Everlasting Coda
By ArchangelUK

A/N: Not a year this time around, but close to a half of one I believe - Coda is back and this time its PERSONAL! Got some bits in this part you should enjoy its 8000 words so it long. There's a lot of 'try and spot where that is mentioned' this particular chapter. That is to say there's several bits which are, well, they're referred to in the series but not explained and I've taken it upon myself to give you an explanation. The arc title 'Divergence' kicks into high gear with a bunch of surprises, we've got battles internal and external and a whole new 'who on earth could that be then' plot twist just for fun. Oh and a reference to another Eva fanfic of mine - see if you can spot it!

I don't own Neon Genesis Evangelion. However, I do own Halogen Metallica Adamdeviltiger...

Part 10: Nocturne Of Shadow

"In him was life, and that life was the light of men.
The light shines in the darkness,
but the darkness has not understood it."
- John 1:5 -

(Black Carpets - The Attack)

"You'd better keep up your end of the bargain then huh First Child?"

"I did not agree to any bargain Pilot Sohryu." Ayanami frowned, "I will backup as ordered, Shinji-kun will take point then act as a distraction, then you will assault from the other side."

"You got that Shinji? Take the point then get the hell out of the way when Misato gives the go ahead."

"Works for me."

The Angel hovered silently above the street like some ghastly demonic work of Escher, and ever so slowly the lumbering mechanical giants that were the Evangelions crept up on it. Stealth was hardly a word you could use to describe the movement of the mechas but through rigorous training the pilots could make their craft traverse the city as silently as physically possible. The bad news was that was still pretty damn loud, but they were fast enough in doing so that an enemy would have difficulty in locating them as they moved from cover to cover, from building to building. The only problem was with this enemy, which direction was it actually 'looking' in? There was no obvious 'face' as with other angels, nor could the MAGI identify a kor to target which would give some kind of clue as to where to attack. For all they knew it could have horizontal and vertical three hundred and sixty degree vision in which case... it had already spotted them all. Oh it knew they were around, it was obvious, but did it now exactly where they were.

"Shiess." Asuka swore as the external power cable of the crimson mecha snagged on a building, her movements far to random for her own good.

"You okay Asuka?" Shinji appeared on the Evangelion's internal display,

"Yeah yeah, just gotta free this wire." At this point she could have ejected the cable and gotten another from the supply bay nearby but to do so she figured would compromise her position as the discharge would be uncomfortably loud. Instead therefore she decided the best course of action was to try and untangle the wire, because, she assumed there must be some left on the spindle. There wasn't.

"Ayanami?" Shinji said, reverting back to the formal style in case his father was listening in. "Are you there?"

"Not yet." The calm voice of the First Child replied, "Give me thirty seconds and consider me ready."

Shinji peaked around the corner of a building, angling the Eva's head so its massive purple horn did not protrude.

"What the hell is that thing?" Shinji muttered seemingly to no one, when all of a sudden he spotted something. "Misato?" He called to the operations director, "You got a second?"

"Sure Shinji but it better be important."

"It was a suggestion actually." Misato blinked, Shinji was volunteering a suggestion? "Look where Rei and Asuka are currently. If I moved around to the other side here..." He pointed at a place on his screen the other side of the Angel, "Then we could set up a three-way crossfire. A unison attack would probably do it a heck of a lot of damage and then I could act as a decoy allowing the continuation, of the, erm, attack."

Shinji stammered as Misato's face seemed to get stuck between looking shocked and amazed. "Shinji?"

"Y-Yes ma'am?"

"That's a brilliant idea!" Misato beamed, "You two copy that?"

"Roger." Came Rei's reply.

"Uh-huh." Came Asuka's, "As long as you get in position ASAP then we'll go in ninety seconds."

"O-okay!" Shinji nodded, more nervous now than when he was when he suggested the plan. "I'm on my way."

So Shinji began dodging from building to building, all the time the gigantic revolver clutched in his Eva's huge purple hand. Rei readied her own weapon, ready to pounce whilst Asuka, her large axe at the ready muttered unsavoury murmurings as she continued to try and give herself some more room. With twelve seconds to go Shinji made his last move, a simple dash across a block to get him in position. He navigated the street easily enough, avoiding still parked cars and other pedestrian paraphernalia so out of place on a battlefield. What he didn't spot however, at least with enough significance was the large red wire lying on the street in front of him. That external wire was Asuka's; and so when she with five seconds to go pulled the wire at her back in frustration it tore partly through the building it had snagged on. Which, giving it just that bit more give for her also brought it taught and raised it up off the ground slightly - just at the time Shinji was dashing above it. The net result was, like a hunter's trap the wire flew up catching Unit One's foot above just above the ankle, tripping it up and Shinji with a cry of surprise fell flat on his mecha's hideous face.

"OW!"

A horrific clang rang out over the city, but what was worse Shinji had fallen in direct sight of the angel.

"Crap!" Asuka cried, ejecting her external power cable with all pretence of silence now obliterated, "Shinji, get off the ground quickly! Covering fire!"

"Right!" Rei spun up over the building with her mortar gun firing three salvos at their foe which simply disappeared from view before they hit it leaving the rounds to hammer into an adjacent skyscraper. In a flash the Angel reappeared this time above the fallen purple unit, blocking out the sun with its large form and plunging the Eva and everything around it into a deep, dark shadow. Shinji all of a sudden couldn't move.

"Pattern: Blue! Pattern: Blue!" Aoba yelled, "Its pattern is cycling from blue to... to something else then back faster than we can extrapolate! It's attacking!"

"Attacking?" Asuka yelled back, "It isn't doing any-" She was cut off by Shinji who'd managed to get to his feet but seemed to be shrinking.

"What is this... this shadow?" Shinji tried to move the Evangelion but found it couldn't budge; he wasn't shrinking, but seemed to be sinking into the Shadow like he was being sucked into quicksand. "What the hell is happening!"

"Ikari!" Rei cried firing again, this time the giant mortars flying straight through the sphere leaving more craters in buildings.

"Idiot!" Asuka screamed leaping over a building to slice through the sphere with her axe, springing off the top of a skyscraper with one hand to land some distance away. The attack having the same effect as Rei's: zero. "Get your ass in gear!"

"What's going on!" Shinji demanded, sinking faster. He fired his gun at the shadow and the bullets stopped immediately upon hitting the surface before sinking underneath.

"Shinji retreat!" Misato barked, "Shinji!" There were more explosions as Rei again fired and hit nothing but air.

"Misato! Can you hear me Misato!" Shinji's picture had begun to break up, he looked absolutely terrified. Nothing he was doing had any effect, he tried to push himself up out of the shadow but all that did was push his hands into it. "HEELLLLP MEEEEE!" He screamed desperately.

"Asuka, Rei, rescue Unit One!"

"Damnit Shinji what's the point of getting A's in planning and not in the real world!" Asuka dumped her axe and launched herself at the shadow, the Evangelion sliding along the street on its belly gigantic sparks flying off setting fire to a nearby ramen stand.

"Eject the plug!" Misato screamed at Maya, "Get him out of there!"

The tech hammered repeatedly on the relevant button, "No response! The eject signal isn't getting through!"

"MISATO! CAN YOU HEAR ME MISATO? MISAGHHHHH-" The Evangelion's head disappeared below the surface, the signal being cut off in mid scream.

"RAGGGGHHH GOTCHA!" Asuka's lunge came to a stop with her Evangelion's chest on the edge of the shadow, in one swift movement she spread the mecha's legs out so she anchored herself by the feet behind two buildings and plunged her right arm into the darkness up to the forearm clamping down on something with her hand and with a gigantic heave began to pull something up out of the surface. A large purple horn.

Shinji's signal re-established itself for a few seconds, as did the terrified shouts of the boy Ikari himself. Asuka grimaced as she heaved at the control yolks to pull Shinji back up but soon found something pulling Shinji back down even harder.

Doctor Akagi noticed another ripple on the creature in the sky. "Asuka! Look at the street!"

"The shadow!"

Leiliel had had quite enough amusement watching the struggling Asuka and now concentrated on her, the shadow spread suddenly right underneath Evangelion Unit 02 and it too began to sink.

"Asuka!" Rei cried and made to dive for the red machine's foot but Misato's command stopped her.

"Stay where you are Rei! Asuka are you okay!"

"NO! Do something damnit!"

"Is there anyway we can get back the Eva?" Misato demanded.

Makoto glanced up at her, "I don't see how without jeopardising Unit Zero as well and if all three are swallowed we can kiss any chance of success goodbye."

"Damnit all!" Misato yelled as Asuka's Eva began to disappear, "Eject her!"

"I'll try!" Maya did as she was ordered. "Got it!"

"NOT-" Asuka began before the back of her unit opened up and the igniting rockets ejected her entry plug into the air. More misfortune followed as one rocket failed and ceased firing early making the plug arc around in the sky. Asuka screamed as the white cylinder suddenly pitched wildly making it corkscrew around and away past a couple of buildings before the rear end smashed against a wall and sent her falling straight down vertically the plug partly burying itself in the centre of a road junction. Asuka's head slammed against the side of her seat violently and she knew no more.

"Rei pull back-"

"-Wait!" Rei blurted out, "Unit One & Shinji are still in there!"

Misato couldn't bear to look her in the eye; she was shaking from head to toe. "This is an order. Withdraw now."

(A Drop In The Ocean)

Rei looked the whiteboard over and began calculating the mathematics in her head, abstract mathematics wasn't something the normal person could do in their head but then again, Rei wasn't exactly normal. She could do such equations in her sleep if she wanted and on several occasions had. This however was neither here nor there, the problem was that the sphere in the sky was not the target they thought it was, in fact all they thought they'd known proved to be the reverse. The shadow on the ground was the target, the sphere above its somewhat abstract shadow. This of course meant there was no way that the remaining Evangelion could fight it for as soon as Rei got near it in Unit Zero it would just suck her down into oblivion. Into the 'sea of dirac' as Doctor Akagi had described it.

Misato walked up behind the blue haired youth, her shoes making a dull click on the tarmac.

"Rei?"

"Major Katsuragi." Rei replied, but did not turn around. Which for a response did not surprise Misato, as she had expected something along those lines. She nodded, although Rei couldn't of course see that, and glanced over her shoulder at the board covered in Ritsuko's supposedly 'neat' scrawl.

"Do you understand that Rei?"

"Yes."

"Then... what exactly does it say?"

"The Angel uses an inverted AT-Field, Doctor Akagi seems to think that the 'hypothetical' link in the AT-Field that makes the Angel's 'shadow' open and close can be triggered by the Evangelion's AT-Fields. I believe she is coming up with an idea as to how utilise that knowledge over there." Rei pointed to a warehouse in the middle distance.

"Mmmm." Misato said somewhat dubiously, "Perhaps I'll find out what's going on."

"I would like to see Pilot Sohryu if that is possible."

"Huh?" Misato didn't seem to be paying attention, her gaze fixed on the building in the distance. "Oh of course Rei, I believe she's out of observation now. So you can go in and see her, she's in room thirteen." Rei nodded her thanks, turned and left to find the Pilot of Evangelion Unit Two; Misato marched off in the direction of the warehouse and Ritsuko.

Ritsuko was busy talking on a phone, frantically as it happened, with someone at the other end.

"Yes I..." She began agitatedly, "I know that SIR, but this was not factorised at any given point in either variation on the scenarios essentially we're flying blind." Ritsuko dragged a hand raggedly through her hair, the fingers inadvertently bringing out several long hairs with them which floated gently to the ground or were caught on the breeze. Three wafted through the air and attached themselves to the left lapel of Misato's red flight jacket. She plucked them off and with a flick of the fingers sent them on their way before standing a good ten paces behind her college friend and, folding her arms across her chest she waited for her to finish.

"Yes." Ritsuko nodded, "Yes of course that's an option but we really don't have the time to search for one now surely? The committee would... -No absolutely not." Ritsuko's face hardened, a slight wince giving indication of some kind of rebuttal. "That plan is only viable with two Evangelions though and we only have one, and one pilot." Ritsuko listened intently, "Oh yes, leave the mess with me why don't you! Mmhmm... pff, right." She scoffed, "I am well aware of the importance of recovering Evangelion Unit 01, I'll do my best, we'll try and go with that plan then. I'll rendezvous with my team at the southern airstrip and contact NERV 02 straight away." Misato's eyes widened, again the subterfuge of NERV for it had to be Commander Ikari on the line even given Ritsuko's... curiously unprofessional manner of talking. There was a long pause, Ritsuko eventually nodded before sighing. "Understood Commander." Confirmation... "Then I assume I can leave the acquisition of the next spare in your hands? Mmm, Marduke yes, of course. Goodbye."

Ritsuko hung up and turned around to face the frosty looking major, "Business or pleasure?" Misato asked coldly.

"Huh?"

"Business or pleasure - your phone call."

"Oh, that." Ritsuko replied slightly flustered, "Business of course."

"Good because Shinji is trapped inside the Angel and I want to know how you plan to get him out."

"Um." Ritsuko swallowed, "There is a plan."

"Perhaps you could give me the details then as I do happen to be Director of Operations I would have thought it was pertinent I knew."

"Naturally Misato, naturally. How much do you know about the situation?"

Not nearly as much as you do it seems... "I know it has something to do with generating an AT-Field to activate the Angel in some way."

"Almost correct, the inverted AT-Field holds what could essentially be a whole other universe for all we know. Generating an AT-Field through the use of two or more Evangelions we plan to access the Angel's interior."

"We don't have 'two or more' Evangelions, we don't even have two pilots." Misato tapped her foot impatiently.

"We will have two Evangelions. Units 01 and 02 may be lost at the moment, and Unit 04 is still waiting vital parts before it is tested but, though Evangelion Unit 03 is not complete it should be able to generate an AT-Field. We're going to have it flown in from America ASAP."

"What about the pilot? Asuka can't possibly pilot it."

"Correct." Asuka had a severe concussion and in no situation would it be advisable to place a pilot with what was essentially a damaged brain into an Evangelion and even more worryingly an untested Evangelion. "The Marduke Institute is going to be sending us a pilot they just found."

"It didn't sound like that to me." Ritsuko ignored her, "So we're to have a new pilot, what's their name?"

"That... has yet to be revealed by the Institute." Misato blinked, then sniggered, then began to laugh. "What's so damned funny?" The Doctor demanded.

"You don't even know who it IS yet." Misato roared, "Can you tell me anything? Where they're from? What school do they go to? What sex they are? Come on Doctor you've got to know that(!)"

"The identity of the pilot has yet to be revealed Major." Ritsuko growled, low in her throat. "The pilot - whosoever they are, will arrive within three hours, be suited up within a further one and the plan will be implemented in approximately three hours there after."

"So how do you plan to kill the target?"

Ritsuko shifted somewhat uneasily. "The plan is that we open the way and then eliminate the sea of dirac, by dropping incendiary devices into it."

"Incendiary devices?" Misato's brow curved downwards. "What kind of incendiary devices?"

"N2 mines."

"N2 MINES!" Misato yelled, "Mines plural? How many exactly?"

"Eradicating a dirac sea of that size thus eliminating the Angel would take approximately nine-hundred and ninety-two N2 mines. Essentially every single one on the planet dropped into it and exploded simultaneously. If that's done correctly there's a chance we could destroy the Angel and dirac sea that makes up its centre."

Misato stepped back aghast. "But the damage to EVA would be... Shinji wouldn't ah- What in the hell kind of rescue operation is this!"

"Our priority is to get the Evangelions back, even if they have to be destroyed in the process."

Misato began to shake violently with rage, "Evangelions... Unit One you mean."

"Hey don't go blaming me Misato, it's not my responsibility if Shinji's lost it's yours in case you've forgotten that."

"Then why are you and Commander Ikari so concerned about recovering Unit One?" Misato demanded, grabbed a handful of the Doctor's lab coat in her left hand and brought her to look directly into her raging eyes. "WHAT'S SO SPECIAL ABOUT IT?"

"You've been given all the information Major."

"Bullshit."

"Under these conditions the Pilots life is irrelevant."

"Irrelevant? IRRELEVANT?" Misato screamed a feral cry and punched her friend as hard as she could. Ritsuko crumpled to the floor, "You want the damned operation you can have it, I'm going to check on Asuka."

"Misato just trust me..." Misato didn't even pause as she walked off.

(In The Belly Of The Beast)

So here he was. Again

How Shinji came to be piloting again after being stripped of his privileges he wasn't quite sure. However it did seem that literally an hour after Misato had informed him he was once again to pilot - something he'd responded to as apathetically as she'd expected - he was being called out by Angel Attack alarms. Where was his Father anyway? He wasn't in Headquarters...

Shinji's eyelids flickered; the LCL caused them to itch after long periods of time but even more right now for some reason.

"I never thought doing nothing could be so exhausting." He sighed, before flicking the switch on his controls that would initiate all external feedback into the entry plug. A shimmering noise flowed through the liquid around him, as the three hundred and sixty degree display burst into life.

Ssshh-kkk-rrrisssshhhhhhhhhkaaaahhhhh...

And gave him a bunch of radio static and, save for the form of Unit 02 his own unit was holding in what could only be described as a death hug there was absolutely nothing on the screen.

"Still nothing." He really couldn't believe it, "Just white noise, no radar readings or solar reflections... is that even possible?" He flicked the switch off and the image died away, glancing at his left wrist a digital display that was part of his plug suit glove showed a readout of 12:03:46 underneath which was blazoned the word 'UNLOCK' which he chose not to do. The Evangelion would remain on minimum life-support lock; it was after all his only chance. He sniffed, he could smell something but he couldn't make out what it was. Of course sniffing didn't actually do anything as the LCL which 'transported' the particles were flowing through his entire respiratory system.

"Twelve hours." He muttered to no-one in particular. "Which means my life will end in four or five." He laughed bitterly as his stomach growled unhappily. "And I'm hungry, what a way to go."

He closed his eyes and drifted off into a restless sleep.

(One Small Cog, One Big Machine)

Chiba Kimio was an evil man, oh he knew that alright. What was not that well known about him was that he was also a member of the Committee which oversaw the running of NERV which were in turn members of the secret global organisation known simply as SEELE. Not that anyone besides other four principle members of SEELE knew he was a member of SEELE, them and of course the Commander and Vice-Commander of NERV. What they didn't know was that he was actually second in command of SEELE after Keel. He was SEELE 02.

He had worked in Russia for many years, acting as the groups eyes and ears and on occasions as the groups assassin. Kimio was not afraid to get his hands dirty when it came to his work. This prediction had seen him rise rapidly and stealthily throught the ranks of SEELE, Keel always liked rewarding success - almost as much as he reveled in dispensing punishment for failure. Kimio had overseen some work for AMOS, a subsidiary of the then Gehern organisation and some of his contacts from those times still provided the occasional titbit of information to this day.

After his graduation to more a more senior role, some five months before Second Impact he was employed in the construction and implementation of the Marduke Institute - a shadow organisation. It was an advisory board acting under the Human Instrumentality Commission existing only on paper that was tasked with 'finding' the pilots of the future Evangelions. As it was certain things were already in motion with regards to that, however as a result he was if anybody cared and survived long enough to look he was on the board of one hundred and eight dummy companies of which twenty he was actually the president.

Currently though he was not just acting as the Marduke institute he quite truthfully was the Marduke Institute. He had been sent under emergency measures to fetch one of the other potentials who would become the next pilot, a pilot who should not be chosen yet! He scowled menacingly as he trudged through the flotsam of Tokyo-3 society flanked as he was by three Section 2 special agents and flicked over the names of the so-called prime candidates. There were four.

He glanced over their personal histories, for only fourteen year olds Section 2 knew a lot about them. There was of course the one statistic that was always the same.

Mother: Deceased.

He entered section 12 Alpha of Geoshelter 334, known by the codename NEST in SEELE and glanced over his roster. He began putting faces to pictures and under his knowledgeable gaze he began the task of choosing. He was just about to choose one who fitted the bill when he suddenly spotted someone next to them.

It couldn't be... they reminded him so much of her.

After all these years, he hadn't thought of that girl and yet now for some reason... it must be her child. It had the same spark of life in its eyes. He looked through his clipboarded notes and found the relevant record, he didn't recognise the surname or the name of the father but there it was in official black type in brackets after 'Mother: Deceased' It was her child! There was something else too, something attached to that sheet that wasn't to the others.

It was a NERV personnel form.

That in itself wasn't unusual; many potentials had fathers (mostly) who worked in some capacity for NERV the difference with this additional one was that it was both active and was marked for level eight clearance. That meant they were a high ranking member of the organisation. He peeled back the covering and revealed the details and was so taken aback he nearly laughed. It was him! HIM! The brother, oh, how precious would this be that he who cost him so much would turn out to be the child's uncle! He tightened his right hand into a fist, yes, that would be ironic enough a revenge for him that he should bring fear and pain to that scum who cost him the woman he loved. Cause him agony through his beloved sister's offspring.

He walked over to a gaggle of schoolchildren and stood before them, he pointed his finger at his choice. "You, come with us."

Genocide, mass murder, assassination, the torment and/or manipulation of a schoolchild, it was all much of a muchness to him; for Chiba Kimio was an evil man, oh he knew that alright...

(The Smell of Death)

Shinji's sleep was not pleasant, it was one of those times where they eyes are closed and the body is exhausted but the brain is still too active for you to really 'drop off'. Shinji shifted uncomfortably and sniffed again, twice, something wasn't right and as his eyes forced themselves open the itchiness become a dozen times worse than usual he pawed at his eyes with the back of his fists trying to get it to clear and blinking frantically. When he opened them fully at last he became aware of something, he could see something inside the LCL.

"The water is getting cloudy!" His hand moved through a cloud of impurity and the movement dispelled it in all directions. He began to panic, "The purification system is breaking do-uggghhnght!" Shinji gagged as the LCL suddenly became very cloudy indeed, he brought his hand up to his mouth to stop dispelling his breakfast into the LCL as well. "It smells in here...blood... THIS PLACE SMELLS LIKE BLOOD!"

Shinji screamed in realisation of what it was that was disturbing him, the smell, the texture; it was like he was sitting in a vat of orange blood. He bolted out of his seat and leapt at the door above him, hammering on it desperately.

"Aghugh! I hate this place! Why can't I open this lock?" He demanded, trying to force the plug hatch open a look of utter fear in his young eyes. "Open up, lemmie out! MISATO! Tell me what's going on, Misato!" He yelped in fright in the direction of the dead video screen but no response came. "Asuka! Ayanami! Ritsuko!" He tried, before collapsing to his knees as the intolerable stench became somehow even worse.

"Please." He sobbed, "S-Someone help me..."

(A Choice)

"I cannot say I am not surprised by your decision."

"Yes." The Pilot of Evangelion Unit 03 said, "Let me just get this straight though, I won't need to do any actual fighting in this thing?"

"That is correct." A window popped up from seemingly nowhere making the new pilot yelp in surprise. "All we need for you to do is synchronise with the Eva, just to get it active and generate an AT field. That's the protective field it and the Angels can create." The surprise making Doctor Akagi explained.

The pilot laughed nervously and looked to the First Child for assistance, "Open your mind to it."

"It has a mind?"

"Despite what others might think yes." Asuka smirked at Rei's dig; there would have been a time not so long ago when she'd have quite happily ripped the girl's head off for such a comment. "That's all we need you to do, open your mind and the Eva should activate."

"We're ready." Lieutenant Hyruga announced, holding his headset earpiece closer to his head as a message came through. "Clamps being released."

The Pilot took a long, deep breath and tried to shake the butterflies, "Come on... let's do it."

"Mine drop in sixty seconds." Maya announced. "Initialising neural connections level 1. Signal received - no rejection."

"Move up to level 3." Ritsuko ordered, twisting a pen between her fingers nervously, trying desperately to avoid eye contact with Misato. As she thought this her cheek began to throb again, Ow... that woman sure has a right hook.

"Time to rescue Ikari." The Pilot flicked the switch indicated by the laminated manual that had been in the seat beforehand.

"Indeed." Rei nodded subconsciously tightening her grip on the control yolks.

Asuka pursed her lips together eyes focused intently on the image of the twelfth Angel and the two Evangelion units that lay within. We're coming baka.

"Eva is synching!" Aoba called out over his shoulder. "Two percent, five, seven, ten, Absolute Borderline reached!"

"The Eva's activated! Ready on AT-Field being generated, t-minus twenty seconds to minedrop."

(The Monster Inside)

The suit was giving out.
That was a bad thing.

The slow beep coming from his wrist, coupled with the steadily weakening red LED that winked in time with his heartbeat signalled that remainder of his time alive was not a matter of minutes but merely a formality before he went on to the real business of being dead. Shinji shivered, not just from the cold now that the heating system had died but from the realisation that this was it. He was never going to see anyone again. Ever.

Ironic that he should die here, in the Evangelion, the most horrible death he could conceive and here it was. Long and slow and alone, stuck in the Evangelion, not killed by an Angel that would be quick - painful most definitely - but quick nonetheless. He was to die through starvation of heat, oxygen and all the other life giving nutrients his body needed. He was to die alone, Asuka was not in Unit 02; he knew that now. He had instinctively grasped the other Eva to his when he realised it had also become trapped so they wouldn't have been separated, after which he had tried contact on every frequency, even the emergency line and blinking the Evangelion's exterior lights in morse code but there was nothing. They must have ejected her plug when they had the opportunity, so he was here, in this thing - the machine he loathed and despised and now this was it.

I wonder how I will be remembered? Shinji thought, Maybe someone will place a stone for me by mother's grave. I'd like that... to be near her again, at least in spirit if not in body.

He could feel it now, oh yes, he could feel it. His strength was leaving him rapidly, like water going down a plughole he could feel his decent into an empty nothingness. "I hope that Asuka gets another Eva... and Rei succeeds on her own. It is... a... shame. I wanted to play my music with them."

The beeping from the suit ceased, "Cold..." He mumbled crouching down into a foetal position. "So... tired. So very tired, of... everything."

A catherine wheel of purple and brown smashed relentlessly at the small opening it had found in the red prison. It had used this escape route before, it only appeared when the Evangelion wished it and even then she had to do all the work. With the power reserves gone all the beast could do was show her the path and hope for the best.

It was an unusual relationship.

The one thing they had in common, apart from the same physical existence, was their feelings for Shinji. The Eva, born from Adam, was not one to give its loyalties away lightly but through its experiences with Shinji shared through its synchronisation link. As well as the maternal instinct it had partially absorbed from the human soul of Yui Ikari within, it would be damned if it'd let him die now. Yui's soul hammered relentlessly against the hole, chipping away, making it larger and larger. If she got through - got out then the rolls would be reversed; at least for a time. With her soul dominant power was not a problem, the Evangelion would be truly alive and not a motorised marionette. It was temporary, as neither was strong enough to be able to make it a permanent fifty-fifty relationship, but it had been done once before and now all it needed was to be done again.

She suddenly became aware of a presence; for a moment she thought it was her previous visitor. The being on the cross inside central dogma, the blue and the white - Lillith. However, she was rather disenchanted to find that it was something or someone else. The crucible of red suddenly rocked back as though someone had scooped a hand underneath, a tired growl more of petulance than anything came from the soul stuff of the Eva. Yui's presence shrank back away from the hole as she felt something looking her over as though she was some lab rat or microscopic creature that required scientific study.

So. A voice came through the haze; You are the one who resides in this shell of the father. Curious, you are not as I expected to find you.

I'm sorry to disappoint. Thought Yui bitterly. What is it you want?

To rejoin the father of course.

The Angel took a form resembling a large black eye which hovered just beyond the gap, peering inwards as a child would look through a kaleidoscope to the random assortment of colours within.

Who are you?

None of your concern Leiliel.

Ah, so you know who I am.

You will not succeed.

Perhaps. Then again I possess within myself, within this sea of dirac as your scientist woman has so eloquently put it the so called strongest member of your race. The Angel chuckled, He is weak.

He is stronger than you know.

So you say, but your opinion is rather biased. His own father has disowned him has he not? Images were brought forth, flashes of the past and of the present. Snippets of Shinji with his teacher, all alone of an evening trying desperately to master a piece on his cello. Of Gendo with his cold hard stare, of him with that... that hag of a hag's daughter Akagi. The odd thing was that Leiliel did not bring up the images to taunt her, for some reason the Angel did not recognise the identity of her soul, then again the other angels were not as au fait with human psychology as Lillith was.

Yui growled menacingly, long since having learned aggression is the only way to force out an Angel in these circumstances. He is stronger than you know.

Like I said, your opinion is biased.

That is also the opinion of the Mother. Yui's mind spat, taking great satisfaction as the Angel seemed to shake in disbelief only for it to laugh ominously.

She has been known to be wrong about a great many things, this I believe is one of them for your saviour is dying as we speak.

"So... tired. So very tired, of... everything."

Shinji?

Ah yes, weak. Tired. Dead. Gone. Oh well, never mind - plenty more fish in the sea of dirac as they say, were you close at all?

I'm his mother. Yui replied coldly and charged the gap, Leiliel shrank back away from the hole in terror, the Angel knowing full well it was about to feel a mother's wrath.

Ah...

(Shock & Awe)

Ritsuko was about to give a go for the mine drop when something happened which changed everything. The surface of the shadow seemed to crack violently thrusting a shard of it up into the air then after a moments pause the crack zigzagged violently down the surface of the angel revealing bloody red beneath the shattered surface.

Asuka who was watching from the portable command centre, gasped as the Angel seemed to writhe in pain, it shattered surface rose and fell like the waves of a stormy sea. "What the hell is that?"

Every single alarm system in the command centre exploded into life, alarms and claxons whooped and whistled and red light flickered over every display and readout. "What's going on?" Misato demanded, Makoto Hyruga flicked switches frantically.

"We don't know!"

Maya glanced up at Doctor Akagi, "All our metres and gauges have gone off the scale!"

"But we haven't done anything yet!"

Misato grasped her by the shoulder, "Could it be Shinji?"

"That's impossible." Ritsuko yelled above the cacophony, "Unit One's power level must be at zero!"

A noise similar to the scrunching up of soggy paper could be heard as the shadow, torn asunder by the crack had disappeared and now the sphere in the sky was turning completely black. It warped and undulated as though something was trying to get out of it and then with a fountain of blood a metallic claw burst through its surface. Blood began not just flowing but pouring out of the wound and began pooling in the remains of the street below. The wound widened and an arm could be seen, then a second hand, then a horn, then two white eyes filled with fury.

More breaches appeared in the Angel's surface as pressure was applied and the two arms began pulling the grotesque form out of the Angel. It was like some hideous demonic birth sequence as it swam in the blood of it's foe. It's head fully appeared and Evangelion Unit 01 let out a bestial cry, whether the roar was of victory, satisfaction, anger, agony or ecstasy no one was quite sure but it sent a shiver down the spine of all those who heard it. The other two Evangelions backed away as if frightened by its comrades call, like it was an open challenge they neither wanted to or could possibly acknowledge.

More rips, more tears, and something else could be seen as the gore stained purple mecha dragged itself out of Leiliel.

Asuka backed away from the window a state of utter sickness filling her being, Maya went one stage further and was sick.

"My God." The unusually quiet voice of Evangelion Unit 03's pilot came over the speakers. "Is THAT what I'm piloting?" No one could seem to find the words to answer her question. Eventually though Ritsuko muttered something to herself that only Misato seemed to catch.

"God in heaven... what monster have we made this from?" Misato turned away from her, just in time to see the Eva burst out of the Angel as its body finally surrendered to the pressure and forces being exerted on it and it literally exploded in a shockwave full of bits of sticky black flesh, concrete (presumably from the buildings it had swallowed) and blood. Evangelion Unit One crashed down onto the street, its own shockwave throwing up once more the debris that had landed and shattering every window for sixteen blocks. It stood proud and grizzly, bathed in the blood of the fallen and with Asuka's Unit 02 held maiden like across its outstretched arms. The look on its face was horrific, it was the devil himself and the devil was satisfied with its afternoon's work.

The sun rose and the light washed over Unit 01, it had once again gone berserk - moving without the power it supposedly needed. Asuka hadn't seen it happen before, oh she'd seen the surveillance tapes of the first battle against Saschiel but those had been heavily edited by the security service.

How much of what she'd just seen was Shinji and how much of that was the Evangelion?

She wasn't sure which option scared her the most...

(The Reasons We Do What We Do)

The pilot of what constituted Evangelion Unit 03 shrugged and turned away from the silver machine, for just a second it seemed at the moment when pilot and Eva synched - the 'absolute borderline', that the titanic form was... well... disappointed. As though the Eva was full of sorrow on the one hand and yet frowning scornfully in the other. Whatever the case it was done, the cranes, jacks and hoists were all being prepared as was the gigantic red crucifix the Evangelion was to be strapped too. The plug suit did nothing to stop the chill running down the pilot's spine.

"Pilot?" A technician enquired softly, tapping the rubber coated left shoulder twice.

"Yes?"

"My name's Maya, I'm to tell you your request has been sanctified."

"I see."

"Would you like to see her?"

"Mmm." Was the reply.

"She's going to go into theatre soon."

"Surgery? So soon."

Maya shifted nervously under the gaze of the latest pilot recruit, "I... understand they are going to try some new techniques developed there that should help her heal more quickly."

"I see."

"I'm sorry; I wish I could tell you more."

The pilot smiled, "That's okay-" The quiet voice paused scrutinising the ID card at the lieutenants waistline. "-Miss Ibuki."

"Maya's fine."

"As you wish."

Maya nodded, and then gestured towards the door. "If you want to follow me Pilot, I'll show you the way.

"Thank you."

The walk through to the hospital facility, located in the 'Cranium' section of NERV was lengthy and the majority of the conversation mute, every so often Maya would make some kind of comment about the relevant sub-section they walked through. The fastest way to here, the best method of getting there, the easiest path to getting the blue hell out of that, etcetera.

"What is the situation with Ikari?"

"He has been recovered from his entry plug; Evangelion Unit 01 is on lockdown." Maya replied evenly, but still failed to conceal her concern for the boy.

"Is he okay?"

"He should regain consciousness soon, though he was briefly awake when they extracted him.

"Shinji! Shinji? Shinji are you alright?" The hatch door, dented from the inside by Shinji's desperate attempts at escape opened flooding the inside of the entry plug with light. She couldn't see him at first, but then her eyes readjusted themselves. Shinji just laid there and didn't move and at first she feared he was dead, then there was the smallest of small twitches in the face and his pupils contracted. She wasn't sure if she was angry or happy, she wasn't entirely sure of such things anyway when it came to him. She did though what she thought best at the time and through exhaustion and relief collapsed across his body and hugged him to her - just to make sure he was really there. It was then she heard his battered form mumble one sentence.

"I just wanted to play with them... one more time..."

Maya sighed long and hard, "I believe the First and Second children are with him now, along with Major Katsuragi."

"The First and Second?"

"Rei and Asuka."

"That explains why Asuka keeps referring to Shinji as 'Third'." The pilot said tapping a finger against a steel railing. "Is it a ranking or something?"

"No, just when the pilots were first discovered by the Marduke Institute. You've already been informed about them I take it?"

"Your Doctor Akagi informed me of the basics yes."

"Sempai did, did she?" Maya pursed her lips thoughtfully. "In actual rankings terms Shinji is the top pilot... Asuka... doesn't know that yet. In that battle Shinji synchronised higher than her, we'll need to run tests, but I'm grateful I'm not the one who has to tell her. I have a strong inkling that she won't be pleased."

"Oh."

"Oh, is right."

"So I am the fourth?"

Lieutenant Ibuki seemed to hesitate mid-step. "Apparently... no."

Before more could be said they burst through the double doors then plastic strip doors into the medical area, a gurney was being wheeled through, a small brown-haired child strapped to it not by belts and buckles but by various tubes, wires and electrodes. A drip stand containing three bags of various fluids, one of which seemed to be blood and another looked spookily like LCL. The little girl was conscious for the most part, although it appeared she had been partly sedated for the trip.

The pilot's breathing stopped at the sight of the trolley before them, Maya reached down and plucked the child's chart off the front of the gurney. On the front of it in big black print was a name.

M.Suzahara.

"I'm no doctor, but this looks good to me." The technician said with as much cheer as she could muster.

"Good." The pilot smiled, "She deserves it."

"May I ask you something?"

The pilot looked up curiously. "Er, mmm-yes."

"Is she why you chose to Pilot?"

"She's important to me."

"Why?" The pilot took half a pace back, caught off guard, "Don't get me wrong we're all glad you did it's just your uncle can't understand why you chose to pilot and to be honest neither can I. You know most of what the others go through, at least Asuka and Shinji and Shinji... keeps a lot in."

The pilot sighed sadly, "That sounds like him."

"The Eva series..." Maya closed her eyes, and the chart. "It's a curse and I want to understand why?"

"You wouldn't understand."

"Try me."

"No." The pilot insisted, "I really don't think you would."

Maya rolled her eyes, "Then tell me anyway and leave me in a confused mess."

"I did it for justice. Justice for another, for the love he holds for her and for the compassion he shows her, I mean she isn't even family but-"

"-But what?"

"Anyone who loves that much deserves their wish to come true." That was the only reason the pilot had agreed, there was much paperwork for a pilot when they agreed to work for NERV. The one that was the most important (to them anyway) was form 45-8/123A known... affectionately as the 'Green Form' which granted a special wish for the pilot. It was a one-off privilege and money was no object, the new recruit had used theirs from the off for more personal reasons.

"This would be her brother wouldn't it?" The pilot nodded, looking embarrassed by the admission.

"It's not just that though."

"Oh?"

"No... I did it for the love, which I hold for him."

Maya smiled, it wasn't a sad smile or a smile of pity it was a smile of understanding and the Pilot realised the misjudgement she'd made of the technician. The little girl stirred slightly and looked at the Pilot; with all the tubes in her arms she couldn't rub her eyes properly so she turned her head to rub it against the pillow a couple of times.

She blinked, "Pigtails? You must be the one my brother keeps going on about." Her words slurred as the medication kicked back in making Mari drowsy. "I'm sleepy." She grumbled.

"Then go back to sleep sweetheart." Maya pushed a stray lock of hair out of the girl's face.

"Okay Miss." The girl yawned and then looked back at the Pilot as she was being wheeled away. "Mmmm, Touji's right. You do look like an angel."

Maya giggled as the Pilot turned beetroot red, before turning on her heel and walking away.

"I'll see you later Miss Ibuki, say hello to my uncle for me."

"Certainly and have a nice morning Pilot Horaki."


To Be Continued...

Please review! So who is the mysterious uncle? In the next part: A Marduke Minority Report, an explanation as to Pilot Horaki's designation. Who protects who? Relationship changes and preperations for the arrival of Evangelion Unit 04 not to mention what's being done with Unit 03.

ArchangelUK 0:o)