Maybe tomorrow, when the sun comes out and melts my flesh away,
Maybe tomorrow, when the toxic clouds just take our breath away
And it'll be alright when the dark sets in and the screams all fade away,
Maybe tomorrow; there'll be no one to save…
Maybe Tomorrow, Chance Waters 2012
Among many other issues, what has made this chapter particularly difficult to write is its expositional nature. It is Asuka's big reveal, after all. Do I have her spell it all out in thousands upon thousands of words of dry-ish dialogue? I mean, it does essentially encompass much of the original plot of Evangelion, plus the altered aspects of this particular time-line in comparison to the original series! Even thinking about writing that still gives me an anxiety attack!
"Wh… what does that even mean?" Misato finally broke the silence.
Apart from the three of them, the world seemed empty and silent. Not even birds sang in the pre-dawn stillness.
"F-Forget it… I… I was just joking…"
"Oh no… you don't get to fob us off with this, Asuka." The Major shot back. "You're going to tell me and Shinji your "big secret", even if we have to sit up here on this hill all god-damn day!"
"Hmph…" Was the only reply she earned from the redheaded pilot.
Misato could feel her frustration building further. It had been her idea to come up here to the lookout over the city. It was a place that held a special significance to herself and Shinji. It felt safe, filled with shared memories and experience. It was their place. No one could touch them here.
She realised with some chagrin as she thought this, that she had never before this time brought Asuka up here.
"God damn it" she muttered under her breath. It had seemed like an inspired choice an hour ago back at the apartment when things had seemed to have finally reached a head.
Now… now she wasn't so sure.
She looked again towards the horizon just as the sun finally split the gloom of the pre-dawn sky and emerged from behind the mountains in the east. Though the air in the post Second Impact night never reached what could have been called "cool" still the morning sun had a power and a heat that could be felt as if it was a physical force.
Misato could feel the sweat already beginning to trickle down and collect in the small of her back. She blew her hair up off her forehead and looked back over at her young charge, watching critically as the warmth and light played across the girl's fair skin, causing Asuka to wince and wrinkle her nose in a way that reminded the Major of just how very young the redhead really was.
'Maybe it's all been too much for her?' The Major thought to herself as she studied both of her charges from the corner of her eye.
Asuka's face remained devoid of readable emotions.
Shinji, on the other hand, was transparent as ever. The emotions chasing across his young face were as clear to her as her own. The overriding feelings she could tell that they both shared were confusion and above all a deep-seated worry.
Still the silence weighed down heavily upon the three of them.
'How the hell am I going to get through to her?' The Major thought desperately. For the life of her, she couldn't fathom the redhead's mind or motivations.
The German girl finally broke the stillness. "It was a simple enough question, Misato. Would you or wouldn't you?"
"There's nothing simple about it! I don't have the time for any of this crap. You said you were going to tell us what's been eating you these last few months, so do it already! Or have you really brought us all the way up here just to mock us?"
"It wasn't my idea to come up here in the first place, Misato!"
"Don't be so obtuse…"
The redhead just laughed at that. It was a bitter, acerbic laugh. Both Misato and Shinji looked at her enquiringly, but she did not answer. She stared out over the city as it gleamed in the golden dawn.
"So this is your special place, huh?" The redhead said quietly after another interminable silence.
"Uh-huh, you could say that." She replied, confused at the sudden change in tone.
"It's pretty up here…"
Shinji still had said nothing since Asuka had posed her original question. Misato couldn't blame him.
Joke or not, the question had also swirled around and around in her head since the girl had asked it only a few minutes earlier. Swirled until she thought that she would scream with the sheer frustration of it.
"Would… would you guys believe me if I told you… i-if I told you that I was from the future?"
Ninety minutes earlier
Asuka looked in the mirror. A pale, though otherwise healthy, redheaded girl stared blearily back at her. Dark grey circles beneath contrasted sharply with the bright blue irises that narrowed as she tried harder to focus. 'This is becoming a really annoying habit' She thought to herself with an inward sneer. The small analogue clock on the bathroom wall showed that it was just after four in the morning.
"Fucking hell, Asuka..." She scowled at her reflection. "How could you have been so goddamn stupid?"
She swung open the bathroom cabinet and grabbed at the box of generic branded paracetamol on the middle shelf. Slurping down a mouthful of water from the tap she quickly swallowed two of the bitter tasting tablets with a grimace.
"Bleargh…" She groaned, slamming the cabinet shut forcefully.
Sleep had been impossible that night, despite her cocky self-assurance as she had told her puzzled housemates of her plans for letting them in on her long-held secrets. Now, in the clammy darkness of the Tokyo-03 night, things didn't feel so sure. Her unquiet mind was abuzz with self-doubt and anxiety in the place of her earlier self-assurance.
Her head pounding with the force of the thoughts and doubts beating at her head, she had finally thrown aside the sheet and stalked out of the bedroom that she and Shinji shared and had sought some comfort in cut-price analgesia.
Asuka had turned all the possible scenarios over and over a thousand times in her head, but there just didn't seem to be a way that the German girl could see to convince the two people she trusted the most in the world of anything that she so desperately wanted to share with them.
She leaned her forehead against the mirror and groaned again. "They're gonna throw me in the looney bin for sure once I tell them." She muttered.
"I'm sure they'll see how rational I am!" Asuka muttered. "I can just imagine… 'Oh hey, I've actually been sent back in time by Wondergirl from the end of the world where me and zombie-Shin-man eked out an existence on instant noodles and tinned wieners! Oh Third Impact? Yeah, it was pretty intense… I died heroically sacrificing myself in a vain attempt to save everybody while all Shinji did was box a couple of rounds with the one-eyed champ and then spend the rest of the time wallowing in well-deserved self-loathing! But it's alright, I got better… anyways, I'm here to save the world!' Yep… that'll earn me a one-way trip to the NERV nut-hatch with all the drugs that modern medicine can provide!" She grimaced at her reflection in the mirror.
"There's got to be a better way."
All she heard in reply was the faint rumble of the late night freight trains rumbling into Tokyo-03.
The redhead let out a heavy sigh as she composed herself and finally left the bathroom, making her way back towards the door of the bedroom she and Shinji shared.
As stealthily as she could she slid the door open so as not to awaken the Third Child from his slumber.
She needn't have bothered.
"Asuka, are you okay?"
"Scheiße." Asuka swore under her breath. "Hey Shinji, what're you doing awake?" She said with a false brightness as she stood at the door.
"I… I woke up and you weren't next to me." The Third Child said plaintively, propped up on an elbow on the bed that they shared. "I was worried about you."
"Baka." She replied without malice. "Can't I even go to the bathroom in the middle of the night without you having some kind of anxiety attack?"
"Of course! I-It's not that. I just know that something's been bothering you Asuka. I can tell when you're unhappy or worried. Y-You're not very good at hiding your feelings."
"Oh, aren't I?"
"No, you're not." Shinji replied earnestly. "Also you've been tossing and turning all night muttering stuff like "how am I gonna do this?" and "Stupid… stupid…" and stuff like that. It's pretty hard to ignore."
'Great work, Asuka' She thought to herself. "Uh… Sorry, I didn't mean to keep you awake."
"You're apologizing to me?" Shinji said. "Are you really sure you're okay? Should I call Doctor Akagi and get you checked out?"
"Choose wisely your next smart-assed comment, Third." Asuka said with mock-ire. "Or you might be the one requiring medical attention!"
"There," She said with a smirk that didn't reach her eyes. "Now the world is back in balance."
Silence once again enveloped the small apartment as the two pilots stared at each other across the darkened bedroom.
"Are you going to come back to bed?" Shinji finally spoke.
"Why, so you can have your wicked way with me?" Asuka replied. "I swear you Japanese guys are such perverts!"
"No… I just…"
Asuka closed the sliding door, padded over to the bed and sat on the side. "Jeez, I was just joking, baka!"
The redhead sighed. "Don't push your luck, Shinji. There are only so many apologies I can take in the course of one night."
"Oh, ummm… sorr…okay." Shinji stumbled over his words. Despite herself, Asuka grinned into the darkness at his discomfiture.
He pulled back the covers for her to slide back into the bed, but she just remained sitting on the side staring out into the darkness of their room. After a small moments hesitation Shinji scooted over to the side of the bed and swung his legs over the side so that he was sitting next to her. Asuka could feel his nervousness as he gingerly reached over and placed a nervous arm around her shoulders. She gave a small chuckle at his apparent apprehension. Despite all they had gone through, despite the intimacy that they now shared, he was still afraid of offending her with casual contact.
"Baka." She whispered.
It seemed that Shinji understood because he gave a small laugh as his hand clasped her shoulder more firmly. They settled into a comfortable silence sitting there together for several minutes. Finally Shinji spoke softly, breaking the silence.
"Is it about whatever you're going to talk to us about tomorrow? It that what's got you so worried?"
Asuka sighed. "Yeah… I guess you could say that."
"Why should you be afraid of talking to the two of us, Asuka?" He said. "We're not going to judge you for… "
"Hmph." Asuka interrupted. "Wait 'till you hear what I say before you make any promises you might not be able to keep!"
"You're not being fair."
The redhead smiled despite herself. All these months she had been convinced that she was on her own against the universe, hearing the concern in the voice of the person she cared about most in the world filled her heart with a strange thrill that she couldn't quite quell. 'Maybe this might actually work?' She thought. But at the same time, a foreboding was also growing in her breast. She knew what she was up against. She knew deeply, personally, with every fibre of her being and soul that the next few months would be the most brutal, challenging and difficult of her life. Taking on the prelude to Third Impact would make survival in the wilderness look like a picnic in the Black Forest.
Maybe it was actually going to be impossible.
The dread and fear in her gut would not let her go, she was desperate and tired of being alone in her knowledge, but how in the world was she going to be able to convince Misato and Shinji that she wasn't as crazy as a loon?
She wasn't convinced that it was within her powers of persuasion to pull it off.
"Do you think that I'm crazy?"
"Of course not!" He replied in a hurt tone. "You… You're the strongest person I know, Asuka! There's no way that I could ever…"
"So," Asuka interrupted. "You promise that whatever I say tomorrow, however loopy or unhinged it might seem, you'll believe every word I tell you?"
Asuka found that she had no answer for his sincerity. Her heart pounded loudly in her chest at the thought of what she had to do. It had all seemed so easy earlier. Her natural bravado carrying her through to her cocky promise to let out what amounted to be the biggest secret in the history of the world to her two housemates.
"I need you to help me Shinji." She said plaintively. "I don't know how I'm gonna do this!"
"Then just do it." Came a voice from the doorway.
"Mi-Misato!" Shinji exclaimed.
"Couldn't help but overhearing your little conversation there…" Their guardian began; pushing the sliding door further open to reveal her nightgown clad body and tousled hair. "And I also think, Asuka, that you should stop over-thinking this, trust us and just tell us whatever it is that's got your knickers in such a twist!"
"So you were spying on us?" Asuka said accusingly.
"Hardly." The Major replied with a smirk that could clearly be seen in the pale light streaming through the window. "I don't know if you realize, but these apartment walls are paper-thin, and you two weren't exactly speaking sotto voce either! I could hardly be expected to repose in blissful slumber on my futon while you two hollered your innermost secrets at each other!
"Fucking great! So if me and Shin-man get busy one night we can expect you to come and join in the fun?"
"Asuka!" Shinji cried out in embarrassment.
"Eww…" Misato said melodramatically. "Firstly, I'd better not ever hear you guys "getting busy" while I'm in this house! Secondly, don't try and change the subject! If your "Big Secret" is eating you up this much, then don't you think that the best thing to do all around is to, I dunno, just tell us already?"
"It's not that easy…"
"Because it isn't!" Asuka yelled with real emotion. "You think if this was something that I could tell you so easily I would have already done it? Are you that dense that you think that I haven't wanted to let you in on this? That maybe I'm sick of doing this all alone?"
"That doesn't change anything, Asuka." Misato replied. "Tell us! Tell us and then it's done. I can't put it any plainer than that."
Asuka sat there, mulling over her guardian's words. She could feel Shinji's arm squeezing her tightly, offering what silent support he felt capable of. She wanted so badly to unburden herself, but how? It just felt… impossible.
"Look," She said finally. "Let's just forget it. I-I can't do this after all. Maybe…maybe one day I can tell you without you hating me or thinking that I'm crazy… But not yet. I'm not ready yet. I can't…"
"Bullshit, Asuka!" Misato snapped back without even thinking. "You've been holding onto something big for a long time now! Shinji and me are here for you, you know that. I'm not pretending that it's going to be easy to finally open up to us, but you do know that we're the only two people in the world that you can trust. Don't you? That you can tell us what's been eating you without us judging you or thinking that you're crazy! Am I right? So… why don't you just tell us already!"
"Hmph." Asuka snorted in reply to her plea. "I might just hold you guys to that…"
Back into the silence the three of them fell. The night's stillness lay heavy around them.
"There's no backing out of this, Asuka." Misato finally broke the silence. "You said last night that you didn't want to do it here?"
Asuka, and Shinji, just nodded.
"Cool," The major said with a grin. "I know an awesome place!"
"So this is your special place, huh?"
"Uh-huh, you could say that."
"It's pretty up here…"
'This is like pulling fucking teeth…' Misato thought as yet another silence fell heavily upon the three of them. Somehow this moment, a moment the importance of she did not for a second underestimate, was getting out of her control. 'How the hell do I get things back on track?'
"What do you mean, you're from "the future?""
Misato and Asuka both turned to look at Shinji. It was the first time he had spoken since they had arrived at the hilltop lookout. He had been quiet, even for him, since they had got out of the old Alpine A310 and walked to the low steel fence that bordered the hilltop. He had seemed like he had been unable to face whatever revelations the Second Child might spring upon them. Now, in the early morning sunshine, his deep blue eyes shone with emotion as he stared at the redhead. His two housemates knew that look. They had both seen it on their communication screens during the toughest of the Angel battles.
Asuka took a step back, momentarily dropping her gaze from his. Then she appeared to compose herself. The Second Child's face turned from her companions as she stared out over the city towards the surrounding hills and mountains.
"Shinji." She said softly.
"Yes." He replied.
"Did you mean it?"
"You promised me, just over an hour ago, you promised that whatever I said, however loopy or unhinged it might seem to you, you'd believe every word I told you. Didn't you?"
Shinji nodded, less confident now. "Uh, yeah. Of course I promise, Asuka."
Misato looked between the two pilots, sensing the depth of feeling between them. She suddenly felt like a spectator between them. An intruder into a moment that the two alone should share.
Misato followed the girl's gaze as the redhead sighed, turning her pretty face towards the lightening sky. She seemed to focus on the small dot of a distant bird of prey circling high above the city. It floated effortlessly on the warm morning air.
"Because I'm not joking," Asuka said finally. "And I'm not crazy… At least I'm fairly certain I'm not… So you've both gotta hear me out here, alright?"
"Alright." Shinji replied earnestly, like he had been entrusted with a sacred promise.
"Misato?" Asuka asked, her gaze still on the circling eagle.
"Yeah, yeah, I promise! Just spit it out already!"
"Fine!" Asuka said. "Just so we're clear."
The redhead closed her eyes and took a deep breath.
"I know how this ends."
"Ends?" The Major replied questioningly.
"Yep, all of it." Asuka replied, her arms sweeping out as if to encompass the whole of Tokyo-03.
"What do you mean?"
"Third impact?" Misato echoed.
"Yep, Third Impact."
There was a long silence.
"Continue." Misato said flatly.
Taking a deep breath Asuka spoke.
"Your father died in the Second Impact, right?"
"Yes. It's not exactly a state secret."
"And he gave you that cross that you're wearing just before he died? Literally seconds before Antarctica evaporated?"
"Uh-huh." Misato replied. "What your point?"
"So you're essentially the only person to have survived Second Impact? You were there, at Ground Zero, when the shit hit the fan?"
Out of the corner of her eye Asuka could see Shinji staring at her like he didn't know who she was anymore. She gritted her teeth, she had to see this through.
"What do you remember of it?"
"What has that go to do with..."
"Just tell me, please!"
"I-I remember the wind, it was so cold… My father carried me away from the lab to the emergency pods… he…he put me in, I couldn't stop crying…I knew that he hated it when I cried but I couldn't stop, I was so scared." Tears began to appear in the corners of Misato's eyes.
"Then he gave you the cross?"
Misato nodded. "His arm was all burnt… I even could see the bone showing through the blackened skin… somehow he held the cross over me and-and put in with me. Then he closed the hatch and I never saw him again."
"But you saw the White Giant, didn't you?"
"The White Giant. Just as the hatch closed you saw it, rising out of where the lab had been. You always told yourself it was just your imagination, but you know that you saw it… Adam. Don't you?"
"How?" Misato started. "I think I saw something… but I can't be sure…"
"Bullshit, Misato. You know."
A frown creased the Major's brow. "I've never talked about this, Asuka. Not to anyone since that day… How the fuck do you know this?" She sounded almost angry that the girl knew something about her that even she seemed to doubt had really happened.
"You showed me."
"You showed me." Asuka repeated. "I told you, "I'm from the future" remember?"
"This isn't funny."
"You're damn right about that!" The redhead said, her old sneer creeping into her face.
"So tell us then. Stop with all of this cryptic shit and tell us finally."
"I-I'm not sure…" Asuka started.
"Please, Asuka!" Shinji interrupted her. "Tell us. Tell me… I just want to help you! Both of us do!"
"Fine." Asuka said with a loud sigh. "Don't blame me if you think that I'm a basket-case after this though!"
Neither of her companions replied, they just looked at her with varying degrees of wary expectation.
"Fine." She said again, turning back to face the cityscape. She didn't want to see the looks on their faces when she was telling them. It would take all of her strength just to do this.
"Third Impact is real. Third Impact will happen. We've got just a couple of months left unless we change things drastically around here." She drew a deep breath. "I know 'cos I've seen it."
She expected some response, some expression of disbelief from the two standing behind her, but there was nothing.
"The next three Angels will essentially make it inevitable that Third Impact will occur. We will defeat them, though the price will be… unbearable. But they will be defeated."
"Unbearable?" Shinji asked.
"The next Angel, it will sit in orbit high above Japan. Just sit there essentially minding it's own business. I-I was... will be… would have been… sortied against it... in the past my wounded pride at my defeat by the 14th Angel will make me force myself into the point position. I was angry last time… I hated the world; I hated Shinji for surpassing me, for always rescuing the poor defenceless girls, chauvinist piglet that he is…" The redhead said with a smile. "I hated myself for failing. I pushed myself to the fore… and the Angel destroyed me."
"Not physically. I was untouched physically, but the Angel violated my mind. Made me re-live the worst moments of my existence, my failures. Show my brittle pride for what it is… w-was. Showed me who I really was. I-It showed me Mama…. A-at the end… she was dead but she still spoke to me. S-she asked me to die with her. Die like that dead eyed fucking doll!"
"Asuka…" Misato said quietly.
"I was finished from that moment. Useless as a pilot, broken as a person, I shattered like a crystal vase and slipped rapidly into despair and nothingness."
The silence hung thick in the still morning air.
"Wondergirl… Rei… was next." Asuka's eyes were unfocussed. "The next Angel, A kind of energy based double helix that hung above the outskirts of the city. It tried to fuse with her… again it tried to violate her. She was strong… too strong. I couldn't even move to help her, even if I'd wanted to. She self-destructed Unit 00 while holding the Angel to her Eva with its AT Field. She did what I couldn't. She won. She was obliterated. Nothing but a pulverised mess in a plug suit remained. None of us knew that the Commander had a spare of course!"
"I'll explain later." Asuka replied with a wave of her hand.
"So, the last Angel then." Misato asked. "There was only one pilot left by then you're saying. It targeted Shinji?"
"Yep. It took the most devastating form that it possibly could take."
"What form is that?"
Asuka could feel the confusion emanating from the two behind her. "Who can hurt us the most?" She asked. "Our enemies? Don't be stupid! A mere enemy could never defeat the Great Shinji Ikari! No, a friend, a kind word, a sympathetic smile when it feels like the whole world has abandoned you? To someone like Shinji, that is the most powerful thing in the world!" Asuka paused for effect before continuing more flatly. "A boy comes to Nerv, a new pilot to replace me actually. He offers friendship and understanding to Shinji, unconditionally and openly accepting him for who he is. What do you think your response to this is Shinji?"
"I'll tell you, you soak it in. A creature, like you were then, drinks in the sympathy and acceptance the world has previously denied you like an emotional sponge. You bond with him and his kindness very quickly."
"You sure do." Asuka replied. "Unfortunately, for you, this boy is also the 17th Angel."
"What?" Misato exclaimed.
"Yep, skinny little creep, by all accounts. I never actually met him, what with being catatonic and all. Not that anybody really seemed to care about that!" Asuka said with a hint of bitterness. "But Shinji seems to fall for him. If I didn't know better, Third, I'd wonder if you didn't bat for the other team!"
"How… What…" Misato started before lapsing into confused silence.
"Not that there's anything wrong with that, I'm just not really into love triangles is all."
"I still don't understand what you're saying, Asuka!" The major snapped.
"Exactly." Asuka said in reply. "Our little Shinji-kun going all doe-eyed over some bishie Angel! I always knew you were a bit of a weirdo!"
"Asuka!" Misato spat out finally.
"To be fair, I can't blame you, Shinji." The redhead continued. "I mean I was lapsing into an unexpectedly sexy coma, Misato was obsessed with avenging Kaji's death and even the new Wondergirl was just fresh out of the tank, what was there left for you? A kindly, though somewhat creepy, kid comes along, is nice to you for a couple of days and you're suddenly all "Yea verily, I have found my true friend and soul-mate!"
"Wait… Kaji dies?" Misato exclaimed.
"Last time around he did." Asuka replied matter-of-factly. "Though I'm hoping that we can avoid that this time if possible. I tried to warn him about Seele a while back, but I don't think that he believed me."
"Yep." Asuka replied. "You know those shows late night on cable where guys with weird hair and neck-beards claim that there's a cabal of super-powerful old men using their influence and alien technology to control Humanity?"
Misato's brow creased in confusion as she stared at her young charge. "Yeah…" She said warily. "You mean like the Bavarian Illuminati or the Freemasons or someone like that?"
"Yeah, well that part's all bullshit, but if they said Seele and the Human Instrumentality project they'd be a lot closer to the mark. They'd also probably be dead."
"Before the Angel attack… the 12th… the black shadow… you talked about this to Kaji, didn't you? You warned him about something called 'The Human Instrumentality Project'. You told him that it would get him killed?"
"He told you about that?" Asuka said with surprise. "Well, that's something I guess. Hopefully he's paid attention and reined in his curiosity a little!"
"Do you really think…?" Misato began before Shinji interrupted them both.
"I-I become friends with an Angel?"
They both turned to face the Third Child. His deep blue eyes standing out in his pale face.
"Yes, you do, Shinji-kun." Asuka replied, turning away from her companions once again. "You two become inseparable very quickly."
The silence was heavy for the German girl. Heavy with the anticipation, the dread, of what she knew she would have to say. She hated herself for it, but she knew that she had to shock them to keep their attention.
"So when you kill him, Shinji, you are more deeply broken than you could even imagine."
"I-I kill him?" Shinji asked, eyes wide and voice quavering.
"You squish him in the hand of your Eva. You know, I do believe that his head pops clean off!"
"Asuka!" Misato said warningly.
"There's no point goddamn sugar-coating it!"
Asuka was happy that she couldn't see the faces of her companions at that moment. She was certain that they would be regarding her as if she were delusional and unstable, 'who knows,' she thought to herself, 'maybe they're right?'
"So anyway, the Angels are all gone, everything's great, right?" Asuka continued, pausing for effect once more. "Happy times and world peace ensue and everyone gets a puppy!"
Her companions just stared at her without speaking.
"Not really," She continued wearily. "Actually, it gets worse. Seele, you should really ask Kaji about them sometime, well they decide that decide that Nerv is not being enough of their bitch anymore, so they get the UN rescind the special protection Nerv has enjoyed up to this point and sic the JSSDF on us."
"Yep, they send in the troops, convincing the Government that Nerv is out to cause 3rd Impact ironically. Pretty much everyone we know is killed violently, brutally. Most of them either hiding in broom closets or cowering under their desks begging for their lives.
"I even snap out of my coma, open up a can of badass and beat up the JSSDF and even their Production Evas before my batteries die. Big damn hero, huh?"
No one answered her assertion.
"Fine. Anyways, the Production Evas, I'll explain them to you later, they were less dead than I had hoped. They reactivated and skewered my Eva and essentially ate it, and me inside of it of course, alive."
"Asuka…" Misato began.
The redhead turned around and faced them. Both of them could clearly see the tears running unheeded down her pale face in the pale morning light. "I got better though…" She paused and sniffed noisily. "How are we doing so far?" She asked. "Ready to call the funny-farm yet?"
As if on cue, Misato's cell-phone began to ring shrilly in the still morning air. The major grimaced apologetically and pressed a button on the device, bringing the phone up to her ear.
"Katsuragi here." She snapped. After a few more seconds of listening her features softened slightly.
"Funnily enough, we were just talking about you. It's not like you to be up this early!"
Asuka and Shinji stared at each other as Misato continued her phone call. The Third Child dropped his eyes from hers after a short time and seemed to be focussed on the ground just in front of Asuka.
"Tell me what you're thinking, Shinji." Asuka said.
The boy continued his staring without answering.
"Do you think that I'm nuts?"
"N-No… of course not…" He replied. "But this is a lot to take in…"
"You think?" The redhead replied, her features softening. "If I thought that there was a way to avoid this, don't you think that I'd take it? I haven't even got to the really weird parts of the story yet!"
"I-I can hardly wait…" Shinji said with a wary smile.
Before they could continue their awkward conversation any further they were interrupted by Misato snapping her phone shut.
"Right." The Major said. "That, funnily enough, was Kaji."
"You don't say?" Asuka replied.
"I do." Misato said.
"What did he want?"
"Apparently there's some "stuff" going on that he would very much like to talk to me about." Misato answered. "I told him that there was some thing more important than whatever he had to discuss with me that we had to talk about with him."
"Yep." The Major replied with a small smile that didn't reach her eyes. "You're gonna finish your story Asuka, but I want Kaji to hear it too!"
"Kaji? But… "
"This is not a request, Asuka." Misato said. "What you've told me so far, while verging on unbelievable and even possibly delusional, is still hitting close to the bone with what little I now about what's going on here. Kaji knows more than all of us about the big picture, and I trust him, at least insofar as this is concerned. We're going to his place and you're gonna tell all of us everything that you know!"
"No buts!" Misato interrupted. "This is not a request, it's an order Asuka! Get in the car, both of you!"
Muttering to herself and wondering just how she'd managed to lose control of the situation so quickly and unexpectedly Asuka walk to the car with Shinji in tow behind her. Climbing into the back seat with the Third Child next to her the German girl looked out of the window at the clear blue sky that had replaced the pale sunrise of so short a time ago.
It had taken her months and more courage than she felt she had ever had to use to start telling her story to the two people she trusted more than anyone in the whole world. Now she was going to have to do it again. For a man whom she had once thought that she loved. A man that she knew had loyalties on multiple sides in the struggle for the soul of humanity. A man who had died because his search for truth had been more important to him than his own preservation.
She had thought that maybe she could save him by warning him subtly of the danger that he faced. That hope had been in vain. If she told him what she knew, then everything would change. She would put her fate, and those of the people she loved out of her control and into his.
She trusted Kaji, but feared his agenda may not necessarily fit in with what she hoped to achieve by telling Shinji and Misato about her trials and tribulations of the last year or so in her personal timeline.
Now she was on her way to tell her story to the man who had played a key role in the different factions distrust of each other and who's death had help put in place the final elements of the destruction that had been the lead up to 3rd Impact.
"Well, there's no stopping this train now…" She muttered.
"What was that, Asuka?" Shinji asked.
"Nothing," She replied. "Let's just get this over with!"
The blue A310 sped off the grass verge and with a squeal of rubber blasted its way toward the shining metal and glass centre of Tokyo 03.
This has been sitting unloved on my computer for… maybe 12 months or so. It was about the 4th iteration of this chapter that I've attempted and the only one that I didn't delete. Though it did come close ...
It doesn't tell the whole story, but sets up future events and gives me something to work with for future chapters. It's not perfect, but it gets me to a point where I can move forward.
I can only apologise for the looooooooooong time between chapters and this somewhat incomplete and rather expositional installment.
I never gave up on this story, it has always been important to me, I just felt like my ability to bring it to a satisfactory conclusion was, well, broken. Maybe... just maybe.. it isn't.
How it ends will be very different from how I pictured when I first wrote about Asuka picking her way through the ruins of Tokyo- 03 so long ago, but for better or worse, I believe that it will achieve an ending.