V1.09 20/12/2013 minor corrections and typo fixes. Thanks as usual Vandenbz.
[A/N] And so, eight months and two hundred and twelve thousand words later we reach the last hurdle. Chapter 26, one for each episode, though I promise no stills or mindscrewing unlike a certain anime that shall remain nameless. Thanks for sticking with me, but the story's not quite over yet…
Chapter 26: In the Beginning…
"You look a little surprised," said Shepard as EDI's platform stood in the Normandy's cockpit, looking down at the still-stunned Joker.
"W-what…?" stammered the pilot in reply.
"I know this is a lot to take in. And, yes, it is me in here, but it's only temporary. I really should not be doing this."
"B-but you're…I thought you'd…"
"I did. I am dead, Joker, but we don't have time to go into details right now, so I'm just going to have to ask you to trust me."
"Trust you?" he gaped.
"I did just save your life, and my ship."
"I'm still registered as Commanding Officer of the Normandy, aren't I?"
"Oh, sure, the ghost of my dead commander, possessing both my ship and my robot girlfriend –which I am desperately trying to not see as some kind of metaphor right now- has just popped up from the grave and is back issuing orders like nothing happened."
"Wouldn't be the first time…" said EDI/Shepard. The platform's brow twitched and outside the reaper fired again, cutting a distant Leviathan in two, "We're wasting time, Joker…"
"So I'm supposed to just trust that you are who you say you are?"
"And you're not going to explain how this is happening, or what you actually are?"
Shepard shook the platform's head, "I can't. I told you that it would take too long. Also, there are things I simply cannot tell you," the platform folded her arms in a startling mimicry of the dead officer, "Now...bring us about."
Joker remained still.
EDI/Shepard's brow clenched into a deep scowl, "That's an order, Pilot!" she barked.
Joker flinched and found himself turning back to his console, "Aye…umm…ma'am."
"That's better." Shepard glanced down at the platform's body and back again, "girlfriend, you say?"
Joker cocked his head, "That's right…"
"That's good. See what happens when you listen to my advice?"
Joker smiled incredulously, "This is just mad…"
"Just like the old days. Now, how's about we go and save the day?"
"I'll use Harbinger to keep the lead leviathan occupied. Close the Normandy in on the Thunder Child to guard her flanks."
"Aye aye, Commander. And, wait…you brought Harbinger?"
Shepard nodded, "I thought a big gun would be apt given the situation. But like I said: I really shouldn't be doing this. The others much prefer to remain in the darkness and just observe, but the situation demanded intervention. I sense Shinji has the situation on board Omega under control, that means all we need to focus on is mopping up out here."
Joker regarded the leviathan fleet, "Oh is that all?" he asked dryly, "So you know about Shinji too?"
EDI cocked her head, "We sort of met. Don't ask…"
Joker merely peaked his cap acceptingly, "We're closing on the Thunder Child. They have two leviathans attempting to get within her effective firing radius."
Shepard narrowed her eyes, "They're attempting to either destroy her or make direct contact and hijack the ship's on-board AI."
Jeff smirked, "Then let's voice our objection, shall we?"
Unit-01 landed with its knees embedded in the leviathan, slamming into its barrier and forcing it back slightly. The EVA then gripped hold of the creature's mandibles and began pulling, snarling as it almost hungrily began to try and tear it apart. Shinji had to fight back the EVA's compulsion that was being fed back to him: the lustful instinct to tear, to devour.
The leviathan let out a pained groan, its form shimmering as it released a massive shockwave at point-blank range.
Like the leviathan, the EVA's own defensive barrier prevented it from taking damage. However, the pure kinetic force did manage to dislodge the humanoid construct, sending it into a reverse summersault and skidding onto one knee upon the walkway.
Down below, Shinji observed with impassive silence, his expression blank.
The EVA, crouched on one hand and knee, launched itself into a charge at the enemy, the heavy slams of its footfalls audible all across Omega. The mech stabbed the base of its lance into the street, drawing up a storm of sparks as it skidded sideways and transferred the excess energy into a brutal uppercut under the lower section of the leviathan.
The creature's barrier was shattered under the blow and it found itself being sent spinning backwards through the air. It clipped the top of one building and went tumbling across several rooftops, turning them into showers of debris as it went.
Deciding to pick a slightly less claustrophobic combat zone to continue things in, Unit-01 grabbed hold of the tops of the buildings and hoisted itself up onto the rooftops. The uneven field of grey surfaces presented the EVA with a clear view of its targets.
The staggered Leviathan was already righting itself whilst the other made a lazy descent towards a brightly lit building in the distance.
Far below, Shinji sighed, "Well, I suppose I'd best go and sort that out too…" and with that, he turned away and headed off down the walkway towards Afterlife.
The leviathan's attacks pounded against the EVA's A.T. Field, doing far more structural damage to the surrounding buildings than the actual EVA itself.
The EVA moved, leaping and strafing from building to building with far more grace and maneuverability than the enemy was capable of in their current environment.
The EVA pounced again, booting the Leviathan out of the air once more with a well-aimed sidekick. The next warp field fired out was badly aimed, but it still ended up clipping the EVA's right shoulder pylon, inadvertently knocking the unit clear off its perch and crashing down onto the streets below.
This meant there was now a problem. However it wasn't the minor damage incurred by the EVA that was the issue, but the fact that the previous attack had somehow penetrated the A.T. Field.
He turned to look back in the direction of the EVA, a dull sympathetic thudding in his upper arm.
He narrowed his eyes. 'So, they've adapted their biotics to the phase modulation of the EVA's A.T. field? Must've worked it out when they wormed their way into my head.'
"Clever bastards…" he mouthed. Shinji then realised that it was lucky he'd put some distance between himself and the enemy; he would have to be careful now. They were no longer invulnerable against their enemy.
The leviathan hovered above the edge of the rooftops before inverting itself to look down upon the collapsed EVA. The biotic blast it then fired tore down through the structures, flattening them as it drove the mecha down into the walkways, several of its armour plates visibly shattering.
The leviathan descended, hovering over the still EVA.
A blur of motion later and the EVA's knee slammed into the leviathan's underside, jolting it upwards. The mech then leaned back and slammed both feet into the bulk of its enemy's body, sending it flying back upwards into the skies of Omega.
There came a jolt of kinetic energy as the Leviathan righted itself. Its added armour however was cracked and oozing viscous green/black fluid.
The creature groaned with rage as its body began to tremble, a massive build-up of dark energy starting to shimmer around it. As opposed to using its primary armament to finish off the EVA, Shinji saw what had to be their equivalent of a biotic flare building. Only in this case, Shinji strongly suspected that it would hit the EVA with force close to that of an N2 mine.
"Enough…" Shinji mumbled as he turned a corner, his stare still vacant as he kept his attention elsewhere.
The EVA pulled itself up from its knees and then onto its feet, looking directly up at the still form of the leviathan.
Unit-01 braced its legs apart and flipped the spear around.
The flare became blindingly bright and unbelievably large, and Shinji could feel its searing heat even from his current position.
The EVA reared back. The lance, as if knowing its services were needed, began to shimmer, its twin prongs morphing and spiralling down over each other until Unit-01 held one solid, glowing crimson javelin.
The leviathan released its flare.
The EVA hurled the Lance of Longinus. The resultant shockwave from the force of the lance being unleashed at close range shattered what remained of the buildings around it. The spear ripped through the biotic blast, somehow bisecting it in the process and dissipating the remnants.
An instant later, the spear punched straight through all the leviathan's shields and barriers –as if choosing to simply ignore their existence- and then directly through the alien creature's body, pinning it to the roof of Omega.
The Leviathan let out a final, beastly cry of pain as its existence ended. The EVA appeared to look on almost inquisitively for a moment as the creatures blood began to drip down over its shoulders.
Unit-01 lifted its hand and the Lance pulled itself free of the Leviathan and shot back to its master's grip. The weapon gave a metallic 'shing' as it proceeded to unfurl back into its dormant state within the EVA's fist.
The EVA lowered the spear, flicking off the excess blood from it as an afterthought.
The last noise the defeated leviathan made was the crash of its lifeless husk falling to the ground at Unit-01's feet. The EVA spared it a disinterested glance before moving off.
Shinji turned the final corner as Afterlife came into view, "One down…" he began to say, trailing off as he sighted the creature currently hovering in front of the club entrance, almost as if it were curious about the structure.
Shinji stopped, "One to go…"
Another unholy groan resonated throughout Afterlife. Aria, her allies and the two remaining Atlases paused to look up.
"Well that can't be good…" said Nirama, lowering her sidearm briefly.
"It's right outside," said Aria, and was suddenly forced to drop down again as a bazooka round exploded off the rear wall a few metres away, the pilot obviously having shaken the spell off, "Finish that fucker off!" snapped Aria, her attention focused on the direction the sound had come from "We've got more important things to take care of!"
The entire structure shook and Aria scowled as a giant vertical crack suddenly appeared in the far wall above the entrance.
There was another muffled jolt and the cracks webbed out.
Another shake came and the entire section of wall was ripped clean out. A shaft of light cut through the cloud of dust billowing over the club as residual dark energy danced up the walls. The sound of the section of wall being tossed casually aside echoed in from outside a second later.
Aria stood, glaring at the gaping hole in her club. As if on an afterthought, she flicked her hand out to the side and hurled a flare into one of the last Atlases, toppling it.
It didn't get up.
Nirama sighed, "And we just got the place fixed up…"
The dust cleared, revealing the leviathan's visage hovering outside.
There was silence for a moment, and Aria suddenly hissed as discomfort spread through her head.
'YOU WILL JOIN WITH US,' came the deep, ancient voice.
"You're really not my type," responded Aria, shaking her head as her briefly black eyes returned to normal.
'YOU WILL JOIN…' it repeated, and Aria winced as she suddenly found herself clenched in a giant invisible grip as the beast extended its biotics around her.
It managed to get her an inch of the ground before she gritted her teeth and fought back. She growled as she poured out dark energy in all directions, trying to force the field apart.
Aria knew this was a tug of war she couldn't possibly win, but that wouldn't stop her from trying anyway.
"Fuck!" she gasped, the strain on her mind growing, "And the day…started so well…"
'SUBMIT… YOU WILL SUBMIT AND MAKE HIM BECOME OURS.'
"Sorry…" she grunted, wriggling in the invisible grip, "but if you're looking for someone to play a distressed damsel then you've come to the wrong asari."
'YOU ARE OURS,' intoned the creature, its voice echoing into the minds of all present, 'YOU WILL-'
And Aria was sure it would've finished, had a giant fist not just slugged it clear across where she assumed its face was.
The strain vanished.
Aria landed on her knees and looked up just in time to see a field of purple armour pass over the gap in the wall. She could feel the vibrations caused by the footfalls around her, "Unit-01…?" she breathed. Her mouth then pulled into a reluctant, grim smile, "Shinji…"
"You called, ma'am?" Came a voice that was far too cheery considering the situation. The Atlas blocking the entrance swiveled its torso about to face the source of the voice. An instant later, the assault mech suddenly and quite literally shattered into a cloud of metal fragments and flame, as if some great invisible hand had just backhanded it out of existence.
Shinji strode through the flames and debris unhindered. He looked about curiously as bits of broken Atlas clattered to the ground around him. He then took in the piles of corpses and felled mechs, "I am not cleaning this up…" he murmured before approaching the barricaded VIP area where the majority of the forces were entrenched, "Is everyone okay?"
"No fatalities here, at least not on our side…" said Nirama as she warily regarded him, "Are…you okay, Shinji? You're kind of…glowing."
Shinji looked down at his hands, which still had a slightly ethereal light swimming about under the surface of his skin, "It's temporary." He murmured, looking to Aria. She said nothing, but didn't look surprised. She knew what was going on with him. Shinji's eyes might not have been currently red, nor was there a visible halo above his head, but that light was unmistakable.
"Are you okay?" she asked after a moment of silence.
He nodded his head, "I'll be fine. Looks like I finally got myself under control."
"The EVA…" began Tevos.
"Yes, its awake." replied Shinji evenly, "It's also under my control."
"Problem, Tevos?" asked Shinji, cocking his head slightly.
"Considering you just saved all of our lives, no. Thank you."
He smiled, "Any time."
The ground shook, and Shinji's brow furrowed in mild annoyance, as if something unseen was distracting him. He glanced off to the side, "I'd best be going. I've got to put an end to this. You should be safe here now. I didn't see any more enemies in the streets leading here. They mostly seem to be focused in the residential areas."
Aria hopped the barrier and checked her weapon, her guard falling into step around her, "Then that's where I'll be."
Shinji sighed, "I don't suppose I could just ask you to stay here and have a drink until all this blows over, could I?"
"Why, are you worried about me?" she asked wryly.
He frowned slightly, "Please don't tease me at a time like this…"
She paused at his side, "Is that a yes?"
Shinji grumbled, "of course it is…"
"Good boy," she replied with a smirk as the club shook, "I'll leave that one to you then, shall I?"
"Yes, yes…" he sighed, following on behind them as they headed for the exit.
They all stopped at the entryway, staggering back as a purple foot slammed down into the walkway by the entrance ramp.
Shinji weaved around it, the others looking up to see the EVA grappling with the leviathan, the mech's hands gripping the creature's mandibles as it tried to force it back against the club with a biotic field. Aria was ready to move, but the others had stopped, looking up with something akin to both fear and awe.
The EVA leaned back and booted the creature in its underside, sending it hurtling back and into the air once more, "Go now," called Shinji.
"You got this one?" asked Aria as they stopped by him.
"Like I said: yes! Off you go while I fight the giant monster, then I'll go fight the rest of the giant monsters!"
Aria hesitated, "You sure?"
Shinji sighed, focusing above still, "Aria, this is practically my day job. Now go. I'll handle the rest! "At that, the others slipped by the Angelic human and down towards the steps leading to the market district.
Aria stopped a few steps ahead of Shinji and seemed to be resisting the urge to turn around to face him. Shinji regarded her back for a second, "Let me guess:" he said, the strain vanishing from his voice, "Don't get my ass killed?"
Aria cocked her head, "Actually, I was going to say 'I love you' or something sickeningly sentimental like that, but I suppose that works too."
Shinji smiled, "I love you too."
The response caused her to stop again. She managed to just nod and then carried on after the others.
Shinji watched her retreat before returning his attention to the Leviathan as it descended back into view.
The Third Child knew that as the leviathan could work its way through the EVA's A.T. Field, it could therefore technically also breach his. He therefore needed a different kind of protection.
He needed armour.
The EVA crouched down and Shinji heaved a sigh, "Best do this the old fashioned way…"
Shinji ascended into the air as the entry plug released itself. He lowered himself into it and locked it back into place. He then closed his eyes in the darkness and extended his will over the control systems about him. A field of distorted colours shimmered past him before clearing to reveal Omega's cityscape.
Shinji's eyes flicked back open and he took hold of the controls, bringing the EVA back to a readied stance.
"I had a feeling it would end like this."
Even through the protection of the EVA, Shinji could hear the words of the leviathan as it hovered directly ahead almost expectantly.
'YOU WOULD DEFY GODS?'
"You're not gods," Shinji responded calmly "I've been God before; got bored of it after a day. You're nothing but a lonely squid with an ego problem." He couldn't help but smirk, "Perhaps you'd like to schedule an appointment?" The creature shuddered with anger, "I'm free next Tuesday."
The EVA dodged the giant warp blast the leviathan had fired in its rage, and then launched itself directly into an overhead kick, breaking through the barriers with enough remaining force to seriously jar the beast. The EVA then landed, skidding around on the ball of one heel and carrying straight into a roundhouse kick that sent the enemy reeling back even more.
The Lance of Longinus shot out from where it rested haphazardly against the side of Afterlife and back into the EVA's hand. The mech twirled it idly about in its hand before levelling it at the enemy, "And do you know the worst thing about all this?!" shouted Shinji at the leviathan, "I'm supposed to be fucking retired!" he then slashed out at the enemy with the twin bladed prongs, carving a pair of great gashes into the beast's flesh.
The Leviathan let out a deafening, alien groan of agony as its dark blood was spilled over the streets.
Shinji reared back with the lance, its blades glowing brilliantly as they began to join together once more. Suddenly however, Shinji noticed the position he was in: True, he could just hurl the lance and kill the leviathan, but his line of sight contained a good number of buildings on the edge of the residential area, unlike before when he was merely fighting amongst the workshops and storage areas.
Shinji knew the structures would be torn like tissue paper by the lance if he threw it now, and he had no idea just how much of the evacuation had actually been completed. This wasn't Tokyo-3, where it was organised on a governmental level. On Omega, beyond the thin veil of order imposed by the Talons and Aria, it was less organisation and more everyone for themselves.
The face of an old friend flashed briefly before Shinji's eyes: a friend whose sister he had inadvertently hurt during his first fight in the EVA.
He shook his head to clear it. He was done with those thoughts now.
That second's hesitation however was more than the leviathan needed, as a shockwave struck Unit-01's right shoulder before it could return its attention fully to the game, causing its arm to flail out at an unnatural angle.
The lance was hurled aside as a result and Shinji clenched his shoulder in sympathy, letting out a cry of pain as the EVA's shoulder was dislocated with a nasty crack.
Shinji spied the leviathan prepare to fire again. In response, he quickly pushed his synchronisation ratio through the roof and, ignoring the amplification of the pain and the way his body blazed a radiant white as a result, Shinji allowed the EVA to regenerate its injury in almost an instant.
Shinji flipped the EVA back to its feet and then did what came most naturally to an EVA pilot: He charged his enemy head-on.
The EVA's run shook the surface of Omega, its roar blanketing everything as it leaped into the air and tackled the leviathan to the ground. The half-formed warp the creature had been preparing fired off, striking harmlessly against the ceiling in the distance.
Shinji's teeth were bared; his vision a field of red as he allowed the beast of the EVA freedom it lusted for. He brought his fists down on the leviathan once, twice, and then a third time. The creature's barriers caved under the force, blood spraying out from barely closed wounds.
The Test Type EVA growled almost hungrily and slammed it's hands down again, this time digging its clawed fingers directly into the gashes created by the Lance of Longinus. The leviathan squealed in agony as the EVA ripped open it's chest cavity and then reared back with one hand and drove it inside, grabbing a fistful of flesh and organs before tearing it free.
Its prey thrashed, groaned and screamed under it as the EVA viciously began tearing the creature apart. Bone and flesh were scattered across the surface of Omega, coating the buildings with blood as the creature was brutally eviscerated.
The leviathan was long-dead by the time the EVA finally tore free its bestilled heart and crushed it in one great fist.
Unit-01 flopped down onto its knees atop what remained of its foe.
The light seemed dimmed in the entry plug as Shinji gasped for air. He was slumped forward in his seat, control his once more, beads of sweat floating freely in the LCL. He swallowed a gulp and looked up at the scene outside, "I'm too old for this..."
Shinji looked about the streets and buildings of Omega, which had nearly all been given a rather gross redecoration for a mile in every direction. There was only one thing he had to say about the disgusting sight he had created:
"Oh, Aria's not going to like this…"
Shinji breathed a tired breath and ejected the entry plug, climbing out and closing it behind him before descending back to the walkway once more.
The EVA's hand extended out to the side and the Lance returned to it once more. Shinji then turned and both he and Unit-01 began walking off in opposite directions: Unit-01 towards one of the main apertures that the leviathans had entered through, and he to where the fighting still went on in the residential sectors, "I suppose I'll just have to handle everything myself…" he lamented, pausing to sigh, "What else is new?"
"Status on the remaining Leviathans?" shouted Tisala as she did her best to split her attention between both commanding the Thunder Child and keeping her moving.
EDEN responded a second later, "They're completely ignoring us in favour of focusing their firepower on Harbinger."
Tisala cocked her head, "Really? I can't help but feel just a little bit insulted."
An arc of red light sliced across space in front of then, slaying one of the smaller Leviathans in one shot, "Not that their caution isn't warranted, of course…"
EDEN was not in a good mood. The situation had hurled in a new unknown element. She had been synchronised with EDI's systems on board the Normandy until the connection had been quite brutally severed from her perspective, and now her sister's systems had been completely hijacked by the Shepard Entity.
"Can't believe we're being backed up by a reaper…" muttered Tisala, who'd had to strongly fight her instinct to give the creature every single barrel the ship had upon first sighting it.
While reaper ships had rendered silent assistance to the repair of the relay network after the end of the war, Tisala still held a severe distrust towards the biomechanical creatures. It was only her training and logical acceptance of the entity's words that had stopped her from flat-out refusing to accept backup from the dreadnought.
Personal feelings were now aside. At her core, Tisala remained a Spectre, and the mission came first. Always the mission.
"We can worry about that later," said EDEN, "I'm receiving a notification from Omega. One of the outer bay doors is opening."
The image on the screen flicked, zooming in to display the aperture in question, "Did the leviathans-" Tisala began to say, only to be cut off by the AI.
"-No, " said EDEN as a large hand emerged and gripped hold of the outside hull, followed by another, taking hold of the opposite side, "They have both been dealt with."
Unit-01's eyes glowed brilliantly as it emerged into the darkness of the void. The neon-green backlights in its armour and Omega's orange ambience gave it a truly ethereal look as it climbed out and stood atop the main outer rim of the station, Lance in hand, "EVA…Unit-01?" breathed Tisala, "Is Shinji…"
"No," said EDEN with a shake of her head, "the entry plug is empty. Shinji–kun is not on board."
"Then who's piloting it?"
"Shinji-kun is, of course."
The asari pilot frowned, "How is that possible?"
"It would take too long to explain just now." The platform then blinked as she opened a comm channel, "Shinji-kun?"
There was a brief pause before Shinji's voice replied, "EDEN, what is it?"
"We have line of sight on Unit-01. What's your status?"
"Heading to the next combat zone, I'm fine. Though I suspect you know what happened to me."
EDEN nodded, "It was predicted that you would fully awaken at some point. How do you feel?"
"I…don't know…" he responded thoughtfully and there came the sound of clicking as he checked his sidearm on the other side of the audio link, "sort of…tingly." There was another pause, "how long did you know this was going to happen to me?"
"Since before you first arrived on Omega, since before my code was even compiled. Since Third Impact this has always been the outcome of the plan; of Yui Ikari's final project and the completion of her greatest creation."
"Project E…and Evangelion Unit-01," responded Shinji.
EDEN's brow furrowed, "Do you really think Yui Ikari ever considered Unit-01 to be her greatest creation, even for one instant?"
EDEN frowned, "It's you, of course. What has Yui brought into the world that could possibly compare to you?"
Shinji seemed shocked for an instant.
EDEN continued speaking "This is the outcome of the project I was created to complete: The Shinji Ikari Raising Project. Unit-01 was just a means to an end, you were the affirmation of her life's work; her very existence."
Shinji remained quiet for a further moment, obviously having stopped walking, "To what end?" he whispered eventually.
"She was your mother," responded EDEN in an obvious tone, "She just wanted you to be happy. That was the reason for everything she did."
Shinji chuckled, "Couldn't she have just had some nefarious scheme like any other mastermind who has a 'Project'?"
"Well, I guess that's just where Yui Ikari differed from SEELE and your father."
"In what way is that?"
"She had some semblance of sense."
"So you really were created just for the sake of watching my back? Mom really did like to take things to the extreme…"
EDEN scowled, "I turned my back on you for five seconds and you proposed to a space pirate. I'm not sure there is an 'extreme' in your case. Now…what is your intent with Unit-01?" she asked, noting that the entire battle seemed to have paused, the leviathan's having all stopped to regard the figure surveying them across the void.
Shinji's tone lowered slightly in response, "I'm here to finish this, once and for all."
"Shinji, Unit-01 isn't designed for zero-g combat situations."
The EVA adjusted its lance, the pointed base leaving a small trail of sparks in Omega's armour, "You'd be surprised…"
The EVA's wings erupted free, illuminating space with their light like some tiny star.
The last remaining member of the Leviathan Trium glided towards the station, Harbinger having also stopped to observe the new development.
'YOU HAVE SENT MY BRETHREN INTO THE VOID?' It demanded in its usual, slow mental grumble.
Shinji cocked his head as he walked, continuing his hands-free conversation, "Well they're dead if that's what you're asking."
'YOU DARE?' It asked, and the voice didn't have the indignation of the other two leaders, Shinji realised. In fact, this one felt even older to him, much older. From what Shinji could sense, it felt as though the creature viewed indignation merely as a fact to be acted upon and pay lip service to, rather than something to have an actual emotional reaction to.
Shinji fed back his response via the EVA, "It's too late for me to simply dare. You're outmatched and outnumbered. Release your hold on the indoctrinated forces aboard Omega and go back to wherever it is you came from. Do as I say: stop this now, and I'll permit your continued existence."
Silence prevailed for a long moment as leviathan and EVA stared each other down.
'PERMIT?' It finally grumbled, the first semblance of an emotion surfacing, as if stirring something long-lost, deep within its core. Shinji could feel that the creature was beyond ancient, from a generation even beyond the other two leaders. 'PERMIT?' It repeated.
All at the same time, the remaining leviathans turned toward the waiting EVA, their forms starting to shimmer once more with dark energy.
'SURRENDER YOURSELF.' It commanded.
Shinji only realised then that the creature wasn't going to yield no matter what he said or did. It wasn't that the leviathan was stubborn, but more like it was so old and so sure of its own superiority that it was unable to grasp the mere concept of surrender.
Shinji stopped, "You really do think of yourself as a god. You…genuinely believe it." Shinji suddenly remembered the thirteen members of the SEELE council, who had not returned from the sea of LCL, and had instead elected to remain as nothingness rather than face reality. Shinji actually felt saddened, "You're not going to stop…any of you, are you? You're going to keep going until I'm forced to kill every last one of you, and you know I'm capable of doing it." He was quiet for a moment, "Why?"
The ancient itself was silent, and Shinji was startled when it deigned to respond.
"I see…so if you succeed then you were right, or at the very least will be; you become gods. And if you fail, then the universe you've hidden from for so long has surpassed you."
'NO OTHER PURPOSE.'
"You're fighting me for the validation of your very being; you succeed against me, or you may as well not exist at all." that sad smile reappeared, "I'm almost flattered." The EVA's wings angled backwards as it crouched down in preparation. Shinji paused once more to look ahead, addressing the leviathan for one final time, "Let's go…"
Shinji returned his attention ahead as the EVA launched itself out into the darkness, its wings blazing a trail as it was propelled through space, lance at the ready.
The spell was broken, and the Leviathans resumed their attack. A combined biotic blast was fired out directly at the advancing EVA.
The mech's growl was swallowed by the vacuum, and with a grunt of derision, it swung its lance about in an arch ahead, scattering the blast of dark energy on contact and allowing the EVA to pass through unhindered.
The two leviathans that'd launched the blast at the EVA didn't get a chance to attack again, as three bolts of white light suddenly punched through them from both sides. With their targets slain, the two frigates remaining on the field streaked by the EVA and then arched about to continue their assault on the smaller enemies.
With their number's diminishing rapidly, the leviathan's ability to focus their attacks was waning quickly, allowing the two smaller craft to pick them off one at a time with impunity.
Unit-01 torpedoed into one of the enemy creatures, burying the tip of its lance right into the flesh. Keeping a firm hold of the spear, the EVA then propelled itself forwards, slicing the leviathan clean in two before spinning about and hurling the weapon at another, killing it instantly.
The EVA suddenly found itself clipped off course however as a pair of warp blasts jolted its side. Unit-01 turned to retaliate, only for the two leviathans guilty of the attack to get swiftly taken out by a shot from Harbinger's main weapon.
The tide had been turned.
The Normandy's twin cannons blazed as she cut through one of the few remaining leviathans and circled about to rejoin the Thunder Child.
"We're almost matched in number now," said Shepard/EDI as the entity observed the battle while its reaper body fended off several enemies at the same time, "With Unit-01 supplementing, this shouldn't take much longer."
"How come the pirates get giant robots? We should have giant robots. Hey, Commander-"
"-I'm not building you a giant robot, Joker…"
Jeff grumbled and shook his head, "You used to be cool."
"Hey," objected the possessed robot, "I'm still cool…"
A blast of crimson lit up space ahead as Harbinger's primary weapon slew another leviathan, "See?"
Joker let out a relenting sigh and returned his attention to flying, "Nice working with you again, Commander…"
Unit-01 steadied itself in space, orientating around to sight the lead leviathan. The few remaining creatures seemed to be trying their best just to throw off the EVA's momentum and prevent it from using its spear. Because of this, the mech was getting nowhere fast.
The EVA arched its head around when it sensed something intrude into its consciousness:
Someone was trying to synchronise.
Shinji halted aboard Omega for a second, his brow briefly furrowing until he recognised the feeling.
It was the Dummy System.
Shinji hesitated for only a second before letting his mind relax, permitting EDEN's neural network to latch onto his subconscious.
Unit-01's hand reached out and caught hold of the Thunder Child's drive pylon as it passed. The ship then swung about, dragging the EVA behind and charging full-on at the remaining pair of smaller leviathans, the others having just been finished off by Harbinger and the Normandy.
The Thunder Child's starboard thruster blazed, arching the ship to one side and effectively catapulting Evangelion Unit-01 straight at one of the enemies as the ship swung back around and unleashed the full force of its arsenal on the other.
The creature had obviously been under attack previously, as the barrage of javelin torpedoes weakened its barriers to the point that the succeeding blast from the frigate's main cannon punched clean through, reducing the leviathan to a lifeless husk in the blink of an eye.
Meanwhile, Unit-01 and the last of the younger leviathans toppled end over end through space as they grappled. The leviathan tried in vain to line up its main weapon or successfully build up enough biotic charge to destroy the attacker. The EVA was already setting about it like a wild animal however, tearing into flesh with one claw-like hand and stabbing into it with its progressive knife using the other.
Viscous dark fluid erupted into an outward plume as the EVA stabbed its knife in deep, gripped hold of the leviathan with its thighs, and then quite literally tore the beast inside out with its bare hands.
"One to go…" said EDEN in a light voice, her red eyes shimmering and staring at nothing.
"That was a bit much, don't you think?" asked Tisala, looking back at the AI as a globule of dark blood splattered over the forward hull.
"I have only one rule, Tisala," said EDEN, not looking at her, "Don't fuck with Shinji Ikari."
Tisala was silent for a few seconds.
"You say with…" Tisala didn't finish however, having been silenced by EDEN's glare, "Kidding…"
EDEN looked back ahead once more, "No you weren't."
Tisala sighed, "No…I wasn't."
The asari looked up as the ship was jolted slightly, her sensors registering increased mass, "Did Unit-01 just climb on top of us?"
"It's just hitching a ride," replied EDEN.
The ship swung around as the AI briefly assumed control of the helm. EDEN orientated the vessel in the direction Harbinger and the last leviathan faced off and began heading towards them with Unit-01 crouched atop her hull.
The leviathan hadn't been attacking for the past while, this was primarily because it was taking all of its time and energy to hold off the sheer force of Harbinger's primary weapon. Several of the elder beast's mandibles and a small section of its lower body had already been cut clean away by the old machine.
The possessed Harbinger circled slowly and patiently. Blasts of red almost lazily fired out on occasion, tracing across the surface of the leviathan's barrier in alternating directions.
The Normandy closed in from the leviathan's aft, readying to attack.
Unit-01 propelled itself free of the Thunder Child once it was close enough, stopping with a blast of its A.T. field, spear once more at the ready.
Finally, the black frigate took up position on the far side of their enemy, leaving the leviathan completely encroached from all sides.
Harbinger stopped firing.
"It's over…" said Shepard aboard the Normandy.
"Shall I open fire, Commander?" asked Joker.
Shepard seemed to hesitate however, "Stand by…"
The civilians of Omega had been quite valiantly holding back the indoctrinated forces, many of them entrenched in their own homes and making it a nightmare for the enemy to advance whilst the Talons kept them pinned down from secure cover.
Once Aria had arrived, the battle had turned considerably with the inclusion of nearly a dozen asari huntresses. However, this advantage had lasted precisely as long as it took for the question of whatever happened to the Scolex Shipping CEO's personal staff to be answered.
The residential areas had now erupted into a warzone of gunfire, smoke and biotic explosions.
"They were waiting for us?" shouted Tevos over the sound of an explosion as she ducked down behind a toppled vending machine, her barrier extended as far around them as was safely possible to maintain.
"This is just about causing havoc," shouted Aria as she leaned out of cover to fire off a few rounds from her shotgun, "Wouldn't have been much destruction if they'd just jumped in at the first hurdle and massacred everyone." The pirate knew however that this wouldn't take long. The indoctrinated asari obviously hadn't been counting on Samara's presence along with Aria too. The justicar had already taken out four of the enemy asari, her barrier shrugging off nearly everything thrown at it.
Tevos kneeled up and fired off a stream of rounds with her automatic pistol, the shots went awry however when a precisely aimed warp strike clipped her shoulder. The councillor recoiled, only for a shockwave to strike her head-on, piercing her barrier and hurling her back five metres before skidding to a halt on her back.
"Tevos!" called Aria, the councillor wincing as she pushed herself up onto one hand, dazed and shaken. Time seemed to slow down from her perspective however as she spied the asari who had fired the attack take aim on her with a sniper rifle.
Tevos would've thrown up her barrier, but the trigger had already been pulled. To her credit however, she didn't allow fear to show on her face, instead choosing to glower defiantly at the fate that had suddenly befallen her.
Death, however, didn't come...
Tevos flinched as the bullet bounced off an invisible barrier which rippled outward into a familiar field of orange geometric shapes.
"Again, councillor?" came a voice from above, and she looked back to find Shinji Ikari standing over her. There was a swirling of white light under his skin, and despite his eyes being a glowing red, they somehow didn't hold a hint of menace. In fact, the councillor was shocked at how much the young man still seemed so very much…himself.
Shinji's eyes flicked up as shots began striking his A.T. field, the attention of the enemy obviously turning toward him.
"Excuse me…" he muttered, stepping past the councillor but pausing to help her up with one hand as he went. Tevos followed behind, observing Shinji closely as a shimmer seemed to expand outward from his body and pass over the line of asari and Talon fighters.
Everyone tensed as the attacks they'd been preparing to defend against simply struck an impassable wall.
The sudden silence on their side was eerie.
Aria looked back to find her future bondmate standing a few feet away, and only someone who knew her well enough could spot her expression soften just the slightest amount, "I was wondering when you'd show up…"
"I wasn't aware I was expected."
"I knew you'd be here at some point," replied Aria offhandedly as she stood up and began firing on the enemy asari, "What's the matter?"
"Nothing, "responded Shinji, "just multitasking."
"What happened to that thing back there?"
"It's…around," replied Shinji.
Her brow furrowed, "Why didn't you kill it?"
He cocked his head, "I did. I may have made a slight…mess however. Just giving you a heads up."
Kasumi materialised a few metres away, pistol in hand as she picked off another enemy, "You're making this too easy, Shinji!"
"I'm fine with easy!" shouted Aria as she took time to fire a precisely aimed flare at the enemy. The rest of her troops were starting to follow suit as they began to realise the barrier around them wasn't going anywhere soon.
After a few moments, it quickly became evident that, with an A.T. field in place, the battle would soon become a massacre, "Can you finish them?" asked Aria, turning to Shinji.
"I can stop them all if you'd like," said Shinji as he lazily fired his M-77, shattering the asari that had leaned out from cover into icy shards with a well-aimed shot, "but I might accidentally demolish the entire block in the process."
"In that case," said Aria, "just stick around and join the fun. How are things outside?"
"It's almost over," said Shinji, and it was clear from his expression that his attention was split, "There's just the leader left now."
"Then kill the fucker and let's have done with it."
Shinji was silent in thought for a moment.
"What is it?" asked Tevos, who was still by his side.
He shook his head, "Give me a moment…"
'WE CREATED THESE CIVILIZATIONS, AND WE WILL NOT BE DENIED. COME, ANGEL OF MANKIND…'
Unit-01 launched itself forward, its wings angling behind as it soared through space. The leviathan didn't move beyond bringing itself about to face the oncoming enemy.
The EVA roared silently as it brought the Lance overhead and slashed down through the creature's barrier, plunging deep down into flesh.
The EVA landed with its feet against the enemy's bulk and prepared to finish the creature off in one swing.
The leviathan had other ideas.
The creature's biotic field pulsed suddenly outwards, but not to push the EVA away. Instead, it swiftly inverted the force about the Evangelion, gripping tightly.
Even as the Lance drained its life way, the leviathan managed to propel itself back through space with its target held firmly.
Beams of light cut into the creature's flesh as the two ships and reaper fired on it, but still it moved, jumping into FTL after a struggling build-up of power.
'You're not getting through the relay in your condition!' snapped Shinji as he tried to force the EVA free once they'd decelerated.
'NO ESCAPE IS INTENDED.' replied the creature, 'BEHOLD…'
Shinji looked about with the EVA. The brief FTL jump had brought them to a spot just a few million kilometres short of the Mass Relay.
Shinji could feel the tremor through his A.T. Field; from the ripple in the fabric of space in that one spot. His defiance turned to dread.
'IF THIS IS A HEAVEN WE CREATED, THEN WOULD THESE NOT BE THE GATES THROUGH WHICH YOU STOLE YOURSELF?'
'You can't reopen the Room of Gauf!' snapped Shinji as he struggled with the EVA, 'And even if you could, what'd be the point?!'
'WE CANNOT OPEN THE GATES,' agreed the creature, 'YOU CAN.'
Over on Omega, Shinji Ikari doubled over as the Leviathan gripped his consciousness, bleeding through his A.T. field and twisting it, manipulating it through the EVA and probing at the surface of reality itself using Shinji as a medium.
'What…are you doing?' choked Shinji, finding it hard to think as the Leviathan began warping space and time at that one point, inverting the entryway to the Room of Gauf and bending it into a distorted Sea of Dirac.
'IF WE CANNOT BE GODS, THEN YOU WILL NOT HAVE OUR HEAVEN, ANGEL.'
"What's wrong with him?!" shouted Aria, back behind cover now that the A.T. Field had suddenly collapsed.
Tevos was crouched at Shinji's side, his outline pulsing blinding yellow-white, "Shinji!?"
"Get…back…" he choked, his entire body shimmering and seeming to fade in and out.
"What's happening to you?" demanded the councillor.
"Back, Tevos!" he roared, but still she didn't move.
'This…will kill you!' he managed to think back to the Leviathan.
"Shinji?" called Aria, trying to move closer, but was pinned down by another hail of gunfire.
"Tevos, you've got to…"
Space was lit up by a plume of light, disintegrating the Leviathan as the connection was made, tearing back through time and across dimensions, locked onto a similar point in space as a void in reality was created.
"Unit-01?" breathed EDEN as she looked out into empty space. She opened up a comm-link, "Shinji-kun?" she said, desperation in her voice, "Shinji, please talk to me!"
After a long silence, a different voice replied, "EDEN?" came Kasumi's unsure voice. There was silence in the background, the gunfire having stopped the instant the minds of the indoctrinated foes were freed.
"Kasumi, what happened?" demanded EDEN urgently, "Where's Shinji?"
"I…I don't know."
EDEN and Tisala's eyes were locked across the black void at the hazy, swirling blue-white rupture in space.
Unit-01 was gone.
"What…"breathed the platform, pausing to swallow a gulp, "happened?" she asked, knowing full well the answer but instead choosing to cling to an irrational hope.
"He's gone…" Kasumi finally replied, "Tevos too. I don't know what happened. There was this light, a bright flash, and then nothing."
"What happened, EDEN?" asked Tisala, looking back at her, "What's happened to them?"
"EDEN?" prompted Kasumi over the comm
"The Leviathan took him…" she replied almost vacantly and she seemed to waver on her feet, staring ahead with wide eyes.
After a long, tense moment of silent thought and computation, EDEN narrowed her eyes at the vortex, steeling her resolve, "Move us in to dock at Omega." She finally said, her voice firm once more, "Inform Aria. I think she'll want to discuss this in person."
Less than thirty minutes later, the battle-scarred Thunder Child was locked into place at one of Omega's primary docks. As soon as the pressure was normalised, Aria strode on board, swinging around towards the cockpit where EDEN stood waiting.
Aria said nothing as she walked towards the AI platform. Instead of speaking, she reared back and wordlessly punched the android clear between the eyes, flooring her against the co-pilot's chair.
Tisala pushed herself up in shock as Aria stood in silence, her now unclenched fist releasing a small trail of blood from a split knuckle.
EDEN sat up against the seat and wiped a trail of blue fluid from her face.
She didn't stand.
Aria glowered down at her, her eyes shimmering with anger, "It 'took him'? You let that thing take him?" she snapped.
EDEN averted her eyes, "I tried…my weapons weren't powerful enough to-"
"Don't you dare make excuses with me, AI." said Aria, her tone so low and calm despite her obvious rage that it was chilling.
Tisala could tell that Aria was just itching to kill someone for this. Unfortunately though, all her enemies were now dead, which was unfortunate for her allies. Aria took a breath, "Taken where?"
EDEN pushed herself back to her feet and brought up a new screen to display the vortex in space, "Through there…"
"And there is?" asked Aria impatiently.
EDEN exhaled a breath, "The Room of Gauf, or at least it was. The Leviathan used the EVA's red pattern A.T. Field and the Lance of Longinus to repurpose it."
EDEN shook her head, "into a space-time vortex of some kind, I would imagine."
"Is he alive?" asked Tisala.
"He must be," replied EDEN, "That rift is being supported by Unit-01's existence and Shinji's by extension. As long as that rift exists, we can take it as a sign that he's at least alive."
"Alive where?" asked Aria.
"Wherever it is that leads to. And I have no idea if he's safe, or if something might have him on the other side."
"Can we go after them?" asked Aria.
EDEN frowned in thought, "It is possible, yes…"
"And Tevos is with him," said Tisala, "The asari government won't stay quiet when they find out about this. We could try keeping it quiet for a small amount of time, but-"
Aria cut her off, "-No, contact the Ascension. She should still be within range of the area. Let them know what's happened here. I then want you two to get as many of our people together as you can and organise emergency repairs on whatever ships are still salvageable. I want a full taskforce ready within the next three days."
"You're going after them…" said Tisala.
The makings of a smile appeared on her face, "He's not getting away from me that easily."
"Three days," said EDEN, doubtful but secretly grateful that Aria's single-mindedness to snare what she wanted might just save Shinji's life, "I've had much worse odds."
"I'm glad to hear it," replied the pirate evenly, her eyes locked on the image of the vortex, "Because wherever it is they've gone, I do intend to follow them. And if someone has done something to him, then they're going to have me to answer to for it…"
Asuka Langley Shikinami cursed her situation for the umpteenth time as she trenched through the unending sands of the wasteland, dragging the hand of the unresponsive Third Child along with her.
Asuka stopped, releasing Shinji's hand to sit briefly down atop a dune and look at her display, "L-Field density should be low enough now. We can wait here to be picked up."
Asuka half-expected some response to her words, but none came. The Ayanami clone was as silent as ever, and Shinji…
She glanced over her shoulder at him and back again.
No, she wouldn't be getting anything from him.
She wasn't sure anyone ever would again.
She didn't hate him.
What Asuka hated was the fact that she couldn't make herself hate him, not truly.
The Second Child blinked as a sound reached her ears: a strange whistling, whooshing of displacing air.
"What now?" she mumbled, standing back up. Ayanami was already looking up in the air at something.
Asuka narrowed her eyes up at the sky, sighting a ball of light that looked disturbingly like it was hurtling towards them. It took her poor depth perception a moment longer to realise that this was because it was hurtling towards them.
"Get down!" she cried, tackling Shinji back to the ground under her, Ayanami diving for cover also as the ball solidified into a solid mass and hit the ground a few hundred yards away, sending up a tidal wave of sand over them as it skidded to a halt.
Asuka pulled herself out of the sand, spluttering as she shook free the dust from her hair, "This day just keeps getting better and…bet..ter…" she trailed off into dead silence as she beheld what lay in front of them.
Even Shinji and Rei, who had shown no reaction to any stimuli so far, seemed startled, "That's…impossible." Breathed Asuka as they looked down upon the sprawled out, but utterly unmistakable form of Evangelion Unit-01…
Far away, high in the air, another similar anomaly had appeared. Only in this instance, it passed clear through the hull of a huge, slowly moving vessel, solidifying as it struck the suspended Evangelion contained within. Two bodies rebounded off the metallic surface and landed down on the walkway before it.
'Shinji-kun…Shinji-kun?' came the echoing voice, drifting into coherence as Shinji's consciousness resurfaced.
Shinji opened a lidded eye as a familiar, ghostly form stood over him.
His body refused to move.
'I need you to listen to me, Shinji-kun,' said Kaworu, an oddly urgent note in his voice.
"Wh-where…am I?" Shinji slurred, only just registering the presence of Tevos lying on the walkway a short distance away.
'There is no time. You need to do something.'
"Do what?" asked Shinji weakly.
'You need to be human, just like I was. You need to pretend you are just like them, hiding in plain sight.'
'I need you to trust me, Shinji-kun,' said Kaworu, extending his hand, 'I will show you how it is done. Just take my hand, and I will explain all...'
Shinji raised his arm up and weakly grasped hold of the Angel's smaller hand.
Shinji immediately felt the very nature of his being shift slightly. The gems on his wrists shimmered and vanished.
As time began to flow, Shinji vacantly reached for the device on his wrist and pressed a few controls. The display flashed a red warning before vanishing:
Lockout mode enabled.
As his consciousness began to fade once more, Shinji's hands, as if working on autopilot, ejected the thermal clip from his weapon, setting it on overload and letting it roll off the walkway along with the spare in his pocket.
A pair of muffled blasts came a second later as the clips detonated beneath the liquid surrounding the encased form of another EVA Unit-01.
As Shinji's eyes began to draw closed and the sound of heavy footfalls filled the air, he sighted a logo on the far wall, a logo he was not familiar with:
[A/N] You didn't think i was completely done, did you?. Nope, I think it's time for this crossover to get completely flipped on its head. So, yeah, consider this fic's backside officially sequel-hooked. Anyhoo, loyal readers and newcomers alike, I hope you've all enjoyed this fic in its current incarnation. It's been a long, bizarre and wonderful experience, and I hope you've had a ball. Until the yarn begins anew, I bid thee farewell.
To be resumed in Alpha & Omega (Part 2): The Fallen