Misato raced onto the bridge, tugging her jacket on as she went. A dozen alarms were already going off, and there was a buzz of activity around the room. Fuyutsuki was standing at his station as if the desk beside him wasn't empty, but was barking orders in his curiously loud-soft voice. When she entered the room, he looked relieved.
"Good of you to join us, Major."
"Sitrep!" Misato barked, running up behind the techs.
Ritsuko was leaning over Maya, busily typing at something. She glanced at Misato.
"Why are you walking like that?"
Misato dismissed her with a wave of her hand. "Not now, what's going on?"
"We've been cut off from the outside world," said Hyuga. "Before they started jamming our radar, I picked up about twenty VTOLs headed this way, and the seismic sensors are still up. I'm showing either something really huge or a huge amount of little somethings headed this way from every direction."
"Did you sound the evac alarm?"
"Yes, but I don't know how much good it will do."
Misato sighed, forcing herself to appear calm. "Status of the pilots?"
"Rei has disappeared," said Ritsuko. "Weren't you just with them?"
"Unit Two and Unit Three are powering up," said Maya. "Unit One is…"
"What?" said Maya.
"It's alive," Ritsuko said quietly. "We're not getting power readings from it anymore, but it's moving. I can't tell if Shinji is there or not."
At that moment, Shinji strode onto the bridge. He was naked to the waist, and had wrapped himself in a length of cloth, and belted his sword around his waist. Everyone in the room stopped what they were doing and stared at him as he walked to Misato, grabbed her arm, and spun her around. He pinned her to the terminals next to Maya and kissed her deeply, running his hands up under her jacket. His hands were cold, and he had on a pair of black leather gloves. When he pulled back, she stared at him, open mouthed.
"Uh," said Misato.
"Uh," said Ritsuko.
"Today is a good day to die," said Shinji, and then he turned, and left.
Asuka strained against the control yoke, fighting not to hyperventilate, and not to drool. She could feel Unit Two groaning and creaking around her, the armor and servos straining against the flesh of the great beast, no longer aiding its movements but restraining instead. As synchronization took effect, she saw an unrestricted view of the cage, and turned Unit Two's head to look down at Hikari, who was quivering with fear, but also with anticipation, her cheeks flushed in the view on the screen.
"Crom," Asuka snarled, "I have never prayed to you before. I have no tongue for it. No one, not even you, will remember if we were good men or bad."
Hikari was staring at her. She heard a hush descend on the bridge crew. Even Misato stopped barking orders. "Why we fought, or why we died," Asuka went on, "All that matters is that few stood against many. That's what's important! Valor pleases you, Crom, so grant me one request!"
Hikari was breathing hard now, her modest chest straining against her plugsuit. Tears streamed from her eyes and mingled with the LCL, and she was gritting her teeth. Asuka saw her mouth "Mommy", and close her eyes.
"Grant me revenge!" Asuka roared.
Unit Two bellowed. A great cheer rippled through the bridge crew, forcing Misato to scream to be heard.
Rei waited patiently for Shinji to arrive. Unit One's cage was dark, lit only by the faint glow from the Eva's eyes, ever awake, ever scanning. When he walked into the vast open space, now empty of technicians or workers, it turned its head to meet him, watching him walk up to Rei, who stood dressed only in his uniform shirt before it, having eschewed clothing now that such ridiculous customs would no longer be necessary. Shinji unbelted his sword and tossed it onto the metal decking with a clang, and then embraced her. His gloved hands felt on moving across her skin.
"Do you have it?"
He looked at his right hand. "Yes. I feel it."
He clenched his hand into a fist, and she felt a pulse of energy. She put both her hands around his, pressing her palms to the cool leather of his glove.
"I am afraid," she whispered.
"I understand," he said.
"You do not understand. Your father created me to use me for a purpose, and now you who I love would use me for the same."
"No," said Shinji, "not use you, join with you. You, Rei Ayanami, will be with me forever. The others, I used. Misato wanted a man to lie with her and a boy to comfort and a father to comfort her, and I gave her all three. Asuka wanted her existence to be validated through affection, so I gave it to her. Hikari wanted to escape the terror of her being and bring order to her existence. I let her do that. I used them by giving them what they want. You, you are my prize, my jewel. I love my father for creating you."
She pressed herself to him, feeling the warmth of his breath and the heat burning in his broad chest.
"I will not use you for his purpose," said Shinji. "Had he known what I have already done, he would have killed me weeks ago."
Rei lifted from his embrace. "What do you mean?"
"Yui Ikari is dead. I killed her. I found her in the Eva the day I came here, when they brought you out to shame me into piloting, the day they meant to offer you to this thing," he glanced at the Eva, "to this old god as a living sacrifice. I took your place and in sacrificing myself, gained its wisdom. I know what it wishes."
"What is that?"
"What you once wished. To end. The more I communed with my mother, the more I learned the truth. She abandoned me. She left me to that monster. I am beyond hatred. I devoured her essence to take her power within myself, and in freeing the beast found my greatest ally. We are brothers, Unit One and I. Today, I will grant his wish."
"The forbidden union of Lilith," he stroked her hair, "and Adam," he raised his fist.
Beside them, the Eva let out a heavy breath, rotten and stinking like a carnivore. She could hear the armor creaking.
"You will join me in the entry plug, where we will become one. There is but one task we must accomplish first."
"What is that?"
"My enemies will not be joining us in the glorious union of all souls, my love. They will suffer death eternal at the hands of a giant of legend. Join me."
"Yes, beloved," said Rei, pressing herself to his side as they ascended the platform to make ingress into the entry plug.
Maya Ibuki hauled off and vomited on the floor, and Misato nearly joined her, but instead held her arms and quivered in raw terror. Asuka had gone insane. She didn't bother waiting for the buildings to retract, she'd already ripped a skyscraper from the armored roof of the Geofront and hurled it at the oncoming VTOLs. They had only a limited view of what went on outside, but what they saw was terrifying. The JSSDF was coming for them, curled in great columns of men and armor like serpents, winding into the city from every direction, clouds of VTOLs and jet fighters circling over the city like carrion birds seeking after rotted flesh.
Asuka let out a blood curdling scream and leaped up, and the jaws of Unit Two closed around a VTOL. As she came down, she dragged it around through the air with her jaws and tiny figures fell out through the windows. Misato saw the pilot struggled out through one of the cockpit portholes when Asuka took the craft in both hands, reared up, and bit down on it, plunging the Eva's blocky teeth through the steel and aluminum of their airframe. A human arm flopped lazily between her crushing jaws, dangled, and fell free as she began eating the craft, thrashing and waving the horned head of Unit Two from side to side, the Eva's body curled about its prey and gyrating lewdly. She threw the flaming wreck to the ground and turned, oil and hydraulic fluid and probably blood running down her chin, and gazed out at the oncoming troops.
"Tastes like chicken," she snarled.
Misato felt a sudden, sick twisting in her stomach.
"What have we done?" she whispered.
Ritsuko put both arms around Maya's middle and lifted her up from the floor. Slowly, Misato helped, steadying the slender girl by the arms. Ritsuko pulled her into a passionate embrace, hiding her face from the screen. Hyuga and Aoba watched in shocked silence as Asuka and Hikari began their rampage, their Evangelions stomping forward. Asuka laughed with unabashed, maniacal glee, her face twisted in a monstrous grin. Both of her eyes were green now, filling the entry plug with their inner light, and she'd sprouted a full row of fangs along both jaws. The camera view from within her plug went blank, and her umbilical erupted in flame, sheets of white-hot fire running down its length as insulation fluttered away as ash in the fading light and the cables themselves melted into a coiled snake of molten copper on the ground.
"You realize," said Fuyutsuki, "that we all really deserve to die."
Misato opened her mouth but found the words of disagreement unable to form. She watched in dull shock as Asuka threw her Eva into a flying leap that crested the edge of the city center and came down in a skid through the low buildings that surrounded the movable skyscrapers, raising a column of gas and dust. Unit Two dropped to all fours and hunted along the ground, great columns of flame erupting from her back. There was only static from the plug feed, but the sound of Asuka's wordless snarls rumbled through the complex as Unit Two pounded over the hills and smashed into the column of JSSDF troops. The Eva crouched and she scooped up a heavy troop transport, put it between her teeth, and bit down.
Recovering from their shock, everyone and everything with a weapon opened up on Unit Two at once. It was pointless. The fire simple stopped at the flowering orange manifestations of her field, the blooms of heat and shrapnel from high explosive tank rounds lighting her flanks as she moved. A particular tank must have annoyed her; she stomped on it and ground her foot, as if putting out a cigarette or dispatching an annoying insect. Unit Two threw its head back and roared in rage, and swept its arms in a circle, batting VTOLs down like flies. Unit Three rampaged behind her, plucking those VTOLs that tried to flee from the sky and hurling them into the ground.
"Major," said Aoba. "We have a problem."
"They're doing a lot of damage, but they're not keeping anyone out of the Geofront."
"Shit," said Misato. "Open the bakelite injection system, block all of the upper level hallways."
"Will do… oh God, Unit One just launched itself."
Unit One rose, a giant from the Earth. Shinji sat in his command seat, disdaining his plug suit and nerve clips. He no longer required them. Rei curled against him, comforted by the feeling of his skin by contrast with the LCL that surrounded them. His face was set hard, his eyes unfocused, and he released the control yokes and rested his hands on her hips and back.
He reached up and manually tore off the control pylons. They had been hastily replaced and were unpainted, and crumbled under his grip and fell away. The other two active Evas turned and faced him, ignoring the puny things that swarmed about their feet, trying feebly to injure them. Unit One stood up to its full height and flexed, and the rippling muscles of the beast contained within the armor pushed the umbilical apparatus out of its body. Shinji reached up, curled his fingers into the iron mask they riveted to his face, and ripped it free. The pain of tearing the connections and mechanical viscera out of his face made him wince, but he ignored it. The view inside the plug temporarily went blank as the cameras were torn away. Unit One lurched, groaned, and opened its proper, biological eyes.
He saw everything, from the tiniest mote of dust floating in front of his face. When he held the hands of the beast before his eyes, he curled them into fists and flexed them, and with a great cracking sound the gauntlets and reinforced forearm armor fell away, clattering to the ground far below. His claws were razor sharp and caught the light, playing it along their edges, so fine they seemed out of focus, distorting the view behind them.
He walked to the nearest column of oncoming enemies and stared down at them with unabashed contempt. Rei tightened against him as he drew the nature of the beast into himself. When he closed his eyes and opened them again, they were pure green, ringed with black circles, and his fangs gleamed. The LCL in the plug began to move of its own accord, swirling in a whirlpool around his head. Outside, the very air matched it, gathering in a swirling current around Unit One, standing in the eye of a newborn storm. Shinji did not launch into an attack or disdain to assault his enemies physically.
"Die," he commanded, and it was so.
Unit One reared up. Light spilled from his eyes and mouth, and the beast pitched forward. A light so bright it drowned out the sun flared just in front of its smooth gray skull, and lanced out across the landscape. Wherever it touched, whatever it touched, was unmade. The light rolled over the landscape, burning away all before it, and when it reached its terminus expanded into a cross, forever etched on the hills. Where an entire armored column had once rolled forward, now only ash flowed on the wind over charred earth, hanging like moths. The ground itself burned, smoldering with heat.
He turned and waved his hand, and there was a rumbling. The earth itself rolled, driven up in a sweeping wave carried along under Unit One's claw. The roof of the Geofront groaned and fell inward, the buildings sinking, tilting drunkenly as a darkness yawned under them, opening to some unknown space. Men on foot turned and tried to flee, but the ground itself rebelled against them, tilting lazily until they lost their footing and slid screaming into the void. Shinji's mad cackle rippled over the landscape.
"Do you know the answer?" he whispered to Rei, resting his head on her chin.
"No," said Rei.
"Steel is not strong, but neither is flesh. Steel can bend and break, and flesh withers and grows weak. But the will, Rei, the will can last forever."
"Yes," said Rei.
"What is your will?"
He ran his gloved hand down her cheek and she shuddered, pressing her eyes shut. She rested against his palm for a while, enjoying his touch, and then bit down on seam of his glove and tugged, pulling at it until it slipped loose, revealing the fleshy mass that had enmeshed itself in his palm. His hand slid lower, down the small of her back, and her lips touched his.
It was time.
Aoba stood up, stepped away from his station, and started walking.
"Where the hell are you going?" Misato demanded.
"If I am going to die, I am not going to die with you assholes," he shrugged. "I just got the sensors back up. The UN has ordered an N2 sortie against us, and there's incoming blue patterns."
"Wait," said Misato, "What? Patterns?"
"He's right," said Hyuga. "I read multiple blue patterns approaching from all directions. Something must be screwing up the sensors."
"Maybe it's the lunatic in the rogue Eva," Aoba shrugged. "Fuck you guys, I'm out."
Hyuga sat there for a moment, dumbstruck, watching the incoming missiles on radar resolve into faint streaks in the sky, barely visible beyond the swirling clouds that moved over the city. He pushed his own chair back, slowly stood up, and shakily walked to Misato. He stared at her for a moment, then pulled her into a passionate embrace and a rather clumsy open-mouthed kiss.
"What the hell," he shrugged.
Behind them, Fuyutsuki gazed out at the main projection screen.
"And man grew proud," he said.
Shinji stopped to watch the incoming missiles, laughing. His new brothers circled him now, a pantheon of cruel, indistinct shapes, not yet born, drawn to bear witness to his rebirth. He was no longer sure where he and Rei and Unit One ended. Tendrils of ropey grey muscle had broken into the entry plug and were wrapped around him, and Rei could no longer move, as her face and hands and belly were fused into him. He laughed and she laughed with him and Unit One laughed, the sound like barking peals of thunder as the missiles came in.
The explosions swept around him in great bursts of light, the heat and force playing across his invincible AT-Field. He could have batted them out of the air easily, but he preferred to let the fools who launched them at him have one last moment of hope before he tore their souls out of their bodies and devoured them. When the explosion went off it planted a mushroom cloud like a tree, and he felt the charred remnants of Tokyo-3 sink away beneath his feet, but Unit One did not move. Asuka and Hikari, or rather the Evas, if they had not simply consumed their pilots as his was trying to do, stood watch around the end of the opening in the Earth where Unit One now stood on nothing but air, surrounded by shimmering heat.
The shapes of his brothers unborn joined them. He saw Sahaquiel, an ambulatory mountain that would have once rained from the heavens, and Iruel, a confounding shadow of ever changing hues that would have broken another man's mind to gaze upon, and Leliel, the shadow-thing that moved without form. Bardiel swirled and moved, a living cloud, gathering and shifting about mighty Zeruel, an impassive titan that towered over him, gazing down as God gazes down and passes judgment. Arael twisted obscenely, drawing in on itself and expanding like a flower, scenes from his life and childhood displayed, and Armisael looped and looped, a lake of liquid light that scintillated and curled back on itself.
The transformation progressed. Shinji allowed the warping to come, and he felt his flesh being drawn away, pulled into Rei who was pulled into unit one. Unit One shuddered, drawing on itself as the swirling colors over its head formed a thousand rainbows in hues undreamed of, and the air itself screamed in protest. The Eva arched its back and its flesh rippled, alive with its own inner light. The armor began to flare up, flames licking along its edges even as it softened and melted, the enamel burning away. The angels and Evas kept watch, swirling around, stomping out obscene dances as the transfiguration came into being.
From the opening that exposed the floor of the Geofront, Shinji rose, perfected, complete, whole. There was no pain or yearning in his heart, save one. A giant of light, he rose, his being now made godlike, drawn out beyond and through time and space. He was so achingly beautiful that those who had survived to see him fell to their knees and wept with joy, even as their AT-Fields collapsed and they all returned to nothing. Beneath his feet the Black Moon stirred, straining and pressing at the Earth to tear free and rejoin the heavens where it belonged.
He was as big as the sky. He held the world in his hands, and watched with unabashed glee as the seas ran red with the blood of a species that was no longer worthy. Every thought, every tiny hope, was open to him now, and it disgusted him. The men who had arranged his ascension were so base, so lewd in in their desires that it made him ill, such as a being of his might could be ill.
He stood in the study of Lorenz Keel.
The man was a ruin. His spine had been surgically replaced, and he needed a complex apparatus meshed directly and painfully to his brain to see. Machines in his wheelchair kept his heart pumping and lungs working, and his every moment was pain. Shinji regarded him with contempt.
"The Red Earth ceremony is complete," Keel rasped. "You are here to deliver me?"
"No," said Shinji.
Keel winced. A figure of perfection stood before him, a perfect Adonis carved from the most flawless alabaster, gazing into his artificial eyes with orbs of crimson.
"I will tell you a story," said Shinji. "Fire and wind come from the sky, from the gods of the sky. Once, giants lived in the earth, and the darkness of chaos, they fooled Crom, and took from him the enigma of steel. Crom was angered, and the earth shook, and fire and wind struck down these giants, and they threw their bodies into the waters. But in their rage, the gods forgot the secret of steel and left it on the battlefield, and we who found it, we are just men. Not gods, not giants, just men."
"We found the secret of the gods," said Keel. "We used it. You owe your being to us."
Shinji smirked. "I owe you nothing. Man is the bridge between ape and what is beyond man, Chairman."
He did not move. He simply crossed the space from where he stood to Keel's side, clamped his fingers around the old ruin's neck, and dragged him out of his chair. With a jerk, he broke the old man's neck and tossed his ruined mass into a pile of pallid old flesh and soiled nightclothes and his own refuse as he soiled himself in death.
"I have stepped on the bridge," said Shinji.
Gendo Ikari had hands. He stared at them, holding them up against the red sky, turning them in small circles to examine his own flesh. A cool breeze played over his skin, and he felt a familiar warmth that made his heart seize. He leaned his head forward and touched his chin to another, felt her soft hair tug at his beard. He looked down and saw Yui, his Yui, naked as the day she was born, curled against his side. She let out a soft sigh and rested her chin on his chest, meeting her gaze with his own.
"Goodbye," she said, and then she was gone.
She simply ceased to exist. His heart seized, and his breath caught in his chest. He rolled onto his side in the sand and gasped. The sea before him ran red with blood, lapping at the shore with a pink froth. He stood and stared down at himself, dumbfounded, as he was intact. He looked around in a panic, searching here and there. It wasn't supposed to happen like that. They were supposed to be together forever.
He stopped when he saw Shinji seated on a rock, gazing impassively out at the sea. Snarling, Gendo ran to him, hands poised to clamp down on his throat. When he reached him, he seized the boy by the neck and shook him, but it was like trying to plunge his fingers into marble. Shinji laughed at him contemptuously and brushed him off with a wave of his arm, forcing him into the white sand under his feet.
"I have her now," said Shinji, touching his chest. "She lives forever in me, as do they all. She and she alone will suffer loneliness, I fear. Even now Asuka and the others are drawn to the bosoms of their mothers. For Misato, the week she spent in bed with her Kaji will never end. Ritsuko and Maya will lie in bed after that first night they went for coffee together for the rest of eternity. Though Hyuga never knew her touch, he will wake up beside Misato, drenched in her sweat, every day for the rest of forever."
He fixed his gaze on Gendo. His eyes were hard. "Some, I denied entrance into the new heaven. I crushed Kiel's throat myself. They will not suffer as you suffer, though, for I merely excluded them. You, on the other hand…"
"What have you done?"
Shinji's gaze rose, and Gendo looked up at the great black orb hovering over their heads, Lilith's Egg shining in the heavens.
"You, I have perfected. Your flesh will never mortify. You will never age or fear disease. Any injury you inflict on yourself will reverse itself in a matter of hours. You are immortal, Gendo Ikari. You are eternal. When the stars go out and the universe goes cold, Gendo Ikari will remain to contemplate its nothingness forever."
"Why did you have to let me see her first? Why must you be so cruel?"
"I was not cruel," said Shinji. "That was her wish, not yours. That it flavors your suffering is incidental."
Shinji stood up, smiling, as Gendo sank to his knees. He gestured, and beside him, a pool of darkness formed. It formed into a monolith that gradually rose from the sand, and within it were stars, millions of stars, and something else. Gendo watched him step into it, and he turned.
"Where are you going?" said Gendo.
"My revenge is not finished," said Shinji. "Now that I am as the Angels are, I know the truth of their rage. They whispered the secret of the universe to me as I ascended to join them."
Shinji smiled broadly. "Somewhere, there is a man with a typewriter."
He stepped into the void, and as it closed, Gendo saw, and he screamed, for within that void, there were Earths.
Curled on himself, his forehead buried in the sand as if in prayer, the last man in the world wept bitterly for his loss, condemned to see his dream but never touch it. Now, Yui was truly lost to him, forever a memory, reduced to what he kept of her in his heart, and that was pain. The worst pain of all, though, was the realization of what he had done. He had been so blinded by his selfish aims; he had birthed that monster by his own hands. He wept and wept until the tears would not flow anymore, and then fell onto his side.
He looked up.
Seated upon the sands were three aliens. They were yellow.
"Gendo Ikari," said the first alien. "You are chosen."
"You will redeem yourself," said the second alien.
"You are coming with us," said the third alien.
Gendo knelt, hands planted on his thighs, and looked around. The blood-sea lapped at the shore beside him, and a black moon hung in the blood red sky.
"Am I in hell?"