2nd of October, 2034

"Happy birthday to you!
Happy birthday to you!
Happy birthday, dear Yoo~oooomi
Happy birthday to you!
"

The birthday girl grinned, faced her cake, which was of a size more commonly used for wedding cakes, and blew out the 10 candles on the top.

Rather too hard, it might be noted.


...


Neon Genesis Evangelion: Nobody Dies: The Yomiko Absolution

Prologue: Kei Comes Clean


...


There was a moment of hesitancy, as mother, father and daughter stared at the mess on the far wall.

"Ooops," Yomi said, massaging the back of her neck with her hand.

Kei sighed. "You'd think we'd learn, wouldn't you?"

Kaworu leant down, wrapping his arms around the two special girls in his life. "Yes," he said, grinning widely. "Probably. But it's not like you two aren't going to eat it, anyway."

His wife turned pink. "That is a vile calumny! A slanderous allegation rooted in base..."

"...truth?"

Kei deflated. "Well, yes. But that's besides the point. I mean, you can't just go around saying that... Yomi, at least scrape it onto a plate. You're getting it all over your face and uniform."

"Mmmph?" the girl asked, removing her face from the wall. A pink, and very long tongue, licked her face clean. "Fine! And... no!" she informed the metre-high, ape-like biped which had been the source of the tongue. "My cake, Raphael! No! Bad Israfim! It doesn't even have any alcohol in it, so you wouldn't want it."

The Israfim set its shoulders. "Fine. Didn't want it anyway," it said, as it headed back out, flicking the tail that it didn't have as it went.

Her older brother flinched slightly, and raised a hand. "C-can I h-have some?" he stammered, working his mouth around the still-difficult words. "I... pr-promise I'll like it." He blinked, brown hair shot through with grey falling over his face. "I... I h-helped 03-Ef E5 with m-m-making it," he said, with a hint of pride.

Kaworu placed his hand on his wife's shoulder. "You know, now would be a good time," he said, softly. "While I go and fetch the replacement."

Kei winced. "I... I don't know if I can do this," she admitted. "It's... why can't you be with me?"

"Because she needs to hear it from you."

His wife said nothing.

"You can do it. We've been preparing for this."

Kei set her jaw. "Yes. Okay."

"Good. Well done," the man said, giving her a small hug. "Come on, Logos," he told their adopted son. "Let's go have some of the back-up cake."

"Ock... okay."

"Although I think I might need some hugs tonight," Kei whispered into her husband's ear, as she stood up.

"My dear, I will be happy to hug you all night... as well as anything else you might want."

Kei smiled, as she patted Kaworu on the bottom, and stepped over to her daughter, peeling a handful of cake off the wall.

"Mama!" Yomiko protested, even as her father and adopted brother left.

"Mmgagat?" she asked, mouth full.

"That's my birthday cake!"

"Yomi, there's another one."

"But it's smaller!"

"Let's not get into questions of who ate who's birthday cake," Kei said, swallowing and wiping her hand clean. "There's something I..."

A red-eyed gaze was directed at her. "It was you. Who ate mine."

"Mere technicalities." Kei blinked. "But. Yomiko Leliel Nagisa." She swallowed again, this time not due to stolen cake. "I... I have to show you something. That... that I've been meaning to for a while, but... but I've been delaying. But you're now 10, and... well some things you just need to know."

Yomiko stared at her. "Is this about puberty and sex?" she asked, suspiciously. "We have had talks on both of them at school, you know. And Isabelle is already starting to get," she cupped her hands onto her chest, "breasts." She looked down, at the two cakey handprints on the front of her school blouse. "Oops."

Kei blinked. "No. That's a different talk, which we have scheduled for the Christmas holidays."

"Ah." Yomiko paused. "So, what is it?"

"Come with me." Her mother rolled her eyes. "We're going to have to get these clothes in the wash anyway."


...


Deep under the mansion, mother and daughter emerged from the vents, human-looking once again. This was somewhere deep, down in the laboratory section; a vaulted chamber which smelt sterile, almost metallic. Mounted on the walls were six empty cylinders, man-sized, and a larger glass-walled tank that filled one side of the room, but most of the floor-space was taken up by nine large boxes. The thrum of electronics was palpable.

"Where is this?" Yomiko asked, looking around the bare white room. "I don't think I've been here before. And... I thought I'd been pretty much everywhere in the house." The girl grinned. "One way or another."

"Not that you'd remember it, no," her mother said. Kei smiled. "You were conceived down here, though."

"Ewwww."

"In that tank, actually," Kei said, pointing.

"Ewwww. Again. I didn't need to know that."

"Probably up against the wall, or maybe it would have been floating in the middle..."

"La la la! Not listening! Lalalala!" Yomi caught the smirk on her mother's face. "Oh, ha ha. Argh! Why are you so embarrassing!" She stuck her hands in her pockets. "So... really. What else is this place for, apart from you and Dad doing stuff with kissing and babies and general ick?"

Her mother suddenly looked serious. "This is the room which I hoped I'd never need. Well, unless I wanted another child, but after we adopted Logos, and... well, it never seemed fair to you to..." she shook her head. "Never mind."

"I... wouldn't mind a little brother or sister," Yomi said, hesitantly. "Too much."

"Well... yes. This is in part the emergency room, in case you, or me, or your father, or your brother started to have core problems. I have LCL supplies..."

"LCL?"

"I'll explain. Yes, I have LCL, the appropriate cold-sleep equipment, and... well, to stop us from dying or... or worse." Kei placed her hand against one of the boxes. "And this is one of the nine supercomputers that your siblings run on. It took a lot of effort, and the GDP-equivalent of a small nation, but I managed to recreate the MAGI design from nearly first principles. It was before you were born," she said, with a hint of nostalgia. "Well, I needed to keep them safe, and after the... well, AIs were decidedly unpopular for a while. They didn't even have human rights; they were legally just things. I had to work out how to keep them properly safe, and give them a good place to operate from." She caught her daughter's stare. "What?"

"I know some of those words," Yomiko said.

"You know a lot of words," Kei said, with a hint of weariness.

"Of course! But..."

"Please don't interrupt, Yomi. You are going to get a full explanation, but for now, please, just wait." Kei stepped over to one of the blank walls, and placed her hand against it. With a cascade of mechanical clicks, the featureless wall flowed aside, to reveal several hanging garments; body coverings that only left the head exposed. One, in dark blue and grey. One, in gunmetal grey and green. Two, smaller ones, in plain white.

The girl stared at them.

"Cool!" Yomi squealed. "Superhero costumes! I knew you had to be hiding some kind of secret, but this! Is! Cool! Ohmygod! That's why I can do all the stuff I do, because my parents are superheroes! And that's why you're showing me all this stuff... oh, wow! Of course, we actually do live in a mansion with a hidden laboratory underneath! And I have AI siblings who do the butlering and stuff! How didn't I see it before! What are your secret identities? Come on, come on, I have to know!"

"Um. No. We're not superheroes."

"Awwww. I guess it makes sense..."

"These are actually..."

"... but," Yomi blinked, lips wobbling, "it feels a bit... a bit bad to realise that your parents are evil supervillains trying to take over the world. And that my brothers and sisters are actually evil AIs." She wrapped her arms around herself. "Will I have to be evil, too?" she asked, in a small voice.

"No, Yomi. We're not supervillains either."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes, Yomiko. I am sure that I'm not a supervillain." Kei bent down. "Really." She took a breath. "They are plug suits. Evangelion-grade plug suits."

"But why would you... ooooooh." The girl stared over at the suits, than back at her mother, then back at the suits again. "Oh. Um. Why?"

Kei handed her the smaller of the plain white ones, taking the gunmetal grey one for herself. "Put this on. I can help you, if you have problems with it... and I know I should have taught you to do it earlier, yourself, but I didn't want to. I'm going to show you, inside the MAGI."

"Wait, we have a full-immersion thing?" Yomiko asked enthusiastically, eyes widening, as she hastily stripped off her top. "Really? As in... really full immersion? Why haven't I got to do this before? You keep on saying 'no' when I ask for one!"

"Because I don't like them," Kei said, a hint of coldness in her voice. "I use them for work, but I don't want you... I don't want you having to spend your life in them. As your mother."

"But I want to! They're cool!"

"And I don't want you to. And I'm your mother," Kei said, unfastening her own top, and glancing at her daughter, who squeaked as she slipped off her socks to stand on the cold, bare floor. The girl, only just ten, has already started to grow faster, the first hints of puberty just starting to show. 'She is going to be taller than me', she thought, with a hint of pride. Yomiko took after her father quite strongly, after all. She turned her attention back to her own plug-suit. It was one of the older, simpler ones; not the exoskeletal ones rolled out later, like its mate. It wasn't as if she had been issued one; she had not actually piloted, after all.

It still fit. It wasn't surprising, she had had it adjusted, to deal with the after-effects of her pregnancy. Neither she nor Kaworu were aging properly; they both still looked like they were in their mid-twenties. And soon Yomiko might have to put up with people mistaking her mother for her sister... although her father as her brother was more probable.

Her daughter broke Kei's reverie, as she stepped into view, garment hanging baggy around her. "Um... is it meant to be like this?" she asked, hesitatingly.

"Camera, acquire target 'Yomiko Nagisa', lock on, record," Kei said, out loud, before holding out her wrist. "You see the button there. Just push it, and it contracts."

Yomi squinted at her mother. "Why are you recording me?" she asked, eyes glowing faintly.

"Oh, no reason."

She continued to stare.

"Really, Yomi, no reason at all."

"Fine. Well, then," she said, pressing the button on the plug suit's wrist. "I think... eeeep!" The girl shrieked, and leapt vertically as the white material tightened around her, clutching at herself. "It's... argh... tight. It's up against... argh! How are you being so calm! It's like I'm naked!" Yomiko yelled, floating in mid-air upside down.

Her mother broke down into giggles.

The girl lowered herself to the ground. "Oh, great. Really, really mature, Mama," she said, through narrowed eyes. "Urgh! Ick. Who came up with this thing, and how can I maim them!"

"Well, I think I have a new ringtone," Kei remarked.

"You wouldn't dare!"

"Not if you keep your room clear, I wouldn't." Kei blinked. "And, Yomiko? The reverb doesn't impress me."

"Well, I'm...," she coughed, folding her arms. "Ooops. Well, I'm sorry, but I thought we were doing something important, rather than just having you be all embarrassing and stuff!"

Kei sighed. "Yes. I'm sorry, Yomi. It's just... I've put this off so long, that... avoiding it seems natural. Unlock immersion chambers," she ordered the dumb AI in charge of the room. "Just climb into the tube, and I can do the explanation properly." She looked at her daughter. "I'm... I'm sorry, Yomi," she said, softly.


...


"Urgh." The girl's hand went to her forehead. "That was... weird. And that stuff, the orange stuff... it's horrible!" She puckered her lips. "And yet sort of familiar, somehow."

"Well, you were conceived in..."

"Stop saying that, Mama!"

"And... ah, yes. Probably that one holiday we took, when you were very little, to the moon."

"The moon."

"Don't tell me you don't remember it?"

"No! I think I'd remember going to the moon!"

Kei smiled. "You can surprise yourself. I have your 'What I did on my holidays' thing you did, right when you were starting school. It's really very cute." She smiled, maternally. "You drew a picture."

"Really."

"Aww, Yomi. Don't be like that." The blue-haired woman shook her head. "Sorry. I'm distracting myself. Let's push on." She waved a hand, and bought up a pair of chairs, into this virtual space. "Let's start, Yomiko. What do you know about the Angel War?" Kei asked her daughter, sinking down into one of the two seats.

Yomi remained standing. "The Angel War? Well... um, it was between 2017 and 2018, and was mostly Evangelion combat synthorgs fighting against the Angels. But..." Yomi bit her lip... if what she was biting was her lip. She had always had this odd sense of familiarity about the events, this feeling that the portrayals seen on TV and in films, where the Angels were monsters advancing on human cities without stopping or trying to talk, weren't right, and she said as much.

Her mother didn't seem to react. "And Second Impact?"

"That was... 2001, I think? The Angel ADAM appeared and blew up Antartica, killing lots of people and starting wars."

"Yes." Kei swallowed. "Yomi, you are aware that we... none of us, your family, nor you, are human, and what that means?" It was important to lay ground rules.

"Well..." Yomiko chose to sit down. "That's not really true. I mean, we've all got human bits on us, and Daddy and Logos... oh, and Uncle Uri... are sort of more like a core inserted in an outer bit of human flesh, while you're much more integrated with your human bits, which are a sub-set of you, and I'm more like you in that bit. And my other brothers and sisters sort of feel like you, but they're much... fainter, maybe. Is that the right word?"

Kei stared at her. She coughed. "Uh... what?"

"We're all a bit different... well, of course, Logos is, because he's only related to Daddy, and is sort of more like his brother. But, yes. Oh, and Great-Granddaddy is all human." Yomiko shrugged. "So?"

Once again, her mother regretted not asking enough about Yomi's other talents. "You haven't mentioned this before," she said, carefully.

Another shrug. "Isn't it obvious?"

Kei recalibrated her view of the world once again. "Right. Let's start from an earlier stage. Yomiko. Who do you think me and your father were before they were Mummy and Daddy?"

"Before?" The little girl seemed perplexed.

Her mother tried again, pushing on despite the ache in her heart. "What do you know about my past?"

"Um." Yomi squirmed. "Well... um, your surname was 'Shikinami' and you married Daddy when you were 18 which is really young and Great-Granddaddy is your Granddaddy. Oh, and that one time when Daddy took me to Rome when you were working we saw Uncle Uri and he had a blonde woman with him who knew Daddy, and we talked to them, and the blonde woman said that I looked more like Daddy than my grandmother."

"He did what!" Kei exploded, eyes blazing.

"Ooops. I remember now that I wasn't meant to tell you that."

"He told you that, did he?"

Yomiko sucked in a breath. "... no?" she hazarded. "Please don't be angry, Mama. Daddy looked surprised to be seeing them there," she lied.

Kei took a deep breath. "Right. Well. That doesn't matter. Right now." She cracked her knuckles. "Although he will... no, he'd just enjoy that. Drat." She swallowed, and slumped down. "That wasn't quite true," she said, softly. "Technically, I was known as that, but that was only because I changed my name."

"I knew it!" Yomiko blurted out. "I knew you were a superhero!" She received a laser-guided glare from her mother. "Sorry," she said, shrinking back into her chair.

"I was Kei Ayanami," Kei admitted, in a half whisper, staring down at her lap. "I... I am the eighth and final Ayanami-geneline clone, made using genetic material extracted from Yui Ikari, Head Scientist of Project Evangelion, at NERV. I was made using data obtained from Lilith, the Second Angel, Progenitor-Entity for all the life on Earth there was before the Impact." She paused. "Well, there were the Baraqielim," she admitted, "but no-one knew about them. That doesn't matter." She looked up to stare at her daughter, with reddened eyes. "I , along with my sisters, was made by a madwoman to kill Yui Ikari, and her son, Shinji Ikari. I... I was incomplete when her plan was discovered."

Yomiko stared back. "You... what?" she asked, blinking. "You have sisters?"

"You might have heard of one of them," Kei continued, in a flat, dead tone. "Rei Ayanami. The First Child, pilot of Evangelion Unit 05. You... you played with dolls of her and her robot at Abigael's house when you were five. I... I panicked back then. I was terrified that you'd make the link. You... didn't."

"Your sisters are the Ree?" Yomiko blinked, as her brain reprocessed the information. "You're a Ree? I'm..." she put a hand to her head. "Urgh."

"How common did you think that blue hair really was? And red eyes?" Kei asked, self-mockingly.

"Well... you have it, and lots of my brothers and sisters have it, and I sort of have it, and lots of people on TV have it. And all my family has red eyes." Yomi blushed. "I... I just thought that was how it worked."

"The hair is dyed. All dye, unless you've seen my sisters on TV." The woman sighed. "I can't say that I haven't encouraged it, too, although I can't take most of the credit. My sisters are... charismatic people."

"Wait." Yomiko raised her hands. "Let's go back a bit. You were made with... with stuff from Lilith."

"That's why we can't say babies properly," Kei confirmed. "It's a lineal trait."

There was silence.

"Huh." Yomi said, eyes wide, obviously trying to keep her voice calm. "That... explains a lot. About me. And you. And Daddy as well."

Kei coughed. "Not quite. Actually, your father's side of the family were... were engineered from ADAM. At the time of Second Impact."

Another silence.

"So he..."

"Yes."

"And you..."

"Yes."

"And then you had me..."

"Yes."

The girl sniffed. "So I'm... I'm basically an Angel, aren't I? I'm... I'm a monster," she said, eyes welling up.

"No!" Kei blurted out, fiercely, to gather her daughter up in her arms. "You're not! You're not a monster!"

"I... I knew there were things that I wasn't meant to do," Yomiko began to sob, "but I didn't know why. I... I thought that... they were just things that some people could do and you told me that it was to keep other people safe so you were keeping them safe from me."

"No!" Her mother hugged her closer to her breasts. "No, not at all. God, no, Yomi." She took a shuddering breath. "Yomi, I have spent your entire life trying to keep you safe, trying to keep my... our pasts from hurting you. I... I have only ever failed once, and I still hate myself for that, still get kept up at night by thinking what could... could have happened to you in that December night. You... you are my darling little girl, and you are the best thing that I have managed to do in my life. If... if I had to keep one thing, if I could only save one thing from my entire life, I would save you."

"N-n-not even Daddy? Or Logos or the Ems and Efs?" Yomiko snivelled.

"Your father would do the same," Kei said, brushing her daughter's hair back. "We've both had lives. And... well, the others might be my children, but, you, Yomi, you're mine. You were inside me for eight months and 3 days, and that makes us closer than anything." She let her daughter cry into her. "And, Yomi?"

"'es?"

"What I have always tried to give you, above anything else, is a chance to be normal. To be you. Because that's something that neither me nor your father ever got." She paused. "Now... admittedly, life as the daughter of the richest woman in the world, with a mass of AI siblings, and several other things we don't have to mention here isn't quite normal..."

There was a burbling giggle from the girl.

"... but, still." She shifted, until she could see her daughter's face. "Yomi. I was made aged 6."

She got a tearful, but remarkably level gaze for that comment. "What."

"It's true."

The girl shook her head. "Uh uh. No. That's not how it works. You start counting from when you're born. That's how numbers work."

Kei chuckled. "Well... maybe. But, still, I was like a six-year old when they took me out the tank where I was grown." Her face hardened. "Or, rather, didn't."

"Wait. So if you were zero when you were six, that means you were one when you were seven, right?"

"You... probably don't want to go down that line of thought, Yomi."

"And then that means you were actually only twelve when you married Daddy. That's only two years older than me! Ewww."

Her mother coughed. "I told you that you didn't want to..."

"Wait, no. Because I know Daddy once said that you started going out when Daddy was 16, which... eugh. Eww. Eww. Ewwewwewwewwewweww!" Yomiko started scrabbling at her face with her hands. "Yuck! How could you! That's icky! You were 10 and you and Daddy and... and I'm 10 right now and... ick, ick, ick!"

"Yomi. I was 16." Kei sighed. "I told you so. But we were two lonely, odd teenagers, who... well, Yomi. You have to understand. I was made aged 6. And then, until I was 16, I lived my entire life in a VR simulation like this. Only one of us was stable, you see, so... so the rest of us just got left in simulations, like dolls, and occasionally Littl... Yui, who had adopted us, would take us out and play with us, but the rest of the time, it was only us. No friends. No-one else, but us, and... I'm the sane one of my sisters."

"They're... all crazy?" Yomiko asked, gently, hugging her mother closer.

"You... you know how we, me and you, how we get sometimes?" Kei swallowed. "Like all you want to do is run and move and play and do whatever you want to do and it just seems like walls are in the way so you take the vents and you start getting funny ideas and wanting to look at babies."

"Mmmhmm." Yomiko shivered. "Those bits are a bit scary."

"Yes. They are. Well, I get them worse than you do, because your father's influence helps you keep calm."

"B-but you're always so controlled, Mama!"

"I force myself. Every day." Kei grinned, a watery grin. "It helps to have you around, you know. I just have to think, 'What would Yomi do if she caught me doing it?', and I can just keep myself down to being normally embarrassing as your mother." She shook her head. "You understand, though, how bad those bits are? Well, my sisters are like that all the time." Her face fell. "And Yui just left me in there. And sometimes she'd come visit, with Rei, but... she'd just leave again. And she..." she shook her head. "I probably can't explain this to you, Yomi, but I lived for her. You know how Logos sometimes acts around Daddy, when he wakes up in the night, terrified that his mother is coming for him?"

Yomiko nodded.

"Well... I was sort of like that. She... she was the only example of normalcy, of sanity, of someone who could be... be who I wanted around, and..." Kei choked up. "I'm sorry, it's just..." She felt a soft hand on her cheek.

"Don't cry, Mama," Yomi said, gently, and Kei hugged her, getting her breath back.

"Anyway, yes. I... I was in the tanks for my entire life, with only occasional bits out. We'd sometimes escape, and do stuff, and sometimes, before 2015, she'd put Rei in, and take one of us out, and we had to pretend to be Rei, but we got to spend time around her, and... those bits were the happiest bits of my life." Kei looked down again. "And then every time, I got taken back down to the tanks, and got put back in cold sleep. Like we are, now." She wiped her eyes. "Imagine, Yomi, if you had that happen to you, that me and Daddy would leave you alone in here, and only do things with Logos, and then occasionally, we'd let you out, but only for a few hours, and no matter how much you cried, we'd put you back."

"That's horrible!" Yomiko insisted.

"No. That's the thing. It... it was just how things were. And we all knew that someday Yui would work out a way to make it so we didn't need the tanks anymore, and we... we could get out, and..." Kei sniffed again. "Anyway. Yes. When we were sixteen, we had another breakout. And I got kidnapped."

Her daughter began to shake. "Really?" she asked, lip wobbling.

"Yes."

"You were...just innocently playing with your sisters in the fresh air, rather than in this gloop, and... someone just grabbed you and you were feeling helpless and they were pointing guns at your friends and..."

"No," Kei said, stroking her daughter's cheek. "Not quite like that. Well, I had sort of taken over a military base, and held the city hostage, and they took the car I was in, using a wormhole. The giant robot had sort of thwarted me, and I hadn't even begun the thing with the laser and the circular saw."

Yomiko raised her eyebrows.

Kei coughed.

"Really." It was a single, flat word.

"Really."

"And you were ten then?"

"I was sixteen, okay!" Kei shook her head. "You have been considerably better behaved than me in that respect."

Yomiko snuggled up to her mother closer. "Are you sure that you're not a supervillain?" she asked. "But... but what happened then? Who kidnapped you?"

"And that's how I met your father."

The blue-grey haired girl sat bolt upright. "No way!"

"Way."

Yomi narrowed her eyes. "And you are, somehow, arguing, that you are not supervillains? Yeah." Her eyes widened. "Oh. I see. Daddy's the superhero, who stopped you from taking over the town. You fell in love on the way to the jail, right?"

"I find your dissection of our relationship via the medium of comic books to be... disturbing. And also wrong," Kei said.

"Are you going to claim you were the hero? Because, you know, I don't think that taking over a town counts as heroism. Plus... you do wear that metallic grey and green plug suit," Yomi remarked, critically. "It's rather evil looking."

"And now we get into the bit where we talk about your father's life," her mother said, ignoring her. "His human genesource, the person who was a father to him... was a very bad man."

"As bad as leaving people in tanks for their whole life?" the girl asked, sceptically.

"Worse," Kei said, grimly. "He was the leader of an organisation... and, well, he was basically trying to make himself into a god." She sighed. "I realise I am not helping our 'not comic book' case here. But... this was actually real life. From what I have been able to discern, he was planning to kill your father as part of this plan. He was holding me as a hostage. It...well, it didn't make much of a difference to me," she said, her tone jaded, before reconsidering. "Well, that's not true. I was actually, truly alone, for the first time in my life."

"Your ten year old life."

"Stop going on about that, Yomi!"

"Well, that's how old I am! I find it funny!" the girl said, pouting slightly.

"It's going to be a nightmare to get you to help with things around the house after this, isn't it?" her mother sighed. "I... well, your father was the only person who'd visit me. I also made most of your brothers and sisters at the time, because... well, any number of reasons. I... I fell in love with him, then. Admittedly, first I chased him around the simulation with an axe, poisoned him, tortured him, beat him in kung-fu battles, tried to crush his armies, stole all his clothes and shot at him from a helicopter, had little girls stab him with syringes, and led him on by offering to kiss him and then never actually doing it. Among other things."

The ten-year old squinted at her mother. "Is... is this what adults do to say that they like each other?" she asked, hesitantly. "I mean, because I read a book on ponies, and... they don't do that kind of thing. If... if I want a boyfriend, do I need to hurt him that way?"

"Most people seem to manage without it." Kei smiled, a little dreamily. "Of course, your father is a remarkable man. Of course of course, at that point, he was still...lusting after my eldest sister. That took a while to... resolve."

"Hmm." Yomi frowned. "Right. What would a supervillain do... aha! You chased after him with a machete, didn't you!"

"... yes, but that's not what actually did it. But we're getting ahead of ourselves, here." Kei sighed. "And then I did a stupid thing. I... I was starting to go crazy. I... I accepted an offer from your grandfather. He would stabilise me, mean that I didn't need the tanks anymore, and then I would go back to Tokyo-3... incidentally, he sort of took Uncle Uri as a swap, when I was sent back." Kei's shoulders slumped. "If I hadn't done that... well. But it was done."

"So you got to go back to Tokyo-3, and go things with my grandmother...my human grandmother," Yomi said, bouncing up and down.

"She is not your grandmother. She is only a non-consensual genetics donor. She made the difference clear," Kei said, her voice hard, cold, and sudden, making Yomi flinch. She shook her head. "Yes. And at the time... I thought it was the happiest time of my life." Her shoulders slumped. "And... it was all a lie. I... I thought... I thought she wanted me as a daughter. I... I thought... I thought she was actually pleased with me. In myself. For being me." She emitted a faint, almost hiccup-like noise. "There... there was another girl, you see. She... she..."

Kei swallowed, and let Yomi hug her tighter.

"She..." she continued, "... there had been an accident. Before I... we were made. She...Yui hadn't followed safety protocols, and there had been an accident with Evangelion Unit 01."

"The purple and green one, yes?"

"Th-that one. She... she had been pregnant. Very early, because it hadn't developed a brain or a proper spine or... or anything. But... but there had been enough for the Ev-Evangelion to form a template around, that she could modify into being an AI. She... she called it Ichi... and... and..." she sniffled, "... well, I liked her. She was cute. Alwa...always stuck at six years old. But... but we didn't know. And... and just after I had actually started going out with your father, I... I found out. Because of your grandfather. He'd... he'd gone crazy."

Yomi said nothing, and merely snuggled up to her distraught mother.

"H-h-he told me this, and she confirmed it, and... and it had turned out that... that she'd only been using us. As replacements. Sh-she'd loved us, yes, b-b-but only as toys that she c-could take out, and put away, and pr-pr-pretend that she had a real daughter."

"No!" Yomiko gasped. "That's... horrible."

"Yes!" Kei wailed. "It's like I really loved your brothers and sisters, and just used you to have someone made of flesh to play with. And... and I went down to tell my s-s-sisters, and... and your grandfather had sent a file of s-s-something bad I'd done... not really, only in VR... and...and Little Mommy confronted me, and... and then my sisters tried to kill me."

Her daughter was biting at her virtual nails. "No," she whispered. "No way. That's... family doesn't..." She gulped. "You... you said they were crazy, didn't you?"

Kei sniffed. "I... b-before, they'd seemed harmless. And... and I'd spent my life with them, and..." She clutched her daughter tighter. "I ran. Of course. I...I couldn't beat them, and I didn't think I could,and... and there was an Angel attacking, too." Her mind flashed back to that confused time, so many years ago now. "I ran away," she said, softly. "I... I couldn't face it."

"Then what?"

"Then? They... they managed to kill the Angel, eventually. Uncle Uri... he managed to kill it, just as it almost got to Lilith, right in front of the doors of Termin... the place where she was kept. Yui's son... my brother, he was almost killed, when one of the lesser bodies the Angel released caught him. One of my sisters almost died, too, fr... from the effects of having the Angel too near, because she needed the tanks. I... I didn't care at that point. I was probably somewhere over Asia by that point. I... I ran here. Your father... he was the only other person I knew in the world, and... and I was so alone. My... my sisters were trying to kill me, my... the person I had treated as a mother all my life, who I'd wanted to be so much, she had only been using me as a companion for a giant robot, and my brother... and none of it was his fault, was almost dead... and, maybe, if I'd done something, I could have been there, I could have helped him, and..." she broke down, her daughter joining her in the tears.

"Did... did you kill him!" Yomiko demanded fiercely, when she had recovered a little.

"W-who?"

"Daddy's daddy! He... he deserved to die, for doing that to you!"

There was an awkward pause.

"You... you did, didn't you?"

Kei broke down again.

"He deserved to die! It was only fair!"

"It... it w-was actually an accident. I... and he gloated... and your Daddy shouted at him about risking things... and he said something about everything was in line with the Scrolls... and he said I'd made it all possible... and something in my head broke... and then I'm on the floor, frothing at the mouth and there's orange everywhere and Kaworu had to drag me off... off to the tanks again, before I died." Kei wiped her eyes off fiercely. "I am..." she swallowed. "I'm... sorry. I... I can't do any more of this today. I'm... I'm sorry for ruining your birthday by telling you all of this, Yomi. It's... it's just selfish of me, and... and I should have told you earlier, and I'm such a flurgen coward and stupid and bad, and..."

A small hand covered her mouth. "Don't be," Yomiko said, leaning over her. "I... it's better to tell the truth, right? And... and I'm an Angel thing, but... but I know I'm not a bad person, now. You told me what really bad people do, and I won't do that kind of thing ever! And neither are you. You're my Mama! You're the bravest, smartest, nicest person I know!"

There was a wet noise from Kei. "Even when I make you do the dishes?" she burbled.

"Even then! Well... maybe it switches to being Daddy then, but you're still second!" The little girl hugged her neck. "Don't cry, okay?"

"I... I'd gone and prepared all these videos, to explain to you some more stuff, but then we just end up talking, and... and I'm a fool, and I still miss them, even though... even though I know that at least one of my sisters would gut me on sight, and... and nothing's changed, and..."

"We can do that later, 'kay?" She paused. "I... I think I want to go back to the real world, now."

Her mother nodded. "Okay, Yomi."

The virtual world faded out, and they were back in the cold, white room.

"Just one thing. Um. Mama?"

"Yes?"

"Can I keep the plug suit? It's... it's kinda comfy. I like it. It's a birthday present!" Yomiko said, as the plug evacuation process began.

There followed the normal bit where the lungs were emptied of LCL.

"You said it made you feel naked," Kei remarked, after she had coughed up all the LCL into the grilles on the floor, wiping her mouth.

"Urgh. Yuck. Horrible. I can't believe you had to do this a lot," Yomi said, looking slightly green.

"I... I never actually became a pilot," Kei admitted. "I would have been the Sixth Child, but after I ran away... they had the Eva that would have been mine shipped over to Tokyo-3. It went to another girl. But... the LCL thing is something you get used to."

"I don't want to get used to this! It would mean that I'd have to do it a lot!" She wiped her mouth as well. "But... yes, but after a bit, you get used to it, right?"

"I certainly remember how long it took us to get you to wear clothes," her mother remarked. "Or to hold the same shape all the time."

"Awww, Mama!"

"I can show you baby photos, if you like. It's not my fault that they look like they should be in the Necronomicon."

"It's half your fault, surely." Yomi spat. "Urgh." Then, LCL covered, she sidled up, and gave her similarly sticky mother a hug. "Thank you, though. I... I saw how hard that was for you."

Kei rubbed her cheek against her daughter's LCL-soaked hair. "Thank you. I... I was scared that it was going to go worse. But... Yomi. Please, please, please don't go putting yourself in danger. I... I... I wouldn't be able to cope if anything happened to you, and... don't go to Tokyo-3. Ever. Even if you're curious. I... I thought that you were mature enough to be told, so you'd understand." She gripped her daughter's shoulders. "Don't go looking for your relatives without us, you understand. Considering what you can do... even the Mini-Beast-of-Light-And-Eyes wouldn't help you, if they thought you were an Angel."

"Don't worry," Yomiko said, squeezing tighter. "After how they treated you, Mama? I don't want to see them. I'm fine with you and Daddy and Logos and all the Efs and Ems and my friends. I... I don't want to see people that mean!"

She paused.

"Also, you and Daddy are totally either superheroes or supervillains."


...