The capsule will work. He has no doubt. He can allow himself no doubt. As he feels the terrible heat, feels the ground crack beneath him, it is the knowledge that the capsule will work that gives him the strength to ignore the pain and press on.
The first pulse hits. He can feel the ground beneath him begin to melt. Thompson runs past, running for the docks. The pulse hits and he liquifies before hitting the ground. But he presses on.
Through the head, as he pulls his parka around his face. Through the force that makes the air feel like thick molasses. He walks, one foot in front of the other, like climbing a vertical cliff face.
There is the light which makes the world shake. There is the roar which makes the ears bleed. The sky turns from night to blood, and he continues on, past the screaming and dying, past the architecture of the ruined dome he called home for so many months. He continues. He perseveres.
The capsule will hold. His daughter will survive. Just this once, he won't let her down.
Human architecture gives away to something much, much more. He climbs the thing they thought was a hill, but on closer inspection is a bent finger. He climbs up the ridge of alien flesh and material, as the waves of I AM was over him, screaming and tearing but he does not falter.
In the valley of the old gods, in the center of Antarctica-that-soon-shall-not-be, Shiro Katsuragi pulls back his parka and beholds beauty. The pulsing light with the god at the center. Pulses of white along it that fly off, and it is just like he thought. Just like he theorized.
"He...he's doing it." He rubs a gloved hand over stubble. "Splitting the Ego. He's splintering his identity to create new souls!"
A sharp laugh and he shakes his head. Well, that's a thing, he thinks. World is about to end, but he has a theory that's just been proven. He really is a geek.
Reaching out, he presses his hand against the air and finds it solid. Flexing his fingers, he presses further and he feels the information, feels the senses. The blast tosses his parka off and his dark hair flies free, waving about his head like a halo.
Closing his eyes, he presses both hands against the air and he feels it, feels the everything. Months of experimentation. Months of theories. Months of numbers and data and wrangling with the forces of universe itself, and it comes down to this.
Against the beast that shouts I AM at the bottom of the world, one Man shouts louder.
The pillar pulses. The wind whips, slows down, and reverses direction, now flowing inward instead of out. Brown eyes lock with the black spots on the radiance. His lips part into a grin. There is a battle of wills, invisible but shaking the ground beneath them. In the distance, the ice caps begin shattering. Beneath them, the ground turns to liquid and the great waves of force expand outwards.
Man stands and stares upon God. The great giant, pulsing with white, pulsing with absolute, unleashed force, staggers towards the Man and tilts its head. A question, carried through the ether, carried through the identity. One which the Man answers with a smile.
"Because she's my daughter!"
And the ground gives way between them. What was the white beneath them becomes black. What was solid ground, the cradle of God, becomes an abyss that consumes them both. And as Shiro Katsuragi falls, there is a smile on his face, because he knows, deep down,
The capsule will hold.
of Nobody Dies
Chapter 1: And Man Grew Proud
The screen floats over the far end of the cavernous room, large enough to fit everyone present end to end twice over. Divided up into twenty hexagonal panels, it forms a honeycomb, images of a body of water outside the city limits passing in quick time, showing water rippling, followed by the lake parting to the sea bed in two even walls.
Zooming out, it displays the first mark of the oncoming threat:
A cross rising into the sky, light in the color of enflamed flesh. And from it rises another shape, something neither human nor animal, surrounded by walls of orange as it begins a silent advance.
Clearing his throat, the man with white hair, showing each and every one of his many years, leans against the table on the raised platform above the main bridge.
"We should have acted," he whispers. Next to him, the other man grunts. "They're already here. The scrolls were inaccurate at best but they gave a warning."
Another cross on the screen, followed by a muffled grunt from the man next to him. "When the world has ended, and when mankind has shed half its blood. That was written down, and we're still not prepared. Katsuragi bought us time, but we're still not prepared."
"No one wanted to believe, Professor." Hands folded over his face, eyes narrowed beneath amber glasses, the student watches. His face a mask, his gaze unwavering and steady. "Few wanted to believe they even existed. It's human nature. Prophecy is dismissed until it is inarguable."
He sees the first of the smoke trails. Missiles have already been launched and there is the muted roar of artillery being fired.
"And the Fourth Angel is enroute," the old man says, "So it begins."
"We're sorry, but due to emergency situations, no phone lines are available at this time. Thank you, and please try again later."
The phone slams back into the receiver, cracking the plastic as the young man walks away.
AD 2017. +17 years, Second Impact
It took him hours to get here by train. There were security checks, there were stops, there were delays. And after every last, excruciating moment of having to actually come here, he arrives to find the city completely empty. Muttering under his breath, he swings his knapsack off, opening it and reaching into it. Pulling out an envelope, he tears it open, unfolds the contents, and stares at a letter which is mostly black save for one word:
"The Hell." Running a hand through his unkempt black hair, the young man, clad in a worn gray sweatshirt and jeans, looks around the ghost city, wondering at what point he exited his normal, ordinary life and entered the Twilight Zone, or whatever that weird show his Aunt watches is called.
"Damn it." He checks his cell phone and finds, once again, no bars. Figures. He'd call his father's phone again, but he doubts he's even answering it, because goodness knows he couldn't actually tell him all this by phone, he had to send by snail mail.
"I don't believe this," he whines, dragging his knapsack on the ground behind him, "I haven't seen him in three years! And all he does is tell me to come! But no! That's typical of him! No, 'Hi son, who we shipped off to live with his relatives for no reason we articulated, how are you doing?'"
He continues griping, rolling his eyes, looking up at the low buildings around him as he wonders gee, if this is a city, where are the skyscrapers
"But nooooo," he bellows, shrugging his backpack over his shoulder, "No, they just had to send for me. I swear, if this is all some elaborate surprise birthday party they are getting such a talking to. Why did they have to send for me? Why did I have to come here? Why didn't they tell me why I'm here?"
Rolling his eyes, he mutters to himself something about whining and complaining, and continues walking through the empty city. Maybe it's just this area of the city that's empty, he thinks. It's a big city, maybe everyone from these few blocks took the day off, or went on vacation, or died. Or something.
Reaching into his bag, he takes out a can of coffee, holding it for a moment before he realizes it's warm. So is the weather, only adding to his passive aggressive rage. Spotting a bench near a convenience store, he stomps over as effectively as a lanky sixteen year old can, slumping down on the bench and placing his bag and the warm coffee next to him, looking out and finally seeing the skyline of Tokyo-3.
Silver and steel rising from the center of what was once Hakone, a spire at the center which he understands is the Tokyo-3 City Center. Sighing, leaning back on the bench, he wonders, once again, what his Dad needs him here for.
"Excuse me, Mister, but are you lost?"
He looks down. He would lecture the girl to not stand in the street, but there haven't been any cars here the entire day. Maybe there's a big fair on the other side of the city. A ten year old girl with her dark brown hair in two hastily arranged pigtails is standing in front of him, holding a bag of groceries.
"Huh?" he asks. "Buh?"
"We're all supposed to go to the shelters, but I thought we'd need food and stuff for it," she says, "Didn't you know that?"
He blinks, takes the coffee from next to his bag, popping the top and sipping the cold coffee. Shelters? Well, that would explain that. But why would an entire city have some sort of evacuation drill? What would they evacuate an entire city for? Isn't Tokyo-3 landlocked?
"I'm Nozomi," the girl says, smiling.
He blinks, and smiles, scratching the back of his head.
"I'm Shinji," he says, "Uh...Shinji Ikari."
The girl blinks and tilts her head.
"Huh, what?" he asks.
"Anyway." Nozomi hefts up her bag. "You really should head to the shelters, 'cause Mom's bosses said we had to all go there today, and we don't want to get in any trouble with NERV."
She walks over, grabbing Shinji by the wrist and pulling him to his feet. He grabs his knapsack, sighing as he finds himself pulled along by a bossy 10 year old, which he could think of as the story of his life.
"So, wait," he says, "Why are we going to the shelters?"
"'Cause NERV said there's a drill, today."
"Why is there a drill? What possible reason could anyone have to have an entire city go into shelters?"
The answer comes from a rumble overhead, and the two look up to see jet fighters screaming past, the ground shaking in time with their supersonic wake. Mouth hanging open, Shinji watches as the jets are accompanied by a half dozen VTOL craft, hanging in the sky above as their side compartments open. A flurry of rockets fire off at some object in the distance, filling the sky with smoke and ozone.
And then a pink lance of light shoots out and one of the VTOLs explodes, debris raining down on an apartment block.
"Okay," Shinji says, "That makes sense now. Run!"
Grabbing the girl by the hand, they run, as the sounds of conflagration and lasers fill the air, explosions and sonic booms overhead as they run down the street, away from the fighting. That is important, that they are not just running, but running away.
"The shelter's this way!" Nozomi yells.
"Good! Shelter's good!"
The explosions die down. He hopes that's a good thing. He really hopes that's a good thing. Then, the other, dreaded question comes to the forefront of his mind.
What were they shooting at?
Something passes overhead, fast enough to make the ground shake and make them lose their footing. Nozomi and Shinji both hit the ground with a cry, and in his case a loud swear. Shinji looks up as something slams into the main street, big enough that its motions gouge out chunks of the buildings around it. He looks up, as the claws, as tall as he is, slams into the ground in front of them. Abandoned cars crumble. Water from severed lines spray them both. The claw, metallic, smooth, is one of three on the leathery green foot, that goes up to a knee at least three times his height, which goes into a gigantic white shell.
It towers over the buildings, the shell itself coming to a high dome, three dull horns of white thrusting out of it. At the front of the shell there is black, tracing out the shape of a stylized eye tilted vertically. Four claws feet gouge the ground and cement, a tail swinging about behind it, ending in a red crystal sphere which glows with what appears to be trapped fire. The front of the shell splits, and a thing like a serpent slides out, an eyeless mouth with two teeth coming over the front of the lip, and two teeth framing the sides. Swinging through the air, it turns, extending towards Shinji and Nozomi as they scurry back, too frozen by fear and bewilderment at the thing in front of them to run.
The mouth opens, and attached to a long, thin tongue an eye coming out, hovering in front of them. For a moment, it glances at the girl, who shakes where she sits, eyes wide and mouth open. Then, it turns to Shinji. And a slow rumble emits from the mouth of the thing before him, as Shinji clenches his eyes shut, a noise like static filling his ears and words forming in a tongue that has no name and
I AM I
Through license of he who is named "I AM" I have come.
Though my feet must drag upon this Base Earth on this blessed quest, I have come.
I am the second of the messengers,
Tested against the might of those who profane the glory.
Your might shall be tested,
And found wanting before us,
And you shall be washed away like debris against the stream.
I am the Sword of God,
Angel of Pride.
I am Iblis.
I have come.
Shinji yells out and grabs his head as the mouth rises. The jaw stretches out in front of him. And neither he, nor the monster sees the figure running across the rooftops, but Nozomi does, pointing towards the sky and yelling out. And the sky turns orange and the wind slams down on them all. There is a shout and a cry, and Shinji looks up as a great and massive fist slams into the face of the creature.
Which, he realizes, is not a fist at all, but a tanker truck.
Flames, shrapnel, and debris fly towards them. Shinji moves to cover the girl. But before he can reach her, the shards of metal and the wall of flame slams into a wall of orange light. The wind whips past them, tossing dust down the cracked street as the giant turtle slams its tongue against the field.
"Hey thar! Nozomi, you need to head to the shelter now, kay?"
Nozomi turns. A smile splits her face from ear to ear. Scrambling to her feet, she takes off in a run, disappearing into an open doorway between two stores that retracts into the street. Shinji slowly turns, staring at a pair of sneakers and tall white socks. Right before a hand grabs him by the hood of his sweatshirt. "You Shinji Ikari?"
He nods. "Kay. Let's go!"
And then the world blurs.
He doesn't have time to actually see the girl's face. No, instead, he has all the time to get out the first syllable of "Who are you and what am I doing here?" before he finds himself picked up, by one arm, and the entire world becomes speed lines.
Screaming the entire way, he looks back over his shoulder, and screams louder. This is because the gigantic monstrous turtle has begun chasing after them. Him. Well, most likely her, because she hit it in the face with a truck.
"Aaaaaaa~nyway, how you doin'? Was the train ride alright?" Shinji screams in response, eyes locked on the rampaging turtle chasing them across rooftops. He looks up to see the jaws snap closed inches from his face, before the girl just picks up speed and leaps from building to building..
"Sooo I have Shinji, but we're being chased by the Angel! Yeah, 'cause I hit it in the face with a truuu~uuuck. So we're trying to loooose it but we're gonna need distractions. Great!"
The blur becomes faster as they pick up speed, speeding down a narrow alleyway, twisting and turning as the monster chases after them, Shinji seeing it in the cracks between buildings. His stomach relocates into his throat as the alley becomes the street, as they run vertically up a wall. The street becomes the rooftops. Smoke clouds the ground as the giant demon turtle runs out of roof and crashes into the street below.
"You afraid of heights?" Shinji whimpers a positive. "Too bad."
He only watches as the roofs end, a distant drop below, Shinji's screams becoming louder and more girly as the drop is replaced by the another roof. Another drop and he looks over his shoulder just as they crash through the window, running through an office while impacts shake the building. Another crash, and they're out of the building. They- and by that he means she- leaps through the air, desks and chairs falling out of the broken window in their wake, and Shinji sees the monster turtle thing shrieking as hovering, humanoid machines pepper it with rocket fire and machine guns.
They do not land on a roof. Instead, there is but a drop, leading to a concrete canyon. He idly wonders if that is supposed to be a canal. He also wonders if he is about to die. They dive down, redirecting themselves in mid air and and accelerating towards the ground. Shinji screams, as it is natural for him to do so when reaching terminal velocity. Instead of impacting the concrete below, which seems sensible from his perspective, the manhole cover swings aside and they descend into a long tube. Shinji falls onto smooth, soft, frictionless padding which does nothing to slow his descent, only redirect it.
His screams are matched by the laughter of the girl, who has braced her hands on the sides and slowed herself down.
He would do that, too. Were he not terrified and possibly wetting himself.
No, wait. Not possibly.
However, the light at the end of the tunnel has come. Only instead of being salvation, or a reward, or peace, it is an actual end of the tunnel, and Shinji's scream comes to an abrupt end as he slams into a gel pad built into the white metal wall. The gel ripples out, making a sound like an underwater burp, and he falls off of it and onto the ground with a groan.
Another yell, not his, and a blue and white blur hits the gel pad, hanging in the air before backflipping off. Looking up, his vision still slightly blurred and feeling as if he has lost ten years off his life, he finally gets a look at the girl who saved his life by being more hazardous to his health than a house sized evil turtle.
His eyes start on the white, worn sneakers and white socks, going up pale legs to the plaid skirt, white blouse and blue blazer. Finally, they settle on a heart shaped face, framed by bright blue hair, and sharp, deep red eyes. Her arms are up, and she bows, saying something about a 'Ten point landing.'
"Soooo here you are," she says, "Welcome to NERV! I'm-"
Slowly, Shinji turns his head to the side, as a woman with brunette hair and in a blue wet suit and a lab coat runs over, fixing her glasses and still toweling off her hair. Skidding to a stop, noticing the sixteen year old boy on the verge of passing out, she drops to her knees in front of Shinji and helps him sit up.
"Shinji?" she says, "I'm Dr. Ritsuko Akagi. I work with your father at NERV. Do you know why you were called here?"
Shinji shakes his head. Articulation is not his strong point at present. Instead, Akagi moves his head up, so he is looking at the girl again, who is now smiling with a mouth full of teeth. Many teeth.
"This is Rei," Akagi continues, "She's a Pilot. She's the Second Child. The monster she saved you from is called an Angel. We called you here to help deal with it."
His head is once more turned to her.
Shinji's response comes not as a question. Instead, it comes as a high pitched scream, starting in his stomach and exiting his mouth with force and palpable terror. Carried aloft by the shriek, he scrambles to his feet and runs, past the watching people in beige uniforms, turning the corner and scrambling on all fours into the men's bathroom.
Walking up to Ritsuko, who stares at the path that Shinji has taken to half-heartedly escape, a woman with purple hair and in a beige pants uniform sips from her thermos.
"Yeah," she says, "That went well."
"Misato. Not now."
Rei skips past them, stretching her hands above her head.
"I'll go get'em," she says, "Someone should tell Dad the Fourth Child's heee~ere."
And she skips into the bathroom, humming the entire way.
He locked himself in the handicapped stall and has determined he will live there.
He found a small paper bag, closed his hand into a fist around the opening, and sensibly began to hyperventilate. How could he not? It makes sense. He will lock himself in here, let them transport things like food and water under the stall door, and wait until there is not a building-sized monster out there that wants to snack on him. Those shall be his demands, and people will accept that, if they want him to do what...
What did they want him to do?
The bathroom door swings open, and the girl skips in.
"Oh, Shinji? You ready yet? Hope you're not dead, 'cause if you are we're kinda in trouble."
Worn white sneakers stop in front of his stall door, lolling back and forth on the balls of the feet. A hand knocks on the door once, twice, three times...
And then punches through the stall door all the way to the shoulder, feeling around the door before turning the lock and swinging open the door. Rei bends down, a closed lipped smile and eyes closed as Shinji notices he has stopped hyperventilating, because he has forgotten to breathe.
"Soooo~oo," she says, "The Commander, your father, really needs to see you 'cause it's really important. So, I can show you where it is, or I could knock you out and carry you."
She tilts her head, showing teeth.
He nods, as she reaches out and pulls away the bag.
"What," he starts, "What are you?"
"No," he says, trying to find words that will not, possibly, get him eaten, "What are you?"
"Already told you, silly. I'm Rei."
And she grabs him by the arm and drags him out.
Hissing, the monster lashes out, grabbing one of the flying metal bipeds in its jaw and squeezing. It is rewarded by the sweet taste of liquid fire as the annoyance explodes, licking the inside of its mouth, seeing it dissolve in front of its eye with a shriek of tearing metal.
Spitting out the remains, the tail whips out, the red sphere at the end glowing as the air around Iblis turns gold. The laws of physics are rewritten. The air around the hovering, metal creatures turns thick like molasses, and they drop around the beast, before single stomps from its feet crush them underfoot. Snaking out his eye, Iblis stares at them, sniffing the air. No blood. No breath. They are not living, merely...tools...of the Lilim. The air whines, and another flock of the Lilim machines appear, the ones long and filled with Lilim, their weapons less than useless against him.
Stomping past the broken machines, Iblis lets off a shriek in passing, and continues its march through the Fortress City, rounds from pursuing VTOLs exploding harmlessly against its bone white shell.
And on the rooftop above, heavy ordinance rounds whizzing past her skirt, the pale girl watches with red eyes. A smile crosses her features, and she is gone.
"Oh yeah. This was a great idea. Let's introduce Shinji to NERV by having him meet Rei. I dunno, I'm pretty sure he finds the Angel less terrifying."
"Misato. In a trunk. Off a cliff."
The purple haired woman snickers, punching the brunette in the arm. Corridors light up as they walk past, the hum and thrum of machinery filling the air.
"Still not as bad as Rei's birthday party."
Ritsuko rubs the bridge of her nose with a sigh. "No. There is that."
The lights flicker on as they enter, illuminating the wide catwalk and the lake of yellow fluid beneath them. It shifts, ripples with every footstep, less from the vibrations of the catwalk and more from...something else. Something they can't accurately measure. Like the liquid wants to move on its own. Akagi dismisses that idea. She spends an unseemly amount of time swimming in it, after all, so she'd hate to believe that somehow the liquid is alive. That would be bad.
"We need to prep Unit-00, just in case," Ritsuko says, rubbing the bridge of her nose as they walk through another arch, an open doorway as the lights come on underneath them.
"Unit-00 has one arm."
Akagi nods. Less from acknowledging the problem and more from acknowledging the blindingly obvious. "Understood. Still, if we can't deploy Unit-01-"
"Is there a problem?"
The lights come on overhead, illuminating a balcony on high. Misato sucks her teeth. Ritsuko rolls her eyes. Much of the time, this is the appropriate reaction to the presence above, especially in tense situations like this.
"The Fourth Child is on base, Ikari." Ritsuko waits for a response. Gets none. "Problem is that he was brought onto the base by the Second Child, and is currently..."
"Freaked out," Misato finishes, earning a glare from the brunette, "Last we saw, he locked himself in the bathroom and was hyperventilating."
Silence, from on high.
"In any case," Ritsuko continues, "If we can't get the Fourth Child-"
"Who's right here!"
The two women turn, and find standing in the doorway Rei, followed by Shinji, who's color at this point is starting to match Rei's. Walking ahead of the albino girl, Shinji looks at the two women, and then looks up, past them at the silhouetted figure standing on the glass covered balcony. Stumbling forward, fighting the odd wind around him, he looks up at the figure. He doesn't need to see who it is. He knows. He knows exactly who would be there.
"Shinji. You've come."
"Yeah." He looks around. Darkness, except for the illuminated catwalk and the box his father is standing in. "Why? What do you need me for? What was that thing outside?"
The other side of the catwalk, someone enters. Clad in gray sweats and a labcoat, her short, messy brown hair is showing some signs of gray. Her face is a mirror of Shinji's own. His shoulders relax as she enters, tension leavings them for the first time since he entered this city.
Yui Ikari smiles, crossing the catwalk and pulling her son into a hug.
"Look at you," she sighs, and holds him at arms length, "It's been three years since I've been in the same room as you. You've grown."
He nods, noticing that, at this point, he is actually taller than the woman in front of him. Reaching up, scratching the back of his head, he turns to the other people inside the chamber. Underneath, a bubble pops in the yellow lake.
"Okay," he says, "Uh...where am I? Why am I here?"
"You're in Project E," Yui explains, turning him towards his father, "I had Ritsuko bring you down here because you're needed."
"E," Shinji says, screwing his face in confusion, "Project 'E'? That's...an odd name."
Reaching into her labcoat, she withdraws a large, flat plate, clicking it and causing a red fig leaf symbol to flash on the front before becoming the screen of a tablet. Tapping a command on it, the lights overhead switch on, washing over the chamber and reflecting off the yellow lake beneath them.
"Project E," she says, "Means Project Evangelion."
And Shinji sees it. He comes up, at his full height, roughly to the lower lip of the things face, with the chin at his feet. Purple, green lined, the face is an almost demonic mask, a single purple and green horn rising into the air, two yellow eyes staring back at him. It is covered in armor, welded in place, a giant in the shape of a man and yet very, very different. The air shifts around him in front of the giant face, and in that moment Shinji realizes why.
It's breathing. And so, Shinji speaks the words which he believes are the best way to address this situation.
"Oh what the fuck."
The old man taps his fingers on the desk. Standing over the raised platform and watching the holographic screen, he waits as the console next to him flickers and beeps. "Ikari?"
"Shinji is here. Yui is talking with him."
The old man sighs. "That may not have been the best idea, Ikari."
"You want me to pilot the giant robot?"
Yui nods, arms folded. The ground shakes slightly, the rumbles overhead catching the echoes of the battle in the Fortress City.
"Yes," she responds.
"You want me," Shinji says, pointing to himself, and then gesturing to the purple giant, "To pilot the giant robot?"
"You want me to pilot the Giant Robot?"
"Shinji, you asked me that three times," Yui says, rubbing the bridge of her nose with a groan, "Why did you ask me that three times?"
"Because I want a different answer!"
Yui sighs, and walks over to her son, placing her hands on his shoulders and turning him towards her.
"Shinji," she says, "Listen to me. This is important. We sent you to live with your aunt and uncle because of our work, but we found out we need you here. We sent you away to protect you, but now we need your help. You're the Fourth Child."
"The only person who can pilot the Evangelion," she responds, "We will walk you through this. We will make sure you don't get hurt." Her fingers grip the underside of his chin, forcing his eyes to meet hers. "But, Shinji, I need you to not argue with me and get in the giant robot."
He opens his mouth, closes it. She's using her tone. Not her disappointed tone, but her stop being snippy tone, which she would use at least once in their weekly video chats. Grinding his teeth, he nods, straightening up.
"I'll explain everything later," she says, "But we just don't have time. Shinji, will you help us?"
"Good," Yui says, and pecks him on the cheek, "Ritsuko! I need A-10 connectors. Misato, head up to Central Dogma and join Gendo and Kozou. I'll join you once Unit-01's ready for launch."
Shinji sighs, already released from his mother's maternal grip, and turns back to the giant in front of him. Blinking, narrowing his eyes, he stares at the giant. He's quite sure that the robot's head had moved a bit since he last looked at it. But that would be ridiculous.
"Start entry sequence. Set language to default Japanese. Setting muscular lock settings to open."
The voice of the woman is more chipper than it has any rights to be, especially when faced with the possibility of being eaten by a gigantic demon turtle. Lights turn on, and Shinji glances from side to side, furrowing his brow and feeling the odd headpiece shifting in his hair. His sweatshirt discarded, he sits in the comfortable chair, clad in a black t-shirt and jeans, socks over his feet.
And looks down as the yellow liquid begins filling the room.
"Uh...okay," he says, "Mom? Is this supposed to be happening?"
"Yes. Shinji, don't worry, that's called LCL. It's oxygenated."
He shifts in his seat. The yellow liquid bubbles and gurgles. If he finds a fish in there he's out of here.
"So I won't drown?"
"No. It's perfectly safe! I use it all the time." There was a pause, Shinji notes. Did Mom have to think about that?
"Yes. I have a tube filled with it I use for intense computer work. I can explain later, but more importantly, don't panic. Just breathe it in and you'll be fine."
Squirming in the seat, he watches as the liquid comes up past his toes, warm through his socks, soaking through his jeans. The liquid is warm, room temperature, not chilly like he expected it at all. He squirms as the liquid goes up past his waist, past his shoulders, holding his breath as he clears his head. His Mom wouldn't try to drown him, right?
"Shinji, it's completely safe and it's oxygenated. Just breathe deeply. It will feel weird for a moment but it's not going to hurt you."
Betting his life on Yui Ikari's maternal instincts, he takes a deep breath, the wrong feeling of liquid in his lungs somehow familiar, and then he coughs.
"Ah, for...it tastes like blood!"
"Technically, it's the Evangelion's blood. It's part of the link connection with the Eva."
"Why does the giant robot have blood?"
Fingers tap on the console. Turning in her seat, the brunette with short hair looks over to Yui as she taps her foot. On the big screen, the sight of Unit-01's oni mask is floating next to the sight of Shinji going through several faces, each more disgusted than the last.
"It's advanced hydraulic fluid which will keep you safe," Yui explains, "It's oxygenated so you don't have to worry about drowning in it."
He coughs, a bubble floating out of his mouth and up his nose. "Well, at least it's yellow. So if I wet myself no one will know."
"Considering the vents are in the top of the Plug, most likely the urine will go straight in your mouth." Shinji's face goes pale. Thankfully, the lack of plugsuit means no video feed, so he doesn't get to see Yui's smirk. "Second stage, Maya."
"Stage two. Ionizing LCL." Shinji winces as he feels the faint static charge. "Setting Plug Depth to point eight four." The room shifts, sliding deeper into the giant robot.
"What do these controls do?" he asks, fingers hovering over the buttons at the ends of the butterfly handles. "Should I be pressing buttons? Flipping switches?"
"We're handling all the interfaces from our end," Yui explains, "Once we have you formally trained we can unlock things on your end in the Eva. For right now, the best way to put it is that the controls in front of you are psychosomatic. The Eva itself is thought controlled."
He cocks an eyebrow. Thinking about that for a moment. "Wait. You built a thought controlled giant robot?"
He purses his lips. "Okay. That's pretty cool."
"Stage three," Maya announces, "Synchronization in three...two...start!"
The plug- the world- turns white.
And Shinji feels the pull on the back of his mind, something yanking him down but not physically. He feels the stretching, the inside of the room- the Entry Plug- becoming something more, stretching out into a tunnel which seems to go on forever. The questions at the back of his mind come to the forefront unbidden, echoing in his little world.
The white of the plug becomes grass and spring air. Unceremoniously, unbidden, Shinji Ikari falls onto his hands and knees. The liquid is gone, the chair is gone. All he can see is uninterrupted paradise around him as he sits up on his knees. "Where am I?" he asks. But he does not expect an answer. He doesn't expect this weirdness to make any sense.
You are the Fourth Child?
Fourth Child. What is the Fourth Child?
First is unknown. Second is Rei. Third is coming. Fourth is you.
I don't understand. What does that mean? This word is thrown around that word but never defined. Is he the Fourth? Who is the First?
The two voices- one small and cheery, one monolithic, argue. Semantics, definitions. The sun cuts out, plunging this world into darkness. And the spotlight shines down upon him.
There's a sound in the background, filling the world. He opens his eyes and finds himself not in the plug, but sitting in an open field. He can see something...someone in the distance, watching him from afar. Something...familiar about this but he isn't sure what.
Do you want to pilot?
"Not really," he says, "It's not high on my list of priorities, to be honest."
But you said yes.
"Because...well, they asked," he sighs, shaking his head, "I mean...they needed me to do this. If they needed me to do this, I'll do it. She wouldn't ask if she didn't need me."
The world is lit again, but now it is barren. Rivers of blood crack the dry ground, rising into the distance around a white sun. But not a sun, he sees. Not the Sun, but something else. A great egg, devouring the flowing remains of life, and at the center he sees the Angel.
He rises to his feet. The ground beneath him quakes and cracks. The Angel, drunk of godhood does not notice him but Shinji can feel it, feel the realness of this. That this is the consequences of defeat.
We are asking you to save the world, the small, cheery voice says, Is that asking too much?
He can see it clearly, now. More clearly. He can see the figure on high better, meets its eyes. For a moment, Shinji wonders if he should be afraid, if he's meeting something that should not be. But for the life of him, he can't muster any actual fear. All he can do, when faced with what approaches, is smile. Because somehow, he knows this is right.
And in the Entry Plug, Shinji's eyes open as the two connectors atop his head glow blue.
"Fourth Child recognized," the computerized, feminine voice says, "Synchronization holding at 47%. Evangelion, Unit-01:"
And outside the plug, in the Cage, two yellow eyes flash and glow white.
The purple haired woman whistles, nodding at the gigantic screen as the numbers come up next to the hanging still picture of the pilot. Patting Ritsuko on the back, she gives off a grin.
"Beats Rei's intial score," Misato says, "We haven't trained this kid before? At all?"
"No," Ritsuko responds, pursing her lips, "Okay. Shinji, can you hear me?"
The giant's head shifts towards one of the speakers in the Cage. Metal shrieks as the chin of the Evangelion scrapes across catwalks, tearing the catwalk off the rivets and causing it to hang from the metal jutting from the giant's mouth.
"Uh...sorry." The voice booms through the neck mounted speakers. "Uh. How'd I do that?"
"The Evangelion responds to thoughts," Ritsuko says, resisting the urge to facepalm, "The controls in the entry right now are all psychosomatic. There are functional ones that will use later-"
"But that's not important right now," Misato interrupts, clamping her hand over Ritsuko's mouth as the brunette glares at her, "Hyuga! Clear us a path to the D-17 zone! Shigeru, charge the rails and set the carriage to release mode!"
Above the purple giant, the ceiling opens, revealing a straight path above, the night sky in the distance. Behind the Evangelion, the railings crackle with electricity as the catwalks retract, the broken catwalk on the jaw falling to the floor below. On the bridge, Yui and Ritsuko share a high five.
"Shinji's set a record for first-time synch," Ritsuko says, "I owe you a beer. Angel has been spotted approaching block D-17. Shall we?"
Yui nods, walking past them, taking the walkie from the station manned by the glasses wearing man and bringing it up to her lips.
"Shinji," she says, "Good luck. We're with you every step of the way."
On the screen, Shinji hesitantly nods, closing his eyes and wrapping his hands around the controls. Turning to Misato, Yui nods.
"Eva launch!" Misato calls out.
The carriage lurches, and launches skyward. In the entry plug, Shinji grits his teeth as he's pressed against the acceleration couch, a muted cry as the green and gunmetal walls of the launch chute are replaced by the depressed skyline of the fortress city.
The mecha lurches forward. Gripping the controls, Shinji focuses, the Evangelion taking a step out of the carriage. This is easy, he thinks. Very easy. Piloting a robot controlled by his mind ought to be a lot harder than this.
"Shinji!" Misato yells, "The Angel is right in front of you!"
Shinji Ikari yelps, a high pitched squeak, and the Eva as a respond brings up both its fists, shielding its face. Slowly, the fists lower. And the Eva cranes its neck in responds to Shinji doing the same, looking from side to side.
And the Evangelion looks down. It comes up, roughly to the Evangelion's waist. The highest peak of its bone white shell hovers at equal height to the pelvis of the Evangelion, the black stylized eye at its zenith apparently staring at the mecha's crotch. Looking down, he sees the mouth snaking out of the shell, teeth hungrily bared at the Eva.
And several teeth go flying when the Evangelion, unbidden, kicks it in the face.
"Whoops." On the screen, they watch as the single kick sends Iblis into the air, flipping end over end before landing on its back. Small legs wave in the air, teeth snapping in the direction of the Evangelion. "I didn't mean to do that!"
"Thought controlled giant robot," Yui says, "Shinji, best idea if you get it out of the city!"
On the big screen, Shinji's face splits into an ear to ear grin.
The rumble of giant robot footsteps fills the silent night of Tokyo-3. The rumbling becomes louder, and then every building shakes with the bone rattling impact of giant robot foot on giant monster turtle. Roaring and shrieking, Iblis flies end over end. Spinning, spewing fire from its mouth as it takes flight, the shriek is only second to the voice booming from the Evangelion's speakers.
"This is AMAZING!"
The monster turtle bounces off of an apartment building, off an intersection, and skids to a stop near a half constructed warehouse. Turning, sticking its eye out of its mouth, it rears back and hisses as it hears the footsteps.
Right as Unit-01's foot launches it into the air once again.
"And it's GOOD!"
"Seems to be enjoying himself." Next to Misato, Yui nods and sips her coffee. "So," Misato continues, "Do we tell him that he's doing...maybe twenty percent of the work?"
"Closer to thirty," Yui responds, "Maybe forty. I did leave instructions, but, well. You know."
Misato nods. Leaning in next to Maya, she depresses a button. "Shinji, the Core of the Angel is on its tail. You need to break that to destroy the Angel."
On the screen, through the speakers, Shinji is laughing. Then, followed by screaming about how he is now on fire.
The floating screen shows the remainder. As Unit-01 advances on the gigantic turtle. As the Eva draws its progressive knife from its left shoulder fin. As Iblis flips onto its front and swings out the red sphere on the end of the tail.
"Observe," the older man says, standing in front of the desk, in front of Yui, "At this point, Iblis fights back. Notice the cascade of beams from the pseudo eyes on its shell. Notable damage on Unit-01's torso shows signs of both freezing and burning. Unit-01 defends itself by hiding behind the skyscraper. Which then, as a result of Iblis' barrage and Unit-01's weight, falls on Iblis."
He clicks the remote in his hand. The video fast forwards.
"Notice how, in a remarkable improvisation, Unit-01 uses elements from the reinforced steel structure to leverage open the shell of the Angel. The sounds made by Iblis are, presumably, sounds of pain. Notice the blood. It was shortly after that that the Angel began to beat Unit-01 with its own tail. However, the tail contained the Core, which broke on Unit-01's horn. Thus, the Angel died."
The screen clicks off. Behind him, Yui folds her hands behind her. A small smile is on her face. Pride, practically written upon her face.
Twelve monoliths float around them, illuminating the darkness in red.
"Your damage estimates are...exceptional, Professor Fuyutsuki," the one labeled 05 says, "This was incurred by an Angel so easily dispatched?"
"It took time for us to receive the pilot for Unit-01 and gain clearance from the JSSDF to deploy Unit-01," Kozou Fuyutsuki responds, narrowing eyes at the monolith, "It is the hope of NERV that the JSSDF will be less hesitant to deploy the only weapon capable of neutralizing the Angelic threat, should the later ones be more difficult to kill than Iblis."
"You sound so sure they will be harder to kill," the one labeled 07 asks.
An unpleasant look passes over the old man's face. Folding his hands behind him, he levels his gaze on the monolith. Behind him, Yui's face is unreadable, save for the barely perceptible nod.
"We should have acted earlier," Kozou says, "This was written down in the Scrolls. It has been seventeen years since Impact and we have known they were coming, and we were still caught unaware."
"I remind the Committee-" 07 starts, but goes silent as Fuyutsuki continues.
"We have merely delayed them," he continues, "We have weakened ourselves with pointless wars. Because no one wanted to believe they even existed. And when the truth finally dawned, it dawned in fire."
He clicks the remote again. It shows outside of Tokyo-3, a line of tanks and artillery, flattened. Of the crater where the Angel took a direct hit from an N2 mine. Of the wreckage of the city in a straight line, to the row of shattered windows where it faced the Evangelion.
"This won't happen again," Yui says, a hand on Kozou's shoulder, "The Angels have come. NERV must take priority. Project E's primary work begins now. Chairman?"
Silence as the other monoliths blink out, one by one, until only the one labeled 01 remains.
"You will have your funding, Doctor Ikari," the monolith says, "Always a pleasure, Professor Fuyutsuki, Doctor Ikari. This meeting is adjourned."
And the last monolith blinks out. And there is only darkness.
[IBLIS] is dead.
[IBLIS] is dead. I must repeat this so you are aware of this. [IBLIS] is dead.
Brother, I know. I felt his passing.
Good. The death of [IBLIS] should be felt by you. You are responsible.
I am curious how, brother.
It was you who suggested that [IBLIS] proceed. [IBLIS] was not supposed to be first.
It was [IBLIS] who chose to proceed. All I did was convince the others to wait. Now we know what the Lilim are capable of. We will be better prepared.
At the cost of one of our own. That is not acceptable. The Lilim are legion. We are not.
The more we know of their capabilities, the better prepared we are. The more they react, the sooner [FATHER] comes within our grasp.
A prize which [IBLIS] is no longer capable of grasping. You sacrificed one of our own for this.
You are correct. But it was necessary. This conversation ends.
Yes. This is not over, [RAMIEL].
I imagine not.
End Chapter 1