in the space of our one, but each of theirs was of significantly lesser quality to ours; they rushed it. Both were destroyed in combat, but even so, they pushed the tide of the war in to humanity's favor. Without them, though the Crown hates to admit it, we would not have succeeded.
"Now, for you original question, Shaun: Rachel was injured in combat with the latest German Evangelion Model, the Mark.06. Rachel defeated the German force, but the Mark.06's pilot defeated Rachel. Rather than finish her off, he retreated."
More Evangelions, Shaun thought miserably. "Am I going to have to fight this Eva pilot?"
"There is a distinct possibility, son," Gendo said softly.
Instead of dwelling on it, Shaun moved on. "What was the original war between Britain and Germany about?"
Lord Gendo shrugged. "Honestly? I have no idea. I don't think anyone truly remembers what we're fighting for anymore. More or a less over land and influence, from what I gather. This war has been going on so long; it has almost gone beyond the point of reason. This is just simply Act 2, with the invasion having been the intermission."
"Can't they find someone else to attack?" Shaun asked bitterly.
"Not likely. Most of Europe is theirs anyway, with France only just holding onto their independence, thanks to Napoleon's campaign at the beginning of this century. America exists a whole ocean away and is staunchly neutral, and Russia is, well, Russia."
Shaun gave him a curious look. "What do you mean?"
"Ever looked at a map, Shaun? Russia is huge. Imagine trying to invade a country of that size."
"That's true. All they'd have to do is move into Siberia and no one would ever reach them."
"And," Lord Gendo went on, "They'd eventually get stuck in a Russian Winter." He shivered. "Russian winters are brutal. Any army caught in one would be ruined and forced to retreat. Russia is like one giant shield."
"You'd have to be stupid to try it," Shaun said. "Stupid or arrogant." They lapsed into silence and he found himself watching Rachel sleep. Somehow she reminded him of his mother, the French scientist, Yvette.
"Father," he said slowly. "When you said that the Evas were partly biological, does that mean that - ?"
"No, Shaun. The Evas are not alive." He answered quickly and shot his son a hard stare that marked the end of the discussion.
"Let's go, Shaun."
"School. I have to get you enrolled before you can attend."
Shaun made a face of disgust. "You mean I still have to go? I thought being an Eva pilot would get me out of having to go."
"No such luck, son. Even heroes need their schooling. You'll have a bit of leeway with projects and homework, since after school you'll be doing drills in the Eva down here, but you still need to attend." Lord Gendo stopped suddenly in his stride, realizing something. "You won't know anyone in school, will you?"
"No," Shaun said, shaking his head.
"Ah, I'm sorry, Shaun." He rubbed his eyes, letting his monocle drop and hang from its chain. "Promise me you'll make some friends."
"Okay. Sure, dad."
Lord Gendo watched his son walk ahead of him, lamenting at the lies he had had to tell him. Having practiced them so many times in the mirror, he had a hard time himself remembering which parts were true, and which were lies intended to maintain secrecy.
Please forgive me, Shaun.
"Class, we have a new student today," class 2-A's teacher, Mr. Jenkins said. He was an elderly looking man, wrinkled and stooped with glasses three inches thick. He still possessed a full head of hair, which would have been impressive, if it were not completely gray. "Shaun Gendo. Say hello."
"Hello," the class responded half-heartedly. Shaun smiled; nobody returned the gesture. With a sigh he took one of the empty seats in the centre of the room, not far back enough where he could mull around and escape notice, but not close enough where he would be forced to feign absolute attentiveness. He was right in the middle of everyone. And that's exactly how he felt as soon as his rump touched the seat. Everyone looked his way for a long moment before Mr. Jenkins began lecturing again.
Someone in NERVE must have leaked, he thought. They have to know I was the pilot of the automaton or else they wouldn't even notice me. I wonder if they're mad I destroyed part of the city?
He had every intention of listening to Mr. Jenkin's lecture about the war, but the old bag was so dull that he ended up leaning his head on one hand and staring out the window. It was such a nice day and it seemed a shame to waste it indoors. Since Second Impact, most days were nice and warm. The melting of the southern polar ice cap had altered the climate of the world – not too drastically beyond rising sea levels, but it did produce a nice warm climate nearly year-round for Great Britain.
That was something, at least, that the Martians could be thanked for. Winters now were short and mild. Shaun possessed only one or two memories of a real Earth winter, and they were awful. He enjoyed the warm climate. Many others though, scientists, ecologists, and religious organizations proclaimed it a horrendous blow to the world. The scientific viewpoint of it was that they had altered the Earth's natural balance and thrown the world into chaos – as though it weren't already. The religious stance was that Second Impact (as well as the Martians themselves) upset God's plan, and that by doing so, they had angered Him.
Maybe that's why He sent His Angels on us? Shaun joked morbidly. Come to think of it, what ARE the Angels? Why would NERVE name them after beings that are supposedly messengers of God? Shaun didn't buy into the whole religion thing, which made him something of an oddity in the British Empire. Him and his father.
Hm? During his musings, it seemed someone had slipped a not onto his desk. He glanced around for any sign of who it might be, but the class seemed to be experts at maintain a poker face. After checking to make sure he wouldn't be noticed by Mr. Jenkins – the old man was talking while facing the blackboard (Does he even know where he is?) – Shaun unfolded the note.
Are you the pilot of the automaton? Y/N?
Shaun sighed. They very fact that they even asked him probably meant that they already knew the answer. For such a secretive organization, NERVE's security appeared to have been breached rather easily by some kids. He briefly considered answering no, but didn't think it would do much good. It would only make them believe it more if he denied it, than if he owned up to it. Taking his pen, he circled Y, and wrote "Yes" underneath. No one seemed ready to pick up the message, so he folded it and placed it back on his desk. Soon his attention was once again captured by the outdoors.
"What?" Suddenly the whole class was standing up in their seats and staring at him with incredulous looks on their faces. In the space of a few minutes, one note had circumnavigated the classroom, a feat even Magellan would have envied.
At the front of the class, Mr. Jenkins continued to lecture, now staring out the window.
"Hey, new kid!"
Shaun had been bum-rushed by the students after class, each shouting a dozen questions, all of them about the automaton. A couple he could answer - What was it called? How big was it? What weapons did it carry? – but most of the others were either classified or he simply didn't know. It had taken fifteen minutes just to get from his desk to the front door.
"I told you," Shaun said without stopping. "I can't answer any more questions about the Evangelion." He thought he might leave him alone, but that fantasy was cut short by a hand spinning him violently around by the shoulder. It was a dark-haired boy who sounded like he was from America – Brooklyn, by his accent.
"That ain't why I'm here, kid. You say you're the pilot of that…thing what beat the Angel?"
"Uh, yes?" Hadn't he covered this a dozen timed before?
"Thought so." He gathered a fistful of Shaun's uniform and pulled him close. "You know I oughta knock you out right now."
"Why? What did I do?"
"Heh, what'd you do?" The boy cocked a grin and pulled back a fist, aimed directly at Thomas' face. He couldn't help but wince.
"Thomas! What are you doing?" Another boy ran up, this one sporting glasses and blond hair.
"Stay outta this Kenneth. This is between me and Shaun here."
"But I didn't do anything!"
"The hell you didn't! Because of you, my little sister is in the hospital! That's right," he added seeing the shocked look on Shaun's face. "While you were out screwing around, you stepped a house with my sister in it."
"Is…is she okay?"
"Don't pretend you care now, kid. It's too late for – "
"I was only trying to help," Shaun exclaimed. A fist slammed into the side of his face and he went down. Apparently satisfied, Thomas shoved his hands into his pockets and started away with Kenneth. "I did my best."
Thomas spun around. "What did you say?"
"I said I did my best." Shaun met Thomas's stare. "I'm sorry she got hurt, but she's alive, isn't she? Without me to fight the Angel, she would have died along with the rest of this city."
"Don't you say that!" Thomas charged, but Shaun was already on his feet and dodged the strike. Thomas lashed out blindly, a wild swing that Shaun, with his limited fighting skills, easily avoided. He landed a solid, but weak, strike on Thomas. The other boy stumbled back more out of shock, than pain.
Shaun was visibly shaking, but determined to stand his ground. "I don't like fighting, but I'm not going to let anyone push me around."
"Right then," Thomas remarked. He threw himself at Shaun, this time with more control. They sparred for a minute or two, Shaun managing to land a blow or two, but they didn't seem to make any difference. By contrast, he moved slower with every hit from Thomas. Finally, Thomas got him in the gut, and then again on the side of the head, sending him to the ground. Shaun tasted blood in his mouth.
"Your best wasn't enough to save my sister," Thomas growled before kicking Shaun in the stomach. As he stalked away, victorious, Kenneth leaned over.
"Sorry about him. He's just very protective of his sister." He didn't even offer to help Shaun up, he just dashed after Thomas.
Long after his wind had returned, and the bleeding stopped, Shaun lay in a heap. Even when trying to defend this city, I hurt people. Maybe my father was wrong. Maybe I can't do this.
"Shaun." Her voice made him jump. Rachel – still bandaged – stood over him. Her one good eye studied him with a cruel indifference. "We're needed back at NERVE."
"I don't know if I can," he whispered.
"I will help you then." She reached down to pull him up.
"No that's not – " It was too late, Rachal had pulled Shaun to his feet.
"Can you walk?"
With a sigh, he said, "Yes."
"Good. We are needed." She took off running.
They need me. They need me. He spit the blood out of his mouth and went after her, holding onto the thought that someone needed him.
A/N: Not nearly as long as the last one, I know, but that's how it goes. Gave you a bit of history concerning the world.
And to Tasermon's Partner: Yes. We thought making Mitsuko into a hideous monster was a good idea, too.
EDIT: We realized that this chapter was too short, and that adding the final two scenes to the next would 1. create an unbalanced set of chapters 2. not fit with the next chapter anyway. So, there toy go.