Wow, this has a plot! Well, not that Lilim doesn't, but the focus is my attempt to write an ordinary slashfic. And The Cat Who Walks Through Walls definitely has a plot, but right now I'm treating it like a slice of life because I have other epics to finish and I'm waiting on the movies to do the battle choreography and see what other ideas they give me.
And really, I just wanted to write one specific scene because I saw this one game vid and went wow, that would be a required secondary skill for someone in the uncanny valley, huh…
I needed a viewpoint character. He'll be gone after this chapter.
The television over the bar remained tuned to the breaking news. There was supposed to be a soccer game today but for once no one cared, even though sports was one of the things the world clung to in the aftermath of Second Impact. Maybe for the same reason as why the world had gone to war immediately afterwards: they'd lost so much, and there was no victory in sight, no recovery to be had. The decay could be slowed, but the dead sea now covered far more than seventy-percent of earth's landmass. Once, algae supplied most of the world's oxygen. Once, seafood was a large part of Spain's diet. Those times were gone, along with so many people. The cradle of life was barren, and it wasn't a question of whether or not the world could recover. It was a question of how long it could endure. So they'd fought over what was left, like a dog over scraps, while all the while?
"-Several of the leading members of SEELE, the cult responsible for what we now know was not a meteor impact, remain at large, among them Lorenz Keel, alleged leader of the cult, and Gendo Ikari, leader of its executive branch GEHIRN, who returned home the day before SEELE agents among the Katsuragi Expedition triggered the event. UN officials ask everyone to please be on the lookout for the following individuals."
"As you all know, the conspiracy to wipe out the human race in the belief this would merge us into a mass-mind was revealed thanks to the heroic efforts of Professor Fuyutsuki, who was invited into the group by two of his former graduate students, Gendo Ikari and the deceased Yui Ikari, who is believed to have merged herself with the 'Eva' constructed from the lower half of the 'Lilith' entity. According to the cult's teachings, this would have eventually allowed her to achieve godhood. The surviving Dr. Ikari made no effort to take his son Shinji Ikari with him when he fled, and rather disturbing documents have been found detailing his plans for his son's future, essentially using him as a human sacrifice to trigger the so-called 'Third Impact.' Their child is now under the care of Professor Fuyutsuki, along with Miss Misato Katsuragi, who was kept imprisoned by the group to avoid leaks of her eyewitness account of the so-called Second Impact."
The TV once again showed the now-iconic images of the crying child clinging to the Professor's coat – what a sick bitch that Yui was, feeding herself to that monster while that little kid was there to scar him for life – and the fourteen-year-old Misato being led outside by UN special forces troops, blinking at daylight she hadn't seen in years.
"We take you now to live coverage of the second public report of the scientific team formed to study SEELE's research and the so-called 'angels,' who some are already calling the Abominations."
"So there are a total of eighteen of these entities?" one of the clamoring mass of reporters asked.
"According to Seele's numbering system, yes. However, their files refer to humanity as the 'Eighteenth Angel,' the 'Lilim,' which I'm told is actually the name of a kind of succubus, so unless everyone is having that much more sex than I am…" That managed to get a few chuckles, but this was a serious matter. "They call the entity that triggered Second Impact 'Adam' despite the fact that the 'Lilith' entity, the so-called 'Second Angel,' is actually the progenitor of mankind. Since Lilith in mythology is the mother of monsters, it would make a lot more sense if we reversed the two. Or maybe they reversed the two, although I'm not in a position to speculate on whether or not SEELE were Satanists. Whatever we end up calling the progenitor found at the South Pole, it had spawned fourteen times before SEELE got their hands on it. In addition to carving parts from it to use for the Eva units, they were also able to trigger it to conceive an additional entity by fertilizing it with human DNA. That entity's birth is what set off Second Impact."
He clearly found the whole idea and the means as distasteful as the audience did. "The good news is that as far as we can tell, SEELE believes that the progenitor was weakened enough by the energy released by Second Impact that they won't be able to use it to produce more abominations. The bad news is that as long as the original entity remains in their hands it's still theoretically possible that they could create more. Since they believe that it is necessary to have one of the spawn of this entity fuse with humanity's progenitor for them to attain their nirvana or whatever, it would obviously be in their interests to do so. The ugly news is that the one they artificially created not only took on human form, but it's already learned to understand our language, and they've tested and confirmed its ability to infiltrate and control not just people, but computers, even entire networks. We've already advised the UN that nothing stored on computer, except in physically isolated systems with no networking capabilities, can be considered secure. We're not certain, but in addition to leaks from compromised government officials, it's possible SEELE's leaders have been able to avoid the search so well, even taking the Antarctic entity and a lot of important equipment with them, because they are using the entity they've designated 'Tabris, the seventeenth angel,' to monitor our search efforts."
That caused a lot of murmuring in the crowd.
"The real reason SEELE put so much funding into the super-secure MAGI system was to make sure that the original fourteen spawned abominations, who are not under SEELE's control, weren't able to take control of the defenses they planned to use to ensure that Third Impact took place on their terms. As we know, SEELE planned to masquerade as humanity's saviors from the threat of the angels, all the while just waiting until the rogue abominations had been eliminated before using the one they created to absorb us and all of Earth's biomass into a single mass entity, leaving behind a dead and sterile planet. However, the fourteen 'second-generation' abominations are still a threat. If they cause Third Impact, instead of humanity being merged into the mass mind, SEELE believed that we would be converted into raw biomass just like every other lifeform on the planet. They will also seek out not our progenitor but their own, the one SEELE still has in their custody. The UN is already reviewing GEHIRN's plans for the defense of our own progenitor, but as long as SEELE remains at large, if one of the rogue abominations finds them before we do…" Bye bye human race. "We're still trying to sort through all this data, and figure out how much of SEELE's traditions and prophecies are standard cultish nonsense and how much is valid information that might be useful in combating these threats. The most important thing right now is to locate the remaining members of SEELE, and please, please remember that we need them alive. I know: I wish I was out there too, my family lived in New York, but we need the information they have if we're going to save what's left of our world." So no lynching, please.
"I'm sure you've all heard this before, but use extreme caution. In addition to SEELE's trained fanatics, there's the Tabris entity. It looks harmless," like a child, even if not quite, even if the grey tint in that hair and skin wasn't caused by any human pigment, "but as of yet we have no functional weapon in our arsenal that could so much as scratch it, although fortunately for us the rogue abominations are weaker. Taking off and N2ing it from orbit most likely won't work either, and it will only grow more dangerous as it learns more about its abilities. According to SEELE's readings, the Tabris entity is capable of the kind of power surge that caused the Antarctic Incident. Do not, I repeat, do not, under any circumstances, provoke it."
The image in the corner of the screen expanded now, showing those deep red eyes, that distant expression that looked more like the creature wasn't bothering to make an expression or hadn't learned any yet. Human babies automatically smiled and mimicked expressions. A glowing force-field surrounded the creature, that wore a white smock that seemed to mimic an angel's robes instead of, or as well as, being something easy to boil and bleach sterile. The bracelet around one wrist was plastic: hospital wear, lab wear, an experimental creature.
"Creepy looking thing," one of the bargoers said, the statement followed by a chorus of agreement from the crowd.
"If we're lucky, the Tabris entity may die of natural causes: even though the entities contain coded information very similar to human DNA, they aren't anything that evolved on this world, so they aren't adapted to handle Earth's other life forms. I know this sounds like something out of War of the Worlds, but according to SEELE it has a weak immune system and they were planning to restrict it to the labs and gradually introduce it to normal viruses, bacteria and allergens over a period of several years before risking sending it into the outside world even with the best antibiotics, antivirals and immune booster medications available. It also has a lot of allergies, including a byproduct of digesting animal tissue. It's not that it couldn't consume meat, it would just have to break it down into LCL before absorbing it. Since humans are protected by what SEELE calls AT fields, unlike other biomass, we're the last things on earth it would go after if it was hungry." Thank goodness. "SEELE seems confident they can control it: we're hoping there's a reason for this other than blind faith in their prophecies. Still, at the moment the entity is under human control, so it may be possible to get control of it away from SEELE and dispose of it in a fairly safe manner: we're investigating that as well. We're focusing on the Tabris entity for now because we have every reason to believe that the others are dormant, and will remain that way for at least ten years. Again, none of the others are an immediate threat: once the remaining cultists and the Tabris entity are rounded up, the UN will begin preparing for their arrival, but we'll be able to relax for now."
"That was off a teleprompter." Definitely.
"Or cue cards," an old man snorted. "Reassure the populace, just like always." Since the wars, since Second Impact. "One good thing about this, it's got everyone pointed in the same direction."
"Until the finger-pointing starts." A younger man with sandy hair and one leg looked down into his wine. "The UN will want to blame Germany and Japan, since that's where most of this happened. Germany and Japan can point to how thoroughly penetrated the UN was. No matter what happens, it'll destabilize the world again. I'm safely out of it," with his leg blown off, "but war will start up somewhere in a few months, you can count on it, and not against SEELE. Although both sides will probably claim it is."
There was just as much of a hum of agreement as there'd been about the little abomination, only darker and bitterer. The flood of refugees into their land had started another war for the independence of this region, and conscription had been damn near universal here, since Spain wanted the UN to take away all the able-bodied natives and more hot-blooded Spaniards in the name of 'settling things peacefully.' It had gotten to the point that Simon, who settled here after walking what was left of El Camino de Santiago after losing his leg and getting discharged had been able to find a lot of odd jobs to do that required upper body strength and someone who was clearly a foreigner and thus probably not on either side, since just hiring someone from either race could be viewed as a sign of partisanship. After the men came back, or what was left of them, he'd ended up making more money than before as what amounted to the village's physical & occupational therapist, since he had a stubborn streak a mile wide and hadn't let losing his leg slow him down that much at all.
"They're not going to find it," Mayor Rosa told them, shaking her head with its long fall of black hair. "Did you hear him? That red poison is like mother's milk to these things, and no cold virus would get to it in the middle of the dead sea! All they need to do is lock it in a chest and throw it overboard with an anchor, and we'll never find it until it wants to be found. Just like the others. We're in the end of days, didn't I say it? Seas turned to blood and all."
"Dear, I think you've had enough," the bartender told her.
"Meetings, meetings, the French take advantage of the fact I'm up till late at night but won't let me have a chance for even a little siesta to make up for it! This is the first evening I've had withou-" her cell phone rang. "Drat. See you after you fall asleep, dear."
"Well, so much for getting more news from her." Sites with religious significance were getting more thoroughly searched than other places, and there were lots of little nooks and crannies up in the mountains. All the towns along the Camino were used to looking for lost tourists, so the UN was calling on their knowledge of the area.
The searchers hadn't had a chance for a siesta either, and Second Impact's eternal scorching summer made not skipping the hottest part of the day even worse, so even though they wanted to get caught up on the news they cleared out far earlier than they normally would have, Simon adroitly making his way home on foot, to an old house a few hills over, one of many summer homes that suddenly didn't have owners anymore after Second Impact.
After locking the door behind him and putting on his indoor shoe and cane pad, he turned on the TV to watch the news for awhile longer before going to bed.
Where he lifted up the mattress to pull on what looked like an ordinary screw to make part of the floor rise up, revealing stars under quite a thick level of soundproofing material attached to the floorboards.
It didn't bother him that when everything had resealed itself behind him and he'd gone through two more barriers before turning on the light he found the child reading in the darkness. If anything it made the twenty-seven year old, who had joined the UN forces before Second Impact, smile. Second Impact had made the world aware that war was happening, made it happen in places that had ordered the deaths of people in poorer countries and considered themselves heroic while they lived in peacetime, but if anything it had lessened man's inhumanity to man.
After seeing too many six-year-old sex slaves, victims of famines inflicted on them by warlords or dictators, too many child killers and killers of children, when someone had come to him and asked, what if it was possible to end war forever? He'd asked where he signed up for that.
"You don't need to keep the light off, you know. There's a separate generator, so the power use won't show up anywhere," he told the little angel, ruffling his pale hair as the small child looked up at him from the book it had open in front of it. Chinese, it looked like. "You're safe here." This was one of SEELE's oldest treasure troves, fit to hold its most precious treasure. "And didn't I tell you that you could listen to music?"
"I am," the child said, blinking at him, and when Simon was within a few feet of the speakers he could make it out.
"Well, I'm not going to tell you to listen to it at the volume normal people listen to it at." Provided that was the real reason. "But you should make yourself comfortable." Once again the bed didn't look slept in: was he really too old to need to sleep anymore or was he just nervous after being taken away from a familiar environment? "You did take your pills, yes?" 'At bedtime' didn't help when the child didn't go to bed.
Tabris nodded and stood up, holding up his arms. Since it was a little difficult for Simon to pick him up, instead he lowered himself to the ground. The angel was an affectionate little thing, and he was supposed to get exposed to outside contaminants, just in small regular doses. Like, say, getting covered in road dust before his bath
This treasure trove was a small one, a cave used to hold rituals that had been expanded and upgraded again and again, until the hacienda above was burnt down and SEELE decided to replace it with a rather forgettable modern (at the time) building. The need to store perishable components meant it had an extensive freezer, and it also had a large bathtub for purification.
"Now promise me you aren't falling asleep in the tub," he told the boy as he turned the taps to fill it up with hot water. Tabris had promised before, but angel or not he was a little boy.
"I promise," Tabris said, and started walking back.
"Where are you going."
"To turn the music up now."
Oh? That was new. Once Tabris was in the bath he tended to just sit there and smile with his eyes closed until the water got cold or someone made him get out. Simon knew how good soaking in hot water could feel, but it wasn't as though he was straining any muscles down here, was he? It was the only time the boy wasn't looking at something or doing something: he could sit quietly, if the situation called for it, but he would still be looking at people, or thinking.
"Um!" The angel said happily as Simon leaned against the wall to lift him up and dip his toes in the bath. He was no weight at all: quite literally, in fact. The walls of the tub were high enough that if he couldn't levitate, Simon wouldn't have dared leave him in it unsupervised.
"So that's a good temperature?"
Tabris smiled at him, wiggling his toes, so that was a definite yes. Or more of a 'Lower me yesplease?'
Simon obligingly lowered him down, although it was more like pushing him down, the angel staying at the height Simon's hands held him at, perhaps out of habit, or because it was part of the ritual?
There was a sound that was likely the kid's equivalent of, "Mmm," when he was in up to his neck, sitting cross-legged on the bench part of the tub. Eyes closed, head tilted back and brain off except for contentedness.
It made him wonder, "Hey, would you like to be in the ocean? I guess you'd have to come out to study." Weren't there caves that only had underwater entrances?
The boy opened his eyes and blinked up at him. "The temperatures are variable, but is it this warm anywhere? There's vents, but it might take awhile to swim there from the surface without using more power than I'm allowed to…" That might be a problem. "It's strange that this water is clear," he told Simon, waving his hand under the surface. "That's fun. I can see through it with my eyes," he said, as though that was very unexpected.
"Have you ever been in the ocean?"
"No, but there are things I know, like that liquid is normally not like this. Not all of us would like the ocean, though. And heat is good." He'd asked for more heat a lot at the first place, but it bothered the nice ones to put him in water that would hurt a Lilim.
Simon looked at him curiously. "Are you charging your batteries or something? Don't you have an infinite power source?" While Tabris absorbing energy from hot water instead of sunlight would explain a lot, it didn't quite fit the facts.
"It's a good place to be and it feels good." Tabris looked a little puzzled. Wasn't that all that was necessary? "Lorenz," His Holiness Lorenz or Chairmen Keel to people who weren't little messiahs, "thought it was like the way all Lilim long to return to the womb, to the time before they were separate beings who experienced suffering and strife. Maybe it's a bit like that? A womb is a good place for Lilim to be while they grow. I don't have to be in water the way you need to be in a womb, I just like it," he said, shifting now to dangle his feet down off the edge of the bench, in the deeper water. "But wind is nice too. It makes more sounds."
"I know." Tabris had already told him about the sound he'd heard on the trip that was wind-through-pines.
"They're sending someone to help me learn how to disguise myself tomorrow, so I want to take an extra long bath, because after that I might wash stuff off," the angel told him now, regretting the loss of the several-hour-long baths but excited that he might be able to go outside, if only to travel to the next hiding place at some point in the future. "I've read a lot about it online, and watched videos, but that's not the same as doing it and inventing solutions to problems. I have a unique coloring, too, and it has to blend so it's not obvious. It's an art. It's not as good for the soul as singing is, but it's a way that Lilim communicate, how they show themselves to each other."
"So you want to learn make-up, all that kind of stuff?" Well, he was young enough that playing dress-up should sound fun, really, and Simon remembered war paint and Halloween facepaint.
The little angel grinned up at him, and it was hard not to smile back. "Lilim are always alone. That's such a painful existence, isn't it? But while I'm here, you have someone to come home to and can forget that for awhile, even if before very long I'll be gone and you'll be lonely again. It's my purpose to take that suffering away from you, so that you'll never be lonely again, never have to return to the pain that is your natural state of existence as Lilim, but I should start now, shouldn't I? Even if I have to return Lilim to pain again when I go away, I should make them happy while I'm there, as thanks for giving me a home too. If I can go outside, then I can meet more people and make their lives less painful for awhile too." Even if he'd be leaving those new friends behind when he moved on, while Lilim lived such brief lives trapped in their own heads they would always lose everyone they met, always return to being alone and have to seek out new companionship.
"And that's your own idea, isn't it?" Because it wasn't safe for the little angel to be interacting with others in an uncontrolled manner. Just thinking about it made him check his gun. Forget what would happen if they found him, how this innocent would react to being called a monster: kids were cruel to each other, and adults could be even more cruel. "That's sweet of you," but over Simon's dead body, frankly. The boy would be leaving his custody at some point, and then he'd lose all say in the matter, but… oh, thank goodness. "You need to build up your immune system for a few years first, alright?"
Tabris shook his head, smiling reassuringly. "Don't worry. I won't die and let all of you stay all alone until you die." He wouldn't let them suffer for nothing like that.
Re. speech patterns: even if humans know someone is an angel, they see kid, they treat it like kid and talk to it with the little words. Mostly, which is why the formality of his tone wavers. Since Tabris is reading things in lots of different dialects in different languages that have changed over time, he has languages classified into a lot of different subtypes. For instance, there's 'science paper jargon English,' as opposed to adult-to-adult casual speech, American vs. British English, then there's formal in reports and such… and then there's how people talk to him and how they expect him to respond. He's been there long enough that he's mostly learned to talk to Simon how Simon talks to him, as opposed to how people talk, even to kids, when they're in a lab.
I was thinking of the way he provides a translation for Shinji. Since he says things like 'singing is good for the soul,' and 'heart of glass,' I think that his fondness for song will make his 'default' speech pattern get more poetic over time, so his options would be dumbing it down or translating things people don't get, yet once how he himself talks becomes… Well, the term is 'self-expression.'
Some of the things that seem semi-random that he says in the anime basically boil down to, 'Life is pain, since you're doomed to be alone, all you can do is forget it for awhile and go on despite that pain, with hope for happiness.' He doesn't see that he's being cruel to Shinji by befriending him and then dying because as he understands it (raised by SEELE), that's life. Every Lilim relationship ends and it is painful. That's been Shinji's life experience, too. It ends up boiling down to, really, 'Life sucks and then you die, your loved ones die too, so get used to it and don't let it stop you.' Lilim need the future because they can strive for happiness, even though their default is pain. Kaworu says he doesn't need the future the way Lilim do because he can be happy in the now, whereas if humanity is wiped out, thousands of years of striving will have been for nothing.
However, this is a younger Kaworu, who thinks that pain is bad (obviously it is, it hurts), and people want him to save them from it, so that is obviously what he should do. It would be interesting to write the process of him learning over time that humans can recover from heartbreak and grow stronger for it, transforming that pain into art and letting their own suffering teach them to be more considerate of others, until he eventually realizes that complementation, the loss of individuality and suffering would not be blessed relief for the Lilim, the triumph over pain they have been waiting and working for, but it would be negation, death, defeat. A surrender to pain and loneliness, giving up everything they've fought for.
The concept that humans are always going forward past heartbreak, despite suffering, over the bodies of others. So Shinji killing him instead of wanting Instrumentality becomes an example of how humanity can and should live: Shinji becomes proof of the philosophy that human individuality and growth are worth dying for, despite all the war, death and pain along the way.
What Kaworu was born for, in Second Impact, was to give humanity the future SEELE thought the human race should want. By meeting Shinji and dying for him, he gives humanity not an end in instrumentality, but a future.
It's interesting to think about how the Eva narrative would have been disrupted if everyone knew that Instrumentality and Complementation were possibilities, the significance of the Evas and Shinji. Not to mention that the planet's dying. Makes me think of X1999, where the seven angels are the ones trying to save the planet and the seven seals, the ones symbolized with devil wings, are the ones trying to save humanity. Godhood or entropic death over a more foreseeable future? There's going to be war over it, but in this verse, it wouldn't be a secret war. For instance, destroying Lilith means destroying humanity, so who keeps her safe? Wouldn't SEELE get a lot of new believers as well as haters? Or people who think that Second Impact was wrong, but it wrecked the planet so now there are only a few options left and theirs is the least bad? Shinji and Tabris: who's the Christ-child and who's the Anti-Christ? They're both saviors and destroyers.
Ends up very Legacy of Kain, if one thinks about it.