Disclaimer: No ownership over any concepts or plots expressed in this work of fiction is stated or implied. The author intends no financial gain from the distribution of this material and makes no claim of copyright or trademark.
Kozo Fuyutsuki hated sea travel. The rise and fall of the ship's deck beneath his feet made his stomach roll, and he truly hated that he was best off either carrying a cane, or refusing that, leaning on something to keep his balance. It reminded him that he was an old man living in the end of days, and chilled him more deeply even than the Antarctic wind biting through his heavy parka. Fortunately, he'd spent little time at sea- most of his journey had been a grueling series of hops by helicopter, where he'd managed little sleep and so fatigue was coiled heavily at the base of his neck when Gendo Ikari, lately and resentfully of that name, approached him on the broad prow of the research vessel to join him in gazing over the sea of blood that stood in mute testament to a dead continent.
The two men stood in silence for a time. Fuyutsuki had the wedding announcement crumpled in his pocket, and was squeezing it through his mitten, the sensation of the curled cardboard against his fingers deadened by the padding. He didn't look at Ikari. He was tempted to laugh at the man, a skinny scrapper in an eclectic assortment of cold weather gear, right down to protective goggles. He had the beginnings of a beard.
"I need to show you something."
"What else could you possibly have for me?"
Gendo smirked, and for Fuyutsuki, that was enough. The man was seemingly inured to such displays of emotion. Fuyutsuki followed him down the deck, leaning on a rail or a crate or a great spool of wire all the way and cursing his age, until they reached a hatch, roughly amidships, that led down into the cargo hold. Gendo looked around, produced a key, and opened the heavy door. He offered a hand and Fuyutsuki dismissed it, instead leaning on the side of the bulkhead to ease his aching, cold joints as he lifted one foot and then the other over the edge of the opening and stepped inside. With the door shut and the howling Antarctic wind banished, it was finally something approximating warm, and both men slid their hoods back. Gendo pulled his goggles off and shoved him in his pocket.
They stood on a catwalk around a cargo hold, some twenty feet off the deck below, and it was if not temperate at least not freezing cold. Gendo scraped the ice off his boots and Fuytsuki did the same before they clanged down a metal staircase in their boots. The deck was slick and Fuyutsuki's hip pained him angrily when he slid across it a little until he found his footing. Gendo all but ignored him, picking his way through the contents of the hold. Most of it was nondescript equipment salvaged from the Katsuragi Expedition, junk found floating not far from the epicenter of the event- they were calling it Second Impact now. Having learned the truth of it, some part of Fuyutsuki wanted to clap Gendo over the head with the nearest sufficiently heavy object and leave him to drown in the dead sea.
At last, the other man found what he was looking for. He pulled a pale canvas tarp from a long box, maybe six feet from end to end and about three or four feet across, and about the same in height. It was made of olive drab metal and had a pair of slots in the bottom for a forklift to get at it. Gendo fished for a key, found it, and undid a series of padlocks along its length. He looked around again as he hid the key in his coat and motioned for Fuyutsuki to come closer.
"I didn't want to show this to anyone, but Yui insisted you be told."
"What is it?"
"We found this in a chunk of ice. It looks like it landed about ten miles away from where the creature was discovered."
Slowly, Gendo lifted the lid and let it lean back against the wall. Inside the crate, resting on carefully fitted, padded supports, was a silvery tube about five feet long, and two feet across. It tapered from one end to the other, giving it a vaguely ballistic shape, and the one end was flared open and flanged by thin, curved fins. It looked like a bomb, or rocket. Fuyutsuki ran his hand over it. The metal was surprisingly warm, and had a curious, almost plastic texture to it, not much like a metal at all. He pulled his hand back and ran his fingers over each other, thinking.
"Where did it come from?"
"We ran some tests on core samples from the ice block before we extracted it," said Gendo. "It's been in the ice for over four hundred years."
Fuyutsuki blinked, and stared at him. "Do you realize what you're saying?"
"Yes. This object has been in Antarctica since roughly sixteen-hundred, give or take fifty years."
"It looks like it's meant to fly. Some sort of rocket."
Gendo nodded. "I've been keeping this all very quiet. The old men have no idea. We tried extracting a sample of the material of the hull, to analyze it."
"What do you mean?"
"We tried a diamond drill and an abrasive diamond grinder. It pulverized the bit and ground the grinder pads smooth. You could run them over your skin after we were finished."
"Unbelievable. Did you try-"
"An arc welder, an angle grinder, a laser scalpel, everything either breaks, grinds itself to dust, or bounces off. Nothing will penetrate this material, nothing. I don't even know what it is."
Fuyutsuki swallowed. "You realize what this implies."
"Yes," said Gendo. "This is either an artifact from a lost civilization, or an alien spacecraft. That's not the most exciting part."
"Then what is?"
Gendo leaned forward, formed a fist, and tapped his knuckles three times against the curved surface. Each tap brought back a dull, empty sound. The object was decidedly hollow.
"When we get it back to Hakone, we're going to try an ultrasound, x-rays, sonar, anything. I think there's something in there, and whatever it is, someone sent it here."
Yui Ikari gazed at the rocket that was tearing her marriage apart and whispered, "I hate you."
She was alone with it, as she sometimes was. Few people paid any attention to it at the Artificial Evolution Lab- it was Gendo's side project, and he had somehow managed to convince many of the technicians working here that it was some sort of anti-angel weapon, a device designed to pierce the AT-Field. The idea was ludicrous, but since he was putting in eighteen hour workdays, most of which were devoted to the Complementation Project proper, no one questioned it. He even roped her into working on it in her spare time, which was rarely concurrent with his. If they worked on it together it would be better, but so many times they'd passed each other in the hallway going to and from this damned thing at different times.
Her hand rested on her stomach. If she wasn't pregnant, she might have left him by now. She was beginning to have suspicions about his motives for courting her in the first place. They'd been so happy, once. He let her see a side of him no one else, saw, but now they traded more suspicious glances than anything else, and when she tried to talk to him of her plans to thwart her father's involvement in the Committee, she was met with a stone-walled silence that simply reminded her of the way he treated everyone else, and that was the worst of all.
She was here today to do a simple test on the surface of the craft. It sat gleaming in its lab, a little room sequestered solely for experimentation on the rocket. The room was filled with the debris of failed experiments- broken cutting tools, the x-ray and solography machines, even a jackhammer. All of it had failed. The sound waves just conducted around the exterior of the shell, and the x-rays had simply bounced off.
The rocket was mounted in a device called a gimble, which resembled nothing so much as a metal cage, like the kind used to cook chickens over a fire, which allowed it to rotate. Yui turned it around until the only feature, other than the aerofoil fins, was exposed. It was the only thing that marred the perfect surface of the outer shell, breaking up its flawless ballistic design, a small door. So far, it had resisted every attempt to open it. The seam was so tight it was hardly there at all, and she wondered if whoever made this thing hadn't simply etched the appearance of a door into the skin of the rocket as some sort of a cruel joke. Not even a piece of paper would fit into it, and the bit of the jackhammer her husband had taken to it was itself curled into a ball from the pressure, discarded in a dusty corner of the lab.
She wheeled the infrared camera closer. The idea was, she would shut everything off and try to discern the inner structure of the machine by detecting its heat- the exterior was always slightly warm to the touch, even in bitter cold. It was, therefore, generating heat, and irregularities in that heat might hint at what lay inside, or perhaps even how to get it open. Despite the way it was mounted, she would still have to crawl up under it to plant the last sensor, and with her belly domed out as it was, that would be tougher than usual. She put both hands on the craft and leaned into it, and when she did, there was a soft click and a hiss.
She jumped back immediately. The tiny door slid inwards, and then drifted gently to one side, utterly silent. Inside, there was a small, cylindrical container. It slid out, and she stared at it, dumbstruck, wondering how it had decided to activate at this specific moment, and for what purpose. She debated stopping and calling Gendo, but something in her, some scientific curiosity, demanded that she understand it now, that she finally know what it meant. She took the canister in her hand pulled it free, and turned it in her hands. It was a featureless tube, though one end was obviously a lid, meant to be gripped and unscrewed. The only other marking was an etching- a vaguely triangular diamond shape, centered on something approximating a stylized English 'S'.
Something else emerged from the opening. It vaguely resembled some sort of projector, centered on a greenish lens. It tracked her movement, and centered itself on her midsection. She didn't have time to cry out before it flashed, blinding her with its light that left a streak in her vision, as if she'd stared into the sun for too long. She stumbled and fell, landing hard on her backside, and felt a sudden lunge in her midsection.
She slid along the floor to the phone, and dialed for Gendo. Of course, he didn't answer, so she called someone else.
Fuyutsuki sat back from his computer screen and took a long, slow breath. Yui Ikari sat next to him, great with child and as beautiful as ever, her dark green eyes framed by worry. She seemed more disheveled than usual, and was clutching her round belly. If Fuyutsuki didn't know better, he would say she was pouting. He looked from her to the screen and back to her again, and waited for her to frame the question.
"What's wrong with my baby?"
He measured his response for a moment, and said, "I'm not sure I'd call it 'something wrong'."
Her eyes narrowed. "Kozo, don't play games with me."
He folded his hands in his lap and took a breath. "A normal human has forty-six chromosomes- twenty three pairs."
"Oh God," Yui cut him off, looking down at herself. "Don't tell me he has-"
"Too many. He doesn't have forty six, he has sixty-nine. His chromosomes aren't in pairs, they're tripled."
She looked up, and stared at him, and her eyes seemed to burrow under his skin. He shifted in the chair uncomfortably and turned the monitor, making it easier for her to see. He underlined the normal twenty three pairs with his fingers, and then pointed to the extras, tapping the screen for emphasis.
"The normal human genetic material is here. Something has grafted an additional set of chromosomes onto the fetus' genetic code, and it gets stranger. Human DNA is normally a double helix. This sample is a triple helix."
"He… my baby isn't human?"
"That's not quite right," said Fuyutsuki. "He still has chromosome pairs from you and Gendo, he just has… extras. Whatever happened to you, it blended extra genetic material into the fetus' pre-existing form. It altered him."
"Him," said Yui. "It's a boy? You're sure."
Fuyutsuki nodded. "Had you chosen a name?"
"Shinji, if it is to be a boy," Yui sighed. "We wanted to name him Shinji."
Silence reigned in his little office. He never abused his position for perks, despite being one of the secret captains of the world, now. He had a little annex that was utterly nondescript, packed with books and binders and papers and mementos from his days as a professor, when he had met Yui and the man who became her husband. He looked at her for a while, then carefully closed all of the files open on the computer, and deleted everything.
"What are you doing?"
"You can't tell anyone about this. If the Committee learns of it, if your husband learns of it, they'll take him from you. Dissect him. He has to be kept from them at all costs, Yui. You know what those men are capable of. Your own father is one of them."
"One more deception," she said sadly.
He felt a tightness in his chest. "The Scenario."
"We're still going ahead. I don't have a choice."
"I can't talk you out of it?"
"You've tried, and you've failed. Gendo can't talk me out of it, either. We have to secure a bright future for…" she trailed off.
"For the children."
Shinji was on a train, and the train was taking him somewhere far away. He'd lived his short life in a beautiful city, a city full of people who smiled at him and spoke in the loud, soothing tones adults always used with small children. He would walk through the city with mother's hands and watch it being built, watching tiny distant men in orange jumpsuits work and operate machines and raise armored skyscrapers as they built a new fortress for mankind. Then, one day, his mother had to go away. He stood with Father in the room with the glass walls and watched.
Mother was a beautiful woman. The last time he saw her, her fingers, tightly wrapped in a glove made of some strange, slipper material, ghost across his palm as she said goodbye to him. She was crying, and at the time, he didn't know why. The machine was in the big room they called the cage, and Shinji didn't like it. He thought it looked like a monster. It didn't look much like a machine at all, because it was covered in bandages. He never went too close to it, because he wasn't allowed. Instead, he watched Mother climb into the big machine in the back of the robot's neck, and a few minutes later, it sank down with a twist and Mother was gone. Father told him she had left and was never, ever coming back, and he had to go away.
That was why he was on the train.
He had on a striped shirt that was too big and a pair of shorts that were short enough that his skin touched the cool, grimy surface of the plastic seat. The train was mostly empty and his only company on his end of the car was his suitcase, into which he'd stuffed all his worldly things, a few pairs of clothes and some socks. He watched the world sweep by in regular intervals, reddened by the sun, and wanted to go home, but there was no home left to go to. When the train slowed as it pulled into the last stop, he slid down off the seat and pulled his bag until it landed on the floor with a thump, and then picked it up and awkwardly carried it out the door. The man they sent to watch over him, a tall man in a dark suit who didn't speak, only walked to the edge of the door and stayed in the train, watching him walk down the platform.
There were only two people there, and they were waiting for him. His mother's brother, his uncle, and his wife, his aunt. They were older, the product of his grandfather's previous marriage, and were his only living relatives now that Mother was gone. He plodded over to them in the setting sun and after he set down his bag, stared up at their wizened faces. He had hoped in some small part of himself that they would smile warmly and invite him into their home, but they did neither. His aunt simply turned away and hobbled towards their little compact car, and his uncle picked up his bag.
He grunted when he did.
Today was Shinji's first day of school .
He lived in what could charitably be called a closet with a window. His aunt and uncle lived in the country in a little house with a big bedroom he wasn't allowed in and two they never used, and he lived in one of them now. His things didn't take up much space once he folded them and put them away, and the suitcase had been carried out and left to rot in the small tool shed behind the house, which lay on the slope of a hill. The front was level with the ground, and the back of the house was on stilts, and a set of stairs wound down from the back door to the shed, partly wood and partly stone. An older person would have called it quaint, perhaps, but it seemed mostly empty to him.
In the morning before he left for school, he spent some time there, sitting on the stone steps out behind the house, watching the sun rise and listening to the distant buzz of cicadas, the never-ending backdrop to the world of post-Impact Japan where summer never truly ended. He had his backpack on his back and was gripping the straps tightly, pulling them taut a few inches from his shoulder. When the pitched forward a little, the straps snapped cleanly, dumping the bag on the ground. He huffed outa long, low sigh and picked it up, tied the broken straps together, and carried it like a shoulder bag.
Because there were so few children, the trek to school began early. He had to walk up the dirt road from his house, a long, dusty journey that required he leave at daylight. There he would catch a bus which was really a van driven by a school employee. He trudged up the path, stopping occasionally to listen to the cicadas, which drummed in his ears when he was away from other sources of sound. A few times, the knot in his backpack straps slipped and he had to re-tie it. When he reached the place where the soft earth path opened out onto a paved road, the van was already pulling away.
Each step sent jarring vibrations up through his body. There was a sudden, primal joy in it, and he gave himself to the feeling. As he ran down the road he leaned into it, picking up speed, and when his pack slipped yet again he held it by the handle at the top and ran as fast as he could, waving for the van with his free hand. He ran so hard it hurt, so hard it made the muscles in his belly clench, and he thought if he ran any faster, he might fly.
The van rolled to a stop and he skidded along beside it, almost leaning backwards to erupt his momentum. Someone inside through the sliding door back and he climbed inside, panting, and set his bag down by the others. There were three children in the van, two girls and a boy, all his age. The driver, a wizened old man in a white shirt and slacks, looked back at him through the rear view mirror.
"Quite the runner, you are," he said.
Panting, Shinji sat in the bench seat by himself and clipped his seat belt as the van rumbled forward, and sank into the padded vinyl. The girl across from him, thin and spare, smiled at him.
"Hi," she said. "I'm Aoi."
"I'm Shinji," said Shinji.
He turned, and looked out the window, and watched the world roll by.
It was around nine in the evening, and Gendo was still in the office. Fuyutsuki walked into his chamber unannounced. It was still new to both of them, the size and opulence of the place, rich in its minimal design, symbolic of the new organization's expanded powers. In many way, Gendo Ikari deserved an office that was an equal of the American President or the Secretary General of the United Nations, for he was their equal, if not their superior. The room resembled nothing less than a cave, with a high ceiling that felt low anyway, etched with the ten spheres of the sephirot matching a bizarre etching of quantum particles on the floor. Gendo sat at the head and center of the diagrams, respectively, the combined effect being that of a spider sitting in the middle of a web.
Gendo looked up from his report. Fuyutsuki waited until he was sure he had the man's full attention.
"Kyoko Soryu is dead," said Fuyutsuki.
Gendo nodded, and looked back down at his report.
"She had a little girl. Eight years old."
Gendo nodded, but didn't look up.
"We should transfer them here."
"The Berlin branch will never suspend their work on the mass production model. Request denied."
"Request denied? For God's sake man, I wasn't making a formal request. I'm trying to hold a conversation with you."
"You're wasting my time with irrelevant information."
Fuyutsuki didn't budge. He folded his hands behind the small of his back. "We should transfer her here; train her in the simulation bodies. I think we should begin training Shinji as well, perhaps introduce them. It might help-"
"I said no."
"She discovered the body, Gendo. Her psyche-"
"Is irrelevant. Can she pilot?"
Fuyutsuki clenched his jaw. There was no sound of a ticking clock, as there was in his office, to mark the hours, or even the gentle rush of cool air from the ventilation system. Gendo remained as still as a statue, only his eyes moving until he turned the page of his report, even that movement spare, measured. Fuyutsuki wanted to say his eyes were haunted or his body hunched but neither was true. It was as if his entire form was a mask.
"You knew about this, didn't you?"
"Of course I did. You know what the program requires as well as I do. I fail to see the cause of your indignation."
"The safety system-"
"Was ill advised," said Gendo. "It would have been more helpful to allow her to be absorbed entirely."
"You mean," Fuyutsuki said coldly, "as Yui was."
Gendo looked up at that. "We will bring her back."
"At what cost?"
Where his off hand rested on the desk, Gendo's knuckles turned white. "Any. You will not stand in my way. As I recall, you agreed to aid me."
"I did," said Fuyutsuki. "But not for you."
With that, he turned and strode out of the office, letting his superior return to his paperwork. He walked through the hallway of Central Dogma aimlessly, avoiding his office and the tedious expense reports and budget allocations that awaited him there. He passed Naoko Akagi in the hallway, headed for the Commander's office. There was an unusual spring in her step and, he noticed, she was wearing fishnets today. Fuyutsuki was an old man, but he was not dead, and Akagi was attractive woman despite her years, having sort of settled into a matronly beauty in her middle age.
He came to a stop in the hallway.
He wouldn't. Would he?
Slowly, he resigned himself to returning to his office. No matte where he actually kept it, his little fiefdom was always the same. The dimensions were a bit larger, but that only made room for one more shelving unit, a recovered piece from the university in Kyoto, now gone. The room smelled richly of stained wood and old papers, and he kept the lights low, eschewing the angrily buzzing overhead light in favor of a lamp on his desk with a green shade and a pull-chain. He walked around behind the desk, sat down, and retrieved a bottle of cognac from the lower drawer. He reached up under the drawer above and pulled out two objects.
One was a gun, a GI-style .45 he wasn't supposed to have. He kept the gun immaculately oiled and owned exactly eight bullets, heavy hollowpoints that would paint the ceiling with his brains if he decided to use it for the purpose he'd originally obtained it for. He rested his hand on the grip and felt the contrast between the cool metal frame and the roughed up wooden grips and thought about thumbing the hammer back and putting a slug through his skull, and then stopped. Instead, he ran his fingers down the other object- a long tube that resembled nothing so much as a pencil case, one end designed to be unscrewed, etched on its length with a curious symbol resembling an English S. He lifted the canister, tapped it against his palm, and tried the screw-cap. Of course, it didn't budge.
He put both items back in the little resting place he used to secret them away, slid the drawer shut, and poured himself a drink. After he'd drained it, he picked up his phone, which was the old style with a cord and made of black plastic, dialed the number of the Section 2 chief. He had a visit to make.
When Shinji came home, there were three people in his house. He trotted up the front steps and carried his bag up to his little room, and then returned to the kitchen. In addition to his aunt and uncle there was a thin, elderly man in a dark suit, sitting casually at the table. His uncle, sitting opposite, looked unhappy to see him. His uncle glanced at him.
"There he is," he said, and stood up.
"Shinji," said the old man. "Would you mind taking a walk with me?"
Shinji shrugged and followed him outside, where he picked up a gnarled, twisted walking stick and tapped it along the ground beside him as they walked up the path, further into the trees. Shinji looked around nervously, listening to the cicadas, and the sound of his aunt yelling about 'that man', back in the house.
"Shinji," said the old man, "My name is Fuyutsuki. Your mother was a dear friend of mine."
Shinji brightened. "She was?"
"Yes, and I knew you even before you were born. You don't remember me, do you?"
Shinji shook his head.
"Do you remember Asuka?"
Shinji blinked, looked at the ground for a moment, and then shook his head again.
Together they walked up a fair distance from the house, the old man growing winded while Shinji strolled behind him. Once he paused, but the old man motioned for him to continue forward, panting.
"I need the exercise," he explained.
The dirt road wound up around the hillside to a sheer drop, so steep that no grass or trees grew there except for a few bare twigs and a single pine that twisted up out of the earth and crookedly reached for the setting sun. Shinji stood beside the old man for a while, waiting for him to speak.
"Shinji, when a man reaches my age, he thinks about the life he's chosen to lead and the choices he's made. I don't expect you to understand the things that I've done, but I feel like I'm partly responsible for the… accident that caused your mother's death."
Shinji said nothing. He looked out at the sun. He liked being in the afternoon light. It seemed to tease his skin, seep into him, make him feel warm and whole. He took a long breath and closed his eyes.
"She left something for you," said Fuyutsuki, and reached into his pocket.
He drew out a silvery tube and handed it to Shinji. He took it and turned it over in his delicate child's hands, until he found that the top was meant to unscrew. He took a try at it, but it failed to budge under his grasp. He wasn't sure, but he thought Fuyutsuki looked a bit disappointed. Shinji offered it back to him, and Fuyutsuki raised his hands in objection.
"It's yours, now. If you ever do manage to open it, I'd like to know."
Shinji nodded and slipped it into his pocket.
"Be careful with it, whatever it is. No one should ever see it. Do you have a place to hide it?"
"Good. I don't know what else there is I can say to you, except that you were very special to your mother, and you're a very special boy. She loved you very much."
Shinji sniffed a little, and looked away, because he didn't want a stranger to see the tears welling up in his eyes. Fuyutsuki looked out in silence over the expanse of the fields and terraces below and shrugged. After a time he walked back to the house, and Shinji followed him, his thoughts drawn to the heavy piece of metal in his pocket. While the old man went into the house to speak to his guardians, Shinji wound around the back, and let himself slide down the slope in the cool, wet grass until he reached the old shed. The door wasn't locked, and he stepped inside.
The dust and musk of old, unused tools and dried oil assaulted his nose until he thought he might sneeze, but he didn't. He slipped the cylinder out of his pocket and found a place for it in a gap between the rotted floorboards, resting it on the beams that held up the floor of the shed. He made sure it wouldn't roll off by wedging it between the timbers and left it there when he walked up the steps that were part wood and part stone and went to prepare dinner for his guardians, as was his duty.
Fuyutsuki clapped his hand over his face when he saw what they were doing. There were a dozen Section 2 agents on the lower deck of the command center, standing in a tight ring around the medical technicians that hovered around the gurney that had been set up in front of the three massive Magi nodes. A pair of them stared Fuyutsuki down before letting him pass. He shouldered between the agents and gasped, when he saw what the doctors were doing.
Naoko Akagi lay on the gurney, in ruins. All of her limbs had been shattered, and from what he saw, precious little attention was being given to setting them right, although there was little point. She was strapped to a brace and had a heavy collar around her neck, and it was obvious from her slack expression that even if she regained consciousness, she wouldn't be able to feel it anyway. Her breath came in ragged gasps that made her breasts heave against the tight dress she wore, crusted with her own blood, and Fuyutsuki's stomach turned. Her glazed over eyes stared up at nothing.
Gendo appeared at his side. "Move her to the cage."
"Sir?" said the lead doctor, pulling down his surgical mask. "I don't understand-"
"It is not your place to understand. Follow my orders."
With a shrug, the doctor motioned, and they slowly wheeled the bed away, a team of nurses dedicated just to holding up her intravenous lines.
"We're really quite lucky," said Gendo. "We'll be able to salvage her for the prototype."
Fuyutsuki blinked. "What do you…"
His eyes drifted to the upper levels, where four Section 2 agents were lifting a tiny body bag, the corpse inside that of a child, such that the bag was actually folded in half. They purposely looked nowhere at all as they picked the limp form up and carried it away. Gendo watched them go and then began following Akagi's gurney. Fuyutsuki fell in step beside him.
"What happened? Was that-"
"Ayanami, yes," Gendo said quietly.
"My God, Ikari, she-"
"Calm yourself," Gendo said irritably with a wave of his hand. "I have everything in hand."
Fuyutsuki swallowed, wished for a stiff drink, and followed the sad little procession down to the cage. There were a number of vast open spaces to contain Evangelions, but the group headed for the cage that held Unit Zero, designated as the prototype, constructed to replace the test-type, which was too volatile for further experiments and remained in cold storage. Officially, at least. He was glad he didn't have to walk under the gaze of the horned beast today. Instead, he stared up into the great single eye of Unit Zero, its primer-gray head otherwise featureless. His visage was distorted, twisted out of shape in the fish-eyed glass.
The doctors left, and with Gendo's help, the technicians began stripping Naoko. They handled her roughly, ignoring her soft groans as they moved her ruined limbs to cut away her lab coat and little black dress with snips, leaving her bruised and sallow and sagging on the bloody white sheet. It was Gendo who took her under the shoulders and stepped into the entry plug with her. A moment later, he and the technician crawled out, soaked in the link control liquid to the waist. Gendo wiped his hands on his pants, mingling Akagi's blood with the orange, coppery-smelling fluid, and Fuyutsuki thought there was something grimly appropriate in that.
"We need to work quickly," Gendo announced. "Clear the cage."
Fuyutsuki watched in silence as Gendo oversaw the operation, shouting orders to the technicians, using Akagi's own lab to murder her. The machine roared and bucked in the cage, shaking the floor under his feet, and for a moment he felt a familiar gaze on him through its single eye. He swallowed and felt his gorge rising as the machine powered down and the Evangelion settled back into its crypt as ice-cold bakelite sprayed out over its body to secure it.
When it was over, Gendo said, "Follow me."
Fuyutsuki walked after him, glancing over his shoulder as if he expected to see a ghost. Together they rode the elevator down to the lowest floor, until Gendo swiped a key card in the control panel and inserted and turned a nondescript key, after which the elevator continued further. It felt like forever, both men standing in silence in the cramped space as the rotary floor counter over their heads ticked away their passage into the underworld. The doors slid open and Gendo stepped out, and Fuyutsuki followed him. He had never been this low before, and there was something grim and sepulchral about this place.
"Where are we…"
The dark hallway opened onto a narrow space; another elevator led to the LCL production plant, and an unmarked door required yet another key. Gendo held the door for Fuyutsuki, and it clicked locked behind him when it shut. Fuyutsuki felt the size of the room even before Gendo threw a series of light switches and lit up the space, a huge laboratory centered on a single round tank in the very center. Fuyutsuki walked closer to it.
Floating in the void of the tank were listless, drifting shapes, the outlines of human bodies. As he drew nearer they resolved into the pale form, forms, of the Ayanami girl, Gendo's ward. Each was identical, each floating nude in a vat of LCL, slack looks on their faces. Fuyutsuki took a step back as a one of the shapes nearest the glass moved suddenly, her palm thunking against the glass as he face tightened in a sudden scowl and she fixed her sight on Gendo.
"Now that Akagi is unavailable, I will need your help decanting the next clone," said Gendo.
"What is this?" said Fuyutsuki. "What have you done?"
"What was necessary," said Gendo. "We have work to do."
Fuyutsuki steeled himself and began following his orders, and tried not to think of how thoroughly he'd damned himself.
The trouble started the day Shinji got his perfect attendance ribbon. He was finishing junior high soon, and he had never missed a day of school, for illness or otherwise. In fact, he had never been sick, even when the bird flu came through one year and the school was closed. He had the ribbon in his locker when he walked out onto the tarmac for physical education in his white shirt and shorts, lined up with the other twelve boys in his class. The upperclassmen were just walking back into the school as he was walking out, and one of them happened to notice him.
Unfortunately, at the time he was looking up the hill at the girls arrayed around the swimming pool. There were some giggles and whispers, and he heard every one of them as clear as day, a chorus of comments about how cute he was and a rather lewd observation about his butt that made him blush. Aoi stood up and waved to him, and sucked in her belly as she did, and pushed her chest out and cocked her hips to one side, and the overall effect was silly as she was bronzed from the sun and had the beginnings of freckles and smelled of chlorine, but something deep in Shinji stirred and he waved back anyway.
Which brought on the attentions of her brother.
"Freak," the older boy snarled, shoving Shinji.
The gym teacher didn't see. Shinji quailed, his shoulders sinking.
"Keep your freak eyes off my sister, you little puke."
Shinji nodded and retreated into the line. Today they would play basketball, but his heart wasn't really in it. He glanced up at the pool a few times, and the ball bounced off the side of his head. When it did, it made a loud thwap sound, and went sailing clear across the court. It hit the chain link fence and jangled it loudly, and the ball bounced over to the other team, who rushed it past him and made the point. He tried to put the ball in the basket a few times, but every time he threw it he overreached, and it went sailing over the back board. One time, it went outside the fence and he had to climb over, toss the ball back, and climb back in. The ball nearly bounced out of the court again, he threw it so high.
Gym class ended, and the day wore on. The rest of his classes for the day bored him to tears. He'd already read through the English textbook five times, and he'd taken to downloading American television programs on his laptop and watching them in the evenings. In fact, in his spare time, he'd taken up German, on the suggestion of Professor Fuyutsuki who'd called one evening just to say that he might try it. No matter what language he tried, he took to it like a fish to water, and a few reads through a phrase book and some television programs or radio recordings, and he was nearly fluent.
Science posed him no difficulty, either. The equations were simple and he'd already taken a high school physics textbook out of the library on his own initiative and worked through the equations for a few minutes a day, and math was the same. History annoyed him; he disliked the rote way he was expected to memorize the material, especially since he'd read the entire textbook the first week of school and the teacher couldn't answer any of his questions. He wasn't particularly interested, so pursued the other subjects more vigorously. Astrophysics fascinated him. He read the books of Stephen Hawking and read of string theory and branes, and the ideas mesmerized him. As he sat this day, he dreamed with his chin in his palm and wondered what it would be like to fly freely into the sky, out into the darkness of space and see the stars with his own eyes. It amazed him that a human being, an American named Armstrong, had walked on the moon, and others followed in his path.
It amazed him so much he barely noticed Aoi nudging his arm.
She was tall and skinny and had brown hair and green eyes that she hid behind big round frames, and he knew the other girls made fun of her but she didn't like to bring it up. She was poking his shoulder with one slender finger, and when he turned around, he blushed at the realization that she was tracing the outline of his shoulder muscles with her fingertip.
"Hey," she whispered.
"Can you come over to my house tonight? I need help studying for the physics test."
He looked around, was thoroughly sure the teacher wasn't paying attention to them, and leaned over to her.
She rolled her eyes. "You can take him."
Shinji's eyes narrowed.
"I'm joking," she deadpanned.
"I don't know. I'll have to ask my guardians."
She sighed. "Why do you always have to be so uptight about rules?"
"I don't know," he shrugged. "I guess I just like order."
With that, he went back to looking bored, terrified the teacher had noticed their conversation. He fidgeted uncomfortably until the bell dismissed them. Aoi walked him out of the building, but he had to split off from her to go home, which was quite a walk and rather distant from where she lived with her parents. He watched her go for a while, and then a rock bounced off his head.
He watched it skitter along the ground and touched the side of his forehead where it had hit him. It didn't even feel different, safe for a bit of dust clinging to the fringe of his hair. He looked at his fingers, and then realized that three boys that each had about fifty pounds on him were bearing down on him like a trio of freight trains. In a panic, he yelped, and he ran. He turned and he ran up the path, and the sound of his footfalls almost drowned out the sound of their shouts behind him. He glanced over his shoulder, looked at the widening gap, and could do nothing but run faster, abject terror seizing his stomach in an iron grip. He looked forward, and he ran.
The shouts died and became huffing and puffing, and finally he thought he might be along, but he kept running anyway. There were tears stinging his eyes, and he cursed himself for his cowardice. He should have confronted them, should have said yes to Aoi's invitation, but he was afraid, he was so afraid, it was like it hung around his neck and dragged him down. He ran and ran and went up the path past his own house, and he ran so fast he didn't see the end of the path and the steep slope coming until it was too late. He cartwheeled into open air, a sudden clenching in his gut as his feet missed the ground, and the world pitched and rolled around him, turning end over end.
He hit the ground hard, bounced, and rolled onto his back. For the barest moment, he had a sneaking suspicion that he was dead, and was therefore in hell, since it was identical to his normal life. He sat in the mud and looked down at his feet. He ran his hands down his legs and was surprised that there was no lancing pain, no jutting fragments of long bones. Slowly, he stood up, and looked around. He'd fallen maybe fifty feet through open air and then splashed in the mud, bounced out of a deep furrow, and carved another one as he landed. He tested himself as he walked around in a slow circle, the mud rising to his ankles. His bag was lost somewhere, and he saw the ruins of his laptop on the ground and heaved a deep sigh.
There wasn't a scratch on him.
He looked at his hands and flexed his fingers. Slowly, he gathered up what he could find, stuffed it in his torn, mud-soaked bag, and started climbing. He found no purchase in the mud as it squeezed between his fingers, and so had to find clumps of dying grass and use them to yank himself along, sliding on his belly in the mud like a snake. He managed to get his arms around the hanging tree, and then get his feet on it, and then use it to step up onto the top of the slope just as it pulled free, gave way, and tumbled to the ground below with a splash of mud. He mumbled an apology and stifled a sob. He ruined everything.
Slowly, he made his way back to his uncle's house. He took his shoes off on the stop step and left them there to dry, and then his socks, and walked through the kitchen barefoot, hoping no one would see him. His uncle, of course, was doing his crossword puzzle in the kitchen.
"Boy," he said, looking up, "What's a seven letter word for the cycle of…" he trailed off as he caught Shinji in his gaze. "What the hell happened to you?"
"I fell," Shinji shrugged.
"You're making a mess. Go get yourself cleaned up, and then scrub the floor. The wife will eat me alive if she sees this."
Sighing, Shinji did what he said. He had to scrape off big chunks of now dried mud and toss them in a bag, and then clean out the little shower cabinet after he was done, there was so much dirt on him, and by the time he had his hair cleaned out, the water had run cold, but it didn't really bother him at all. He stepped out, toweled off, and put on a clean school uniform- he didn't have any other clothes. He tried to clean the kitchen floor as fast as he could, dealing with the mud first and then scrubbing the whole thing down, before he stood up and said to his uncle,
"I got an invitation to a girl's house, and I was-"
"No," his uncle shrugged, "Cook."
Shinji sighed, walked slowly to the stove, and froze.
"On second thought," his uncle said, "We have some instant meals we never eat. You've had a bad enough day without me spoiling it for no reason at all. "Go ahead."
His heart lifted, and he hurriedly donned socks, retrieved his shoes, and cleaned and polished them, rubbing them so hard he was afraid they'd catch fire. He had no backpack anymore, so he grabbed a physics book, shoved it under his arm, and bounded down the steps. No boys confronted him on the dirt road, or when he walked down the asphalt path. He was so high in his spirits that he felt he might lift off from the ground, like he'd grown a hundred pounds lighter.
He was in high spirits, that is, until he saw the smoke.
He dropped the book and it thudded on the blacktop, and he broke into a dead sprint, the wind whistling in his ears. There was a single pumper truck on the road, ringed by firemen in their helmets and heavy protective gear. They were, of course, too late. Shinji realized with a sinking stomach that it was Aoi's house that was burning, red flames licking from the windows, smoke pouring out of the roofline. He ran past the firemen an was relieved when he saw her family standing around, her mother and father and her brother still in his school uniform.
The realization almost knocked him off his feet.
"Ikari?" her father said, his face lined with worry, yet dead with shock. "What are you doing here?"
Shinji was shocked by the normality of his question. He was about to say something, say he was sorry, when he heard a soft moan. No one else seemed to hear it, though, judging by their reaction. The firemen were fumbling with their equipment, trying to get water pressure to spray down the house. Shinji looked at it, at the licking flames, and a single thought danced though his head.
I musn't run away.
Steeling himself, he sucked in a breath and ran up the path, ignoring the shouted cries behind him to come back, that he would be trapped, too. He got up to the door, which stood open, and found it blocked by a flaming beam that was half wood and half charcoal. He put his hands on it and winced, expecting it to send lancing pains up his arms, but he felt nothing, and when he pushed, it slid back and thumped against the floor. He deepened his breath as best he could and charged inside, head down, under the smoke. It stung his eyes and the sound of crackling flames assaulted his ears, but his lungs had not yet begun to burn, and his eyes didn't water.
He heard soft breathing, and went to it. One of the stairs gave way when he stepped on it, and he jumped over the gap and darted up to the landing. The sound of breathing came from the bedroom to his right, and he shouldered through the door. Aoi lay under the bed, face down, her legs hanging out. She'd tried to hide, and he realized why. The whole hallway was on fire. There was no way out for her.
He was standing in flames, and they'd burned his pants and his shoes and socks away up to his knees. His shirt hung from him in tatters, and soot outlined every crease and bulge of muscle on his spare frame, clinging under his ribs. He was on fire and he felt nothing.
He ran into the room and knelt beside her. Without thinking, he picked up the bed and hurled it backwards, and it was light in his hands, like tossing a piece of cardboard. It slammed against the wall and shattered, splintering into a dozen pieces. He rolled Aoi over. She'd broken her glasses and her nose was bleeding. He touched her cheek and she was cold, her breathing ragged. He looked at her body, and something happened. For a moment, he'd thought she'd melted- her dress and even her undergarments and skin simply vanished, and he saw inside her somehow, inside her lungs. There was some blackness there, but it wasn't bad, just barely lining the shape of her lungs and throat. He blinked, and she was normal again, and he shook his head, wondering if he was hallucinating.
Gently, he slid his arms under her and picked her up, leaning her limp head against his shoulder to keep from hurting her neck. He was surprised how light she was. He knew she was skinny, but he felt like he could carry her all day. He turned to carry her back the way he'd come when he realized the fire would burn her, maybe kill her, and she'd breathe in the smoke. It didn't matter either way, because at that moment with a great crunch the roof came in, falling down on his head with a rain of embers and soot.
He curled on Aoi, shielding her with his back, and hoped that they'd be able to get her out even if he didn't make it. It took him a moment to realize it had been too long. He stood up and the timbers and a great sheet of tiled roof slid off his back, and a moment later landed with a boom on the ground below. The second floor was open to the ground, now, though he could barely see it through the flames. He had no choice. He ran to the edge, and he jumped.
Inwardly, he winced. He knew the fall was too much, he was too high, and he was going to break his ankles. He blinked when he realized he was standing in the front yard, the heels of his feet buried in the soft ground almost over his ankles. The firemen and rescue team and Aoi's family stared at him for a moment, and then rushed over to him. She opened her eyes and looked up at him, and smiled.
"Hi," she coughed.
He realized with a start that he hadn't let his breath out yet. He breathed out, and then breathed in, finding it oddly necessary to concentrate on it for a second. Finally, he was steady enough to say, "My uncle said I could."
"I'm glad," she said, and then passed out again.
They took her from him and put her on a stretcher, and they finally began to douse the house in water. Aoi's mother tried to hug him but he was too hot, and she jumped back with a yelp, staring at her hands. He looked down at the ruins of his clothing and the curling smoke and steam rising from his body. Her brother stared at him, slack jawed.
"I changed my mind," he said. "You can come over if you want."
Shinji blinked at him, and then saw the medics and the firemen running over, and in a panic, he darted away, his stomach leaping upwards at the thought of being caught doing something he wasn't supposed to do. He ran all the way home, all the way up the front steps, and when his uncle saw him, he spat out his water.
"What the hell happened to you this time?"
"Her house was on fire," said Shinji. "I went in and got her out."
"Oh," his uncle said, and then a moment later, "What?"
"I don't know," said Shinji."
He went upstairs and took another shower, and changed his clothes. He waited by the phone until it rang, and answered it himself. It was Aoi, and her voice sounded scratchy-scratchy, but alright. He sighed and slid down in the kitchen chair, relief falling on him like a cooling wave.
"I'm inthe hospital," she said. "You can see me in the morning."
He did, of course. Some part of him, the part of him that lives in all young men when they notice how appealing girls are, hoped that it would be the beginning of a great romance. Of course, since their house burned down, Aoi and her family had no choice but to move away. At least he got a chaste kiss on the cheek and a clap on the shoulder from her brother. It was better than nothing.
Shinji was sixteen when the letter came. He was fluent in four languages, and had declined the opportunity to be the school's star runner and basketball player, preferring furthering his studies. One day he trotted up those steps into his house and found his uncle sitting at the table, staring at nothing. Shinji dropped his book bag and sat down opposite, leaning on the table. The old man looked up at him and sighed.
"You know," he said, "It's a shame it took that thing with the fire for me to realize how special you are, boy. I wish I'd taken to you sooner. You understand how it was, never having a child of our own, and your father dropping you on our lap."
Shinji nodded, and looked down at the letter. The old man slid it across the table to him.
"This came for you today."
Shinji studied it for a moment. It was addressed to him with no return addressed, written in an oddly familiar hand. He carefully worked his finger under the flap and tore it open, and tossed the part of the envelope he tore away into the garbage can without looking. He slid the paper out, and looked at it hard for a moment. It was strange; most of it was blacked out, and he was sure that it had been re-used, a discarded page repurposed with a handwritten message. It said, "Come."
There was no salutation, but there was a signature. "-Father," it said.
It slipped out of his hands and landed on the table with a small sound.
"Is that what I think it is?"
Shinji nodded dumbly.
"Think it over," his uncle said. "I'll back you if you decide to stay."
Slowly, achily, the old man stood up and walked out of the kitchen, leaving Shinji with it. After all these years, one word. Just come, obey my orders, do as you're told without thought. He picked up the letter, curled it into a ball, and threw it into the garbage can so hard it knocked the vessel over with a clang. He stood up, walked through the house, and went to sit on the back steps, alone. It was unusually cool at the beginning of this school year. He watched the sun for a while, until it gradually began to set, and peaked through the wooden walls of the old shed.
A sudden fancy struck him. He got up, and paced down the steps to the shed. His uncle had locked it and he didn't want to ask for the key. The old professor had told him never to tell anyone about the canister, and Shinji did as he was asked. Instead, he took a hold of the lock, closed his eyes, and clenched his fist. The metal came apart like putty, the dully painted sides of the lock squeezing out between his fingers. He tossed it aside with a thump and it slid under the floor of the shed, beneath the exposed beams. He took a breath, opened the door, and stepped inside.
It was dimmer and dustier than he'd remembered. There was an even thicker layer of grime and spider webs over the old tools and junk, and he had to pick his way through it to the spot he'd chosen. He pulled the floorboard up, shooting a glance over his shoulder when it creaked loudly, and felt a wave of relief when the burnished end of the cylinder remained firmly wedged in place. It came out easily in is hand. When he held it, it shocked him how small it seemed now when he turned it over and tested its weight in his hand. He tapped the end against his palm, and then closed his fingers around it. He tested it a little, and it didn't give way like the lock, but when he turned his hand the end neatly swiveled with a squeak of metal, and a few quick turns opened it.
There was a small sound, a meaty pop, and something shot out of the canister and thumped against the roof of the shed, pelting him with chunks of rotten wood and bits of web and dust. He coughed and picked the object up. When he lifted it, it unfurled in his hands, and he was surprised by how large it was. It shouldn't have been able to fit in the canister at all. He held in his hands two bolts of cloth, red and blue, that must have been blankets, and large ones at that. Both held the same stylized symbol, a red and yellow figure that looked like an S in a diamond shape. He rolled it up and set it aside, and upended the cylinder.
A small crystal fell into the palm of his hand, and he clutched it instinctively. When it touched his skin, it made a small sound, a tiny ping, and then again, flashing with greenish light as it did, illuminating the whole inside of the shed. The sound and the light sped up, ping-ping-ping-ping, until it was a steady glow. He heard a strange sound, the sound of something welling up and gathering power, and a brilliant light blasted out of his hand, forcing his eyes closed as he turned his head. He felt a rush of cool air and thought, for a moment, that the shed had exploded.
When he opened his eyes, he was underground. He had a profound sense of the weight of rock above him, and he looked up and saw a smoothly curved concrete ceiling, although an angry crack ran down its length. He looked around and found himself standing in the middle of some sort of laboratory. Some of the devices he recognized- burners and flasks and containers that were all strangely familiar, yet unnervingly unfamiliar in their design, like glassware from a country he'd never visited before. He turned and saw in the center of the room a long, polished metal rocket, shaped like a bullet with airfoils at one end. Beside the rocket stood a tall man in a black body glove and a red robe, on he saw the same symbol from the blankets. He almost dropped the crystal.
"Hello," said the man.
"Uh," said Shinji. "Hi-"
"My name is Kal-El," the man said, ignoring him. It must have been some kind of a recording. "I am speaking to you from a planet called Krypton, in a galaxy far distant from your own. Beside me is an experimental probe, which carries within it a powerful engine called a hyperdrive that will allow it to compress space and cross the void between the stars to its destination."
Shinji swallowed. A curious tightness in his chest overtook him.
"If you are seeing this message, it is because you are both strong enough to open the message cylinder, and you have the Kryptonian genetic profile to activate the computer storage crystal. It is the first one of many contained within this craft."
He rested his hand on the rocket. "Within this vessel is the entire body of knowledge of our race. Foolishly, we grew too proud and tampered with beings too great for us, and doomed our species. Though we have conquered war and famine and strife and disease, we were unable to conquer our own arrogance, and so doomed ourselves to a slow death by sterilization. If my father had not once believed our world was doomed to explode, this rocket would never have been built. The majority of our species has voted to die quietly, sequestered on our world for fear that our folly will contaminate others."
He moved towards Shinji. "In my survey of the stars, I identified your world as host to both a sentient species –yours—and the same type of creature that caused our own end. I have observed your world, son of Earth. I have chosen you to receive the bounty of our species' learning and advancement, but the greatest gift I have sent is you."
Shinji shivered. His grip on the crystal tightened.
"When this ship was touched by a pregnant female of your species, it grafted a sampling of Kryptonian genetic material onto yours while you were in the womb. In effect, you have two fathers- your human biological father, and myself. I hope that your human parents have raised you well."
"Though you have been raised as a human being, you are not one of them. Under your Earth's low gravity, you will be faster, stronger, and tougher than any ordinary human being. Under the light of a yellow sun, your abilities will flower beyond anything known to any but your most distant Kryptonian forebears, for we live under a red sun. I have sent this message along with the combined knowledge of our race in hopes that you will act as a steward for humanity. It is not your place to rule them or subjugate them, but to lead them by example. They are a good people, who carry within them a seed of greatness. They need only a light to show the way. It is for this reason, their capacity for good, that I have sent them a child- one last child of Krypton."
The world around him simply vanished, and he was standing in the shed again. He held the crystal in his hand for a moment, and then dropped it as if it was hot. He looked around, and finally sat down on a pile of old junk, holding the folded pieces of cloth in his lap. He picked up the crystal and slid it back into the canister and closed the lid, and wrapped the tube up in the cloth. He slid it into his pocket, closed the door to the shed behind him, and walked up the hill past the house. He strolled along, heading up the dirt path, until he reached the cliff face.
There, he stood. He looked out over the shining grasses and crops in the terraced fields below, held his arms out to his side, and closed his eyes. His stomach pitched as he leaned forward, and he suppressed as a cry as his feet slid out from under him. He waited for ten seconds, thirty seconds, a minute, more. Then, he opened his eyes. The world leaned lazily beneath him, and when he waved his arms, he yelped as he rolled over onto his back, the cool afternoon air breezing under his shirt. He rolled again, and he looked up into the sky, and he lived his dream.
The earth tilted beneath him until he became steady, and he put his hands at his sides, feeling the air rush over his body as he surged forward. Wherever he looked, he went, so that he skimmed low over the fields or went straight up until he put his arms out and hung there, hundreds of feet off the ground, the freezing cold bothering him not in the least. He saw his world spread out beneath him, the little house where he grew up and the town and the school and the place where the ruined burned bones of Aoi's house had been torn down and a blackened patch left there, and he went home. He brushed over the very tips of the pine trees until he came into the clearing where the house stood, and then pitched his feet down. He landed with a thud and slid across the grass.
He walked up into the house. It was still empty. His aunt and uncle were out. He took a deep breath, and walked over to the garbage can. He reached down inside of it and plucked out the curled scrap of paper, took it, and smoothed it out. For a while he stared at the single printed word, as if it would change, and then turned it over. On the back, written in another hand, was a telephone number. He took it to the phone, pressed the headset between his ear and his shoulder, and dialed. After a few seconds of clicking, someone picked up on the other end.
Shinji blinked. He heard a woman's voice. "Give me that! I told you not to answer the phone!"
"Umm," said Shinji.
The female voice drew nearer the receiver on the other end. "Katusragi."
"Uh," said Shinji. "Hello? I got a letter, and think I was supposed to call-"
"Oh," the woman said slowly. "I bet you're Shinji. Are you cute?"
Shinji almost dropped the phone. "I, uh, that is, what?"
"I'm Misato Katsuragi. I'll be picking you up at the train station. I'll send you the tickets and a picture, so you can recognize me," her voice dropped in mock seduction, "Just make sure you pay attention to my face. I know how you teenage boys can be."
Shinji swallowed, hard. "I-I will, umm, thank you,"
"See you in a week," she said sweetly, and then hung up.
Shinji rested the phone on the cradle, and walked up the stairs to his bedroom. He closed the door, sat down at his little desk, and unfolded the piece of cloth he carried in his pocket. He put the canister aside and looked at the cloth, wondering if it was a flag or a blanket or something else. When he turned it around in his hands, he had an idea.
He opened the top drawer of his desk, and pulled out his sewing kit.
You have been reading
Last Child of Krypton: Redux
Chapter One: From Another World