Standard Disclaimer: I do not own Neon Genesis Evangelion. That would be Hideaki Anno and GAINAX.
Author's Note: So. How do I explain this?
Well, for those who've been following my updates, I'm on a bit of an Evangelion kick thanks to Nobody Dies. It's to the point where I've boughft the box set of the entire original anime. Meanwhile, on the SpaceBattles Creative Writing forum, I've been following the dedicated update thread to Gregg's story (writing various omakes, as you've probably noticed). In the course of this, I made a note of how, long ago (as a young lad when Pokemon was first popular in America, during the era of Red/Blue), I caught notice of Dark Horse advertisements for the Evangelion manga on the back of a Pokemon comic. It featured the iconic image of Shinji Ikari, Rei Ayanami, and Asuka Langley Sohryu standing side-by-side, with Unit-01's face looming in the background.
The image codified my perception of their personalities, thinking of it as a standard, if popular, Giant Robot anime. Shinji as the Goku-esque Determinator, Rei as the snarky and icy-cold Drill Sergeant McNasty, and Asuka as the innocent, happy-go-lucky comic relief.
Imagine my shock when I saw the anime years later. Waaaay off.
But the idea intrigued various people. I posted a snippet. It caught attention.
And now I can't get the idea out of my head.
/September 15, 2015/
/Test Chamber AGTT, NERV-1, Tokyo-3, Japan/
"Initiate activation system, Phase Two!"
"Pilot link-up initiated. Synapse inserted, nerve junctions connected!"
"All circuits are online; all nerve links check out normal!"
"Preparing for 3rd stage connection; nearing absolute borderline!"
The calm, periodic beeping suddenly transformed into a roaring klaxon. The orderly build-up of lights and sound reversed in a chaotic fashion, inciting panic.
"IMPULSES ARE FLOWING BACKWARDS!"
The sound of wrenching metal.
"WE HAVE REJECTION OF THE CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM!"
"The emergency shut-down signal's been ignored! UNIT-00'S MOVING ON ITS OWN!"
Professor Gendo Ikari resisted the urge to call the tech an idiot. He could see the Evangelion moving just fine, thank you very much.
A crash of male and female voices echoed through the monitoring station around him, the pale halogen lights contrasting with the flashing yellows, reds, and greens of the equipment. Through the reinforced safety glass, the same shade of orange as his glasses, he could see the equally-orange Unit-00 breaking free of its restraints.
An animalistic roar echoed through the white test chamber, the Evangelion gripping its head as if stricken by a migraine.
To be fair though, given the exact mechanical, biological, and metaphysical processes occurring, he couldn't blame the titanic weapon of war.
Hydraulics and timed explosives propelled the power plug from the Evangelion's back, whereupon it crashed onto the floor.
The beast still moved.
"Thirty seconds of battery power remaining!"
"It's gone berserk! Get away from the windows!"
As if in response to what little time it had left, the Evangelion smashed its fist into the reinforced glass. Simultaneously, a long white cylinder rocketed out of the back of the Evangelion's neck, rockets slamming into the corner where it futilely tried to escape. Unmindful of this, the orange giant continued to attack.
"The Entry Plug has been jettisoned!"
"The Evangelion's still moving!"
The titan's red eye seemed to focus on everyone in the room.
The techs and scientists backed away; Gendo remained stalwart.
Until he stepped aside, right as the metallic fist crashed into the monitoring station. Unit-00's roars were painfully loud, Gendo casually noted. "Rather feisty, aren't you?"
Suddenly, the titan retreated, hands clutching its head before it began to ram the wall repeatedly. The cyclops's eye began to fracture as it continued to headbutt the wall, over and over and over and OVER-
"Ibuki! Start the bakelite suppression system!"
"Ibuki, get me a preliminary diagnostic of the First Child's condition!"
Red streams of synthetic polymer guzzled out of the walls, encasing the mad beast in a rapidly-solidifying plastic.
Then, in a sudden fit of silence, Unit-00 stopped.
Gendo Ikari quietly looked out the window at the cylinder sitting listlessly on the floor. "What's the pilot's condition?"
"Shaken up, sir; we've got some simple fractures on the left side, but she seems to be conscious otherwise."
Without saying another word, Gendo reached into the folds of his cloak and pulled out what looked like a large pistol of sorts, save for the presence of a reel containing yards of a polymer-based tether and a metallic plate was attached to the barrel. With the pull of the trigger, it shot the plate out at high speed towards the ceiling, tether trailing behind. A loud clunk echoed through the air as it clung to the metal tile.
Gendo calmly swung out the window, his weight causing the tether to lengthen. As he lowered himself to the floor, he took note of the sounds emanating from the Entry Plug. It sounded akin to…frustrated pounding.
With a simple flip of a switch (where the safety lock would normally be, by the trigger), the plate demagnetized and fell, right as Gendo's feet touched the ground. Holding the Mag-Gun above his head, the Professor calmly let the tether reel the plate in with an audible snap and click before advancing towards the cylinder.
BANG. BANG. BANG.
A white-clad foot kicked the door open. Sounds of muffled grunting could be heard as the pilot gingerly extracted herself from the Entry Plug. Clothed in a skintight bodysuit of white, the girl ignored the streams of orange fluid in her blue hair before quietly standing up, heavily favoring her left leg. The girl's red eyes, calm and cool – despite the growls of pain that rumbled through her throat – focused immediately on the Professor.
Then she saluted. "Sir! Apologies for the failed activation, sir!"
"…" Gendo sighed, his eyes hidden by his orange shades. "It's not your fault. We didn't anticipate Unit-00's…visceral reaction." He brought a hand up to his ear, pressing a switch on a hidden earpiece. "Akagi."
"Get medical attention for the Sergeant."
"On it sir!"
Grunting (and sounding rather irritated), Gendo looked down at Rei. Still standing, despite the obvious pain. "At ease."
"Yes sir!" Rei calmly lied down, letting her broken limbs splay out along the white floor. The smell of bakelite mixed with LCL, giving the air a pungent, industrial odor. "…permission to speak freely, sir?"
"Sir…the Third Angel is predicted to appear in less than two weeks."
"Reminding me of information I already know doesn't tell me what you want to know, Sergeant."
"Acknowledged sir, but…what if my body does not heal in time?"
"For now, you wait for medics. The situation is under control, as always." With that, Gendo turned on his heels, his navy blue cloak fluttering behind him as he walked towards the personnel door at the bottom of the test chamber. Looking back one last time at Unit-00's immobile form, he pressed his earpiece. "Fuyutsuki."
"…we have a situation."
"…have we lost control?"
"No. We have less than I'd like though."
"Is something wrong with the First Child?"
"She won't be able to pilot effectively in time for the Third Angel." As he spoke, Gendo entered the personnel door, setting foot into the small elevator that would return him to the monitoring station.
"Fortunately, I have a back-up plan."
"You've told me about your back-up plan. You've never wanted to use it."
"You were simply allowing an old student to indulge in some fantasy. In reality, he and I both knew that this day would come, when he would return to Tokyo-3."
"You just wish that the reunion would have been delayed."
"Forgive a man for wanting his son to enjoy his last days of peace."
A hearty laugh. "It always pleases me to hear you getting parental. Reminds me that you're still human."
"Just send the message. It should already be programmed with what I have to say."
"Yes sir, Professor."
Having said that, Gendo remained silent as he stared the clear windows of the elevator. As it ascended, his piercing eyes took in Rei Ayanami being attended to by a pair of medics. Looming behind her was Unit-00, the hardened bakelite making it seem like a dreaded behemoth imprisoned against its will.
How true that was. "Well Yui…it seems like we'll be seeing our son sooner than I thought."
(Cue A Cruel Angel's Thesis)
Ultra Sonic 007 presents…
(The image of three Evangelions – one blue, one violet, one red – appears in the background)
A Dreaming Landsman-K9 Production...
(In front of each Evangelion, respectfully, is a stern, frowning Rei Ayanami, a determined, stalwart Shinji Ikari, and a grinning, skipping Asuka Langley Sohryu)
MOBILE FIGHTER EVANGELION
Evangelion: The NORMAL Giant Robot Anime…
(The Pilots and the Evangelions flash and vanished, replaced by the Giant of Light before everything dims to black…)
Episode 1: Reunion
/September 20, 2015/
/Shores of Sagami Bay, Japan/
Sweltering. To anyone who had lived in Japan during the 20th century, they would have complained about another hot summer day.
Now, thanks to Second Impact, no one could make the distinction between one day or another. Every day was just as hot as the last.
People had gotten used to it. Just as Japan had gotten used to the idea of the original Tokyo being a submerged ruin, courtesy of a nuclear bomb on this date fifteen years ago. They had gotten used to the idea of having an active military, defending their territorial waters and stabilizing chaotic situations throughout the regions of Asia and Oceania. They had gotten used to the idea of the United Nations, following the Impact Wars, exerting greater control over the affairs of the world's nations.
However, they had not gotten used to the idea of seeing a massive military mobilization on their homeland itself.
The Japanese Strategic Self-Defense Force. The largest branch of the Japanese military under the command of the Defense Ministry, the JSSDF was capable of engaging in high-risk combat scenarios. They ranked among the elite military units of the world, and almost all of its members had gone on tours of duty during the Impact Wars. Hardened, capable, and deadly.
Right now, a contingent of tanks and Heavy Fighter Jet-VTOLs were facing the shimmering blue sea, awaiting the monstrosity that sonar indicated was on its way here. The 7th Air Wing, hosted out of the Edo Memorial Air Base (located at the new shoreline where the Ibaraki Airport used to be), hovered in position. Armed with a combination of air-to-ground and air-to-air missiles (because, really, why take chances?), well over one-hundred-and-fifty HFJ-VTOLs awaited the Angel. Stationed along the various road ways by the sea were lines of tanks, staggered in two rows so as to enable for evasive maneuvering. Stationary artillery cannons and mobile rocket platforms were all on standby.
This didn't even begin to cover the defenses of Tokyo-3; this was just the first line.
Silently, patiently, they waited.
The blue skies, mirrored by the glittering ocean water, belied the slaughter that was about to occur.
The titan emerged from the deep, its form shrouded by a geyser.
/Operations Deck, NERV-1, Tokyo-3/
Various holograms seemed to hover in the air, presenting a detailed and real-time (for the most part; satellites were scarcer than they were prior to the Impact Wars, so their usage was heavily regulated by the United Nations) look at the battlefield. Approximately six miles of fortified land sat between Tokyo-3 and the expected point of contact. It went without saying that much of the JSSDF brass was eager to stop it before it got to Tokyo-3.
A fool's dare.
Gendo couldn't help but wonder if the various generals and admirals sitting above him ever tired of cleaning their relatively superfluous medals. Their presence here was, to be frank, a distraction; conventional weapons wouldn't do a thing to an Angel.
Yet they still tried. "I will offer you one last chance, gentlemen. Cede control of this operation to NERV, and you can leave us to our duty."
A slight widening of the nostrils, shifting of the shoulders, narrowed eyes…they were visibly frustrated by the shot at their pride. Understandable; all of them had served with honor and conviction during the Impact Wars. Needless to say, they were quite galled by the perceived slight against the JSSDF. "And we will not cede control of this operation unless ordered so by either the Defense Minister or the Prime Minister. Only then; until that happens, this is an SSDF operation." An elderly man – eyes holding no small measure of contempt for the civilian that dared to bark so loudly – scowled, the angry look offsetting the pristine green of his uniform. "We'd rather trust that which has proven itself in battle instead of an experimental toy."
Yes, quite galled indeed.
However, that they dared to think they could sit upon their pedestals and cast a condescending eye upon NERV (upon his work, HIS territory) was in itself rather galling. "Very well then. I was under the impression that veterans of the Impact Wars had misgivings about casually throwing away soldiers' lives. I suppose even I can make mistakes."
The angry mutterings and scornful glares did little to appease Gendo. He simply turned around, facing the images being broadcast from the shores at the sea. The cool air of the Operations Deck was rife with tension, especially given the energy readings coming from the Angel that was now approaching the mainland.
Alas, he already knew the ending to this story; if it were an actual book for sale, he would've parted with it for free. Perhaps a single Yen, at best. "Fuyutsuki, I'll be seeing to more important things. Contact me when these 'gentlemen' acquiesce."
"Of course Professor," remarked NERV's Sub-Director.
Gendo calmly departed the Operations Deck, heading towards the chambers containing Evangelion Unit-01. It wasn't long before he could hear shouts of indignation and disbelief by the JSSDF officers behind him; apparently, their first line of tanks had already been vaporized. However, he had more important things to ponder.
For one thing, what was he going to do when he saw his son? And how dramatic would he have to be?
Hmm. Perhaps I'll check on the Sergeant first.
/Nagano-Hakone Line, Outskirts of Tokyo-3/
"A national emergency has been declared in the Kanto and Chūbu Regions as of 12:30 PM. All citizens are to remain at their designated shelter until the emergency has been lifted."
And I'm the only one who's actually trying to get closer.
Ironic. The high-speed rail, designed and invented to ferry thousands upon thousands people at once and as fast as possible across Japan, held only one passenger, one who didn't mind if the train took a little bit longer reaching his destination.
No, no, that wouldn't quite be the literal meaning of irony; he could imagine his Aunt Alicia lecturing him now on why it was important to have clarity and focus in one's choice of words. She had been a good teacher; a bit overzealous, sure, but good nonetheless. Then Uncle Tomoe, self-described champion of common sense, would harp on Alicia for hanging on to the literal meaning of irony when everyone else understood what he meant. His aunt and uncle would then get into a protracted argument that his cousin Annette would describe as 'entirely silly' before dragging him outside to go scavenger hunting with the neighbors and-
He shook his head, clearing away the fond memories. Look at me. I'm about to see my father again and I'm fantasizing about my old home. Then again, the only time he saw the man on a continual basis was whenever that day rolled around.
The day his mother had died.
"Seven years," muttered the boy, gazing outside the windows of the cabin. As the only passenger on the automated rail, he looked rather small. It didn't help that he seemed overdressed for the occasion; a light blue shirt was matched with a finely pressed navy blue suit, the latter of which clearly made for someone with a larger frame. Black leather shoes and a matching belt would have made him look sharp and distinctive, were it not for his somewhat lanky build. Brown hair – on the verge between a casual and a messy bowl cut – framed a rather feminine face.
Yes, Shinji Ikari had often been mistaken as a girl. Much to his irritation and the amusement of his cousin. Fortunately, if his father's old childhood pictures had been any indication, it wouldn't be long until he finally got some facial hair.
…am I really thinking about facial hair at a time like this? Shinji plopped back in the chair, groaning due to the futility of it all. His thoughts had been like this for the past few days, ever since he had gotten the message from his father.
At least his father was just as 'eccentric' as ever.
/September 16, 2015/
/Outskirts of Okayama-2/
One man's misfortune is another man's chance.
If one were cynical, one could call the household of Tomoe and Alicia Ikari a chance that had been the misfortune of thousands.
Following Second Impact, the regions of Chūgoku, Shikoku, and Kyūshū had taken a beating by three tsunamis and at least four earthquakes. Most of the survivors had retreated further inland, where the Japanese government had shored up their presence, thus ensuring some measure of safety from the societal breakdown that had gripped most of the world's nations. It wasn't until July of 2004 that the government had stabilized enough to reassert control over the entirety of the Japanese mainland.
Tomoe Ikari, smelling a good bargain in real estate, had moved his family from a cluttered Tokyo-2 to the open regions outside of what had once been Okayama (now Okayama-1 under the standard nomenclature). The climate had already been quite warm prior to Impact, so the climactic changes that had gripped Japan were simply more of the same for denizens of Okayama-2. There had even been enough land to maintain some white peach trees and grape vines, near the mountainous regions north of Okayama-1. Add in the booming industry of scuba tours – the coastal portions of Okayama-1 were completely submerged after an earthquake had split the city in twain – and Okayama-2 was a relatively wonderful place to be.
Which was why Gendo had entrusted his in-laws to the care of his son.
At least Annette had had a playmate to boss around.
"Come on, Shinji-kun! We're losing daylight here!"
"You could HELP more," groaned Shinji as he tried to pull a wagon laden with rusted junk, broken antiques, and waterlogged knick-knacks. The dirt road that led towards Okayama-1 was not conducive to the large red wagon, but the main roads were still too busy. All in all, it was just another afternoon in the ruins of a world before Impact. "Aunt Alicia's getting tired of all the stuff piling up in the shed."
Annette sighed in a theatrical manner, annoyed by the implication that her collection was nothing but junk. "It's history! They're the remains of what life was like Pre-Impact, and I for one am not going to throw it away."
"She didn't say anything about throwing it away though."
"The intent's obvious."
"It's a girl thing. You wouldn't understand."
"I've lived with you and Aunt Alicia for the last seven years. I think I know at least a little."
Annette actually laughed at that. Her laughter could get surprisingly deep for someone with such a thin build, but beneath the features inherited by her Caucasian mother, the blonde had a rough and gruff approach to life that her father had made his trademark. Given what Uncle Tomoe looked like, that was no surprise (honestly, Shinji was STILL surprised that his cousin wasn't taller, given how much of a giant Tomoe was). "Silly silly boy, you'll never understand women. No man has EVER understood women, nor shall they!"
In a manner that would make Tomoe Ikari proud, Shinji just rolled his eyes, used to his cousin's boisterous acting. Being the best actress in the school's theater club would do that to a girl. "Whatever."
"Mah, you're so boring," muttered Annette. "Ah well…" She laced her hands behind her head, fingers fiddling with her ponytail as thoughts turned to dinner. "So Shinji-kun…what do you think mom's making for dinner?" There was still a good kilometer to go until they reached their home, and the sun was already calling it a day. Soon the stars would take their shift. "I hope she doesn't make nattō…I'd prefer sashimi, wouldn't you?"
Annette turned around, seeing that Shinji had stopped. Something in the sky had caught his attention: a bright white star.
A star that was…getting closer?
The projectile roared overhead, slamming into ground amidst a thicket of trees. The collision kicked up dust and sound, the shockwave causing their ribs to quiver. A brief moment of terror gripped them, wondering if another war had decided to come knocking.
Moments passed, and nothing but silence answered their fear.
"…what was that?"
"…I don't know…let's find out!"
The two of them quietly snuck off of the dirt path, following the trench that the apparent meteorite had made. "I wonder if we can somehow drag it to the house…"
"…that's the one thing you're wondering about?"
Annette shot Shinji a dirty look. "No sense of fantasy? No sense of adventure? No sense of daring-do?"
"…adventure's fine if you're properly prepared. I mean, would you jump off a bridge without a bungee cord? Or a cliff without a parachute?"
"Shut up Shinji-kun," grumbled Annette as they finally reached the fallen projectile. The possibilities of what it could be were narrowed immediately by the spherical perfection of the object. "…a probe? A satellite? AWESOME."
The dust settled more, and another feature became visible: a red leaf.
Shinji's eyes widened. He'd recognize that logo anywhere. "NERV?"
"Vocal profile recognized: Ikari, Shinji," chirped the sphere, causing both children to jump. The voice was bubbly and cheerful, like that of a prepubescent girl. Or Annette when she had first tried drama as a ten-year-old. "You are the recipient of an automated message from NERV. Since potentially-classified material is contained in this message, the medium of suborbital rail gun was used for delivery, to prevent possible interception by unwanted parties."
Shinji and Annette stared. "…sub…orbital…rail gun?" The blonde turned towards her cousin. "Did I hear that right?"
"Yes you did."
"…is this your father's doing?"
"Probably." He actually wasn't surprised; this seemed to be fairly standard for his father. "I think the main reason he did it like this was so he could get my attention."
"If damage to person or property was dealt by this message receptacle, the appropriate form for filing a damages claim to NERV can be found in the compartment labeled 'A' beneath the projector."
"…have I bothered to tell you that your dad's insane?"
"No, but Uncle Tomoe tells me that enough for the two of you, so you're covered."
The orb cracked open in a seamless manner, revealing a lens that emitted a blue light. The projected hologram took on a familiar form that Annette boggled at. "Shinji…is that-?"
"Father…" Shinji was honestly aghast at the sight of the blue-tinted image of his father, clad in his familiar cloak and shades. The image brought back both fond and painful memories.
"The time has come for us to fulfill our promises to each other." The image flickered, replaced by that of a long-haired woman in a jacket and a short dress suit that went down to her thighs. On her head was a beret, and a cross dangled from her necklace. "This is Lieutenant Colonel Misato Katsuragi. She will be the one to pick you up upon your arrival to Tokyo-3. Open Compartment 'B'."
Shinji immediately did so, seeing a number of paper forms inside, along with twenty thousand yen and a NERV badge. A badge with his photo on it, surprisingly. "…huh…?" Didn't I have this photo taken at the amusement park three months ago?
The image of Misato flickered back to that of Gendo's. "Follow the instructions on the paper forms and you should make it to Tokyo-3 with little difficulty." The man paused, as if hesitant. "I look forward to seeing you in person."
"…father…" Shinji looked at the materials in his hands, mind numb with disbelief. Seven years.
Seven years since he had been left here by his father. Seven years of peace. Seven years with a loving and supportive family.
The anticipation of seeing his father again was almost overwhelmed by the anxiety of the inevitable meeting and what this message entailed for him. I'm going back…so it's finally happening.
The Angels were coming.
"Before you leave…" continued Gendo, as if remembering something. "Tell Alicia and Tomoe that I said thank you."
"You know, for a crazy person, he's actually kind of considerate," remarked Annette, feeling a little better despite the impromptu message from the heavens. True, she had seen the man a few times, but only whenever he made his annual visit to whisk Shinji away to Tokyo-3 for a few days. Given everything her dad had had to say about the man, she'd expected someone a little more…insane.
"Because of my gratitude for their hard work, I'm giving you a head start."
Shinji and Annette blinked.
"Personally, I've always felt that Tomoe's yard could use a crater. I feel that they add…character. He could tell the neighbors that Third Impact happened on his property, but was beaten back by his bare hands. Everyone will be awed. Men will bow before him and women will flock to him. The sheer jealousy that Alicia will feel will prompt her to give him the romantic night to end all romantic nights."
Shinji and Annette blinked some more.
"So really, I'm doing him a favor."
Shinji sighed as Annette's eye twitched. NOW her dad's complaints made sense.
"You have thirty seconds. Good luck."
The image of Gendo was replaced with a hologram of a timer set to thirty.
Shinji and Annette stared.
The only other sound that could be heard when the pod exploded was that of Annette cursing Gendo Ikari as the shockwave sent the two cousins tumbling.
Well, at least he hasn't changed, thought Shinji as he tried to pry Annette out of the ground.
That could only be a good thing, right?
…hopefully. Uncle Tomoe had NOT been of the same opinion, unsurprisingly.
"Now arriving at Tokyo-3 Station."
Shinji fidgeted in his seat, realizing that the train was about to stop. This is it. The young teenager quietly got out of his seat, his trepidation increasing as quickly as the rail was slowing down. This is what you've been waiting for…
Yet, it had also been something he had dreaded. He had NO clue as to what exactly he was going to fight; only that they were of the same class of creatures as the one that had caused Second Impact. Going up against something like that…I'll have help though, rationalized the boy. An entire city's worth of defensive weaponry behind him, along with the genius and tactical assistance of NERV.
His father would be there.
I mustn't run away, I mustn't run away, I mustn't run away…
He thought of his mother's smiling face.
With that thought, Shinji stood just a little bit taller, those few centimeters making a world of difference as he looked resolutely at the doors.
I won't run away.
The doors opened, and Shinji stepped foot into Tokyo-3.
"GAH!" yelped Shinji, his somewhat-stirring growth in confidence taking a back seat to shock, surprise, and any other emotion that fell under 'What just happened?'
A blazing red motorcycle had screeched to a halt on the concrete platform. With a frame of sleek red polymer, glistening metal, and smooth curves, the bike was a man-made beast. The growling of the engine certainly gave off that impression.
It also complimented the biker's red jacket. She glanced at him over black shades, long purple hair framing a face that could pull off the ultimate 'come hither' look. "Shinji Ikari, I presume?"
"Er…yes…" The hologram he had seen in the message was practically identical. At least the image now had color. "Lieutenant Colonel Katsuragi?"
"Please, call me Misato!" The woman shifted forward on the black leather seat, a long, slender leg providing balance for the still vehicle. "Get behind me and hang on tight, okay?"
Shinji blinked in response to the order, still somewhat perplexed (and mesmerized, if you were to ask him for an honest opinion) by this downright beautiful woman's sudden appearance. "Um…okay…" Shinji carefully sat down on the seat, gingerly wrapping his arms around the Lieutenant Colonel's torso. "Like this?"
"Mm-hmm! You can feel me up if you want to."
Shinji recognized that playful tone. He had heard it time after time from Annette, and it meant only one thing: Katsuragi was deliberately trying to get a rise out of him. He could have resisted. Could have being the operative phrase, given that Misato was as hot as a pistol, and none too shy about flaunting it. "Grk!"
Misato giggled as she revved the bike. "Ah, boys. So easy." The wheels screeched as she spun about, redirecting the motorcycle out of the Tokyo-3 Station. "So Shinji, I take it your trip here went smoothly?"
"Well, um…" Shinji gulped, trying to regain his composure. Thoughts of his uncle helped. "Uncle Tomoe was really upset by my father's message…at least, the way it got there." That was the understatement of the century. "But we all talked about it, and…well, I had to come. Then we took care of the transfer papers to the school here in Tokyo-3, I said goodbye to friends and acquaintances…and I left on Friday night."
"Two nights ago, huh?" Misato frowned as she veered onto the main highway, the city of Tokyo-3 looming in the background. "You sure got through the Tokyo-2 checkpoints pretty quickly."
"It was the NERV badge my father sent me."
"Well, that explains it."
"It doesn't explain how he got my picture for it."
"Doesn't he have photos of you?"
"It's a photo that was taken at Okayama Land three months ago."
"I'll just chalk it up to my father being…well, my father."
"That's pretty much how I get by." Misato tilted her head, briefly looking back at her passenger. Kind of smaller than I'd thought he'd be. Then again, she shouldn't judge a book by its cover; Professor Gendo Ikari, despite his…quirks…was the Supreme Commander of the world's only defense against the Angels. You couldn't get to that position without cunning, savvy, and a fair bit of deviousness. If this little guy's remotely like him, it's gonna get real interesting around here. "So, you know why you're here?"
"I'm here to pilot Evangelion Unit-01…to fight the Angels."
Misato frowned, resisting the urge to do a double-take. That the boy knew that much wasn't much of a surprise (after all, Professor Ikari would have to be a REAL bastard to not even give his own son an inkling of what to expect); rather, it was how casual he talked about it. "And you're…okay with this?"
Shinji resisted the urge to scratch the back of his head. "Well, I don't know exactly what I'm getting into, to be honest…" Old times and memories of halcyon days came to mind. "My father and I…we both made a promise to each other. That's all there is to it."
Sure, thought Misato, suspicion visible on her features. I wonder how much he actually knows about Project E? Not that she knew everything herself, but the kid's behavior was tamer than she had expected it to be.
The road suddenly began to vibrate. Moments later, it rumbled again. "Misato…did you feel that?"
"Well kid, if you know why you're here, you better get a good look at what you're about to fight." Misato brought the bike to a halt, staring at the nearby mountain range to the east. VTOLs could be seen hovering over the expanse, firing enough munitions to level Tokyo-1 all over again.
Their target calmly stepped beyond the mountains, as if oblivious to the missiles being fired at it.
It was humanoid in shape, yet bearing no characteristics that could be deemed 'human'. Its body was forest green in color, and easily over twenty stories tall. It had long, lanky arms that went past the knees, ending in three segmented talons. Spiky protrusions of bone could be seen all over its form, seeming to mimic ribs and shoulder blades. Thick carapaces of the same bone-colored material covered the hips and shoulders, as if it were armor. Singular lances protruded from the elbows, sharp enough to impale VTOLs (which they were doing, coincidentally). The face was a simple white mask with eyeholes; the only distinguishing feature was the sharp beak extending from the bottom, which gave off the impression of a bird's skull as a child would perceive it. However, the most eye-catching characteristic was the giant red orb lodged into the monster's sternum.
Shinji gaped at the sheer size of the behemoth. "That's…the Angel?"
"The Third Angel," remarked Misato, thoughts spinning as she tried to recall their current position. Only a few miles away from the nearest Geofront access junction…but we're between the Angel and Tokyo-3. "It's going to be coming our way."
Shinji didn't really have anything to say, given that he was still staring at the giant. So this was what his parents had prepared for: fighting monsters that seemed far more intimidating than Gojira could ever hope to be. "Er…shouldn't we be going now…?"
The Angel blinked owlishly at the VTOLs before turning towards the duo. The eyeholes on the face seemed to contract upon seeing them.
It was actually looking at them.
A yellow light seemed to emerge out of nowhere, illuminating the space about the Third Angel. With the faintest of motions, the titan leapt into the air, a strange moan warbling throughout the outskirts of Tokyo-3.
Misato twisted the handlebar, the bike's engine snarling as she drove towards the Angel.
"Misato, WRONG WAY!"
"Let me drive Shinji," growled Misato as the Third Angel got closer and closer-
The duo barely avoided the Angel's feet. The roadway crumbled under its weight, forcing Misato to weave back and forth to avoid the new pitfalls. Not to be deterred, the Angel aimed its palms at the ground.
With a high-pitched shriek, violet lances erupted from the Angel's palms, trying to impale Shinji and Misato.
"Gah, MISATO!" Shinji's eyes darted back and forth between the lances, feeling as though lightning was trying to strike them. One mishap and they would be pulverized. Though, to be honest, Misato's absolutely insane driving was almost as bad. "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?"
"Keeping us alive." Misato immediately veered to the right, ducking into an alleyway.
Less than a second later, the Angel's lances impacted the foundations of the buildings on both sides, causing them to crumble inwards. Shinji screamed as the alleyway began to collapse.
Misato quickly pressed a blue button by the acceleration handle, prompting an injection of nitrous oxide into the intake valve.
Misato and Shinji shot out of the alleyway like a bullet, barely avoiding being crushed by the collapsing buildings. However, the sheer speed meant that, even with countersteering, Misato couldn't turn too quickly without wiping out. She was slowly curving towards the nearest building, prompting Shinji to scream for dear life.
Misato only smirked as her left thumb hovered over a red button. "Hang on tight and lean forward!" She pressed it.
The frame of the motorcycle, situated over the front wheel, suddenly opened up to reveal a pair of small thrusters that extended to the sides by two feet each. Misato twisted the right handlebar, manipulating the axle that the thrusters were situated on until they were aiming towards the ground.
Shinji, meanwhile, couldn't help but stare at the looming wall. "MISATO?"
She pressed the red button again.
With a furious howl, the thrusters ignited, lifting the front of the motorcycle into the air. At that precise moment, Misato leaned to the left, allowing the front wheel to come in contact with the side of the wall. With uncanny precision, the Lieutenant Colonel twisted the right handlebar just as the back wheel came into contact with the wall, causing the thrusters to press the wheels AGAINST the building's rock-hard surface. As she was doing this, she pressed the blue button again with her left hand, injecting more N2O into the engine.
The combination of these factors – sufficient thrust to press the bike against the building, leaning forward to reduce air resistance, and enough speed to propel the bike forward despite gravity and friction – was what enabled Misato Katsuragi to figuratively and literally drive Shinji up a wall.
The young boy couldn't help but boggle as the motorcycle neared the edge of the building's side. At the moment, they were over fifteen stories high. "Oh crap oh crap oh crap oh crap oh crap oh crap oh crap oh CRAAAAA-!"
Misato held the red button down, causing the thrusters to disengage and recede. Right as the bike went airborne, she pressed a yellow button that sat underneath the blue and red ones.
From the compartment behind the leather seat, twin rods extended above their heads, each one expanding out by ten yards. Instantaneously, rigid wings comprised of a durable red polymer splayed out, catching the wind and enabling them to glide.
Shinji was understandably bewildered. I'm gliding. On a motorcycle.
The Third Angel, meanwhile, was once again beset by the JSSDF, its attention now on the artillery cannons peppering it from the south. With its former targets no longer within sight, it focused on the immediate threat (if the JSSDF could even be called a 'threat').
Shinji, heart pounding like a jackhammer, quietly looked at the Third Angel's shrinking form as it waded into the JSSDF's defensive lines. Then he looked at the large wings that had suddenly sprouted out of the back of the motorcycle. Then he gazed down at the ground, idly noting that they were slowly descending.
Then he turned towards Misato. "…did you have this bike custom-made?"
"Yep!" Misato flashed Shinji a happy grin. "She's a beauty, isn't she?"
"…sure, yeah…" And now I know why my dad hired you, dryly thought Shinji, dreading the idea of NERV being populated by people just as crazy as his father or the Lieutenant Colonel. "Can we get back on the ground now?"
"Sure thing, Shinji, we're almost…there…" Misato's voice died off, her jaw going slack as if she had seen something horrible.
Confused, Shinji turned his head, noticing that the VTOLs were retreating from the Angel as it neared the artillery cannons, disappearing beyond the mountain range. "Why are they leaving…?"
"No…they're using an N2 mine!" Misato swiftly pried handgrips out from a compartment beneath the handlebars. With a push of the left grip and a pull of the right, the wings promptly tilted, causing them to turn towards the nearest evacuated building.
"Uh…Misato, what are you-?"
Shinji wisely shut up when Misato pulled an Uzi out of her jacket.
Nine millimeter rounds shattered the glass window on the sixth floor, revealing an opening into an office complex. With a press of the yellow button, the wings on Misato's bike began to recede, prompting an immediate downward acceleration. Granted, it didn't matter, because they had been gliding towards the seventh floor anyway. As Shinji's stomach nearly dropped out, the motorcycle fell through the opening to the sixth floor, the wings just fitting through as they came to a stop amongst a row of empty cubicles. The motorcycle's engine calmed to a quiet purr, barely audible over Shinji's panicked breathing.
"Alright! Timed it perfectly!" exclaimed Misato with a grin.
"Yeah…perfect timing…" groaned Shinji, wearily leaning back against the seat.
That's when the building rumbled, computers and papers falling over. The rest of the glass behind them shattered; even though they were on the wrong side of the building to see the blast of the N2 mine, the ambient light from the explosion was still visible. The shockwave from the blast roiled through the air, knocking out windows and tossing cars as far as the eye could see. Fortunately, Tokyo-3 proper was still several miles away, and was untouched by the blast.
Not that Shinji knew that; at the moment, he was busy performing some cost-benefit analysis in his head. He quickly concluded that piloting the Evangelion to fight the Third Angel couldn't possibly be as harrowing as Misato's driving.
"Well Shinji-kun, we're in the clear! Let's hurry up and get you to NERV!" After an affectionate pat of her red warhorse, Misato revved the engine and slowly drove through the building.
After everything that had just occurred, driving down the emergency stairwell to get to the first floor was downright anticlimactic.
Shinji did not mind at all.
/Medical Ward, NERV-1, Tokyo-3/
"Lieutenant Colonel Katsuragi has just arrived with the Third Child."
"We've also received official confirmation from the Defense Ministry that the SSDF is relieved of command. The operation is now under NERV's total control."
"Also excellent. What's the status of the Third Angel?"
"The N2 mine managed to slow it down, but it's already regenerating from the damage. The MAGI are predicting it'll be fully healed within the hour."
"Most excellent. Make sure the defensive armaments are set to the Delta configuration."
Sergeant Rei Ayanami watched quietly as the Professor removed his hand from the ear piece. The room was spotless and without blemish, befitting a high-quality medical facility. She was not one to complain, but the presence of white – on the tiles, on the walls, on the ceiling, on the medical equipment, on the curtains – seemed a bit excessive even to her. Professor Ikari's predominately navy blue uniform stood out like a sore thumb by comparison. "Were the SSDF able to damage the Third Angel?"
Gendo quietly stood up from his chair, shaking his head as he did. "No damage that was permanent, or even meaningful." All the better for NERV. "Fortunately, the Third Child has just arrived. I'll be going to greet him now."
"Understood sir," answered Rei as the Professor departed, leaving her alone in the sterile room. The medical diagnosis she had received following the failed Activation Experiment had been relatively pleasant: on her left side, she had suffered closed fractures in the radius, ulna, femur, tibia, and ribs seven through ten. Rounding it off was some substantial bruising on the torso. On the surface, it seemed quite serious.
She would be able to pilot within a few weeks.
Still, that would put the onus of humanity's survival on an untested Pilot: the Third Child. Shinji Ikari, the Professor's only child.
Hmm. Is he capable?
Curiosity was an odd creature, being one that didn't show up often for the young teenager. However, when it did, Sergeant Ayanami had a habit of becoming incredibly obstinate. As a result, it wasn't entirely unexpected when the young girl decided to call the medical staff.
One press of the call button and a few seconds later, a feminine voice crackled over the speakers. "Can we help you Sergeant?"
"Bring me my crutches."
"…why? You're not cleared to leave your room, and we haven't received word from Professor Ikari, Dr. Fuyutsuki, Dr. Akagi, or-"
"I will see to it that you and your entire department are selected for Lieutenant Colonel Katsuragi's Obstacle Course when the next review period begins." Her cool and nigh-emotionless tone made the threat doubly serious. Then again, ANY threat involving Misato Katsuragi tended to be serious.
The nurse's response was a foregone conclusion. "…I'll be right down."
/Tram Line 7, Geofront, Tokyo-3/
Shinji Ikari never tired of seeing the Geofront.
As a young child, he had marveled at how 'the buildings float in the sky!' As he had grown, his perceptions had changed; he had gone from asking how they had moved a whole city underground to simply enjoying the scenery for its own sake. At the moment, artificial sunlight was gleaming down from massive lamps, casting the entire Geofront in a sunset it couldn't experience. The civilian portions of Tokyo-3 were hanging from the ceiling, a marvel of engineering. Tram lines snaked along the edge of the spherical cavern, eventually trailing away and converging en route towards NERV headquarters. Amidst the large lake and temperate forest was a sprawling facility, its focal point the large, almost translucent pyramid that seemed to merge seamlessly with an identically-shaped indent into the ground. The reflective surface of NERV 's primary complex caught Shinji's gaze, as it always had.
Back here again…
Soon. He would see his father soon.
"So, you've actually been down in the Geofront before?"
Shinji turned towards Misato, regarding her inquisitive gaze with a nod. "I mean, I told you that I know about Unit-01."
"But have you seen it?"
The motorized platform they stood on suddenly entered the primary tram junction, which was situated in the tall administrative complex that stood nearby the pyramid. The warm glow of the faux-sunset was replaced by the harsh light and cool, synthetic environment of NERV-1.
It certainly fit the sudden shift in the mood. "Yes. I have."
Misato was, to be frank, surprised. Given the secrecy involved in running NERV – in particular with regards to the Evangelions themselves – she was surprised that Professor Ikari had actually let a child see so much (that Shinji was his son was beside the point). "…huh."
"You sound surprised."
"Your father goes to great lengths to keep anything related to NERV classified."
"Well…it was kind of unavoidable for me." Shinji felt a brief twinge. A titan of purple; a brown-haired woman's vacant stare; a clenched fist holding him in the air. "Besides, if I'm going to fight the Angels, it kind of helps to know how I'm going to do it."
Misato nodded, acknowledging the boy's point. "True that. We'd have to be real jackasses to just put you on the spot with no warning."
The tram slowed to a stop, the particular platform locking into place as the gateway opened up into a large corridor tinted with shades of green and gray. Red arrows pointed in both directions, offering guidance to newcomers. Unfortunately, none of them were pointing in the direction Misato wanted to go to. Well this is just great. She pulled a white parchment out of her jacket; it was a map of a particular subsection of NERV-1. Not that Misato was up to the task of reading the gibberish her friend called kanji. Seriously Ritsuko, how hard is it to write directions?
Shinji took off to the left.
…okay, now he apparently feels adventurous. "It's a bad idea to go exploring; this place is EASY to get lost in." She had personal experience with this matter.
"Don't worry Misato. I know the way." Shinji continued walking.
Perplexed, Misato took off after the boy, slowing her pace as she caught up. "Really?"
Shinji only nodded. He couldn't forget even if he tried.
Sure enough, it only took several minutes for Shinji to arrive at an elevator, Misato right behind him. It had taken a few turns through NERV's labyrinthine structure, plus a trip down an escalator, but Shinji had gotten them to a place Misato recognized. Guess he really has been here. "Good for you Shinji!"
Shinji wordlessly pressed a combination of buttons, signaling the location he wanted the multi-directional elevator to take him. With an electronic hum, the elevator began to descend.
The anxiety was becoming oppressive. The sheer tension was visible in the rigidity of his stance; Misato could spot it from a mile away. "You're gonna grow old if you don't loosen up. Just relax and take it easy!"
Shinji was not particularly receptive. His nerves were simply too on edge. Soon. Soon.
The elevator came to a halt, signaling that someone was about to get on.
Needless to say, Shinji's unease once more took a backseat to bewilderment as another woman abruptly dropped in. However, this time it was a woman wearing a white lab coat over a blue wetsuit, her hair obviously dyed blonde. The bangs still dripped with red fluid, which only drew more attention to what could only be described as a cybernetic monocle fixed over her right eye. That being said, Shinji, pubescent teen that he was, noted that she was also quite pretty.
He would've complimented her on her looks, had she not been busy ranting at an invisible person.
"No, I was just IN the coolant pool."
As the elevator door closed, Shinji calmly edged away from the blonde. Misato simply smiled, as if getting an old joke.
"You know very well that the mixture needs to be regularly filtered of contaminants!" The blonde blinked before snarling. "No, this is not the time to test out a new variant…I don't CARE if it's more efficient by volume, it doesn't mesh well with the current mix! We have an operation that's about to begin, and I'd rather we save the experimentation for a more opportune time." Her left eye – which Shinji could now see was dull green in color, like moss – suddenly narrowed. "Repeat that." Seconds later, she growled. "I'm well aware of the condition my lab is in. But I'm not in there, am I?"
Moments passed. Shinji had backed up as far as he could without breaking out of the elevator. Misato was still smiling.
The woman suddenly shifted to the side, her whole body shuddering as she yelled, "Stop telling me to DO things! Or I WILL do them! And then…" Her face split open in a smirk that most would call deranged. "THEN, we shall discover who will regret it more! AAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!"
The woman noticeably calmed down as she pressed a button inside her wireless earpiece. "How bothersome."
"MAGI-00 giving you a hard time?" joked Misato, eyes twinkling with delight.
"Don't get me started Misato," droned the woman, her eyes falling upon a rather frightened boy. "Ah, so this is the Third Child?" She nonchalantly held her hand out. "Greetings. I'm Dr. Ritsuko Akagi, current head of Project E."
"And since I know you're going to ask eventually, no, I am not bipolar."
Shinji felt like weeping. Why father? Why do you hire people like this?
Ritsuko promptly ignored Shinji's cringing form. "So Misato, your opinion?"
"Well, he's actually aware of Unit 01…I'm not aware of any actual piloting experience though."
The doctor snorted as the elevator came to a halt. "Of course not, we'd have records on that sort of thing if he had. We're operating with a blank slate here, so I can only operate off of your opinion."
The Lieutenant Colonel rolled her eyes, used to her friend's eccentricities. "Let's see then. Well, the report from Marduk seemed to be optimistic about his chances…oh, and I kinda put him through the ringer on the way here." Misato scratched the back of her head as Shinji twitched, the reflexive action nearly making him fall over. "I can't wait till you view the surveillance logs!"
"Splendid, superb." Dr. Akagi briefly reviewed a few new digital files via the apparatus over her right eye. "Well, the Type-B equipment has been fully implemented, though we won't know its effectiveness until we have a live combat test…" The doctor began muttering to herself, as though conducting a debate concerning the various ways Unit-01 could go haywire. It was at that point that she noticed Shinji walking ahead. "Hm?"
"He seems to know the way," remarked Misato as she followed him. The overall tint of the room was a violet red, due to the presence of the massive tank of coolant situated to the side. An escalator stretched up towards another terminal. "Anyway, I think the little guy has what it takes!" Besides, they didn't have a choice either way, given Rei's injuries.
Dr. Akagi hummed thoughtfully, bringing a hand up to her earpiece. "Ibuki…regarding Unit-01's activation: what are the probabilities being reported by the MAGI?" A pause. "There's a chance it could work?" Another pause, followed by widening eyes. "Repeat that?" A lot of blinking. "HOW many zeroes?" Ritsuko promptly turned towards Misato. "FOOL! It'll NEVER work!"
"Since when have the MAGI been right about anything?" Before Ritsuko could go on a rant, Misato added, "About me."
Ritsuko's silence said it all. The MAGI had all concluded various times that Misato's very existence was a statistical impossibility. Her 'driving' feats had been analyzed and deemed physically impossible.
Misato counted it as a victory.
Shinji ignored the banter of the two women behind him, his eyes focused mostly on the tank of coolant. Through its transparent walls, he could make out the murky outline of an arm. There it is.
The escalator came to an end; Shinji calmly stepped toward the nearest door, swiping his NERV ID badge through the adjacent card reader. That the door opened was no surprise.
After all, he could remember his father doing the same thing many times.
This is it.
Without waiting for Misato or Dr. Akagi, the boy calmly stepped into the breach.
/Outskirts of Tokyo-3/
The entity that humanity had dubbed 'the Third Angel' gazed upon the mass of metal and rock that was known as Tokyo-3. Senses extended, seeing and perceiving on levels beyond those of any organism on Earth.
Unfortunately, it was experiencing an approximation to what humans called 'interference'. The contours upon which the essences of the universe circulated curved around a sphere underneath the city, unable to permeate it. Vague sparks of energy leaked through the sphere, imperceptible by the denizens of this world. Even so, the Third Angel knew that it was seeing what amounted to an incomplete picture; were the Angel whole, it would have undoubtedly seen the truth of what lied within.
That there was interference at all, however, indicated technology of its Creator and His Kind.
A voice rang out across the ether, unknowable to all save the Third Angel.
Ah, Sachiel. You have [awoken/risen/manifested].
The Third Angel paused. MY [NAME/TITLE/IDENTITY] IS [INDECIPHERABLE].
Humanity is incapable of pronouncing our true [name/title/identity]; Sachiel is the closest approximation that they have for [INDECIPHERABLE]. Likewise, the Lilim have christened their [Creator/Mother/Source], [INDECIPHERABLE], as LILITH.
I UNDERSTAND, [INDECIPHERABLE]. CAN YOU [PERCEIVE/FEEL/EXPERIENCE] WHAT I [PERCEIVE/FEEL/EXPERIENCE]?
Somewhat. My current form is rather limited in function.
IS [INDECIPHERABLE] HERE?
Yes. From what I have been able to ascertain, She has been locked away by the Lilim, deep within Her [vessel/home/shield], [INDECIPHERABLE]. They call it the Black Moon.
That certainly explained the 'interference'; the 'Black Moon' would undoubtedly avert the sight of one as incomplete as Sachiel. CAN SHE PROVIDE THE LOCATION OF OUR [CREATOR/FATHER/SOURCE]?
Of that I am certain. The Lilim have managed to hide Him quite well; She will undoubtedly have the answers we seek.
The Third Angel, Sachiel, audibly acknowledged his kin's words. To all others who heard it, the sound flowed like a river of a thousand whispers. I SHALL LOOSE HER BINDINGS AND OBTAIN THE ANSWERS WE SEEK.
The Lilim will try and stop you.
I am not sure. Their reasoning still eludes me.
The Third Angel suddenly noticed various shifts in the contours about him. Focusing on the local region of space-time, the Third Angel noted that nearby concentrations of energy were changing in form and structure; the Lilim were preparing to strike.
Sachiel's eyes glowed.
THEN I SHALL [BREAK/END/ANNIHILATE/SUNDER] ALL WHO STAND AGAINST ME.
Violet energy erupted from a missile battery in the form of a giant cross, brightening the twilight sky of Tokyo-3.
/Operations Deck, NERV-1, Tokyo-3/
"Sir! Missile Battery A-7 has been annihilated!"
Sub-Director Kozou Fuyutsuki scowled at the readout. Group A – mostly comprised of chemically-propelled projectile weapons – of the MAGI-controlled defenses were already attacking the Angel, to little effect other than gaining its attention. The Delta configuration was programmed to unleash its full potential only when an Evangelion was active in the field.
Unit-01 was still conspicuously absent.
Damn it Gendo, I know you have a taste for the theatric, but could you hurry it up with your son? Running a hand through his thick, combed-back hair of smoky gray, Fuyutsuki tried to think of a more fruitful way of keeping the Angel occupied. Hmm.
Inspiration hit. Somewhat-worrisome inspiration, but inspiration nonetheless. "No time like the present..."
The Sub-Director, clad in a neatly pressed brown uniform, was often the picture of sanity and stability around NERV. After all, Professor Ikari's eccentric nature was well-documented, as were those of Lieutenant Colonel Katsuragi and Dr. Akagi. Needless to say, it provided NERV's employees (and various governments around the world, for that matter) some measure of ease that there was a level-headed adult in NERV's command structure.
So when Fuyutsuki issued his next command, almost all of the bridge technicians blanched.
"I did not stutter, ladies and gentlemen."
"But, we haven't tested them in live combat before! Dr. Akagi only just recently concluded a successful synchronization test with the Primary Coordinator, but we have no clue how he'll perform! He hasn't even had any simulated combat exercises yet!"
"I have documented evidence from Lieutenant Colonel Katsuragi dictating otherwise, Lieutenant Hyuga."
"Sir, are we really counting arcades?"
"Your objections are duly noted Lieutenant, but we're out of options. Plus, given what I've seen in person, I have faith in his ability." Ignoring Lieutenant Hyuga's exasperated gasp, Fuyutsuki turned to a brown-haired woman sitting in front of the MAGI terminal. "Lieutenant Ibuki, is the system operational?"
"Yes sir! We're ready to go at any time."
Fuyutsuki smirked as he stepped forward, eyeing the one of the smaller monitors in the MAGI terminal. Blinking on the screen in red was the symbol 'P2'. Bringing a hand to his earpiece, the Sub-Director said, "Pen-Pen…are you ready?"
"I'll take that as a yes." Fuyutsuki gazed once more at the primary screen, eyeing the Third Angel as it destroyed a group of stationary mortars. "It's time to put Dr. Akagi's system to the test. If you will, Lieutenant Ibuki."
"Yes sir!" The woman quickly typed in the activation code. The 'P2' flashed green. "LAUNCHING GUNDAMS!"
/Lymph Node-A, NERV-1, Tokyo-3/
"BEHOLD! Mankind's ultimate fighting machine: the synthetic life-form, Evangelion Unit-01!"
Even though time passed and things changed, Shinji was grateful that some constants existed. One of them was his father.
The other was the visage of Evangelion Unit-01, still menacing after all these years.
The only part of the Evangelion that was visible was the head, clad in an indigo helmet fashioned after that of a samurai: two ridges spanned from the back of the head towards the front, fanning out and forming thick plates by the jaw. Protruding from the forehead was a similarly-colored horn that had a green ring about its base; thin and sharp, it looked perfectly capable of goring a battleship. The actual maw of the colossus was colored cornflower blue, the jaws shaped to form a monstrous scowl. That the head itself was over fifteen feet in diameter didn't help, adding to the impression that it would gobble you up at a moment's notice. The rest of Unit-01 was submerged under the red coolant, save for the massive shoulder pylons. However, even they were locked into place within specially-crafted slots in the wall; all in all, given the hydraulic arms that were fixed upon its shoulders, the Evangelion looked more like a sealed beast than a weapon of war.
Shinji wasn't thinking about any of that.
Nor was he paying attention to Dr. Akagi, who had launched into a boisterous speech espousing the scientific virtues ("Capable of generating, with a sufficiently high sync ratio, the metaphysical construct that can render an Angel vulnerable to conventional weapons!") and vices ("That we decided on bipeds is still vexing, but in the end, Square Cube SHALL BE VINDICATED! HAHAHAHAHA!") of the Evangelion.
Neither was he enjoying the show alongside Misato, who was also observing the orange-clad technicians scurrying about in the rafters about the chamber, finishing up on preliminary maintenance.
Instead, his focus was exclusively on the eyes of Unit-01, cream-colored shards amidst black metal, bearing blank pupils that seemed to be looking directly at him. As they always did.
No matter how many times he had seen Unit-01 face-to-face, she would always look at him.
Misato noted Shinji's intense stare. "You okay? I mean, I know it looks kind of freaky, but it won't bite." When Shinji didn't respond, the Lieutenant Colonel became worried. "Hey Ritsuko, I think he crashed."
Immediately falling out of her tirade, the female scientist tapped the side of her cybernetic monocle, turning away from Misato and towards Shinji. "Then allow me to press RESTART!" A bright red flash erupted from the monocle.
"GAH!" yelped Shinji as he faltered, nearly blinded by the flash. For some reason, the rapidly-disappearing spots floating across his vision were shaped like tacos and ears of corn. "What was that for?"
"To get your attention! We have no time for blue screens of death! That…can come LATER!"
Shinji stared incredulously at Misato, who simply mouthed 'roll with it!'
Dr. Akagi immediately calmed down, seemingly unaware of her idiosyncratic demeanor. "At any rate, we don't have much time." A few tremors shook the chamber, indicative of the battle taking place above. "We have to get Unit-01 moving."
"I know, it's just…" Shinji straightened up, looking back at Unit-01's face. "…it's just been a long time."
That voice. Shinji quickly looked up, eyes gazing upon a well-lit balcony. There was a cloaked figure, silhouetted by the light…but the voice was unmistakable. "…father…?"
At that moment, all of the lights in the room turned off, plummeting them into nigh-total darkness. "WAH! What the-? What happened to the lights?" yelped Shinji.
Moments later, they clicked back on.
"AH!" shrieked Shinji as he fell backwards, startled by the fact that his father was standing right in front of him. "Bu-bu-bu-what the, how…wha…?"
Gendo Ikari mentally smirked. Impression made. Mission accomplished!
Misato immediately stood at attention. "Hello Professor Ikari! I've escorted the Third Child as promised."
"Excellent work Katsuragi. I highly suggest that you head to the Operations Deck and take command of our defense systems. Likewise for you, Dr. Akagi; on the way down, I received word that Fuyutsuki had authorized use of the P2 System." Gendo's tone in no way resembled a 'suggestion'; this was a nicely-worded order.
Misato didn't care, quite frankly. "Awesome! Time to see my little guy in action!" The Lieutenant Colonel nonchalantly gave Shinji a vigorous pat on the back. "Good luck; see you up top!"
As Misato ran out of the chamber, Dr. Akagi followed as well, lips contorted into a haughty smirk. Ah, the P2 System. Time to see how the Angel copes with sheer, unadulterated GENIUS!
Shinji and Gendo were alone. Father and son. A mountain of baggage not of their own making. So to speak.
"It is…good to see you again, son."
Shinji calmly got to his feet, taking in his father's appearance. The uniform was the same as ever; navy blue khakis and jacket with golden buttons, overlaying a red turtleneck sweater. The cloak – likewise the same shade of blue – was draped over his shoulders, tied together by a golden chain. Polished black dress shoes gave him a hint of class, whereas the yellow trimming along the rim of the cloak called attention to the most defining characteristic of his uniform.
Save for the glasses, that is; tinted orange, they had a tendency of preventing one from seeing what Gendo Ikari was thinking. Combined with the brown hair that framed his face, distinctive eyebrows, and a sturdy facial structure, the impression one got from looking at the Supreme Commander of NERV was one of power and hidden danger.
That is, until he did something completely insane. Then you had no idea what to think.
Shinji couldn't help but marvel at how little the man had changed. "…still the same…"
"And yet much has changed," replied Gendo, looking at the various technicians scurrying around, trying to look as busy as possible for their boss. "I'm glad that you chose to come."
"Well…we both made a promise to each other, didn't we?" Memories of one last fateful meeting, where their destinies were set in stone. "We knew this day would come, didn't we?"
"Yes. I had hoped your days of peace would be longer…but mankind no longer has time. The Angels have returned to finish what they started."
Shinji thought of the beast that he had seen on the way to NERV. Tall, impervious, and frighteningly powerful. That it had survived the N2 Mine spoke volumes. "And I'm going to be the one to face it…"
"Can you handle it?"
That was the key question, wasn't it? All of his anxiety and nervousness came back with a roar, rooting him to the spot. The Angels: the ones responsible for Second Impact. On the other hand, there was Evangelion Unit-01. My mother's greatest invention…the sword that will defeat the Angels…and the shield that will protect humanity. He focused once more on Unit-01's eyes, which were staring directly at him. "…well…you always said that she made it with me in mind…isn't that right?" A light smile tugged at his lips. "Mother."
The Evangelion gave a small murmur of approval, which sounded like a dull roar echoing through the chamber.
"No," answered Gendo, already knowing the answer to Shinji's question. "We're no closer to retrieving her than we were last year."
Shinji nodded, feeling somewhat morose by the revelation. "I see…" He scratched the back of his head, trying to banish the awkwardness of the whole topic. The subject of his mother was, needless to say, extremely touchy.
Gendo turned his gaze to Unit-01, his shades and self-control hiding the deep longing he felt. "For now, we can only fight the Angels. Once this is all over…we will meet her again."
That would have to be enough for now. It was an odd thing, to be trusted with the fate of mankind, to be trusted to use the very weapon that had taken his mother's life. Yet, remnants of his mother remained, in the form of the pseudo-sapient consciousness of the Evangelion itself; she would always be beside him in battle. His father would always be here, alongside NERV.
He had accepted the reality of how things were years ago. Facing that reality now, however?
…I think I can handle it.
"Your advice is appreciated. Now leave me be."
Shinji and Gendo turned. An argument was slowly approaching from one of the corridors.
"Sergeant Ayanami, just hold on-!"
"Just let me see the new arrival."
"But your wounds will reopen and-!"
"I won't have any qualms reporting you for insubordination!"
Shinji blinked. Gendo arched an eyebrow out of curiosity.
That's when a girl walked out onto the catwalk, outpacing her exasperated medic. Her left side was bandaged heavily, her arm free only to grab the crutch that she used for assistance with her walking. Her right side was relatively unmarred; under the tan military fatigues was a white bodysuit of sorts...but what caught Shinji's attention were the blue hair and the red eye that was left uncovered. It was an exotic combination that he hadn't seen before, and it certainly didn't seem artificial in any way.
If he were asked, he would've said that she was quite pretty.
Judging by the stern glare, however, she wasn't that happy. She stood stoically in front of him, taking in his appearance with a single perceptive gaze. "...so you are the Professor's son." Her voice was cold, laced with casual scorn. Her disposition screamed 'I am superior to you'.
Shinji tried his hardest not to flinch. "Yes."
She calmly grabbed his chin, tilting his this way and about. She poked and prodded, examining his limbs with her free hand in a methodic and analytic fashion. All the while, she muttered words like 'scrawny', 'lack of sufficient musculature', and 'what was Marduk thinking? ' It was as though he were a slab of meat being haggled over at a market. Even in her cool, emotionally-bereft tone of voice, the whole process was somewhat denigrating. And rather annoying. "Miss, I'm-"
"YOU will be quiet," quietly snapped the blue-haired girl. "What experience have you had with the Evangelion? How many virtual simulations have you engaged in? How much combat training have you had personally?"
Shinji blinked at the sudden interrogation. "Well, I've known about Evangelion for a long time...but I've never actually been inside of it, but-"
"You must be joking." The girl shook her head, clearly in disbelief. She turned towards Gendo, who had been watching the scene in silence, a spectator to yet another comedy produced by NERV. "Professor Ikari sir, I MUST protest. We can't send out a pilot with no experience."
"You are too injured to pilot effectively. Ergo, Shinji will be the pilot."
Shinji impulsively recoiled at the sound of the air horn being blown in the girl's face. To her credit, she didn't even budge; she just utterly stopped, as if unplugged.
Gendo Ikari calmly placed the air horn back within the folds of his cloak. "Lesson #1 Shinji: to grab everyone's attention, you must be at least 40 decibels louder than everyone else in the room."
"Y...Yes sir," reflexively replied Shinji, too bewildered by what had just occurred.
Another blast from the Angel rocked Tokyo-3 above. The explosion's vibrations caused the overhead light fixtures to quiver. Moments later, the cables holding them up snapped under the tension.
Shinji impulsively pulled the blue-haired girl towards the ground, propping himself between her and the lights. Gendo did not move.
A flash of white light. The sound of wrenching metal. The reinforced halogens against something thick and unyielding.
Shinji opened an eye...and boggled. The arm of Unit-01, attached to broken cables and pipes, had blocked the lights. They had been mere feet away from crashing upon himself, the girl, and Gendo. "W-Whoa..." Mother…was that you?
One of the technicians yelped in shock. "T-T-The Eva activated itself! It broke out of the right arm restraint!"
A small smile flashed across Gendo's face. As expected...moving for his sake, hm?
The medic stared from afar, his jaw slack with shock. You didn't work at NERV long enough without knowing how certain things worked. What the Evangelion had just done was clearly impossible. "It...moved...without a pilot..."
"It seems that the Angel's begun to break through the armored layers." Hopefully the P2 System can keep it sufficiently occupied long enough to prepare Unit-01. Gendo calmly looked down at the girl, who looked none too happy at being impulsively 'protected' by Shinji. "Sergeant Ayanami: this boy will be the Pilot. Understood?"
Shinji looked down at the now-named Ayanami; the girl said nothing as she quietly separated herself from him. Standing up with a fair bit of difficulty, the blue-haired girl looked down at him with disapproval…and, oddly enough, some measure of curiosity. "Sir. Yes sir." With crutch in hand, she quietly walked back towards the medic.
Shinji stared at her as she stoically walked away, confused and honestly bewildered (this was getting to be a pattern with the woman of NERV, he briefly noted) by Ayanami's reaction to his mere presence. That was…odd.
Did their first meeting have to end like this?
The girl stopped. "That's SERGEANT Ayanami." She looked back at Shinji, who – despite being on the ground – looked at her with resolve that she did not expect. "What is it?"
Shinji inhaled. "I...knew what was awaiting me here. I've known for a long time that coming back here meant I'd have to fight!" Shinji willed up his determination. He had acknowledged this for years; despite his fear, despite his misgivings regarding Unit-01, despite the pain that would undoubtedly be waiting for him…he had no choice but to move forward.
There was no other way. "I didn't come just to run away! So don't worry!"
Ayanami stared impassively.
Then she kept on walking, seemingly unimpressed. "Speeches won't defeat the Angel." Once again in the company of the medic, the Sergeant left the chamber.
Shinji exhaled, feeling exhausted after everything that had happened…and he hadn't even gotten into the Evangelion yet. I won't run away...I won't run away...I won't-
A hand gloved in white came into his field of vision.
Shinji gazed up at Gendo, who was looking down at him with a small smile on his face. "Are you ready to help save the world?"
He had survived a first encounter with the Third Angel. He had survived Misato Katsuragi's driving. He had survived the bipolar (NOTHING would convince him that she wasn't bipolar, nothing!) Ritsuko Akagi and a chilly Sergeant Ayanami.
He had been saved from certain death by the machine of war that now housed what little remained of his mother.
Yet, in spite of all that, it was that single statement that helped steel Shinji's spine. Even if he had no choice but to go forward into the unknown, it was so much easier to do so with someone by his side. "Yes," answered Shinji without hesitation, his face sporting an equally sheepish smile. "I'm ready."
Without hesitation, he clutched his father's hand.
To be continued…
Episode 2: CRASH COURSE (Angel Attack)
Author's Note: Well, an actually productive output. I'm excited!
For those of you wondering why Shinji seems so…'accepting' of what's happening and why Gendo is so loopy, and why Shinji KNOWS ABOUT HIS MOM…just wait until the flashback chapters. Also, although this is not a formal Gundam crossover...some weapons and suits might appear. Don't expect anything in the way of characters, events, or places.
The concept of Alicia/Annette/Tomoe Ikari belong to Gregg Landsman; I'm just appropriating them.
It's called a 'Dreaming Landsman-K9 Production' due to the influences of Gregg Landsman and the assistance of SpaceBattles forumers AmIADream and K9TheFirst in terms of story ideas.
Now...let's see how far we can go with this.
See you soon, and please review!