Andrew J. Talon
T + 3 Days
Shinji stood in front of the door to the apartment. In the distance the sounds of the city abounded. Car horns, police sirens, the occasional murmur of a VTOL in flight. In a way it was comforting to have his background be so familiar, in front of this foreign door.
Ikari, G. & S.
The nameplate was simple, but the light green frame around it was definitely out of the ordinary. It was shaped metal in the form of creeping vines, twisting in and out around each other in an elaborate, motionless dance. He looked back at the door, dark blue metal. No different from any other in this city, he supposed.
He lifted his hand, and hesitated a moment. He took another deep breath and pressed the doorbell button.
It opened, revealing a smiling Saeko. She wore a simple yellow blouse over a pair of jeans, and for a moment Shinji thought he was looking at an older Misato.
"Welcome Shinji," she said with a smile, stepping back to give him room to enter. "Come on in."
There was another time, another place in his mind as he lifted his foot and set it down past the threshold. The smile he gingerly returned was the same.
Saeko turned and walked to the right, heading into her home. Shinji followed after removing his shoes, his eyes widening slightly at the inside of the apartment where his father and m... Step-mother lived.
There was a TV built into the wall, with a disk player attached. It was sleek and modern and black. Flanking this television were two bookshelves. One was tall, stately, and dark cherry in color, packed to the gills with books on numerous subjects and a few stuffed toys. The other was black and boxy, with movies and a few random books sloppily arranged. A pair of love seats sat in the center of the room, with a small round table between them. Other than that, the room was bare.
The walls though were a different story. Picture frames covered almost every free bit of space available, and Shinji found himself trying to take in every single image he was presented with. Movie and concert posters from numerous decades and genres stood out. Photos from various locations with Saeko and Gendo and numerous people, recognizable and unrecognizable, were scattered about in between the large posters. Shinji took a few steps towards one photo in particular, and reached up to touch it.
Saeko and Gendo, with his much younger self between them at the beach. All with a smile on their faces.
"Not what you expected?" Saeko asked softly. Shinji flushed, and looked away.
"Um... Well..." He shook his head. Saeko laughed softly.
"It's all right..." She took hold of his shoulders and slowly guided him through the living room, to the door to the kitchen. "Gendo? He's here."
His father turned from the stove with a smile. "Hello Shinji." Pots bubbled on the stove, as the smell of beef cooking met Shinji's nose. He wore a bright yellow apron over a plain T-shirt and jeans. Shinji blinked several times.
"Hello Father," Shinji said. Gendo pulled on a pair of oven mitts that matched the apron, and opened the oven. Carefully, he pulled out a pan upon which numerous cooked meatballs sat. He put it on the counter, as Saeko moved to close the oven up for him and turn it off.
"Have you ever had Italian, Shinji?" Gendo asked.
"Er... No," Shinji said. Saeko rummaged around in one of the numerous cabinets that walled in the kitchen, producing a large pot. She set it down on the counter next to the meatballs and moved to take one of the bubbling pots off the heat and to a strainer sitting in the sink.
"It's fairly simple to prepare, so we have it a lot," Gendo explained. He looked over his shoulder. "Care to help?"
Shinji nodded, the tension in his body lowering. Under the direction of the two adults, he helped them combine the meat, the pasta, the vegetables and the sauce together. Once that was done, they carried the whole pot to the small table and set it down. Saeko poured the drinks and passed them out, while Shinji set the table.
At last, they all sat down in three of the four chairs around the circular dinner table. Gendo scooped out a large helping from the pot, and set it down on Shinji's plate. He did the same for Saeko and finally himself.
"Time to eat," Gendo said as he dug in with relish. Saeko did so as well, nearly matching Gendo forkful for forkful. Shinji stared for a few moments, before very slowly, he copied them. The food was warm and flavorful, and he found himself liking it immediately.
In silence the three ate, glances the only thing exchanged for several minutes. Shinji blinked and looked intently at his father.
"... Is something wrong?" Shinji asked.
"No," Gendo replied. Saeko smiled at him across the table.
Gendo gave Saeko an unreadable look. His wife shrugged, and looked back at Shinji.
"Is there?" She repeated.
Shinji looked back down at his plate for a moment, before looking up again.
"I guess... I just want to know... I mean..." Shinji slumped back in his chair. "I want to know what I should... Should talk about."
"What do you want to talk about?" Saeko asked. Shinji frowned.
"I'm not sure where to begin... There's a lot I'm still confused about, like SEELE. I mean... We're in a war with them, right? But I don't know why."
Gendo stared for a moment, looking almost incredulous, before he let out a small laugh. Shinji shrunk back a bit, but still fixed his father with a stubborn look.
"What's so funny?"
"Us," Gendo sighed. He scooped up some pasta and studied it intently, before turning his fork over and letting it fall back onto the plate. "We haven't told you the basics... We just assumed..."
"That you would find out on your own. That was probably unfair of us Shinji," Saeko said. "But we also wanted to give you a chance to get used to this world. And enjoy yourself."
Shinji immediately recalled the locker room incident, and flushed bright red. Gendo and Saeko both smiled knowingly.
"However, doing that left you in a bit of a bind, didn't it?" Saeko asked gently. Shinji nodded. Gendo sighed.
"Well, let's correct that," he said. He leaned forward on the table, and knit his fingers together into a maneuver Shinji recognized his own father doing. However, in this Gendo's case his face was bare.
"SEELE is a secret cabal of some of the most powerful men on this planet," Gendo began. "They've been around since the 1940s, and were centered on unlocking the secrets of the ancient Jewish Kabbalah school of thought. A huge part of this has been translating and deciphering the Dead Sea Scrolls."
"The what?" Shinji asked.
"The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of over nine hundred ancient Hebrew texts found in 1942," Gendo said. "Most of them consisted of older and lost books of the Bible. But, a large number of them were concerned with the true nature of God, Man, and the future." Gendo's hands rose to cover his face, and his eyes narrowed.
"Thanks to the scrolls, they were able to find out the origins of life on this planet. The First and Second Angels, codenamed Lillith and Adam."
"And Adam... Adam was at the South Pole, right?" Shinji asked. Gendo nodded. Shinji frowned. "So Adam... They woke Adam up by accident, and-"
"It was no accident," Gendo cut him off immediately. Shinji stopped short, and felt like the gee forces from an ascent up a launch rail were acting on him.
"It... No accident?"
"No," Saeko said softly. Shinji looked over at his stepmother. He hadn't focused any attention on her while his father talked, but now that he did he saw the smile was gone from her face. It was cold and stony, almost as bad as his father's. He turned his gaze back to his father, eyes on his hands as Gendo resumed speaking.
"SEELE's translations indicated that humanity could be returned to a primordial state through an Impact event." Gendo snorted, before resuming. "The only way to do this though would be to cause a Second Impact."
"You mean... They caused it? They..." Shinji trailed off, his eyes widening as horror rose up in his chest. Disconnected though he was from humanity, the act of killing off billions... He felt his stomach clench and his heartbeat increase.
"Yes," Gendo said quietly. "It allowed them to seize control in the chaos following the Impact Wars through the UN. To create NERV and the Evas."
"But... But why? How does creating Evas... Killing so many people... And the Angels, what about the Angels?" Shinji asked. He had a flurry of additional questions to rain on his father, but a raised hand made Shinji pause.
"I'm getting to that," Gendo said, sounding a bit annoyed. Shinji shrunk back. Saeko, seeing this, shot Gendo a look and rested her hand on his shoulder. The elder Ikari blinked, then resumed speaking in a gentler tone of voice. His hands also lowered, his face once again visible.
"Second Impact woke up the Angels, who would come in order according to the Dead Sea Scrolls. To join with Adam and start Third Impact. That part is true." Gendo took a deep breath. "However, NERV's job was not to prevent Third Impact. It was just to prevent the Angels from causing it. In the end... We would do it ourselves."
"But why? Why cause Third Impact?" Shinji asked. "Why kill all of humanity?"
Gendo sighed, and his face was covered by his hands again.
"It wouldn't kill us... Exactly," Gendo said. "What Third Impact would do would be to return us all to a... A primordial state. We would be one single entity, a sea of souls. There would be no war, no suffering, no conflict... It would be a New Eden free of sin."
Shinji found his fists clenching and unclenching, and was acutely aware of his loudly beating heart.
"So... So you're fighting to prevent that," Shinji said. Gendo nodded.
"Why would anyone fight for that though?" Shinji asked. Saeko squeezed Gendo's shoulder. Her husband looked over at her, and nodded. Saeko took a deep breath.
"They think... The nations that fight with SEELE think that wewill cause Third Impact. In addition, SEELE has offered something they call the 'Human Uplift Project'. In exchange for loyalty, people are transformed into human/Angel hybrids. They get an Angel's powers-Regeneration, immortality, and an AT Field usable as a weapon. All they have to do is fight for SEELE, allow them to take Tokyo-3, and they can live forever as demi-gods."
"Is... Is that possible?" Shinji asked.
Gendo's expression looked dark. "Yes... It is. We've done it ourselves."
Shinji looked back and forth between the two. A terrible suspicion arose in his mind, and he gave voice to it before he could stop himself.
Gendo nodded. Saeko raised a hand.
"Shinji... Rei is a hybrid. She's not a monster though, and in all the important ways, she's human. Please believe me."
"But why create her?" Shinji asked. Gendo shrugged.
"We needed pilots. Being half-Angel allows Rei to synch more easily with Evas without needing as much training."
"You are a special case," Gendo said. "Special because the soul of your Eva is your mother's."
Shinji's jaw dropped wide open, but he couldn't seem to find the will to close it up again.
"Then... Then when I'm... But she..."
"Shinji." Saeko rose from her seat and walked around the table. She sat next to Shinji in the empty chair and hugged him tightly. He found himself instinctively pushing himself into her embrace, finding comfort and unwilling to give it up.
Gendo sighed and looked at Saeko flatly. Saeko frowned and shrugged, while rubbing Shinji's back.
"This is another reason we didn't want to tell you all this," Saeko said softly. "There's just so much to go through... So much to explain..."
Shinji took deep calming breaths, and hugged his stepmother back tightly. He almost felt like he was drowning, fighting against the overwhelming emotions these revelations inspired. He felt his father's hands rest on his shoulders, and trembled.
He didn't know how long he stayed this way, wrapped in warmth and silence. Part of him never wanted to leave, to hide between these two people who acted like they loved him, who showed it...
To not look at the face of his father and be reminded of the man who treated him as a disposable weapon... A tool...
"He was using me... W-Wasn't he?" Shinji choked out. "To... To cause it."
His father's hands squeezed his shoulders. "Yes."
Shinji sniffled. "... My mother...?"
"She did it for you... Gave herself up to Unit 01 so you could fight SEELE," Gendo said firmly. Saeko's hands froze for a moment, then resumed rubbing Shinji's lower back. "It was the only way, Shinji... The only way to give you the power to save the world."
"No... I mean... In my world," he said softly.
"... She probably wanted Third Impact too," Gendo said softly. "Just under your control... Under our control."
Shinji sobbed, and finally looked up at the two. His eyes were red and he felt tears running down his cheeks.
"I... I can't go back... Please, don't make me go back," Shinji begged through a choked voice.
Gendo and Saeko remained silent. His father held his shoulders, while his stepmother continued to hold him, comfort him as he cried.
It could have been five minutes. It could have been hours. The feeling of all his fear and anger and desperation and horror draining through his sobs left him unable to care about the passage of time. All he knew was that eventually, he had nothing left to cry out, and his stepmother gently loosened their embrace so she could look at his tear streaked face.
"Shinji," Saeko said as she cupped Shinji's cheek. "Shinji..." Her eyes glittered with unshed tears, but she managed to speak in a level voice. "Shinji, you need to go back."
"Why? Why can't I stay? I-I'm Shinji too... I'm Shinji too! I'm your son!" Shinji said, tightening his grip on the back of his mother's shirt. He looked back at Gendo, standing silently behind him. "I'm your son...!"
Gendo closed his eyes, and then slowly reopened them. His entire body was stiff, as though forcing himself into place. "Shinji..."
"You can't send me back. Not after telling me all this! Not after... After..." He sniffled. "Everyone's been so kind... People like me. People... People love me here. They show it. They... They say it. I'm not just the pilot of the Eva, I'm Shinji." Shinji closed his eyes tightly. "I-I don't... I won't go. I can't go. You can't make me go."
"... You're right. I can't," Gendo said quietly.
Saeko took a few breaths, preparing and centering herself. Only then did she speak.
"But if we don't Shinji... Then the other Shinji... Our son will be trapped where you were. He doesn't know anything about your world. He is all alone there. He might do well for a while, as long as he doesn't step on any toes... But he will be found out." She stroked his cheek. "It's not his world, Shinji. It's yours. It needs youto save it."
"I can't save it... I can't save anything," Shinji said.
"That's not true," Gendo said. "You saved your world several times."
"Everyone else was-was involved! I never did anything alone, never by myself," Shinji sniffled.
"Of course it was a group effort, Shinji, but youare the only person who can pilot Unit 01," Saeko said firmly. "You are the key to the whole thing. Without you, everyone else's efforts are meaningless."
"Then why... Why can't he save them? Why can't he do anything? Why?" Shinji sobbed.
"... Because it's not his world... It's yours," Saeko said. "And if you don't go back, that world will die. Shinji..." Her face broke, and grief was etched across her face. "Shinji... I want my son back. We need our son back."
"It's not fair," Shinji mumbled helplessly. "It's not fair..."
"... No, it isn't," Gendo said softly.
"Yes Misato, he'll be spending the night here. Don't worry, he'll be in NERV tomorrow," Saeko spoke into the receiver. She nodded. "Right... Well, call for some take out at least. Pilots needing their stomachs pumped means pilots notin their Evas." She smiled and held the phone away from her ear as her daughter yelled vehement denials.
"Kidding, kidding... Okay then. Goodnight. I love you..." She hung up, and sat down on a kitchen chair with a loud sigh. Gendo sat across the table, his chin resting on his hands as his elbows supported it. The plates were all put away, the food leftovers in the fridge.
"... That went well," Gendo said quietly. Saeko sniffled, and looked at the far wall away from her husband.
"A nice family dinner, where we tell him that everything he knows is a lie and his father is a genocidal monster, and that he hasto go back," Saeko said. She looked down at her hands, resting in her lap. "It was stupid of me to think that I could soften the blow."
"We had to tell him somehow," Gendo pointed out. "And frankly, there wasn't any good way to do it."
"No... But doing it this way like a... A..." She closed her eyes. "Did you see how he lookedat me? I felt like I was watching him drown. Just watching him while I held a life preserver in my hands."
Gendo moved, the scrape of the chair across the floor warning enough. His strong arms wrapped around her, and she buried her face in his chest.
"It wasn't easy for me either," Gendo said.
"... Should we still do it?" Saeko asked. "I mean... Do we have the right to?"
"You shouldn't ask questions like that until you've decompressed," Gendo said, with a hint of admonishment. Saeko laughed softly.
"Psychiatrist, heal thyself..."
"Exactly," Gendo said. Saeko pulled her face away and looked at her husband's face.
"There's a problem with that though."
Saeko sighed. "After I decompress... Despite everything my training and my mind tells me... He is still going to be my son."
Gendo didn't say anything. He just held his wife more tightly, and rocked her gently as she slowly fell asleep. He then carried her to their bedroom, and laid her down on the bed where Shinji had also been put when he'd fallen asleep.
Gendo walked to the bathroom, and stared at himself in the mirror.
For the longest time he did nothing, just watched his reflection. Finally, as though seized with sudden purpose, he opened the cabinet and retrieved his razor and his shaving cream.
The water ran loudly in the bathroom, as Gendo rubbed the cream all over his beard. Eyes fixed on his reflection's eyes, he shaved, taking great swaths of hair from his face and rinsing it off his razor with an almost frantic energy.
He took hold of a towel. He wet it with warm water before shutting the tap off, and wiped his face vigorously. He slowly pulled it down, revealing his now clean shaven face. He ran his hands over his smooth cheeks and chin, studying the results. At last, he nodded to himself.
"Easy," he laughed in a slightly sardonic tone. He walked back into the bedroom, laid down next to his wife and son, and wrapped his arms around both. He closed his eyes and held them tightly, as both snuggled against him, and slowly he went to sleep as well.
"... According to the Macronesian Alliance's official Information Ministry, the military forces being deployed in the Arafura Sea are part of a training exercise. However, the sheer scale of the operation as well as the deployment of other Macronesian forces into Indonesian waters has Allied forces based there being put on alert. The American President released this statement: 'Given last month's unprovoked attack on Indonesian patrol vessels, I have authorized the NERV commander in Indonesia to take any measures necessary to safeguard the security of the Indonesian islands.' Media access to our own military bases has been cut off under Emergency Decree 15 issued by the Ministry of Defense as of twelve PM Tokyo standard time, suggesting that JSSDF units will also be participating in the operation but there has been no official confirmation of-"
"Turn if off," Asuka said. As Rei complied, Asuka shot an annoyed look at the now blank TV screen. She leaned back on the couch she sat on and sighed. Her gaze returned to the laptop sitting on her thighs with an equal look of annoyance.
"Getting angry about it will not help anything," Rei observed. She returned her attention to her book, looking quite relaxed.
"No, but it still annoys me," Asuka grumbled. "They're stripping our defenses off. Our defenses. Last I checked, nobody else is defending a Progenitor entity that could end the fucking worldif an Angel gets to it!"
"Indonesia does supply an enormous amount of resources to us for our war against the Angels and SEELE," Rei pointed out quite calmly. Asuka huffed.
"So? If we're taken down then it's game over!"
"So we don't lose," Rei said with an amused expression. Asuka sighed, before replying to her smile with a grin.
"That's always our strategy."
"It has not failed yet."
"True..." Asuka leaned back against the couch, and stared up at the ceiling with a sigh. Rei gave Asuka a concerned look.
"It is just dinner with his parents," Rei said gently.
"I know, I know, but it just... He's been so different," Asuka said with a shake of her head. "I can't help but be... Concerned."
A pair of hands slid down the top of the couch and found Asuka's breasts. They squeezed, making the redhead yelp. She reached up, grabbed her attacker's shoulders, and flipped her over onto her back.
"EEP! Oww... Isn't it cute how you continue on the path of the tsundere," Mari Illustrious Makinami teased, wearing a wince as she laid on the floor. Asuka looked back over the top of the couch and glared death at what she saw-Touji Suzuhara making a sandwich.
"What the-How the hell did you two get in here?"
"The window," Touji said around a mouthful of bread, mustard and meat.
"And whyare you here?" Asuka demanded. Touji swallowed and shrugged as Mari slowly got to her feet while rubbing the back of her head.
"Mari's got this thing about sex in multiple locations," Touji said bluntly. Asuka's jaw dropped as Mari giggled.
"WHAT? You can't have sex here!"
"There's no law against it~," Mari said singsong, as she skipped around the couch back to her boyfriend. Touji wrapped an arm around her waist and grinned.
"I don't ask questions," he said simply.
"Besides, Touji's off on a test flight tomorrow," Mari said with a pout, "and I have to leave for Indonesia in a few hours."
"So why not have sex in your home?" Asuka demanded.
"To see the look on your faces, of course." Mari said cheerfully, wrapping her arms around Touji's neck and jumping into his arms. "Tally ho, my wonderful stud."
"Tally ho," Touji smirked as he carried her off. Asuka stared blankly after the two, and shook her head. She looked over at Rei, who merely smiled.
"You wanted to be in command," Rei said. "Command them."
"... Are they going to my room?" Asuka asked. Rei shook her head.
She shook her head again. Asuka sighed.
"It's on their heads if they wake her up then," she said finally. She turned back to her laptop and resumed filing her reports.
"Should we not also get to bed?" Rei asked. Asuka huffed.
"Like we'd be able to with the amount of noise that psycho makes," Asuka said. Rei's smile became slightly sultry.
"We could always try to out do them," she said with a seductive purr. "It wouldn't be as much fun if Shinji were here, but we can save that for later."
Asuka's cheeks flashed red. Then she grinned.
"One of these days, I'm going to call your bluff," she said.
Rei smiled serenely.
"One of these days, you will learn when I am bluffing."
T + 4 Days
Saturday morning came with the smell of eggs, toast, miso soup, coffee and bacon filling the apartment. Like a symphony with each instrument adding it's own sound to the mix, so too did Shinji's cooking bring forth a mix of aromas that under a less skilled conductor would lead to a chaotic cacophony. To the other residents of the Katsuragi household, it was a little piece of heaven offered to their noses as incentive to rise.
Thus roused, Misato, Asuka and Rei entered the kitchen, taking their seats as Shinji dutifully laid out their breakfasts. Shinji hummed cheerfully and sat down with them, his eyes looking elsewhere as the women eagerly devoured their meals.
"Mmmm... You're in a good mood," Misato commented. Shinji grinned and spread his hands wide, an exaggerated shrug.
"I'm going on a date today. How could I possibly be in a bad mood?"
Asuka paused in her eating, and gave Shinji a guarded look. While she had not been as openly angry with him (especially with the recent jump in her synch scores), she was still resentful over the coming date. Rei too stopped, and stared at Shinji with an emotionally detached expression.
"Starting off the date right is always a good way to begin," Misato said with a smile. "Though I'm surprised you're not fussing over how you look."
"I can do all of that in private," Shinji said, waving a hand negligently. "Confidence is the main thing right?"
"Exactly right," Misato confirmed. She leaned forward, her elbows supporting her as she looked at him with the same focus she gave to the shooting range. "Kaji tell you that?"
"Among other things," Shinji returned with a charming smile on his face. Misato snorted.
"Just try not to use that charming act so easily. Its how he turned into such a rake," she said flatly. Shinji gave her a sincere look.
"Relax Misato. I won't be turning any girls into sex slaves. You've already got my leash," he tugged at the collar of his shirt. Misato laughed.
"And don't you forget it."
"Yes Mistress," Shinji said in a faux-exasperated voice.
"And I expect a nice, deep massage in return for letting you go out with this other girl."
"You shameless shotacon," Asuka growled. Misato smirked.
"I'm sorry; would you like to get a massage too? Or perhaps, a lapdance?" She wiggled her eyebrows, and Asuka huffed angrily, red staining her cheeks. She glared at Shinji.
"You had better behave yourself! Don't go forcing yourself on that bimbo!"
"Yes Mistress," Shinji repeated dutifully. Asuka blushed again and growled, but did nothing else save clench her fists. He got up, breakfast finished. "I'm going into the city, check out a few things. I've got my phone if you need me."
"Not even going to let me meet her?" Misato whined. Shinji grinned and winked.
"I'd prefer to wait before chasing her away," he teased back. He ducked into the other room before Misato's napkin could hit him. Misato sat back and laughed softly. She looked between Asuka and Rei, both of whom had not said a word during the entire exchange.
"... I'm going to take Wondergirl here out shopping," Asuka said after a pause. "And get her a futon. She's not sharing Shinji's bed any longer."
"I am content where I am," Rei said, "but I am willing to go shopping."
"Good," Asuka said. She rose, carelessly dumping her plate into the sink. Rei followed suit, and the two girls left for their rooms. Misato sighed quietly.
"Teenagers," she mumbled. "Glad I missed out on thatstage."
PenPen waddled up to Misato. She looked at him curiously.
PenPen pointed to Misato's beer. The purple-haired woman laughed.
"At this rate, we'll both apply for AA," Misato chided her pet gently. PenPen warked in what sounded like an affronted tone. Misato chuckled and got up, procuring a beer for him.
"Denial's not a healthy thing for penguins either," she said. Penpen huffed, and waddled back to his fridge. Misato smiled a bit, and then went to get ready for work herself.
Shinji found himself wandering Tokyo-3's downtown, his eyes scanning for any significant differences. Aside from school, home and NERV he hadn't been allowed anywhere particularly interesting. He suspected Misato might have been acting overly protective. That or she was ordered to keep him under surveillance.
Prudent. Mine would do the same thing,Shinji thought. He suspected something other than his well being was the main priority here.
Four days had passed. Not a word from Dr. Akagi or from his father about what he'd searched for or how he was acting. They probably knew he wasn't from this universe by now, after looking over Unit 01. So what were they waiting for? It was killing him, not knowing what he was in for.
They needed him to pilot Unit 01, he knew that. That didn't mean he was free and clear.
I feel like a lab rat under glass,he thought flatly. He stopped by a bridge and closed his eyes, focusing. To anyone watching, he would just be taking a rest in the shade-The sun was beating down pretty hard this early in the morning.
At the edge of his consciousness, like a memory that always stayed just out of reach, he could feel it: Hundreds of meters below in its cage, mostly silent. Even shut-down Evas, however, had mental activity going on just beneath the surface.
This far away Shinji couldn't make out much from Unit 01. Even when you were capable of a ninety-percent synch rate, distance was a factor. Ritsuko had tried to explain it using quantum dimensional aperture analysis or something like that, but Shinji was no scientist. All he knew was that sometimes, if he focused, he could sense his Evangelion.
It wasn't much, but it was comforting to know it was still there.
Not that it would let him doanything-His Eva was little more than a giant paperweight without a pilot. It couldn't move on it's own.
So I'm just reaching out for my hundred foot tall teddy bear,he thought wryly.
Shinji opened his eyes and looked to his right. Mana ran up to him, clad in a lovely white sundress. She came to a stop, panting slightly with a smile.
"It's good to see you!"
"Same! What are you doing here?" Shinji asked.
"I was shopping for some new shoes," she took his arm as though she had been familiar with him for years, "but since you're here, we can start the date early." Mana gave Shinji a little grin. "Unless you have any objections?"
Shinji shook his head, feeling better already. "Not a one."
"So, did you have any plans for us?" Mana asked. Shinji thought about it.
"Well, I thought we could go to the zoo-There's a traveling one, it has all sorts of animals that were common from before the Impact. Then dinner."
"That sounds lovely," Mana said. "But..."
"But?" Shinji asked. Mana looked at him with a nervous smile, like a child hiding a secret desire.
"But... Well... You're with NERV, right?"
Shinji nodded. "Yeah..."
"Would it be possible for you to take us... Into the Geofront?" She asked. Shinji blinked, thought about it... And smiled. He reached for his phone.
"I don't know... But I'm willing to find out."
"... Due to manufacturing codes present on the polyceramics that make up Unit 01's armor we can conclude they were created utilizing a nanoweave fabrication technique that only recently became available in our world..."
Gendo Ikari sat behind the desk in his office as Dr. Akagi gave her weekly report. Fuyutsuki stood to the side, ever present. Gendo knew better than to take it as a sign of loyalty to him-The old man simply preferred to be up to speed. Even on minute details.
"... The internal skeleton has a few differences, indicating they figured out a way to replace bones within the Evangelion without invasive surgery. How is unknown, however..."
Especially minute details...This was supposed to be Fuyutsuki's job, not his.
So why did you agree to it?A treacherous part of his mind asked. Gendo ignored it, and attempted to find a reason to care about the contents of the briefing. They were nothing he couldn't find out for himself.
Besides, such information mighthave been relevant several Angels ago. Now they were in the latter stages of the Scenario. Everything was plotted out to the last detail. There was no turning back.
"... The modular armor system is much easier to modify than our own, we're sending the specs out quietly for analysis by the MAGI in Tokyo-2..."
There was no turning back for him. Not now... So why did his thoughts drift to that other Gendo Ikari? The one who had raised that Shinji? The one who had married again?
"... Interfaces are about the same, just an upgrade or two ahead in our own schedule..."
The one who was preventing Third Impact. The one who had married again. Didn't Yui matter to him at all? Didn't her wishes factor into his decisions at all? What was he doing?
"Is there anything relevant to our current situation, Doctor Akagi?" Gendo finally interrupted. Ritsuko paused, and hesitated very slightly.
"Then I suggest you return to your job," Gendo said. His lover stared at him for a few moments, before nodding. She turned and walked out of the office, never breaking her stride. The doors shut behind her before Gendo spoke again.
"You insisted she speak at length on this, didn't you?"
"What possible motive would I have to do that?" Fuyutsuki asked, turning to look out the window. Gendo narrowed his eyes, staring at the far wall.
"To twist the knife."
"You're becoming paranoid in your old age, Ikari. I follow procedure, you know that."
"Don't give me that bullshit, Sensei," Gendo said. "You enjoyedthat."
Fuyutsuki looked back over his shoulder. "You use the past tense, Ikari," he said with a small smile. "You should know better."
"So this is what you are reduced to?" Gendo asked.
Fuyutsuki turned and walked once more to Gendo's side. He knelt down to eye level, even as Gendo's gaze never left the far wall.
"If you were not bothered by it, Ikari, I would not do it," Fuyutsuki said.
Gendo's fingers tightened in front of his face. "We do nothave time for this-"
Fuyutsuki moved his hand to Gendo's desktop computer controls, and pressed a button. The screen came to life, showing a picture of Saeko Katsuragi with accompanying biographical data.
"No. But it would occupy your thoughts whether I did it or not." Fuyutsuki stood back up and looked down on Gendo, every inch the disapproving professor. "So who should be reminding whom?"
Gendo was silent. The phone rang. Gendo checked the caller ID. When Fuyutsuki also saw it, he turned and headed for the doors.
"Business to attend to. Very important," Fuyutsuki said. He glanced over his shoulder for a parting shot. "Say hello to Shinji for me." The dark doors closed on his smiling face.
The phone rang again. Gendo's hands rested on the desk. He continued to stare at the caller ID as the phone rang insistently once more.
I have too much to do... I have no need to answer his call, Gendo thought. He probably knows I am not his father. This is not his world. I have no reason to speak to him. No reason to-
He picked up the receiver and held it to his ear.
"Hey Dad. Sorry this is short notice, but I was wondering if I could get your permission to take my date into the Geofront."
Gendo closed his eyes for a moment before reopening them.
"Provided she passes the background check, yes." Gendo answered.
Shinji chuckled knowingly. It unnerved Gendo only a moment.
"Which you've already had done. Come on Dad. Don't delegate with me. I know how you are."
His grip on the receiver tightened. Gendo took in a deep breath.
He could know so much more about him than he had ever revealed. This Shinji was comfortable around Gendo, as though they held almost no secrets.
"Does she pass?"
Of course she passed. She was the daughter of NERV's Special Financial Director. There was nothing in the Geofront at the moment that could be considered remotely top secret. Ryoji was currently out there tending his watermelons. His loyalties were questionably to himself but he could be counted on to be curious enough about Kirishima and to care enough about Shinji to keep an eye out. To say nothing of Section 2's ever present eyes.
"If it helps, I promise to look after her myself," Shinji said. "You can trust me Dad."
"... Do as you wish," Gendo finally spoke.
"Thank you Dad. I love you."
The receiver clicked off. Gendo slowly lowered it and placed it back in its cradle. He turned to look out upon the Geofront. The Geofront his son and his date would soon be going through.
Not my son. The Third.
"Commander, it's time for the appointment you asked me to remind you of."
Gendo started for a moment at the voice of his secretary over the intercom, but easily regained his composure. He turned away from the window and confirmed the appointment, then gave his secretary the rest of the day off. It would keep her from wondering about it any more than she had to.
A small smile came to his face as he rose. This was what he was waiting for. If all went well, he would be able to send him back where he came from and hopefully retrieve his own Third. The disruption to the scenario would cease.
He would no longer have to wonder.
T + 4 Days
"... So throughout the rest of the day, Asmoedus will be involved in flight testing. Eidolon Morrigan will serve as the chase unit and monitor it. Asuka will be in overall command of the training mission, and has already made it to the mobile command post there." Misato turned from the projected flight plan and looked around the briefing room. She smiled at the assembled staff and pilots. Shinji could barely muster the will to look in her general direction, but it was always something in her voice that gave away her smile.
"Meanwhile, Ritsuko informs me that we've finished the refit of Unit 01. We'll commence the reactivation test 00 will be on standby." She looked around. "I expect a pretty leisurely day but don't drop your guard. SEELE's been stepping up operations in the Southern Pacific and frankly I don't want to take any chances that this is a diversion for something directed at us." The colonel placed her hands on the desk in front of her and looked intently at everyone. Her gaze lingered on Shinji.
"Shinji? You feeling up to this?" She asked. Shinji slowly raised his eyes, and shrugged. Next to him, Rei looked concerned. In one of the other seats Touji and Hikari cast looks at him as well. All this focus on him... All this concern and worry for him... He looked down at his hands.
"... I'm fine," he said softly. Misato slowly nodded.
"Right. Well, like I said, keep your eyes open. Being caught flatfooted would be pretty embarrassing. More for you, given I'm never embarrassing," she said with a little pose.
"Just for your pilots," Ritsuko commented dryly. Misato shot her a pout as snickering filled the briefing room.
"Very funny," she said flatly. She looked around. "You know your duties, and I'm sure you'll carry them out as well as always. Dismissed."
Everyone slowly rose to go, as did Shinji, but a hand on his shoulder stopped him. He looked up to see Misato had come to stand by him as she watched the rest of the pilots and staff leave. Ritsuko and Maya gave her curious looks as they left, but Misato's expression never changed. Ritsuko sighed and motioned for Maya to follow, which she dutifully did. The doors slid shut behind them.
Shinji looked back down at his lap. Misato scooted past him and sat down next to him. She placed her arm around his shoulders, and he found himself unconsciously leaning into her warmth.
"Shinji... What's wrong?" She asked.
"... They..." Shinji closed his eyes as his fists clenched. "They want to send me back."
"Back?" Misato stiffened for a moment. Shinji looked at her face. She stared back at him, and after a few moments, a flash of realization crossed her face.
"You mean... Back where you came from?" Misato asked. Shinji slowly nodded, and looked at the blank projector screen ahead.
Misato let out a sigh. She muttered something that sounded vaguely like "Star Trek" to Shinji, before she took hold of his chin and turned his face to hers.
"Shinji... I know it doesn't seem fair but the fact of the matter is-"
"I don't belong here," Shinji interrupted with a low, angry voice. "I'm not the rightShinji. I'm not the one everyone loves. I'm the one who's just an Eva pilot, nothing more... I'm the one who... Who's supposed to end the world." He closed his eyes tightly, taking deep breaths through his nose. Misato wrapped her other arm around him and held him tightly.
"It's not fair... All I am to them is a weapon, a tool... My own father wants me to cause Third Impact, kill everyone there." Shinji's heartbeat increased again. "Asuka doesn't care about me... Rei doesn't care about me... The Misato there, she doesn't care... I can't go back." He looked up at Misato. "And-And I can't pilot while I'm here. You're asking me to-to protect this world, but to go die with my own? How can you do that to me?"
"Please... Why do I have to go?" He pleaded.
Misato was silent for a long time, before she stood up and took his hand.
"Come on. I want to show you something."
Confused, Shinji allowed himself to be lead by Misato down various hallways of NERV. The facility was a maze to him in either universe, but even he had been able to navigate successfully. Here, he was truly entering unknown territory.
They stopped at an elevator and entered it. Misato turned and slipped her ID card through the reader, which beeped in recognition.
"Authorize access to Terminal Dogma," she ordered. A laser flashed out from the touchscreen controls of the elevator, and the formally blue interface turned red.
"Identity confirmed. Transiting,"a pleasant female voice answered.
The elevator headed down, rapidly descending past the basement levels. Shinji watched it's progress, feeling very confused.
"Where are we going?" Shinji asked.
"You'll see," Misato said quietly. The elevator dropped down, and Shinji was able to see through the transparent glass walls as their surroundings became darker and redder. His eyes widened as they descended underneath what seemed like an ocean of LCL, as massive, organic looking structures stretched around them in a vast abyss. It was like being inside a gigantic human body, and a faint wave of nausea went through him.
"What... What is all this?" Shinji asked worriedly. The elevator's surroundings became stark metal walls again, before it came to a stop. The doors opened out onto a dark, circular hallway, red light glowing underneath a raised walkway. Misato led him into the hallway, walking briskly while never letting go of his hand. Her stride never changed, but he got the impression she was charging onwards.
They soon arrived at a gigantic double door, easily twice their combined height. A cardreader was on the side, and Shinji could see hints of massive hydraulics peeking out between the armor plating that constituted the walls. Misato slid her card here once more, and the hydraulics began to move. The doors came to life with a loud groan, as various screw locks ground against their casings. The doors opened, and Shinji's eyes widened as his jaw dropped.
Pinned to a massive red cross that was planted in the center of a vast lake of LCL was a gigantic white figure Vaguely humanoid in shape, it was as big as an Eva if not bigger. Its lower extremities were moving, and with a bit of revulsion Shinji realized that they were limbs. Human limbs waving about like drowning victims trying to get someone's attention.
In the chest of the great being, a two-pronged spear was buried. And on its face was a metal mask with various lines in nonsensical script written all over it.
"What is that?" Shinji whispered. He felt like his voice should lower around this thing, as though it might hear him even without ears.
"This is Lillith, the Second Angel," Misato said softly. "You're looking at the origin of all life on this planet... And the means by which it could all end. In your world, and ours. If an Angel ever got down here, there are six one hundred megaton warheads surrounding this chamber rigged to go off at our command."
Shinji started at this and stared at Misato in shock. Misato smiled almost sadly.
"Shinji... I don't know a lot about your world, but would your Misato be willing to do the same thing if it came right down to it?"
"I... I don't know," Shinji said quietly. Misato placed her hand over his quickly beating heart.
"I think you know she would, Shinji," Misato said softly. "Not everyone is capable of expressing how much they care about someone, no matter how much they might feel it inside. I have the feeling that you are very special to your Misato, your Rei... Even your Asuka."
Shinji looked away. "But... How will I know if they don't tell me?"
"You can't always know, Shinji," Misato said. She raised a hand to her cross and squeezed it. "But living... Living requires more than knowing. It requires having a little faith."
"Faith? In what? God?" Shinji asked flatly.
"No... Faith in yourself, and the people around you," Misato said softly.
Shinji looked at her for a moment, then back out into the massive chamber. "I... I don't know if I can have that... If no one wants me, if no one needs me except for Eva-"
"Of course they want you," Misato said sharply. "They want you for you, and need you for Eva. There's a critical difference! Without you, Unit 01 can't fight. Without you, there is no one who can stop the Angels or SEELE. Without you, everyone you know will die! Everyone who cares for you!"
"Nobody would believe me if I told them about any of this!" Shinji said. "What can I do? I'm just a boy!"
Misato pulled him into a tight hug. She looked down at him.
"In the end though... You are your world's only hope, Shinji," Misato said. "You can't just run away from that."
Shinji started, and stared at her with a look of disbelief. He then frowned and looked away.
"... I never wanted any of it. I didn't get to choose," Shinji said.
"No. You didn't. But nobody else did either," Misato said. "All you can choose is what to do now. What do you want?"
"... I don't want to go back there," Shinji said. "Not after seeing this. But I can't choose that, can I?"
Misato exhaled softly and ran a hand through his hair. "Shinji... I promise you we will find a way that you can be happy. You have my word." She smiled at him. "And if you need clarity, please know this." She kissed his forehead, making him blush. "I love you dearly, and I'm sure the other Misato does too."
Shinji blushed brightly, his eyes were still averted, but he hugged Misato back nevertheless. Misato hugged him back tightly, resting her chin on the top of his head.
"Ibuki to Major Katsuragi!"
Misato sighed, and reached out to press the button for the intercom embedded in the wall nearby. "Katsuragi, go."
"Major, we've got a problem. Definite Blue Pattern recognition coming from the testing area,"Maya reported.
Misato's eyes widened, as did Shinji's.
"We'll be right there."
Well… I kind of lied about the action last time. That's what you get when you take a Creative Writing class, urgh. All this "use said not any other description words for speech" or "more showing not telling" and "don't judge my love of '60s whiny adolescent bullshit short stories, man". Pah.
Oh well. I can at least definitely promise action next time since now I've run out of talky bits. Here's an omake written by gunman for last chapter which is… Well, not canon to me but might be canon to you.
Shinji blinked his eyes open and stared up at the unfamiliar ceiling.
"Another unfamiliar ceiling." he muttered.
"Well, it is the first time you've ended up in the infirmary." a familiar voice said.
Shinji turned to his side and saw a familiar pair of red eyes staring back at him.
"Rei." Shinji said softly, right as his eyes opened wide, remembering what had happened only a little while ago. "Rei!" he shouted, sitting up quickly. "Oh god! I...I'm sorry, I... I... Argh!"
"Don't move so quickly, Shinji-kun." Rei said, sitting up and holding him tightly. "Your injury isn't severe, but you aren't fully recovered yet."
"I... wha... how did... oh god! I'm Sorry, Rei! I'm so sorry!"
"For... falling into the shower room where you and the others were showering." he said with shame in his voice.
"If you wanted to wash us shower, you only had to ask." Rei said, causing Shinji to blush even more. "But why were you peeking in on us?" she asked.
Just then Asuka came in.
"I'd like to know that too!" the redhead said, before turning to Rei. "And at least you had enough restraint to not strip the both of you down naked before you got into bed with him."
Rei just stuck her tongue out at the German girl.
"Well, out with it Shinji. I'd like to know how you found your way into our shower room." Asuka said, sitting down on the bed.
At first Shinji would have backed away, but Asuka didn't seem to have an upset expression on her face, so Shinji just answered her.
"Kensuke and I were running track. He wanted me to talk to my fath... the commander, about trying to get him his own Eva. He said he wanted to be a pilot to impress Adeola. Anyway, I kinda tripped over his feet and hit my face on the track. He volunteered to take me to the nurses office. But when we got between the gym and the nurses office, Kensuke insisted we hope this fence and... he pointed out this one particular window. Insisted that we look into it. I didn't know what was so important, but when we did..." he explained, pausing and blushing heavily.
"You saw us all showering." Asuka said.
"Yes. I'm sorry." Shinji said, humility and shame in his voice.
"What are you sorry for? For peeking in on us, or falling through the window, landing hard, and getting caught?"
"Yes." he stated, shame still in his voice.
Rei and Asuka looked at each other, slightly confused.
"Well... at least you didn't do it on purpose."
Shinji's head shot up, his face full of shock and confusion.
"You believe me?" he asked.
"Yes. Why wouldn't I?"
"Well... it... most people wouldn't. They'd just assume I was some kind of peeping tom and punch my lights out."
Asuka and Rei looked at each other in confusion once again.
"Well... normally we would have accused you of that, had Aida not confessed to leading you to that window instead of taking you to the nurses office like he was supposed to." Rei said.
"You caught Kensuke?" Shinji asked.
"Adeola caught him." Asuka said.
"Hunted him down actually." Rei stated.
"She figured that he had something to do with you being at the window, so we went looking for him. After that it was a simple matter to get him to confess. He even admitted that he intentionally tripped you so that he'd have an excuse to go peeping in on us." Asuka said.
"His lack of morals is another reason he was not chosen for the Eva program." Rei explained.
"Is it really that bad?" Shinji asked.
"He intentionally injured you and used you for his own perverted purposes."
"I'm sorry. I should have realized he was up to something when he made me climb that fence." Shinji said.
"Stop apologizing, Shinji!" Asuka snipped. "You didn't do anything wrong, other than listening to that idiot!"
"And besides..." Rei said sensually, climbing closer to Shinji. "...I have a question to ask you."
"Yes?" Shinji asked, nervousness in his voice.
"Which one of us did you like better?"
"REI!" Asuka snapped.
"What? It's a simple question." the bluenette said.
"Not. The. Point." Asuka declared.
"Shinji, answer!" Rei said to the blushing boy.
"I... I can't!" he said.
"Why not?" Asuka asked, curious now.
"Because... if I said which of you I liked better... I'd end up hurting one of you." Shinji said with a rather desperate tone in his voice.
A tone that the girls did not catch.
"Okay. I can accept that." Asuka said.
"Me too." Rei added.
Rei leaned in and kissed Shinji on the cheek.
"I think I like you better this way, Shinji-kun." Rei said.
"R-Really? Why?" Shinji asked, confused.
"Yeah, why?" Asuka asked.
"Because... it's like getting to know him all over again." Rei said to Asuka, then turned to Shinji. "It's like... helping you become better, like you helped us."