A couple scenes set before the Campus Apocalypse manga. This fic itself is a oneshot: people should read this manga, it's awesome.
The leaves fall.
Yui Ikari knows that this isn't the fundamental reality she wanted to see. Her mind can't handle that fundamental reality. This is a form of it that her mind can understand, framed with Norse myth of a world-tree and science fiction stories of branching timelines created by choices.
She could have ended up looking at the endlessly repeating Trousers of Time. That would have been less dignified, but also much more reassuring.
Because Yggdrasil is doomed. Norse mythology foretells the end of the world.
This representation of reality was created when she entered this space. That was when this became the Yggdrasil she, and others, now see.
The moment she tried not just to travel to another universe, but to reach the core of reality, to find the truth, the foundation of it all was when reality transformed into something doomed to destruction.
Leaves are falling all around her, and at first she thought it was just some atmospheric effect. Leaves and flower petals slowly falling, or floating by in a gust of wind: how pretty.
Each of them is a dead universe.
She would like to tell herself that they're probably empty universes devoid of life, but no. The withering began because of Yui Ikari. The epicenter is her world, even if the infection dove right to the heart of the tree. Most of the worlds falling now are alternate Earths. Worlds made different from her own by only a handful of choices.
So the leaf that now rests in her hand is seven billion dead people. Or more. Possibly far more.
She held up a leaf to him once, one she'd caught in her hand and put in her pocket as though that would make any difference. A single red eye (his other had been… damaged, again, and no one had bothered to replace it yet) only needed to glance at it. The number he gave was in the tens of trillions. "Of course, that's only those that you would consider human."
Time didn't run steadily between the worlds: was that a future Earth, with thousands of colonies? Or a universe where Earth was someone's colony?
She'd wanted to protest that of course she would care about sentient alien life forms too, but the words didn't pass her lips, looking at his bandaged body. The hypocrisy stuck in her throat, and she wondered what she was doing.
This wasn't what she'd intended. This wasn't what they'd meant.
The one caretaker of the tree, the one angel who had stayed behind to warn them that they had doomed universes and had best do something about it. He could have taken one of them as a host body: half her team had been taken and it was a miracle her husband wasn't…
Her fingernails nearly cut into her palms as she clenched her fist, because wasn't that what she deserved, to have her husband lost to her? To see an alien soul looking out of his familiar eyes? So many of her fellow scientists. Dr. Akagi's husband.
And what of all the Yuis in all those other worlds, those who hadn't committed her crimes? Those separated from her by only a handful of choices, those who hadn't decided to play God? Who were dying, and their husbands and sons were dying, because of her crimes?
The crimes that continued even now.
Tabris, angel of free will. The embodiment of the force of choice, the force that kept the worlds separate from each other. That let human will and the decisions they made matter.
The only angel to remain and give them a warning. To move into their computer system instead of a human brain, so that its speakers would give him a voice to speak with.
He hadn't had to do that. The others had gotten out of here, out of their prison, as soon as they could. Only a fraction had even paused to grab a body to experience this new world and all the sensations they had been long denied with.
She wanted to think 'thank goodness' but there was an entire planet full of bodies outside for them to choose from. Wasn't it slightly less bad if it was her team that was taken, instead of innocent people who had no idea what GEHIRN was working on?
Why had she been spared? Gratitude? Tabris had known who she was, that she was the one responsible for letting them out. Had he seen that in her files, or had all of them known? Had they watched her step inside the Sanctum of Yggdrasil, open the door to their prison?
The angels, the beings who sustained reality, who made everyone's lives possible, were trapped at the core of the universe. While everyone else profited from their labor, their imprisonment.
The way they were profiting now from Tabris' imprisonment.
It was Naoko Akagi's idea. Make him a host body, an empty shell without a soul, so he could experience life without having to bear the guilt of extinguishing a human spirit to replace it with his own.
That wasn't Dr. Akagi's real intention. In order to keep Tabris from finding out, she, Yui and Gendo were the only three who knew the truth until it was too late for him. As long as Tabris possessed a computer, his core was virtual. They couldn't get their hands on it, to try to figure out how to find and fight the other angels. How to recapture them and force them back into their lonely prison so humanity could survive.
When an angel took a physical body, their core also became physical. Tabris had told them that as a kindness, so they would have a way of telling who was and who wasn't possessed instead of the entire team descending into paranoia.
Convinced that Yui had been taken, because wasn't she the first to go in there?
Wouldn't it be poetic justice?
Didn't she deserve to be killed on general principles?
If an angel with a physical body died before their core was removed from it, they would stay dead. Most of them would prefer that to eternal, maddening confinement.
So they needed a test subject. Needed readings on an angel's core, needed…
So many of them needed revenge.
Cloning technology was in its infancy. The bodies they created for Tabris were weak, flawed: being raised in tanks or some other errors left them without pigment. Wounds wouldn't heal, his body couldn't fight off disease. Even a bruise would eventually spread, and worsen, and kill him unless the affected body part was cut off and a replacement attached.
Not that Dr. Akagi, not that any of them, were in any hurry to do this.
He had chosen to warn them, chosen to help them, and this was how he was rewarded for it?
An ancient and powerful being, the will of the universes?
The truest emanation of the will of God?
The difference between universes were created by people's choices. As worlds died, those choices became meaningless since they would all have the same result: death. The tree would collapse in on itself, all of creation, all that born from people's wills, all those divisions lost. The divisions between people too, because what were people but pieces of universes given distinction from each other by their choices?
Until there was nothing but a singular thing, the seed all of it sprung from.
Was this Yggdrasil, or was this the sephiroth? Shouldn't the beings at the core of creation be closest in nature to the source of that creation, the being who made the first choice that divided itself into two different branches sprung from that choice, again and again and again?
Tabris, he named himself. Angel of free will, a servant of a greater power even though he seemed to have no faith in any greater power and wouldn't speak of it.
Not to lowly humans, not to cruel humans who didn't deserve enlightenment?
If the angels existed to serve the tree, then was Yggdrasil god? The life that sustained all other lives?
And the tree was dying. Because of her.
If all of existence became one thing, the thing from which it sprang, then would that thing not be God?
The angels resented being used to support all other life, while they themselves were deprived of chances to live.
The being in existence whose will must logically be closest to the will of God, to the source of them all, might have decided to give them a chance, might have wanted them to know what was happening, might have hoped they could come up with a means to buy themselves time, but was that even for humanity's sake? Or was it that when the worlds ended, the angels would end along with them? Be folded, reabsorbed into the whole, the totality, after only getting to live for a few, brief years?
The angels had known when they left Yggdrasil that without their care, the tree would continue to wither. That without their support all the leaves would fall, all the worlds would end. An infinity of infinites of humans and other beings would die.
And they did not care.
If Tabris had ever cared for them, even enough to pause to give them a warning, even enough to refrain from taking one of their bodies instead of taking it as his due (because none of them would ever have been born but for him and his suffering), then what did he think of them now?
When his thanks for sustaining them for countless eons was their enmity. When his thanks for treating them like beings that deserved a chance to survive, that deserved to not have their lives stolen from them was to be imprisoned once again, kept in constant pain because that was what his 'caretakers' wanted? Subjected to test after test, treated like a thing. Sitting on the edge of one of the examination tables, the legs of a body that even force-grown was not much older than her son's dangling in the air, he had admitted to her that he regretted his choice. But only after looking around, to make sure that all of those who already hated him, already enjoyed making him suffer, were out of earshot. Who was it who had taught him to hate and fear humans, instead of seeing them as life born from Yggdrasil? Life born to a far kinder fate perhaps, but still life like him and his brethren?
No. No longer. The truth was that at this point, he truly did not care if all of them died.
That was only fair, wasn't it? It was only human to want the pain to stop. It was only human to hate people who repaid help with harm.
But this was the embodiment of free will. The embodiment of all choices of all beings. Born from the choice that began the division that brought forth creation.
And he despised humanity.
And he did not especially want them to survive. He did not especially care if all the worlds ended, and everything was returned to the beginning.
God found his creation wanting.
She couldn't blame him. She really couldn't.
Target practice. They needed to capture the angels. Force them back in, force them to support the tree. Ordinary weapons wouldn't do. 'Shemhazai,' they were calling themselves, the ones altered by entering that space. The ones able to integrate the weapons she created into their DNA. To power them with their souls. They could have practiced against each other, and they did, but when they had a real angel to train against? To practice on?
"You left our son with him?" Yui asked, and wished there was some resentment in her voice. Anything but exhaustion.
"He's not going to open up with any of us there." Not anymore. Tabris had learned better than that. "Shinji's decided that if his new friend won't tell him what his name is, he's going to call him Kaoru," normally a girl's name, "until he cracks. Unless he meant to give him a name. I think that was how Tabris saw it."
Shinji wanting him to have a name, not just be a test subject.
She could picture her son patting Tabris on the head, the way Gendo had patted him when he was a little kid, and telling him this absolutely seriously. She remembered Shinji declaring that he'd beat up Asuka if she was the one responsible for Tabris having all those injuries (Shinji had declared last year that he was too old for boo-boos). How to tell her son that it was adults that were hurting his friend, the boy he'd decided to protect?
That his own mother and father were the ones giving the orders, because it had to be done?
That mulish frown on Shinji's face when he saw that his friend had a new bandage and the old ones weren't going away (Shinji still believed in kissing things better, so he wasn't curious about how Tabris' wounds could vanish when replacement body parts were surgically attached) fast enough? Yui remembered how many times she'd had to patch Gendo up after he got in another fight because someone was bullying one of the other kids.
It made her proud of Shinji.
It made her despise herself.
Seeing the angel look up at Shinji with wide eyes full of wonder when Shinji just patted him on the head, just talked to him like a fellow person? Because Shinji didn't know: Tabris was certainly wise enough to know that. That was why he wouldn't tell Shinji the truth, as much as he clearly longed for someone to want to protect him, for someone to save him from the humans and their weapons and their knives.
Shinji wouldn't tolerate injustice: the angel could turn her son against her, if only he wasn't so afraid that Shinji would turn on him instead.
Yui knew she would deserve it.
The tree was dying. Naoko's… No, Yui's treachery, she was the one who approved all of this, all of this was her responsibility, had cost them Tabris' assistance. He might still be in their clutches, but that would only last until he decided that yes, freedom was worth taking over another body. A human body. One that could survive without replacement parts. One with a soul that had harmed him enough to deserve vengeance?
One of these days, Naoko Akagi was going to either kill him or provoke him into finally fighting back and killing her.
One of these days, they would no longer have their test subject.
They had already lost their information source. It was one thing to help humans, it was another to betray his kin. It was one thing to help innocent people, it was another to help torturers.
They needed him and his abilities, among them detecting other angels. They needed what he knew about how to sustain Yggdrasil if they, if she, were going to have any chance of doing it themselves.
Because the leaves were falling.
Universes, worlds and worlds full of people were dying.
Once, Tabris helped them out of basic human decency, but that coin was long since spent. The fountain of mercy had run dry: they had cut it off from its source themselves.
They needed to give him another reason.
His own survival? Imprisonment in the tree was terrible enough that all of the angels preferred death. When they saw death as escape, as better than how their lives were before, then they didn't have much sympathy for humans who would condemn them to that fate to save their own skins. If Tabris died, if the embodiment of the force that held the worlds apart died, then the rate of recombination and destruction could only increase.
He'd laughed when Gendo threatened him with that. It was the only time she'd ever heard him laugh, until something Shinji said startled a surprised sound out of him, until Shinji started laughing and Tabris couldn't help echoing him.
So lonely. Alone among enemies, and Shinji decided on his own to be nice to this boy. To try to help this boy.
And Dr. Yui Ikari had watched the two of them and thought to herself "I can use this."
She should be ashamed of herself, but she already was. She should hate herself, but she already did.
Still unable to meet her husband's eyes, she watched the leaves fall.
Rubbing the wedding ring he'd taken from the dead body of this world's version of him, Gendo Ikari smiled to himself. This complex was in disarray following an angel attack: the survivors were demoralized and grateful for someone taking charge. It looked like this world's Gendo Ikari was second-in command here, after Yui. All the casualties should mean that many of the people who knew Gendo Ikari well were dead, and the shock of losing Yui and so many 'friends' should cover any slips.
There was this world's Shinji, but he'd just seen his mother throw herself into that tree and his father get crushed by a falling pillar. If he was anything like the Shinji Gendo knew, the weak little boy was already hard at work repressing everything that happened. He'd just have to figure out who the other Gendo knew well enough that he could pawn an unwanted child off on them, without that person demanding personal contact with Gendo that might make him notice the impersonator.
Especially since if all the shudders and mentions of people who 'weren't themselves,' were any indication, then Gendo might not be the only person from another universe to wander into this one? Unless there were more angels that took human form in this world?
He'd asked about Rei and people just stared, wondering why he wanted to discuss science while they were still clearing away the bodies, trying to figure out what could be salvaged and what they were going to do with all the adult shemhazai (Eva pilots?) dead.
Well, Asuka was here: she should be usable in a few years. Shinji could always be brought back, but that might not be necessary. This world's Yui was part of a tree now, so there couldn't be a Unit 01.
Whenever he managed to get a moment to himself, he would have to try again to figure out his alternate self's password. He needed to read up on just what kind of alternate universe's GEHRIN he'd wandered into.
Naoko Akagi died in the attack, but Ritsuko seemed to have a crush on him here, too. She should be willing to accept an alternate Gendo Ikari who wasn't married to her boss. He needed to learn about that tree if he was ever going to get Yui out of there.
"They've already started to suspect," a childishly high, clear voice said.
He whirled around. "Who's there?"
"If anyone was here, that would have proven it right then." A child wearing a white smock stepped out from behind one of the work stations. "They're watching for angels, and there's still Asuka and her Eva. If you don't know something like that, or I say that you are not the real Gendo Ikari, they'll have her take you apart looking for the core."
Was this another of the shemhazai children? It looked like he'd been wounded in the attack. "Are you just threatening me, or are you after something?" Gendo was certain of the latter. That was a clumsy attempt to intimidate him, but then, this was a child.
He saw the red eyes as the child stepped closer.
Red eyes like Rei's.
So this wasn't an ordinary child after all. Was the other Gendo using him like Rei? Why, when Yui had still been alive here until minutes before Gendo arrived, cast of his universe by Third Impact?
"Someone needs to reorganize what's left of GEHIRN in order to capture the angels. Someone who will listen to me and let me fight. I can control the computer systems and get you all of both Dr. Ikaris' passwords and codes. I can tell you what you need to know about Yggdrasil and the angels."
"And in return?" Gendo asked, but even though he was in an alternate universe, something was telling him that he already knew. He couldn't be certain, because if all the angels here took human hosts and no one here had ever heard of SEELE except as a word for 'soul' then this might not be the last angel, the one whose birth was caused by SEELE.
Shouldn't something spawned from the white seed be able to heal? What was with all of those bandages?
Another world. Entirely different angels.
"I don't care about the rest of you humans, so I don't care if you deceive and use everyone else here. I just want to protect Shinji."
Some things remained the same.
This may become a collection of stories about other versions of Kaworu besides original anime/Sadamoto manga. It seemed fitting to lead off with Campus Apocalypse, since it's about alternate universes.
I've had a bunny for the Angelic Days version for awhile, because man that one needs a fixit. I didn't feel right about it since that manga's based on a game and I didn't want to write something manga-only that would seem obviously wrong to anyone with more information on the game, but apparently the manga's author just made all that crack up themselves. I assumed it was from the game and that was why they weren't bothering to explain anything, since players would already know, but nope.
Still, the lack of worldbuilding/poor exposition and lack of a faithful adaptation means that I can basically make up what I want as long as it doesn't contradict the few bits of info about all it works that the author did put in there.
There's also the Shinji Ikari Detective Journal manga coming out from Dark Horse? I hear it's excellent crack. I do like my crack.
I'm hoping we'll get the Petit Eva manga at some point. I found the animated shorts vastly amusing, and a Kaworu with MPEva pets and access to missiles?
Don't talk to me about the Shinji Ikari Raising Project manga. Shinji and Kaworu is the default route in that dating sim, but the manga tries to write him out of everything in order to push his preferred pairing of Shinji/Rei. It's like one of those countless bad English language fanfics! If they ever do a faithful adaptation of that game or the companion Kaworu Nagisa Raising Project, I will be all over that, though.